Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

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Location: Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, United States

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Clothes make the woman?

What IS fashion supposed to be about, anyway?


This past week, the weather has been cooler in Albuquerque, cool enough that I have been able to wear some of my fuzzy favorites. Thursday, I pulled out one of my better ensembles, a sweater of acrylic knit in a dramatic black-and-white pattern with metallic gold tracings, over black velour trousers – good-looking while also being very comfortable. I was complimented on the outfit several times. With a faux pearl hair clip and gray loafers, my entire outfit cost less than $25 – and about half of that was the shoes.

Now I hear that a certain political party has paid for a political candidate to go on a shopping spree, spending about $150,000 on clothes. My mind boggles. How in the world can anybody spend $150,000 on clothes? I mean, maybe some people believe that it is worth a few thousand dollars for something special like a wedding dress, but to spend that kind of money on what one is going to wear every day … that just doesn’t make sense. For that kind of money, I could buy not just one, but two, nicely equipped luxury cars. That kind of money would buy a house in many parts of New Mexico, and not just in the slums.

Back when we had the money to pay for satellite television at Five O’Clock Somewhere, I saw a couple of episodes of the show “What Not to Wear.” The basic premise was that some deserving person with no fashion sense was nominated by friends, family, and/or coworkers to get a makeover – primarily of wardrobe, but also including hairstyle and (for women) makeup. This person was then given a prepaid credit card with a really big balance on it (I don’t remember the exact amount, but I believe it was $2000 or so), taken shopping at upscale stores, and taken to world-class hairstylists and makeup experts. The end result was usually dramatic.

I’m sure that if I had an extra couple thousand dollars lying around that I could spend on such things, I could also achieve a similar result. And if the folks at “What Not to Wear” actually had $150,000 to work with, I bet they could accomplish something really stunning.
But I don’t have that kind of money. In fact, I would guess that over the past year, I have spent less than $100 on clothes. I might not look highly polished enough to be on the stage in a nationally televised political debate. But I do look reasonably presentable and professional.

My secret: thrift stores. While a lot of what gets donated is on the shabby side, there are always hidden gems. This is especially true of the larger thrift stores – they will sometimes get donations from merchants of high-quality fashions that have gone unsold at the end of the season. But even the smaller thrift stores are worth mining. One of my greatest finds was a luxurious fake-fur coat for $15 at a tiny thrift shop run by a small-town humane society. As for the outfit mentioned above, the sweater was $2 at a humane society thrift shop, the pants were $3 at a church thrift shop, the hair clip was $3 at a drugstore, and the shoes were $15 at a discount mail-order outlet (plus tax, shipping, and handling).

I’ve had this idea for some time now, since long before the political party got into the fashion-makeover spending binge. “What Not to Wear” is interesting to watch, but ultimately unrealistic, since most television viewers aren’t going to get a prepaid credit card with a couple thousand dollars on it dropped into their laps.

What I would like to see is “What Not to Wear: Trailer Park Edition,” in which the funding is $200, not $2000, and it’s cash, not a credit card. The fashion shopping is done in thrift stores, the hairstyling is done at a barber college such as the one where I get my hair done (about a third the cost of even the bargain hairstyle places), and the face makeover is done by a local person who sells cosmetics for one of the major franchises. THAT would be realistic.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

We didn’t go to the party

The party came to us

We had a plan for this weekend, to meet up with Zorro to work on Black Magic. Yes, I know, there was a flaw in that sentence – it is generally not possible to put “Zorro” and “plan” in the same sentence.

The idea was that Zorro has a couple of spare sets of shrouds lying around, and we need to put new shrouds on our boat before it can be safely sailed without risk of breaking the mast. So he was to drive up to the lake from El Paso, and we were to drive down to the lake from Albuquerque. We could help him de-rig his boat, Constellation, so he could take it to El Paso, where he could then work on rebuilding the bow that was knocked off during that “non-storm related wind event” this summer. And he could help us put the new shrouds on Black Magic, so he could sail her during the rest of the fall series regattas.

As we started on our journey to the lake, we called Zorro, and we found out that he had car trouble, but he’d call us when the car got fixed. At that point, we could be pretty sure that we wouldn’t be seeing Zorro or the shrouds this weekend, but since we’d already embarked on our journey, we continued on to the lake.

Our first stop at the lake was the Rock Canyon Marina, where, at least in theory, there was going to be a gathering of Rio Grande Sailing Club sailors, but the only one there was Teddy Bear. We chatted with him for a while, and then we went to meet Cornhusker at the trailer where we’re staying again this weekend.

