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Boat Sunk, Dog Dead

When Olive was taken to the animal shelter in Ukiah thousands of people reached out to me. Every day I meet people who ask me about the dog. Folks that I do not really think of as readers of the AVA, but who may indeed read the fine little paper say hi. There are a surprising number of them. But the greatest number of people who now know Olive and me discovered us on Facebook, a media that I know very little about.

I try and write newspaper articles. I do not really do or understand Facebook. I know this is shamefully backward of me. When I write, my objective is to narrate. I want to tell what, in the honorable colloquial of newspapers, is referred to as an angle. I write for readers. I want a beginning, a middle, and an end. I try to the best of my ability to do a bang-up article but the mode of expression is archaic newspaper speak. I want to convey hard information uncovered for the reader by an investigative process. I want to make you mad or happy or outraged or something and do it succinctly. I don’t know Facebook from Chinese.

Because of the story of Olive's abduction, I have learned firsthand the power and reach and penetration of this new thing Facebook (well new to me). So many people have heard of Olive and me that way, so many wished us well, a number sent money. I got enough cash to bail her out and pay for the licensing of all my dogs and get a burger for us all. It was a huge generosity, and I like to think a kind of kiss off to Olive's abductors.

Grocery clerks and stackers, people on the street, have called me by my first name and asked about my dog. A car full of kids drove by me and yelled out the window in kidtalk something unintelligible but clearly supportive of Olive.

Three days after we got Olive home she started bleeding from her nose. It got worse. There was a lot of blood. Olive was what she has always been, a lady. Patient, kind, long suffering, and loyal. I held her and mopped up the blood with kleenex. I took her to the vet, of course, and gave her the lousy pills they tossed at us. She died in my arms four days later. I could not believe it. She was so immensely health when she left for Ukiah.

The same night that Olive died something hit the ship. I reckon it was a big floater. They were coming down the river in ranks, pretty heavy after the rain. I had the radio on low, and when I turned it off to go to bed I heard that terrible sound for a seaman of running water below the decks. I went down and the hull was half way full.

I did what you do. I ran like hell for the Coast Guard and screamed for help at their front gate until I woke some poor kid up and they came over and we all worked hard with their big pump. We worked all night and it became apparent that we could hold it with their pump, but we needed more than the smaller pumps I owned. It was a pretty good hit.

I worked for the dawn, planning and thinking and calculating the way you do. And worked out a plan to go to my friend Paul Katzeff, the smooth proprietor of Thanksgiving Coffee who owns my dock. I figured things might work out, if we could buy some more pumps, but when the day dawned and the world started up, it turned out that Paul was in San Francisco. And his gracious wife (I mean that) Joan would not make the loan. She offered me part of what I needed but I knew right then.

That was Monday morning. Now I am sitting beside the ship and marveling at how graceful and alive it seems as it slips away. I am watching it sink.

The San Juan was built in 1929, she is 81 feet of cedar and oak. Still strong, not rotten in the least. It has been too long since she had a botto job and she loos a little rough and has not that much value in industrial fishing, but everybody that was born here, knows the ship. Knew. In Fort Bragg they kill boats, even graceful wonderful ones, in methodical business-like ways as they improve their fishing fortunes. There is no real sympathy for my poetic bullshit. Shit.

I know this is a great deal of crying. I ought to suck it up and let it go. But I have lived for 15 years on the old boat. Ten of that with Olive. I have learned to be a writer, not a really good one, but a newspaper writer, a practical, easy kind of thing that I hope serves some real social and political purpose. I know I don’t write all that well. I just do my thing and because they are short and, I hope, punchy people read them. I learned how to do that living here on the ship. It is not nothing but it is not all that much. Still, damn, there are a lot of things I learned and read and thought here. A river can teach you things and that is true.

It was a lot of tragedy in a short span. And that is why I decided I would write it down. Tragedy happens. People get hit. Millions of us. Millions of people who we will never know get creamed and run out and evicted and sick. It happens with dismal regularity. It is common and not pretty but I wanted to write about it anyway, just because it is a story that happens zillions of times almost always in quietude and obscurity, and I thought that was an angle worth noting. It is sad, awful, and it does happen all the time. Most of us have to overcome. Of course I am very sad about Olive. Stricken. But so also are millions of us stricken. We should think about that. Maybe you do.

As I said, in an article there has to be an ending, a conclusion, a point. And there is one here. I have taken a bump and stepped out into that enormous ocean of people that have also taken vicious bumps, hard hits. Harder than this one. Most of them don’t cry in their beer like I am doing, at least not so publicly, and but I just wanted to point out that in the end, all that drink from the fountain of fucking disaster have a sort of crown of laurels. Unacknowledged to be sure. They are the salt and the grist and the substance of the long march of humans, damn it. It is not all glory, you know. A great deal of it is just what this is. A bummer. But the march goes on. And you watch, so will I.

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