How I Spent My Summer Vacation

     …So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddie, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald…striking.

     So I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one—big hitter, the Lama—long, into a 10,000 foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier….

     So we finish the 18th and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

     So I got that going for me, which is nice.   (—from Caddyshack)

     Well, by golly, I have been working at the sheet metal shop since August of last year, and when I had completed the year I became eligible for nine days of paid vacation. I have been working pretty hard, often in heat and humidity reminiscent of a tropical jungle, and so I was very much looking forward to a week off. My beloved sweetheart wanted us to go to northern Ohio, where she was raised and where her mother still lives. We’d go boating on Lake Erie, see where she grew up, meet her daddy, hang out with her mama, and just relax. That was the plan. And though I’m not complaining here, the vacation was the most exhausting and stressful vacation I’ve ever had, for at least three of us: my sweetheart, me, and a white dog named Fallon. It was stressful for the mama also, at first, but I have no idea what sort of vacations she had had in the past to compare with our recent odyssey.

     A friend of mine from work, along with his wife, were going to house sit for us, watering the plants, feeding and watering the dogs and cat, feeding the fish, feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs, and so on; but then, out of the blue, a friend of mine from the west coast announced that he was moving here to Greenville (more or less as a refugee from socialist insanity), and he asked if he could stay at our place until he found a place of his own. My sweetheart and I consented, and so we had a new, surprise house-sitter.

     We loaded up the car with our vacation stuff and provided the new sitter with a detailed list of instructions. We left Greenville for our new adventure on Saturday; my sweetheart wanted to leave EARLY, but getting up early after a week of work, on a Saturday, was just too much, and I suggested that we leave early Sunday, after I had a day of rest. So we compromised, and left late on Saturday morning.

     Unfortunately, though, in less than 24 hours the situation with the house-sitter had totally deteriorated, for reasons we need not dwell upon, so as not to incriminate anyone in particular. The main point is that, very early on Sunday morning, after being in Ohio for just a matter of hours, we were obliged to drive all the way back to freaking Greenville, about a ten-hour drive. The whole situation had me in a state of gloom and supreme disgust, in addition to some severe sleep deprivation, my sweetheart was in a roughly equivalent state with regard to intensity, and her mama, who sweetly accompanied us in order to salvage something from the vacation, came along in a state of alarm, after due consideration of the moods of her daughter and of her daughter’s biological mate. Again, without dwelling on the reasons or conditions, good or bad, our hapless house-sitter was gone when we returned.

     I was in such a black mood that I was resolved just to sit at home for the next week catching up on blog posts and just wet-ragging around the house. But my sweetheart’s mama earnestly talked us into continuing with SOME kind of vacation involving the vacating of the house. I thought the two females might go to the beach while I watched the dogs, chickens, cat, plants, and fishes (including three loaches that are my pride and sorrow), but it was finally decided that we should drive all the way back to Ohio on Tuesday morning, after a day to at least begin recovering from the shitshow of the weekend. Since we had no house sitter at this point we supplied most of the animals with large quantities of food and water, we saturated the pots of the houseplants, and we took the two whippets (like miniature greyhounds) in the car with us. Oh, and we took the mama too.

     I think the greatest highlight of the road trip to Ohio was the terraced valleys blasted through the Appalachian mountains (or whatever they are called in western Virginia and Kentucky) to build the highway. At one point a fork in the road, with a crossroad immediately after the fork, resulted in a veritable step pyramid blasted out of the live stone. Seeing such huge gouges blasted into a mountain range just to make a road there made me proud of American enterprise and ingenuity. One thing I learned along the way is that a peanut buster parfait at Dairy Queen has more than one thousand seven hundred calories in it. I was pretty much stuffed the whole trip, and came back weighing more than I have ever weighed in my life…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

     The second attempt at the vacation to Ohio began under the dark cloud of the earlier, aborted attempt, and so it took some doing before we finally relaxed, more or less. The dogs are well behaved and quiet, usually, but the white whippet, Fallon, is very nervous and skittish and occasionally prone to passive/aggressive evacuation of her bladder or bowels, and so she made the whole trip in an animal crate.

     We arrived after dark at my sweetheart’s mama’s house, after a twelve-hour drive, and I found that her house is well stocked with Buddha images, even though she is not a Buddhist. I was told that she had Buddhas everywhere in her house even before she ever heard of me, the Buddhist mate of her only daughter.

     On our first day in Port Clinton, Ohio—evidently a resort town for retired well-off boomers—we went to a pricy art gallery where nothing appealed to us much (mama told us to pick something out as a souvenir, but even when it came free of charge we weren’t much interested). Then we went to the Oldest Still Functioning Lighthouse on the Great Lakes, where we obtained a REAL souvenir by putting a penny into a slot, turning a crank, and having it come out squished with an image of the lighthouse squished onto it. THEN we went to some kind of wine garden (mama likes Chardonnay) where my sweetheart was possibly the youngest person there. And we topped off the day by going to a restaurant that the lady selling tickets to the lighthouse said had the best perch in town. So I went there and ordered the perch. My sweetheart ordered walleye, and then swapped half her fish for one little fillet of perch on my plate, She also gave me most of her onion rings. Mama gave me a muffin. I soldiered along, saying little, until my plate was clean, and I was totally and completely stuffed. I lay awake until four in the morning with a belly so full of fried fish that I couldn’t digest it, and the worse case of hiccups I’ve ever had in my life. The next day I was as deprived of sleep as I was on the previous Sunday.

