Saturday, December 12, 2009


glass 3/4 full
firepower or lookout jojo
grampadan & T
grammadonna & T
singalong interuptus
first jet flight out of Rotorua: we were there
T is stunned, needs to be dragged home

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rotorua, New Zealand

Walking in the woods finding fascinating fungi.

A couple of days ago Tallulah said, "Thank you for making our dinner, mom." She's talking like crazy! But she was NOT talking about this particular dinner, Thanksgiving dinner #1. The fish and chips place was closed and I ended up steaming a pile of incompatible frozen vegetables, because that was all there was, and putting raw garlic on it out of sheer spite. Even with the dateline, I just knew something was wrong. Pushing aside our half-eaten food we figured it out.

At Mt. Manganui.

(I will be writing more about our adventures once I finally finish this fiction project aka novel about New Orleans that's been dogging me for at least two years. Personal deadline is January 1.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saying good-bye to Cook's Bay, and Sea Wolf.

Captain Lon is our new role model. This man personifies the phrase "positive attitude." A huge thank you to the crew of Askari for their instant warmth and friendship. Lon, Rosie, Emma, and Adrian--we hope you guys know just how great you are.

A seven-minute flight to Papeete passes over Sea Wolf's new home in Marina Vaiare (the best deal in French Polynesia!).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

We' ve been attending the weekly "Tahitian dance show" at the Club Bali Hai here in Baie de Cook. Every Wednesday the plastic chairs under the palm trees fill with honeymooners and timesharers, their faces eager, expectant. I think of Captain Cook's sailors leaping into their rowboats and making for these same verdant shores, brownskinned women beckoning from the beaches. The beat of the drums accelerates and the dancers appear, their sexuality unembarrassed, sly, hilarious. Young girls are adorned with fragrant couronnes de fleurs, holding bouquets of ferns like castanets. The dancers smile at each other, singing, playing to the audience but mostly caught up in a world of their own making from which we are joyously excluded. During the audience participation segment near the end of the performance, awkward and untrained westerners become the stiff colonial mirrors of the dancers' vivid jerks and fluid rotations. Tourists who want to unbend, who, prodded by the dancers (“You get up here, now!” the MC barks one evening at a reluctant young man in the back. “And you too!”) sway, a little drunk, goggling at the energetic bursts of their native partners, unable to, even uninterested in controlling their self-conscious expressions. Is the point of this to shame or to liberate? To liberate through shame? And those eighteenth-century perfumed Tahitians, what were they thinking as they welcomed Cook's hungry, unwashed crew? Tallulah leaps from her chair, rushing to an open space in which she spins. As the dancers exit she runs across the grassy expanse of the performance space, lit by a crescent moon under the black cliffs, gathering the waxen frangipani blossoms that tumbled from the dancers' sinous bodies. (The frangipani has no economy, is profligate with its scent, lies broken on the roadsides after heavy wind.) Nelly is on duty at the reception desk tonight. She often wanders, chainsmoking, shouting into her cellphone. I try to pay her but she waves my money away. “Bof!” she says, as if we are old friends.
Walking alongside the market in Papeete, its high-ceilinged acres, I glimpsed tiers of mangoes, unattended, on tables in the dim warmth of late afternoon. I went toward them, stopped, stood waiting for someone to appear. “Tiare!” a voice called from the shadows, and in a moment a vision burst forth, one arm upraised, fingers snapping as if the aisle between the clusters of mangoes were the runway of a Harlem drag ball. “Oui?” she inquired with a moue, a raised eyebrow, having caught all the laughter in the world, just barely. So radiant that I stumbled over my words, trying to explain that I wanted some mangoes, not too green. She chose three for me, palpating them gently, putting them into a plastic bag. As she disappeared again the way she had come, she called to me over her shoulder. “If you want them to ripen quickly,” she said, “keep them in the shadows. Les fruits mûrissent le soir." Fruit ripens at night.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Eating out of the serving bowl means fewer dishes to wash

The text of this post removed because it's now part of an essay I'm publishing elsewhere.

