The early hours…

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…of a weekend day are the virtuous ones. You can commit acts of outright evil and still praise yourself for at least not lazing around in bed all day. But speaking of acts of outright evil, who mows his lawn at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday? I saw a man tinkering with his lawnmower just now as I returned from a little errand I’ll tell you about in a few paragraphs. I didn’t think he was really about to fire it up, but it just roared to life. We are a far cry, I suppose, from Proust’s hometown of Combray, where “three streets away, a tradesman who had to hammer nails into a packing case would send first to… make sure that my aunt was not ‘resting.'”

On Saturday I was up with the sun and puttering around the house with every hope of ticking off each item on my index-card to-do list. (There is still a chance even now, although Sunday is a great day for reexamination of these kinds of things, I find.) One item that I wanted to get to: I’d heard last week from Sinker, the current owner of my old boat, the S/V Promise, that she was to be hauled out for cleaning and maintenance on Friday. Never having seen her out of the water myself, I was curious to get this unusual view of my old craft.

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The haul-out facility was the marina attached to Nick’s Fish House, a recently revived south Baltimore institution in the shadow of the Hannover Street Bridge. I arrived around 10 a.m. but couldn’t find any sign of Promise. The marina has seen better days: the planks in the docks are sun-baked and warped, and there appears to be a homeless encampment under the bridge. I was looking around in a small lot where about a dozen boats were up on stilts when a potbellied, shirtless man asked if he could help me. I explained the situation.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “That boat is next in line after mine. We’re just going to haul mine and then we’ll get to that one.”

“Promise?” I asked, just to be sure we were talking about the same boat.

“Swear to god, man,” he answered.

I retired to Nick’s, which wasn’t quite open yet but where an old friend, Terri, from my bartending days at Regi’s, turned out to be working as a manager. She didn’t mind if I waited. She even handed me a bottle of beer without my having to ask. Budweiser, if you must know, which does indeed turn out to be a good breakfast beer (despite the “extended footnotes,” I had to try it for myself).

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From my seat at the bar, I had a clear view of Promise’s slip, so I would be able to see if she started moving toward the ramp. Meanwhile I sat back, sipped my beer, and enjoyed the titillating feeling of seeing behind the scenes in a high-volume waterfront restaurant about to open on a sunny Saturday. At such moments in a restaurant there is something of the thrill that comes for actors in the last half hour before the curtain goes up. The cadre of athletic-looking young waiters and waitresses, in khaki shorts and black “Nick’s” t-shirts, unstacked chairs and tied on aprons, stocking up on pens and jotting specials in their order pads. Two stools down from me, a hopeful future employee filled out an application. Sunlight beat down on the wooden deck outside, and my beer tasted like summer.

Terri had been the one to hand me my beer because the bartender was late. She excused herself to give him a call. “Says his alarm clock didn’t go off,” she smirked as she folded the phone back into her pocket. Do people who make these kinds of excuses understand that no one believes them, ever, whether they’re true or not? We all just shake our heads and think back to when we’ve told similar lies. He was there about 20 minutes later, squinting through an obvious hangover, his face still pinched from sleep. He got right to work, though, preparing a huge container of bloody Mary mix. Terri discreetly tapped him on the back to let him know that his shirt was on backwards.

When I finished my beer, the bartender offered me another one, and when I say “offer,” I mean he popped the top off and held it out to me. This wasn’t the tone I’d wanted to set for the day, but there was still no sign of activity at Promise’s slip, so I accepted. This one tasted less like summer and more like bubbly spoiled rice water. When an hour had passed with no movement from Promise, I settled up and wandered back down to the marina to see how things were going with the first boat scheduled for haul out. I expected to see it up in the slings but it was still bobbing in the water in front of the ramp. At this rate, it would be another hour at least before they got around to Promise, so I left.

But this morning I found that I couldn’t sleep anymore after about 6:00 a.m. and decided to give it another try. Success:

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