Chapter 53: The Gam

“The Gam” begins where “The Advocate” left off — giving readers one more reason that whaling is a superior pursuit to other maritime professions. We learn in “The Gam” that whalers are superior in their practice of greeting and socializing with crews of other whaling vessels when, by chance, they meet on the open seas. Though initially discussing the common sense and courtesy of the practice, Ishmael quickly, and at length, turns his discussion toward the snobbery implied in not valuing the gam as whalers do. He chides the “metropolitan superiority” of the English whalers toward the “Nantucketer, with his nondescript provincialisms,” as well as the aloof dismissal with which a merchant ship passes others it encounters in its travels. Of course, there are practical reasons that a gam benefits a whaling vessel where it would not benefit a merchant vessel — exchanging intelligence for one — but Ishmael ignores these considerations in favor of mocking the fancy pillows that merchant captains sit on when being ferried to another vessel, contrasted with the manly asceticism seen in a whaling captain, standing upright in mid-boat, uncomfortably trying to keep his legs.

In “The Gam,” Ishmael touches in me what I think is my biggest difficulty with class — a social pressure to discuss it only in winks and nods; interpretations of gesture, education, or background; and, most bizarrely, consumer choice, not in how much to spend, but in which brand to spend it on. Like a monster under the bed, our imaginations often fill in the unknown with the terrible, and so we assume awful, mean-spirited judgments in others, which in turn create awful, mean-spirited judgments in ourselves. We’re in a hall of mirrors, defensively reacting to each others’ reactions, taking on uncomfortable postures to garner credibility, snubbing and feeling snubbed, all to the loss of any sort of truthful human interaction. It’s our own fault.

Chapter 53: The Gam

Whaling ships are having a good time
Roaming on the open sea!
Pirate ships are villainous rascals,
Locked in their castles
With no “good day” to me.

Merchant ships are spurious dandies,
Brushing off their brethren without a heed.
Slaving ships are running from something,
And ceremony mars
The meeting Men of War.

On the open sea,
Lend the courtesy
As the whalers do with every passing of keels.
Oh, let’s have a gam,
I’ll extend my hand
To all sailors who share the jaunty rhythms of the sea.

Passing correspondence between us,
Pluck upon my tethers to home,
Tell us where the whales run the thickest,
Wherefore the riches
Surface from the foam.

On the open sea,
Lend the courtesy
As the whalers do with every passing of keels.
Oh, let’s have a gam,
I’ll extend my hand
To all sailors who share the jaunty rhythms of the sea.

Whaling ships are having a good time
Roaming on the open sea!
Join us for a bit of a ramble,
And let the ocean handle
The grave philosophies.

On the open sea,
Lend the courtesy
As the whalers do with every passing of keels.
Oh, let’s have a gam,
I’ll extend my hand
To all sailors who share the jaunty rhythms of the sea.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea October 2, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea October 11, 2009

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://callmeishmael.org/2009/11/01/chapter-53-the-gam/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: