What’s for dinner… skinner?

We get a lot of questions about living aboard but two topics top the list. Folks want to know where we go to the bathroom and what do we do for food? The first one is easy… in a bathroom. We have one on the boat and there is a bathhouse in the marina. More on that later. As for food, our boat has refrigeration and a wonderful Hillerange three-burner propane stove with an oven and broiler. The stove in our land house was electric. It was one of those fancy, schmancy glass-top deals that were “easy to clean.”  Well yes, it was easy to clean but it took me twenty-minutes to boil a pot of water! Hated it! The stove we have on board boils water in minutes. It’s hot. Very hot. When the thermometer hit the triple digits recently this summer, it was all we could do to fire that baby up and cook dinner. Even with the AC running, the cabin temperature is significantly affected. If you fire up two or God forbid all THREE burners, you should be prepared to cook along with the dish you are preparing.

Now, Mel and I have a pretty strict diet we adhere to. We eat very little processed foods, boxed stuff or complex carbs and buy everything organic or local when possible. Mel loves her pasta but I have developed a bit of a wheat allergy that kills me if I stray so pasta has pretty much been put on the “no” list for me. I will occasionally fall off the wagon  for my love of pizza but that is a rarity. We’ve been lucky to find great little markets where we’ve been thus far and fill our galley cubbies with cans of organic black, navy and kidney beans, asparagus, wild caught salmon, tuna and almond butter. We buy fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, kale and spinach whenever possible. Red and yellow onions and garlic are staples in most meals. Coconut oil replaces my olive oil on most nights but grape seed oil is a nice change for chicken if you like. The fridge is filled with almond milk, organic cage-

Hillerange stove. Burners are covered by the removable counter top

free eggs, apple cider vinegar, organic lemon juice, greek yogurt, baby bella mushrooms and anything else we can cram down in there. Our freezer section, though small, keeps our ground turkey and chicken fresh and the brussel sprouts, broccoli and chopped frozen kale in good order for when we can’t find the fresh stuff. We eat out maybe once a week just to keep with the local vibe. We’ll try to find the funkiest little gems of local joints and avoid chain restaurants like the plague. Call us food snobs if you like… I won’t argue. If we’re eating top-notch, I want top-notch but if I’m eating a fried crab-cake, I want to be on a dock with uncomfortable wooden benches, cheap plastic baskets and cold beer. I don’t want some big chunk of frozen “crab meat” slapped on a sisco bun. I want crab caught just off-shore on a soft kaiser roll, served by a waitress who’s been a waitress for far too long. She’s got a faded and blurry tattoo somewhere, a voice that could cut glass and calls everyone hun. If not that… I’ll cook it myself.

This past week, we did a nice little dish that was basically “the kitchen sink”. We were going to be off the boat for the weekend and didn’t want to buy fresh veggies that wouldn’t keep so we went with what we had on hand. Here’s what we came up with. Organic Chicken Breasts with cumin, curry, sea salt and black pepper, orange bell pepper, garlic, onion & asparagus. Sautee’ in coconut oil and serve over mixed greens, baby spinach and some garbanzo beans. Add a nice pinot, maybe a chilled crisp white or a cold beer and you’re set. Be bold… experiment and enjoy! Eat, drink and be merry!

Rock Hall Y’all!

So, after turning over the keys to castle to one Melody Puckett for her time to shine, I’m back. Sorry ladies… no more Brooklyn Decker picking her nose photos. And gents… I must also apologize. No more Brooklyn Decker photos picking her nose. But kudos to Mel for the “suggestive” title and the witty innuendo. Our web traffic doubled last week. Shows you what I know. Who cares about sailing stories and boats… just talk about women’s shoes, clothes, closets and post photos of other beautiful women in compromising situations… shoot, that’s the bachelorette! So ladies, we’re reverting back to “regular ole’ schlock” and I sure hope you stick around.  If you like, I’ll toss in a quote from Manolo Blahnik or Stuart Weitzman every once in a while just to keep it interesting. Anyway…

Me, Mel and Mike after a night on the town in Solomons.

July 20 marked the end of our stint in Solomons Island, MD and our lovely stay at Spring Cove Marina. We definitely rate it as a “Happy 2be Here” hot-spot. The people were great. The atmosphere, laid-back and the amenities were fantastic. But we couldn’t stay there forever! Well we could have but that would defeat the purpose of this adventure. After searching and searching for marinas in the Annapolis area, we abandoned the idea altogether. It’s crowded, expensive as all get out and a bit “snooty” if you pardon the expression. It’s an awesome town with great sailing history and we’ll make day trips over there but it was just going to take a huge part of our budget to stay there and that’s not the point either. So, we headed about eight miles north to the town of Rock Hall, MD. We’ve traveled here in the past and spent a weekend at the Mariners Motel and fell in love. Now, to be here on Sonrisa and spending the days on the water, I have to say… I’m in my own little paradise. The Sailing Emporium is on par with Spring Cove in every way. The facility is absolutely beautiful with gardens, flowers and picket fences. There are adirondack chairs on the sea wall where you can gather with a glass of vino and take in the last vestige of what the sun has to offer for the day. We arrived Saturday the 21, after another wet and soggy slog up the Bay. Wind from the NE and blowing 10-15. My brother Michael joined us for the run up. We had a blast although wet and a bit chilly.

Take me to the Bridge!

It was Jet’s first big voyage on Sonrisa and the sea state was not good. Big steep waves and our little fella got sea sick. He  was below deck for most of the day and that’s probably what did it. Maybe it was my coffee… either way, we just felt like it was too rough up top so we left him below. After it calmed down a bit, we put him in his fancy life-jacket and brought him up. He did fine. Settled down and by days end, he was sprawled out in the cockpit and none of us had any room. It was a long twelve-hour trip that tested his little bladder to it’s limit but he just wouldn’t pee on deck. We’re learning more and more each day about traveling with our K-9 companion. He’s something else I’ll tell you. He’s shown himself to be adaptable, tough, smart and extremely lovable. He’s spoiled rotten but he deserves it as he’s become our little ambassador when we hit the dock. We can’t walk twenty feet without someone stopping us and asking us a million, ok… several questions about the Jet. It makes it very easy to meet new friends. Boat people are a great bunch and surprisingly… so many people also have dogs aboard! You wouldn’t believe it.

