Friday, March 02, 2007

Naarleen, Bonds, and Michael's Cruise

So we just had another trip to the Bahamas. We got the boat back in the water just in time. We took it out to do the bottom paint, but once you get a boat out of the water you find all kinds of things that need attention. For us this meant replacing the shafts because they were pitted and straightening a prop. We complicated this by deciding to upgrade from 3.25" to 3.5" shafts which meant that we had to replace the stuffing boxes also. It also meant a trip up to Jacksonville to bore out the props to the bigger size. This trip took us right through the storm in which several tornado's destroyed a couple of towns. Luckily all we saw were torrential down pours, but the sky sure looked angry. So literally the day before we need to leave we got the boat floating again and prayed everything was in good working order. It's not the optimum situation to do a crossing right after major work, but I consoled myself with the thought that is was better than risking it with worn out shafts which could have become a major headache at any time, even if we were previously unaware of the possible failure.

We fueled up and then did a quick sea trial and all seemed in order. The next morning we were exiting the port when, following behind in the tender, I get the sense that something isn't right. Pierre isn't stopping in our normal spot to hook up the tow rope to the tender. Maybe it's because of the cruise ship maneuvering, perhaps the pilot boat told him to keep moving? Then he pulls over to the side of the inlet channel and stops. Expecting to hear him on the radio telling me to come and tie up I wait. Nothing. I call him. I get a hurried reply "Can't talk, have a problem!" I reply " OK, but you are drifting out of the channel and starting to turn up mud". Well the problem was an inexplicable fuel leak out of the fuel vents. He was trying to figure out what was causing it and more to the point how to stop it and lost track of how he was creeping into shallow water. By the hair of his chinny chin chin he managed to coax the boat from what was very nearly high and dry into deeper waters, but not without dinging the prop which we had just had straightened. He won't forgive himself for that, but it happens. While in deeper water I manage to get the tender tow rope set and climb aboard still not knowing what the situation is.

Our chef tells me we have a fuel leak. Well that is nothing new. We have lots of fuel leaks. Another day, another leak, but they are small and in the engine room. I wasn't prepared to see gallons of fuel pouring out of the vents on deck! Like a fire brigade to catch the fuel we start passing buckets, then garbage cans and start praying that it doesn't come down thermoses and mugs. With three tanks it took a little trial and error to figure out which valve combination would allieve the situation, but we got it to stop. Why it happened is still a mystery. There are no pumps, everything is gravity fed and I heard the vents breathing while we fueled up. The boat has been filled to the brim many times before and nothing happened during the sea trial. The best we can figure is that somehow an air pocket formed in the system even though it doesn't make any sense.

Well that was about all of the excitement on this trip which was for the owner. Michael can live it up, but this trip was for his family (father, sister's + significant others) so I can sum it up with one word: uneventful. Which is fine by me. It was a little ironic though. Usually after a tough charter when you really need a rest, it isn't available. But after an easy one like we just had we were able to rest in standby for two days while we waited for the Gulf Stream to settle down before crossing back to Lauderdale.

We will be heading back to the Bahamas this Wednesday for another charter followed by a couple of days with one of Michael's friends who will be around for a bachelor party. And that about takes care of the month in review, at least work-wise.

Well it's March 1st and that means Black History Month is over, but as Jon Stewart points out, " Black history still continues, almost everyday". In the news this week we learned that the late Senator Strom Thurmond's family held Rev. Al Sharpton's Great Grandfather as a slave. So the nation's news watchers were getting a renewed lesson on just how ugly our very recent past was (glass half empty), how far we've come in 40 years (glass half full) and how far we've yet to go (careful, don't knock the glass over). Afterall, it wasn't too long ago that segregationist Strom ran for President and just recently Reverend Al made his own run. But alas, a person of color has yet to be elected. Coincidentally, even though I wasn't watching the news at the time I received the exact same lesson from a personal tutor. The tutor's name is Gary Bonds. Never heard of him, you say? Maybe if I include his middle name: Uncle Sam. Still not clicking? How about: Gary U.S. Bonds? Rings a bell now, huh? Now for those old enough to know who Gary U.S. Bonds is, you may say, "I didn't know Gary's retired from music and now a teacher?" Well he isn't. He is still a singer, but what you may not know, in fact most people who have never seen him live wouldn't know is that Gary is black. Actually Gary is more of a light mocha, but that's not the point. You wouldn't know Gary was black because they hid him from the public eye all the while he was selling records to white people at a time when our nation's civil rights was just starting to crawl.To get his point of view on the whole thing really brought to the forefront with rare clarity, thoughts of where this country has been, where it is, and where it may be headed.

