The Mary Ellen Carter

Rio, 38

Your song, and why?

“The Mary Ellen Carter” by Mischief Brew (original version by Stan Rogers)

About five years ago my parents received an eviction notice to the San Francisco apartment building they had called home for 40 years. They decided to defy the eviction and fight it which meant that for nearly 2 years they illegally squatted in their own homes avoiding process servers and landlords trying to oust them. It was during this period that I came across the Mary Ellen Carter.

“The Mary Ellen Carter” is a folk ballad about a group of sailors who join together to raise a sunken sea ship, defying the odds and the warnings of the people around them. The specific version I would want played at my wake is a cover by anarchist folk punk band Mischief Brew. There’s something so optimistic yet transgressive about the way lead singer Erik Petersen sings the words originally written by Stan Rogers.

The final lyrics that close out the song have always stuck with me. “though your heart it be broken or life about to end. No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend. Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.” This was my anthem of survival and resistance to my family’s eviction from their San Francisco home of 40 years and it stuck with me through the death of my Step-Mom and the death of my Dad. It’s now the note I would want to go out on.

How would you want these shared?

A byproduct of being an 80’s Chicano kid who tuned out gunshots on his block with comic books and Dungeons & Dragons is a fixation with medieval fantasy taverns. In my mind’s eye I always picture my wake taking place in a rollicking tavern with everyone singing sea shanties like the saltiest possible sailors. In a way I feel this song would be a perfect fit for a scene like that.

In reality I’d love a toast in my honor during the last minute of the song while everyone sings along to it. If I leave behind one message it would be this one of rebirth, renewal, rebellion, and resiliency.

Your “no-go” songs?

Nothing too pretentiously indigenous. I’m at peace with my indigeneity as a Chicano and don’t need to showboat or flex in a fair-weather way. Honor the Four Directions and then blast some Eazy-E for me.