Words XX: Adventurer

The word adventurer was initially synonymous with gambling. The gambler would yell out “Adventure!” for help at the roulette table much as a modern gambler might yell “Come on, Seven!” at craps.

Adventurer
Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006)

To be an adventurer was to be without responsibility or care. Quite often ‘adventurer’ was hurled as an insult.

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) spun adventure on its head, using the word to imply bravery and daring. Captain James Cook, sailing 40 years later, would become synonymous with the word, now often meaning one imbued with courage and class.

*Gleaned from Martin Dugard’s Farther Than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook.

Travel Thursday: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook

Martin Dugard’s book chronicles the three circumnavigations captained by James Cook in 1769-1780. On the first of these adventures, he is credited with circumnavigating New Zealand, mapping the eastern coast of Australia and discovering the Great Barrier Reef.

Endeavour slammed hard into a coral reef and ground to a violent halt. A mighty surf pounded against the beleaguered ship, wedging her wooden hull tightly onto the reef. All hands were immediately summoned on deck by a mate’s frantic cry of “Up every soul nimbly, for God’s sake, or we all perish.”

The crew took their cue from Cook and remained calm throughout, pumping the hold in fifteen-minute shifts. Cook ordered everything expendable of great heft heaved overboard. Six of the twelve cannons were dumped, twenty-five tons of fresh water, tons of rocks and ballast. “Casks, hoops, staves, oil jars, decayed stores,” wrote Cook of other items surrendered to the Pacific. And still she stuck fast.

This was an alarming and terrible circumstance. However when high tide arrived, “At 20 minutes past ten we hove her into deep water”. Soon Endeavour was out of danger and heading for land. Cook and the People removed their personal belongings from the ship and prepared to camp on shore. They were startled to find a large chuck of coral had pierced the hull but held fast without pressing all the way through. If that had happened, the ship most surely would have sunk.

For two months, the crew got a taste of what life would have been like marooned in this hostile land. They seined fish, ate kangaroo and sea turtle, marveled at flying fox. They fought the local Aborigines, who set fire to the brush surrounding Endeavour‘s campsite in one memorable skirmish. Cook himself shot an Aborigine for trying to steal sea turtle meat.

Finally, it is interesting note that James Cook is considered the inspiration for both Captain Hook (J.M. Barre’s Peter Pan) and James Kirk (Gene Roddenbury’s Star Trek.

Trump Tell-All in Swordsmen

Long before the words ‘fake’ and ‘news’ were glued together, there was a gentleman’s magazine of leisure, somewhat akin to Oui, which featured scantily-clad cartoon ladies, poorly-researched articles and bullet-point interviews with men of questionable fiber.

This magazine was Swordsmen: Drawn and Quartered*, and their May 1979 edition featured one Donald Trump.

On women: Women are great. They have breasts of all different shapes and sizes. All so different. And they’re all great.

On his children: My daughter’s very hot. Great face and ass. And she’s only three.

On slavery: Great business model. Bad PR.

On the inequities of the racial divide: Great. I love it.

On the future of mankind: We’re doing great. More than great. Greater than great. You can’t get any greater than that.

*Swordsmen: Drawn & Quarterly is not a real magazine. Illustrations credit: Matt Howarth’s Tryx: Sluts in Space

The Fear III: The Grateful Dead in South Carolina

We drove sixteen hours to a Grateful Dead show in Columbia, South Carolina. I took the graveyard shift and consumed caffeine pills and coffee to stay awake. I didn’t sleep that night nor the next day, and came crashing down in the middle of the concert.

Awful black clouds wash over me as I desperately tried to think of a sane notion and cling to it. I knew this was just a matter of exhaustion and thought that if I just turned as much of my body off as I could, it would eventually pass. It didn’t work. I knew that I knew nothing, that I really never thought about anyone but myself, that no one existed, nothing existed except my nonsensical perspective.

I tried to think of the most basic things possible. Chair. Table. Lamp. These were words. I understood them. I knew what they were. But then the chair would dissolve into a table and the table would melt into the lamp, the lamp would fade to black. There was no substance, no reality, nothing existed. Chair. Table. Lamp. They didn’t actually exist. They only existed in my mind. The black clouds continued to flow in. If a chair wasn’t a chair, then I wasn’t anything. I didn’t exist. I only thought I did.

Chair. Table. Lamp. I could sit in a chair, write on a table, see light from a lamp. It wasn’t my imagination. I could touch them. I knew I could touch them. Chair. Table. Lamp. I had eyes. I had fingers. I knew they existed…the house lights went out. This was reality. A cheer went up. The band was returning to the stage for the encore. The clouds seemed to be breaking up. I didn’t have to focus my wild stare on anything. I could gaze into the soft colored lights. I was going to live. And stay sane. For now at least.

