a mariner’s story
“I was walking in San Francisco on a small street not far from where I lived in North Beach. It was spring, sunny and breezy. The street was a quiet street of small galleries, lined with lacy locust trees.
I remember looking at a sign hanging above the door to one of the galleries. It was dark wood, beautifully varnished, with gold-leaf lettering. The sign was swinging slightly in the breeze and the shadows from the trees were playing across it. As I was looking at it, I heard a ship’s horn; one long blast, then three shorts. I immediately knew that the big dinner cruise boat was backing out of its slip. One long blast, a warning that I’m coming out of a blind slip, and three shorts, my engines are operating astern. I knew what the boat was saying. I speak boat. I didn’t know what the sign said, it was in Chinese. Not having been distracted by what the sign said, I remember every detail of its texture, color, the play of the light across it. Of the ship’s horn, I only remember what it said.”
— Daniel Porter, mariner