I returned to The east coast as usual for the holidays, straight from the recording session with Joe in Montana, resolved to stay until I finished mixing and mastering the new CD. I figured I'd still reach Florida in February, to complete the job of restoring Dueodde (the steel boat) that I'd started in the yard the year before. Even more, to focus on performing again after missing a lot of winter seasons. But life doesn't always work out the way you plan.
I worked hard on the CD, and got it mostly done, but after a month back at home, it was obvious to me that something was seriously wrong with ma, and that she was getting worse. I started to come up with excuses to postpone leaving, but by mid-February I'd run out of excuses, and also knew I couldn't leave the way things stood. I'd been pressuring her to go to the doc and finally I just said I wouldn't leave till she did, and in fact, I demanded she go to the emergency room right then, either by herself or I'd take her. She didn't return from the hospital for over a month.
She was hospitalized with acute anemia. She was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma, cancer of the lymph tract. I cancelled all my plans and stayed, there was no question of leaving just then. It took over a month to get a final identification of the cancer, but in the end, she had a good set of doctors and a good prognosis. The form of lymphoma she had was one they had an effective treatment for, and even an antibody for the specific type she had. The question was whether she could take the chemotherapy without such adverse reactions that they'd have to use less effective treatment, or go to less effective levels, or if she could last out the entire 6 months of treatment. These were tough times. I took on the role of primary care-giver from the start. The fact is, I am the freest one in the family. My brother is in Texas with his family, my sisters both have young children, and they all have regular jobs. I can just drop everything if I have to, so I did.
I don't want anyone to worry, so I'll tell you now that the treatment worked and cured the cancer, and ma's expected to make a full recovery from the effects of the chemo. But back to life as it happened..it was now early Spring. In Virginia, the first flowers were showing in late February, though there were also snowstorms for another month. We were looking at a long hard road ahead, not knowing where it would end. It was really hard for ma at first, but she is incredibly strong willed and was definitely inspiring to everyone in her ability to face it all with a good attitude. I had serious talks with the doctor and after the first 6 weeks the prognosis was actually very hopeful, something I tried hard to impress on ma, and to translate the biology I understood to terms she could understand. Those weeks when she was hospitalized were pretty hard. I got her books on CD and a portable CD player. I sat with her a lot, and shuttled back and forth with mail and e-mail, keeping life going for her. She had another CAT scan after the first chemo and the tumors had visibly shrinked, it was working. All we had to do was keep it up, keep ma healthy otherwise, keep her protected from catching anything when her immune system was down, keep her from getting anemic or losing too much weight, keep her quality of life up as much as possible so she didn't get depressed. We actually went to Baltimore and she shot a commercial for a hospital in the first months of treatment, just after she got out of the hospital.
I did it Right. I stayed focused and positive. I basically fed her energy, and high protein smoothies with fresh fruit and yoghurt, keeping her positive, taking her on the rounds of doctor appointments, part chauffer, part companion, part nurse, part very attentive waiter; trying to keep life good despite the situation. Trying not to be over-attentive, yet always there. Making sure not to do too much, making sure I was right there when she needed me, when she ran out of steam. Make sure there was always fresh water and tempting snacks and a cold small glass of smoothie ready, know it was hard for her to eat meals, but that we could substitute lots of little snacks, even just a small glass of smoothie. I don't know if I can describe it for you. I felt like it was something that I used all my abilities to do, and was good at it, and did it Right. Like a piece of music, or a dance, I can't say just what I did, I just did it Right, moment by moment, step by step.
It was a hard road for both of us, and I can't even begin to think how hard it was for ma. I was jsut taking care of her while she was going through it. She is a strong person and definitely showed her stuff. I know where I get it from for sure.
Though I had to change my plans, I am also good at that. I try to explain to people that while I have such detailed plans, they are not expectations, but more like extrapolations and options. I imagine what will happen if I chose one path or another and plan for it, while realizing that anything can happen, and not being attached to any plan. I've always got lots of plans, ready to chose whichever seems appropriate, or come up with a new one. So I did. In fact, I usually have a lot harder time with making decisions than carrying them through. So in this case, it was really easy, no questions or doubts, the Right thing to do was obvious, so I did it. In many ways it was a relief from the constant struggle I have to percieve what is Right to do, the Right path to choose, something that is all too often not that clear. So for a while, my path was clear, and I walked it. I'd been thinking of stopping for a while, at ma's most likely, to try and work on the backlog of projects that have been delayed by circumstances so long. Though the care-giving took up most of my time, I decided to try and set all those plans in motion, see how they progress, more than expect to get somewhere. I had to stay positive about the change, so I pushed myself to accomplish important things.
I was able to do some serious work on ma's house, as the place had been going downhill for a few years as I had to deal with other things, and my sisters had their own places, and just time taking it's toll, and the hurricane that summer. When I first got to ma's house for the holidays, you couldn't walk all the way around the house for the downed limbs. Luckily we lost no trees, but there was still a lot of damage and debris. Ma was planning some major remodeling, the first since we'd moved in back in '65. I took care of a lot of work around the yard and minor repairs around the house. I helped her get the new mortagage together for the remodelling, and start lining up the first contractors. But the chemo was slowing her down so much, that eventually we had to accept that any major work would have to wait till the fall.
Working in the yard I had a strange experience. I had spent years planting flowers and perrenials during my spring visits, but I had never been around to see them bloom. I would often plant a garden but never see it produce, though ma would write me letters about it. I'd never really seen the house explode into bud and leaf and flowers everywhere, it was quite a sight. I cleared out all the overgrowth and planted more.
The biggest thing, of course, was I did another round of work on the new CD, "A Hobo's Dulcimer", got it finished and off to the production house. This was a serious and major accomplishment, the culmination of 7 years of work, from the time I decided to get my own digital equipment and produce my own CDs instead of buying time in a commercial studio again. I also updated the CD pages on this website, so you can read all about the new CD there! While it is a milestone, it is just the start of what I want to do. The next CD of all original music is really mostly done, but I need to record some of the newer songs again and mix the entire CD. As well, I need to keep studying how to mix, get to be a better engineer. I have a really exceptionally good system, but I am just a beginner as far as using it goes.
Perhaps what is more important here is all the things I did that don't have obvious results, yet. I finally started on some of the major priorities that have been hanging so long, and are key parts of moving forward, just as the CD is. the essential , I started the serious production of electric dulcimers. It is amazing to think that it is 12 years since I drew up the final design and started building, yet there have been so many disasterous events that slowed my life to a crawl. I'd always thought I'd build the next dulcimer with all the cosmetic finish and details, but never had time to, so I finally sanded and varnished the dulcimer last year, 9 years after I got the piece of wood and began to build it.
Though it was always my plan to build more, I feel like I have to now. I've been performing solely on the millenium edition electric dulcimer for 5 years now. Someone will copy what I've done for sure, and there's nothing I can do about it really. I've been recieving the first e-mail from other people planning to build electric dulcimers. So though I was years ahead of everyone, I may soon have lost my lead and claim to uniqueness. There is so much ahead though, exploring what I can do with it, all the potentials in tone and effect that are in the nature of an electronic instrument, as I follow in the path, no, the highway built by the guitar! Yet in the end, as with the guitar, the straight acoustic sound will always be important. As Moog said about the synthesizer, new instruments are not about replacing anything, they're just a new way of doing things, another way of doing things. I am adding to the great achievment instrument builders have already accomplished in the truly amazing variety of instruments we have today. I am taking the dulcimer forward into the 21st century, following the lead of the electric guitar, just like is being done with many instruments. Yet it is still, in the end, all about making music. So as far as the electric dulcimers go, all I can do now is produce some and see if people want to buy them. I am still the first, though others might overshadow me with better promotion or marketing, or frankly, craftsmanship. Ha! And I can produce the first avalable production dulcimers for people to buy, and then I will also lose my lead and claim to uniqueness as the first and only player and performer on the electric dulcimer! Yet, that is what I must do, since I'm "only dancing on this earth for a short while" and the only hope I have is to pass on what I have done to someone else, the eternal conflict between wanting to keep what you have poured your life into, yet you must pass it on and give it away, if it is to live and not die with you. Life has a funny, if effective and successful strategy; it lives forever by passing on life to new life even in dying. Humans have succeeded by passing on knowledge from the elders to the youth, so the knowledge lives on and grows, even as the individuals pass away.
