The end of Spring Break

It started in the last week of May, with the Land Rover.

We had friends over, and we decided to go to the Four Seas for ice cream after dinner. The Rover, a 1970 model, is our usual ice-cream vehicle, both because we can fit six people in it and because it just seems right to go for ice cream in a decrepit old rattletrap.

We hadn’t even gotten all the way up the driveway before ominous creaking noises started coming from the rear end. We turned around, got out, and looked underneath. There was a huge crack in the frame, just where the leaf springs attach.

That was the beginning of Spring Break.

The next to go was the Eastern, our big boat. Kevin was out with his brother Marty pulling lobster pots, and the motor made a terrible noise when he tried to put it in reverse. It still ran, but it shook and rattled and shimmied. He limped in to the dock, and when he put it in reverse again the propeller shaft snapped clean off.

Then there was the door to the truck, which got banged into the dock as Kevin was backing a boat down a ramp. Yes, we brought that one on ourselves, but still.

Then came the woodsplitter. Our friend Ed had several cords of wood that needed splitting, and he made a deal with us: we loan him the woodsplitter and help with the job, and get half the wood in return. That was a great deal for us, and we brought the splitter over to his place and got started. After several afternoons of non-stop splitting, it started to struggle. Then the hydraulic pump just gave up.

After the woodsplitter was the freezer. The freezer filled with thirty pounds of striped bass, six ducks, two turkeys, other miscellaneous meat, and various vegetables and stocks. Its defroster failed and, in a bit of appliance irony, the resulting ice build-up prevented it from freezing.

I caught it before everything defrosted, and although we lost about ten pounds of fish, the rest of it was salvaged. When the repair guy came, he told me that I could keep the freezer running in the week it would take to get the required part by plugging it in during the day and unplugging it at night to defrost.

I switched the food to the bait freezer, put the bait (fish frames, primarily) in the broken freezer, and tried his method. The first hint that it didn’t work was when we started to notice the smell of rotten fish suffusing the house. Taking that load to the dump and cleaning up the mess was about as disgusting a job as I’ve done since we moved here.

Last to go, the final insult, the straw that broke the camel’s back, was the coffeemaker. It was less than a year old, and it broke only because it felt it had to show solidarity with its electrical and mechanical brethren.

Now, two months from the beginning of Spring Break, we’ve gotten everything but the woodsplitter repaired, replaced, or resuscitated. The Rover frame is patched and the lower unit on the Eastern’s motor is replaced. The door of the truck is pounded roughly back to its original shape, and freezer is freezing once more. We have a new coffeemaker, which makes lousy, insipid coffee, and which I hate with a passion reserved for single-function appliances that perform their single goddamn function badly. I’m hoping this one breaks as quickly as the last one.

The woodsplitter, we put on hold, since it’s a little hot to be splitting wood anyway.

As we were dealing with everything broken – calling repair people, locating parts, writing uncomfortably large checks – my inner Eva Gabor was getting louder and more insistent. “Times Skvare,” she said, with her charming Hungarian lilt, and I thought longingly of the times when we owned no truck, no boat, no woodsplitter, and no freezer. Yeah, we had a coffeemaker, but it worked with us, not against us, and made decent coffee to boot.

It’s when the going gets tough that I’m tempted to hightail it back to New York, and trade my boats and trucks, freezers and woodsplitters, for a 250-square-foot apartment and a Metrocard. Kevin, though, is made of sterner stuff and, since I’m not going anywhere without him, I stayed and helped get everything fixed.

We got the boat back from our mechanic, Billy at Anchor Outboard, just this week, and Kevin took his son Eamon and Eamon’s friend Emanuel out to check our lobster pots. With the boat out of commission, we hadn’t been able to get out there for a good six weeks.

Kevin called me after they’d pulled the first four, to report that there were already four keeper lobsters in the livewell, and the chicken I was planning for dinner would have to wait for another day.

A couple hours later, they rolled in with our all-time record lobster haul. Ten lobsters, one of them three and a half pounds. Sixteen pounds total.

We called friends. Doug and Dianne came. Les and Val came. I picked up some local corn, made a cole slaw, and melted some butter. Kevin boiled the lobsters in a giant pot on the burner outside. Les brought some littlenecks. We opened the wine, and sat down to one of the best dinners we’ve had in our three years here.

The truck, the boat, the freezer, that’s what it’s all in service to. We’re bumbling our way through all this for the days when we can put an abundance of lobster on the table and watch as our family and friends drip butter on the tablecloth in their enthusiasm. I don’t expect to stop missing New York, but there are things you just can’t do with a Metrocard.

11 people are having a conversation about “The end of Spring Break

  1. Wow! – All I can say is Wow!

    In my best effort to keep you caffeinated, if you haven’t yet already replaced your coffeemaker, we have a Zojirushi 10-cup and it’s lasted over a year.

