Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Little Things

They say that the key to happiness is low expectations. They also say that the key to happiness is focusing on the little things. Now perhaps this is a door with two keys, like in a nuclear launch facility, but I like to think that these two ideas are secretly the same idea split apart.

American Zen Master Alan Watts has a story about actual Zen Master Suzuki. Suzuki was at a Zen retreat with a number of aspirants for a month, doing Zen things with them. After dinner on the first day, he goes up to wash his bowl and an American layman asks him why he, the great master Suzuki, was doing such a simple task. The master says that enlightenment can be found in such simple tasks, and the layman's eyes get wide. Would it be alright, asks the layman earnestly, if I washed the bowls after each meal? The master nods and hands the layman his bowl. Another Buddhist sees the layman later washing dishes so eagerly and asks the master what it is that he told the layman, and the master replies that the layman has found a meditative practice, and I have found someone to wash the dishes for me.

I could turn this whole blog into a food blog specifically about everything that our chief steward cooks everyday. But I won't, except to note here that the food is absolutely fantastic. I have eaten the best hot dogs of my life, jumbo all beef franks seared on the outside and juicy on the inside with chopped onions and crumbled bacon mashed between the dog and bun, all topped by a generous helping of Tabasco. He doesn't make steaks any different from how we make them at home, but somehow they always come off the grill perfectly heated. Even his rice is more exciting than normal rice. And when it isn't meal time, there is always a good selection of chips, fruits, cookies, and leftovers. I don't know how much weight I have already gained in the last ten days, but I do know that I no longer need to wear my belt to keep my pants up.

Not to harp on food, but about a year or so ago I became briefly excited by cooking and began an informal study of ingredients and spices. As part of this, I looked all over for what the exact combination of spices was that went into proper Buffalo chicken, but for some reason never could find it. Well, it seems they stock it here on the ship, Frank's Original RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce is the pot of gold at the end of a quest I had abandoned long ago. It is quite good on rice.

I still can't get over how pretty the water is up here. I stand by the railing watching the horizon for about an hour after dinner most days, and it has become a compulsion to check out the window to see how amazing the world outside is every time I enter the room or get up. We have yet to get anything strong enough to make the boat roll noticeably, but with the forecast early onset of winter, I expect it soon enough.

Our route right now is an exact repeat of our previous route. When we got to Cleveland last time, the factory we dropped off at said they would like three or four more shipments of the same, so we went right back to Silver Bay and are headed right back to Cleveland. That being the case, each place we have gone through the second time around is a little bit different just because the weather conditions change each time, and it has displayed a new facet of beauty in each location.

I have not found a job I didn't like doing onboard so far, from painting to scraping grease, except for those times I was asked to do the job with the wrong tool or a broken tool. I got the last available paintbrush yesterday, and it leaked out the bottom, so I was brushing on a job that really needed a roller and constantly moving my drip protections. A poor craftsman blames his tools, and I am a poor craftsman. Damn tools.

Before I left I really didn't know what to expect, so I loaded my laptop up with all kinds of books, movies, and games so that I wouldn't feel too bad even if this job turned out to be terrible (which, thank god, it isn't). What I have ended up wasting all my free time on, when not writing blog posts, is a game called the Sims, which is nothing more than a virtual dollhouse where you plop people down in a house and make them go to work and eat dinner and do normal family things, except for some reason it is absolutely addictive. Probably because, like life, there are no stopping points where you can put it down and call it break time, every time you quit it is in the middle of some part of someone's life.

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