Friday, January 28, 2011

Bright workin'

This day they are working on a boat down on the Multnomah Channel, out just south of Scappoose off Highway Thirty. Driving down the road, gazing at the bluffs on the one side, there are dozens of small cascades from the recent heavy rains. Some are no bigger than your fore arm, others big enough to drown a goat. The little water falls come rushing from the seeps and holes in the rocks, between the mosses and ferns abundant there.

Turning in off the Highway, one would never imagine that a few hundred yards down the road was an affluent community of floating homes and boat houses. It's very rural here. This place is not like the manicured lawns and pristine monitored parking beyond the coded iron gates at Columbia River Yacht Club. Entering in there is all about the image of The Club.

Going down the dock ramp, under the moss covered blue canvas awning, Hank spies the resident great blue heron standing ankle deep in the chill river's edge. It is stoically ignoring the cavorting and diving black cormorants as well as the big gray geese on the bank just down from him. They say one will always be known by the company one keeps.

It feels good to duck into a tidy boathouse from the chilling rain. Bob the owner is considerate about getting the place heated up before their arrival.  An advantage to working in a boathouse just across the dock from the owner's  floating home.  Retired Dr.s sometimes do alright for themselves and Bob has known what he wanted to wind up with for a long time it seems. His boat is a thirty eight foot Grand Banks Classic. A well respected and seaworthy trawler with a comfortable salon, state rooms fore and aft, and all the amenities of home. A good boat to cruise up the coast to the San Juans aboard.  Bless his heart, makes good coffee too.
Hank digs in the supply boxes for the two-twenty grit sand paper, his towels and his deck boots - no street soles or hiking boots on this boat. He'll get up on the boat and then remember his rubber gloves. Best not to get skin oils on the surface of the varnish. Fold the paper and fold it again. It's got to be the right stiffness, the right flexibilty to both form to the curves and hold up to the edges. Long strokes when can and not too much pressure. He wouldn't want to leave scratches too deep or they'll show through the next coat. Where paint is said to hide a multitude of sins, varnish will expose all transgressions against the wood. Stroke and stroke and stroke some more. Wipe the dust off and see what he's got. Gotta maintain that balance between concentration and relaxation to get as light and even a sanding as can. Take the high points off but leave the deep. That's how you fill in the grain for that solid smooth shine. The goal is what they call a "Steinway" for that lacquered deep glass look.  It takes about ten or twelve coats to build up enough varnish to hold off the elements. It has to be sanded and prepped between each coat. Varnish adheres by mechanical, not chemical bond. It has to have a surface with some tooth to grab.

After a couple or three hours between Hank and Sally the sanding on the brow trim up high and the transom aft will be done. The cap and top rails will come later along with the door frames. Then dry dust wiping and alchohol washing to take off more dust. Dust is one of the main enemies of the bright, along with mositure, too much temperature, too little temperature, too much wind or any kind of contamination.  Sally likes to mix the varnish, she's better at getting it just the right thinkness for conditions she's best at gauging.

You can tell within the first few seconds sometimes, how the mix is going to go on, how you have to adjust your technique. It's all about the feel and the flow then. Still one needs to look back behind, check for dry spots or sags to be touched up if can before the wet edge is lost. If you lose the wet edge it will never be smooth, requiring more trouble on the next sanding, or worse causing a final coat not to be a final coat.  At several hundred to a thousand dollars a coat, owners don't like do overs. As soon as the coat is applied it's off the boat and don't go back near unless you have to. To bump it then is not good.

Cleaning the brushes and the cups, or packing them to be done thoroughly at home is the last to do before getting clear and letting it dry and cure for a couple of days. The varnish has to be good and dry before it can be sanded again.

They will find out then just how well they have done, or not.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hank Johnson Searches For the Word, among other things.

                                                           no connection, I just like it.

Kristina said that writing was a little bit like dying one word at a time some days.

Hank liked the sound of that some how. Not the dying so much as the words.  Yes, that was it, the words, the worlds, the feeling and the meaning. Like dying. Like giving it all.  Like that favorite song, Witness, by Sarah McLachlan - "...And when we're done soul searching, and we've carried the weight, and Died for the Cause - Is misery made beautiful, right before our eyes, mercy - be revealed, or blind us where we stand?"  Sometimes it's like that, to carry the weight and die for the cause.  One more, as Bono says, in the name of love.

Rod Serling used to say "You're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the Twilight Zone." Again, he liked the sound of the words, & the feeling. Yes, there it was again - the feeling and the meaning.

And from somewhere in the Bible, the beginning of the Book of John, the beginning of the world, "In the Beginning there was The Word. And the word was with God. And the Word was God ."

There it was. Again. Words, God's words, created the world. At least in that one interpretation of the scene.

