Thursday, April 27, 2017

Opposing Points of View

I recently read "In Retrospect" by Robert McNamara. It was a little indulgent about the decisions that shaped policy during the Vietnam War. But, it was brutally honest about the lack of knowledge that informed those decisions. And it was almost rabid in its praise of the vocal and active protesters demanding attention.

In fact, McNamara was at the pentagon when it was besieged during the march on Washington. His account was centered around the people inside. Inside the pentagon, inside the bastions of government, inside the centers of power, and control. No matter what your opinion of Robert McNamara you can't deny his intelligence. He was a smart man.

Now I am reading "Armies of the Night" by Norman Mailer. A fictional account of the actual act of investing in the spirit of free speech, and besieging the very center of military power. History as a novel, The novel as history.

Mailer took part in the march on the capital. He was on the outside of the pentagon, outside the established order, outside of the boundaries of most middle. And his version of the happenings are from inside the movement itself. The struggles of all the giant egos, and the need for each to be heard above the din, the noise and chaos of protest. No matter what you think of Mailer, he could tell a story,

It is an odd twist watching from one side, then the other. and combining the power and anger, the rights and the needs. Seeing both sides makes it hard to focus, you see a lot more, but you don't see anything clearly.

I think more things in life should be viewed through those lenses. It might not be so easy, and it might make us see things that are uncomfortable, but that's ok, Maybe we all need to see a little more, and understand most things are a little fuzzy.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

What A Difference a Day Makes


Things in my life turn on a dime, let me tell you. I spent last night talking to a beautiful Italian woman, right up until last call, which took us both by surprise. What was more surprising was that she ran into me today and sat right down and the conversation picked up where it left off. Just friends mind you, but it feels good to look cool in front of everyone. Of course my sunburn that I acquired yesterday has taken on a less dark red today, but it’s obvious that this one will take a few days to bleed itself down to the nice dark amber I would prefer to be walking around with. I really am such a pasty white guy, whose entire face is accentuated with white stubble and a sunburn.

Now of course I didn't get the sunburn while I was wandering around the Turks in the pouring rain. It was still worth it because I got all kinds of great pictures of all the Apollo and NASA stuff, including the antique capsule above. For a laugh the township that we ported at is called "Cockburn" which after spending time wandering around the decks yesterday with my shirt off, is the only part of my body that isn't burned, thank goodness.

Talking to most of the people I have met on the boat, I appear to be one of the lucky ones who has a seat in the Villa Rosa dining room. It’s the smaller of the two and I have had no complaints. The Black Crab, which is the larger of the two has been nothing but complaints. As I had mentioned before the food and the company at my dining table has been top flight, and last night also came with a huge plate of calamari, which my Italian friend had mentioned was actually as good as I thought it was.

Tomorrow will be the last full day of my cruise and despite how miserable it has been at times, I will miss it when it is over. The real world really does suck worse than the worst day on the boat. Just cleaning up after myself in the real world is reason enough to want to just spend the rest of my life on a cruise. Of course I am still at the phase of my life where I will have to go to my actual job to get the actual paychecks that afford me these little jaunts now and then. In the end I’m sure that without having something mundane to compare the less than mundane too, it would all start to get boring.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Go Back to Europe MSC


I hate to say this but four days into this cruise and I can’t paint a happy picture on it any more. Am I enjoying myself? Yes. The real problem is it takes way too much work to enjoy yourself on this cruise. There are circumstances that are beyond the boats control. Horrible weather, horrible conditions, more than half the people on the boat are seasick. I am not one of them because I have had sea legs since I was two, but then there are the things that are just making it all worse. I seriously don’t know why the cruise company even bothers to run Caribbean cruises. It’s very unfortunate because I have talked to a lot of people who are on their first cruise and MSC might make it their last. Let me explain further.

The weather is horrible yes, the wind is incredible yes, but the company’s answer to this is to close off almost everything outside. Entire decks are roped off, and crew members are out there steering people away from, well, fun. If the sun does come up the one place that they allow you to enjoy it is elbow to elbow with people and a horrible experience unto itself. The entertainment on the ship has all the charm of a middle school talent show. A little bad opera here, some cheesy acrobatics there, a half assed rendition of a Queen song there. This is not how someone who saves all year for a vacation should be treated. It just isn’t, and you really start feeling like they don’t care.

