July 13, 2016 in Auto-biographical (tuna helicopters)
“THE MOST DANGEROUS RISK OF ALL – THE RISK OF SPENDING YOUR LIFE NOT DOING WHAT YOU WANT ON THE BET YOU CAN BUY YOURSELF THE FREEDOM LATER… ”
Veritas is a Latin word meaning truth… A symbol of my longing for freedom and my hobby of flying things. To see the world on the ground and in the air, and to truly live a life exemplified by truthfulness – Veritas.
I list below my stories so far published on Writers’ Harbor. I hope you guys can enjoy my writing…! Please leave comments…!
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LIST OF WRITING BY MICHAEL ROCKS-macQUEEN on Writers’ Harbor
Dang, we are in Madang!
Honiara – SWELLNESS center
Last edited by admin on July 24, 2016, 2:46 pm
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Serenity of da Choppah.
July 11, 2016 in Other Authors
The other day we were sailing and the weather was gorgeous which provided for a rich blue sea. During these weather settings, viewing from the air, water life becomes very visible. From schools of Dolphins to Whales jumping out of the water. Waiting all day and not flying. I thought all hope was lost to fly on this day of days. When at 4:30 pm the loud speaker utters “Choppa pilot, Choppahh standby!”
“To the chopper Pato!” I exclaimed! Pato ‘the mechanic’ says “See you will fly today!” Finally, after waiting 9 hours in this glorious days of weather days, a flight! The flight was destined to be limited on time with the pending light to vanish in a mere hour and a half. So the ‘hour building’ aspect was limited. However, this flight was a reminder of exactly why I fly.
Thirty minutes after taking off we see a pial -floating log used to bait fish.- We circle the log and the navigator motions to descend to the log. In a descending orbit I could see a rather large whale and Dolphins in the near distance. Some fish were popping up but nothing significant.
As we came to a 5 ft hover near the log, I could see the whale turn around about 100 meters to the top of the clock in front of us and 5 meters underneath the crystal clear water. He was headed directly towards us and fast. I paused and thought “wow that is a big creature.” I estimated it to be about 80ft in length. At this time the navigator screamed, he is Korean and his English is rather limited. He motioned at the whale and said “big big fishy, go up, GOOO UPPP! He started flailing his arms and continued screaming. I think the tons upon tons of sea mammal approaching us at a rapid rate alarmed him. Probably because in the air from time to time you see whales jump out of the water and come splashing down with a tremendous force.
I paused simply because I was curious. The whale came to an abrupt turn in front of us rolling on its side while breaching the surface of the water. He was about 5ft down and 7ft in front of the helicopter. I literally made eye contact with the creature. Before he could bring his tail out of the water I pulled the collective and accented vertically. Watching as this whale gently slide sideward in front of us and gently sinking into the depths of the ocean, there was no violent splash of the tail.
The navigator was screaming something in Korean, I turned off his mic and proceeded to climb and head back towards the boat. Seeing something like this is a reminder of why I fly helicopters. A childhood dream to see the world in the best type of way, from the air. In the US aviation culture, it seems the way of validation when beginning is just hours or to have the prestige of the Epaulets for so many. For me, at this point, the hours do not matter, rather, the type of flying matters and the ‘feeling’ will reinforce the validity of my personal gratification.
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Dang in Madang!
July 11, 2016 in Other Authors
Dang We are In Madang!
You are f*&&^king crazy. You are stupid…Your f&^%in crazy! The end of a 2 hr conversation and a relationship with my now ex-girlfriend. To be honest, this girl, or lady rather, was the best relationship I had ever had. A skydiver, a traveler, and student pilot that looked stunning. We got along great, every waking moment with her was superb. In fact the only girl I had considered to marry…at some point. Not now or the near future but at some point I am sure.
However, it seemed the timing was off. I was avoiding the relationship. I knew that my time was limited in the States and it had been nearly two years since I had been gone, on a world trip. The wanderlust and passion for helicopters meant my time in the US of A was limited. So the last thing I was looking for was a relationship. It happened, partly due because of my three month delay leaving the country with a delay from companies promise and contract signed months before my departure. But also because you cannot help it when you meet someone, sometimes.
The fact was; this women was amazing, a true gem, but she was five years older and had the divine responsibility of a lovely little human being to take care of. So if this were going to continue, it meant significant sacrifice for my childhood dreams. So for me, the timing was off, I was not ready.
I remember leaving her at the airport in absolute tears, it hurt to see someone you care about like that. It was not easy. We had decided to keep things going for the 1 year long distance which I was ok with… Until, I had received an email about my next opportunity in the Himalayas after my 1 year contract was up in the South Pacific. A childhood dream, reoccurring- waking up, flying to the summit. This would mean, I would not be back to the United States of America for another 3 months making the total stay 15 months away. This would not be fair to her at all, what-so-ever. Combined with insinuations for helping with her rent while I was half way around the world. The only thing of mine at her place was my Batrobe -batman bathrobe.-
It was time to set her free. So I did, and she was not happy. It begin with a rhythm of emotion. First; sad, sad, sad, and sad. Then; sad, sad, sad, and mad. Followed by; sad, sad, mad, and mad. Ensued by; sad, mad, mad, and mad. Finally, the tone was set at; mad, mad, mad, and very mad. Women, you have to love them, their emotions are what makes them so great and also so terrifying during their scorn.
Love Hurts. Madang is worse.
When the split happened, I was in Madang, Papua New Guinea. “Dang I am in Madang.” A place where the R&D fishing company’s main canary is located. A Filipino company, that decided to put the canary in a place that absolutely hates Asians or rather people that look Asian. Most of the business is owned by the Chinese, but the local people do not make the distinction between Asians. A history of violence and robberies has plagued Madang for years. The compound of R&D Company is like a prison. They keep you in the grounds surrounded by security. And you have to receive permission to leave the compound but only during daylight hours and there is no women.. Well there is the prison like substitute. I was trapped in this place for 10 days during boat service… (FML).
One afternoon at the local resort getting good food. Most of the R&D company office workers came in, holding hands, etc. All males, they explained which ones were the ‘females.’ Which was obvious, the flamboyant ones. “OMG, they are plugging each other. Gross!” I have nothing against gay people but I prefer not to see it in the PDA format… while eating my food.
