Saturday, January 29, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 16) Repossession

 (Author's note: The kind folks over at Flash Fiction Friday came up with a prompt that broke through my mental log jam, hope they don't mind I jumped in. I'll admit I went over the 1500 word limit just a tiny bit.)

 I stepped out into the frigged cold, instinctively I cowered into the depth of my heavy coat, shoving bare hands deep into its pockets. Walking along Liberty Avenue in the blowing snow, I did my best to keep my head down to avoid eye contact with any other fool unlucky enough to be outside in this weather. I did not want them to see the guilt and insanity in my eyes. Even worse, I did not want the blood of another innocent person spilled because I could not control the rage inside me.

As I walked down the sidewalk, I could feel my toes becoming numb as the snow seeped into my shoes giving me something to focus on other than the note my right hand gripped inside the coat pocket with a surreal desperation. On the note, the address to yet another psychiatrist who I hoped would believe me as I described the nightmares that terrorized me at night and how during the day I could feel something growing inside me, slowly enveloping my soul. I deserved to be put down like some rabid dog because of the things I have done, or at least locked in some cell for the rest of my life but I couldn’t get any of the doctors to believe me. To them I was just another statistic, a number they would throw a bottle of pills at and send away. If I weren’t such a coward, I would turn myself over to the police, or even better, jump off the nearby Roberto Clemente Bridge and into the icy river below.

After what seemed like hours of walking through the freezing cold, I arrived in front of the downtown Pittsburgh office building where Dr. Benjamin Knox had his office. As my last refuge of hope it wasn’t much to look at outside, it was a typical steel and glass skyscraper, the dark gray color of the building a depressing match to the cold sky. Stepping inside the lobby I found it as Spartan as the outside with only an empty reception desk situated between two sets of elevators to offer any evidence of human occupancy. Echoes of my footsteps bounced off the walls giving the impression of a haunted tomb. Looking around I noticed the lobby was even missing a directory listing the offices and what floors they were located, something that only added to the ghostly feel of the place. Luckily, my note told me where to go and I scrambled inside the opening elevator to get away from the engulfing emptiness.

As the elevator doors opened, I saw directly inside Dr. Knox’s office. It was everything the rest of the building was not, fancy wood paneling with an ungodly amount of books lined shelves that stretched upward beyond my sight. Walking across the hall and standing in the doorway it was then I noticed Dr. Knox sitting behind his desk framed by a huge tinted window looking out at the city.

“Please come in Jacob, I’ve been waiting for you.” He said with a saintly smile. It was then I finally felt some small ray of hope. The deep shadows where Knox’s eyes should have unsettled me but I went inside and closed the door figuring it was just a trick of the light.


Dr. Knox made me feel comfortable and as I opened up to him I began to think he really cared about my condition. I said nothing about of the blood I spilled but I told him everything about my nightmares and of the thing I felt crawling around inside me. My appointment was only supposed to last for one hour but as time slipped by the doctor gave no indication he wanted me to stop talking when our meeting was scheduled to end.

Even with the relief at finding someone who seemed to care about my situation, I eventually ran out of things to say but Knox gave no hint that he wanted me to leave. “Dear Jacob,” he purred in a deep voice, “what are you leaving out? I know more is bothering you but for me to help you understand your condition you have to be truthful to me.”

“I have no idea what you mean doctor.” I said looking up at the ceiling in his office in an attempt to hide the truth.

“Don’t be coy with me boy,” he said with a suggestion of malevolence. “I have seen your kind countless times before. You have done nothing with your life except choosing to wallow in self-pity and hopelessness. Your parents, siblings, and the minor acquaintances that you wishfully call friends have all given up trying to reach you. Instead of building a life and making your own accomplishments you’ve settled for a useless and timid existence.”

His words drove deep to my core, it was true my entire life was a series of nonevents I had willingly accepted without trying to change anything. I tried to think of a friend or family member I could call for help but I came up with nothing. They had given up trying to reach me long ago. I was slightly surprised to realize this sparked the rage I struggled and failed to contain.

