Sunday, November 30, 2008


Been a while since I put some pics up. Here's Big Manny looking down the steward stores hatch.

Juan the steward, one of the funniest and most entertaining men I have ever met. This pic was taken at the foot of the stores hatch. Juan can take the good with the bad and make it edible. I'm not fooling, the guy's a genius.


Waiting for all hands to be called, and we can get out of Houston. We're heading up the Mississippi for our next stop, there to load black oil (I think) for NY/NJ.

For the past week, I've been trying to get some boxes of books sent home, and despite a stop in Savannah and 3 docks in Houston, it was impossible for me to get to the post office. Our next stop is no good either. Here's today's thought:

You should see the mo-mo's that run refinery loading docks. There are some sharp cookies, without a doubt, but my goodness, the bulk of 'em look like they're stuck on step one at the wednesday night AA meeting in the local church basement. Rough.
Anyhow, these people go to work and do their thing amidst multi-billion dollar stockpiles of oil, and, more importantly, the machinery that refines oil. When they're not doing that, however, I suspect that quite a few of 'em are watching COPS to see their family on TV.

So, to work on a ship these days, one needs to go through a background check, medical check, and paid-for-useless-ID check. We get vetted by Uncle Sugar. Not to say that every now and again we haven't had ex-cons and lowlifes abord, but by and large, we undergo a lot of scrutiny to get permission to do our jobs. Unlike some of the folks who are working in the refinery.

So, it bakes my balls a little when we get forbidden to go ashore at some refineries for 'security reasons.' Security my ass. There are guys who are wearing monitoring bracelets working in the refinery and I can't go to the post office across the street. Homeland security my ass. Oh, but we've got these new $135 ID's that were required for us to access secure areas in refineries and shipping docks... but, of course we can't go ashore, so that's a moot point. Incedentally, the government contractor who runs the ID scam is a major defense contractor who just happens to be falling on hard times 'cus they can't build ships that the navy will accept, and no one wants their 70's era airplanes. Corporate welfare.

Does the UPS guy go through this bullshit? 'Cus his job is a LOT more sensitive than mine. He could do more damage than I could, certainly.

Anyhow, when we aren't restricted to the ship, we are arriving in the middle of the night after an extended period of wakefullness, or, of course, arriving on the weekend. And thus it'll have been 3 weeks before I get to go to the post office and see if anyone I went to high school with has gotten their picture on the board with the big boys.

Ah well. Anyhow, in other news, Ernie, the other steward, has begun decorating the crew mess for Christmas. Somehow, by mid-December, the place always looks festive. I've got to say, we do a nice job in decorating as a crew.

Anyhow, if you'll excuse me, it's time to caffeinate in preparation for saying Bon Voyage to Houston and her many unsavory smells. I'm looking forward to our next stop, despite it being one of the no-go refineries. I always like steering the ship up the Mississippi. The ship usually tracks great, and the pilots are satisfied with us keeping the heading within a degree or so of where they ask, so we can relax a little and watch the river roll by. Good times.

Friday, November 28, 2008

ephemera (and stuff)

Well, I can add Cajun dirty rice to the list of foods that I can no longer eat. It's hard to focus on my job when it feels as though my gut is a war zone. Longest. Watch. Ever.

Houston in the late autumn... well, it's not as hot as it is in the summer, so there's one leg up. It is, however, raining constantly, which, on a tanker, is a massive pain in the ass. We live in constant fear that the Thought Police will drag us off should the least sheen of oil ever even give the appearance than it might consider going over the side in the future.
What's funny to me is that the waters around Houston, on a good day, have a nice even coat of oil floating on the top. Sludge pools migrate out to sea in the same vein that herring work their way out of the rivers in my hometown.
Anyhow, we stay on top of it, but it becomes a constant worry, and staying dry an impossibility. Diaper rash for all my friends!