Deadheads in Atlantic City

The following is an expunged scene from my Grateful Dead script Wave That Flag:

INT. TAJ MAHAL CASINO. NIGHT.

Davis, Skylar, Chig and Gomi enter the Trump Taj Mahal Casino, crowded with people, including some Deadheads. They walk down the carpeted passageway between hundreds of slot machines and gaming tables.

SKYLAR (Stopping at a Wheel of Fortune slot machine): Oh, Wheel of Fortune!

GOMI: You don’t want to do that. They’ll just steal your money.

SKYLAR: But I like Wheel of Fortune.

Skylar inserts a dollar bill and does a full dancing spin before pulling on the lever. She loses.

SKYLAR: Oh, spit and curses.

She does another dancing spin, pulls down the arm and loses again.

GOMI: What did I tell you?

Skylar puts in another dollar and does another spin.

CHIG (Nodding across the aisle): What about some Blackjack, man?

DAVIS: I’m game.

Chig, Gomi and Davis sit down at the Blackjack table, each putting out $40-60 dollars. DEALER, an older Chinese man, looks them over.

DEALER: IDs?

Each shows their identifications and sit down. Chig and Davis place down $20 bets, Gomi $5.

DEALER: $20 minimum, sir.

GOMI: $20?

DEALER: That is correct, sir.

Gomi puts out the $20. Dealer deal cards and beats all hands with a 20. Each place another $20 bet.

DEALER: Bets are in?

GOMI (Citing Grateful Dead’s Loser): I know a little something you will never know.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Dealer deals cards. Chig gets a 17, Davis gets an 18 and Gomi two Kings for 20.

GOMI: (Citing Loser): Last fair deal in the country.

Dealer reveals his own Blackjack.

GOMI: If I had a gun for every ace he’s drawn!

WAITRESS: Cocktails?

CHIG: Scotch, rocks.

GOMI: Make it two.

DAVIS (Laying out another $20 bill): Budweiser, thanks.

Dealer exchanges the money for a green chip, which Davis places on a bet. Dealer deals Chig a Blackjack.

DAVIS: Nice job, man!

Chig stacks his winnings, $30, on top of his original bet.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt another winning hand – a 19 – while Dealer goes bust. A group of people – some of them Deadheads – stop to watch. Davis places his money, now $100, on the next hand.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt a 17, facing Dealer’s King.

CHIG: Hit me.

DAVIS: No, man. You’ve got a 17.

CHIG: He’s a got a 20. (To Dealer) Am I right?

CHIG is dealt a 3, giving him 20. People in the crowd mutter exclamations, “Sweet!”, etc.

GOMI (High-fiving a Deadhead behind him): Nice hit!

CHIG (After a moment): Stay.

Dealer reveals an 18. Chig takes the money, hesitates before placing it all on his next bet.

DAVIS: All of it? No.

DEADHEAD IN CROWD: All of it, man!

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt another Blackjack.

DAVIS: Blackjack! Holy shit!

DEALER: Sir. Language.

CHIG (Citing Loser, like Gomi): Last fair deal in the country!

Chig stacks the $500 in chips and pushes it all back out.

GOMI: Last fair deal in the town.

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig is dealt a 16, facing Dealer’s 4.

CHIG: Stand.

Dealer flips his 4 to reveal a 7.

DAVIS: 11? Holy shit. No!

DEALER: Sir.

CHIG (Citing Loser again): Just a cup of cold coffee.

The crowd begins to break up just as Dealer places another 4 down, giving him 15.

GOMI: Gonna get up in the morning…

Dealer places a King down, busting.

CHIG: Bust!

The people return to watch, others joining.

CHIG (Giving him a hard high-five): Last fair deal in the country!

SKYLAR (Arriving): Spit and curses. You’re winning!

CHIG stacks his chips, the crowd of people leaning in anxiously.

DEALER: Color up, sir?

GOMI (Citing Grateful Dead’s Deal): Before you let his deal go down?

SKYLAR: You’re winning. Cool.

Waitress returns with the drinks. Chig gives her a $10 chip and pushes the rest back out as a bet.

GOMI: Like Lyle and his crazy mad weed, man.

DEADHEAD IN CROWD (Citing Loser): Come to daddy on an inside straight!

DEALER: Bets are in.

Chig drinks off half of his beer and looks down to see a pair of Aces.

GOMI: Can’t split those. (Pause) No money.

CHIG: You can look the wide world over…

Chig taps the table, indicating he would like a hit, and gets a Queen of Diamonds.

CHIG (Citing Loser again): I can tell the Queen of Diamonds–

Davis taps the table again and gets a Nine of Diamonds.

