Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30 - travel day

Disembarkation is always an interesting affair. Nobody wants to get off the ship. Everybody wants to stay. So people are tired and crabby and not looking forward to the travel day. Princess has a wonderful disembarkation process, however. They divide everyone into groups based on how and when you are scheduled to leave the port city of Fort Lauderdale. Each group is assigned to a different part of the ship and when it is your turn to go, a crew member simply tells you that you can go. This REALLY beats the old system of people scattered randomly throughout the entire ship and the intercom being used to make announcements about who can now leave the ship. That was chaotic.

I had purchased bus transfers to the Fort Lauderdale airport, so we were in one of the earlier groups, scheduled to disembark at 8:10 a.m. So I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m. The alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. Unfortunately, my attempt to hit the snooze button actually turned the alarm off. Fortunately, I woke up on my own at 7:40 a.m. After scurrying around like crazy people, we actually arrived at our appointed waiting area a minute or two prior to them telling us we could go.

Sam had purchased a small knife in Mexico and the ship had confiscated it. He was told that when he checked himself off the ship that a little alarm bell would ring and that the crew member could quickly look in the computer and see that the alarm signified that they were holding something. Since they knew the time and place of our departure in advance, they had his purchase waiting at that location and presto! We would be done. So, when the little alarm sounded, we were not startled. And he stepped to the side to collect his purchase. But when I checked out, the little alarm sounded again. A crew member stepped forward and asked me for my name. I told her. She explained that she had been asked to escort me to the United States Customs agents. My heart skipped a beat. The Princess crew member escorted me (and Sam) all the way down the exit to the area where you collect your suitcases, then on into the Customs area. The Customs agent asked me for my passport, my customs declaration and any proof of purchases. Luckily I had all of that ready! It seems that the cost of my little bauble had put me into the "must pay duty" category, but since my purchase was duty free, it was much ado about nothing! And we were allowed to go out the side exit, ahead of the 100 suckers who had been ahead of us in line. Yay!!!!!

It was at that moment that I realized that I had accidentally thrown our airport bus transfer tickets away the night before. So, we got in the taxi line and rode to the airport! Then the fun REALLY began! Our ship held about 3500 people. But there were several other ships that arrived that morning. So several thousand people converged upon the Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports simultaneously. Can you say MADHOUSE? I warned Sam in advance, but you have to see it to believe it.

The Fort Lauderdale airport has solved the problem by only allowing folks to check in two hours in advance of their departure time. The rest of us found floor space and got ready to WAIT. Sam and I were soon joined by the young couple we had met at the wine tasting, then climbed Dunn's River Falls with. They are such a fun, interesting, SMART couple. We sat together for a while. Then Sam was able to check in and go through to the gates for his 12:30 p.m. flight. A little while later, the couple was able to check in and go through to the gate for their 1:30 p.m. flight. Left to my own devices, I quickly made friends with a young man on my left from Philadelphia and two girlfriends on my right who were from Memphis and would be on my flight. We all enjoyed conversation so much that the time flew by. Then it was time to go through for our 4:30 p.m. flight. Yay!

I stopped to eat some chicken fingers and the two girlfriends from Memphis joined me. We talked and laughed until it was time to board our flight. We all agreed that we wished we had met two years ago when I first arrived in Memphis! They were so much fun.

Two sad notes today: A passenger died on the girlfriends' cruise ship. (I can't remember which ship they were on - not mine.) They had none of the details. And a crew member committed suicide by jumping overboard during the Oasis of the Seas voyage this week. He was a 45 year-old assistant waiter from St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Royal Caribbean declined to give his name, but they apparently have security footage showing him taking the leap. The ship apparently missed one of their ports of call because they were searching for him with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bahamian authorities. Very, very sad!!!

The flight was uneventful. I found my car, got in and received an immediate reminder that I was almost out of gas. I asked the attendant at the exit where the nearest gas station was and she told me. I then drove in that direction, found a gas station and attracted quite a bit of attention because I really stood out! I got 5 gallons and moved on!!!

At home, I found an incredibly affectionate cat, a pile of mail and NO FOOD. So now I am on my way out to get something to eat.

Thanks for joining me on my travels!!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 29 - at sea day

I woke up this morning at 8:30 a.m. Sam was still asleep so I decided to close my eyes for a few more minutes. The next thing I knew, the phone was ringing. It was the spa wondering where I was for my 10:45 a.m. appointment. I looked at the clock. It was 10:50 a.m.!!! How in the heck did that happen???

I rushed upstairs to the spa. My hot stone massage felt rushed and rather perfunctory. It wasn’t the worst massage I ever had, but it was close. And, because I had pre-booked, I was charged the full price rather than the Today’s Special price that everyone else that booked at the last minute got, which gave them a $30 savings. I made up my mind to stop pre-booking massages. From now on, when I cruise, I will book only when they have specials that I am interested in receiving.

Sam had already had breakfast by the time I got back, so he went to get me a hot dog and Coke. While he was gone, I watched dolphins cavort in the water next to the ship. They are such graceful creatures. I tried to take pictures, but I kept missing their jumps. All I captured in the pictures were the splashes!

