My Epitaph

If you don't question everything, you will know nothing and believe anything!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

More memories from 20 years ago

On 19 March 1998 I began my day running as fast as I could about a mile carrying everything I owned to get to the bus station in downtown San Rafael, California around 4 or 4:30 in the morning to catch the Marin Airporter heading to SFO.  Missing that bus would essentially be missing my flight, and that was not an option because I needed to get back to living at sea.  (I didn't know just how much I had missed living at sea until I had a final "date" with a woman living in San Francisco: we went to Alcatraz and on the ferry ride to the former prison I had missed the feeling of being afloat.)

Having completed a month-long TEFL certification course in San Francisco during that two month vacation from working aboard Clipper Cruise Line's ships and two, two week stints with friends from university, I had purchased a new full pack (could hold up to 8000 cm^3 and weighed 40 kg when I was flying back to the States just before Bill Clinton had to answer questions about getting something on the side - something I had already accepted was part and parcel to "power" since the advent of power over others began in human history - we should have just been happy his side piece was female, even if most likely she was a MOSSAD honeypot agent initiating sexual contact with someone already blackmailed by his sexual proclivities) and had added my first surfboard and its bag to what I owned.  I was truly trying my best to live with only owning the possessions I could carry, and finally balanced out the guitar case with the surfboard bag in my hands set out with the biggest of dreams and, finally, a goal for my adult life that was very realistic for the lifestyle I had been living.

I don't know if the building where student housing for the TEFL class has become private apartments or what, the last time I was in San Fran (2012 maybe) it was a backpacker hostel, but I just looked and it doesn't appear as though the building is still a hostel.  The last time I was there, the hostel manager happened to be living in the same room I had spent a month during the ending of El Nino 1998, so I got to see an old room where I happened to feel at home in San Francisco (not many places on this planet have I ever truly felt at home, and 20 years ago today, although we hadn't yet set sail, I had boarded one of the few places I have ever felt at home) the afternoon I stopped back by what was then a hostel.  The location was perfect for me, as well as being symbolic of my life because it seemed to border two neighborhoods: the theater district and Union Square two blocks to the east, and the Tenderloin was two blocks to the west.  Anyway, it was during that month of living in San Francisco, and the path I took from home to school that I discovered a few things.

One of the paths I could take to work would be along Union Square's east side heading towards Market Street.  Along this path, I saw several signs for offices to some of the social clubs of the Bay Area.  I enquired into the offices of several of these Bay Area social clubs (again this was in February and/or March 1998).  I will admit I was interested in joining one of them.  It wasn't the first of these social club's offices I enquired into that I wanted to join, and I don't recall the telltale word in the website linked below being in the title: I only remember seeing The Century Club and first thought it was for people who'd lived to see 100, but the receptionist informed me that it was for the very few who have traveled through 100 countries (as the link includes "Traveler's" in it's title but had I seen that word I wouldn't have needed to open the door and enquire with the receptionist of a hundred what).  I figured most of its members were trust fund people, or retirees who can afford to full-time travel, yet I still wanted to be applying for membership by the time I turned 40 and having worked my way through most of them, primarily working aboard ships and leaving shipboard living for 6 month contracts teaching English somewhere and then get the free flight back to board a ship to work for 4 months and get to travel on my own for about 2 months a year.

Another one of those Bay Area social clubs I had enquired about I was interested in, but knew that even if I were to gain success in the arts I was pursuing at that time (i.e. the music and lyrics I was writing and playing on the guitar I owned that was part of my self-definition as a young man) that unless I were to move back to the Bay Area to declare it a home from which to pursue said art, that I would not likely qualify for membership.  Let me reiterate that this was in the late winter of 1998, because many people today know about this social club for successful Bay Area artists (like novelist Jack London being a member after having found success as a novelist), but don't know about it from having rang the bell and enquired with the receptionist as I had 20 years ago.  I don't even know if the reason why most know of this Bay Area social club for successful Bay Area artists know that it was founded by and for Bay Area artists who have become successful artists (not for the starving and mediocre artists living in the Bay Area).  I don't know when people who would not normally be considered artists, no matter how successful, or how much their success might have come from profiting from the success of the artists in question might have first gotten invited to the annual rural retreat for these successful artists to get away from the civilization of the Bay Area, I don't know if those flying private jets to the nearest airstrips are even actual dues paying members of the club, but I do know that I seem to offend those who know of this social club by my having known about it a few years before Alex Jones "infiltrated" the annual summer retreat of the Bohemian Club.

