Ch 5 - Florida Bound

“What do you mean, you’re taking the dog?  Where’s he supposed to go to the bathroom?”

“Why do you think it's called a Poop Deck?”

“He just doesn’t seem to like the water very much,” my one observation.  "Remember that trip to Ashland over the 4th, when it was so hot you carried him into the creek but he didn't move?  You traumatized him!"

Cap didn't believe me, and there was no changing his mind. He'd gotten rid of his damned parrot; I just assumed he'd give Czar to a good home, too.

I've hated birds since knee-high, when we owned two parakeets in our Sunnyside, Queens apartment. The birds would fly and swoop around the hallway, rooms closed off, while I crouched on the floor in terror.  Scarred me for life.

So when Cap showed off Fred inside his cage on top of the fridge I inwardly panicked. I tried like hell to remain calm whenever Fred was let out of his cage but I couldn't.  Cap also owned a battery-operated parrot, which I used to torment Fred when Cap wasn’t looking.  I’d creep into the kitchen with fake-Fred behind my back, slowly approaching real-Fred, who never took his eyes off of me.  At some point I’d flip the switch and hold fake-Fred up to the cage,

“Squawk, squawk,” they’d go at each other, with real-Fred flapping his wings excitedly.  I know, I know: it’s a good thing I did not breed.  When Cap headed to his family’s reunion in Branson, MO, I was happily left with handing real-Fred over to his new owner; but I’d become attached to fake-Fred so he’d be coming along on the boat.

After the auction there wasn’t much left to do. Cap’s roommate Ron loaned us his bed while we worked our final week. Only at our farewell party did we confide our true plans to co-workers, all of whom were jealous as hell.

Cap never managed to sell his truck camper so he left it with Ron, who promised to sell and forward the money to wherever we were, minus a small commission. I followed Cap as he drove his Fiat to three dealers before letting it go for $200.  It hardly ran anyway.  We hooked Trigger up to the 4'x8' U-Haul; threw Czar in the back seat; lunched with Cap’s brother and left town.  For a sense of timing: this was one month following the death of Princess Diana.

Only after leaving Oregon did Cap inform me of the three weapons (and bullets) he’d brought along to repel any Pirates of the Caribbean we might encounter.  Czar was along for the same purpose.  Under my seat was his .45 caliber pistol and a small Colt for me; plus a rifle packed in the U-Haul. Target practice was one thing; gun-running was something else.

"Don't speed!" he warned.  Cap also packed his Proto Pipe and an ounce of weed.  Nothing like paranoia from the get-go.

We picked up some Spanish language cassettes and practiced as we drove.  Cap, with 2 years of high school Spanish under his belt and recently returned from Peru, corrected my pronunciation and explained idioms.

"Words don't always mean the way they sound.  In Lima I worked my way through crowds saying, Escucha mé, escucha mé; which doesn't mean excuse me but listen to me.  No wonder people stared."

We grew tired of uno, dos, etc., and decided we could pick up Spanish along the way.  Instead, Cap taught me his favorite driving game to keep alert: alternately memorizing and repeating words in alphabetical order.  "I went to the store and bought an Apple; a Banana; Cow; Dirt," etc.  At night we played Backgammon in our room.

Our cross-country trip was relatively uneventful, and over far too quickly for my taste.  I would have liked to take our time and visit some sights, but Cap was in a hurry to reach Florida and get started.  As was increasingly evident, his decisions became OUR decisions.

Czar and I competed for Cap’s attention from the start.  Before I showed up, Czar sat in the passenger seat and always went on excursions. I got tired of asking, "Is HE coming along?"  I love dogs and have owned half-a-dozen or more since childhood; but I wanted Cap to lavish his attention on me instead of that damned dog.

From coast to coast Czar drooled on my shoulder, no matter which front seat I occupied.  It made me nuts, so whenever we stopped and people paid complements, which always happened,

“What a beautiful dog,”

 I’d answer, “Thanks.  Want him?”

“She’s joking,” Cap would cry, but I wasn’t entirely.  Good thing Czar exhibited such a sweet disposition, at least towards everybody else, particularly children.

By the time we reached New Jersey I was thrilled to stay put for a few days. My sister Hillary has kept an eye on me throughout our lives, and from decades of weekend-sails on her husband's boat knew better than me what was coming.

“You burn terribly.  Remember, Mom used to keep you wrapped up under the umbrella at the beach?  Plus, you get seasick.”

“I’ve got 5 tubes of sunscreen, and Cap says we can get seasickness pills.”  We were raised Christian Scientists and the only thing I used regularly was Tylenol, so what did I know?

“Do you know a whale can sink a boat in less than 5 minutes?”  She then proceeded to tell the tale of a family, adrift for days, surviving on a single tube of toothpaste.

“And you can’t rename a boat…it’s bad luck,” but we didn't care.  Whoever came up with King Tut didn't know boat names are feminine, or at least gender-neutral.

“I’ll remember all that, thanks, but don’t worry, we’ll be fine.  Please don’t tell Mom the same story.”  She gave me a canvas bag including, among other things, her foul weather gear and a pair of weightlifting gloves.

Cap had already met Mom in Oregon when she came to visit during the summer.  He thought to shock her by arriving at my door wearing a knitted cap with fake dreadlocks, but he hadn’t met my Auntie-Mame-Mom.  She never missed a beat as she walked up to shake his hand, but Cap couldn’t keep up the gag up and soon pulled off the dreads. 

Predictably, Mom loved the cap, tried it on and insisted on wearing it to dinner.  Having grown up with her madcap behavior, I knew what was coming and said no; but Cap laughed and said, Sure, figuring she’d take it off after a bit.

She didn't.  She wore it throughout dinner, and then Cap made the mistake of suggesting a stop for dessert.  Mom's head-shaking and dread-flipping was well received in Eugene’s hippie-ish community, but I didn't realize the level of Cap's embarrassment until he ran into friends as we left the ice cream parlor and acted like he didn't know us.  I did warn him.

Cap’s conservative, Baptist mother was the exact opposite. At the time she lived in Bend, OR, less than 2 hours away with husband #4, but I was never introduced to them, either.  I was not a Baptist, so she warned Cap against becoming too serious with that girl. Cap refused to divulge the truth lest she drop dead on the spot; and told her he'd accepted a flying job and was heading to Florida, alone.

He expected his mother to die within a year and insisted we set aside enough for emergency flights home. I was surprised he'd leave at all, but Barb hadn’t exactly endeared herself to me, so I was happy to be leaving her sphere of influence.

My mother was used to me flitting around, but wasn't quite sure what to make of this plan.  She suspected Cap was running from something; but after he placed a blanket over her while she napped on Hillary’s couch, he could do no wrong.  As we left she gifted him an antique steamer trunk, which Cap threw in the back of Trigger.

"Why did you say you'd take it?  I thought we didn't have the room."

"We don't, but I didn't want to say No."

"Why not?  Hillary and I have been saying No to her for years.  She's used to it."

We stopped in Georgia to visit friends I’ve known since we were all stationed in Germany in the 1970’s.  My spontaneity didn’t surprise them at all, but my comfort level in the water was their major concern.  Shortly after Tino died I visited Rita and Tom in Hawaii before heading for Europe to visit Tino's relatives.  They tried their best to keep me entertained, from the Pearl Harbor Memorial to a day on gorgeous Kauai. They also took me on my first snorkeling trip; a disaster, since I was frightened in three feet of water. I couldn't relax enough to breathe comfortably, for everything looked huge through the mask.  When I later told Rita that Cap bought me a snorkeling set she howled with laughter, “What a waste of money!”

I returned a year later in a better frame of mind, and even took Rita up on her suggestion to climb to the top of Diamond Head, totally out of character.  I am not a walker, let alone a hiker.  Rita suggested I leave my purse in the car; so I grabbed a single cigarette to reward myself at the top, and for some strange reason my medical insurance card.  On the way down I slipped and fell on the path, twisting my left ankle badly.

My suicide attempt following Tino's death was not only unsuccessful, but I damaged my left leg's sciatic nerve from tail to toe.  I felt like Quasimodo; dragging my leg as I walked.  The feeling returned much faster than predicted but the leg was still weak; and as I rounded a hairpin curve on the volcano, my foot slipped on the uneven, cracked concrete and I fell hard.

Tom tried carrying me on his back for a time but that wasn’t working, so Rita and I were left on the path while he ran down to the bottom to call for help. One couple waited with us; and everyone passing up or down stopped to offer condolences and occasionally drugs, which I accepted: from a Japanese couple; from a German couple...

A helicopter circled overhead but there was nowhere to land, and eventually 6 men arrived to carry me down, Rita trailing closely behind.  At that point I was feeling no pain,and as they loaded me into the ambulance I announced,

“I’ve got my medical card!”  Good planning.

X-rays revealed the worst possible scenario:  both bones broken, requiring pins and plates.  It was recommended I either return to Oregon immediately for surgery or have it performed in Honolulu.  One look at orthopedic surgeon Dr. James F Scoggin, III and I whipped out my card, can you blame me?  Good old Rita, snapping away. I never had the hardware removed and it rarely gives me trouble, but my soft cast was coming on the boat, too.

Cap was intent on fixing a used laptop he'd picked up in Eugene, but I was pissed to spend additional time in Atlanta working on that when we couldn't spend more than two days with my family.  Computers were still relatively new and I didn't understand it's purpose on the boat; but even after wasting money to determine it couldn't be repaired, Cap brought it along.

"OMG, what are we going to do with all these suitcases after unpacking our clothes?" We brought seven; so they remained behind after transferring everything to boxes.

My good friends, who've been there through thick-and-thin, made it clear how they felt about Cap.  Tom pulled me aside and said,

"Remember, you're always welcome here.  He's not."

I received a simple, "We don't trust him," but I didn't want to hear.  Besides, there was nothing to do about it even if I wanted to.  The night before we left for Bradenton, I hid my head while crying into Cap's arms,

“What if the boat’s not even there?”

“What do you mean, if it’s not there?

“We’ve never actually seen it, so what if it’s not really there?  What if it's a scam?”  I’d had a tug-of-war with Dan over which went first…my wire transfer or his title…but he got upset and started wheezing, so I caved.

“It’ll be there Besides, we have insurance.

Next up:  King Tut

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To read from Chapter 1:  A Rough Start

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