I don’t know what’s up with me these days. Ever since I quit the cube farm and decided to take the summer off, the air somehow smells fresher, the beer somehow tastes colder and my sense of adventure seems to have been rekindled. A lot of folks would say that it’s just a stage, that my mid life crisis is in full bloom and it won’t be long before I’m chasing young skirts and buying myself a Harley-Davidson and acting the fool.
Maybe they’re right, especially about the whole “acting the fool” part but I think it runs deeper than that.
Mother, mother ocean,
I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters
since I was three feet tall
You've seen it all,
you've seen it all
My brother in law, he’s long dead now, was a lifer in the Coast Guard. I think the seagoing life was in his blood. His father was a captain of Norwegian ship during World War II and the stories that he told about transatlantic crossings and exotic ports of call must have struck a chord somewhere in his soul.
I don’t think many of us that have what can be referred to as a true calling. I think most of us just stumble into something on our way to somewhere else and just figure the hell with it, it’s easier that way. Not him though, it seems that the longest amount of time that he’d spent on dry land was just long enough to get my sister pregnant again and then he’d be off riding the waves. From icebreakers in the Antarctic to the warm waters and islands of the South Pacific, we’d get photos and postcards and the occasional pennant to hang in our room. I remember staring at them before I went to sleep and wishing that someday I too could visit those kinds of places. I remember how we couldn’t wait for him to get back, to get liquored up and tells us stories of where he’d been and what he’d done.
Even after he got out, he had to be around water. He and my sister and their kids would come and visit us in New York City and before you knew it we’d all be on the Staten Island Ferry and his nose would pointed into the wind as his arms rested on the rails and he cradled a beer in his hand. He had a faraway look in his eyes.
I remember thinking that he looked so at home there. That if someone could truly find peace, then he had found it in spades.
Watched the men who rode you
switch from sail to steam
In your belly
you can hold the treasures
few have ever seen
Most of 'em dreams,
most of 'em dreams
I still think about him a lot. Even after he and my sister divorced, we remained in close touch. I guess the calm waters of Ohio weren’t enough for him and the pull of the ocean was just too strong. He wound up working the Eisenhower locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway until the day he died. His mates gave him a gift that consisted of small tubes of all the cargo that passed through the port when his time came. It still hangs on his son’s wall. In fitting fashion, he was later cremated and had his ashes scatterred at sea on board The USS Westwind, an icebreaker that he served most of his tour of duty aboard and the source of many of his tales.
The sea had finally called him back.
Yes, I am a pirate,
two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder,
there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late,
arriving too late
Maybe it was thoughts of him that I held deep in my subconscious when the time had come for me to quit the office life that had treated me well for the past twenty five years or so. Maybe I was just a bit jealous about a life that had seemed to pass me by. I mean, who’s kids are left sitting on the edge of their seat with bated breath just waiting to be told about some damn line of code that caused some kinda bug or about how many test scripts I had written and executed over the years?
Not mine, that’s for sure. I tried to make it interesting but you could almost feel the disappointment or the numbness set in when she’d ask what I did for a living and I’d try and tell her.
She deserves better.
But I've done a bit of smugglin',
I've run my share of grass
Made enough money to buy Miami,
but I pissed it away so fast
Never meant to last,
never meant to last
So now we plan trips. Not to those far away exotic places but somewhere where there’s cool breezes and different scenery. I’m hoping that’s good enough and when the day finally comes for me to leave for what are hopefully greener pastures; I leave more than some insurance money.
I have been drunk now for over two weeks,
Passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I've got stop wishin',got to go fishin'
I'm down to rock bottom again
With just a few friends,
just a few friends
Some of our adventures don’t take us very far at all. Some of them consist of us just sitting on the front porch and she asks me to tell stories about the days of my youth. Sometimes I wish there were more to tell and sometimes I think that we need to make some ones that can become more than just mine. They can become ours.
I haven’t told her about my brother in law and his travels just yet.
Now I go for younger women,
lived with several awhile
Though I ran 'em away,
they'd come back one day
And I still could manage a smile
Sure takes a while,
just takes a while
Well, just one and we never did live together. We still get together once or twice a year if I’m lucky but I think both of us realize we let something good get away. We can see it in our eyes and feel it on our bones when the time comes for us to say goodbye.
It’s that feeling you get when you know that something is really not gone but you know it’s never going to come back like it used to. Can regret be mutual?
Mother, mother ocean,
after all the years I've found
My occupational hazard being
my occupation's just not around
I feel like I've drowned,
gonna head uptown
So what lies in store for this aging pirate wannabe?
I’d like to be the so-called “responsible adult” in this whole equation and worry about how things will turn out but it just isn’t there anymore. Right now, I’m living it day by day and I’ve never felt better in my life.
One thing's for sure, I don’t think I can go back to the cube life again. My hearts just not in it anymore to be playing office politics and staring up at the glass ceiling hoping for that next promotion that will probably never come.
Besides, what kind of stories are those to be telling your kids?
Lyrics to “A Pirate Looks At Forty” copyright by Jimmy Buffett and released on the album “Songs You Know By Heart” in 1990.
(I was only thirty two back then and it took me until I was forty eight for the words to really hit home. Hey, better late than never)