August 6, 2010

December 2009     San Francisco

Arriving back in San Francisco last summer, I took a break from the medical work.  I found a company involved in local shipping, maritime logistics and tugboat operations, and started over at the bottom.  As usual, the bottom involved long hours, odd scheduling and repetitive menial tasks.  But the pay was very good and I figured that this work would lead to bigger and better things.  At the very least, it uncovered another American subculture:  the antisocially-employed maritime man. Read the rest of this entry »


Night Shift (part three)

July 12, 2010

Spring 2008     San Francisco

Well this is about it, folks – I am out of stories for now.   I have taken up a clean, comfortable  and strangely predictable existence back here in the First World, and that does not often lead to colorful accounts of nasty behaviors dredged up from the cultural slums.  I expect to be short of material for these odd pages until I blow a fuse and decide to relocate once more to a filthy primitive sandbox of a country, or go fall off tugboats in the Bay again or even start riding public transit every day.   Sorry about this!

Well, there might be one more tale next month.  Meantime, here are the last of the San Francisco paramedic stories:

Read the rest of this entry »

How to Make a Gay Baby

June 8, 2010

San Francisco     December 2006

Wikipedia definition:  In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.  Responding to a troll’s provocations is commonly known as ‘feeding the troll’ and is generally discouraged, as it can encourage their disruptive behavior.



Last night I was out with my girlie Jen B from college; I was her beard for a company Christmas party because her fiance was unavailable.  The party was funereal, so I grabbed the scotch and self medicated a bit.  Much.  On the way back to the city, I clowned her the whole time, asserting that it is against God, nature and all that is holy to have sex during pregnancy.  Obviously this is having sex much too close to the baby, ick, and can have grave repercussions on the future sexual orientation of the child.  Everybody knows this.

This “debate” was so absurd that Jen re-phrased and posted it on Craigslist the next day, positioning it as a legitimate plea for information.  She is my favorite troll.

I awoke to this email, and watched it all unfold. Read the rest of this entry »

Savages (parts 1, 2 and 3)

May 1, 2010

I. Rockmonkeys

Almost two years into the remodel of a 2,000 square foot, $3,000,000 house, and finally we were ready for the stonemasons to arrive and wrap the house with rock. From the beginning we could not stop laughing at them – coarse, foul mouthed and abusive to anyone in their sight. They were great guys, just not well socialized. We called them rockmonkeys, or The Savages. On the caveman scale, the stonemasons rate about an 8 out of 10. Ironworkers and piledrivers might score a 9.  Merchant shipping sailors often earn a 10/10, but more on that later. Read the rest of this entry »

Love & Haight

April 5, 2010

April 2005     San Francisco

I have to preface this account of living low on Haight St with the story of why I was out on disability for a little while.  At the time, I was working as a carpenter doing a $1,000,000 remodel on the highest house in San Francisco, right under Sutro Tower.  Here is a condensed version, originally entitled “Gravity 1, Chris 0” :

I got another big break!……except this one is in my leg.   I was at work, adding a piece of trim under the eave of a new section of roof. This involved standing on a ladder atop a lower section of roof, and leaning it against the outside of the wall I was working on.  Suddenly the ladder slipped out from under me.  I followed the ladder down and bounced off the roof, then slid ass-first under the safety rail, followed by the 10-pound electric sawzall. Read the rest of this entry »


March 4, 2010

March 2006     San Francisco

I worked my way through paramedic school by doing remodel construction here in San Francisco.  The demolition phase was  always hard and a little dangerous, but sometimes it involved a bit of urban archaeology.  Every now and then items emerged from behind the walls or under the floorboards:  coins, tools, hand-written prescription bottles, a stash of bourbon, eleven mummified cats over one garage ceiling, and a rusty loaded handgun.  Often there was a carefully stashed newspaper, just to mark the date that the walls were finished.  The one in my house on Haight St was from 1874.  Money?   Sure, sometimes that might appear, but that was not the kind of score that people shared or talked about. Read the rest of this entry »

Night Shift (part two)

February 3, 2010

San Francisco     Fall 2007

I am not working as a paramedic these days, just moved into a related line of work that will not yield any of the stories or photos usually flung upon these pages.  Ah, well.  Almost went to Haiti for a month of earthquake relief work – that would have been a trove of disaster stories, but the new work schedule prevented that.  Here is a second batch of memorable cases taken from working the night shift in the city.

One night we were assigned to pick up a “5150” patient, code for a person under 72-hour psychiatric hold due to the possibility of harming himself or others. Read the rest of this entry »


January 6, 2010


August 1998     Mbweni, Tanzania

My NYC girlfriend Pia and I had just abandoned a failed expedition through Zambia and Tanzania, and set off backpacking on our own for a couple more months.  After a great safari through Ngorongoro crater, and a Kilimanjaro summit that got pretty dangerous, we made our way to the coast to indulge in a  few weeks of things we could not find inland, such as fresh fish, fruit, beach time, a break from the tsetse flies.

During the previous three months of camping out in the bush, we had run-ins and paw-prints outside the tent from the usual suspects:  hyenas, lions, hippos, a cobra, parasites, scorpions and thieves, but the one that commanded the most attention was the army ants, known in Swahili as “siafu.”  Pia reacted with cartoonish fear to any African ants, but this kind in particular are not to be trifled with.  Ah, but I rolled the dice. Read the rest of this entry »