27 July 2013

Answer: Lompoc, California

Question: Where am I from?

This is a query that depends on context, isn't it?  Lately, when someone asks where I'm from, I say, los estados unidos.  If I'm pressed for a state, I say California, even though I haven't lived there for over two decades.  It's easy.  Most people here in Panama have heard of California.  (Wisconsin: not so much.)

Sometimes, I'm asked, by someone who actually wants to know about my hometown: "Where in California?"  It's a big state, after all.

Lompoc: 34.6392° N, 120.4569° W
If you're a Pacific Coast sailor, I cut straight to the heart of it:  "My hometown is just inland from Point Conception."  Respect.

But for landlubbers, additional context is important.  Never lived in California?  Maybe you're really just asking: "Are you from Southern California (beaches and blondes and sunshine) or Northern California (San Francisco, fog, Golden Gate Bridge)?"  Then my answer will be: "Southern California."  Or if I want to be confounding and slightly more accurate, I might say, "Southern Central Coast."

You want more?  Perhaps you're from California, or you've spent some time there?  Still, I won't just blurt out, "Lompoc," as though you should know.  Usually, I circle around, asking, "Do you know where Santa Barbara is...?"  If your reply is sort of vague, I'll say, "A couple hours north of LA."

If I get the sense that you have walked down State Street and driven up Hwy 1, I follow up with "... and San Luis Obispo...?"  More head nodding...?  Okay, finally, I give it up: "I'm from a town called Lompoc, right between Santa Barbara and SLO."  If you've made it this far through the gauntlet, you might reward me with insightful comments that show some understanding of what Lompoc is all about.
"Oh yeah, where the prison is."
(Federal Correctional Institution - low security men's prison)

"I went to the Flower Festival once: it was [insert one here] cold/windy/rainy/foggy."
(Lompoc weather is NOT SoCal weather)

"Isn't there an Air Force Base around there?"
(Vandenberg, third largest AFB in the US)

One of the many flower fields of the Lompoc Valley (image from here)
Maybe you're wondering why I'm talking about my hometown.


Lompoc, California, is not only the answer to "Where am I from?"  It also answers the question: "Where am I going?"

Lompoc, of all places....  Team Behr is moving to Lompoc.  We are going there, maybe for a few months, maybe for a year or two, because we are part-owners of a piece of property that could use a bit of tender loving care.  We are the only owners who happen not to have anything better to do at the moment.

Our s/v more JOY everywhere is for sale, and although we just substantially reduced the price, we know that it might take awhile to find new owners.  So while we wait to see what happens next, we're going to go hang out in my hometown and take care of some family business.

We think it's going to be fun, believe it or not.

Think about the blogortunities.
I CAN go home again!

Everything you ever wanted to know about Lompoc, and more

Stop calling it Lom-pock; it's Lom-poke

My high school got painted a different color

Look: I'm wearing pants!

15 July 2013

There and Back Again (pt. 1)

You may, dear reader, find yourself wondering what, exactly, it was that precipitated and ultimately culminated in my decision to take an impromptu three-week hiatus from my life at sea, or more accurately as it has sadly come to pass, my life at anchor. Verily, I grant that to leave one's wife and three small, furry children behind and embark upon a whirlwind tour of the east coast of the U.S. is worthy of a raised eyebrow, but pray, let us, to all possible extent dispense with the howsos, wherefores and other such idle speculations; I aver that the inclusion here of those sundry causes and details will add nothing to the recounting of my adventures thereat. The delight and wonderment I experienced during my travels which I will here, however inadequately, attempt to recapture and relay to you shall prove a sufficient recompense for your time. Put otherwise, I took a powder, period, end of backstory.

Sailing (which I recently heard described as the most expensive way to travel fourth class) has ruined me for making travel plans. So when Jane asked me, and a few days later my friend Whitney asked me, and then a day or so after that Jane again asked me what I was going to do with my time, I could say only that I didn't know. All I knew when I landed in Ft. Lauderdale was that I was going to visit my friend, I had never been to Epcot, I had a wicked oyster jones going and I'd be damned if I was going to miss a chance to see some live theater. and of course, there is my abiding commitment to go to at least one museum in every city I visit. (I made an exception for Kissimmee because, well, firstly, it is Kissimmee, and secondly, in my view, Epcot counts as the equivalent of at least one museum.) I had some wants and three weeks to fill them; the wheres, I felt quite sure, would dawn on me in due course.

