Category Archives: sadness

A lesson in death…

Some of you may have noticed over the last few days I sort of dropped off the radar.  More of you were probably off having fun, and likely assumed I was also wrapped up in the extended 4th of July festivities that stretched over two weekends and cut the work week down the middle. As holidays go, the 4th usually tops my list. Kicking back with some friends, enjoying barbeques, hanging out on the beach and watching fireworks. Not standing in a cemetery and watching a young friend laid to rest.

Some funerals sting more than others. Though it’s never easy to lose someone, it’s easier to come to terms with their passing when they had a long, full life. But when it’s someone with so many years ahead and so much potential, someone with such incredible vitality, someone who touched the lives of so many around them, the loss hits hard. And it’s times like these make you step back and take stock in how you’re living your own life. It makes you wish you’d taken more time for the people and things that really matter, and it makes you realize that perhaps it’s time to start, before the next box goes in the ground and the chance is lost. There isn’t a do-over button in this game. We all go day to day, rushing around, wrapped up in our problems and worries, losing sight of the fact that we really need to take time for those who matter. Take the time while it’s there to take, because this is life, after all, and in the end, none of us are going to make it out alive. Take time to laugh with friends while they’re still above ground, because meeting up in a cemetery is a lousy place and time for a get-together. You taught us all some great lessons, John, right to the end, and beyond. We’re going to miss you, but for those who knew you, we’re going to live life and celebrate your memory.

As I wrote this, another friend posted her reflection on John’s passing, and she so perfectly put into words what made John special and why he will truly be missed.

Recently a friend and coworker of mine died. The fact that he changed me as a person makes me so happy and mourn the loss of a great person even more so. He was a man who lived life to his fullest, for better or for worse. Never have I met somebody who so kindly tried to encourage me to come out of my shell, while still being entirely respectful of my wallflower tendencies. It would be a disservice to his memory to stay locked away. Because of him I have decided to stop being afraid to live life.

R.I.P. John Vaillencourt. The most genuine bullshit artist you’d ever meet. Always the life of a party, a loving father, and someone who wore his faults proudly but could win over anyone with his cheer and good heart.


It’s been a sad time here and everything feels so much emptier since Moxie passed away on Tuesday night. She’d had a good, long life, and at sixteen she was still going strong, if somewhat unsteady on her feet, but still determined to take on full flights of stairs and short walks. We knew things were failing internally, but her spirit was still strong, along with her attitude and appetite… until the other night. Thankfully it all happened within a short time; that morning she’d been perfectly fine, and we’d been told things would be sudden and fast. We could see she was shutting down, letting go, and while that was probably the best way for things to end. Still, it doesn’t hurt any less and it will take time to come to terms with her passing.


Our gratitude goes out to the staff at Oradell Animal Hospital for their compassionate understanding and gentle help, letting her pass away with her family at her side, and even for placing her in a pet sized sturdy cardboard ‘casket’ for us rather than a black plastic trash bag. The clay paw print someone there made for us was unexpected and will be treasured. I’m also grateful to Anthony Erekat at Faithful Companion in Clifton, NJ, who handled Moxie’s cremation. Located in a separate portion of a tasteful funeral home, Faithful Companion offers the same services for pets with the same dignity you would expect for any family member, and that brought us more comfort we truly needed.

I know in my heart Moxie had a good life, long and happy, and she was loved dearly. I know in time this will sting less, but right now our home feels like something essential is missing. Loki and Rex still keep looking for her, they don’t understand where their leader has gone and they have a bit of a lost look as they come to understand they don’t have her lead to follow anymore. We’ll all adjust, but it will take time.

Raising funds for Japan – calling all other Indie authors…

The following is a repost from author JH Sked from London, England:

Raising funds for Japan – calling all other Indie authors

The images from Japan are heartbreaking. For all the problems we might have, the majority of us still have homes, clothing, and access to food, water and medical supplies as needed. Despite being one of the most resilient nations on the planet, Japan is going to need a lot of help over the next couple of months, if not years. Being cash poor, I can’t afford to donate money. What I can do, though, is donate every sale from WolfSong for the next week (maybe longer if I raise some decent funds) to the Red Cross fund.

So that’s every cent of author profit from the sale of the e-book (tree version is still way off, I’m afraid), from every site it’s on, once the sites have taken their cut. If you’re an author and you’d like to join in, please do. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a couple of hours, days, or the full week – every little bit will help. Give me a shout in the comments or the join the twitter feed #write4japan.

I’ll post the stats and amount raised here next Sunday – let’s get the ball rolling a bit. I’m keeping the price as is, simply because there are a lot of people in the same financial situation – unable to donate the amounts you want to, but able to fork out between under a dollar (0.99c) or pound (0.71p) a pop.


— Me again.
I was unable to copy the links to the sales sites of each sales outlet for WolfSong. Simply link to the author’s blog and you will find them all. And I am pledging the same. In addition to the coming week I will be donating the royalties from my sales so far this month, and will post the amount raised.

