The After-Life

Approximately 30 nautical miles separate Chesapeake, VA and Coinjock, NC, which translates into about a 4-hour trip for us. We took one more walk around to look for Pokemon and left the marina around 11, taking our shiny new engine with us. Or rather, the other way around.

We usually leave right around the ass-crack of dawn, but, considering the short trip, we decided to leave later and avoid the busiest time for commercial vessels, because as fun as this adventure has been, I’m pretty sure if we got stuck on another stump my mom would feed herself to an alligator.

So, compulsively checking the AIS [a system that commercial vessels and some pleasure crafts use to broadcast their current location, speed, and course—super helpful in the narrow waters of the ICW—would have been sweet if the barge that almost sunk our boat had been using it], we all took a big breath and headed back out into the waters which, to us, were as to the boogey man is to a 4 year old.

I don’t know that tensions could have been higher. We had all definitely lost a bit of our pirate mojo since StumpGate, not to mention that the [kind of mostly sometimes] oiled machine that was our crew dynamic could’ve used a little WD-40.

Every eye was looking for evil stump monsters beneath the dark water; we barely spoke but to point out these dream-killing, havoc-wreaking, life ruiners. Sweat poured down our faces as, if we weren’t already convinced we were in the bowels of Hell, it was literally 105 degrees out and there was little breeze. [Photos below are the kinda BS you have to deal with in the Virginia Cut.]

An hour away would be the infamously-now-titled Black Powder Landing, with our stump lurking beneath, and we’d have to once again idle in front of the troll bridge, where this all began.

A mere ten minutes into our day, traveling nearly at idle speed in order to avoid a tricky spot, the starboard engine oil pressure alarm goes off. My mom runs down to the engine room to find that oil pressure is normal, and concludes that, as happens occasionally with this engine, the alarm was tripped because of our low speed.

Crisis averted. Tensions up. Sweat sweating forth.

A few minutes later. Alarm again. This time, the port and starboard alarms go off, my mom once again runs down to check the pressure to find everything is normal… when the port engine cut out. Completely.

Cue panic at the disco.

Engine starts right back up, no smoke, nothing too scary except that THE PORT ENGINE JUST CUT OUT AND WE JUST LEFT CHESAPEAKE 10 MINUTES AGO. WTEFFINGF.

We make the decision to turn around and go back to Chesapeake, our souls slowing breaking into pieces and drowning in the black water as we make the turn. The most heartbreaking 15 minutes of our lives to this point commences, as my mom calls our mechanic, Jim, and AYB to inform them that, yes, we missed them so much that we just have to see them again.

As we pull up to the dock, A starts to turn around in the channel and the port engine cuts out AGAIN. We get tied up and Jim arrives instantly cause he’s a boss. He checks everything down below, and we spend the next 30 minutes or so working the engine at the dock, and of COURSE we cannot recreate the alarms, the cutting out, anything because obviously the entire sea is out to destroy us.

He adjusts the idle speed on the port engine [which apparently makes sense to people who know things], saying that that could have been the problem, but he doesn’t really have any idea because we couldn’t recreate it when he was there.

Cool, cool.

We head back out into the black waters of death, hoping that this was one last prank being played on us because of our banana faux pas. [HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO APOLOGIZE?]

Photo Jul 14, 1 40 12 PM

This is what Black Powder Landing looks like, sans Black Powder… seemingly innocuous, right?

If tensions were high before… now they were threatening to bust through the ozone. Not even my spontaneous choruses of “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts,” or my hilarious dad jokes could elicit a smile as we once again approached Black Powder Landing. [I don’t understand why no one was in the mood for humor.]

As if things weren’t bad enough, we wound up five minutes late for the opening at First Landing Bridge, and of course the troll who lives there wouldn’t hold it for us [EVEN THOUGH NO OTHER BOATS WENT THROUGH AT THE PREVIOUS OPENING TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLLLLLLLL].

So we spent the most agonizing 25 minutes of our lives idling directly next to the small little cove that started all of these problems to begin with. I mean, what a cruel, cruel joke.

Once we finally went through the bridge and I flipped the troll the bird [like any grown

Photo Jul 14, 6 29 53 PM

Heaven.

adult would do], we spent the next three hours scanning the waters in silence, praying to–of all things– make it to Coinjock.

And make it we did. We were finally out of Virginia. Finally to the capital city of the ICW. We hadn’t eaten all day for fear of immediate regurgitation, and so we ate canned green beans at the restaurant and marveled at the fact that we actually made it.

Cautiously optimistic, we went to bed early, knowing we were not out of the woods stumps yet.

The next day, we left bright and early for Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, a long day that was made longer by the fact that we still had to keep an eye out for stumps until we reached the more open waters of Albermarle Sound, and then again after.

We headed back out into the murky waters, as anxious as the day before as we scanned the surface and then—BUMP.

SILENCE.

WE HIT SOMETHING.

WE WERE ALL WATCHING THE WATER HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

We quickly turned around to see if anything popped up behind us, and listened for any possible engine disturbance. When none came, we took deep breaths in and out, and held each other as we cried, realizing that this trip was never going to contain even one crisis-free day.

This time of year, a pop-up afternoon thunderstorm is more likely than not, and we kept a close eye on the radar and some suspicious looking clouds onshore as we came out of Alligator River [where we, disappointingly saw ZERO alligators] and into Pungo River.

When we arrived at adorable Dowry Creek Marina, it was still 102 degrees and so we decided we would take a quick dip in the pool [score!] before the thunderstorm, which was rapidly approaching, actually hit. The pool was a balmy bath of 94 degrees and it started thundering nearly immediately so, you know, that was not nearly as rewarding as it could have been.

