My Damn Wife

 

My wife, the Beautiful AP, is my editor. A few days ago I handed her my latest article “The Righteous Outliers.” I thought it was a brilliant piece.

“So what did you think of my article?” I asked her, awaiting praise.

“I didn’t like it,” she said.

“You’re kidding.”

“No,” she said. “You wrote about two people in the club and about Thomas [not his real name] and I think you are going to hurt their feelings and our friends are going to be upset by this.”

“I didn’t make fun of anyone,” I said.

“You’re good with dialogue. I heard those two in the club actually speaking in your article. You don’t think everyone is not going to know who those club members are?”

“I gave them fake names,” I said. “I can’t believe you didn’t like it.”

“I hated it,” she said.

“I mean people who have certain beliefs sometimes go to the furthest ends of those beliefs and become intolerable. They lose their sense of humor and they are so critical of anyone who isn’t as fanatical as they are. You see it in religion, politics, societies…”

“Yes, yes, the idea is good. These outliers are everywhere in society,” she said.

“Righteous, righteous outliers. So that’s what I was writing about. I thought I caught it,”

“And Thomas? Do you think he wants you to share with the world the fact that he is being followed by his former religious friends because he’s converting to Catholicism?”

“I didn’t use his real name,” I said. “I mean his former religious friends have shunned him or are waiting outside his house speaking in tongues and trying to save him from the Satanic Catholic Church. Those people are all righteous outliers.”

“I hated the article,” she said.

Today I gave my wife my written analysis of the Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate hearing from Thursday. I don’t know the truth of what happened and I am glad the FBI is looking into the allegations. My article was merely my attempt to show that a certain stereotypical pattern existed in the situation with Ford being the quivering damsel in distress while Kavanaugh was the beastly, sexually assaulting angry man. I claimed this stereotyping could be portrayed in a movie and the critics would say that this stereotyping was trite. My article was not taking either of them lightly.

She read the article, turned from the computer and glared at me.

I was smiling. “I hit on something that no one thought about or wrote about,” I said.

“I hated it,” she said.

“What?”

“I hated it.”

“Seriously,” I said. “Come on, seriously?”

“This is a serious case and women are not going to be calm in the face of what you wrote,” she said. “This is a serious and emotional issue. They will not think of what you wrote as an ‘interesting analysis.’”

“What did I write? What did I write? I was just showing how you can see a stereotypical pattern in the event, that’s all. It was with both of them.”

“People are going to misunderstand what you meant,” she said. “You know and I know that people post absolute emotional garbage on the Internet. The reaction to your piece is going to be fierce and you will be mischaracterized.”

“Jesus Christ,” I said. “You mean I can’t write about hard-hitting issues?”

“Of course you can. But, you called Ford a damsel in distress and Kavanaugh the beer-bloated male bully but you’ll find that no one will understand you seeing a stereotypical pattern in this case. People will be outraged, thinking that you are trivializing the whole incident and what it represents—especially to those of us who can say, “Me too.”

“I don’t even know what you mean,” I said. Actually, I knew exactly what she meant but didn’t want to admit it.

“I mean: don’t publish it,” she said.

So I am writing this reaction at 2:30 in the morning. My problem is this: I know my damn wife is right about both articles. If it were ever Frank Scoblete versus the Beautiful AP testifying before the United States Senate—I would not be nominated as writer of the year.

Now comes the hardest part. I have to give my wife this article for editing. If you are reading this, it passed muster. If not…well, this will be the third article dumped on the trash pile this week.

Frank Scoblete’s latest book is Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! Available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

Of Mice and Men and Me

I was sitting in my particularly special recliner one afternoon, having finished my writing on a particularly strong intellectual subject, and I was now reading a particularly fascinating book titled UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says by Donald R. Prothero and Timothy D. Callahan, when a mouse sauntered across the living room floor.

A mouse! In summer! A mouse! I watched it leisurely stroll under the couch.

Call my wife! the Beautiful AP! call my wife! of course, of course, at the library where she works. So I called. I must have misdialed the number. “I am sorry, this is not a working number!” said the operator-voice. Crap! I dialed again.

“Rockville Centre Public Library, please hold (click, then music).”

A mouse! In summer! And I have to wait to talk to a librarian?

“Hello, Rockville Centre Public Library,” said a voice that I thought was my wife’s.

“We’ve got a mouse,” I said.

“What?”

“A mouse! A mouse! He just ambled across the living room floor! What should I do?”

“Who is this?” asked the voice that I now realized was not my wife.

“Sorry, sorry, can I speak to the Beauti – I mean Alene,” I said.

“Maybe I can help you,” said the voice.

“No, no, we’ve got a mouse and I have to talk to my wife.”

“Who is your wife?” asked the voice. “Why don’t you call her?”

“Alene, Alene,” I said. “Alene! Alene! She works there.”

“And you are?”

“Her husband!” I said, “Her husband!” I realized now that I didn’t recognize this voice so it must be someone new. Most of the librarians know me, especially Amy.

“Hold on a moment and I’ll look for her (click, music).”

Four years later, the phone picks up, “Alene speaking.”

“Mice! We’ve got mice!” I said.

“How do you know? You heard them in the attic?”

“No, no, one walked right across the living floor! He saw me and didn’t care; he just kept going.”

“Where?”

“Under the couch!” I said.

“Call the exterminator,” she said calmly.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, right, right,” I said.

“How big was it?” she asked.

(The size of an African elephant. Huge. A true killer!)

“Small, baby size.”

“Well, call the exterminator,” she said.

“Yes, yes…oh, crap!”

“What? What?”

“There’s one over there at the sliding doors, a different one,” I said.

“You sure this is a different one?”

“Yeah, yeah, this one looks sickly,” I said. “We’re being invaded—in summer no less!”

“Don’t panic,” she said.

“I’m not panicking! I’m not panicking!”

“Okay, how big is this one?” she asked.

(Godzilla! Godzilla-size!)

“Small. Another baby,” I said.

“Can you catch it and throw it outside?”

“You kidding? With what? With what? I’m not touching it.”

“The net you use for your fish tanks,” she said. “Trap it in there and throw it out so we don’t kill it.”

“It’s a damn mouse!”

“I don’t want to kill it if we don’t have to.”

“Didn’t the Japanese kill Godzilla!?”

“What? What are you talking about?” she said.

“Never mind, never mind. I’ll figure it out, somehow,” I said.

“Use the net you use for your fish,” she repeated. “You won’t have trouble if it is sickly.”

