Call me Ishmael / Llamáime Ismael

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but I never made it all the way through the novel, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville. When I was in high school, I skimmed it to the end. About 10 years ago, I tried again and I couldn’t even get myself to skim it. I simply gave up about 60 pages in.

I know it’s a classic. I know it’s brilliant. But I got the point. Ahab was obsessed. The whale was a metaphor. The book is open to a variety of interpretations. The characters names come from the bible. In that context, Ahab was an evil king who led his people astray. The story could refer to atheism; definitely racism. Maybe I actually read more than I realized. But, seriously, did Melville really need to go on so long?

Anyway, I do remember the opening line: “Call me Ishmael.” So, when I was out on my morning walk today and spotted this guy’s T-shirt, that’s what came to mind. Don’t worry. Although I was tempted, I didn’t call out “Ismael!” But, oh, I was so tempted.

THE OTHER DAY, I SAW a tall ship coming into port. It’s the Nao Victoria. Nao means carrack, which is a three- or four-masted sailing ship from the 14th and 15th centuries. Of course, this is a reproduction. But the ship was the first to circumnavigate the world. It was captained by Ferdinand Magellan (not Ahab) with a crew of 42, and set sail from Spain in 1519, returning in 1521 (without Magellan who was killed in a battle in the Phillipines in 1520). Victoria was part of a five-ship expedition and the only ship to complete the voyage. I paid to go onboard a few years ago. This time I just admired it from a distance.


NO SÉ SOBRE VOSOTROS, PERO nunca llegué a la novela “Moby Dick” de Herman Melville. Cuando estaba en la escuela secundaria, lo hojeé hasta el final. Hace unos 10 años, lo intenté de nuevo y ni siquiera pude leerlo. Simplemente dejé unas 60 páginas.

Sé que es un clásico. Sé que es brillante. Pero entendí el punto. Ahab estaba obsesionado. La ballena era una metáfora. El libro está abierto a una variedad de interpretaciones. Los nombres de los personajes provienen de la biblia. En ese contexto, Ahab fue un rey malvado que condujo a las personas a la idolatría. La historia podría referirse al ateísmo; definitivamente el racismo. Tal vez en realidad leí más de lo que me di cuenta. Pero, en serio, ¿Melville realmente necesitaba continuar tanto tiempo?

De todos modos, recuerdo la línea de apertura: “Llamáime Ismael”. Entonces, cuando salí a caminar por la mañana hoy y vi la camiseta de este tipo, eso fue lo que me vino a la mente. No te preocupes. Aunque estaba tentado, no grité “¡Ismael!” Pero, oh, estaba tan tentado.

EL OTRO DÍA, VI UN barco alto llegando a puerto. Es la Nao Victoria. Es un velero de tres o cuatro mástiles de los siglos XIV y XV. Por supuesto, esta es una reproducción. Pero el barco fue el primero en circunnavegar el mundo. Fue capitaneado por Fernando de Magallanes (no Ahab) con una tripulación de 42 personas, y zarpó España en 1519, regresando en 1521 (sin Magellanes, quien murió en una batalla en Filipinas en 1520). Victoria fue parte de una expedición de cinco barcos y el único barco que completó el viaje. Pagué para subir a bordo hace unos años. Esta vez lo admiré desde la distancia.

Call him Ishmael. / Llamáile Ismael.

I have no idea what to call this guy.

No tengo ni idea de cómo llamar a este tipo.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

41 thoughts on “Call me Ishmael / Llamáime Ismael”

    1. Kathleen:
      I had forgotten about The Old Man and the Sea. I had the same reaction. Thankfully, it was no where near as long as Moby Dick. But, yeah, I remember getting to the end (when I was around 17) and thinking “All that for THAT?!?”

  1. the second guy is a hot mess!

    never read “moby dick” (heh heh heh, dick). some books just ain’t worth reading.

    and the ship reminds me of a pirate ship – arrrrrrgh!

    1. anne marie:
      The ship, in its dark foreboding, DOES look like it would be a pirate ship. And speaking of pirates and dick:

      A pirate walked into a bar with a ship’s wheel on his crotch.
      Bartender: Hey pal, you know you got a ship’s wheel on your crotch?
      Pirate: Arrrr, I know! It’s been drivin’ me nuts!

  2. I agree, I gave up on Moby Dick, about 50 pages in, it moves kind of slow. The trick to reading “The Old Man and the Sea” is to just read the first chapter. Nice ship.

    1. David:
      I read The Old Man and the Sea once when I was in high school… for pleasure. I remember it being good AND a slog… just not as long a slog as Moby Dick.

    1. wickedhamster:
      Yep, you called that guy right. The cars with slides are pedal boats for rent. They haul them into the water for you. Really fun.

      1. wickedhamster:
        I’ve seen those things overloaded with passengers, tipping precariously, and still not capsizing.

      2. wickedhamster:
        I take it your speciality is NOT physics! (I was an art major… I’m always amazed, as well.)

  3. It was books like that (Dickens – David Copperfield, Tale of two Cities, Bronte – Jane Eyre, etc.) that gave me an aversion to reading books. I still find it difficult to get through a novel…my mind wanders and I have to re-read paragraphs and three months later I might get to the end.

    But living in a oceanside town should make all that trivial.

