Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I wasn't going to post this. I thought it would be too controversial and would cost me friends. I have realized now that I am ok with that potential outcome. I doubt that this can top anything else I have written so I am saying fuck it. Time to saddle up. I cant stand this world. The rules are irrelevant, and created by a few that know not our troubles. This isn't truly directed at any specific person but if you feel you are being called out then that might be the case. I am tired of a world that tells us that violence is unacceptable as bombs rain down on the innocent in pursuit of the maintenance of power and control. This country is, at best, nothing more than the long continued result of what Great Britain may have been well within their rights to deem a violent terrorist insurrection yet our leaders confidently set us out as the sole propeitors of moral sanction of violence of any sort. Fuck that. We are living on borrowed time and the rest of the world will pay us back in kind shortly. East Timor in 1972, look it up. We owe great debts that cannot be forborn forever. I am lost. This used to disturb me but I have realized now that if I felt I belonged to this I would be failing both myself and others many times over. I do not belong. I will not submit. We are not flawless or the voices of right.

Free Verse, Untitled, 08/30/2013
More than anything I am gripped by the feeling that I am lost and cannot overcome this sense of placelessness, both of body and mind. Nothing ever feels to be truly mine in this world and the continual drive to seize even the most infinitesimal hand or foot hold is sucking me dry. Through it all the days slip by ever faster and the feeling lingers, unabated, ever present.
I was not around when the rules were made, and hence, un-consulted and disillusioned, I reject the parts I find incongruous and substitute my own. Others, many others, have done this before me and were called radicals, troublemakers, muck rakers, and live wires. I wear the brand of all of these with pride. It is the only proof I have for myself that I am doing something right. This is something I suppose, but still cold comfort most days, and especially nights.
Those I find closest to myself are still so far from me. The gap is startlingly wide despite our many similarities. They seek social justice by talking about it, or clinging desperately to an electoral system that even a half wit destroyed by ether can clearly and easily see to be a farce. All of their seemingly infinite potential wasted on the trivial. GAY MARRIAGE! GAY MARRIAGE!  They all love to talk endlessly about the deep and meaningful nature of sanctioned gay marriage. I do not oppose sanctioned gay marriage. BUT…there are countless people in this country WITHOUT JOBS, who can’t PAY THEIR BILLS, OR WHO EVEN WITH MEDICAL INSURANCE CANNOT AFFORD THE CARE THEY NEED TO LIVE. Surely this profiteering and lack of compassion in the financial and social structure takes priority? GAY MARRIAGE! GAY MARRIAGE! Oh the infinite bliss of SANCTIONED COCK, in SANCTIONED ASS. But what about an almost total dearth in respectable jobs with a living wage attached? “Jesus Jeremy, be more homophobic.” I sigh, sigh, sigh. RATIONAL PRIORITIZATION is NOT DESCRIMINATION against your preferred method of EJACULATION. Let’s work out the food air deal. Basic necessities for the masses supersede the desires of a tiny minority in importance. I shudder not in the least to say it.
You busy yourself with the occupy movement while mocking me for educating myself and quietly waiting for the right moment to strike. Congregating, chanting, practicing poor hygiene, and making a pathetic nuisance of yourselves does not advance any meaningful agenda. Yet as you mock me those I love will adore your snarky little quips because you are so funny, so special, you are all the most special of all the poo flinging monkeys riding your canvas powered contraptions hither and yon with neither point nor purpose. Sometimes I am truly grateful for how poorly this community treated me, as it showed me the waste and futility of time spent within it. Were it not for her the waste and futility would have been complete.
EQUAL RIGHTS! EQUAL RIGHTS! FREEDOM FROM INJUSTICE FOR THE GAYS! Yet so many of you watched injustice occur before your very eyes, on the same decks we trod together and could summon not even a protest, neither then, nor now. Only one of you lived up to your supposed ideals of fairness in your everyday life. Thank you dear lady for the courage you showed as the rest smiled, nodded, agreed with me and did nothing. Loud thunder, bright lightning, no rain. NOTHING. EQUAL RIGHTS! EQUAL RIGHTS! FREEDOM FROM INJUSTICE FOR THOSE WE LIVE OUR LIVES BESIDE! You need not look far to find something worth fighting for. Be honest with yourselves, despite all your gay marriage armchair advocacy, has anyone you ever saw being really, truly, abused publicly been a gay person? Are they being pelted with rocks in the streets? I think I may have been called a “fagget” by an employer more times than any gay person I have ever met. One of you was particularly proud of standing against nasty dialogue, praising yourself extensively for removing improper use of the terms “gay” and “retarded” from your lexicon. Yet somehow you still managed to behave like a pompous, sarcastic, and verbally abusive ass to those around you. Was there really a point to your ever so commendable self improvement? You might say you never saw me do the same. I retort that I never made it a priority because I don’t give a shit. I might still say “gay” and “retard” but I treated those we worked with respectfully and never took joy in their suffering. Also if I treated someone poorly I always apologized and made it right.

