Raindrops

By Erik Dolson

There are days when you just don’t want to go anywhere.

The dark blue Sunbrella “canvas” stretches over stainless steel bows to form the roof of the pilot house. When installing, we pulled it tight. A steady downpour this morning drums on the canvas with many a different cadence.

If I calm my mind, there’s a higher, softer sound as rain directly falls to the surface with a “tap.” Then, there’s a slower, heavier “twop” as larger drops drip off the sail or the backstay where they’ve sat for a moment, joined with others and gained more volume. The different drops seem to fall to the surface in clusters, or waves.

The Coho ferry bellows its arrival. Of course, the sounds that arrive at my eardrum are waves, as well.

There are errands to do. I’ve got raincoats and hats, warm socks and fleece, and could bundle up and stay dry. But the idea of venturing out of my blue house to avoid puddles and traffic, then wait for a bus to take me to the chandlery a few miles away where there are probably crowds of sailors and fishermen and boaters of all types on a Saturday …

“Twop. Tap tap tap … twop. Tap tap tap, twop. Tap tap twop, tap tap twop.”

It’s not random, the beat of the rain on the drum of my roof, transferred to the skein of my awareness. There is a pattern. But I know, too, that the brain is a pattern perception / creation machine, and will create patterns always, even where none exist.

We played with that in my 20’s, after making a diffusing glass light box with blinking Christmas lights to watch as we played Rock and Roll. Yes, drugs were involved, along with waves of laughter that followed the seemingly synchronized play of light and music. I’ve observed how light changes, within and without, at different times of the year; suffered from patterns of my own creation when rebuffed, brimmed with joy when embraced with no explanation.

My desire to run to the chandlery instead of working on the novel is part of a pattern. I run often enough to do something else rather than sit and do what I should. There are probably waves in that, as well.

“Tap tap twop, tap tap twop.”

Decades ago I worked in a salmon cannery in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I was “gas man” my first season, up whenever the incoming tide floated bow pickers and stern pickers, then wooden fishing boats that set long gill nets to drift across the Nak Nek River outflow to capture the river of salmon heading upstream to spawn, waves in a river of fish.

Another season I was tasked with cooking fish heads to make the oil that soaked the red meat of sockeye salmon in “one pound talls,” cans about four regular tuna cans tall that were sealed, stacked in racks and pushed along rollers into long retorts where they were cooked with steam. At the other end the racks of cans were pulled and taken by forklift into a giant warehouse where they cooled before labeling and boxing.

As thousands and thousands of cans cooled, the tops of cans that had popped outwards from the expansion of water into steam during the cooking, now popped back in. With a metallic but musical note. “Tink, tonk, tenk, tunk, tank, tink.”

Thousands and thousands of cans unheard except by a worker standing in a doorway watching rain pound the Nak Nek river as it poured into the sea, as salmon poured upstream under a different law of gravity, to spawn; a symphony of cans directed by air currents cooling one batch over against one wall, while a batch in another section sang together because they’d been removed from the cookers at about the same time, and near the entrance other batches with micro differences in the amount of meat or oil or water in each caused the timing of their contraction to be in sync with others of different composition.

“Tink, tonk, tenk, tunk, tank, tink.”

“Twop. Tap tap tap … twop. Tap tap tap, twop. Tap tap twop, tap tap twop.”

One of the things Jim most loved about living on a boat was that he “owned his time.” In a month or so, I will take the rest of his ashes to set adrift in a paper boat on Blind Bay, one of his favorites.

We are raindrops. Nothing more. During our vanishingly small moment in time, we sing a single note in an infinite symphony of causation, far more vast  and complex than we can ever comprehend.

This is a day to put off errands, to stay close, to listen.

Choices

by Erik Dolson

“You have to make a choice,” I told my daughter again, acutely aware of how many times I’d told her already, as if by sheer repetition the message might overwhelm whatever fear or reluctance that was holding her back.

“You need to have a plan,” I said. Again. She didn’t need another college degree, she needed a job. To jump into the river and become part of life’s flow toward whatever her future held.

“More school by itself is not a plan.” She’d heard that before, but thankfully did not roll her eyes. She’s such a good person, and so capable, I did not doubt that future would be bright. I just needed to convince her.

“I’ll help in any way that I can, but I won’t help you stay stuck in Central Oregon. I wouldn’t be doing my job,” I said, not for the first time. We’d just moved her sister to a house in Portland, she and her mother and her sister and I. From there I headed north toward the boat, with a stop in Port Townsend, always one of my favorite towns.

