She is a Shipwreck: Fringe PVD

After about 9 months of painstaking work, my co-writer Kevin Jaeger and I have completed our labor of love: She is a Shipwreck, featuring an original score by Mr. Jaeger and composer Jason Sager.

And…… [drumroll please] I’m thrilled to announce that the first workshop production of the show will be featured in the Providence Fringe Festival at the end of July!

[VIMH(c): You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.]

Nope, no joke. Yes, I have all of the feelings about bringing this intensely personal story back home for its first workshop production, alas: no pain, no gain. Or something like that.

Based on my writings from last summer, here is the synopsis of our little play:

It’s her first night back in New York City after a three-month trip on a boat and all Alyssa wants to do is go back to normal. Normal, of course, means going to a bar to escape. Instead, Alyssa finds herself wrapped up in a conversation with a man at the bar about her three months on Black Powder and the more she spills, the more Alyssa feels surrounded by the wreckage of the life she left on land. Written by Alyssa Champagne and Kevin Jaeger with a vibrant and original score by Mr. Jaeger & Jason Sager, She is a Shipwreck tackles issues of mental health and heartbreak with a sharp wit and brutal honesty we all crave in life, but often only find in a bar.

I’m thrilled to be surrounded and supported by brilliant minds. Aside from the amazing original score by Kevin & Jason, the show is directed by New York-based genius Kelly McCready and features NYC’s own incredibly talented Matt Weiss as “Man.” [super original character name, we know.]

I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky as to collaborate with these ridiculous people.

Kevin’s first musical, Spot on the Wall, was an official selection of the 2015 New York Musical Festival Next Link Project and named one of the top two productions at the 2016 Chicago Musical Theater Festival. Kevin also hosts Broadwaysted, a popular and hilarious theater podcast featured on BroadwayWorld.com and available on iTunes. Composer Jason Sager is a talented singer/songwriter based in NYC.

The show will have two performances, July 26 at 10pm and July 27 at 7pm, at the Waterfire Arts Center Garage, 475 Valley St, Providence.

Tickets are $12, can be purchased at the door, and include a free beer (for those over 21), because Alyssa doesn’t like to drink alone.

[VIMH(c): Usually you just drink with me.]

Good point, VIMH.

Anyway, come check it out if you’re in the area, and stick around for a drink after if you feel so inclined.

xox

 

 

Bon Voyage [again]

Ah shit. The cursor is blinking at me again.

How do I start [over]?

[VIMH(c): …]

Thanks for nothing, asshole.

Well first, let me say sorry for the cliffhanger [again]. While part of me delighted in the symmetry of it, after starting my blog almost exactly one year ago in the same fashion, and while I’d like to pretend I did it on purpose, really my flight was just boarding and I had to go.

Somehow scored the exit row on this flight so. already winning today.

Where am I going?

Miami. [Party in the city where the heat is on. #WillSmithisacrazyscientologistnow]

After my trip last summer, I thought long and hard about what I was doing with my GD life. Yes, I am first and foremost an actor–that part of my identity is solid. But the intense depression that enveloped me after returning to my serving job in the city was due to more than just a lack of Vitamin D and the loss of my lady pirate tan [although this definitely was a large part of it].

My trip made me realize how much boating is a part of me, and how I need to make it a larger part of my life. As cliche as it may sound, I don’t have another way to say it: I need the sea.

Now, being rent-poor and destitute as a single lady pirate living in NY [guys it’s not at all like Friends], my resources are a bit limited as far as this goes. BUT. If I could find a way to do it as a job…

After hanging with our hired captains last summer, I thought about how fucking cool it is that they make a living making boat deliveries and charters, etc. The cold, hard truth is that all actors need a back-up plan, and food service is NOT an industry I want to find myself in much longer as I generally don’t enjoy having my soul sucked out of my asshole day in and day out. Idk maybe that’s your thing but it sure ain’t mine.

So why couldn’t I try to make a career out of my other passion? I mean, as an actor, I entered  into literally the hardest industry ever, why not choose another incredibly difficult industry to jump into?

[VIMH(c): We’re never going to have money, are we?]

Le sigh. Sorry Mom & Dad.

Now, to be honest, since I had this thought, I haven’t been very proactive, mainly because IDK MAJOR LIFE SHIFTS AND SHIT.

I had mentioned to Anne [remember her? our captain from last summer?] that this was something I was interested in, and so how lucky was I to get an email from her a few weeks ago saying that our hired captain, John [remember him? he took us across the Gulf?], had hired her to do a delivery with him and would I like to go?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nah. No thanks.

JK OBV

So here I am, on Delta flight 2175 en route to Miami, as crew on the Sea Eagle, whose final destination is St. Thomas, BVI. [BECAUSE WHO NEEDS TO PAY RENT? LOLZ]

Our journey will take approximately 3 weeks, weather permitting, and will take us through the islands of the Bahamas until Turks and Caicos, where we will go offshore for approximately 5 days to Puerto Rico [sharks and storms and shipwrecks oh my].

So, I decided to dust off the domain and come back to fill y’all in as we go along.

Simultaneously, back in NYC, I am actually pursuing my other passion, as my blog material from last summer is being adapted into a play with original music. It is intensely personal, as you can imagine, and so I’d like to think that I am being brave two times at once. Go figure.

I will be performing a reading of the show, She is a Shipwreck, in NYC when I come back to dry land, and then in RI this summer, but more about the show later.

For now, we’re about to land in Miami and I’ll soon be instructed to turn off and stow all electronic devices, so I shall sign off. Can’t wait to meet Sea Eagle and start this ridiculous adventure.

Stay tuned, salty dawgs.

Xo

She’s Baaaaack

Fish[c]e and Cowardi[sh]ce

[yeah, that title is a stretch]

Hi World.

Long time no talk.

About 9 months to be exact. Enough time to grow a tiny human inside of me and birth it into the world. JK of course I didn’t do that because babies are gross and frightening as HELL.

I digress.

For those of you that were following along on our trip, I left all [7] of you in a pretty unfair way, and for that, I apologize. [SPOILER ALERT: We DID make it to Texas, and we DIDN’T die in the Gulf on our 55-hour offshore escapade like my abrupt drop off the earth made it seem.]

The trip was actually spectacular, as we were enGULFed [see what I did there] in both the natural beauty of the wide open gulf [sunrises and sunsets, rainbows and rainstorms], and simultaneously enGULFed [lolz i’m so clever] in a different kind of beauty provided by human ingenuity, the product of which manifested itself in the oil rigs that lined the channel that we traveled.

gulf

Rainbow, meet Sunset. Gulf of Mexico, August 28.

At night, the rigs lit up brilliantly, a runway of sorts. In the capable hands of our captains, John and Bryan, the lady pirates were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

[How did that feel, you ask? To have to give up control to a couple of *men* after a summer that would make the suffragettes proud, defying every chauvinistic asshole in the south that said, “THREE LADIES? WHERE IS THE MAN???”

I won’t lie. It felt a bit like cheating. But on the flip side, it felt a bit like being the brave ladies we were, and knowing when something was beyond our expertise, and deciding that instead of worrying that we would be run over by a container ship crossing the channel in the night, we’d have a little vacation of our own. After all, we had fucking earned it.]

And a ride it was. Six foot swells rocked and taunted us, beautifully clear skies providing false hope for a calm passage. Even with the stabilizers, our couch was once again in the middle of the galley, crockpot full of chili in the sink for stabilization.

On the second day, I slept in [relative term. read: until about 8am] and woke up to the violent thrashing of our big girl and screaming. SCREAMING. SHIT.

I run upstairs expecting to see the engine room on fire or a giant great white shark-monster chomping on the back end of Black Powder. [are there great whites in the gulf? idk probs] Instead, reaching the top of the stairs to the pilot house, I was greeted by John, riding out the violent bucking of our big girl and, a big smile on his face, “WE’RE CATCHING FISH!!!!”

