Ask Howard Blackburn

Our “Ask” series is an advice column with a special panel of guest columnists. Today’s guest columnist is noted 1800’s Gloucester resident Howard Blackburn.

It takes me a long time to type with no hands.

Please excuse me, as it takes me a long time to type with no goddamn fingers.

Dear Howard:

I have a problem at my office with food theft. Three days last week, my lunch was missing out of the office refrigerator! A few of my officemates suspect “Bob”, as the remnants from our lunches are always on top of the trash after “Bob’s” scheduled break. Do we confront him? Go to HR? This is wearing on my nerves!

Hungry in East Gloucester

Dear Hungry:

Ah, I know that feeling all to well. The year was 1883, as you must know. I managed five days without food or water – a vast hell on earth, the frozen wasteland of the sea my only distraction from the corpse at my side. I considered gnawing my frozen hook-shaped hands for sustenance, but knew my blood would not stop gushing until it iced over. I hungered. I hungered for not only food, but for the embrace of my mother, for the feel of land beneath my feet, for the warming flames of a distant campfire. I have hungered in my life, but I go on. I always go on.

Dear Howard:

I am in seventh grade and I like a boy named “Peter”. He is smart and cute and funny! But I don’t think “Peter” likes me. I asked him to go to the spring dance with me, but he said no. How do I get “Peter” to like me? What if he never likes me?

Sad Girl in Rockport

Dear Sad Girl:

You must listen to me! Listen to me now, your life is at stake in these times of desperation. Row, missy! Row, nothing matters but rowing. Not your hands, not the death of your mate, nothing. You must row, finding the strength somewhere for that next movement of the oar, push, set and pull. The minutes, hours, days will be of interminable length. Everything inside you will be screaming for the sweet release of death, but you must continue on.

Dear Howard,

My husband is flirting with other women on Facebook, and it drives me nuts! Most of them are old high school chums or coworkers. He claims he’s just being friendly and since everyone can read it he’s doing nothing wrong or lying, but I hate it! How do I get him to knock it off?

Steamed in Magnolia

Dear Steamed:

Your situation, does, indeed, sound rough. Mind you, not rough as “sailing around the world with no fingers,” but tough nonetheless. I, too, know what it is like to watch something you have no control over. I watched my dorrymate die after the second day of our separation from the schooner Grace. I knew he had no fight left in him, but I could not stop rowing, and I watched the life slowly leave his body and I could do nothing. I carried his body to shore so he would have a proper burial, even though it meant I had to row with an extra 200 lbs, my hands long frozen into hooks. It was all I could do.

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