Writing 101: Death to Adverbs

From out of the hot bright sunshine I walk into the cavernous space. As my eyes adjust, I breathe in the smell of slightly stale cigarette smoke and listen to the sounds that surround me. I hear plinking, whirring, tweeks, cheeps, and bleeps. It sounds like R2-D2 having a major breakdown. The casino draws me into its cool dark depths.

Wandering between the crowded rows of an amazing variety of games, I hear the one armed bandits scroll and clunk. Bells ring along with the sound of coins falling into the plastic buckets that await the bounty. People of all ages and appearance sit and stare. Smoke and sip their free drinks.

The table games attract attention with their beautiful dealers all dressed in old time finery. They wear uniforms of sparkling, satin-shiny red lingerie. Fishnet stockings and black high heeled shoes complete the intended image.

Cards shuffle and fly towards the waiting marks at the blackjack tables. Young couples dressed to impress smile across the felt as they count their cards and hope for a 21.

Crowds of people cheer as someone wins a roll of the dice on the craps table. The roulette wheel spins and clicks and the ball drops to its last black number. Whoops and hollers as the man in the Bass Pro Shop t-shirt wins the game.

I make my way to Penny Lane. Take a seat. Slide my dollar into the waiting slot. Video machines with multiple games. Five kinds of Keno, 10 Slots, Poker. Jacks or Higher, 9s or Higher, Double Bonus, Triple Bonus, Deuces Wild, Aces Wild.  All for only 1 cent each!

I have 100 tries to strike it rich! I play.

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Writing 101: An Interesting Character

I met Capt Hugh a few months back at one of the weekly meetings I go to whenever I’m home. The Campaign for Liberty is an offshoot of Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign and I’m a big supporter of his views. So is Capt Hugh.

I still don’t know Capt Hugh very well. We haven’t both been home off our ships at the same time very often. He looks like an ordinary guy. Comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt. Middle aged, average height and weight, nothing really special about his looks. But it all comes out when you talk to him. His passion for life and liberty, his sense of adventure, his determination to do whatever it takes to further his goals.

He doesn’t live near here. He lives up near Dallas somewhere, I think. That’s a few hours drive from here. He comes all the way down to our meetings when he’s home from work. It shows a high level of commitment to the goals we’re working toward (increasing freedom and liberty).

He works offshore like I do. He’s working as captain on some kind of oilfield support vessel. Recently he’s been working out of Africa (me too). I’m working off the Congo River, Hugh is working further north. He’s on a much smaller vessel than I am and so he gets to go into port occasionally.

If you’ve never worked out of Africa, you have no idea what that entails. It’s very chaotic and can be extremely frustrating. It takes a really special person to not only go there and do the work that needs to be done, but to ENJOY it. I’ve only met a couple of people like that so far and each of them was full of great stories and a love of life that showed through.

I follow Capt Hugh on Facebook. He’s quite an adventurer. He’s planning a vacation in Africa whenever he gets off work (who knows when). With everything going on over there, including an epidemic of Ebola, he doesn’t let it stop him. He takes the opportunity when it’s offered. A ‘free’ trip to Africa! What a deal!

Capt Hugh is not only captain of the supply vessel he is employed on, he has his own little sailboat too. That’s another feather in his cap! He’s willing to put everything he has on the line, buy a boat, fix up what he can, and then take off for parts unknown. That all shows a real spirit of adventure, love for the ocean, and a desire to find the freedom we’ve lost here.

I hope he is able to sail off soon. I’ll keep track on Facebook. It’ll inspire me to see where he winds up. I know it’ll be somewhere worth going.

Writing 101: Be Brief

Along the Old River the shrimp boats unloaded. A battered white envelope drifted in the breeze. Bored, I picked it up. Something interesting?

“Dave” was the only address. I opened it.

“Dear Dave” it began. Would Dave clean up his act if he read the list of his shortcomings?

Nah.

