Sunday, February 14, 2010

Neither I nor Newport has had a 1983 in a while...

'BMW Oracle.' Because nothing says 'romance of the sea' like corporate sponsorship.Regular readers of this Journal know that your Third Mate'll pontificate and prognosticate about New Bedford freely and without reluctance, but I spent a great deal of my youth in Newport Rhode Island, even traipsing around in or with theatrical outfits. That's me in the fascist get-up. Acting!
But several of my most embarrassing moments in a costumed professional capacity were spent as a fill-in tour guide at The Astors' Beechwood.
If Facebook is any judge of true and lasting friendships, then I am still a friend of some of the more precious former residents of the Beechwood. (I am also, by that same reckoning, a great pal of John Lurie and several ex-girlfriends.)
Beechwood afforded me an introduction to the inappropriate management of interpretive historical house museums, and granted me the ability to recognize the warning signs common to such enterprises. This has saved my life and livelihood on some singular occasions.
The inadequate compensation conferred to me by the two concurrent radio gigs that bit into my merriment obliged me to seek further amends from my recreational activities. At one time, a gig as a club disc jockey or childrens' teevee host would have filled that nullity, but -- as if I were looking forward to a future career as a complete vagrant -- I chose to dress up like either a Nineteenth Century valet or wealthy houseguest at one of Newport's Summer cottages.
The best thing that I can say about that brief, part-time experience is that I avoided contracting scabies. If it can be said that failure is the best teacher, Beechwood is where I learned some of my most treasured lessons about historical interpretation and visitor management. I made something like seven dollars an hour, worked with some lovely and some loathely people, and got to forbear extraordinary tips from hirsute and bejewelled Lotharios (this was Rhode Island, after all) who assumed that they could impress their dates with a roll on a Victorian day bed.
In 1983, I had been a disc jockey at a club owned by "a British syndicate" involved in The America's Cup races. I was just an entertainer -- if Human League is your idea of entertainment -- in a town that was drunk on its own celebrity. The America's Cup was a source of pride, mostly because it said "America" on it, and the winged keel of the Boxing Kangaroo hadn't yet torn the fabric of reality and unboxed the anarchic mayhem that we enjoy today.
The America's Cup races (even the short series like this one) are -- everybody says so -- "about speed." Fastfastfast. Even Captain Nat Herreshoff, who invented the America's Cup and went on to keep it out of everyone else's hands by magic, said that speed was the only reason for all of the sails and stuff.''Ol' Frozen Snot'' himselfI don't much care for the mod species of fast boats. Oh, I enjoy getting there quickly while looking sexy, lounging in the stern sheets as the committee boat cheers your win, but those coffee grinders and two-meter helms remind me that excessive speed leads only to spilled beverages and very few opportunities for romance and poetic rhapsodizing, so what's the damned point? Except if the point is to get to the yacht club dock before the guy with the stupid captain's cap who drinks all the Zacapa Centenario.
Which is, of course, not the goal of "SERIOUS" sailors.
So that's why it seems like a fitting tribute to the last thirty years that Larry Ellison, the richest man in the world once (who once magnanimously offered to give everyone in America an ID card that would prove that they're American) has succeeded in a get of the America's Cup. He did it in a way that may have both puzzled and vindicated Captain Nat Herreshoff, but he won, dammit, and the Cup belongs to America once again. Whether it'll come back to the New York City Yacht Club in Newport, however, is still up in the air because Ellison apparently likes sailing in the Pacific -- closer to San Francisco, which he owns.
BMW Oracle is a magnificent bit of boating technology that real humans have no business being anywhere near. It's a spaceship, not a yacht, and I congratulate the crew of USA 17 for scanning out the alien tech and winning by going faster than the guys who are suing to be able to say that they, well, didn't actually win, but at least they built their sails in their own country, and, why why oh why can't they just STFU and sail ...
I suppose that it has to do with their prolonged courtroom drama that couldn't possibly be made interesting in any way by Shatner, Spader, and Boston Legal. Boston Legal perpetrated only hour-long episodes, and has been cancelled. And Spader is a real sailor. I can act. I have an Emmy.Now, remember that when I say "belongs" to "America," I mean that the America's Cup now is in the possession of a citizen of the United States, Larry Ellison, whose boat won the America's Cup (short series, with petition). I hope that I have that wording correct.
Because I would hate to be known as the guy with the inconsequential online journal who incorrectly referred to the new owner of The Astors' Beechwood.Seriously? $10.5million? THAT'S ALL??!! I gotta check listings more regularly.


Large said...

Actually met Mr. Spader when working for Harding Sails he came in one day to watch us as it "fascinated" him and we spent most of the day talking about the Herreshoffs and the H28 which I believe he now owns along with the "old ways " of doing things splcing and ring sewing..actually a really nice guy..

PJ said...

He had Cataumet build him one, I thought.
I miss his Mom a great deal; an inspiration and friend when I worked at the NBWM and after.
The entire clan (going back to our old pal Nathaniel Bowditch, BTW) are great people who've never taken the sea for granted -- or wasted a breeze on our bay.

Carol said...

New Bedford has a real link to Newport, it seems. I hung out in Newport more than usual this summer and met many New Bedford natives working tourism industry jobs, as if Newport was a place to move on up in the world. New Bedford also often was noted as the planned place to hide out during forecasted hurricanes.

PJ said...

I'm often reminded of the Newport and New Bedford candlemaking rivalry whenever someone mentions the two towns.

I won't drop a hook in the carnival of Newport harbor on a good day during the Summer, much less hunker down there amid amateurs for a hurricane. I guess we've let the secret out: New Bedford has a hurricane barrier.