Thursday, November 1, 2012

"That's a coincidence, I lived on a Bounty once..."...

(The Reader will allow me to attest that I am acutely aware of the time that it has been since my last entry in this Journal. It has been 500 days since my last entry. I did not expect to do this thing again, but recent events have returned me to this forum, on which I am more free to babble on without general coherence in a longer form than is allowed in social networking platforms. Which usually do not support my chosen tack here, that of typing as many words as possible and then editing them into a cohesive -- if densely incoherent -- totality. When I last attempted this diversion, it was as a gossipy local political and social put-on that published at indiscriminate intervals articles of my flat dissatisfaction with everyday enterprises. Before that, I was more regular and followed the conceit of a ship's journal, that ship being the mythical H.M.S. Impossible. You don't know that one, since it is the one whose exploits that I keep endeavoring to fabricate and chronicle in book or film while distracting myself with research about the Long Eighteenth Century.
You are no doubt familiar with the story of the contemporary sail training vessel that some readers may remember as the inspiration for this JournalH.M.S. Bounty, lost not far from Cape Hatteras earlier this week. Because this online journal has been visited by Googlers and Bingers nearly three hundred times more often in the last two days, I thought that I would give those people something to leave on their desktop at work. Your Journaller lived on Bounty for several seasons. A Bounty that is not in any way the one that was lost.)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -- attributed to Mark Twain

Nearly twenty years ago, I did many things that both delighted and disappointed me. More of the former than the latter, although I am still delighted by the disappointments. And all involved bowlines and sails.
For all I that know, Mark Twain may have said those words in that order, possibly at a commencement exercise at some venerable institution that paid him handsomely to wiggle his way out of his legendary curmudgeon. Those last three words seem like a very contemporary construct, and the Twain scholars that I have encountered doubt the quote's provenance because Clemens was a riverboat pilot, sometimes navigating steam-powered craft "on a heavy dew." And don't let's forget that I was once a wool-wearing historical reinterpolator. I know lots of people who will dispute anything that anyone says. 
For fun.
Here in the special Camelot that I call "home," we recently had a storm which was brought about by a hurricane, Sandy, about which you may have heard.
During storms, some of the local boatfolk haul their boats out of Apponogansett Harbor and store the sleek fiberglass and mahogany chunks of debt safely on the fields and rills behind the manse. I am uncertain whether some of those wags possess a clear "what were they thinking" prejudice like some armchair ship's masters, but I found myself -- while restoring stately Goon Manor to its pre-Sandy shambles -- with an inescapable compunction to run up to one of them, brandish my Bounty cap and jacket and '95 Maritime Tour T-shirt and, well...

"DO YOU HAVE A MINUTE? I mean, do you have about two decades? Because I have to tell you a story. The first part is easy and will only take a sec. Nice kid, a little precocious, painfully aware of ineluctable mortality due to a diagnosis of diabetes age seven, got good grades, swam and stole  borrowed played with Sunfish sailboats during Summers,  made some uninformed decisions that mostly turned out all right due to a recorded high I.Q., shithouse luck and wildly disparate eyewitness testimony, turned 16 emotionally when chronologically I should have turned 30..."
 "OH! This is about YOU!" 
As it turns out, I had been addressing the Manor's contracted tradesman, Burleigh Flatstock.
The English language -- when not being mourned -- is picturesquely compared to a toolbox containing implements that must be honed and cared for, else someone lose a digit or put an eye out. And like that.

