About spoonbeams

Who am I? I am a spoonbeam and I'm defining that as I go.

Recollections of the Navigator or Things we shouldnt/a hadnt/a ougtnt/a done


For the most part we didn’t do that bad. We finished 99th overall (out of +/- 140), none of us had ever been on an ocean race before, and the weather was terrible. Everything considered it could have been a lot worse. But it should have been a lot better. We didn’t even beat Abraxas. And for the better part of the trip I was miserable, scared, drunk, or sometimes all three. It seems to me our problems fell into four general categories:

   Inadequate Pre-Race Preparation
         Equipment Failures
         Sailing Technique
         Lack of Ocean Racing Experience
The problems listed here are more or less related to our scheduling of the whole affair. We boarded the boat Tuesday night having only seen it once before the season. We knew or should have known that setting to Marion for the Thursday afternoon check-in might be tight. Yes, we are all trying to lead professional lives on the side to support our sailing habit but if there is to be a next time setting an earlier jump on things might prevent some of the following:

We got off late — As it was, we had to rush to set off by Wednesday afternoon, and we left some minor things undone. We did not have a full crew until mid-morning Wednesday, and even then BT showed up with some spectators. There were too many goddam things left to be installed. The horseshoe rings, the MOB pole and light mounts, some radio gear, and so on. Another 24 hours would have given us time to do it right – there were times that anyone going overboard would have been in for a long swim. As it was, we barely made it to Marion under the wire, and by then, I, for one was already frazzled.

No detailed inspection of the boat — Half way to Bermuda one of the port-side shrouds was noticed swinging in the breeze. By the time we got to Bermuda the spinnaker halyard winch was almost overboard and was making nasty noises. Did anyone go over the boat and the rigging? I certainly didn’t. It was blowing pretty hard when we finally noticed the shroud problem. What if we had been on the other tact when the squalls hit? Next time we should even send someone up the stick — remember the jumper-stay on Heffalump that let go one fine morning?

Improper storage of gear — The life-raft damn near came loose: I think it was the same day we discovered the shroud problem. We were in a hurry in New Bedford because of the delays with the motor and waiting for the raft. We should have spent more time and thought to the layout. By the end of the trip the cutaway knife was so rusty I don’t think it could have been used. Which didn’t matter because by then we had no emergency fresh water. Jamming the plastic water jug down into the cockpit locker with the awning gear and all the other crap resulted in a puncture. The only thing we did stow away properly was the dingy (more on that later).

No MOB Drills (or any other kind) — Before we took off there was all manner of righteous talk about the MOB drills we were going to run on the way to Marion. Had someone really fallen in we might have either lost a crew person or all wound up overboard in the rescue attempt. The closest we came to a drill was a somewhat drunken and highly theoretical argument about correct procedures. Heaving to is not as simple as it sounds and two hours practice in a breeze would have helped prepare us. Also the experience of trying to get one of the larger crew persons back onboard, even under perfect conditions, would have shown us whether it’s really as difficult as some people say. Even something as simple as everyone taking a reef in the main and the genoa would have assured that (a) everyone did it the same way, and (b) the mainsail reefing lines would have been rigged before the start. But of course we didn’t have time for this.

The great dry ice experiment — It sounded great. Freeze all these packages solid as shit in dry ice, and unpack them two at a time so they could cool down the beer as they thawed out. Other people have done it, and it should have worked. Three days out from Marion the dry ice was gone and the food was mostly spoiled. Our fault. When we packed in Lancaster we lined the cooler with dry ice and then added the “pre-frozen” meals we had stored in the garage freezer. But dumping the frozen food on top of the dry ice must have been like pouring in boiling water. The food should have been frozen first, then packed in dry ice two or three days before the start, then repacked with dry ice and sealed the day before the start and delivered to us in Marion. With all those launches around we would have had no problem meeting someone and setting the cooler on board.

