Ow, My Brain Hurts!

Mmm, yummy-looking, right?

Welcome to the second installment of The Pintester Movement.
Sonja Foust, aka ,The Pintester, has issued a challenge to try out one of the Pinterest pins she has (mostly) screwed up.

So, this is a place with a soft landing for those of us who are craft-challenged, yet willing to try making some oddball stuff because we’re all, well, I’m not quite sure what we are.

Since you’re reading this, you fill in the blank and get back to me on that, eh?

Just in case you missed the first challenge when all the pins of Pinterest were up for grabs, I tried tieing a Monkey Paw knot. It turned out better than I could have hoped. I mean, it actually looked like it’s supposed to!

This time around, I’m going to see if I can make a drink called an Alien Brain Hemorrhage.

I saw this making the rounds on the internet last Halloween, but somehow I just never quite got around to trying it.

So, I just ran out of excuses. Beside, I never know when I’ll need to know how to whip up an alcoholic beverage that looks too disgusting to drink. Then again . . .

Off I go to the liquor cabinet. And as I root around, I’m left wondering who in the hell stocked this thing in the first place?

I’m pretty sure the garden gnomes have gotten into the house and have been partying in the liquor cabinet. That’s my best explanation for what I found in there.

I did manage to find a fairly close approximation of the ingredients involved, though. The recipe calls for peach schnapps. Well, I have raspberry, so I’m good there.

Next on the list is Bailey’s Irish Cream. Er, scratch that. But I do have a bottle of Sahnelikör mit Scotch Whisky. Just in case your German is a bit non-existent, that means it’s a cream liqueur with Scotch, but I think the umlaut makes is sound way cooler than it does in English.

Interesting that the “Scotch Whisky” part didn’t need translation. Hmmm.

Alrighty then, on to the grenadine. But, wait. Nope, I’ve never had any of that stuff. But, I do have some Swedish Fish-flavored vodka that I made when I was inspired by another Pinterest pin. Hey, it’s red.

Now we’re off to what I’m sure would be a Pintester-approved start because I have substituted all of the ingredients for something else. How could this pin possibly fail?

I assembled the ingredients.

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I poured the raspberry schnapps into the glass, like so.

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And now for the interesting part. You’re supposed to pour in the Irish cream slowly. Somehow I don’t think they meant that it was supposed to be quite this slowly.

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Hey, I just opened the bottle.

Maybe it’s like honey and will soften up with soak in hot water.

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Nope. Looks like we’ve had this stuff for waaay too long. It’s definitely a hard case.

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So, off I go to the handy dandy local liquor store. Have you priced Bailey’s Irish Cream lately? Being as I’m Scotch, as well as Irish, I’m going with the bargain booze.

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So, now, where were we? Oh, yeah. Slowly pour the Irish Cream into the glass, add a couple of drops of Swedish Fish vodka and, voila, it looks just like. . .

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. . .just like a semi-brain-ish thing?

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Maybe it looks like brain tissue in a laboratory, but it sure ain’t the Alien Brain Hemorrhage as promised. But I’m not gonna let a little thing like that stop me from drinking it, though!

Down the hatch.

Wow, it didn’t taste bad at all. Like raspberries and cream, with a touch of Swedish Fish. Worked for me.

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Nothing like a double shot in the middle of the afternoon to get those creative juices flowing, eh?

This was a big ol’ fail. But, on the upside, I have a nice bottle of Irish Cream to play with. I’m thinking there’s an adult Creamsicle recipe out there with my name on it.

Hello, Pinterest?

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Posted in Food for Thought, Just Plain Interesting | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Reef-abama

 105px-ArtificialreefPhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Somebody in Alabama knows how to make lemonade. The kind that could help save the planet, one glass at a time.

According to an article by Katherine Rodeghier, “the state dumped its obsolete voting machines a few miles offshore,” thus creating an artificial reef.

Wow! Way to recycle, re-purpose and reuse. Now I had to know more about this project and how it came to happen. I mean, voting machines?

Somehow I’m guessing that a bunch of politicians did not sit down together and come up with the idea of dumping a load of outdated voting machines into the Gulf to create an artificial reef so that marine life would thrive and people could enjoythe sporting opportunities. Not to mention eating the tasty critters that live there.

No, and pigs still can’t fly.

After a little research, I can report that  this win-win-win situation didn’t exactly happen that way. Big surprise there, huh?

According to a piece written by John E. Phillips, author of numerous hunting and fishing books, the idea dates back to a plane crash off of Orange Beach, Alabama, in the 1950s. A captain named Roland Walker caught some huge red snapper over the wreck.

“After a few state politicians fished with Walker, the state started an intensive reef-building campaign. Using funds from the Dingell-Johnson Act and state matching monies, AMRD (Alabama Marine Resources Division) sank 1500 car bodies out in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Fast forward to the 1990s and Captain Iris Ethridge, of Orange Beach, Alabama. She wanted to create a trolling alley close to shore and that required some sort of bottom structure to keep the bait fish there.

“A resourceful captain, this retired schoolteacher began to look for reef-building materials and came upon 124-obsolete voting machines weighing 830-pounds each. Working with county officials, she helped to obtain the voting machines to use them for reef material,” Phillips wrote.

The 1.5-mile long alley was completed in October 1997.

I just knew there was an interesting story behind the story. There usually is.

And here’s an interesting fact that I also found on Phillips’s site: “The State of Alabama has the largest artificial reef-building program in the nation.”

Never mind that the state only has 60 miles of coastline.

Way to go, Alabama!

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Well, I’ll Be a Monkey’s . . . Paw?

