Saturday, September 23, 2023

"She's not invited to my funeral"

Every family has that one bitter aunt. 

 You know who I mean. The one who occasionally says mean-spirited and viscious things in between bouts of making proclamations on The Sorry State Of Things. 

      My wife has one or two. I had just one. 

 My aunt was the cool fun aunt when we were small. She was always up for adventures, and she and my mom took us on them for day trips or camping, etc. She was an awesome aunt. But her health failed and being a proud person by nature, she refused pain medications because of the dulling effect it had on her brain. Chronic and brutal pain became her daily bread and butter right around retirement, and thus she never did get to have fun in her last years, and the medications she did take cost her her mobility and dignity. She became someone confrontational and short tempered in her old age, someone who could really brighten up the room by leaving it, you know? 

   When Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I were still newlyweds, between my father's poor health, my aunt's general decline and me spending half the year on a ship, I missed out on a lot of family get togethers. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife just wasn't welcomed into the family with carte blanche yet. I suppose there was some lingering suspicion that being as she was well, disproportionally attractive compared to me and rather in dire need of a green card at the time we met, I know that my family, with the exception of my parents and one brother, while liking her in general, were leery. When one of my brothers hooked up with an Eyetalian girl, I thought that particular glass ceiling had already got broke. And then I show up with the Girl From Ipanema. Turns out, nope. 

      My aunt had met my wife before, but she must have been having a bad pain day one Thanksgiving towards the end.  My wife, God love her, dresses well, and with class always. I might see her with jeans on once every 3-4 months.  She's more a dress and makeup 7 days a week girl. But nice clothes can't hide that she has the sort of figure that adult actresses aspire to,  and a nice dress with heels tends to emphasize a narrow waist, flared hips and my personal favorite, Ye Old Life-Affirming Milk Trucks. My wife has DD boobs, a gift from God because He obviously loves me the most. 

       On the Thanksgiving in question, my aunt, mother sister-in-law and sister were in my brother's kitchen talking, and a bunch of us, including my wife and I, were in the living room, which was visible from their position. Apparently my wife was stumbling on some English phrase and trying her best to muddle through, and there was a hint of cleavage visible, which was Too Much for my aunt, who informed the table with great gravity "Look at (Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife). She's not invited to my funeral. Her boobs are much too big." 

     My mom and sister shared a great sense of humor. They managed to nod with understanding and keep a straight face, and ease out of the conversation a moment or two later. My mom, knowing that her sister was no longer herself after years of living in hellish daily pain, knew not to take such things to heart, but she was unable to keep such a gem of a statement to herself. With brownian motion and a promise to not say anything to me or my wife and cause embarrassment, everyone heard about it but us. All I noticed at the time was that I was hearing a lot of sudden loud barks of laughter every few moments. 

      Eventually my sister spilled the beans with my mom there to remind her to remind me to take it in stride. I thought it was hilarious, and so my mom and I went and told my wife, who reacted exactly as I did. I remember Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, after the laughter died down, looking at my mom and sister wide-eyed, and said "Ai mom, but what I can do? God gif to me really big boobs, I am supposed to wear the potato bag for hide dem?"  This caused my mom and sister to burst out laughing before my mom again had to explain that her sister wasn't quite exactly anymore.  



 I'm down to my last few days here at home. Crew change is coming up fast. Inappropriately Hot Foreign wife and I started a feijoada last night for dinner tonight.  If you don't know what a feijoada is, it's Brazilian poor people food, a black bean and meat stew, and it's incredibly good. I may post pictures later. 


Friday, September 15, 2023


 I must have been pretty tired, because I'm sleeping 10 hours a night. I've been home for 2 nights. It's a little annoying, waking up later than I want to when I'm one of those people whose productivity drops off quickly in the afternoon, but oh well. 

  Anyhow, I'm home, and it's lovely outside. I got rained on for the last 5 watches I stood. At least it's sunny and quiet here. 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

One week to go

 So yesterday I switched watches again, as we're coming into my last week aboard the HQ for the hitch, and that means it's my turn to take the back watch again, 1800-0600. 

      The heat came back on in a big way this week, so I'm thankful. I got my ass handed to me the other day after a busy 12 hour watch combined with complex cargo ops more or less kept me outside turning valves, swining wrenches and running the deck cranes for the entirety of the 12 hours, in high heat, direct sun and high humidity.   It was pretty gross. 

    Now, however, I'm working in the cooler half of the day and that's entirely to the good. 

    So my initial plan was to work over- rather than go home for my off time, I had agreed to go on an old beat up bunker barge that was being brought back into service and sailed to NY to go to work. I was dreading it a little, as it had been mothballed, and wasn't well cared for by her crew prior to the mothballing, and I know the barge well- it was my first barge when I joined this company 15 years ago and the living conditions aboard are not good. I mean, it does have a head, a working bathroom, but you can't actually wipe your ass if you have to poop. The stall, made of heavy steel, is the same width as the toilet seat, which is to say, narrow, and you have to enter the stall backwards, hips dragging against the stall sides, to sit down., and wedge your ass into position. . My shoulders don't actually fit in the stall, being wider than my ass, fat as I may be, but by clasping my hands together and reaching out with my arms and hunching my shoulders together, I can make it. Barely.. So yeah, to clean up you have to stand up, step out of the stall and wipe yer bungus out by the sink. My partner Big E, who is the size of an olympic powerlifter and also tall AF, can't even use the stall. He has to crap in a bucket on that class of barge if they make us go on there. 

