Letters from the 2nd Civil War – #4

#secondcivilwarletters

July 9. 2018

Dear Mother and Father,

The morning after the battle, the painful, traumatic memories receded a bit, replaced with painful, throbbing hangovers. Only our sense of smell gave rise to any hope for relief. The colonel and his troop returned during the early morning hours bringing with them sack upon sack of Guatemala’s finest, and two portable roasters that were now turning those green beans into light and dark roasts. The aroma was almost enough to allow me to fully open my eyes in the bright morning sun; after my first cup I was ready to dance a jig.

It turns out that the mission was delayed because of those two ever present maladies that snarl and befuddle travelers and commuters – Boston traffic, and perpetual road construction. Fortunately, the colonel had dispatched two of his men, armed only with MAGA hats, to take the subway to the airport, and scout out the FEDEX terminal.

Now by armed, and I should be clear about this as there might be future implications from The Hague, the two scouts were also carrying concealed weaponry, that although  legal in the state of Massachusetts, would, if discovered, trigger a nasty response from the U.S. Attorney General. However, if successful, the two Red Hats guarding the warehouse would be in a state of blissful compliance when the Prius convoy arrived, having been subdued by the gentle ministrations of a smoked doobie.

When the colonel arrived on the scene, he was able to convince the two dedicated Red Hats that the President was arriving at Concourse A, and that they were needed there for a meet and greet with him. That certainly got their attention, but it was when he mentioned the all you can eat buffet that got them moving. The warehouse was now in our possession, the sacks of coffee neatly stacked on pallets. There was also a set of instructions for the guards in case of an attack – dump the coffee sacks in the bay. So, in a sense, it was because of a doobie that we did not have a repeat of the Boston Tea Party, and are now able to enjoy freshly roasted, freshly brewed coffee this morning. A morning to reflect on our successes, and to mourn our lost or ruined Birkenstocks. I do not know where the Massachusetts Blues will be sent next, but I do know that like our Minuteman forebears, we will be ready.

From the front,

PB

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Second Civil War – Letters 1-4

July 6, 2018
Dear Mother and Father,
It doesn’t seem possible that it has been two whole days since I joined the Massachusetts Blues. I am struggling to survive the privation being endured by the hundreds of recruits gathered on Boston Common. There is no WIFI to speak of, so many of us are scrambling to find pen and paper in order to write, only to find out that no one brought any stamps; indeed some of the younger members have no recollection of ever mailing a letter. We are also facing a crisis situation regarding our supply of coffee. It seems the Trumpite Regime has placed a heavy tariff on coffee imported from what they term as ‘sh*thole’ countries, so Starbucks is reduced to rationing our lattes and Frappuccinos. There is a rumor floating around camp that a FEDEX plane crammed full of coffee beans from Guatemala has landed at Logan Airport. If that is true, then I expect we will receive orders to load up our fleet of Prius’, drive to Logan, and commandeer that plane. I only hope that it isn’t during rush hour on I-93.
Well, I must sign off for now. Some of the fellows discovered where the Sam Adams brewery is located, and we’re off to enjoy some patriotic ale.
Your war ravaged son,
PB

 

July 7, 2018

Dear Mother and Father,

Loads of excitement to tell you about. Last night we were sitting by the Robert Gould Shaw statue watching the movie Glory on a widescreen TV donated by the Sam Adams Brewery (I imagine because we spend a lot of money there). The fellows were in a contented state of mind, munching away on white cheddar popcorn, and Junior Mints when one of the regimental Prius’ came racing into the compound, the driver, his head out of the window screaming, “The Red Hats are coming! The Red Hats are coming!” Our commander, Colonel Juan Montalvan (the title is honorary, he’s actually an IT professional) announced that the foe has been spotted setting up camp at the other end of the Common, and that we should get some sleep as there will be an early start the next morning when we will confront the opposition on the battlefield.

Reveille blasted out of the loud speaker at the unholy hour of 9:00, the sound of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, interrupting pleasant dreams, and rousing the regiment into action. The troops were dressed in an assortment of L.L. Bean polo shirts and khakis, their feet shod in Birkenstock sandals or Earth Shoes, and after a hurried breakfast of Au Bon Pain pastries, gathered to hear the plan for the battle to come.

The Colonel split our company into two groups and placed me in command of the group heading to confront the Red Hats across the Common at Frog Pond, while he led the other half on the raid to free the Guatemalan coffee at Logan Airport. My cohort of 24 placard carrying soldiers of the Massachusetts Blues sauntered at double time, the dew covered grass soon soaking through Birkenstocks making the march a dreary, torturous affair. Some of the fellows had worn socks with their sandals and were now especially affected by the added weight and discomfort of wet cotton.

Upon reaching the pond I formed my troop in a three row deep placard-shield wall at the edge of the pond facing our foes on the other side. There were 20 of them, an unruly, ill-disciplined looking group who unlike the ordered formation of the Blues, acted like individual berserkers racing forward waving their placards, often ungrammatical, and certainly vile, shouting abuse at us or praise of Trump. Our frontline buckled at the onslaught causing the second and third rows to push back. Due to the lack of rain lately, the pond was shallower than normal, and very muddy along the shore. Many in the frontline as they were pushed forward became stuck in the mud, sinking in some cases up to their shins. Two of the unfortunates fell face first into the muck. The men in the second row rushed forward to plug the holes in the line while the third line grabbed the poor muddied wounded and got them to the rear.

The roar of a Chevy Silverado came out from behind the Soldiers and Sailors Monument leading a flanking attack of another 20 Red Hats. In the bed of the pickup sat a loud speaker blaring music by Toby Keith. I rallied what was left of the first line joining them with the third line and had them brace for the flank attack. I then grabbed the least muddy of the injured and sent him running back to camp to fetch our loud speaker. I could only hope our artillery piece would get to the battle in time.

 

July 8,2018

The Battle for Frog Pond – continued

The exhausted Blues fought on bravely, shouting witty left wing slogans to combat the patriotic overtures of Toby Keith, et. al. Then, the Red Hats switched to Kid Rock, sending a wave of nausea inducing music to bombard and confuse the Blues. The shield wall began to buckle; a few of the already mud-wounded fell to the ground, gazing in horror at the devastation to their Birkenstocks and their ruined pedicures. It wouldn’t take much more to stampede the Blues into ignominious retreat. I turned when I felt the arrival of our Prius; the loudspeaker mounted on the roof. I yelled to the driver, “Monster chorus!” Seconds later the beatific voice of John Kay and Steppenwolf were lamenting, “America, where are you now? Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?”  Kid Rock and the Red Hats were stunned; their advance halted but not broken.

The next few minutes were the most exhilarating of my life. The Red Hats, knowing they needed just one more surge to send the Blues running, switched from Kid Rock to their heavy caliber weaponry – Ted Nugent. As soon as I heard that maleficent voice and the screeching Cat Scratch Fever, I near panicked. My troops were falling, staggering backwards, the battle was lost. I then heard a voice screaming, “Jimi! Rockets red glare.” I glanced around to see who spoke but saw no one. The Prius driver heard it too and queued up the best version of The Star Spangled Banner ever recorded, then at full volume turned it on at the spot where Jimi is rockets red glaring and bombs bursting in air. The Red Hats threw down their placards and bull horns and ran. The Ted Nugent playing Silverado started shaking, and in a shower of sparks and smoke the loud speaker exploded.

One by one the Red Hat’s fleet of Chevy Silverado’s, Ford F-250’s, and Dodge Ram’s sped off toward the Mass Pike. The Blues were victorious; the field was ours. I was filled with pride, not in myself; I will let the historians drone on about my masterful battlefield leadership, and the historical-fiction writers to embellish it with so much hyperbole that it will rival Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar or Chamberlain’s on Little Round Top, but in the fellows who withstood the best the Red Hats could throw against them. I told the Prius driver to do a quick follow up on the Red Hat’s retreating pickup convoy and then report to the Colonel about our victory. It was then I came face to face with the stark reality of the cost of that victory. Of the 24 Blues that I led to Frog Pond, 11 of them were now causalities of war; many of them would never be able to wear Birkenstock footwear again, the painful memory of the mud, so thick and malodorous, would render them incapable of ever seeing them in any other way let alone donning them upon their feet. There were also cases of pulled muscles, the strain on hamstrings more used to sitting for hours in front of computer displays; the weight of the placards and bull horns too much for shoulders and backs to bear. An emergency medical situation faced us, our supply of Icy Hot and Ibuprofen having been accidentally taken by the Colonel on his Logan Airport mission.

The long march back to camp, under a merciless sun was ¼ of a mile of sheer torment punctuated by cries of anguish as the mud-wounded, and muscle strained troops limped back or were carried by the more fortunate among us. We were surprised, upon arrival, by the fact that the Colonel and his men had not yet returned from the Guatemalan coffee rescue. It probably would have been the right military decision to send out a search party, but sometimes leadership is more than going by the book. So instead of a search party my troop boarded the remaining Prius’ and headed to Sam Adams.

