Rain hammers the deck as the wind roars over the high bank of the south shore. Like big, blue wings, the tarp on the derelict boat rafted alongside billows in the gusts and shoots spray high onto Old Hand’s wheelhouse windows. Windward is a sorry sight–the once proud Herreshoff racing sloop now lies rotting through the long Northwest winter rains. I used to pride myself on my tarpological creations, but now they are blown to blue tatters before the furious onslaught of the Pineapple Express.
A kingfisher chatters high over the rigging as the whole boathouse sways above Old Hand’s starboard rail. At times like this, I wonder if I should have used 10″ lag bolts to anchor the posts onto the dock. But it seems to be holding fine.
This is the weather the otter likes. One slithers onto the float and lies momentarily atop my inverted Livingston dinghy before again vanishing into the green depths of Port Madison. It’s good to see them again–my pals the otters–if I could only get them to use the cat box. But they scoff at such refinements, and prefer to poop all over the lines I’d so artfully coiled on the dock. Such is the life of those who toil at sea.
After all the work creating my art exhibit, I went through a depressed phase, exacerbated by a lingering cold. This down time usually accompanies the completion of a project. It’s just part of the process. It’s only natural that we feel emptied out after such an expenditure of energy, and the empty feeling, far from being bad, is just what I need. Rather than feeling washed up, it’s better to make friends with the emptiness and spaciousness in order to be filled again with the creative spirit.
So now I roll and split great oak rounds near the old Ed Monk workshop, repair Old Hand’s diesel heater and go over current tables–making long, Springtime passages over the Salish Sea of my imagination.
Here is a picture of me painting on the old houseboat, Wicca, in Eagle Harbor. Most of the liveaboards have been evicted since then. Here is a fine article about the destruction of this once vital community from the online sailing magazine, Three Sheets NW.
“Hey sailor, lookin’ for a good time?”
The voice hissed from the shadows. I turned to see a toothless hag in fish-net hose and leather thong clutching a length of chain in her skeletal hand.
“How ’bout I clap ye in virtual irons and tickle yer bum with me E-Lash?” she leered. “Just like the real thing.”
“Er, no thanks,” I said and quickened my pace.
As I walked through the lurid, labyrinthine back-alleys of cyberspace, I beheld woeful scenes of hunger and vice.
It was Sunday and, as a pious man, McWhirr had given me leave to knock about on my own; hoping, for the good of my soul, I might attend the sacred service to our lord.
I passed a low dive with a weathered sign that bore the name: Bucket of Spam. The carved, cedar chisel marks suggested its date of manufacture to be (roughly) early 21th century.
Below this it said: We have WI-fi.
I could see, through the fogged window, sleazy spam-bots lit by the eerie blue glow of duck-taped lap-tops inside. I went on.
At last, I arrived at the ancient stone church. An inscription on the facade said something about a guy named Swedenborg. Clear voices sounded through the ancient, stone walls:
“By the Rivers of Babylon…”
I pushed open the heavy oak door and found a pew. The congregation fell silent. A portly preacher in a plaid suit and brown toupee ascended the pulpit and solemnly spoke with the stentorian delivery of Orson Wells:
“And the lord spake unto Noah: I shall make it rain for 40 days and 40 nights.”
He looked up from the good book and continued in a confiding tone: “And here shipmates, we find already deeper truths than was ever sounded by our learned interpreters of holy texts-aye it comes from the lips of the almighty Himself. And what water are we speaking of here? Is it the water that flows from the reeking taps of the Babylonian waterworks?”
“No!” responded the pious congregation.
“Is it the water of sewers that carry Babylon’s foul waste into the vast oceans of the globe?”
At each interrogatory his voice grew urgent.
“Is it the rain that nourishes our genetically modified corn?”
“No Suh!” responded a dread-locked harpooneer.
“Is it the water which rose ever higher to make Babylon a busy, working port?”
“Make it plain!”
“No-o, it is another kind of rain of which I speak,” he warmed to his theme like a southern preacher:
“It is the flood of materialist greed which immerses ma-AN-kind in self-love and se-ELF-ish desires. He wishes ON-ly for con-firm-A-shun of his vile ways through sensory DAY-ta and the false gods of materialist SCI-ence. He EE-vun denies divine kn-OW-ledge and the possa-BIL-ity of an-GEL-ic per-CEP-SHUN.” He banged the pulpit with his meaty fist at each accented syllable. “This is the da-AY-luge that engulfs Babylon today: a flood of kn-OW-ledge that is comp-LETE-ly de-VOID of CHAR-IT-Y!”