Indeed we were. Bryan, a ridiculously experienced fisherman, had our severely underprepared-for-the-fish-monsters-of-the-gulf fishing gear out in the water and my mom had a tuna on her line. [i think. i honestly don’t remember what kind of fish it was. are there tuna in the gulf? idk probs. remember this was a whole baby ago.]

When I tried my hand at this whole fishing thing, I snagged something so big it broke the line and we lost our good lure. Bryan said I hooked a wahoo. Look them up on wikipedia, those guys are huge and they’re CRAZY. [remember when we weren’t allowed to use wikipedia as a source? dumb]

Anyway. That night I got in trouble cause I was being dreamy and fell asleep under the stars on the bow but John and Bryan had no idea I was out there and I could very well have fallen overboard and no one would have known and in hindsight it was pretty stupid but omg those stars tho

Pulling into Galveston, as was fitting for this trip of ours, though we had beautiful weather all day, a torrential DOWNPOUR was what we were awarded with, visibility destroyed and hair soaking wet. FUCK YOU GALVESTON.

galvestonarrival

Soaking. Wet. But arrived.

My dad met us on the dock and, in true lady pirate fashion, we drank to our success.

End of story?

Sure.

Is that what you want to hear?

Then there you go. There’s a cute little surface-scraping story about our cute little boat trip in which nothing life-altering happened.

[VIMH(c): remember me, bitch?]

All too well, VIMH, all. too. well.

[VIMH(c): tell them. tell them why you didn’t finish your story]

Full disclosure. I’m at the airport right now, at 9am, 3 hours early for my flight because JFK was supposed to be a shit-show but it was totally fine and therefore I am 3 hours early and so obviously I found the bar and a couple screwdrivers and I’m buzzing before the clock hit double digits. Why am I at the airport? Ah. That’s my reason for writing but we’ll get to that. ‘Cause suspense and stuff.

So why didn’t I finish?

It was too overwhelming. I made personal discoveries along the last few legs of that trip which I briefly discussed in my final entry but which rocked my world in a way that I didn’t know how to confront at the time.

So. My bad.

When I started off writing this blog I promised a level of honesty that I was incapable of following through with.

So instead I did what any good writer would do, and stopped writing.

[VIMH(c): Coward.]

Yeah, I guess so.

I came back from our trip a changed human. Unsure and afraid. So, I blew my life up again. I am now divorced from a man who loved me so and who tried so hard to show me that I could live his way, and force happiness when in fact, I had discovered that I could not. In hindsight, I did not do it in the right way. I dragged it out, again cowardly awaiting his revelation of the fact which I already knew: that we weren’t right for each other any more.

A product of my illness? Time will tell, but I don’t think so.

I achieved a clarity of mind on our trip unlike anything I’d felt before or I’ve felt since.

Yes, we were young. 16 and 17 when we started dating, we married at only 22 and 23. At the time, we were convinced that there was nothing else in the world for us. To be fair, at the time, we were also convinced that Lost was the best TV show that could ever exist [when it’s clearly Newsroom or Homeland] and also that life would bring us endless opportunity and bliss. LOLZ

I do believe that people come in and out of each others’ lives for a reason. [i’ve heard it said… sorry the musical theatre nerd in me will always prevail ] I do not regret one second of my marriage or my relationship with my ex-husband. I believe that we were meant to survive our 20s together. And survive we did. And though he should have left me years ago, he stuck through it and for that he deserves an award. He’s a catch, ladies. Find him in LA and line up.

We split up the pups and so my summer with Copernicus will be one I will treasure forever.

copernicusbow

Copernicus on the bow. Keeping watch. Gulf of Mexico, August 29, 2016.

OK. Now that THAT’S over and I’m crying in public at this hotel bar, sitting next to an empty screwdriver and an entire bachelorette party…

Why did I resurrect myself from the grave and come back to grace you all with my presence?

Well, I’m doing something stupid again.

#suspense

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

❤ ❤ ❤

What’s the difference between…

…Port Authority and a crab with breast implants?
One is a crusty bus station and the other is a BUSTY CRUST-ACEAN.

Get it? Just a little dad joke for you in honor of Father’s Day.

Anyway, we last left our heroes in Atlantic City, and, though their change of luck didn’t help at all in the casino, it did seem like things were actually looking up…

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Out on the town in Atlantic City

 

PART ONE: Training Wheels;
or, Does Anyone Have a Functioning Easy Button?

Saturday we woke up to a beautiful, calm morning and left for Cape May, NJ, dolphins surfing our wake the whole way there.

[insert laughing-so-hard-he’s-crying-cat emoji]

You didn’t think it was that easy, did you?

After several long days, all of the BS of the first week, and a lack of true way-lay days, we were tired, hung-over and more than a little burnt out.

Let me take this moment to educate those of you non-boat people who don’t know about the docking process. First, when you arrive at your destination, there are a few options. You can grab a mooring in the harbor, which is basically a huge floating anchor that you rent, you can drop your own anchor in designated spots, or you can pull up and dock. For obvious reasons, docking is much more convenient, as you can hook up to shore power [so your West Wing Netflix binge doesn’t have to end], and with three dogs, you can bring them ashore without having to launch the dinghy [ours is obviously named Loose Cannon].

At first glance, it probably seems pretty easy, right? I mean, it should just be like parking a car, and the hardest thing about parking a car is parallel parking, and I happen to be really great at that so I don’t know what you are all complaining about.

In reality, the only way docking a boat would be the same as parking a car would be if, while you were trying to park, the concrete constantly morphed and moved and the curb threatened to gauge into and destroy your Range Rover, oh and then you had to jump OUT of the car while it was still moving [sometimes like a good 4-5 feet down] and lasso a fire hydrant to pull your 2-ton vehicle in with your bare hands, trying to avoid having it pull you off of the curb and on to the street in between the car and the curb which basically at that point is as dangerous as falling into a volcano that is due to erupt.

Add tide and wind into the equation [which could either be pushing you towards the curb or away from the curb], upgrade your Rover to the super heavy-duty model [making it a mere 34 tons], and then place a whole bunch of other 34+ ton vehicles all around the empty parking space, all of which will contain people who gawk at you while you try to park, starting a sweat storm rivaling that of a whore in church.

[It’s pretty much the best entertainment of the day to watch a new transient come in to port and try to fit into a space they’ve never been into before, or pick up a mooring when it’s super windy, so long as they aren’t anywhere near your boat. Especially when it’s a shiny, brand new powerboat and it’s clear the captain did not think through his decision to buy a boat and he thought it was going to be a lot more fun and easy than this and his dogs are barking and his children are crying and it’s raining and you know his wife is going to divorce him as soon as she gets off that GODFORSAKEN PIECE OF—It’s awesome. Boat people are terrible.]

Basically, it takes practice. Lots of it.

My dad is generally the master of the docking, and he’s got it down pat [after the one time on our way up the ICW when the dockhand tied a line on too soon and the tide was ridiculous and he tried to back up without knowing that he was tied on and so the stern of our boat swung into a beautiful 100-foot yacht and its million-pound anchor ripped clear through like 4 of our stanchions, just narrowly missing fiberglass].

On this trip, A is handling most of the dockage, but my mom can do it even though she doesn’t think she can, so she practices when it’s an easy slip to get into/out of. Also, generally, we’ve been asking for face docks, which is basically an end space, so we don’t need to slip in between other boats. The technique of actually helming the boat in to dock is seriously difficult and stressful and, as A keeps saying, the whole time all she can think about is how she doesn’t want to break my parents HOUSE.

So we have our Captain: A. We have our Admiral/First Mate: my mom. So besides just being along for the ride, my titles on board are as follows, not necessarily in order of importance: Chief Stew [aka galley wench, there is some division on board regarding whether or not we like that word but whatever I’m the cook]; Chief Historian; Chief Technology Supervisor; Chief Musician and DJ; Chief Drunk; Chief Yoga Instructor; and Chief Dockhand.

