Monday, August 10, 2015


Welcome to Fury Road, 2015. Three families. Ten people. Ten Stops. Lots of patience. One white van. Witness me. WITNESSSS MEEEEEE!!!!

What originated as a crazy pie-in-the-sky idea, a "Wouldn't it be crazy if we..." turned into a "Yeah, we should..." turned into a "We leave this Sunday." Well, that departure date was yesterday, and we loaded into our white van and tore out of town for some brain battering adventure...

"Wait, what? A white van, you say? All ten people? For thousands upon thousands of miles?" 


"But but but...I thought you loved each other. I thought you wanted to continue loving each other. I thought you gave up being masochists?"


A white van.  A Ford. Nothing too kidnappy. In fact, it's very space shuttle-esque.

We christened our white van "Vinnie" as in "Vincent" as in "The Van that...Goes."  Vinnie blazed across the desert road. Our first foray into adventure happened right off route 66 right after we passed the Arizona border right near Kingman City...we were running low on fuel (Fumes, maybe? Who knows.) Tiffany was feeling clenched staring at the gas gauge, and gas stations were seemingly few and far between the endlessly stretching road. I outwardly appeared quite cavalier about the whole thing with a lot of obnoxious "WE'LL MAKE IT TAKE A CHILL PILL!" but inside I was starting to quiver a bit. The needle was at "E." Just in time we found a place curiously called "Crazy Fred's Brothel and Truck Stop."

"WHOA WHOA WHOA!" you might proclaim as your chablis comes out of your nose. "Look at all the children in the above photo! This is a family vacation! And you take them to a place with 'Crazy' in the name?"  I totally agree with you, and know what you mean. In this day and age condoning such insensitive labels to the mentally unstable is inexcusable.  But we needed gas. Eric, the one adult in our group who is single did take the personal initiative to investigate how a place could come upon such a name...but after walking about for two minutes he quickly returned with a look on his face that simply said, "How soon can we drive away from here?"

After that we drove for a few minutes on the actual Route 66 all the way to Mr. D'z Diner. (I guess they don't teach proper spelling along Route 66.) The Dodge tribe had been to Mr. D'z before and always had a good meal. And it was the same this time... after lunch, Tai Dodge Yu took its collective first selfie with Joyce's selfie stick.

Not too bad. We'll get better. But we were a spectacle to watch try to take this...grouping together...screaming at one another...trying to get the sign in the frame as well.  And admittedly, I look like I photobombed someone else's photo...

But after some more road we finally made it to our first real destination: Meteor Crater...for selfie attempt number two...

Again, there was much turmoil in the taking of this picture. Much screaming, elbowing, jostling. Swearing. Other tourists were starting to watch us instead of staring out at the crater. (BTW the crater was amazing and big and science and stuff.)

Charlie's hand-sketched postcard for Meteor Crater.

Driving back from the Meteor Crater to Flagstaff the heavens opened and dumped on us. The rain was pounding on noble Vinnie so hard that visibility was almost to nothing. It was so utterly violent and dramatic and fun. And then within a half hour or so...

maybe we'll see...

Then today team Fury Road woke up at the crack of dawn and headed to Williams for the obligatory pre-Grand Canyon visit Wild West Show. It didn't dawn on the adults until after some shootout action was happening and some of the small ones in the group were already flinching and grabbing onto arms for security that at this very moment we were introducing them to the idea of cold blooded murder as entertainment. It must have been perplexing when everyone started to clap after some of those cowboys dropped dead...oh well, welcome to the human race...

As it was the two other times I've seen it, I always have difficulty completely wrapping my head around the fact that the Grand Canyon is real...but it is, and magnificent.  So we took more photos.

This time our group selfie as more efficient...yet I still look like I'm some idiot passer-by jumping in at the last moment.

Tomorrow, we leave Flagstaff... and head to Albuquerque... a place I'm very much looking forward to visiting... until then.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


When I was...oh, I don't remember now how old...maybe six or seven, my Gram went with my Aunt Peggy and Uncle George to Hawaii. All I was told was that she was going to see the Volcano. I'm guessing now that it was the Big Island. I remember my Aunt Debby volunteered to watch me and our animals while Gram was away. I remember the morning Gram left very clearly.  I remember feeling very excited and happy for her. That was one of two times Gram ever went on a serious vacation, to my memory. Even as a young boy I knew that she deserved a break from taking care of her grandchild...however wonderful I was.

