Thursday, May 19, 2016

Alice in Ship Land: The Ten-Day Cruise

During the NOLA Cemetery tour, I saw the voodoo queen’s tomb and the future burial place of Nic Cage. I also accomplished Bucket List Item See The Street the Streetcar Used to Ride Down Named Desire. I had to take a cab because it was a 45 minute walk to that part of town. No matter. Once I stood on the street Blanche had before me, I Yelped “pastry” like one does and walked around to various shops before I found something delightful: ginger fennel apple spinach pressed juice, blueberry pistachio pancakes, and a bowl of yogurt. It was a major hotspot with a million mustaches and that vaguely dirty vibe. When I looked at the receipt my eyes bugged out. Stinkin hipster brunch for one cost $21! Ah well, that’s part of the experience.
 New Port! I was overwhelmed with the possibilities of what do with my one golden day on Grand Cayman, and I chose right. ZPill, MB, and I went to a turtle sanctuary. The excursion was actually called “Turtles, Turtles, and More Turtles.” It was one of the best days of this whole dang enchilada. I saw giant 600-lb sea turtles, held baby turtles, snorkeled in a freshwater pond where a turtle swam right up to my face, fed a bunch of finches, and went down a slide that led to waterfall pool. I MEAN!? The day was over too soon. I forked some samples of rum cakes from a hut en route back to the ship so I could get ready for work. Major snaps for May 11, 2016—I made friends with a teeny turt in the morning and performed for two-thousand people at night. I ate double chocolate chip cookies in the middle.
 Guatemala is not an actual tourist port like all the other cities we go to. The gangway was in a literal train car graveyard. One concrete building a stone’s throw away full of card tables of trashy souvenirs. That was it. Our cast stuck together and exited the barbed wire fence area. Men with machine guns stood nearby. We asked for a cab to the nearest town to get lunch. Were we about to be mugged? Unclear. The car ride was hot and sad. The quality of life was low. But the cab driver came through! He dropped us off at a little seafood restaurant on the water. We ordered and took a stroll down the dock. I drank the best limeade I’ve ever had followed with a slice of pie and a coconut fritter from a guy walkin’ around with a tray of candied fruits.
Guat treatz.
I invited everyone over for Friday the 13th festivities. Tail even wrote in our weekly calendar “Alice’s Birthday (Observed).”  We crammed into my cabin and each told a story—some made up, some true, some ghostly, others chilling. ZPill was the first to leave, but we sat around sharing creepy tales and munching Walgreens brand caramels for a while longer. I got up to brush my teeth in my teeny bathroom and ZPill popped out of the shower! I shrieked my face off and crumpled to the ground. As someone who loves to be scared, I could not have asked for a better present. Besides maybe the stuffed turtle MB gave me.
Early in the week, I finished a seventh draft of my screenplay, wrote some emails, read some friends’ scripts. By Thursday I was officially unable to be productive anymore. On Saturday instead of going to Belize I had breakfast at 11:30 and then napped all afternoon. I got up just in time for improv rehearsal and then ZPill and I, both not quite ready to go home, wandered around the ship. The arcade was empty, so we played air hockey. We discussed theatre on the helipad. I ate the only things that seemed edible (pizza and a ton of Pringles) and threw up.

I might miss Costa Maya most of all. I did all the things as a farewell tour. Swam in the ocean, took a beach walk, got a massage from a lil abuella, laid in the sun at Nacional Beach Club, and got henna tatts with MB. And still, I forgot to drink from a final coconut. It’s always something, isn’t it?

In our scriptless show, during Pillars MB played my gay aunt Karen who took me to an amusement park to tell me my parents were getting a divorce. Every time I got sad, she fed me candy. It was too real, and that’s some of the fun of improv—your real life friendship is up on stage, and the audience has no clue. We watched the juggler on board this week with some other crew pals. I am surprised by how many friends I have made here. It just happens like any other community in the world. See each other regularly enough, start saying “hi” in hallways--next thing you know you’re jumping into the ocean together and he’s telling you what growing up in Serbia is like.

Speaking of crew “friends,” this boat is thirsty. We’re headed into a dry dock period and everyone knows it. Guys who have been cordial in elevators are suddenly sniffing around like mad for something to appease their month alone in an empty port with very few women. “Wait, let’s make sure we hang out this week!” they say with not-so-hidden desperation. “How will I find you later?” A deckboy professed his affection for me and swore he’d never love again if I meant what I said when I told him, “I have a boyfriend.” Poor knuckleheads.

Final port felt surreal. Goodbye, Caribbean. I may never see you again. I started the day with a ridiculous journey to find a Mexican candy flavored McFlurry. I get it, I’m TRASH. I walked a mile and a half in the blistering sun getting a real blister from my flip flops. When I arrived I was told the ice cream machine wasn’t working. I walked back to the usual crew beach bar, promptly ordered an ice-cold smoothie, and sunk to the bottom of the pool, letting my hair fall out of it’s elastic band and float like algae.

I did my usual jump off a high wall into the ocean. About twenty feet. There’s a way to crawl up a narrow corner of the rock and jump from a thirty-foot spot, but it’s significantly scarier. Barely space to stand up. And Oh. So. High. I have started the crawl three times before. I usually get about two feet before I imagine slipping and decapitating myself on the brick. Then I abort the mission. “It’s okay not to do everything,” I think. I tell Folds this, who has done the big jump once and wants to again but says he won’t because his back has been bugging him. We have a great day. I splash, I do handstands, I finally get an amaretto ice cream cone from the mother/son shoppe down the way. Half an hour before we need to get back on the ship Folds marches over to me and points at me, then at the big wall. “We’re doing it.” And he’s so certain, I follow. I watch him crawl and jump. I follow and stop. I’m terrified. But a gal and two guys are below swimming. They cheer me on. A dude with red dreadlocks (of course) comes up behind me and gives me tips about focusing on my center of gravity. “You can do it,” this stranger I might be tempted to razz in another context says, and it really helps. “I’m scared,” I keep repeating. It is empowering to announce it. It’s rare we get to announce our fear. I do over and over, but then, I slowly stand, and I scream, and I fly. I can barely tell where one blue ends and one begins. Moments later Dreadlocks does a backflip, of course.
Saturday is a long day of signing papers and packing and trying to eat through the snacks I didn’t finish (lunch of buffalo wing Pringles, Mexican shortbread cookies, and a diet 7UP not recommended). After our final show, the entire entertainment department all had a toast in the theatre. It felt truly warm. Goodbye dancers, goodbye singers, goodbye aerialists. In these moments I think how differently I would feel if I had a Facebook. But I don’t need to know what the saucy Brit I befriended will be doing next year. I will only remember him as he was, in high tweed pants, drinking champagne from a plastic cup on the lip of the stage. ZPill asked if I had snacks, and when I told him the only option he decided he was not above the Cadberry egg I had already thrown in the trash. They’re covered in foil, ya know?

Debark was the longest morning of waiting in lines, lugging suitcases, and showing forms. But joy filled the air. Everyone fireworking out back into their lives. ZPill and I went to Frenchman Street and debriefed. We asked the cab driver to drive by a donut shop on our way out of town.
NOLA in the afterglow. Goodbye for now.

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