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Oh, God.

It's still before noon. Why am I awake? . . . oh, wait. Yeah, that was the sound of something toppling on its side. It sounded like something heavy, too. That's why I'm up.

I live in a house with children.

::facepalm::


Way back when I was a husky young lass in my twenties, I swore that if I could help it, I would never again share my home with a child. After helping out with my nephew Ryan, and realizing the sheer amount of work and self-sacrifice involved in the task, I decided that I had enough to deal with, being somewhat crazy, depressed, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) suffering from a chronic illness.

Proving the Universe views our lives as one long joke, I ended up as my mother's sole caretaker, and cared for her as she descended into the all-consuming hell of Alzheimer's. (I have a section in my living will that states I am to be given the option of euthanizing myself if I receive a diagnosis of that disease. I've yet to have it notarized, but wish me luck.) Caring for children is nothing like caring for a loved one whose mind is disintegrating on a daily basis. That said, I still do not want children, nor do I want to care for children. My uterus has "No Trespassing" branded on it. If the diabetes didn't make it hard enough to conceive, my uterus' vast fields of fibroids would surely do the trick.

When I met Stefan, one of the things I made sure of was that he didn't want children either. A childfree partner was a deal-maker; if he'd ever said something like, "You know, if we had kids now, we'd just be in our 60s when they went to college," I'd have run screaming from him. As it was, we're in agreement: babies and kids can be cute, but so can certain types of spiders. We don't intend to breed any of them.

However, when he invited me to move in with him, it wasn't to a place of our own. It was a house he shared with adopted little sister Annika, Annika's husband Jason, and their two little boys, who I shall refer to here as Bean and Frog. (Those are their actual nicknames. Bean was named for the shape he had in utero; Frog, for the way he still splays at rest, on his stomach, arms and legs spread wide.)

And because I've come to care for Annika and Jason, and am crazy in love with Stefan . . . I decided to suck it up and move in.

Don't get me wrong - the boys are sweet kids, too. Bean is the one I have occasional difficulties with. He's smart enough to try to push his boundaries with his parents, and stubborn enough to think he can argue his way into getting his way. Thankfully, his parents are smarter than he is, still. But Bean still will throw fits and tantrums, furious when they don't work. I want to punt him into a wall when he does that - but his parents are ruthless when he does it, making it clear that all his fits will get him is time out, grounding, and removal of his privileges week by week. (It starts with one week. Bean has actually been grounded for two months at a time.) He has issues he's being medicated for; sadly, the medications often cause him to "Hulk out" in rage, so Annika has to go back to his pediatrician with her documentation of the results, and ask for something new. Whatever they're giving him for the ADHD and anger issues just aggravates them over time.

Frog is the charmer, a sweet and unfortunately over-sensitive little boy. (You tell him to do something one way, he thinks you're telling him he sucks at doing it at all, and starts to cry. Poor kid.) So far, his only issue is a tiny, uncontrolled bladder. He can't have anything to drink before he goes to bed, because it results in a soaked mattress pad by morning. His pediatrician has said he'll grow out of it. We're hoping so. Frog is deeply attached to his big brother, sometimes to Bean's annoyance; some of their worst fights arise from the fact that Frog has decided it's his duty to give Bean a hug every five minutes.

So, all in all, two kids who are very seldom my responsibility or problem. But, oh, God, in the summer I sleep with earplugs. Why?

::Frog starts to cry:: That's why.

That's how I've ended up waking up, on occasion, to something falling, and giving thanks that it's nothing of mine or Stefan's. We keep our stuff out of the reach of little hands and feet. Damn, those boys love to climb.

# # # #

The title of the post refers to something I'm going to share today, as I wind up to tell you all about the Black Rose Bar & Grill. Stefan works for a seafood company - if I told you their name, you might not believe me - working out of Port Moller, AK. That's on the other side of Cold Bay, AK, one of the many "towns" along the Alaska Peninsula. You have the Pacific Ocean on one side, and Bristol Bay (part of the Bering Sea) on the other; there are Inuit settlements up and down the Peninsula, and many small places like Port Moller, which are towns solely because there's a factory in place.

