Hi. It’s me again. I’d like to tell you my story. So, let’s not waste any time, shall we?
Born in Buffalo, N.Y. April 2, 1959, I opened my eyes to a world of chaos and confusion. My birth mother left me, less than a year old, my half brother and half sister who weren’t much older than me, to a baby sitter and took off to NYC to party with a friend. My father was a Merchant Seaman who had gotten word from the babysitter, and upon returning home learned that my mother wanted nothing to do with him or me.
What a mess. The only good thing is I don’t remember it, nor do I remember my birth mother. The only thing stopping me from looking for her is that she hasn’t done a search on me, and it really bugs me why. I don’t even know what she looked like. But as fate would have it, my dad met my future step-mother. Her hair was as red as my own, and I never knew she was my step-mother until I was around 14 years old. It was just as well that I didn’t know. I loved her dearly, and it was her side of my family whom I grew up with. One of her daughters married an old school Italian. They had 8 kids. The Holidays and summer vacations we spent together have left memories with me that I will take to my deathbed. I will never get that close to a family like that again.
Everyone”s childhood is precious. Far more than we know. Mine was no exception. The kids I grew up with were the finest friends anyone can ask for. God Bless you all. Most of my childhood memories seem almost like a fantasy. It was the happiest times of my life. The cool thing, is almost every house in the old neighborhood is still standing. That place is timeless. But to go there, you would really want or really need to be there. Once it starts snowing in Buffalo, it doesn’t stop. I loved it. We did everything you can possibly do with snow. But, I would rather be in weather today that wasn’t below 72 Deg. F.
The adolescent stage is something (among a lot of other things things) that stay with you. This period was probably the most traumatic turning point of my life. Besides, my father divorced my step mother and took me from the sheltered live in Buffalo I’ve grown to know and love my entire life to where? River Rouge, Michigan. It was time to enter the real world. And this place was not for the feint at heart.
When someone is thrown into a dangerous environment, an alter-ego develops. I was angry, confused, scared to death. With little or no coping skills and no time to grow up, my life was in a downward spiral. When I was fortunate enough to escape that place, my father told me to NEVER tell anyone I lived in River Rouge. I witnessed some events which took place in that town that would make the Watts riots seem like a family picnic. I had to get out, and going to sea was the easiest choice.
My father was a dispatcher in the seaman’s union. You might think that nepotism isn’t fair, but to become a seaman was the only thing that my father had to offer me. I was already thrown out of high school for truancy. That’s about the only thing that can get you thrown out of that high school. Go figure. I wouldn’t go to classes, so they wouldn’t let me go anymore. I hated it anyway. The teachers were always drunk or stoned. Fights would break out all of the time. And that is all I dare mention.
I was under 16 when I started my career as a seaman. Struggling to be a man, struggling with trying to fit into society, I set out with nothing more than a sense of adventure. Joining the seaman’s union wasn’t exactly going to make me a very productive member of society, but I am glad that I did. I didn’t know it then, but being a teenager taught me a few valuable lessons in life. It such a shame I was such a slow learner.
Anyway, here I am in my fathers footsteps and beyond. Nearly 4 decades of working in the American Merchant Marine. I have seen the changes this industry went through since 1975. The industry standards are getting to a point where your vacation is eaten up with trying to keep up with Coast Guard requirements. Ask any old timer and they will tell you that it almost isn’t worth being a seaman anymore.
If a kid wants to go out to sea, the Navy is a far better choice. I was 16 years old when I got my Seaman’s Documents. Seriously, I would not change a thing given a chance. I got into the industry right at the tail end of the “Tramp Steamers” era, and I lived a lifestyle unparallelled by most. But, it doesn’t come with out a price. One of the hardest aspect of this life is when folks who you considered friends turn their back on you. It’s nothing personal. It’s just human nature.
In the end, it’s your own family who will acknowledge your existence. Besides’ I’m never home. People get on with their lives and leave those behind who they don’t see often. When landlubbers see me, they always ask when i am leaving. Now, that raises a red flag for 2 reasons. 1st: Why would anyone want to know when I am leaving? 2nd: Those type of question are designed to open the door to getting me to talk about my work.
After 4 months on a ship, and since I carry a Homeland Security I.D. and unless I receive information about a terrorist threat, the last thing I want to talk about is work. So, my dry (and when I say dry, I mean dry) sense of humor and sarcasm sets in, and I end up telling inquiring minds things they don’t want to hear. Being on a ship in an institutionalized environment lends itself to sensory deprivation. And the first thing I want to see when I am home is a beautiful female. Who wouldn’t? So, I feel like I am entering a different world when I see a set of female eyes upon me. Especially the 34 double D kind. That’s what kept me going, and that’s pretty much all I wanted to talk about when I got home.
In 2001 my father passed away. I was devastated. I can only say this: I wish I were half the man he was. I remember him working 2 jobs when I was growing up. He was trying to buy houses around the neighborhood to turn into rentals. He had the right idea, but the wrong tenants. He retired on a Seaman’s pension in Florida, where he enjoyed his retirement for about 18 years. In the latter part of his career he was a dispatcher at the River Rouge Seafarers Hiring Hall. Guys would show up at the hall freezing cold,without anything. As long as they were able to register to ship, Dad would put them up in the basement, and the next job that came in at night was theirs. Everyone loved him because he never took a dishonest dollar in his life. He taught the meaning of integrity, and how proud is is to walk into a store, any store and just get whatever you wanted. Payed for in cash, even though credit was offered. He was the greatest man I ever knew. I loved him dearly and miss him just the same. I would have followed him everywhere he went. If he ended up at the gates of Hell, I would have been there with him. We would have kicked ass down there too! R.I.P. Dad. I miss you dearly. My only regret with you was seeing the sad look on your face when we drove to Detroit together that day. That sad memory makes me teary eyed every time I think of it.
In 2004 the real estate sellers market looked almost too good to be true. But, true it was. I payed $82,000 for a condo in Ventura, Ca. in 1998. I sold the place for $232,000. With my father gone and the 400+ family members on his side whom I have had very little contact with just weren’t a part of my life. So, there was no one I was really bonded to except an old couple in Saticoy. So, I did the only thing that any foolhardy, adventurous, or anyone just plain nuts would do. I booked a flight to Manila, P.I. and proceeded to have the time of my life. Living in the Philippines. It’s such a relaxing atmosphere, you loose track of all time, among other things. Like who you slept with the night before. Having a short term memory does not work well with the women, but I always made up for it with charm. About this place? This has been a sailors paradise since the Moguls tried to in invade japan. Dumb-asses. But there I was in Angeles City. I lived there for over 10 years. Why I decided to live there is another story. Stick around. I just might tell it.