In the summer I always take a class here called Chicago Shanties. We sing things like “What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor,” “Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her,” and “Haul Away, Joe.” These songs come from the tall-ship days–maybe the 1700s, 1800s. They’re easy to sing, easy to harmonize to, and have a lot of repetition, and they’re usually done a cappella, because it’s hard to work on a whaler and play an instrument at the same time. One night we were scheduled to sing at a tall-ship event on the Mercury docks and a large group of family and friends had come early to see me. So, we’re waiting and waiting and waiting to start, and finally we’re all ready to go–and just then the gnats descended. (It was the summer we had that terrible gnat infestation.) So we were standing there singing and trying to get people to sing along, and people were swatting gnats everywhere and spitting them out. I looked over at a good friend of mine and thought, “What a nice polka-dot shirt.” Then I realized it was covered with little bugs. Needless to say, it was a very short sing-along that night. We went to a bar to continue with the “Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum” indoors.

–Polly Parnell, accountant