 We are about to begin the process of training him to go on puppy pads so we can take long day trips and not have to worry about him getting stressed about having to go with no where to go. That seems to be our only issue with having a dog on board. We clean and vacuum regularly so the dog hair stays out of the bilge and therefore out of the bilge pumps! We thought we’d have a nightmare situation with dog hair everywhere but that’s not been the case. We shed him out with regular brushings on the hard and as long as we stay on top of things below, it’s not been bad at all.  Now… I think very highly of my pooch and if I thought he could take a turn at his own blog post, as did Melody, I’d give him my password too. I don’t think that’s going to happen so you’ll all just have to take my word for it. Besides he’d probably title his post “Sailing… Sonrisa… Gone to the Dogs” or something along those lines. And, I fear, he’d post a photo of Brooklyn Decker’s dog. So, I think we’ll just quit while we’re ahead. Next time maybe we’ll discuss what we’ve been cooking for the last two months. If you’ve got anything you’d like to know… shoot me an email or post it on Facebook. We love the feedback. Be well friends.

Does Size Matter?

Indeed it does. But before we get into that, a disclaimer:

WARNING: For any guys reading this – this is Melody – or as this blog’s archives call me, “the girl”. I will not be discussing anything about wind speed, wave height, current, tools, boat performance, or any of the other juicy sailing details that you’ll find throughout the rest of this blog. In fact, there probably won’t even be anything at all about actual sailing.

What? But this is a sailing blog, right? Yes, it is. But Chris opened this can of worms when he signed me on to write the next blog post. So if you care nothing about the number of pairs of shoes I have on the boat, you can stop reading now. (By the way, it’s 15).

Ok, ok. Back to the issue of size.

But first let me back up just a little bit and tell you that 6 years ago, I had never set foot on a sailboat. When Chris and I met, he had literally just finished restoring his first sailboat, STOW, the San Juan 24. She had a cute little dinette area, a v-birth, sink, and a few cubbies and cabinets. She was the perfect little weekend boat, and she sailed like a dream. (So there is some actual talk of sailing in here – happy?) She was so tender and she moved in such light air that we used to joke that someone could fart in our direction from the dock, and she would move. (Sorry honey…not very ladylike to talk about such things, but that’s what you get for giving me your blog password!)

Anyway, it was all I had ever known as far as sailboats go, and I loved her. Chris eventually decided to move to something bigger, and while it was bittersweet to get rid of STOW, he needed something that would take him further than she likely could.

Fast forward to his trip to New Jersey to look at a couple of boats, when he laid eyes on what would then become his next boat, the famed Tartan 27. You can read about his ‘love at first sight’ experience here, where he likens seeing it for the first time to “receiving a hug and a kiss from Brooklyn Decker”. Who?

Brooklyn Decker bikiniOHHHHHHHH….her.

Guys, if you’re still with me…you’re welcome. Girls, here’s a picture of her picking her nose. (you’re welcome)

So anyway, he gets the Tartan, and keep in mind, I haven’t seen it yet. A week or two later, we fly to Jersey so I can see it and I. Fell. In. Love.

Oh my goodness, she had a bathroom! And a fridge! And hot water! I was over the moon about this boat, and Chris was happy that I liked her so much and we brought her home.

Before the infamous ‘refit’ of the Tartan, we literally spent every weekend on her. She was our little lake-house, and she was so good to us. The only thing that I had trouble with was her lack of storage. Don’t get me wrong. She had plenty of room, but when we stayed the weekend, I had my usual tendency to over-pack clothes, shoes, laptops, books, etc., and Chris had his usual tendency to bring every tool known to man out to the boat. I like everything neatly stowed away, so space could sometimes be limited. Chris calls me the secret squirrel because he can never find anything after I’ve cleaned.

I think he mentioned previously that it took awhile to get me to agree to this whole “let’s sell everything and move onto a sailboat” plan, and when I was finally honest with myself and him about the reason for my apprehension, I admitted that I didn’t want to get rid of my stuff. As soon as I said it out loud, I realized how silly it seemed – to forgo traveling the coast on a boat with my love and our dog just so I could hang onto an elephant figurine I got at Target for $9.99 on an impulse buy one time? Let’s just say it didn’t take long after that for me to get on board, so to speak. However, we knew we would need a bigger boat than Moose, our Tartan. When Chris asked me for my input on what we should get, my reply was basically “I don’t care AS LONG AS THE BOAT HAS PLENTY OF STORAGE. And a shower.”

Can you believe that was probably my only input as to what I wanted in a boat? And the storage was actually higher up on priorities than the shower if you want me to be perfectly honest. I mean, we could always jump in the water with a bar of soap, right? And I knew Chris would never get an ugly boat, a slow boat that ‘sails like a dinnerplate’, nor would he get an unsafe one. I trusted him on all of the performance and safety issues. He trusted me on the storage issues. Okay, okay…trust may not be the right word. He appeased me by letting me make the final call on storage issues. In the end, we found Sonrisa, the perfect boat for us, one which neither of us felt we were compromising, so it all worked out…. or did it?

Which brings us back to the size issue again. Although the Cal 35 was much bigger than our T-27, that was a weekend boat, and this was a live-on boat. I had gotten rid of almost everything I owned, including over 150 pieces of clothing and no telling how many shoes. I sold nearly my entire wardrobe to a traveling nurse in Ohio (she better be taking care of my Stuart Weitzmans), but I still had quite a few items in my boat wardrobe and when it came to packing up and moving what little we had left onto Sonrisa, I worried there wouldn’t be enough storage.