A couple of things really kind of let me down over night and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, forcing me to stop playing nice. The “offshore excursions” in Puerto Rico got underway late. I can’t believe how unorganized these things are on this cruise, because you really have to put a lot of effort into finding out where to meet etc. After getting back on the boat I found out why the excursions were late. Someone lost their fingers last night when a door whipped back and sliced them off. The crew were being verbally ripped to shreds and they couldn’t disembark while this was going on, the reason being that had they called the Coast Guard after it happened they could have saved the person’s fingers. Since they waited to get to port they can’t. While they commit these safety (crimes if you ask me) brain farts they have closed off most of the boat (due to inadequate training if you ask me) in the name of safety. Really? If they are going to be this bad at cruises, they shouldn’t park the boat next to a Royal Caribbean ship, where we can all watch those guests having a great time. I wanted to stow away on that ship.

To top the whole junket (God a word with “junk” in it just seems to fit here) off, getting back on the boat, most of us soaked to the bone from all the rain, was such a chore. The line would have made the TSA jealous and they would just trail a rope across the line and reroute the pathway to the scanners with no warning. Trust me when you get to the front of the line twice just to have to start all over again it gets very frustrating. I finally ducked under the rope and the guy may have scolded me, but he did realize the line was going nowhere until I went through.  I was prepared to see if this ship had a brig but it is probably roped off. This of course coming from a person who has done more work than the crew to enjoy my trip. It better be sunny tomorrow, because the rain is turning this into a prison barge.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Good Life

Puerto Rico here I come. I sit here drinking my coffee Americano  (that’s how you order a normal coffee on a European ship based on an Italian theme) and when it is finished I will step off the boat and take the only excursion I booked for the entire trip. It will mold my three favorite things, walking, coffee and taking a lot of pictures of local stuffs. It is a historic coffee tour of San Juan which will take you throughout the cobblestone streets and take you to many a historical site, statue and of course coffee house. I will learn the perfect cafĂ© leche from barristas who make art with their cups. Both drawn in milk and made by hand. I have been looking forward to this for several months. I look forward to taking hundreds of pictures without anyone being humiliated by it as well.

Needless to say I love taking pictures and I love coffee. I’m sure I made that clear but the added bonus of a walk in the sun makes it perfect. To describe that picture above a little better, the hole on that cup is too small for any of my fingers, but it is strong coffee. It’s an Americano because of the way it is served but it is still an Italian roast (espresso beans) brewed like normal coffee American style. That square chocolate  mint is supposed to be dropped in and stirred into the coffee, but I prefer to just eat it when I am done. Tomorrow or tonight who knows, I should have plenty to say about Puerto Rican coffee so stay tuned.

I have settled into being alone. I mind it a hell of a lot less than my history of being in love with love would portray. I have enjoyed being flirted with this entire cruise, and I have to admit that I have enjoyed the whole “not following up on it” attitude that I have acquired. I am after all a married man, despite what it may appear these days, and should anything go astray which it seems to weekly, I really enjoy my own company. I enjoy walking around in circles watching people, and I enjoy just laying in my adjustable bed watching Netflix alone. Scary thought but I am starting to not need anybody and perhaps it is the catalyst to not hating people as much as I have in the past. I need, I accept, I feel guilty, I feel trapped, I feel angry. I don’t need shit right now and I like it.

This isn’t to say that human interaction isn’t nice, but I have that. I go to work and I interact. I go to the assisted living facility my father is in and I interact. Hell there are more people I am not related to that look forward to seeing me there. Why not? I’m a nice person, even to that Yankees fan that lives there, but of course that is after the Red Sox won a few. The fact of the matter is there is a difference between being a human doing and a human being. As a human doing that’s all I ever did. I was doing and not being, and being is what levels me out. I just wish I had figured that out 20 years ago, but better late than never.

