Friday, April 26, 2024

I have met the King

 Something extraordinary happened at crew change a couple of days ago. I met a living legend. I met Meow Man at the grocery store. 

       If you're a mariner who either works in or visits America, you have seen Meow Man's graffiti tag.  Virtually every New York based TV show at some point shows one of Meow Man's tags in the background when they show the city off, especially the waterfront. 

 For over 40 years, Meow Man has spray painted or chalked his tag at every dock, pier and piling between Maine and Texas, and including some select spots in other countries nearby. 

 A select number of people know who he is. I, until yesterday, was not one of those people. People who know who he is do not tell people who he is. So I was shocked to learn that the captain from another company who I was talking to in line at the grocery store (unkempt older guys, homeless looking but with about $1500 in groceries = tugboater, so we both knew what each other was doing for a living. Game Recognize Game) was the man himself. 

    I've been seeing Meow Man tags since I was 9-10 I think, at least that was the first time I wondered who the hell would make that their graffiti tag and how the hell it got 50 feet in the air at a railroad bridge over a waterway.    I've personally seen Meow Man tags (saying either "Meow Man was here" or Meow man, suk my bag" or both) between Portland Maine and Brownsville TX, and probably 100 or so docks and bridges in between. Spotted it in the Caribbean somewhere too, though I forget where. Borco, Bahamas? Campeche? Rio Haina? Gitmo? St. Maartin?  I can't remember, but I do remember seeing it. Dude gets around. 

    Anyhow, in telling the story to the dozen other guys on the launch bring us to prison work yesterday, I said that I've met two celebrities in my life. Mother Theresa, and Meow Man.  The launch operator, Dirk the Dutchman, himself a retired tug captain, being in the club and having had Meow Man himself as a deckhand decades ago, was tickled by the celebrity status of his friend, because when I said I met him, it was like a bomb got dropped. I was a nine-days' wonder, and all talk of who got fired for pissing dirty and who died while we were all home all ceased. I may as well have said I had met Jesus and for a few minutes, reflected glory shone upon me.    It was a good way to soothe the ache of going back to work. 


Thursday, April 25, 2024

A great time and also Old Men Walking

 I am back on the HQ after a great but not restful 2 weeks home. With my wife's cousin and her family visiting for my 2nd week at home, plus my kid's 21st bday party, I was running all out. And it was all worth it. The visit went well, and it's nice to have young kids in my house, making noise and putting some life in the place. Using the pool, making a mess, and eating my cooking, which sounds like something negative  but certainly wasn't.    

    Inappropriately Hot Foreign  Wife and her cousin had a great visit. At times it was uncanny how much they mirror each other's mannerisms, and there was a LOT of laughter for this time. 


    My son's 21st was a successful party. God almighty we killed off a couple of bottles of cachaca, more than a few bottles of wine and craptons of beer. I think the old farts like us had more fun than the kids. My brother and sister were there the whole day to give me a little White People Time too, which I no longer need, but it's always better to have both sides of the family having fun together. 

  Sadly, it came to an end and my liver and I returned, debauched, to New York the other day and back to work for me. My first watch aboard proved to be VERY busy, and after 7 hours of sleep, I woke up to find us at our old lay berth in Red Hook, a place we used to go to quite a bit. but haven't seen much of for the past 3 years, and better, the other guys already rafted up to the pier included an old friend, and my partner B, who is working OT elsewhere- so between us and my other partner Big E on here, we all walked out to the store, about a mile deeper into Red Hook.
        5 years ago, we'd get to do this walk every week at a minimum. It's been a year at least since the last time we were tied up here with me aboard and able to go ashore. And our workload is so much higher than it ever was in the past that the quality of life of the tankermen in my company now is pretty awful compared to in the past... and so it was a true treat for the 4 of us to amble to the store. 

       In the 10+ years we've been working around NY, we've since gotten old, all of us. We're all between 50 and 60 and don't move as fast as we used to. We don't jump the 6-8 foot gap between barges to get to the dock like we used to. Joints ache a bit now. Things creak, lol. 

