Wednesday, November 10, 2010


And with a hint like that, anniversary fans -- name this house of worship!

(Free tip: That's a good guess, but double-check the name before you hit "send." Heh heh.)

Very good. It's Mariners' Church of Detroit, known to the rest of the world and probably most of the inner planets as the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral, because that's what Gordon Lightfoot called it in the baddest transportation disaster ballad of our time. So let's all take six minutes or so* to sing along with "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,"** which occurred on this day in 1975.

I still find it hard to pass up a good Edmund Fitzgerald story.*** I didn't know, for example, that Gord tweaked the lyrics a bit this year to remove the reference to the main hatchway giving in. (It still scans, but -- nah, I really doubt it "grew dark" at 7 p.m.)

Now, we could suggest holding the number of "legend lives on" heds down to one per year (ahem). And it'd be a really good idea to flag the associate editor down before he says really dumb stuff:

At 729 feet long, the Fitz was a giant among lakes freighters. It lies in only about 550 feet of water, a testament to the forces of nature on the Great Lakes.

That may be some of the allure of the Fitzgerald story here in the Great Lakes State, where you grow up being warned "don't argue with the lakes" and get quickly to shore when skies darken.

People from elsewhere who have no concept of the scope of the lakes -- or the fury they can unleash -- may wonder how such a mighty vessel could be destroyed in waters not nearly as deep as the boat was long.

Well, no. No, we don't. Some parts of "elsewhere" don't make silly correlations between the length of the ship and the depth of the water. It'd be hard to have, oh, a "graveyard of the Atlantic" if we did. And didn't Peter Duck say it was shallow water that drowned poor sailormen, anyway?

* Here's a nice sparse cover by Tony Rice, for you Tony fans out there.

** You totally know you want to.
*** How old is Your Editor? I remember writing heds and cuts for the 10th anniversary of the sinking. Language Czarina can one-up that, being a native of this fair state.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

nah, I really doubt it "grew dark" at 7 p.m.

Well, yeah, if we're being literal about it, then even if the weather had been clear, it would already have been dark for about an hour (going by this calculation for the end of Shabbat in Sault Ste. Marie the Saturday after the accident). But Gordon Lightfoot, unlike a journalist, can always plead poetic licence.

7:58 AM, November 10, 2010  
Blogger John Cowan said...

For a more close-up take on the "fury of the Lakes" story, see Stan Rogers's White Squall (non-performance video, lyrics).

9:01 AM, November 10, 2010  
Blogger fev said...

Triple bonus points for a Stan Rogers link.

In one of those annoying coincidences, my first-ever shift running the slot at the Wilmington fishwrap was complicated by an airline disaster in Cincinnati. A day or so later, it emerged that Rogers was one of the victims.

I was already a fan, thanks to an old housemate who had moved to DC to work for a congressman and come back to visit with tales of the Birchmere. Thus did Language Czarina and I see the Seldom Scene in their prime on their home field. But never Stan Rogers, alas.

12:19 AM, November 11, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Ah, beaten to Stan Rogers. Two great songs, though.

1:38 PM, November 12, 2010  
Blogger John Cowan said...

My wife and I heard him at the Spencertown Academy, right next to our vacation house in Austerlitz, N.Y. (The place was originally going to be called Waterloo, but Martain Van Buren squelched that idea.) This was in '81 or '82, part of the Northwest Passage tour, so we heard approximately what you can hear on the live album Home in Halifax. The Academy has only 110 seats, so we definitely saw him up close and very personal. Amazing man. Amazing.

In fact that was the second time we had heard and seen Stan; the first was at the Clearwater Revival, but exactly which year it was has vanished in the fogs of memory, and for once Google isn't helping. Anyhow, it was at the 1983 Clearwater that we learned he was dead: someone on the staff announced it between sets. We were crushed. It was the worst possible place to learn it, and somehow the best possible place too.

1:58 PM, November 12, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I would so have loved to see him perform live...

8:43 PM, November 14, 2010  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home