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Drink (Coffee), Therefore I Am

Again I sit in the coffee bar. Yesterday I managed to eclipse any walking climbing calorie killing record I have ever even factored. I walk around a lot looking at people and things, mostly people, and I also look at human nature. I judge, but I’m honest about it. I mean you have three types of people in this world.
  1. Those that openly judge and admit that it is part of life. This is after all how you grow as a human being. It’s dishonest to think that you were born with the knowledge of how not to be an asshole. You witness it, you are probably disgusted by it (or I guess some people embrace it and emulate it to be fair) and chose not to do it. That comes from judging folks.
  2. Those that refuse to judge no matter what. These are the wishy washy folks, doormats to coin a phrase. Those that are good at judging and have decided to embrace the asshole thing will usually find these people and muckle on to them because they make great co-conspirator, enablers if you will. These people are probably the actual cause of the world’s problems.
  3. Those that lie about being 1 or 2. They wonder why people ignore their opinions but that’s what you do with liars.
Now I of course am travelling on  a ship alone full of Europeans (the one reading over my shoulder right now is getting kind of pissed off because he know I am describing him, but it proves my favorite saying, more on that in a bit) which either makes me prey to bad behavior or a teacher of good. Yeah it makes me an asshole but I judge therefore I am. Now to my point, because I don’t care how people judge me (I’m an awesome dude after all), you are either impressed with what a great person I am or you are wrong. Either way it doesn’t effect me at all. My favorite saying which would have served the European guy (that has since moved to the other side of the table behind me so he can leer, fuck em) is “what is said about you behind your back is none of your damn business”

Number 2 and number 3 people are shaking their head now because they hate that concept. Number 1 people are thinking, “wow maybe that’s why I don’t give a crap and am generally a happy person” or perhaps “no shit Sherlock.” The European guy who has now since left would have been happier not reading over my shoulder or perhaps wouldn’t have taken the chair from my table without asking and not started my train of thought to read over my shoulder. His friend who told him he was an asshole for doing that could have read over my shoulder but never did and then again  I wasn’t talking about him until now. See how that works?

That picture to the left is a tiny martini glass and it was what I got when I asked for an ice coffee. If I actually had to pay for it I would have forked over a whopping 7$ for it. It was ice cold had a hint of chocolate and ground up coffee beans in it, and was without a doubt one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. I judge that to be a wonderful experience and I am happy that I was here for it. I’m going to have another one and then hit the gym for the second time today. Strangely enough I get along really really good with the European meat heads. Of course they all got a pretty good chuckle off of me when I learned the hard way that all of the weights are in kilograms and not pounds. When I grabbed weights that said 10 my ego struggled through 22lbs of 10kg and they knew exactly what it was. One guy who lightened the mood said “I chipped a tooth when I grabbed a 10 on a Carnival cruise and they meant pounds.”

My saying today is “ I don’t look a day over 47 and I actually am!”

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Class ... Class ...


“The second day of my summer vacation, I woke up. Then I went downtown, to look for a job. I couldn’t find a job so I hung out in front of the drugstore.” Tommy Chong

That famous line from the Cheech and Chong Classic “Sister Maria Elephont” runs through my mind as I sit here in the coffee bar typing away on my tablet rather than doing something vacation like or fun, or dare I say less normal than the normal me. It’s 11:30 on my birthday and a good example of how my day has gone is written on the face of my Samsung Fit. 68 Floors, 17,799 steps, 1954 calories burned. Yesterday when I went to bed the watch read 116 floors, 38,567 steps, 3001 calories burned. This after spending almost the entire day on airplanes and at airports. I guess I know why I lose weight on cruises. I already infiltrated all of the things I shouldn’t have on the very first night and that took me a few days on the last cruise. Now I need to settle in between the normal Jeremy and the vacation Jeremy.

Last night I already accidentally ended up in the private decks that are reserved for the high rollers. This is because a charming elderly couple who I met at LaGuardia who were really impressed at how well I dealt with drunk people (technically how calm and soothing I can be to them, including their son and his girlfriend, because I speak fluent drunken moron) thought I should hang out with them for a while in the Captains Club. For the record the coffee is better at the Gelato Bar I am sitting at right now. The American Lavazza has a nice bitter foam on it, but I digress. I then on my way back after giving a maid a lecture that I cleaned enough toilets as a janitor to earn the right to NOT be called sir, ended up learning the way to the staff deck where they all smoke the really good cigars that only the people who lived in Honduras know about. Well those that lived in Honduras, myself and a Canadian friend I made last night.

