Friday night. A fucking Friday night, a fucking foreboding Friday night. Foreman says be ready, we're going into some foul shit. Cover up, this is a real slop tank. Me already anxious about going into this tank, on a fucking Friday night when everyone in dot.com creation's getting ready to celebrate the next million.
And me going in a tank even the foreman's got forebodings?
The staging pile's already on deck, we've been clambering over main deck pipes for hours bringing the staging, and even the open hatch propped by the pile looks ominous. Me, renewable energy champion for decades, standing on the deck of an oil tanker, surrounded by pipelines like some oil field labyrinth, preparing myself to submerge into some tank eye ain't even seen yet, but i can tell from the look on the foreman's face, we're in for some shit. The huge, ear-splitting fan's pumping down the next hatch four meters away, humming drummers at the gates of hell. Somehow eye already know, this is why i'm here.
But me got five weeks of getting the job done, me ready for anything.
Check tools hanging off me waist, climb over the hatch lip, swing my legs into the abyss, can't see a damn thing beneath the hatch, just some black singularity from which no light escapes, feel around for the first step, there, solid, second step, grip the hatch edge, duck my hardhat, descend, i'm in. Nostrils slapped awake by the invasion of crude, first hints of nausea gurgling from somewhere below my suddenly heaving chest. Few more steps, eyes, such as they are, adjust, another step down, beloved steel-toes, protectors of me feet, me strong but hurting feet, carried me fifty years this far, boots sliding on the steel rung, what the fuck is that shit? Peer down, ugh, that's fucking sludge on the ladder's rungs, my boots are sliding. Search for the safety rail, where the fuck's the safety rail, perhaps it was forgotten in the haste to build another oil tanker. Eyes search deeper into the hold, me trying to get my bearings, looking four stories down, it's all black, the black that sucks up all light, everywhere i look it's black with oil sludge, hard steel angles cushioned by Squish sludge layer of black tar, as far as the eye can see, limited by sharp shafts of blinding light from the few spotlights lighting our way, and bordered by acres of pitch black pitch, hiding who knows what. jeesus keerist all monopoly, this is a fucking oil tank, this is the crude oil bunker, how could i have not figured this shit out.
No time to figure nothing, my breathing becomes more labored with every descending step. Gloved hands sliding along the ladder rails, can't believe my stuck gloves already full of tar, or sludge, or whatever foul shit called from the depths of hell this hold holds.
Ain't they supposed to clean this shit out before we work?
Keep descending, finally hit the first level. Boots sliding on the slick sludge on steel, foul, grab a rung for a handhold and my gloves are black, and sticky, and fetid, eye can't even look at them for that increases the stench. Peering below to my two partners, of course Tick's the first one down, both on the hold bottom, slipping in the muck. Chrome Carl falls on his ass, into an inch of sludge, even he's cursing more than i've ever heard in my life. Me try to find a spot on the landing with firm footing, not a fucking chance, every square inch of surface, even underneath, is mired in half-inch thick sludge, sludge with an evil mind of its own, grabbing you and sucking you down into its filth, every hand hold where you search for purchase just a slick trick delusion of something solid, gloves sliding along the rail, nostrils almost closed to keep out the fetid invasion, me just won't breath while i'm down here.
Look around, nausea overwhelming the disgust, trying to get my bearings. Struck hard by the chilling hypocrisy of the safety meeting. They hand out cute little decals for your hardhat or locker, safety decals, then send you down into the depths of hell for $15 bucks an hour, dosing you with government approved doses of crude oil death. And there ain't no safety cage, no rail on the ladders. And there's only one rail about waist high on a steel ledge thirty feet above your death, one thin landing rail, and there's not one inch of stable footing, and everywhere you grab you either stick to or slide off. Dangling participles of death.
Takes moments that never end before the crew's ready up top to send down the first piece of staging. Me in the middle of it's descent, have to guide it, no, lever it past the landing and out into the black hole, guide it down the hold, to the waiting shipwrights below. First piece comes down, get out of the way Randy, hey slow it down up there, cocksuckers, grab the staging rail, try to lever it over the side rail, one boot slips off the landing, into the deck hole twelve yards below, where the ladder continues its descent, grab for the rail with my stomach, saves my ass, maneuver the fuckin' steel, send it down, first one done, and i'm still alive. Piece after piece, now even the ropes are fucking sticky with tar, me sweating like pig wrapped in rubber, can't wipe the sweat off my face, can't touch a fucking living part of my being, can't wipe the fog off the safety glasses, AND CAN'T FUCKING BREATHE!
Just to hug my son once more.
Tick's yelling from below, but between the roar of the fan and the clanging echoes, i can't make out a fucking sound except i know he's screaming. What? Can't hear you. What? Me yelling i can't hear you so many times i can't hear myself.
Hits me like a staging plank falling from the last vestige of the world out that tiny hatch twenty feet above my head. Right at this moment, Tha's going on stage for the press preview of her first performance in San Francisco since she's been back.
Me can't tell the anger rippling through my system from the growing nausea.
She's on stage, this talented wonder who captured my heart, freely given, who gave me hope that eye was worth something, who excited me in every way a man can be excited, and then topped that (Remember the Paris story? GVI), who counted on me for strength to support her actress insecurity, she said eye believed in her more than anyone in the world, who i brought to Sundance to introduce to the Indie film world, she's on stage right now, she won't talk to me, but she made sure i knew her schedule, she's walking on stage, and i'm mired in a fucking slop tank where i can't see nothing but crude oil sludge, can't breath nothing but crude oil fumes, can't touch nothing but tar, crude, sucked from the bowels of the earth tar, coating every warm fragile cell in my being, being in hell, oil slick hell, coal tar hell, can i die from this hell, what's he yelling hell.