Sam and I watched TV together for a short while. Then we got ourselves together and went to the final Bingo game because the $2000 jackpot MUST GO!!!!!! (Jane and I won the big jackpot on one of our prior cruises, so I know it is possible!) Sam and I did not win. But one of my cards was only two numbers away from a win - darn it!!

After Bingo, we went to look at jewelry and I bought myself a little bauble. Sam went to the pool for one last swim and one last chance at catching some sun. I went to the cabin to start getting packed - boo hoo!!! You have to put your bags out before you go to dinner. Deciding what to KEEP is tough. You need something to wear that night and something to wear for your travel day and something to sleep in, plus assorted toiletries. I solved the problem by purchasing a rolling computer bag which has room for about one or two nights worth of clothing. I love this new bag!!! So, I figured what I was keeping and packed the rest. In the process of sorting through everything, I threw away all of the papers that had accumulated throughout the length of the cruise. Unfortunately, I threw out our bus transfer tickets that I had carefully purchased in advance. But I didn't dicover that until the next morning.

Sam returned from his last pool visit and started to pack up his things. Once we both had our bags in the hall, we left the room for our last dinner. On this night we shared a table with a delightful British mother and daughter. The mother was a bit older than me and the daughter was about six years older than Sam. They were wonderful dinner companions - my favorites of the entire cruise. Sam enjoyed talking with them too. The only really negative aspect of this final dinner of the cruise was something I am now referring to as "The Flan Incident".

As we were enjoying our entrees, I couldn't avoid noticing that a table for ten next to us were all served Flan for dessert. I was very excited because I absolutely LOVE Flan or Creme Caramel or Creme Brulee. But when it came time for us to order dessert, I did not find anything on the menu. Flan is a permanent fixture on the room service menu, so I figured this was how the table next to ours had gotten it. So I asked our waiter if I could have a Flan. Our waiter said that I could not have a Flan because it was not on the menu tonight. Puzzled, I pointed to the table next to ours. He explained that this had been arranged in advance. I stated the obvious - that Flan is always available on the room service menu, so must be in the kitchen, so couldn't he please just go get me one? He excused himself. I was happy, thinking he had gone to get me a Flan. Nope! The Head Waiter presented himself. Is there a problem, says he? Yes, I say, there is no Flan on the table in front of me! The Head Waiter explains that Flan is not on the menu tonight. Had we arranged something in advance, he could have accomodated us, but since we did not, he is unable to help us. Knowing that this is ridiculous, I ask if I can use a house phone to call room service and have them deliver some Flan to me at our table. The Head Waiter was not amused. I finally gave up. I should have asked for the Maitre d', but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I have spent thousands of dollars between cruise fare, airfare, spa treatments, my new bauble and multiple coffees, sodas and alcoholic beverages, but I could not have a Flan. Ah, such is life ...

After dinner, Sam went out and I settled in to the cabin to get some sleep because I knew the travel day would be crazy. I was right!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

May 28 - Cozumel

This morning I was down at the coffee bar getting a Vanilla Latte and Sam tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and he was with two friends I hadn’t met before. He gestured in my direction and said, “This is my Mom.” One of the two girls didn’t even look in my direction. The other one looked over at me as if I was a distasteful looking slug and turned away again. I looked at Sam with a “You have GOT to be kidding me” look on my face. He shrugged. I said, “Ohhh-kayyy” and turned my back to them as my drink arrived. Behind me, I heard one of the two girls shout, “Bye, Mom!”, in an incredibly sarcastic tone. She was very lucky that she was out of sight by the time I turned back around, because I think I probably would have felt compelled to teach her some manners. The waiter asked, “Are those your children ditching you for the day?” I replied, “That was my son and a couple of skanks he probably just met.”

After I got my Latte, I went up to the breakfast buffet. I fixed my plate and went in search of a table. The tables are usually all taken, but you can choose to join a table, if you don’t mind sitting with people you don’t know. Usually this guarantees interesting conversation and you might even make new friends. I spotted a table with six chairs that had only two people, a couple, sitting at it. I asked if I could join them. They said yes, so I sat down. They then proceeded to ignore me the entire time I sat there, which is most unusual. Since this was happening immediately after the incident with Sam’s “friends” ignoring me, I developed a bit of a complex, but thankfully it only lasted for the time I was at the table. When I was finished eating I stood and politely thanked them for allowing me to join them. They just looked at me. Some people are very odd!

I spent most of the day in the Sanctuary. When I couldn’t avoid the sun anymore, I came back to the cabin and caught the latest James Bond movie. That Daniel Craig is a great James Bond. Interestingly enough, we have a Head Waiter in the Da Vinci dining room who is a dead ringer for Daniel Craig, but a bit older and not as svelte. He enjoyed being compared to him, however! He said he was on a secret assignment.

As we left Cozumel, the ship turned and I had a view of the sunset over the ocean. It was an incredible sight. I took some pictures, but none of them really did justice to the event. At one point, I glanced up at the bridge and saw an officer filming the sunset. When the sun had completely disappeared, all of the passengers that had been watching broke out in spontaneous applause and cheers.

Sam came back to the room at about 7:30 p.m. and we got dressed and went to dinner. He was nursing a mild hangover. To my left at the table were two sisters who were about my age. To their left was a couple who were in their sixties. To Sam’s right was a young couple about his age, maybe a little older. The older gentleman was in his cups quite a bit and slurred through everything he said. He had seen two beautiful German girls the night before while he was sitting at a bar and he told us about them about ten times. Each time his wife would just roll her eyes. I’m sure she wanted to throw her water glass in his face. Frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed her!!! I wanted to do it myself! The sisters were wonderful. I really enjoyed talking with them. Sam left the table after dessert, followed shortly by the young couple. I was enjoying conversation with the sisters, but the older gentleman kept butting in with unrelated topics, including – what else – the beautiful German girls. I finally excused myself and got up from the table.

As I began to walk away, I heard the older gentleman call out to me. “Ma’am!” I decided to pretend that I did not hear him because the last thing I wanted was to get cornered by a disgusting, old, drunk man. He was persistent, however. “Ma’am! You say you’re a college president. We need a college president!” I continued walking quickly, hoping he would give up. “Ma’am! Ma’am! Ma’am!” I was walking so fast that he had to be running to keep up with me. I heard him tell someone, “I can’t catch her.” I reached the entrance to the dining room, “Ma’am!”, went out the door and made a quick right turn to the back staircase, then a quick left turn to the elevators, skirted right to the shops and practically ran to the casino. I didn’t hear him shouting at me anymore. But I still didn’t slow down. I wound my way through the casino, then to the next set of elevators, walked up one flight of stairs, then paused to catch my breath. I think watching that James Bond movie had an impact on me because I felt like I had outrun some secret agents!

Back in the room, Sam was stretched out on his bunk listening to Mike’s IPod. He had decided to stay in. I told him what had happened with the man. He was equally disgusted. We watched a little television. He fell asleep before I did, but I wasn’t long behind him.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 27 - Grand Cayman

Today was a beautiful day. Sam went ashore with friends. I stayed on the ship in the Sanctuary. Time seems to stand still in that place. I had the attendant turn my lounge chair towards the outside of the ship so I could look at the beautiful ocean, the shallows and the beaches beyond. The colors were just fantastic. As the breezes blew across the water, turquoise would turn to azure and then to a light navy blue, then back again. Turquoise stripes generally marked the more shallow places, but the colors seemed to move across the waters at times. It was lovely.

Sam and I had dinner tonight at Sabatini Restaurant. Our reservation was for 8:30 p.m. and we did not leave the restaurant until 10:15 p.m. Sabatini has an interesting concept. You select your main course. Then they begin bringing you every appetizer in the place. You can take as much of each as you wish. For your reading pleasure, here is a list of the appetizers:

Prosciutto E Melone – Italian Cured Parma Ham Sweet Peppered Melon

Porcini All’ Olio Vergine – Porcini Mushrooms, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Roasted Garlic Puree

Calamari Fritti – Crisp Fried, Tender Calamari, Parsley, Sea Salt and Citris Aiolo

Zucchini Dorati – Battered in Buttermilk and Parmesan, Chili and Anchovy Romesco

Bresaola Della Valtellina – Air Dried Beef Fillet, Arugula Salad, Shaved Parmesan

Insalata Di Gamberi E Carciofi – Tender Shrimp and Marinated Artichoke with White Truffle Oil

Polpettine Di Granchio – Devilled Crab Cakes, Roasted Chili Remoulade, Scallion and Red Radish

Flan Di Ricotta All’ Aglio Dolce – Ricotta Cheese and Elephant Garlic Flan, Beet Root Leaf, Sun Blushed Tomato

You are then offered soup or salad:

Brodo Di Pollo Con Fagioli – Chicken Broth, White Beans, Garden Fresh Vegetables and Baked Ciabatta Crouton

Zuppa Di Pomodoro Con Frutti Di Mare – Tomato Soup, Grilled Shellfish, Gremolata and Lemon Confit

Insalata Mista Profumata Con Aceto Balsamico E Cipolline – Tender Baby Field Greens, Pepperoncini, Chi-Chis, Pecorino and Shallot Vinaigrette

Then comes the pasta course. There are two types and you are offered both:

Ravioli Di Ricotta E Tartufo – Hand made Potato and Ricotta Ravioli, Truffle, Reggiano and Burro Fuso

Pappardelle Al Sugo Di Funghi – Wide Egg Noodles Simmered in a Mushroom Veloute, Tender Asparagus, Baby Spinach and Fresh Tomato

Then, choose your main entrée from these:

Branzino Al Forno – Roasted Chilean Bass with a Whole Grain Mustard Crust, Lemon Asparagus. Mustard Green Salad

Grigliata Di Scampi – Broiled Langoustines with Tomato, Spinach, Capers, Potato and Champagne Butter

Aragosta Alla Griglia – Grilled Cold Water Lobster Tail, Pumpkin Risotto, Brown Butter Lobster Sauce

Petto Di Pollo Ripieno – Stuffed Supreme of Chicken, Truffled Whipped Potatos, Oven Dried Tomatoes