“Then my net gets all sickly-shit on it,” I said. “What then?”

“You clean the net afterwards.”

“Oh, yeah, right, I’ll clean it.”

“And call the exterminator,” she said. “I’ve got to go. I have a patron at the desk.”

“But the mice….”

She hung up.

I got my fish net and cautiously approached Godzilla. I caught him and he struggled a bit but I opened the sliding doors to our deck and catapulted him out of the net. He hit the wood and slowly walked towards the back of the deck. I closed the doors quickly. He fell off the deck onto grass.

But that first one, that casual elephantine one was probably still under the couch.

I called the exterminator. He couldn’t come right away. What was I paying this company about four-trillion-dollars a year if they couldn’t come when I called…when I was in great danger from a massive, monstrous mouse invasion?

That night I kept every light on in the house because mice seem to prefer the dark and I hoped this monster would stay out of sight if my house were super-illuminated. But I wasn’t taking any chances.

No, no. I sat in my recliner, holding my fishing net, keeping watch in the harsh glow of all the lights, prepared to stay up all night just in case a monstrous mouse again sauntered across my living room floor. But then, my wife pried the fish net out of my hands and escorted me to bed, reassuring me the whole way. I drifted off to sleep thinking it’s great to have a good spouse when you have a horrifying mouse.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

 

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

 

They are high among the woodland giants; at the top terraces of massive trees, and in spindly ones; in those middle terraces that can support the weight of human beings and bears, in dugout crevices and holes, they look out at the forest floor and up into the canopy of leaves; and in bushes and even on the ground scooting about. They are there. You can hear them.

Now listen, listen: birds, birds of every size and type, singing their distinct songs of love; males and, yes, even females, looking to mate, to reproduce, to continue their lines as far into the future as those lines stretched so far into the past.

Birds. Some are nature’s beautiful angels and some are cold-eyed hunters and killers; all singing their songs to attract mates and after mating, to discuss daily living.

We hear their songs as chirps, whistles, and trills; hoots, honks, whinnies and squawks; caws and cackles. Each bird looking to distinguish itself so others of its kind will hunger for them, so others will know they are there.

For human birders the second step in recognizing who hoots who is learning the birds’ songs. There are some birders in our South Shore Audubon Society (on Long Island, New York), who can connect – like that! – with just about whichever bird is making whatever song. Birds listen to bird song but we listen too.

I do not have the ear as of yet. I recognize several songs but most of the charm of the 5 AM cacophony is lost on me. My wife the Beautiful AP isn’t much better at it than I am. Still, we haven’t been at this birding very long and sooner or later we’ll be able to identify some of those singers.

Our guide Joe, a former college biology professor, will stop the troop and point “up there” and “out there,” and say, “What bird is calling?” Slim-as-slim Michael, as new a birder as I am, will answer and he is almost always correct.

While tuning in to the songs of birds, I now hear trills from my mate:

“Scrape your plate and load it in the dishwasher.”

“Don’t come home with a plastic bag! There are canvas bags in the trunk.”

“If you can put your lips on a coffee cup and a wine glass, why do you need a plastic straw for a drinking glass?”

The birds are far more sonorous than this non-feathered creature who chirps to me daily—but the main thing is I’m beginning to listen.

 

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

The Incredible Fading Man

 

This Sunday my wife the Beautiful AP and I went on a bird walk at Hempstead Plains, a venue near Hofstra University and Nassau Community College on Long Island.

I didn’t like the place. You had to walk through small thickets, in and out of powerful vines that would catch your ankles and not let go, and the occasional really thorny thorny plants. The grass was wet; the walking was dirty. I was miserable.

We saw a bird here or there but I had to keep my head down to see where I was going so I wouldn’t fall on my face. Thus, I didn’t look up too much.

The place has a combination of rare local plants—something called Gerardi something or other which seems to be impossible to transplant elsewhere and is therefore on the endangered list and an invasive species called “those yellow flowers” which they have tried to kill by cutting, mowing and burning but the damn plant is taking over the Hempstead Plains.

The volunteer at the place told us to look out for ticks. How the hell do you do that, short of bringing a microscope and constantly checking the ground, the plants, your body and maybe everyone else’s body that might be swarming with these vile creatures?

Thankfully, when the walk was finished I stood by the administration building (a bunch of recycled shipping containers made to look like a building) and I stated emphatically out to the world at large that “I will never come here again” (unless, of course, my wife says I have to).

There were four people standing near me. What I took for a mother (or teacher or both) and three kids, two girls and a boy, maybe ages 15 to 20. They were about to go on their walk. I thought I’d have some fun with them. I mean what the heck! I’m a funny guy and maybe I could get a laugh out of them. One of our South Shore Audubon Society members, Bill, was near us as well.

I said to them as a group, “I saw the most amazing bird today.” I paused to make sure that they were hanging on my words and then I hit them with the punchline, “Rodan!” Bada-bing, folks! “Rodan!”

All four of them looked quizzically at me.

“What is that?” asked one of the girls.

“Rodan,” I nodded. “Rodan. You know, Rodan.”

“Never heard of that bird,” said the mother.

The boy shook his head. “What kind of bird is that?”

“Come on, man, Rodan,” I said.

“Never heard of it,” said the other girl. “What’s its Latin name?”

“You folks don’t know Rodan?”

They shook their heads.

“Rodan destroyed Tokyo,” I said. They just looked at me.

“When did that happen?” asked the first girl.

“I wasn’t aware that Tokyo was ever destroyed,” said the mother.

Bill stepped in to save me. “He’s talking about a science fiction film from Japan in the 1950s. Rodan was a giant bird.”

The four of them looked at me. I think they were wondering if this crazy man really thought he had seen this giant bird during his walk through Hempstead Plains.

I smiled wanly and turned my attention to something else—actually I pretended to turn my attention to something else. I was actually wondering if I am that far behind culturally? I thought every kid knew the great Japanese monsters that destroyed Tokyo. How could these four be so ignorant?

It wasn’t them. It was me. My reference points are my own life’s events and memories. I actually don’t know most of the current modern singers or songs or movie stars. I am out of sync with modern times.

Yes, more fool me, I’m fading: Rodan, for crying out loud, Rodan!

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

My Grizzly Wife

 

I love zombies! In movies, books and television shows just give me the undead snarling, biting, gulping victims’ guts and flapping intestines side-to-side in their mouths, and eating off the juicy exposed bones of their prey. I love the blood and the killings and I especially love when a zombie gets his or hers by having his or her head blown up, shot, stabbed or crushed with a giant stone.

