Thursday, August 27, 2009

Holly's Adventures at Sea (and some on land, too)

On July 28th, Holly writes:

We are leaving August 22 from New Orleans to a couple of spots in Mexico and then back to New Orleans again. I'm totally pumped. I plan to eat, sleep, read, eat, swim, and terrorize Mexican natives. It's going to be totally sweet and awesome.

The following is an account of said journey across the great Gulf of Mexico.

Day 1: The day in which Holly and John leave for the warmer part of the country, called "The South."

We awoke at 4:30am and stumbled around in the dark and left for the airport, but not before returning our movie rentals to the Family Video. The flights were uneventful. We arrived in New Orleans and took a shuttle bus right to the port of New Orleans, which is the most amazing port at the end of the very brown Mississippi. It is everything that the Rochester fast ferry COULD NEVER have been because, even though a hurricane did not recently ravage our fair town, no tourists seem to ever cometh forth.

If you, like me, love being a tourist, New Orleans is the city for you. Its airport is named after Louis Armstrong, for heaven’s sake. It is a cool town. You can participate in all manner of guided tours: haunted house tours, cemetery tours, bayou tours, garden district tours, riverboat cruises, and the list goes on and on. We had about three hours to kill before our big boat left the port, so we wandered about the French Quarter and marveled at the wonder that is the city of New Orleans, a city that because of its poorly planned geographical location simply should not be.

We also marveled at how ridiculously friendly Southerners are. Now, I realize that New Orleans’ residents are sensitive about certain cruise lines and other tourist companies heading out of the city with Katrina never again to return, so some of their exuberance might be attributed to the mere excitement of reclaiming their glory as a top-tourist destination in the U.S. (The streets were pleasantly filled but not overflowing with plump white people taking pictures with bulky cameras underneath bright-colored sun visors.) But most of the tourists hailed from Southern towns like Memphis or Baton Rouge. I have a strange suspicion that their kindness has something to do with the fact that Southerners are brought up with good old-fashioned manners and an ethos of genuine consideration. I have never met so many people I really like gathered in one place before. Except for that guy who cut us in line as we were about to purchase beignets at CafĂ© Du Monde. Not cool, dude.

We wished we could have stayed late into the evening, when the streets come alive with jazz and blues and the smells of Cajun cooking, but alas, the ship blew its whistle and we had to be off.

Some interesting facts about Louisiana:

...In Louisiana, biting someone with your natural teeth is considered a simple assault, but biting someone with your false teeth is considered an aggravated assault.

...Louisiana is the only state that still refers to the Napoleonic Code in its state law.

...The Superdome in New Orleans is the world’s largest steel-constructed room unobstructed by posts.

We climbed aboard our big boat in the late afternoon and settled into our cabin where I took a much needed snooze. Later that evening, I had steak for dinner. Cooked medium.

Day 2: The day in which Holly makes good on her promise to sleep a lot.

I took a nice long morning nap, had a late lunch, and then had an afternoon siesta. I read a bit in between.

John and I contemplated various shore excursions. I was excited about swimming with dolphins. It has been my lifelong dream to swim in spiritual symbiosis with the gentle dolphin. My dreams almost came to fruition during our Bahamas trip in 2005; alas it was not meant to be. Dolphins, apparently, get “aggressive” with pregnant women. I was forbidden to get in the water with dolphins. In fact, that trip was the only time in my life I feared stepping into the ocean and spotting a dolphin, not a shark, fin.

BUT… this August day, I was happily not with child and ready to make my life-long dream a reality, despite John’s insistence that anyone who hates pregnant women has got to be an &*!#*. Then I saw the price-tag for the dolphin excursion. $179.95. Per person.

Perhaps swimming with dolphins is not so much a dream as it is a remote desire...

This was the night I dragged John to the karaoke lounge after our late dinner. I signed up to sing a song and waited patiently as person after person was called to the stage.

Keisha from Baton Rouge! Who all is from Baton Rouge? (The crowd goes wild.)

Mollie from Chattanooga! Who all’s from Tennessee? (The crowd roars!)

Jared from San Antonio. Who all’s from Texas tonight? (A steady clapping of hands.)

Finally they called me up. I received applause BEFORE I EVEN SANG! That’s how nice Southerners are. Then, our hostess, an extremely hyper short lady, asked where I was from. I shouted, with perhaps a bit too much pep, ROCHESTER NEW YORK!

Dead silence. Nothing but the sound of crickets, chirping. This is amazing since we were in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Hyper short lady doesn’t even ask if anyone else is from New York. Instead, she states… “It’s okay! I’m from New York too!” I think she was trying to reassure me?

That evening I had lobster for dinner. With butter. Lots of butter.

Day 3: The day in which Holly terrorizes Mexican natives and swims.

We left the big boat to head out to the town of Progreso, Mexico, where we were told there would be Mayan ruins to look at. We found a reasonably priced tour on land and boarded an air-conditioned bus that traveled through the Yucatan to Dzibilchaltun,the remnants of a once large city of Mesoamerica. The Mayans did a weird and useful thing and incorporated their knowledge of astronomy into their architectural monoliths and buildings. During the equinox, the sun aligns with the Temple of the Seven Dolls, creating a luminous spectacle that always draws a huge crowd. It has been determined that some of these structures served as a calendar. I’m not quite sure how, BUT the calendar seems to point to a marker-date when the sun perfectly aligns with the southern star gate building during the winter equinox in the year 2012.

