I asked for permission to reprint this delightful letter from a friend. Life can be a great deal of fun when you hang on for dear life to your sense of adventure … So enjoy the ride!!
Sailing like a Norwegian
I suppose when one goes sailing on the Norwegian Cruise Lines to foreign places, the first thing one does is pack. Packing, for the John P. Middleton family, is no easy task. My spouse, Wicked Molly, whom her mother, for some God forsaken reason, named “Mary Marcia Sweetheart Sugarplum”, presumably because her mother had no clue as to her actual character, is a person whom, like me, is afflicted with the “Gypsy” disease………….. That means we have no idea of how to pack.
No matter where we go we resemble a travelling gypsy caravan with scads of useless stuff in tow. We have to check pre-boarding manifests as to baggage “weight limits”, because without a guide, we will pack a good portion of the entire house. Why this is, I have no idea. We have a friend who comes to stay with us for a week and brings two pair of pants, two blouses, two pair of underwear and a smile. For us that is unthinkable, not only because I refuse to wash my underwear in the sink then hang it to dry and wear it tomorrow, but also because some of the hotels we have booked in the past, have no sinks………………… I don’t know what my chief fear is, something palpably existential, perhaps. But 10 days equals ten pair of underwear, socks, shirts, pants, shorts, 2 belts, three pair of shoes, slippers, bathing suit and a variety of ancillary detritus that would make a dermatologist blanche. Nor should we forget apples, soda, and ten handkerchiefs. So no matter where we go, we go fully supplied for the duration and the millennium, and any contingency of colds, flu, minor surgical procedures and invasive heart surgery.
My car, weighted by the four “Fifty Pound Maximum” bags, all the other stuff and me, settled down on its springs to the extent we had to call the “Car Talk” guys to see if it was all right to start.
But away we went! An 11 hour drive that we made in 13 hours. One little wrong turn and we found ourselves at an intersection in Utica, Mississippi with a police car blocking the road ahead. Suddenly, across the road in front of us comes…….
J: ”Mary, what the hell is that?”
Wicked Molly: “I’d say…..a 4 year old on a tricycle”.
J: The police have blocked a road for a 4 year old on a tricycle?
WM: Looks that way…..oh look! There’s a float!
J: Good lord we are behind a parade in Utica Mississippi!
WM: Oh look, there are the horses and the baton twirlers!
So we shut off the engine while the parade passes then jump out behind the parade following the last cop car who has flashing blue lights and intermittent siren, since the parade is following our route. People think we might be part of the parade, probably mistaking our baggage laden vehicle as a float from Arkansas. Wicked Molly makes the most of the situation by rolling down the windows, sticking her arm out and shouting “Merry Christmas”! It doesn’t seem to faze her that the parade, being held on Dec 8th, may not be about Christmas at all. In fact the baton twirlers, and the confetti being thrown, convince me that it’s probably about the latest local football victory. Not to be daunted Wicked Molly smiles, waves and screams “Merry Christmas” to all. What can I do? I lower my window, wave and shout “Merry Christmas” and crawl along the parade route at 1 mile per hour…..…………………sigh.
When I finally find the errant interstate, Wicked Molly chirps, “wasn’t that fun”, while I continue to curse under my breath. Such is our fate, that one of us finds beauty in all things and the other rails against the forces of nature. I’m convinced that when we die, Molly will be ushered through the pearly gate with a big smile on St. Peters face, while I am directed to the other line while screaming “Lord, what the hell reason was there for incontinence, what was in your mind? Was it to teach us humility? Wasn’t there a more humane and dignified way? And weight! Why is it so easy to gain weight and so hard to los……….gurgle, gurgle.
Sigh……………………… Maybe her mother was right.
For whatever the reason, we are smiled upon and we are finally on a recognizable interstate traveling south…Hallelujah!
The night before we had stopped in Dumas, Arkansas along route 65, and at the Catfish and Chicken buffet place, who has the richly deserved name of the “Catfish Buffet”, we managed to have both the best catfish I have ever tasted and the best crab legs buffet Mary remembered. Not without incident, however. Wicked Molly (and I) fails to note the sign that says “If you choose the crab legs the buffet is $28.95, not $12.95.”