She pulled away in what I remember was a limousine.  Maybe it was some sort of town car. I stood at the screen door, I can still remember that old metallic rust smell of the frayed screen close to my nose. I watched her car disappear down the block. And then I burst into tears. The realization washed over me...I didn't want Gram to die in the Volcano. Images of exploding rivers of hot lava coursed through my brain. I remember my Aunt Debby was caught off guard by my own sudden explosive river of tears. Just a few moments before I was joyously saying goodbye. Now I was bawling. I remember she resolved to make me scrambled eggs to make me feel better. And they did.

I think that I've mentioned before the fact that I didn't ever travel as a kid. But one point that I might not have mentioned was that Hawaii seemed to be the place many of my relatives -- and now Gram -- went without me. What made it magnified was that the house I grew up in was originally decorated in a heavy hawaiian theme. We had pictures of waterfalls and flora and fauna and sunsets with palm trees all over the house. The back yard still had remnants of Tiki decorations throughout the neglected yard. Hawaiian music populated our old stack of records and eight tracks. Hawaii was a presence in my childhood. Like a third hand story told over and over again. Yet I'd never gone, myself. Until a handful of years ago when we went to Oahu. And now I'm on the Big Island. And two days ago we took a day trip down the Island to Hilo to see...The Volcano.

For part of this trip we were originally supposed to stay in Hilo...but a really bad storm reduced our luxurious house to a structure without electricity. The owner offered us a heavy discount if we were interested in the "camping" environment...but we passed and elected to stay in Kona for the entire time we are here. And it seemed for a brief moment that we weren't going to venture that far from Kona, either. But after thinking it through...we strong-armed Joyce into agreeing that we should go. Full disclosure, even I wasn't sure if it was worth the trip. The Volcano only had steam coming out right now... Is that worth driving for an entire day?

But it wasn't just the Volcano we were going to see. We decided to pack a lot of sights in along the way. And we resolved that in order to break up the long drive we would have as much of an adventurous spirit as possible.

The first stop hit me like a ton of bricks. The Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park. See, all during my childhood I grew up with this picture on the wall of the living room, right above one of the old chairs...and it was of the Fierce Kii -- these wooden carvings of the gods. But back then I had no idea what they were or where they were located in Hawaii. But they've been rattling around somewhere in my memory, lying in wait. Then Tiffany showed me the brochure for the national park and it was like that scene in Ratatouille where the food critic tastes a dish from his childhood: and we zoom through his eye into his memory where he finds himself a child again. And that's what it felt like for me.

And now, here I was, standing before the actual structures that I had scene on the wall of my childhood home for so many years. It was thrilling and oddly satisfying. I was standing there, showing my kids something, in person, that I only knew in a limited dimension as a child.

The other noteworthy thing is that whenever I imagined Hawaii in my head...I always imagined this very spot. I thought the entire place looked like this, so it was very strange to finally be standing on a spot that essentially existed in my imagination for so long. Hawaiian Royalty had it pretty sweet, by the way...

But it was hot, and right after we left, our caravan stopped off for some fresh fruit smoothies and treats. I myself had an amazing chocolate covered apple banana that was ALSO covered in macadamia nuts. We also tried fruit I'd never had before called Abiu. The promise was that the scooped-out meat tastes just like vanilla pudding. I say our camp was 50/50 in agreement to this promise. I personally think the consistency was wonderful. I'd eat it again.

Our next stop was another place that I didn't realize was on the Big Island -- the black sand beach. Again. As a child I'd seen photo after photo of the place. So being able to dig my own toes into the beach was deeply satisfying. All in all the day we went was a tad too touristy for my taste. I think the beach would be much more enjoyable as I remember them in the photos...completely empty!

But we did see some turtles sunning themselves. They were so over all the people staring at them.
Further along we found this fantastic place to was this great local bakery/diner. I had Lau Lau pork for the first time and all of my tastebuds were dirty dancing in my mouth. We also snacked on fresh pies, so the kids were heavy with food for the final leg of our drive to the Volcano...and this happened.
Now, Joyce is suspicious that Piper is pretending to sleep in this photo, but if she was indeed faking it she's scary good at it because she was motionless for an hour...just like this.

So finally we get to Kilauea. Before we left on our trip, Chase and I had a conversation about the safety of visiting a live Volcano...and I found myself now on the other side of that moment in my childhood.  Unfortunately, lava was not flowing by any stretch of the definition, however there was steam rising out of the crater, which I found incredibly unnerving. Thinking about that...matched with the steam vents we saw on the way in...just made me feel like we were nothing but little bugs on a sleeping giant. By the time we were done with getting the kids their SECOND Junior Park Ranger badge of the day (They complete tasks and a Park Ranger swears them in and they get badges! For free.) everyone was tired and ready to beat it back up to Kona. But I pushed everyone for one last adventure not far off...

It was again spooky and impressive. And is the case with any of our "Cave" explorations, Chase was weirded out and Charlie was thrilled to the bone.

After we said goodbye to the Volcano National Park we scrammed over to Hilo where we hit KEN'S HOUSE OF PANCAKES and oh my sweet lord the food was ample and good. I had corned beef hash Loco Moco. Take that, health! After we all were happy and full of wonderful dinner, we drove through intermittent yet fiercely present rain bursts, back up to our wonderful pad in Kona. We nearly drove around the entire island. Now THAT is a wonderfully productive day.

Today, we lounged at the beach and the pool, and as I was baking in the sun I thought a lot about yesterday. I'm really glad we all went on that jaunt. Many of our travelers may not necessarily remember all the finer details of yesterday later on in life...but who knows?  Maybe, one day, some random image of something on this island will generate a burst of memory to bring them back to this very moment of their childhood. And it won't be a memory of staring up at a picture on a wall, but rather one of seeing, smelling, and feeling the experience on their own.

It was the best Hawaiian day.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Okay, here are some quick lessons in how to speak Hawaiian. I mean, if you're going to go to Hawaii, you need to know the language, right?  Here we go...

Hau`oli makahiki hou ... it means, "Hey, how is that rash?"

Maui nui a kama ... "Look! I got a tattoo!"

`Okole maluna! ... "Oh my god a sea turtle bit my penis."

Really, those are the only expressions I've found useful while being on the BIG ISLAND.

We got in two days ago...myself, Andrew Dodge, my wife, my two doting, adoring daughters who listen to my every request, and then my wife's Sister Joyce and her wonderful family- hubby George and daughters Tyler and Piper... as well as her very close cousin Eric and his son Cayden.

Our flight was as smooth as Morgan Freeman's voice. We jumped in two Chevrolet Cruzes. The "Z" let's you know that it's a revolutionary envisioning of what an American car industry strives to be...thank you groundbreaking with your whopping four cylinders and the soupcon of cloth on the if the car's going through some sort of puberty...anyhoo, these cars get us where we want to go. Thank you, Avis.

As soon as we were in the cars we zipped to lunch at my Eden...the place that makes my most favorite beers in the world...the Kona Brewing Company. I love you Kona Brewing Company. If you ever need a hug, you can always count on me. 

After we dranked and lunched and I had beer offerings that aren't available on the mainland (Curse you Kona Brewing Company, for split seconds at a time I hate you for this!) we headed to our humble abode for our stay... we rented an entire house at the Mauna Lani Resort...two stories of pure Hawaiian vibe. All the kiddies can run around and we can BBQ and lounge about together instead of being divided up into hotel rooms.

We rested for a few hours and then hit our first beach. A neat little pocket of blue water with "resort access" and calm laps of ocean that allowed the kids to sploosh about happily while we could watch on with our toes dug into fine sands and waving palm trees...

But the next day, we were on a mission to see a king and two beaches. Our first stop was the statue of King Kamehameha...

I think I was the most impressed by this statue...built in the late 1800's in France and lost at sea for years before being dragged up by fisherman and used as a storefront decoration before they realized what in the world they had...and now it is put up on a pedestal and loved by the locals. Nearby there was a tree with a caution sign. So all the adults, naturally, put their precious children underneath it for a fantastic photo opportunity.

We then hit the road and traveled a bit further to check out a pretty sweet view at the Pololu Valley Lookout. It was a nice view and a great chance for more photos. Chase was pretty nervous one of the other kids would just step back over the edge and tumble through the brush below...

The road to and from this view made us all feel like we were in Jurassic Park, which was awesome to try to explain to the little kids what Jurassic Park was... A bit further back from whence we came the road was very rural and we kept seeing signs that said "Self Serve Fruit Stand" in which the locals would put out whatever fruit they grew and then, using the honor system, you left money for the fruit in a cash box left next to the fruit. I can't put my finger on it but something about this really stuck with me, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I wish more of the world could be like this... Eh screw it later we bounded back down the coast and hit a roadside offering of Huli Huli Chicken and ate it at Spencer Beach Park. 
Spencer beach park is neat combination of camp ground and picnic area. The water was warm and refreshing after getting greasy but delicious chicken juice all over our bodies.

The one thing that is remarkable about this island is all of the lava rock everywhere. At least I think it's lava rock. It makes the scenery we zip by be that much more mysterious and different...that is when we aren't rolling down the windows to make the kids giggle.

Let me get real for a second. This vacation is all about beach time. It's what all the kids like most and, frankly, it's what my mind needs right now. So after we swam about at Spencer Beach we then moved on to Hapuna Beach...white sands and big waves. And then today all we did was snorkel at Kahalu'u Bay...where the kids and I saw a sea turtle... and then we went right back to our little beach near our house for some easy-going splashing and drinks....

Tomorrow...we pay a visit to a volcano! Are we all happy about the long drive? I say...YES. WE ALL ARE!

Monday, September 2, 2013


Alright so here's the deal.  I didn't blog every day.  In fact, the last blog I wrote was right after our mystery cab ride.  And now it's over a week later and...we're all home.  I'm typing this in my bedroom- "where the magic happens"- at my desk.  The magic being my writing.

So much has happened and I didn't keep a daily blog.  Why?  Because, A) I was on vacation.  And B) when on a cruise ship the working internet is about as rare as a Cinnebon that was "totally worth it."  So my motivation, for lack of a more charming term, to write on a daily basis was for shit.  But I'm smarht.  I've got brains and a memory and photos and Tiffany proofreading to reminding me.  We made memories with no regrets. We had an adventure of a lifetime...

So backtrack with me.  But don't get all worked up if you catch a typo because I'm in a state which you will read about later...

It's true...nothing makes a person feel more superior than being in the presence of animals that are there purely for our entertainment... but the day after trekking through Disney's Wild Animal Kingdom we hit the other "Wild Side" of entertainment...Disney's Hollywood Studios.
There were some good rides.  Tower of Terror was a tad different than the one in Anaheim...the elevator rolls through a hallway before the plummet stuff...and there is a great roller coaster that goes from full stop right into a loop- aaand soundtracked by Aerosmith...not bad...although Aerosmith, eh...  The entire premise of the ride was that "The Guys"-being Aerosmith- invited us all backstage and their manager has taken the trouble to get us a "super stretch" limo to get us there through all that LA traffic. (Pssst!  The super stretch is the roller coaster!)  The band members had dialogue to expository speak all this up and it was prett-y obvious why they are rockers.  Overall, I have to say that Disney's Hollywood Studios was our least favorite theme park.  And if you live in the land of California-Luvin' then don't even waste your time and shekels when in Orlando.  It's merely a mish-mash of Disneyland and California Adventure.  All of it.

One really cool thing that was there was a giant imperial walker peeking out through the trees. Chase, as avid of a Star Wars fan as I am, was more than ready to re-enact a scene where she was a scoundrel durilian smuggler on the run from the Evil Empire.

Here's the thing about my nine year-old.  I cherish how she's still "game" for most things.  That tweenie self-consciousness hasn't yet seeped into her brain.

Chase is ready to be goofy.  And I love it.  One day it will change, as it does with all of us.  When it happened with Charlie it literally was overnight.  She woke up one morning and was different.

That's why with Chase I really try to take in every moment of her kid-hood to the fullest.

They did have a "TRAM TOUR" a la Universal Studios Hollywood, but by the end of it we weren't sure if it was just all a hoax.  The Tram tour took twenty minutes and literally went in a veeerrrrry slow, fifty yard diameter figure-eight pattern, where we passed by "vehicles used in some movies you might recognize" then finally culminating with some "special effects" behind the scenes humbuggery where a tanker truck catches aflame during a flood storm.

As I said, by the end of it, I felt hoodywinkled.   Then by the end of the day we tried to catch the Indiana Jones stunt show, but an actual DELUGE storm, sans out of control exploding tanker truck, poured down outside.  Thunder boomed and lightning cracked and the show was cancelled for everyone's safety.  We bought two umbrellas and had italian for dinner near the hotel. 

The next day was a big one... for Tribe Yu were arriving during the afternoon to rendezvous with Tribe Dodge.  But that was the afternoon and we still had most of the day to fill so what did we decide to do? 


Muggle whhhaaaaat?

We were jonesin' for more butter beer and the dragon roller coaster and Harry Potter vibe.  And it was worth it- as maniacal as it might sound.  WORTH IT I TELL YOU!  WORTH IT!

But the afternoon came soon enough and Charlie and I went to the airport to meet up with Joyce, George, Tyler and Piper.  

This vacation was very significant.  Sure, we've done little jaunts to Vegas together and stuff like that, but this was going to be our first true "big family vacation" since any of the kids have come along. This was also a big deal because so many people were coming that by default both Tiffany and Joyce were going to be having to run ground support for any vacation logistical challenges.  A daunting premise to say the least. But one that they were very happy to take on.  Joyce even recruited Charlie to design the official family vacation shirt.

We found the Yus and then all of us shuttled to the hotel to rest up...because the next day...


At the crack of dawn the rest of the family was flying in.  Tiffany's Dad, Mom, Aunt, Cousin Eric, Cayden (who was so excited he arrived already wearing his swim goggles.) , as well as a basketload of Tiffany's Parents' friends.   Tiffany had it all organized like a military operation.  Armed with a three ring binder, Tiffany had everyone's confirmations, boarding passes, ticket slips, and other triplicate.  I gotta tell you Tiffany's organization on this was a work of fucking art.  Sure, Van Gogh could paint.  But could he help an eighty five year old man board a ship without his passport because he left his passport in his luggage which he already checked on to the ship- yet he himself could not be allowed on board because he didn't have his passport?  I think Vincent would have just killed himself right then and there. 

So we all met, breakfasted, then boarded the Carnival Ecstasy!  Oh Carnival.

Once we boarded I got that same feeling I did the first two times.  Hearing that electronic BONG after you first put your cruise id card in the machine, confirming that your existence on this ship is fo' real.  The smell of the interior of the Lido deck.  The Mai Tais.  The water slides for the kids.  The Mai Tais.  The Mai Tais.  The ocean.  Our balcony view.  The Mai Tais.

It's all the reasons why, against every natural instinct of my personality...I really enjoy cruising.  And now I can share the magic with MORE loved ones.  I think I was the most excited when first aboard.


Day one of our water adventure was FREEPORT!  There, we found a pretty beach...and maybe a Cuban Cigar or three...and just simmered in the sun and the view.  This particular cruise we weren't keen on having many active adventures....just beaching mostly....and Tiffany's folks and their friends were keen on one thing in particular.  CASINOOOOOO.  On the boat and at every port.

The beach was beautiful but to me the most memorable moment of that visit was watching Joyce lock horns with the taxi van driver while waiting to be transported back to the dock.

Joyce: Why aren't we leaving yet?

Taxi person:  Da van isn't full.

Joyce: Well how many people do we need to make the van full?  My kids are hot.

Taxi person: Two.

Joyce: Well, when will they come?

Taxi person:  Dey always come.  It won't be long.

