Sunday, April 06, 2014

I've Been Skewed...again!

So, After waiting over a year, I received my new NDK seat and installed it (thanks for the help, Leslie) into the boat. I rolled a bunch of times in the pool, and the "glue" didn't hold. A week ago, in spite of low temperatures, I redid the seat. The garage was cold, and I did not expect it to hold. Today, I had a nice paddle and, sorry to say, it held. Sorry to say because it appears the seat is a bit angled to starboard.

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The boat is lighter than my Cetus MV (easier for these old bones for carrying) and quicker on the turns (great for teaching). So, do I wait for it to fall out, break it out and start over or trade it in? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I lost my eye!

I may Have Lost My Eye
No, this isn't one of my April fool's day things.
It was a very long time ago that I fell in love with photography. I loved both the science and the art (explained decades later when I had certain brain evaluations; but I digress). I bought a little camera from a local pharmacy while in grade school and evolved from there.

At my peak I was into 4x5 fine-art B&W work and was studying with the likes of John Sexton (he's the one who prints Ansel Adam's negatives). He took some of us to meet Ansel's widow and see Ansel's darkroom. (But I digress...again). I would lug a 45 lb. pack along with a heavy wooden tripod. I loaded my own sheet film for the view camera. Most times, I never took out the camera; I just looked. It was all about seeing or, as Ansel called it, pre-visualization. I would stop once in a while, set up the tripod and put my chin where the camera would go. That let me see what the camera would see and decide if I had a viable image.

I would move that tripod around endlessly and often end up deciding it wasn't a worthwhile image. Most days, I never clicked the shutter. I never even took out the camera.This was all part of the art or the right-brain process. Finally, and not very often, I would see the image and find the spot for the tripod. Only then would the camera come out and, from then on, it was left-brain science (calculate exposure, zone development times, swing movements on camera, lens length, etc.). But back to the art.

As a photographer I learned to look. More importantly, I learned to see. I saw the world around me as never before. I noticed the epic and I noticed the details and, when everything was just right, I photographed them and then struggled for hours in the darkroom to produce a worthy image. Once in a great while I succeeded, even entered some jury art shows. Then the digital age descended like a cloud over photography.

I got PhotoShop and did some pretty stuff; but it was never the same again. After all, I could click away without wasting film and depend on the "even a blind chicken gets a kernel now and then if it keeps pecking" principal. Everyone was suddenly putting up "pretty" pictures with too much saturation and too much contrast (in my judgment). HD, something that was magical chemistry in the darkroom was being done right in the camera, even when the clicker in charge had no idea what that meant.

Pretty soon I was a megabyte-clicker, the back pack with the view camera began collecting dust and my wife gradually turned my huge darkroom into a storage area. That's when I realized that I had stopped looking at the world with the eye of a photographer. I no longer saw things I used to see, and I realized that I had lost something. I had lost my eye.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Time to Leave My Mistress?

I suspect it is all too common a story that always ends with the same painful question: When do you cut her lose? (Warning, this post also contains references to polygamy).

It started in the usual way. I saw her, fell head over heals and instantly knew I had to have her. We started out with all the excitement of any new relationship and gradual grew together becoming as one. We learned one another's habits and limits and found ways to react in a good way thus avoiding (most) uncomfortable situations. When things did go awry, we sought expert advice and learned from the experience. After a while we settled into that comfort of knowing one another and anticipating each other's moves. Things were good/stable for a while.

Then I saw Her and it was love at first sight. don't get me wrong, I still remained committed to my vows but had to have another. I guess, although it was an "unofficial" relationship, I became a polygamist. In any event, that triangular group worked out amazingly well (and still does) as I divided my time between them and treated them both with respect. They, in turn, seemed fine living together, even though our quarters were small and close. Things were again back to baseline guessed it, I saw another HER!!

To make a long story excruciating, I got another her (and another) to join my growing family. I need to mention that the last few were different from the others. They did not speak English and, well, they looked different. So different that even a casual observer would notice. Still, things got back to a new baseline and life went on... until recently.

