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The Last Hoorah
Episode #11 (Updated August 1, 2017)
by Charles Reuben
Edited by Linda Schwebke
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The photos shown below were created by Dave Niblack of imagebase.net. These photos are not related to the story. Dave's photos are here to add some much needed color to my gray text: Thanks for your support, Dave!

12:40 p.m. We’re in Winter Park now. No sign of winter here. Wish I could find my damn dental floss. It’s probably long gone by now or buried under something.

I’m stuffed. Open face turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and a dab of cranberry sauce, coffee: $11 with tip. I exchanged just a few words with a woman in the dining car, and when she left, she thanked me for the pleasant conversation. Go figure.

People are kind of quiet, and I really don’t go out of my way to engage in conversation lest I annoy them with my talkative ways. Some people just want to be left alone.

Some people, like my black seatmate, decided to talk to me right before he got off the train. Maybe he was shy. He told me all about his distant relative, Alexander Hamilton, who died in a duel and was born of a black woman and an Englishman.

This man, with family and Florida and property in New York, says he never flies, having done that during the service and seen way too many accidents.

Looks like most of the people on the train are getting off in Orlando, leaving this train virtually empty. Maybe new people will get on the train. We will see.

My stomach is rumbling. I have eaten something that does not agree with me. The lady on my left is trying to engage me in conversation now that there is nobody else to talk to: I’m desperately trying to look busy.

It’s time to visit the crapper and take a prescription stomach pill. Aside from my stomach, my health remains good. My arm, the one ravished by tennis elbow, was hurting this morning so I took an Aleve for the pain, which seems to have gone away. My back is starting to hurt though. That I can handle.

1:25 p.m. I’m becoming very fond of the small bathroom, even in the absence of a coat hook. Especially since the palatial “handicapped” bathroom has run out of toilet paper and paper towels. The dining room is running out of food, as well, but I managed to get a good dinner.

I still haven’t found the damn dental floss, and I’m beginning to think it is a lost cause.

Only about five hours to go, and the conductor is headed this way. I might ask  for  a window seat. One thing I’ve learned on Amtrak is never change seats without asking or you will suffer the wrath of Amtrak.  Time to kick back and enjoy the ride.

2:30 p.m.  My stomach is feeling better. We just arrived in Winter Haven, Florida. New people are arriving all the time, but the train is only half full. Topic of discussion in the coach car is why there are TVs placed 10 feet apart near the ceiling?  The answer, “To  take up space and possibly fall on your head in case of an accident.” 

10:30 p.m. Hollywood, Florida. I’m sitting in Uncle Meyer’s condominium, absolutely exhausted. The train arrived two hours late because of signaling problems, which turned out to be great because Mom, Aunt Leah and Uncle Mike were exactly two hours late in arriving at the Station to pick me up.

We all ate dinner at Boston Market for about what I would pay for one dinner on the Amtrak including tip. It was an enormous dinner, including bottomless drinks and lots of extras for around $24, Mom’s treat.

Boston Market is a fast food joint that serves great food, like rotisserie chicken and all the fixings, for a very reasonable price.  Although  the ambiance isn’t exactly that of a fancy restaurant, you certainly don’t walk away hungry or penniless.

I must remember this place the next time I have visitors. It was really quite good.

Miami, even during the winter, is a humid, warm, flat place and people are walking around as if it were summer. It  looks like  just about any American city to me with lots of strip malls, shopping centers,  cars, and endless streets.

Uncle Meyer’s condo is located on the ground level with amenities I hope to enjoy tomorrow. I played with Uncle Mike’s computer for a while and succeeded in getting the call-up numbers to work, a problem he’s been having lately. American Online technical support was very helpful and zeroed right in on the problem, i.e. the call up numbers that were imbedded in the free software no longer exists.

The new numbers that they gave me worked reasonably well, though I was appalled by the busy signals I continually received as well as the busy-ness of their home page, which is complicated, for neither rhyme nor reason.

The American Online home page is one huge advertisement when you get right down to it. I was tempted to introduce Uncle Mike to the Internet Explorer browser but was concerned that this would only confuse him even further.

Dec. 21, 2001 4:10 p.m. On board the Celebrity Horizon Cruise Ship.

Boarding the ship was a breeze but getting to the Port of Miami was a mess. Uncle Mike was driving and all was well until we actually arrived at the port, and I noticed the turn off at the last minute. I urged Uncle Mike to make a sudden left and almost caused a huge accident with a semi that was following close behind.

