Monday, December 26, 2011

Booze and Boat Bits #5 (5 short items of interest)

Keeps me in rations

1:  I love good rum, but I am not a total snob.  Although I know and value quality, I still want to make sure I have rum even as I wait for the next paycheck.  That's why Cruzan is awfully nice, because it's inexpensive and tasty.  I recently decided to further explore the lower shelves.  But how to decide, other than the orange sale tag?  How about a pretty label?  On the left we have Calypso Spiced Rum.  The name is meaningless:  There isn't even a remote reference to the Goddess of the Sea, whether among the ancient Greeks or the modern Captain Sparrow fans.  What we do have is a bodacious redheaded pirate with a very nice chest...and a very nice chest full of treasure.  Oh ad men, I am weak.  I soaked the label off, pasted it on a card, burnt it around the edges, and had a cool bookmark (now between pages 342 and 343 of The Mauritius Command).  On the right we have Admiral Nelson's Spiced Rum.  The Hero of Trafalgar now sports flaming red hair, an eye patch, a cutlass that appears to be curved backwards, and...both arms!  OK, so the Nelson of the rum world bears about as much relation to his historical namesake as, well, the Morgan of the rum world.  The common denominator here isn't just nautical kitsch but spice, which seems to make cheap rum palatable in much the same way that blending does for cheap whiskey.  The good news is that, with some ginger ale and a good squeeze of fresh lime, it may not be a fancy cocktail, but it keeps the crew happy.

A sad portrait

2:  Meanwhile, the fate of the Kalakala has gone from unknown to downright mysterious.  On December 19th, it was reported that the ferry had a buyer for Rodrigues' token dollar.  The name and location of the buyer is unknown to apparently all but him.  Indeed, all that has been officially posted is:  "After considering offers from two interested parties, the Kalakala has been sold for $1 to an anonymous buyer. The Kalakala will be saved from the scrap yard and restored to her full glory."  Unofficially, Rodrigues has told the Seattle Times that the buyer is not in Washington State; New York is rumored.  Meanwhile, Rodrigues has been under the gun of the Coast Guard to move or at least to offer a plan.  On December 23rd, his appeal for an extension was denied.  The Coast Guard doesn't even believe that this "buyer" exists.  So now there's a distinct possibility that the next actual owner of the Kalakala may be the Corps of Engineers, who may move her, "pin" her in place, or do nothing at all.  As usual, Rodrigues speaks more mythically than realistically.  The ferry needs someone with vision but also with, ideally, some idea of how a boat works, funding, and connections.  What we have instead is a purported fairy godmother, with the authorities on Rodrigues' heels.  Seriously Steve, show us the moneybags.  Even the faithful need to see that miracle, not just promises.

You never know what you'll drink...but it'll be good.

3:  I love random beer!  I discovered  a while ago at Fred Meyer the Dick's Beer Variety Pack, and I got another box of random beer last week.  The case could contain any of fourteen different brews.  I like Dick's generally--this is a brewery in Centralia, WA, that produces about 3,500 barrels per year in about 20 varieties.  Buying random beer does have its risks:  I may be stuck with styles I just generally wouldn't choose, like IPA and hefeweizen.  On the other hand, their trademark dark Dick Danger Ale is very tasty, the Irish Ale is right up my alley, and the Lava Rock Porter I have in my tankard right now is roasty and deep.  Consider the season and opening that gift from the aunt that doesn't know you.  Now consider opening up a box, and even though you don't know the details, you get beer.  A worthy adventure, eh?

4:  I have been completely remiss keeping up on Somalia, what with being absorbed by Naval exploits of 200 years ago.  There have been attacks averted (by Iran!), civilians released, and pirates sentenced.  It is my duty (at least to my own interest) to get caught up.  I will do this in a more thorough post soon.

Cheery, yummy

5:  Lastly, a thank you to my coworker, Joseph, for giving me a truly great beer.  Trader Joe's 2011 Vintage Ale is in fact made by the great Unibroue brewery of Chambly, Quebec, makers of well-known beers such as La Fin du Monde and Maudite.  Trader Joe's scored a marvelous, dark, bubbly, and spicy limited edition ale.  It's good, it's cheap, and it won't be around for long.  Go now!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"The Pirates' Night Before Christmas," by Blue Lou Logan

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the boat,

Not a sailor was stirring, not one soul afloat.

