Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Waves of Warning 16

Big Time, Being and Nothingness

WOW 16 in PDF format

A thirty foot power boat nosed out into Tampa Bay with four surfers, two
seaplane flyers and a slum-kid-turned-millionaire aboard.

“I thought we gonna meet the boss onna yacht! She no onna dis boat!”

“Of course not, Sonny-boy. This isn’t the yacht. That is!”

Heath Larson pointed across the bay to a palace of lights floating on an
illuminated sea.

“Look like one kine aircraft carrier in Pearl Harbor!” said Bruddah.

“I hope he’s not another big time wheeler dealer looking to make some
money in the surf industry,” moaned a jet-lagged Aleja Gracellen, “But Cheryl
said he was a nice guy, so here we are, I guess.”

“Well, Aleja, for one thing, there isn’t this guy’s kinda money in the surf
industry, and for another, you don’t get this rich being a nice guy.”

“Uh, Heath, no talking about money, ok? It just isn’t done in certain
circles,” stammered Mercante, unable to take his eyes off the megayacht.
Bruddah and Larson couldn’t help but laugh at that one. And Mac Owens
was right behind them.

“Mr. Mercante,” said Mac Owens, who had switched to bourbon in the
limo, “I shore du ‘preciate you in-vitin’ me an’ Clem to cum ‘long, yup. An’
you kin count on us to make sure y’all make a helluva good impression!”

“Shoots, I wonder how much that sell for?” said Sonny-boy, completely

“Well, young man, as J.P. Morgan once said, ‘If yuh hafta ask how much,
yuh cain’t afford it.” said Charleton, who had been around big time wealth
before and wasn’t all that keen on being stuck with the experience yet again.
But the bourbon was the best, spending time with Mac Owens was priceless,
and so far, Roberto Mercante had asked a lot of good questions about his PBY
without asking how much it cost.

The tender came up behind the megayacht. “Aeolusean – New York” was
painted in swirls of blue and gold across the transom almost forty feet wide.
Lights built into the hull below the waterline lit up the water all the way down
to the sandy bottom.

“She’d make a helluva squid boat, if ya didn’t hafta pay yer fuel bill,” said
Mac Owens, “Prob’ly cost ya close to hunnerd grand to fill ‘er up.”

“Hundred tousand dolla? For gas?” exclaimed Noaloa.

“Hell yeah, an mebbe more,” said Charleton, “Boat this size probly got
thirty, forty thousand gallon tanks. Enough ta fill up a damn swimmin’ pool.
‘Course she’s probly got one of those, too.”

“Fo’ reals!?”

“Yessirree, young man,” said Mac Owens, “Yer ‘bout to have yer eyes
opened. Didja ever read Fitzgerald?”

“The rich are different than you and I,” quoted Heath Larson.

“C’mon, Heath, Cheryl needs us to make a good impression, so let’s try to
be good guests, ok?” said Mercante.

“Yeah, Heath,” said Gracellen, “We owe Cheryl at least that much.”

“Yeah, maybe,” said Larson sarcastically, “But you don’t end up owning a
megayacht by being Mr. Mellow.”

Cheryl Corlund knew Ben Jeffries was an astute judge of character, and
after the meeting in his office, she had suggested he meet the surfers who
would be the core of Wavelife’s new image. He thought that was a grand idea
and suggested a weekend on his yacht. Corlund checked her calendar, and
Jeffries made arrangements to move the Aeolusean from the Bahamas to
Tampa Bay for the weekend of the surf expo in Orlando. Corlund then had her
husband call Heath to have him, Sonny-boy and Bruddah fly in from Hawai’i,
and she’d personally called Aleja Gracellen because she knew Jeffries would
appreciate her bearing and personality, key image points in Corlund’s vision
for expanding outside the surf industry. She also suggested that June Wilson
and Bill Massara be a part of the weekend aboard the yacht, and Ben Jeffries
wholeheartedly agreed. And when Roberto called from the trade show to tell
her the flight engineer from the Skyhook was in Florida visiting a friend and
that they’d happened to stop by, she had her husband invite him to come along
for the weekend to round out a complete picture of her plan. Now it was all
coming together, and Corlund couldn’t have been more pleased as the tender
approached the megayacht. She was standing with Wilson and Massara on an
upper deck, watching Ben Jeffries and two of his grandchildren welcome the
surfers and the flyers aboard the Aeolusean.

