Today is a big day for Catholics like me. The pope's in town. Pretty cool stuff.
I'm a practicing Catholic. All that stuff that makes more liberal heads spin; mass, confession, holy days of obligation, within the limits of my career choices, anyhow. I try, sometimes successfully, to live according to the catechism of my church. Sometimes I fall short.
The Catholic church is gigantic, and, even if it was only a fraction as corrupt as any human organization, the fact that it employs millions of people worldwide means that there is going to be corruption, graft, sin. The usual human failings, you know? I'm not an apologist, and I'm not a representative of my church, either. The very public and long-overdue airing of grievances over predator priests, crime, etc, is as necessary to the life of the church as anything else. The disgusting things that happen in their name need to be disinfected via sunlight. But that's not why I'm writing.
Some of you may know of the group Catholic Charities, the umbrella organization that handles the charitable portion of the church's mission. It's the largest charitable organization in the world by a long shot, and overall, it's more efficiently and fairly run than most. But there remains some confusion, even by fellow Catholics, over what they are. Catholic Charities is a part of the church, and managed separately from many aspects of the church. When you give directly to them, you're not funding lawyers for predator priests or new gold chalices for the sacristy of your local church. You're giving money directly to the organization for charitable purposes. They do great work. Among other things, they also fund more free healthcare than any other group in the world. I tend to give when I can. Pretty much the only groups I'll give any money to are the Disabled American Veterans and Catholic Charities.
And they do good shit. My dad and my aunt were both raised in orphanages funded by Catholic Charities. So when my aunt passed away, she left a piece of her estate to them, as an acknowledgment, an equal share to what was divided between those to whom she willed her estate's proceeds.
So why am I inviting Catholic Charities to dine upon the choicest of dongs? Well, they're not returning any of the damn legal paperwork for my aunt's estate, and it's impacting my mom's quality of life. She was going to use that money to buy hearing aids. My mom's pretty deaf, and generally fragile, and it'd be real nice if she could participate in conversations when people are using their inside voice.
So, yeah, I'm ashamed to say it, sort of, but Catholic Charities can eat a dick for what they're doing.
When my brothers and I realized that someone at Catholic Charities of New York dropped the ball, we waited patiently, until the estate lawyer called just to bitch that the pricks not only don't return papers on time, the fuckers wouldn't even return a phone call.
To which I replied in a restrained, cultured bon mot : "Well, they can't fuck kids anymore, so now they're finding ways to fuck everyone, I guess."
Obviously my mom wasn't anywhere nearby when I said that, or she'd get up on a kitchen chair just to go one upside my head.
Even so, a couple months is a long time to let legal papers sit on your desk. I guess Catholic Charities of New York doesn't want free money, too. I mean, it's not like they're just saying a big fuck you to everyone whose disbursement is on hold while they screw around. Well, yeah, they're definitely saying fuck you to everyone, including my mom, who really wanted to buy those damn hearing aids (2 good ones'll run a couple grand each!). They're also saying fuck you to my deceased aunt, who thought enough of them to include them in her will, but probably didn't picture that they really had no immediate use for her money, or that everyone else who was also in the will would be left hanging in the meanwhile.
Well, at any rate, it's my goddamned blog, so that's why I'm sharing this with you. If this is how Catholic Charities operates, they can certainly eat a dick. They won't be getting anything more from me for now.
Well, in a pleasant confluence of events, mid-tour crew change coincided with a surprise stand-down day after our current cargo ended up having the discharge time set forward 24 hours.
So I'm currently enjoying some quiet... but the lights in my head (bathroom to you) died, and it turns out the bulbs are these weird-ass horseshoe shaped florescents, which we don't have down in stores, so I'm doing my bidness by candlelight for the next week or so.
... which is actually kind of nice. Peaceful. And the candle is scented, so if I have to launch the Brown October, the horribly-located desk right outside the door won't become a place of trial and torment.
