Saturday, January 26, 2008


[Date & Place: Last week in November, 1957, up to and over the International Dateline.]

[Above: Click on the image for a larger version.]

Wouldn't you know it? It turns out you can't cross the International Dateline without being hazed.

OK, I'm exaggerating. The Merchant Marines who were driving our boat apparently have a tradition that if you have never before crossed the 180th meridian you have to wear your clothes inside-out, underwear on the outside, and socks outside of your shoes. And, if you're a guy, you have to wear an earring. And you have to pledge allegiance to Davey Jones and the other Denizens of the Deep. And you have to do whatever you're told to do by those better than you who have previously successfully crossed the International Dateline.

For an overly self-conscious 8-year-old, this set up had all the potential of Major Trauma.

But it worked out for me. A couple of bad things happened. At the movie-o-the-day I let slip the earring my Mother let me wear. I couldn't find it. I thought I'd be dead. It turned out she let me wear it because it was a piece of crap. Later, I encountered a bunch of crewman and passengers in a line, heaving on a chain to choruses of the Volga Boat Song.

It wasn't really a chain, though, it was an unrolled roll of toilet paper. The crew members ordered me to join the line and help heave ho on the toilet paper. I did what I was told, and heaved as if the toilet paper were a real chain, breaking it. I was horrified. I had ruined it. I backed away in fear and guilt and shame. Everyone laughed. I was sure I had failed.

Then the crewmen holding the torn ends brought them together and loosely tied them, and the heaving resumed.

Suddenly reality was restored. We'd been dancing.

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