We found the trailer, which had previously been relatively isolated, in the midst of a gathering. The local Hobie fleet was having its annual Halloween gathering on the point, and Cornhusker and Bassmaster’s trailer was parked right in the middle of where they gathered. We got to watch them sailing, and they invited us to their party, and we all had a great time. And that great time is scheduled to continue tomorrow.

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Bucket … what bucket?

a somewhat delayed response to Tillerman’s latest challenge

Over at Proper Course, Tillerman has issued another group writing project: Come up with a “bucket list” of sailing accomplishments you would like to achieve before you die. This has been a particularly difficult assignment for me.

Pat has had a couple of goals suited to a bucket list. One is the idea of sailing in or off the coast of all 50 states. The other is his idea of sailing “around” the world … taking advantage of modern jet travel to eliminate the boring long stretches of ocean passages in between the interesting places: Fly to New Zealand, charter a boat there, and sail around New Zealand, and then fly home; fly to the eastern part of Australia, charter a boat there, and sail around the eastern part of Australia, and so forth. We wouldn’t even need to do the world in order – we might go to the Mediterranean, then Chile, then the Caribbean, then Indonesia.

But that’s Pat’s list, not mine. I’ve been having trouble thinking of what might be on my bucket list. Partly it’s because, like at least one other of Tillerman’s correspondents, I’ve been buried by my non-sailing life – I’m teaching a full slate of classes this term, and enrollment is up, and I’m seeing far less than the usual attrition, and the work the students have been turning in has had more depth than usual, and so I have really been swamped by the papers I have been grading. It’s a good news/bad news thing – I love the richness of the essays I have been reading, but they have taken away some of the time I would normally be using for other things.

I also don’t want my “bucket list” to turn into just a low-level shopping list of short-term fixing this, that or the other. Yeah, it’s a good idea to get the traveler on Black Magic working again, but that’s not something that would define, for me, what would have made my life worthwhile.

Looking at long-term sailing goals, I suppose one thing that would mean a lot to me would be to help Zorro to get to the Mallory finals, or some other national sailing accomplishment. This year, the Mallory was won by a skipper who chose to make the Area F finals not happen by not signing up to race against Zorro, and who got into the finals by resume when Zorro’s employer prevented him from going to the finals (he has since signed on with a new employer who is much more flexible). I want to see Zorro in a national championship, if not the Mallory, something else. And I want to be on Zorro’s crew, helping him do it.

And then Pat and I have been doing a lot of speculating lately … Pat’s job, at the moment, is mostly dormant, and we’ve been looking at options. Now that Gerald is off at college, we’re not tied to Albuquerque, and even with the real-estate slump, our house is worth about three times what we bought it for, and we have gobs of equity. We can sell and relocate anywhere Pat’s skills are needed – there are community colleges everywhere, so no matter where we go, I can find employment. For that matter, even if we go abroad, there are always schools dedicated to teaching English, so I don’t need to worry about finding something to do.

It’s not empty-nest syndrome that I’m experiencing; it’s empty-nest freedom. I just haven’t really figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life – except I do know that I want to keep working with the sort of students I’ve been working with.

Yeah, I know, that doesn’t have much to do with sailing.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not dead yet

Although sometimes it feels like it


Yeah, I know I haven’t put up a post in a long time. Things have been, well, busy lately. This past weekend Pat and I were up at Five O’Clock Somewhere, to get the place ready for winter and take the last Sunfish out of the lake before it freezes over. I ended up spending most of my time either nursing a cold I seem to have come down with or grading papers. I have an especially talented bunch of students this term, which means their essays have more depth, which means it takes me longer to get through them all.

The weekend before that was the first fall-series regatta at Elephant Butte, and we also had a dinner party with some of our closest sailing friends to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

For lodging, Cornhusker and Bassmaster made their fifth-wheel trailer available to us. It’s 15 years old, and it was in sad shape last year when Bassmaster picked it up for almost nothing. He has since spent untold hours and dollars fixing it up – as well as buying a truck capable of towing it. But now it’s gorgeous. It has a nice kitchen, wood-laminate floors, a luxuriously appointed master bedroom, a compact but fully functional bathroom, a solar panel charging a 12-volt electric system, and a propane-powered refrigerator.