I am of the opinion that the crony plutocracy infiltrated and usurped control over the helm of the Bohemian Club, but then again, I am of the opinion that the origins of Freemasonry were Egyptian in origin until the first "wrong" person was initiated [i.e. someone not admitted or advanced having proven their merits to advance, but essentially buying their degrees and acting as the battering ram allowing for enough infiltrators to create the appendant bodies that all seem to have occulted agendas of the different bloodlines that have competed for the throne of Great Britain: i.e. the Scottish Rite was started by the "Bonny Prince" - the heir apparent of King James 1 (the 6th King James of Scotland, First of Britain) in exile in France as an apparent "conspiracy" to return him or one of his heirs to the throne of Great Britain.  The York Rite appears to be the "Masonic conspiracy" to keep the Scottish line off the throne.  If I were to ever join a Freemasonic order, I would seek out an Egyptian themed ritual like in the Rite of Misraim and Memphis - or possibly one using the Eleusinian Mysteries, but that would likely be a "clandestine" lodge: essentially the heretical sects of Freemasonry to the "governing bodies" of the Grand Lodge system of British Masonry that dominate North America].  As my scrutinizing Tony Bushby reveals British Israelism as a belief amongst some Masons and apparently some (most? all?) of the British royalty believe themselves direct descendants from the man the New Testament concerns itself.  I am of the opinion that this infiltration of Freemasonry overhauled the Egyptian roots to the "Biblical" stories of Solomon's Temple [a "true" "international Jewish conspiracy" to conceal and obfuscate the fact that there doesn't appear any archaeological evidence defending the historicity of the Old Testament/Torah) as well as involving every Christian/Catholic church defending and enforcing the unquestioning belief that the Jews were chosen by the same entity worshipped by the Christians] as well as my deductions that the entire Saul of Tarsus to Paul, the outsider who went from murdering "Christians" to taking control of the helm and, hence, the direction of the religion in its infancy acts as a blueprint to infiltrate and usurp control over any organization or group.

I made my flight, arriving at that bus terminal about the same time the bus was pulling in.  I had two pain killers and muscle relaxers left from having wrecked my back in Alaska (oh to have a healthy back again!) and took one of each as I took my seat at SFO.  I awoke to return my seat to the upright position about 5 or 6 hours later to go join my crew mates for a few hours in the Newark airport before flying to Lisbon on the overnight flight.  With the exception of one of my best friends, I may have been the only one of us to have flown internationally before.  When we arrived in Lisbon, we landed around 6 AM and cleared customs around 7 and were on a bus bound for the ship.  (Barely awake and not having coffee nor nicotine yet that morning, I was handed a color printout of the most revolting pornography I have ever seen - burned forever into my memory a sight I never wanted to bear witness!  I sent him a text about it and he said he'd just thought about that picture and I figured he was recalling it precisely 20 years later!)  Since the first time I crossed "The Pond" to Europe I was still intoxicated in the morning taking advantage of the free drinks on the international flight (my first international flight was still a smoking flight and I was 21 and a smoker), I have preferred passing out on long flights to arrive fresh in the morning and not deal with jet lag.

Although there were about a dozen (+) of us, we were not all in a block on the flight from Newark to Lisbon.  I was seated next to one of the Cruise Directors, but she was going to help train the Cruise Director and set up the Reception.  I think she worked most of the night as I slept, but I guess most of my ship mates were up partying so by the time we go to the Adventurer from the airport, the Hotel Manager, who had sailed with the ship from dry dock in Denmark to the wet dock in Lisbon assessed that everyone was hungover and jet lagged and said "It's obvious you're worthless today, go get some sleep and we'll start work tomorrow."

