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Chasing the Wind: The Humble, Epic Century of a Sailor

By Jeff Spevak

chasingErnie Coleman was 93 years old when, virtually every Monday morning through the summer of 2010, he sat down with me to tell the story of his nearly century-long life. A child of The Great Depression. A graduate of The Greatest Generation, as we call it now. A carpenter, Ernie has built things, and rebuilt his life repeatedly, struggling through divorce and the death of two wives. With four marriages came one adopted child and six stepchildren. He has adapted to change. He is a survivor. Ernie is also a sailor, and one who loved to dance. On Lake Ontario, he was winning races well into his 90s. His boats weren’t always the naturally swiftest. Ernie, however, knew all of the tricks that could ease his craft over the finish line first, especially on days when the wind was elusive. But in the South Pacific, Ernie left behind a story that he couldn’t bring himself to tell, even more than 60 years later. The 20-minute Battle of Savo Island, in the midst of the Guadalcanal Campaign, was the worst open-sea defeat in the history of the United States Navy. Three American cruisers were sent to Iron Bottom Sound that night, including Ernie’s ship, USS Vincennes. It’s a part of his story, as are all of the life experiences that enabled him to survive that night.

Internet shoppers can find it at amazon.com. I had no idea the title Chasing the Wind was so popular among romance novelists, spiritual gurus and environmentalists (Chasing the Wind: Regulating Air Pollution in the Common Law State), so if you go to Amazon make sure you ask for the book by Jeff Spevak.

Jazz Lines

Haikus by Jeff Spevak. Sketches by Scott Regan.

roc-626nvbs1hs3zt26g39o_thumbnailI didn’t expect my first published book to be a mere 306 syllables. Jazz Lines is a collaboration between myself and Scott Regan, the morning deejay at WRUR-FM (88.5). It’s a cool-looking art book. It takes sketches Regan made during shows at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and combines them with the haikus that accompanied each of my reviews from that event from 2008 to 2011 in the Democrat and Chronicle. Regan did a great job with the self-published Jazz Lines, despite being in the dark for most of this. He included more than two dozen line drawings (he’s from the cross-hatch school), each one lovingly and furtively created while sitting in concert venues, the lights dimmed, people tripping over his feet while trying to find the bathroom. He is particularly good at capturing the essence of these musicians, especially their body language. Some of them even autographed their drawings; the pianist Rachael Z drew a little heart. Copies are rare, but Scott or I might have a few left.