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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving with flippy floppies

Not your traditional weather …

So Pat and I have taken a trip to Arizona to have Thanksgiving with Gerald. While we were driving through the mountains of eastern Arizona last night, the temperature did get down to 34 degrees, according to the thermometer in our truck. However, now we’re in Tempe, in the Valley of the Sun, and the temperature is somewhere in the vicinity of 80 degrees.

Pat discovered that he had forgotten something in his packing, leaving him short of pants. No problem, we found that one clothing store in the outlet mall was open special Thanksgiving hours. This shopping center has one of the very trendy sound systems that plays music in all of the outdoor areas. It’s playing holiday tunes.

There was something incongruous, however, about what was playing as we were walking from the truck to the store: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

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NaNo update: made 50K

And I’m on a roll …

This evening (Wednesday), just before midnight, I crossed the 50,000 word line with my National Novel Writing Month novel, Murder on the Sports Desk. It’s not anywhere near finished, as the first dead body didn’t even turn up until nearly 43,000 words into the novel, but I’ve made the goal that NaNo sets every November.

I’m feeling good about this one. It’s a repeat of 2005, which was my most successful NaNo ever. In that year, I reached 50K well ahead of the end of the month, and I actually managed to finish the novel. My other novels have all reached the 50,000 word mark, but haven’t been taken all the way to the end.

Part of my 2005 success was that November that year had five weekends and so had more writing time, and the Thanksgiving weekend gave the final extra time I needed to get things done. That’s happening this year.

This excerpt involves how the Siete Mares Capitan reported on the death of the photographer.

Hannah unrolled the newspaper and looked at the headline at the top of the front page: “Sports Photographer Slain.” Beneath that, in smaller, italic type, was a line that read, “Award winning photojournalist covered local events; police seek Seagulls goalie in case.” Hannah read on.

Sports photographer George Spencer was found dead Tuesday night in the Capitan newsroom, his body stuffed underneath a desk. According to the medical examiner’s office, the cause of death appears to be a blunt force trauma to the head.

Police announced that they are seeking Siete Mares Seagulls goalie Pierre LeFevre as a person of interest in the case. LeFevre has been involved in several violent events in the past few days, including one in which he assaulted an off-duty police officer; Spencer had been present at that incident and had taken photos of it.

LeFevre subsequently assaulted another officer and then came to the Capitan newsroom, threatening Spencer. In that incident, LeFevre was injured; he escaped from police custody while being treated in the emergency room at Siete Mares Medical Center.

Police warn that LeFevre is to be considered armed and dangerous, and caution anybody who sees him not to confront him but to notify authorities immediately.

Spencer, who had won many awards for his work over the years, had been working for the Capitan for the last eight years. He shot primarily sports events, but he had also worked news stories and features.

Prior to working at the Capitan, Spencer worked for newspapers in Memphis, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Cincinnati.

Spencer was unmarried and had no children. He is survived by his parents, Wanda and Bruce Spencer, of La Crosse, Wisconsin; a brother, Bruce Spencer Jr. of Seattle; and a half-brother, Douglas Sterling, currently an inmate at Mid State Mental Hospital seven miles east of Siete Mares.

“Harry, look at this,” Hannah said, handing him the newspaper. “Look who George Spencer’s brother is!”

Harry took the newspaper and read. “So George Spencer is – was – the brother of the guy who tried to bash your brains in, and now George is dead with his brains bashed in. You don’t think there’s a connection here, do you?”

“I think it’s just coincidence,” Hannah said. “But maybe somebody should check with Mid State to make sure Douglas Sterling hasn’t escaped.”

“And maybe the medical examiner should check whether George’s fatal head wounds are consistent not just with a hockey stick but with an AK 47,” Harry said.

Honestly, I did not know about the relationship between the two characters until I wrote that news story.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another great welcome home

Lightning DOES strike twice, and so do burglars

This weekend wasn’t a regatta weekend, but we and Zorro both wanted to do some important boat work. We had a bunch of little things that we wanted to fix on Black Magic, and the bow of Constellation had suffered some damage the previous weekend, when we were docking after attempting to race Sunday. The idea was to put Black Magic into the water and leave her in Constellation’s slip, put Constellation on our trailer, and then tow her to El Paso so Zorro could work on her.