As dockhand, I get the lines and fenders [cushy bumpers to protect the boat] ready for dockage, and take them all in and put them away as we leave port. I’m usually the first person off the boat when we come in, and the last one to jump back on as we leave. A lot of the marinas we’ve been to have had dockhands that will catch our lines, and whichever of my fellow lady pirates isn’t at the helm will help if and when possible.

Compared to actually helming the take-off and landing, my job sounds pretty easy, and usually it is.

However, there are some intricacies when it comes to getting off successfully, one of which is deciding, based on wind and tide and room and other factors, which lines to remove and in which order. Generally, you want the wind and tide to help you off [and on] if at all possible, so making a careful decision in this regard can help swing the boat in a particular direction, and take some of the heat off of the skipper.

Depending on the conditions, we usually tie up with four lines: one from the bow, one from the stern, and two spring lines, which run from the center of the boat, crisscrossing. Springs are used to hold the boat close in place, preventing an unceremonious slam against the dock while you’re nestled in your bunk at 2am. That’s a lousy wake-up call.

[PHEW. That was a long lesson. There will be a multiple-choice test following this entry.]

Back to Saturday morning. Atlantic City. Tired. Hung-over. Brains not really functioning at full capacity.

The water was flat calm, there was virtually no wind, and we were on the end of a dock that was empty besides us. Piece. Of. Cake.

My mom takes the helm, because, duh it’s going to be so easy.

Then, we notice that there seems to be some sort of kayak race coming through the harbor, the course of which was directly perpendicular to ours. So, engines running and lines nearly prepped to go, we decide to wait it out. 5, 10, 15 minutes go by, and it seems like they’re done. So, the engines go back on, the lines get re-prepped and—wait a second—it looks like they’re sending out another wave. Another 5, 10, 15 minutes go by, I’m now standing on the dock and my mom is at the helm, and we decide to make a break for it.

I release the bow and stern lines. We have decided to use the spring to swing the bow out to port. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to release that last spring line from on board, so you rig the lines up so that both ends are secured to the boat and there’s just one loop on the cleat on shore, and, when ready, you just swing it off and be on your merry way.

I’d done this just a few days before with no problems. Only thing was, the last time, A had prepped the lines for me. This time, I was supposed to do it. Oops.

As we are above to move away from the dock, A looks at me, incredulously, and tells me to get on the boat… DUH. I forgot I was doing the spring from the boat this time. Holding the end of the line in my hand, I run back to the stern and attempt to get into the boat from the swim platform. Except it’s locked.

Now, with the very, very end of the line in my hand, by body stretched out to capacity, I start shouting for someone to come and unlock the swim platform! They don’t hear me. UNLOCK THE SWIM PLATFORM. A finally hears me and lets me in. I climb the side rail and crawl over to the starboard side.

The bow swings out, but the spring is still wrapped around [but not secured to] the cleat on shore. I manage to swing it around a couple of times so that there is just one wrap on it, hanging off the side rail of the boat like a true pirate, end of the line in hand.

End of the line in hand.

The end of the line is not supposed to be in my hand, it’s supposed to be attached to the boat. This is the communication that followed:

A: Lyss, attach the spring! Attach the spring!
Me: Attach it to what? Wait—what? Where is it supposed to be?
A: Attach it to the boat! Cleat it off!
Me: [scrambling to get to a cleat.]
My Brain: ::whhrrrrrrrrrn:: [powering down, lights flicker, goes dark. back-up generator powers up, running on fumes]
Me: [looking up to A] I don’t understand.
A: Lyss! To the—
Mom: I can’t move! I can’t move! I don’t know what to do!
A: The spring is still attached, just hang on a second! Back it up! No—not forward!
Mom: I think they’re coming out again! More kayakers!
A: What? We have to keep going!
Me: WHERE DO I PUT THE SPRING?!
Mom: I think I want to stop—let’s pull back—A, come take the helm I’m going to go throw up–
A: No! — LYSS ATTACH THE SPRING to the boat!
Mom: Nevermind, they aren’t coming out —I CAN’T MOVE! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!
A: THE SPRING IS STILL ATTACHED TO THE DOCK!
My Arms: [being yanked from their sockets as I try to pull 34 tons with my bare hands]
My Brain: ::vrrooooommmm:: [powers back up]
Me: [secures the end of the line to the cleat directly in front of MY FACE]
[bow of the boat swings back out to port, my mom puts it into gear]
Me: [swings the spring off super easily JUST LIKE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TO START WITH]
Lady Pirates: [deafening silence]

After I finish clearing the deck of the lines and fenders, I go up to the fly bridge where A and my mom are navigating out of the harbor. We laugh for approximately 15 minutes straight [a liiiiiittle bit of pee comes out], and thank GOD it was 7am on an empty dock because YOU KNOW if anyone was watching they would have had quite the show.

PART TWO: Over-Lubrication;
or I’m An Idiot

IMG_9472

Sunrise over Cape May

After an 11-hour trek from Atlantic City, we arrive in beautiful Cape May, where dolphins really did greet us on our way into the harbor.

From Cape May, you enter into Delaware Bay, cross the Chesapeake-Delaware (C&D) canal, and enter into Chesapeake Bay. Delaware Bay can be quite a bitch when the weather is rough, and, with high wind and seas in the forecast, and, since we all very clearly needed a break, we settled down for a much needed two way-lay days until the weather chilled the eff out.

Sunday was a brisk 98 degrees, so we spent the day relaxing [read: drinking vodka] by the marina’s beautiful pool. Monday was windy and cooler, and we took the opportunity to explore the adorable little town of Cape May, and bring the dogs with us for a stroll along the waterfront. It actually was starting to feel like a vacation.

IMG_9468

The Nut House. Cape May waterfront.

Tuesday, we made the run up the Delaware and into the canal, stopping in Chesapeake City for the night. We stayed at a marina with dockside dining and a huge bar, but since we don’t partake in those types of activities we just stayed in and went to bed early.

JK OBV. We ate at the restaurant, which was unfortunately not ready for the season and super under-staffed. In solidarity, I gave the poor bartender many looks of “it’s ok! you’re really busy!” and knowing smiles, plus a solid tip [AKA MORE THAN 20% 20% IS THE MINIMUM, PEOPLE.].

The bar being super full, vodka being super drank, and with the boat pulled up right next to the bar, I decided after dinner that I was going to make my first attempt at fulfilling my goal of meeting the locals. My crewmates, shaking their heads, reluctantly left me at the bar.

GUYS ARE SO PREDICTABLE.

Within three minutes, a man pulls up a stool next to me, “Is this seat taken?”

My first instinct is of course to roll my eyes and say something snarky, but I remind myself of my intentions, and invite him to sit down with me.

He is late 50s, a dead ringer for Morgan Freeman’s younger brother, with a kind smile and a definite “local” vibe. BINGO BANGO.

After chatting for a bit, I made it abundantly clear in probably a vodka-inspired, super obnoxious and egotistical manner that I was not going to sleep with him but that I would still love talk with him for a bit, but AGAIN, if you’re here to pick someone up, like, it’s not me sorry.

[VIMH©: You are seriously an asshole. Not everyone at a bar wants to sleep with you.]

I tell him about my trip, about my blog [and I actually ask permission to write about him] and we talk about his life. He lives in a house right behind the marina, which is his late mother’s house. She passed away last November after a battle with dementia, and he, the youngest of 5 siblings, had moved in with her to care for her until she passed. Apparently, his oldest sister was given control of all of his mother’s assets, except for the house, and she was abusing her power to the point of some serious family drama.

He tells me that the waterfront land we are sitting on used to be sports fields for the neighborhood, and about how when the city sold the land YEARS AGO, they did so with promise of building new fields, which of course has yet to happen.

We talked for almost 2 hours before we parted and so I should have a really, really super juicy story except that the details are a little fuzzy.

Oops. I let you down, guys. I OVER-social-lubricated. Too much vodka. I remember being so totally interested in everything he was saying though. So, there’s that.

