Lately, newspaper mentioned cheap airfare. I’ve got to fly to St. Somewhere, I’m close to bodily harm…

That’s from Jimmy Buffett’s Boat Drinks, a song that instantly transports me to the land of sunshine, wind on the water, and a criminally under-developed sense of personal responsibility.  It wasn’t until we moved to Norway and experienced long northern European winters first-hand that I gained a full appreciation for “This mornin’, I shot six holes in my freezer.  I think I got cabin fever, somebody sound the alarm”.  The sun may not come out to play for weeks on end, only to suddenly pounce and sear the retinas like a Class 4 laser.  The oppressive cold seeps into your bones, until you scurry like startled cockroaches from errand to errand whenever you absolutely must go outside.  Nights at home are dominated by comfort food, couch-camping, and fervent worship of Television Almighty.  If the grocery stores should fail to open for two days, I fully expect my neighbors to enthusiastically take up canibalism.  Times like these, St. Anywhere would be a good alternative!  You study old vacation photographs obsessively, desperately trying to remember the taste of warm sunshine.  Holiday packages anywhere south of the equator get intense scrutiny, and your standards for personal safety plummet (sure, they call them “warlords”, but is it really worse than Jersey? ).  In the end, it becomes like most trying times: bear what you must, live in the moments cherishing the good times, and know that there’s a better day a-comin’.  The image below is one of those that are lovingly pressed to the heart…a warm summer day hiking above the Aurlandsfjorden in Norway, wonderful friends, and sunshine on my shoulder.  (18 August, 2011  Aurland, Norway)

It’s only half-past twelve, but I don’t care…

It’s five o’clock somewhere, according to Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett and probably this guy anchored out in front of the Oslo Opera House one sunny afternoon.  You may think, like I did, that the Jolly Roger he’s flying just below Norway’s flag is just another creation of Disney.  As it turns out, this is one case where Hollywood actually studied history rather than inventing it.  The “skull and crossbones on a black field” design actually dates as far back as 1687, and it was apparently widely used by pirates from that time forward to let their intended victims know that there was a new sheriff in town. The pirates hoped that by thus signaling their lawless intent they would bluff the hapless merchantmen into giving up without a fight.  If simply “showing the colors” didn’t work, they had another flag they would run up to reinforce the message…the red flag.  That second flag declared “…and we aren’t taking any prisoners if we have to fight you”.  The message must have been clearly understood in 1720 when a pirate sailed into harbor in Newfoundland flying the Jolly Roger, whereupon the crew of all 22 vessels at anchor abandoned ship in great haste!  Sometimes the simplest messages are the most effective.  (22 August, 2011 Oslo, Norway)

Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call…

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has had a fine run, despite being based on a Disney theme park ride.  Opening in 1967, the ride was the last one overseen by Walt Disney himself, further evidence of the man’s Midas touch.  Johnny Depp modelled his pirate character on a mixture of Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards and the cartoon skunk Pepé Le Pew, and Disney executives were initially confused as to whether he was supposed to be drunk or gay…but didn’t care for the performance either way.  Pirates are real, of course.  The heyday of piracy in the Caribbean was between 1650 and 1730, when the heady combination of distracting wars in Europe, out-of-work sailors, and easy pickings on the open seas led to open season on merchant shipping.  Life could be nasty, brutal, and short in those days, so the prospects of quick paydays and high living drew many to the trade.  The average sailor’s life expectancy at the time was about four years, and he could count on ending life shot, hanged, stabbed to death or drowned.  I say “he”, though history records a few ladies among the crew as well.  The mighty sailing man in the photo below was riding his bike along the wharf in Oslo one day, and I envied his comfort in his own skin.  The boy may have a future in front of the camera!  (2 September, 2011 Oslo, Norway)

Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call…

The Great Ocean Road is a 151-mile stretch of awesomeness on the south-eastern coast of Australia, starting near Melbourne in the town of Torquay.  Known as The Grotto, this little arch is only one of many spectacular sights along a road that simply drips with photo opportunities.  (30 March, 2011  Port Campbell, Victoria, Australia)