And so they did. Being a logical sort, as I believe myself to be, I decided to head right for the motherlodes: For museums, the Smithsonian; for oysters, Boston; for theater, New York, in that order, two days per city. To the better versed in geography than I was this must seem like an odd itinerary. What can I say? So, New York is south of Boston; I get that now.

Living Languages
My two days in D.C., which is to say my two day plan for the Smithsonian, was delightfully derailed by its annual Folklife Festival. Though I'd never been to one before and knew nothing about it until serendipitously stumbling upon it, the Festival, it seems, is the Smithsonian's annual celebration of people and their cultures. This year, as perhaps in all years, it highlighted three topics: Hungarian Culture, African American adornment, and my fav, One World, Many Voices. From their webpage:

The Festival program highlights language diversity as a vital part of our human heritage. Cultural experts from communities around the world join us to demonstrate how their ancestral tongues embody cultural knowledge, identity, values, technologies, and arts.

Through performances, craft demonstrations, interactive discussion sessions, community celebrations, and hands-on educational activities, highly skilled musicians, storytellers, singers, dancers, craftspeople, language educators, and other cultural practitioners are coming together on the National Mall to share their artistry, knowledge, and traditions; to discuss the meaning and value of their languages to their cultural heritage and ways of life; and to address the challenges they face in maintaining the vitality of their languages in today’s world.

Garifuna musicians

Russian musicians

Not long ago, you may have seen it, Mental Floss published a list of 38 Wonderful Words We Could Use in English. Somewhere between asking Garifuna scholar Ruben Reyes to translate "more JOY everywhere!" for me for our website and listening to a talk given by a Putumayan poet, it hit me: What if tomorrow, the last speaker of Scottish died without leaving a trace of his language behind. The world might lose what is indicated by "tartle: the nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can't quite remember." Or, what about the Georgian word, shemomedjamo which describes what happens when you're already really full but your meal is so delicious you just can't stop eating. "I accidentally ate the whole thing," they say. If Portuguese disappeared and Galician went with it, we might lose what the word "saudade" so precisely describes: "a deep emotional state of nostalgic or deeply melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves." And these reminded of something National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis points out:“Language is an old-growth forest of the mind.” Which, in turn, reminded me of something I remember him saying during a TED Talk:

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.
Can you read it?
Ha! Not bad for Day One. Day two (a Monday; the Festival would not reopen until the following Thursday), was spent at the museum proper...oh, right, The National Museum of Modern Art and National Portrait Gallery. As befitting the thrust of the previous day's activities, I first visited  the museum's permanent collection of Folk Art, which, I thought, bore and interesting resemblance to Western European art prior to and during the Renaissance with regard to its preoccupation with Christian motifs.

Is he doing what I think he's doing?

Wait just a gall durn minit! They didn't have cell phones back then.

It's a governor. Don't know what it did then;
don't know what it does now.

This model for an improved prosthetic
had a leg up on the competition

What if you lose your house key?

Models for early American patents was next. Early on, so the story goes, patent clerks couldn't envision the final product from descriptions and drawings alone; they needed to see an actual (though not necessarily full-scale) model in order to determine whether or not to award a patent. Consequently, a whole industry grew up around patent pending model making. Thus an unintentional art form was born.

On the Portrait Gallery side, I made a trip to the hall of presidents. Having recently read Dolores Kearns Goodwin's book, A Team of Rivals, I was especially interested to see the section on Lincoln. I did, however, discover that Lyndon Baines Johnson was the first American president born in the Twentieth Century. And I heard this snippet from a famous presidential speech:

We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. This was of course not true in the vast majority of our banks but it was true in enough of them to shock the people for a time into a sense of insecurity and to put them into a frame of mind where they did not differentiate, but seemed to assume that the acts of a comparative few had tainted them all. It was the Government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible -- and the job is being performed. 
Any guesses?

Behind that, there was an exhibit of the winners and some of the other entries in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Though portraiture has never been a favorite subject area of mine, owing, I presume, to my affinity for cubes, I was very much moved, not only by the depictions themselves--some self-portraits; far more not--but by the plethora of media used. Film on glitter screens, string and brads, a weaving, accompanied the more traditional, charcoals, paints, and inks. First place went to a 2010 five minute and fifty second video with sound by Bo Gehring titled "Jessica Wickham" after the portrait's subject. Its exquisite beauty needs no help from me. See for yourself.