Monday, October 5, 2009

We anchored outside Cook's Bay a few days ago to get to some more swimmable water. We soon became a useful marker for the multitude of outrigger canoes being paddled back and forth.
Moorea flora
Chocki Bickis con cojones!
SeaWolf prepares for tsunami.
Our first warning came in the form of an odd siren that sounded like a kid trying to imitate a fire engine on his hand-me-down Casio. He had some chops but not enough to strike fear or even make us want to know more. Forty five minutes later a catamaran came racing past and yelled (in French accented English) "Dare ees a tsunami. Ees nineteh santemetares. Ees danjaruuus!" Now, if we've learned anything over the last three years of cruising it is that opinions of fellow cruisers must be taken w/ several grains of salt as they are usually given under the influence of much fire water. It was only ten AM but these people were French so I waved and made the sign of drinking and did a little staggering shuffle around the deck to show them we were in on their little joke. Just in case and because we take safety seriously on SeaWolf I looked around the anchorage and sure enough there were signs of frantic activity among many of the other boats. Hmmm. We turned on the radio. We also noted that there was no activity aboard a neighboring superyacht and nothing significant happening on shore. Better safe than sorry we decided to bail the dinghy which had filled with rain from the night before. Halfway through this operation the skipper realized we were wasting perfectly good fresh water so ordered all personnel to get into the dinghy for hair washing. Come what may, we would face it with clean hair and glowing skin--for once. This also served to distract us all and restore calm--though soap in the eyes of first mate and powder monkey caused some shouts of discomfort and fussing. By the time we were clean the channel out of Cook's Bay was thoroughly clogged with fleeing cruisers and this was about the time the tsunami was supposed to arrive. We were starting to feel pretty smug, safely at anchor in a deep bay, protected by a narrow channel far from and not facing Samoa. Soon, we heard an all-clear on the radio and rowed ashore for our daily rounds and felt lucky, once again, to be alive.
Jessica says I have to say this is my (Adams) work. (can YOU spot the loophole?)
We were thirsty and the sign said "sample our juice". Lots of school kids but nobody handing out juice. Disappointing.

If this is not the most beautiful packaging for canned fish we don't know what is!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Sea Wolf for sale?

Someone recently posted a comment wondering if Sea Wolf is still for sale...the answer is yes. We are having the most fabulous adventures imaginable--and yet, this is a little boat and we have one very active little girl. Contact and check out details at But not to worry, at this point there's no going back to what we used to call "normal life."


In another life, I would like to be or know J. Lam.
Taken on a trip to Papeete in attempt to extend our visa.
Monday afternoon among the pineapple fields.

A scene from my thirty-ninth birthday.

Friday, September 4, 2009

VistaCoral beaches
Feeding Assam's shark
SeaWolf at anchor in Apataki
Black Pearls
Our gear is taking a beating
T turns 2
lunch w/ friends
playing w/ boys

This is just to say, we have had very little internet access since arriving in French Polynesia. We plan to sail for Moorea next Wednesday, and hope to be a bit less incommunicado there.
I hiked along the path of coral that looked charred by centuries, millennia, of sun. Beyond I could hear the breakers on the reef. Coconuts lay decaying where they had fallen, small brown lizards leaping among the husks. We had spent the day swimming in the pale blue water, sprawled on the rough dead coral beach, the waves lapping with the sound of tiny bells. It was the kind of solitude that wrapped itself around you, loathe to let go. Everything else seemed beside the point.
A dissonant bird call sounded from the trees in the fading light. The sun, obscured by clouds, dropped suddenly below the horizon.
Early the next morning, Adam went to the bow and began to pull up the anchor without the windlass, the muscles in his shoulders flexing.
Later, we beached the dinghy near a pearl farm. It was Sunday morning. The family jumped up to greet us. They all said few words in French. We were a welcome diversion. Maybe customers. The woman had gotten up from counting pearls. We could see them lying in luminous pools on a picnic table. Instead we bought eggs.
Between Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, and Apatake, Tuamotus, there are 525 miles of open ocean

"So you were dreaming about guzzling strawberry-flavored cod liver oil while getting shot out of a cannon?" "Yeah, and when I landed, somebody handed me a greasy pork sandwich."

There is a narrow channel through the coral--on the fourth day the wind changes, and we miss it by a mile—means two more days zigzagging along the northern coast.

We're being tested, I say, and if we're found wanting, we will be punished again.

So I've learned. I stay calm. I realize I even feel happy out here. The atoll looks beautiful, those bursts of aquamarine before the breakers hit the coast, the yellow and green palms against the gray sky. We tack, the coast shrinks again.