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As I tend to veer off of the beaten path, this post is going to be a bit off-beat, too. Imagine that.

First, I must confess to my Pinterest habit. Waaay too many of my sentences begin with, “I saw the coolest thing on Pinterest. . .”

Not only do I pin stuff, but I have actually made quite a few recipes that I found on the site.

But, there’s also a ton of DIY and craft-type projects that I’ve never attempted.

So, when The Pintester issued a challenge called The Pintester Movement to goad us into tackling that pin we’ve been putting off, I was totally up for it.

Because I have absolutely no craft skills whatsoever, I thought I’d try tying a Monkey’s Paw knot. They just look so darn nautical and I’ve always wanted to try making one.

How to Tie a Monkey Paw Knot thumbnail

After all, how hard could it be? (I know, famous last words akin to “Here, hold my beer . . .)

Well, I sat down with a ten-foot length of rope about as big as my little finger and took a deep breath. Sure, the instructions looked simple enough. You just wrap the rope around your hand three times . . .

GE DIGITAL CAMERA And then you wrap the rope around that in a perpendicular fashion . . .

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, then you shove one end of rope up through the inside of the loops and wrap that around the other wraps, and . . . it looks exactly like a hot mess and you pull everything apart.

Fortunately, I’ve always been pretty good at untying knots!

So, I take another deep breath and try again. And, again. And, yet again.

These instructions are just not cutting it. At. All.

Off to Google I went.

Now, there’s a brand-spanking-new pin that shows how to tie this knot in a frame-by-frame view.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAnd . . . I’m getting closer. It’s sorta starting to kinda look almost right.

Just a couple more wraps and a bit of snugging up and Shazam! a miracle occurred in step 5!

GE DIGITAL CAMERAI could have tidied it up by cutting off one end and tucking it inside before I tightened up the rope. Or, I could’ve been very traditional in the nautical way and put a rock inside of it for when I get into a bar fight with a derelict in some shady port of call.

No, seriously, sailors used to use this knot as a weapon and it was called a slungshot. I am not making this up!

So, I call my attempt a qualified success.  Granted, my patience was pretty well shot after an hour of sitting there untying knots.

Though, actually, I can’t believe my monkey’s paw (or monkey’s fist, whichever you prefer) knot turned out as well as it did. It ain’t perfect, but hey. . . I do see a new key fob in my future!

Thanks, Pintester, for giving me an extra shove!

Here’s hoping this post will inspire someone else to try tying this *&%#$ knot, or at least to step outside of their comfort zone.

https://i0.wp.com/pintester.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/pintester-movement-500.jpg

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Your Guess is Better Than Mine

IMG_1107***UPDATE***

This gizmo is a nutcracker, and it seems for walnuts in particular. Now that that I’m looking at it, what a great idea because they can’t spin or slip out of the grip of the cracker. How cool is that?

Check it out: http://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale/wholesale-nutcracker-tool.html

Thank you, Aimless!

**************

Please, help! This is making me nuts!

I have absolutely no idea what this thing is supposed to be. It sorta makes me think of a nutcracker meets some crazy kind of bottle opener. Plus, it’s made out of some really heavy-duty metal. Maybe it’s for pulling corks out of wine bottles?

My only clue is that I did find it in a kitchen drawer. When my mom and I cleaned out a great-aunt’s apartment I found this nifty gizmo and since I had zero idea about what it was used for, of course I had to drag it home. Not that I don’t have kitchen gadgets galore jammed into drawers, but, geez, I know what all of those are for. What fun is that when I can have a tool with no known use?

This dealie-bob is a complete and utter mystery. I’m stumped. I even posted it on Pinterest to see if maybe some kind soul would put me out of my misery and tell me what it’s for so I could actually use it. So far, no luck.

Intrepid readers, I know you’re out there! I see you lurking on the statistics page and it just blows me away that people all over the globe are reading my ramblings. So, PLEASE give me your best guess in the comments. Ask your friends to ask their friends. Somebody HAS to know!

Hey, maybe it’s a spring-loaded kumquat squeezer and I just don’t know it. In which case, I’m gonna have to stock up on kumquats and then figure out what in the heck to do with them.

Thanks for reading. And a double thanks if you leave me a comment! Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what it turns out to be, she said optimistically.

Posted in Food for Thought, Musings | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

ERMAHGERD: Who is This Girl?

Ever since the whole ERMAHGERD meme made the rounds last year, I’ve been wondering about this girl.

So, I did what any good cyber-sleuth would do: I Googled her. And, I found that I’m not the only one who was curious about her. Even The Huffington Post was weighing in on the matter. But, they didn’t solve the mystery.

Surely she’s seen her picture on any number of sites. Unless, of course, she’s been living in a tree house on Borneo. But, I’ll betcha they have the internet there, too.

How she’s managed to stay under the radar this long is just amazing. If I were her, I’d have some far-out, funky book blog and would be having an absolute blast being The Ermahgerd Girl. I’d go on Letterman and feel like a rock star, for God’s sake. Those 15 minutes of fame would have to last me a lifetime, so I’d wring them for all they were worth. And then some!

When Reddit started this meme, they probably had no idea what they really started. I mean, this word is in my permanent lexicon. There are some situations where , “Ermahgerd,” is the only possible word to express what I’m feeling. And, I’m betting I’m not the only one.

And then there’s the whole Berking world of animal Ermahgerd memes. This one has cracked me up every single time I see a bear:
ermahgerd bear
I double dog dare you not to laugh!

But, back to my point. Does she know about her infamy and does she even care? I would think it was an absolute hoot, but that’s just me and I have a decidedly warped sense of humor. Maybe the picture above gave you a clue that I’m bent. Anyway. . .

