The cannery I worked at was kind enough to provide a barge that had living quarters on it. It was a biggish, whiteish, rustyish hunk of metal with what looked to be mobile homes duct-taped to it. It was, at some point it its life, when someone gave a shit, christened the “Jan B” registered out of San Francisco. For a mere one dollar per hour worked, we got to collapse at the end of the day in something that wasn’t a tent. In the years prior, cannery workers lived out of tents in an open field in what you might consider a small city. It was called, “Tent City.” Problem was that Ketchikan receives about 152” of rain a year and most of that seemed to focus itself over Tent City. The workers had very little access to facilities and it was a complete muddy mess. Two guys I met said that they preferred sleeping in the plant next to the Iron Chink* instead of slogging back to their tents.
(*The Iron Chink was a huge machine that somehow scaled, gutted, beheaded and betailed the salmon in a few spins of a giant metal drum. Hundreds at a time. And yes, it is a derogatory name. I'm not sure if it has another name.)
The Jan B was, with all good intentions, a floating motel. And a motel has got to have a manager. Our manager was a mix of ex-marine, racist, sexist, jerk, power hungry, asshole, suck up, and, oddly, neat freak. His name was Bruce. So of course we called him Barge Bruce. All Barge Bruce wanted was to take the responsibility trusted in him to manage the barge and somehow make it as if he was Mayor and Sheriff of the Jan B. He was known to just pop into rooms unannounced while people were in them, accused of popping into the them when no one was in them and basically running the place like a prisoner of war camp. The memos he would post were hilarious. A simple reminder about taking trash out of the rooms would fill an entire page, have eight to ten exclamation points and a smattering of misspelled words liberally sprinkled in. Barge Bruce sucked balls.
I lived in room #39. Our room had three guys. Of course there was me. Jeremy was an extremely cool guy out of San Francisco. He was like a land locked philosophical, surfer. The other guy was Steve. Steve was fucking crazy. Steve had recently returned to the United States after being detained in Thailand for three months where he had been busted with pot in his possession. It seems that the ship he was working on didn’t care that he hadn’t made it back on board and left port without him. No one on the Thailand side of the bars told anyone he was there. He just ate rice and sat in squalor for three months. Luckily (for him,) another American got busted for something and Steve was able to get word out that he was stuck behind bars. His post-squalor travels brought him to Ketchikan and room #39.
Steve brought with him a sack full of clothes and a case of Hepatitis B. One day Steve felt sick and didn’t look good. It’s just a cold he said. A few days later, his skin turned a sort of greenish yellow. I ate some bad fish last night he said. Then, his eyes turned yellow. Take me to the hospital he said. We didn’t know it was hepatitis. We went to the bookstore and found a medical book and looked it up. Yuck. Sitting in feces for three months can do that to you.
I should mention a side note here that carries into the main part of this recollection. We were slobs. At the end of the work day, I would take off my blue coveralls and toss them in a corner. The next morning, I would put them back on. The clothes I wore underneath the coveralls got thrown in that corner too. The pile would get pretty big and pretty stinky. I knew that I was sweating something fierce while in the cannery because in the morning when I would put on the coveralls, they would still be wet from the day before. I mean damp. And stinky. An odd stinky too. But hell, I was working in canning factory. I thought this all was normal. I mean, what else could it be beside my own sweat. Normal. Until… (I’m pausing to hold back the vomit.)
Until the night when I woke up to find Steve walking over to the corner where my dirty clothes were piled. He stood in the corner and pulled out his dick and PEED ALL OVER MY CLOTHES! He is peeing on my clothes! “Steve! Steve! STEVE!” I could see his face as he turned, still peeing. He was laughing! “Steve!!!” He finished up and went back into his bunk. I got up and stumbled over all the other crap in the room to his bunk. I shook Steve and woke him up. I explained the situation to him, “You peed on my clothes!”
“What are you talking about.”
“You just walked over to the corner and peed on my clothes!”
