Wednesday 26 Oct 2016

Boat Goes Nowhere
AJ Robinson

My friend Dailis lived in a gingerbread cottage a few doors down from mine, in Oak Bluffs, on Martha's Vineyard Island. When we weren't playing down at Sunset Lake, or in my yard, or my front porch - or someone else's cottage - we played at his place. His cottage had one feature that set it apart from the rest of ours; he had a boat on his porch. It wasn't much of anything, just an old single-masted sloop that his dad kept on the side porch. He wedged some wood blocks under it to keep it level, and we used to play in it. Now, you might wonder, what could a couple kids do in a boat that didn't sail anywhere?

We went everywhere.

In that old boat, we became fishermen, explorers, smugglers, and treasure hunters. This was in the Pre-Electronic Age, so we had to find other means of playing; we had to use our imaginations. When we saw the movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth" at the Tabernacle, that boat became our raft to re-enact the pivotal scene where the explorers reach the title spot - I usually got to play Professor Lindenbrook. After "Jaws" came out, it became the "Orca", and we hunted the Great White Shark. We did change the storyline though; we all survived! Oh, and I was usually Sheriff Brody. I always loved saying that line: "We're going to need a bigger boat." We also hunted the "Great White Whale"! Yeah, we became whalers and hunted "Moby Dick". I imagine that, these days, if kids played that, their parents would lecture them on being insensitive to the plight of endangered species!

We got so good at our "travels", we even started to use charts and keep a Captain's Log. Dailis was always so great at drawing; so he'd create our nautical chart for our journey around the world. Of course, our knowledge of the geography of the world was, shall we say... limited? So, we usually got the east coast of the United States pretty good, but then our distance to Cuba was a bit... extreme. From there, the map took on epic proportions. Europe was virtually unrecognizable, except for the "boot" of Italy. My mother is Italian, so we always got it looking right. Africa was massive, and Asia stretched across the page.

After creating our chart - it took a while; Dailis was always quite intent on giving it a few extra flourishes to make it look good, we'd plot our course and begin our cruise around the world. We'd stay at it all day, and yet we never seemed to make it to the end of our journey. Maybe if we'd picked up where we left off, rather than starting over every time, we'd have finished just once.

Oh well, we never cared. Somehow, the destination never mattered; it was the journey we lived for and enjoyed.

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Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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