Day Three - Four? Whatever. 12:35 AM on deck outside the Blue Lagoon Café

The view is not yet transcendent; it's overcast and rainy and foggy and murky and gazuy and cold. It looked like this earlier today. Later today as well.

Tonight's dining adventure: The entire tribe met to eat at Aqua. It was lobster night. Ship-wide, the word had gone out: lobster night! Every restaurant, every menu: try the lobster! We sat down, and the waiter (Romanian; they’re the best waiters on the ship so far) handed us menus. It’s lobster night! We said. He shook his head with a trace of sadness. “I recommend the Beef Wellington,” he said, and he pinched his thumb and index finger together in the universal expression of epicurian approval. The lobster, he explained, was, well, ehh. But of course you could have both. So we had both. That’s life on the cruise ship: have both. Twice.

Not everyone was present – some were off getting the formal picture, Uncle Frenchman was delivering the kids to the tot room;  Auntie Jill was God or Neptune knows where.  While we waited for everyone to assemble, we took pictures, because such events must be sanctified with photos that show everyone in every possible combination. The sisters with the mother. The mother with the grandkids. The grandkids with the mother. Now let’s take a picture of the aunts taking a picture of Grandma. Now let’s take a picture of Grandma’s camera. Now let’s take a picture of the all the sisters’ cameras using the uncles’ cameras, then vice versa. Ho! Here comes the rest of the troupe, everyone line up by height, birth order, blood type, zip code. I left in the middle of it all, found Uncle Frenchman with the kids; they had to get different clothes for the evening’s event, so we went back to the rooms. Changed Gnat, got her back upstairs, and sat down for the meal again 45 minutes after we’d been seated. Well, fine. Where are we going to go? What else are we going to do?

Gamble in the deep underbelly of the ship’s entertainment world, as it happened. After the meal – good Beef Wellington, dead dry lobster – we went first to the casino:

I floated my sister-in-law a double sawbuck, reminding her that the nut was 20 and the vig was ten percent per day. Blew through that in half an hour, mostly on video poker, which is a clever combination of strategy and onanism, then moved on to the Carousel bar. Mr. Classic Merry-Go-Round Head bids you welcome, and hopes he can suck dry the souls of your chidren:

On the Karaoke stage stood Arizona sister-in-law and her daughter, singing a lovely version of a lovely song which also happened to be the theme from, er, "Titanic." I tried to get the rest of our party to sing – my wife has a voice that could pierce the heart of angels, but she declined; French brother-in-law also said noooo, which made me page through the book to find some Johnny Hallyday or Plastique Bertrand. And here we come to the interesting part of the experiment: sip #2 of the second drink makes your host decide that this would be a jolly good time to declaim the Macarena to the bar. Arizona Niece joined me. Why did I choose this song? Because I know my range, and I know I can hit the HEYYYY MACARENA notes with absholute and utter confidenshe. My neice didn’t know the lyrics, so I had to sing the sentiments of the Maracena herself, and that meant I had to translate the gender on the fly, lest I give the Friends of Dorothy the wrong impression. The dance floor was PACKED seconds after it became apparent that we would not be screeching tuneless horrors, and if I could have a picture of the gape-mouthed stunned expressions of the rest of my party, I’d frame it and put it on a T-shirt and wear it up and down the street with the words YES, I DID THAT TO THEIR FACIAL AREAS. I think it goes without saying that I danced the Maracena, as well.

Lest you think I was nineteen sheets to the mistral, that was 45 minutes ago, and I’m writing this in the coffee house, prior to uploading the daily entry to buzz.mn. Time to post and head up to bed. Tomorrow morning will be the same as today, I hope; I’ll take Gnat to breakfast while Wife runs around the ship. We have a day in Ketichan tomorrow, which looks like a Quaint Wooden Town where you can buy diamonds and sweatshirts decorated with romantic pictures of husky dogs and maybe some carved examples of native art, most of which I find unappealing. The birds look like Toucan Sam dressed up for the Day of the Dead, and all those grimacing masks make you wonder if everyone had piles.

To my right is a rjuddy giant fellow with tentative facial hair – wispy burns and wispy 'stache – staring with difficulty into the distance, hunched over hot chocolate. Hot chocolate. Good Lord, if you’re going to drink like a man, sober up like a man.

Oh – I mentioned the Friends of Dorothy, and it wasn’t a throwaway reference. According to the list of ship activities,, there’s a meeting at 5 PM at the Star Bar for “The Friends of Dorothy,” and just like the 5 PM meeting at the coffee house for The Friends of Bill W, it’s a code word. They can’t quite come out and say, well, come out, I guess.

Okay: up to the “Internet Café,” as it’s called. No drinks allowed. Some cafe.


DAY FOUR

Sheer frank hell in all flavors. Woke at 6 AM as the crew was winching the tenders off the side of the ship; sounded like whales trying to play an Alban Berg opera on a gigantic kazoo. We got back to sleep, but the racket continued for most of the morning until we got up. Off to the breakfast buffet with Gnat, then down to the sea in small, easily tossed ships to spend the day in Ketchikan.

What a dump.

Sorry: I know it’s home to fine people, flinty and scrappy and proud and all that, but I have a specific version of hell I fear the most, and it consists of a small tourist-trap down where every store sells jewelry and T-shirts. It rained. It rained all the time. It rained before we went into the store to look for things to commemorate the fact that we had gone into the store to look for things, and it was running when we left which bags full of items that signified we had gone into town to buy a shirt that said we had gone into town.

It was a bit odd to see gigantic cruise ships docked on the other side of the street:

Four vessels! Why all the traffic? if they’d sold and bottled the secret of eternal youth I’d understand. But no: gold. And totem poles!

They also had fabulous life-sucking concrete brutalist architecture that takes keen advantage of the view:

Outposts of the global conspiracy, painted frostbite blue:

Ancient boarding houses named for a city on the absolute other end of the country:

Here's the definition of a mixed message:

 

Tired from lack of sleep, damp, and feeling like nine different types of cranky, I enjoyed little of it. Back to the ship after 1263 hours, or so it seemed; then we went to the fore lounge to read a book and look at the scenery as the ship steamed out and up the Inside Passage.

While we waited the bar staff decided to check out the music they’d play for the evening, and ran through a series of deafening selections – the usual banalities of 70s and 80s FM RAWK 109! Krep I’ve been nodding my head to since high school, and my mother-in-law was so irritated she scolded the soundman, pointing out the dozen residents of the bar were reading quietly to themselves. He stopped. They turned it up later, though, and as we headed north the bar was alive with the stirring sounds of “I Can’t Drive 55.” I gave up and went to the Havana Club, a soundproofed cigar bar. Not soundproofed enough, though; I could hear a man giving a lecture about Arthritis and the healing power of Algae in the adjacent Gatsby Bar. There’s not a moment of fargin’ peace on this ship. Right now in the atrium, it’s Chaka Khan. She feels for me. You know what? I don’t think so.

The idea of a string quartet seems have gone down with the Titanic. As much as I enjoy the music of these various eras, it's infantile to play nothing but RAWK, and it gives you a sense of what the world would sound like if RAWK was all there was. It sounds like it's 15 years old.

Well, I’ve done my buzzwork, so now it’s time to change for dinner and eat. Yes, eat! Time to shove more meat down the gullet and pop a button! Put out a server’s eye if I time it right!