With my hand on the wheel and my brain in neutral . . .

Archive for November, 2014

Today I Killed a Piano

Piano kill b

It seemed like a good idea at the time: when my friend and I were moving his old and unwanted piano to the curb and happened to break it open on the way down the driveway, I spied the “harp” inside and thought it would make a great coffee table. It would, too: later I Googled “piano harp table” and found plenty of images that matched or exceeded my imaginary project results. I wanted to make it, but not for myself: I live on a not-big sailboat, so even if I did have space for a coffee table – especially one that takes at least two men to lift – on a sailboat it would be ridiculous and dangerous. No, I figured it would be great for either of my nephews in their college apartments.

I called my nephews to see if they were interested in making strong legs and mounting a glass or plexiglass top, and then I claimed it from my friend’s curb. I deconstructed the piano at his house and trucked the harp to my marina, where I tucked it away in a shed.

Weekend after weekend passed, and before I knew it, the piano harp had been sitting there for months, still attached to its backboard and not looking the least bit closer to becoming a coffee table. With my nephews’ busy term breaks, part-time job schedules, and the 100 miles between us, we accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen, and about that time the marina owner asked me to get rid of it.

To take it to the recycler, the harp had to be separated from the wood backing, and that turned out to be more work than deconstructing the rest of the entire piano. The fine-threaded tuning screws had to be loosened one by one before the strings could be cut (a piano-tuning friend of mine warned me about the danger of an unequally stressed harp!), and the wood parts were strongly glued and screwed together. It took a couple of hours over three afternoons to get it ready to throw away!

The reason for writing about this? As I was turning the small wrench on those 88 finely-threaded and very tight piano wire adjustment screws, I started thinking about the day I conceived this project. It would have been cool, but both of my nephews and I were a bit too busy to start something none of us really needed. Ya, it was a cool project, but it was also much more of a want than a need. That’s what I learned (again, dammit!) from this: sometimes you have to say no to things you want to do, no matter how cool it might be, so that you have time to do things more useful to the rest of your life. The thought might have jelled in my head because I heard something about Steve Jobs saying no to a lot of good projects so Apple could focus on the best projects. Focus is not about only keeping your eye on the target; it’s also about narrowing your field of peripheral vision. “Wants” have a seductive way of distracting you from your more important goals.

So, I killed a piano, and from it I harvested not a coffee table but a reminder to use what I already knew . . .

BE a lake . . . Yes, a lake

This is an old, old Zen story . . .

Be a lake

An aging master grew tired of his apprentice’s complaints. One morning, he sent him to get some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master told him to mix a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it.

“How does it taste?” the master asked.

“Bitter,” said the apprentice.

The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”

“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.

“No,” said the young man. At this the master sat beside this serious young man, and explained softly,

“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

The Rules for Being Human

Rules for Being Human happy old womanI am not the original author of this; it’s one of those things that float around the internet.   However, it’s much more valuable than yet another pic of a cute kitten . . .

The Rules for Being Human

You Will Receive a Body. Like love it, or hate it, but it will be yours for as long as you’re here. The choice is yours.

You Will Learn Lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and hence choose to ignore them; no matter: keep reading.

A Lesson is Repeated Until Learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. Each edition will cost more until it gets your attention. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

There Are No Mistakes, Only Lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that finally “works.”

Learning Lessons Does Not End. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

“There” is No Better Than “Here.” When your “there” has become “here,” you will simply obtain another “there” that will, again, look better than “here.”

Others Are Merely Mirrors of You. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

Your Answers Lie Only Inside You. The answers to life’s question lie only inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

You Will Forget All of This!

What Should I Call My Brother Now?

Probably much more so amongst men than women, a telltale sign of friendship is plenty of good-natured teasing.  The tacit understanding is you don’t tease about something that really might bother the guy, unless you’re really, really good friends.  Even strangers can get in on the fun as long as there is something in their tone that lets the target guy know, “Hey, we’ve been there, too, and we’re going to help you get over it by making you laugh at yourself.”

There was a great example of this on one of the Facebook boating groups recently.  A man posted this:

Hey just a quick question… if your brother has run-aground 4 times in the past week… Would “Sandbar” be a good nickname!?!

and quickly got over 100 comments.  The brother chimed in, too, so obviously he knew it was just in good fun, and he seemed to be enjoying it.

High and Dry

The nicknames offered are listed below, but first a few comments and suggestions:

  • (From the original posting brother): Very, very true my brother… I love you a lot and can’t wait to get down to St Pete and …run aground with you!!!! er..um… I mean run around
  • Arrrgh . . . Actually, charts be more like guidelines…
  • He’s obviously a “land ho”
  • Change your ring tone (from him) to Gilligan’s Island theme
  • A crusty old salt once told me that the only people that never run aground are those that never go anywhere. By that logic, I’m somewhere into my third circumnavigation.
  • He was just doing a little depth sounding with the keel…
  • If you haven’t run aground, you haven’t been around
  • If he has a dinghy, he can call it HopAlong


“What should I call my brother?”

  • Adopted
  • Bar Hopper
  • Bump
  • Calamity John
  • Captain KneeDeep
  • Captain Runaground
  • Captain Sandbar
  • Chart Cheapie
  • Columbus
  • Crash
  • Dirt
  • Dumbass is a pretty good one
  • Flounder
  • Garmin
  • Grounder
  • GroundHog
  • Groundling
  • Honest “Sandy” Sandbar, your Local Guide-for-Hire
  • Lawn Dart
  • Lead line
  • Mayhem
  • Mr. Sandman
  • Pilot
  • Ping
  • Runaground Sue
  • Sandbar
  • Sandbar Slim
  • Sandhopper
  • Sandlubber
  • Sandy
  • Sandy Asshole
  • Sandy Bottoms
  • Simon Sonar
  • Sir Sandbar
  • Skid mark
  • Sonar
  • Speed-Bump
  • Stands With Fist in Sandbar and Head Up Butt
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Still Sanding After All These Years
  • The Clammer
  • The Dredger ? Sanding still?
  • The High Tide Kid
  • The Sandbot
  • Valdez

Sandbar 3

Eh, maybe it’s a man thing, but I’ll bet that 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, something will spark the memory and one will say to the other, “Hey!  Remember that time we got all those Captain Sandbar nicknames on Facebook?”  And they’ll both be grinning.

Not MY fault!

One Way Sailors Understand Cold

While not the bitter, ass-biting cold of late winter, cold air has certainly arrived here in Annapolis. Supposedly it’s been down to 33 the last two nights. Winter . . . it’s he-e-e-re. As you fellow sailors know, cold air often creates disturbances in the space-time continuum. The young couple at the end of my pier told me how the walk to the corner store – which in the summer time, moving slow, takes about 1/2 hour but feels like 10 minutes – now, moving faster, but with the wind blowing through your jeans, takes 10 minutes but feels like 1/2 hour . . . Yep, with our sailor-ly knowledge of physics and the laws of the natural world, a disturbance in the space-time continuum is the only rational explanation.

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