After this disturbing meal, I went to grab my hetero-partner in crime, Pato, the mechanic. “Bro, we need to go to town or something, this place is like prison – in more than one way…- ” So we went to the resort and ran into a worker who was a local man. He was young, with talented charisma and an outgoing personality. His name was Raymond. “You guys must come to my village, girls, drink, etc etc.” Raymond explained excitedly. The front desk man warned Raymond if anything happened to us, his job would be lost as well. The front reception desk looked terrified for us which was a little concerning.
Anyhow, we started walking at night in Madang -actually outside- near where all the cars get robbed and burned. So we walked through this village with everyone starring at the white-r dudes (Pato is kinda brown). I leaned over to Pato “I think there is a 50% chance we are going to be kidnapped and raped tonight Pato!” He looked at me not terrified, nor was I, we had wanted something different after 9 days in this godforsaken Filipino ‘feel-a-penis’ camp. The local people had only been nice to me and Pato for the week we had been there. Plus I always tipped, everyone, an American thing I guess.
In this village, there were traditional huts and Raymond had changed into the village attire. His uncle had a little shop with cigarettes, and what not. So I bought cigarettes and 12 beers for everyone. This purchase was expensive but I knew that this money would go a far way for them. As we sat in the middle of the street with chairs, a crowd of people surrounded us. They sparsely gathered just beyond the illumination of the single bulb light that was illuminating the 5 people in our circle of chairs. Imagine a televised poker game, were we are chatting and a crowd of shadowed people surround us silently just beyond the light.
We had a conversation, about many things. I was fascinated with Raymond because of his English and charisma skills. I asked “you go to school Raymond.” “yes, sir I do.” Raymond explained he goes to school and the value of it. However, he has to pay for it. He named off all of the courses he would like to take but could not afford right now. “Well, Raymond, how much is each course?” “200 Kina -60 USD” I told Raymond when we had time I wanted to visit this University to ‘possibly’ help. I had done this for my tour guide in India, a 20 year old kid that had good English and great potential.
I heard some sort of female yelp coming from the silent hidden crowd. “Raymond. What was that?” “Oh sir that was my Mother, she is happy” Raymond had said.
The next conversation was brought up by Pato. “How do you say thank you?” Pato is such a friendly and polite guy, so he naturally always finds out how to say ‘thank you’ every place we had been. Raymond, got silent and looked directly at Pato “GUAMOKK.” At this same time in the little circle of conversation, a little white puppy, not more than a month old had stumbled goofily into the middle of our circle and plopped a seat in the center. Admittedly, I got a soft spot for Dogs. I picked up the little fella. At first, she was a little uneasy, but with a little petting she conformed to my lap and arms and fell asleep ever so gently snuggling in.
Raymond, looked at me and petted the little puppy. “GUAMOKK” Means thank you but no words in English can describe the sincerity of it. He described it as “all that is pure and good.” And every time he said it, it was with strong eye contact and a deep change in his voice. “All that is good to you too my friend.” I said pointing at his village. We had gotten into a discussion of all that is good ‘thank you,’ BUT what about the other side? The dark side? The violence that has plagued the region and terrified a compound of man-loving Filipinos. “Oh Mr. Mike, those are not us, THEY are those of ENVY.” He looked directly at me with deep sincerity and conviction and the tone of the entire conversation changed. The entire group stopped all conversation. You could feel the energy. “Those that have Envy, they hate, they take, they kill.” It was fascinating he used the word ENVY so much and knew the meaning. Raymond then explained that this disease of ENVY can happen to anyone, an evil that takes hold. “We do not speak of it.” He explained some things that had changed in his very own cousin. We then talked about structure of the developing country. The police, and discernable enforcers really do not do their jobs nor protect the people. Additionally, the people do not tell on their own people, so punishing crime is hard. The lack of structure and enforcement, could not stop the evils that have plagued the city, the ones that are jealous and envious. “The taste of the poison apple of desire.” It was interesting to see this view point, after a week in a place where everyone smiles and says “Good day” “Good Night.” Even the animals are friendly, in this town, or village, the stray dogs were very fat and friendly. Dogs are direct bi-products of their environment I would like to believe. I think I have concluded the worst port, the most dangerous port in the fishing ground has very good hearted and peaceful people, in general.
The hardest part of going home this evening was leaving my new furry friend. By the time the conversation was over, this adorable little puppy was sprawled in my lap snoring. Raymond’s family came out of the dark and they offered the puppy to me “take a piece of Papua New Guinea with you Mr. Mike.” I looked at the little fella as I tried to pick her from my lap and her struggle to let go and stay in the warmth of my lap. I thought “I want to take this little girl with me, on a boat, raise her, love her, and give compassion to man’s greatest friend.” However, logically bringing a dog on the boat would not fly. Also, what would I do after a year, I could not take this thing to the top of the world with me. I gently set the pup on the ground as it grasped to my hands, I gently pet her until she let go and fell asleep in the center of our chair gathering in the center of the light. “Raymond, I cannot take this pup with me on my journey, as much as I would LOVE to.”
As we walked away, I looked back at the little white puppy sleeping alone, serenely in the road. ALONE, gently breathing in the spotlight of one of the village’s few lights. It hurt, honestly, I kept looking back as we walked away. I thought of the love for my former girlfriend, one that will always be there. A lonely path for me now. We walked back in the most dangerous stretch of road during the night and did not get mugged, the villagers made sure of that. I did not think anything of the outside world or the pending dangers that could occur. I thought of the peaceful puppy as it got smaller and smaller and smaller until disappeared from my vision in the dim light of the now distant village. I thought of the one time in the dim light of a car I had with this girl, passionately admitting, and looking into her eyes. It was the first time I thought “this could be my wife.” But now that memory had faded, and it had gotten smaller and smaller and smaller.
Next day we left Madang, PNG.
Time to fly!
Last edited by mrocksma on July 11, 2016, 7:46 pm
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May 16, 2016 in Other Authors
The other day I realized something quite amazing. I am flying…off a boat…in the middle of the South Pacific. We had just left a port in Rabaul, Papa New Guinea. A place that is plagued with earthquakes as a regular occurrence due to a geographic location settled on the fault line. The previous village was destroyed a few years ago from a volcanic eruption. You can still see smoldering at the top of the volcano in the near distance from Rabaul’s port.
