Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Salty Art Sparks the Imagination

What is it about salty paintings, drawings, tattoos and photos? Anything to do with ships and sailors sparks my imagination.

Norman Keith Collins was a prominent American tattoo artist, famous for his tattooing of sailors; he was also known as "Sailor Jerry."

Back in the old days only bikers, sailors and hookers had tattoos.  A Cobra, a dagger stabbed through a heart, a skull, an anchor or a sexy girl permanently printed on one's arm, leg or chest--that's how roughnecks set themselves apart from prim and proper society.  But these days every high school girl and nerdy computer-coder wears a full sleeve of psychedelic scribble.  When I see vivid tattoos, my mind goes to late night drinking and slumming in waterfront bars across the Western Pacific and sharing a house with a bunch of bikers and sailors in Central California.

Tattoo art by Quyen Dinh a famous Los Angeles artist.

Dreadnoughts and battleships spark thoughts of god-like sea captains going to war and young sailors taking voyages to exotic lands. 

A painting of a brawny ship cruising on a storm-tossed sea conjures thoughts of a sailor, curled up in his bunk below decks.  As the ship rises and falls on the watery hills, the sailor sways gently from side to side.  He's reading a novel about adventure and romance in an exotic land.

The sight of a wreck beneath the waves, provokes the fear of running up on a reef in a storm or being struck by enemy torpedoes. The mind's eye sees sailors scrambling for a ladder trying to escape from a compartment below decks.  Tons of seawater rushes in upon them.  They are trapped and drowning as the ship sinks to the bottom.  Those who escape are swept away on mile-deep cold water and drowned in the vast ocean.  A few passengers drift in a life raft.  A lone survivor washes up on a deserted beach, miraculously alive at sunrise.

From the pirate-themed game Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag by Ubisoft.

The Kraken is a legendary sea monster of giant size that is said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland.

Drawings of sea creatures dragging a ship down to the briny deeps fills a seafarer with fear and curiosity.   Are sea monsters a myth?  Nobody knows, but all wonder about the early sailors who crossed the vast uncharted oceans.  The schools of whales, sharks and dolphins they must have seen.  The injuries and deaths that occurred after being stung by a Manta Ray, bit by a Shark, rammed by a Whale, dragged to the bottom by a gigantic Octopus or Squid.  Yet, we all know that in there free time sailors and fishermen are famous for spinning yarns that heighten and perhaps exaggerate the facts just a bit.

Denizens of the deep



Before I was a sailor I was a teenager who had just graduated from high school.  Some mornings, I had nothing better to do than recline on the couch in my underwear and watch TV.  Many of the commercials at that hour are for trade schools and military service.  I fell hard for the slogan, "Navy, it's not just a job it's an adventure."  Within a week I was at the recruiters office, raising my right hand and swearing my way into the service, bound for exotic ports around the world.  Unlike beer commercials that seem to promise young men a hook up with a sexy girl, the Navy recruiting posters don't lie.  Sailors do have more fun because the Navy experience delivers on the promise of adventure.

Lively sketches of Whales and Whaling scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale teeth ... and other Scrimshander articles.”  Herman Melville

Scrimshaw makes me wonder about the lives of those tough old sailors who hunted whales aboard wooden ships on the high seas.  I imagine a group of old salts gathered in the foc'sole after long days of killing whales.  Oh, to be there and hear the stories they told.  

Old salts telling sea stories.

If you enjoy a good sea story, try the Sea Adventure Collection by Malcolm Torres.  The first story in the series, Sixty-Four Days, is free on all eReaders.  Honest reviews are greatly appreciated.

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels  available online at all major book and eBook retailers.  Read Malcolm Torres's blog, which is full of free sea stories, nautical fiction, US Navy adventures and Coast Guard Thrillers.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Honoring the USS Arizona Memorial

From the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, 80-feet above the water, I clearly saw the rusted remains of the USS Arizona sunk in the harbor mud just a short distance away.