To get back to practical matters, I am fairly satisfied with the physical design of the dulcimer, except for cosmetic embelishments. There's the difference between building one and getting set-up to produce dulcimers, the investment in tools and finding dependable suppliers for materials, and even developing production methods. But all that is really not the leading edge of what I am doing. The focus of development has shifted to the electric aspect of the instrument. I became deeply involved in designing and building wound pickups for the dulcimer. I'll have to experiment, because I am once again heading into relatively unexplored territory. Someone hand-wound pickups for my brother once, years ago, and I tried them once, and they worked. These are exceptionally long pickups of course, and there are a lot of possible ways to get the desired effect. In fact, I am going back to the essential physics of wound pickups, so I can develop different ways to get the desired results, different arrangements of windings and magnets, and build prototypes to see what works. Maybe they will all work, but there is only one way to find out. I am actually building modular prototypes so I can use the same components in a variety of configurations between coils and magnets.. but this is more deatial that you need.. I'll write a page just on designing and building the pickups one day, I'm sure. I researched and bought all the materials: magnet wire, various sizes, shapes, strengths and types of magnets, and material for bobbins. I also researched and bought everything for making a machine to make the coils, since part of the whole concept here is to start producing dulcimers, which means I'll need not just a few pickups, but a way to continuosly produce as many as I need.. I found a lumberyard that specialized in hardwoods for instruments, cabinetry and other fine woodcraft. They had just gooten in some maple that would be out of the kilns in October, so I put in an order for the wide planks I needed, and have proved hard to find. Finally I researched the circuitry inside an electric guitar, and bought the parts to build that. Though the dulcimer will be more complex than the average guitar, especially the prototype. I am planning on having a variety of pickups and need to be able to select and adjust tone and volume on all the different pickups I have. The prototype will be even worse because I'll need to be able to compare pickups. In the experimental stage, I'll probably start with too many options, and slowly pare it down as some of the options either are redundant or make no perceptable difference. I'll have a page dedicated just to this eventually. I have already added a new page just for people interested in building electric hammered dulcimers. I've tried to give a basic idea of what I am doing, and where I am at at the present. I'll invite the people who have contacted me, or contact me in the future, to add their contributions to the page.
Another thing I did was to sit down and figure out what gear I still needed at this point, both for the recording studio and for live performance. For the DAW system, I bought a serious rack mount two channel multiband equalizer and a two channel compressor/limiter with a few other effects. I learned from the mixdown of the first CD that it would save a lot of time and energy if I invested in this gear before I recorded more. The compressor/limiter will save me a lot of time in post production. It is designed to process the sound to make it more recordable, primarily with really high quality compression and limiting. Digital recording doesn't accept over the limit peaks in volume, it just produces a "click" sound, while tape would just distort. COmpression reduces the dynamic range of natural sound, the range between the loudest and quietest sounds, to a range more suitable for recording equipment and playback through sound systems, where the volume range need to be relatively even. Recording and playback emphasises dynamic range, compression counteracts this effect to make recordings sound more natural. While compression can be used as an effect to change the sound, high quality compression makes the sound more suitable for recording while making it sound more natural when it is played back than it would without compression. The equalizer will make the task of equalization a lot easier, wether before or after recording. It has visual led readouts for 32 frequency bands, making it a lot easier to identify and adjust weak or overpowering frequencies, balance the sound quickly and effectively, at very specific points. I am not an engeneer with an ear trained to identify all the frequencies, I need the visual readouts to helpme, and even to train my ear, identify what frequencies I am hearing. I studied a lot about mixng in the process of making the new CD, but I really need to keep learning, and having better tools will help.
For live performing, I also bought a outboard equalizer and pre-amp with a notch filter (one you set to control a certain small range of frequencies up or down) for controlling "wolf tones". "Wolf tones" refer to the occasions when due to the interplay of harmonics in the dulci from variations in tuning and environmental conditions, certain tones will be much louder than the rest of the instrument and stand out above the rest. The notch filter can be used to control these.
There was another important aspect of getting this equipment beyond recording or performing. I need to have all the components so I can buy the right sized flight case to hold it all. The only missing component at this point is replacing the monitor with an LCD screen, simply because the LCD is way smaller than a CRT. But I know what size to expect there, so that won't hold me back from getting the gear flight ready finally. The next step in my overall plans involves being able to fly from place to place regularly, rather than drive, and the flight cases are the essential gear for this.
I returned to 1213 about May 1st, in the midst of Spring turning to summer, the time I usually arrive for the best season of the year there. Though I was still the primary caregiver, I arranged with my sisters to get time saturdays and sundays to go and play out on the street. I didn't play as much as I would have under normal circumstances, and sometimes my sisters had other responsibilities they couldn't get out of and I skipped playing, but all and all I still got out . At least I wouldn't have to try and make the year without any income at all. Also, I just got back to playing again. I have a hard time with life if I don't play. During the winter I'd done one school show for my neice's kindergarden class. Then I'd played the piano almost every day for at least a little bit, studying music styles I hadn't experienced or learning new songs. I was also babysitting my niece at ma's house, having her sleep over a few nights a week while my sister worked nights, and I'd sing her to sleep every night. Ma was getting weaker, of course, losing weight slowly. The fact is that chemotherapy is poison, and damages the body, one of the questions from the beginning was wether she could last out the entire course of treatment. But she was actually doing good, as far as that went. Though the effect was serious, with her hair gone and weight down, but it wasn't too much, and if we could just keep the same rate, the chemo would be over before she'd lost too much weight. In fact, she was even regaining a bit as each chemo session wore off, before the next one, as we worked our way through May and June to the final session.
Then came the tests, the first CAT scans and PET scans. It all came back clear, no sign of anything. But the real test was next. We had to wait till the end of JUly for a second scan, to see if anything started to pop up after the chemotherapy had been stopped for a month at that point. Ma was also very weak, just starting to recover from the chemo therapy, but really bouncing back once she was free of the chemo sessions. Slowly at first, but gaining momentum. The next set of tests came back and the doctor declared a qualified success. No sign of cancer in any of the scans or tests., and her health was starting to improve in every way. There would be another round of tests in 3 months at the beginning of October, then again in another three months in December, then another round in 6 months. If nothing showed in that time, then she was in the clear. The doctor said the Lymphoma was probably a result of her earlier radiation therapy for breast cancer many years before, and there was no guarantee it wouldn't happen again. But this time she'd been able to beat it. That actually was a good indication that she could beat it again if she had to.
Ma and I had talked about what to do at this point, assuming all the tests came back good, and worked out a plan with my sisters for me to take another break, for 8 weeks this time, and go to Alaska. There was no time to drive, so I got plane tickets as soon as the test results were in. Ma had had 6 weeks of recovery and was doing good. So I packed my gear and went. I knew I wouldn't be able to do much, but I felt if I could just go up and do a few things, keep the continuity, it would be enough. I decided to play the Tanana Valley State Fair as usual, and Deltana the week after, spend some time on the land working on things there, and return to the Brooks Range to continue the dig Dave and I had started the year before. I'd hoped perhaps I could do some school shows, and hoped to see as many friends as I could, but I purposefully kept my expectations limited. It would be enough to be there, be at the fair, and keep up my part in the plans Dave and I had made so many years ago to start a regular long term serious dig up in the Brooks Range after he had Lanna set up securely in a house on the land in Delta Junction. We'd just started last year, and being able to keep it rolling was to me the big test, to be back the second year, continuing what we had just begun the year before. It takes years to develop a serious dig with hand tools, and I'd made the commitment to Dave to do it, and I'd believed he was someone who would hold up his end. We made a good team, I really made things happen, had the push and drive to keep us on track, help Dave work it out with his responsibilities and distractions, while he knew the area, having worked there when it was being commercially mined, before it shut down, he thought he knew where to dig and I had faith in that, and he also kept me from losing interest, from feeling like I had no reason beyond myself to do thid thing. I could do it to help his dream come true, and have no doubts or reservations. I have an almost impossible task doing anything for myself.
I flew into Alaska, up to the midnight sun. I always like to take the night flight, leave some city in the L48 at suset or at night, then watch the sun come back up as we get to Alaska. I stayed up all night in the airport to catch a taxi to the bus that took me to Delta Junction. I talked to folks on the bus and napped a bit, and looked out the windows. It was so beautiful, and I was so glad to be back. Despite all the questions and doubts, one of the big reasons I decided to settle on Alaska as one of my bases is that I was always so glad to be back again. It is a feeling that can't be denied or ignored. I have had so few reasons to feel good or glad for so many years. I sat in the seat just quietly enjoying the feeling, coming back to a place I fit in, where I belonged. A place that matched the type of person am. A place where I could be at home, just maybe, a place I could come home to. There are so few places I can say that about, though I have always come home to the wild, to the mountains, since I was very young. It was the place where I could be my self, be what I was, this strange man more akin to a wild animal than an urban human. I am natural, at one with the forces and energies of nature and the wild, uncomfortable and out of place in the cities and towns, though always getting on good with people everywhere. I rode up on the bus through the mountains and into the interior, happily sat through a delay at Tok, sitting in the sun, soaking it all in, the life of Alaska, even in a parking lot in Tok.
I can't say enough good things about Alaska Direct Bus Lines. They are just so real, personal, and Alaskan. Though I wish they'd pickup at the airport, it just makes sense. When we reached Faibanks, the driver went a bit out of his way and dropped me off right on the State Fair grounds with my big pile of gear. I dragged it all inside the gate, and went to tell the office folks I had arrived.