So, tomorrow will mark the 90th on board for yours truly. This is not so much a milestone as a fold in the corner of a page... in less than 30 days I will have the days at sea to upgrade my little license to 3rd mate. After this, it remains to be seen where I will end up. I've sort of got my heart set on getting off of tankers for a time. We'll see. I'll be in a good position to do that anyhow.

Lastly, although there wasn't a bit of festive atmosphere yesterday, I've got to say that I've been getting a lot of well wishes from the guys I've been taking the AB-to-Mate classes with at MITAGS. Of the 12 of us who took Terrestrial and Coastal Nav and Stability&Trim, I've stayed in touch with 6 guys. That's some good networking. I'm looking forward to doing some heavy, studying with some of the guys prior to classes picking up again this winter.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving day started early here... at 0005 all hands were mustered to take on food stores while we were at anchor... Seriously, at midnight? Naturally, it started to pour out, too, so the cardboard boxes didn't fare too well. I foresee a run on flour and rice, too, in the near future. Not much we could do there. Anyhow, it went pretty well. No turducken sightings, either, which brings me to my next point:

I received my first ever piece of hate mail!

Of all the offensive things I've said here in the past few years, it was the turducken-inspired comments that made me famous. I'm a victim of my own poor writing skills again, though, because things got taken a little out of context after I went overboard goofing on southern cooking. Look, what is northern cooking? With the exception of all things Italian-American, there is no northern cooking. Has anyone ever heard of an Irish Iron Chef? No. And lord knows, the WASP's can't cook. Have you ever tried Yorkshire Pudding? If someone approached me and said that northern cooking was awful, my response would be "Uh huh. I know."
The fact is, people down south unwittingly insult northerners all the time, for our reservation towards strangers and rampant desire for privacy. Believe me, when a stranger starts asking personal questions without invitation, it makes me uncomfortable. My idea of a personal question is a long way from that of my southern co-workers, but one gets used to cultural differences when one is a tankerman, and, well, you have to have a thick skin to work in any outdoor job, of course.

Anyhow, I struck a painful chord with someone, perhaps the written equivalent of the controversial Brown Note. It's difficult for me to consider than anyone would 1) take me seriously, and 2) be offended by my indulgence in one of the most harmless stereotypes extant regarding any aspect of Americana. I suppose that a certain amount of pride is at stake, and my own ethnic group takes no pride in their cooking, naturally.

I'm going to consider changing my blog to invitation-only, which will mean that I would be able to control who gets to have a peep down the drawers of my mind. If I go this route, please sign up. The note that I got may or may not have crossed a line, but I don't like my blog being used for anything but entertainmant and communication with friends and family.
So, seriously, Dear New Writer, I promise to try to not write anything which you would find objective in any sort of professional or private capacity, from here out. In return, please stop reading. Also, I apologize if you were offended. Wasn't my goal... I'm a one-trick pony, anyhow. If I'm not talking about commercial fishing, economic theory, biology or something related to being a sailor, I'm writing about something personal, and, please, leave me my privacy, or, at the least, use my private email. Gracias, and happy holidays to you and yours.

Anyways, I'm going to have to be more careful about shooting my mouth off, I guess. I'd rather make people laugh than frown.

Quarare: Turkey/ham, or Turducken? Which would you prefer, and more importantly, have you tried both?

Anyhow, in Merchant Marine fashion, Thanksgiving Dinner will be eaten while we're maneuvering to our dock, and supper will be eaten later, while we're pumping cargo. Not so restful, but still, hey it's what's for dinner.
If you'll excuse, me, there's about 2 pounds of Thanksgiving turkey with my name on it. The food coma will have to wait. It's going to be about a week before I can sleep uninterrupted.

Happy Thanksgiving to you! Hope you got to be with your loved ones, and if one of your loved ones happens to be one of mine, too, ask 'em to make sure my truck is OK. And my family, too, I guess.

Seriously, don't show that last one to my wife. I hate sleeping on the couch, and it was just a joke. But please check on my truck.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

be optimistic!