He also left me a nice note in the cockpit of the boat that I woke up to which was pretty creepy but also nice. My mom was concerned.

You guys. I’ll do better next time.

Anyway, thanks for the chat, Dale.

PART THREE: When in Rome;
or Crab-Walkers

The next day started with a gorgeous run along the canal with Copernicus and A and Galen [only not really because A is an actual, real runner and I’m pretty sure she runs like 50mph cause all I saw was her dust]. The sun rose, the dog lived his best life, and OH ALSO ALMOST GOT EATEN BY AN EFFING EAGLE.

I DIDN’T KNOW EAGLES LIVED PLACES, GUYS.

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Copernicus watching the sunrise on our run along the C&D canal.

This dude was definitely stalking my dog, and he totally could have picked him up—he swooped maybe 6 feet in front of us so I could very clearly see that he had a wingspan as wide as mine and I was thinking I was going to have to fight an eagle, guys. And I really don’t know how to fight an eagle—besides to IDK like insult his mother?—and so I just started shouting at it and it flew away. AKA I did fight an eagle and I won.

We were heading to a cute little place called St. Michael’s, and, although we topped off at like 5 knots thanks to the tide, we enjoyed an otherwise pleasant ride into Chesapeake Bay.

Then, we remembered who we were and discovered an oil leak from our starboard engine.

Commence panic.

We monitored the leak on the way in, and tried frantically to find a mechanic when we got to the dock. OF COURSE it was 530 when we got into this tiny little town and so OF COURSE their only mechanic was probably already drunk by then.

To get our minds off of things, and, much to my mom’s dismay, accepting that we would likely not hear from anyone until the morning, we went to a restaurant in the harbor because we were DETERMINED to get some good crabs, Maryland style.

The first restaurant I worked at in NYC was called Ditch Plains, named after a surfing beach in Montauk, one of the favorite spots of the celebrity chef and our owner, Marc Murphy [super nice dude]. We used to do these crab boils in the summer. All you could eat Maryland Blue Crabs, hush puppies and corn and probably some other stuff.

PEOPLE LOVED IT.

WE HATED IT.

[Omg it was just so gross. We laid out newspaper on the tables and people just like legit threw their crab guts everywhere and then we had to clean it up.]

HOWEVER. This time, I was on the other side of the table, I was in Rome, and goddammit I was going to act like a Roman. And plus, our chef at Ditch had showed us how to properly eat these things so I was totally going to nail it.

IMG_9495

No false advertising, here.

We sat outside on the deck, ordered a dozen medium-sized crabs, some hush puppies OBV and—oh what’s this? Oh it says the local favorite is the pickles and cheese! Well, I like pickles and I like cheese and it says it’s a local favorite so let’s do that too!

A plate of straight-up dill pickles and Velveeta cubes are dropped on our table.

Commence laughter.

Our adorable waitress sets our table with wooden mallets and paper placemats that have DIRECTIONS on them for eating the crabs.

I started to get a little nervous. Directions? That’s some serious shit.

The crabs come to the table and look seriously amazing and so I take my first one and follow the directions. My mom was a little hesitant. She’d never seen this before plus they didn’t bring us bibs like we expected and, you know, she needed to watch me first since I was the expert.

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Directions necessary.

I take off the apron as instructed, crack off the top shell and then—intestines. Like straight-up, curly-cued, Walking Dead-style mother effing intestines are the first things to fall onto my placemat. My mother’s eyes widened with horror as I quickly flipped it back over and attempted to hide it in the middle of the table. I ate the claws and then decided to start again.

Now—let me just say. A is a shellfish eating champion. She always has been. As a kid, we would all vacation together on our boats and we’d get lobsters and man she really knows how to eat that entire thing whereas I’m like a simple claws-and-tail kinda girl, as is my mom. Neither of us ever really ventures into the nether-regions, really just wanting to ignore the fact that there are other things in there besides glorious, delicious lobster meat.

So. A is going to town, doing everything right and really making the most out of those crabs. My mom is trying. Like she’s really trying really hard to be a Roman soldier, guys, and be a good sport and be like the Romans but she is really not succeeding. I am doing my best as well, but now I’m just “developing my own technique” for eating these crabs, because I’m really petrified to see any more intestines.

My “technique” consists of eating the claws, and then jamming my knife into the top shell, trying to find the meat like a complete barbarian, really probably only getting to approximately 60% of it. [BTW, what I DID actually eat was totally delicious.]

Then, there were the flies. I mean, we’re outside, duh, there are going to be flies. But I am talking FLIES. Like LORD OF THE FLIES. As our rapidly growing pile of shells overflows the bucket provided, the flies come and do whatever the hell it’s rumored that they do, landing over and over and seemingly calling more friends to terrorize us the more we swatted at them.

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Crabs pre-flies.

A doesn’t care about flies. She’s totally chill with the flies. She’s just into that delicious crab. We are not chill with the flies. My mom is ESPECIALLY NOT CHILL WITH THE FLIES. She will not be Netflix and chilling with any mother-effing flies not no way not no how.

She excuses herself from the table no less than 4x, then secretly pays the tab and stands next to the table at a safe distance while we laugh at her and A finishes the last two crabs.

Solid effort, lady pirates.

 

PART FOUR: Meanwhile, in the Engine Room;
or, IT’S THE PERFECT TIME TO PANIC

Actual percentage of crabs eaten notwithstanding, our little excursion provided a good distraction from the problem at hand: the oil leak.

We secured our slip at St. Michael’s for Wednesday and Thursday nights, but they weren’t able to give us a slip for Friday night and so we’d have to leave Friday. Two problems: oil leak. And weather. The weather on Friday was supposed to be atrocious, huge thunderstorms and a small craft warning.

If we couldn’t get the apparently ONE mechanic in town to fix it on Thursday, we were pretty much screwed. The nearest port with any hope of getting a mechanic was 6 hours away.

We took the gamble and set out Thursday for Solomons Island, under crappy, rainy skies. We did engine checks every 15 minutes to make sure that the leak at least wasn’t getting any worse and the drip was still at the same speed.

Finally arriving at Solomons Island, although there are many, many boat yards and mechanics, we are unable to find anyone to fix the leak. One guy told my mom it would be “a couple of weeks” before he could get to it. A COUPLE OF WEEKS.

Commence more panic.

Commence me calling my dad and suggesting he come visit for Father’s Day.

It calms the situation at least a bit to know my dad is coming and, worse comes to worst, he can probably fix it himself. As a last ditch effort, following up on a local lead, my mom had made a call to a guy who is a mechanic “on the side.” We buttoned up the boat and prepared for the storm about to hit, praying for a miracle.

The storm passes overnight, bringing along quite the thunder and lightning show. When we wake up on Friday, it is rainy and gloomy much like our hearts when we think about the prospect of staying on Solomons Island for any longer than two nights.

Then, we get our miracle. Our “on the side” mechanic gets back to us and is at the boat within an hour, has it fixed in another hour and is gone as quickly as he came, leaving my mother giddy with glee. No more than another hour after he left, the sun came out, the afternoon was beautiful, and my dad arrived for the weekend.

Commence drinking and debauchery and poor ukulele playing. Today, we cross over into Virginia. Goodbye, Merry-Land.

Happy Father’s Day, all.

xo

 

Hang on, lady, we going for a ride

 

Now sit right back and I’ll tell the tale, the tale of a fateful trip that started out for Texas-but-basically-could-never-get-out-of-the-Northeast-and-so-my-dad-took-his-old-job-back and we abandoned ship. Yes, we abandoned ship. [I trust you know the melody and you can just fill in the phrase with extra words a la Daveed Diggs in Guns and Ships.]

Dramatic? Maybe. But then again I’ve never been known for my subtlety.