These sights, scenes, and smells are unique -well some of the smells can be avoided.- What a truly amazing experience I wondered last evening. Earlier that very day I had witnessed something amazing. From 300 ft above the sea in my 500D helicopter our catch of tuna was being torn and scattered from a Humpback whale pack. A magnificent display as the whales would dive and charge upward, mouth open like a snake or that crazy ex-girlfriend. A 50 foot sea monster capturing tons of tuna whilst breaking the surface of the water and jumping damn near completely out of the glistening surface of the calm mirrored sea. Followed by a belly flop creating crazing waves 20 feet in the air.
A pirate, I am a pirate… A helicopter pirate and this seems to be a perfect fit for now. Heading from port to port after dwelling the seas for that tuna gold. A good friend of mine reminded me of something the other day while on the interwebs at port. “Dude, enjoy the moment. Do not stress or try to plan after that, a year is a long long ways away.”
He was right to an extent, in all of the quarries of life, my path has been more or less like a ping pong ball in a hurricane. The seldom moments when the ping pong ball hits a nice tree or rock. I need to revel in the beauty in the object that was able to keep me still, even if just for a moment. Appreciate the experience for the time, the beauty, and the uniqueness. I am finally flying for a living. Living a dream of my childhood. A ten year quest to validate my worth to the US aviation market. A petty quest within the USA through ratings and questions of others that dream of the upper esculent image of epaulets and the status of ‘PILOT.’ How many hours do you have? What is your goal? How much money will you make? Where will you live?
An elitist image that has long since been gone for me. Being a pilot, a true pilot, is about love. A love that is not explainable nor should it ever be. It is a feeling, a feeling that should bring you peace in your day to day life. For now, I am content. The Korean fishmaster slapped my ass the other day after a catch of 200+ tons of that Tuna GOLD. Apparently, my boss was happy with my flying. For now, my job, has calmed me. I am a Tuna Pilot, a pirate of the sea sky…
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Flying with Farihk
May 12, 2016 in Other Authors
Michael Farihk perished after a fatal helicopter crash with three souls on board a helicopter about an hour outside of Moscow on April 19th, 2016. CFIT and sever IMC where the suspected conditions surrounding the tragedy.
Letter to Misha.
Good bye dear friend with great sorrow may you have Veritas forever Comrade. You are great in my eyes not because of what you did but how and why you did things. Showing me your country; why, when, and where you fly with an open smile and heart pumping with a rich aviation bloodline. You lived with no regrets, living your one true passion. A friend of mine and to all of world’s general aviation to whom you will be missed dearly.
Blues skies my friend, you belong in the sky.
Michael Farihk, an aviator, a Russian man, and one of those extraordinary personas in aviation that has seen the earth in a way I only dream of. Flying around the world in a helicopter… Flying to the North Pole, all three of the poles. Taking the ultimate road trips of the air from Spain, to Europe, the Siberian tundra, and seeing things which words merely cannot describe. Tranquility may be the closest word for a description of the visual memory bank that has been seen through the eyes of this man.
Misha’s charisma would light up a room and a sense of humor that brought attention to any ethnicity or country. He could magically bond a room of pilots together into a good aviation debate. As his grandfather searched for aviation pioneer Ben Eielson in the Siberian Tundra so many years ago. Tales of his child ears sprouted a thirst for a search of extraordinary flying adventures. Like any great aviator, he lived and he dreamed his life. I could not imagine having it any other way for Misha, tragic yes, but he was in a helicopter. He was flying.
I once asked Farihk ” Why do you like flying so much?” His response was in rhetoric “Well, why do you life fucking women so much Michael?” Farihk “Huh, well I suppose it is nature taking it’s course.”
My invitation and visit to Russia occurred during the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea from Russia which made it very unpopular to visit Russia from a westerner standpoint. As a semi-journalist and an invitation to a country that is not main stream for Americans to visit, I leaped at the opportunity. Misha with open arms invited me to his Aeroclub, his home, and into his helicopter. I had absolutely no clue how the hell a person would fly a helicopter around the world but I wanted to know! Misha without hesitation, dragged out maps, and charts. He explained the reasoning for the aircraft, modifications, determining wind patterns, and many essential bits and pieces. “Wow! This guy is incredible” I thought. Seldom is information free in an industry plagued with type A personalities that dangle that magic carrot in front of young pilots. AND there was this man, this pilot, without hesitation or judgment he eagerly passed on his passion, his knowledge, and his unique experience to a 167 hr commercial CFI pilot.
After a cup of coffee and a conversation, Farihk smirked and looked at me with a grimace. “Enough talk, lets Fly.” We went and flew to an old abandoned soviet train station and practiced landing on top. At this time, I had only flown an R-44 once or twice previously. He gestured autorotation’s. I explained my lack of experience in that helicopter. Kindly he said “no problem.” He guarded the cyclic put me through a drill of varying airspeeds and RPMs. Within the time of the flight we were picking spots and autoing to each place of intended landing. Even though the language barrier was there, the communication was strong. From Farihk to a young pilot. To this day, I feel his brief instruction has helped shape me as a pilot. A thing many may not know about Farihk is that he was an incredible instructor pilot that liked to teach and give the gift of flight to others.
Somehow, I feel as if Misha is not gone, like “Elvis lives.” His sense of humor on social media was a one of a kind rebel rousing that would make most US pilots say “Crazy Russians!” A Helicopter Pilots group thread once got close to 200 comments about Misha flying and smoking a cigarette while he filmed his friend fly into a confined area. Needless to say all of the righteous pilots made focus on the cigarette and the placard that states “No smoking” and how it is illegal because of the placard. Well needless to say…his helicopter…his homeland.
Like Elvis, rest well Misha. I am sure you are above the earth somewhere. Just this time in a slightly different perspective than your normal view sitting in your trusty steed, the R-44. It was an honor to get your story and to grab the same controls beside you.
