Archive for March, 2009

All Good Things…

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

So in all the excitement of writing about Evan’s visit, I forgot to mention that there was a toga party. Maybe because after all the excitement of Toga Keggers I-IV, regular toga parties have a hard time living up. At any rate, it happened, and I once again sported what I believe may be a Hershfield original, the poor man’s toga, in which you put one of your arms through the neckhole. Feel free to try it sometime when you’re laying around the house thinking “Man, I could sure be wearing a toga right now.” Just know that the shirt may not be the same.

So on the five-day, I ventured into Grand Cayman for the first time. It’s fairly crazy that I haven’t yet, but it’s our show day, so I like to be fresh, plus I heard it was kind of dull. And it was. But I did meet up with Mike and Megan at the Daily Grind (a good little place for all your internet needs), and we went for drinks. And now I can say I’ve been there, which is probably more than most of you can say.

Then St. Patty’s Day. Good times were had, green was worn. There was a Crew Party, nominally hosted by Second City, so we were working the bar. I did my shift with Mike, me opening Coronas as fast as I could, him making them green. (Though it must be said that many of them went out ungreened, as the crew is pretty international, and the rule seemed to be if you didn’t know what the holiday was, you wanted your beer normal.) My favorite decoration at the party was a Romanian leprechaun Rodney drew. For some reason, it was a vampire, and so I suggested the name St. Vladdy. It was so dubbed, hung on the wall for all to see, and Dragos (our local Romanian) went crazy for it and took several pictures with it.

Then in Cozumel, a group excursion. Rodney took four of us (no Nate) to La Choza, reputedly the best Mexican food around. This was a very big deal, because it was Rodney’s first time off the ship in about sixty days. I know. Don’t get me started.

At any rate, the food lived up to its advanced billing. The guacamole was holy moley, the tortilla soup was decadent joy, and we had fajitas as a group, which were delish. And Ashley played drums with the wandering mariachi band, which was very charming. The meal done, Rodney raced back to the comfort of the ship (not to leave again until we disembark, by the looks of things.) The rest of us went on to Playa Azur for lazy fun in the sun. All in all, a very nice day.

It was this night that I finalized my March Madness picks for a pool run by Allen Morrison. I essentially went with Obama’s picks, as he’s the decider and all, with a few variations of my own. My big success: for some reason, I had a feeling it would be a bad year for Mormons, and based on this, I went against Obama and successfully predicted two upsets, Texas A&M over Brigham Young and Arizona over Utah. My big failure: I went with Obama and picked Temple to win; Jo goes there and it sounds vaguely Jewish, and while these are positives in the grand scheme, I should have known they would not augur well for basketball success. And of course, I needed Duke to win to stay ahead of Simone Bailly, and they lost, giving her the well-earned right to be insufferable. For that reason, I suggest everyone call them “Douche” for the entire off-season. That’ll learn them.

The sea days were fairly unremarkable. I quite regrettably made what may have been the world’s first too-soon Natasha Richardson joke. Ashley and I have been, as all good Canadians do, yelling out “Canadian!” any time a Canadian celebrity is mentioned. And having only briefly scanned the Globe and Mail webpage over the few days preceding, all I knew was that she’d hurt herself on a bunny slope, so I’d presumed it was one of those typical ridiculous Canadian news stories where we make a huge deal out of anything that happens to a celebrity while within our borders. So anyway, we were at dinner, Nate says “Hey, did you hear about Natasha Richardson?” and I quickly blurt out “Injured in Canada!” Oy! The moral of the story, besides “Don’t be a sardonic asshole,” seems to be “Don’t do topical humour if you don’t know the topic.” Since I’m probably incapable of the former, I’m going to focus on the latter. (Or feel guilty; it comes pretty naturally.)

The other “event” of the sea days is I finally started taking advantage of the spa. After 10 p.m., the spa is open to crew only, so we can go down there and hot tub, sauna, steam, etc., all away from passengers’ prying eyes. On the one hand, I’m kind of an idiot for not having done this all along. On the other, I was somewhat consciously saving it, and I’m glad I did. I can tell it’s the kind of thing I would have tired of, but having saved it, it’s a fun little ritual that I’ll probably do every few days until we leave. I must say, nothing brings the mind into focus like going from the hot tub into the plunge pool (which is a nice cold, not a crazy ice cold.) And I should probably take a shvitz, if only because I like saying “shvitz.”

Then a pretty laid back day in Miami. I did manage to buy a pair of drumsticks, figuring to take advantage of having both a good teacher available in Rodney and regular access to a drum set in the Crew Bar. Thus far, I’ve only actually used the drum set once, but I’ve been puttering around in the room fairly often; my paradiddling is coming along nicely, thank you for asking. I also made a point of downloading a fair number of podcasts to while away the remaining hours: CBC Radio 3 for music (it’s an excellent podcast, enjoy it now before Stephen Harper successfully makes Canadian culture illegal), The Sound of Young America for my pop culture needs (thank you, Kevin Lee), and Stop Podcasting Yourself for the occasional sound of familiar voices. All good stuff thus far. I also procured some Gaelic Storm, who I missed during Ships ‘n Dip but everyone’s been raving about, and they have not disappointed. Check ‘em out, folks!