Update: 3/15/11 – At $.99 a book I earn $.35 per sale, and the current total just topped $30. I will update as this progresses, and I would like to thank everyone who has donated aid, both here and through any other groups or organizations. I’ve already made a personal donation to the Red Cross; (text “REDCROSS” to 90999, and you can make a $10 donation to the organization;) this will be above and beyond that. For additional ways to help, go to:

The boneyard and Butch…

Among the projects we have planned for Annabel Lee is the addition of a proper mast for a steadying sail and mounts for the radar and other electronics. Most of Annabel Lee’s sisters left the factory with spars; we managed to find one of the few boats that didn’t. Directly across the river from us is an old boatyard in which, I’m told, many a boat has met its end. My old friend Butch, who passed away a few weeks back, had always told me I should visit there. He also warned me to be careful; surrounded by old boats he felt I could get in trouble, though that was back when I had a far more simple boat to care for. But now, being that I have an old boat of my own I figured I would be less inclined to adopt some new project. All the same, in all these years I’d yet to visit that marine graveyard… until last weekend.

Saturday the temperature was once again pushing 100 with extreme humidity, no clouds and no breeze. Frank couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to spend the day grinding away at fiberglass and suggested we take a ride instead. So off we went, winding our way up the Hudson to the Bear Mountain Bridge and back down the other shore. Despite living here my entire life, despite all the times I’ve seen this stretch of the river both by land and water, the beauty of it still amazes me.

We located the boatyard, parked and looked around. I stepped into the office, occupying the basement of the house on the property to speak with the manager. I explained that I was looking for a mast, and there based upon my friend Butch’s suggestion. “A shame about Butch,” he said. “He’ll be missed.” I nodded in agreement. I’d known Butch for years, from long before I’d worked in another boatyard with him to long after I’d left. The manager mentioned not making it to the viewing; I told him I’d been there. He asked how I’d known Butch; I explained and he said he never knew Butch worked in that boatyard. The Butch I knew had worked there for decades. He reminisced about his memories, referring to Butch as a ‘big happy fellow’, always with a smile. Now I was really confused. Those were the last words I’d ever consider to describe him. I told the manager, “I’m beginning to wonder if your Butch and mine were one and the same.” The Butch I knew and loved dearly was hands-down the grumpiest old bastard I’ve ever known. The more we compared notes, the more the Butch he spoke of and the one I knew were two entirely different people, literally. It turns out there were two Butches, one on either side of the Hudson, who both passed away recently, leaving the world an emptier place.

Anyhow, here’s some pictures of the boneyard. It’s a fascinating place, though tragic to see some magnificent boats sitting derelict and beyond salvage, no more than failed and forgotten dreams. There was much for me to fall in love with, much I could get myself into trouble with if not for the fact that I already have a boat that owns me.

You were right, Butch.

That plumb bow in the middle has such magnificent lines, even as a derelict the elegance is still there. 

An old Tollycraft and a Viking. These two looked like they could be brought back… with MUCH work.

The nesting ground of the old Evinrudes.

Ladders? Lots of ladders.

And swim platforms! Several of these looked to be in better shape than ours.

A forgotten Wheeler Playmate, buried behind other boats. This was as close as I could get.  The cabin looked like a greenhouse with vines climbing between the curtains.

2,300 + and counting…

That’s the number of responses so far on the ‘Bring Back XM Radio’s X-Country XM12’ Petition. I will give XM/Siruis some (cough) credit, they had my service shut within minutes of me requesting cancellation, and my remaining year of subscription credited back to me the next day. So for those of you who may have been told you can’t cancel, you most certainly can.

A Lee bit crazy…

As promised, here’s a little story of the Lees. Myra Lee, Laura Lee, and Annabel Lee.

In the beginning, there was Myra Lee. A lovely little Marshall catboat, delightful to sail. She’d been renamed, awfully, I might add, but I learned Myra Lee was her original name, and I returned her to her rightful title. I had many years of pleasant sailing, but I must admit I was growing tired of crouching headroom and the outboard on the stern. I began considering a Flicka, which wasn’t much larger, but more ocean-capable, with a modest cabin and inboard engine. Yet…

…I’d been working in a nearby boatyard, and languishing in a far corner was this lonely little trawler, Laura Lee. Not really that little actually. 32 feet, but built like a tank. Bigger than I wanted, and lacking a sail of any sort. The owner, having driven her hard onto some rocks, found himself on the rocks financially as well, and stopped paying the yard for storage.

Years passed.

