The New Bedford Whaling Museum sponsors a great Moby-Dick read-a-thon in early January every year. I went in 2017 for the first time. Took an overnight Amtrak from Washington, DC, to Providence, RI. Hiked around the city in the wee hours looking for Little Free Libraries where I could leave copies of AutoFlick. [This was my Johnny Appleseed guerilla marketing campaign.]
When I got to the Peter Pan bus depot, they were cancelling busses left and right because a heavy snow storm was bearing down on the area. My bus to New Bedford was the last one out. I honestly wondered how I was going to get back. There were only four of us on the bus. Including the driver.
It started snowing on the ride there and was accumulating pretty good when we got to New Bedford. A blizzard, really. Went to the museum, a marvelous place. The reading started at noon in the huge hall where they have a replica 19th century whaling ship. Some distant relative of Melville starts the thing off.
Across the street in the driving snow to the seaman’s chapel, site of a chapter in Moby-Dick and a place Melville went to church. Back to the museum. Reading along in my heavily annotated copy of Moby, the one made famous by Rockwell Kent images. Lunch in a little Portuguese café. Snow up over the ankles. The read-a-thon plowing on.
As the sun sets, I’m losing speed … hadn’t gotten much sleep on the train. All the restaurants in town are closed. Went to my motel and ordered Chinese take-out. I had to buy stuff I didn’t want just to meet the $10 takeout minimum. Snow getting close to knee level, and the wind blowing hard. I listened to the readathon on my iPad; it’s webcast, although the streaming continuity is a little spurty.
The takeout wasn’t very good. I hung in there on the webcast until midnight but finally drifted away.
Nice complementary breakfast in the motel and then back to the museum for the last five hours of reading. The hardcore are in sleeping bags on the floor. The harbor is covered in snow. An exciting rush through the final chapters. The crowd grows steadily as the morning rolls along. In the end, the Pequod sinks, as it always does. A hurried walk back to the bus station, where the first bus running after the blizzard takes me back to Providence and then Amtrak home.
I signed up as a reader for this year’s read-a-thon and then had second thoughts about the long train and bus rides and backed out. At the last minute, the area got whacked again by a snowstorm — this one came a day earlier (Friday) and kept many people from getting there. In 2017, most of the people were already in New Bedford when the storm hit.
I listened to this year’s reading on the webcast, kicking myself for not going.