Well, folks, I did it. I took my little cat into the vet and he is now a completely vaccinated eunuch. A completely devastated, tired, groggy, and pissed off little eunuch. And because he’s been recuperating from the loss of his two little buddies, I’ve been babysitting him like a sick child on my two days off. I’ve been watching him sleep and making him eat, but my most important job has been to make sure that he doesn’t lick his stitches right out. Now, when the vet tech says, “alright, just make sure he doesn’t lick himself, and if he does then you can come on back and get a collar,” she has clearly never a. owned a cat or b. lived in Big Sur. First of all, cats do pretty much one thing: they lick themselves silly. Also, for those of us who live in Big Sur, we understand that, “come on back” means “next week when you make your town trip.” I drop things off at the dry cleaner and the nice man is almost apologetic when he says that it will take a few days. Two and a half weeks later when I make it back into town, it is me apologizing for using the dry cleaner as my personal closet for close to a month.
I don’t blame the vet tech; because even though I heard her say those magic words that should spark any Big Sur resident’s mind to ask further questions about how to perhaps avoid the 2 hour round trip and possible lost time at work to pick up a piece of plastic from the vet clinic, I walked merrily to the car with my pissed off cat and no small plastic cone. Waylon then proceeded to moan the whole car ride home, and when I let him out of his little hot pink carrier, he walked without his usual swagger to my bed where he promptly laid directly on my pillow and tried to lick his stitches out. It took me a while to convince him that if he licked his stitches I’d have to take him back to the butcher shop, I mean vet clinic.
Enough about my poor little cat’s “Great Matter.” All the time in the house meant I had plenty of time to a. bake up a storm (I though homemade bread cured what ails you, but Waylon was sad to find out it’s not true if what ails you is a sudden lack of testicles, and homemade oatmeal cookies are for sure what is missing from a joint birthday party at Open Mic at the Maiden Pub) and b. finish the Jimmy Buffett book I started last week. I don’t know what prompted me to pick it up in the first place (perhaps it was because my mother is a proper Parrot Head and I am the daughter of a fan of a son of a son of a sailor, or it might have had more to do with the $3.99 price tag on the book in the bargain bin at Borders and my aforementioned problem with leaving books in bookstores). Pick it up, I did, and put it down I could not.
I have, since working with Magnus who is both a sailor and a wonderful storyteller, really REALLY gotten a taste for the tales of seafarers. It is a style of storytelling unique unto itself – formed out of days and days on a boat designed to include not much more activity than drinking strong coffee, staring at the horizon, and of course swapping stories. Now, I say all of this as someone who has never been on a boat of any kind. I can only imagine, but boy do I imagine.
Magnus pipes in with stories from his years of travel through the South Pacific; the islands he went to, people he met, the way the mail boats work, and the differences between the sailing he did and the completely unromantic modern day version with GPS. There is a specific cadence to his stories, and a way that they are told. When Magnus starts a story, you should get your cup of coffee and take a seat. Jimmy Buffett’s stories have a similar rhythm and pace. This was both the curse and the gift of A Salty Piece of Land. The stories were whimsical and fun, they just weren’t a cohesive work.
A Salty Piece of Land does not stand as a particularly good novel; there is very little in the way of beginning, middle, and end, there is no climax, the plot is not as action based, and there is no subtle character development. It is, however, a nice ride on the waves of sea story telling. I imagine that if I were on vacation drinking rum on an island, the pace of life and my interest in the book would coincide and manifest in perhaps The Most Glorious Reading Experience Ever. However, pulling it off the shelf from next to another travel story – Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines; a book which sucked me in to the world of the Australian outback so thoroughly and with such an appropriate tempo that it didn’t matter whether or not I was down under– I think A Salty Piece of Land falls short of making me feel like I am someplace other than in a relatively cold trailer trying to make sure that my newly neutered cat doesn’t furtively lick his stitches.