Stefan's worked there for 20 years, working first on a processing boat (preparing fresh-caught fish for shipping), and then making his way to the factory stockroom. They sell parts and equipment to the main fishing fleet as well as independent fishers who've lived in the Nelson Lagoon area for . . . well, forever. As Stefan tells it, most of the fishers have inherited their boats from their fathers, who had them from their fathers. It's a family affair down here, and everybody knows everybody.

Not all the fishers, though, are locals. Some come in after doing a turn up at False Pass for salmon. Some are sportsmen who come up every summer. Among their number is a man known as Bob. Or, rather, Big Bad Bob.

Big Bad Bob used to play professional football. It's thought he might have played a couple of seasons without a helmet. He married into money, and two years ago his in-laws gave him a shiny new boat, money for equipment, and (presumably) "Fishing For Dummies," and sent him off to Nelson Lagoon. Anyway, Bob sailed in to Port Moller, demanded supplies, and promptly pissed off Stefan and every other person working at the stockroom.

See, one of the things the stockroom staff do is keep an ear on the radio. It's tuned to a general-purpose station that allows them to overhear any calls for help, so they can get the Coast Guard out to rescue people whose boat is sinking, on fire, swamped by stormy waters, or shattered by iceberg. They occasionally get calls for help from people who stall out. Bob barely got out into the water when he radioed for help because his boat wasn't moving.

Why wasn't his boat moving?

He hadn't lifted the anchor, which was wrapped around a rock back at the pier.

Bob has built upon that initial foundation, cementing his reputation as an idiot with too much money on his hands. As the owner of a boat that is a pretty piece of real estate (as well as loaded with state-of-the-art fishing equipment), Bob should be doing a pretty good haul each summer. What Bob catches, mostly, are fines for reckless boating, daily hangovers, and boat repairs because, apparently, he never bothered to read the owner's manual for his expensive, pretty boat. Since he likes to run up tabs at the bar, he's been cut off multiple times until he pays up; he then tries to cadge drinks off the locals, which pisses them off as well. (Fishermen don't mind buying each other drinks. What they mind is some Johnny-come-lately who can't catch an old boot with a seine net trying to bum an endless round off them.) Stefan has demanded that he pay for past supplies before he'll let Bob order new supplies, as he tries to wriggle out of those bills too. As for getting along with the other locals, Bob has such a bad reputation as a loudmouthed drunk (in a place where many of the fishermen are pants-wetting drunk by 11 a.m.) that when he tries to hire deckhands, he has to go through Craigslist because none of the locals will hire on with him.

Last June, Bob called up George (Stefan's boss) on the radio. "One of my hydraulic hoses is leaking." George asked, "Which hose?" And Bob answered, "The one that goes from the handle to the deck."

There are usually 4 to 8 different hydraulic valves on a boat deck, with 16 to 20 hoses running to the various equipment. This caused Stefan to crack about Bob, "Body like bull . . . brain like seagull."

A month later, Bob somehow managed to fry the batteries in his boat. To get help, he fired off all his flares and triggered his Emergency Signalling Device - which is a strict no-no unless you're actually sinking and in danger of soon being dead. The Coast Guard went out looking for him . . . and Bob managed to limp his boat back into Port Moller. To say the staff at Port Moller were extremely miffed at him is an understatement, especially as just one day later, an old-timer who was well-loved by locals and staff had his boat catch on fire just as he was coming back to Port Moller. In fifteen minutes, he and his crew were in the water watching his boat of 20+ years burn and sink; they had to paddle around for an hour waiting for the boat travelling with them to look back, notice the smoke rising, and come back to to get them. If this had happened while Bob was playing with his flares and signal, the old-timer would have been ignored, and things might have gone worse for him.