July 9, 2018

Dear Mother and Father,

The morning after the battle, the painful, traumatic memories receded a bit, replaced with painful, throbbing hangovers. Only our sense of smell gave rise to any hope for relief. The colonel and his troop returned during the early morning hours bringing with them sack upon sack of Guatemala’s finest, and two portable roasters that were now turning those green beans into light and dark roasts. The aroma was almost enough to allow me to fully open my eyes in the bright morning sun; after my first cup I was ready to dance a jig.

It turns out that the mission was delayed because of those two ever present maladies that snarl and befuddle travelers and commuters – Boston traffic, and perpetual road construction. Fortunately, the colonel had dispatched two of his men, armed only with MAGA hats, to take the subway to the airport, and scout out the FEDEX terminal.

Now by armed, and I should be clear about this as there might be future implications from The Hague, the two scouts were also carrying concealed weaponry, that although  legal in the state of Massachusetts, would, if discovered, trigger a nasty response from the U.S. Attorney General. However, if successful, the two Red Hats guarding the warehouse would be in a state of blissful compliance when the Prius convoy arrived, having been subdued by the gentle ministrations of a smoked doobie.

When the colonel arrived on the scene, he was able to convince the two dedicated Red Hats that the President was arriving at Concourse A, and that they were needed there for a meet and greet with him. That certainly got their attention, but it was when he mentioned the all you can eat buffet that got them moving. The warehouse was now in our possession, the sacks of coffee neatly stacked on pallets. There was also a set of instructions for the guards in case of an attack – dump the coffee sacks in the bay. So, in a sense, it was because of a doobie that we did not have a repeat of the Boston Tea Party, and are now able to enjoy freshly roasted, freshly brewed coffee this morning. A morning to reflect on our successes, and to mourn our lost or ruined Birkenstocks. I do not know where the Massachusetts Blues will be sent next, but I do know that like our Minuteman forebears, we will be ready.

From the front,

PB

 

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Letters from the 2nd Civil War – #3

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The Battle for Frog Pond – continued

The exhausted Blues fought on bravely, shouting witty left wing slogans to combat the patriotic overtures of Toby Keith, et. al. Then, the Red Hats switched to Kid Rock, sending a wave of nausea inducing music to bombard and confuse the Blues. The shield wall began to buckle; a few of the already mud-wounded fell to the ground, gazing in horror at the devastation to their Birkenstocks and their ruined pedicures. It wouldn’t take much more to stampede the Blues into ignominious retreat. I turned when I felt the arrival of our Prius; the loudspeaker mounted on the roof. I yelled to the driver, “Monster chorus!” Seconds later the beatific voice of John Kay and Steppenwolf were lamenting, “America, where are you now? Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?”  Kid Rock and the Red Hats were stunned; their advance halted but not broken.

The next few minutes were the most exhilarating of my life. The Red Hats, knowing they needed just one more surge to send the Blues running, switched from Kid Rock to their heavy caliber weaponry – Ted Nugent. As soon as I heard that maleficent voice and the screeching Cat Scratch Fever, I near panicked. My troops were falling, staggering backwards, the battle was lost. I then heard a voice screaming, “Jimi! Rockets red glare.” I glanced around to see who spoke but saw no one. The Prius driver heard it too and queued up the best version of The Star Spangled Banner ever recorded, then at full volume turned it on at the spot where Jimi is rockets red glaring and bombs bursting in air. The Red Hats threw down their placards and bull horns and ran. The Ted Nugent playing Silverado started shaking, and in a shower of sparks and smoke the loud speaker exploded.

One by one the Red Hat’s fleet of Chevy Silverado’s, Ford F-250’s, and Dodge Ram’s sped off toward the Mass Pike. The Blues were victorious; the field was ours. I was filled with pride, not in myself; I will let the historians drone on about my masterful battlefield leadership, and the historical-fiction writers to embellish it with so much hyperbole that it will rival Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar or Chamberlain’s on Little Round Top, but in the fellows who withstood the best the Red Hats could throw against them. I told the Prius driver to do a quick follow up on the Red Hat’s retreating pickup convoy and then report to the Colonel about our victory. It was then I came face to face with the stark reality of the cost of that victory. Of the 24 Blues that I led to Frog Pond, 11 of them were now causalities of war; many of them would never be able to wear Birkenstock footwear again, the painful memory of the mud, so thick and malodorous, would render them incapable of ever seeing them in any other way let alone donning them upon their feet. There were also cases of pulled muscles, the strain on hamstrings more used to sitting for hours in front of computer displays; the weight of the placards and bull horns too much for shoulders and backs to bear. An emergency medical situation faced us, our supply of Icy Hot and Ibuprofen having been accidentally taken by the Colonel on his Logan Airport mission.

The long march back to camp, under a merciless sun was ¼ of a mile of sheer torment punctuated by cries of anguish as the mud-wounded, and muscle strained troops limped back or were carried by the more fortunate among us. We were surprised, upon arrival, by the fact that the Colonel and his men had not yet returned from the Guatemalan coffee rescue. It probably would have been the right military decision to send out a search party, but sometimes leadership is more than going by the book. So instead of a search party my troop boarded the remaining Prius’ and headed to Sam Adams.

To be cont’d.

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Letters from the 2nd Civil War – #2

#secondcivilwarletters

July 8, 2018

Dear Mother and Father,

Loads of excitement to tell you about. Last night we were sitting by the Robert Gould Shaw statue watching the movie Glory on a widescreen TV donated by the Sam Adams Brewery (I imagine because we spend a lot of money there). The fellows were in a contented state of mind, munching away on white cheddar popcorn, and Junior Mints when one of the regimental Prius’ came racing into the compound, the driver, his head out of the window screaming, “The Red Hats are coming! The Red Hats are coming!” Our commander, Colonel Juan Montalvan (the title is honorary, he’s actually an IT professional) announced that the foe has been spotted setting up camp at the other end of the Common, and that we should get some sleep as there will be an early start the next morning when we will confront the opposition on the battlefield.

Reveille blasted out of the loud speaker at the unholy hour of 9:00, the sound of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, interrupting pleasant dreams, and rousing the regiment into action. The troops were dressed in an assortment of L.L. Bean polo shirts and khakis, their feet shod in Birkenstock sandals or Earth Shoes, and after a hurried breakfast of Au Bon Pain pastries, gathered to hear the plan for the battle to come.

The Colonel split our company into two groups and placed me in command of the group heading to confront the Red Hats across the Common at Frog Pond, while he led the other half on the raid to free the Guatemalan coffee at Logan Airport. My cohort of 24 placard carrying soldiers of the Massachusetts Blues sauntered at double time, the dew covered grass soon soaking through Birkenstocks making the march a dreary, torturous affair. Some of the fellows had worn socks with their sandals and were now especially affected by the added weight and discomfort of wet cotton.

Upon reaching the pond I formed my troop in a three row deep placard-shield wall at the edge of the pond facing our foes on the other side. There were 20 of them, an unruly, ill-disciplined looking group who unlike the ordered formation of the Blues, acted like individual berserkers racing forward waving their placards, often ungrammatical, and certainly vile, shouting abuse at us or praise of Trump. Our frontline buckled at the onslaught causing the second and third rows to push back. Due to the lack of rain lately, the pond was shallower than normal, and very muddy along the shore. Many in the frontline as they were pushed forward became stuck in the mud, sinking in some cases up to their shins. Two of the unfortunates fell face first into the muck. The men in the second row rushed forward to plug the holes in the line while the third line grabbed the poor muddied wounded and got them to the rear.

The roar of a Chevy Silverado came out from behind the Soldiers and Sailors Monument leading a flanking attack of another 20 Red Hats. In the bed of the pickup sat a loud speaker blaring music by Toby Keith. I rallied what was left of the first line joining them with the third line and had them brace for the flank attack. I then grabbed the least muddy of the injured and sent him running back to camp to fetch our loud speaker. I could only hope our artillery piece would get to the battle in time.

To be cont’d.