Now as I have eluded to I am sitting in a Gelato bar drinking a 5$ cup of coffee, the size of a thimble, and tapping away on a tablet. Don’t worry about my financials because my unlimited drink package covers these things as well as Gelato if I should want some of that later. They are both yummy actually. Of course the question now is what to do next? There isn’t any tanning going on today as I hoped because it is cloudy and the wind is out of control. I love that kind of wind so it isn’t exactly keeping me inside, just again, no tan. On the other hand for those of you who don’t understand the inner calm of writing let me explain it to you in real time terms. I just wrote a blog that means almost nothing. I am proud that I did it, my coffee is finished, and I am ready to take on the second half of my day. Put a price tag on that. Don’t judge ….

Now a little boring data for anyone who wonders. The food is wonderful. That’s the first thing you hear about any cruise. The gym is incredible. Far better than Carnival. The wind outside is 45 knots since I have talked about it. 1 knot equals 1.15 mph. That’s a lot. Most of the people on this cruise speak other languages but luckily I bungle my way through other languages better than most. There are 4 swimming pools and I have found 8 hot tubs so far but there are probably more. The fact that this cruise runs under 900$ for 8 days it is a bargain, and the entire ship, despite how gaudy it is has a 50s Sophia Lauren theme which is charming when you get used to it. Happy Birthday to me and it is time to get off my ass and add more floors, steps and calories before I hit the buffet. Tonight is suit and tie night and there may even be pictures. Then again there may not be.

Kawiddit

For all my ramblings over the years about how I would just like to be left alone, when I actually am left alone, I am rather confused. I basically spent the week alone, since my wife up and went to Kansas last Monday. It left me with a lot of time to think and not so much time to do it since I was planning my vacation to the Caribbean and somehow had to get from New Hampshire to Miami, then from the airport to the seaport, by myself. This doesn’t mean I am an invalid by any stretch of the imagination, but this was the first time in an awfully long time that I had to go from point A to point B with nobody waiting for me, with me, or joining me at any step of the trip. Seems pretty infantile, but I am forty seven today, and that was how I spent the last day of forty six.

Interesting times let me tell you, as I got to Manchester airport way too early. This is one of the things I do when left to my own devices, I get places way too early. I sat in the terminal for three hours wondering how long the battery on my tablet would last, since I will be watching a LOT of videos. The plane was on time, and despite purchasing the very last ticket for it, I was seated at a window instead of between two fat smelly people with space issues, which I expected. Of course the plane was small and you either got a window or an isle the whole way down. The front of the plane you got both. It was an easy flight and for that I appreciate it. When we landed at LaGuardia, I was like one of the elder statesmen, since I had flown into LaGuardia dozens of times as a child. People still are never ready for a very short landing strip and the sudden stop at the end.

Shockingly here I had another three hours to wait in an airport, and of course this one being in New York City and not Manchester New Hampshire, the character quota went through the roof. It’s like being in a Wal-Mart when all you have ever known is a Target. Being a non drinker I attracted all of the people who are shitfaced drunk at 8:30 am. I always say it is like someone allergic to cats, that always attract cats. You’d be surprised how many drunks there are at a New York City airport. Many of them were very attractive (even with the red wine stained teeth) and very young women. Needless to say the joke about waking up next to someone screaming works the other way around too, and that has kept me away from many a drunk woman, so that wasn’t a problem. The problem was that at least two of these women decided that I was their new companion. I found a deserted hallway between terminal C and terminal D to watch my downloaded episode of “Web of Lies” in peace, and didn’t see either of those two again until despite my window seat on the next flight guess who was in the two seats next to me? Ugh!

Noise cancelling head phones are a God send, especially when you are trying to watch your downloaded episode of “Arrow” and the smelly drunk girl next to you also snores like a smelly drunk girl. On a brighter note every time her head fell on my shoulder she wasn’t one of those drunks that will give you a black eye when she flails around so I let her have me as a pillow some of the time. The rest of the time I did have to use my new favorite word “Kawiddit!” Thank God I didn’t need to get up to pee, because I’m sure it would have caused a sky marshall style incident. The flight was also mercifully a half hour early, and my luggage was off the conveyor before my new friend even made it down to the conveyor. The uber driver showed up the second I walked outside the terminal, and I was on the MSC Divina before the time that my flight was even supposed to land. I breezed through the terminal, and found myself on the gaudiest, sparkliest, ship I had ever seen, in real life or in pictures, but that is ok. There is no place I would rather be right now.