The Old Man And The Sea


My father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light,

He slept with a mermaid one fine night.

Out of the union there came three,

A walrus, and a porpoise and a little old me…”

–An Old Sea Shanty

I’m sure that you think differently of me now.  Now that you’re thinking of me as a real mariner.  A real old salt.  A man

who goes down to the sea in ships…

But, life for me is not all tattoo parlors, ex-flamingo dancers named Contessa, hard living gypsy women named Esmeralda and rum bars.  Not to mention the mermaids so fair and beautiful and alluring that you need to have someone lash you to the mast and pour wax into your ears to prevent you from sailing to your doom on rocky isles off the coast of Zanzibar.

Oh, the call of the sirens are songs you can not resist.  No normal man, like me…has the fiber and purity of heart to not fall into their arms…arms that ensnare you and lips that whispers the secrets of the eternal seas into your ears, and then drag you down to the abyss.  The abyss, where you meet Blackbeard, Davy Jones, the Kraken, Jack Sparrow or even the death-like Keith Richards.

I’m bidding farewell to all those whose feet never leave the safety of the sand and pebbles of the land.  My destiny is on the lee side of tomorrow and the starboard side of yesterday.  I can feel the salt water in my veins.  I can feel the sea spray on my gray beard, spraying me so hard, I can not tell the ocean from my tears.  I can feel the sun on my forearms and the sweat on my shoulders.  Yes, I feel the sun and wish I had used SPF #60.  I can feel the gentle rocking of the boat.  I can see my backpack stored in the cabin.  My eyes are on the little zipper pocket that contains a small box of chewable Dramamine.

It is Day 2 of my sailing classes.  We leave the calm small bay where our boat is moored.  We enter the waters of the Gulf.  Still there is no wind.  We practice a “man overboard” drill.  Not enough wind to tack.

After three hours, we return to our slip.  The class is over for the day.

I won’t be an ‘official’ sailor until Russell (the Canadian) and I take the boat out on our own…on Friday.

What kind of sea will be meeting us that day?  How will Poseidon greet this old man who dares to enter his abode?  Will I be challenged to my limit?  Will the elements be greater than my limits?

Do I even have limits?

Does the god of the sea know that I will win in the end?  We humans have no limits, do we?

Then I think of the tens of thousands of souls who went down to the sea in ships…and never sailed back in their safe harbor.

Those New England whaling village homes had a place on the roof that is called “the widows walk”.  There must be a reason for that.

Accidental Perfection



I am going to do something that is so wrong, I can’t believe I’m even contemplating doing it.  There is no law that I know of that is against doing this, but it runs against the grain of logic and decency.

I am going to speculate about a man’s life.  I do not know this man.  I’ve never met him and I have absolutely no clue about his inner life.  But, I’m going to speculate about it anyway.

I need to make a point, and I have to use him to do so.

Let me repeat, I have never met this man, don’t know his name, kind of job he has, anything about his home life, marriage, upbringing, education, religious beliefs or the kind of dessert he likes after eating the kind of meal he loves (which I have no idea about).

So, lacking real information, I am forced to provide my own.  I always say: never let the facts interfere with a good story.

Let’s think about this guy’s life for a minute.  He looks fairly healthy.  He wears cool sunglasses so he is clearly aware of the value of UV protection of his retina.  He is dressed less than casual, he is not wearing a shirt.  His lip is pierced and I notice that nearly all exposed skin from his neck down is heavily tattooed.  These days, that’s not such a big whoop, but I’m an old guy.  My out-dated concept of sporting a tattoo is rife with innuendoes.  When I was young, the only people you heard about who sported tattoos were sailors and guys who walked across the floors of Texas bars, holding the skinny end of a pool cue and about two minutes away from beating some poor fellow to a bloody mess and leaving him in the floor like the killing room of an Omaha cattle processing plant.

This fellow sitting in front of me may well have done just that, in another time of his life.  Perhaps he put a needle in his arm at a cheap motel in Kansas City?  Maybe he had spent more than one night in the ‘tank’, drying out from a week-long binge drinking trip with a pal he just met in a bar in Toledo who sold Bibles, house to house.  Possibly he existed for years on a diet of peanut butter and saltines, or Dinty Moore Beef Stew?   Or, when he felt like having a gourmet meal, he would empty and slice an entire can of Spam and make a sandwich with Wonder Bread.  Maybe he went to a clinic for shots of penicillin because of a misspent weekend with a hooker from Key West. Maybe he did all these things.  Maybe he did none of them.  Maybe he ate granola and yogurt and passed on the desert of dried dates.

Perhaps he flossed every night.

So, what’s my point in inventing a possible life of unsavory actions for a guy I never saw before?

The answer is in the eyes of his daughter.  That’s the miracle of life.  That is Nature functioning and firing on all six cylinders.  What ever this guy did with his life, at the moment of conception and during the next nine months, Nature forgave him his sins and biology worked its magic.  The result is this little being of perfection that was being lovingly held in his artistic arms.

I am aways in awe of how the human body can repair, restart and move on after suffering through neglect and abuse.

Really, though.  This guy probably lived a good honest and true life.

I wouldn’t know this, however.  I never met the man.