So there I am standing at the cashier asking incredulously, “How in the hell do you get $51.00 out of $12.95 twice and a couple of sodas”, while the cashier says, as if to a five year old, “that’s why we have the sign, sir”.
J. The sign says $12.95
Cashier: No, $28.95!
J. I am staring at the damn thing, and it says $12.95!
C: Not that sign, the other sign, above the buffet, on the small card.
J: (Reading) “If you take the crab legs the buffet is $28.95.”
C: (Now realizing she is dealing with a dyslexic child) Yes sir, that IS what it says.
J: Errrr….the sign should be bigger….
C: Yes sir
J: ………Maybe outlined in red
C: Yes sir
J: Errrr, do you take credit cards?
We eat some wonderful corn fritters/hush puppies and other Arkansas delicacies while Molly scarfs down her $28. 95 crab legs and fails to go back for seconds.
J: It’s a buffet.
J: You can have more crab legs if you want.
WM: But I don’t want any more.
J: Can’t you stuff some in your purse?
WM: Why would I do that?
WM: I’m not hungry anymore, the crab legs were delicious.
J: For $28.95, you stuff some in your purse and I’ll try to get some melted butter in my hat and maybe……………..
WM: Can we go to the hotel now?
So, we drive to our hotel in Dumas $51.00 lighter, Pigged out on three crab legs, but, presumably happy……….at least one of us is happy.
The following morning, before the parade incident, we gas up. A quick comment about those truck stops and “Quick Marts”. There appears to be no other testament to the American culture than one of these. Six varieties of pork rinds, two with “hot sauce”, 42 soda selections, 106 types of candy including “hot, hot, hot, Red Hot chili peppers”, enough beef jerky to create shoes for the entire African continent and about 400 types of chips including “Cajun Combos with Jalapeno/Harbenero hot sauce” and, one presumes, some form of Zantac or Tums somewhere nearby. Not one fresh whole item in the store. Everything is processed, reprocessed, drenched in ultraviolet light, nuked, and packaged in an unopenable bag. Thank you for smiling on us Lord! We are, in fact, the greatest nation in the world, I think, as I munch on my morning pretzels and hurtle down the blue highway searching for an interstate.
We arrive in New Orleans without further incident and reach our hotel, which my friend Jay Whealdon, a sixth or seventh generation “Nawlins” guy whom I have always loved, later informs me, is in the worst part of town. “ No wonder it was so cheap”, I say to Wicked Molly, as we traverse the line of pimps, car thieves, alcoholics, cocaine freaks and aggressive beggars, whom WM is thinking of befriending. Somehow we survive and are ensconced in the hotel, fortified by a drink with my friend Jay. We then have a selection of New Orleans most famous eateries nearby. Without further ado we choose………..Wendy’s……….. And tumble into bed for a round of CSI………………….sigh.
Cruise Day aboard the “Norwegian Cruise Line’s Star”. “Hooray!” But first, the French Market flea market! Have mercy on me Lord! One wonders what one might do with a vial of “Mama Sari’s, Cajun Voodoo Love Powder”…….I used to know. Now I fear I can only speculate…….and the process of speculation is way too exhausting.
I do manage to obtain a nice leather wallet in the size I favor for $13.00 while WM flirts with the guy hawking the “African Sun Dresses”, but thankfully, escapes.
Boarding a cruise ship is much like entering Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell. 1,300 parked cars for the bargain price of $112.00 each for the 7 days. What seemed like a seven mile walk, then the endless serpentine line of ticket confirmation, I.D. verification and torture?
Station Agent: Have you had a recent cold, sir?
SA: Fever or vomiting?
J: I AM beginning to feel a little nauseous.
SA: Bleeding Hemorrhoids?
J: Do you want me to check?
SA: Any other condition we should note.
J: I’m 70 years old. I weigh x#2!%& lbs! I have advanced coronary artery disease, 8 coronary stents, congestive heart failure. Women no longer look at me with lust in their eyes, which is probably a good thing since my X&@n#$ rarely works. I have to pee every 10 minutes for four hours when I take my diuretic. But the other 13 pills per day don’t seem to……..
SA: I see sir! (reading) “Norwegian Cruise Lines makes no guarantee of health related services and suggests all incapacited guests refrain from………
J: Yeah, Yeah, can we get on with it?
