Continuing submitted by
He still came around making trouble, but oddly enough, our little cul-de-sac corner was more-or-less Batshit Crazy-free for the next 34 months.
After that, things sort of calmed down. Well, one of his older boys thought it would be fun to attack Khris, push her off her bike, and try and steal the Uzbek sapphire amulet I had gotten her years earlier.
Khris is not a small girl; she is a corn-fed daughter of the vast cow-pocked hills and rolling pastures of Baja Canada. She didn’t take lightly to some weasely little Arab probably future pole-smokers trying to steal from and assaulting her.
It took more than one punch, but Khris coldcocked the elder of the Guano Insano clan and laid him out so an undertaker could have taken easy measurements. Oh, he was still breathing, but I nevertheless think he was shammin’, playin’ possum until Daddy Dearest could come and rescue him from the rage of wrathful Wisconsinians.
Liam and I were sitting in the porch area of his villa, smoking cigars, drinking our sunrisers, watching the tableau unfold. We both thought Khris handled the situation well, particularly the outcome. The miscreant was out cold’n a foundered mackerel and Khris didn’t heel-stamp him in the chuckle-bits nor curb-stomp his head even though he had initially, and without provocation, punched Khris in the head.
Major stylistic points, Khris.
After 6 or 7 of his offspring rant to alert him, Señor Srībaśita Inasēna came over to shovel his insensible frogspawn up off the tarmac. He was ranting and raving, screaming and splitting the air with threats, dark oaths and other forms of bad noise.
He headed straight for Khris to administer a smackdown, as Khris resolutely held her ground.
I merely stood up and asked Khris if she needed some help.
She replied in the negative, stating that this fool wasn’t going to be much more of a challenge than ‘his idiot kid’
I swear, he went, even more, batshit crazy. However, something clicked and Señor Srībaśita Inasēna looked over his shoulder to see not one, but two near-identical way-more-crazy than he extra-large people standing there, both with cigars and icy cold drinks. He suddenly seemed to experience a spate of total recall how one of the large apparitions said he’d begin him on his journey toward room temperature if he so much as sneered in our direction.
He scooped up his unconscious spawn, muttered something none of us could make out, and scurried back to his loathsome piece of home real estate.
That was more or less the end of our run-ins with Señor Srībaśita Inasēna and his extended tribe.
Swing forward to the late summer. The weather calmed a bit and one’s skin didn’t immediately bubble every time one went out to collect the local morning news-rag. Things were going well for the cul-de-sac; jobs were advancing apace, children were doing well in their various studies, people were, oh what was that word? Ah, yes, happy.
Happy people do fun things.
So, it was decided it was time we have a block party.
Of course, Liam came up with the brilliant idea that we should have a pig roast.
“Umm, Liam”, I ahemed, “In case you forgot, we live in an Arabic Muslim country in the Middle East. Pigs and pork and porcine parts are sort of verboten
around here. “
“Ok, Rock”, Liam laughed, “I know that, you know that, my hat knows that. But we Brits must have our bacon, sausage, and chops. It’s in our DNA. Besides, I can get one flown in through my company; under the wire. I could sneak him over here easily. We’d just have to keep him under wraps until bar-be-que time rolls around. You’re from Texas, so…”
“Adopted native son” I corrected.
“Right”, Liam continued, “But you were from Baja Canada first, so you must know how to cook a whole pig…”
“That right, I do, but…, I said, “…you want to bring a live pig in here, and keep him for a while until we can sort out the cooking necessities. We can’t use the industrial-sized stoves in the rec center at the pool. That’d raise a few eyebrows…”
Es and Cassandra wander over, listen for a bit and exclaim “Are you both out of your tiny, little minds?”
I had to admit, as I poured Liam and myself a refill, that the idea did have a certain ‘Up Yours!’ mouthwatering bacon-scented charm.
So, all four of us sat outside and over beer, vodka, and white wine for the ladies, we brewed up a perhaps passable project for our pig party.
The thing was, I’d be gone offshore for a couple of weeks and the pig would have to live at someone’s villa, under wraps, for that time; which actually escalated to 3 months.
Esme, surprising as always, volunteered to take on the task.
Might have been the white wine talking, but she admitted to missing bacon as well.
“OK, but we’re going to need a bar-be-cue pit. Where and when?” Liam asked.
“I’ll talk to Shiehk Gungan and secure permission for a Hawaiian-style pit bar-be-cue for someone or other’s fake birthday. If we can get Vonn and Honey Bee on board, their villa’s backyard backs up to a tall brick wall bordering the alley behind the City Centre. I could put in a pit there easily, and it would be out of the purview of prying eyes.” I said.
“Good”, Casandra said, “Let me get the gin and tonic makin’s and get Vonn and Honey over here as well as Dane and Dyad. Gonna have a block party, make sure you invite the entire block.”
Over the term of the afternoon, we had our plans.
Liam would secure a pig for us; approximately 200-300 pounds, on the hoof. It’d stay in our backyard under both our sun tarp and Esme Srs.’ care until Pig Killin’ Time. Liam, Vonn, and I would handle that little chore. I’d get permission to ‘dig’ a pit and install the bar-be-cue pit in Honey and Vonn’s back yard. Liam and I would handle the actual roast, and we’d all chip in for charcoal and wood smokin’ chunks, and whatever else we could find.
Dyad said she knew many, many farmers it the area and many had fruit trees, in various stages of repair. Certainly, some of that would smoke up a treat. Persimmon, pomegranate, fig, mango, durian, banana…all the earmarks of a weird pig roast.
So we had a date, a plan and the ingredients for a complete fiasco. Since Sr. Guano Insano was no longer part of the picture, and as we had few interlopers, this might actually work without all of us being tossed into the hoosegow.
I’d liberate a bit of pit diggin’ materials from work, just a small amount of dynamite, C-4, and Primacord; I already had the blasting machines. Vonn and Liam would lay in the charcoal and wood for the actual pig roast and well, Bob’s your uncle.
I went offshore to complete the 12th well on the platform and had to deal with all the logistics, bureaucracy and other sanctioned horseshit that comes with the territory. It took almost exactly 3 weeks, and at that time, Esme’s initial negative reaction to pig-sitting had changed considerably.
She had named the critter and found it to be a rather clever, and even sociable, beast. She even allowed it free reign of our house.
The name she chose was one from an old, endearing structural professor: Prof Pinkus (Prof. Pink-ass).
This was an unforeseen complication.
“Es, remember, “ I said over the phone, “That pig is not a pet. It’s not your buddy. It’s not going shopping with you. It’s going to be the guest of honor at a block party. Perspective, please.”
“Oh, Rock”, Es gushed, “I know that. It just makes it easier to keep up with Prof. Pinkus if you treat him like a pet rather than livestock.”
“Es!”, I yell, “He IS livestock. Soon to be deadstock. Soon to be crisply pit barbequed to a crackly crunch. He’s not your friend, he’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner!”
“OK, love you too.” Es says, ignoring me, “See you soon. Safe flights. Keep the shiny side up.”
I hang up. “Oh, shit. This does not bode well.” I mused on the flight shoreward.
I have to admit, pigs can be personable animals. Canny, inquisitive, seemingly intelligent. But even so, that does not trump them being delicious, appetizing, and delectable generators of bacon. Prof. Pinkus is going to be ham, bacon, and sausage soon. Not a boon companion.
The next day I ‘dig’ the pit for the barbeque. I used a shovel for exactly 2 minutes and dynamite, C-4, and primacord for a few more. Vonn was astonished that I not only dug a 6’x6’x4’ wide hole in less than an afternoon, but that I did it while smoking a cigar, drinking an, ok, several icy adult beverages, and never even breaking a sweat in the hellish late summer heat.
The Bobcat with the mounted backhoe, which I had ‘borrowed’ from work, helped a little.
Liam wandered over after the pyrotechnics were done. He didn’t care for them as the noise ‘offended his ears’. Truth be told, he had seen enough pyro jobs go south in his line of work and wanted nothing to do with them. I assured him I was a licensed Master Blaster as well as the one and only Motherfucking Pro from Dover
, but it took some time to get him up to speed on the use of explosives for fun and profit.