That night, dinner at Azura, where we were introduced to Serpe, a guest of Megan’s. (She is technically a Megan too, but due to our Megan’s seniority, she gets the last name treatment.) She’s delightful, and it’s been very enjoyable to watch the Megans finish each other’s thoughts the way old friends can.

The first sea day, we got a tour of the engine room. It was hot, it was loud, it was neato! I can’t say I know substantially more about how things work than when I went in (it was pretty loud), but what I did learn was fascinating, and the scale of the operation is impressive. To prove this, here is a picture:

Oh, and those are earplugs, though if you thought my ears were bleeding, you wouldn’t be far off.

The next day was Samana, where I did the Mangrove Exploration by Kayak excursion. It was one of those excursions where you feel like you’re being rushed the whole time, but I do like me some caves and mangroves. Of course, the rum was flowing pretty hard and heavy on the way back, which got the passengers all riled up and interfered with my well-intentioned plan to nod off. Ah well.

Then the shows, and a retreat to Crew Bar, where I suffered the first pangs of premature nostalgia. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to about coming home, but I am going to miss these people and this life. But ‘tis better to have lived and lost…

In Tortola, we once again faced the where-to-take-a-guest dilemma of Virgin Gorda vs. Brewer’s Bay, and once again, we opted for the latter. This time, there was not even an attempt at snorkeling, but the upside was that we had, for my first time this cruise, huge waves! Happy, happy, joy, joy! I don’t know if they were huge to wave-knowing folk, but well over our heads at any rate. I alternated between trying to stand up to them and trying to ride them, and both provided great entertainment. One particularly good wave drove me backwards, planting my shoulders into the sand ridge and flipping my body over, an experience that ended with the most public display of my junk since my bris. But damned if I didn’t keep going back for more.

We then retreated to Pusser’s for lunch, we being Megan, Serpe, Mike, and myself. I can’t say the food was bad, because it was certainly tasty, but Serpe bit into a chunk of wood in one of her conch fritters, and digestion problems from my curried chicken roti forced a fairly hasty retreat to the ship. A somewhat inauspicious end to one of my favorite ports, but oh, those waves!

That night, I ended up having an unintended dinner with JAR Fran, unintended in the sense that we both just happened to be at the Garden Café alone at the same time. It was interesting, because most of the people you meet on ships you only interact with in group settings, and it was fun because she’s young enough that you can actually track her growth as a person from when we first got onboard to now. As previously mentioned, nostalgia has kicked in.

In Antigua, I did a Kayak and Snorkel Adventure. The snorkeling was somewhat underwhelming, but fearing I might not get another chance, I polished off the remaining film on Evan’s underwater camera. (You’ll develop them and you’ll like it, Stinkpot!) And I did get a single kayak, which was fun.

In Barbados, I finally got an excursion that I’ve been signing up for for weeks, the trip to Harrison’s Cave. It was kind of sad to miss my last Boatyard (nostalgia!), but it was pretty spectacular. Here’s a picture:

Notes on the picture: I actually turned off the red-eye reduction just before this picture was taken, because it was taking too long for pictures of the cave itself, and then someone asked me if I wanted my picture taken. Murphy’s Law. And the drops all over my shirt that look like stains are actually from water dropping from the roof of the cave. So stop with the judging already. (Although if you were inclined to judge, you might notice that I need new shorts, as, since the weight loss, my shorts often tend to slip below my belt. I smell another shopping spree!)

That night, I discovered that the “four crew maximum can sit together in the Garden Café” rule was apparently being enforced. I mention it only because it’s irritating, especially with me being all nostalgic. Plus the rules don’t apply to Second City (as guest performers), but we count against other people. In other words, if there were four crew members eating together and I was to join them, they could lose their privileges but I wouldn’t. It seems silly to me, but no one’s putting me in charge of anything, and since I have nothing to lose, it’s not really my place to play Rosa Parks. But maybe Norma Rae…we’ll see if I can come up with a catchy protest slogan in time…

In St. Lucia, I did the Horseback Beach Adventure excursion. Somewhat disappointing, but hey, time on a horse! His name was Smoky, and his pace makes me think the name may be because of a pack-a-day habit. In case he finds himself missing me, here’s a picture to show him:

That night, we had our improv shows. They went pretty well: Mike picked me up and spun me around in a dance number for what may have been the last time (more on this later), and in what was generally a strong 1,001 Blanks for me, I found out the hard way that Canadians are apparently the only ones who use the phrase “homo milk.” Live and learn.

The next day, I was teaching the workshop with Nate (me leading, he had the previous one we did together.) I was waiting for him to show up, and he ended up arriving just before it was to start, delayed because Mike had apparently broken his foot (a self-diagnosis that was later confirmed.) He’d been playing soccer up on the sports deck when strong-man JAR Massimo stepped on his foot. It is a major bummer, of course, but Mike is handling it with usual aplomb, and we are waiting for Miami to get him to a hospital and find out exactly what the prognosis is. And on the plus side, if he was Smoky…

The workshop was fun. The new thing I introduced was Animal Characters, which there wasn’t much time for, but as with all the times we give passengers character exercises, there were big laughs, many of the horrified variety. But for my last workshop onboard, a fun one to go out on.