Capesante Alla Griglia – Jumbo Sea Scallops Seasoned with Pepper and Galliano, Truffled Tomato

Gamberoni All’ Aglio – Sauteed Tiger Prawns over Creamed Polenta, Fried Cauliflower, Basil Oil

Lombata Di Vitello Arrosta – Carved Chop of Piemontese Veal, Mushroom Ragout, Barolo Glaze

Finally, help yourself to a dessert. Choose as many as you wish:

Crema Al Caffe – Espresso Crème Brulee, Star Anise Biscotti, Armagnac Foam

Torta Di Agrumi Con Frutti Di Bosco – Citrus Tart, Chocolate Ribbon, Orange and Balsamico Essence

Tiramisu – Tia Maria Soaked Lady Fingers Layered with Sweet Mascarpone Cream

Semi-Freddo Al Chocolato Bianco Soffice E Limoncello – White Chocolate Mousse, Limoncello Cream, Honey Tuile

Crostata Di Lamponi Con Menta E Frutti Di Bosco – Raspberry Frangipane, Macerated Wild Berries, Fresh Mint Coulis

Zabaglione – Whisked to the Music of Andrea Bocelli, Scented with Marzala

I did NOT make up that last one! Sam and I were so stuffed with the appetizers that we skipped soup and salad and went directly to the pasta course. By the time our main dishes arrived, I could only take two or three bites of my scallops, and Sam only had two bites of his lobster. Our waiter asked if he could deliver our desserts to our room and we gratefully accepted. So, MUCH LATER, we enjoyed the Espresso Crème Brulee and another dessert that I never really figured out. It looked like a piece of chess pie, but that was nowhere on the menu.

A visit to Sabatini Restaurant is a must-do. It is definitely worth the upcharge, but go easy on the bread and appetizers. You will want to eat the main course and the dessert!!!

May 26 - Jamaica

All the way up until 5 minutes prior to our departure, I was undecided about whether to go or not. Part of me wanted nothing more than to laze around in the Sanctuary again. And my sinuses were killing me. I had a little snot production factory going and no medication could shut it down. It was (and still is) disgusting. But finally, I decided that I had already paid for the excursion. And it would be fun going with Sam. We would have that memory forever. So I pushed myself and off we went.

We exited the ship directly onto the pier and walked up a little hill to where all of the tour buses were. We found our guide who pointed us to the correct bus. On the same bus were two friends that Sam had been hanging out with. (I think they are actually a good bit older than Sam, but they refused to say their age when he asked.) One of the two girls is, I think, quite enamored with Sam. He is clearly not interested in her and is lukewarm towards her. But Sam’s lukewarm is still warm and many girls have been fooled into thinking he was really into them. I always want to warn them, but I keep my mouth shut. His love life is his business and his business alone. His heart is back home, I believe.

Our bus set off and headed towards some caves that we were scheduled to explore. The caves were not nearly as cave-ish as we expected. In fact, at one point they were privately owned and the front portion of the cave was used as a disco club. At one point, we walked down 65 steps to look at an underground lake. I almost died coming back up those 65 steps. I had to stop at the top, heaving for oxygen. I was so hot that I had to take my shirt off. (I had my bathing suit on underneath.) Yikes! I am really out of shape. We had to crawl on our hands and knees to get out of the cave. Had I known that, I would never have gone in! But crawl, I did!!!

Our next stop was the famous Dunn’s River Falls. This spectacular waterfall drops down at multiple angles until it meets the ocean. Several years ago, I visited Dunn’s River Falls with my Mother. But we traveled over by catamaran and it deposited us on the beach where the climb begins. This time, our van driver actually deposited us at the top of the falls at the park entrance. Sam had always planned to climb the Falls, but I was undecided. But that 65 stair climb had convinced me that I had better skip the climb up the Falls. Luckily, there is a path that goes up the hill just beside the Falls. So I got to watch Sam and his group climb the Falls. Unfortunately for me, it began to rain during the climb and I got SOAKED from head to toe. I was really hating that and was complaining bitterly. But then a moment happened. I was leaning against a fence and the rain was falling on me and I leaned my head back and just existed – in that moment. I smiled so big. I am in Jamaica, in my bathing suit, with a warm rain falling on me. This was one of those “far-away-from-home” moments. So beautiful. It only lasted for a moment and although I tried, I couldn’t get it back.

After we returned to the ship, Sam took off again to find a place where he could have a Red Stripe beer and some jerk chicken. I went to take a nap. I was so tuckered out from the outing that I stayed in the bed until the next morning.

May 25 - at sea day

Even though Sam was out late, he woke up before I did. He took off to work out at the gym. I put my bathing suit on and headed up to the Sanctuary where I alternately read my Kindle and dozed. At around lunch time, Sam came and joined me and we had hot dogs and hamburgers together.

At 1 p.m., we attended a Cruise Critic meet & greet, where everyone brought bottles of wine from their home states. (I was unable to find a drinkable wine from Memphis, Tennessee.) That was an enjoyable gathering of people. We met a few new people who had not attended the first CC meeting.