The last words resonated with a low rumble that seemed to rise from beneath the worn flagstones of the church. The heavy arches over the altar swayed wildly and collapsed into dust with a thunderous roar. From somewhere in the distance came the mournful wail of sirens. A speaker sputtered and blared:
This is NOAA Weather Radio- Tsunami alert! Tsunami alert!
“Eh shipmate, stand us a pint,” the sleazy drawl of the villainous sploggy reeked at us with an air of imperious command.
McWhirr slowly turned: “Say, do you boys ever ship out on real seas, or are you afraid of getting tar on yer nighties?”
I saw the miscreant clutch tighter the marlin-spike in his beefy fist and hastily interjected:
“My good sirs, may I introduce Saturnius McWhirr?”
At this, the lout grew pale as an albino baluga, saying:
“Pleased to make your acquaintance Captain,” and retreated to his piratical laptop with an obsequious bow.
“Nice Chaps…” said McWhirr, “for a couple of grog-blossomed bottom-feeders. Since we’re stuck in this god-forsaken port shall we splice the main-brace?”
He hailed the barkeep.
Soon, having to pump the bilges, I sought the urinal of the rank Stygian pub and passed a distinguished, bearded gent who sat before an old Underwood typewriter. His gaunt frame seemed mummified in musty, moth-eaten tweeds while his ponderous brows were wreathed in a smokey corona of amber light. On closer inspection, I saw he was merely one of the automated fortune-tellers found in the gaudy theme parks of Babylon. His face was vaguely familiar. On the table front was displayed a sign which read:
I dropped a coin into the slot. There was a slight sound from under the table which again halted, began again and increased in speed and volume until the music of bellows and steam pipes sounded over a cacophony of grinding gears like the high registers of Saint Mark’s Cathedral organ. The machine then sputtered to a wheezing halt and ejected a sheet of paper at my feet. I held it up in the murky glow to read:
The horror! The horror!
And it came to pass that a great swarm of splog descended upon the land and the soundcloud was darkened with idle slander and empty promises of sensual delights. Worshippers of the true faith were subjected to the false blandishments of priests and the perfidious purveyors of illusory commerce.
I squinted at the aged, musty tome in the dim light of the pub and read on:
And the once mighty creatives of the realm looked upon their followers and found naught of artistic merit and grew heavy in spirit, seeing therein ought but Jezebelian allurements by comely maids in unseemly attitudes of licentious repose.
“I’m glad I wore my sea-boots,” said McWhirr.
“Listen to this, Captain:”
And lo, the verminous swarm of splog grew apace, and the goodly scions of the realm gnashed their teeth in anguish, for their earnest, artistic efforts were devoured by the black vultures of Satan. The fat herds of the righteous became but reeking carrion for the voracious appetites of the infidels.
“What fools would steal such windy bombast anyway?” asked McWhirr.
We’d just sailed into the gaudy metropolis of Babylon, seeking refuge from the equinoctial gales. The dank pub which lay just off the pier-head served a clientele of wharf-rats and scurvy rum-bots from dilapidated bum-boats. One smelly clutch of waisters clicked madly at their laptops, their rummy faces aglow in the in the villainous blue light. The grating chortles of these flatulent knaves reeked an atmosphere of gaseous inertia our way.
“Get this, a real Byron he thinks he is,” said a muscled hulk in a pink tutu.
“Ya really read that BS? “Asked his mate in a voice that sounded hollow and grating-like 50 fathoms of hause-fouled chain.
I’d heard of the splog pirates, but thought them mere paranoid tales by rummy tars around the fo’c’sle stove. And now here they were, as big as life, waylaying the earnest efforts of my myself and my literary colleagues like the nefarious ship wreckers luring unwary vessels with false lights on the storm-wracked coast of Cornwall.
I continued reading:
The once proud sites of the righteous became barren wastes of vacuous splogs and brazen images of bouncing titties…
“Maybe there is something to it after all,” says McWhirr.
“Aye, Captain. And look what we have now in this rank grog-shop of the internet-a foul lot of brazen cut-throats who’d just as soon steal your traffic as say how-do-ye-do.”
One such galoot, a skanky brigand with a striped shirt and cutlass, approached the bar next to McWhirr with the slithery movement of a wolf eel saying:
“Eh mates, stand us a pint.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw McWhirr take his rigging-knife from under his coat…