The stockings were hung from the yardarms with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The pirates were scattered all over the deck,

Dreaming of jewels adorning their necks.

The first mate in his hammock, me in my bunk,

Safely above the ship’s treasure trunk.

When out on the sea I heard such a splash,

I instinctively grabbed to protect my stash.

Out of my cabin I flew like a bird,

Slipping and sliding, I looked quite absurd.

The moon it was gone.  The sky had turned black.

I knew right away we were under attack!

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a great, hulking warship, drawing quite near,

With a slimy old skipper, at the wheel alone,

I knew in a moment it was Davey Jones.

He ran out his cannons, how quickly they came,

And each of his guns after pirates he named:

"Out Blackbeard!  Out Bonny!  Out Reade and out Rackham!

Out Davis and Dampier!  Arrr, let’s attack ‘em!

Now over the sides!” Davey Jones called.

“No quarter! No quarter! No quarter at all!”

The cutlasses clashed, the pistols let fly,

We fought for our lives, gave it our desperate try.

How could we win against that demon crew?

Our chances were hopeless, what could we do?

And then, in a twinkling, off our starboard beam,

A new ship appeared as if out of a dream.

As I blocked Jones’ sword, and was turning around,

Down the mainmast St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in oilskins, from his head to his foot,

Here was old Santa, in knee-high sea boots,

An elf crew there with him, to avert the attack,

But then Santa stopped and opened his pack.

Coins, how they twinkled!  Doubloons, oh, how merry!

Rubies like roses, some as big as a cherry!

Davey Jones he drew up, and he laid his sword low,

And then suddenly it started to snow!

Jones drew on the pipe that he held in his teeth,

And then he blew smoke in the shape of a wreath.

A smile emerged from his tentacled face.

What was a battle turned a right cheerful place.

Jones he stood there with that jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw them, in spite of myself.

Jones ordered his crew, with a twist of his head,

To return to the ship; there was no more to dread.

Santa and crew went right to their work,

And filled all our stockings; then he turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the mainmast he rose;

He landed on deck and yelled, “Mainsail haul!”

And the elves did make sail, singing “Haul away all!”

And I heard him exclaim, as they went out of sight,

Merry Christmas, me buckos!  And fair winds this night!

Copyright 2011, S.L.W.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Aubrey-Maturin in Brief 3: H.M.S. Surprise

Welcome back to another SPOILER-laced installment of Aubrey-Maturin In Brief.  Pauline has already taken the pennant, having given her interpretation of Book 3 in celebration of O'Brian's birthday.  OK:  game on.  I am with Pauline in considering H.M.S. Surprise my favorite, thus far, of the series.  Why?  This novel takes our heroes on an excursion way, way beyond the Mediterranean and the English Channel, from the "vampires" of South America to the tigers of India and the breadth of the British Empire, with all its faults.  The first book introduced the world, the second put it in social context, but this one is adventure...and romanticism. 

Romanticism was an ideal, a reaction to the industrial rationality that threatened to conquer the early nineteenth century that Aubrey and Maturin lived in.  (An aside:  Remember how pale ale and then Bavarian lager pushed aside all competition and whitewashed beer?  That's the aggressive rationality I'm talking about.)   It was an ideal not without its ironic complexities, and these are personified in our complementary yet opposing duo and the women they pursue.  Both Aubrey and Maturin are romantic loners but in different ways and for different reasons.  Jack is a loner against his will, defined by a nationalistic (or at least professional) sense of duty, a piratical flair, and the love of the freedom of the sea that always sets the sailor apart.  He has grown to command a fleet, if by accident; his defense of the China fleet is based on the real Battle of Pulo Aura and Admiral Linois and is also a buildup to Book 4, The Mauritius Command.  His desire, however, is to settle down to what he sees as the traditional bliss of marriage and the very English domestic image of Sophie.  Maturin, somehow surviving every scrape, from torture to white squall to bullet wound, loves the largeness the world--natural wonders from South America to the Subcontinent and the cultural complexity of Bombay.  Yet he is a loner by nature, torn between the rationality of his beloved science and his deep pathos and longing.  His female ideal is the fiery and perhaps fallen Diana.  His fate in love is not, shall way say, fortunate.

