Collection of Stories about People

Happy Birthday Tony

Tony's B-day cake

Tony’s B-day cake

Tony was born thirty something years ago on June 6 sometime in the afternoon. Legend has it that he was born with tine baby dreadlocks which grew longer, darker, and thicker as the years passed. He uttered his first baby words when he was only a few months old, still in diapers. With determination and a very serious expression on his face, he said: “beer” and “bike” (in that order). People thought that he would grow up to be a prophet or a genius. They were pretty close to the truth; he became a sailor, adventurer, punk-rocker, anarchist, freedom-seeker, beer-drinker, and biker. He became Tony Beerbike. He also became our good friend.

Chopper and Tony

Chopper and Tony

We met him and his trusty companion, Chopper, in Stock Island where he is working on his sailboat Pisces, a 28 feet Cape Dory, getting her ready for ocean travel and adventure.

On June 6 this year, we improvised a small birthday celebration and went out for a short sail on Fata Morgana with Tony and a few other friends. Tony made a huge pile of Mexican rice, so good, from now on this is how I will make it.

Tony making Mexican rice

Tony making Mexican rice

The sailing was fun and pretty much uneventful. We had a bit of waves that made the boat jump up and down. At the end we tried to anchor without using the engines, but a minor storm came out of nowhere, wind and rain, and we ended up using them.

The birthday celebration at sea ended with a traditional dinghy ride in the rain to a near-by uninhabited boat which was dragging her anchor quite a bit in the direction of some other uninhabited boats, and so an intervention was needed. Cherri, Tyler, and Ivo went aboard the stray boat and successfully deployed two more anchors to stop her from dragging and crashing into any of the other boats. We received thank you calls from some of the neighboring boats who witnessed the whole thing. We felt good about ourselves. And tired.

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Categories: adventure, Collection of Stories about People, cruising, family, Fata Morgana, Florida, frienships, fun, Key West, Key West Florida, off grid, Our Journey, sailing, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Me And My Bubbles

This job is the deadliest job in the world. More than soldiers or astronauts. Combat soldiers will back down. We never back down. We are trained better than soldiers. Astronauts’ only problem is drifting out in space. Zero gravity is their major issue. We train astronauts. We are commercial deepwater divers. We go to the depth, do the work, we go to the decompression chamber.

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There is the thing. Working underwater is deadly. Most guys who have been diving for a long time don’t want to know the names of the new divers because they are most likely to die. One-time divers. We know that.

When you work as commercial diver you do deepwater work on the oil rig. Welding, repairs. You also pick up side jobs inland. Anything that is not ocean diving. I’ve done both jobs.  Once, I was in deep shit. Literally. Had to do a repair inside a sewage treatment plant. I agreed to do the job. I signed up for it. I didn’t care if I am covered in poop or radiation. I had to do the job. I had to. I was trained to do it. That’s me.

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The working ratio is 3:1. Anything you do for 1 hour on land equals 3 hours underwater. Whether it is striking a hummer of breathing. Breathing underwater is hard.

I loved it. “Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep!, I would beg. Please, send me deep!” You know why? Deeper you go more money you get. But mostly I wanted honor. I was young. My deepest dive was 311 feet. I spent four and a half hours in decompression but when I came out I was smiling.

Fuck decompression, you keep going. Never wanted to return. My happiness was underwater. It was me and my bubbles. It was romantic.

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A few years ago, Richard Michael Jaworski, commercial deepwater haz-mat diver, got hit in the head by a forklift as he was preparing for a dive. Half of his face went missing. In the hospital he died three times but the doctors saved him. He had to undergo hundreds of facial reconstructive operations. They took a piece of his skull to replace his missing right cheekbone. He doesn’t look the same now.

Richard survived the accident. Thanks to science, he says, he doesn’t believe in God or miracles.

We met Rich in Key West Florida and became friends. He lives in a fishing boat out in 3D Boatyard, not far from where our boat was hauled out.

The day after we launch Fata Morgana we receive a part we have ordered a month ago. A part that costs hundreds of dollars. It is called a traveler and controls the boom and the main sail. Without it we cannot sail. Ivo is happy to finally get it. But, as he is about to install it, the thing slips and falls in the water, at the muddy bottom near the docks, some thirty feet below.

We experience a miniature death.

The water here is dirty, full of all sorts of rusty debris and it become thick with mud at only about ten-fifteen feet. Jumping after the traveler and finding it at the bottom is not an option for Ivo. We need a professional diver. We need Rich.