Winds were light Saturday, so we didn’t have trouble with the boat launching and retrieval routines, although it was slow for Pat taking Black Magic north to the Rock Canyon Marina. Zorro, Cornhusker, and I got in a bit of sailing on Constellation while we were waiting.

Once we had Constellation out of the water and de-rigged, Pat and I hauled her south to Zorro’s house in El Paso. There, we had a meet-and-greet with the menagerie – a very large number of cats, headed by Oscar, a large Maine Coon sort, and two dogs – Connor, who’s been among the cats so long they think he’s one of them, and Sugar Bear, an Australian Shepherd who is new to the household but who does get along very well with cats.

So today, Pat was doing a lot of miscellaneous tasks on Black Magic, such as replacing the shock cords on the mast blocks, removing the motor mount (it’s been at least two years since we last used a motor), and trying to remove the old bilge pump to make room for a mast-butt moving system (he estimates he’s about 40 percent done with that task; there are a bunch of corroded bolts, and he’s had to dismantle the thing to remove it). Meanwhile, I worked on my National Novel Writing Month project; my total today (so far) has been more than 4000 words. We didn’t miss any sailing; there was very close to no wind.

This evening, we returned home to an unpleasant surprise, a nearly exact repeat of two years ago when we returned from the Dillon Regatta to a burglarized house. First, we found the door between the house and the garage standing open. Then we realized that the house was very cold. Then we saw that the back door was wide open. Then we saw drawers open in the bedroom, office, and elsewhere. Books had been pulled from the top shelf of a small bookcase next to the bed. A duffel bag full of sailing gear in the living room had been opened and dumped out. Lights had been turned on and left on in the back bedrooms and their closets. The hall closet was standing open, its contents strewn about. In the guest bedroom, the screen had been torn off the window, and the window had been jimmied open.

A flat screen television that had been purchased to replace the one that had been stolen the last time we had been hit by burglars (but whose tuner didn’t work) was missing. So was a seriously out-of-date VCR that we had packaged up with its remote and instruction manual to give to charity. So were nearly all of our DVD movies (all but Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Return of the J’s, and U.S. Coast Guard License Boating Training). If you’re in a flea market in Albuquerque and see somebody selling a big collection of Clint Eastwood flicks, you’re probably looking at ours.

At least this time, we didn’t lose things of great sentimental value – the previous burglars took care of that. This weekend’s burglars also didn’t turn on the computer the way the previous burglars had, so we don’t have the same worries about possible identity theft. There were some other valuable things that were out in plain sight but that the burglars missed; there is a definite advantage to having a messy house! On the downside, the previous burglary had been during August, but now that it’s November, the open doors and window meant that we were paying heating bills to heat the great outdoors from whenever the burglary took place until we got home.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

A spat

Purely fiction. Purely. (Well, almost purely.)

Over at Proper Course, Tillerman has issued another writing challenge. This one is to produce a post exploring the relationship between Love and Sailing. He has graciously permitted this exploration to take the form of fiction. And he has invited readers to explore not merely the positive aspects but also the negative. Thus, I present this excerpt from my current National Novel Writing Month project, Murder on the Sports Desk.

Hannah Montgomery, our point-of-view character, has been recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Her fiancé, Harry O’Malley, has been taking care of her. Her friend, Flash Duran, has just taken her sailing on his high-performance racing yacht, Avenger, and Harry’s not too happy about that. In the aftermath of that argument, they have gone to bed.

She dreamed that she was sailing on Avenger, out on the ocean, far from the coast, which was just a hazy dark line along the horizon. She was at the helm, steering the boat and also trimming the mainsail and jib – pulling on those dozens of lines as if she knew exactly which one to pull when, and which one to ease when. The boat was cutting through the waves with great speed, and she was getting splashed with chilly, salty water. She thought she was alone.