That night, I went out for drinks at Star Bar with Annelise, a JAR from France (ooh la la!) It was very nice, as I enjoy her company greatly, and what better way to ring in a birthday than dressed to the nines with a beautiful lady? That’s right, the big 3-2. I’m still not a big one for birthdays, as it seems to me that celebrating your birth is something best left to emperors and the like, but when on a cruise…Festivities planned for tonight include a group excursion to see Cirque Bijou, a sushi dinner, and a late-night improv jam. And at some point, I will hold my breath until someone peels me a grape.

And now, I leave you with some vaguely racist comments I heard passengers say over the last cruise:

In Samana: (to a guide who really didn’t) “Hey, you look like Barack Obama!”

In Barbados: (in response to a guide talking about the national sports of BARBADOS) “What about your bobsled team?”

In St. Lucia: (to a guide talking about school uniforms being mandatory throughout the country (and to be fair, this one may have been strictly ageist)): “I wish we had that. Maybe then we wouldn’t have the problems we have.”

Vive le difference!< >< ><–>


Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Before I get into the events of the last two weeks, there are two events I failed to report on around the time they happened, partially for reasons of propriety, partially because they weren’t actually that important. But since I keep reflecting back on them and giggling, I think they bear recounting:

First, there was a security training seminar that has stayed with me. It could have been five seconds long, since the entire lesson was “If you see someone suspicious, call security.” (I suppose technically there were some subsets to this, but lessons like “Don’t try to disarm a bomb on your own” could probably have gone without saying.) Now, I know I tend to be more irreverent than your average bear, but believe me when I tell you that whether it was in spite of or because of the subject matter, it was the most bizarre and hysterical Powerpoint presentation I’ve ever seen. There was the security officer pulling a prop gun on an audience member, there were sound effects between slides alternating between explosions and bullet ricochets (and once, for no apparent reason, a toilet flushing!), and one slide featuring the world’s most infamous bearded baddie spinning the world on his fingers like a Harlem Globetrotter. It was surreal, and it wasn’t until our cast got into the hallway and looked at each other that the laughter exploded and the tears started pouring down our faces. This is the stuff of memory.

Second, I had a great overheard. (Finally, something to say if I’m ever on “Stop Podcasting Yourself”!) A bunch of JARs were talking about how they hate the way they look in photographs, and one of them said “I make a pouty face when I’m being photographed, because when I smile, it makes my nose look wide.” Now, maybe you have to know the person who said it (and know that she’s ridiculously pretty and impossibly skinny), but it makes me laugh every time.

Thank you.

Now, the last two weeks started with a five-day cruise packed to the brim with spring break students. They were loud, they were drunk, and I spent most of the first sea day hiding from them in my room.

Then Grand Cayman, our show day. I was slightly anxious about the shows, because I knew the late one was being taped, and I’ve always had this weirdness about live shows being recorded, or anything being presented in a medium it wasn’t intended for. What can I say? I love neuroses! They’re like hobbies you don’t have to work on! (And actually, this being the third time I thought we were being taped, with one castmate requesting a second taping due to an unsatisfying performance the first time, and the man with the camera getting the wrong show time the second time, I’ve more or less been cured.  Nevertheless…)

This is all background to my being determined to have a good time in Grand Cayman. What happened instead is that I woke up at the crack of dawn only to find out after having gotten dressed and prepared that my excursion had been cancelled due to inclement weather. So I dragged myself back to bed and tossed and turned my way through some catch-up sleep. I puttered around for the rest of the day, and then we had our shows. And for the early show, for whatever reason, the crowd just didn’t seem to be on my side. I actually thought I was having a pretty good show, and I don’t think anyone who wasn’t familiar with how the show usually goes would pick up on anything, but it just didn’t seem like I had them the way I normally do. I was feeling pretty meh.

And then for the late show, with the bigger and younger crowd, I could do no wrong. I couldn’t feel a significant difference in my performance, and maybe there wasn’t one, but for whatever reason, I had them. Comedy: such a bizarre enterprise. And while I still am no fan of watching theatrical performance on film, I’m glad that the DVD I’ll have as a keepsake captured a well-received performance. Maybe something to show my kids when I’m a compromised old office worker, or my grandkids when I’m a crazy, old bigot. (Note: As far as I know, I’m not a bigot at present. But I’m sure most grandparents weren’t in their heyday either, and look what happens! Hmmm…alright, I may be an ageist…)

So after the show, we make our way up to the Spinnaker for the White Hot Party. And no sooner have we walked in then suddenly I’m flanked by a posse of blonde coeds telling me they loved the show and that I was their favorite. Now, throughout my time onboard, the odd passenger here and there has told me this, and it’s always nice. And as a group, we’ve had guest entertainers who’ve spent a lot of time on ships tell us that we’re the best Second City cast they’ve seen, which is even nicer. But to have a bunch of young ladies (did I mention they were blonde?) say that, well, I’d assumed I’d have to learn guitar if I ever wanted that to happen! Good thing I haven’t been wasting my time practicing! So I held court for awhile, in case it never happens again.

