The race is over at The Brick. Hands that feel like mine, and move like those of a stranger push gear down into the floor of my pack. This is the time that I am least aware of the value of socks in zip-lock baggies and the weight of envelopes stamped but addressed to no one. Leaving is many faces saying good-bye all at the same time even though I am alone in this one moment before I am again separated from companions entirely except for my own words blowing back on me, the imperfections of memory, the constant subtle seduction of miles unwalked beckoning me on.
You would think by now that I would be a master at disconnection. I thought I would be like that by now too. No matter how we exercise some muscle groups though they never seem to gain the girth and strength we desire, the speed of reflex, the mass of true confidence.
For three races my carved boat with a paper moose riding solo won clear victories. Then my hand carved maple 'Northern Expo' got caught up at the launching gate while the boat to my right went on to cross the finish line with my boat just beginning to figure out what direction the water ran. Race after race went on without me until it was time to put N.E. in the water again. This would be my last chance.
The death blow to my little craft happened in a great race though. My little craft 'Northern Expo' was blundering about for half the course, front to rear, bow to stern it turned in a little dance, and then, finally, at a start it woke up and slammed the accelerator down, caught a breeze, began to kick all four Flintstone feet. Out of nowhere my little craft raced up on the competition and drew to what looked like a tie from my vantage point just as we hit the checkered spittoon finish line. It was ruled that I lost so I put my wet boat in my pocket and felt a pout come up to my face... then I laughed. It is funny that a 3" boat and a stream of water can regress us to being 5 years old even if just for just a moment. In a few minutes I was rooting for my new friend Marilyn's boat called The Skillet. There was a tie, and another tie, and then victory. A hundred and seventy five dollar victory. I delighted in a celebratory hug and a Roslyn micro brew!
Now there were some of the most creative boats, hours at the kitchen table with paint,glue, carving knives, band-aids flagging primary fingers; all bringing to life some incredible ideas...and then there were wooden drawer knobs and plastic Happy Meal toys, and painted sticks, and a rubber 8 ball tossed into the race. Being a purist at heart I was glad a carved 3" wooden boat won. Since the whole idea of the regatta at The Brick sprang up from drinking a few beers and racing popcorn and wooden matches for the prize of a single cigarette or a local draft, an attempt to kill the taste of Tuesday afternoon boredom, I remind myself it's all for fun. In a 23' long running spittoon that runs under patron feet the length of the bar I guess anything floating downstream in a race is worthy if you have a hundred and fifty people cheering and everyone is glad they're here.
Larry, owner of The Brick, orders our table a round of drinks, shrimp and steaks, and for a little while I am family. Stories move around the table until we are closer, allowed to understand paths chosen and not, what it is like to own the famous Brick; the line of separation is not as wide as I once believed--the line that separates one life from another. Somewhere in my televisioned brain from the 90's I am still doing a series of comparing and contrasts with Northern Exposure but I have new faces now, new stories from people I already care deeply about, and brighten to see on the street.
We always remember how we fell in love with that special someone, the coffee shop she walked across and how all the world filled with perfumed music only we could hear, and to this one crystal foundation we begin to attach our lives, placing each stone hand. Roslyn.