The tone of H.M.S. Surprise is so very romantic.  Every instance of action and heroism is colored with melancholy.  We have seen the world and returned home with feelings of hope but also anxiety, innocence gone but dreams maintained.  It is a novel of grand geographical and emotional sweep.  Another aside:  Romanticism defined, and defines still, an approach to music, and, given the importance of music to our protagonists, the imaginary score to the hypothetical movie starts to take shape in my brain.  Maybe this is The Empire Strikes Back; damn, that was a bad pun.  Let's just set set sail for the long journey, the exotic shores, and the convolutions of the heart...

Sir Joseph Banks, historical inspiration to Sir Joseph Blaine
(1) The Admiralty debates the prize money that may be rewarded to the captains of the recent engagement of the Spanish treasure fleet.  Sir Joseph Blaine, ally to Stephen Maturin, argues in favor of a full reward, but between the inexperienced new First Lord and the ever vengeful Harte, Sir Joseph’s entreaties fall on deaf ears.  While the gold is granted to the Crown, a slip reveals Maturin’s role as an intelligence officer.  Maturin, meanwhile, is at Mapes with Sophie; she is considering Jack Aubrey, and Maturin is considering—and tracking—Diana, who is now in India with Canning of the East India Company.  Inevitably, Mrs. Williams interrupts, holding Aubrey’s debt against her daughter’s marriage to the Captain.  Maturin goes to a meeting of the Entomological Society, but his appearance distracts the guilty Sir Joseph. They meet at a secret location, and Sir Joseph reveals to Maturin not only that the captains’ prize money has been withheld but also that Maturin is the victim of an indiscretion.  Nevertheless, Maturin goes ahead with a planned mission and a rendezvous with Aubrey at Minorca, which is now in Spanish hands.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Pirates of Christmas

Tell me where my show is, so that I may shoot it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011.  It is a misty day in Seattle, worthy of Scotland.  The CWB, NW Seaport, and others have put together a holiday event with a maritime feel called Cookies, Crafts, and Carols.  In the Center's Boat House, there are cards to make and cookies to decorate.  On the bottom deck of the Virginia V, our good man from Farm Boat has a few crates of winter crops, while above there is hot chocolate and a space for music.  Nearby, the Adventuress adds some tall ship flavor.  I have been called to make the usual story time piratical, cuz what quite says Christmas cheer like tales of brutal broadsides?

Scene of the action
It's a loose gathering.  When we get there, there's no main sense of organization--no schedule, pamphlets only available an hour into the event.  I am there with Zanne, my "captive" in her 'royal' costume as "Lady Pennyroyal," and revealed handsome cabin boy "Button" Bev, in largely improvised garb except for the bodice custom-fitted (via duct tape) by Zanne.  My first task is to simply figure out what in tarnation I'm doing.  All the signs (literally, signs) point to my usual venue, the Arthur Foss, but the volunteer nominally in command in the galley has no clue of when or where.  She SAYS I am a more likely the captain of the boat...conquered without a shot fired, as it should be!  I am wondering, however, how I can coax any audience outside in this weather.  I'm sent in search of the inevitable Eldon Tam for direction, but he's nowhere to be found.  While I'm chasing a chain of command that does not in fact exist, Zanne starts mingling.  Bev is entertained but cold.


After a hot coffee, one small nip of Gosling's from my flask, and a lot of directionless running around, my crew and I land at the boathouse, and the strategy becomes natural.  Same as it ever was:  Play the crowd, drum support.  I set my own time at 2:30.  Be there and spread the word!  Now I'm back in the groove:  First ye scare 'em, then ye get down on their level, then ye speak in subtle tones, and then they're entranced into service.  Glass-bottomed tankards couldn't stop this press gang.  Or would that be glass-bottomed sippy cups?

