First links post is mostly paddle porn.
Not my image, but it’s worth sharing.
This morning I cranked up the radio and was surprised to learn that Americans moved a smidgen closer toward full equality. Yeah, that’s right SCOTUS has ruled that marriage has nothing to do with gender. It’s all about the commitment baby. Cheering could be heard from my Prius as we bounced along Dockton road on our way to breakfast out.
Then, out of no where, NPR started airing dissenting opinions. This parade of somber, bigoted asshats reminded me of why I prefer to not tune in. One President of a “Christian university” spoke about how LGBT marriage equality was not in the public’s interest because of some made up CDC statistics indicated that alternative lifestyles are magically dirtier than heterosexual commitments. This was followed by a Bishop telling listeners that the court wasn’t taking a populist tack, claiming (I kid you not) that his particular fringe fundamentalist Christian claptrap was statistically significant.
Tootling along, I couldn’t help but note all the different angles these guys wanted to put on the same issue. It’s as if they can’t think beyond those “Jesus is ______” signs they like to hang over highways and paste to the back of SUVs. “Your progressive ______ wont work,” they’re saying.
By the time we arrived at Snapdragon for some tasty treats and caffeinated beverages I was really needing a silver lining. The cloud that had formed on this sunniest of sunny days was really getting me down. I think my allergy to spin, even when delivered in the context of complete news coverage, is just too sensitive. And this had started to feel like an interview of NAMBLA members when a human trafficking story is uncovered.
My nose positioned above an aromatic cup-o-joe a couple of things occurred to me. First, these guys just lost a very significant meeting battle. The courts have ruled on the side of, if not progress than, at least liberality. People getting together — consensually sharing and loving — should never be interrupted. That’s my opinion, but I can’t see a downside and I’m certainly not going to start manufacturing them. So chock one up for the protagonists and spread some love around.
Second, all that spin, man it tends to water down any meaningful argument. It’s the grasping of straws and the pounding of nails in pine boxes. It’s a eulogy. And that in and of itself is an amazingly welcome thing. It means that any substantive resistance has already taken care of itself.
Finally, it means we can focus on bigger problems. Paying attention to “marriage traditionalists” is a lot like paying attention to “climate change deniers,” a complete waste of precious time. The idea that Congress could pass a Defense of Marriage amendment to the constitution has now become laughable and all attempts to try will be summarily laughed at. So go ahead, make this a plank in your next election because self identification is crazy helps everyone.
Now, before I close, I want to offer up my support of equality. In the big vin diagram of life there are a lot of sub-bubbles where we could see some improvement. The marriage one, man, that’s been taken care of, so go love the one you love and find satisfaction in that relationship.
Last night I completed glassing the deck of Tess’ boat. Once you start that process you have to stay on deck until you can walk away from it or things are likely as not to go very wrong. The good news is that nothing went ‘very wrong’, the bad is that I was up until well past two this morning. So ugh, even though Tess and A-bear let me sleep in a little bit I work up with a headache and an epoxy fume hangover (yes, I work my mask).
So what do you do when you’re knackered, just this side of sick, and caffeine deficient? You call up your local paddle boarding rental shop and book a board for two hours, that’s what you do. In hind sight nothing about our outing this morning should have gone well. The tide was fluctuating near a low. The harbor smelled piquant and the mud flats oozed. A-bear was in an anything other than this sort of mood and I wasn’t too far behind him.
I’ve seen you guys, out there on the water with your oversized boards and paddles, and I’ve always thought man, that shizz just looks awkward and sort of silly. Something about it didn’t appeal to me and I’m not even certain I could put my thumb on just what. Compared to a kayak — low, sleek and fast — paddle boarding seemed clunky. Sailing small boats or paddling canoes both just appealed to me much more.
Then, with everything that could work against it chugging away, I caved to my desire for novel experience and called up the dude on the island. Test the hypothesis!
