THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 126

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 126

…The Coast Guard Cutter Monsoon is still 10 nautical miles away, so please be careful.

U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Monsoon – RaVell Fine Art Studio

— A needle in a haystack. That is an apt odds-against appraisal of Roy Crippen’s odds in locating either the helicopter or the boat carrying the McKinney boys. But Roy knows the Gulf like some people do their backyard pool, having seen it all in his fishing boat or 300 miles above aboard the International Space Station and now taking his sweet whirlybird up to its 4,000 foot ceiling for his best view. There are few boats less than 200 feet out in the northerly chop and most of the oil derricks have their crew choppers parked, waiting for the first shift to end, with the second shift still on the mainland.

“There has been a possible sighting, 120 miles due south of Biloxi Mississippi, by the Deep Water Neptune, a BP rig. They are being boarded by what they believe are pirates.”

Photo by eddiemcfish.

Pirates of the Caribbean, great, is the Black Pearl flying the Jolly Roger with Captain Jack Sparrow denuding them of their oil?” Every seafaring lad had seen those old Johnny Depp movies. “Did you say the Neptune; I think I know the day foreman there. Tell anyone who cares that I’m a 25 miles southeast and closing in.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Monsoon is still 10 nautical miles away, so please be careful.

Careful is the operative word, seeing that all he has for guns is an old Colt 45, given to him by his grandfather—

— A sizeable ship has docked alongside the Deep Water Neptune, without permission or explanation. If the crew suspects pirates, look for some armed resistance on their part. And had it been the ship alone, the rough and tumble brutes could hold their own. All three legs of the platform are secured.

The addition of an incoming helicopter tips the balance of power. Is it Rompin’ Roy and his six-shooter to the rescue?

Sadly no, it is not the square shooter from San Antonio and it is armed with a potent arsenal from which to subdue the rig. After strafing the deck, clearing it of resisters, the camouflaged war bird sets down with a resounding clumsy thud, plainly bottoming out, perhaps because the folks inside were in such a hurry.


THE RETURN TRIP

The Black Pearl from ANDONOV ART Fine Art / Photography

Episode 126


page 156

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 122

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 122

…The situation is fraught with tension, each and every passing minute brings new developments, like looking over the edge of a cliff…

Cliff Walk – Edge of Nowhere (Video Game)

As Roger pulls up, they pile everything into the back seat, “Take us back to the hotel.”

“You got it boss.”

“Francine will be staying behind… you are going to get me back to my helicopter!” —

Roger the Dodger

— Roger does not spare the horses, all 300 HP in his 1969 SS model that replaced his mini Honda Civic, to race headlong on to Montego Bay and Sangster International. Perhaps it was his police training, but no finer a display of cutting corners and ability to dodge slow traffic, hence his dodger moniker.

Image result for sangster international airport montego bay

It is a good thing his NASA-issued device is fully charged. He is in constant contact with the covert trifecta of CIA, FBI, and NSA, as well as an audio feed from JET {Joint Emergency Taskforce}, a cooperative agency whenever foreign nationals are involved.

“Radar has lost the two choppers that nabbed Samiq Gaad, somewhere over Honduras,” Braden King is monitoring what information Roy is getting, editing out conflicting reports, giving him the best guidance once he leaves Jamaica.

“I think two Navy F-77s are on their trail, their heading checks out on my navigation app.” He urges Roger to push it, counting on him to get to his hanger in one piece. “What is the deal with Afridi’s family?”

Silence… Nothing on the other end of the satellite connection. The situation is fraught with tension, each and every passing minute brings new developments, like looking over the edge of a cliff.

“Braden, are you there, your face is frozen on my end?”

“I’m sorry Roy, had to catch my breath, having trouble keeping up… Afridi took a few {bullets} from a known Talibanistani operative, we are told…the passengers subdued him, but they were at 38,000 feet and started to lose pressurization, pretty scary I guess. Afridi tells the US Marshall he has some more information to tell you, something about the Sang-Ashi probe. This Talibanistan/Korean connection is gaining traction with the Incident Audit folks,” Braden is like a juggler w/four balls in the air.

