Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 6

Day 7 – Tuesday August 9th, 2005 (At Sea)

Today is the fourth and final “at sea” days of our voyage as we make our way back to the Hawaiian Islands and ports of call. Not unlike any other day thus far on this trip, my day began before sunrise with a workout in the gym and on the track. After returning to the room and showering, Vickie went to Kid’s Crew while Lucy and I had breakfast, chilled out for a while, then went to a “Hawaiian Port and Shopping Presentation” in the Stardust lounge at 10:00am. The next three days would all be spent in ports on three different islands so this presentation would prove to be useful for planning the next three days (prior cruise experience was beneficial in helping me weed out the useful information from the subtle sales pitches).

Noon came fast as we dilly-dallied about the ship after the presentation and we headed up to get Victoria and then made our way to lunch where we tried to hold back just enough in preparation for the “Chocoholic Buffet” at 2:00pm (translation: lunch was only three courses instead of four or five today). After lunch, we hung out in the coffee bar where there is scenic seating, a library, internet café, and games available. Lucy and Victoria started on a jigsaw puzzle while I settled in to do some writing and every so often put my two cents into the puzzle. As the puzzle was about 80% complete, we begun to notice a line forming for the chocoholic buffet, which was in the four seasons restaurant just off to our right. Since our intent was to partake in this indulgence, we abandoned our spot in the coffee bar and the partially completed puzzle in favor of a spot behind some very talkative cruisers in line for some treats.

As 2:00 approached, the line had grown to a monstrous size as we all jockeyed for position to the entrance of the artistry, decadence, and gluttony of the NCL signature Chocoholic Buffet. The event was an unusual display of chocolate sculptures adorning buffet tables that were loaded with every type of chocolate treat imaginable. Dark chocolate covered granny smith apples, black & white mousse, chocolate (dark, milk, and white) dipped strawberries and bananas, chocolate cheesecake, petit fours, and so much more. There was so much chocolate in that room that the fumes alone were intoxicating. This was a wonderful treat, the pleasure of which will no doubt weigh on (pun intended) me during tomorrow’s early morning workout.

A walk around the deck, albeit briefer than necessary, helped to shift all that chocolate into the digestive system as we eventually made our way to the Observatory lounge for the Kid’s Crew talent show which featured a variety of performances across the age groups. The parents, myself included, enjoyed watching the kids have their shining moment performing for everyone; Victoria even managed to squeak out a small role in a group performance.

After the show, Victoria stood behind with Kid’s crew to gout for ice cream while Lucy and I enjoyed as little alone time before the 5:00pm pickup time floated in. After pickup, we all went down for showers and planned out our evening. We had decided to get Vickie some dinner from the Pizzeria buffet so that she can be fed before returning to the evening session of kid’s crew (we did a good job of shuffling her off to daycare today but she enjoyed it and we relished the extremely rare alone time).

Lucy and I headed off to the Stardust lounge for the 7:15pm performance by vocal impressionist Wes Epae. This was a Vegas style cabaret act featuring impressions of Elvis, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, and Frank Sinatra as well as an original comedy piece called “The Hawaiian Cowboy,” where Epae changes into a grass skirt, vest, a giant (I mean humongous) cowboy hat, and the other usual accoutrements associated with a cowboy. It was an entertaining show though not quite the caliber of the previous ones but fun none the less. Afterward, Lucy and I headed up to the observatory lounge where comic Tim Jones was hosting an open mike night called “Joker’s Wild.” This was an opportunity for cruisers to take the mike and tell a joke or funny story hoping for a laugh in return. I so desperately wanted to go up there but not knowing in advance about it left me unprepared and for some reason every funny thing I’ve ever heard or written seemed to have left my body at that moment – evidently, I should have had more alcohol in my system, that was clearly the mistake. It was fun to watch the others go up and some of the jokes/stories were even entertaining but our bellies were beginning to speak to us so Lucy and I left just as it was ending and headed over to the Terraces restaurant at about 8:45 for a late dinner.
As 10:00pm rolled on in, our dinner and our peace and quiet time came to an end as we picked up Vickie from daycare. There was some appeal to the late show in the Stardust lounge, which featured some more comedy but we opted instead to walk around and enjoy the beautiful breezes and the Pacific air before heading down to our stateroom this long, eventful day and evening at sea to rest in anticipation of the island of Kaui.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Where's the Beef?

This is mind-boggling to say the least. I scanned this directly out of the rag known as the Boston Herald...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 5

Day 6 – Monday August 8th, 2005 (At Sea)

Today begins the first of two more full days at sea and as usual, I was up in the gum, this time by 5:30am for a full hour of vigorous treadmill activity and then a slightly less vigorous wall on the outdoor track after retrieving (and eating) a banana form the “Jogger’s Breakfast Buffet” in the pizzeria on deck.

It was a pretty relaxing day as we dropped Victoria off at Kid’s Crew for 9:00am and then enjoyed an a la carte breakfast at the Terraces restaurant. I started off with a fruit platter then had a croissant and some oatmeal-something pancakes (I don’t recall the something ingredient though grains pops in to my head) washed down with some decaffeinated coffee and complemented with a lovely side of scotch kippered herring. Lucy thought the idea of fish at breakfast was nuts until she took a taste and ended up eating about half of the herring and onion that came along side of it.

