Sugar Soup

My sister and I used to be picky eaters. I like to think about what we would say now if we saw former versions of ourselves sitting at the dinner table for seemingly endless hours finically picking at and complaining about the food we had to eat.

We would be scolded for being so ungrateful. My mother always took matters of food and nourishment very seriously, a passion both my sister and I have come to share with her.

On one occasion, mom had made a soup. My sister and I sat at the table on a hunger strike, pleading for better food.

“I hate this food!” Sister and I would cry.

Though offended on several levels, mother was patient and explained, “You can not say you hate the food. Food is a blessing from God’.” She would leave us to sit and finish. The only way to escape was to literally eat our way out of the kitchen table prison.

“This is the devil’s blessing…” My sister said softly once mom was out of earshot. I snickered. We really were brats. These brats decided to take the soup into their own hands. What can we put in this to make it edible? After about 2 seconds of intense brainstorming, we came up with a brilliant solution. What makes everything taste good? SUGAR.

Stealthily moving from the kitchen table to the pantry, my sister reached into the giant bin of sugar kept on the floor. In the bin was a cup used for scooping out sugar. We looked at each other and signaled with our eyes the common thought: Perfect. With a healthy several lumps of sugar added to our bowls, we decided to spare other poor souls by dumping some sugar into the main pot, still being heated on the stove. Grinning silently, we proudly picked up our spoons and eagerly sampled the new and improved soup.

 

 

The soup was now actually nasty. Sister and I made faces across the table as we suddenly became aware of what a horrible deed we committed. We called it Sugar Soup, and we decided to dispose of our portions and never tell….. Maybe we put them back into the main pot… I don’t remember. 

I wish the story ends here, with us ruining my mother’s soup and our dinner, as mom and dad had eaten already. However, a guest came to the house a short while later. This was a red haired man who worked as a soccer coach with my father. I don’t remember his nationality, perhaps he was Irish. I remember he had an accent. Mom insisted he eat.

Sister and I sat at a distance, hiding in the hallway behind the dining room table. “Oh no!” we whispered to each other in terror, “He’s going to eat the sugar soup!!!” We felt awful for three reasons. First, PossiblyIrishMan made a face as soon as he put the soup to his lips. We saw him. We caused this man serious discomfort. He tried to be polite, but the soup was really, really bad. Secondly, my mother is a great cook. We did her a disservice, compromising her reputation. Lastly, we were so embarrassed and ashamed, we never told. We were not that embarrassed at the time. I remember giggling uncontrollably throughout the entire operation. I’m dying now reliving the night of sugar soup.

 

I’m sorry mom for ruining your soup. I’m also sorry for possibly contaminating it by pouring back my portion after eating from it. I realize how disgusting that is. I’m sorry sister, for telling this secret. I’m sure you had forgotten anyway.

 

Keep On Keepin On

At it’s pinnacle, life as a wireline engineer for Whataberger is grueling. On a less than average day, the small details of the job and heavy responsibilities can wipe you out, much like a fly being swatted totally unaware. Keeping up the pace is exhausting. Keeping up your energy is even harder. I have a few simple tricks.

 

I’ve been making jobs in the desert. The town is owned by Qatar Petroleum. There’s a market, and a few restaurants. We go to McDonalds in the morning before heading to the rig. This is the breakfast menu. Please note the options are: Sausage McMuffin, Egg McMuffin, Sausage Egg McMuffin, and pancakes. For drinks, there is coffee and orange juice.

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While I get to indulge in the pork free meats served here in Qatar, I have to miss out on iced coffee. I ask the man to fill a cup with ice, and pour the coffee over it. He does his best, but I usually get a soggy soda cup full of tepid coffee, sans ice.

Instead of being groggy and pissed off at the lack of a chicken McGriddle, fruit and oatmeal, or iced coffee, I pretend I am at McDonalds 25 years ago. McDonalds is the newest diner opening up in this desert oilfiled town. It was opened by a man name “Makhmoud McDonald”. No one has heard of it. Not only that, no one has heard of iced coffee. I take a picture with Ronald McDonald and think I can’t wait to tell me friends about this new place I just discovered. It’s going to revolutionize fast food. Just WAIT until the American’s hear about this!!

 

I enjoy the moments I have to myself. Today, my three operators and I rode back to Doha in the little pickup truck. The drive is roughly 1.5 hours on bumpy roads. I stare out the window at the desert while the buzz of the Filipino’s speaking to each other in their language provides a backdrop to my thoughts. It’s desolate. It’s lonely outside. Little life scatters the arid scorching sand. Everything here is covered in dirt. The dust in the air actually causes you to have more boogers. I did extensive research on this, as I felt I have more boogers than usual. I wonder how this country looked before they discovered oil and all the foreigners flocked to find work in the growing economy. I wonder if there are any critters hiding in plain sight in the desert. I wonder if I really just wondered that and if I am becoming my mother. I eat a whole bag of carrots and stare out the window. I even eat this one that looks like Gonzo the Muppet Baby…

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The truck bounces over the road and I think about going to my grandparents house. We used to beg my mom to take a short cut by using the “bumpy road”. We used to chant, BUMP-EE ROAD! BUMP-EE ROAD!! I close my eyes and pretend I’m in east Texas. The vast desert disappears as I paint tall pine trees and red dirt on my eyelids. Every place is what you make of it. Small moments driving to and from the field keep me going.

