Miami and the Sea of Misfortune
by: Ryan Miller
Chapter 1: The Strange Case of Rudy EugeneThere is a delirious comfort that comes from basking in the fact that a 5:30 am morning flight is completely booked to the bill with military officers. Those awaken from their midnight drowse labor their faces with scuffed attitudes in an early morning airport, but each and every one finds seldom comfort that the likelihood of a security breach on board their plane is diminished when the local military nuts are seated close by. All these great pantheons of possibilities counter the game they play with themselves while profiling whomever they can, and any weasel transgressions that seem to leave a fine stench under their noses. I don’t want to delight in the game of I-Spy the terrorist with my Puerto-Rican Peruvian-American counterpart Diego on my trip. I simply want to leave for Miami without further mental delays after more security pat-downs, bag checks and background television stations blaring the indictment of Jerry Sandusky’s 48 counts of child molestation across the forum. Then in addition the networks supplement an analysis’s commentary as if they’re some master peon of cynical opinion that speaks for us all, and all the warning signs that have to be taken to prevent all of us from being doomed. Diego and I were just standing around at our gate along with the other passengers, and the discomfort of silence is completely ruined after the obstacle course that is the metal detectors, latex gloves and security officers yelling out directions at a line of people the last half hour. And if it isn’t these people causing a disruption then there’s the television talking heads telling us all to lay down the law of clasping shackles, which can be interpreted immediately by a group of highly trained militants on the first flight of the morning to completely eliminate any target of suspicion. If it isn’t me looking at the television while waiting to enter our long terminal then it’s catching a glare at an amputee war veteran still wearing his uniform. What in God’s name made you even capable of putting that on this morning?To think that all this grimacing will pay off in the long run, they only have themselves to really deal with, and have to bear the consequences of the long term health affects caused by paranoia.About 30 minutes into the flight Diego and I take our seats with everything hanging in the balance, and the awareness breaks out that not a single man is going to stand up and try and breach the pilot’s cabin. At this point in all likelihood we’d be better off waiting for a violent turbulence to send us crashing over the Atlantic, but playing the odds is distracted when the stewardesses usher out the bad vibes and roll down some drink carts with caffeine and salt snacks.One more layover and plane transfer in Atlanta galvanized more hysteria on CNN airwaves over revolution and upheaval in Egypt. Diego and I soon found ourselves surrounded by a different boarding class on our flight to MIA, notably a man tattooed from head to toe clinching his carry-on luggage in his lap like an ex-convict drug mule recently leased on parole. Another man boarded with a gold grill lining on his teeth, drooling on his shoulder but not shuttering an eye around to see if anyone else noticed. Gold teeth would only seem to be an inescapable dilemma at an airport, especially if you cannot remove them from your mouth and have to deal with a metal detector alarm that only people with plates in their heads suffer with, and most often not by choice.First class tickets weren’t a realistic venture at this point, with barely any money in our pockets from our prepared expenses for our trip for the severe human interest in Miami and a desperate need to get away, knowing really quite little of what we were getting into. Well by the time after take off when the landing gear has been lifted and people smother together in their seats, directing overhead air and pacing the isles, my ears began to haggle me with the pressure ringing like an air horn to the ear drums. So much so I contemplated the risk of opening the emergency hatch and ending all the painful anguish I happened to feel at the time. It was a crazed realization that I actually paid to sit with middle-aged retirees with overactive bladders who just couldn’t sit for one more hour long flight until they could check phone updates for their fiscal earnings to make sure there’s no bounced checks by the time they’re out plastered on margaritas and tanning face-lifted leathery skin on Palm Beach.Dr. Bob is the most honest reason I can give for the decision to leave for Miami. An old family friend and business partner who calls Coral Gables his home, and over the years has seen the brunt of happenings as a fireman, police officer, ambulance driver, Miami coroner, practicing doctor of dentistry, and most importantly has received his doctorate in punctuality. In recent years Dr. Bob fell victim to a scorpion attack in the very own brush of his front yard in the Gables, which led to his foot swelling to the likes of the size of a rhombus shaped, elephantitus football grapefruit. Fellow doctors were impossibly impalpable to his condition and quick to diagnose Dr. Bob with legally blind vision and ready to chop the foot off until he yielded to second opinion from the good doctors of John Hopkins in Maryland. Steadily nowadays he carries with him a glowing neon blue walking stick (to which he also carries with his undeniable charm and the cane which apparently still surprises many in its appearances), a pocket full of insulin needles, a roll of two dollar bills for gratuities, “because who in the world really ever receives a two dollar tip?”, a cell phone on which he averages 66 phone calls a day, and remarkably has had roughly over 30 assistants that hardly ever speak a word of English. His adamant perseverance would be best described by an adage that no day ever musters a ballot to repeat itself.A short time after landing it was Dr. Bob himself and one of his various assistants driving an auburn submarine of an SUV picking us up at the MIA terminal underpass. The assistant we later found out did not make it to the next week, and resigned from her duties of employment from Dr. Bob and his pensive directions while driving. However, these brief encounters with Dr. Bob’s assistants can be of the most interesting nature, as on my last trip I met the famous Crazy Larry and the young Nico, two who actually spoke English. Diego was not able to meet either as Crazy Larry was currently preoccupied managing a youth hostel in South Beach and house sitting an elegant home, which of course brings in a good summons of money on a week to week basis. When I first met the guy he was chain smoking Marlboro cigarettes, talking a mile a minute on the telephone and organizing piles of laundry and a collection of fine ties in the hoarder’s paradise that is Dr. Bob’s garage. The rest of the house as I was shown on the official tour stands strong with a dozen or so samurai swords and other blades, an antique dental chair, an eccentric collection of trinkets lining the walls and counters, a walk-in shower, and my personal favorite, a European toilet. Crazy Larry serves very efficiently in his duties for Dr. Bob, but notably was once a merchant marine, and sailed up the popular Norfolk harbor in the 1980s on an inflatable raft, made landfall with several other sailors at the waterside mall in hazmat suits telling scared civilians to evacuate the quarantine area immediately. Since then he was adopted by Dr. Bob and taken into his home in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Weeks before my first visit last year to his estranged home Dr. Bob had kicked out Crazy Larry after an incident involving a missing handgun. The handgun