After our meal we made a bee-line straight to a favorite veg-out spot at the rear of deck eight. The shady overhang, the assorted rumbles of the ship, the roar of the mighty Pacific (okay, not much of a roar, more of a purr but roar is far more dramatic/romantic), some reading, some writing, and of course some napping brought the noon hour peacefully upon us when we went to pick up Vickie and visited the Four Seasons for a mouth-watering meal, decadent dessert, and a vivid reminder that these wonderful several course meals will come to an end once back home, so I plan on enjoying them while I can.

After lunch Lucy hung out poolside catching some sun while supervising Vickie in the pool and I wandered off to the coffee lounge in search of some air conditioning, some alone time, and a diet sprite. Two out of three came easy but diet sprite was apparently a commodity for the time being so I settled for an Amstel Light instead – in a glass of course. After my beer I made a quick stop to let the ladies know where I was heading and then headed over to the other pool on deck 11 where round 2 of the Survivor games were about to begin featuring the two remaining teams from this past Saturday’s competition going head to head. “DJ Matt,” a high energy native of Canada hosted the event along with “Madge,” a colorful South African woman who complements Matt’s roar with a subtle, yet surprising wit.

The Survivor games were fun to watch as all four too place in the pool. As difficult as the games were, mother nature added to the mix as the rains came and went in quick, yet annoying spurts. Lucy and Vickie wandered over about half way through the games as they eventual ended having effectively entertained the crowd. Once the games were over, Vickie had taken ownership of the pool, Lucy took ownership of a poolside chair and some of the sunshine that managed to break through the rain clouds and I dutifully headed across the deck to the ice cream parlor for a cup full of chocolate and one full of macadamia nut ice cream. Lucy enjoyed the Macadamia nut and kindly offered me a taste while I took a spoon or three from the chocolate before using the remainder to coax Victoria out of the pool for a while.

We planned on catching the production show called “Country Gold” featuring the Jean Ann Ryan Company, the same group that performed Jump, Jive, and Wail the other night. With a 7:15pm show time, we left the pool area to clean up and head to the Stardust lounge in time for some of the warm up show, a performance by the Norwegian Wind Show Band.

Country Gold was an entertaining “high energy production show” celebrating popular country music. I happen to be a fan of country music and found the pairing of the music with the production numbers to be rather enjoyable. Victoria was once again hypnotized watching the show as the dancers captivated her attention. The show ended in time for us to make our 8:30 reservation at La Trattoria, the Italian restaurant that on this night was serving Mexican faire.

Dinner for me started with two appetizers, that’s right – two – a scallop and prawn seviche followed by a pork and chourico empanada. I skipped the soup and salad and went right to an entrée featuring Mexican barbecued spare ribs with a baked potato and plantains. Topping off this dining experience was a dessert called sopapillas, a lovely flaky pastry with powdered sugar and honey served with a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream (also drizzled with honey-YUM). Once more, and all together - - - Y U M M Y !!!

When dinner was over we spent a good amount of time walking off our meal then we found our way back to our stateroom where the girls opted for sleep while I decided to enjoy a bit of the nightlife. I ventured up to the observatory lounge to check out the “Country Night Party” featuring music by Jose and Patti along with some wacky line dancing shenanigans with the cruise director and her staff. Bad back or not, complete lack of required coordination or not, I simply refuse to line dance but I did enjoy watching the show, especially the “competition.”

During the electric slide, eight “finalists” were selected by the cruise director’s staff and were pitted against each other to determine the best line dancer in the group. After a teaser style beginning, all of the contestants were blindfolded to prevent “copying” of moves and were told that once dancing began, a tap on the shoulder indicated elimination. All but one very colorful, entertaining, and skilled young (but legal) lady exhibited her line dancing moves all over the floor and was led to believe that the competition was still going on for quite some time before being announced as the winner (deservedly so) and her blindfold removed when she was let in on the joke. It was one of those moments that after reflecting a bit on it was fun to witness but I sense in hindsight it was at least partly due to the context of the whole event and the fact that we were in the middle of the Pacific ocean. But I’m loose – as far as I am concerned, fun is fun regardless of how, where, or why. By the end of it all I was struggling to keep my eyes open and decided to call it a night just before the strike of midnight.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Which Swear (Curse) Word Are You?

Yet another online quiz opccupying time that I will never have back to let me know things about myself that I'd sometimes rather remain a mystery. In this case however, I am fascinated by the following result:

Your word is SHIT. You are laid back and relaxed,
and most people like you. You don't especially
want to stand out from the crowd, you are
pretty happy with your lot.

Which Swear (Curse) Word Are You?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 4

Day 5 – Sunday August 7th, 2005
(Fanning Island, the Republic of Kiribati)


Today was the first day of out trip that I “slept in;” of course, that is if you consider 7:00am sleeping in. Once awake, I headed up to the gym then down to the track for my daily workout and before I was ready to return to the room for a shower, the first sighting of land in more than two days invigorated my sense of adventure as today we set foot on Fanning Island located in a country that before this trip, I never knew existed – the Republic of Kiribati.