Knox sat in his chair smiling. “That is why I pick people like you Jacob, your common loneliness is the clay I can mold making you and others effective vessels for my works. More importantly, society churns out others like you regularly making my job all the easier. Please son, get up and walk over to the mirror, I need to show you your true self.”

The large ornate mirror hung close to the door to his office next the coat rack and umbrella container. I stood there for several seconds looking at myself and seeing nothing. I was an empty vessel devoid of any real life or friends. As Knox came up beside me it was then the thing that had taken hold of my body became visible. Black spider-like veins stretched across my face and hands forcing me to claw my shirt open to see the network spreading across my chest.

“Never fear son,” Knox said as he moved away and back behind his desk, “no one but me and others like you can see your true self. It keeps the mortals from scurrying away in fear, we don’t want to go and upset the sheep do we?”

“How did you do this to me?” I asked turning away from the mirror but keeping my arms extended as if I was dripping with filth.

“Now son,” Knox said, “you’re still early in the process and you don’t need to know the ugly details, yet. I have plans for you Jacob, I’m moving you uptown fast. I saw what you did to the young lady in the alleyway, that was talent. Believe me I know, your potential is unlimited.

The memory of that young girl came flooding back. Several weeks ago, I was leaving a theater when she called from across the parking lot. The hood of her car was raised and I could tell she would want to borrow my jumper cables and help start her car.

By the time my car was pulled over and facing hers with the cables connected, I could feel the rage building. Her smile as I saw her start her car triggered it causing me to black out. The next thing I know we are in an alley and she is covered with an incredible amount of blood.

“Why did you do this?” She whispered at me with a curious look on her face.

“I don’t know, something is inside me and makes me do bad things.” I answered back knowing how ridiculous it sounded to the dying woman.

“Just know I forgive you, but you must fight it.”

“I’ll try,” I said looking away from her.

Suddenly she gripped my arm with her bloody hand, I so surprised at the strength that I turned to look at her again. “I have faith in you,” she whispered one last time then went limp.

Her last words hung in my mind as I looked at Knox who was moving back toward me saying something about my growing talent. Something inside me refused to let go of that dying girl, her words of forgiveness and faith warred against the thing growing inside my body. My rage grew again but this time I had something to direct it towards. Fully in control of my body I ran towards Knox, charging into him and after taking a few extra steps crashing into the window behind his desk.  The force of my rage was so strong that the window shattered and we began our fall to the ground. I caught a glimpse of Knox as gravity superseded whatever powers he possessed, I was very pleased to see he looked shocked and scared.

As I fell, the bitter cold was exhilarating and I felt alive for the first time.

(Author's note: As usual excuse the typos, its quiet at the house right now and I want to get this out before everything goes crazy again. Miss Wiggles is having a sleep over and a pizza dude is on the way. A school of piranhas ain't got nothing on six little girls.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Could flying pigs be far behind now?

The uber-geeks of DARPA, always willing to push the engineering envelope for both good and ridiculous reasons, have again come up with a project that seems to defy all commonsense. Not satisfied with the use of normal helicopter transportation to move troops and materials in combat zones some group of jokers apparently feel the need to develop a flying humvee.

DARPA is calling for the flying car, named Transformer, to have an airborne range of 250 miles and the ability to carry 1000 pound of cargo. Never fear people, despite the troubled financial times we live in with the United States government swimming in a massive ocean of deficit spending while fighting futile wars with billions disappearing daily the wise men and women of the Defense Department want the Transformer to be "at least somewhat green." This is accomplished with including an efficient diesel engine in the design.

The Transformer could, if made operational, take off and land vertically and have a maximum altitude ceiling of 10,000 feet. Totally cool, but we have been fielding helicopters like the ancient UH-1 that have been doing the same thing since Vietnam. Some how the phrase "reinventing the wheel comes to mind" with the only winners being the big military-industrial suits sitting in corner offices. But everything comes down to dollars and cents and what is the price tag for the development of these armored white elephants?

