Archive for January, 2009

A life of Johnson
January 16, 2009

LANTANA, FL — As mentioned previously here, a mariner now renowned in boating circles built his first boat here. He also has kept friends here, as everywhere else he has been around the globe, against all odds.

Here is a new video, in which he tells his own story, which has been gathered in the recollections of friends and family in a new book, “Memories from the Sea.”


A Small Gathering
January 14, 2009

And it was all about Blondine   . . .

At the Carwash . . .
January 8, 2009


SUBURBAN LAKE WORTH — The first thing that happens when you go to the car wash out west here is you wait on line where you can look at a series of signs describing the different ways you can get your car washed, all of which sound thorough.

Then you get to the head of the line and the guy there asks you what you want and immediately explains “you really need” the one that costs twice as much. The one you chose is a rip-off, he intimates, so it becomes your choice to avoid being ripped off by backing out of there (there is no way) or paying twice as much as you were going to, in which case you will get a clean car.

So, by the time you have turned your car key over and interrupted the conversation of the two girls standing on the other side of the cash register inside, you already feel stupid.

Then you go outside where a slice of America, usually consisting of from three to nine people are waiting for their cars amid the din of hoses, mechanical waxing devices and foul music so loud that when workers stroll up roaring the color and make of the car they have just completed (black Jaguar! blue Hyundai!) they have to repeat it many times.

The whole process takes about an hour, so we are all good about not making eye contact with each other, because who wants to end up talking to a stranger for an hour?

Except this one guy, who made a cheerful comment about the fact that it was about to rain, and then sat down and said I don’t know if we’ve met (he did know, we hadn’t) but I’m from the car repair shop next door.

It turned out, to the great luck of people who come to this car wash, that the car repair shop, out of sheer gregariousness, had decided to give all of us a chance (one by one) to get to know them, with a deal that didn’t make any sense at all, particularly when you’ve stopped listening by around now, until he says, as if you have been nodding your head enthusiastically, “so why don’t you come over right now and sign up,” at which point I told him I’m getting ready to go to Africa for a year, which had the double benefit of being true, so not posing a threat to my Karma, and sounding like a blow-off blatant lie.

So he left, and as he did I noticed his shorts were practically in tatters, with a threadbare beginning of a whole in one back pocket and a big gaping whole in the other, which lent the whole encounter a depression-era conman feel about it.

Eventually he settled down across from me to work on a woman sitting at a round picnic table a few feet away, and around the same time he told her she have to decide “now, because we’re not doing this much longer,” I noticed he also had a big rip in the center seam of his shorts.

He noticed me, or maybe her noticing, and propped his order book in front of it, and perhaps reminded that he really needs a new pair of shorts stepped up the pressure until she rose and walked off with him.

By moments, thus, he wasn’t there when one of the four dozen or so people wearing the car wash uniform bustling around walked up to his boss, waving both arms and looking like he was about to cry, started yelling about how he had taken his car next door for an oil change and now the electronic windows don’t go up and down anymore.

Holey shorts came back just in time to miss this, and settled himself down in front of a new customer. “I don’t know if we’ve met,” he said.

Blondine a la plage
January 7, 2009

LANTANA — Blondine dreams in color, and with acccompaniment by her favorite 20th century recording artists, of places she’d like to go, things she’d like to see.

Here is her most recent dream.

Sad but true
January 3, 2009


PALM BEACH —The king of the beach we met today will be gone by this time tomorrow, his pieces scattered, parts of some new whole.

As at the end of some day, so will we all, and so will the walls of rust and crumbling concrete that stand before homes that will be gone too, thankfully.

What a wonderful beautiful beach we would have then, a setting for the very essence of life, its ebb, its flow, its gifts uncaged, although we who are here now will likely not be here to see it, or will regard the setting as one of disaster if we are.

All the while, this, that went up in a day, to be gone the next, is a far greater monument to human mastery of nature than all the mansions and walls.

Writes of Passage
January 1, 2009

LANTANA — It was more than 45 years ago that Paul Erling Johnson left his one job and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in an 18-foot vessel.

He claims it was no big feat “if you knew what you were doing,” but the solitary journey, and the diminutive dimensions of the boat attracted attention.

He found himself telling his story on Larry King’s then radio show in Miami, and eventually found himself in Lantana, a mooring for improbable people and events.

Here the legendary sailor completed his calling when he designed and built his first boat at the marina where a two-thirds empty condominium stands instead.

Johnson, boat builder, explorer, artist and mariner,  has been telling his stories ever since, and so have the people who have known him. Many of those are collected in a book now, Memories from the Sea available through: