Just One More Train Ride, Joe
| 11:00 AM local time, Friday, August 23 (0900 August 23 UTC) 39 12 N 009 07
E. Temp. 81, Humidity 72%, Cloud Cover 80%. At a marina in Cagliari on the
island of Sardegna (Sardinia), Italy.
Greetings from the crew of Maverick.
You know, I'm almost sorry we're not going to France. It had been in the
itinerary, at least as far as Corsica, which, I realize, isn't quite the
Fatherland. By now the reader cannot be unfamiliar with the Captain's almost
inexpressible humility before the accomplishments of French civilization. It
is the French language, after all, to which the world must turn if they want
to use the word "bourgeois." It is key to understanding the culture I so
revere to appreciate that it is they who maintain the world standard for the
definiens of that word, just as they do for Mr. Mead's favorite measurement,
the meter. Now, the French ruled the world of culture when America was
a-borning. Jefferson visited them and afforded them the respect due from a
new nation to an old, fat, stupid one. Their artists and intellectuals so far
outpaced our own that, well, just look at the French Revolution for example.
Oh, I forgot, it sucked. Their hegemony in the world of art was maintained
impressively through the nineteenth century to the twentieth until Duke
Ellington's first recordings, or to be generous, let it be said it lasted
until "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard. Then it was over for good. They don't
recognize this, of course, but what was the last important message recorded
by a Frenchperson on a piece of canvas with little brushes? They're history.
Right now, I'm listening to "My Boy Lollipop." The entire French nation would
give their collective first-born child to have created anything that
significant in the last fifty years, but the best they could do was the
Singing Nun. Let's not even start with Garnett Mimms. The great French films?
Give me a break. The big fashion houses? A bunch of dissipated people
watching another bunch of dissipated people walk as directed by a third bunch
of dissipated people. Our Britney has more influence on fashion than all of
them put together.
Oh, did I say something bad?
We're here in Cagliari, a place in Sardinia or Sardegna or something. We
have a new policy on spellings, which is that we care even less than we did
when we were trying to please our fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Knopf or however
you spell her stupid name. If the world's governments and intellectuals and
geographers and cartographers can't agree on how place names should be
spelled, why should we bother? Anyway it's an island belonging to Italy or
Italia or the Federal Republic of Slothosaurians. Chief Engineer, in the
choo-choo sense, Mr. Terry Shrode, and the Captain took a train ride
yesterday all the way up to the top of the island and back, and it was mostly
boring but the Captain stood at the window like a child, so much does he love
trains. The railroad is after all, quite a fine invention. Never have I puked
my guts out from a rough crossing on a train; nor have I looked up while
riding a train at the wonderful, wondrous, mysterious, and motherly blue sky,
and all its clouds and majesty, with dread and apprehension. I have never
changed the oil on a train. They clickety-clack along. They've got rhythm.
Trains are beautiful beings.
This may well have been, for all I know, the last European train ride I'll
ever take, although Spain is a possibility. I love European trains, but after
Maverick's voyage I may well assume the social status of the hobo who is
referenced in the title of this dispatch, taken from a beautiful Blackie
Farrell song about a fellow who is disembarking from an earthbound freight,
to ride the train to glory on that sumptuous box car up yonder.
We think Maverick is headed for the Balearics, some islands that belong
to Spain, in a day or so. I hear it's a wonderful area. It has a hedonistic
reputation. Is that a good thing? You know why Americans are grudgingly
respected and robustly hated in Europe? It's not because they are rich or
greedy or brilliant or have nuclear weapons or have movie stars or make great
rock and roll. All right, the last two count pretty big. It's because they
work hard and make money and who wouldn't hate someone who does that? Anyway,
we hope we like the Balearics but here's the thing: Maverick hits the high
spots. We go to all the great meccas of pleasure in the world. Tahiti. Fiji.
Australia. Phuket. The Maldives. The Turkish Riviera. The Greek Islands. Are
we supposed to be blown away by yet another bunch of hungover holiday-makers?
It's really not like we have the least thing against them. But out and out
hedonism is a fundamentally boring thing for those of our readers who peruse
these dispatches soberly, in search of scientific progress and truth.
Your correspondent made yet another really egregious grammatical error in a
recent missive. Three days aboard to the person who identifies it (airfare
Odysseus was absent from home for twenty years. It was his voyage that lasted
for ten years.
Michael McCroskey writes that he has observed David Tolmie in various
pursuits, e.g., golfing, collecting seashells, and dancing with the
hairdresser Howard Tate, and reports that all of them, not just Mr. Tolmie's
rendition of "Tie A Yellow Ribbon," bring him to tears.
We met a couple who are longtime cruisers from Bakersfield and yet are not
country music fans like your Captain, Ken and Margaret on "Tomorrow," and
their Red Sea story is way better than ours. First, Ken was stricken with
heatstroke in Eritrea, and he was delusional for three weeks and too weak to
function for another three. And I thought I was having fun. Then, they ran
into a fish trap, broke their steering, and, even worse, were saved by the
Egyptian Navy, who confiscated their passports, boat papers, towed them to a
navy base where they were surrounded by hundreds of armed personnel, and then
they were told they owed the navy $13,000 US. They managed to negotiate it
down to $6,000, and if you think that money went to the good people of Egypt,
of which there are at least one hundred, you're a real people person. Keep
sending that American aid, they're sure to get nicer.
The actual long-lost Pat Fitzpatrick, the bass player from San Diego I used
to listen to Garnet Mimms with, surfaced after being told of the Odysseus
missive by a friend. The internet is a wonderful world. He doesn't remember a
thing. Hi, Pat.
BMW has purchased the Mini Cooper and MG marques, and we have seen new models
of both on the streets of Italy, Do you have them in America? I'm sorry to
have to predict, they'll soon die.
PS to Dick: Please send the address of the elementary school kids again.
Apparently, with the switching of computers, one of which is on its way back
to the US where people don't quit working during certain months of the year,
the address was not copied to the other laptop, so I haven't been able to
Next report [more or less] from this location:
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