Welp, tomorrow's the halfway point in my tour. It's been OK. Average amount of cargo, average jobs, average results. Need to figure out if I'm going to work an extra week or not. I'm leaning towards yes, as Christmas is looking to be a big affair this year. We'll see.
Yesterday was kind of a shitty day for me. Some unhappy news about the health of a family member, a primo case of diaper rash from working too long in sweaty drawers the day before, and I just got to feeling soggy and hard to light yesterday.
So one of our generators died via a busted radiator, and we went to the home office & dock for the replacement. Now, my place was with the engineer, as an extra pair of hands... and I was just feeling sorry for myself and all cunty, you know?
Anyhow, at one point I stuck my head in a locker and pulled out a pack of a dozen work gloves.
I go through work gloves like toilet paper. At any time I've got 6 pairs in rotation, scattered in their respective homes around ship. It makes my partner out here nuts, as it can be unsightly, a pair of dirty leather and canvas gloves looking remarkably like a rag or whatever, and not being shipshape. But it gets tolerated after a fashion, because my hands are dainty and shameful. I've written before about what happened. Couple fingers got mostly severed, rebuilt, some puncture injuries from fishing, at least a half dozen cases of blood poisoning there, lots of broken digits and knuckles and a persistent infection that lasted about 20 years. I can't really write with a pen too well, or hold a shovel without strong discomfort, but I type in the vicinity of 90 words a minute, and can still thread a needle after a fashion and pick my nose, so I get by.
When I was AB on the tanker NEW RIVER, we got one pair of gloves a month, and that was it. With my pussy hands, it wasn't all that pleasant. I remember distinctly having to break my gloves in every morning so they'd bend, like you do with a baseball glove, after they got a couple of weeks old, and nipping through popped seams with a mortician's needle and palm laced with dental floss to keep them functional until new ones came in.
That was how that company rolled. You had to have coveralls on and full PPE to prevent exposure to oil and chemicals, but you wore gloves that were marinated in diesel, gasoline, naptha and VGO.
I often use this blog as my personal agony column and portable fainting couch, but every now and again, like yesterday, a little moment comes through, and suddenly, where five minutes before I would have thrown a shackle at anyone who called my name, like oil on the water, seeing that stupid pack of gloves was very calming. I don't know. I'm having my period or something.
My hands hurt. Every fucking day. From November to May, they're curled up into claws and prone to cracking open and bleeding at the last provocation. But you know? I keep them clean and dry, and fresh gloves when I need them, and it's not too bad. It's better than it was 20 years ago before I did half the stupid shit that I did to them. In the past year, with a new medication, I sometimes even have fingerprints here and there. Currently they're doing well. These are my hand salad days, I guess.
All for the sake of using $20 worth of cheap canvas and leather gloves every month, rather than doling them out like crusts of bread. The idea of that would have made my last employer scoff, and that sort of attitude was exactly why working there required a union. Here, at least, I can take care of my little girl hands, and hell, with the gloves on, I don't have to feel so damn ashamed of them.
Well, those damn evil old white Republicans are at it again. Their two best candidates represent polar opposites, and Dr. Ben Carson, who is not a politician, is rising in approval.
Look, everyone on the right kind of likes Trump, but we all know he's not going to get the nomination. Dude's a clown car with some ideas that are phenomenally dead on target with the sentiment of many people. I'm OK, for example, with taking a chunk out of the budget and starting mass deportations- although I think it would be more effective to make it a felony to hire an illegal for any work, and let them choose to repatriate on their own.
No, I like Ben Carson for his story, his moral stance, and demeanor, which is a fuck load already more presidential than the sucking chest wound of a leader that is currently in the oval office.
I need to see how Dr. Carson will handle foreign policy, who he will surround himself with, and how he'll handle military issues. I think, like most conservatives, that many of us are holding our breath and hoping it works out.
I've got to say, and maybe I'm being a fanboi here, but I'm seeing shades of Ronald Reagan.
