Pink and Blue

8/24/19 Saturday

I like a cold beer at the end of a hard day but I’m no alky. Sometimes weed can be relaxing and fun but I’m no smoker. Taking a calculated risk with money doesn’t bother me but forget gambling. But there seems to be one thing (other than coffee) where I have a real problem, and that’s boats. I don’t really understand why but it must be something to do with taking my favorite element – water, and combining it with something graceful and curvy. Take this boat for example, a Pearson Triton 28′.

after-the-rain.org / Pearson Triton 28

To most people this boat looks like an old gray sailboat, quietly weathering away in the boatyard of broken dreams. But look at that sheer line, that low freeboard. She’s so sleek, elegant, and graceful that Carl Alberg must have designed the high goofy cabin top just to keep people from coveting his boats just a little too much. Being around this beauty distracts me from my own baby, and I need to get back to work.

Fall comes quickly in the Pacific Northwest, by late August you’re just one cold front away from fall, which around here is basically pre-winter. Rain crushes your topside work, and as the temp starts to consistently drop below 50 degrees you can forget about epoxy and adhesives. So while others are out enjoying the cruisiest month of the year with fine sailing and sunset drinks in the cockpit, I’m freaking out about all that needs to be done before winter sets in and exposes the projects I’ve neglected to complete this year. Job #1 is bottom paint. I’ve never done it, but know it takes days, money, and organization. Just finding the right bottom paint is a pain. But I do my research, and choose a new quality paint that is compatible with the old. Day rides with me to the boat store to pick it up, which goes great until he asks me how much it costs. There’s no way to justify spending $300 for a gallon of paint to pretty much anyone, least of all a nine year old. He quickly figures out what kind and how many toys that would buy him, and I find myself stammering to explain my purchase, muttering words like quality and copper. I can see they’re not making much of an impact, and even admire his reasoning, his innocent yet powerful understanding that boats can cost lots of money.

I push out the thoughts of how much I’m spending on this job, not just the paint but the rollers, brushes, trays, Tyvek suit, respirator, sanding disks, rags, and of course the haul out (and relaunch) fee. It’s really not that hard to get over, because I’ve already come to terms with my obsession, I know I’m hopeless with this boat. Why is that? Why do grown men give everything they have – time, labor, money to an inanimate object that floats on water? I don’t really know why, I’m sure it has something to do with the feminine nature of boats. I do understand that part, if you don’t then here are just a few of the many similarities: Like women, boats cost money. They require time. They will put up with an amazing amount of your crap and mistakes as long as you love them, and prove at least once in a while that you have the best intentions. If you take care of them, they will take care of you when you feel all is lost. They will provide safety and comfort when you’re scared shitless, because they are stronger and more resilient. She will stand steady and firm against the abuses of a stormy world, while you lay cowering in your bunk below. But if she feels neglected, if you don’t show attention to her most minor of ailments, she will turn indifferent toward your suffering, leaving you to sort out a dire situation on your own.

But for me there’s something more, something my soon to be ex-wife never understood, probably because I lacked the communication skills to actually tell her: This boat, my boat, this 1978 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, is now 41 years old, just a few years younger than me. She is showing her age, with cracking gelcoat, leaky windows, and highly questionable chainplates. Her backbone – the compression arch – was compromised with moisture, and I’m pretty sure she keeps on keepin’ on with a slight twist in her hull. Someone at some point in time didn’t take proper care of this boat. Someone who comes by the dock once in a while told me I’d be better off giving her away to a crackhead. But I think she can be saved. Just because someone is getting older doesn’t mean they should be written off. Just because somebody wasn’t cared for properly doesn’t mean they can’t overcome the past and succeed in this world. I think I can fix her. I think I can fix me.

After three long days of hard work, the painting is done, but I find it hard to leave the boatyard. I plop down on the tailgate, dig a cold beer out of the cooler, sit back and just take in those beautiful curves. The fading light draws pink and blue shadows across the beauty in front of me. I guess there are quite a few things that test my self control – beauty, grace, elegance. If I felt this way about drugs they would call me an addict. Some might call me a hopeless romantic. I guess these days I just think of myself as a big fat mess.

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 bottom paint

2/18 – Not much crying, but the paranoia is off the charts and the accusations are flying. She calls me early in the morning, says they want to move her to a different room, but that is where she will be killed. She says all of her belongings are going to be taken away and burned. She says she knows people are on facebook saying her organs will fail. She says she was unfaithful to me but I already know all about it from facebook. Things feel cold to the touch, then hot. People on tv are saying bad things about her. Over the phone I can hear hospital staff entering the room, telling her to hang up the phone. She refuses, pleads for help, tells me to call 911. I hear her screaming No!! No!! then the phone goes dead.