Ok, so we didn’t abandon ship. And my dad didn’t get his old job back and move back to RI. But, if you got a kick out of our first doomed three-hour tour of the biggest little state in the union [terminating in a “failure to launch” party in Newport], the roller-coaster that has followed will just tickle you pink and purple. As our captain, A’s father put it, so far this trip has been like walking on glass: slow and painful.

This one’s a little long guys. Take it in parts if it’s too much to handle, I think we can all agree that this week has been A LOT.
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ROLL [OVER] CALL

I think I’ve mentioned in passing that the three of us lady pirates are accompanied by some equally as salty, trusty, canine counterparts. For those of you who are interested, I wanted to take this opportunity to stray from the usual narrative of the trip and introduce them to you. [Cat people need not read on. dogsrulecatsdroolkthxbye]


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Galen
[The Lover]

5-year old Beagle/ Golden Retriever mix

Likes: LOVE. Running. Making funny faces. LOVE. Being pet and touched LOVED and licking your legs. Did I mention she’s a lover?

Dislikes: When A leaves the room. A leaving the room. Anytime A is not directly next to her.

Fun facts: Galen is our resident southern belle. Originally from Georgia, Galen was adopted by A from a trainer and so she has great manners. She was adopted only a few short months before we delivered Black Powder up from FL, and her first boat trip was when she accompanied us on the final leg of that trip from Atlantic City. She got seasick within 15 minutes and I can’t blame her. She hasn’t been seasick since.

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Herreshoff aka Herry
[The Protector]

6-year old Dachshund

Likes: My mom. Treats. Whining. Barking at people who walk by. Barking at people who drive by. Barking at dogs and birds and sounds and wind. Barking at literally everything. Whining. Getting his way. Sleeping in the sun with his face on the ground with his little ears all over the place and his adorable chubby paws framing his face. Table food. Begging for table food. Getting table food.

Dislikes: His bark collar. Cats. Rats. Children. When my mom leaves the room. My mom leaving the room. Anytime my mom is not directly next to him.

Fun facts: My mom adopted Herry as a puppy from a family who had lost the little girl they bought him for. At the time, they had just purchased RBG Cannons, the signature model of which was the Herreshoff. Aptly named. Spoiled little brat but god is he cute and god does he love my mom.

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Copernicus
[The Wildcard]

6-year old Mini Schnauzer/Poodle mix

Likes: Adventure. Exploration. Knowing everything there is to know about a particular room. Securing said room. Hunting flies. Belly rubs. Inexplicably scaling 3-ft stone walls, opening doors, and opening the car window to stick his head out. Intimidating new people. Intimidating new dogs. Bullying his brother. Biting the heels of new people and the hands of new people who think he’s cute and want to pet him. Teaching people a lesson about how cute he is. Generally just being a dick.

Dislikes: New people. New dogs. Being told ‘no.’ When we leave the room. Us leaving the room. Anytime we are not directly next to him. [Sensing a pattern?]

Fun facts: We adopted Copernicus from Louisiana a year after we adopted our other dog, Einstein. I had always had two dogs and wanted Einstein to have company. Plus you can’t have an Einstein without a Copernicus duh. [Yes they are named after Doc’s dogs in Back to the Future and yes when my husband met Bob Gale he showed him a picture of them and told them their names and that man threw his head back and belly laughed and has never been happier than in that exact moment.]

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Copernicus was born into a household with an animal hoarder who had 40+ other dogs in the house when she was finally found out. He was 6 months old and was one of only 10 dogs that could be saved and adopted. [Sadface]

While our intentions were good, we really bit off a lot more than we could chew with this pup. When he came to us as a puppy, Einstein wanted NONE of it and was immediately over him and super pissed at us for even THINKING he would stand for sharing our attention.

This was really surprising to us. Einstein and Herry were adopted around the same time, and they got along very well. Einstein was also regularly socialized at daycare, and only had problems with dogs larger than him, which we originally thought was because a Rottweiler attacked him while he was in shelter. [Now, we actually believe that it is more likely he started it. He likes to talk a big talk and snarl at other dogs, and then whines and cries when they return the favor.]

Einstein’s aggression definitely compounded the problems that already accompanied Copernicus up north: namely, his possessiveness of toys, his need to hole himself up in small places, and, even as a puppy, his need to assert his dominance in constant school yard scuffles. [He was put into time-out very frequently at daycare.]

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Caught them loving each other once.

We assumed that they would work it out as dogs do, and they would adjust to living together and would be best of friends and snuggle all the time and then when one of them was on their death bed the other one would climb in with him and they would pass away quietly in the night like in The Notebook.

Wrong. They got to a point where they were comfortable ignoring each other, which, we learned, was the best it was going to get. They continued to have the occasional scuffle, and, while we originally blamed it all on Copernicus, we soon learned that Einstein was actually just super sneaky and very dramatic. He quietly snarls at Copernicus and then screams BLOODY MURDER if Copernicus comes anywhere near him. We’ve got his ticket now.

Anyway, as Copernicus got older we noticed he was becoming increasingly aggressive to other people in our house. It started when he was crate training and we discovered that he likes to have a safe, enclosed place to go to when he gets nervous. This was all well and good until someone walked by his crate and he promptly snarled and jumped in their direction, immediately assuming the likeness of a hosed-down Gremlin.

There were several instances where someone made him anxious reaching for him or just walking by him and he bit them. Blood was drawn. It got worse and worse. We would constantly find excuses for why it was happening—someone was near his bone, someone reached too quickly, surprised him, he was possessive of his space, etc, etc.

One day, my husband was lying with him on the bed when he decided he was grumpy and suddenly turned around, biting him on the bridge of his nose, narrowly missing both of his eyes. Up until then, my husband and I had not had any serious instances of him biting us that we hadn’t passed off as puppy nibbling, and he had never drawn blood from us.

We decided to bring in an expert, who recommended clicker-training. He also pointed out that Einstein seemed to be the instigator, which is when we started to realize he wasn’t the little angel he pretended to be. We discovered that while Einstein is the epitome of the old dog who can’t learn new tricks [or at least doesn’t want to], Copernicus responds very well to positive reinforcement and, through that, we were able to regain his trust and start to trust him ourselves. We learned to read his signs of anxiety and to know when to tell him to go to his spot to calm down.

We learned that perhaps the largest part of keeping him happy and others safe is to educate those who come into contact with him. He is really annoyingly adorable and people, understandably, just want to squash his little face. All he wants to do is SQUASH THEM RIGHT BACK AND EAT THEIR FINGERS FOR BREAKFAST. NOMNOMNOM

We learned that this dog will most likely never be completely broken of his tendencies, and the most we can do is keep him obedient to us, and react appropriately to his behaviors.

It’s funny. I remember being a kid and always being told to ask someone before approaching their dog. If you didn’t, and the dog bit you, it was your fault. I once tried to take a toy away from my babysitter’s dog and it bit me. Uh, duh. These are animals. Did my parents sue her? Uh, no. THESE ARE ANIMALS.

Today, if your dog is even a little bit aggressive, well first off, you are an idiot or a terrible pet parent. I mean, all you have to do is watch The Dog Whisperer and you’ll learn everything you need to know. Everyone knows that. Second, if your dog bites them or growls at them, even if you have instructed them not to approach, they are INCENSED. If your dog growls at their dog after you’ve told them they do not interact well with other dogs, and they still allow the dog to approach, they are INCENSED.

It is amazing to me how stupid people are when it comes to this. I was walking Copernicus in the park near our apartment one day about a year ago and had this exchange with an idiot:

Idiot Lady: “OH MY GOD HE’S SO CUTEEEEEE.” [approaches Copernicus]

Me: “Yes he is but he gets nervous around new people so please don’t touch him.”

IL: “Oh that’s ok, I love dogs. Dogs love me!!!” [idiot giggle, still approaching]

Me: [Pulling Copernicus behind me] “No, I’m sorry he’s really not friendly.”

IL: [Ignoring me, approaching him, hand towards his face]

Copernicus: [snaps, growls] “Damnit, I missed!”

