Secret Pop

Dec 8, 2002


I am still fascinated by the story of the Titanic. I watch scientific dissections of everything that is believed to have happened. I read books about it. I feel a similar fondness for other stories of tragedy at sea. There is something so desperate and isolated about the idea of encountering a catastrophe or a crisis out in the middle of the great ocean. The realization that you can scream, and no one will hear you. You can die, and no one will find you. You can press on or give up. No one will be the wiser. You can't conquer the sea. You can't even get it to take notice of you.

I'm not a child of the sea, per se. I might used to have been. I have almost always lived in port cities. And I have been in a few boats. But I'm no seafarer. I don't know the first thing about sailing. And I don't like to open my eyes in salt water. But there is a romance -- an allure -- to the endless crashing of the waves. The limitless froth. The fishy funk. The deep parts. The shallow parts. The living things. The skeletons. The way the sun sets and rises against an ocean horizon. When I can feel that salt air on my skin and in my hair, I dream of going places. For long stretches of time. I think of explorers and pirates and fancy people with their mass of trunks. I think of having a cabin to myself on a vast ship and calling it home for weeks.

But I don't think that manner of cruise is to be had anymore. Not unless boorish American people aren't allowed at all. The sea is no longer the luxurious route to take. Only honeymooners and retirees and single women in their middle age seem to flock to the harbor anymore. And I want a grand ocean voyage. Not a stint on the Love Boat. I want to look at the crew and not think to myself that their uniforms are silly and fraudulent. I want dinner to have all manner of fancy things to choose from. Not your choice of Chinese or Cajun chicken salad. I want to buy in.

I'm a fan of the journey. One day, when people are taking long trips to the moon and manmade cities on Mars or floating space stations with artificial gravity, I'll want to go and come back. Just for the journey's sake. I might stop for a postcard. And a Starbuck's. Which they're sure to have. But then I'll just go smooth my hair a bit and restock on reading fodder and get myself buckled in and ready for the in-flight safety instructions. I am such a great fan of anticipation. Long trips just offer me the chance to stretch the feeling out. Sometimes, arrival is just an inconvenience. I'll put off the arrival for as long as I can, thanks. Once you get there, you just have to set the clock back to zero and start over. Why rush to that?

I have never been far out in the middle of an inky black ocean in the dead of night. I will do that one day.

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