Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Dream Part Five - Birthdayapalooza

This cruise started much like all the others… After returning from another successful venture into the shopping center known as Pasadena, Texas, I picked up my cell phone and dialed my mother. Since I am only in the States on Saturdays, this is the time I have to catch up with family and friends. Anyway, I dial her up and we begin catching up on all the events that have occurred in the past week. Then she says that she can’t hear me very well, probably because of poor signal. Since I just got one of those super cool blue tooth phones and another equally super cool blue tooth ear piece, I figured that my afore mentioned super cool ear piece just ain’t cutting it, what without a cord and a propensity towards not brushing its teeth and all… Then she suggests that she just come down to my cabin…

“Come down to my cabin?” I ask… then there was a knock on the door. I open it, and there is my mother! Turns out she had planned to surprise and spend my thirtieth birthday with me. So there’s my mother and her friend Jack, whom incidentally she met on The Dream while visiting me back in 2005, standing at my door. Hence with the combination of my mother, Jack, and all my buddies on the ship, I had one helluva birthday… or birthdays.

If you read “The Dream Part One - Embarkation” then you know that I had a early birthday back in February. Half a going away party, the purpose was to hang out with my friends in San Diego in order to hedge my bets in case I had to work with a bunch of jerks and pecker heads. Fortunately I have made some fantastic friends on board, and with their help and guidance, I was able to officially stretch my birthday into three full days… which came to be known as “Birthdayapalooza.” Here’s the breakdown…

Since we’re in Houston, I decide this is a prime time to get some good ol’ Texas steak and beer… I really needed my fix. And lucky for me, since in year’s past I have given up red meat for Lint. This year I thought I would be a little more creative and give up television… and before any of you ask, no that is not a cop out. During my last contract here I spent a good many days watching movies on the crew channels, playing video games, and ultimately widdiling away a whole bunch of time that could have been spent more creatively. So in the place of TV I am reading and writing all that I can, part of which this blog is a direct result. And now you know… but back to what’s really important here… meat.

So, since it’s Birthday eve, and because where else but Texas can I get a friggin’ huge T Bone and a Shiner Bock, I invite all my buds to accompany me to The Texas Roadhouse. In attendance were a whole bunch of JARS, including Natalie, Peter, Domonic, and Tracey. Also there was Federico (Shore Ex) and Natalie’s visiting mother and aunt, who were kind enough to drive some of us from the ship and bust my chops for being directionally challenged.

Now, I always love to introduce folks to real Texas food… like BBQ, Chicken Fried Steak, and especially a good ol’ T Bone. Most everyone took my advice and ordered just that… and the rest is history. In minutes the table was full of 18 ounce T Bones, oversized mugs of Shiner Bock, cheese fries, potato wedges… dammit I’m getting hungry! Peter and Domonic were quick believers in Texas Steak after that, and I’ve already been told that we are going back before the contract is out… No arguments here!

As far as birthday loot goes, Natalie and her folks gave me a package of whoopee cushions (and rightfully so), as well as a T-shirt that looks like it has one of those “Hello My Name Is” badges on it, and crudely written on it is the word “Trouble.” Darn tootin’. I wear that shirt with pride, and every time I look at it I am somehow reminded of the Brownie Scouts. I don’t know anything about the brownies, except for this shirt they used to wear. Even though I was only four or five when I noticed this, they would wear these shirts that on the front would say “Here Comes a Brownie” and on the back would say “There Goes a Brownie.” Ahh, who doesn’t like an anecdote… Finally, Anna Mona, my personal tattoo artist, gave me a really cool St. Patrick’s Day shirt… I’m wearing it right now!

Later, after I was surprised by my mother and Jack, the three of us had dinner on the ship. Since they had been on board before, they weren’t surprised by the ho-hum quality of the food, and dinner went well. Afterwards I had drinks with Anna and Ben (art auctioneer) in Lucky’s. Now, Ben is from England, speaks with a thick Cockney accent, and somehow can put down more alcohol than an insert your on metaphor here. So the three of us have a very nice time just chatting and passing the time away, every now and then glancing at our watches and counting the minutes until midnight.

Then Ben tells the waitress to bring us three shots of Zambuca at midnight. Once Twelve rolls around three stemmed shot glasses arrive with a clear liquid in them, accompanied by a couple of coffee beans in each. Then Ben pulls out a lighter and lights the alcohol on fire, blows it out, and tells me to drink it. I must not get out much… does this happen often? Anyway, I shoot it halfway wishing I could sip and savor the rich tasting drink, and toast in my thirtieth birthday.

Since this is a Sunday, I have two performances of “Rock This Town” during the evening. So the day starts with a rehearsal. After many well wishes and “happy birthdays” the rehearsal begins and ends. Then lunch with Mom and Jack, followed by a little siesta. The shows went very well, and I was introduced as the Birthday boy both before I sang the show’s title song “Rock This Town” as well as during the bows where Peter now introduces me as “The world’s greatest luscious grandmother.” (If you don’t know what that means, I ain’t gonna tell you…) Afterwards it was more cocktails in Dazzles, complete with a birthday crown supplied by Natalie.