Serially Lost: Island Girl

Todays assignment is to write about a loss…

One of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life was when I saw her sitting on the bottom, the muddy brown water filling her cabin and sloshing around her decks.

The “Island Girl” was my fathers beautiful staysail schooner. She was the love of his life. We grew up on that boat. I remember so many happy days spent cruising the Gulf of Mexico with friends and family. I remember sitting around the main cabin doing my homework while my brother and sister screamed with pleasure as they hauled themselves up the rigging and then dived right back into the water. I remember taking the Girl up the rails at Tarpon Springs for a bottom job and running aground every time we left.

Island Girl

Island Girl

I inherited the Island Girl when my father passed away. I had already been doing all I could to help him take care of her while he was sick. But she was an old boat. She was build in 1910. Wooden hulled. I spent a couple of summers helping my dad cover her up with layers on layers of fiberglass in an attempt to strengthen her hull and so prolong her life.

As my fathers health declined, so did his ability to maintain the Island Girl. He tried, but he just couldn’t get down there to do all that needed to be done. There is always SO much work to be done on any boat, and the older they get, the more needs to be done. It’s a constant battle against rust and rot.

As always, I was working offshore and so couldn’t help much, but when I was home I would run down to the marina and at least start her up, check the bilges and see if there was any major change since my last visit.

I was working a month on/month off schedule. Same as I am now. You’d think with a month off I would have plenty of time to take care of a simple sailboat. After all, I’m a captain, I take care of boats for a living.

Well, I guess I could if I had an unlimited amount of money and nothing else to do with my life. Even then, I did have other things I preferred to do with my time off the ships. I really didn’t want to spend all my time off one ship working on another boat!

So, I just took care of the bare minimum. It was enough to keep her afloat while I tried to sell her. Every once in a while, I could round up some help and we took her out for a sail. What a treat! Even tho we couldn’t raise the mainsail all the way up due to an owls nest in the mast, she was still a pretty fast boat. We had great fun.

What a sad, sad, sight to see her sunk like that.

The night before everything was fine. There was a big storm coming, so I made sure she would be alright to ride it out. I went down to the dock and checked that her lines were properly secured. I checked to make sure every one of her 6 (!!) bilge pumps were working. I checked that the batteries were charged. I checked that she was all buttoned up for the rain.

The storm came and the tides were higher than normal. I had to wade down the dock through chest high water in my need to ensure she made it through it all OK. Yes! I sighed in relief! She was floating high and dry and looking lively. I made my way back down the dock, sloshed up to my truck and took off home thinking everything would be just fine.

I got a call in the morning from Old Rip at the marina. One every boat owner in the world dreads to hear. “Your boat’s sunk”. WHAT??!! Oh no! How could that happen? I was just down there last night and everything was fine!

Aiiiiyyyyyeee!! I jumped in my truck and rushed back down to the dock. The tide had gone down and the water was much lower than usual. The Girl was on the bottom. My stomach sank and I felt soooooo sick. I was stunned. I couldn’t figure out what could have happened. It was all I could do to keep from just sitting down right there at the end of the dock and just wailing my sorrow and loss.

That boat had been SO much a part of my life for so many years. She was like part of the family. Now what?

3 Significant Songs

Todays’ assignment from the Writing 101 Challenge is to write about the ‘three most important songs in your life’. Then they carry on in the assignment about ‘free writing’ and ‘committing to a writing practice”.

