Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Luster’s Warren

bookstore Jacksonville FL
Chamblin bookstore in Jacksonville claims
they stock over a million books!
When it comes to reading, I’m just an old fashioned girl.  Sure, Kindle’s and laptop’s ability to store tons o books in a minuscule space is cool, and for cozy boats like ours, practical (Wayne’s stored over 8000 e-books!). 

Yet, I’d still rather curl up with dead tree shavings, given the choice.  Maybe it’s the visceral feel of a page, the satisfaction of turning them upon completion, a natural physical progression of an otherwise mental journey. 

Wandering Chamblin's interior like a hungry rat
in a maze of cheese walls.
I especially love pre-owned books … cheap, a little dog-eared, cryptically highlighted, with spidery notes penciled in, sparingly.  Like my cars, I’m more than willing to let someone else pay full price first.  I’ll forgo the new smell and stress over the first scratches and dings – or – in the cases of books, broken bindings and the sullying of clean, pristine pages. I’ll joyfully adopt discarded tomes and tiny paperbacks, faded, tattered and torn, then spread their joy to the next eager reader when I’m done.

To my minimalist husband’s chagrin (who, unlike me prefers reading electronic tomes), books, and hoarding paper in general, is one of my greatest weaknesses. Drop me off at a book exchange (click here for where I found them in the Caribbean) and I feel more excited than a hungry kid in a candy store with a fistful of change.  Even when I can’t check anything out, I’m similarly agog in libraries (click here to see some of the cooler ones encountered cruising)…. All those wonderful stories, and fabulous information made available to anyone there – for free!

While fascinating, as an earthquake-country baby,
this shelving architecture was kinda scary!
In Portland, it was easy to spend hours browsing in Powell’s (click here for their website), the largest independent new and used books store in the world.  Powell’s main store is a block large, and 5 stories high, with a tea/coffee shop and scattered tables and benches.  I appreciate the way Powell’s books are separated into library-like sections; new and used books commingled. It was common – and delightful -- to spend less for a near-new used hardback than for a brand-new paperback.      

When my Ortega Landing Marina neighbors spoke reverently about Chamblin (click here for Chamblin’s website), philosophically, a Southern cousin to Powell’s, but a few block away, I deliberately stayed away.  I was afraid to expose myself to such delicious and way-too-convenient temptation.  Truth be told I can be tough for a while, but eventually those mouldering pages sang their sweet siren song. Helplessly, I found myself lured inside….

Inside was … simply overwhelming!

Chamblin’s shelves are Jack-in-the-Beanstalk tall, Ichabod Crane skinny, overflowing with a crazy kaleidoscope of books… dusty beauties flaunting their faded, yellow pages.  Hallways look and feel more like tunnels, long and snaking, junctions and wider aisles periodically cluttered with a variety of jumbled boxes.  How Chamblin passed fire inspections is beyond me.   I’m grateful for that, though the concept of anyone or anything surviving a fire there is slim to none, maybe a bit less risky than, say, riding a motorcycle over 150 mph (yes, something I did as a passenger in my youth).

Wisely, my Chamblin forays are all conducted on a tight schedule.  Further, I armed myself with a very specific book-list-based focus, attempting to shield myself from randomly wandering amidst the land-o-good-n-plenty.  That, and asking directions of the amazingly well-geographically acquainted staff kept me from getting lost, Alice in Wonderland-like down a rabbit hole.

Thus, in my three trips to Chamblin, miraculously, I’ve managed to keep my sum total of purchases to less than a dozen books…. an appropriately eclectic mix of historical fiction, some classic sea-science books, psych - self help, a Jacksonville magazine, and Wheat Belly.  Good stuff.

For my Portland-area bookie friends, how does Chamblin compare to our beloved Powell’s?

Chamblin's aisles just keep going and going and going....
Powell’s offers far better prices on its secondhand books, and what I consider a reasonable returns policy.  There, if you buy a book and determine it’s a mistake, when you return with your receipt, Powell’s refunds you.  But when I came back to Chamblin within a day or so of purchase, with receipt, the Chamblin cashier said, “Too bad you made a bad choice.  We can buy it back from you.”  They did, at about 1/5th the price paid, or something equally stingy.  No more quick purchases at Chamblin, based on recommendations! 

