The Life of Brian, Episode IV: The Pre-Sailboat Years

Author’s note to readers: If you’re not writing Comments, or at least reading the comments posted by others, you are missing-out on part of the action. In particular, I’d like to call your attention to this comment from my wonderful friend Mariann, who was on my fantastic (if I do say so myself) sea kayaking trip to Maine and Nova Scotia last year:

With Mariann at Acadia

Mariann between me and my wife Jennifer on Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park

One of my favorite Tedx videos is … I want to share it with you…the imagery is beautiful; the message, inspirational…Maybe you can find time to view it.

It’s a 10-minute Ted Talk. View it when you have time to relax and enjoy it!

Click here to see Mariann’s Flickr album from that trip. Click here to see the photo presentation that Jen and I made to the Hoosier Canoe & Kayak Club last fall.

It time to tack: The only things I know about sailing are what I learned from my son, who is self-taught. In sailing terms, my niece chastised me today for getting way off course on the Natalie thing. Well, I’m a single-tasker, and she’s right. So, HOLD ON TIGHT: I’m spinning the wheel! DUCK! The boom just zipped over our heads, headed for the other side of the boat! Brian has cleated the line, and is trimming the sail! Now he’s adjusting the jib. We’ve “come about” and are heading for Brianville! Note: There’s plenty more to say about my Mom and Dad, but that’s going to have to wait.

About Brian: It’s no accident that the title of this post is from a Monty Python movie (a parody of the life of Christ)! Brian loved all that Monty Python stuff, and so did I!

Here’s the prime difference between Natalie and Brian:

Natalie played-along with with society’s expectations of what she should do (at least during the day): Go to college, get her degree, work a boring job that paid fairly-well and had good benefits. It took her 14 years to realize it was killing her before she took her job and shoved it.

Brian, on the other hand, knew himself better. He waited-out one semester, and then gave it a half-hearted try for one semester at Southern Illinois University (home of the mighty Salukis). That was plenty! He had (almost) no further interest in “higher education”.

My memory isn’t what it once was, and much of this story may be a bit jumbled. But believe me, the things I’m about to tell you about my son are true, and I have plenty of tangible evidence to back me up. Here’s what I remember of his first 15 years after high school:

We gave him our old Dodge minivan as a high-school graduation gift. He tricked it out as his “purple pimpmobile” or some such thing, and after leaving SIU, headed out west. He spent a few months in a wonderful area near Boulder, Colorado, before heading to California.

He got an idea into his head: Why not get a work permit to work in New Zealand for a year? Indeed, why not? So he did! 

When he got to the South Island, he got an idea: He could take photos of tourists taking day cruises, jump into a speedboat, and develop and print the pictures by the time the boat returned! He could make a killing (this was just before digital cameras became affordable.) But….he needed a way-good camera. He told me he needed a medium-format camera that used film much larger than 35mm. I found one on eBay, won the bid for it, and had it shipped off to Queensland! Woo-hoo!

He decided to see some of the world on his way back. In New Guinea, he ran across some native folks butchering a whale they’d just caught. Packaging-up the blubber and such. Via sign language, he figured out what they were trying to tell him: “Hey, dude, we’re headed back out in our nifty dugout canoe (with side-rigger and sail) to get us another whale! You want to come along? You never forget it”! Brian knew where to draw the line, and politely said thanks, but no thanks.

In Bali, he suffered a potentially life-threatening gastroenteritis attack. We got a phone call. They needed us to buy him a plane ticket to Bangkok, the nearest place he could get proper treatment. Of course we did. He was hospitalized for several days. I believe he still suffers occasional latent symptoms.

Did he fly home then? No way! He had to see Cambodia and Vietnam first. He took some great pictures!

After that, Brian drifted up to Port Townsend, Washington. His Uncle Larry had been a cook on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska, and had even outfitted a galley one time. Brian had heard that good money could be made fishing in Alaska, and he’s always loved fishing. So, what the hey? He asked around and got picked-up as a deck-hand. He spent several seasons in Alaska, mostly safe “seining” in hatcheries close to shore. He worked the squid season near San Francisco at least twice. While back in Port Townsend, he learned to sail. He was saving-up for a sailboat of his own!

Author’s Notes, 6 a.m. the following morning: I’ve decided to take a cue from George Lukas and call this Episode IV. Hopefully, I’ll get back to episodes I-III faster than he did.  I also realize that I’ve not revealed what I think about Brian’s adult life, so here it is: There was nothing in Brian’s childhood that foreshadowed the astounding and remarkable adult life he was to lead! Brian has worked exceptionally hard to earn the adventurous life he has led. He has already led a more full and complete life than most people can conceive of (myself included). He has had glorious triumphs, and bitter, humiliating defeats. He has lost all his worldly possessions – twice! He has persevered in manly fashion, rising from the ashes (hint: His second boat was rechristened as Phoenix). In short, I have nothing but love and admiration for Brian’s conduct of his adult life. It’s a slow-motion movie, playing in real-time!

P.S.: A quick thank-you to Jen and Tony R., our near neighbors from all 16-1/2 years we have lived here in the BNE (Best Neighborhood Ever). Jen dropped a wonderful note in our mailbox yesterday. Jen is also a writer; she is finding inspiration in my blog. I am growing closer to many special people!

7 thoughts on “The Life of Brian, Episode IV: The Pre-Sailboat Years

  1. Very nice story. On a scale of “Brian” to “Natalie”, I am more like a “Natalie” but had flashes similar to Brian in my 20’s.

  2. Hi Doug,
    I was glad to see you in yoga class. Please come back. Next time more breathing and meditation and fewer standing poses.

    • My final treatment is this Friday! I’ll try to catch another of your classes sometime. It’s a shame no one told me about it. I’m glad you stopped by my “office”.

  3. brian is the coolest! i have a joke about him and i competing for the title of the biggest black sheep in the family and he always wins hands down however it seems like i’m just getting started, lol. i’m trying to remember the joke, it’s been so long since i told it though i did tell it at entertaining julia when brian was there. my brother wears a shark’s tooth necklace and loose knits, i used to walk around with my pet snake around my neck.

    george luCas, dad.

    i remember brian got sick vaguely but don’t remember gastroenteritis! he was not often in contact with me during those days.

    ps: PIMPMOBILE OF DESTINY LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL blaring frank zappa and smoking clove cigarettes when you weren’t looking!

    keep it up, dad!

  4. Glad you enjoyed the Tedx video on Gratitude.

    I love knowing your kids through your blog: Natalie, the dutiful daughter turned rebel, and Brian, the ‘methodical, easy going adventurer’ …you must be proud…

    Just returned from hiking in Southern Indiana: Clifty Falls and Versailles state parks…I was getting restless for the outdoors and my camper needed a road trip. Looks like you’ll be on a trip soon visiting Natalie in the Virgin Islands–I think I remembered that correctly–Keep us posted on your own adventures.

    Thank you for the title “wonderful friend”… there is a kind of cemented bonding that comes with experiencing adventures together; we sure had a big one in Nova Scotia and Acadia thanks to you, Captain Doug and First Mate, Jen.

    Looking forward to reading more about the Joses…

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