"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kayak-ity Yak

Carol's brother Chris came for a long-awaited visit earlier this month, bringing along his lovely girlfriend Colleen and a stunning amount of booze. Chris and Colleen left after a few days and we remember them fondly each time we sip another craft beer or savor a dram of Glenmorangie (which he gifted in several varieties: port cask, sherry cask, sauterne cask, original and extra-crispy).

Our elevated blood alcohol levels may have led to an incident involving the kayaks. Now, mind you -- we did not drink and paddle; no one wanted to be pulled over by the game warden on boat patrol and fail a Breathalyzer test. But the drinking may have interfered with my normal sleep pattern, leading me to awaken one morning with a thick head and fuzzy perception and likely contributing to an awkward attempt to carry Colleen and myself across the lake in a two-person inflatable kayak. Having only one paddle to use, I placed her unburdened in the front seat (known nautically as, "You sit here"), while I provided 1/3rd horsepower from the back seat (known nautically as, "I'll sit there"). We settled in and I began to propel us away from the shore.

Carol and Chris each took off in a solo craft and so sliced quickly through the water. The inflatable isn't as aero- (hydro-?) dynamic as the singles, so Colleen and I moved at a more stately pace. Since Colleen is tall we gave her plenty of legroom, which placed her center of gravity roughly mid-ship. Therefore with my more... compact self settled toward the aft we were riding with the bow a bit elevated. That really shouldn't have created any issues but as I paddled I kept struggling to keep us heading in the direction I wanted to go. Particularly when the wind picked up, strokes that I thought would keep us on a leeward tack resulted in us spinning slowly but relentlessly in the opposite direction. Our destination was the island in the middle of the lake, normally a fifteen-minute trip. We found ourselves several hundred yards from shore before Carol, who was well ahead of us by then, spun around and determined the dilemma: in my sluggish mindset I'd placed the seats in backwards and was poking along with the stern of the kayak leading us. Considering the stern has two small rudders to maintain direction and stability, and they were now sitting out of the water and at the wrong end of the boat, I was, in nautical terms, still "three sheets to the wind". We were too far out to head back to fix it, and neither of us was willing to dive into the lake to switch the seats around and then struggle to get back in from a submerged position. Therefore, the suggestion was made to paddle backwards. That, however, really didn't help matters -- the rudders were still out of the water and the unnatural motion was tough on my shoulders and biceps. For those of you who have never kayaked on a relatively still body of water, know that the level of athleticism and strength normally required is only slightly more than what's necessary to get off a soft couch. Going backwards was something else entirely.

After what felt like an hour and a half, Colleen and I finally made it to the near shore of the island, where it was shallow enough for us to step out and rectify the seating arrangement. We re-boarded and now, properly aligned, had a much more pleasant remainder of our trip around the lake. We still lagged behind Chris and Carol, but we were in no hurry and enjoyed our leisurely excursion. This was the first time I'd met Colleen, so in between my occasional narrative regarding birds seen and points of reference along the shore, the two of us shared insights into our respective partner's personalities that I won't repeat here. I will say only that Carol and Chris kept turning around in their kayaks to ask, "What are the two of you laughing at?"

It was truly a spectacular day, with bright skies, temperature in the low 80s and a gentle cooling breeze. We spent several hours out on the water and came back clear-headed, refreshed and invigorated by the experience. Then, of course, we got back to the consumption of the beer, wine, scotch, vodka, rum...

Talk about going backwards.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bang The Gravel

We live off a private dirt road and so are part of an association that collects fees from each property owner to cover the costs of yearly maintenance -- primarily the work required to keep the road clear in the winter. Plowing, grading and sanding are all necessary, along with the occasional need to address a pothole or clear out a blocked culvert to permit proper drainage.

So far, this sounds like the most tedious subject one could imagine to expound upon. But wait...

We typically gather one Saturday in July to do the kinds of things associations do -- call the meeting to order, nibble on cookies, read the minutes from last year, review the finances, bitch about people who speed on the road, discuss new business, elect officers, share gossip about some neighbor not in attendance, set the date for next year's get-together and adjourn.

Amazingly, I've made this subject seem even more tedious. But wait...

The association President hosted this year's meeting in his back yard. There were all of thirteen residents attending, representing just half of the homes along the road. It was a lively session, with these highlights:

  • One resident storming out mid-meeting after being insulted in front of the group by the President.
  • The President accused of various acts of duplicity, neglect, profligate spending and malfeasance, mostly by the Treasurer.
  • The President then accusing said Treasurer of "illegal activity".
  • The subsequent resignation on the spot of said Treasurer.
  • Several attendees finding it necessary to stand, shout and/or finger-point at one another.
  • The sound of nearby gunshots that did not manage to interrupt any of the shouting.
  • Airing of old grudges dating back to 2008, and before that 1999 (documented), and from decades previous (hazily recalled).
  • Airing of a freshly-minted grudge resulting from one resident recently calling the police on the President after accusing him of stealing some of the gravel used for road maintenance.
  • The Secretary offering a motion that she be absolved from continuing to take the meeting minutes in light of all the activity above.
  • The election of a largely new slate of officers, with the accused/resigned Treasurer somehow receiving absolution in the waning minutes of the meeting and being returned to the post.
  • A motion passed that any future association expenditure in excess of $500 requires review by the board members and not just authorization by the President.
  • Surprisingly, no profanity.
  • Disappointingly, no cookies.
See -- wasn't that worth hanging in there for?

Your humble narrator was nominated to serve as one of three board members, all of whom were elected unanimously. (For those of you keeping count, that's six officers elected out of the thirteen twelve remaining people present.) Responsibilities of the position were conferred immediately after the votes were cast, whereupon I proposed that new board members receive an honorarium in the amount of $499 and requested fast-track approval. It was seconded (by one of the other new board members who sensed the same opportunity), but amidst the chaos the motion was never voted upon. This will come up at next year's meeting as "Unfinished Business".

The Treasurer was re-elected even after admitting it was "too much trouble" to take the checks we send for annual dues and actually, you know -- deposit them in the bank. During the meeting several residents pointed out this played havoc with keeping their checking accounts balanced; I can only imagine the impact it has on keeping the Association's accounts balanced. Perhaps that is why we returned this person to the post -- only she is able to make sense of the balance sheet.

Amazingly, all this drama played out in barely more than an hour. After we adjourned, one of the board members called for a brief leadership meeting. We gathered our folding chairs into a small circle and agreed it was important to meet soon to address the unresolved issues from this year's meeting as well as determine a way to introduce a level of civility into next year's proceeding.

That seems like a promising start for the new regime -- particularly in light of the Maine legislature's recent legalization of "concealed carry" permits. Perhaps it's a good thing the police already know where to find us.