Aral knelt on the front of the board and at first we were a little wobbly. I tried to follow through with my paddle strokes like I was in a canoe and this wasn’t working. I think my little guy was a concerned at the amazing number of moon jellies in suspension below us; what might happen if we fell in?
But soon enough we both got the hang of this. I really like the standing possition because from a mere seventy-two inches above the surface of the water there’s so much more to see. I also liked the big deck that gave me a place to stow both a bag full of snacks and my little dude.
We tootled around Quartermaster Harbor for about an hour making surprising distance as soon as I figured out how to paddle this craft (short, regular strokes and let the skeg manage tracking). Before I knew it I had fallen in love. My core got an amazing workout (balancing, and powering the craft while Aral wobbled a little from time to time underfoot) and we saw so damn much.
Next project, paddle board!
I am writing this missive for a very special reason.
So many years ago I have a vivid memory of sitting down to lunch with a good friend and my oldest son. We were eating ham sandwiches after spending an early spring morning working on a pair of strip built kayaks parked in the garage. Justin and my friend were talking and I was munching, just listening.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Jeremy asked my four year old.
Without skipping a beat Justin replied “I want to be a cowboy chef named ‘Eyeball.'”
His tone brooked no comment, yet Jeremy and I found ourselves laughing out loud, buckled over in hysterics much to Justin’s displeasure. He had clearly used his best logic to reach this conclusion and he really hadn’t anticipated our reaction.
Now my oldest son is graduating from High School. That very same question gets foisted at him I imagine daily. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
As I sit here writing I am experiencing what most parents probably feel at about this time in our children’s lives. A compelling desire, a tug on the heart, to say something that will matter. How can I make this easier for you Justin? What can I do or say to ensure your lasting contentment?
The first thing I want to tell you is don’t be scared. I can still recall the overwhelming excitement I felt as I drove my Dad’s big blue Ford heading up to a summer job immediately after my commencement. Both windows were rolled down and dry air turned the raggedy old cabin into a hair blender.
I imagine that you’ll feel that freedom and excitement sometime real soon, but this too will pass. In it’s place you’ll find uncertainty. You’re suddenly a grown up, a man by all rights with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with that. Suddenly consequence is all on you.
So it’s little wonder that a little uncertainty might creep into the mix. What do I like? What can I do? What is that person thinking? Life is just full of these sorts of questions. You answer them when you can, you ignore them at your peril.
If you weren’t a little uncertain at this point I’d be genuinely fearful for you. The world is a scary place, full of dead ends, problems, and paradox. Only yesterday you were this little thing I could hold in my hands. This tiny little baby no one was certain might live until tomorrow. You were so fragile I was so uncertain.
Today you’re this grown person; barely filling out your body, only now starting to brush up against responsibility.
So when you encounter uncertainty I hope you do so like you did when you were four. I hope you look it square in the eye, without fear, and proclaim in a strong, clear voice “I want to be a cowboy chef named ‘Eyeball.'”
And there’s is something else I hope for you. I hope you love your work. If you love your work, if you find something you can love doing for a long time, you really can’t lose.
If your heart and soul is part of your vocation you are statistically unlikely to fail. You can’t lose because regardless of how much money you make you’ll be having a kick ass time. That’s better than gold my son. Better than fame. Better than glory. Pretty much better than anything. Figure out what makes you happy. Or better figure out what you love to do and you’ll have a happy life. None of the rest really matters.
If you find that you’re doing something that you don’t love, or worse, that you just hate, see my first piece of advice. Don’t be scared about leaving. Golden handcuffs are just that, and they’ll hold you back forever. That is unless you take them off.
Finally, I want to tell you to juice life. Put it in your blender and hit frappe. Let it spin for a good long while. Laugh while it’s going. Cackle. Guffaw when you hit the chunky parts.
My son, this is the only life you’ll ever get. You’ve got to suck every last drop of it and still you won’t, you shouldn’t, ever feel sated.
And should you feel that you don’t want more — when you reach these unavoidable milestones and hopelessness rears its ugly face in your life — the absolute best treatment is to laugh at it.