We let the pit settle, as it was in mostly in desert sand held together with a bit of aeolian clay, or loess. We kept it wet and covered with sheets of canvas. It’d be fine for our pit barbeque in the days hence.
Vonn, Liam and I fabricobbled a cover for the pit which was made of thatched palm fronds supported by ½” pine furring-strips frame along the outer surface. Dane found a hunk of tin stove pipe and we fashioned a nicely workable chimney for the cover. Once the fire was going, and the pig in its new home, we could set the cover over the pit, shovel earth over it to seal it off and use the iris-valve in the chimney to regulate airflow.
One looks at it now, it would almost appear that we knew what we were doing.
Probably nothing was further from the truth.
We needed to ‘season’ the pit, but first, we needed to line the pit with rocks. This serves to hold the heat, and will even out its distribution. But, all we have to use is limestone around here and if limestone ever gets wet, there might be water in the fractures of the rocks. Heat that up to over 1000C
and you’ve got yourself a nifty little bomb.
Of course, this will not do…
So, I get on the phone with several ‘exotic’ marble companies in the big city of Duhu. I call around asking if they might have some scrap sheets of granite, quartzite, granodiorite or marble.
Sure, for a price.
However, there was this one
place where I knew this guy…
He took in huge, and I mean 4m x 5m x 5m blocks of exotic rock from the subcontinent; black granite, “Reaping Equinox’ black and white ‘granite’; most all these ‘granites’ were granodiorites, Inferno Granite, Black Sunset granite sliced thin into façade facing dimension stone, it was absolutely gorgeous in cross-section. However, the best stuff was igneous-metamorphic, tougher than a $2 steak, and just laughed at diamond carbide saw blades.
“Oh, sure now Mr., Dr. Rock”, Mr. Prakash Dongerkerry, the owneoperator of one particular lot I scavenge for Esme’s continuing lapidary hobby, “I’ve got some beauty stuff here for you. But I need some help with these couple of blocks I received from Kerala. Great rock, very pretty, but too tough. Burn out many saws, boss. You can help maybe?”
“Sure, Prak”, I replied, “I can help, no sweat.”
So, next Friday Liam and me, we eased over to the granite factory, C-4, blasting caps and Primacord in hand. Prak was a little apprehensive about using high explosives in a densely populated area, but after Vonn reminded him that he was working with the Motherfucking Pro from Dover
, he relaxed some.
I crawled all over those blocks, marking with orange spray paint the nature fractures, flaws, and features of each block. Asked Prak how he’d like them split, and he indicated parallel to the major axis.
It couldn’t be easier. There was a main body-fracture system normal to the σ1
stress direction. The one’s parallel to the σ2
were minor and nowhere near as clearly developed.
I smooshed some C-4 into a test fracture, primed it and shot it without much ado. It was surprisingly quiet for a detonation. A cute little C-4 POP
A large slab of rock fell off the main block, severed as nicely as a hunk of cold butter from a hot knife.
Prak was thrilled. I only had another 12 or so shots to go.
They all more or less came off as planned. One or two busted when they bounced, even after the addition of old car tires below where I was blasting.
Prak, good to his word, showed us a huge pile of 1.25” thick sawn quartzite slabs that were rejected for mostly cosmetic reasons. It takes a bit of math, a bit of doing, and a lot of C-4 to extract slabs enough to line our fire pit from stem to stern, top to bottom.
Once installed, the pit was a tad less wide, a bit less deep, and a smidge less long, but it was the only Precambrian-quartzite lined bar-be-que pit in this or any other known galaxy.
We celebrated the initial fire up with whiskey and hors-d'oeuvres. I stuck with vodka, ice, lime, citrus stuff, and a Jamaican cigar.
The pit flared from the amount of dry wood we initially used. It burned very quickly into a pile of glowing embers. Now, we added some local lump charcoal and popped on the top, now sporting an exhaust chimney with a rather large, intrinsically-safe, unusually commercial-looking dual-temperature thermometer that somehow just appeared out of the ether.
We took it all the way up to 1,000C.
Although it was designed for ‘low and slow’, we wanted to see how it would perform under alternative conditions.
We let it simmer for a few hours, then decided to kill the fire by closing the iris valve. Thus deprived of oxygen, given a few hours, the pit would be cold to the touch.
The next day, we opened the pit and shoveled out the dead embers. The pit was well and truly cold. Upon examination, it seems that the quartzite had fused to the sand on the outside of the pit. Also, sand had filtered down into the cracks around the pit, like in the corners, along joints, and been fused there as well.
The damn thing would now hold water if we wanted. We had a natural glass-lined fire pit now. We decided to try out some racked & stacked chickens first before we slowly made our way pig-ward.
We staked split chickens out on various levels in the pit. We had worked up a series of adjustable metal frames where we could lay the staked-out poultry. The racks popped right in place and after a couple of hours, hey presto
bar-be-qued peri-peri chicken. And hot-butter roasted chicken. And for the uninitiated, roast chicken with smoked Hungarian paprika and Indian ghee. A real Iron Chef fusion-style mixture.
Liam and I took his Grady White out on the Persian Gulf and managed a couple of dorados, or Mahi, a largish shark, and a couple of kingfish off the deeper shipping banks. Fileted up and tacked in place, we played around with the smoking woods. Mango was just weird. Fig was weirder, almost vinegary; but not terrible. Pomegranate/tangerine tree smoked Mahi, seasoned shark steak, and Kingfish was the hit of the week. So easy, yet so tasty. It went well with Es’ famous Navajo Fry Bread.
We were gaining confidence. Prof. Pinkus’ days were numbered. We decided that the Eid al Fitr would be the time that we’d been preparing our porky pit pig production.
How’s that for cultural sensitivity? Break the Ramadan fast with a pig roast.
about cultural sensitivity.
Anyways, we hemmed and hawed over the methods of dispatching our soon-to-be-delicious 325 pounds of Professor Pinkus.
One wag suggested we have it OD on tranquilizers, trip him out a la
Heath Ledger. Use loads of Nytol®,
oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine."
It was straight out of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers©.
We all agreed it was funny as hell, but that it probably wouldn’t work.
Then we thought we might go all Halal, just slit the pig’s throat with a very sharp knife, and let it bleed out.
Rejected as to being too thrashing, too noisy, too Arabic, and just plain uncivilized.
I thought I could get hold of a 12 gauge shotgun and some Foster Deer slugs. But again, noisy and messy. Besides, I’d have to borrow a shotgun, and that might raise some eyebrows.
We’ve managed to keep Prof. Pinkus under wraps now for almost 3 months. Hate to blow it right before the feasting was to begin.
In the end, all it took was an 18-pound maul and a solid whack to the right side of the head. More sensitive viewers might want to skip a dozen or so paragraphs ahead. Just fair warning™.
I was elected to deliver the coup de grâce
After walloping a bound and gagged Prof. Pinkus upside the head and basically caving in the skull, severing the skull-spinal cord connection at the atlas/axis connection, it was instant lights-out, he felt nothing.
We had already apologized to Prof. Pinkus, and thanked him for his contribution.
Seldom before has lunch ever been so noble.
Prof. Pinkus freezes and collapse, the legs give way, and the neck goes rigid. We picked up the extraordinarily sharp butcher’s knife sitting there, one hand under the chin and pull the head back. The other hand takes the sharp, stout knife under the neck and slices across the neck back to the bone of the vertebrae.
The knife hand loops around to the poll of the head, pushes down and forward while the hand under the chin pulls back and rearwards, so the neck vertebrae connecting tissue cracks. Knife hand back down under the neck, chin hand slides up and a finger hooks into the trachea and slice between the separated vertebrae.
With our previous practice and experience, 10 to 15 seconds from hammer strike to the semi-decapitated head.
Grisly but necessary.
Hanging the beast by its back hocks, well out of sight of any casual interlopers, we bleed the animal out into 5-gallon buckets, saving the precious juice. Vonn and I have visions of homemade blütwurst, blood-n-tongue sausage, and zultze or schwartamaga; lovely, lovely headcheese.