Saturday, we headed down into Pamlico Sound, where, again, suspicious clouds on shore threatened us. Although the radar originally put the storm out of our path, our lives suck, so suddenly more storms were popping up around us and we cut our day early to head for Oriental, NC, still almost 10 miles away.

We made a break for it, battened down the hatches, got out foul weather gear, and headed parallel to the storm, which was rapidly approaching from shore. Winds picked up and rain pelted us in the face as the once-clear horizon behind us was covered in a blanket of gray. Wind gusts brought startling temperature changes that were not unwelcome in the heat, but made it clear we had little time to make it to shore.

[I quickly put on my eye-patch and grabbed my sword, pointing it up to the sky while swinging from the side-rail, maniacally laughing into the face of the storm as lighting flashed and I loudly sang “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me!”]

I was apparently the only one who was having any fun with this. The rain picked up and the storm came closer, as evidenced by my counting on my fingers in between every flash and boom just like in 2nd grade.

Finally, we arrived in Oriental, soaking wet and tired, just in time for the sun to come out, obviously. It was still early, and there was a tiki bar, so. [I made a rule that if we ever stop at a marina with a tiki bar we are required to go.]

It was even better than I expected, with approximately 15 seats and a bartender who smoked at least a pack of cigarettes behind the bar just during our first round. Small plastic cups abounded and we sat next to a hanging bug catcher, the bag of which should have probably been changed years ago. A mullet that put the 80s to shame sat next to my mom and I almost got caught staring too long. [WHY ARE MULLETS STILL A THING]

Sunday, we headed to Swansboro, NC–thankfully a fairly uneventful trip that ended with strong current while docking. The 13-year old dockhands struggled to catch our lines, probably because #1 was distracted by the 85 hickeys on #2’s neck. [WHY ARE HICKEYS STILL A THING] #2 had our bowline and #1 wandered aimlessly back and forth on the dock, ignoring our instructions to catch the spring line.

In order to avoid the boat pulling one of those little twerps [who were trying to hold the boat with their bare hands] into the water, I bided my time, stepped over the rail, and jumped 4 feet down and 2 feet horizontally, misjudging the distance and the width of the decking, and found myself teetering on the opposite edge of the dock, staring into the water. Yo-ho.

My mom and I both passed out before the sun went down and A, while walking Galen, discovered a public concert in town, coming back to get us only to realize we were 85 years old and fast asleep.

Marine navigation is harder than you might think. Especially along the ICW, markers need to be closely heeded, and it’s necessary to obtain local information as well to make sure there hasn’t been any recent shoaling that could put you aground, even when you are following the plotted markers.

Generally, our operation consists of A piloting, while my mom and I navigate using both an electronic chart with our course mapped out, and a large traditional chart which shows most of the markers along the way. Our charts are a little outdated, so we really just follow them to get the big picture of the course, while the electronic chart gives us a more up-to-date course with more accurate plot points.

We also received some very recent, local information from our good friends on Turas, who we met while commiserating in Chesapeake. They are currently heading North, and we got to swap some vital information with each other. [Thanks guys!]

So, there are a lot of sources of a lot of information [sometimes conflicting], in addition to using your actual eyes and brain and watching the depth sounder. As you can imagine, it can get pretty overwhelming. [Definitely compounding our stress levels are our regular night terrors about going aground again.]

A team effort like ours is definitely preferable, but also has its downside, as it means that the pilot very rarely knows all of the information, and has to rely on her mates, which is especially scary when I am one of them.

The trip from Swansboro to Southport was a long day, with a 6am departure time, but the course was fairly straight-forward for a while. I decided I would take my turn at the helm, mainly because I really wanted my mom to have 18 heart attacks, and of course she did not disappoint. The route was a little tricky with some shoaling, and the whole day was spent keeping a close eye and maneuvering tricky areas.

As the day was long, we had plotted out several other stops along the way in case we needed to ditch plan A because of a thunderstorm. We started heading into a very narrow cut called Snows Cut, infested with millions of jet-skis and power boats towing 5 year olds when thunder clouds popped up to our North.

We had a decision to make. It was still close to 15 miles to Southport, into the Cape Fear River. We had just passed a marina on the other side of the cut, but it was a private club. Both of our ditch ports were 7-10 miles behind us, back through the cut and, seemingly, into the storm.

Guys. You know I don’t lie here. I am a gushing, overflowing FOUNTAIN of truth. The Lady Pirates will corroborate the story because I have them on video saying it and they know I won’t hesitate to embarrass them. But I TOTALLY SAVED THE DAY.

A and my mom were going back and forth about where to go, searching for a marina between there and Southport [there were none]. A needed to get a better handle on where we were and started looking at the charts and watching the radar, so I took the helm.

The wind picked up as we headed into the wide open, deep waters of Cape Fear River, but the previous confusion had A looking at the following page of the chart, which has a similar bay that dumps into the Atlantic Ocean.

I have a very visual memory, and I had already mapped out the course in my head, so I KNEW this was not going into the ocean. But, like a child trying to point out something to her parents that would solve the problem they are arguing about, no one wanted to listen to or trust little old me ohhhhhh noooooooo.

Photo Jul 19, 8 12 33 AM

We got here thanks to me, obv.

Realizing I was essentially committing mutiny,but deciding the risk was worth it, I usurped control, righted the chart, took control of the boat and the girl with all the anxiety problems was the only calm one on board for the first time in literally ever. I was totes calm and rational. LOLOLOLOL

WIN.