Here goes…

1. Son of a Son of a Sailor by Jimmy Buffet. I’m sure some of you might have an idea of why this song is important to me. “I went out on the sea for adventure”. Yep, that’s me. I always have identified with this particular song. I always loved Jimmy Buffet. I think he’s a great songwriter. He always tells a story in his songs and it’s usually a story I can understand and relate to. I grew up on the beach in Florida. My town used to be a little fishing village. We had plenty of characters hanging around. Many of them were the same familiar types Buffet sings about. I remember a few times growing up when Buffet would come through our town visiting. I saw him play a few times at some of my favorite local bars (I was still underage). My stepmother told me once that his manager was married to my stepsister. I never was that close to her so I never investigated any of that. I love that particular song since it seems to tell so much of what I feel like. The only thing that gets me is the whole “SON” of a “SON” of a Sailor. They never talk about the ‘daughter’ of a sailor, unless it’s something like she’s sitting around waiting for her loved one to come home. I was always a little jealous (maybe more than a little) about how the men always had it so easy. They could do all the things I always wanted to do so badly. For ME, it was always such a huge fight. Even now, it’s still a struggle. I should have been born a man!

2. House of the Rising Sun. I always loved this song. It was the first song I learned how to play on the guitar. It’s such a soulful song and so easy to sing. I still sing it for kareoke sometimes. I love New Orleans. It’s one of the reasons I chose to move to Texas to go to school for my AB ticket instead of one of the other 2 schools in the country at the time (San Diego or North Carolina). I thought I would be able to go to New Orleans every weekend to party. I thought I could go to Mexico every other weekend and El Paso to visit family fairly often too. I had NO idea how big Texas was or how long it took to drive to any of those places from where I moved to go to school.

3. What do you do with a Drunken Sailor. This was the song we sang all the time when we were getting rowdy when I was in high school on the sailing ships. We sang it at the end of my high school graduation on the wharf in Copenhagen. We were all dressed in our blue jeans and blue Oceanic t- shirts with our yellow foul weather jackets on. We had our diplomas printed on the back side of some Russian chocolate wrappers we had saved up special for it. I love how this song is such a FUN song to sing. It gets more and more creative after the first few verses.

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OK. I went a couple of minutes over my time limit that I set for myself to ‘free write’. I had a hard time holding back from adding some interesting links. No editing, no thinking hard, just letting the words flllooooowwwww…

So, I didn’t want to deprive anyone of seeing what I’m talking about, so here are some links. 🙂

Here’s a video Son of a Son of a Sailor

Here’s one of the Animals singing the House of the Rising Sun

And here’s a link to an earlier post with a great video of the Drunken Sailor Song. 🙂

Writing 101: Ship Scenes

OK. I’m behind again. I’m trying to work through this Writing 101 challenge (again). I tried it before when I was at work and just could not keep up. Real life is once again interfering with my time in the blogosphere.

I’m doing the best I can but ya’ll are going to have to just bear with me. 😉

So, today I’m working on the assignment for Day 2. It’s actually Day 7. 😦

The assignment is to write about a place, describe a setting. They ask you if you could be anywhere you wanted to be, where would you be ‘right now’?

I’m having a hard time winnowing that down. I could imagine myself at the top of Macchu Picchu or chillin out in Ubud. I could put myself under the sea on a dive in the Great Blue Hole off Belize or the atolls of the Pacific Ocean. I could imagine myself at home with my family when I was growing up in Florida or sitting around the gangway on my old ship with some great friends.

But I think I’m going to go with a cruise. I can hardly remember a better time than I spent as a kid on those sailing ships. I had such a great time. It was such a fantastic adventure.

Yeah, I was probably my usual self at the time, bitching about having to holystone the decks on Sundays or having to do laundry by hand. But I’ve very rarely had as many awesome, intense, all encompassing feelings of exhilaration and pure joy. Of just being fully and completely ALIVE and in complete harmony with myself and my surroundings.

I remember sailing on the Ariadne across the Atlantic Ocean. We left La Gomera in the Canary Islands and sailed for Martinique in the West Indies. We had a couple of weeks to make the trip.

The Ariadne was a large, 3 masted schooner. She carried a German crew and a few passengers and our entire school of fairly rowdy teenagers. I was 16 at the time. I remember long lazy days split between classroom, projects, and learning the ship.

