Monday, August 17, 2009

"...that's the kind of town it is."

Never stayed here. Because I didn't have to. Because I was in a house.In what is NOT a turnaround (I still have strong feelings about the book), I'm sending best regards to Rory Nugent, the adventurer who scribbled that little love poem to New Bedford, Down at the Docks.
Funny thing about Neue Beige (I think that's the spelling on the T-shirt): It's just any old fishing town until you walk at least a block from the waterfront. And I'm not just talking about the Belgian block streets and pretty lampposts.
Last century, I worked in downtown New Bedford. I was the guy who could get you things, the legal things that you were too lazy to get for yourself; I understood the use of electricity and all of its various doohickeys, like "spigots" and "sheaves"; I knew the guy with the crazy hair; I could get you water sometimes with ice, or even a glass; I was the guy that you didn't question when he drove down Water Street in a Bobcat; I wasn't smoking, I was just holding the cigarette for Johnny until he got back; I was mentioned in a Letter to the Editor and in one strange techno song by some guy (I think it was a guy) at an open-mic night at the New Wave; and, I was the first person to eat at most places that are no longer there.
I worked in New Bedford.
I parked my car in New Bedford every day on Johnny Cake Hill, across from the Seamen's Bethel. The famous one, with the bow for a lectern. I mention this so that I can make the obligatory reference to Moby-Dick. (I comply with New Bedford literary law.)
After a while, I moved on and toiled at other, not city-bound tasks.
And then I ended up in a hospital with complications from Lyme Disease. My kidneys shut down and New Bedford's professional medical personnel hooked me up to a dialysis machine every other day and I was put on the transplant list.
A remarkable series of occurrences followed. There were cards and notes and calls from New Bedford folk who I knew intimately and from some that I had met only once. The hat was passed among New Bedford and out-of-town artists, professors, lawyers, actors, writers, musicians, ministers, dope-smokers, dockworkers, sailors, fishermen, shopkeepers and restaurateurs, moms, dads, kids... And I was presented with an immensely thoughtful gift that would help me to occupy the time as I awaited either full renal collapse or a new kidney.
It is logically improbable that my friends in New Bedford restored my kidney function merely by being such generous and thoughtful people. Much of the credit belongs to My Beloved, for her patience and scientific attention to dietary detail.
But every time I look at or listen to that iPod, I am reminded that there is something -- something positive -- about the city of New Bedford.
When I write my book about New Bedford, that would be the story that I would tell.
I've recently heard that Rory Nugent has been in dock dealing with some health issues of his own, and I ask all of my mates to join me and share a thought for a fellow sailor who once tied off in the Whaling City.
My social connection to Nugent is certainly an obscure one, but here's the gist of my message: "Tell him that I said "Hey" and that I'm serious about sending my sincere regards from New Bedford and that we're pulling for him."
Because that's the kind of town we are.

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