OK, I'm a little nervous about Thanksgiving. We're getting food stores at some point, hopefully before the holiday. This is what I'm thinking of:

My company is run by southerners. Don't get me wrong, the idea of deep-frying a whole turkey is apparently genius, so they've certainly gotten something right. But southern cooking to me is simply this: rooting around in the trash after northern cooking is done, then pan-frying the contents of the compost heap.

But yeah, I''m a little afraid that they'll offer us a real 'treat'. A 'turducken'

Bloody savages.

Look, I like turkey. Duck, too. Chicken? Fine. Put 'em together and what do you get? Poultry-flavored chunky jello. Smells like heaven, tastes like feet. I'm afraid that one year they'll forego the turkey.

I know that not all southern cooking is bad. But I know bad cooking, too. I'm of Irish descent, and 90% of what my ancestors ate is stuff that should only be eaten on a dare. Black Pudding. Blood pudding, Donkey's Gudge, whatever. I like it. I even like Haggis. But Turducken makes me want to cry.

Being honest, I could give turkey a pass. Give me a nice spiral-cut ham anytime for Thanksgiving. I come from the place where the friggin' holiday started. 400 years of friggin' turkey is enough. Let's mix it up a little. Slaughter a swine for ourselves. But no turducken, please.

Anyhow, parting shot: I always wonder at the Pre-thanksgiving stores delivery. The chandler always puts 4- 25 lb birds in one box that breaks open as we lift it up the stairs. Think: it's raining frozen blocks of meat. Anyhow, the birds then skitter across the deck like a curling match is going on, and we've got to go recover them and bucket-brigade our now-tenderized turkeys back to the stores hatch and down into storage.

If you're the praying type, pray that we go to anchor for Thanksgiving. It's actually a nice holiday on board, when it's not inturrupted by cargo ops.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

clarifications and improvements

... having just read my last ranting post, I realize that I was a ranting dick.

AM. Sorry. I am a ranting dick. sometimes. But most of the time, I'm cool.

Anyhow, skip the previous blog entry. Written quickly, and poorly. I was in a snit, and you see what came out. I actually went to bed in said snit.

Luckily, HotForeignWife called. Perhaps the best part of being married to her is that she can pull me out of bad moods without effort. Well, when she's not the one who put me in them, anyhow. Every now and again, it amazes me that she didn't just marry me for the green card. She married me for my money. Joke's on her, I have none.

I joke. Seriously, although I could now digest a Harley-Davidson with all the stomach acid that I produce as a byproduct of worrying, My life is blessed for her presence. Next step is to get what she calls english under control so she can make more money than me, and yours truly can relax.
I wondered, when we were dating, if, when she got really, really mad at me, she was going to sound like a Brazilian Rosie Perez, minus the NYC nasality... 'cus, you know, there is nothing less attractive to me than that there... Obviously, she doesn't, as we're now married.

I just want to say here that the cook's helper in the next room has a ridiculous booming voice. Whatever African language he's yelling into his cell phone just now is keeping me awake. I'm trying to wait him out and writing is filling the time. Nice guy, but loud. Very African. Great sense of humor. He always doles out little shitty portions of dinner to the crew though. I accused him the other day of mistaking us for Ethiopians. He gave a good belly laugh, said "You crazy, son," or "You gravy gun," maybe. It's hard to say. My ears were ringing from his lack of volume control. Seriously, the guy should have been a singer. Wouldn't need a microphone.

OK, I'm giving him 2 minutes, then I'm going all Rorke's Drift in his doorway.

Mad points for anyone under 40 who gets that one. My best obscure reference in a week.

GD landlubbers

Well, now that Uncle Sugar has freed up 700 billion dollars in fun money to fuel monolithic business' desire to not respond to market forces, the automakers are now crying poor.

