On the Dock of the (Chesapeake) Bay

otis“I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time “

Simple lyrics, beautiful melody, achingly memorable voice. Otis Redding.

Some would say this was one of those songs about nothing. I disagree.

It was one of the few songs released posthumously, and his only number one record. It hit the Billboard charts in 1968, a few months after he died in a tragic plane crash in December 1967. He was only 26.

It has been written that the song was a big hit among soldiers serving in Vietnam. Something about the lyric: “Can’t do what 10 people tell me to do, So I guess I’ll remain the same “and “headed for the Frisco Bay”, a departure point for Vietnam. Veterans have said that the words had meaning for them as a source of comfort and even healing: “sittin’ here resting my bones, and this loneliness won’t leave me alone”; “Cause I’ve had nothing to live for, looks like nothin’s gonna come my way”.

For me, it was the theme song for a much needed mini vacation that I took a few years ago. I went alone; no husband, no kids, no friends. If you’ve never traveled alone, you might not understand this, but it was glorious. One of the best ever.

It was not a random itinerary, I had a destination. I booked a hotel room in a fishing port  just on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It had nothing more than a few hotels, boat docks and fresh seafood restaurants. I had passed it many times years before when we lived just north of Annapolis, Md.; usually on our way to the far more crowded and commercial Ocean City.

I left my good camera at home, this was not a photographic journey. I packed very few changes of clothing, it was late summer and the weather was fabulous. What I did take was my black and white marble notebook; one that I had started writing in a few years before.

I ate, mostly fresh fish; I slept, on my own distorted schedule; I wrote; slept some more; wrote again. And I sat ; literally on the dock of that bay, wasting time; like I hadn’t done since childhood. There was no schedule, no deadline, no marketing plan or financial report, nothing that had preoccupied me for many years.

There was just me, and a few quality ball point pens, my notebook, and the sound of the waves crashing along the bay. It was heaven. I did some of my most creative writing during those 4 days, and dedicated an entire page to Otis’s treasured lyrics.

A song about nothing. Indeed.

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