It was cold and windy, though, and walking about was hard in the chill off the water. After an expensive night’s sleep on the top floor of a Victorian era hotel where I slept in a room named after Miss Pearl, a prostitute who lived and loved a hundred years ago, I drove on to Anacortes and took a ferry to Friday Harbor where I’d left Foxy almost two weeks before.

When I woke on the boat on Sunday, the day was surprisingly benign. I checked the weather online, listened to the NOAA broadcast and made a quick decision to head down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria that morning, instead of waiting out the next storm due on Monday, which had been my plan.

The boat came together easily, so I cast off at about 10 am for a calm three and a half motor/sail to Victoria.  Foxy and I were well on the way out of Friday Harbor on the ebb tide, doing almost 10 knots down San Juan Channel to the turn at Cattle Point into the strait.

It was a bright and lovely day, little to do but look out for logs and watch for orca. I took a “project inventory” of what had been done on Foxy over the winter, and what remains to be done. It had been a productive, if expensive, winter.

There’s a new house on the boat. It improves life even more than I thought it would, providing another living area that is dry and bright, important up here in the Pacific Northwest. In southern waters, should I ever get there, the walls will come off and it will provide plenty of shade.

I’d just had a new fuel filter system installed in Anacortes. One wouldn’t think much technology goes into a fuel filter, a can of pleated paper, but new designs make changing them easier, with much less mess in the bilge and potentially in the environment.

I had the engine flushed at the same time; the silicate had dropped out of the coolant and collected in the bottom of the catch bottle. I realized it had been a few years and the previous job was only a partial flush because it’s hard to get a diesel engine up to operating temperature on the dock, heat necessary for the flush to do a full job..

I’d built the framework where the solar panels now hang, 1,080 watts of power to charge the batteries, and now the panels are properly wired. There’s a new wireless radar on the mast that works just as advertised, and the old one that shaded the solar panels has been sold, albeit for a pittance. The dinghy motor runs after the winter lay-up. Love them two-strokes.

The automated identification system (AIS) is installed and operational. I knew I needed one when, coming south from Alaska two summers ago, Irish and I hit that storm off the coast and a trawler suddenly appeared that I couldn’t identify and did not know if it was dragging long lines across my course.

Now I post my AIS location on Facebook when I take off from someplace, not so much because I think anyone cares that I’m out and about as to give authorities a place to start looking if I don’t show up. That’s assuming someone would be expecting me. I may need to work on that system.

There’s a new and yet another battery monitor that works with the solar panels and also gives me more information about, and maybe some control over, my batteries.

I wish I was a better electrician, but I’ve changed out the fluorescent lights in the galley and head (bathroom) for more pleasant LEDs that sip far less electricity; added a light to the pantry so my old eyes can see the difference between oats and brown rice, each in a container with a green lid, and avoid unpleasant surpises before coffee in the morning, and I added another light to the engine room so I don’t have to juggle a flashlight with my teeth to check the oil and water.

I own one LED not yet installed for the master stateroom and three more for corners in the engine room. I need two more after that, one for the closet where the life jackets hang and another for the aft stateroom. That should be good enough. We’ll see. It’s a boat.

Still not done is replacement of the propane system. That’s the last of this winter’s major projects. The hose that runs from  tanks in the stern locker is 30 years old and cloth covered, and the plumbing of that, like most of the other plumbing on the boat that I’ve removed, redesigned and reinstalled, was not done very well.

I have to change the position of the solenoid that, with a switch in the cabin, cuts off the gas. While I’m at it, I should probably swap out the old pressure regulator and old pressure gauge.

It took a week to get hold of the man I’d hope would do this work, but he’s has to fix an expensive boat that hit a log crosswise at 25 knots, damaging a whole lot below the waterline. So I’ll probably do this one myself. It may be propane, but it’s just plumbing, right?

I dropped the old lifelines off at my chandlery to be remade, tough new stainless lines around the deck to replace old vinyl covered ones that had at least a few cracks where corrosion was seeping through the covering. Lifelines are not something you want to fail when you put your weight against them, intntionally or because you lost your footing.