It was great to be welcome and remembered, and be able to get the long-promised new CD out to people at last. It was great to meet some new people, it was great to see people I've known for years. That is one of the characteristics of many places in my life, that they can be the same, year after year, and yet always unique, always something new and different too. It is a great thing, giving me both continuity without ever being predictable. It wasn't exceptionally memorable and it wasn't too hard either, and in a way that was the best. I was striving for continuity, some sort of normalicy for my "extreme routine" and it was. I know that I have a different perspective from other folks, that to me what was unremarkable was still full of some great moments and it was tough, but hey, it wasn't exceptional measured against some of the things I've been through. The hardest part was knowing that I was realy just making an appearance and couldn't follow up with more time and places, so it was hard to connect as well as I might, yet I was there, and that counted for a lot, keeping up the continuity of Alaska, confirming it as my base, the place I leave and return to, even though I am gone most of the year. It makes me feel that I am right in planning to one day be able to spend more time there, when the road and the music that demands that I go to other places doesn't occupy so much of my time.
There was a bit of confusion then which resulted in a week's delay before I headed for the Brooks Range. Basically it involved other friends of Dave's wanting to go up and dig, and my trying to avoid the extra expense of driving up a second vehicle just for myself, and then, in the end, I had to drive a second vehicle up for one of Dave's friends to get back to Fairbanks in. I have serious reservations about all this, I must admit.
Dave and I agree that if anyone actually came up, accepted the risk that they might find as little as we did last year, picked their own spot and dug down 16 feet to bedrock, carried buckets to the creek, and endured working in water that's only unfrozen where it's moving, they deserve what they get. This doesn't trouble me, and believe me, they will have earned whatever they find. It just is not that easy. Mostly gold comes in little pieces, that do add up because they are so heay. One reason I chose the Brooks Range is because it produces large nuggets occasionally, but that's not what you count on, its more like a lottery, and finding the small gold is what really pays, but it does buy you a ticket to that nugget lottery as well. The fine gold is even mostly coarse enought to make jewelry from and so, more valuable than true fine gold. A lot of thought went into my choices to be in this place. But there aren't any guarantees, and you can only move a little dirt by hand, really. So Dave and I have started a long term dig. We dug the last year and got almost nothing, just trying to get deep enough, trying to make room to work, trying to understand the lay of the bedrock and the paystreaks. We are counting on the averages, and possibly even rich pockets, over the years.
Then this year, I have to accept other people coming in and taking advantage of my effort, and also not putting in the same effort even when they are there. It just doesn't feel Right, it isn't right. If it comes down to it, I'd rather find another place to dig on my own, especially as we start showing good returns.. will I have to share my hole with 5 other people next year? People don't seem to understand that they are taking advantage of me, or maybe they do, or how much work it really takes when they get there. They expect me to dig down through 16 feet of overburden so they can jump in and dig the paydirt, and it doesn't work that way. Nor do I want to work twice as hard as someone else, and then split the results with them. That's one of the reasons I usually work alone. The whole scenario with the other people troubled me, because they aren't nescessarily motivated the same as us. It also troubles me to think I might be being selfish, I really want to help other people, yet at the same time, I can't let myself be taken advantage of too much, if they don't deserve it somehow. For me, the solution has always been to find another place when the energy I sought left a place, but now I am locked into both the years I've put in to this dig and my commitment to Dave. But pretty quickly, we had the first snow, and everyone was gone except Dave and me. We settled down to some serious digging, and enjoying the peace and beauty of the place where we both want to be, deep in the Brooks range.
One reason that Dave and I work good together is that we naturally have a lot in common. We both work hard, no slacking, because we know that's what it takes, and we know it doesn't come easy. The road is not passable anymore, so we have to haul all the gear in a converted cart, miles from the highway and all uphill. Then we have to dig, hard and fast, before the weather turns and the season is done. There is only a small window of time between when the ground finally thaws down deep where we need to go, and the creek begins to freeze up and snow comes as winter returns. We also have the trust and commitment to start a multiyear dig, knowing it might be years before we hit any really good paydirt, and that it will only be the average of many years that would "pay-off", it it ever does. We both don't care if it never "pays", except expenses. We share the essential desire to just be up there, in the Brooks Range, living and working like the old timers, sleeping in a cabin on the mountainside, and just as Dave put it one day, "to stand here and look at that mountain" (across the valley). The gold dig is just a means to that end, a way to justify the time in both of our crowded and demanding schedules, where there is no time off without some sincere productive justification. We both seriously need the money. He was digging to pay for for seriously needed dental work, and to let him spend his time building a home on the Delta property. I was digging to pay for a new CD, and to be able to volunteer in schools, and even to be able to justify coming to the Brooks Range, even coming to Alaska. The music has always let me survive, but seldom get ahead, to pay for "doing more with the music", as I have promised, or get myself a place to go someday if need be.
With that said, the big event was that, to our grateful thanks, this year we finally hit paydirt, making a serious hourly wage while doing it the old time way, digging with a pick and shovel, carrying buckets of paydirt to the sluicebox in the creek. Even with all the time and energy involved in just getting up there and living out in the bush. Still, within a week we were breaking ice every morning to clear the creek for the sluice and tailings. It was actually great to go ahead and stay in the old cabin, taking part in that history. We weren't much different from the old-timers, as we dug and sluiced, or sat in that cabin to eat and talk at the end of the day. We cobbled together a passable woodstove out of an old rusted out one and scraps of old gas cans, wire, and dirt from the old dump pile. It was really so fine.
That is the type of place I want to live, like so many places I have camped before, a mountain at my back, and a view out over a great valley and river, and the mountains stretching away, peak and range. Building the fire in the cold, crisp mornings to make coffee and breakfast. The long days of simply working, the quiet evenings of talk over dinner before sacking out, exhausted. The beauty of nature all about us, from the great sky and mountains to tiny flowers. We had snow almost right off, but were gifted with an indian summer that lasted up till the day we quit, as planned, after two weeks. In fact, the main part of the hole collapsed that final day, right on schedule, a sight to make a man truly cautious. We are caeful, always digging with a straight face and a clear exit, no tunnelling and always able to stay on our feet, always able to watch the face for the tell-tale signs of impending collapse.
The next next morning when I got up and looked out down the valley, I saw a wall of snow approaching. Dave walked out to hitch a ride down the haul road to Coldfoot and get the truck. I packed up all the gear in the snow and tore down what was left of the hole. We loaded up a bunch of garbage and junk that had been left lying around, leavng the place better than we found it, and headed down the hill. That night we were visiting in Wiseman, then heading south through the snow. By the time we reached Fairbanks we were driving through rain. A couple hours more and we were back to Delta Junction.
Even this was a great moment, because we were able to return to an actual house, warm and dry, to clean up and sit down, have a great meal and celebrate our success. Though we know the next year may not be so good, there's no reason it should, we have at least had one good year. And there's a place waiting when we come back, where we can sit in comfort, fill our pipes and raise a toast to miners living and dead. We can finally clean the gold and sort it and weigh it, something there is no time and energy for back in the mountains, and look at it, thinking of all that went into the finding.
I now had just a couple weeks left before I had to leave. I'd also hoped to get started on some sort of building on the property. I'd gotten a start on that right after the Tanana Fair, sorting the dried wood from the last year and gathering the logs for a garage. Unfortunately, the situation there had changed so much that I didn't have the decisiveness to continue. The property adjoining me that I had put off buying till we knew what was up with the other adjoining property next to it got bought by another of Dave's friends, and they plan to put in a trailerpark-type development of cabins. Something I have no desire to live next to. The first two cabins would be 50 feet from where I'd planned to build, so I sort of lost interest in building there, though I'd put a lot of effort into clearing a site there last year and this year. In fact, in many ways I pretty much lost interest in the property all together. I've tentatively decided that since I can't live there I might as well build rental cabins too, but I really don't have much interest in that. Frankly, I have other things that are more important than making money. I have some enthusiasm for building a place of my own, both practically, but more for romantic and spiritual reasons, and for the psychological benefit as well.. But I'll have to start over on the other end of the property, making a clearing, and moving everything over there. But even then, it no longer feels like a place I want to center myself, to build a place to satisfy that dream of my heart and soul. Perhaps it was the time in the cabin in the Brooks Range as well that made me realize that what I really wanted was to be in the mountains, and far from the niose and crowd. Delta Junction can be a small place to stop when I am passing through though. I think about it still as a site for a shop and garage, a place to store things and work on them, but not live. Or I can just put in a place big enough to park when I come through, not much more than a private campsite.
