The Block Island Times


By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Dec 29, 2012

On the cold, gray desolation row of the ferry docks, a stranger approached me today. He was inquiring about a bus to Providence. I heard vestiges of French in his truncated use of English.

    "Is a bus come, ah, ou um," he said pointing north.


    "Oui, Providnce!"

    "Comment ca-va," I asked.

    "Ca va bein," he said.

    "Comment vous applez-vous," I asked.

    "Je m' appelle Ishmael," he said smiling.

    "Bonjour Ishmael, Je m'appelle Joe."

    "Bonjour mon ami," Ishmael said extending his hand and we shook.

    "Ou demeurez-vous Ishmael?"

    "Je demeure en Paris et Morocco."

So here was a guy who basically said, "Call me Ishmael."

     What I got from Ishmael, was that after missing a fishing boat heading offshore, he hoisted a couple of whiskies, cobbled together a tip for the barkeep, grabbed a can of beer for the road; a traveler, held in his coat pocket and was working his way back to Providence. Ishmael seemed like a nice enough guy who was jammed up and needed to get home. He spouted out some rapid fire French; something to do with 20 euros.

     "Hold on Ismael! Je ne comprends pas! Je parle une peu francias, une peu mon ami." I made a small gesture with my fingers.

     "Oui Joe, oui!"

     "Bon Ishmael."

    I wanted to  flip Ishmael a few bucks as he wandered north past the freight shed, but he was gone on the quick.

    "Au revoir Joe!" Ishmael said smiling over his shoulder.

    "Au revoir Ishmael, bonne chance!"

    "Merci, Joe!"

    Ishmael was on some kind of journey, as are we all. Sometimes people just come passing through, and I wonder where their adventures will take them. Another guy named Ishmael, certainly ended up on an epic adventure, that started on the desolate row of docks in the town of New Bedford.



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