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’.

2 Responses to “SPRING BREAK!!!”

  1. Dave Pearce says:

    With all that great story-telling, what does it say about me that “the best Second City Cast” really stings…considering that was my ship, and Dennis and Kris (along with Massimo and Alesia…how come you haven’t mentioned them?) were there when I was.

    It says I’m self-absorbed…that’s what it says!

  2. Dan Hershfield says:

    For what it’s worth, I knew I’d have to mention that eventually but didn’t say anything for months and then tried to hide it in the middle of the world’s longest post, it having occurred to me that it might sting, as I am both self-absorbed AND neurotic!

    As for Massimo and Alesia content, while there have been some fun little moments here and there, it took Massimo breaking one of our feet to finally get him mentioned. I can only hope that isn’t why he did it…though I wouldn’t put it past him…no one can be that strong AND that nice…

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