Some childhood memories stick for obvious reasons. Birthdays, holidays, graduations… Those special moments immediately get filed away into one’s consciousness. But then you have those random recollections that don’t fit any clear-cut category of meaningfulness. Like the time I accidentally referred to my friend’s baby sister as “it” instead of “her” and was given an impromptu grammar lesson by their eavesdropping mother. Or when I was “treated” to shopping spree by another friend’s mom, but was later interrogated as to whether or not my father would reimburse her for my new outfit. That was weird. Then there’s the time my sixth grade class was introduced to Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I remember this for two distinct reasons: one, because my teacher seemed to become increasingly distraught as the song retold the tragic events of November 10, 1975, and two, because of the silence that took hold of my classmates as we too were drawn into this tale of thirty sailors succumbing to Lake Superior.

I would venture that anyone who grew up within a fifty-mile radius of the Great Lakes knows the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald. If you live within a fifty-mile radius of Chicago, then you might also know the story of the Eastland. This ship never even made it to the lake. It overturned while still docked in the Chicago River and took with it more than eight hundred lives.

The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The sinking of the Eastland. The sinking of the Lusitania. Oh, and that Titanic boat. There’s a trend here. Now I’m sure that as a whole ships are extremely safe vessels on which to travel, but every single thing I know about them conclusively proves that they can’t be trusted. Should you argue that those incidents happened long before you or I were born, I have two words for you – Costa Concordia. Boom. Two months ago. Then her sister ship lost power in the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean a month later. Boom x2.

However, I wasn’t actually aware of this (warranted) ship animosity until I was on one. Though I’ve been on many a speedboat throughout my life, I have never taken a cruise. Never met a captain. Never boarded anything resembling a luxury liner. Until last weekend.

Though an official resident of southern California for the last several years, I am shamefully lazy when it comes to exploring all the awesome things this area has to offer. The Queen Mary is one of those things. Permanently docked in Long Beach, I have gazed numerous times upon this ship turned hotel and event venue but have never experienced her grandeur myself. Now I would partake in her splendor on St. Patrick’s Day as hundreds of fellow passengers would partake in pints of green beer. A mass of drunken people on a huge boat with minimal supervision? Sounded like a swell time.

Though as we were dropped off in front of the ship, I immediately felt queasy. Strange… I never once suffered seasickness while on vessels a fraction the size of this behemoth. Technically, it wasn’t even moving. Technically, I wasn’t even on it yet. That’s when “My Heart Will Go On” began playing in my head.

Freakin’ James Cameron.

If I had any chance of shaking my shipism, Cameron ruined it with his monster-piece. Sure, I was a schmuck like everyone else when it first bowed in theatres and wept like a baby as Rose promised a frozen solid Jack that she would never let go… and then let him go to the depths of the icy ocean. But then I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and was done with it. Never saw the film again, and I don’t need to. Apparently along with every awkward parental encounter of my youth I have committed this movie to memory as I kept replaying it while trying to enjoy my St. Patrick’s Day onboard the Queen Mary. When we listened to the band playing Irish jigs, I imagined Jack and Rose gettin’ down with the blue-collar folks in Titanic’s basement. When we ventured into the captain’s quarters, I imagined the look on Edward Smith’s face as he realized that the ship was going down. Even when we were just moseying around the different levels, going up and down the interior staircase, I imagined the goofy look on Jack’s face when he met Rose for their first-class dinner.

So went the evening until we finally exited the Queen Mary safe, sound and relatively dry. (It just happened to be one of the ten days of the year that it rains in SoCal.) I suppose in comparison to how Titanic ended, we made out pretty okay. Maybe ships aren’t so bad after all as long as you never leave the shore.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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