Our Dog Maya

This story I wrote the day after Maya died.  I didn’t post it because I wasn’t sure.  I hope you enjoy it.  If not… I don’t really care.  It needed to be told.  Thank you.

Our dog died Sunday, 28 October, 2018.

She was twelve and a half.

Even though she had recently been diagnosed with heart disease and a heart murmur she was going strong until the final day. In fact, she and I had just completed our nightly walk when the pain hit her like a cannonball to the stomach. I won’t soon forget, watching her go for a drink of water as I was briefing my wife, her mother, on the details of our walk, when she nearly collapsed. I raced to her and helped her to the ground. The pain was obviously debilitating because our dog could take pain. Water on the lungs? No problem. Ruptured knee tendons? 2 in a calendar year. No problem. Battle wounds from doggy daycare? She must have had 40 stitches in her life, all from “playing” at daycare. They never bothered her or deterred her from going back. She loved her time at daycare. No, this pain she couldn’t handle and so she laid down, augured in and in true Maya fashion, she took the pain.

It only took a minute or two to realize this was serious. Lisa and I started combing the Internet for things to relieve the pain. You see, it was a Saturday night so we didn’t think we had many options. Finally, struggling to find options, we called our animal clinic and via outgoing message, I was told that if it were an emergency I could call the doctor direct, so I did. He was on his anniversary dinner so he gave me a quick remedy and told me that if we couldn’t find any emergency care call him back. Bottom line, we ended up driving to him after his meal. He took great care to find out what was ailing our baby, but after a couple tests and x-rays, he couldn’t determine anything. The look on his face said it all. He was scared and he had no idea what could cause this kind of pain this fast. He gave her a shot of pain killer that he said would “probably knock her out” and it did. We returned home only to watch her struggle with the pain. The vet had told us that if the shot didn’t relieve some of the pain to give her a huge dose of more pain meds, which we did. It was the saddest night of my life, rivaling only the last night I was with my father, but this was different because my father had been slowly dying for years and when the end came there was relief. This was sudden. Abrupt. It was horrible.

She was finally able to fall asleep so the next morning we headed to Louisville, Kentucky, determined to help her. It was not to be.

Our vet had called ahead so the team at Blue Pearl was ready. They ran a battery of tests, ranging from simple blood work to x-rays and ultrasounds. It was the ultrasound that finally revealed what had been hiding from view. Our dog Maya had tumors in her liver. Not on her liver… in her liver. One for sure and a possible second. The doctor also said she had fluid in her stomach which looked like blood so it was at this time I thought the worst and Lisa asked, “wait! Are we not going home with our dog?” The doctor suggested that her issues had been developing for some time and that something on her last walk must have triggered things to get worse. They ran a few more test to determine if there were tumors in her lungs, which they didn’t find but the damage had been done. The issue, in the end, became the blood in her stomach, potential complications of surgery and her age. Our choices came down to a final three.

One, have surgery. Open her up and try to remove the tumor but first they had to determine if the blood was old or new which would, if new, meant potential internal bleeding. If internal bleeding was present they would have to stop the bleeding before or during surgery. The doctor also said that, very often, when they open up dogs with similar symptoms it may be worse than the ultrasound showed in which case the doctor would be forced to euthanize on the operating table. It wasn’t a pleasant prognosis. Two, take her home on palliative care. Manage the pain and try to let her enjoy her final days at home but Lisa and I both thought that sounded selfish and was only benefiting our grieving while Maya suffered, so that option was quickly eliminated. As stated earlier, she already had other health issues that may have made surgery harder. We couldn’t let her suffer so we went with the final option. Three, euthanasia.

It was an easy choice but the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, and I know Lisa would agree. To make matters worse, they brought her in to see us so we could say goodbye and she seemed like she might be OK. Of course, that was because of the host of drugs in her system, which you could clearly see in her eyes. She was in the room with us but she wasn’t “there”. She was like a zombie. I mean, she was all over the room and even ate a little food that had been brought in for her but her eyes were already gone. We laid her on the floor with me on one side and Lisa on the other and the doctor came in to finally relieve her pain. As the doctor injected her with the drug that would put her to sleep before stopping her heart, Maya turned and looked at me, straight in my eyes and I can only hope she was looking to reassure me that this was the right decision and that she was thanking us for getting rid of her pain. I will not forget that look as long as I live. In that instant I saw our life together. It was just a flash but I saw it all.

