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Showboating at the Boat Show

Copyright 2009 by Cap’n Fatty Goodlander

I should never leave my vessel. Every time I do, things go wrong in a major way. Example: my dear mother asked me if I would attend her 90th birthday party in Santa Cruz, California. Since she asks for little and deserves much, I promised I would. However, I was in Southeast Asia at the time. This is far, far from the reality of America. And it is so expensive and time consuming to fly internationally, especially when you are exactly half way around the world. But I’m a faithful son and felt I had no choice. So we immediately started making plans, scheming scams, and dreaming up new dementedness for the coming family debacle.  

The first question was: how to afford it. I’m a marine writer who makes his living writing about wild & crazy SAILING adventures, not wholesome, family-oriented, shore-side ones. Oh, well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I dashed off many emails hither-and-yon, in hopes of shot-gunning a solution.

While waiting, my wife and I made love. We enjoy this. We’re still thrilled with our good fortune, both of us having married avid heterosexuals. (Isn’t it swell how life works out sometimes?)

Where was I?

Soon I got a response from a national stateside publication I work for: Would we be interested in giving a seminar at the ‘Strictly Sail’ boat show in Oakland? And if so, on what subject?

I was naked and sweaty as I read the email at the nav station of Wild Card, the modest 38 foot, $3,000, globe-trotting, sloop-rigged garbage scow we call home. We both laughed at the silliness of any sane person being interested in our dumb ‘dessert-first’ advice. I was just about to say we’d speak on “Love and Lust” when Carolyn leaned her lovely… er… body over my shoulder and suggested “Sailing with Love and Laughter” as a more PC title.

…see why I married her?

Let’s be brutally honest for a second: I’m not often in the United States and thus am seldom able to help take care of my 90 year old mother. She lives alone and is fiercely independent—but, of course, she occasionally needs a bit of assistance—and then calls my brother or one of my sisters. While they usually are able to drop everything and help—well, not always. This occasionally irritates my mother, who then complains to the only siblings who are available to complain to.

Thus, the people who help her most are always listening to her say, “…too bad Fatty isn’t here… HE IS A REAL LOVING SON and would be able to solve this situation instantly!”

This is so unfair.

Thus, while I was in America, my family decided that not only would I sort-of ‘host’ her 90th birthday party—but I’d also have the good fortune to deal with her and her ‘tiny’ problems the entire time.

I’m not complaining about this. This was fair, MORE than fair. And, normally, this would not have been a problem because my mother is almost totally self-sufficient.

Alas, this is where cruel fate stepped in.

My mother loves to dance. At her 87th birthday party, we could not get her off-stage. For almost an hour, she gyrated sensuously across the dance floor, making the TV hoofers of Dancing with Stars seem like young, flat-footed clods. Twice, I tried to hustle her off towards her rocking chair—but she was far too elusive.

Alas, as I was just touching down on US continental soil for the first time in many years—and she was in the middle of her daily dance rehearsal—she got pains in her stomach. Within hours, she was in surgery, with various medical types tying bowlines, carricks, and reef knots with her ancient intestines.

She was not happy about this, to put it mildly. “Stop your foolishness and sew me back up,” she ordered them. “I have a party to go to!”

Yes, we Goodlanders are genetically focused on fun.

My mother and I both hate hospitals. Thus we launched a plan—I’d continue to order the party hats and she’d ‘get well quick’ in rehab. This she did extremely well—so well that the medical establishment was dumbfounded—and soon she was back in her Santa Cruz apartment with days to spare before the Big Bash (all Goodlanders not in mental institutions or jail would attend, flying in from all over the world.)

Alas, a couple of days before her 90th birthday, she fell and fractured her starboard femur.

“I don’t feel any pain and I’m alright,” she’d say each time I touched her leg and she’d inadvertently shriek in agony. Then she’d follow up with, “…how’s the party-plans coming, Fatty… are we still on track for mega-fun?”

It was a pirate costume party, of course, because, even at 90 years of age, my mother openly lusts after Jack Sparrow. It went extremely well. Over fifty guests attended—many under their own names. We rented a huge house right on the beach.

Of course, I had to give her a present. Since I had little money, I wrote a 125 page book called Celebrating Marie and had it published with a private print run of 100 copies.

The book and the party were a giant success. (Andy Turpin, senior editor of Latitude 38, played banjo in the sea-gypsy band that kept our toes a’ tapping.)

My mother glowed with happiness.

The following day I wheeled her into surgery once again—and they screwed and bolted various titanium bits onto her upper femur in hopes she would eventually walk again.

Obviously, there will have to be a transition period from hospital to home-recovery—and eventually she’ll probably have to fly up to live with or close-by one of my sisters.

Thus, many complicated things had to be swiftly put in place—like a home nurse, for example—and all of them cost vast sums of money.

America is, in case you’ve forgotten, rather expensive. At first, I was mentally dividing the price of everything by 35 baht, as I do in Thailand… WRONG!

Thus I unexpectedly discovered myself homeless and penniless in America—and 15,000 miles away from my vessel.

At this point, I knew I’d have to ‘shake the money tree’ hard at the ‘Strictly Sail’ Boat Show in Oakland, California.

Frankly, I had hoped things would go smoothly and make sense. HA!

It turns out ‘Strictly Sail’ was half powerboats—go figure. The boat show and the people who ran it had One Overriding Objective… to convey to the world that the ‘sky wasn’t falling’ within the marine industry. Alas, everyone I spoke to within the industry that was specifically charged with this Herculean task… would soon burst into tears and sob, “…I’ve just been fired!” and demand my weary shoulder to cry on. (I was happy to oblige, but the next boat show I attend—well, I’m gonna wear a terry-cloth shirt.)

The astounding part was that all but one of my seven seminars was standing-room-only. And there were plenty of strange/sick people there, because my books sold like hot-cakes, earning me just enough money to fly back to Southeast Asia… with empty pockets and a rueful smile. (And with my brother Morgoo-the-Magnificent resuming his care-giving role, thank gosh.)

A final note: it will be awhile before I mingle with the dirt-dwellers of America again.

Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.”  For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com.

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