Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harry Potter and the water park in Wisconsin, really

Ya, eh? I’m a slacker-sue me. This is my first healthy break in six months and I’ve been a bit busy. Things like failing bathroom floors, rotting trees, a basement piled high with all kinds of crap and missing a door have just got be addressed. Let us not forget a dead furnace, booze and time with the family, exploring the great outdoors.

The vacation last week was just what we all needed, I think. Damn, I forgot to download the photos! (Pause to smack forehead, fill wineglass and download the damn pics).

Sorry for the wait, I was sidetracked by some leftover pizza I found in the fridge, oh yeah. Back to the vacation…

We visited the Wilderness Resort in the beautiful Wisconsin Dells, just a bit north and a smaller bit west of Madison, about a six-hour drive from me casa that felt like 20 hours after not sleeping for 2 days (don’t ask). I say beautiful, but I’m only going on Internet pictures and word of mouth because the resort is less than a mile from the highway and I never left the place to actually poke around the Dells-there was no need.

Wilderness Resort boasts about 1,000 rooms, a bunch of cabins, chalets and I think, around a hundred condos. Only guests have access to the resorts four outdoor and three indoor water parks and one indoor dry park, which made for short, or no lines everywhere we went. Each of the parks was huge, packed with things to do for all ages and a total blast. I cannot say enough about the place. From the moment we arrived, everything went really well. Check-in was at 4pm. We arrived at 11am to get in a half day of fun before getting the room-they let you into the resort and water parks whenever you arrive, getting your room after 4. Our room was ready at 11 and we hit the water just a few minutes later. For the next four days, pretty much everything went the same way. Of course, the second day I got sunburned pretty bad, painted with only SPF 30, instead of the 200 recommended by Mr. Bud-doh! A pleasant mixture of Pina Coladas and Cyclobenzaprine took care of that mistake for the rest of the trip, however. We ate a lot of semi-junk food, drank a bunch of coladas, hit every single water park and the dry park, twice. LP ran amok, or swam amok?? everywhere we went. She made a few friends, as did PW and I. The last full day we floated around a big, lazy, man-made river on tubes with a nice family from Madison and LP was nearly jumping out of her skin having another whole family to hang with in water park heaven and we, too enjoyed the adult company. We only bothered to take pictures one day and most were pretty fuzzy for several reasons…so, here’s one…

[Ed. note: I have no idea why I have a picture of this unknown person's back??]

…and another blurry one that sums up the time we had there.

I also promised a shot or two from the Harry Potter book bash at the local bookstore, so here’s my little witch before the party, around 10:30-still sassy and chipper…

…by midnight she was one pissed-off witch and I was thankful her curses weren’t magic!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

HARRY POTTER and the waterpark in Wisconsin

LP and I hit the HP at the local bookstore. Some fun was had, pictures were acquired and I'm on page 575, roughly 3/4 of the way through the book. No spoilers, here, but I must say this-so far this book would make the worst HP movie. I cannot imagine how they would make it into a movie anyone would want to see, other than to find out the end of the HP story and by the time the movie is made, aborigines on Borneo will know the whole story. Hell, most of them probably have the book by this morning.

Anyhoo, I'll post some pics later. I need to tie up some loose ends and try to get some sleep. We're heading South to the Wisconsin Dells to hang out at a water park resort for the next 4 days and I need to get some sleep before we leave in 5 hours. I'll post from there after I get settled tomorrow. Man, I hope you are all having a WONDERFUL summer:)

By the way, If I can get PW to take pictures, you might all get to see me drop a tree on my house next week...

Friday, July 20, 2007

The breaks

Thank God my brakes were only 700 bucks! I thought I was going to end up spending 700 bucks on my brakes and what a drag that would have been. Fuck. I think it was the Queen who said something about hoping my brakes don’t cost another wallet of cash. Well, they didn’t-I only had about eighty bucks in there and had to write a check. I was going to say that’s the breaks, but instead of being a smart-ass, I’ll note that In 1901, British inventor Frederick William Lanchester patented disc brakes and 206 years later they cost me a fucking fortune.