Hey, Reddit user xWavy, since you posted the picture, you must know who she is. Ermahgerd, all I want to know is if the mystery lady is amused. And, does she still love books?

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The Once and Future McKing

ht burger king twitter hack tk 130218 wblog Burger King Twitter Account Hacked to Look Like McDonalds

Just in case you don’t happen to live in the Twitterverse, someone hacked Burger King’s Twitter account. According to ABC News, 89,000 followers of Burger King were led to believe that Burger King had been bought by McDonalds and that employees had taken over the account. And, they were “coming to a hood near you.”

McDonalds tweeted their lack of involvement in the plot.

The fake @BurgerKing account had pics of supposed employees doing drugs along with some politically incorrect comments and @blanket tweeted that “@burgerking’s twitter just got hacked and is currently hilarious.” But, alas, the fun only lasted for about an hour before the account was suspended.

And of course the guy behind it was unmasked, as if he ever even wanted to hide. If so, it was certainly in plain sight because he threw his moniker out there in the fake tweets, even sending shout outs to iThug. He also tweeted a comment from @DFNCTSC. I played with those letters and can say that never in a gazillion billion years would I have hit on what they stand for: Defonic Team Screen Name Club. Turns out their coterie hacked Paris Hilton’s T-Mobile Sidekick back in ’05.

So, hiding in plain sight, and having some fun on his own Facebook page, was Tony “iThug” Cunha, a DJ from New England, according to one report. Somebody followed the ether trail and connected the dots.

And then, he hacked @Jeep about 24 hours later; iThug was on a trending roll.

Too bad he chose President’s Day weekend. As the saying goes, timing is everything. Had this happened on April Fool’s Day, this just might’ve gone down as one of the most epic pranks of the year. That sucker would’ve had serious legs and it might’ve just walked all the way to April 1, 2014!

Then again, I know I’ll be giggling the next time I go see the McKing!

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Welcome to Pahokee!

(Image from the Pahokee Chamber of Commerce website.)

Considering Pahokee, Florida, has a population of about 6000 people and it’s perched on the edge of Lake Okeechobee, “football,” probably isn’t the first word to come to mind when you first hear about the place. Throw in the locals’ nickname for it, “The Muck,” and I’m willing to bet that pigskins are even less likely to seem a part of that at first blush.

However, that’s where Baltimore Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee grew up. So did wide receiver Anquan Boldin, also of the Ravens. As did quite a few other NFLers. Is there something in the water?

More likely, there’s something in the sugar cane fields.

According to a piece titled, “The Chase,” by Eric Adelson which ran on ESPN.com in 2007, no fewer than 28 graduates of Glades Central High School made it to the pro football league in the previous 29 years.

So what’s their secret?  Maybe it’s that they chase and catch rabbits in the cane fields. Yes, I said catch rabbits. As in, with a stick or with their bare hands. In the muck. Running after a small, oval object, that can cut and run on a dime and then tries to squirt out of your grasp in the ooze.  How’s that for a perfect training technique?

But, it isn’t all fun and games.  It’s also a survival skill. The sale of those hides often goes to supplement the family income. The median income in these parts was $26,731 as of the 2000 census.

Pernell McPhee states in a Baltimore Sun article, “The Muck ain’t no joke. You have to be careful and watch your back because they don’t play down there. You got to be tough to make it out of there. I’m blessed.”

It sounds like those guys down there are quite literally running for their lives.

Posted in Just Plain Interesting | 2 Comments

Mama, Don’t Take my Pinterest Away (They already took my Kodachrome)

A few days ago there was an article on BuzzFeed titled, “How Pinterest is Killing Feminism.” Since I’m a big fan of all things Pinterest, I had to read the article.

So, I almost made it through the first paragraph before I started shaking my head. You see, I had no idea that the internet was “supposed to help overcome” the “retrograde, materialistic content that women’s magazines have been hawking for decades.”

Since the site Jezebel was specifically mentioned as, “an antidote to women’s print magazine,” I decided to see what they were writing about. Well, “The Lazy Birthing Manifesto” lead story wasn’t doing anything for me so I scrolled down a bit.
“How to Make Your Very Own Absurd Chanel Hula Hoop Purse,” was under the DIY heading. Pass.

I didn’t recognize the names of most of the celebrities being written about, though “Hollywood Once Informed Winona Ryder She Wasn’t ‘High-School-Popular’ Hot.”

I wholeheartedly agree that Pinterest does have a huge amount of recipes, fitness and fashion tips, as well as home décor ideas. But, here’s the catch: it’s all user-generated content. No one is marketing to us, but us.

What we’re seeing on Pinterest reflects who we are and what we like, whether it’s a wish list or a to-do list. I have no doubt that a psychiatrist could do a fairly accurate personality assessment based on a person’s boards.

There are plenty of fitness tips and motivational sayings, but I’m just not getting the be-a- size-5-and-your-life-will-be-wonderful  vibe from it at all.

Actually, it seems like part of the appeal is about empowerment. It’s adding a little style to everyday life with some nifty tips, just to make things more interesting.

Whether it’s making a cute little Shrinky-Dink-like bracelet from a carry-out container (and doing recycling one better, by up cycling), finding a recipe for chocolate soft-serve-like ice cream made from bananas (thanks for posting this stuff, Katie!) or feeding the fandom of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, there’s something for everyone.

In fact, I know a guy in his 70s who tries out new recipes from the site. (Hi, Marty!)

Oh, and did I mention there are cars, tattoos and lots of eye candy?