Later in the day I’m allowed to speak to her again. She sounds worn out and confused. I need to see her and ask to talk with a nurse. But I get nowhere, so I drive two hours to the hospital anyway. Here I’m told she is still on unit restriction, still not cleared from suicide watch. Plus she hasn’t signed the release paperwork for her doctor to share status information to me about her condition. She’s too scared of everyone to give her consent to anyone to do anything. I do find out though that she will be on prolonged restriction due to her fighting back against the hospital staff when they tried to move her to a new ward. It took 6 people to hold her down to a gurney where she could be restrained with straps and medicated. She is scratched and bruised and her finger is bloodied from where they forcibly removed her wedding ring. I think my visitation was denied because they didn’t want me to see her injuries. I talk to her by phone as I drive back home. She understands I came and tried to see her. She says she will reconsider signing the release of information paperwork then hangs up. It’s a long winding road back down the island, and the word unfaithful is planted in my mind, but I can’t process it. Instead the image of her fighting back in the hospital keeps playing through my head. Amazingly after all that has happened today, all I really feel right now is proud.

Fear

6/3/19 Tuesday

The gulls distant cry, the afternoon sun beams through the companionway. I dice up leftover steak to be cooked in the skillet, meat that will be added to soup. My work for the day is done, the laptop closed, music on, beer opened. Windy out, forecasted to blow a gale this evening, but the hatch is open and it’s so nice right now, so peaceful. The sun swings through the cabin in slow motion, cooking what lies in its path. I soak in the warmth and let go.

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 liveaboard

My son’s little league season ended last week. I’m so proud of him. The beginning of the season was cold and wet, with the practices ending in darkness. Day would get hit by the baseball at least once a practice, and usually on game days during warm up. On Thursday he was hit on the inner thigh by the fastest pitcher in the league. He had been afraid of this particular pitcher, and his fear came true. Day dropped to the ground in pain, I sprinted to home plate from my spot as first base coach. I held him there at the plate, we worked it out in front of everyone. I helped him to his feet before he limped off to first base. Two pitches later he stole second. So proud!

Saturday was the championship game of the tournament that capped off the season, and Day had to face the same pitcher. I told him it’s ok to be afraid, that without fear there is no courage. He struck out, but stood firm in the batter’s box and took all those fast pitches. How many times can I say I’m proud of him? His team lost 3-1. To celebrate the second place finish we took a trip as a team to a Mariners home game. It was all day, a wonderful spectacle. All the families came, Sara came.

We sat together, and got along well enough. It was nice, and hard not to think about how good it was when things were better between us. Where did we go wrong? Can we ever go back? I don’t think so. They say before you die your life flashes before you. I’ve almost died twice that I know of and can say that didn’t happen to me. But as the end of our relationship draws near I find plenty of time to take a look back at the marriage. The memories come in still images, random and trivial moments that apparently were logged somewhere deep in the brain: working together to change a tail light bulb in her car, watching her get ready for work when we used to live in an apartment, making coffee in the morning. So many memories, so much time – 15 years. It’s easy to look back. It can be scary to think about the future. I put down the pen and try not to think too much. A last look out the companionway as the sun dips below the roof of B dock. It shines on my lowered mast, wrapped in halyards and shrouds, waiting patiently for me to return my focus to something simple and beautiful – fixing up this old boat. Today I filed for divorce. Tomorrow I’ll raise the mast.

after-the-rain.org / Sunset at the marina

2/15 She’s awake in bed, sitting upright. It’s dark. She asks me to listen to the radio, says they’re talking about Whidbey Island, talking about us. I listen with her. They do mention Whidbey Island. They’re not talking about us. I sit with her in the dark. It’s ok I say, I tell her she can run things by me if she’s not sure what she’s hearing. She looks distant and scared at the same time. She keeps the radio on.

Highs & Lows

5/15/19 Wednesday

Long day today, 3 hour drive to Seattle for a site walk. In urban environments most cell site antennas are not on towers but instead on rooftops. This usually works great for everyone – the wireless carrier gets the elevation, the property owner gets the lease revenue. Only problem is when the owner wants a new roof, and the entire site needs to be decommed then completely rebuilt. There is an amazing amount of pressure on the crews to get the work done quickly to minimize outage time. I’m here to help put that plan together, but it’s hard to concentrate.