The strangest thing happened to me while I was viewing this exhibit, something I've never experienced before. I had a definite sense that I'd seen some of these portraits before somewhere. I was sure of it. I even knew what the artist's statement that accompanied them said before I got close enough to read it. More than that, I could vaguely remember what their display location looked like when I'd seen them previously and where they were in physical relation to one another. It was such a bizarre feeling that I even asked the guard if she knew whether they had been exhibited somewhere before the Smithsonian. She didn't of course. I wonder if it's possible to visit too many museums.

No museum visit is complete (for me, that is) without at least a swing by its modern art collection.
Everything I love in one installation: The U.S., bright colors and TV! Genius!!

To look at her is to see her whole life encapsulated in one instant.

There was certainly more to see, I mean it is America's National Museum campus. I'd like to be able to say that I've visited every single one sometime before I'm D&G. But I had a very important date in Annapolis: The first ever Mofi Writers' Conference, hosted by fellow Monkey's Fist organizers Dan N' Jaye. The "conference" was, in truth, an improptu (see, it's that aversion to planning thing again) get together of some Mofi folk who happened to be around. There is nothing quite like "meeting" people you "know" for the first time; it's weird and not weird at the same time. We had a really good time talking about matters both marinerly and not. Dan and Jaye brought snacks, Suzanne, brought a not-so-red velvet cake (beets just can't compete with red dye #24 it seems), John, our new best Mofi friend, brought noshes as well and, yes, there was even Monkey's Fist IPA. All there wasn't, of course, was the reason for our very collective existence: she was watching Hombre de Acero at Albrook Mall in Panama City and she was deeply, sorely, missed, but we "sailored" on without her as best we could and drank a toast, or many, in her honor.

Later, back at my hotel in College Park, I had just one thing left to do after a very long day: find and book a room in the Boston area so I'd have somewhere to live the following night.

Next Stop: Boston, MA

05 July 2013

A love letter to my virtual friends

Dear [you know who you are],

[snipped from here]

Thank you.  For your friendship.  You have made me laugh and cry and rage and roll my eyes.  Even though I've never met you.  Thank you for sharing your stories with me, and for appreciating and caring about my stories.  Thanks for buoying us up, and wishing us the best.

When Ean and I started our blog, we had no idea what this might become: what relationships would develop out of it.  Funny, because - can't remember if you already know this - Ean and I actually met online.  I think probably I fell in love with Ean before I met him face-to-face. I should have guessed that I could, and would, make true friends online.

My virtual friend.  In the "real world," I talk to face-to-face friends, and I start to tell a story about you - about something that you did, or said, or learned.  "My friend," I begin, but then I stutter a bit, and I feel like I need to explain - "I mean, she's a virtual friend - I know her through her blog, and we chat through email and on facebook...."

I actually looked up "virtual" in the dictionary - in the Collins Dictionary (which I like primarily because Collins is my maiden name).  "Virtual" is defined as "having the essence or effect but not the appearance or form of." Well, yes, that's it, isn't it?  With you, my virtual friend, the form is a bit off, and it makes me stutter.  But we share the essence of friendship, and I am getting all the beneficial effects of said friendship.  I'm going to stop worrying about what it looks like.

Virtual doesn't, at all, mean "not real."

(virtual) XXOO -Jane

Sarah, one of our virtual friends, virtually interviewed us for her blog.  She asked us insightful questions about our "end of cruising" decision, and then she wrote a post about it. The best part: we got to sit on her virtual couch in Brisbane, Australia, during our virtual chat.  It was awesome.

Click on over to Blue Water Dreaming to read the interview: More JOY Somewhere Else.

01 July 2013

Have a Magical Day

Dear Jane,

The Experiment Prototype Community of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Epcot) lives up to its reputation, I'm
not my picture of Spaceship Earth
happy to report--any and all of them. I guess I didn't really understand how theme parks worked, having never been to one like this before. My misconception became apparent to me the moment I entered the park. You know the orb that looms above you the moment you walk in? Silly me, I had always thought that it was your basic Bucky Fuller geodesic dome, as in empty. Ho no! It's a ride called Spaceship Earth wherein one is taken on a tour (guided by none other than Dame Judi Dench) of the entire history of humanity and not just that, but a glimpse into our future. I sent a postcard back to the present when I was there. Did you get it?

