Turns out today is the 41st anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and I find myself thinking about how you always think you’ll make it to Cleveland.
That is not supposed to be the kind of vague and cryptic gibberish you sometimes find posted on Facebook.
Instead it is a reference to how the plans we make don’t always work out.
Hell I like to think when Billie Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge he expected to hit the water, swim to the shore and then do it all again.
But that probably would have led to a different song now wouldn’t it.
I am standing on top of my own Choctaw Ridge thinking that I never planned on going to Cleveland and smiling because just when I stopped dragging my feet is when the damn storm hit.
That is when I learned firsthand how quickly tranquil waters can turn stormy and your skill isn’t enough to keep from smashing into the rocks or being washed over board.
You Always Think You’ll Make It To Cleveland
A while back I sat down at the bar, ordered a bottle of Shiner and absentmindedly watched the people walk by.
Twenty-five feet from me on the opposite side of the door a sign reminded patrons to not bring their guns inside.
The sign made me snort, guns and alcohol are the sort of combination that can lead to those “you’re probably not going to make it to Cleveland moments.
Ten feet away I watched a twenty-something year old woman wrap herself around the guy she was with.
She squeezed his bicep and giggled at his every word while he worked extra hard to be hard and cool.
We made eye contact and he couldn’t decide whether to smile or glare at me, so I made the decision for him.
Smiled, nodded my head and tipped my beer back and finished what was left.
In return he glared back at me and tried to make his baby face look mean.
There was a part of me that thought if the real world was like a book or a movie now would be the time when I looked at him and said, ” you always think you’ll make it to Cleveland.”
That line would be followed by the narrator’s comment, ‘then things took a turn.”
But it wasn’t a book or a movie and I had no interest in wasting time with a child who couldn’t grow a proper beard so I released eye contact and turned.
Fifteen hundred miles away my children sleep far from me knowing that the separation from their old man is temporary.
There is a simple explanation for how and why this happened and it is all tied into how I never did make it to Cleveland.
Twenty years ago my ship set sail on for a three hour tour and well, we already talked about how the waters exchanged calm for stormy.
Took a long time for me to abandon ship and to recognize it couldn’t be saved.
But I did what I had to and came out the other side, more or less.
And if you were to ask me what I think about it all I might offer tribute to the recently departed Leonard Cohen.
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Most nights sleep comes quickly but there are some when it doesn’t and I ask the usual questions and rundown the same checklists most parents and thoughtful people do.
Most nights I find the answers to the equations add up as they should and I close my eyes and drift away.
But every now and then I feel like I am choking and wonder where my air has gone.
Every now and then I look out at the evening sky and ask the moon to point me to my north star and promise myself I’ll find my way back home.
Sometimes I think I can hear the moon whisper back “you’re closer than you think” and sometimes I think it is something else.
And then I smile back at the sky, make a promise to keep doing what I am doing and whisper, you always think you’ll make it to Cleveland.”