Wolfrum Chronicled: The Truth Lies Within

May 20, 2013 by  

 Wolfrum Chronicled

By William K. Wolfrum

I’m doing this because I’m trying to make some money. Plain and simple. My wife and I just finished building a house and I had to borrow $10,000 from my Dad. And I don’t pay it back immediately, I may go mad. Owing money to the man who single-handedly made me a wreck on all issues monetary is not something I can deal with at the moment. Seriously, the guy can squeeze blood from a penny. Yet while he’s squeezing, $1,000 falls out of his pocket and he’s none the wiser.

SPOILER ALERT: This will not be a book about my daddy issues.

Let’s try this again: I have known for several years now that if I wrote a book, or anything even remotely book-like, it would be successful. The main reason being that I’ve got contacts. Media titans like Jake Tapper follow me on Twitter and have let me know that they’d promote my work. I just had to produce some actual work, as it were.

Now, everyone thinks they have a book in them. Something to chronicle their lives and adventures. And most are right to believe their lives have great moments of drama, comedy and tragedy. There just tends to be no plot except that everything gets really nasty and tragic on a long enough timeline. Experiences happen, and we move forward. Life is not a movie and things don’t wrap up nicely. Things just continue, good or bad. All of this, of course, can lead to a fulfilling life. It just doesn’t make for rational storytelling. Very few of us have that one experience or adventure that defines us, that gives us a proper end to our story, that leads us to living happily ever after.

I can’t tell you if there’s a plot to this whole thing. I just know it’s time to let people know how I got here.

2.

I keep thinking of this as an Austerity-era book. That it meets the needs of those who feel people should get less. On the bright side, this book shouldn’t lead to rampant unemployment and social unrest. I mean, that would be awesome if it did, but I should try and be realistic.

3

My left arm came out first when I was born, with my doctor using said left arm to pull me into this world. My little arm was paralyzed for a day or so afterward. Currently, I have bursitis in my left shoulder. Are these two events connected? So many questions.

Anyway, that’s how I was born. I was the youngest, with two older sisters who are eight and seven years older than I. That’s one of those things that cause people to raise their eyebrows and nod knowingly when they first learn about it. And they are probably correct in all their assumptions.

Mostly, though, my youth was spent engulfed in ignorant Americanism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I played sports, watched “Happy Days” and listened to pop music. I knew what was taught in school and not a lick more unless it was about sports. I was good at sports and funny, so I didn’t get picked on. I was a happy, American kid. My youth was fun, but it essentially taught me nothing.

I used to work on fishing boats awhile back. I’ll discuss that more later. I tend to discuss it a lot because I have a firm belief that discussing my time as a commercial fisherman makes me look like a brave, rugged hero who has a penis that women should crave. Or something like that. Anyway,  the boat I worked on was about 50 percent American and 50 percent Japanese. The Japanese were hard-working and stoic, and would warm up to you if you proved you were willing to work hard. As surprising as it seemed, I fit that bill and earned friendships with some of them, including a man name Nakasuka.

Here’s something I wrote about him in 2007:

I spent a good chunk of my twenties as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. It’s one of those things that appears fantastic in hindsight – steaming out of Dutch Harbor, wind blowing through my hair, muscles rippling, etc.

In reality, of course, it was a hellish collection of freezing 18-hour work days, surrounded by fish. Overall, an interesting thing to have in your past. At the time, though, it more or less sucked.

One thing those days taught me is that when scientists claim that the world could be out of fish in 40 years, they aren’t just hysterical eco-bedwetters. Even then, more than a decade ago, one was told about the decline of fish in the Bering Sea. And one could see how man abused the sea.

I particularly remember my first trip. Three months on a trawler, which was three months too many. We’d send a huge net down deep in the ocean and scoop up everything available. We fished mainly for mackerel, but the seasons were limited. On the day that mackerel season closed, we went in search of Pacific Ocean Perch (POP).

POP is a red fish, very easy to differentiate from mackerel. The first time we dropped the net for the start of POP season, we pulled up a full net of fish. Full of mackerel. As mackerel season had been closed, we weren’t allowed to keep any of them.

It took us just two hours to process the net of fish that day, as we sent 20,000 pounds of dead mackerel back into the ocean. The boat was filled with depressed young fishermen, wondering what the hell they were doing out there. It was an extremely sad day.

I was thinking about those days recently, more to the point, thinking of the Japanese guys I worked with out there on longliners (after my trawler experience, I worked the rest of my time out there on longliners, which are much less wasteful). You see, a Japanese company owned 49 percent (the most allowed) of our company, and always had several workers on board.

I was thinking of Nakasuka, in particular. He was a hardworking guy, who was as old then as I am now, about 40. While not a big fan of Americans in particular, Nakasuka (Suka, for short) would take a liking to anyone, provided they worked hard enough. We worked together for the better part of three years, and got along well, despite not understanding each other’s language.

What struck me as I thought about Suka was this – he’s out there. Right now. Because that’s what he is – a fisherman.

It was part of the reason the Japanese we worked with tended to dislike Americans. Because while the trite phrase of “They hate us for our freedoms” is a load of crap when discussing terrorists, it was partly true on a fishing boat. The Americans there were destined to leave the boat to try other things. The Japanese were fisherman for life.

The translator on board (we had a total crew of less than 40, and the translator also was a worker) told me once that for these Japanese men, being a fisherman was honorable. The culture itself was one that mainly cared about money – the only way for you to be successful was to make a lot of it. But fisherman were respected, even though they weren’t rich. They brought home the food.

But they were definitely jealous. We could come and go as we pleased, but their lives were mapped out, and had been for a long time.

Even then I knew I eventually wanted to be a writer or a journalist at some point, and I sit here now with those things as my job description. While Nakasuka is floating on the Bering Sea, still.

Because Americans are free. In our culture, we still make our own paths, rather than having them built for us, as Suka had. Since then, however, Japanese culture has changed somewhat dramatically. The young have more choices and opportunity. Suka missed out on that, but his children likely haven’t.

Because cultures change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. What’s important for Americans, however, is to hold on to the one thing that we always hearken to – freedom. But as U.S. culture changes, and freedom becomes more and more attached to wealth, and freedoms become under appreciated, we need to fight to keep our rights as free men.

Was my time as a fisherman a wasted time of a wasted youth? To a point. But it was my choice, my decision, my experience. The pain and the cold and the wet have slowly left my mind, but the memories and lessons remain.

The main lesson was that I’ve been free to do whatever I’ve wanted, just about anywhere I wanted. That was the blessing, and I can only hope that future U.S. generations have the same freedom to have interesting experiences, or even make outlandish mistakes. Because cultures change. And not always for the better.

My dad wanted me to be a Major League Baseball player. Or he wanted me to take over his trucking company. If I wanted to do anything else, that was fine. But it wasn’t up to him or my mom to help me chart any courses. I appreciate the freedom I’ve always had to make the choices I wanted. That freedom has helped me make me the man I am today.  But maybe, just maybe, if my parents could have had a little Japanese in them, they could have helped guide me to being the man I was supposed to be.

Either way, my left shoulder would still hurt.

Spoiler Alert II: Seriously, I’ll stop with the Daddy Issues.

–WKW

(Note 1: The full story can be found on the Wolfrum Chronicled Main Page.)

(Note 2: For an explainer on this project, please go here.

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Wolfrum Chronicled: The Truth Lies Within”

  1. Wolfrum Chronicled: A Blog Book (or something) Extravaganza « Politics « William K. Wolfrum Chronicles on May 20th, 2013 7:11 am

    [...] So let’s do this. [...]

  2. Wolfrum Chronicled: Got the name, got the game « Wolfrum Chronicled « William K. Wolfrum Chronicles on May 21st, 2013 5:59 am

    [...] Anyway, Hugh from the Internet had this to say about the first three chapters: [...]

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