Once the ship dropped anchor, I noticed several of what I thought were just lifeboats hanging of the side of the ship above deck seven were being lowered into the ocean. In addition to lifeboats, the ship carries its own “tender boats” used to transport passengers from the anchor point to the pier. It was quite fascinating to watch the anchoring process and the lowering and preparation of the tender boats.

After some curious watching, I ran down for a shower then grabbed the family and headed to breakfast. A quick run to the stateroom to grab the camera, ID’s, and passports and then we boarded a tender boat. The ride was smoother than I expected based on my earlier observations when the water appeared far choppier. Our arrival at the Fanning Island pier was met with and odd mix of booths and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) staff and a group of island locals singing and playing percussion. In typical cruise ship fashion, there was a photographer ready to snap a photo of everyone landing on the island, this time with an island local man dressed in tribal gear. The photos would be made available later that evening on the ship for the insane price of $10.00 (I simply refuse to purchase these). The thing about this particular “photo trap” that was a real pisser is that about 100 feet away at the local village outdoor market (for lack of an official or better name) that was set up, there were several tribesman in full gear ready and willing to snap a picture with you and/or your family for a mere $2.00 donation to help support the island school.

The area surrounding the dock had pretty much been taken over by NCL. There was a volleyball court, a roped off area of ocean off the beachfront, a picnic area, the beginnings of what turned out to be a lunch time barbecue buffet, and several bar stands along with a restroom. Considering that we were on a remote island smack dab in the middle of nowhere that had no electricity or running water, my guess is that in exchange for whatever benefit the locals get as a result of the barrage of cruisers NCL brings here, they were more than willing to surrender this parcel of land.

Though bicycles were available for rent, I am the only one of us three that knows how to ride one and they were too big for Victoria anyway. So, we decided to check out the island on foot and headed down its only road – a dirt path about four or five feet wide. Almost immediately we entered one of several villages and observed the unimaginable living conditions. It reminded me of the way the contestants on the television show Survivor live but this was real life, and not nearly as luxurious. As I mentioned earlier, the island has no electricity and no running water – I briefly recall the rare occasions we are inconvenienced at home losing power or water for a few hours and completely lose our minds; these people never have those two things that every one of us back home takes for granted. It is obvious that the locals know when the ship will be on the island because almost on cue as we walked down the road we were approached by the children full of smiles, waves, and offers to sing a song (presumably in hopes of a reward).

As we proceeded down the road, we continued to observe the island and the natives in their surroundings and living conditions. Occasionally we would see one of the adults or older children transporting supplies, occasionally on bikes, ever so rarely on a motorized bike, supplies balanced skillfully as they made their way back to wherever they were going back to. It was surreal in a way to see one of the young boys scowl up a palm tree retrieving coconuts. That little guy could probably give a squirrel a run fro his money the way he climbed that tree.

I found it completely fascinated for some reason watching the dogs wandering around the island. There were a lot of “wild” dogs, many emaciated, some pregnant, with seemingly no domestic qualities (as we know them). They weren’t offended by our presence but they weren’t interested in it either but they were very aware of the fact that down by the pier there was food, so that is where many of them wandered in hopes of some food. Interestingly, unlike many poorly trained domestic dogs, these wild dogs at no point approached the food source directly nor did they approach any of the people eating or the tables, they simply wandered on the outskirts patiently awaiting an opportunity.

The sun was rather strong on this day and the farther we got onto the island, the more we regretted no bringing water with us. Though warm and sweaty, I still had plenty of fight to go on but I had Lucy and seven year old Victoria to consider. Aside from heat and thirst, there was the smaller legs that looked as if they were getting rubbery, so we made the decision to turn back because we had no idea how much was left to the island but the return trip was obviously predictable. The walk back gave us the opportunity to see many of the young children leaving the schoolhouse. As an educator, and someone passionate about education, this was both powerful and emotional to witness. Not unlike typical American children, many walk together in little groups and chat and sing along the way. Of course with a road filled with visitors, many were ready to perform and turn on the charm, again, clearly in hope of an offering.

As we got closer to our point of origin near the pier, I went to the first NCL bar stand available and hesitantly agreed to pay $3.00 each for two one liter bottle of Evian (yuck) that should have been far colder and much less Evian at that price. The cold watery fluid from Evian did help to re-hydrate our bodies and we found ourselves a shady spot to settle into at a picnic table. Soon after, Lucy headed over to the barbecue for a snack that she and Victoria shared while I decided to look through some of the pictures I snapped while walking the island and then tried to get a good picture of a nearby flower that I could not identify.

Vickie wanted some beach time after eating so she scurried off to play in the sand at the ocean’s edge and grabbed the unsuspecting ear of some poor adult who was just trying to chill out in the sunshine and instead got and earful (and more) of Victoria. That little girl can talk I tell ya and she sucks you in because she’s so darn cute.

