Saturday, November 25, 2023

dinner with a side of bribery

  Well, Thanksgiving day was a shit show but it worked out in the end here on the floating prison that I call my workplace. We had all the signs of a rare day off on a holiday, a double win, only to have a nasty phone call come in late at night with orders to sail immediately for a load. 

    I was asleep, visions of Thanksgiving dinner, which it was my turn to cool, dancing in my head. We had been given a few hours to go shopping and load up on supplies the week before, so I actually had all the things we needed. So yeah, I went to bed feeling good about the next day, and woke up when a tug bumped us and I heard an engine light off and the hydraulics kick on. Fuuuuuuucccccckkkk. 

     BUT, it was a small, single product job. Just one grade of oil to load, straightforward, and I finished the job by 2pm and started cooking. I bought a turkey sans wings and legs, so it only took 2 hours to cook, and we ate really, really well.  

 Good thing, too, because when dinner was over, the phone calls started. 

          So we've bought a wreck of a home in my wife's birth city in Brazil. Not being wealthy or connected, the US is VERY reluctant to allow ordinary douchebags like me to transfer a large sum of money overseas. Worse, I'm buying a home from an estate- the owner died 10 years ago, and is son and heir is selling it to me, but the son is poor like everyone, and can't afford the legal process to bring the house out of probate- hence the deal I got. I'm paying for that out of the cost of the house. The realtor who is making the deal is the owner's cousin, who also grew up in the home, who is also a childhood friend of my wife, who grew up next door to this house. 

    So the first time I tried to wire the money to Brazil, Bank of America queered the deal by doing some seriously sketchy shit. I have not had good luck with B of A. They are assholes. But they're assholes who are conveniently located in almost every coastal city and town in the US.  So, yeah, B of A hires a 3rd party company to handle the wire transfer. Why? Because BofA says they'll send the money in reals, the local currency, so I have an American company handling the currency exchange. Presumably opportunity for graft, which Brazil lives and dies for...  But the 3rd party tells the receiving bank in Brazil they want 0.5% of the money as a fee for the transfer BEFORE the bank even hands it to me. Now I already paid B of A's fee.  The Bank in Brazil, being a bunch of like-minded ball-washing bastards, knows that American banks are a colossal pain in the balls and while reliable, awful to deal with, so they're already kinda pissed off. And they tell the 3rd party company to pound sand. 

   It takes 2 weeks to recall an unclaimed wire transfer internationally. B of A actually assigns a person to run down the money.   And to their credit, B of A got my money back in 13 days, every penny. 

   So we resend the money, in US dollars this time. The bank in Brazil will give us the exchange rates, which means we figure we're going to lose a couple thousand bucks compared to the real exchange rate of the day. BUT, the bank is already spooked by B of A. They're so bad to deal with, and the US government is so intrusive when it comes to tracking ordinary citizens, that they want the real estate transfer papers BEFORE they'll release the money to the realtor. They figure that B of A is going to accuse them of money laundering if they don't have a paper trail as long as my crank.  And the worst part for me is that I KNOW, in my heart of hearts, that the local bank just wants my to slide them a couple hundred beans their way to make the problems go away. That's how Brazil works. Graft is predictable there. They'll even be super polite doing it. The IRS's onerous total control over US citizens is so pervasive that the rest of the world finds interacting with them on our behalf as a form of punishment. The manager gets no bribe, and the home purchase is held up yet again. 

 You know, it would have been easier to get the money in the realtor's hands illegally or quasi-legally. Withdraw the money from my bank over the course of a few weeks, and give it to my wife's friends to remit to the realtor's account a few grand at a time using the cash transfer systems set up by the Indians to funnel money out of the US for illegal aliens to send money home. .Western Union, Remitly, Xoom, Zelle, Cashapp, Easy. Nothing to it. But my idiot ass has to want to do it the right way and generate a paper trail for legal purposes so it doesn't appear sketchy, and I mistrust the financial system in Brazil at the moment because it is controlled by socialists who HATE America right now. 

