Perils of Pearls

My wife Carolyn cannot sail past a pearl farm without drooling. This is unfortunate: there are strict laws in French Polynesia regarding the sale of pearls, possession of pearls and/or export of pearls. Penalties can be extreme: confiscation of the vessel is just one arrow in a quiver of draconian choices. When I mentioned these disconcerting enforcement facts to my wife, she bristled and bluntly suggested the ‘French colonial oppressors’ should perform an impossible sex act upon themselves.

“Honey,” I said, “be reasonable…” But, of course, I was wasting my time. She’s a hopeless addict and her lust for pearls knows no bounds. She will never be reasonable when it comes to nacre: she wants more, Bigger, BETTER pearls! Yes, she’s a classic addict is the sense she needs an ever greater ‘dosage’ ofPinctada Margaritifera just to maintain her oyster-scented, greedy little high.

Currently, we’re in Tahiti. It took us a long time to sail here because, well, be made a couple of… unscheduled ‘emergency’ stops in the Tuamotus. Poor Wild Card! She wallows sickeningly, dangerously overloaded with… with… her, er, ill-gotten gains!

That’s right: the bilge is full. So is the starboard water tank (“Shh!”) and that secret compartment under the head… that’s chock-r-block, too!

We have a pearl, singular. We have lots of pearls, plural. Bags of ‘em. Sacks of ‘em! Strings of them! Small ones, big ones, nicked ones, scarred ones and carved ones! Black ones. White ones. Fresh and salt ones! Ones that ‘flash’ eggplant and wink pink and stammer silver… pearls of every race, creed and color imaginable.

Of course, some got away. They roll around the cabin sole of our vessel… like expensive, pretty, berserk ball-bearings… ever ready to ‘banana-peel’ the skipper onto his arse… damn those pearls! They bedevil me! Mock me! Taunt me!

Carolyn, of course, is barely visible anymore. She’ll sink like a stone if she ever falls in: ironically dragged to the bottom by her heavy pearl earrings, large necklace, fat bracelets, huge rings… all of which would be returning, rightfully, to their natural, watery habitat.

“Perhaps you should make small PFDs for your larger ones,” I suggested meekly, but she savagely retorted with, “don’t get smart with me, Obese One!”

She’s utterly shameless about it. Recently she was talking to a Tahitian pearl farmer, and flirting like crazy. He finally, reluctantly, showed her some of his ‘poe ravas’ (black pearls in Tahitian). So the other islanders would not see his stash, he and Carolyn turned their backs on the rest of us. He brought out a silk handkerchief from his soiled pocket, carefully unfolded it… while Carolyn ‘oh-ed and ah-ed’ over his collection.

Finally, just to taunt me, she turned back to face me and shouted loudly, “Oh, honey! He’s got a BIG ONE!”

I don’t know how I take it.

This is one tough broad on my ego, I’ll tell ya!

“Funny how times change, isn’t it?” said the kindly-smiling chief of the little lagoon community in the Societies. “I mean, when Captain Bligh first came here, Tahitian women who offer themselves for a ship’s nail… now the shoe is on the other foot, eh?”

I grinned sickeningly, obviously not as good a sport as his gentle ancestors had been. Damn it! I hate the way the primitive savages we continuously seek out to visit always turn out to be smarter than ourselves!

Of course, Carolyn doesn’t want to just OWN the largest, most beautiful pearl in the world — she wants the world to know she does. Thus, she is a tad… well, insensitive when it comes to the baubles of other ladies.

“Did you see the mal-formed, misshaped, nicked, dull, poorly-oriented little pearl-abortion that sailbag was wearing?” she’ll snicker. “I mean, what does she do… look at it in a magnifying mirror!”

“Please, honey,” I scolded her. “Don’t chortle! And that yachtswoman probably doesn’t consider herself a ‘sailbag’ as you disparagingly refer to her… and, lastly, not everyone has a pearl necklace the size of golf balls… let alone a pennant which is… well, big-as-a-bread-fruit!