Folks, I want to make this clear. What if I said this: I need money, too. If you don't give me money right now, I don't know how I'll provide for my family. Never mind that I've been providing for them just fine up until this point. It's not my fault. I'm just the figurehead. there's free money available,Gimme money, goddammit! And don't try to take away my Christmas bonus, either.

Does that or does that not sound like a real dick talking?

Anyhow, I didn't want the bailout to go through. Even now that we've all realized that gambling isn't the best way to prepare for retirement, people still aren't trying to secure their retirement income in more reliable investments. Why bother? Uncle Sugar will take care of it, just like it did with our $500,000 mortgage secured through our job selling hotdogs at baseball games.

Look, the bailout is going to fuel a lot of bullshit, but also hopefully do some good. I'm not arguing about that. It's the car manufacturers that piss me off.

Yesterday, I heard that the Chinese are interested in Chrysler. Now, if I owned Chrysler stock, I wouldn't be so hot to hand off management to people who will have to hand over their business to their government if their government decides that it's a good idea. I am not at all convinced, anyhow, that the Chinese are good business partners. The Russians helped us out quite a bit in our past, too. Look how that worked out.

Here's the thing, though. All of a sudden, these publicly-owned companies are 'weeks' away from bankruptcy unless they get a piece of the free money. Part of me says Fuck 'em. Sell off the assets to cover pension costs.
Bad management has existed in auto manufacturing on many levels. Despite my pro-union leanings, I hate to see how heavily involved the UAW is with this crisis. Not that they're solely to blame. The death of Regan's trickle down economics came wheh the money stopped trickling down past upper management in the Clinton years. When a CEO's salary increases by 1600% in 10 years, the worker bees are going to want more than cost-of-living adjustments.
Still, it pisses me off that an unskilled assembly line worker makes more money that I do, and will have a bigger pension than any cop or firefighter does. The UAW wields the power of numbers, and the corporate philosophy of operating at the margins ensured that this crisis would happen.
My own union took pay cuts and rate increase freezes in order to keep the few American shipowners solvent in the recent past. We recognized that we could help or hurt, and so long as a living wage was paid and a reasonable pension could be had, we could sacrifice along with the shipowners. Now that the shipowners are becoming fat cats again, with executive salaries blooming, there is no incentive to place restraint on moneymaking on the part of my union. Competitiveness becomes the last restraint on shooting for the moon, paywise.

Restraint. We haven't seen that in car manufacturers. I own a Dodge ram pickup. I don't love Dodge cars, but the dealership I went to sold me another car at a good cost years ago, when I was a starving student, and when the electrical system failed a month after the warranty expired, the owner of the dealership himself came out and told me that they would pay for the repairs and for a rental car while it was in the shop. Well, they got themselves a lifetime customer that day... until the dealership was closed last year when DaimlerChrysler said that they weren't interested in smaller dealers anymore, even successful ones, and the dealership that I patronized was shut down days later. So, I won't buy a Dodge again. Loyalty goes both ways.

So, if we're going to bail out the car makers, even though we shouldn't, let's hope that conditions are strict: Interest rates set at Prime or 1 point below, no bonuses for anyone, salaries capped at $200,000 for senior management while the government holds the note, pensions due to be paid out immediately, and the right to renegotiate contracts with labor immediately, including benefit contributions retroactive to the day that the loan clears.

Can't believe that I wrote that last part. Part of me feels that pensions are sacred, but part of me recognizes that it's not unreasonable to reduce pension payments to current workers who aren't retiring imminently, if those payments are disproportional. On the other hand, the retirees need to be protected. I foresee some serious screwing of the little man coming.

Monday, November 17, 2008

unkind words were said me tonight when we were tying up the ship. Note to readers: I am part of a team, not its' leader. No place really for me to fuss. But I did, when the 3 linehandlers pulling 3/4 cable of mooring line to the bitt (450 ft) took forever, literally because one guy was working, and two guys were warming their thumbs.
...and again when the AB on one of our docking tugs didn't want to throw his heaving line up to us, so he untied it from his towing hawser and motioned for us to throw one to him...
...and again when the guy on the shore crane lowering their gangway ignored my watch partner's hand signals and took 15 minutes (literally) to perform a 90-second evolution.

