September 18: Home is the sailor

Where the whores at?

Richard Henry Dana's two years before the mast come to an end today as his ship comes in to Boston. Shouldn't this reading be a little later in the year? Or is it already late in the year, and I just don't know it because I'm in California and I still don't want to heat up the kitchen at dinnertime?

Anyway, there is, as always, a lot of stuff about spars and studding-sails that will have the Patrick O'Brian reader nodding his (almost certainly "his," I bet) head knowledgeably. And then there's this, to warm the urbanite's heart:
As we drew in toward the mouth of the harbor, as toward a focus, the vessels began to multiply until the bay seemed actually alive with sails gliding about in every direction; some on the wind, and others before it, as they were bound to or from the emporium of trade and centre of the bay. It was a stirring sight for us, who had been months on the ocean without seeing anything but two solitary sails; and over two years without seeing more than the three or four traders on an almost desolate coast. ...We were coming back to our homes; and the signs of civilization, and prosperity, and happiness, from which we had been so long banished, were multiplying about us.
In my mind's eye I have the image of the bay clotted thick with sail; a pre-rail traffic jam. But also -- busy-ness=life=happiness. To me there's something sad and tomblike about gated communities; ditto business districts on weekends. (At least show free movies, like they do at the Hollywood Cemetery; you can see "Rear Window" and on your way out walk past the grave of that other great mid-century artist, Mel Blanc.)

This passage might also be an early recorded instance of someone who went to Harvard casually making sure you know that he went to Harvard:
...a beautiful little pleasure-boat luffed up into the wind, under our quarter, and the junior partner of the firm to which our ship belonged, jumped on board. I saw him from the mizen topsail yard, and knew him well. He shook the captain by the hand, and went down into the cabin, and in a few moments came up and inquired of the mate for me. The last time I had seen him, I was in the uniform of an undergraduate of Harvard College, and now, to his astonishment, there came down from aloft a “rough alley” looking fellow, with duck trowsers and red shirt, long hair, and face burnt as black as an Indian’s.
But don't worry -- all he needs is a haircut and a few days inside at the club and he'll be ready for the ruling class! (Although that's not fair to Dana, who appears to have been one of the good guys.)

Finally, Dana tells me what I will be feeling if I make it through the end of the year with the DRG:
As for myself, by one of those anomalous changes of feeling of which we are all the subjects, I found that I was in a state of indifference, for which I could by no means account. A year before, while carrying hides on the coast, the assurance that in a twelve month we should see Boston, made me half wild; but now that I was actually there, and in sight of home, the emotions which I had so long anticipated feeling, I did not find, and in their place was a state of very nearly entire apathy.

Something of the same experience was related to me by a sailor whose first voyage was one of five years upon the North-west Coast. He had left home, a lad, and after several years of very hard and trying experience, found himself homeward bound; and such was the excitement of his feelings that, during the whole passage, he could talk and think of nothing else but his arrival, and how and when he should jump from the vessel and take his way directly home. Yet when the vessel was made fast to the wharf and the crew dismissed, he seemed suddenly to lose all feeling about the matter. He told me that he went below and changed his dress; took some water from the scuttle-butt and washed himself leisurely; overhauled his chest, and put his clothes all in order; took his pipe from its place, filled it, and sitting down upon his chest, smoked it slowly for the last time.
The days are getting shorter, at that. I better get some pipe tobacco.

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