It was pleasant and weird. Pleird.

The next day was Cozumel, which was spent quite lowkey. It may have been my last snorkeling from No Name Bar, though, which would be kind of sad. Pretty, pretty fish. And that night, Ashley hosted a goodbye party for techie Luke and YC Milkshake, which ended up being a small, sitting-around-drinking type affair. It will mostly be remembered (at least by me, possibly by Ashley) for my saying “Oh, I’m so sorry I took the conversation about orangutan rape to a dark place!”

There was a context. You don’t need it.

The next night, our improv shows. Vaguely reminiscent of Vancouver, as they were younger, drunker and louder than we’ve been accustomed to. I personally really enjoyed performing for them, as, whatever other limitations they had, their energy was great. I also discovered early on that while they weren’t necessarily as worldly as you might think a college crowd would be, they enjoyed being made fun of for it. For instance, Megan and I were doing commentary for Slo-Mo Commentary, and she said “And there’s Sam Sheepard, not to be confused with Sam Shephard, the playwright,” and in the silent beat that followed, I added “Not by this crowd, no,” expecting to have them turn on me a little (in a good-natured way, of course), but it actually seemed to work.

I also had a very good moment doing Dream. The interviewee was hitting on Mike the whole time he was interviewing her, and she said as part of the interview that she was there because she had a thing for Nate. So at the point of the Dream sequence that she was out for dinner, I entered and said “Hi, I’m Dan. I’m the one in Second City you didn’t want to hit on.” And it killed. Got an applause break, it did.

And that was just the first show.

The second show was even crazier, and the nicest endorsement is that nearly all of the crowd from the first show stuck around for the second show. My personal highlight of the second show was actually setting up a scene. I was getting suggestions for Stage Directions / Blind Line, and no sooner had I sent the three of them out of the room then the crowd started catcalling me and yelling “You’re the sexiest!” Which, of course, I am, but who knew they’d recognize that?!? Then one guy yelled out “You’re bald, ” which gave me the opportunity to pull out an intentionally inane heckler’s retorts, in the proud tradition of Hank Kingsley.  I chose to bastardize Winston Churchill with “Yes, but in the morning, I’ll have hair, but you’ll still be drunk.” Oh, how they cheered!

Another highlight was Bar Pickup with Megan. Sadly, I don’t remember much of what was said, but suffice it to say, it’s a scene I love to do with Megan, and if you’re going to play an innuendo game, this is the crowd you’d want.

And to close out the night, my all-ladies fan club provided me with beers for the evening. Bud Lites, mind you, but actors can’t be choosers.

And that was the five-day. Then the much-anticipated nine-day, because my brother Evan was coming for his visit. For those who don’t know him, HE’S VERY CHARMING! For those who do know him, he’s alright. And though there was a not-insignificant part of me that would have been very happy to have a room to myself for a week, I was glad to have him here.

This is the only picture I took of him, as he was doing most of the photography for his time here, old-school photography, film and everything. So this is the only proof I have that he was here, and it pretty much sums up his first day onboard.

The first night was dinner with the cast at Azura. Some good instant bonding, and either no embarrassing information was exchanged in either direction or I’ve blocked it out. Either way, nothing to report. And that night, he experienced Crew Bar. I don’t remember anything particularly interesting happening, beyond performing a karaoke duet with Stacey from Shore Excursions to Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.” And drinking to the wee hours.

