My wife Carolyn and I recently spent a month touring the US of A. We’d almost forgotten about it, actually: a large, aggressive island between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Anyway, we were born there and still have family and… well, a few people who used to be our friends still reside there.
Now, frankly, I’m not too fond of dirt-dwellers, shorehuggers or landsharks. Yes, I attempt to be understating and nonjudgmental but it isn’t easy: imagine His Fatness attempting to mingle with police officers, TSA goons, and even greed-head politicians… well, my social distress was only natural I suppose.
We started in Chicago, visiting Carolyn’s family. They’re Italian. This means the women attempt to kill you by over-eating and the men aren’t particular about which method they use. It was like spending two weeks with Tony Soprano rejects.
I don’t really understand the Italians: for decades they attempted to whack me for having sex with their daughter… and when we finally produced a child to confirm their worse suspicions, they were like, "Dat is-a nice, Fatty Boy! Sit down… eat… have a cannoli and some ricotta… mangia, mangia!"
Most of the time, we sat around and called each other dummy…it wasn’t fun but it wasn’t inaccurate either. Yes, we made sausage, ravioli… why, they even hung up their pasta to dry alongside their laundry! Every time I took off my socks I was scared they’d shove grapes between my toes.
One old wrinkled guy, Vito, got a cramp while cranking the sausage machine. He grabbed the right side of his stomach, looked concerned, and said, "…whoa, I think I’m… like… having a side effect.
My doctored warned me about ’em… and now I’m getting one."
I can never be sure if they are joking-and the price of getting it wrong is cement shoes. Maybe they’re really the funniest people in the world and just have ‘dead-pan’ down better than any other nationality.
At least my wife’s family is nicely balanced- with a priest, a lawyer and a… well, who knows how the third son earns his living, eh? (For all the talk I heard of ‘numbers’… you’d think they were all mathematicians… but why the guns?)
Me, I’m half Irish. "Dat’s why yous-guys think you can fight, sing and drink… when yous-guys can’t do any of da three," one of the Italians told me belligerently. My Chicago relatives are nothing if not subtle.
We next visited Boston to see our daughter Roma Orion. She’s living with a Columbian guy, investing in a hair dressing saloon in Uganda and just got back from snowboarding Vermont. She whizzes around in the BMW, lives in a Watertown apartment complex with more security than the UN… and claims she is doing it all to ‘help America’s urban poor’. Her plan, whatever it is, appears to be complex.
Next we visited Morgoo the Magnificent in Mill Valley, California. He’s my brother. He also owns a 38 foot custom Swedish sloop which he sails on the Bay. He’s some sort of a Left Coast, Brain’s Toast gestalt therapist. I’ve never quite figured it out… but, I must admit, I have helped him count the piles of money.
Of course, good son that I am, I dropped in to see my mother as well. She is 88 and lives in Santa Cruz. To keep busy, she visits ‘old folks’ homes and gooses the men with her red-tipped cane. (No, she can’t see them jump- just gets off on the audio, I guess). She was fine but could only spare $20 bucks from her social security check.
I also, while in Mill Valley, rendezvoused with Andy Turpin, senior editor of Latitude 38. Andy and I used to work together at Caribbean Boating on St. Thomas for many years. He and his wife Julie had two sons, "from Aaron to Zack, and that’s bloody it!" Andy says.
So there we were… dining in a fancy California restaurant… zooming around from marina to marina in a brand-new Saab Turbo… dressed in Armani suits…wearing shades by Oakley… glancing at our Rolex watches… visiting our yachty-snotty friends aboard Swans, Oysters and J/boats… and bitterly bitching about not having enough money to go cruising in countries where professionals such as ourselves make seven dollars a week (if they are lucky). Strange, eh?
Carolyn and I are now finally back aboard Wild Card, the 38 foot $3,000 sloop we recently circumnavigated aboard. Our current location is New Zealand. It is nice. The Kiwis are fine, fine folk who believe in live-and-let-live… by that I mean they avert their eyes so I can’t see how appalled they are at my behavior… or lack thereof.
Needless to say, we’re dead-broke. In America we were supposed to buy Carolyn some new eyeglasses (she complains about the duct-tape-on-her-frames which, frankly, I find rather sexy) but was unable to afford them after I purchased a new Rainsong guitar and Vaio TXN15W laptop… justified quite nicely in my new Quicken (Sea Gypsy version) accounting software as ‘ship’s audio’ equipment and ‘electronic charting device’ respectively.
Me, I’ve been active. Example: clipping my nails so I can guitar-pick without interference. Answering fan mail. Depositing writing checks. That sort of thing. True, our future plans are a bit up-in-the-air. We want to sail back to Fiji and Tonga to high-five the looters but as Carolyn says with a sigh, "So much to do, so little time!"
We still haven’t been to Micronesia. I’d like to rectify that. Yes, Hong Kong would be a gas… I’m sure Carolyn and I could straighten out mainland China without too much of problem… why, all we’d have to tell ’em is, "Be more like us," and if they pretended not to understand… why, we’d just speak LOUDER!"
Yes, life is simple. Today is the only day we’ll ever have. Now is our moment. All the happiness we’ll ever have is already inside us… why not let some of it out? Or, as Carolyn prefers to phrase it, "We all have two choices: laugh or cry. Isn’t that right, Fatty?"
I allow—wisely, I hope—the Zen Master within me to respond. "…booger in your nose!" he shouts joyously at her.