Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Category: Travel

My 17-year-old self and I debate LeBron James

Imagine my surprise when, after writing two columns on LeBron James on Friday morning I walked into my childhood home that evening, which I thought was empty, and was confronted with my 17-year-old self watching SportsCenter, LeBron news on repeat. (Please ignore space-time continuum problems.)

ME: Hi.

17-Y-O-Me: Hey.

ME: Do you know who I am?

17-Y-O-Me: (looks me up and down) I have a guess.

ME: Okay, I can tell you do. Because, like, you’re me and we’re still pretty similar.

17-Y-O-Me: (makes show of playing with long hair) In some ways.

ME: I never would have said something like that.

17-Y-O-Me: Apparently you would have.

ME: That either. I wasn’t that aggressive.

17-Y-O-Me: Maybe you should have been.

ME: So, uh… how about LeBron?

17-Y-O-Me: It’s crazy.

ME: He looks so douchey up there. (At the moment, the highlights from the Heat Beach Party are playing and Neil Everett or Linda Cohn is screaming something. Chris Bosh is acting like a wrestler.)

17-Y-O-Me: I don’t know. He looks like he’s having fun.

ME: Douchebags can have fun too.

17-Y-O-Me: What’s wrong with having fun?

ME: Um, nothing, I suppose. But if I was a Cleveland fan, I’d be upset by this.

17-Y-O-Me: But you’re not.

ME: Yeah, but I can empathize.

17-Y-O-Me: Yeah, it sucks. But so what?

ME: Well, I mean, I have a few good friends from Cleveland…

17-Y-O-Me: Oh. What does that matter?

ME: Are you saying empathy is bad?

17-Y-O-Me: (suddenly defensive; I notice this trait from my youth) No, that’s not what I’m saying.

ME: Then what are you saying?

17-Y-O-Me: Isn’t this just kind of cool?

ME: I don’t know. It just feels so yucky.

17-Y-O-Me: Sports are yucky all the time.

ME: I suppose that’s true…

17-Y-O-Me: No really, sports are yucky all the time. Who gives a crap? They’re only sports.

ME: Funny that you say that when you’ve spent your entire life trying to learn everything possible about them.

17-Y-O-Me: (mimics entire sentence in play voice, then turns beet red in embarrassment)

ME: (ignoring it) You know what sucks for us?

17-Y-O-Me: What?

ME: All that memorization we did—who played what position for what team when, all the records and stuff—anyone can get all that off their phone now. Everyone’s a sports expert. It’s really hard to make a name for yourself.

17-Y-O-Me: We probably should have been a lawyer.

(We look straight at each other like: No way.)

ME: You know what you need? Some financial advice.

17-Y-O-Me: I make $15 an hour at Brickman’s at the moment. I’m doing just fine.

ME: I mean long-term, numbnuts.

17-Y-O-Me: Numbnuts. Real original. What are you, from Jersey?

(I pounce on the couch in a rage and we start fighting for about 30 seconds before we simultaneously yell “Glass table!” to remind each other that we risk breaking it, and we stop)

17-Y-O-Me: (sarcastically) Yeah, you’ve changed.

ME: You mean I’m stronger?

17-Y-O-Me: (turns red, doesn’t want to admit it) Whatever.

ME: Whatever.

17-Y-O-Me: (suddenly) Can you buy me beer?

ME: You don’t even know what you’re doing with that stuff.

17-Y-O-Me: Oh, and you do.

ME: You DICK! (start fighting again)

17-Y-O-Me: Glass table!

(I keep fighting, he pushes me off)

17-Y-O-Me: You know, it’s almost like you come back here to just to fight me. I mean look at you! You’re worse than I am. I’m perfectly calm, and by the time you leave you’re sitting on the couch just like me, watching ESPN over and over. It’s almost like you feel like you can’t do that in the city, when you totally can. Not my fault you can’t remember that the good things in life are simple. We island folk have it good.

ME: “We island folk.” You pretentious fuck.

17-Y-O-Me: Whatever. It’s true.

ME: Hey dickhead, I have news for you.

17-Y-O-Me: Oh yeah, what?

ME: I’ve had sex.

17-Y-O-Me: AWESOME.