Oh, as soon as the weather warms a bit and I can sit comfortably on the foredeck, I have to polish the cones on the anchor windlass so the anchor falls to the bottom at a controllable rate. And install my wireless windlass control, so I can put the anchor down under power or pull it back up while I’m at the helm in back, with steering and throttle controls. That’s a consideration when single-handing a boat out in the bays and anchorages.

This is all part of the plan: Prepare the boat for this summer, and maybe next winter, too. After March surprised Central Oregon with 30 inches of snow in three days, I do NOT want to spend another winter there. No. Just no.  Maybe Mexico.

When I pulled into Victoria, docking was bit tricky. The wind pushed me away from the dock, and when neighbors came to help, I gave very poor instructions. It’s different looking down at the lines than standing on the dock looking at the boat, and I communicated poorly.

There was no damage, it was all good, but I hate being incompetent and had to give thanks and make some apologies for asking the impossible. This being Canada, apologies were gracefully accepted.  I still need to come up with a better plan, and maybe shorter lines, for docking in difficult conditions.

Afterwards, when I was sitting back with coffee, I checked in with Irish to make sure she was okay after traveling back from her dance contest in Indiana. She surprised me with news that she was getting another dog the next day, a puppy.

It was an arrow well placed. I hate it when significant news is kept from me, even when it doesn’t directly affect me. A little hangover from an unpredictable childhood, I suppose, but I had no right to question her decision, and Irish pointed this out. And that caused me to ask, what the hell, why is this an issue for me?

It took an hour or two. Her desire for a dog has been deep and long standing. Keeping her from getting a dog was a major guilt of mine last summer, when we were still together. She brought it up often, but a dog, and those responsibilities, weren’t part of the plan.

It wasn’t the tipping point in our breakup, certainly, my guilt not the dog, but it was a factor. It was something she wanted so badly, and she’d suffered so much. And I wanted a dog pretty badly myself, since I’d lost mine in the divorce, but I’d made a choice and had a boat, instead.

Her being able to get the dog she wanted should have brought me joy, but instead made me feel lonely, small and selfish, because it highlighted, or underlined, the fact that she’s not here in Victoria, and I haven’t had a dog in a good long time, either. Now that I write this, I think my childish reaction came from the realization that by acquiring this dog, she is finally ready to move on, as I have urged her to do often enough. Now I am proud of her, happy for her, but still miss her, too. I’m allowed my contradictions.

Decades ago, when I was chasing adventure around the world for a couple of years, I wrote my father that “Loneliness is the price of freedom.” Sometimes the choices are not easy, even the ones we put off as long as we can. We still choose. That’s what I’m trying to tell my daughter, we choose even when we don’t, even when we hide from the consequences.

It’s all good, I told myself after a day or two.  I’ll get the propane locker plumbed and the tank refilled, and I’ll fix the BBQ while I’m at it, install the new lifelines, and then I may just take off. That’s a decision I can make, after all.

There’s no reason to overstay in Victoria, as much as I love this place, when there are places I haven’t yet been. As I used to say, what seems like long ago, it’s time to Rock and Roll.

Fledging

by Erik Dolson

Two ducks have arrived at the pond. In years past I’ve chased them off, not wanting the mess they bring. This year I watch, wondering where they will choose to build their nest.

Tonight, my daughters and I may be having our last dinner together in this house I built 11 years ago in the middle of my divorce from their mother when they would have been about 12, maybe 13. Close enough.

They may not be feeling this as I do, and I’ve not decided if it’s fair that I share my sense of loss with them. For Kasturi, who is leaving on Friday for a new life in Portland, this is the start of her life as an adult. She never seemed as “attached” to people as her sister. I don’t doubt her love, but she’s more capable of letting go.

Sabitri is more sensitive. If the significance comes up tonight, she will shed tears. She’s the one who cried for many hours in my arms  when brought from the orphanage in the highlands of India 24 years ago. Her move will be around the beginning of June, destination as yet unknown.

But tonight, I’ll fight back tears as this moment I’ve aimed at for a long time, the fledging of my babies, arrives with a heavy load of sadness. It’s just one more tonight, I’ll tell them. You’ll be back, I’ll say. Words aimed at my own heart more than theirs. They will never be back to this house as children.

By coincidence, if there is such a thing, I’ve been talking to others recently about loss. Buddha, and Epictetus the  Greek, said suffering comes from attachment. Detachment is all well and good, and letting go in order to appreciate, but it’s sometimes hardest to let go of that which we wish not to hold.