But that’s for later. Vonn gathers the blood in gallon-size freezer zip bags.
Now to scalding the corpse, scraping off the hair and external epidermal debris. We had a tub of boiling water into which Prof. Pinkus went. It was a boring, tedious, annoying repeated dunk-soak-raise-scrape-return until the carcass was clean and smooth and removed of all nasty gunk on the outside.
Now comes the really icky part™,
gutting and scraping out the carcass. Before opening the abdominal cavity, it was required to de-bung the animal. Cut around the anus, go in deep but not too, pull the bunghole out, seal with zip ties, and cut and discard. Now the lower GI tract is sealed from leaking when the rest is removed. We also have to remove the male dangly bits in a similar manner as Prof. Pinkus was a boy hog.
Still hanging, we open the hog from sternum to groin, letting gravity aid us in helping Prof. Pinkus literally spill his guts. Right down into a waiting gut-bucket, or galvanized 50-liter steel tub. The chest region is split open further and the lovely and delicious major organs are singly removed by hand. Heart, liver, kidneys, etc., lungs, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas, and a few other organs are discarded.
With that, we open the hog to where it will lay flat on the roasting rack. It is then hosed off and generally cleaned up before we give a good going over.
After it dries, the whole gutted critter is washed in wine. Evidently, it’s a French thing according to Honey Bee.
We wrap the hog in burlap, soak it down in cheap-ass wine and let it sleep 24 hours or so in Liam and Cassandra’s freezer chest.
The next day, the fire is started in the fire pit. We have lump charcoal, bucket after bucket of fruit tree chunks soaking in water and probably half a rick of firewood to keep the party going the next 24-36 hours.
We retrieve Prof. Pinkus from his cool, not frozen state, say hello and proceed to arrange him staked to the cooking frame in a belly-down, butterflied posture. Internally, he was well seasoned with dry rub after the obligatory internal rubdown with Napoleon brandy. We placed 40 garlic bulbs, kosher sea salt, olive oil, black pepper, and liberal amounts of Old Bay, to taste beneath him.
So, it was up to me to get the external goo ready for the pig. Kansas City-Style Sauce? Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Sauce? South Carolina-Style Mustard Sauce? Piedmont or Lexington-Style Dip? South Carolina-Style Mustard Sauce? Texas-Style Mop or Basting Sauce? Alabama White Sauce? Wisconsin Drunken Religious Experience Sauce?
“Ah, the hell with it!”, I venture, “Sauces come much later. Too early; they caramelize, crystallize, and burn. We’ll go for a good rub instead.”
I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good rub now and again?
Anyways, which fucking rub? Kansas City Rib Rub? Mustard Rub? Spare Rib Rub? Memphis-Style Rib Rub? Porker's Rib Seasoning? Best Odds Rib Rub? Carolina Dry Rub? Texas Dry Rub? Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub? Classic Pork Dry Rub?
Too much choice! Seasoning overload!
I call over everyone involved in this little soiree and instruct them to come up with a rub we can all enjoy. I had to kill and gut the critter, it’s about time I go all Subsurface Manager, and delegate out some parts of this project.
So, over beer, G&T’s, vodka and lime soda and various Froggy wines, ‘my’ crew came up with a rub that was simple, tasty and ironically reflects some of the culinary aspects of the region we’re currently defiling.
• Smoked Hungarian Red paprika
• Brown sugar
• Caster sugar
• Black pepper
• Kosher salt
• Cayenne pepper
• White pepper
• Chili pepper
• Dehydrated garlic
• Dehydrated onion
• Red Cardamom
• Garam masala (Cumin, Coriander, Green and Black Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Bay leaves, Peppercorns, Fennel, Mace, and dried Chilies.)
They went to the co-op, bought buckets of the individual spices and played the rest of the day at getting to that one perfect combination for our resting porker.
I don’t remember the exact breakdown of the proportion of the spices, but whatever it was, it tasted brilliant. Now we had about 8 or 9 pounds of the stuff. We were ready to go.
Prof. Pinkus was set on the cooking rack, belly open and down. He was doused internally once again liberally with cheap Indian Napoleon brandy and secured to the rack atop all the garlic, celeriac root, boudin, and small new potatoes.
He was tied in place with heavy organic hemp twine and had his mouth propped open to facilitate circulation of the pit’s heat and convection. He looked very Pink Floydian. One almost expected him to take flight.
The exterior of the porker was treated to a nice rubdown. I swear I saw him smile once or twice when Honey Bee insisted on a sensual massage to make the resultant meat that much more tender. Olive oil infused with lime oil and garlic after a thorough wash with more brandy. Followed by a liberal rubbing of dry rub.
Finally, ready to go, we tented the porker loosely with industrial-strength silver aluminum foil. The frame with its cargo was lowered and locked into place for at least 24 hours. Probably closer to 36, as we’re going ‘low and slow’.
We take turns, between hands of poker, cribbage, and Schafskopf, as well as numerous G&Ts, Yorshs, and vodka and lime drink cocktails, to check on our prized porker. We kept the temperature right at 2050
F as best we could.
The voluminous smoke coming off the barbeque pit was our one concern. It packed an amazing aroma and filtered around the whole compound, dragging in expectant pikers, leeches, and other forms of human ectoparasites.
We told them we were smoking a whole camel, Texas-style, a la filét de hump
, and wouldn’t be ready for another couple of days; so piss off. That seemed to get rid of all but the most insistent. We finally got rid of him by using a leaf blower and directing a stream of high-velocity roast-pork laden smoke his direction each time we had to add more fuel to the fire.
Time marched on and the time finally came: the deep internal ham’s temperature hit 180 degrees F.
Prof. Pinkus was ready to make his debut. But first, we needed to get him out of the barbeque pit and over to Vonn’s garage to rest a while.
More futzing, more aluminum foil, and more beers later, Prof. Pinkus, in all his delectable roasted glory was cooling out from atop a pair of sawhorses. Of course, he had to rest after his ordeal, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t manage a few samples.
He was done to a turn. It was incredible. Crispy-crunchy-crackly over lean, moist and insanely flavorful meat. Not bad for a bunch of bumbling international mugs on their first Middle Eastern pig-roast pit-roast endeavor.
Everyone made up their own version of sauce for sandwiches and dipping. We decided that we’d never all agree on one sauce, and 4 or 5 on one porker would be just too damn many.
So, please yourself. Just do it, yourself.
Behind closed doors, Liam and I were once again elected to reduce Prof. Pinkus to primary parts. We were hopefully disguising the fact that here sits 185 pounds of delectable roast pork in a very Muslim country on one of their highest holy days.
So it was a bit unnerving when Sheik Gungan showed up and asked: “What was that wonderful aroma?”
We said smoked beef…lamb…camel…turducken…Tyrannosaur
… anything other than what it really was.
He asked for a sample.
What could we do? We couldn’t well refuse now, could we?
We gave him some of the best bits to try.
“Lovely, gents, just lovely. Next time, for reference, more garam masala, and a little more rosemary. I find it really brings out the subtle flavors of pork.” He smiled, wiping his pork-sticky fingers on my HGGTG™
“You old fraud”, we all smiled at once.
“What?”, he shied, raising his eyebrows, “It’s for scientific evaluation purposes. It’s therefore allowed. Now, do you have any cold beer, gin-n-tonics, or vodka and lime, which I’m hearing is very nice together, that I might also scientifically sample?” he smiled toothily through his long white beard.
We had made another powerful friend. Although it cost us one smoked Boston Butt, actually off the shoulder, that’s butcher’s for you, and a half a liter of homemade Texas-style barbeque sauce and another of Esme’s homemade fennel and caraway-infused coleslaw.
Everyone on the cul-de-sac now had a freezer full of pit-roasted pork. The Brits got their sausage once Vonn and Liam figured out how to use the Osterizer®
Stuffing Horn. That was almost as much fun as doing the pit-barbeque. Never leave to Brits what Baja Canadians can better do.