Looking into the void

I rode to Massachusetts this weekend in a car without a working radio that was three-quarters full of basketball fans, so we passed the time on the way up by thinking out every conceivable scenario for the NBA’s free agent class. We did the same thing on the way back, using the most up-to-date information (Dirk! Pierce! Joe Johnson! Amar’e!). Here’s what we believe:

1) The Knicks actually did something right. After two years of “planning,” the Knicks looked like a rudderless ship as recently as Thursday, but at a poker table where everyone was afraid to make the first move, the Knicks pushed a sizable portion of their chips to the center of the table. Amar’e Stoudemire is a good player on a slow, predictable decline, but Chris the Knicks Fan insists Amar’e is one of the smartest players he’s ever seen. This means the end of David Lee in New York, which messes up your fantasy keeper league team but not much else. (Slight UPDATE: The uninsured part deserves some scrutiny. Okay, a lot. But still.)

2) Going to Chicago is the brave move… for Dwyane Wade. Even my mom knows Wu-Tang is for the children, and it appears Dwyane Wade is too. The convention line of thought at the moment is that D-Wade is likely to go to Chicago because he’s locked in a custody battle with his ex-wife and his children are there. You’d have to be the coldest-hearted Heat fan to hate him for leaving because of his kids, and it’s a good reason to leave, but there’s a potentially better one. LeBron’s decision is magnified because he’s quasi-understood to be “chasing history,” whatever that means: More than Michael, more than Kobe, or bringing a title to Cleveland. Wade, a young champion, seems immune from all this and, family drama aside, perfectly willing to stay in Miami and play on 50-win teams. That’s why I think the bold move for him is to go to Chicago, and wedge himself into the Kobe/LeBron discussion. Could he beat them both if he went to the Bulls? I absolutely think so.

3) LeBron isn’t an afterthought, but no one’s going to wait for him if they find something better. I think the whole “LeBron signs and the dominoes fall” narrative is coming to its end, as a prime result of the two factors discussed above. The Knicks took a “F***-it” approach to wait-and-see, and if Wade thinks he can win a title in Chicago, why would he wait for the word from LeBron?

4) Joe Johnson is or is not overpaid. We hashed out this discussion and ended up agreeing to disagree. Person A said that Johnson is the rare truly effective, occasionally game-changing guard; Person B said that he’d be willing to grant all that, but that the maximum contract rule makes it absurd that he’ll be making as much or more than players who are better than him (like Wade and James). I’m person B.

5. Paul Pierce. In light of Pierce’s greatness/goodness over the last three years, it’s worth revisiting the Celtics team that made it within two victories of the NBA Finals with Pierce and Antoine Walker as 1 and 1A’s. That’s what we told ourselves, at least. Now think about how Antoine Walker played basketball. So yes, he’s getting old and doesn’t bring it every day, but Paul Pierce has been good at basketball for a very long time. For whatever reason, I’m just sayin’.

Tuesday, July 6th. Back in the saddle again.

Salt Water Tonic

I don’t know if this is a superstition, a home remedy, a theory, an axiom, a fact, bilged nonsense, hocus-pocus, or what, but I believe salt water cures almost everything. Poison Ivy, malaise, acne, you name it—if it’s not some sort of Major Medical Problem, I eschew the doctor’s office, and get to the beach. This is certainly related to my island upbringing. This doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Yesterday I went to Coney Island after work. It’s a straight shot from my office on 34th Street on the N or Q train, whichever comes first. I took the N. I wanted to get my feet in the water, and I knew if I stopped at my house to get shorts and a towel, I would never leave. Instead I would become a caricature: the businessman with the untucked shirt and rolled-up pant legs, falling downhill toward the ocean.

Some people get healed by the ocean just by looking at it. I’m finally reading Moby-Dick, which opens with scenes of “Manhattoes” eschewing the comforts of their homes to gaze longingly to sea:

Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries.

And why would they do that?

We see ourselves in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantasm of life; and this is the key to it all.

Well jeepers, when you put it like that.

