Dating— (Hint: It’s Supposed To Be Pleasant)

Jack Kerouac said it was a shame how boys and girls in America have such a sad time together nowadays…and that was in 1949. I think if Jack Kerouac got into a time machine and arrived in 2024, and happened to be shown a smart phone with Tinder and Bumble on it, he would jump off the nearest bridge or walk in front of a bus. Or, to really drive home the point, in front of a self-driving car.

Answer me this question: when was the last time you slow danced? Who’s wedding was it, and did the venue reopen after COVID? Or was is it your prom?

If you are under 40, you might not realize that slow dancing was a common occurrence for a hundred prior years, until about 15 years ago. If you don’t believe me, watch a rom-com from the 90s like When Harry Met Sally. Or Harvey, from the 1950s. Or talk to me and I can tell you about the halcyon days of 10, 20 years ago when, if there was a live band at a bar or gala, there would be 4-5 slow dances, and that was part of the whole evening…figuring out which girls were single and asking them to dance when a slow song came on. For me the last time was the gala for the Boys and Girls Club of Albany in 2018 and the girl’s name was Christina and I didn’t know her that night and we never hung out after that (her choice, but that’s the point, you could just ask a girl to dance and it wasn’t super high pressure because it was common).

Slow dancing was the ultimate euphemism. You were as close as you could be in public, feeling if your partner had rhythm, smelling their pheromones, feeling the texture of their skin, smelling their hair, looking into the irises of their soul.

When you slow danced, you knew whether you wanted to go further. It was Practice.

You can’t dance over a dating app. But you also can’t dance at a bar anymore, because slow dance music isn’t played at bars. And you can’t dance at a dance, because there aren’t dances anymore.

There isn’t much that is romantic anymore.

Statements like “there isn’t much that is romantic anymore” get me in trouble with the women I would be dating.

Even though it cuts both ways and men are equally, if not more to blame…nonetheless if I say “nobody is romantic anymore” women tend to hear “oh here is this asshole getting mad because women don’t want to have it as their life’s goal to be barefoot and pregnant while the man goes to the office and sleeps with the secretary.”

I think this might stem from a narrow view of the meaning of the word “romantic.” Words change over time and I think if you were to ask a young single person what romantic means, they might say “oh like candles and going out on a date where the music is low and the guy pulls out a chair and it’s all old fashioned.”

They might add, “it’s a whole vibe.”

Which, I guess, it can be a whole vibe, but really, “romantic” need not be an all or nothing characteristic, and it certainly doesn’t need to be limited to dating.

Here are three examples of things I consider romantic that aren’t about sex:

1) I like to boil a kettle of water and pour it into a tea pot I’ve owned for 9 years with two black tea bags and one lavender tea bag, and float an orange slice, and then lay out a red paisley place mat and drink the pot in small cupfuls over the course of three hours while I read at my dining room table.

2) I like to bathe, then shave and iron a three-piece suit, and go to a bar with jazz with a Moleskinne notebook with a black pen and order an Old Fashioned with Seagrams V.O. and a splash of club soda and mix the cocktail with a the stirrer-straw and then let it sit for one minute to “age” before I take a sip.

3) Even if I’m working remotely, or working on writing rather than salaried work, I like to shave and don slacks and a button-up shirt, play jazz, and make a cocktail to “get into character” before I begin a cerebral task.

What makes these things “romantic?” I think part of it is that none of the little things I do preparatory to whatever the task I have before me are necessary. They are all superfluous. I could read without 8 minutes of tea making and then supping. I could go to a bar without bathing and shaving and then writing in a notebook. I could fill in my spreadsheets and read my work reports without donning slacks and a button up shirt.

But what would that leave? Reading, going to a bar, and working. Like a robot would do those things. Because robots are efficient to a fault. I imagine Data from Star Trek asking Geordi LaForge:

”Commander, why do humans find it necessary to ask about weather, or to observe details of a room’s architecture, when they are within close proximity of another human? Would it not be more efficient to save one’s breath and simply state that one would like their interlocutor to hand them a wrench, or to copulate?”

Yes, it would be more efficient. But efficiency is not the measure of Good Living. I’d go so far as to say that efficiency is a measure of how quickly one is Racing Toward Death. Efficiency is robotic. Efficiency is what one employs when they are competing against time.

I would prefer not to constantly compete against time. For one thing, time will always win against an organic creature like me, whose existence is very much defined by time from the moment I am born until the moment I die.