On the plus side, dealing with and worrying about my brakes has made it easier to put off cleaning out the basement in order to get at the plumbing for the bathroom. I’m supposed to be preparing to completely gut the bathroom and redo it from the floor joists up, before I head back to the ship and after our mini vacation at the water park resort. If I play my cards right and schedule another vacation in between the water park and crew-x, I won’t have time to do the bathroom and when PW falls into the basement taking a shower sometime in September, I’ll be thousands of miles away, paying some contractor the equivalent of three paychecks to teach LP what plumbers butt is.

Well, it’s 2:30am and PW just stomped through, reminding me that most people around here sleep at night. I’m still working on that…

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Holy crap, what a day. Packed up little pirate and some beach accessories, stopped at the ex’s place, grabbing the middle pirate and her stepsister (who’s just about little pirate’s age) with a plan to take all three girls to the beach. First, I wanted to get rid of some garbage in the back of my pick-up; dumping it at the county transfer station, but before that I stopped at the gas station to grab a few bottles of water.

I tossed my wallet on the roof of my truck while stowing the water in a cooler. You know where this goes, don’t you? Yep, I drove off with wallet on roof. It’s only a block to the transfer station. While dumping my bags, I noted a little old lady struggling to carry a bag across the station. I ran out and grabbed it from her, right in front of my truck and the three girls. At the time, I had some sort of vague notion that I would use that moment to impress upon the girls, the idea that we need to help out those in need of help and I remember thinking I would say something along the line of never knowing when it might be you in need of that help And that hopefully, what comes around, goes around. I never gave the speech, for when I got back to the truck and opened the door to grab my wallet, I realized I had left it on the roof and it was no longer there.

I drove straight back to the gas station but the wallet was gone. I knew it had made it as far as the driveway at best, but it wasn’t there. Sucks to be me. In the short five minutes I was gone, somebody picked it up and didn’t turn it in at the gas station. Really sucks to be me. Living in a small town has its advantages, such as when the need arises, you can check the county sheriff’s office, the city police, your bank and the social security office in a matter of minutes, as they are all less than a mile apart. I left my cell number at the gas station, cop shops, stopped at the SS office for a driver’s license application and hit the bank for some cash. Another small town perk-I can walk into my bank and get as much cash as I want with no ID. PW made credit card company phone calls and I had to drop middle pirate and her stepsister off at the beach with a neighbor. No beach for LP and I. Leaving there, I noticed my truck wasn’t accelerating well and pulling to the left. Fucking parking brake on the right front wheel was stuck on and smoking! I quickly peed on it. Just kidding, I squirted it with a bottle of water that had cost me my wallet. Anyway, I had to drive a couple miles to my mechanic, in short bursts, stopping to let the pad and rotor cool. He can’t work on it until tomorrow, but at some point the pad broke loose and the caliper began to function correctly, again.

By the time LP and I made it home, a lady from the next town called and left a message telling me she found my wallet and it’s contents spread out in the street in front of the gas station, picked it all up and drove home with it. I drove down to the next town and retrieved it, all of it. Nothing was lost and she refused to take the eighty bucks I tried to dump on her for finding it AND getting all my credit cards, etc. Finally, on the way to the beach at 4pm instead of 11am, I was able to explain to LP how helping that little old lady with her garbage was not only the right thing to do, but I too was the recipient of a good deed today. She just nodded wisely and asked if this still meant we could go swimming at the beach. We did.

Later, we picked up PW from her shop and drove out to our new, favorite restaurant. PW had BBQ’d bison ribs and I the shrimp and morel mushroom fettuccini. LP stared at a very large hamburger. Both of us had the spinach salad. Man , I love spinach salad. We all tried a batter-fried steak fillet appetizer with a zesty southwestern-type sauce that was meh. We also shared a fresh berry tart and cheesecake for desert, all washed down with a decent merlot. I did most of the washing down and ended up passing out on the couch for an hour after we got back home. Long day.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


On the beach 2 days and I'm starting to feel human, again. Still need more sleep and more booze. Drank a nice Shiraz with dinner after landing Thursday, then a half bottle of Multipulciano last night while grilling burgers for LP and I. Didn't sleep well-it seems we have a mouse in the attic who like to sit right over my bed and chew on something, loudly. I couldn't sleep with his non-stop mastication of something probably not meant for such. Took a flashlight into the attic and found the little bastard. He tried to give me the old Mickey Mouse look but it didn't work-his days are numbered and about to end with a loud snap...