There were a surprising number of equipment failures both going and returning. Some we can blame on the weather, some on Peter Costas and his amateur boatyard staff, and some on our own negligence. It could have been worse, since there were at least two dismastings and uncounted other failures in the rest of the fleet, but I suspect the boats experiencing these failures were being sailed pretty hard. With the exception of the centerboard, we didn’t have any problem that threatened the integrity of Poseidon as a sailing vessel, but we had several that threatened our convenience and our safety.

The engine — First on the charts (log) and last in our hearts. It first died on the way to New Bedford. We were able to set a mechanic to work on it but it’s not clear that he did more than add a missing gasket (thanks again, Peter) and clean the filters. Paul remembers that he found a surprising amount of water in the filter bowl. It did run reliably for another two or three days, but once it got thoroughly wet it was useless. The bilge pump failures may have contributed to the wetting. I’m still amazed that we were able to set it running again. It worked fine in Bermuda and for a while on the way back. It finally succumbed to water in the fuel. It is still not clear where all the water came from. The missing O-ring on the filler pipe plug could not have helped, but we had the rail in the water pretty often on the way down so I would have expected the problem to have appeared in Bermuda, not on the way back. In any case, not having power while becalmed in the Gulf Stream cost us at least one and maybe two days, not having power approaching Block Island cost us some topside paint, and not having power on the way to New London cost the skipper (and ultimately the navigator) the last reserves of humor and psychic energy.

The bilge pump — Thanks to the beautiful new heat exchanger on the the exhaust system several of the life-preservers in the aft lazarette were burned through and began leaking kapok in the bilge. To worsen the problem, some of our food stores which had been hastily stowed, became soaked with bilge water (of which, given the extreme angle of the heel, they had ample supply), and disintegrated, thereby worsening the pollution problem below. The pump filter finally closed and the pump ran dry for quite some time. We noticed the funny noise too late. Cleaning the filter every twenty seconds or so helped, but I now wonder why we didn’t flood the bilge with the more than plentiful sea water and pump it out with the gusher pump. Surely a couple of cycles would have cleared out most of the gunk. As it was we succeeded only in overloading the already well worn automatic unit. It eventually burned out completely.

The steering — This one we can definitely pin on Peter. He admitted to knowing better than to re-run lag bolts into existing holes but he did it anyway. As a result of this and the heavy strain on the steering gear in the first day of the race, the port side cable pulley came unglued. Good for Paul to have rigged the emergency tiller before things really went to hell. I don’t really see how we could have done anything to prevent this.

The centerboard — I’m not sure whose fault this one is but given the amount of time we were on the wind not having a centerboard was rather a nuisance. At first I was one of the people who, while on watch, would try to sneak it down a couple of cranks, but once I heard it banging back and forth I became a believer. Did we ever find out what the problem was?

We could have sailed the boat better — that’s all there is to it.

Sailing close-hauled — There was much more of this than any previous trip and for longer periods of time. Part of the problem was the poor sail selection — it seemed to be very difficult to balance the boat and keep it floating cleanly. Our tacks weren’t that bad but our sail trim was. Subsequent reading (WALLY) convinces me that there were things we could have done to improve our speed and comfort. The day of the start we should have been shortening sail earlier than we did and should have been playing with down-hauls, vangs, and outhauls to set the main in better shape. There is more than personal comfort involved. Living on Poseidon sailing with the rail under is about like climbing a spiral staircase during an earthquake. Dan could have been seriously injured when he got thrown across the cabin, and we all could have used more sleep.

Reefing — We needed more practice and we especially needed to talk things over to find better ways to do it. Clark got his arm smashed trying to reef the main — maybe a couple of practice tries would have taught us all how difficult it is to control the main halyard winch. Reefing the genoa never once took less than 20 minutes with someone leaning over the lifelines on the foredeck trying to feed the reefing line through the grommets. Dropping the sail on the deck would have made the whole operation much simpler and quicker. We should also have procured a number of light lines, the right length and with proper whipping. We should also have had a separate line for bundling the main during the squalls. Practice setting the main down quickly would have made us much more confident about putting it up again.

