Monday, November 21, 2005

A Sentimental Journey

I miss my time at sea and working at the fish cannery.

The little cannery where I grew up was run by a one-eyed Norwegian woman and was located right on the coast because that’s where the fish were. She took me in after the orphanage burned and I had nowhere else to turn because, in our village, there were no wolves to raise me as their own.

We produced 40 types of fish and seafood products, 15 types of preserves, as well as salted, smoked and dried fish, ready-made fish products and frozen fish. Strict quality control, high-quality packaging, high-quality taste and the introduction of new technology enabled us to achieve success in the domestic and international markets. I loved that old Norwegian woman.

And in the off season, we used to make sausages. Oh! How I remember when it came time to drown the pigs in sausage season! We’d drive them to the shore like lemmings and in they’d tumble. They’d kick at first, but they’d stop moving after a few minutes and we’d scoop them out and put them on the truck. And they’d make the best sausages you’ve ever tasted. Hoo-eee! Must have been the salt water.

I spent several summers on a whaling ship. Oh, that was a time! We’d spot an old humpback and run for the whaleboats. Some lucky fellow would get that whale with a harpoon, and off we’d go on a “Nantucket Sleigh Ride,” pulled along by that big old whale. He’d get tired after two or three hours, then we’d bring him on in and cut him up good. And he’d make the best sausages you’ve ever tasted.

One year I missed whaling altogether because I had crabs, but I don’t want to talk about that right now.

One time that old Norwegian lady got sick. Awful sick. I don’t know if she had tuberculosis or the plague or maybe she finally succumbed to fish lung — a lot of our boys got that — but, whatever it was, she was in a bad way. I’d been at the cannery shoveling fish guts when I got the word. By the time I got to her, she was just barely alive. We spoke for a while, her voice getting weaker and weaker. I held her hand all that night and into the next. Finally, that old Norwegian lady died. And she made the best sausages you’ve ever tasted!

I miss my time at sea and working at the fish cannery.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I’ve Got a Right to Sling the Booze

“It’s my birthday today,” the gentleman said as he bellied up to the bar,
His tie was askew, his nose was all red, and his eyes were black as coal tar.
“So here I have come with no time to waste for a glass of your finest Merlot.
Just a touch — a smidgen, a taste — and then I really must go.”

“A jolly old wine,” the man averred, “And what a lovely bouquet!
I’ll take one more and then, on my word, I really must be away.
So tasty this wine! I’d sample a third, but I’ve really no time to lose.
Oh, what the Hell! But I think you misheard — this time I’d rather have booze.”

“A gamut of gimlets, if you’d be so kind, for whiskey and scotch I abhor.
Then I’ll be off, I’m sure you won’t mind … my, what a generous pour!
Again with the gin!” was the tippler’s call, “I’m starting to warm to this place.
It’s my birthday, it is, and I’m having a ball!” he said, a big boozy flush to his face.

The bartender warned, “Have a care! You don’t know what that much will do.”
But the man, he chose not to beware and kept on swilling her brew.

“’Smy birthday today!” the man again told her, “I think I deserve a small drink
Just to affirm that I’m older … I can have another snort, doncha think?
I like you … you’re a nice lady. And I like the way you pour gin.
Say! What’s your name? Katie? Kate, how ’bout you hit me again!”

“I think I’d like to sit here a while and enjoy a cocktail or two.
I’ll sit on this stool and bask in your smile. So, Katie — what’s up with you?
What brings a girl so fragrant and fair to this place so vile and so low?
To breathe this stale cigarette air where these loathsome inebriates go?”

“Katie, ’smy birthday today. It’s time to see what you’ve got.
It’s time we threw caution away — and this time I’ll buy you a shot.
And, of course, I’ll share one with you to show you that I’m not a fake.
I’ll drink anything you can drink, too. I’ll drink any ol’ drink you can make.”

The man showed signs of his drinking — swaying, slurring his speech
Katie made the drinks without thinking. She mixed two mighty shots — one each.

“That’s good! That shot’s a kicker!” He polished it off with ease.
“There’s nothing like a good liquor. I’d like another one, please!”
But, that one drink became two, “Then how ’bout a small splash!
Then — no ’ffense to you — but I’ll have to drink and then dash.”

“I gotta fly out of here like a comet — if you’ll walk me out to my car.
’Cause the truth is I think I might vomit, and I don’t want to barf on your bar.
Just let me lean on your shoulder. Are you kidding? Of course I can drive!
You know, I may be a year older, but I’ve never felt so alive!”