It’s a lofty plan, albeit one with a relatively small budget: Darpa’s allotting around $55 million to the development and testing of prototypes.            

"Relatively small?" Yeah, $55 million dollars are microscopic drops in the overall government bucket when it could be wasted on such projects like health care, education, and preparing the nation for the coming 2012 disasters of the zombie apocalypse and the margarita mix shortage. But following the adage of the great journalistic giants I am just reporting the facts and will let you decided the worthiness of this project. Because you must remember, opposing any military boondoggle immediately makes a person a commie, terrorists-loving, America hating, socialist.

How do you get a flying Humvee into the air — and keep it aloft for 250 nautical miles? A diesel engine, according to Darpa.
The Pentagon futurists are dead-set on creating a Humvee that flies. In September, it awarded a $3 million contract for its Transformer project to Maryland’s AAI Corporation to begin tests on its helicopter-airplane-truck hybrid. Yesterday the project took another step forward: California’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which makes engines for Air Force fighter jets and transport planes, got $1 million from Darpa to provide the beating heart of the Transformer.
According to a company statement, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne are going to model the Transformer engine on their EnduroCORE, a diesel engine that generates a “high power-to-weight ratio comparable to gas turbines.” It’ll need to. Darpa’s specifications for the flying Humvee require the Transformer to stay in the air carrying up to 1000 pounds for up to 250 miles without refueling. Diesel’s energy efficiency apparently satisfied Darpa’s suggestion that the Transformer be at least somewhat green.
They’ve got until 2015 to make it work, and this week looks to be when the Transformer team is starting in earnest. Tomorrow, the Los Angeles Times reports, Darpa will pull together Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, AAI and additional prime contractor Lockheed Martin for their first Transformer parley.

Lastly, just think how cool it will be when the rich people can buy their own commercial versions of the flying humvees and are zooming through the air above all the unwashed masses.   

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nomad Feet Around Key West

When you last saw pictures from your intrepid Parrothead he had just returned to the Disney Magic from his walkabout/barcrawl in Key West. Because the Mouse charged an arm, leg, along with a very important part of his male anatomy for wifi access on the ship he was forced to limit the pictures from his adventures that day.  Never fear! I have long since returned to the confines of evil suburbia and will now share a few of the images I took.  The above picture, which for unstated reasons I liked a lot, was taken outside the Key West Museum of Art and History at the old Customs House. There were several other pieces of art outside the old Customs house with this one the most provocative. In fact it was so provocative it was a test of "moral" standards as the throngs of passengers from the ship passed by and fanned out across the island. As I hung around I saw actual families guide their kids away from the statues and restrict their children's  wandering eyes. I guess this is one of those situations where personal judgment comes into play but folks, this was Key West after all.  
There is much that draws me to Key West beside the obvious, and frankly overdone, Jimmy Buffett connection. Another draw for me to this nearly spoiled paradise is the history of artists and writers that have come to the quirky island seeking sanctuary from the stifling normality that pervades most of the United States. I have heard many say that spirit of unbridled creativity and original thought in Key West has suffered as the greedy developers and uber-rich have moved in forcing many locals and other more subversive elements out. Yeah, I can see it because much of the same thing is happening on the coast of South Carolina as the building of outlet malls, golf courses, and seaside suburban developments destroy centuries-old fishing villages and wetlands while running running poorer working folks inland. Still though holdouts remain, as I was walking down Whitehead Street I noticed this serious cool cottage and thought to myself the small house something akin to heaven. For those who do not know my usual addle brain dropping I regularly offer up I don't need any damn McMansion wedged between anal retentive A-holes who hold up inside their homes not too unlike the insane and late Unibomber. I'd rather live in a small home like that in a warm place with the ocean nearby.