The off-watch 3rd mate, who came out to help, summed it up perfectly as he walked by without breaking stride:

Some days you're the windshield, and some days you're the bug.

Too bad, too, 'cus it was a very nice ride from NYC to the Delaware capes and almost 100 miles up the Delaware river. Nice weather, I was able to get an almost-full rest cycle off just as I was getting cranky from not-quite-enough sleep.
Really was a lovely day. The day after a spell of rotten weather is always nice. It's like being hit in the head repeatedly with a hammer: It feels so good when it stops.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Head-Aches, a retrospective.

You might have noticed a certain lack of content on this blog for the past two weeks. The quality control people are out to lunch, here at HAWSEPIPER. You see, I’m in the Doldrums, the Horse Latitudes of my 120-day stay here on the S.S. Bucket O’ Blood. Progress is minimal, the days seemingly stretch out into forever. 74 days on board, 46 days to go. The days have run by in a blur, only to come into a screeching halt these past two weeks, and so it will go for two weeks more before I start the home stretch.

So, yeah, I am… uninspired. Things are going well at home, there’s plenty of peace and goodwill on board, nothing to bitch about… well, except for this one thing… naturally.

Consider, then, ye dogs, the impervious horror more pervasive than that of a lee shore. I’m talking about… the communal head, the shared toilet, the seat of ease for six well-fed men who don’t get enough fiber or exercise.

Yeah, I share a bathroom with six guys. Two working toilets, most of the time.

But lets go a little deeper into this: a 48-year old men’s room. Consider that. The ghosts of 48 Christmases, Thanksgiving Dinners, not to mention A Hundred Thousand Gallons of chile con carne.

Sailors are, for the most part, fairly fastidious. We clean the head regularly. There’s always at least one slob bachelor on board, of course, which makes the place… well, unsanitary, at times, and this is a misery that must be dealt with.

Feel free to comment or correct me here, but I believe that there are some unwritten rules to keeping the peace when it’s a 1:3 toilet: man-who-ain’t-family ratio. Number one, of course is, if there’s a pair of shoes with the toes pointing out, come back later. There might be a seat available, but leave a man in peace. It might be the only 3-minute block he has to himself all day. There is Nothing, NOTHING worse than having to sit in shared discomfort with only a ½ inch wall between you and another man attempting to launch the Brown October.

Rule Number two (heh), is don’t dribble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my coveralls back on, and realized that the cuff or a spot on the shoulder is wet. That’s another man’s pee. That’s not right. Believe me, if I could identify the culprit, I’d knife ‘em. I gotta change, or worse, if I'm running late, walk back on deck with that shit on. No wonder I get rashes.

Anyhow, you get the idea.

While I’m here, however, I have a question. Why is it that old men can completely blow up the bathroom with apparent ease? Always, every time, the old guys beat the bathroom into submission. There is no misidentification of these phenomena. First off, The hallway outside the bathroom smells like a bible story from 50 feet away. Also, the head itself has an aura more than a stink, and covering up the horrors requires more than just Lysol. You’re going to need an old priest, a young priest and an exorcism. And it always happens when you’re making a gear-up landing, with no chance that you’ll be able to wait. You rush into the stall, which smells like a miscarriage, and worst of all, dear God, the seat is warm.

When the weather is rough, taking a leak, or worse, requires acrobatics, planning, and quite possibly a good pair or workboots. Thing about it: ship rolling, weight shifting… that’s all it takes to lift the whole can off of the wax seal in the floor, just a bit. No one wants to see that happen, so a sitting man has to set his feet in the clamdigger pose, 5 feet apart. Use one hand to brace against the downhill stall wall, and be ready to change hands and leaning walls, fast. Peeing is, of course, simpler. Lean against a wall at the shoulder, forming a triangle, with feet splayed against the other wall, and have at it.