We distributed the bacon and hams, and the rest divided whatever was left. Which was a lot of pit-roasted pig pieces and parts.
The bones made their way into gaily wrapped gifts and were posted anonymously to Mr. Guano Insano. We hoped he appreciated all our effort.
I used Esme’s great-grandmother’s old German recipe for Headcheese. Basically, boiled smoked pork head meat in aspic jelly. With dill pickles. And pickled eggs. With special spices.
Well, I don’t give a shit. We like it.
Anyways, summer slowly slid south and the temperatures during the day got slightly more tolerable. Liam and I decided to forego his boat for a while, as launching and recollecting required us to put Liam’s boat in the water HERE and recover the boat THERE. It was trucked, via road, from the recovery place to the launch place.
It only cost something like US$5 to ship the boat back to the launch area and they actually did a good job hosing and steam cleaning the boat before parking it back in its rental dry dock. These were still the early days before gas was king in Qutur, so things were still ridiculously cheap. There were exactly 3 high rise hotels back then, as compared to the insane silhouette presented by Duhu’s current evening sun.
I had flown over some likely looking flats that might hold snook, grouper, and tarpon on my last flight back from the rig. I translated that onto whatever road maps we could find here, as most everything was a state secret, ground verification was a must.
Liam and I tossed a couple of surf rods, a cooler full of beer and some bait into the back of his new diesel Mitsobitchy Prago™,
and we were off to the north of town, the least developed chunk of Duhu real estate to date.
We drove down a rip-rap
road that was more just a pile of random rocks trucked into the bay area and dumped into something that resembled a straight line.
I was less than confident that we weren’t going swimming today, but Liam relished every bounce, bolt and jolt. He confided in me that one of the big reasons he took the job here in the Middle East was that he’d never in a million years be able to afford a truck like this back in bonny Scotland™.
He confided that he couldn’t have even afforded the fuel for this diesel-slurper back in the UK, it was that dear.
So, down the path we rebound. I was watching the water on both sides of the narrow groin, and saw it was getting deeper, but very slowly. I looked at my GPS and saw that we’d driven some 3.5 km out to sea at this point.
“Liam”, I said, “That’s a fuck of a long way to reverse.”
“Ah, Rock”, Liam assured me, “ No worries, Doctor. It’s all a loop. We can just drive our way out of any trouble.”
I remained unconvinced.
We came to a breach in the ‘jetty’. There was some heavy marine equipment mounted on barges. They were working a large cut, ostensibly for cargo ships to pass through. There was to be a swing-bridge built after they cleared the channel, but with all these loose rocks, it was putting paid to their scheme.
We parked and wandered over to who appeared to be the head guy.
“G’Day”, “Liam says, “What’ the big fucking holdup? We’ve got fish to catch, mate.”
Liam had previously spent a few years down in Australia as if it didn’t show.
“Oh, hello”, the natty clad black man said, “We’re having a bit of a time with loose rocks here. Supposed to be angular to lock in place, but by the time they get here from the quarry, they’re a sharp as bowling balls.”
I introduced myself and Liam as he was back in the boot snaking a beer. The black feller introduced himself as Zafir Djaballah, a civil engineer late from Algeria.
“So”, I said to Zafir, “If I’ve got this straight, you cut a channel and want to line it with rip rap. But the rocks won’t stay put. How deep are you cutting and what’s the size of the channel?”
“Oh, 35’ east-west, 15’ north-south. About 15 meters deep.” He relates.
“And the road metal? Where’s that from?” I ask.
“Arabia”, he tells us, “They quarry it there and transport it here. It’s costly, but that’s about the only option we have.”
Liam looks to Zafir. “Hey, Zafir?”, Liam asks, “Y’ken who this guy is?” as he points to me.
Zafir shakes his head “I just met Dr. Rock.”
“That’s not all who he is”, Liam smiles widely, “That, my friend, is the Motherfucking Pro from Dover! If he can’t fix your little problem, he can damn sure make it go away…”
Zafir looks to me as if to ask: “What the fuck, sir?”
“Well, Zafir, “ I say, “I’m a bit of a dab hand with explosives. This sounds like a really simple problem. Drill a grid of 2 meter centered holes, and prime them with a waterproof explosive. Detonate together electrically and there you go. Channel dug and already filled with angular limestone blocks. Easy-peasy.”
Zafir looks over the water and puzzles and puzzles.
“But sir’, he says, “Where would I find such explosives and such expertise?”
“Well…for starters”, I said, “You could ask me.”
He leads us over to a company trailer, where Liam and I drank beers, smoked cigars and told the superintendent of our plans. The Egyptian superintendent, Qaaid al-Zahra, later ‘Randy’ (Quaid?…never mind) scrutinized all our identification. He was actually very impressed when he came across my Blaster’s credentials.
“Doctor”, Qaaid said, “I do like your plan. The drilling is no problem, the problem is obtaining the explosives.”
“Look, Qaaid”, I said, “Leave that to me. You’re working for a government company, I’m working for a government company. What difference does it make? How long to drill the grid of holes Liam and I laid out?”
“Oh, probably about a week”, Qaaid said.
“OK, how about this?”, I said, “Liam and I will be back out here unless the weather’s being stupid and we’ll set and prime the charges? After which, we’ll make certain everything’s green and blow this little project for you?”
“If you can, Inshallah.”, Qaaid said.
“Even if we’re out of shallah”, I said back to Randy.
That Sunday, after Liam backed us down the 3.6 km or bouncy un-turn-around-able path he drove us out on, I ordered some Kinepax™ liquid binaries, as it came in easy-to-use 1-meter threaded lengths in various diameters. Qaaid was drilling 3.5” diameter holes, so the 3.00” nominal OD threaded length would be a breeze. I ordered a couple of spools of shock tube, comb connectors, deflectors, and tie-ins, and a 25 kilo box of ‘Elephant Shit’.
We make sure each hole was blown clean with a high-pressure water hose. Since the water here was only 8 meters deep, we could get by with regular lightweight skin diving gear. I could leave my wetsuit, diver’s helmet and all that heavy-duty ice-diving gear at home for this trip.
Liam and I would pre-form the charges, each exactly 6 meters in length, to match the depth of the drilled holes. Individual 1-meter units just screwed together, pin and box style, it was the utmost in simplicity. Rather like Seismogel™, but packed a considerably higher wallop. All told, we would be setting off some 36 nodal points, each 6 meters deep with 6 meters of binary which weighed 5.3 kg/meter.
Turn the crank and we’d be planting approximately 1,145 kilograms or 2,524 pounds of high-energy binary explosive.
Hmph. A new personal record.
Like Guinness even cared.
So, once we got the high sign from Randy that the shot holes had been drilled and cleaned, the next part of the project was up to us.
We were both PADI-certified. Liam had done some oilfield related diving in the North Sea some years ago. I was a veteran of the Ice Wars from the days of Future Passed back in Baja Canada.
The waters here were calm, gin-clear, and warm.
The dives here weren’t work, this was a paid vacation.
I had liberated a trailer for all our pyrotechnics and Liam was elected to use his Prago as the tow vehicle. We bounded our way out to the Liam’s Pass, as we had dubbed it, with a work trailer containing some 2,750 pounds of high powered, binary explosives bouncing behind. I also had all my explosives paraphernalia there as well: new waterproof galvanometer, which in and of itself, is rather the achievement. Pliers, spare batteries, couple pair of blaster’s tools, the usual.
Lia and I had our dive gear in the back of his Prago.
A couple of single tanks, backpacks, regulators, hoses, and a few belts full of divers weights.
These must have been of Islamic origin as they are specifically prohibited by the Bible. Deuteronomy 25:13, “Thou shalt not have on thy belt divers weights, a great and a small.” And Proverbs 20:23, “Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.
Why there should be proscriptions against SCUBA gear in ancient, desert-dwelling, shepherding Iron Age writings is what keeps Biblical Scholars up at night.
Although I agree, a false balance underwater keeps your Swimmer’s Ear from healing up.
