Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Whether you're at sea, on land, with family, avoiding family or serving others through work or military duty, I hope this very American holiday brings a little thoughtful peace to your part of our broken-hearted world.
My wife's busy tonight, so I'm sort of on my own. We bought my kid some painting canvases, and he's up in his room, slinging paint and grunting like a caveman if we disturb his wa.
So I'm on the patio, and enjoying the night. It's a cool south Florida night- breezy, maybe 68-70. First night of the year where folks can get away with long sleeves. I'm on the Caribbean diet tonight. Rum and a cigar.
My house has double sliding glass doors that face my pond, which I share with my neighbors. It's about 15-20 acres, and I can see 4 houses across the way. The houses with families have kids coming and going past the windows. It being after 9pm, the rest are dark, as the elderly sleep.
It's peaceful as hell, is what I'm saying. Seeing the colors of the neighbors' lights reflect off my pond provides some background color for me. My windchimes are just barely making themselves known. It's one of those moments that I ache for, when I'm at work. Later, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife will come out with an ice bucket and a bottle of champagne. I've already got the glasses on the table. Should be a nice cap to a busy day. Plus, I went to the dentist today, and I need a fucking root canal, same week I shelled out to have my mother in law fly up from Brazil for the holiday season. Daddy's gonna be drinking the cheap shit after this week.
He rose at dawn and, fired with hope,
Shot o’er the seething harbour-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
And whistled to the morning star.
And while he whistled long and loud
He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
“O boy, tho' thou are young and proud,
I see the place where thou wilt lie.
“The sands and yeasty surges mix
In caves about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.”
“Fool,” he answer’d , “death is sure
To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
To sit with empty hands at home.
“My mother clings about my neck,
My sisters crying, ‘Stay for shame;’
My father raves of death and wreck,-
They are all to blame, they are all to blame.
“God help me! save I take my part
Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
Far worse than any death to me.”
Well, Thursday is Thanksgiving, and this will be my first one down in FL where it's just our cadet branch of the B family. The rest of the B family will be gathering up north.
This week we celebrate the insanely brave, and sometimes just insane colonists of Plimouth Plantation, who, despite being surrounded by the Wampanoag tribe on all sides, refused to cave in to their demands to join in the Wampanoag's continuous state of war and commit an act of genocide against the neighboring tribes, starting with the Pequod to their south.
I grew up down the road from Plymouth. I had to take a school field trip to the fucking plantation every. damn. year.For some reason, the details of the conditions around the time of the first treaty with the Wampanoag get left out.
Still, it makes it harder to stomach the whole 'day of mourning' shit the hyphen-americans like to trot out. The baby in this bathwater is that they're protesting how the fundamentalist Protestants didn't want to become a mercenary army fighting for the Wampanoags.
I can't stand that whole 'peaceful, living in harmony' shit that the Indians got away with. Being in continuous war for centuries at a time isn't peace. And that whole respecting nature bullshit? It's super easy to find where Indians camped in New England. NOTHING GROWS THERE, HUNDREDS OF YEARS LATER. Scorched earth like the Romans dreamed of.
And this is not to say that it was by any means a justification for what the colonists did to the natives in the long run. It's reasonable to cite the Indians, Irish and Caribbean peoples and just say that it was just the British being British, and we inherited that unsavory dehumanizing attitude towards indigenous peoples.Throwing all the casinos and tax free tobacco we can at their descendents just doesn't seem like enough to assuage that guilt.
When I was 8-9, the old timer who taught me how to lobster had a big steel Maxwell House coffee can with baling wire handles. You remember those old giant cans- seems like they held about a gallon of coffee. Well, he would sometimes bring along some bits and pieces of food in a bag, and early in the morning he'd mix up a batch of the base stock for chowder, and whatever went in it for meat went in it for meat. Usually it was Codfish and a short lobster that got crunched or had its' shell damaged, and was judged as not going to survive, so into the pot he went. This was shelled and cut up, along with the cod and maybe a couple of clams from the basket of clams the old timer hung off the back of the dock.
The old timer dug clams when low tide coincided with sunrise or morning twilight before the game warden woke up. These got stored in a special hidden basket built inconspicuously into the dock itself, accessed by moving a loose plank. When we left the dock in the morning, the can sometimes came out, along with a small jug of milk, and everything went in the can. We would then lift up the engine hatch, and the can would get hung off the exhaust manifold of the engine.