IL: [Pulls her hand away, looks at me like she just witnessed me slapping a baby.] “YOU NEED TO CONTROL YOUR DOG!!!!!!!!!!”

OK then who the hell is going to control YOU YOU EFFING IDIOT.

Anyone who knows us well will tell you they have seen Copernicus come leaps and strides from where he once was. He warms up to new people much more quickly, and lots of friends and family who were once afraid of him now are comfortable sitting with him and playing with him and sleeping with him when dog sitting. We have had very few recent instances of him actually biting someone, at least without their acknowledgement that we properly warned them [although his new thing is to nip at new people’s heels like he’s herding sheep].

Such are the challenges of rehabilitating a rescue pup. But this process has not been without its rewards. Once he warms up, he is incredibly sweet and gentle, and god is that dog way too smart.

My husband and I decided it was too much for him to leave both the dogs with him for so long. [I mean, he’s already the superhero behind me, the breadwinner, not to mention the cool one.] We also decided it was a bad idea to have dogs out-number people on this trip. And while Copernicus truly is bonded more to my husband than me, we decided that the best decision was for me to take him and to leave Einstein. Einstein is chill, he will sleep all day, love you when you get home and demand your constant attention. He will do what you do, he will walk if you want to, he will Netflix and chill if you want to.

Copernicus suffers from serious separation anxiety and gets too lonely without Einstein. So, I took the problem child. [My mom was THRILLED.] Hopefully, the time apart will be therapeutic for both the dogs, and they will be happy to see each other come August.

So far, he’s adjusting well. He and Herry always just ignore each other, and, despite a few scuffles in the past, I imagine that he and Galen will become good pals by the end of this trip. [Fingers, toes and paws crossed]

xo

 

 

Failure to Launch

This morning, Black Powder set sail with a little shove from some friends & family and a generous send-off. Fellow yacht club members and staff came down to the end of their docks to give us a wave and wish us well as we left the harbor the only way we know how: obnoxiously blowing off cannons at 9 AM. Rise and shine, ya filthy animals.

Sweltering and humid at the docks, the wind quickly picked up and the breeze graciously offered us a temporary reprieve. I think we’ll sweat enough as we continue to head South, thanks very much.

These waters are friendly and familiar. We sail through Narragansett Bay and under the Jamestown Bridge, and then we are following the Rhode Island coastline for what is most likely going to be Black Powder’s last time. [You never know–my parents change their minds a lot.] We blow off the horn as we pass friends’ houses on the shore, and shoot cannons like the bunch of salty lady pirates we are.

We had planned to go off-shore overnight for the first portion of our trip, after a brief stop in Montauk, heading into the Atlantic and running for Cape May. But Rhode Island just can’t quit us, and, like the jealous ex she is, she will be slamming us with two days of wind and high seas, which would make that 36-hour leg just slightly less than fun and slightly more like a ride on a bucking bronco on top of an inflatable pool float blindfolded while my mom and I scream at each other, the dogs pee, poop and throw up everywhere, and no one sleeps for two days. That is prime mutiny territory, folks.

So, we’ll now be heading through Block Island Sound to spend the night in Old Saybrook, CT, and will plan to make the run through Long Island Sound tomorrow and— oops scratch that—

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This is my office.

As I sit here in what will be my office space for the next 9 weeks, a mere two hours into our grand voyage, my mom comes down to tell me that we are changing plans. We likely wouldn’t make it all the way due to fog and weather conditions so now we’re going to batten down on Block Island for a couple days. [WHAT A BUMMER WOW OUR LIVES ARE SO HARD.]

As I write, we are passing Point Judith, RI and will make the 10-mile run to Block–wait— What’s that? Looming large and ominous in front of us, a massive fog bank moves in from the Atlantic and envelops us, reducing visibility to maybe a half mile.

Rhode Island!!! How many times do I have to tell you it’s over? Stop calling my house late at night and breathing into the phone. Stop visiting my mother just because you were “in the neighborhood.” And most importantly, above all else, STOP DRUNK TEXTING ME DICK PICS.

We do donuts in the sound, which is as close to an idle as is possible with a moving sea beneath you, and wait. We’ll see if the fog will clear and allow us to pass or if it’s back to Newport for the night—

UPDATE. Just arrived in Newport. Will be here for probably two nights. “Failure to Launch” party to commence immediately.

OMG YOU GUYS. What if Rhode Island is Wayward Pines?! OR WHAT IF RHODE ISLAND IS THE ISLAND FROM LOST!? Maybe there’s no way out. MAYBE WE’VE BEEN DEAD THE WHOLE TIME.

Speaking of failing. It’s story time.

About 6 weeks ago, in preparation for our trip and before my dad took off for Houston, I pretended to be my father’s second son and learned about the engines, generators, power system and pretty much all of the things that make Black Powder float. The engines need to be checked regularly while under-way, monitored for temperature, fluid levels, and other boring stuff you wouldn’t care about.

In the same weekend, even though it wasn’t my dad’s birthday, I went with him to the firing range. Disclaimer: my dad has guns. I grew up around guns. They have always been responsible gun owners. My dad was a captain in the army, my grandfather was a lieutenant in the Providence Police Department and my aunt just retired from the same. My dad inherited my grandfather’s gun collection when he passed away, and because my Papa was one BAMF, this collection includes an EFFING LUGER HE STOLE OFF A NAZI IN THE WAR.

Since the guns will be on board with us, and since we’ll need to protect ourselves against pirates just like Captain Phillips, I wanted to make sure I knew how to load & fire the guns on board. Let me just start. By saying. You do not want to come at me with a Glock in my hands. Just don’t do it. You are not the captain now, LOOK AT ME—I AM THE CAPTAIN NOW.

In wedges, skinny jeans, and a pink top [because of course I want to draw as much attention as possible], I follow my dad into the range, which is already chock-full of the same type of guy who likes to condescendingly quiz girls on their sports knowledge after interrupting their crime novels at a bar. [I’m looking at you, Doug.]

Immediately, I know. I am going to prove myself to these dudes. Watch out, guys, this is how a bad-ass lady pirate does it. We start to prep the guns for firing, which involves cocking all of the guns and exposing the empty chamber when not in use.

My dad has a 1957 Marlin 30-30, which is just about the pride of his collection [much like his only daughter]. I pick up the cased rifle, taking a quick peek over my shoulder to make sure I don’t need to give an “I dare you to laugh” face to any of the spectators, who are obviously absolutely riveted by what they were seeing.

[VIMH©: They weren’t even watching you, you fucking egomaniac.]

Tossing my long hair over my shoulders, I’m careful not to chip my pink nail polish as I load the weapon. I set the target 20 feet away, and shoot the rifle off perfectly the first time, manually re-cocking the barrel after every shot, barely responding to the recoil and getting eight perfect head shots. I then turn around and look at my father, who is obviously beaming with pride. The warehouse is so quiet you could hear a pin drop as the crowd silently and anxiously awaits my next move. I put out my cigar on the ground and hand the Marlin back to him, saying, “Meh, I’m bored with this one, what else do you have?” The entire range erupts into applause, two large, handsome, shirtless men come pick me up and carry me around the room while mothers [where did they even come from!?] shove their babies into my face, begging me to kiss them. My mother is crying and I can hear my brother from miles away, lamenting his loss of favoritism. It is rumored that the range officer sold my paper target on E-bay for upwards of $10 million.

[VIMH©: …]

Once I came out of my fantasy, I unzipped the rifle’s case, slightly misjudging where the opening was. It promptly slipped out, slamming onto the hard concrete, butt-first, and shattering the plate. Like a BOSS.

The range officer ran over to assist in picking up the pieces of the butt plate [my name for it], which were scattered across three range lanes, and cried with my father over the damage [only cosmetic] of his beautiful, perfectly kept antique. Meanwhile, I stood frozen like an IDIOT with a bright red face and a sudden inability to control my laughter. My dad is a saint, you guys.

