Fred and I got Gomer Grunt pointed out to us the first time. I think Gomer Grunt gets pointed out to a fair number of people. We'd asked at the Marina Office if there was anybody who could teach us how to paint the bottom of our wooden boat. We'd paid far too much in the past to have Dowager's pretty bottom done and the time had come to learn how to do it ourselves.
Dowager's 15 or 20 or 14.75 tons. Who knows. She was built in 1931 and is of course made out of wood. Having her taken up in a sling "to the hard" was unnatural and unnerving for all of us. Fred, Dowager and I were filled with dread and then loathing and we came to the decision it'd be better all around if we took care of her at a tidal grid(1). Fred had cared for fiberglass boats in his past but never an old wooden one.
"They're not the same. We need a fisherman to teach us how it's done."
Gomer was highly recommended. "Check out crazy Gomer. He probably needs the money", were I believe the exact words. In any case, when we finally figured out who crazy Gomer was and had appraised him of our proposition he gave us a queer look, grunted and then told us he wouldn't do it.
"Won't do it!"
Our disappointment showed.
"I'll talk to Buddy(2)", Gomer said over his shoulder walking away. "See if he'll do it."
Buddy did. Help us that is. Although he almost walked off when I painted the depth sounder right after he'd told me not too.
"Oh! You meant this thing!?"
Gomer has tongue in cheek offered to help us paint Dowager's bum several times since. I believe one year he actually walked down to the muck and had a good look. Mooched a beer.
"She's in good shape. Gotta beer?"
When I asked him why he wouldn't help us the first year he told me it was the money.
"You were offering too much money", he grunted. "I would have done it for forty bucks but you were offering eighty."
"Oh Gomer! We needed the help. We needed someone to tell us the right way to do it. It was worth it to us."
"I know", Gomer said, "But eighty bucks was too much. I just couldn't do it."
That's the kinda guy Gomer is. Crazy.
Gomer's written TV shows, been to Mexico and Germany and a few places in between. From time to time he makes recruitment films for international accounting firms. (They don't let him come to the office.) He's got a degree in marine biology. He's been a commercial diver and ridden in helicopters, done several seasons fishing and likes my knitting. He was an airforce brat. He'd hide and then joyride in cargo planes when we was 12. Gomer's been trained to box. He's toured with a couple of rock groups. He definitely loved his Ma. She's gone now. He never had any children but knows all kinds of people, young and old, from all sorts of different lives. He lives up the creek, at anchor. He gets along with the Coast Guard and gets mad at some of the "gawd damn stupid people who go about doing things when they don't know anything about what they're doing" and he gets upset because the world doesn't make any sense.
"It's OK Gomer" I say sometimes real quiet.
Gomer tells people he's an anarchist but that's a cover up. He's just disappointed that the rules aren't real, that they're just made up as we go along. Gomer's mind is very straight, a scientist's mind a math guy's mind, but he's always getting in trouble. Uses his fists sometimes. Was trained to box. When I talk to him about it he always tells me, "They started it first!"
I believe him.
Gomer doesn't take a certain kind of "shit" from people.
"Easy for you Gomer! You're a guy and you're not afraid to hit back and hard. I get flattened! Besides, you've got to stop getting in trouble. It's just not cool."
Gomer hangs his head and then shyly/slyly tells me his Court story. About how the Judge tried not to smile.
From time to time people tell me Gomer doesn't have a degree in Marine Biology or that Gomer's never been to Guatemala or some other Gomer did, or did not do, this or that kindof thing. Gomer is an avowed anarchist and a mooch. "If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me."
Lots of people look at the way Gomer lives and just don't like him. Lots of people really believe Gomer when he talks about being an anarchist but I don't. It isn't so much that Gomer wants to abolish all forms of government. Gomer likes to argue but he's courtly polite, army brat polite. Gomer knows and likes using rules. It's just that Gomer doesn't feel anything or anyone should have the power to tell him how to live just as long as he's not hurting anything or anybody. I also believe Gomer thinks he's got a better track record at not hurting things than the Government does.
One time when Fred was visiting Heindritch in Holland, and I was feeling lonely, I asked Gomer to accompany me on a day trip on Dowager. Up Indian Arm. Three hours in. Three hours back. Put-putting out from the Creek to Vancouver Harbour you have to go past the Maritime Museum and the University of British Columbia. You always get to see the ships in from Norway and Israel and Japan and the US. Under the Lion's Gate Bridge, there you are in the wheelhouse listening to Vancouver Traffic and admiring Stanley Park and the North Shore. Past Coal Harbour you get to dodge the Sea Bus and admire a big tug. Look! A seal. There! An eagle. Under the Iron Workers' Memorial Bridge, past the oil refinery and some mighty fine real estate. Up Indian Arm for a day trip. It's a good day.
