Long time no see! How's it going?
What takes you to Freetown? I've been there once, for an abbreviated stay, but I've spent a fair amount of time in Conakry a little to the North in Guinea...its cool up there...I worked on cargo ships back then and when I was in Freetown that time we had lots of work down below and so I didn't get ashore, which is just as well cause I seem to remember it being one of those places with lots of police presence...a couple of the topside guys of the ship snuck over the border to see their "girlfriends" back in Conakry from Freetown...Guinea was kinda like that as well, but at least a little more relaxed feeling, like a pack of smokes could reasonably get you out of harms way...anyway, I don't know how familiar you are with that part of the world so let me know what you need to know...
Off to Freetown SL. Anyone have any suggestions? Let me know.
Is what we are here for-to read what others have to say, and to say our piece when inspired. Your storytelling is excellent, Hozomeen- so write as long and as much as you want!!!!
Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone, you will still exist, but you have ceased to live.
I was in school at the Merchant Marine Academy; nineteen years old; a Georgia boy. I had no business being there. The deal at the academy is that you do six months of your sophomore year and six months of your junior years at sea. At least that's how it used to be. I hear they are on trimesters now. Who knows? Anyway, it was this sea year that attracted me to the school in the first place.
So I'm nineteen, heavy boozer, balls to the walls so to speak. I was coming unhinged having to deal with the life of being me all hemmed up in Navy uniform and creating little or no art. I didn't realize the importance of the art thing until later in life. I was just running a muck really, with no balance whatsoever.
It was time for me to leave for sea. Shiny black FBI shoes walking down military barrack hallway. Hair tucked under garrison cover, hands full, I walked passed Devon Ryan's room. His room was like a diorama. You would walk by, and what was going on inside went on totally and completely without any regards to the rules outside. It was as if it were a neat and tidy exhibit of some other time and place.
Devon’s roommate was Greg Harper. Greg used to say his favorite workout included one hour of hard weight lifting followed by a shot of scotch. Run three miles whilst smoking one cigarette per mile, without stopping mind you, and then back to his room for a quick one two alone in his room just before Devon got back from machine shop. All this toped off with scotch of course, and all the while smoking non filtered cigarettes, all the while smiling under curly brown locks, leaning back and making off handed remarks about how Harper is a black name. Greg was the kind of guy I always wanted to learn to be. He seemed bulletproof to the ill effects of society or labels or whatever. Greg always seemed wise beyond his years to me.
Then there was Devon. He was Irish. Long Island Irish, which if you ask me is a different kind of Irish altogether, meaning that there is a culture of Irish people living on Long Island and it is their separation from Ireland that binds them together over here. When I first moved up to New York from Georgia, people would ask, “Where are you from?” and I would respond “Georgia.” “No, I mean what are you?” “I don’t know, a RedNeck maybe.” What they were looking for was Welsh, I am welsh, but then again, my being welsh isn’t nearly as important to me as Devon’s being Irish is important to him. He was Irish, and you could tell just by looking at him. Right down to Cheshire grin on round face, Devon was as Irish as any guy I have ever met.
Devon stopped me as I walked past with bags in my hands. “Hey man,” he nodded me over. Smoke filled the room. Greg and Devon each smoked unfiltered cigarettes and just ashed on the floor. They weren’t dirty, in fact their room was as consistently clean a room as you would ever see. They just smoked, ashed, and swept it up. Greg sat in his khaki uniform pants, imitation leather shoes with white socks, and white tee-shirt, smoking a butt and whittling two dogs fucking out of a piece of balsa or something. Devon, clad in full sweats, and smoking a butt as well, brought me over to his desk. He opened the top drawer, and as usual there was little more than a single pencil and a couple pieces of paper, but this time there was also a book. Oh what a book. He picked it up and studied it for a second. He absorbed it, as if he had to say goodbye. Put his cigarette in his mouth and handed it right over. “Here, this is a book you gotta read. But you have to promise me something, you have to give it to someone else when your done. This is one book that needs to keep moving and touch as many lives as possible.” He made me promise, and he was serious about it. I took him seriously.