  2. there you go. that’s about the only thing I miss from Cape Cod… seeing you guys, and lobster. 🙂

  3. I spent a large part of last fall trying to convince myself that losing the roof, the furnace, the chimney, the front door glass & a set of windows wasn’t some kind of bad karma repayment. Instead I am still working to convince myself (and probably will be until it is all fully paid off) that it is simply a reminder of how wonderful my life really is compared to…well, a huge chunk of the world.

    So glad you found a way to make it a good story in the end.

  4. Wowie-wow-wow! That was a lot to go wrong in the space of two months.

    I have been in the darkness of the broken coffee maker place a couple of times, and gave up a long time ago on them. Now we make coffee the old fashioned way; we boil water and brew it in a French press, and when we buy decent coffee, we make decent coffee. The latest Folgers and Costco brand (what is it, Kirkland I think?) decaf mix is definitely not up to snuff. We’ll go back to French Market as soon as we can find it on sale. Why hell can’t they (French Market) sell gargantuan sizes at Costco like everybody else instead of those stupid little one pound cans? I can’t throw useful metal away and have been squirreling the empty cans away in the garage with the vague idea of fashioning them into a smoke stack for a smoker or something like that, so the little red cans are really piling up out there. Along with the three liter olive oil cans.

    I’m glad you got through your spate of bad luck and had a swell dinner party to boot. Good way to tell the universe to stick it.

  5. You’ve got to keep your sense of humor when Roughing It, and you can take some solace in the fact that your series of disasterous events don’t equal Twain’s, as coffee, coffee pot, and everything else was lost and he was forced to take refuge in his boat. He did, after an adventure in the boat, manage to sit down and eat a meal, but Nature diid not Nurture him as she or he Nurtured your company.

    Raquel used her Metrocard to visit that square of nature preserved and built by Bryant in the heart of our great city; she took over 40 photographs of the rocks there for a project she has been working on, a geologic map. The park is not named for Bryant, and his statue, last time I checked, is not in the park where many great poets are remembered. But he has his own park. Small, but its location next to the “Lions Library” adds to its gravity. As a very young man Bryant penned a beautiful poem. Here the first few lines remind us that when we take communion with Nature, as you did at your lobster party, Nature speaks to us. From the photo and from your wonderful tale, I am confident that She said exactly what tiu needed to hear.

    TO HIM who in the love of Nature holds
    Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
    A various language; for his gayer hours
    She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
    And eloquence of beauty, and she glides 5
    Into his darker musings, with a mild
    And healing sympathy, that steals away
    Their sharpness, ere he is aware.

    Hunger asserted itself now, but there was nothing to eat. The provisions were all cooked, no doubt, but we did not go to see. We were homeless wanderers again, without any property. Our fence was gone, our house burned down; no insurance. Our pine forest was well scorched, the dead trees all burned up, and our broad acres of manzanita swept away. Our blankets were on our usual sand-bed, however, and so we lay down and went to sleep. The next morning we started back to the old camp, but while out a long way from shore, so great a storm came up that we dared not try to land. So I baled out the seas we shipped, and Johnny pulled heavily through the billows till we had reached a point three or four miles beyond the camp. The storm was increasing, and it became evident that it was better to take the hazard of beaching the boat than go down in a hundred fathoms of water; so we ran in, with tall white-caps following, and I sat down in the stern-sheets and pointed her head-on to the shore. The instant the bow struck, a wave came over the stern that washed crew and cargo ashore, and saved a deal of trouble. We shivered in the lee of a boulder all the rest of the day, and froze all the night through. In the morning the tempest had gone down, and we paddled down to the camp without any unnecessary delay. We were so starved that we ate up the rest of the Brigade’s provisions, and then set out to Carson to tell them about it and ask their forgiveness. It was accorded, upon payment of damages.

  6. I guess if Kevin is the reason you stay here, my friend, I will have to start lavishing more gifts on him.
    I get the “miss the city” thing…but we’d miss you MORE…and I am bummed my husband declined what you claim was your best meal… Next time…come on lobster!

    In terms of spring break..yup..Morton salt said it best..when it rain it pours…and there is a fond cape saying …no such thing as bad weather..just bad clothing… Put ‘EM together..and well… everything needs to be fixed every once in a while..sometimes at the same time…happens at the brewery all the time!

    Loved the you guys…really glad you’re here!

  7. The saddest part, to me at least, is the coffeemaker. You expect a beat up old car to break, or a boat to need some big repairs every once in a while. Wood splitters do hard work, and they’ll crap out on you every once in a while, but having to resort to shitty coffee in the morning makes everything else in life fairly miserable 🙁

  8. Sympathies. Sometimes it really does feel like everything is just crumbling to pieces around you, no? Starting this spring we had/have a similar list of things in need of repair. Only for us they were less mechanical and more structural. Doozies, really. And they’re still not all patched up.

    How long does it take you to get to NYC when you need a fix? For me it’s under two hours by bus, but not being a native, I only go once or twice a year for a daytrip. That’s really all I can handle.

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