Last edited by mrocksma on May 13, 2016, 9:56 am
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April 13, 2016 in Other Authors
Karackters -> Helicopter Cowboys
“MIKE IF I EVER SEE YOU DO THAT YOU ARE GOING HOOOOOMMMME!!!” Came from Tony Artiga on one fine morning at the home base in Honiara, Soloman Islands. While he exuberantly waved his arms in excitement. My response was laughter, I simply could not help it after what had just occurred from a man that proudly represents the term ‘redneck.’
This happened right after my new helicopter arrived at the Heli-Base ramp by the transitioning pilot. Well the arrival was the exact opposite of ‘Text’ book. The term hot dogging would come to mind watching this pilot come screaming into the ramp at full cruise speed, overflying the ramp at 100ft followed by a steep left turning 180 degrees. Then sliding sideways over another chopper at a rapid rate. Fluttering down in front of the main hanger in such a manner, debris and anything loose in the hanger flew in every direction. The rotorwash induced hurricane and noise certainly got everyone’s attention.
Without restraint I could not help it but laugh because just the day before Tony and Ron Barr had fervently told me “No cowboys, if you hotdog the helicopter you will be gone!” Tony gave very through training and helpful insights before entering the fishing grounds during my stay in Honaira. Much care was given by Tony to ensure to take every step to be steady and slow on all of the maneuvers. This was stated repeatedly, and in the fishing grounds the days of cowboys were over…
Apparently, Jeff did not receive the memo! Ha! Despite Pato’s (Jeff’s mechanic) repeated warnings coming into the ramp as he could sense Jeff’s eagerness to feel flirty with the capabilities of the H500 D model aircraft. Jeff could not resist, he was going home and was very eager to see his fourth but first long time wife.
After the commotion had settled, I finally see…Yes, yes another fellow Murican. Sleeveless shirt with tattoos that many of them must have been conceived permanently to his skin during a non-sober holiday during his service for the United States Army for 16 years of service. He was smoking a cigarette with a purple nose in color from the blistering sun and white rings around his eyes so pronounced I thought he was still wearing some sort of glasses. “Jeff?” ‘Yes.’ “Glad to see a fellow Murican.”
This man, this pilot, and now newly formed friend was a Karakter. He described his tales from the boat. The most recent shocking turn of events was after being on a Purse Seiner fishing boat for 40 days he notices the ship’s cook taking out a live pig and murder it on the deck for the next meal.. “WTF, where the hell have they been keeping this pig!?” One evening at Cowboys we discussed the possibilities and most of the ideas involved some sort of juvenile comments followed by a lot of laughter. He filled me in on his plight with going home early and also all of the details of the ‘awesome’ crew and boat I was going to be taking over for. His wife was ill and he had been gone for 8 months without a discernable form of communication while on the boat.
Jeff is one of those rednecks that is always joking and has a phenomenal charisma with foreigners. The type that would get along in the Tuna fields quit well. His plight was he was only on contract for 3 months and still low time, somewhere in the 500s. “What am I going to do? I am low on money, I do not have the hours, nor know where the next job is. I want to come back here but they said I cannot come back because breach of contract.”
In an industry of type A’s with butting insecurities and egos some would never help another. However, I believe in karma. Good karma and this redneck, this pilot, and this cowboy was my friend from day one. Before I had come to the fields I had an interview set up with a company out of Murtle beach for flying tours and three weeks prior they were still fervently looking for pilots. I connected Jeff and coached him on some things that I had learned the hard way regarding approaching his interview. This company had gotten back to him and he had an interview scheduled two days after his 40 hours of traveling back to the states. It felt really good to help a new friend out.
I am sure I might see this Character once again in the industry. At the end of the day pilots help pilots. That is how it should always be. For the first time in my newly developing helicopter career, this is a place where the pilots help the pilots. A group, a brotherhood, and some of the characters will make for incredible memories and friendships. The Tuna field is place that bonds pilots as a group, not a place to back stab your fellow pilots because at the end of the day, when people share their experiences and stories they are helping keep other people safe. A lot of factors can provide for danger in this unique type of flying and the rank is not important of the pilots. Everyone has their own ship and mechanic, and we are all equals. It is such an interesting perspective seeing this type of fellowship that I fear in America has been lost among-st the allure, epaulets, and self-prestige of aviation glory.
As I dropped Jeff off at the airport. I mentioned “Every time the crew is ravaging the pig, I will be thinking of you Jeffrey!” God speed and fly safe my friend.
“DonK, it’s name is Donk” One night out with Donk and Pato at cowboys we had entered a local shop for one of the fella’s to get cigarettes…. When I saw him, it was magical, love at first sight. A rubber donkey that for the cost of $10 USD was mine. He most certainly did come to the club with us and everywhere else. So thus the traveling donk was creates… Soon to become a tuna field legend!
Last edited by mrocksma on May 13, 2016, 12:21 am
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HONIARA – Swellness Center
April 13, 2016 in Other Authors
Getting My Swell On! Honiara
Coming to work on the Tuna Boats you hear stories of Expat workers gaining 20-30 pounds while on their year contracts. Which I can see it happening while hustling around third world Islands, stopping at ports consuming 3000 calories of drinks with a constant fish and rice diet. Well for me, I am not going to be that guy! “I must find a way to get my ‘Swell on!” (Lift/work-out for all those non-meat heads out there).
So first thing I did was look at google for answers. The only thing that arrived in the search results was Trip Advisor with suggestions for hotels… “F%$&k” This is just like Langkawi a tropical Island off of Malaysia that provides for a huge Saudi Arabian touristic escape… On Trip Advisor it has people asking the same question five years prior… “Is there a place to workout?” Then someone associated with the nicest hotel responds and says yes go here and spend more money than it is worth… However there is a local gym! I know it! I found one in Langkawi for $.52 USD a day. There must be one this Island!
On this developing island the internet is used for things like Facebook and wasting time. It is never used to find places or promote business, or rarely if that is the case. This is because it is an ISLAND and everyone knows everyone and everywhere! But will they tell the Gringo where the gym is… is the question?
So asking all of the expats workers, no one knew anything. Most people spend the majority of their time in the company compound or out and about at Cowboys on Saturday night! So after day three, I was getting worried with all of the fish and rice I was eating and feared that I would turn into a Butterbean. Around this same time an opportunity arose to go see a hotel. Anthony, an Australian Pilot/Mechanic whom I befriended just got back to base after a hitch out at sea and he had a strong inclination to get a hotel and a good meal. I had 28 USD in my account at the time and was hopelessly waiting for my tax refund to come in because my first week’s allowance was still four days away. So I helped Anthony all day with his 100 hour inspection of his D model 500 and explained my plight of finding a gym.
