tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: sea

imaginary tendencies

i live in a toyota dolphin. it’s handy little rig, pretty small for a cetacean. i drive it around and park it where i feel like it’ll be unobtrusive. i make coffee in it. i sleep and draw in it. i listen to willie nelson cassette tapes in it. recently, i got the ol’ heater to work, so now i even kinda lounge in it. dolphins are cool to begin with, and now i have vehicle named after them.

this dolphin of mine reminds me of a sail boat. there’s all kinds of similarities.

~ to move it, you kinda got to pull up anchor, clear the decks, check for loose items.

~ it floats down the road, listing and swaying.

~ backing up is a pain in the ass.

~ speeding motorists fly around it as if it were a permanent fixture, much like powerboats do when passing a sailboat.

~ i have a dingy (my bicycle) that is very important once i’m parked (docked).

~ i took out the restroom because it was weird and i think it’s weird to carry a sloshing tank of shit around with you. (this could lead me into a story about a similar sloshing tank on a boat i spent months on before discovering the tank that had been capped for years. we always wondered what that lingering stench was, until that discovery. it made an impression on me and caused me to dislike tanks of shit.)

~ it’s slow.

~ the roof is in a constant state of repair. when you do not maintain it, it will leak. this is comparable to a sailboat and how it is always trying to sink. no up-keep, sinky boat.

these are a few of the similarities. there’s more but i don’t want you to amaze you anymore than i have already. mostly, i pretend i’m sailing while i’m in it. i see the stars overhead through my “escape hatch” and i feel the wind pushing the rig in the night. i wake and make coffee and step into the world. sometimes it’s a street corner in san francisco and i walk a block or two to the fontaines’ house. the fontaine sisters are strong supporters of my wily ways. they put up with the sand i leave in the shower and my project piles in corners and on porches. they see me living imaginatively and their eyes light up. they too, live imaginatively.

sometimes i land in the yard outside of chris and ethan. i float in and haunt their property that lies at the foot of the park in joshua tree.  there are bows and arrows with targets in the yard. there are stones all stacked with wild desert plants. chris (chrispy) is the hot mama of all things on this land and ethan walks around with shoulders as big as boulders. when i sail in, they shout and smile and throw food onto plates and tell me to stay. rowan is their boy. he’s a teenager now and still my friend. usually kids get too cool during a certain age, you know what i mean, and they create a little distance while they figure it out. rowan seems to have skipped it with me. we’ve been buddies all along. he makes me feel cool. the family listens to my same old, worn out stories and they are sweet enough to let me slide when i tell stories twice. when i stop there, their shine rubs off on me and i leave there a better looking man.

there are many ports. nick and elizabeth and the farm, where i spend part of my year in awe. tim and bonnie and the A-frame, where little ruby climbs the walls and dances for all. brian and summer and the urban oasis, where i see my old friend and we laugh. johnny thomson for the surfing and the swims. gus and amy and santiago de la trinidad, where i can be in the driveway or in the house or in the garage.  hunter dahlberg and the forge and the hammers and the shelf of books that i love.  my brother, josh, and the world into which i’m always invited. on and on and on….

so i’m a sailor. i sail to and fro. the world is an ocean and the skies are the map. there is an end out there somewhere, for sure. i picture the edge of the world, where everything dumps off into space, and that’s where i’m sailing. there’s plenty of sea ahead full of the stories that are yet to come. i’ve abandoned my compass. the charts i quarter are make-believe and i only do it for fun. these are the places i’ve been, these and others. when i’m lost, i wait for something to jog my memory, some distant siren, some floating hint. i keep track of the angles of the suns and the moons, each day slightly different, every pattern changing. i study the birds as they chase the poles and memorize stars.  the future unfolding into now, and here i am, caught in the colors that jump from what’s real.

imagination fills these sails. so much open sea!

in the low, low branches, a songbird sings

the morning of a big football game in san francisco (football games take on a kind of holiday feel in the united states) i walked out from my dolphin (r.v.) nest and went to buy coffee. i was feeling kind of rich because i made money the day before, i wanted to buy coffee instead of make it. my rig was parked one street off of the great highway in the outer sunset of san francisco. i’m breaking the law by sleeping in my vehicle at night, “they” don’t like people not owning homes here in the good ol’ U.S. of A, “they” want you to own some significant stuff so “they” can stick you with significant fees. it just doesn’t pay well for folks to be getting by with little. not to mention the fact that, “if you’re poor, you’re probably lazy” (for substantiation of the existence of this idea, just listen to any privileged politician as they address the what-to-do-about-the-poor. it would become especially noticeable in a private conversation where there is less a chance that public image might be tarnished.)  i just noticed that i’m starting off here with some pretty harsh sarcasm, i’ll try and straighten up. on with my story, i’ll curb my nasty little tongue.