Maya was given to me, already named and a bit high strung to put it mildly. A family had found her tethered to a tree. They were a young family so when the hyper pup came home she was a bit more than they could handle. She was a jumper and a biter. Not a vicious biter, she would naw on arms as a way to determine who you were. She did it her entire life but only to those she really knew, like me and Lisa and even my brother-in-law, Josh. Anyway, the first year went fast. I had just moved into a new home and so we spent our time exploring our new neighborhood and getting to know each other. We had our fights. She was as stubborn as I was but we learned each other and a bond was formed. Things were really good. We spent all of our free time together. That second year things didn’t go so well, for me. I received the call to go to war so Maya had her world shaken again when she was forced to live with my parents, which turned out to be the best thing for her.

I say “forced” which is true but my parents’ house is a fantastic place for a dog. Ranch style home so there was only one step to climb. A big backyard with a chain-link fence for 365 degrees of sight-line. She loved that. She could see everything yet she was safe behind the wire. They also had a pool which she hated but that pool brought visitors and visitors she loved, and they loved her. It was that pool, while I was deployed, that really began the socialization of Maya. By the end, Maya was one of the most social dogs I’ve ever known. She wanted to say “hi” to everyone but then she would be on her way to the next thing. Other dogs never were of much interest. I mean, there was an initial interest, a quick sniff, but then it was on to the next thing. Maya was the perfect dog.

I eventually came home and Maya and I were back together, only now she was more relaxed, which after a deployment was amazingly soothing for me. She knew when I was anxious and she knew when I was calm. She would sleep in bed with me when I struggled but she would sleep on her own bed on the nights that I slept well. Looking back now, I hadn’t realized what she was doing. She was my compassion dog. She was my friend. She was my “everything” and she knew it before I did. We spent the next three years in relative peace and harmony, living life. The “ups” and the “downs” all the while becoming a dynamic team, although I often worried about her solitude. I’d hurry home after work. I’d stay in on the weekends. Not every night, I wasn’t a saint but I was very aware that she was home alone. Often I would send her down the street to stay with my sisters. She loved that and developed very special bonds with our nieces and nephews. They meant the world to her and I know that she would have loved to say goodbye. I’m sure of it. She loved those kids. No matter how many times she had to stay somewhere else or no matter what time I would come home at night she would be just as excited to see me as the previous time. That trait never faltered and never failed to bring a smile to my face. It’s an amazing thing, a dog. They don’t ask for anything, really. All they want is to be appreciated. They don’t hold grudges. They don’t judge. Their love is unconditional and Maya was the best at all of it. She was soon to take on her most important role.

In 2012 we met Lisa, me in November and Maya in December. That was the game changer. Maya and I went from a bachelor and his dog to a family, almost overnight. Where I had saved Maya, Maya had saved me and Lisa, she saved us all. She probably wouldn’t agree with that statement but it’s true. Maya now had another friend. Someone to go to when she wasn’t sure of my mood. Someone else to love because she had love to give and Lisa and I both needed it. Again, Maya had taken care of us before we even knew we needed it. Lisa told me when we met that she wasn’t a dog person and she still isn’t. What she will tell you is that she’s not a dog person, she’s a Maya person. I always liked that statement. Maya didn’t do anything special, she was simply herself and that was enough.

For the next 6 years we were one happy family. Well, when it came to Maya, we were one happy family. Lisa and I have been and will continue to learn how to live together but there was rarely a dispute when it was about Maya. She was central to our universe. After all, we don’t have any children so Maya was it and she loved her role as “queen”. We both spoiled her. We had to. As she aged we changed her diet several times and by the time she passed she was eating better than any dog I’ve ever heard of and better than most people. She deserved it all. During her last six years, Maya was everywhere we were. It was just assumed in our family that if you invited us to an event, we were bringing our “plus one” every time.

Maya was so good at reading us and our personalities, she knew how we felt before we did. She was integral in helping Lisa through several “events” and constantly helped me with my anxiety, without me even realizing. She just made everything better.

Last Sunday, lying on that floor with her, we couldn’t make anything better and it hurt. We felt like we had been punched in the gut. We were helpless to help her and that’s an awful feeling.

When her eyes met mine in that final moment I hope she saw our life together with the same happiness and joy that I saw when I look back now. I loved that dog. Lisa loved that dog. She helped me live life the best I could during a time of struggle. She helped my wife not only deal with me but also enjoy a part of life that she hadn’t experienced before.

