Friday, June 30, 2023

Hilton Head Island: four Carusos and a Modigliani

Four Carusos may be far more than you want.  One might be more than you want.  But I like variations on a theme and after YouTube presented me with a duet by Luciano Pavarotti and Lucio Dalla one led to another.

I had not known of Lucio Dalla before seeing that video and thought:  what audacity to go mano a mano with Pavarotti, and what’s more bring it off.  As is sometimes the case, once I learned more it was not audacious at all.  It is Lucio Dalla’s song.  He wrote it and he knew what he could do and he had been famous in Italy for a long time.

Here is that duet.

I wondered about the lyrics.  I think they are very good.

Here is a video of Pavarotti solo with English captions.

I found a Wikipedia article which explains the origins of the song.

Here is a video of Dalla shot partially in the Caruso Suite at the Excelsior Vittoria Hotel in Sorrento, Italy, where Caruso spent some of the final weeks of his life.

And if you can stand one more, here is a different visual interpretation in a recording by Julio Iglesias.

From the duet of Pavarotti and Dalla, YouTube took me to a video ‘Modigliani’.

This seemed to come from a movie and I discovered it does, MODIGLIANI, a 2004 film starring Andy Garcia as the title character.  It begins with the statement that the film is a work of fiction based loosely on the characters.  I watched it on Amazon Prime Video, but it is also available for rent elsewhere.  I enjoyed the film, which mostly concerns Modigliani’s rivalry with Picasso and his last love affair, and afterwards wondered how much of it is true.  Again Wikipedia provides the answer.

From photographs Modigliani was a handsome man.  He was also only 5’ 3” tall and was loved by a woman who literally could not live without him.

Although the movie is in English, I recommend that you turn on the subtitles, which identify many of the other artists who have entered the tribal consciousness.

This is my last day in the now hot marsh for two months.  I fly to Chicago and Carol tomorrow.  Heat Index numbers next week will be between 100-110F/38-43C, but I won’t be here.  I have already made my dawn walk from the next-door grounds of Civil War Fort Mitchell to the end of A Dock and back.  Reluctantly, because I like to wake and get a glass of grapefruit juice and a cup of coffee and return to bed to read online what folly the world has gotten up to, I must admit that these early walks and bike rides are a very good way to start the day.  They change the day in a very positive way.

I am writing by our bedroom window.  I look up.  I will not miss the heat, but I will miss this beauty:  the live oaks, the Spanish moss, the spartina, Skull Creek, the marina, the birds, even the squirrels.  And I look forward to being back.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Hilton Head Island: the early Webb; joy; coy; sun screen

Summer has come to the marsh.  We are not having a heat wave as is some of the South, just normal late June weather with highs in the low 90sF/23+C and, of course, heat indexes five or more degrees F higher.  This means that outside activity needs to be performed early in the morning.  So on Sunday, I woke at 6 and was walking down to GANNET at 6:30, a few minutes after sunrise.  

Once on the little boat I prepared her to be left alone for two months.  I doubled some dock lines, tied down the tiller, tied a line around the furling jib and through its clew so it can’t unfurl, set up the running back stays, adjusted fenders.  I did not unbend the sails which is a major hassle.  To remove the fully battened main requires first detaching the solid boom vang from the boom and then detaching the boom from the mast.

Yesterday morning I woke at 6:30 and was biking to Harris Teeter supermarket by 7, back home by 8:45 with sufficient supplies to last the week.

This morning I again woke at 6:30 and was out taking a walk a few minutes later.  My path was around the neighborhood, then down to the marina all the way out to the far end of A dock.  1.68 miles according to my Apple watch.  Along the way I passed a great egret who didn’t even fly away.  He just stepped courteously to one side of the dock when I passed both going and returning and watched me.  Of the two of us he was armed with a long sharp beak and I was weaponless.  He rightly judged he had nothing to fear.  

This walk was just for the exercise.  I like to walk or bike most days in addition to doing my usual workouts, and after being stuck inside due to rain last week, feel a strong need to get out.  I am not the only old person here who knows the value of keeping in motion and always encounter others doing so, many widows walking small dogs.  I feel for them and would even if I did not know that Carol faces long widowhood, unless she remarries.

In THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY I have recently come across a poem by Carl Sandburg that I did not know and one by Andrew Marvell that I did.  You may have read Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ in school.  I did and it continues to bring a smile each time I do again.

How good to live so as to make the sun run.

Being a garden of skin cancer I have a personal interest in sun screens.  Among the hundreds of magazines, newspapers and news sources I have access to via Apple News+, which at $9.99 a month is one of the truly great bargains, is CONSUMER REPORTS.  In the current issue they report on testing sun screens.  I have googled and there is a public link only to part of the article.

As a public service I will provide you will some of the rest.

What is most surprising and distressing is that the vast majority of sun screens tested had less, often, far less protection than their labels claim.  53 of the 68 lotions and sprays tested had less than than SPF 30 protection, which is the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.  

Here are four lotions and four sprays Consumer Reports recommends.

Note that Coppertone Water Babies gets a perfect 100 rating.  I had never heard of it and ordered a bottle from Amazon.  

Friday, June 23, 2023

Hilton Head Island: rich tourists; Yeats on politics; a little color


"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans.  Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."

The above is from the official statement by the presumptuously named OceanGate, the company that operated the imploded submersible.  It is complete self-serving nonsense.

These men were not explorers and if you have been here a while you know what I think about adventures.  They were very rich tourists who paid $250,000 each for a thrill and an experience with which they hoped to impress fools at parties.  I am not sure their deaths were tragic, being completely a result of their own choices, and I am certain no one brings joy to everyone they know.

Yeats died in 1939 at age 73.  That is among his last poems and perhaps thoughts.

Our prolonged unsettled weather continues.  Rain last night and this morning has paused long enough for me to bike down to GANNET where I fitted a replacement cover on the Sportaseat.   As you can see I decided to add a little color to the Great Cabin. 

More rain is due later this afternoon.  Possibly the weekend will be drier and I can bike to a supermarket, which I need to do at least once more before I fly to Chicago a week from tomorrow.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Hilton Head Island : small pleasures

The weather through all the south of this country continues unsettled and severe, worse to the west than here, but enough here to keep me mostly inside, and I am an animal who naturally wants to be outside, who wants the least membrane between him and the natural world.  I probably most achieved that with CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  I admit that I would not want to cross oceans again in a Drascombe lugger at my age, but I have thought about it and if compelled I think I could.

I am still figuring out my life.  That might seem odd for an 81 year old if you have not been paying attention.  If you have been paying attention you will not be surprised.

I am still exploring and trying to understand what I should do, and I have concluded that I am in an entra-act.

If I am still alive and not too much diminished by time and chance when I am 85 I will again push limits.  You might ask why not now.  

Three  reasons.  I want to share a few years after her retirement with Carol.  And if I did what I might do now and succeeded I would be faced with the same problem of being without a goal, and I need a goal.  And third, totally without regard as to whether I might be the oldest, which I have not and never will google—I think oldest and youngest by a few days or months say nothing about the human spirit—particularly the youngest who have always been given their boats—but that at age 85 I do not know that what I plan is possible for me is an attraction.

So for a few years I take pleasure in sitting here on the screened porch and feeling a cooling wind against my skin and watching raindrops falling on the deck.  Because of the direction of the wind I had to move from the chair I normally sit in to the one Carol normally sits in.  I trust she will forgive me.

Consider Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

I have been in the arena, not constantly, but for decades.  I have known the triumph of high achievement and I would like to believe writing great words, and if time and chance do not destroy or diminish me too much, I will enter the arena again in 2026-27.  

In the meantime I will enjoy my small pleasures.

Gentle rain is still pattering down.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Hilton Head Island: tornado alert; re-Torqeedoed; two moon poems

 Unexpected drama last evening.

I was reading in bed when at 7:50 my phone and my iPad Pro began sounding like fire engines.  When I picked up the phone it stopped making noise and displayed a tornado alert, advising me to move immediately to the safest part of my home, away from windows, and shelter in place.  It stated a tornado had been sighted at a location west of me and was moving east at 45 miles an hour.  The alert was in place until 8:15.  Sunset here is around 8:30 pm now, but the sky was already black.

