Sunday, July 31, 2005

Crocodile Tears

So, this morning after breakfast, I was feeding my 2-month-old while the wife as work while my other two kids played in floor on the living room in front of me. I was channel surfing and caught the tail end of the movie “Romancing The Stone” where the general had caught up with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas at the edge of a river crawling with crocodiles. I kind of forgot my kids were in the room until the general caught the jewel and had his hand bitten off immediately afterward by one of the behemoth reptiles. My daughter then got a little scared so I turned the channel to something else. A couple of hours later, my kids were outside playing in the sprinkler when my three-year-old son came tearing into the house, absolutely hysterical. He was crying harder than I have ever heard him cry before, screaming for me and shaking uncontrollably. I panicked myself, thinking that he had broken an arm or something and picked him up to try and figure out where he was hurt. No matter how hard I looked, I could not see anything and no matter what I did, I could not get him calmed down long enough to tell me what was wrong. Finally, after at least fifteen minutes, I finally understood him enough to figure out that he thought there were some alligators after him.

His hysterics still went on for at least fifteen more minutes as I tried unsuccessfully to convince him that there were no alligators in Michigan. My daughter, ever so helpful, kept telling me that I was wrong and that there were lots of alligators in Michigan, stressing that we had just seen them at the zoo a couple of weeks ago. Finally, I told my son that all the alligators in Michigan were in cages and could not hurt him. I said that the only place in the US where alligators roamed free were in Florida.

Upon hearing this, my daughter’s eyes welled up with tears and upon reaching a horrible conclusion, whimpered, “In Disneyworld, Daddy?”

Now, I hate Disneyworld with a mad passion so I had great difficulty repressing the urge to say, “Disneyworld is just lousy with those savage beasts. It’s a miracle we got out of there alive!” Still, for her sake, I convinced her that there were plenty of people working around the clock to keep the ‘gators out of the “It’s a Small World” ride (though in my opinion, a couple of crocs plucking unsuspecting tourists out of the boats at that particular exhibit could not help but liven it up a little bit).

After about forty-five minutes of a level of hysterics I have not seen since the group I hung around with in high school discovered the joys of hallucinogens, I finally got my son calmed down enough to watch TV. My daughter then went into the kitchen, cut out a triangle of pink construction paper, then walked back into the living room and said, “Look Mason! I found an alligator tooth!” My son’s hysterics started all over again, while I sent his sister to her room (had she pulled something like that on someone other than one of my own kids though, I probably would have given her a high-five though).

I now have him sitting on the couch watching Bob the Builder. It’s been a couple of hours now and he still won’t let his feet touch the floor, and I’m starting to wonder if he’s been huffing anti-freeze in the garage or if the LSD I tried in my youth found a way to induce flashbacks in my kids through my genes.

So now I’m wondering:

1) Is this normal behavior?

2) How do I correct it?


3) Can I exploit this situation to keep my son in bed at night without doing permanent and irreversible harm to his psychological well being?

To the Aussies

After checking The JEP Report's site meter, I've noticed quite a few visitor's of late hailing from the promised land, Western Australia (I almost moved to Perth after I was discharged from the navy). At least they're from the same time zone anyway. Just wanted to welcome you to the blog and say that I hope you enjoy it. Would love to hear any feedback you have to offer.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Thai-ing One On

Pattaya, Thailand is protected from a full-blown beach assault by extremely thirsty and under-sexed American sailors by shallow waters that prevent the US Navy’s larger ships from tying up directly to a pier. When we pulled in aboard the USS Belleau Wood, we were forced to moor more than a mile from the beach and the ship’s compliment of 2500 was required to disembark onto small boats that pulled up alongside to transport us to some of the most twisted and depraved liberty we had ever be exposed to, the kind that can only be found in the Far East.

My liberty partner for this incursion was a guy we called Sandy, which was actually a shortening of his last name. Sandy was originally from New Mexico and had joined the navy to be a SEAL. Just after completing the most punishing segment of his commando training however, he blew his knee and spent over half a year on medical hold. After he had recuperated enough to give it another try, he made it almost all the way through the grueling six-month course when, just days before graduation, he blew his knee again. He washed out after that and ended up assigned to the shop I was in charge of. Sandy was a hell of a guy. He had a great sense of humor, was a practically undefeatable bar fighter, could drink with the best of us and was nuttier than a schizophrenic pistachio addict.

The line to get off of the ship was immense, taking us at least an hour to step onto the liberty boat. Fortunately the boat sold beer so, thirty seconds after stepping off of the Belleau Wood’s gangplank, Sandy and I were holding a nice cold bottle of Singha in each hand. I think we actually killed three of them a piece within the fifteen minutes we spent on that boat.

As stated before, the waters surrounding Pattaya Beach were shallow, so shallow in fact that the first boat we embarked upon only managed to take us about half way in. After that, two smaller boats pulled up beside the first, into which we were forced to embark. Luckily, these boats also served beer and we were able to get one more in before we had to repeat the process again. The last leg of our shore bound journey was made in a long canoe fitted with an ancient outboard motor that had a top speed just barely faster than the coral anchored to the ocean floor below us. Thinking that we could probably swim to shore faster, Sandy and I jumped ship a couple of hundred yards offshore and waded in. It was not so much impatience that drove us to dive over the side of the canoe, it was nature. For some reason, when drinking Singha beer in tropical heat, it seems to get processed much quicker and being in a bumpy motorized canoe with a full bladder can get excruciatingly uncomfortable.

Once out of the boat, I got my first chance to really look at the land we were about to be loosed upon. I do not believe that I have ever been to a more beautiful place, before or since. Thailand is incredibly lush. What is not built upon is of the deepest green hue I have ever seen. The color starts fifty feet from the water’s edge with a dense growth of seemingly impenetrable Asian palm trees and seems to rise off of the back of the city of Pattaya and stretch clear across the majestic hills that guard its rear, set against a backdrop of flawlessly fluorescent baby blue sky streaked with picturesque clouds of the purest white. In front of the palms dominating the foreground, was the white sand beach that seemed hard pressed to try and keep the jungle from invading the ocean. I had difficulty tearing my eyes off of the truly mesmerizing landscape set before me, but once I did, I was encountered by the sight of the water, which was equally impressive. When looking straight down, it was so clear that it did not even seem to be there at all, but when the sun peeked out from between the clouds and you looked straight ahead of you, the ocean lit up in blindingly bright emerald. The surf looked truly pristine, except of course, for the part of it I was pissing into. That little section just kind of looked like chemically enhanced toilet bowl water.

Overall, Thailand makes a breathtaking first impression. It was almost like falling off of a slave galley and landing straight into the heart of the Garden of Eden. Fortunately for Sandy and I though, Sodom and Gomorrah were just a few blocks off to our right and we made a bee-line for our hotel, which we believed to be located right in the midst of the waterfront debauchery.

As we entered the realm of Pattaya Beach’s notorious entertainment district, my senses were bombarded on all fronts by an insane barrage of sights and sounds that was disturbingly disorienting. It was as if we were making our way through a bazaar of the bizarre, accosted by street performers bent on a penchant of masochistic self-mutilation, felt up by exotic looking women wrapped in boas of both the feathered and serpentine varieties and constantly harangued by an army of club proprietors trying to ply you into their establishments of ill repute. At some point, I stopped outside of the entrance to a particularly seedy-looking nightclub just to try to take it all in. As I was engrossed with surveying my surroundings, a man stepped out from the club and handed Sandy a card before disappearing back inside. After reading it, Sandy tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a particular line on the card. “Can girls actually do that?” he asked.

I looked at the card, which was actually just a list of particular sex shows that the establishment performed live on stage. I read the item Sandy had pointed out and shook my head in wonderment. “I don’t think….I’m not sure but….well, not without doing some considerable damage to…well, I hope not, but….Jesus Christ, man! I have no idea if they can or not!”

Sandy tried to see into the club from our vantage point but it was just too dark. “I hate to say it, but I have got to see this. You want to stop in here for a quick drink?”

I nodded my head. I needed to see it too, though more out of morbid curiosity than because of any kind of arousal aspect.

Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness inside, we found ourselves in the midst of a truly surreal scene. The bar was doing brisk business and was actually rather full. It appeared that a full half of the establishment’s population consisted of American servicemen. The other half consisted of local women all of whom were completely nude. A large stage consumed a considerable portion of floor space in the center of the club and when we walked in, one of the women was giving birth to a steadily rapid stream of ping pong balls that would bounce once upon the stage before landing on one of the tables (and occasionally in one of the drinks) that ringed the perimeter of it. An intoxicated Marine darted back and forth behind the stage-side tables with his hand outstretched like an improvised paddle trying, rather unsuccessfully, to bat the balls back in.

Sandy and I ambled up to the bar. We were greeted by an exquisite little Thai girl blessed with a body that could cause sins of commission at 200 yards. She was petite but shapely, with flawless skin and a smile of pure sweetness. She would have been a true vision of virginal innocence had she been wearing any clothes and worked somewhere other than a brothel. With a playful giggle, she greeted us in pidgin English as we took seats at a couple of barstools that were vacated so recently that they still possessed the ass heat and leg sweat of the previous occupants. “You wanna beeyah?”

Sandy ordered up two more Singhas and then turned around to watch the vaginal ping-pong match. I watched the barmaid. She reached into the cooler and pulled out two bottles of beer, sticking one of them in a place where I would have least expected to find a bottle opener. She then proceeded to pop the cap off in the most un-ladylike fashion I could have possibly imagined before setting the bottle back down opposite Sandy, who missed the show while staring intently at the Ping-Pong Girl. I interrupted the barmaid with a broad smile before she had a chance to open mine. “Save your cervix, sweetie. I’ll take the cap off myself.” She returned the smile, albeit much more seductively, and handed me the bottle beer. I discovered then the cap was a twist-off, which in no way made her feat any less impressive. I turned around to tell Sandy to at least wipe the bottle first before taking a drink but he already had it in his mouth. At that point, I figured it was too late to do anything about it anyway so I decided to leave him blissfully unconcerned about the possibility of catching oral Gonorrhea.

The ping-pong match eventually ended and was then replaced by a series of acts that grew gradually more macabre. We saw things involving razor blades, needles and darts, but hit the end of our limit when they started involving reptiles ejected from orifices that I could not imagine they naturally took refuge in. That was when we settled our bill and went to check into our hotel room. We never did see the act listed on the card that originally piqued our curiosity.

In 1992, AIDS was exploding in Asia. Before pulling into port, our Master Chief gave us the standard lecture about sexually transmitted diseases but instead of throwing out a bunch of numbers compiled by some acronymed organization that puts out the military’s propaganda aimed at preventing US servicemen from depleting the ship’s supply of penicillin, he displayed an issue of Time Magazine. He pointed out an article that discussed Asia’s sex industry and emphasized some harrowing statistics about how insanely widespread the disease was among Siamese bar-girls. We left that lecture convinced that catching HIV through intimate contact with Thai prostitutes was not a possibility. It was a probability. I had a steady girlfriend in Japan and Sandy was married so neither one of us were looking for action of that sort. Both of us knew however that we had a penchant for spectacular acts of stupidity while drinking though and we both realized that a man could only exercise so much restraint when surrounded by incredibly gorgeous women who could become insanely attracted to him for the price of a McDonald’s Happy Meal back in Japan. With this in mind, we decided to share a room. It seemed like a good way to keep ourselves out of serious trouble.

We checked in and were assigned a room on the second floor. While on our way to our accommodations, we discovered to our pleasant surprise that a couple friends of ours had a room a little way down the hall. To our unpleasant surprise we discovered that the guys pulling Shore Patrol (the navy’s watered-down equivalent of the army’s Military Police) duty had the room directly across the hall. Worse, one of our division’s chief petty officers, ETC Vazquez, was heading the detail that night.

Upon entering our room we were encountered by the prospect of having to sleep in the same bed. This was an unacceptable arrangement so I jumped on the phone to demand different accommodations when Sandy realized that the big bed was actually two small beds pushed together. The situation was corrected with a minimal amount of furniture moving and soon we were back on our way out into town.

By now, Sandy and I had downed a ton of beer and thought that if we did not get some food into us, we were in for a short night. We strolled down the main drag a bit and dived into the first place we could find that did not look like it did double duty as a brothel. I ordered an incendiary dish that consisted of rice, chicken, vegetables and, as far as I could tell, a particularly delicious variation of sulfuric acid that took the skin off of my tongue, dissolved my tonsils and filled me with fearful anticipation of the noxious napalm nuggets I would be assaulting the Siamese sewer system with the following morning. In an act of gluttonous rapture that was as much indulgent ecstasy as it was culinary masochism, I finished the entire plate and ordered seconds. In the process I also probably downed six or seven beers over the course of the meal in a futile attempt to extinguish my oral anguish.

After dinner, we went back to the main drag and ran into more people from our division. Before long our group had grown to over a dozen people and ended up in a nightclub/brothel/kickboxing arena at the start of the strip for more beer and some sport. The kickboxing matches were fun to watch for a little while but lost their allure quickly. The fighters were short, wiry, padded to the gills and obviously pulling their punches. The fights felt rigged, and poorly rigged at that. It was kind of like watching midget wrestling with performances so poor that a bunch of marines seated close to the ring started heckling the fighters. Someone, I can’t remember if it was the referee or one of the boxers, then asked one of the marines if he would like the opportunity to jump into the ring and try to do better. The hulking heckler accepted the invitation and after removing his shirt, took the stage while the boxer removed his pads. A siren was sounded and the fight commenced. Fifteen seconds later it was all over and the marine’s comrades were carrying him off the stage horizontally while he pumped prolific amounts of blood out of his shattered nose.

We stayed at the kickboxing bar for a couple of hours and then slithered out, with drinks in hand, to sample the other nightclubs in the area. The heat was incredibly oppressive, and as a result, our intake of alcohol was almost non-stop. After the second club, intoxication finally reared its ugly head and struck. The blow knocked me clear off of my feet and sent me tumbling face first into the sidewalk. If I had to guess, I passed out sometime around nine o’clock, yet even though I had completely lost consciousness, my adventures of the evening were just beginning.

The following three hours are completely lost to me. I would have no recollection of what had happened that night if it were not for the wide array of photographic evidence that surfaced in the weeks following our Thailand liberty. I have none of these pictures today but their existence is a major factor why, once I was discharged from the US Navy, I never even remotely considered the possibility of running for public office though even I have to admit that some of the pictures would have looked absolutely fabulous on CNN.

According to the photographic record, I was quite a hit comatose. There were pictures of me on stage at various strip clubs with the girls using me as a prop for their acts. There were shots of me laying on the bar in my underwear, appearing to be breastfeeding a couple of local bargirls. Overall, there were pictures of me simulating acts so base that, if I had been able to actually able to perform them, I could have qualified for expulsion from NAMBLA on the basis of moral turpitude, or, put on the fast track to promotion had I been hired by Enron or Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. For at least three hours, I was carried from bar to bar by my drinking companions, where they would leave me at the mercy of the bargirls and take pictures of the ensuing hilarity before moving to the next nightclub to see what the next set of protagonists could come up with. At about midnight, I came around with a girl on each arm. As I tried to figure out where I was, one of them started rubbing me all over while whispering seductive propositions in my ear. Like almost all of the Thai girls I had seen to that point, she was heartbreakingly beautiful and impossible to resist. I probably would have caved in right there had I not felt like I was still on the verge of passing out again. I told her I was not going to be able to do anything right now, but for some inexplicable reason I gave her, and several of her friends, my hotel and room number before getting up and slipping out of the door. I did not even know my friends were at the club so I did not bother to let anyone know I was leaving.