By noon or so, we had a hot lunch of short lobster chowder. Being intently curious and the old timer having saintly patience when it came to answering a million how-to questions about fishing each day, I learned how to cook this meal- one of the tastiest things you'll ever eat, and a real taste of rural New England.
After I grew up and the old timer gave up fishing, he sold the boat to my high school English teacher, who had a smaller boat and was looking to upgrade. I came along as part of the sale. Billy Dee taught me more about fishing legally, and the rights and wrongs of fishing commercially, and I never again saw or saw fit myself to eat or keep a short lobster. In my yoot, I was innocent, and it was a different time, of course, when living off the sea was still a thing for a New Englander to do.
Anyhow, as I'm barbecuing some leftover freezer meats today, before they get freezer burnt and go bad, I have time, and I was thinking about my fishing days, so here's the recipe. You can make it on a stove, too, of course, but it ain't gonna be the same. Cook time and temp will vary with your patience. If possible, I'd recommend around the temperature of the air around the exhaust manifold of a Detroit 453 with keel coolers and a dry stack exhaust.
DETROIT DIESEL FISH CHOWDER
(Serves 6, or 2 fishermen)
Salt Pork (cut fine, 1-4oz.)
3 tbsp. butter
2 medium onions, cubed.
Savory and/or Thyme (or both) 1 tsp.
2 lbs potatoes, cubed fine.
3-4 bay leaves
5 cups chicken broth
2-3 lbs cod, lobster, or both, thick cubes.
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2-2 cups of milk or heavy cream
To cook- throw everything in a coffee can, and hang it off the manifold, let cook for 4-5 hours. Or, cook it in a stock pot.
Home! Goddamn there was drama and excitement on my last watch, mostly related to me trying to get to the damn airport from Port Elizabeth NJ. Long story short, it involved tugboat rides, giving a cabbie directions to a street with no name, and then a taxi ride into Manhattan during rush hour, then a couple of tunnel transits to Brooklyn, there to get to the airport. The 2 hours in the taxi would have been hard enough but the kindly old gentleman in the taxi had a case of the farts something serious, and although he opened and closed the window constantly, I got marinated.
Seriously, I started thinking about what I'm doing with my life on that cab ride.
Anyhow, I'm home, all is joyful, and I bought a new hunting shotgun, too.
We're alongside a PCTC today (a Pure Car/Truck Carrier), similar to this one below.
This is how your Japanese car gets to the US
This one today is old and rotten, very obviously not well cared for. Unsuprisingly, it's crewed by Mohammadans, who, to be fair, don't have a reputation for sterling attention to details like maintenance or, you know, working much.
Anyhow, like so many of their co-religionists who sail, the crew on today's customer are slow, lazy, unprofessional and unintelligent. I went from agitated, to frustrated, to furious, and now, thankfully, to Zen. Fuck them, I'm going home tomorrow. I hope.
I say I hope because in my furious phase, I used some choice words to describe their unprofessional, unhygienic and infuriating laziness this morning.
Well, long story short, without being verbally abusive to any singled out individual or saying anything truly bigoted, racist or provocative (at least out loud), I suddenly realized that I could be just a few more vulgar observations from having one of these dirty, deeply stupid individuals decide to go allahu snackbar and stuff his life jacket full of exploding tickets to his 72 virgins.
Honestly, that random, deeply unlikely thought threw me off my harangue game, and I ended my rant with a pretty lame "You damn shoemakers need some fucking soap and some smarts. Un-Pro-Fessional."
Not my best work. I pride myself on being able to dress down those who deserve it in a manner tailored to both my mood and their class or lack thereof.
With the radical Amish militant Mohammedans having shed a whole lot of innocent blood in Paris last night, my ears are ringing from all the cries from the rest of Islam decrying ISIS' actions.
Oh, wait, my sarcasm key is broken.
We ain't heard shit from the rest of the Islamic world. Is that an artifact of selective reporting, or just a matter of horror being thin on the ground just now on the streets of Mecca?
I'm not enough of a subject matter expert to bother sharing my thoughts on reprisal. I just hope there is one, and that it's more than the usual Kabuki show and the odd assassination via Predator drone.
No, I want to share what I believe may be going on inside the head of non-ISIS members, say the quiet, unassimilated and peaceful muslims who just seem to be increasing in numbers all the time here in the US.
Bear with me, as I'm going on a tangent here.