Generally, then, I just lost all momentum for the place this year. As it is, I figure I'll just park the van there and look for someplace else. Or maybe give up on land all together.. it was a nice dream, but honestly, I doubt that I'll ever find a place that is like the places I've lived in the wildlands. It is perhaps better to focus my energy on the road rig, and ways to get out into the wilds beyond the roads, than any place of my own. Just as much, focus on seeing some of the world, though it is more about sharing my gifts with people all over. That has been the way my life has been, focused on the energies, needing a minimal of material things, carrying my home within my heart, or finding it in any of the wild places I could reach. I've been a very practical and successful gypsy-vagabondi and outdoorsman. I've lived a life devoted to the heart and soul, to energies and essences, not material things. Even when I speak of "building a home" it is the spiritual and emotional center that I desire, not the material object. Maybe I'll still have to look for that somewhere else than Alaska, or stop looking for it at all, and accept that I am destined to be a rootless gypsy and focus on making the most of that type of life, even lighten up and focus on heading out to travel the world instead of focusing on a "home" somewhere. Though it doesn't answer the questions of how to be "more productive" that a permanent base addresses, a place to gather tools and materials, to set up for producing dulcimers or recording. Yet its possible that I could make it all mobile, I have used it that way, and a "place" is just where I set it up temporarily. Then I focus on the real issue, which is stopping long enough anywhere to be "more productive" in audio and video production and dulcimer building.
So, I took the body off the parts van I'd bought and turned it into a shed. I stacked up wood and logs to dry to build something with eventually, as it began to snow steadily. Then it was time to go and I was on the Alaska Direct Bus headed to Fairbanks through a snowstorm, again turning to rain as we dropped down to Anchorage. On the flight back I had a couple hour layover in Tempe/Pheonix. I used to go to Arizona regularly every year for part of the winter, playing the Tempe and Tuscon Fairs. So I'd e-mailed an old friend there to see if he wanted to meet at the airport for a while. He did, and we did. It was great to meet an old friend and pass a couple hours in talk.. many years since we last met.. he's married with three kids now. I'm hmmm.. still the same in many ways, but a lot has changed.. I've been through some really hard times and they've left their mark on me, profoundly. But it was very good to talk to Mark. It reconnected me to the place I was at when I knew him, the life I had. It put things in perspective, too. Also, he understands what it is to be fey. There are few people to whom these things are natural enough to include in casual conversation, not as anything special, but as part of the normal experience of life, like the weather. Though they are natural and normal enough for me, I am used to keeping them to myself among most people. I am seriously thinking that I should plan again to fly through Pheonix but time it so that I can lay over for a couple weeks and play the fairs again at the end of November. I miss the desert, too, where I spent so much time in my life, its energy and spirit. It could work out well with the timing of both leaving Alaska and arriving in DC for the holidays. But that is next year. this year, after a couple hours and a cup of good coffee, I was back on the plane to DC.
I got back to DC and hit the ground running. My plan was to get to work on the remodeling and finishing the second CD before the holidays. But once again, circumstances were not as I'd planned. I was only there a short while when it was obvious to me that ma was really sick again, and doing nothing about it. I could understand her denial, the fear that the cancer was coming back, as it was significantly almost time for her next scans. I was in no mood to tolerate this, in fact, I'd say that I was angry at her and my sisters, that I should come back and find her sick again and everyone ignoring it. I demanded she either go to the doc or the hospital immediately. We called the doctor and they got her right down there. The chemo had effected her heart, causing the tissue to thicken, and ma was going into congestive heart failure. This is an possible side effect they had been watching for and testing for during the chemo, but it hadn't surfaced till now, months later. They put her on medication immediately and in a few days she was doing fine again. After a series of tests the conclusion was that she had no heart disease, that it was an effect of the chemo, that she should be fine with medication because it shouldn't get worse, and in fact, there was a very good chance that her heart would recover eventually. At the same time she had her scans and everything came out clean again, no sign of cancer. What a relief, though I was still angry that nobody was taking her health seriously, till it was almost too late. I had to wonder what would have happened if I'd been even a week later in coming back. But I do have a solid attitude, which means, when it is past it is past and I move on, so I did. Recriminations wouldn't help the situation, it was much better to concentrate on all the good news, and make ma feel she could feel confident and positive about the future.
It didn't help to come back from the wilds of Alaska to the urban madness of the city, even if 1213 is a little oasis in that wasteland. It is a bad shock to drop from the relative isolation of Alaska, the peace and sanity of nature, into the insanity of DC during a presidential election campaign, disgusting really. I really am too well informed, always following the news and knowing and studying the issues both presently and historically. Then to witness the incredible tragic farce of present day politics, where no one is honestly speaking the truth (except perhaps Nader and you see where that got him), and the realities are obscured, avoided, and finally lost in a sea of lies, distortions, and distractions, a useless Broadway production of spinning smoke and mirrors while the theater, the whole world, burns down around them. Or more to the point, around all of us. It doesn't put me in the best mood. Its been a nightmare in many ways, from national politics to the jerk kids throwing their garbage out their windows onto my ma's lawn
To add to my problems, both practically and emotionally, a minor city official decides for the latest time to ban street performing where I play, in defiance of 30 years of court cases, including decisions by the US supreme court, that affirm the citizen's constitutional civil right to do so, They never learn, and they never seem to give up. In fact, we won in the US supreme court in a case against this same town in the 70's.. and here, 30 years later, they haven't changed. There's always some official that doesn't know or care about civil rights, or understand the ramifications, the limits of their power. In this case, it is simple, they can regulate (ie, a sound ordinance restricting all sounds to below say 50 decibles) but they can't ban anything (except in case of public safety) or if the action conflict with other's rights (obstructing free passage on public right of way, performing for a "fixed" crowd that cannot chose to move eg a line into a theater). But to ban anything is to by extrapolation claim the right to ban anything and everything, which the government does not have. They could as easily ban a type of music, or a type of person, as a type of instrument, or the use of an amplifier. But while the details do really matter, the fact is that they banned free speech. Personally, I could have gotten around the rules, played without an amplifier if I didn't mind ruining my voice every weekend. But the point is one of honor, if I live in a society divided between the priviledged and the persecuted, I would rather takes sides with the persecuted, than enjoy priviledges based upon injustice. Also I am just at the end of my rope with the City of Alexandria. I have played there at no cost to them for 30 years. I have improved their scene for locals and tourists alike. I have contributed my talent and effort to the community I live in. But for all of that, rather than appreciation, I have been harrassed and persecutted, in defiance of my basic rights. I have better things to do with my time than deal with petty fascists, especially right now. It is their loss, not mine, if I move on to play other places.
Yeah, I guess I did get a bit upset, guess I am a bit upset. It's all part of the same erosion and attack on the foundations and principles of this country, from minor officials to national politics, its the climate of intimidation and disregard for freedom and civil rights, the selfis abuse of power instead of service. It's not about me, in fact, I care less about myself, I get by. But as America becomes a repressive, intolerant, selfish, tyrannical power, the world will pay, and everyone's children. A sad legacy, I am afraid history will not be kind to us. At least I can say I was among the people trying to do something about it, though I can't claim to have done much, one of the things that troubles my mind a lot of the time. But that is another story.
Practically, I bought a DVD burner for my DAW-DVW sytem. A long planned upgrade for the computer. Now I can produce DVDs from the digital video, instead of VHS. I'd always planned for this, but was waiting for the technology of standards to settle and the price to drop, and DVD payers to become common. I can back-up audio and video data a lot easier with DVDs instead of CDRs. I can reproduce DVDs rapidly with no loss of quality, while I have to reproduce VHS in real time with significant degredation of quality. I planned to complete the 2000 video tour journal and distribute it on DVD to my PAtrons at the end of the year. Generally the plan was to get the video production rolling again, beginning to roll out new productions. The broadband audience had grown enough so my plans for the video tour journal that fell through in 2001 might be feasable now in 2005. Then my plans for promotional material would work much better on DVD since the dulcimer is such a visually interesting instrument, and especially for the cultural exchange program, something people from other countries would visually relate to. Finally, I planned to see if I could finally get my social action-conciousness raising activity back on-line.. the last thing to still be quiesant since the shutdown of the 90's. I wanted to try remastering old VHS tapes of university shows I did back in the 80's and 90's when I was going strong as a true social activist folksinger. See if I could distribute those on the internet. See if I could re-light that fire I used to have before things went bad.
I called the lumberyard that was going to supply the wood for dulcimers to make sure they remembered me, and they said they had just started to cut and to call the next week. When I call back and they say they cut it all into gunstock widths, even though I called to remind them. Somehow the message didn't get understood, though I was clear enough about it. Seems one guy had talked to me, but the other guy cut up the wood. Another disappointment, so I'll have to wait months for wood again, or try to search again for a supplier.
Though on a positive note, I did adjust and tune a beautiful Thai dulcimer a lady who saw me on the street brought me. She said she thought it was made of teak, so perhaps I can try that material as well. Though it is an expensive thing to experiment with, especially when it will take many years to find out if teak really works instead of rock maple, and will hold the pins and not crack or warp. It makes me think that people used the best wood, for the place they lived, which for Europe and North America was Rock Maple. But it was teak in Asia, and may Honduran mohogany would work if I am in Central America. I have to talk to someone who really knows woods, and ask what other woods have the same qualities as rock maple. Or do a bit more research into traditional dulcimers, or any instrument with pinblocks, and see if they have a "standard" wood they have used, perhaps teak is the asian standard. The Thai dulcimer also made me appreciate and consider how beautiful and instrument can be, and what that adds to the instrument. That was always my plan for future dulcimers, but the concept has always been a vague, this dulcimer showed me what could be done. It even had a built-in drawer for its tuner and hammers.