I remember lying in the itchy, rough manila net under the bowsprit. Looking out for ships, weather, loose containers or anything else of interest. I would cheer on the dolphins as they sped along with us. No sound but the bubbling champagne rush of the sea along the sides of the ship and the waves lightly slapping the bow as the ship sliced through the slowly heaving blue-green swells.

The sun shone brightly in the perfectly clear, china blue sky and made the infinite depths of the ocean glow with stars of vividly bright patterns in so many gorgeous colors: neon green, canary yellow, turquoise, violet, wine, maroon, and purple.

Not too hot and not too cold. The days were warm and the sweat dripped in my eyes as I worked to sand down the pinrails.The nights held a chill, just enough to appreciate my wool watch cap. The winds were fair and powered us along at a steady rate as we worked the ship to get the best speed we could out of her with sails alone.

The winds brought the smell of salt and seaweed, yet it was somehow so FRESH. Sometimes the light, clean, crisp smell of rain and dew in the mornings. We would find flying fish dead- or almost- along the bulwarks sometimes, as we made our way forward to the galley for breakfast. We collected them for the cook who might fry them up for us or pass them on fresh to Whiskey the ships shaggy grey and white mutt.

Breakfast was served family style with fresh bread, butter and jam. Ham, cheese, eggs, fruit and milk (while they lasted). Helping the cook wash the dishes and prepare the meals was another way we passed the time. Peeling potatoes was a daily chore, everyone liked french fries. Hot and salty, crispy on the outside and nice and fluffy inside. Just perfect, every day. 🙂

We spent 4 hours on watch divided between helmsman, lookout duty and odd jobs. Then another 4 in school tending to our studies in Math, English, Cultural Studies, Oceanography, etc and things like Celestial Navigation, Marlinspike Seamanship, Sailtraining, etc. The shipboard schedule was the same as the traditional worldwide merchant fleet: 4 hours on, 8 off, 24/7.

Night watch in the middle of the ocean is like nothing else. It’s just amazing to see the black velvet sky, awash with those STARS like blazing diamonds. Nothing else around you. Occasional sounds of a creaking line or a sail luffing in the wind. The ship is dark except for the running lights which are purposely made as so not to interfere with your ability to see at night. Listening to the soft hiss of the swells as they pass down your side as you gaze in awe at the night sky.

Tweaking out the constellations from the abundant array of twinkling stars normally masked by the bright lights of town is a challenge. Remembering the stories of those star clusters is another way to keep your mind at play. Acting lookout is a wonderful way to calm yourself. You can take the time to really THINK.

It doesn’t surprise me at all how many famous artists (writers) were seaman at some point in their lives. There’s just something about it. “It gets in your blood”. I’ve never had another adventure like that one. I’ve been hoping to ever since.

I’ll never forget it.

 

Writing 101: Try Again

OK. I’m going to try this “Writing 101” thing again. I tried it before, but I was on the ship and could never find the time to do the assignments. I’m really glad the folks at WordPress decided to run this challenge again. I would like to improve my writing.

Today is the first day of the challenge. I got home late Friday after a couple of days traveling home from the ship. We were working offshore Angola (West Africa). I worked all night Wednesday and then started my voyage home Thursday morning.

I was basically up for about 60 hours straight, not counting the few minutes at a time I managed to doze off on the plane(s). I’ve had a couple of days to rest up and catch up on mail, etc so I hope I can find the time now to keep up with the assignments for this challenge. 🙂

Today’s assignment is pretty easy. It’s to “JUST WRITE”. Just like talking, I can always find something to say, I can always find things to write. Who knows if anyone will listen to what I have to say either way I put my thoughts out there? It seems most of the time I am ignored. 😦

I think I have some good ideas and some good solutions to a lot of the things no one likes to see happening around the world. It’s all about FREEDOM. Too bad I’m not the dictator of the world. What a paradox. 😉

I would SO love to see this world full of people where everyone is able to live their lives the way they choose. I would love to see everyone able to live to their fullest potential. I would love to see everyone have enough to eat and comfortable surroundings and work that they enjoy.