I’ve been thinking, since she passed, does the pain I feel now make me regret any decisions I made with Maya or does the pain of her passing change anything about our time with her? Would I do it again? Would I take in a young dog who was too aggressive for the rest of the world?   Would we buy an eleven year old dog two new knees within the same calendar year? Would we pay hundreds of dollars a month to keep her healthy as she was aging? Would we walk hundreds of miles in all manner of weather just so she could get her exercise? Would we drive hundreds of miles just to ensure she wouldn’t be alone when we had to leave for a day or a month? Would we spend thousands of dollars for tests in an attempt to ease the pain?

YOU BET YOUR ASS! All of it. I would do it all again. Hopefully I would do it a little better but I would absolutely do it again. Was her last 24 hours miserable and painful to watch? Yes. I’ve cried many times over the last couple days. I can only hope that her last vision wasn’t just of me, but of all the fun times we all had together and I hope…I hope she enjoyed her time in this world. She made my life better. She made Lisa’s life better. She brought a little joy to every life she encountered along her journey. I am going to do my best to take part of her memory and wear it daily. Everything she did was to make us happy. We should all be so lucky to live that kind of life, making others happy.

In the end, she took the pain, just like she always had and she went out like she came in, fighting to survive. As a pup I was able to take her in and ease her pain, her sense of abandonment. At the end, Lisa and I were finally able to ease the pain coursing through her and send her on her final journey, to that big field in the sky.

I can see it now, a wide open field with plenty of other critters to chase, a creek to cool off in and the sun, eternally frozen just above the horizon, as it sets. I hope that every time she looks over her shoulder she sees the silhouette of a tall, goofy guy in a fedora holding the hand of a beautiful woman with a long scarf blowing in the breeze, waiting for her to come home. We love you Maya. Thanks for everything. God bless you.

Forever, your parents

Matt & Lisa

About Last Night

Living in a small town should be delightful.  Less crime, a tighter sense of community and a comfortable respite from the over-crowding of big cities.  Unfortunately, French Lick, Indiana is not that and not what I thought it would be.

My wife an I moved to French Lick due to Military obligations, in the winter of 2016 after ten years in Indianapolis’ inner-city.  We were expecting to get away from the issues that come with living in an urban environment, like drug trafficking, gang-related violence and all of the petty crimes.  Downtown Indianapolis wasn’t a hot-bed of gang violence, it had some but it did have it’s share of petty crime, to include, theft, burglary and domestic disputes almost every night.  In all of our time in Indianapolis, we only called the police twice and that was for suspicious cars parked on the block.  When the Indiana National Guard promoted me and stationed me in Jasper, Indiana, we thought we’d find a small community, grow some roots and start a family.  Boy, were we wrong.

Eighteen months after moving into our new city and establishing ourselves as productive people in the community, our world changed.  Directly across the street in, what had previously been a rental property, a family of degenerate dirt bags moved in and no one’s sure how.  One day there are “renters” quietly living in the home and the next a multi-racial, multi-generational family moved in with no discernable leader amongst them and providing no value to our adopted city.  I immediately contacted my friends that are local realtors to find out how this could happen.  The house was never officially put on the market so how did this “family” get the inside track?  No one can explain to me how this happened.  I spoke to the local police department. Nothing.  I spoke to the local town hall and they acted surprised that this had happened, however, they did know the family and this is how we found out that we are, now, screwed.

Some time before we moved to the little community of French Lick, the local police gunned down one of this families “uncles”.  Shot him dead in the street which, of course, upset the family.  I can’t imagine why, because from  all the reports the uncle was resisting and threatening, either way the family vowed to get revenge.  They have, of course, not gotten revenge but because of this situation the local police are “apprehensive” to confront this family.  ANNND that’s just magical.  I suppose, by being a scourge of humanity, they have gotten revenge on the police and the entire city.

I say all of that to get to last night.  The police were called several times and I didn’t even pick up the phone.  Someone else was calling the police because the family was sitting on the front porch blasting music and carrying on like it was Mardi Gras, which isn’t a huge problem except the fact that it was midnight, on a Wednesday in a small town in Southern Indiana.  The police finally stopped and spoke to the family and after a fifteen minute discussion, which I couldn’t hear because I was watching from inside my home, a few feet away, the police drove away.  During that fifteen minutes a young lady wearing a very skimpy outfit approached the cruiser and talked to the officer as she leaned quite invitingly into the vehicle.  From my angle it appeared as if she was offering the officer a “hand” but I can’t confirm that so I may have to delete that part later.  Nevertheless, after speaking to the neighbors, this morning, it took five phone calls over a four hour period before the police would do anything about this family, which is unacceptable.