The sea day was mostly spent showing Evan around and trying to plan out the cruise. Of course, Evan and I planning together can be quite an exercise in frustration, as I tend to be an overpreparer and doublechecker (by his standards), while he tends to be an underpreparer and hope-that-somehow-everything-will-work-itself-outer (by my standards). But it being his vacation, I deferred to his stinkpottedness.
But I did manage to arrange a little something for us for Samana: I got us crew passage to Cayo Leventado, a private little beach island. We played in the ocean and laid in the sun and began his patches of sunburn. It was pretty impressive by the time all was said and done.
That night, we had our shows. They went pretty well, with the little stinkpot sitting in the front row for both. (For those who may think I’m being mean or repetitive, “Stinkpot” is one of Evan’s more endearing family nicknames. So calling him a stinkpot is more or less equivalent to saying he was acting like himself.) I threw in a little tribute to him into one of our scenes (basically a little impression of him, and his “Ooooooh…”) It worked pretty well, so I might have to keep it.
I also threw in a little tribute to Kris Geddie, yet another JAR leaving us too soon. In the scene where I get dragged across the stage in a drunken stupor, I normally sing “Band on the Run,” an homage to the show that precedes us by a night, usually drawing a laugh or two. This time, I did my best impression of his “We Are the Champions” from the same show, making sure to throw sufficient drunkenness into it (I am a pro, after all!) At Crew Bar that night, we had a lovely conversation comparing the darkness of Les Miz and Sweeney Todd, and he spilled a beer on me.
Also at Crew Bar that night, Evan met all the YCs, and they invited us to join them in their planned trip to Brewer’s Bay. Now, it had been my intention to take him to Virgin Gorda, but several people who had been to both persuaded me that the snorkeling at Brewer’s Bay was superior. Plus I hadn’t been there, it was far easier to get to, and, as previously mentioned, Evan has no interest in planning things. So that became our plan. Then Crew Bar closed, we ended up at a cabin party, not getting to bed until 3:30 in the morning. It was around this time that I realized my brother’s lifestyle would kill me, and indeed, as the cruise continued, I kept going to bed around 3:30 but he would routinely not show up until 5. Stinkpot.
So Tortola morning, we had a quick breakfast, sitting with new JAR Carly, Heather and her sister, who was also visiting at the time. In an odd bit of synergy, Heather had her parents onboard at the same time as I had my parents on, and then our younger siblings on for the same cruise as well. Heather and I also have birthdays within a couple days of each other, which are also almost exactly nine months after our mothers’ birthdays and our respective nations’ independence days. Probably best not to think too much about the last part, but still, synergy!
Moving on.
During breakfast, Carly introduced us to a game she invented, called something like Skittles War, where you mash up two Skittles against each other, and whichever one crumbles, you eat first. I mention it only because I said “It’s like a drinking game, but adorable!” and it was agreed this would make an excellent slogan, so if it ever gets marketed this way, I want my royalties. Come to think of it, I might have to invent some game just to match that slogan, because who wouldn’t buy a game with that slogan?!?
Then off to Brewer’s Bay. Alas, some of the good snorkeling was obscured by the waves kicking up sand, but we saw some pretty fun stuff, including a tortoise. (Or possibly a turtle. I defer to Evan’s call on the matter, plus he was rocking the underwater camera, so hopefully, we’ll be able to check later.) We must have had a good time, because we certainly had a long swim back in. Then some good lazing on the beach. I’ll miss the lazing.
I think Evan went off to see the show that night, while I deferred. (I believe it was the juggler. It’s a good show, but not one I need to see multiple times.) While he was there, I grabbed some snacks for us in anticipation of the midnight screening of Slumdog Millionaire. I happened to bump into Ashley there, and as I was leaving the crew store, I said “See you at the movies!” I didn’t remember what it was I was quoting, but she recognized it as a line from Summer School, and we ended up recreating half the movie. If there’s better company than the company of nerds, I’ve yet to find it.
So here are my thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire (with minor spoilers, skip the paragraph if you want to be completely untainted.) It was very good. Very. But I didn’t think it was great. Great movies I want to see over and over. This one didn’t inspire that. Dark Knight got screwed. But it was good. It also inspired my alter-ego, Dr. Insufferable McSmartypants, to emerge. First as a writer, because I knew thirty seconds into the film what the final question would be, and I was right. Second as a trivia nerd (memories of Pub Quiz, soaring with the Bald Egos), because I knew the right answer to the question before it was asked, and when someone in the theatre had the temerity to yell out “No” when he guessed correctly, I couldn’t help myself and yelled “Ummm, yes!” And then I reverted to Dan and felt silly for caring. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the doctor…
The next day, Evan and I did the Antigua Adventure Trek. It was our only official excursion, but a good one. After a scenic drive, there’s a series of ziplines, a two-hour hike (with people who clearly weren’t meant for two-hour hikes, but that could be a whole other post), a donkey (not officially part of the excursion, but on the side of the road at the hike; I took a picture of Evan and it, for which I’ve suggested a shared “What an ass!” thought bubble), a catamaran sail, some nice snorkeling, and then more time on the catamaran with a complimentary lunch and free drinks. Around the time of the meal, we met Karin and Catie, both on leave from Iraq. (I toyed with the idea of an exclamation point there, but I refrained lest it be politicized somehow…) They were very fun and nice, and obviously with a story or two to tell, and as we parted ways, I assumed we would exchange more pleasantries after our improv shows (which I always plug) and that would be that. Historically, that is what happens with these excursion encounters. This would turn out not to be the case here, but more on that later.
That night, we had dinner at Tango’s with the cast, where Nate shared with us his vocalized breathing story (I wouldn’t do it justice, but if you ever get the chance to ask him, you should) and the Americans shared with us cautionary tales of LA. Then we ran off to see guest comedian Ross Bennett, who, in an incredible coincidence, Evan had seen in NYC opening for Judah Friedlander. Craziness. And once again, my night ended at Crew Bar, while Evan was off with some passenger friends he had made. (Stinkpot.)
Then Barbados, which saw us sojourn to The Boatyard (apologies to Fiona, who has rightly pointed out that there are better places to go, but this is where the crew goes). I attempted the rope swing, but let go too early and so pretty much just went straight from the pier to the water. But it’s been done. Various football throwing sessions and laying about ensued. The memory highlight was time in the floating trampoline. I started off enjoying some jumping on my own, and shortly thereafter, Lindsay (Lady Bug) joined me, and pretty soon, the trampoline was packed. At its peak, Evan, our cast (minus Megan), various JARs and assorted YCs and crew were all piled in there.
With this large cast of characters, we started an homage to and parody of Spring Break! This was best epitomized by Ashley’s inspired chant, where she would call out “Spring Break!” and we’d respond “Date Rape!”  Then came the “Asshole Party”, consisting of everyone jumping up and down at once yelling “Asshole Party!” and trying to shake off people trying to get back into the trampoline. This evolved (well, devolved really) into a manpile wrestling match where you tried to throw other people over the side, mostly Dennis (a JAR acrobat, and thus ridiculously fit), while two Russians/Ukrainians tried to protect him. Barring prison or a major reawakening, that will probably live on as the gayest experience of my life, but damned if it wasn’t a barrelful of fun, and hey, we were showing off for girls, so that’s kind of straight, right?
