Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Frank must be Smiling

Patty and I bought our first boat back in 2004, we nearly bought one in 1997 but Patty's dad, Frank talked us out of it. I can remember sitting in the living room shooting the breeze with him when I casually brought up the subject of boat ownership, he looked across the room at me and a cheeky smile began to unfurl across his handsome face, the smile became broader as his head began to shake, then he pushed back in his chair and began to laugh.
"Jon," he said
"The two happiest days in a boaters life, the day they buy a boat and the day they get rid of it."
I looked back at him with a puzzled look on my face,
"But Frank, I think it'd be fun to own a boat, the freedom of the open ocean, the fresh sea air, the ability to get away from it all." by now he was almost crying he was laughing so hard.
 "Did I ever tell you about the time me and Don were up by Morro Bay with a fishing charter?"
I shook my head no, (he had been in partnership for a while with Don running a fishing charter out of Quivira Bay in San Diego, I never did get to know what they were doing up in Morro Bay with the boat.)
"We were cruising along in a decent swell and one minute we were looking at the land on the horizon and the next we were staring through deep green sea water before we bobbed back up to the surface, and that was on a sixty footer! Close your eyes for a second," he said "and try and imagine how that would feel, one second you're breathing fresh sea air and the next you're struggling to hold your breath as you're plunged ten foot under by some rouge wave." I did and I found myself holding my breath and then gasping for air as I thought about the scenario.
"We're not buying a boat," he stopped laughing and nodded his head at me, "Good Idea."

The lure of a boat though did get to us and so we began our search in late 2003, our intention was to find one that would be docked somewhere, where we could go hang out for a weekend and cruise around the bays, the whole open ocean thing was a thing of the past since Franks pep talk.
I wanted to find a boat that was big enough to be comfortable, but not too big to handle, one that I could steal a great deal on and eventually we found it. We had spent countless hours on the internet scouring brokers websites, running down to the beach every weekend, buying every boat trader magazine we could lay our hands on before we finally came across our boat accidentally, for sale by owner. It was a perfect size and it was a great deal, probably due to the fact that one of the engines wasn't running and we weren't able to sea trial it, nevertheless we had found our retreat on the sea. The broker warned us against buying it, "Don't buy someone else's trouble," was his mantra, did I listen, nope, not me, the greatest deal finder in the greater Los Angeles area if not the whole of California! so we bought it and many, many times Franks other little words of wisdom came flooding back to my mind.
"Boat, Jon, you know what that means right? Break Out Another Thou!"
Well we persevered and we spent more than we should have on maintenance and after owning it for seven years and spending a grand total of about 3 hours out of the dock cruising the bay we got rid of it and we were sorta happy, it's not that we didn't use it for what we intended, we spent many weekends on it and every now and then we'd crank the engines to circulate the oil and we'd sit in the cockpit sipping a cocktail or a glass of wine while the BBQ slowly seared our dinner and we'd stare out at the flickering lights on the hillside near our marina and we enjoyed life on our boat from the comfort of our dock. 
When I say we got rid of it, what I mean is we traded it for a more manageable smaller, easier serviced boat that we now have docked in Franks old home port in San Diego's Quivira Bay and we truly are using this boat for what it's meant to be used for. We're actually cruising the bays and taking her out to open ocean and last weekend we actually dropped anchor off the coast, cut the engines and enjoyed the quiet of the open seas around us. We've had dolphins swimming alongside us as we powered up the coastline, we spotted a giant sea turtle that may have actually been Crush from Finding Nemo, floating along barely submerged under the waves, we've got a sea lion who comes into the channel we're docked at for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we have a Pit Bull named Maya who will swim around the docked boats, literally for an hour while her owner tosses rocks for her to catch.
One of the most pleasing things about owning a boat are the relationships we have with other boaters, there is no way to live the garage door opener way of life when you have a boat docked, you can't simply go about your business all day then come home, push the garage door opener drive inside push the door closed and sneak into the confines of your home without a wave or even acknowledgement that you indeed have a neighbor; when you own a boat you have no option but to interact with neighbors, and that in my opinion can only be a good thing, it's a joy to be down at the boat, people watching, chatting with neighbors, fending off out of control boats attempting to dock but somehow almost always finding their way into the stern of our boat (no wait that's what I do, although I'm getting better.)  Simply put, we have fun, we barely get TV reception, definitely no internet so we are forced to go back to basics, listening to the radio, reading, talking, napping, relaxing, relating all things that play second fiddle when we have the comforts of home around us.

