Siblings Day & Best Friends Day

It bothers me that more and more people are posting about Siblings and Best Friends Day on social media. Seems like a small thing, but that’s how it starts: a few posts, some messages and one day you’re an asshole because you didn’t send a card and buy a gift.

They’re bogus holidays, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Days to honor your parents…instead of spending money one day a year, why not honor your parents in other ways? Lead a good life. Treat people well. Don’t lock them away when they’re old, take care of them.

Of course, you can’t take care of them if they’re a threat to themselves and others. If Dad’s brandishing the kitchen knife, then you’d better send him to a home.

Unless it’s time to cut the cake.

Book Passage of the Week – from Hold the Dark, by William Giraldi

I’m digging the prose in Hold the Dark, about an ailing old man who helps a grieving mother track down the wolf that killed her son in a remote Alaskan village.

He’d seen his daughter only once in the last three years, when she came home the morning after her mother’s stroke. Three crawling years. Life was not short, as people insisted on saying. He’d quit cigarettes and whiskey just before she was born. He wanted to be in health for her and knew then that ten years clipped from his life by drink and smoke were ten years too many. Now he knew those were the worthless years anyway, the silver decade of life, a once-wide vista shrunk to a keyhole. Not all silver shines. As of this morning he had plans to return to cigarettes and whiskey both. He regretted not buying them at the airport.

Never Heard of It

Today is my birthday, and last night my division had a farewell dinner for someone who’s going to Forecaster School. Nobody wants to hang out with their co-workers outside of work. For me it’s right at the bottom alongside Mandatory Fun with things I want to spend my limited free time doing.

And I mean limited free time. One can be forgiven for thinking that shore duty means you have more time to yourself and what you want to do, but our schedule nixes that idea. Right now we work six days in a row, off three days, on three nights, and off three more days before the cycle starts anew. We went from twelve hour days to six, but the trade-off is that we are there more days a month, and if there is something going on that requires all hands (uniform inspection, for instance), then that’s another day you won’t have. Combine that with any collateral duties (extra duties you aren’t compensated for) that take place on your off-days, the extra work and less manpower, and it’s no wonder some people are dropping chits to return to sea duty six months early.

The dinners themselves can be awkward affairs. Sometimes it depends on the choice of venue. In the Navy, we call the dinner a Hail and Farewell: you hail the new people aboard and say farewell to the people who are leaving. The trouble starts when not everyone shows up — the first three I went two, one guy just didn’t come — and it gets no better when you’re sitting around the table, wishing you were elsewhere. Nothing to talk about except work.

I’ve been to four so far in San Diego, and I’m happy to report this is the least awkward division I’ve ever worked with. For instance, we actually talk to each other. Isn’t it great how sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference?

Last night I skipped beer and stuck with water, and I ended up chatting with my co-worker’s son, who is 12.

Co-Worker’s Son: Do you like to play any online games?

Me: Not in a long time. When I was your age, I played this game called Starcraft.

Co-Worker’s Son: Never heard of it.

Oh man. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to ring in my 32nd birthday.

One benefit of joining the Navy: working with kids fresh out of high school means I have to stop bullshitting myself about my youth.

New Expat Jimmy Review

On a day in which my website was hacked and I had to endure Facebook burying my posts because I won’t pay them to show it, I mean “boost” it, some good news came flying in over the transom: another Expat Jimmy review.

Jetlagged and tired, Jimmy sees Wuhan, goes to many different places (and manages to not collapse from exhaustion!) and listens to Adam’s endless China tips. Crazy taxi rides, construction works everywhere, baijiu, hot water, accidents, shady clubs… this is China!

This review comes courtesy of Marta, who lives in Suzhou with her husband. She works as a translator and blogs about her life in China in both English and Spanish.

Check out her blog. Huge thanks to Marta for doing the review. Not all writers have automatic support systems thanks to their pedigree or gender, nor do we get book deals and coverage thanks to big media connections, so I appreciate every review I get.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out Expat Jimmy, a tale of James’s first day in China, and the jaded seven-year laowai who shows him the dark side of expat life. Taking place in one day, it’s unique among expat novels in its approach, at least until someone well-connected writes a neutered version of the same book.

At that point, Expat Jimmy will be forgotten, so review it while it’s hot…

P, for Potential

“I think you show a lot of potential,” Chief Earhart said. He was struggling. Good. Let him.

“I see a lot of potential in you,” Chief continued. He flicked the mustache he’d grown for Movember. They couldn’t wear beards, so they participated by growing mustaches. Voting for the best mustache would take place on the watchfloor next week, and the winner would get 24-hours special liberty. It was strange seeing Chief Earhart in a mustache. It looked he was hiding something, like he had another mouth under all that hair, and it spoke his real thoughts.

We think you suck, Denson. You’re not one of us. We like other people better, so they get EP’s and MP’s, and you . . . you get what’s left. P.

It meant Promotable, the lowest “good” mark possible on your quarterly evaluation, but the letter P stood for so much more. While Chief kept talking, William thought of what else it meant.

Pushy? Pussy? Party? Partial? Pure?

“So keep at it, and I look for great things from you,” Chief’s visible mouth said.

“So fuck off with your P, and thank your lucky stars advancement has been 100% the past few cycles, otherwise you’d still be an Airman,” Chief’s hidden mouth said.

Pity? William thanked Chief and left the Chief’s Mess. Pity . . . that sounded better. Close, not quite, but getting there.

It showed a lot of potential too.


 

If you liked this sample from Keepers of Time, follow me on Twitter or Facebook. The samples, in order:

  1. A Step Ahead
  2. Thirty-Four with a Shrug
  3. An Encounter at the Thirsty Camel
  4. Take Pills
  5. P, for Potential