This was originally E mailed April 21st, 2004. Way before my contracts on the Dream I had my first contract with JAR on board the Silver Cloud, a fourth of the Silver Sea fleet of ships. I was given three days to pack my life away (the start of a disturbing trend) and join the ship in Italy... the name of the town escapes me. So, here is what I wrote:
Had a second so I thought I would drop a line to catch ya up on what's going on. It's a lot actually, so feel free to skim, take it in sections... whatever.
First, it's important to know that when you have been on board for a couple of weeks, you soon forget about day and date. Unless I look at a calendar or ask several people (because they don't know either) I have no idea what the date, or even the day is! So, the following is sort of a collage of events that have happened to me that I feel are interesting to share.
So, since getting here, I have opened all three shows, cruised to ports up and down Italy and Sicily, and at the moment am at Barcelona, Spain. Italy is just as wonderful as you can imagine. I have walked around the port areas of most of the cities, as well as escorted some tours. Escorting a tour basically means that I go along with the passengers on a tour that has been set up by the ship. My job is simply to count heads, be there for safety, and to be a representative for the ship and the better interest of the passengers. The ship provides me with a backpack that I carry on the tours. The backpack contains a first aid kit, a bag of handy wipes, and on top of everything... the first thing I can access upon opening the backpack, is a roll of toilet paper. Fortunately, I have not had to use any of these items. The passengers have said good things about me, and I am already referred to by the tour managers as the Star Escort. They say I will be getting a name badge that says that too! Anyway... I have escorted a tour to Lucca (a historic older town outside of Piza), Pompei, and recently a tour of Palma De Mallorca, Spain. Its really cool that I get to do this because I get to meet the passengers (I have met several Texans already, a few from central no less!), and see some amazing things! Plus, when you meet the passengers, you get invited to dinner... ahh, dinner.
I have had the fortune to eat a galley brunch with some folks, which is a buffet style serving that takes place in the galley (kitchen)! Very nice spread... For a moment I forgot about my precious California burritos (but not totally). Dinner on board is also very nice, and is served in a course style. You don't have to eat every course, but the choices the night I was there were great (I had Osso Bucco).
Work on the ship, besides the show, is interesting. Not sure if I mentioned this stuff in my last letter (those who know me know one of my faults is the retelling of stuff over and over) but here are some examples of a "work day"
10:00 AM - Host Ping Pong
11:00 AM - Host Shuffleboard
Another day was:
3:30 PM - Scrabble
4-6 PM - DVD Checkout in the library (Yes, Randi, I am actually reading... quite a bit!)
Other days I am "needed" in the bar for socializing. That means carrying a Gin and Tonic (thanks for the introduction Colleen!), around and meeting all the guests. Some folks on board, who also are called upon to socialize, ask me how it is so easy for me to talk to strangers... I tell them that it was an area of study in my MFA program (right Karen? Elliott?)
The shows themselves ... well, what can I say. They are VERY presentational. The Broadway show is probably my least favorite. It really has no direction, and the flow of songs makes no sense. Two of my biggest gripes... One is that of my solos, I sing Razzle Dazzle from Chicago. Nice song, but get this... On the top of the score for that number it says "Florence Henderson + Three Guys" Since the show is tracked, I am singing a song for a low alto, singing B, A, and G below the staff. Wonderful. My other gripe is that somehow they have included oldies rock and roll such as "shake, rattle, and roll" by referring to some show that ran in London's West End in 1989 called "Forbidden Planet." Seems like a cheap way to vary the material, but I digest... Still, I get the eleven o' clock number in the show. Give My Regards to Broadway (I think its taken from the Fosse revue that Reinking did, I think.) I get to rif the hell out of it, so its cool.
The Latin revue, Copa De La Vida, is actually a pretty fun show. I sing a lot of Latin Pop songs, and dance just a little bit.... just a bit...
The third show, cirque Noveau, is visually pretty cool. We have a web (spinning girl in mid air while she does tricks) a silk (our adage team does aerial tricks suspended by a large red fabric) and some other nice combinations. The only reason I am involved in that show is to sing "Starlight Express" and to walk around in my Peacock feather jacket and be very "Copperfieldian" to the dancers on stage.
In Trapini, a fishing city on the Northwest corner of Sicily, I saw old men knitting fishing nets and old ladies lowering baskets out of there third story windows to their husbands in the street, who placed groceries and things in them to save them a trek down flights of stairs.
On the main street in Barcelona, there are street performers who stay frozen like statues until someone puts a euro in their basket, and then they come to life like a marionette and do a little act, only to end frozen. Also, street beggars are missing at least two appendages.
