(Lyrics by Paul Simon)
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away
It has been a month since my last post. I assume that you know I’m in the process of relocating to San Antonio. My furniture currently remains in Austin for the time being. In the meanwhile, I’m renting a room from my friend’s mother until I decide where I want to live long-term. The current plan is to haul my furniture and clothing to SATX between late January and the end of February when my Austin lease expires. So far I am enjoying my new adventure.
Volunteering at the Alamo is so much fun! It would be even more fun if they gave me enough gunpowder to demonstrate the bronze “Come and Take It” cannon originally from Gonzales, Texas, but… they must have realized that I would actually DO that. BOOM! “No, Michael. Just pictures for your show-and-tell”.
More recently I have been learning to pilot one of the many tourist barges that continuously orbit the Riverwalk. Rather than post pictures, simply Google “#GoRioCruises” and you will see dozens of photos showing the multi-colored, oval tourist vessels that entertain over a million passengers a year. During my job interview I was asked if I had any experience with powerboats. I remarked that I learned to sail when I was fourteen, and openly questioned, “How hard could it be?” The short answer is, “more difficult than I expected”.
When you drive a car, the car turns when you turn the wheel. When you straighten the wheel, the car stops turning. However, Newton’s First Law of Motion says that an object in motion will stay in motion until another force acts upon the object. When a space capsule or satellite is launched into space, a small jet in one direction will spin the craft until another jet of equal force in the opposite direction stops the rotation. I was unaware that river barges operate on Newton’s First Law of Motion. When you turn the wheel to the left, the boat will eventually rotate in that direction. If you return the wheel to the center position… the boat will keep on turning. In order to stop the turn, you have to spin the wheel to the right, with just enough throttle to stop the spin – and then instantly return the wheel to the center position. Learning how much wheel and how much throttle is necessary to keep the boat headed where you want it to go has been – how shall I say? – “a very challenging experience”. It is forcing me to be humble… a quality that I am deathly allergic to.
The first skill I had to learn was to turn the boat 360 degrees in either direction. The boat is thirty feet long and the channel was forty-five feet wide. Alternating between “hard left forward” and “hard right backward” allowed me to spin the boat like a ballet dancer. I thought that would be hard, but it turned out to be easy. Next lesson is moving in a straight line. I thought this would be easy, but it was incredibly [expletive deleted] hard! Originally I was moving down the channel like a lifetime alcoholic staggering down the alley, lucky not to be bouncing off the walls. After assiduously applying my knowledge of Newton, I only “lean off course” slightly. Much better, but still not good enough if another boat is approaching from the other direction. In my defense, I’ve only spent six or seven hours at the helm. Next week I will get 36 more hours of practice, at which time I plan to act as if I knew what I was doing from the very start. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.
On the other hand, I am very, very good at the other aspect of my job, which is sharing details about the landmarks along the Riverwalk. There are 34 points of interest, and I have documented 175 different facts that I will be expected to share during a thirty-minute cruise. In just a few days I have absorbed most of this information, and added additional information from my knowledge of the Alamo. It won’t be long before I’m sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm with visitors to Texas’ second most populous city. ( 1,434,625 in 2020 and 2,550,960 in the megaplex) I invite you to visit me next spring after I’ve settled into my new place. I will give you a VIP tour of the Alamo, and a free ride on my tour boat. (Bring Dramamine, just in case.)