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A ticket to Alaska and a Hot Dog Cart July 19, 2010

Here is a short story written based on a prompt found at http://blog.writersdigest.com/promptly/. It was kind of fun exercising that lump separating my ears! Hope you enjoy it…

“Hey, Joe! Have you got a reindeer sausage left? If so, lemme have one with spicy mustard and kraut on it! Can I get a grilled pretzel bun with that, too, please?”

 

“Sure thing, Eddie! How’s the family doing?”

 

“Oh, they’re doing fine. They would be here with me today, but little Jenny has the sniffles and Marg decided it wouldn’t be a good idea. She is sure that the other two will get sick, too. You know how it is – bugs get passed around….hahaha!”

 

“Here’s your dog! Thanks for the business. You are my last customer of the season. I’m getting ready to fly south for a few months. I hope Jenny feels better real soon….”

 

Flashback to three years earlier…

 

Today was the final straw for Joe Murphy. It started out badly when he overslept and was late to an important meeting to discuss a new buyout of an ailing company. It got worse during the meeting because the client wouldn’t budge on a couple of contract options. After lunch, his soon-to-be-ex-wife called after lunch screaming about some minor catastrophe that she blamed on him. “Yeah, sure! All that is my fault? Guess again! This is why we can’t stay together, Cathy. You are driving me crazy!!! It was a short put, anyway. Pull yourself together and get over it. Don’t call me at work again.” Click.

 

To top it off, today marked 45 years that Joe had been walking this planet; no one, not even his ex, remembered or mentioned it.

 

To console himself, he stopped at his favorite watering hole, a dive called the Blue Goose. He propped himself up at the bar and ordered a tequila shot and a Negra Modelo. The bartender placed a steaming basket of chips and hot sauce in front of Joe as a welcome gesture. Joe slugged the shot down, and then took a sip of beer. Joe ordered the evening enchilada special along with another shot. The bartender just shook his head, and asked, “What’s up, Joe? You usually don’t drink tequila.”

 

“It’s my birthday, and I have had a lousy day. You really don’t want to hear about it, trust me! I think I’m going to cash everything in, move to Alaska and buy a hot dog cart.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear about your lousy day. Happy birthday; this one’s on the house. Alaska, huh? You could sell reindeer sausage along with those hot dogs. You’d probably make a killing during the Iditarod. Hahahahaha! What a crazy idea! Good luck with that one!”

 

He’s having a midlife crisis. Only instead of a sports car, he buys … a ticket to Alaska and a hot dog cart.

 

Flashback to present day…

 

“Yeah, thanks to you, Joe! I hope you enjoy your trip, you crazy SOB. I wish I had thought of this myself. I can work 12-hours days for two or three months straight just to get the next nine to ten months free. So, whatta you gonna do with all that free time?”

 

“I think I’m going to go to culinary school, maybe in Paris, maybe in Italy. All that time I was stuck in the office dealing with all that shit, I kept thinking about how all I wanted to do was cook, and maybe open a little restaurant someday. Well, some day is here, and I have some cash saved up. Next year, I’ll have some great new sausages to showcase.”

 

Ghost Rider – Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart June 28, 2010

In honour of an award-winning documentary having been released as well as a celebration of their nearly 40 years of seriously, awesomely cool music, I recommend this book to everyone. Written by the talented drummer/lyricist of legendary Canadian rock band RUSH, Neil Peart underwent a series of unspeakable tragedies-the loss of his daughter in a tragic car accident and then the death of his wife due to cancer and a broken heart almost a year later. He was left to contemplate whether or not he was interested in continuing to live, and if so, what that life would be like. I cannot even begin to imagine trying to come back from something like that, but Mr. Peart did find a way. Due to circumstances, the band was on a five-year hiatus. This memoir details those tragedies as well the way he found to cope. He hopped on his trusty BMW motorcycle and traveled over 55,000 miles from Quebec to Alaska to the Antarctic Circle down through the western parts of Canada and the United States into Mexico and further down into Central America. During his travels, he slowly came back to humanity and eventually found the photographer who was to become his second wife. He did return to continue his work with RUSH bandmates Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, releasing ‘Vapor Trails’ which featured several songs about his sojourn. The band returned to the road and ended that tour with three amazingly successful dates in Brazil, including one show performed for the largest audience ever in the band’s history.

Even if you don’t love this band and their music, you will love this book. Mr. Peart’s writing style is somewhat wry, but it is extremely descriptive and full of humour. As private a person as he is, he lets the reader into his psyche as he stuggles to cope with the events of his life. That storyline alone will touch the reader to the core. This book will also appeal to armchair travellers as well as motorcycle enthusiasts all over. Mr. Peart also has an insatiable interest in the world around him and constantly reads. He also recommends various books throughout this narrative-sort of like a book review within a book review. A plus is that he includes lyrics he has written and the band has recorded, some of which seem extremely applicable to his life even though they were written well before the tragedies. If you are a fan of this band, it is almost like a playlist in your head as you read the lyrical snippets. He also indirectly gives clues for areas to visit that are off the beaten track.

No one could ever completely get over the pain of losing one loved one, let alone two. However, he has managed to find a way to survive and even thrive. He and his new wife celebrated the birth of their daughter in August 2009. The band continues to record and tour. Neil, Alex and Geddy have continued to be honored and their strong friendship is evident in everything they do together. The life-affirming outcome alone is so worth reading this book.