Tallulah has stopped saying "Ready go" but every picture in her books is a picture of meat. We don't have any more meat. Or eggs. We have beans. This type of family togetherness begins to strike me as unnatural.

Adam has been at the tiller since three in the morning. Late that afternoon, I hear an onrush of water against the hull and feel the boat straining against the wind. We're less than two miles from the channel into the lagoon. Adam adjusts the sails under the gray sky, I’m steering, thinking up recipes using eggs. The wind seems to grow tired, then it renews itself. Suddenly we're at the entrance. And we're shooting through that narrow channel. The cobalt current rushes against us, the water is rippling, corrugated. Wind holds steady then falters. We can see in there. The water is turquoise. We can feel the ancient summons of the tide. Dusk is falling. I'm struggling to hold the tiller straight, Tallulah piggyback, lighthearted in this ecstatic rush of elements. She wants to know what dad is doing up there, lifting a palm to the wind. Talking to Yemaya, I suggest. She sings a wordless tune, and the wind suddenly blows. We burst into the open waters of the lagoon, lavender clouds against the illuminated gray of the sky. The anchorage is deserted except for a huge Australian boat, the crew staring at us as we race past. In the sheltered shallow waters drop anchor as light is extinguished like the falling of a curtain. Is this paradise?

There are many devils in the army fallen from heaven, who chose Lucifer and await his command in the struggle against God. And so this paradise of blues and greens has its fallen angel, alcoholic and alone, his eyes obscured by cheap sunglasses, a bag of black pearls at his side. He drinks Ricard. Tying off his large open boat to ours he boards, bringing misshapen pearls, toys for the baby. He sits and drinks, as if awaiting some communication that’s slow to come. The bottle is empty. Adieu, he says, without meaning it of course, and settles himself again. We pour him Cuban rum, to placate, assuage, and sit in the silence. At last, the invisible sign, and with a cry, he descends again to his brilliant corner of hell.
At the Musee Boutique, He'e T'ai Inn, Nuku Hiva
Watch out for the dog. She bites. Don't let her come up behind you.
Yes, that's a canoe they used in "Survivor."
I have some beautiful pieces. Such a shame you didn't come here with your mother-in-law.
Oh, I've been collecting for years.
Well, my husband brought me here thirty-five years ago to do research. We came by sailboat. From California.
We just fell in love with these islands. My husband and I built the hotel. You know, we opened the Marquesas to tourism.
Everyone came to happy hour. We had island dancing, pig roasts—that’s what I became famous for.
After he died sixteen years ago, I sold it.
But I'm going to start a First Class California Motel on the hill up there.
It's in those shipping containers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July is a month of festivals, held in a large covered area with a restaurant. We attended once. As we ate breaded shrimp and steak, French people in traditional costumes who’d come halfway across the world danced for the Marquesans their strange repetitive circular dances. Women waltzed with women, the shorter ones leading. Marquesans clapped and cheered, swinging their arms in concert with the music. The dancers broke and went out into the crowd in search of partners. A young man brought a middle-aged Marquesan woman out for a turn on the floor, and when he returned her to her table, invited her husband to dance. “Toi et moi?” I heard the man respond, shaking his head non.

Days pass slowly and mysteriously. We sit on the beach for a long time, dazed by persistent flu-like symptoms. A Marquesan appears with his horse. I look over and Lulah is sitting with him as he talks to a couple of women, what looks like an oreo in her hand, rapt as she listens to flirting Marquesan. A couple and their grandchild pull up in one of the shiny new 4x4s that most people here drive, flesh overflowing the bounds of their pareos, pull out a bench. The man pulls out a bench, sits on it and begins to tune his ukelele. He plays and sings to the accompaniment of the high tide.