“Are you almost ready to get off the ground Roy? It looks like you were right about those Navy fighters… they shot down one Russki Chopper and have another grounded.”

“We are pulling up to Sangster now; my bird is fueled and ready to go!” Roger’s 300 hundred horses=60 miles in 30 minutes. “What’s with all these Mi-38s in our airspace? Should I get a heading for Honduras or what……?”

Again…


 

THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 122


page 151

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

…“We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone with an update, “And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

Image result for a problem artwork

Houston, We have a Problem by Dadara

Roy’s text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!

The details of which are just coming in:

***   Samiq Gaad {alias Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma} freed before being transferred to Washington D.C. — Two Mil Mi-38 Hind Russian Attack Helicopters headed south out of Houston — Possibly on way to Central or South America ***

***   Aldona Afridi critically wounded on a flight to Galveston from Turkey — Shooter apprehended by US Marshall aboard ***

 “We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone. “An hour ago 2 helicopters and a small army attacked the motorcade that was transporting Samiq Gaad to the CIA office in Dallas. They were able to free Gaad and take off to God knows where.”

“Who is Samiq Gaad?”

“He is the imposter you captured back at Gantry #2, you know hero stuff? You knew him as Gurkhas Dhangotma.”

“At least they got that straightened out.”

“On top of that, your friend Aldona Afridi was ambushed in the washroom on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A2100 in the middle of the Atlantic last night. The latest news about that is sketchy, but he was on his way for an interview at Lovell SC and he is still alive.”

“I asked him to come to LVC… I didn’t think he would get security clearance so quickly,” Roy is starting to feel guilty about his absence.

“And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

“I am on my way back to Houston,” he tells Braden.

After a few minutes of texting back and forth with the NSA, some of which is sorting the known facts from the suppositions, Roy makes his best judgment call.

“I heard your end of the conversation, just go,” Francine can tell that their fairy tale has come to a screeching halt.

“Are you alright with staying here? I do not want you in the line fire again.”

“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention. “You better give me updates when you can. I am going to book a commercial flight back to my apartment in Houston, but you can bet that I’ll be working the story on my end and see if I can track down some leads.”

“I will keep you in the loop Francine,” he gives her a huge reassuring kiss. “Just remember, I have that job for you when get back, so be ready to rock!”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 121


page 149

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Michael Jackson – The Thriller Handbook

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Thrilling Facts

About Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was a man known for many things, including his music, his pelvis-centric dance moves, and the fact he was able to wear a fedora without looking like an idiot. But a man as complex and unique as the King of Pop could never be summed up with a list of just three things. So here’s a list of 10, starting with …

 10. He Personally Leaked Some of the More Bizarre Stories About Himself

Jackson, in stark contrast with the innocent child-like persona he adopted in public, was a calculating and efficient self-promoter behind the scenes. For example, he is known to have leaked several stories about himself to the press to ensure he continued to receive column inches in the world’s papers when he wasn’t actively making music.

Stories known to have been planted by Jackson himself include the one about him sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to make himself look younger; the news that he’d made a bid to purchase the skeleton of John Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man; and the fact he shared his bathroom with his pet monkey, Bubbles. While these stories undoubtedly gave Jackson unprecedented levels of media coverage, it eventually backfired when the press simply began making stuff up themselves, much to his annoyance. When the British media began referring to Jackson as “Wacko Jacko” he made the conscious and probably wise decision to stop leaking false stories to the news about his personal life.

9. He Wrote All of His Songs With His Voice

Despite being credited as the sole writer on virtually his entire discography and having a hand in the composition of much of the music to his back catalogue of hits, Michael Jackson rather surprisingly had little affinity for music. By this we mean that although Jackson understood how to compose a song, he could neither play an instrument nor read sheet music. To get around this, Jackson would instead compose his songs entirely in his head and then “sing” them to session musicians while recording his albums.