 

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Letters from the 2nd Civil War – #1

July 6, 2018
Dear Mother and Father,
It doesn’t seem possible that it has been two whole days since I joined the Massachusetts Blues. I am struggling to survive the privation being endured by the hundreds of recruits gathered on Boston Common. There is no WIFI to speak of, so many of us are scrambling to find pen and paper in order to write, only to find out that no one brought any stamps; indeed some of the younger members have no recollection of ever mailing a letter. We are also facing a crisis situation regarding our supply of coffee. It seems the Trumpite Regime has placed a heavy tariff on coffee imported from what they term as ‘sh*thole’ countries, so Starbucks is reduced to rationing our lattes and Frappuccinos. There is a rumor floating around camp that a FEDEX plane crammed full of coffee beans from Guatemala has landed at Logan Airport. If that is true, then I expect we will receive orders to load up our fleet of Prius’, drive to Logan, and commandeer that plane. I only hope that it isn’t during rush hour on I-93.
Well, I must sign off for now. Some of the fellows discovered where the Sam Adams brewery is located, and we’re off to enjoy some patriotic ale.
Your war ravaged son,
PB

#2ndcivilwarletters

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Moronfest 2018 – Veni,Vidi, Moroni – We came, We saw, We were morons

MORONFEST 2018

 

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I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about attending this year’s Moron reunion. All of us still maintain a close kinship for each other based on our shared history; a boatload of fond memories, a certainty that we each affected the others in ways that formed who we are today, but there is also a divergent set of opinions on politics, sometimes acrimonious in tone, that could, if left unchecked, shorten the reunion in a hurry. Fortunately we have a long standing rule about the topics that enflame – it’s a simple rule, to wit; Not allowed.

This year marks our 8th get together, but the first one for me in three years; financial woes kept me from attending the last two and was rearing its ugly head again this year, adding to the apprehension and doubt of my attendance. However, faced with the hard realization that we may not have that many more chances to swill cheap beer and shoot pool together etc;  mortality paying us a visit as we lost one of the original morons this past Spring. With that fact of life firmly in mind I made the 840 mile trek to once again conjure up memories and to create some more.

DAN’S DINER

IN SAUSAGE GRAVY WE TRUST

20180622_093815 (1).jpg The official opening of Moronfest 2018 was scheduled for Friday morning, 9:00 sharp at the venerable home of the Gourmet Omelette, Dan’s Diner – corner of 10 Mile and Hoover. My itinerary had me staying with Ralph and Denise the first two nights of my visit, arriving around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday after 17 hours on the road. One of the unplanned results of this reunion was that I got to spend one on one time with almost all the morons; catching up on life in general or as seemed to be the case with many of us, how many more grandchildren we now have, and none was better than the reacquainting of two kindred spirits-twin sons of different mothers, if you will. Ralph and I have been friends since circa 1957. Urban legend (that I am just now making up) has it that we met on a fine spring day in the alley between Lenox and Dickerson and at once recognized our potential friendship, and at the same time recognized that the alley was a concrete baseball field. We drifted apart in the 60’s and lost contact for nearly 50 years, reconnecting through the aether via social media and finally reconnected in person at Moronfest 2015. We emerged from that 50 year hiatus two people vastly different from our youth, yet strangely alike in our current mindsets. It was simply a wonderful visit, albeit bittersweet in retrospect as you ponder the lost 50 years.

A NIGHT WITH A GARAGE FULL OF MORONS

It was with some hesitation that I pulled up stakes at Ralph’s and stayed at Tracy’s the rest of the weekend, but how often do you get to hang in his garage with a cooler and a mini-fridge full of cold beer, while remembering old deeds; told with gusto, laughter, braggadocio, and perhaps with just a slight hyperbolic slant (and nary a word or any snide/witty remarks about ‘the forbidden’ – more on this later)? The highlight of the ‘night in a garage with a bunch of morons’ was the memorial tribute to our departed moron brother, Wing Tom. The ceremony, hosted in true moron fashion by Chuck, included the passing around of the newly acquired, official Eastside Moron Hall of Fame beer stein, purchased in true moron fashion by Chuck. 35920418_10216775084353312_2472593452328550400_o  We each took a sip in memory of Wing, many of us relating sentiments or memories of our times with Wing. It was a poignant event, the laughter filling the cluttered, makeshift lounge with images of Wing’s smiling face, the sadness of his passing, never completely gone, but for a few minutes forgotten.

IT’S NEVER GOOD WHEN YOU’RE THE BEST IN YOUR FOURSOME

The main physical activity at Moronfest 2018, befitting the fact that we would most likely die dribbling a basketball or running a pass pattern, was two rounds of par 3 golf. Friday’s exhibition was a caravan of 5 golf carts bearing a motley assortment of 10 aging golfers and a seemingly unlimited supply of interesting golf shots.   The winning team on Friday was anchored by $6 Jim who carried his team to victory, a heavy task indeed given he had this guy with this golf swing as a team mate.  20180622_105620 (1).jpg Anyway, it was the most fun I’ve ever encountered in a ten-some.

We were down to a seven-some for round number two, a hurriedly decided affair after loading up with carbs and sausage gravy at Dan’s Diner Saturday morning, hoping to beat the anticipated showery activity predicted for our area. The team of $6, Turtle, and Chuck refused to split up, their greed for dynasty status overriding moron camaraderie. So, it was the three morons versus the four morons (Mark, Rick, Ralph, Me), hence the title of this section. 35932378_10216775080513216_3169687410636226560_o And as the title implies, the three morons are now a golf dynasty.

SILLY TRACY & ROYAL FLUSH CHUCK

A POKER GAME FOR THE AGES

Prior to breakfast on Saturday, Turtle was complaining about his back, but insisted it would loosen up. His first tee shot in round 2 did the opposite of loosening, the club hitting more of the ground than the actual golf ball causing painful spasms instead, rendering him mostly hors de combat. However, he gamely pressed on, leading his team to victory (well, $6 Jim led the team to victory but I will not speak ill of the tragically injured.) How does this relate to the poker game the more astute might ask? Well, my peeps and fellow travelers, it goes like this. Upon arrival at Rick’s poker palace, and driveway basketball court, Tracy took a couple of Tylenol and laid flat on the floor. That seemed to help as he was soon able to get up and walk without using two golf clubs as props. The morons made their way to the backyard patio for some pre-poker game preparation. (Law abiding peeps should skip the next few sentences.) Someone in the morons produced a small shotgun holed pipe filled with a substance, that while legal (finally) in some states, is still verboten in MI. Back in the old days, many of the morons broke this law on a daily basis, but for many of the morons going one toke over the line hadn’t been done in years. Abstinence over decades plus more potent hybrid blends than we had back in the old days made for some great comedy.  And oh, by the way, Tracy was no longer in any pain and was practically dancing a jig. 🙂

Back inside the house, seated around the table, poker chips being counted out for dispersal, deck of cards being shuffled – what’s the first thing we do before actual card playing? Order pizza because now we are hungry for some reason. Now, I don’t know why Turtle decided that he should be the one to call the pizza place and put in our order, but that is how it played out. After placing the order, a miracle in and of itself, Turtle came back to the table laughing like crazy. We asked him what was so funny, and he began to tell us, but could not because of another bout of uncontrollable laughter. He tried three times and failed three times. Turns out that he could not remember what three toppings to order on one of the pizzas, even with Rick telling him multiple times.

Over the years we have learned to rely on $6 Jim to provide interesting poker games. One of them, Anaconda, brought out one the funniest poker moments I can remember. To backtrack a little, we play games that sometimes have the low spade ‘in the hole’ wild, or sometimes the low card ‘in the hole’ is wild for your hand. In this particular hand of Anaconda, and this is crucial to the story, we were playing Hi-Lo, meaning the high hand and low hand would split the pot. We reached the part of the game where you reveal your cards one at a time…there were three of us left in the pot, Chuck, $6 Jim and me. I had a full house queens over nines…it was obvious that $6 Jim had the low hand so all I had to worry about was Chuck. After three of his cards had been revealed, I knew I had him beat but he kept betting and raising. When the last bet had been called, $6 Jim won half the pot with the low hand, my full house won the other half, but not before Chuck thought he had won with a Royal Flush. Chuck’s hand consisted of Ace, King, Queen of clubs and a pair of nines. The poor moron thought we were playing low card ‘in the hole’ was wild thereby giving him the hand to beat all hands. Oh well, sometimes it doesn’t pay for a moron to think too much.  🙂

I-90 FOR MILES AND MILES AND MILES

A REUNION EPILOG

It was 5:30 a.m. Sunday. I was planning on leaving at 6:00 to drive to Ann Arbor for breakfast with college friends Rochelle and Steve Igrisan…however, the aging body rebelled and I could not get out of bed except to stagger to the bathroom, the bladder doesn’t care if you don’t feel like getting up. This lack of sufficient recovery meant I would eat one more time at Dan’s Diner and then head home from there – miles upon miles traversing I-90 from Toledo to Boston. It also meant that I had one more opportunity to sit with Chuck for a brief acknowledgement that the reunion was everything we could have hoped for. We did confess to each other that there were a couple times where a witty comment came to mind that could have broken the truce as it were. We both agreed that we did good not to utter them. So, hats off and high fives to a most endearing group of morons for surviving yet another test of our endurance, and proving again that once  a moron, always a moron.

