Sailor’s Hornpipe

The other night I fell into musing as my wife watched Pirates of the Caribbean. My mind slipped back to a time years ago and in a place far away:
They did not belong. They stuck out like sore thumbs, aviators; Brown Shoe Navy types, while everyone else was Black Shoe Navy, Merchant Marine, fishermen, or seaman of odd stripes. The Blue Anchor Tavern is a sailor’s bar. We looked at Tuey, the bartender, who shrugged, looked over at “Thing,” the bouncer, and noticed that Thing was counting crisp new bills. Such low standards, they looked like ones. 

Don’t get me wrong; all Blue Anchor franchises serve the general public, but not the genteel general public. The genteel make trouble; they Don’t know that, like Liberty Hall, you can “spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard.” they think we are just unsanitary. They react badly to the midnight Kaile dancing, the dirty song karaoke competitions, or the wet t-shirt competitions for who has the biggest beer belly. This lot of aviators, left in the middle of the axe throwing competition – mumbly peg with small axes. Their team started losing. Really.

In any case, at four AM came the last call; the last tourist was ushered out, relieved of most of their worldly wealth by Thing and Tuey. Silence spread thorough out the gathered congregation. It was time for the morning hymn before we all stumbled to our duty stations, bunks, watches, cots, styes, and homes. Wives, husbands, family, and superior officers would sullenly ask where the hell we had been, smell our breath, and curse, “That Damned Blue Anchor!” Our knowing wink would be all that would betray us.

Years later, and sober for years, my wife looked up from the movie she was watching and innocently asked me what the ditty I was humming was. The Sailor’s Hornpipe, I replied. And I sang her a bit of the Morning Hymn:

She said that she didn’t get it. I sighed and said, “Well, I guess it’s just one of those things; you would have to be there to understand it.

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