To this end, Jackson carried around a tape recorder with him at all times, and when inspiration struck – whether it be a musical hook or a guitar riff – he’d sing it into the recorder or, in the event of a bassline, beatbox it. Jackson would then layer all these elements together to create what amounted to acapella versions of his songs. Notoriously secretive, few examples of these recordings exist with there being, to our knowledge at least, a single recording of Beat It in which you can hear Jackson demonstrate this. He also demonstrated the technique in court to shut down a plagiarism suit.

As an example of just how talented Jackson was at emulating the sounds of various instruments with his voice, musicians who worked with him reported that he could “sing” chords and layer his voice skillfully enough to eerily replicate an entire string section.

8. He was an Actual King

For a guy known worldwide as The King of Pop, it’s kind of weird that few people ever talk about that time in 1992 when Michael Jackson actually became a real king.

You see, in the early ’90s Jackson embarked on a tour of Africa, during which he encountered a small kingdom on the Ivory Coast called Sanwi. The people of Sanwi were enamored with Jackson and the tribal chief told him that mystics had foretold that the singer was actually a direct descendent of the Sanwi royal bloodline.

So in a small, but nonetheless extravagant ceremony, the nation crowned Jackson King (an official title he had to sign papers to confirm) and even allowed him to sit in a golden throne set aside for royalty. Jackson’s official title was later reduced to Crown Prince, and his kingly duties were taken up by another man, but he was for all intents and purposes considered genuine royalty from that point on. Sanwi even held a royal funeral for him and declared two days of mourning when he died.

As for why you’ve probably never heard this, Jackson simply never talked about it. In an interview with Ebony magazine in 1992, Jackson was humble about his new found status as a king, telling an interviewer asking how it felt to be a real king:

“I never try to think hard about it.”

7. He Earns More Money Dead Than We Will Alive

Now you’d think that being dead would, for most people, put an end to their ability to make money. Employers are notoriously picky when it comes to hiring people who aren’t alive. Michael Jackson is an apparent exception to this rule, being recognized as the highest earning dead celebrity, earning close to a billion dollars in 2016, more than seven years after his death.

Jackson’s ability to earn unbelievably fat stacks of cash despite the normally insurmountable hurdle of being dead is mainly due to sales and licensing of the vast catalogues of music he owned. Along with his estate owning the rights to his own hits and albums, which continue to make millions, Jackson also bought the rights to his favorite songs during his lifetime, so he earned money when people bought those albums, too (most famously, he bought the rights to the Beatles catalogue in 1985, though Sony has since acquired full ownership, including Jackson’s remaining 50% stake last year). We don’t know if that’s smart or just selfish, but either way we’re mad impressed that a skeleton earns more than us thanks to business decisions it made a decade ago. Speaking of Jackson’s skeleton …

6. His Death Broke Google

Like the Moon landing and losing your virginity, the death of Michael Jackson is an event where you remember exactly where you were when it happened. It was a global event that resulted in an almost immediate outpouring of grief. We say almost, of course, because people had to check Google to make sure the news was accurate.

That’s not us being facetious, by the way. According to stats released by Google themselves minutes after news of the singer’s death broke, so many millions of people tried to search his name that it brought the monolithic website to its knees. Yes, Michael Jackson’s death caused so many people to panic and google his name that it broke Google!

Then again, this is hardly surprising given that a few months before his death news of him touring again caused …

 5. People Scalped His Tickets (That Didn’t Exist Yet) for Hundreds on eBay

News of Michael Jackson’s death was partly shocking because it occurred just weeks before he was due to embark on what he insisted was his last ever set of concerts at the London O2 Arena. The aptly named This Is It concert was set to be the singer’s last hurrah, and consisted of 50 straight sold out shows at the same venue, with people flocking from across the world to see it.