I didn’t read it until I was on my second ship. The S/S “Louise” Lykes. I read it during the ocean crossing; I read it three times in a row. It was as much a revelation for me as it was for anyone else in orbit around the philosophy it represents. It didn’t bring me balance though. Oh no, in fact I would say that it threw me more off balance than I already was at that time in my life. Oh well. I didn’t like Devon asked and gave the book to someone else, never reading a word past the three times I read it crossing the Atlantic.
I wanted to be Dean. Who wouldn’t? Dean Moriarty. No limits, no curfew. Bullet proof and on the run, Dean was that guy who was always aware of what went on late at night after I had already cashed in my chips, and somehow by virtue of that had a handle on everything all the time. He’s always cool, no reason not to be when the bases are loaded and Dean’s at bat. We all know he’s gonna knock it out of the park, and don’t bother hitting on the prettiest girl cause he’s gonna knock that out of the park as well. I didn’t have a good idea of what Neal Cassidy looked like at the time, so to me Dean looked like Greg Harper; rough, but with an inner beauty that outshines his scars and imperfections.
Years later, about eleven years, I was working on this pre-positioning ship parked near Ascension Island. For those who are unaware, a pre-positioning ship is one that sits with military cargo loaded and ready to go to wherever it might be needed. I had been used to working on ships on the move, so getting used to the sedentary lifestyle aboard a “pre-po” took some getting used to. I had a habit of going up and talking to the third mate Brett Smith while he was on watch. I sent my emails up on the bridge at the same time every day, and so after a short time I became friends with him and the AB who was on watch with him. They were both good guys, and as luck would have it we each had similar music tastes.
Eventually we got into books we liked. Of course I had to talk all about Salinger. I probably went on and on about Hemmingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson, and so on and so forth in that fashion. Bret was right there with me though. See, I don’t just go on like that when I feel like the person I’m talking to has no clue what I am saying. When I meet someone like him who has read many of the same books like that though, it’s like a burst of conversation, because I mainly enjoy and appreciate these books alone. Finally it came up, “On the Road, there’s a book I need to read. I haven’t read that in so many years.” I don’t think we even talked that much about it. Brett just looked at me and knew my dilemma.
Brett went home not long after that. A week later a package showed up at my door. He had sent me two books. One I wanted to read, and one he wanted me to read. The other book was “Confederacy of Dunces” and I liked it. Then there was a vintage paperback copy of “On the Road.” It was Yellow. It smelled like old book. On the cover is a guy making out with a girl on top of an old Chevy with a flat tire and a jug of wine. I was afraid of it at first. I had been on a Tom Robbins kick and just kept avoiding it. Finally I read it. Again. It was entirely different this time. This time I saw something different. This time I knew that I was different.
I’ve since been working my way through the Legend of Duluoz.
The main engine is a Hitachi B&W. That’s a Burmeister and Wain design built by Hitachi Shipbuilding Engineering. She was built in the fall of 1976. I guess that was just prior to the Carter Administration. Jimmy Carter had nothing to do with the construction of this engine what-so-ever. He wasn’t even president then.
She’s a big tall gray monstrosity with six cylinders capable of producing 11,200 brake horsepower. At full sea speed she turns about 130 revolutions per minute, which makes for a pretty good beat if you ask me. Much better than the sluggish 100 RPM or so, and way nicer than anything medium speed I can tell you right now. Pielstick never made an engine you could dance to. Not even close.
The exhaust valves are hydraulically opened, and then closed by the force of the red and green springs that are hard to miss as soon as you walk down into the engine room. Exhaust escaping into the manifold, and some into the engine room, sounds like a drummer keeping time on the high hat. Slight differences in timing and rack settings give each cylinder a distinctly different sound that provides the tempo of a solidly played six string base guitar. Then there is the melody; the random drone of the turbochargers as they get dirtier and dirtier giving off vibrations that vary in ways to create a melodic affect like a synthesizer being slowly played while the baseline marched mechanically and methodically onward. Finally, to back it all up, is the percussion. The springs forcing the valves back in place, plus the clanks of the valves actually hitting the seat, has the quality of a well played and well stocked drum kit.