At the pass, we park and call over for a half-dozen ‘helpers’. They were nominal employees of the company, but more indentured servants. Today, they were going to earn their water wings. We had a couple of large pneumatic rafts that we’d use to transport he charges to their final water resting site but damned if Liam and I are going to swim laps every time we needed to set a new charge.
So, indoctrination and Explosives For Dummies.
Safety first, second and last.
Who here can swim?
You guys can stay. OK, the rest of you blokes, bugger off.
Here’s the deal, Sparky. There are 36 lengths of Kinestix with primers already set. Those go last, as that’s where I tie in to detonate. The rest of the 1-meter long tubes are identical. Pin on one end, box on the other. Thread them together and use a single ‘O-ring’ between each. Snug them up good and tight, but don’t go too crazy. Those are binary liquids, and I’ll give them a good smack with a hammer before they go into the hole. I really only have to do the last one as once initiated, these liquids can mix in milliseconds, but I’m all for safety and doing things right the first time.
OK, so, one raft will carry the 36 initiators, that is, the last bits to go. The other rafts will carry the 5-meter long strings of connected explosives. Liam and I will be down on bottom and you guys just stay up on surface, dog paddling or treading water, but slowly feeding the lengths of tubing down to us. When you reach an end, pop on one of the other lengths, the one with the primer.
To be continued.
Prologue: Hello reddit! I’ve got issues. submitted by
I have never done this before, nor do I have any idea what might come of it, but I can tell you that this is probably just as much (if not moreso) an introspective essay as it will be lonely heart ad. I’m somewhat at the point in my life where I need to scream out into the void, and I hope that my honesty will net me just enough cosmic karma to get me out of this hole which I’ve been so unceremoniously dumped into. So, strap in; you're in for some u/rubyoobieoobie
I’ll leave you with a TLDR
for now (because I’m not so callous as to make you scroll to the bottom for it): I have been to 49 states, flew to France for a date, solved a decade-old problem in microbial biochemistry and astrobiology, and am the dictator of my own country. I also have insurmountable trauma from my past (and only) relationship, but I still have deluded myself into thinking there is a hope, a person, a way in which I might someday move on and be happy again.
For those who want to know now, I am a 24-year-old non-binary, assigned-male-at-birth individual in search of someone whom has the patience necessary to deal with the above. Also, potential trigger warning for sexual trauma in Chapter 2.
–––––––––– Chapter 1: Who I currently am.
I’m quite an abnormal fellow. Growing up as the autistic homeschooler of some shut-ins will do that to you, but there was always something about me that was especially
aberrant. Skipping rapidly over two decades, a few highlights include attending an Online High School run by an Ivy-League university, becoming a high-school dropout, then starting college at 14 and graduating at 19. However, all magic requires a tradeoff, so I report not having a friend until I was 15 and not having more than two simultaneously until literally 2018. In many ways, I almost wish I hadn’t been homeschooled and was held back academically. I’m certain that, were my upbringing different, I would have been a nerd or geek. I could have learned to play D&D or magic the gathering, I could have liked Naruto, I could have become a gamer or learned to code. I am by no means cool or normal, but I have always lacked any sort of peers or social niche. I do not like sports, but, with equal fervor, I do not like fantasy novels. Both cause a lack of associations. I’m not necessarily lonely for friends – I do have them, and quite a blissful plenty, now – but this does show that, for reasons mostly beyond my control, I have always been somewhat of a loner.
My life, as it currently is, started when I fled a certain situation (pin in that). I moved from the west coast to New York City for a biotech job at a coveted research institution in 2017. I was so overwhelmingly hopeful because, in addition to fleeing trauma and making a good career move, I was moving out from my parents and ready to start my life anew in what had been billed to me for years as Millennial heaven. Brooklyn! Williamsburg! Dumbo! Midtown! Astoria! Tribeca! New York City had been built up in my mind as the
place to make it as a young, urban-minded professional. Now, I must make a disclaimer: I was not a country boy heading into this. To that point, I had lived in 8 different cities in 4 different states, most of them major places, so I was quite familiar with how cities should be like. Apparently, New York, however, is not.
I hated that place. Trash, everywhere. Stations, crumbling. Inexcusable income disparity, half-assed parks, wretched
roads, and absolutely no scenic beauty whatsoever. I devised a 45-minute lecture on why The City (as it’s called) sucked so much. Suffice it to say that Chicago is the clearly
superior American megacity, followed by Toronto, Denver, Seattle, and Austin. My whole life, growing up on the west coast (where cities ascribed to the novel idea of attempting to benefit
their citizens), I had heard of people who claimed that “all governments are bad, bureaucratic, and inefficient.” I had always dismissed them as crackpot old kooks, but, having experienced New York City for what it was, I all of a sudden can understand how someone who had lived their whole life in such places could come to think that way.
But the thing that made it most unlivable were the people. Especially at my job, but also pretty much throughout the whole region (Providence to Wilmington, in my estimation), the people were overly obsessed with “social coding”. Though an irritatingly imprecise phenomenon for me to describe, it is basically that people have a much more stringent set of acceptable social norms and shun you more harshly for being individualistic. The west coast is significantly better at encouraging you to “let your freak flag fly” (otherwise known as being genuine and honest with yourself).
But the situation was significantly worse for me, specifically. You see, for lack of a better term, I am a psychopath. I don’t mean it in a negative context, per se
, and, while I do quite frequently play the role of a narcissist for sake of metahumor, I don’t actually mean people ill will, nor do I callously disregard the well-being of others. It’s just that, due to the quirk of my aberrant neurochemistry and antisocial upbringing, I have always been generally inept at empathy. I am very social, outgoing, kind-hearted, and incredibly humorous – don’t get me wrong – but I can just as much be oblivious to social cues or the tacit desires of others. This peculiar mix leads my personality to be best described as the bastard child of a foursome between Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, Psych’s Shawn Spencer, Scrubs’ JD, and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. I truly mean well and am pure of heart; to that end, I’ve spent much of my life acquiring coping mechanisms to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person and friend. But, for one reason or another, I was ill-equipped to deal with that most fetid breed person known to man: the “Lawn Guylander”.
This all culminated in a moment of crisis, but which I have come to look back on as the “Poughkeepsie Epiphany” (because, ever so creatively, I was driving thence at the time I had it): for almost a year, I had been putting an exorbitant amount of effort into playing the part of this overly social person, but was failing catastrophically. No matter how hard I tried, I could not meet people or make friends, much less find a partner. My coworkers loathed me, but in a way which they all looked down on me as if I was a defective human whom they didn’t care to humor one bit (one of the most vindicating moments was when a postdoc joined the lab from San Diego and he was similarly abhorred at the social climate). One day, I had a realization that there wasn’t a single person in the world who knew when I woke up, nor a single person that would care if I didn’t. That was a painful day. So, my Poughkeepsie Epiphany was that I could continue struggling to play the social game and end up cripplingly lonely, or I could be exactly as lonely as I would be otherwise, but be genuine to myself – no matter how anomalous that might be – and actually be happy with who I was for so doing.
This is when I started to become crazy
, and quite proudly so. If there was an idea that was absurd in scope but was a completionist goal, I did it. I started road-tripping with an epic fervor (I knocked off 8 remaining states from my list, mostly New England, to get me to 49 [pin in that]). Road-tripping and adventuring is now a major aspect of my personality, and I have since accrued over 11,000 saved places on google maps (my poor, poor phone starts to melt whenever I open the app for navigation). Over the remaining months I had in New York, I rode every line of the New York City Subway end to end. I taught myself military time, metric, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and the nations of the world. Whenever I would go to bars, instead of socializing ineptly, I would open my backpack and yank out a massive tome such as (initially) a book on the AOL-Time Warner Merger (“something which one cannot read whilst sober”) or (later) Penn State, an Illustrated History (did you know we had a branch campus in China?). Sometimes, people would look over at me as the shockwave caused by the massive thwack of the volume hitting the bartop rolled by, and I would proudly adopt the facial expression of “Yes, I am that weird, and I don’t give a damn.” To be sure, I was still cripplingly lonely, but I was, for the first time in my life, happy.