Perhaps I should mention the reason for my concerns at that point: my closet on the boat is only 24 inches wide. (pause for dramatic effect). Yes, I went from having 3 walk-in closets at one time in my life (one whole closet just for my shoes) to a 24 inch wide cabinet, but you know what? It all fits perfectly. Shirts, dresses, jackets, sweaters, scarves, handbags, jewelry, and yes, 15 pairs of shoes.

So next time the question “does size matter?” comes up, just tell everyone that according to your friend Melody, 24 inches is just right.

And on a more serious note, to answer one last question that Chris touches on in the last post that everyone keeps asking. “How’s Mel?”, “What’s she think of all this?”

Melody on Sonrisa, Gulf of MexicoWell, let’s see…since Memorial Day I’ve gotten to cross the 9th largest body of water in the world on a boat that would fit in some of your living rooms. I’ve been inches away from huge pods of dolphins as they played in our bow wake. I’ve experienced true fear during the storms we encountered which gave me an even deeper respect for nature and a better sense of our own mortality. I’ve seen a rainbow stretch across the water, and at the end wasn’t a pot of gold, but a deep blue sea, and every bit as valuable, so let’s work hard to save it, okay? I’ve spent a whole month in one of the “15 happiest coastal towns in America”.  And most importantly, I’ve spent it with the two loves of my life, Chris and Jet.

I guess to sum it up, all I have to say is that I honestly can’t remember when I’ve ever been happier or felt more free.  And I am utterly ecstatic.

And now for something completely different.

Heat wave. That’s the topic of discussion lately. It’s a real “ice breaker” if you’ll pardon the pun. The one thing I’m not quite certain about is the expression that folks feel compelled to ask at any point in time such as this, “is it hot enough for you?!”  Now… without getting too heavy handed here I’m going to call this one of the most inane expressions that I’ve personally ever heard. “Well… actually no. It’s not quite hot enough for me. Personally I think another ten or fifteen degrees would make me much happier.” But, then again… I like walking on hot coals and chewing on glass so… My friends across the country, it is my hope that you are braving this wave of heat, this… oceanic eruption of thermal interference and your family, friends and pets are safe. Colorado folks… God bless you for what you are going through.

Thunderstorm movie: As we did the dishes, relief came.

Mel and Pop

But I digress.  We’ve been in Solomon’s for almost three weeks. Spring Cove Marina is a gem. Trevor and Liz run one of the coolest establishments I’ve ever been to. It’s clean, laid back and top-notch from front to back. In that time we’ve seen the Calvert Maritime Museum (Yes… Cheap Trick is playing in Museum parking lot). We’ve done the crab cake thing. We snuck into Flag Pond State Park in the middle of the night to watch the Horseshoe Crabs mate… not one showed up. Mosquitoes and us walking in the dark discussing scenes from “Blair Witch.” We’ve been to Leonardtown, Chesapeake Beach and California… Maryland that is. We’ve been to Philly to visit mom and spend time with Dad. We’ve met some great folks who look at us and are completely baffled at just how we’re doing this.
They continually say, “You guys are living the dream.” Well we are… kinda.

Just to clear some stuff up… we’re not independently wealthy. Not even close. We’re not “roughing” it and eating sticks and leaves either. Melody was able to keep her job and she does so from the boat. As long as we have wifi, we’re good. I am not “gainfully employed” anymore and yes that weighs on my brain but I’m working on that. Getting our company Happy 2be Here producing on a larger scale is my agenda this year. As for our finances… it’s pretty simple… the marina we’re in costs us $525.00 per month and that includes electric and water. Not bad considering we have a park, a pool, private bathrooms and showers, lender’s lounge, courtesy bikes and shuttle, laundry facilities and a general store that sells everything from fiberglass to tequila. We sold a lot of stuff that produced some spending cash. We sold the house and paid off the boat. We kept my 1994 Ford Ranger (affectionately known as the Ugly-Truckling) with one-hundred and thirty thousand miles on it and we kept the dog… Jet. That’s it. The nut-shell. When you have no expenses, or should I say, minimal expenses and no children or college funds to concern yourself with, you can do something silly like go live on a boat for a year. Don’t get me wrong… we are “living the dream” or more aptly “living a dream” our dream… for a while. I like to say, we’re living the dream, on the way to the dream. That’s my phrase and no, you can’t have it. There isn’t much that’s mine left so I’d like to hold onto that.

Long, hot day. Everyone is chilling out. Just like home

We’re getting used to a really different lifestyle right now. The boat has been great. I don’t want for more space. I don’t feel cramped and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing one thing. Ok, the heat wave was tough but we have an ac unit on board that kept the boat downright livable in 100 degree heat. Jet? not a worry in the world. I thought there would be an “adjustment” period where maybe he’d freak out for a while and behave badly or drive us crazy wanting off the boat. Not so. He gets up in the morning just as he did at our land house. He comes and shakes his collar at our v-berth and lets me know he’s ready to go pee. Mel and I cook a lovely breakfast, have coffee and a long walk and then she gets to work and so do I. Now this whole paragraph has been in “first person” and there’s a reason. I speak for myself. But… everyone keeps asking me “how’s Melody?” and “What’s Mel think of all this?” Well, I’m going to let her tell you in her own words. The next installment will be written by Melody we’ll all see what she really thinks!

Be well friends.

What I know…

Well, tomorrow will be one month since we’ve left Panama City Beach bound for Solomons, MD. I know I haven’t been able to keep to my posting schedule but that was impossible while at sea. Even when I put into harbor and had internet service, the thought of trying to summarize the journey seemed a bit daunting.

It still does but at some point I realize I have to put into words the experience of getting “Sonrisa” to her new home. Which, if I think about it, is a bit strange since we really don’t have a “new home”. We are really traveling like gypsies this summer and will have several different homes along the Chesapeake Bay and at the moment, that seems like a tiny sliver of heaven.