was kept hidden in a private compartment of the home and was stolen by a stranger Larry had welcomed inside. After some despairing regret Larry packed his things and moved out. Dr. Bob found Crazy Larry living in a tree in the park days later and his cordial nature brought back the assistant and true friend to the confines of the home. Nico was last seen by myself scuba training, boating, car racing, and DJ’ing, and shared his adrenaline laced past of bruising punches from the life of a European cage fighter to me over dinner. Prior to our landing he had been involved in a car incident but only suffered minor injuries that kept him from his activities momentarily.A hug, a kiss and car ride later Diego and I are a couple of outsiders getting acclimated in a gloomed dreamscape, as the extemporaneous template of our bizarre days unfolds. I am digging into the heart of this thing, wiping away know it all attitudes and secrets too intimate to ask, all in part of the social and political implications of being in Miami.Those lamenting stories of past and present, the high octane whirling spin of successions of Castro expulsions from the ways of the Cuban Cold War protégées, finding their way to this common place, all in time.But first to the formidable circumstances clouding our arrival in the gloomed dreamscape, this business dealing with our nation slowly diluting in the infectious news of the “Causeway Cannibal” or “Miami Zombie Attack”, resulting in a masochist press frenzy as if the story itself was berthed in the house of Salo’, or the 120 days of Sodom. The news media reveled in a wide range of speculation surrounding the circumstances of the 31-year-old Haitian-American North Miami Beach resident Rudy Eugene stripping naked wielding a Bible, beating a stranger to a pulp, taking the man’s pants off and then inexplicably eating the face off the homeless 65-year-old Ronald Poppo like it was primal instinct on the MacArthur Causeway. The 18 minute face gouging aftermath surfaced stories from The Guardian, CBS Miami, Herald Sun and The Christian Post with false accreditation all to the likes of the street drug bath salts.“One theory is that Eugene, a divorcee with a history of mental problems and arrests for possession of marijuana, might have taken a mind-altering drug nicknamed “bath salts”, a popular LSD alternative said to give users superhuman strength and a sense of invincibility but which can trigger aggression, extreme paranoia and hallucinations.The results of toxicology tests are not expected to be available for several weeks.”-The Guardian“Authorities believe LSD, or possibly a designer drug known as “bath salts”, may have been in Eugene’s system when he chewed the face of his victim, Ronald Poppo.”-CBS Miami“Miami police have not released 911 calls. The medical examiner declined to discuss Eugene’s autopsy, and results of toxicology tests could take weeks.”-CBS Miami“Police initially said the attack could have been provoked by an overdose of a powerful new form of LSD mixed along with “cocaine psychosis”.Toxicology reports on Eugene’s body have not been completed.Reports however yesterday suggested Eugene was likely under the influence of the synthetic stimulant “bath salts” made with the active agent mephedrone, which produces an often aggressive, chaotic experience for users, coupled with intense hallucinations.”-Herald Sun“’Miami Zombie Attack’ One of Many Violent Cases Involving Bath SaltsSaturday’s attack in Miami involving one homeless man eating another homeless man’s face may turn out to be one of many crimes that have been a result of the illegal use of bath salts.Bath salts are traditionally meant to be used in baths for therapeutic purposes, but they contain a harmful chemical that, when ingested, can cause feelings of euphoria and energy similar to that of cocaine.Bath salts contain the synthetic stimulants mephedrone or methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), and can be snorted, injected, or swallowed.… Eugene is suspected to have been taking a new drug called “bath salts,” and although it was not immediately clear if the properties of the drug are linked to the household item of the same name, there have been violent cases involving the drug.In May 2011, police accused 19-year-old Mark Thompson, of Charleston, W. Va., of killing his neighbor’s pygmy goat, allegedly while high on bath salts.Police found Thompson in his bedroom, wearing a bra and panties, with the dead goat at his feet and a pornographic magazine laying a few feet from the goat, police told The Charleston Gazette.Thompson allegedly told police that he had been high on bath salts for three days straight.Florida has also struggled controlling the selling and consumption of bath salts. The Dayton Daily News reported in Dec. 2011 that there had been 16 recent deaths, all related to bath salts.One 29-year-old male snorted bath salts and then hung himself, while another 39-year-old male was found dead in his home, surrounded by broken lamps and overturned furniture, the newspaper reported.Calls to ban bath salts have increased significantly since Saturday’s “naked zombie attack.”As previously reported by The Christian Post, the U.S. Senate recently voted 96-1 to ban the harmful chemicals found in bath salts.“A common effect of these synthetic products is that they cause psychotic episodes — anxiety, paranoia, they’re all documented effects,” Paul Melton, investigator for Florida’s Pinellas County Justice Coordination told US News.“Does it cause someone to eat someone’s face, I can’t say that … But it certainly could cause anxiety and delusions that could lead to something like that,” he added.”-The Christian PostCommonly these stories mention that a positive identification of bath salts, LSD, cocaine “psychosis” or other illegal street drugs will have to wait weeks for the toxicology report. Meanwhile CBS Miami and the Herald Sun both cited the “authorities” or police as reasons for the speculation, CBS stating “Police have not released a motive for the attack on Poppo, who had been homeless for decades. The head of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, Armando Aguilar, speculated that Eugene may have been high on LSD or “bath salts,” which can cause psychosis as the body overheats.” as well as The Guardian’s article quoting Detective Moreno of the Miami Police Department “”We are investigating this as a police-involved shooting and will be continuing to reach out to individuals to help us work out what happened.” He [Detective Moreno] refused to comment on suggestions from police union officials that Eugene might have overdosed on drugs. “What the fight was about, we have no idea at this point.””At this point the press, the police, and the public hadn’t a clue nor a toxicology report of conclusive evidence that the attack was related to or caused by drugs. By then it was impossible to thwart unbecoming rumors, and many were indulging themselves to the shameless treachery of ideas and stories that seemed to spawn from the attack, some stating that if isn’t a bath salt it was a form of LSD injected or an ingested laced street drug. Besides the prerogative stories involving bath salts listed by The Christian Post, non-cited stories of supposedly similar incidents were occurring, as 15 or so police officers wrestled down a man attacking a taxi cab, high on one or a combination of LSD, bath salts or cocaine psychosis. Another unrelated issue in New Jersey occurred when a man high on drugs threw his own intestines at a police officer. The only source that seemed to dispute the use of drugs in the attack was Rudy Eugene’s friends, mother, and girlfriend, citing that he never so much used prescription drugs and only smoked marijuana. Eugene’s girlfriend at the time and mother both referenced either vodou