The wind changed abruptly.
The sails luffed suddenly and from the tiller he looked at the indicator atop the mast. Nothing.
It was a moonless, calm night and he peered through the dark looking for the lights of a distant shore.
Nothing...except.. wait...is that..?
Directly astern, lights appeared and the distant sound of music and revelry as the winds picked up, now pushing right on the bow. He began to tack and the headsail filled, leading him back from where he'd just been.
This time it was somehow different, was this place here a minute ago?
He pulled down the jib and the mainsail and coasted easily against the dock. He then secured the lines and stepped on shore. His legs were unaccustomed to the unmoving surface of the land-attached docks. There were sailboats around, softly swaying against the breeze. The sounds of laughter and revelry, the smell of boiled seafood mixed with the salt air and this strange place felt familiar somehow.
The colors were off and to the senses of this place as somehow, different, off perhaps.
As if in a soundstage on some hollywood backlot.
The pine groves in the distance made no sound whatsoever. The only sounds that permeated the air was the lapping of waves, coupled with chatter and laughter. Happy sounds but ... different.. somehow. The chirps of a million crickets and frogs, the occassional rattling of the Heron's wings as they launch into the sky -- were all missing.
As he passed the sweeping magnolias and entered the plantation-inspired structure the doorman greeted him with a smile but didn't speak. The inside was lavish and covered with warm-toned woods adorned with the artwork of masters. The room was comfortable and the people milling about seemed familiar to him.
At the back of the room on the first floor, a long bar stretched from wall to wall, surrounded in gleaming crystal and the brass of an expresso machine. The bottles behind the bar didn't have labels and all seemed to match. A lone Patron sat the bar. He pulled up to the bar near him and ordered a coffee.
"1 coffee, black please"
The bartender responded genially with the diction of a swiss bellman and scurried about to the monstrous brass contraption to coax a coffee from its unwieldly controls.
"You know son, after all these years, you still belly up to the bar and order a coffee?", the stranger muttered as he looked into his whiskey glass.
He peered over to the stranger with a chilly sense of confusion... speechless.
"Good to see you, son. Its been awhile."
The hazel eyes that stared back at him were familiar. Like his own but older and more knowing. A reflection that isn't.
A confused silence lingered and he finally muttered, "Dad? But you can't be here.. you..."
The words trailed off, it is hard to express to a person's face that they are, in fact, among the deceased.
The stranger filled the emptiness with his own words as he waved off the unspoken notion. "Meh. There is no such thing as here or there, alive or dead, even you or me. It isn't all so simple as that.. We are all here and we are all not. It is always today and it always isn't." He paused for a moment and seemed satisfied with that puzzle, sipped his drink and finished with "A sailor huh? I never took you as the explorer type."
Somehow that bit of nonsense satisfied his unusually muted curiosity and he answered, "Yeah, I dunno, really.. I just ... felt the call of it.. I guess.. maybe I've been looking for something."
The stranger responded in silence but lifted his eyes from the glass to meet his gaze. That hardened, wrinkled face allowed a kind glance to beam through.
"How's mom? " he inquired of the man.
"She's proud of you, son. She couldn't be here right now. There are limits, you see."
The two men continued their chat into the night. The barkeep refilled their glasses and they recounted stories of their adventures in life.
As the morning colors started to penetrate the black sky, the two men found themselves in comfortable rocking chairs on the huge wrap-around porch of the building and the older of the two looked knowingly towards the horizon and back at the younger man.
"Well, I guess our time is drawing near", the older man said.
"Wait, what do you mean? I don't really understand this", said the younger.
"The only advice I can give you, son, is that real satisfaction is in the trip, not the destination. We are all on our own journeys, the paths of which cross and divide in an intricate plan that we cannot understand. Enjoy your journey, don't sweat so much the destination and but keep your heading true. We are always looking, we sometimes find but the thirst is never fully quenched."
At that, the morning colors of the coming sunrise rose to blinding intensity and the surroundings washed away in white to be replaced by the gentle lapping of waves on the boat's hull and soft luffing of sails asking to be tuned.
In the cockpit once more and tiller in hand, he adjusted course and continued his Journey.
One of the most vivid dreams I've ever had, it wasn't long after my dad passed away. I almost never remember them but this one.. I can still smell the boiled shrimp and feel the eerie calm of the place. I can still taste the bitter coffee and feel the leather edges of the stools and the grain ridges on the over-lacquered bartop.
The first time I saw the building pictured here, the Yacht Club in Fairhope, I wasn't so sure it was a dream at all. Having never been there before, I have no idea how it nestled into the limbic region of my brain - yet, it did. Standing on the pier across from it near Devil's Hole on a hazy night, I thought about it once more.
Probably not the transcendent experience that one one think.
Most likely, Too Much Jimmy Buffett Music via Pandora + Rum = This Dream.
Still... one can reflect.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Thanks for all that you did.
April 29th, 1943 - July 6th, 2011