I also began devising an escape plan. I decided to rapidly accelerate my life plans and apply for graduate school years ahead of what I had intended. Come January, I got interviews at three Ivys: Penn State, Duke, and Columbia. It was no contest. Duke sux balz and felt like an incompetent department living in the shadow of their medical center while also having the misplaced haughtiness to think they deserved equal recognition (also, I didn’t want to go to a place where the yearly tuition was more money than I had ever earned in my entire life to that point). Unlike Duke, Columbia actually had some quality research going on, but there was only one professor I was interested in and the department felt like it was out more for its own reputation than to actually support its graduate students. Penn State, however, stole my heart. Though painfully rural, the town felt like a very tiny big city. The university was friendly and earnest, the students were fun-loving but not reckless, and it’s one of only two universities in the country to offer a Dual-Title Ph.D. in [Home Field] and Astrobiology, a subject which I had always been enthralled by. As a concrete comparison, Columbia had just acquired three Cryo-Electron microscopes and was showing them off to us, but they were shared with thirteen
other research institutions in the New York Metropolitan Area. Penn State, on the other hand, had one Krios, all to itself, which had been installed four years earlier. I have since confirmed that Penn State clearly puts its money where its mouth was and does its damnedest to support its scientists in producing world-class research.
So, slightly over a year after moving to New York, I was ready to start my life over again – but, this time, I had the mindset to do it correctly. At risk of turning this too much into an autobiography, I’ll cut short the narrative. In the two years since the Poughkeepsie Epiphany, though, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Partly out of my passion for storytelling and humor, and partly as a way to stake out my own identity in this world, I’ve latched on to certain oddball stories that most exemplify this newfound sense of self which I’ve acquired. Since they are a significant part of my personality and do an excellent job of portraying my uniquely blusterous metahumor, I'll share a few of the most notable:
- I’ve been to 49 states:
When people ask where I grew up, I respond that I’ve lived in 10 different cities in six different states, and have been to 49 (some people also ask if my father was in the military [no], or, once, witness protection [I am not at liberty to disclose whether this is true]). The one remaining state is Oklahoma. I am really debating just buying plane tickets to Oklahoma City for a weekend just so that I can say I’ve been to all 50. To justify my trip, I could go on a tour of why white people are so horrible by visiting the Oklahoma Museum of the Native American, the Oklahoma Museum of the African American, and the Oklahoma Museum of the Gay Cowboy (all of which, to my knowledge, are real places). Woohoo! A trifecta of oppression! However, if I were to actually visit Oklahoma and do this, I would then lose this marvelous and witty conversation topic about which last state I have yet to visit and what I would do while there, so it’s a serious cost-benefit analysis that I must weigh.
- I am the Dictator of my own country:
This is probably much less interesting than you’d think. There’s a rather... unique hobby out there of people who (for the most part) tongue-in-cheekily secede from their parent countries to form ultra-small monarchies or banana republics. In my case, I thought that the most reasonable and considered response to the Trump Presidency was to give up on the entire country and secede to form my own. I’m going to build a wall and make America pay for it! This is also actually more legitimate than you’d think, too, as I was invited to and attended the United Micronations, the second-largest meeting of nations in the world (the “largest” organization is in New York, I think. I really don’t pay too much attention to it). As a result, I ended up forming a federation, making several alliances, and maintain regular contact with several other micronationalists. On the domestic front, I made both my roommates sign a 37-page, 42-clause, 17k-word Cohabitation Agreement (á la Sheldon), which, among other things, has reservations for Spots, a flag, a legal system, time travel, and gives me power of attorney over them (you’d be surprised; they both signed it voluntarily, without complaint, and after having read it in its entirety). One might add that they do not pay rent; I levy taxes. Finally, I attempted an infiltration of the local Civil War Reenactors (they have a cannon!) to help me in my ongoing war against the local recycling agency for gross ineptitude, but, for some incomprehensible reason, a bunch of old, white, rurally-inclined men didn't take so kindly to my opinions on conservatism and modern politics. I am convinced that this is merely a marketing issue, and we are workshopping new slogans for our planned invasion of the adjacent curb and sidewalk.
- I flew to France for a date:
The story I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. I met an undergraduate here and went on two dates with her, but then she did a semester abroad in France. It was going somewhat well; we were texting every day, and this was the first meaningful person I had actually gone on a date with since... things (pin in that). I quickly ran the numbers, looked at my schedule, and then came up with a hair-brained scheme. You see, I grew up in Florida, so a significant part of my childhood was consumed by theme parks. Sparring you a lot of details, two of the parks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios) originally opened under the auspices of special-features theme parks, a de-immersive experience where they show you how the movies are made. In the past decade, however, both parks have been moving towards more immersive experiences, where the only common factor among the attractions is that they are all based on intellectual properties that just happened to be movie franchises. This started to feel like a real loss when I learned that the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action at Disney were being bulldozed for sake of Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge, the former of which was a very important ride to my childhood, and the latter of which was something that I always wanted to see. Lo and behold, a little research revealed that both of these attractions were intact at Disney Studios in Paris. So, a date in the South of France, personally-important theme park attractions in the north, TGV connecting them, and, oh, yeah, duh, it’s Paris, that’s justification in itself.
I planned it out meticulously. For the week leading up to the trip, I would get up, go to work, and go to bed an hour earlier every day (the trip was only going to be three days, so any jet-lag-induced napping would have had an alarmingly high opportunity cost). Then, on the day of the flight, I woke up just before midnight, had breakfast at a favorite bar at closing time, went in to work, and left for JFK by noon. Ten hours of globe-trotting later, I arrived on the Mediterranean coast and proceeded to mispronounce everything.
The date in France was supposed to be our third. What traditionally happens on the third date? Now, let it be known that I would NEVER be the type of person to demand sexuality from anyone, but, you do have to admit, flying 20% of the circumference of a planet is a pretty grand gesture, is it not? I mean, you can’t get a much grander gesture before you literally run out of planet. So, for this third date to take place and for me to not get laid is pretty empirical proof that I am quite irrevocably unfuckable. My next plan is to start looking for dates in Bangladesh (or Oklahoma), because that’s as close as you can get to antipodal (a perfect 50% of the planet's circumference) as you can get from here. Oh, and those two attractions at Disney Studios, not kidding, they were closed ahead of schedule a week before I arrived. Now, I’m not asking for pity at all; don’t get me wrong, I had a blast! It’s Paris, godsdamnit! But I prefer to view this trip in the narrower, funnier, yet sadder context of the two busts above because it helps me to better come to terms with the parts of myself I dislike. As I often say: “I could either laugh or cry at myself. I’d rather one than the other.”
- I returned from France with a Motorcycle:
Although France girl never worked out (I don’t think I made a fool of myself or anything, but, remember, I am legitimately inept at this), the trip to France did have a lasting impact on my life in another way. I am an avid bicyclist for a variety of reasons: staying active, helping the environment, and it’s flying like superman at ground level when [safely!] dodging in and out of undergrads. Now, while strolling down the lonely streets of a certain city in the South of France, I encountered one particular bicycle rack with about 25% regular bicycles, about 25% electric bicycles, about 25% mopeds and scooters, and 25% fully-blown motorcycles, all chained up side by side. Having a doctor as a parent, I spent my entire life thinking of motorcycles as hooligan deathtraps, but, here, I was seeing them for the first time in the context of something I had already made an important part of my life.
Upon returning home (by the way, you already know my disdain for New York Shitty [sic
] and Wrong Island [sic
], so imagine the gutwrenching heartbreak of arriving there after just having spent a weekend in Paris[!]), I arrived at the parking lot, looked at my car, and counted room for four extra people that I didn’t need (because I had no friends). Thus, in my feverish road-tripping, I was hauling around an unnecessary 1.96 tons of extra material – with a dreadful gas mileage to boot! – killing the planet as a result. The next few days were spent obsessively investigating this newfound world which I had heretofore disregarded. Ever since being gifted my car and spittaking at its gas mileage, I always wanted another, more environmentally-conscious vehicle. However, living in the so-called Pennsyltucky, electric vehicle charging stations are fairly sparse in their deployment. Also, I didn’t want to buy a true replacement vehicle, as I am too poor. I was more targeting a hyper-environmentally-conscious vehicle which I could use for my luxury adventures, and then still have the old, reliable gas-guzzler for when I needed to haul around a couch or power through to Virginia. Motorcycles, as I found, have an average of 56mpg, 2.5 times better than my car.