But anyway, if you look at the left-side of the picture you will notice the beginnings of a large hedge that almost obscured from view of the next small cottage. As I moved on down the street my super-duper army training (yeah, I'm serious) allowed me to see some small movement behind it. Standing very still on the sidewalk I saw an old man sitting at a patio table painting a picture. My position had me directly behind his canvas so I have no idea what his painting looked like although to my dying day I will wonder. The artist's palate, placed beside his canvas on the table, was full of colors and while to me the artist looked beyond ancient for about a minute I watched his steady hand apply color to his work. I almost took a picture of him then I realized, thankfully, it would have been a huge and unforgivable invasion of his privacy. This might seem silly but as I moved on I realized this would be one of the highlights of my entire trip.           

Key West has been the center of several controversies as forces of freedom and liberty battle the prudes, greedy developers, and the perpetually uptight fearful that something will come and threaten their special position in the status quo. One of those battles was over the continued existence of the Key West "Gypsy" chickens. If I have the story right by 1890 over half of the population of Key West was Cubans seeking refuge from strife in their home country. The Cubans brought their love of "cockfighting" and I guess a few of the birds escaped. The escaped birds linked up with freed domestic chickens and after Mother Nature took her DNA encoded course created the birds that still strut around the island today.

The controversy developed as fears of bird-flu increased these last few years (mid-2000's) with the always proper and stiff normals scared the birds might be feathered Grim Reapers putting an end to their social affairs and golf excursions. I read about several round-ups and outright calls for extinction of the free feathered fellows. Thankfully I ran into many of these Key West residents and all I can say is FIGHT THE MAN, dudes.         
My original intention once Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles had left the ship for their visit to the butterfly garden was to make my way down to the Southern most point marked by the red and black buoy. When I got down there the line to pose for a picture in front of the icon was about as long as something you would see in Disney World, if not longer.  It was damn near chaos as well with people doing their best to pose next and in front of each other. The crowd seemed good natured enough and friendly but it was more of a hassle that I wanted so I walked further down to the nearby beach. 
As I drifted around I found this sign saying Tennessee Williams hung out here back in the day. Truthfully, there are many great things about this era we find ourselves living in like the internet and other really cool things. But our numbers and inventions have overwhelmed the planet and created a pace of life, here in America, that I believe is literally driving people crazy. While I completely and totally realize there is not a damn thing I can do about the situation other than soldier on and try and do things to make the world a better place I often find myself wondering about those times when things were simpler and in many ways better. It would have been totally cool to be on Key West back when Williams, Hemingway, and President Harry Truman were part of the local scene.
I have promised many times to post a few pictures of various ladies sunning themselves on the beach. This was taken on a cement pier jutting out into the water. South Beach is freaking small and far too packed for my liking, While I was sitting out on that pier I noticed this man at the end talking with a young couple who were fishing. What got my attention was that the young couple were sharing a two-part fishing pole. The young lady was using the lower half of the pole with the reel still attached and the guy was using the upper half with the fishing line tied to the bottom guide and strung through the others. It was a strange sight but believe it or not they were catching fish just minutes after throwing out their baited hooks. The kicker in all this was the old gentlemen standing next them singing 1940's love ballads. After each song he would say something about his lost love then move on to another tune. Since this was a public place I began recording the singing fella with the video function of my camera but I had a group of people start to walk in front of me and it destroyed both the view and sound.
On my way down to the ocean I passed Ernest Hemingway's home, I had every intention of going inside on my way back up but by that time the line to get inside was longer than at the Southern most point marker. Just something I have to look forward to on my next trip. Its something I need to address but I have yet to fall in love with Hemingway's writing, I enjoy it now but I have yet to have that religious experience several of my friends get when they read his works. When I returned to work I told my buddy "Tina" about skipping his house and the woman actually threw her french fries at me. Yeah, she is one of the Hemingway worshiping religious types.