Joyce:  I don't understand this.  You said a taxi leaves every half hour but now you're saying if we don't get someone else by then then you won't take us?  So if someone doesn't show up for a few hours then we have to wait? We paid for a taxi and now you're saying we can't go?

Taxi person:  How cyan da van go if it isn't full?

It was so big city mouse vs. island-time mouse.  Something to think about.  For the record, and my safety, I totally fuckin' agree with Joyce.  The kids were hot.  And so was Joyce's temper, WAPISH! TSSS!

By the time we got back on the boat Charlie was in full CIRCLE C club (a club for teens to do legal stuff) mode.  And this girl leaned into it with VIGOR.  Every day she was gone at 4pm and didn't come back until 1230 or 1.  Every once in awhile Eric, George and I would tipsily stumble over to where she was to check up on her, and we see her chatting up other chatty teens.  I'm pretty sure Charlie had the best time of us all.  Truth be told I didn't really see much of Charlie during the cruise.  I have snippets of memories of her coming in time with a glow necklace...another time with glow in the dark sunglasses... kind of a change from the last cruise when she'd proudly show me whatever artsy craft she'd done at her kid's cruise camp.

All the other kids, in general, ran hot and cold on the on-ship camp facilities.  But between us all, there always seemed to be a room with an adult where Chase could play with her cousins when camp wasn't calling her interests.

The next day we anchored off the coast of an island owned by Carnival called Half Moon Cay.  This place was beautiful and there was enough space for all the beach-going passengers.  The sand was pale and nearly as fine as soot and the water as blue as the drinks the Carnival Staff were trying to sell.  We had a full day at the beach and it was lovely swimming with the Ecstasy bobbing in the background.   I personally feel it was one of the highlights of the cruise, and if anyone disagrees I just might fight them.

I have to say that it was fun having Eric and George on board with me to enjoy libation with, although because there were so many other people we were with I didn't have as much chill time with Tiffany.  I'm not sure if she minded that much.  Maybe that was as she planned.  Heh.  This particular night, after Half Moon Cay, George introduced me to a Long Island Iced Tea.  Never had one before.   I've always just had the straight stuff...none of them big city mixed drinks...  I have to say, me likey.  I aim to have Tiffany try one...muaahahaha.

But there was something else important about this day.  


Unholy Christ.  I'm the father of a teen.  Please hope for the best for us all.  I feel like a town that is boarding up its windows and looting all the water in preparation for a hurricane...

So we sang happy birthday and had a great time at dinner...and Charlie then zipped off to her Circle C kids club.

Day three saw our ship to Nassau.  How do I explain's the thing...didn't know exactly what to expect from a cruise to the bahamas...but I literally thought it was going to be a very quiet, pristine experience where all that could be heard were the turquoise waves and me gulping my Mai Tais.  I thought this and after having been on two other cruises!  I know.  What a rube. 

Alas, Nassau was just like most ports-o-calls- the moment we stepped off the boat it was a virtual D-Day style assault of Carnival Cruise folk demanding we pose for pictures they would try to sell to us back on board later that day, then a mere few steps later we got hammered by taxi drivers, vendors, hair weavers, people offering tours, cold water, drinks, food, scooters.  We couldn't walk five feet without being aggressively hit up.  And it was hot.  And steamy.  And the kids were in no mood for adventure. For Nassau was not to be a beach visit...but rather...a walking-about visit of the city.  We decided to check out the Queen's Staircase as well as the houses of government stuff.  We trudged in the heat...over skinny sidewalks and whizzing, honking cars.  A fusillade of sweat blinded us.  My shirt looked like I was lactating.  (By the way I've always held that if men lactated beer there'd be no more war.)

Finally, before we got to the Queen's Staircase, we had a mutiny on our hands.  Everyone but two brave souls peeled off from this Bahamian death march to return back to the boat.  And those two brave souls were Tiffany and her loyal husband.