High atop a downtown building, standing on a rotting roof in 2 inches of pigeon shit listening to a dozen guys talking shop, I space out and take in the view of a vibrant city under mass construction. Cranes, excavators, dozers, road crews, people, traffic. I watch a homeless man slowly push a shopping cart down the middle of the street below. A sea plane banks around the space needle, descending to Lake Union into a northerly breeze. It’s mostly sunny but high cirrus clouds to the south promise rain. A crow flies close, hovering over the roof then disappears over the edge like nothing. For a moment I’m light and free, my eyes are open but I’m feeling more than seeing what’s around me. I snap back to reality as the property owner begins to argue with the general contractor about what is and is not included in the scope of work. It will result in an email later that this half million dollar project will go $100k over budget. The conversation continues but the site walk is over.

after-the-rain.org / South Lake Union development

I call my boss on the drive home with the intention of quitting. It’s not a hasty decision but I feel the time has come. He takes my call, but I’m not straight forward enough and begin this long lead in to why I’m going to leave. He sees right through it, cuts me short and tells me he’ll do whatever to make me stay. I don’t ask for anything and end up staying, just because it feels nice to be wanted.

Glad to be back at the boat. I work on emails, I tend to paperwork for the divorce. I do a load of laundry, and think about Day while I fold clothes. I’m sad and hungry and didn’t plan anything for dinner. I slice up a tortilla and cheese, pop a can of St. Croix sparkling water – lime. A candle, the lantern, food, soft music, thinking of my son, the divorce. After a time I start to feel better and notice the boat sway as the wind picks up. I smell the rain before it arrives, and as the drops start to pitter patter up top, I hear an eagle whistle from across the bay. Nothing is easy about this, but moments like these give me hope.

Asleep on the floor of the office, the door bangs open again, the light smacks on. “What did you do with all the pictures of Day?! Did you take them from me?” She’s hyperventilating. “Nothing” I say, “I didn’t do anything with them. Everything will be ok, I’ll help you find them in the morning.” The door slams, into darkness again, shaking. In the morning I find all the pictures, just where they’ve always been. She has nothing to say. Now I realize we have a big problem, we’re both going to need help through this.

Bedrooms, Bathrooms & Offices, Coming and Going

4/18/19 Thursday

I work from home as a construction manager for a major cellular network carrier. I mainly review plans, scopes of work, permits and equipment orders to make sure they all match up for any given project. For the most part it’s a pretty nice job, and I like the people I work with. Plus working “from home” doesn’t have to really mean from home, it’s more like working “anywhere you have a good internet connection”. This week I officially moved my office to the boat.

I wasn’t sure how it would go but it’s turning out to be quite pleasant. With a docking station for the laptop, a large monitor, full size keyboard, portable Bose speaker and coffee maker, I’m good to go. And of course heat – there’s a silent mini oil filled radiator that breaks the chill, and an opposite of silent blasphemous black rattle trap electric space heating fire hazard. I’m eyeballing a tiny wood stove for the future but that’s a story for another post.

after-the-rain.org / Working in a small boat

Yesterday while I was plucking away at the computer a stranger appeared and starting asking questions about the boat. This isn’t too out of the ordinary but soon he was asking if the boat was for sale. Of course I said no and then of course I asked how much he would have offered if I had said yes. Within five minutes we agreed on a price and the sale of the boat was pending the approval of his wife, who would be coming shortly. Upon arrival she asked if the boat had an enclosed head, which is boat talk for a regular style toilet inside a private bathroom. I said no. She then assumed it had a porta potty – no. I decided to turn the conversation positive and reveal that we did offer a spacious 5 gallon bucket with a marvelous seat attachment, and although the attachment didn’t fit well and I didn’t know where it was and the bucket was currently being used for a hose, scrub brush, bottle of boat soap and a can coozie, that in theory it would probably work. Within two minutes they were both gone and I was left feeling dirty and guilty, surprised by my rash decision making and emotional volatility, shaken. Today I brought some flowers to the boat to show I was sorry.

after-the-rain.org / Flowers on a Flicka sailboat

One of the pleasures of being in a healthy relationship is seeing what happens to the bedroom. The bed itself becomes a complete disaster – covers in disarray, clothes on the floor, dresser drawers open, underwear lost in the sheets. Bathroom counter space overflows with handfuls of unimaginable beauty lotions and potions, hair brushes, hair dryer, curling iron, straightening iron, makeup, so many colors and smells. Steam from the shower, warm and wet. The radio is on. The bedroom paints its own picture of sex, love, and life. I want to be in that room again.

Kitchens are for Dancing

3/30/19 Saturday

I don’t know about everyone but for me the heart of the home is the kitchen. The smell of a heating skillet, tasting of ingredients, the ritual of coffee, the temperature change of reaching in the freezer. The kitchen table, a constant collection of what is happening on any given day, what needs to be done, what needs to be put away. Homework, meals, projects, games, bills groceries, nowhere else in the house does more go down than in the kitchen. And by far the most important thing is verbal and physical communication.

