Just Bill and the Mister

February 9, 2010

REVENGE OF THE TUITION BANKRUPTS #4: WHAT I SAW AT THE ANACHRONISM

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 7:50 am
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Revealing an eerie capacity for internal displacement during sleep, the following morning you wake shamefully hungry.  Your wife is still unconscious.  So completely you almost check for vital signs. 

No, she’s just exhausted.  Showered and dressed, off you go alone to that timeless place of excess below decks—for kippers, eggs Benedict, more pastries.

Then to the sundeck.

Oddly, in the case of you and your wife, this is what you’ve paid for but  must guard against.  More than one vacation has ended with both of you packed in ice and unguents.  Later in the week, hearing cheers from a tanning competition, your wife will suggest somewhat peevishly an award for the whitest person on board.

But judging from your vantage point above the stern’s sundeck, solar collecting will be this crowd’s main concern.  Even the Christians, in Bermuda shorts and polo shirts are basking.  The Italians and Brazilians are already dark, and many are sporting shoelace swimwear.  In some instances, portions of the body have engorged the suit fore and aft.  A remarkable pride in breasts seems the only explanation for women proffering cleavage well below the waistline—in some cases, below the waterline.

Oh but there are goddesses, too.  Especially the Brazilians.  Women so anatomically breathtaking that you see one of the older Christian males pop an extra nitroglycerine under his tongue before tearing himself away for the next prayer session.

Eventually, the pulse regulates and you focus on the shoreline.  Three hundred yards to starboard is Key Best, the first port of call.  Last night you and your wife agreed to skip this one.  You watch the tenders shuttling passengers back to the ship before noon. 

Why go ashore?  You spend all your time there.  This simple discovery—that there is no reason to leave the ship—is strongly exhilarating.  You don’t have to see anything!  The two remaining ports of call are just nonstop souvenir shops.  This isn’t Europe or Africa or China—not a place where you feel obliged to use your time well.  That, you now realize, is the whole point of cruising: you aren’t going anywhere

                                                            *     *     *     *

“I first saw him as a foot, a highly polished brown cordovan wagging merrily on a hassock–”

You’ve opened Peggy Noonan’s book on her years as a speechwriter in the Reagan Whitehouse.  What I Saw at the Revolution.  Already you know you’re going to like it. The awful truth is that, as a college English teacher, most of what you read is written by freshmen and sophomores.  Truth to tell, you don’t read many freely chosen books.  The reviews of Noonan’s book convinced you to buy it for the trip.  By chance, it turns out there’s a nice congruity to your choice:  the ship’s history says the Reagans sailed on the Britanis in the Sixties.

By now, your wife has found you.  She has her own book, P.D. James’ latest.  Together, swathed against the sun and looking more like Bedouins than fun seekers, neither of you notices when the ship weighs anchor and begins its passage for the Yucatan Peninsula.

Later that day, you make a second wonderful discovery.

Two levels below the sun troops, horse-racing, bathing-beauty contest, bingo, swimming pool, strolling mariachi players and Christian gentlemen mainlining nitro, you find a deserted deck.

Fittingly, it lies outside the ship’s vacant library.  Here are rows of deck chairs, all empty save for one reader.  Visibly alarmed when she looks up from Bonfire of the Vanities, soon she understands you have no maracas, playing cards, or cassette player.  At a tactful distance you settle in under the mahogany canopy. 

An anachronism from the ship’s salad days—a deck for readers.  If the new neon-and-glass-elevator cruise ships have libraries at all, they offer videos.  Here, there is only the glister of ocean, the fanning wake and pleasing thud of turbines generating 29,000 horsepower that will steam you over the northern Caribbean.

Not exactly a “wild surmise” on seeing the Pacific for the first time (Keats thought Cortez was the first European to do this, but it was Balboa), just “our deck.” But until it gets discovered, you, your wife and the Bonfires lady have the best of possible worlds: a private cruise ship.

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