You never know what interesting stories lurk in the shadows of a boatyard and around Old Dories.
It was race day, early March, and my five rowing teammates, waiting for our start-time, had scattered here and there attempting to block the winter wind that was rolling off the water.
I found my spot between the stern of an old dry-docked and rotting dory and the weathered old boathouse. I had a notion to get off my feet, huddle up and rest before our pull across the bay. I no sooner picked my spot to do just that when I saw another man, ten feet over, who was flipping up his parka against the wind when something orange flew off and landed at my feet.
“Sir! You dropped something,” I said, as I picked it up and handed it to him.
“Thanks, lad,” he said. “I’d be lost without this. It’s my shellfish license. Been raking littlenecks for over sixty years.”
And he continued, the two of us standing there between the evidence of time and age.
“My wife thinks I’m nuts,” he said. “Me, at eighty-four years of age, still going in the water up to here, pulling on a rake.”
“You’ve got twenty-four years on me,” I said. “I doubt I’ll be shell fishing at your age….good lord…”
“Well if your ass is in a chair all day, no way. You gotta be moving,” as he pumped his arms back and forth, like he was raking up a catch.
“Hell, I’ve worked the docks for fifty years in those god-damn freezing ice houses, lump’n boats, get’n all wet year in and out. At least when I get in the water now it’s cuz I want to!”
“Man,” I said, “that work’s tough on the body…the bones… and you look great.”
“Well, truth be known the vodka kept me warm down on the docks when it got cold. I even smoked a pile of pot with the younger boys to make the days go by. I’d smoke a Lucky, then a marijuana cig, like that, all day. Crazy. But vodka’s better.”
“God’s been good,” he tells me. “I wore out this shoulder,” pointing to his right one. “But the rest of me, I tell yah, works just fine.”
My new-found friend leaned in closer, resting his hand upon my shoulder to punctuate the punch line to his story.
“And I still have sex! Honest. Not lying. No Viagra crap either. Wife says something’s wrong with me, a man my age, chasing her like that around the house. I don’t know,” he says, raising up his chin and brow to look me in the eyes. “I just been lucky, real lucky, I guess.”
“So remember lad. Drink a little, get a little, work hard. It’s good. You’ll see. What time’s your race?”