After our 10½-hour day from [sea-horse] sea Hell, we decided shorter days were best for a while. So, on Tuesday we headed for Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach, just a brief little popover to an adorable seaside stop with shopping and randomly a place to take pictures with TIGERS cause that makes so much sense! Unfortunately it was a million degrees and the tigers looked sad and tired and smelly and the line was stupid so there were enough reasons not to participate.

As Cruise Director, I insisted that we go and have a lady pirate night out. So we all put on real clothes and I even put on makeup and we headed out happy hour hopping to an outdoor restaurant near the boat that allowed the pups, and then to the House of Blues only to realize that it was only 6PM. We sat on the empty deck waiting for the band to start at 7, and barely kept awake OMG YOU GUYS OUR LADY PIRATE NIGHT OUT WAS SO RAUCOUS.

The band started and was actually pretty fun and then oh that’s interesting look at those huge dark clouds behind us.

A looked at us and said, “I was wondering how long it would take you to notice.”

LISTEN. This is the woman who was swimming in the water with me in Virginia Beach and got stung by a jellyfish TWICE and DIDN’T TELL ME because she didn’t want me to “panic.” So, instead, she let me swim in jellyfish infested waters. NOW, she sees a massive storm approaching from behind us and once again—doesn’t tell us.

[Payback is on the way, Cap’n.]

It starts to sprinkle, then rain, the band is covered and so is the bar so we hang out under there for a while until the thunder and lightning and DOWNPOUR AND HAIL start, and they have to shut down the show until it passes.

Now, we still have about a 5-minute walk back to the boat, NBD except that none of us are prepared for a DOWNPOUR.

We duck into the House of Blues gift shop, hoping that the storm would die in the process, and when it didn’t, we decided to brave the storm except—wait a minute, what is that beacon of light coming from that corner of the store?

Photo Jul 19, 8 01 16 PM

You know you’re jealous.

A HOUSE OF BLUES EFFING PONCHO.

Neither of my fellow lady pirates thought it was worth the $5 but I put on mascara that day and actually brushed my hair and now this magical garbage bag with the House of Blues logo on it just shows up and somehow I don’t think it’s a coincidence, so, heels and poncho, we head into the monsoon.

I gotta tell you, the people standing at the doors of their shops watching us run by had quite the show—A, followed by my mom, shoes in hand, and then finally me, WAY behind, RUNNING in a poncho and heels. I didn’t fall [sorry] and they were both super jealous when I got back and I was dry so whatever.

Yesterday, we had another short ride through what lived up to its has description as the most beautiful stretch of the ICW, the Wacamaw River [lovingly referred to by the Lady Pirates as WakkaWakka because it obviously gives us a chance to do our best Fozzy Bear impressions.]

We arrived at WakkaWakka Marina [Wacca Wache], nestled in a calm and serene passage along the ICW, and went to the cute little restaurant for happy hour, where we were forced to drink a rum concoction known as a “Suck-It Bucket.” As it turns out, the owner is from Worcester, MA, and so the bar was adorned with Boston fan gear and we felt right at home.

Today, dolphins surfed our wake and I almost jumped in and made them my BFFLAEAEAEAEs, shrieking the entire time like a very small child. [Idk what it is about dolphins, guys, but I would totally drown trying to befriend them.]

After a 6-hour run we arrived here in McClellenville, which may possibly be Coinjock’s SC rival for most scary awesome desolate back-woods country, and our dockhand has the sweetest handlebar mustache I have ever seen in my life.

Apparently there is one restaurant in town and it looks super fancy so we’ll be heading there in a bit and I’m certain I’ll have a story to tell.

Off to Charleston tomorrow for a Saturday way-lay!

More to come.

xo

Photo Jul 21, 3 28 17 PM

My new besties.

It’s a Marvelous Night for Some Moonshine

Thanks to the banana gods, the sea gods, any real God[s], and Jim, the best mechanic on the face of the Earth, we finally finally FINALLY GOT OUT OF CHESAPEAKE.

Here is a video showing my mom being as excited as humanly possible…

Have you ever seen a happier or cuter face than at 2:01?!

Woah. We had a good run there. Once again, I tip my pirate hat to everyone at AYB, and I wish safe passage on the friends we met while holed up in that funny little place.

[Also, be sure to check out puravidaloop.wordpress.com if you just can’t get enough of the hi-sea hi-jinx, as our new friend Forrest is currently taking his Hatteras on the Great Loop!]

Since it’s been a little while since my last update, as promised, I wanted to first fill you in on some of our excursions while we were trying to keep ourselves from going crazy and/or killing each other while in port. Since pictures are worth 1000 words, and I have a feeling you’ve had quite enough of my words after my last post, here is our time in Chesapeake in [mostly] pictures.

  • We dragged my mom through the Mariners Museum in Newport News, and saw some of the cannons that they my parents used to make replicas of. That’s the Dahlgren gun. You may remember me talking about it in the hilarious and embarrassing RBG Cannons Operational Guide that I mentioned in a previous post. [For those interested, do a little Googling and laugh your face off.]
  • Oh. Yeah. This happened. “To ink or to sink:” that was the question. Stumpy McJerk-Stump didn’t sink us, though it tried, so this was our answer:

    Yep, those are my mom and my legs. It’s not as impulsive as it may look. It was on her bucket list to get a tattoo and since she’s super old now I figured it was now or never.

