James Souci, probably at first look would not be thought of as valedictorian of the senior citizens scrabble club…but first let me tell you, in scrabble you really needed to place limits on Chinese utterances…cheater. Recently I think of him every day because he died in much of the same manner as those with COVID 19. It was morbid, isolated, demeaning to a life that was so much of vigor. Jim in pain from cancer, competed and won awards…his poetic use of language transported your imagination to the very imagery that he professed.
As I age, the most impactive people in my life I think about every single day. Mostly in a good way…sometimes in reflection…and that I think defines eternity.
For your pleasure here is the transcript of his speech “FAST FLOYD”
In my career as a merchant seaman, I’ve sailed many waters on many ships with seafarers from around the world. Shipmates, so many. Mostly forgotten, some remembered and some I’ll never forget. One of the most colorful shipmate I’ve sailed with, who occupies many pages of my journal was Fast Floyd.
Before I tell you about fast floyd, a preamble is in order. Fast floyd sailed with the Seafarers International Union (that’s SIU) builT and flew his own airplane, lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, and our first ship together was a catamaran, that is two hulls. With that in mind, here’s a chapter in the tale of fast floyd.
I first met him, or i should say encountered him, in Pareaus, Greece, on the Mertoo Sea. The shipping agent put us up at the Naufara Hotel, right on the waterfront. I’m sitting on a sidewalk bench in front of the hotel enjoying a cold beer, the warm weather and all the bustle of waterfront activity, when, like a tornado, crash! Bang! Boom!
-“What the hell was that?” That, my fellow toastmaster, was my introduction to Fast Floyd.
He came barreling out of the hotel like a Sherman Tank, with all patois of an angry seaman, complaining something about his leg.
They can’t find my leg, it’s lost in the septum. (full of exemplatives) Whoa, Floyd, who lost your leg? I’m confused, “I see you have two legs, how many do you need?” “No! man U.A.L. lost my spare prosthesis. Now I notice his limp.
A big guys 6 ft plus, 200 lbs. anyway, multiple tattoos, a small scar intersecting his lips like a cruciform, and an intimidating bearing and countenance. If you saw him lumbering toward you, you would intuitively give him plenty of sea room.
I liked fast floyd. There was a certain impalpable something beneath his rough exterior. He was nobody’s sycophant. A master craftsman, skilled in mechanics, refrigeration, air conditioning and electrical. An artist with a welding torch and at home in a machine shop on a lathe.
Well, his leg did show up the next morning at the hotel. Our ship was set to sail the following day. We caught a launch to our ship anchored in the road stead. Checked aboard and signed articles. We were now shipmates. The next morning the crew is queued up for breakfast, I’m about to give my order, when fast floyd shoved me aside, “hard scrambled and bacon, double order.”
“Hey Floyd,” I ask incredulously, “what’s up with that?” “yea, well I’m hungry and you’re slow, that’s what’s up with that.”
We’d been to sea about two weeks now when I learned something of his bio, as mentioned in the preamble.
One day during the evening meal he sat directly across from me. I write on a napkin “20 years with SIU, twice back came he to sail the blue, in fact everything came to him in two, twin hulls, a pair of wings and a motorcycle wheels too, except fast floyd wears only shoe.” I slide the napkin across the table with some trepidation. He glares at me, (I practiced this look in mirrors) reads the napkin, looks at me again.
Well, now I’m his best friend. He would come to my foisle after work and tell me about his experiences. How he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, the time he was a guess of a texas penitentiary for art works, a euphorium for forgery. He was especially proud of the belt and buckle his brother made him from prison, secretly designed as a weapon as he demonstrated wrapping the belt around his hand until the buckle fit snugly over his fist “Why” I ask, “do you need a weapon floyd?”
“Well man, I’ve only goT one real leg, this one is from a tree.”
“yes, I know all that floyd, so why do you need a weapon?”
“I can’t run so I fight.” I told him if he wore suspenders he wouldn’t get into so much trouble.
And trouble he was. With more time, I could give you several examples. L.B. Calif. Dublin Ireland and other parts. Here’s one…
We’re in Terragonna Spain, an ancient port city going back to roman times. I found a cantina on a hill overlooking the town and neat rows of houses, leading down to the Med. Sea. I’m sitting at a small table next to a large picture window having an espresso and writing in my journal when I here a tapping on the glass above me. I look over my shoulder, it’s fast floyd. It’s 11:30 a.m., he’s been drinking and he’s pissed off.
The only other souls in the cantina were the continero and gendarsa(?), playing dominoes. I bolt for the door and intercept. Too late. He barges in and in his usual poetic vernacular, complaining, this exemplative, floyd and i got kicked out of the mall. I drag him to my table and tell him to shut up. “Jim” he says, “I promise you, I wasn’t causing any trouble. I was just looking at some Toledo swords, when security escorted me out.
I’m thinking do i really have to explain this? “C’mon floyd, you go to the mall in coveralls, no shirt, you’ve been drinking, you’re playing with swords and you’ve got swastikas plastered over your arms!”
After that ride it was several years before I saw him again. I got a bosun’s job out of the SF hiring hall on the container ship S/L Defender docked in Oakland. When I arrived at the ship I looked up from the brow, and there was fast floyd hanging over the bull work. When I stepped aboard he gave be a bone crushing hug and carried on like I was his long, lost brother, come home.
After that ship I never saw him again. I heard he died of an overdose of pills. I suppose my speech could be something of a eulogy. There never was a funeral, not even a memorial.
So today, today,, thanks to you, I brought a shipmates memory alive for a few minutes. I did hear his motorcycle club has his leg on display in the clubhouse.