It’s been an exercise in patience getting this far into this letter so if you’re still reading you’ve got what it takes for the next bit. Add to this patience, practice; lots and lots of practice. We talked about this a little bit when you were working at the cycle kitchen. Practice isn’t just the simple repetition of a task in order to improve your ability. It isn’t a pursuit of perfection.
Practice is the task for the sake of the task. Wax on, wax off. Whether it’s playing your guitar or truing wheels or building relationships you’ve got to have the patience to see things through and the will to practice at all the fiddly bits over and over. To find the flow while you’re doing each little part.
Back when your Mom and I lived in Florida, more than anything, I wanted a Valley Nordkapp kayak. Back then this was the open water tripping boat used by arctic explorers. Fast and lithe in all conditions I was enthralled by pictures of dry suited dudes busting through frothy, collapsing waves somewhere far north of anywhere with trees. Back then that is what I dreamed I might someday do.
Now, twenty years and lots of change later, I own this boat. It’s tippy as hell. It’s heavy. My big old ass barely fits in the tiny cockpit. I am confronted by the fact that I’m sixty pounds heavier and twenty years older each time I wet this hull.
So, if I ever want to see myself paddling a red hull while wearing bright mango in steel gray water amongst white icebergs, I know I’ve got to be patient with myself. I’m going to need to spend a lot of time holding onto a dock, working on my braces and stabilizing strokes, and remembering how to roll before I’ll be able to paddle out into the open. Practice and patience.
Be patient with yourself in all things. Stop and think “can I break this down any more” before you take that next step. If you can figure this part out, you’ll almost always finish what you start. You’ll realize your visions.
I’ve tried to write this letter without telling you not to do things. I’m going to break this rule just a little bit more for my next admonition. It is a warning and it comes from my heart directed straight to your’s because this is something I got wrong when I was your age.
Show your affection. Hug people when you greet them. The European custom of cheek kissing needs to be revived. Fist bump, high five, hand-shake-to-hug, wrestle where appropriate. Spread this stuff all around. Don’t feel self conscious about your affection for others.
The science behind affection is incontrovertible. Hugs reduce anxiety, stimulate oxytocin and dopamine, and promote parasympathetic balance. This is true for you the hugger as much as the person you’re hugging. Good grief, can you imagine a world in which we eradicate the common cold because we’re all topped off with enough affection that our collective enhanced immune response gives the rhinovirus no quarter, no place to thrive?
This society, the one in which you’ve been raised, incorrectly pushes young men towards stoicism. In order to be a man you’re not supposed to make displays of emotion. You’re supposed to lock all those feelings away, you’re supposed to be insensitive and unempathetic.
This is the All American creed of the jerk. So while I’m going to tell you not to act like a jerk, thereby breaking my rule, I’m going to follow it up by suggesting that the best way to avoid being a jerk is to hug one.
You know this already, but it deserves repeating, I am proud of you. You’re a stand up guy and a righteous dude and now that you’ve matured I’m heartened to both call you my son and my friend.
Watching you get your diploma yesterday made me so happy. Made me acknowledge what a lucky person I am for knowing you and how much better off I’ve been these last eighteen years because you’ve been in my life.
I’m letting you go, one more time.
So long, fare well, be happy.
This afternoon, after a really nice visit from some friends, Tess took the rugrat to the shore for some time playing with his kite. I got busy for the first time since we moved to the new shop … I mean house. Fiberglass and epoxy work isn’t ever easy, but I’ve been sort of mentally dreading this part of the boat building process because a) I knew it was going to take a while, b) once you start you can’t stop and c) concave curves are a bitch.
The process lived up to my expectations. I mean wow, I sort of hurt all over and my feet are sore from standing over the bench for so long (higher workhorses might be in order). The good news is that it’s done. And the keel and chines all look really nice and solid with no air bubbles.
In about an hour I’m going to head back out to the shop and trim the edges (that’s what the blue tape is for). If I still have the energy I’ll finish epoxy work on the inside of the hull.