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  • I’ve been working on a book. Slow going at first. But, as most writers will attest, once the narrative ball gets rolling, even if it seems at times to be rolling uphill, the work becomes an oasis of sorts, a place to repair to in your mind.

    It’s a bit like having the ability to summon a dream, or a semi-obedient genie whose job it is to gather kindling to feed fantasy’s fire, or at least provide food for thought.

  • It’s 1820, the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Two sperm whales have been harpooned from the small boats launched from the whaler Essex out of Nantucket. A bull sperm whale does not like what’s going on. Enraged, it charges the Essex, ramming her bow twice. The ship fills with water, capsizes, and leaves her crew of 20 to head for the coast of South America a couple of thousand  miles away in three boats with nothing but a limited supply of hardtack and very little water. Half die en route, the others barely survive by cannibalizing their fellow whalemen.

  • We had the opportunity to head for the hills and early Sunday morning we took it: the South Ferry to a sleeping Shelter Island, then we stemmed the tide and a few car-size icebergs over to Greenport on the North Ferry where we bought scones and coffee for the ride to meet the 9 a.m. Cross Sound Ferry to New London, bound for Stowe, Vt.

  • The winter of 2015 refused to loosen its grip. As a result, cold-weather passions that have lain dormant in recent years returned with a vengeance in the Northeast.

    Ski resorts upstate and in New England have not seen so much snow in years. Iceboats have been dragged out of storage and onto Long Island lakes and ponds. One of the more intense winter passions is the otherworldly sport of ice fishing.

  • Consider ice: It can be a bulldozer that lifts a few thousand pounds of buoy off the bottom and carries it to new location a half mile away. It can be millions of tiny crystalline blades that scalp the terra firma from the face of a bluff. Ice can suck a piling from deep in a harbor’s clay as easily as pulling a toothpick from an olive in an ice-cold martini.

  • “Cabin fever” does not do justice to our frozen state of mind. True, the Arctic temperatures that have descended on us in recent days have kept us in looking out while the oil burner adds to our carbon footprint and subtracts from our bank accounts. But “fever” is not the right word. I think “numbness” or “ennui” comes closer.

  • On the grand playing field of human intercourse, nothing gives us as much satisfaction as seeing braggarts brought low, especially if they are the cause, having dashed rather than hoisted themselves on their own petards. It’s what fools are made of, and fools have always been great entertainment.

    Brian Williams, the NBC network news anchor, made one of himself with his “Nightly News” story about having been riding on a Chinook helicopter in Iraq when a rocket-propelled grenade shot it down. 

  • Five a.m. on Tuesday. The house is surrounded and topped with snow and ice. It’s cold out and the wind sounds like it wants to come in as much as the cabin fever burning within me wants to go out.

    Both my parents were outdoor people, especially my dad. If weather or some kind of obligation kept him inside for too long he got downright ornery, a trait he passed down to me. We walked the beach every weekend whatever the weather. Both parents skied and taught me at an early age.

  • “Go take a long walk off a short pier.” Not sure why the dismissive phrase came to mind. The pier at San Clemente was not short by a long shot, 200 yards or more. I think it’s because in our minds, piers are a staple, a construct that everyone understands.

    “Why do they build them? Just to fish from? Are they for people without boats?” Kyle asked. Good question, and the answer is pretty much, yes, but more. The Pier, as societal microcosm, parade, and oceangoing adventure for pedestrians, has been perfected in California.

  • It’s Sunday morning. We have just lifted off in the rain from J.F.K. bound for San Diego, where the plan is to rent a car for the short drive north to San Clemente, home of the Surfing Heritage Foundation. The foundation archives surfing history and works to protect access to surf spots around the world.

    I’ll be meeting with the foundation’s executive director, a man of Hawaiian lineage, and a surfing god of sorts, a legend in his own time beginning in the 1960s in the waves of Waikiki.

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