“No I didn’t”
Steve had been sleep-peeing. And, thinking back, he’d been doing it for about three weeks. He had no idea that he’d been relieving himself at night. I had been going to work wearing Steve’s hepatitis tainted pee. Shit. I got tested when I got home. I’m clean, but really…
So, we were slobs. I left my clothes everywhere (oh yeah, and piled in the corner.) There were beer cans and food containers and newspapers and magazines and books and tapes (tapes were used to store music back in the 80’s and 90’s.) I think Steve liked the room because it reminded him of his home away from home in Thailand.
One day, I was on the line in the cannery when my friend Taylor came up and got my attention. He took me aside and filled me in on a situation. It turns out Barge Bruce was going through the rooms and wandered into #39. I’m sure he had a hard time getting the door to open with the amount of crap piled against it. Barge Bruce was completely pissed. Taylor heard Barge Bruce yell at someone else that he was sick and tired of the trash and was going to get the plant manager over to take a good look at what he had to deal with everyday. Taylor ran over as soon as he heard this. I had Dan and Jim on the line to cover for me and I ran back to the barge. Boy, my coveralls were going to be sweaty tonight!
(Have you ever heard some old codger talk about how they walked to work uphill both ways? Bullshit? Well, we did. The barge had a ramp going to the shore. In the mornings, when the tide was low, you had to walk up an extremely steep incline to get to the shore. At some later part in the day when the tide was high, the ramp would be at a very slight angle up from the shore to the barge. Up hill both ways to work. I can’t wait to get older so I can tell that one every day.)
I ran from the cannery to the barge and up to #39. I shoved non trash under the beds. I put everyone’s clothes into whatever drawer or laundry bag was available. I filled the trash bag and an empty beer case with trash. Put the trash in a closet in the hallway. I even made the beds. If you would have looked under the sheets you would have seen magazines and books and tapes, but it’s the surface look that counts. I did this all in less than five minutes. (Which of course makes me think, why the hell didn’t we just keep it clean?)
As I walked back to the cannery, I passed by Barge Bruce and the plant manager. Barge Bruce was going on about how unbelievably messy this one room was and how these punk kids have no respect. He was so intent that didn’t even notice me. The plant manager and I made the briefest of eye contact. I went back to the line.
About ten minutes later, Barge Bruce and the plant manager walked into the cannery (The plant manager walked, Barge Bruce seemed to vibrate with hatred). Barge Bruce was pissed. Barge Bruce was steaming. Barge Bruce pointed at me and started to, I kid you not, stomp his foot. The plant manager had Barge Bruce go and cool off to the side. I am motioned to speak with the plant manager. He is not happy, but at the same time, he seems to have a slight upturn on his mouth that would hint at a subdued smile. He basically says that he knows that I must have found out about the inspection. He knows I must have cleaned it. If this happens again I am fired. Keep the room clean.
He then slapped me on the shoulder and, out of Barge Bruce’s line of sight, winked at me.
My only guess is that the plant manager had to listen to Barge Bruce complain every day. For once, it was good to see Barge Bruce completely insane with rage and though words were coming out of his mouth, speechless. Barge Bruce mostly avoided me after that. I was waiting for the confrontation, but it never happened. Good old Barge Bruce. I went back to the line.
At the end of the season, my camping and working friend Dan Berman took white tape and changed the name of the barge from the Jan B to the Dan B. Below is a photo of him, standing on the top ramp, arm held out and finger pointed to the sky. It was low tide and he would have had to walk up the ramp to get to the shore.
I used to be a roofer back in college. We had a team of about 8 guys. I was the only kid. As with most construction jobs, the kid got picked on. It was almost a loving kind of abuse, probably because the guys knew I'd go back to school and be out of their lives once summer was over. But there was also one other guy on the team that got abuse... one of their own so to speak. Everyone hated that guy. He was either lazy or stinky or dumb or his wife cheated on him... all merely allegations, but these things were said behind his back, but just loud enough for him to hear. Either this guy would quit after a week or try and stick it out and become my buddy. I think they would seek refuge in the other guy who got picked on.
