"Great two-fisted writing from the far side of hell." —John Birmingham, author, Weapons of Choice on Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I Play Piano in a Whorehouse
Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There: Detours into Mayhemby Paul Carter
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The author of Don't Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs shares more hugely entertaining stories of his seriously crazy, sometimes terrifying, always hilarious adventures Paul Carter is still, well . . . Paul Carter. He's still risking his life performing daredevil acts like trying to break speed records on unusually fueled vehicles, and he is still up to hijinks with his friends and a cast of complete strangers, both in Australia and in the U.S. Decidedly odd things seem to happen to Paul Carter (in this case falling through the floor of his own bathroom—don't ask). But, more importantly, he's still the funniest man in the bar and the nicest alpha male you'll ever meet as he rudely risks all for the sake of a good story.
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Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There
Detours into Mayhem
By Paul Carter
Allen & UnwinCopyright © 2013 Paul Carter
All rights reserved.
ONCE IT WAS A VICE, NOW IT'S JUST A HABIT
PICTURE THIS — a man with everything a man could hope for, the essentials in place, his personal pursuit of happiness completed. Solidified in a look, one that draws down deep, charging through his mind in resolute fulfilment. Just a brief look, a glance, nothing more, the clearest twinkle in a diamond eye from a wife that makes him all that he is and more.
Perfect to me, she is constantly surprising, unable to be ordinary, even when she tries, she doesn't care what other people are doing, or what they think or how much they have. She has style and grace, the ability to see beyond what's presented; she was born that way and it never fails to get my immediate and full attention.
That should do it, right? I can stop, just stop and smell the roses, and let the oil turn to stone in my motorcycles.
But it's not enough. Just to get to this point was considered impossible for so long — now it's here, what's next? It's not just death and taxes; it's not just growing older or watching your life speed-ramping into retirement. I need more, I need to challenge myself, otherwise I'm going to fail at middle-age bliss.
So I ask my wife, 'Can I go?' and she smiles and says, 'Sure, don't kill yourself.'
I carefully laid out my plan, my next bike challenge. Last time we did longevity and explored the distance end of bio-diesel; this time it's all about speed.
* * *
Two years ago in 2009 I was sitting in a bar in Adelaide opposite Dr Colin Kestell, the man behind the only properly compliance-plated, road-registered and insurable bio-diesel motorcycle in Australia. He had just agreed to let me take his bike on a trip right around the continent. He told me about another bike he was planning, one to break the motorcycle land-speed record in the alternative-fuel class — the record to beat was 210.203 kph. But there was no rider. It was right at that moment, while I sat there saying 'I want to do it' and he was eyeballing me through the bottom of his whiskey tumbler, that our friendship started.
We completed the ride around our great country on the bio-diesel bike and now this new project, conceived back then, had come full circle as well. The land-speed bike was almost finished.
For the two years I made regular trips to Adelaide to talk through our plan, I watched the bike take shape slowly. At first it was literally just an engine sitting on a table, then the rear swing arm, and with each trip another component was built and added to the jigsaw. I watched, feeling a growing sense of purpose placate my need for adventure, adventure that wouldn't pull me too far from home, because home was getting busy. My wife, Clare, was pregnant while Lola, our three-year-old daughter, ran a total muck through our previously clean and calm home.
Another cusp approached in the form of a change in direction in my work as well. I decided to buy into a new-start business, along with five other oilfield mates.
The plan was simple, perfect; my lawyer and accountant looked over the plan and basically said they wanted to buy into it, too. Good enough then, I thought.
'You read a book from beginning to end. You run a business the opposite way. You start with the end, and then you do everything you must to reach it.' These were the wise words of Harold Geneen, a successful American businessman most famous for heading up the ITT Corporation.
Going from an employee to an employer is a weird and worrying transition. My complete lack of skill sets to be a business owner also had me worried, but in the true and tried tradition of overspending we hired the right people to do it for us and thereby could go forth into the oil and gas market that at the time was wide open to a newcomer who could fill in the blanks that were severely lacking. My partners and fellow shareholders had been playing the corporate oil game for decades and we quickly grew with landed contracts and a growing client base.
I was suddenly in a place where I was making decisions, important ones that would affect the future of our business and its employees, and I loved it. I found myself in meetings that had follow-up meetings that ended up with some poor sod poring over pre-qualification tender documents as thick as the phonebook, while the meetings being held in the city would all end up in a middle-aged men's bar with more polished wood than a whorehouse. There we would sit and plot our business on large worn leather chesterfields, our neckties jutting out across unexercised bellies. Fine single malt was poured on company credit cards from decanters that took two hands to lift and looked like giant perfume bottles for men. I kept thinking it was all just a house of cards.
