Hydrangeas and Lilies

Summing up the problem with Trumpers in one Great Mark Twain quote.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.
Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

When a sailor’s at sea, he’s always dreaming of being in port. The food. The drink. The comforts. Even the ordinary things like short exchanges with another person or people-watching. But in port, he is thinking of being at sea. His mind is wandering around the boat.

There is a tension between the comfort of isolation and the anxiety of complete self-reliance. I’ve always had a slight sense of insecurity in ability, even though I have many times proven reasonably handy. But I’ve never taken a long passage alone. Done no significant solo sailing actually. Just a few times out on Dambreezy and some long days in Balmour Harbor on dinghy’s. And, when I first learned to sail, a little around San Diego harbor. When I was training for the big sailing races I was known more for being good at the physical work of grinding through sail changes in heavy seas than being a navigator or tactician. I am not particularly capable at fixing the radio or generator or adjusting rigging.

But my god it was exhilarating on those big boats in the North Atlantic. I remember doing sail changes in the middle of the night with waves coming over the deck. It was bitter cold and we had been soaked for several days. There’s no way to get dry in the North Atlantic. The wind and water are constant when beating into the wind. On this night, we were trying for a fast time from Southampton around Fastnet, off the southern coast of Ireland. All night the Captain ordered sail changes according to slight changes in conditions and so I was in the bow most of the night with a mate. More than half the crew was below, sea-sick, and the others were in the cockpit handling the winches and the mainsail.

In racing sail changes, we always kept the jib not being used clipped to the forestay, below the last hasp of the live jib, and tied off at the rail. This made it easy and fast to change back if we needed to. We were encumbered by multiple layers, with our waterproof suit on the outside, and then life vest and safety harness. It was suicidal to not be clipped on at all times because when a wave came over the side or bow, if you did not have a strong handhold at that moment, we would get washed down the deck and it would be easy to slip right through lifelines and over the side. So we were clipped. Always. At night, there was no chance of being seen if someone were to get washed overboard; and even during the day, it was 50/50 you could be seen in the dark stormy skies while surrounded on all sides by mountainous waves. If we needed to unclip to move around the mast or to the other side, it was one hand on something solid, unclip, and immediately re-clip. We were constantly getting thrown around by the water coming over the side while we battled the heavy sails–captain screaming the entire time a sail was not up. Every time we lost footing and went washing down the deck, we would bounce off the mast, or deck rigging, or a winch. After a few days at sea, there were few areas of the body that were not bruised. I still have a disfigured thumb from getting whacked by the housing on the jib tack when it got loose in a storm.

When cruising, if you want to change out the jib, you simply drop the sail, unclip it, stow it and hoist the new sail. But when racing, every second a sail is down, the boat is losing speed. So you have the other sail already clipped. On the mark, someone releases the jib halyard while another person drags the sail down with all their might and as fast as possible. Another person is furiously unclipping the hasps and pulling the sail to the deck. The halyard is then released from the old sail and quickly attached to the new sail and when the last hasp is off the retiring sail the halyard is tensioned and the new sail zips up. We had gotten very good at this with practice. It’s just tough in the pitch dark in heavy seas with waves roaring over the bow and thousands of pounds of water pressure trying to dislodge and disrupt. I remember being in the middle of a sail change when the bow dove straight down into a trough and so much water came over that I was completely submerged for a few seconds–holding the halyard with one hand and the sail with the other and trying not to get washed away. Up comes the bow, away washes the water and we continue on. Time and again, all through the night. It was exhausting, but exhilarating as hell.

I trained for the 2004 ‘Round the world race, but ultimately dropped out in favor of going to Namibia to teach and start MYO. But I recently saw some footage shot during the same race in 2000. Makes me sort of happy to have dropped out.

People sometimes worry about single people—especially single people who tend towards solitude. A friend asked me the other day what I would be doing if I had a girlfriend. I said, probably pretty much what I do now—just with someone else along a good bit of the time.