Once we had our fill of Fanning Island, we got onto a tender boat and headed back to the Norwegian Wind. The ride back to the ship was quite choppy as the mighty Pacific insisted on reminding us of who’s the boss. The boat movement, reminiscent of a theme park ride, was frightening for Victoria and certainly felt far longer to her than it was. I was invigorated by the roar of the mighty ocean as her mist moistened my face and bounced our boat back to our ship.

Once onboard we spent a short time relaxing before a late lunch. We strolled the ship for a while to walk off lunch and then kicked back for some more rest and relaxation (after all, this is a vacation). Victoria, who won’t let a day go by without some pool time, got her wish while Lucy and I hung out poolside sipping on diet Sprite while soaking up sunshine on this sunny Sunday afternoon. As the late afternoon drifted into early evening, it was nearing the time to consider the activities ahead for this evening.

We got the night kicked off with Jose and Patti in the Observatory lounge and later headed down to the Stardust for a show featuring the “Hip-Hop Comedy” of Alfred and Seymour. This show was bust-a-gut funny that had me laughing so hard and so much that it was affecting my bad back. After the show, we stood behind so that Vickie could get an autographed 8x10 (complements of Alfred and Seymour) and then we headed off to the Terraces restaurant for an exquisite dinner. Our night ended with a little night time walk around the ship and then we all retired to our stateroom.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bookshelf

Sam Allis, Columnsist for the Boston Globe, tends to touch on topics that I've had conversations and exchanged opinions about. Last Friday I had a chat with Nancy at work about books. More specifically, the idea of getting rid of books when they begin to overtake and overwhelm the living space. I have come to terms with this "letting go" but her feeling is far different (perhaps it is linked to the fact that she is a librarian). Nancy pretty much keeps every book she buys. Me on the other hand, I have "X" amount of bookshelf space and am at this point no longer willing to allow any book to occupy any additional space than that in which "X" covers. Therefore, each time I actually buy (or receive) a book, I must make the decision as the whether it will remain in my custody or be passed on. If I decide it will remain, then one of the others currently living in space "X" must move along to a new home.

Anyway, Sam Allis wrote a really neat piece on the topic of books this past Sunday and while from a somewhat different perspective, it touches on the same issue and is a really good read. Here is the article:

Letting go
Shedding books clears out the soul and shelves
By Sam Allis, Globe Columnist August 21, 2005

I woke up one day recently and, before coffee, went straight to my bookshelves and started tossing books on the floor. By the time I was done, there were more than 100 of them, hardback and paperback, littering the scene like corpses.

You name them, I dumped them: Don DeLillo, V.S. Naipaul, Peter Carey, Walker Percy, Joyce Carol Oates, Cormac McCarthy, Robert Graves, William Boyd, among many -- they all bit the dust. The next day I pored over the carnage and booted a couple of dozen more, including works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Updike, Ian McEwan, Paul Auster, and Annie Proulx.

What made me commit this literary bloodletting? Acid reflux? A spasm of humility? Why the sudden and intemperate purging of possessions that have, over the years, become part of my landscape, indeed my identity?

Because it's time. I no longer want to define myself by my books. (Just how I want to define myself remains unclear.) I've always held that books reveal great mysteries about a person. You can discern the shapes of their minds. You can glimpse their tastes and passions. So what was I doing? Refining or obscuring?

In one sense, this is no different from the expulsion of a tie that has been hanging in your closet, minding its own business, since the early days of the Clinton presidency. You just wake up one day and realize it's a stranger. You've lost that loving feeling. It's the same for books.

I draw a complete blank on many that I tossed, which is a good reason to toss. If you can't remember the damned thing, why keep it? Take ''Bellefleur" by Oates. A superior piece of fiction, judging from the blurbs from serious literary voices. But plot, characters -- zero on my Richter scale. So, Joyce, ciao for now.

Or ''Ferdydurke" by Witold Gombrowicz -- a major work of the 20th century, I gather, that is now a mystery guest. (Why did I buy it? To show off at a Cambridge dinner party?) As The Donald would say, ''Witold, you're fired." Then there's ''Independent People," a stupefyingly dull novel about Iceland by Halldor Laxness, Iceland's very own Nobel Prize winner. I remember enough to know it needs to go.

Books are also a form of interior decorating for people like me who lack imagination. They warm a room like nothing else, but the ugly truth is they also play to your ego. You rather like it when people come to your place and exclaim what a reader you must be. You plumb love it when they ask for an obscure title and you have it. This conceit comes dear and is hard to cede.

Pride is the first of the seven deadly sins, and it is with pride that I covered most surfaces at my place with books. The bookshelves I had built were overwhelmed ages ago.

New books keep coming home with me and end up in stacked archipelagos on tables. The cleaning woman simply dusts around them.

Sometimes you clear with a blunderbuss. All of my Boyd, the wonderful Brit, went bye-bye. Sometimes you keep your powder dry. Tom McGuane stays. I just plain like McGuane. He's been with me through my ups and downs and I'm not about to walk on him now.

Sometimes you use a scalpel. I'm keeping McCarthy's ''All the Pretty Horses" but canning his apocalyptic ''Blood Meridian" and ''Suttree," another stumper. I'm keeping DeLillo's ''White Noise" and ''Libra" but dropping ''Underworld," his disappointing tome the size of ''Joy of Cooking," despite a spectacular opening 75 pages.