At 3:30 p.m., we attended the Maitre’ D’s wine tasting. On each table were several plates with assorted hors d’oeuvres to pair with each wine. The wines included:

1. Veuve Clicquot, Brut. “A full-bodied robust sparkler.”
2. Pouilly-Fuisse’, “Medium-bodied, dry with fruity flavor.”
3. Chardonnay, Cuvaison, Carneros. “Aromatic with aroma of white peach, spice and apple with complex tropical notes.”
4. Murrieta’s Well Meritage. “With aromatic flavors of plums, black cherries and hints of herbs. This Meritage is subtle and sophisticated. It’s a medium to full bodied wine consisting of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Pinot Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot.”
5. Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon. “Aromas of berry, vanilla, spice and dried herbs. A medium to full bodied wine that has juicy mouth filling flavors of sweet fruit and oak on a long, lingering finish.”
6. Opus 1, Mondavi-Rothschild. “A much sought-after California wine, Opus One is made in the best of French traditions through a joint venture started between Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild – and its fame speaks for itself.”

The two that I loved were the Pouilly-Fuisse’ and the Opus One. The Opus One was smoooooooooth. We were joined at the table by two couples, one Sam’s age and one my age. There was also a guy there by himself, but I don’t think he spoke English because he never said a word. At one point the conversation turned to the show from the previous night. The young guy said, “Was anyone else as offended by that as I was?” I replied, “Thank you!!!” I felt so much better knowing that I wasn’t the only one.

That evening, Sam and I had a reservation at the Crown Grill. It was formal night, so we dressed up a bit. Sam wore his nice shirt and jacket with his jeans. He looked nice. I wore a black dress with a feather-light jacket patterned with beautiful abstract designs in red, orange and black. We had a wonderful dinner. We had tiger prawns for an appetizer. Then Sam had a salad and I had the Black & Blue Onion Soup, which is a French onion soup made with blue cheese. Why did I think I would like that? I don’t like blue cheese. For the main dish, I ordered the Maine lobster. Sam ordered the Brazilian lobster AND a porterhouse steak. Our side dishes were asparagus and a wonderfully tasty au gratin potato dish. For desert, Sam chose a S’More themed dessert and I asked for the sampler, which was a tiny portion of every dessert on the menu. Yummy!

After we left the restaurant, we happened to pass by a photographer, so we paused to have some spontaneous photos taken. We still haven’t gone to see them!

Sam went out with his friends again, although I noticed he did not stay out as late as he had the previous night. He told me the next morning that the club was dead. It was just as well since the next day was our stop in Jamaica!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

private island

Now, where was I? When last we met, it was just after sail-away and I was happily at sea. I had a late afternoon nap. Then Sam came to wake me up to get ready for dinner. We had Anytime dining, so we went to the Da Vinci dining room and took the first available table. I had a British couple to my right. Then, to their right were two men together, from Phoenix. Sam had a couple from the USA on his left. The British couple and the two men barely said a word. I kept trying to pull them into the conversation, but they would answer whatever question I asked, then they would clam up again. The couple to Sam’s left was very talkative, however, so the meal was not a complete bust. The food was mediocre again. I think that Princess has really dropped the ball when it comes to food preparation in the main dining rooms.

After dinner, I went on back to the room and settled in for the night. My sinus infection is really kicking my butt and I wanted to take some medicine that I knew would knock me out. Sam went out with his friends and was out until the wee hours of the morning. I am so glad that he is having a good time!

Day One of our cruise took us to Princess Cay, the cruise line’s private island. It is a beautiful little island, which I saw only from the ship because after I got a pedicure, I gratefully claimed my padded lounger up in the Sanctuary and settled in to read and snooze. I mostly snoozed all day. At lunch, I ordered a hot dog and French fries, which was just what I wanted. It was delicious. I read most of one book on my Kindle. The Sanctuary is so quiet. My lounge chair is very close to the massage cabana, so I enjoyed the soothing music that was being played for the massage client. Sam went ashore and hung out with the friends he met at the Cruise Critic meeting.

That young man is a marvel. He makes friends so easily. He finds something in common with every person he meets. This morning at breakfast, we joined a Hispanic man at his table. Soon, we were joined by his friends, an African-American couple who are newlyweds. The husband is in his 60’s and the wife is in her 50’s. They told us about their courtship and how they fell in love. She has two older children and she has an 11 year-old daughter, who was with them. We had wonderful conversation with them. The wife, Gloria, said that she hoped we would meet again. I told them that the odd thing about being on cruise ships is that once you have a conversation with someone, you then see them over and over and over again and each time feels like you are greeting dear friends from years gone by. True to form, we have seen them several times since and have even exchanged Facebook information so we could become FB friends.

That evening, we went to dinner with Sam's friends, a young couple from Ohio. We were seated with two other couples. A Russian couple who emigrated to the United States about twenty years ago sat to my right. To Sam's left was a young couple from Colorado who were celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary. The Russian couple live in Phoenix. Since Sam and I lived in Phoenix for a few years, there was much to discuss. And since my mother and sister live in Colorado, we had quite a lot to discuss with the younger couple too. It was a fun dinner.