REGRETS, I HAD A FEW

One anticipated meeting, with Debby Prince-Vassallo, did not happen as due to her busy schedule she proved to be as elusive as she was when I, as a teenager, was making feeble and futile attempts to woo her. It’s an utterly devastating fact that she will have to wait even longer for me to sign her copy of my book, Clash of Empires (available at Amazon) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXR186R   🙂

DO YOU REMEMBER MRS. EDGERTON?

EPILOG #2

An important item on my schedule happened prior to the Moronfest, dinner on Thursday with Ralph and with great anticipation, my editor and old friend Marguerite Walker II.  We last saw each other sometime during our years at Jackson Jr. High, but it was our time together in 6th grade under the firm gaze of one, Mrs. Edgerton, that provokes the most memories. Now, it is fair to say that young Marguerite was the smartest kid in the class (oh heck, in the whole school), but had a foible in her makeup, one that I also have. Quick wittedness is a double edged sword, the laughs garnered from classmates at some vocalized retort, is quickly offset by the arrival of Mrs. Edgerton’s penchant for discipline. I think that, at least partly, my memories of Mrs E. are a bit kinder because I was rarely at the wrong end of her ire, while MW received more than her share of it.

Anyway our time together at dinner flew by quicker than the actual four hours we spent talking. I knew MW 50 years ago, after the four hours I was wishing we had kept in touch. However, it is now, and we have forged a partnership in my quest to write novels that will be turned into screenplays by Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg, so I guess we’ll have to be satisfied with that. 🙂

 

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Heavenly Libations and Hacking Hoovers The Continuing Saga of Hoovers in Myrtle Beach – 2018 version

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Heavenly Libations and Hacking Hoovers

The Continuing Saga of Hoovers in Myrtle Beach – 2018 version

Preface

Over the years I have written many stories about our annual golf trips to Myrtle Beach, SC. At first they were mostly a journalistic play by play of the rounds we played that year, albeit with a humorous side to them. The last few, however, are a more creative attempt at story telling where I make stuff up to highlight the golf, but more importantly, the camaraderie we experience. In order to help explain some of the terms and people involved I decided to include the following.

Glossary

Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe – a multi-billion dollar sports management firm which is featured prominently in previous tales. See below for character descriptions of the partners.

Gray Wolf Transport – Most years I drive to Myrtle while the others fly down. To save money on baggage I transport everyone’s golf clubs in my gray 2013 Toyota Corolla S. This year I dubbed the enterprise as Gray Wolf Transport.

Punta Gorda, FL – the actual home of Jimmy Ouellette; aka Two Birds.

20 bucks is 20 bucks – a saying uttered by Bob Svirsky, the origin of which I have forgotten. 20 bucks is 20 bucks – a saying uttered by Bob Svirsky, the origin of which I have forgotten. **Editor’s note – it has been brought to my attention by Bob Svirsky; aka The Commodore, that the saying can be attributed to none other than the grand old man of the Hoovers, Loring Mackey; aka The Mahunna.

**Editor’s note to follow up the editor’s previous note – per The Rick: The true origin of the term is that it is derived from a t-shirt I saw in Key West a couple of years ago. I was going to buy one for Loring, but just didn’t have the chance. The T-shirt said “I’m not gay, but 20 bucks is 20 bucks”.’

Eight tenths of a mile – I am hearing impaired and while that is a source of frustration for everyone involved, it does at times provide some comic relief. We were driving to a golf course, I was navigating using the GPS on my phone. Now I can usually follow a conversation if I know what the context is which during the time in question was about the distance to the course; at least that’s what it had been. However, while I was busy exploring the map the context changed, and which I was unaware of, to where to go for dinner. When I was asked what I thought, I answered in what I believed to be the correct response given the context I believed was still current, and replied eight tenths of a mile. For the remainder of the week ‘eight tenths of a mile’ was a standard reply to any question.

Gotta go fast/Ricky Bobby/Shake and Bake – references from the movie Talladega Nights- The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Fireballs – shots of Cinnamon Whisky

The Principals at DC&H

  • Rocco Ian MacDougal – age 47 born in Dover, DE of an Italian mother and Scottish father. This mixed heritage explains his drinking preferences of Sangria in the morning and Chivas Regal after noon.  Took part in many black-ops as an Army Ranger, none of which can he talk about but he has let it slip it that one had something to do with Saddam Hussein.   One of the top agents employed by the Sports Management Agency of Dewey, Cheetum and Howe and had Ocho as his top client until Ocho quit golf and became an author. Recently named a full Partner in DC&H, he’s still waiting to see his name on the letterhead.
  • Samuel Dewey – age 62 born in Ogallala, NE.  Graduated from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in 1970.  His friends call him CR from his earlier career as a corporate raider.  Indeed, the founding of DC&H was as a result of a corporate takeover.  His business acumen is so sharp that he has been married and divorced three times and has never had to pay a settlement or alimony despite being one of the 50 wealthiest Americans..  He drinks Stoli Elit before, during and after breakfast and switches to Southern Comfort at lunch.
  • Vincent Cheetum – 59 born in Piney Green, NC, a little fart of a town just outside of the largest Marine Corps base on the East coast, Camp Lejeune, where his father settled after retiring from The Marines as a highly decorated Master Sgt.  After a brief stint as a roadie for The Grateful Dead, Vinny followed his dad’s footsteps and also retired from the Marines as a Gunnery Sergeant, hence his nickname of Gunny.  His beverages of choice are Schlitz and Jack Daniels.
  • Clyde Howe – 72 born in Altoona, PA.  He is a distant relative of Lord Richard Howe, the British commander during part of The Revolutionary War.  Graduated from The Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1959 and had a minor role in The Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Also, it was his ship that was fired upon by a North Vietnamese patrol boat in the Gulf of Tonkin.  The Ancient Mariner, as he is known by, retired as a Rear Admiral.  Has always expressed great admiration for the movie, The Big Lebowski so he drinks White Russians day and night.  The exception to this is when he brings out a 29 year old Cragganmore single malt Scotch that he sips while smoking Cuban cigars.
  • Marjorie Detwiler has been employed for these last 10 years by Dewey, Cheetum and Howe, as Director of Excursions and Executive Flight Attendant.  At five feet, 11 inches tall, Marjorie stood taller than all of the partners.  She received a Masters Degree in Sports Management & Entertainment from Harvard while playing shooting guard on the women’s NCAA basketball team and was an Honorable Mention All American.  Little in her college experience, however, prepared her for employment with this group of semi-hedonistic, inebriation record setting, globe-trotting golf, and adventure seekers.  Recently promoted to head the new space travel agency, Heavenly Libations.

 

 

The Rick scanned the faces of the minions sitting around the large teak wood conference table, his gaze causing a multitude of responses from the group of wannabe posse members.  The annual trek to Myrtle Beach is coming up in two weeks and The Rick is determined to have only those completely loyal to him accompanying him on this trip.  At least, that’s what he was hoping.  Instead, he determined with a scowl spreading across his face, the only minions available to make the trip were those who have been his posse in the past, and this did not please The Rick at all.

The agenda for this meeting was supposed to have been a secret so as not to frighten off potential posse members.  It had become common knowledge that The Rick was a very demanding and eccentric boss; one may even say he was a despot.  However, someone leaked the agenda thereby negating his desire to have new posse members to heap scorn and derision upon.  Needless to say, The Rick was not in a good mood.  “Which of these wretches spilled the beans?” he thought to himself as he looked at the familiar faces of the four who did attend.

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Meanwhile at another conference table, this one made of Amazon Rosewood, located in the stately home of Sam Dewey of the Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe sports management conglomeration, plans were being made for a historic journey.  The partners were bored, having golfed, hunted, and caroused every corner of the globe, they were seeking something new – and then Elon Musk sent a Tesla to Mars.

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As it turns out it was all four of the attendees who, unbeknownst to each other, were the meeting agenda whistleblowers.  Leakers who were now all wilting under The Rick’s scornful gaze. This is not to suggest that they didn’t have good reasons for their actions, however selfish or illogical those reasons might have been. The result of the leaks was phenomenal to say the least and while the four perpetrators may have acted separately, the fact remains that they probably saved the sanity of any who may have wandered into that meeting being caught unaware as to the agenda, and been chosen for the trip.

Now, you might be curious as to why this gang of four would want to be members of The Rick’s Posse given the knowledge they possess of previous Myrtle Beach junkets, and the ignominious duties to which they have been subjected. It seems that there is a rumor floating about The Rick Enterprises that he is either in negotiations with, or has already partnered with Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe in some sort of space exploration project.  Their collective hope is to be given positions in this rumored opportunity.  Fanciful dreams of riches to be made, of mundane tasks to be a thing of the past, of respect earned are mighty motivators in the minds of these downtrodden minions of a domineering boss.

“All right, I’m only going to ask once,” snarled The Rick, “If I don’t get an answer, I’ll have the four of you reassigned to the most desolate spot on the planet. Who leaked the meeting agenda?”

