Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nightmarish Week

This last week can be called, without reservation, a nightmare.

First, I got news that my friend, Michele Nichols, was killed in a small plane crash. Michele was an artist in Orlando with whom I'd often worked, and whom, I must confess, I loved. Of course, she had a boyfriend, and he died also in the plane crash, but I would have married her in a second if she'd been single and if, miraculously, she would have wanted such a thing. But life rages against our desires often. Michele and I occasionally talked on the phone or emailed, and she had bought my old PC when I left Orlando last year. She paid more than it was worth, and she asked me, "Are you all right? Let me give you more money." And just a couple of months ago, I "borrowed back" my computer from her, visiting her at her apartment in Orlando for a couple of hours. She never used the computer she said, and I needed one for a while, promising to either bring it back or pay her back. "No, no, " she said, "Keep it, keep it." ... Sweet, sweet Michele is all I can think about, and her terrible final moments. Her face is so clear in my head. And my artist's imagination keeps playing a vivid reel of the plane's violent crash and explosion, with sweet Michele being mercilessly twisted and destroyed in the middle of the inferno, over and over in my head. I know this will torture my soul for a while, but like everything it will pass, and that will be sad as well. Then again, my suffering is certainly less than that of her family and closest friends. And I hate myself for being so interested my own suffering, fascinated by it really. I am an egotist.

Another thing happened, and this within 48 hours of the news of Michele's passing. A special friend of mine emailed a long letter to me which can be best described as a complete evisceration of our friendship. The man and his wife are portrait clients of mine, but more than that they are a couple to whom I have, in the past, looked for guidance and respect. I especially have wanted their respect. He is a boat captain, but he retired last year, and he and his wife moved out of state. I haven't spoken to them in several months, and then, suddenly, I receive this horrible email. I won't go into details, but it was bad enough that it makes me concerned for my friend's physical and spiritual health. Of course, it makes me doubt myself. My confidence in all things wavers constantly ... And so I'm stuck between incomprehension, anger, and love.

On lesser news, all my money-making efforts here in Apollo Beach have been defeated. I thought, for sure, that a couple of little commissions were developing, and I wasn't worried, but suddenly I was completely broke. I absolutely am unable, psychologically, to return to a normal job, but I won't go into details of that. Besides, I know how to make money with my art, but this whole thing snuck up on me. Maybe I wished it so. I don't know. I never planned to stay in Apollo Beach, and I've found myself glued to the place, unable to ascertain the proper will, or understand the proper will, or discover the proper will. I only know that I want to do my art, and travel simply, and not have friends die or friends deny me their friendship or... or...

What this all culminated into is, I have sold my cruising sailboat. In my current emotional/soulful state, I just wish to go. I'd like to photograph and paint wildlife and marine life, and I thought, in fact, that I'd buy the simplest craft I know, a canoe. Deck it, put a sail on it, grab a few items and my art supplies, and, indeed, go. Build a series of serious paintings.

But I compromised. I found a $200 sailboat, old and taken-apart and half-customized, but with almost all the parts, all the (OLD) sails, and with a decent trailer, and nothing but potential. It will be ready to go into the water in just a few days. The sailboat is only 20 feet long, and one-forth the weight of my just-sold cruising sailboat. It can actually be rowed, and the mast is rather easily put up and taken down. And everything is cheaper about such a small boat, and simpler. This is crucial. Perfect for my starving-artist/lamenting-soul mindset right now.

The $200 Sailboat:

Yes, I will live on her, and go to The Keys, and find tourists to buy my paintings, and begin working on a real portfolio. And I need to commit myself to improving my draftsmanship.

Being truly mobile is precious to me. With this boat, I can take all my art supplies and even most of my books and whatnot, and stay relatively dry. I think of it as a fat canoe, really. It has ballast in the form of a 400 lb. iron swing keel, and should be fairly stable yet nimble. My 22 lb. Danforth-style anchor, 30 feet of chain, and 150 feet of 1/2" three-strand anchor line should hold this vessel through everything up to a hurricane.

So I conclude the horror of this week with a touch of hope. And tomorrow is a new week.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Prisoner... Thoughts and Quotes

The Prisoner. How does one describe this thing? First it must be noted that it is a British television show from the 1960's. I still remember watching the reruns in the 1970's, as a kid. The premise, superficially, concerns an intelligence agent, ala James Bond or similar, who tries to escape his professional position and his unsatisfying life. But as he tries to retire, he is drugged and taken to a mysterious island. The island is populated with ostensibly happy people, and the environment is a lovely seaside village. And everyone is identified by a single number. Our protagonist is given the "name" Number 6.

