Most stories start out with something like “In the beginning” or “It should be noted” or “Based on all historical references, the following details are believed to be true” or “as far as we can tell” – you pick the first sentence and after that the rest of it will somehow just fall into place to convey not only the “rest of the story” (as Mr. Harvey would often say) but all of the supporting facts that are facts until someone else with more determination than you has a chance to prove them otherwise! Taking all of this into account that’s not the way this story starts however, it’s more like this…..
I was at a vendors facility and had just spent the morning in some rather lengthy product development and engineering discussions in representing the company that I worked for and the company that my friend and business acquaintance worked for – both trying to get all of the important details worked out so that I could write a purchase order and he could put his team “in gear” to build what we were asking for. The discussions were going fairly well with minimal issues to stop the overall progress (except for the third party that I neglected to mention because they seemed to add little to the intended direction or to the overall solutions needed to move forward… I’m still not sure why they were there as they had basically done the best job they could up to that point (or at least wanted everyone else to think that had happened) and given the amount of loose ends remaining that they should have solved prior to this meeting, they apparently went to sleep on the job more than once… probably a lot more than once, but that’s an entirely different story. This one relates now to the pending decisions of finding out what everyone wanted for lunch as it was going to be some sort of “order out and bring in” type of working lunch. The group opted for “Chinese” as though that made anything any easier – it didn’t because their menu was 8 pages while the “pizza page” was only 1 page and at that point in time, no one was really interested in eating the really healthy stuff, so “Chinese it was” and to finish that decision off accurately, “it was really good!” Everyone was belching and covering their mouth during some of the most competitive sounds and expressions possible – you know the type – the ones that you wouldn’t do in front of anyone you didn’t know pretty well. So for “dessert” we all had the round of selections of the “fortune cookie” box that came with every meal. If you’ve enjoyed any sort of “Chinese lunch or dinner” then you know what awaits you – instead of things like “Black Forest Cake” or “Crème Brulle” or an adequate slice of “Hawaiian Wedding Cake” (of course not, there was no wedding but it’s still a great dessert.)
Prior to the entire line of “business discussion” my friend Frank and I had exchanged some of our news that we had not kept up with recently and I had known for some time of his interest in and eventual purchase of a sailboat for him and his wife. Nothing that unusual there except that Frank lived in Arizona and while there are some rather large expanses of water there, it’s not typically known for the winds and weather and scenery that most “Cap’ns” would be thinking of. Our exchanges were friendly and directed to my story that morning of “almost becoming a “Cap’n” just a few days prior. Funny even further because if boat ownership defines us as “Cap’ns” then I was already one with the boat that we had sailed for several years already in the Pacific Northwest region. It’s an ideal place for sailing as long as you don’t mind the stretches during some of the best months in the summer and early fall when our friends from the south (California) get together with our other friends from the north (Canada) and basically steal most of our good sailing winds. I’m not sure how they do it, but it does happen and we just have to go to great lengths (pun really intended here) to work around this little issue. So when I announced to him that I had just missed the purchase of another sailboat and to top it all off, “on Ebay” – that surprised him and gave even more fuel to the fodder we were launching towards each other. So yes, I missed the deal by exactly $ 100.00 and the boat went to the next party in line. I had to take it in stride as the final bid amount was mine to define and while I had put in what I thought might make the other party bow out, it didn’t and they won the bid. What surprised Frank (and everyone else there) the most was my boldness in bidding on something like this in the first place, and the fact that the boat was then in Florida in the second place, and third place didn’t register any further surprises as it was just too far out there to qualify! Once the bidding was finished, I had to accept the status and focus my attentions (the boat buying type anyway) on something else and I accepted that as it was. I told them the background of how I had traded email with this owner multiple times, he had sent me even more photos and given more information about various aspects of the boat that was shown in the listing and I had been making some of the necessary and conditional plans that would have been needed had I won. Before I go further with this story I should mention something about the timeframe when this happened because that too was there in the background playing some sort of “inter-relational-Karmonic-influence” and if you were to ask “what the hell is that” I would have to admit to it being something I can’t explain further, I just know it’s there. I believe the date of the meeting was about August 3rd – 2001 – just after the Labor Day holiday weekend. So my bidding war was over, back to work after the holiday weekend, my “homework” for moving the boat was all done, but now so unnecessary because there was nothing to move. Lunch was served, dessert followed with the round of Chinese Fortune Cookies and as I opened mine with some degree of trepidation and ceremony as well, it reads: “The project you have in mind will soon gain momentum” and therein lies the start of the rest of the story!