But there was more shit to hit the fan right now, and my plans were about to bite the dust once more. This year was not turning out well! When I first got back I got an e-mail from my friend, Rob, down in Florida. Though he had relocated to Key Largo after I'd left the boatyard, he'd moved back and had been checking on my boats. What a unexpected favor. Two hurricanes, Francis and Jeanne passed directly over them. He'd been there after Francis the boats were fine, but both had ended up with other boats that had dragged hanging off their moorings. Then a couple weeks after I got back, mid-October, the bad news came. Nobody came and got their boats between the hurricanes, so during Jeanne, the Hurley was sunk by the bigger boat that had dragged down on her. The steel boat is still fine, at least, he said it looks ok at a distance, though it may be banged up. That is one major reason why I got a steel boat, because it sinks other boats when they drag down into her, not like the poor Hurley. Its also why I have huge anchors and lots of chain and all chain. In the boatyard, some of the young guys might laugh to see my anchor, but the old salts would look at it and nod their heads. It just angers me further that I can do everything right, be responsible and have my boats ready, but I can't do anything about the irresponsible fools out there who's boats become dangerous weapons dragging down on mine when the hurricanes that eventually come, do. I know the hurricanes come and prepare, everyone else seems to have some blaise "it can't happen here" mentality to their responsibilities. Or they just expect the government or the insurance companies to bail them out, so why worry about being responible when you have nothing to lose? So my boat is sunk because someone didn't have the intellegence or responsibilty to lay out $100 worth of chain and get a decent anchor. I doubt there is any way I can force them to be responsible. Though the situation is obvious to any sailor, it would probably be a lot harder to prove in court. I don't have the respources to even try that, anyway. All I do have is the knowledge, ability, preseverance, and responsibility to raise a sunken boat and repair it. Though it will be a lot of trouble and expense that I have had forced upon me once again by the incompetence and irresponsibility of others. I have to give up my plans for the new CD, dulcimer building and all I planned to accomplish before I left for Florida, and start planning to leave as soon as possible instead.
I immediately go into extra high gear, cut back on sleep a bit, work just a bit faster, take no breaks at all. I still have a lot to do around the house. There's a contractor coming to replace the old windows and I have to get ready before and clean up afterwards. I also go and buy an old boat trailer someone I'd met on the street had told me about. I could have gotten a better trailer, or a better deal, but I just didn't have time to do that. I got another e-mail from Rob. More bad news, the county had stickered the boat, just like they sticker abandoned cars. Basically saying if someone didn't contact them within a month, they'd consider it abandoned property and salvage it, ie dredge it up and take it to the junkyard. The rumor was that they planned to then track down the owners and charge them for the salvage costs. I called immediately, now a week into November. Oddly enough the Code enforcement officer in charge of the operation was actually cooperative instead of threatening, an odd attitude compared to my usual experience with government officials. He said at present, they wouldn't have money to start till December 8 9th, and if they saw any activity at all around the boat, they would take it off the list. Unfortunately, I was still trying to get this trailer together. I was still trying to get the title from the person I was buying the trailer from. I'm not sure what the problem was, that I wasn't screaming and yelling that I had to leave and get down to my boat? I tend to stay calm about these things, though explaining them clearly enough, and somehow people don't think it is important. And I couldn't start on doing whatever it needed till I bought it. It was sitting there with a rotten old boat on top of it that needed to be torn down and taken to the dump. Finally the title came through. Then I was working like crazy to rebuild the entire trailer practically. It needed new tires, then new bearings. I was calling and leaving messages for the code officer, letting him know what was happening, but I had no idea what was happening in Florida. The final problem just had to be thanksgiving weekend, where everything was closed for the holidays, and I still needed plates and registration. I am paying too much for things because I need them and I am frantic to go, so I get ripped off by a shop when I need a few bearing races removed. I am just getting too tired to care and feeling it will all be in vain if I don't just get down there as the deadline approaches and I can't get through to the Code officer to find out if I have just a few days more.
In the midst of this final week a suprising and possibly significant event occurs. I am scanning the pennysaver ads for anything I need, as I usually do while I drink my morning coffee. I see an ad for a 17' folbot. This is the same type of skin and strut kayak that I had for many years, still what I consider one of my best boats, "Horse." I'd been thinking for a couple years a that I wanted a canoe or a kayak, or a dory style riverboat, that I could use in Alaska, that I could take on the roof of the Van. Here was a chance. So I called the man up and went to look at it that night. It was in pretty sorry shape, it had been stored upside down for three years but not checked, and water had gotten into it and pooled inside, rotting at least one of the upper frames. The rest of it was generally beat up. They haven't made them in years, so it had to be old as well. He wanted $400. It was worth maybe $200. But it did have the sail rig, and everything I needed to rebuild it as I had rebuilt Horse. So I gave him $350 for it then and there, and came back to pick it up the next morning. If I'd had time, I might have offered two hundred and let him try to sell it.. at the same time, well, here was an opportunity to move forward, and also regain something great I'd lost. It was even a recognition that I might still decide to get rid of my big boats and go back to the simple vagabondi life I'd enjoyed on Horse. A small sailboat ia all I need to live a good life travelling along the coasts of Central America, camping on the beaches or anchoring behind the reef in a calm. Those times with Horse are still great memories. There is no reason I couldn't go back to that life if I chose. Though like with the Rave, the only question was whether the dulcimer will fit inside. The fact is that as long as I have the dulcimer, I need little else to live well. So I bought it and loaded it on the trailer. It is still more potential than reality, still a lot of work to make it a working boat again. Call it a breakdown in my usual self control, or a crying out against all the troubles that have beset me that year, the desire to do something positive, something of dream and vision, something that reminded me of how great life was once. Though along with it came the doubts, whether it would be a dream or a nightmare once I got started on rebuilding it, whenever I have the time for that!
Just to make it a little harder, it was storming and raining the last days as I packed up to go. Still no reply to my messages to the Code officer, but I just had to say either it will be ok or it won't. I figured that since I'd called and he seemed cooperative, he would at least not start with my boat. I bought a plane ticket for the 23rd before I left Virginia for a return trip for the holidays if I could make it. I left Virginia December 9th, Thursday, and arrived at Stuart-Palm City just before dark on Saturday the 11th. I pulled into Pendarvis Park and walked down to the water to look out at the boats. I could see two boats by the steel boat, one just ahead of it and one rafted up to the side, and all I could see of the Hurley was a mast sticking out of the water.
Now I began the final trip of the year, and what a trip it was. I don't think I can describe to you such a task in such a short space as I give myself here. It is something so beyond simple words in it's intensity, in the reality of what I did. Even now as I look back on it, it is another one of those things I've done that I have to just shake my head and wonder.. and it makes me smile.. its just so way out there.. not really crazy or reckless, not some wild adventuring or celebrated honor. But it makes me feel like I can stand with the other men and women who throughout history have quietly done exceptional things, shown the steel that is in people, the stubborn, steady perseverence, the capability and skill and the sheer will to get it done somehow, to make things happen, despite the obstacles. Though I don't feel what I did is even that great compared to the things people have done before me, from men who sailed the tall ships the men, and women, who pioneered frontiers.. shoot, they pushed handcarts across the great plains for crying out loud.. all I did was raise a small boat. Sure I did it by myself, without any of the modern heavy equipment, without scuba tanks or even an adequate wetsuit. But by the standards of modern people, who I have to say are pretty soft, it was incredible. And by my standards, well, it was a tough nut for sure, but just a hard job, nothing that exceptional.. but of course, my "standards" are pretty far outside the norm, true enough. I wondered occasionally how I get myself into these exceptional situations, not that I chose this, I just chose not to give up, not to turn away from the responsibility and the challenge. There was a job to do and I did it. Just another trip in the extreme routine that makes another year. At least, well, I can't say the year was too..uneventful. I doubt I'll forget this experience any time soon, and at least it's one that makes me smile.
The story starts with the place. In the morning I drive into the park.The boats are in the south fork of the St Lucie River between Stuart on the east and Palm City on the West, anchored off a small park. Pendarvis Park occupies a small spit of land with the river on one side and a lagoon on the other, at the end of a small road twisting through the mangroves, that starts at the end of another dead end road with a few houses, a new condo complex, and an old county marina with a huge warehouse they store motorboats in. The park has a small dock and a non-motorized boat ramp, a bathroom, a small pull through parking lot for vehicles with trailers and a small loop road with picnic tables with shelters and car parking complete the picture. It is small and isolated and quiet, though with a pretty steady if light flow of people. They come to walk their dogs, or just to walk and exercise, mostly older folks. Then the highschoolers come down at lunch, or to make out or party at night, even though the park is suposed to close at dark. Often they don't close the gate, and if they do it is at about 11pm. I move the van and trailer out of the park at sunset, pulling in again just after 7 am, when the park is "open" whether the gate is open or not. Then I make coffee and breakfast, and go to work. I know that I am going to be noticed, so I follow the rules, and explain myself to every official I see, from the sherriff to the park workers to the guy who cleans the bathrooms. Nobody knows what to think exactly, but I'm also not doing anything wrong, exactly. immediately get in touch with the Code Officer who originally contacted me and he is just glad I am actually here, and am taking care of my boat, one less thing for him to deal with. He says if he sees any sign of work he'll consider it closed for now, so I rowed out first thing and hung my big blue barrel from the bit of mast above the water. I was also in touch with the park people and had permission to work and live at the park. They'd had problems with some folks who literally moved into one of the shelters there after the hurricane, so I said I could pull outside the park gate each night, make it easier, and he said that would be a lot easier on him. There was a small pull-out there, where people parked or turned around when the gate was closed. I am there to get it done, and the work begins. Every evening three guys show up to fish off the dock. They tell me about all the boats that came ashore during the hurricane and all the other stories. I am about to become the main event.