Weather — We finally got our share of it. I had never seen a “white wave” before but, like seeing an Apache in war paint, there is no mistaking the real thing. What scares me is that only the day before I had asked Paul what to do. The next morning, when it was my turn, we could have been in serious trouble. The whole procedure should have been thoroughly discussed ahead of time. It’s no good having one person on the boat who can handle emergencies. With all the experience on the way down, we handled the sail on the way back fairly well. Our mistake here was ignoring the reports of weather ahead from a passing boat and, not giving more heed to the offshore weather forecasts. Wishful thinking on my part convinced me that we had passed the trough hours before the barometer started to drop.

Personal Gear — Next time, everyone must bring and use a good set of foul weather gear, including boots. The cabin was wet enough from the leaky hatches without us bringing a lot more water below in our clothes. It seemed to me that Clark was the only one who stayed dry.

Seasickness — I honestly don’t know how Dan lived through it. We need more experience with the various remedies and their effectiveness for different people. Mary claims that once she stopped taking the pills she felt fine. I couldn’t survive without them. Having one person sick on a two person watch is dangerous for everyone.

Watches — I had never realized just how hard the 12 to 4 can be, especially at night. Four hours of darkness is too much for an amateur crew under the conditions we experienced. The 3-4-5 we used on the way back seemed to be a lot better.

Misc. — The sail would have been easier to manage if we had been using the gusher pump. Having the leeward cockpit locker open with those seas coming aboard made use of the navy pump a real ground loser. I don’t remember who decided that the gusher was broken, but I felt not unlike a fool the next day when Paul “fixed” it with ten quick strokes. We (I) lost the hawse pipe cover because I had never learned the function of the hook on the underside. Even then it might not have been lost if anyone had remembered to stow the anchor chain before we left Bermuda. We also lost one of the blocks used to secure the spinnaker pole to the deck. The block pulled loose on its own but we failed to secure the block itself to the boat.

Well, everyone has to start somewhere. Still it wold have been nice during the planning of the trip and at the start of the race to have had someone along who had done it before. Spending an afternoon drinking beer with Cap’n Bob might have saved us some grief.

The Dinghy — Talk about tits on a bull. The dinghy was of no use whatsoever and made the cabintop a terrible place to work. Why didn’t we just leave it behind, or at the worst find an inflatable to borrow or rent. Would the inspector have asked to see the dinghy had it not been on the cabin. I doubt it.

The Gerry Jug — I now believe those things were even more of a hazard than we thought at the time. The top leaked and refueling was a mess. Can we consider (for next time) a diesel with a 30 gallon tank to be a non-negotiable demand.

The Meal Plan— The rest of the fleet seems to survive perfectly well on ham sandwiches and cold cereal. Given the difficulties of cooking hot meals under racing conditions I wonder if we couldn’t try to do the same. We could also think about paper plates and unbreakable thermos jugs. Ham sandwiches wash down really well with hot coffee and Kahlua.

Navigation— We didn’t do too badly. In spite of my 90 mile error the last day out from Bermuda we nearly ran over Northeast Shoals buoy. Still, I don’t see how the spirit of a “cruising race” is in any way a violated by Loran-C. Getting penalized four hours for trying to assure a safe passage seems unfair. If we’re going to cheat with the motor we might as well cheat on the navigation, and Loran-C is the best way to do it.

Pre-race Tuneup — I suggest a full two days doing nothing but sailing in circles using every piece of equipment on board. The other big races seem to be preceded by a number of shorter events to get everything shaken down. We should do it on our own.

The Crew  — Having one unhappy person on board is a bit problem. Maybe the skipper and the navigator needed to be more open about decision making so crew members who care about such things wouldn’t feel left out.