Romance is a protest against time. Romance slows time, or our perception of it. You light a candle, you eat a meal that it took time to cook but which provides only marginally more nutrients than a frozen/microwaved meal, you lay out placemats and make a cocktail, you play music that you don’t need to hear to digest. You do these things, and they make you different than your dog or your cat that consumes the food placed in front of them like an automaton sucking up sustenance without pleasure. Because you are capable of controlling your environment; you are capable of controlling your perception of time, while a cat or a dog is not.

Romantic gestures are signals of interpersonal respect, because one person acts in an inefficient way to prolong their time with another person in a superfluous way, and the other person accepts the prolongation of the experience superfluously because they enjoy spending time with the first person.

First-date dinners, slow dancing, telephone conversations…these increasingly rare experiences are indicative of a general aversion to romance. Because romance is “a whole vibe” and “I ain’t got time for that.”

And yet, it seems like people do crave human connections and regret that they can’t experience them. Dating does still exist, and lots of single people still envy other people who are in relationships. Dating apps are a dime a dozen and thousands of people are on them for every 10-mile radius superimposed over any particular portion of a google map. It is still a general “goal of two Ones who share proximity on the physical plane to gain a double Oneness on the metaphysical plane,” as Johnny 5 told Benjamin in Short Circuit 2.

The problem is, most people are Doing It Wrong!

I mentioned as a Facebook update the other day that I went out on Saturday to Ryan’s Wake in Troy, and it was like having a martini at a mannequin factory. That’s not a dig at Ryan’s Wake, or the people there. There is a higher concentration, and a larger number, of good looking people at Ryan’s Wake than any bar in Troy. It’s just that all of those people just Stand There, I don’t think they play any music, and there is no cultural common ground like slow dances to bring any of the single people together.

And it does NOT seem to me that most of the people at a place like Ryan’s Wake are out because they want to be left alone. It doesn’t seem like they are out to blow off steam either. If you want to blow off steam there are cheaper places to get drunk and be loud. You go to Ryan’s Wake because you want to look your best and be in the place where other people are looking their best and you hope maybe you might meet some of those people. And then you will be someone who looks their best talking to someone who you think looks good. And then maybe you will talk to them and Do A Shot and then one of you might Ask The Other One For Their Cell Phone Number and later you might text each other and decide to get a drink on a Wednesday night and then you might have a couple of drinks and Have Sex With Each Other and then you are Dating.

Guys and gals have such a sad time together these days.

I think the problem is technology. Guys and gals are both competing against it.

It wasn’t that long ago that women were competing, dating wise, against air-brushed Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition models. And then they were competing against porn actresses. And now even porn actresses are competing against AI girlfriends that you can program to look however you want and say whatever you want them to say…but you can’t touch them or feel their presence. And men have been competing against machines since the time of John Henry and the steam engine minimizing their productive value, and now there are sex machines for women to go along with the porn for men, and nobody needs the other sex to get off. And there are Instagram and Facebook to highlight the best parts of your “friend”s lives, like they are existential successes and you existentially suck. And there are Tinder and Bumble and Hinge matches so you can have a “connection” if you scroll through one or two thousand people…so you don’t feel isolated.

But it turns out a “match” on a dating site isn’t really a connection, in the way that two people in close proximity can feel that they share a connection (like, for example, if they slow dance). And it is hard to remember that all of those Facebook and Instagram people are only showing you the best parts of their lives. So people feel isolated and not doing as well as other people, and their  electronic “connections” are bullshit, and they go to the bar to be physically close to other human beings.

But then, at the bar (remember there is no such thing as a dance anymore, and certainly not slow dances) there are no “conventions” or situations to bring people together, because of the general suspicion of romance.

I was struck, on Saturday at Ryan’s Wake, by the way that so many girls and guys in their groups just stood there, arms kind of wrapped around their own chests like cold birds protecting themselves, yet with longing looks on their faces, making eye contact with other people in other groups, and then quickly looking down at the floor.

Probably I should have gotten up and walked over and inserted myself into a group of young women standing alone for hours and made up some conversation and suffered the slings and arrows of derision by their friends, because I was out there to meet girls like them and didn’t do anything to make that happen either.

But that’s a pretty tough “ask,” especially when I’ve done that before and been scowled at by the girl and all her friends, and seen friends try to do that and get scowled at by the group.

If only there were some place where there was music, and every now and then a slow song. Because then I would just ask a girl to dance. It is much easier to talk to a girl when you are dancing than when you are surrounded by scowling friends. And then, I could ask for her phone number, and maybe talk to her on the phone, and see if she wanted to get dinner at an Italian restaurant with candles, before which  we might both bathe and wear Nice Clothes, implicitly acknowledging that we enjoy passing time together, rather than speeding through it as efficiently as possible.

“Dream on, Johnny,” as Johnny 5 said, in Short Circuit 2.