Bottom line:  Chamblin isn’t Powell’s, but it’s still a local treasure.  It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the ‘hood, especially if vintage books are your thing (basic cheap and decent classics work for me, but I’m not a “collector”).  I will make at least one trip back to Chamblin before we set sail.  There’s only one Powell’s, but any halfway decent indie bookstore is well worth supporting.  Chamblin is certainly worthy of my support, even if I don’t get a full bang for my buck and most likely will put my used books in exchanges rather than selling them at Chamblin.

Do you have a favorite bookstore?  Where is it and what makes it your favorite?

If all things are equal, do you prefer e-books or paper?

Do tell!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Amusing Marine Product Names: Part 1 Martyr Anode

wicked with of the west, melting 
Scene from "The Wizard of Oz:  Dorothy throws water on
the Wicked Witch of the West (click here for video)
As a former brand manager, noticing product names is an ingrained occupational hazard.  Sometimes, it’s also good for a laugh.

Thus, this is the first of a brief three-part series of product names at West Marine that tickled my funnybone.  Never fear; while the names are somewhat of an inside joke, there’s just enough of a mini-lesson to make sure you get it.

Remember the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, cry “I’m melting, melting!” Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness! Ohhh! Look out! Look out! I'm going! Ohhhh – Ohhhhhhhhhh!

Replace the words ”melting” with “dissolving”” and “good little girl like you” with “seawater” and you’ll get a very real sense of what happens to metal boat parts in seawater.  In fact, some pundits muse her melting is a chemical reaction (click here for their theories), and that’s exactly what corrodes metal boat parts into oblivion, albeit a little less quickly.

Now if the Wicked Witch of the West deflected that water with an umbrella, or a sponge, Dorothy might still be her domestic slave.

sacrificial anode from martyr
Martyr brand sacrificial anode at West Marine.
Click here to view the short clip on Martyr anodes.
Savvy boat owners rely on a similar defense, something called a “sacrificial anode,” which takes the hit instead of the boat part.  Don Casey, well-respected author of the Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual offers a great explanation of what sacrificial anodes (also known as “zincs”) are, how they work and when to replace them on this Boat US magazine article (click here to read Casey’s article about zinc sacrificial anodes).

Now “sacrificial anodes” are called that because as they act as the savior to the boat parts they’re protecting, as a result they get destroyed in their place.

Brilliant (in a twisted kind of way)! 

Promise:  the next part in the series will require far less explanation.

Question:  What's the most amusing name you've seen for a marine product?

Thursday, October 17, 2013


aligator hunting
Alligator in boat next to my car at Lochloosa Park.
“Gators” (pronounced “GAY-turs”, rhyming with “TAT-turs”).

That’s the one-word answer I got when I asked “Whatcha gonna use that rope for?” – a standard question “my” rope-buying West Marine customers.

Not the answer I expected!  

Never mind that a month earlier I missed out on a decent shot of the gator on the slip across from ours.  Never mind that we’re less than an hour’s drive from St. Augustine’s Alligator FarmNever mind that Florida is the second-most gator-populated state, with over a million alligators (Louisiana wins that dubious first prize honor), though based on the ubiquity logos there are surely more (University of Florida) Gator Fans here (grist for another gator post -- or two).  In any case, apparently there are enough of these aquatic reptilian behemoths,  state-approved management and control programs – aka – gator hunting in Florida (click here for program details) are allowed, despite federal protection for alligators.
aligator hunting
Gator hunting booklet from Florida Fish & Wildlife
(click here link to .pdf)

Meanwhile, the scintillating dialog continued with this tall, trim, laconic fellow….
Me:  “You hunt gators?”
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words:  “Yup.”
Me:  How long have you been doing it?
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words: “Four years.”
Me: “You catch any?”
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words: “Yup.”
Me: “I’d love to learn more about it!”
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words: [silence]

It occurs to me….  Does he suspect me of flirting?  I’m definitely not; near mono-syllabic guys a couple decades younger than me are just not on my radar.