    In true form, we obviously needed some liquid courage to go through with this, and so we did what we do best, unfortunately maybe a littttttttllee too much [idk it could have been the tequila]. My mom went first [2.5 hour tattoo] and was still super nervous so I gave her a couple of my Ativan [plus side to having a crazy daughter] and–even though it was a normal dose–SHE FELL ASLEEP. LEGIT. ASLEEP. During the most painful part of the tattoo–the shading. Everyone in the tattoo shop thought it was hilarious while I frantically texted my brother and sister-in-law [paramedic and nurse, I know, whatever] to make sure she wasn’t going to die.

    When it was my turn, not only was I sober [didn’t think that through] but also my mom fell asleep on a couch in the waiting area, so I flew solo for those 2.5 hours. Everyone points out that it was my fault, anyway.

    The compass rose & ship’s wheel obviously represent this journey, but also the greater “Journey.” I have an anchor because my mom keeps me grounded and she has stars because she says I keep her reaching for them. [I KNOW, BARF] Whatever you wish your mom was this cool. Props to our artist, Dan at Tattoo Skills in Chesapeake, these are seriously the bomb.com

  • We spent a lot of time in Virginia Beach, just a short ride away. This happened:
    Photo Jun 26, 12 14 51 PM
    Oh, and on the boardwalk, obviously this had to happen. I have no idea how I got them to do this, but I’m certain none of you are complaining.

    Photo Jul 08, 8 03 06 PM

 

  • Also, I told you I got to go back to NYC for a week, where I got to see the love of my life, and also my husband! [Yes, that’s Sara Bareilles, and yes I was three feet from her, and yes we’re currently bffs.]

     

  • Arguably the most fun thing in the world happened when we chartered a pontoon boat for the day, and Copernicus was throughly impressed. Oh, and he and Galen spoon now, so that’s a thing.

     

  • Herry learned to drive.

    Photo Jul 10, 6 35 56 PM

  • Photo Jul 10, 8 43 14 PMAND OMG YOU GUYS POKEMON GO HAPPENED.To all of you killjoys and haters out there: THIS IS HELPING ME RELIVE MY CHILDHOOD AND CONTINUE TO IGNORE THE REAL WORLD, GET OVER IT.

    Luckily, there is a historic monument in Chesapeake, which was right across the canal from us, memorializing the Battle of Great Bridge [history buffs, look it up], SO OBVIOUSLY there were a million PokeStops and a gym and lots of other losers like me and whatever I’m on the water and so I’m like 50 Magikarp candies away from a Gyrados, haterz.

  • Photo Jul 12, 4 24 26 PMAnd last, but CERTAINLY not least. This happened. We happened to “come by” some legit Moonshine, and the first day I made this delicious watermelon cocktail that I named The AYB, obviously after the Atlantic Yacht Basin, our home away from home in Chesapeake.

    Recipe:
    Muddle lemon and mint in a mason jar [yes, the jar is necessary], add 1.25 oz of moonshine [preferable if actually illegal moonshine], top with watermelon puree [just below the jar rim] and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE YOUR BOOTY. Then, top with club soda, a watermelon slice and a mint sprig, and be super fancy.

    The next day, however, the Moonshine Fairy was not impressed and told us we were disgraces and we didn’t do it right, and we needed to celebrate our engine being fixed, and so then THIS HAPPENED:

 

Phew. Stay tuned. I’ll very shortly be filling you in on our post-Chesapeake life. But for now, it’s happy hour.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

xo

 

Three Weeks in Chesapeake[s]

Just an honest warning to my readers:

When I set out to write this blog, I really wanted to make it much more than just a day-to-day rundown of the events, trials and tribulations of us lady pirates on the high seas. I’ve enjoyed writing about my past and my present challenges when my experiences trigger such reflection.

This entry is a little different. Those of you who are only here to follow the trip: thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!! But, if you would rather avoid reading some personal discoveries about politics, religion, and society—just skip this one! No offense taken.

We are finally on our way again [!!!!!!Thank you, Jim, the super mechanic!!!!!!], and when I don’t have three weeks in Virginia to sit and think so much about the world, you will be returned to your regularly scheduled hijinx.

Maybe this is just a self-indulgent writing exercise. Or maybe you’ll enjoy reading it. Don’t be mad, Mom & Dad. I still love you.

Xo

[Skip to Part II if you don’t GAF about anything besides those things pertaining to our trip. Don’t worry, only the NSA is tracking you I don’t have any idea what you read and what you don’t. <3]

landscape-1457107485-gettyimages-512366437

The VIMH (c) made a good point that I should reward you for coming here if you’re disappointed to be missing out on hijinx. So, here’s a picture of a puppy.

 

PART ONE:
The [Seemingly] Infinite Struggle of the Aging Millenial;
or, HOLY SHIT ALL OF MY FRIENDS ARE HAVING BABIES


Don’t tell anyone I told you this
, but I am eternally grateful to my parents.

As the older generations rail against us ‘Millenials,’ and swear that we’re ruining this country because of our laziness, lack of ambition and lack of moral obligation to contribute to society, it seems more and more that our generation, ideologically, are drifting farther and farther away from our parents.

Now, whether or not this makes for some unpleasant, sometimes incredibly heated debates at the dinner table, it’s actually a testament to our upbringing. After all, we were all lucky enough to grow up with parents and teachers who told us, from a very early age, that we should think independently. That we could accomplish anything. That we deserved happiness. That we should follow our dreams. And rainbows and ponies and shit.

Joke’s on you, guys.

I’ve been married now for 6.5 years [yes, we got married very young, no I wasn’t pregnant, and no it wasn’t an arranged marriage], and I hate to admit it, but my husband and I have had to rely on our parents for a lot of support. As 30 careens towards me like a tug and barge on the ICW, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what this semi-dependency means.

