The shhhhwimmer

This past spring, I finally read “The Swimmer,” John Cheever’s classic short story about post-war alienation, male angst and chlorine. In the story, the slightly tipsy Neddy decides to swim home from a party, house to house, pool to pool. In the end, he comes home to an empty house, symbolizing the emptiness of his life, not to mention the futility of masculinity in the face of impending middle age.

But you can bet your Bacardi that the next day around the water cooler Neddy was all, “Dudes! I totally swam home last night!” Except he wouldn’t have said “dudes” and “totally” because this was the early sixties. Instead he would have said, “Odds bodkins!” and “verily” or whatever they said before slang was invented.

This is what happens to a man in his forties. No matter how burdened he is by the wrecks of relationships and failed schemes, the ability to still pull off a dumb-ass stunt is pretty sweet.

John Morillo. I love that this jpeg from the Windsor Star is labelled "drunk_swimmer." Photo: DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star

John Morillo. I love that this jpeg from the Windsor Star is labelled “drunk_swimmer.”
Photo: DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star

I thought of “The Swimmer” this week when I read that a Windsor, Ontario man – drunk, naturally, because what else is there to do in Windsor? – decided to take a late-night swim across the Detroit River. To Detroit. He swam from Canada. To another country!

Given that Detroit just declared bankruptcy, you would think people would be swimming away from Detroit, but John Morillo swam to Detroit and back. And then he got arrested.

At first I thought to myself, “Dang fool,” because that’s what I say now that I’m over 45; I lower my whittlin’ stick, spit some chaw and say “dang” and “dagnabbit.”

But then I looked at the story more closely (with my good, non-weepy eye) and saw that John Morillo is 47 years old. That’s the same age as me! Suddenly, this was the most exciting news I’d heard all week, far more exciting than any royal birth. After all, anyone can have a baby. Well, 50 percent of the population can’t. But still, how many international rivers has the prince formerly known as “Prince” swum across? Zero!

The big deal isn’t that Morillo crossed the river, especially since in doing so he violated territorial laws, triggered a police search, got arrested, was fined $6000 and is banned from the Windsor waterfront (which quite frankly sounds less like a punishment than a relief). Even Morillo himself admitted he was “really stupid,” to which I’d like to add “really gross”; I mean, the Detroit River!

The big deal is the fact that this guy is old. Not “old” old but certainly too old for a frat-boy stunt like this. But swimming to Detroit had been Morillo’s longtime dream. And encouraged by his mates and far too many beers, he achieved his dream this week. As a fellow 47er, this gives me hope.

You must understand that when you’re in your mid- to late forties, you start to wonder whether your best days are behind you. Sure, you might not have peaked as a complainer, but you do ask yourself whether you’ll ever again find true greatness or the remote.

John Morillo – swimmer, braggart, future bait-shop-grand-opening ribbon-cutter – he reminds us that 47 is the new… well, it’s still 47 but that doesn’t mean one’s best works are past.

Beethoven began writing his ninth symphony at age 47. He was stone deaf and grumpy but, boy, could he swing!

What else has been achieved at 47? Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities. Hugh Hefner: a romp with two Bunnies.

Charlie Sheen is 47 and he’s doing well.

And now John Morillo. He didn’t say, “I’m too old” or “I can’t do it” or “I probably shouldn’t swim in international shipping lanes.” He said, “I can do it,” although after eight beers it was probably more like, “Ahkaddooi’…”

So here’s to you, John Morillo and your Cheever-esque shenanigans. Thank you for reminding me that, despite my age, I too may achieve greatness, though hopefully not accompanied by the phrase “alcohol may have been a factor.”

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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42 Responses to The shhhhwimmer

  1. The Cutter says:

    Who among us hasn’t ever wanted to swim to a foreign country?

  2. Touch your forehead to your knees and I’ll be impressed (whilst standing UP).

  3. DrFrood says:

    Hugh Hefner: a romp with two Bunnies.

    Well played, sir, well played.

  4. “Future bait-shop-grand-opening ribbon-cutter”. Hahaha, it’s good to have goals.

  5. byebyebeer says:

    The Swimmer was my favorite story about sad middle aged drunks when I was one, and even now that I’m sober (though still old). I’m not sure if being drunk made Morillo’s swim easier or more challenging, but he looks like a cuddly teddy bear in his Disney shirt and I’m rooting for him all the way. He gives me hope that my dreams can still come true, even the really stupid ones.

  6. Elyse says:

    Dagnabbit, I’m feelin pretty old now. Because the movie was filmed in my hometown a million years ago and I remember it. That makes me a million and ten.

  7. NFred says:

    Three cheers for the totally wasted dream achiever!
    What a great story!
    I have a milestone birthday coming up (although I’m WAY younger than you 47 year old geriatrics) and this article has totally inspired me to do something reckless!
    Also, I’m becoming somewhat obsessed with your blog.
    You write real good and stuff.

  8. This made me laugh….and slightly jealous. And now, unfortunately, I have “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from the Sound of Music in my head, specifically the line “Ford every stream”.

  9. ksbeth says:

    i love this and live in mich so i found it especially funny and enjoyed your new perspective on the event )

  10. Dude I lake it. Gives me harp too.

  11. List of X says:

    Morillo’s didn’t just swim across – he swam to Detroit and back to Windsor. So, in a way, that was John Morillo’s tale of two cities. And now, just like Beethoven, he’s going to have to face the music.

  12. Tez says:

    I don’t what the world’s coming to with all these dang fool whipper snippers swimming rivers in the middle of the night and taking up far too much space in the newspapers and that internets thingy!! And you, young fella, don’t look a day older than … well … erm … 47. It’s just not right! Grumble … grumble … grumble …grumble.

    Does this mean I’ve “peaked as a complainer” and can you send me my certificate? At 67 I need something/anything to brag about.

  13. Letizia says:

    I hadn’t heard about this amazing story. In a way it’s a shame they fined him. An arrest would have been punishment enough, I think. Oh well.

    I’m excited that I have these drunken escapades to look forward to! There’s no holding me back now…

  14. El Guapo says:

    I’m 42. I spent two hours yesterday paddleboarding in the Hudson rive off lower Manhattan.
    I’m hoping my last words will be Oops! after a spectacular stunt.

    Hell yes, Drunk Windsor Man.
    Hell. Yes.

  15. Nic says:

    This reminds me of the 42-year-old I dated back when I was 20 and a total dumbass… Who will be turning 47 this year! Wow, maybe I should track him down on the off-chance that he’s become awesome in the past 5 years and is now drunk-swimming across countries? Wow, I really want to drunk-swim now.

  16. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Well, you had me until you mentioned Charlie Sheen. That is one lousy way to end a career. Perhaps he could redeem himself by swimming to China and staying there. But seriously, you can’t tell people you swam home via swimming pools when you had to get out, leap over the lawn chairs and a fence to get to the next one! Post-war alienation? Oh, that Cheever. He shoehorns that meme into everything he does.

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