So here I was, grasping at the phantasm, keeping a watchful eye of my laptop onshore hidden snugly under my shirt, paranoia over potential stolen goods fading as the minutes ticked by, the sun set, the beach cleared, and my skin absorbed enough Vitamin D (and eventually, my blood enough Pacifico) to slow my internal clock down to something resembling normal. I never slowed it down completely: this is still Brooklyn, after all. But the reason Brooklyn is Brooklyn and Manhattan is Manhattan is that you can survive in Brooklyn by maintaining just a touch of self-awareness. I did it, and I was fine, and I got to enjoy the show.

What show? Well, how about the state park workers shooing people out of the water after 6 p.m.? Spaced about 100 yards apart, these teams of sentinels were tasked with enforcing an impossible rule: “The water is closed.” They’d get everyone out, and everyone would immediately fall back in behind them. From above, it would have looked like a sine curve steadily meandering its way toward Montauk. The water is closed. Ha. Call me when that works. I’ll even leave the ringer on.

Later on, at an outdoor bar that I chose to watch the sunset—actually, I chose it to steel myself for the ride home, and ended up enjoying the sunset—I was, finding myself head-bobbing uncomfortably to early Billy Joel (I was in the merely slightly boozy, not belligerently drunk state in which this is actually possible), trying to distract myself by looking around and sending text messages to Yankees fans. At some point, a couple came into the sparsely-crowded area at around the same time as a group of six guys who posted up with some Popeyes and ordered some beers. The couple was a conspicuously older man with a younger woman with whom he had only recently made an acquaintance; they sat in the table next to me. I thought I was the only one to notice when, as the group began to leave, two of the guys approached the table and, nearly brushing old dude’s hand off girl’s leg, slapped two condoms on the table to the delight of their themselves, their four friends, the old dude, and even his now slightly embarrassed special lady. Then they left, and life continued as if it never happened (for the time being, anyway).

All of this is a way of saying that I was right about the salt water. Outside of the fogginess of my head—two beers can do it to me now—it was a tonic for what ailed me.

The most beautiful sight in New York

The return ticket on the admirably named SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard costs something on the order of $100 one-way. It’s worth it for the city approach alone. First, you’re hugging Long Island, with a house or two visible in the formless coastline on your left. Then the houses and terrain get bigger, more pronounced and then WHAP—there’s Connecticut on your right, beginning the gradual process of pinching you toward Manhattan, which is still invisible for about 20 minutes as the features on both sides of you grow and grow and grow. The sun is also setting to your right, its reflection off the water pointing back at you in white, then yellow, then gold, then orange, then blood orange and finally red before, in an instant, vanishing completely.

And then you see it.

Straight ahead of you, a small row of rectangular gray shapes on the horizon that takes up no more than one-twentieth of your visual panorama. But make no mistake: you’re headed right for it. You get closer and closer and it still doesn’t seem to grow but the houses on your left do, to the point you realize you’re looking at mansions, and look at all the sailboats in the water now here at dusk, and there’s “West Egg” and now “East Egg” and as the lights turn on in the June 20th night, you look for a green one, and you continue…

The lights are popping on in front of you now and suddenly the gray shapes are bigger, less rigidly rectangular and they are not all visible. You approach the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges, sailing underneath both of them against an amazing pinkblue sky. (You text your friend below and implore him to take in the views). Immediately after the Whitestone, the boat slows down, as if slammed in the face by the idea of New York, but really just because you’re in a no wake zone from here on out. The breeze is still defined, but it’s no longer relentless. It alternates hot and cool, and you have no idea—as you pass LaGuardia Airport now, under the belly of a plane—how it happens, but it’s great. After LaGuardia, there’s Riker’s Island, and you have the only view of it you ever want.

You hang a left after Riker’s, and the city is no longer in front of you: It’s vertically materializing on your right. As you face it down just beyond Astoria, you see the railroad bridge imposed upon the Triboro imposed upon the skyline. It might be the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen. And then Astoria Park passes on your left and you’re past it, and now there’s nothing between you and Manhattan and the FDR on your right and suddenly this isn’t New York but Hong Kong: A megalopolis on the water effectively using its waterways not just for function but for wonder and awe. You watch the streets pass as the sky darkens and the lights get brighter and brighter, reds and greens and the blue of the Empire State Building, which is no longer just the building you work near. It’s the symbol of a city you are, at long last, able to see with new eyes.

As it builds to a crescendo you hear a voice behind you. “Bryan, are you getting off?” Pulled from your—my—trance, I nod and head below, ready to enter the belly of the beast.