********************

The project is called Operation Space Drunk, the precursor to a new travel agency suitably named, Heavenly Libations, being researched and designed to offer a type of space booze cruise aboard space party stations orbiting around the Moon, Mars and Venus. The orbital party platforms are named; The Galactic Hooch, Lushed in Space, and the Cannabis Café.  The original plan called for The Galactic Hooch to orbit Venus but a sudden realization by Rocco had them scrambling.

“I remember watching that science program, Cosmos, with that astrological guy, uh, Grass something,” Rocco said, “anyway, it seems the planet Venus is so screwed up with greenhouse gasses that no one on the Hooch would see anything of the surface of the planet.”

“His name is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and he ain’t no damned astrologist,” replied Clyde, “he’s an astrophysicist, but you are correct about Venus’ atmosphere. This could be a serious problem. Where are we going to send the Hooch?  Jupiter is out of the question for months yet.”

The four partners continued their walk through of the giant hangar that housed the three space stations.  They had been joined in the inspection by Ocho, who was there on their invitation, and on the sly from The Rick. DC&H was still desperate to lure Ocho out of retirement and back to his lucrative golf career.  Little did they know that Ocho was never going to return to golf now that he was a successful author. He was even being mentioned in the same breath with Vonnegut and Twain, and was being touted as the next great American novelist. It was only his undying devotion to his buddies, the Hoovers, that had him make the trek to Myrtle Beach every year; well, that and his chance to garner story material.

Ocho stopped as they were passing by The Cannabis Café, “What? Are you kidding me? I waited 40 years for the stuff to be legalized and now you have an orbiting doobie machine?”

“Yeah, kinda neat, ain’t it?” said Vinny, “we hope to corner the aging hippie market with what is basically a giant cannabis humidor.  We’re sending this one to orbit the moon, the thought being that all those new age types will identify with the moon.”

Ocho thought for a moment and said, “I have the solution for your Venus problem. Instead of The Galactic Hooch going to Venus, send The Cannabis Café. The clients on the Café won’t notice the difference.  Heck, they’ll probably freak out over the clouds.”

********************

A few weeks earlier in Punta Gorda, FL.

Jimmy Two Birds gazed out of the front window of his palatial retirement home.  Joey Fairways and NASCAR Bob were seated on the couch flipping channels on the massive 92 inch television.  Joey wanted to watch Wheel of Fortune; Bob was set on a replay of the 1992 Daytona 500. They had come down to Punta Gorda to not only escape the bludgeoning nor’easters of New England, but because Two Birds was convinced something interesting was going on in that newly constructed, gigantic hangar just across the swamp from Two Birds’ living room. One of the major factors for Two Birds to move to this house was because the small Punta Gorda airport fed his love for flying. Lately, however, things began to change as there was less and less of the small plane activity and more heavy construction equipment arriving daily. Soon, the only flights in or out of the airport were the company helicopters of DH&C and much to Two Birds surprise, The Rick Enterprises.

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The Everglades style air boat that Two Birds had ordered through Amazon, paying extra for expedited shipment, arrived the following morning. They maneuvered the boat into the murky waters of the swamp. NASCAR Bob pushed his way to the driver’s station and announced, “I’m driving,” and then in his best Ricky Bobby’s voice, “Gotta go fast.”

“I love that movie,” said Joey excitedly, “ooh, ooh, can I be your sidekick? I’ll be Bake and you can be Shake.”

“I hate to interject some salient information here,” said Two Birds sounding much more intelligent than usual, “but, we need to get to that hangar in a stealthy manner. Now, through my very expensive binoculars I found a good place for us to beach the air boat.”

“Wrong,” interrupted NASCAR Bob, “it is not ‘the air boat’, its name is The SS Shake&Bake, and I am now Commodore Bob.”

“And, I’m navigating,” Joey added, “That’s the sidekick’s job.”

“How can you be the navigator?” replied Two Birds, “I’m the one who lives here and has spent countless hours looking at this swamp. You don’t know where to go, I do.”

Joey started shaking his head, “No, no, no, I’ll be the one telling Commodore Bob where to go.  I am Bake, he is Shake. You’re just a passenger on the SS Shake&Bake.”

Two Birds, his patience having been tested to the limit, threw his hands in the air in defeat and said, “Okay, I’ll tell you and you tell the Commodore.  Is that good enough?”

With that settled, Commodore Bob started up the Chevrolet 350 engine, “Whoowee, will you listen to that baby purr?” as he revved it up even louder.

“What?” screamed both Two Birds and Joey as they were climbing into the passenger seats in the bow of the Shake&Bake.

“Tell the Commodore to go past that line of large cypress trees to starboard,” Two Birds yelled to Joey.

Joey strained to hear Two Birds and turned to the Commodore and shouted, “Two Birds said to go fast.”

The swamp came alive, the sound of the SS Shake&Bake’s roaring engine sending flocks of waterfowl racing for the heavens. Two Birds turned in his seat and started to yell for Commodore Bob to “Slow down”, but as the boat plowed forward those in the bow seats were drenched by a sudden wave splashing the occupants. Commodore Bob was laughing, the exhilaration of going fast taking hold. It was when he noticed that they were headed into a copse of large cypress trees that he realized he didn’t know where they were going. “Hey Bake,” he yelled down to Joey as he slowed the boat to a stop, “Which way do we go?”

“Tell the Commodore to follow the tree line for eight-tenths of a mile,” said Two Birds to Joey, “we’ll see a landing area just a few hundred yards to starboard once we get past the trees. There’s a pipeline that empties into the swamp. I don’t know what is coming out of it, but the usually lush, green vegetation in that spot is a not so lush grayish-brown.”

Commodore Bob glanced to his left as they came to the end of the cypress trees, and with a gleam in his eyes, and without warning, turned the boat hard to port, sending Joey crashing into Two Birds knocking him over the port side rail, his head now in the murky water. Joey reacted quickly and pulled Two Birds back on board.  Two Birds looked up at the joy filled Commodore and started to scream but instead of “Commodore you idiot”, a gargled, sputtering sound came out with a stream of murky water and a small turtle.

Commodore Bob slowed the boat to a stop. Up ahead was a beautiful expanse of open water dotted with groves of lily pads, resembling the pool area of a fancy resort, many of the lily’s being used as deck chairs by the frog tourists. However, unlike a resort pool area, a great blue heron stalked among the deck chairs, striking down and skewering a sun bathing amphibian. A large gator, aroused from his shoreline nap, slid into the water and started swimming toward the SS Shake&Bake. “Anyone want to play buzz the gator?” Commodore Bob asked.

“NO!” answered both Two Birds and Joey as they climbed as far back from the bow seats as possible. “Turn this thing around,” said Two Birds, “time to get on with our mission. It is also time to be a little more inconspicuous, so proceed as slowly and quietly as you can, but fast enough to leave that hungry reptilian behind.”

Commodore Bob mumbled to himself, “Couple of wussies,” and swung the boat around, slowly heading to the spot designated for their disembarking. The difference between what lay ahead of them and the lily pad haven behind was startling. There was no vibrant vegetation teeming with wildlife; only dead debris, and the droning of thousands of flying insects feeding on the decaying plants and animals, including the carcass of a gator. It was bloated making it look like an inflatable pool toy, “Anyone fancy a pair of gator skin shoes or belt?” asked the commodore, “we could drag that bad boy to shore and skin it.”

“NO!” answered both Two Birds and Joey.

“Couple of wussies,” mumbled the commodore steering the boat away from the floating haberdashery, and pointed the bow at the beach. “Eight-tenths of a mile or there about to the beach. What do we do when we get there?”

The massive building dwarfed the flat, lowland swamps that surrounded the former airport.  Hanging from each of the four walls, in three foot letters was DH&C Enterprises – Space Entertainment Division – Future Home of Heavenly Libations Travel.  Having bought the airport; constructed all of the infrastructure required to build and then launch the party platforms as well as the space shuttles to get the clients to the platforms; hired away most of NASA’s top engineers and pilots, the partners spent most of their non-golfing time at the site giving advice to experts in their fields, and being generally in a “giddy as a schoolboy” mood.

“We’re almost ready to deploy the party stations,” said Clyde, “except we are down a couple of pilots.  Seems that two of the ones we hired got into the Cannabis Café, and now they refuse to leave the smoking lounge on the third deck.  They keep sending text messages asking for pizza to be delivered.”

The Rick, with a wink at Ocho replied, “I have a couple of possible pilots we could use for this venture, though I will have to trick them into thinking that they pulled one over on me. I have found, over the years with the lackeys I surround myself with that they respond better to my orders if they believe they are important in the grand scheme of all things pertaining to me. So, let me take care of this little problem.  Jimmy Two Birds and NASCAR Bob will do nicely flying the friendly skies for Heavenly Libations.”