Plus, maybe the Not-So-Great Recession is over at your house, but it isn’t at mine and I, for one, welcome the tips like re-growing lettuce from the stump and how to make homemade Febreze for pennies.

Bottom line: I enjoy flipping through the virtual pages of easy-on-the-brain pictures and saving the stuff that interests me to a digital file that I can actually find (as opposed to all of those magazine pages I tore out and saved).

I have actually done stuff and made recipes I found on Pinterest. And, it didn’t cost anything but time and I used stuff I had anyway. Win-win.

Yes, Pinterest might be considered digital hoarding, but, hey, at least it doesn’t take up any floor space.

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Thanks for Reading and Please “Like” Cutty’s Ark

Image credit: now-hear-this.timeout.comImage credit: now-hear-this.timeout.com

Readers, I know you’re out there!

I checked the super-sneaky site stats, and I have no clue how you found my blog, but you did. From Russia to the UK to the US, you’re reading what I’m writing. And I most sincerely hope you’re enjoying my take on the world.

You’ll notice I posted the first chapter of my novel, “Cutty’s Ark.” Cuthbert Pye and his crew have been languishing in limbo. (Doesn’t every writer worth her/his salt have a novel in their metaphorical bottom desk drawer?) Well, as of today, they get to come out and play.

Aside from the fact that I thought it might be fun to share the tale, at least the beginning, and beg for reader feedback, but I’ve also entered Cutty’s Ark in a contest on Stumbleupon.com. You see, I’m hoping to GET DISCOVERED! And then I can share Pye and the crew with the whole world.

So, this is my modest first step. If you’re an armchair traveler and feel like getting a taste of what it’s like to live in a marina on the Chesapeake Bay, then you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve spent enough time in marinas by the bay helping to plank,  plug and run caulk, as well as doing anything involving wood, that I know these boating characters inside and out.

Please vote for Cutty’s Ark and maybe we’ll both get to see it on the big screen.  It would also make a fun TV series, with nary of whiff of reality show!

As soon as I find out more info on the voting (which starts on Wed August 15 @ stumbleupon.com), I’ll post a link. And, as advertised,  here it is:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2FE8rQ/sassafrasshill.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/cuttys-ark-chapter-one/

Hey, I ain’t too proud to beg.  Not when it’s for a good cause.

Thanks for reading this far.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I really do appreciate your support!

Now, go to StumbleUpon.com and “Like”  Cutty’s Ark!

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“Cutty’s Ark” Chapter One

Image credit: esacademic.comImage credit: esacademic.com

CHAPTER 1

THE MARINA

As the tide rolls out, Cuthbert Pye jumps off of his boat and into the water.  Harvey watches from the dock, shaking his head.  Pye founders about to gain a foothold on the bottom of his slip.

“What in the hell are you doing, now?” Harvey asks.

“Checking for worms,” is the strained reply, as Pye rubs his hands down the hull feeling for the telltale holes.  He splashes about like a great turtle.

The commotion brings Zelda up on deck from out of the boat.  Hands on hips, she hollers to Pye, “Lunch in five minutes, with or without you.”  She looks at Harvey and shrugs.

“Worm check,” he says.

“Oh, but of course.”  Zelda disappears back down to the galley and turns off the oven, hoping the pizza doesn’t turn into a brick.  And on second thought opens the oven door.  A little extra heat wouldn’t hurt.

Though it is officially Spring, you couldn’t tell except by the calendar.  Chilly breezes still swoop down from the north and the dampness of the water only makes the cold cling to your bones all the better.  Pier after pier of shrink-wrapped boats wait to emerge from their white world. Anxious boaters prowl the marina, inspecting their boats’ faring of the winter and sharing tales not yet lived.

As Zelda rinses the dishes from the previous night, she glances up at the window and screams.  Bowls shatter.  At water level, smushed up against the glass is a face.

“You asshole!” she shrieks.  Moments like this really make her wonder why she puts up with Pye.  Goddamned fool.  Ought to be used to it by now, old girl, she tells herself.

Dripping silt and slag like a creature from the deep, Pye cackles as he clambers up onto the plywood work platform floating behind his boat, not without major difficulty for a man nearly as round as he is tall.

“Damn, but that water’s cold,” he says.

Harvey reaches down to give his neighbor a hand.  “What’d you do that for?”

“Had to check for the worms, I told you.”

“You know what I mean.  You could give somebody a heart attack that way.”  Harvey backs up on the dock and lights a cigarette.

Pye stomps the muck from his sneakers and jeans.  “Oh, don’t worry about her.  She’s a tough one.”  Little splats of slime encircle him.

“If you say so.”  Harvey takes another step away.

“Anyway, at least now I know I don’t have to worry about the Ark.  She’s plenty sound.” Pye shivers in the wind.

“Ought to bottom coat it, you know.  Can’t let stuff like that go.  Next thing you know, you don’t even have a hull to paint.  Actually,” Harvey drawls ever so slightly, “you ought to just sell the thing.  Get yourself a real boat.  Fiberglass.”

Plodding along the finger pier, Pye takes a surprisingly agile step up onto Cutty’s Ark and disappears down the hatchway long enough to grab an old towel.  As he comes back on deck, drying himself, he says, “No way.  There’s nothing like a wooden boat.  Besides, I’m going to give her a good sprucing up this year.   You’ll see.”  The smell of pizza almost lures him back down to the galley when he sees a weather worn bay boat cruise into the harbor.

“Hey, Harv, look.  It’s Charlie and he’s got another mate.  Must be that nephew he was talking about.”