There is no possible way to put the events of the trip into this blog without it being 20 pages long and I don’t know that I have the patience for that. I’m almost certain none of you will have the patience to read it either. The “problem” with sailing stories is after a while, they all sound the same. Endless accounts of storms, broken boat parts and sleeplessness accompany the tales of severed digits and smashed body parts, etc… etc… I will say that we had our share of all of that but I’ll be brief. I am trying to cram 20 days in here.

As you know, Mel and my friend Graham joined me in PCB on Memorial Day weekend. We left out that Monday, May 28 to beautiful weather and a nice weather report for the week. Sunny, highs in the mid 80’s with a 20% chance of thunderstorms. Winds out of the NE at 10 to 15 knots. Perfect!

Out we went, bound for Venice, Florida – a perfect little navigation point to set up for the turn south to Marathon, Florida and our first stopping point.

We never made it.

That first night, as the sun set beautifully on the horizon to our west, a line of storms marched directly towards us from the north. It was almost saying to us, “you should enjoy that sunset because I’m about to kick your ass in a major, major way.”

My heart sank. I am the captain of this vessel, with my good friend and the love of my life on board, and while I have been in heavy weather before, it was not on my boat, and I was not responsible for the “souls on board.”

day 1 sunset

That storm hit us hard. Late night, thunder, lightning, rain, and wind. Lots of wind. If you’ve never been on the ocean at night it’s freaky as it is. Your mind will create sounds that aren’t there. You think you see things when you didn’t, and you’ll miss things, like tankers and cruise ships when they pass right in front of your face. But if you experience a storm at night while at sea, you’ll get a whole new perspective on fear.

That night and several times after that, I was more fearful than I’ve ever been in my life. I tried not to show it to the others on board but I don’t think the uttering of “holy f’ing hell” was as under my breath as I would have liked. That first night, I sat in the cockpit as they were below and prayed to high heaven that nothing would happen. I just wanted to see the sun and daybreak.

I was wet. Soaking wet and tired. Later, when the wind abated just a bit, Graham came up and we shined a head lamp forward to check out the boat. That’s when we saw that large, flapping seam in the main had let go. About 1/5 of the way down the sail from the head, the seam just split open – the thread and the sail were original to the boat and the boat was built in 1984.

The thought of nursing the old girl up to the bay was getting dimmer by the moment. The next morning, Graham sat on the cabin top and stitched the sail by hand as we made the tough decision to alter course and head for Tarpon Springs to see if we could get a “proper” repair.

Tarpon Springs was due east and nowhere near where we needed to go but as the Captain, I had to make sure we were safe. One headsail and a failing main do not make for safe going, especially with the weather we were having. Everyone agreed, Tarpon Springs it was.

Once we landed in Tarpon, we got fuel, water and a much needed break. We lucked into a guy named Herman who had a canvas shop on the dock and agreed to go over my old sails for $200.00 and stitch any places he thought looked suspect. That was a deal and we proceeded to sit there for about 7 hrs while he did just that.

When he finished, we loaded up, bent on the main and headed back out to the Gulf. The sun was setting and we were hopeful we could get clear of the Anclote River before dark.

Now this is where I’m going to jump ahead, generalize and skip the numerous storms, waves, microbursts and blinding rain stuff and head right to Marathon. Mel was getting off in Marathon to fly back to Nashville, and Steve Maseda, a good friend who’s got over 100k blue water miles under his belt, was getting on.

The channel to the dock in Marathon Marina was about 50 ft wide, or so it seemed. Boats on either side. Big, expensive boats and I have only docked Sonrisa once in Tarpon Springs… It was not a graceful experience. You could say my heart sank and the uttering of “holy f’ing hell” was not as under my breath as I would have liked. All for naught. I did ok. Actually looked like I knew what I was doing.

That night, Graham took off for a proper hotel, TV, and a shower. Steve got on board and we tried to sleep in 90 degree heat and humidity with two working fans. No go. the “no see-ums” (tiny bitting gnats that get through screens) were in full bore. Mel and I were laying there dripping in sweat, me slapping the shit out of myself for hours. It was quite appropriate since I was thinking… “You freaking moron! This is what you sold the house for? It’s going to be a long year.”

Mel and I argued about who should go sleep in the main cabin since the fan was working out there and the bugs weren’t bitting. She got the settee to port with Maseda sawing logs to starboard. I later crept in and slept standing up against the mast. Not my finest moment. I almost fell a couple times and resigned myself to sleeping with my head on the nav desk until my arms fell asleep. Ah, the glamour.

storm on the gulf in cal 35Day in and day out, this was our view

The next morning, Mel got off and flew home to get the dog and the truck, and drive to Philly where she would hang with my family until we arrived with the boat. Me, Maseda and Graham set out from Marathon to jump into the Gulf Stream and head north. We jetted up the coast and put in at Cape Canaveral for fuel and some needed supplies.

When we left Canaveral, we got slammed with another fifteen minute type, late afternoon storm. I didn’t even have time to get to the mast to douse the main before we were laid out. The sail split from luff to leech and not at the seam. It blew the cloth to ribbons just below the second reef point. We got her down and sat shaking our heads. Now what? Back in? Stop and fly everyone home? Leave the boat in Cape Canaveral ’til I can get a new sail? So many decisions.

We all agreed to just tie into the second reef point (makes the sail smaller) and just live with that. She won’t sail fast but we’ll at least have a main. Two hours later… another high wind blast, but we she was reefed down already so we sailed on. Rolled up the jib a bit and she was doing fine. Then, the wind backed quickly at the top of a swell and with it, the sail. We had a boom preventer on so the boom didn’t go across, thank God, but the sail did and split yet again. Into several ribbons. She was done. My gallant 28 yr old sail had seen her last trip.

This is the point where, “Can we please just get there in one piece?” becomes the mantra. We ducked into the Intracoastal Waterway and Graham bailed. He was not having fun and decided to fly home from Georgetown, NC. We were now two. Maseda had to be home for Father’s Day and it wasn’t looking good. This was supposed to be a seven day trip from Marathon, and now we were flirting with ten.