As soon as the laughter in the room died down a bit, Frank was first to the line with the warning about seeing some guy cruise by me in the boat that I had just lost the bid on – and followed that with 8 to 10 other distinctly appropriate (and some inappropriate) comments about this note out of the blue intended for me. HE could have had that cookie, but no it was me. He could have slapped my hand and saved me from eternal damnation or whatever that damn nation was, but no, he just let me open the door to what I would label today as something of a life changing experience. It was just that and somehow within seconds of reading this fortune cookie message, I knew that would be the case! As far as the “who, what, when, where and why’s” involved, I have no idea but things were about to change and there was no stopping them.
After we finished throwing a new round of jabs and well-intended (and some of them well, were intended so wouldn’t that make them well-intended?) – the business discussions continued and at the end of the day, everyone was tired but satisfied at being able to continue with the program at that time and ready now to make another 3+ hr. flight back home to Seattle. Back to work the next day with things to do, issues to resolve and solutions to be had for schedules that were always pushing from the time they were devised! But wait a minute…. Was that an email I received on that following Monday – telling me that the person that won the bid on the Nordica 30 – had come to make their claim and pay their bill and had come with his toothbrush, a new pair of underwear and a fresh bag of “Oreos” and was fully expecting to “toss the lines” that day and to be catching some “Z’s” while the autopilot steered him and whatever crew this type of “Cap’n” typically attracts towards even warmer waters with Rum being the first part you pour in! He apparently didn’t see the dream that caused him to put that extra $100.00 into the picture and now had to deal with the reality of the situation. The “real” reality was that he had been physically close enough to location where the boat was tied to show up and gain this “on-site” inspection before it was apparent to the seller that “this deal may not float – although the boat did quite well.” All that this did was to avoid giving away the probable true intentions from the beginning and now when the pay-up-time is due, the money “flew the coop” and regardless of how creative of a story he could muster up, he wasn’t going to pay for the deal and simply said “have a great day and was on his way!” At those times, both Ebay (as an organization) AND the current owner did not have either the systematic routines in place to help prevent this sort of thing happening and while the seller now had “no sale” he could in a sense still recover some pride only by not paying Ebay their share from the defaulted bidder and he still had the boat, so lesson learned now and he’s ready to try again. Butt-weight, there’s more! (l have admired that leading line (or is a trailing line… either way, it’s a line for sure when anyone says “hold on, I’ve got a butt-weight for you!” That means whatever joy you just experienced is going to be rounded up to the next decimal place an you’re going to get to enjoy it all over again as long as you cough up a little more money! So if it isn’t your brother in law reminding you of your childhood nickname, or the kindest of affectionate words between neighbors who never want to leave their current home-site and never want you to be living next to theirs either …. It is somehow meant to represent the next chapter in the story or the series of events that makes you think it’s a story! So “butt-weight” there is more and the now sharply honed seller remembers that guy from Seattle (the other side of the continent as far as he’s concerned but he remembers the questions, the photos sent and the generally higher level of interest shown during the “bidding wars of 2001” – and he digs up my email address and fires off the salvo that might just put him where he wanted to be anyway (without a boat) and says “the previous guy didn’t follow thru as expected and if I’m still interested he’s willing to sell her yet (here’s the next “butt-weight”) for even $100.00 less – having remembered my last bid amount so it’s a reasonable story and represents his next best option in not having caught the fish yet… at least he’s not out of bait! So the email goes out and my mind turns into one of the fastest “multi-processor” machines known to man at the time… probably something like 1.4 mhz or close – the way I know this is that I recall with a great degree of accuracy the image in front of my eyelids (in reading the email where the owner makes this offer of a lifetime for $100 less than before and the image imprinted on the backside of my eyelids (yes, it’s possible) of that recently cracked fortune cookie with the message it had about some damn project (yes, wasn’t that what I was expecting here anyway – a project) that was going to be gaining momentum. At that point in time, this multi-imaging process was just about to reach “warp speed” as it was clear that my homework during the time before the bidding was closed was not going to pay off in what I knew, what I needed to know and how I needed to go about filling in the rest of the blanks. There was a Santa Claus for real and I didn’t really care if