Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carnaval 2012 Up Close & Personal

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday and the days and days of Carnaval and partying is done for another year.  I only attended one parade this year, on Monday to see the Regional Yucatecan theme.  I'm a terrible kid at a parade plus I drink beer there (if I'm not mistaken it's a requirement) since I don't even really like beer - but I can suck 'em up at a Carnaval parade! I stand in our 'palco' (box seats) and  lean into the street to take photos and ruin the view or chance for my compadres to get any good shots without my head or arm in the way.  I'm surprised someone would go to a parade with me TWICE.  As far as I know a good time was had by all even if I took the best angle at the shots. And drank too much beer. I was advised next time I have to sit on the far end, not the first seat blocking everyone's view.  Ok. Deal.  

Instead of posting a bunch of float pictures like I have done at length in past Carnaval posts, I'm going to just post some pics of the people in the parade. Up close and personal.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Aloha Forever

I have printed this before. However in honor of Jim Dorton day today, here it is again:

Aloha means hello and goodbye.  It means “love to you”.  My husband inscribed “My Aloha Forever” inside my wedding ring.  Although it is the most commonly heard Hawaiian word, it is always spoken from the heart.  Everywhere in Hawaii, everyone you meet will smile and say “Aloha” to you.
This is a story about a man who lived aloha.  My husband Jim was a sailor, an adventurer, a storyteller.  He was stout, had rosy cheeks and a colorful vocabulary.  When you were with him there was never a dull moment. He was always the life of the party.  He was a wild man but the smile in his eyes told you he was a guy with whom you could be yourself. There was nothing pretentious about him. 
We never had much money and we were never interested in material things.  Nor did we lack for much, for in giving we received much in return.  I couldn’t have asked for a more loving man in my life.  We spent 21 wonderful years together.  He was always there for me, and always there for a friend in need. He was a kind and generous man. 
Standard daily men’s wear in Hawaii consists of colorfully printed short-sleeved aloha shirts, usually worn with shorts and Hawaiian “slippers”, or flip-flops.  All the Hawaiian aloha shirt designs tell a story of some kind.  Jim loved his extensive collection of aloha shirts. He had more aloha shirts than my entire wardrobe of work, play, warm and cold weather gear combined.   It would have taken him a two month stretch to wear all of his shirts.  It was quite fitting that Jim cherished his aloha wear, he was a man full of love.
In 2004, Jim’s weight dropped from 220 lbs. to 135 lbs. Our worst nightmare was confirmed with the diagnosis of a rare incurable cancer and ensuing surgical removal of half his insides. Even in his weakest state his generosity never waned.  When his friends visited him he would disappear into our bedroom briefly and return to the living room – big smile on his face - with one of his aloha shirts.
“Here, my friend, I’d like you to have this, I’ll never grow back into it,” he’d say.
Jim’s disease eventually consumed him and he passed away in February of 2006.  After two years of caring for my life partner, my soul mate, I was devastated.  Life wasn’t fair and I was angry.  After trying to hold down my full time job and be his caregiver, I was so exhausted and sad; I was not sure whose adrenaline I was running on.  I had kept a brave face for Jim.  He was so strong. 
As his life neared its end, he specifically asked me for an ash scattering on the catamaran FAIRWIND and a wild drinking bash in his honor afterwards.  Many of our friends used to be Jim’s drinking buddies, but most of us had long since quit.  Jim’s last requests would be granted however.
I was struggling to organize his services when it occurred to me to give all of his aloha shirts to those who attended.  I thought it would be beautiful if everyone donned his clothes.  I knew he’d be present at that party and I thought he’d enjoy it. 
When our family and many friends flew in from the mainland, I told them how Jim had been gifting his shirts during to visitors and loyal local friends.  I said if wasn’t too weird for them it would please me if each of them chose one of his shirts to keep.  I added a stipulation: they would have to wear it to the celebration of his life.  In one way I could creatively clear out the closet; but much more importantly, it seemed an excellent channel to continue to spread his love and keep his spirit alive. 
The ash scattering had its sad moments.  I was too choked up to say what I had planned.  I had to delegate most of the program.  It was awesome and though tears were shed, Captain Danny led some elegant prayers in Hawaiian to properly send Jim back to his beloved ocean.  His friend Chip performed a beautiful reading of “I must go down to the sea again...,” it was perfect.  I don’t know how that poem found me. I also located a Fijian chant that brought back memories of Jim’s and my greatest adventure: sailing from Hawaii to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, and I added that to the ceremony. 
I tossed some of his ashes into the sea, when an idea hit me. Why not invite everyone to throw ashes?  It is not traditional in an ash scattering, it may even be inappropriate.  I threw all caution to the wind.  It was Captain Jim we were dealing with.  He was neither traditional nor appropriate!  We all threw loose flowers into the sea to guide his spirit, and that was protocol.  But everyone joined in the throwing of the ashes as naturally as if they were flowers.  You could see his spirit take shape and flow into the deep.  It was at once beautiful, sad and enlightening.  We blasted a CD of his favorite rock and roll tunes and poured a champagne toast to a smooth and happy sailing for Jim’s next adventure.  From that moment you’d never have guessed it was a funeral.  We dried up our tears and turned them into laughter.  Even I was laughing.  I had barely smiled in two years, but there I was having fun.  Granted, it took some champagne to find that first smile, but soon enough my hysteria turned into hysterical laughter.  Maybe I’d survive the ordeal after all.
At first I was shy about mentioning the shirt idea.  People might think I was crazy.  Upon second thought, I decided Jim had inspired me and if anyone thought it was morbid he wouldn’t have to participate.  Au contraire.  I folded and neatly arranged the shirts on the bed before I’d invited the guys in to choose.  It was like Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving.  Shirts were flying everywhere.  Like any great sale, they ended up strewn about; the numbers dwindled quickly.  Jim’s oldest and wildest childhood friends went straight for his absolute favorite shirts, though they hadn’t been to Hawaii in years, and likely hadn’t seen him wear any of them.  Walter had four shirts on his pile but I didn’t have the heart to stop him.  He was always Jim’s ‘brother’.  I could see the appreciation in the “WOW!” on his face.  He immediately put on Jim’s favored faded purple shirt and wore it every day he for a week. 
            The shirts went so fast I scurried into my bedroom to find his t-shirts and hats I was going to keep. When Jim worked for months at sea and visited ports without me, he always brought me unique artifacts and collectibles, so I would have great memories of him.  I brought out the rest of his t-shirts, hats, and lava-lavas (Hawaiian men’s sarongs).  They disappeared in minutes. 
I could feel Jimbo smiling.  I was amazed at his friends’ reactions when they chose their remembrances of him.  I didn’t feel weird at all.  In most cases, they were able to find items reminiscent of special times they had shared with him.  Old Man Tom, at 84, flew in from California.  He had remembered to bring the Pussers Rum cup Jim had given him 20 years earlier when Tom visited us in the British Virgin Islands.  The old bugger had just recovered from a heart attack and a stroke, but he drank straight Pussers Rum in his new aloha shirt and fishing hat until 3am.  What a trouper.  He was the ideal example of Jim’s fine long-lasting friendships. 
Several months later as I write this I recognize our friends in town by his shirts.  Others email or call to say, “I’m wearing Jim’s shirt (hat, jacket, shorts, shoes, watch, foul-weather gear, etc.) today and I wanted to tell you I was thinking about you both.”  I look at the photos from the celebration and see all those shirts.  And I smile.  I see people hugging, laughing, some of them crying.  When I think about what we went through I still cry, mostly because I had to hold in the hurt while he was ill.  But when I see everyone wearing all of his things it is like a great Jim Dorton masquerade party. I especially like the photos from late that night when we were all notably looped. They make me laugh. They are filled with much aloha.
I gave away all of his clothes except for his slippers.  They still sit outside the front door, Hawaiian style.  They belong there.  Inevitably when one of my brothers or a friend visits they’ll forget to bring theirs.  Jim can still lend them his as he always did. 
I’m glad Jim inspired me to pass on his things that day.  As long as the threads hold together his tales will be told.  This is one small way I hope to keep his legacy alive; as his aloha spirit has traveled far.  People had often said of Jim, “He’d give you the shirt off his back,” and he did, all of them. He gave us his aloha forever.

