Sailing Down the Hudson … and then some : Part I

May 10th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sailing down the East Coast. We’re starting inland at Lake Champlain and will first navigate a series of 20 locks to get out into the Hudson.

We’ll have our masts stepped up near New York City, where we’ll sail out the harbor, then back into Chesepeake Bay and into the intra-coastal water way … and then as far as we can get before time runs out.

Our boat is a “sloop rigged catch” which means a double masted ship with a single jib in front. It also has a “bilge keel” which is an unusual configuration of two keels sticking out from the side. One advantage is that if the tide runs off from under you, the boat will remain upright.  For example:


The boat is a Westerly 33″ Ketch named “Borka” (which if you pronounce the “r” in a soft rolling way, is the diminutive of Boris though the origin of the name is different. I’ll write about that later)

Borka and Tim

Tim Nulty is our captain. Crew is Louisa Bukiet and Lindsay (who was visiting Tim from England when he offered her to hop aboard) and me.


I’ll write more soon, but in the meanwhile, you should read about two fascinating sailing misadventures:

Tokyo in 24 hours

June 20th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

I’m writing this on my flight to Beijing. I’m glad I got a day layover in Tokyo. It gave me an opportunity to recall our year long voyage of to the United States from Russia in 1989, through Austria and Italy. Other immigrants, after 1990, had stepped on the plane in Moscow and disembarked in New York, receiving the full impact of the cultural transition at once, and at the same time the illusion of a seamless transition.

I had the same opportunity now, to prepare for the culture shock of Beijing, by getting a dose of culture shock in Tokyo.

As I rode the escalator to baggage exchange, I saw a couple that were on the same plane as me from LAX speaking Japanese. The guy made a long drawn out exhalation of relief inserting the English phrase, “Well, back to reality.” For me it was the other way around.

The first amusement was in the airport bathroom. I had expected the bidet — the buttocks washing contraption. But I didn’t realize they had thought of adding a button to electronically generate a masking sound for “embarassing bathroom noises.”

» Read the rest of this entry «


March 18th, 2004 § 0 comments § permalink

On the bus ride to Boston from New York, on the travel company called FungWah, I sat next to a 27 year old girl named Cassandra. (Blessed be the Chinatown bus companies and the literally cut throat competition — my brother mentioned some killings were in the news — which reduce fares to 10$ for a relatively pleasant ride. Learn England, learn!) She had moved to New York only a few weeks ago, had secured an apartment, and was proud to point out that several promising interviews were lined up for this week. One in fact that day. But, instead, she was headed on a bus back to Boston to confront the reason why she moved to New York in the first place. Her ex-boyfriend, a North-End restaurant owning Syrian, evidently located her new habitations and stole her car, just the day before. It turns out police work is sometimes quicker than we give it credit — they located her car, without license plates, with chains on the tires and The CLUB ™ on the handle. The Syrian was now in custody, awaiting arraignment the following day. Due to undisclosed reasons, she fled to NY to avoid seeing him; these are reasons which I think I discovered with time. Another, more recent ex, as recent as yesterday, had chosen to extricate himself from her life because of this situation. He happened to be an Albanian. “You like foreigners?” She does, since “their lives are more exciting.” In the interim there was a Russian as well. Her mother is Syrian and her father is German. Evidently he left the family when she was 14. Just got up and left. No one knows where he is. Or at least she is not going to tell me. She misses the way he raised her. There was order in the house. He regulated what she could and could not do. With her mother life lacked structure. “We just did whatever we wanted.” Now she finds that her life is one situation after another, without cease. Life is a scandal. Perhaps she unconsciously likes it that way? Her need to be involved with foreigners and their interesting lives is an indication, no? She does want order back in her life! The Albanian is temperamental but at least he has his shit together. (God only knows why he is off with his friends in Boston playing video games right now.) She tells me that she wants to learn German. Of course, she never will. As I press her we realize this. But, she does like to watch foreign films — Run Lola, Run is one of her favorites. While on the film theme, we chose to review the entire situation from a cinematographer/detective’s perspective, as if it were a movie:

