Francis Meyrick

A Blip on the Radar (Part 29B) An Old Sailor’s Poem

Posted on June 19, 2011

Photo: Advocates for Human Rights

A Blip on the Radar

Part 29B: An Old Sailor’s Poem

I remember reading a poem, written by an old seaman. An old tuna fishing captain. In it, he reminisced. About the old days, when Yellow Fin tuna were so large, that the sailors working the nets below the nets being dragged aboard would be understandably nervous. The nets would pass up over the power block, thirty feet in the air, and many fish would be entangled with the nets, only to fall down at the worst possible moment. The sailors would cast frequent glances up, lest a 200 or 300 pound monster Yellow Fin specimen would come crashing down on top of them. Occasionally, men got killed that way. A not infrequent occurrence in the old days. But now, he wrote in his poem, sadly no more. He worried about the impact of over fishing…

And he also wrote of the impact of new money, Tuna Dollars, on the social fabric of ancient communities.

I knew what he meant…

And through his words, you could find yourself wondering about the stresses in old, traditional communities. When a wife, girl friend or sister, could earn more in three nights’ work, than their husband, father or brother could make in a year. Practicing the oldest profession known to Man…
Can you dismiss it as merely a “different culture”? No problem, no stresses, no unintended consequences?

Can you…?

How does a man really feel about his wife, his girlfriend, his sister, his mother… when he knows she has been with a total stranger? Not for love, not for caring, not for affection, but for Dollars?
And what does such mercenary, mechanical love making do – if anything – do to, or for, our fair daughter, with the white, almost transparent dress, billowing softly in the evening sun, framed against the light, with the doe like eyes, soft, deep, and oh!….
so inviting…?

I don’t know. I don’t judge. But I know I wanted her, furiously, with a deep, aching masculine intensity. And I know I exchanged pleasantries, complimenting her on her dress, and making nonsensical small talk. And then I passed by, trudging on, my seemingly so composed exterior, almost aloof, perhaps perspiring more than normal, belying the internal fluttering of a thousand agitated demons.

I found refuge in a bar, ordered a double brandy, the first of several, and I know my hand that reached for the glass, trembled perhaps unsteadily…

* * * * * *

Predictably, a year later, I found myself back on that same little island. Only this time, I got a ride in a beaten up old Mazda pickup truck. As we came down the dusty main road into town, carefully avoiding the worst of the pot holes, I saw the girl in the white dress, standing, waiting for business. As we approached, her eyes passed cursorily over the familiar truck, and went back to staring down the road.

Soon I was sitting outside the same bar, with a glass of brandy, and a cigar. Slowly I drank and smoked away the twilight, and watched the girl in the white dress, ply her trade. From the gathering shadows, I watched the smile and the curtsey, as potential business rolled by. And I watched the tired, bored, strained look of frustration when she thought nobody was observing her.

I watched a man approach her eventually, but from their casual banter, it was obvious that this was not trade. It seemed to me it was her husband, her boyfriend, or her brother, casually inquiring how things were going. She, her eyes fixed on the road coming from the port, replied something in an offhand manner. Maybe she was going to stay for a while longer. And then she’d be home. He, for his part, seemed totally at ease with her, in a familiar manner, and nodded patiently. I could only imagine the conversation.

“All right, dear, I’ll see you in a while then… maybe…”

Did he work? That quiet young man? Was there work for him, in that little place? Or did he just rely on the girl in the white dress? What did that arrangement DO to his… his….

And I reflected, quietly, on the old sailor’s poem. And his worries, about the impact of the mighty Tuna Dollar, on old, traditional, but “still developing” societies. To use a well worn euphemism.
Which way…?

* * * * * *

King Solomon’s Hotel, Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Winter 1997…

There’s a nasty gale blowing outside, but inside, in the large hotel, animated conversations. There’s a whole gaggle of Tuna Heads in port, and they are all here, two dozen of them, drinking, telling bar stories, waving arms around the sky to illustrate flying stories, and generally whooping it up.
The bar tenders and management love us. They roll out the red carpet every time. We are not merely good for business. We’re fuk’n excellent

For some reason, that I can never fathom, everybody knows me, or of me. I get brand new Tuna Heads coming up to me, First Trippers, hand outstretched, big smiles, saying:

“Hi Moggy,pleased to meet you,I’ve heard a lot about you…”

And the beer would flow…

And I would always smile, and privately worry to myself. Me? What’s so special about me? Nothing. Just another Tuna Bum, a Foreign Legionnaire, an Outcast from Polite Society, trying to make a living.

“Hey, Maria! Gimme a cuddle, darling! ”

“Bartender! Another round for EVERYBODY, Okay?? “

Sure, I’ve been known to get a little drunk, and then a little rowdy. And I’ll admit to climbing the tallest lamp posts I can find, when I’m like that. And dancing on the tables. And singing Irish rebel songs. And I know the girls like me. Heck, I like the girls… But that’s just… normal Tuna Fields stuff, right? Right…?


And the beer and the hormones would flow…

The flying stories would get louder, and more outrageous, and then for some reason, we would be surrounded by the local girls. They would descend on us in droves. Some were kind of ugly. Some were nice enough. But many were drop dead, catch-your-breath, Holy-Smokes, roll the hormones, frickin’ GORGEOUS.

(Yep. UH-HUH. Yep-yep-yep. Oh, and please, for fux sake…)



And the beer and the hormones would flow…

(to be continued)

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on July 27, 2012, 7:08 pm

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