OUR END OF SUMMER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Summer has a different meaning to Tom and me than it does to most people. We are boaters, so to us, summer simply means ‘boating season’ and it lasts for six months. We start getting our boat ready to go into the water in late March or early April. It’s still chilly and there are no leaves on the trees, but for us, ‘summer’ is starting and our mindset shifts from land to sea.

Similarly, our boat isn’t taken out of the water till November 15. So despite the falling of the leaves as well as the thermometer, and even after daylight savings makes it dark before 5 PM, we still cling to the concept of summer because our boat is still afloat. We often spend time on it when it is mild in October and November, which has been often the past few years.

Our boat, Serenity.

On November 5 this year, we emptied all the food off the boat and in a few days it will be ready for its shrink-wrapped hibernation in the parking lot of the marina. So our summer has finally ended and we’re prepared for our landlocked existence for the next half a year.

Our life is quite different when the boat is the focus of our life and when it’s not. Once the boat is in the water and ready for its close-up, all our social life takes place on the boat – rain or shine. We recently built a lovely patio outside our kitchen but no one ever gets to see it except Tom, because the grill is out there. We never have dinners or parties on our patio when the weather is conducive because we’re always on the boat during these warmer months.

The living room on our boat

We love taking guests on our boat for a ride but often the weather doesn’t cooperate and our friends just hang out with us at the dock (which is quite lovely). We have entertained on board through thunderstorms, pouring rain, gusting winds, and extreme heat and cold. We almost never move the party to the house because of the weather.

During boating season we only travel on the boat. We take short trips (under two hours) to other marinas nearby and stay one or two nights. We also take longer trips to the Connecticut River, Montauk, Block Island, and even Martha’s Vineyard, and live on the boat for a week or more with the dogs. We usually get on a plane only when there’s no boat to travel on. And then we go visit our daughter in LA, friends in Portland, Oregon, and Disneyworld in Florida. Next April we’ll be going to London for ten days. The exception is when we plan a big trip to Europe which only makes sense for us in spring or fall when the weather is great but it’s not prime tourist season so it’s not too crowded.

Dining area on the boat

Another difference in our lives when the boat is in or out of the water is how much ‘together’ time Tom and I spend. Whenever he can, Tom will spend the afternoon on the boat rather than at home. He has the same TV and video games set up in both places and the same Wifi service. So he’d rather be looking out at the water than the woods.

I usually choose to stay home during the week except when the weather is ideal, so Tom and I spend a lot of time apart for six months of the year. The rest of the year we’re in the same house most of the time. I think this bifurcated system works well for us since it dilutes the time we share in the same living space and makes us appreciate being together when we are.

Boat kitchen

So now we are finally transitioning into ‘winter’ mode. We’ll start lighting fires and having friends over to the house. Tom will immediately start pining for the next boating season. On the other hand, I’m a homebody and I don’t mind the cold (I have lots of sweaters) so I’m just as happy with my ‘winter’ existence as I am with my water-based life. Variety is the spice of life!

So welcome to winter and toasted marshmallows!

THE GREATEST BROADWAY MUSICAL — Marilyn Armstrong

Back in my bright college days, I was a music major. I hung out on the quad with other wannabe musicians on warm sunny days where we planned projects which would make us famous. Symphonies. Great achievements as conductors and composers though my class never produced anyone huge. Medium is as good as we got.

The Concept

My great project was going to be a full-length musical comedy based on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.

In the Grecian version, Zeus, having taken the form of a great white swan, rapes — Leda. I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing being rape by a swan. I mean — swans don’t have hands. But of course, he was (is?) a god, so who knows?


Zeus or not, swans are slow and clumsy on land, unlikely to successfully attack anyone or anything. Being heavy-bodied, they have trouble getting airborne and watching one try to cross a road from side of the pond to the other, I can personally say they are not in any way agile. All their grace is on water.

Without hands or arms, rape seems unmanageable but I never encountered a non-human creature in my wild youth. As far as I know, my lovers were supposedly human. It could be difficult to be sure at times.

Leda becomes pregnant and it’s no ordinary pregnancy. How could it be?

She bears Helen (of Troy, the great beauty) and Polydeuces. These are the children of Zeus. Simultaneously (and I’d like to know how she managed this), she gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra — the offspring of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.