The pirate and his daughter

There isn't much to storm.  All I do is get up from our table at the Boathouse and make a short ruckus, and suddenly I'm the Pied Pirate once again.  Zanne keeps the procession moving, while Bev goes ahead.  There are too many of 'em to squish into the Foss' galley, so it's onto the aft deck again, wet be damned.

'Ello up there!

I ask the crowd what they want first, Blackbeard or Santa Claus.  The call for Teach is universal, so with nary a look at my usual book it's burning fuses, Charleston, and the battle of Ocracoke.  Zanne plays foil and commentator--improvised banter that draws laughs from the adults.  Bev sits nearby or stands in back, somewhere between sentry and part of the audience.  It's not my best version of the Blackbeard tale, but I've got support; it's a fabulous team effort.  Then I lay on 'em "The Pirate's Night Before Christmas."  But I'm gonna be a tease here:  I'll post that text soon, yaharr.

Then, costume and all, the three of us embark on a quest for an Outback Steakhouse, which oddly takes miles to find.  Supersized Snow Cap, quesadilla, and comedown.  Good show, mateys.

All the professional pictures here are courtesy of Mitch Reinitz at eMeLaR Photography.  Thanks, bro, great stuff.

And the Admirable behind (nice shot, eh?)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In Honor

70 years ago, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Eight battleships were damaged, and four were sunk.  In addition, three cruisers, three destroyers, a training ship, and a minelayer were damaged or sunk.  Over two thousand men were killed.  As a direct result of this event, the United States entered World War II, and by war's end nearly half a million Americans died.  Let us pause for a moment, consider, and honor.

Today, Harry Morgan, probably best known as Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H, passed away.  He was an amazing 96 years old.  Morgan never served in the military, although, being born in 1915, he lived through every war of the twentieth century.  He also acted in more than 100 films.  Col. Potter was for me, along with millions of others, a kind of role model--an old military man (symbolized by his horse, Sophie) who was simultaneously a curmudgeon and a humanitarian, a soldier and a pacifist, an old-fashioned guy and a progressive.  It was a brilliant character played by a brilliant actor.  Let us pause for a moment, consider, and honor.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Booze and Boat Bits #4 (5 short items of interest)


1:  Cookies, Crafts & Carols!  Join Blue Lou, Keelhaul, and Button this Saturday, December 10, between noon and 4:00 at Lake Union Park for some seasonal fun.  There'll be boats, sweet stuff, crafty stuff, cheer, song...and pirates!  I'll be wandering about and doing stories when the moment seems right.  I have even adapted The Night Before Christmas into a pirate tale!  Be there, lest ye want a grenadoe in yer stockin'.

2:  Winter is THE best time of the year for beer:  The seasonals are all strong, flavorful, and spicy.  Maritime Pacific's Jolly Roger is the one most likely to end up in my fridge, and not just for the label; it's a fine, robust ale that just doesn't get old, a great session beer (even if it's a session of one).  I have to say, by the way, that in fact very little of my beer is ever in the fridge these days.  With temperatures here in Seattle barely reaching 40 degrees daily, I just keep the case on the back deck!  Anyhow, seek this one out if you can--a six pack, on tap at your local (it's even better on cask), or best of all at Maritime Pacific's beautiful Jolly Roger Tap Room.  If not, support your regional brewery...they're sure to have something fabulous right now.

3:  The Kalakala hasn't been in the news for quite some time, but today this popped up suddenly on various sources:  "Kalakala on sale for $1."  After the initial 'WHA'?' moment, I looked into it.  This is what it says on  "A new owner can purchase our Kalakala today for $1.00 or best offer, without our proposed partnership! We are seeking a qualified and motivated investor or buyer as alternatives to assure the full restoration of an incredible maritime historic ship with global social and cultural significances.  Salvage companies not welcome!" The Seattle Times has this article, adding that not only has Concrete Tech ended Rodrigues' lease for the ferry's moorage at the end of the year but also the Coast Guard is insisting on a plan by December 19 on "a tow plan and a heavy weather plan."  Rodrigues states that everything will be done properly, he has several possible tow sites, and the Coast Guard decision is being appealed.

