Friday, September 02, 2005


(It was yelled and phrased more as a statement than as a question. I couldn't tell where the party-horn voice was coming from. I didn't yet know where I was.)

I had fallen asleep in a chair on the top deck -- the Solarium. It was coming back to me. I was on a boat, somewhere between Whittier and Valdez. My sleeping bag, still rolled up and placed upright like a cylinder in the seat next to me, had been serving as a pillow, my head cranked unnaturally sideways to reach it. I'd been out for about 20 minutes.

One slime-covered eye recognized the figure as vaguely elder-womanish, and I struggled to find consciousness, replayed her question a couple of times, and finally answered, "Yes."

"You know, young man, there are deck chairs you can lay down on, right through that door there."

I don't remember if I thanked her or not -- I think I did -- but I followed the direction of her finger through a door on the port side to find the deck chairs as she was saying something about it being the grandmother in her that makes her do such things.

I'd been up for nearly 48 hours, most of which had been spent doing all the physical labor involved in packing The Truck and cleaning out the house. I threw the PC into a locker there, spread the sleeping across the hard plastic slats that constitute these torturous "chairs," and was sure I'd be dead to the world in no time flat.

It was not to be.

During my 20 absense, the sleep-deprived brain and over-extended muscles had decided to unionize, strike, and make life hell for the management.

The muscle cells picketed and sang out loud solidarity chants that found harmonics sympathetic to my crystal skull, causing it to ring and pulsate and nearly shatter. A rogue member took to vandalism, creating a spasm between the shoulder and neck that seemed to drill a hole through the back of my brain, insert a fork, and twirl it as if it were serving up spaghetti.

The demonstration continued for hours. It was clear that a third-party negotiator would be required. I set out to find drugs.

We were porting in Valdez when I made my way to the Purser and asked about the availability of analgesics. After simplifying the question -- "You know, aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, something like that?" -- I was told they were available in the gift shop, which wouldn't be open for another four hours.

(Aside -- the Captain just announced we're passing by Mt. St. Elias, the third-largest peak in North America. Alaska is the land of hyperbole. When I left Anchorage, I could see Denali -- what you Outsiders call "Mt. McKinley," thanks to that asshole congressman from Niles, OH, who thinks Alaskans should all suck William McKinley's dick posthumously forever and ever. The mountain already had a name, you know. Denali is, of course, the tallest peak in North America, and sits next Mt. Foraker, another giant. In order to catch the ferry in Whittier, I had to drive through the longest traffic tunnel in North America -- a 2-1/2 mile hole drilled through the Chugach Mountains. And this morning, we ported in Valdez, epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America.)

Eight a.m. finally arrived, and in came ibuprofin to settle the dispute. I slept until I was awakened by the ship's horn when we left port at Tatitlek.

We're currently en route to Yakatat, where we'll port for a couple of hours before heading down to our disembarkement in Juneau tomorrow morning.


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