or demons as causes. Eugene was Haitian but did not practice vodou and was not a resident of Miami’s Little Haiti, where vodou is an observed religion (Notably it is also unlikely that the 19-year-old West Virginia boy high on bath salts who killed his neighbor’s goat was unrelated to a Haitian vodou ritual of sacrificing animals). He did however carry around a Bible and Koran and recited verses to friends.The circulation of scary ideas even led to one of Dr. Bob’s friends calling from an airport on the other side of the world in Singapore just to see if his number was finally up. A scorpion attack is one thing, a face eating is another. A week later, high profile women’s advocate and Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred even announced to CBS Miami that she would be representing the girlfriend of Rudy Eugene in all this madness. Thus far all we knew was that nobody really knew what was going on, besides two naked men on a Miami causeway were making global headlines, one of them homeless and faceless, another shot dead, and Gloria Allred was boarding the first flight to Miami to stand at the podium and represent a woman crying of vodou curses.The following Wednesday CBS Miami news announced the first preliminary toxicology report was issued, determining that only marijuana was indentified in the system of Rudy Eugene, but still no indications of any other drugs would be found for some time. The article went on to suggest that ecstasy may have been taken on the basis that five empty water bottles were found in Eugene’s car, as ecstasy junkies are depraved with thirst and Eugene was seen on cameras pacing around his broken down car miles away and hours before the incident took place.Three days later Huffington Post Miami and The Miami Herald reported officially on the autopsy:“The ‘Miami Cannibal’ actually wasn’t.According to the Miami Herald, a law enforcement source said an autopsy did not reveal any human flesh in the stomach of Rudy Eugene, who was shot by police while chewing off the face of a homeless man on Miami’s busy MacArthur Causeway.The Herald reports that “a number” of undigested pills were found in Eugene’s stomach, but they have not yet been identified. Toxicology reports on Eugene, who according to CBS has been confirmed to have smoked marijuana in the hours before the attack, could take weeks to months to complete.‘The autopsy finding that Eugene had no human flesh in his stomach jibes with the crime-scene investigation, which found chunks of Poppo’s flesh on the ground, as if they had been spit out. The autopsy also revealed human flesh lodged between the teeth of Eugene, who did not have his two top front teeth, the law enforcement source said. Eugene is known to have lost his two front teeth in an accident as a child.’ “And finally, weeks later, Fox News of all incredulous sources that could be out there halted the stupor supported in the media under the headline “Medical examiner rules out bath salts in Miami face-chewing attack”.“Lab tests detected only marijuana in the system of a Florida man shot while chewing another man’s face, the medical examiner said Wednesday, ruling out other street drugs including the components typically found in the stimulants known as bath salts.There has been much speculation about what drugs, if any, would lead to the bizarre behavior that authorities said Rudy Eugene exhibited before and during the gruesome attack that left the other man horribly disfigured. A Miami police union official had suggested that Eugene, who was shot and killed by an officer, was probably under the influence of bath salts.The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner said in a news release that the toxicology detected marijuana, but it didn’t find any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs. Eugene also tested negative for adulterants commonly mixed with street drugs.The department ruled out the most common components found in bath salts, which mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine and have been associated with bizarre crimes in recent months. An outside forensic toxicology lab, which took a second look at the results, also confirmed the absence of bath salts, synthetic marijuana and LSD.…An expert on toxicology testing said that marijuana alone wasn’t likely to cause behavior as strange as Eugene’s.” Suddenly a “drug fueled craze” can only take a meaning of reference to marijuana, which makes any tribune’s story relying on drugs as a motive for the attack seem like a public service announcement for Reefer Madness. It’s the kind of low caliber writing where the only reasoning behind the coverage and publication of numerous stories is based on the volley of rash assumptions. An explanation is still unstated and unknown behind Eugene’s actions, and it makes it even harder for the press to stand by holding their mouths shut unable to stare right into this thing’s ‘face’ and see the exact intent given. They will have to wait and hope that a homeless man is now better off talking as a rehabilitated half-blind trauma patient, but doubtingly Ronald Poppo won’t even be able to fit a cause to what happened other than that it was an ill-fated afternoon, where your mind loses its handle and the skirmishes of insanity in your brain finally take over when you’ve lost all abiding control.
Chapter 2: Bad Doldrums on Coconut Grove – Huffing Illicit Fumes from a 458 RoadsterEnough conjugating lunacy already, such a flurry of stories of perceived suffering makes the vile news world seem like the most lucrative business model for selling papers is more stories featuring faces being gorged, chewed and spit out on to headlines like a new billboard for the second coming of a demented Disney World in South Florida. William Randolph Hearst couldn’t have dreamt of such publicity. Though, a homeless man undergoing facial reconstruction surgery to a respected daily source of news may be a filler before it is a back page story. Imagine the disappointment that it wasn’t a group of tourists who missed their exit for Daytona Beach and went some 200 miles down I-95 to meet their fate face on in Miami, or a Palm Beach playboy who just needed one more excuse to revisit his orthopedic plastic surgeon. Any one of those maddening affairs would easily lead to Universal Studios picking up the rights to make the horror picture and then the patient finally gathering up the confidence to waiver some of the movie’s earnings, pick up a pen and scribble a New York Times bestseller. But a homeless man thought already dead by his family for over 30 years may be less marketable to a wider audience, however serves as the fundamental concept behind reality television.We pulled into Dr. Bob’s semi-oval driveway, his address lit up in cursive little boy blue on a neighboring sign. An abandoned white van sits perched on the other half of the driveway, waiting for Dr. Bob’s crazed Saturday mornings to hop around the Gables finding random assortments of collectables being tossed out in yard sales. The designated vehicle is a sort of hoarder’s mobile home, the paddy wagon for the most eclectic items that would keep an attention deficit hyperactive disorderly person fixated on toys for hours. Anyone driving this thing down these posh streets immediately takes on the appearance of a mad joker sprung from a Jack-in-the-box, swerving around sharp corners, high on the speed from two entire pots of coffee roast.It’s a kind of important weekly ritual for Dr. Bob. “Never undermine bargaining for anything less than base value.” His happened car of choice for getting around Miami on a regular basis is a black Lincoln town car, which taken at the right speed and careful hand placement over divots could sink through the first barrier of a police blockade. But since there will be none of that it’s more of a road obstruction itself, turning mistreated old roads, parking garages and yard sale hunting into a sanctum of hell and an instigator for mild road rage when trying to follow the doctor’s directions.A tented mezzanine overhangs the steps to the house; for some strange reason I walked to the front door expecting an orderly to emerge out of a breath of thinly veiled air and unroll a red carpet for the occasion of our arrival on the premises. It seemed not so far out of the realm of uncanny prospects that could be done, but something that would be characteristic of the imminent dementia I’ll be rottenly plagued with in the later days of our time spent in Miami. One step inside with Dr. Bob and it’s quick to notice the other house guest propped up at the kitchen counter top on a wooden stool, set on whatever it is that he is doing at the time being.