People usually get rid of their books because they're moving. The new place has less space or the change produces a fleeting urge to simplify your life. Either way, a lot of books get the hook. James Freedman, former president of Dartmouth, had to get rid of 5,900 of his 6,000 books when he moved from a large house to a condominium.

''It was a nightmare," he recalls. ''I feel diminished. There's a sense of possession you have of them and they have of you. I denied what was going to happen over a long period of time. And then three weeks before moving, there were still all these cartons of books in the basement."

Freedman eventually gave away some and sold the rest. What he kept was largely what he first read as a Harvard undergraduate, including a lot of Camus, T.S. Eliot, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Richard Hofstadter.

I've kept almost all of my history and as much fiction as possible. I've generally stayed with the names that endure and titles I have a decent chance of rereading. And some I just want near me on a cold night.

I've also changed my mind on a few. Denis Johnson isn't going anywhere after all. What matters now is less that I own a book than I've read it and, with luck, remember it.

A wonderful woman named Anne Wheelock, who helps out at the Connolly branch of the Boston Public Library in Jamaica Plain, will retrieve my books after Labor Day and resurrect them on its shelves, just as she did with an earlier shipment from me last fall.

The test will come when she pulls away with them. Will I feel relief or remorse? Will I wave goodbye to my books like kids off to camp? Or will I awake in a cold sweat that night, appalled at the way I treated ''Smilla's Sense of Snow"?

Sam Allis's e-mail address is allis@globe.com.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 3

Day 3 – Friday August 5th, 2005 (At Sea)

Again I awoke at the delightful hour of 5:00am and by 5:20 I had made my way up to the gym to find all five of the treadmills occupied (bummer). I decided to just walk around for a while and come back in a little while and as I was strolling the deck, my back began to spasm out of control and while in excruciating pain, I struggled to get back to the stateroom where I can yelp and swallow as much ibuprofen as I could find. Unfortunately, the ibuprofen, as I knew it would be, was useless and may as well have been candy (which at least I might have derived some pleasure from) but I simply needed to go through the motion of trying something to get out of pain.

I was able to work out of my pain over the course of 15 minutes or so and then decided that I would use the jogging/walking track that encompasses the perimeter of deck 7 for my workout today. Twenty or so laps (just under 5 miles) later I brought my sweaty pain-filled body back down to room 6261 for a long hot shower (shower in this case is a fairly loose term for dribbles of moisture that dropped only because gravity insisted). By the time I was dressed the rest of the family was awake and as eager for breakfast as I.

We opted for the buffet breakfast at the Sports Bar & Grill at the top rear of the ship. The food is the same as the buffet at the Four Seasons but the view is different and the atmosphere a bit more relaxed (not that the Four Seasons at breakfast is formal). My meal consisted of a bowl of oatmeal topped with some brown sugar, sliced almonds, and raisins and I complemented that with a plate of fresh fruit (the pineapple here is absolutely delicious). After breakfast we dropped Victoria off at Kid’s Crew so that we could have a few hours of peaceful relaxation.

Lucy and I wandered the deck for a while before settling poolside with a platter of pineapple, papaya, and a couple of virgin Piña Coladas just staring at the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean with nothing surrounding the ship but more ocean and some suspicious rain clouds attempting to challenge the sunshine. We both lazied ourselves into a semi-dozing state while enjoying the surrounding serenity of the sea. As noon approached, we had to pick Victoria up so we left the lounge chairs en route to Kid’s Crew when the sun briefly gave way to the rainfall before battling back as we all enjoyed a sumptuous lunch at the Four Seasons restaurant.

I have worked so hard of the last 4-5 months eating right (as my colleague Nancy says, “non-deliciously”) and exercising (I’ve lost 26 pounds and dropped my cholesterol 81 points) that I vowed to eat well on this trip (within reason) and enjoy the gourmet food that my previous cruise experience led me to expect; I have not been disappointed yet as all of the food thus far has been superb and I see no sign if that letting up. “You pretty much know a menu selection is going to be awesome if you can’t pronounce 50% or more of it.” Suffice it to say that I have been thoroughly enjoying my meals without going completely overboard (pun not intended) and feeling no guilt as I have been and plan to continue a vigorous exercise regimen while here.

After lunch Victoria really wanted to go into the pool so we headed to the room where she and Lucy suited up while I inflated Vickie’s new day-glow orange arm floats. While the girls bounced between pool and poolside sun bathing, I took the opportunity to catch some alone time wandering about the vessel, picking on pineapple, and snapping a few pictures. As the late afternoon crept up I went back to the poolside and then we all went down to our room where the gals had their showers while I has a short rest (it’s been a bad day for my back) then showered when it was my turn. We all relaxed for a bit before dressing for the evening’s events.