No man can take that much abuse and they would snap and start a fight or walk off the job. Either way they were gone.
For a few days, all the guys would sit around at lunch and talk about what an asshole the quitter was and how they were happy he was gone. Everyone was happy. But then after those few days were up, you would see everyone looking around for the new guy to start picking on. Sometimes it was easy when a new guy was hired to replace the last. Sometimes no one was immediately hired and the cannibalism set in. One of their own was chosen. The circle is complete.
I guess what I'm thinking is that we've got about a week to blame all the company's issues on the old boss. If things aren't fixed, where will all that hatred and blame go? I don't see us hiring anyone in the near future.
Well, to keep this from ending on a downer, let me tell you this: I went on a smaller job with two other seasoned roofers (Old Goat and Charles.) While we were working, I managed to put "Kick Me" signs fashioned from asphalt can stickers on both their backs. I went to one and pointed out the other's sign. I went to the other and did the same. What followed was a round or two of comical kicking, followed up by some aggressive kicking and then the inevitable old guys shoving back and forth on top a 25' roof. By the time I pointed out the signs on their backs, it was too late. They were pissed at each other and did not see the humor in my little joke.
The truck ride home was pretty quiet. My small talk did not create a truce. I was sure that one or both of the guys were going to quit once we got back to the shop.
The next morning at the shop, while changing into my work clothes, I found out the hard way that both my boots had a dollop roofing asphalt in them. I didn't notice the first one until after I had the second one on. Just enough to make me uncomfortable as hell, but not enough to keep me from working. Both guys said nothing. But I'd like to think they collaborated. Punk kid.
My friend Amy and I went to
This tale is about hitchhiking.
First off, hitchhiking in
Amy and I had hitchhiked on several occasions. We were camped at Ward's Pond about five miles west of
Woman - "So, your car broke down?"
Us - "Um, no."
"Oh, did you run out of gas?"
"Then what is wrong with your car?"
"We don't have a car. That's why we are hitchhiking."
"I saw you standing by your car by the side of the road!"
"We don't have a car!"
“So, are you tourists or you here for the salmon?”
One night, Amy and I went out drinking in town. It was easy to find a bar in
About ¼ mile outside of town, a suburban pulled over. We got in. I think Amy sat in the middle. The guy was a little drunk. We told him which wilderness area of Ward’s Pond we were camped in and he said he knew it well. The hard part of hitchhiking was over with.
Drunk driver guy then started telling us that he held a world record. He hauled the most tonnage of timber with a helicopter in one day. We were really impressed. He then started ranting about how hitchhikers sometimes try to attack the driver. We were really silent. He then patted the seat suggesting something underneath and said, "But I’ve got protection so no one’s going to mess with me and get away with it." We were really scared shitless. Luckily, we were close to the area where we were camped. In a moment of sheer brilliance or panic, I told him to drop us off in an area where our campsite wasn’t. As he stopped he said, “This isn’t the place you told me about. You better not try anything." Now I remember. I was in the middle. I was in the middle because I about scrambled over Amy as this guy was reaching under his seat. We both scurried off into the bushes behind the truck and hid behind a tree. (Side note: these pines were big and two adults could hide behind them.) He yelled something audible but incoherent out of his truck. We waited until he drove off. I would have peed my pants but I was able to unzip and release. Wow.
We walked about 100 yards to our campsite and climbed in the tent. We laid there and waited for him to come back. About 15 minutes later a truck drove by our campsite real slow. Luckily there were other campers around so we could be singled out. He drove on and circled one more time. We dared not look out the tent. Somehow nylon and a zipper seemed the best protection. He drove off for good.
I’m sure I could look up who the record holder for the most tonnage of lumber to be carried in one day by helicopter was in 1992…
So, I ran into Freckled Jen at Skully's last night. (She also told me she wasn't going to Skully's.) She was with her friend Tracy. Tracy is upset with me because during an argument a few days ago, I got tired of her talking so I made a fist and made my hand talk by moving my thumb up and down. My hand said something like this, "All I hear you say is blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah." I kind of moved my puppet closer and closer to her face with each "blah."
