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Berger’s Burg: Queens writer relates tale of the Suitcase-Monster

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We were preparing for a 17-day, three-hotel vacation in Orlando, Tampa and West...

By Alex Berger

I have a very heavy and burdensome tale to relate. I must be careful lest I once again put my “kishkes” in harm’s way recalling what I had gone through while on vacation.

We were preparing for a 17-day, three-hotel vacation in Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, Florida to visit relatives, friends and Mickey Mouse. For several years I had promised Gloria I would take her on a Panama Canal cruise. She suggested tacking on a 10-day Panama Canal cruise from Miami while we were still in Florida.

“No, no and no,” I said. “The vacation would be too long, the vacation would be too varied and, besides, carrying and schlepping the four suitcases you intend to fill may be detrimental to my health.”

Gloria then gave me an ultimatum: “The Panama Canal or no more lamb chops, endives and ice cream (my favorite meal).”

She hit me in the goombah with that one. So, being the good husband that I am, I decided that this year would definitely be a good time for the trip. We booked passage on “The Brilliance of the Seas,” a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

“I can’t wait to see your sister Florence and visit the Disney parks in Orlando, eat a steak dinner at the legendary Bern’s Steak House in Tampa and sail to the Panama Canal all during the same vacation,” Gloria gushed.

“Try to pack lightly,” I gushed back at her, remembering a previous trip when the only item she didn’t bring was the bell to our front door. My back is still bent over like a corkscrew.

“Don’t worry, Hub. I’ll do the best I can,” she said.

The next morning, the skies were dark and dreary, an ominous sign. Gloria and I had gone into a local discount store to buy a few incidentals for the trip. It was then that I saw the Suitcase-Monster. It was sitting in the corner of the luggage department squeezed between a counter for stomach relief products and a display of medicated body rubs.

The Suitcase-Monster was huge — gosh it was huge — and I laughingly said to Gloria, “Who in his right mind would ever buy such an ugly and gigantic monstrosity? This 800-pound gorilla rightfully belongs in the Museum of Satchel Horrors.”

Gloria paused, circled around The Thing several times, and her face brightened as she said, “Dear (she calls me that whenever she wants something), wouldn’t it be silly to pack four small suitcases when one large one will do? The convenience of carrying our luggage would be much easier for you. Let’s buy it.”

“Dreamboat (I call her that whenever she is about to do something silly), don’t you know that buying that hideous thing would be ludicrous? The weight of it alone would make Arnold Schwarzene­gger’s muscles sag. Look, I can hardly raise it off the floor now. Imagine how heavy it would be when you pack it.”

Gloria ignored my protestation and called a salesperson, who laboriously carried it to the cash register and, before I could stop it from happening, the Suitcase-Monster was mine.

As Gloria began filling this Grand Canyon of Luggage I ran to the nearest sports store to buy the strongest weight-lifting support gear I could find. In addition, I began fortifying my body with everything from vitamins, minerals and health supplements to oysters, spinach and, yes, even Viagra, to prepare for the gigantic task that lay ahead.

I also thought of bringing along a portable forklift, but Gloria put the kibosh on that idea. It was now up to me to carry this Queen Mary II of Satchels between and betwixt every single one of our many destinations.

My first obstacle was getting the load out my front door and into a taxi to take the three of us to JFK. I looked around for someone to help, but Muriel, our 86-year-old neighbor, was nowhere to be found. So I heaved and hoed the monster alone. My stomach muscles and arms stretched and my eyes popped but, miracle of miracles, I made it.

However, one taxi driver after another beat a hasty retreat after seeing the Monster. One even mumbled as he was driving off that he was going to quit the business. Finally, the fourth taxi driver arrived and, with the help of a huge tip placed in her sweaty palm, she lifted the zippered Whitestone Bridge into the trunk. Wow!

We arrived at the airport, and it took two luggage-handlers to get Monster to the airline counter. It was then left to poor Alex to lift it onto the luggage belt. I moaned, “I’ll never get through the vacation without getting six hernias.”

Our first stop was to see my sister Florence and visit Disney World where the monster would lie undisturbed in the trunk of our rented car. Upon our departure, I would secretly dump the Monster in Florence’s basement. By the time she would know it, we would be back home, too far for us to retrieve it.

Failure! Flo’s garage was already jammed with three cars. On our second stop to Disney World, I would enlist Goofy’s help to sneak the monster onto one of the roller coaster rides, and let it ride forever. But, alas and alack, Donald Duck got wind of the plans and informed Mickey. Failure again.

As the vacation continued, I concocted many other plans to ditch the Monster but each and every plan was thwarted. We then boarded the cruise ship. Gloria watched me like a hawk to prevent me from throwing the Monster overboard.

The captain’s voice crackled over the loud speaker that the notorious pirates Blonde Beard (the successor to Black Beard), Gray Beard (his grandfather) and Clean Shave have boarded and seized the ship. We should remain calm and, most importantly, the Bingo game would not be disturbed.

At dinner, Blonde Beard put a sword to our throats and demanded everyone’s valuables, or death. “Take my luggage,” I said. “It is filled with treasure from America (our dirty laundry).”

They took it and departed the ship as quickly as they had boarded it. We escaped with our lives, and I got rid of the Monster and lived to tell the tale.

Reach columnist Alex Berger at timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 140.

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