The trio clambered down from the beached air boat, swarms of insects descended upon them as they made their way through the thick, thorn studded foliage. Alternately swatting flies away from faces with one hand while the other was pushing thorny stems away from legs, they plodded along too busy to speak. Finally the insect horde diminished as they reached the top of a small hill where they stopped for a rest while Two Birds scouted ahead with his very expensive binoculars. He saw a door that appeared to be slightly ajar and was about to relay that info to Joey and Commodore Bob when some movement on the roof of the hangar caught his eye. He trained the binoculars on the roof and saw Ocho and The Rick walking toward a helicopter. Following them were the four partners heading to their corporate bird. Ocho stopped, and grabbing a pair of binoculars from the copter pilot, stared straight at Two Birds.

Two Birds dropped quickly to the ground signaling the others to do likewise. He continued to watch Ocho, hoping that they had avoided his attention. It was then that he realized that the bright orange shirt he was wearing along with the fluorescent yellow shirt worn by the commodore were sure to be noticed. As if to verify his suspicion he saw Ocho, as he was boarding the helicopter, wave to him. “Well, I don’t care if Ocho knows we are here,” he said to the others, “as soon as those whirlybirds take off, we head for that open door.”

 

Two Birds was the first through the door taking just three steps inside before stopping. The immensity of the interior of this hangar had him mesmerized for a moment but he was jostled back to reality when Joey, who was also being taken in by the surroundings and not watching where he was going, barged into him, followed a few seconds later by the equally bewildered commodore. “Holy jumping monkey butts,” exclaimed Joey, “this place is huge.”

“Forget huge,” replied Bob, “these are freaking spaceships. Ohhh, I gotta fly one of these.” He walked over to the closest party station.  The Galactic Hooch was setting on top of a very large truck trailer. Bob climbed onto the trailer and lovingly touched the surface of The Hooch running his hands along the bottom of the first of three circular decks. Each deck was connected by translucent elevator tubes that gave the illusion of being in the transporter on Star Trek’s Enterprise. He continued his inspection until he came across an access panel and pressed the open button. The hiss of the hydraulics was followed by the lowering of one of the translucent tubes.  Bob entered and pressed the button for deck one. To complete the transporter ambiance the elevators were equipped with a state of the art light show that showered down on the occupants a shimmering cascade of twinkling light mimicking the special effects on Star Trek. When the elevator reached deck one, the lights retreated upwards and the door opened. Bob exited the tube walking over to a map of the station. Each deck had ten different bars, some of which offered a specialized, limited choice of liquor. Vodka Valhalla, Tequila Temptations, and The Dude’s White Russian Experience were some of the names Bob saw, but the one that caught his undivided attention was The Fireball Express.  “Oh my,” he said, “gotta get me some of that.”

Two Birds wandered over to the station named The Cannabis Café. He had watched the commodore enter the Hooch and figured that the stations probably had similar modes of egress, so he climbed onto the trailer, walked around until he found an access panel and pushed open. Unlike The Galactic Hooch, the dominant shape of this station was rather joint-like. Two huge joint-like cylinders composed the main body of the spacecraft. They were connected to each other by the same type of translucent tubes, but these were horizontal moving walkways. They were also connected to the cockpit. It resembled a pipe’s bowl. The port side cylinder housed living quarters, recreational facilities such as golf simulators, bowling, and batting cages. The starboard side was the lifeblood of the Café. Vast hydroponic greenhouses for growing the various cannabis hybrids lovingly tended by a troop of robots that ceaselessly worked 24×7 to supply the finest grade Indica-Sativa blends for an eclectic clientele. The rest of the joint was a giant humidor for storing the hybrid blends that were delivered to one of the smoking lounges; each one of the eight lounges would feature one hybrid, changing to which ever one was the freshest each day. Names like Confidential Lemon, Hazy Days, and Purple Mountains Majesty were just some of the blends. The lounges were a series of eight smaller joint-like shapes joined together to form a circle that rode above and were connected to the two large joint-like cylinders. Two Birds found himself in the port side joint and looked around for some indication of where he should go, when a C3P0 droid approached and asked, “Are you delivering pizza to the two pilots in the Purple Mountains Majesty? They are rather hungry.”

“Sorry pal,” answered Two Birds, “just looking around. An independent inspection tour for The Rick Enterprises. I cannot be detained in the performance of my duty, so please step aside, or better yet, show me around.”

“Whatever you say, sir,” replied the droid, “follow me, and if I may, I have the authority to hand out samples.”

“All righty then. That’s more like it,” replied Two Birds, “lead on and hand me a doobie.”

Meanwhile, Joey arrived at the Lushed in Space, the station destined to not only orbit Mars, but also to colonize the planet. DC&H thought big picture and planned on building colonies surrounded by fields of barley, hops and malt for the first brewery on Mars. The main body of Lushed was shaped like a beer bottle. The topside of the beer bottle was emblazoned with a label touting DC&H Martian Brewed Ale. The bottom declaimed in bright bar-like neon, Lushed in Space. Continuing the theme of old beloved television shows, Joey was met at the entrance by a ‘danger, Will Robinson’ robot from Lost in Space. “Welcome to Lushed in Space,” he announced, “may I offer you a beer? We are well stocked with the finest brews from around the world, and will soon be from Mars.”

Generally speaking, Joey was not an imbiber of alcoholic beverages, though he would occasionally down a Fireball or two, but today he wasn’t in the mood for beer. “Say, Robbie,” he asked, “you wouldn’t by any chance have any Diet Coke on board?”

“We have an excellent supply of various soft drinks,” he replied, “they are for the colonists. There will be no alcohol allowed on the planet until the colonies are built, the crops are sown, reaped, and turned into ale. DC&H think that will spur them on to work a little harder and faster.”

“Great,” said Joey as he contemplated how many liters he should ask for. He first thought that two or three would be sufficient while he was still at Two Bird’s place, but then he remembered that Two Birds kept a well-stocked larder but the Diet Coke supply was depleted. Two Birds believed in having a goodly supply of necessary items; ketchup for instance. He had enough to last three lifetimes but couldn’t resist the periodic ‘buy 1, get 1 free’ sales. However, Diet Coke was not one of the necessary items in Two Bird’s pantry, so, Joey said, “I’ll take 20 liters.”

Two hours, and two liters of Diet Coke later, Joey drove the custom built golf cart the Lushed robot staff brought out, the cargo area crammed with 18 liter bottles, to the rendezvous spot at the door. The cart had the front end of a Dodge Charger, seating for six, retractable sunroof, and a stereo system hooked up to satellite radio. He was listening to a classic rock station grooving to ‘More than a Feeling’ by Boston when the Commodore staggered over. He looked over at Joey and belched. Joey thought he must have been seeing things as smoke came out of the Commodore’s mouth and ears when he burped. “Best Fireballs I ever had,” he said as he belched more smoke.

Two Birds walked over to join Joey and the Commodore holding a pizza box with one hand and a huge doobie in the other. “Nice wheels,” he chuckled, “how are you gonna fit that on the Shake&Bake, or even your haul of Diet Coke?”

“How about just driving out of the front gate of the complex?” quipped Ocho as he emerged from the shadows, “Turn right out of the gate, another right at the first intersection, and straight for eight-tenths of a mile to Two Birds place. It’s a tad easier a route than a loud airboat through a gator filled swamp. Why in the first place did you come that way?”

 

 

 

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Back to the present

            “Well?” said The Rick, “Stop stalling, and look at me, not at each other dammit.” When the four guilty parties still refused to answer, or look him in the eyes, The Rick stood up, his 6 foot, 4 inch chiseled body looming menacingly, his sparkling blue-green eyes shooting daggers, his bulging biceps threatening to rip through his expensive Armani shirt as he brought his fists down on the teak wood conference table so hard that water sloshed out of the crystal glassware in front of each cringing minion. Almost at once Two Birds, Joey, NASCAR Bob, and Ocho rose to their feet, and as if from a scene from the movie Spartacus they each cried out, “I am the guilty one.”

The Rick sat down, keeping his head bowed to hide the smile on his face. “Wait,” he said, “Each of you, without the knowledge of the others, leaked the agenda.  Is that what I’m understanding here?” After a moment of hushed consultation the seemingly chastened minions each nodded their heads. However, they all thought to themselves that they had outwitted The Rick. The Rick, his composure now regained, motioned for them to sit, and said, “I suppose the next question, and believe me I ask it in fear and trepidation, is why? What could possibly be the reason for this strange, bewildering betrayal?”

Joey was the first to speak, although it was more of a mumbling, stuttering, clearing of his throat with many uhs and ahems before he said, “I wanna be Commodore Bob’s sidekick in space.”

Commodore Bob nodded his head vigorously and only said, “Gotta go fast, gotta fly a spaceship,”

Two Birds hung his head and tried to slide his chair away from Joey and Bob but Ocho slid closer to Two Birds wedging him in.  Two Birds sighed and stood up, “Okay, here’s the deal. We know about Heavenly Libations and the plan to send party stations in space. We want, no, demand that we have a part in the project. Preferably, in the case of the Commodore and myself, based on our years of experience watching and reading about being pilots, in the roles of space station pilots. We will not take no for an answer.”  Two Birds sat back down and wiped the sweat from his forehead with a shaky hand.