After a complete tour of the megayacht, or as much as they could see in an
hour’s time, they all sat down to a four-star Michelin dinner on gold leaf china
embossed with the image of the Greek god of the wind, Aeolus.

The after-dinner movie in the private theater was a classic western, “Red
River”. It was an unlikely choice, but Jeffries had picked the classic Howard
Hawks western for good reason: it was about as far from a fifty million dollar
megayacht as one could imagine. That suited Charleton and Owens just fine.
They knew the movie by heart and, between sips of bourbon, were saying lines
from the movie word for word. After the movie Sonny-boy went off to play
video games with the kids. In the main salon, Aleja was poised and delightful
discussing the art on the walls with Jeffries, Wilson and Massara. And Owens
and Charleton talked seaplane story with Roberto and Bruddah. It was all
Cheryl Corlund could have hoped for, except for one thing. Though she did
her best to make him feel comfortable by getting him to engage in the
conversations around the room, she was unable to prevent Heath Larson from
becoming increasingly ill-at-ease as the night wore on.

The clock was climbing towards midnight when Ben Jeffries gave
everyone a copy of the Aeolusean guidebook and suggested they pick out their
suites for the night. Sonny-boy was obviously going to stay with the kids in
their room stocked with food and video games, so everyone else began to
make their choices. Aleja Gracellen liked the Grecian Isles, and since it was a
double, she was joined by June Wilson. Owens and Charleton took one look,
thanked Ben for his hospitality, and asked for a couple of berths in the crew
quarters. Jeffries couldn’t stop laughing and was glad to oblige them. Massara
and Bruddah took the British Admiralty, Corlund and Mercante took the
Oriental Black-and-Red lacquer room. But once again, Heath Larson seemed
the odd man out. Corlund suggested he take the Polynesian suite, thinking it
might do him some good to sleep in somewhat familiar surroundings to
brighten his spirits. He agreed with little more than a shrug of his shoulders.
It was pushing two a.m. and Heath Larson was wide awake. He just
couldn’t shake a sense of being detached from reality aboard the Aeolusean.
He was comfortable with that sensation while surfing, but to have it be
triggered by something man-made irritated him to the point that sleep was
hopeless. Then he realized there was only one way to deal with it. He left the
suite and, with guidebook in hand, set out to embrace all that surrounded him
exactly as if it was just another huge wave to be ridden.

He went down the passageway of the VIP suites deck assimilating the first
of many images he would coalesce into a collage to be considered later. He
walked past antique table and chair arrangements in small alcoves set between
the doors to the suites. When he came to a wide swirl of a stairway leading to
the upper decks, on a whim he went right past it to the rearmost of the
Aeolusean’s three elevators.

For the next hour he used elevator doors like the shutter of a camera to
take mental snapshots of wealth undreamt of by any person he’d ever known,
much less himself. Sometimes he’d take a step out of the elevator and just
stand there for a minute or so, emptying his mind of all its pre-conceptions
about money and absorbing images of a world as far from the inside of a wave
as any place he could imagine. In some ways he felt like a kid riding up and
down elevators. He liked the sensation of innocence – it provided welcome
contrast to the deep thinking going on in his powerful mind. He finished his
odyssey at the top deck of the forward elevator that opened on to the captain’s
bridge. From the bowels of the engine room to the control center of the
megayacht, Heath Larson had collected enough images to create a broad
mosaic for his intellect to ponder. And he knew just the place to do it.

He pushed a button to go back down a deck. Exiting the elevator he
walked straight towards an oak door under a brass sign that said, “Library”. He
opened the door and the lights came on automatically to reveal shelves of
custom bound volumes in a variety of leather bindings with an oversized
porthole in the wall opposite him. He began to scan the titles and authors’
names embossed in gold. When a volume caught his eye, he perused the first
few pages. Not only were they all first editions, but extremely rare ones at that.