“This is Larry Katz, a big time friend of mine from Miami who just moved back from LA working on movies and is staying here until he finds his new apartment.” Dr. Bob introduced Diego and me, though I previously had a glimpse at the man’s work when Dr. Bob had shown me his current entrepreneur status weeks before in an advertisement. He’s involved in the distribution on Jetlev R200, a water-powered jetpack with 200 horsepower connected to a hose that sends you into liftoff over water like a new kind of NASA designed Apollo shuttle series made as a publicity stunt for the Miami board of tourism.“I got a speeding ticket on it,” Larry told us, which I figure being chased down by the Coast Guard on one of those things is essentially the equivalent of being flagged down by a bicycle cop. They’re fairly new and rare, though we were told some celebrities had been lined up by Larry and others promoting the water pack, most recently with Justin Timberlake.It was quite the introduction for Diego and me with Larry Katz, who had far more laboring experience in movie producing and assistant directing in his years, and quite a bit to show for it. In his earlier days he’d come over to Dr. Bob’s after a day of school and go boating out on Coconut Grove, which we were haphazardly headed for on the vicious docks during a squalling rain.It didn’t help that current conditions of Tropical Storm Debby changed complete directions from heading West over the gulf to back over the Florida peninsula, seemingly because the storm felt like it. Northern Florida was belted with flooding rainfall, trailer-overturning tornados and power shortages that gave more Floridians ideas to jump in their canoes and paddle down their street for a guest spot on local news. There is a consistency in weather reporting that causes viewers to judge the seriousness of a brewing storm at sea when it decides to make landfall. First, a body count, and then the secondary damage report. But with the sight of some idiot rowing down his cul-de-sac it becomes a quick preliminary indicator of some relatively minor statewide damage, but also the overlooked indication that Governor Rick Scott is wiping off a brutal sweat that’s been sitting on his forehead since the state department won’t be spending billions of tax payers’ dollars in the midst of panic during a statewide emergency. The damage is an issue of its own, but minor in the grand scheme of government and economic interests. Blown over homes and flooded streets in a political eye takes the appearance of a few torn off shingles, but when a storm disrupts the flow of millions of dollars in tourism the entire roof comes off.Larry took the wheel behind the black tumbling brute, with Dr. Bob in the front pointing out to Diego and me from the backseat a tree on the divided highway that was struck in a violent lightning storm and toppled over onto someone’s Mercedes. Its trunk was left in the aftermath, and had the about the width of a Redwood, a menacing fact that Larry seemed pleased with. It was apparently unrelated to Tropical Storm Debby, as its impact on Miami was minimal. Some hopeless Hispanic man was standing on the side of the road staring blankly with tunnel vision, holding a bouquet of flowers in his hands; the dead ones he couldn’t sell we’re being tossed away. All these sinister rumblings however took on a noticeable signature resemblance to the feeling in the backseat. Diego’s face was beginning to give out to a fatiguing listlessness, and I for one needed something in my system. “They’ve got to be spent from the morning, a 5:30 boarding flight, get them food or get them something”.Any misunderstanding to those sinking feelings could make the pair of us easily seem like a couple of grimacing freeloaders in the presence of Dr. Bob’s benevolent showmanship. When failing to cover up the bad blend of insolent and inarticulate feelings it’s a complete accreditation to false modesty. All these brushings with malcontent sensations are in turn just the little tears of forsaken doldrums about to be blown away off shore en route to our boat waiting for us, the famous LEGO.LEGO derives from the term LEGO Beasts, or the sleazy escorts standing around the shadiest palms and crooked corners in Nassau. Dr. Bob explained, “Around 1982, 1983, me and the rest of our youth group would fly down a couple hundred miles to Nassau in a small, discounted-priced plane. Pick-up trucks with Bahamian drivers would be waiting at the airport terminal and we’d jump in the back with our backpacks on and ride over through town by these drug dealers and ladies of the night offering their propositions to you, only some guys took advantage of it. The drivers would tell us to yell out at the women as we passed, and so we shouted “Lego beasts! Lego beasts! Lego beasts!” The trucks took us to the marina where a 300 foot tall clipper ship with three guiding sail masses and another 100 people would be waiting to raise the sails with the wind, go deep sea diving and cooking off the coast, the food was great. One of the group member’s fathers was a retired sailboat captain for Windjammer Cruises and struck a deal with an airline owner to give discounted cruise trips to stewardesses. They’d fly them down to join 40-60 young adults on board. That’s where I got the nickname LEGO because in those days I was very physically active. We’d leave our IDs at home, have our glasses ready and pop open a wooden keg of Bahamian rum every afternoon. The rum was made from the Bahamas sugar cane, drinking in the afternoon was a pirate ship tradition. When the pirates were finished working for the day the captain gave them a shot of rum as pay so they would keep working. So an entire keg was necessary daily. One time the keg was either bumped, or the spigot was left running and flooded the entire main barroom. Nothing was salvaged.”That great boat of shining desires is docked at a private marina shielded behind a grand gated community, those persons of interest, the big time hits with ten digit figures and innumerable expenditures. And of course Dr. Bob knew them and their guard at the gate. We were in deep and sleeping with the enemy, looking like a couple of basket cases just taking a small toke on the drug from the sons of fortune. “That mansion there—that’s the owner of Progressive Auto, one of his homes. There’s his neighbor, some truck moving company’s owner. I’ll show you where that surgeon lives who worked on Bill Clinton’s blown knee cap in the late 90s, it’s over by the boat”, remarked Dr. Bob. Suddenly a peacock emerged in front of the vehicle and scurried across the road. “Those things run around free in here.” We stopped the car and got out and walked into some stranger’s back yard to get a glimpse of the pool. Less than an hour in Miami and we would already be on a boat, and standing in some multibillionaire estate’s backyard, courtesy of the doctor and Larry Katz. LEGO is a prized piece in the part