“Cruisin down the river/Dancin til your feet got numb/Cool summer breezes blowing through your hair/As you stood gazing down the river…”
I remember the first time I walked up those stairs to the dance floor, “Roxanne Roxanne” by UTFO was blasting and I had a pocket full of change jingling to play video games. I couldn’t wait to dance and was so excited to be able to explore without parental supervision. I was nine years old. It was the Boblo Boat.
Fast forward, same steps, one of those long rope licorice hanging from my teeth, a few years before the last boat would dock, and my last time on the boat. My ponytail was flapping against my back and the strap from my short overalls was hitting my thighs as the little brown boy I thought was cute was pulling my hand to go dance. The boat seemed to sway in syncopation to whatever song was playing. Nobody sweat their hairstyle out because the breeze from the water made it almost chilly on that second floor deck… little chill bumps raised on our arms as we prepped and schoolcrafted our way to happiness. A whole 45 minutes away from our destination, the fun began on the Boblo Boat.
Boblo was cool, it was rides and running around, hot dogs and games. But the boat ride started and ended what was the best part of the summer getaway. Our parents sat on the deck, talking shit, smoking cigarettes, drinking whatever they brought in their bags next to our frozen juice boxes, and holding our jackets and backpacks, while we ran around the boat… culminating in groups on the dance floor, with our girls in the bathroom slicking our hair back up into the ponytail the breeze had messed up, and coming of age. I grew up in the Boblo Boat. I slow danced to Computer Love on the Boblo Boat. I won a dance contest on the Boblo Boat. I stood and watched the steam stacks when we could get up to the third deck. I watched us move father from Detroit into familiar but unknown parts of the river, imagining how it would one day feel to see other parts of the world. Yet I felt a sense of serenity as I could see the big blue sign near the docks, back home, my home, my city.
I was getting dressed today, almost 30 years later to the day I last watched the water splash against the sides of the boat from the steel gated balcony grills, and the news story caught my ear. The scene on the tv sat me down on the bed. The Ste. Clair, aka The Boblo Boat was up in flames. All I could think of was that wooden staircase… what seemed like a red carpet into my summertime dreams… and that mean Errol Flynn I would laugh watching my mom do on the deck before took off to join my friends… It was the summer of 1989. Some stuff just never fades away. I remember the year because I heard “Cha, Cha, Cha” the first time on the ride going and back, and I walked around repeating… “Watch me do my thing with an ‘89 swing”
…On the Boblo Boat!
big up to Royce da 5’9