Sunday, August 30, 2009

... and don't let the door hit ya' where the good Lord split ya'!

So, Sen. Tedward Kennedy, famed Buick enthusiast and hero of the battle of Chappaquiddick, is planted firmly in the good earth.

I made the mistake of alluding to the fact that I am not a fan of the man on Facebook. Snippets of hate-mail are still trickling in. Oops.

What pisses me off is that Ted is the face of American entitlement, the last son of a corrupt family that tried their damnedest, with the connivance of the media, to become American royalty. Strong words? Ask the Kopeckne's, or the poor drooling sister who Rose had lobotomized to keep her out of the public eye during John and Bobby's ascendancy.

The thing is, it's personal. The Kennedy's were the first catholic politicians to be accepted on a national level, because they were Wonder Bread catholics: they look good, not too strong, and inoffensive but bland to the palate, but ultimately, lacking in fibre.
Worse, to me, than sharing a common religion, is that I share a common ethnicity with these folk. The things I use to differentiate myself, ultimately, have required either admitting commonality, or digging deeper beyond what we share, to consider what we don't share.
I'm of Irish descent, but not that kind of Irish. And I'm Catholic, but not that kind, either. I believe in some absolute wrongs and rights, to accepting the moral teachings that are required to be a member of the group. I am no catholic on paper, and while I am more American than Irish, I recognize that it's inevitable to see a society influenced by a family that is widely spread throughout the world, courtesy of both a criminal predisposition and a certain monarchy's bad habit of transporting their trash overseas.

Ted Kennedy was not a Catholic for the latter part of his life, but for some insane reason, he was given a Catholic burial. It is not my place to say what happened in his closing days... maybe he got himself right with the man above. I hope he did. One thing is certain. Ted wasn't a Catholic for much of his political career. A central part of our doctrine is the belief that when the pope speaks 'from the chair of Peter,' something that happens only once or twice in a century, if that, his words become doctrine... and the last time that happened, it was declared that no catholic may be empowered to excommunicate another. Rather, in action, we may excommunicate ourselves spiritually.
Essentially, what all that means is that Teddy couldn't get censured by the Vatican in any meaningful way, despite his very active career spent running completely counter to the moral teachings of his church in several key areas such as the abortion issue and the implementation of gay marriage. This has been overshadowed by Ted's zealous protection of weaker groups in need of protection, something wholly good, for the most part, but it doesn't change the core issue; the many, many good things done simply don't wash away the bad.

Anyhow, the man's dead, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. He shared his strengths and protected those in need of protection, something which we're taught is the cornerstone of living morally. I don't seen the need to get overly enthusiastic about a man who simply does what he's supposed to do. There's not supposed to be a need to congratulate anyone for doing their job. I just can't stop focusing on the damage done outside of the circle of light that was constantly focused on the guy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


As I type this, we're in not-so-heavy-seas in the middle of the Delaware river, a whole two miles or so from our home dock.

When my dad was my age, he rode this home-made abortion out to George's Bank and worked on a damn submarine. I'm sitting here bitching when a ship wake rocks us at the dock.

Yup, I miss sailing in the blue water sometimes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

better than a hangover

The travel day to get back to work really sucks, you know? Sleep deprivation, physical and mental adjustment to the situation, etc... I rolled out of bed at 1230am yesterday, not-so-refreshed after about 30-45 minutes of sleep, and 20 minutes later, I was on the road.
Overnight travel is definitely the way to go, especially when, like me, it's necessary to travel southbound along the northeast corridor. My rule of thumb is that its' best to get through NY and eastern NJ before 5am. After that, it gets gnarly... my ride home, for instance, always occurs in daylight, and usually takes 2 hours longer, because NY and Connecticut is full of assholes who don't know how to drive. Assholes need sleep too, so I try to keep the pain to a minimum by travelling with the late-night set where possible.
Anyhow, yesterday was a hurry up and wait situation. I set the land-speed record to get down here early, called the dispatcher to get a ride from the docks to my unit, which was in Camden NJ (about 30 minutes upriver), and was told that a tugboat would dock in one hour, and to get my stuff on board, and they'd take me at 10 am to Camden.
It being 7am at the time, I was a little bummed. At 1130am, we made it off the dock. At this point, my groceries were getting nice and toasty out on deck on the tug, after a prolonged wait.
Anyhow, I was kind of pissed off. Considering that it takes a crew of 6 to man the tug, that the tug has two 2200hp engines that burn a lot of fuel even in 30 minutes, and that I'm only one person, I understand that it's awful expensive to use a 120-foot boat as a taxi. Even so, it took the wind out of my sails, because hey, it's time to work.
We arrived alongside my barge at about noon. The guy I was due to relieve met us and gave me a helping hand to move my groceries on board, then he jumped on the tug and I jumped off, there to run my groceries into the freezer. Once that was done, I threw on work clothes, and 6 minutes after I first stepped on board, I relieved the guy on deck and took the watch.
By 4pm I was finished, literally. The job was done, the paperwork, too, and I was beat to hell. The massive dose of caffeine that kept me alertish through the 6-hour drive, 4 hour wait and 4 hours of work, had long since departed... and here's where things get iffy.
I am stuck on board with a total stranger. I share this 15x15 office/bathroom/bunkroom with a stranger. This is not comfortable, obviously. When I took the watch, the guy went to bed. By 4pm, he was long asleep, and I didn't feel like waking him up by barging into the room to fish out sheets and such and make up my bunk, so I tried to wait him out.
By 10pm I looked like this.

