Cbustapeck was right – reminding me that taking a shower is a wonderful feeling… maybe even comparable to dancing on acorns.

I remember the last time I got my hair cut short - a good five or six inches off. I remember how foreign my shower felt that first night, that first moment when I stepped into the stream of water and suddenly the familiar feel of wet hair clinging to my shoulder blades was gone.

My neck and back were naked and my head was light and off balance.

I remember how frustrated I was when I realized I had taken too much shampoo and my head was a mess of fluffy strawberry bubbles. Juicy strawberry smelling shampoo, almost intoxicatingly sweet, was dripping in the form of suds down my neck where my hair should have been. I was furious that I had wasted shampoo but then this bitter negativity faded into a childish curiosity at the thought of my foamy strawberry head.

I began drawing faces on the walls and blowing bubbles off my fingers. I realized I hadn’t shaved my legs in… wow, three weeks? I was never in the mood. Now I patiently, cautiously went over every curve of my leg while strawberry suds dripped into my ears.

When I had finished shaving I realized how warm the shower really was. As I bid farewell to the frothy strawberry bubbles washing down the drain. The smell, the air, it was too heavy. I had to hit the handle. Cold water bit my scalp. Fuck! I breathed deep and gingerly turned the handle back towards the letter H. when I reached my happy medium, like Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold, I stood there and let the water bead down my body for a few minutes longer. I ran my fingers through my newly cropped mop and thought perhaps it wasn’t so bad at all.

Turning off the water, I remained in a cloud of warm, saturated air and dreaded going back into the world. As I opened the shower door the cold air rushed at me and instantly began pulling my comforting water away. No time to stand around! You must dry up now! Hurry hurry or it will just seem colder!

But I didn’t want to give up that warm comforting feeling! So with haste I threw on my oversized terrycloth robe and leapt from the bathroom to my bedroom and into bed. Water seeping into pillow case, a little dash of leftover forgotten strawberry foam dripping from my ear, I fell asleep.

I often find myself sitting at my computer, or in bed, and trying to figure out what I can or should write about. I procrastinate terribly, though, and rare is the word that gets committed. I look at myself, unmotivated for every variety of reason. Sometimes I feel that for all I've gone through, I really have nothing to say. At other times I know that this isn't true, but my fear becomes one of ego - that maybe what I have to say isn't as awe-inspiring as I've lead myself to believe. And although I know this should be the last possible thing to serve as dissuasion, I cannot help but let it serve as due cause for procrastination to set in.

Tonight, I felt inspired to write and hesitated before finally deciding against taking my medication - sodium valproate, for fear its mood levelling qualities will deter this inspiration, and bring back the cloud of ambivalence I know only so well.

I have always been fascinated by writing. I am, at times, a voracious reader, though my knowledge of the "classics" is limited to my general knowledge, rather than intimate acquaintance with the actual texts. I have faith in my ability to write technically well, and my understanding and beliefs in what makes a good story, but it seems my ability to produce such a creation constantly fails me. But yet, to look at what I have written, of my own volition, and you will find not more than a scant few pages, ideas that seemed good at the time, ideas that may still be good, but all without exception ideas that have not been brought into fruition.

I have this burning desire to achieve, but I find myself constantly quenching this desire with a lack of willpower, energy, or both. I could point to so many reasons for this, but I find myself in danger of making those reasons into excuses, if that isn't what they already were. On those rare occasions where the desire has not been quenched, I find myself languishing in the pit of procrastination, working on a project without really working on it - playing with the engine, and never driving the vehicle anywhere, so to speak. I wonder if that is something else entirely, and perhaps not procrastination, but another self-defence mechanism, protecting me from the pessimistic fear that if I do attempt to create something, it will not meet the sometimes exacting standards and criteria I place upon myself.

I have, at varying times, been described at the high watermark of my being, and at the low, too. On one hand being labelled "gifted" and "talented", and on the other having a lacklustre performance at school. On one hand finding exceptional innate abilities to debate, discuss, explain, and on the other, to have far lower abilities than expected in some areas of mathematics and science, almost at random. And this erratic image is only further complicated once out of the realm of academia.

I do not place myself in great stead in this regard, nor believe myself to be unique, either. I am only too aware that this is, in all probability, a description which most people could apply to their lives, at least at some point or other.