Initially the concert only had 10 shows booked, but the instantaneous selling out of tickets and tidal wave of complaints the venue received for not having enough prompted Jackson to schedule 40 more, all of which, again, sold out minutes after tickets going live.

Demand for tickets was such that Jackson’s official website offered fans a chance to enter a pre-sale draw, essentially securing them a chance to purchase a ticket ahead of time so they wouldn’t have to sit on the ticket website the day they were announced and hit refresh over and over. The offer crashed the website, with a reported 16,000 people trying to apply for the draw every second for several hours.

This unprecedented level of enthusiasm saw people who managed to secure a place in the pre-sale draw able to sell their tickets (which didn’t exist yet) on eBay for upwards of $500 a piece. Then again, it’s not surprising people were so keen to see Jackson perform considering he once …

4. Danced the Moonwalk So Hard Fred Astaire Called to Congratulate Him

Though he didn’t necessarily invent the Moonwalk (the genesis of the move is traced back to dancer Cab Calloway, and is thought to have been perfected by mime Marcel Marceau), he is arguably the person who showed the world just how cool it could look to see a man effortlessly glide backwards like he was just pushed onto a greased air hockey table.

Jackson reportedly learned the move from a pair of dancers named Casper Candidate and Cooley Jaxson, whom he saw perform it on the show Soul Train while sporting dangerously awesome afros. Jackson perfected the dance move and debuted his enhanced version atMotown 25 to a visibly and audibly shocked crowd who couldn’t believe what in the hell they were seeing.

Sitting at home watching the show was an 84-year-old Fred Astaire who, upon seeing Jackson glide across the stage, picked up his phone and called him to gush over how amazing it was. Jackson, a massive fan of Astaire’s, fanboyed down the phone for several minutes before quickly rushing to a nearby bathroom and vomiting in excitement.

3. The Glove was to Hide a Skin Condition

Few artists have a “look” as well defined and iconic as Michael Jackson’s. Everything from his pimpin’ fedora to his needlessly high socks have become ingrained in pop-culture as integral parts of the Jackson mythos. Arguably his singular most defining item of clothing though was his single glove.

Custom made by the same guy who made the gloves for Kate Winslet in Titanic, Jackson’s sported many different styles of gloves over the years. While many assumed that glove was simply for style, because it admittedly does look pretty fly, according to those close to Jackson it was actually used to hide the early stages of vitiligo (a disease which caused the skin to change color and often starts with unsightly blotches on the hands and feet).

While this became somewhat unnecessary in later years as Jackson’s skin tone changed from a deep chocolate, to a creamy mocha, to that of anemic skim milk, the glove was nonetheless an important tool used by the singer to hide something he felt self-conscious about.

2. He Composed an Unknown Amount of the Soundtrack for Sonic 3

Released in 1994, many fans of the blue hedgehog consider Sonic 3 to be one of the best games in the series, partly because it lets you play as Knuckles and partly because that soundtrack though. Well for any fans of the game, you may be pleased to know that Michael Jackson had a hand in creating it, though exactly how much is hotly debated.

The story goes that during development, Sega brought in Jackson to compose the soundtrack for the game, a move that was seen as being in no way weird in the ’90s. Shortly after production on the game began, though, the first allegations of child abuse were leveled at Jackson, prompting Sega to distance themselves from the artist. Today the company denies Jackson had anything to do with the game or its music.

This doesn’t exactly fit with other reports, though, which claim that Jackson had a direct hand in creating a number of tracks for the game, but ultimately became frustrated with the limited range of the sound chip in the Sega Genesis, leaving the project of his own volition. As a result the extent of Jackson’s involvement with Sonic 3 isn’t clear, but for anyone curious, the songs often thought to be the ones most likely to have been composed by Jackson, at least in part, are Carnival Night Zone, Hydrocity Zone, and Ice Cap Zone.

