Results from first day of the ZodiOlympics

The Aries have sprinted out to the early lead, collecting four medals on the first day of the ZodiOlympics.

That’s one more than Sagittarius and Cancer.  Five other signs have picked up one each, while four signs are still shooting blanks.

On a medal weighted basis, Cancer has seven points, with a gold in women’s cross-country sking and two men’s silvers in speed skating and ski-jumping. The weights are three points for gold, two for silver, one for bronze.

The ZodiOlympics is a free service from The Glimpse that strips the quadrennial pageant of nationalism to group the achievements of the athletes according to the more godly and scientific categories of astrological signs.

Missing the Moby Dick Marathon

The New Bedford Whaling Museum sponsors a great Moby-Dick read-a-thon in early January every year. I went in 2017 for the first time. Took an overnight Amtrak from Washington, DC, to Providence, RI. Hiked around the city in the wee hours looking for Little Free Libraries where I could leave copies of AutoFlick. [This was my Johnny Appleseed guerilla marketing campaign.]

When I got to the Peter Pan bus depot, they were cancelling busses left and right because a heavy snow storm was bearing down on the area. My bus to New Bedford was the last one out. I honestly wondered how I was going to get back. There were only four of us on the bus. Including the driver.

It started snowing on the ride there and was accumulating pretty good when we got to New Bedford. A blizzard, really. Went to the museum, a marvelous place. The reading started at noon in the huge hall where they have a replica 19th century whaling ship. Some distant relative of Melville starts the thing off.

Across the street in the driving snow to the seaman’s chapel, site of a chapter in Moby-Dick and a place Melville went to church. Back to the museum. Reading along in my heavily annotated copy of Moby, the one made famous by Rockwell Kent images. Lunch in a little Portuguese café. Snow up over the ankles. The read-a-thon plowing on.

As the sun sets, I’m losing speed … hadn’t gotten much sleep on the train. All the restaurants in town are closed. Went to my motel and ordered Chinese take-out. I had to buy stuff I didn’t want just to meet the $10 takeout minimum. Snow getting close to knee level, and the wind blowing hard. I listened to the readathon on my iPad; it’s webcast, although the streaming continuity is a little spurty.

The takeout wasn’t very good. I hung in there on the webcast until midnight but finally drifted away.

Nice complementary breakfast in the motel and then back to the museum for the last five hours of reading. The hardcore are in sleeping bags on the floor. The harbor is covered in snow. An exciting rush through the final chapters. The crowd grows steadily as the morning rolls along.  In the end, the Pequod sinks, as it always does. A hurried walk back to the bus station, where the first bus running after the blizzard takes me back to Providence and then Amtrak home.

I signed up as a reader for this year’s read-a-thon and then had second thoughts about the long train and bus rides and backed out. At the last minute, the area got whacked again by a snowstorm — this one came a day earlier (Friday) and kept many people from getting there. In 2017, most of the people were already in New Bedford when the storm hit.

I listened to this year’s reading on the webcast, kicking myself for not going.

November 2, 2002

We gently placed Martine on the bow seat. There was nothing to really secure him there, so Lee put his employer’s hands on the gunwales and looked at me.

“That should work,” I said.

“I run with you,” he answered. I took this to mean that the former long-distance runner for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would more or less keep pace with us by running along the canal towpath.

But before he left, Lee lit a cigar and put it in Martine’s lips.

I grabbed the tow line at the bow and walked backward into the water, sliding the canoe down the gravel until it floated free. It was badly unbalanced until I clamored into the stern.

And so I began paddling upstream into the negligible current of the Delaware River, with the wasted, smoking shell of my friend Vic Martine uncertainly perched in the bow of our family’s canoe, north toward the mountains where men and mules had dug anthracite out of the rocks and shipped it downstream on the canal so genteel folks could light their parlors and heat their homes.

After a bit of paddling, I paused and reached fore, taking the joint from Martine’s face and indulged myself in a puff before throwing it into the river, thinking that I would spend my newfound inheritance in Intel Corp. to take Elizabeth on a long sea cruise aimed at true love.

October 24, 2002

On my way out of the van, I grabbed the package Lee had given me the day before. When I got to my desk, I unwrapped it and found a dog-eared, clothbound book entitled “Handbook for the Therapeutic Use of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25. Individual and Group Procedures.” On the inside of the front cover Uncle James had written his name and an address in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I was so happy to have something of his in my hands that it took a moment for me to realize that this had come from Martine’s house. In halting increments of understanding, I realized. They must. Have known. Each other.

The text was heavily annotated; Jimmy underlined all over the place and commented profusely in the margins—using diverse pens and pencils. It had the look of a journal that had been referred to often and annotated over a long period of time.