We spent happy hour once again at the Observatory Lounge where Jose and Patti both welcomed us before they started their set. At around 7:00pm we headed down to the Stardust Lounge for a show. Before the show, the captain came out and introduced himself while delivering a short bio complete with jokes and witty remarks then introduced some of his crew. Showtime began shortly thereafter with a music and dance revue entitled “Jump, Jive, and Wail.” The show featured tributes to Bob Fosse and Benny Goodman (an odd pairing that somehow worked) and was filled with high energy dance numbers, singing, and acrobatics that kept 7 year old Victoria on the edge of her seat (and quiet) for the duration of the show. At one point she turned to Lucy and said, “Mommy, that was the funnest thing ever!”

After the show we enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Four Seasons restaurant after which the girls went back to the room prepared to vent their exhaustion in bed while I chose to stroll the decks for some evening Pacific breezes while walking off a bit of the meal. Before retiring for the night I caught the last few songs of Jose and Patti’s last set then took another brief stroll about the ship before setting off to sleep.

Day 4 – Saturday August 6th, 2005 (At Sea)

The top of this morning had me back in the gym (long before 6:00am) where a treadmill was waiting for me along with several of the “East Coast Regulars” already in mid-workout. I set my treadmill for 60 minutes at 4.5 miles per hour and to really get the previous days calories the old heave ho, I managed to mingle in some snazzy yet sweaty incline into my brisk trot. In consideration of the back pain I have been experiencing, I was much more careful about my posture which seemed to help loosen up the back muscles a bit. When my 60 minutes had lapsed, I cooled down by walking a few laps on the outside deck where I enjoyed some early morning Pacific Ocean breezes before retreating to my room for a shower.

Once the three of us were dresses and ready to go, we dropped Victoria off at the Kid’s Crew for the morning (breakfast included) and Lucy and I had a quiet breakfast together at a window seat which afforded us a perfect view of a whole bunch of dolphins breaching their way to wherever dolphins go; it was quite magical.

Lucy and I had until noon to enjoy some quality, quiet veg-out time. A brief stroll about the ship landed us at the rear of deck eight where an array of lounge chairs sat under a shaded overhang where Lucy laid back and enjoyed the calming sea breezes and the view of the ship’s rear cutting the waters while I did a bit of writing and then caught myself a little cat nap. I awoke in my lounge chair to the bright sunshine and warm breeze and shortly after, Lucy and I went to pick up Victoria and headed off to lunch.

Post lunch found us poolside where Vickie splashed the afternoon away, Lucy caught some rays, and I wandered about alternating from poolside lounging, the ice cream lounge up at the front of the ship where I brought back frozen treats for the three of us, and a little bit of writing – I am one fidgety fellow. At about 2:30pm there was some activity at the other pool located mid-ship where teams were formed for a variation of the reality show Survivor. Four teams of cruisers competed in challenges than were fun to watch. The team with the best score earned “immunity” while one of the other teams faced elimination via crowd applause. Four different games were played and two of the four teams were eliminated leaving the remaining two teams who will go on to compete on Monday afternoon. This was a really fun thing to watch as the entire crowd about the deck was just laughing, drinking, and having fun together while the kids were mingling about. The afternoon floated away fast and after a few hours of poolside pandemonium, we hit the showers and readied ourselves for the evening’s events at sea.

At about 6:00pm we ventured into Lucky’s Lounge for happy hour where the advertised entertainment was “Music to Cruise By” as performed by the “Melodic Quartet.” After helping ourselves to the usual happy hour fare of tortilla chips and all the fixings (including a particularly zingy salsa) we placed a drink order and the waiting for the start of the music that would lead us into dinner. The melodic quartet were three men and a woman from the Philippines who were sorely lacking in personality while providing a bizarre, almost robotic performance of pop music from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. Somehow our Victoria mustered up the moxie to grad her 7 year old self out onto the dance floor and liven up the room before we found our way out and on to the rest of the night.

We headed up to Kid’s Crew where we dropped off Vickie and Lucy and I headed over to the Stardust Lounge for a comedy show featuring Tim Jones. The show was entertaining but most impressive to me was Jones improvisational skills. Though some actual comedy material was delivered, the bulk of the show was developed around interaction with the audience. It was rather impressive to see what one can do with answers to simple questions such as, “what’s your name?” “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?”

After the comedy show we went to pick up Victoria in time for our 8:30 reservation at “La Trattoria,” the Italian restaurant on board. Our arrival at Kid’s Crew found Victoria in mid-plate of spaghetti and watching a movie which made it quite difficult to get her to leave. La Trattoria is a reservation only restaurant which frowns upon last minute cancellations, so much so that a charge is added to your on board account for failure to show up, late cancellation, or altering your reservation. It may sound stuffy but it is quite understandable as there are many other dining options available. Anyway, I had no intention of missing or altering our reservation so although reluctant, Victoria came along.

Considering the superb quality of the restaurant meals thus far, the one we had at La Trattoria on this evening proved to be under par but we left with full bellies and enjoyed a brief walk on the deck before a rather hefty head wind frightened the girls and had them running for cover. So, our night came to an end there as we retreated to our stateroom and eventually found ourselves in dream land.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Comment Spam!

Over the last few days, I've received a few spam like items in the comments of some of my blog posts. As such, I had to at least make it so that I am not accepting anonymous posts any longer.

Has anyone else experienced this?