But again and again I sit at my computer, and I stare. I ponder. I daydream. I listen to some music, and rapidly lose myself in the rhythms, the melodies, the lyrics, wishing silently but not so quietly that I too could have that innate ability to translate what I know is inside into the written word. Even now, I feel the spark dying, and it is a very conscious and definite effort to fan it, keep it alight, however dimly. On this, I am in two minds, I look at what I have done in so short a time, and how substantial this writing is in my body of work, and then I reverse the image and can only imagine what I may be capable of if I could put myself to this through the long hours required.

My, such a tortured and martyred soul I must appear to be making myself out to be when, dear readers, I am so very aware that these long hours are in fact what writing is about.

A friend once told me during a drunken talk session that the secret to being a good writer is to do it like Ray Bradbury: As soon as you get up, sit there and write whatever pops into your head. Bradbury apparently wrote Farenheit 451, Something Wicked this Way Comes, and The Veldt this way.

I can't argue with that. So as I write this, I haven't done a single thing with my day yet, except get up to take the morning piss.

I'll leave in a minute to procure some of the holy colombian brown bean--mixed with unhealthy levels of cream and brown suger--but for the moment, I'm just writing.

Thus explaining the UHF style writing incoherence, if you're wondering. Good grammer and proper spelling prowess goes out the window this early. (Ray Bradbury also rewrote his stuff several times, which I don't have time to do today. But I understand the vitalness of getting that mental VIBE down on paper. Or a forum. Therefore...here we go.)

I'm going to share a secret with you. It is known that I am a geek. I have a shitload of comics, books, movies and computer paraphenalia at my house, in my car, and most importantly IN MY HEAD at all times. I can tell which issue of Uncanny X-men was the one where Rogue nearly killed Wolverine with the kiss at the Pentagon or what Clark Kent's social security number is. I know Robert Ludlum writes the best action sequences in the world, but George R. R. Martin probably has the stranglehold on writing about medievil politcal intrigue, and in the world of erotica the name Nancy Svenning means you're going to pop a chubby reading her stuff unless you're impotent...

And I know movies. I've seen movies that range in quality from the sublime to the simply hideous. And I've loved them all.

I've been wanting to go to a film festival recently, something like Quentin Tarantino's annual show in Austin, where he shows genre movies from ages past in themed night theatre binges...where you can drink beer and eat blue cheeseburgers while watching Walking Tall or Dawn of the Dead in a surround sound holocaust of brutal imagery. In such an envirement, I would thrive.

But I Cannot. Those film festivals are all far away, and I am stuck doing some of the most intense work of my life on this fucking house.

So, when I am not working, I have begun having my own film festivals...culled not from Immaculate 35mm prints like Quentin, but from the back lots of Hastings Entertainment.

I had a job where I repaired video tapes, and then watched them to make sure they're working.

You're not supposed to watch the WHOLE movie, just fast forward, check, fast forward, check...blah blah blah.

I watch the WHOLE movie. Fuck it, it's compensation for the shit pay.

So in a given week, I probably watched twenty movies I had never seen. When I'm working on the house, I watch another twenty, because I go to the store and stock up on 49 cent rentals, and then have them going while I paint, chalk, chop, sand, hammer, pry and tamper.

This week was John Wayne Week.

You can, if you so choose, watch every John Wayne movie ever made for about fifteen dollars at the local video superstore. This is what I've been doing. This is why I'm going somewhat nuts.

Last night I watched "The Alamo", "warwagon", and "Rooster Cogburn" while I was working. I suppose I should say half-watched--I WAS working, after all.

Listening to the Duke pontificate while you're doing basic carpentry is soothing on some level I had never imagined. I felt more like an American during those moments than I have ever felt in my entire life. When I got my first truck, and my Dad helped me wax it while we were listening to the Beach Boys, I was an American THEN...but it doesn't have the cultural memory injection that having John Wayne give a "This is it boys, The Point of No Return" Pep Talk to you while you're hammering down 4-inch stud nails does...

So. All day with the Duke. A christmas tradition in some parts of the country, and I can see why. John Wayne was THE American Way for us. He was everything that was STRONG and VITAL about our country. He was our BEST ATTITUDES, up on the Screen.