Recently I rediscovered the Recollections above.  I do not know if any of the people who sailed in the race are still alive, but I did reach out to Phyliss, Dan’s girlfriend at the time and later his wife, and we have been having a great deal of fun reminiscing.  We both flew down to Bermuda to celebrate their sail. I knew nothing of the trauma until I arrived.  Clark flew home with me and a few other crew members and others flew down to help sail Poseidon back.

There was no wind and they floundered around for longer than they wanted and found an unexpected bundle of marijuana floating nearby. They pulled it up and sailed it home but knew they had to get it on shore before they could go through customs. Dan called Phyliss and asked her to meet the boat at a secluded spot and drive the “seaweed” back home.. And she bravely but nervously did. The pot was not very satisfying because it had been waterlogged for who knows how long.  But they sold it in $20 bags and people really didn’t complain. It had “history.” While they had been sailing lightening hit Dan and Paul’s home and burned out the stove. The money from the sale of the dope bought a new one.

And it is a story Phyliss and I are now sharing with our children, all of whom will get to know their fathers a little bit better!

Turning off the world

A book came to me by mistake — perhaps my mistake when requesting it. When the library called to let me know it had arrived and was ready for pickup I asked the name.

“Lu?” I replied, a question more than an answer. “Who is the author?”
“Jason Reynolds.”


The author was correct, but that title did not ring a bell. I went and picked it up.

It is a young adult book. I read a lot of those. They are quick, stripped to the bone, and don’t bog down like many adult books do.

Lu is on the track team practicing for the hurdles, but he is having trouble with them. He’s extremely farsighted and wears contact lenses.

One day at practice. dirt gets in his eyes, he has to remove his contact lenses and is left virtually blind. Coach tries to get him to do the hurdles and Lu finally has to tell him about his eyesight. He admits that even with the lenses in he can’t really judge where the hurdles are.

That was me growing up, but I was very, very nearsighted. The glasses helped, but not enough. I knew how Lu felt.

Coach had a plan. He had Lu practice running the hurdles with his lenses out. He counted his steps (12) to the first hurdle and his steps to the next three. It worked.

I too did a lot of counting because I only wore my glasses when I thought they might help. They distorted my face. Even in the first row in class with my glasses on I couldn’t see the blackboard. I couldn’t see the numbers on the classroom doors, or the numbers on the hall lockers. I had to count them all to get to the one I wanted. If I got distracted I was lost and would walk until I could find a bearing. I definitely understood Lu.


Girl in thick glasses cropped

The book goes on.There’s a lot going on. Lu’s mom in pregnant, there are drugs, there are bullies, there are illnesses, family strains, friendships, jealousies.

But one thought of Lu’s toward the end of the book caught me by surprise and and I realized this book was meant to find me. At the end of a long day Lou “went into [his] room, took out [his] contacts, blurred out, laid in [his] bed. . .”

I was about 60 years old when my cataracts were removed and corrective lenses were implanted in my eyes. When I would tell people that I missed being able to take out my lenses at the end of the day they would reply that I could close my eyes at any time. And I would say “No, that’s not the same.”

But I know Lu would understand if I told him I miss turning off the world.

Thank you Jason Reynolds.


Flag Memories

As a child growing up in the fifties, every day at school we would put our hands to our hearts and recite the pledge of allegiance. Our teachers taught us what the stars and stripes represented and how a star was added as each state joined the union. We learned about Betsy Ross, and how the flag proudly waved over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I believed that there was something about the country, my country, that made us special in the world. All races all religions — democracy — the right to speak my mind out — that was America to me.

Things changed a bit in 1954 when “under God” was inserted into the pledge. My mother was furious and I didn’t even dare to mouth those two words when we said the pledge in class for fear she’d know. The pledge came after the Lord’s Prayer. I was seven years old. Even now at some meetings the moderator calls for all to recite the pledge. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I just stand. Usually I put my right hand over my chest and check out my breasts — which is not meant to be disrespectful, but does give me reassurance that after surgery and radiation I am still whole.

Morgan with FlagStill, it was exciting when as a camper it was my turn to raise and lower the flag at the beginning and end of the day.

