Francis Meyrick

A Blip on the Radar (Part 10) “Burning The Garbage; Moggy, Moggy, what you DO?? “

Posted on October 11, 2009

A Blip on the Radar

Part 10: “Burning The Garbage; Moggy, Moggy, what you DO?? “

Looking back, I know I elevated naivety to an Art form, truly worthy of the Guinness Book of Records.
But I plead innocence. After all, I mostly meant well. That is probably what I shall be telling Saint Peter outside the Pearly Gates as well one day. I just hope he does not repeat back to me the often heard admonition from my family members, namely that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions‘. If that truth holds in the Appeal Courts of Heaven, then, basically, I’m going where it’s hot. Real hot.

I was on my first tuna trip. I had landed the evening before, it was my second day aboard, and it was all a grand adventure to me. We were still enroute to the fishing grounds, and there was no need to go flying. I had done my first ever tuna boat landing, and I had yet to perform my first ever tuna boat take-off. I was strolling around the ship, exploring, and I was surprised -and pleased- to discover that the Taiwanese were, in fact, ecologically sensitive and aware.
I had discovered…. a refuse incineration system. Damn, I was impressed.
It wasn’t exactly hi-tech. It consisted of a large oil drum, on the intermediate working deck, with the top cut out. Looking into it, you could clearly see the remains of old rubbish and plastic stuff they had previously burned. I resolved, in my usual well meaning, bumbling way, to fully partake in this project. Namely, to keep Mother Nature, all Our Mother, free from trash and especially plastic garbage. I had already put together quite a little stash. The previous pilot and mechanic had obviously been slobs, and I had filled a large plastic refuse bag full of foul smelling produce. There was plenty of plastic, old newspapers, and empty cartons.Since I had cleaned out the refrigerator as well, I had stale yoghurt, sausages growing some kind of green mold, half drunk Pepsi bottles, a dubious green cheese that was once yellow, and the pride of my collection, a remarkably foul smelling substance casually wrapped in a torn waxed plastic roll. In better days, I think it might have been patee foie. Regardless, the idealist in me, the Earth savvy tree hugger, knew better than to simply chuck that lot overboard. It would be all lovingly stored, until such time as it could be properly disposed of.

In the event, I did not have long to wait. That very afternoon, as I went for another amble, there they were, burning the garbage can. Cool. The captain was there as well, and three or four of the ship’s officers. It was good to see that they took this matter seriously. Off I trotted back to my cabin, and I soon proudly returned toting my large refuse bag of odious smelling yukky stuff. I marched up to the burning drum, and peeped in. Good, there was plenty of room. Their smelly stuff was burning beautifully. In a quick move, I tipped the whole bag in. I distinctly remember giving them a broad, righteous grin as I did it. GreenPeace loyalists would have applauded me…
The reaction was not quite what I had expected.
I wasn’t expecting applause. But maybe a mild acknowledgment that I was doing my bit for Mother Nature? My bit for Planet Earth? Instead of silent approval…. I got total consternation!
There was an immediate babble of obvious protest. One of them almost screamed. A pained sort of “ai-ai-ai-Aye…..!! “
Two of them dove in, and started pulling my stuff out. I watched in bewilderment as they started throwing MY junk overboard! Plastic cups, empty containers, green cheese (poor fishes…), even the purported patee foie. The whole lot went sailing over the rails, into the Ocean Blue. I have to confess to being flabbergasted. The most illogical reasoning attempted -briefly- to make sense of it all, and failed miserably.
What….? My rubbish ain’t good enough for you guys’ rubbish?
The hostility, the furious looks, and the angry Chinese babbling reminded me what a nice place my cabin was. Peaceful, cool, private, and zero furiously angry Chinese… I backed away, nervously, intent on making a definite escape.
The captain came over to me. In his broken English, he exclaimed:

“Moggy!!!? Moggy! WHAT YOU DO???? “

I hesitated, thinking that, truthfully, it was frickin’ obvious what I thought I’d been doing. I’d been dumping smelly rubbish in the bleeding burn barrel. What the hell else?? I found myself stammering:
“Duh… I was just…. dumping rubbish…. I see you burn trash…. so I add my garbage….. “
For some reason I felt seriously bewildered. Behind the captain, the crew members were still busy furiously rooting through the burning garbage, and chucking my crap overboard. Into the blue Ocean. It wasn’t meant to be that way. I was sure it wasn’t. What would GreenPeace say?
He was not pleased. The expression on his face clearly communicated that emotion.
He pulled a small Chinese to English dictionary out of his pocket, and flicked impatiently through the pages.
“Moggy! You LISTEN! This NOT…. rubbish! “
I couldn’t believe my ears. That crap ain’t rubbish??
He frowned, and pronounced the next words carefully and with emphasis.
“Not rubbish! This…. HOLY…. RELIGIOUS… CEREMONY! “
I gulped.
I winced.

For a whole week, we fished and caught nothing. I swear. And every time the net came in empty, a long and labor intensive task, I saw these malevolent looks cast in my direction. I knew I wasn’t the flavor of the month, and I could only hope the God or Gods concerned would forgive me for the smelly green cheese and the putrid patee.