1. He Promised to Write a No. 1 Single… for Bart Simpson

Michael Jackson was a massive fan of The Simpsons, famously lending his voice to the episode “Stark Raving Dad“, which features a man who delusionally thinks he’s Michael Jackson, voiced by… erm… Michael Jackson.

It’s noted that Jackson personally reached out to the staff of the show to ask for a bit part and took his role extremely seriously, taking part in line readings with the rest of the cast and refusing the use of a special trailer set aside for him. During his time with the Simpsons staff, Jackson explained to Matt Groening that Bart was his favorite character and that he wanted to write the troublesome 10 year old a number 1 hit single. Groening laughed, assuming Jackson was joking. He wasn’t joking.

 Jackson, true to his word, went home and composed the basic idea for the song, Do The Bartman, a rap single from the point of view of Bart Simpson. Due to contractual obligations with his label at the time, Jackson had to remain uncredited as a composer, but went against his label’s stipulations and performed back vocals to the track because it’s not like anyone was going to believe the King of Pop would slum it with the voice cast of cartoon. Jackson, seemingly just because he could, also got Bart to namedrop him in the song he was singing in for no apparent reason. Sadly for Jackson the song never became a number one hit in the US, only topping the charts in territories like Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Though that’s mostly because it was never actually released as a single in the States.

Michael Jackson

– The Thriller Handbook

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

…And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone…

Image result for lawrence welk bubbles

 

Today’s Episode brought to you by Lawrence Welk

— When sleep finally comes to her and him, it is deep and long.

In the dim light of day, Roy untangles an arm that has been wrapped around Francine like a twist tie and looks for his PDA to see if he had set the alarm. His device reads 9A which opposes the noon-like high blue sky. He chooses to trust the earlier time, so no need to rush cuddling time.

Tick-tock-tick-tock and ten o’clock causes him to stir. His restless movement alerts his bed-buddy, who prevents his escape by employing the old kiss-tummy-to-neck trick. It works.

“And where do you think you’re going mister?”

The acid test for beauty is the morning wake-up. Without makeup, jewelry and clothes or shower, contacts and hair gel, is the way God intended adult men & women to see each other. Francine is a solid A Image result for grade athrough Roy’s eyes and Roy rates an A-, because he sleeps like he is weightless {all over the place}, but that is why the king-sized bed was invented.

“We are burning daylight and we don’t want people to get the wrong impression.”

“We are on vacation, the rest of the world can be damned,” she brags, playfully running her fingers through the hair on his chest, yes chest. “How is it you are so tan?”

“I have a small boat on the Gulf; go out after Red Snapper and Groper on Saturdays.”

“Two aircraft and now a boat that I suspect is not a skiff. What else don’t I know about your life?”

“I play http://www.ExpertScrabble.com with Braden and I enjoy long walks in the desert.”

“And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone.”

“I also play tennis and golf and love God.”

“I adore tennis have taken a couple of golf lessons and a 38 footer stocked with bait ‘n beer is my idea of a great weekend.”

“That is God, tennis, and beer ‘n bait in that order. I drive up to Lakewood Church in Houston when I’m in Texas.”

“I’ve been there back in the Osteen days, but with my weekend schedule I have trouble squeezing in time for God.”

“And when you’ve been up in space, it is hard to think about anything else but
God.”

The more she learns about Roy Crippen the more she is impressed. She doubts that there is a more well-rounded man in the United States of America, and she is trapped on this deserted desert island with that very man—well not so deserted or arid.

 


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for deserted island artwork

Deserted Island by Jacek Yerka

Episode 115


page 142

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

…When in Rome… we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there…

Image result for when in rome do as the romans do

So it’s back down to the Silver Seas desk where Roy is given a key to 202. It is not as messy, but untouched by maids as well.

Image result for lucky number 3The third room is a charm; 303, third floor with three hours of daylight left.

