Archive for April, 2009

Freedom’s just another word for nowhere left to cruise

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Here’s hoping this post captures the spirit of the last week onboard, because I’ve been home for a few days now, and I’ve got to say that my time on the Jewel has taken on a dreamlike quality really fast.  It seems like an incredibly long time ago.  Strange.

We left off as I was about to head out to a birthday dinner.  I’d chosen Japanese, the basic idea being that it’s hard to get that oh-so-stuffed feeling eating Japanese food.  That theory was dramatically disproved.  It didn’t help that you ordered by the roll rather than the piece, and I think I was working on the assumption that a roll would be about three pieces and it turned out to be six.  Nevertheless, good times were had celebrating the symbolic escape from my mother, Megan gave me a nicely nerdy card (Admiral Nelson, hoorah!), and I pretended to be happy as I got cake.  (The thought was nice, but as we’d discovered from Nate’s earlier festivities, the birthday cake onboard is ass.)  I’m pretty sure I pulled it off.


Then the improv jam, which was short but fun, and we finally got Wendi out, which was key.  Then off to bed at an age-appropriate time, as there were doings planned for Miami.

Yes, after weeks of threatening and poor communication, I successfully coordinated a trip down to South Beach with Ian and Alice.  (Megan and Serpe joined us for the ride down, and there were plans to meet up with Megan later after Serpe had left for the airport, but that never happened.  But hey, this isn’t a story about NOT meeting up with people.)

It was very fun catching up with them and comparing notes.  In the last of my celebrity sightings, Ian and I believe we saw Moby sitting on a patio enjoying breakfast.  It really did look like him.  Of course, around the same time, there was a homeless man with a huge beard making his way down the street in a T-shirt that said ‘DJs for BJs,’ and that was pretty exciting too.

Ian and I sat down to breakfast, while Alice toddled off shopping.  It was noteworthy for two things (besides the excellent company, of course).  First, guacamole and eggs, together at last!  Second, I ordered the large orange juice, thinking that by ‘large,’ they meant ‘not small.’

And no, that’s not a trick of perspective.  It was bigger than my head.

After that, some nice walking around, seeing all the sights and shops.  Highlights included finding a bookstore (a rarity in Miami), having the Hagen-Dasz store equivalent of a Blizzard (how many opportunities will we have in a lifetime?), and Alice uncovering the fashion trend that’s likely to be sweeping all nations any day now.

Alas, our day was somewhat sullied by a torrential downpour which both made it hard to catch a cab and messed up traffic, such that our return to the ship was fairly plagued with anxiety.  But we said our goodbyes en route and then bolted as soon as we arrived, and all ended well.  (For me, at any rate.  I assume they got back on their ship!)

And just like that, we were on our last cruise!  Joining us for the festivities was Mike’s friend John, a nice addition to our merry band of goofballs.  Of course, my first two days were spent somewhat in solitude, as I had packing and organizing to tend to and was enjoying the privileges of having my own room for the first time in ages.  I’m sure I got out some, but as I’m drawing a blank on the details, I will assume it was just standard reverie.

Cozumel went like this.  I had picked the Deluxe Reef Snorkel excursion, because I’d heard (and somewhat experienced) that the snorkeling in Cozumel was great.  Mind you, the Palancar Reef was supposed to be the very best, but since Mike had has friend on, I went for second-best.  (Though Mike’s foot was indeed broken, he wanted to take his friend, and there was the free booze to consider.)  But there was good news when I got to the excursion meeting point: due to weather conditions, they had combined the excursions, so the three of us would be going together.  Sadly, this didn’t happen.  Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head, and Mike didn’t make it off the ship in time.