Loss. I’d like to let go of this sense of loss. I want to see my daughters free and flying, but not have this sense of loss. I used to say that God was unfair to women, giving them maternal instinct without giving them an “off switch.” Fathers suffer, too, I find.

The ducks paddle around, seemingly content, but always moving, searching. I discovered ordinary ducks can fly under water, disappearing and popping up as far as ten feet away.

I’ve often wondered how the trauma of losing their mother five days after they were born, then the adoption and loss of their loving caregiver, and the trauma of riding down from the central highlands of India in a noisy car with huge white strangers, affected the twins.

They seem like happy, healthy adults, not too different than their peers. That they were living with their parents at age 25 is not that abnormal now, I’m told.

That neither has had a date that I know of is perhaps less normal. Did the tumult of the divorce, or that of my relationships following, cause dysfunction? Social exclusion during middle and high school? Or maybe they just don’t share everything with Dad.

K.C. has been living in her mother’s home, Sabitri in mine, for the last several months. I’d pushed to separate them, believing that their dynamic as twin sisters kept them from maturing into their separate “selves.” And they are very different.

They blossom, now. They seem to be facing life without huge fear, certainly without the damage many others have suffered. If they’re a little closed, even to each other, perhaps that’s health, not evidence of harm.

The ducks leave during the day. I don’t think there’s enough growth in the pond to feed them, let alone a brood. Spring grasses have not perked above the soil, and there’s not much cover or safety from coyotes.

After dinner tonight, K.C.will head back to her mom’s to keep preparing for Friday’s move. I told her last night she should pack up things from her bedroom here, as well. She told me she had planned to that today, since she was coming over for dinner anyway.

“Anyway.”

It’s obvious dinner tonight will be more significant for me than for her, and maybe for her sister. Their lives stretch out before them. I can easily see that at my age and given my adventures, this dinner could be our last. As they separate from each other and leave this home, I can easily believe it will be for the last time.

It will be, at least, the last time in this life as it is, as it was, as it has been.

And as much as it hurts, that’s how it must be.

First thing this mourning

By Erik Dolson

Who knows why it was today?  Because I wasn’t adequately sad, what with a firm, final goodbye from someone I loved but hurt badly enough they’d finally had enough? Because the sun was out? Because it was today, it just was?

This was always going to be one of the places where I’d leave some ashes. It was a crisp lovely day long ago when Leslee and Jim and I leaned up against the tall stone wall that retained heat from a sun that would not set.

We marveled how it just hung there barely moving as crowds flowed by and musicians played for change dropped into guitar cases, the sun perpetuating the afternoon like the singer held on to a refrain of a song we really liked.

On that day we were on the island looking at a boat I thought I might buy. I needed their opinion, we shared values and they had far more experience. After thoroughly going over the boat in a marina 45 minutes to the north, we came downtown to bask against the wall in this exquisite city, then find some Indian food.

I didn’t know on that afternoon, what, five years ago? Six? how little time was left. So much has happened since, and it’s hard to think that Jimmy died coming up on two years ago. Hell, I think I’ve been boating around the San Juan Islands for well over a year with the box Leslee sent with Jimmy in a baggie. Maybe that horrifies some, I think he’d smile, hell, he might have just given me those words.

The time wasn’t right, until today.

God, I miss him. Not like Leslee, of course, or his sons or his grandchildren. But he was my older brother, I trusted him to be him, and I loved him as if we’d spent our whole lives together and not just part of the last half, and even though I always knew he was smarter than me, more compassionate, had higher standards, had achieved more, showed higher honor.

It was hard at times knowing I wasn’t his best friend even though he was mine, that I may not have even been in his top five. He was that loved by those kinds of people. Of course he was. He had an impact, he was, it was frequently said, “larger than life.” Many wanted to bask in that glow.

He could tell stories that would make him laugh so hard he could barely speak, about things he’d done that most would want no one to know. Like the time he ate a bad taco or whatever from a street vendor in some South American or Central American town, then had to get on an airplane for a long flight back to the U.S. About how, when he got off the plane, men in hazmat suits came on board.

I helped him at times, I think, I hope, when he would worry about things. He didn’t know why he procrastinated when a legal brief was due, usually getting it done at the last minute. “Because your subconscious works on it the whole time, until you’re ready to transcribe the ‘story,’ ” I told him. That seemed to give him some relief from self recrimination.