FREEDOM FROM INJUSTICE! Cry you all, but have you the metal to see it through? Can you come to grips with the stark reality of what justice requires? Your polite entreaties to a hardened system with a mind only for profit and the maintenance of a very well camouflaged tyranny count for less than nothing. True change, true justice, must mature within a populace very gradually and eventually will require boot heel, bayonet, and rifle butt. Scoff till your heart’s content but this society will continue upon same course until this manifests. You find this thought repugnant, appalling, radical. This is simply because you bought the lie early. I cannot be the only one who finds it suspicious that a morally bankrupt society teaches children from their entrance into the schools that it is unequivocally wrong to raise your hand in violence against another human being while all the while slaughtering indigenous populations the world over in pursuit of profit and control. “Those with no moral conscience fear only physical correction” said Hemingway. Hence this system, by its very nature, requires the complicity of a passive populace, such as results from brainwashing aimed at making violence socially unacceptable from the earliest possible moment. This never stuck in me. I am not sure why. You are weak in mind and body. Change is not within you. You are willing only to judge me for my acceptance of violent words and actions that I deem justifiable. I will never change myself to make you more comfortable. If you have come to fear me, you have done something to deserve my ill will and hence I have no regrets. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On the Spirituality of streams and fish.

So today i put my line in the water for Erie steelhead for the first time in a year. I only caught one fish, decent sized, but not amazing and this was still one of the best days of my life. I had forgotten, or at least allowed to fade in my mind, the joy of a trout that one cannot fit ones hand around. At the end of any succesful battle of man versus fish comes the inevitable decision of consumption versus conservation. I prefer to think of it as consumption versus fairness. The fish gives me only its best effort no matter how cruelly I may have deceived it. There is nothing more beautiful to me than holding an exhausted fish, just slightly submerged in the recovery position, nose pointed upstream to run water over its gills and provide it with oxygen, thrust it upstream in the water two or three times, then release it and feel its muscles twitch driving it out into the stream again, essentially no different than when I found it. I love fish better than most people. My best for their best, simplicity, honor, honesty. No lies, no bullshit. Man, fish, stream.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Zen at one and a half barge lengths

            I had recently become enamored with the idea of “peace around the next bend.” Which implies that perhaps life, like a river, meanders, and that eventually one of these serpentine portions will gracefully unroll itself before me with a peaceful utopia waiting, laid beautifully at my feet on the other side. I believe I became enamored with this because I am tired. Tired of endlessly living out of duffle bags and sleeping on boats in hammocks and tiny bunks. Tired of feeling that I have no fixed place in this world that is mine. Tired of Mariah, and so many others that I love so dearly feeling so far away all too often. I became enamored with this idea because I am scared all the time, mostly of rejection, breach of trust, and an apparently almost total lack of human gratitude and decency. I am afraid of every woman in my life because if thirty seven years of selfless sacrifice and hard work does not merit absolute and unyielding loyalty what can I give to obtain it? My trust of others is a small green shoot shattered in seeming perpetuity only to rise up again still poignantly aware of how badly each past betrayal hurt. I’m tired of being tired, tired of being scared, and most of all tired of being angry. Despite my hatred of all these feelings they are part of the boat that is my life. No matter my relation to each new bend I’m still on this boat. This boat is my ride. This boat is my life.

            I have finally realized that peace will not come around the next bend. Peace must come from within. Though the fatigue, fear, and anger may never fade completely, peace exists in a mind empty enough to evaluate every interaction, moment, new face, and trial as it comes. The bends obfuscate no magical solution. I found an analogy on a boat. Something magical happens about one and a half barge lengths out on a five barge length tow. All of the noise pollution of two 1500 horse marine diesels fades into an oblivion so beautiful it elevates the state of the soul. All of the roiling, throbbing, discontent of this diesel fueled beast fades off , slides right out of the mind, out of existence, and standing there in the sun with a breeze on your face life becomes shockingly simple, quiet, and serene. You know just what to do and set about it as you and 22,500 tons of coal and steel slip effortlessly through the water as if only your sense of purpose and contentment propel it. This feeling is peace, zen one and a half barge lengths out. I believe the analogy fits. All that remains is to find this place, removed just enough from the negative energy of my boat for peace to prosper.

