Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Voluntary House Arrest

I made a semi-permeable vow, at the end of July, that I would not leave the Smallish State during the month of August. I was wiped out from a 100-mile-a-day commuting habit and other travels. Plus, the rest of the world wants to come to the Smallish State during August. Why should I try to leave? (Well, true—the rest of the world coming here is one good reason to leave. But still.)

I’ve made good on the vow, with the exception of a 15-minute foray across the bridge to our neighboring state for the purpose of delivering 9 into the waiting hands of his grandparents. He has been on “summer vacation” in Major Metropolitan Area for the past several weeks, where he receives tuna fish twice daily and nightly brushing. I doubt he wants to come home.

The Smallish State, however, turns out not to be all that small, and quite capable of exhausting the average motorist. Here is a short list of Turboglacier’s activities over the past month or so:

- Brought S/V Sandra Lee home from Up The Coast, a 22-hour trek. Then several 2- or 3-night excursions to various islands, inlets, bays, and lonely outposts. Many hours of boat projects, most notably the replacement of the engine heat exchanger (of which I am very proud, and liable to mention several more times.)

- Five days at The Compound, an off-the-grid spot owned by a friend’s parents in a remote seaside location.

- “Sprint” Triathlon in Mountain Town (see prev. post.)

- Return to Mountain Town for a day of splitting firewood and running on forest roads while throwing a Nerf football (a long tradition, don’t ask.

- 518’s wedding, a three-day extravaganza (interrupted briefly to split firewood) which involved a ferry ride to an island ceremony, with the bride & groom later departing in the rain, in full foulies, on 2’s dad’s powerboat, to a different island, where their honeymoon began.

- Three days at Mt. Katahdin, which is the Smallest State’s highest peak but somehow not climbed by me until I’d been here five years. It’s a long drive from the Smallish City, and the park has a complex system of rules about when you can come and stay and climb, so I kept avoiding it. But it is one impressive piece of rock, at least for these parts.

- Currently, traveling in “The County”, the Smallish State’s northernmost region, full of potatoes, Wal-Marts, people just itching to go snowmobiling, and not much else. I tagged along to keep a friend company on a sort of business trip, but didn’t quite realize we were going to drive nearly a thousand miles in three days.

When I get home tomorrow, Co-Chief flies in for a couple days of sail adventure, then other friends are coming for Labor Day… then I’m free to leave the state again. But why?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Department of Time Wastage

Yesterday I visited the Smallish State Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the purpose of renewing my driver’s license, a task which took under five minutes. Waiting in line to perform the task, however, was a two hour ordeal. You go through the door, and a nice man behind a desk says, very cheerily, “May I help you?” But no matter what your need is, he just directs you to take a numbered ticket and have a seat in the waiting area, which resembles a small movie theater. Then you sit there, forever, watching the numbers on a digital screen increase ever so slowly towards the magic number. On occasion, they’ll call out the number of someone who gave up and left; when no gets up and they move on to the next number, you feel secretly joyous. Once, three people in a row didn’t show for their number—a girl near me clapped her hands and said “Hooray!”. It became convention, when someone next to you had his number come up, to offer verbal congratulations.

I saw several people close to cracking, and thought I might have to employ emergency shrinking skills. One man was clearly on the edge. He had a stack of papers and paced back and forth between the detainee waiting area and the magic service windows. He had the look of someone who knows his business before the court is more important than other people’s, if only he could make someone understand. Once, when a clerk seemed idle briefly, he approached her out of turn, seeking to sneak in—when rebuffed, he demanded to speak to a supervisor. A portly man who appeared to have just awakened from a nap was produced from the back room, and there were some words and display of the papers, but no satisfaction for the complainant. Shortly he shouted “I HAVE TEN TRUCKS THAT NEED TO MOVE RIGHT NOW AND DRIVERS WAITING TO MOVE THEM AND ALL I HAVE TO DO IS GET THEM REGISTERED!” then ran out and slammed the door. This building should absolutely have a metal detector.

Eventually, we all started growing cobwebs, yawning, dozing off. I calculated that two full work-weeks of Smallish State citizens’ time had been squandered in the time I had been in the room. I envisioned a great strategy for getting a date with an attractive person: hold on to your ticket for an hour, then when an attractive person comes in, write your phone number on the back of your now-desirable ticket, give it to him or her, and leave.

When my number finally came up, I felt like I’d won Megabucks. The clerk said, “Sorry you had to wait so long.” I couldn’t bring myself to say “It’s alright”, because it really wasn’t at all. She worked hard to get me to smile for the license photo, but I couldn’t muster anything more than a bitter smirk. God help me if I ever have to go in there again.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Trial By Water

In my ongoing campaign to fit into a particular suit by 518's wedding, today I did a "sprint triathlon" up in a Smallish State mountain town. This involves 1k of swimming, a 25k bike, and 5k run. As luck would have it, some good friends had loaned out their front meadow as the starting point and "transition" station for the swim. A few phone calls to track them down, and reminders that I've been splitting firewood for them for over a decade, netted a convenient spot to sleep the night before the race.

Not being a remotely competitive person, at least athletically, this whole deal was a bit of a stretch for me. In particular, I have not swum anything close to 1k since probably junior high. Also I am virtually blind without my specs. And in fresh water, I found, I sink like a stone. So the first event was a bit of a challenge, but as you can see, I didn't drown. The bike was no sweat. The run, unfortunately, was on some stupefyingly hard cross-country trails, with uphills that belong in hiking guidebooks. Pain and agony.

Not sure how I actually placed in the race (I did not receive any prizes, that was clear) but it certainly provided a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps I'll do another, once I get all the pond water out of my nose and lungs.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Once More To The Bridge

Following a few days with old friends on a rocky island, I rolled back across the Eggemoggin Reach bridge yesterday, not quite two years from the time I mentioned it in this blog’s first post. The last time, on the bridge, there was fog, and a peregrine falcon at the apex. This year there was no fog. And no falcon.

I’m not sure if I’m back yet. I may just be stopping in for another visit. You’ve learned to expect this sort of thing from me by now, I imagine. My days at Green Acres came to an end, again, and I’ll be fading for the next few weeks, at least. I had hoped to take Sandra Lee up the coast, but her engine is still overheating, and the part that’s needed for the fix was supposed to arrive a week ago but seems to be lost in the mail, and the people who knew how to ship it properly were on vacation when I ordered it, and the people who know where it is today are on vacation now, and so I’m sitting in the Smallish City trying to make a plan. And wondering where the find-a-boat-and-sail-around-the-world dream (est. 1997) dissipated to. Having a boat is really only a practical venture if you sell your house, car, and cat and move aboard. I’m not sure why I’m holding on to the house and car. 9 was not expected to live this long, and does not seem interested in the sailing life.

I suppose there’s a lot I could talk about. Some of it funny, like the bag of “natural hickory chips” I bought the other day (for barbeque flavoring) which came with a label advising that “this product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, infertility and birth defects.” Some of it more serious. Much of it not in keeping with the tradition of this blog, and so, left unwritten.

But I hope everyone is happy and hale. See you soon, more than likely.