Bellwether Vance

Hounds to the Left of me/Jokers to the Right

Bellwether Vance

Bellwether Vance
December 31
You'd like me. People like me.


Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 10, 2012 8:28AM

Down Under the Rainbow

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What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. That's the plucky platitude from Nietzsche, of all people, who also declared "God is dead." Attempting to annihilate a professional nihilist is presumptuous, but I think my version is truer and bleaker: What doesn't kill us will try again.

I know the manner of my looming demise. Without meaning to (perhaps), my children will be the death of me.

It's my boy this time, trying again, and I should have guessed he'd be the most persistent, as I waited with the other mothers on the beach all those years ago, as our little ones -- junior sailors, none above the age of ten -- sailed bathtub boats across a slice of open water, a last test in a week-long sailing course. We'd set up a picnic to celebrate their arrival and we fluttered avidly, each of us searching for one particular face as they came into view. While the other children  beached their boats and flew into the arms of awaiting mommies, my son refused to land, tacking back and forth just off shore, leaving me to lower my arms, to cross them and hug myself.

He tried to kill me last year with a harrowing trip across the Gulf of Mexico in an Igloo cooler. Upon his return he re-enrolled in college with plans to pursue an engineering degree, but just before classes started  he got it into his head to finish the job, to bury his mother, once and for all. Surely that was the sole purpose of his next move -- a flight to Jamaica to crew for a sailboat headed across the Carribean Sea, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. 

When it comes to anxiety, I'm a one person power plant. I shit coal fire seven days a week, so I don't need any fuel. Whenever our son jumps shore he leaves behind bills, taxes, pets and property, memories of past reckless behavior and close calls. That's a lot of fuel. I have trouble sleeping because my brain never cools down. I lie there, looking up, and the ceiling becomes a movie screen showing a marathon of snuff films.  For a self-professed optimist I wonder why, when it comes to my children, my imagination works in one dark direction. Why can't I make a lighthearted movie, a movie where no one dies in the end, not even me? I should try.

So I was feeling awfully frightened about my son's journey until I researched the trip. Did you know the Pacific Ocean, despite being Earth's largest ocean, is quite shallow? Five feet at its deepest point. That's why there are "No Diving" signs posted all along the route from Panama to Australia. 

Along the way they'll stop at many islands. Galapagos first, where the main attraction is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme park. My son dressed as Donatello, his favorite Ninja Turtle, for Halloween last year and he's packed his costume to wear when they visit the park. You get a 10% discount on admission if you arrive in costume.

The next spot of land  is 3000 miles West, a sail that will take three hours if the wind is right, to a pair of small islands named Coque and Bull. The islands are near enough that you can literally hop from one to the other, but they are harshly divided by economic conditions. Coque is a wealthy island, and Bull is poverty stricken.

In the 1970's both islands received a cash windfall from an anonymous benefactor long thought to be Marlon Brando. Coque invested in a factory that produces everyone's favorite infommercial product, the Automatic Self-Flagellation Machine -- 29.95 plus shipping and handling, but wait, there's more. You'll receive a satin-lined carrying case, free, just pay additional shipping and handling. I purchased one not long ago, when I'd run out of exciting ways to hate myself.  The total amounted to $300.17.  I opened the package and unwrapped a rock and a nylon, draw-string sack. Feeling duped, I set the rock on my dresser and every time I saw it my worst fears were confirmed – I'm an idiot. A zero. Can't do nothing right. – and, being so dim, it took me a while to realize, Whoa! This thing really works! Once I felt pleased with my purchase, it stopped working. I think it needs new batteries.

Bull Island used its money to fund a pet rock breeding program, and we all know the tragic ending to that tale. After being shipped out to children all over the world, the pet rocks died in captivity. For a while it seemed like the front page of every newspaper featured a photo of a sobbing child cradling the lifeless body of an adored pebble. Subsequent lawsuits bankrupted the island. Sadly, no one can afford to neuter the pet rocks; they copulate with abandon, and are considered a nuisance. Don't try to take one home as a souvenir, however. They are a protected species. Greenpeace shows up regularly to prevent frustrated islanders from tossing them into the sea.