“Well Mate what hotel did you have in mind?” I knew just the place! A place that some crazy Irishman had recommended to me. A place of a fond memory of the Tuna Helicopter Legend Moggy! “Alright mate.” So we were off. This day happened to be that commercialized holiday of love. The annoying one with little cherubs running around naked shooting people with arrows! Yes, Valentine’s day it was. I made sure my broke ass sent some nice memes to my Girl.
We sat down for a meal at the King Soloman Hotel and there is a table full of ladies gesturing to us. They started talking to us, they worked at the King Soloman Hotel. Aw yes, a chance to inquire about ‘le gymnasium.’ We befriended these ladies and they joined us for dinner. So I had inquired about the gym and whether or not we could use it when we’re non-guests at the hotel. This young lady, said yes with a smile… ‘But you have to be with an employee with a smile’ ‘Ok, cool, can I use your gym, I need to stay sexy for my GIRLFRIEND.’
So the plan was set. I had a gym to go to! This young lady was rather accommodating and being a good friend to let me get my swell on at the King Sols gym… Until, One day it seemed like a magical carrot was dangled when I would workout with this local young lady. There always seemed to be other guys in the gym at the same time. They would ask her questions etc. Which actually preferred so I could just workout -focus on a deep swell-. However, this was not the case, she seemed to keep conversing with me and these other visitors would seem to get irritated. After weeks three a change was sensed, as in, my spidy sense was tingling and unwanted drama was headed my way from this young lady. Which apparently she is very popular on the Island, as in, her family owns about three city blocks surrounding the most popular weekend spot on the Island.
A change, a place where I could get my swell on in peace and grunt like a man-bear-pig with other fellow brethren of the gym! I had heard from a local about the Metroplex center that was like a local multi-purpose gym that had weights. I had also heard about this same place from a rather large man that obviously worked out. He mentioned it when I ran into him on the street one day. The first time I met this guy at Cowboys he was trying to sell me his girlfriend. I managed to generously decline and be best of friends in passing.
He stated it was six Soloman dollars a day (.80 usd) at the Metroplex center, which is at the most traveled bus stop! So I was going to head to this gym soon!
My female friend had motioned for me to come to the gym. So I went, and she was saying she was fat etc. etc. that she needed to workout! “Well, workout instead of talk!” I was headed by bus to the King Sol with mi amigo. Jhezuz, a kid, a studying mechanic and a hell of a hard worker! I was hoping to have this amigo with me on my boat! Every batman needs a Robin, although this El Salvadorian would argue that the pilot is actually Robin because pilots fly like birds and Robins are a bird. A pretty valid argument.
Anyhow, Jhezus was awfully tired of eating food at the camp and wanted something different. So he was tagging along to get some food to “Polo Loco” an affordable version of fast food with Korean BBQ which is on the way to the King Sol. This particular night, it was closed for some odd reason, so I mentioned Indian food at the Taj Mahal which was just around the corner and even closer to the king Sol. I text this to the hotel workout patron that I would be late because of the detour to Taj Mahal.
Two reasons Indian food sounded good. Reason one: I like spicy food and it is different from what we eat every day. Reason two: I do not care who you are: big, small, old, young, women, or man…Every human being needs a nice explosive cleansing of the bowel system from time to time. So Indian food for me, accomplishes both of these reasons. As Jhezus and I are sitting down a man I had seen a man from the Hotel Gym enter. A little Fijian that was rather angry the last time I saw him in the gym, as he was not the center of attention benching 115 lb rep which I destroyed 235lbs while being annoyed by the girl he was begging for attention from. This man saw me at the restaurant, looked at me in anger and left… I thought well this is rather odd. A restaurant that I have never been too and this guy walks in I thought was odd and he was in gym clothes.
I remembered a comment that I had said the previous gym session the night before. I was pushing out reps, sweating, and getting my swell on while my female friend was deeply explained her policy on dating. She explained she never dates guests at the hotel..etc..etc. I stated without resolve “Oh good! I stayed here one night, so if my amazing girlfriend every leaves me. We cannot date!” I did this to continue a distance. However, she stopped her happy chatting and here facial expression changed completely. The facial expression I knew, it looked a lot like the angry baby meme that is shown all over the inter-webs. Maybe I should not have said that…but hey, I had a few minutes of silence during the workout.
Five minutes later two Marines walk in that I had met previously and the one was trying for the same young ladies attention as well. These guys were American Marines and men. So they nodded their heads towards me and sat. They were in Gym clothes, walking into a nice more formal Indian restaurant. “hhhmmm that is odd?” Then some random guy text my phone asking for Wasina. This was all odd and seemed like it would probably make trouble if I actually cared. So I texted Wasina and said I had the exploding shits and could not come to the gym that evening… I shook the hands of the Marines and said “Brothas let us avoid drama” they laughed and agreed as yet another male walked in that I had seen at the King Sol. So this was the last time I was going to work out at the King Sol. I just want to get my SWELL on, no drama!!!
The Local Swellness Center!
The very next day I changed my number to avoid random drama. But I was in need of a sacred place of Swellness. This morning I was tasked with a favor from my Australian friend to ship his things to Bisbane. So I was accommodated with Ben. A local, a man that I asked about the Metroplex center I had heard about from the guy that tried to pimp his wife to me. “There is a full gym, a good gym, two block from here in Renadi!” Ben conveyed. “What! No shit!? Lets go my friend!?
Ben is one of those guys that is unique, and you can tell he has a good soul about him. He is about 5ft 5in and has dreads tied in an upper poni-tail with an ear to ear beard with a rather stalky build and now my new best friend! I like to think of him as an Island Ninja.
After work at about 5:30 Ben takes me down the back roads to place that is in the industrial area near our home base in Renadi. We get let into the gym. DEAR MOTHER OF GOD! “Bro they have a heavy bag, FREE weights, a bench press, squat rack, and pull up bars. This is island swellness gold my friend!” I felt like crying and hugging Ben! First thing I did was punch the bag with some boxing skilz and immediately an Island Mayweather looking fellow says “Ooooh my friend you know how to box?” “Yeah well I have dibbled and dabbled a little bit in the Martial Arts ;)” “Teach us!” he asked.
