like a split jib in a squall

January 3, 2003

The snowflakes melt as soon as they hit the New Bedford cobblestones. I shiver as I walk up Johnny Cake Hill trying to keep my copy of Moby Dick dry under my jacket. I open the door of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and immediately smell whale oil coming from the bones of KOBO overhead. I'm pleased that KOBO's bones still smell. I guess I still have this idea that when the bones stop smelling of oil, people will forget that those bones were alive and swimming in Narragansett Bay not too long ago. They didn't start out to be a museum exhibit. The whirling snow outside and the pungent smell of KOBO's bones set the scene for the 7th Moby Dick Marathon.

I've missed "Call me Ishmael" but they're still on the first chapter when I get to the Lagoda Room. All the spectator's seats are filled. I hunker down on a bench aft of the Lagoda and follow along in my book while I wait for Nancy to arrive. The words in the room, the snowflakes in the street outside, and the thoughts inside my head all swirl around at once. I got laid off from Starship Startup yesterday and haven't really had a chance to think about it. The contents of my office are still mostly in the trunk of my car in the parking garage down the hill from the whaling museum. Nancy arrives. The snow is changing to rain and the wind is picking up.

We skip the Jonah sermon, as I practically have it memorized and we've both seen the inside of the Seamen's Bethel several times, in favor of lunch at the Java Jungle. When we go back, the reading has moved from the Lagoda Room to the Jacobs Family Gallery. When we get to the chapter about whales colliding with ships, I glance up at KOBO's bones. We're watching the oil ooze out of the skeleton of a whale killed by a ship off the coast of Rhode Island as we hear Melville's tales, which all came out badly for the ships. Nowadays collisions with ships are a leading cause of death for the right whale and others off the New England coast.

By the time we decide to call it a night, the storm outside is all rain, no snow at all, but what a deluge! I can barely see the road. I get soaked to the skin pumping gas into my empty tank and drive back to Providence tense, cold, and soaked. Moby Dick "fantails like a split jib in a squall" says Tashtego to Queequeg. I can't quite picture that, but I sort of feel like a split jib in a squall myself.

Today's Reading
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This Year's Reading
2003 Book List

Last Year's Reading
2002 Book List


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Copyright © 2003, Janet I. Egan