Are we failures? Have we failed our parents, our society, our generation, ourselves?

I mean, this is certainly not where I thought I would be at 28.

Ten years ago, 30. Was. Old.

30 meant you had your SHIT together. You owned a house, two cars, had a fulfilling career, maybe some little brats running around, but definitely a healthy 401k, emergency savings, lots of vacations under your belt and savings for the next one. After all, you were given the opportunity to get a solid education, and you were encouraged every step of the way.

When my mom was my age, I was almost 7 years old and my brother was 4. I grew up wanting to be a young parent too, because I could “get it out of the way,” my kids would grow up, and I could move on with my life. I have to say, my parents, at just slightly over 50, have it pretty good… My mom is retired, they’re starting a brand new adventure, and both their kids are married and [mostly] employed and are no longer their responsibility…oh wait.

When we moved to NYC two-and-a-half years ago, although my husband’s new job was more than sufficient for us to afford our apartment, getting it was like pulling teeth from an angry hippo. My parents offered to be a guarantor on the lease, and even that wasn’t enough for our management company.

We were in a bind; I had three days to find us an apartment on my own so my husband could start his job on time. The unit I found was the only one within our price range which was in a safe enough neighborhood, and met even some of the items on our wish list, though that column was definitely outweighed by our concessions. [I am not talking about a super bougie penthouse on the Upper West Side, guys]. Eventually, we had to be a little sneaky, and put the lease under my dad’s name, and pretend he lived there. I mean, come on.

I am at least comforted to know that I am not alone. Lots of my friends and acquaintances also have to rely on their parents’ goodwill occasionally, whether it is for medical bills, classes, rent, or even groceries.

In fact, off the top of my head, the number of friends my age living in the city who needed to have a guarantor on their lease FAR outweighs those that didn’t.

If a disparity exists between my and other Millenials’ experience with this, I recognize that, amidst a series of other contributing factors, I chose a career in the arts, and I do surround myself with like-minded individuals. But, for what it’s worth, it does make it seem like those of us who chose to pursue a less lucrative career path solely because we felt it was our best contribution to society are being punished for following our parents’ advice.

We’re not not contributing; we’re just not contributing in the way that is believed to be the most beneficial to the construct of today’s society.

Listen, it is no secret that the arts are incessantly and increasingly devalued. If it weren’t for Hamilton, I bet you a large portion of today’s children [and young-adults and full-grown adults] may not even know live theater existed—and thank god that there are artists like Lin Manuel-Miranda who have the talent, opportunity, and passion to create such a game-changer.

I could argue until I’m blue in the face that the NEA deserves to be funded more and that the arts need to be taught in the classroom. But the fact is, the generation that is running this show doesn’t necessarily see it that way. And, the majority of Millenials who do care enough to try to convince those in power don’t have enough clout to make our voices heard, because we’re essentially a decade behind our parents in terms of societal development. [It’s pretty hard to inflict social change when the world still sees you in a diaper.]

So. There are more artists because our parents told us we deserved happiness, that we could do anything, and that we should follow our dreams. And, outside of encouragement and the occasional golf clap for our ‘bravery,’ what little public assistance exists to help the arts succeed is stretched so thin that it barely allocates enough to keep established NEA-assisted institutions afloat, never mind fostering growth and allowing for more job creation. But, you, know, the NEA budget should probably be cut.

More artists and less jobs. Less jobs and more ‘artists-as-formerly-known’ entering the workforce at a low-level in places like restaurants: over-educated, under-employed, under-appreciated, unfulfilled, cynical. Which, in turn, leaves fewer jobs for those whose “lesser” qualifications [at least educationally], arguably, are a better fit for the industry.

Push everything down the chain, and suddenly those at the bottom aren’t under-employed, they’re unemployed, making sure that the lower class stays put, firmly under the heel of the Gucci loafer worn by the man at the top. What a tangled web we weave.

And of course this is not just an arts industry issue. This is just one example of what one faction of our generation is struggling with. There are millions of Millenials who chose much more “realistic” career paths who are coping with the same thing us gypsies are. Over-educated, under-employed, a clown-fish swimming in a sea of college graduates, whose degrees are worth what a high school degree was worth when our parents were entering the workforce—oh except that, in fact, to us, they are worth, on average, $33,000 in student loan debt.

So, is it really that Millenials are failing society? Or is society failing us? OR maybe none of us have really had the chance to fail yet cause jeez I’m not even thirty yet and everyone should just relax for a bit and see how things play out.

I’m not stupid; I could have been a lawyer. I’d just rather play one on TV. I didn’t choose this industry because I wasn’t smart enough to do something “realistic.” Believe me, if another career could have made me happy, I would be doing that. A mentor of mine, who has been very successful in this business, always says, “If you can see yourself being happy doing anything else, do it.”

And I did it. I tried that. I was raking in the dough as a commercial loan officer. I had power, I was respected, and, as far as our elders are concerned, I was on my way to being a productive and successful member of society, who was content participating in community theatre for fun after a hard day of work. We had the house and the things and the life and the vacations and the 401ks…but it’s true what they say. Money can’t buy happiness [unless of course we’re talking lottery money, in which case, of course it does don’t be ridiculous].

And my parents taught me that I deserve happiness. So, realizing I wouldn’t be happy unless I pursued the arts, I crawled out from under my rock of depression, set the house on fire and roasted marshmallows on top.

