About Me

A slightly over-educated sailor sharing the wet and dry sides of his life.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Ship's Server is Back Online, Jack Tar in Kafka's "Trial", "Payboys" in Singapore, and A Meditation on Prostitution.

Thursday, September 03, 2009
Well, it has been somewhat like a vacation with the ship's server being down for over a month. I say that because I ended up using my writing time for sleep and reading books given to me by Margaret. I finished two books since I received my new glasses and have started a third--but more on that in a later post (if I remember to).

I must have mentioned this before, but I do work 12 hours a day and seven days a week, when the ship is out at sea. On occasion, I will pass on 4 hours of overtime, but that happens only when fatigue has left my body feeling near ill. Why do I do this? Well, if it wasn't for the overtime, this job wouldn't pay enough. Clear and simple. You might ask why I don't find a job that pays the same without all the additional hours. Well, how many jobs allow you four or five months off a year? People often forget that time is money when operating within a capitalist economy. So, more OT I make, more time I can spend at home. It's as easy as that.

First of all, an update on Jack Tar in Jebel Ali is required. I heard tonight that his story was covered by CNN. The latest word is that he was brought to trial, but a translator wasn't available. Down with the gavel and trial delayed for another two months. I have to say that it's unbelievable how this has gone on for so long. Of course, such would be unheard of in the United States; however, with such shenanigans, it would appear that the local authorities seized this opportunity to harass him. As I said before, his only crime was to get upset because the Immigration officials were acting like unprofessional jerks. True, there might have been new requirements for photo identification, but the way they handled the matter was clearly gauged to frustrate and infuriate. Their motivation was clearly to wield the power of a petty bureaucrat over those with less power than themselves. Sadly, he played into their hands.

Anyway, the ship left Singapore this morning. The two nights spent there was well received by the crew. The one crimp on the fun was that the ship docked on Tuesday sometime around 9:00 pm. That didn't leave the "Payboys" ((not "Playboys," if you know what I mean...) much time to make it ashore tto Peoples Park. Of the ones who made it there before the girls gravitated to Orchard Towers (this generally occurring around 10:30 pm, they arrived in such a harried state, two reported experiencing degrees of erectile dysfunction. The phrase, "Haste makes waste," comes to mind here. Actually, it probably had more to do with a work long day, high heat and high temperature.

The following morning, and through the afternoon, was somewhat of a cluster fuck. Bunker barge, stores, and engine parts all competed for the Deck Department's time. For some reason, none of these arrived at 8:00 am, when the work day started. Worst of all, the food stores and the engine parts showed up late in the morning and just before a cargo crane shifted to hatch #6, effectively blocking off the delivery trucks from our stores crane. Though it is possible for a truck to squeeze in between the crane and the edge of the dock, this is strictly not allowed by the port. The ship's agent did manage to hold off the return of the cargo crane, when it took an hour to work another hatch. Unfortunately, it came back during a momentary lull between crane lifts. This resulted in a several hour delay in the loading of the engine parts.

Now, there is a side to these unfortunate series of delays which ties together both of the previous paragraphs. You see, the postponement of stores was detaining the Deck Gang well into the afternoon. Had the
deliveries appeared first thing in the morning, we would most likely have been done by noon or shortly after that. As it was, I believe the lifts were completed late in the afternoon or not long after dinner (I was cut loose at 3:00 pm, since all hands were not needed for the last of the lifts). The twist to this story is that the Payboys, having been disappointed by their performances the night before, were on a mission for redemption. To them, the whole day sat as torment, leaving them kicking the stall and chomping at the bit. And it didn't help that the powers that be failed to schedule deliveries to the ship in a smart manner.

What's this? Do I sense some scorn towards the Payboys for their catering to the ladies of Peoples Park? Nay, I must protest! What many do not know or realize is that these hard-working guys are in their 60's. They are men who, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, "do not go gentle into that good night. They rage, rage against the dying of the light." Some may view them as cads, but none can deny their verve. By the way, their second night did find redemption.

While I do not condone the whole business of prostitution, I certainly will not sit in judgment against it. It is because there is one aspect that I suspect many of those who condemn it fail to consider. It is that of the
human need for intimacy. And, when I say "intimacy," I'm encompassing the aspects of the emotional, the psychological, the physical, and, perhaps, the spiritual.  Sure, one can validly suggest that johns should instead cultivate a normal, healthy relationship with a woman. There is also the matter of many a prostitute having a history of sexual abuse, thus experiencing a destruction of intimacy and the subsequent  rationalization of "might as well sell it." Unfortunately, since I am neither a woman nor one who experienced sexual abuse, I feel I am not in a position to speak to how a woman might uniquely experience damage to her capacity for intimacy. However, in the midst of all this loss, there still remains desire.

But what is the shape of desire in a world where life, let alone intimacy, has been mediated by monetary exchange? Consider this: The average unlicensed sailor spends the majority of his year, and, by retirement, the majority of his life at sea. For that time, he is lives among men. If he is heterosexual, he is lives removed from women or the experience of life with women. While ashore, he might or might not find the opportunity to cultivate a relationship with a woman. Depending on his prior level of emotional maturity around women, he might find himself in a strong relationship. Otherwise, the day he retires, his wife might just greet him
on that day by dumping a pot of boiling water on him. Nonetheless, he will spend the better part of the year away from her. If he is homosexual, more often than not he will find himself among only heterosexuals who are not interested in his desires.

In all cases, the seafarer is at a disadvantage when it comes to fulfilling his need for intimacy when the rest of his emotional life is as a cog in the vast machine of global commerce. In the meantime, he feels his life force, his verve, ebbing away as more than half of every year he lives passes by estranged from human touch. So this begs the question: In the face of an inherently emotionally alienating lifestyle, how might he find a means of experiencing some kind, any kind of intimacy? When those who live in a world where half of all marriages end in divorce feel fit to sit in judgment, who is right and who is wrong when it comes to how a human being seeks out intimacy in what ever form it might take?

In the face of all this, I think it useful to consider the possibility of the union of a particular set of desires. When a man in need of experiencing intimacy contracts with a woman seeking to salvage her sexual
dignity, what might be the interaction? While one can preempt with the suggestion of a mutually enabling relationship, I would counter that this position is potentially nihilistic. This assumes that any contractual
relationship will be bereft of transcendence. I must protest and insist that this is not necessary. At the least, when both parties are aware of their desires, certainly the possibility of redemption exists against the
loss that both have experienced. Even if the relationship is an imagined fantasy, in that realm of the imagination redemption is acted out. Therefore a therapeutic value does exist. Is there not the element of an acting out upon a theater stage when a client talks out his or her anxieties with a psychotherapist? For that reason, I have to hesitate to judge.

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