We motored up the ICW for twelve to eighteen hours a day trying to make Solomons Island before Maseda had to leave. When we landed at AYB in Virginia, our trip was over. A NE front coming down the bay, from the direction I wanted to go, was on its way in and it was going to blow 20 to 30 knots for three days. Steve flew out that night.

I sat. And sat. I pondered and questioned every stinking decision I’ve made and was going to make. My boat was getting beaten and bashed, as was my body and resolve. Only this wasn’t just my boat… this was our house. This was basically all we have left. That adds a different dynamic to the equation.

But… alas, Friday June 15 I left for Norfolk and the bay. The weather seemed a little more accommodating. That would change the minute I turned North at Thimble Shoals light. I bashed for 3 long hours to make about 5 miles. I slipped and fell, smashed and cut my finger, broke the auto-pilot when I landed on it, knocked out my GPS and was in serious difficulty before I just turned around and found a parking spot in the Old Point Comfort Marina. Where I sat for three more days. UGH!

Monday, June 18 I left bound and determined to hit Fishing Bay (you can look all these things up if you want!) I made Fishing Bay on Monday night and Solomons on Tuesday, June 19. Melody had driven our truck and met me on the fuel dock with Jet and we ate soggy turkey sandwiches she had picked up from WAWA. It was heaven.

We’ve been here just over a week. In that time I’ve done some repairs, fixed the anchor locker, washed and stowed all the chain, replaced all the hoses in the head (SHITTY job, if you know what I mean) and several other small tasks.

Melody has been working from the boat and looks like she’s in her element. We drink a cold beer around 6 PM when she finishes her last calls. We walk Jet a couple times a day and end our night by the pool looking at the harbor. We’ve settled into this with very little trouble. We cook dinner and breakfast on board. We have coffee in the mornings and sleep like babies.

I have to say, I’m stressing about not having an income. I promised myself and Melody that I would not do what I normally do. Freak out and put massive amounts of pressure on myself. Pressure to come up with the “plan.” People keeps saying to me, “So… what’s your plan?” And I don’t have an answer for them. I’ve not been good up til’ now with “no plan” but I guess I have to be, right? This is part of “the lesson”… Right now we’re ok. It is a bazaar existence. Doesn’t seem real and then at times, it seems all too real.

Frankly, it’s awesome. I have no freaking idea where the hell we are going but on July 19, we’ll be headed somewhere.

What I know:

  1. AC is worth every, single penny you spend on it.
  2. A fresh head (toilet) and hoses are worth more than the AC! Almost.
  3. Schedules are a joke on a sailboat.
  4. Our dog can climb ladders.
  5. Patience is truly a virtue. I’m working on this one.
  6. My girl Melody is one cool cucumber when the shit hits the fan.
  7. I’m busy. Every day there is something to do. The list is endless.
  8. Percolator coffee is really quite good.
  9. Time is passing at break-neck speed.
  10. I need to relax and enjoy this.
  11. Repeat number 10

The Devil Is In The Detail

I have to say, I’ve heard this said for years and while I understood what it meant, I never really thought about how true it actually is. I think the phrase, although quite common, falls victim to obfuscation. Hell, that sentence is a victim. Unclear thoughts. Purposefully hiding the meaning within communications and willful ambiguity to disguise the clear meaning. Right?

I mean why make something so relevant so vague and opaque. Simply put, When people say that the devil is in the detail, they mean that small things in plans and schemes that are often overlooked can cause serious problems later on. When I looked up the derivation of the phrase, I found that it apparently stems from the saying “God is in the detail” singular, no “s”. This idiom has been attributed to many but most agree it was most widely used by the German art historian Aby Warburg (1866 – 1929). Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations lists the saying’s author as anonymous (That guy writes a lot of shit) and if you rely on Google, which I do less and less these days, they state that it does not appear in print before ca. 1975. Duh… I’ve been hearing this since I was very young and I was born in 1966 so Google, in the words of Donald Trump, You’re fired. I bet Google can tell you all about that bitch Snookie though.

But I digress. Why do I raise such a conundrum you ask? Because… it’s there that’s why. Just like the mighty Everest. To be climbed. To be littered with rusted oxygen tanks and used, bloody bandages. It’s peaks strewn with old carabiners and lost souls who got caught too far from base camp. But I digress. Ambiguous, slight of hand, conversational trickery has lead us all asunder. Mark Twain, the venerable Mr. Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Whenever I’m looking for guidence I look to Twain. He once wrote, “Eschew Obfuscation!” Simply put… “Avoid being unclear, support being clear.” How much more clear can it be… the answer is none. None more clear. Again… why? Well, because it’s glaringly obvious that the detail is M.I.A. No… not the rapper.

Detail has been white-washed, digitized, cannibalized, capitalized, homogenized and circumcised. We’ve been weened off the tit of great expectations and now suckle ourselves from emaciated, IV bags dripping with an elixir of sub-standard mash. Mmmm. Belly up boys and girls.

This is because of the detail. The lack of detail. Someone, somewhere lost sight of the fact that the devil is indeed in the detail. And so is “God” whatever that is. The detail is all we got. Sometimes I think the more erect we walked, the less intuitive we became. So drag those knuckles friends. Drag em’ Along those mean streets and feel, I mean really feel the aggregate as it musters some blood to the surface and ruins a perfectly good manicure. After all, like your fine automobile, you can always have em’ detailed.

Nashville

Time it was and what a time it was, it was
a time of innocence, a time of confidences
long ago it must be, I have a photograph
preserve your memories
they’re all that’s left you

Kris Kristofferson told me once, “…If you stay in Nashville long enough, it’ll drive you crazy.” Almost twenty-two years later, I think I know what he means.

How do I begin. Where do I begin. And how do I end. This is my attempt at summing it all up. Warts and all.

