Lake Erie

Lake Erie looks good this morning. The sun is rising over the shoreline. There is a heavy mist on the surface of America’s fourth-largest Great Lake. And it’s so cold in Ottawa County, Ohio, that Starbucks is serving coffee on a stick. And it’s June.

“Hi there,” one passerby says to me. “Cold enough fer ya?”

Legend says, the ancient natives believed this cold lake was filled with good fortune. One such myth states that Lake Erie is so full of luck that lucky stones wash ashore. The stones still wash onto the shore each day. The stones have the letter “L” embedded in them. I’m hoping to find one.

“The rocks are actually the ear bones of freshwater drumfish,” says the local. “They are very lucky if you find one.”

Fingers crossed.

I’m in town with my friend Bobby Horton. Bobby is doing a history lecture and musical performance in the town of Lakeside. I’m playing with him.

Bobby is my father’s age. We have music in common, which is how we first met. Whereupon he took me under his wing. He lets me hang out at his house on holidays. He comes to my gigs, along with his wife, and he claps for me harder than anyone else. He’s among my closest of pals.

Since arriving in Ohio, wherever we go, Bobby introduces me as his “godson,” and I introduce him as “the Godfather,” even though—and I mean this sincerely—Bobby weighs considerably less than Marlon Brando.

“Shake hands with my godson,” he tells everyone, happily.

And when the strangers in the theater shake my hand, they look at me as though I truly belong to someone. Which isn’t a bad feeling.

This morning, America’s shallowest Great Lake is tinted with oceanic colors, and smells like a giant fish rectum. I’m wearing a jacket even though it’s mid-June, plugging my nose, wandering the shore, hunting for lucky rocks.

“Find any rocks yet?” asks the local guy.

“Not yet.”

He bids me farewell, they says, “Welcome to Ohio, you’ll get used to the stink.”

I’m thinking maybe this could be printed on their tourism brochures.

I meander a little farther along the lake. Searching for stones. On my opposite shore is Canada. Which is novel, inasmuch as I’ve never been this close to Canada before. In fact, didn’t know Canada was a real place.

A tourist passes me. She is power walking. “Is it always this cold in Ohio?” I ask the woman.

“Sweetie,” she says, “it’s so cold here that people wear two pairs of pajamas to shop at Walmart.”


I eventually abandon my search for good fortune and return to my hotel. I am staying in the Lakeside Hotel, built in 1875. The floors are heart pine. The rooms look the way they looked when Susan B. Anthony was a household name.

Bobby is still in his room, rehearsing music, so I head to breakfast. In the dining room I meet a young server who is courteous and polite. She apologizes every time she comes to my table, even though she’s done nothing wrong.

She is constantly saying things like: “Sorry, how are you doing today?” “Sorry, may I refill your coffee?” “Sorry, I think you stepped on my foot.”

Finally, I ask why she’s apologizing so much.

“I’m from northern Ohio,” she remarks, as though this explains everything. “We apologize to the dentist before he gives us root canals.”

“You don’t have to apologize to me,” I tell her.

“Okay,” she says. “Sorry about that.”

Soon, Bobby comes waltzing into the dining room. And he looks glad to see me. We embrace. He’s in a cheerful mood. Big grin on his face. And he slaps my back the way a father might do. The way someone slaps your back when they love you. And it’s been a long time since I’ve been loved by a guy my father’s age.

He sits down for his morning meal and greets the waitress warmly.

“Sorry,” the waitress says. “You two look like you’re related.”

“He’s my godson,” Bobby says with a smile.

Who needs lucky rocks.


  1. Goober Fife - June 17, 2023 12:54 pm

    Welcome to the Buckeye State Sean…Lakeside is a nice place to be in June when all the Methodist’s get together…Signed..Guy from Canton Ohio..with the Thelma Lou hanger

  2. stephen e acree - June 17, 2023 3:18 pm

    Traveling and writing. You got the life, Sean. thanks again.

  3. Julie - June 17, 2023 4:54 pm

    Reading your good story of “the Godfather” and godson makes my heart smile!

  4. Loren - June 17, 2023 6:39 pm

    This is almost a throwaway line, but it means so much: “The way someone slaps your back when they love you.”

  5. K. Cardenas - June 17, 2023 9:31 pm

    Hi Sean! I love your writing. I’m an English teacher, and my first encounter with you was when I read your post/essay called “The Sandwich.” I loved it so much that I read it aloud to everyone I knew, including my English classes. So I’m taking this opportunity to tell you that I adore your writer’s voice, and I look forward to reading.

    • Shawn Murphy - June 19, 2023 12:03 pm

      Loved your piece. I grew up on Lake Erie, in Erie county. We share the same name, although my parents chose to employ one of the phonetic spellings. Ironically, I’m also a musician! My mother used to work in the kitchen at Lakeside during “Methodist” summers, and I would scamper around the grounds without a care. You’re piece was posted on June 17th, my mother’s birthday. I feel her smile. Thanks for the little piece of lucky stone nostalgia!
      Shawn Murphy

  6. Heidi the Canuck - June 18, 2023 1:06 am

    Yes, Sean …. Canada is a real place. We even have a Sean of the South Fan Club (northern chapter). You should come up and see us sometime. Bring your Godfather. Our side of Lake Erie smells equally bad. Sorry!


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