I got up.  Got dressed.  I had long ago decided that the safest place in this condo in case of a hurricane is the walk in closet in the guest bedroom, which is farthest from the outer walls of the building and the extensive amount of glass on the side facing Skull Creek.  I took a few bottles of ice tea, an already opened bottle of wine, and some RX bars there, then turned on YouTubeTV on my phone and found as expected that the local Savannah stations had interrupted network programs for weather updates.  Radar showed the last location of the tornado and a narrow cone of its probable advance.  This condo was near the center of the cone.

I went to the living room and looked out.  To the west profound darkness and distant thunder and flashes of lightning, but the Spanish moss just beyond our deck was hanging limp.  

I was prepared to make a quick retreat to the closet, but it proved unnecessary.  At about 8:15 the front reached us with a violent burst of wind and torrential rain.  The TV station said that the tornado had touched down only briefly and seemingly dispersed.  I went back to bed.

The Midwest where I grew up and where Carol still mostly lives also has tornados.  The sirens went off once when we living in Evanston, but I have not been exposed to one for a while and last evening caused me to remember that one of the differences between tornados and hurricanes, is that while hurricanes can abruptly intensity, you usually know for days when one is out there and have time to prepare.  With tornados you have only minutes.

This country has a very tough climate.

More thunderstorms are forecast for this afternoon and as I look up the completely overcast sky is darker beyond Pickney Island.  However the storms today are not expected to be as severe as those yesterday.  Rain is in the forecast for every day seemingly forever, but at smaller percentages over the weekend.  I would like to go sailing to test the new Pelagic components and perhaps I will have a chance Saturday or Sunday.

I biked down to GANNET at 8:30 this morning to spray another coat of the Gorilla sealant on the compass and while there I pulled the Torqeedo from the space aft of the starboard pipe berth and fit it to the transom.  Several days ago I brought the two Torqeedo batteries to the condo to charge.  One of them is dead, but the other charged to 100%.  When the outboard was assembled, I pushed the start button and it started.  I am impressed.  It has not be used in more than a year.  I left it on the stern to use when/if I ever get away from the slip.

Serendipitously yesterday I read these two poems, one from CLASSICAL CHINESE POETRY by Tu Fu who lived 712-770 AD and one from THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY by Percy Bysshe Shelley who lived 1792-1822.   Two poets look at the same moon parted by a thousand years and half the world.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Hilton Head Island: thunderstorms

Predicted thunderstorms arrived about 6 pm last evening while I was eating sushi for dinner.  I biked to a supermarket that morning for necessities such as grapefruit juice, berries, milk, wine, and bought sushi then.

This condo is a denser membrane to the natural world than a boat, but still good, and I opened the door to the porch and was almost outside and enjoyed the storm.

After dinner I finished reading LOVE IN THE AGE OF CHOLERA while listening to rain on the deck and distant thunder.  

Book finished and rain slowed to a trickle, I poured myself a small gin, put in my AirPods so as not to disturb the neighbors, and went out on the porch to sip and listen to Max Richter’s excellent soundtrack to the movie, THE HOSTILES, and smell damp earth and leaves.

Gabriel Garcia Marques’s view of old age is very different from my experience of it.  He was a fine writer.  I checked to see how long he lived and he died at 87, so he experienced more of old age than I yet have, but the book was published in 1988 when he was only 61 and I think he imagined old age wrong.  Perhaps not for most.  I do not know about most.  But certainly for me and perhaps if genes and time and chance permit for you, too.  As another great writer has observed:  until it is a reason, old age is not an excuse.

THE HOSTILES is a very good movie.  The score is even better.

I enjoyed the music, the gin, the darkness, the night.

Thunderstorms are forecast for every day this week until Friday.  I would like to go sailing, but I don’t expect it will happen soon.

The photo seems appropriate.  It was taken on another dark night, that one at sea.