Rodrigues is also quoted in the Seattle Times:  "I’m selling it for $1 to the right person. Then it’s closed, it’s their story. The most-treasured world-class vessel will become one person’s yacht."  In short, Rodrigues is at least willing to pass the torch.  I'm not sure whether this move is desperate or wise.  I'm not even sure if he knows what this means.  What does seem clear is that Rodrigues has acknowledged--at last?--that he may not in the end by the Kalakala's savior.   It is also clear that the Kalakala is about to enter another chapter in its history.  It ain't over, just changing...again.  I'll be reading, and I'll keep everybody up to date (as usual).


4.  In the category of solid good news, the CWB has signed a lease with King County for a North Lake Union site, located west of the famous Gas Works Park, next to the Harbor Patrol.  The first project will be cleanup; this was a fuel facility and has belonged to Metro Transit for decades.  This will then become a site for boat restoration, maintenance, and storage.  The "Northlake Community Wharf" is envisioned to become a destination of its own. This is really cool.  The Center always needs more space.  This will introduce the CWB vision to a new neighborhood.  And, personally, I imagine a time when one can sail up the lake with a destination, not just up and back.

5:  Yesterday, I was at Target getting Christmas wrap and paper towels.  I looked down the wine aisle, and I had a vision that made me grin.  I saw in my mind a whole aisle full of liquor.  I imagined rum, vodka, and bourbon at real prices, maybe even at discount.  June 2012 will be FREEDOM.  You have no idea how much the passing of Prop 1183 pleases me and makes me think that maybe the state I live in is not completely Cro-Magnon.  I know why the caged booze sings.

Meanwhile, the cocktail Ingredient of the Month is not the stereotypically Christmas cranberry, tho' I have nothing against bourbon and cranberry juice, the December drink of the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives (thanks, Laurel!).  No, the ingredient du moment is Texsun Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, which shouldn't be too hard to find.  I am NOT a fan of grapefruit generally.  The grapefruits I grew up with as a kid (i.e., what was available in suburban supermarkets) were just too damned acidic for my taste, but this Ruby Red juice (thank you, Zanne) has the distinctive flavor without the pucker.  This goes with just about every mixable liquor you can name...OK, maybe not Ouzo, but no one should drink Ouzo EVER.  It is also friendly with other citruses and mixers.  Go strong, go weak...experiment.

6:  BONUS NEWS:  "The Journal of Blue Lou Logan" recently zipped past 3,000 hits, and the number of hits per month continues to grow.  Ahoy readers!  Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Star Trek In My Head

Ear worm:  "a portion of a song or other music that repeats compulsively within one's mind."  This is an affliction.  Often times for me this will be hard-wired musical heroes like Gordon Lightfoot (bits of "Seven Island Suite" were stuck for weeks) or John Barry (ditto the main theme from Midnight Cowboy.  Rest in peace, sir).  For the last two weeks at least it has been the definitive eight bars played by French horn at the beginning of Star Trek.

I am Spock.

This has not been made any easier by the fact that Science recently aired Trek Nation, Eugene Roddenberry, Jr's, ode to his father, his exploration of both the myth of the "Great Bird" and the reality of his family through Trek fandom.  Gene, son of Gene, sometimes comes off as a recovered brat:  He repeatedly states that he didn't "get" Trek until after his father's death and that he didn't realize the value of his own relationship with his dad, or the importance of his philosophy, until it was too late.  I have (gasp!) never been to a Con.  Yet well before Lucas presented Solo as the epitome of cool, and when I was barely reading, I was watching Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al on KTLA and defining the perfect world as equal parts IDIC and scantily clad green Orion girl.  Watching Trek Nation made me philosophical, nostalgic, and weepy.

Then I put in Star Trek, and within minutes I was gone...reveling in Chris Pine's young Kirk and Karl Urban's pitch-perfect Bones.  And the ear worm was renewed.  Yet it's really, if I may coin a cliche, a brain worm.  Piracy aside--tho' James Tiberius is nothing less than a swashbuckler--Trek, from NCC 1701 through 1701D and back to 1701, created an image of utopia far more substantial than booty and rum.  Yes, I know that utopia by its own etymology means both perfect and nonexistent.  But let us choose the second star on the right, the final frontier, or the undiscovered country.  It's the dream that won't stop repeating.