Friday, June 26, 2009

they that go down to the sea...

Johnny Sparks, my old roomate, called with bad news this morning. Big Al, my first sea-daddy, passed away peacefully last night.

I was born into the life of a sailor, and raised with stories of the sea. But I was not exposed to The Life until I was seven years old. My dad was disabled when I was 5, and this left him with a somewhat sedentary lifestyle thereafter. Big Al was the father of a lifelong friend from my Kindergarten class. He was a big, powerful, and rich (to me) old, old man. When I was seven, he was in his late 60's.
Al owned a large business, but his passion was catching lobster. I tagged along. Over the next eight years, we spent at least 15 hours a week together, from April to November, and in the summer, it was an every day, all-day thing. I went from being a smallish child to the gorilla I am today, fed by Al's Italian cooking and a steady diet of heavy lobster pots that had to be slung around.
It's very fair to say that my dad gave me the desire, and Al gave me the know-how. In the end, I followed Al's footsteps and chose a life on deck, rather than in the engine room, and what I know of the sea, of lobsters, of marine biology, that's from Al. From him I learned how to satisfy the burning need to be my own man, to move in rhythm to wave, sun, moon and tide, rather than to sit in traffic and then in a cubicle.
When I drowned, Al was the man who fished me out of the water, hung me upside down and beat the breath back into me. From our days together when I was a confused teen, I cobbled together a plan to keep me on the water for a lifetime.
I miss him already.

Monday, June 22, 2009

when it rains...

I came home only reluctantly last week. I wanted to stay longer and work, because I didn't think that I'd like being in an empty home now that Inappropriate Hot Foreign Wife and The Boy are in Brazil. Turns out, I was right. I've been completely lost without them at home. This amazes me.

I'm not a loner, but I do need a lot more time alone than most people do. So, I've got 2 weeks at my non-home of a home- this place is my wife's. My home is my ancestral turf, located just off the waterfront about 15 miles from here. This home has no memory, no character. It's a rental, so I didn't expect anything as far as homey feelings, and I was not disappointed in that vein.
So I've been drinking. Not crazy amounts at all, just more than I regularly do. If it hadn't been raining for the past 4 weeks, maybe I could get some hiking in, but there's something about climbing a hill in wet underwear. Such things should be avoided where possible. One thing of note regarding my drinking: I went to a new bar, conveniently located right next to my regular Irish bar of a hangout... you have to be from south suburban Boston to understand that there's nothing unusual about a city block with, say, 5 bars all right next to each other, none of which are in competition, or hurting for clientele.
Ever hear about the one about where an Irish family goes on vacation? They go to a different bar.
And so we did. And tending bar is one of the three girls I grew up with.
Like 90% of my friends, I am a product of the Catholic School System. This meant principally that I grew up with the same 15 boys and 3 girls in my class, from age 5 to 14. Social stunting and slight awkwardness ensued for many years, obviously.
But tending bar is Jamie, one of the famous three girls. And she's all grown up. With one or two exceptions, I hadn't seen her since I was 14. The woman in question is of Korean descent, and was always commented upon by my friends' parents as being a beautiful child. In all honesty, as an adult, she is one of the most beautiful women I've ever met.
And she's a sweetheart, turns out. We had a great time going over old times, because, naturally, all of my friends present went to school together.
Imagine that? I'm 35, but about 75% of my good, good friends are people I've known since we were 5. That's a beautiful thing.

One other thing, also a surprise- this girl at the bar still can't compare to my wife, and that's amazing. I'm neither rich nor handsome. I really got lucky.

So today was a rough day. I got some slightly disappointing news at a doc's visit, nothing urgent, nothing bad, just blah, and I luckily saved the day, happiness-wise, by hanging out with a great friend. On the way home from his house, I got rear-ended on the highway. Scared the hell out of me. I've never been in an auto accident before. It could be worse. My pickup, a simple no-frills full-sized Dodge Ram, designed only for hauling bait with low fuel consumption- (i.e, with a slightly beefed-up suspension, but a small engine), got rocked by a VW Passat.

I have a creased bumper. My back bumper got a scratch and a little dent. The passat? Everything forward of the radiator was junk, including the hood.

So here's how I scared the crap out of the already-traumatized girl who hit me:

Imagine that you're a 20-something girl in a nice little VW. You've just butt-banged a pickup in the fast lane of the highway, neatly gliding your car under the rear bumper of the truck in the process. 1.5 seconds later, a very big and definitely redneck-looking wild-eyed man shoots out of the pickup like a watermelon seed between two pinched fingers, and runs for your car.

Apparently I looked bad. The girl started backing up in the seat of the car. She put on an O-face (not the good kind), and proceeded to start to back up and over her own seatback.

I see what's going on. I am heading to the girls' aid, in case she was hurt. I am concerned, not angry. I see the girl trying to shuffle into her own backseat ass-end first. I figure out what's going on, so I slow to a walk, make the 'ok?' gesture,and wait politely about 5 feet from her car.
When the girl sees that I'm not about to eat her up, bones and all, she cranks down the window. I go over the blahblah- 'are you hurt? Did you hit your head? Are you sure you're OK? She calms right down.
A state trooper was right there. He blocked traffic whilst we got into the right-hand lanes. Very nice.
All ended well. I'm getting a new bumper, or at least a new paint-job for my bumper and a dollop of bondo. She's getting a new front end and some body panels.
You know, hours earlier, when I was putting 32 gallons of gas at $2.59 a gallon into the tank, I was wishing for my old commuting car, a very reliable and Most Gay dodge Neon.

Now, I'm happy with my truck again.