No, there is almost no room for slow dancing and first-date candles and meeting-in-person in the modern dating scene. And that is why boys and girls in America have such a sad time together, today. Continue reading Dating— (Hint: It’s Supposed To Be Pleasant)

New Jeep, Boat Work, Sick, Jazz

This post was written at Twisted Fiddler, 9 First Street, Troy; Rob bartending. Old Fashioned with Jameson for a base; 7:40 p.m., Tuesday, April 16th, 2024. 

I wasn’t going to drink tonight, let alone go to a bar. I have been sick as hell for four days. So sick I did something I haven’t done…well, ever. Go to the doctor of my own volition as an adult for something other than a physical or a broken bone. But being sick ruined my weekend and yesterday I could hardly sit up and I figured I’d try and get some meds like everybody else does when they’re sick. Got me some prednisone, which is a steroid, so I should be pretty huge by the weekend…

I wasn’t going to drink or go to a bar, even though it was so warm and sunny outside. I’d started to feel kind of better by mid afternoon and took the garbage out and talked to the contractors next door who are putting a new porch on my neighbor’s front house. While I was out there I took the boat cover off of my boat, because it was sitting there with lakes of water in the depressions where rain had settled. It was sunny so I used the bilge pump to get the water out of the places where the bulkheads prevented the rain from reaching the boat hole and draining out. The bilge pump couldn’t get the bottom inch out, so I used a towel to soak and wring and then I went back inside for a meeting while the boat air-dried.

Something about the sun hitting my skin for the first time in weeks, outside of a few stray beams as I walk from the parking meter to the office, made me feel more healthy. So I opened my house windows, and made a point of going outside as much as I could between meetings in the afternoon. I was home sick, after all, and I felt I had a duty to do whatever it takes to get healthy so I can go to work tomorrow, even if that includes going outside into sunlight today.

I wasn’t going to have a drink or go to the bar, or work on my boat, today. I got 9 straight hours of sleep last night and I think it helped my lung infection tremendously. So I figured I would take daytime Mucinex every four hours today and at 7 I would take the nighttime pill and then sleep for like 12 hours and wake up feeling like 23 million bucks (that’s the old expression “a million bucks” adjusted for inflation).

But then I saw how the bulkheads were keeping the rainwater from reaching the boat hole (yes, that is what it is called) and figured I could spend a few minutes unscrewing some flat-head screws original to the 1959 hull and knocking a few tacks out that were keeping some bashed and broken bulk heads in place, and get the bow of the boat cleared of smashed timber, down to the very ribs and slats and keel.

Since I plan on creating sleeping quarters at the bow of the boat, this, ladies and gentlemen, will essentially be my bedroom, tada!

Basement Bow Apartment — It wont be the worst place I’ve ever slept.
Could use a vacuuming

A bit of a difference from the halcyon days of last September:

At least I have pictures. That’s one thing I learned from the secondhand books on small engine repair over the years: they always say to take pictures at every step so you have a reference when you put things back together. In fact, my 1982 Mercury Outboard Manual recommends drawing sketches or taking Polaroids!

A lot of these pieces won’t be usable because they’re smashed and have gotten wet now. But I will be able to use them as patterns to sketch onto new plywood which I can then cut, stain and poly as replacements. It’s kind of nifty, to me, to see all the different pieces. I’ve been keeping a little notebook about the pieces in the hope that I can match them up when it comes to finishing work.

It was just some piddlin’-around work, so that I would get some sunshine, so that I would feel better, so that I can be a good worker tomorrow. I wasn’t planning on having a drink today, and certainly not going to a bar.

But then I got a call from Calliber Collision in Colonie that my Jeep was fully repaired and ready to pick up. It has been wrecked since the same tree that fell on my boat fell on it on January 10th.

That’s 96 days in the shop. If I shed a tear for every day she was away, I could sing this song by ? and the Mysterians.

It was a beautiful afternoon, even if I was trying not to cough in the Uber, and there was a certain unavoidable excitement at finally going to pick up the Jeep I have been paying Chrysler Capital $636 a month to drive even though I don’t have it in my possession (I’ll never lease again). So when the driver, Suren, started making conversation, even though there was a slight language barrier, I was eager to join.

“It is a nice day, yes?”

“Yes, very nice day.”

“A nice day, funny day. Ha, I always say that when it is a nice day, it is a funny day, too.”

I thought: he means ‘funny’ in the sense of ‘amusing’ as in ‘entertaining’ as in when you learn something interesting and you say ‘That’s funny!’ even though it’s not funny, it is just that you have made a new connection between two things, which is amusing, which is a nice feeling, which is why he associates ‘nice’ with ‘funny.’

“I’m going to pick up my Jeep, I haven’t had it since January, a tree fell on it.”