She didn't like that.
So when I saw her last night, I immediately apologized because I have low self esteem and can't stand to have people dislike me. She said she would think about accepting my apology.
So now it’s noon. I've been at work for 1/2 hour. Shorty is going to Sam's Club to buy some 1/4 pound kosher hot dogs.
Things are looking up.
1. Go out drinking
2. Leave early
3. On the drive home, find your car is taking the long way, which happens to drive past establishments which have such words as Pink, Gold, or Kahootz in their neon marquee.
4. Call Acton.
5. Leave a short, but precise message about where I will be and that I hope he can join me.
6. Stop at the ATM
7. Enter nudie bar.
8. Spend money
9. Go home smelling like vanilla, cotton candy and sin.
10. Retrieve message from Acton 12 hours later asking if there was any trouble.
For me, there’s never any trouble at the nudie bar. I’ve heard testimonials about a friend’s friend who got laid in the back or a buddy who swears they took a stripper home with them. For me, I never even get close to that. Oh wait… I’ll have to piece together the story about the layover in Canada… that’s for later.
On this particular night, I had made it all the way to #6 on the list. I stopped at the drive through ATM and got out $50 fast cash. $50 fast cash turned out to be a single $50 bill. I was dismayed.. A $50 bill now calls me out as a big spender. I like to be the lowly guy in the club who doesn’t attract attention. You walk in with $50 dollar bills and that makes you a mark. Not really, but I thought that at the time.
I was tempted to swing around through the ATM again, but I was very interested in getting to step #8.
I parked and entered the club. This particular club is called Sirens. It resides in what used to be an Asian restaurant. The girl at the front counter was bantering with the coat check guy. As I walked in, he vaporized. We traded our hellos and the girl said, “There’s an $8 dollar cover charge.” I handed over my $50. She stuck it in the drawer and counted back my change.
“Two makes ten. Ten makes twenty. Twenty makes forty, sixty, eighty and one hundred. Did you want some of that in ones?”
Pause for one second.
“Nope. I’m fine.” Walk into the club.
I immediately went into the bathroom. I’m not sure what level of protection a bathroom offers. It seems to have kept the ISI from finding the attendant. I fake peed and gave the guy a buck. This gave me the opportunity to see that I had $91 in my wallet when there only should have been $41. Gracias.
Walking out of the bathroom I expected to be confronted by Goon in Bar #1 and Goon in Bar #2. At some point the girl up front would figure out her mistake have said Goons track me down. I believe I have coke or meth to thank for the scatter brainedness of the counter girl. I went to the bar and bought a drink.
Skip ahead to step #9. (I could talk about the dollar bill folding technique or the avoiding the strung out stripper method, but I think that’s for another time.) I left the club and walked to my car. I had several drinks and gave away a large number of neatly folded bills and I still had $30. I had about two hours of girly fun and drinks for about $20. Not bad at all.
I mentioned this story to John then next day when I returned his message to my message. He couldn’t believe it. A few years before this, John and I went to a nudie bar and on the way in, he found $80 lying right outside his car. He was kind enough to share that money with me and we spent it very quickly. When that money ran out, he reached into his pocket to get the $100 that was in there and all he had was a $20.
He suggested to me that I try the $50 trick again. So I did.
One week later. Step #6. Get money. I drove through the ATM again. Hit $50 fast cash. To my surprise, I was dispensed two 20s and a 10. This bank had a dual ATM system and the one side gave out 50s while the other, as I just found out, did not. I looped around and went to the original ATM. Bing, a $50 bill.
Park. Door. And guess what… the same strung out girl.
“Two makes ten. Ten makes twenty. Twenty makes forty, sixty, eighty and one hundred. Did you want some of that in ones?”
Pause for one tenth a second.
“Nope. I’m fine.” Walk into the club.
This time around, I spent all of it. I had many drinks. I even had the private dance or two. Good stuff.