Remembering Jim Dorton


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).
(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)

"Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán, soy capitán...."  That was my Jimmy. Seaman, Captain, Marine Surveyor, funny guy, story teller, name a few of his talents. 

He loved tall ships.  He sailed interisland Hawaii on the remake of the SS Endeavor and climbed the masts of tall ships at every opportunity.  Either he was a tall ship sailor in a former life or his appreciation and knowledge of the world of boating enticed his interest.   After he passed away, six years ago today, I tried to continue to live in Hawaii, but that was Jim's paradise.  I found it to be too difficult, faced with memories everywhere I went and with everyone I spoke to. Of course there were lots of good friends and happy memories too, but I couldn't see them through the cloud of grief in which I was immersed.  When I came to Mérida to look for a house a year later, in my paradise -  the Yucatán - this house was the third one I looked at.  The hand painted tile(s) above hang proudly in my carport.  I leaned against the house, thinking about it, and a piece of the house fell into my pocket. Then I noticed the tiles. I decided that Jim must have picked out this house for me.  Search over, let's sign the papers.

Jim loved México, it was our first topic of conversation when serendipity struck us. He loved adventure and travel, and so did I.  During our twenty plus years as a couple, we accomplished more than some people do in an entire lifetime.  We sailed around the Hawaiian Islands together. A few times. We sailed from Hawaii to Swains Island, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji with two good friends of his, the crazy brothers Eric and Mike. He drove tourists on sailboats for sunset and whale watching sails, took private sail charters, did a lot of boat repair and building with his good buddy Rusty on Oahu.  He and I taught diving and he drove boats in Maui, Kona, Fiji, British Virgin Islands....and he had the opportunity to sail to Fiji and Australia to help a sailor friend, plus two trips through the Panama Canal with good friend Dave.  On the first time through, he was on a 64 ft yacht. They were side tied to another sailboat. As they went through the locks, the other yachtie somehow got his boat going around in a circle, so Jim, Dave and the unknown couple went through the entire canal backwards.  Stern to!  I wasn't there for that adventure but I saw the photos.  Hilarious. But successful.

We didn't meet until we were in our 30s. Neither of us had been married or had children, other than me and the cat I dragged to Hawaii from Akumal, México.  He was a loving husband and mate.  He was my best friend. He was my soulmate.  And I thought we would live happily ever after.  

We struggled financially throughout all of our years together because we preferred fun jobs to 'the grind'.  We only worried about money when we wanted to hit the adventure trail...then we worked our asses off for it, sold all our stuff, and away we went.  We started over more than once in a new home, on a new island, with all new (used) stuff.  I loved my life with Jim.  I think about him all the time, I still talk to him.  I have his 'treasure chest' here with a few of his favorite things, and what I have left of his physical self, a few of his ashes.  

He died about this time of day. I miss him.
Jimmy, I will always love you.  But life must go on and I must survive.  For you. For us.  In all my travels I have never met another person like you!  You are missed by many and loved by many more!