The sad part is that last nights debacle was minor compared to some of the other calls to the police because of this family and to some of the things my wife and I have seen.  A short list would include; an unconscious body being carried into the home the morning of Christmas Eve, fist fights in the street directly in front of our home on several occasion, scantly clad teenage girls dancing to loud music at midnight, suspected drug deals at all hours and drugs and alcohol being consumed in broad daylight by young people that may or may not be legal drinking age.  On each occasion the police were called or showed up on their own accord and on each occasion zero arrests were made and in one instance, high-fives were given to the family by the police.  What the fuck?  I call the police for a disturbance, the police arrived and start high-fiving the very same people that played NWA’s infamous song, “Fuck The Police” as the police pulled up.  This city is pathetic!

I’m supposed to be slipping into retirement from the Army and starting a new career, while my wife continues her climb through the ranks of the nearby resort.  We’re supposed to be starting a family but instead we’re dealing with a bunch of trash that no one will do anything about.  I feel like my only option at this point is to call them out on my own, get physically injured by them and then, maybe, just maybe, enough attention will be churned up that the city will have to make a move.  Unfortunately, I’m to old for that sort of behavior so if it comes to that, it’s really going to hurt.

It’s a ticking time-bomb and everyone is turning a blind eye.  I’ve written this post to capture this time in our lives so that when the bomb goes off, there will be proof that people were warned and chose to do nothing.

Memorial Day and Hemingway

It’s Memorial Day weekend, 2018 and I find myself alone. Not alone in the Papa Hemingway and a twelve gauge, kind of alone but alone nevertheless. You see my wife is working. She’s a pretty big deal at a local organization that is responsible for entertaining the masses and holiday weekends take president.

She’s judging at a local beauty pageant and then back to her regularly scheduled duties of entertaining the masses. Me on the other hand, well, I’m doing homework. Yup, homework. Let this be a lesson to all you youngsters out there that are thinking about taking a break from school to get out into the “real world.” The real world doesn’t want you unless you have a college degree. True story. I though I could work around the whole college thing but after a quarter of a century in the Military, I am learning that there is no “work around” when it comes to college.

And so, now I sit in my dining room researching Ernest Hemingway, arguably the most prominent face in the battle of depression and despair. Hemingway put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger when he was 63 after a lifetime of success’ to include a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize. His experiences throughout life finally caught up with him and unable to figure out how to escape them anymore, he used the last resort. The result was for all-time. There would be no more Ernest Hemmingway and all of those characters, so carefully created, would be silenced forever.

How does someone, so big and so powerful, get to the point in their life where “meaning” seems to disappear? Hell, most of us never get to that level in anything we do and yet most people struggle through a lifetime of living without thoughts of ending it early. So, again, I ask. How does someone, so big and so powerful, get to the point in life where “meaning” seems to disappear?

Air Condition

As my eyes opened, still confused as to time and place, I felt a moisture on my face.  I had no idea what time it was but based on my current predicament I instantly knew that it was well after midnight.

My face was soggy and my pillow was equally soggy and that meant one of two things, either I was in the throes of a cold sweat from too much alcohol, which was pretty normal, or there was something devastatingly wrong with our homes HVAC.  The fact that our home was built at the turn of the century, led me to only one conclusion, the air condition was broken.  Now, I’m not talking about central air, that godsend from the glorious decade of the 70’s.  I’m talking about the fact that our home ,that was built at the turn of the century, not this most recent “turn of the century,” I’m talking about the “turn of the century” before this most recent one.  Our home was built in 1905 so the concept of “duct work” was unheard of and indoor heating and cooling was in it’s infancy.  Our house is heated with a boiler.  Yup, steam heats this old Victorian charmer, which means that there are pipes coursing through the walls of our home and so far, so good (wood is now being knocked on).

As for the conditioned air that is intended to cool us off when the swampy temperatures of southern Indiana arrive, we don’t have it.  Yup, no duct work equals no central air and, did I mention how hot it gets in the Ohio River valley in the summer?  It gets hot.  Damn hot.  And, it’s not just the heat that wears you out it’s the oppressive humidity that will quite literally, melt your face off.  So, no duct work and we have been relegated to “window bangers,” a term I had not heard until we moved into this oven.  Window bangers are window air conditioning units, designed to cool zones based on the square footage of a room or zone.  Basically, we put one in each bedroom and the dining room and, for the most part the units we have are all to small to cool the rooms we have them in which sucks.  Bottom line, our house is hot.