Not being jet lagged or hung over, I didn't necessarily go far, but I did go out for an ATM and cigarettes and begin seeing what's within a mile from our berth and then began to start exploring one of the few places I have ever really felt "at home" in my life: a ship with an itinerary that would have taken me from the Polar Ice Cap to Antarctica.  When I left the States, I was expecting to have hit all 7 continents in the next 14 months, having taken a vacation from the Adventurer to Australia before heading to Asia to teach English.  (I ended up chain-smoking 3 cigarettes in a bank in Lisbon on 20 March 1998 because I had just spent 2 months in California right after the smoking ban went into effect and was ecstatic to be able to smoke inside a bank!)  The next morning we began working.

The ship was still a construction zone.  The first thing we did was to bring aboard 4 containers of provisions: 2 were food, 1 was drinks and 1 cleaning products.  Although the ship was constructed with an elevator/lift, Clipper spent $0 on a 1975 Soviet-era elevator out of the approximate $15 million they spent on the refit.  The first lift load to descend 4 decks full of food, and yours truly, the elevator broke down with about six inches, maybe even a foot still above the decking in the holds.  I went and found Kavas, the Filipino who was the electrician on the ship.  He fixed the lift in a second and went back to what the job he was doing before I needed him.  We unload the lift go back up and fill it up again.  Again, it breaks down in an identical fashion, so off I go to find Kavas to fix it again.  The third trip down, and now Kavas was teaching me how to reset the chain/belt like he'd just done twice before.  Of course the instructions came with the warning about how easily one can lose fingers/fingertips if one isn't fast enough to get their hand out of the way after fixing the one part, and that was just my first indication about how differently that ship would be run than the Nantucket and Yorktown Clippers had been.

None of the provisions went into the holds in any real organized fashion.  Once all 4 containers had been loaded onto the ship, I was given the task of organizing the food holds.  My crew mates were rotated to give me a different helper each day.  Unbeknownst to me, above the waterline my crew mates have been instructed to "look busy".  I don't know if you have ever been told by bosses to "look busy" for two 5-hour shifts a day, but dusting the painting frames in one passageway (hallway) for a 5-hour shift isn't the best thing for employee morale.  I can't say I was much better to those who were assigned to assist me because most of my day was spent with tape measure and a pencil and paper to make calculations.  I basically had to tell everyone assigned to assist me to go to their cabin and I would get them when I was ready to do anything physical.  As stated above, nothing went in with any thought to organization, and we were filled to the gills.  I would guess that the first day I only did about two hours of physical organization, and spent 8 hours assessing, measuring and calculating how to even begin to organize the chaos that was my responsibility.

So, my co-workers above the waterline were basically going crazy having nothing to really do but to "look busy" for 10 hours a day, and when one would get assigned to me, at least I would tell them they could go do whatever in their cabin until I needed another set of hands because I really didn't know how to include someone else in the thinking I had to do to oppose the entropy in the holds.  It seemed like every meal I would rise above the waterline to eat, my crew mates were becoming more and more agitated at having to spend all day looking busy without really anything to do.  At night, they were all going out to the discos, clubs and bars in downtown Lisbon.  At night, I alternated between drinking with the Swedish officers and Danish contractors in the Dining Room and drinking with the Filipinos in Crew Mess.  I was one of the few American crew that wasn't going crazy from having no work to actually do, but it was becoming harder and harder to hear the bitching and complaining of about 10 days of looking busy.

The Food and Beverage Manager and the office's head of Hotel Managers (not the VP of Hotel Operations, but his subordinate, maybe "Director of Hotel Operations"): a man I had nicknamed Brunswick because I was certain he had a red tattoo on the back of his neck like the Brunswick bowling pins he his physique resembled, had flown out with us, helped supervise the unloading of the containers, then flew back to St Louis (where the office was located) for a week had come back.  Of course the first thing the Manager of F&B wanted to see was how I had organized the food holds, and so I took him, and our chef, on a tour of my past week's efforts.  I didn't check to see if he had become physically aroused, but he was ecstatic with my efforts.  As we return to the Dining Room, his boss, Brunswick, without any preamble since I last saw him enquires "Have you ever thought about castration?"  With my greased lightning quick wit, I replied "Only when I think about you!"