My parents hung the flag off our porch for July 4th. Not sure when they stopped. My husband and I brought our son, flag in hand, to the Memorial Day parade in the 80’s.

Yes, it is a symbol, only a symbol, but now it is the flag waved by those who do not believe in all races and religions, who believe that not all have the right to live free, nor the right to speak their mind out. It is a symbol for those who don’t believe that along with rights we all have responsibilities.

When the pickup with the flag defiantly flying in the wind goes by, when the President hugs the flag to convince his public that he cares about their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, when our men in uniform attack our own it does make me shudder.

What have we as a nation become when those, who cannot with any good conscience stand but get down on their knees when the national anthem is sung, are among the most inspired by what our nation is supposed to be. How can they pledge allegiance to a country that is currently in the hands of people who no longer even pretend that we are a nation with liberty and justice for all? As adults we know that it was a myth when we were taught this back in the fifties, but as children we believed it.

What are children taught now? I cannot imagine what parents who wear the flag on their sleeves while walking through the streets with automatic rifles, who wave the flag while refusing to wear a mask to protect others from the virus teach their children. What do the men and women who write the laws that beat down and punish those who need support and help and food and shelter and health care and education — what do they tell their children the flag stands for?

Preparing for the end

I’ve started throwing things away — one thing a day. Most of it is stuff that has no significance to anyone but me and some not even to me and and a good deal of it has been stored in closets and under beds since moving into the house. My mom’s clothes for instance — random things that she was wearing at the end of her life, Most of her clothing was too small for me. I took a picture of the label of a white blouse Size 2 as a memento before tossing it. Three more blouses followed.


Two of her jackets fit. When I wear her now very shabby black leather jacket I am an older (I suppose that means my age!) eccentric gentleman who refuses to follow the rules. When I wear her camel hair jacket I tuck a scarf inside the collar, put on nice shoes and a hat and am the woman my mom wanted me to be. They are not on the toss list. Nor is her tiny lace blouse. The lining is gone and I had the seams let out and wear it now and then with my nippies poking thru under a jacket and wonder if anyone wonders what might be showing underneath.

This project is seven days old. Today I tossed an old pair of reading glasses that sat on the table in the guest room for several years waiting for someone to claim them. Recently a pair of silky boxer shorts mysteriously appeared in a set of sheets when I folded laundry. I’m keeping them hoping to wear them some day and feel silky and sexy — if that will still be possible.

Perhaps there will be enough days left — years and years please — for me reduce my belongings to a minimum and not leave M&A with a huge project of sorting it all.

Kokopelli on the drain

My plan for this house was for it to be free of clutter, but I find so many treasures. I enjoy walking around the rooms looking for their proper perches and then, as time go by, walking around the rooms smiling at the treasures.

Shoes are next on the list of stuff to go. Some haven’t fit for years or have pointy toes or too high heels, but they do inspire memories – even some I’ve never worn. Still deciding if they will go one at a time or as pairs.


Another library story, again in India

Curtis Bryant, the husband of a long-time librarian friend of mine, saw my post on Mahesh Rao’s article on libraries in India, and he wrote me about his own experience in a Delhi library.  He has given me permission to reprint it here.  I have also added a comment at the end.


The “Elegy for the Library” article brought back memories of my time in India back in 1972. When I was staying in Delhi I stopped into the library at the University of Delhi, just to browse around. At the time I was interested in knowing more about the intersection of Eastern and Western knowledge and was particularly interested in how it was that the calendar and the constellations along the ecliptic (the astrological sun signs) pretty much correspond in both cultures.