Spammy bastards!

Good Night for now.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Funny Cartoon (Hillary for President 2008)

This cartoon is verry funny and in the same vein as the JibJab stuff. Thanks to Joy for pointing this out...
Click Here!



NOTE: LINK APPEARS TO NO LONGER EXISTS

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 2

Day 2 – Thursday August 4th, 2005 (Hilo, Hawaii “The Big Island”)

The boat was rocking pretty good last night and I don’t mean the partying (though that was pretty strong). This is my first time in the waters of the Pacific which are clearly more physical than those of the Atlantic. I have always enjoyed being in boats and on the water so I actually found this to be enjoyable, it was fun to watch everybody (including myself) wobbling in search of sea legs.
My body, still apparently sifting through the time differential, insisted on awakening at the rather unpleasant time of 5:00am. After several rebellious attempts I surrendered to the morning and did what all completely insane people from the east coast do on vacation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I went to the gym. Much to my surprise there were a number of folks already there sweating to the oldies (an endless loop of bad 80’s power pop) so I took ownership of an available treadmill for the next hour and worked up a rather impressive sweat myself. It was both bizarre and impressive that by 6:00am there were people actually waiting for machines to become available.
Upon returning to the stateroom, Victoria had been awake and asking for breakfast so I showered, changed, and the three of us were off to eat. After eating we were ready for our first tour called “Volcanoes National Park.” We got off the ship at the port of Hilo and boarded a tour bus and were welcomed by our friendly driver/guide. The driver introduced himself using some rather eloquent elegant collection of syllables that he referred to as his Hawaiian name and quickly told us that we can call him by his American name, “Junior.” Junior then went into his first of many informative, witty, and humorous raps about Hawaiian culture and how everyone seems to be related in some way or other to everyone else. He then referred to our tour group as “ohana” or family and as such, we can just think of him as our “Cousin Junior.”
The 29 mile ride to Volcanoes National Park was scenic, entertaining, and informative thanks to “Cousin Junior” and his stories, jokes, and anecdotes about the locations we passed and the relevance in Hawaiian history. Stepping off the bus onto Kilauea was one of those experiences that make you very aware of how small we all are in relation to our surroundings and the expanse of the universe.

The idea of standing on an active volcano, first atop a stem vent was just an awesome event. The bus ventured along the tourist trail set up by the park and made stops at strategic locations (and photo opportunities) while Cousin Junior told stories of the visible lava flows, the Goddess Pele, and then led us to a museum on the grounds where amongst the exhibits were actual working seismographs printing readings of several nearby active volcanoes.
After the tour of Kilauea and Volcanoes National Park the bus headed to the visitor center of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory. Here we learned a bit about the tree these yummy nuts grow on, how science (using grafting techniques) has allowed growers to have more trees per acre and reduce fruit yield time from 15 to 7 years. Once the educational and interesting part of this tour was over, it was time to hit the tourist trap/gift shop where free samples were aplenty. There was a snack shop where we grabbed something cold to drink then walked the grounds where I snagged a couple of nice photos of some tropical flowers while walking through the nut filled grounds.
The time came to head back to the port but not without a good ride back filled with tales of life and history in Hawaii specific to the big island and locations we drove past (mostly the east side of the island). Arrival at the port and reentry on the ship required passing through several security check points but all involved were pleasant.
The ship set sail some time after 5:00pm en route to Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati; a two plus day journey across the pacific ocean that into “the middle of nowhere (as Captain Lars would say)” that I was looking forward to. The sea days of a cruise pretty much force you into getting some rest, relaxation and party time without worrying about being somewhere at specific times and catching tour buses.
After showers and some lounging around we headed up to the observatory lounge which is located at the top of the ship in the front offering panoramic views as the ship rolls on. Happy hour was about to begin with $3.75 bar drinks, complementary tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and the musical stylings of “Jose (pronounced Joe-Zay) and Patti.”
An elegant gourmet dinner at the Terraces restaurant followed happy hour where several of the servers (who all seemed to be from the Philippines) fawned uncomfortably over Victoria. After dinner, we got Vickie signed up for Kid’s Crew (daycare) for tomorrow then walked around the ship for a while and checked out the duty free shops on board before retiring for the evening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 1

Day 1 – Wednesday August 3rd, 2005

With a 6:30am flight out of Providence airport (actually located in Warwick) kicking off the first leg of our trip, we spent most of yesterday packing and running to stores getting last minute necessities. We went to bed at about 8:30pm because our alarms were set for 3:00am so that we have enough time to gather ourselves, our belongings, and get to the airport.
The Drive to the airport was traffic free as expected considering our 3:45am departure and the airport, though more crowded than expected, was fairly easy to get through (security was strong but not forceful nor unpleasant) and the plane bound to our connection point of Atlanta was on time with both take off and arrival. As I write this entry from 32,000 feet above Southern California, we’re about halfway to landing in Honolulu (which if you don’t know is on the island of Oahu).

The flight was long but non eventful and from the airport, there was a bus waiting to take us to the boat dock which included a brief but guided tour. Check-in and boarding on the cruise ship (M/S Norwegian Wind) was yet another fairly straight forward smooth (yet secure) process but was the first hint at the extraordinary, in fact downright obsessive compulsive germ-phobic environment that is this ship.