“You noticed…” she winked shyly, “…wanna see more of my… charms?”

Yes, aphrodisiacs exit. Old Chinese men covet rhino horns. The Japanese favor shark fin. Carolyn prefers pearls.

Of course, pearls are delicate things. They can’t take abrasion. Each should be individually packaged, and kept separate from the others. Thus I wasn’t completely surprised when I came down belowdecks on Wild Card (our salvaged S&S-designed Hughes 38) and found my camera equipment dumped in a pile on the floor.

“I need the waterproof Pelican case for my pearls,” she informed me curtly. “You can put your silly cameras… oh, stow them in a pillow case under the dodger or something, okay?”

“Wait one second,” I said foolishly, “aren’t pearls… like, waterproof?”

“Damn it, Fatty!” she spat at me, “are you a graduate of the GIA? No! Am I? YES! So let’s both just do what we do best, shall we? You be captain, I’ll be queen!”

“And, exactly, what does a captain do?” I asked and fell right into her trap.

“Earn,” she hissed, “and the more silently, the better!”

It is true. She is, alas, a graduate of the GIA, the Gemology Institute of America. I am not sure exactly what this group is… I thought she told me she was getting involved with the ‘C’-I-A, but, evidently, it is a much shadier, more disreputable organization.

Basically, GIA alumni tour the world stating with scientific certainty (backed-up-by-microscopic-analysis-and-a-lot-of-gobbly-gook-mumbo-jumbo) that their gems are worth a LOT of money and that OTHER GEMS aren’t.

“Have I got this right, Carolyn,” I asked her recently. “Or is my perception skewered?”

“You’ll be skewered if you don’t get off the boat for awhile and allow me sort my keshi(*) in peace!” she told me. (*I think of keshi as ugly and deformed but Carolyn spins “each keshi pearl is uniquely formed and utterly individual in shape.”)

Obviously, this whole pearl-addiction-crisis is affecting our relationship. I was horrified to discover a stash of love letters she’d recently written to Robert Wan (largest pearl farmer in the Pacific) and that she’d begun praying nightly to the Great God of Mikimotto!

Even worse, she is beginning to deify Petero Tupana, the Tahitian fisherman who, in 1968, discovered the secret to seeding oysters from the Japanese… and freely shared it with his fellow Polynesians for the financial good of all. (No, Miki wasn’t pleased!)

I mean, once Carolyn and I were having an argument and I said something disparaging about her pearls. “Don’t utter another hateful word,” she shrilly demanded. “They’ll hear!”

“What..?” I said.

“They’re sensitive,” she said dreamily, “after all, they’re CULTURED pearls, remember?”

How do you deal with that? The woman is completely (and utterly happily) delusional.

Recently we were getting into the dinghy to head ashore and I noticed she was… “Aren’t you forgetting something,” I queried. “…mightn’t we need something else for a shore trip?”

“Let me see,” she mused aloud. “I’ve got the necklace and the earrings on… do you want me to wear my pearl tongue-stud too?”

“Clothes,” I said sadly. “I want you to put on some clothes!”

“You are SO middle-class,” she lamented as she flounced back aboard.

Of course, it was almost impossible to yank her away from French Polynesia. She refused to leave, and demanded ‘just a few more gross’ of pearls. She had become utterly childlike, and, so, like the parent of brat, I was forced to bribe her.

“Ah,” I said, “but it would be a shame to miss the opals of Australia, wouldn’t it? The diamonds of South Africa? The zircons of Zurich?”

“I’ve always wanted an opal,” she said, and began to warm to the subject. “But a big one, okay?”

“Absolutely,” I promised. “The size of… a jet ski, how about?”

“Yes,” she said, as if hypnotized by her internal vision, “And a diamond the size of?

“A 55 gallon drum!” I shouted, “IF we can leave tomorrow.”

“Yes, My Hero,” she swooned, “Absolutely! We leave at dawn, My Captain!”

Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.” For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com

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