I could say something else about all this, probably, but my brain has been mostly given over to processing the constant movement of this anchorage and the nausea that accompanies it, draining away my inspiration.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nuku Hiva

Before coming here I was hungry for news. What was it really like? I wondered, consuming the messages from friends and acquaintances who’d traveled this long way. But no, what was it really like? Of course there’s no singular answer to such a question. Dogs in the street with full udders, hundreds of chickens—huge, mild grapefruits, custard apples and frangipani. It’s laughable to think one could answer such a question on the basis of a week’s acquaintance. In this village of less than two thousand people there are many drag queens, who wear lime green tap pants and kitten heels, who have darkly penciled eyebrows and run the local grocery store and the pension. There’s obviously a different understanding of sexuality here and I want to understand it better.
The money I dispense like brightly colored pieces of paper and shiny bits of metal. On one of the larger bills, some highly decorated guy, some naval officer, sneers as if saying, I’ve tasted the women, and, if I must admit it, a few of the men, and they were délicieux, selon la manière primitive d’une île isolée. His hands come out of the empty space in your pocket holding a small glass of absinthe and a Cuban cigarillo.
The sea is soft, not too salty, and there are plastic bottles and beer cans in the weed-choked stream that flows into the bay of Taiohae. The air blows down over those verdant volcanic peaks like the sweet damp breath of a dragon sleeping on the other side of the island. I like such cheesy similes. I’ve been reading children’s books about mythical figures and I appreciate their simplicity. Clear answers, not too much information at once. Because otherwise, the vivid, hydroelectric force of arriving on the other side of the world, future unknown, might pour in.
At bedtime we lie in the forward berth, the rocking of the boat jingling the cutlery, knocking the books together in the shelf, and rolling the baguettes against each other so that they churn up crumbs across the countertop. The ineffable force of the universe soothes us. We watch the clouds silently obscuring the moon, that sweet dragon’s breath on our skin. In a couple of weeks, we’ll move on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Last Day in Mexico

It was just about perfect.
We've been in La Cruz for over 4 months and I have it dialed. This is good because I checked out of the country four days ago... I'm ticking things off my list--getting them done at N American speed. I catch the bus into Puerto Vallarta and walk to my friend Hilario's shop. I've never seen it before and it's impressive. No wonder he drives a late model BMW SUV. There are two floors of lathes and milling machines. The kind of machines that, given the right raw materials and direction, can make an identical copy of themselves--I love that thought. And there's art on the walls, each piece with its own custom fabricated metal pedestal. But no HIlario, I feel a slight hesitation in my momentum but soon spot one of his workers who knows me and I wave him over. I tell Jesus what I need and he starts to tell me how they're actually not working today so I'll have to come back Monday. I hit him with a pause. "I'll be back in an hour...with lots of money." We part laughing, knowing he's not going to have it done in an hour and I'm not going to have lots of money BUT I'll have it today and he'll get paid. In an hour I spot Hilario. He's determined to drive me wherever I need to go so we're off. I ask him what's his key to finding good workers and he says his best guys are the ones who started out sweeping the floor. I file that nugget away.
We stop at "Bolt World". I buy bolts, Hilario ribs the owner while the owner talks trash about Hilario to me. This is good guy fun we're having at "Bolt World." Next we have lunch, lunch transcends good guy fun--this is something. Bellied up against the sidewalk around the corner from "Bolt World" is a lunch wagon "Tortas Ahogadas" with a couple of tables spilling out into the street and a quiet crowd eating or waiting. We grab a table. Hilario says this type of torta is from Guadalajara and they're very hot though he quickly adds these aren't too hot...I think he's worried I'll disappoint him here but when we order I say I want mine like Hilario's. He looks at me and smiles, he says to the cook "he's practically Mexican." The cook doesn't seem impressed. He's in a routine. I watch him go through his moves, a deeply worn groove, no wasted movement. Rolls are hustled along a toasting rack, hunks of meat are chopped then stuffed inside, add some pickled onions and smother (ahogar them) with the special sauce. Boom.
We finally have ours and I just know this is going to be really good. But the first bite is a revelation. The roll is softened with the sauce but that toasting gives it a firm center that holds up like good al dente pasta. The sauce is hot but not too hot, the bread and the meat are your friends here and keep it from overwhelming, instead it creates an atmosphere in which all the flavors and textures do their thing. The meat is prime, no dubious chewy bits, just melt in your mouth rich, smokey tender chunks. Those thin slices of pickled onion and the sauce work together to balance the richness of the meat. The whole thing works together, each element balanced and enhanced by the others. OK, so I had a great sandwich.
We get back in the car, return to the shop and sure enough there's my newly machined fitting ready to go. I go through the formality of asking Hilario what I can give him for it and as usual he says "nothing." I give Jesus a goodly sum and I'm off to catch the bus back to La Cruz. The next thing I notice is a group of rowdy teenagers get on the bus I'm riding. They're heading to the beach, full of themselves and making too much noise in the back seats. Riding the bus often devolves into an experience that just needs to be endured and this ride is shaping up that way. The next stop, adding insult to injury, a mariachi steps on board. The bus riding mariachis tend to be the worst of their breed and sure enough the teenagers in the back start yipping and howling in mockery. As he makes his way past me I hear the mariachi say in a low growl "direct from Hollywood." He stations himself right in the middle of the teenagers and immediately hits some cords that sound fantastic. Over the next ten minutes he's easily won over the entire bus with the best live music I've heard in years. The crowd in the back sings along to a couple of the traditional songs and lets him loose to do the others on his own. At this point I'm glad to be sitting by the window with sunglasses on because I'm alternately sobbing and laughing at myself.
I love these people.
I'm really going to miss this place.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Greenville without me

