From The Boatshop
by Ron Magen

Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner

I started this column several weeks ago. Here I am finishing it in the meeting room of the Red Dragon, by the almost floor to ceiling bow window over looking the front lawn and the River beyond.

The ‘house’ is in the process of being ‘dressed’ for Christmas, and I am still in the after-glow of our Thanksgiving dinner of a few days ago - the one there was the possibility I wouldn’t make.

Although it isn’t that cold, the wind is really howling outside. Here, with deck shoes, jeans, a “Sailing Capitol” sweatshirt, and a cup of ‘decaf’ coffee in front of me, I’m pleasantly warm - physically, philosophically, and metaphorically.

With the boats hauled and some snugged down for the winter {others in various stages of ‘contemplation’}, a lot of the people on the various ‘Boating’ lists {boatbuilding, design, cruising, etc} are getting a little ‘fractious’ . . . “Cabin Fever” already - what are you going to do when Winter REALLY comes? Intermix this with the daily dose of the REAL ‘Reality Show’ that is the Evening News - any channel you like, the seasonal “Toys-for-Tots” drives, and the highlighting of regional Thanksgiving dinners for the needy and ‘food bank’ pleas.

I don’t claim to be, in any way, religious. I don’t tithe, don’t belong to a synagogue, don’t go to church. But every time I pass one of those Red Buckets, I try to drop something in, or give old clothes to a local synagogue, or the Purple Heart . . . somehow I feel guilty if I don’t. Especially this year.

I spent time wearing the ‘Green Tuxedo’ on ‘the far side of the world’, but when I watch what is going on in the Mid-East, I often wonder if I did enough . . . and I’ve had a lot of time, lately, to watch the news.

Although this is the ‘Holiday Season’ there seems to be an inordinate amount of time, angst, acrimony, and bandwidth wasted on the most small, probably least worthwhile, possible changes to a design by a very well established designer. There is also a co-mingled thread of people defending the reputation of this person, where NO defense is required, because of a third party quote that occurred MANY YEARS ago in a non-threatening vein. In the same light, there is an on-going thread about which small boat {dinghy sized} is most appropriate for cruising Lake Michigan AND crossing the Atlantic Ocean {about equal, to my mind}.

A few minutes ago, I came in from ‘adjusting’ the hitch on the trailer of our P-19, {for the Commodore’s trailer hitch} so that the Harbormaster can move the boat as needs be. I’m probably one of the ‘bigger’ of the ‘small boats’ that are stored in the Club’s ‘yard’. There are a couple of others about her size under their green tarps. There is a Bolger Micro, a couple of Comets, several non-descript dinghies, and some others that beggar identification; their tarps indicate a LOT of time has passed. Down on the ‘Waterfront’ all the moorings have been pulled, the docks hauled & stacked, and the ‘Big Boats’ dispersed to the hard’s of various marina’s along the River. The ‘usual faces’ are here, doing the chores that must be done. A few less, but mostly the same people who pitched in for ‘All Hands Day’ for the moorings & docks . . . no ‘annual requirement quota’ for today. There is that odd feeling when people come up to me, some whose names I don’t know, {yet they know mine}, and ask how I’m doing, or stand & chat. Am I becoming one of the ‘usual faces’ ?

The ‘club house’ is about 150 years old. There are a few interior cracks in the plaster walls; all the detail work & filigrees are solid plaster. No candles are lit, no ‘artificial’ smells are in the air . . . no mustiness of age either. Even upstairs, on the third floor where the ‘storage’ rooms are. There is a large box, filled with canned food & other dry goods for the local less fortunate, by the ‘front’ entrance door {actually the ‘back’ door . . . the house was originally like one of those Newport ‘cottages’, suited to overlook the River. The side away was probably the ‘tradesman’s entrance’, off the kitchen - then & now.}

I think I would have missed this.

You could say I’m in the ‘middle bracket’ as far as Members go. While there are ‘Junior’ people just out of the Sailing School, one of the ‘Senior’ members is looking forward to his 100th birthday . . .still sails and ‘trophy’s’ every year at the annual Mess. A few weeks ago I went ‘in’ for a “. . . simple little outpatient procedure . . .” that Joanne had been after me about; “Stop bitching and get it done !!”. As I’m lying there getting ‘prepped’, I see some quizzical looks and strange whispered comments. Next thing I know it’s like one of ‘those’ movies . . . upside-down faces, ceiling & lights whipping by, a large man I don’t know asking me how I feel - “Hey, I feel fine, what’s going on ??” - as he pushes the gurney down halls and into a small room. Next thing I know it’s like I’m smacked by an octopus . . . suction cups and leads all over my body - me, I’m still feeling great . . . getting more curious about what all the excitement is about. Then I get a look at the Monitor, upside down and behind me - from my point of view. “That’s a hell of a lot of ‘spikes’ “, 151 by the counter - I STILL don’t feel a THING !! Is that my heart rate - Yes is the answer. ‘They’ start pumping in stuff, and hook up an IV, “Are you all right, how do you feel ?”, I keep being asked . . . “Fine, what’s going on ?”. Finally, the ‘spikes’ start to separate and the numbers get lower. “OK, no problem” Then the ‘Big Man’ points to the area between the heart beats - “No, THAT’s the problem” - - - there is a jagged, low, ‘sawtooth’ pattern between the beats. “Tactacardia ?” “Not quite . . . it’s called ‘a Flutter’. It’s where the heart starts an abnormal rhythm, by itself ” Turns out, I may have had it all my life . . . it’s accentuated {‘brought out’, ‘developed’, ‘increased’} by STRESS . . . MENTAL more than physical.

After about an hour or so, I ‘converted’ back to a ‘normal rhythm’; again by itself - which is typically what happens. However, Mike {‘THE Big Man’; Dr. Feldman - Professor of Cardiology - to everyone else - - - Thank You, Joanne} wouldn’t let me out until he felt I was COMPLETELY stabilized and on a ‘blood thinner’ {. . . a rat poison, believe it or not !!}& blood pressure ‘cocktail’ of meds..Of course, Joanne took my shoes, wallet, and clothes . . . just to make sure I ‘stayed put’. Those ‘folding hospital beds’ are pretty snazzy - for about 48 hours. After a week plus, you realize they are simply 4 inches of foam over a flat steel surface . . . sort of like a quarter berth without the ‘softness’ of gelcoat covered fiberglass.

The point ? Two weeks ago I didn’t think I was ‘in trouble’, but EVERYONE else jumped. Now that we ALL know what it is; we {ME !}have to take care of it. There is actually a procedure that will take care of the ‘flutter’ forever - it’s really an ‘electrical’ problem. Life’s too short to argue about every little thing. Enjoy yourself. I may have been the ‘patient from Hell’, but I think my wise-cracks got me through, very well. I look at everything around me with a, “What the Hell, Why not” attitude. I’m ‘vertical’ . . . there are a lot of people who aren’t . . . some a LOT YOUNGER than me. I look around and can’t even begin to list ‘what I’m Thankful For’.

Oh, the title of this column? When Joanne was driving me home from the hospital, this was the Warren Zevon CD / ‘tune’ she played . . . I have NO IDEA what to make of that !!

Ron Magen