After dinner, we attended a stage production featuring Motown music. It was positively frightful. The entire cast was Caucasian. At one point, one cast member came very close to being in blackface. I was horrified. I kept looking around to see if anyone else was offended. I wondered how any African-American people in the audience might be reacting. At the very least, I am quite sure they were all in agreement that White people should not put on a show featuring Motown music. Those poor kids just had no soul! And quite a bit of the music was in a key too low for the main singers to hit the lower notes. The band was great, however!!!

After the show, I went to bed because it was past my bedtime.  Sam went out with his friends again. He was out pretty late and told me later that he had an absolute blast.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


The sail-away party is behind us and we are happily at sea.

Yesterday was travel day. I got up at about 7:30 a.m. because I wanted to go ahead and take Scamp to the Pet Hotel and I knew I would need to fill out some paperwork when I got there. But first – breakfast! Scamp happily accompanied me on a McDonald’s run, then scampered around the back yard while I ate my breakfast and drank coffee out on the patio. I was looking forward to a relaxing day because my flight wasn’t scheduled to depart Memphis until 3:30 p.m.

After breakfast, I started getting dressed for the day. I stopped suddenly because an inner voice said, “go ahead and check in for your flight on line”. I’ve learned to listen to that voice! When I pulled up my itinerary on Delta’s website, I found that my Memphis to Atlanta flight had been canceled. IEEEEE! The next 90 minutes consisted of me frantically rearranging travel plans for me and for Sam.

My new flight was scheduled to leave 90 minutes EARLIER than my original flight, because I now had THREE flights instead of two. I hadn’t even packed yet! I rushed Scamp over to the Pet Hotel. There was no time for a pedicure. I would just have to get one on the ship. I threw everything into the suitcases, hoping that my rush would not cause me to forget anything. Then it was time to go to the airport. When I arrived at the airport, I looked down and noticed that my gas light had come on. (That should make for an exciting journey home.)

On my flight to Nashville, I sat next to a Baptist preacher’s wife. She and her husband were relocating to Louisiana from Nashville. She lamented that one daughter did not attend church. I lamented that my son’s life had gotten derailed by an accident. We both agreed to pray for each other’s children. Her daughter’s name is Amy. But I am not praying for Amy to go to church. I am praying for Amy to find God, in whatever way she needs to do so.

Sitting in Nashville, I watched CNN. Part of the headline news was that the U.S. State Department had issued an advisory for Jamaica. I wonder if this will affect our itinerary. I suspect that it will not. I was a little hungry and spotted a Neely’s, which is a little restaurant. I love the Neely’s in Memphis. You may know the Food Network show based on their cooking. (Is it “Down Home with the Neelys”?) Anyway, I ordered a pulled pork sandwich that was HORRIBLE. It was about 80% fat and gristle. The meat that was there was overcooked and the BBQ sauce was just bad. I threw it away after about 2 bites.

Before I knew it, it was time to fly to Atlanta. I had an empty seat beside me. I arrived in Atlanta and headed to my new gate. I found Sam sitting in a bar next to our departure gate. We sat at the bar, drinking beer (Sam) and wine (me). Then we ate some chicken fingers. Yummy!

On our flight to Ft. Lauderdale I sat with a young couple who were FUNNY. They had a very animated conversation about a Redbook magazine that she had brought. He was hysterically funny, reading aloud from some of the articles, which he found absolutely silly, which of course they were. He kept asking, “Is this for real?” They were a very cute couple.

We claimed our bags, with me expressing absolute delight that mine made it through two plane changes. We headed out to the curb and found the Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise South van and off we went to the hotel. We arrived at our destination almost immediately and I knew that this was not the same place that I had stayed last time. Clearly I had made a mistake when I made the reservation. You can take your pick of any of the following descriptions for this place: 1. DUMP!!! 2. Dilapidated. 3. Disaster! It was really the pits. Sam kept telling me that it was perfectly fine for one night, but I thought it was just awful. The room was not in good shape. The “continental” breakfast was barely serviceable. I was very glad to get out of there!

We took a taxi to the terminal the next morning. Our driver was from Brooklyn and talked non-stop from the time that he picked us up until the minute he dropped us off. He was very entertaining. Once we arrived at the terminal, we found the Platinum embarkation lounge and waited our turn to board. It wasn’t long before they called us and then we were on the ship. I made a bee line for the Sanctuary. This is a section of the ship where you can reserve a plush lounge chair for the whole cruise. I think I was the first person there and I grabbed the two loungers that I wanted.

Then we went over to the buffet and had mediocre food for our lunch. Sigh. I’m on vacation and so far the best meal I’ve had was the chicken fingers at the bar in the Atlanta airport!!! Oh well. Next we walked to make reservations at the Crown Grill for Tuesday night and Sabatini’s for Thursday night. Those will be excellent meals!!!

After the muster drill, Sam and I grabbed a frosty beverage and enjoyed a bit of the sail-away party. Then we ran off to meet the folks that we had gotten to know on As I write this, Sam has gone off to the bar with some of the folks his age and I am relaxing before dinner. The movement of the ship is so soothing. I think I might hear a nap calling me!