“Oh, that’s good.”

I could tell he did not understand so I said, “I’m happy to get it back.”

“What happened, you said?”

“A tree fell on my Jeep and I’m going to get it back.”

“What is ‘Atreefle’—-oh! ‘A tree fell’… oh man! Sorry to hear!”

“Yes it has been since January.”

“Well, that is OK.”


“Yeah I mean, I always say, when things happen…I don’t know if you believe in a higher power. I am not a religious person. I am agnostic. But I believe in a higher power and for things when they happen, that it is OK…”

I was waiting for him to say “For a reason” which is a term I don’t like. I think we make our own fortune and when we mess up or something bad happens fortuitously it just stinks and you have to make the best of it and that is what Virtue is… but who am I to argue with an Uber driver so confident in his beliefs on a sunny afternoon?

“…You know? Like things happen, so that happened, so maybe you were not doing something you would have been doing that would have been worse. I say thank you for teaching me with money, it could be worse.”

I could not agree with the driver more on that, but I’d never heard it described that way: “teaching me with money.” He meant that the Jeep was going to cost me $500 and my lost lease payments, but I could have been in the Jeep when the tree fell on it, or my cats could have been on the Jeep and they could have been killed, or the tree might not have fallen and I then I drove it off a bridge the next day, and so on—money is replaceable. So if there was a higher power that would be a way to train me, or something. I don’t believe in higher teaching powers since I graduated high school but I think losing money is a good way to abstract a lesson from a fortuitous occurrence, compared to losing fingers or loved ones or losing a greater amount of money. As somebody that lost about $10,000 worth of stuff in an apartment fire, much of it heirlooms, still, I think to myself “I have memories of those things, I didn’t lose my life or get permanently scarred, and neither did my friends or neighbors or pets. Think how psychologically terrible THAT would be.”

I like speaking with people whose first language is not English. It forces the interlocutors to convey their meaning through analogies and metaphors because they don’t always have a shared vocabulary.

“I don’t let things like that get me to anger,” the driver said. “I say that, you can choose your path. Whether it is a tree fall, or, maybe someone is unfaithful and you are mad at the man, you understand it, you don’t get off at that station.”

Immediately, I added that expression, “Don’t get off at that station” to my repertoire. What a great image: you’re whistling along, some jerk is being a jerk…don’t get off at that station, man! Keep whistling along.

Anyhow I was feeling nice, about to pick up my Jeep on this nice day, but I was still thinking about just going home, when the guy told me he is a saxophone player, that he has a love of music, and that he loves funk and jazz, and plays out as often as possible.

“Where do you play?” I asked.

“I play at, it is a place called 518 Craft, and at Twisted Fiddler…”

“I was going to ask about Twisted Fiddler! I’ve been there Tuesday nights. I think I remember you.”

Suren asked if I played any instruments. I told him I play a few, poorly, and that I only learned that you could learn music as an adult. As a kid we didn’t have musical instruments or books in our house; no one in my family played or sang or read music. I thought it was like color blindness and you either had a music gene or did not. But in a philosophy class a professor had made a passing comment about how “It’s like music, you now, everything is mathematically proportional” and I had no idea what he was talking about. So I started teaching myself…

[Not to be too meta, but as I am typing this blog post, I just heard a table of people yell “Sir, Sir!” And another man went behind me and then there was laughter and there is now animated conversation between four seated people and the man who is walking around, and now hugging people at another table, and they are talking about taking shots, and they are all laughing, and that person is Suren, my Uber driver.]

Anyway I wasn’t going to drink today or go to a bar, but I felt it was quite a coincidence that today is a Tuesday, and I would normally go to Twisted Fiddler except that I was feeling sick, but I wasn’t feeling that sick anymore, and now it was a beautiful day, and I have been writing blog posts at bars, especially when those bars have jazz, and Twisted Fiddler has jazz on Tuesdays, and now Suren my Uber driver was talking about playing jazz tonight at Twisted Fiddler…I mean come on, this is like some Leslie Nielsen movie when a character asks for a sign from God and then literally passes a billboard that says “Go To The Jazz Bar Tonight — God.”

Anyhow, I picked up my Jeep from Eric at Caliber Collision in Colonie, and she looks fab. I haven’t had Bluetooth in 96 days but she picked up my phone as soon as I turned her on. My Jeep didn’t have a name before today, but like my old Ford Taurus which was almost totaled by a $1200 repair in 2018 (until the mechanic said he could Jerry-rig a fix for $98) I said I would name my Jeep based on the first name of the artist singing the first song that came on the radio when I picked her up from the shop.