Let me watch Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead over and over; and the Night of the Living Dead even in the early mornings. The zombie is a genre that I love.

But I am normal; please keep that in mind.

My wife, the Beautiful AP, is the truly grizzly one in our home. She makes me look like a calm and rational lover of fine fiction. There are no zombies in the real world. None of the stuff in those books, movies or television shows is real. I even know how all the special effects are done.

So, as I said, I am normal.

But the Beautiful AP watches shows that could make me ill and one of them almost did—a show called My 600-lb Life about immensely fat people who have operations (by this really weird dyed-haired doctor) to do something gory to their stomachs so they can lose weight.

I was dozing in my comfortable armchair after watching a rewarding Walking Dead episode, and my eyes opened. There on our 65-inch screen, in living color, I saw the weird doctor carving up a monstrously fat woman and digging around in the blubber looking for her stomach.

“Oh, God! Oh, God!” I said. “Shut that off. I’m about to throw up.”

“This is so fascinating,” said AP as she ate her buttered popcorn. (Point of fact: the Beautiful AP is thin and in amazing shape.)

I kept my eyes closed until a commercial for chocolate cake came on.

“How can you watch that?” I asked.

“The world of the morbidly obese is really interesting. They sometimes have to lose a hundred or more pounds just to get down to six-hundred pounds,” she said.

“Those operations,” I said.

“I know. The doctor…”

“Who is weird,” I said.

“Who is weird,” she agreed. “He goes right into them and has to move their blubber and organs to get at the stomach. Everything is crushed in there.”

She is also now watching a New Zealand show about immensely blubbery New Zealanders titled Big Ward. Evidently New Zealand has a huge fat problem; maybe New Zealanders are worried that with the increasing number of obese people trudging around that their island nation will sink into the sea.

If I nod off in my chair, she will immediately put on those shows or others such as Hoarders: Buried Alive and Hoarders: Family Secrets about people who keep disgustingly filthy clogged homes. She also likes Tiny House Nation about seriously whacked people who have teeny-tiny houses built for them, houses no bigger than my living room. Some of these people have crammed their fat children into these houses!

Okay, I give you My 600-lb Life, Big Ward, Hoarders; Buried Alive, Hoarders: Family Secrets and Tiny House Nation – or zombies? That’s right, which is the worst addiction? Vote!

But no matter what, I am going to hide the remote from her. I want to be able to keep my food down.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

Save the Best for Last

 

My wife, the Beautiful AP, and I went bird watching recently at the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge in Howard Beach, Queens, New York. This is my favorite place to go for the variety of birds, and for everything else—the marsh, the lakes, the ponds, the bay, the paths, the forest and the magnificent vistas.

You are in beautiful nature yet, through your binoculars off in the distance, you can see the skyline of Manhattan, which is always a spectacular sight. And since this refuge is quite close to Kennedy Airport you get to see hundreds of planes flying into the sky—mankind’s successful attempt to mimic the birds of the air.

Having gotten out of a 10-day post-New Year’s single-digit deep freeze, it was a relief to escape into 40-degree weather, although along the ocean and wetlands, it was still cold and windy.

We had to sneak into the park; it was closed because of the Federal government’s shutdown. We did a two mile walk on the main path; on our left the salt quarter-frozen bay and on the right the completely frozen freshwater lake.

About a hundred feet into the walk we encountered a young female photographer who was sitting on a bench looking at the bay on the opposite side of which is Far Rockaway.

“Any luck?” asked AP.

“Nothing except some flitters that are too fast to photograph,. They zip into the bushes and vanish,” she said. “Nothing is standing still today. There just isn’t really much to see.”

“Well, good luck,” I said as we walked on.

When we hit the area that had no bushes or trees on either side of the path, the wind whipped us. “So much ice,” said AP, looking over the bay.

“Nothing out there,” I said. Just then high overhead a small flock of Canada geese sailed over our heads. “I wouldn’t want to be a Canada goose,” I said. “Nobody seems to like them.”

“Do you like them?” asked AP.

“Not after stepping in their shit all these years,” I said.

“Remember the ones that were so aggressive at Hall’s Pond? If you didn’t give them something to eat, they attacked you.”

“Even if you fed them,” I said. “They still bit you.”

So we kept walking the path, stopping occasionally to look through our binoculars to see if there was anything to see. There wasn’t. The Manhattan skyline looked great as did the planes soaring into the air, but that was about it.

“Maybe we will see something in the second half of the walk,” said the Beautiful AP. “Maybe the second half will be good.”

“The second half of life’s been good,” I said.

“My first half wasn’t so hot,” said AP.

Indeed, AP’s first 29 years saw her more like a deer caught in a car’s headlights on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. She titled her parents’ marriage “Ozzie and Harriet in the Twilight Zone.”

“I was in the Twilight Zone with them,” she said. “It was a middle-class suburban family in chaos.”

“I had wild ups and downs in my first half of life. I certainly disappointed my father,” I said.

“You didn’t become a major league baseball player,” said AP.

I laughed, “I didn’t become the next Joe DiMaggio. I was nowhere near as good as you had to be to become a professional player, even a minor leaguer. So I didn’t get the fame he wanted for me. I petered out. And then a bad marriage, divorce and damn it wasn’t exactly turning out like It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“If we hadn’t met each other I sometimes wonder if I would ever have left Twilight Zone,” she said.

“Without your support I would never have become a well-known writer,” I said.

“The second half has been the best,” said AP.

“Agreed,” I said. “I’ve always felt bad for the people who look over their early years, say in high school or even in college, and reminisce as if these were the best years of their lives. It is sad that the right now is not their best times.”

“I have no nostalgia about those years. I’d never go back,” said AP.

“Me too. Just as we wouldn’t go back from where we came from on this walk, other than a flock of Canada geese, not a bird in sight, I prefer moving ahead. ‘Let the dead past bury its dead,’ as someone famous once said.”

“So let’s move on with the future of this walk,” said the Beautiful AP.

Right then a sparrow landed on the path in front of us. Our first non-goose! AP focused her camera but the sparrow scooted into the bushes before she could take a picture. The sparrow was not the last. We took a couple of steps and two unidentifiable black birds zipped over our heads. At least they were birds!

