Punch List

It had been a couple of weeks since I made it to the boat. 

I had signed up to work 48 hours a week — that is my usual spending level — but no sooner had I sobered up from the holy and untouchable “my Friday/your Monday” drinkathon, my boss would be on the phone checking availability for more.

Long hours are the norm in health care, especially at the moment with the entire system still feeling the shock of the last two years. 

A spate of overnight shifts is particularly hard on a body. You never quite catch up on sleep and it snowballs into a floating malaise that cuts a giant trench in your mind. 

What was on the other side of that trench?

A novel to be written. A play. Getting the business of an art career put back together after a series of midlife catastrophes and the blackout of COVID. A mate.

I am not a binge writer. A large project is completed through a process that involves direct work of writing then indirect work of the unconscious in both sleep and other things, but you have to get in and get the writing done or the evanescent inspiration fades and the insights are gone. 

It is hard to hold onto the thread of a large work of art with huge, intense stress events for days on end without sleep. 

I love Tacoma. 

My mother was an actual Washingtonian. Those people are soft and kooky — the whole place is one giant small town. 

The door is never quite shut in Tacoma. 

The buildings still look like they did in the seventies. 

Tacoma lulls me into feeling like it is the era of my childhood and my beautiful young mother again has command of the world.

Tomorrow I am going to go to my job an hour from Tacoma, and this hundred-year-old woman will look up from her afternoon cookies and milk and tell me, “My parents are coming for me.”

I will smile. “I’ll tell you when they get here.”

I need to move in closer so I can do something besides drive when I am not working. Forty miles is not just an hour’s drive. It is a mental barrier that puts me into two lives, the pedal to the metal at work and the luxuriant stretch of the imagination when I am not, but this is not serving me.

The project boat should not be a crash pad between those horrendous 16-hour overnight shifts but an actual project, a thing I do a few hours a week when not sitting in the coffee shop in Georgetown writing. 

It is a good thing to have a building project. It connects me to a part of myself that I seemed to lose, and that is the men who raised me. The older generation worked with their hands, not just on the computer. I am not criticizing the guys, but it is Aunt Joann who knows her way around the power tools, not them. I don’t even let them on the boat. That eight-foot drop is more than my stomach can stand for the kids, even when I climb that ladder myself, with my bike helmet on and no wine in my system. 

There’s a boat for sale in Greece for five thousand euros. It’s a 30-foot sloop with aluminum toe rails. 

The bright work — exterior wood — is so hard to keep on top of that few boats have a really good seal on that old teak. It is usually rotted right through and causes leaks in the cabin. A common upgrade is the toe rails, and the reasonable way to do it is metal. Aluminum is standard in the industry, but the upgrade costs at least $2K. 

You never get your money back from fixing up an old boat, but there is still some virtue in doing it.

I want my project to be okay. This old bucket is a rollover toy that will never go down in the Puget Sound and can be lived on. 

The good money says sell, be a CNA, and buy a better boat for the same cash. But that is not going to get a CNA the Greek islands in retirement. 

You have to know how to do a lot of stuff yourself.

© Joann L. Farias 2023