Monday, September 9, 2013

This was all I got out of a five week hitch on the rivers. oh well, better than nothing.

Seated upon a coil of line
On the head of a towboat
Shrouded in the fog
That rose, interminable from the
Brown serpentine line of
That ancient river was a man.

Thousands of miles from what he loved
What mattered.
What granted meaning.

Eleven months gone now
In a blur of displacement
And commuting, punctuated
Only by notable highlights
And the stubborn ghosts
Of the past, their corporal
Form sticking stubbornly
To the secret inner workings of his mind.
The sanctuary violated.
A consciousness marred, yet subtly
Improved by the vagaries of
The world, and the callous, wanton
Hate the people that walked through it so frequently
And tragically, displayed.

So few are good to one another.
So he will float perpetually
In escape amongst the brown water,
Industrial ratchets, steel cable,
Kevlar lines, cheater pipes, and sweat.

He will cleave these tows in half
And force them through locks one
Cut at a time until the process,
The barges, each lock, and every inch
Of river becomes part of his soul.

And someday, perhaps, he will find peace.

Just around that next bend.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Masculinity musings

So, I am still attempting to finish the epilogue of my thesis while the duties associated with tow boating do their damnedest to pound me into the dirt. Despite this, something approaching a meaningful final thought has shaken free from the cobwebs in my head.
So much of hemingway's life is a case study in threatened masculinity. This is simply a paradigm of what it is to be a man that has failed to develop in any meaningful way since the mid 19th century. In large part in hinges upon our ability as men to provide for a family, dominate a workplace environment, and reign supreme over all threatening groups and social changes. This paradigm is, hopefully obviously, a total joke in our modern society, yet persists in the face of the clear conclusion that it does we men a great disservice.
There are very few if any jobs readily available, nothing that will make we modern men feel like masters of anything. The world is diverse and the heterogeneity rapidly increasing. Try as you might dominating much of anything is a feat approaching the Herculean. Opportunity to feel confident and assertive in any aspect of life is correspondingly waning.
Their is quite simply little if any meaning to be derived from the code and it is in sore need of rejection and reformulation.
Of course my example is going to innvolve boats. My former field of employment was tall ships sailing. In my experience I know of no other field in which so many men, insecure and culturally adrift made more obvious show of demeaning others to alleviate their own feelings of insecurity. This I believe is demonstrated in three basic ways.
1. Clubbing those less experienced and knowledgeable over the head with their experience in a self aggrandizing and callous manner. Little is more problematic to developing self confidence and a healthy, balanced, sense of masculine self worth than to be cut down by someone who obviously should, in light of their background, know and be able to do, much more than you.
2. Attempting to make other men feel inferior due to women outperforming them. Whether or not they should indeed do so based on background and and experience. This also plays directly into  outdated masculine paradigms predication on the idea the women are somehow innately inferior to men and hence you as a man are somehow "failing" at being a man by ever allowing a woman to be better than you at something. I met my girlfriend on my last boat. In one instance I was mocked when  she an able seamen, was assigned to be my assistant cook while I served as an ordinary seamen. The officer who informed me of this laughed and informed me this was funny because she both outranked me and "could probably take you (me) in a fight." I wonder if that was part of his selection process for picking a significant other, must be able beat her in a fist fight. I have to say that had never crossed my mind. Way to be progressive.
3. Isolating the younger and more fit/ attractive to compensatefor the negative effects of aging, ie mocking the reincarnation of what they used to be before they came off deck and got fat, old, and out of touch. Sorry, can't help it you can't diet and do some sit-ups.
These are each male on male crimes of the first order. The biggest hindrance to a positive change in the standards of conduct for being a balanced, confident, healthy male in this world? Tragically other men.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five week hitch

Normally I work two weeks at a time on a Towboat. Then I go home. Due to a confluence of factors I opted to stay out for a five week hitch this time. I am three weeks in and have some observations and thoughts.
This will be the longest I have stayed out on a vessel since last sailing season when one stretch lasted approximately six weeks. From what I can tell at the three week point this will not even come close to being as destructive as those six weeks were for me. Nothing matches the savagery of brute labor combined with verbal and psychological flagellation. Also, five consecutive weeks may be just what was needed to elevate my decking game. Repetition sustained over long periods of time has always been my recipe for excellence.
Despite all the baggage, bullshit, anger, and regret that still crops up from time to time I miss the hell out of wooden boats right now. That may, or may not be almost entirely linked to the deck crew I worked with. I miss all of you. I still contend that the officers should kiss my ass.
I, as well as captains and pilots here, appreciate the level of seamanship I bring to the world of Towboats. So despite the fact I feel like I got short sticked in what I was actually taught, thanks I guess.
Time for a nap, we've been double locking a goodly bit here on the Champion Coal so sleep is at a premium.
Two weeks to go.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Story tidbit

So this is likely going to become part of a larger story, or be converted into a poem.