This morning I had coffee at home and read The NY Times. Listened to a little NPR. Then I went to Starbucks, had another coffee and read for abut 45 minutes. Wrote a little on the blog and went to the Cleveland motorcycle exhibition. Then to Whole Foods for dinner stuff, then home where I made a mushroom, shallot, and goat cheese galette which I had with Atlantic char poached in white wine and a pretty damn good French Sauvignon Blanc. Then a bit of Netflix and more reading and bed. Not an atypical Saturday for me with the exception of the motorcycle convention, which is sort of a one-off. Other times it might be a visit to a winery or museum, or a long hike, or a movie, or some other something going on around town.

The motorcycle exhibition was a little disappointing because there were no European bikes there at all. No BMW. No Ducati. The place was packed though—5:1 Harley folks who by all appearance dress always the same, so they are easily recognizable. Harley Davidson t-shirt, Harley Davidson jacket, jeans and lots of wallets on chains. Some people still looking for Vietnam vets who went MIA 50 years ago.

I re-stocked my fresh flowers with hydrangeas and lilies. And dinner was excellent. First time making that French pastry. Will not be the last.

Oh. And this, I got to spend a night in hospital this week. Been a while since I’ve had that pleasure. I had been feeling off for a week, but at first thought it was a stomach bug because there was so much stuff going around. Then, after 4 days I started thinking it was just this semi-painful abdominal swelling issue that I sometimes get. I always thought it was somehow related to stress. Anyway, this kept getting worse. So Tuesday morning I had to go in because the pain had ramped right the fuck up. They pretty much figured it out as soon as I told them the symptoms; so I got the CT scan to confirm and then the IV drip and then hunkered down and dozed off and on until I got released around 8:00. Picked up my drugs and soup and headed home.

Interesting experience at the pharmacy. I felt really terrible and desperately just wanted to magically be home in bed. But I had to pick up my meds and swing by the store for soup. I am restricted in diet for a few days and I always make soup so never keep canned soup around—but I definitely did not feel like cooking when I got home and the day before I had not eaten nothing the entire day. Nada. So I needed something.

Anyway, the pharmacy. Super tired, I go in and give the lady at the pick-up window my name. I am the only customer in the entire place. She has nothing for me, so asks for my paperwork. I give it to her. She says “drop off is at the other end” and points to the other end of the counter where her clone is standing and scrolling on her phone. So I trudge the 50’ to the other end to the lady that takes the scripts. I am not too demanding, I don’t think, but it sure seems easy enough that she could have taken the damn papers down to the other end. But it was my job. Apparently. I sat and waited for 30 minutes while the super well educated Pharma dude counted out my 4 meds.

I worked from home Wednesday, alternating with some rests a bit here and there, and then back to office Thursday and Friday. I had a quick drink with Prachi after work Friday and I told her my best day of the week was the day I was in the hospital. I’ve never really seen an organization so intent on continually repeating the same mistakes, so committed to ignoring the advice of the highly paid professionals they’ve hired to advise them, and so adamant about placing blame on everyone except their very own decision makers who have been calling the shots. I have now heard several of our executives say they expect our partners to do a lot of work for free just because we are Cleveland Clinic.

There’s a pretty big body of work that we need our primary partner to do and it is clearly not in the contract we signed—yet the execs expect them to do it for free anyway just because the work was discussed at some point. The contract clearly states they are not responsible for the work and yet we expect them to do it and not charge us. It’s sort of mind boggling. The interesting thing, from my perspective, is there are things that they should have some culpability for; some areas of deficiency in their performance that have resulted in additional costs due to time delays or quality issues. But it’s hard to have that conversation if we are being so ridiculous in asserting they should do a lot of work for free. We should agree to pay for the work that was legitimately left out of the contract, for whatever reason, but which we signed, and then we have a platform to have a conversation about some credits due us for deficient work. Anyway….hard to get the mind around it.

No other news of note.




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