SA: Just sign this waiver regarding release of all liability for impending death, sir. Right there with the three red X’s. Do you need a wheelchair, oxygen…..
J: Can we get some nubile 17 year old girls to PUSH the wheelchair?
J: I can’t hurt them anymore, but I would like to tickle them for awhile.
WM: Don’t you think we ought to go?
Finally, the announcer says, “all passengers can board, but your staterooms are not ready yet”.
So we join the other 2,600 people milling about the deck with baby strollers, wheelchairs, balloons, short shorts, bathing suits, carry-ons, purses, neck braces, child carriers of dizzying sizes and one 75 year old fat lady, in a mini dress that reveals every fold and nuance of her mottled, cellulite, cottaged cheese legs and buttocks when she bends forward……….I have surely entered the gates of hell and said goodbye to Charon, the Boatman. I myself, on the other hand, am so lovely, with my Buddha like form and wisdom, that I am empowered by God Almighty to judge others with impunity. I will ordain myself the Paraclete of Kaborka! ……………..It’s going to be a helluva cruise!
We finally meet up with our good friends and travelling companions, Walt and Jo Gaspord who have the stateroom next to ours.
A brief word about staterooms. The word implies a beautiful, luxurious room with balcony and a view, a commodious shower, lot’s of storage space and a rotating bed with a mirror on the ceil……….(WM is shrieking in my ear, “You can’t say that!”, as I type.) anyway…a beautiful place. Big screen TV, sauna, King Size featherbed, etc. The reality is that I cannot enter the commode without turning sideways, sucking in my stomach, and entering one leg at a time. Then, of course I am turned the wrong way for either number 1 or number 2, and must readjust position by placing one leg on the toilet and………well, never mind. The shower is European and equally daunting. “Cold” is on the left and turns counterclockwise whereas “Hot” is on the right turning clockwise. I don’t know for how long I will resemble a boiled lobster.
We have a number of choices on board. There is gambling, eating, buying watches, gambling, eating, buying artwork from obscure Guatemalan painters, gambling, eating, bingo and the barbeque, gambling and eating. I will soon be either dead or broke.
The eating is a thing of embarrassment for me as I dribble something on the front of my shirt for the umpteenth time. I look at my companion, Walt, who is nowhere near as fat as I am, but is a “substantial person” nonetheless. He smiles as he has just dribbled something on HIS shirt, and says, “maybe when we get back to Bella Vista we can joined the overeaters group at Riordan Hall. I reply, “that’s great……………. as long as we can have doughnuts afterward.” In truth, what I would rather do is to design a portable bib in decorator colors that a man could stuff in his pocket like a handkerchief, and simply deploy when necessary. But would it catch on? Probably not, as one would be carrying a wadded up dirty bib in one’s pocket for the rest of the day. But if I could make it disposable? Hmmmmmm???………
If one could sail alone without the 2600 companions, I think the sea and the billions of stars overhead would imprint on one the sense that God was at work here. If you get past the reggae music and the hip hop bars and go alone late at night to the silent top deck, you are transported to a place where Viking warriors in fear for their lives, may have sailed to the far off places. Alone, under sail, subject to the force of wind and God, no land in sight, no compass nor GPS, no radio signal, no motors….just you….. and the sea….. and the stars.
I remember my brief time at the helm of the H. M. S. Bounty some years ago, piloting it under sail out of Sydney harbor, the huge wheel vibrating in my hands, the feel of the teak wood and the sense of purpose and direction. When the captain said, “Take her one degree to port, pilot” I instinctively knew what one degree was as if I were connected to the ship…as if I were one with it. Could we only have that sense of purpose and wonder as we go forward with our lives……the clear cut direction, the immense vision, the peaceful purpose, the empathy toward nature and each other, dwelling literally in God’s kingdom. It is a direction all of us must take. And if we fail to correct the course and sail out into the much harsher nether regions, our lives will suffer and we may find ourselves alone on a ship of ego.