Well, now you’re informed, and when you take that next cruise and the weather turns foul, your wife and kids will thank you, and so will the maid.

Friday, November 14, 2008

much ado

There is a lot of planning going on here at blog HQ/my room.
So much to do.

You see, the US Coast Guard is tasked with doing everything on the water, and is constantly being asked to do more. Along with their unstated mission of stifling the US merchant marine through ridiculous and ridiculously expensive and restrictive licensing policies, the Coast Guard also stifles the merchant marine through nationalization and centralization of the licensing system, thus making it impossible to discuss licensing issues live with the people actually doing the processing.
And so it goes. Remember when the Coast Guard was mostly interested in saving lives?

Yeah, me neither. My dad swears that it was true, though. Long time ago.

You see, let's go through the training and certification for deck watchstanders in the US Merchant Marine, now, and 20 years ago. This is based on what I have been told by my shipmates, who are great guys but may, indeed, have been goofing with me, a little.


Rating Training (and cost) certificates required (Cost)

Ordinary Seaman Basic Safety Training ($1000) Merchant Mariners Document ($220)
TWIC CARD ($135)

Able Seaman Above plus sea time, Lifeboat school above plus STCW certificate,
($1000) exam fees ($400-600) Rating Forming Part of a Navigation Watch,

3rd officer ($30,000), includes 26 weeks of classes for mandatory certificates in Watchkeeping, Advanced fire fighting, Bridge Resource Management, Terrestrial and Coastal Navigation, Celestial Navigation, RADAR, Automatic Radar Plotting Aids, Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems, Search and Rescue, Emergency Procedures, Shiphandling, Medical Care Provider, Cargo Handling and Stowage, Stability and ship construction, and some others, too. At the end of this, a comprehensive examination ($500 more) including medical review, pre-exam evaluation and acceptance for testing, and the exam itself.

Now, lets look at 1988, the same deal.

Rating Training (and cost) certificates required (Cost)

Ordinary Seaman on the job Merchant Mariners Document ($25)

Able Seaman sea time, Lifeboat school ($200) above, with AB endorsement
exam fees ($40-50)

3rd officer On the job-training. ($500)includes Radar observer exam and all exam fees.

Now, I've met some recently-upgraded 3rd mates in the last two years. Training wise? I am NOT impressed. My small-boat time prepared me far better than their classes, it seems. It seems like the hawsepipers I've met were taught how to pass a coast guard exam, not how to safely and efficiently run a watch... and here's the funny part. The experienced hawsepipers I've met are some damn fine seamen. It must be that the winnowing out process works slower than with the academy grads. I hate to say this, but in my own limited experience, the academy grads are far better at learning and integrating new experiences into their skill sets. I'll happily admit to correcting some seriously whip-smart kids fresh out of school on how to not blow up a ship or run over a small boat. One more than one occasion, I tried telling a new hawsepiper almost anything, and it's like I shit in their cornflakes. It's not like I'm critiquing subjective stuff, either, . I'm talking about almost anything, from stripping cargo tanks to marlinespike seamanship, the real meat-and-potatoes stuff.

This makes me nervous, 'cus I'm going to be one of those new hawsepipers, soon. Will I turn into a prick who takes offense at suggestions? Will I become one of those people, an armchair commander, able to quote the CFR's from memory, but unable to box the compass? You know, the ones who probably prefer masturbation to sex? Or am I going to be one of those cool guys I meet at the bar at school, unruffled, professional, like James Bond but with less stick-in-ass?