Of course, there was a cop nearby who witnessed everything. He was absolutely appalled at Uncle Mike’s driving. He was just about to write us a ticket when he noticed the large hole in Uncle Mike’s head. My uncle is recovering from surgery for skin cancer and the impressive scar, not Uncle Mike’s arguments, convinced him to cut us some slack.

Mother and I are sitting in our ocean side stateroom waiting for an attendant to open the digital safe that I locked but neglected to remember the combination.

Lots of passengers are being loaded onto the ship, and the attendants are too busy to worry about our digital safe. Mother is very patient with me. I know some of my friends would have disowned me by now. There’s something about digital devices and me that just doesn’t click.

Another problem: Although our 200 square-foot cabin is relatively spacious and well laid out with a huge window, we were greeted with a double bed instead of two singles. The cabin boy has been summoned to fix the beds, but all these screw-ups will be addressed “in due course.”

The Horizon is smaller than the last ship Mother and I cruised on, the Goliath Carnival Elation. It is 682 feet wide with a width (beam) of 95 feet and a draught of 24 feet. The Horizon sails under registry of the Liberian flag with officers of Greek nationality and carries 1,798 passengers and a crew of 670 from over 50 nations.

9 p.m. We just finished the muster drill, when all 1500+ passengers, with the exception of mother who has done this so many times in the past that she excused herself, gather in a variety of predetermined destinations wearing their life jackets.

I arrived at a prescribed muster location and then was hastily led to a deck beneath a lifeboat. We were given instructions on what to do next, which was basically to follow orders. We are given instruction on how to wear the life jackets and told a little bit about the lifeboats.

The life jackets have little lights that activate themselves in the presence of water, fluorescent tape for visibility and a whistle to attract attention.

Prior to the muster drill, Mother and I enjoyed a very pleasant informal dinner in the Starlight lounge. We met our six dinner companions who were all very interesting and engaging people. Two of our dinner companions are missionaries, and they said grace, which the rest of us politely but halfheartedly joined in on.

Even Mom said Amen at the conclusion of the prayer. The prayer was directed to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which isn’t really part of the Jewish religion that I grew up with. Nonetheless, after all these years, Mom and I have learned to fit in to the cruise ship routine and not kick up a fuss every time the subject of JC comes up.

To be honest, the rest of us, there are eight at our table, were being polite when we said grace. And I do believe our Missionary companions may have gotten the message that the rest of us would simply prefer to eat our food in a secular manner, in the future, thank you very much.

Two of our companions, whom I will refer to as the lesbians, are a fat lady who wears T-shirts to dinner and her partner, a small skinny lady who wears a fishing vest.  And then there is a fashionable, well-dressed couple,  who never wear the same thing twice and define the height of fashion and civilization.

Allen, the well dressed, civilized fellow, used to be a Green Beret. He advanced high in the military order and was, so he says, offered the position of Secretary of the Navy before he retired. But he declined the offer because he was a military man and looked upon that offer as an insult. He would settle for nothing less than Secretary of the Army.

Allen is a soft-spoken, intelligent person who was heavily involved in the investigation of the assassination of the John F. Kennedy. He was sworn to silence but broke that silence when he saw himself on the Arts & Entertainment Channel on TV, test firing the gun that supposedly killed the president.

And so he helped prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that it was impossible for JFK to have been killed by the supposed shooter.

Well, we all know that story. But what we don’t know is that the true gunman fired from a manhole beneath the president’s car. Furthermore, Allen claims Vice President Lyndon Johnson and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover set up the assassination.

Allen says the motive behind this conspiracy was Johnson’s fear that during his new administration, he would select his brother, Robert Kennedy as his new running mate. This is a conspiracy at the highest level and a story that he feels will come out during the next 20 years.

Pretty hard to believe, but it sure beats all the conspiracy stories I’ve heard up to now.

It’s been a long day, and I really need to start thinking about shore excursions. Mom and I are both very well fed though she does seem to have a touch of some stomach ailment. She hesitates to take anything for it for fear of it interacting with all the other drugs she is taking.

Well, time to hassle the front desk one more time and get the damn safe fixed. Hate walking all around the ship with our valuables.

This marks the end of the ELEVENTH installment of "The Last Hoorah." If you'd like to start from the beginning, then please click this page.

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