Friday, February 15, 2013
Cruise Me to the Other Side
I worked a cruise ship nine weeks in 1998. I really wanted the experience, one I’d heard about but never encountered. Ex DJ Larry Green was booking and looking, so he sold me on this scam. I won’t go into details other than pay didn’t add up in end and he wasn’t perfectly clear about the mental capacity of my lounge partner.
I was locked away with this Romanian diva who marched about like a perfumed duck giving orders and imposing her CD on every sap. We played the Midnight Lounge. She called me American shit - I her - Queen Warthog. To say I couldn’t feel the love would be me soft balling the insanity.
Every time we left port something broke down. We'd be crossing from Cartagena to Montego Bay and the engines would die. No air conditioning and after awhile a bouquet of ripe shit would sting the nostrils. I was cell bound two decks below with no windows. Once all air had been siphoned I'd slide into a panic, abandon room and run for the stairwell. I developed unexplainable anxiety attacks. I know this isn't something that happens to most but in light of this recent mess worth revisiting.
I loved sailing and lounging about the sun table near pool with the week's resident house comics, mostly Brits. If you ever sail as such insist on a cargo of Brits - they are clever, come with a wicked sense of humour and get every joke. They are also a pile of fun chatting back in forth on deck - Canadians not so much. They are pretty much like fallen lumber. Americans tan and complain.
There was this hilarious scene with this fire fighter from the Beaches in Toronto who invested himself in daily poolside trivia matches. The guy recognized me as music guy from a local jazz festival so he invented me as his new best friend. Not so fast dude.
El fire jerk took trivia seriously but never won. Most questions were slanted towards British history. So after a week-long losing streak he protests and ship entertainment acquiesce and throw in some solid Canadian questions. He hits sixteen out of twenty. Still loses but is feeling good about his chances. I tolerate the cluck until one of the band members from the show drops by and sits. El fire jerk interrogates. .. ‘Aren't you crew and prohibited from socializing with passengers’? I cover for the guy and say he's my friend. El fire jerk then asks why I'm allowed to sit at the same table as him. I explain I have status bestowed by the sea goddess Naomi that allows me to pick my cabin and toss anyone I feel annoyed with overboard. He doesn't buy so he slithers off to pursue the ship’s wizard then returns in a righteous huff and succeeds in getting all musicians banned from above deck except for me. Fire dude was pissed. I reminded him if I see him in the Beaches during jazz festival I'll have him tailed by a lunatic busker preferably a fire starter.
Nights on big sea were magnificent. I brought nothing but classics. 100 Years of Solitude, Lolita, Farewell to Arms. Nothing like sailing past Panama and Colombia reading Gabriel Marquez Garcia and in the distance the silhouette of a steam drenched mountain chain for background. This was one of the old ships built in 1975 that still had the fifth floor wood deck and antique Captain’s clock.
The Norwalk Virus is a fact. Listen up – you are likely to experience. I caught it and didn’t leave my room for two days until Costa Rica and even then there were still eggs hatching in me. I called home from an outdoor station with a hundred other locals standing in line under the most repressive heat since hell was announced and must say I gasped!
Back to the lounge. So after seven weeks of the Romanian Duck and her CD – which played exclusively in the lounge I dropped some Joni Mitchell singing –The Man I Love’ with Herbie Hancock. The Filipinos waiting tables and manning bar applauded. We all fell into an ecstatic period of relief, even porpoises which accompanied us from time to time sang tunefully. It was like a Disney movie when suddenly the beast of the Caribbean tank marches into room – stabs the CD player until Joni comes popping out - grips the recording and flings across the room. “Nobody sings in my room but me – do you understand?” It was if Satan had a master plan and was sticking to it.
I kept a log of all 64 days and reread at times and laugh my ass off. Six months later the wild and crazy Romanian and her husband cruise the Pacific when evidently the uncontrollable spouse commits a serious infraction and gets tossed onto some nearby vacant atoll and has to find a way home. Do I hear the Banana Boat song?
I thought about that and the many times he belly-lurched under the forbidden rope that kept lunch monkeys from stampeding before flag dropped and the fact he paraded his near exploding shirtless gut like it was fashioned by Fat Albert. He became the ship's twenty four hours a day stalking cartoon figure.