Friends Named Cheva

     I like friends.  I have a friend who now lives in North Carolina coming to see me on Monday.  It may not sound like a story for a blog but this friend is special.  And special friends are hard to come by and they always come with a story.  Friends become special when you share exciting, happy, sad or fun times.  Much was exciting when we were young and full of piss and vinegar. 

     I have many friends and they all don’t live in the neighborhood I grew up in.  Marc was someone who took me under his wing when I showed up to a new job.  I was young, probably not even twenty.  I was confident and sure of myself but sometimes that is tested in certain situations.  My job had taken me from Spain to Boston Massachusetts.  My job was to be a sailor on a tin-can destroyer.  A great chance to work hard and the opportunity to play hard.  On the first day on my new ship I rolled into the mess (cafeteria) at lunch and was confronted with the need to find a friendly place to sit.  And like a new kid in high school “who the fucks the new guy” was an anthem that appeared to be playing out with the sailors around me.  One guy with a broad smile, surrounded by other jovial sailors, looked up and said “Hey come on over and sit here.”  So as to make room for me on the bench he pushed himself left and then pushed himself to his right moving other guys . 

     He introduced himself to me as “Marc, but my friends call me Cheva” and asked me what my name was and what my job was on the ship.  I introduced myself as “John and I’m a Boatswains Mate.”  With a thunderous clap on my back he said “Johnny Boats, welcome to the USS Edson.”  The details of our conversation during that lunch escape me but that moment never will.  Neither will the nickname.  Twenty two years have passed since that moment and apparently neither will our friendship.  I like friends.

September 16, 2006 at 12:11 am 11 comments

the philosophic relationship between god and the caller id

One of the best things god has created in this pre-millennium era is the caller id.  You wonder how the household survived prior to the intervention of this remarkable invention.  Everyone knows that the phone won’t ring until you pick up a hammer, break out the 2000 piece puzzle or start supper. 

If I consider my history with Ma Bell it wasn’t until I became a teenager that I actually remember talking into it on a regular basis.  Before my teenage years it was an occasional conversation with an auntie or my Nan.  As a teenager it became the conduit to meet up with friends and lovers.  During my twenties my lifestyle dictated that a phone was no use whatever.  I worked from boat to boat to port to port to couch to couch.  My life became the neighborhood of the port I was living in.  Occasionally I would drop the obligatory post card or some letter inspired by an emotion that squeezed out of the haze of those times. 

 

Today as I move around my kitchen cooking dinner, replacing a pacifier where it belongs, trying to impart socially acceptable behaviors to my oldest three, loading the dishwasher, yelling at my oldest three, stubbing my toe the phone will ring.  My relationship with Ma Bell has changed dramatically.  Now that I get needs met at home, my work rarely calls, my friends call a few times a week, the phone is hardly ever for me.  This means that when it does shiver out a bell noise I rarely break stride in what I’m doing.  If I’m partially curious to know who is calling I will listen to the answering machine, if by happenstance I’m right next to the phone I might flip it over and glance at the caller id to see who it is.  In the conversational world of Ma Bell I wield self imposed god like powers as I refuse to answer any call from any 1-800#’s nor will I answer any call whose number I don’t recognize.  Upon reflection, perhaps this attitude is reflective of how I have been beaten up by relentless phone peddlers banging away at me to buy ginsu knives, support the Fraternal Order of Police, Vietnam Veterans Association, insurance, mortgages, financial planning or a bridge over land in Florida. 

…no more surprises nor more rude salesman just the people who I want to talk to.  Tell me the caller id wasn’t inspired by god.

September 5, 2006 at 11:43 pm 6 comments

circumcision and semi-automatic guns

If there was a secret and easy method to live life and not experience the stress, headaches and other sundry of emotions that the living experience, the keeper of the secret could make a bundle selling it as a manual.  Yes I’m sure a few readers are thinking there is the Bible, Koran, Das Kapitol, Torah and whatever the middle eastern zealots read.  No they are not a good example.  Forget the middle easterns…it appears they are currently not happy and nor do I believe in their history have they ever been too happy.  Well except for when you see them burning American Flags and shooting semi-automatic weapons in the air to celebrate whatever event it is that a group of people gather with semi-automatic guns to celebrate.  What life event would that be exactly?  Is it the protocol for circumcision, loosing a tooth, divorce, marriage, birthday? 

