Monday, June 27, 2011

Recycled funny

I wrote this a few years ago while working as an Able Seaman on an old oil tanker.

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.

operational disconnect

I'm feeling somewhat uninspired this week. Between the usual punishing June cycle of sunburns atop my sunburns, regardless of the presence of sunblock, I'm feeling logy. Funny how it is that a sunburn can completely pork your energy level.

I've been rereading the first few blog entries that I posted here at HAWSEPIPER a few years ago. I had deleted my old blog after my employer literally printed out every single page, something along the lines of 1000 entries, and forensically digested it for innuendo, which was then presented back to me as fact. It's an odd feeling, having your own work paraphrased and turned back on you.

Sort of a shame, though, that I've had shore access all weekend, with my truck parked within walking distance, but I'm more or less confined on board so that I can properly establish my reputation as the Great White Wino in Brazil next week, which apparently dies after all require some new duds for yours truly.

I spent an entertaining few minutes last night telling my wife exactly what I would and wouldn't wear regardless of what she bought for me to wear in Brazil. I am not partial to t-shirts, which is a new thing, but something that snuck up on me. I actually prefer some buttons on my shirt. Regardless, I will not wear a polo shirt that contains brown, orange or baby shit green, which, apparently, the rest of the world finds tre chic. I will not wear a banana hammock regardless of what I'm wearing over it. My Friends prefer larger quarters. I will not wear giant labels from the manufacturer on anything I wear, unless they pay me. I'm not a fucking billboard.
Anyhow, a popular Brazilian complaint is that relatively well-to-do Americans dress like hobos. When I explain that I am not a peacock, my wife sort of poo-poohs the discussion. Yet, there's an odd dichotomy. My wife wants me to dress in all the colors of a fudgecicle box, yet says that we don't want to call attention to myself and attract pickpockets. I say that making me look mentally retarded and/or colorblind is not the way to blend in.
This would be a great point to talk about cultural differences in how we prioritize and attempt at being perceived in a positive manner... but, sadly, I'm out of gas here. Friggin' sunburn.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What a thought

"Our Geologists determine how much freedom people need."

With the annual Prod Pride parade season bloodbath well under way in northern Ireland, and Senator Lurch Kerry and John McCain agitating for mo' money and mo' bombs... er, Weapons of Mass Liberation for Libya, an associate made an interesting point about who the real freedom brokers are. Petroleum geologists apparently determine who gets NATO assistance, and who gets to have molotov cocktails thrown at their children by peace loving English, peacekeepers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ramping up

With 2 weeks to go before the family B slips the surly bonds of Assachusetts and heads to Brazil for some R&R, we're weathering almost daily crises. Today's nightmare happened when Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife awoke to discover that she had no appropriate scarves for Brazil's winter, where temperatures can plunge to a bone-chilling 79 degrees at night.
Scarves. Scarves caused me a panicked phone call during my precious sleep time this morning. This reminded me of the great bra crisis of 2009, when, apparently we were on the brink of disaster last time she went to Brazil and almost forgot to replace her wardrobe of unmentionables. Luckily, by putting off the purchases of luxuries such as milk, bread and car payments, I was able to return things to normalcy before the revolution started and the necessary supplies were stored.
Not to say that even the scarves are a wasted purchase. The economic recovery from the great bra crisis was swift and steady, and in hindsight, extra hot great, pretty much. I don't foresee much in the way of value added hotness in scarves, but it is nice having my wife look stylish.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not my finest hour