But I was wrong. Our ongoing success came down to one thing — people — hiring the right ones and knowing who to do business with. I couldn't believe how fast we grew, how efficient our financial team was. Within the first six months we had eighteen employees, our ISO certification and several other oil and gas specific certifications. Our ISO was the first to be granted in Australia specifically for OCTG (oil country tubular goods) inspection, a strange industry way of referring to drill pipe, or any pipe for that matter, that's used in oil and gas. Our company performs non-destructive testing and inspection of basically everything that goes 'down hole', as well as all the kit used to lift and handle equipment on a drilling rig. So as well as ISO we had to get our NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) accreditation as well, to deal with lifting inspection. We were audited almost every week by someone. Don't think for a second I'm suggesting it was easy, it wasn't. We just got lucky and after some teething we eventually had exactly the right team to make it work.
The learning curve was as fast and hard as my first desk job after leaving the rigs in 2007. So, as before, I checked my fragile male ego at the door and opened my ears, eyes and mind to new things.CHAPTER 2
I CAME HOME one summer afternoon to a wedding invitation; my old friend Ruby was getting married in Sydney. In my past Ruby was a leading influence on all the drunkest, silliest and often flat-out dangerous things I've been involved with. You know, the things you do when you're young and on a crew change from a drilling rig with a house brick of US greenbacks burning a hole through your common sense. For a long time now Ruby had existed only in my memory, frozen the way I remember her, but like me she has grown up and I suppose you could say that, at least physically, we are proper adults now. This was going to be fun because it was Ruby's wedding. It would also be fun because, being Ruby's wedding, there was limitless piss-taking to do.
So Clare and I booked our tickets for the big day. Having lived in Perth for the past four years we took every opportunity to get back to Sydney.
Ah ... Sydney in the middle of summer. There's nothing quite like it. Our flight arrived on time and soon Clare, Lola and I arrived at the Randwick flat where Clare's sister Carrie lives. The next day Clare squeezed her three-month pregnant belly into a dress and we made for Bondi, leaving Lola with Carrie and a Wiggles DVD.
Ruby's wedding ceremony was faultless. It was good to see her so happy. Her husband, Rodrigo, is a gentle soul, full of pride and South American machismo balanced with humour and love. They're a seamless couple; they're even the same height.
Everyone was there from the old days, faces I had not pinged in years, all laughing, all having fun. The reception was in a renovated hall directly above the surf club, right on the beach. With the wonderful location and amazing view, Clare and I were both homesick for Sydney by the time dinner was served. We could see our old flat from where we now sat, those heady, child-free days now a distant memory buried under dirty nappies and morning sickness.
Dessert was closely followed by a bar fight, a drug bust, and my wife pulling me out of a photo booth the bride and groom had set up downstairs for the guests to play with. Clare ripped open the curtain, pulled the cigar out of my mouth and dragged me out with a curt 'Time to go' as more police ran upstairs.
Five a.m. found me sitting on the toilet in Carrie's flat, in denial. I thought back to the prawn entree, the unmistakable and all-too-familiar horror of what was about to ensue almost made me cry. Take my word for it, twenty years of working in the Third World and more than one case of dysentery leaves your body's ability to fight parasites strong but your mind scarred. If I was about to get sick, really sick, then those prawns must have been laced with nuclear waste.
I reckon they probably were, because both ends went nonstop for the next hour.
At 6 a.m. my phone beeped. It was Ruby texting me a question: 'Are you okay? Some people are a bit sick.'
Poor Ruby. Just what she didn't need. I had visions of how her big day turned out, somewhat ruined by the entire contents of a full jug of beer being flung by one man at another man but hitting Ruby square in the face. Sensitive to the situation, I replied, 'No, I'm losing my arse, I think a kidney just fell out.'
Then Clare's face appeared at the door, and the moment I saw her my heart jumped a beat.
'Get me to the hospital,' she said as she fell backwards into the hall. I don't know if it was just sheer will, but I managed to stop expelling prawns and staggered into the hall calling out to Carrie, then remembered she had just left to go to work. It's these moments, unplanned and frantic, where you find yourself. I pick up my wife, get her dressed, wake up my daughter and drag them out to our hire car. Clare lay there crying, a towel wrapped around her waist, another shoved down the back of my pants. 'Not again,' she wept, 'I can't lose another one.' Blood was soaking through the towel, and I drove hyperaware and terrified while Lola screamed in fear in the back seat. The hospital was, fortunately, only five minutes from the flat. I pulled up level at the doors, left the car running and ran in, holding my wife, her legs trailing blood on the white floor. Within seconds she was on a gurney and rushed down the corridor towards the emergency ward.
I stooped to pick up my daughter, scared and struggling to keep up. 'Just wait here, Mr Carter,' someone said as a firm hand was raised in my face and the emergency doors swung shut.
Lola looked up at me, confused and frightened, her face covered in tears, as I then fled towards the bathroom at the end of the corridor. I had to get my arse on a toilet seat.
'Are you doing a ka ka, Daddy?' she asked as I hurried into a cubicle.