Harvey drops the hot ash of his smoke into the water and tucks the filter into his pocket.  “Tell me all about it.  I’m going to have a little lunch.”  His wiry frame disappears quickly around the far side of the boat docked next to Pye’s.

The taste of homemade vegetable soup has been on the tip of his gourmet tongue since he helped Natalie get it started yesterday before he left for the restaurant.  Every time he thinks of the Lazy Whale, he’s pleased with himself for having made such a good investment.  So good, in fact, that he was able to buy his forty-six foot motor yacht outright.  Another good investment. Cheaper than the condo he used to keep to hang his clothes in before he met Nat.  And the marina fees are no more than maintenance fees, the way he sees it.

Pye has already come off of the finger pier and is trotting himself along the dock like the proprietary little watchdog he thinks himself to be.  When he reaches the fuel dock, Charlie has already tied up and is pumping diesel, his engine chattering away all the while.

“Hey, Charlie,” Pye calls over the drone.  “Howya doin’?”

Without looking away from the numbers rolling on the pump, Charlie says, “You still here, Pye?  Heard you done froze to death.”

“Nah, just the car.  Damn thing wouldn’t  budge for a week.”

“So, what’d you do?”

“Had a party.  What else could we do?”

“That’s just exactly what I would’ve done in that situation.”

As Charlie replaces the nozzle on the pump a boy just shy of his sixteenth birthday scuttles out of the glassed-in kiosk and comes over to the boat.

“Prompt little bugger, ain’t you?” Charlie says, handing the young man the money.

Counting out the bills, he says, “Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”

“Hey, kid, what’s your name?”

“Jake, sir.”

“Lemme give you a piece of advice, Jake-sir.  If you find one man in your life that’s worth being called, ‘sir,’ then you’re doing real good.  Especially if he’s your old man.  Remember that.  And for God’s sake, take a good look at this face.  Don’t you go calling me ‘sir,’ again.  Name’s Charlie.  Got it?”

“Yes, uh, Charlie.”  Jake cannot wait to get away from this guy.  Sounds like one of his dad’s poker buddies, late in the game.  He’s grateful to go hide out in the hut, as he thinks of the kiosk.

Pye cackles, and his face bunches up into a pleasantly wrinkled moon.  “Kids.”  Pye fingers the change in his pockets and rocks back and forth, almost in sway with the old dead-rise boat below him.  “Say, didn’t I see you have a mate on board?”

Charlie is fiddling with his umbrella rigs, securing chartreuse sassy shad to the single hook above the treble hooks.  “Yeah.  Got me a good one this time.  Bob is a fine mate.”

A short-haired blonde wearing a green knit cap and overalls pops out of the forward cabin with a trayful of assorted cut bait–peeler crabs, clam snouts, and squid strips.

Pye nearly rocks himself right off of the dock.  That ain’t nobody’s nephew, he gasps to himself.  What he sees is a pixie face with big brown doe eyes.  But with a sturdy look about her.  Enchanting, he’d have to say, if asked.

“This here’s Bob,” Charlie says, barely looking up from his task.  “Damn.”  He runs a good-sized hook into his finger and yanks it out.

Bob smiles and waves before setting about the baiting of her set of hooks.

Wiping the blood on his multi-stained jeans, Charlie looks up at Pye and says, “She’s a mermaid, you know?  Yep.”  He nods.  “Caught her off the coast of the Carolinas last Fall.  And she’s just too damn big to throw back.”

Bob has the bait set and is untying the forward line to the pier when Charlie sees her.

“Gotta go,” he says, and puts the heavy diesel engines into gear from the outside station.  With that, Bob throws the line onto the pier and waves to Pye.  And they’re off in a cloud of diesel fumes and cold water spray.

“Damn.”  Pye shakes his head, watching the pair head out of the harbor and into the river.  He’s got to give it to old Charlie, not only is she easy to look at, but useful, too.

As Charlie’s boat hits the open currents of the early Spring river, it gives a bit of a hop before settling into its heaving ply upriver.

Pye wanders back to the Ark, nodding at the other boaters milling about.  A flash of copper catches his eye in time for him to see Zelda getting into her car.

“Hey,” Pye calls, and bounds over to where she’s parked.  A bit out of breath, he says, “I thought you wanted to eat lunch.”

“I did,” she says, and turns over the ignition, tightening her lips into thin lines so she doesn’t laugh at the picture he makes standing there, looking pouty, afraid he won’t get anything to eat.  She has her own forever five-year-old.

“Well, then, be that way.”  He stares at the ground and turns to leave.

“Try looking in the oven,” she says, before shutting the car door and driving towards the exit of the parking lot.

With a light step, Pye fairly skips off to his lunch.

As Nat washes a few bowls and spoons, she asks Harvey, “What was Pye doing in the water earlier?”

Harvey lowers his newspaper.  “Brace yourself for this one.  He was inspecting the hull for worm holes.”

In mid-wipe, Nat says, “Don’t they usually pull the boat out of the water to do that?”

“Sane people do.”

Nat turns to look over  her shoulder to where Harvey is sitting in the saloon, a dozen feet from the galley.  “Is he sober?”

Nodding, Harvey replies gravely.  “I’m afraid he is.  Sober as a judge.”

She raises her eyebrows.  “Hmmph.  Well, what was Zel screaming about?”

“Carp man.”

“Huh?”

Harvey folds up his paper and raises the footrest of his lounger.  He starts chuckling in spite of himself.  “Pye shoved his face onto the window in the galley and nearly gave her a glimpse of Eternity.”

“Sheesh.  I don’t know how she stands it.  You never can tell what he’ll get up to next.”