Here’s what happened:  As he tried to leave, when they swiped his card, it showed that he had an outstanding balance and couldn’t leave the ship.  Now, this was a pain-in-the-ass clerical error that all of Second City had dealt with over the preceding week.  We’d all set up automatic billing with our credit cards, but for whatever reason, they had us on manual.  For most of us, all this had cost us was a night’s drinking, and not even that, since we just bought for each other, and then we sorted it out the next day.  As it was, Mike probably would have been able to sort it out and get off in time, except in a perfect storm of suck, it was also the 31st, i.e. payday.  Thus the Finance office was a madhouse…a madhouse…Long story short, as John and I sailed away, beginning to bond, we saw the hopping of crutches along the pier.  Such is life.

The snorkeling was pretty nice, but what I will remember most is the vomiting.  Yes, after making it through the whole trip without motion sickness or alcohol poisoning, I combined a little of both and tossed chunks.  I didn’t have much to drink, just a beer and a margarita, but admittedly in the morning on an entirely empty stomach.  And while I was fine on the boat, it was actually while snorkeling that I became overcome with nausea.  By either law or policy, we had to wear life vests while in the water, and the waves were tossing me around pretty good.  (I know…”well!”  Poetic licence!)  I managed to make it back onto the boat, but had to take a knee, and just as we were approaching the beach dropoff, so long, beverages!  Ah well, as usual, vomiting took away the pain.  I subsequently fell asleep on a beach chair, luckily to be woken by people I’d met on the boat as it came to pick us up.

That night, one last group dinner at Azura (sadly, sans Ashley, but her, I’ll see more of, knock wood.)  A nice conversation, then assignments to prepare for drinking.  Megan was to fetch lime wedges and packets of salt (tequila!), I was to fetch more lime wedges (you can’t have too many!) and some cranberry juice for Nate, Nate went for beer, and John and Mike were to assemble the beer bong.  Adulthood!

This is what we looked like after a few pops:

And this is what we looked like after a few pops doing an impression of me drinking tequila:

And that’s the reason I could never be an alcoholic.

The more observant among you may notice that I’m in a T-shirt with some drool spots on it.  (The less but somewhat observant will notice that Mike is dressed like a Chippendales dancer.  He does that sometimes.  Otherwise the White Hot Party might end up just being a White Party, and no one wants that!)  The drool is actually beer, and it’s the result of me attempting to do a beer bong for the first time in my life.  Turns out I can’t.  I just ended up drinking a beer somewhat fast.  But points for trying, right?

Socially lubricated, we headed off to the White Hot Party.  Our last.  Assistant Cruise Director Richard called for a Second City vs. Cat’s Pyjamas showdown, and with Mike all on crutches, it was up to me to drop it like it was hot.  By which I mean a lot of Running Man and an occasional dummies’ version of Threading the Needle.  But I’m pretty sure the surprise factor was on our side, so I claim victory.  Eventually, we made our way to Crew Bar, and the night ended up with a party in Grant’s room, where the beer bong made the rounds.  I’m pretty glad I hit it early, because with the amount of sharing, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that someone ended up with face herpes.

Grand Cayman saw me take my very last excursion, and honoring proud Hershfield heritage, I went to the Turtle Farm.

Here’s me petting a turtle:

Here’s me holding a turtle:

And here’s something I saw getting off the tender boat that made the twelve-year-old in me giggle:

And if you don’t get it, you’re a healthier person than I, please don’t ask me to explain it.

And I reboarded knowing the next time I got off the ship, I’d be actually getting off the ship.

That night, we had our show.  It was very odd, because while it was our last, we’d also switched around some stuff because of Mike, so there was also new blocking and set changes and a few swapped parts to remember.  There were some fun adlibs (I slipped in an under-my-breath “At least I can walk” into Pictionary that got a nice response) and some slipups (I personally know I messed up Danube pretty badly), but it all ended with a very nice ovation, and with Alan and Carly sitting up front with a “We (Heart) Second City” sign, it ended well.  We all retreated to our rooms, cleaned ourselves up (I washed Mike’s spittle off my hand for one last time…I assume…), and made our way to Bar City for some fancy drinks and to bask in stardom.  Then it was off to a karaoke room with a motley cast, where highlights included Alan and Anthony’s take on Witchy Woman (oh so familiar, oh so hysterical), the Joy to The World and Backstreet’s Back videos (wow!), and the I Want to Dance With Somebody video, better known to our cast as the My Car video, bringing memories flooding back and bringing us pretty much full circle.