Number 6 doesn't know why he's there at first, but then it becomes clear that some para-government entity has put him there. And all they WANT is for #6 to tell them WHY he resigned and WHAT he knows. And, generally, they want him to be a good citizen of the village, and conform, join-in, be nice... normal and friendly.

Of course, #6 immediately thinks of nothing else except ESCAPE.

In the end, the television series explores the relationship between an individual and the community. This is an ancient problem. The ancient Greeks ruminated excessively upon this very thing. And, philosophically, it is not in any way clear which is more important, the individual or the community in which he resides.

Our contemporary instincts tell us that the best good is that which is best for the most people. But it may come as a surprise that this is a rather new idea, or at least it's an idea which is only now popular, briefly, historically speaking. Surely it can be argued that great men, men like Socrates and Plato and Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, are more important to the very core of mankind than the teeming masses.

In my own estimation, the individual is at least as important as the community, and perhaps is of greater value. The individual human must be protected and respected as the most precious thing alive. That's why we have laws protecting the lone man against the tyranny of the many. The lone man stands aside the group, forever glorious and irreplaceable.

With that said, here are some quotes from The Prisoner:

First, my favorite:
“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.”
--No.6; Arrival

And more. Peruse at your leisure:

New No.2: “Good day, Number Six.”
No.6: “Number what?”
New No.2: “Six. For official purposes, everyone has a number. Yours is number 6.”
No.6: “I am not a number, I am a person.”

No.2: “We can treat folly with kindness . . . knowing that soon his wild spirit will quieten, and the foolishness will fall away to reveal a model citizen.”
No.6: “That day you'll never see.”
--Dance of the Dead

“Unlike me, many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment and will die here like rotten cabbages.”
--No.6; Free For All

The Queen: “I want to be near you.”
No.6: “And everybody's near in this place . . . far too near.”

No.2: “Tell me. . .are you still as keen as ever to leave us?”
No.6: “Any more questions?”
--The General

Chairman: “We deplore your spirit of disharmony.”
No.6: “That's a common complaint around here, isn't it?”
--A Change of Mind

No.2: “I assure you, that no matter what significance you may hold for me, to the Village and its Committee, you are merely Citizen Number Six, who has to be tolerated, and if necessary, shaped to fit.”
No.6: “Public Enemy Number Six.”
--A Change of Mind

“You still have a choice. You can still salvage your right to be individuals. Your rights to truth and free thought! Reject this false world of Number Two . . . reject it NOW!!”
--No.6; A Change of Mind

“He told [those kids] a . . . a blessed fairy tale. That one wouldn't drop his guard with his own GRANDMOTHER!”
--No.2 [concerning No.6]; The Girl Who Was Death


“He has revolted. Resisted. Fought. Held fast. Maintained. Destroyed resistance. Overcome coercion. The right to be a person, someone or individual. We applaud his private war, and concede that despite materialistic efforts, he has survived intact and secure!”
--The President; Fall Out

“All that remains is . . . recognition of a man.”
--The President; Fall Out

Final note:
I suppose, too, that I should tell you the ending of the entire TV series. So if you don't wish to know, then stop reading.

Throughout the series of episodes, Number 6 continued to plead to see Number ONE. But he could never get passed Number 2. Number ONE was the only person who could, in the end, grant Number 6 freedom. Of course, finally, Number 6 is allowed to meet Number One. And who does he meet? Himself. That's right, Number One is his own self. The entire time, the person who was holding Number 6 PRISONER was his own self, his own fears... A great metaphor, for sure, beyond all the concerns of society and the individual within. In the end, WE are the people who stop ourselves from success. We fear escape. We fear success. We enslave our own souls by adhering to the ideals of the familiar.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"When in danger or in doubt, hoist your sails and bugger off out!"

A Law Unto Himself
- No money, no registration, no worries! Kris Larson wanders the Indian Ocean battling bureaucrats and ignoring snobbish yachtsmen aboard his steel junk.

I may have pointed to this article in my blog once before, but I don't remember. It's worth a repeat, either way. This fellow Kris Larson must be my long lost brother I think, or soul mate, of sorts. Thanks to and James Baldwin for his great reportage.