The gym manager shows up to this all exclusive and local gym. I politely shake his hand. A man named Steven that is definitely familiar with the art of getting one’s ‘Swell on.’ I proposition to ask how much per day. “My friend you be the coach for the boyz and no problem.” So there you have it. I finally found my gym and it is free for my instruction. I search for a gym I inadvertently became the boxing coach for the BEST boxing club in the Island of Honia
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March 8, 2016 in Other Authors
Cultural Coliseum- Spanish Vs. Filipino and Johnny Bravo El Gringo
Captians Log…Star-date 03-01-2016, I have always wanted to write that! Now that is out of my system…Let the scribbles begin!
Traveling and seeing different cultures is exciting and always a valued experience for me. I feel that it gives a person an education unmatched to any other formal education. I do have a formal four year degree that I have never used, nor has it been that qualifier for a certain magical job. I this case, traveling has paid forward!
A man that agrees with me is a Mr. Ron Barr. Ron, a long-time employee with Tropic Helicopters and an expatriate Mechanic by trade that has roughed it in South America, Papua, Africa, and many developing countries for the past 40ish years. Reading Moggy’s Tuna Manual and being fortunate enough to meet with this Irishman of many scribbles and good advice. He mentioned to meet with Ron Barr before right before I departed to the South Pacific.
The discussion with Mr. Barr on cultural differences both good and bad ensued. There are many differences in cultures but at the same time people are people and you have to recognize that. This is a conclusion that Ron and I came to during a chat in Ron’s air conditioned office that I had found refuge in one afternoon after escaping the 110% humidity and 97 degree weather..
In a company that is now primarily El Salvadorian or Filipino Expatriate workers with sprinkles of South American’s, US, and Australian expatriate workers it makes an interesting mesh of company dynamics. “Your not Spanish speaking nor Filipino, there are two strikes against you my friend” Ron giggled. Well this is true but not based on pure racial disintegration. I have many new friends here both of Latino countries and Filipinos or at least I hope so… However, notably both primary groups of people have a distant tolerated hatred between each other.
A competition as you can view it. For each of these groups of people the salary provided is good. Even so to justify working arguably the worst expat schedule of Aviation work in worldwide aviation. Well deploying to Afghanistan for a year might be worse… but you get my point. Leaving port for maybe 3 weeks or maybe 6 weeks, it is unknown, just depends on the fish catch of the Tuna Boat you are wirling a Helicopter off of! Then back to port for 3-10 days and then back out to Sea. Oh and you might not go back to the same port… So for an entire year CONTRACT you are a pirate essentially, except your gold is that Sunkist gold -Tuna-. I signed a contract, which is my word, I plan on fulfilling the year contract regardless.
The salary is good enough for both groups of people to justify an entire year away from their homes to provide and provide well for their families. Oscar, my first training pilot at Tropic, a retired El Salvadorian Major after twenty-three years of service for their Air Force. In the El Salvadorian Airforce he was making the equivalent of $1,500 USD per month before he left the military pilot occupation (He even flew VIP for their Government -El Presidente!) While the salary for Filipinos in their military to me is currently unknown, I imagine it is similar. I had seen in a few countries like Dubai that all of their mechanics where Filipino and from my observation extremely hard working.
The difference with the Spanish speaking group is… they are very open and accepting to new people from first sight. The hospitality, and respect was tremendous when I arrived. Seven helicopters were squeezed on the base ramp and the place was hustling and bustling with maintenance operations. The pilots were resting about and describing their adventurous tails on in the Tuna fields before embarking into the open sea again for weeks upon weeks.
The pilot accommodations had only spots for four in bunk beds and there were six of us staying in the room. They found extra-mattresses and used someone’s inflatable mattress and refused to let me sleep on the ground. “No, no Mi Amigo. You, you take bed.” A rowdy group – con mucho cervesas- and laughter as they socialize but always conscious and courteous to the El Gringo. A group that talks with exuberant movement and is always loud and dramatic with the flying hand gestures during conversations. Such personalities in this group!
Mi Familia is strong and prevalent within this group. Almost all of these El Salvadorian expatriate workers had families with kids and pictures of the most prized thing in their lives, their families. I come from Albuquerque, NM and can roughly stumble brokenly through Espanol which I viewed this as a grand opportunity to brush up and ‘habla en espanol!’ Some of these men however do tend to find ways to keep themselves entertained from the loneliness at sea and at port. I will decline to comment on friendships they may develop on the side -none of my damn business-.
Oscar a man that was very hospitable to this Gringo one day distant from the outside dining table had a grimace, and a sign of little unfriendly words towards ‘the other side.’ “The other side? Huh, what do you mean the other side?” “Them” Oscar gestured towards a group of Filipino Mechanics happily playing Ed Sheeran on a guitar and singing.
The music talent was actually very good and they seemed happy. I never passed judgement especially because I was at the time the only Caucasian transient expatriate at the compound. However, at first, the group of Filipinos were much less extraverted and inviting to join in the festivities. It seemed more like a secret club, where the shifty eyes would happen towards you more often than not. Well, a way to break the ice came from them ‘Hey Johnny Bravo.’ As they gestured towards me. I laughed, thought “maybe I should not skip leg day again?” Anyhow, I gestured towards them snapped both fingers into pointing fingers “alright.” They all laughed and this joke would continue into my name. It took about a week to get more social interaction among them. Being very polite and going out of my way to say hello. Most of the time they would not really acknowledge with the shifty eye look of ‘can this guy be trusted.’ Well I had a conversation one on one with a few different individuals and they had a very similar commonality as the Spanish speaking compadres. Most of them had families as well and explained their plan to get ahead to provide for their families back in the Philippines. The interesting thing is, the Filipinos have more of a focus on being able to provide well, so for some of them they did not know when the ‘permanent’ coming home exactly was.