But, now, I was starting to find my way into the culture of motorcycles, something which, on the whole, I find myself violently at odds with. As the joke I tell goes, most motorcycles aren’t actually built for long-distance exploring, like what I already did in my car. Most of them are dirt bikes, with basically bench seats, or sport bikes, which require you to hunch over and lean your stomach on the gas tank. Not very comfortable for long treks. There are only two types of bikes made with comfort in mind: the sport-tourer, which I ended up getting, and the cruiser, which is made entirely out of chrome, handle-bar mustaches, and racism (or homophobia, depending on my audience). Needless to say, I prefer the former.
For those interested, I ended up with the Yamaha Tracer GT. In addition to (proudly!) having only one piece of chrome (the downward-facing exhaust) and being sexy and futuristic as all futhermuck, it is functional, having two panniers (saddle-bags), each capable of holding four half-gallons of Berkey Creamery ice cream (ask me how I know). Skipping over many of the specifics of how I chose this particular model regarding my choice of motorcycle, a big figure in motorcycle news opened his review of the Tracer with “It’s not often I ride a motorcycle and walk away with existential questions for the readers.” For those who have been following along, this quote is the exact thing that I latch on to as part of my newfound identity as a blissful lunatic.
- The Semester of Hell and solving a decade-old issue in microbial physiology:
So, come the end of my first year as a graduate student, I started to look towards my second fall semester. The only thing I had to do was my qualifying exam, the really big, month-long exam that determines whether or not you can stay in graduate school. But that was only during November, so, overall, it was going to be an empty semester. Then I learned that a big-name professor in microbiology was retiring, and the last time he was going to teach would be that fall. So, I signed up for his course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I learned of a prestigious grant that I could apply for, so I decided to take a grant-writing course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I got an email from the department, saying that they needed more TAs for Freshman Biology lab. I had to TA as a requirement of my program, so I might as well get it out of the way now. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then, in July and August, I made an incredible discovery that solved a problem in microbial physiology that had been around since 2009 (pin in that). I spoke with my PI, and he said we could power through and probably get a paper out in under a year. I told him I wanted to do that. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester.
Well, as you can now see, it wasn’t a very empty semester, was it now? To great surprise, I survived, but not unscathed. On average, I worked 60-70 hours a week, though some of it was partially my own doing (for example, my term paper for the bacterial physiology course had seventy citations, even though it was only required to have ten). One “highlight” was TAing. Apparently, my students thought my quiz was so hard that they called the university police on me (I’m not exaggerating; we had to pursue academic integrity violations. It was a debacle). I joked that, with each subsequent class period, I became more and more sympathetic to the antagonists of teen dystopian novels; maybe it is
time to build a floating elitist city in the sky and leave the rest of the planet to shit, after all?
Now, I’m certain that many of you are curious as to the contents of my discovery. I can’t exactly speak freely, as the manuscript is in review, but, even if I could, it would be waaaaay too complex and jargony to be comprehensible to the lay public (and this is already going on long enough). Suffice it to be the simple version: A particular class of protein had been known in microbes for a very long time and is involved in pretty much everything, from simple feeding to complex infections. In certain bacteria, this category of protein is modified in a certain way, and people always thought (for over 40 years) that this modification was a transport signal. However, a decade ago, a research groups, perplexingly, discovered these modified proteins in a bacterium that didn’t have th modification-making enzyme. This left two major questions: if not for transport, what was this modification for; and, what is the enzyme that makes the modification in all the other bacteria? I solved the latter question by spending four months looking through the entire genome of the original bacterium and finally finding the modification-making protein, and I’ve spent ever since trying to characterize it. The paper should be published sometime within a month or three (the current coronapocalypse is a boon for manuscript-preparation). Additionally, the previous graduate student in the lab to me made an interesting discovery regarding the genetics of the modification-making enzyme, and my next paper will expand on their work to determine the actual function of this modification. These proteins and their modifications are important because (on the applied side) they belong to major pathogens and could be a target for treating infections and (on the basic side) we have indications that they are part of a planetary-wide stress put on bacteria during evolution (hence, my astrobiological machinations).
–––––––––– Chapter 2: Where I came from.
Now we have to get into how I got to this point. Suffice it to say that I have a lot
of sexual trauma. In 2014, when I was still an undergrad, I met whom I called then my soulmate. They were beautiful, fun, perky, and adventurous. They were my first relationship and we took each other’s virginity in a tent after a romantic picnic. But, sadly, less than a year in, things started to go off the rails. I came out as polyamorous. The way I have best found to describe it is when you ask a parent which their favorite child is. All parents worth their salt will say “I love each of my children in their own, unique way.” Such is the same with me. At the time, I had feelings for some of my other friends; but! mind you! they were in no way enough to ever consider ever leaving my soulmate. It was simply such that I had my one, my true, my only, but I didn’t want that to have to mean I tell all other people in my life “Bah! You mean nothing to me because of the ambiguity of my relationship status at the time you met me.” I also had quite a complex from growing up so antisocially and isolated. This was a time in my life when things started to look up. Pieces were finally starting to fall into place, I had some friends and acquaintances, and people actually cared for me. It was thusly then that I realized I was polyamorous, but in mostly a loving way, not necessarily as a swinger or horndog. So, I came out.
In any other situation in the world, this might have not been as catastrophic. However, there were certain things about my soulmate which I knew not at the time that caused not just my relationship, not just my life, but my reality to crumble. You see, they grew up in an incredibly abusive situation, and the only way they knew how to act was to throw away every part of themselves for the people whom they loved. Whelp, that meant “forcing” themselves to be polyamorous for me. They devised a ridiculous plan where they would go out and sleep with lots of people to become okay with the idea of nonmonogamy. Needless to say, this was a batshit crazy idea, but they didn’t tell me their true feelings of how traumatizing this would be for them, and I decided to trust them that this is what they knew would be best for them and that it would all work out in the end. What can I say? What is love if not supporting your partner? I honestly thought it could be okay.
However, as you might guess, it was not. The main issue came from all their mental instability that they had hidden from me for so long. They became quite dissociative and hid it all from me. As such, they tried to compartmentalize their sexual exploration away from our relationship, making me less involved. In short, I was supposed to be their monogamous “safe space” while they did all this terrible shit to themselves. Understandably, this backfired. Rather than it being a collaborative, supportive, gentle, loving exploration, it became dishonest, filled with deceit. They lied to me about doing things with people and about not doing things with people. They made up stories of fuckbuddies and hid some of the real people they were fucking. All the while, I was starting to lose my grip on reality, because, here they were, getting to do all the things I had always wanted, practically rubbing it all in my face, while barring me from having any part of it for myself. It was tortuous. Highlights include them fucking my brother for four uninterrupted hours, and kicking me out of my bed and bedroom to fuck a nine-inch cock while I made them breakfast, then not allowing me to enter until they had finished.
When I learned that they hid that they were flunking all their classes in college, I snapped, and nothing was ever the same again. That’s not how you treat your soulmate. It was supposed to be us against the world, but they weren’t acting like we were a team. In retrospect, I was heartbroken for well more than half of the time we were a couple. The entire last year we were together, I was depressed beyond description. I would come home from work and I would have so little energy that my personality would just melt away. I was devoid of existence. I would sit on a couch, and stare away at nothingness for hours on end. To my credit, my ex would cover me in a blanket, put dinner on my lap, set the iPad in front of me, and put on an anime. I know they truly loved me because they did this for over six months, without complaining.