On my way out, I had $5 left in my wallet. All that fun for $45.
$45? Think again. I forgot about the original $50 I took out that came in the 20s and 10 variety. I actually spent $95 of my own money. Crap. Oh well, it was worth the story.
Ohio University. A night when it was short sleeves warm when you walked into the bar and stumbling out you’d be cold if you weren’t shielded by the false warm aura of drunkenness. Acton and I had been in the C.I. for most the evening. There seemed to be some kind of commotion in front of the bar as we exited. In the street, a girl stood in the back of a parked pickup truck, her shirt disheveled. A boy had jumped into the back with her and grabbed her from behind. A protective hug. From the cheers of “do it again” and “nice tits,” I reasoned... (no wait, I was drunk) I guessed she had just flashed the people exiting the bar. Acton and I looked at each other. He was in despair that we had missed the flashing girl. (Flashing is on the list if you are a girl. It’s down near parachuting and eating sushi.) I had another idea.
“I’m going to streak.”
Acton, the smartest guy I know reasoned with me. “No way………… OK, where do you want to take off your clothes?”
We quickly shuffled down Court Street towards the corner. Athens has all sorts of hidey holes and twisting alleys. You can still find crushed beer cans with pull tabs in the bricked up, ground level windows back in those dark spaces. I needed a place to get naked.
The commotion of the guys yelling tits collected the attention of the cops. Their cop car stopped on Court Street a few feet in front of the sans tits truck. I think they wanted to do a show up and scare the kids away. It worked. The crowd dispersed. Little did they know that they had also halted my plans of disrobing.
Acton said, “Hey, let’s jump up and down on the hood of the cop car! We’ll split up and they’ll never catch us. Hell, they won’t even get out of the car.” That sounded like an even better idea. Those fat fuckers could never catch up with us. I can still envision it. American Graffiti color scheme. The shot is from the back seat of the darkened cop car. Motionless silhouettes of the cops as Acton and I gleefully jump up and down on the hood. All you see is my Converse and Acton’s beat up leather shoes bounding up and down. Pure joy.
But that didn’t happen. On the sidewalk, I gave up. “Let’s go home.”
We turned and walked back up Court Street away from the bars.
I’m not sure if it was the last beer finally wandering up and down my brain stem or perhaps I heard a couple of guys who saw the truck girl tits reminiscing. Either way, three blocks from home I changed my mind.
“Fuck it, I’m going to do it.”
And Acton immediately pointed, “There’s a stairwell… no wait, that alley.”
John followed me back. I stripped down and handed him my clothes. John handed me back my Converse. “You better wear these.” I put the shoes on.
Now, at this point, I want all streaking purists to just keep their shirts on… or off. Streaking is the act of running with your ass and frontal naked bits exposed. Don’t get all technical on me. Streaking, you can wear shoes. Especially Converse.
John said to give him a minute to run up the street so that he could watch. He bounded off with my clothes under his arm. That was an interesting minute. I stood there naked, arms crossed and jogging in place. I was almost waiting for someone taking a shortcut to turn the corner to see a naked guy in black Converse.
48… 49…. 50.. long enough.
I sprinted out of the alley, almost running into a couple.
“Hey! Holy shit!”
I ran across the brick street in a wide arc and down the side walk. At this point in the night, everyone is walking in the same direction, away from the bars. Groups of two, four and seven filled the side walk. I ran forward, slowing only to slip and dodge in between couples. As I broke through the crowds I’d shout, “Naked man coming through!” Shouts of, “Hey what are you… oh my God!” and laughter followed me down the street. It was pure joy.
I ducked down the alley by Acton’s apartment. I reached the back and climbed up the fire escape. Silent cops followed me, I was sure. In through the kitchen window and in a heap on the floor. I walked down the hallway and waited for Acton to come up. His laughing preceding.
Several friends sat in the front room and I did a quick lap through the room. Acton gave me back my clothes and I got dressed.
Everyone should go streaking at least once.