I’ve known Carole Borges for maybe six or eight years. She’s one of those people we meet and later can’t imagine having not always known. We labored in a writing group together for some time and Carole, who was making a shift from her poetry, which has been published in many national literary magazines, would occasionally mention this other story. A true story, it slipped out a piece here, a vignette there. Small mentions of an amazing life led the members of the group to plead with Carole to write it down and preserve it.
Carole went her separate way from the writing group. Eventually, I did the same. Carole remains one of those people who everyone knows and about whom everyone smiles at the mention of her name. Whether she is holding Kelle Jolly’s oversized cardboard guitar at an event, marching for a righteous (why isn’t “lefteous” a word?) cause or holding forth on a finer point of literary criticism, she is as ubiquitous as she is engaging. Given our history and knowing the great story she had to tell the world, I was delighted when I learned she had finished and published the book.
What could possibly be so interesting? Her father, the dreamseeker, decided to move his family aboard a small boat and travel to the Pacific Islands. The fact that the boat rested beneath the surface of Lake Michigan only encouraged him. The boat was raised and the family moved aboard, enduring several Chicago winters on the water at dock. When the boat became seaworthy, the family set sail on a journey that would take them over the Illinois, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers out into the Gulf of Mexico with the final disaster being a hurricane off the coast of Florida. Carole would pass her teenage years as a sailor in the most unique coming-of-age story I’ve ever heard.
See why this needed to be written? Happily, I caught up with Carole at my favorite book store, Union Avenue Books at a recent afternoon reading where she read to a very receptive audience. She started by teaching the crowd a sea-song the family would sing, which incorporated a call and response. She plans to sing it and engage passers-by in an effort she is calling, “Busking for Books.”
She left the boat with a boyfriend at age seventeen, moving from Florida to Boston. She told the assembled crowd at Union Avenue Books that her adventures ended at that point. She met a group who started building cement boats. Yes, I just said that.
Later, they hauled the boats to some land they bought in the hills, perched their boats on the summit of a hill and established a commune. This was with the first of her three husbands. Later she found herself in Mexico living with a man to whom she said, “I have to leave and go back to my husband and children.” He said she should go, instead, to Guatemala. He held out a machete just as a moombeam shot through an opening in the hut illuminating the magic blade. She left for Guatemala where she became known as the “Lady of the machete.”
So, given that I just described the boring portion of Carole’s life, you can imagine what the boating years were like. I’m relishing my journey with her as I read this incredible story and I’d encourage you to stop into Union Avenue Books and buy a copy for yourself (it is available on Amazon, if you must).
Meanwhile, as I sit at home and read, Carole has announced she longs for a new adventure and packed a tent and some copies of her books to head south, camping and busking her way to Key West. She figures she’ll camp, busk, stop in on people she knows – members of the commune are rumored to be in south Florida – and make her way south for a while. Just your typical, boring, seventy-something heading down the highway looking for adventure. You can follow her here.
She’s just another of my favorite people, making this city a never-ending source of interest.