Instead, I opted for the romantic life of the gypsy artist. Ah, yes, isn’t it wonderful and beautiful and exciting? Us gypsies—we graduate from arts school as bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, 21-year-old man and lady-children, with all of the knowledge and energy in the world. We pursue our careers with our big dreams and our big smiles and our shiny degrees and our brand new patent leather tap shoes and our brand new leather character heels [all bought by our parents], and we walk into arguably the most difficult field in today’s society, only to be chewed up and spit back out time and time again, while the world shakes a finger at us for our lack of ambition and our entitlement.

And you know what? We are entitled. Our parents told us so. They told us we were entitled to happiness and we should follow our dreams and we could be anything we want to be! [They probably just didn’t realize all the help we’d need to get there.]

By the way, that was awesome of them. My mom told me a story about how she was a great swimmer as a kid, and she really wanted to join the high school swim team, but my grandfather told her she couldn’t because it was “too masculine.” But still, she loved her dad, had nothing but the utmost respect for him and certainly doesn’t harbor any resentment about not being able to join a silly recreational team.

This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for our parents’ generation, and, if this sentiment also applied to what they believed was their lives’ calling, it could very well have been detrimental to all of their pursuits of ‘true’ happiness. Instead of doing what they were passionate about, many opted for the “realistic,” bread-winning, sometimes back-breaking J.O.B. that fulfilled their responsibility to society, a social structure which largely ignored the fact that some of us have a responsibility to contribute in other ways, whether or not some find value in it.

Don’t get me wrong, all of my grandparents were, in fact, incredibly supportive of my mom and dad’s many business ventures, and, of course always wanted first and foremost, their children’s happiness. But that happiness, as defined by our parents’ parents, is different than that which ours afforded us.

For a second, can you imagine what society would be like if our parents’ parents encouraged them to follow their dreams as much as they did for us? How many more professional musicians and writers would there be? Or how many more explorers and inventors and archeologists? Astronauts?

Maybe society’s focus would shifting away from seeing the dollar as the endgame, and more on using the dollar as a tool for societal development and community success. Maybe those in office would have different agendas, different priorities, would be less driven by who is paying them under the table and more driven by what they think and believe, because they were encouraged to think independently and act with passion.

What I do know is that our parents are paying a price for their encouragement, much later into our lives than they probably originally anticipated, and for that sacrifice, I am eternally grateful.

Uber-Puppies

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.

PART TWO:
My Parents’ Greatest Disappointment;
or, More About My Past You May or May Not Care About

When I started this entry, my original goal was to share an important experience that I had here in Chesapeake, but my long-windedness kinda swept it away from me. Sorry about that.

But I realized I had more to say. And, of course, that is really what I set out to do with this blog. Not just to regale you with tales of the high [and low] seas, and make you jealous of my tan, but to find my voice, and define my self. Guess what, guys? Three weeks in Chesapeake, VA affords a lot of time for self-reflection.

That being said, the preceding tangent came organically and provided necessary insight and meaning to this experience for me; hopefully, it will do the same for you.

When you spend three weeks at a marina having repairs done, you start to get to know the people around you. Whether it’s hosting an impromptu happy hour to get to know other transient boaters who may also be waiting for repairs, or saying “good morning” to all of the [really effing hard] workers in the boat yard, these interactions definitely make it feel a bit more like a home rather than a prison.

Captain A’s father and stepmother spent about 15 years after their retirement cruising up and down the ICW, and Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake was a regular stop for them. Through their time there, A’s stepmom, C, became acquainted with some of the guys in the boatyard, and they invited her to Sunday service at their black Baptist church. After that, they would actually drive every Sunday they were at AYB and pick her up to bring her to their service. She is beloved at the church and remembered very fondly by the entire congregation, and so she had called friends from the congregation to let us know that we were there so we could say hello.

One of the first people we met while they were hauling the boat out of the water, I’ll call him Reggie, found us nearly immediately and wanted to talk to us about “Sister C,” as they all called her. He invited us to attend Sunday service that weekend, since we were held up waiting for repairs. An agnostic, lapsed-Catholic, out of respect for his invitation and the curiosity I had for the entire experience, I planned to attend Sunday morning with A [my mom dutifully attended mass at a nearby Catholic church].

[This is like a choose-your-own-adventure. Skip to Part 3 if you don’t GAF about my life and just want to hear the story I just teased you with. <3]

As I said before, my parents gave me all of the tools I needed to think independently, but, like most parents do, they did this while also presenting me with information that would help me align myself to their beliefs. And while I’ve since separated from many of those, I have adoration and respect for their resolve and commitment.

I was privileged enough to be sent to Catholic school for all of my education. Catechism and church were a big part of our lives growing up. We went to church every Sunday [even on vacation, JEEZ] and we were expected to participate and be respectful.

My freshman and sophomore year of high school, I found myself a community within our youth group, and sang with the band that played at the upbeat, youth-centered mass. My high school was outside of my hometown, and so the church provided me with lots of opportunities to interact with kids from my town. [Ironically, though we didn’t start dating until our senior year, this is where I reconnected with my now-husband, 8 years after he was expelled from our Catholic kindergarten and banished to public school after mooning the gym teacher.]

I even went voluntarily to a conference for young Catholics that included prayer and nightly Christian band concerts and workshops. And, I loved it. I believed in it. I still remember being at one of the nightly worship concerts and praying for a sign from God that he was there and he was listening. I thought, “If only there could be thunder.” And it thundered. Clear night. One clap of thunder. Right after I prayed for it. The summer after my freshman year, it was a defining moment for me. Though I’ve tried, I still can’t explain this today.