Every other island is rainbows, coconuts, vegan cannibals, friendly snakes, toothless fish and oregano passing as weed (which still makes you plenty silly and temporarily Italian), and I won't be alarmed until he makes landfall in Australia. It's a fact that everyone who visits Australia is eaten by either a shark or a dingo. Why tourists keep flocking, I'll never know. Maybe koalas really are that cute. It's like New York City, where everyone who goes is murdered, but – The Shows! Oh well. Murder isn't usually fatal and I'm told by those in the know that the experience of being eaten by a wild beast is only mildly unpleasant, no worse than a mammogram.

My son left last week and three weeks ago this coming Saturday, he will get off the plane with presents from his travels. For me, two stuffed creatures – a dingo and shark. From the concourse, he'll raise a fist and yell, "They didn't get me, Mom!"

Of course I'll be happy to see him and also annoyed. The shark is huge, with a hideous smile and cold marble eyes, and I'll have to hang it on the wall and pretend to adore it like everything else he's given me from pre-school on, every glittery, construction paper craft. Like the damn macaroni necklace I've been wearing continuously since 1991. Now this shark. Jesus Christ, why can't he just draw something for the refrigerator like all the other kids? Didn't we pay for an art degree?

When he attempts to embrace me, I'll hold him off with a stiff arm. He stinks! Worse than a dead God wearing a polecat coat. The old me would have wanted to roll in it like really bad dog,  but I'm stronger now since I've survived this latest assassination attempt. The hug can wait until he's had a shower.

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australia, sailing, sons, mothers, family

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Oh Bell! I'll add my prayers for his safe and shark-less safe return!
Did I say "safe"? I meant "safe."
Sigh... Mama always said that when you had a child, you committed yourself to 30 years of hard labor. Mama was wrong - #1 son is 36 now, and it ain't over yet. Bet that helped a lot.

Does it help to know you provided plenty of laughs?
Loved this! My son is attempting to kill me as well; although he is in South Korea for the year in the Air Force, he wants to volunteer to "deploy" somewhere dangerous: with his hebrew tattoo on his hand. Just kill me now! rated.
You've touched a nerve here. Well done.
"When it comes to anxiety, I'm a one person power plant. I shit coal fire seven days a week, so I don't need any fuel. "
If we could harness anxiety we could fuel the world! Yours is priceless in this form. But aside from benefiting from your ceiling snuff films, I am wishing you lots of sailor hugs and stuffed sharks from your son.
God, Bell, your incredible writing almost distracts me from the horror of your story. Please tell me something I've wondered for 20 years. How is that the most anxious types produce the most fearless children? ~r
I think you may be more anxious than I am.
This is such a slice of reality and told so amusingly. I went to do my son's laundry after camp once and literally had to hold off vomiting, I gagged so badly. -R-
I'm sorry your dear son has caused you so much anxiety and hope he gets back safe and sound. I'm sure he will, though. Those that cause us such pangs are carriers. They never suffer from the disease itself. Sharing to FB as a piece of really wonderful writing!
See, if you're an optimist there's really only one direction for your imagination to go. Nietzsche was clearly an optimist.