Here's the link:

To summarize, Kris is a fellow who James met back in the '90's I believe. Kris epitomizes the individual who proclaims the worth of the individual in an era of the collective. Of course, he probably wouldn't put it that way, but I do. Kris merely sails his home-built sailboat around the world and thumbs his nose at all the government over-reaching which dominates contemporary culture.

Here's a passage:

' From Darwin (Australia) he enjoyed a trouble-free 40-day passage on port tack all the way to Mauritius, where he began his first of many battles against port officials. His lack of boat-registration papers caused customs officers in each country Kris visited to react with anything from mild annoyance to shocked disbelief. We can imagine the scene: Boat registration, please. “No registration. Build her myself.” Inoculation certificate? “No papers, mate, but here’s a smallpox inoculation scar on my arm.” There are port charges. “Sorry, no money.” And so on. Rather than conform, Kris prefers to haggle with and outfox the port authorities. He usually gets away with it. '

And this:

' With his inability to obey the bureaucratic buffoons, certainly Kris will never be a candidate for membership in the Seven Seas Cruising Association. Kris said, "when those brown-shirts in the SSCA tried to tell me to 'leave a clean wake or you make it more difficult for all of us', I told them that by spinelessly accepting every new restriction and tax on our freedom, they are the ones making it more difficult for sailors to move around freely." '

The point is, sailors and non-sailors, in all aspects of modern life, are faced with more and more restrictions on our freedom.

For instance, right now, I'm struggling to upgrade Empty Pockets to legal status for a liveaboard. I especially need a working head (toilet) of adequate size. The thing is, I don't plan on actually USING the nasty thing. I piss over the side or ashore, and either go ashore to shit, or "pack it out," backpacker style. But the law requires a certain set-up, and the water police will ticket me if they board me and inspect the vessel. The sad thing is, with a properly working head and holding tank, when I have the thing "pumped-out" at a marina (for a fee) this untreated sewage will be circulated to a commercial sewage treatment plant where it may or may not be treated before being pumped INTO THE SEA. Millions of gallons of untreated sewage is deposited along our coasts every year by these commercial interests.

If we allow it, these pompous fellows who like to call themselves, as a group, GOVERNMENT, will tax our bank accounts and our RIGHTS right down to nothing.

(By the way, the title is a quote by Tristan Jones, who has buggered off out of this life, but still has influence. He was a sailor and a writer and a madman.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

More Illegal Drug Horror

First, let me say, I don't mind people smoking a little pot or snorting a little cocaine, or whatever, in the realm of mild hedonism... assuming all things, otherwise, are equal. But that's not reality. We do not live in a vacuum.

I know I've mentioned this before, but if you use illegal drugs, especially pot or cocaine or meth, you are FINANCING the drug cartels and the associated violence, killing, and destruction... the horror... You are financing the horror. Just look at the daily headlines out of Mexico.

Mexico. We in the U.S. get almost all our drugs from the Mexican drug gangs, those brutal and soulless institutions which market pleasure mixed with blood. Of course, we might think it's a Mexico problem, and not our concern. Well, the cartels have actually set-up a nicely organized network throughout North American cities, from Anchorage to Key West. They're right down the street, so to speak. But even if it were simply a problem in a foreign nation, the problem is, we are the ones creating the problem. Plus, the argument that non-Americans are undeserving of our concern is conspicuously without heart.

Let me be blunt.

Buy some weed today? Some coke? Take a toke today? Congratulations, you just added your own little money advance to the nightmare. Congratulations, moron. Sleep well in your stupor.

Listen, man, the Cosmos is full of pleasures that don't need to feed this catastrophe.

A cool glass of wine... sweet sex... dolphins off the bow of your boat... the laughter of a dependable friend... an anticipated meal... the smile of a curious child... starry, starry nights...

And on and on...

Listen, man, I wish drugs were legal, too. But they're not, at least not the kind of which I write tonight. Unfortunately, the appetite in America for these particular drugs is overwhelming. We give the cartels 30 BILLION BUCKS a year, and we sell them their automatic rifles and grenades and rocket launchers.

I mean, I don't know... Look in the mirror... No, do it... Look in the mirror and consider. I must do it also. I pay taxes and support the US military and its sometimes questionable (at best) use of force... .... And I pay for the government to ride harder and harder over the populace of our nation... But I must choose my battles. I politely decline to smoke. I politely decline to enjoy the company of many folks because of their drug use. Many folk. ...We must choose our battles.

Now, with that said, watch this video from last year. Horror.