I have long been convinced that God doesn’t interfere in his own Natural Law. Unless He feels he made a mistake, or favors the safe child from the unsafe one, neither contingency holds much merit. The prayer, “O’ Lord, cure me of this cancer,” presumes he might cure you, but abandon someone else to cancer. I know we humans can’t know the will of God, but I have always thought the answered prayer was the one that said, O’ Lord, give me the strength to DEAL with this cancer.” I believe he will answer that one positively since it doesn’t interfere in Natural Law. But I must confess my conviction is under constant assault, and as my friend Jay, also a bit of a theologian pointed out, “The fact that we are then, following prayer, ABLE to deal with a cancer is, in one sense violation of Natural Law.” I do not hold that view but I must confess I WANT God to interfere….big time…..and I hope he does……Particularly because I NEED Him to find my room.
Enough of this foolishness as the woman in front of me has just tripped and lies sprawled across the deck so drunk she is laughing. As I said, it’s going to be a helluva cruise.
On board a ship one quickly learns that anything you want and anywhere you need to go is at the other end of the ship. It doesn’t matter what or where. If you want it, it’s at the other end of the ship. Similarly, everything is always on a different deck, and there are thirteen of those. One doesn’t know why this is. Presumably Norwegians are not trescadecaphobic nor deliberately obscure, but you soon learn the answer to virtually any “I need” question…….”six or seven decks up to deck 13 and at the other end of the ship”.
So, one walks…….. and walks………. and walks…… avoiding sprawling women, the hip hop dancers, Bahama Mama sellers, watch and jewelry shops and baby strollers until it becomes a little like the death march of Bataan in order to find sustenance. Fortunately, we have a navigator in the form of my friend Walt whom I trust implicitly, until about day four, when it becomes apparent he has no idea where he is going any more than I do. We go up and down decks and all around. “No, wait, it’s the other way” becomes a mantra and I am able to both walk and sleep simultaneously while intoning Walt’s dulcet voice as he staggers about in search of our dinner. That he was willing at all to act as navigator cuts little ice with me…..”Slow down Walt, how much further?” is a phrase he is likely to hear in his sleep for some time to come. Neither Molly, nor Walt’s wife, Jo, can be any help at all. Asking either one of them for directions is like a self directed pre-frontal lobotomy. No matter where you are trying to go, you will never get there, but probably won’t give a damn because you have become too confused to care.
We sail all day the first day and the next and wind up in Costa Maya, Mexico. 2600 people disembark through a 3 and a half foot wide, seven foot high hallway, where the oxygen quickly becomes sucked out by the excited exerted breathing, and any caged canary is gasping and not long for the world.
We march in lockstep to the quay, which is a mere mile away. Our two octogenarian friends and companions, and I, are panting in the heat like wolves after the hunt. Wicked Molly, the only able bodied seaman among us, garners a Coke for me for a mere $3.60 US. I thank her and tell her to save it for awhile, as we have the march back coming up. She agrees, but later trades the coke for a sundress.
J: You TRADED my coke?
WM: Yes, but see this beautiful dress I got!
J: You traded my coke for a dress?
WM: Well, the dress was $80.00.
J: Let me see if I understand you correctly. You got some Mexican merchant, presumably quite thirsty, to trade you an $80 dress for a $3.60 Coke? This could go down in the annuls of bargaining as one of the greatest…….
WM: Not exactly.
It is at this point that I begin to become apprehensive that the bargain was struck using some other commodity than Coke?
WM: The dress was $80. But I told the guy I wouldn’t think it was worth a penny over $25. He came down to $45 and I said “No, $25”, it is all I have. He wanted to sell it so I said I’d give him the coke if he sold me the dress for $25. He agreed! (Spoken with delighted clapping of hands).
My coke is gone….down the gullet of some thirsty merchant. And when I get onboard, I’ll have to pay $4.00 for another one and walk……..you guessed it………..up six decks to the other end of the ship.
This particular day (3) can be spent onshore aggressively piloting Jeeps through the jungle, “Splash Academy Sports”, Forest trekking, power shopping or “family cupcake decorating”.
