My good friend Daniel suggested I start to write down the stories I always talk about… I’m not sure if I should write these in a past tense or like I’m still in that time… I’ll just free write it and see how it goes. So here we go…
The Great Adventure
Mid June 1993
So I’ve been out of high school for a month now. I’ve been enjoying my summer, for the most part. It has been made bittersweet by the sudden ending of my year long relationship with Tayva. God I love Tayva. Breaking up with her has been so difficult. I should have seen it coming. I’ve been so immature about so much of our relationship, I can’t blame her for looking for what she needed somewhere else. But for her to leave me after all we shared, and immediately end up with someone else? That’s hard to take. But I’m trying to be strong about this, and I’m trying desperately to hang on to all the friends we share. That’s not easy since they pretty much all knew her first. I came into this circle because of her, and I’m afraid I’ll find myself out of it for the same reason.
Anyway, it’s Thursday and nothing much has been going on today. Jason called me tonight and said he had a problem that he needed my opinion on. This has of course made me very pleased, since Jason is one of the friends I am fearful of losing because of my fallout with Tayva. For him to seek my advice on a personal problem is comforting. It means I might not lose all my friends after all.
Jason’s problem is, in my opinion, a fairly simple one. He and his father haven’t gotten along in years. In fact, his Dad lives in Alaska and Jason rarely sees or hears from him. It seems Jason’s dad (Lee), has found himself stranded in Seattle, WA for some reason. I guess he was down there for a job or something, regardless he’s had to find himself a way home to Anchorage. Lee hunted around and eventually found a boat that needs a crew for a trip to Anchorage. The boat is an old Navy Land, Craft, Utility (LCU) vessel that was bought by an oil rig company in Anchorage for use as a supply ship. They bought the boat in Santa Barbara and have been piloting it up the West Coast towards Alaska. Somewhere just before they reached Puget Sound they blew out their engines. So the ship and the original crew have been holed up in Westport, WA for three months or so while the engines get rebuilt. As a result, the oil company has recalled the original crew because of a “days out” limit. They reached it weeks ago. So now they need people to man this ship as it travels the Inside Passage and crosses the Gulf of Alaska to get to Anchorage. So Lee got himself on this crew as a means of working while he concurrently makes his way back home.
Ok, so what is Jason’s problem exactly? Well… turns out Lee wants Jason to come up and work on the boat with him. The ship needs another deck hand and Lee volunteered Jason for the job. Jason says that they are going to pay him $250/day while he’s working, and they’ll pay for his flight back home. The only thing he has to pay for is getting to Seattle so that Lee can pick him up and take him over to Westport.
Jason would make enough money to pay for an entire year at the Junior College in a month. Cool, right? I thought so. But Jason doesn’t think he can handle a month or two with his Dad on this ship. I asked him how big the ship is. He says it’s 135 feet long and three decks. That seems like a big enough place to me. I suggested to Jason that he could handle it, that getting “away” from his father if he needed to wouldn’t be that hard. He didn’t agree.
I told him he’d be a fool if he didn’t take the opportunity to make his next year of college financially easier to handle. He agreed, and said that the thought had already occurred to him. Turns out his request for advice was really turning into a, “help me say no to my father” call. While I understand the desire to flee from one of your parents, I could not, in good conscience, tell him to say no to this opportunity. Besides, it looked to me like his Dad was trying to offer an olive branch.
So I came up with a possible solution.
“Jason, do they have everyone they need? Or might they need another deck hand or something?”
There was a pause as Jason contemplated my questions.
Then he replied, “I don’t know. Are you suggesting that you’d go too?”
“Naturally! I need to pay for school next year too. Besides, it sounds like fun.”
There was another pause on the other end of the line, then Jason said, “I’ve got to call them and find out. I really don’t know if there is any openings, but I’ll ask and call you back!”
With that the line went dead and I began waiting for Jason’s call. It’s now 11:30pm and I haven’t heard from Jason since that call a few hours back. I guess the answer was no. Either that, or Jason told his father to bugger off and he doesn’t want to hear my objections to that. Whatever. I’m going to bed.
So this morning I woke up around 8am. I still haven’t heard from Jason and it’s almost 10:30am now. It’s Friday, so I’m naturally spending my day just lounging around the house. Dad’s home. He’s been home a lot since he was laid off by General Physics. It’s interesting. He’s working for himself now, doing Independent Contracting stuff. He seems happier, even though his income isn’t as regular or as high as it was before. I really think the freedom of controlling your own destiny may have something to do with his more relaxed attitude.
10:30, the phone rings.
“Dave! They need someone else, so my Dad got you hired!”
“Really? That’s cool. So I guess we are going to do this then, huh Jason?”
“Yeah. I’ve already got our plane tickets to Seattle. There’s just one thing left to iron out.”
“What’s that bro?”
“Can your Dad take us to the airport. Tomorrow?” There’s a pause on both ends as this sinks in, then Jason finishes, “We need to be there by 6am for our flight.”
In my mind I begin to register what he’s saying. 6am, Tomorrow, Seattle, Flight… Holy sh…
“Jason? Tomorrow? We leave for Alaska tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Did I forget to tell you when the trip was?”
“Yes. I think you forgot to mention that. Hold on.” No turning back now I figure, the ball has already been set in motion. Might as well roll with it. I cover the mouthpiece to the phone and yell to my Dad, “Hey Pop! Can you give Jason and me a ride to the airport in the morning? We need to be there by 6!”
My Dad, firmly planted in the Archie Junker chair reading his daily paper, folds down a corner of his paper to look at me and says, “Ummm sure. Why?”
I brace for the response to this answer, “We are flying to Seattle. We’re gonna work on a boat going to Alaska.”
A semi-puzzled look comes across Dad’s face and then as though he knows something better than I do he smiles and says, “Sure thing,” and promptly goes back to his paper.
I stare at him for a moment. His non-chalant attitude about this is kind of weird, I think. I really expected him to respond in a much more animated way. Telling me how dangerous a job on a boat in Alaska can be, or how I shouldn’t be so reckless with my life, or that something like this should be more planned out. No, none of that. Just a “Sure thing,” and that was it.
I return to the phone, “Jason? He’ll do it.”
“Ok man, I gotta run. I need to go to the thrift store.”
“Jason. I didn’t just get back from living in Colorado like you. I have no warm clothes. I don’t think tank tops and shorts and flip flops will be appropriate attire in Alaska.”
“Oh. Ok. I’ll talk to you later!”
I hang up the phone and stare at the kitchen tiles for a moment. Their white ceramic reminding me of snow. Snow. I hadn’t seen snow in quite some time. Not since my last visit to my Uncle Rick’s in Carson City, NV. I hate the snow. What am I doing going to Alaska?
My father’s voice pulls me abruptly out of my thoughts.
“You need to get going. It might take a couple of different stores to find warm clothes. This is San Diego after all.”
I stare at my Dad again. Who is this man? He’s always talking about making a plan for your life, and setting goals. This Alaska thing is probably the most impulsive thing I’ve ever done in my life and he’s acting like I’m going to camp for the summer.
“Um… you’re right Dad. Can I borrow some money?”
Weird… really, really, weird.
Ok, that’s all for now. Part 3 to come soon!