I was next propositioned with an invite to play basketball, on Sunday! The only day off for these Mechanics. I accepted and was excited to get out and about in the Island. However, I was running late because of a café meeting with a friend of mine on this scorching sunny day. I showed up at the Donnie Brasco school, I think it was. “Thank goodness” Everything was enclosed in an actual basketball court away from the blistering sun. Jerseys and everything were being worn! Oh man, did I feel like an asshole. It was an actual league game. I thought it was a pick-up type game, just for fun. They ushered me over to sidelines and stated I could use someone shoes and they had an extra jersey. Oh man. “I have not played basketball in years and I am white on top of it!” I had to decline because I would have been the worst player on the team that day. I described that I was very sorry and did not understand the seriousness of the game. I wanted to get a picture of the team and definitely practice for next time because begin invited onto a league team is such an honor and I explained that with my deepest apologies. Later that evening they invited me out. We went to another Filipino man’s house, ate, and played music. I had a long conversation with this man, an expat working on the Island. He explained his plan for working overseas and his expertise. He has a wife and two kids. He explained his goal for his distant working was to support his kids through school. A delight in his eyes and smirk of pride would appear from him during the conversation. Through all of his complaints of working overseas and dealing with the third world corruption running this company for an unappreciative China man. He was proud for his kids, providing an education for his kids. A post-secondary type, which means he will be working to provide for another 12 years or so because his oldest was 7 years of age.
So both the El Salvadorian and Filipino expat workers have a common bond found in humans. However, I think they feel they are chasing the same opportunity which provides for tension and lack of understanding of each other’s commonalities. To be the minority in-between this tension is a blessing I think. A wanderer, a rogue, and that white guy! The Gringo to the Spanish speaking expats and Johnny Bravo-the token white guy to the Filipino’s who they assume is good at B-ball because of my extreme height of 5 ft 10 and ¾ inches… At the end of the day, family is family. Working in this company in the South Pacific you better be sure to keep clear of anyone’s family and you will probably get along just dandy.
Last edited by mrocksma on March 10, 2016, 8:22 pm
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Path to Pilot
March 4, 2016 in Other Authors
Path to Pilot….Everyone’s Journey is different
Have you ever woken up and realized– I hate my job, the person I am, and especially the location I live? Every mimicked day of misery begins with the most irritating noise an alarm can make, realizing it’s time to wake-up… well almost. Following this thought by slamming my hand on the magical snooze button to give me five more precious minutes of freedom from reality. Then thinking an eloquent “F#%k.” –time to go to work– only to see the snarling look of the gossipy she-devil “office manager” (in reality, just a really bad secretary).
I saw my life clearly for the first time after a near fatal accident. When I woke up (fortunate or unfortunate I wasn’t sure) I was forced to look at things in their full reality. If I would have died that day a few questions would still have gone with me. I wondered, have I done the things I have wanted to do since childhood dreams became cognitive and memorable? If there is one thing I could do regardless of money, what would it be? Where and what would I like to see?”
I realized most of these questions had not been answered, except one … Since I was 6 years old, I had a dream of flight, specifically a dream involving one of those machines that beats the air into submission with 10,367 independent parts working together to achieve human flight. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot. Not an airplane or bus pilot but a real life helicopter pilot! In fact, it is what I attended a college for. I have held all of my ratings with value from this nameless institution but the college degree, in my opinion, is simply a little too stiff to use as toilet paper.
Economic Slap in the Face
Graduating in 2010 with over Six-figures in debt, concurrent with the infamous collapse of Silver State Helicopters and the shutdown of the Gulf after the BP oil spill, was the events that set the stage for the opening act of my flight career. After these two particular incidents, even a seasoned pilot was hard pressed to find a job in the U.S. helicopter industry. There was a slim chance indeed of an overconfident low-time pilot with a penchant for burning bridges at his flight college through an arrogant process of growing up.
Feeling forced into the American dream of a tie, a mountain of debt, and my shiny piece of paper, I obtained a job managing a 3rd-time business start-up. This company had failed before, and had been flogged back to life with multiple cash injections from dreamy investors. Running a business is a dubious thing compared to owning a business. Running one means all of the negatives are experienced and none of the positives of ownership. This lead to the lifeless slave lifestyle of a good salary and the alarm clock hatred as described.
Quitting my job and waking up in the emergency room freed me, on quite a few deeper levels, from concerns of the entrapment of western life. So I threw all of my crap into storage, sold my beloved couch, and drove to an oil field of greed and greasy work to reset. After experiencing hunger and homelessness for the first time in my white collar life, a low point was realized. Driving from oil rig to oil rig asking for work I was determined to get onto one. I figured I could obtain a 2-week-on and 2-week-off rotational work schedule to pursue my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating and save capital. I got on, finally, after a month of sleeping in a Chevy Malibu! I was placed with a crew on an absolute piece of shit rig, the black sheep of the fleet, Rig 7. The schedule was 28 days on and 14 days off with a daily beating of 12 hours a day, every day.
After 7 months of saving for the hope of flight instructing free from financial concerns, I attended Lyn Burk’s (Rotorcraft Pro) Heli-Success Conference. A great conference for aspiring new pilots and career-transitioning experienced pilots. A discussion for travel, some pictures, and articles of the industry surfaced in my thoughts with a brief discussion from Lyn.
About a month later on the oil rig It was -17 degrees F (-8’C). Living for nothing more clear than fighting frostbite and acting as a Roughneck, I decided enough was enough. I went to my driller, a godly man and southern gentlemen, and politely said “I am done.” I thanked the men of Stoneham Rig 7 and appreciated the work ethic they had helped instill in me.
The Collective Project
The idea of the world helicopter photo journal book was to capture the “Happiest People on Earth” at work: helicopter pilots. I had decided to capture and explore this anomaly of the people that actually make it in the industry. After working such harsh conditions in which money was the only saving grace, the numbness of life with the Roughneck occupation was brutal and the drudgery of daily slave driving was unbearable. I suppose a personal quest to find “what happiness is to me” then ensued. Without one thought I bought a one-way ticket to Dubai, a DSLR camera, and departed with an old backpack from my youth as a Boy Scout (Eagle Scout).
This project is by far the best thing I have ever done. To meet such incredible people, experience wonderful culture, hear unique foreign stories, and of course see helicopters and the unique applications in which they are used all around the world, is truly rewarding for me, and hopefully my readers.