Suddenly an arm reached around her from behind, startling her, and wrapped her up in a tight grip, so that she could barely breathe. She felt the sinewy strong arm of the man behind her as he pulled her to him, and she felt the hard muscles of his chest against her back. She started to scream, but the man clamped a hand over her mouth, so all that she was able to do was make a slight squeaking sound. She could feel hard calluses against her lips, and she could taste the man’s sweat, a mixture of salt and the sulfurous tang of gunpowder. She tried to twist herself out of his hold, but she could barely move; his arm was too strong.

Then the man gripped her arm in his other hand and turned her around to face him, wrenching her shoulder as he did so. She released the tiller, and the boat careened out of control, rounding upwind and stalling out, to be slapped sideways by the waves. She looked at her captor. Dressed in full pirate regalia, with ragged breeches, a sash at the waist into which a cutlass was thrust, a shirt open to show a bare chest, tricorn hat, eye patch, pencil thin mustache, was … Flash Duran.

He removed his hand from her mouth. “Flash?” she squeaked.

“Aye, wench,” he said. “Ye be on my boat, ye be my wench.” She looked down and realized that she, too, was dressed as a pirate, barefoot, with a ragged red skirt and a loose white blouse. He put his hand behind her head, lacing his fingers through her hair, and pulled her face toward his, his mouth open to kiss hers. She could feel his hot breath, and smell it – he must have had liverwurst or something like it for lunch, and then smoked his cigarettes afterward. He slipped a hand inside her blouse and she realized she wasn’t wearing a bra; the calluses on his palm felt like sandpaper against her skin. She squirmed and pushed, but his other arm held her so tightly to him that she could barely move.

“Flash, no,” Hannah said as his face loomed in hers. “Flash!” Hannah felt herself spinning, and she wasn’t sure whether it was only the motion of the out of control boat, or also her own mind spinning, her head reeling. “Flash!” she screamed again.

She woke up with a jolt, bolting upright in the bed and gasping for breath. Harry was next to her, also awake, groggily sitting up. “That must have been some dream,” he said.

“It was, um, well, I don’t know,” Hannah said. “I don’t know what it was about.”

“It seemed pretty clear to me,” Harry said. “You were moving around like, well, like when we’re making love. And then, you scream out somebody else’s name instead of mine. Somebody you insist you don’t have anything more than friendship with.”

“It’s not like that,” Hannah said. “This dream was … frightening. He wasn’t a friend. He was … not … who he really is.”

“And how do you know who he really is?” Harry asked. “Could the dream be trying to tell you something?”

“No,” Hannah said. “Flash Duran may be a rogue, he may be self serving, he may have an ego the size of a house, he may be used to getting his way, but underneath, he’s a good person who cares about his friends, including me.”

“Honey,” Harry said, “I know you have a soft spot for the guy. But look at him, look at his reputation. He’s a pirate, and pirates are not nice people. Romantic imagery aside, even the pirates in the eighteenth century were ruthless, bloodthirsty criminals who took whatever they wanted without a care for whoever they might hurt in the process.”

How strange, Hannah thought, that Harry should bring up the pirate image, when she hadn’t mentioned anything about Flash being a pirate in her dream. “But Flash is not that way,” she said. “He would never hurt me.”

“Didn’t he hurt you this afternoon?” Harry asked. “He took you on his boat, his dangerous, demanding, brutal boat, and he had you trimming sheets and going on the foredeck, all the things you shouldn’t be doing until you’re fully recovered from your injury, and he brought you to the brink of collapse.”

“You don’t understand,” Hannah said. “That sail gave me much more than it took away. The feeling of that boat, it energized me and made me feel more alive than I have since before the injury.”

“You know, that’s what drug users say,” Harry said. “They take their uppers, and they get a charge out of the high, but really all the drugs are doing is robbing the users’ own energy reserves. Then they crash. When you got off that boat, you crashed.”