Tonight we took LP out for Pizza, ice cream and to see the latest Harry Potter movie. The movie wasn't as dark and foreboding as the book and watching it made me realize how much the author packs into these latest books. Too much really, to flesh out in a movie. Still, an admirable job, despite leaving out a few elements that are vital to setting up the next book/movie. I think they should have added about an hour to this latest installment in the Potter series. LP was duly scared, excited and entertained and that's what counts, I suppose. I pre-ordered the last book and am contemplating taking LP to the midnight Harry Potter Party at the local bookstore this Friday to pick it up at 12:01.

The girls are upstairs falling asleep and I'm listening to some new punk/alternative music I picked up at sea, while loading up another 1GB SD card for my little mp3 player. This one with all heavy metal workout music. I'm going to take an early morning jog in the woods behind the house, tomorrow and new music will make it that much more enjoyable:)

Friday, July 13, 2007


Well, Im halfway home. Wednesday was a very long day. It began 10pm Tuesday night when I woke up to work the midnight shift and ended 26 hours later when my head hit the hotel pillow around midnight, last night. The 3am wake up call was not appreciated, but served it’s purpose in getting me to the shuttle bus in time to make a 5am appointment with the ticket counter. Despite being dead fucking tired and fogged under by booze and muscle relaxers for my back, I couldn’t sleep on the plane. Slogging through Memphis airport, I made my way to the Blue Note CafĂ© and I’m currently digging into their Memphis Slam breakfast; an artery-clogging mountain made out of two biscuits, piled high with hash browns, sausage and eggs, smothered in gravy and topped with shredded cheeses. I plan on following it with another cyclobenzaprine washed down with the last of my monster O.J.

Last night we stayed in the Battleship Inn, right next door to a retired WWII battleship. I don’t know her name but her number was 60 and I’m going to guess she was the Alabama, since I was in Mobile. The only other thing in walking distance was a restaurant in the parking lot and we tore that place up last night. Forty, very thirsty guys walked in and worked the staff to death. The bartenders were so harried, that they started yelling, swearing and got downright rude after one of them sliced his hand open trying to make a white Russian. Turned it into a bloody marry and it’s recipient didn’t hesitate one second, snatching it up and downing it, blood and all:( I managed to escape after just a few beers and a couple double shots of Jameson to wash down my cheeseburger and oysters. My opposite was delayed d/t weather and we did handover at the hotel instead of the bar. It’s always pleasant to give your opposite the lowdown and wish him luck in the coming five weeks, no matter where you are, but doing it in a bar lends a more cheery atmosphere to the whole affair. I doubt he would agree, given his point of view, but I had a damn good time, despite it being the end of a 26-hour day.

Well, breakfast is gone and I have to get gone myself. Maybe I’ll update this before I post it from home, tonight. I hope everyone out there is well.

How about an update from Minneapolis? I’ve got a 2 hr layover and nothing to do since I don’t smoke. I used to head out to the shuttle bus area between terminals G and C, where the least busy security checkpoint resides, but now? BORING. I’m walking around window-shopping until I meet the new and improved FOOD COURT. Now, in addition to the Burger King ,they have a new deli, some sort of California Pizza joint and the one I tried, a 360 DEGREE(HOW DO YOU MAKE A FUCKING DEGREE SYMBOL??) Burrito joint. I tried a huge, lime-garlic chicken burrito stuffed with black beans, Spanish rice, lettuce tomato and salsa. It’s pretty meh; too much cilantro. I’m actually, mildly disgusted with it and the Naked fruit smoothy. Don’t they know mixing blackberries and bananas makes your smoothy taste like baby food?


Finally, I am home, but I’m too tired to post this. Guess I’ll head off to bed and post it tomorrow..

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Outta here

My limo should be here any minute-see ya'll on the other side:)

Eight plus one by one (me)

Freddie tagged me, so I cannot refuse. However, me no play by the rules.

Nine habits/facts about the Pirate, some of which might even surprise PW…

1. At sea, my anality knows no bounds. Yes, Freddie, I am lurking and paying attention:) Everything I come in contact with must be perfectly placed when not in use. Even my pencils are lined up to the edge of my keyboard, or placed symmetrically next to my clipboard. I log every single thing I do in an electronic log and note the amount of time it takes to do every single task I perform, just because. I also triple-check everything I complete, and it is a rare day that a mistake gets by this triple-check (A large part of the work I perform out here is finding and correcting mistakes before the final product is delivered, so it’s by necessity, but I LOVE doing it). I count my vitamins, make sure my clothes are folded and stacked symmetrically and fold my bed linens with military precision. Before I sleep, I lay out my clothes, fireman-style (see #9), mentally rehearse and plan out every move I will make between opening my eyes and drinking my first cup of coffee, despite the fact that my morning routine rarely varies beyond whether or not I wear a belt. I can’t fall asleep until I do this.