A friend at the yard constantly kidded me. He’d say “there’s the boat for you. I see you with that boat someday.”
“Yeah, right,” I’d laugh. But the thought stuck. And when the yard leined her, I began to think about it. Consider it. Click the link, you’ll see, she’d be one hell of a project. The potential was there, though. Everywhere she wasn’t built of absurdly thick, uncored fiberglass, she was solid teak. Only some interior trim was teak veneer. And the engine… a 80 horse 4 cylinder Ford Lehman diesel. With that big, slow turning prop and a full displacement hull, she wouldn’t go anywhere all that fast, and she’d barely sip fuel in the process. In short, they don’t build boats like this anymore. They didn’t build all that many to begin with. Best I could determine, there were maybe a dozen or so of these little Hong Kong built Cheoy Lee Shipyards trawlers world-wide. We started looking a little closer. There was lots of work, but it was do-able. Being that I worked at the yard, boat storage was free, one of my benefits. I got parts at cost. I had access to the tool shop, the wood shop, lifts, everything. The yard owners said if, come spring, I paid storage owed, I could take title. They shook my hand. I sold Myra Lee to a fellow who’d for years been begging me to sell her to him. I started gathering my tools, getting ready.

Then the owners decided they wanted to spiff up the yard, change the image from a working yard to a more ‘yacht-club’ style facility. They began denying storage and docks even to paying customers with less than ‘desirable’ boats, telling them to leave. They told employees we no longer had free boat storage as a benefit. And they told me they would NOT be selling me Laura Lee. In fact, they told me they intended to cut her up and crush her.

I tried to negotiate. Pleasantly at first. I tried to go around them and contact the long-gone, out of the country former owner, seeing if I work some arrangement with him. No go there. I tried every reasonable thing I could think of, none worked. Needless to say, I no longer work there. There was no reason to anymore. I’d sold one boat, didn’t have the other, the owners were lying pricks driving away all the customers I liked and schmoozing the yuppie scum I loathe. There was no reason to stay.

There was another of the same trawler for sale, hours up the coast in north Mass, but too expensive for our budget. We looked at other boats, but none compared, and none were what we wanted. The year passed. Laura Lee still sat there, and as winter approached, the price on the Massachusetts one crept down. One day we went for a ride, took a look, and made a low offer. The seller accepted. We shook hands. By time surveys were complete and contracts signed, it was November. We spent three days moving her down the coast to Cape Cod, near my parents, to wait out the winter.

Spring came, the cover came off, and we’ve begun getting her back in order. I’ve said I prefer not to rename boats, but this one had been through two other names, neither very good. A boat should never have a name that’s unpronounceable or confusing. Names should be clean and elegant. You don’t want to offend the water gods. So the old name came off. I would have carried on ‘Myra Lee’, but the original Myra Lee still bears that name. The consensus, for many reasons, was that Annabel Lee suited this boat perfectly.

Now the funny part(s). One; the old yard must have realized how expensive it will be, both in labor and disposal fees, to get rid of 20,000 pounds of boat. I was told I could buy her if I was interested, and I’ll admit it felt good and bad at the same time to tell them “No, I already have one.” And two; our dear Annabel Lee seems to be quite admired, with many people stopping to comment. A few have asked if we’d consider selling her. Amazing what some proper maintenance can do, considering her last owner struggled to sell her. One fellow asked if we knew of any others like her, as he’d never seen a Cheoy Lee trawler. I laughed, and told him about Laura Lee. He wanted more information. Then my phone rings, and there’s another fellow, heard there’s an abandoned Cheoy Lee trawler, he wants information too. I set up the pictures online, sent them both links. I suspect the phone at the old boatyard’s been ringing today. Maybe Laura Lee will float again, rather than wind up landfill.

I see Thestrals…

Too often.

I’m going about nothing much, and I glance out the window for a moment. Some movement caught my eye. The neighbor’s cat is flipping something small and live in the air. So I run out, chasing the cat off, and find the resulting damage. It’s a baby hare, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, so perfect and beautiful if not for the clearly broken back and large chunk of exposed thigh muscle. There’s nothing I can do, and I know it, but I can’t leave it there, with the cat lying in the bushes, just waiting. This isn’t the food chain here, Fluffy has a bowl of Friskies waiting at home, and I have a dying bunny nestled in my hand.

Why is it I always seem to find these things, enough that I know by the way it’s breathing it only has a minute, maybe two. So I hold it, and the breaths become slower, more strained, the racing heart beats unevenly. The cat waits. A last gasp, then limpness. My neighbor pulls in as I stand with a handful of dead baby bunny.

“Cat got another one, eh?” He laughs. “Least those things breed like, well, you know. And cats, well, you know how they are.”

Yeah, I do. Almost every night my kids stalk and kill that elusive little red dot from the laser pointer. Ruthlessly, relentlessly. They wake me as they play hockey with a hair tie, or some string, or just chase each other up and down the halls. They’re fond of stalking cornstarch packing noodles and knocking change off the counter. High score if it ends up in the dog water bowl. Yesterday they unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper. I know how cats are.

I walked away and buried the hare in my flowerbed. At least it got a decent burial.