DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods, the Final Scene

Act III, Scene 1

Zeus:  Good Morning!  Thank you for tuning into Jagged Journeys on KVOO radio, the voice of Olympus.  I’m your host, Zeus, Greek god of sky and thunder.  On the air with me is Isis, my lovely Egyptian co-host.  Today is the grand finale of the Bill and Jane episode of our game and what a journey it has been!

Isis:  You are absolutely right, Zeus.  There are several gods and goddesses we have to thank for contributing to the success of this episode, but I think we should start with Mercury, because he selected these amazing players.

Zeus:  Yes, Isis, Mercury played an important role, but how did you like the storm I cooked up on their first day of travel?

Isis:  It was certainly something, Zeus.  It’s now almost two weeks later and New York is still trying to sort out the luggage.  It’s no wonder that you are the god of thunder; but you weren’t the only member of your family who made this game exciting – how about your wife, Hera?

Zeus:  She certainly made a difference.  Without her, the travelers might still be lost in Dusseldorf, but that’s ancient history now.  Why don’t we check in and see what’s happening with Bill and Jane.  Are they almost home, Mercury?

Mercury:  Yes, Zeus, our travelers are already in DFW airspace and Jane’s parents are waiting for them at the terminal.  This last leg of the flight has been most uneventful – a real yawner!

Isis:  But that’s been the exception rather than the rule; hasn’t it, Mercury?

Mercury:  Absolutely, Isis.  Even after they escaped from the consequences of Zeus’s storm and joined their friends in Germany, the trip continued to be a roller coaster.

Isis:  I remember when Bill and Jane arrived at the Kettler Hotel in Bad Laer.  They were so exhausted they were barely civil to the wedding party.  Even though they’d been trying to them reach for three days, all they could do was sit staring into space. They would have enjoyed some food from the buffet, but it had all been eaten.  Before too long, they went right up to their room and almost slept through the wedding.

Mercury:  Yes, they certainly would have if the groom had not come and knocked on the door.  Ludgar thought they might actually be sick.

Isis:  But they weren’t – only a bit worse for the wear.  Bill and Jane immediately jumped up and started getting ready, but very quickly found out they hadn’t packed the cufflinks and studs for Bill’s tux.

Mercury:  They lost a lot of points for that, too.  They were very irritable after sleeping so long and lost a lot of points for bickering.  This was a serious mistake after losing so many points for sleeping through the afternoon.  In fact, they lost so many points that they made the bride late for the wedding.  When they hit 498 points, Eris flew down and confused the driver of the bride’s car.  Even though everyone in the bride’s entourage saw the cathedral, they couldn’t figure out how to reach it.

Isis:  The bride saved the day.  They all got out and walked, leaving the cars to sort out the problem.  Things did go more smoothly after that.

Zeus:  You’re right Isis, for the first few days after the wedding it seemed as if the trip had turned into a real bore, but then Bill and Jane locked horns with The Couple from Hell.

Isis:  Actually they were from New York, but our contestants thought The Couple was sent from the devil – even though Lucifer certainly had nothing to do with it.  Remember the first time Bill and Jane noticed them.

Zeus:  Yes –initially, the couple from hell melted into the larger group of wedding guests – but as the days passed, more and more guests headed off with other agendas and the crowd dwindled down to our travelers, the newlyweds and The Couple From Hell.  That’s when they rode the cog wheel rails and cable cars up to the Zugspitze.

Mercury:  What a beautiful site that was!  Then the men decided to climb even higher than the observation deck to a shrine.  The Wife From Hell decided to go along, but she climbed the wrong way and had to be rescued.

Isis:  And it was Bill who rescued her, not her husband!

Mercury:  That’s right; and once again, Bill brought a lot of points to the board.  But that evening as they were looking for their hotel, The Couple From Hell nominated themselves as the official navigators and took everyone on quite a wild goose chase.  Somehow, Jane kept her mouth shut, but you could see how frustrated she was.

Zeus:  Yes, and The Couple from Hell insisted on holding on to their navigational position, but they weren’t exactly a pleasure to travel with.  If they’d been our players, this would’ve been a very different game, wouldn’t it Mercury? 

Mercury:  Absolutely, Zeus.  The husband loved spouting off about how capable he was at navigating, but never did take his turn driving – and that led to a completely different problem.  Didn’t it Isis?