Do they still sell those self-flagellation doo-hickeys? I've yet to discover an exciting way to hate myself. My self-hate is dull as dishwater - and dirtier.
p.s. As they say in Australia: "she'll be right mate."
Since I am petrified of water I would have hogtied that boy and never let go.
But you can't.. all you can do is greet him with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit and that will say it all. Of course holding some of your famous food might be nice too.
Man I could not deal with this hahaha
Next time make him take a Satphone.
After seeing several movies where the Marianas Trench is the beginning of the end of the world (until we nuke it, of course), I'd say you're very optimistic, But if he's survived Australia, which sounds like the most dangerous place on earth between the sharks and the snakes and spiders and jellyfish and crocodiles, along with crossing thousands of miles of ocean (Kon-Tiki is one of my favorite books, in large part because it is so scary), I think you've got a kid who is going to outlast you. I really want to believe he crossed the Gulf of Mexico in an Igloo cooler. That's something I wish I could have done! As long as it wasn't hurricane season, and I had a trail of other coolers behind me full of food and water and shark repellant. I admire your kid, even if he didn't do that.
Safe and happy reunion, Bell.
"When it comes to anxiety, I'm a one person power plant. I shit coal fire seven days a week, so I don't need any fuel. " I believe you; anxiety is the lifeblood of motherhood.
I love the rainbow in this.
"I use Rancid Polecat number two. It keeps my skin nice and scaly." -- Michael Palin from one brilliant Python sketch or another.

Having been murdered three times so far, I can assure you that worst of it is the initial shock: "That asshole fucking murdered me." That and the dry cleaning bill if you bleed alot.
You take wry humor to a whole 'nother level, love.

In me best Aussie accent:

G'day mate. N'worries, th' wata's a beet shaaky ta die, but we won't be in any deep watah. Tha's whay the reeely beeg ones ah.

Hang in there and if you're on pins and needles the whole time, remember to check that voodoo doll from Haiti at customs when going through the Panama Canal.

This is why I didn't have children of my own (though it doesn't keep me from worrying about those that belong to other people--keep us posted).
No one can tell a story like you can Bell. But I do feel your pain. Kids! they'll be the death of us all.
Congrats on the EP. Ah!
I got a 'kick' out of you?
Your comment ref:.,
How to blog @ Kerry's . . .
His post about success . . .
You want a bargain deal?
I have a old TV for sale.
It has rabbit ears on top.
It's the `black and white.
Make me a offer? cheap.
I like polecat coats, hat,
pants, and no tease cat.
Hey Bell, I think I saw the very same National Geographic doc about the Pacific. Highly illuminating, and in your case reassuring.
Well, at least he hasn't been to Burning Man and taken your spouse, like my son did. I can certainly relate to your anxiety.

As to Nietzsche, just before reading your piece just I happened to use the same quote in a comment on another blog. Christopher Hitchins, as he was dying, wrote a profound piece about why that quote is full of it.

I'm happy to discover you writing and wish to read more.
Bell, I cannot shake the image of you with orange flames leaping out of your butt. My one and only child has tried and failed at matricide so many times...and Coochmuck is right. It doesn't seem to ever be over.

Let us know when you get the word that the Dingo did not eat your baby. Bell, this was wonderful but I do feel your pain.
There's the other side of Nietzsche's philosophy which in my books has always been interpreted ...What doesn't kill you, really, really hurts a lot!

Enjoy your reunion with your son -- after his shower, that is. :)
He'll be fine!

But I may die from laughter. Damn you Vance!
You are so amazing, in every way. Your young ocean wanderer must be too. Next time he's away at sea, you could make him a nice blingy macaroni necklace, as payback.
You describe very well notions most of us do not really understand. This is a great read, Bell, very well said. R
hahaha! That was fantastic. And every line feels true.

