Simon, in all his soaking glory.
This evening it happened.
Simon joined the club.
He fell from the back of the gondola into the waters of Newport Harbor here in California.
It was gonna happen sooner or later.
As I mentioned in my post "5 x 5 = 25 Part Three"
"You're gonna fall in - it's just a matter of time"
Today, Simon joined the ranks of those who've passed from dry to wet,
from above the surface to below it,
from comfortably singing and deftly controlling the boat, to saying:
"Hi folks, remember me? I was the guy on the back of the boat just ten seconds ago".
Simon not only discovered that the water is wet,
he also learned just how easy it is to climb back onto the deck of the gondola when you've got a flood of adrenaline flowing through your veins.
His passengers were never in any danger,
and got a rare treat - seeing him "join the club".
He finished his cruise, and returned to the office,
where I had a fresh, dry change of clothes waiting for him.
His next cruise left on time with no complications, and I was proud of him.
A good gondolier is many things, among them:
being ready for anything.
This spontaneous baptism thing is not unique to Newport.
Gondola Romantica in Minnesota has a tradition:
When a guy falls in the water for the first time,
He has to bake a rhubarb pie, which all the staff enjoys eating together.
At La Gondola in Providence, Rhode Island they even have a name for the club.
Chief gondolier "Marcello" told me recently:
Here in Providence, we don't call it "falling in".
To help deal with the sting (literally and figuratively ;)),
we call it "being baptized", and every off season at the annual gondolier gathering we have a little ceremony for all of the newly-inducted members of the "Brotherhood Of the Woonasquatucket"
(the Woonasquatucket River being one of the two on which we row).
Furthermore, we are fond of telling people that the river knows
our name - every time you waver a little bit with your balance,
or if a new guy pops out of the forcola, or something like that,
we call it the river whispering to us. While that might not be
the day and the hour, we know that she calls to us, and will eventually claim us as her own.
I went in myself for the first time in 15 years one year ago
this week, and I wasn't afraid or embarrassed;
actually, in the split-second between being on the boat
(tied up at the dock, by the way, not even out rowing)
and being in the water, I simply resigned myself to the fact
that it was my time, and I was happy to be called by her,
our own little Siren.