That first morning there is frost on the windshield, it is seriously cold. Rob meets me at the dock and takes me out to the boat and gives me a hand getting Percheron in the water. I take her to shore and get to work making my rope oarlocks with a piece of boatwood off the beach. I am done in a few hours and go to look at the Hurley close up. The water is so murkey I can't see a foot down. Though at low tide I can just see the port gunwale below the water. The green boat that sank it is still there, about 40' ahead now, the marks on its stern obvious where it smashed into the Hurley. It's not a good sight. I start the first job, recovering anchors and chains. I fish up the chain with the boat hook, and release it from the Hurley's 10' down chain. Then I follow the other end as far as I can, pulling up the huge links of the ship chain I have between the down chain and the cross chain and disconnecting it from the center of the cross chain, and following that in each direction as far as I can and bobbering it there, hopefully the anchor is below. The sun is setting as I tie the final bobber. Rob comes by and invites me to dinner on the boat, so I go move the van out of the park and row out with Sienna to visit. She is really getting into it. Ever since we left 1213 really she has been happy to be on the move. Then we get here and she is awake and alive, exploring and checking it out, and still true to her training and going where I want, when I want, in and out of the van and the dingy, perfectly behaved. It is great to see her get into it, and do it Right. And it is good to spend that evening out on the water, just being there, talking boat talk, looking at the steel boat. Though it is cold. I head back to the van, leaving Percheron on the beach.
The next morning, day two, and it is just as cold, but I have to get in the water. Rob loans me a neoprene wetsuit, but I hate the stiffness of it, hurts my elbows to flex my arms. So I go out to the steel boat and am gratified to find my blue pile Alaska skinsuit, and try that instead. It is not nearly enough. I dive quick and manage three rounds, and am verging on hypothermia, uncontrollably shaking after each dive. One end of the chain dissappears under another wreck that the green boat is sitting on top of. At the other end I dig up one anchor and find it is hung up on loops of rope. I go back for a knife and to warm up, then go back and lower myself back into that freezing water. I cut one rope and then have to get out. Rob and Jeff, his boss, show up so Rob can introduce us. I decide to try hauling the anchor up again and I am in luck, I cut the right rope. It comes hard and slow, but it comes. Finally I am able to clip the rope off on a carabiner I hang off the transom just for stuff like that, and I slip the anchor loose. I remove it, bobber the end of the chain and call it a day. I dived the Hurley as well that day, unable to see anything in the murk, but by feel I could tell that there is serious damage to the bow, in fact, the bowsprit, and the bow, are gone. I can't tell how bad it is yet. I also can't get back in the water. The sun is setting and I call it a day. That night as I make dinner and eat, then as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I think about what I am going to do, making a plan. I hope that the water is just shallow enough so if I can raise her to an even keel, her cockpit coamings will clear water at an extreme low tide and I can pump and bail her out. I can even use a few sandbags to bridge the low part of the cockpit if I need to. I also have to try to control my anger at being put into this situation. Strange how I sort of knew that sooner or later some boat would drag down and sink the Hurley, that's why I'd been planning to put it on a trailer. Years ago people with boats knew what they were doing. Now anyone can buy a boat, and it doesn't make them a sailor or a seaman. The water is full of rocket jockeys who know nothing and care less. Every time the wind blows some poorly secured boat is dragging about. And when a real storm comes, there are boats everywhere. I was just one year too late. Though it is still the owner of the green boat's fault and responsibility, but I doubt he'll live up to it. In the night, it begins to rain.
I can't go on with the day by day account, the days were just so full, and there was so much to do, and in some ways, the thoughts are as important as the events, and some scenes were significant to me, while the rest was just a hard job. Still, I'll try to tell the story as best I can. Maybe someday I'll write the entire story out, like I did with Further, but for now I need to get this done and uploaded before I hit the road again.
The weather continued to be stormy and cold, dipping to the 30's many mornings. I had to start wearing the neoprene over the blue skinsuit, and before I was done I was wearing a third neoprene shortsleeve-leg suit as well and still playing tag with hypothermia. The third day I got started on raising the boat, by getting barrels out of the Steel boat and rigging them to lift. The basic method I use is pretty simple. I sink plastic barrels beside the boat, then tie them as low as possible on whatever I am trying to raise. A large 55 to 65 gallon plastic drum has about 500 pounds of lift. A boat is a bit trickier than some things because balancing it is part of the process. The problem with barrels is that everything is floating, which means waves and wakes can cause barrels, and the entire boat, to rock and bob up and down, at best, making it hard to work, at worst making it dangerous to dive around. Once a barrel is rigged, I use a standard 12 volt tire inflator to fill them, using one of the batteries out of the van for power. I use duct tape and a couple short length of different diameter hose to make an adaptor to connect the tire inflator to a garden hose. The garden hoses run down to the barrels, either I dive down and stuff them into the barrel openning or I rig them to the barrels before I sink them if I can. They have to be tied on or the force of the air coming out will blow them out of the barrel instantly. All the time I am having to modify my methods to reduce my time in the water, since I can only manage so much, the diving and work and especially the cold just wear you out. I am also plagued by the water conditions and weather, extreme wind, cold and storms kicking up heavy wind and wave. The ropes foul and tangle from the constant motion, cold stiff fingers and body don't work well.
There is just resistance, the sea is fighting me to keep what it has taken. The water is so murky I can't see a thing, I even close my eyes to focus on my sense of touch. With the cold, every time I get in the water, it is a race to see how much I can do before my fingers won't function any more. Working in waves and cold, on a barnacle encrusted hull, my hands take quite a beating, getting cut and slashed by the endless sharp edges on water soft skin. I have no scuba gear, everything is done by free-diving, working below for as long as I can hold my breath. For this whole job I am wet and freezing all day, every day. I remember being impressed after the first week that my body actual could take such serious abuse and stay healthy. Not for the first time, either, and amazing machine, the human body. As I work, I have to deal with the conditin of my mind as well. The frustration and anger that eats at me as I look at the greenboat sitting there, knowing all this pain and trouble was totally unnnescessary, though I can't blame the boat, even as it keeps getting in my way. Over and over I surface to find it drifting over to me, dangerously close. I finally use a spare anchor to hold it off while I work. I have to ponder the fact he could be banking his FEMA money, while since I am not a "resident", I don't get even a cup of coffee from FEMA or anyone for that matter (no, the high school kids brought me a cup once). I guess having your boat sunk isn't a disaster, or it wasn't really a hurricane, or I'm not really a citizen. But I don't want their money, never did, just want them to stay off my back. Still, though I pay property taxes here in Martin County, and pay federal taxes, I'm left on my own. I must say however, that though the first notice I got when I was still up north had a threatening tone, the code officer was glad to hear from me, and I not only told him that I would be down todeal with the boat, I had actually shown up. I had only one in person visit from the code officer. He had a vulturous commercial salvor with him who was threatening, telling me I "better hurry up", but the code guy was actually cool, stepped right in and told me not to let them rush me. The fact is, since I haven't "abandoned the property forever" they have no right to salvage it.
Since my property taxes help pay for this park I'm in, I don't have to feel wrong about making use of it. Though I am an exception because I follow the rules. Every morning I pull in a couple minutes after 7 am, make coffee and breakfast and get to work. Every night I pull into the small clearing just outside the gate to camp. Sometimes I read a bit, sometimes I play guitar. I walk with Sienna down to the dock and stare out at the boats, contemplating. If the wind isn't blowing cold, I take the guitar with me, and sit there and play.
It is exciting, even as I sit shivering in the Percheron, to turn on the air for the first time and seeing the mast begin to climb out of the water. I work hard and fast as I can to use the barrels to bring the boat up to a relatively level position, balanced on her keel. I am pushing because it will be the lowest tide of the month soon, and I'm hoping it might be enough to get the deck clear of the water so I can pump and raise her quickly. If this worked, it would have been easier than having to lift the entire boat, since with most of the weight is still resting on the bottom, and I need only enough barrels to balance it on an even keel. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. I row out at night to catch the lowest tide, I often work around the tides, day or night, and it isn't enough. The cabin top is still below the water at low tide. The boat is in deeper water and the tide isn't much here, just a few inches. Now I have to lift the entire boat clear of the bottom and float it, for which I need more barrels.