I stepped out into the street drunk, disorientated and dazed. I had no idea where I was going and stumbled around the main drag for a while, walking in circles searching for the hotel I was staying at with no success. Eventually I wandered off of the strip and was swaying and slurring my way around much darker areas of Pattaya. I had no idea where I was and, even if someone was around to ask directions from, I doubted that they would know enough English to give them to me nor would I be sober enough to remember them. I would have taken a taxi, but because of Thailand’s astronomical traffic fatality rate, our ship’s captain forbade it. Just when I started considering laying down in an alley to pass out again, I rounded a corner and came face-to-face with what I initially thought was an elephant ass. Knowing that it was just an alcohol induced hallucination, I turned around and walked back the way I came. Realizing that I had never hallucinated from beer before, I turned around and went back to see if it was still there. I was quite surprised to see that it was and I gingerly stepped forward to touch it to see if it was real. Before I got to though, a teen-aged boy walked out from around the front of the beast and shot me a quizzical look that begged to know what I was doing around the elephant. I decided to ask him for directions on how to get back to the hotel.

The boy spoke semi-intelligible English, but I was far beyond having the mental capacity to decipher his accent and retain anything he told me. As he took great pains to point me in the right direction, I realized that though the captain had ordered us not to drive in a taxi, he had said nothing at all about hitching a ride on a pachyderm. I ended up cutting the boy off and asking him how much it would cost to get an elephant ride back to the hotel. He said it would be impossible since they were only allowed to walk back and forth from where they were stabled to the place where they performed. I offered him twenty bucks, an astronomical sum, but he still refused. I doubled it and he hedged. I had the impression that, however forbidden it was, forty bucks was enough for him to at least consider my proposition. As we were bargaining, a group of marines came down the alley carrying a case of beer and overheard us. They seemed intrigued by taking a ride on an elephant as well and entered negotiations as well. In the end, it was agreed that we would get a ride part way there for $75. Part way there ended up to be about four blocks.

When we got going, there were four of us on the elephant, precariously balanced without the benefit of any type of saddle. I was on the elephant’s neck with a marine right behind me. The other two were on the back with the beer they had been hauling around. I’m not sure what happened but the elephant suddenly stumbled and all four of us got dumped, along with the beer, into the street. It was quite a commotion, not to mention a really long fall, and before we could make sure we had not broken anything we were surrounded by the Royal Thai Police and the owner of a bicycle that had somehow gotten broken in the accident. There was a large amount of animated conversation that followed the incident in a language that we did not understand but it became apparent rather early that whatever had happened, we were going to get blamed for it.

In order to avoid responsibility for the affair, I tried to make it look as if we were the victims of the accident and attempted to fabricate a story that suggested we were just walking along minding our own business when we were hit by a speeding elephant that failed to yield to the pedestrian right-of-way. Predictably, no one appeared to buy it even though we had the injuries to back up our claim. In the end, we were informed that we were going to be charged for the incident. Upon hearing this, I shot the officer who appeared to have the best English skills a look of indignation and asked, “Charged!?!? With what?!?”

Through pantomime and pidgin, I gathered that the policeman planned on charging us with drinking and driving. On an elephant. I told him that though I would admit to being drunk, there was no way I was admitting to driving an elephant. I pointed out that I weighed all of 175 pounds. I bet the elephant probably weighed a couple of tons. That bestial behemoth was going wherever he wanted regardless of whether I wanted to go there or not. As I launched into my tirade expounding upon this, I looked over and saw the elephant’s trunk poking around the puddle that surrounded the marines’ crushed case of beer. I pointed that out to the officers and added, “Look at that! In addition to taking us on a wild ride, I bet the fucker’s been drinking too!”

Eventually the officers tired of my posturing and one of them pulled out a pair of handcuffs while his partner drew his nightstick, a sign that it was time to stop trying to get out of trouble altogether and start negotiating the bribe. We ended up paying the bike owner $20 and the cops $50. We stiffed the kid with the elephant. After that, I directly disobeyed the captain’s orders and hailed a cab. I was glad I did too since I judged from the length of the drive that I was nowhere near the waterfront at that point. In fact, it seemed that I had gotten myself so lost I had walked practically halfway to Burma.

Once back at the hotel, I got my room key from the concierge and remembered that I had given my room number out to a bunch of bargirls at the last club I was in. Before turning in, I told the concierge that I did not want any visitors and gave him instructions to turn away anyone who showed up. I then made my way upstairs.

I expected to find Sandy in the room but I found it empty after letting myself in. Without even bothering to take off my shoes I stumbled over to the bed and passed out into it, fast asleep before my head even hit the pillow. What seemed like just a second later, I heard the telephone ring and got up to answer it. As I was lifting it off of the receiver, I caught a glimpse off of the mirror of someone sitting on Sandy’s bed staring at me. Startled, I jumped back in fright just as I heard the concierge erupt into a stream of vindictive on the other end of the line. I glanced at the door, panicked and planning my escape, when I noticed it had been kicked in and saw people milling about in the hall. I then looked back at the person in my room and saw it was Sandy. I set the phone down and asked him what the hell was going on.

“I thought you were dead, dude! We’ve been looking for you for hours and…”

He was interrupted by Chief Vazquez’s voice emanating from the hall. “Sandy! Get out here!”

A look of dire concern flashed across Sandy’s face as he dove into bed and stuck his head underneath a pillow like some sort of lame-brained linen ostrich. “Dude! Go out there and tell them I’m not here!” Of course, he shouted that loud enough to be heard all the way down in the front lobby.

Still, I swaggered over to the door intending to do exactly that until I was greeted by the sight of Chief Vazquez standing before me all red-eyed and in his underwear. I started laughing at that until I caught sight of another pair or Royal Thai Police officers making their way down the hall as even more people were starting to emerge from their rooms. “Hi Chief.” I said as I eyeballed the cops. “How’s it going?”

Vazquez walked right past me and walked into the room to pull Sandy out of bed. The cops followed and the concierge showed up a few seconds after that. I tried to figure out what was going on. The concierge told me Sandy had kicked in the door. I told him I would pay for the damage. The cops said Sandy was disturbing the peace and had threatened the concierge. I told them I would pay for that too. In the end we settled on $150 dollars for the door, added onto the hotel bill and another $100 to the cops to keep Sandy out of the hoosegow. I could not, however, convince the concierge to let Sandy stay the night. This sent my roommate into a rage and threatened to quickly turn into another $100 worth of peace disruption if we could not get him to shut his trap. Eventually, he turned and stormed off in a huff followed closely by the concierge and the two friends of ours who were staying down the hall. Then Chief Vazquez left as did the cops after they received their payoff. I passed back out with still no idea what had just transpired.

The next day I found out that the guys I was in the club with freaked out after I disappeared and scoured the streets looking for me. On one of their periodic checks of the hotel they found that I had returned and the group dispersed, leaving Sandy alone to go to bed. He tried to get the room key from the concierge, but acting upon my instructions, was refused access on account of the fact that I had asked not to be disturbed. Since I paid for the room on my credit card and forgot to put Sandy’s name down as a guest, the concierge would not budge. Sandy then decided he would just knock on the door and wake me up. The problem was that I had passed out so hard that no matter how loud he knocked and screamed at me through the door, I was not answering. After a couple of other guests opened their doors and told him to shut up, he went to our friends’ room and woke them up. After making fun of them for not knowing the bed they were sharing was actually two beds that spread apart, he walked out through their door wall and started jumping balconies back to our room.

Once he reached our balcony, he looked inside and saw me sprawled out on the bed. He pounded on the glass and screamed at the top of his lungs but I did not move a single inch. In fact, he was not even sure that I was breathing and started to become concerned. Knowing how drunk I had been, he thought that I may have gotten sick and choked and he wanted to get into the room even worse for fear that I could possibly be drowning in my own vomit. He jumped two more balconies to the corner room that had a ladder leading to the ground floor. The room that hosted that ladder was occupied by another sailor from our ship and two bar girls. To Sandy’s advantage, they left the lights on in the room and he paused there for a couple minutes to watch the show before continuing down the ladder to try and save my life.

When Sandy finally gave up on voyeurism, he jumped the balcony rail and put his foot down on the ladder with all of his weight without realizing that he had to slide the rail down to the ground first. As a result, he went down with the ladder and was dropped a full story onto the shrubbery that bordered the back of the hotel. Bruised, battered and infuriated by the fall, he got up, brushed himself off and stormed towards the front lobby.