The Rick looked at Ocho, ‘Well, what’s your reason?

Ocho smiled as he looked over at his companions. He took out his notebook and read back to them what he had written so far in his current story. “I’m just looking to get in a couple rounds of golf and to collect material for my stories. You guys are a goldmine of inspiration.”

**********

Marjorie Detwiler sat at her desk drinking her fifth cup of coffee, perusing her email.  She had risen through the ranks at DC&H and was now in charge of Heavenly Libations Space Travel.  The list of interested tourists grew steadily every day, despite the staggering sum encountered when booking a flight: $25,000 for a round trip fare; bar tab not included; $45,000 for an unlimited bar tab. Prominent politicians, the top entertainers from every genre, the hoi polloi oligarchs from around the globe, and the aging hippies all wanted to participate in what was being billed as, “The Heavenly Libations Tour of the Universe”. There was even a request from the head of The Flat Earth Society who was eager to prove once and for all that the earth was not a globe, and that all that hogwash spouted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson was just that, hogwash.  That brought a smile to Marjorie’s face as she read her next email; Neil DeGrasse Tyson also wanted to book a flight.  “Oh my,” she murmured, “I think they should fly together.”

A sharp knock on her office door followed by her secretary Chad entering caught her by surprise as he had never entered without waiting for her to answer his knock.  Chad cleared his throat announcing that there was a very insistent lawyer demanding to see Marjorie immediately.  He tried closing the door behind him, but the visitor bulled his way through, knocking Chad up against the glass trophy case that housed Marjorie’s awards from her basketball days at Harvard. The lawyer, a short, stubby fellow walked to Marjorie’s desk, set his briefcase on it, and plopped down in the chair opposite her. “Thank you for seeing me,” he said with a sarcastic smirk, “my name is Randall Pennyworth. I have been retained by The EPA, NASA, and the good people of Punta Gorda, FL, the town you are planning to inundate with toxic byproducts resulting from the launching of vehicles into space.”

**********

The weather in Surfside Beach, SC, the home of The Rick’s vacation estate, was mediocre, bearing little resemblance to normal conditions this time of year. The minions were concerned that there might even be snow, and that would certainly put a damper on their pilot futures. The agreement arrived at between The Rick and his minions was a simple one. If any of the want to be pilots, or a pilot’s sidekick, beat The Rick anytime during the week, then they would be granted the privilege of flying for Heavenly Libations.  The first round, played at The Tradition Club, went as expected. Two Birds, Commodore Bob, and Sidekick Joey were sky high in anticipation at the beginning of the round. The fact that with Two Birds now living in Florida, meant he was able to play year round and was sure that he could best The Rick easily. The others knew he was their best chance, but they were also alive with self-confidence, knowing that this was their time to rise above the mundane; to climb out of the despair of meaningless existence.

The euphoria, so prevalent on the first tee, subsided with every hole as shot after shot went awry, seeking regions known only to burrowing mammals or fish. The Rick, however, was on top of his game; driving 30-40 yards farther than even Joey with his new M2 driver. His touch around the greens was superb; his putter was in tune with speed and slope, one putts being the norm. It was clearly not the minions’ day. Two Birds could be seen muttering to himself; Commodore Bob was reduced to chasing the beverage cart begging for a Fireball, and Joey was flinging clubs everywhere.  This was the way things went for the next two rounds as well. At Blackmoor the next day, and at wind swept and cold Grande Dunes the following day, the results were the same; The Rick was dominant, the minions were doomed. By the third hole at Grande Dunes all Two Birds could think of was the world famous homemade chili Ocho was preparing for dinner.  Joey, while still enamored with his new M2, was less than thrilled with the rest of his new clubs and was not only flinging them with reckless regularity, he was leaving them where they fell. The Commodore, feeling the chance to ‘go fast in a spaceship’ slipping away, mounted a comeback on the back nine at Grande Dunes, but it fell short when his approach shot on 18 also fell short and now sleeps with the frogs, turtles, and gators.

The next morning, as Ocho was grinding Starbuck’s Espresso beans for another pot of coffee, a rather loud, almost deafening roar and rumble emanated from the dark mass of clouds that held sway over the dawn. “Wow!” exclaimed Ocho, “Looks like golf is out for today, my fellow Hoovers.”

The Rick, dressed in a silk kimono, paused at the top of the stairway landing, “I do believe we shall go shoe shopping today, and then perhaps we’ll play Cards Against Humanity until dinner time.  After which we will watch a couple movies; my choice, naturally.”

Joey and The Commodore rose from their seats at the breakfast table and said in unison, “So let it be written. So let it be done.”

“I’ve also given some thought as to how to make the golf more competitive,” continued The Rick, “tomorrow at Willbrook Plantation we will keep score a bit differently. We will go out as a five some. We will add the lowest scores for every hole by you four.  That will be your final tally for the round.” He looked around at his minions, they were already convinced that they couldn’t possibly lose. Partially because of the caffeine level in their bloodstreams, and partially because they now felt back in the game, their high fives and chest bumps became more animated by the moment resulting in minor injuries and some slight damage to the décor.

The less said about the shoe shopping, the better.  It was an agonizing four hours watching The Rick try on virtually every shoe in the store; a store that did not have a customer’s restroom.  A real hardship considering the amount and strength of Ocho’s robust coffee; add to that the fact they ate chili the night before. Finally, and with five new pair of golf shoes, The Rick declared it was time to go back to the condo; with a quick stop to get gas and to unload bodily fluids, etc.

**********

The day of reckoning was cool, but at least it was sunny. The drive to the course was filled with nervous excitement. The minions, who were so confident the night before were now starting to feel the pressure. Joey was already on his third liter of Diet Coke.  Commodore Bob was following the cart girl as she loaded up making sure she was well supplied with Fireballs.  Two Birds was in a dither about politics.  Ocho, however, remained calm as befits one who knows how the story ends. The Rick was all smiles as befits one who thinks he knows how the story ends. The match itself proceeded along the lines stipulated by The Rick with the four minions carding their lowest score on each hole. The problem with that was that while The Rick was shooting pars and bogies, the minions were often left with double bogies as the best they could do. So it was that through 15 holes, The Rick had a four stroke lead. With all their hopes seemingly about to crash among the rocks of despair, Ocho took charge. On 16, a par 3, Ocho’s tee shot landed a scant few inches from the hole giving the minions a birdie, while The Rick could only manage par. The lead was now three with two holes to go.  The 17th hole was a par 4 with a dogleg right. The safe play was to hit the tee shot straight and hope you made the corner for the second shot. Ocho didn’t play it safe and blasted a 260 yard drive over the trees guarding the corner leaving him only 50 yards from the green, and from where he proceeded to make another birdie. In a rare display of mediocre golf, The Rick chunked three shots in a row and made double bogie. Going to the par 5 18th, the lead was now down to one. From the tee on 18, the best drive was Joey’s who then surprised everyone by hitting his second shot 200 yards; his third onto the green; his fourth a 35 foot putt for birdie that had everyone holding their breath as the ball hit the cup on the right edge and did a 360 before dropping in for birdie. The Rick, who was also on the green in three, had two putts to win the match. His first putt stopped 2 feet short but was a certainty for par. While he lined up the putt, Ocho reminded him, quietly, that he needed to miss this for his plan to have his minions as pilots. With as much sincerity as he could muster he pulled the putt just missing the left edge of the hole. The minions were now Heavenly Libations bound.

**********

The ride back to The Rick’s estate was a boisterous affair.  Sidekick Joey and Commodore Bob even tried to do a chest bump while both of them were seat belted, and shoulder harnessed in the elegantly appointed Rickmobile.  Two Birds, who was sitting in the front seat while The Rick drove, just kept pointing and jabbing his index fingers for emphasis as he repeated over and over, “No more minion; time to blast off.”  The Rick shot Two Birds a look of disdain, but inside he was cheering just as loudly as his minions, ah, former minions. With them on the rolls as pilots, The Rick just upped his stake in the venture which up until now consisted of investing in and providing the   enormous amounts of rocket fuel they needed and stocking the massive inventories of alcoholic beverages and hybrid marijuana strains.  The drain on his multi-billion dollar reserves coupled with the monies invested in The Rick by his friends and cronies, would have worried a lesser man, but The Rick wasn’t even fazed.

Then the state of the art Bluetooth connection announced an incoming call.  The Rick hit connect and the display screen came alive with the four partners and Marjorie seated around a conference table; a scene of noise and confusion. From the chaos came a question from Sam Dewey, “Pakistan? You got the fuel from %$#^* Pakistan?”