He arrives in his full diving gear, black as the wet feathers of cormorants. We begin hoping.

Very calm, he sits at the edge of the dock, smokes a cigarette, and tells us not to worry, he will get it for us for sure. There is a strange change in his eyes, something I haven’t noticed before. They are almost transparent and white. Like water or like ice.

He disappears in the water. We become silent. We hold our breath and stare in the direction where he vanished. Bubbles emerge. A huge one followed by millions of tiny ones swishing like champagne foam does. A minute passes, or just a few seconds. He reappears holding the traveler above his head, so that it is the first thing we see coming out of the water. A truly epic moment.

Richar Michaels Jawarski
photo by Richard

Categories: Collection of Stories about People, Our Journey | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Solar Ark

“The overriding goal is to get away from the notion of ‘waste’ – everything natural is food for somebody or something, and therefore a resource.”

– ARVO

Close your eyes and imagine a place:

A mountain desert. Harsh climate. Desolate landscape.

But that is not the place you had to imagine, I’m sorry. Go back, and close your eyes again, and imagine a different place:

In the mountain desert, amidst the desolate landscape, surrounded by beautiful highlands, imagine an oasis. But don’t imagine the typical boring clishe, the one with the small lake in the middle and two palm trees, please. The one I am asking you to envision is much much more complicated and will take a lot more effort and ingenuity from the part of your imagination. But I’ll help you, don’t panic. Here are some of the most important items you need to place in your mental picture of the oasis: 

(You can now open your eyes in order to continue reading and see the visual aids)

 First, imagine HOMES built with a deplorably low budget using natural or recycled materials (such as rock, flagstone, recycled brick, tile, glass and lumber, straw bale, pallets, earth block [adobe], and pumice), powered by sun and wind. Imagine wind turbines and solar panels sending little packages of canned sunlight and wind puffs which come out of the wall outlets of these homes to power ultra-efficient appliances: a light-bulb, a washing machine, a well pump, a ‘solar fridge’. The sun bill of these households never goes up one cent, imagine…

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  Next, imagine a complex of integrated GREENHOUSES where lemons ripen without any supplemental heat while outside temperatures can dip to -25 degrees and where, surrounded by plants and rocks, you can take a greenhouse shower, rain water heated by the sun cascading down from a log.

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Imagine a BEAUTIFUL BACKYARD which we will now call Flushing Meadows as it is irrigated by Greywater from the showers and toilets (after a proper sceptic treatment, of course).

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Imagine a truly sustainable to perfection  ORGANIC FARM where frogs eat the nasty insects, ladybugs dine on pests, earthworms take care of the waste material turning it into prime soil, bees provide honey, wax, propolis and pollen while pollinating the orchard, and when they die, god bless their innocent little souls, become a source of protein for the chickens. And the chickens eat everything and everybody. Cannot blame the chickens, because they make eggs and are tasty, but also, they poop. And that’s good too. In this particular oasis, chicken poop makes biogas for heating and prime liquid fertilizer, which is used to grow duckweed algae as a protein-rich feed, for who?- For the chickens themselves!

Arvo with Carlos

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And finally, imagine, in the middle of it all, A SMILING GERMAN GUY NAMED ARVO who looks dramatically like Klaus Kinski, holding a female raven named Carlos.

Klaus Kinski

Klaus Kinski

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Congratulations! You have now successfully imagined The Solar Ark . And if you like this vision, let me tell you, it is real! And you, if you just imagine it possible, can become a part of it. All you need to do is to get to New Mexico where this oasis exists for more than a decade now. Or, you can simply think about all of this, maybe consider it possible to change your ways a little?

Thanks to Baba Ghanoush, we met Sherri and Nathaniel who told us about all this and who are heading to New Mexico in June to become part of The Solar Arc Project, to live there, to learn, and to help Arvo build and maintain his oasis.

Note:

I took the liberty of getting information and pictures from The Solar Ark’s website which you can visit right here for more information and details on accommodation for visitors and students, the educational program and topics covered, cost, and possibility for work-exchange (you don’t have to pay anything to learn and stay there as long as you work!)

