Dateline: 23.16 17 Aug 1996
Location: Helsinki-Stockholm, m/s Viking Mariella

And they're off. The Viking Mariella departed the forlorn decks of Helsinki, a flock of squealing gulls diving into the whirlpools left in the wake of the ship. As the ship turned, one solitary whirlpool continued to spin, a white eye of foam staring out of the flat olive green sea. The shoreline, covered with mist, slowly receded into nebulous nothingness. The massive prow of the ship cut into the waves, neatly dissecting them so that the damage was minimal, picking up speed on its way to the sea and the great unknown. Alea jacta est - there is no turning back now.

It remains to be seen when I'll next have a meal like the one I had today. Swedish meatballs in cream sauce, green salad, half a bottle of red wine, mango sherbert in raspberry sauce with strawberries, kiwi and a slice of carambola on top... succulent, and I don't mean "like a cactus". Such opulent luxury has its price, of course; I ended up paying 64 FIM for the meal, over half my allotted daily budget. Plus the close to 300 FIM I paid for the cruise itself, and I've already gone thrice over my daily budget. Oh well, what the hell, you only live once and, since this is a vacation, might as well spend a day of it in hedonistic ecstasy. If such a term can be used when all elements of the fundamental trio "sex, drugs and techno" are missing... but friendship, alcohol and easy listening music will substitute in times of need.

Not only have I gone thrice over my financial limit, but my alcoholic limit as well, the remains of half a bottle of wine and 45 cl of beer percolating through my bloodstream as I write this. Not much effect remains, but it was intensely amusing to sit in the red-tinted Night Club (caps theirs, not mine) and watch as old-timers tangoed to the orchestra intoning hits of ths sixties. Ever heard "Shoop Shoop Shoop" in a Swedish accent? Quite an experience to live in pain, as somebody once said in a movie.

If nothing else, I've been lucky so far. And I really don't mean any applications of the laws of probability to the interconnected web we call Life, I mean the raw game of fortune as dispensed by the random circuits of RAY's poker machines. To date, with an initial investment of 3.00 FIM, I have earned a total of 14.00 FIM thanks to a flush and two pairs, augmented by two successfully pulled off double-or-nothings. A shot at the one-armed bandit then failed spectacularly with a loss of 1 mark, so I decided to call it quits while I was still at the lucky number of 13. Hey, my winnings almost paid for the beer I bought.

Forward ever, backward never. Tomorrow the authentic journey alone starts.

The day's budget
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