I think “Everything Happens for a Reason” was pretty apropos even though I hate that expression. Suren would agree, of course. But either way, I guess my Jeep’s name is Bill.

Let’s say Billie… as in Billie Holiday. That was my first cat, Sheba’s, favorite singer.

Determining Whether Chickens are Hatched and Whether I Can Count Them As Ducks In A Row

Written at the bar of Grappa 72, 818 Central Avenue, Albany; Brian bartending; Wednesday, April 11th, 2024.

”What would you like,” the bartender asks.

“I’ll take an old fashioned—”

”—with a splash of club soda,” I hear from stage right. [All the world is a stage, and this is especially true of a bar.] It is Sienna, who served my family on Easter Sunday. It was the best service we’ve had for Easter dinner in decades. I am particular about my Old Fashioneds, and I am tickled that the server remembered my order two weeks later. By “tickled” I mean it is the kind of thing I live for.

Unexpectedly, a three piece jazz band, The Hamilton Street Jazz Trio, has just begun to play. A pianist, a drummer and a stand up bass.  I would link to them but I can’t find their website and I bet they don’t have one. But the bartender says they are the House Band. Grappa has jazz on Thursday and Friday evenings, he says.

Which thrills me. When I’d first moved to Albany after college, you could go to jazz every night of the week. Justin’s on Lark had jazz six nights a week and had a terrific Sunday jazz brunch. 74 State Street had jazz in their 50’s-esque second floor lobby with its grand piano, red leather seats, and plate glass window looking over the intersection of State and Pearl. As late as 2015 I could take my girlfriend to a patio jazz show on Saturday nights at a hotel tucked away on a cobblestone side street near the Times Union Center. There were multiple options on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The Speakeasy below the City Beer Hall always had live jazz and was The Best place to bring a date as far as atmosphere was concerned, because they prohibited cell phone use, which forced would-be couples to engage in conversation. And then all of the jazz places disappeared. A lack of live jazz is correlated with the death of culture in any city, in my opinion. Like the lack of slow dancing today, it is indicative of the death of romance and the vapid disintegration of our popular culture. So I am glad I am starting to see jazz reappear.

Of course it was also a Me Problem. Brian says this band has played at Grappa for 14 years on Thursday nights. I’ve just recently started to explore places that are more than a ten minute drive from my home.

….Apologies, I got distracted, this post is supposed to be about boat building!

So what I am trying to build is a trimaran, or three-hulled boat, that separates into two boats, the way the Enterprise-D (NCC 1701-D) could separate its saucer section from its “secondary hull” or “battle bridge.”

And I want to have the main propulsion be from two electric motors which are controlled from a central cockpit, but also allow the gas engine to be used when I need to move in a hurry or through bad weather. And I want to have multiple sources of generating power, wind and solar, and also a rowing station. And I need to have remote internet access so I can work from the boat. And the ability to fully enclose the boat to keep it dry and secure. And I can’t buy a boat that has any of these things, I have to do it myself.

I know, I know, it’s “needlessly complicated.” But not really. It is complicated, yes, but not needlessly. I have a picture in my mind of what I want, and I have wanted it for years…years!!!!…and nothing is more important to me, to have, than things I have wanted for years.

There is a difference between “complicated” and “complex,” by the way. If something is “complicated” it has many steps. If something is “complex” it not only has many steps, but each step also involves choices at every step. Repairing a grandfather clock is complicated—it might take you years to take it apart and replace one gear and put it back together again, but you could learn how to do it and do it if you wanted to. Contrast that with the Federal Reserve making economic policy. Not only is that complicated, but every person is an economic actor who will respond differently to the policy, and even take the policy into account to try to maximize their benefits once they know the policy is in place. That’s why economic policy almost never turns out as predicted, but you can hire a technician to fix a piece of machinery. Anyhow, designing and building my boat is a complicated endeavor, but not a complex one, and I have been at it for 19 years now, so its also less complicated to me than it might seem to you.

The difference between a “dream” and a “goal” is that a “goal” is something you have a plan to achieve. It’s been my dream to impress McKayla Maroney; but it’s my goal to get to New Orleans on a home made boat. (Actually,  I secretly hope that getting to New Orleans on a home made boat will impress McKayla Maroney, so maybe that counts as a plan? Probably a better plan than when I DMed the former Olympic gymnast to say I think she is cool on Instagram. But only barely.)

To make a plan, often it is necessary to arbitrarily pick a starting step. For me, for this goal, the starting step was to obtain the three “hulls” that I would literally ride to success.

