Austin Johnson grew up around boats in Toledo, Oregon. He graduated from maritime school five years ago, and got a gig working for Military Sealift Command, transporting cargo to exotic ports like Kuwait, Crete, and Beaumont, Texas. He's been with Crowley Maritime Corporation for two-and-a-half years now, balancing a life of hard, honest labor on a tugboat with frequent, lengthy shore leaves spent terrorizing Portland. In spite of all his spikes, Austin seems the type of boy you could bring home to mama... until you put a drink in him and he turns into, well, a sailor.
How did you get into it?
It was that or become a logger, a fisherman, or a meth addict. Tugboating was better pay, and harder, more hands-on work.
What's your schedule?
It's whenever I feel like going to work. Either I run out of money or I'm bored or they need people for a job somewhere. Most jobs are several weeks. Last job I was sitting in Valdez for 37 days, doing nothing.
Just letting the money pile up?
Fuck yeah! Eleven grand. I love my job.
What's the best part of the job?
Being able to look and act and be the person I am. I can be tattooed wherever, wear any kind of haircut I want, dress the way I want. I mean I don't put the mohawk up, but...
What do you do with your hair when you're on the boat?
It looks like a My Little Pony. It's curly. Sometimes a guy'll have clippers onboard and we'll trim up the sides so I don't look too much like a hippie.
What kind of slogans do you shave into your hair? (Currently he's rocking "Go Fuck Yerself" and "Grow a Dick.")
Stuff that pisses people off.
Got any crazy stories? Like maybe you saw a little baby seal?
I've seen cooler stuff than that. You ever heard of phosphorescence? When the wakes glow green? One night we were coming back out of the Aleutians at night, and you couldn't see anything but these dolphins swimming through the water with the phosphorescent green streaking off of them. It looked like sperm zigzagging everywhere. Or shit, the time in Virginia when we came back from the bar and this dude on the street had been shot in the head.
What about women? Do you get a lot of use out of the line, "My ship leaves tomorrow"?
I've had my share.
What do you do when you're not working?
Piss people off. Drink. Have my friends pull knives on me. Shit like that. VIVA LAS VEGAS