Sailing single-handed you don’t sleep much, not for very long at a stretch. Like you don’t sleep caring for a restless newborn, except on a boat, the first time you go alone the newborn is yourself. Everything about the ocean looks brand new, as though you’ve never seen it before. Out of sight of land, […]
About Bo Bryan
I’m a Southern writer, raised a gentleman trained to open doors and carry packages. I am well mannered, if not always polite. I write for pleasure. I wiggle my fingers over a magic board and words appear like pixie dancers, telling in motion the stories. I capture the motion to preserve moments, to share my astonishment for the visceral ballet of head, heart, and spirit that is a human being, and a miracle.
Very little of my writing is yet known. Most of it no one has seen. Twenty-five years ago, I got a taste of success, publishing my first novel, Bitsy Nickle Might Have Aids—a tale of political satire and black humor. The book was optioned for film, caused a stir among local health department bureaucrats, elected officials, and preachers-of-the-true-gospel. That got me on television. My wife didn’t like it much—me in the public eye talking about another woman, even one that was make-believe. My second book was SHAG: The Legendary Dance of the South, a regional bestseller. SHAG, and the attention that came with the book, ended the marriage. Then the court battle for the kids ensued. I won. I became a single parent, raising three young children on an island without a bridge.
I disappeared, but I kept writing. The books I had published went out of print. People who enjoyed my work continued to look me up and ask what I was writing now. I explained that I still worked each day, getting up at three in morning to write books—I just wasn’t interested in publishing, which would have required me to go on the road. I more enjoyed being home; besides, I owed it to the kids, having taken them away from their mother, nutty as she was.
Bo BryanSole custody came with a price, and I paid it in full: stuck close, cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, doctored, counseled, laughed and cried, read Goodnight Moon, and fell asleep exhausted. Got up and did it all, again and again—the writing first, the writing always. To have a story going was another reality. I wrote about the life I had left behind, that I imagined returning to when the kids were grown: that of a Southern writer and a Southern gentleman at home in the land of shag, seeking sin and salvation on the same dance floor. I never stopped writing. I stacked up manuscripts one after another: novels, stories and poems, non-fiction, essays and memoir—and all of it I wrote content to sit tight and wiggle my fingers for seventeen years.
Now the kids are grown, and I’m back in the game—back-with-a-stack, as the road gamblers say.
I am a Southern writer, trained as a gentleman. My stories will open doors if I’ve done my job, minded my manners and been polite—not too polite. If the stories lighten the load, I will not be a burden to the young. I’ll be a silver soldier of my generation, the biggest generation of all, by God, the one that Boomed, the one that rocked, and the one that rolled, the one that brought the power of flowers to the future. I was never a hero who refused to fight—nor a hero in the jungle. I ran up and down the road chasing beauty and the truth of myself. First I caught up with enough, then too much to carry. The beauty died young, but it rose again, trust me. I’ll tell you the whole truth and nothing but, even if I have to invent it.
Entries by Bo Bryan
Having a baby is very like offshore sailing: ahead of the birth, before setting sail, you think you have a plan, all laid out as a series of lines drawn on a chart of the open ocean, the future. You plot a course from Point A to Point B. On the chart of your imagination […]
The first rule at sea is don’t fall off; you never let go unless the vessel sinks out from under you. Most sailboats, like most marriages, can withstand more stress in heavy weather than the sailors or the lovers. On the morning I set sail for Key West, the sky over Mobile Bay was dreary. […]
I was glad to be alone with the boat. Not having a pregnant wife close by, the obligation I felt to attend her every need was lifted, I was free to go all day as I pleased. There was work to do on Mysterion, repairs to make, supplies to gather, navigation to study for the […]
Coming into Mobile Bay, tying up at Dog River Marina, I had a decision to make: whether to sail for Key West, across the Gulf of Mexico, or take the Inland Waterway down the peninsula, and hop outside where the bridges were too low for the boat. The direct route would be four to six […]
We had been on the move for a month. Starting out, I had tried to teach Betsy how to manage the boat, taking any opportunity to teach and keep her informed of the process, make her part of it. Of course she was pregnant. The workings of a sailboat held no interest. Her preoccupation was […]
I saw signs in the flight of birds. “Auspices” the ancient seers had called the signs, who had made their observations to advise emperors in leading nations. If they were crazy, the majority of mankind had followed lunatics. In the Bible, I could find no instance of the prophets consulting pelicans to lead them, but […]
I was supposed to be independently wealthy. How else could I pay cash for a sailboat and afford to be without a job? Did I feel rich, spending all of my time cruising on the Inland Waterway across Texas and Louisiana? Looking into the future, I could see myself independently going broke. The only source […]
We anchored in Sabine Pass, among giant oil rigs used for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. There were a hundred of them—I don’t know how many—mothballed, standing idle in the shallows along the channel leading to open water. Raised up high on cylindrical steel legs, their platforms supported what looked like shabby apartment buildings, […]