Then the sea day, mostly consumed with panic packing.  It wouldn’t have been so bad, but I was in the room with all the abandoned Second City junk from earlier casts, so I ended up having to deal with that.  A lot I threw out, things that seemed like people would want I left behind (like snorkels and a blender) and gave a head’s up to the entertainers staying behind to ransack the room.  I hope that worked out.  Other than that, the day passed fairly uneventfully, except for an encounter with a sailboat full of refugees.  We didn’t end up taking them on, as there was apparently a Coast Guard ship in the environs, but it was pretty exciting.

We then made our way to the last Cirque Bijou.  Going in, I was just expecting it to be one last time.  Little did I know that Massimo and Alesia had chosen that night to unveil all the new tricks and moves we’d seen them practicing.  It was pretty incredible.  Describing them in words wouldn’t do it justice, but let’s just say there was one position where she was the only one with feet on the ground; if you’ve seen them, you can imagine how KABLAMMIE! that is.

Alas, no final “Home Away From Home” for us, as we had to race up to our shows.  First show was a pretty lacklustre crowd, second show was better, and if not the best one to leave on, still pretty good.  And I hosted it, which was fun.  Then off to the Crew Bar, where we all said our goodbyes to everyone else.  Goodbyes on the road are always weird to me, because part of me assumes I’ll see everyone again eventually.  Or at least the people you’re supposed to.  So no big tears, but some nice hugs, and there’s always Facebook.

Then, after a few hours of pretending to sleep, it was disembarking time.  The procedure was actually fairly painless except for the brutal hour, and then it was goodbye to the cast.  Bigger hugs, slightly more wistfulness, but still, goodbyes on the road.  That said, they (we) were a great cast to work with, and I will miss things about all of them: Ashley’s infectious enthusiasm, Mike’s endearing protectiveness, Megan’s ability to surprise and entertain, Nate’s kindredness, and Rodney’s uniqueness (we’re all beautiful snowflakes, sure, but unless you’ve met Rodney, you haven’t met Rodney.)  Godspeed all.

Well, technically, I then split a cab with Mike to the airport, but we were both zombies (figurative zombies, Mike would kill me if I was a real zombie, and he gave me the book to prove it).  And we got split up when we got there, as he went through security (he’d done advanced check-in, so he wouldn’t have to deal with luggage) and I couldn’t.  Luckily, I bumped into Alina, a JAR heading home after a year (!) onboard, and we were able to kill some time together both in conversation and internetting.

I still had hopes of meeting up with Mike at his gate for a bit, but I had one of those classic airport security nightmares.  Normally, I try my darndest to be Zen about these things, well aware of the Catch-22 that while such a job should be held by someone with high intelligence and good social skills, a person with high intelligence and good social skills wouldn’t want it.  But this was a great one.