New eyes

I wanted to write a blog post on the bus today, but I didn’t know how I was going to post it, and then I got SOCKED in the face by reality, where my $74 bus ticket (up from $66, like, yesterday) includes free wireless internet. Pith in motion! Note to U.S. Airways: get on this. Though I actually kind of liked the, you know, conversation I had in its absence yesterday.

So uh yeah. The Blind Side is on. I would watch this! But there’s no sound. And I read the book.

This was my second toe-touch in Brooklyn in the last two weeks. Twelve hours and gone. The first was MVY–>NY–>The Desert. This one is the return trip. I figured that if I didn’t get out of NY at the earliest opportunity I would be stuck here. And when I typed “JFK” into the self check-in yesterday, I felt nauseated. Having tasted Not New York, I’m eager to drink it down in copious amounts. Having seen other places with new eyes, especially Phoenix, I’m eager to do the same with New York.

But I can’t. When I came back in last night, it hurt my eyes to look. It was like being forced to watch TV when you’ve been at it for 12 hours. I needed, and need a break. I need to come back with new eyes. I need to see new and exciting things to do, or at least not grow anxious by looking at the old ones. I believe, in the parlance of our times, that I need a vacation. I need to get away.

So now I’m back on the bus, traversing the same stretch of I-95 that this guy, an O’Donnell and many a Smadbeck has owned over the last decade. I used to take pride in knowing the exits by heart. Now I take pride in only caring about my destination. I’ve been told that “place” is important to me, and I believe it. I used to the think the places along the way were the story, but they’re not. As I’ve begun renovating my childhood home, I have a much better idea of what a place means when you put your own sweat into it, and the gratification of seeing your own vision come to life. Having been away for so long, it was easy to see “home” with new eyes, and set about doing what had to be done.

My apartment in Brooklyn has been another story. I’ve tried to put it together without a real vision, and have done it piecemeal and half-assed. With new eyes, all of that might change.

House and home, House and Holmes

It’s a little before 6:40 a.m. here in Phoenix, and I’m sipping on McDonald’s coffee and drinking down some SportsCenter between World Cup games. Grant’s girlfriend has to be at work at some ungodly hour that coincides with the early games, so I woke up from my spot on the floor and clicked on Netherlands/Denmark and decided not to go back to sleep once it was over. I justified it by telling myself it was better to get back on East Coast time early, but mostly I wanted the coffee.

Yesterday I spent the majority of the day taping up Grant’s new home—which he bought—so that the other worker ants could paint around me. I was a taping machine. I didn’t paint the walls at all, to the point where my dad forced me to paint my own clothes so that I fit in with everybody else. To my friend Sam, whose novelty bachelor party shirt I painted over, I apologize.

Oh shit, Italy plays today. That gives me about four hours to learn the Paraguayan national anthem.

No, I do not like Italy, despite the quarter-blood I cling to despite my very English name. (I swear I’m from Sicily! Or at least my right leg is.) They play boring football and they flop, and they threw Amanda Knox in jail for being flighty and kept her there. I’m not comfortable with the decision to imprison very likely innocent American girls, no matter how ditzy they are. In fact, I just searched the entire Paraguayan penal code and didn’t find it in there anywhere. It’s settled: Go Paraguay. (Except imagine that in another language.)

Here is Paraguay’s flag:

Toward the end of yesterday, after the basketball game, Grant and I entered the gloaming of my vacation, where it was too early to go to sleep but too late to do much else. We decided to buy a movie through the TV and after a quick negotiation settled on Sherlock Holmes, which neither of us particularly wanted to see. Grant made it through 15 minutes; I made it through a Coke Zero-aided 40. My thoughts on the movie were exactly was I suspected they would be: if you like Holmes, just watch House. Simpler execution of the same idea, and except for the Flight Club stuff, Downey’s basically doing a Hugh Laurie impression.

Oh, and Rachel McAdams is no Dr. Lisa Cuddy. Consider it said.