 Yeah. But I volunteered. The money is good, and I spent a lot of it in Brazil last month. 

  Thing is, the deal fell through. The barge was left in Philly to work down there, and they have their own peeps to take OT down there, so I no longer had work for my off time. 

 And glory be, I am damn glad I am going home next week. I only had two half days at my house in the past few months. I'm actually pretty tired. I'll miss the money, but I miss my wife and I miss my bed more.   I am content to muddle through my last week here aboard, go home and recharge, and be back here a couple of weeks later ready to do it all over again. 

 Plus I'm not going to get more skin cancer this week, working in the dark. Trying to be positive here. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Fit To Burst

 August has been a hell of a month in all kinds of ways. 

    Expensive, expansive, adventurous, exciting, stressful too.  But the candle on the cake came at about 0300 a few days ago. 

 I'm on days now, but for the first half of the week, I was standing watch at night, 1800-0600. And although my son has been working on one of my company's tugboats for about 5 months, I have never worked with his tug while he's on it. Until now. 

      So he was on the captain's watch (0600-1200, then 1800-0000) and it being 0300 I figured I missed him again. Sleep is in short supply on a tugboat, the 6 and 6 watches being what they are. 

       We were coming alongside a ship out in Bay Ridge anchorage in NY, and I was very happily surprised when my kid comes up the ladder and jumps on deck along with the other tugboat deckhand. 

      So we got caught up, chatted for a minute, and then it was time to nudge up to the ship and raft up. 

        My son's had good luck in that he's mostly had good crewmen to shadow during his training process, and I had a real moment, seeing him working competently as I started my routine. For the most part, the deckhands are calling out distances and relative motion to the tug operator, and I'm calling out information to the deckhands either to keep them informed, or to repeat to the tug operator so my hands are free. While I have the same radio at my belt as the deckhands, I prefer to have my hands and mind one step more independent than that, as I have my own slightly different priorities than the tug operator. We have overlapping interests and separate interests, more or less. Safety, securing the barge, etc, but I have to know where my deck cranes can reach, where the ship's fueling manifolds are, and where the best spots to run mooring lines up to the ship will be to keep me snug alongside when the tug leaves later on. 

          I was about as proud as could be to see my son working seamlessly with the other deckhand and I could hear him talking to the mate on the tug and the deckhand too. "Got it." 'He needs 20 more feet aft" "I got the headline on the capstan, not heaving in, bow's hanging 6 feet off the ship, good coverage on the yokies now."  Terse, almost muttering, which means his mind was multitasking, which is exactly what a deckhand needs- to be present in the moment and also thinking ahead while observing everything and reporting only what is needed. 

     Not going to bullshit, I got a little emotional, had one of those 'holy shit, he's grown up' moments that rocked my back on my heels. And he has. High school leftist propaganda and programming near to left him a useless article, full of subversive marxist ideology that ruined his education for the most part. The whole 'math is racist, white people are the devil' shit even though I'm phosphorescently white, and indeed, he himself is part honky.  

      6 months in the real adult  world and that trip to Brazil to see what real life is has changed much. He's always been one of those kids who can more or less do basic calculus in his head, and I wasn't able to help him on his homework after Calc 2 in high school. He wants to be an engineer, and sees marine engineering as a good fusion of tech and hands on that will let him make 6 figures and have a second career at home in his off time, hustling. He wants to be a landlord, lol. Who says that at age 20? He's right, by my lights. And magically his politics shifted significantly after a few pay stubs, as such things often do. And Brazil, in Brazil I saw a side of my kid I had never seen- he bounced around the family like a ping-pong ball, talking and being in the moment, enjoying everyone, just like his mom, who is the most social and friendly person I know. He got to hear about my relatives' resentment at the lack of opportunity in Brazil, and how hard they worked for so little, which is all too true. Every single one of my wife's people have a second job. Hell, the cousin who's a busy clinical psychologist sells  things out of his car as a side gig. People don't think anything about it. They're hustlers, the Brazilians. 

        All that, and in that moment when I stopped what I was doing just for maybe 20 seconds and watching my son work, absolutely swollen with pride, I feel like I helped raise a good 'un. I think he's going to be OK in our broken-hearted world. So I guess it's OK I was all emotive and such on the inside. Along with several moments in my recent trip, this is yet another thing that happened in August that I believe will stay with me for the entirety of my life. 

 Couldn't be more proud.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Brazil: impressions

 I loved my trip to Brazil. 

  My first time there, I didn't enjoy myself. Oh, parts were cool, but for the most part I didn't want to be there. Getting a grip on the language helped. Being older and maybe wiser helped too. 

      This is a maritime blog, though, and my trip was intensely personal. How much to share? Probably less than more. 

       Did you ever have one of those moments when you realize right there that your world just expanded massively in a short while?  I had one of those lightning bolt moments. 