At the tail end of our walk all hell broke loose! Or maybe you could say that the heavens’ opened. Suddenly there were a half dozen different birds flying overhead, landing in the denuded trees, walking on the snow on the path searching for water and seeds, and some just stood on the side of the path looking at us. AP took dozens of photos. A couple came over and both the husband and the wife exclaimed, “Look at all the cedar waxwings!”

These birds are small and look like miniature cardinals. They were not skittish and the Beautiful AP got dozens of pictures of them. There were cardinals and robins and sparrows and gulls and, yes, flying overhead and honking like crazy were those Canada Geese. There were some other birds too—I just don’t what kind. It was, I kid you not, like being in an aviary.

When we finished, we snuck out of the Refuge and walked  to the car.  AP summed up our lives and this bird walk stating, “The second half was so much better!”

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

School Days

 

The Beautiful AP and I were coming back from swimming on Tuesday morning. It was the first day of school for kids on Long Island, New York. AP was driving. It was 7:45. We swim weekday mornings from 6:30 to 7:30. It’s a great way to start the day.

“Look at the four of them,” I said.

“Off to school they go,” said AP.

“Look at the little guy,” I said.

She laughed.

Two of the four kids were in high school; they were chatting with each other. The third kid, probably in eighth grade, was buried in his phone. The little one had to be, maybe, sixth grade? My, my, my did he strut!

“The poor kid has to show he is something special, walking with all these older kids. So he has that exaggerated strut, ‘Look at me!’ his strut says. ‘I’m not just a little guy. I’ve got it!’”

“First day of school is nerve wracking,” said AP.

“Especially for the teachers,” I said. “The day before the first day of school, Labor Day, that night’s sleep—if you do sleep—can be filled with horror. If you teach high school, you will be meeting 130 to 160 kids. You know some of them will be PITAs [pains in the ass]. The high schoolers are only meeting about nine teachers. Teachers have it tougher.”

“I feel sorry for the kids,” said AP. “I mean they all have to act cool or at least most of them do. They could be shaking inside.”

“True,” I said. “But I do think the teachers have more to fear.”

We were on Ocean Avenue, with the High School on our right and the Middle school on our left. About 10 teachers were heading for the Middle School.

“Look at that group,” I said. “Which of those teachers will be destroyed this year? Which will go home many a night and cry? Which will go home after a good day of teaching only thinking of the kid or two who gave them trouble that day? At times it’s hard to even enjoy the good days.”

“There are plenty of teachers who love what they do and enjoy teaching,” said AP.

“Yeah, that may be so, but just about all of those teachers here and across the country are going to be emotionally stripped and whipped on given days. They’ll know what pain is.”

In my 33 years of teaching I never had to send a disciplinary referral for a kid or even yell at a class but I was well aware that at any moment I could be hung out to dry by my students.

I used to have schoolmares. I’d dream that I had suddenly lost control of a class and the kids were now tearing me to pieces. I’ve been retired going on 16 years and I still have schoolmares! As it turns out, all teachers have schoolmares at one time or another.

I saw horror visit many teachers; their careers painted in the colors of torment. I don’t know how they did it; year after year, students mocking them, baiting them, and ganging up on them. Some of these teachers were true experts in their subjects—but devastated almost daily.

There were quite a number of new teachers who couldn’t make it into their second year—or even their second semester. I saw a big, strong Marine come back to the teachers’ room and cry. He left soon after this. A former cop took up teaching in his retirement. On the third week of school, he jokingly asked me, “How do you do this without a gun?” He left after his first year to enjoy his retirement from the police force.

I knew teachers who had only honors classes because they couldn’t survive “regular” classes. And how were those honors classes? Pandemonium.

“What about teachers who say they look forward to a school year?” asked AP.

“I’ll place a bet that often enough they will write referrals; they will have dreadful days. Their mouths say they are looking forward to the year but their hearts? No. They will have tough times.”

Ah, yes, the first day of school! When that bell rings before each period, it ushers in the next round—and that bell rings day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year and…how could I still have schoolmares?

“So are you saying that you hated your teaching career?” asked AP.

“I loved it,” I laughed. “I loved it.” Yes, I did.

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

Killing Whales

 

On our recent trip to Torshavn in the Faroe Islands, my wife the Beautiful AP and I visited the National Museum that has artifacts of early sailors, Vikings and whale hunters—particularly whale hunters.

I must tell you that seeing the small size and limited power of the boats that the whale hunters used has put me off becoming a whale hunter in the 1600s. Sorry, that’s not for me. Actually that, added to the killing of those magnificent animals, probably won’t make me a whale hunter in any era.

Among its outstanding artifacts, this museum had an excellent film about the killing of the whales circa 1920. Picture a Sunday with women and children dressed in their Sunday finest, many having come directly from praying and praising their eternal loving God at church.

These well-dressed folks—men in suits, women in their Sunday best, children miniature versions of them – stood on the docks talking and laughing and looking out to the harbor; parents holding their children’s hands, other children skipping and playing. A true family day; a true town day; a truly wonderful day for all concerned.

Then they appeared; dozens upon dozens of pilot whales being herded by the whale hunters to the small harbor where the Sunday-go-to-meeting folks were now cheering. Kids were jumping up and down and clapping. The adults’ faces showed glee; a truly wonderful day for all concerned.

And the slaughter began.

The whale hunters started hacking away at the whales, the people cheering wildly as the blood splashed onto the docks, splattering many onlookers. The kids skipped happily as the blood washed over the land and over their little well-dressed bodies.

The water of the harbor turned red. It was reminiscent of one of the plagues Yahweh sent to destroy the Egyptians – only now it was the whales, thrashing and dying ignoble deaths in the shallows of the harbor.

Oh, how the boys and girls, the fathers, mothers, grandparents, the newly married and the single people looking for love cheered the blood and guts slaughter of these sentient creatures. There would be meat tonight and every night, and whale blubber for myriad uses.

I admit, the video engaged me, enraged me and fascinated me; it sickened me too, but it also made me realize that mankind must eat and we have the ability to turn just about everything into food and resources that we need. Our ways are at times grisly, yes; but nature—our human nature—is drenched in blood. It always has been so and perhaps it always will be so. Humankind dances our dance on the death docks even if we are vegetarians killing plants and vegetables with no blood to be seen. To live, the other living often must die.

I highly recommend visiting the museum should you be sailing the North Atlantic. I do not recommend killing the whales, if you can avoid it.

[Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

 

The Pursuit of the Puffin

On a recent cruise in the North Atlantic (http://frankscoblete.com/my-70th-birthday-cruise/) my wife the Beautiful AP and I wanted to see the huge puffin colony on the Faroe Islands. Supposedly there are millions of puffin nests scattered throughout the islands on the sides of the monstrous mountains jutting out over the sea.