If you go by polls, depending on who you reference, anywhere between 35 and 65% of all Muslims in the US believe that some form of Sharia law should be introduced in the US. Let's get that out there as background.
Now, as a young man, I was sympathetic to the IRA and their cause. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. I wasn't enthusiastic enough to contribute or provide material support, but having grown up around people who dealt with the Orangemen first hand, and being able to read the news, I thought it reasonable to protest with violence when people couldn't hold office or vote without facing violence in their own country. Terrorism to fight slavery? Well, so long as I didn't have to get blood on MY hands, I was OK with that, even knowing that innocent Brits were being killed. I viewed with benign passive interest, as a terrible shame, the acts of desperate men who wished only to govern themselves. All of us looky-loos in Boston breathed a sigh of relief when England capitulated and allowed Home Rule, and the IRA gave up violence.
... and that's where I see mainstream Islam fitting in. So long as their hands aren't actually dripping blood, I don't think most Mohammedans are losing a lot of sleep over what happened in Paris. "It's a damn shame" and maybe some head-shaking, and hey, what's for dinner?
Only ISIS isn't looking for the right to vote. They're looking for a Caliphate, for Sharia law to be the law of the land... the law for all lands. And we already know that the muslim population is actually pretty cool with that in the US, for the most part. And hey, a little spilled blood? Damn shame, but hey, it wasn't me doing the killing, and what's for dinner?
I'll admit that I'm curious about France's response. For all that the EU has been shrilly screaming Kumbaya for the past generation, there's no doubt in my head that they'll go from zero- to -get in the ovens faster than an American can say Howdy, once the anger reaches critical mass. I don't see them getting there just yet, but it's on the horizon now, I'd guess. Without the cultural emphasis on the right of individual self-determination that America still sort of has, Europeans have a greater desire for safety in numbers while defining goodthink, so when the goodthink opinion gets behind committing atrocity or violence, there is absolution to be found in weight of numbers. It's not a sin when everyone's involved, to the European mind... and I can't help but wonder when the day will come when another crusade will be announced as a result.
They stood by us when no one else would. Maybe they had their reasons, but they spilled the blood of their sons in our name.
We gave the very best of our Greatest Generation that they might be free, and each year, forgetting politics and statesmanship, they give thanks for our sacrifice.
You can't always choose your brothers, but you goddamn well better stand by them.
My dad was right when he said that time passes faster as you get older.
It doesn't seem like all that long ago, but x number of years ago, on this day, I met Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife for the first time. No shit, we were at a wedding, and she had caught the bouquet, and I caught the garter.
That was a number of years ago... and a lifetime ago, too. My life was much more simple, and, although I didn't know it at the time, much more empty.
Today we had a fair sized cargo. A medium-sized containership- a Panamax, if it matters, was topping off- they took 3,700 tons of fuel oil and 300 tons of diesel.
The job itself went off shitty- pumping oil was easy. The crew were awful, but whatever, that happens.
Thing is, I worked 8 hours yesterday, in the rain, mostly out on deck. Full rainsuit, but of course you get soaked anyhow, eventually. I handed off the watch at 1600, and went to bed.
At midnight, we were still there. And it was still raining, and I spent 3 hours more outside. After we finished and docked at our lay berth, I had a chance to check emails and the news and such.
And damn, just 1 hour in my chair, and I've stiffened up like no one's business. Today wasn't physically taxing, just spending 12 hours in the rain was enough to get me feeling like I put in a hard day's work.
I've always hated working in the rain, but it never left me feeling like I came in second in a 2-man ass-kicking contest before. This getting older shit isn't great.
I got called twice on not being PC on Facebook today. There was much butthurt, and I responded in predictable fashion.
There was a fellow mariner, who didn't like that I used the word 'retarded' in a post. I know that some people don't like it. Fuck them. So I responded "Retarded. Ree-tah-did. Insert my Boston accent. No one puts baby in the corner! "
Guy laughed at me, because he's normal.
The other one, well, it was a female fellow alum, a friend from college. Leftist feminist, pretty much. She posted an article about how Hillary Clinton is being unfairly demonized, blah blah blah.
OK, granted, I occasionally troll this girl, who has been less and less tolerant of it, despite my efforts to keep my trolling light. But this morning I was a tad grumpy, so, since there was a big picture of Ms. Clinton's unsavory mug and a stupid gotcha headline, I just responded with 'would not bang.'
And got unfriended, which, actually, was a good thing.
