“A Working Stiff’s Manifesto”, by Iain Levison (Chapter Four, Part Two)

Run-ins with the law! Fun for the whole family!

Drug deals, welders going insane and Levison almost leaving Tony before they even going to the pub?

Sounds like it’s time for the next part of chapter four!

Levison begins telling us about the sort of job Tony does. It’s a one-year contract and he’s making more money than God in Alaska because of the huge demand for welders thanks to many ships being in disrepair. The thing is that the welders are only paid half upfront and then paid the rest after the year is up.

But as Levison explains,

The companies know that if they make the contract challenging, they get about half their welders for half-price, because a lot of them decide they’ve had enough of Dutch Harbor before their twelve months are up, and beg to go home. So the welders are some of the highest paid men on the island, and most of them, I discover, are going slowly mad. (pp. 92-93)

Levison, of course, doesn’t know this when he decides to go out with Tony to the local pubs and see the mysterious and elusive creature known as woman in Alaska.

It quickly goes south once Tony explains that (after a minute of Levison of holding Tony’s pistol for him) they’re going to get “some shit” from a Filipino guy and he wants Levison to have the gun..ya know, just in case.

Now at this point, what would you do? Levison decides to just go with it. I’m not really sure what I’d do. I have no formal training with a gun and the whole situation would probably be scary as fuck to me. But then again this guy is trying to keep his life together…though through a very bad manner. And he’s also depending on you to back him if something goes wrong. Are you gonna discard that trust for self-preservation?

Shit, I’m tempted to say that I would.

Going in there with just a pistol and no formal training would be suicide. Levison has formal military training so he’s probably not as scared or as worried as I am. But man, after a few minutes of waiting in a car almost he leaves the situation and just goes home.

Thankfully nothing happens and Levison and Tony go off to the pubs.

“Nothing happens” is, unfortunately more than I can say (or is it less?) thann what happens when they get to the pub.

Before that though, Tony decides to hassle a Filipino women who is a cab driver (a common occurrence in Dutch Harbor with some of the women giving blow jobs on the side, according to Levison) when she refuses to give him a blow job. He first offers a hundred dollars (which is “twice the going rate” according to Tony) and then one twenty-five but the woman has a boyfriend and isn’t interested.

But you know, instead of being a decent human being and taking no for a no Tony decides, once he and Levison get dropped off at the pub to keep hassling her about it. She still refuses. His response to her?

“Fucking bitch”

What a lovely person.

So anyways they get into the bar and it’s like something out of the movies. That’s how seedy Levison seems to be describing it.

They both get involved with a pool game with two Mexican fishermen for twenty dollars a game with Levison and Tony winning the first two games and Tony then proceeding to racially taunt them by calling them “Pedro” and so forth.

Then Tony misses the eight ball and as Levison is getting ready to give them his part of the $20 but Tony insists that they “bumped the table” and starts to walk away…and then promptly gets his ass kicked. Tony asks for help and tells Levison to pull out the gun because Tony decided to try and cheat these guys.

Levison says his signature line

“I’m outta here.”

And then, Levison has some introspection:

That’s how it is up here. Everyone is fucked up, and those who aren’t soon will be.

What does that say about me, I wonder? for me, like most of us, it is the panic-ridden quest to stay afloat that brings me up here. The fact that I live on a boat that actually appears to be sinking is merely coincidental irony. Dutch Harbor offers the opportunity to make money while keeping your expenses at a minimum. Say what I like about my waterlogged room, it is free, as is m good and electricity. Every dollar we make up here goes to us, not to landlords or utilities or bill collectors. That is the real freedom, and it’s a freedom that a lot of us can’t handle. (p. 96)

But Levison isn’t correct. The conditions he’s describing isn’t indicative of freedom. At least not any sort of healthy forms of freedom that anyone would ever really aspire to. A town where people getting the shit beat out of them, where people are pretty casually racist and sexist, where working conditions are deplorable, where corporations totally own the contracts as opposed to the people working to get them and where women are free to be hassled by overly horny men. That’s not “freedom” and neither are the jobs that Levison has been describing. The hierarchy and lack of real choices for employment don’t reveal or come from a situation of actual freedom.

Sure, it’s definitely “freeing” to have minimal utility costs. I’m not denying that. But it’s a whole ‘nother thing to say that people are fucked up because they don’t need to pay these utilities anymore. This is partly conjecture on my part but I don’t think that the mere lack of costs in people’s lives causes them to casually observe people being beaten or being shitty to other people via harassment or whatever.

Still, it’s interesting he’s starting to ponder what all of this makes him. He’s the one who keeps getting caught up in these crazy situations with these crazy people. Does it say anything about him? Or about who he is as a person? Levison isn’t sure and I’m not either. Most of the situations either seem to be by chance or through (mostly) no real fault of Levison’s.

Levison seems to just be a guy who wants to making a living and doesn’t want to get bogged down into the bigger details of these jobs. Ironically enough this book is all about that. But then, his writing persona is different than the one he’s going to show his bosses.