After that I tried hard to figure the religious thing out. Heck, I’ve been doing that all my life. Having probably really ticked off the Christian God in my prior Life, now I had come to the Orient, and also offended the Taiwanese God. Or Gods.
I didn’t want to screw that one up again. I resolved to be more culturally and spiritually sensitive.
Thus it was that I became a careful observer. And I soon discovered this dude on the bridge. He stood in a special alcove, behind the helm, and he was about two feet tall. I asked several people what his name was, but nobody seemed to know.
He (or she?) had the body of a man, but the face of a child. He stood there with arms outstretched, a bit like Jesus I guess. Except that I don’t think Jesus would have been seen dead in the strange frilly outfit. It reminded me of something an over doting grandmother would insist her grandchild would wear. The sort of laced, pretty, stringed up costume with colorful bows and stuff. Anyway, there he stood, and he was very important, and I knew I must not tick this porcelain dandy off anymore than I already had. Unfortunately, it took me about a week, and there I was, in big trouble again.

We were sailing along, and there were about five of us standing on the bridge. It gets tiring, standing for a long time, with the ship rocking and rolling, so I found a quiet spot, and leaned back luxuriously.
Ah….that’s better….
No sooner was I comfortable, than the Chief Engineer came over, and pushed me quite hard. He was an older gentleman, in his sixties, and I was quite taken aback.
What the heck…?
He had been rather nice to me up to this, and I was surprised he should wish to push me about.
Embarrassed, I tried to ignore it. And him. I assumed my previous position again, and stared fixedly out of the windows.
Within a minute, the big bully had shoved me again…
I was getting cross. Why the f…ck can’t you leave me alone, you dozy Chink….!
I went right back to my previous position again, leaned back in the same way, and tried to suppress an irresistible urge to engage in a great cultural insensitivity. To wit: smack the Chief Engineer in the lughole…
Now I was noticing disquiet on the bridge. I was getting funny looks. Now what???
It was the Radio Operator who came over and explained to me, quietly, what I was doing wrong this time.
I was standing in front of Porcelain Andy, and that meant that I was blocking his view! The God of the ship couldn’t see the fish apparently. Coming on top of my previous faux pas, the trick with the green cheese and the patee de foie, now I could see why I had upset the Chief Engineer. I thanked the Radio Operator for his help and spiritual guidance, and moved aside for Andy. After that, I was careful not to block his view again. If he was able to screw up their fishing, imagine what he might do to my helicopter.

Of course, being me, I couldn’t help wondering how smart this dude was. If he couldn’t even see through me, what kind of God was that? And we were relying on him to catch fish? Fuxsake. But then I felt guilty about my irreverence, and I decided I needed to quit being so obtuse. I bowed my head, and resolved to go with the flow…
Unfortunately, the seeds of doubt and heresy had been sown in my mind. I was soon to notice two more strange aspects of this Deity.
The first was a unique custom , whereby the crew made offerings to Andy, such as boxes of chocolates, packets of cigarettes, chewing gum, fruit, and other delicacies. They would leave these magnificent gifts at his feet. I wondered if they later burned these gifts in the… holy religious ceremony… but, no, they did not. After a day or two, they just came along, and casually retrieved their offerings.
The first time I saw this occur, a sailor walked up to Andy, nonchalantly picked up an apple, sank his teeth into it, and walked of chewing contentedly. I watched Andy carefully, but he didn’t seem upset at all.
From a doctrinal point of view, I had to deduce that Andy was possibly remarkably generous. Maybe he was just real pleased to see the worshipful sailors enjoying the fruit and the chocolates, smoking the cigarettes, and chewing their (his) gum. But then if that was the case, that he was just a great old soul, and pleased just to stare at the good stuff for a while, before they took it all back…. how did that sit with the mean, moody old shit who prevented us from finding any fish just because I innocently dropped moldy cheese and smelly patee on his holy ceremony? I couldn’t quite figure that one out.

The second aspect I noticed had to do with the prayers they offered. They didn’t speak any prayers. They didn’t have to.
All the prayers you could ever need were already written down. On thin, brightly colored paper. Yellow, orange, red. Each piece of paper was two inches tall, and three or four inches wide. And printed on them, was the prayer you needed. The prayers came in a pack. The pack was six inches thick, compressed, and contained hundreds and hundreds of prayers. The pack came out of a cardboard box. This box contained dozens and dozens of packs. So thousands and thousands of prayers. Of these boxes, the ship had hundreds and hundreds of them. So millions and millions of prayers.
Now the neat trick was this: you didn’t have to read or study the prayer. All you had to do was BURN the blessed thing. That counted as a prayer! Brilliant system. Imagine if the Catholic Church was to bring in that sytem. Saying the Rosary would never be the same again. All those Our Fathers and Hail Marys I painfully struggled through when I was a kid.
Could have saved a ton of trouble with that system! Oh well…
Anyway, once I learned all this, I understood the mysterious workings of the Holy Religious Ceremony. What I had mistaken for mere tut and garbage, burning away in the Holy Barrel, was in fact the essence of the prayer cycle:
The conversion of the printed prayers, through fire, into the real thing.
I really understood it now.
Sort of.

I was often, on future days, on different ships, to stand on the helideck and watch the Holy Religious Ceremony.
I would wonder about the Great God, Porcelain Andy, however He worked things. I would watch the prayers turning to fire. And the fire turn to smoke. And the burnt pieces of paper, twisting and twirling in the heat, rise up out of the Holy Barrel, get caught in the wind, and blow overboard. An orgy of prayer, disappearing over the waves.
I would wonder about Mother Nature, however we should call her. And I knew we should honor her. I knew we should take great care not to destroy our home, our only home.

This small Blip in the Universe, we call Earth.

Francis Meyrick

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Last edited by Francis Meyrick on January 27, 2015, 2:48 pm

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