The "trouble" is with the two newest "mistresses". I am getting on in years and they seem to have stayed young, at least younger than me. They, of course, want to get out more and, when we do, they require more from me. I'm not ready for the rocking chair by any means, but I can't keep up with these younger ones like I used to...even though I still love them dearly. So, I am faced with the inevitable question: "Is it time to let my mistresses go?"

I suspect it is and I feel obligated to know that they will be taken care of when they leave. They have only known my touch and kindness, and I don't want anyone to hurt them. They must, I know, be with someone who understands them and knows how unforgiving they can be when treated unkindly. To be honest, they can be dangerous and, when they are, difficult(if not impossible) to escape. So I have an obligation here to screen and even warn any suitors before severing these relationships. I never expected this moment to really come or realize how hard it would be to part with my Eastern and Western Greenland kayaks, one of which I built myself from a kit.

Paddle safe...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hi...My name is Silbs
My name is Dick.
I am a paddler.
Specifically, I am a kayaker.
I am writing this because I am addicted to paddling.
I hope that this might help someone with a similar problem.

It wasn't always like this. Long distance running, sailing a 42 foot cutter and Judo filled my physical needs for over 50 years before a fractured disc cut a nerve and I lost a good deal of the quadricep muscle in my left thigh. I was suddenly robbed of all the activities I so loved (and didn't realize to which I was addicted) and began sitting in a chair. That's when depression started creeping into my head. I turned to every exercise machine I could find until/ One day, I found myself on a rowing machine...indoors. As I tried to get into the zone(I couldn't) I realized that I could be outdoors doing this.

How about sculling? There is a club here in Milwaukee and they have a boat house on the river. But that is only part of the year and, well, I don't want to go backwards. To make a long story short, I ended up taking a intro to sea kayaking course (which I now teach) at Rutabaga (that den of evil and tantalizing distractions). They say you can be an alcoholic and not know it until you take that first drink. Turns out, I am genetically a kayakholic (my DNA test show I have 4 of the 5 genes).

Within weeks I had bought a boat and went out with my smattering of skills (typical behavior for someone with this disease) and was treated kindly by my Higher Power and paddlers who gradually took mercy on me and became friends. Soon my garage was filling with paddles, kits to build boats, smelly neoprene and other things that began endangering my marriage. Alas, I ignored all the warning signs. I did not seek help. I did not tell anyone that I was hooked. I just paddled and paddled.

I was able to conceal my problem until recently when unusually cold weather and lots of ice conspired to keep me off the lake.

My name is Silbs and I am a kayaker It has been several weeks since my last paddle. At night, when my wife is asleep, I scan the internet for kayak sites, especially ones with pictures...especially close up pictures. I recently have begun noticing that I like sites with boat kits and pictorial videos. I sit hypnotized as pieces of naked wood take on the sensuous form of a kayak and then...OMG, forgive me...this is the best part...a brush of lacquer is s l o w l y drawn across the deck which responds with a deep luscious tint that causes me to stare with lust. 

I know I would be better if I could just go out on the lake. I cannot. I cannot make the ice go away...only my Higher Power can do that. So I sit at my computer, look at pictures, imagine owning all those slender sea-going vessels and write drivel like this. Please don't hate me.

Paddle safe...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Old v. Elderly
There are too many cliches regarding getting old ("don't complain, it is not a privilege everyone gets..."). It happens to us all every second and we have clocks and calendars to keep track of the unrecoverable moments of our lives as they slip by. Okay, no complaints there. After all, there is nothing to do about it. We all get older and eventually meet some vague criteria that says we are old. Some folks are old at 85 and others at 50, all depending on how they live and how their health holds up.

Recently, I injured a tendon in my left leg and have had a limp and pain ever since (yes, I have seen a real doctor and am going back in a few days for follow up). This malady has kept me in pain and, worst of all, sitting long after day. It even makes sleep difficult as there does not seem to be a position in which the pain does not occur. So what?

Well, to some I have been old for a long time; but not to me. I am out there kicking butt, showing up and being marked present. Now, however, sidelined by this injury, I feel old; and I sure as hell do not like it. I know, I am feeling sorry for myself, sitting around, looking out the window at dreary days and medicating with sugary foods. Terrific.

