The Sea Anchor

A Flashback Friday Presentation

Unlike a regular anchor, a sea anchor does not sink to the bottom to hold your boat in place. Instead, it uses the power of the sea itself to provide drag and steady your craft. In need, you can make a sea anchor out of spare sailcloth, bits of line, and wood; I once made one from a collapsible canvas bucket. One sailor told me he used a survival suit as a sea anchor.
What it’s made from doesn’t matter; if it works. A sea anchor can stop or slow a race to disaster.
Everyone needs a sea anchor from time to time. Depending on where you are in life, it can be different things: another person, a pet, a hobby, or even a job. A sea Anchor can be something you share with friends or a well-kept secret.
The real secret of a sea anchor is hiding out in plain sight. It’s about two forces paired. Without the sea anchor, you go charging into the waves, perhaps literally sailing your self under the water.
It’s a team operation—the bucket sinks in the waves without the opposing force. The boat capsizes or glides under the sea without the bucket.

Very little survives alone by itself; for long.



Spinning The Dog

A flashback Friday offering

When my dad died in 1974, my mother was at loose ends. We cleared out a spare room so that she could stay with us. She came with Coco, my father’s dog. Our cat Clancy (The Gray Menace) automatically disliked Coco. Their relationship developed a pattern; Gray Menace unsheathes claws, Coco reflexively yipped and bounced out of reach.
One day I came home early. Letting myself into the apartment, I heard regular yips from my mother’s room. Standing by the door, I watched the cat and dog engaged in an activity that appeared to have been practiced. Coco was spinning in place. Once in a great while, the cat gently reached out to swat the dog on the rump. The dog would yip, and the spinning would increase in speed. Every time Coco slowed down, the cat would reach out and swat the dog’s rump again. The spinning went on until they noticed me. When they did, there was a sort of embarrassed reaction, and they walked away. I felt as though I had invaded their privacy.
Coco was not the smartest poodle in the world. The Gray Menace, on the other hand, took great pride in manipulation. He’d been successfully managing my life since he was a scruffy kitten found on the streets of Ottawa. His mastery of Coco should not have been much of a surprise. But when my mother decided to return to Virginia, I’ll swear that the cat was sad.

Over the years, I thought nothing much of this anecdote except as a family story to tell my kids until a few months ago. I knew that our politicians loved to confuse and confound us. But they also like to spin us. Yes, we’ve always gotten spun. But, now there seems to be a sort of manic nature to the spinning. It’s used to distract us from what to needs to get done; like voting or taking reasoned stands on important issues. It encourages divisive behavior, mistrust, and hate. It’s in the disinformation toolkit along with gaslighting, and rumor-mongering.
The memory of the Gray Menace, reaching out and swatting, the dog yipping and spinning comes to mind. Are you dizzy yet?

Small

a Flashback Friday presentation from 2019

There I was in a cab headed to Brooklyn. The Pakistani cab driver asked me where I was from, and I negligently gestured out the window, “here.” “No. that can’t be. you don’t sound anything like us.”

I had been away for a long time.


It’s true. There’d been a lot of influences in the fifty years since I lit out for New England. I’d lived in Massachusetts and Maine long enough as a young man to influence my speech patterns. But not enough to fool professional linguists who chuckled, and told me that my New York could run, but could not hide. So I laughed with the cabbie on the matter of our relative origins. He’d lived NYC for most of the fifty years I had been gone.
By the time he dropped me off, we had discovered a bond. We were both “from” the same neighborhood – Washington Heights- in Manhattan. He lived less than four blocks along Saint Nicholas Avenue from where I grew up.
The City isn’t only big. It can be small too.

Automat

The coffee had been cold for hours—the fourth cup from the free refill urn at the back of the counter. I’d nursed it and fantasies through the night. I took a last lingering look at her. We’d meant so much to each other, but now it was almost ended. Sometime around midnight, we had met, shyly exchanging glances across tables. The realization that we’d met in some previous existence clear to us both as we gazed anywhere except directly at each other.
There are almost meetings while refilling our cups; the shy smile while I almost touch her hand. We retreat to our tables and watch the cars on the street, listen to the sound tires make on the road when all else is silent. Somewhere nearby, the night hawk dives after dinner, and the sun hesitates to rise. As the street begins to lighten in the pre-dawn, we sit and watch the night workers straggle home, and the early risers stumble to their shifts.
We glance at our watches; I sigh; she opens a pocket compact and checks her makeup.
The sunlight is washing in through the Automats window, and it was time to go. Till tomorrow night, I whisper to her, till tomorrow night comes her soft reply.

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