Sitting on the head of the boat, shrouded in fog that rose interminable from the brown, meandering, serpent Monongahela, I was thousands of miles from what mattered to me with only my memories for company. The last eleven months have been a blur punctuated by notable highlights and the ghosts of the past, their corporal form refusing to fade permanently into the background of a consciousness marred, yet improved by the vagaries of the world and its calous disregard for the men and women that people it.
It is August 2013 and I have three weeks left on the river.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thanks Hank

Sometimes I really have to thank Bukowski for existing.

By Charles Bukowski

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the ****s and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

Monday, July 29, 2013

Blast from the Past

So I found these poems a couple days ago. Kind of forgot that they existed and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. I think. I wrote them all at a much rougher time in my life and in the end I am glad they are going out there. I think poets tend to think their later worker is always better as it is more refined. In this case I feel like I have lost some of the visceral quality that makes me appealing. Also one piece contains a fun contradiction about whether I would ever be published or not. Haha, good times.
Poetry Bomb.


Perhaps in excess
For drink
The outdoors
And in a misguided sense
Women as well

Determination to find
And write with
The perfect sentence
The strong efficient line

You are sorely missed.

I am not

I am not
Nor will I ever be
A published poet

I never drank like you did
As much
As fast
As reckless

Nor did I
As much as you

I never indulged
In the company
Of as many
Much younger women
As you did

Nor were mine crazy.

But I do enjoy
From time to time.
A hard boiled egg
Or two.

I am,

A big fucking bastard sized slice
of big fucking bastard.
I am a formidable opponent
Whose chest hairs and opposable thumbs
Create a supreme advantage.
I can open a can,
To feed your asses and
At the same time
Knap a flint blade,
Affix it
To a stick
And instantly upset
The entire food chain.

If I so desire
I can put a worm
On bent metal
And deceive a fish
Into giving me its life
So that I can eat
If I should find myself in need of food,
And lacking any of the cellophane wrapped
Convenience nuggets
So readily available

            I was not alive yet

but first they came for the communists, and union men. Many did nothing. During WWII they came for the Jews in Europe, and the Japanese in America and still many did nothing. Then McCarthy came for the “Communists” again but more loosely defined, if defined at all. McCarthy and his drunken bullshit crusade were also much too seldom questioned and by too few.  Then the “hippies” became the threat, with their pot smoking and other highly organized subversive behavior. When I was in high school I watched the towers come down, then they came for the “Muslims” and anyone who looked, spoke, or smelled like one. At first I did nothing, then I learned how all this works and still I did too little. Soon they may come for me, just for disagreeing. When I am taken who will be there for 

In life I have few things


I have two arms
Two legs
Two hands and feet
The boots on said feet
Two balls
And my swinging dick

And I am the richest man I know.


Generally annoy me

Generally infuriate me

The world
Generally confuses me

Tends to leave me feeling
That perhaps something is missing.

Leaves no doubt
As to the goodness of being alive

The same
Can be said of cigarettes

And most emphatically so
The same can be said
Of her.

Philosophers might tell you
That life is a dream.

Fuck that.
This is, unfortunately
As real as it gets.


This life
This world
These institutions
The currency of our wretched society
Devalued as it might be
Are as far as I
Or any living soul could tell you
(sorry I have yet to hear from anyone beyond)
The only thing
We will ever know

Some years from now
If I find myself
floating in some great bullshit beyond
I will come back and let you know

Keep a fifth and
A pack of smokes close at hand.


“You don’t always die from tobacco”
Says the singing propaganda cowboy.
Well no shit Einstein,
but you knew damn well
that you could, when you started.

Don’t, good sir use your
Laryngectomy for propaganda.
You knew what could happen, hell
you probably still light up
when no one is around.
To be privy to your addiction,
of its size and scope.

You probably are or were
much like me,
a person who simply loves
to smoke cigarettes.

Even now
Whilst attempting to quit
I am glad it is largely due
To not being able to afford it.
Not because
You make ads attempting to scare me.