2. At sea, I am probably considered quiet. I trade the obligatory pirate stories, but prefer my headphones and a good blog.

3. I watched more than six movies this trip and 2 of them made me cry. I Am Sam tore my ass up…I am listening to that soundtrack right now, though-GREAT BEATLES COVERS!!

4. I’ve been to more countries than states and that kind of sucks.

5. I’ve got a wart on my big toe and after trying all the commercial remedies, decided to try the duct tape method, just last night.

6. I could eat Mexican, or Asian food, or venison, and nothing else, for the rest of my life.

7. Because I’m a Geophysicist, everyone assumes I’m an egghead and a geek. However, I’m a marine firefighter, crane operator, rigger, as well as open-ocean coxswain and First Responder. Of all the jobs I have held, only in welding was I actually schooled. Welding is also the only thing I’ve ever done that just came to me, naturally. Nearly everything else has been an unpleasant fight to learn. I’m more comfortable with a sledgehammer than with a computer and would like to take the former to latter, often.

8. I own at least 30 books that I’ve probably read over 200 times, each. Steinbeck is my favorite author and Winter of Our Discontent, is probably my favorite book. I estimate I’ve read about 15,000 books, to date. PW would never have believed me back in high school if I had told her that I tried to read at least one full novel per day and that my natural reading speed was faster than Evelyn Wood taught way back when. My son is also a natural speed-reader. This is not a contradiction to my egghead statement above, I just like to read and read fast, dammit.

9. I prefer odd numbers, and things in groups or multiples of three and that is why you get nine, instead of eight. Three is also my favorite number and the day of the month I was born on. As an example, I’ve trained myself to be able to wake up from a dead sleep, completely dress, don a life jacket and arrive at the muster station in exactly 30 seconds, despite there being no such requirement. It just makes me feel better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Threw my back out hauling supplies across a pitching deck! Taking LOTS of drugs and passing out...


Today is GROCERIES and tomorrow is CREW-X AND BEER:)

Monday, July 9, 2007

bored, again

Did I mention the little widget thingy I downloaded from last.fm? It tells the whole world what music I'm listening to because, well, everyone needs to know that I listened to Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington, right after Bob Seger and just before Dire Straights. It will even tell you that after I wrote this, I switched over to Queens of The Stone Age. Exciting stuff, huh? Come to think of it, I should take that thing down until I become rich and famous and everyone wants to know what color underwear I'm wearing...um, black.

Until sunrise

Its 4:30 in the morning and the mood aboard the ship is subdued. Everyone is hiding-in dark corners, behind closed doors, between headphones, or deep in their own thoughts. There is little, or no conversation anywhere on the ship and it has been that way for hours. Operations are currently suspended, so there is no radio chatter, and there are no phone calls.

I've begun doing laundry, tidying up my workspace and things of that nature, a day early due to the lack of work and in anticipation of the next 72 hours being the polar opposite. A supply ship should arrive on station sometime tomorrow. A personnel transfer takes place tomorrow and operations should also resume late morning or early afternoon, as well.

I've retreated to my cabin after a cup of yogurt and a slice of wheat toast. I spend little time in here during the trip, but always seem drawn here near the end; almost as if it represents my home here and I'm going to miss it. But I doesn't and I won't.

Sure, I'll miss the crew. There's the guy who spent a week, mapping out a two-state, eleven-city, Hooters tour for the upcoming break. Every day, on Mapquest, tweaking his route to make it as efficient as possible. He will be filling up some sort sort of Hooters passbook in order to get a free Hooters party that consists of 200 wing dings, or some such fare-boobies included. I'll miss the tall, quiet guy who's in turmoil over his ex-wife's treatment of their children, contemplating the agony of family court. He never talks much to me and last night felt compelled to spill his guts for two hours, over too many cups of coffee in the mechanics shack. The old, wise one who just may have been the first pirate ever and is so near to retirement that he can taste it; I'll miss him, too.