of the relationship Dr. Bob has with the marina, the estates and their owners. The boat stays there free of charge for life as a result of the enduring adoration the billionaire yacht club has for him and his closeness with the community.I have to speak easy here, despite the mind bending indications of those around me living their legacies, begging me to ask the question of what’s making honest money here in trembling economic times, and inferring that they’ve all cashed out and checked in on the very essence of being…but all of this serves its purpose as a commentary and not an argument, and I keep telling myself, be good to them—they’ve treated him well. Any ruthless misuse of print media here and it becomes the pivotal tipping point for Dr. Bob’s dissipating relationship and mine as well, it’s tip-toeing around him being cast off in exile from high society in Miami. Besides, I’m getting carried away here from a point I made to myself earlier, that all these squabbling peacocks along with the fine soil and nearby waters make this a perfect place to let loose an alligator and let it slither across the yards. I take it there’s enough birds to feed it.On with this business of Dr. Bob’s LEGO libido, a single thrust engine tied down on the docks, ready to be taken out and abused by four loonies treading from shore with as much strength with choppy wind as a nitroglycerin packed punch blowing fish out of water. Diego, Larry and I untied and pulled off the snaps on LEGO’s tarp (“Snappers” is another nickname given to LEGO’s passengers, simply for unsnapping and re-snapping the boat’s slipcover).Coconut Grove is several miles southwest of the swarming downtown Miami jungle, but is non existent in a damp haze. The foggy mist and mucky waters were battering us around as Diego and I were struggling to regain inertia. “Can you believe I made arrangements to schedule a sea plane in this?” Dr. Bob had canceled the plane, which should have been a forewarning to our crash course on water. Trying to fly out here in a smokescreen of looming clouds pumping out and vaporizing rain only leads to a torrential mishap, first the propeller jams, the pilot tries to keep us calm on the headsets wrapped and wired around our necks, an inescapable death trap waiting to stream 100 million volts across our bodies on a fatal impact with water, only to find myself trying to breathe with a deployed life vest strangling all the air in reach and hugging a buoy adrift in a sea of hammerheads and tiger sharks fighting for a gourmet dinner, praying for a search and rescue before I’m carried away by the undertow. Too many tumultuous interjections from my head out on rough waters! I’ve got to keep my mind straight. Tactfully and reassuringly I’m going to take the bait and ride it out till the end.Which proved to be only true, since the cloudburst from above seemed only to get worse the further we went out, and cut our boat trip short. Larry turned LEGO inland to calm waters, the tarp came out, the snappers moved back in place, and I rustled with a light mental breakdown emerging as the gimp.I made peaceful amends with myself when my appetite finally caught up and we ate at Scotty’s along the waterline underneath an outdoor canopy. Next door was where LEGO would have been kept had the billionaires not have helped out, in Dinner Key, a hangar with three shelves of boats with a crane and pulley system that takes an upwards of 30 minutes to an hour to retrieve your boat. My only reasoning for mentioning this is the hangar’s relevance to Cuba, as it used to be a Pan Am Airways hangar for seaplanes that made the trip prior to the communist takeover. But along with the drowning tidal pool that was Batista’s regime, Pan Am’s excursions eventually folded, and both became an American by-product of yesteryear. Dinner Key is also the sight where Jim Morrison was arrested for indecent exposure on stage with The Doors during a concert. There’s much to be said about this place, but Morrison’s quote to the crowd, “Adolf Hitler is alive and well and living in Miami” takes the cake at the monster’s ball.I had the dolphin sandwich, a white meat prepared on a bun with mayo, tomato and lettuce. Diego had fried conchs, but more importantly a long-standing stomach ailment since the plane ride that commonly results in what Larry Katz can only refer to as “cat spray”, or otherwise a term with a meaning you’ll have to look up as it would be revoked if written (“Cat spray” in fact was not a result of the conchs nor happened to be a symptom Diego suffered but rather a humorous observation Larry made to explain Diego’s standoffish behavior at the table…an awakening from those bad doldrums).The last message I had received from Dr. Bob before getting to Miami was to “please bring Hub’s lightly salted peanuts” from Virginia, which prompted a visit to the supermarket since I’ve never heard of Hub’s and was also a confusing request when I read it at 2:04 in the morning. Miami, during initial appearances, has more sports cars per square mile next to Beverly Hills and Dubai. Several times I had to pump the breaks at full speed to either window shop or fawn at the Ferrari 458s or Lamborghini Gallardo’s left out on the lot, which is understandably a police trap for grand theft auto (a Ferrari test drive along with a round at the firing range was originally scheduled but canceled due to time constrictions). Larry parked at the grocery next to a yellow Ferrari just waiting for either some punk to flip his door open into its side or a shopping attendant on his last day before forced resignation to push a row of karts just a little too hard. Parking lots would only seem to be a hazard trap and walking paradox for a car like that, since the general consensus in South Florida for the speed of life for flashing money and waterfront property is to have an accompanying fast car with the darkest pigment of tint so that wherever you go people can go out on a limb just to see who’s inside. But this is utterly ineffective when remained in one gear and stationed in the same place. Another kind of scandal for the sick and disadvantaged is to rent one of these roadsters for a weekend, take a spin on South Beach picking up whomever for obvious reasons, become completely done in from the finest bottles of chardonnay and Patrón and then awakening to find that you paid a bill exceeding 10,000 dollars non refundable in cash, polaroids from the doormen beating you after the ensuing argument with the owners over the prices, and various death threats from debt collectors for the car you already couldn’t afford for the “best weekend of your life.”
Chapter 3: Thoughts on a Clothesline from a store in America – A Sign of the Big Red ScareNightfall on South-Beach There was little sentiment for the smell of alcohol on our breath. We stopped on the strip, at an outdoor cafe serving fish and shrimp tacos, jambalaya, and spicy Jamaican jerk chicken. Margaritas surfaced and floated around the cornerstone bar, advertised locally as some of the best, with melons the size of an infant’s head sliced and hanging on rimmed glasses for garnishing. There was no denial that inhibitions were being lowered at every last drop from the first drink in Miami, a mojito served as red as a third-degree burn, like a splash of punch on ice, and a mint mojito for Diego. Girls walked on by for the show, decorated in their small outfits, trying to steal glasses of chardonnay, sugar coating phrases in Spanish semantic dialects from pearl glossed lips to company sitting in white coattails dragging to the floor, losing their balance to madness. Never test a drunk’s patience with manipulation, it’s all a matter of telling time before the hounds start calling, throwing their hands up, and plates come crashing down to the floor along with the irresponsible