         I have few regrets about my career choices and I always knew that physically the long days and hard days come at a price of increased wear and tear... but it was good to be with people who understand and have also experienced this, so there's no false bravado, no turning away from an outstretched hand offered to help get off a ladder or to slow your jump or boost you up. There were a few groans and again, a lot of smiles. Being old together helps. 

    It's simple moments like this that make me yearn for the camaraderie of the past that is now gone forever, and without indulging in nostalgia, it's good to know that I'm not the only one troubled by my limits now.  I very much regret that morale among my shipmates is absolutely in the toilet and we no longer have a great job, merely a good one because of the apathy of those above us... but we've still got each other. 

Monday, April 15, 2024


 During swim time yesterday, I was talking with my wife about things going on in the world.  I do follow events, not as closely as some, but closer than others, and like looking at things that happen and are happening, not things being talked about. 

           While I was writing my last post, which was all fluff and nonsense, the internet was abuzz with the events in the assorted war zones around the world. 

      During many world events that have happened in my lifetime, I was on a boat working. Granted, I've been on boats for 8 months out of the year at a minimum for about 25 years nonstop. College and what passed for grad school were an exception to that, although I still got about 180 days at sea credited on my sea time calculator each year I was getting edumacated. 

            The plain truth is that none of it affected me much. World news is mostly other people's business. My eyes were in the boat at the time, where my eyes reached the entire breadth of my world. Even today I still have the mentality that the great sage Manny James, my last bosun, used to say in his deep Caribbean accent "En if it don' add inches to my dick or money to my wallet, it ain't for me to worry on. We gots a job to do. Best we do it." When it comes to world events, Manny had a point. 

  For the most part, the way I've built my life, I've had to trust other people to mind the shop while I'm on the water. If they do a bad job, I'll find out about it eventually.  When I do track the news, I find it wholly depressing, as the news is presented as drama porn and conflict, which gathers more clicks and views than rational reporting. 

  I've got drama porn fatigue.  Sure, I might get 1 hour less warning if the world ends or the Rapture hits, but the most important thing about yesterday wasn't the air battle over Israel... it was the way my wife laughed when we were swimming and she got water in her nose, like we were the only two people in the world. On my deathbed I probably won't reflect on Israel. I wouldn't mind remembering yesterday at all when there are no more tomorrows for me. 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Time Flies

 The days are racing by already. I've been home 4 days already, and they've been busy days. What has been nice here is that Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, who has been working 80-90 hours a week while I am at sea, is home with me, and we're more or less joined at the hip while I'm here. This morning in fact was the first time we split up to work on individual tasks- her with housecleaning, me with rehabbing my big gas grill. Putting new burners, igniters and diffusers in, swapping out the grating, etc.  We're going a  barbecue for 20, mostly Brazilian style, next weekend before I go back to work, and having 2 grills going at 90 degrees to each other so I can work like a keyboard player at a concert keeps things efficient. I laid in a couple of picanhas, the Brazilian beef cut that is, in my opinion, the crown of the cow, the best cut. God's steak. We also have a couple of liters of Cachaca, the ultrapure white rum used to make caiperinhas, the national drink of Brazil.  

     Should be fun, but this being a maritime blog, and me not being at sea, I'm going far afield. Plus, the pool is open and my first sunburn of the season is easing off already, so we're headed back in today. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife somehow bakes to a lovely honey brown in just 15 mins in the sun, and doesn't burn despite wearing a 'conservative' Brazilian bikini, which is pretty much 3 eyepatches artfully arranged.  Meanwhile, me, with SPF 9000 slathered a 1/4in deep, will get a sunburn walking at night, let alone out in the sun. 

Her, 15 minutes after going in the pool: 


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

New Post: Now with 77% less whining!

 The busyness continued for several more days, and then... silence. 

 I bunkered an American ship last night. Well, registered and crewed in America, which is about as good as it gets these days. Anyhow, it was nice to get to speak the lingua franca for once when calling back and forth to the ship during the course of the discharge.  And we got all fast and things shut down around 0230, which left me a couple of hours to myself, catch up on end-of-tour things. 