I found my way down to a lower level where I began browsing the shelves and came across a dusty old book entitled “Early Astrology and Cosmology” by C. P. S. Menon.. The time of year was early January, which is the middle of the dry season in India. In spite of that, the effect of humidity over the years had taken its toll. The building at that time was ventilated with open tiles letting outside air in, no air conditioning. As soon as I pried open the cover the browned pages of the book began to crack and crumble in my hands as I turned them, but the subject matter was absolutely fascinating, delving into early Jain cosmology, which outlined a perfectly logical and empirical explanation for a flat, diamond shaped earth with India at the center. The shifting angle of the sun at the solstices and equinoxes had been accurately measured, and these early astronomers explained the seasonal change by proposing that the sun moved on a larger diamond shaped path, hence further south, in the winter and a smaller, tighter path further north in the summer.  The earth was divided into four quadrants, and by extension, the path of the sun went through twelve squares (or houses) that surrounded the four earthly divisions. Continuing in this manner, by adding more squares like a chess board, the next “ring” had twenty houses, then twenty eight corresponding to the lunar cycle.

Jain Cosmological Map

Jain Cosmological Map

The revelation that empirical measurement could lead to radically different views of reality, given the limitations of our instruments and perspective, struck me as having great significance, and I decided that I must copy the important parts of the book. They had no copier there, and I had no library privileges at the university, so I returned several times to the library copying significant portions of the text and illustrations. I felt like a medieval scribe who had come across one of the great lost works of ancient science, and spent the next several days compiling what I could manage into a notebook. Over the next three months I traveled around India, Nepal, and later to several countries in East Africa, including Egypt with my little treasure. Today I could dig it out again where it sits in a cabinet, certainly in a moldy state by now, down in our basement bedroom where you guys camped out with us.

So yes, the library must remain a part of our world, housing real books. I have a recurring nightmare of a coming dark age when after some unforeseen cosmic supernova sending cosmic rays that fry every electrical circuit on the planet, or even more simply, a malicious hacking of our too fragile Internet that we have come to depend on too heavily, the world plunges back into an age of fragmented knowledge and backward thinking. We are actually doing a pretty good job of this without the assistance of such catastrophes.


Looking for images to illustrate Curtis’s letter I was very surprised to discover that Early Astronomy and Cosmology was published in 1932.  From his description of the dusty old book with brittle paper I imagined it was published in the 1800’s.  I was terribly disappointed and wasn’t sure what to do.  I wondered if Curtis after all these years had forgotten that it was a book only about 20 years older than he.  Now with the internet he could find it digitized on line and for sale at used book shops.  I almost decided not to reprint it here.  I didn’t want to ruin his memory.

But as I thought about it I realized that there is definitely something to be learned here.  Curtis’ nightmare is not inconceivable.  Librarians and archivists have done much to try to preserve originals — climate control, archival acid free storage, limiting usage of delicate items. However there is a great possibility that all of our time and energy spent on preservation, and on digitizing the great books, manuscripts, maps, and documents of civilization, may be for naught.  The digitized versions may be as fragile as the paper or parchment on which they were first written. I suppose it is possible that in the end we will be left with neither .

I recently went to see Frederick Wiseman’s documentary Ex Libris:  The New York Public Library.  Tears ran down my cheeks as certain images of the reading room, the stacks, the exhibits along the halls, the manuscript collections, the map room, the back rooms where the returns are sorted to be sent to the branches or to be put back on the shelves, and the lions flashed on the screen.  Digital books and access to digitized materials in your home while you are in your bathrobe are immediate and efficient, but there is nothing like the old, tried and true and tactical way of browsing and researching in a library.  We who are old enough to have had the experience are fortunate.








C’mon a my house —

My “constant companion and best friend in old age” and I love where we live, and I have written about the little hamlet, the views, the river, the birds, the train, and how wonderful it is to come home to when away.  With that in mind, we have renovated the cottage next door into a Guest House, and are happy to announce our opening of “The Make Your Own Damn Bed & Breakfast”.  We will provide you with the all fixings for your breakfast, and thus offer you privacy and flexibility.

We consider it the perfect Sanctuary for One or a Love Nest for Two, but the cottage can easily accommodate four with the futon in the common space.