Next, I toured a "green" home with many energy saving features including, counterintuitively, a toilet that plays your favorite music. It's programmable from a smart phone or tablet so that you don't actually have to wait until you get to the toilet to hear your favorite jams. I'm not sure how that saves energy exactly, but who cares. It is square, no really. It's a square shaped toilet! You know how I love squares.

I hadn't eaten breakfast, so I was pretty hungry by then. So many choices! I wound up at a place called the Electric Umbrella. I ordered a burger and fries. By the time I walked the five feet to the pick up counter, it was ready. Panama should give that a try.

not my picture of space module inside Mission: Space
My next big adventure was at "Mission: Space." Astronaut training for the first manned flight to Mars. But wait, didn't One White Tree's friend, Tim, the payload engineer for NASA, say they had terminated their manned space flight program? Oh, right, it's only a simulation, a ride. Check. There are two levels of training. More intense astronaut training and less intense ground control training. The more intense version comes with repeated warnings. "May not be suitable for people who are afraid of motion sickness, have high blood pressure, are afraid of tight, dark spaces, or spinning. Judging by the number of warnings on signs interspersed along the waiting line and on the "mission ticket" they hand out, I assumed they were pretty serious, so I took them seriously. Let's see: motion sickness? Pffffft. I live on a boat, for godssake. High blood pressure? I take meds and its only borderline anyway. Afraid of tight, dark spaces? You mean, like, my engine "rooms?" Spinning? How would I know if I'm afraid of spinning? Whatever, move along.

Finally, I made it to the pre-launch area where Gary Sinise ran me and the other members of my crew through our pre-flight briefing and where his assistant provided one last reminder that it was still not to late to opt out and sign up for ground control training instead. You know how stubborn I am. All their warnings only had the effect of making me more determined to do this thing. Bring it! Our crew consisted of four members: a pilot, navigator, commander, and engineer, each with a set of responsibilities and each determined by the order in which we were queued up to file into the capsule. Sure enough, the role of engineer fell to me. These poor, unsuspecting people, I thought. They have no idea how doomed this mission is with me as the crew member responsible for repairs. I had a sudden, almost uncontrollable urge to confess all. It's only a simulation, I reminded myself. I can't really screw it up.

We took our places and at Cmdr. Sinise's order, pulled the restraints down over our heads. I wondered how I was to perform my duties when my instrument panel was more than an arm's length away. As if on cue, it lurched forward to within 6 inches of my nose entirely eliminating the problem. Unhelpfully, the thought floated past my consciousness that unlike this capsule, I have the freedom to climb out of my engine rooms whenever I please and this struck me as highly significant. While pondering this, our rocket swung into place on the launch pad and through the portlight I could see the top of the tower. Oh, I get it now. I've seen this on TV. Our rocket is going to "rocket" straight up very, very fast. Huh...OH MY GOD! WHAT WAS I THINKING!! I never even go on rollercoasters because they terrify me. Abort! ABORT! Too late. I had only enough time to verify that the air sickness bag was where Sinise said it would be and to note, with alarm, that it seemed to be shared between me and the pilot.

It's only a simulation.  Breathe. It's only a simulaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! I screamed inwardly as my
not my picture of not me (but might
as well have been)
cheeks rippled back from the G-force necessary to launch us. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe harder! I kept thinking, becoming more fond of the air sickness bag by the nanosecond. Remember (breathe!) to tell (breathe!) Jane (breathe!): DO NOT GO ON THIS RIDE! ohgodohgodohgod!!! And. Then. Finally. ...the endless black dark of space where we would spend the next three months, the length of time required to get to Mars. Each of the crew had two tasks (because it really is only a simulation, pant, pant), the first of mine was to put the crew--including myself--into hypersleep. Unfortunate, that; I was really hoping to use the time to catch up on my reading. Seconds (to us, months to you) later, we were awakened by ground control who stayed on hand to guide us through the landing process (Yeah, I don't know why I needed to put us to sleep if they could wake us up remotely, either. We astronauts are apparently on a strictly need-to-know basis).

After a few harrowing moments of near-disaster, we landed safe and sound. Air sickness bag unnecessary, check. I decided that after my brief but brilliant career as an astronaut, I should probably take early retirement. So rest assured, honey. Wherever I am on earth at least I will be on Earth.