    1. Frank:
      Interestingly, I love Dickens and all the details. Have read every book at least twice (although I can’t stand The Pickwick Papers and found it kind of simple-minded). I love Bronte, too. But I AM an avid reader and usually won’t even stop reading a book that is clearly crap from the very beginning. I feel like I have to see it through.

  4. Name for second guy: Plaid-a-puss. 🙂

    I did finish Moby Dick in high school (was too afraid of my English teacher not to finish), but can’t say I remember much other than it was a slog.

    1. Mary:
      I like the name. If he had been wearing a baseball cap, he could have been called Duck-billed Plaid-a-puss. I really thought I was going to be berated for not being able to every word of Melville’s masterpiece, but everyone seems to agree that, yes, it’s a slog.

  5. It only took me six years to finish reading Moby-Dick. But it truly is a work of genius. I’m thinking of reading it again. Yes, I’m a masochist.

    1. Debra:
      Six years?!? I’d have to start it all over again in that time. I tried getting through every word of Don Quixote (in English) before we moved to Spain. I had to read it IN SPANISH my freshman year. I have a feeling I faked it. An amazing book but, like Moby Dick, a LOT of words… and historic references I had to keep looking up. Maybe I’ll give Moby Dick another try.

  6. If it’s all the same to you, I’m going to continue calling you ‘Scoot’. Never read Moby Dick. I can’t get thru any Moby Dick movie. I enjoy reading the biographies of the authors from that time period, but I only read Mark Twain books and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. Such a dreary time period. Don’t get me started on The Scarlet Letter, aaaarrrrrgggghhh!
    As for the second guy, Tacky works for me.

    1. Deedles:
      I love being Scoot and wish that nickname had come up and stuck when I was a kid. Besides, it would be weird to call me Ishmael. Oh, I loved the Scarlet Letter and actually just reread it last year. I recently reread Kidnapped and found it leaving me looking for the rest of the story.

      1. I had to read The Scarlet Letter in high school. I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I winged it. The Old Man and the Sea is the reason I don’t read Hemingway or watch movies based on his books. I’ve always read to escape, not to find the deeper meaning of a story. Not that much of a deep thinker.

      2. Deedles:
        Oh, I think you’re a very deep thinker. You wouldn’t be as clever as you are if you weren’t. I also read to escape. So, yeah, some very popular masterpieces make me a little nuts. But I usually read to the end anyway… which is a waste of time.

  7. First encountered ‘M.Dick’ about 40 years ago when I read it being the favourite of all novels for a book critic I admired [long since deceased]. Then re-read it about 10 years ago. Heavy going both times. And that may be ‘it”.

    1. Raybeard:
      I doubt I’ll give it a third try. Although I really would like to be able to say I actually read every word.

  8. 42 crew on that ship?! Don’t know how they did it…….so cramped.
    Never read MD. I like a novel that keeps my attention from page one……whether fiction or nonfiction.

    1. Jim:
      Neither do I. And no bathroom! Parts of Moby Dick were, for me, excellent. But it was so slow-going. And I usually force myself to read through everything to the very end no matter how difficult i find it — even bad books.

  9. It would be fun to have a tour of the replica – it is very cool looking. The shorts on guy #2 don’t even match themselves.

    I made a chocolate cake this morning (from a mix – don’t tell SG). I will make a buttercream frosting from scratch and then sprinkle the top with locally produced cacao nibs. Belize has some excellent cacao growers and chocolate producers.

    1. Wilma,
      The interior of the ship wasn’t much to see when I went onboard, except to imagine 42 people sailing around the world together in that space. SG is bit a cake snob. He has some great recipes from his mother that call for a box of this and a box of that. Fresh cacao nibs! Now that’s classy!

    1. mcpersonalspace54:
      What amazes me with those outfits is that the wearers actually choose them. Oh man!

  10. Moby Dick was okay. I never had to read it (we were assigned “Billy Budd, Sailor” by Herman Melville which is downright weird) but I read it on my own much later. A modern novel that I recommend is “Ahab’s Wife” by Sena Jeter Naslund. There is a small mention of Ahab having a young wife and a child back at home in MD and that was the premise of the novel. It’s very, very good and made me almost want to read MD again!

    1. Jennifer,
      Thanks for the recommendation. Will try Ahab’s Wife. I didn’t HAVE to read Moby Dick in high school. I chose to. Argh! Would have been better if there had been a class in which to discuss it.

  11. Not related to this post, but saw the NYT had an article on Rockaway Beach (“A Rockaway Life” on 7/31). Remembering photos of your early years spent on that beach, thought you might be interested–if you don’t already read the NYT.

    1. Mary:
      Don’t have access to everything on the New York Times, so thanks for letting me know. I don’t remember Rockaway Beach from those early years. We moved to Long Island during that time and spent the time on our own beaches after that. But my grandparents moved to Rockaway in the late ’60s and lived a block from the beach, so the entire extended family would meet there on Sundays (which drove my father crazy since by that time we were a 5-minute walk to the beach and he instead had to sit in summer Sunday beach traffic to get to Rockaway. Nice beaches though! I’ll look for the article.

    1. Urpso:
      That’s hilarious (that it was Melville’s birthday and that you read it TWICE). And, yes, it’s entirely a coincidence.

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