It’s all Happening at the Zoo

flamingo shadesSome cruises I’ve gone on were crazy fun from morning until night, like the one I went on 20 years ago with my sister Nan where she joked that we had to be careful about getting too much blood in our alcohol stream haha. 

This cruise that I’m on with my old man Dave hasn’t been like that, mostly  because on this cruise all I’ve been doing is getting a kick out of things generally and watching the people around us.

It’s been more fun  than a trip to the zoo, it really has, which is not to suggest I think I’m any better than everyone else, far from it. And I know that anyone looking at the two of us would say, “Why didn’t those two just stay home? They’re not doing the Macarena, they didn’t come to the bellyflop contest, they’re not wearing whimsical sunglasses with flamingoes sprouting from the frames, what is their deal?”

Our deal is that mostly we’ve been reading, reading, reading.

It’s been heaven. I see myself walking in the reflection of the gym at the ship’s tippety-top and think Who IS that lucky girl? but it’s me! It’s been like a dream is what it’s been like. More on what else I’ve seen later.  🙂

walking the deck



Golly Houston

The sand is gone from my bathing suit, the sunburn from my nose. I guess it’s time to stop talking about that lovely cruise I went on. It’s just that I found Hemingway was right about one thing: you DO see a thing more clearly when you’re away from it. He could see his boyhood in northern Michigan in Paris much more clearly than he could ever see it when he was actually there. In fact it took going to Paris and drinking the many drinks with comrades good and true who had seen war and knew that a man must …. (Ha ha, sorry. It’s hard for me not to parody the guy, especially where I just finished reading The Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of what it was like for his first spouse living. It was like living with a cad of the first order.

“Talk about a thing it and you’ll lose it,” he told somebody once. I was a new writer when I first came across this piece of advice I sensed the truth of it right away. I have always been sorry I didn’t come across it earlier in my life. I’m sorry I told even four people about the time I hunted down my father and sat with him for an hour in my 19th year. Now I can only remember the words I used in the telling and not the reality of the meeting.

If I had written about it maybe I would have described his hands and the way his hair went back in waves from his forehead which was high, like mine.

Instead the thing I sealed inside the melodramatic words of that college sophomore and I can’t get to it. It’s like when you make a document into a PDF. Kind of a mistake, you think to yourself after in that you can’t mess with it anymore.

I almost got to ride on the Shuttle years ago, meaning I was a National Semi-Finalist and one of the youngest and most idealistic of the thousands of journalists who entered that competition. It was cut short by the Challenger disaster though I’m aware that many young people out there don’t know what this disaster entailed.

I entered the contest because I knew NASA needed to sell the idea of space travel to the American taxpayer if it wanted to put anything up there, and they themselves told the society of professional journalists that they needed a wordsmith; that the astronauts themselves, were hopeless at conveying what saw from low earth orbit. The best they could so was say “Golly Houston,” on seeing our little blue earth blinking in and out of sunlight…

I can’t do much better when it comes to saying what this little boat ride was like.

All is a few pictures.

I look at them now: this one of Old Dave and me in the dining room.

And the one at the top where the ship itself looks like a baby whale.

And this super-short video of the surging deep. Ah, the briny deep, mother to us all.. Where are my fins? Why did we have to evolve?

It’s the People Watching



What I like best on any cruise is the people-watching.

Seeing the way folks lick their ice cream down for example.

I could watch that all day, and did in fact, since they serve ice cream all day long out by the pool on Deck 9.

Some eat it the way a cat would.

Others more puppy-style as in Down the hatch! in one quick gulp.

To me the people-watching is the best fun thing about all travel.

I remember being at Disney World one day when the weather was so hot Snow White was running sweat all down her back under that satiny costume.

We were tolling along the main drag trying to fight our way toward Space Mountain, that famous indoor ride with the twists and turns where we figured we could cool off anyway if we could ever get there and here came this red-faced father walking fast behind his ten-year-old son.

“Slow down!” he hollered at the boy. “I told you 50 times stop running ahead!”

The boy stopped, turned.

“Dad I’m not even walking fast,” he said.

“You shut your mouth or I’ll take off my belt!”

“Dad, you’re not wearing a belt.”


That’s some pretty good people watching, when you get to see someone make a jackass of himself in front of a hundred witnesses.