His deckhand decided in August 2012 that it would be great fun to get on the emergency channel and show off his DJ skills - namely, do an impromptu rap full of crude, misogynistic details. Aside from having every boat in the area radio Stefan and urge him to "get that fucking idiot off the channel," he was taking up space that was needed for people who might be having trouble. (See above.) For that, Stefan not only prohibited him from using the channel, but cut him off from using the stockroom's computer for Internet access.

So . . . cue this summer. Bob comes in and flies this deckhand up from Wyoming to Port Moller. To give you an idea about airfares: from Seattle to Anchorage costs around $300, but from Anchorage to Cold Bay (50 miles from Port Moller, and the closest place with an airport), airfare shoots up to around $3500. Anyway, he brings up the deckhand, who promptly quits once he gets to Port Moller, turns around, and heads up to King Salmon on the other side of Cold Bay, where there's a bar, a hotel, and damn little else. (Why? I have no idea.) Anyway, Bob stormed down to Anchorage to see if he could hire someone stupid enough to work for him.

Cue his return last week, quoted from Stefan's email:


Around here, the worst wind for a boat in the harbor here is from the Southeast; that means the wind is coming straight towards the dock face and beachline where the plant is. The more wind, the choppier the waves get as the water moves into the shallower beach.

Well, it was blowing HARD. 35-40 miles an hour. Strong enough to push a 40-foot-long freezer container 6 feet sideways on the face of the dock the night before.

So, of course, Bob decided that this was the PERFECT time to come over. He got into the bay, set his anchor, and promptly caught a rock the size of large watermelon in it. (this keeps the anchor from digging in).

Ol' Bob decided to try to tie up to the dock and deal with it here. Apparently, he managed to get a rope tied onto a piling before the wind snatched him free and drove his boat bow-first into the beach . . . at low tide.

The first I see of this is coming out of the mess hall at 3pm coffee break, and seeing his boat sitting there, with waves breaking into sheets of spray over the rear of his boat.

We spent the next two hours watching him try to get the boat out by using the same tactic one might use with a stuck car- putting it in forward, and then reverse drive, trying to wiggle his way out.

This does not quite work with a 35mph wind hammering water into the rear of your boat.

Finally, when the tide got high enough, George got on the radio and told him to power his boat out in reverse and bring the bow around into the wind and get the hell out of the bay.

But nooooo, he wants to try to tie up to the dock again. At least when the Dock Boss, Richard, came on the radio and told him that he is NOT to get close to the dock in this weather, PERIOD, that Bob finally gets the idea and runs for cover in one of the more sheltered parts of the bay.

AND THEN, later that day, Bob gets on the radio and asks if the plane with mail came in today.

We don't see Bob for the next two days- except for his once-daily call about the mailplane arrival.

O.K., this brings us up to today. We finally see Bob. And he says he broke a tooth on trail mix last night, and has to fly back to Anchorage.

While in the stockroom here, Neil (one of the plant mechanics) comes in and Bob starts talking to him. Bob complains that since the welder worked on his rudder last year, there’s been a lot of water leaking into the boat.

Neil replies that Bob should check and/or replace the packing around the rudder post.

"What's that?" says Bob.

(insert sound of a record needle being pulled sharply across a record here)

Neil makes some rather pointed comments about "basic maintenance," to which Bob replies, "Well, I got a lot to learn."





::facepalm::

There is a betting pool in place, in case you're wondering, on how long Bob will last. Oh, not whether he's going to die - no fisherman wants to see another one bite the dust; they see too much of it each season. But they know it won't be long before Bob wrecks his boat to the point where it's nothing more than salvage material in his mind - and that'll mean Bob will go home and find a new hobby at which to suck, and locals will salvage and restore a perfectly good, extraordinarily expensive boat. A win-win situation for all is what they have in mind.

I'd like to chuck money into that pot, but I have a feeling the odds aren't all that good.

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