I often experience stress.  Tight shoulders, tight and sore jaw, cranky attitude aimed towards those who I love most.  Thats how I roll.  I hate stress and my negative  for many reasons.  Any moron can figure out why they respond to stress in their own certain way.  Some read the bible, gamble, use drugs and alcohol, meditate and use violence, pray, sex, tv and the gym.  Some do all of the above.  Some do a couple.  Many do none of the above.  Some may talk about how they think and how they feel.  This is generally the last option for me.  I like to generate solutions on my own.  I don’t like the idea of listening to other people and their advice.  It never seems to hit the mark because I rarely express exactly what I think or feel.  It seems I speak in generalities leaving the potential sage/listener/priest/friend without all the info they need to reach me in times of need.

The question is how much would you or I pay for a book that would solve the sundry life problems, thoughts and feelings that can plague the human condition.  My question would be “Do you take credit cards?”

September 4, 2006 at 2:13 am 5 comments

nature vs. nurture – you decide

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I would like to know if the event shown above is related to boy genetics or is this an event that has been taught to them and learned by them as they have grown up.  You may notice exactly what has occurred.  If it difficult to tell what these young lads have been up to so allow me to explain.  These young lads have brought each and every pillowed article that this family owns.  One of them or all together they have conspired and developed what must be one of the tallest couch construction sites of a pillow fort currently on record.  I’m not quite sure who a pillow fort would protect them from but they built it none the less.  Perhaps they have orchestrated this monstrosity simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Please also bring into your decision the fact the new born girl has been brought into the picture for what reason?  Did she help build it or was she there as eye candy or was it built to impress her.  The tallest boy child is my nephew and the others share my gene pool including by dna.  I must admit.  These boy cubs have far exceeded their fathers ability to imagine and construct a fort made of pillows.

                

August 29, 2006 at 12:07 am 5 comments

wrasslin’

My boys love to wrestle around.  When you go to watch a boxing match the Official Time Keeper always uses a traditional bell -“DING-DING”- to start and end a round of a match.  We can be out shopping and the intercom in the ceiling “ding-dings” to gather the employee’s attention.  My children freeze in their tracks.  They look like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz stuck in unnatural positions.  Simultaneously their heads pivot on their shoulders to where they are all looking towards one another.  Each pair of eyes sparkle and shimmer with a glint of fiendish delight.  Their shoulder’s go up around their ears, their hands come up to the ready stance and a split second later three boys are stepping towards each other and forming a three ring wrasslin’ match.  They get about a second to pummel each other and I step in with a “hey hey” and a snap of my fingers.  They each back up a step at a time, hands still outstretched ready for any illegal punch, GRINNING like boys who just touched the top of the world. 

August 25, 2006 at 7:09 pm 5 comments

nascar

Man, sometimes in my life I have thought to myself “what the fuck.”  Can this be any worse?  Granted ninety-nine percent of those life experiences were orchestrated by this “myself.”  Upon reflection there are stories of circumstances in my life where my inabilities, inexperienced-ness, and of course stupidity dressed up as machismo or bravado have also contributed to the role I play in the bizarre events of my life. 

I was working on a research vessel.  An amazing rig.  It was a 70 foot aluminum hulled catamaran.  On its aft deck was a piece of equipment that drilled the earth with precision.  Our job was to hunt for sand.  Hurricanes and other storms often pull sand off beaches and other coastal areas.  Our job was to search out patches of sand formations.  Plot out and document the sands whereabouts and then call for the dredge to pick up it up and return it to its original starting place on the shore.  What a great job huh?  It was.  My uniform was a pair of shorts, boots and a pseudo mullet.  On super hot days there was also the optional pith helmet.

On not a sunny or a hot day in the north east I remember this one incident.  We were tied up at a spot that put us right next to the Statue of Liberty.  Our view ofManhattan was spectacular.  The Twin Towers were directly off the starboard bow.  The dock we were moored to was dilapidated and in disrepair.  Most importantly for the owner of the boat it was free.  If you’re unfamiliar with this area it was once owned, managed and used by the US Navy.  I believe they pulled out around the 1950’s.  The 5-6 storey buildings were over run by trees, bushes, rats and the homeless.  Literally 20-30 people lived in the vicinity.  No running water meant no toilets for the occupants.  Who needed Broadway?  Unfamiliar with the nuances and manner in which these folks survived in their life we sat like rookie NASCAR fans and just watched for the wrecks.  And man did we see some.

