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Loving the bounding main

“Maybe it wouldn’t much matter where we ended up.  Chinese ports are busy, and if the time in port is too short no one would get off anyway.  Some of the men said they wouldn’t go ashore even if there was time.  It was expensive, and possibly dangerous.  Ordinary Seaman Alvin Piamonte said the Mafia had taken root in China, and he wasn’t going ashore unless he had two or three guys with him, which could be impossible to arrange given everyone’s schedules.  The ports the men most loved—the ones in Brazil, Australia, Vietnam—were friendly, warm, and relaxed.  They used to like American ports, but after 2001, as part of the Global War on Terror, the United States abrogated centuries of international practice by severely restricting foreign seafarers’ ability to go ashore.  The men of the Odyssey always became agitated when discussing this.  The only country as restrictive as the U.S., they said, was Saudi Arabia.  In the words of the second mate, ‘It has taken the little happiness we had, and made it less.’  The only way to cheer the men at such points was to remind them of Bangkok.  In Bangkok, as soon as you arrive, a boat comes alongside and disgorges a portable bar, a restaurant, and many friendly young women.  If you pay in advance, a woman will move into your cabin for several days, sleep with you, and get up in the morning and iron your shirts—all for about thirty dollars a day.  In some ports, the authorities turn a blind eye to this sort of thing.  In Bangkok, according to [Chief Mate] Vadim, if you try to kick the party off your ship, your cargo simply won’t get unloaded.  For this reason, seamen love Bangkok.” – Keith Gessen, “Polar Express”

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