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Howdy Folks,

Well, Shirl should be working on getting the Santa Fe trilogy formatted and handed off to me so that I can begin proofing her work, but she isn't. No, she is busy preparing for her vacation to Key West, which I am calling "The Journey of No Return." You see she is going with our next-door neighbors, who over the last decade have become our very good friends, Ross and Martha R.

Now, Ross and Martha are sweet, fun, intelligent people, but they qualify as a federal disaster area. Ross is the prince of procrastinators and Martha is the duchess of dither. Ross is the sort of guy who puts off replacing a totally dead furnace until the coldest day in January, even though he has known it was defunct since July. Martha wants to leave on a car trip at 8 a.m. but can't decide what she has to pack until five hours after they were supposed to leave. This is no exaggeration, and these two are planning the trip.

To make matters worse, Ross' sister Shirley and her husband Tony are also going. Now, Tony is much like me. He gets dragged along in his wife's wake. He often looks perplexed and a bit sad. He makes these sounds that he says are hay fever sniffles--even in winter. I suspect that they are valiant attempts to stifle sobs. I know the feeling. Poor devil is even worse off than me. Shirley got on a homeopathic kick some time ago. She's taking Draino for her arthritis. When I told her that drinking Draino would kill her, she got all indignant and bellowed (Shirley does not talk below a bellow, maybe the Draino?) "What's a matter, Henke? I'm not a fool. I wouldn't drink Draino. I inject it!" At that, Tony sniffled. I did too.

Still, I felt better about the possible success of the trip when I learned that the youngest of the R's three kids, Andrea, and her friend Riley were also going along. That is a lot of Rs and "affiliates" to bring together, but Andrea has her head screwed on right. I figured that quality might lessen the dangerous overload--even though she just finished her Master in Fine Arts, specializing in creative writing. Hmmm. Maybe the screws are not as tight as I thought.

Then, Ryan, the R's middle kid, thought he would like to go on the trip as well. Okay, Ryan is a solidly grounded guy. He is in Houston studying for a Ph.D. and M.D. in medical research and medical practice of some sort. He will be a doctor doctor. I once asked him just what his special field would be and he told me its Latin name: Magnus Buckus. In English, I think this means "Big Bucks." A very solid guy! This would sort of offset Andrea's still-solid, but-somewhat wobbly screws. Ryan is also trying to wean his Aunt Shirley off of Draino in favor of a biodegradable "green" drain opener, easier on her veins. At least if she dies with a circulatory system loaded with this stuff, the EPA will let us bury her--without hazmat suits.

I discussed all of this with my son Matt. He was very uneasy. He said, "Dad, I don't know about this. Mom's going with a lot of Rs and known affiliates. Jeez! Yeah, I know Ryan is squared away, but I not sure his good influence will offset Andrea's MFA. And don't forget, Riley is from California, I think. Jeez, dad! You aren't trying to do away with mom, are you?"

I reassured him that things should go well. But then, I got the most recent news, which I will not share with Matt. The oldest R offspring, young Ross, his wife, their daughter, his mother-in-law, and the new baby have decided that they want to go. Good lord, I believe that baby was born on Halloween! Oh my god! A Halloween R, seven other Rs, and at least four known affiliates heading to Key West all at once. They are traveling in two separate car caravans and by two separate airplane flights! If they can all hook up, the entire horde will converge on Key West at the same time. Lordy, that will be like being hit with a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, and alligator infestation simultaneously. Could this be what the Mayan calendar is predicting?

All right you ask. Why don't you go, too? Well, you see, in another life, years and years ago, I was in the USN; and Key West was my home port. Back then, it was a sleepy little southern town with a Caribbean flavor. I loved it. It was part of my youth. But of late, Key West has become Key Weird, the Conch Republic whose national bird is a parrot, and whose president is Jimmy Buffet. It has become "Disney Land South," with professional street people, lots of kitsch, and touristy quaint. A bloody carnival! Now, my buddy Rs laugh at me and my wife scoffs, but I have no desire to have my sepia tone memories ruined by a neon glare. The Cheyenne have a saying: "Only the stones last forever." They are wrong. Even the stones get ground into gravel and powder. But I'll be damned if I have to go roll in the dust. Instead, I am going to stay home and waste away in my own Margaritaville.


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