Polishing Brass
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Polishing Brass

I've been in the aft pilot house for three hours now. I've been kneeling and rubbing and wiping and cleaning while a small, black space heater throws warm air at my face. I'm not getting paid for this. I don't even know how to properly do what it is I'm doing. In fact, when I was given the Nevr-Dull, gloves, a green bottle of metal polisher, a package of steel wool, and a bag of old socks, the object to which I was directed was something unrecognizable to my eyes. And, after hours of working at this three-foot metal shaft, its function, origin, or even destination still remain unclear.

March 3—In my Bag

  • New York Times crossword puzzle book

  • • Billy Joel CDs (generously compiled by my good friend Blanthony, legendary music pirate)

  • • MP3 player I found in the snow

  • • Small black flashlight

  • • A brochure for the SS City of Milwaukee:

    This national landmark represents the remarkable 100-year history of Great Lakes railroad car ferries. The sturdy, 360-foot-long ship carried an entire freight train and 300 passengers across Lake Michigan year-round through ice and storm in period splendor. Come aboard, step back in time, and experience the legacy of "rails across the water."

  • • Old, faded, too-big, men's, soft Levi flannel shirt with the cool snap buttons

  • • Blue hooded sweatshirt from old airport job

  • • Three pairs of wool socks

  • • Same amount of underwear—not wool, however [End Page 43]

  • • Least favorite bra

  • • Two old thermal underwear shirts

  • • Journal, which so far reads:

    Most would say two and a half days are nothing substantial. But then again, most who find themselves in this situation usually spend more than three hours with their father every three months. Not me. Not my sisters. In fact, the last time I spent more than the usual three—birthday, Thanksgiving, or Christmas—hours with my dad was in 1996. I was 11 and my older sister, Lisa, was 13. We went camping. We ate quietly around fires, packing up and moving each day to a new campground.

    In case you didn't do the math—because I rarely do—that was ten years ago. A decade has passed since I've spent any period of time with my father that was longer than a movie and dinner. Who can say the reason for this? After my parents' divorce, my sister and I moved in with our mother, and maintaining a connection with him was harder than expected. That doesn't mean I never tried, or cared. Only, after a certain amount of time passed, both the gap in the relationship and the indifference with that gap continued on a steady increase. Plus, this situation involves a bashful girl and a father that probably wants to spend time with his three daughters, but feels they want the opposite. Or, maybe, the situation is as it appears, and he really just doesn't care.

    Either way, I do not know this man. All I really know is that he spends every weekend of his life driving three hours to Manistee to work, unpaid, on a historical car ferry, the SS City of Milwaukee. I know he spends holidays there. I know he sleeps, eats, and lives on that out-of-service boat, and that he has dedicated more time to its restoration than he has to me. What I do not know is the reason for this dedication, this fascination, this lasting love he feels for this beached and broken vessel.

  • • Hat (the ugly one)

  • • Scarf—weather forecasts predict an average temperature of 12 degrees this weekend

  • • Gloves (mismatched)

  • • Emergency Milky Way

  • • Black GE voice recorder, made in Malaysia, model number 3–5379A, and four tapes

  • • Contacts case

  • • Small bottle of Renu [End Page 44]

  • • Toothbrush—I'll leave the toothpaste up to Dad

  • • Three pens: two medium-point black Pentel R.S.V.Ps, and one Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen—blue, the black being stolen by my other friend, Carwash, currently on the lam after several instances of pen theft

March 3—Preparations

My older sister, Lisa, visited before...


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