In Phoenix

I shoud probably just suck it up and enjoy my four remaining days of vacation instead of blogging, and yet here I am. Blogging on the couch. My brother’s sleeping about five feet away. He’ll read this when he gets the subscriber email. (Note to friends: SIGN UP.) Now his girlfriend is smacking him in the face to wake him up, and his six month old Boston Terrier has parked herself beside me. Now his girlfriend is taking the dog away so they can both take a nap. Now Grant informs me he is taking a nap too, and leaves me with these parting words: “Feel free to go fuck yourself, if you’re interested.” I will have to mull it over.

Las Vegas is in the books, and by Las Vegas, I mean Licensing Show, the annual extravanza of branding which I attend for work. Uh, yay? It wasn’t so bad this year. It was actually kind of good. I would prefer not to admit that, because if I did that I might have to admit my job isn’t all bad. I would have to admit that I saw lots of people I actually like and some I actually respect. I would have to admit that I could, actually, parlay this job into something really interesting and cool and innovative and engaging. I would have to admit that I’m a lot closer to that than I’d ever imagined. And that would be weird. So let’s do the healthy thing and ignore it. IT WILL OBVIOUSLY GO AWAY.

I’m in Phoenix, which is the (hold on) fifth-largest city in the country at this point. I find this hard to believe and easy to believe. My friend Chris pointed out recently that the Southwestern United States has been settled largely thanks to one invention: the air conditioner. When I was flying, first over Vegas and then over Phoenix, I looked down at the little houses and thought of all the little pockets of cool air. Hundreds of thousands of them, lined up side-by-side.

What if the power goes out? What if the water runs out?

Do we think about these things? Probably not. Why? Because it’s the fifth-largest city in the U.S., and power could never go out to the entire fifth-largest city in the U.S. It’s just inconceivable. Someone will make turn on the cold air, or someone will pay. That’s not judgmental or anything. It’s just a fact. And I can grouse about technology all I want, but just because my life largely revolves around early 20th century technology (the subway) doesn’t make me superior to those who rely on newer ones. There were people who thought the subway was bullshit, too.

To put it simply: my knee-jerk antipathy to the southwest, to Vegas, to Phoenix, to places that I didn’t choose to live, is fading. I like a good number of places, many of them more than I like the place I actually live. I used to think that saying something like that was living with a contradiction, but it’s actually just living. I have some things I like perfectly and some things I just like. I like different things about Phoenix and West Tisbury and Brooklyn well enough. I just happen to live in only one of them. I haven’t been home for more than four days in about a month. And you know what? At the moment I don’t much miss it.

This weekend, time with dad, brother, and the city of Phoenix. Trying to figure out, finally, what it’s all about.

Imaginary conversation on a plane

(I conjured up this conversation the day before I took a flight to Vegas for work, but didn’t finish it until I was actually on the plane, not having it, as far as I remember.)

•••

After about an hour of reading my book, I squeeze my eyes shut and open them again, trying to clear them of the words I’ve just read so I can go for more. Failing, I slide in my bookmark and rest the book on my lap. The man sitting on my right takes a sideways look at the cover and leans toward me and obviously wants to talk but hesitates. Then:

Man: So, uh, good book?

Me: Yeah, it’s really good.

Man: Yeah I forgot to bring my book.

Me: I hate it when that happens.

Man: Because I’m on the plane with nothing to do!

Me: (first twang of uncertainty) Yeah.

Man: I mean except look at the stewardesses, right?

Me: (polite laughter) Yeah.

Man: Not on this flight though, man!

Me: Huh?

Man: They’re all dudes!

Me: What?

Man: All the flight attendants are dudes!

Me: Oh. Really?

Man: Yeah! That stinks, man!

Me: I suppose it… (flips quickly open to look longingly at page number) does.

Man: I can’t believe you can’t get beer with cash on these things no more! Gotta have a credit card. Say, what type of beer you like?

Me: Uh, most of them?

Man: Aw, man! Most of them! That’s right, man! Me too!

Me: So why are you going to Vegas?

Man: This plane is going to Vegas?

Me: (This is not a conversation I want to have) Um… yeah.

Man: I’m just kidding dude! I love Las Vegas! Check out my shirt!

(His shirt is a pair of dice smoking cigarettes, wearing sunglasses and standing around a craps table, one of them with its arm raised, preparing to throw its own set of smaller dice. In big cowboy-font letters underneath it says ROLLIN’.)