Did I mention how great I am with the Glock, though? That’s no fantasy. Anyone who tries to mess with these three lady pirates is going to be sorry. I just won’t be shooting the rifle.

Xo

 

Social Lubrication

Here’s a question. What is it about a girl sitting alone at a bar that makes men think that she is there specifically to make their acquaintance?

I don’t want to talk to you and I most DEFINITELY don’t want you to buy me a drink—why do you think I am sitting quietly by myself in a corner? Can’t you see I am very clearly trying to finish my trashy crime novel?! [After playing fast and loose and getting suspended from the force, our hero woke up to find herself hanging naked by her wrists in a barn! She’s finally going to find out who murdered her sister 15 years ago!]

Plus, I know that proper decorum dictates that I would have to talk to you at least while I am drinking said drink and that doesn’t even come close to your expectation of how I should thank you for your gracious gift. [I’m not new here, guys.]

Also, you’re drinking the $2 happy hour Bud Light special and I don’t think you want to pay for my Maker’s Manhattan.

AND PLEASE TELL ME HOW have you missed my constant left hand gesticulation trying to get you to notice the shiny thing that tells you to leave me the fuck alone?

A few weeks ago, I accompanied my mother-in-law to the last outpatient step in her treatment for the Multiple Myeloma she was diagnosed with in October. We stayed in a hotel in Boston adjacent to Dana Farber and she spent three long days having her stem cells collected for transplant. [This whole process is incredibly fascinating].

Over the course of these long days, she was heavily medicated and slept often [understandably]. For the times she didn’t need me, like the high-functioning alcoholic I am, I quickly found myself a cozy place at the hotel bar.

I’m the only person I know who can become a regular at a bar in 3 days. I became a fixture at said bar after my 3 visits on the first day in between trips to check on her treatment. [I see your judgment, and I raise you the zero fucks I give.]

The first visit on the first day was most likely after noon but definitely after 10am [you know what they say, it’s double-digits somewhere, amiright?]. I was all settled in to finish my trash novel, when along comes Doug.

Now, I’m sure you know why bars have mirrors behind them, right? So that the bartender can see people coming up when his/her back is turned.

You know what those mirrors are NOT for? Using them to [not so] covertly check out the girl sitting three stools down from you. After awkwardly making eye contact in said mirror no less than three times, Doug took this opportunity to interrupt my silence and ask if he could buy me a drink, since mine was almost empty.

[VIMH©: GODDAMNIT DOUG. Yes, I want another drink but NO I definitely do not want you to buy it for me, for the aforementioned reasons. NOW I have to pretend that I’m “not ready” for another drink (as IF) and hope that you’ll get the memo and go away while I sit and silently weep over my empty glass.]

Doug isn’t one to take a hint. Listen guys: Doug is from Boston. Doug doesn’t just give up. Doug is BOSTON STRONG.

He stumbles through his best small talk, as I do my best to seem as disinterested as possible without yelling at him, never fully turning my head towards him while muttering a few “hmm”s and “oh”s with a sterile but polite smile [one thing you master as a server in an NYC restaurant is the polite smile that protects your guests from the small serial killer behind your eyes].

Sports Center blares the news that the Supreme Court upheld Tom Brady’s suspension and my audible expression of disgust gives Doug the conversation starter he’s been anxiously waiting for.

He does what all guys do when they are trying to gauge if a girl actually knows sports or if she has a closet full of pink hats, giving him the perfect opportunity to mansplain the big yellow forks on the field.  Over my left shoulder I hear, “You like football?”

Cue eye-roll.

The restaurant is empty, save for a few stragglers finishing their waffles and scrambled eggs, which the hotel provides a 15% off coupon for [oh. Breakfast food is in this memory. Maybe it was before noon after all.]

[VIMH©: You’re a disgrace.]

The servers are sitting in a far booth folding napkins and the bartender is cutting fruit down the other end of the bar. The manager is doing his best to pretend he’s writing a very important work email on his phone when we all know he’s scrolling through Tinder. Doug and I are the only two at the bar. I see no way out.

I sigh a heavy sigh, put down my book, accept that I am just going to have to wait to see how our hero gets out of her latest pickle, and give in to The Doug.

Girls who know sports know the struggle. The tightness that comes to your chest when a guy or group of guys condescendingly challenges your sports knowledge, forcing you to swallow your anger, keep it cool, and enjoy expertly removing their testicles with facts and opinions, an innocent smile, and a quick hair flip.

Thoroughly embarrassing him, I school him on the actual facts of the Deflategate scandal [AKA not what the idiotic media sheep believe to be true], we talk four Superbowls, and the truth comes out: Doug is a Giants fan.

Cue even bigger eye-roll.

The only thing worse than being a Giants fan is being a Giants fan from New England. The only thing worse than being a Giants fan from New England is saying that you are a Giants fan because you picked the Giants when “the Patriots sucked.” [You people are the worst kind of people and you know nothing of loyalty and you are dead to me.]

Doug is late 30s, 5 o’clock shadow, blue eyes and a dopey smile. Now that I am actually looking at him, I notice that Doug’s t-shirt and jeans are marked with the same dirt that is trapped under his nine fingernails—the kind that doesn’t come off after washing your hands several times—the dirt and wear indicative of a hard day’s work doing manual labor.

At this point, I decide there is NO way I am going to get through this without another drink, and order one more from the bartender, which Doug announces once again is “on him.” The bartender gives me the look that a seasoned bartender knows to give in this scenario, the one that means, “You ok? Want me to throw him out? I’ll throw him out for you.” Having deduced Doug was a bit of a dope but generally harmless, I reassure him with a nod of my head, and accept my [not quite free] beer.

We talk for a while and I learn Doug’s life story, more or less.

As an icebreaker, he regales me with all the gory details of how he lost the better part of his left middle finger to a wood chipper. We talk about his job at the plant that powers the hospitals, how he works 12-hour days and then commutes an hour home, just to commute another hour back the next day.

I learn about his childhood in the backwoods of New Hampshire, and his 95-year old grandmother who, in the summers, ran a restaurant on her front lawn. She was diagnosed with cancer just three months ago. He tells me how he feels like he failed his little brother, who was fired from the job he got him at the power plant after a drug test, because he should have seen the signs he was using again.

His story was normal and funny and heart breaking and thoroughly fascinating, and when all was said and done I was actually quite happy I stopped being such a bitch and talked to him.

Truth bomb. I often use the excuse that “I hate people” as a defense mechanism that prevents me from feeling socially rejected.

In high school, I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t unpopular, I just generally existed in between several groups without connecting on a real level with many people. [There are a few exceptions, of course.]

Publicly, I attributed this to the fact that I hated most people anyway. In reality, I am just socially awkward and sometimes botch interactions with people, which was especially true when I was younger.

I was pretty [eye roll], so the Sorting Hat and human nature placed me naturally at the “popular table”, but I was a little weird and uncomfortable there, always feeling inferior to the pretty cheerleaders and the cool girls who knew how to talk to the boys without saying or doing something awkward. I was smart but didn’t try hard enough in school to connect with the kids with foresight, who took AP classes and set their sights on prestigious colleges when I just wanted to skate by. I liked acting and singing and so the drama club was where I eventually felt the most happy, but still felt that my outside popularity somewhat alienated me there as well.

I spent most of my time hopping around tables in the lunch-room when I was bored with people, assuming the persona I had created to fit in with each group. I wish I could go back and tell myself that it was ok to just be me.

College was similar: my [now] husband and I were fish out of water and so we assumed the part of the loud-mouthed, self-righteous Yankees invading the passive-aggressive territory of the Midwest. As I started to work in theater outside of school, I found myself accepted and comfortable and didn’t have the need to be loud and aggressive anymore [except for after tequila], letting that mask slide away.

As I grew up, I learned to fully embrace my awkwardness. I learned to laugh at myself and invite people to laugh with me instead of letting it embarrass me. That became occasionally charming and disarmed people and allowed me to open up and make real friendships that will last a lifetime. [The social lubricant helps with that. Thank you, alcohol.]