i walked up 46th toward trouble coffee. as i passed the 7-11 i saw an old timer with a large, service style ruck sack. he had that thing stacked tall, his bed-roll tight with the tarp folded and dressed on top. i notice things like this. i love the ones who really know how to make it and make it right.  he had a tin cup riding just over a canteen that was dented and old. some beat-up, obsolete issue from days gone by. the man might have been 65 but he might have been 75. the only space for expression was between his huge white beard and a set of grizzled eyebrows, and there, peering out were his sharp and shining  bleepers. he was lean and strong and i was surprised at the way he handled his loaded pack. he set it down and gave it a once-over. he glanced into his reflection in the window, ran his hand down over his irrepressible beard, gave his tucked shirt a quick smoothing and then loosed his canteen and walked into the store. they must know him, i thought, and he came out and took a snort of water from his now-full container. he handled himself like a professional, in every way. there was a moment when we locked eyes over the 30 feet of distance between us. i smiled in a fashion to show appreciation, not pity, and, i’m not sure, but i think he smiled back from under that life-built beard. his eyes certainly did twinkle. he is a fringe human and he is in no way famous. his life is movement between bivouac sites and water sources and a way to get food. i may be his only fan.

on that same morning, a 20 year old professional football player that makes millions a year, rolled over and woke up. he might have ordered coffee from room service. he might have moved from his room to get his massage that will prep his muscles for the game. he would decide on what clothes to wear, and he probably gets paid to wear certain ones. he gets paid for the way he moves on the field, the way he runs and jumps and passes. he does those things real well. when asked, he says he’s better than the other guy and he believes it. he really is good at football. he does not need to drive but he has several cars. he has many friends and thousands of fans that will scream his name and wear his jersey. he is proud and sure of himself. there will be handmade signs at the game that ask him for marriage. commentators will talk about him. papers will write about him.

these are two different people on the same day. they are both living and valid. i am talking about them both. i am saying that i like both these animals. i am also pointing out that they are both worthy of our attention. there are things to worry about on both sides. will this young athlete ever find a way to connect to the earth that wrought him. will he learn to be humble, i mean really humble, so that he can grow as a human. it is so dangerous for him off of the football field! i wonder if he will ever be able to figure it out.

and what of the forgotten one. the “lazy” old man. i saw him again, you know? i did. i asked him if he had ever used a cell phone and his reply was, “i’ve seen one work.” he is a veteran. he does not have family. he has been on the streets and in the woods for 35 years.  he walked from santa fe, new mexico 20 years ago. he has lost everything many times. “things get stolen when they’re outa sight,” he told me with a smirk. he gets a government check once a month that would make a rich person scoff and toss it. he is hard and gnarled. he takes care of his teeth and uses thread to floss. the world is his space in which to live. i asked him when he last had a conversation like the one we were having and he answered me with an “i don’t know.” he has figured it out, but his reality is difficult. i asked him if he needed money and he told me no. i imagine him sitting now in the cliffs by the sea. i imagine him sitting there and listening to the songbirds sing in the low branches by his bed.

inner workings

open me up. that’s it, maybe use a pocket knife. maybe use a finger nail.

take a look. that’s the inner. that’s the workings.

all those meshings and timings. some gears and rails and hammers.

since sometime, i don’t know when because my workings began before i left the factory, but since sometime, i have never ceased to tick and ping and spin.

the other night i heard my heart. i couldn’t tell if it was from the in or from the out. it is the key to the motion. it’s the pusher of the blood and the blood holds the mysteries of my beforeness. it has a story i feel but cannot read.

see me? it’s all so now. there are no guarantees from the manufacturer. all parts are present. maybe some sit still but they are connected to the original blue-print and so they have a reason. some parts have secret origins.

it’s delicate. the machine. the human. we must hold each other with care. our parts are important. and when things are broken we must do our best to fix them, lest they fail completely. 

i’ve seen some wear. there’s a little rust. i think some gears have lost a tooth. it happens, you know? all machines have limits. the me’s and you’s.

and tick tock. and tick tock. spinning and pinging and shiny little parts.

and when the whirring stops, set me down. it’s ok. just put me down near the sea, she will know what to do.



once you were so in front of me, but now you are gone.

once, you were here. there was no question, i didn’t wonder.

somewhere along the way, i saw some stitching come undone, it was like a thread or something. i looked at the rest of the seams and they were still and silent and stitched.

this is all normal. and just fine. because otherwise it’s not.

i am amazed that our tears are salty like our blood, like the sea we came from.

if you wonder what i mean, don’t ask me why.

why is as real as the color blue, beyond that i don’t know a thing.