He was a master at story. When writing a brief, he could put the facts into a story that was so persuasive, he had a reputation. He wrote simply but beautifully, better than me, and I was suposedly a “writer.” He’d clerked for one of the top legal minds in Oregon. He was qualified to present arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court. He wrote passages that were incorporated into U.S. law. He fended for the downtrodden, literally saved family farms, shook hands with Willie Nelson.

No, he wasn’t perfect but I loved him as much for his flaws as all that, for his occasional self-doubt, his deep need to know where Leslee was at all times and his dependence on her, his propensity to forget on occasion that he’d told a story before.

Like all of us, he had a warped mirror, at times. Others called him arrogant, not recognizing the difference between arrogance and brilliance and a willingness to express what he knew to be true.

Those attitudes didn’t bother me. I’ve been called arrogant as often as he was, and I have a whole lot less to show for it. It was confidence in some situations, managing not to show insecurities in others.

We’d hang out, sometimes talking deep shit because that was my personality refuge, until he tired of that then would change the subject or go do something else. In Panama once they’d broken the glass on a solar panel. I suggested we cover the shards with epoxy, and we filled the frame with a gelatinous goo that hardened into a glazing that worked well for a while. He thought that was pretty cool.

He loved his own kludges, too, like the time he rewired the automatic control of the water maker on their boat so it operated manually. That fix got them by for a long time, and took some ingenuity to figure out. I think he talked about that more than fighting off banks who wanted to take family farms in the 1980 recession that nobody remembers any more.

I think I’ll leave some ashes in Blind Bay, where he and Leslee watched me bring the boat he helped me buy and drop anchor for the first time, where he called my daughter the “crab whisperer” and made her proud that she could coax claw waving crabs to let go of the cage so they could be dropped back into the bay or into the pot for dinner.

Maybe I’ll make a small boat of folded paper with a candle for a sail and send some ashes off. Maybe I’ll send some down in a crab pot to lure the beasties in. I think he’d think that was fun.

This is the second time I’ve taken ashes to special places. The first time was for my other older brother from a separate mother, Jeff, another brilliant man but one so haunted by the demons we shared that … well, never mind. Some of his ashes were spread in a large Montana Lake, left there as the first snow of the season settled in and roads were about to be closed, so that Jeff could join creeks feeding Flathead Lake and eventually the Columbia River and out to the Pacific Ocean.

Which is where Jimmy’s ashes will wash, the next rain, off the huge stones that make up the wall where the sun sets only with reluctance. Off the bow of my boat, too, where I spread some so that Jimmy could continue to guide me, from a place ahead of the mast.

I’m getting old, but I often think of myself as Jimmy’s little brother. I refuse, as Clint Eastwood says, “to let the old man in.” The day will come when I can’t drive fast cars and sail this boat and maybe I’m already incapable of falling in love. I had to face that again, yesterday, when I read the word, “goodbye.”

Maybe today was the day I spread a bit of ashes because it was a way of not saying goodbye. I put ashes in a place important that I’d shared with him, with them, so that every day for however long I spend here, when I walk past that wall for whatever reason, I will be able to say, “Hi, Jimmy.”

Even if no one hears me.

Farther but faster, of course less travelled

by Erik Dolson

This evening I plotted two courses from Friday Harbor to Victoria, B.C. I’ll take the longer one tomorrow, the last day of 2018, and maybe get there sooner.

The route around the southern tip of San Juan Island is 26.2 miles. The route around the north end of the island is 30 miles. All things being equal, the southern route would be about a half hour faster.

But unless I’ve misread tide and current tables, I’d be going against the flow most of the way on the southern route.  If I head north, currents should give me a boost first toward Roche Harbor, and by the time I get to Haro Strait, they should carry me south. Go with the flow.

If that’s correct, the longer route should take about 3 hours 26 minutes from just outside Friday Harbor to just outside the breakwater at Victoria. The shorter route would take 3 hours 48 minutes, or so.

A quarter hour is meaningless, of course. It’s a sailboat. It motors along at about 8 knots under power, which actually isn’t bad for a sailboat. But I was born impatient, and my other hobby rips along at 160 miles an hour. There the competition is against other drivers, and there’s competition with myself, the scramble for tenths if not hundredths of a second, the roar, the thrust, hanging on to the edge of traction.

