Sunday, April 6, 2014

Other Than The Volcanic Eruption, How Did You Like The Room?


We brushed the dung-colored dust off our leotards and, pausing only to read a restraining order from the city of Pittsburgh, set out to explore the planet we were now on.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of heavy metal. (I searched my suitcase, then realized I had left my lead shoes at home.)

Unfortunately, we discovered that we were on the same distant oxygen-deprived planet where Black Sabbath, Cream and the remaining members of Queen had resurrected just a few hours before. They were screeching out the lyrics of Fairies Wear Boots:

Fairies wear boots and you gotta believe me
Yeah I saw it, I saw it, I tell you no lies...


A philosophy that jibed perfectly with that of the City of Pittsburgh, which was effectively telling us that Pittsburgh jokes were definitely off limits. If we wanted to pick on somebody, we could go pick on Gary Indiana, so nyahhh!

I paused momentarily to wipe the nyahhh! off the restraining order.

Either the solar wind or the sheer volume of the music pushed us across the dusty landscape to the only recognizable building on the planet, the "Ao noordelijk twee bordos" penned in what we later discovered was the local language. Roughly translated, the "Thumbs Sized While You Wait" Hotel.

As we wafted hotelwards, I had the distinct impression that the planet had an average temperature ranging from -70 to -100 degrees C, and a hot internal core that could cause geysers to push water up through the crust. Then again, I could be wrong.

As soon as we breezed through the Hotel's revolving doors, we were met by a polite liveried footman.

"Welcome!" he toothed. "I am Raoul, your multi-lingual Guest Relations Officer. While you relax and sip the cool welcome drink, I will assist you with our fine check-in procedures. We recommend that you deposit all your valuables in our safety deposit boxes."

He pounded ferociously on a bell sitting on his desk. After he got down off the desk, he said:

"There! You see? Friendly porters are at this very moment ensuring that your luggage is safely in your rooms after check-in."

The porters were, in fact, doing double duty. They were both carrying our bags and engaged in a game of Jai-Lai in the halls.

The little rubber ball said: "Pocketa pocketa."

Where had I heard that sound before, and in such indifferent profusion while lying on a couch?

Well, the service was friendly enough. But the room sucked. The beds were concave and lumpy. So was the TV. The only thing playing on all channels was Black Sabbath singing Hand of Doom. Why should we fork over for pay-per-view when all we had to do was open the windows? Sure, there was the slight detail of breathable air...

Then there was that incessant pocketa-pocketa sound in the halls. I went out in the hall and realized that the sound was now coming from the room across the way.

Someone with round purple-lensed glasses passed me in the hall. It was Ozzy Osbourne.

"Man, like this gig sucks," he said.

Taking that comment to heart and without knocking, I burst into the room-across-the-hall unannounced (which is what usually happens after you don't knock. Either that, or you just meekly walk back into your room with an unrealized knock tacked onto your karma. I, to my everlasting shame and tooth whitening, chose the former.)

"I say, do you mind?" I burped. "It's three o'clock in the morning. I have half a mind to call the gendarmes!"

In the room, a small weasel-like man in a trench coat huddled over some kind of mechanical contraption. The machine was saying: "Pocketa-pocketa".

"I was just oiling my pocketa-pocketa machine," said the weasel in a guttural Serbo-Croatian. "As for the state of your mental completion, I would be willing to bet serious money that you do indeed have half a mind."

As soon as he spoke that phrase, I lapsed into a recurring brain tic. I opened my mouth and the following came out:

“Second triumphant week of Odiva, the sensational plunging Samoan Nymph, the Diving Venus, assisted by a school of Pacific sea lions in an exhibition of feats of diving, grace, agility and endurance in the largest and most massive tank (weighing over 50 tons) ever erected on a stage. Hundreds turned away nightly! The first act opens in Chicago, at the Sandusky Theater, which (the act, not the theater) consists of about a dozen trained seals sitting on pedestals and saying “Awk. Awk” in hopes of soliciting fish from the stage manager. They do this for one entire week.” 

“Simultaneously, Odiva – whose radiant charms and queenly physique have attracted worldwide interest – commences swimming in Philadephia with the intention of reaching Chicago within four days. The abovementioned tank, in which she swims, requires two 60-foot baggage cars to transport it from town to town.”

(Odiva, incidentally, was reared from infancy among Samoan pearl divers, who rescued her from a ship-wreck. Her wonderful prowess as a pearl diver attracted the attention of English traders stopping at the island, and they saw to her education.) 

“Although she is now only 25 years old, she has been for many years the pride of the islands. The Samoans, owing to her wonderful diving, reach the height of their admiration at 12 o'clock on the same day that Odiva arrives in Chicago for the Big Seal Matinee. Send the kiddies for the treat of their little lives!”

I was so tired from affecting a Samoan accent that I went back to my room and fell into a swoon. Fortunately, we had remembered to pack our portable swoon.

And in this swoon, I dreamt a horrible dream. Someone was sending me messages from (of all places) a remote island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Something about buying coleslaw in the Safeway produce department... The horror of it all -- coleslaw! And I bet it was the creamy kind.

I awoke with a finish (they were fresh out of starts on this planet). Smike was talking to someone on the phone in a low, suspicious voice. How he fit into that voice I’ll never know.
"Yes," said Smike surreptitiously. "That yellow tape probably means you have an unconscious desire for a desk job somewhere in the British Isles. The giant dragon might suggest Wales..."

"No, I don't think we're talking psychotic jackhammer syndrome. Not yet. But if you begin getting signals from your cookie jar, call me immediately."

Smike saw that I was awake. He looked at his watch which, a half hour ago, wasn't there.

"Oh, it looks as if our hour is up.” 

He hung up.

We stayed the night. Not much to do since the TV was stuck on Black Sabbath. Things were relatively peaceful, except for the volcanic eruption which occurred at 3:16 am. We lay for a while in our concave beds, stupified and terror-stricken, expecting we knew not what hideous destruction, the room vibrating violently, and endured a gigantic and flaming mass of molten fridlap. (Why is it that you can never find a vibrating fluid bed de-fridlapper when you need one?)

About 4 am, I called the front desk to see if we could get some grilled cheese sandwiches. Raoul, who was smiling over the phone, said the kitchen was closed until six. But he said he would send his cousin over to the volcano with some cheese and bread.

That was last Thursday. If Raoul's cousin thinks he's going to get a big tip, he's woefully mistaken.