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August 24, 2010

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Jetty Island might literally be only a stone's throw from Everett but I don't know for sure because I didn't think to try at the time. It was 11 a.m. and a crowd was gathered on the grass at 10th Street Boat Launch waiting to board the 80-person rub-a-dub-dub toy boat of a ferry to cross the narrow mouth of Snohomish River to the dock plainly visible on just the other side. I think our short walk through the parking field had covered a greater distance. If it's not the shortest scheduled ferry route in the world, please let me know. They gave us big purple laminated boarding passes for the 1 p.m. crossing. I eyed the locals putting in their motorboats at the floating docks far below on the very low tide and decided against begging a ride. I suggested we get a rubber raft and paddle across but forgot that plan as we bided our time at the local Goodwill where Jesse, Will, and I bought sunhats and Simon opted for a black visor emblazoned with gold big cat. I also bought a footish-long toy swamp boat which reminded me of the beach play of my youth. As we boarded, I spotted a woman in line who I thought could be a Michael Jackson lookalike. Jesse thought it was a reach but then on the boat they played Bad and Billie Jean so who knows--maybe Michael is alive and sharing an apartment in Everett with Jim Morrison. The beach on Jetty Island is a long thin dune and wide tide flat. The shallows make it one of the rare warm spots on Puget Sound and the heavy steady breeze brought out kiteboarders in droves. The number grew the four hours we were there, topping out and holding steady at 32 as we left. The wind was also good for sailing so we put a plastic bag to new use. Simon kept calling the boat "Macy's" as a result, but I preferred to think of it as The Western Flyer from John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez, which I happened to have with me. With sun, sand, and fun to distract me I didn't get much reading done, but what little I did sure stuck out: There is a strange duality in the human which makes for an ethical paradox. We have definitions of good qualities and of bad; not changing things, but generally considered good and bad throughout the ages and throughout the species. Of the good, we think always of wisdom, tolerance, kindliness, generosity, humility; and the qualities of cruelty, greed, self-interest, graspingness, and rapacity are universally considered undesirable. And yet in our structure of society, the so-called and considered good qualities are invariable concomitants of failure, while the bad ones are cornerstones of success. Driving home we sought pho and played free jazz on a street corner piano while a young classical pianist leaned against a wall patiently awaiting his turn and then launched into Chopin as we departed. Just another minor summer miracle.