The Temple of the Seven Dolls

It you didn’t know already, best you hear it from me. I don’t mean to shock you but the end of the world is coming, and it’s coming in December of 2012. Be ye prepared.

Religious wack-a-doos from all walks of life across the globe believe this to be the truth and, do not be alarmed, actually associate the end times as described in the bible with these Mayan astrological predictions. If you want to learn more about this, I will be printing out flyers and leaving them tucked inside car windshield wipers in mall parking lots within the next couple of weeks.

(OR watch the movie starring John Cusack coming out this fall.)

If there are creatures such as this walking on land, who knows what lurks within murky Dzibilchaltun waters.

I also jumped into the famous Dzibilchaltun cenote only to quickly climb out with much fanfare as little fishies were biting my toes. I didn’t realize they were just little fishies. I felt fairly certain a creepy and evil vestige of Mayan history had emerged from this deep cave just to pull me down into its watery netherworld. Hence, I shrieked and flapped and frightened the Mexican natives with my outlandish behavior.

This is a cenote. Now you know.

I was quite exhausted after that ordeal so I went back to the ship and took a nap.

I had steak for dinner. Medium rare. And ice cream for dessert.

Day 4: The day in which things take a turn for the worse.

Can mortals then (said I), with Gods compare?
Behold a God; mine is the watry care:
Through your wide realms I take my mazy way,
Branch into streams, and o'er the region stray:
No foreign guest your daughter's charms adores,
But one who rises in your native shores.
Let not his punishment your pity move;
Is Juno's hate an argument for love?
Though you your life from fair Alcmena drew,
Jove's a feign'd father, or by fraud a true.
Chuse then; confess thy mother's honour lost,
Or thy descent from Jove no longer boast.
While thus I spoke, he look'd with stern disdain,
Nor could the sallies of his wrath restrain,
Which thus break forth.
This arm decides our right;
Vanquish in words, be mine the prize in fight.
Ovid, The Metamorphoses

It was going to be a bad day. I knew this as I lay, writhing on a cot in the big boat’s infirmary in intense stomach pain, looking up at a (relatively) small, Polynesian man who nevertheless loomed over me armed with a long and portentous looking hypodermic needle. He then said the following:

“I would now like to stick this in your butt.”

(Rather long and awkward pause.)

John replies:

“I can almost guarantee you’ll have to buy her dinner first.”

Apparently this is what comes of angering the Mayan gods with my facetious talk and improper behavior on sacred grounds.

Should I not have pretended ancient Mayan peoples were about to burn me alive?

They gave me pain meds in the form of pills, injections, and a liquid medicine laced with lidocaine, which I promptly threw up. There has been much speculation as to what made me so sick. My theory is the recent inhalation of rich, fatty foods like steak and butter and ice cream. Of course, that explains the stomach cramps but not the intense and persistent vomiting. That can be attributed to a) a nasty little Mexican germ or b) the ghost of my diseased gallbladder come back to torment me.

I spent the next 24 hours in my cabin. At some point, we received a note under our door, informing us that I was quarantined and if they caught me leaving my room, they would be forced to shoot me in the head and throw me overboard.

On the bright side, I was to receive all of the FREE BOTTLED WATER I WANTED!!! Because that’s what one wants in a really great vacation: free bottles of Dasani.

John, who loves his cell phone, finds reception no matter where he is. He called my mother and informed her of my precarious state. After hearing our tale of woe, she paused and then told him the following:

“She really should have come with a warranty.”

I had nothing for dinner. I ate nothing all day.

Day 5: The day in which Holly revives herself by walking about the ship contemplating the purchase of items that are clearly overpriced. She also mopes quite a bit because she was unable to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Cozumel. She comforts herself by taking a nap.

The morning at sea was rough; we entered choppy waters and even ventured through what one adorable Southerner called a “squa-all.” We spent a considerable amount of time on the top, front deck staring into the horizon, spotting ships and oil rigs and the occasional manna ray that bellied up to the surface.

We ate our last dinner with our table companions: all couples from Southern States. They were the greatest people. I truly feel that I could bop on down to Chattanooga tomorrow and show up on Harold and Stacy’s doorstep and they might actually let me in. And be happy about it. Maybe. Then again, I think they might believe I have the plague…

Our server's name was Margo. I wanted to tell him my niece's name was Margot, but then I thought better of it.

We spent our last night in the big boat’s Universal Lounge where we watched a broadway-style musical entitled Ticket to Ride: A Tribute to the Beatles. I enjoyed it. I may have even waved a glowy stick around. John fell asleep but I woke him up during the singing of the nah nah nah nahs in Hey Jude.

Day 6: The day in which Holly must admit that despite being incapacitated for 20% of the trip, she still had a totally sweet and awesome anniversary vacation with her hubby, who, it so happens, is the most understanding, patient, and forgiving husband on earth.

The flights home were a little turbulent but were, for the most part, uneventful. Our children were returned to us in superior form. Ben keeps calling me Grandma. This is annoying. Daniel cries for his Nini. This, too, is annoying. Ella calls John Gampa. This is normal, and we are relieved.

Would I go on a cruise again? Yes, but only after I give my delicate internal system a good three years to recover. Until then, you can find me repelling down the Grand Canyon or reading a book on the beaches of the Outer Banks. I’m going to be a land creature for a while.

1 comment:

btobey said...

Sorry to hear you were sick, but 3 years recovery is just about perfect--in fact, I'll give you 4, and you and John can join us for our own 10-year anniversary cruise in 2013!!! :) Glad to hear that you had a good time otherwise; certainly makes me want to go on another one sooner than that!