Nowhere else is this old saw [sic] more true than here in the Southern of Dartmouth, and nowhere can it be more dexterously exhilarated than by Burleigh Flatstock -- which is the moniker on his van -- right here on the grounds currently safehousing a few Boston Whalers and several plump daysailers.
The particular Goon Manor contractor in question exhibits effective -- if peculiar -- work habits: holding his hammer by the head and thrusting the handle end so each nail meets its culminative spot with a single deliberate shove. When Burleigh applies the smooth top of a handsaw blade, he can actually make quite a smooth incision.
Eventually.
Burleigh's nontraditional adroitness notwithstanding, he -- like his Swamp Yankee forbears --also uses English in much the same manner. Which is to say that he wields the English language like a tool. Or, more precisely: as a tool. I might exculpate him his impatience with a language that doesn't have a distinct single word designation for "the day after tomorrow," but a reversion to Yankee grunts and Swamper shrugs is no answer to linguistic pickyness.
Especially during a monologue out of which I am currently pouring my guts.
"Heard about your boat. Too bad."
"It's a ship. A full-rigged ship. Was a full-rigged ship. And it wasn't mine!"
I never "friended" or "liked" the HMS Bounty Facebook page. I never felt personally connected to that ship's current particular mission. I had inelegantly abandoned the Bounty-that-was-16-years-ago, and spent an inordinate amount of time mourning my delusions and forgetting -- no: repressing -- memories. 
When I was on The Big Blue Boat, I had become consumed by it. My naturally-acquired New England Calvinist work ethic could not play at work. This interacted with my inborn Catholic guilt, after realizing that I had actually been playing at work and part of my job (in port, at any rate) was to play act. Since I was getting paid (Navy rules), the ship was my job and worthy of serious consideration, and then consternation, and finally, confliction, and I became a brooding hump. Years before David Boreanaz made that fashionable. 
The three hundred or so books and essays that I had inhaled daily and the histories and fictions of The Long Eighteenth Century, rather than being a library of continual delight, became a bookbag full of increasingly irrelevant crap. I guarded the ship with a jealous pedantry and ignored or abhorred the rest of the TallShip™ community (such as it is). Bounty was -- to me -- a demanding and an unrequiting mistress that I had to quit.
And quit her I did.
And I was fatuous enough to use the "It's not you, it's me" canard.
Following a common practice among the jilt, the deserting,  and the bereft, I leapt aboard other quarterdecks and cockpits for brief dalliances but always apperceived a gut feeling of empty regret. I was surprised at the amount of seamanship that I had acquired, because it had been inculcated painlessly by a patient teacher. Or several.
 Eventually the "boat-delivery" conceit lost its intrigue and I was back to The Beach, joining its denizens in the wearying amble toward the inevitable. 
The early Internet was full of sailors' forums that eschewed any complex discussions of ships as dysfunctional workplaces, and the Brightsiders had immersed themselves in the new medium and distended the online world with cheery emoticons, cute animals, and unverifiable "inspirational" quotes. And, as is their wont, mistook "critical thought" for "criticism" and would brook none of that.
I attempted to reinsert some salt into the dreamy-eyed online TallShip™ talk, I spent a few years "publishing" an online journal of inappropriate snark which you are still free to audit, although I seem to have eternally distanced myself from the boaties and wannabes whom I have encountered and now generally avoid. 
There is a new batch of boat blogs that are laden with ads for WestMarine™ and MaerskLines. There are "onboard crew diaries" carefully crafted by some marketing firm or constantly tweet-updated by some Trustafarian on an oddly-named 2004 schooner who was mad chaffed to be FULL-TIME TALLSHIP'S CREW for that two-week run all the way to the family Winter place in the Caymans. 
No one ever visited this online presence looking for "hms bounty" or even "tall ship". No, the search terms that brought people here most were "cute cartoon animals" and "virginia hey".  
And that's how H.M.S. Impossible became The Impossible Journal and eventually fizzled to the current mere online repository for a few clever turns of self-possessed discourse that I could pop into status updates on Facebook, often inappropriately and unapologetically off-topic. (Please accept my sincere apologies for those impertinent instances.)
No, there will not be enough headlines like "Disconsolate Porn Industry Plans Tribute to HMS Bounty" for me to reestablish a regular line of converse here, nor can I republish any of the deleted journal entries that had direct reference to HMS Bounty that I had deleted years ago for whatever reason I did that. I may have been affected by The Brightsiders or been embarrassed about the time that I couldn't get the heaving line "acrosst" because I was balancing on unsecured cargo in choppy seas. The Captain didn't speak to me for weeks. 
But it is a dissipating, time-wasting sacrilege to preoccupy one's self in the ledger with the columns labeled "deeds, good" and "deeds, bad" because you know that the books always balance out in the final accounting.  
Has a maritime tragedy brought me back in touch with old shipmates? Yes, in surprising and frustrating ways. Because some plundered and dishonorably done-in relationships deserve much more than a click on a "Respond to Friend Request" button. Such reunions involve responsibly facile apologies and include some form of forthright hugging. Because for all of the reaching out that I have and have not attempted over the past decade and a half, I still feel at arm's length.
And, in one ineffable case, too many leagues away.
Which is a pity, because some arms belong to strong workmates, ready assistants, gifted companions, warm partners.
And to an exceptional and wonderful and impossible ship.

"Made one of them in origami."
"Huh?" I asked Burleigh, shocked out of my revery.
He profferred his knock-off off-market tablet:
Perspective. Thanks, Burleigh.

The Bounty that I once handed, reefed, and steered still sails on.
According to my true shipmates, in their hearts and heads.
Where all good things sail endlessly in fine winds that carry the sound of laughter.