treachery from drinking. It happened to be our first meal Dr. Bob needed his medication applied in his arm fat by Diego or myself, otherwise he’d have to lean over the drunks and pin the needle into his stomach after the meal. I finished my first drink ofMiami, came around to the other side of the table and fed the needle, expediting insulin into the bloodstream. We were looking like a couple of junkies shooting up right out in the open on the strip, among a bunch of drunks yammering at each other, then looking over with their mouths dropped open, appalled to see what new low level of disordinance the public has fallen to. Welcome to the new world order, the status quo being torn apart.When I first stepped foot on South Beach I was immersed in entire culture, all about to engulf me with what little I had known in such few steps. The embodiment of a generation having its way with a clash of new and old world values. It was another year to helplessly collect my sins, buying into everything that was wrong with the way we lived.Walking on the strip, mobilized with the taste of mojito mouth, and wired with observations of strip shops, walking body builders, street performers, and cracked out panhandlers. Diego needed a new coat for the next day’s cruise in the Caribbean, and just sticking your head into one of these brightly lit shops with raving dub-step music and mirrors on the ceiling became further proof of the fallen ordinance. That jacket there. It’s nice, nice. It’s a woman’s, but that can work down here….that coat? 400 dollars? No for you, half off, we’re going out of business. I’ll work it down to $195. Several blocks of this and it was all the exposure you need to half truths and everything cultivated out of illness from all the filth in the world.A wrong look down a long dark alleyway and there’s scum bacteria everywhere, lurching in the dark. An elderly homeless man began hoppling about, a sort of semi-Quasimodo in appearance, hunched over and walking with a limp, begging for universal healthcare inAmericaand just some spare change before his facial expression can no longer force a smile and has a schizophrenic outburst from another bystander’s rejection. Dr. Bob remarked, “you don’t need to give them anything, the city sets up those meters right over there so that people can feed their quarters to help the homeless.”Everything was building to a non-obtainable climax of sorts, there seemed to be no noise code as the saxophones and break dancer’s stereo’s rang out. All eyes were fixed on Dr. Bob’s blue cane lighting up, stirring a reaction from a crowd like a confrontation with an imaginary firefly in a nightclub full of people rolling on ecstasy, falling over on one another and later asking each other what just happened.The pecking order in perspective seems to pigeon hole and goes as: if you’ve got it, you flaunt it, if you don’t, you flaunt what you have, and if you have nothing, you get picked apart in comparison, an immediate outcast and avoided threshold of misfortune. Suddenly by just an instance of a second glance from trying to understand how you feel about what’s happening and it’s a quick disassociation with everyone around you. Plugged in sales staffers and the gulping consumers with shopping bags become fire breathers and juggling midgets.Lost somewhere out in this wildness Diego and I began hollering back at each other rampant sex noises, just as a hyena does when chaotically hit below the belt. In a flight or fight response it becomes a psychological alternative where predators have to search for clues in meaning to what do next. The environment has changed drastically in appearance and expectation, and the best decision for treating a prey during this turnaround is to just back off and leave it alone, and find something else that won’t squeal “Yeahhhh!” and “Ohhhh!” into your face. There’s a whole other market out there that’s safer with yes-men blinded by glitters and ready to flex strips on credit cards.The only apparel close to a reasonable price were some kind of latex white raincoats with studs that seem only appropriate for those situations that call for extensive role-playing and Freddie Mercury style innuendo. No more antics. It’s time to walk away from the strip, leave this pattern of disparagement and stop meddling with this handful of peril.The next morning we should have prepared for a day in hell when leaving for theportofMiamito embark on a 5:00pm cruise to theBahamas. I wasn’t originally overjoyed when given the cruise itinerary, it seemed nonetheless a trap door for upscale tourism, a fire and brimstone medley for someone like me, but since Dr. Bob cruises half of the year meeting all kinds of people it couldn’t hurt for the sake of despicable human-profiling and cultural journalism, Those reasons there are the basic logistics of this thing. I will make it so long as there isn’t an Italian captain capsizing our enormous Norwegian Sky and leaving passengers for complete abandonment, and then lumping us all together on lifeboats, perceived as these gluttonous peddlers with cameras, trying to capture the indecent experience of a disenfranchised third world country like a bunch of poor tribes people. And so, taking my thoughts and feelings for completely shipwrecked, it was time to pack up the truth in my suitcase and head out. Stark realities would soon be moving in, and I’m not sure if not understanding the Spanish maid and her farewell wishes is a factor I can work into the argument that foreshadowed our bad luck.Noticeably, Coral Gableshas a strict code of neighborhood rules for following. Houses must be of a certain color, often built in Spanish villa style or with actual coral, grass must be cut, and even the interior rooms are supposed to be monitored and approved when a resident (or in this case I could refer to as a “subject”) repaints their living room. Where are these residential on-lookers, peering over our shoulders and controlling the switchboards of society’s maintenance? If you were to ask just anybody walking their dog or terminating scorpions in their front lawn they would likely tell you they’re among us, in the lots behind our homes and peeping over our fences on each side, clogging our drains, tying up our plumbing lines and reeking from the sewers below our feet. In all sense of the word, innovation is based on all of our duty to the greater good. The only thing to fear is fear itself…The only thing to fear, is ourselves.This principle of neighborhood watch was taken into action by the book with a decades old pharmaceutical store with a landmark marquee in caps locked red lettering that reads DRUGS, visible from all four corners of the intersection. Dr. Bob said the city wanted to remove the sign because of its implications, despite not realizing people have shopped there since the 1950s. Even during the red scare, McCarthy and Eisenhower era shoppers fought through and survived, not batting an eye of suspicion when looking at the sign that possibly the other kind of drugs were in the community (As of late the sunscreen Coppertone’s iconic little girl with her rear end exposed remains on a billboard in Miami, despite efforts to bring it down because little girls are evidently a source of obscenity, either to other youngsters or the sick minded).Not far from this standing symbolic sociological spectacle of great wonders is a Goodwill store, the last resort for Diego’s sports coat, and my own thought provoking segment on the subject of outsourcing. Many of the clothing items keep the homeless or bargaining “thrifters” warm and content inMiamiand throughout the states. The clothes come from all around, people’s dusty attics, cluttered garages, and hoarder’s storages. At some point, many of these items came from this controversial backdrop of a political subject