"Why me?" Gomer asked. Not saying no, just asking.
"Cause it'll be an adventure Gomer and I'm lonely. You know Fred's away. It's a nice trip and I don't want to do it by myself and I trust you", I implored and gave him my bestest and cutest grin.
"I'll feed you and give you a case of beer when we get back."
"OK. What time?"
Gomer came by Dowager early in the morning and I knew we were in trouble when he wouldn't leave Pea Pod behind. Pea Pod's Gomer's dinghy. It's a Pea Pod dinghy.
"How are we going to secure it?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it", Gomer replied.
A line from Pea Pod to Dowager, tied securely to Dowager's back cleat was thrown into Pea Pod with a diver's weight keeping it down.
"That won't stay!"
"Don't worry about it."
"Ok Sigred", I thought to myself. "Don't worry it. Gomer's providing".
We set off.
I explained Dowager's likes and dislikes. Gomer grunted through the lesson. We backed out of the slip, maneuvered through the Marina and put putted out from the Creek into Vancouver Harbour. We went past the Maritime Museum, past UBC, past Saki Maru, Asian Producer, Teer Gynt and Bulk Commander. We listened to Vancouver Traffic and I watched the people jogging on the sea wall in Stanley Park as we went under the Lion's Gate Bridge. "Look! A seal", Gomer pointed out. "Over there! An eagle", I pointed out later to Gomer after we gone under the Iron Workers' Memorial Bridge and past the oil refinery and some mighty fine real estate. I sketched in my booky and Gomer drove Dowager. I gave him coffee and sandwiches and chili and more coffee. We didn't talk much Gomer and I during our day trip up Indian Arm and back but it was a good day.
"Will you look at something Gomer", I asked him on our way back for the fourth time to find Pea Pod 'cause she's slipped her leash and had gone a'wandering again. Gomer didn't answer so I flipped through my booky. My booky's my little notebook that I pack around with me and write things in that I don't want to forget. Sometimes I draw pictures in it and sometimes I do my household budget in it. Sometimes I write poetry in it and sometimes I rip pages out of it and write notes for other people. You know, a booky.
"Look at this Gomer."
I showed him a page where I'd cut and pasted a headline from the local newspaper. It read:
FROM SEA TO BARREN SEA
The article in the paper was about the Canadian fisheries. That particular article was about trouble on the East Coast but there's trouble here too.
The headline I'd cut from the paper took up two facing pages in my booky and I'd printed at the bottom of the second page these words:
"In the paper. Great big headlines. Still the crows are wrong."
Gomer looked me in the eye and then at the open notebook in my hands. He took the book from me and read the pages a couple of times then handed it back to me and looked up to my eyes again. I wasn't surprised to see moisture in his eyes.
"What do you think it means Gomer? Isn't it weird? What was I trying to say?" I asked him.
Gomer patted me on the shoulder and said, "What about that beer?"
"Not 'til we're back."
At one point we were genuinely worried, Gomer, Dowager and I, that we'd really lost Pea Pod, but some guy on the radio started talking about a hazard to navigation and so we found her.
Nobody got hurt.
It was a good day.
(1) Tidal Grids
There is conjecture that tidal grids will soon go the way of the dodo bird. Environmentally a No No.
Ad in the Toronto Globe and Mail, March 20, 2004, sponsored by www dot can dot ca Source: Energy Information Administration (2003):
"Canada consumes the highest level of energy in the world."
It is common and historical to place blame firmly with a minority (read politically inconsequential) user. It's gives the appearance of "dealing" and it has the added special bonus of a fairly long lasting dramatic effect. It causes a small consequentially acceptable furore. Provides entertainment value.
Entertainment always appears easier than working at something equitable but then again it's always a limited engagement sortof thing.
A couple of years after I'd met Buddy, one of the Ladies of the Dock advised me he was a European jewel thief hiding out in our Marina waiting for the heat to die down.
Buddy denied it when I asked him.
I meant to ask the Russian Spy guy. He always seemed to know a lot about the people in the Marina but I never got around to it. Gomer wouldn't comment and I don't think Mr. Shaw knew Buddy.
In the end, the Russia Spy guy went back to Russia and then Buddy stopped hanging around as much. I gave up on my curiosity.
Dangling from a Hook.
Buddy had to deny it.