I could go on, but I won't. I'm going to pack some of things going home with me; this time for good. Then, I'm going to get a cuppa joe and look for sharks cruising the edge of the light shining off the stern, until the sun begins to rise.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Got Lampuka?

Bright spot of the day (at least for the day shift). Right at shift change the Captain caught 2 monster dorado maverikos, or mahi-mahi. Holy shit are they beautiful and they fight like a muskie! Anyway, when the day shift goes down to "get 'er down the neck" it's fresh grilled mahi-mahi on the menu.

To save you a "google", lampuka tat-torok is the Maltese vernacular for mahi-mahi. Why? Just because it comes right before Zoot Suit Riot on my play list.

3 and a wake-up

Winds and seas are up tonight. Finally, some weather from the storms that seemed to have surrounded us on land for the last two weeks. My shower backed up and the water spilled out onto the floor of my head. Not a good start to the night. Coffee tastes like drywall mud and all I can think about is I've got three more shifts and a wake-up to go.

Honey, can you pick up a syrah and a multipulciano from the winery? Firesteel River is the multipulciano, but I've forgotten the name of the damn syrah, its been so long...coming in on the 5:45-let Stinky pick the restaurant this time and invite mr bud if he pokes his head out of the woods...

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A walk in the dark

Tonight I take up a mug of coffee and walk the decks in darkness. For a long while I stand on the stern, amongst the rusty free weights, a broken stationary bike and the ship’s refuse bin. A sliver of moon cuts through the approaching clouds in a freshening wind and I can just make out the low growl of the stern thruster, brought up from the depths in the thousands of bubbles germinated in the thruster’s cavitation. Lightening occasionally lights the distant clouds. Lights of a half-dozen oil rigs on the horizon twinkle like stars come to earth.

Eventually, the wind shifts, I catch the scent of the refuse bin and it is time to leave. Strolling up the port side, bathed in the yellow running lights, I look for flying insects and find none. Peering over the side in hopes of catching sight of a shark, or even a few flying fish, I see the water is nearly calm, with only a few ripples like one might see in very old window glass. It seems the closest life is several hundred meters across the still water; our sister ship sitting on DP and waiting for word from shore, just as we are tonight.

Most of the ship is painted white, but looks a dirty yellow in the running lights. It’s not pleasant to look at. In places it is crusted with crystals from the dried salt spray that seems to melt on your skin, leaving a sticky residue. Night dew from the high humidity coats the deck and my steel-toe boots squeak on the wet metal. They say that spending your life walking on steel breaks down your feet, ankles and knees. Mine all hurt, but I’ve injured them all before coming to sea, so who knows? All I know is that they hurt out here more often as I get older.

Despite the futility of such a search, I still seek a quiet spot. Even the quiet areas of the ship are not without noise. There is no refuge out here. Thrusters at the stern, hydraulics on the back deck, gear clanging from inside the open hatches on the port weather deck, unknown pumps throbbing at the bow and the roar of the engines in the mess and day room. To get to the ship’s laundry you walk through the blast of the engine room exhaust vent; taller than a man and a good four feet wide, like the hot breath of a dragon, just before he burns the knight to cinders in the old children’s stories that have been replaced with movies the likes of Shrek and Spy Kids. I curse it, every time I pass through.

So, I just keep moving, from deck to deck until the dregs of my coffee are cold and I pitch them over the side. Eventually, it is back to the noise and the cold, dry of the air conditioners, mixed with the cooling fans of several hundred computers, routers, servers and tape drives, humming like the low whine of insects on the edge of the swamp I have hunted for the last 17 years. There too, are the stories of my crewmates, heard a dozen times over the past 12 months and just this once, I will take a pass and don my headphones to write this down while I listen to some Gaelic instrumental music from an album called When Juniper Sleeps, by Seamus Egan. It is soft and quiet, like a lullaby and an imperfect escape from here, but it will have to do.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Got music?

Last night I heard a beautiful piece-Chanson Triste, composed by Henri Du Parc in 1868. It was written for piano and voice (without words, though), but last night I heard it performed on cello and piano, by unknown artists and of unknown origin. It’s something I wouldn’t mind playing when taking a left turn in a certain burgundy Valiant…

Has anyone out there heard this piece done in cello and piano? I can only seem to find orchestral versions, or piano and voice, or worse-some lousy bullshit by Tchaikovsky. As the song suggests, I am sad. Only, however, because I cannot find the version I desire.