It was a manual for LSD research. The authors laid out guidelines they had developed through their own work and the work of others for using the drug in psychological and psychiatric therapy. I pictured Uncle James with a white lab coat and this handbook stuffed in the pocket, watching patients rocket around inside their brains, pulling a pencil from behind his ear to scribble something he thought was important.

Jimmy had underlined a passage describing the necessity for a patient to understand that his present state is inadequate and then summon the strength to get through “the difficult and painful process of coming to understand and accept himself.”

Ain’t that the truth.

James had underlined a sentence stating that the therapist cannot do these things for the patient. In the margin, he wrote, “so don’t even try.”

The authors thought there was an underlying factor that would explain the range of experiences people had from the drug. But they acknowledged that, as of 1959, they hadn’t yet come up with an explanation. They thought it had something to do with self-acceptance and the willingness to surrender it.

The LSD manual described six levels of experience with the drug, and James had jotted down initials and dates alongside these descriptions that may have referred to actual sessions he had attended. The sixth level described a richer interpretation of reality and the feeling of complete accord with it.

In the margin, James had written “light.” In myth class, we had discussed the theory that the Eleusian mystery religion of the Greeks, practiced for some 2,000 years, was facilitated by an ergot-infused drink, basically, wine laced with “natural” LSD. On my misguided little trip with Evelyn, I had not stumbled across anything remotely like an epiphany, but that didn’t necessarily mean there hadn’t been one there. Perhaps I was just too damn inexperienced to know one when I saw it. I was neither baptized nor christened, and I didn’t have a college degree. On the plus side, I had a bunch of merit badges and had at least been wedded under the watchful gaze of the holy ghost.

October 18, 2002


My dad, Isaac Yardley, said I should write down any cigarette throws that happen when he’s not around. For the past few days, he hasn’t been around much. He says he’s spending time at the houseboat because he can think better there and he’s got some paper to write for his anthropology class. My mom says Dad has some stuff to work out. I didn’t ask her about it, so maybe she had to say it. She took me to meeting last Sunday and most days she has been picking me up from school.

Mom and me were riding home from school when I saw somebody smoking a cigarette in a white car in front of us. Dad knows all about car models because he’s been watching traffic for 30 years or something like that, and he and my grandfather, who I never met, had this thing about catching people throwing cigarettes. I don’t know anything about cars and don’t plan to.

Anyway, I asked Mom if she would follow the car with the smoker. I had to tell her about the research project, which was news to her. So we followed the white car and it seemed to take a long time for the driver to finish smoking. But Mom kept after him and I could tell she was getting into the chase, and I realized how much I missed Dad. He has harpoons stuck in a bunch of us, and I thought how much he must miss his father.

The white car gave us the slip, and we never saw the cigarette fly into the street. I wish I could say what it looked like and what it represented in the evolution of car design, but they all look the same to me. Mom seemed bummed about it, but I told her that was all part of the research. We have to take the negative results along with the positive.

Because we were in Mom’s car, I had to write this down on a scrap of discarded script from the musical.



October 19, 2002

Elizabeth was not amused when I came home very late that night from the Beeping Sleuty. I told her I had gotten a little drunk after work and decided to wait until I felt safe driving.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m still working on that,” I shrugged truthfully. “Maybe this is my midlife crisis.”

She shook her head, puzzled. “Who were you with?”

“A bar crowd. I don’t expect to see them again. Honestly, I thought of you a few times.” I reached forward and took her hands in mine. “I don’t think I’m cut out for the saloon life, but I may have to try again some time to make sure.” Elizabeth looked back, her eyes still faithful, and sighed.

She was cutting me a lot of fucking slack.

Somewhere between my trip with Evelyn and that Saturday morning, the sniper shot a woman as she was crossing the parking lot of a home-improvement store in Virginia. It was as ruthless and random as all the others, but this time there were reports of an eyewitness.

It turned out that the person had not witnessed anything. And so a couple million of us looked once again over our shoulders for ways to not be a target.

Later, Izzy follows his neighbor’s 1999 Ford Taurus all the way home, where he finds Juliana, his old high school girlfriend chatting with his wife in the kitchen.

October 11, 2002

The Beltway Sniper continued shooting people. Izzy follows through on his plan to hire a pretty woman to clean his father-in-law’s houseboat.

The sunset purpled a little farther into the west. We turned and walked slowly back to the Beeping Sleuty, still clenched together, but our brains were off on separate orbits. When we got back to the houseboat, we sat and embraced on the vinyl bench, and she slung her leg over mine and pressed her face into me. Our lips kissed, but I closed my eyes and thought of Elizabeth. Their tongues are pretty much the same, in the end, but their techniques and tastes are as different as snowflakes.

