Monday, July 2, 2007

The Doldrums

Back when a trans-Atlantic trip was something that took months and had a very high likelihood of being fatal, as opposed to the "Thank you, sir. Gate 4. Would you like the chicken or the veal for your in-flight meal?" convenience of today, the center of the ocean was inhabited by a merciless killer: the doldrums. Stick to the northern or southern reaches and you could rely on a more-or-less continuous wind to propel your fragile little conglomeration of canvas and wood across the waves. Wander off course and you risked straying into a nightmarish stretch of ocean where the wind was a weak and whimpering beast, unreliable at best and dangerously absent at worst.

Today we call it the Intertropical Convergence Zone, but to the leathery scallywags who sailed the seas back then it was a death sentence. Get becalmed in the doldrums and your carefully laid-up month long supply of food and fresh water suddenly had to last five weeks. Or six. Or...well, that was the trouble. You never knew how long you had before Boreas finally took pity on you and blew a gust your way. After a few days the hot, unrelenting sun would turn the fresh water in pitch-sealed barrels foul, making your already un-palatable diet of hardtack and salt beef impossible to digest.

And still the wind refused to blow...until the moist, fatty thighs of your crewmates started looking awfully tasty.

I doubt we'll have to resort to cannibalism, but the inconvenient presence of the 4th of July smack dab in the middle of the week has surely taken the wind out of our sails. It's hard to work up any momentum when you know you'll crash into the holiday emptiness of Wednesday, and on Thursday...well, it's practically the weekend, isn't it? Worse, the doldrums mean there isn't anything other than the Boilermaker really making news, and even that reporting is the usual "Rah, rah!" bring-everyone-together and isn't-it-wonderful stuff we've read for at least the last decade.

It's enough to make a man want to head out of state and smuggle back some illegal fireworks, just to liven things up. Bwahahahaha!