Isis:  It did, Mercury.  Like school children on a bus, The Couple from Hell was jealous because they were stuck with the middle seat and didn’t get to sit in back.  They even complained to Tammy about it.

Mercury:  But, Bill and Jane had only been sitting in the back, to give The Couple from Hell a better seat.  Since The Couple from Hell didn’t appreciate it, our contestants were quick to move to the middle.  Then The Couple from Hell found out how hard it was to see out of the back and how uncomfortable it was.  Bill and Jane not only got points for cooperation, they got a better seat!

Zeus:  But they still had to put up with the hellish couple’s navigating.

Isis:  That is until Vienna, when Jane had finally had enough.  The entire group was on foot en route to a subway station.  Don’t you have that conversation cued up to play for our audience, Zeus?

Zeus:  Yes, I do.  The first man is the Hellish Husband, the second one is Ludgar and our audience should recognize Jane’s voice.

Hellish Husband:  OK, we continue on this street until we get to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Simply marvelous.  Isn’t this wonderful weather?  What do we do then?

Hellish Husband:  We’ll turn right and then it should only be a block to the underground station.

Ludgar:  I hope we find a place to eat when we get to the palace.  I’m a bit hungry.

Hellish Husband:  The lady at the hotel said there would be plenty of places to choose from.

Ludgar:  Hey, Jane!  Where are you going?

Jane:  This is Ringstrasse.

Hellish Husband:  No, this street is Joseph Something Street, we’re looking for Ringstrasse Street.

Jane:  No, you’re wrong!  The Ringstrasse is a series of streets – strasse – that make a ring around the city center, hence Ringstrasse.  The street has different names in different parts but it’s all The Ringstrasse.

Ludgar:  Are you sure about this Jane?

Jane:  Yes, I am.  This is not my first trip to Vienna.

Ludgar:  Come on guys, Jane thinks this is the way.

Hellish Husband:  We are supposed to go to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Jane, why don’t you come a few more blocks this way with us and if we don’t see Ringstrasse Street, then we can come back.

Jane:  You guys go ahead, I’ll wait right here, because this is Ringstrasse.  I’ve already made too many extra steps on this trip and I’m not going on another wild goose chase.

Ludgar:  Come on, Jane, we should stay together.

Jane:  And we should turn right here.  If you don’t believe me, since you speak German, ask one of the locals.

Isis:  So Ludgar spoke to someone in German and headed off in the direction Jane insisted they should go.  The Couple from Hell followed reluctantly.

Zeus:  Ugly Americans!

Mercury:  Zeus, Isis, the plane has landed.  Bill and Jane are headed towards the terminal.

Zeus:  Then we should hurry up and tell them about my second storm.

Isis:  OK, Zeus.  Up in the Alps after a nice al fresco lunch, the group heard bells ringing and asked the waiter what they signified.  The waiter told them the bells meant a storm was coming.  Since ancient time the people living in the mountains rang the bells for storms, because the mountains hid them.

Zeus:  I always thought that was a nice touch.  Tell everyone what happened then!

Isis:  Well, Zeus, then the group walked down the street a few blocks to a pastry shop for dessert.  A funny noise made them look outside and your storm was pouring down.

Zeus:  Yeah – grape to golfball sized hail filling the street curb to curb!

Isis:  It was very impressive, Zeus, but since you are only allowed to interrupt the trip once in a game, by the time they ate their dessert, you had to move the hail out of the area.

Zeus:  That’s right, but it was something wasn’t it?  So where are they now, Mercury?

Mercury:  They’ve just exited the doors of the terminal and Jane’s parents are waving like crazy.  Jane has gone up to her mother and given her a hug.  They are breaking the embrace now and I’m going to see if I can get close enough for you to hear what they say.

Jane’s mother:  I’m glad you are home.  Did you have a good time?

Jane:  We certainly did, but for a lot of the trip, we felt like we were tossed about at the whim of the gods.   

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Intro to At the Whim of the Gods

TRAVEL THERE: SOMETHING FUNNY HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING

1994 was a big year for me.

I got married in May and our honeymoon was a Hawaiian cruise. That should be enough to make any year big, but it was just the beginning of our adventures.

I had six weeks to update my passport with my new name, because Bill’s best friend was getting married in Wiesenkirche Zu Soest and we were on the guest list. We weren’t only on the guest list for the wedding, though. We were also invited along for the honeymoon.