'Daddy's not feeling very well, angel.' I was so grateful that she amused herself on tiptoe with the hand-dryer while I tried to compose myself.
We found a corner of the waiting room between a wall and a vending machine and sat on the floor. Wrapped in my jacket Lola eventually fell asleep. A long hour went by. The room bright in fluorescent light was quiet; there were only two other people there, reading old magazines. We all looked up as a doctor walked around the corner, his eyes scanning the room.
'Mr Carter,' he said, and hurried over to me. I stood up, leaving Lola asleep on the floor. 'Your wife is stable and sedated, but I'm afraid she's going to lose the baby.'
There was nothing I could say.
'You can come and see her now,' the doctor prompted. I picked up Lola and followed him down the hall.
Clare lay on a bed in hospital greens, full of morphine and anger. Morphine can make a sounding board for emotions that's big enough to raise the roof. 'This is fucked,' Clare said, as her head rolled from side to side. I put the still-sleeping Lola on a couch in the corner of the room and tried to comfort my wife, but she was livid with rage. I can't remember how much time went by. No one told me anything so I assumed the baby had been taken out and was already long gone. The doctor did say they had administered the maximum amount of morphine and that Clare should be much more sedated than she was. This is the fight that lives in my wife; she was not letting go, not for any reason.
Suddenly she sat bolt upright. 'Bathroom.' Her right hand ripped out the drip and amazingly she got to her feet in a second. I rushed in to steady her and help her to the toilet. As soon as she sat down she passed out, slumping forward into my shoulder. At that same moment our child fell out of her, into my left hand.
Time stopped, warm blood dripped between my fingers. Clare's unconscious weight started a lifeless roll to the left. I grabbed at her neck and sat her upright, reached across her shoulder and punched the big red panic button on the wall. I could hear myself screaming inside that the first person through the door would not be my daughter. But when Clare pulled the drip and other wires off her body, an alarm must have gone off somewhere, because two nurses burst through the toilet door as soon as I hit that button.
The rest was another blur. Again my wife was rushed away and another doctor was stopping me from following. I turned to look over my shoulder in time to see a nurse leave our room with a blue cloth in her hands. 'Stop!' I yelled without thinking. I looked back at the doctor, he was frozen, the nurse was static, halfway out of the room, her eyes darting between the doctor and me.
Maintaining eye contact with the nurse, I walked across the room that was now thick with a palpable awkwardness. My hands black with Clare's blood, I lifted the blue cloth and there was our baby, in a stainless steel kidney-shaped dish. Tears rolled off my nose onto tiny remains. The floor dropped out from under me, while my heart sank so low in my chest you could hear it breaking.
I raced over to Lola — somehow still wrapped in my jacket and asleep on the couch in the corner — and swept her up into my arms. 'You'll take me to Clare, right now,' I said to the doctor. The doctor nodded his head and held the door open for me.
Sometimes, if I have a fever or a nightmare, I see that dish, in technicolour; it wakes me up every time.
Clare was being prepared for surgery and would not be back in the conscious world for hours. I watched numbly through a glass window for a while, aware only of my wife lying there even though the surgical team worked around her. Then Lola stirred and brought me back to earth and I walked away to the waiting room. I found myself back in the corner on the floor next to the vending machine, Lola now wide awake and bored out of her mind. But we didn't stay there for long.
'What's wrong, Daddy?' She bounced along next to me as my bowel decided it was time for round two.
Several hurried, sweaty trips to the toilet later I was exhausted, cried out and beaten. Then the vomiting started again. Eventually not bothering to get up and run to the toilet I just put my head into the rubbish bin next to the vending machine while Lola pointed out the fact that there was a distinct yellow hue going on.
'Does it hurt, Daddy?' I looked up over the bin at her big blue eyes. Slowly, the blurry background came into focus and I could see that the waiting room was now starting to fill with people, who glared at me in horror and disgust over copies of Woman's Day. The door opposite me flew open, surprising us as it had remained closed for hours.
'Are you okay? Have you been seen to?' A doctor in green get-up froze as soon as he saw us. I explained as much as I could about the last few hours and he quickly gathered us up and took us into his office. 'That's my toilet, you camp in there while I get you some medication,' he said as he steered me towards a door then sat Lola down with some toys and books. A few minutes later the doctor returned with drugs to bung me up and hydrates to replenish my bone-dry system. But most importantly he told me he would check on Clare's situation.
I distracted myself over the next few hours by looking after Lola, cleaning the blood off my shirt, and pacing. I didn't allow myself to think about what I'd experienced, didn't let myself remember what I'd seen. All I wanted was my wife back, and fortunately for me it wasn't too long before we were together again.
Excerpted from Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There by Paul Carter. Copyright © 2013 Paul Carter. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Paul Carter worked in the oil industry for 15 years, and is the author of Don't Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse, Is That Thing Diesel?, and This Is Not a Drill.
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