Monday, March 31, 2008

Some friends recently visited us here in the Cabo Blanco Marina, where we watch the tides come and go along the rock wall, sea birds pecking at crabs or catching minnows, an occasional fish head floating past, the locals picking tiny green mangos off the tree across the way with long bamboo sticks. I've known these friends, Marv and Ardy Dunn, since I was about five years old; Marv was one of my dad's colleagues in the Soc/Anth department at Lewis & Clark College. I have very clear memories of looking up at him. So it was especially nice to have them visit us here, on their sailing vessel Odyssey (, all of us now adults with kids. Weird how time can make things like that happen. And one amazing thing about Marv and Ardy is that, even though they probably very clearly remember looking down at me, they talk to me just like any other adult. Thanks, Marv and Ardy! I really like that about you guys, in addition to lots of other stuff.

So we were doing this other adult thing, inviting Marv and Ardy in for a glass of Cuban rum after we'd all gone out for dinner, and Ardy was sitting right where I'm sitting now and I could see her sort of looking around. There's a combination of wonderment and disbelief just visible on her face. She takes a little sip of her rum (which I might have presented in a pyrex measuring cup, it possibly falling into the "clean glass" category that night), and she says, "You know, you guys could go to the boat show in Jack London Square"--the big boat show in Oakland--"and show photographs of your life and your trip and just kind of talk about your experiences..."I imagine us setting up a booth alongside the Air Head, the 800 dollar composting toilet, our toddler playing with samples of marine paint or some new kind of gasket, and offering ourselves as examples of what people can do and still be happy, or how much living space you can sacrifice and still enjoy your life, or maybe bringing an inspirational message: You too can quit your jobs and live on hardly any money and have a baby and it's cool! I wonder if I can paraphrase Ardy's comment as, You guys could sell tickets to this freak show! Meant, of course, in the nicest possible way. We're kind of like the Pardeys, that famous cruising couple who sailed a 26-foot engineless wooden sailboat for many years, only maybe crazier because unlike them we have a child, and also we're tall.

Actually, reading books about couples cruising and living on boats, I often find myself wanting to know the dirt. Like, the fights. The times when one person wanted to throw the other overboard or jump, and why. I want to know about the instances of what Adam calls "cruisebummers," a counterpart to the widely known phenomenon of "cruiseheimers," when your grasp of proper nouns and other information you had at your fingertips in normal life totally goes. Cruisebummers is when you feel depressed in paradise, perhaps akin to Levi-Strauss's tristes tropiques. You say to yourself, here I am lounging under the palm trees eating mangoes I picked myself. I don't have to go to work. My life is the subject of my friends' envy. So why am I totally depressed?

I've pretty much passed through the cruisebummers stage, but occasionally things still make me feel like the lines on my forehead are getting deeper and there's a stubborn, bitter-old-lady thing happening to my mouth--caused, maybe, by the challenges now attached to certain things that used to seem ordinary. And I hasten to add that these challenges make my life more interesting and give me something to write about.

A few days ago, something exciting happened. Fred, the Englishman who's been working on his boat "Mi SueƱo" for the last five years in the slip across from ours, brought a couple of extra hoses, attached them to the faucet that's on land, way up at the end of the docks, and sprayed down his boat--then he left the hoses in place for us to use the water. We haven't had water or power near the boat in many months, so there was great rejoicing on Sea Wolf. Adam washed all the dishes. Then we grabbed our soap and shampoo. Tallulah seemed to express a preference for the "Soaker" setting on the nozzle, and we got her nice and clean, if also a little dazed and confused. I warmed her up while Adam showered. Then I got under the hose in Adam's surf shorts and what I thought was a rather chaste bikini top, watched by three old ladies who were inspecting the boat for sale on the other side of the marina, some kids playing under the mango tree, and, it seems, one of the guys who does security. Blissfully clean, we all hung out, appreciating life. The next day, Adam was headed out on his bike when the security guy came up. Adam was thinking, He's going to tell me we need to pay our slip fee. After three months, maybe they want their money? But that wasn't it. Instead the guy says, Sabes que, there's not going to be water here for a long, long time. And he takes Adam over to the marina office and shows him the shower that the marina guys use. Wow! I said. Is there hot water? It only has one knob, Adam said. And doubtless that knob, if it were the kind that bothered to say F or C, would have a big F on it for FRIO. Still, I think, the hose isn't even marked at all, and of course it's usually F. At least there's some element of C in the shower, I think, even in its absence? In the fact that you notice that there's just one knob? With the hose, you don't even say to yourself, I wish I could turn on the hot. So I'm going to take comfort in the absence of hot water, appreciating anew the fact that I live in the tropics, where there's more than enough C.

But I still haven't really given you the dirt, have I?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter yourself! It's incredible!

In my Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
I’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade

You’ll be all in clover, and when they look me over,

You’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.

On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue,

The photographers will snap us
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure

Oh you may write a sonnet about my Easter bonnet
And the girl you’re taking to the Easter Parade.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Baby loves to hang. Parents take a casual approach to diapering.

I'm trying to think of a caption for this photo. We're sitting on the veranda of the Sands Hotel. There's a spider monkey nearby that flattens itself against the wire walls of its cage. Kids are playing in the pool. A half-eaten banana sits on the leather table, a wet diaper draped across the arm of the matching chair. I think we're going to go to the beach now.
On the brightly striped bedspread, under the fan, its chain bobbing
with each exuberant arc, he opened the envelope. Inside was a
photograph. Her hair pulled back, shining in the sunlight, his arm
around her shoulders. Worn leather shoes, a carefully trimmed
moustache. They smiled at the camera. Who was behind it? Flowers
posed delicately upon the leafless branches of a tree. Hillside
faceted like glass, the cave’s entrance receding darkness. There was
a cabin with a palm roof, a boy perhaps five years old playing in the
dust. He turned the photo over. Carolina y Xavier, 1936. And a lock
of blond hair.