While we are in port, another cruise ship, The Disney “Fantasia” (17 decks) disgorges 3400 screaming children and parents who, presumably, have had enough of the onboard roller coaster and Goofy, and are now trundling down the quay in search of lollipops, as the octogenarians from our ship attempt to go against the tide to return to our ship. What looks like a battle ensues with the octogenarians apparently winning as several children are now falling down screaming in the crowd. The octogenarians, have read Sun Tzu’s Art of War I theorize, until I realize, the octogenarian cadre is armed………..canes, walkers, chariot-wheelchairs and all sorts of other weapons are ruthlessly employed while the Disney’s balloon laden platoons have only strollers, thus victory is assured chiefly because the “Fantasia” army is just looking for lollipops, while the octogenarian Norwegians are much more purposely deployed in search of bathrooms.
We survive the carnage and leave Costa del Maya one coke lighter, but one dress heavier.
The onboard entertainment isn’t too bad, magic shows, The Second City performing troupe, Jazz, Hip-hop, and films, plus a dizzying array of other stuff including, “Liquid Face Lift with Dr. Zaid” (presumably certified by the Bongo-Bongo Hospital in Malia). Then there is the “Pain Management Seminar”, “Learn the Tagalog (primitive Philippine) language”, “Origami”, and the “Mr. Sexy Legs Competition”. I’m heading for that one shortly, ………….not to compete! God forbid any one should gaze at the things I now call “legs”, but to covertly watch the young women pant over the competitors. What a hoot!
I will have to be back shortly as I don’t want to miss the “Facial Workshop”, The “Circus Workshop” nor “Sean, The Travelling Troubadour”.
There is also “Luscious Lips with Dr. Zaid”…….presumably the same guy from Bongo-Bongo , who led the “Liquid Face Lift” seminar earlier, whom, not content with liquefying your face now wants to purse out your lips until they resemble either Angelina Jolie’s or a large tuna. But all is not lost as the “Star Bar” is offering two Martinis or two Manhattans for $15.00 from 9:00 PM until closing. I know I need no dress for 25.00 and a coke when these little aforementioned beauties are available. The only real question is should I bring Wicked Molly along to negotiate the bartender down to $12.00?
Belize City (Day 4)
An interesting place, once British Honduras, now an independent nation 31 years old, where English is the spoken and written language and the people are industrious. We have to be ferried what seems like 3 miles in a craft made out of fiberglass, paper, and buckboard, so that our internal organs are compressed and decompressed at an alarming rate. If one had constipation, one does not have it anymore.
A Belizean dollar is worth 50 cents US. Property is available at $35,000 to $750,000 US. There are several colleges, and numerous religious denomination schools. Even the public schools insist on a uniform.
My companion says that it reminds him of Manila, and I suppose it would, being at that latitude and longitude. Wood is not easy to come by. So the homes are made of concrete cinder block, with tiled or metal roofs. Perhaps the worst part is a legacy of the British, with narrow roads, poorly paved, containing millions of potholes, the thirty one year old asphalt is no match for the climate. But the new Mayor of Belize City has vowed to fix the roads and the evidence shows his commitment. Many parts of the city roads are now concrete. Belize City suffers from its birth as swampland, now at or below sea level, but without seawalls or levies. Flooding can occur easily in a storm. The last hurricane they had about 2006 destroyed so many wooden homes that the concrete block was subsequently employed.
Wicked Molly is off “Zip Lining” through the jungle and “tubing” through the caves. As I said earlier, she is the only able bodied seaman among us.
She returns at 5:30, only a little banged up. As the victorious Octogenarians flood the cafeteria between 5:00 and 5:30 because they must be in bed by 7:00, I realize I am also foraging for food at that hour, but we have “dressed” for dinner so our separation from the battalion is authorized and we are permitted to eat in one of the main dining rooms away from the victorious Octogenarian hordes, whom fortified by their recent victory, the potty break and the nap, and are now choking down Bahama Mamas by the liter, presumably, in preparation for the table dance by the little old ladies.
Belize City is an interesting place. It used to be “British Honduras” and the language and signage can be interpreted, but there is a far more lovely place expected tomorrow, the island of Roatan, Honduras.
Day 5 Roatan 80 degrees
Shipwreck near Roatan Harbor with Norwegian Star in background
Glorious place, who’s only drawback might be that US presidential candidate John Edwards bought a large portion of the island, and is now coddling American tourists by selling some of it to them.