It is two floors & open concept. Take a look at the pictures — they speak for themselves.  It has lots of closet space and is ideal for a two person long term stay.

You will have a view of the Hudson River and the Catskills .  You will be a mere football field away from riverside Cheviot Park where you can launch your kayak, canoe or fishing rig, or fish from the pier.  From the small porch you can have coffee and watch the sun come up and the water birds and eagles hunt for fish.  In the sunroom you can enjoy an evening      cocktail and the pinks and greys of the sunset through the clouds. You can see the ice float up and down river depending upon the tides.  You can wave to the New York politicians taking Amtrak from the city to Albany. You can paint, take photos, walk, sleep, read.

Or you can leave the your nest to dine on fun or fine food, drink locally brewed beer and whisky, cook your own meal in a spotless new kitchen using local products purchased at nearby farmers’ markets in season. You can walk Warren Street in Hudson and marvel at how the prices of antiques rival if not top the prices of similar wares in the city.  You can visit your son at Bard, just 8+ miles away.  You can stroll in Rhinebeck, take in a movie, shop the many boutiques.  You can soak yourself in history, music, architecture, dance, art, and take scenic walks and challenging hikes.  All this and more — Gaskins, Tousey Winery, Upstate Films, Olana, Jazz in GTown

And like us, you will find out how wonderful it is come home to our little neighborhood with its view, tranquility and charm.

We hope you will come and stay a night or two.

Details and Bookings




Yes, I am in love but —

I am also misunderstood.  I take the blame.

I am in love with Mahesh Rao who wrote an article about libraries and librarians.  I am in love with the article.  That is what unexpectedly popped up on my screen yesterday morning.

Here is the link to that article: LINK

Not many people read Spoonbeams, so when “likes” come in, as they did for what I wrote yesterday LINK, I’m always very appreciative and try to figure out what there was about my writing that my likers liked.  Very few people who read my “love” post actually clicked on my link.  They didn’t see it?  They didn’t know it was a link?  When I realized what was happening I tried making the link more prominent but that didn’t help.  That’s why you see the awkward links above.

Does it matter what or who they thought I am in love with?  Not really.

This morning’s view from my “eerie” is nice but not as grabbing as yesterday’s. I do like the addition of fisherman down at the landing — especially when, like these two, they are quiet and don’t start fires in the night.  But the sky is not as blue, there are a few stink bugs and flies crawling on the windows, and that clear-cut box in the trees shows up ugly as sin.












The Eastern Shuttle

Earlier this week the Washington Post printed an article about unrealistic expectations by airline travelers.

It starts off with a quote by a veteran flight attendant:

I’m weary of those entitled passengers who are continuously whining and complaining. . . I feel like telling them, “Take some responsibility for your choices.”

The columnist Christopher Elliott then goes on to discuss the airlines’ point of view, which in a nutshell is that you get what you pay for, and if you pick the lowest price, then expect very little in comfort and service, and the cost conscious travelers’ point of view, which is that fees are out of control.

The article continues:

“. . a retired civilian Army employee who lives in Troy, Mich., took his first commercial flight in the early 1950s, and recalls paying just $72 to fly from Washington to San Francisco in 1967. He still has the ticket. In economy class, the flight attendants served passengers steak on real plates, he says.

An  eight dollar plus change, one-way student Eastern Newark to Boston Shuttle ticket from 1967 may be in a box of my lifetime treasures stored under a bed in my house, but it is doubtful. Whenever possible I was on a flight to visit my college beau. Tickets could be purchased ahead of time or at the gate. One just had to show a student card. Simple. There was always a seat.

Checking on line to see what Eastern was now charging for a flight from Newark to Boston, I was surprised to read that Eastern no longer exists. Imagine my delight discovering that Trump actually bought the Eastern shuttle in 1988, that he installed marble-finish lavatory fixtures in them, and that On September 20, 1990, he missed a $1.1 million interest payment for the Shuttle operation.