Our pier looked liked a child stacked Lincoln Logs together until it reached out into the harbor.  Many of the pylons had collapsed and tilted at unnatural architectural angles.  We knew to stay away from them.  We tied up half way between the end of the broken dock and the shore.  It seemed like the best place.  It needed some work to be manageable.  It would never be safe.

  A pylon is actually a telephone pole that is driven into the seabed.  Laid out flat it’s useless but driven into the earth at regular intervals a fine and solid dock can be constructed.  It was one such pole that brought me to confound my existence.   One pylon about 45 feet long laid out on the broken dock was giving us fits.  It made it difficult to tie to the dock and it made it more unsafe to enter and exit the boat.  It was time to move it.  Remember the machine that dug holes.  It was also capable to lift very heavy pieces of equipment.  But let’s forget about that.  I did.  Let’s just consider youth, strength and bravado as the name of the game.  I did.  If you want something moved just move it. Right?  Just bend over and pick it up.  I did.  It brought on one of the most painful experiences of my life.  I lifted the end that had been dipped in creosote to protect it from the elements.  I pivoted my end about ten feet to my left.  Leaning back with a grunt I pulled it towards me to clear a pylon that was broken and pushing itself away from the seabed.  When it cleared the hang up the pylons weight gave me a push and I was forced to concede.  I stumbled backwards still holding the pole.   I adjusted my balance and prepared to heave it one more time.  I needed it to fit between two other broken poles for it to be secured and out of the crews’ way.  The goal was to push it up to shoulder height, pivot it to my left and then on its way down squeeze it between two poles that were pushing up through the dock.  Up, over and almost down it went. On the way down I misjudged the gap between the two poles.  I took into consideration the width of the pole.  But didn’t manage to account for width of my middle finger on my right hand.  That sucker took the brunt of it.  When I was able to pull my hand away all I could do is clasp my hands together, bend over and put my hands between my knees.  The engineer was in my grill looking up in my face shouting “Are you ok?”  Have you ever noticed that pain can remove your ability and desire to speak out loud.  In my head was saying “Shut the F#@* UP! I didn’t make a noise or cry out.  After a minute or maybe 30 seconds I was able to get my hand out from between my legs for a look.  I had no idea what to expect.  I certainly didn’t expect what I saw.  My shit was flat.  From the first knuckle out to my nail. Flat.  Wow.  It was like watching a NASCAR wreck.  You want to look at it, then you turn away but you always have to go back for another look.

August 23, 2006 at 9:03 pm 9 comments

Whipping my culture out can be fun.

How can I describe what it feels like to have a North-East Coast accent and my appearance is American.  I feel like a fraud some days.  In my heart of hearts, I know my heart is different then my neighbors.  It was shaped differently.  Not better, not bigger, nor is it sweeter.  It’s just different. 

I have friends.  Very good friends.  I have made closer friendships then people who have lived in this community their entire life.  I have friends who I consider and love as my own family. 

Even so I can sense there is a piece of me that sometimes feels neglected.  Unplayed.  Not brought out into the sun.  Put away. My culture is in a dish in a closet.  The culture I learned to define myself in, learned about and shaped my life in, developed a sense of art in, learned to express myself and communicate in, created my sensibilities regarding church, humour, love, politics and songs is often different then my closest friends.  Even my partner. 

Whipping my culture out can be fun.  It nourishes me.  Allows me to feel myself.  I often think in an English accent much like any foreigner will think in their mother tongue.  I often speak with an accent to my children.  They don’t think me fraudulent.  I repeat sayings that my mum, grandparents, aunties and uncles and those who loved me said to me.  What they said and what I say to my children is not so important.  It is in the manner, tone and inflection of my voice in which they spoke to me that I am repeating.  Soft reassuring and loving tones that communicated feelings of being cared about without actually saying the words “I love and care about you.”

It’s not just about what shit sounds like it’s what it tastes like too.  “Have you ever had a proper cuppa’ tea?”  I thought that in a
London accent.  That’s where I’m from. 

Don’t mistake any of this as unpatriotic.  I love and respect
America.  I cry every time I sing the national anthem at a ball game.  I know all the words. And I feel them in my heart.  I have honorably served in this country’s armed forces.  I live here and know how lucky I am.

August 22, 2006 at 9:22 pm 6 comments

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