    Brazil is the new world. It's a shit show in all too many ways, courtesy of their leadership and acceptance of corruption in daily life. 

        My Brazilian family was wonderful. I got hugged and kissed more times than I could count. The kids wanted to have their picture taken with the giant white man and try out a few words of english. I laughed a lot more than I remember having done in a long time. The natural beauty was stunning. My wife's city, built under a ridgeline in a hilly area, was lovely in macro, often ugly and dirty in the micro. The area itself is arid and in the middle of winter. It was in the 50's at night, high 70's in the day. As it's at a higher altitude, the weather is quite moderate.  The landscape can be severe and in some of the valleys is a deep green while just a few miles away the land is dry as dust.  It's cowboy country. 

       Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife celebrated her birthday while we were there. Her mother's family, indio mostly, and short but not squat the way central American indios are, are all from the city where we visited. We also crossed a mountain range and visited the area where her father, an Italian immigrant, came from, and where his family settled. That area, dominated by waterfalls and lush forested mountains and hills, was a contrast to the sere and sometimes stark city. But the birthday party was mostly her mom's people, and it was a country party.  So when I got handed a bolo tie and a cowboy hat, I put them on. And you know, they felt pretty good. Altogether there were about 250 cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews who showed up that day, and another 50 or so who showed up the next day, a hangover brunch day. My mother in law, blind and undergoing chemo, danced and sang with people 40 years younger than her, while we drank moonshine cachaca , the ultrapure Brazilian white rum as well as homebrewed pineapple brandy and case after case of beer. 

mother and daughter. 


Pity the 19-hand monster horse that I rode in on.

Where's Pauldo? I feel like I might be pretty easy to spot. 
Also, I pinched my wife's butt really hard just as the camera flashed. She just started to yell when the camera flashed. Classic me. Moment ruined. 


Gratuitous moment in the mountain town of Iguai. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

feet dry

 I made it back from Brazil.  I am BEAT. 

 Amazing trip.   Back on a plane tomorrow bound for NY and work.  

 Lots of stuff happened. It was a life-altering series of events these past two weeks, all in good ways.  

 More to come. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

That guy. Don't be that guy.


Nothing, but NOTHING makes a bad mood a little more bright than sharing it.


  I’m at Laguardia airport in NY, the consistently worst airport in the US for delays. #2 and #3 are the other NY airports, so I’m fucked anyhow.


  Naturally my plane was delayed because Jetblue, while by far the most comfortable and clean airline to fly on in the US, is also absolute trash when it comes to being on time. They purposefully stack their planes’ flight time too close compared to other airlines. Delta, for example, allows for far more turnaround time generally.

  So while I’m getting lunch at the airport, I get the first delay notice. Usually it’s 20 minutes, and then another 20, and off we go... this time delay #1 is 90 minutes. Groan.


  Oh, and I have this evening to get my shit unpacked, take care of the Triumverate (The 3 S’s), pack ANOTHER bag for 2 weeks in Brazil, get my family’s paperwork sorted for the trip, and THEN maybe sit with the wife or jump in the pool for 30 minutes together before getting a few hours sleep and putting my house in order and flying out again.


  So this delay, as expected as it was, is especially unwelcome. I’m looking forward to the trip south, to be fair, but I’m also not going to find it relaxing. There’s a hefty element of work involved while I’m here, and then when we do come home, I get 12 hours before getting back on a plane and flying north for work.


  Yeah, I’m a bit grumpy and antisocial. Good I got to have lunch alone.


  In the bathroom, there’s a little wait for a urinal. And there’s one foreign asshole talking in a busy airport bathroom, LOUD, in foreign talk, on the God-damned speakerphone to some other equally belligerant asshole. And the guy’s just an absolute trashbag, there’s no mistake. And unfortunately, he’s at the urinal next to me, talking one handed, elbow cocked out, and while I’m trying to piss I get elbowed. And I’m seeing red, and my left eye is twitching.


  I stop what I’m doing, look at the guy until he makes eye contact with me, and I look directly at his phone, and make a very long, very loud fart noise with my tongue and mouth. You know the sound. I really breathed deep to get the volume and duration right up there.

  Before I run out of air, a good 5-6 seconds, a very kind young soul a couple of pissers down lets out a loud toot, a solid trumpet blast, same way as me, tongue sticking out. Then a third guy. . And I can breathe before starting up again. And now the 3 of us, out of maybe 10-12 guys, just let it go on and on, and it works, it’s annoying the hell out of him. It lasts a good 15 seconds, maybe more before silence reigns. The guy’s not talking now. Just standing there looking dumb and upset with phone in one hand and presumably inadequate pecker in the other.

  By now I’m finished pissing, and I zip up, and make the hand gesture of a person talking too much- you know the one, flapping 4 fingers against your thumb, miming a flapping mouth.

  Sadly, I’m not badass enough to do anything else. I just quietly say ‘asshole’ as I turn and leave.


 One of my helpers catches my eye as I’m rejoining the crowds outside the head. Dude gives me a grin and a nod, and I return it.

  My faith in humanity is restored.