Upon entry, he walked up to the concierge and demanded the key to our room. The concierge again refused. Sandy then told him that if the key was not turned over, he was going upstairs to break the door down. The concierge retorted that if Sandy did not leave the hotel immediately, he was calling the police. Sandy then told the concierge to start dialing and took off towards the stairs.

When Sandy got back to the room, he tried pounding on the door once more in the hope he would get lucky but when he did not, he backed up to get a running start. The door gave way with the first try, ripping a rectangular hole out if it where the lock and handle had been. He then stumbled into the room, a victim of inertia and crashed down into the floor at the foot of my bed. Jumping to his feet, he then stepped up to me and put his hand in front of my face. After feeling my breath, he walked over to his own bed, sat down and stared at me, amazed that someone could sleep right through all that commotion. Shortly afterwards, the phone rang and I jumped right up and answered it as if I had just been wide awake the entire time, but just resting my eyes.

The next morning, I woke up and tried to settle my bill. In addition to the charges for the door was an additional $50 charge. When I asked what that was all about, the concierge pointed at the aquarium in the lobby lounge located on a stand between the front desk. It was full of grotesquely cloudy water and a couple of dead fish. I asked the concierge what happened and he said, “Your friend….” He then opened his mouth and stuck his finger in it, pantomiming the motion required to induce vomiting.

I looked at him and asked, “No shit?”

The concierge looked back at me with a deadly serious face and said, “No shit.”

I tallied up the money that better rest through alcoholic excess had cost me in the past few hours. It had cost me $300 to keep Sandy out of trouble. Since the troubles were half my fault, I figured he owed me at least $150. I decided to give him a discount for creativity on his assault on the hotel’s fish though. Nothing says, “Go get fucked” quite like intentionally blowing chunks of semi-digested Prawn Pad Prik into a lobby aquarium as you are being forcefully ejected from a three-star foreign hotel. That was worth the fifty bucks.

After all that I went through to keep Sandy out of trouble that night, he hired a speedboat to take him back to the ship in violation of another of the captain’s orders (apparently Thailand’s waterways are just as dangerous as its freeways). He ended up restricted to the ship for thirty days anyway. His wife, who was back in the US, left him shortly after that and decided to leave the two kids they had together with him. Sandy got a hardship discharge because of it and left the service. Even though we had been great friends, we soon lost touch and I have not heard anything about him in over 13 years. I wrote this mainly in hopes that somehow he might someday read this and try to get back in touch with me. That way I could get my hands on the $100 he still owes me for keeping his sorry ass from getting intimately familiar with the notoriously brutal Southeast Asian penal system.

Friday, July 29, 2005

British Police Raid Two Locations in Notting Hill

British police today raided to locations in London's Notting Hill area in pursuit of terror suspects. No word yet on whether they have captured the men behind the botched July 21st bombing attempts or Hugh Grant.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Brazilian Killed in Fearful Folly

Last Friday, in a tragic turn of events, Jean Charles de Menezes, a twenty-seven-year old electrician from Brazil was tackled by British anti-terrorism police and shot 8 times in the head at point blank range. Noticeably absent in the media coverage of critics of the tragedy is the phrase “could have been averted”. I imagine that is because it is unlikely that it could have.

From the view point of the police, they did everything right and everything that I hope any police officer would do when faced with a similar situation. They came across a man on a mid-summer day appearing to be of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent wearing a heavy jacket and carrying a backpack. According to news reports, the man started acting suspicious and as he entered a subway station was ordered by officers to stop. Instead of heeding the officers’ orders, he took off and lunged for a nearby subway car, where he was tackled and fatally shot.

Now, if those accounts hold true and I found myself as a police officer in that kind of situation, I honestly believe that I would have acted in the same manner. The only thing I probably would have done differently is, once it was all over, I would have jubilantly moonwalked my way to the nearest restroom to change my underwear and blow chunks all over myself at the realization that I was a split second away from being vaporized in a fiery explosion that would have wasted a few dozen innocent bystanders as well.

On the flip-side though, if I was a Brazilian electrician, I probably would have made sure that I had a good jacket on before I went to work. As a native of the tropics in a land that rarely sees the sweet side of seventy degrees, English summers are probably about as comfortable to Brazilians as Scandinavian winters are to Americans. As an electrician, I would probably be carrying my tools around in a backpack as well. I would probably also be a bit unnerved if I discovered on my way to work that I was being trailed by an athletic-looking group of men bearing stoically stern expressions of single-minded seriousness focused upon my every action. As I tried to figure out what those people were up to, I would not be the least bit surprised if my actions appeared suspicious or unnatural. If they were gaining on me and yelled at me to stop even though they were not wearing uniforms, I could see myself mistaking them for dot-busting ruffians eager to make some brown-skinned person pay for the recent deluge of terrorist activity. I’d make a break for it and head for the relative safety of a subway car where there were lots of witnesses to discourage a brutal beating and potential rescuers if those pursuing me were not deterred. I would not have done anything different than what Mr. Menezes did.

As bad as Friday’s events were, they were made worse by the fact that neither the police nor Mr. Menezes did anything wrong. In fact, both entities did everything right yet the situation escalated into a heartbreakingly irreversible mistake.

Now critics of profiling are bound to say that last Friday’s events were a glaring result of what can happen when racial profiling is officially condoned as a police tactic. This is the type of thinking that has lead to the travesty paraded as “airline security” here in the US where random checks are used in the hope of uncovering potential hijackers, officially legitimizing blind luck as an anti-terrorism tactic as if the various state gaming commissions have been moonlighting as Department of Homeland Security policy gurus. The results of tactics such as this are unsurprising. As a regular air traveler, I have seen numerous occasions where some wheelchair-bound grandmother gets groped by the security screeners at the plane’s entrance ramp while a group of men who could have been extras on the screen classic “Lawrence of Arabia” breeze through unmolested. Now, if the US were under attack by dispossessed and radicalized elements of the American Association of Retired Persons, I would not be so concerned by this recurring scenario. Unfortunately though, we’re not. I will be the first to admit that in most circumstances racial profiling is an unmistakable evil but in some cases, such as a war on terrorism, it is just common sense. If you are under attack by militant Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia, having airport security guards getting to third base with geriatric Methodists does not do anything but undermine the public’s perception of the government’s intelligence, which is usually not very high in the first place.

Inevitably though, sound and logical police tactics are still going to raise criticism. Qari Asim, an imam with the Makkah Mosque in Leeds was quoted as lamenting (while the assumption was still that the victim was a probable suicide bomber), “They didn’t have to shoot him five times.” True, they didn’t HAVE to since, when dealing with cranial targets at point blank range, any shot fired after the first is nothing more than lead-based punctuation, but I think that it was a little premature and irresponsible on his part to try to second-guess the actions of the officers on the ground. He went on to suggest that officers should only have shot him one or two times in the leg to slow him down, as if a suicide bomber with a limp is somehow less dangerous.

Not to say that Britain’s minority communities do not have legitimate concerns. Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, described England’s Islamic community as being “jumpy and nervous” and frankly, I would be too if I were them. Thanks to the actions of an incredibly minute fraction of their community, they will now have to endure suspicion and scrutiny now for years to come even though the vast majority of them have done nothing at all to warrant it. Sadly, it is they who will have to bear the brunt of the consequences for the events of July 7th. They will have to realize that though they did nothing wrong, they will be the ones having to take extra precautions to ensure they are not mistaken as belligerents. They will have to take care to not appear threatening while taking advantage of London’s public transportation. Their community leaders have to continually re-emphasize that they do not sympathize with the thugs of al-Qaeda while every other community’s revulsion to the attacks are just automatically assumed. And they will have to actually put thought into their choice of accessories. For instance, I expect that makers of backpacks durable enough to haul electrician tools around construction worksites may find minority laborers suddenly opting for something less robust, but at the same time, significantly less intimidating. Something from the “Hello Kitty” line or apparel emblazoned with images of the Powerpuff Girls comes to mind. They will also probably find themselves second-guessing their safety instincts. After July 22nd, if a person of color finds themselves being chased down by a mean-looking gang of excitable belligerents hurling orders and colorful colloquialisms at them while menacingly charging at them like a stampede of raging rhinocerii, they will likely be inclined to just drop down to the ground in the fetal position and hope against hope that they are in store for nothing worse than a good old-fashioned street mugging or hate crime.