I drove to Aiken to see my friend Michael and his husband Allan, whom I'd been missing for years. Auntie Maya and Uncle Dennis took care of Lulu. They found baby bunnies living in the backyard. They went to the zoo. Naked fun was had with cats.
Now Adam's waiting for us in Nuku Hiva. And I'm sitting here, staring at the screen, reminding myself to stretch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adam is...

8 degrees N [er, wait--would that be south? all he said was 8]
138 degrees 32 minutes W
120 miles offshore, thinking about doing laundry and eating something other than lentils and weird sourdough bread

The people who raised you, siblings, if you have any--they have stuff. Maybe they have objects, things saved for sentimental reasons, still kicking around. Regardless, they have other things--accumulated emotions that have collected in a deep pool from which all can freely draw.

But I can't really talk about those things right now. As for the objects--the other day I came across a diary I had kept sporadically when I was an adolescent. I received it from some family friends for my eleventh birthday, or "for my birthday 11," as I inscribed it.

Excerpts from my diary: "I really hate Townley because she bothers me." "I got the Clinique bonus with English Pink lipstick and the Lancome bonus w/ some liquid eyeliner." "Don't be cute!" "I have an obsession with Adam. Of course, forget that. Forget that. It's so ridiculous. Don't even think about it. Dave I don't really care about now. I used to like him so much I think. I can't really remember. Anyway, who cares. More later."

Adam and I got married, but otherwise I don't want to relate to this petty, obsessive person. In my last entry ("DEC 30 I think 1986") I conclude, "I can develop myself from within and try to have a beautiful personality. It's very difficult though."

Paging through albums, watching ourselves grow up, my sister paused at a photo of our family taken in Lynchburg, Virginia ("I wish I had friends in Lynchburg. I hate my teachers they give us so much work"), where we'd moved after our parents' divorce. We're in the dining room of our house. She must be about twelve. She looks like she's eaten mushrooms and they're starting to kick in. I'm standing behind her with my arms folded over my chest, wearing dark glasses. Our mom is giving the camera a lovely smile.

Where was I going with this? It's really hard to think.

Those other things, the things I can't talk about, are trying to come in.

I can hear my mother, full of hearsay and popular opinion. The phone rings after polite hours for phoning have ended and she speaks in a flat, tired voice, so I know who it is, and then hangs up abruptly. Memories are like granite over which the days flow, but it's hard to know anything for sure. If there's anything to know for sure. My grandmother's house still smells like a dog that died years ago. I saw a photograph of her as a child. Her hair is bobbed and she's standing on a split-rain fence, calmly watching the photographer manipulate those unwieldy glass plates, balancing there without moving.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Adam is...

400 miles from Nuku Hiva with good steady winds. He has been inspired by the work of Benjamin Franklin. He even talks about getting some rimless glasses. Except he doesn't need glasses. He's been out there a long time.

My sister took these pictures after Lulu ate a holly berry which is poisonous and I tried to make her throw up and she started crying hard and it didn't work anyway and then my sister finally found the number and got through to Poison Control and they told her that I had just totally traumatized her for nothing because they don't prescribe barfing anymore. They said one holly berry was no big deal. And then I made a special drink in the blender and Lulu loved it and we hugged like survivors.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Adam is

0 degrees 21 minutes N
130 degrees 32 minutes W

"An atoll is a group of motus."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Where is Adam?

Nuku Hiva bound at:
2 degrees 48 minutes N
128 degrees 3 minutes W

Lunch for the church ladies after a trip to the dentist. That's what I call good clean fun.