This morning at roughly 1 a.m. my wife and I both woke up at approximately the same time, actually I have no idea when she woke up.  You see, she doesn’t sleep but that’s a story for another time.  We were both up and we were both hot.  I checked the “window banger” and shockingly (sarcasm) it had stopped and pressing the power button achieved nothing.  My wife and I scrambled to fix the issue but nothing was working so we ran through two courses of action.  One, move out to our guest house, which is simply a room above our garage but after a significant upgrade, it’s quite a nice place and more importantly it has central air.  We now rent out the space on airbnb.com, look it up (shameless plug).  Or two, tough it out and crank up the fan.  Well, we’re both pretty lazy after midnight so we augered in and prepared for the miserable night we had ahead.

After five hours of tossing, turning, sweating and “airing it out”, I grabbed my phone and texted my bosses to inform them that we had had a catastrophic loss and I would need the entire day off from my duties at work.  I knew that not only would this request be approved (someone at work had just had this same issue last week so they had no choice but to let me stay home) but it would also cause one of my bosses an issue because he would be forced to cover down on my work, a thought that made me smile even in my sweaty, sticky state.  Having sent the text I rolled over and tried to find some more sleep.  My wife gave up and prepared for work.  She was out the door at about 9am and so it was up to me to fix the problem.

It wasn’t a huge issue because we had other “window bangers” out in our shed so simply changing it out would have been the easiest fix but no, not when I’m pissed.  When I’m pissed off at what I think is a simple issue that only happens to me, I become an idiot.  So, that being said, I took the broken air conditioning unit and carried it down the steps, as it leaked water, and out the back door.  As I stepped out the back door, I tripped and dropped the unit, crashing it into the cement walkway, sending pieces flying into the air.  Of course, that’s my version.  If you went to the camera’s you might see that the unit was thrown about ten feet (nothing to be proud of) and then crashed onto the concrete.  Either way, significant damage was done to the unit but to be certain, I decided to plug it in and BOOM, it worked.  Turns out that it had frozen throughout the night and as part of it’s self-recovery, it was thawing before it would restart.  Unfortunately for the unit, it decided to do this while we were sleeping and that’s a bad plan for survival of an appliance in my world.

I dressed myself appropriately and headed to the local hardware store to purchase a replacement and, as per usual, the little hometown store didn’t have anything that would meet my needs so, after making a comment about the shops inadequacies I stormed out and began the trek to the nearest “big” town in order to find what I needed.  Like a drug addict, I knew what I needed and I needed it now so I drove and I drove.  Finding the nearest super-hardware store, I found the unit that just might work however I feel that it will cause other issues, which you’ll hear all about when they happen.  I paid the $300 and drove and drove back to our home in the sweltering valley and attempted to install this new behemoth, which, of course, took me way to long.  It would’ve taken a normal guy about thirty minutes but because I missed an entire part of life that teaches a person how to take care of a home, it took me the better part of two hours.  That did not make me happy.  At about that time, my wife strolled in with a friend from work to have lunch.  Unfortunately, I had reached my peak of frustration with the installation process so I probably owe them both an apology.  My wife will let me know of my punishment when she gets home tonight, I’m sure.

Ugh!  I’ve been trying to find the right time to take a day off but this isn’t exactly how I had planned it but nevertheless, the new air conditioning unit is installed and working so we shall see.

It goes to show that life gets in the way of living sometimes and the more patient a person is and a person’s ability to work through the daily minutia of life, the faster a person can fine the happiness that so often eludes me.  I struggle with patients and because of it I often feel that I’m missing part of life.  I think writing down the things that bother me may help me reflect and that reflection might help me find the moments of happiness that seem to elude me.

Funny thing is, I have every reason to be happy and generally I feel happy, but apparently I don’t reflect that feeling outwardly which is something I need to work on too.  Man!  The list of things I need to work on is growing longer as I age and I always assumed the list would shrink, like a frightened turtle, as I reach decrepitude (I’m aware that’s not a word).

#SMH

MC

 

So This One Time, Part 2

The idea wasn’t mine. I swear! It was Mike’s. It was always Mike’s idea. No matter the adventure, no matter the risk, Mike was always scheming to have an adventure. Whether it be skirt chasing in Southeast Asia while doing God’s work, to protecting Moroccan virginity from the would be ravaging’s of a young ladies drunk uncle, Mike was up for a good adventure. No matter the adventure, no matter the location, if it meant a chance for fortune and glory, Mike and I were usually, all in. This night would be no different.

