One could refer to parts of my life as hapless excursions into absurdity:
- I lived in an apartment on Boston’s Beacon Hill with a group of Boston College dropouts for whom weird and inexplicable comedy acts were standard;
- I wandered about as a road bum in the 1960s, gathering experiences and tales;
- I lived with a psychotic cat who liked chili, hot peppers, and filet mignon;
- Then there was my time sailing with a retired master mariner whose opinion of the Caine Mutiny, or the Mutiny on the Bounty, was that they destroyed the careers of honorable captains. Crew members should be docile, obedient, and prompt in obeying all commands.
Eventually, stories became the medium that I used to tell this history to friends, family, and anyone interested in listening. That was because several English professors persuaded me that stories were how we made sense of the otherwise unexplainable. It didn’t matter that it was a personal tragedy, an amusing anecdote, or the story of the gods. I realized I needed to make sense of much inexplicable and absurd in my life, and telling these things to others in the form of a story was how I could do it.
Being a sailor, the son of a sailor, and the descendant of long lines of sailors stretching into the vanishing horizon at sea, it was natural that I use the sea story medium.
What’s a sea story? Well, for the uninitiated, let’s explain it this way. You know how a fairy tale starts with “once upon a time?” And then ends with some folderol about living happily ever after? Right! Now a sea story advises you that ” this is no shit.” You then get led on a wild tale that stretches your credibility and belief in reality but is amusing and credible enough that it might have happened ( in another universe). The teller then assures you that he heard it from a buddy who either saw it himself or got it from someone who was there. The sea story avoids lying to you about how it all ends happily ever after. Sea stories acknowledge the perversity of the universe by hinting at things going on behind the scenes that we don’t understand and can’t control. But in a sea story, a canny sailor can and does take advantage of the twists of fate to come out ahead.
So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. See you at the Blue Anchor later on.