Well, we'll come back to that next year at this time, and I'll have your answer. If there isn't a poop or booger reference, you can assume that I'm either a dick now, or that my mom complained about my language again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

celestial navigation rant

So, there's a short formula that we use for doing the longhand (Ie, not with a computer) form of shooting an azimuth, and last night the moon was almost full and above a crystal clear horizon. Prime time for getting a nice clear shot. BUT, I had to use a borrowed calculator to fill in the formula.

Here's my celestial nav bitch for tonight.

The formula used to solve an azimuth equation uses a lot of parenthetical notation, and contains three principle sub-equations. Why does every fucking calculator have a unique way in which a guy has to input the fucking formula in order to not get an error message?

Goddamn. Tripled the amount of time it took me to get the gyro error. 0.1E, if you're interested.

AH, and as for the ride up from Savannah? at midnight local time I shot a lunar, Dubhe, Proxima and Betelgeuse, my personal favorite. Everything was idyllic...

and I was still 15 goddam miles off. I suck at shooting stars still.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Underway and making way, heading for sea and, hopefully, a clear enough night tonight to get a lunar and 3-star fix on our way across the canyons. I need the practice.

Pray for no rain and a visible horizon for me, will ya?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Think you had a bad day at work?

Detective Scrotes says, "I've got a listening problem"

Sorry, folks. I promised to do this. Meet Detective Scrotes. He's got balls.


milestone or millstone?

Dammit, it's a nice morning.

I'm having a great day, and it's only 11am. I got a bunch of errands run this morning... I went ashore after waking up for breakfast (I sleep from 0430 to 1115 most days), got some banking done (even though it's Sunday), as well as loading up on soda for the next few weeks. I am flying high on caffeine and it's cool and sunny, a full 20 degrees cooler than the weather in the Gulf of Mexico has been, and we're working our way north, which implies that I'll have some frosty days coming up this week. I also got to check in with about half of my immediate family. The dock we're moored to here in Savannah normally smells like a hot dog factory, which is to say, burnt hog lips and horse assholes, but the wind is carrying the stink of the paper mill next door in the opposite direction.

I also finished a major financial project which I'm particularly glad to be shot of. I managed to pay for my wife's immigration paperwork finally. Goddam, that stuff is expensive. By the time the doc's visit, immunizations and filing fees are done, it cost us a couple of grand to get everything in order. So, slightly more than halfway into my prospective last voyage as an Able Seaman, I am now flat-ass broke, but happy. Normally, even with some heavy purchases, at the 60 day mark I'm usually 2 months ahead on my bills, but this time... whoo. No one warned me how expensive the first year of marriage can be!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

from zero-to-A-Hole in 2 seconds

Sometimes I surprise myself at the things that come out of my mouth.

In Savannah (How Crazy Is This?), 800 miles from home, my bank has a branch with a nice new ATM.

Did you know that new ATM's let you deposit cash right in the machine? No slips, no envelopes? Very disconcerting. That's one receipt you won't see me lose track of. But, yeah, one at a time, I was feeding $100 bills in there, to be piped directly into my account.

I was carrying a large sum of money... well, large for me, anyhow.

You can see where this is going... naturally, I'm on high alert. I'm in public, on a sidewalk, at night, stuffing loose $100 bills in a goddam ATM. I look around, see nothing to set off my apparently unreliable alarms. Rustle, rustle rustle, the Benjamins get sucked into the machine and my blood pressure rises.
"Sir, can I ask you a question?"

I look- scrawny, well-dressed 30ish white guy. Banana Republic. WASP. No problem. He's outside my 10-foot ATM-on-the-sidewalk bubble. Just.
Afterthought: Dude's got no visible pupils. I didn't actually see that, it was just an impression.
He's going to either attempt to mug me, or ask for money. Neither of which is is a positive thing.