I came to Nashville in July of 1990 on the advice of a good friend. We were both playing music in Philadelphia when he landed a gig with Lynyrd Skynyrd which left him in Nashville at the end of the tour. He loved the city, decided to stay and knew of a band in need of a drummer. He said it was my ideal band, a mix of Replacements, Smithereens, Beatles and well, every other incarnation you could think of. My life in Philly was miserable. I was actually living in Collingswood, NJ, playing in the most god-awful hair-metal band and dating a woman I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t get away fast enough. This is where I have to be careful so as not to give you the hour by hour, play by play details. Which is very hard to do as I’m hit with the reality that I’m to sum up my 21 plus year experience here in a Reader’s Digest amount of space. I need to do this as part of my process. Closure.

I will probably delete this and begin again several times, get angry, and sob deeply as I remember the people who are no longer around. I’ll smile in honor of the good times and then become paralyzed at the realization that it went by so incredibly fast.

A dog is said to experience life at a pace that puts it at about seven years for every one human year. I have have lived about four lifetimes here in Nashville as the grey at my temples reveals all you really need to know.

Rock’fish: The early years of moving here and playing on the local scene. The energy of creating something bombastic and traveling like gypsies with one common cause. Music. And… girls. They were synonymous. We were rude, loud and cocksure. We had long hair, big ideas and a really shitty van. We drove hundreds of miles for no money to win fans one at a time. The stories we could tell if we all got together would fill volumes and we were no different than the fifty other bands in town who believed exactly the same thing. Swing. China Black. Jet Black Factory. The Biscuits. Iodine. Geared and Primed. Walk the West. Jason and the Scorchers. Valentine Saloon. So many great bands and such an amazing period of time in the city.

Ace of Clubs. 12th & Porter. Exit-In. 328 Performance Hall. Pub of Love. Mainstreet. The End. And lets not forget the Goldrush. Legendary venues, some still here and some gone for good. I was a regular fixture at every-single one. When a dear friend passed recently, some of us gathered at a local watering hole for a gentle memorial and it was like stepping into a time machine when I crossed the threshold. We developed some very bad habits… some never got over them and paid the ultimate price but we developed some incredible life-long friendships as well. I have gotten to watch all my crazy rock n roll friends “grow up” and have kids of their own. Virtual mini-me’s who know how to play Beatles tunes before they are 10 and actually sing the lyrics to Big Star and Graham Parsons songs.

I achieved a dream of mine here in Nashville. A couple actually. Seven years and seven days from the moment I arrived as a drummer, I signed a publishing deal with a major publisher as a songwriter. All I ever wanted to be was a songwriter. I have been blessed to meet and have play on my records some of the finest musicians in the world. I mean on the entire planet. I thank each and everyone of you. Engineers, studio managers, techs… thank you. I got to travel the world on a guitar… here… in Nashville.

The Black Period: I completely lost my way and allowed people and circumstances to suck the spirit and marrow from my body. It lasted almost ten years. That’s a long time. When and if you ever let anyone take the only thing you truly possess, your soul… two things should happen:

1. You should be punched in squarely in the mouth for allowing it to happen.
2. You get a hug from a friend. Someone close who says, “it’s gonna be ok.”

The Aftermath: When you learn that what you thought was, wasn’t and who you thought was nowhere close… it does damage. Major damage and some people are perfectly fine with letting that happen. They’ll watch as you take the heat, even when you don’t deserve it. That kinda shit can do irreparable harm. My divorce aligned pretty closely with the events of September 11, 2001 and I will tell you, those were deep, dark days. I lost my music. I lost my confidence. I made some of the worst errors in judgement’s I’ve ever made. As I scrambled to regain my balance and purpose I hurt some people. For that I’ll be eternally sorry. The country was in a deep despair from the events of that Tuesday in September and I was right along side. I had been planning on going to NYC, start fresh. That wasn’t going to happen. My manager and retailers dropped me. My ex-publisher ended up with my house. A house we spent 18 months building. It all played out publicly. When you are crashing, it’s a feeding frenzy. Everybody wants their’s. When you’re on top, everyone would love to do lunch. When you fall, everyone is “in a meeting.” All of it. Gone in the blink of an eye.

An attempt at a new record came up short. Wonderful songs. Some of the strongest material I ever did sat dormant until recently. The “Songs From Before” collection is from this time frame. Trying to be hopeful when you’ve lost everything is extremely difficult. I wasn’t waving. I was drowning.

The Healing: One day… you wake up and have to decide to be happy. I started over. I started drawing, painting and reinventing myself. I spent a lot of time by myself. I went into my box. Reassessed. I started sailing. But for about 3 shows over the last ten years, my guitars sit eerily quiet in their cases waiting for the moment when I feel like I have something to say. I said my apologies and hope that any harm I may have caused or been a part of is forgiven. I took a regular J.O.B. My greatest fear. A job with an insurance plan and 401k. Albeit, this job in the film business cannot be compared on any level to a corporate job situation mind you… it was still a job. It allowed me to buy my little shack in the hood and heal. Cut my grass. Walk my dog. Remodel the kitchen. Put the studio back together. Unfortunately the cases sat closed. In the mean time, I wrote and illustrated a kids book of poetry called “Crash Landings” and featured some paintings in an art show or two. I became infatuated with the art of sailing and I met Melody. That makes my time in Nashville worth it. With Melody comes a level headed answer to my sometimes frantic, artistic interpretations. She’s got the artist in her as well. Once you see her paintings, you’ll understand what I mean. But she’s got something else… a quiet wisdom. Unassuming simple answers to the big, bad questions I have a tendency to dwell on. I tend to sit and spin on occasion and she knows where the “off” button is. To Mel add Jet. The healing is complete and it’s time to move on.