Dirty water swan

Leda is able to convince her parents and husband that her extraneous pregnancy is not the result of a lover or (horrors) promiscuity. “No! Honest to Athena! Mom, Dad, it was Zeus. Himself! Not just any old guy. And he was a swan! A really big swan (NOTE: Swans are big,) Really.” Good performance, even for a god. And since it was Zeus, the big guy himself, Dad and husband aren’t likely to try to fight him, right?

Right.

The first and perhaps my favorite scene would have to be the first act closer. In this highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending soprano rich with passion and despair, yet filled with love for her four children, including those born from eggs. In it, she explains that it really truly was Zeus.

I could imagine another show-stopping moment.

Eggs. Her Zeus children are eggs. Who sat on the eggs? Did they build a nest on her throne? Did she get her ladies-in-waiting to sit on them while she did her Queen business?

Dialog Tidbit

Leda: “The swan didn’t fool me. I knew it was Zeus. You all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird? Mommy, Daddy, you know I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Tyndareus, King of Sparta: “I want to believe you, darling girl, but I’m having a few small issues.”

Leda: “Trust me. It was Zeus. As a swan. We all know how tricky he can be.” She spits out a white feather. Now that was convincing!

The All-Important Dream Ballet

In a brilliantly choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. Some of the technical aspects of the experience make interesting stagecraft.

How, exactly, did he DO it? It will make a heck of a scene! Without any hands?

Curtain Calls

By the final closer, the audience will be on its collective feet! I can hear the roar of the crowd, standing ovation, blown away by swanny sex. Not to mention the eggs. I see the royalties rolling in.

Two swans

I’ve been away from music for too long now to give this kind of orchestration a try, but I freely offer this incredible concept to anyone who has the musical energy to make it work. I will happily help with dialogue.  It might launch multiple careers.

I may even know just the right singers for it! At least ONE of them is deeply in love with swans!

CHRISTMAS CACTUS IS BACK — Marilyn Armstrong

The Cactus is Back!

I had been noticing how exceptionally healthy both my cactuses looked, but I hadn’t noticed any buds. Until I looked more carefully and realized they were full of buds. Tiny buds at the end of almost every strand.

Now, some of them are big, plump buds and just about ready to open. Here’s how they looked yesterday:

An overlook of the big cactus

Closeup one

A little broader look

Softly framed

A MOST UNUSUAL HOBBY – Marilyn Armstrong

I got an email notification informing me that Amazon had delivered a package at 2:05 pm this afternoon.


This was confusing because I had received a previous message from Amazon that this particular delivery had been canceled because it was damaged. It was supposed to contain 2 rolls of contact paper (the stuff in our cabinets is the same age as the house, so you can imagine the condition it’s in) and a bottle of shower cleaning spray. I had also received a note telling me they had refunded me for the order, though I had yet to see the refund in my account.

Also, there was no package. When I went to look at the details of the order, it said it had been canceled and the money was refunded. I couldn’t find the refund in my account. I couldn’t even find a charge for the order in the first place.

I called Amazon. I said I’d gotten a notice of delivery of a package that was supposedly canceled and for which I’d gotten a refund except I couldn’t find any refund and also, there was no package.


I gave the guy the order number and he said it had been refunded. I said that as far as I knew, I hadn’t gotten a refund either, but hey, what’s a little money between pals, right? So he starts a 3-way telephone conversation with UPS who says the don’t have to tell me anything because they have a contract with Amazon which says they don’t have to deal with Amazon’s customers.

“All I want to know is whether or not you actually delivered a package to my house,” I said.  He was very firm that it had been delivered.

I agreed it had been delivered, but where? He got a little hazy at that point and asked me to wait while he asked someone. He came back and told me that although I got the email, they had actually delivered the damaged package to Amazon. It was entirely accidental that they notified me about its delivery.  When I checked my bank account, it appeared that Amazon had both charged me for the items and refunded my money today, except they charged me after refunding me.

The whole thing was listed as having come from the department of “Hobbies and Entertainment.” Two rolls of contact paper and a spray bottle of shower cleaner. Some hobby, eh?

UPS hangs up. “Amazon,” I ask, “Are you still there?”

“Yes,” he says. “I don’t think the fellow from UPS understood anything at all.”

“Me neither,” I said.

“You have a good evening,” he said.

“You too,” I responded.

I’m still a bit puzzled but as long as I didn’t pay for something I never got, I’m okay. I’m pretty sure my hobby of putting new contact paper in my cupboards while cleaning my shower has been sidetracked.