So, when this project is done, my camera will end up at a donation box somewhere. I am not a photographer, I am a pilot. If I did not see the world now, then when? ‘Never’ is the simple answer. For now, the more common place quest to build flight hours remains for me an ambiguous and uncharted route. I am searching the earth to finish the Collective project, answering one of my childhood questions. I am simply very grateful to wake up with a smile most days (everyday would be a lie). As a personal commitment to myself, the most important kind, I WILL finish this project… And eventually… I will be a helicopter pilot someday that receives compensation for a livelihood…
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Honiara – Public Facility
February 24, 2016 in Other Authors
Honiara – Public Facility
After two days of straight traveling which began in Denver, Colorado and ended in Honiara the Capital Island City of the Solomon Islands, I had finally arrived for this international flying adventure. One of the first pilots I met was another American named Dillon. Dillon is one of those guys that has the ability to grow the perfect hipster beard. I made sure to antagonize him about his magical beard growing ability and my apparent ‘beard envy.’ A fellow instructor pilot. Dillon explained his hatred for instruction after accruing some 1600 hours in the occupation. For him, his next step was turbine time and he was more than willing to travel to a 3rd world island to do so and of course for the adventure.
So this story begins really with my curiosity to see a new place and Dillon needing to get some vitamins before he deployed back onto his Taiwanese tuna boat. I am always eager to see a new place when I arrive, the same excitement that has been riddled in me upon entering 27 other countries. We leave the company compound which is nestled abeam the shore line overseeing the boats that are docked across the distant water horizon. After about a quarter of a mile walk to the main road. There are Taxi’s waving at us white people. To my amusement and surprise, Dillon points to the other side of the street where the ‘buses’ are. Hah, Dillon has learned the sacred truth of Taxi drivers everywhere. Well…Taxi Drivers are Taxi Drivers… So instead of paying the equivalent of 7 USD, we were now only going to pay 40ish Cents to go to downtown!
So the term bus is interesting in Solomon. Here the Mitsubishi version of what I always referred to as a ‘Hippy’ bus is the primary vehicle for transportation which goes and stops at the designated bus stop areas. They are all manual transmission and most of the time while riding in these vehicles you can hear the wine of the over stressed beetle buses. However, one out of every twenty buses you may just be lucky and get ‘the mega’ bus, Dillon explained.
“Holy shit, get on, my first time on a mega bus Dude” We get on this bus and it is air conditioned and you can stand in the bus, and it has provisions to hold about 30 people. “Wow, this is actually rather nice” Well, that is what I thought until two stops later when 50 additional people decided to join us to downtown. So now all of the standing room was taken. Dillon and Myself where sitting down on the right side of the bus furthest from the left side entrances. When the bus filled, I was graced with the presence of an older lady with her arm extended past my head holding the window rail. There was hair, lots of hair and apparently it is attractive to have natural BO aroma exuberating around oneself. I gleamed at Dillon as he chuckled with his perfect mustache and beard. I stared at him in anger as 4 inch female armpit hairs hovered within 8 inches of my nostrils. A little thing I like to refer to as friendly ‘Karma’ occurred about 30 seconds later. A little bald man wearing a pink polo with the collar popped approached Dillon and grabbed the handrail right above his head. Yes, yes, indeed the aroma was pungent as well! But this guy was friendly, he smiled with blood red teeth and deteriorating gums from his apparent excessive use of Beetle nut -chewing tobacco-. “Where u fromma?” He actually was very polite and I continued a conversation with the man for two reasons. The first reason was, the more I talked to him the closer he got to Dillon and touched him sometimes which obviously made him very uncomfortable. So as a friendly Karma reminder, I felt compelled to continue the conversation. The second reason was, I wanted to know if there was a local gym around that I could get my swell on at!
We get off the bus at the “Hyundai Mall” and I mentioned to Dillon I think our pink polo companion wanted to touch him inappropriately. He responded with the center finger gesture of friendship or F%$# you! I can remember exactly what the middle finger means in this country 😉
Anyhow, after some exploring towards the river away from town and away from any discernable rain cover, we got caught in a flash flood monsoon. We then headed back to the center of town which has many coverings that ALL of the local people hang under until the rain stops. Within 2 minutes of monsoon rain exposure my socks were squishy and my underwear became very restrictive with the added weight of the gallons of water seeping through them. Concurrently, I was in need of a public facility. Dillon at this time had the same notion of retreating back to camp. We walked near public restrooms and they had signs requiring payment to relieve oneself.. So we decided to hold it and continue. We had a discussion about this odd occurrence with the public restrooms. In a country where the average income and lifestyle is rather poor, why in the hell would they charge for -public- restrooms? The answer or solution to our discussion was soon to come.
Approaching a main intersection back in town where we knew there were tons of buses to begin the 6km trip back to Ranadi, the faaaaaar part of town where our base is located. However, we needed to cross the busy street. There were tons of people around but none of them where crossing. I pointed out a walk-way about 100 meters away that went up and over the road.
“Hey look, let’s just take that walkway over the road!” “Why is no one using it?” It was actually a rather nice structure, which would totally expedite our time to get to the buses that would scurry us back to base to finally get out of our water logged clothing.
So we drudged up about three stories of stairs. “Finally, almost there!”
“SHIT” “What?” Dillon inquires. “No, I mean Shit, tons and tons of human feces!” So we had just answered a few question that had popped up or rather pooped up. We found the reason no one uses the walk way bridge and also at the same time we had just discovered the unofficial public restroom. Instead of paying to use the restrooms or going into a Caffe’ and pay expensive prices for a meal, the locals had adapted and created a public place where one could relieve themselves near the center of town. It actually was rather impressive, up to 2 or 3 feet where these men -I suppose women too- had made towers upon tower of recycled food. It looked like a magical kingdom of Ant Hills except it smelt not so friendly. Needless to say we did not use the bridge to walk nor did we use the unofficial public restroom… We made it back to base with some knowledge and some disturbing smells and images.
So the moral of this short conquest is if you ever find yourself in down town Honiara and need to go real real bad -numero dos- and you do not want to pay. Simply go to the only overpass bridge and your solution is there!
Last edited by mrocksma on March 7, 2016, 12:19 am
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