How did he find out where you lived? How good were you at covering your tracks? She had a falling out with a friend, who knew both of them, and she suspects her as the culprit. Ok, position the Camera on their conversation. Catch the lines “She lives in …” and “I’m going to get that Bitch!” Next sequence. He could not have managed to make this car theft trip alone. He had to have a friend. Another hot-blooded, gold chain wearing, hairline receding, techno music listening, fat fingered North End resident. Position camera here (pointing at the bridge on the highway). Land Rover zooms by. Now were inside the car. Syrian is building himself up, and justifying his imminent deed, interlace with “Bitch” and punches at the steering wheel causing slight swerves on the road. No worries, it is now 3am. They are more than slightly tipsy, having committed to the whole enterprise after the club. Scouring the New York streets they find her car. Oh, he had keys? Oh, he co-signed for the car because your credit was not good enough? Oh, the car is a Mercedes? She says she has been meeting the car payments on time, and that he has no good reason to take it the way he did. Good enough, maybe?! Evidently, he has a track record of taking back gifts. When she got a restraining order against him the first time he broke into her apartment in Coolidge Corner (Boston) and reclaimed his Bose stereo system. Ok, now he’s racing back along I-95. Same camera, same bridge. Zoom, a Mercedes. Zoom, a Range Rover. Again, inside the car perspective. The two of them are racking up a large cell phone bill, because he can’t stop talking about the bitch. They pull over for McDonald’s and a few lines of coke. Now the same camera, the same bridge. FugWah bus ambles along. She’s inside of it, alone. Staring out the window, contemplating. Except she’s not alone. We’re talking about this together. We’re plotting. You probably don’t want to press charges. You want to have your life back, start anew, in New York, it sounds promising. Perhaps you can file a restraining order and negotiate a plea bargain to require a year of weekly visits to the psychiatrist for him. He does sound crazy after all. Not violent, right? Well, then perhaps he just needs time to cool off. After all the car was bought only two months ago. He lives on cash and the daily vulnerabilities of the restaurant market. The economy is still struggling. Financial issues bother him. Two days from now you’ll be back in your Mercedes, listening to Gloria Gaynor. The same camera, the same bridge. Just slightly over the speed limit. You are renegotiating your interview times on a hands-free car phone.

She’s still worried about the Cops. I say, they must have felt there was reason enough to arrest him. She’s worried about what he may have said. I give her a nice way of looking at it, (but then I was already beginning to doubt her integrity.) “If everything you say is true, you should be fine. Think about it. If you were married and you had kids. And if you got a divorce and the kids were living with you. He steals them, it is called a kidnapping. No matter that he co-signed for them. Thank you, she says. Thank you for helping me see it this way.

Her phone rings. She becomes another person. Not the kind person that is participating in our conversation. Another remote, bitchier person that says things like: “so is that how it is, huh? …” I wonder if anyone ever speaks to her sincerely and calmly as I was talking to her. I make a further suggestion to start anew in New York. Again a worry about the car, about payment, she spends money too fast she says. I tell her about a summer road trip and our economizing. She is amazed. I show pictures. The laptop is open, I show her Ali G. Ali G has a sequence about the Nobbing on the Beach, a.k.a. The Ali Gangbang. I feel comfortable to suggest for her to explore the diverse scenes in New York. Societies. German speakers. Fetish clubs. Scheduled orgies, might as well. She remains interested when I tell her the organization names which pre-screen people, rent posh hotel rooms, and distribute the password a day in advance, but then wonders aloud: “I wonder how we got on this subject without me even noticing that we got on the subject.” I remind her, but by this time our bus is shaking itself off the highway, emptying out with the Mass Pike onto the Boston streets. Chinatown is in sight. She looks at me and says, “look.” I already know what she means by it. “So I am going to have to say bye to you right now.”