The exodus. How do you sum up so many lives in such a minimal amount of space. You don’t. There will be no big celebration. No long good-bye’s and tearful recriminations. I hardly see anyone anymore. Kids. soccer practice. Who’s moved and who’s moved on… passed on. My love affair with Nashville has been tenuous at best. Delicate and like fine china, easily broken and never well mended. I never once felt at home here. Accepted here. I can finally say that. I love my friends dearly and for a brief time it felt good to get back to Nashville from long stints on the road. But it never felt like I was going home. Why stay so long? I can’t really answer that. Maybe I just wanted to leave on my terms. Let me be clear. I’ve had some wonderful, extravagant times here in Nashville. I have learned a lot. Discovered, been witness to the births of babes and that fifteen minutes of fame bullshit we hear so much about. Many wonderful shiny moments. But as I come to this “end” or better yet, transition, different things resonate differently and I guess the metal in those hard times rings a little louder in this bell-tower than do the sweet-soft overtones of the good times. I posed the question at the beginning… How do I end? Quietly. Differently than how I began.

Kristofferson told me one other thing and it’s the most important thing I think I can ever remember. He said, “I try to live life by four basic rules; Tell the truth. Sing with passion. Work with laughter and live for love. Whenever I’ve strayed from those, I’ve usually ended up in deep shit. Oh, and… If you stay in Nashville long enough, it’ll drive you crazy.”

Good-bye Nashville. Time it was and what a time it was…

A Dog’s Life

Well, I just returned from the last official road trip down to the boat with load of clothes, pots, pans and books in preparation for the trip up the East Coast. With two major storms on Saturday and Sunday with sustained winds of 30 knots, it didn’t look good for getting off the dock and over to Bay County Boatyard for the haul-out and bottom job. I was really worried since I’ve had minimal experience handling this boat and no experience getting out of the slip. The winds were blowing from the SSE and pushing the boat up into the slip at a horrible angle and boy it was nerve wracking. But, Monday morning came and the winds shifted around and calmed to about 5 knts. Thanks universe! Whew. We got out of the slip… not without incident though… while backing out, I noticed I had horrible steerage and power. Something was dreadfully wrong but I was already underway and couldn’t correct or stop at this point. So, after a fumbled start, boat hooks and four-letter words and all my neighbors watching, then turning away, we got out of the slip and underway.

A stop at the fuel dock to fill up and then off to Watson’s Bayou. We pulled into Bay County just after 9 am and Yates and his crew were all assembled around the lift. They hooked us up and lifted her out without issue. Once in the sling, I discovered why my steerage and handling were horrible. BARNACLES! Tons of them. I was going to have the diver go clean the bottom on her usual monthly schedule. But being that she was hauled out and cleaned on April 2 for the survey, I figured, nah… I’ll just get her done when we pull her for the bottom job in May. Wow! 6 weeks later and you’d have thought she’d never been cleaned. Barnacles covered my prop, shaft and jammed themselves in between the rudder post and the rudder, which is why her steering was so difficult. Amazing. Yates said if just 10 barnacles attach themselves to your prop, it will cause you to have to use about 10% more power to achieve the same speed. So if you run at 2000 RPM and you have barnacles on the prop, you’ll need to run the engine at 2200 RPM to get the speed you had before! I was running at the optimal 1800 RPM and we were only doing 3.9 knts when in April, we were at about 5.9 knts. CRAZY!

Anyway… She’s on the hard for about two weeks getting new bottom paint, buff and wax of the hull, a new strainer and some barrier coat on the bottom of the keel where it’s been depleted since the previous owner went about 3 years between bottoms. Not so good. Cha’ Ching. So, when I pick her up on May 23, she should be beautiful, clean, sound and with a smooth, pretty bottom. And you know how we men are about smooth, pretty bottoms.

This is my last official week at work. We have to clean the apartment in preparation for moving out completely. I have to get some paper work done here at the office and finish up a few minor things. It’s been very strange realizing how quickly this moment is coming. We’ve received a lot of nice emails and notes. My crew has been so sweet with their offers of help and support and boy oh boy, Jet is in for a big surprise.

I am today doing what I have done for the last several years around here. I get in early, make some coffee, sit at my desk and just enjoy the quiet before everyone shows up. That’s becoming harder to do and I’m trying really hard to keep it together. The magnitude of the moment is upon me and I’m struggling with how to sum up the last 21 years, 9 months and 27 days. A dog is said to live about 7 years in the time span of one human year. I think I have a better sense of what that might be like right about now. I have lived four lifetimes in Nashville.

Ladies and Gentleman… The “Fat Lady”

Politically incorrect. Probably. But as they say, “the opera aint over til’ the fat lady sings” and she’s just now taken the stage. Tomorrow, May 10 is my last shoot day in this production package. “12-2” as it’s known within the world of Armed Forces Radio and Television, wraps tomorrow and with it, my tenure at Film House. Almost 11 years in one place, that’s a record for me by any stretch. After the last post glaringly missed the mark, I’ll dispense with the ambiguity here.

As you know, about a month ago I went to my boss and told him I was leaving. I told him about the need for a change and a new energy. I told him I wasn’t happy and needed to blow a hole in my current situation and seek greener pastures. He told me he admired my boldness. Said, “I’m not saying you’re not crazy as shit and I’m not saying it’s not a horrible idea. I am saying, you’ve got guts and at least you’re doing something about your situation, unlike most of us who are locked into our situations and not so free to do so.” Others weren’t so kind and most told me I was stupid for quitting a job in “this economy”. They marveled at the fact that I sold the house and with it most of my stuff. They were absolutely suspect at my coercing Melody into a “vagabond” lifestyle aboard, of all things, a freaking sailboat. I was a complete idiot!

Well, last week we all received an email from my boss… yes, that boss… all hands on deck meeting in the conference room. 11:00 am. Everyone now speculating and fearing the worst. See that’s what has been happening over the past three years over there. We receive an email and shortly thereafter, bad things happen. Pay cuts. Insurance revisions. Lay-offs. We were conditioned.

