January 1

May Flyer

It was 6 a.m. when the phone rang. My foggy brain started clicking off the possible people who would call at this hour. By the third ring, I placed my bet on my good buddy and sailing companion, Jim Griffin. This wouldn’t be his first predawn wake-up call.

Story Steve Schuler • Illustrations Brian Bryson • Small Craft Advisor

“Hello; good morning,” I said with a voice sounding as awake as I could muster. This wouldn’t be his first predawn wake-up call. He took pride in getting up early while the world slumbered away precious morning hours. The early bird worm theory he would say. It would have greater meaning if you grew up working on a farm, and he did—a hundred acres of orange trees—juicers, he called them. Now he’s a detective  for the Florida State Attorney’s office.

“Hey, did I wake you?” Jim asked in his born and bred Southern drawl.

“No,” I said, stifling a yawn. “Oh, did I get you out of bed?”

“No,” I lied again. “Been up since the crack of…dawn.” Jim didn’t challenge my fibbing.

“What ya think about a teaser race before the Kahlua Cup?”

“Ahhh, the Coors Cup in Tampa  Bay. I’m awake enough to know that race is five days out.”

“Exactly.”

“Not gonna happen, Jim; don’t have time to bring my boat down.”

“But I got a couple ideas.”

“Yah, like what? You sailing my boat down for me?”

“Nope, got one there already, May Flyer.

May Flyer
Ilustration by Brian Bryson

That piqued my interest. I’ve always wanted at the helm of his Santana 20. It was sleek and fast, and for a lightweight one-design, relatively stable.

“As exciting as that sounds, don’t forget, I told everyone we’d take a break until the Kahlua Cup. It’s been a long season and I don’t want to push my luck and toast the crew.”

He said, “I’ve got someone to crew for us.”

“Do tell.”

“A co-worker,  he loves racing…a big fan of America’s Cup.”

“Sounds like a sofa sailor. Can he tie a proper cleat?”

Continue reading

December 18

A lot Has Happened, Little Has Changed

May Flyer illustration by Brian Bryson

“I settled into a story that I was sure was going to be about how you won that race. Then – bam! – the story took a really dramatic turn.  JP”

Several months have passed since my last post. Not because I’ve stopped writing, I haven’t. I’ve written a couple of chapters for my memoir and two blog rants that I threw away. Ranting can be cathartic but not postable. Those writings fall into the “little has changed” category and are awaiting their fate in the “to be deleted” file, but writer’s words rarely meet their death with a delete command or by paper shredder.

Here is the “a lot has happened” news. Like I said, I have been writing and also reminiscing. Recently I met up with my good friends Jim and Laura Griffin while on a road trip to the Keys. I shared a story I wrote about racing Jim’s sailboat in Tampa Bay. I was at the helm, Jim was working the sails and a co-worker of his sat on the rail. Jim remembered it well, it’s one of those life changing moments you carry throughout your life. I Handed Jim the 3 ring binder and he opened it. The title was May Flyer, the name of his Santana 20.

Slowly he leafed through pages nodding his head occasionally while he read. The story was coming back to life in 12-point type. When finished he said, “I could feel the cold and the wet.”

I also shared my story with a group of fellow writers that meet every Saturday morning—Pinellas Writers Group. One of the members, Don, a fellow sailor, and writer, suggested I send it to a sailing publication. I did, and I got a short paragraph reply; …too long, we don’t publish anything above 2500 words. My story pushed six-thousand words. However, I wasn’t crushed; I had been forewarned of the probable deluge of rejection letters. Also, this was my first attempt at being published and given my naiveté, I neglected to read their submission guidelines.

Determined, I wrote back. “What if I got it down to 3500 words?”

In a politely worded sentence, they said “No.”

The handwriting was on the wall. My story was too long for the average magazine reader. That night I began the process that make most writers cringe; slicing away my precious words. To get the full effect of what that means to a writer, imagine a flight attendant demanding you throw away half of your possessions at the boarding gate.

Anyway, back to my story about my story. A few days went by and I stopped by West Marine to pick up some supplies. While waiting for one of the sales staff, I thumbed through their rack of magazines. One caught my attention, Small Craft Advisor. It immediately hooked me. Unlike some sailing magazines, SCA actually writes about sailing and sailboats. And it’s written by those who have a passion for sailing. While reading, I didn’t feel the need to be standing behind a chrome wheel on a 40ft yacht with a martini in my hand and a bikini-clad babe hanging on my arm. Sorry Sailing South, it’s not my reality.

The mast slammed the horizonI bought the September issue of SCA and read it cover to cover. Before I finished, I realized they might be interested in my story! I dropped them an email with a brief description and length of my story. (Now, painfully reduced to 4600 words). The next day I received a response:

“Hi Steve, Sounds like an exciting story and a good fit with SCA. Yes, please do send the full version for us to have a look at. It’s possible we’d need you to reduce it, but we’d like to have a look first. Josh”

Wow, someone will actually read it and judge it by content and not word count. That night I reviewed and self-edited my story for the umpteenth time. After a few changes, I sent it in. I received a response the next day:

“We enjoyed the article. You’re an excellent writer. This piece is a little longer than we typically accept, but we’d hate to see any editing hurt the flow, so would probably just run it as is. We would likely publish it the issue after next. Josh” 

A few weeks later, I had lunch with a fellow writer, Jerry Payne. I asked if he would take the time to read my story. It was important for me to have Jerry read my story because he is not only a professional writer, he’s a sailor too.  He emailed me the next day.