People need to lighten the fuck up. Life's hard. Wear a fucking helmet if you need to. If a lighthearted jest about a political figure ruins your day, you must have an awesome life. My days get ruined by more concrete things- I have yet to go sulk in the corner because someone was mean when they talked about Ronald Reagan (PBUH).
I wonder if my 20th college reunion would be worth going to for the lulz.
I got online to write, and for some reason, my browser wasn't working, so I jumped onto firefox, and since I don't use it much anymore, it pointed to Yahoo, which used to be my homepage. Well, I wasn't logged in, so the default news feed, you know where it has the basic headlines for 'news' as they call it- well, 4 out of the 5 headlines involved that idiotic hollywood family, you know, the karwhoosits, whatever the fuck you call them, the Armenian women with the shemale father.
80 % of yahoo's headlines were for a family of socialites. Fuck me with a traffic cone, we're in trouble.
Shit is fucked. up. Canada can't ship us their oil because our President is an asshole, and so it most of congress, but fuck it, Iran can send us every gallon and we'll pretend they're not doing exactly what they're doing, which is bringing about the end of a golden era of relative global peace. But God forbid those damn Canadians make a dollar pumping their oil to US suppliers. Our President likes to bend over and spread his cheeks for those who hate us and wish us harm, but allies and friends can go fuck themselves.
I don't know. This wasn't what I planned on posting tonight, but there it is. My plans got all messed up. Can't we ship those fucking women to Turkey or something? Our good friends in Turkey, you know that nation that got away with genocide? They wipe out millions upon millions of innocent people, and leave that one fucking family intact.
Almost 3 years back, I invited Morpho Trust, the TWIC program administrator, to eat a dick. They certainly earned that scorn I handed out. Cost me lost time at work, people not where they were supposed to be, and making me pay, literally, for their mistakes.
Oh, the TWIC card is a port access ID that the Ministry of Fear Department of Homeland Security came up with, you know to make our ports safer after no one attacked them, ever. Morpho Trust was awarded the contract to administer the pain process of applying for and handing out TWIC cards.
Well, it went so well last time. It took 3 appointments to get them to accept my application, then 2 appointments to get my card, which, also, turns out, was sent to the wrong office, so I missed a couple days of work chasing it down because they refused to mail it.
Well, as I said, last time, I invited them to eat a dick.
3 years later, I have applied for a renewal. OK, it was way too expensive, but the process has been streamlined, and, I'm pleased to report, it went as well as it possibly could. I made my appointment online, found a local office, and did my renewal. The one guy running the show was fast and efficient, polite even, and I was back on the road in 25 minutes. One week later my card showed up in the mail. EVERY. SINGLE. MISTAKE. GOT. CORRECTED.
So, last time I wrote, an exec from Morpho Trust called me at my home, scaring the shit out of me, and personally apologized for all their fuckups. I've got to say, they have really gotten their shit together, going by my experience.
So, to the folks at Morpho Trust, I say attaboy. I'm not going to thank someone for merely doing their job, but I sure do appreciate the improvements they made. Morpho Trust is no longer invited to eat a dick, in my book.
Through a random quirk, our schedule has been such that I haven't had to be on watch and idle for the midwatch in a while. For now, it's 3am, I've got 3 1/2 hours to wait until our next job, so it's been a good time to catch up on news, mail, and cooking dinner, too, of course. Tonight included a big as steak, zucchini and baked potato with many, many fixins'. I'm feeling fat and sassy.
You know, southerners do that weird head-tilt thing like a dog does when you say something they don't understand.
In pulling into Port Elizabeth, NJ earlier, we swung around to point bow out, so when we leave, it'll be a straight shot. When the tugboat deckhand asked what was up, I said "We're bangin' a yooey."
Head tilt ensued.
It's one of those things, I guess. Many southerners wouldn't understand that I was referring to a u-turn.
I'd like to think that I'm a little more clued in, these days. For instance, I know that when a southerner says 'bless your heart' they're really saying "oh, fuck you."
Strange, though, I didn't realize that Florida is mostly not part of the south. Now that I'm a resident, I realize that everyone moved there, but few were born there.
I am Paul B, and I spend most of my life at sea. Ships, Science, the life of a mariner, biology and (mostly) true stories of life among the best and the worst people in the world, the United States Merchant Marines. You'll find it here, maybe. You'll definitely find rants, raves and discussion on life aboard a merchant ship. Come back and see the Brazilian girls, too, who show up fairly regularly.