These little birds are beautiful with comical characteristics, including large, colorful beaks. Puffins are generally monogamous birds and build their nests on the sides of the giant mountains.

Puffins make up some of the diet of the Faroe Islanders and Icelanders. I wonder if they taste as good as they look?

“Oh, you probably won’t see many puffins today,” said the receptionist at the hotel where we were meeting our driver and tour guide Thordeval. “The weather is really bad and you are getting a somewhat late start. It is a long drive to that side of the island. You might not see a single one.”

“I thought there were millions of these birds on these islands,” I said.

“Yes, but this weather is not conducive to flying about.” She probably saw the defeated look on my face. “But you might see some, maybe, you know, you might see some.”

The word puffin means “little brother” as some religious folks saw the bird’s black and white colors as similar to monastic robes. Of course, that didn’t stop the islanders from eating these pretty little birds.

Thordeval came by in his taxi and we introduced ourselves. The day before this puffin adventure, the Beautiful AP and I had decided to forgo the bus trips that the cruise line sets up in favor of hiring our own guide. These bus trips had been harrowing, but most were also dull, so we jettisoned them. We wanted to see what we wanted to see in the time we had to see them.

Thordeval shook his head as the wind and rain pelted us as we entered his car. “Not the best weather,” he said. “Those birds may be hiding in their nests.”

“Well,” said AP. “Let’s give it a try.”

It was an hour’s drive to the side of the island inhabited by the puffins; a drive often through long tunnels in the mountains. The drive was beautiful and Thordeval explained how the sheep and fishing industries worked. The mountain sides were littered with sheep.

“Who owns these sheep?” asked AP. “There don’t seem to be any farmhouses nearby.”

“All different farmers own them,” said Thordeval. “They bring the sheep to these grazing areas and they are all mixed together.”

“But when winter comes, how do farmers know which sheep are theirs?” I asked.

“They are branded on the ears just in case the dogs usher the sheep to the wrong farmer,” said Thordeval. “Each farmer’s dogs know their sheep and they herd them in winter to that farmer.”

Keep in mind that winter can be dark up to 24 hours a day. Right now we were in July and it was light except for two hours of “dusk.” I couldn’t see spending almost an entire day in darkness. (See the great horror movie 30 Days of Night.)

Thordeval also explained that there was no crime on the island; at the worst, the police have to occasionally deal with fights between lads who have drunk too much in the pubs. “There aren’t many fights either.”

The Faroe Islands have no squirrels either. Or snakes. My backyard seems to have more dangerous animals than exist on these islands.

Thordeval, like many other islanders, loves where he lives. At one point, he tried living in Denmark, but lasted only six months and then returned home. Many of his schoolmates had the same experience.

At times the rain and wind were ferocious on the coastline. The only birds we saw were numerous varieties of gulls flying and soaring about. The scenery was beautiful even in the on-again, off-again rain.

The rain let up as we arrived in puffin territory. We walked down a slippery mountain path; around a small herd of rams, and we checked the sides of the mountains but saw no puffins. We saw more waterfalls and beautiful vistas of mountains and ocean and the ubiquitous gulls.

Suddenly Thordeval pointed to a spot just below us, maybe about 10 feet down. “There are two!”

And there were two, looking out of their nest. Then they left their nest. What beautiful birds! What comical birds! Oh my God, they just kissed and put their necks around each other. And, and, they were looking right at us. They did not seem afraid of us at all. Maybe these two weren’t aware that they could (someday) be a dinner for someone.

AP spent time cooing as she watched them through her binoculars. She took dozens of photographs with her phone. “I don’t think these are going to come out too clear. I wish I had my camera!” Since we always travel with carry-on and never check luggage, AP had decided to leave the camera home. Maybe we could get one good “phone” picture.

We watched these two birds for a good 20 minutes. They watched us too. Finally they went back into their nest; the rain picked up just then, and we headed back up the path, past the rams, and to Thordeval’s car.

A third puffin zipped by, his wings beating so fast he could have been a colossal hummingbird.

On the way back we toured Torshavn National Museum.

Thanks to Thordeval and a happily married pair of puffins, AP and I were very satisfied with our day in the Faroe Islands.

 

 

 

My 70th Birthday Cruise

Yes, I just turned 70. Seventy years old!

My wife, the Beautiful AP, told me to choose any trip I wanted as a 70th birthday present and I decided on a cruise that would start in Copenhagen and go to Norway, Shetland Islands, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and finish in Southampton, England.

I love cruising. My wife doesn’t. Despite my love for it, I found this particular cruise somewhat irritating and, at times, anger-provoking.

First off, you might think that at 70, I would be one of the oldest on this ship. Not so. Passengers went from somewhat young to middle to my age to the truly elderly; meaning those who had trouble walking, or breathing, or thinking, or figuring out where they were at any given time. These folks dominated the cruise and some suffered all of the aforementioned maladies.

And fat! There were more fat people (myself included) on the ship than slim ones. Some even made me look slim.

Many of the passengers were grumpy too. Okay, my nickname is Grumpy Grandpa, but I am aware of my surroundings and can find my way from point A to point B.

When AP and I signed up for a three-hour walking tour of Reykjavik, the day was a downpour of rain. Still, we wanted to go on the walking tour. What’s a little water? We paid $$$$ for the tour.

We had done a couple of hours seeing the city the day before on our own and we wanted the full experience of this small capital. Walking in the rain, the shine or the in-between was fine with us. We could dry off on the ship.

We were the first on the minibus. We joked with the tour guide about the fact that it might just be the two of us on the tour.

Then the other 14 people arrived, seven of them so decrepit that they had a hard time walking on the pier from the ship to the minibus. They had to be helped onto the bus! I’m 70, okay; and I have nothing against old people. But for God’s sake, if you can’t walk, why the hell would you sign up for a three-hour walking tour?

Three women of the seven decrepits immediately proclaimed that they assumed we would stay on the bus and make this a bus tour. Their proclamation sounded more like a demand. The tour guide said she would mostly do that.

I looked at AP and she looked at me. We paid $$$$ to sit in a minibus on a walking tour?

On the tour we did get out of the bus a few times. At one point we toured a sculpture garden, which was a beautiful place even in the pouring rain. One of the three complainers seemed to get lost, right in the middle of the garden, and went round and round in a circle—not a big circle, a little one, maybe a dozen feet in diameter. She was lost; in the garden and in her mind; in her eyes I could see the eyes my mother and father and father-in-law had when they were struck with Alzheimer’s.