So why did I choose to write about boating for this post I hear you asking and whats the point behind all this? Well I'll tell ya, boating and San Diego and Quivira Bay, always get me thinking about Frank, Patty's dad, Frank, and whenever I think about Frank I usually end up with a smile on my face because he was a cheeky bugger who was always up to no good, he was a scallywag, a strikingly handsome larger than life bloke, who never told a lot of stories but when he did he was the kind of storyteller that you enjoyed listening too, he was a member of the Greatest Generation a WWII Marine Veteran who lied about his age so he could enlist and serve this Country and serve he did, he saw action, mostly in the Japanese arena and was involved in the Battle of Okinawa. One of the stories he did tell us that we'll never forget was about how scared he was coming in to the beaches in landing craft, his eyes got a little misty as he recalled hearing bullets hitting the loading ramps in front of the craft and how his buddies were throwing up around him from a mixture of sea sickness and fear and how he knew that once that gate dropped it would be a mad scramble for survival and the bullets that were hitting outside the craft would then be tearing into the flesh of the marines crowded inside,but the stench inside the craft was something that he had to get away from so he pushed forward in spite of rounds hitting marines alongside of him and how he saw buddies drowning because the craft dropped the gate in water too deep to touch ground and the weight of the packs dragged men to the bottom. (We still haven't been able to watch Saving Private Ryan) That was the only story he ever told about fighting in that war and I'll never forget it, he was all the things I said he was prior, but he was and always will be a hero to me alongside every person that's ever pulled on a uniform to serve their country.

Today I remember Frank Czarniewski because today he would have been his 87th birthday but in 1998 Frank lost his battle with Cancer and so even though I'm Writing In Spite of Myself, I wanted to dedicate this post to him and his Greatest Generation.

Frank Czarniewski
1925 - 1998

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Always Drink The Good Scotch.

I hate going to City of Hope every three months for my quarterly cancer check up, but I love the people in there, with the exception of the CT tech, who, no matter how hard he tries just can't hit the mark with the needle and so I end up being stabbed two or three or, as was the case this go round, four times. Though in fairness, my veins can be as absent as an Aussie Olympic Swimming Gold Medal! (only one!!! Are you kidding me?)

This go round was particularly nerve wracking since three months ago my amazing young Oncologist Dr. Pal had told me "We're watching a bit of a lump in the right lung," and so I was fully expecting to get not so good news this time, which inevitably means surgery, so I was bummed as well as more than a little nervous about being there. My type of cancer is fairly aggressive when it hits, so they need to get on top of any recurrence pretty quick and although the survivability has increased it's still not a great prognosis when you have had stage 4 as is the case with me. 

It's strangely weird living your life in three month blocks, you have no idea how quick time goes by when you are wondering if this visit maybe they'll find more cancer and what if it's gotten into my bones or worse yet my brain? Every little ache in my knee becomes a cancer hot spot, every little headache becomes metastasis to the brain, every new bruise on my body is surely recurrence... It gets old worrying about  this stuff all the time.
So there I sat, all pouty and sore from the stabbings, waiting to go in and be given the news that they were gunna cut more of my lung out and I was working myself into a bit of a tizzy and couldn't even make simple decisions like deciding between watching the "Jerry Springer Show" being re-run on the waiting room t.v. or reading the 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated, Patty gave my hand a squeeze and nodded out to the hall; my amazing young Oncologist is located on the 3rd floor of the hospital and his waiting area is directly across from the Pediatric Oncology Clinic, so I look across the hall and watch a laughing bald headed 8 or 9 or 14 year old patient being wheeled into their amazing oncologists and it gives me a great deal of perspective.
What a light switch that becomes and it instantly transported me back five years earlier to when my older amazing Oncologist first took me on as a patient, Patty and I were completely into the whole idea of healthy living as an assistant to beating cancer and so we sat in front of him and Patty asked

"What can we do as patients?"
(I love how this disease is a joint thing, she's an amazing crutch for me.)

Dr. Figglin looked at both of us with a smile as crooked as a two bob watch and said

"Always drink the good Scotch." 

When we can afford it (and sometimes when we can't) we pretty much do just that, but sometimes we need a little reminder and sitting there watching that young girl being wheeled into her appointment with a smile on her face was just the tonic I needed.

So, that's my post for this week, short I know but my mind has been in other places and I really struggled to make myself sit down and write this in spite of myself...

Oh, the lump they're watching............. turns out its only scar tissue! PHEW :)