After leaving Hemingway's house behind it was then I actively went on my bar crawl that I mention in the last picture post.
Saw this sign and just thought it was really cool to think the late Pan American airlines started in Key West on such a "simple" flight. Despite what others may think I am not anti-capitalist, I find nothing wrong with people taking their ideas, talents, or inventions and making money off it. Yes, I do believe capitalism does unlock the creative potential of the human spirit but I trouble with the concept is how people sell their souls to the god Profit. As much as it will piss off one of my brothers and many other people I know the United States is not, and has never been, a Christian nation. The teachings of Jesus have long since been superseded by the zealots for whom squeezing the last possible cent of Profit out of everything is the sum total and only meaning of their existence. I personally live by my easy going, beach bum, Bob Marley-influenced  attitude but I figure the Jesus dude would burn down Wall Street if he was around today.

Whoa! Talking about digressing in the extreme but moving back on point. Hooking up with Pan American back in the beginning of the golden age of aviation would have been a totally seat-of-the-pants adventure not too far off from some Indiana Jones movie. There was some smart and brave men in women back then. I hope we still have people like that, although from watching the news and seeing the strange lifeforms that parade around on reality shows I have serious doubts.

Okay, calling it quits on this pictorial adventure segment, I can tell must of you have already drifted away and while I have close to 400 more pictures I promise that I will not only keep most of them to myself, I will wait until I get the underwater camera developed before I show anymore.     

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Dude Abides, Even On A Cruise.

The beautiful olive skin lady, wearing the white dress uniform of the Disney Cruise line, made her way through the crowded Parrot Key dining room looking straight at me. The expression on her face was one of calm and pure professionalism but it contrasted sharply with the merry Caribbean décor of the onboard restaurant and the shape of her athletic body the tailored uniform showed off.

Right from the start, I somehow knew she was coming to talk with me even though the very idea seemed beyond silly. The lady was someone very important and was often seen at the captain’s side during the cruise and when separate had her own small entourage following her around. Still I entertained the notion mainly because the general conversation at the table last Friday night had drifted toward lawyer talk carried on by my attorney wife and our tablemates, a couple from Rhode Island who were also attorneys, leaving me slightly bored.

Much to my surprise the lady crewmember did in fact continue to weave her way towards my table and came to stand beside me placing her soft hand on my shoulder and went as far to lean over to whisper in my ear.  Her shoulder length brown hair, which matched her eyes, fell over to one side of her neck as she brought her lips close to my ear. Her touch was like that of an angel and it matched her Italian accent leaving me in wild anticipation of whatever she was going to say.

“Mr. Johnson,” she said in a soft voice, “I need to talk with you privately for a moment.”

At that moment I think the extremely surprised look on my face was pale in comparison to the one my wife wore followed closely behind by our tablemates. Despite whatever fantasies that had tumbled across the largely barren plains of my mind as the beautiful crewmember approached it was clear as spring water that her tone was one of total business and that I better get up and follow her. Just for the record, I will state even though most who read my posts should be able to guess, I would have followed this lady any place she suggested. Unfortunately, our destination was only a small alcove a few feet away used by the waiters to store things like utensils and other small items.

Still standing very close to me the crewmember, whose nametag had “Marta” printed on it, handed me an envelope. “Mr. Johnson,” Marta began, “we have received word from Customs and Border Protection officials that they want to interview you tomorrow once the ship docks at Port Canaveral but before you disembark. It is just routine but it would be unwise to be late, or heaven forbid miss it.”

I opened the envelope she handed me, pulling out the letter inside and read the same thing she had just told me but in more official and legalistic terms. I was dumbstruck as to why Homeland Security types might want to interview me. Yeah, I had done several stupid things out of the country and on my past Disney cruises but never anything that might warrant such attention. The only things that came to mind were a couple of unfortunate occurrences.

The first happened while on a weekend pass during my basic training in 1984 and had me sleeping in a dumpster in Juarez, Mexico hiding from a guy and his buddies upset I was with his ex-girlfriend. The second was a regrettable incident involving the lady playing Ariel the Mermaid and my hand that landed in a place she did not care for while posing with my daughter and I for pictures.

The former was an issue because it could have been a nasty problem between the United States and Mexico had I turned up dead forcing my drill sergeants to fill out mountains of paperwork but nothing Uncle Sammy would remember over the long term. The second was a deeper concern since I have heard rumors that the Mouse has a long memory to the point of making people “disappear” from their parks for their transgressions. My only comfort was that I had trouble believing that one simple country boy could ever draw the joint notice of both a Big Brother acting Uncle Sam and an irate corporate rodent.