To this day I still don't know if that was his attempt at a joke, or what, but I used to love smiling at him and asking if he wanted another Diet Coke with his meal that was usually a double portion than the paying passengers would be served.  I also wonder what, if anything, his boss had said about it when he, the VP of Hotel Operations was aboard during the pre-inaugural VIP 3-day cruise (we may have been leaving the dock on 1 April 1998 for that VIP cruise because we had another week to get ready with the problems we observed over that VIP pre-inaugural cruise before the inaugural cruise and the internet tells me Easter was 12 April 1998, and I know we were docked at Porto Santos on Easter Sunday, our first stop from Lisbon because the passengers were supposed to go to house formerly owned by Christopher Columbus but it was closed because it was Easter Sunday), I caught him alone and brought up what his underling at the office had said to me in front of pretty much all the management of that ship that reported to St Louis and my co-workers.  When he asked me why I thought I had been asked that, I said that if he thought he was making a joke that it was the first time he had ever tried to crack a joke with me and I thought it was inappropriate.

Anyways, the memory I was wanting to share when I began going along the tangents above was once coming above the waterline when I was done with the holds (and I held off the walk-in freezer for last and it was my least favorite, but I did have my Ushanka hat's fur tied around my chin every time I had to work in one of the freezers) was after being above water for about 2 days, and now about 10+ days without getting high, I set out to score some hash in Lisbon.  I told my friend who grew up surfing South Orange County and he asked me how I was going to find any hash.  I asked him if he'd been downtown to any of the bars.  Then I asked him if he'd been propositioned by any of the working girls outside those bars. clubs and discos (having gone out with his now ex-wife he wasn't propositioned like I was the few times I had gone downtown after work instead of drinking for free on the ship with my international crew mates).  I informed him that one of those prostitutes would know where I could score some hash, I was just going to have to ask them when they ask if I'm looking for a date.

I rolled my right ankle bad that night when the ball of my foot hit the brick on the steps/old street going to score and the rest of my right foot was where bricks were missing.  A few hours later, having stopped to get a lighter to take a few hits of the chunk, I hobbled back aboard my new home, grabbed a mop bucket and filled it with ice and water, wheeled it into crew mess, took off my boot and sock and stuck that sprained ankle into the ice water for 20 minutes.

I believe it was a Filipino who asked me if I was okay.  Still with the high I got about 20 minutes ago and now with my bad ankle soaking in ice I smile and say "I'm perfect!"

After procuring that hash, I had some sanity to deal with having to join my mates in looking busy until we set sail.  And we weren't ready to set sail.  The inaugural cruise(s) were from Lisbon to Porto Santos to Madeira, then to two of the Canary Islands, Casablanca, Gibraltar and then Seville, Spain (then we did the same itinerary from Seville to Lisbon, only we weren't met on the dock by the band welcoming inaugural arrivals.  (I may have missed a few, but by Gibraltar, I knew I was going to be on deck to hear the band everywhere we went the first time there!)  We had a few more days in Lisbon before heading towards the Bay of Biscay (that was a two week cruise starting in Lisbon and ending in Amsterdam) and those were used to make the ship sea worthy, like a simple barrel bolt to hold the elevator doors open so I wouldn't have to stand with arms on one door and heels on the other holding them open while bus tubs and glass racks are passed under my diagonal door prop.

So, the memory I was wanting to share was that it was about 20 years ago in the past day or two (when I started typing this) that I went out to score that sanity in that chunk of hash.  If you have ever had to report to work only be told to "look busy" for your entire shift, you have my empathy because there are few worse ways to spend a day at work than dusting the same four paintings for 10 hours.



For more stories about my time aboard one of the few places I have ever truly felt "at home," please browse through the chapters to discover which ones are autobiographical and from my time spent at sea (oh how I wish I could relive one conversation!)

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