Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Guest Post

Ed Note:
We don't very often have guest posts on The Retirement Project but this is one I just had to share. James Johnson, the author, has been a good friend for awhile now, and a fellow cruiser as of a couple months ago. We met him at our home marina, Boulder Marina, on Carlyle Lake in IL. We  became instant friends. He's a Marine Corps retiree, and just the kind of peeps I like - he says what he means and means what he says, no sugar coating. Since the very beginning of our friendship I have teased him about a particular shirt that he wore almost every day. It had several tears in it and I had a sewing machine, but James staunchly refused the offers. In this hillarious account James told the story of the final demise of his favorite article of clothing. Since most cruisers I know have a similar piece of clothing, I figured you all might get quite a laugh from this. Although funny, it is a truly sad day for cruisers everywhere.
By James Johnson
Today, my favorite shirt returned to the earth,  whence it came.  I enjoyed being with "my shirt" while it was in my care.  But, like all other things, it was actually just an article of clothing in my presence and not really mine, theologically speaking.  Shirt took better care of me than I of shirt.  I first met Shirt in Okinawa, Japan, where it quietly hung on a clearance rack  amongst other "out of season" clothing.  I was very excited to find Shirt there with a 75% off tag, overlooked by potentially thousands of people that would have snatched it in a heartbeat.  That was a very lucky day for me, and for Shirt.  Shirt was made of 100% silk somewhere in the depth of China.  It then made the long journey to my nearby military equivalent of a department store, known as the PX (Post Exchange). Shirt probably traveled on oil leaking diesel smoking trucks and container ships to arrive in my life. And, like me when I first set out far from home, probably wondered where it was going, what would come of it, and whether it would ever see home again.  Little did Shirt know, our union was to be a glorious one, filled with travel, adventure, song, and dance. 
By the time Shirt retired, it was one of those "If that shirt could talk…" kind o' shirts.  And wish it could talk.  Because there were some nights I couldn't remember what Shirt and I had done.  I would wonder why Shirt had a new tear or a missing button, lying there on the floor with a big smile of satisfaction on its face in the form of a new stain made of lip stick, whiskey, or pizza sauce. Those were Shirt's badges of honor, earned in the trenches consisting of pubs, back alleys, and bedrooms. On second thought, I'm probably better off for Shirt's lack of ability to speak.  But if Shirt could talk, I bet its favorite story would be of the days we cruised a 30 foot motor boat from the fly bridge in the Pacific.  I with my cigar, and Shirt unbuttoned, flapping in the 22 knot breeze while we skipped across five foot swells that sprayed us with cool salt water.  And though Shirt couldn't speak, that didn't prevent it from starting many a conversation.  When younger, many people commented on Shirt's beauty.  Once aged, the comments were more often about how I should sew, wash, or throw away Shirt.  Little did the commenters know, Shirt was as proud to be salty as I was to display salty Shirt.  When people commented on Shirt, positive or negative, it opened up an opportunity for me to transition into musings and carrying on through the night.  Shirt was good at starting conversations for me and, I'm sure, enjoyed all the ensuing activities.  Shirt knew exactly what it was doing, even if I did not.
Shirt finally came to rest earlier today, and shy of burial at sea with full honors, Shirt's resting place couldn't be better. While fighting the flu on the hard at Swan Point Marina in Sneads Ferry, NC, I haven't had the energy to do a lot of work this week.  But it doesn't take much energy to pour acetone on a shirt and burn it.  So while pelicans flew overhead and fish swam just feet away, Shirt burned to ashes.  But Shirt isn't gone.  Shirt merely transitioned into millions of microscopic pieces of shirt. Some shirt pieces gracefully floated away in the breeze to circle the planet, maybe even to return to the depths of China.  While other pieces (now carbon) joined the salt water of the intracoastal waterway, spanning the Eastern coast of the U.S. and potentially traveling currents around the globe. 
Shirt is not dead, but now part of the great circle of life and lives on to be more than a mere shirt on my back.  Shirt is now part of the greater universe and has become one with the earth, wind, fire, and rain. Maybe Shirt will be part of a new child, born in the future or a seafood dish that I will soon enjoy.  I will never forgot the great times that Shirt and I had together.  So as Shirt returns to earth, whence it came, I too will one day return and wear Shirt again.  However, this time Shirt will have already arrived.  It will be me wondering where I'm going and what will come of me, Shirt already there, hopefully searching for and finding me… beginning our next journey together.



Matt said...

Ha! That is hilarious!

Unknown said...

I remember Shirt. It always whispered loudly. RIP, Shirt.

S/V Via Bella said...

Enjoyed the story so much! We met James at Tradewinds last summer when he came over to visit you. Is he ready for a new Shirt?

Ben & Terri said...

Been there, felt that. Don't worry, another shirt will come along. :)

Unknown said...

That is an awsome story.