Portholes

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While we’re on the subject, it’s also odd what gets you started remembering. My wife, at this moment, is in a laundromat because our washer died and what with weather and physical ills, we haven’t bought a replacement. So she’s being (naturally) crabby with me as she watches clothes swirling around inside the washer window. I should be there with her, shame on me, but I got up too late and she was already raring to go.

So, after her departure, I made a lame attempt at empathy, trying to remember a laundromat past. I been there, don’t you worry. Trying not to look at women inspecting their undies after not enough time in the dryer. Don’t be calling me some elitist.

Except that my memory played one of its usual tricks on me. Here I am, visualizing a washing machine, and suddenly I remember another day when I was ten and on board a trans-Atlantic ocean liner that somehow stumbled into the middle of an honest-to-God hurricane. Which you could see through the cabin porthole. Washing machine on steroids.

Hurricane Beulah. 1963. You could look it up.

Hurricane Beulah. 1963. You could look it up.

We were on the Leonardo da Vinci, pride of the Italian fleet. Whose captain thought he would just ‘nudge’ Beulah and let it go past. Bad bad captaining.

What would Grace Kelly say? "She was yar."

What would Grace Kelly say? “She was yar.”

Nearly died that day. But that’s not the story today. I’ve been aboard three different ocean liners. Strong emotional bonds because I might have died in one of them. You have no idea what it’s like to sit on the floor and feel the ship lean into waves twice her height and wait, wait, for this suddenly frail monster to return to even keel. Again and again and again. For hours.

Aboard three of the greatest civilian maritime creations of the twentieth century. And all of them are now dead, pathetic hulks.

The Leonardo is gone forever, gorgeous as she was.

Scrapped

Scrapped

I was a first class passenger on the first Queen Elizabeth Cunard liner. Had rice Crispies served with pure cream. Heaven. She’s a side-lying hulk in the east somewhere.

It hurts to look.

It hurts to look.

I was also a visitor on the SS United States, a farewell party for friends of my parents who were also sailing from Genoa. She was the fastest ocean liner ever. Now she’s a shameful, rotting wreck in the harbor of Philadelphia. I wrote about her. Because she makes me feel ancient.

The sorrow of mortality.

The sorrow of mortality.

These titanic (yes) creations are more vulnerable than a human being. But human beings have the capacity to remember and grieve. Which I’m doing now. Through the porthole of a washing machine at a laundromat in Pennsville NJ. Isn’t life the best of all comedies?

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