How Far Into Memphis, Son?

I’m finally back in Houma, after two months of vacation, training, and personal time. Today, I received my official transfer letter to Doha, Qatar. I sat in Dennis the Menace’s office, holding the stack of papers and staring blankly at the wall. I’ve had over a month to process this, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

“Are you nervous?” Dennis asks me. I nod my head. I am beyond nervous. I think back on just the last two months and how completely splendid they have been. The night before I came back to Houma sums it all up:

I had the chance to meet one of my heroes. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin (LOOK THEM UP!!) were playing a show in Lafayette, LA. My dad used to make me copies of his Mary Chapin cassette tapes, to eliminate risk of me destroying his. I memorized all her songs, and as I get older I am finding new meaning in them all the time. This was an important show to attend. I decided not only that I had to go, but I had to take my dad. Not only did I have to take my dad, we had to get VIP tickets and meet them backstage. I let the compulsion consume me. Work be damned; I have dreams to fulfil!

A Celebration of Friendship and Music

A Celebration of Friendship and Music

I tactfully played hookey from work for three days, prolonging my training in Oklahoma so that I could drive back to Louisiana on Wednesday, instead of Monday. My dad and I drove south all day Wednesday, sharing funny stories and new perspectives. We stopped for a crawfish pie on the way.

The meeting backstage was simply magical. A few years ago, I waited in line pissed off for 4 hours to meet the Disney princesses at Disneyland and left giggling and smiling. This experience was nothing like that. I drove 6 hours happy as a clam, did not wait in a line, and left a ball of floating energy, with not a care in the world. Shawn Colvin introduced herself and asked my name. My dad introduced himself by saying “I’m her father”, which makes me laugh. Mary Chapin Carpenter held out her hand and asked my name. I then asked “May I give you a hug?” I then found myself being embraced by her. WOW!

Dad and I then had our picture taken, watched the concert, and drove to New Orleans, where we stayed the night before he had to leave and I had to come back to work. We walked down Bourbon Street to eat some classic New Orleans dishes. Walking back to our hotel, my dad said “We should get a hot dog too.”

One of many New Orleans traditions

One of many New Orleans traditions

I split a lucky dog with my dad on Bourbon, after meeting Mary Chapin Carpenter and watching a PHENOMENAL live acoustic performance with her and Shawn Colvin. The world stopped for that moment. Dad and I stood on this filthy street, in the cool dark night, eating a hot dog. THIS is living, I think to myself.

Today I sat in Dennis’s office, gripping a stack of pages detailing my near future (which I will, in turn, detail in a post soon). I stare blankly at the wall and think about all the amazing people in my life.

MCC and Shawn sang a cover of this song. It’s been in my head.

Dead Birdz

In preparation for the trek offshore for BP, I like to wear my “Thank you BP, for killing us” T shirt several days before I have to leave.  It helps me relax and realize that even if the job does not go splendidly, at least we did not have to abandon ship and directly kill hundreds of animals, who can only be saved with Dawn dishsoap.

So concludes another job. To give you an idea how these deepwater jobs go for bigger clients, I prepped this equipment and shipped it over two weeks ago. I met it offshore no fewer than 10 days later. I have been on this rig for one week and have not seen daylight in two days. The rig only has internet in one room. Everyone is sitting in this one room, fighting for bandwidth. I am on a floating island. Birds fly around the rig. They hop on the floor and don’t even care about the restricted areas or PPE zones. Occasionally, I see feathers and exposed bones squashed into the walkway and covered in dirtiness.

Before we began operating, I sat in the conference room to chat with BP about the job program. Sitting in pink plaid pajama pants and secretly chatting on my computer with my sister, I wonder, “Does anyone here take me seriously?” They ask me questions about how our tool works and how far into the well we can go. I give them some answers based on my highly developed technical instincts. Little do these people know:

 I am singing Enrique Iglesias to myself in my head. I don’t care for LSU. The single most enjoyable aspect of this job was the 5 hands of king crab I ate last night. I am holding back laughter every time someone says ‘duty’.  I am role playing that I am a cat and terrorizing a co worker in a office communicator chat. A few months ago, a company man asked me a question, I sighed heavily and said “f*$%… I don’t know?”

Still, with all these things working against me, I power through the meeting and try to contribute as much as possible. I have some useful documents and diagrams on my computer, which I reference in the meeting. Though hard pressed, I do not yawn a single time.  This is how you act like an adult in a meeting.

I Made a C in Social Studies

The title for this post is a true story. It is only slightly related to our topic of discussion today.

Today, I noticed a facebook friend request. I often ignore friend requests, allowing them to linger for months before ignoring.