     I think it was the next day that we took a day trip to Toledo, Ohio, where we had lunch at Mancy’s Steakhouse, founded in 1921 by an immigrant named Gus Mancy. If you ever go to Toledo I highly recommend it. We then crossed the border into Michigan, where half the billboards advertise legal marijuana. It turns out that alcohol has doubled or even tripled in price since I was in high school, but legal weed costs exactly the same as it did in 1980. God Bless Capitalism, because the intense competition in the new legal weed market has prices very affordable. (For those of you who consider cannabis inappropriate for Buddhists, I will point out that it is allowable, for medicinal purposes, even for ancient Indian Buddhist monks, and that they were also allowed to own a pipe for inhaling the fumes.)

     I believe it was the next day that my sweetheart and I decided to go to the African Safari, a cheesy little wildlife park only a mile from her mama’s house. My darling had seen the road signs for it since she was a teenager; and since we both love animals we decided to go for a low-stress and therapeutic afternoon. It turned out that most of the animals there weren’t from Africa. There weren’t even any lions, which one would naturally expect at an African safari. No elephants either. There was a totally bored-looking warthog, some inactive antelopes, and some giraffes, at least, that did come from the dark continent, plus I think the giant tortoises came from that general direction. The tortoises were one of my favorites, partly because two of them began copulating while we were watching. Finally we drifted away, not wanting to spend all afternoon gawking at two fucking tortoises; but when we came back the other way after at least fifteen minutes they were still going at it. The male tortoise was even making audible grunting noises.

     My sweetheart’s favorite part of the whole wildlife park, ironically, was an aviary filled with budgies and molting peacocks without tails.

     Finally, after the trained pig show, we got into the car and slowly drove through the actual “safari” part of the park. We were given a free cup of something that looked like sawdust pellets, so we could feed the animals. Almost immediately our car was surrounded by scroungy vicuñas mooching sawdust pellets. A dramatic event for me was an emu who came up to the car, thrust its head into my pellet cup, and started swallowing them whole, one after another after another. An emu practically raped my sawdust pellets long before we got much past the entrance. Another highlight: a large buck deer slobbered down the inside of the passenger side door, while sticking his head inside as far as the antlers would allow, mooching pellets. Before moving on I would like to say that we also saw some very nice Bactrian (two-humped) camels, though of course they didn’t come from Africa.

     I read some time ago that Sandusky was famous for horse races, especially trotters and walkers; and since it was very near to mama’s house, practically the nearest sizable town, I wanted to go look at the horses. My sweetheart called, though, and was told that real horses don’t race there anymore. Races are shown digitally on a big screen and people gamble on that. So we didn’t go. There was no county fair in the area either.

     On our last full day at Port Clinton we took a boat ride on Lake Erie. An ancient friend of hers (really a nice guy) took us on his high-speed pontoon boat to see the Commodore Perry monument out on an island nearby. It is strange to me, but in that part of America the War of 1812 lives on in the memory of the people. I suspect that the huge memorial to Commodore Perry was erected in part to antagonize the Canadians, our sworn enemy in 1812.

     Partly in an effort to inject some more or less Buddhist philosophy into this narrative, and something potentially edifying, I will spend some time describing the one being who had, by far, the worst vacation of us all. For the rest of us the trip had its good points, and some fun, especially after a few days to recover from all the fuckery at the beginning; but for the dog Fallon it sucked from beginning to end. She made the whole trip in a dog crate, and was too freaked out by the strange surroundings to go potty all day. We got her a wiener at a DQ, and for hours she just lay on top of it. When we finally got to Port Clinton and mama’s house, she was too afraid of the new back yard to relieve herself out there, and would wait till she was back inside to take a dump. She did this repeatedly. So most of the time, for a week, she was confined to a crate to prevent her from crapping on the floor. In addition to the other stresses of the vacation, Fallon crying all night kept us awake plenty.

     The philosophical part of this inane story is that the other whippet, Saffron, got along fine. She wasn’t afraid of anything, peed and crapped in the yard like a good girl, and was safe with the freedom of the house at night. The two were in essentially the same living conditions, and one was happy and the other miserable, due to differences in attitude and behavior in response to the same situations. If Fallon had simply calmed down a little and accepted the Way Things Are, she might have had a decent vacation too, but she didn’t. Such is the second Noble Truth, and the fact that suffering is ultimately self-inflicted.

     Anyway, we drove back to South Carolina two days before I had to go back to work. The stress revived as we drove through pouring rain and fog, at night, through the always-under-construction highways of southern North Carolina. Around Asheville the road was so almost invisible that I had to pull over and let my sweetheart drive, so that she could see for herself how almost impossible it was even to see the road. She said that the very best part of the whole trip was climbing into her own bed at the end of it.

     On a positive note, the three little dogs that we left behind with mounds of food were fine, and in fact the two females went into heat at the same time, causing my boy dog Genghis to have the time of his life. Also the loaches were alive and well, which is important to me now. And Fallon, after her week-long ordeal, was happy and wagging her tail just to be home again. Dogs have short memories with regard to certain things, and recover from bad vacations fairly quickly.

     In conclusion, I remark that I am now relaxing and recovering from our vacation by working at the sheet metal shop, and doing the same things that I did before the ordeal began. May all beings be happy, to the extent that Samsara, the first Noble Truth, and their defilements will allow. And don’t forget Mancy’s in Toledo.

     THE END

a view from the top of Marblehead Lighthouse, with a huge amusement park in the distance which we never went to

one of mama's many Buddha images (I think this one is very nice)



Most Clicked On