23. The Ballad of Jack: The Story Without End

Jack sits on stage at the Bolinas Community Center, doing a fundraiser for KWMR.  It’s cold outside, late September, the ocean fog rolling in.  John Doe is coming on stage in a few minutes.

Back in the fifties, Jack was touring in England and played Brighton.  A young kid, now a resident of Bolinas, went to hear him there.  That night Jack told a long joke that rambled interminably.  It apparently wasn’t even that funny.  It was a shaggy dog story with no particular point and it ended with some punchline about goo goo.  Or something like that.  That young kid now old can no longer remember what Jack sang, but he remembers the joke to this day.

I remember playing Brighton, Jack says as he tunes his guitar.  It’s a good beach.  I guess everyone in their life at some time or other makes it to Brighton.  I remember Brighton. But I don’t remember the joke, he says.

This is a story without an end, he goes on.  It just has a beginning and a middle.  And we’re just at the beginning he says.

But don’t let it scare you none.  We’ll get there.  Soon enough, my friend.


19. The Message in the Bottle

Smiley’s Schooner

Where did all those marooned sailors ever find ink or a smudge of grease pencil let alone a stoppered bottle?  And how did they provision themselves?

For me, it was relatively easy.  I was living in Smiley’s Schooner Saloon, a bar on the other side of the Stinson slough that greets each foggy morning at 7 am with a fresh pot of coffee.  They have good wifi to boot which means I could toss bottle after bottle of raven writing into the sea until eventually a passing ship would find me.

The first puff of smoke came late one night in the shape of a Facebook message.  It was from Brett Baer.  Where was I living, he asked? It sounded like Northern California.  He had just moved to Bolinas from Texas, he said.

You need to work kind of hard to get to Bolinas.  But there Brett was, most likely within relative sight of where I then sat.

I guess it made sense. And the fact that it does leads to the story of Brett and the story of the Craftsman Buffet.

And those truthfully can’t be told until we first tell the story of the very first boat.  But before the very first boat, there was  the chair.  And there was the table.  And before the Chair and the Table, there was Gerry Coon.

3. Tale of the Boat

The Boat

Why, we go to sea.

The Boat arrived here in the Fall, towed up onto the property on an unplated trailer by 80 year old Jack in his one ton truck.  Brett and I pulled it by hand the last hundred feet to the  Room of Requirement.  Opening both french doors wide we ferried her in.  And for a few months now she has slumbered.  The nights long, the air chill.  The cats climbed on her and sometimes we checked in.  But mostly she just slept.  Jack has visited a few times and on each occasion he’s asked if he could visit her, just to see, just to lay his hands.

Walking about in the Room of Requirement, he’d gaze at her and touch her and he was pleased.

She’s just a Penguin Dinghy, if that.  She was built for placid eastern waters and can hardly withstand the gusts on San Francisco Bay.  On top of that what’s left of her is covered in lichen.  Her stern has been plowed with gashes.  What to say?  She may be more hole than anything else, but can any absences stoved in upon her negate her right to existence?

All the while Brett has been away out with the wind.  He restored a barn in Bolinas, and served at a Vipassana retreat and painted a mural and went to a movement workshop at Tamalpa.  He got a girlfriend and got a plan which shifted into another.  All good stuff.

The days have started to grow longer.  The daffodils and narcissus have come up, the locust is in full bloom along with the magnolias.  Spring appears at last to be here.  And now Brett has returned home.

Time has come for the restoration of the Boat.  The boat that came from Arlo Guthrie’s house.  The boat that rotted in Jack’s yard in Marshall for thirteen years.  The boat that harkens to an ancient childhood memory that belongs not to me.

Why do you assume any task?  Why do you refurbish or refashion anything?  Why with all the things yet to be done – rooms still to unpack, months of bookkeeping, gardens to be planted, work work work to be done, have we taken on this project?

But we don’t have an answer.  There is no why.  We do it because it’s there to be done.

And a faint trust in the belief that beauty near always arises from the foolish act.

A New Year

Bolinas Alter

The end of one story.  The beginning of another.

On the first day of the new year, Anna and I awoke before dawn and took Poe’s remains to Bolinas.  We drove through the Sonoma and Marin darkness, past the unseen dairy and cattle hills, toward and eventually into the San Andreas fault zone.  As the sky lightened we dropped into the narrow crack that separates the North American Plate from the Pacific Plate and we crossed over to that new continent that moment by moment is shedding itself northward and away from our world.

We left Poe at the maritime shrine on the main street along with a photograph of his younger self.  Afterwards we ran on the rocky beach against the roar of the receding surf, watching the flyovers of the resident ravens and hawks.

We left Bolinas later that morning.  Driving out of town, I looked to my right.  An open meadow.  And across stretched a line of 22 fenceposts.  And on each sat a solitary raven, all warily eyeing the world.  Eyeing perhaps even our own departure.

Ravens in Bolinas