He handled them carefully, knowing some must have been worth five or
six figures, easy. Ah, but we mustn’t think about money at a time like this. It
just isn’t done in certain circles! His inner voice chuckled at the incongruity.
He walked over to an alcove with indirect lighting where a lone book was
positioned as if it was an illuminated Bible in the Pope’s private collection.

The title was in French, but the name of the author caught his eye. He picked
the book up from its altar and walked over to an overstuffed leather chair. He
switched on the green shaded reading lamp positioned above and slightly
behind his head. Not knowing a word of French, he was nonetheless attracted
to the idea of paging through L’etre et le Néant, by Jean-Paul Sartre, in the
original. He opened the volume, and was surprised to find the title printed in
English. He was even more surprised when he began to page through the
custom-bound book in his hands. Whole sentences, even paragraphs, were
highlighted in florescent yellow. A fine point red pen had been used to
underline certain key words and phrases . Notes were carefully printed in the
margins. Here and there a star was placed next to a cryptic notation.

Larson’s curiosity was truly piqued. He thought of the falling-apart paper
back version of the same book sitting next to his bed back up in the hills of
Maui with many of the same underlinings and highlights. He remembered his
purpose for coming to the library: to contemplate all that he had seen on the
Aeolusean. But now his mind was even more alert, eager to use the book for
reference during his meditation.

Then he laughed when he thought of the catalyst he preferred for moments
like this, but he’d left the pakalolo back at the hotel, so he got up and went
over to a small liquor cabinet next to the porthole. He opened the cabinet to
find it contained only one bottle. Aeolusean – blended for Ben Jeffries was
embossed in gold leaf against a royal blue velvet label. He took a glass out of
the small rack and opened the bottle He poured two fingers and took a sip.

“Now that’s good Scotch!” he said aloud to the authors on the shelves. He
took another sip, looking out the porthole at the lights of Tampa Bay. He took
the tumbler and went to curl up with “Being and Nothingness”, the principal
text of modern existentialism, and consider the parallel realities of waves and
wealth. He had barely gotten comfortable when a voice surprised him from the
door of the library.

“I see you have an interest in the existential, Heath.”

Ben Jeffries had immediately noticed the absence of Sartre’s tome from
its customary place in the alcove. His long strides took him right past Larson
and directly to the liquor cabinet.

“Where does that come from?” he said as he poured himself a stiff one.

“The bowels of waves big enough to swallow the Aeolusean, Mr.

“Heath, please, call me Ben!”

“Well, as you might imagine, that’s hard to do in the bowels of a
megayacht, Mister Ben!”

Jeffries smiled at Larson’s similes and raised his glass. Their eyes locked
for an instant.

“A toast! To the bowels!”

Larson considered the moment, and then slowly raised his glass. They
each took a sip of the golden-amber liquid.

“Funny, sometimes I think I come aboard her so she can swallow me,”
said one of the most powerful men on Wall Street, “and I see your point, Mr.
Heath. This setting challenges one’s sense of authenticity, does it not? But
Sartre has been good company, as you can see, so that version of personal
anguish has been obviated by his, how shall we say, sage advice. Are you
familiar with such situations?”

“Yes, quite familiar. However, I’ve found him relevant in places that
present a somewhat less tangible reality than yours, I’d say.”

“Reality? Now how would Sartre respond to that, my friend?”

“Touché, Ben. which takes us to the heart of an issue, since your yacht is
here, and my waves are not.”

“Insofar as the fact that after you ride one, it is no longer existent?
Whereas the Aeolusean exists in space moment after moment after moment?”

“Precisely. Ben, it seems we’ve arrived at an appropriate point of
departure for a conversation. What say another round and let’s have at it,” said
Larson, with a mischievous grin matched by the look on Jeffries’ face.

