Mar 14, 2006

I'm trying to hold a sensible conversation about hydraulic engineering the morning after a mild heartbreak. The hard hat helps: at least I look the part, here on the barnacled bottom of North America's busiest lock.

Except I'm distracted. Lack of sleep and food does that. I jot down statistics about saltwater monitoring and the smolt shoots (giant water canons that speed along the salmon fingerlings). I climb inside the filling culvert, the very guts of the sea gate. But this speculative project – with photographer Marcus Donner – just doesn't spark.

Until the eleventh hour. "Once we had a whale swim into the lock," the director suddenly recalls, as we're departing. "That's probably about the strangest thing we've dealt with, aside from the beavers."

Big comedy double-take: Beavers? In downtown Seattle?

"Some live in Fremont," he continues. "But they're too lazy to make a lodge. They just have dens."

Crikey. Even the wildlife is bone-idle in fauxhemian Fremont, the gentrifying neighborhood to our east. But the lazy, lodgeless beavers make me smile. A story begins to crystallize. And I realize I'm hungry – for new tales and adventures and, yes, even for lunch.


My travel writer friend Edward volunteers to meet me in Zagreb. What a relief. Road trips are better shared: two weeks alone in inland Croatia held scant appeal.

When smaller and fiercer and blonder, I was sometimes sad to be an only child. My father invented a sib for me: outspoken Ed.

Three decades later I met him in Jordan. And now, as a befits a big brother, he is "saving Castleman's sorry ass in Croatia".


In the junk mail folder, I discover a safari assignment. I'll fly to Jo'burg two days after my birthday in June.

The Inappropriate Beau had vetoed a three-day excursion from Sicily to Tunisia. "C'mon, don't you want just a taste of Africa?" I cajoled. To be so close...

Now a safari is small consolation for a beau, however inappropriate. But isn't this plot twist just savory?

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