"I'm gonna go with Fred out to the lake."
I was 14 years old, at our annual family reunion in Dushore - a small forgotten town buried deep in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania. We'd meet on the last weekend of June each year for an old fashioned Italian pig roast. The idea was to celebrate one of the grandchildren graduating high school, but really, it was an excuse for the family elders to get drunk for a few days... not that they needed an excuse.
My grandmother didn't drink, so she was the best person to inform of my soon-to-be-elsewhere whereabouts. After all, she was sober. Always.
"That's a good boy" she'd say. "Go with your uncle Fred to keep him out of trouble. Make sure he doesn't stay out too long. You know how he gets when he's on the boat." There was no trouble to keep him out of - but sending me along to keep a trip to the lake brief wasn't realistic. I was becoming part of the reason Fred would be gone so long.
Fred had a genuine sense of adventure. On a drive, he'd say "We're going to take the scenic route." This meant he had a general clue where he was going and didn't mind getting lost along the way. In fact, Fred couldn't get 'lost.' He'd simply end up finding a new way to go. Was it shorter? Never. But you'd be taken to places you wouldn't have seen otherwise, feeling richer for the experience.
Well, *I* always felt richer for the experience.
Being on the water with Fred was similar. He'd say "We're going to take the boat out for an hour or so." This meant the midday sun could set with us still on the lake - and I would feel richer for the experience.
The boat in question was a Sunfish - a sailboat large enough for two. Nowhere would I feel more at peace than on the water. Time stood still. The world would disappear, taking all of my childhood problems with it. I knew they were waiting for me at the shore - but on the water, they couldn't touch me.
On the water, I found peace. I suspect Fred felt the same.
Sixteen years later, I found myself on a ferry rounding the corner of lower Manhattan. I'd recently lost my job at HOT 100, I was on the verge of ending a two year relationship and I desperately wanted to start a new life without radio in a city that wasn't in Texas. I was scared to death of all of this and thought a trip to New York City would help ease my worries. It didn't. New York only reminded me of everything I wanted but didn't know how to get. I was sad, depressed, angry and frustrated all at the same time... until I took a boat ride for a view of the city. I suppose one would call it "the scenic route."
On the water, I found peace.