Why just this last week my child got some dreadful rash! I'm certain she's going to eventually kill me. They'll find me clutching my purse and a credit card, with a doctor's bill in front of me, and they'll simply bury me that way.
Your version of Nietzsche's "platitude" is so much more accurate. What doesn't kill us the first time will still spill blood and of course the scent will attract predators from far and wide. Self-flagellate no more.
You are an incredible mother who's raised an even more incredible son. You've instilled in him such a fearless spirit of adventure, yet he still comes home! What more could a mother ask for? I have to keep mine close by continuously bribing them with offers of free groceries and help with their rent. Loved this.
I laughed, I cried, I related!! Wonderful piece, Bell. Loved every line of it. Maybe instead of a stuffed shark, he'll bring you a shark tooth necklace to complement your macaroni necklace.
I felt for you as I laughed- achingly laughed. What a hoot!
I hope he doesn't decide to do an Iditarod! You'll keel over!
Who ever thought children could have such an impact...
.........(¯`v´¯) (¯`v´¯)
............... *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Peace and ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
⋆───★•❥Have a Lovely Day ☼ .¸¸.•*`*•.♥ (ツ)
I am so sorry your son is so reckless. At the same time, I admire him! I would hate to think of someone fighting wanderlust and staying home to live a conventional life.

Then again, I'm not yet a mom and thus have no idea how I'd feel if it was my own progeny dropping everything to go on a voyage to strange climes....

I wish him safe travels, and I wish I could reach out and give you a hug and my support - I, too, shit coal fire seven days a week (thank you for that phrase!), and know your pain.

Hang in there and good luck to both of you.
Oh, I hear you loud & clear, Ms. Bellwether Vance! I am mightily relieved to hear the Pacific is 5 feet at its deepest point, and "that's why there are "No Diving" signs posted all along the route from Panama to Australia." :) Who knew? Best wishes for your son to come back home safely...hang in there, Mama!
Your son is an awesome example of fearlessness. Lucky dude! Hope his next adventure doesn't kill you. ;)
Holy crap, Bell. This was so damned great. My new post mentions this stronger b.s. I tie it in to a camel but not Neitzche. Mad props to you. Vegan cannibals? Say it ain't so.
I think your son is living out your fantasies and taking the concept of an examined life in too physical a sense. I don't know what I am saying, at this point. Once they smell you need to take measures!
Delicious post, once again
I loved every word and kneel at your feet in awe of your writing!
"When it comes to anxiety, I'm a one person power plant. I shit coal fire seven days a week, so I don't need any fuel. Whenever our son jumps shore he leaves behind bills, taxes, pets and property, memories of past reckless behavior and close calls. That's a lot of fuel. " FANTASTIC.
It is always good to laugh at the impulsivity of childhood wonder, even when it isn't childhood anymore. But for us as parents most unexpected warriors our children are still our most precious resources. My daughter considering some of her antics, still strikes a chord of appeal in my heart, besides the appeals of other things she's had to appeal, get it...besides those on the streets of lifes lessons, while buzzing through stop signs, and paying premium prices and getting to know the locals at the government hideouts behind closed doors, and right back into our parents. Like clockwork don't you think. Lol this post was priceless.
God is dead, but he/she/it still never gives you more than you can handle, They why what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. My reply when people offer up that first platitude is that God apparently has a lot more faith in me than I have in him/her/it.
I'm a worrier, too, so I can relate to your angst. Little Bit went on a kindergarten field trip without me this week and I prayed and fretted until I picked her up (safe and sound) from school. A friend told me once that motherhood is like having your heart pulled out of your body every day. Oh, enough about me. You're delightful in your absurdist ways, dear.
Dianaani -- If you're doing the praying, I know someone's listening.

Jon -- You've got such a kind heart, that I know it did.

Choochmuck -- I was hoping you'd tell me it gets better. Damn! (Email me so that we can catch up!)

Deborah -- Whenever I start feeling scared and persecuted, I think about all the moms and dads with kids in combat zones, and how they must feel. That makes a sailing trip like this seem like a "three hour tour."

jlsathre -- Like a tooth nerve? Those are the worst!

Dirndl -- Yeah, you know I'd hang the shark up on the wall.

Joan -- Maybe because kids don't want to be like their parents? So they deliberately set about doing things exactly the opposite way? Or maybe because we feel all the anxiety for them and they see us being silly with it and that takes all the fear away?