Fast-forward to last weekend’s oh-dark-hundred drive, laterally bisecting the state.  Pulling into Lochloosa Park just off SE Hwy. 301 Hawthorne, Florida for a brief break, a pair of boaters is readying their trailered boat for their ride home.  It’s a busy spot, boats queueing in and out, launching and leaving.

“Wanna see what we caught?” offers the fellow closest to my car.  “Sure,” I reply, mostly happy to delay the drive a little longer, expecting maybe a stringer of reds and trout, or something along those lines. 

He reaches his hand into the inside of the boat and yanks up a big, fat alligator head.  Its mouth is bound with black tape.  Its many, pointy teeth, very visible. Its double chin, bulging.  There’s about a 2 ½” hole on the top of its head.

“He’s dead… now,” my parking lot neighbor assures me.  “We shot him in the head first, then stabbed him. He’s about 8 feet long,” he adds, when prompted.  I’m guessing his estimate is on the conservative side.  Not sure how much I was rattled or just too tired; I blow my photos of him mugging for the camera.

“I’m a doctor,” he informs me, for no particularly apparent reason.  “Gotta go; don’t want to be rude and hold up the other boaters,” he concludes, heading off into the sunrise.

florida gator logo
Ubiquitous Gator logo on lawn signs at Lowes.
Two days ago at West Marine, a soap-opera-cute, well-built, tanned, blue-eyed, blond in mint green hospital scrubs saunters up to the register, flashing his best pearly white smile.  “I need some really strong, thin rope.  Is that something you carry?”  Yes, I tell him, directing him to our expansive bulk rope wall.  He returns with two 40 foot bundles of high tensile, ¼ inch rope.  I ask him what it’s for.  “Gators,” he tells me, again smiling broadly, his chest puffed out a little.  This time I’m the one wondering if he’s flirting with me.  I do not pursue my end of the conversation past, “Have you caught any?” “Two, the limit for the season,” he replies.

They may be a lot less than perfect, but I got my gator pictures and decide to quit while I’m ahead.

Why is is doctors instead of dentists drawn to these toothy reptiles?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Kitties & Varnishing Don’t Mix

Isn’t Kai cute?
“Now you’re going to find out how crazy we really are!” Don claimed.  If he was “crazy” for wanting a cat-sitter, well, I was too.  I stopped kenneling my pets since the family collie died in one over our family vacation; I was 6 years old at the time (more than a few decades ago).

Like Don and his wife MaryAnn I didn’t want a pet-sitter to just pop in for feedings (and in the case of dogs, walkies, in the case of kitties, litterbox cleanings).  I wanted them make my home, theirs, and hang out with my beloved fuzzy babies.

live aboard cat
“Kai is allowed everywhere on the boat,”
Don and MaryAnn said.  Yup.
And yet, I considered pet sitting a boondoogle -- 2 weeks R&R on a nicely appointed boat twice the size of ours, with an adorable Bengal kitty (click here to learn more about Bengals), Kai.  I was a drop-in cat sitter for Kai once before, for 4 days, and enjoyed it thoroughly.  It was a beautiful bonding experience. Kai is a very special little guy, as affectionate and playful as he is handsome. He even has his own special wheel for keeping him fit; something Bengals appreciate.

Plus, of late, living on our smallish boat had become particularly challenging.  As fellow Pearson friend, Allen Willis of Incommunicado quipped, “There’s 2 rooms on a Pearson – inside, and outside.” My husband works a graveyard shift, 11 pm - 7 am, thus wanted to sleep in utter, motionless, odorless silence throughout my waking hours.  His waking hours were my sleeping hours. The situation was untenable.

Everywhere naturally includes the now-varnished settee table.
Over several hours, two nights before they left, MaryAnn and Don spelled out Kai s routine, and the boat basics (don’t use the aft head, manual river water flush, use the head for #1 only, no toilet paper in the bowl.”)  No biggie.  It was a far shorter walk that I’d already taken regularly from my boat to the marina’s bathroom for #2.  This is why cruisers use other cruisers for pet-sitting!