I helped her by taking her arm and guiding her out of the garden to the minibus.

On the ship was an old guy, ever clad in a bathrobe, wandering around, not knowing what deck he was on or where his room was. Members of the crew kindly escorted him back to his room. He was lucky he didn’t fall off the ship. What was the purpose of putting this poor soul on a ship sailing the often rough seas of the North Atlantic?

The Back Story

Let me back up. We left Kennedy Airport on July 4th. We were travelling first class as I like to.  This irritates the Beautiful AP since she thinks it is not worth the money. She has no problem telling everyone in first class that she prefers coach. So much for me being a big shot.

When we went to the boarding area we met a couple, Mr. Foister and Ms. Mute, who immediately struck up a conversation; well, Mr. Foister did. He couldn’t stop talking. His wife, Ms. Mute, looked the other way.

“Why don’t we have dinner the next two nights in Copenhagen since we are all going to be there? It’s great that we’re staying at the same hotel. We can share a taxi too. This is going to be some trip.”

Then Mr. Foister started making plans for us on the cruise. “You know there is a big art contingent on the cruise. We collect art. You should come see us analyze the art works….” He was verbally off and running. His wife frowned and ignored him. AP and I made no commitments, which was easy because there was no opportunity for us to say anything.

Throughout the plane ride Mr. Foister hung out with the crew and knocked back one drink after another. When AP tried slipping by him to go to the lavatory, he started up again about all the things we could do together in Copenhagen and on the ship. She told him we were meeting friends and that she likes to keep her options open.

AP returned from the lavatory and whispered, “We have our trip planned. He’s foisting himself on us.”

“How do you want to handle this?”

“I guess we’ll just try to avoid them,” she said.

“No, do you really want to skulk around the ship trying to avoid them? It’s a small ship. What about Jerry and Tres? Do you think they want to spend time with Foister and Mute?”

“So what can we do?” she asked.

“I’m going to tell him right out that we have our own plans,” I said. “Then we don’t have to skulk around. That will end it.”

The Beautiful AP argued with me about this and I pretended she won the argument. (This is my new tactic and one I recommend to husbands everywhere.)

As we left the plane, AP went to the bathroom and Mr. Foister came up to me. “Hey, so let’s get that cab to the Marriott together.”

“We’re not hanging out with you,” I said. “We are getting our own cab. We have our own plans for this trip.”

Since he was still somewhat drunk, he staggered back and his face had that drunken questioning look. “Uh, ah, uh.”

“You understand, right?”

He understood. And that was what I had up my sleeve when I let AP think she won the argument. We did see Mr. Foister and Ms. Mute a couple of times on the ship but it was no big deal. Mr. Foister always seemed to be latched on to someone—a different someone every time I saw him.

“You were right,” AP finally said to me.

I love hearing that!

Copen-HAY-gen or Copen-HOG-en?

Recall that old commercial “Certs is a breath mint. No, Certs is a candy mint.” Then an announcer’s voice would say, “Stop, stop, you’re both right!” Well, how you pronounce Copenhagen can be either one of the above.

Copenhagen is a city of canals and we took a wonderful canal tour. You had to be careful because some of the bridges are so low that even people my height (5’6”) have to duck or lose their heads and what a mess that would be.

The Beautiful AP climbed all 400 steps of the Church of Our Saviour’s staircase that spirals round and round the outside of the building. While she did that climb, I sat in the churchyard fast asleep. Neither of us had slept on the plane ride over here and I was flat out exhausted. Oh, and we couldn’t get into our hotel room until four o’clock that afternoon.

The highlight of the trip occurred the next day; our personal three-hour tour hosted by Stuart. We hired him through the tour group Viator and he was well worth the price.

When he met us, the Beautiful AP asked, “How’s your English?”

He laughed, “Pretty good. I’m American.”

The man was in fact funny, delightful, and knowledgeable; he’s lived in 24 countries. The three hours flew by as we learned about the kings (Christian, Frederick, Christian, Frederick…) and some queens, and armies and wars. I never knew that as the Nazis ordered the Danes to hand their Jews over, the Danes clandestinely ushered their Jewish citizenry safely out of the country. There is a building built by Israel acknowledging this amazing achievement.

With Stuart, we discussed many current-day issues including immigration and how Denmark is handling the settlement of Muslim refugees. The Danish government integrates them into society throughout the country, thereby avoiding enclaves like we see in countries such as England, France and Germany.

If you do visit Copenhagen, you might want to tour with Stuart. You also might want to eat at two fabulous restaurants, Amass and Restaurant Kanalen. And ride a bicycle. The young, the old, the moms, the pops, and the kids zoom hither and thither through the streets on bikes.

AP and I would definitely visit this city again.

The Ship

Azamara Journey is a small ship that carries some 600 passengers and about four hundred crew. This small ship was set to tackle the sometimes rough waves of the North Atlantic Ocean and at times it was damn rough.

This was the 32nd cruise for our travelling companions, Jerry “Stickman” and his lovely wife, the Sainted Tres. It was our fourth.

We had great rooms, right at the bow of the ship, with wide vistas and we figured we’d spend many a late afternoon relaxing on our connected balconies, indulging in wine and conversation. Not to happen. With the exception of a couple of days (make that hours!), the weather was too cold, too cloudy, too rainy, too windy and the seas too choppy to sit outside, so we scurried to a lovely inside destination called the Living Room.

The very first day we were “at sea” and we would be “at sea” five of the 12 days we were on the ship. This became monotonous—and also put me in a frame of mind that almost caused me to punch out another passenger, maybe two; something I hadn’t done in over 50 years since my boxing days.

The ship had two gourmet restaurants, one Italian and one a steak house, one general restaurant, a buffet and smaller food service places scattered throughout. You do not go hungry on a cruise. Most passengers gain weight. Not AP, of course. She always took the stairs and hit the gym all but one day.

The “Foxhole”

Our first tour was Mount Dalsnibba in Norway. We would take a bus up the two winding roads leading to the two peaks of the mountain range. I hadn’t really read the blurb about this tour as I simply got us on every tour Tres and Jerry had signed up for. Big mistake on my part.

The first ride up the first mountain was harrowing, with hairpin turns and a very narrow road on which our LARGE bus had to travel. What kind of maniac would want to take such a tour? Oh, right, Jerry “Stickman” who has jumped out of planes 450 times! This was his nutty idea and I just signed us up for it because he was on it – next time I’ll read the blurb.