Come on!  Right?!  We're here so why not make the most of it!  The Queen's Freaking Staircase?  How many times do you get to climb a staircase generally named after a queen?  Just its title alone suggested so many steps we'd probably shit ourselves silly trying to climb them.  What a challenge to write home about!  But the wife and I were game.  So after the "poo poo party" left us for tame things like "air conditioning" and "cold water" we were all the more resolved to make the Queen's Staircase our royal little bitch.  All nine thousand and eighty three and a three quarters steps of it...cue electric guitar soloooooo bwwwaaaarrr!


Okay.  Truth be told there are only sixty five steps at the Queen's Staircase.  I mean, my heart got working a little bit.  Maybe.  Frankly, I've had to take more stairs walking back to my car after an 'SC game.  But the journey is what is important, not the destination!  And speaking of destination, once we tackled the staircase- we were but a gasp away from a little old fort on Bennet's Hill.   A FORT!  Oh, the kids would just be bleeding out of their eyes with jealousy once we told them about the old cannons we saw!  And the sumptuous view of the entire island at the highest point of the fort.  Joyce, George and Eric would be rolling around on the floor, wildly yanking at their tongues with raucous regret when they found out we got to see the entire fort for ONLY A DOLLAR.  See, you went to the ticket booth and paid a dollar and got a ticket...then you walked five steps and deposited previously mentioned bought ticket into an unmanned box, and you were in, BABY!  Victory was ours. And we capped it off with a Bahamian beer and some Conch Fritters.  Don't worry about how the fritters were-mere details.  But the beer was cold and rewarding.  And Tiffany and I had our adventure.  And it was nice to spend a looney moment or two with just my woman.  Turns out the kids were, in fact, NOT jealous in the least.  Joyce and the others were NOT regretful.  I don't think they understood what we did.  I'll keep trying to convince them on their loss that day.

But even though I couldn't convince them of their loss, my mood was solid because the next day was the day I had been looking forward to the most.  My favorite day on a cruise.  The "Day At Sea."   Just a full day of cruising in the ocean.  No hustle, bustle ports o-call stuff.  Just relaxing and enjoying the sea... it was the day, months earlier, I would ebulliently describe to the family during the pitch to get them to join us on the cruise.  So I was sooooo looking forward to my day at sea...

But then I got a little tickle in my throat as I was going to bed while planning my "drink protocol" for my day at sea.  Later in the evening that tickle turned into a scratch.  Very quickly the scratch turned into pain.  And by two in the morning, my throat was so sore and swollen that I couldn't even swallow.

I was sick.  Not just "sick" sick.  Nay.  I had contracted what felt like the plague.  For the next twenty-four hours I was bed-ridden.  Every point in my body ached with contagion and I could feel my chest just filling with fluid.  All I had to eat was a little soup and bread.  And just like that my day at sea was lost.  Lost to some sort of viral pestillence that specifically hated me. 

I was so sick that I was starting to really worry about the immediate future. The day after our day at sea our cruise was done!  We were getting off the boat in the morning and taking a quick jaunt to the Kennedy Space Center- then in the afternoon flying back home!  Just ONE of those enterprises seemed utterly impossible to me at that moment.  I wasn't sure what in the hell I was going to do.  If I couldn't stand for more than a minute, how was I going to get off the boat?!  So I just kept thinking to myself, "I'm getting better, I feel myself getting better..."  The only time I wasn't sleeping was when the discomfort of my existence woke me up.  A particularly painful moment was when Tiffany popped in to the room and took my free drink vouchers, planned by me for my morning bloody maries, so that they could be enjoyed by others.  I didn't even want to look at the water.  I tried to sleep out on the balcony but the scourge was driving any enjoyment out of my mine.  Every time the tv showed the "boat cam" of everyone outside having fun on dec I felt a deep sting in my angry, phlegmy heart.    Carnival Ecstasy.   You know who was in ecstasy that day?  The fuckin' virus that was feeding on my soul.  The tables had turned, oh indeed!  I was now the funship and there were thousands of obnoxious, gluttonous passengers taking ME out for a spin...