“By the way,” Don and MaryAnn all-too-casually mentioned, “”You don’t mind if the settee table gets varnished by Jerry while you’re gone, do you?  He’s using low VOC [not too bad for you or stinky] products.”  "Sure," I responded, "no problem."

bengal kitty
When Kai drank from here,
'twas a sure sign he was feeling better.
It was after Don and MaryAnn flew off, that Jerry pointed out the hiccup in those plans.  “What do you want to do with Kai? ” he asked, pointing out, "Cats and wet varnish don’t mix."  Jerry was using Minwax polyurethane fast dry varnish; it would take about 4 hours for the varnish to dry.  It would take 2-3 coats, requiring dry time between each coat.

Don, MaryAnn and I conferred over the phone.  The decision was to lock Kai in the v-berth before Jerry brushed on the varnish.  The v-berth was an area Kai liked to hang out in.  His litter box was already there, it was just a simple matter of also bringing in his food and water, not too close to his litter box, then close the door with him inside.  And keep him there until the varnish dried.

cat treats
Prior to their departure, Kai never tore into his treats bag.
He is now a master at it.
Somehow, I managed it, though it became progressively more challenging to close Kai up each time.  Fortunately for me, his love of treats trumped his caution just enough to pull it off.

Jerry, whose cats manage him in their household  (truly, no one “owns” cats!), colorfully recalls Kai’s loudly projected behind-the-door commentary …. “First he pleaded.  Then he begged.  Then he apologized politely inquiring, ‘I’m so sorry,  Please tell me….  What did I do to deserve this?’  Then he raged, with threats and insults, demanding, ‘Do you know who I am? You just wait ‘til I get out, and then we’ll see what happens!’”

cat on a hamster wheel
Kai tooled along on his wheel, far from his usual
lightening speed, yet still clearly in the path
to a quick recovery.
To my surprise, Kai was  surprisingly forgiving, happy for some kitty massage, cooing and play afterward. 

However, he acted out his kitty PTSD secretively.  I knew something was up when he was barfing…. A lot.  First I figured what went down must come up, and nature would take its course.  When Kai got up in the morning and deviated from his daily wake up eating and drinking routine, I got him into the vet, ASAP! 

cat swallowed toy
The squarish white thingy  on the left is one "foreign object;"  in
Kai's intestine, working its way out, the one on the more circular
one on his right is lodged in his stomach, not necessarily working
its way out.  The dark mass to the left of Kais spinal chord
is simply gas / antacid from an upset stomach.
They took an x-ray, and found 2 foreign objects inside Kai.  Since it was a Friday they suggested I watch him for 24 hours and decide to take him to the Pet Emergency Hospital if needed, or, to take him there … now, for surgery. 

With MaryAnn’s blessing, I whisked Kai off for surgery.  They removed both pieces, determining they were the plastic-rubber nub. He’d chewed it in two, then swallowed it.  There were many of these readily available aboard, holding his favorite kitty toy feathers together. They are now locked up.

Kai was discharged with pain meds and antibiotics, each to be administered as needle-less mouth shots, twice daily.  He got his kitty collar off 3 times in the first 1 1/2 hours.  "MaryAnn, your cat is too damned smart!" I complained over the phone.  "I don't like the way this conversation is starting," she replied, waiting to find out what Kai pulled off this time.

As luck would have it, Don and MaryAnn’s neighbor, Nathan, is an ER nurse.  He offered to help, an offer I enthusiastically accepted.  I am way too clumsy to successfully force-feed meds to unwilling felines.  Nathan and I trussed up Kai, who very protestingly choked his meds down.

Kai’s exuberant health quickly re-established itself, to Don’s and MaryAnn’s and my relief.  Maybe someday he’s show his Frankenkitty scars off to impress the ladies…..

Jerry asked, “So next time when Don and MaryAnn ask if you’d be willing to take care of Kai  of course you’re going tell them ‘What, are you crazy?’”

“Nope,” I replied, honestly.  “Despite it all, the little guy still loves me, and it was far more traumatic for ‘frankenkitty’ than me.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Of course, not so sure Don and MaryAnn will ever vacation without their baby again. Or, if they do, whether they’d want me to watch him!

Cat sitting, much like cat herding (click here if you’ve never seen that infamous video) is not for sissies!
ortega landing marina
Last sunrise before checkout; will miss Kai and his view.