his name was “Virginia” – it was close enough as I had his phone number and email address and could waste no more time in taking advantage of this most propitious of occasions. I still had the money, he still had the boat and there should be some wiggle room in there somewhere for the benefit of both of us, so I called and said here’s the deal… I’ll put a cashier’s check in my pocket and come to look at the boat. You give me 2-4 hours alone with it and I’ll either give the check to you or keep it folded and fly back home and both of us will continue in other ways in our lives. By this time the most significant changes to all of our lives had not only happened but the attempts at reaching some level of control over all of the air flights and routes had happened and some were in place – some remained yet to be put in place. The major airports around the country were again opened for traffic and the prices were adjusted to “make the public feel safe” or “however that theory was supposed to work” as I was able to book a round trip flight from Seattle to Miami for less than $200.00 and with a few days before leaving I could the re-establish my plan for seeing the boat and for also seeing it leave the Miami area if I decided to purchase it. All of the necessary “gods” were working with me in almost all respects. I found a transport hauler with a small sized trailer capable of the gross weight I needed and due to their own diligent homework they were as happy to work with this short term schedule because of a return load which resulted in a very reasonable fee to make the first move. So I left Seattle with a game plan in mind that would make the Seahawks turn blue with envy … as if they weren’t already turning that color anyway.
Once the seller was convinced that the prospects for this to work out were in his favor and that his only real alternative was to start over and go thru the relisting and bidding (and the necessary group of his own “butt-weights” that he would have to deal with) processes – all taking more time than he wanted to give up, he worked however he could to help make this work for both of us. So by the first week in October, the hull was sitting “on the hard” in a boatyard that was close to where I wanted to finally have it sitting. Projects of almost any kind can “come together” when the “butt-weights are few” and the “butt of course’s” are many but they will fall on their face (and yours) in a moment when and if you do not have the necessary level of supportive encouragement from your wife and family. While I may kid and joke about so many of the various issues and problems to solve, it wouldn’t matter anyway if I was trying to do all of this outside the scope of their help. Somewhere it is written that there are a great number of things possible when the “crew” shares in the vision required to take a boat from one side of the country and place it on the other side to be “sliced and diced” as necessary in order to provide an enjoyable “working platform” from which to enjoy seeing even more of the Pacific Northwest or wherever the hull and the heart might want to take you. Regardless of the story behind finding the boat and eventually getting it in place sitting in my driveway, I owe my greatest appreciation to the ones that are always there with an extra hand, an extra brush to paint and an extra dose of encouragement along the way on a regular basis because they can see a similar sort of ending to the story as I do. At least that has been the prevalent status for all of us until more recently when other “outside factors” decided to jump in and play havoc with everything that I had dreamed and planned of for the last few years.
So here we are down the road a bit further (time wise, the clock has made a significant number of laps around the track that it was focused on and for this “Cap’n” the story has changed drastically in terms of what lies ahead and where this boat might “lay” in its future. Remember when I made reference to “having all of the gods with you” – it’s a critical part of any plan whether we admit to the possibility or not, it’s for sure that if “they” are not lined up in a way that helps you, then they’re more likely to be lined up in ways that will not help you and that’s where we all sit today. I’m guilty of taking too long to finish this rebuilding process although my defense for the timeframe might be valid and to most it would be considered as “understandable” it is not taking on the direction that I wished for and I would fathom a guess … and I digress for a moment about that expression….
A fathom is a measurement of the depth of water in the sea. For some period of time, Mark Twain (Samuel Clements) used a length of line with a weight attached to one end to drop into the river and to establish the most probable water depth from where that weight stopped pulling the line deeper. As it was nothing more than an “estimate” due to the nature of being an “approximate reading” – it was never considered as an absolute or an accurate number. It was most often taken while the hull of the ship was moving thru the water and was the “best guess” which served their interest and needs quite well. When we “fathom a guess” we’re really just saying we don’t understand it precisely but we would be comfortable with a guess of this value… “ 15 ft and rising” we just “fathomed a guess in one paragraph didn’t we?"
