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Monday, February 1, 1999

The Seven Foot Tall Terrorist : The strongest man I have ever met.

December 31 1998 I boarded the F/V Bountiful to begin a contract to work as a seafood processor through the winter crab fishing season. We began our journey on the ship canal in Seattle, and made our way to the Bering Sea, and began catching crab sometime after January 20th.

This is the Deadliest Catch kind of work. Our boat was unique in that it caught and processed the crab. It was the first boat in the world that had done that. The work and environment was by far the hardest thing I've done. We worked from 7AM to 1AM seven days a week. Physically, the work created a lot of pain in my forearms. The waves and the ice could have killed some of us. The waves stayed between 40 to 60 foot swells the whole season. Another crab boat near us went down with the whole crew.

Everyone on board was tough, well except for one dude that stayed sea sick, eventually began stealing cash from his roommates bags -he was beaten, fired and with a high disregard for his safety lifted over to a freight boat while our boat was going full speed in rough seas. Anyway, back to the tough guys.

There was none tougher than Muhammed Ali. He was seven feet tall, not fat and not skinny. Sunni Muslim. He observed his time of prayer everyday -out on the deck- stoically facing skyscaper size waves and hurricane force wind and ice/rain.

I just now put two and two together, just after writing that last paragraph. He did what I thought was a bizarre thing, but now it makes sense. He was doing his prayers on the Muslim schedule. We worked 18 hours a day. He had to miss some work everyday. Here's what I've finally figured out:

In the mornings, before 7AM, the whole crew just about dead from the season's work and lack of sleep, Muhammed Ali would go to the crab shack at about 6:40 and kill a massive amount of crab, splitting their body in half and creating a huge mound of legs (this is a normal part of crab processing). What was bizarre was his coming in early and working that hard.

It was to repay for the time off doing his prayers.

Everyone on board got tired, cranky....prone to argue or fight...except Muhammed Ali. Once in some cuss-word and complaining filled banter between the guys he just stood with no expression, and in a lull he said "life is beautiful".

Muhammed was in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as a somewhat independent special force type operative. He was self-funded, working in Alaska. When he returned home he would by a fresh supply of armaments and go into enemy territory 30 to 60 miles, and kill people.

I met some interesting people on the F/V Bountiful.

Two weeks after the Sept 11th attacks, I was riding a bus from Olympia to Seattle, my bus went by the Immigration Detention Center -where the authorities do interviews and often arrest if the interview goes the wrong way. I saw Muhammed Ali coming from the building and crossing the street, he was within 30 feet of me.

He apparently had gotten through whatever dragnet for terrorists was being done then. Though I imagine the authorities differentiated between KLA activities that killed Slavs and operatives wanting to kill Americans.

Who knows, maybe as a Sunni and an elite fighter, he may have gone on to international operations Sunni Jihadists do. Maybe he died in a fire fight with an Air Force fighter jet launching 12,000 bullets.

Life's Rich Pageant.