And that’s another reason why any sort of “freedom” Levison is talking about positively should be heavily qualified.

Levison ends the night by helping a few drunk fishermen and ends up getting pulled over by a police officer who, after questioning him and denoting his expired license lets him go.

Of course cops never really let you go so after Billy’s (the racist jerk from the party in the last part) father thanks him for saving his son’s life. After which, some Friendly Neighborhood Police Officers let him know that they have some papers that say he has to appear in court for driving without a license.

I’ll leave it to Levison to describe the rest:

I can now define irony. During an evening in which I witnessed two felony beatings, a drug deal, firearms possession and public drunkenness, I am told to appear in court for giving someone a ride home.

Now, I as an anarchist don’t agree that drug deals, owning guns or just being drunk in public are court-worthy offenses but I see Levison’s point here all the same.

Levison decides to make the story at least somewhat interesting by embellishing it a little bit to some people and by the time he’s done “mildly adjusting the facts” he’s a “Robin Hood type wanting in thirty states for wanting to save the rain forest” (p. 99).

Saving the rain forest or not, Levison still has the court date which means he’s going to have to miss a full day of work and he’s gonna have to walk all the way to the courtroom so he can just get an extension (they don’t take requests over the phone…for some reason) so he may as just well go to it.

Levison takes a nice walking tour of Dutch Harbor and ends up watching the trial before his…cue ridiculous state actions in 3…2…1…

…a fisherman who has been caught with half an eight of marijuana in his bunkhouse.

Apparently, he came home and found this wife in bed with another fisherman and a fight ensued, and the wife called the police. Law enforcement’s contribution to the whole affair was to rummage around an fine the pot, for which they then arrested him. Talk about a day. The judge shares my sympathy but Alaska has only recently outlawed marijuana. Up until a few months ago, it was legal here to possess an eight of an ounce or less, and now they are trying to make examples of people who have not adhered to the new laws. Five hundred dollars and fie hundred hours of community service. (pp. 99-100)

I just…there are so many things wrong with this I’m not sure where to start.

Seriously, how fucked can this system be? We’ve gotta punish a minor offense that months ago wasn’t even illegal? After the guy had his wife cheat on him? And make him not only do community service (which would be bad enough) but make him pay money to? Just to treat him like a goddamn object in your “war on drugs”?


Levison gets off easier, he only gets community service. Five hundred hours, incidentally.

My only here is semi-sarcastic since he shouldn’t have gotten anything to begin with.

Jeff, for his pleasure of beating up on Billy, gets fired and decides he’s had enough and is getting ready to leave Dutch Harbor.

Levison realizes he likes him and will miss him and tries to convince him to take a job somewhere else but Jeff isn’t having it and he leaves, shaking Levison’s hand and wishing him luck with not ending up broke.

His new roomates with Jeff and Hale gone are Rus and Colin who are college kids.

On their first day Colin is freaking out about how “cool” Alaska is and even the crappy food they get. But on the second day, Colin falls into the water and then he’s not really so excited anymore.

In fact he’s so not-excited that he “forgets” he owes Levison $100 for wanting to buy tourist stuff and he leaves with Rus three days later.

The office guy is definitely non-plussed that Levison cares (even if Levison lost some money) and Levison takes this one on the chin as well.

That’s another one on the chin that Levison has gotten.

Like he says,

“The lessons are piling up.” (p. 104)

Levison is back to loading pellets and due to Jeff and Hale gone he has become the chief of the deck crew. Actually he’s pretty much all the deck crew has going for it.

That and two college kids who are brand new to the experience.

One is named Chris who seems lanky but fit enough to be doing the job while the other is a muscular guy named Brian who is in it to “make money to buy nice things”.

As we should all know by now, it ain’t gonna be that easy.

Surprisingly (at least to me anyhow) Brian is the one who gets tired after a few hours of loading pellets. As Levison explains, it doesn’t matter how muscular you are when you don’t pace yourself and don’t know the work itself. With the boxes not being heavy and a process that’s pretty physically taxing over the course of even a few hours, not pacing yourself is gonna leave even the dudiest of dude-bros who likes their muscles moaning and groaning.

Brian keeps complaining while Chris doesn’t seem to be bothered that much (or, if he is, he’s just not saying much about it) which leads Levison to switch off with Brian for a bit (which seems a bit unconventional but welcome for a manager in my opinion) and then tries to give Chris a break too.

In the end though, Levison recommends that Brian be put down with the slime and that Chris is worth keeping around for the pellets.

Is Levison going to be consumed by his managerial position?

So far it doesn’t seem like he will be. He seemed to get annoyed at Brian complaining so much but then again it’s shitty work and if you don’t know that and act like it isn’t it’s gonna be bound to annoy other folks. Also, he did try to help Brian out for an hour or two by switching roles which was a pretty nice thing to do. Of course, Brian kept complaining anyhow so I guess it didn’t make any difference.

Join us for part three which will hopefully come tomorrow or the day after as we go further and further into the Alaskan crabfish work that Levison seems to be having such a fun time with*!

*citation needed

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