Dinner that night ended up being with Dr. Kim, Annelise, Fran, and Dragos, so a pretty good cross-section of personnel for Evan to experience. I’ve gotten so used to it that it’s pretty fun when you realize that you’re sitting down with a group of people none of whom are from the same country and all of whom have just spent a day in a country that’s foreign to them. That doesn’t happen in the real world. Then of course late night drinking.
St. Lucia ended up being pretty dull. We slept in and didn’t end up getting off the ship (it was a tendering day). We spent the day engaged in just hanging out, with Evan making occasional runs to the casino. Then we had our shows. They were somewhat anticlimactic after the mayhem of the previous cruise, but still solid shows.
Karin and Catie were there, as expected, but as the post-show chat continued, something interesting happened. My conversation with Karin lasted longer than five minutes. And as it continued, Evan ran some interference, Heather came over so we could play the transparent but fun game of “show the girl you’re talking to she’s special by not being distracted by the other pretty girl,” and Mike came over to help out too, and as they were preparing to head out, came up with the brilliant stratagem of offering that if I went to spin class, they would come to the White Hot Party, which they accepted.
It’s true. It takes a village to help me flirt.
Then off to the Crew Bar. (Sadly, we’d lingered too long and missed Ross Bennett, who’d come to our show and had offered to buy us drinks. I can only hope he googles himself, sees this post, and understands.) I could probably stop mentioning these trips to Crew Bar, as every night that Evan was onboard had a trip there, but in the interests of journalism…
Then another sea day, which Evan and I spent hanging out and not doing much of anything. Over the cruise, we’d watched the complete series of Da Ali G Show together (booyakasha!), a few episodes of The Muppet Show (I think it holds up pretty well), and a few Second City revues (the big revelation among people we recognized would probably have to be Scott Adsit.) We also had some nice talks, as well as shithead musings (like how the song “You’re the Best Around” from Karate Kid is actually almost a putdown: “Well, you’re the best one here…”) Activities were fun, but I think these times were what I’m most grateful for.
At 5, as per my oral contract, I showed up for spin class and was greeted with a cheer. And in fact, apparently I’d been running late, and they’d held the class while Kevin (the instructor) had called my room. Under these circumstances, I did my first spinning class. It kind of kicked my ass, though I paced myself a little more than I had to, not knowing how long it was going to last. I don’t know if I’ll do it again, but I can see how people would get used to it. I confirmed the terms of the contract with the ladies and then hauled my carcass back to my room for a shower and shluffie.
That night, Evan and the cast returned to Azura. We were about halfway through appetizers, when we were unexpectedly joined by fitness instructor Kevin. He provided the entertainment for the latter half of the meal with a rant that was like Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a one-man version of Glengarry Glen Ross. Without sharing more details than that, know that it had me whinge-laughing on the inside.
Then the White Hot Party and more engrossing talk with Karin, where, in addition to continued finding out about each other and funny ha-has, the conversation was a cultural literacy marathon, covering literature, music, television and movies (plus the term “cultural literacy”!) It was one of those delightful chats where there was enough overlap to know that your tastes are aligned but enough difference for playful debate. (For instance, she thought Season Two was the best Buffy season, while I (rightly!) believe it was Season Three.) We also placed a $100 bet on whether “Once More With Feeling” was in Season Six (my position) or Season Five (hers); I haven’t technically checked yet, but I’m so right (if you don’t believe me, you can ask Dr. Insufferable McSmartypants). But all good things must come to an end, so good nights were exchanged, with an agreement to meet up at the late show of Cirque Bijou the next night.
Then, you guessed it, back to Crew Bar, and more hanging out with Evan and conversing in Evanese.
The next day, we did a reading of a script Megan has been working on with her writing partner. Two things I learned/relearned about my brother: he’s probably not meant to be a sight-reader and he’s certainly not meant to play a black woman. It was a delicate situation giving notes, because the “shit sandwich” method of critiquing, wherein you cushion criticism by giving praise on either side of it, might backfire if we ended up praising her partner and shitting on her. But we were pretty hard on her, and she took it like a champ. Or at least she didn’t have that battered look I used to get after notes sessions. I’m curious to try writing something with her, we’ll see if time is found before we part ways. (Though if not, the world’s a pretty small place now, what with the series of tubes and all…)
After that, I did some laundry, while Evan went to the early show of Cirque, having later dinner reservations at Cagney’s with Heather’s sister. (I wanted to take him, but Nate’s birthday was the next day and he wanted to go there, and I didn’t think my system would be able to handle two steak dinners in a row. As it turned out, it barely handled it one day in a row.) So I did some laundry, watched some TV, and then headed out for Cirque.
Of course, nearsighted idiot that I am, when the time came to find the girls at Cirque, I couldn’t. So I called their room, requested their company at Bar City afterwards, and hoped for the best. And indeed, they showed. Karin opened our conversation with a well-reasoned (though wrong) argument for why that Buffy episode had to be in Season Five, and I was so tickled, I ripped it up as delicately as I could. We talked into the relatively wee hours (we’re none of us kids anymore!), with the conversation including the military’s alternative to Lasik surgery (it’s apparently more permanent but sounds excruciating), and then we bid our fond farewells. I don’t know if our paths will cross again, but here’s hoping; we do have the appropriate contact info, plus Karin does owe me a $100. American.
Then (duh!) the Crew Bar, where I had to say my goodbye to Kris Geddie, another one I’m hoping paths will cross with again. Definitely for him, but also because he’s always either on a ship or in New York, so his paths are in fun places! Then my last night with Evan. Not too teary, what with me home in a few weeks, but still nice, and after he chastised me for not making more of an effort to secure his services as a wingman, we had some nice conversation as we drifted off into sleep
My time with Evan in Miami was a bit of a letdown, what with having to get him off the boat, our lack of planning, and fatigue, but it passed fairly quickly, and then he was running off to see The Watchmen. As mentioned previously, not too teary a goodbye, but he will be missed. He’s a good boy for a shithead.
And shortly after he departed, I bumped into Ian and Alice, which is always a nice treat. Ian and I are both preparing to write 30 Rock specs (admittedly, I’ve been preparing/procrastinating for ages), and we entered into an agreement to have something to show each other when next we’re in port together two weeks from now. And we will go to South Beach, with as many members of our two casts as we can muster. (It’s admittedly our penultimate Miami, with the last one being an airport day, so it’s very possible my cast will be otherwise engaged. But it’s something we’ve been threatening, and it’ll be our last chance, so fingers crossed.)
And that brings us to the end of the last cruise. I should have another post or two in me before coming home, and then the dilemma of whether to keep up the blog as a “civilian,” but in the meantime, chai days to go (the Hebrew “chai,” not the tea) before the live version of me reemerges, coming soon to a town near you! (Sooner to some towns than others, but hey, I wasn’t built in a day!)
p.s. Joe, in his time on land, apparently told ‘Now that’s how you wave a towel.’ I have yet to hear more details of how it went over, but that’s something, nu?
p.p.s. Alright, it’s less than “chai” days now, but it was true when I wrote it, so no saying “Continuity error! Continuity error! I reads the blog good!!” (That was for you, stinkpot. If you’ve read this far, which knowing you…)
p.p.p.s.  Evan was born nine months after New Years’.