With no other options I listened to Marta as she told me when and where to meet her in the morning and how she would escort me to see the Homeland Security people. After being mesmerized by her eyes and trying to pay attention to her words she gave me a dazzling smile and lightly touching my hand, which again reminded me of the touch of an angel, she turned and walked away.

Returning to the table my wife, in her lawyer frame of mind, read the letter Marta gave me several times trying to figure it out. “Well.” she said, “It’s probably nothing but if I don’t see you in a couple of hours after you go to meet them I will figure they carted you off to some prison.” With that, she handed me back the letter and went back to her crème brulee dessert and talking lawyer babble with our table mates.

The next morning the phone in our stateroom rang at 6:00am and I found Marta on the other end. “Just wanted to make sure you were up and ready to meet our guests.” She said in a much too cheery voice that challenged my angelic assumptions about her.

Truth of the matter this whole turn of events had spoiled my last night on the Disney Magic. After dinner I just retired back to the room my wife, daughter, and I shared leaving them to attend the final party next the Goofy pool alone. To say I was worried would be an overstatement but even while in the military dealing with authority types on a daily basis I hated being hassled by the Man.


I arrived at the Guest Services desk just a few minutes later to find two other people like myself waiting for similar “interviews.” One was a bald dude nervously fondling a different colored passport than mine and the other guy was clearly American and it was obvious he had not let the impending arrival of Uncle Sam’s paid monkeys ruin his final evening onboard.

Marta marched the three of us down to the Walt Disney Theater, a huge auditorium where they have Broadway-like shows, and to seats close to the stage but off to the far side. On stage at that time was a collection of seven or eight Customs and Border Protection agents sitting at a table reviewing the paperwork of the foreign-born workers that ranged from waiters to ship’s engineering. The line of people waiting for their papers to be reviewed stretched down the stage and out a side door with no end in sight.

Each of the agents were going through the paperwork handed to them, looking them over, and asking the crewmember questions. After the agent was satisfied that particular person presented no threat to the Republic the crewmember was dismissed and would march down the stage, visibly relieved.  This would have the Customs and Border Protection agent bark for another person in the line to come forward and begin the process again.

It may just be my distaste in having to deal with the Man but I found the agent’s demeanor coarse and rude to a bunch of people who fall over themselves continually to make fat Americans, Canadians, and Europeans happy. If any of the crewmembers, almost all from Third-World countries , wanted to do nasty and horrible things to anyone they had more than enough chances on a regular basis.

Finally, Marta, who had been standing close by, was able to catch the attention of the chief government monkey who marched down the stage with all the self-importance of an egotistical military general after retrieving a few papers from the table he shared with the other agents. Marta introduced both the agent and us to each other and stepped back to allow the monkey to do his job.

The first thing that came to mind as the scene in the auditorium rapidly developed was one some movie involving a POW camp with the guard walking in front of the nervous prisoners watching for any sign of rebellion. The agent stepped in front of Bald Guy and reviewed the papers he brought down. After asking for the Bald Guy’s passport, he immediately told him he owed the United States government nearly a hundred dollars in unpaid duty fees from 2006.

Bald Guy in the space of five minutes went from claiming he did not owe any money to thinking his wife might have paid it already. The Customs agent, clearly enjoying bald guy’s discomfort, then said that he could either pay it right there or go ask his wife and find a receipt but that he would hold unto his passport until the account was settled somehow. Bald Guy then quickly ran up the steps and out of the auditorium like a scared rabbit.

While Bald Guy was being interrogated Mr. Agent allowed one sheet of his collection of stapled papers to fall free and I was able to read some of what was on the print out. Much to my surprise I saw my name but the picture beside it was not me, along with that was a long list of crimes with “murder” standing out among several lesser crimes. Because of that, I had some understanding when Mr. Agent focused his laser-like attention on me.