Our kitchen is small, so it forces us to move about in close proximity, constantly aware of each other, timing our movements to avoid collision as one reaches for the bread and the other a plate. A small east facing window shines light on it all, a spotlight on the actors of life playing out a performance both common and unique, timeless and special. One way you know you’re doing something right in life is when time stands still, when the world stops for a moment and you really appreciate it, and intense and fragile beauty. Take your wife by the hand, twirl her around, and make your own world stand still as you dance together in the kitchen.

after-the-rain.org / Country kitchen window

A calm and pleasant Saturday. I fix ham and toast, OJ and milk, doughnuts. It’s coffee on the patio, the cat plays with mouse toys and Day brings out his magnifying glass to light things on fire and torture ants. Sara joins us with her own coffee and that makes me happy inside. The glare of the morning sun reveals an awkward, pained look on her face which is probably a reflection of mine. Emotionally separated but physically close, today I’ll take what I can get.

In the afternoon I head to the boat, just to write, eat lunch, just to be. The stiff geometry of the docks plays with the curvature of the other sailboats around me. The spring sun shines on everything, and I’m happy to be here.

after-the-rain.org / Writing on a sailboat

Chicken Sandwich

3/26/19 Tuesday

Nightmares last night and was awake for hours. The thought of another lonely day working from home on the computer drives me away, to pack up for the day and head to the boat. Coffee and music, a nice drive up the island. The wind whips across Penn Cove, a gull hovers above the water, back lit by morning sun. The images enter my head, they are absorbed, released.

Pulling into the marina is like the start of a new day. Casual conversation with people on the dock (dock talk) is uplifting. Most of the people are older, they move slowly, and take their time organizing their thoughts before they speak – I like that. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Some have little dogs. With their lovely curious eyes and and playful wags my frown turns upside down. In the present, one moment at a time.

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 in the marina

The boat waits patiently, gently rocking, like one of the little dogs wagging her tail. The sun peeks through the clouds for a brief moment, beautiful. No dew, no bird crap, did she know I was coming today? Lights, heat, music, my mood continues to improve. Typing away on a little laptop, work issues come and go, a zen to the flow of emails, in and out, pressure and release. Before long it’s time for lunch, I take a break and go up top. Sitting there in the cockpit eating the leftover half of the chicken sandwich that Day didn’t eat last night at dinner, I think about my son – he is at school. I think about my wife – I don’t know where she is.

A car slowly approaches my son, and I’m having trouble pulling him out of the way. Banging on the passenger window gets the driver to stop just in time, but Day walks to the rear of the car and sits down behind the back tire. The car starts to back up, and I just can’t drag him away. I’ve saved him so many times before, why can’t I save him now? I wake up in the cold still dark, sweat drips down my chest. I’m too upset to go back to sleep, too afraid.

Warmth

3/24/19 Sunday

It’s late March and 55 degrees but I can’t shake the chill. My little black space heater is maxed out, rattling away on the bottom step of the companionway, creating a ray of warmth to a distance of about 2 feet. Somehow adding more layers just doesn’t help. Unfortunately the only real way to warm up is to get busy and actually do something – I put on my shoes, tie the laces in slow motion, put on my game face for the day.

I go up top and decide to rig a lowering system for the mast. It’s a job that’s been put off for too long but needs to be done before sailing this season. The fiberglass section beneath the mast needs beefing up, plus the steel mast step that holds the mast to the boat is backwards, something that has taken me months to realize. It feels good to work the lines again, adjusting the main and jib halyards, tearing apart the cabin lockers looking for just the right straps, webbing, carabiners, and blocks. It’s fun to work this stuff out in my head, to work rope, to walk the deck of the boat and feel it respond to each step. Before long it’s all worked out, the boat is a mess, but it doesn’t feel as cold anymore.

after-the-rain.org / Flicka 20 bowsprit

I head into town and try out a new restaurant. Skylights and hazy sunshine, hot black coffee, hash browns and eggs with diced tomatoes and avocado. The server is blonde and gorgeous. The back and forth of asking how my meal was and that everything was great and that I’m ready for the check now will be the most romantic interaction I’ve had in recent memory. As I walk out the door I marvel at how distant the gulf feels between me and the possibility of meeting someone new, but the sun is out now, and as I walk down the sidewalk it occurs to me that I’m warm.

From the driveway I see the tree house I built at the edge of the woods. It took 9 months to build what would take a carpenter two weeks. Every kid needs a tree house I thought. Day doesn’t play in it. Sara shows no interest. Did I build it just for me? I can’t help think the same about the marriage..