After two years, the Diocese decided that the youth mass was no longer appropriate, and our church had to do away with the band and the fun, and the draw for youth participation unsurprisingly disappeared, but for a few. The group had provided us with wholesome social interactions within the context of religion and worship and a safe place for us to go to express ourselves, whether or not we would end up as devout leaders of the Catholic Church.

I believe the thought was that the group was too focused on social activities, and, unfortunately for them, they failed to realize socialization is perhaps the most effective way to squeeze enthusiasm out of moody pubescents. I don’t know how else you could get a roomful developing teenagers to voluntarily go on a Sunday night to an event which started and ended with singing the Hail Mary. Apparently, the program was a concession that the Diocese was content with, although, to be blunt, I think it was pretty stupid.

After the program stopped, and I became more involved with other things, my passion for Catholicism waned, though I continued to sing at mass weekly, and my high school curriculum made it so I wasn’t able to easily forget the catechism of the Church.

I remained a cautious believer.

When I entered the collegiate world, though I attended a Catholic university, the rapid influx of information made my world spin and made me seriously think about how I felt about the Church and about religion in general. As much as my parents gave me access to all of the information in the world, and permission and the opportunity to learn it, I hadn’t yet been interested in seeking out my truth. I found myself unprepared to defend myself when someone would use an argument that I realized made more sense to me.

Fast forward. I eventually found myself far too far away from the Catholic Church’s social teachings, and since then, have found myself content believing that every part of the world runs on the same energy [I know, Mom, I’m sorry you think that makes me earthycrunchygranola-y], and that the energy you put into the world is what comes back. I also tend to think that religion is mainly semantics, and that ideologically, we are all here to follow the same rules of humanity, no matter which prophet preached it.

I am grateful to my parents, and in my opinion, think that my education in school and at home greatly crafted the moral compass that guides my decision making day-to-day. But, with no intended disrespect, I do find myself far away from my parents’ beliefs today, and I struggle with the fact that that hurts them.

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You earned this.

Once again, though, this is a situation that I have found many Millenials struggling with. Born into the information age, we constantly have to comb through new facts and opinions, and to “believe like a child,” as the Bible instructs us to do, is increasingly
difficult, especially in a society that is also so centered on education and logic, in which it can become challenging for religion and logic to coexist.

I do have to admit, though, that I am envious of those that can honestly and openly “believe like a child,” since the uncertainty about whether or not there is a meaning to life invokes a thought process that can send anyone with a mental health disorder spiraling into a depressive episode.

 PART THREE:
Why Can’t We Be Friends?;
or, The Culmination of Every Thought I’ve Ever Had

[You guys still with me? I don’t blame you if you skipped ahead. This has been quite the ride, for me too.]

Back to Chesapeake.

At Reggie’s and the church’s invitation, A and I set off on Sunday morning for the 8am service. Apparently the 11am is the more popular of the two, but…. We were going to the beach… sooooo…

We knew that Reggie played bass in the church band [and spoiler alert he’s fierce], and so we didn’t expect to see him until after the service. And, although C knew many of those in the congregation, we didn’t know a soul and had no idea what to expect.

We arrived at 7:55 to find that there were no more than four cars in the parking lot. We sat in the car, already as anxious as I’ve been for an important audition, waiting for more cars to arrive. At this point, I got A to agree that we would absolutely NOT be going in to this church if there were only four cars.

Maybe it sounds ridiculous to have been nervous. But, guys, here’s the thing. I’ve had the privilege to never be uncomfortable in a room where I’m the minority. I wasn’t sure that we would be accepted, or if we would be looked at as if we were the enemy, voyeuristic in the worst of ways.

My concern, walking in blind, was that inside that church we would encounter the deeply carved side effects of years of systemic racism, head-on. I had no basis to expect this except for my own personal culpability for being born white. [And, despite what some media will tell you, that’s OK. In fact, a little bit of guilt is an honest, human response to a problem that some continue to argue no longer exists.]

At 7:59, as the parking lot started to fill, I put on my big girl panties and we went inside, determining that being late would definitely be worse than not going at all.

The doorman looked at us a little confusedly as we walked in to their beautiful new facility, but as we entered the auditorium, we were immediately greeted by C’s friends, clearly active members of the congregation, with radiant smiles that made my armor crack just a bit.

But, everything inside of my Catholic-educated brain anxiously looked at the clock as we made our introductions, as a Catholic mass virtually NEVER starts late.

At around 8:05 or so, the band came in and a couple of deacons led the church in, what we eventually figured out was, informal worship. [Naively, I thought this was the real service.] As they were singing and leading, people we coming in, greeting other members of the congregation, speaking at not a disrespectful, but a normal volume.

Our new friends made a few more introductions, as everyone wanted to meet C’s stepdaughter. They happily greeted us and made small talk in the back of the church. And I. Was. NERVOUS. OMG YOU DON’T HAVE PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS IN CHURCH WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU’RE GOING TO GET US ALL IN TROUBLE GOD IS WATCHING.

We quietly, politely and uneasily returned to our seats, and we were told that the reverend wanted to meet us and would be coming over shortly.

The two deacons who were leading the pre-service worship—can I just say—were having the TIME OF THEIR LIVES. Such joy emanated from them up at their pulpit, they danced and sung and didn’t care what key the song was in and, as parishioners trickled in [in their Sunday BEST—now I actually know what that means OMG those ladies were FIERCE] they greeted their neighbors and participated in the worship, audibly responding and giving it ALL.

The reverend, as promised, asked us to come out in the hall for a minute and chatted with us happily about our travels, about “C,” and welcomed us wholeheartedly. He told us that they would be introducing us [GULP] and that we were encouraged to participate.