Since most royal paper headgear designed for birthdays are intended for those ten and younger, I could only precariously balance the crown on my head, careful not to jerk one way or another thus agitating the crown off my head and admitting to the world that perhaps being the “Birthday Prince” is not a product of divine sovereignty… Say, that was a well-worded sentence, wouldn’t you say? But the smallish size of the crown didn’t deter a lot of my buddies to come out and help ring in another year with me.

Oh, and before we had drinks Nat and I were walking the long hallway on Deck 5 to the JAR hallway all the way aft. About halfway down the hall this drunk man turns the corner and proceeds to walk towards us. In his mid forties and holding a full glass of red wine, the man staggers closer to us and sings to Natalie “Hey sista’ soul sista’… where’d ya get ya soul sista…’” Of course, coupled with the fact that he sang this to her in a thick Texas accent made it a nice garnish to all my birthday celebrations. Me encanta turistos barrachos.

Many of you would probably get sick of a long drawn out birthday, but Hell, when you work on a cruise ship you take a different look at reality. Now, day three was actually both a necessity and a technicality. Every good birthday needs an equally good birthday dinner. It helps to define the gathering by attracting people to help you celebrate, if only for the prospect of cake (hope it’s chocolate!). So, since I had two shows on my actual birthday, I had no time for an organized dinner. Also, since we had our steak during lunch time the day before my birthday, that didn’t count. Because of this, a birthday dinner was scheduled for the evening of the 19th. So nine of us went down to our resident Italian restaurant, La Trattoria.

Again, the tables were full of food… Olives, cheese, bread, pizza, lasagna, veal, wine (thanks to Jack who tried to smuggle it on board), pasta, and everything else you could possibly imagine. Conversations floated back and forth from our two tables, and since many of us don’t have the time or occasion for a long sit down meal it was a well deserved evening.

After dinner, a few of us were standing in front of the elevators wandering what to do next. Peter turns to me and says “Well, since we are still celebrating your birthday, it should be up to you.” And since it was up to me, we all went back to my cabin and played Monopoly… and it was good…

And that pretty much ends my three days of Birthdayapalooza. There was an unofficial consecutive fourth day on March 20th where I received a second birthday card from the Captain… but I kinda like the mathematical implications of three days. So there you have it, three days to celebrate thirty years. I can’t wait for my fortieth… Wait, to Hell with that… I can wait. I mean, I like birthday’s, but I’m not stupid… that’s when colonoscopies happen.

This week’s cruise was also eventful since I took in a couple of tours. Since mom and Jack were here, I felt they probably wouldn’t want to do the things that I do while on land, such as drinking beers, eating nachos, and playing in the water… actually, maybe they would have… It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? In any case we took in some Mayan ruins in Progresso and Belize (and, of course, they were Unbelizeable).

First off are the very impressive Mayan ruins we saw while in the port of Progresso. After getting off the boat we boarded a bus, and after two hours we arrived at Chichen Itza (pronounced Chi-chen Eat-za… or if you don’t care Chicken Pizza). Now, you’ll have to forgive me, but for some reason I didn’t soak in much of what the tour guide was saying, so let me show you some pictures…

Here's the pyramid... they left this side unrestored, mostly because they are lazy.

Here is the West Side of the pyramid, fully restored and shiny.
The Mayans loved snakes. These snakes are where the postman left the oversized packages.

Here is a picture of some of the thousand colums they built outside another building. Each column represents a petal in a very intricate and complicated game of "She Loves Me... She Loves Me Not."

Here is the ball court... I'll talk about that in a second...

Here is the hoop for the ball court...

Here I am preparing to sacrafice myself to the Gods.

Pretty neat, huh? Of course, I do remember some things about the ruins… One of which is that we were there a few days before the Lunar Equinox, so they were setting up for a huge celebration… and of course just like Carnival in Cozumel we don’t get to go… stupid Norwegians. I am told that during this time when the sun sets it creates a snake on the side of the pyramid.

Plus, when you clap your hand in front of the stairs it makes a cool echo sound. Our tour guide said, and I suppose many historians agree, that this was a way to send your… clap… to the heavens, since the sound is hitting the stairs and then bouncing up. Now, I don’t want to get all pessimistic about this, but since all those stairs are there to get you to the top of the pyramid, wouldn’t it just be some sort of coincidence? I mean, can you imagine Fred and Herman Mayan standing outside their newly finished pyramid?

Fred: Gee, should we have made this damn thing so tall? I’m feeling out of breath just thinking about havin’ to go up there twice a day.

Herman: Yeah, we should have waited for the escalator to be invented…

Fred: Boy, our boss is sure gonna be pissed when he sees this.

Then a Mayan child comes by and slaps Fred’s leg as he passes… making the first clapping sound in front of the pyramid steps. The sound travels up and over them… I am writing in Italics because it’s like something you do when describing action in a play… Anyway, then Fred says:

Fred: Hey, Herman, did you hear that?