Friday, June 9, 2023

Hilton Head Island: too close to home; two poems

 I am rereading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA.  The copyright is dated 1988 and I read it for the first time about then.  It begins with the death of an aristocratic doctor, Juvenal Urbino, who in his old age has become decrepit.  His mind and body are failing.  He is aware of this.  His wife has to help him dress.  His memory is unreliable, so he writes notes and then doesn’t understand what the notes are about.  He dies falling from a ladder trying to recapture an escaped pet parrot.  We are told that at the time of his death he was eighty-one years old.  When I read that I paused.  I am eighty-one years old.  After a few minutes I decided that there is eighty-one and there is eighty-one and went and did my age in push-ups and then wrote this.

The Western poetry I am now reading is in THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY.  The Asian is CLASSICAL CHINESE POETRY.  I have read both before.  Perhaps oddly I feel closer to the ancient Chinese hermit poets living alone in their mountains than I do to many of the Western poets, but then there are women.  I am more complicated than the average bear.

One section of THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY is titled ‘Arms and the Boy’ which you may recognize as a variation on George Bernard Shaw’s play, ARMS AND THE MAN.  It is also the title of a poem by Wilfred Owen who died in a meaningless attack in the last week of WW1.  Most of those killed in wars are boys, not men, and now with women’s deserved equality we send women into combat to be killed and maimed too.  Clearly progress.

All the poems in ‘Arms and the Boy’ are good.  Many from what we now call World War 1 excellent and to me familiar.

Here are two more from ‘Arms and the Boy’ which I did not know and admire.  One of the deepest pleasures of my life is coming across new to me great words.


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Hilton Head Island: the older I get; contrasting poems

I thank Larry for the above video.  We all age, but Marlon Brando became grotesque out of all recognition.

I agree with the sentiment that if they found the Fountain of Youth I would not drink a drop; but while my old age has its charms and even hopes, perhaps delusional, I do not believe the best years are yet to come.

Here are four regressive photos of Webb Chiles

As regular readers know I read some poetry each day.  Usually some ancient Japanese or Chinese and some more modern poetry from the West.

Here are a Chinese poem and a contemporary Western one among those I read yesterday.  The first was written by Meng Hao-Jan, who lived from 689-740 A.D.  An interesting contrast.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Hilton Head Island: last evening


I was watching the twilight from our screened porch last evening when I had the impulse to do so from GANNET and sleep on board.  I was soon on my bicycle and then on the little boat.  The top photo is what I was seeing from the porch.  The next are what I saw sequentially from and near GANNET.

It was a pleasant evening.  I sat in the cockpit for a while with a small tumbler of Plymouth gin listening to music, before I retired to my sleeping bag on the v-berth.  I slept well.

I have said that this condo is almost like living on a boat.  It is.  But there is nothing like the real thing.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Hilton Head Island: 5 for 3


A very good day.  

I biked to GANNET this morning with three tasks on my to do list and I did five.

All were minor.  Chief among them was to install new lifelines.  This is very easy and inexpensive on GANNET, one of the many virtues of small boats.  I buy a 50’ ¼” diameter winch line from Amazon for $20.32, which is considerably cheaper than buying Dyneema from a chandlery.  The breaking strength of the line is over 8,000 pounds.  You could lift GANNET on it four times over.  I cut off the nicely spliced eye and have enough for lifelines with about 3’ leftover.  The hardest part is undoing the half hitches and bowlines tied into the ends of the old lines which have become compressed with strain and time, like all of us.

New lifelines in place, I repaired another of the Blue Performance line bags in the cockpit, then crawled aft and replaced the screws securing the Pelagic motor drive box and while back there moved the last monthly bag of freeze dry meals forward and one of the Torqeedo batteries, which I brought back to the condo to charge.  The Torqeedo has not been used for more than a year.  I want to see if it starts and is still worth carrying around.

The morning was lovely.  Mid-70s F, mid-20s C.  Sunny.  A moderate breeze.  Working on deck and below was pleasant, as was almost the entire month of May.  Usually mid-May sees the beginning of debilitating heat in the Low Country, but not this year.  We have run 10ºF/5-6ºC below normal and continue to do so, though real heat may come next week.

The photo was taken somewhere between Panama and San Diego, obviously toward the end of the passage because there is wind.  I came across it looking for something else.