I had let the guy sleep for like 9 hours, and no longer was feeling polite. After 2 days without more than a polite nod towards sleep, I walked in and made my bed. Of course, the guy woke up. I think. I was half asleep when I made up the bed, and I fell asleep before I could get my head on the pillow. I'm not kidding. I woke up at 3am with the pillow under one arm still.
Anyhow, 10 hours later, I'm feeling a mite better.

Monday, August 24, 2009


What a wonderful vacation. Shame I have to ruin it by going back to work. I am packing my bags now. Tomorrow night, I'm off to entertain and titillate y'all for another month.

Monday, August 17, 2009

rolling home

I'm home. Happy to be here, too. Don't expect much in the way of updates for another week, OK?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Counting down

I don't have channel fever, strangely enough. I guess I'm enough of a professional to be satisfied in counting down the diminishing days until I am reunited with my family. Even so, every new day is a little celebration. One more dent in the pile of reserve diet pepsi cans, empty spots in the pogie bait (food) locker, and, of course, the BOCOD, which passed yesterday.
Part of my satisfaction has come from arriving at a certain comfort zone- I now feel confident that I can do my job. I no longer get insulted when handed Letters of Protest by annoyed engineers, I can politely tell anonymous foreigners on the radio that no, I do not have their arcane form letter for this or that, and I can do what needs to be done, I think. We've certainly been busy- tomorrow is slated to be a stand-down day, where we have more than 12 hours off-hire. The last few days have seen us servicing an American ship (!), a Pure Car/Truck Carrier, to be precise, as well as a horrifically-ancient Oil/Bulk/Ore carrier and one of those ugly mega-scale cruise ships. It's been a busy couple of days. Today we've got an old tanker to bunker up; a middle-eastern owned & crewed ship; I am ambivalent- the people on such boats tend to be either wonderful warm human beings or complete slinkys (eg. they're useless for anything, but fun to throw down some stairs). So, we'll see. In the meanwhile, I've got a date with a grease gun today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Learn how to take a complement, A-Hole!

So, with delays and detentions keeping our job board in a semi-permanent state of "Standing By," there has been time to do some housekeeping here on board my home away from home. I've been painting like a mad bastard, running around like a one-armed paperhanger. I've burned through buckets of red paint, making this tub shiny and pretty again. International Paint's red color matches that of a baboon's ass when it gets faded. Jamie, my co-worker, has been painting the Tighty Whitey, the little teeny tiny bunkhouse/office/galley that we share. The Tighty is actually quite nice inside, so we've embarked on a quest to make the exterior look less like a Pakastani hospice.

Anyhow, as I mentioned in the past few posts, I spent a few weeks recently aboard a more aged barge, and through the magic of $5,000 in paint and pancake makeup, I made that old barge shine like a photoshopped headshot at an escort agency.

With apologies to 'lady gaga' whoever he, or possibly she, or he/she is. You get the idea.

Oh incidentally, the phrase "Ay, caramba!" in portuguese, apparently means "Ow, my eyes!" It's like that phrase was made for this picture.

So, with the extra downtime born of having to wait for a flag-of-convenience tanker that apparently couldn't pass a basic Coast Guard safety inspection, we took advantage and docked at the company's main yard and performed some necessary maintenance, and, in between those jobs, I got out my paintin' kit and went to town.
Yesterday I was working at my usual pace (fast and efficient, courtesy of my days as an Ordinary Seaman), and the VP of this company, one of the largest tug companies in the US, apparently walked by, put two and two together, and figured out that I was the guy who spit-shined the other newly painted barge last tour, and was going at it again on my own barge...
The VP passed word to my port captain that he liked the cut of my jib, and that word was passed to me.

How did I take it? Politely and happily, I accepted the compliment and chatted with my port captain. All the while, though, my inner asshole was working.
I'm no good at taking compliments, I'll say that. I know how to do it, and I try really hard to be gracious about it, and I think I do a good job at being a nice guy, but down deep, I feel like I'm being patronized, especially when I'm not.
So, while some other folks were making a pleasing fuss that I attracted attention to myself courtesy of my Mark-One New England Work Ethic, I had to fight not to shout "Do you know that 10 years ago I was a fucking scientist? This is Paint! I can spread it out fast! Thank You! "

What a jerk I am when my audience is contained between my ears and my hair.

And it's not that I'm a snob, or that I'm pining for a different life... I just want to go home, and I'm a little crazy just now, and I miss my family, and I'm no good at taking complements from people who actually notice that I'm working hard. All the same, it's nice to be noticed for something other than the inability of my pants to stay in the vicinity of my waistline.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

what I'm thinking about today

(in no particular order)

1). Why am I becoming more reluctant to climb to heights, jump across gaps and climb ladders? I used to love heights and doing dumb things. Now, climbing the mast is a trial, as is going up a ladder to the deck of a loosely-moored barge. I feel that barge swinging and swaying, and it freaks me out as I'm on the ladder.

I was standing on a gangway when it collapsed under me a few years ago, sending me into the water. That's probably it. I was wearing my officer's uniform, and everything. $200 shoes, ruined. Also, the gangway landed right next to me. Would have squished me.

2). Why am I not keeping up with technology? I used to be a tech junkie. Now, I am being taunted by the numerous buttons of my new cell phone.
Oh, also, I dropped my old cell phone in the water. While jumping across from the deck of one barge to another. This morning. Only like a 4-5 foot gap between the two. I was WAY skittish. And so the world's oldest cell phone gets a burial at sea.

3). 11 days and counting until I get to see my family. In mariner's parlance, this is called "getting short" The next step is Channel Fever.

4). I ate my first (and second) corn dog today. They smell like Twinkies when you microwave them. The flavor? Well, not Twinkie like. Arteries clogging in 3...2...1...

That be all