We made it up to Eagle’s Bend Viewpoint and actually saw a brown eagle, and, yes, the view was amazing but it could not calm down the terror that had welled in me as with each turn. Then what goes up must (damnit!) go down.

I asked our tour guide, “Is the next mountain road just as bad?”

She smiled serenely, “No, you did the hard part already. The next one is easy.”

Arrrggghhh! She lied! It was far, far worse; far, far longer; far, far narrower and far, far more harrowing. In fact, from my seat on the bus I saw no road, just drops that were hundreds (millions) of feet deep.

Oh, sure, the scenery was spectacular. But screw the damn scenery! I could die on this road or, rather, off this road if the bus had a flat tire or the driver sneezed or a slight wind blew against the side of the bus. We would plummet down and down and down. No survivors, I’m sure.

Around and around on the mountain road we snaked at speeds that seemed a hundred miles an hour. I was sweating by the time we got to the top of a snow-covered mountain!

“That lake over there, the big one, has no life in it. Not fish or plants. It cannot harbor any life at all,” said the guide. Great we were looking at a dead lake, as in d-e-a-d.

I don’t care how beautiful the scenery was; I knew one thing – I had to get back on the bus and make an even more treacherous journey down the mountain side. Then I saw them; bicyclists pumping their bike’s pedals going up the damn mountain. What the hell was wrong with these people?

I did try to look at the scenery and feel its beauty because it was so beautiful, but the horror of the past and the upcoming return trip just didn’t allow me to enjoy it. My mind just kept repeating to me, “We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die!”

One woman came up to me. “I can see you are afraid of heights.” She was trying to be comforting.

“I’m afraid of death,” I said flatly.

The guide announced we were to now get on the bus for the return trip, the death trip, down that mountain road. How could they even call that sliver of concrete a “road”?

I took my seat, put on my seatbelt, kissed AP. “Uhm, that was a nice kiss,” she said.

“Goodbye my love,” I said. “We’ve had a great run, you and I.”

“Scobe, just close your eyes and don’t look down. This will end shortly.”

“Yes,” I said dramatically. “In the blink of an eye.”

She smiled and gave me a kiss on the forehead.

I closed my eyes and prayed, which is hard to do when you’re an atheist.

Dear God please don’t let me die. I’ve got too much to live for. Please don’t let a leaf hit the bus and knock it over the edge and down into the valley. God, take pity on me and on all the other people on this bus. Jesus, if God is too busy to bother, or he’s pissed off at the things I’ve said about religion and religious people, maybe you could just make sure the bus makes it down the mountain safely. Or if you are busy maybe Mary can come on over and keep the bus on the road, after all I am a son and Mary is a mother. My prayers are sincere. If there are any Norse gods hanging around please save us. Thor, you could save us. Please keep me alive. Really, I’ve been a good man. I haven’t hurt anyone, even those who have hurt me. Please, God, I want to live!

“Open your eyes,” said AP.

“Are we falling off the mountain?”

“No, we are down now,” she said.

I opened my eyes. The bus had stopped. I hadn’t even noticed that.

“We’re alive! We’re alive!”

Now I could be an atheist again.

Shetland

There is a great mystery show you can get on Netflix titled Shetland. That will give you an amazing view of these islands and the surrounding sea. Again, this was a bus trip with the slowest people seated up front and struggling to get out of the bus, holding everyone back.

“We have 15 minutes at this stop. Please everyone return at 12:15,” said the guide.

At 12:10 we managed to finally get off the bus. We got to see an argument between a mother and son as the mother wanted to walk and the son wanted to push her in the wheelchair. Walk? Walk uphill on a gravel road? Mom could barely stand.

Once released from the bus, the Beautiful AP and I zipped up the gravel road, zipped back down, and waited to get on the bus as mother and son slowly made their way back up the three steps. They never went to the top of the hill. Indeed, they never left the door of the bus.

We visited the Scalloway Museum and learned about the Shetland Bus. During World War II, the Shetlanders, Norwegian fisherman and Allied forces courageously ferried a vast array of armaments to the Resistance in Norway and smuggled out 350 people who would have been murdered in Hitler’s Holocaust.

There was a small castle next to the museum and AP characteristically went to climb up it.

I was sitting outside the museum. Near to me was a table filled with middle-aged and older men, a couple of guides and bus drivers. It was then when we saw She. Yes, She was there.

She appeared in her tight, low-cut, black and white striped dress, holding her cell phone up, taking selfies. The men watched her as She lifted her dress high over her knees (click! click!) or bent low in front of them so they could see her rather ample breasts dangling inside her dress (click! click!) or then bend over so they could see her wiggle her perfect butt in her perfect dress just a few yards from their faces.

Men are hard wired and a delicious dame wiggling, bending, posing and hiking up her dress in front of them just riveted their attention.. Finally, She jumped up onto a low stone wall, lifted her skirt almost all the way, and clicked! clicked! more selfies. I was riveted too – by her narcissism. I brought AP over to watch this.

Back at the ship we saw She sunning herself. One of her boobs fell out of her skimpy swimsuit as She turned over in her lounge chair. She slowly put her breast back into her bathing suit after fondling it a little bit. Many eyes bugged out at that. We didn’t see She after that as the waters got rough and the days were cold, wet and unsettled.

Akureyri Iceland and Planet Fart

This was an interesting trip for one reason—I got to see and smell the largest fart in the world! Okay, not exactly. First we were taken to the extremely disappointing waterfall of the gods where Iceland’s religion supposedly germinated. (Note: AP enjoyed the waterfalls.) We drove through the hillside to see amazing lava fields from volcanic eruptions past and present. The monstrous lava boulders and landscapes were indeed interesting.

Then we arrived at Planet Fart. We could smell this new planet from a mile or so away. “What the hell is that?” people asked. People scrunched their faces and looked around the bus to see who had cut a monstrous fart. The consensus was the old guy with the hearing aid in the front seat.

We parked and nothing looked Earthlike. The hills were shades of brown from almost off-white to doo-doo dark, in confusing streaks. There was no life on those hills either; there was no life anywhere near us. All around were bubbling lava or mud pits causing that awful stench. Steam rose from many of these pits. This was fart-land pure and simple.

Even AP, who finds fart humor completely unfunny, laughed at my fart jokes in this locale.

