Tina Turner, the S.S. Sullivan, and Me

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On Easter Sunday 2022, during my caretaking year in Buffalo, New York, I went to the Canalside waterfront to gawk at a military ship named the S.S. Sullivan, sinking in motionless, murky waters while docked close to a sidewalk.

Seems that the old girl was somehow taking on water; there was a mad rush to see if government funding could be procured in time to save her, before she was lost at sea…er…Lake Erie, forever,

It’s quite something to see a vessel of such magnitude tipped over on its side. As my Cancerian friend likes to say, “There’s nothing more powerful than water.”

During the course of those 14 months spent in Buffalo, I had visited that waterfront on many occasions – at various times of the day, on various days. With the exception of an event happening there, I had never seen so many people gathered together as I did that late windy afternoon.

I had secretly hoped that the S.S. Sullivan would sink before the funding for it came through. Or how about this? Just let it sink.

Within that challenging year of 2021-2022I, I had driven around and through many different inner-city neighborhoods and was consistently horrifed to see so many areas where the houses were literally crumbling. Seems to me that there would be an earmark somewhere in the city and/or state budgets for some funding to prevent people from having to live in houses that should have had a CONDEMNED sign nailed to the front door.

The sun was starting to set and the wind was picking up when I got into a conversation with a man in his 50s and his wife. How long can you stand around just looking at a static, sinking ship?

Originally from Rhode Island, the man, whom I’ll call Peter, had moved to Buffalo 30 years prior and was totally in love with the city, as so many people are. I wasn’t in love with the city; I was in love with the people.

“I wish they’d let that thing sink,” I said.

Peter smirked.

“There’s so much decrepitude around this town,” I said. “Why is there no funding to address any of that but there’ll be plenty to keep this sinking ship afloat. Nobody lives inside that ship.”

“I hear you,” he smiled.

“The steel industry died 45 years ago,” I said. “All the manufacturing is gone. Why has it taken so long for this city to transform itself?”

“Well,” said Peter, calmly. “Things take time.”

“It doesn’t take 45 YEARS!” I screetched. “It wouldn’t take me 45 years to transform my life.”

Peter laughed.

 I’ll tell you what, Peter. I will meet you back here, in this exact, same spot next Easter Sunday and I’ll tell you all about how I completely transformed my life.”

And when I walked away, I said to myself, “You know what? I’m going to take on that challenge. I am going to completely transform my life within this next year.”

But when I finally returned to Atlanta, I was so broken down that it took me nearly seven months before I could even begin to get back to my baseline.

However, when I did get back to my baseline, I decided that baseline was no longer big enough for me. I had to get to the point of sinking before I learned the lessons that allowed me to throw off the ballast of my past conditioning. I had wanted the S.S. Sullivan to sink in order to make way for something new. I didn’t know it then but that ship was a mirror for me wanting something new for myself.

Today I started something that had me throw my hat over the fence toward nothing short of a total life transformation. When something is transformed, it means that there is not a trace left of the form which preceded it.

That’s where I’m headed. And I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing until I have some solid traction under my wheels.

Thinking back to that conversation at the Buffalo waterfront, I realize that Peter from Rhode Island who was in love with Buffalo was right.

I’ve been on the road to transforming my one, singular life experience (who I became based on my conditioning) for over 30 years. That’s one life. That’s not an entire city full of lives, an entire  population of people entrenched in socio-cultural traditions, ways of thinking, ways of being and doing – all of which is based on “the way things have always been” – even if you’re uninspired, bored stiff, and dying inside.

Tina Turner is a paragon of true transformation. By the time she was through, her $76 million dollar mansion on Lake Zurich, her fame, her fortune, her legacy – her IMPACT! My GOD, her IMPACT! resembled nothing of her poverty-stricken, cotton-picking southern roots.

Even after Tina and her life were unrecognizable from her past, she couldn’t escape the sycophant journalists who kept referring her back there to relive her trauma, causing her over and over again to re-visit a haunted house from which she barely emerged with her soul intact.

That’s what people do when they don’t have the guts to transform themselves. They’re like those crabs in the bucket who, when seeing one of their own with the pants to get out of there, pulls it back down with them – right there, where misery loves company.

I saw Tina Turner perform in Paris in 1985, fresh out of her cocoon and free at last. It was like watching a hurricane touch down and then standing around to watch the hurricane itself.

You can’t harness that kind of power. Tina was no exception, though. She was an example of the kind of power that we all hold inside and that we can access and express, anytime we choose.

Penultimate

Earlier today, after sharing a lengthy conversation with a man and his wife at Alon’s,  swapping stories of caregiving, death,

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