More staging descends, more sweat mixes with the carbon diarrhea, now there's even tears fogging my safety glasses, better cut that shit out right now, if i want to see to keep from dying, steel myself, starting to sway from the power of this moment, decades of struggling to get you to embrace the sun, and here i'm locked away from all life, away from everything soft and gentle, here i'm locked in the tank that you sent your kids to the desert to fight for, here i'm locked away somewhere only polite people would call purgatory, this is a fucking crude oil hold on a crude oil tanker bringing fucking crude oil to america to fucking burn as if we had the right to suicide by poison fire.
Twenty five years of renewable energy activism, of crafting legislation, of starting companies, of doing deals, of getting projects built, of making clean power from the sun and wind, and here i am sucked into the steel belly of the beast, building staging so the pipefitters can come down here in hell to maintain the valves needed to pump your poison fucking carbon blood.
You sent me here, Reader.
Tha Oner, can't you feel me at all? Why this, how this, what could possibly be worth putting my fucking lungs on the line, life on the line, to be in black hold tar goo devil's come sludge crude tanker world that i've spent my entire life fighting to end? Can't bear the remembrances of soft organic oils poured over her rich pulsing breasts, skin sliding with the joy of sliding into each other, slithering loving memories clashing against the foul slippery dank of this tank. This tank is everything wrong with modern civilization, everything missing from intelligence in the species, everything gone from the heart, everything lost to the ages, everything poison to the soul, everything hurtful to the skin of the planet, hurtful to the air that brings the breath of life, the water that washes us clean, everything hurtful to each new generation, every violence committed to anyone, any power grab to make up for no orgasms, every slimy attempt at asserting the power of the material world over the soft strength of seed, every drop of the fossil history of our earth, burned in a few foul generations so you can continue to hide from your own godhood, sleepwalking, surrounded by your oil burning treasures.
God Damn It Randy, Get Down Here I Can't Breathe!!
Tick's cries finally break through the sludge.
Get your ass up if you can't breathe.
Come down and take my place, i can't breathe.
Get your ass up if you can't breathe.
Get down here, take my place i can't breathe.
If you can't breathe, get your ass up. Eye ain't coming down. Get up here now.
More pieces of staging, and me feel like hurling them through the hull. Didn't they show Tick that stupid, life-saving, training video?
It's really bad, i can't breathe.
Then get your fucking ass up here, i ain't saying it again, GET YOUR ASS OUT OF THE HOLD NOW.
What the fuck's going on down there?, chirps the foreman.
My skull screams death you idiot, but my voice screams Tick can't breathe.
Here's the last piece, stow it then get up here.
Deal. Last piece Tick.
Clang echoes forever as the last rail hits.
Get your fucking ass up top now.
Me already trying to breathe too soon, before i've finished climbing, and me flop like whale over the hatch rail, gasping.
Again, shipyard air never was as fresh. Gasping. Shaking. Soaked.
Slimy. Get those gloves off. Shed the slicker. Don't touch anything.
Break time, wander off to the bow staring at Frisco's effervescent city lights.
For you, motherfuckers, for you.
Hell ain't fiery, hell's a sludge tank, full of leftover oil for the dinner of your materialism. Suck my cock, Reader, bound and gagging, you know not what you...
Catch my breath. The godhead pours into me.
The Light illuminates, the tar sludge poison is dead.
From this moment on, when i speak of the need to move immediately to the soft energy path of the sun, my words will contain the full power of knowing whereof i speak. I've been there, eye am here, in the fetid hold of your society's fuel, dark and poison, foul, death, and not worth the lives you sacrifice for your fucking SUV's.
Back to the crew, splayed exhausted amidst the death tanker's Gordian knotted death pipes, we're all getting ready to go to the depths of the slop tank and build staging. Silent stare into foreman's eyes.
You know, boss, i don't think i can go down there again.
In the tank, or home.
Heart lifting, home. Sorry, boss, home it is. Me tell him truth. Saying, what you guys don't know is i've spent my whole conscious life fighting to bring a renewable energy future into reality, for everybody, and it just don't seem right to go down there. i know i can't ever work with you guys again, for there's no way i can choose not to share the whole job, can't expect you to cover my ass if i won't cover yours.
Eye can tell by the foreman's eyes he understands exactly, viscerally, where i come from. But he says, you're done.
Me so glad to be done. My heart, still pounding in my chest, my lungs, still throbbing in my chest, begin to calm, knowing me going home.
My last look at the guys.
Me proud, aware that it goeth before a fall, but me so damn proud.
DRYDOCK, I GOT THE STORY!
Shuffle off over the pipes, along the deck, across the gangway i built, lungs heaving, along the east wingwall, staring at the tanker berthed in this steel womb, blankly staring, not fully comprehending what's occurring here, down the drydock stairs, course upon course, jump to the dock, turn and fix my last look at Drydock One, power building inside, the godhead's strong, i'm an arrogant fuck but i'm right, and what's more, i'm going home, no more poison, no more life on the line, no more romantic brushes with death. Last shuffle along the quay, steel-toes strangely light, heart lifting with every step, me going home. Last climb up the shipwright stairs. Won't be making this climb again. Open the locker, and slowly, slowly, take off my oil-encrusted gear, tar stench and thick slime. Don't touch anything.
Me going home. I got the story. Oil kills, and Eye know why.