Days at Sea and I Lose It

We had to endure five days when we were “at sea.” The ship offers all sorts of activities on sea days. Jerry “Stickman,” the Sainted Tres, the Beautiful AP and I enjoy trivia, although we are not very good at it. But it was fun and something to do as the waves swelled and the ship lurched.

There were all sorts of trivia contests: modern music, modern love songs, iconic places on earth; fast food symbols; movie themes; sports stars; airplane symbols and the like. You could have a maximum of six members on your team.

I had taken a nap on the first day at sea. AP came back to the room. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I can’t believe it.”

“Believe what?” I said.

“I was playing trivia with my group and this other group challenged every answer we gave. And we were right. It was two older guys and a woman.”

“There are shitheads everywhere,” I said in a comforting voice.

“That woman tried to tell us that MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City are one and the same. Can you believe that? She tried to get the host to disqualify my answer. I told her I have been to both and they are different museums.”

Fortunately, the host ruled AP’s answer as correct.

That afternoon we all decided to play the battle of the sexes. The women made up one group, maybe a dozen of them, and a dozen of the men made up the other group.

As we entered the room AP nudged me and whispered, “There are the men.” I looked over at the two men. One looked scornful and the other resembled a mouse. Both men were ignoring everyone else.

Jerry and I sat down.

AP and Tres went over to the women. AP nodded to me to tell me the MoMA woman was on her team. The woman looked like a wicked witch ready to devour a small child.

So the game began. I had to do a charade cataloging four things. I did five because I mistakenly acted out the label for our group: Men. I finished a single second behind my wife the Beautiful AP who did the required four. Scornmale looked at me with scorn and Mouseman shook his head as if to say, “That guy [meaning me] is an idiot.”

The game kept going back and forth, each side answering trivia questions. Mouseman, Scornmale or MoMA challenged whatever answer they could.

Finally, the women were given this question “How many movies has Rocky appeared in?” The women conferred. “Five,” said MoMA.

“Sorry, that is wrong,” said the host. MoMA then argued but the host said, “I stand by my decision.” He was right that MoMA was wrong.

Then we got to answer that question. I yelled out “seven!” and quickly listed all the movies where Rocky appeared.

“Sorry, no. Rocky is in the title of only six,” said the host.

“You didn’t ask what movies had Rocky in the title,” I said.

“My decision is final,” said the host.

“You didn’t ask the titles of the movies,” I pleaded. I looked at my fellow teammates. “He didn’t ask the titles of the movies.”

“You were not supposed to shout out!” yelled Scornmale at me.

“You lost that round for us and we only tied the game,” said Mouseman.

“But I am right,” I said.

“You caused us not to win this game,” said Scornmale.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I am sorry but the host is wrong. At least we tied.”

“We would have won this game if you hadn’t shouted out,” said Mouseman.

“Look, I am sorry,” I said. “I just knew the answer.”

“And we only tied,” said Scornmale. Mouseman rolled his beady eyes.

My last words at this battle of the sexes were “I’m sorry. Really, I am.” The two men ignored me and left the room.

I found out sometime later that in trivia these three folks were undefeated.

We played trivia some more. Yes, their team consistently won. Scornmale, Mouseman and MoMA sat haughtily through every game.

Finally, the moment came. This particular trivia contest had only two teams: us versus them. Us this time did not have Jerry and Tres; they were elsewhere. AP and I were with Barbara and her husband Ray (two great passengers) versus the three of them with another snooty person added to their team.

“Using the letter ‘O’ name something with a tail.”

Our team agreed, “Ostrich!” I said it again. “Ostrich!”

“Team left wins!” said the host.

“Wait a minute! Wait just a minute!” said Scornmale. “Ostriches don’t have tails.”

“Yes, they do,” I said. “They have tail feathers, thus a tail.”

“They do not have tail feathers. They do not have tails,” shouted Mouseman.

“Team left wins unless you can show that ostriches do not have tails,” said the host.

MoMA said, “This is ridiculous! Birds don’t have tails!”

“Yes, they do, and we win,” I said.

There was more mumbling from them. Scornmale stood up and pointed his finger. “I challenge this decision!”

Mouseman shouted, “Okay, wise guy, do chickens have tails? Huh? Do chickens have tails?”

“I am not talking about chickens,” I said. “The ostrich is the bird we are talking about.”

“Oh, yeah,” yelled Mouseman. “Answer my question. Do chickens have tails? Come on, do chickens have tails?” These guys were really heated. I was getting heated too.

“He’s afraid to answer my question!” yelled Mouseman. “You see, he’s afraid to answer my question about chickens!”

“We aren’t talking about chickens,” I repeated.

“I think that question should be thrown out because he won’t answer my question about chickens,” said Mouseman. Scornmale and MoMA were vigorously nodding their heads.

“Team left wins,” said the host.

“I object! Do chickens have tails? He can’t answer the question!” yelled Mouseman. “He can’t answer a simple question!”

That was it; that was it. I was 20 years old again. “Why don’t you shut your fucking mouth?”

Silence.

I was ready. If Mouseman stood up I would walk over to him and knock him out. I was happy to also clobber Scornmale and even MoMA. What the hell? Seriously, what the hell?

MoMA turned to me and gave me her “look” which probably worked on young children she was about to devour, but I just gave her my look back and she turned her head.

I immediately realized I should never have said what I said to them, but it was too late. I wasn’t going to apologize but I also wasn’t going to hit anyone as I hadn’t hit anyone since my last fight 50 years ago. Well, maybe I had, but that is another story for another time.

Team Chicken, as I now thought of them, went back to their rooms and looked up if ostriches and chickens had tails. Wonder of wonders, they do have tails and, thus, so much for their objections to my answer.

My teams beat them two more times at trivia; still they were the best on the ship. But they were not undefeated, an accomplishment of which I was proud.

Do you see what days at sea reduced us to? Do you see why AP doesn’t like cruises?

Our last stop was the Faroe Islands where AP and I went in search of the puffins. That is a separate article (coming soon) in Bird Scobe.

The last day on the ship AP and I were heading towards the elevators to depart. And there were Foister and Mute standing next to Mouseman and MoMa and Scornmale in front of the elevators. Looking at them I realized this trip could have been worse than it actually was.

Windsor Castle

After the cruise, AP and I spent time in England, specifically to see Windsor Castle. It was a great tour, especially St. George’s Chapel.

Upon arriving home we started discussing future trips. It’s no surprise that AP hasn’t proposed any cruises.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from Amazon.com, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]