This is something Ivo and me would totally do and we would be perfect, as we come from Bulgaria where everyone had orchards, and chickens, and outside toilets, and wells, and little wood shops. Maybe one day we will do this, when we get tired of sailing the world…

Categories: adventure, Collection of Places, Collection of Stories about People, Green energy, Nature, off grid, solar energy, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Story of The Lance

George Orwell’s book 1984. That’s why I started telling you about Lance.

Tell me again.

He had some mental disability. I forget what his actual diagnosis was. He was homeless. But he never broke the law, always polite, mannered, and respectable. Very well kept and clean. Amazing exception for a homeless person with mental disability, I think.

Where did he sleep?

I don’t know where he slept at night. But all he did every day was walk up and down Duval Street in downtown Key West. He used to hand little flyers printed in a printing place to everyone passing by: The Lance Rules written on them. And bumper stickers. Would stick them on people’s cars. The Lance Rules. He loved attention.

One day, he found a big piece of cardboard, probably from a fridge box, about 12 x 4.5 feet, and he wrote on it with black paint and huge very elaborate letters: THE LANCE. Like an artwork. And he would drag the cardboard behind him, like an enormous banner, holding it at one corner, up and down Duval, the full length on the street, from beach to beach, all day for weeks, honest to God. THE LANCE. Until the cardboard got worn down on the opposite corner from too much dragging on the sidewalk.

How did he look?

This don’t matter. The hobbit in The Hobbit book was never described. It doesn’t pertain to the story. What matters is the story, not how he looked.

(pause)

He was a young guy, about eighteen- twenty years old. Slightly chubby. He looked normal, is how he looked. Like everyone. You wouldn’t know he was mental. Like Rainman, remember the film? Normal.

(pause)

He always carried a black Mead notebook. Every day he would write a wish-list of things he wanted that particular day. Things he needed right then. His list would start fairly realistic and the extravagance of his wishes would increase as the list grew. At the end you could read: I wish for a helicopter.

The first wish would be something like a cheeseburger from McDonalds, but with all sorts of stuff in it: mushrooms, onions, bacon, and ham. Something that doesn’t sound unrealistic, but is not on the menu. But that’s what he truly wanted to eat. If he really needed a watch because he didn’t have one and he wanted to know what time it was, he would ask someone sitting in a coffee shop, What is a real good watch? And they’d tell him, a TAG watch. A TAG is a good quality watch and it is expensive, no way he could get one. But he would write in his wish-list:

1.      I wish for a hamburger from McDonalds with mushrooms, onions, bacon, and ham;

2.      I wish for a TAG watch.

3.      I wish…

About 80% of the things he would wish for would realize in a mysterious way, honest to God. Like that TAG watch. One day he just showed up with a TAG watch. Someone bought it for him or gave it to him; he didn’t steal it for sure. I think people just liked him.

Once, he wrote in his notebook: I wish for Harley Davidson boots with bright orange laces (which they don’t make). And he got them for free, only with bright red laces instead. One of these guys in the shop just gave them to him. And they cost probably like three hundred dollars!

(He never showed up with a helicopter, though. If he did, I would buy myself one of those black Mead notebooks and start writing my own wish-lists…)

How many wishes?

A full page. You know these black Mead notebooks? It was always the same notebook, and the list was always a page long, every day, so as many whishes as there are lines on a page. Thirty two, I believe.

Thirty two whishes per day…

Yes… One page full of whishes… I got some of his Mead notebooks full of whishes. I kept them. Somewhere in a box in my boat.

Really? Can I see them?

Sure, I have to dig them up…

That’d be cool… What about the book?

One day he showed up with the book, 1984 by George Orwell. I don’t know where he got it from, could be from the library. He would walk up and down Duval Street, the full length, from beach to beach, holding it two inches from his face, not looking where he was going at all or who was coming in front of him (people had to avoid him), reading out loud from the book. So loud he was actually shouting. Everyone could hear him. He did this every day for two months, honest to God! When he got to the end of the story he would start reading it all over again. Walking and screaming all day so that people would listen. I don’t know how many times he read it like that. Every day, all day, for two months. He probably red it like ten times at least.

(pause)

I think that’s how the book was meant to be read… Shouted out loud in public for months in a row by someone considered outside the social (and mental) norm… Perfect

The book should be mandatory reading in high school.

It’s like a slap in the face.

A wake up call.

 

 

A conversation with my friend Richard Michael Jaworski in Key West. 

Categories: Collection of Stories about People, Key West Florida | Tags: | 36 Comments

Wally

“I’d rather hop freights around the country and cook my food out of tin cans over wood fires, than be rich and have a home or work.”

-Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

When we first came in the park near Turtle Beach, we noticed a dark mysterious lump  folded in upon itself in a brown sleeping bag lifelessly lying on one of the pick-nick tables. Only two legs, as dark and devastated as ancient totems, protruding from the cover. For a couple of days, the lump did not change its position nor shape. But when a cold front arrived and the temperatures dropped a bit, an old mysterious tortoise-like being emerged beneath its blanket and lugged its massive shell towards a roofed shelter at the other end of the park. I brought him a bowl of hot soup I have just made and cautiously started a conversation. A month later, the conversation still goes on.

Wally in the Night Park

His name is Wilhelm Gilbert von Wahlenmaier the Third, the mayor of the park.  But everyone knows him simply as Wally, the Mayor. And when I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE! Wally has a plethora of friends, a number in the thousands. People just cannot resist his charisma  and every day friends stop to converse with him for hours. He graciously granted us a permission to stay in the park as his ephemeral guests, and so here we are.

A very special relationship grew between us, and is still growing. One of friendship and trust. We learned so much from Wally, not only about his life, but also about many other things. Wally is an educated and well-versed fellow, graduate from Denison University, Granville, Ohio, with a bachelor degree in Business Administration and Marketing. He had a successful real estate career, a big beautiful house, and hundreds of lovers. Until one day…

On November 20 in 2000, Wally closed the last door of his last house behind him and realised to himself, Oh my God, I’m homeless… He rode his bicycle to the nearest park and the park became his new temporary home. It has been for the past twelve years and still is. He knows everything that goes on here, and here, possessed by the craving to recount his younger happier days, he tells us stories of love and betrayal, of war and horror, of glory and dismay. He is also writing a book on The Homeless Situation in Sarasota, Florida, an account of his own experiences, as well as those of countless homeless women and men he met. You see, we don’t event think about it, but often we only perceive the present condition of a person we meet, ignorant of their past, their reasons, their circumstances. A grey pile of forsaken ruins consumed by the devastating effects of time, is in fact the Colosseum once trembling with violent glory and rage. But, Oh boy, Wally was a gladiator, a Titus, a Colosseum.

Wally

Born in Columbus, Ohio, in July, 1943, he was a tiny baby paralysed with polio. He overcame it. He overcame everything: his mother’s death when he was 14; thirty three months of hell in North Vietnam when he was only 17; even three marriages, one of which to a terrible Mennonite princess.

But life was always good, and still is for Wally. He never complains, he greets everyone, he enjoys every minute of it. If you pass by in the morning you will here him cheer, Good morning, how are you? I’m fine, how are you, you will respond without stopping. I am marvellous! If I was any better i’d be a twin! And if you stop for a chat, he will tell you one of a thousand around-the-world stories.

In Africa: a hot-air balloon, over the Serengeti, infinite plains stretching before him, the water beasts like ants beneath him, he drifts: a weightless dandelion carried away by the wind, crystal champaign and caviare at sunset, a beautiful lady he loves. (Back on land, he almost gets killed by an irritated Masai warrior for snapping his picture.)

In Greece: an endless table covered with all fruits and fishes of heaven and Earth, a thousand intoxicated guests, a chain of five thousand Sirtaki dancers by the sea, a roasted goat. At the head of the table, he is the guest of honour. Reaching out with a fork, he plucks the roasted goat’s eyeball out and eats it.

In Saint Petersburg, Florida: at the opening of the new Museum of Art, he meets Salvador Dali.

In the Caribbean: he sails on his 27-foot Catalina sailboat for 5 years and almost marries a gorgeous doctor in Barbados. She is still waiting for him. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah….

In Egypt: down the Valley of the Kings, he meets so many marvellous people.

In New York: 1983, at the Metropolitan Opera, Pavarotti sing for him and Dorothy, his sugar mama, almost twenty years older than him, an artist and an intellectual, he learned so many things from her. They loved each other dearly.

People sometimes listen to Wally’s stories and tell him, You are not real. But you gotta remember, it’s all true. It’s ALL true, he says.

Such is Wally: full of memories and legendary adventures; a  landmark here in the park, and a form of hallucination.

We respect him very much and this last month we shared many stories and many precious moments. One day, when it is time to move on, we will miss him, and surely enough, he will miss us.

Categories: Collection of Stories about People | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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