While recovering from the shadow of mental illness, I’ve tried to learn who I am and how I feel, and I realize I still have many faces. Now I know that the masks allow me to adapt and connect more widely with people, rather than acting as an insincere coping mechanism which protect me from having to get too close.

In my close circle of friends, I’m known as the Wildcard. Basically, this means that occasionally, after the perfect amount of social lubrication, I will suddenly go into “Wildcard status” and, without inhibition, do something crazy. [For example, the time I decided to tickle an Elmo in Times Square which resulted in that creepy, bed-bug infested knock-off chasing me through hoards of people and into a Sephora, where I told the security guards I didn’t know why he was chasing me and got him thrown out and instructed to leave me alone.]

One night on the subway, Wildcard status struck as a crazy-looking man walked through our car loudly preaching the word. Despite my husband’s and my friends’ protestations, I sat next to him and asked him about his life and why he was preaching on the train. Surprisingly, he didn’t stab me. Instead, I found out he lives a very normal life, is married with 6 kids and a bunch of grandkids, and he preaches on the subway in his spare time because that is what the Bible instructs him to do.

My interactions with this man and with Doug are further proof that I don’t actually hate people. In fact, I kind of like people. I like talking to people and learning about their lives, histories, circumstances, and passions.

I realized that these 3000 miles [on a boat from Rhode Island to Houston] will provide me an amazing opportunity to bring some stories to life from those we meet along our way. Stories like the one from the man from Coinjock, VA [remember the biscuits ‘n’ porn guy?], who was devastated when his dog died after eating anti-freeze, only to have a small white dog show up the next day and plant herself firmly at his side. [He also told us about the time he got arrested trying to take a black bear, dead by the side of the road, to make him into a rug. Wildlife officials don’t really take too well to fucking with protected species.]

I’m excited to think of the stories I can learn from people who have lived along the intra-coastal waterways of our great country for their whole lives. People who have made their livings in ways that I am not accustomed to and who live with a definition of happiness that is completely different than mine. Or yours.

One goal I am setting for myself for this trip is to do just that. I hope to be able to learn about them and myself as they open my eyes to a previously unknown world. I hope to share some of their stories with you as I am lucky enough to hear them. [I’m packing lots of Stoli, as I’m sure I’ll need the lubrication to break the ice.]

xo

The Head Test

Warning: toilet humor a-head. [If you don’t understand how brilliant that pun was yet, you will in two paragraphs and then I expect an effing parade for how hilarious I am.]

Now that it’s been cleared up that yes, in fact, there are toilets on board Black Powder, I thought it would be a good time to talk about poop.

A nautical toilet is called a “head.” Don’t ask me who made that brilliant f*cking decision, since, in my opinion, your head is about the furthest thing you want from it.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “I’ve gotta hit the head.” This doesn’t refer to one’s accuracy while nailing something into the wall which, if you’re like me, is bound to be crooked, nor does it refer to the most effective way to crack open a piñata at a bachelorette party. [Think about it. Then laugh out loud.]

Nope, it just means, “I’ve been holding it long enough and now I’ve really gotta deal with this #2 business, so I’m going to get down to the head, try to steady myself against the wall to prevent falling off in the event an asshole ferry captain comes too close and sends a 6-ft wake in our direction, use as little toilet paper as possible, flush, and PRAY.”

Such is the glamorous life of traveling on a boat. When we were growing up, heads were much less effective, and much more prone to overflowing/clogging if you so much as farted while peeing. Flushing toilet paper was a HUGE no-no and would most definitely result in a clog that was probably not at all equivalent to the actual load, but more akin to flushing 14 fucking socks and a condom at once in a land-head .

Let me paint a picture for you: a full, overflowing toilet that you have to try and plunge on a f*cking floating vessel, which is most definitely a rocking & a rolling more than a little bit. That’s like trying to keep a full bowl of water from spilling over while riding f*cking Splash Mountain. Not cute.

And since we’re getting comfy-cozy up in here [TMI moment], I’ll let you know that as a child, my parents had to change the toilets in our house to what they called “Super Flushers,” solely for me because, hey, what can I say? I’ve always been a prolific pooper.

[VIMH(c): gross.]

So, I grew up in fear of the head. There are few things more embarrassing for a 13-year old girl than to have to have your father come and plunge the head while entertaining the entire extended family on a 3-hour tour. Or worse, your father has to go and plunge the head because your 13-year old BFFL[AEAE] didn’t follow the rules and now no one can make eye contact the entire rest of the day.

Plus there’s the whole business of the dreaded holding tank. Yes, it is every bit as disgusting as you think it would be. There are Coast Guard ordinances that prohibit flushing all of our digested Doritos directly into the drink, because, thank god.

So instead, you carry all of that shit with you until you get to a Marina where you can, yep, pump it out. Everyone remember Cousin Eddy in Christmas Vacation? Shitter’s full, guys.

Anyway, this was probably the most exciting news about Black Powder:
The heads on board were the fanciest.
Most efficient.
Heads known.
To.
Man.
I mean, they still would be sensitive, of course, but can you imagine being able to flush a modest amount of toilet paper instead of throwing it in the garbage, hiding it underneath mounds of clean toilet paper, and praying to god you don’t see anyone else’s used toilet paper in the process?

Perhaps the best part about these heads were that the system took the gross stuff, macerated [gross] and cleaned it to CG standards, so it could be flushed overboard, completely eliminating the need for a holding tank! No shit! [pun completely intended]

[VIMH(c) rolls eyes.]

Perhaps solely because of my personal proficiency in this area, or just because of bad timing on my part, I soon discovered on our trip to deliver the boat North that these heads were comprised of 10% porcelain, 10% fiberglass, and 80% LIES.

Somewhere in the intracoastal waterway in Georgia, on a beautiful, sunny day, probably just three glorious days into our trip, I made a quick visit to the lady’s loo, most likely happily humming Georgia on my Mind because, duh. I fearlessly did what needed to be done, and flushed away, joyously pirouetting around the 2-square foot space.

AND THEN. SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENED. MY HEART STOPPED.

But no! How could this be?? These were the fancy heads!!

My childhood nightmares came flooding back with the seawater that quickly did the same into the toilet bowl: My brother’s face taunting me and laughing while I sweat and cried one hot July day in 1999, that fateful day in August 2001 where I swore it wasn’t me, only to be given away by the toilet paper stuck to my shoe which forensics confirmed matched the offending party’s toilet paper, and finally, the dreaded day in the summer of 2002, when we had my sailing class over for modest refreshments on the poop deck and the love of my life, my sailing instructor, suffered the same fate as I, dooming our relationship forever.

I knew what to do. I quickly snapped into action and grabbed the marine plunger. I plunged and plunged and plunged and plunged for my life, sweat pouring and the muscles in my arms searing with pain. After about 20 seconds of trying, I decided I’d tried hard enough and did what any girl would do in this situation: called my father.

As it turns out, it wasn’t my fault. The problem was with the macerator [gross], and unfortunately, my poor father spent the day with his head in the closet fixing the damn thing.

In the past three years, they’ve been unable to completely fix the heads, mainly because the previous owner thought he was f*cking MacGyver and totally IKEA-hacked the entire electrical system. So my hopes have fluctuated up and down. Just when I’d think I was safe, the head would remind me who’s in charge. And the fear of the heads returned.

UNTIL NOW.

Once again, my parents have equipped a home of theirs where I will be making an extended stay with “Super Flushers,” this time of a nautical nature.

I’m ecstatic. Albeit a little wary. It will take some time for them to earn my trust. I’ve been hurt too many times before. But I’m willing to give it a go a-head.

[VIMH(c): groans, rolls eyes]

For your viewing pleasure, please enjoy this video sent to me by my lovely mom & dad, courtesy of Franzia, demonstrating the “toilet paper test,” as specifically instructed in the owner’s manual of the new heads.