But we spent a good portion of the day touring the Island and had lunch on the beach while enjoying the crystal clear water and gentle breeze. Like Belize, the spoken language is English and the signage is about 80% English. Not too much poverty, catering to tourism, but spectacular weather in the low 80’s and breezy. The houses are more substantial than Belize, and, I suspect, more expensive. But the Caribbean waters here are crystal clear. Fishing is the second biggest industry, and I would recommend that if you want a getaway, this place deserves consideration. If you need a tour, call Ronny at;
We had lunch in a little place on the beach, where you could get three grilled lobsters for $18.95. I suspect if we were locals, we could get three grilled lobsters for $12.95. Lunch was good, fresh caught fish, and vistas of white sand beach everywhere. Even in December the water is nearly 80 degrees.
In Roatan there is little crime. A prisoner is incarcerated for 90 days until sentence. During that time he gets no food, just water. His family can bring him food, and most do. But some do not. After sentencing the state does provide food in the prisons for the duration of the sentence. If we would try this in the US it might be perfect since most families would be too busy to bring food, and we could eliminate the problem in ninety days……….just kidding.
Back on board Molly gets sucked into one of the onboard art auctions. When she gets back to the cabin, the conversation goes;
J: Hey Honey! Did you have a good time?
WM: Yes, and I think I may have bought a painting.
At this point, with the “may have bought”, I am suddenly transported to a plane where cognitive science is of little help and might even be dangerous. The concept of “may have bought” is ordinarily at odds with the concept of commerce. One either does or does not buy a painting. The transaction usually does not require any element of doubt. But this is Wicked Molly we are talking about. In her world doubt is apparently normal in a financial transaction. I hesitate to inquire further……
J: What do you mean “think you bought”? Can you be more specific?
WM: Well……. It all started when I got into this art auction…………I sort of raised my hand during the bid and …………
There it is again! “Sort of raised my hand”. Concepts of Motor Control Function go completely out the window and a new world of doubt enters the picture. Molly would be completely at home in Quantum Dynamics since those folks require an observer for phenomena to occur. Molly, like the quantum dynamicist apparently needs an observer to determine action, or intent.
When the tree falls in the forest, the quantum dynamicist claims no sound occurs without an observer. Apparently, in this transaction I am the only observer left who can determine what sound the transaction makes………. I anticipate the resulting crash with heavy trepidation. I will later learn my wife is now a fugitive from justice.
We are at Cozumel now. Docked next to about 8 other cruise ships that have disgorged their minions into the streets simultaneously. The resulting shopping nightmare is further complicated by the hawkers who stand outside every shop…..”Honduran Cigar, senor”, “Come in, Come in my friend and sample the silver from Tasco.” One nice girl outside a shop, whose main product appeared to be t-shirts, said “you want Rolex? We got Rolex in the back.” I think in the future I will buy all my Rolexes in the t-shirt shop, chiefly to stop Walt, who has been hawking Tissot, Movado, and God knows how many other watches in a vain attempt to coerce me to buy something for $1,500. “Such a deal!” By trade, Walt is a Master Electrician. By preference he is a malevolent representative of the merchant class, intent on separating me from my money in some spectacular way.
I survive the carnage and return to the ship for day 6’s sailing. We will be at sea all day and night as we return to New Orleans.
Of the places we have been, Belize is still struggling with poverty and Cozumel has become rich and touristy. Roatan is where it is at. The four companions agree, see Roatan.
Now we are ensconced onboard and able to fully savor the daily offerings, including:
- 1. Free Hair analysis
- 2. Fab Abs
- 3. Free tongue and pulse analysis
- 4. Self-led Sabbath service
- 5. Margarita Madness
- 6. Chocoholic Buffet
- 7. Progressive Trivia (round 5),
and about a hundred other activities including “Salsa dance class”. I’m not sure I want to see eighty year olds learning salsa, but I am attracted to the Tongue analysis right after the Chocoholic Buffet……..
IF I THOUGHT CHECKING IN WAS BIZZARE, CHECKING OUT IS MUCH WORSE. Apparently we can get off the ship, carrying our enormous bags ourselves from 8:15 to 9:00 AM. If we choose baggage service we must wait until 9:30-10:00. Since we wish to make the 12 hour drive home in one day, 8:15 would be much better. One reason is that “Immigration Inspection will take place in the terminal once you disembark”. The lines will be awe inspiring, and I doubt we could make it home until 1:00 AM.