“Thanks, Katie, ol’ pal” was all he could mutter as he settled in at the wheel.
“You’re a g-gem,” she heard the man stutter, “Oh ... I gotta get home for real!
You heard me there, Kate — no question, I really must leave.
You’ve kept me out far, far too late ... and I think I’m getting ready to heave!”

Katie stepped back and let the man go, she watched the pitiful sot leave
The man should not have been driving, though, she sadly watched his car weave.

“I’m the King of Today!” the birthday boy roared as he madly careened down the street.
“I’ve drunk the best drink Man’s hand ever poured, and Katie’s the best you could meet.”
So delighted was he that he floored it, and squealed with delight and with glee.
The oncoming truck, he ignored it — then he slammed right into a tree.

That sound! Why, it was horrendous! The carnage was equally so!
The damage and wounds were tremendous, they were able to find most of him, though.
They carefully took the pieces they found and laid them to rest six feet under.
Now that man is Heavenly bound … Why? It makes a man wonder.

So, take heed when your time comes to revel. Turn down the Merlot and the gin!
I’ve seen it all — on the level! Just turn out the lights and stay in!
It’s not worth your life to make merry, it can be fatal to paint the town red.
Next time could be you that they bury, best not to drink yourself dead.

Thursday, November 3, 2005


I did something to myself I wish I hadn’t done. As I wrote in an e-mail to a friend a little earlier, “... I’m experiencing a little discomfort today. Before I left the house, I bent over to pick up some cat vomit and cracked a rib or something. Now, every time I move a certain way, it elicits a, ‘Hut!’ sound. I sound like a quarterback when I move funny.” It has also affected my ability to suck in my gut, so I look a little more paunchy than usual.

Again, I’m alone in the office. The most work I’ve done so far today is trying to get the shell off a stubborn pistachio. You know, the kind that has no crack for you to get your thumbnails into. I’ve got a couple of invoices to code and send to accounting, but they can wait, they can wait.

Now I see it is 1:00. Time to go get a sandwich from our little café downstairs. And only four hours before I can head home. I have a funny feeling the office will close a little early today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Our Brush With Inconvenience

Do what you love, love what you do, leave the world a better place and don’t pick your nose. — Jeff Mallett, Frazz, 8/3/2004

I walked in the house last night after work ready to enjoy a nice glass of Chianti only to find Matt, the roommate, stripped to the waist, head hanging limp over a bucket of blood. After a quick assessment, I recognized the symptoms, “Bleeding from one or both nostrils” as evidence of a nosebleed. And I mean this was real hemorrhaging, not just some oozing, candy-assed nosebleed. I’m talking great gouts of blood! Real carnage!

Matt has been taking a blood thinner since his unfortunate heart attack last year, so he bleeds liberally. And this had already been going on for several hours without showing any signs of stopping. As you may know, a nosebleed that lasts more than 20 minutes is one that requires medical attention.

Now, I was all about having my glass of Chianti and going to bed early. But one look at Matt sitting there with a great, gory stalactite of half-congealed blood hanging from his nose convinced me to abandon my plans and stand by anxiously in case I was needed to rush him to the hospital.

Nothing we could do would staunch the bleeding. He applied pressure; he stuck a wad of absorbent material in his nostril; he applied a bag of frozen green beans (we didn’t have any ice) to the exterior of his nose; he drank a homeopathic concoction of cayenne pepper that was supposed to stop it. To no avail. After the third hour of steady bleeding, I bundled him in the car, bucket and all, and headed for the emergency room.

Here’s where it gets a little anti-climactic, because Matt went away to see the doctor while I sat in the waiting room for two and a half hours. Presumably, they took Matt back, stopped the bleeding and cleaned him up, but that’s largely irrelevant, as this story is really about me.

Here’s what I saw. A little girl who had been busted in the face by some other kid; a chunky girl with a dislocated shoulder; a woman who was there for a sleep study; a gang banger in a basketball jersey and four or five of his loudest friends; a guy with food poisoning who looked like he was going to heave all over the floor; a shifty salesman from Alabama with an ugly woman; and assorted other people with various maladies.

Finally, Matt came back. He was all fixed up good as new. We went home and went our separate ways. But, it gives me chills to think of what *could* have happened if I hadn’t come home when I did. He was teetering on the edge of consciousness when I got there. Another few minutes and we could have lost him! But, for good or ill, I guess it was not his time.

* * * * * *

King Hussein of Jordan nearly bled to death from a nosebleed.

Attila the Hun developed a nosebleed on his wedding night and choked to death in a stupor.