Friday, May 21, 2010

packing day

To be precise, it is laundry, last-minute shopping, packing, pedicure and give instructions to the house/dog-sitter day. Naturally I am procrastinating about all of the tasks I still need to do. I do have that first load of laundry in. But I still need to get myself out the door. I am really very talented at doing nothing, if the opportunity to do nothing presents itself.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Moving to Memphis has meant getting used to living with tornado watches and warnings. This really didn't mean much to me until I lived through a few situations. I have made one very important observation. Every other type of severe weather is something you gradually become conditioned to. Your first exposure to a lot of snow is frightening, but you are better prepared for the next time. Your first hurricane warning is terrifying, but you learn to create a kit of materials and how and when to evacuate. Tornado activity is different. There is really nothing you can do to prepare, very little warning and survival seems very random. As a result, anxiety levels INCREASE with each exposure.

Looking at this graphic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, you can see that Memphis is smack in the middle of recorded tornado activity. Ya'll, it is SCARY here during tornado season! I have a weather radio at my college campus that was provided to us by the state of Tennessee. It beeps loudly whenever a weather warning is about to be announced. When that loud beep sounds, everyone stops what they are doing to come over and listen. Last year, a tornado took out the side of a local department store that is halfway between my college campus and my home.

I spent part of a recent Saturday hunkered down in a closet with a cat and a dog. All kinds of thoughts went through my head while I sat in that closet. I thought about the fact that I had no water in there. If we did get hit by a tornado and we managed to survive, but were trapped, we would be in bad shape. After the warning was lifted, I put some water in that closet. I look at it every time I go in there to select my clothes for the day. The more time that passes, the sillier I feel when I look at that water. But I haven't moved it yet!

Each place I have lived has required mental adjustments. I will never forget watching a dust devil, like a mini-tornado, cross the road in front of my car in Phoenix. My mouth hung open as I watched it travel. It was small, so I wasn't scared. Shortly after that, a dust cloud moved across the valley. By then I was safely home. I looked out the window during the worst part and I could not see the building that was just a few hundred feet away. There was a street light next to my building and it looked like rain was blowing in front of that light, but it was just dust.

Yesterday, a terrible storm descended while I was driving home from Nashville. I was about 45 minutes from my exit when the severe thunderstorm warnings began to play on the radio. I watched the sky get darker and darker. Then the rain just dropped out of the sky like a ton of bricks. Traffic on the interstate slowed to about 20 mph. Every car had its blinkers on. It was terrible. When I felt my steering wheel pull to the right, I knew I was getting a flat tire and I thought to myself, "Really? In the middle of this horrible storm, I'm getting a flat tire???" But I suppose I might have been lucky that it happened while we were driving so slowly. It could have happened while I was driving 70+ mph.

So, I limped off at the next exit and found a little Mom & Pop store. I had to spend the night at a creepy motel because the tire place wasn't open until the morning. And I am safely home now. But the anxiety of the whole situation was exhausting! I must tell you that everyone I met along the way was very nice! I kept thinking I was in a horror movie. My imagination is so vivid, that each person I met was a potential axe murderer. I think I was the only guest at the motel. I was too worried about serial killers to think about bedbugs, although I believe the latter was the greater danger. When the wind picked up later in the evening, I did have a moment to think that it would really be sad if a tornado dropped onto the motel while I happened to be there. Just for kicks and giggles, my cell phone was dead. Isn't that just a recipe for a classic horror movie???

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

oh, arizona

In September 2002, I moved to Arizona to begin working for the same company for which I work today. (Obviously, I am happy with the decision I made!) Having spent many years in the South, I was very accustomed to the constant presence of racism and hatred. In Georgia, this typically would come in the form of outrageous statements made by Caucasian people while in my presence. They assumed that I would agree with whatever was being said, until I made sure that they knew otherwise.

What interested me about Arizona, however, was that the racism was not aimed towards the few African-American people who lived in the Valley of the Sun. Instead, the outrageous statements made by Caucasian people were aimed towards Mexican-Americans and/or Mexicans. Again, I think people thought I would agree, until I made sure that they knew otherwise.

Let me be clear. I'm certainly not suggesting that ALL Caucasian people made outrageous statements to me. In fact, very few did - in Georgia or in Arizona. And I will freely admit that I heard African-American people say things that were openly hostile towards Caucasian people. But I also witnessed many events over the years, that opened my eyes quite a bit. Posted here are just a few. There were many, many more.

Let's go back to 1975. Friday night, riding around in a car with four friends. Two of us are Caucasian and three of us are African-American. We stop to put air in a tire. This is rural North Carolina and the store we stop at is closed. The next thing we know, two cop cars pull up with blue lights flashing and the three African-Americans are thrown to the ground. I and the other Caucasian person are asked if we are okay. Because I am only 16, I don't have any sense and I begin yelling at the cops that they are idiots. Obviously, this does not go over well. Once they figure out that we are not kidnap victims and that we are not attempting to break into the store where we had stopped for air, they let us go. I am furious. My African-American friends, having survived similar situations on multiple occasions, are amused at my reaction.