The happily-married guy’s fantasy.

This went on for a while, but one or the other of us eventually grew bored. Evelyn drew back and looked in my eyes again. I was tripping like nobody’s business. But I remembered what my father told that kid at the Magical Mystery Tour and was getting used to it.

“I need to get going,” she said.

“At some point, I need to go home,” I said, wondering how long it would take until I could possibly do that. It was nearly dark outside.

Evelyn stood up and straightened her dress. I wondered where she was off to as she staggered toward the door. I followed after her.

Evelyn fished in her purse and pulled out a cigarette. I wished that I had a lighter, but of course, I did not. She lit her smoke and we stood there quietly while she smoked. I was surprised that I enjoyed being downwind of her as much as I did, wondering why people complain about second-hand smoke.

Finally, she flicked the cigarette into the water.

I had to ask.

“This is a non-smoking vessel,” she said, as though she had been deputized her to enforce maritime law.

“Are you going to be alright?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, and I was convinced that she actually was. I watched with great pleasure as she hopped from the Beeping Sleuty to the marina gangplank, waved happily to me and vamped toward the rest of her evening. We had never set a time or price for her to maid-up the houseboat. It hardly seemed important.

I pulled the other vintage beer from the refrigerator and a bag of stale potato chips and watched a baseball game involving the Anaheim Angels and the Minnesota Twins. The Twins were one of the Senators traitors that had abandoned RFK Stadium, so I rooted—for once in my life—for the Angels. Though I didn’t last to the end of the game, the Angels would homer twice on their way to victory.

October 9, 2002

Izzy digs himself in a little deeper at home by bringing up religion in a conversation with his wife. Also, he’s getting perilously close to hiring a college girl to clean the houseboat. When he goes out to get milk, the Beltway sniper strikes again.

Later that evening, there was an emergency that required me to go buy milk. I drove Elizabeth’s car, which needed gas, and while I was loading my credit card into the machine, a 1999 Ford Focus sped impatiently to the other side of the island of pumps. The driver, a woman, was smoking a cigarette. This looked familiar. She got out of her car, dropped the cigarette on the ground, and intentionally stepped over it, rather than grinding it out.

We traded meaningless smiles when our eyes crossed.

“You left your cigarette burning next to the gas pump,” I said, still smiling.

She looked at me questioningly, not getting my drift. Was I someone she knew?

“The cigarette. Shouldn’t we put it out?”

She shrugged and went on with the gas-pumping procedure. Whoever I was, I didn’t matter.

“I’ve got a bumper sticker for you, but it’s in my other car,” I said, making sure she heard me, without trying to bear down too hard. She was an accomplished ignorer, however.

When I got back in our car, there was a news alert on the radio. The sniper had gotten another victim, a man killed while pumping gas at a service station in Virginia. Later, they identified him as a white guy of about my age. Coulda been me.

When I got home, I realized I had forgotten to get the milk.

October 7, 2002

Izzy starts to get himself in trouble at the marina.

It was a warm day and the houseboat was musty. I threw open all the windows and began to attack the place with a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner. At some point I noticed a young woman in cut-off jeans and tank top working on the cabin cruiser tethered next to our houseboat.

I went outside and took a seat in a deck chair. I was just watching her, barely trying to be discreet. This may have been the effect of the all-purpose cleaner fumes.

She had a Mediterranean look, I decided, about the same age as my daughter. I was having a pleasant, middle-aged guy’s daydream when she looked straight at me and smiled.

I waved.

She waved back, enthusiastically.

“I’m Izzy,” I called. “Who are you?”

“Evelyn,” she said. Apparently glad that I cared.

She had a tatoo on her shoulder, I noticed.

“Beneath the unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair face of the pleasant sea, waited by the joyous breezes, he floats on and on, till lost in infinite perspectives,” I said.

She seemed amused. “What’s that?” she asked.

“Moby Dick,” I said.

“Say again?”

“You know. The novel. Moby Dick.” I enunciated with an abundance of caution. “The white whale.”

Not sure this made a mark either.

“It’s just some old book I’ve read a bunch of times.”

She didn’t know what to make of this. I headed for firmer ground.

“Is that your boat?”

She laughed. “No. I just clean it.”

“Yeah, me too,” I said, gesturing about the houseboat.

Evelyn seemed ready to resume her boat cleaning, and I figured I couldn’t just sit around on the deck ogling her. I went back inside and plugged away at my tidying up of the in-laws’ mostly forgotten weekend getaway. I stopped only a few times to check up on Evelyn.

Later, he and Henry come across a guy smoking a cigarette in a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, which makes a decent outdoor planter.