Friday, August 5, 2011

Best hug ever



It’s funny how something can trigger a memory of what seems like a totally unrelated event. I went to see the new Harry Potter tonight, in Imax even. In the second to last scene, where Harry throws Voldemort’s wand into the abyss and walks away, Hermione and Ron stand and watch him go. (No spoiler alert necessary, that’s all that will be said.) I had the strangest feeling she was going to run after him and jump on his back in celebration, just like someone did to me many years ago. Wait. What?

Wow there it was. It would have been the summer of 1981. I was running a small charter boat on Prince William Sound, working out of Whittier. Early in the summer, I met a wonderful woman and hired her as crew. What impressed me? Only in Alaska. On the charter where I met her we were taking a friend of hers out to an island to spend at least a month observing pigeon guillemots, a shy shorebird. To do it she had a small inflatable and an outboard motor and to run the motor she needed fuel. Here’s one of those lift solutions. She wanted a full 55 gallon drum but I knew we would never lift a full drum off the boat. The solution was two drums half full. Those we could lift, toss overboard and float them to shore.

After we arrived at the island we helped the scientist load all her gear ashore and then went to the fuel barrels. This woman and I prepared to lift one. Figure the drum and 25 gallons of fuel weigh something over 200 pounds. So, this woman and I got a grip and I was prepared for a heavy load. That drum came up so easily it surprised me. I looked at her and I could swear she smirked. I fell in love right there. All the way back I schemed how I could see more of her as we chatted a little. It turned out she didn’t have a job and was kind of looking around. It turned out I didn’t have a crew person and I was kind of looking around.

It took a call to the owner but he was all for it, and there we were. As the summer progressed we grew closer and closer. There are several stories but this is about the hug.

The previous winter I had been sending my first book manuscript to various publishers and receiving it back only to send it out again. I mailed it one last time before I headed back to the boat in the spring and checked the mail religiously the twice a week it arrived in Whittier. The rejections may sound depressing but I had read about a writer who said, “naw, every day I go to the post office and my book is accepted. Only once is it rejected and I have all those days of acceptance. I send it out again and then approach each day with optimism and dreams of acceptance.”

We came in from a trip late on a mail day and while she stayed and cleaned the boat, I raced to the post office. I was standing there in the small room filled with people waiting for their mail while the postmaster, I remember his name as Cowboy, called out names. Whittier is a small town after all.
He called my name and handed me a normal letter-sized envelope. It was from a publisher. This wasn’t a returned manuscript. This was a letter. I knew what that meant and let out a whoop. Cowboy who knew what I was looking for asked if that was it. I think so, I think so. Others in the room knew also and pretty soon there were cheers and jumping up and down going on. I remember a very short tourist woman tugging at my sleeve and then asking anybody who might know, what is it? what is it? Somebody said, “It’s his book.” Sometime in that melee she actually asked me to sign an autograph, my first.

This was going to take a celebration and I was not going to do that alone. I probably half flew back to the boat. People were driving past me honking and waving, giving thumbs up.

It was less than half a mile to the boat and I think I did it in seconds; it felt like it anyway. I hopped onto the boat and hollered for her and told her what happened. At this point I realized I had not opened the letter yet. We opened it together and sure enough it was an acceptance. I was officially a writer, there it was in mauve and green (woman publisher).

A couple of people stopped by as we gathered our things to go up to the bar for that celebration we knew was about to happen. There were five or six of us in a group heading toward the bar. Rain had begun falling while we were on the boat. It is understatement to say it rains a lot in Whittier so this was barely noticeable.

Somehow I remember I was talking with someone as we walked and she had ended up walking behind me. I was pretty happy and was probably close to that bubbling we hear about. Suddenly I heard what could only be called a growl behind me, then something hit me hard in the back and an arm went around my shoulders and neck. She hit me so hard we both went down in the wet and the muck and she never let go. I managed to twist and throw my arms around her as well and we laughed and rolled around in pure wet muddy joy. The best hug ever.

That still didn’t stop us from spending several hours celebrating with the rest of our friends. The letter was passed up and down the bar for everyone to read, beers were drunk, songs were sung hugs were exchanged. Memories of the later hours of the evening have disappeared into a haze, but given our proclivities during our time together, I am quite positive it had a happy ending.

The book was published a year later, but sadly the relationship didn’t last that long. Over the winter I had to go someplace alone and quiet to do the rewrites and revisions and she had to go back to her home and straighten out life and a former boy friend and we drifted apart. If you have been reading this blog, it was she who led me to call the bar Key Largo.

In the 1990s I learned she and her more recent husband had been flying from a claim they worked near Yakutat back to their home in Kenai and were lost over the Gulf of Alaska, never to be heard from again. It’s a sadness I carry when I think about her now and then, like when it looks like Hermione is going to jump onto Harry’s back in celebration.

The photo is a pigeon guillemot stolen from Wikipedia

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Interesting quotations

"In the final analysis your life is only as good as the background music you dance to." – that was me

"Whether you think that you can or you think you can't, you are right." – Henry Ford

"You want to feel alive until the day you croak" – Frank Gallagher Shameless

"Smooth is good but sailing takes a brisk wind" – me

"I'm a drinker with writing problems." ~ Brendan Behan

"Religious Freedom is not about stopping persecution; it’s about being the one who gets to do it. Glory!" – Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's best Christian

It doesn't matter what you write, it only matters that you write.

"Give someone a book and they'll read all day. Teach someone to write a book and they'll spend a lifetime mired in paralyzing self doubt." – internet meme

"It's been a long time since I heard my backbone crack – Chuck Berry

“Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” – JD

"I was the only person up on the hill with both racing numbers and a handicapped placard." – Kitty Delorey Fleischman, a grandmother who occasionally still races her Porsche in hill climbs.

Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. – anon

"Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool." – Mark Twain

Shit happens; you just come up with a different plan. – Kitty

Your body is not a temple. It's an amusement park. – Anthony Bourdain

Never too late for a happy childhood – Berkley Breathed

A real writer doesn't just want to write, a real writer has to write. – Internet meme

"It was like the aftermath of an orgasm with the wrong partner" – David Lagercrants, "The Girl in the Spider's Web"

The non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

We never comprehend how heavy the things are we insist on carrying until we set them down. jd

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio talk show host

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve