Every time I hear this song I have an urge to hop on a plane and sail the same route that the Edmund Fitzgerald was supposed to have started and finished.
Something about it captured my attention decades ago and a part of me has always wanted to recreate the experience so that I can see for myself what happened.
Maybe it is because I am a writer endowed with more curiosity than most or maybe it is because as a kid I watched too many episodes of Scooby-Doo but the end result is I want to know the backstory of virtually everything.
Sometimes when I listen to the song I rewind the section below an replay it again.
“Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters”
I listen and wonder what it was like to expect to dock in Cleveland and to come up short like that. It is impossible for me not to picture the waves turning the minutes into hours and to wonder where the crew members were when the ship went down.
How much warning did they get before it sank? Were any of them able to put themselves in a position to be rescued? Were they equipped with life vests or any sort of flotation devices? Did they fail?
Do You Know The Backstory?
I grew up in Los Angeles. Swimming in pools and at the beach was a big part of my childhood but it became even bigger when I joined my high school swim team.
Sometimes we’ll have conversations about what training for swim meets did for us and how we were in better shape than most people we met. Sometimes we’ll talk about how our coaches pushed us to the brink of exhaustion and how we didn’t appreciate just how fit we were then as opposed to now.
When I think about those moments I wonder what would happen if you took me at the height of my swimming prowess and stuck me in a cold stormy lake and asked me to swim to safety.
Would I do it? Could I do it?
You would expect that at 45 I would be much more reasonable in my expectations about what I could do then and what I could now but I am not so sure that I would say I can’t or couldn’t make it.
It is sort of a foolish comment because I am making it without the complete backstory.
I can’t tell you how rough the waters were or how cold. Can’t tell you how far the swim would have been or how hard it would be in comparison to what I was used to.
All I can really say with any degree of accuracy is that physically I was substantially stronger than but now I am a thousand times tougher mentally now.
The Importance Of The Backstory?
Conversations like this are sort of silly because without the backstory there is no real substance to use to determine how things might or might not go.
The backstory is the meat in the sandwich. It is what adds texture and flavor to something flat and ordinary.
Many of my favorite stories are those that make me want to know the backstory. How did John Doe become who he is. How do you become a cowboy?
What made Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Stephen Hawking become who they are/were? It is more than just blind luck.
How about you. When you watch a movie or read a book do you ever find yourselves trying to learn more about it afterwards?