They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. But that’s assuming the traveler is upright to begin with.
In a state of delirium, I thought it plausible to have my throat slit just prior to embarking on our “Annual Family Vacation.” As the doctor removed the stitches, he regaled my fragile psyche with graphic descriptions of this most recent surgical escapade. I went deaf right after he made reference to a roto-rooter and the Black and Decker.
As further evidence that I should be involuntarily institutionalized, I deemed it a splendid idea to visit every physician and have every annual procedure known to man done simultaneously in order not to have to worry about it upon our return. So I went to the dermatologist, the gynecologist and the surgeon.
I began the trip with an inflated pustule on my forehead so large it looked like a third eye. I had bandages reminiscent of the Boris Karloff mummy, with my eyes half closed from an anesthetic hangover making me look detached and semi-inebriated. Also, I walked just as funny as the mummy because a physician had been excavating with a tanker of Vaseline and a backhoe. I now have a new respect for oil slicks in the gulf. I caused little children to shriek and run away in terror. Unfortunately, they were my grandkids.
Thus, I hobbled to the “thousand mile” starting line in an altered state, – hallucinatory and muttering incoherent platitudes.
We commence every odyssey with the highest expectations…optimism for the possibility of perfection. Our proposed travel menu would center on low-fat, densely-packed nutrition, healthy snacks, and organic fruits. We were vegan pilgrims ready for adventure.
Fifteen minutes into the merriment, we morphed into sugar fiends, craving whisky tarts and voraciously pounding down the junk food in a feeding orgy of gummi bears, Cheetos, Little Debbies, and petrified sandwiches on concrete crusts of bread spread with stale peanut butter and primordial ooze. Our gut-glut needle went right off the gauge.
In the classic “kid need food” phenomenon, we ate succulent little snacks that could cumulatively cut off one’s air passages and strangle one’s bowel…and left a curious and vulgar aftertaste. We eventually degenerated into the culinary equivalent of licking lard out of a can…like a banquet for the depraved.
In total, there were twelve of us – The Dirty Dozen – and we were a quorum. Things went pretty smoothly, considering the general dynamics.
We attempted to structure the experience by regulating laws for the common good. Operating under the dictum that 12 clocks cannot strike at precisely the same time, certain truths became self-evident, and therefore, policies and priorities were established.
1. The fullest bladder with the least amount of control determined the next rest stop. Curiously, I ruled. The boys, however, profaned the entire rain forest as a pristine toilet that they never had to flush.
2. Incontinence trumps everything. Again, I dominated.
3. “Hurling” pre-empts even incontinence. Beckham has a familiar pattern of “burp…burp…urp!” We must always remain no more than one “burp” shy of a receptacle. This law was ratified in a small room at the Wagon Wheel Motel in Baker, Idaho.
4. Viscous nasal contents are subordinate to more pressing bodily demands. That particular territory can be secured on sleeves and tree trunks.
5. Anyone who grumbles, bleats or prevaricates shall be abandoned at the nearest rest stop and condemned to eternal exile. In a humanitarian gesture, we decided to define “prevaricate” for the kids or they’d all still be at the rest stop in Rupert, Idaho!
6. Whoever has an inkling how to get where we’re going…leads.
Maximum motion on minimal sleep rendered us witless. Gradually we all went into light-trance mode, often looking like a collection of bobble heads just off the Tilt-a-Whirl.
I realized after looking at our most recent photos, there were whole episodes of this vacation I missed. I lurked blurrily at the edges of cognizance. Dang the Propofol! Trying to maintain a neutral expression, I casually asked Dennis what happened in my “absence.” He assured me that yes, we had a good time; no, I didn’t streak the field; and my “dance of the seven veils” was a particular hit with our fellow ferry passengers. I was gratified.
One incident I will never forget. It was the day the U.S. played its scheduled World Cup soccer match. Because of the very early hour, we all got up and gathered around the TV, unshowered, teeth unbrushed, and disheveled…on this trip we were never “sheveled!” We huddled companionably in a potent tribal stink and cheered for our team. It was our finest moment.
Family vacations are singularly encapsulated, compact moments that engender a riotous expenditure of energy, panic, exhaustion, infinitesimal lapses of sanity, and deep solidarity…small pleasures, perfect moments intersected with zany comic book mania. This was no country for old men…or women. But I’ve discovered youth is a renewable resource…I was definitely “youth”anized on this trip. In point of fact, last week it was my birthday. I turned 18 once more.
In April we’ll do it all over again.