The difficult thing for me over the last 15 years or so was procuring the “amas” or “pontoons” for my trimaran. Back in 2008 my friend and I built “stitch and glue” amas for our 15 foot trimaran, Excelsior. But it was a pain, it was expensive, and they leaked. I had thought about using two skulling vessels as amas but I’ve never found a skulling boat less than $2,000. A Hobie Cat is a catamaran (two-hulled vessel) with a 30 foot mast connected by a trampoline stretched over an aluminum frame, but those have always been beyond my budget, too. But a month ago I found a Hobie Cat on Facebook Marketplace that was reasonably priced and geographically close. So I drove down to check it out at the beginning of March, on a Tuesday night.

It takes about an hour exactly to go from Albany to Rhinebeck, which is roughly across the river from Kingston. Since my Jeep was in the shop for the last 90 days, and my Dad’s truck doesn’t have Bluetooth, I had a doubly nostalgic experience—listening to the radio, and driving to Rhinebeck in a pickup truck, like I used to do when I dated Maggie back in 2011, 12, 13. She was a cool girl, who taught me about Ayurvedic medicine. Our mutual friend Emily introduced us when Maggie was up from New York City, where she worked, and I was out at Susies in Albany after a long night at the NYS Assembly. About a year later I had quit my job and was waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant, and Maggie had been laid off and moved home and was working at a farm stand in Red Hook (upstate).

“What the hell happened to you guys,” Emily asked when she came back to visit a year after introducing us and moving to Seattle. “When I introduced you guys you both had great jobs. Now you’re scraping tacos off plates and working at farm stands.”

What can I say….sometimes pecuniary paucity is a prerequisite for pursuing a person’s plans.

So anyway I was cruising south on the Thruway and crossed over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge onto Route 9 and I started to pick up a country station. It was playing Bill Currington, Good Directions and Turnip Greens, a song I’d first heard on some back country road in a truck and liked because the narrator sounds like a backwoods loser who makes it with a big city girl at the end of the song, which is how I’ve always assumed my life would turn out. And then they played a bunch of country songs from the ‘90s which reminded me of my mom driving me around with the window open and a cigarette in her hand when I was five and she was 29. I don’t like focus-group-made country music or other crap that panders to the lowest common denominator. But I like older country, and I felt young again driving a pickup truck on the back roads like I did for my first date with Maggie, whose dad, a sheet rock contractor, said he liked that I drove a pickup truck.

I got to the house and met Brian, the seller. (A lot of Brians in my last two posts.) He was friendly, trendily-dressed, well-kempt, and restored boats for fun. He looked about 45. In fact, he was ex-military, around 55, and had a wife and at least one son who he’d just gotten back from visiting in Austin.

The Hobie Cat looked brand new. Brian mentioned a couple of times how fast and light she was. He was obviously proud of the great work he had done restoring her. He showed me before-pictures of the dinged up and dirty hulls he had patched and sanded and gel coated.

I felt a little like I’d be disappointing him when I told him my plan was to Frankenstein his Hobie into parts to make a trimaran. He asked me how I was going to connect the two vessels. I said I’d find a way to put them together even if I injured myself in the process, and he said “Oh yeah I know how that goes” and held up his left hand which was missing most of one finger and 1/3 of two others, from a time he was using a band-saw on a boat project. I think I said “I’ve go more boats at the bottom of the Hudson than you have fingers left,” and we both laughed.

[Subsequently, Brian and I have been texting and he has been giving me all kinds of advice for how to fix the wooden boat, which will serve as the center hull of the trimaran. That is the wood boat which my last post described, that the tree fell on. I texted him that I didn’t relish fixing the bottom of the boat, which would require suspending the boat by straps hung from 4X4s, pulling the busted trailer out, and laying on my back on the driveway holding up sheets of fiberglass with my knees and rolling epoxy onto it, with the amber resin dripping down my hands and arms and onto my face. Brian said “You gotta flip the boat over!” which I had never considered and which will surely save me hours of frustration and mess.

So now I have both of these boats in my driveway.

The pontoons are easy to dismantle but the frame of the Hobie is jusssssst a little too narrow for he pontoons to slip around the sides of the boat. So I have to figure out whether to push the Hobie with the wood boat, or place the Hobie behind the wood boat, but the motor will be in the way. In either case it will be awkward looking as opposed to aligning the pontoons amidships somehow. And I have to figure out how to preserve the Hobie as an independent, electrically powered “secondary hull” independent of the wooden, center hull “battle bridge.” Good thing these are complicated, rather than complex, challenges.

It’s a difficulty that has taken a lot of my attention over the last two weeks, and I still haven’t found a solution. But that’s OK. It means it is a difficult project, which means it is more likely to impress McKayla Maroney.

Once More Into The Breach As I Cast A Die Across The Rubicon 2.0

Written at the bar of Emry’s Garden, 2 King Street in Troy, New York; Brian Bartending, April 10th, 2024.