I had some luck there, though. Jeff knew someone with a pile of barrels, and he said to just go borrow some and leave a note, so I did. When I was done, I returned them with a thank-you note, and I still don't know who I borrowed them from. I could have found barrels, it isn't that hard, but time was pressing me. So now I began lifting the boat. With the hull pressed into the mud of the bottom, you can only get a barrel so far down at first. It would technically takes just six 55 gallon barrels to lift the Hurley, probably, but the actual job will take eight since the barrels come to the surface. The first stage is getting the ropes down around the hull, I have to make sure not only that the barrels are secured to the hull, but that they can't slip sideways, or fore and aft. So there are a lot of ropes to tie. I remember saying that I wouldn't mind this type of work, if the water were just warm and clear, and it wasn't cold and stormy day after day. With the first set of barrels the hull starts to rise out of the water. When I can't dive anymore because I have lost all body heat, I begin to scrub the encrusted decks as they come in reach, leting the waves wash away the debirs. The boat has been underwater since the end of September, and there is a good 1/4 inch of barnacles on everything. I am now able to walk around on the boat, up to my knees or waist in water. It is like being in some old sea novel, lashing barrels with rope, hauling them tight and lashing them to the mast as the waves crash around my waist and knees, the wind blowing, dark clouds and storms racing overhead, the boat rocking and plunging beneath me, shuddering as it hits the bottom. A new cut suddenly appears, bleeding red, then a wave washes it away, by the time I notice it again it is just another white, puckered gash. Step by slow step I get a set of barrels rigged, then I hook up the compressor and hit the air, and watch the boat rise higher. I am doing it. Sometimes I am granted a day of relative calm when the wind shifts to the west and the boat is in the lee, though the wind is still cold and hard, but things go easier, and I can see what I am doing more, though it is still bone-chilling cold.
As the boat comes up I am pulling things out of the lockers, taking them ashore to scrub or throw away. The trailer starts to pile with stuff. People stop by and talk when they catch me on shore. I make friends with some of the local high school kids. I am "the real thing" for sure, like they have never seen, or maybe I'm just an option to going to the mall. On one break I pull out the dulci and play for them, wetsuit and all. I am not going to make it back for the holidays so I cancel my flight and get back to work, though it was so close. On the day before Xmass, I get the boat up the last step, floating with the decks barely awash. I've had to go around the boat at least twice so far, first rigging the barrels and floating them, then, as the boat rose, the first barrels would surface entirely, and stop contributing lift. I've rigged guide ropes beneath the hull, but as the boat moves and shifts, and as barrels pull tight, everything jams. Often I am left diving to run new ropes or release barrels that won't come free, even when I untie them on top, tight with a hundreds of pounds of pressure. Sometimes I have to cut them loose as the only way to get them free. Then I'd re-rig them, sink them again, tie them lower, maybe in a new spot to keep the boat balanced and coming up level, and fill them again. The damage is obvious now. The foredeck is torn up and seperated from the hull back to the first bulkhead, and a good 6" of the bow is just gone, a triangle of ragged-edged hole reaching a foot below deck. The sides have also taken a beating, the greenboat must have been all over it. There's big streaks of green paint down the sides. Most of the rubrails are gone, and in places the part of the deck that overlaps the hull is torn away. The impressive thing is that the Hurley stood it, and didn't just come to pieces. It really is a great boat. Some boats wouldn't be worth raising, inferior construction and new methods of cored glass. The Hurley was built when boats were meant to take the sea, and being sunk for a couple months makes no difference to it. Many, if not most modern boats would be ruined if they sank and would not be worth raising, or just shattered to pieces.
The next step depends on the tide and rigging new anchors. I've had to rig anchors so the Hurley couldn't get away as it raised. I can save haveing to do another whole round with the barrels if I can use the tide, even if it is just a few inches. Now I have to rig an anchor to pull the Hurley in towards shore at the peak of high tide till it runs aground. Then when the tide goes out, I can bail and pump till she floats. I need to set a second serious anchor first though, ready to put her on when I get her up, clear of the green boat and ready to take the storms. I rigged a bilge pump on a broomstick that I can lower into the cabin while I use a 5 gallon bucket. Sometime during the last week I'd joked to one of the daily visitors that it would make a story fit for readers digest, "the boat that rose on Christmas", and funny enough, that's what happened. I got it afloat, but was out of time the day before, and I had to wait on tides. It just didn't make sense to try it in the dark when I couldn't see what was happening, other leaks or holes, or whatever. The wind came up at dark, a gale was blowing in the Atlantic, stalled just offshore. I waited till morning.
Xmass day I got up in rain that eased off, though the wind kept up, but from the west so the Hurley was in a lee, giving me the chance I needed. I checked my tides on the GPS, adjusting for the distance from the nearest tide station. I got out and rigged the anchors, overnight the Hurley had started to move, and shift, but was restrained by the anchors I had set. I still had that big hole in the nose to deal with. I took plastic and tied it acrooss the hole, then ties ropes at different angles to pin it to the hull and seal it. Not perfect, but all I had to do was slow it down till I could get it up. Just with a bucket I could probably keep up 4 gallons every 10 seconds, 24 gallons a minute for a while. Plus the bilge pump, just till it got up above the holes. I was lucky that the day was calm.. waves would have made it that much harder, washing into the cockpit and defeating my efforts. I loaded a tote with sand and plastic bags in case I had to sandbag the coamings, especially the low stern. Luckily, everyone else was somewhere warm and dry for Christmas morning, no wakes. I was rigging an anchor and pulling the boat in till it ran aground. Then while I waited for the tide to go out I rigged a permanent anchorand bobbered it so I could pull the Hurley away from shore and well away from that greenboat. Then I waited and watched as the water slowly dropped below the coamings, and inch at a time. Then she was clear and I started the pump and started bailing. I hit it hard, and suddenly it was obvious I was gaining, then gaining fast as the boat rose above the leaks all around the gunwales. I must admit, even my stoic calm broke down and I got a bit excitied then. I even took a minute to break out the video camera, I wanted to share that moment somehow with someone. But I couldn't stop for more than a moment. Finally I was down to the level of the mud that filled the bilge and ran up the side that had rested on the bottom. But she was floating high to her waterlines, and no water coming in, no hidden holes or leaks. But I had done it. The barrels were now all dangling on the side, and starting to fill with water. Now they would be dragging the boat down as they filled with water, so I rushed to remove them and drag them ashore.
A black wall of boiling clouds was racing down on me out of the north. As I struggled with the last half-full barrels it hit with a wall of wind and water. What a monster. The wind shifted and the lee was gone in an instant. In pouring rain, howling wind, and crashing waves I struggled with barrels tied to the boat, tying them off to the stern of Perchron. They kept busting free. Just as they lift 500lbs empty, they weight 500 pounds full of water, enough to swamp the Perchron if they get caught wrong. I was being dragged and blown down the river even as I struggled for shore, then a barrel would break loose again. What a nightmare. Finally I was coming up against a dock, but near enough shore that I jumped overboard in over my waist and dragged boat and barrels to the bank, dumped the water out of the barrels there and dragged them and the boat back up the shoreline through the shallows to the boat ramp. It was a sight, the storm and wind, the hurley wet and dripping, festooned with ropes and covered with mud and barnacles, plunging in the whitecapped waves. I rushed out to secure 2x6's across the bows so the rope couldn't chafe on the ragged fiberglass edges of what used to be the bows.
Later Rob would say it was Sea, old Davey Jones, raging at having the Hurley taken from its grasp. At the moment, I was thinking what a day for a boat to be reborn, into a storm, into the whitecaps and the wind. But it was true, I'd brought her back from the dead.. no she was only sleeping, but soon she would have been gone, and I brought her back from a dark, cold watery grave, or back from being condemned to the landfill like so many other boats. It was somehow fitting that this hard job ended with a raging storm, a violent convulsion of nature, a final great hard effort in extreme conditions. I stood there looking out at her, standing cold, wet, and alone on the beach, and feeling some strange epic quality to the whole wild intense scene, the whole story. The final note comes as the wind rises as I prepare to eat at camp. It is the sound of a train.
The next day the wind was still heavy, squalls blowing through as the gale holds offshore, but the sun would break through bright in the clear air. I get the longest anchorline I had, 300', plus a second shorter one to reach the final distance and hauled the Hurley slowly upwind to the big anchor and chain I'd set. Then I jumped down inside and started shoveling out buckets of mud. I poured it through the bottom of an old milkcrate to filter out any small stuff buried in the mud. I made a pile of mud covered stuff to take ashore. I found a couple dead fish and about 50 live shrimp and lots of black, thick muck. That night I took the shrimp ashore and set them free in the shallows among the mangroves. Though in some ways that was the easiest part of the cleanup.. the mud washed away clean, except it had stained the lining dark chocolate brown where it touched. Everywhere else there was the calcium encrustation of barnacles and marine worms. It took days more of hard scrubbing and scaping to get all that off, but it too was suprizingly clean in the end. But I did it, and then went over the decks, and the hull above the water. I was actually lucky for the rain and storm and cold then. By the time the sun came out, I was done, instead of having the sun and heat turn the muck, mud, and dead sealife into a stinking mess. It was bad enough as it was, but it could have been worse easily. Not only the boat, but I have the boom and mainsail, and all the floorboards, everything that was in the boat had to be scaped and scrubbed and bleachwashed. Finally, on New Year's Eve, I am able to bleach wash the entire boat, inside and out. I am done for now.