Today, I befriended, via facebook, my third grade teacher. (Before I go on reminiscing about our time together in 1997-98 I want it on the record that I have spent about two hours “stalking” other teachers from my elementary school). I remember receiving a post card from her the summer after second grade and dreading the day I would go into third grade. Rumors rampantly spread that she was a hard ass. I wanted no part of her “tough” third grade class room. As it turns out, the Highland Village Elementary student populace had it wrong. This teacher changed my life. Some of you may read this blog and think I am a talented and amazing writer!! However, most of you know that not too long ago…..

….I couldn’t spell my own name or tell the difference between 3’s and E’s. God bless this woman, for not only did she teach me, she saw passed my illiteracy and recommended me for the gifted and talented program, effectively shaping my entire education. I want to chat with her today and tell her how much I’ve grown. I am sure she knows, but I want to emphasize that I am not 8 anymore. I survived some terribly self-conscious years. I graduated college. I have a job! Though many things have changed in my life, I still maintain close friendships with people I met through the gifted and talented program in school. I enjoy the rare occasion when I drive through my hometown and lose myself in memories of my time there. I still keep the stuffed Ka snake puppet that I would bring to school for show and tell and write stories about for class projects (which is the picture featured above).

Erd grade was a big year for me. I wonder if teachers remember students like students remember teachers. I wonder if they know the degree of their influence. Long after summer break and graduation, you are not forgotten.Though I want to express my gratitude to this woman in a formal facebook conversation, I will instead show my appreciation by looking through her pictures and systematically finding the facebooks of all my other teachers….

Logger’s High

I wonder what they’re doing, those who walk on solid ground.

Gazing out upon the ocean, I only hear the sounds,

Of engines humming and hydraulic hoses full of pressure.

The headache within can be contained with no unit of measure.

I wonder what they’re doing, those who can lay in soft grass

Or on their own bed, tucked in good night at last.

The ocean rests calmly today, peaceful and serene.

How she must wonder what it likes to feel clean.

For scattered throughout the waters, rigs host a different life.

No sea creatures here, just people combating strife.

Slaves to the wage, us monkeys of production

Work night and day, climbing the tower of destruction.

We yelp and holler, fling dung and make celebration

Of the dim field life we’ve chosen, aiding in creation.

Black gold lurks somewhere under the crust.

It powers the world. A modern must

Have, though the consequences grave.

Making the ocean and its inhabitants one for slave.

I wonder what they’re doing walking around on land.

Heads happily buried deep beneath the sand.

 

My Id, Ego, and Super Ego

You may tell when I am working more; I am usually blogging more. This is my view from the door of the logging unit:

Perhaps the thought of being trapped offshore on a rig, surrounded by shark infested waters, provokes the little creativity left in my brain after wireline engineering and oilfield knowledge. I feel free when I look out into the ocean and see dozens of boats and other rigs. The sensation is similar to that of driving across west Texas. The flat horizon hides no features. For an entire day, my mind and the landscape is clear to be filled in by unfiltered imagination. Offshore has a similar effect.

Things my Id thinks about:

1. If I were to dive off the front of this rig, how many flips could I do before hitting the water?

2. What would these people do if I went crazy and ran up to the rig floor or the bridge (control room) and started flipping switches and pressing red buttons like a mad woman? How long would it take them to restrain me? And how much time would I spend in the nut house after they shoot me with horse tranquilizers and fly me home?

3. I want to host 4v4 soccer tournaments on the helipad with all the crews. Playing soccer suspended above the ocean would be SICK.

My Ego’s thoughts:

1. I wish I could consume only coffee and juice while I was out here. My body would thank me.

2. I should derail my supervising engineer and just run the show out here. But, wait… how do I do that?

3. Now is the perfect time to catch up on reading.

My Super Ego’s thoughts:

1. Stop blogging and pay attention.

2. Stop blogging and study for your controls!

3. Stop blogging and day dreaming and seize the day! 

http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/personalityelem.htm

I feel trapped when I sit inside this box and focus on the tasks at hand. I have heard people compare working offshore in the oil field to working in space. The song “Rocket Man” comes to mind and is all too appropriate. This is the view from the wireline unit:

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 I miss my comrades on shore. Perhaps my propensity to blog offshore is fueled by a yearning for companionship. While I sit in the wireline unit in the company of 8 computer screens, I wonder silently about what Alice and Gertrude are doing. I wonder what hijinks Shorty, Albert and Beverly are finding themselves in. Or if Cookies is enjoying his time offshore. Will Jerome starve before I learn how to make thawed out mice seem enticing?

 Quotes:

 While discussing storms in the Gulf, Englewood explains to me that rigs will detach from the well head and just float. Even Jack Up rigs can turn into boats. All personnel are evacuated, except for sometimes the driller will stay behind.

“Don’t some of them not make it through the storm?”-Me

“Yeah, there was one rig that didn’t make it. We had equipment on that rig too. Now it’s at the bottom of the ocean.”-Englewood.

“I was at this thing with [fiance] and she was telling people about childhood obesity. I was not really participating, but one woman came up to me and started talking. ‘I just don’t understand. I mean, I give my kids Oreos but I make them crumble them up and put it on yogurt so it’s healthy!'”-Englewood. The new inside joke is that you can eat whatever you want, so long as you crumble it up and put it on yogurt.