The long March ahead?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Well, it finally happened: a couple days in a row of “Enough’s enough, time to go home.” Of course, I’d been warned extensively that this would happen, and it’s actually somewhat overdue from estimates I’d been given. And it’s also subsided, thank you for the concern. I’m definitely looking forward to home soon, but after a couple days of ugghiness, I’ve found renewed contentment with my life at sea. (Plus I cleverly saved Evan’s visit for late in my contract, so that by the time he leaves, I have less than three weeks left. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.)

The precursor for this was the email from Second City asking for info to arrange our flights home. Among other things, it got me thinking “Wow, that went really fast” and “Wow, I’m almost home,” and once those thoughts move from the back of the mind to the front, suddenly…days…go…really…slowly…

The first sign of malaise was very sudden: I was walking around the Garden Café at dinnertime, and realized there was nothing I wanted to eat. Now, I may be showing newfound restraint in my eating, but to not see something I want to eat at a buffet was a new and disturbing experience. Subsequent trips to the Excursions Escorts signup sheet and Jewelbusters also revealed to me that the best selections are behind me. This was of course done by design, and I have no regrets on that front; obviously, things sell out or are unavailable, so it made sense to snag all the things I was really excited about early. But it does mean that the times ahead will have a hard time living up to the times behind. (Plus all the things I miss about home are further away in reverse and tantalizingly close ahead.) That said, it only took a day or two to realize that there’s still tons to do, and not much time to do it in, so I should get my head out of the sand and…um…onto the sand. Plus we’re starting to get Spring Break crowds, so that should keep things interesting for awhile.

I also have to say that reading The Source really quickly may not be the most mentally healthy choice I’ve ever made. A good read to be sure, though I wasn’t a huge fan of the sections set in the “present” (1964), but reading historical fiction touching upon thousands of years of Jewish history can be pretty taxing. Unless you’re an anti-Semite, in which case, it’s the feel-good book of the year! Not only is the past bloody, but if you believe in patterns, we’re due. Not that I foresee any immediate (new) problems for the Jews, but as Stephen Harper’s railing against supposedly privileged gala-attending artists and Sarah Palin’s talk of “real Americans” demonstrate, there’s still political currency in attacks on the hypothetical elite Other, especially in times of economic downturn. And political diminishment. Both of which are coming quickly.

Which is all my way of saying I think I might hold off on reading Kasztner’s Train for awhile.


But enough of the life of the mind. Here’s how the nine days unfolded.