However, I was simply too broken. Things reached one fever pitch after another. I could always tell that something was wrong, that, as hard as I tried, I was never actually getting through to the person inside. It all felt so superficial. I always knew they were hiding things (not just sexual stuff, but, more simply, their own wants and desires, their simple, everyday preferences). They were there, but not present. So, faced with a soulmate who wasn’t sharing their soul, trauma most insurmountable, and no other options, I did the only thing I could: I accepted a job across the country in New York and fled the width of a continent.
However, as you already know, things didn’t get better. I couldn’t get a date for the life of me; I was – and am – too oddball. That I’ve had only one relationship and that it imploded quite catastrophically does not predispose me to self-worth or experience with dating. I am very intellectual, but a dullard at socialization. Hell, I never even learned how to make out. To boot, I have all this trauma which will take years to move on from. Last christmas, my now ex reached out to me, and we talked pretty much every day for four months. Since I left, they managed to somehow actually succeed in making themselves polyamorous, whereupon they proceeded to date and fuck my now (former) best friend, then leave them to date and move in with their boss from work, whom is over a decade older than them. They were in this relationship for over two and a half years, and we’ve been apart for three. Talking to them again has been rather tortuous, as I’ve been treated to such lovely details about their sex life while being, once again, excluded from it most royally. So… yeah… that’s been fun. And people wonder why I have such a boatload of trauma. After misery peaking once again, I realized that we had come to an impasse: I cannot move forward from the past without them, and they don’t want me back until I’ve moved forward from the past. Such is where things were last left, and I have no indication that they will ever change meaningfully from this.
Now, I want to make clear that I am not at all looking for any sort of statements regarding how I should forget about them and move on. There is so much more nuance than what I can describe here, and I’m not completely without blame either. Although I do not think I fucked up anywhere near as apocalyptically, I did hurt them, too. Nor do I necessarily hate them, either. Though what they did was incredibly, world-endingly hurtful and stupid, it was not done with malice. Time has only made me more sympathetic to their situation, and, thus, their actions. In short, their parent was incredibly abusive, and they also were terrified of losing me, so they were drunk on fear and thought that they needed to act in major ways to keep me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that what they did then and have done since has ruined my life, but I understand why things happened the way they did and I don’t love them any less. I mean, I did say they were my soulmate, didn’t I? That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I wish so badly that I hated them for all they did. That would make it so much easier to move on. I still identify as polyamorous, so this has the unpleasant side-effect of freezing my emotional development on the matter in place. In my case, I could be happily married for a decade and still be nowhere nearer to being able to move on from this ex, so it’s not like having any new sexual or romantic conquests will actually help me to move on from them. And, before you suggest, I already have a therapist, and she’s very nice.
So, since I’ve just spent ten pages telling you about three years of failed efforts to move on, comments or messages saying “move on, dude” will not be looked upon kindly.
–––––––––– Chapter 3: Where I want to go.
So, as you can now see, I am the literal incarnation of damaged goods. I still really don’t know where I am going to post this, but my story is complicated enough that one part is inseparable from the other. If I’m posting this on a subreddit for sexual searches, you’ll need to know why a simple hookup is not on the table at all; conversely, if I’m posting this to a subreddit in search of romantic partners, you’ll need to know about my dreadful sexual brokenness and resulting insecurities up front. Either way, I’ve now managed to waste the time of two groups instead of one; how overachieving of me!
At this juncture of my life, I’ve somewhat come to terms with the fact I won’t ever be getting the tools I need to move on from my ex (something for which I them somewhat resent). However, if it wasn’t made abundantly clear heretofore, the acquisition of another compatriot is the taddest bit flummoxing for me. In short-form, swiping-based dating app formats, it is far too easy to disregard my numerous quirks as simply that, not scars from a lengthy, complicated, demoralizing battle against a society which I am physiologically incapable of understanding. Oh, and the global coronapocalypsemageddonocaust has slightly impacted my ability to partake in social events wherewithin people might be met.
In truth, I am not necessarily the sexiest person in world. I’m a tad bit overweight, but I both wear it well (being absurdly tall helps) and am actively trying to change it (I’ve taken up running [surprisingly enjoyable!] and have lost ~10kg). I definitely don’t think I have an ugly face or anything. But I don’t think that’s actually my problem. In the event that it hasn’t been blindingly obvious up to this point, I am not your average cookie. In stark brief, I attended the Stanford (yes, that one) Online High School, dropped out, started college at 14, graduate at 19 with honors, and am now a Graduate Fellow (one step above student) at an Ivy-League university (expanded definition, fight me). As such, the way in which I go through my life is fairly cerebral. To those whom understand not my eccentricities or the subjects of which I speak, I am perceived as talking down to others. However, it is simply the way in which I approach the world, and I am wholly oblivious in the moment of how I could be perceived as such.
So it is thusly that I here myself find, holding on to the dreadfully unrealistic hope that being honest with the world about myself will earn me the possibility to find another soulmate, but one not programmed to shred what little sanity I have left. Here goes hope:
Regarding my location, if you hadn’t figured out, I live in central Pennsyltucky – 9 miles from the geographic centerpoint of the state, in fact. However, as I tell prospective students, while Penn State is in the middle of nowhere, it is half-way to everywhere! That, combined with my adventurous proclivities, opens up (literal!) horizons, dramatically. I can easily make it in a day trip to anywhere within Pennsylvania (though I love Pittsburgh!) or anywhere in the Megalopolis between Trenton and DC. At a slight stretch, I can also reach NYC, Upstate, Ohio, or, maybe, West Virginia. I am definitely open to meeting people from outside my immediate drive-shed – especially since pretty much all dates in the COVID-19 era start with Zoom, anyway – however, since I’ve been to so many places, front-of-the-line priority will be given to those from places I desire to explore more, including (in order of decreasing preference): Colorado, Northern California, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Vermont. If things develop, I both have the means and inclination to successfully conduct an LDR until I finish graduate school in 3-4 years.
Regarding the type of partner, while I am genuinely pansexual, I seem to be mostly romantically attracted with feminine-presenting people. Though, were I to have my druthers, I’d prefer you to be busty, at least moderately height-weight-proportional, and similarly tall, I affirmatively believe that it’s more how you use what you have than what you actually have, so I will always choose the average slut over the prudish bombshell. Other than that, I remain open minded to people of pretty much all walks of life.
Speaking of, for reasons that I hope are quite evident, I am a taaaaaaaaaaaad delicate in my sexuality. I used to be slightly dominant, but am definitely not anymore. I am almost in the realm of gentlefemdom
. Please do be understanding that it’ll take some time (and, most likely, lots and lots of crying. I just want you to be sexually open yet patient enough that I could slowly grow back into my sexuality. Actually, that’s part of what I’m most hopeful for in a new partner. It would be really nice to have someone that is strong in their sexuality, and acts very openly with it, but is patient and loyal enough to not make me worried or scared. Someone who would, say, impulsively strip for a hike or skinny-dip, but wouldn’t pressure me to do the same if I wasn’t in the right headspace to do so.
Romantically, well, that’s a more complicated issue. I still identify as polyamorous, and I wouldn’t expect total devotion from my partner, but this is assuredly a difficult area. I think I would be benefitted by a period (likely 6-12 months) by monogamy, just so that I can recover enough to a functional level, then we can slowly and safely open up the relationship (with group stuff happening well
Just please be careful with my heart. It’s already taken so much of a beating, and I don’t know how much more it can handle.
So, yeah, I guess that’s me. If you’ve made it this far, I at least thank you for doing so. I’ve been emotionally isolated for so long that it’s nice to just be acknowledged by other people. I know the likelihood of anything meaningful coming from this is quite, quite low, but this is part of me trying to move forward from the people that hurt me so cripplingly. I definitely come with some baggage, but I hope I’ve shown you who I am and that I at least have the potential to be good again.
I shall leave you with my dating profile. Hopefully this will show you the sonderous story that goes into only but a few words: “I find humor in everything and live for adventures. Highly sarcastic, hot-sauce-addicted, somewhat queer molecular and astrobiologist. Pro: I’m genuine. Con: -ly crazy. Looking for a porter to help me carry my emotional baggage.”
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