Herman: Sure did…

They think… I’m doing that italics thing again.

Herman: What if we told our Boss that if he claps in front of the stairs that some part of him goes to Heaven.

Fred: You mean like that movie All Dogs Go To Heaven?

Herman: Yeah, like the movie, only instead of dogs, it’ll be whoever claps in front of the stairs.

Fred: Awesome! Lets go get some tacos!

Now, the Mayans were very concerned with Heaven… So much that they couldn’t be bothered with waiting forty or fifty years to die. No way, they wanted to die right now… but there were rules. I mean Herman and Fred Mayan couldn’t just run at each other with hot pokers… that wouldn’t count. So instead they sacrificed people.

Take for example that game they played where they have that stone hoop and the ball had to be bounced off the leg or hip… Remember what that is called? Good… ‘cause I don’t. Anyway, there were seven players on each team, one of which was the captain. It was pretty much the captains who tried to score. And the game was won when the ball went through the hoop… Sports Center would only need a 1 and a 0 to commentate on the score. And, the lucky guy who won got to get his heart taken out of his chest and set on a statue so the birds could eat it and thus send him to Heaven… Those kooky Mayans.

But hey, what about the people who aren’t so athletic? No problem, tubby Mayans can get to Heaven too! All you have to do is jump in a hole with seven rattle snakes, and let them bite you and bite you and bite you… Then heart out, birds eat and you’re whisked away!

Afraid of snakes? No sweat. Lets dress you up in a suit of rocks and throw you into our drinking well. Then, as your body decomposes we’ll drink the water and we’ll all die!!! Those Mayans were in desperate need of Nintendo.

Still they sure could build some neat lookin’ buildings. Unfortunately, the days of climbing to the top of the pyramid are gone, so we’ll all just have to wonder what the tops of the trees look like. Anyway that’s what I can recall from Chicken Pizza. After that it was a long bus ride back, made short by a nap. In Belize we went to another set of Mayan ruins called Altun Hun.

These ruins were only discovered a hundred years ago… And for some reason they weren’t as architecturally developed as their Progressive cousins (hey that joke just wrote itself!). The interesting thing about this place is that the earth grew over all the buildings, and were literally unearthed. There are two main sections, with the big temple looking over them both.

Fortunately, you can go to the top of the temple here, and the tops of the trees were breathtaking!

Wanna see what I look like at the top from the bottom? I got a picture of that too…

From there we took a bus ride back into to city of Belize and took in the city. It was fairly interesting, but was mostly this is a school, this is our telecommunications building, this is a storage unit… But belize me it was an awesome storage unit. Back in Belize we took in the Jade Museum, and chased it with the Pirate Museum. Here you can read all about Captain Kidd and other Pirates who plundered and killed their way to international maritime stardom. Plus you can buy bottles that have washed ashore and sample rum.

In Cozumel we just walked around the town. After eating lunch at tucked away place usually filled with crew members we took in several jewelry and souvenir stores. Now, normally I wouldn’t purchase anything, but since it was Birthdayapoolza I decided to splurge when I saw a shirt that really spoke to me.

Funny thing… the lady who sold it to me was literally rolling her eyes and poking fun at me en espanol to her coworkers. Pardon me, but it was your shirt first! I only bought one… you bought a whole box of ‘em! So I told her to callete and sell me the stinkin’ shirt! And I wear it down Deck 5 to the elevators that take me to the back of the theatre… and everyone I walk by smile and laugh, because deep down… they love to fart too.

I can recall when I was twenty I spent a summer at my buddy John’s house while performing in My Fair Lady. We were up late one night talking when one of use farts… then the other… then we laughed and wondered if farting would always be funny… Well John, its ten years and counting.

Speaking of farts, many of you know the talent I possess of being able to make a very realistic fart noise by buzzing my lips and humming. I’ll have you know that almost half the cast has picked up the skill, and in a few weeks all thirteen people will be making fart noises with their mouths at random intervals in their lives… All because of me. And to that I say Pffffft.

And that brings us to the close of another week onboard the M/S Norwegian Dream. This is the last night of the last big week of spring break… so that means the excessive drinking will go down and the median age of the passengers will go up. As I was walking back to my cabin after a long conversation with a couple of well dressed and spoken passengers, I saw a man in a toga playing the piano on Deck 9. Like Nero playing the fiddle as his empire burned, so did he as spring break fizzled to its end like a sparkler in a child’s hand… ah… the precious memories…

Finally, here’s a picture of my tattoo for the week. I feel that I peaked with my first… the ever popular and endearing “World’s Greatest Grandma.” Still, who can argue with two dolphins and a heart? I can’t.

That’s it for now… I leave you with my passenger quote for this week. I think it encapsulates Spring Break on the Dream…

Guy: Dude, I like threw up in the ocean three times today.

Girl: I’m glad I didn’t go in the water.

Your pal,

Michael Lamendola

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