I'm funny about money. I decide that if the guy's going to do something dumb, I will throw his ass into traffic. I can do this, I was a bouncer; throwing people is safer than dragging them, and easier, too.
Can I really contemplate sending some desperate schmuck into a bad place? I'm not Charles Bronson. I would have horrific guilt. But this is money that my wife needs to run the house. We really need it. Yes, I can see this man hurt bad, God help me.
Being pretty smaht, I see a compromise: without bluffing, I can answer his question honestly, and maybe stave off disaster. Or, if he's just an idiot brand-new crackhead, I can deter him without doing greivous injury to himself or to my psyche.

I'm mean looking. I know this. People love to tell me that, 'cus I'm not a mean guy. I frown when I concentrate. I hunch over a bit. So, I give the guy a deadpan look, and a quiet response. "Not right now. Wait. "

45 seconds later, the money's in the machine. I've got cabfare in my wallet and little else. I am centered, and the guy politely waited. Also, another guy got in line behind me, and the dude waiting for me to acknowlege him? He starts a spiel that I've heard a million times at a hundred T stations back home as a college kid commuting into Boston. I'm out of gas, blah blah, blah.
I finish my transaction, scan the reciept, and give a downright murderous look at the ATM. Don't mess with me, machine.

It worked better on the junkie, but that ATM didn't give me a line of shit, either, so I'm saying that I must have had my mojo working.

Quarare: Why don't I own any handguns? I'm pro gun, certainly. Second Amendment is my friend and all.
Second Question, and one requiring answers: For a man who spends a lot of time away from home, and can't carry a handgun to work, what is the best option for gun safety? A nice heavy safe, where a weapon can sit unmolested for months, or a nice heavy safe belonging to a responsible gun-owning friend. Bearing in mind that Mrs. Paul The Pirate is a foreigner... she's qualified, has owned several handguns, but is not getting a permit and has no interest in guns anymore, herself having gone armed as part of her former work in her home country. Therefore, any firearm in the house would be a white elephant for 200+days a year.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

the day arrives

Today's the day. Get out and vote. Like our Uncle Tedward Kennedy says to the little old ladies from Southie back home,
"Vote early, and vote often."

Monday, November 3, 2008

la Dee dah

So I got invited to be the speaker at the annual meeting of the local yacht club back in my old hometown. I've been asked to take an hour and talk about my time on the water, both as a townie, from my lobstering days, and as a merchant mariner.
At first blush, this sounds like fun. Open bar+walking distance to my parents' house= a nice way to exercise my liver. Plus, I do like to flap my gums of an evening... I spend 8 months a year not drinking; I'm a true 3-beer queer now when I'm home and can actually free up enough time to have a pint, but still, on principle, I'm going to have to demand top shelf booze.

How to fill an hour, though? Sea stories, a pitch for job opportunities for a bunch of WASP problem kids? I dunno. In the old days, I had an agenda. I'd talk like lightning and blur through 30 powerpoint slides in 12 minutes to educate the masses (of fellow science geeks) on sea urchin fertility predictions or lobster learning and memory. This is different. No agenda, really.

So what can I talk about for an hour? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Here's my agenda so far.
1). How to eat soup in 20-foot seas
2). How me and the Notorious B.O.B. used to wake all of your boats at like 6 in the morning.
3). Keeping the peace despite sticking 23 men in a little steel box.
4). Quit stealing our fucking lobster pot buoys.
5). The pleasures of sailing with professionals.
6). The difference between a weekend on your Hatteras and 4 months of standing watches.
7). 4 months without women: Life on a floating hot dog cart.

Just 'cus my employers are probably reading this, I'm not going to include my gag #8, which is the most tasteless thing I've thought up in a while: shoot me an email if you want to know.


This is why I can't be left unattended without a leash and a bell.

Putting a Coppus blower (a big piece of steel, OK?) away up high on a shelf, I felt muscles in my lower back, just getting ready to let go... you know that feeling, like a rubber band just before it snaps? Yeah. I backed off fast.
Getting old.

Anyhow, finally back in AGAIN to Houston (3rd time) to finish loading cargo. Maybe we'll leave tomorrow for Savannah.

And, it's time to dock the ship. Dammit.