Even more gorgeous was the spot where it was parked. The New Mexico State Parks sell an annual camping pass that, for New Mexico residents, is a great bargain. I believe there is an additional discount for seniors, veterans, and the disabled. There are a few restrictions – it doesn’t cover utility hookups, and the trailer can’t stay in the same place for more than three weeks. That means that every three weeks, Cornhusker and Bassmaster pick up the trailer, take it to a pumpout to drain the holding tank and refill the freshwater tank, and then park it someplace else. That weekend, it was on the peninsula south of the race course, on farthest east point facing Rattlesnake Island. It was a bit exposed for my tastes, but the scenery was beautiful.

Saturday’s racing was brutal. Zorro’s boat is still out of commission, so I turned over the helm of Black Magic to him. He brought along his loyal crew-member Twinkle Toes, and Cornhusker rounded out the crew. (Pat served race committee duty on Twinkle Toes’ boat, Windependent.) It was a rough day’s racing, and a whole lot of things on the boat broke – the traveler, which we’d only fixed a few months ago, failed again, and Zorro spotted a serious problem with the way previous owners of the boat had rigged it that was causing it to break. The bracket holding the tiller extension to the tiller broke. And the upper shrouds started to fray. We retired from the racing after the second race – those who participated in the third said things got really exciting.

The boat wasn’t the only thing damaged. Cornhusker and I both got a bunch of bruises, and Twinkle Toes’ nose had a collision with the boom. He kept insisting it was nothing, but he looked like a hockey player at the end of a particularly brutal game.

That night was the anniversary party. The guest list included my folks (about to celebrate their own 50th next year), Fuego, who’s currently in New Mexico to work on a spaghetti western (it’s an Italian film company, but with the current ratio of the dollar to the euro and New Mexico’s incentives for filmmakers, it’s cheaper to shoot here than in Italy), Twinkle Toes (who made quite an impression with his bandaged-up nose), Zorro, Cornhusker, Mother, and Dumbledore. We had also been expecting Magnum and Mrs. Magnum, but he got called away on a case at the last minute and couldn’t come.

Sunday, Black Magic was too beat-up to participate in the races, and Zorro had disappeared anyway. The original weather forecast had been for stiff conditions, but instead, there was a lot of rain and not much wind. Pat and Twinkle Toes took Windependent out as committee boat, while I went back to the trailer to rest, grade papers, and finish the mystery novel that Cornhusker had left on the shelf by the bed, which I had started reading Friday.

After the racing was over, we hauled Black Magic out of the water and parked her at Mother and Dumbledore’s place, while we wait for replacement parts that we have on order.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

25 Years!

They say time flies when you’re having fun …

… but then, as I’m always telling my students when marking their essays, “who the heck is ‘they’?”

That’s right, on October 1, 1983, Pat and I got hitched. It was a low-budget affair, rather hastily put together after we got the news that the doctors had given up on Pat’s mother’s cancer, and she was not expected to live much longer. Matters weren’t made easier when Hurricane Alicia blew through Houston, leaving the two of us and our cat as refugees (albeit only for a short time).

The wedding was in my home town, and it was challenging to arrange everything on short notice. Photographers, caterers, florists, and so forth really like to have longer than a month’s notice to put together a wedding. And the best photographer in town and the best florist in town were both retiring, one the day before the wedding, one the day after.

Even though the photographer was planning to retire before the wedding, he agreed to talk to us. We walked into the studio, and there was a little chair in the corner that I remembered. “Hey, I remember getting my picture taken in that chair when I was four!” I said. Bingo. The photographer decided to delay his retirement by a day.

Next door, when we told the florist that we didn’t need anything fancy, he said that he could squeeze us in that weekend.

There wasn’t time to order a fancy, custom-made dress. But two mothers of friends of mine had started a boutique, which they ran with the help of their teenage and young-adult daughters, and they carried a small selection of wedding dresses. I found a nice ivory-colored one that matched my mom’s wedding veil, which had originally been white but by that time was also ivory-colored.

We arranged for Pat’s best friend from South Texas to be best man, and my college roommate to be maid of honor. For ushers, we recruited my brother and one of his buddies. Then, a week before the wedding, my maid of honor came down with mono and her doctor forbade her to leave Houston. So the best man’s fiancée was pressed into duty at the last minute.

There was also the issue of the minister – he had been struck by lightning (yes, really!) two years before, and he was still recovering. So we had the associate pastor officiating.

With all of those disasters, near-disasters, and narrowly averted disasters, some people might have decided that this wedding wasn’t meant to be. But we went ahead with it.

I guess that was the right decision.

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