This is a different focus: repairing dorades so they don’t gulp water, placing mooring lines where they’ll be accessible when close to the dock, tying down solar panels so they don’t flap like wings in a bit of chop and wind; making sure the jib can be deployed if the engine fails, or the anchor if drifting close to shore. Look, think, be deliberate, step carefully. Prepare, execute.

Taking the longer but faster route is really more about the challenge of seeing if I’ve plotted the course correctly, read the current tables, done my homework. If not, I’ll pay the penalty of a slow slog. I’ve done slogs against the currents in Juan de Fuca, and it really stretches out the distance.

Plus, I’ve made the southern passage a number of times, never taken the northern route and would like to see something new. It might be a good idea to become familiar with a back-up transit, too, in case Juan de Fuca is particularly nasty some day when I need to be someplace.

But that’s just a rationalization. I’ve been doing that a lot, lately. Explaining myself to myself. Let’s just put the new passage down to a mild case of adventuring, of seeking the heightened senses of not knowing exactly what’s around the next bend.

Humor

By Erik Dolson

Humor is how we communicate our intelligence.

Humor depends on something being out of context, that does not fit into “its” pattern.

Only a Brain that knows the pattern can tell when something does not fit.

Explaining a joke is not funny. Explaining “why”  fits the something into another pattern. Those of similar brains who see similar patterns just “get it.”

Pieces out of context are not always funny. Chaos can be terrifying. Clowns.

Do animals laugh?

Of course, when someone does something out of context that they see as funny.

Will machines ever laugh?

Of course, but we’ll never know why it happens.

We won’t get the joke.

Machines explaining it to us won’t be very funny.

Patterns

By Erik Dolson

There are patterns in the Universe.

The Brain is a pattern-recognition organ.

Universe rewarded genes that produced Brain.

Because Universe has patterns, Universe has Brain. A universe with no patterns, no physics, no gravity, no stars, of Entropy and alone, could have no Brain. A universe without brains could have no patterns. If Brain, then patterns. If patterns, then Brain.

But our Universe has physics. Intelligence is inevitable.

We are not the apex. We are not the only brains.

Humanity occupies a point so small as to be nearly invisible, an instant of infinitesimal flicker in an expanse so eternal and infinite we can not fully comprehend.

Universe does not care. Others are rewarded.

Because there are patterns.

There will always be Brain. Intelligence is inevitable.

Writing versus Selling

It’s hard writing a book, but selling it? Damn near impossible. Self-promotion is not my strength, never has been. “I am what I do, like it or not, take it or leave it.”

Reflection of a fragile ego? Not an accusation often leveled at me. I’m certainly not alone with the characteristic: Last summer I wrote for a man who found it impossible to use the first person pronoun “I,” though he is remarkable and has lived an amazing story.

Publicists advise to give the new book away, which I’m reluctant to do. Indecent Exposure sells for $2.99 on Amazon, less than a cheap burger, less than a latté. Took a year to write. What am I saying that’s worth if I make it free? Publicists say I need to read comments by all the readers of all the books like mine, and take their keywords for my own. That feels vaguely false, though I know it’s just playing the game.

Read more…

What if Trump were on my side?

So. Trump was having affairs with porn stars just after his son Baron was born, and his wife was recovering from pregnancy. I smiled as I thought this might make the “moralists” or religious right who continue to support him squirm a little bit.

Then Holly shared that she’d asked herself if she could support Trump, despite his disgusting character, if he advocated for other policies she believed in. Read more…

The Third Inauguration

When I flew out of Portland International Airport before 2023, I usually stayed the night before at an airport hotel that provided free long-term parking and a shuttle to the terminal. It was a good deal and reduced stress.

But that was before Oregon had to pay for its share of the new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia. When the old bridge collapsed, the loss of commerce and reputation hurt the Portland / Vancouver area pretty badly. Truly Exalted said the federal government would help with 20 percent of the replacement cost, but only if Oregon and Washington came up with a “terrific” plan to pay the other 80 percent.

Washington added one percent to their sales tax. Oregon sold the airport to Koch Industries.

When I tried to reserve a room at one of the airport hotels just after Third Inauguration 2025, the Hotel Ivanka was booked for a Mary Kay convention promoting a perfume called “Melania.” Hotel Donald had tripled its rates except for corporate clients, who received a 70 percent discount. Hotel Eric was under extensive renovation after receiving a tax credit for coming out of bankruptcy.