You read about it in school, talk about it, see it in the movies, but I think it's the first time I ever met anyone who has actually been through the experience and shared it with me, even if it was atypical. I say atypical because his wasn't a typical experience. In fact as Gary put it, " I kind of liked it. I couldn't be seen in public so I would hide out it the hotel suite and all the white acts and managers would bring everything to me!" Of course out in public I'm sure things didn't start off so pleasant, but as you talk to the guy and realize how damn likable he is you know how he would win over the hearts of even the most staunch racist if given a chance.

So to back track for a minute. The reason this meeting came about is that Michael and Gary are great friends from way back. Michael booked Gary before he topped the charts. Michael went to his agent for another act and the manager kept pushing Gary. Over and Over. Michael says "I don't know him, I don't want him, I want so and so". Then Gary came in the office, sat down, they talked and five minutes later Michael says " I'll take him!"

A little later Michael was trying to lure Gary down to Florida to live and gig full time so he bought a house for Gary. He doesn't hear from Gary. Where's Gary? Finally Gary calls and says "You asshole, why haven't you called to congratulate me?" "For what, I've been waiting down here for you in the house I bought ya" "I've got the number one record in the country!" "Bullshit!!" Or so the story goes and the rest is history.

So Gary was in town to do Bowzer's (Sha Na Na) Rock and Roll Party along with Little Peggy March, Leslie Cole and Lou Christie. Incidentally, did you know that Bowzer is a Julliard classically trained pianist? Michael took me to the show and afterward we had some drinks with Gary and his guitarist Mark who is another Jersey Boy from Marlborough! I also had a backstage pass which was exciting for about a minute, until my fantasy of picking up some groupies was smashed when I realized the average age of the fans.

So lately I'm thinking about music because I met one of Mike's managers who used to play keyboards for Rick James, and he has a studio and his son is entertainment director for the Hard Rock Casino and he says his son can put me to work, etc, etc. And now I'm talking with some weathered pros and it gets me thinking some more. But then Mark says something which reminds me of why I'm not pursuing the music anymore. " I've got to fly home tonight to work my day job tomorrow". That money thing. Admittedly, Gary U.S. Bonds isn't selling out any arenas and Mark has a family and an ex, but if someone with his experience needs a day job then the outlook for me isn't so great. I might still buy a small kit for the boat. Hell, if only to give little D'shaun (Mike's soon to be adopted son) drum lessons. He's learning guitar now, but I think he should be on drums. I showed him a couple of things and he's picked them up very quickly. Probably faster than I did, although I can't be sure as my memory is failing me in my old age :)

So to carry on a little bit with Black History Month, I did manage to get down to New Orleans for a 3 day weekend. Interesting, but I can mark it off the list now. Probably a great place to go when raging hormones drive one crazy at the site of bare titties and you enjoy getting shit faced. For me it was more like, " I came here why??" I did get to see some good Jazz and Blues, but most of the music scene is now rock covers. Something I've gotten a few lifetimes worth of by now. However, my first mistake was not packing properly. You'd think after a year of backpacking this trip would be a no brainer. Well a Mensa IQ doesn't preclude one from making stupid mistakes. I figured Narleeens wasn't much farther north than Lauderdale so the weather will be relatively similar. Wrong!! Cold and Wet! Lulled into security by the perpetually warm temps in Lauderdale, I didn't bring a stitch of warm clothing. To be fair, at this point I don't really own any warm clothing. So after checking into the hotel I layered three t-shirts, thanked god I brought a pair of jeans and sneakers, chuckled at my useless baggies and flip flops, and went about finding something warm to wear.

After I bought a sweatshirt I was able to relax and take in Bourbon Street. One of the highlights of the trip was the fact that The Saints were playing in the NFL Conference Championship. They had a piss poor previous season and have never been to the Superbowl so there was much excitement in the air. Though not a Saints fan, I was that day. I was hoping for them to win, not because I care about the team, I was just hoping for an out of control party atmosphere and I figured the town really could use a little lift. But the Chicago Bears had a different idea and the depression that loomed after the game melted perfectly into the stagnant depression of air which has been hanging over New Orleans since the hurricane. The T-shirts for sale are a testament to that: FEMA=Find Every Mexican Available or FEMA Evacuation Plan= Run Bitch Run. The town is still a wreck, but hey the Saints are poised for a great season and there is always next year...

And there is always next month and that may be the next time I update the blog. We will be in the Bahamas until, well hopefully we will be back before my birthday. And then there is my birthday, then a recovery period, then I have to piece together what happened (just kidding) and then I'll write again.

Ciao Bellas,

PS. Having problems uploading the pics. I will post them ASAP