The Way the World Was

Today life is framed by smartphones and social media, but in 1994 we somehow managed to live without either one. There was an internet, but we called it the web and it was just a place for nerds to go.

A computer with Windows and a mouse was a novelty, because most systems ran DOS. Our monitors were CRTs. People owned copiers, not printers, because printers were these loud dot matrix things that produced voluminous reports we called print-outs. We sent faxes, not emails, because email was also a novelty and texts weren’t a thing. (Watch the movie You’ve Got Mail.)

Every home had a land line, with multiple phones around the house and depended on an answering machine to get their messages. There were cellular phones, but they were very limited, because you actually subscribed to a particular set of cell towers. You actually had to pay extra to get Dallas-Ft. Worth service, instead of Dallas or Ft. Worth. When you got out of your cell, then you went on roaming which was astronomically expensive, so you just didn’t use it. There was no camera, no texting, no wi-fi, no internet. You just made and received calls. For all these reasons, there were more people with beepers than there were with cellphones and when you weren’t working, you left your beeper at home. Believe me, it was lovely.

When you traveled you used maps, atlases and travel guides, because GPS was something for pilots and the military. If you needed to make a call, you used a pay phone or you waited until you got to your hotel. Getting away from it all could actually be accomplished.

It Should Have Been a Breeze

I’ve been fortunate in my life. My vacations with Bill have been one Trip of a Lifetime after another – the Caribbean, Egypt, the Danube, the Mediterranean, cruises, road trips, you name it and I hadn’t exactly been sitting around on my keester before I met him.

Still, the itinerary for Tammy and Ludger’s wedding trip was like something out of a movie. Tammy was a flight attendant for an international airline, so all of our flights were comped. Ludger’s company owned the gorgeous hotel where the wedding party stayed, so our five star accommodations were comped. Limos were supposed to pick us up at one airport and whisk us to another, where we’d party in one of those restricted lounges. There would be days of rustic folk celebrations in Ludger’s small German village and the wedding would be in a spectacular cathedral. And that was just the beginning, because then we’d set out on a road trip to see the wonders of Bavaria.

But you know me! If something is going to go awry, then I’m probably on that train. Before this trip was over I would live some of the most spectacular moments of my life. It was remarkable in every possible way, but most remarkable and most frequently recounted is the disaster of a commute we made from DFW to the small town of Dortmund in Germany.

At the Whim of the Gods was Born

I turned these adventures into a manuscript sometime in the early 2000’s. I wasn’t sure then what I’d do with it. I just had the inspiration and went with it. I still had hopes of being the next Victoria Holt back in those days. At first I wrote it like a play, inspired by the Greater TUNA plays by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, which were popular at the time. Then, someone in a writing group said it would be more fun as a narrative. That captured my imagination and I did a rewrite. I had actually forgotten the rewrite until I was looking back in my files to retrieve the play.

I didn’t actually think I was going to be the next Victoria Holt. I just wanted to be a published author. I’d written a comic novel about a retirement home romance, but somewhere after the 50th rejection letter I found myself embroiled in the drama of being the primary caregiver for three failing senior citizens and I lost my momentum. Life went on and while I did manage to get some poems published, I’ve moved on to other dreams.

Now, I’ll share At the Whim of the Gods with you. I decided the narrative version is the more interesting of the two, even though it was never actually finished. Who knows, maybe I’ll get inspired again? Maybe I’ll finish it up by sharing the end of the play.

One small warning – there won’t be many images. Bill had his camera bag, but remember, these were the days before we had smartphones and we didn’t break out the camera for the small moments, or our meals, or much of anything, except the sites.

I’ll break the narrative down into easily digestible chunks and so you can enjoy it serially.

The Blurb on the Cover

If this story was on Amazon, there would be a paragraph to introduce it. It would go something like this:

What if the huge pantheon of gods from the ancient world are still with us? Since we stopped worshipping them, perhaps they’ve gotten a little bored. Taking a cue from humans, the gods and demi-gods watch reality shows on their scrying bowls. The favorite show might be Jagged Journeys, where human contestants have no idea they’re just entertainment fodder for Mount Olympus. Bill and Jane Sadek are real people who went on a real vacation in 1994. All these things actually happened to them. Was it just bad luck or were they AT THE WHIM OF THE GODS!

I really do hope you enjoy it. Come back next week for the first excerpt!