“My sentiments exactly!” Jeffries went back to the cabinet and retrieved
the bottle, relishing the idea of matching wits with a highly unusual guest.

“May I say, Heath, that I am grateful for your company. So many times
I’ve had guests aboard and more often than not the talk devolves into chatter
about the market or the costs of everything in this day and age. Not this time,
however, and so let me propose a toast to Cheryl Corlund!”

“To the CEO,” said Larson, rising to his feet, “may she continue to
manage us with a deft hand!” The room echoed with full-throated laughter.

“Yes, we must thank her for the opportunity to while away the wee hours
considering the finer existential distinctions between waves and wealth!”

“May I propose the points of our discussion, Heath?”

“Something along the lines of ‘where does all the money go?’ and/or
‘whither the energy of the wave?’”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” laughed Jeffries as Larson stood
and proffered his tumbler. He poured his guest, then himself. He set the bottle
down on a small round table inlaid with mother-of-pearl and an iridescent
mosaic depicting Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind.

“To Sartre! Without him we’d be lost!”

“To Sartre! With him we’ll never be found!”

The two men first examined their respective experiences dealing with
massive amounts of ocean energy and financial power and the necessary
courage and flair essential to scaling the heights of success in their chosen
arenas. Then they probed their respective senses of detachment from “réalitié”,
as Sartre had posited the concept, with regards to the securities market where
nothing was secure and the reefs where, more often than not, there were no
waves to be found.

From time to time they referred to the volume on the table, like a
touchstone for a conversation of the sacred, never letting themselves stray
beyond the boundaries of logic they had defined for themselves. So fully
engaged was the discourse that time itself seemed to stand still. Not until a
shadow was cast by the bottle across the table did Jeffries make note of the
night’s passing.

“Light! In the east! I must say, young man, you’ve absorbed our French
mentor well.”

“Have I? As I recall, when students flocked to his lectures in 1968, he
upbraided them!”

“Point taken, Heath. I think his words were to the effect that if they had
read his philosophy, they would have known better than to listen to him!”

“Run aground on the reef of their own solipsism! Stranded like castaways
seeking guidance though forever blinded by ignorance of their folly as wouldbe
followers! How pathetic they must have seemed to the master!” Larson
was letting go a bit, almost like ending a wave with a comic pratfall.

“Speaking of which, the master of the Aeolusean will be coming on watch
at eight bells and waiting for instructions. Why don’t we continue our
conversation up on the bridge?”

“Actually, Ben, let’s leave the conversation here, where it existed, intact,
whole, untouched, complete.”

“Well put, Heath. To stoop to some pedestrian level of possession would
be unseemly.”

“Yes, Ben, the essence must be left elusive. Anything less, well, it just
isn’t done in certain circles!”

Both men laughed so hard tears came to their eyes.

“Say, why don’t we get everyone out of their bunks with a little joke of
sorts? I have an idea for the captain that might just meet with your approval.”
Jeffries grabbed the bottle and took a straight swig.

“Down the hatch!” He handed the bottle to Larson, who drained it dry.

“Hey, ho, and up she rises,” Jeffries began to sing in a sailor’s baritone,

“Hey ho, and up she rises!”

Larson eyes lit up like the sunrise and he came in right on time.

"Hey, ho and UP SHE RISES! Err-lie in the morning!”

“What shall we do with a drunken sailor?“
“What shall we do with a drunken sailor?“

Harmony and light filled the library to overflowing, and soon the salty
verses of the old sea chantey echoed down the passageways as two titans from
worlds apart made their way to the bridge. The captain of the Aeolusean
smiled at the two new shipmates delivering his orders for the day. Within a
few minutes, powerful winches were engaged and heavy anchor chains came
up through the hawsepipes. Twin diesels longer than limousines roared to life
and huge propellers began to spin. The megayacht turned slowly to leave the
land astern on the tide that was on the turn.

Out on the bow of the Aeolusean, a big wave surfer and a Wall Street
tycoon were joyfully dancing a drunken sailor’s jig as the morning wind
carried their voices to the horizon.

WOW 16

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