So I’m about to walk through to security.  Woman A stops me, sends me to Woman B.  Woman B says she doesn’t know what I’m talking about, sends me to Woman C.  Woman C is dealing with someone in front of me, then leaves through a security door.  Ten minutes pass, and she hasn’t come back.  The guy in front of me is flipping out, and leaves to go back to luggage check, never to be seen again.  I go back to Woman A and say that Woman C has taken off.  She sends me back to Woman B.  Woman B has me test the size of my bag, and it’s literally an inch too big.  I know this because she tells me to take out my laptop and when I do, it fits.  So then she sends me back to Woman C, because I guess I need to show her this.  I do, and she says that if my laptop is out, it counts as an extra piece of carry-on, and I can’t have that, I’ll need to go check it in, at a cost of $100.  I start to lose it slightly.  Woman B comes over and talks with Woman C for five minutes in Spanish.  Then Woman B looks at me and speaking to me like I’m an idiot says “Sir, you didn’t understand what I was saying.”  I reply “You told me to take my laptop out of my bag.”  She says “Yes.  Just the laptop.”  So apparently the problem was that if the laptop was in its carrying case, it was more carry-on.  If I just carried the actual laptop, it wasn’t.  What I thought but knew enough not to say was “Let me get this straight.  You’re making me carry my laptop in my hand, separate from my bag, to go through security, so that my bag will meet your size restrictions that have nothing to do with security, knowing full well that the second I’m through, the laptop will go back in my bag and thus be the one inch over again for the plane, which is the only reason you have the size restrictions in the first place, even though the whole debate is moot because my bag is only one inch over the limit and that clearly won’t interfere with it fitting in the overhead cabin anyway.”  I believe what I actually said was “Thank you.”  And humming ‘O Canada’ through gritted teeth to keep from primal screaming, I made my way through security and got to my gate about ten minutes before boarding.   And on the flight, I slept the sleep of the righteous.

Then I was home.  One crazy adventure down, several more to go.

Thanks to all who’ve been reading this crazy little blog o’ mine.  After some thought, I think I’ll try to keep it up, but as it may lose a little zip, I’ll understand if I lose a few of you (but who knows, maybe I’ll gain some, as people look for their names?)  I find the writing good practice, and the hope is it’ll force me to keep living an interesting life.  Or at the very least, keep reading good books and watching interesting TV.  That counts, right?

So for the record, I’m currently polishing off the last leg of my triathlon of obsession by reading Friday Night Lights.  So far, pretty great.  A lot of the football results and characters I’m already familiar with from the movie and interviews I’ve heard, but some of the details and the politics are incredible.  For me, literally incredible.  The schools in town didn’t get desegregated until the ’80s!  As for TV, I’ll be in catch-up mode for awhile.  I’m determined to not let it be my whole life, but there’s a lot to see.  I’m currently making popcorn and locking the doors for the following (in alphabetical order):

  • 30 Rock (Season 3)
  • Battlestar Galactica (Season 4, second half)
  • Being Erica (Season 1)
  • Damages (Season 2)
  • Dollhouse (Season 1)
  • Friday Night Lights (Season 3)
  • Metalocalypse (Seasons 1 & 2)
  • The Office (Season 5)
  • United States of Tara (Season 1)

Also, as they air:

  • In Treatment (Season 2)
  • The Ultimate Fighter (Season…I don’t know, a lot…)

So that’s my life for the next forever.  The good news is I won’t have to watch any bad TV.  The bad news is I may drown in my own drool.  (Plus something’s going to inevitably get ruined for me.  It’s pretty amazing BSG hasn’t been yet, but by the time I get through it, it will have become reasonable for people to assume that all fans would have seen it, so I won’t be able to get upset.  But if you’re reading this, keep your damn mouths shut!)  And of course, I’ve been out of the loop, so if there’s anything new you think I should be watching, let me know.

And that’s about it so far.  Taking it easy in my return to civilization.  Since I’ve been back, besides reuniting with the family and some friends, the big excitement has been finishing third in my March Madness pool, and behind two people so ridiculously good-looking that it’s unrealistic to ever imagine myself finishing ahead of them in anything, so really, I came in first!  How do you like dem apples?!?

Highlights ahead include finding an apartment, finding work, and finding Nemo.  (The last one is a joke, unless Nemo was a gefilte fish, in which case, all three are true.)  Will I succeed?  Stay tuned!

And because this was really intended to be a blog about life at sea, here are some pictures of St. Patty’s Day (I will most likely continue to post more pictures from the Jewel as they drift in, so for those of you who are all into continuity, I apologize.):

p.s. Is it just really late, or is that the best picture ever?

p.p.s.  Or both?

p.p.p.s.  This picture of me with Megan’s diorama is also pretty awesome.