Back in my 20s and 30s I traveled here and there and a telephone call to any airline would give me all the information needed: what flights were available, the price of a ticket, and the representative would book my reservation on any carrier.

Then for a while I didn’t travel much.  In the meantime, the world got internet, gas went up from 50 cents a gallon (I too do remember when it was twenty something cents), obscenely wealthy people, many of whom seem to be the only people who can get away with arrogant strutting displays of “entitlement” became the airlines preferred passengers, and the number of variables involved in making a reservation exploded.

I don’t feel entitled, but I am going to whine and complain. My complaint is that sorting through the many options when buying a plane ticket takes me hours and gives me angst. I don’t necessarily want to buy the cheapest seat available but I want to understand what I am paying for.

Back when life was simple I didn’t have to think about buying direct or through one of multiple third party sites. I didn’t need to study the nuances of budget, basic economy, economy, flexible economy, business class, first class, privileged class tickets on three or four different airlines. I wasn’t constrained by loyalty clubs.  I didn’t have to worry if my luggage would be accepted or not or where it would be stored and what I could put in the bags that would go in the cabin or in the baggage compartment and what would be confiscated and never returned. I knew that drinks and food would be served.   I could cancel or reschedule my flight without a hassle or a fee.

Not now. Now a ticket on United from Newark to Boston and return on the weekend of December eighth as listed on United’s website could cost me anywhere from $150 to $640. That includes taxes and fees but additional baggage charges could apply. That was yesterday’s price. Tomorrow’s most likely will be different. Do I dare check Delta? or American?

For a while my son who used to book travel for his boss would help me with my flight arrangements, but at this point in my life I have other things to pester him with. Now I go by train or drive, or tag along with friends who book my seats along with theirs, or if left to my own resources, become obsessed with the task — for weeks if time allows.  Perhaps if the airline industry acknowledged its “responsibility” to standardize terminology, to eliminate add-ons,  and to guarantee all of its customers a comfortable flight experience, flight attendants would not have so many complaints about “entitled” passengers, and perhaps I would travel more.

The Two-Legged Ones

Walter Kirn, who writes the “Easy Chair” column in Harper’s, reported on his August visit to Standing Rock  in the December 2016 issue.

In August Standiing Rock was

“a spectacular sight: thousands of Indians camped on the banks of the Cannonball River, on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. . . awaiting a federal court decision on whether construction of a $3.7 billion oil pipeline from the Bakken region to Southern Illinois will be halted.”  — New York Times

On the fourth of December, with thousands still standing ground but now in freezing cold

“the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.” — standwithstandingrock.net

Now on March tenth thousands marched at the White House, for as we know, President Trump with a quick flick of his pen, signed

“an executive order that reversed a decision by the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama to delay approval of the Dakota pipeline, a $3.8 billion project by Energy Transfer Partners LP.” — New York Times

Tribes gathered in D.C. for several days ahead of the protest.
Paul J. Richards/AFT/Getty. Huffington Post

It was a very personal article, quite thoughtful and revealing both about the happenings at Standing Rock and about Kirn himself.  But the highlight in it for me, and the reason I sought out his website which has led me to add his books to my reading list, was the next to last paragraph.  A little mistake caused me to chuckle.  It wasn’t the error that the editor appended to the Letters section in January 2017’s edition, so I know they check for errors.

“Because of an editing error, “Standing Rock Speaks” [Easy Chair, December], by Walter Kirn, misstated the year of the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee. This event occurred in 1973, not 1972. We regret the error.”

Here’s what made me smile.  Kirn wrote:

Photo: Joe McKenna/Flickr Creative Commons

On my way to the camp, I parked along the river’s banks and watched it drag last spring’s Montana snowmelt slowly south across the prairies. There was a crow, of course, yakking on a tree branch, grouchy, ornery. Crows are often considered tricksters, and in some legends crows created the world. But now it is all ours, not theirs. It belongs to us, the two-legged ones.

Crows have two legs, the right one is peaking out from behind the left, believe me.