What to do? Well, firstly, I am doing as the doctor orders, hoping for relief soon and continuing to plan future activities...including kayaking and teaching kayaking. Matter a fact, I will begin teaching 2 lectures at UWM next week, even if I have to be carried into class. Finally, I am writing this piece to hold myself accountable to doing everything to stay in the game so I can help those young and old folks learn. After all, teaching is my passion and pain in 1 of 4 extremities is not an excuse to not show up.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How We Russians Deal With Winter

   I have been recovering from the flu and sleeping a lot. Today I decided to go to the gym and do a light work out. It felt good and afterwards I went into the steam room which was, at first, a frustrating experience as the room wouldn't get very hot. An employee happened to be in there and, when I pointed this out to him, he said it was fine and blah, blah blah. He talked a lot and, much to the delight of those in there, finally left.
   It was then when a short, stocky fellow about my age and who had been sitting quietly near me said (with an accent) that I was right and that we could make it hotter. He had a wet wad of paper towels which he told me could be put over the sensor so the steam did not shut off so quickly. His problem was that he was too short to reach the sensor. So, I put the paper over the damn thing...and then things really heated up in there. Sitting in a fog of steam almost too thick to see one another, we both expressed our satisfaction with the high temperature each commenting on how that is how it is supposed to be. We sat quietly for a while, each with his own thoughts, and enjoyed the intense moist heat. 
   Now that we were practically friends, I finally asked him what his accent was. "Russian," came the reply out of the fog. He had come to Milwaukee in the 1900's. "I should have known," I told him. "I am half Russian. My mother came over as child."
   Finally, the temperature in there reached that of a smelting oven and I had to remove the paper toweling. As it gradually "cooled", we both sighed with pleasure, just two Russians who knew how to enjoy a good shvitz. When it became obvious that it was time to leave, he looked at me and said, "That was good," and offered a meaty hand. The hand shake was solid and strong. We had done what needed to be done and felt good about it. I had had a good shvitz and had met a new comrade. Not a bad day at the gym, but then we Russians know how to handle winter.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

This Train Must Always Leave the Station!

"Arriving on track number...," we've all heard that over the speaker at some train station at one time or another. It's here. The train is here with, presumably, one or more people who we've come to meet. These are great moments resulting in that expression beeing bent and extended to "having arrived."

To have arrived infers success. The struggling actress finally gets a lead roll and the press announces that she "has arrived." Touchdown. Score. Goal achieved. That's great, but the more important question, at least for me, is what next? So, one has arrived, scored, gained success and achieved a goal. Time to feel good, celebrate a bit, maybe even brag. They've earned it. But the time comes when it is time to move on. Every train, no matter how important its occupants and its arrival, eventually must leave the station. It must move on. It must leave that place of joy and celebration and do what is next...what ever it is that needs to be done. Otherwise, it ceases to have value as a train.

So, when people ask me why I continue to train in the ACA school of kayak instruction, I am a bit perplexed by the question. Apparently having become a level 3 and then level 4 coastal open water certified instructor indicates to some that I had arrived. Well, yes, I did. And I took great joy in it (and still do. After all, teaching is my passion). Once that glow had peaked, however, I started working on being a better paddler and a better instructor, even if there were no more stripes to add to my sleeve (heck, pfd's don't even have sleeves). I continued to practice strokes and to paddle with my mentors and to ask questions and to watch other instructors and to steal other good teaching ideas.  I loved it and it, in turn, fed me.

There came a time, however, when I got that nagging-restless feeling; and I was time for this train to leave the station. Stagnation was not a viable choice. Improve, move on or rust in the station. I became an Instructor Trainer student. I have been doing that for two years and cannot tell you how much my mentor (Sam Crowley) has taught me. I am not just working on kayaking or even teaching kayaking. I am working on learning theory, teaching to teach and (heaven knows I hate it) organizing things in advance. Some of the latter is tough for a mind like mine. Organizing two things is harder for me than any course in medical school. But I am working at it. It is a challenge and it is clear that I have left the station I was in a short time ago.

So, someone asks, when will I arrive at the next station. The answer is simple: Don't know, doesn't matter. I am on the journey, and as long as I am moving forward and growing, I am content. I am too busy to worry about arrival times. I am driving my own train and it is enough that I am staying on the tracks and making good time. Welcome aboard.

Paddle safe...