Midway through high school, in the awkward years, I was boatless. I hadn't really made the jump yet to working on commercial lobster boats; I had filled in here and there, and worked a few weeks on one or another, but the bulk of my experience was in an artisan-style of fishing, I guess you'd say; the old timer who taught me to fish, dig clams and catch lobster was fishing a small number of bulky, heavy antique wooden lobster pots, rigged the way lobster pots were rigged in the WWII era; modern fishing had no place where I grew up.
In the end, the boat was sitting idle more and more as the old-timer pushed 80, and my fishing time dwindled.
When I switched high schools in 10th grade, I ended up fishing after school and on weekends with one of the English teachers at my school. He had a small boat that he pushed hard in the limited free time that school left him. A few hours during the week, and a good long Saturday was all the time he had.
The boat, though small, was rigged as a modern lobsterboat is rigged; for speed. Getting the traps cleared, rebaited and back in the water was always a numbers game, but going from fishing 80 traps a day to 500 was quite an adjustment, as was the gear- lighter weight traps, and, since the old timer was relatively wealthy from his own career earlier in life, the pressure to perform was new to me. As was working in truly shit weather.
One drizzly cold November day, with a greasy but smallish swell rolling, I discovered the ugly truth that seasickness can strike anyone, when it was my turn in the barrel.
I was spectacularly ill for the few hours we were out fishing after school.
The odd thing about seasickness is that it goes fast, once you're in calm water. By the time we were at the dock, I was my usual, awkward adolescent self.
Now, having only been at this school for a few weeks, I only knew a handful of people. So when the next day rolled around, and people were asking me how I was feeling, and if I was all better, I was a tad confused. My teacher told a few people about my bout of mal de mer, and so for a school with 1,000 people, my first introduction to most of them was as the guy who did a passable impression of the barf scene in The Exorcist.
Thankfully, not too long after, my English teacher bought the boat that I grew up on, once the old timer swallowed the anchor. With the exception of when I was hung over, I didn't get sick again while lobstering in high school.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

appropros of something

I'm neither thin-skinned nor particularly sensitive, but I've been getting offended by the VHF radio chatter lately in NY harbor. There's way too much cursing, complaining and general bitchery going on these past few months.

Given a long enough timeline, it's possible to identify Chatty Cathys on the squawk box. Generally speaking, the most foul mouthed crybabies have local accents, and this is interesting to me in that New Yorkers have a reputation for being tough, yet if one were to listen to the VHF in NY harbor, you'd hear a lot of cussing, complaining about people who aren't working at the moment, and crying and wailing about having to work. This last part offends the living shit out of me, as there's plenty of professionals out there who would give their left nut to be making a couple hundred bucks a day corralling scows, moving barges and assisting ships, and yet like a bunch of hysterical 13-year-old girls, the radio chatter consists of calling people who aren't there bad names, complaining about having to work, and lots of 'fucken' (The NY way of saying Fucking, I guess) as adjective, verb, and noun. This is where I miss the radio discipline of Boston Harbor, where if you talk non-business for more than 30 seconds, people will all start clicking the mikes and 'stepping' on you until you get the idea and quiet down, and then curse you once you do for being disruptive.
Anyhow, like I said, I'm not thin skinned. I have a foul mouth myself when my wife's not around. I also try to be professional at work, and calling my deckhand a 'fatherless faggot' on the VHF for refusing to jump a 6-foot gap between two barges at night is a little over the top. I simply wish that someone would release some AIDS and rabid bats (who also have AIDS) in the wheelhouse of the double handful of whiny bitches who can't shut the hell up for 2 minutes and do their goddamned job without getting on the VHF and telling the world their stupid, undereducated opinions about everything. I don't want to hear it, New York. STFU and do your job, and use the VHF as a tool, not a fucken' pacifier, you big babies, you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

fry an egg, or a knee.

Well, even though today's a down day aboard, we called it quits early. We took care of the needle gunning (and buffing out the scars in the steel made by the needle gun) before breakfast to avoid the heat of the day. From there, it was a matter of priming and painting until the heat made us miserable. When I took a knee on the deck and blistered up my kneecap after 2-seconds' exposure, I called it a day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

hiding in the house

I made it back to New York at about midnight. An easy ride, more or less, with the usual horrors and ridiculous traffic in Connecticut that is their only claim to fame there. With only a week to spend at home, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I were running all-out in doing the usual household business, making pit-stop length visits with family that really highlighted how badly my current schedule is burning the candle at both ends. Regardless, we managed to buy what needs buying and handle the legal and procedural hoop-jumping ancillary to our upcoming visit to Brazil next month.
In between our full-of necessary-but-rarely-fun laundry list of chores, we also managed to squeeze in some good times. The Boy and I spent a day at the New England Aquarium, and the Mrs. and I celebrated our third anniversary, which was fantastic, as I got to play tour guide in Newport, RI, a place where I hadn't been in 15 years. I, of course, stuck out like a bull in a china shop, but my wife was pretty content in knocking elbows with the hoi polloi. Anyways, as you can see in this first picture, I classed up the place everywhere I went.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I'm home for only a week, so don't expect much here- too much family stuff to do, preparations for visiting Brazil, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I are celebrating out 3rd anniversary too.