Today I Laughed

I continue to find throughout my life, that very few things actually remain enjoyable. My collection of video games is quite large. When I was younger I could play them forever and never grow bored. Now, they only do the job sporadically at best. Movies no longer hold that certain sway. I find the news intolerable now. Fishing, formerly a favorite now just pisses me off because I can not afford tackle. I spend the majority of every day lying around reading and watching the cats take their shits. I cannot, for the life of me get a fucking job. The black sheep of a black sheep family, not deemed as worthy of a minimum wage job in a shit town. Do not go to fucking college, unless you plan on going all the way. (I.e. a PhD) I have tried for days to shake this feeling, to find THE JOY, which I used to feel, that doing shit used to bring me. Yesterday I was reading, and a line concerning Small versus mainstream poetry mags caught my attention. “The horses’ mouth has met the horses’ ass and is eating its own shit.” I read, and then re-read it. Something happened inside me and I began to laugh; deep, natural, genuine laughter, the kind that feels better than taking a magnificent shit. Better than the best shit you ever pinched off times a thousand. Having this happen reassured me that everything will be ok. My life will still bring me joy and still does, even now bring me joy. Even just the little things, like magnificent shits and humorous lines of literature still bring me joy. 

Yellow Ribbons

I see it everywhere,
That yellow ribbon
Car bumpers,
On homes,
Or signs in front of said homes.
Even on people’s clothes.
Maybe with a flag pin as well.
Why risk being seen as unpatriotic?
Which makes me wonder.
How similar was it with swastikas?

Monday, June 17, 2013

thesis tidbit

Working on wrapping up this thesis, thought this bit was worth sharing...

Another good example, linking Nick Adams the character to Hemingway the author is the description of Nick Adams provided in the short story Fathers and Sons. The description is a spot on personification of Clarence Hemingway. Nick begins recalling his father while thinking about him teaching him to hunt quail as a boy. Nick notes the fine quality of his father’s eyes and characterizes him as having, “a big frame, the quick movements, the wide shoulders, the hooked, hawk nose, the beard that covered the weak chin.” (Shorts, 370.)  Still, Hemingway, channeled through Nick, comes back to the eyes, “they were the great gift his father had, his father saw as a big horn ram, or as an eagle sees, literally.” (Shorts, 370) Nick continues in a longer passage:
Like all men with a faculty that surpasses human requirements, his father was very nervous. Then too, he was sentimental, and, like most sentimental people, he was both cruel and abused. Also, he had much bad luck, and it was not all of it his own. He had died in a trap that he had helped only a little to set, and they had all betrayed him in their various ways before he died. All sentimental people are betrayed so many times. Nick could not write about him yet, although he would later, but the quail country made him remember him as he was when Nick was a boy and he was very greatful to him for two things: fishing and shooting. (Shorts, 370.)

The absolute authenticity of the autobiographical subject matter Hemingway so often wove into his artistic work is questionable, however, this particular rendering of Clarence Hemingway rings true, showing again a clear linkage between author and man. Shortly after the descriptive passage Nick continues to ponder the dilemma of his father, stating that “If he wrote it, he could get rid of it. He had gotten rid of many things by writing them.” (Shorts, 371.) This shows, aside form social conditioning, a young man wrestling with the past that shaped him and using his creative output for catharsis, further strengthening the link between Hemingway’s work, characters, and himself. (Shorts, 371.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Terrible Fathers Day Cards...

Every time I am confronted with a holiday involving cards I find myself the victim of a terrible dillema, shittily written cards that this culture expects you to purchase and present to your loved ones. This is particularly terrible for Mothers and Fathers day. I despise these cards. There is no "I am sorry you are slowly dying of liver disease card." I am opting out. The idea of a hack copy writer presenting something to my family makes me want to vomit, bitch please I am a published poet, and quite frankly your vapid words leave the taste of ash and shit in my mouth.
I could write said card, but I am choosing not to. I am gonna watch a fight with my Dad instead and try to be happy, or at least seem like I am.
There really is not another option.

Poem. (I don't think I posted this before)

Desolate Leaf
The last leaf, desolate on an autumn
Tree, shaken by the wind, all
Things precious to it taken.
No fellow leaves, no sunlight.

I am this leaf, the world is my
Tree, my sunlight is far away. Life is the
Wind that has rendered me thus.

You will not know sorrow until
You have held your sobbing mother
In your arms as she realizes that the person
She loves most in this world will die
Before they can share old age together.

There is a rage so dark, deep, and black
Within me that I cannot fathom it. It is beyond
Comprehension, measurement, estimation.
It cleaves stone from the granite slab of my soul.