Hank's brother had once said something about words being how we thought as adult human beings. That we thought in words. He knew that was true, but not always, or perhaps not always the whole of it.

How much of his Dream Time was spent in an absence of words? Not all, but still much. A dimension of sight, of sound, yes, and of touch and smell and time and space, of feeling, and of fog. Always that fog in his mind.

Hank remembered something they talked of once, in the old time, he and she. Coming up, or perhaps across as it were, from one of those long twilight zone times of senses all alight and more somehow, to the knowledge, the absolute certain knowledge that there was and is a place of being where light and sound share a same frequency.   He had  later lost that taste, that touch of that realization. For years lost.

And then The Ring.The ringing in his ears. The ringing in his brain, or was it his mind. He didn't know when it started, at first only noticed when all else was silence. Then gradually The Ring asserted itself as a real thing. A certain tangible thing in of it's own right, it's own reality and reality changing existance, undeniable. Inescapable.

And then he remebered that place. The Place where Light and Sound and Touch and Taste and Love were all the same. The same frequency.  The same meaning.
And Hank knew again, The Ring.

Could he somehow catch that light by paint or by photo process?
That light, that equal to The Ring.

And what of words? At once pure abstractions of things more tangible, more Real, and yet very Real and tangible things in their own right.  To capture the word, the just right word to abstractly or concretely represent a thing, a dimension, of sight and sound and touch and smell and Feeling, for which he was just not sure there was a word or even a combination of words.

And there again, he found The Ring.

Hank will keep searching, living, loving, reading and writing, for the words, for the word.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Experimental stream- o - consciousness thing.

Seven something am, pink clouds at sunrise. Boxed Lincoln Town Car taxi, raised about six inches above factory and sporting blindingly shiny 22's - among the minis and smart cars.

Then, after waking up from a mid day nap, tripping in a movie. Then he's driving to the Indian clinic listening to the theme from the X-files - turned way up loud..

White noise machines in the halls of the clinic, wouldn't matter to him, could never hear private conversations behind closed doors over The Ring in his head - tinnitus in the extreme, just adds to the surreal feeling of his perceptions.

Aaron waking up damp, coughing, taking allergie medicine - packing the vintage superman lunchbox.

Elizabeth Moon book - Speed of Dark, a fine slightly sci-fi exploration of being Autistic in a *normal* world.  The question of  treating Autism for Normalcy  vs. Rights of  Neuro-Diversity.

His 20 year old, multi-functional Moog tuner has died, doesn't really need it, but just in case still has his late 70's plastic pitch pipe. Remembers watching his daughter as a child, tuning fork behind her ear, tuning up her cello. Then listening -  Gomez, playing Airstream Driver, acoustic on 101.9 Kink fm live studio ...

Reads  this, found stuck in an old English 101 notebook,  from when J.L. Burke was his teacher:

I heard him ask you "Who can count the apples in a seed?"

But you never understood  that the joke was on us both.

I'd been playing Three-Mile Island, Ayatollah  Bingo

I'd been playing Toxic Waste Roulette

Glenfiddich, Mopar, Valvoline -

Shakespeare, Thorazine, Rock-N-Roll.

Onward Christian Soldiers - what?

Sitting,  Feeling, on the hill. The wind is in my head

Waiting here for Everyman, Hoping I'll see Jesus.

Hoping I'll see.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

things I remember

Walking out the back door, across the flagstone patio, down to the creek he saw that it had shrunk back down. The earlier heavy rain had brought the tiny creek from a foot deep to more like ten, roaring at flash flood speed over all in it's path. He watched closely along the bank, scrubbed bare now. There, just there, some oddness, a hole too big for frog or snake.  He dug, and digging down found the shell. A painted turtle or what remained of  one.

Some would find it grisly. To him it was a marvel of design and more. A symbol for his people, some of them, of strength and protection, even though it couldn't protect the inhabitant from the earlier flood.

Turning from the bank he caught the smell, musky and sharp, taste of an old penny on the tongue. He froze in place, knowing that taste, that smell for the only thing it could be. Cotton Mouth. It was the only creature here to be feared, killer venomous, evil tempered and devious.  Picking up his staff he swiveled slowly at the waist, not daring to move his legs yet. It had to be close. After standing there, half crouched for some long minutes, sure it was not directly under foot, he retreated into the creek. If he could smell it, it probably was not in the water.

Wading back upstream towards the house he kept a sharp eye out for any movement, any sign. Finally, coming abreast of the back porch, quickly charging up the bank, glad to be getting out of the snake's territory.  He carried his treasure, the new old turtle shell into the basement to be put with the other half dozen collected over the last couple of years. Some day the inspiration would come, he would know how to paint them, to bring luck, power, or perhaps just the connections with this place and his people he cherished.