Though Menezes died at the hands of police, they do not bear the ultimate responsibility for his passing. That belongs to the people who detonated the subway and bus bombs on July 7th. Without them, British anti-terrorism police would have had no reason to consider Menezes a threat. Hopefully though, this unfortunate event will not force the British to undermine their own security effectiveness as a result as it almost certainly would have here in the US. It should also be said that though this tragedy will send shockwaves through Britain’s minority communities, they should find comfort in the fact that England does have due process of law and their rights will be far better protected in Leeds under the worst of circumstances than they would have been in Lahore under the best.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Equestrian Love Proves Fatal

It's not like I never heard of people so desperate they have to resort to molesting animals but I always thought that the creeps that did this stuff always gave instead of received. Apparently, I was mistaken. Oh well, someone this twisted deserves to have his eulogy given in the form of a classic JEP Report limerick:
A perverted Seattle-ite hick,
Sought equestrian love long and thick.
Once his lover was spied,
He bent over and died,
Impaled by Clydesdale-ian dick

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Post For the Readers to Have Their Say

I’ve been noticing some significantly increased traffic here and a number of new readers that seem to have found their way here. I just want to say I appreciate you stopping by and hope that you enjoy what you read.

That being said, I would like to give those of you reading The JEP Report an opportunity to sound off on it. So, that being said, I would like to invite you to comment below. I am really interested in who you are, where you are from, how you found The JEP Report, what you like about and what you don’t. Any suggestions you may have on how to improve it would be very well received as well as any criticism of the content.

I would like to encourage everyone who reads this to comment upon anything at all. I feel that increased interactivity on the site can only make it more interesting and on top of that, feedback gives me a lot of motivation to write more.

I would also like to inform everyone that I am moving into a new house, dealing with some potential career developments and still adjusting the family to our new recent addition. As a result, posting on The JEP Report will sporadic at best probably until the end of September when I return from covering Europe’s International Autoshow in Frankfurt, Germany.

And now I would like to turn the post over to you. I’m dying to hear from you, especially the ones that have pretty much read the entire blog all the way through.

Best Regards,


Monday, July 18, 2005

Teasing Neptune

Photo taken day after events described below.

In 1990 I reported for duty aboard the USS Belleau Wood and within a week found myself underway for the northern Pacific to patrol the waters between Alaska and the rapidly deteriorating Soviet Union, where a new drug smuggling route had apparently sprung up. As the new guy on board, I was subjected to my fair share of hazing. I spent four hours on the bow of the ship searching for an imaginary mail buoy, climbed atop one of the masts to untangle an equally non-existent “sea bat” from a radar antenna, attempted to requisition a figure of speech called a “gigline” and ran a request to change the bulb in a figurative “smoking lamp”. I even once participated in a bogus maintenance check on a safety harness that resulted in me being left alone, suspended from the ceiling of our shop, with absolutely no way to get myself down. My Master Chief (who was in on the prank) eventually walked in on me and delivered a monumental ass-chewing to me about screwing around on the job before finally freeing me. Needless to say, within a week I quit believing anything my shipmates said.

As we approached Arctic waters, the weather took a spectacularly sudden turn for the worse. Five-story waves started breaking over the bow and the ship started taking on water. It poured in through the mooring line ports in the foc’sle, flowed down four flights of stairs and started collecting in the last compartment before the ship’s power plant, which just happened to be the compartment that I slept in. Between the ship’s rocking and pure exhaustion, I was sleeping so hard that I did not even realize it until the alarm to General Quarters was sounded and all hands were ordered to report to their battle stations.

As the lights came on in our living area, I pulled back the curtain that afforded me the only privacy I would know for the next four years and asked one of the more experienced crew members what was going on. With an extreme expression of genuine concern on his face, he told me that the ship was sinking and we had to get ready to abandon ship.

“Whatever.” I responded, knowing for certain that my leg was being pulled once again. Then I saw that there was about eight inches of water on the deck and heard the flooding alarm go off. Thirty seconds later, I had climbed nine flights of stairs to arrive at my General Quarters station wearing a pair of combat boots, a life jacket and a pair of pristine white underwear that had even odds on whether or not they would remain that way for much longer.

Besides myself, my General Quarters station was occupied by three other men, two radar technicians and my Master Chief, all of whom who were unsettlingly devoid of the dire sense of urgency that I had been afflicted with. All eyes were locked on me as if I walked into the space covered in plague. For an instant, I considered adopting a fake lisp and greeting them all with a “Well, hello thailorth!”, but I thought that the only thing that could possibly guarantee a worse beating than that would be to add an unfortunately ill-timed case of morning wood to my battle dress ensemble. All I managed to squeak out was “Ehhhh, we’re not sinking are we?”

My Master Chief, with a lit cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth in direct violation of General Quarters procedure, shook his head no. The other members of my shop shook their heads in disbelief and watched as I took a seat in the corner of the radar room, have been instantly accorded the social standing of a syphilitic sewer slug.

After a little while, someone brought me a pair of overalls and after donning those, I spent the rest of the night trying to ride out the weather. There was an improvised angle indicator hanging on the wall opposite me. It consisted of a weight suspended by a length of string that was tacked to a piece of cardboard. At the very bottom of the cardboard was a tick mark followed by a zero. If the weight was positioned at the zero, that meant the ship was perfectly upright. From that mid-point, were tick-marks positioned every five degrees up to 45, indicating the angle of the ship’s tilt. The maritime version of an urban legend stated that the island structures of naval ships (of which we were positioned at the very top of) were designed to break off during a 45° roll to prevent the rest of the ship from capsizing in heavy seas, hence the reason no one bothered to put a 50° mark on the cardboard. This was widely regarded as rubbish in calm seas, but in this particular instance I saw that everyone in the radar room, including my Master Chief, turned and faced the exit in a sprinter’s starting position every time that weight cleared the 35° mark.

Some time before dawn, the seas finally flattened out. The ocean was still angry, but its temper had finally simmered down enough so that the waves stopped breaking over the bow of the ship. The captain called an end to general quarters and the crew went about the business of trying to repair the damage the Arctic waves had done to us, which mainly consisted of getting rid of a bunch of salt water from places it should not have been. By lunch time I was spent. I had been up all night then worked my butt off trying to dry out our living quarters. I also had a long day ahead of me, thanks to all the extra-curricular activities my Master Chief assigned me for showing up at GQ in my skivvies, so I decided to step out for a breath of fresh air and a smoke to help recharge my batteries. Now that it was daylight, I also wanted to get a good look at what was out there that had beaten us so badly the night before.

Now, the Belleau Wood is a huge ship and even though at the time I stepped outside the ocean was still raging unrelentingly, the vessel was barely swaying at all. This kind of lulled me into a false sense of security, especially since I was looking down at the salt water tempest below from four stories above the savagery. I could not imagine trying to ply those waves on any ship less than a hundred feet in length and remembered thinking that the drug runners we were on the lookout for had worse things to worry about than us. The northern Pacific was truly a force to be reckoned with and I was truly in awe of the incredibly display of the violence of nature boiling beneath me.

I turned to my left to view the bow of the ship and try to gage how large the waves were. Before I could manage to do this however, something about the horizon grabbed my attention. The horizon always varied a little with the rise and fall of the ship but as I stood on the starboard weatherdeck, I saw a gargantuan rise that was independent of the ship’s movement. The longer I stared at it, the larger it got until it appeared menacingly at the Belleau Wood’s bow. It was a wave unlike anything I had ever seen in my entire life. I can not begin to describe the sight of it. It hit the ship just below the flight deck, just a hair below breaking over it, and it seemed like the entire vessel shuddered under its impact. I was forced to look skyward to see its crest and I stood giddy with amazement as it starting lurching its way down the length of the ship. I just could not comprehend the power contained within this bestial phenomena and as I watched it I was certain that nothing directly in its path could ever possibly survive. It was about that time that I realized that I was directly in its path.