Listen sometime to the speech Wayne gives about the Meaning of the Word Repulbic in "The Alamo." or, In the same movie, the speech he gives about Finally having a Cause worth Fighting for. These are the things that are at the Core of America...

John Wayne hit that shit in a way nobody could...If you were a bad guy needing to be taken down a peg or two--he'd KNOCK YOUR ASS OUT. If you were a damsel in need of some help--HE'D HELP YA, DAMNED IF HE WOULDN'T. Need a man to stand with ya to the end--WHEN THE CHIPS'RE DOWN, I'LL BE THERE, PILGRIM.

In real life, John Wayne wasn't like this. Although it's been said repeatedly that Wayne was the same person off screen as On Screen...Well, he said some really racist shit in his famous Playboy interview...so that kinda dulls his image...

He atoned for it. Asked for forgiveness, in Public. Said he was Sorry for what he'd said. I dunno. That sounds like maybe he meant it.

.... The thing I was going to talk about originally was that Last Night I had a Brain-Movie, and It starred John Wayne. That is to say: I saw so much of John Wayne over the last few days that I fucking dreamed a Movie with Him In it when I went to sleep.

A John Wayne Brain-movie. Friends: There was a mixture of Every Western, Every Action Movie, and Every Juicy bit of Dialogue I have ever seen in that.

Roland of the Dark Tower was Mixed with "The Wild Bunch" and "The Magnificent Seven".

Shakespearean Overtones of Tragedy, comedy. A message amongst the story of cosmic import.

I could go on and on, but this movie even had a fucking title, in my dream.

"Gone Home"

Jesus. It sounds utterly ridiculous, doesn't it? It is.

But it was the coolest dream I have had in my entire life. I was MOVED by it. I was CRYING from it. I was hoping against hope that the Hero would win the day against the impossible odds, Get the Girl, and ride off into the Technicolor Sunset. It was Fucking Great. But I'm not going to write about that, because my dreams are just dreams. And all it means is that I watched too many John Wayne Movies yesterday.

But you know something?

I'm doing the same today.

How many whores does it take to screw in a light bulb?


No. Whores. Prostitutes. How many whores does it take?

Uh - i don't know. (I can't remember if i've heard this one before. I know the answer will tell me more than i expected to learn about her when i walked in.)

Three hundred.(Her laugh is familiar - high and hurried, like a joke in itself.)

Three - why?

Because we've all got hard drug habits from sleeping with too many men, and STDs, and our hands are shaky. And, you know, sometimes the light bulb is hot, you know, and it's really high up and hard to reach, with all of our hands in there.

That laugh again. It's the same laugh as the perpetually drunk woman who pretends she can speak old english and importunes anyone who will lend her attention with the budgie she stores in her cleavage. Different woman, though. I have to reach over her at the counter to fill my coffee cup.

Comment ca va? Feliz Navidad! Ciao, bella. Bella! Bella dama. Comme ca. Tequila rojo, por favor. Feliz navidad. Por que. Pequeño. Ha - ha - ha!

I can't keep up and i can't hold a conversation with my friend, Josh, who's working the counter. She looks like she couldn't decide whether she wanted to dye her hair black or blonde, and that reminds me that i dreamt this morning of wringing water out of my hair and realizing that it was heavy, heavy like metal, and long to the floor. Hers is chaotic. So are her teeth. I am a citizen of the world! The police are afraid of me! See ya, Josh.

It's time to leave, to go to work. I walk out of the cafe, and round the corner. Every morning i go by here, it's a heart puzzle. Do i make eye contact? The corners are clogged with day laborers, hoping for work. Sometimes they are friendly, Buenos dias. Sometimes they leer. Mostly it's both: over-friendly leers, every one of them looking at me as i pass through them, each waiting for an admission that they're human. They lean on the buildings and stare. I can tell they're staring long after i cross the street. I can't possibly say good morning to all of them. Hola. Hola.

The people that need our notice most are the hardest. It's like steeling yourself to deal with a bad wound. This world is hurt bad. Needs a lot of work. No joke.

Day 1: It Rained on My Paradise

It’s 10:00 PM and someone already puked. Strangely enough, I hope it’s alcohol related. At least then I can assume that the culprit was having a good time. The seas have been extremely calm. Only the occasional sway. Not even enough to get my mom sick. Must have been alcohol related.