I’ve learned quite a bit about Henri, his predilection for hamsters and olive oil and this, his first piece and that’s all well and good, but I really just want a recording of it in cello and piano, especially not in voice as that addition seems to change the character of the piano in every version I’ve found. Pianists must react differently to voice accompaniment than to another instrument. The piece was married to several lyrics as I understand it, but this poem from L'Illusion, published in 1875 by Jean Lahor seems to be the accepted combination:

Moonlight slumbers in your heart

Moonlight slumbers in your heart,
A gentle summer moonlight,
And to escape the cares of life
I shall drown myself in your light.

I shall forget past sorrows,
My sweet, when you cradle
My sad heart and my thoughts
In the loving calm of your arms.

You will rest my poor head,
Ah! sometimes on your lap,
And recite to it a ballad
That will seem to speak of us;

And from your eyes full of sorrow,
From your eyes I shall then drink
So many kisses and so much love
That perhaps I shall be healed.

I don’t especially like this translation from the French, but cannot find a full translation of my preferred version where the second stanza, line 4 reads;
In the tender calm of your arms

and the final stanza, third line;
So many kisses and tenderness

Which, in keeping with the rest of the poem, merely paints a portrait of love, or what may seem to be for one whose life is in turmoil and seeks comfort in the arms of another; allowing us to draw our own conclusions-but that’s just me and I occasionally listen to The Butthole Surfers, so what do I know?

Anyway, this happens to be the best rendition I can find. The piano isn’t quite right, but the woman has a wonderful voice, dammit.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Don't turn left with Boy George on the radio

Dorothy has just brought back some really dusty memories of music and machine. Music that was so much a part of me, like a second skin. The boom box welded to my right shoulder as I walked those thousands of Teenage Suburbia miles. My teenage years had a soundtrack and it played 24/7. I woke to music, showered to it, ate breakfast to it, walked to the bus stop with it on my shoulder and then stood off the road in the woods, smoking dope to it. My music played on the bus, blasted in the courtyard in between classes while we fried more brain cells before they could be wasted on such things as American History, Algebra and Physical Science. Music skipped school with me, nearly every day. It came on as soon as the door slammed behind my departing ass. It followed me everywhere, all day and late into the night as my friends and I partied away our youth in backyards, house parties, keggers in the woods, at the beach and the dark street corners of suburban Detroit.

We lived on Classic Rock, Album Rock-the golden age of Rock and Roll. Led Zeppelin, Rush, REO Speedwagon, Black Sabbath then Ozzie, J Geils, Jeff Beck, The Who, Styx, Aerosmith, Humble Pie then Peter Frampton, Van Halen and a host of rock gods whose hair went from long to BIG as the 70’s glammed into the eighties. Looking back I find it hard to think of anything that interested me outside of chicks, music and a good buzz.

Throughout junior and senior high I had a good friend who was given his dad’s old car. It was a burgandy, 1970 Plymouth Valiant with an indestructible, but temperamental slant-six and a host of issues that were sometimes the bane of my existence. The particular issue that Dorothy dredged up from the dusty corners of my memory was that the car disliked turning left. It would go straight forever. It LOVED to turn right. Force it turn left and it would retaliate by stalling at the most inopportune moment. Two such moments came to mind tonight as I read Dorothy’s post. The first time “Left Turn Revenge” manifested itself; my buddy and I were tripping on mescaline, heading to the local 7-11 to grab a pair of Slurpies to cut the hash-induced cotton mouth. He decided to turn left into the store, right in front of a speeding semi truck. The car stalled, we both screamed, shouted and I tried to push the car by straining against the dashboard, watching in horror as 75,000 pounds of steel barreled down on us. He managed to get the car going again in a matter of a couple seconds and we squealed into the parking lot, just as the jackknifing truck slid past us, brakes smoking and horn blaring.

