Saturday, June 5, 2010

Drip, Drip, Drip...

WED, JUNE 9 -- 17 Days to go


"Brad, Why would you be nervous about Slash Oil? If 1,000 people showed up for each Beach Impeach event, surely we'll have a much bigger crowd for Slash Oil. Build it and they will come! -- Chet"

MY FRIEND CHET ZEBROSKI brought his smiling enthusiasm to all four of the Beach Impeach events of 2007. Then, in the fall of 2008, when I organized marches around the San Francisco Chronicle building every Tuesday for seven weeks in a row, Chet was the only person to join me for all seven marches. (The marches were a failed attempt to persuade the Chronicle to report on the Impeach Bush/Cheney movement.)

Here's how I know Chet was the only other person to attend all seven: I had hoped to attract hundreds of people each week, but during the first five Tuesdays the biggest crowd we drew was about 25 -- at one event we were in single digits. But in advance of Week 6 I was able to announce that Cindy Sheehan would attend, and between 70 and 100 people turned out for Cindy. Certain that the crowd would dramatically fall off for Week 7, I considered canceling, but when I mentioned this to Chet, he said, "No -- don't do that. Let's finish what we started, even if it's just you and me."

And so it was. Chet and me. Couple of times around the building. High-five. Hug. See you later, bro.

So 2010, Chet's email: "Brad, why would you be nervous about Slash Oil?"


THIRTY YEARS AGO, I lived on the edge of an enormous lake in northern Idaho. My neighbor was a 32-year-old man with large swatches of gray in his hair. (He's kind of private, and I haven't seen him in decades, so for this story I'm changing his name to Jason.) As I got to know Jason, I learned that he was a master boat builder, and as I got to know him even better I learned the source of his early gray hair.

Many of the people I met in Idaho were, like me, born elsewhere. Jason was a native of Southern California, and when he was just 14 years old he began building boats. By the time he was 25, Jason was already an accomplished boat builder and had designed and built his own 36-foot trimaran (three hulls). In February 1972 he set sail down the coast toward Central America, alone. His plan was to spend a few months getting to know his boat and hanging out. And then suddenly everything went wrong.

One morning when Jason was fifty miles off the coast of Baja California, his brand new radio went mysteriously kaput, preventing him from learning that a freak storm was blowing up out of nowhere. When it hit, Jason thought, "No problem, I know I've got a solid boat, I'll just ride this thing out." He secured everything that was loose, closed all the hatches, psyched himself up, and almost immediately the rudder to the boat's self-steering device snapped off. Jason thought, "Well, ok, I'll just steer it myself. I can do this."

For hour after hour he stood at the helm and "surfed" the boat through an endless series of 10-foot waves. Occasionally, larger waves crashed down on the boat, swamping everything, including Jason, who had lashed himself to the helm. Shrieking winds ripped and shredded most of the boat's sails. One of the masts broke off and toppled across the deck. For a day and a half Jason stayed at the helm: "Fear was the only thing keeping me awake," he told me.

As he grew depleted, Jason began to notice that his boat, too, was becoming sluggish, unresponsive, heavy in the water. After thirty-six hours, by which time the howling storm had pushed the boat 100 miles offshore, Jason decided that he finally absolutely had to set his "sea-anchor" and go below deck and try to get a few minutes of sleep. Upon opening the hatch, he discovered that (when he had been securing everything) he had inadvertently let a small rope get caught in the hatch cover. For the past 36 hours seawater had wicked along the rope and had drop-by-drop filled the cabin. All of Jason's supplies were flooded, and many were ruined.

One overlooked rope. A flooded cabin. 100 miles off the coast. Storm still raging. And now Jason knew that his battered boat was never going to sail again.

(I'll get to this story's heroic ending in a moment, but first I want to underscore that one overlooked rope. During the 30 years since I first heard this story, I have often imagined the deadly drip, drip, drip, while Jason was up at the wheel, steering his boat through the waves, unaware. And, Chet, that's what keeps me awake nights in advance of an event like Slash Oil, now just 17 days away. Drip, drip, drip. That, and the fact that only 60 people are registered so far. Today I received the Park Service permit allowing for up to 2,000 of us.)

After Jason discovered the truth of his predicament, he lashed himself to the top of the cabin and rode out the storm, which blew itself out after three days total. When it was finished, Jason went down into the cabin and recovered all the tools he could, plus a few meager rations and five gallons of drinking water now tainted with gasoline. He knew every part of his ruined boat and, 100 miles out at sea, he spent the next five days dismantling it and building himself a smaller boat, a catamaran.

On the last night, Jason was visited by three terrifying killer whales, thirty-five footers, who over and over circled his boat in search of dinner -- "so close I could have reached out and touched them."

The next day Jason began to sail back toward Mexico. When he reached the coastal shipping lanes he spotted a huge Norwegian freighter loaded with Volkswagens, sailed into its path, and stopped his catamaran. The freighter's crew hoisted Jason and his tiny boat aboard and delivered him to Long Beach, California. A month later he was in Central America, feet up, thinking, "Holy kamole!"

MY OWN DRIP-DRIP-DRIP: I thought of Jason's story today when I realized I had overlooked (at least) one little detail: If you have registered at the Slash Oil meetup site, make sure to please RSVP "Yes" in order to be tallied in the "expected" total. Several of you have registered but have not RSVP'd. It will take you just a few button clicks to accomplish this. And if you've got a couple of clicks left in you, please share news of Slash Oil with anyone you think might enjoy it. (Links below.) This helps me (sleep) more than you can imagine.

Thank you so much,


TO SIGN UP: Please register (it's simple, it's free) and then RSVP "Yes" at:

TO SHARE SLASH OIL with others please surf them to this blog:


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