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Sailing Away

Marty said he had sailed before, that he’d been to sailing camp when he was younger and won all these medals, but it sure was hard to tell once we got out on the water.

“When I say duck your head, you better duck,” he told me three times, making me promise each time.

Sure enough, when that boom came swinging around like a baseball bat, I hit the deck and it flew over in a gust of wind I felt down the back of my neck.

It was his grandfather’s boat. A Lazer or a Lightning or something like that. We’d launched at Ninth Street, where Cliff’s Bar used to be, both taking a moment of silence to stare at where the sign once stood. Now it was shuttered. Someone took the sign along with the jukebox and the pool table. No more cheeseburgers and Sunday football games.

We’d only been dating for about a month when we decided to go sailing. Marty brought a bottle of wine and I scraped together some cheese and crackers. It was windy as hell on the Strait and we were still hungover from the night before. I joked about getting a DUI for drinking and sailing, but no one laughed.

Somehow we got on the subject of yacht rock, and Marty said, “Jimmy Buffett’s my all-time favorite.”

“Jimmy Buffett is not yacht rock,” I said as if I were an expert in all things musical. “More like Toto, Steely Dan, Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins, maybe Hall and Oates, but even they’re kind of iffy.”

“Then how do you explain ‘Son of a Son of a Sailor?’”

“Just because they sing about sailing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s yacht rock,” I said. “Jimmy Buffett was a country bumpkin who happened to live in Key West where people happened to sail. It’s an ironic thing, Marty. Those bands didn’t even know they were ‘yacht rock’ until decades later when somebody coined the term.”

“I’m not buying it,” he said. “Jimmy Buffett is the epitome of yacht rock in my book.”

“Ok, Marty, how about ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ – is that yacht rock, too?”

By then, I was sick of sailing and just wanted to be back on land. The sun dimmed as if a cloud was passing over and I looked up and saw two ginormous ships coming right at us from both directions. I couldn’t help it, but I just screamed at the top of my lungs, “Turn the goddamn boat around, Marty. I’m not kidding!”

I think I scared the hell out of him. But he tried to act all cool about it, playing like he knew they were there the whole time as he casually turned the boat around. He couldn’t stop laughing and spilling his wine – white zin for god sake, who drinks white zin in this day in age? All the way back to the dock, he kept shaking his head and laughing, until the bottle was empty.

Me and Marty never went out again after that. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a connection or anything. He just annoyed me. Anybody who thinks Jimmy Buffett is yacht rock isn’t worth my time.

The best part is that somebody took a picture of us from land that day. You could see our tiny sailboat and two giant tankers on either side. From where the photographer stood, it looked like they were gonna make a meal out of me and Marty. They posted it on the Benicia Happenings Facebook page and I emailed the photographer and asked for a copy. He was some old guy who went by the nickname “ShipSpotter.” I actually had two copies printed at CVS. One’s still up on my fridge and the other one I was gonna give to Marty, but I think it wound up in the trash can. Last I heard, he was working construction out in Oklahoma, about as far away from the ocean as you can get.


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