     And it IS the end of tour. I'm going home tomorrow, if God is good to me.  It's been a busy one, but things went much smoother than earlier in the winter, so I'm going home, if not rested, than in a better headspace, certainly. 

   Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has some family coming to visit next week, so I'll have just one week to do whatever I want to do before having to be host.  Her cousin Boobzilla is coming with her family. 

     Boobzilla is rather curvy and shapely. Hence the nickname. She too, married an American from Boston, and praise God, he's a down to earth and normal dude, someone you can sit down with and have a drink and some laughs with. They have a lovely family, to be honest. Good people, which is why I'm not having a temper tantrum about sharing half of my precious free time. Between my wife, Boobzilla and her mom, who is also coming to visit, they'll be rattling away 12 to the dozen in foreign 90% of the time, which means the husband, my kid, me and their kids (who didn't learn Portagee for some reason) will be left to our own devices much of the time. My kid's dreading having to be chief translator, as of all the Brazilians and half-Brazilians, he is perfectly 100% bilingual, and nobody else is. My wife and Boobzilla both think in and speak English primarily, if endearingly imperfectly, but Boobzilla's mom is a monoglot, and they're all three of them accomplished gossipers. 

    But of course, I think I have mentioned before that my portagee has improved significantly,  which makes it more difficult to discuss me while I'm still in the room, as Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's cousins and friends learned this past summer. when I caught enough of a conversation to realize that given my exotic coloring, there was a general interest in the particular color of my wedding tackle. Ye Olde  Pink Torpedo being something of a wonder, apparently for not being a more familiar shade of brown. The hilarity and embarrased laughter when they realized I knew what was being said made the whole thing funny. Brazilians are earthy people and love to laugh as a rule. 

    Anyhow, I'm headed home tomorrow, and it looks like it will be a nice time, which I need I think. While this wasn't a bad tour by any means, 'not bad' is not the same thing as a good time. I already told my wife I plan to drink beer in my underwear on the couch at least once. There will be scratching and belching involved. 


Friday, April 5, 2024

This job would be great if it wasn't for the work involved

 Damn it got busy again. We're working hard here on the HQ, and pretty steady. Now, I was SUPPOSED to have tonight off. I had to settle for a half-watch off. My employer shoehorned a little job on us to give  some diesel fuel and a couple hundred tons of heavy fuel oil to an old rusty bulk carrier. And like many small jobs, the smaller it is, the bigger a pain in the ass it ends up being. 

         Usual M.O. 'Krainian engineer has his Filipino black gang so scared of him that they won't take a shit without written permission and constant radio contact the whole while.  

 "Shithouse 5, Engine Control Room."

 Engine Control Room, this is Shithouse 5, go ahead." 

"Manuel, reduce your pushing. Do not exceed one bar of sphincter pressure. There must be NO splash. Repeat, No Splash... and I can't find a copy of the Job Hazard analysis sheet for your wiping. You must not wipe until I have your JHA signed and stamped. Come to my office, but remember, no wiping."

 Anyhow, you get the idea. So NOTHING got done without the direct orders of the chief engineer. That included lowering me a bucket to pass paperwork back and forth. I was told "wait, wait my friend. The engineer has not tole' me eef I can lower you da bucket or no." 

 A chief engineer in port is a BUSY guy. So a job that should haver been 4 hours tops, was 9.  6 of those 9 hours being the time we had hoped to be at anchor between this job and our next load. 

 BUT, we finished the work, and the engineer being a bohunk, naturally he accused us of trying to short him on fuel and basically accusing us of stealing it. And I, having been exposed to the dishonesty of bohunk engineers weekly for the last 15 years, God help us, gave my usual unemotional reply. "Chief this is not Singapore. We don't steal fuel, and we don't negotiate the volume or cost.  Here, accusing us of being thieves is aserious thing." 

    Suddenly the problem of the missing fuel disappears. Every. Time. With. The. Fucking Bohunks. 

   Still, I haven't taken it personally for about 14 1/2 years. I just light my little candle, attempting to correct engineers, one at a time. 

     Unfortunately, I still haven't written part 2 of the post I was writing last week or the week before. I haven't been in the zone. No time.