Now, it might have been the fact that we popped the same mescaline, smoked the same hash and drank the same JD and had hung out together since we were runny-nosed cub scouts, but as we pulled into a parking space, we both had the same thought. “We almost died while listening to England Dan And John Ford Coley!” The horror. I think I cried. At that moment, both of us had become disciples of The Church of Always Listen To Damn Good Music Just In Case You're About Die. We talked about it often-which tune would you prefer to go out on, would you take it with you for eternity, what if God was into Disco and we always put on a favorite before turning left. Thirty years later, I still think about it and try to have good music on at all times. Who wants to die while listening to Barbara Streisand, or Simply Red? Not me, dammit.

The near-fatal left turns continued. We never did figure out what caused it and planned routes, accordingly. We NEVER turned left in front of a semi, again and we always had good music playing. A few years later the stereo and cassette player in the car died. My boombox accompanied us on every drive. Leaving high school, it was perched on my right shoulder banging out Live Wire by Motley Crue and my buddy saw another friend walking down the road to our left, cutting the wheel hard to make the closest side street, in order to pick the guy up. Did I mention the car had a host of other issues that were the bane of my existence? Bane number two manifested itself for the first time as my buddy slammed the car into a suicide left turn and I sat holding a 20-pound boombox on my left shoulder. My fucking door swung open and I went right as the car went left. Holding on to the most important possession in my life, except possibly the hand-carved pipe that sported an extra-large chamber stuffed with killer thai-stick that had been curing for the last month; accumulating resins at a rate that only a true 70’s pothead could appreciate, I was presented with a large condundrum. In the microseconds I had left to live, even my tar-encrusted brain realized that dropping my bombox to save my miserable life was not an option and trying to save it would kill me.

I ended up leaving a bluejean stain across 4 lanes of 5 Mile Road, in a graceful, left-hand arc right into the curb at the corner of Oporto Street. I had my thumb hooked around the handle of the boombox and my little finger curled around the plastic door lock. The car stalled; he lost power steering and the car slammed into the curb instead of completing the turn. So did I. As the curb ripped me the rest of the way out of the car, the lock snapped off and I cupped the boombox to my chest and rolled onto the grass next to the church that looks like the bow of a ship and up to the feet of a very surprised friend who declined a ride home. I wonder why? I ended up with a massively bruised hip, missing skin on various parts of my body, including my ass, but the boombox was unhurt and still playing Live Wire.

We never fixed the door and while it came open all the time, I never put the boombox on my shoulder after that day and got good at catching the door as it popped open with no warning. I think that was also possibly when I started wearing a seatbelt, regularly. One of the last times I remember the door opening, it happened during a quick trip to my buddy’s house from a warehouse we both worked in. Two other guys came with us to take a quick dip in his pool. On the way back, as we blasted down a washboard-like dirt road, the car began to slide right into the bank on the side of the road. My buddy jerked the wheel left, the door flew open, hit the bank and slammed shut so hard the window shattered all over us. Nobody said a word. We drove in silence back to work and after walking into the break room; I took off the cowboy hat I was wearing. Shattered glass spilled onto the table and floor and we laughed and laughed.

One of the last road trips in that car was, fittingly, to a huge outdoor music festival. We left 2 days early because we didn’t think the car would make it. That night it rained hard and we drove through a very deep puddle at about 40mph. The rusty floorboards in both foot wells disintegrated and a wave of muddy water washed over both of us. We had to turn around and drive home an hour to change clothes. We placed cardboard over the holes and avoided puddles that weekend. It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to and that damn car made it back home, though we were sure we would end up hitch-hiking.

That car ran for only a few weeks after that, but before it was put to rest, I remember how it became an ambulance for a neighbor of mine and how with the combined police force of 3 large cities looking for it and knowing he was going to a hospital, they lost him. I listened to the search on a police radio, not knowing it was my buddy in that Valiant, or I could have told them what would happen. That he would pass up 3 other hospitals in order to avoid left turns until the last possible moment (sometimes it wouldn’t start back up) and drive 8 miles, straight down Five Mile Rd. with that piece of shit floored; running 16 red lights with eyes closed, in order to only have to make one high-speed left turn and coast up to the ER entrance at a hospital 2 towns away. Despite the heroic effort of car and driver, our neighbor died, bleeding out in the backseat with his head in the lap of another friend-the victim of murder by an off-duty policeman. I met my fiend later that night, in Homicide and knew instantly what he did when I realized it was him and his car. The night spent at Homicide is a story in itself, as is the trial we ended up part of, but they are for another day. We watched the sun come up that morning, sitting on its hood getting shit-faced with two Detroit cops after a long night down at homicide. The car was retired after that-too much blood in the backseat and too many memories.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Faster Than The World?