With speed that could only originate from sheer terror, I leapt back away from the rail and dove for the watertight opening. I wrenched back the handle of the door, threw it open and jumped inside. I had my hand on the door, on the verge of pulling it back shut when the wave hit. The steel door was propelled into my hand, jamming virtually all of my knuckles before propelling my mit back towards my nose where it made impact with pinpoint precision. I was propelled backwards by the blow and the hatch, which I had been unable to secure, somehow was forced back open to let in a knee-high wall of water that took my legs out from under me and sent me hurtling face-first into the floor before propelling me ten feet down the hall.

Terrified that we could get hit again, I scrambled to my feet and ran back for the hatch. I pulled it shut as quickly as I could and secured it before falling to my knees out of breath from the effort I had just expended as well as the fear that I felt upon realizing just how close I had came to being swept out to sea. I eventually sat down, soaking wet with my back against the bulkhead when, over the ships public address system (known as the 1MC), I heard a message broadcast with a degree of proactivity so unique that it could only have originated from a military entity. “Secure all weatherdecks.”

I looked up at the speaker it had originated from and responded with, “F*** you, too.”

The door I had let the ocean in through was located very close to the mess decks and it did not take long for a gaggle of our Filipino cooks to turn the corner to investigate what the origin of all the commotion was, as well as try to find the source of all the sea water that was wreaking havoc upon their freshly mopped floor. I was relieved to see that I outranked them all. “Which one of you %$#@!?$ morons left the #&%@!?* hatch open?!?!”

They stepped back a second and looked at each other accusingly.

“WHICH ONE?!?!?” There was a brief exchange between them in Tagolog that I did not understand so, before they had a chance to figure out that none of them had I told them that since no one was willing to take responsibility, they could all grab mops and clean the shit up. I then walked away with a new-found respect for the power of water and went to try and find something to stem the steady stream of blood cascading out of my nose.

Fifteen years later, I still harbor a deep respect for the power lurking just below the surface of large bodies of water. Over the last Independence Day holiday weekend, I embarked upon our annual pilgrimage to the shores of Lake Michigan early, mainly to join my in-laws on a fishing trip upon this westernmost of The Great Lakes. The city we holiday at, Ludington Michigan, is a hot spot for King Salmon and Steelhead and on any given summer morning, beginning at 4:30 in the morning, the channel in front of my wife’s uncle’s cottage is lousy with dozens of boats on their way out into open water in pursuit of these brawling behemoths.

Due to the fact that we had been drinking until 1:30am the morning of our trip, we got a late start. I stumbled out of the house with a blistering hangover at a quarter after five and was startled to see not a single vessel on its way out to the lake. I was even more surprised to see that the channel leading to Lake Michigan, which is normally placid in even the most temperamental weather, had white-capped waves all over the place. The wind was blowing out of the west at about 25-30 miles an hour, and though there was no sign of rain, the water was looking far too rough to go fishing in. My wife’s uncle, Tom, emerged from the house a couple minutes after I did and shook his head in disappointment upon surveying the weather. “Doesn’t look good, does it?”

“Not really.” I answered as Tom’s son-in-law Mark, who had arranged the trip and was good friends with the boat’s owner, stepped out as well. As he walked up, I asked him if we should all just go back to bed.

“Naaw,” Mark said. “We need to at least show up and see what Craig wants to do. I don’t want to just leave him hanging. We can at least catch breakfast together up at the Olde Hamlin or something.”

We then got into Tom’s car and made our way to the marina. To my surprise, “Captain” Craig was awake and waiting for us at the dock. Craig had been drinking with us the night before and I was impressed that, unlike his passengers, he showed no signs of being hungover at all. As he swaggered over to meet us though, I realized why. He was basically still drunk. “What’s up, guys!” he shouted out with a beer already in hand as he walked up the pier. “This kind of sucks, eh?”

“I’ll say.” Tom replied. “So, what do you want to do?”

I figured that they would quickly decide to pack it in and try to make it out another day, but instead found Craig, Mark and Tom sincerely trying to figure out what they could safely do to try and get out to catch some fish. The three of them fish together all of the time and know the waters. Since I did not, I decided to stay out of the debate and let them come to the logical conclusion that venturing out onto the big water was nothing short of aquatic suicide. The more I listened to the conversation however, the more I realized that it was not so much that they were weighing legitimate options rather than they were trying to figure out a way to get out of admitting that they were too scared to go out. They eventually gave up and asked me what I wanted to do, the three of them staring me down with eyes that were almost pleading with me to own up to my cowardice and call off the trip. Had I been with another crowd, I might have done exactly that. With this group however, I knew that if I chickened out I would be the target of their jibes all weekend.

While they waited for my answer, I mulled over the situation and had flashbacks of the time I almost caught a wave to oceanic oblivion. I looked out across the marina and saw that I was surrounded by a couple of hundred boats. These vessels were owned by people who fished these waters religiously for years. They were experienced captains that were fully aware that this was not a day to be fooling around on the water. There was NO other boat even attempting to troll the channel, let alone trying to take on the open waters of Lake Michigan. In contrast, Captain Craig had only owned his boat for a couple of months and I believed he had just enough nautical experience to know that he did not have enough nautical experience to go out in those kinds of conditions. I did not think that he would risk all of our lives, or even worse, his boat, to keep us from questioning his courage.

After thinking about this for a couple of moments, Craig asked me, “Well JEP, what about it? You wanna go out or not?”

I walked over to the cooler at the back of the boat and cracked open a beer. I took a long hard drink before answering, not so much to boost my confidence rather than to impair my judgment. I then said, “I’m game if you are.”

Upon my agreement to go, everyone set to loading the boat with considerably less enthusiasm and speed than we usually set out with, each of us probably hoping that if we took long enough the weather would break, but going through great pains to conceal that sentiment. When we finally pushed off, a middle aged man emerged from the boat next to us and shouted, “Where the hell do you guys think you’re going?”

“Fishing!” we all cried almost in unison.

He shook his head and waved us off dismissively. “For what? A watery grave?”

As we idled down the channel, we were pleased to see that it was not as bad as we thought. It was unmistakably choppy, but nothing to be scared of. Filled with resurgent bravado, Captain Craig turned on the radio which was appropriately playing “It’s Only Rock and Roll” by the Rolling Stones. We all joined in for the chorus until the lighthouse at the end of channel came into view. Beyond that lighthouse was Lake Michigan, and she looked pissed. As we approached the outlet, we could see waves battering the break wall, sending plumes of white water clear across it. Our singing stopped as we cautiously approached the channel’s mouth. We were parallel with Ludington’s Coast Guard Station when the Stones took a break to let WKRK broadcast its weather forecast. As we were still basically in the city, reception was crystal clear, particularly the part about the Small Craft Advisory posted for the eastern waters of Lake Michigan where waves were reported to run between five and seven feet.

As the breakwater loomed before us, Tom pulled out what looked like a circular Band-Aid and stuck it behind his ear. I had seen them when I was in the navy, and though I forget what the things are actually named, we called them “Pussy Patches” and they were to help prevent sea-sickness. Tom offered me one which I refused. In my four years at sea with the navy, I had been through the northern Pacific as well as two hurricanes. I had never even come close to being seasick. Incontinent, yes. Seasick, no.

As I was unwisely turning down free drugs, Craig looked over at me from the Captain’s chair and threw a thumb in the direction of the rescue boat in front of the Coast Guard Station. “You think they’ve got a radar trained on us right now?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t see anything. I’m betting though that there’s a group of them looking at us from behind the curtains placing bets on how long it will be before they have to come out and get us.”

Five minutes later, we had crossed out of the channel and hit the breakwater. We hit a respectable five-footer head on almost immediately and the bow of the boat lifted out of the water significantly before crashing back down. It actually was kind of fun and the boat broke into a series of cheers. The same thing happened on the next big one. And the next. In fact, this went on for a few minutes. Then we were hit by a huge wave broadside that soaked my back and brought us uncomfortably close to the point of capsizing. The cheering immediately stopped as Craig cut speed and tried to stabilize the boat. “Okaaaay. I think that’s enough! You guys ready to go back and fish the channel?” We all nodded silently.