Of course it’s all much milder on a cruise ship. It’s more like being in a room with a lot of sleeping zoo animals. People sure look funny when they fall asleep with their mouths open!

We had the chance to watch a lot of people because we hung out on deck three where sooner or later everyone passes by on their way to the Casino or the Chapel, the Library or the Fun Shops.

The cabins are lovely, paneled in warm wood with balconies and ingeniously-designed little bathrooms where every surface sparkles and the towels are infinite in number and the water from your shower never ever slops onto the floor but still….

You want to have maximum fun on a cruise curl up in one of those window seats and watch the whole parade of humanity pass by.

It’s the Canterbury Tales all over again.

Here’s Nan doing that on our last cruise, book in hand.  

Drink and Get Diapered

There’s a jaunty amateurish quality to the daily announcements on board ship that made me smile every day on this last cruise. It’s as if they were written by people new to the language.

“Like money? Like to be Pampered?”  The author of these squibs wrote in one paragraph, capitalizing the verb form of the word ‘pamper’ as if it were a  proper noun; as if to say Here’s a nice kind of onboard fun: have someone diaper you!

It goes on: “Then then you’ll loooooove what we have in store for you.” (Yep: six o’s in the words ‘love.’) “Play 7 Huge (more upper case mania) games on one card giving away over $1,000. You couldn’t beat this deal if you tried, not that you’d want to!”

But …. you WOULD want to beat it if you could, wouldn’t you? Beat a good deal with a better deal. It doesn’t make sense but there is something sort of dear about it anyway.

Here’s another: “Step right up because we have all the lights, bells and buzzers to make you feel right at home! “ it says regarding a night at the casino I suppose.. But do we HAVE  lights bells and buzzers at home? Should we? What are we missing?

Ah but isn’t that the question at the root of all advertising. People can’t bear to think that they lack a thing that everyone else has. How else to account for all those Pet Rocks we bought a few decades ago?

I bought a few things: some cheap jewelry and a pretty satin evening bag… A Deep conditioning treatment at the salon in Deck Nine and about 35 glasses of wine… I’m not immune to suggestion, far from it.

Below a picture of the last time I was on a  ship as merry as this last one.

They had Toga Night and it was right there in the Daily announcement: No Sheet No Eat it said.. They even supplied us with the requisite linens.

Here are Old Dave and I with my Cousin Sheila and my sister Nan. We were all on this cruise too…   Looking at the four of us you have to wonder: can getting diapered be very far off?

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

Home Again Jiggity Jig (sigh)

Back to reality today and feeling just a little bit smug because with all the vice freely available on a cruise-ship I managed to indulge only in Sloth and Gluttony – and all right yes they are two of the Seven Deadly Sins, but look at all I DIDN’T do. I didn’t:

(1) Smoke, though smokers were everywhere.

(2) Drink – much. In fact the two of us ended up with a pretty tiny bar bill, especially compared to the one we  racked up a cruise we took 15 years ago with my sister and cousin and our six kids where we found out at voyage’s end that we had drunk the equivalent of a whole other passenger. This was MAYBE because we were younger and wilder ourselves but it was also because the kids were teens and that cruise line’s rules were lax and well how could WE know they were downing these tasty red drinks and charging them to their staterooms every night after Taps?

(3) Set so much as one foot in the brightly-throbbing casino. the-vice-deck

We’re just not gamblers, the two of us. We’re a couple of scholarship kids who just can’t bring ourselves to bet, though I do seem to remember that back when I met him in college Dave did gamble a bit. Mathy little guy that he was, he could count the cards almost a good as Rainman.

So what DID I do? Read. Napped. Spent hours on our stateroom balcony just looking, mesmerized, as that big old ship plunged tirelessly through the blue, blue water.


And oh yeah and I got me a haircut, done by Christopher Marks of Dundee Scotland and the Vidal Sassoon Academy in London:


so that now, instead of having out of style Linda-Evans-in-Dynasty hair:


Or my recent fave. the Fake-Hair-from-the-Mall-for-Weddings-and-Other-Special Occasions-Updo:


I now have whatever THIS is…


and am hoping that its short and sporty feel, together with a the fresh, cruise-induced determination to have more fun generally will bring a matching jauntiness to my whole life..

And NOW! To the foodstore for celery sticks and rice cakes!