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.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A tale from the past

Once, long ago, I did not have a blog, and this is a tale from those prehistoric times

Bonnie has recently posted about looking forward to paddling her kayak in a proxigean tide, in which the moon is closer than usual to the earth at the same time as it is aligned exactly with or opposite the sun (a syzygy), making for a greater than normal difference between the high and low tides. In the case of kayak paddling, a properly timed journey can make great progress on the outward leg, and then when the tide turns, the homeward leg can also go well.

As a verbivore from an early age, I have always been a collector of interesting words, and syzygy has been one of my favorites. My dad, in addition to being a magician, is also an astronomer, and so my gaze has been heavenward for all of my life – even when I was an infant, there was a picture on the wall, a photograph my dad had taken of the moon, through the 6-inch reflector telescope that he had built himself when he was in high school, waxing gibbous, the craters standing out in stark relief, and the edge of the shadow much more clear-cut than shadows on earth ever are. When I was in elementary school, my dad built an observatory in the back yard to house that telescope.

I had that photo in my room up until I went to college … I don't know what became of it, but I remember it fondly.

In high school, I was in the Astronomy Club, and I was also in AP English. It was in AP English that I learned syzygy, the astronomical term for the situation in which three or more astronomical bodies line up perfectly, as in an eclipse. It became my favorite word.

Fast-forward about 20 years. Pat had decided that we wanted to take up sailing as a hobby, although I really can't see why he chose that particular sport. Pat had had some limited sailing experience in college, and I had been on a sailboat exactly once, with my Girl Scout troop, when I was in eighth grade. Still, at the tail end of 1999, we took sailing lessons in Santa Barbara, California. At the time, there was a lot of to-do about Y2K, and to make the alarmists more irritating, the moon was also at the closest that it had come to earth in sixty-some years. Contrary to what some people wanted to believe, this wasn't the end of the world, but since it coincided with a full moon (not a syzygy in the most technical sense, but one for the purpose of tide-watchers), it meant some really extreme tides. At low tide, boats were running aground in the middle of the harbor, while at high tide, the floating docks were so high, the gangways went up rather than down to them.

When we got back to Albuquerque, Pat was looking at boats at the local sailboat dealership. There was one boat in particular he was looking at. But I didn't want to buy it. I kept asking, "Will we get our money's worth out of it, or will we just use it a couple of times and then get bored? Can we afford to buy it in the first place? What about the upkeep?"

A couple of weeks later, we went to a condo timeshare sales pitch. We had no intention of buying anything, but we were going to get $75 worth of gift cards to upscale Santa Fe restaurants for showing up. The timeshare salesguy had a really good pitch – without ever naming a price, he kept stressing how "affordable" a timeshare vacation plan was. We would always know for sure that we had a place to stay every year on our vacation, and we would have our own kitchen, so we could prepare our own food and save on restaurant costs. And again and again and again, he stressed that the timeshare vacation was "affordable."

At the end of the sales presentation, he finally gave us a price – and it was high. Then he reduced the price. And then he reduced it again, until he finally reached the absolute rock-bottom price that he could offer, emphasizing that this was "affordable" and "a great value."

It was almost exactly the same as the asking price on the boat.

The salesguy asked, "So what do you think?"

I looked at the salesguy, looked at Pat, looked back at the salesguy, and said, "We're getting the boat."

Because of all of the many ways in which things had lined up perfectly for us, the obvious name for the boat was Syzygy.

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Blogger Tillerman said...

Great story Carol Anne. Are you aware of the blog Syzygy Sailing?

Another boat called Syzygy, currently just down the bay from where Edward and O Docker hang out. The owners are preparing to leave for a long ocean cruise in the Pacific soon, and it seems that one of them even has a Los Alamos connection.

Small world! Or is it another example of syzygy?

Fri Jan 29, 07:57:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Smaller and smaller world ... I think Matt may have (albeit briefly) worked with my dad.

Fri Jan 29, 10:45:00 PM MST  
Blogger bonnie said...

That is the best story about a boat name I've ever read. I actually laughed out loud as the second to last line.

Thanks for the story!

Syzygy is a wonderful word, isn't it. I first ran across it as the name of one of Paul Taylor's dances (one of my first kayak coaches is an amazing dancer & was with the Paul Taylor company for years, just retired recently). The description in the Stagebill included the definition of syzygy.

There are Paul Taylor dances I could watch again and again. Syzygy didn't turn out to be one of them - the dance (and the music to which it was set) was on the extreme-modern-weird end of choreography.

But what a fabulous word to know!

Sun Jan 31, 09:26:00 AM MST  

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