Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Trail Recipes

In the evening of August 2, I was camping behind an unfinished country house somewhere in Romania. I was feeling a bit hyper and cracked out the laptop to do some writing. Among other things, the following recipes came out. With no further ado, please allow me to introduce "Bryan's Trail Recipes", which are almost entirely true.
Tuna Salad Sans Salad
  1. Dump a can of tuna (in oil) on to an upturned pot lid.
  2. Liberally coat the tuna with mayonnaise.
  3. Add 2-3 tablespoons of mustard to taste.
  4. Wolf that shit down, then pass out in the middle of a field.
  5. Arise at daybreak.
The Cafeteria
  1. Go to a cafeteria.
  2. Order a salad.
  3. Maybe order another salad.
  4. Order some potato thing.
  5. I think that's meat? Yeah, some of that right there (point).
  6. Order vareniki, because I know what vareniki is.
  7. Pour a glass of juice.
  8. Get a cup of coffee from the coffee machine.
  9. Ooh, definitely one of those pastry things.
  10. Only pay 5 bucks for everything because this is Ukraine.
The Jar of Honey
  1. Buy a jar of honey.
  2. Eat the jar of honey.
  3. Discard the jar in an appropriate waste receptacle.
The Gas Station
  1. Stop at a gas station and realize how famished you are.
  2. Fugue.
  3. Suddenly find yourself sitting on the curb. Look down and find the wrecked carcasses of three candy bars and at least two ice cream bars.
The Mole
(A guest recipe by Stork, as witnessed by your chef Bryan)
  1. Use your beady little eyes to spy a mole burrowing close to the surface.
  2. Grab the mole in your wicked beak.
  3. The mole may squirm and resist. Try to crush his little head by tossing and catching it with your huge fucking beak.
  4. If that fails, drop him and skewer him heartlessly, five or six times, with your unbelievably menacing beak.
  5. Utter a hissing kiai, like a boxer, with each thrust. This will serve to thoroughly horrify any onlookers.
  6. Swallow whole the mole's lifeless, broken body.

But seriously, I ate a lot of food. I'm still eating a lot of food. While on the ship, it was difficult to get enough calories for the day. I can only fit so much food in my stomach at one sitting, and there were too few sittings in a day. (Three square meals? Preposterous!) I devised, but did not have time to implement, a strategy whereby I would go to sleep directly after the evening watch, and then wake up 1.5 hours later to attend 10pm fika.

Food > Sleep.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The People

[Written Saturday, 31 August]

The best thing about being on board a replica of an 18th century sailing vessel is the people.

It takes a while to realize that. You start off visually overwhelmed: huge sails, towering wooden masts and poles, and a web of rigging doing god knows what. Telling yourself, "Hey, I'm gonna be using these things," is like driving into San Francisco over the Bay Bridge, with the Golden Gate Bridge framing the dense cluster of tall buildings surrounded by the sea, and telling yourself, "Hey, I live there."

And then you, and all the folks who came aboard with you, start learning the ropes (ha!), learning your responsibilities, and learning the rhythm of the ship. Then you and your watch - around 15 people in my case - are awakened at 3:20 so you can muster in the early morning subarctic light at 4 AM. Then it's climb, and haul, and scrub, and chafe your hands raw on sandpaper rope and stiff linen sails, until 8 AM when you collapse on the tables on the gun deck, huddled four to a bench over your late breakfast and coffee. Exhaustion spirals out from the pit of your stomach, paralyzing your legs and making your vision swim. Then it's down into the aktre skans (don't know the English word for that), up with the hammocks, and sleep till lunch at noon.

It's 8pm now, and the midship watch (that's me) was on call for 24 hours until two hours ago, so I'm about to pass out again. I ain't gonna write much more right now, and if I don't publish what I have, I won't publish anything at all. Let me take a shortcut back to what I was saying.

You work hard, you sleep when you can, you climb rope rigging and deal with a million little details and fuckups, and you throw one more load of cups into the dishwasher, and back up the little ladders to muster under the stortoppen at 4 in the morning, and you might -- MIGHT -- ask yourself, "Wait, what part of this do I actually enjoy? Why am I absolutely loving every moment of this?"

I had to think about it for a day before it came to me. It took a while because one it's so blindingly obvious and ever-present. It's the people. Those bodies you climb over to haul on the same rope, and embrace after a long watch, and sit around playing guitar with are what make the ship special. Age, nationality, and gender slowly fade into the team unity. You sleep together, hammocks bumping into eath other; eat together, crawling over each other to get off the bench and around the cannons to get second third helpings; work together, pushing and hauling with a unison born of necessity; and share the same joy and love for the beauty of the ship and of the forces of nature that power it.

And that's just week one.

It's true that most of my watch signed off here in Norrtälje, but I don't think the friendships will end so abruptly. Plus, there is now a whole new bunch of people to meet and befriend. You won't find me complaining.

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