11:oo am: Everyone seated around a large, very large conference room table. Everyone quiet, worried. My boss came in and I knew right away, it was bad. He said, “I’m just going to cut to the chase. The 12 series is the last series… the DoD is pulling the contract, effective October. There’s no funding. I’m sorry.” BOOM. The breath sucked, slowly out of the entire room. Even mine. I no longer had a dog in the hunt and I knew this was coming… that’s why I was leaving. That’s why I sold the house… but it wasn’t supposed to come now. Not with me there to see it. It’s been a difficult year thus far with the loss of some dear friends. Young, vibrant friends and now I was witness to death that day too. Having to make those calls to wives, girlfriends and mothers. Telling the kids. Not telling the kids.

A couple people came to my office afterwards and said things like, “you look like the smartest man in the world right now” and “you must be happy, huh?” No. I’m not happy one bit. A lot of people I love will be hurt. Really hurt. Smart? No… lucky. For the first time in a long time, I trusted my gut and it happened to work out. Had we not sold the house a month before, I would be scrambling just like everyone else. This journey of ours would be dead. Cold and dead. I’d be wondering, why I didn’t trust my gut and see the writing on the wall. I’d be kicking myself for not doing it sooner and being caught behind the eight-ball. Oh, I’m terrified alright. But Mel and I have a deal now, we have a saying, “scratch out terrified, write in adventure.” It helps to change the dynamic and almost makes me feel a little better.

The point? Wake up tomorrow and know that you aren’t guaranteed anything. Be grateful if you’re financially secure. Be grateful if you still have your parents around. Be grateful if you have your health. Be grateful if you go to a job you like. Pay it forward. And… if you’re clicking along, gritting your teeth and wishing things were different take heed, they could be very different tomorrow… in more ways than one.

I’m feeling a bit melancholy tonight. I hesitated to write. Several “serious” blogs in a row tend to belabor the story. Bog it down in overly sentimental drivel. That’s not what I want to do. But this is a story about a journey and a large portion of one journey is ending tomorrow. That deserves inspection. Reflection. In production you spend more time with your crew than with your family. Actually… they are my family. And now, I guess we all have to push back from the table, shut up and listen. Sing fat lady. Sing.

Go With The Grain

It’s been a few weeks. I had some ideas and I even did a post about hockey. I deleted it. I feel like there must be a certain “grain” to this endeavor. That post felt a bit like a knot right in the middle of a nice piece of mahogany. So I cut it out. I’ve been at a loss for words a little bit since all of the madness has settled down. I mean, when I wake up every morning, I’m struck by temporary-ness of my surroundings. My clothes hang on a chrome and plastic rack bought from a big-box store. It barely holds what it needs too. It looked so hip and… current on the box. My shoes and jeans reside on a wooden shelf, open to the room and slammed right next to our little, double bed. Plastic totes full of socks and tee-shirts line the walls and it’s a little like living in a storage unit. After 20 + years in the music business, I know what that feels like. The hardwood floors are nice though. I’m not a carpet fan. The amount of dirt, dander and dead skin that gathers in one’s carpet makes me queasy. I like the hardwood. Jet however, feels differently. He prefers the Persian rugs. I got two rugs while I was overseas on a USO Tour in 2001 and they are beautiful. Were beautiful. We’re keeping them. One is in the living room and one in the bedroom. They aren’t very large but they mean something and I like looking at them. I like the way they feel on my bare feet. While in the middle-east, I learned about these rugs and developed a strong desire to bring a couple back. I became infatuated with the amount of skill and devotion it took to complete such an amazing work of art. Art that lasts centuries if properly cared for.

I can say honestly that mine are not properly cared for. They haven’t been cleaned since I got them and while I try desperately to keep them in good shape, it seems like whenever something gets spilled or Jet gets sick and decides to throw up at 3 am he does so on my favorite rug. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s his favorite too. This happened the other night and to add insult to injury it was raining. Pouring rain and cold. Jet was up all night making us very nervous with his licking at nothing, looking like he was choking and pacing back and forth. Up to the front door, circling, whining and back to his spot at the foot of our bed. So we got up, each taking turns rubbing his belly and asking, “do you think we should go to the emergency vet?” After a few rounds of this I said, “ok, let’s go for a walk.” I’ll take him for a walk and he’ll do his business and life will be fine. I’ll get an hour of sleep and we’ll move on. Well he didn’t do any business. He did pee on every errant bush, pole and curb along our cold, wet walk. Me? No jacket. No shoes. Jeans and a tee-shirt. Dumb. So, at 3 am me and my sick dog stroll down our temporary street in our temporary neighborhood in the pouring rain and returned home. Both of us soaking wet. Of course he waits until just inside the door to shake all that water off. Me… freezing cold, dripping wet, wide awake and not getting anymore sleep. I towel us off and crawl in bed anyway. Five minutes later… Mel is out of bed as his grumbling stomach is no better. Then he starts to circle and make that sound… It’s a horrible sound. His big shepherd ears slump out to the side instead of those proud erect ones he usually carries.

He threw up. A massive blob of undigested, very expensive food. And you know what? It was on my rug. His rug. Not on the hardwood floor. That would be too easy. Nope. We’ve had Jet for about three years and every, single time he’s gotten sick, it’s been on “our” red, silk Persian. He was fit as a fiddle after that. Tail wagging, prancing around like he won an award. And… up into one of two chairs we still own. Nite-nite.

The moral of the story? I don’t know the moral of the story but I know this. My grandmother had couches that were covered in plastic slip covers for her entire life. I remember as a kid, The plastic runners that protected her carpets from the front door to the kitchen. Tributaries of plastic meandered throughout her modest abode in South West Philadelphia. My ass never touched the fabric of those beautiful couches. My bare-feet were never allowed on those carpets. Some would say they were “properly cared for”. My grandmother died at 96. No one in my family has any of that furniture. The house sold to a complete stranger and all that “proper attention” at 54th and Gross street in Philadelphia went for naught. At least in my estimation. So, I guess I’ll enjoy my rugs in my way and Jet will enjoy his rug in his way. Either way… Someday… Someone, probably someone I don’t know, will inherit a work of art that has been walked on with the barest of feet, lived on, loved on, cried on and laughed on. And yes… puked on. And there’s nothing temporary about that.