“Steve, nice meeting you yesterday. Got a chance to read “May Flyer.” Great story. Took me a bit by surprise, which was good. I settled into a story that I was sure was going to be about how you won that race. Then – bam! – the story took a really dramatic turn. Well writ. JP”

 

Because of possible legal ramifications, (I don’t think there are any) I will not post my story until January 2016.  In the meantime, it can be found on page 34 in Small Craft Advisor, January issue (#97). Available late December at Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.issue

I haven’t  let this go to my head (yes it has), but it has encouraged me to continue writing (and gloating.) Steve…

January 17

He Loves You

To this day, I still can hear our childhood friends taunting us—“Steve and Linda sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”

Nice concept. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in that order for Linda and me. By the time we made it to the altar our son was more than one year old and I had turned 18 three days earlier. Two months later, we celebrated Linda’s 19th birthday. The year was 1967.

Our three sons, John, Steven, and David
Our three sons, John, Steven, and David

The love didn’t come first either…at least not from me. It was more like teenage testosterone focused on a vulnerable young woman. Linda, standing at four-foot ten, was ninety pounds of captivating feminine proportion with a high-spirited personality. I was a loner—cool and quiet as a box of unlit matches.

In retrospect, I probably had all the right stuff to be a loving person, but growing-up in a dysfunctional family had destroyed almost all of my feelings except one—anger. Besides, I didn’t really believe love existed; even though I often heard the words just before my grandmother hung up the phone, or as we were leaving a relative’s house after a family gathering.

I certainly didn’t feel loved by anyone—that is until I met Linda. Even then I had doubts about love.  Early in our relationship, she told me she fell in love with me on the very first day we met. I was blinded by that, and at that time, I didn’t know how to feel love, give love, or be a loving person. And I certainly couldn’t understand how or why she loved me. She told me she saw a loving soul buried under my cocky demeanor—the greaser attitude of the 60’s. It was my defense system, and it worked well at keeping others away. Nevertheless, she pushed into my softer side. How lucky for me that Linda possessed the gift to see beyond outward appearances, and could recognize the beauty and goodness in almost everyone. Continue reading

September 27

A Family at Last

When I began writing my memoir during the summer of 2012, I asked Linda 6 questions about our first few years together, the good and the bad. At that time, we did not know cancer was spreading throughout her body. (I’ll share her response to one of my questions at the end of this writing.)

Our first dance as man and wife

Reflecting back over the 50 years we shared together—and more specifically the first 4 years—we agreed that we lived a fairy tale life, and we both wanted our family to know our love story, how it grew, and how we overcame the challenges we faced. It was the right time to reflect on our beautiful relationship and share those experiences with others. Unknowingly, we had chosen the perfect time to rekindle the flames that we experienced in our childhood. We laughed, we cried, and after 50 years of being together, we were still in love. I thought it would never end. After all—we were soul mates living the fairy tale life.

When we talked about those days, it seemed we both remembered the bigger picture, but the minor details were sometimes different. For me, one of the most important questions was her memory of the day we met after not seeing each other for more than a year. We both had moved on…or so it seemed. During that time, Linda found someone new and she was engaged to be married. I was in a chaotic relationship with a girl a couple of years older than I was and I knew it wouldn’t last—it was disaster-prone and doomed from the beginning. Our son, John, was born that summer. My mother gave birth to a baby boy (Jeffrey Allen) on Valentine’s Day the same year—she was 37. It was odd having a brother, and a son, born only months apart.

Linda printed her response to my question on line-less paper. I have not edited her words, but I have added punctuation and corrected minor spelling for easier reading…I mostly cried while typing out her memories. (I will post a segment of my written chapter in a later blog.)

My question: What do you remember about the first time we met after our son was born?—

Linda’s words

Our son was born on June 15th, 1965. In the late spring of 1966, I was working as head waitress at a Big Boy restaurant. You had called me after not seeing each other since a year. You wanted to see me to talk.
I told you to come to my work. I put my hair in a French twist and sprayed it blonde that day. You hated my hair up and didn’t want me to wear makeup.
I was working my shift and one of my managers told me a really cute guy in a black Chevy wanted to talk to me. I went out to car-hop outside and there you were waiting. My stomach was flipping. (I loved you so much and thought it was over between us.) You asked me to go for a ride so we could talk. I was engaged to another guy. So I had very mixed feelings. I agreed to go if my manager would let me off for an hour. She said ok. We went to Stoney Creek park in Utica, parked the car. You started talking, telling me how much you loved me and missed me and wanted to marry me. I said I am engaged. You said, “Marry him, then when I am 18 in January you can divorce him.” Oh my God I loved you so much. Then you kissed me and I knew what I had to do.
I went back to work. You left, promised to call. I broke off my engagement. My heart was with my son’s father and I knew it was right. You didn’t see our son until his first birthday, it was a wonderful day for me. A family at last.

In loving memory—Tevie