I used to have long arguments with my best friend J. about this kind of thing. I told her once I would love to buy an island. I would have to buy it so that it would be mine, as legitimately mine as it would be possible to be. (Not to get into the whole argument about is it really legitimate for people to own land at all). I just don’t want it to be claimed by any government, they would ALL be totally against everything I’m trying to do.

I would turn that island into my own country. Anyone could come there and do anything they wanted to do, as long as they didn’t hurt anyone else (no murder, rape, robbery, etc). That is my basic premise in life. That is the idea that I live by.

Of course the USA would probably bomb the hell of my island. There’s NO WAY they would allow the world to see that a place with REAL freedom could exist and prosper. It would prove to the entire world what a fraud (and a danger to the entire planet) the US has become.

Yes, on my island you could drive without a license, without wearing seatbelts or helmets. You could drink or get high on whatever you wanted to (but you would be responsible for your actions whether high or not). There would be no spying allowed for any reason. There would be no universal ID such as social security has become (and therefore a magnet for identity theft). There would be no such things as ‘guilty property’ (asset forfeiture), money laundering laws, etc. Yes, there would be legal gambling and prostitution and there would be no such thing as a ‘victimless crime’. You could work at whatever you chose, for whoever you chose, for whatever wages and benefits you chose. There would be no government licensing of anything.

Since this island is based completely on voluntary action, I can see people working together to provide all the things we need and want without resorting to the use of force. If we need roads, schools, etc, people will come up with ways to provide them just like they did in colonial times in the USA. I can’t even think of anything we would need taxes for, so there probably wouldn’t even be any of those! 🙂

I would base my laws on the US constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights and I would follow the letter and the INTENTION of those documents! That being to promote INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM! To keep the people in control of the government and NOT the other way around.

We would get into huge arguments about what exactly was meant by the word “hurt”. I told her, I think it would have to be defined as an ‘objective’ hurt. Something obvious to everyone else. Otherwise, anyone could just make anything up they wanted.

I think it would have to be something ‘proveable’. Something that you could prove actually happened to you and that it actually did hurt you. You should be able to prove real harm.

So, we got into all these arguments over ‘what if?’…

‘what if she moved in next door to my multi-million dollar mansion and built a junkyard?’, (who said I would have a multi-million dollar mansion? I just spent all my money to buy this island!

‘what if she came to my (multi-million dollar mansion) and shit on my floor?’ (multi-million dollar mansion??), if she shit on my floor on purpose, then I think I would throw her out of my house. If she was sick or something and couldn’t control herself, then I think I would send her to the hospital but still get her out of my house!

‘what if somebody’s feelings got hurt?’ see above point about being objective and proveable

‘what if somebody trashed your boat?’ unbelieveable! they would have to pay restitution for the damages and/or they would get deported!

After a while of this kind of thing, we both got sick of the argument. I decided I would not really want to be dictator after all. It’s too much work!

I really just want to be left alone to live my life in peace. I don’t want to BE alone, I just want to be LEFT alone. There’s a huge difference.

It seems very few people understand where I’m coming from. Almost everyone seems to think people are somehow better off with other people running their lives instead of themselves. I am totally in opposition to that idea.

This is why I am searching so hard to find some PLACE where I can live the rest of my life. It is no longer possible to have that in the USA. The country that was founded to allow people exactly that freedom.

My only hope now is to somehow get out of the US permanently and find some out of the way place where the people will just accept you for who you are. Where they are happy to live and let live. Where their government does not have the resources to constantly interfere. And if it does, where the people will force it to back off!!!

So, OK, I’ve rambled on now for over the 20 minutes the assignment called for. Hope some of you made it all the way to the end. 😉

Any comments on this subject (or any other) is always appreciated. 🙂