Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Return of the Blonde

My friend & neighbor from SD, Todd Girouard was just here for 2 weeks with his girlfriend, and I learned something. If you follow the arc of the characters on this odyssey that you’ve been reading for the last 2 years, maybe I don’t shine through as a hero. I think I’m fine with that. It would actually be a far more interesting plot line. Maybe the emerging hero is Suzi. Maybe she’s a girl who pulled through the English caste system to overcome a horrendous family tragedy and embark on this personal challenge beyond anything most would dare. Now that I see it in words, it’s true. With the exception of the “black cari years”, my life has been a rather charmed one and because of that, my character arc isn’t nearly as interesting as Suzi’s. Her sister was killed by the sea and 6 months later she crosses the largest ocean on the planet. Now that’s a story worth reading. Todd’s boss’ wife made this apparent as she can’t get enough of Suzi’s website.

She’ll be returning to Barraveigh on Feb 29th after 4 months off for bad behavior. Let me explain-

Everything dies a premature death on an ocean going sailboat: electronics, rigging, relationships, everything. The stresses, the confined spaces, the life threatening situations, It’s like living inside a pin cushion. And the ocean just rubs salt in your wounds. A life in motion on a blue water cruiser accelerates the demise of everything. 2007 was a tough year. We fought a lot.

And then we took 4 months off. Perspectives change, blame shifts, the earth dries and gives way beneath heels that have dug in. Emails begin to be exchanged, followed by brief phone calls, and then longer phone calls. The sweetness gradually returns. Slowly, I find a way to give this a 2nd chance.

In the immortal words of Leonard Cohen, “Maybe there’s a god above, but all I ever learned from love, is how to shoot somebody who out drew ya.” I, like everyone else that calls Earth home, am dysfunctional in my own majestically flawed ways. It’s the ugly that makes us interesting, maybe even attractive. I’m nowhere near perfect, but I like myself (a lot), and that puts me a leg up. Let me tell you something else I’ve learned -

As the captain of a ship, everything is ultimately my fault. It’s incredibly empowering to know complete personal responsibility. Since I and I alone, am held totally accountable, it forces me to confront problems differently. This wasn’t marketing’s fault. The lost contract wasn’t due to production not shipping on time. I can’t blame personnel for bad hires. I am resigned to perfecting my circumstance. I look for the zen in patching my dinghy. I find the sublime in chiseling the barnacles off my rudder. I blame myself for mismanaging a relationship.

Suzi, our returning hero, will be back aboard in 3 days. 2008 will be an enormous year. We’ll sail to Vanuatu, The Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and end the year in Thailand. We’ll eat orangutans, dive WW2 shipwrecks, find lost tribes, dodge pirates and navigate uncharted waters. And of course, there’s always the odd row or 3.

Wish us luck,

Captain Bob Friedman

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I Live In Fiji

Morning:

If you really want to get an insight to the working economy of any country – take the early bus. That means public transportation. Forget taxis. Taxi can only teach you where the hookers and drugs are. Make sure you catch the earliest bus possible. Then you can see the proletariat at its best, instead of at the end of the day when they’re filthy and grumpy and tired. The early bus will put your finger right on the pulse of the workforce. What’s the age range? What type of work do they do? Is it only men or equally mixed? How many hours do they work? Is the bus packed? What’s the attitude? It’s a great way to get a ground view of the place you find yourself in. My new favorite past time here in Fiji is riding a bus around, sitting in the back, & staring at the afros. Oh – and read the local paper. That’s usually not an option in foreign nations but English is the national language in Fiji.

Midday:

Global sailing is beginning to reveal to me its schedule of motion vs. repair. It seems I sail about 8 months and then repair Barraveigh for 4. I guess that’s an acceptable ratio. Even the repair months are peppered with adventure and cultural learning’s. It’s forced me to learn Spanish in Panama and some Hindi and Fijian here. These months, when I’m not entertaining visiting US dignitaries (Mom, Brother, Todd G, Nash and their girlfriends) I spend the days repairing and making alterations to my boat. Somewhere after the first year, I learned to stop throwing things away. I’ve activated this “handy gene” within myself that I never even knew I had. For the most part, I can now keep this boat running with my own skills and the things I used to pitch.

Evening:

240 volts snake their way past my A/C unit, tumble down the companionway stairs, and take a U-turn through my very expensive (borrowed) 3000 watt transformer. The high pitched, almost inaudible whine is music to American ears. When most of the rest of the world is 240 volts (Hurts like hell when you get zapped. I expected to see my fingers on the wall), we in the US of A run 110. The newly converted 110 volts then climb back up my stairs, takes a run thru the cockpit to the shore power plug-in and gives me endless electricity delivered in a form that is so irresistibly simple, docile to use, and dastardly veiled that I make the link nearly daily. They only charge for it, if they catch you using it (however, they only check at exactly 2 am. I was tipped off by the security guard in exchange for a $6 backpack. It’s a weird country). I have so much power that I run my radar while slipped in the marina just cuz I like the green glow that the screen throws off into the cabin at night. That emerald hue, coupled with the red from the chart plotter (ha! It pulls a paltry 3 amps) turns my living quarters into a nightclub affair. Disco Barraveigh! I dare you to resist my play list.

The drinking has already begun and I have a karaoke machine.

Pathetic in Fiji,

Bobby

Friday, February 1, 2008

Subjects for Your Next Poem

The following numbered items are random notations I’ve made while in Fiji. I can’t seem to incorporate them into an cohesive email to you, so I’ve come up with what I hope will be a fun exercise instead - I encourage all of you to write a poem based on any of the following subjects. Or multiple poems if you get your flow going (Randy – this was built for you!). Send it to me – Just me, and I will compile them.

1.) Occasionally you see swastikas but you must remember that the Indians were using it long before Hitler added his evil stigma to the insignia.

2.) Third World Pawnshop – sounds like a band name. There is one here in Lautoka and if it wasn’t so depressing it would be slightly humorous. The obsolete objects on the barren shelves make one inhale and cringe.

3.) Fiji - It’s like being in India with Africans walking around.

4.) All movies are submitted to the Cannes Film Festival. Somehow, someone copies them and they end up on the black market. I’m watching 1st run movies for $1. That’s not the price of the rental – I own it for $1.

5.) One of my waitresses looked like an Indian Betty Boop

6.) A word to those who want to do this trip but can’t make themselves give up their slip: All you have to do is leave. It’s the hardest part. Believe me. I’m speaking from experience and my fellow cruisers agree. Just give up your slip, and the rest will happen out of necessity

7.) Here in Fiji when they want to get your attention they make extremely loud kissing noises. You hear it all over town. Try it. Get into character by telling yourself you’re a construction working hanging off the 2nd floor, looking down at the office ladies going to lunch. When you get the sound right, the vibration gives your lips a tickle, just like that time when you were 12 and you hit the correct note on the saxophone.


Now it's your turn to start writing. Hopefully you learned a little something and, in turn, you get to be a little creative. Hey - this is fun!

Your Life Coach,

Bobby