Sometimes the DEU will stand in the machine shop smoking a cigarette and tapping her foot. The OMU stands idly by her bobbing his head and smiling with a Gatorade in his hand. At this point you might feel inclined to go stand in front of the lathe and wait for the bartender to come back so you an order a beer, but forget it, because that bastard has been on break since I got here, and lately, I have begun to question his existence.
Different areas of the engine room will give you different effects. Down by the lube oil purifier it kind of sounds like Pink Floyd droning on. Sometimes when in the control room it can morph into a calypso quality that will make you want to run screaming out onto the fantail, which was cool by the way because they shoot you with a tranquilizer dart. Do you know what they put in those things? Tranquility, that’s what. But when the stress gets to you and you need to relax, I suggest that you go down and hang out next to the crankcase doors over by the bilge pump. The humming of the crossheads and journals combined with the rhythmic whir of the line shaft and stern tube bearings will somewhat resemble chanting Buddhist monks.
You can pump the bilge and calmly enjoy a life free of desire, but don’t let them catch you smiling serenely. They are a bunch of ruthless bastards. They are followers of Ayn Rand, and you are a threat to their way of life. If they catch you, they will most likely lock you in a room somewhere, and then send in this guy who looks like Hank Reardon’s ghost. He’ll be wearing a three-piece suit with a matching hat, smoking an unfiltered cigarette, and carrying a leather briefcase or maybe some blueprints under his arm to help him over-emphasize the extent of his importance. His job will be to convert you, but stand your ground man. They are as dumb as they are ruthless, and with any luck you can be out of there unscathed in four or maybe five days.
Hey my brother keep posting !! I really don`t read much but i do ,did, read your postings , or most of them ,, hey i enjoy it !! so feel free to speak your mind .. it don`t matter what you write abt. your home here .. if some folks have negative feelings abt. it ,,well they should not read it .. that simple .. I for instance , can`t stand our local TV stations so i do not wach it .. that simple ... keep writing man ,, peace and good wishes to you !! I`ll keep reading .. OH yea reedchris , whats up with Mary ?? Hope all is well !! peace to everyone !!! screw the negativeity !!
I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the good vibes and comments and everything. If there is one thing I need to learn it is going to be to take some negativity if I am going to put myself out there a little bit. I've been writing all my life, but to be honest I only started sharing anything with anybody recently. Since I have been posting things on here, and getting feedback from people who would otherwise read the kinds of things I am drawn to, I have changed my direction to better suit what I should be doing instead of keeping it under my hat and saving it for another day when other things get done. The Grateful Dead, the lot and the community surrounding the Dead, and especially the positive spirits of all my brothers and sisters out there have made all the difference in my life. I guess the time has come for me to start trying to give back, and you guys are my jumping off point, my test audience if you will. Thank you for letting me have Africa. I promise not to abuse it. The reason I chose it was that I thought nobody would care. I'm not from there, but so many important things have happened to me while I was there that it is a part of me.
So for now, reedchris, did you ever find out if Mary is pregnant or not? I've got an un-explainable urge to go make me a big ole crabby patty. Thanks you guys, it feels good to be one of you.
Put your good where it will do the most.
-The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Feel free to speak your mind. I apologize for the people who are too ignorant to comprehend your thoughts, and life experiences. We're all here because we have a common interest. However, this site enables us to bleed our conciousness and opinions into a visual pool for all folk to pick and choose from. Some people are receptive, and some people are reluctant to the ideas and facts before them. Don't worry about these people. We out number them 1,492:1
I for one am terrified of roller coasters...
It's cool. If some real African Deadheads come along we'll worry about it then!