Behind a slightly scruffy painted door, set into the front of a run-down building, on a non-descript corner at the edge of a less than savory part of old Los Angeles lies a steep set of wide, wooden stairs. We weren’t quite sure we’d
come to the correct address for the Los Angeles chapter of the Adventurers Club. We were here at the invitation of Steve Bein, a good friend of my brother. Our presentation was to open a day of talks about watery adventures. As we ascended the stairs, the incongruity of the entrance became even bolder. Newspaper and magazine clippings lined the sides of the stairwell, attesting to amazing feats, strange and wondrous adventures, each framed with a caption indicating this was one more member of the club. At the head of the stairs a polar bear towers, memento of a member’s icy explorations. Beyond that hairy greeter, every inch of the three rooms that make up the club seem to be covered with an eclectic collection of museum-worthy mementos; the complete scull and tusks of a woolly mammoth, the actual two-part expedition boat used by a married couple who paddled from San Diego to Panama and became the smallest vessel to traverse the Panama Canal back in the 1930’s, a Plexiglas paddle-powered submarine, spears, swords, I could have spent the whole day reading the notes, pondering the stories of unsung local heroes who’d gathered here each week to be with kindred spirits who understood the wanderlust and curiosity that drove them each to give up the easy comfort of Southern California life in pursuit of knowledge and adventure. As unexpected and entertaining as the collection was, the speaker who stood up after we finished topped it all.
Billed as “The Oldest Man to Sail Solo Around the World,” David Clark’s talk had an intriguing subtitle, – “financed by social security check of $500 a month plus a clarinet.” To be candid, we stayed to listen out of respect to a man who was 88 years old and still willing to speak in public. Within minutes we were thrilled we had. David started sailing late in life, circumnavigating on a 31 footer with his wife between the ages of 64-67. Then, at the age of 70 he decided to try it solo –the idea of gaining a record as the oldest sailor being sort of a lark. Unfortunately he was dismasted in the Indian Ocean which lead to abandoning his 31 footer. But now he became determined to reach his goal. Using his clarinet playing skills and charm, he obtained a boat and paid off his debts. At age 75 he set out and two years later his name was added to several record books. Now Larry and I listened, laughed and clapped as David, with twinkling good humor, told tales of his mishaps, then waxed lyrical about the stars and moon only to pause and say, “that made me think of a lovely tune.” He reached over, picked up the clarinet that lay on the table next to him and played a haunting solo of Stardust. When the applause laid down he talked of reaching Polynesia, meeting a lusty local maiden who reminded him of yet another song. Now Moonlight Becomes You echoed through the room as we all listened in reverent silence, tears forming in many eyes. After an hour of delightful stories, several clarinet solos we were disappointed when his talk came to an end. Someone asked what he was up to now. “I play gigs with three different jazz groups but what I love most of all is the three afternoons a week I spend busking at the park near my home. “ After hearing David play, then reading this quote from the cover of his self-published book, it is obvious why so many people around the world helped him reach his dream.
“Nothing is impossible for any of us if we want to do it enough to pay the price. The price being whatever it takes to accomplish the goal. Nothing pays off like tenacity, belief in yourself and enthusiasm. People either let things happen to them or they make things happen. Take your pick.” David Clark
Those of you who have read my book, Bull Canyon, a Boatbuilder, a Writer and Other Wildlife know the old stone cottage where we built Taleisin holds a very special place in our hearts. We’d taken a pilgrimage out to isolated canyon the last time we were in the USA and found the place deserted and run down looking. We mentioned this to our friend who had originally owned it. A year later, when we again flew northward, ostensibly to promote our new DVD but actually to avoid the cold wet windy New Zealand winter, we had a special surprise waiting for us. Jimmy Moore had decided to save the cottage once again and now had a long term lease on it and spent a few days each week slowly fixing it up. “Go out and stay there for a few days,” Jimmy suggested. “Might inspire you to build another boat,boatshed could be rebuilt.” So for four days Larry and I hid away from the hustle and bustle of freeways and crowds in the sheltering hills, wandered through the trees along the stream that had provided firewood for the cold desert evenings, reminisced about the hot summer days, beautiful autumn colors and dreams we’d shared during the four years it took us to build the boat that carried us through two decades of adventures. Talk about nostalgia. So little has changed in the canyon. There are still are only five or six families living here, only three cars a day came up the windy dirt road while we stayed, coyotes still howl at night and hawks still hover in the updrafts of late afternoon. I was reluctant to leave but some very nice news was waiting when we reached our next destination and opened our mail package – the book inspired by the adventures we’d had while we lived in the canyon had been chosen as one of four finalists in two separate categories of the Independent Publishers Book Awards, memoirs and general non-fiction. Though it didn’t take the top award in either category this is the first time I have ever received “literary” attention for my writing – it felt really good.
Our summer has definitely been a full one, including excellent music, lots of boats and some very special sailing times. Unfortunately I find it hard to be on the road in our little camper visiting with friends, doing seminars, and also keeping up with writing this newsletter. Thus the lateness of this one which only describes two highlights of the first weeks of our journey. So please tune next month for more.
Lin and Larry Pardey
P.S. Click here to see the updated seminar schedule for our September and October tour. This includes a few time and subject changes.