Thursday, May 23, 2013

Intracoastal City, Louisiana

I was telling stories of my life to amuse my coworkers at lunch. They asked me about my limp and if I'd ever hurt my back.
"Oh, yeah. I was in the Merchant Marines and I was throwing a line to another vessel and this was a thick, 2.5'' line, probably weighed 65 pounds, and at the last second the guy turned away and so I held onto the line and all the weight transferred awkwardly to my back muscles and went beyond their limit."
"What happened?"
"I was hurt so bad that I got a fever and curled up on the floor. There's still a bulge in my muscles from that."
"Wait, you were in the Merchant Marines?"

There followed my version of "Heart of Darkness" and I told parts of the story of my dreamy efforts to see the world, learn a trade, earn some money, experience life...and the reality of back pain, poverty, Vicodin addiction, clouds of cigarette smoke, learning all the star constellations, prostitutes and Gator Folk swamp men from Florida as Engineers. Mostly I got good at writing midnight letters dramatizing my days at sea. Ultimately, the sea fought back and sank my car during a hurricane.

I will not bore you with these details but it got me thinking of this one location that the crew boat had to go through a freshwater lock and I couldn't remember the name of the town so I hunted. That's because it had no name except to commercial ships. Intracoastal City. It's not the refinery location that remains in my Mad Max memory but it's close. Morgan City was another place, Port Arthur, Freeport, Galveston, New Orleans. Did I get to Madrid? No. Tokyo? No. Houston? Yes. Go spend a month in Intracoastal City.

I remember a particular Summer morning at around 5 am when the false sunrise was ushering us back to land after 8 hours in heavy seas and the rich bayou smell of rot and oil welcomed my senses. The locks were in the distance. Herons and flamingos glided in flocks. The first mosquito flew by my face. I held the line to be ready to lasso the davit at the locks in Freshwater City. I could only do that one thing well. I was making no money as the employment agency took everything. I had no home and my car was parked in a dirt lot 1000 miles away. I had no plans for my future.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.