The whole process will be made more interesting in that Molly will attempt to escape from the ship without the paintings she “may have” bid on. If she is arrested I probably don’t have enough cash to bail her out. For a brief moment, I must confess, I wondered what might happen if I just left her in jail while I went to the casino for some cash. She would probably convert the jail, become the jailhouse Mary Poppins, inspire enormous prison reform movements and upset the whole system. I’d better not leave her there. It is much too dangerous. If she gets herself classified as a “fruit, nut , plant, soil, flower, drug, narcotic, indecent material, a Cuban cigar, African ivory, snake skin or turtle shell product” we might have a more serious problem. But no matter what, I am now a fugitive aider and abettor who needs a better definition of “Fruit, Nut and indecent material” (since Molly might qualify) before we attempt our escape.
Islamics believe in “the Agony of the Grave”. When you die you are put underground unable to move but you are aware of the flesh eating worms and parasites consuming you. It is a terribly painful process to atone for one’s sins, until God returns to earth. It resembles the old Catholic Purgatory in a way. Neither the “Agony of the Grave”, nor Purgatory are remotely as painful as ship debarkation and customs.
First, of course, is the Gypsy baggage. I am gratified to learn that Walt’s wife, Jo, discovered that he had packed so many suitcases of clothes in the trunk, that on sailing day she made him stand at the trunk of the car, repack four suitcases and leave another two in the trunk. There she was at 9:00 AM on sailing day, in the parking lot, slinging his excess underwear into another suitcase while the passersby’s probably thought, “look at that poor man, he is so disorganized that his wife had to tell him how many underwear to pack at the last minute. Hah! Wicked Molly and I are vindicated to know the gypsy disease is not ours alone! In fact, since I left nothing in my trunk I deserve to feel better than Walt, until I realize my bags are twice as large as his! I didn’t leave anything behind I just schlepped it! In fact, I now have two of the larger bags taped together with packing tape that makes them look….well….tres chic….while Molly totes the two smaller bags also taped by packing tape, as we prepare to disembark. I am toting over 100 lbs. Jo Gaspord, she of the trunk-underwear episode, takes one look at what we brought and politely says “My God”.
I admit it was a mistake. Every 15 feet I am winded and we only have to pull the bags about three miles uphill to disembark if we can ever find the debarkation point. It is apparent to my travelling companions and everyone onboard that I will shortly have a heart attack. I had a choice to let the ship stewards bring my bags down but reasoned then we couldn’t disembark till about 10:00 AM. I wanted to be on the road for the 11 hour (Or 16 in our case) trip home, so instead chose the schlepping.
But before we start home I must trek the three mile convoluted corridor system that serpentines all way to the customs, dragging the suitcases from hell, while gasping for breath as my back separates from my spinal column. Whoever designed this system was a devil from hell and needs to be hunted down and eliminated.
The plan for the taped luggage was all mine, and mine alone. As we approach customs (after Wicked Molly and Jo get in the wrong line…..great sense of direction……I realize he is going to ask me to OPEN the bags and I will have to reply “Got a knife?”? Not the usual scenario, I fear.
They claim with age comes wisdom, but I think that’s a lot of hooey. I believe with age comes a creeping stupidity that manifests itself in any number of ways. I will enter a room and say “what the hell am I doing in here? What am I looking for?” I also have no clue as to the name of the actor of my favorite movie that I have seen 42 or 43 times. Forget the idea that I could remember a birthday or meeting time. We now have a whiteboard, taking up a great deal of space on the garage entry door, filled with Dr. appointments, church meetings, animal medications, oil change dates, and shortly, no doubt, the names of our grandchildren. We will worry about their birthdays later.
We made it home in 10 hours and 45 minutes. It is amazing what incentive does for one.
This may be my last cruise of the Caribbean as I am not now enamored of the destinations. Other than Roatan, there would be no reason to go back. Several people told me that Belize has a lot of other possibilities I should investigate. God forbid we should do so anytime soon. Molly is probably on the wanted list.
John – Travels with Molly 7 Dec 2012