THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS FROM AN AMERICAN Merchant Mariner
Monday, January 15, 2018
Sometimes, burning bridges is the best thing you can do. Eliminate your lines of retreat and reduce your chances of missing something ahead by eliminating the desire to look behind.
Without being overly cryptic, I recently closed the door on some people from my past who used to be friends. Rather than continue to be annoyed by them and saddened that we'd grown apart over minutia, or politics, or lifestyle, religion or all of the above, it made more sense to just not worry about it anymore. I like things simple anyhow.
I figure if someone gets so upset that my personal politics, or my faith, or their lifestyle choices become so difficult to accept that they can't be a friend, they certainly aren't and haven't been for a while. So it goes.
One of the most helpful things that happened this past fall in dealing with my mother's death was that when I would return to my old hometown up north, a few friends immediately stopped what they were doing and rallied to check in on me, visit with my mom, say goodbye, that sort of thing. I didn't even realize that I needed any emotional support until I had it. Some of those folks I hadn't seen much of in the past 10 years, but the distance and time turned out to be irrelevant, and I'm very grateful for that.
Other people who used to be in my life... well, different story. I think, upon reflection, that my career change, in going back to my roots and being a fisherman after college was done, was something of an admission of failure on my part. I failed to change as a person. Perhaps that was the impact of treating college and grad school like a job and not a social round. Being a scientist wasn't satisfying, just dull, as were most of the people. I aspired to enjoy their polite company more, though, thinking it a benchmark of what I would need to take part in in order to shake off my working-class roots.
Well... shit. After I realized I was pretty unhappy and changed my life to something I'd actually enjoy more, I tried to stay in touch, to be friendly. I just couldn't change my basic nature. I may do well in polite company, but truth is I'd rather be with impolite company and having a good time than sitting around being pleasant with people I don't have anything in common with except for a desire to not be thought stupid.
I remember one party at somebody's apartment in Cambridge, MA, maybe 2002. Friend of some friends. I had started the day with a mild hangover but had woken up at 4am anyhow, hauled lobster pots for 12 hours and gotten back to the dock at like 5:30pm. I drove home and showered, ate, and by the time I had driven the 40 minutes or so to Harvard Square, it was like 9pm. I had to be up at 4am the next day anyhow, but I was in my 20's. No big deal.
It was pretty dull, but pleasant enough, I suppose. I listened to a lot of talk. After everyone had had a few drinks, some of the ladies who I knew made a few digs at me for being a caveman and foregoing the opportunities that my education provided. I explained once that I was happier with what I was doing- it was exciting, rewarding, and the higher-risk nature of the work was satisfying to the part of me that liked doing what others wouldn't want to do. I might as well have been talking to the wall to my associates. Nonetheless, as I am wont to do, a couple of sea stories got told, and a likely enough woman showed some interest in me and I didn't complain at all. Some upper class young ladies really do enjoy slumming it with someone who can be polite and inoffensive.
Thing is, it was all an act for me. I still wasn't enjoying it, and other than a desire to get laid, I was having one of those 'I don't want to be here' feelings. The most vocal of the women I knew at the party got fairly drunk, and let her mask slip a bit, turned pretty mean. She said some vaguely cutting and dismissive things in response to the last story I had told. Cock-blocking me, essentially. I was still housebroken enough at that time that I didn't really do much beyond pretend I didn't realize she was being shitty. I ended up getting the girl's number and by 11pm I was in my rotten bait truck headed back to the suburbs, but the night sat heavy with me. There was nothing truly wrong with them, the problem lay with me. I didn't belong, and never did, and never will.
The next morning, when the Notorious B.O.B. showed up at the dock, I had the engine warmed up, our 1,000 lbs of bait already loaded on board, filled up our fresh water barrel and was loaded up on caffeine. I had slept maybe 3 hours and was still somewhat annoyed with myself for being a drama queen and not just enjoying the company the night before. Over the course of the day, we talked about what was going on inside my head, and by the time we got back to the dock, Bob's dad had dropped a 24-pack of Heineken in the bait cooler, and we proceeded to drink at least half that suitcase. "Fuck 'em," was Bob's advice. "You got people. How many do you really need?"
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.