So, to say that “you cannot fathom something” means you can't understand it properly. In this case, I can’t quite understand the “how or why’s” when cancer comes into our lives, but that’s not the test. The test is to learn how to accept what we cannot avoid and to minimize its impact on the positive aspects of all that remains of our life. We should neither give up and let it take control of what we have learned over time to enjoy and to hold dear nor should we submit to the pain and suffering for ourselves and all those that we hold dear in our lives without making our best efforts to minimize what hurts and to maximize the opportunities to graciously accept the love and intentions from others to want to make it painless as possible for us.
My diagnosis of having pancreatic cancer has literally and physically put me in an entirely different place in my life. It has made me think of time as one of my few retained assets and to focus more on the goal of grabbing in whatever way possible as much of it as I can. My focus in the “P2C” (prior to cancer) timeframe of my life was almost sure of making it to the age of 100 – not because of any repeated family history of so many before me, but simply as a goal that I’ve had for years in trying to see if it was possible to achieve that goal in life. The easy part is to simply pick the age – the harder part is to reconcile the various issues along the way that will seem bound and determined to undermine that plan by factors of poor health for either myself or my loved ones and to some extent the ability to remain in a position of taking care of myself and all of my life needs without being a burden to others. So what has happened to my best plans now pushes me into a race of time, health and mental acceptance of what is going to happen. I never know anymore whether to pick up that fortune cookie or not – the potential is there in having that small piece of paper to redirect the course of our lives. The question is whether we want to know what lies ahead in this way – or do we just continue to enjoy the surprises in life when and where we find them?
So the story and the boat have become an interesting part of my life and the routes to where I am today have all served me well in helping to find new interests, new people to meet and get to know and new opportunities to learn and further your personal life choices in ways that we’ll probably never understand. Those darned fortune cookies are powerful resources for us and whether we believe in them or not isn’t the issue – it’s whether we can accept and welcome their impact on our lives. The next time you suggest to your wife or husband that they should decide where to go for dinner… listen for those “Chinese gongs” to go off in your head and even if you really enjoy the taste of the food, you may want to order a few extra “cookies” and maybe consider making it “the best two out of 3” or the “best one out of 5” just to make you think that you’re still in the driver’s seat for what those little pieces of paper can do for you. Regardless of the actual length of time that we’re here on earth, we tend to think that we are in control of our “destiny” or at least of the next 24 hours – whichever comes first – and to some very slight degree, we might be. Once that “POB” (Point of Buoyancy) has been reached, we’re more likely to be influenced by so many other factors in life that we cannot move forward without looking back. When we do this, we are observing what other influences (both positive and negative) have come into our lives and how they are able to re-direct and influence the paths that we’re on more than we ever imagined. That doesn’t mean that we’re forced to accept some form of being “out of control” – it does mean that what we do in response to finding those influences shows more about our character, our maturity and our lack of any singular and direct control of our life. We are sharing that control from the very beginning and our comfort level in doing so simply reflects our willingness and comfort with learning more – about everything in life but mostly about ourselves.
The reasons and logic behind our attraction and tendencies to trade our hard earned money for a collection of experiences that is both physical and mental represents answers that are hard to come by. Why are we inclined to buy a boat and then sit reasonably comfortably in the “Cap’ns chair thru whatever we encounter and then take joy in describing how frightful it was to someone else? Even at the rate of $ 250.00 / hr. for some intense psychiatric exchanges with someone… there’s at least a million dollars’ worth of conversations here and in the end, maybe it will just be the “psycho-guy” that sails off into the sunset with his boat – bought with your money! Who knows … but I’d bet there is an appropriate Chinese fortune cookie response for it. That probably brings us to something like the next chapter where the introductory words are something like “seek and ye shall find” or “be careful what you wish for!” I truly hope you’ll learn to enjoy the search.
“Cap’n - LM”