It makes me breath smoke.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On Anger

From my last job I learned a lot about anger. The anger and resentment my last employer created in me was pervasive and ever present. This forced me to get introspective about what I was feeling, why, and to question its validity. I will preface all of this by saying that yes, I am an angry man, not generally in a blustery sort of way, but rather at the bigger picture of life in this world. Every day I see the way this world works, and every day it makes me angry. But this is generally the kind of anger that simmers gently on the inside. It keeps me thinking and from complacently accepting greed, exploitation, war mongering, ignorance and abusive behavior by those in power.
That being said what I felt towards the managers at my last job was the sort of rage one feels when one is willfully mistreated without even the decency to see the error of their actions or to apologize to those they hurt. Shortly put, both I and the majority of my lower level co workers were abused both verbally and psychologically for months on end. I observed that friends and co workers who voiced complaints were castigated, blacklisted, and alienated by the management. I felt I had no recourse but to shoulder it, keep myself wired tight, and finish out the time. The severity of the mistreatment also increased over time, so initially I thought I would have an easier time making due. I didn’t. In the end only a promise I made to a girl I love that I would stay kept me. I was bitter, I was angry, and by halfway through the season this changed the way I acted noticeably. I snapped at people, said violent things and was harder to work with at points than I am sure I have ever been before.
Despite all of this I left work the way I wanted to, holding the girls hand. She stayed for a few days after work was over, then she went home. I thought I had made it, but I wasn’t quite clear. The rage was still lodged in there and I couldn’t shake it. I would relive being mistreated in my dreams and wake up pissed off. I cannot adequately describe how awful that feels. When I called to tell my former employer I wasn’t coming back I told them I had things left to say. I was told to write them up. I did so, I wrote a searing letter. It was more than a little intense. In it I called out the management for their transgressions and the shortcomings in their program. Despite the tone of the letter, I told them I wanted this to be the end of it, that I wrote it to purge myself of negative feelings and wanted to potentially remain involved as a volunteer. Doing the work non professionally brought me joy and I didn’t want to lose that. The letter served its purpose, knowing that they read what I wrote gave me peace. The dreams stopped. But not surprisingly, people in charge don’t like having their flaws cast into light, especially not by their “inferiors.” They like it even less when other employees are informed. I was forced to come in and talk this over with the management in order to be cleared to volunteer if I so chose. I did so, it seemed to go well but the manager I talked to called in one of my friends after the fact, fished for details on stuff I had said while angry and found what he needed to ban me from returning, violent statements made by yours truly. I was wrong to say some of the things I did but the person I was then was the product of this organizations mistreatment, not the man I truly am. Regardless, my friend betrayed me, recommended against my return based on an assessment of me in a situation which was no longer relevant, refused to see the logic of my argument when I confronted him about it, and in the end willingly sacrificed our friendship through his actions.
This was a serious blow to me and I took a long time wrestling with it. His assertion that I constituted a valid workplace threat flew in the face of how well I felt he knew me. He felt, based albeit on no valid qualification to make this type of determination, that in my stressed state I had developed a mental disorder of some sort. He self righteously informed me that if the job made me that miserable I should have quit. He disregarded my promise to another as a valid reason to stay, sanctimoniously informing me that she would rather have seen me happy somewhere else. This guy makes a habit of making sweeping pronouncements he is no position to defend. I countered further that I had no other employment arranged to pay my bills. Apparently in this individuals experience this was an invalid reason to stay as well, as “bills just sort themselves out.” If anyone else agrees with this statement please let me know as in my experience nothing could be further from the truth. Also, unlike this individual I don’t have a wife to pay the bills for me. That must be nice. I was further preached to concerning the letter, apparently “when one pens a cathartic letter one destroys it and pens a professional one.” I cant stand someone with so much nerve that they just sermonize to you the proper action for every aspect of life. How dare he tell me what is correct and what I must do in my life? The letter I wrote would not have been cathartic for me unless read by the people who wronged me, as they are either unwilling or incapable of seeing the error in their treatment of people and must have it pointed out to them, if necessary with written blunt force trauma.
I came to the conclusion that this individual could not be more misguided in his thoughts or actions. No one else who knew me while I was going through this felt the need to inform on me. Also as a volunteer he no doubt feels he is equal to we who did this work professionally. In case you are reading this, you are nothing but a tourist until you work the job for real, day in, day out. You have no idea what I went through and are abjectly deprived of footing to make the judgments you did unless you lived the life. You never will. With this taken into consideration it is ludicrous for this person to have piously co-opted some sort of farcical absolute authority of what is or is not acceptable to do or say. This is a world of gray in which we must all make our own way, striking out in search of a balanced code of conduct that works for us. I am not advocating some morally weak, comparative form of right and wrong which allows everyone to just do as they please without regard for others. I will continue to do as I see fit, and have no qualms about it. Being angry about being treated horrendously does not constitute the development of a mental disorder, especially not based on the opinion of an unqualified, sanctimonious individual who has no perspective on my situation, either at work or in my larger life. The opinion of this person counts for even less when I was told that Sandy Hook “really put things in perspective” for him, as this demonstrates him as yet another one of the mindless sheeple out there, quaking in fear every time he sees a violent tragedy on television. Pathetic. A large part of his argument furthering this opinion was based on violence, both of my words, and thoughts as expressed on paper. I find nothing abnormal about wanting to strike someone who mercilessly torments you and is so warped as to see nothing wrong with it. Also, key point here, I never did.
After having made peace with my conclusion on all of this I found a copy of my letter weeks after the fact. I re-read it, thinking maybe I could have been more understanding, or even after about a dozen proof readings may have spoken to soon. It turns out this is not the case. I stand behind the letter, my thoughts, and actions one hundred percent. I stand by my written words and the man that I am. I will ignore others unfounded and ignorant opinions of me, because they are just that, ignorant and unfounded, based on a model of myself at a very low point in life brought on by others.