We all returned to our seats and the service started [ohhhhhhh, now it’s starting] at about 845. A woman came to the pulpit and said that we should stand up if it was our first time in the church, and introduce ourselves. Crickets. We couldn’t avoid it, everyone obviously KNEW WE WERE THE WHITE PEOPLE. Sweaty palms. Heart racing. WHY WAS I SO NERVOUS THESE ARE JUST PEOPLE.

Everyone in the church looked around, surveyed us [and a few others], as we introduced ourselves [I stuttered a maximum of 6 times so it was a good day], everyone applauded and—it was genuine. It wasn’t like, “oh Reverend is watching us so we better pretend to be nice.” No. They were legitimately happy for us to be there.

I egotistically thought my skin’s phosphorescence was betraying me. When in fact, the only judgment in earshot was that which I had passed before I entered that church, when I feared the congregation wouldn’t accept us. In reality, they were just happy to have another soul in that service, contributing to their worship.

Now, as I’ve said, I don’t follow a specific religion at all. But, I also didn’t feel compelled or pressured to fake it. I participated when I thought it was expected, I grooved to their amazing music, and I just listened and observed. And the energy and the love and the positivity were just electrifying.

I am once again, like I was in the moment, brought to tears as I write this and remember the service and how I felt when we left the building, escorted out by several members of the congregation, hugging goodbye and asking to take a picture to send back to C.

As you may be able to tell by the fact that it has taken me so long to write this entry, I really struggled with how to share this experience. As the time went on, it became more and more difficult. I shared my experience and my desire to tell the story with several of my friends of color because—I didn’t want to get it wrong! I didn’t want my naïve little white woman lady brain to undermine the importance of the experience.

Because.

I am a racist.

I wish I could say I wasn’t. I don’t try to be. I don’t want to be. I have lasting, important relationships in my life with people of color. I’m not ignorant, I’m not a bigot, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been programmed to have instinctual reactions that are racist in nature. It doesn’t mean that at night, alone on a street in NYC, I don’t get the slightest bit nervous when a group of black men are walking towards me.

I was born into a world where systemic racism is still rampant. The only difference is that now we’re supposed to pretend it’s all better and act as if we have no more work to do, while the very people whose backs this nation was built upon are still trying to claw and scratch their way up the narrow ladder of a system that was built against them.

Segregation is no longer legal, but discrimination still exists. Black men & women have the same rights and opportunities as white men & women, and we have a black president, but inner-city school children still struggle, have a much lower graduation rate, and are more likely to be involved in illegal behavior and face incarceration because they are still unable to rise above their class.

We didn’t do our job well enough. We didn’t help. We passed a couple laws and then told them they should feel better. We didn’t solve the problem. The problem is not “fixed.”

The black community is crying out for our help and, though we will travel across continents to help underdeveloped countries, we refuse to lend a hand to those here at home that need us most.

Our parents were born in the same decade that, 100 years after the emancipation, finally saw the end to discrimination. There are still millions of black Americans who lived through it. Who lived in fear. Who lived through segregated bathrooms, and schools, and WATER FOUNTAINS WTF. Our grandparents still said “colored” at the dinner table, without even meaning to be politically incorrect.

To believe that it is “all better” is to ignore facts and turn a blind eye to those in need, so that our consciences can be clear and we can sleep at night.

I hope to live to see a world where prejudice and racism is no longer systematic, and we can all co-exist and embrace each other’s differences. I hope my kids aren’t burdened with the same racism that I am burdened with. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we click our red sparkly heels, the world doesn’t change over night.

We went to this service two weeks before two more black men were murdered by police, three weeks before a black man murdered several policemen in retaliation, and watched as several peaceful and some not-so, protests broke out across this nation.

Every night before I go to sleep, all I can think about is that service.

Every time I read another news story and I put the proverbial flag in my head at half-mast, all I can think about is that service.

I wish everyone would reach out and just try to understand each other a little better. Listen. Engage. Those of us that can recognize racism in ourselves have an obligation to try harder. To educate. To be an ally. To take a chance and walk into an all-black church, just to come an ounce closer to understanding a community we know nothing about, but claim to.

During a particularly hilarious manic episode a couple of months ago, I sat up in bed until about 3am ferociously scribbling in a notebook about how I was going to change the world and end racism. My handwriting was mostly illegible, and I found myself embarrassed reading through my notes the next morning.

My idea involved the #tokenblackfriend and #tokenwhitefriend [I know, it is completely mortifying], purposefully politically incorrect to start the conversation about how we need to make an actual effort to reach out and understand each other at the most basic of levels: as friends. It meant people of every race purposefully reaching out, awkwardly and uncomfortably, and integrating into each other’s lives.

A Millenial solution for our parents’ and grandparents’ problem.

It could never work, I recognize that. The thought itself is probably so ridiculously offensive to some people that as I’m writing this I’m considering deleting it. [But, hey, my manic little brain was sure trying hard.]

We all bleed red. [I’m pretty tan right now, guys, and I keep falling on this damn boat and the color of my blood hasn’t changed at all I’ve checked.]

We all pray or hope or—IDK whatever it is you personally do—for happiness and strength and health and prosperity for ourselves and our loved ones and we all sleep and dream and wake and laugh and cry and yell and learn and work and grow old and love. And love. And love. And love.

That’s all that was in that room, guys. Love. No race, no resentment, no fear, no hate, no color. Love. That, to me, is god.

I will now return you to your regularly scheduled hijinx.

xo

Photo Jul 20, 9 07 38 AM

❤ ❤ ❤