Fast forward to 1988. A wealthy friend of mine, an African-American, is walking in the Buckhead neighborhood of the city of Atlanta, from point A to point B. Although he is wearing an expensive hand-tailored suit, expensive shoes and is quite well-groomed, he can hear drivers locking their car doors as he passes by. He describes this to me shortly after arriving at his destination. I express indignation. He shrugs his shoulders. He is insulted by the sound of the car locks, but for him it is par for the course.

Fast forward to 1989. I am attending a conference in Jackson, Mississippi. I am one of a handful of Caucasian people from Georgia attending this conference, along with quite a few African-American colleagues. Quite a few states are represented at this meeting and each state has its own hospitality suite. Our suite is the dance floor. We are having a wonderful time, enjoying each other's company, laughing, talking, dancing and playing cards. Suddenly there is a commotion at the door. We all look over and a deputy sheriff is standing at the door to our suite. He is gesturing wildly and yelling at a member of our group. I get up and walk over to see what the problem is. The deputy sheriff is yelling that "you people might get away with this loud partying on your side of the tracks, but you're not going to come over here and be all loud and out of control". Our combined group is spending more money in that hotel than that deputy sheriff will probably earn in his lifetime. He is spitting as he yells. Up close, he is an ugly man, inside and out. One phone call to management removes his ugly butt from our presence, but he has dampened our spirits. It is a reminder that racism can never be behind us.

Fast forward to 1991. I am traveling in a car with my boss, on our way back from a business meeting. It is dusk. Suddenly, the blue lights are flashing behind us. We pull to the side of the road. The police officer signals my boss, an African-American man, to exit the car and walk to the front of the vehicle. My boss complies. I now have a birds-eye view of the cop, who is a Caucasian, screaming at my boss and shaking his finger in his face. This goes on for quite some time. My boss is a brilliant, well-educated man. He stands mutely as the cop screams at him. Finally, he is allowed to return to the car. He gets in and stares straight ahead, breathing slowly. I ask, "What the hell was that about???" My boss shakes his head, turns to me and explains that the cop was upset because one of our headlights is set at an angle that makes it appear to be on bright. He claimed that he spotted it while he was traveling in the opposite direction and turned around to chase us and stop us. This is an obvious lie. We are on a major interstate highway in downtown Atlanta. Even if he did spot a car with a headlight as he described, by the time he turned around at the next exit, we would have been much farther down the road. My boss has been pulled over for DWB - driving while Black.

(Don't jump to the incorrect assumption that I think law enforcement is the problem here. Over the years, beginning in college, I have known and loved many, many law enforcement officers. Just like any profession, there are mostly good people and a few bad apples. Power in the hands of the few bad apples is what causes the problems.)

Fast forward to 2010. Arizona has passed a law that requires people to carry their citizenship paperwork with them. The law also requires police officers to ask for the citizenship paperwork in certain situations and take action if the person asked is unable to produce the paperwork. As I learn about this new law, I am not thinking about abstract concepts such as illegal aliens or political division or even racisim. I am thinking about people in Arizona that I dearly care for - real people - Nadia, Joe, Juana, Anna, Elizabeth. I know what is in store for them. I've lived in Arizona.

What is surprising to me is that intelligent Caucasian people don't seem to get it. They think the Arizona law is about illegal immigration. It's not. It's about car doors being locked when a Black (or Brown) person is coming. It's about being pulled over for DWB. It's about being too loud on this side of the tracks. It gives an excuse for abuse. And anyone who doesn't realize that has never experienced institutionalized racism - or has forgotten, maybe because remembering is too painful. So when I see dear friends joining Facebook groups like "I support the Arizona legislators", I cringe, just like I did in those situations above. White People Behaving Badly - WPBB - is just something I can never get used to.

Monday, May 3, 2010

may day

My Mother (Jean Jones) was the Associate Dean of Students at Brenau College (now Brenau University) in Gainesville, Georgia from 1968 to 1973. Each year, the students celebrated May Day, including a May Pole which they danced around, weaving long ribbons about the pole. A May Queen was crowned. I wonder if they still do this today. I used to have a bunch of photos of one of those celebrations, but I have no idea where they are now!

It does seem that 2010 is moving at the speed of a bullet train! That is good news when looking ahead to a vacation that begins on May 21st. Yay! It is NOT good news when trying to reach certain benchmarks at my college. I am now DREAMING about these benchmarks at night. If that doesn't show my dedication to the job, I don't know what would!

There was a terrific storm this weekend. I spent part of the weekend hunkered down in a closet with my cat and dog. That was not fun since they are not friends. The dog wants to PLAY. The cat wants nothing to do with the dog. So it was a constant, "Scamp, NO. Scamp, SIT. Scamp, LEAVE JOE ALONE." But each time the weather folks said "take shelter NOW", I obeyed. In the end, we had some pretty heavy storming and a lot of water, but not much tornado damage in Memphis. Outside of Memphis, several people were killed. Nashville had record-breaking rain and massive flooding. Public schools are closed today in Nashville.

The BP oil slick has now reached the barrier islands off the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines. This is just plain ugly. And it is going to get worse before it gets better. The people in that area are just barely emerging from post-Katrina recovery. They did not need this!!!