The first unusual thing to happen was the new band didn’t manage to get onboard in Miami, so the usual entertainment schedule had to be completely rearranged. For us, it meant doing the show a day early. It may have hurt us a little in terms of audience response, as the show requires a certain familiarity with ship life, but they went alright.

I decided to take advantage of our not having a show that night by doing an excursion in Samana, which I normally forego. It was a good plan, and might have been a good day had I not managed to sleep right through it. I was using my cellphone as an alarm clock, and neglected to lock in the time, so when we got close enough to port, my phone picked up the signal, adjusted the time, and skipped right over when my alarm was set for. Sigh. But we did all go for dinner at Azura, thus getting to have food that we normally don’t get access to, so it was like an excursion for my mouth.

Then we watched the Oscars. Admittedly, this is somewhat tempered by the fact I haven’t seen (or had a chance to see) most of the movies, but it was the general consensus among us that those Oscars sucked. So overproduced, with sweeps, pans, and cuts galore, all unnecessary. Especially during the “In Memoriam” section! And the MTV-style movie-year-in-review sequences were annoying. And it’s not Hugh Jackman’s fault, but no. And is it just me, or is it tasteless to still be cutting to Angelina Jolie when Jennifer Aniston’s presenting? (And on a personal note, a not small part of me wanted Heath Ledger’s family to open their remarks with “Why so serious?” Too soon, I admit, but hey, it’s one of the greatest lines from one of the greatest characters in movie history, so I say it works as a tribute. So there.) On the slightly positive side, the idea of having past winners present the acting awards was interesting and okay, and, admittedly without having seen many of the movies, it seemed that the awards were finding their way into the right hands. But overall, meh!

It did somewhat inspire the film nerd in me though, so I got organized and made little spreadsheets of DVDs to take out of Jewelbusters, and Second City revues to watch (there’s a fairly comprehensive collection on board for the cast.) For Second City revues, I picked a combination of ones with famous alums, ones with cast members recommended by the LA folks, and recent ones. For movies, I picked a combination of those that I really should see and those that I really shouldn’t see but kind of want to and would never pay money to see in the real world. Should make for an interesting month.

In Tortola, I just spent the day wandering around. It was nice and low-key, I saw the Prime Minister’s house and the yacht club, and think I gave myself sunstroke. In Antigua, I did the Prickly Pear Island Snorkel excursion, which was quite disappointing. I think I’d see more interesting wildlife snorkeling in your average public pool. Ah well.

The next day in Barbados, I saw online (and then received several emails telling me) that Steven Page had parted ways from the Barenaked Ladies. Which means we saw possibly among their last performances as the original group. Take that, fans! At any rate, I can’t help but feel partially responsible. As he was leaving the ship, Steven Page asked me for help with his bags, and I charmed my way out of it by saying “Hey, you’ve been carrying four guys for twenty years. I think you can handle a little luggage.” Who knew? Oh well, live and learn.

With the somber news still rattling around in my head, I headed out on the Atlantis Submarine Expedition. (I had wanted to go to Harrison’s Cave, but alas, it had sold out.) Some pretty things to be seen, true, but it lacked the intimacy of snorkeling. But another thing I can now say I’ve done, so ha ha!

That night, we had a crew party, which had a combination theme of Mardi Gras and Pirate Night. Second City was on the decorating committee, so after decorations were up, we had first crack at masks. I snagged a lion one that I was quite happy with in appearance, though it was hard to wear without getting fake fur in your mouth, and a small plastic severed pirate head, which I wore as something of a corsage. That’s how I roll.

In St. Lucia, my excursion didn’t happen, so I invented a Sleeping In Experience excursion that I quite enjoyed. We again took advantage of having a night off we don’t usually get (our improv shows were pushed back), this time at Tsar’s. Tasty tasty. Then off to see the retooled Country Gold (the JAR show I almost never go to), and it was much improved, in my humble opinion. Kudos, JARs!

And on the sea days, we hosted another improv jam, which was not as well attended, but pretty damn fun (hours of Blind Date, a variation on Interrogation), did our improv shows (looking forward to the kids getting here, we are), and caught Band on the Run, which was all the more memorable because it was the departing show for one of the dancers (Rhianna, we hardly knew ye!), and so we sat in the front row, with Mike wearing a green snowsuit and mullet wig. Quite droll!

As for Miami, pretty uneventful, though I chatted online with Greg, and saw (literally – closest we got was about fifty metres, but there was sign language) Ian and Alice, so I can report that the Toronto folk aboard and abroad are in fine fettle.

And in closing, here’s a line I came up with a couple of cruises ago during an improvisation of Bar Pick Up (I don’t call it a game out of respect to our producer Nate DuFort) that for some reason has stuck with me:

“You may be a stay-at-home mom, but that is one go-to-work ass.”

I intend to switch it to first-person and make it a t-shirt. Anyone who wishes to invest or purchase one, let me know. Anyone who doesn’t, well, feel free to give me money anyway. That’s how the internet works.

Signing off.

Proof that I’m as cute as a monkey but not quite as interesting as ruins…

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

(The sunset is as seen from the boat ride back to Cozumel, and is an homage to a Sunset Series from days of yore.)