Scuttling. Leaving America, The RMS Queen Mary, and some family history.
Hello loves –
Greetings from the belly of a metal skybird hurtling from LAX to Auckland. I just wrote a little shorter draft of this on Instagram and it inspired a longer piece of writing. I started thinking about scuttling, and Instagram only lets you write so many words. (So if you read that post, this one is much longer).
The universe moves in strange ways, as usual.
During our last few hours in Los Angeles, where we’d laid/stopped over en route to New Zealand to visit family and deliver the Dolls New Years Extravaganza, I decided to take Ash to Long Beach, to the aquarium, with Uncle Doug and Aunt Rita. But when we got there, it was sold out. Sold out? The aquarium? Okay.
Not far from the aquarium is where the RMS Queen Mary has been docked for decades. This ship has history with me.
My scottish great-grandfather, James McInnes, who grew up on the Isle of Skye, helped build this ship in the late 1920s, right before he emigrated to New York. He was a welder in Glasgow, where the Queen Mary was put together by thousands of humans.
Shortly after that, my great-grandpa James left his home in Scotland forever, and boarded another massive ship bound for Ellis Island in New York City to join the children and wife he’d sent off ahead of him.
His daughter – my grandmother Christiana – met my grandfather Alfred (who’d emigrated himself from Deal, England – the tale is that he “Jumped Ship” in New York harbor and deserted the British Merchant Marine) and together, they produced my mom, Kathy.
My family makes ships and moves around on ships.
My family leaves places.
The Queen Mary crossed the ocean 1,001 times before retiring at a port in Long Beach in the late 1960s, where she became a hotel and tourist attraction.
(RMS Maiden Voyage – from Southampton, UK)
So instead of showing Ash fish, we showed him the ship that his great-great-grandfather helped build.
(Ash, hiding behind his magic wand)
(Uncle Doug n’ me)
Uncle Douglas told me that the community is in deep discussions about whether to allow the ship to stay parked here.
It’s a valuable parking spot for expensive cruise ships. The Queen Mary is a historic document. People argue.
If they moved the ship, they’d probably send her to China where she’d be salvaged and turned into other stuff – or they’d have to scuttle her.
Scuttling – the delineate sinking of a ship. It’s always fascinated me.
There’s no separate bin for throwing away large ships. Nope. They’d tow her majesty out to sea and send her to the bottom. I can see her down there, miles below the surface, sparking in the dark, rusting, rotting, breathing, decaying. The metalwork of my great-grandfather turning into a hotel for millions of fish and coral and algae and barnacles.
From wiki: Scuttling may be performed to dispose of an abandoned, old, or captured vessel; to prevent the vessel from becoming a navigation hazard; or as an act of self-destruction to prevent the ship from being captured by an enemy force (or, in the case of a vessel engaged in illegal activities, by the authorities)
Sometimes I feel like we should scuttle the whole lot. America. New York. New Zealand. Humanity. Maybe we could just toss the whole lot overboard and feed something else. We’ve had a good run.
Sometimes I want to scuttle my entire history.
Send it off to feed the fishes.
As an act of self-destruction to prevent it from being captured by an enemy force.
Now we’re sitting in a modern sky-ship headed towards Aotearoa for a few weeks (at least).
I spent over two years living in New Zealand, by accident. Was it an accident? Covid raged elsewhere; I chose to be there. Was my great-grandfather choosing to leave Scotland an accident?
(there’s James, on the right, with my great-grandmother).
When I heard the first Air New Zealand employee at the check-in desk greet me with a “Kia Ora” I nearly burst into tears; when a group of Māori folks delivered a Pōwhiri near the gate, i DID burst into tears. (There’s a little video of that here: https://www.instagram.com/p/Cm9TWd_Jp7D/?igshid=NTdlMDg3MTY= ….a Pōwhiri – “po-FEAR-ee” – is a Māori welcoming song/ceremony).
My community. My home, my job, my life, my place?
This I know:
Thank you for your patronage. I want to remind you that without my patrons support, I wouldn’t have been able to financially afford staying in New Zealand for those two years. It was this group that kept my afloat, and it will always be part of my story. And I don’t take that for granted, any more than I take for granted that New Zealand Immigration let me stay when so many other Americans were forced to fly home. I love you all so much. Thank you.
And thank you, Aotearoa. Your country held me safely when so many failed me, welcomed and took care of me and my son when so many other things let me down. We were so fragile. Weird immigrants.
I still can’t believe this all happened.
I still don’t know where our home is.
Maybe I never will.
We make ships.
We build them, we ride them, we scuttle them when we have to.
See you soon, Kiwis.