So after a pretty stressful time at home, on my last weekend before heading back to work, we celebrated Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's birthday at a 5-star hotel in Miami... and proved thoroughly that we're getting old.
After about 10 days of averaging 3-5 hours of sleep a night, we got to the hotel, were amazed (place was POSH), and cleaned up, getting ready to go to South Beach to an exclusive club where I made diner reservations (if it matters, this place charges you $75 just to get a table for dinner, and if you want to keep it past 8pm, it's an additional $250, and $350 on weekends.
Well, waiting for the taxi, we both dozed off. When I woke up to the phone call from the concierge, I realized neither of us really wanted to deal with the traffic and sea of humanity that is a Friday night on South beach.
So we stayed in. Our room had a beautiful view, and the eclectic asian restaurant at the hotel was also highl rated, so we spent the night on the grounds and never left. We also slept for 9 hours and had breakfast in bed the next day before heading home. So a potentially exciting night out became a night to enjoy each others company and get sloshed on scotch, champagne and wine.
Oh, and I had a $36 cigar. No shit, the bastards charged me $36 for what I assumed was going to be a mind-blowing cigar that I could enjoy on the balcony for a good long while. Instead what I got was a nice cigar that was about the size of a $0.99 Philly Blunt and burnt up in under 10 minutes.
It actually was a nice cigar. But turns out quantity has a quality all its' own, and I'll stick to the $10 torpedo that I usually buy, which is about the size of the baseball bat handle I used to use as a persuader in the parking lot of the bar I used to bounce at in college.
Well, I got a nap in, anyhow, and I'm starting my first watch back on board HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Center for Caffeination Studies.
I had my two weeks off, and had many, many plans. Like a damn battlefield, they didn't all work out. My mom, brother and nephew came to visit, which was awesome. It was the first time I saw my mom in over a year, and her first trip to FL in 25 years.
Unfortunately, it was August, and, well, south FL in August is a lot like Boston in August, only moreso. The heat, stress of travel, and going from heat to chilly AC everywhere she went caused her to develop Pneumonia, which stressed her system out, and shut down her kidneys for a bit, so off we went to the ER at 2am on her 3rd day, and her visit turned into a 5-day hospital stay, including a fucking professional-level scavenger hunt across south FL to find her an airline-approved oxygen generator, which was a condition of the docs in getting her released from the hospital, to avoid any additional stress on her lungs while in the air. We pulled in a place with literally 10 minutes to spare.
Anyhow, we saw my mom, big bro and nephew off. While my mom was in the hospital, my wife develops a case of sciatica. First time in her life. So SHE went off to the doc.
The day after my mom heads home my wife wakes up sick and miserable. I had rented a car for the day, as we had to drop my wife's car off for new brakes, change out the differential fluid and new tires... so that was $1500 and a deep, deep case of regret for not buying domestic, but my wife pushed through her own sickness until I got her car back at the end of the day, whereupon I took a good look at her and went back to the doc directly. Some sort of general infection, and gastric reflux, two more things she's never had to deal with, at least with me around.
So I got her home and comfortable. Oh, and after installing her on the couch, I went out and bought a lovely new handgun that I had been eyebanging for a while, which was sort of the first nice thing that happened to me after my mom took ill.
From there, things got better. I credit the visit to the gun store for the change in the tide of Karma.
In just a few days, things turned around for us, and, although we were both a touch stressed, we celebrated my wife's birthday with a stay in a 5-star hotel in Miami and a night out, which was awesome and needed, and which is going to be the subject of its' own post, as it was full of ridiculous and sublime shit. But that's for another time.
Low: 1 week ago, this time- I was in the ER of one of the most expensive and exclusive hospitals in the US, cussing out some lackadaisical nurses what weren't giving my mom the attention that her fragile health required.
Hi: few days ago, this time: 220 feet above the Miami skyline, hammered out of my trees on $300 bottles of champagne, kissing my wife.
To say that it's been a roller coaster is an understatement. Anyhow, details to follow, once I get my shit together and get back to work.
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.