Monday, May 13, 2013

Missed Boats

The wonderful singer-songwriter-satirist-cum-mathematician, Tom Lehrer, has a number of songs which are on my all-time favorites list, but the one I most strongly identify with is "I'll Be Standin' on the Dock Passin' Out Donuts When They Send the Boys 'Over There.'"

It seems at times that my life has been a succession of missed boats and, on honest reflection, I'm not totally unhappy. I missed the Titanic, for example, and the Lusitania...I like to think only because I'd not been born yet. Had I been around I suspect I'd have found some way to be standing at the foot of the gangplank, one-way ticket clutched in my hot little hand. I missed the Andrea Doria, too, though I had a brief fling with someone who had been aboard.

I've told the story in a previous blog of, while in second grade, schlepping through the neighborhood with my mother, peddling packets of flower and vegetable seeds as part of a school project to buy an then-state-of-the-art 8mm movie projector. The sale was in the spring, of course, shortly before school recessed for the summer. I hated selling seeds. I have always hated approaching people and asking them to buy something. But, with my mom's support and encouragement, I did it and the school was able to order its movie camera, with delivery at the start of the next school term. We moved before the camera arrived, and I never even got to see it.

I've missed the boat on any number of financial opportunities ("Invest in what? What's a computer? And who the hell is Bill Gates? Never heard of him. No thanks. I'm putting all my money into typewriter ribbons.") And the number of possible Mr. Rights I did not hook up with in my cruising days is...well, I don't even want to think of it. All because I couldn't screw up the courage to walk across the bar and strike up a conversation.

I have a magic knack for if not missing a boat, leaping at it, catching its stern with my fingernails and being dragged through the water while the rest of the passengers and crew enjoy champagne and lobster in the main dining salon. I have owned and sold five houses in my life, the decision to put up a "for sale" sign impeccably tailored to coincide with some sort of housing crisis. When I decided to sell my last home in L.A. preparatory to moving back to the midwest, within days of listing it with a realtor, interest rates for prospective buyers shot up to 22 percent, meaning that, in 1983, in order to buy a home offered at $110,000, the prospective buyer had to have a minimum income of $150,000. Needless to say, it did not sell rapidly.

My move to Northern Wisconsin was something of a double-edged sword when it came to missing the boat ("Awesome mixed metaphor, Man! Really kewl!" I know, I know....that metaphor isn't mixed, it's pureed, but, hey, I just write 'em, I don't try to understand what swords and boats have to do with one another except that pirates carried swords and they rode around in boats. Let's go with that.). I bought a 12 room house in an economically devastated area for $7,500, which was wonderful when I bought it. I then proceeded to put nearly $40,000 into it. But it wasn't so wonderful when I went to sell it and expected to get my $47,500 back. (Admittedly, I did do much better with my second, much smaller house there. Bought it for $10,000 and doubled my money in six years. But doubling $10,000 isn't exactly breaking the bank in Vegas.)

Missing boats is just a part of life, I guess. And it really isn't so much about the boats you miss as the ones you catch. I may have missed the Queen Mary several times, but the S.S. Minnow isn't really all that uncomfortable.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Kage Alan said...

Did you miss boats or did you simply dodge what life was throwing at people? You're still here, you're still writing and you're still teaching.

It's amusing to read the letters you sent home and still see parallels in your life today. Wouldn't trade you for the world, D!

Dorien/Roger said...

Thanks, Kage! I appreciate it.