Me: So is craps your game?

Man: Hell yeah, man! I like blackjack too.

Me: Yeah, that’s pretty fun.

Man: You play?

Me: Not really. I don’t gamble much in casinos. I’m going for work.

(He seems almost hurt by this answer) Man: But you can’t, like, take some time for yourself? Put a dollar in a slot or something?

Me: (Trying to get change the subject) I like playing poker with friends at home.

Man: (Return of the enthusiasm) I love poker!

Me: It’s pretty fun.

Man: We should play!

Me: Right now?

Man: Hell yeah! (He reaches under his seat and produces a deck of playing cards as if he had conjured them from nothing, but that the logo on the box indicates they were obviously bought in the gift shop at Mohegan Sun in 2005.)

Me: I mean… sure.

Man: This is awesome! (His excitement level is rising precipitously, and disproportionately to the situation.) What should we play? What should we play for?

Me: I don’t know… quarters?

Man: Good idea!

(We simultaneously wiggle our hands into our pockets under our lapbelts, which remain buckled.)

Me: I don’t have any change.

Man: Me neither! (He loves the coincidence.)

Me: Oh well.

Man: How about peanuts!

Me: Do they give us any?

Man: Of course they did, essa! (Holds up deflated bag of peanuts, at which point I vaguely remember shooing away the drinks and snacks server who, come to think of it, was very much a woman.)

Me: I don’t have any.

Man: That’s because I got your bag! (Holds up empty bag.) Maybe we can get more!

(For the first time, I’m genuinely excited as I peer down the aisle, because I could go for some peanuts now. I don’t see any of the flight attendants anywhere in front or back, which seems like some sort of design flaw, or at least some breach of unspoken protocol in air travel. What if I’m having an emergency or something? I’m still looking when I feel something hit my inside shoulder. It’s his elbow.)

Man: Hey man, I got two peanuts left!

(I don’t understand exactly what this means, and it shows.)

Man: We can play one hand!

Me: Uh… five card draw?

Man: Nah man, that stuff’s boring! How about Texas Hold’em?

Me: Uh… okay. (He puts one peanut on my tray table, in the little drink holder cutout)

(As he shuffles, I decide not to mention that Texas Hold’em where both sides have one betting unit is a game with less skill than War, which I think would ruin his buzz. [I’m also not sure this doesn’t make it more, rather than less, like most games.] He flops two cards face-down in front of me, and I look at them: a pair of sevens. Pretty damn good, considering the circumstances. After he examines his cards, we decide to reveal them to each other before seeing the flop. He’s holding 10-2. We watch in awe as he deals the five up cards in a burst of three, one, and one—it goes 10, 2, 2, 6, 2. Four of a kind. He yelps.)

Man: Yippee! (Grabs my peanut and his in one motion and, puts both in his shirt pocket.)

Me: That’s pretty amazing.

Man: Four of a kind!

Me: Wow.

Man: You didn’t do too bad yourself, man! Full House! (He says it to imply skill on my part, in case I felt bad.)

Me: Thanks.

Man: (Reaches under the seat to again magically produce something; this time, it’s a book.)

Me: I thought you didn’t have anything to read.

Man: Nah man, I just wanted to talk!

Me: Oh. Thanks?

Man: No problem! Thanks for the peanut! (He slips on reading glasses from his breast pocket and starts reading like nothing happened. An hour later, he will more or less reproduce this conversation with the woman on his right, but he doesn’t say another word to me all trip.)

We’ve changed our name to SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard

I just read a fascinating piece of literature at the website for the boat service I’m taking today to Martha’s Vineyard, which leaves from East 35th Street. The trip is neither cheap ($210 r/t) nor terribly convenient and promises to be, uh, “unsettling” at times, according to a friend who’s taken it. I haven’t bought Dramamine in 15 years, but the friend strongly suggested I end that streak.

Speaking of streaks, did you know that NE Fast Ferry had changed its name to SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard? OMG, right? Fascinating. Fascinating enough, naturally, to warrant an entire web page “About our new name:”

Dear Guest,

Yes – we’ve changed our name.

Oh sh!t, did I not tell you? I changed mine too. It’s now Longman Harkoo.

We’ve decided to shift our company’s name from New England Fast Ferry to SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard.