In a monumental set of unfortunate circumstances beginning with The Rick trusting the Pakistani agent who assured The Rick that the fuel was not toxic.  In fact, he continued, “It is the first ‘green’ rocket fuel ever developed, guaranteed to even help the ozone layer repair the ravages of the Industrial Age.”  In actual fact, however, the exhaust from the rocket engines, given the vagaries of wind and weather, would have wiped out most of life from Tampa to Naples.

Ocho had been aware of the source of The Rick’s fuel and was skeptical of the veracity of the ‘green’ claim. On his first visit to the hangar he pilfered a small vial of the fuel that was going to be part of the marketing campaign and sent it to a lab for analysis. Thus it was Ocho, who without revealing the bit about the fuel, anonymously leaked to NASA, The EPA, and the town council of Punta Gorda that there were going to be many rocket launches by Heavenly Libations over protected wetlands and golf courses. To say that Ocho kept the fuel out of his correspondence with the agencies he contacted is true enough.  It wasn’t until he slipped a note into Randall Pennyworth’s pocket saying to check the fuel that all hell broke loose.

After a frenzied explanation to the fuming partners and the confused minions, The Rick, visibly shaken by this turn of events still managed to get back to the estate safely. Not waiting for someone to open his door, he bolted out of the vehicle and headed inside. The 125 inch television came on at his command tuned to MSNBC where a group of talking heads were already in damning mode concerning Heavenly Libations in general, and The Rick in particular. A few seconds’ later messages began scrolling at the bottom of the screen from investors, friends, colleagues, and the multitudes who harbored a grudge against The Rick, who were bailing out on The Rick Enterprises and otherwise distancing themselves from the man and the fallout sure to come.  From multi-billionaire to financial ruination does not take long apparently; even the shoe store was demanding the recent purchase of five pair of golf shoes be returned due to his credit card being denied. The Rick, to his credit, did not lash out, scream, or even cry; he merely sighed, shook his beautiful head of hair, and went up to his room where he did lash out; throwing objects around and banging is head against the wall. While this was a bit noisy, the tantrum did, at the very least, announce to the minions that The Rick was not doing himself in.

“What are we gonna do?” Joey asked, the realization that he was not going to be Sidekick Joey finally sinking in, nor would he be employed any longer by the devastated The Rick Enterprises.

Two Birds just sat at the table, the remains of his chicken cordon bleu barely visible on his plate. “Maybe I’ll just retire,” he said, “my cat Rufus would like that.”

Commodore Bob, he refused to dispense with the title, switched the channel on the TV to the NASCAR station. “I think I may join a pit crew,” he said as he downed a Fireball shot, “race teams are always looking for someone who likes to go fast.”

Ocho, who had gone up to check on The Rick, came down and said, “Oh, I wouldn’t be too concerned about things. I have a feeling that all will be well.”  He opened the freezer and pulled out a pint of Chunky Monkey, grabbed a spoon and began to eat, “Trust me. I have a plan.”

Later that night Ocho came down from his bedroom where he had been writing this story, and found The Rick sitting in his favorite lounger staring blankly at the ceiling, his silk kimono opened to his waist, an empty package of Oreo Double Stuff cookies lying at his feet.  Black cookie crumbs mixed with dots of double stuff mingled with his chest hair, the glass of milk in his hand dangerously close to spilling on the very expensive Persian rug that he no longer owned, but which did tie the room together. He looked up at Ocho bleary eyed, his crow’s feet wrinkles readily visible without his usual application of make-up. “I am ruined,” was all he could say.

“Now don’t lose hope,” Ocho remarked as he snatched the glass of milk as it slipped out of The Rick’s hand, “I have everything taken care of.  You’re going to be just fine.” He then laid out to The Rick his plan for making things right, pausing occasionally to let The Rick, who was understandably shocked at what Ocho was telling him, catch his breath.

When Ocho was done, The Rick pointed to the dining room table and said, “There are the keys to the Range Rover.  Take it before the creditors come to repossess it, gather up the others and get to Punta Gorda as quick as you can.  I’ll stay here and meditate on my new reality.  Do you think I’ll be able to keep this rug?”

************

With Commodore Bob and Two Birds trading time behind the wheel they made the trek from Surfside Beach, SC to Punta Gorda, FL in record time.  Joey insisted on navigating even though Two Birds was pretty confident he knew how to get home.  Ocho sat in the back seating section typing away on his laptop, or texting messages to the people and groups needed to get on board with his plan.  He had said nothing to the others except that everything would be explained when they got back to Two Bird’s house. That was all they heard from him during the drive except an occasional chuckle.  The only words spoken loud enough for them to hear was, “Yes, Mr. President. Thank you for your rational approach and kind consideration in this grave matter.” ** Editor’s note: This is a work of fiction and as such, the President in this story is also fictional and in no way depicts the current resident of the White House. J

The first thing Two Birds noticed when they turned the corner onto his street was two immaculately detailed extra-large Ford Econoline Vans parked in his driveway, but it was the first thing that Commodore Bob saw that stole the show. A brand spanking new Peterbilt double trailer semi with the same Gray Wolf Transport detail emblazoned on both sides of the vans and the truck.

Four large pizzas and a requisite amount of liquid refreshment later, the three former minions were ready for Ocho to share his plan. “Okay then,” said Ocho as he swallowed the last of his Guinness, “here’s the deal. I called in a bunch of favors and was able to convince the powers that be to go along. The illicit fuel is being taken care of by the EPA with no further action taken against The Rick other than his ruined businesses and loss of prestige. DC&H get to keep the party stations, though they cannot send them into space. That means that there are no pilot jobs for you guys, but as you noticed as we arrived, Gray Wolf Transport does have need of drivers. If you’re interested, we can start right away. The pay is $20 an hour. The first job is to load up the vans with as much of the liquor and Diet Coke that they can carry, and the semi with the humidor and weed aboard the Cannabis Café.  The booze and Diet Coke will be delivered to your homes for your use.  The weed is for me.”

Two Birds, looking a bit confused replied, “Wait a minute there Ocho. If The Rick is ruined and down on his luck, why are we taking his supplies. It seems to me that he would need the revenue.”

Ocho nodded his head, “That would be the case if The Rick hadn’t agreed to let me have the inventory for nothing except, and this is the beauty of being an author who can make stuff up as he goes, I am going to revive The Rick’s career in a future story about you guys. He was so happy with that he told me to take all I wanted.”

Joey, though somewhat disappointed that he would not be Commodore Bob’s sidekick, was thrilled with the prospect of having so much Diet Coke on hand, and a goodly supply of Fireballs for special occasions.

Commodore Bob cared nothing about the how and why of the plan. His attention was firmly focused on the fact that he would be driving a double trailer semi, and as he has said many times, “Twenty bucks is twenty bucks.”

AFTERMATH

Dewey, Cheetum, Howe & MacDougal – yes, Rocco is finally acknowledged as a Partner; more on that below.  Though foiled in their master plan to orbit planets and colonize Mars, the fact that they retained the space craft made for new possibilities. Coming soon; The Inter-Galactic Adults Only Space Station Amusement Park located in the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. The three stations will all be upgraded with a state of the art animatronic Star Wars bar complete with all of the lovable aliens, including the band. The choice of location is ideal as weed is legal in Massachusetts and is only a few miles from the Hancock Shaker Village giving the wives and children something to do while dad is amusing himself at IGAOSSAP.

Marjorie Detwiler – left her employment with DCH&M as she was nominated and confirmed as the new Secretary of The Interior.

Gray Wolf Transport – Through the brilliant marketing and branding plan put together by Rocco, who was once again Ocho’s agent bringing untold profit to DC&H which prompted the change to DCH&M, Gray Wolf Transport went public on NASDAQ. Starting at $20.00 a share the price steadily rose and now stands at $86.00. The three original drivers were no longer driving the cargo vehicles having trained a new crew that now numbered in the hundreds. Taking their profits from the rise in the stock price they formed Gray Wolf Racing.

Two Birds – capitalizing on his years of experience as a fleet mechanic for a large utility company, he built a NASCAR ready, gray Toyota Corolla S, and christened it The Shake and Bake Special, regally bedecked with Gray Wolf images and logo.

Joey, aka Sidekick Joey; aka Bake – capitalizing on his years as an employee of the USPS, Joey was now the Pit Crew Chief for Gray Wolf Racing, changing tires with one hand, and a cold Diet Coke in the other.

Commodore Bob, aka NASCAR Bob; aka Shake – with the ‘gotta go fast’ motto emblazoned on the back of his alligator leather racing jacket, Commodore Bob was now the principal driver for Gray Wolf Racing winning the first race The Shake and Bake Special entered and which took place at the home of Ricky Bobby – Talladega.

Ocho – rich now beyond his wildest dreams, which only goes to prove the vivid, creative imagination he possesses.

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

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