This will be followed by a piece on violence and our perception, and relationship with it in society.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Leadership

So, just got back from an interesting hitch on the Champion Coal (more to follow on this later) i finished this while underway, probably didn't proof read it enough, whatever.

Perhaps the most important aspect of my experience in the past year or so revolves around the concept of leadership, as in the manner in which managers, bosses, officers, what have you interact with their employees. I left my last employer extremely bitter. I finally became a professional in my field only to find that the management had no intention of fostering my growth and absolutely refused to grant me even an iota of respect, no matter how hard I worked. This comprised only one facet of my dissatisfaction. The run down is as follows.
My former employer has an industry wide reputation for nautical excellence and training which, in its current incarnation, is not deserved. Though the management level employees of this organization are extremely knowledgeable, this knowledge is not transmitted in any meaningful sense to those of us seeking to grow and develop our skill sets. The only lower level employees granted any extended training are those who attended a certain secondary education institution, or, are buddies or personal favorites of the management. Training was entirely oriented toward creating useful cogs in the wheel of a daily routine, once you fill that role in this organization that is as far as you will go, especially if you crawled in through the hawse pipe. I watched for months as the select few were fostered, trained, allowed to take on and master new tasks as I stagnated and was pigeon holed. All of the things I was capable of learning and performing were denied to me. Pair this with watching people who went to school to perform in this profession making the same sort of mistakes I, a relative newcomer made, yet still being ever so eager to mock me for them, and you have a recipe for serious frustration and resentment. This leads to my next point.
The management of this organization mistreats people. Lower level professionals such as myself were regularly subjected to intense sarcasm, mockery, and public humiliation. I saw this, or experienced it personally on an almost daily basis. Initially I thought a large portion of this was banter, which would lessen with time. I imagined that respect on some level would eventually be given. No matter how hard I worked, or how good I got at my job this respect never came. I spent nine months like this. Language commonly directed at myself, “faggot, pussy, homo, moron, and retard.” This was commonly used in public, adding to the humiliation of being treated so poorly. Also, one upper level manager was chronically lecherous and a sexual harasser. He made remarks in poor taste to my girlfriend, insinuating she should go to a hotel room and ready herself for his company, he also stated to one volunteer that he thought she had “been down on everything but the titanic,” and to another, “so what you are saying is you want to be under me,” This kind of thing was said all the time. Also, the management allows the continued employment of individuals with no proper concept of decent treatment of fellow human beings. Last year one such individual, still employed in the organization, interrupted me while performing a safety crucial function to criticize me for an error that had already been addressed by my acting supervisor. This is not an exact quote, but while pointing his finger in my face he stated, “you fucking retarded faggot, you just fucked up a job illiterate idiots did perfectly two hundred years ago, you are fucking worthless.” Other management personnel watched this happen and laughed as I was demeaned. Essentially what this constitutes is an organization that is accepting of employing a thirty plus year old man with literally no concept of right or wrong behavior. Because he was not forced to by a superior he never even gave a token apology for this verbal dressing down. This year, said individual while overseeing a safety crucial function, opted not to give the task his full attention but instead took the time to verbally abuse me while I was participating in said function, referring to me as a “bull dyke” amongst other things. This individuals poor behavior is not limited to the workplace, last year he was kicked off an airplane for acting out, this year he almost involved many of his coworkers in a bar fight, which he instigated by shoving a girl. I consider this egregious as I was, after my employment, typecast as a potential threat due to violent remarks which I admit were in poor taste. This notwithstanding they were made under extreme stress and were only remarks, not actual deeds contravening norms of basic social propriety. I cannot fathom an organization continuing to function in a manner so negligent towards basic decent treatment of others. The saddest part of this is that I watched many of my fellow lower level employees fall into this pattern of behavior, along with myself, much to my regret. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing yourself and other people you love become, to some degree, a copy of those abusing you.
Training methods, if you can refer to them as such at my former place of employment were atrocious. As I said previously, the management level employees are extremely knowledgeable but this is either very poorly transmitted, or not at all. Commonly, upper level employees made demeaning remarks to me when I did not know something or did not perform a task flawlessly on the first, or even second or third go. They are all seemingly completely unaware that it is to be expected that they know much more than me as the either have from five to thirty years experience in the field, or obtained a four year degree in it. This frustrated me to no end. No recognition was given to the fact that I learned an incredible amount in a very short period and I could not be realistically expected to match that kind of experience. Those who had a four year degree were probably no more naturally talented than I, and often made the same sort of mistakes I did just with less frequency. I found this particularly maddening with one individual in the management who jumped on the management behavior band wagon while still proving over and over, despite a four year degree in his field, he was still making the kind of mistakes that in my field, (History) were the equivalent of academic plagiarism and would result in termination of employment in said field, concomitant with a permanent blacklisting. If you are going to hold me to a standard of excellence on par with yours, and you have been schooled for four years in a field I have not, you had better be excellent, or understanding, preferably both. I went to school for six years and am excellent at what I was trained to do, I would not expect someone with no training to do what I do, at the level at which I do it. I would however encourage someone attempting to try it and understand where they are coming from rather than demean them.
At my new place of employment training is regimented, and performed in a positive manner. No one expects the new guy to do the job as well as a captain who decked for twenty years before he got up into the pilot house. Sure there is banter, but it is restrained by bounds of common decency and good treatment. Also supervisors here are subject to oversight and can be called into account for their words and actions. What a pleasant surprise, which I am still adjusting to as I go. I am still burning out the bit of my old workplaces overtone I absorbed via osmosis, although generally speaking I am getting back to being myself, a happy guy who treats people the way they would like to be treated.
An example, I have now been with my current employer long enough now that I participate in training new employees. At one point I worked a hitch with a rather overweight eighteen year old kid. He was terrified of us and I remember what that feels like. It’s so much worse when you are being treated like garbage at the same time. From time to time what I experienced at my last job crept up in my mind telling me to mock this kid for not knowing things, to be cruel, sarcastic, etc. I didn’t do any of those things and it was one of the best two week experiences of my life, doing the exact opposite of those who made my life so miserable every day for months on end. This showed me that I had learned the best possible lesson from my former employer, how not to treat your co-workers or employees if you want them to be happy, to learn, and to strive for improved performance. At the end of the hitch this kid shook my hand and thanked me for being cool. I might not have learned as much in the way of professional skills as I wanted to but I feel what I took away was ultimately way more valuable.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On the importance of workplace satisfaction