It took some doing, but Craig finally got the boat turned around and pointed back at the breakwater we had just crossed. We were now facing a formidable array of waves to get back home and none of us relished the idea of trying to cross again. I reached for another beer, having always had a dire fear of drowning sober. Craig was just about ready to gun the engine propelling us forward when Mark pointed out that now that we had passed the break, the water appeared much calmer and asked if it would not make more sense to hang around in the calmer open water until the break had settled down. As no one was very enthusiastic about courting capsizing again, we agreed that not trying to cross the break again so soon would be a slightly less worse idea than trying to. We turned back toward open water, struck up a chorus of the theme to “Gilligan’s Island” and put out a fishing line as soon as we threw out the drag bags and slowed to trolling speed.

Had we not caught anything, we probably would not have attempted to go out as far as we did, but as it turns out, the fish had teamed up with Mother Nature. No sooner had the first lure hit the water than it was hit by a fifteen pound fish. As it was my first trip out, I had the honor of bringing it in and the instant success propelled us out even further. We all felt that catching that first fish so early was an omen for a truly awesome day of angling. Of course, we were wrong but there was no way we could have known that as we kept going further and further away from shore.

About an hour after we hit the water, and a couple of minutes after downing my fifth beer, I felt a rebellious acidity in my stomach and I started regretting turning down the patch that Tom had offered to me earlier. I locked my line of sight onto the horizon to minimize the sensation caused by the rocking boat, but it did little good. Finally I had to break down and ask Tom for some drugs. He told me they were in his duffel bag down below in the cabin. Though I really felt like hell, I forced myself up to get up and go get them.

Almost as soon as I entered the cabin, I knew I had made a huge mistake. If hit with seasickness, the first thing one should do is lock one’s vision upon the horizon and do whatever it takes to not lose sight of it. This will not eliminate the nausea, but it will keep it manageable. Loosing sight of the horizon is death. You WILL hurl, and unlike the sickness associated with over-imbibing, you will NOT feel better about it afterwards. Of course, while in the cabin looking for the drugs I needed, there was no way to look at the horizon. Inside of fifteen seconds, my knees went weak, my mouth filled up with acidic saliva and my sweat pores went into hyperactive overdrive, warning me that I was about to blow.

I turned around and fell to my knees on the three steps that led to the outside. I threw open the door and, too woozy to step outside, stuck my head out of the opening and laid it down on the deck beside the captain’s feet. My stomach felt as if it was bubbling over, expanding past its point of maximum capacity before contracting ever so slightly. I let out a small, bilious burp that tasted of digestive fluid and cheap beer and was followed by a long pitiful groan that caught the captain’s attention. “You all right, JEP?” Craig asked.

“I’ll be fine in a minute.” I lied while staring at the Captains toes, which were positioned a couple of inches away from my eyes. “You may want to consider putting those feet somewhere else though just to be safe.”

At that point, the boat hit another wave broadside. It was smaller than what we had encountered at the breakwater and though this did not put us in any danger of capsizing, it ran up the port side of the ship, through an opening in the cover I had unzipped to flick my cigarette ashes through and down the seat I had been sitting in earlier before cascading into my face. This set the captain off on a tirade about me not closing the cover that I completely ignored. The water was a welcome relief to my discomfort and I was glad I had screwed up.

Unable to return to the cabin to get the medicine I needed, I untied and kicked one of my shoes off and tried to feel around for Tom’s duffel bag with my foot, all the while looking off the aft end of the boat on the lookout for the horizon, which periodically came into view when the stern dipped down into the water. After finding the bag, I worked it up to within reach of my hands and then managed to pass it to Tom, who retrieved the patch I needed and put it behind my ear. A couple minutes after that, I had worked my shoe back on without bothering to retie it and returned topside to take my place in the wet seat I had vacated before to leer at the horizon with a lascivious intensity that is usually reserved for internet pornography.

We had been idling out for around three hours before the captain decided that we had been battered enough. The open water was quickly becoming as treacherous as the breakwater had been and things were getting intolerably dicey. We brought the lines in, since with the way the lake was it would be impossible to execute the wide sweeping turn required to keep them untangled without getting broadsided, and the captain went to work pointing us in the other direction. It took some doing, but he finally managed to get the bow of the boat facing land. We then brought in the drag bags and the captain hit the throttle. In response, the engine revved, then made an incredibly unsettling gurgling noise before breaking into a series of engine misfires and skipped strokes.

Upon hearing the ominous protests of the boat’s engine, I turned and looked over at Craig. He looked back at me with the same expression Han Solo had possessed every time the Millenium Falcon failed to jump into hyperspace. At that point I knew we were in trouble. As if to remind us of our predicament, the radio station we were listening to broke in with another Small Craft Advisory warning of 5 to 7 foot waves on Lake Michigan. As this report ended, a monster wave reared up behind us, lifting the stern and pushing us forward. At that point I wondered who the hell was measuring those things. Granted, my perception may have been distorted by nausea and fear, but that wave look significantly taller than my living room ceiling. Tall enough to take my mind off of my volatile stomach and focus it on my bladder anyway.

Now that we were facing east, the wind was at our backs, all 25 miles per hour of it. This proved a momentous advantage to a distressed fishing vessel limping its way back in to port, but posed a significant obstacle to an uncomfortably buzzed, seasick passenger trying to take a leak off of the ass end of the boat in heavy seas. At first, just getting started seemed impossible. The severe rocking of the boat just made everything want to crawl back up. It was as if every big roll we took caused an involuntary reflex of the prostrate that cut off urinary flow mid-stream. Finally though, fullness overrode fear and once flow was established, nothing could stop it. Not even the angry wind-gust from Chicago that redirected the piss stream into a gravity-defying anti-arc that took it up over the port side of the boat and sent it on a collision course with Tom, who was seated directly behind me. I hurriedly tried to compensate by turning to my right to try to project it further out off of the port side, but this caused some concern on Tom’s side who, suspecting my intentions, shot out of his seat while loosing a stream of profanity and barking orders to watch where I “WAS #%&$@ POINTING THAT #%$&*!?& THING!!!”

As I was still jockeying for a safe position, we took another good roll and I was forced to use both hands to hold on to something other than my manhood in a valiant effort to stay upright. The last thing I wanted to do was go over the side with that particular appendage flying free so close to the boat’s propeller. The result was predictable and reminiscent of watching a loose firehouse, or rather would have been had my genetics been a little kinder to me. Once finished I had to hose down the deck, the bulkheads, a seat, my shoes, my hands and the lower portions of my pants. Tom probably could have used a squirt or two as well but I managed to convince him that the stuff he had been doused with was water spray from the waves breaking across the stern.

The closer we came to shore, the rougher the water got. After taking a couple of very severe hits, we started preparing the boat for the eventuality that the Coast Guard may indeed be plucking us out of the water in the very near future. These preparations consisted mainly of hiding all of the empty beer cans in the cabin below and turning the radio to the emergency channel in preparation for transmitting our distress signal. I eyed the captain’s cell phone and tried to figure out if it would be better to dial a “9” and a “1” and wait, or to complete the call to emergency services and give them a real-time account of what was going on while it was happening so that our rescuers would know what they were in for, a conversation that I imagined would go something like:

911 Operator:
Emergency Dispatch. How may I help you?

Hi! How’re you doing, babe?

911 Operator:
Fine. Can I help you with something?

Not quite yet, but we’ll probably have something for you in a couple of minutes.

911 Operator:
Like what?

Oh, I don’t know for sure but we could possibly muster up a couple of missing persons, a drowning and, if we really put our minds to it, a fiery explosion that would look awesome on the 10 O’Clock News.

Background Voice 1:
Hey Guys! Watch this!

You’d better get the Coast Guard on the way. I think the possibility of disaster has just graduated to a probability.