Once aboard the ship, we quickly found our stateroom and since our luggage had not made it to the room as of yet, we ventured off to explore the ship for a while. On deck there was a poolside “welcome aboard” barbecue/party in which we mingled and ate. By this point the three of us had been awake for more than 20 hours straight but the adrenaline rush of being at our destination, being on the ship and in Hawaii seem as if the day was just beginning. Of course the 6 hour time difference from the east coast bought us some more time to enjoy the sunshine. Later on, the “Matagi Polynesian Cast” would perform a show on deck featuring Hawaiian lore, audience participation, and of course the Hula (I’ve never seen hips move quite like that). The party continued after the show with traditional resort “group” dancing (Macarena, etc.). Lucy and I were just relaxing on lounge chairs soaking it all in while Victoria, the Duracell battery 7 year old, jumped onto the dance floor and remained there deep into the night. During one of the dances, the assistant cruise director Archie (the host of the party) was giving instruction on the steps when out of nowhere Victoria loudly roared “hey mister, I can do it faster than you!” Everyone got a kick out of that as the dancing continued with a floor full of folks of all ages.
We finally peeled Victoria off the dance floor and headed back to the stateroom for showers and sleep. By this time we had all been awake for more than 24 hours and exhaustion have overtaken adrenaline. We all went to sleep looking forward to the day ahead of us tomorrow.

Hawaii Pictures

The first of the journal entry posts will appear later as promised but here are some photos for your enjoyment...
Hawaii '05 - The Photos

NOTE:PHOTOS NOT AVAILABLE - FLICKR ACCOUNT NO LONGER IN SERVICE

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

One More Day - A Promise I Can Keep

So today was my first day back at work and my brain is a mess. I am half way back to the time change and mostly recovered from the long flight but just not up to typing in my first trip journal installment. The promise - it will happen tomorrow.

I learned this evening that while I was away on vacation, my Aunt and Godmother passed away. There is now only one of my mom's sister's left alive and as a generation passes, mortality becomes yet more real. I credit my aunt as giving me the tools to learn how to get out of a really bad financial mess when I was in my twenties and I credit her lessons as a majot turning point in my life.

Thank you Aunt Josie for your guidance and love. Please tell my mom and dad that I love them and miss them every day. Rest in Peace.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Aloha!

Hi everyone, I am back from my trip and completely exhausted as 13 hours of flying and returning the 6 hours to the time zone deities would leave me.

I'm just here to say hi for now and that I have missed all of you. Starting tomorrow or Tuesday I will have plenty to say about my trip - I actually kept a journal.

We had a great time but it is good to be back home. Speak to you all soon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Greatest Hits?

While my family and I enjoy our vacation, I thought I would leave you with some links to some of my favorite posts on this blog over the past thirteen months when it all got started. It has been some time since I've had a real vacation and I am looking forward to some rest and relaxation and recharching the old batteries in this tired mind.

Upon my return (August 14th) I suspect that I will provide some details of my trip to Hawaii and of course some photos. I have a couple of projects that I am planning on using my flight time for so if they pan out, they will also appear here but either way, I look forward to being with you all soon. I'll miss you.

From a Whisper to a Scream's Greatest Hits

1. My very first post can be found here.

2. Roads Not Traveled.

3. 5 Things that are Wonderful to Me.

4. Vending, Venting.

5. Random Ramblings and Nonsensical Nonsense.

6. Sleep Disorder.

7. Immigration Education.

8. Reflections on MOM.

9. Grilled Crow.

10. Hee Dee Dee!

11. Booklist Part 8 – The End (features links to Parts 1-7).

12. Reflection on a Sunday Evening.

13. The Goth Baby Series.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Life is Short

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from an old high school friend. It was nice to hear from my old pal but he had some disturbing news that one of our fellow alumni had recently passed away. I don't at this time have any information as to the cause of death but it pains me none the less.

The "cycle of life" often takes twists and turns that always seems to strangle me momentarily like a swift kick in the rear. The fact is we simply have no control over how much time we have on this earth and really should never take anything for granted.

To the Giglio family, and all others in this world who lose a family member at such a young age, I can't imagine how to find the words that could comfort your grieving. I believe deeply that there is life beyond this one here but only time and faith can resolve the pain and grief. My heart and prayers are with you.

It is nice that I've been able to correspond with a couple of people who were very special to me in my high school days, Frank and Annmarie - you both always have been special to me and always will, regardless of the time that passes or the distance between us. I hope that at some point we can find our way back to each other for a visit.

Here are some pictures scanned directly from the Bishop Ford High School yearbook, circa 1982:



I'll be back soon, albeit briefly to discuss my upcoming vacation and leave you all with something to do here in my absence. By the way, to all of you who read this blog whether it be regularly, occasionally, or just this once...smile, be happy, tell someone close to you how you feel about them, and live your life as you see fit - march to the beat of your own drum and as Billy Joel always said at the end of his concerts, "don't take shit from anyone." I love you all.