Why, you ask?

Eh… not really?


Two years ago we grew our organization by acquiring a ferry operation in New York called SeaStreak. We purchased it from the international vessel parent operation known as SeaContainers.

Yeah, when you were all, “Going to Martha’s Vineyard is such a rip-off!” you were right. We didn’t need all that money. But when your wife sees you brought something home from SeaContainers…

What we’ve learned since that time is that the name SeaStreak is not only well recognized in the U.S., particularly in the NY/CT/NJ area, but, it’s well known internationally as well.

The lawsuit with the Honolulu County Nudist Association, LLC, was settled out of court. (Surprisingly good lawyers over there.)

With the intention of engaging in smart marketing, we’ve decided to operate under a name that garners the most amount of recognition.

Somebody went to business school! (It was my friend Ravi!)

Like any business, we succeed when more people recognize us and choose to become our customers. The name SeaStreak will aid in that goal.

Being literally the only provider of a service doesn’t hurt, either, though I’m not sure I would take Dogpoop Ferry to enjoy those spectacular 42 hours at home. (Dogs are not allowed on the boat, by the way, “due to the length of the trip.” Not much mystery there.)

Moreover, we’ve long regretted not having the name of our travel destination within our name. New England Fast Ferry was pretty good at describing what we do, but, not so good at saying precisely where we travel to.

“And SeaStreak Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority Slip was already trademarked.”

By taking on the name SeaStreak, we now have the opportunity to add “Martha’s Vineyard” to our brand.

Look what it did for Teddy K.

Changing names is always a tricky undertaking for companies. Confusion inevitably follows.

“I swear, my office was here just yesterday.”

However, rest assured that it’s just the name that’s changed. Ownership hasn’t changed one bit, and our focus on great customer service and high quality marine transportation hasn’t changed.

Rest assured the guys who are making money hand over fist on you haven’t changed. You’ll probably need Dramamine.

Thanks for your business. We appreciate it very much.

Sadly, not as much as me, pal.

Strangers on a Train

I am, at long last, reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It’s one of those books that I have always planned to read eventually, and as with anything that I think I’ll do eventually, I’m trying to take it up. I haven’t stopped putting things off, but I have started to ebb the tide a little bit. I went to the Strand last week and was about to cop The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao when Kavalier & Clay taunted me from their strategically placed shelf facing the checkout line, and Kavalier & Clay won. All of which means Oscar Wao is almost certainly next.

This morning I was reading Kavalier & Clay on the train. I was trudging through my requisite one chapter per morning, which I can comfortably fit between two three-minute periods of zoning out on my commute. At West 4th Street, I stood on an idle B train and checked how much more I’d have to read before 34th Street—a page and a half. Unless I’m really into a book, it’s hard to read when the train is at a standstill. After five minutes, the announcement came for me and others to stand clear of the closing doors, and two people whooshed on before they shut. One of them grabbed the same pole I held and faced me before pointing her head down toward her own paperback copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

In terms of cosmic coincidences, this doesn’t rate very high. It’s on the magnitude of having a surprise mutual friend on Facebook. Interesting, but not scary. Still, it was a little weird. Our books were almost touching and they were daring us, taunting us, to talk to each other. I don’t know if she had seen my book, so I just turned it down so the words were facing toward the ceiling of the car and finished what I had to finish, peeking for a split second at the page number dangling from her copy: 33. Which meant only one thing to me: She probably hadn’t been looking at the book long enough to immediately recognize its interior design. I had probably escaped.

When I finished my chapter, I whisked the book behind my back and eased myself into frame for the door between cars. She didn’t look up, and I spent the remaining 90 seconds of my ride just as planned: Zoning out. When the train screeched to a halt, I brought the book from behind my back into something of a concealed embrace by my right hip and began to ease by her. If she was getting off the train, she was following me, but I never looked back to check, not even after her eyes did a lightning-fast flicker to my book jacket and back. So now we both knew. Did she know the whole time? If she did, what did she think of me moving away? Was I being courteous and respectful? Or was I being a dick? Or did she not know that I knew?

The possibilities are endless. Or they’re without a visible end. Or I’ve outlined them all here. Who knows? All I know is that was a mere five minutes of my day.