Pauline -- Actually, I'm BETTER now than I used to be!! =)

Christine -- It's the shoes that will do you in.

ccdarling -- Thank you. I have to believe that the more people who are certain he will return home safely, the more likely it is that it will come true.

Consonants -- You've tried the regulars right -- booze, drugs, cults, terrible relationships, hair shirt, dead-end job....

Linda -- He does love my shrimp and grits. I could meet him with a bowl of that.

Larry -- They have one, and he's called twice. But it's so expensive. I'm just glad he's on a nice boat that has things like satphone, an EPIRP, GPS and all the other things a boat should have.

Mumble -- His own boat seemed like an Igloo to me, or might as well have been. We'll see if this better equipped boat equals a better (and more comfortable) outcome. He should be back in around 4-7 months.

Fusun -- I was tempted to eat Skittles while I typed.

Stim -- I figured you'd have some inside information about the process. Your experience is a huge relief. I can spring for dry cleaning!

Dunniteowl -- I wish I could put on an Australian accent. Everything sounds like much more fun, harmless, when they say it.
Seer -- Maybe I knew they'd be the death of me, but I didn't imagine they'd relish the opportunity so much.

Sophieh -- I know you a have some special people in your life that you worry about just as much. The mother-child bond is strong, but not magical, and although I might not worry so much about someone I didn't feel totally responsible for....I have loved others just as much.

Trilogy -- Pain. Worse than a migraine, or being eaten by a dingo.

Art -- I'll wear those rabbit ears and an old, ratty bathrobe, knee socks too. Look away -- if you can. Or let the horror sink in. Either way!

Abrawang -- 5 feet deep...right!? Even I could touch bottom (with two inches to spare).

Luminous -- I did read the Hitchen's piece, and when I was writing this I thought of him and how what didn't kill him DID try again. And succeeded. Seems like he should have beaten it. If anyone could buck a trend it would be him.

Brazen -- xoxo to you too. No tears right now. I just got an email and he's fine. So maybe I'll sleep tonight.

Lezlie -- Ha! The flames are only mildly unpleasant, no worse than a mammogram.

Bea -- With all the dogs my son grew up around, he should be regularly dingo-whisperer by now! I'll keep y'all informed. Dontcha worry about that.

Scarlett -- There is an inherent whole lotta hurt built into that statement, so much so that the "makes you stronger" point seems like not so much to look forward to.

Trig -- I'm thinking of you and your son in the military. I hope when he gets stationed, it will be somewhere with a log flume and cotton candy all hours of the day and night.

Greenheron -- I hope you know I'm not really wearing a macaroni necklace right now. But I might make him a handprint in plaster and make him hang it on his wall. What kid doesn't want his mother's handprint on the wall??

Thoth -- I just don't understand why he can't stay put. What's so bad about staying put? Anyone....?

odetteroulette -- The best you can hope for is that you die without paying the bill. That way you get the satisfaction of sticking it to the man.

Margaret -- Free groceries are better than lottery tickets. You're a good mom too.

Unbreakable -- Genius! I may actually ask for one of those. Except, wait...I thought all the fish were toothless.

Mango -- Thanks. I'm to the point where I have to laugh. Otherwise my power plant will blow up.

mypsyche -- With what you've been journey must seem like a cakewalk. I know in most respects I'm lucky and within that luck I can find humor in my anxiety. There is a height of anxiety (valid anxiety) where no humor can pass, and I hope I never had to experience that.

Algis -- I thought when his nine-pound head came out, I was done with all this "impact."

Alysa -- I haven't given up hope that he might one day live a conventional life. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Clay -- Who knew, indeed! I do worry that with the water being so shallow he might ignore the signs and dive anyway and break his neck. Oh dear.

Belinda -- Wait! What next adventure?

Fernsy -- I think you're on to something. He's bundled my frustrations with his own to the extent of some explosive -- leaving.

Firechick -- I really appreciate your kind words of encouragement. This kind of worry is often unproductive, but when I write about it, it doesn't seem quite so.

