One hundred feet below, the emerald waves pounded the shore, one after another after another. Relentless. Sqawking seagulls circled around me, and the tall mast rocked in the wind. A low-gliding “V” of pelican bombers dove down, descending in a smooth formation, just over the waves in the distance. When the gusts flexed their muscle, the platform atop the mast swayed as much as eight feet to either side as I took the knife from my teeth … holding on and struggling to cut away the white fabric, reducing the effect of the strong winds of The Atlantic.
Ha … I only wished I were on a sailboat. Did I fool you? Actually, I was suspended high in the air on an industrial-sized boom lift, tied on with a harness and a safety line … just another day on The Dirty Gig.
(Quick reminder: The Dirty Gig is the disaster recovery job that funds my journey and helps to provide content for this travel blog …)
The task at hand this time: to remove all of the vinyl siding of a temporary storage facility at a ship yard, recently ravaged by Hurricane Matthew, near Jacksonville, Fla. The structure looks like a huge quonset hut, wearing a white Member’s Only jacket … sort of.
If you have followed this blog since the early days, you may recall a similar Dirty Gig back in hometown DFW, as my colleagues and I worked to dismantle the former practice facility of The Dallas Cowboys, after its vinyl covering and frame were torn apart by a tornado.
This time, the vinyl structure in not quite as luxurious as the indoor practice fields back in Texas, adorned with the blue star. However … there was a huge Dallas connection. A few hundred feet away from our crew were a couple of yachts, docked. One was the craft skippered by The Dallas Mavericks’ owner, that sharkiest billionaire of the Shark Tank, Mark Cuban. For realz! The boat? I have no words to describe, other than tremendous in size … perhaps opulence is the word that I am trying to find. The private yacht could almost pass for a cruise ship. My colleagues and I watched crew members mill around for a day or so, before I snuck over to the dock for a peek.
Also, if you frequent this blog, you know how much I love coincidence. Any guesses on the name of the Cuban vessel? The Fountainhead … no doubt borrowed from Ayn Rand’s classic novel about the genius and powerful business types … the ones that the system tries to take down. You know … Mark Cuban types … The coincidence? I just recently finished The Fountainhead and now am speeding through Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” (Hmmm … both of these books just popped up recently in another Dirty Gig from a library where we were working … I digress … I have to think Rand must be turning over in her grave as one current candidate’s platform attacks successful people, as if it is their fault that others have not caught on to this thing called life … I digress …) Wow. The Fountainhead … from 1943!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This omission — Photos were forbidden in the area … but I was considering sneaking a little picture of the craft. … Snuck around the corner the next morning … and that ship had sailed! Vamanos el capitan!
So anyway, the Cuban launch WAS down below to my right and to my left was a huge battleship ensconced in scaffolding, for some major overhaul or facelift. (Would that be starboard? Whatever?) Between the two was a rusted metal barge, about the the size of four football fields, or maybe 10 of Cuban’s roundball courts. Apparently something had gone wrong with the relaunch of the barge, after repair, so it was docked and sitting on blocks, rising a few feet out of the water. It was a pretty incredible sight … just imaging the technology and know-how it took to build this flat, steel monster, much less, raise it up out of the water! Before the gig was up, we watched the barge departure, as the experts positioned it between two other barges. Large chains tethered the three together … chains with rusty links about the size of a man’s waste. The two barges on the outside tightened their massive chains and raised the middle barge even higher above the water … and then floated it out into the coastal river, as the tide flowed in. Pretty incredible to witness, for this landlubber … from my perch high above in “the crow’s nest.”
I really can’t get into any more details about the facility … maybe I shouldn’t have disclosed this much … but what’s a blogger to do!?!:)
No … I had no Wi-Fi high above the water … and barely took my iPhone out of my pocket, for fear of dropping the thing a few stories down to the ground. IF I had been on my game, I would have scanned to see if Cuban’s boat was emitting a Wi-Fi hotspot. I bet not … At least not one open for free access for a mighty sailing man like me:)
Other notes from the job … OH … high security. As I entered the facility, I was asked pointblank, whether or not I had any weapons in the truck I drove … or on my person. I won’t get into details, but I will say that the security guard and I bonded based on a mutual hobby we share.
Lastly … where does one have lunch in a high-security, commercial and military serving shipyard?
Well, factories and the like are the homes of the original, version 1.0, first generation foodtrucks, and this place was no exception. There was quite a “flotilla” of burger trailers, hotdog carts, and a bright red food trailer adorned with the words “MawMaw’s Kitchen.” How could I resist!?! It was a wise choice. Three jovial ladies — perhaps all family members — even the young woman we nicknamed “Lil MawMaw” were so friendly and kind … and most importantly generous with the portions. I enjoyed a chef salad, several days in a row, while on this job. But after a couple of days, the generous — no make that overabundant — application of Ranch dressing was just too much. I mean … too much dressing kind of defeats the purpose of eating a healthy salad right?
Ha … for all you word nerds out there, today I noticed that if you remove the “c” from defecating, you get defeating … neat huh? … I digress.
Back to the ranch … always the considerate one (don’t laugh, I can be nice) … I gave it much thought before I dared to mention the dressing issue to MawMaw. Telling her that there was too much dressing might be akin to telling a French chef that the bouillabaisse needs salt. So I ordered my next-to-last chef salad from that establishment and said, “You know MawMaw … I love your salads, and I do love ranch … but I don’t need the entire ranch … all i need is about twenty acres.” Ha … she laughed and cut back on my calorie intake that very instant.
But — always one to branch out, walk on the wild side and try new cuisine — for my last meal on the job I scoured the menu and my eyes landed on the most exotic fare on the list … the fried bologna sandwich. I almost ordered it as a joke … but the more I thought about it … i thought it must be good … one of those downhome best kept secrets. (You know … I think one of my brothers used to cook those when I was a kid, now that I think about it … I digress.) The more I thought about it … yes … I had to have it. Let me tell you, my friend, Briana’s Fried Bologna Sandwich is TDF! And … if I hadn’t have ordered that, I would have never learned that “Lil MawMaw” is really named Brianna, and she is the namesake of the best item on the menu.
MawMaw’s Kitchen Food Trailer — somewhat healthy salads, and a bologna sandwich that will make your belly full and make your soul want to listen to Elvis records – 7 pings … perfect score … the whole ranchero!
Nope. No Wi-Fi side orders with the bologna sandwiches at MawMaw’s Kitchen … but I did get a new friend on Facebook. Good people!
Know what I sayin?