I'd been having stress dreams all during the cruise for some reason.  The first night I dreamed that one of the spelling bee words in my film was actually misspelled and the error was such a big embarrassment that my career was over before it had even begun.  That dream woke me and made me pop right up out of bed- which was an egregious error because the head of the bed was under a bunk I sprang up only to brain myself back to sleep.   The next night I dreamed that at my film's premiere it was revealed the movie was completely changed, rewritten, and reshot by someone else...and awful.  The next night I dreamed that I had committed a  murder I hadn't remembered committing, and George had deduced that I had done it and was going to turn me in.  (Thanks, Stress-Dream-George.)  But the night of my illness my fever dreams weren't of fears or anxieties.  They were nothing but shapes and colors fluorescents swirled with deep blues.  A junk heap of cuboids and cones and boxes littered with intermingled wiry squiggles.  Some impression told me that they were all on my chest.  But as the night went on, they left one by one.  Until the only shape left was a perfect cube. And finally, at five a.m. I awoke to the thought that the cube was gone.  And I couldn't believe it, but I was better.  Not completely.  But I could shower, and eat, and most importantly for that day's itinerarial demands...move.  

So the day came to say goodbye to the Carnival Ecstasy.  In the past getting off the ship has been incredibly hard for me.  But I was so focused on keeping my shit together that it seemed all I wanted was off the boat. 

By the time we got to the Kennedy Space Center I was feeling, if nothing else, emboldened by the success of my disembarking triumph.  I wish we had more time at the KSC.  It was amazing.  Not to go off on a rant here, but I truly feel that The Kennedy Space Center is one of the few places on earth that man has created that stands as a testament to his greatest accomplishment.  Words can't describe looking out at Launch Site 39- where all the Apollo and Shuttles thundered off from. The visit didn't do it justice, and one day I hope to return.    

Chase on the space pooper.

One awesome note, though...we got to see the Shuttle Atlantis.  That makes THREE shuttles that I've seen in person.  I saw Columbia land.  I've seen the Endeavor in its recent arrival in Los Angeles.  And now, Atlantis.  The way they set up the craft was amazing.  Pitched at an angle with the bay doors open.  God Damn, we can do some amazing stuff when we really want to.  Some people like to try to see every baseball park in the U.S.  I think an even nobler goal would be to try to see every shuttle exhibit...

So not much later I found myself on the Virgin America flight back to Los Angeles, my head filling with congestion and swirling with memories of our two-week vacation.  Even though it ended with illness and injury (George damn near broke his hand while playing a punching bag video game in the ship's arcade and Joyce was starting to feel sick, too.) I can say that it was an amazing time.  Fuck, you know...I really hate the word "amazing," now.  All of its value has been sucked out of it by pop culture.  I think a more accurate term would be...wondrous.  Yes, that feels better.  It was a wondrous time.  I can't quantify being able to experience new things with Charlie and Chase.  Every vacation is different, because of locale as well as the girls are getting older.  That means all the moments and memories make you a better member of the family in different ways.  That's what I think.  And this time, too, I was able to spend time with Tyler, Piper, and Cayden.  I can't wait to blaze the high seas with those little sea dogs again!  And to be able to spend time with Joyce and George and Eric, when we get each other laughing there is nothing better...

A pilot was riding in the row in front of me and at one point glared at me and my suppressed sniffles and phlem-rattling chest, all the while reaching up to open up the air vent above him to full- I would assume in the hopes to keep my emitting scourge away from him.  The glare was a prick move, and he did try to soften it by making it seem as if he was checking out the rest of the cabin behind us.  But I know he meant it for me.  And I don't blame him.  I was gross, but needed to get home.  I had my face in tissue the whole time as my head was getting crushed by the adjusting cabin pressure.  A hilarious low point was as I was shuffling to the back of the plane to get more tissue from the bathroom, out of the corner of my bulging eyes I saw a dollop of snot jump from my nose, like a huge, glorious raindrop. Without even thinking twice I caught it in my hand like a lucky penny.  A pretty swift move if I might say so myself.  I don't know for sure but I think some horrified passenger on the aisle in front of my approach witnessed this odd event.  I can only guess how long she held her breath for the remainder of the flight.

The Dodge Four's official Press Photo
So now it's about one in the morning in Arcadia as I'm wrapping this up.  And I'm off to heal a bit.  But not for long because even more exciting adventures await!