**Sigh...** FTTW is officially on hiatus and it's Tuesday, Pirate Day:( I posted my column on the BLOG , but decided to just go ahead and cross-post it here, today. I had just submitted this column hours before the decision was made to shut down for the summer. Afterward, I added 5 sentences and changed the title, just because I was thinking FASTER THAN THE WORLD? all day.

The QUEEN’S TOES got me to thinking, and I occasionally do the backwoods equivalent of her bobbing around in the ocean, contemplating our place and significance in the universe. Especially during the warmer deer seasons, I like to find an inviting patch of ground, lay on my back, grab a double handful of earth and hang on for the ride as we spin like a top at 1,038 MPH.

Actually, at above the 45th parallel, the Earth’s surface is only spinning at slightly less than 500 MPH, but if that’s not fast enough for you, we are also orbiting our warm, yellow Sun at around 65,000 MPH. Hang on for the ride. If that’s still not enough, imagine that in addition to spinning on an axis and rotating around the sun, our solar system is also rotating within our galaxy and our galaxy is also motoring through the universe. Faster than the world.

Now, there are MANY ways to calculate the speed at which we are ultimately moving through the universe as a galaxy, but it gets messy as our velocity becomes relativistic at this point. That is to say it is relative to the object you measure our velocity from. Pick any other galaxy and we are moving away from it at a velocity that differs from the velocity at which we are moving away from any other galaxy. Faster than the world.

So, to simplify things, since I’m lying on my back in the woods, trying to be all Zen and shit, I can imagine the speed at which we are racing toward the Great Attractor-that mystical THING we used to call the New Supergalactic Center, that all galaxies in our region of space are speeding toward. We are zipping along toward our ultimate destiny at a cool 1.3 trillion MPH. Lay down wherever you are, grab a handful of ground and realize you’re hauling the mail at 1.3 TRILLION MPH right now. Faster than the world.

It’s really not that hard to find your Quan at that speed, surprisingly. It’s still peaceful and we are still tiny and insignificant. And sometime in our future; around 15 billion years from now, we will arrive at the center of mass of the Great Attractor, the trip will be over and it will be time to get up off the ground and walk out of the woods. Faster than the world.

In the meantime, I’m still at sea, still motoring along at 5 knots and wishing I was in the woods going a trillion miles an hour faster. Faster than the world.
ps. The author acknowledges the fact that most of you except for Blondie maybe, have never heard of, or give a shit about the Supergalactic Center, but is the center of gravity and mass for this region of space; densely packed with stars and interstellar matter, and due to it's gravitational pull everything in this region of space is inevitably heading in that direction. Think of the universe as a frothy, bubbling milkshake, filled with chunks of ice cream in various stages of melting. The supergalactic center would be one of those chunks. Can you think of any better way to view the universe than as an ice cold, chocolate milkshake? I cannot.

You may ask why should I care? What useful purpose can this knowledge serve? I give you this.

Oh, and those of you that still don't give a shit about all this-the above sign is for you;)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dorkback Mountain II, coming this Fall...

Sad news, for me at least:

FTTW will take a break for the summer.

Our BLOG, however, will continue and now include our SUMMER TRAINWRECKS OF THOUGHT, where we spend an entire day making each other laugh, completely blowing off work, family and the rest of the Universe, offering thoughts like "My kidney can kick the shit out of your pancreas".

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Take that show on the road

Yesterday I read THIS and thought, “Boy, do I miss the wildlife when I’m out here, at sea”. About 10 minutes later, I stepped out on deck to get to the mechanic’s shop for a roll of shrink wrap and I see a pod? of dolphins swimming by. About 4-50 of the happy, little bastards. They were just quietly swimming past the ship, paying us no mind. I whistled and clapped, like I do when I want to stand on my porch like a jackass while my dog is off screwing the neighborhood bitches, or whatever he does when he pretends I’m not calling him.

The whole damn bunch turned as one and swam up closer to the ship. The show began. Tail smacking, leaps, flips and general tomfoolery lasting for about 20 minutes. At one point, I would clap and one would smack his/her tail on the water. If I clapped twice-you got it, two tail smacks. I don’t miss wildlife quite so much now, but I can’t help wonder if Sea World is missing part of their act.