Mr. Agent asked for my passport and I handed it to him with all sorts of stories about mistaken identities and innocent people spending decades in jail for crimes they did not commit going through my mind. Despite my sudden growing trepidation, I had to stifle a laugh when I realized Mr. Agent looked like a Disney character.

Because of Mr. Agent’s full and bushy mustache and his more than average arrogance, I could not shake the thought that he looked like the sheriff police car from the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars.” After what seemed like an eternity Mr. Agent handed me back my passport with a grudging acknowledgment saying I was free to go.

Not looking a gifted horse in the mouth, I pocketed my passport and got the hell away from the Man. Now that left one final guy for Mr. Agent to check out, but through the whole thing I believe he was asleep in his chair feeling no pain. I’m all for solidarity amongst the oppressed masses but I’m also about taking it easy and not ruffling the feathers of the Man for no good reason, plus I was close to missing my last breakfast on the ship and you always have to keep your priorities straight.

This is the letter I mentioned, as usual I have changed names and blacked out portions that would identify the lovely "Marta's" true name. Covering my butt slightly more the Disney Magic was a totally fantastic experience that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys cruising. Please do not think I will abandon this avenue of posts, I have tons of pictures that I will get to posting whenever things calm down around here.  Also excuse the typos, Since we returned home late Saturday I do not think I have had more than thirty minutes where no one was screaming my name. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Key West Walkabout

Got to be quick because while the resort in Orlando charged out the butt for wifi the Disney ship has truly taken it to another level of piracy. Pulled into Key West today with Dragonwife and Wiggles going off to see a butterfly garden. That left me free to do a walkabout/ bar crawl.
Made it all the way down to the most southern point on the continental United States but the line at the red and black buoy was far too long to even consider waiting for a picture. Instead did a picture at the southernmost house then walked on the nearby beach. Nothing much to talk about except I was the oldest dude there which was uncomfortable and depressing in a way.I remember a time when hot young babes asked how's it going. Now all they ask is how things were.  Middle age is starting to be a bummer.

After that I made my way to the Green Parrot, Blue Heaven, and several other places but it all rather fuzzy now. Internet provider is freaking out and will have to sign off. I apologize for not dropping by the usual places but will get back to everyone as soon as possible

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Side Trip To Harry Potter Land

Wanted to post something real quick because they charge out the ying yang for wifi where we are staying so I will not run off at the mouth like I usually do. Left a day early to hit the new Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios in Orlando. Dragonwife thinks Potter dude is hot so we spent the day hanging out at his new theme park. Wasn't half bad and actually the ride,"The Forbidden Adventure" housed here at what amounts to the American campus of Hogwarts was awesome! One word of serious as a heart attack warning, if you ever come get here as soon as the doors for the ride open. We did and it was still a twenty minute wait. A couple of hours later the line was A MILE LONG. No jokes or any type of exaggeration, after you add up all the twists and turns in the line they had setup for people feeding into the ride it can get a mile long. Wait times for four to five hours are said to be common.

As for the "The Forbidden Adventure" or whatever hell its called imagine a ride that throws you from side to side as it goes and team that up with an IMAX screen and as well as all sorts of mechanical phantoms, spirits, monsters, and irritating Hogwarts students and you have something that people almost get religious over. Yeah, some of the fans walked out of the place like they had just experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. 

Stayed the last two days at the Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Studios and it is freaking sweet. Old time style but like I mentioned, had to pawn Miss Wiggles for several minutes of wifi. Leaving tomorrow for the Disney Cruise, hope everyone is doing okay. After finishing up with the parks and getting Dragonwife and Wiggles to bed I went and hung out at the resort tiki bar. Met a bunch of great people, including the bartender Jessica who had me dreaming of ways to take her on the cruise.  Later everyone, will have boring videos of the ship and activities sometime late tomorrow.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Rainy Day at Riverbanks Zoo