Speaking of being back on Earth (I still can't remember the flight back, must be a side effect of hypersleep), I opted for some more sedate types of amusement. Honey, did you know that while we've been at sea Michael Jackson has been brought back to life? Not only that, he's been restored to his 1986 incarnation. In probably his only acting gig, Jackson stars as Captain Eo, who along with his motley muppet crew, saves the Earth by singing and dancing (how else?).

not my picture of Ellen with Albert to her immediate left.
Next, in the Universe of Energy, Ellen Degeneres's subconsciousness is highjacked by Bill Nye, the Science Guy so that she can beat her snobby elementary school classmate and Albert Einstein on Jeopardy. I know you've been to Epcot, but it might have been before this presentation. If you'd seen it, you'd remember, trust me, it would be hard even for you to forget seeing an animatronic Ellen beating back a dinosaur with a branch.

A full day, I know, but it wasn't over yet. After Ellen, I listened to a lecture by Simba in an exhibit called--what else--"The Circle of Life." All about being more conscious of the environment. Now here was something curious. During Ellen's dream lesson on energy, the Hoover Dam was presented as a shining example of technology. During Simba's lecture, it was presented as a screwer up of the ecosystem surrounding it. Leave it to Disney to problematize the concepts of good and evil in a postmodern, post-industrial society.

not my picture of nearly colliding with hang gliders (not me in it, either)
Well, hon, by this time, I admit, I was getting tired. I pretty much lined up for anything that involved sitting down for a few minutes. I sat in a boat and drifted past Epcot's botanical experiments. Interesting. I sat in a shell and watched Nemo and his friends expound on the creatures of the deep. Very clever animation. I even designed a prototype car and tested it on a track at up to 64 mph. Stupid. Not, however, as stupid as standing in a ninety minute line to go on an 11 minute ride. Although being launched into the air and soaring over parts of California, from the Golden Gate bridge to--big surprise--Disneyland, was pretty amazing despite the PTSD I earlier acquired from my space shuttle experience.

And that was just day one.

Day two was less eventful.

not my picture of Epcot's World Showcase
I saved The World Showcase for my second day, starting with Norway, which, in my humble opinion was a little too reliant on the glory of their viking forebears. Their thing (I don't know what you actually call them, exhibits? rides?), was a low-budget viking ship that slid down a couple of three foot waterfalls. Lame.

China featured a 360 degree movie with highlights from many parts of the country. We are SO going there. I know you've been. I'll go myself on my next vacation if I have to. (How do they shoot 360 degree video, anyway?)

nope, not mine
Mexico also had a tunnel-of-love type boat ride where Donald Duck and two other "caballeros" unintelligibly explained some of the culture of the country. Pretty dull stuff. That is until the boats got stuck in the middle of the ride for a few minutes due to technical difficulties. I thought we might be in for a real adventure, but they fixed it and we were on our way in no time. Bummer.

It was all taking much longer than I thought and I realized I wouldn't be able to get to every country.

But I didn't want to miss Morocco. You know how much I love Moroccan art. Morocco had a small
not this one either
display of ornamental art, but really, the whole area was art.

Watching France's presentation (so going there, too) almost made me too late to get a good spot to watch Illluminations: Reflections of Earth.

But before hitting France, I had to stop in and see how Disney presented the U.S. Disney does nothing by half, that's for sure. In this enormous theater, a 35 minute presentation of American history, hosted by Ben Franklin and Mark Twain (well, their animatronic doppelgangers), closed with a photo montage that featured every--and I mean every--conceivable sort of American. It was over the top cheesy, but also moving. So Disney, so America. If they ever do privatize the U.S., I hope they sell it to Disney. Think about it. What a clean, customer-service, and all-inclusive nation we would be. I mean, we could do worse.

no, but see the little movie?
While waiting for the movie, I wandered through their collection of Americana, real and replicated. There are lanterns, coach lamps, really, but they call them lanterns that have little movies inside where the voices of Diane Sawyer, Whoopi Goldberg and other celebs discuss belief and hope and courage. I didn't get to watch all the lanterns but the last one I saw before I had to get in line for the movie said this: "Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon."

This is the last thing I did before leaving. So, girlfriend, in case we ever decide to stop trotting around the globe and settle down somewhere... Just sayin'

(Whoops! That's supposed to be "Earth." Yes, this is mine. BTW, the background music which I can best describe as a cross between a fight song and a lullaby plays all day long from hidden speakers.)