“That’s not how it was,” Hannah said. But then, she thought, was it? When she had stepped off the boat and set foot on the pier, she had no longer felt the energy flowing through her, and she had attributed that effect to the fact that she was no longer drawing energy from the boat. When Harry had hugged her, she had felt energy draining away, as if Harry was sapping her strength. But could it have been that the boat had been making her burn her own energy, and it was coincidence that the crash came when she left the boat and entered Harry’s arms?

“You’re having doubts, aren’t you?” Harry said. “I tell you, that man and that boat are dangerous.”

“I refuse to believe it,” Hannah said. “He’s saved my life often enough for me to know he does take my well being to heart.”

“He also takes his own desires to heart,” Harry said. “He wanted you on that boat more than he wanted you healthy. I don’t think you should sail with him again.”

“We’ve already been through this,” Hannah said. “Didn’t you agree that I could sail on Avenger if I’m just a passenger and don’t exert myself over anything?”

“I said I’d think about it,” Harry said. “Now, I’m not so sure I should even have said that.”

“You’re not going to take this away from me,” Hannah said. “I know you don’t like it, but the feeling of that boat, of being there on the water, the power of it, I can’t give it up.”

“But you have to,” Harry said. “Your health …”

“Is at least as much my business as it is yours,” Hannah said. “I can choose to take a risk if I wish, and in this case, the risk is not so big as you say it is, and the payoff is much too big to give up.”

Harry reached out and grabbed Hannah’s arm. “You can’t do it,” he said. “Think of me. Think how much I love you. Think how much it hurts me when you hurt. Don’t do something foolhardy that will cost me you.”

“Do you really want to not lose me?” Hannah said. “Then you’ll have to let me do this. If you really cared about me, you’d see that this is something I must do.” She pulled her arm out of Harry’s grasp, threw off the covers and got out of bed, reaching for her clothes, which she had tossed on a chair on the way to the bed earlier that evening.

“Don’t do it,” Harry said, getting up to follow her. “I only want what’s best for you.”

“What’s best for me is the freedom that I found going out on that boat,” Hannah said, pulling on her jeans and sweater, not bothering with a bra. “If you can’t allow me that, I can’t stay here.”

“Please, Hannah,” Harry said, putting his hands on her shoulders, “don’t go. I love you. You’re my life.”

“Well, you’re robbing me of mine,” Hannah said, pulling away from him again. “If you call that love, I don’t want to have to deal with it.” She dashed out of the room, grabbed her purse, laptop, papers and car keys, and was out the front door.

As she was unlocking her car, Harry appeared at the doorway, belting on his bathrobe. “Hannah, come back,” he said. “I take it back. You can go risk your life on that damn boat if you want. Just stay.”

“It’s too late for that now,” Hannah said. She climbed into her car, started it up, and drove off.

As I said, this is fiction.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Poetry Corner: Frank Churchill

Thinking about the offspring

Lately, Gerald has had a rough time. Some things he has mentioned on his blog, such as his encounter with a seriously out-of-line driver while he was riding his bicycle after returning to Tempe from a regatta in Santa Barbara – a return that was delayed by a tire blowout in California on the way.

He’s had to deal with a lot of other stresses as well, financial, automotive, academic, and health-related. It hasn’t helped that Pat and I haven’t been able to get out there to visit him, or that we haven’t even been able to send him green chile to ease his troubles. He recently Twittered, “Odd thoughts flowing through/ thinking about the people/ I want to be with.”

Here’s one for Gerald, the lullaby “Baby Mine” from the movie Dumbo. It just seems right for right now. (Thanks to Distant Melody for the lyrics.) It’s strange … when he actually was little, I wasn’t capable of this kind of caring, either because of depression or –much more likely – because the anti-depressant medications I was on kept me from feeling anything. In fact, I have almost no memory of his first two years of life. My memory begins when I got so fed up with the side effects of the anti-depressants that I quit taking them.

So maybe I feel a little bit guilty about having abandoned him back then, and now I want to make it right. I can’t sing a lullaby to him right now, but I can blog it to him.

Baby Mine

Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine

Little one when you play
Don't you mind what they say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine

If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for
The right to hold you

From your head to your toes
You're so sweet, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Cute as can be, baby of mine

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