So I was stuck with driving for five hours and long-term parking provided at Koch International for my old Taser, the first electric car I could afford. It’s not luxurious, but it’s real quick and I was able to hack the software so I can drive it myself some of the time, at least in rural areas where the Insurance Central Safety signal is still weak.

For the month I planned to be gone, the price for a space in “Blue Safe and Secure Parking” was more than my plane ticket, so I opted to take a shuttle from a space about two miles away in “Brown Open Park.” At least the shuttle waiting room was a Starbucks.

I bought a Coffee Mega and waited in line to buy a shuttle ticket. I had three choices. Actually, I had six. Each of the three shuttle companies had two levels of service, but it was like they had agreed on what they would offer. The fastest of each took about five minutes to the airport, but it cost $75V in Visa currency guaranteed against inflation. The slowest took more than an hour and cost $10V.

At&T’s shuttle kiosk was red, Verizon’s was white, and Comcast’s was blue. I couldn’t afford the faster service, so it really came down to whether I wanted to watch Disney, which Comcast broadcast to passengers through seat-back screen, Fox Real News on Verizon, or an abridged movie on the AT&T shuttle. It was a tough decision and took me a while.

“I don’t understand why we have to pay so much to get to the airport in a reasonable amount of time,” I muttered to the man waiting behind me wearing a red “We’re Still Great Again” hat left over from the Third Inaugeration.

“You have a choice,” he snarled. “Why don’t you make yours so I can make mine, commie libtard?”

“I’m not a communist. I was just wondering…”

“Shove it,” he said, pointing at my Lock Him Up t-shirt, and went over to the Comcast line.

“I heard your question and I have the answer,” said a very pretty young woman who looked like she was dressed for a beauty pageant in red, white and blue. She must have been employed by all three carriers.

“The prices are what they need to be so we can invest in infrastructure and keep shuttles running on smooth roads,” she said.

“Aren’t these public roads?”

“Well, yes, but we have an exclusive license to use them, and we own those licenses. We also have to paint lines on the road to separate the fast and the slow lanes.”

“So if you didn’t have to paint the lines, it wouldn’t cost so much? And why does the slow shuttle take so long?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” she said with a look of concern. “The slow shuttle needs to make up for its lower cost to you by carrying municipal passengers to their destinations all over town. It’s just the free market. You believe in the free market, don’t you?” The look of concern now furrowed the thin space between perfectly plucked and painted eyebrows.

“Okay, but why is the fast shuttle so expensive?”

“You just answered your own question!! It’s expensive so it can be fast! But the best thing is, you have a choice!” She laughed, flashed a brilliant smile, and gave me a coupon for free coffee sugar.

I finally bought a ride on AT&T Slow Red and got another coffee so I could use the free sugar coupon. I was looking for a place to sit when a man with an umbrella made eye contact and nodded at an empty chair at his table. When I sat, he moved the umbrella off of a ragged newspaper.

“Is that a newspaper? A real one?”

“Yeah,” he smiled. “From 2019.”

“May I look?”

“You know, that’s probably not such a good idea. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable these days. I like to keep it kind of out of sight.”

“You let me see it.”

“Yeah, but I heard your conversation with those two, and figured you were safe. It’s not illegal to own a newspaper, they just make people uneasy and that can lead to awkward situations. By the way, would you like to get to the airport a little sooner?”

“How?”

“I’ve got a ride out there in the parking lot. We can be there in fifteen minutes and it will only cost you $25V.”

“I already paid for the slow shuttle.”

“And you can wait for it, and maybe you won’t miss your plane. The slow shuttles aren’t very dependable, you know. Sometimes they just stop, and they’re never on time. The carriers says its because of congestion, but I think they slow shuttles down so they can sell more tickets on the fast lane.”

“I don’t know. Is it legal to go with you?”

“Mostly. If we get hit by Curbies, just say we’re friends and I’m dropping you off.”

“Curbies?”

“Guys looking for curb bounties. They get a cut of every fine. They’re real good at recognizing cars they’ve seen before, but the Jeep I got now is pretty new, at least to me. It should be okay for a while, then I’ll get it painted again.”

“Okay,” I said at last, and pulled out my credit card to give him $25V.

“Oh, dude, I can’t take those. It’s not like I’ve got a sign on my door.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” I said and pulled two worn $20 bills out of my wallet. “Got change?”

“Um, you know, those might not be worth $25V by the time we get you to the gate. You got any Bitcoin on you?”