We hit the breakwater like brick wall. The boat was struck by another broadside wave that sent us hurtling towards the lighthouse, a trip that was halted only by another set hitting us on the opposite side. We then took a hit in back that sent us sideways, a precarious position that Craig worked feverishly to correct before we were swamped. The water refused to cooperate though and we got nailed several more times while we tried to straighten out. Only luck kept us upright. At this point, the boat went completely silent and the color bled out of the captain’s face. Finally, he turned to me and asked, “You ever seen anything like this when you were in the navy?”

I nodded uncomfortably, having a good idea what this question was leading to. “Yeah, a couple of times.”

“What did you do?”

“Usually I just shook and pissed all over myself.”

“Seriously, man!” Craig obviously did not think it was an appropriate time for cracking jokes. “What do you do? Didn’t they make you guys steer ships and tie all those weird knots and shit?”

“Dude, I was an electronics technician! I spent six years getting drunk and playing Nintendo. I didn’t steer ships and I can barely keep my shoes tied!” As I said this I happened to look down at my feet and saw that the shoe I had kicked off earlier was still untied. I lifted it up into the air as proof. “SEE!”

Craig was very visibly agitated at this point as things seemed to be spiraling out of control. He pointed towards a point to the left of the channel we were trying to enter and asked, “You think I should steer for there and hope the current takes to where we need to be?”

I looked towards where he was pointing and saw a couple of serious waves break over the lighthouse pier. “Dude, if you do that those things are going to screw us up worse than Kenneth Lay’s checkbook.” No one even attempted to acknowledge that joke. I figured that it was because no one knew who the former CEO of Enron was, they were too scared to appreciate the humor involved or that this particular attempt to lighten the situation was just not very funny. In reality, it was probably a combination of all three factors.

While Captain Craig tried to decide what to do, the water made his decisions for him. We got broadsided again and then, as we were spinning, got aft-ended. I was lifted out of my seat and thrown to my knees in the aisle. Mark was holding on to anything he could to stay on board. Tom was speechless and Craig was turning the wheel every way could with no effect. At idling speed, the boat just did not have the propulsion it needed to steer. We seemed to get hit both port and starboard, a situation I thought nautically impossible. Some waves seemed to hit us from the front while others tossed us forward from the back. My nausea finally disappeared, terror turning out to be a far more effective cure for sea-sickness than medication. I was bracing myself for our imminent capsizing when suddenly everything went silent. Inexplicably, we ended up in the channel, upright and unharmed.

In an instant, we emerged from seven-foot waters into a channel where the sea-walls kept the waves below three. Relatively speaking, the water was practically a sheet of glass. Captain Craig erupted into maniacal laughter as he righted the boat and pointed it towards the marina. He then looked at the rest of us and let out a phrase that was somewhat less than inspiring. “Hehehehe! I didn’t think we were going to make it!”

When we pulled back alongside the dock, Craig’s middle aged neighbor emerged from his boat smiling and shaking his head. “You out there fishing all this time?”

Craig nodded. “Hell yeah!” He then lifted the lid to the cooler to show off the salmon and lake trout we had reeled in. “None of you wooses went out, eh?”

Craig’s neighbor shook his head. “No way. You’re friggin’ nuts. We all got together and watched you head out. We thought for sure the Coast Guard would be on their way to get you guys in an hour.”

“Gimme a break. It was a piece of cake.” Before long, Craig was telling the story to a group of people who had gathered around to hear how he had braved the weather just to get a good day’s worth of fishing in. A couple of people commended us for our dedication to our sport and commented about our fearlessness in the face of conditions that bad. They said our boat looked like a ping-pong ball on its way out and no one could believe that we kept going further into open water after the beating we took at the break. We took our accolades with modesty and responded in kind with humble nonchalance. I would not say that we entered the annals of legend with our little escapade, but Craig undoubtedly had people talking about him the rest of the weekend. After we left the marina, we were a bit impressed by the minor adulation we had received back at the dock. It made me wonder how many other times acts born of nothing more than sheer stupidity on a biblical scale were lauded as courage upon their conclusion with a happy ending. Having made it back, we were hailed as fanatically dedicated sport-fishermen. Had we capsized at the break like we probably should have, we undoubtedly would have been known as nothing more than four clinical morons who, though undoubtedly blessed with balls, came up far short on brains and, ultimately, buoyancy.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Freudian Slip at the Golden Arches

I was at McDonald’s yesterday. After we finished, my wife took my daughter to the bathroom while I tried to occupy my 2-year-old. He wanted to give “High Fives” So we did. The following conversation transpired:
Son: “Gimme Five, Daddy!”
I give him five.
Son: “Gimme Potato Dad!"
We bump fists and cheer.
Son: “Gimme elbow, Daddy!”
We bump elbows, then knees, then shoulders and virtually every other body part until my son bows down towards me, laughing hysterically and yells, “GIMME HEAD DAD!”
I busted out laughing myself and replied, in a voice much louder than I meant to project, “I ain’t giving you head!”
I then noticed how many people were staring at me so, to avoid a costly call to Child Welfare Services, I head-butted the little cretin.

Friday, July 08, 2005

More Evidence of the Latent Unreliability of Chinese Media

According to Xinhua, China's official news agency, Chinese people are more ignorant of sex than about any other subject.

As the Chinese population soars towards 2,000,000,000 people, I think that it is safe to say that they're figuring it out.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thoughts on the London Bombings

My wife woke me up this morning with the news of the London bombings and I rushed to the television to see what had happened. I have to admit that my first thought was of Hannah, a regular commenter on The JEP Report, who was visiting London today. Hannah lives in Belfast Northern Ireland, a traditional hotbed of sectarian violence where bombings were relatively commonplace. Recent peace accords have been largely successful though and Northern Ireland has been quiet of late. So quiet in fact, that Hannah had to travel all the way to London in order to get bombed. After watching a couple minutes of the news, I jumped on my computer to send her an e-mail and was relieved to find that she had sent me one first confirming that she was OK.

After finding out that the rest of my English friends were all right, I sat back down and let it all sink in. I was shocked and outraged, but unfortunately, not at all surprised. As I watched the news, I found that the British did not seem very surprised either. One of the reporters I watched said something to effect that the matter of London being the target of a terrorist attack was never a question of “if” but of “when”. Apparently, Tony Blair expressed a similar sentiment earlier in the day as well. Still, no matter how much you expect something like this to happen, there is no way to dull the effect it has on you when it really does – even if you are safely situated thousands of miles away from the scene of the carnage.

I really feel terrible for the people of London, and a little bit responsible. The bombings in London were carried out to punish the English for being there when the US needed them, for their unfailing friendship and for being the most dependable ally the United States has ever had. They were attacked because, despite our differences, our core values are the same. Like the US, Britain enjoys a stable democracy, values individual freedom and cherishes the pursuit of prosperity. The UK is among the world’s greatest of nations and, impotent in their cowardice and ignorance, the fundamentalist freak show that is al Qaeda needs to show needs something to show its twisted minions that they are capable of terrorizing a strong nation into submission as they did in Spain. My personal belief is that they will be sorely mistaken in this case.

The English are a resilient people. Behind their characteristic reserve and stereotypical veneer of propriety is a heart of iron that rises to any challenge and refuses to back down. When I was stationed overseas, I would periodically find myself in a mix of Australians and English. It always seemed that the Americans and Aussies would easily find themselves fast friends and at some point in the evening, at odds with the English. At first I figured that it was because English mannerisms seemed to broadcast arrogance and superiority that offended colonial sensibilities but later I realized that it was because the Aussies liked to pick a fight and were smart enough to not go after a pack of Brits on their own. Either way, those experiences taught me that it is much easier to try to subdue a herd of rampaging rhinocerii than step within striking distance of a drunken bulldog wielding a barstool.

This time, I think al Qaeda has crashed the wrong party. I expect this action will accomplish nothing but strengthen the resolve of the British government and unify the population in a way that will be very contrarian to the militancy’s expectations.

My sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with the people of London today. I wish you the speediest of recoveries and offer my most heartfelt thanks to you for being our friend through the most trying of times. I will never forget what that friendship has cost you today.
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