USS Arizona in New York's East River (1916)

In 1983 I was aboard the USS Enterprise when we arrived in Pearl Harbor.  Of course I'd heard about the Japanese surprise attack that provoked the US to enter WWII.  I'd seen pictures in history books.  In boot camp they taught us Naval history, which included a lesson about the ships sunk on battleship row.  Of course I knew what happened there.  But honestly, the significance of Pearl Harbor didn't mean much to me.  I'm not being disrespectful.  We'd been at sea for over two months, and I was excited to see Honolulu.  I wanted to lay on the beach and go to the night clubs on Waikiki.

My chief told me to report to the flight deck at 0600 on the morning of the day we were to pull into Pearl Harbor.  I'd been selected to man the rails.  My chief told me to wear my dress whites and to look smart, which meant to shine my shoes and make sure my uniform was clean and squared away.

The morning arrived and I put on my dress whites and went up to the flight deck bright and early.  I was assigned to stand on the port side.  We lined up at arms length and waited as the ship plowed through the waves and the wind threatened to blow my white hat off my head.  The island of Oahu appeared on the horizon.  Tug boats guided us into the narrow channel.  That's when I saw the cement memorials with the names of the ships that the Japanese had sunk on Dec 7, 1941.  Through the loudspeakers along the deck came the command to stand at attention.  Then the marines gave a 21 gun salute.  That's when I saw the white memorial with the American flag flapping over the sunken hull of the USS Arizona.  I stood up straight and then the command came to give a hand salute.

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

And that's when it hit me.  I was a US Navy sailor, not just a guy doing his time in the Navy to earn money for college.  I realized that I was saluting the USS Arizona Memorial where my shipmates were entombed.  I felt pinpricks up and down my legs and back.  I swallowed a hot ball of emotion that was building up in my throat.

Being on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, 80-feet above the water, I could clearly see the rusted remains of the USS Arizona sunk in the harbor mud just a short distance away.  The Memorial, a unique white structure, built right over the top of the sunken wreck.  There was a little slick on the surface of the water from oil that still leaks from the Arizona's sunken hull.

I made it a point to go to the memorial during my visit to Pearl Harbor.  Since then, I've been to Oahu several times, and I always visit the memorial to pay my respects.  I've read many books and seen movies about the Japanese attack and I now fully understand the importance of that event.  It provoked the US to go to war with Japan in the Pacific and with Germany in Europe.  To me Pearl Harbor sparked a feeling of patriotism to the US and to my shipmates who gave their lives.

A few years later, I was in college.  I kept thinking about Pearl Harbor and what it meant to me as a Navy sailor and a veteran.  I eventually wrote a novel about a sailor who arrives at Pearl Harbor.  He's having some health problems, and a doctor orders him to stay at Pearl, while his ship leaves for war in the Persian Gulf.  While doctors try to diagnose him, he goes AWOL to go surfing and scuba diving.  He meets a lovely girl.  Most importantly he learns what it means to be a US Navy sailor.

This week to commemorate 75 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I'm giving my book away for free on Amazon Kindle.  If you don't have a Kindle you can grab the free Kindle App for your phone or tablet, and then grab this book for free.  All I ask is to please post an honest review of my book, SAILORS DELIGHT.  Thank you.

For a free copy of this novel in paperback, send me an email at malcolmtorres1@gmail.com
I can send it to your home address or to a FedEx, UPS or Mailbox type store for you to pick up. 

When his ship leaves Hawaii for war in the Persian Gulf, Marlow stays behind on medical hold and discovers a cure for his post traumatic stress: Party all night and surf all day, that is when he's not at the hospital where military doctors examine his head and his heart.

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels available online at all major book and eBook retailers.  Read Malcolm Torres's blog, which is full of free sea stories, nautical fiction, US Navy adventures and Coast Guard Thrillers.