It has been a goal of mine for the lat 19 years to take a raft down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. It goes back to 2005, when I was 21, and my friends and I were trying to build a raft and float down the Hudson River to Manhattan. That particular endeavor took me 5 years, saw 7 iterations of increasingly complex vessels constructed, and cost me about $20,000. Since the Hudson from Albany to NYC is around 150 miles, and the Ohio and Mississippi from Pittsburgh to New Orleans is roughly 2,000 miles, logically, “the Mississippi Trip” should take me 66.3 years, require 93.3 different vessels, and cost me $266,666.

I jest, of course. Luckily, we rational animals learn from our mistakes and each time we approach a challenge we do a better job at execution.

[It is funny to me that “execution” means both “to follow through on a task” and “to kill someone.” For the last couple of years I’ve been trying to construct this joke, but I haven’t gotten it yet. It would be like, “What did one Roman say to the other Roman when they got done crucifying Spartacus? …. You really nailed the execution. Wacka wacka wacka. Too soon? Geeze I didn’t realize there were so many Spartacus fans in the crowd…”]

I did try, and fail, rather spectacularly, to go 2,000 miles from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 2018. If you are one of those rare few people who have Facebook, I had a Facebook page called Float of the Phoenix if you care to see pictures and see some video with top of the line cinematography [the best you can get with an iPhone leaning against a cooler on a sinking vessel.] There are cobwebbed posts on this site about the construction.

It was made from two pontoons made from 55 gallon drums, procured from a car wash [they’d contained soap] and duck-taped into pontoon-shapes and fiberglassed. The pontoons worked very very well, but I built and tested the boat here in New York, then had to take it apart and transport it to Pittsburgh in a 20 foot Uhaul, and while I was in the process of re-constructing it with my ship-mate Sam on a boat ramp at Silky’s Crows’ Nest Marina in Sharpsburgh (just up the Allegheny from Pittsburgh Point), the area got hit with Hurricane Florence, which totally flooded the entire region and valley such that for the next 45 days we only saw one other pleasure boat on the river, the rest having been wrecked or taken out of the river for the season. Towns were flooded up to their Main Streets. We had to jettison weight after our center hull ruptured and pulled our boat under the water. We spent two weeks marooned on Davis Island [including Sam’s 30th birthday] until someone from Pittsburgh NORML saw us on Facebook, got a boat and crew, and pulled us against the current back into the center of the river so we could proceed through the first Ohio River lock. Unfortunately our fourth-hand motor died, and our second, second-hand motor also died, and after 45 days we had only made it to Portsmouth, Ohio, at the confluence of the Scioto River, 365 out of 2,000 miles downstream, by mid-October, when it fell below freezing at night, the boat had no propulsion, was sinking, and I was so broke I had to ask my mother to put $600 into my checking account at KeyBank in Ravena so I could afford an Enterprise Rent-a-Car to drive me, Sam, and some of our belongings back to New York. Later that winter I got a call from a nice officer from the Shawneetown Marina who told me that my boat had completely sunk, and a few months later, a woman Facebook Messaged me that she had salvaged pieces of my boat from the river bottom and it was now functioning as a faux-sunken boat flower bed near the pond in her front yard.

That was October of 2018, and I was broke and, at 34, had to move back into my parent’s basement. I called the manager at El Loco, the Mexican restaurant in Albany where I’d worked, and got a shift the next day. A month and a half later I started working as Insurance Analyst for the central staff of the New York State Assembly, where I had worked as an analyst 2007-12 and 2014-16. But I realized I needed to have some sort of passive income if I was going to try to do a months-long trip again. So I read some real estate books, worked three jobs, and bought a two-family in Troy to subsidize my rent and to sublet when I was away.

I was promoted so that I had 5 Legislative Committees under my jurisdiction (Corporations, Labor, Governmental Employees, Real Property Tax, Science and Technology and later Insurance) and then COVID happened. Between March 6, 2020 and June of 2021 I ended up working every single day, including weekends and holidays, except for 8 days.  No remote opportunities. A “leadership position” that paid substantially less than $100,000. My money went into house repairs and my time went into doing those repairs, because it costs 1/10th of what a contractor charges if you do the work yourself, and thanks to boatbuilding I had lots of tools and some experience doing construction work (plus a healthy appreciation of the fact that there is no “right way” to do something, and if you mess it up you just re-do it and it is still less expensive than using a contractor.)