I walk the other way after getting my things. In full gear: backpack, laptop bag, duffle bag. I glance at her standing alone. No, the Albanian did not come.

san francisco european city

February 16th, 2004 § 0 comments § permalink

one of the seminars i’m attending this term is called the modern city. the following is an idea trajectory i shared with the class last week, and now i share with you.

for practical reasons in the distant past, walls were built around cities. these walls also acted as areal contraints on the growth of the urban center. technical limitations prevented vertical growth. expansion was a prolem solved by creativity and increased complexity and “fractalness” within the limited area (as opposed to an urban sprawl.) the result is what is today a feast for the eyes.

having spent the past weekend in san francisco, in constrast to the last half year in europe, i realized just how european san francisco feels. keeping the last thought in mind, it is possible to formulate a hypothesis. while san francisco is not surrounded by walls, on three sides it is surrounded by water. vertical expansion is capped by earthquakes. these are the necessary conditions for increased complexity, and that is exactly what you get.

of course, we can theorize about san francisco without end; this is merely one observation.

Business minded

January 3rd, 2004 § 0 comments § permalink

immigrants in europe, and there are a lot of them, are extremely business minded, cashing in minor legal inconveniences for profit.

    1. in barcelona liquor stores close at 10pm and beer at the bar is more than 3 euros; no worries, beer is delivered to you on the street for 1 euro a can (less if you bargain for it.)

    2. in the milan train terminal one has to pay .80 euro for a wee (that’s more than a dollar in us currency), but the 10 immigrants who have rigged the charging gate can get you in for .20. if you don’t pay the 12 year old who makes the kind offer, the angered rest will kick the door of your stall down.

occasionally the police make a raid; everybody denies everything; and the sun still rises.


December 24th, 2003 § 0 comments § permalink

lucas’s mother is a telephone fortune teller. jane asked her to read the cards. her warnings were pretty reasonable, and i agree with them:

    be careful about getting pregnant outside of marriage. this is likely, since you have a high risk personality.

    you´ll have an argument with your father about some documents.

fortuna is the brand of the worst cigarettes on the market. merda.

Language Barrier

December 23rd, 2003 § 0 comments § permalink

for the last couple of days, we’ve been staying with a spanish couple. they speak very little english and our communication involves playing sharades and occasionaly passing the dictionary. however, some words do not need to be looked up. she knows numbers in english and he knows days of the week; and both correct the other with a hefty score of pride when within their specialty.

punks, shoelaces

December 21st, 2003 § 0 comments § permalink

being a russian punk was a point of pride for the one we met in a non-descript barcelona plaza. in between bold approaches to every new group of people that passed within the plaza to leech of some hash, cigarrettes, food, or change, he told us about the meaning behind the color of his shoelaces:

the black shoelace means life sucks. that is the main theme of the punks. the other is red because i am half ready to go to battle. two red shoelaces would mean that i am ready to fight right here and right now. if you see red laces, they’re likely in your face and you won’t be seeing much after that.

the first member of his small caravan to approach our bench where we sat with our friend, lucas, was a little grey and and black puppy, two months of age. he was followed by his owner, a punkette with red dreaded spikes that she nervously twirled between her fingers as she asked us whether we might have a small bit of hash (to our confusion, she called it a small bit of cho-co-latte). later we would find out that this was part of their collect enough rocks and you will have a mountain philosphy which was very appropriately backed up by the visual aid of the punk´s cigarette case: a mountain of cigarrettes, all of them different like the many owners they came from.

there is more:

neo-nazis wear white laces. when punks wear white laces, they are stepping on the neo-nazi terrain. when neo-nazis wear two red laces, it means all out war.

these punks have been living in a squat in barcelona for only a couple of years, sustaining themseleves on tossed restaurant food and leeching for drugs.

you can meet them too and their pit bull.