GOMI, CHIG, DAVIS (together): By the way she shines!

They watch as Dealer gets an 18.

CHIG (Pushing in chips): Color up.

DEALER: Yes, sir.

SKYLAR (Spinning around): Let’s go swimming!

Travel Thursday: Gordon Gibson’s “Bull of the Woods”

Gordon Gibson was a pioneer of large-scale logging in British Columbia and writes of his life with bravado and wit. This extract relates days of old, when tipping was a sign of manhood.

One day I telephoned Louise from Powell River. I told her that I could have three days in San Francisco and asked her to go out with me. When she agreed, I chartered a plane and flew to Vancouver, then caught the flight south.

I met an interesting character on the plane. He asked me to give him two tens for a twenty-dollar bill and then offered one of the tens to the air hostess as a tip. When she turned it down, he put it in the envelope and left it on the seat ahead.

By chance we took the same bus from the air airport to the St. Francis Hotel. After we haad registered he asked me to join him in the bar. When I excused myself to phone to Louise, he suggested thaat she get a friend and thaat all of us join him for the evening. I thought he was a little forward but he seemed like a nice enough fellow.

It turned out to be a very embarrassing evening for me because we went to the very first nightclub that I had ever been in. It was private club having a fancy brass elevator. I saw him give the elevator operator a ten-dollar bill. I began to feel uneasy.

We went to the bar and he ordered a special bottle of champagne. I threw a ten-dollar bill out to pay for the next one. I thought that was big money. he insisted that we were his guests and told me to give the money to the bartender as a tip. I said, “I’ll take the goddamned money back. If you’re going to do the paying, you can damned well do the tipping too.” Later in the men’s room, I demanded, “Have you counterfeit money? How in the hell did you get so much?”

“That’s none of your damn business, Gibson,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of money left to me by my dad and I’m going down to Santa Anita to run my racehorses. I imposed on you by inviting myself for the evening, so Ii would like to pay the bill.” That was the first and last time I was ever impressed by a big spender.

Louise thought that I was a cheapskate because I let another man pay for all of the drinks and then took back my tip. She told me that evening almost ruined our relationship.

So here is thinking about this

Things seem to be intact. Buildings stand. The sky Holds up too. It is just us. We are here doing what we do, as we always did. We are here in this warped world that we created. And we are in it. It is our creation. We co-habitat.

We do it because we are supposed to, because that is what we do. More importantly, what we are. I remember you. You remember me. Or do you? Ah, that is the thing.

Remember when we did that, remembered one another? You remember that? That is my doubt. Because you don’t. Remember when we did that?

No, that is just an image. It was something other than that.

Kinetic Thinking

The irony of this blog is that I think best when I am moving. When I write this, I don’t. Move that is. And I think less. The point is my brain works best when my body is moving.

Working out in the gym has always been my constant – the elliptical and stationary bike – but driving works too. I could drive and think forever.

As long as I am moving. That’s the thing. Got to keep moving. Or else I’m dead. Like a shark or a sea turtle.

Young Chronicles IV: Moosonee to New Liskeard

June 8

8:45 am Waiting for the train from Toronto. We were one hour and five minutes late.

1:15 pm We have been on the train for four hours and 45 minutes. I have seen two moose and seven rabbit. And the trip isn’t that exciting.

3:30 pm We came to Moosonee on the train. We took a boat to Moose Factory, and it was raining hard. I got a headband at our hotel.

June 9

We had breakfast. Then we walked to the train station. It was raining really hard. We left Moosonee and are going to Cochrane.

2:20 pm We came to Cochrane and now we are going to New Liskeard. 8715 is the mileage now. I was drawing two pictures on the train.

Mileage 8855

Arrived in New Liskeard and we had a pajama party. And this is what we did. 1. Cooked marshmallows 2. Played horseshoes 3. Tried to skip rocks 4. We would launch a board in the water and then see how many times we could hit it 5. We had Kool Aid 6. We began to try to get the a grownup down 7. The grownups would try to get us down 8. We had super fights 9. We gave three cheers for Mr. Fleming because he thought of the trip 10. We played Hide and Go Seek, but in a different way. If you were caught by Mr. Fleming, you would have to go to bed. Soon I was caught and went to bed at 10:40. I went to sleep at 11:00

Top Ten Rocks

Like everyone, I’m always looking to make sense of my life through the things I’ve done and collected. I’ve sorted my concert tickets, taken on-line challenges and put virtual pins in virtual maps. But when it comes down it, everything is about rocks. I have been collecting them since hitchhiking across Canada in 1983, accumulating hundred in jars and spreading them on shelves. And so here they are, my top ten!

All together in a group shot for some perspective.