that will very likely be mentioned in shades during the ’12 Obama/Romney election, specifically outsourcing to sweatshops and factories. It makes me think of the early days of the industrial revolution and the amendment that was passed preventing severe labor for women, children, and everyone alike. These thoughts on a clothesline from a store inAmericaseem out of range, but they only occur to me because inside the Goodwill store there is a vast abundance of Hispanics. And I’m to believe that many of them are from places like Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, just to name a few. Maybe they weren’t sowing and stitching and ailing for hours over some clothing, maybe they were raised inMiamitheir entire life and this is irrational. But this didn’t suffice me with comfort when the possibility still existed that these could have been those same people. I’m just a random on-looker, shopping as one out of many, and just taking a moment to think and write about this stack of dominos falling, a peddle to ripples in water. Maybe it’s just a series of hyphenated, interrupting thoughts that will never surmount to any kind of physical surplus with a face value or meaning on the market. But so long as I’m entertaining myself with this sick notion, that overlooked outsourcing is best described by a rabid beast lurching for the kill on a wild prey…and so long as the system is efficient then there’s no second thought about it, no afterthought or dilemma of having a conscience for the possibility of these people. The only proof we have of this nasty modern day imperialism is the bloody feathers hanging from the hinges of the beast’s mouth.Diego didn’t find his coat, which seems less of a valuable point in comparison. If there was to be a fine dinner on this boat he could try and use mine by just entering dinner at a later time. Smuggling Diego into fine dining was less of a worry than the bogus bottle of Listerine in Dr. Bob’s bag we were suppose to get onboard. The label read cherry mint flavor, but in actuality was filled to the top with Gosling’s black seal rum. To boot, we also had an ice pack full of Grey Goose Vodka, and a dozen or so water bottles stuffed in the doctor’s luggage as decoys. One wrong look and nervous jitter and it would all be over in a heartbeat, the dogs would come out, the latex strip search gloves, that familiar mental trauma…We pulled off the road for breakfast, a cheap eat with wooden tiles on the walls at the bar, pennants forMiamisports teams and televisions at opposite ends. The waitress was reluctant to have us combine tables together for easy access for Dr. Bob and his cane. Besides the needles full of insulin the doctor had his mix and match of random pills he throws back, leaving us wondering if he’s on the verge of overloading his heart and falling forward onto his plate. The pills are actually to prevent just that from happening, despite misleading appearances. Along with my compulsive cup of coffee I tried the bagel with nova cream cheese, a Jewish simple, with locks of salmon and scrambled eggs on the side.We were well aware that the Miami Heat had won the NBA Finals the Thursday prior, and we were also aware that the black tumbling brute would have to make the trip across the expressway, across Biscayne Boulevard where the pandemonium was going down in the parade, to the only road (Port Blvd) with access to the ship on Dodge Island. What we were unaware of was just how difficult this was going to be. Those televisions at the bar opposite each other were wrapping up footage of the parade, with LeBron sitting up front on the bus, straddling the trophy up to the doors of American Airlines Arena. So much we figured, the worst would be over, despite Dr. Bob still receiving one of his many phone calls that “downtown is spilling over with screaming Haitians right now”, and the city buzzing with talk, like the lady behind our booth over my shoulder, “LeBron had his chance in Cleveland…he ain’t Jesus.” Was Jesus who they needed lacing up and saving that northern town full of exhausting smoke stacks? At that point the parade was just an afterthought, and not something that would come to define how we spent the next four hours in traffic, scrambling for a route to get out, with our faces melting from direct stress compression on the pressure points.Sitting on the 395 Dolphin Expressway exit ramp for those punishing hours thinking of what exactly caused all of this gave me the opportunity here to share those dark thoughts that I had just began perceiving weeks before when Miami had finally had their moment in the spotlight, winning it all with the world’s most controversial role player in professional sports. And it was these early conceived thoughts that I circulated under a cool demeanor, not trying to lose it all next to Dr. Bob and Diego. All seemed hopeless when Dr. Bob made several more phone calls, the first to the police, who sent speeding cruisers almost immediately to try and figure what was going on in a city that seemed to be oblivious while directing traffic in a single direction. As easy as the concept seems to exit on the exit ramp, cars miles back were backing up onto the shoulder and reversing their way down a two mile strip, trying to avoid the eye of a storming nightmare. As the hours expired we began worrying if we’d ever make it. Dr. Bob’s other important phone call was to the cruiseline, asking if they’d leave us behind if we weren’t there by 5 sharp. No reassuring answers were given. “Are you in a rental car sir?” “No, why is that relevant?” “Because if you were I’d tell you to grab your bags and ditch the car on the highway.” We looked on to a man below us stumbling in downtown, rolling two bags behind him and dropping three others as he tried to walk.It’s about right there that I should stop holding back on my thoughts of what lead us to this, written in a midnight haze:Diego and I began to see this parade in the making weeks before during Harborfest in downtownNorfolk. The Heat were clobbering the Celtics, and we watched it unfold in front of us on another TV screen in an Irish pub while drinking Jameson’s whiskey. Too many drunken sailors were about, whistling at women and taking up all the space on the streetcars late that night. The two of us just ended up on a bland bus ride full of people riding home, drunk and disturbed with everyone around us.Two years of hard work and press coverage have finally paid off and cashed in dividends for the Miami Heat, as they win the big one. A perfect example of free enterprise and the free agent market in theUnited States, where if you want a large house and a ring to go with it you can sign your name on the dotted line and come on down toSouthBeach. One of the perks of the position itself is having your own tab on ESPN’s homepage titled “Heat Index”, something the Fox News of sports (fair and balanced and redundant) dedicates to no other team in the sports business. The pasty heavyweight correspondent appears he should be covering hot dog eating contests on Coney Island, and he’s ready to belch his opinions along with an entire staff of writers and sportscasters whose ranging resume’ of credibility is forced retirement from playing the sport and a world English thesaurus.What will be the next event after the parade finishes its march? A direct flight to DC seems all the more fitting for el heat. The sheer rising glory of photo ops, autographs, congregation of bank accounts, and the opportunity to share round table discussions on economic practices on the open market of the American way between those politicians from the swamp and general management. They’ll all have a brief chuckle and then immediately get back to work on what they need to do to neutralize any possible threats and uphold the delegation until another