Rainy Sundays are good for only a few things in Columbia and visiting Riverbanks Zoo is one of them. My daughter Miss Wiggles and I skipped out of the house living my wife and son behind and found the zoo nearly empty. Besides the workers there were only six other people giving the impression that the zoo was ours alone. On a normal sunny and warm day Riverbanks Zoo can take on the atmosphere of a crowded theme park.
We have a new kangaroo exhibit that you can walk through without any fence or other barricade separating you from the animals. There is a zoo employee watching everything to prevent anyone from trying to pet the 'Roos. Yes, my daughter was desperate to give one a hug.  This fella was under a shelter and was looking at us like we were crazy to be walking in the rain. Yeah, I guess he could have been right. 
Some of the animals at the zoo have the advantage of leaving whenever they want. This cardinal is one and was hanging out at one of the many places selling food looking for dropped french fries or pieces of hot dog bun. After shelling out six bucks for a hot dog Wiggles said she needed the next thing I know the bun is in a thousand pieces and the cardinal is flying off saying, "See ya' wouldn't want to be ya."

While the cardinal can leave some who crawl in and get caught become permanent guests. This cottonmouth crawled in for a visit a couple of years ago on a warm summer day and after scaring a couple dozen guests was captured by an alert caretaker and after a period of isolation is now on display. For those who don't know cottonmouths are nasty snakes with very bad attitudes. They are quite territorial and in fact I had one come after me one time back in Georgetown, South Carolina. My granddad, after hearing about it, said I probably got to close to her nest. Out of all of God's creatures I cannot stand these animals. I like gators better than them and that is saying a lot.   

Little dude here is a Grand Cayman Blue Iguana who has the duty on that island of spreading around the plant seeds. In fact many of the plants rely solely on the native iguanas to make sure their seeds get dispersed. Of course the Grand Cayman Iguanas are the most endangered species of iguanas with a wild population of no more than 100 to 175 individuals. Been to Grand Cayman and it is seriously overdeveloped with massive resorts probably taking much of what was once the iguanas habitat. On this particular visit this was my favorite animal and I figured he and I could have hung out all day on some beach with him smoking dope and listened to reggae.

Panamanian Golden Frog showing off for us, little fella and his buddies were all hanging out on the rock position under the heat lamp. Hey, they may not be free and wild but there are worse existences. Pre-Colombian tribes thought seeing one of these bad boys was a sign of good luck. As long as they didn't touch them, their skin is highly toxic.
This was the scene of a nasty marital fight with the brightly colored male, and certified jerk, pecking the head of his mate. If she ever gets fed up and kicks the living shit out of him I hope I am around to see it and laugh.
My daughter was wondering what this Jersey Cow's name was and when I said "Snookie" off the top of my head I got a vicious snort and a very dirty look in return. I apologized to the offended bovine and quickly left.  
Now this was bordering on the weird but primate dude here looked majorly depressed. I wish I could name this species of ape but it has slipped my mind and I forgot to take a picture of the information display that told me but I think they are related to Howler monkeys. I did three weeks in Honduras back in 1988 and suffered an assault of  poop throwing by Howler monkeys hanging out in the trees. The Howlers actually seemed to get a kick out of flinging poop on us which was about as exciting and dangerous as things got for me for that three weeks. As I watched the fella sitting there I felt so bad I would have gladly taken a couple of  hand fulls of poop to the body if it would have made him feel better. 

Miss Wiggles and the lorikeets. At Riverbanks you can feed the lorikeets little cups of sugar water , which are sold by zoo personnel just outside their enclosure.  We both seriously dig the colorful birds and after all our visits and feedings I believe we have developed relationships with some of the birds. The birds wear bands around their legs and one bird I believe has picked me out as a fantastic place to leave his "mark." I will save everyone from the nasty details but once I see that bird I always have to wash my hat when I get home.    
The bird in question is the one on the left and this was about a minute before he jumped on my head and did his business. You know I enjoy the birds so its no big deal. Their colors are so bright and they are so alive and active its a small price to pay. For those who might be wondering yes, I am smiling.