Doug Sahm on the Victrola, well, Pandora on my laptop, but I like the old timey sound of the former technology. Long, long ago I recall hearing Doug sing “Is Anyone Goin to San Antone?” on an FM station, back in the day when FM meant more cool and less commercial. I liked his sound then when I was 16 or so. It fit with Dylan and the Dead. I bought his album Doug Sahm and Band, and lo and behold there’s Dylan and David Bromberg, and many other performers I admired all jamming together. They all knew Doug. I liked that they liked one another. It was a fraternity without Greek letters, hazing or keg parties… just good tunes.
But the point of this post is not fraternal good will nor the Blues; it is instead as old as the first book of the Bible…envy. Joel the intrepid lawyer of Coffee Nation is in Europe this week and next on a musical riverboat cruise. Not the Blues, mind you, unless you count The Blue Danube. No, he is cruising along the Czech waterways from Prague through thousands of sleepy waterfront towns whose names I am afraid to pronounce, following a very urbane schedule of classical music and gourmet food and drink along the way. He’s expecting Smetana, Dvorak and Mahler, champagne, prawns and caviar, but wait…
“Viking cruises?” I inquired.
“No, actually it’s another line that is smaller and caters to the boutique crowd, such as myself, who require the finer things in life. The ratio of guides to passengers is 4 to 1.”
“That’s amazing, Joel. So if your boat has 50 passengers, then you must have 200 staff, is that right?”
“Oh heaven’s no! I mean 1 to 4. Good Lord, we’d sink with your numbers.”
“Now I understand Viking uses drones and border collies to direct their passengers around Europe. It’s a big cost saver.”
“Well, I think you are exaggerating as usual. In any event I’ll be missing from Coffee Nation for the next two weeks. (Long silent pause.) What? No good byes? Not a single hug?”
Joel slinked away from the coffee shop like Judas on his way to the High Priest. (Well, that last sentence was for an overly dramatic effect and not in any way to be taken as truth.) He actually walked out like a man in suede Hush Puppies going on a wonderful vacation of a lifetime.
What he did not know was that I had managed to hack his email account with Par Excellence Euro Cruise Lines, PEECL, to switch him over to a competitor shuttler of schmucks, Angry Huns Adventures, AHA. It’s run by former members of Monte Python’s Flying Circus who create a lifelike atmosphere of pirate slave ships for the bored traveler who has seen it all. Milquetoast Masochists Magazine gave it five stars. Once the guests register they are taken into custody on false charges and shackled to an oar below the deck of an old R0man warship. It’s so real that often satisfied passengers rave that it is almost too real when their hands begin to blister and they must eat rancid food and contend with real river rats. Oh it’s great pistachio flavored panache for the discerning palette.
I can picture it now as a long black car meets Joel at the Vaclav Havel Airport.
“You are Joel, yes?”
“Why, yes, I am. And I am very eager to begin my all inclusive musical river tour of the Danube. It’s so exciting for a sousaphile such as myself. Do you play an instrument, Boris?”
“Shut up and get in car, Meester Viseguy.”
“But, but, there must be some mistake. I, I, uh, no need to be so hasty and rude, Big Fella. Hey, I paid a lot of money for this suit. Give me back my Panama hat!”
Once inside the shuttle limo, he is blindfolded and handcuffed. His human rights and all hope checked with his bags in the trunk for the next two weeks. Behind a double layer of duct tape he buzzes harmlessly to himself, “I am a United States citizen, a veteran and a lawyer. I know my rights.” But it’s only so much buzzing in the back seat of the newish Moskvich as Boris weaves into downtown traffic and finds the Lugubrious Lady Star just about to cast off from the ancient quay.
Bound hand and foot, taped lip to earlobe, Joel had to hop like Lowly Worm onto the Death Ship, Lugubrious Lady Star, flying the black and gold flag of the Angry Huns Adventures. He was forced under the deck into the dim and desperate galley of 47 other would be passengers; given the number 34; and henceforth ceased to be Joel.
All the other 47 wild eyed passengers were likewise duct taped and shackled to an oar. Clearly he needed to get to the U.S. embassy and file a complaint. He had to call his VISA platinum card representative and stop all payments. He had to find his way back to America and Coffee Nation. “Crack” snapped a moist leather whip expertly wielded by a large woman named Varushka in a forest green KGB outfit, short skirt and tall black boots. Blood red lipstick outlined her snarling words.
“Comrades, you vill row or you vill taste the vip.”
Joel struggled to raise his hand.
“Number 34, you have question? Untape his disgusting capitalist mouth, Viktor.”
“Ouch. You don’t need to be so rough. Madam, I believe there has been some sort of mistake. I booked a musical tour of the Danube with Par Excellence Euro Cruise Lines and I think I’ve been somehow mistakenly placed on your loading list. Now, I’m sure it’s just a paperwork oversight… and what is a ‘vip’?”
The hopelessness was heavy in the humid air below deck as 48 shackled prisoners began to row in unison. Viktor beat time on a conga drum.
Varushka called out the speeds, “Cruising speed, Viktor.” As Viktor pounded out the rhythm, Varushka cracked her whip above the shackled prisoners’ heads. “You vill keep the beat or else be the beat. Capichenakov?” she threatened. As the old wooden ship creaked and shuddered against the river’s current, a strange music blared on the deck above. Joel thought he was hallucinating at first, then he realized he’d heard this song before. It was AC/DC singing “Highway to Hell”.
–to be continued.