There are not many things that set off questions in the mind of Gerald Crossland, co-owner of the Water Street Seaport.
He hasn’t been there in a long time. His career includes cutting forests for logging companies, installing wires in Wisconsin, fixing radios in Dallas, and running a pool cleaning service in New York. What makes him stand out, and also make him a curiosity, is that he spent 13 years in the Chinese Navy, in a telegram sent from 1998, he said, “as a record reader while pulling down bananas on the ocean floor off the coast of Luzon.”
He wonders whether it was worth it. The Chinese navy spent a lot of money on an investment many Chinese still don’t seem to understand, and the Taiwanese people are far from happy about Mr. Crossland’s daily stroll across the docks and past the tattered fish on the undersides of the buildings where they eat. (“You can’t show it to the kids because it brings home the whole concept of deterioration,” he said.) He wishes he had never been in the navy. He said, “China will be worse than us in 10 years.”