Nearly stepping in someone else’s vomit caps an otherwise disappointing day. I’m on my own, enjoying a fine alcoholic beverage in the Schooner Lounge, the equivalent of a fancy hotel bar. The band plays Jordu, a jazz standard every wannabe jazzman knows. They play louder than the room can really handle. Makes it difficult for me to hear my CD player. Woe is me. Sitting in a lounge on a floating paradise. My life really sucks…

It looks like I’m on my own for the rest of the evening. Evan and Joelle went to bed early. They took the red eye in from LA. They showed up at my uncle’s house at 6:30 this morning. They’re going to bed more pissed off than anyone. They hauled all of their SCUBA gear expecting diving excursions at Cozumel and Grand Cayman, two places I’m told has the most spectacular diving in the Western Hemisphere. Hurricane Isidore has since rerouted our trip to Labadee, a Royal Caribbean owned island off the coast of Haiti, and Ocho Rios in Jamaica. If this cruise happened a year ago I’d be really excited to go to Jamaica but I have since been told that it’s not as nice as the pictures would have you believe. We’ll see. I’m most disappointed that I won’t get to see the Mayan ruins at Tulum. That would have been part of the Cozumel stop. Instead, it looks like I’ll be climbing the Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios. I’m sure I won’t have anything to complain about in the end. I’ll probably be on my own for that trip. Evan and Joelle are trying to force Royal Caribbean into sponsoring a diving excursion in Jamaica. Mom’s knees are flaring up and my grandparents are lucky to be alive. Not so much because they’re 90, but because they haven’t killed each other yet. I guess 65 years of marriage will do that to you.

The bickering among the family started early. My grandmother freaks out about my grandfather, fearing that at any moment he can just collapse and that’ll be that. My grandfather refuses to listen to anything my grandmother says to him. He’s got it easy. He can just turn his hearing aids off. Mom has the medical degree and thinks everyone should do as she says (even though she hasn’t really practiced medicine in 20 years). Evan believes that Grandpa has lived a full life and should be able to do what he wants, even if it kills him. Joelle stays quiet. Must be nice knowing that you are only family by marriage. Me… I do what I’m told and get yelled at for not knowing it needed to be done five minutes ago.

In spite of the family, I’m going to enjoy myself. I love cruises. They’re fascinating cultural collages. You’ve got everything from rednecks to aristocrats. Bingo to wine tasting. And the atmosphere feels like it was taken from the “Self Help to Paradise” hand book. It’s everything you were told it would be. Lots of sun. Crystal clear water. Tropical drinks at every turn. Women in bikinis dancing (though that’s not as pretty as it sounds.) Like a really fancy day camp. “Well… there’s mini golfing at 9:00, bingo at 10:00, arts and crafts at 1:00 and surf and turf for dinner at 6:00.

I’ve found myself wondering what a nodermeet would be like on a cruise. I’m thinking that it’s good the booze is expensive. Although the duty free shop is selling two litres of Absolute for 18 bucks. The party wouldn’t leave the staterooms.

This afternoon was uneventful. There’s nothing planned until everyone gets on board. I took a nap until we had the mandatory emergency drill. That’s a comical experience. No one seemed to understand why we have these drills. The lady next to me was screaming in frustration that she couldn’t wear the life jacket without ruining her hair. Others were jumping out of line to snap a picture of their friends looking silly in their life jackets. It would suck if we drowned and they never got to see those pictures.

I had too much garlic at dinner. Roasted garlic soup and pasta in garlic sauce doesn’t sound like a recipe for sweet lovin’. Makes me glad my girlfriend’s not here.

There’s an older woman sitting alone at the bar. She’s waiting to get picked up. Every guy that’s come within 5 feet of her has been engaged in conversation. None has lasted very long. My father used to recommend this strategy to the lonely women in Cape Cod. I never thought it would work. Looks like I was right… for tonight anyway.

It’s still only 10:30. I’m getting old.

The Voyage Continues

Day 2: Ernest goes to Sea
Day 3: Labadee, Labada, Life Goes on, Bra!
Day 4: I seis the Rios, I siete the Rios, I Ocho the Rios
Day 5: The Voyage Home

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