* inside the wheelhouse café
THE WHEELHOUSE CAFÉ is anchored in the songs my husband Josh wrote about life at sea when he was a mariner in the 1990s. I can’t listen to one of them –“Cold October Evening”– without shivering. This haunting song stretches beyond the stark reality of impending winter to convey the pervasive chill of heartache.
In my novel, a painting makes Captain John Raymond think about when the song came to life:
“I wander over to a painting that reminds me of a bruised October sky. It’s like the artist had taken a pair of scissors, snipped down a patch of clouds and squeezed thick ribbons of blue-black, choppy frosting on top of them. I want to run my fingers over the knots of color, knowing each swirl would throb with a familiar ache. Instead, I drum my fingers on my thigh and whisper the words to ‘Cold October Evening,’ a song I wrote years ago on the first autumn night the temperature took a nosedive. It seemed colder than bitter February.”
Here’s Josh singing “Cold October Evening.” It’s a home recording, and I love the song.this way — as raw and melancholy as an October seascape.
Better bundle up first . . . it’s getting cold out there.
How do I spell relief this week? H-O-A-X. I was deflated when I read the identity of legendary street artist Banksy had been revealed following his arrest in London. Sigh. What’s life going to feel like when we’ve revealed/ defined/ exposed every last thing/person/event because our know-every-detail-and-then-some society demands it? I don’t want to answer that question and in the case of Banksy’s supposed unveiling, I didn’t have to. A snopes.com check — and the appearance of his latest work (below) — proved that he’s still undercover, and I hope he’s able to stay that way.
Another legendary character who’s managed to remain anonymous is Meow Man, the mysterious, maritime mischief-maker I heard about in one of my husband’s adventures as a tugboat captain. As meowman.us explains:
“Meow Man has been around in the maritime industry for over 25 years from the Maine to Texas waterfronts.The rascal cat-apulted to life in 1986 with a graffiti tag on a lonesome pay phone, and then sprayed onward on a hundred abandoned urban piers and abandoned ghost ships.”
Look for the Meow Man reference in THE WHEELHOUSE CAFÉ, but don’t look for Meow Man. That cat’s staying undercover.
P.S. You’ll find another graffiti tag reference in my novel – MY OLD LADY HEARTS NECK FACE across from Regional Thai on 22nd and 7th. Unfortunately, the landlord didn’t think to preserve this neighborhood icon when he painted the building. Click on this THEN and NOW photo to read about one of Manhattan’s most famous tags, and the font it inspired.
As I wrote THE WHEELHOUSE CAFÉ, I spent hours poring through the log books my husband had poured his music into when he was a seaman in the 1990s. I was compelled to make their lyrical contents an integral part of the story, and soon this songscape was adding texture and depth to the novel’s sense of place while also helping to bring the tugboat captain character to life.
So, while I didn’t create Captain John Raymond to be Captain Joshua Young Horton’s literary twin, he is most definitely infused with the emotions, perspective and soul my husband captured with his music.
Here’s a live, unproduced verse from “Big Swell.” It’s the first song Captain John performs from the wheelhouse, and it sets the tone for the unpredictable seas ahead.
Captain John Raymond compares a relationship to a game of Texas Chicken. And what, you ask, is that?
Here’s an article about the maneuver that allows ships in a narrow waterway to pass each other. You can also check out these time-lapse photos or watch this video of ships in the Houston Shipping Channel.
A moment of silence . . .
As I worked on THE WHEELHOUSE CAFE, I spent a lot of time contemplating and writing about the inherent risks of maritime life — from “Texas Chicken” in the Houston Shipping Channel to a captain who is lost at sea.
I was sorry to hear about a recent Houston Shipping Channel collision and then bereft when the Tug Sea Bear sank off the coast of Fire Island last weekend While three crew members were rescued from the 37 degree ocean, the captain perished. Sending heartfelt condolences to his family members, crew, friends and fellow seamen as they deal with this tragic loss. Rest in Peace, Captain Maloney.