By the end of 2022 I was burned out from 4 years of 80-120 hour weeks with almost no time off. I want to observe that some employers view “burned out” as a temporary state that you recover from after a couple days of rest. No, burned out is a permanent state. If you burn out a circuit, it will not work, no matter how long you let it sit there. You have to replace at least one electronic component because it has been physically destroyed. I got an offer to work for an Executive Agency with a substantially better salary, 9-5 hours, and remote work opportunities and I took it. Combined with 2-family home-ownership, that was the final piece of the puzzle to enable me to start thinking about a trip down the Mississippi again.

One pre-requisite for taking a vessel 2,000 miles is to actually possess, or better yet to own,  a vessel.

On the one hand, there is a substantial price difference in second hand boats (and I only want second, third or fourth hand boats, because I like to ram them and beach them and screw things into them and not worry because they are new and pretty) in Albany versus in rural PA or OH. So it would make sense to go overland to Pittsburgh and buy a boat there. But then I would miss out on the part that I like, which is designing some contraption after drawing sketches on cocktail napkins, hearing people say that the design is inefficient and unwarranted, and being motivated out of spite to figure out a way to put the pieces together so that I can say “I told you so” for a day or two until it breaks.

My first attempt at procuring a “kernel” of a vessel—something to serve as a center hull and power plant— was a 1973 yellow used fire-boat from Saratoga county, which I named Daphne.

What I liked is that Daphne was a center-hull boat, essentially a work boat. I had transitioned from wanting to take a “raft” down the rivers. I pictured putting a crane and lift to bring cargo onto the boat, and to retrieve artifacts off the bottom of the river along the way. I took Daphne out magnet fishing on the Hudson and the Schodack Creek. But after three times on the Hudson, the motor stopped working and she’s now been at my mechanic’s for 3 years. They don’t make the outboard  brand that’s on Daphne anymore, and the motor is the most expensive part of a boat. She went into the shop in 2021 and that was when I was working 120 hour weeks and I kind of forgot about her until a couple of months ago. My mechanic thinks he can get her running again with spare parts, but I am wary of how much money to pour into a boat if I can find another with a better engine. And worried about her breaking down on the Ohio and not being able to find replacement parts.

So last year I found a boat on Facebook Marketplace which has a 1959 Lyman hull and a 1965 Mercury 50 HP outboard. When I went up to Saratoga to look at her, the owner opened up the engine cowling and it was the cleanest second hand engine I’ve ever seen. I bought her and brought her home and she started and ran like a horse who’d eaten two dozen oysters, no problems at all. If I pushed her up to 20 mph I might as well have poured gas over the gunwales into the water, but she moved, man, she moved.

She was the best boat I’ve ever owned, and I’ve build or bought 11 boats not counting kayaks and canoes. I planned to use her for a center hull and to make a second boat which floated on two pontoons, which this boat could park underneath for protection, but also move, like a tug boat that fit at the back and also within a barge.


It’s a great idea. But the best laid plans of mice and men….

I was doing great at the beginning of January. Took the month off of drinking. On the 9th I have a journal entry about how great I was feeling, and how I had a clear mind and clean house and that allowed me to wake up at 6:30 am and take a bath and read and then leave for work early and therefore not get late to work because of an accident on the highway. And I had a full fridge and I was going to the gym three days a week.

And on January 10th there was a big wind storm and a tree fell on my Jeep, on my garage, on my pergola, on the canopy over my boat, and on my boat itself.

Trees company…

That was January 10th. Today is April 10th and my Jeep is still in the shop. Luckily my parents live nearby and have an extra truck I’ve been able to use, or I’d have had to spend thousands of dollars to Uber to work since my rental ran out after 30 days. I lease my Jeep so that’s $630 a month that I give to Chrysler Capital for nothing. I’ll never lease again. But the boat is salvageable.

It has been a long, dreary, sunless winter here in upstate New York. In January my dad, 67, cut the tree up, and I split it by hand, but its resin wood, which is no good for firewood. By March my yard was clear and I was able to untangle the mangled aluminum poles of the canopy that I’d put over the boat, twisted and tied like dinosaur bones doing yoga.

I extricated the boat and trailer from the yard. It had been impressed down into the mud by the tree, and towed her into the driveway so I could assess the damage.

The trailer is twisted such that I don’t think I can take her on the road. The hull has a hole where the tree forced her down onto the trailer which punctured the bottom. The bow is damaged, the dash and driving mechanism has been smashed, and the windshield has been transformed into myriad smithereens.

But she is salvageable! I can fix her below-waterline hole, and honestly I don’t care that much how she looks above the waterline as long as she floats.

It is now getting to be nice weather, with sunshine that continues after I finish my day job work for the day. I’ll have this baby floating by May 15th. And now I have a Hobie Cat catamaran to deconstruct and turn this into a “trimaran” or three-hulled boat. That will be the subject of my next post.