“Tell me about it,” Harvey grumbles.  “Remember Halloween?  He about scared those kids to death when he was running around with that pig mask on, dripping ketchup and squealing that way.  He’s just a laugh a minute.”

Nat flips the dishtowel over the clean dishes draining by the sink and joins Harvey in the saloon.  She stretches her long legs across the sofa.  Laughing, she says, “You know you like him.  That’s why we got this slip, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes.  But it isn’t the same as when I just saw him on weekends or whenever I took out the little boat.”

“But he is a good neighbor.  He’s always ready to lend an hand.  Especially since he’s been living on his boat for years and knows all that stuff we didn’t.  At least I didn’t.  I thought it’d be like an apartment on the water.”

Harvey gets a beer out of the refrigerator and looks to Nat, who nods.  He slowly pours a local micro-brew into two tall glasses and sets them on their coffee table.  “It is, sort of.  Except in an apartment you don’t have to worry about the head freezing solid.”

Nat laughs, a high and musical sound.

“I don’t know if we’re cut out to be live-aboards, hon.  I mean, just about everything we own is in storage.  And even though this is a good-sized boat for trips and all, it sure does shrink during the winter.  Even now, I can’t wait to get outside just for the sake of someplace larger to sit.”

“Well, maybe we’re just too far north.  I’ll bet it’d be different down in the Florida Keys or someplace.”

“Oh, that’d be different all right.”  Harvey sips on his beer for a minute or two.  “Though it would be rather difficult to run the Lazy Whale long distance.  Tough to check out the produce, let alone the seafood from a thousand miles away.”

Nat sips at her beer.  “Isn’t that what Lloyd is for?”

“He is the best manager I’ve ever had, but I’d be a fool to turn over the entire operation to anyone.  A surefire recipe for bankruptcy.”

“Mmm.”  Nat stares out the window, watching the gray-green water chop at the side of the boat, enjoying the slight roll.  As a former world-class insomniac, the movement of the boat which makes so many retch is sleep heaven for her.  Until last summer, she couldn’t remember the last time she slept through the night.  Her mind wanders from place to place, all warm destinations.  “Hey, why couldn’t you just sort of move the business?”

Harvey smiles paternally.  “Honey, it just isn’t that easy.  And, after all, it is all a matter of location.”

“What, people in Florida don’t like steak or soft crabs?”

“I’m sure they do.  It’s all very complicated.”

Nat knows the conversation is over and turns her attention to her beer.  The last thing she wants is for Harvey to think she’s a nag.  Then he might spend all his time at the Whale.  And she’s spent enough time alone to know that a little goes a long way.

After Pye changes into dry clothes, he wolfs down his half of the pizza, and sees from the saloon windows that someone is walking up and down the finger piers on either side of the Ark.  Curiosity propels him up to the deck.

“How you doing, buddy?” Pye calls, reaching into the cooler for his first cold one of the day.  He does a quick mental check  to make sure that it is indeed past noon before popping the top.  He offers one to the stranger, who declines.

“Is this your boat?”  the man asks.  He’s wearing a captain’s hat, and sporting a grayish mustache, which he’s twirled up at the ends.  His navy blue windbreaker has a multicolored life ring embroidered on the left breast.

“Sure is.  Why?”  Pye sets his beer on the cooler lid and takes a step closer to the man.

The stranger extends his hand.  “Allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Elliot Wingate.”_@

Pye steps down to the finger pier and takes Elliot’s hand.  “Cuthbert Pye.”  He nearly adds, “Commodore, Grace Harbor Yacht Club,” but he’s wondering which other club sent over this spy.

“I was wondering if you’d be interested in selling your boat.  You see, I’ve been looking for one just like this and having one devil of a time.  Most I find in chop piles behind sheds.  This one has such potential.”  The color in Elliot’s cheeks has risen, along with his voice.  “But, I’m sure you are already quite well aware of that.  At any rate, I’m prepared to make you a most generous offer.”

“Well, I’ll tell you, Elliot.  Cutty’s Ark  just ain’t for sale.”  Pye puffs out his chest in defense of his craft.

Elliot pulls a card from his jacket pocket along with a pen and writes a figure on the back of it before handing it to Pye.  “I certainly can’t blame you.  No, not one bit.  I  wouldn’t want to part with her either, if she were mine.  Should you reconsider, you have my card.”  He manages a thin smile.

Shoving the card into his back pocket, Pye says, “Sure thing, Elliot.”

Again, Elliot extends his hand.  “So nice to have made your acquaintance, Cuthbert.”

Pye flinches and forces a grin as he takes the thin hand into his own fleshy paw.  He watches as the other man clips his way along the dock and into the parking lot.

Harvey appears on the finger pier between their two boats.  “Who was that?”

So startled that he nearly loses his balance, Pye catches himself and only spills a little bit of his beer.  “Damn!  Don’t sneak up on me like that.”  He goes back up on deck and Harvey follows.

Pye tips his beer and drains nearly half down his throat.  “Some joker from another club.  Who has the colored life ring insignia?”

Harvey thinks for a minute before shrugging and helping himself to a beer.  “What’d he want?”

“Says he wants to buy the Ark.  Right.  I’ll just bet you that bunch from the Point sent him down here to make sure I didn’t get her all fixed up.  Because then Old Rat Nose wouldn’t win the antique boat ribbon at the Fest like he does every year.”

Harvey snorts.  “From what I’ve seen, he wouldn’t have anything to talk about, then.”

Pye sucks down the last of his beer and pops open another, pacing on the diminutive deck.  “You know what I ought to do?  I ought to give him a run for his money this year.  Slap on a coat of paint topside, polish up the stainless and redo the rails.  You know, just like I’d planned.  Only better.  Yeah.  And some new canvas.  And I’ll get a flag made up with the club insignia.  And–”

“Wouldn’t it help if she ran?”