line creases itself on Pat Riley’s forehead in greedy dissatisfying exhaustion.If Chris Bosh takes after the appearance of a catfish then Pat Riley and his oil drenched slicked-back hair Mafioso haircut is starting to take the appearance of a lean snake ready to dislocate its lower jaw and swallow whole fat free agent contracts this offseason. Another superstar’s carcass in the belly will make fine living for a snake in its natural habitat with all the heat down there in a subtropical climate. More building humidity, more rising temperatures, more jersey sales, and higher TV ratings, and stupid headlines with definitive adjectives such as “Crowning Achievement for King James”. More controversial statements from the pigsties of sportswriters: “we’re reaching a shallow milestone of ambivalence in professional sports” and the opposition “The Heat bury the hatchet of their season hoisting hardware over their heads.”But that’s enough about sports and sports journalism. I despise it for all the stated reasons above, and adding the point that any team would do what the Miami Heat are doing, and would go as far as signing no one short of even Jesus himself. But more importantly it’s enough on the subject because even as they are only drifting thoughts in my head that amount to no show of outward feelings towards others, it’s all as a result of this dreadful line of traffic. It’s a terrible excuse of conversation, just like sharing numbers about the ranging temperatures of weather.Too many of these thoughts from sad traffic jams and it’s enough for me to abandon the car, go out the other end of the Dolphin expressway, and check into a hotel to hibernate while a hailstorm rolls over from Key West.By some God-blessed miracle we hit a stride of green lights, but not before we had an 18 wheeler nearly back over us in light of some confusion from a traffic cop directing vehicles. The observation of the screaming Haitians was nothing shy of the truth; they filled the streets and used them as sidewalks. Being stopped on the freeway in a trepid state of misery and knowing that onlookers are clenching the cusp of their railings on their million dollar condominiums several stories high and asking themselves, ‘what went wrong?’ seemed like the other side of the coin when compared to being surrounded by a mob of people. Miami had won, but since their fan base can be so timid from daily routines of either lying out on the beach, night clubbing, lifting weights, or fighting addiction to percocets it wasn’t likely our heavy black brute would be the first vehicle overturned, blazing another parade of street brawlers purging and looting over the great victory.Port Boulevard toDodgeIslandshould only be a matter of minutes crossing traffic on Biscayne. The massive bridge peering over water seemed like an archway of hope and accessible as a final reward for all those who have been so patient and grateful, and we were really neither one of those. For the first time in hours and really for the first time since being in Miami I let loose on the Lincoln, my foot pounced on the pedal, steam came from the rear of the clunky beast, we had but 20 minutes to get on board and get out of a city seeming to feed itself full of Haitian pedestrians.Dr. Bob and Diego took the luggage at a waiting station, I had to park down at one of the garages on the port and sprint back to the end of the road otherwise we’d be faced with the task of going back to the city empty-handed, on verge of binging on clinical anti-depression tablets to lift our spirits as our 15 story ship parishes on the horizon. Any more time to think about that while trying to park is a disaster, as I’m going twice the speed limit and really on my own while doing so. It would only give way to the stockpile of frustrating thoughts, ideas of throwing the heaviest bag of luggage into the first glass framed shop I see, triggering a riot of people, leading unfortunately to a catastrophic siege of American Airlines Arena, holding players for ransom like chickens (or peacocks) in a gator den, all before someone ruins everything, the plans get scratched and we turn on one another.These dangerous thoughts are however abbreviated as I’m able to find a parking space to shed this 3-ton hunk of metal with its rear projecting out. There’s no time for straightening this out between the lines. I dash down to our bags, pinching the rim of my bronze aviator glasses with my fedora in my hands, really high-tailing it, jerking my knees in the air as I run like a madman, all for a bag of rum and a ticket out of the country.The next challenging layer to pull back in this pragmatic process of boarding Norwegian Sky is to get Dr. Bob’s bag on board full of a disguised Gosling’s rum and Grey Goose vodka. Little of what’s happening around me matters more than just getting that leopard patterned bag through the security checkpoints and on to that ship, particularly to drink away this day of lost causes.We have to remain poised here, or else we’ll be submitted to a scolding full with open estuaries of pain. Any personnel that even think for a second that we’re culpable of heinous acts and naysayers insubordinate to the system and we’ll be pulled from the side of the line checking, detained in a room with mirrors and habeas corpus suspended. Guantanamoisn’t very far from Miami, and this is the mulch of a situation where the government and local coast guard for their own reasons would deem us as a few ‘suspects at large’ with a bag full of drugs and easy reasoning for deportation. Our records indicate that a certain person of interest in your traveling group named Diego is of Peruvian descent and has spent some time around the base on Cuba…why exactly were you planning on leaving the country?I cut the chord on this thinking when I’m pulled through the detectors, instantaneously diffusing my aroused senses that seem to always go off around tightened security. But when looking back, Dr. Bob’s leopard skin bag is flipped open and the dozen or so water bottles are being hand checked and shaken to see for carbonation by a stocky woman with a badge pretending to be burdened with the task of slowly unwiring explosives. The ice packed vodka was left alone. But when coming to the packaged Listerine bottle wrapped in plastic, the dexterous Dr. Bob distracted our security officer by waving his cane and throwing another bottle of water into her line of sight telling her she forgot to check this one. Dr. Bob walked away from the scene scot-free, perspiring, and smiling, “that condescending wombat checked every bottle.”Another plight was avoided by using more of Dr. Bob’s magic, as there’s little you can say to a man with a light up cane skipping lines of people checking in with their tickets. I have to make a note here to applaud Dr. Bob’s charisma with the elderly Hispanic couple managing the place, as any simple gesture given towards us and he slips at least five dollars into the persons hand or pocket, something he has done about ten times already in the past day.We made it, we we’re on. Up on to our terminal’s scaffold and it’s the giant monster, the Norwegian Sky, with all the world’s alcohol catering servants at our reckless disposal. After all we’ve been through nothing seems sweeter than that stashed liter of Gosling’s black seal, comfortably wrapped between bundles of clothes in the doctor’s luggage. Now I can have a moment to actually think straight since my mind’s been on a scurry all day. Time to crack the safe and have my way with some serious journalism, fusing loose ends, assessing the gist of what exactly is going on here, and all these unabridged people taking the plunge onto this zany, grandiose ship, because I seem to be losing myself on this assignment. But first, some piña coladas on the upper deck… (Too be continued…)