        This better be worth it. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

sun shines on a dog's ass some days

 Well, howdee-do, I think we got Thanksgiving off! 

          This is a breath of fresh air. It's been right steady work-wise this tour. Plus the prospect of not going home at the end of it, for like a dog to its' vomit, so this fool has returned to his folly (of asking for and receiving overtime work), so with about 55 days of work to go before I breathe the free air, it's hard to get excited about much... but... tomorrow's a holiday, and my ass may be able to stay tied up at a lay berth and cook an honest meal. 

     This morning Big E, one of the kings of overtime this year, is going home for his full 2 weeks off, and has committed to not working over as much in 2024. I hope he does. I spent the last several years doing minimal overtime, and it was wonderful. 

    With Big E headed home, B came aboard at oh-dark-thirty, just before 0500 this morning. We had a small gale hitting us last night, so B and I caught up while waiting for the stores to open and the rain to stop, and just after 7 we went ashore and got the last of the Thanksgiving fixin's purchased. We also had a chance to get breakfast at Junior's, the famous Brooklyn diner that lays claim to inventing the modern cheesecake. This is the first time in I can't remember how long, maybe a year? since we had time to sit down and eat a meal while ashore. 

   My job has gotten a LOT less fun in the past 3 years. I don't believe I could do this work any longer if I didn't have B or E working with me. Too much stress, too much negativity, not enough quality of life while at work... but when carried out with a friend, or even better in my case, with two good friends, the work becomes tolerable, and nothing makes a shitty day better than sharing it. So that helps. 

           But I didn't come here (entirely) to bitch and moan. It's thanksgiving and I have a LOT to be grateful for.  Sure, my job satisfaction isn't among them, but having the damn job is. 

        The house in Brazil is coming along, but slowly. There's a lot of demo happening, which is a tad depressing to look at, as the house looked ROUGH before they started fucking it up even worse. But still, one step at a time, I guess.  

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

EDIT:   Yeah, at midnight we got a call. Tugs dispatched to help us out of the berth, time to go to work after all. There was a breakdown on one of our barges, and we got the nod to pinch hit, On the upside, it was straightforward, and we were done by 1300 today, so I got to cook and we did get to eat a hot dinner.  Could have been worse. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

nothing much to report

 The days are running together- I've been here about 2 weeks, but it's hard to tell the difference between one day and the next. There's plenty of work, some off time here and there, too, but not much. 

 The weather is turning colder, and while I'm not seeing the massive backlog of container ships bringing all the cheap Chinese crap for Christmas, I am seeing a LOT of tanker traffic, and I'm doling out small parcels of fuel for these ships almost every day.   Weird. 

    Not much inspiration happening at the moment. Thanksgiving is Thursday, and we'll cook well here on the HQ, small as it may be. 

Also, whoever said air fryer french fries are just as good as the real thing can eat a dick. Ruined a perfectly good russet spud. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Back to it

I had an amazing two weeks at home. I spent the first week with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife in Ashe County, NC, where we rented a remote isolated cabin and spent a few days just enjoying each other's company and wandering around.    The second week was more routine at home, but full of good times. 

But back at it today, and on arrival, before I was even out of my street clothes, I was climbing over a dead generator. Serpentine belt let go. Replacing it is annoying, but not difficult. It's one of those things where I have to remove parts in order to get at certain nuts to remove other parts. Engineering like that makes me weep, as I am neither a confident nor knowledgeable mechanic, so tearing apart half of the radiator in order to remove one section of safety shroud has me clenching fabric and chewing a hole in my underwear with my butthole. 
   And worse when I discovered that the replacement belt is the wrong size.  We went from some NAPA clone belt to what looks like a Chinesium grade belt, so I couldn't match part numbers anyhow, but as we have only one type of serpentine belt for our gensets, I thought it was a correct replacement. 

 Anyhow, turns out, we don't have the right belt. And now I need new jeans because I am institutionally unable to not get covered in shit or grease when there is shit or grease within eyesight. 

 Ah well. Welcome back, and here's an extra set of work pants for the month.