Andy the Diamond
We once had a very likable character in the Auckland Sri Chinmoy Centre who reminded us all of the John Gilpin poem where the hero ‘flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions’.
Andy had a huge and utterly indiscriminate enthusiasm for everything that came his way and would pursue multiple interests with great intensity and excitement – just as quickly his fervour would evaporate and he would turn to other things to consume him, his breathless zeal like a beagle chasing multiple rabbits. Like a boat in fitful winds he would charge forward on a gust of inspiration, then all of a sudden lie becalmed.
Andy flung himself into a multi-level marketing opportunity, a company called Healthwealth whose ambitions and dreams were embodied in the inspirational catchphrase ‘Walk the beaches of the world!’. This is what they promised, this is the freedom you would enjoy if you persevered, the good life lounging on your choice of golden shore – Cancun, Rio, the Bahamas, Riviera? – tanned wrist trailing an ice-cool pina colada while compound interest piled up in your doing-very-nicely bank account. But just as Andy’s zeal had almost catapulted him up to these dizzying heights, celebrity, financial success, ‘diamond’ status - he baled out!
That same day of his sudden defection we hired a catamaran off an Auckland beach from another Healthwealth advocate, a fellow ‘diamond’. From one of the beaches of the world he watched us sail his twin hull beauty across the grey-green chop of the Waitemata Harbour, calling out ‘loser’ to Andy in a voice ringing with disapproval and scorn.
Out on the crests and troughs of sea we celebrated Andy’s different kind of freedom with tight turns, slashing runs downwind with one hull high up out of the water, chancey manoeuvres and gleeful whoopings, driven not by the fickle winds that filled then emptied the sails of Andy’s life but the surging westerlies that roamed across the Pacific, the great winds of the earth’s turnings.
Then went too far. Andy had lashed down the main sheet and we could not spill from the sail the big wind that suddenly charged out of advancing clouds – the catamaran flipped, not sideways but dramatically end to end, the stern suddenly twenty feet up in the air and we tumbling like sky divers into the cold sea.
Weighed down by the heavy fabric of a fully submerged set of sails, the boat could not be righted – we sat on the hull while the falling tide carried us further and further away from land. On dusk a passing trawler spotted us, threw a line, towed us back to shore, the mast beneath banging and bending on reefs and rocks, sails shredding on stalagmites of coral.
Back on shore our Healthwealth man paced and fumed, watched the stricken yacht hauled ashore, jeered at Andy the arch-defector. “You’re insured”, said Andy, “be cool.” “Loser,” he yelled again, more wounded by Andy the failed ‘diamond’ than Andy the lousy sailor. As though doubtful of his own conviction and ambitions, his life somehow exposed. “What’s it like walking the beaches of the world now?” called Andy, making the point.
Out in the bay whitecaps were curling and bouncing, light draining out of the sky like a dark curtain drawn. Wet and sandy, we were shivering with cold as we walked away.