So, apparently I can do this blogging thing from my iPhone with only limited irritation and thumb fatigue. Sick, let's do this.
I've had an interesting few months, learned a lot, and thought upon life and what I believe about a good many parts of it. I am really lucky, I love my job and am learning a lot about the type of work I will likely do in some form or function for many years to come.
Feeling really satisfied with what I do and who I work for is so diametrically opposed to my previous experience I felt the need to write again today, if only briefly. A friend of mine I recently heard from for the first time in years let me know she's moving back to our corner of Pennsylvania, at least for a bit. Apparently she hates her job and her boss treats her like garbage. Since she can afford to do so, I wholeheartedly supported her decision to quit. This reminded me of my last job. A very self righteous and patronizing individual told me I should have quit, it didn't matter to him that I had no other gainful employment lined up to pay the bills. Apparently, bills just sort themselves out. I guess if you have a wife to support you while you look after the youngsters this might be the case. Finances not withstanding, I didn't leave because I made a promise to someone I love very much that I would stay. A man is worth nothing if he can't be counted upon for at least the integrity of his word. I regret the way my last job made me feel, and some of the things I said in anger and frustration while I finished my time. In another situation I likely would have left but I felt I had no other feasible option. I made many friends I will have for the rest of my life there and learned exactly how not to lead if you are in a position mandating that you do so.  The ultimate point here is that if what you are doing and or where you are working is making you miserable, change it if at all possible. the difference in the way I say it, and the manner in which it was told to me is that I recognize that circumstances in peoples lives are often outside of my knowledge or understanding. Getting into a job I like working with people that respect and foster my talents and abilities is helping me get back to the person I know I am, not what I can become when things are really negative around me.
This, and many other things ran through my mind this morning while I checked our tow and watched the fog burn off the Ohio River.
There will be a series of longer entries posted gradually as I get them drafted on the boat and post them from home during my week off.
Stay safe out there everybody.