“The pump’s on order.  It’ll be here any day now.”  Pye sips on his beer and continues pacing.

Harvey sits down in one of the faded canvas deck chairs, enjoying his beer and staring out at the water.  The wide-openness of the river, and every body of water, makes him feel anything is possible.  Even for Pye to win that ribbon.

A very tan man with a salt-and-pepper ponytail bicycles towards them, with a fully loaded pack on his back.  When he reaches the boat, he stops.  “Don’t you people ever go anyplace?”

“Well, well.  If it isn’t the infamous Davis Keyes, returned from the Seven Seas,” Pye sings.
“Hello, Keyes.  So, what was your latest port?”

“It must’ve been one hell of a trip.  Haven’t seen you all winter.”

“After I ran the Express Cruiser down to Marathon, I decided I could go a winter without seeing snow.  Just for a change.”  Keyes  puts one foot on the pedal and balances himself.  “You know, there’s an awful lot to see in this world.  And even more people to meet.”  He winks and rides on down the dock to where his old wooden thirty-six foot power boat is waiting for him.

Harvey looks at Pye.  “He sure is a happy sort.”

Nodding, Pye says, “Yeah.  And I can’t wait to hear about this trip.  Bet he hooked up with a couple of those blonde beach babes they have down there.”

“Who’s got blonde beach babes?”  A man in his early forties is standing on the dock with his sixteen year-old son, both armed with fishing poles and tackle boxes.

“What do you say, Floyd?  Pete?”  Pye tosses down a beer.  “Ain’t he old enough to drink, yet?”

Pete looks hopefully at his dad.

Grinning, Floyd says, “Someone has to drive home.”  He takes a drink from the can and scans the marina.  “I see Keyes is back.  The Jolly Roger is flying.”

“That was quick,” Harvey says.  “He pedaled by not ten minutes ago.”

“Well,” Pye says, “just like him not to waste a minute.”

Pete fidgets on the dock, dying to go down and see Keyes.  But he knows he’s not allowed.  And has no idea why.

“Bet he has some tales to tell,” Floyd says.  “Well, better go see if we’re having stripers or pizza for dinner.  Thanks for the beer.”  He tosses the empty back to Pye.

The duo go back up the dock and head for the second pier in, where their runabout is tied up.  Floyd throws the lines onto the pilings as Pete fires the outboard to life and takes the helm.  On their way out of the harbor, both admire the gulls as they clip and dive to the choppy waves, fish shining briefly in their mouths.

“Look at that!”  Pye bounces to attention and points towards the river where a lengthy motor yacht is approaching the marina.  Bright-work gleams sharply in the late afternoon sun.

Harvey stands to get a better look.  “Whew–that baby looks like a million dollars.  Literally!”

“Wonder what they’re doing at this marina.”

As the maroon and white craft approaches, two men come out on the deck to secure the lines.  A man wearing a navy captain’s hat waves as they pass and the man at the wheel expertly berths the cumbersome vessel into a slip several piers away.  Having moored, three of the men disembark and make their way to the parking lot.

“Looks like we’ve got a new neighbor,” Harvey says.

“Be pretty tough to live on one that size, huh?”

Harvey nods.

Pye says, “Bet you could cross the Atlantic with her.  Hey, let’s go ask.”

“Give the guy a break.  He just got here.”

“We got to be neighborly, don’t we?  Come on.”  Pye hops down the step to the finger pier and waves Harvey on, who follows, two beers in hand.

As they walk down the dock, Pye says, “We never had one that big in here before.  He must be loaded.  I mean filthy, stinking rich.”

“Yeah. That sure is some toy.”

As they reach the boat, a voice booms from the deck.  “Ahoy!”  The man with the captain’s hat smiles broadly and waves.  His sunglasses are neon pink mirrored wrap-around style, and below his khaki-colored shorts are his sock-clad feet wearing sandals.  His thirtieth birthday is a fresh memory.

Pye and Harvey look at each other, both figuring his father must own the boat.

The first to speak is, of course, Pye.  “Hi, I’m Pye and this is Harvey.”

“I’m Max.  Welcome aboard.”

Pye and Harvey board and join Max on the immaculate deck.

“Is she new?” Pye asks.

“She sure is,” Max beams.  “Fresh from the factory.  We picked her up in Baltimore this morning.”

Remembering the beers he’s holding, Harvey offers one to Max.

“Thanks, man, but I’ve got a whole boatload in here.”  Max snickers as he lifts the lid on the cooler which also provides generous seating for two.  “Got plenty more in the fridge.”  He pulls out three bottles of imported beer and offers them to his guests, who accept.  Using the built-in bottle opener, he snaps off the caps.

“Man,” Pye says, “you sure know how to live.  This is the good stuff.”

“Yeah, ain’t it great,” Max says.  “Life is good.”  He raises his beer and takes a long swallow.

Pye and Harvey follow suit.

“Really nice boat you have here,” Harvey says, setting the beers he brought on the cooler lid.

“Thanks.  Really, I ought to thank my Uncle Marvin.”

“Oh, is this his boat?” Pye asks.

Laughing, and nearly blowing suds out of his nose, Max says, “Hell, no.  He’s dead.”  Recovering himself, he continues.  “Sorry about that.  No, he left me a fortune.  Never even knew the tightwad had a damn penny.  When he’d come over for Christmas dinner, he brought us kids oranges.  Like it was some big deal.  But since I just happened to love ‘em, those big navels especially, it was okay with me, and I got everybody else’s.”  He shrugs.  “And he left everything to me.”