Mike and I were sitting at the restaurant at the Puerto Chico Marina in Fajardo. I think it was the marina. Could have been Puerto Del Rey Marina a little further down the road but I was drinking and all marina’s look the same after rum. Either way, our flip-flopped feet were propped up on the sea wall and we were kicked back, drinking rum while a beautiful local girl sang reggae tunes accompanied by her steel drum band. As we drifted away into the reggae music and Mike polished off another cigarette, a habit I was trying to quit, we began to share ideas about the big boat in the marina. The boat had no earthly place in this particular marina, or any marina along the east coast of Puerto Rico or anywhere else for that matter. It looked like a throw away boat. Something made and then left to sink to the bottom of the ocean once it was decided that it wasn’t what the builder had in mind, but there it was.

It was giant. Maybe 100 feet long and approximately 20 feet wide. The majority of the ship looked like a barge but it stood to high above the water to be a barge. It was rusted out and appeared as if it were set for demolition, perhaps to create an artificial reef off the coast. The only thing that stood out was the bow of the ship. It had been decorated in a way that would have made Robert Louis Stevenson proud (author of Treasure Island). There was a larger than life skeleton holding a spear, as if in anticipation of an attack, hanging from the bow. A figure head that was as ominous as it was enormous hung like a gargoyle from this rickety old craft. This ship made no sense. It looked like a pirate ship from the late 1700s had an affair with a salvage barge but it was strangely magnificent. Little did I know that by the end of the night, Mike and I would have quite the story to tell.

As the rum flowed the ship docked in the marina became the subject of conversation. At some point in the evening well before midnight, (I know this because the bar closed at midnight and when the story wraps up we were still able to order more rum before the bar closed. That’s how I tell time when I’ve been drinking) we had concocted a plan to get aboard that ghost ship and snap a few selfies. Why, you may be asking? Well, there is no good answer other than, we had to.

The plan was simple. Wade into the waters of the marina and commandeer another vessel to take us out to the ship, scurry up the rope ladder (yup, it had a rope ladder hanging off the side) and snap a couple of photos to include the always impressive, Leonardo and Kate, “I’m King of the world” scene from the movie Titanic. It wasn’t the best plan but it was simple and easy to remember. We did not, however, take into account any other variables that might disrupt our adventure and why should we? We were drunk, young and invincible. The fact that the ship was privately owned, didn’t matter. The fact that the anchor chain wasn’t properly fastened to the ship, didn’t matter and the fact that the current was attempting to pull the old ship out into the Caribbean, didn’t matter. It should have. IT ALL SHOULD HAVE. In our head the only thing that mattered was getting proof that we were on that ship. It would all fall on the success of phase one of our operation, boost a vessel (Boost in the slang dictionary means to steal). Without a way out to the ship the story couldn’t even start.

Mike was the first to make a move as he tossed his most recent cig into the water and set off down the beach. I quickly slammed my rum and followed him down the beach. After a few hundred feet we headed out to sea, and by “headed out to sea” I mean walk about twenty feet into waist deep water and board the first boat we can reach. Of course, the first boat we came to was a million years old and it appeared it had been used for fishing. It was about 20 feet long with a closed bow and covered, open stern. It was painted, many, many years ago in a very Caribbean yellow but had been worn by the sands of time. As Mike approached the steering wheel he slowly turned and looked over his shoulder with the grin I’ve seen several times and says, “Easier than I thought. Keys are in it.”

I reply, “The first part always works in our favor. It’s the second and third part that usually backfire and we end up trying to talk out way outta shit.”

And as slyly as his initial response was he retorts, “Hey! We’re off to a good start. Cut it out with those negative waves. Quick pull the anchor and get ready to make way.”

There was no way I was going to let that comment go, “Ready to make way? Calm down there Jack Sparrow. Twenty feet into the Caribbean and all of a sudden you’re a seasoned pirate of the high seas?”

To which he smiles, his crooked smile and simply responds, “Savvy?”

Mike can always make me laugh. He has been a friend since the turn of the century and while it’s been a bumpy friendship it has always been a good friendship. The story of Mike will be the next part of my story. I promise that it won’t take away from this story. It will only add to the humor and the almost mythological adventure that we have been thru during our time as friends.

So for now and until next time, we leave you, drunk on a random little fishing boat in a small marina on the east coast of Puerto Rico, planning the next step but at least, hey! The “keys are in it.”

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