We all miss the boat some days. Despite our best efforts, we all fall short. It’s just who we are. We are human and humans make mistakes. On occasion, those mistakes can really sting. As we all know - time has a way of healing the hurts and can even produce a chuckle or two when we stop and consider a particularly grand scale “missing of the boat.” One such blunder is etched upon my memory, and although I initially winced, I now have to laugh.
It was summertime and I was still a young man. It was a wonderful season of life. I had my own small apartment just outside the city of Boston. My good friend Ken had insider access to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, allowing him to get seats for low (or,no) cost, and he frequently passed on the blessings. I watched a lot of baseball that year. The ballpark was just minutes away down Beacon Street, a drive I would often make with the T-roof open on my new Camaro, sunshine splashing on my face as it began to sink low behind the city’s skyscrapers. It seemed as though everything was going swimmingly. I was even flush with cash.
Ken had a deejay business and he began to get so busy that he offered to cut me in on the action if I wanted to help. I was happy to oblige and thus, spent many nights spinning records for high school dances or private parties. My favorite duty was aboard the Boston Harbor cruises that sailed out each night. We would be the musical entertainment for the evening as the cruise ship coasted lazily through the waves, the shimmering city of Boston in full view behind us. As the moon would rise above the Hancock Tower, I would often find myself thinking “It doesn’t get much better than this.”
So, now the blunder.
So, now the blunder. One August afternoon, Ken left me a message on my answering machine (remember those?) There were no cellphones in those days. People made telephone calls from the office or their home. After that there was no mode of communication other than a public phone booth. I got home from work and checked the messages on my ‘incoming’ cassette tape, and there was Ken’s call - only it was a poor recording due to a bad connection. I hit ‘rewind’ and listened again and again but all I could gather through the static was that we had a booking for a cruise that night and that I should meet him at six o’clock to assist. The location he gave sounded like Rowe's Wharf, a place I knew well. Try as I might, I could not make out exactly where he said to meet but I threw on a tie, headed for Rowe's Wharf and figured I would find him easily enough.
Pulling into a parking spot twenty minutes later, I saw no sign of Ken. I was early, so I figured I would just wait until he arrived. As the clock drifted past six, I turned on the local news station to check the traffic report. There was a jam downtown on the expressway the radio reported. I assumed Ken was delayed due to traffic. Cruises usually departed at seven each evening, but as the seven o’clock hour drew near, I began to grow concerned. I walked down to the dock, but there was no sign of Ken. Seven fifteen came and still no Ken. As the clock on my sportscar dashboard read eight pm, I reluctantly turned the key in the ignition and headed home.
“Buddy, where were you tonight?”
At about eleven pm, my telephone rang. It was Ken. “Buddy, where were you tonight?” he asked. “That was my question for you!” I said to my friend. “Long Wharf, just like I told you,” he said. “Ohhh, I thought you said Rowe's Wharf,” I replied. “That explains that. Did I miss a good time?” Ken then began to tell me of his evening on the water.
He got to the wharf at about six and since I was nowhere to be found, he loaded all of the equipment on board ship and set up the portable sound system. He kept checking his watch, wondering where I was. About six-thirty the first guests began to arrive on deck. Ken thought that there were fewer in number than for a usual Friday night, but he continued his preparations. As he did, he noticed a few celebrities were coming up the steps and climbing aboard. “Where is Loren?” he wondered, thinking I would enjoy this gathering of stars.
About seven, there was still no sign of me, and the ship was about to pull away from Long Wharf. Ken started the entertainment with a very popular song by an internationally known singer who had local roots in Boston. “Nice choice,” said a voice behind him. He turned and found himself face to face with the musician himself.
He had rented the cruise ship for a private party for his dad’s seventieth birthday. I won’t mention the star by name, but you would know it well, and it was enough to make my jaw drop. “We hung out together all night long,” crooned Ken. “Dude! You missed the best boat ride ever…” A colossal blunder.
The best things in life are not brief encounters with rock stars.
So, why am I laughing about it now? Because I learned that when you miss the boat and mess something up, having a friend who really hopes you are going to make it is a great gift. The best things in life are not brief encounters with rock stars. Much better than that are friends who see your mistakes and truly feel empathy for you. They are the kind that cut you in on a good thing and share the best they have. A cruise around Boston lasts only a few hours. My friend Ken has been there for four decades. We don’t deejay any longer, but if he needed me tonight, I would be there - or at least in the vicinity.