Momsacomic -- I've always thought that daughters -- at young adulthood anyway -- were more stable than sons. I've heard from others, that that isn't necessarily so. I always love to hear about young women who haven't let the "big bad world" hold them back the way it did me (and probably so many others). They're heroes in my book.

Tom -- My dad said the same thing when my brother died. I think whatever religion he ever had died then too. I always tell my son and my daughter -- Don't do anything that might kill you. Your Papaw can't handle anymore loss, and when people love you you owe to them to keep yourself safe. I hope they've listened.

Lucy -- It is like that. Or it's like having to pack it into a lunch sack for them every morning, hoping they'll keep track of it and keep it from getting wet!
Oh Bell; I feel your pain! This was hilarious. I hope you share it with the "little" brat :) r
"For a self-professed optimist I wonder why, when it comes to my children, my imagination works in one dark direction. Why can't I make a lighthearted movie?"

I think this trailer is a good start.
BTW, where's my recipe here? No jakfruit tart? nothin??
hugs -- Oh I made my feelings very clear, and yes, I will share this with him, and maybe he'll get it when he has his own kids. Until then, he'll think I'm being ridiculous!

Gabby -- Sharkfin soup? Maybe? Or pet rock soup or turtle soup....I've heard of jackfruit but never tasted it. I did see a can at the Thai market....hmm....(Surely your daughter has some recipes for such items to share?)
Whatever happens, my children must NOT talk to yours! I've got my hands full already. Fingers crossed for your son and the Igloo cooler!
The mother of an adventuring child. I now know how it feels. Gorgeous, histrionic and thoroughly relatable.
now it's official. you worry about your kid(s) so much, i'm absolutely justified in never worrying about mine. didn't Nietzsche also say that worry averages out over all mothers? i think so but i'm not looking it up. great stuff, great story, bell. we have sharks all over the house here but only because we are their namesakes. it's a burden some of us married into. sadly. :)
When you say "What doesn't kill you will try again" I realize what a great philosopher you are. You do OS proud.
Makes me both glad I never had kids and sad I don't have a son myself. Great work.

And thanks for the comments on my virtual Valentine piece.
Oh Lordy. I thought I was a worrier. You got me beat by a load of coal. One of my two daughters spent a year in Australia. I didn’t worry about the dingoes; I was obsessed with poisonous bugs. Apparently, Australia has the most in the world.
It’s comforting to know that there are others beside me who lay at night worrying; perhaps we should exchange popcorn recipes.
Oh dear, Bell, your post is a little too timely for me. I'm expecting my first sometime in August and I don't know whether to hope for a boy or a girl. With a girl, I'm scared I'll reap what I sowed. But with a boy, well, my husband is already a fishing and boat fanatic and I'm sure he'll pass it on to his son. My heart was in my throat reading about your worst fears. My mother has told me for years that you don't know real worry until you have children.... guess I've got that to look forward to. Wishing your son a safe journey!
Belle, those fearless kids will put us in an early grave if we let them. Keep that stiff arm and a stiff chin, girlfriend. :)
Fabulous story as only you could tell it.
This is so very funny! I'm so glad to know I am not the only one to have laid awake at night watching that horror show running on my ceiling. If even the slightest breeze blows your son astray, I know in my heart of hearts he will land on an island with other people who were taking a three hour tour when the weather started getting rough...and he'll live happily ever-after eating coconut cream pies watching Ginger and Mary Anne build him his own grass-hut!
Hopefully he will not decide to downsize to windsurfing. Beautifully written.
OH my this story is just chalk full of goodies and I hope your are surprising and fun too.
.°•.¸.•°❤ PEACE ❤°•.¸.•° •.¸¸.•*`*•❤
Computer has been down and am saving up to buy a new one. Been missing you, and I'm delighted to find that you somehow manage to top even yourself. Keep raising the bar pretty lady!