High Seas

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Here's where I am right now. Well, I'm in the KCRW studios right now right now, but where I'll be when this is broadcast is somewhere in the Pacific, aboard the Hanjin Boston, a huge container ship making a slow, grinding passage from Seattle to Shanghai, carrying, I'm told, the only thing we have that the Chinese want to import – animal skins and scrap metal.

I am, as they say, out of reach. I'm what spies call "out of pocket." The vast expanse of the Pacific isn't covered by AT&T 3G cell towers, so I won't be able to send a text. Or check email. Or get calls. Or do anything, really, except take short walks along the small square deck, sip the expensive bourbon I'm bringing along, and stare out at the briny deep.

Oh, and write. I can write. I can plug in my computer – which for once won't effortlessly connect itself to the web and all of its wormholes of distraction and chit chat – and I can type fade in and I can write, which is what I tell everybody I do for a living, but what is something, if you followed me around with a stopwatch and really started to total up the minutes, you'd find precious little of these days.

But for two weeks, surrounded by a couple of German officers and a mostly Filipino crew, not to mention hundreds of containers of scrap metal and animal skins, I'm really not going to have any excuses. I'm either going to write the script I've been promising to write, or I'm going to go quietly crazy and bounce off the walls. I'll stare at the roiling ocean below and think, "I could swim that." Or I'll spend my days methodically and patiently sowing mutiny among the crew – "I don't like the way the Captain talks to you," I'll say, sidling up to the ship's cook. "Does he have to order you around like that?" Or maybe I'll strike up a conversation with the chief engineer, something like, "You know, the first officer said something about you the other day that I thought was – oh, I shouldn't share this. Forget I said anything."

In other words, it's entirely plausible that I'll spend the entire two weeks doing anything – anything – but writing enough dialogue, action, and sluglines to fill up the requisite number of pages to qualify for a professional effort.

I've often flattered myself – mostly because that's one of the things I do best, better than anyone, as a matter of fact – that real writers hate to write. Real writers, I've told myself and anyone who will listen, would rather do just about anything else, which is why so many of them are fans of obscure sports, drinkers, bloggers, and feud starters. We're notebook keepers and pen collectors and dream journal writers and receipt hoarders. We're busy types, bustling around with our messenger bags and our venti drips and our purposeful, forward-leaning gaits – like we've got somewhere to go, and like if we got there, we'd plug the computer in and get right to work.

Have you ever watched a writer search for a nearby outlet, open up his laptop, plug his computer in, and then get to work?

Takes hours.

But I'm saying goodbye to all of that. Or trying to. On the high seas. Which I recognize is an extreme solution – couldn't you just check into a hotel? Someone asked me, unaware, apparently, that hotels have dozens of soft-core offerings on demand. Couldn't you just turn off your wi-fi? Another naïve soul asked, as if that's the kind of thing a person can do, just turn it off and stop Twittering.

No, the right thing to do is what I've done. Book passage on the Hanjin Boston, from Seattle to Shanghai, face King Neptune and write the damn script.

And if I don't, I might just keep going.

And that's it for this week. Next week, if the Hanjin Boston doesn't erupt in mutiny or get hijacked by pirates, I'll think about coming home. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long