I go visit Rob, catch him up on the story. He says he's going sailing New Year's day if I want to go, and I agree it would be cool. The next day I am still at it in the morning, still stuff to be cleaned, but I actually finish the last of it. I make a cup of coffee and what do I see but Rob, sailing by blowing his horn. I run down to the dock and wave to him to circle. I close the van, Perchron is still just drawn up a little out of the water. In a minute I am rowing out, meeting him at Dueodde (my steel boat) We leave the Percheron tied behind and go for a sail. Again, it seems a fitting way to cap this job of raising the Hurley, and to start the new year, to be out sailing. It is beautiful. We sail up to the end of the North Fork of the St. Lucie, where I've never been, and and back. After a long pleasant afternoon's sail, we end up back tied behind Dueodde, and Ron decides he wants to spend the night out on the water, being there instead of on the dock, and invites me to dinner. I go back and get warm clothes and the guitar and Sienna, then come back out as the sun sets in a vivid crimson display of ragged clouds, the last of the gale streaming away. We talk and toast to all that's been and is to come, to the Hurley and the sea, and talk about what the future could hold. Later I play some songs, and hold the guitar up so the strings sing in the wind. A good start to a new year. We knock of early, though late for us, both of us have a lot of work ahead, and we'll both be up with the dawn tommorrow to start getting it done, and doing it Right.
Though it was only a few weeks, really, raising the Hurley was certainly a powerful experience. It shows how its often short periods of time that become the memorable events of a year, and raising the Hulrey will be an experience I won't forget. And its really not over yet. I can see the forces and feelings of the year and of my life clearly in the story of Hurley. The frustration over events beyond my control controling my life and derailing my plans and priorities. The fact that I did everything Right, was responsible, but I pay for other people's irresponsibility and incapability. I get no help or bail-out from the authorities like everyone else, I just get threatened and hassled (though the code officer, at least, was ok), or ignored. The problem when things that aren't really significant, like the van or the boats, take priority over the significant things like the music, because they are still responsibilities and nescessities, important to maintain my life, though not significant in the bigger picture. But it isn't all negative, either. I did a real hard job, despite everything stacked against me, I was tested and I proved my character and ability. Most people were quite kind, and often very impressed, though I felt what I did wasn't that great, just a hard job. Still, it felt good to get respect from people, because it is something I have so rarely experienced in America. Some of them actually asked to shake my hand. Many said some pretty kind things about courage and ability, to which my standard reply was that I was just stubborn. Perseverance is an ingredient of character, it is true. Through it all, I was just doing the Right thing, and doing it Right. It has to do with my relationship to the sea, and as a sailor to a boat. I have a responsibility to it, not to abandon a good boat. Just as I took time to get the green boat off the wreck, or stopped to secure a boat that was dragging, or just pick up garbage I see floating. It is a matter of character, I suppose, but beyond just "responsibility", it is about a bond, a commitment and a contract between me and a boat I've sailed. It served me well, and I could do no less for it. It may be a thing, but in some ways it has spirit, it certainly has energy. But more important, it is in how I treat other things, living or not, that I measure myself.
The final significant event of this year is that for the first time, people from long ago are contacting me, asking how I am. I'm not sure why, and what to say. The question has been in my thoughts a lot, another thread of inner conversation in the back of my mind. I have to be honest, but I don't want to bring anyone down. It is important to me to give a true explaination, if I can, but it isn't that easy, and my life just isn't a simple thing. So much so that while I have tried to add a section to this annual journal to address the subject, I feel I just can't do it in the time I have right now, not and feel comfortable and satisfied, not and do it Right. Also, I think this may be an ongoing conversation, not something relegated to the archives, with stories that are finished. I want it somwhere that I can both keep trying to improve it and somewhere that people can find it, right out front, if they look me up and want to know how I am, not just what I have been doing lately. That's part of what the website is for, like this tour journal lets everyone who is interested catch up on my doings and whereabouts without me having to repeat the same story over and over to different people.Though it is really about Brian the Folksinger, about the music and the life I lead, but really, nothing personal. While my life and the music are really inseperable, I haven't felt the need to deal with anything personal. In fact, I haven't had a personal life mostly, everything has been about serving the music and the people, or walking about in the wilds dwelling in my spirit, sensitive as a wild animal. Yet I also have just spent a long time working on this boat, and while the music was always there, playing the guitar on the docks at night or at camp for people who stopped by, or pulling the dulci out in the parking lot, playing in my wetsuit, or the few times I actually went out and played. I never stop being what I am. I'm not even sure raising the Hurl;ey is something that is personal, really.. its not the life of my choosing, but dealing with the consequences of other's choices. So I have created a "Personal" section, just for anything that doesn't relate to the music or the life directly, though I doubt there is much that can be seperated from it. I'ver started with a page on "how I am", trying to explain to people who ask what it is all about, how Brian is after all these years, somewhere in this life of a Folksinger. I can do my best to explain where I am at to everyone and anyone who is interested, too, personal, but not private. Then, just like with the news or the journals, if there is anything specific to discuss, they can drop me a line. I really am way out there on the edge of the old bell curve, folks, no reason to deny it. I really am not sure how to explain the how I am, how I feel, the way I feel. I really don't know if I can, though I can try. I don't really think about it much, personally. I know where I am at, I don't ask "why" very often. I also am not really concerned with how I feel about my life. I do what I must, what I should, bound by my "code of honor", my duty, responsibilities, my concience and my word, and the way. I practice a way of life, the art of life, doing what is Right. How I feel about it isn't really part of the equation. I've gone through a lot of troubles, and a lot of pain, and some serious traumas, but you know, so do a lot of people. The only thing I can say for sure is that all these things are true, but its not that simple. But I will give it a try, but it is just a beginning. I think it will take me a while to come up with something I can feel comfortable with, but there's no reason not to make a start. I might be misunderstood, or people might not understand. But hey, so it goes. I am moved, so I will take the path, I am not so concerned with where it leads or what happens. Good enough is good enough. At present, what I have written is pretty incomplete and rough, I'm not sure I even want to upload it to the site, but I am out of time to work on it more. I'll have time to rewrite it into a better version in the spring before I go to Alaska. Perhaps this is just the beginning of writing that book. Or perhaps it will just be an answer to the question of how I am. I'm not even sure what I should call the page, but for now, it is simply
So! To come to some conclusion. As I look back on the the year, it seemed that it was really about the one of the core principles of my life. I just try to do what is Right, without thinking, or concern for how I feel about it. I just do it, and the rest follows, whether dealing with the emotional reaction, or thinking through all the changes of plans or consequences of my actions. While this is what guides my day to day life, this year it proved that it is the foundation, as all my plans changed, pivoting on that one principle. This year has had a lot of frustrations and disappointments, which doesn't feel good, but I don't feel bad about it. I'm not happy about what happened, that is for certain, but I am satisfied, because I did what was Right. Even beetter, it was clear what was Right, life is not always so easy. I was certainly happy to be able to do what I have done. I would rather that I hadn't had to. There were good and bad moments, but I managed to walk this road without feeling too stressed out, taking all the changes and shifts and troubles with a calm sense that I was doing Right, and getting it done, despite the fact that the really important things were delayed, once again. I wanted to be working on the music, and instead, I haven't played really since I left Alaska. I'd planned to work the street when I got back but instead I am banned from doing so. But it isn't because I did anything wrong, and that is my concern. Eventually, like water, I will continue on my way, while doing what I have to every step of the way.
The simplest way I can put it is this. Doing what is Right doesn't allways make you happy, it is about being satisfied that you did the Right thing, often despite the fact that it wasn't what you might want or wish for. Sometimes the Right path is clear, sometimes it is not. Being happy is fine, but it comes and goes, one moment something makes me happy, another moment and something makes me sad, like a child. But satisfaction, and dissatifaction, are at the foundations of life. Satisfactions come in all sizes, large and small. If you are satisfied, and especially if you are satisfied you are doing Right, you can deal with a lot. If you are disatisfied, in the end, nothing seems to make you happy. I am satified to be unhappy, endure pain, frustration, disappointment, or whatever I have to bear, just as long as I am satified that I am doing Right. It is just that simple.
"When you've lived on the Road
In the heat and the cold
The wind and the rain...
And your friends in town
wish you'd settle down
'cause they feel your pain...
And you know they're right
when you lie awake at night
but you just can't explain...
the sound of a train
when it knows your name...
Oh yes that sound
That sound like a train
and it knows your name..."