Go Fish

The first sentence of Moby-Dick goes down real easy, like swallowing a goldfish. After all, it’s only three words: “Call me Ishmael.”

The second sentence isn't too bad, either, although considerably longer (40 words). Basically Ishmael says he’s decided to go out to sea. He says when he feels depressed—or as Ishmael puts it “a damp, drizzly November in my soul”—he figures it’s time to head for the water.

Who can’t relate to this? Beyond lifting moods, the sights and sounds of the ocean can silence mindless brain chatterNotes Ishmael: "Meditation and water are wedded forever.” Or, as the Classics Slacker's mom used to say, “I do my best thinking in the bathtub.” Which works pretty well, too, if you can't get to the ocean.

Poor Ishmael can’t afford a bathtub or a boat ride. But that's okay with him. He prefers to get a job on a ship. “Passengers get sea-sick—grow quarrelsome—don’t sleep of nights—do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing;—no I never go as a passenger.”

Smart guy. Having once endured the horrors of a Carnival cruise ship, the Classics Slacker couldn’t agree more.  

But before Ishmael can find a ship he can work for, he has to fish around for a place to stay for a couple nights in New Bedford, Massachusetts, because he missed the boat (ha!) out of Nantucket: “For my mind was made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a fine, boisterous something about everything connected with that famous old island, which amazingly pleased me.”

Ishmael would love to check into one of New Bedford's top-rated hotels on Trip Advisor, but he lacks the cash: “With anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket and only brought up a few pieces of silver.” Before he books a room, he advises himself to “be sure to inquire the price, and don’t be too particular.”

If his finances were a bit healthier, he might have stayed at The Crossed Harpoons. But from the street it looked “too expensive and jolly.” Same problem with The Sword-Fish Inn, also “too expensive and jolly.” Ishmael needs someplace cheap and depressing. At last he happens upon The Spouter-Inn. “As the swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort of creak to it, I thought that here was the very spot for cheap lodgings.”

In other words, perfect!