Just Bill and the Mister

February 4, 2010

REVENGE OF THE TUITION BANKRUPTS #3:ID,EGO,SUPEREGO

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 10:59 am

                     By bedtime, you have a better sense of the Britanis’ eight decks, bars, disco, movie theater. 

                     A printed history in your cabin details the ship’s colorful past.  Launched by Bethlehem Shipbuilding at Quincy, Massachusetts in 1931 for the Matson Line, she was originally named the SS Monterey.  The following year she made her maiden voyage from San Francisco, sailing first to Honolulu, then on to Australia.  Through the thirties, she was popular with society—Gable and Lombard sailed with her, the Rockefellers.  Like other pleasure ships, she was converted during the war for transport.  With berths installed for half the number, she carried over six thousand troops at a time: “half slept by day and the other half by night.”  In all during WW II, the Monterey steamed 328,490 miles, and transported more than 170,000 troops.

                     You like all that—a lady of a certain age with a past, not one of these latter-day floating malls.  Refitted twice since then, with a change of name, “the Britanis has become a very special relic from the romantic pre-war days of cruising.”

                     Also, during Belle’s dinner monologue, Alvarez managed to fill you in on the ship’s passengers:

                     Italians.

                     Two hundred Turinese flew all night to Kennedy, then to Miami.  During the afternoon, in passageways and public rooms, on deck or gunning aggressively up and down the stairwells, they’ve already convinced you Alavarez’s count is short buy four or five hundred.  Some of the Turinese will be sleeping during the day.

                     Brazilians.

                     About eighty of them, Alvarez said.  They, too, have come a long way to take the cruise.  All seem to have been selected from a catalog of Beautiful People.  They are seated in your dining room.  Their gorgeous clothes, the heartstopping faces of their perfect children make you wonder how such beings could want to share a strange ship with mere mortals.

                     Christians.

                     Perhaps three hundred are travelling in a group.  All wear conventioneer badges, and as with the Brazilians they seem out of place.  Collectively, they strike you as painfully vigilant: it’s as though cruising represents an ordeal undertaken to test their resolve.  You yourself are for Christians these days: they get a bad rap from journalists, filmmakers, TV comics.  After the cartoon antics of televangelists, Christians have become cheap-shot material.

                     But what can you do?  An hour after dinner, buttoned up and sipping mineral water in the ballroom, they watch the rest of us, looking to me like tourists at a leper colony.  Everyone else is swilling huge Cerulean Blue Typhoons garnished with patio umbrellas.  Ole!

                     From ten o’clock on, the ship’s id–college students on spring break–pulses beneath the ballroom in the strobe-lit disco.  Seen from the stairwell, the students look like a single organism reacting to chemical reagents.  You and your wife are the ego one floor up, drowsily shuffling to show tunes.  You trust that the captain, the superego, is on the bridge maintaining rigorous navigational standards.

                     As you dance, now and then you look beyond your wife’s scented hair.  Framed by observation windows is black, moon-glazed water.  Just how far below all this flotsam lies the ocean floor?

                     You intend before bed to work off one or more layers of Black Forest tort.  But barely have you begun a turn around the promenade deck when you confront the midnight buffet.  Set up on the portside, trestle tables are laden with napoleons, cream puffs, tiers of meringue, all of it shining under colored lights. Once again you do your duty.  At last you and your wife stumble back down strangely narrowed passages

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