“Lots of stairs. At least we won’t have need of the fitness room. It is probably a park bench and an iron pipe anyway. We’ll get all the exercise we need going back and forth to our room,” she consoles Roy who has been schlepping luggage alongside the porter.

He thanks the concierge. The concierge stands firm.

“You haven’t traveled lately have you……..he’s waiting for a tip.” She hands the young man a $10.

“Thank you preety ladie!”

“I guess your money spends better than mine.”Image result for going dutch cartoon

“We’re going Dutch right?”

“No. When in Rome….we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there.”

Once situated in the room, whose air conditioning struggles to keep up, Francine sets guidelines for cohabitation. “I don’t know about you, but I am not going to let modesty get in my way,” she unwraps her sundress, neatly folds it and places it on the bed like they were old marrieds. She slips on a nightshirt, sits next to him and says to him, “Let’s try out their room service. How about we order roast pigeon and fig leaves? That way we maybe we get lucky and get the chicken and salad instead.”

“So this is what Heaven is like, or are you just a dream?” He cannot believe how incredibly easy things are with this woman.

“I’m not a dream because dreams cannot do this,” she undoes his Windsor knot and unbuttons his shirt before he can say ‘no problem’.

… There are two less lonely people in the world tonight. —


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for third time

Third Time’s The Charm by blackxprince deviantart.com

Episode 114


page 140

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 112

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 112

…“My name eez Speedy and I weel be your driva for Blue Danube Tours…

Roy grabs the arm of a scurrying native, “Does this bus stop at the Silver Seas Resort?”

“Silva Seeze you bet mon, nice place to stay… where is your luggage?” The skinny Image result for jamaican man clipartbus driver, dressed in out-of-dated polyester pants and a long sleeve shirt is eager to leave.

Francine points to an equally underfed porter standing next to a dolly stacked to overflow.

“Poot dose on the trunk-truck, we got to go and you 2 come wit me.” The trunk-truck is to trail behind.

He escorts them to a Leyland Coach, vintage 1983 and still in service. It is filled to capacity and when Francine and Roy climb the steps, those already seated glare at them like they are holding up the show. The lady gets the jump seat; the gent is astride the entry stairs, for the two hour ride.

My name eez Speedy and I weel be your driva for Blue Danube Tours. Wen I call your names, pleez say “yo mon” in your best West Indies voice We dunt want to leev no one behind and want to drop you at the rite hotel.”

The grumbling from impatient, tired and hung-over Americans ranges from “I can’t understand him” to “I thought this was supposed to be a luxury motor coach”.

In the meantime, perhaps 20 minutes before the bus gets out of first gear, the trunk-truck has gone ahead, casting doubt that the travelers will see their luggage anytime soon. But when the diesel-powered bus makes forward progress, some of the trepidation is allayed. They were finally getting somewhere.

As they wind their way out of the airport compound and out into the erratically lit streets of Montego Bay, Speedy issues his first travel alert, “You weel noteec that I drive on de left side of da rode.”

It did not seem to matter which side he was supposed to drive on, for the roads were narrow and the bus takes up well over 50% of the available pocked pavement. The horn seems to be the most used device on any Jamaican vehicle, including the brakes. A staccato honking precedes every close encounter with oncoming cars and the entrance into every blind corner awaiting the brave traveler of the winding coastline highway.

Roy is intrigued by the excursion, but only because he has the best view. Everyone else has their eyes closed, petitioning their God for a safe vacation.

Francine chooses to keep her eyes closed as well, catching a timely nap, until being jolted to full consciousness by a sudden thud-thump-squeal-screech—–the telltale sounds and maneuvers that has made instant bacon out of an unfortunate jaywalking pig, belonging to a Jamaican family who prefers their pork stirred not flattened. They charge out of their windowless hut screaming at the sound of screeching tires and squealing pig.

 


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for jamaica

Episode 112


page 138

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