“Wish I had a rich uncle,” Pye says, and savors the brew which his budget denies him.

“Come on in and take a look around.  This is the deluxe package.  It’s even got a built-in entertainment center.  And the bathrooms are really cool.   It has two.”

“Don’t look now,” Harvey says, gesturing with his head towards a bald man with a beer belly which wiggles as he walks along the pier.

Pye takes one glance in that direction and says, “For God’s sakes, let’s go below.  Now.”

Max lead the way to the enclosed bridge and opens the mahogany door leading down to the spacious saloon.  It’s the sort of room usually found in a hotel suite:  walnut walls, glass-topped tables, plush love seats and a sofa.

Quickly closing the curtains, Pye says, “Boy, that was a close one.”

“I’ll say,” Harvey sighs.

“What’s up?” Max asks.

“Well,” Pye shakes his head, “we just saved your life.  That walking bowl of human jelly is Albert Ross.  The Albatross.  He knows everything about anything and he lives to share his knowledge with us poor witless morons.”

“All you have to do is say hello to him and you can kiss the next four hours good-bye.”

“Never, ever shuts up,” Pye adds.

Almost breaking into a grin, Max says, “So, why don’t you tell him to drop dead.”

Harvey and Pye exchange weary glances.

Pye says, “Doesn’t work.  Believe me, it doesn’t work.”

Max sinks into an overstuffed chair by the cabin wall.  “So, you guys just hide from, what’s-his-name?”

Nervously, Harvey and Pye sit on the edge of the expensive sofa facing Max.  “The Albatross.  Yeah, pretty much.”

“Damn,” Max says.  He drains his beer and offers another to the duo, who both smile and nod. When he opens the refrigerator, the other two see that he wasn’t kidding about having plenty of beer.  There is nothing else in the standard-sized refrigerator in the spacious galley.

Accepting the beer from Max, Pye says, “So, what, do you live on beer?”

Max sits Harvey’s beer in front of him, on the smoked glass topped coffee table.  Harvey wishes he had a coaster.  If he had a handkerchief in his pocket he’d use that.  He tries to let it go.

“Uh, well, I’ve certainly tried.  But, what are you talking about?”

Pye says, “Your fridge.  No room for food.  Or do you just do carryout?”

“Come again?”

“You got to eat sometime.  How can you live here with no food?”

Max shakes his head.  “Live here?  No way.  I’ve got a condo.  Who lives on a boat?  That shit went out with the hippies.”

“Can you dig that, Moonbeam?”

“Far out, man,” Pye says to Harvey.

His eyebrows shooting up to his thinning hairline, Max says, “You mean you guys actually live on your boats?  Like, all year?”  As the two nod slowly, he says, “Hey, I didn’t mean anything.  It’s just that it’s so. . .uh, unusual these days.”

Pye asks, “Have you spent any time in a marina?”

“No, not really.”

“How long have you been boating?”

“Counting today?”

“So you don’t even know how to run this thing?”

“Not yet.  But, I’m going to take lessons.”  Max’s voice rises.

Harvey offers, “Maybe you should have started a little smaller.  Something this size can be a bear to dock, if you can even find a slip.”

“Yeah,” Max says.  “You know, I did have one hell of a time finding this, um, slip.  There’s plenty down the bay, but I wanted to be at the head of the Chesapeake.”

“I see,” Harvey says.

Standing up, Pye says, “We’ve got to get going.  Thanks for the beer.”  He drains the bottle and sets it on the coffee table.

“Sure thing.  Any time.”

Harvey sets his empty on the carpet, next to the sofa leg.  “Thanks for hiding us out.  And for the beer.  The Albatross should have flown away by now if he couldn’t find any fool to corner.”

Pye takes a quick peek out of the curtains.  “Yep.  The coast is clear.  Better make a run for it.”

Max walks them up to the bridge and out on deck, where he waves as they leave before going back down to his living room and cranking up the jams.

“Guess we better get used to it,” Pye says.  “Another month and all of the idiots will be here.  But, that Max guy just takes the cake.  A classic case of more money than brains.  All that boat and he’s not even going to live on it.”

Harvey keeps an eye peeled for the dreaded Ross.  “Well, I guess he can afford a captain and crew.”

“Yeah.  Must be nice.”

“I wouldn’t mind trying it,” Harvey agrees.

“What’re you talking about?  You’re loaded.”

“Not hardly.”

“Oh, yeah, Pye snorts.  “Everybody owns a restaurant.  And pays cash for their boat.  Uh-huh.”

“Hey, I just know a good investment when I see one.”

When they reach their boats, Pye invites Harvey to join him on the Ark for a drink.

“Thanks, but I’ve got to go check on Nat.  Make sure the galley isn’t on fire.”

“There’s always carryout,” Pye offers.

“Yeah, good idea,” Harvey says.  “I could get one of the busboys to run something down here.  How about some crab cakes?  You guys come over around six, okay?”

“Sure thing.  I’ll bring the dessert.  Zel just made a chocolate cake.”

“Sounds good.  See you then.”

Dinner rolls along like many others since Nat and Harvey came to live at the marina.  Since the last summer, it’s become almost a weekly event that the four of them get together over the weekend and spend an evening eating, drinking, and generally making merry.  Laughter can be heard drifting across the water until the earliest of hours. Sometimes they play cards, or one of Nat’s innumerable board games.  Mostly they just make fun of the world and their lives and everyone else’s.  And when their cheeks and ribs can’t stand any more, Pye and Zelda go home to their boat and smile in their sleep.

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