Friday, June 19, 2009

short shorts

Things happening now:

1). I discovered Wawa. You should too. They piss excellence.

2). Home Alone: Inappropriate Hot Foreign Wife and The Boy are in Brazil, being tan and beautiful as I type. I am, unfortunately, home. Empty nest, first time. Strange. I used to love being home alone when I was single. Now it's kinda awful.

3). Rain. I haven't experienced 48 rain-free hours in 3 weeks now.

4). Hot Flashes and Mood Swings- I'm reducing my caffeine intake for two weeks to ramp up for the next work cycle.

5). Sweet release. I'm now a trusted employee in my now job, which means no more hot racking

6). Lack of inspiration, and also, lack of sleep, lack of wife, etc., leading to #7,

7) Apathy.

Monday, June 8, 2009


So, the second week of June is now well underway, and it's bringing back memories of when I was a teenager. No, I wasn't holed up in a one-star Philadelphia motel in between cargoes back then, but I was working on the water, and it was 1989, so that makes it 20 years ago this week.
I had a bad summer, and the trouble started before the summer even started. In April of that year, I mangled my right hand, including but not limited to severing my index and middle fingers at the knuckles. This came about because of my budding hobby as a gearhead, and was the seminal incident in which I learned that gas engines are not meant to run on home-brewed Nitromethane, and, in fact, will literally fly apart from the inside out if you rev 'em up high enough.
Anyhow, it worked out. I had my fingers reattached, and spent the next two months in a cast whilst everything healed up. No problems, and I have almost full use of my nosepickers even today.

So that was April. In June, I was ready to return my job as sternman, or crewman, on a lobster boat. The old-timer who taught me how to fish got the OK from my dad to let me go back on his boat and start working again. This worked out well, as I was able to work the kinks out of my stiff right hand for about a week.
Then one day I stepped into a bight (loop) of rope as it was heading off the back of the boat, and I drowned, which was unpleasant. When I was fished out of the water, out cold, the old timer hung me upside down and pounded my back a few times to beat the water out of my lungs, and get me breathing, breaking some ribs in the process... fair trade. I woke right up. My lungs had seized up, anyhow, and only a little water went in. I had simply passed out.

So, I dodged a bullet, had some bad dreams for a little while (5 years), and moved on. I returned back to fishing before too long. Like the old saying "Born to hang, you'll never drown," I figure that someone was watching over me, and regardless of how I check out, I won't delay the day by hiding under my bed.

And so, here I am, 20 years later. In a way, this is far more poignant than any birthday for me. I think that that day was when I grew up. It was definately the day when I went from being a quiet, serious kid with 'so much potential...' blah blah blah, to the borderline-retarded-acting man I am today who wallows in poop and fart jokes when his wife isn't looking.

One other thing happened because of that day. I learned how to hold my breath under water. I had a lot of fun in later years freaking my friends out by popping under water, and swimming full bore to reappear far away 90 seconds later. I don't think that I could do that today, but back when I was 18, I could swim 4 miles nonstop at a strong pace in the ocean. I can still swim for hours, fat as I am. Maybe the cardio part of the exercise is the problem now, but I'm a lot more buoyant too. Although I've only lost about 15 pounds since Jan 1, and don't feel any different, I do get motivated by the memory of how good going for a long swim used to feel a year after.

Oh, one last thing. I'm funny now, as an adult, about people shoving my head under water when I'm swimming, or doing anything that submurges my face when I'm not expecting it. My initial reaction is an irresistable desire to pick them up by the anus and swing 'em over my head like a lasso.

Funny how that happens.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wicked good accents

Yesterday, as always, some funny talking joker with a Mid-Atlantic non-accent goofed on the way I talk. Now, I'll admit that I've got a very, very heavy Boston accent, but that's not a bad thing, in my eyes. Yesterday, however, I was punchy as hell. Three days running on just a few hours of sleep is what did me in. I calculate that I got 7 hours of sleep in three full days, which is enough to survive, but not, obviously, to thrive. Since my name has not been on the paperwork that accompanies the fuel transfers that I have been assisting with, it's all legal, but still, I was beat.

I'm not sure which was better, yesterday, the 8 hours of sleep, or the 6 hours of movie watching and lying about... either way, I am feeling much better.

Some other things happened. Yesterday was my first anniversary as husband to Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife. Since I am wicked smaht on days when I get to sleep more than 45 minutes, I arranged for us to celebrate before I left for work on Wednesday last, which is also part of the reason why I have been incommunicado with anyone but my family when I was home last week. On that front, it was a crazy, harried vacation, too. My increased pay rate at this new job allowed me to do something very, very wonderful for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife. I was able to put the money together for her to go visit her family back in Brazil. So, in just a day or so, she'll be seeing her mother for the first time in NINE years.
You can imagine that I'll be dining out on this anniversary present for a while. How the hell do I top that one, though? I have 364 days to figure it out.

She was all smiles, though, which was absolutely worth it.

The flowers are my backup- on the day itself, when I'm not there, a little insurance to remember me by.

The Boy, who is also travelling with my wife, discovered my half-face respirator, and has since comandeered the same. How the hell he figured out how to screw on the cartriges is another matter. The kid's smart.

Finally, my being exhausted meant that I missed the opportunity to work on a bunker job that would have seen me tie up alongside my home away from home, the tanker NEW RIVER, where I have spent 8+ months a year for the past five years. My currently assigned barge had the job, but I was lured to bed by the siren call of 8 hours of being left the hell alone. I called the captain and said hi... I'm actually a little homesick for that dusty old ship.