In the huge cathederial in Palma De Mallorca (name I forget... another one of my qualities) you can find 5 forms of architecture (Gothic, Neoclassicism, Baroque, Art Nuveau...) But there is also a huge rose window at the front. The tour guide asked us to study it, and see if anything was wrong with it. All of a sudden, I saw it. In this huge rose window in a catholic church was the Star of David! When Takamadah (you can't Takamadah anything!) came though town with his Spanish Inquisition, he told the Jews to convert, move and leave your valuables, or die. A lot of clever Jews stayed, and said that they would convert, and to show their new chosen faith, made the rose window for the church! Then they would go to church to pray, and there they had their secret place of worship! Pretty cool. They also went as far as to have pork BBQ's in their front yards, to avoid persecution.
In every town I visited in Italy, there were cars parked on either side of the street, facing either direction. The mopeds cut off the little cars, which cut off the big cars, which cut of the tour buses, which have to be greased on both sides to fit in-between buildings with no sidewalks or curbs separating them from the street which was made hundreds of years ago so two horses could pass side by side. I have come to the conclusion that whoever is in charge of the DMV and highway system there has declared a motorist "free for all" until they come up with a set of laws.
My theory on how the ship is powered... In Deck 3 is the Crew Bar. This is where everyone comes to get together, drink, and smoke... smoke a lot. I haven't found it yet, but I am positive that there is a vent there that sucks in all the smoke from all the cigarettes, takes it through some engine, and out the stacks. People smoke on board all the time, but how can the ship rely on the crew to power it 24 hours a day? Wouldn't the crew run out of cigarettes? Well, someone thought of this too, and invented the "Slopchest." Not sure of the origin of this word, but it occurs about once a week, and this is where the crew can buy direct from the ships cabinet at a very low price (everything in American dollars). Here, the crew can buy three things: Water, Alcohol, and huge cartons of cigarettes. So, the ship has it all figured out. By directly supplying the crew with the fuel the ship needs to move, at a reasonable price, then supplying the crew with a weekly wage that will go back to buy more cigarettes... Man, what a system.
In Spain I bought some music from a street performer named Aaron Lordson. Pretty good stuff. Check him out at www.aaronlordson.com (Spanish Jazz mixed with R + B and Pop)
Dan and Duke - Put my jazz set together. Mostly ballads... its gonna be so sweet. Lots of good stuff like April in Paris, Lush Life, Autumn Serenade, and all the ones we would do together.
Colleen - closing the set with Funny Valentine
My friends at Lambs - I hear South Pacific is going to be very cool indeed! More details!
Matt - Gym on board stinks. They do have lots of free weights (up to 25 kg). Need some info on some good exercises for the basic stuff.
Les - How's Joseph going?
Mom and Dad - have found calling card, and will have time off the ship to call very soon, I promise!
Bresky - Yes, I thanked the big guy. He said to tell you hello, and that he sees everything...
So, I guess that's all I can remember at the moment. I am closing this letter with an excerpt from my journal for the night before Easter (Yes, I went to midnight mass). I think it is a perfect illistration of how life on board can be so different from the "Real World" and how we should all concentrate on the little things.
Miss all of y'all, and let me know how y'all are doing!
Here's the passage.
Anyway, so I watch some television, then I put on my suit to go see the Circ show, the last of three to open. I see the show, and decide to take a walk. Again I hear music, this time coming from the forward section of deck 4 in the crew hallway. There were a lot of the same crew guys who play guitar, there jamming and singing. There was a mostly eaten bird of some kind, and a half drank bottle of Jim Beam and lots of glasses. They welcomed me in and immediately poured me a double of Jim. Now, I have had a drink or two each nite I have been out, as they are free, and you look strange not holding one when you are socializing in the bar. So this night I really didn't want to have a drink at all. Still, it would have been rude for me to turn down the drink, so I took it, sang some old Beatles tunes, cheered someone's birthday, and drank my bourbon.
I go into the lobby and bump into the Father who will be doing the midnight mass. This is a first. Once he finds out that I am Texan, he makes fun of me and asks where my boots are. Never been put down by a Father before...
Next I go to the bar to listen to the band play and get some songs in. I meet the new head bartender, Yohan or something. Anyway, he invites me for a drink, and before I could politely refuse, he has me in the liquor cabinet off of the theatre and he has all the bottles at his disposal. So I ask for a Gin and Tonic, and he makes me one. Now I am drinking the Gin and Tonic, and feeling a little light headed... and its nearly midnight... time for the Easter Midnight mass. So I attend mass knowing full well that I am a little drunk. Can't say I have ever done that before. Still, it was a nice mass. The father had been gotten last minute because the scheduled one had broken his foot previously. So, we had mass in the theatre, and nearly no one was there, even though it was open to passengers and crew alike. But it was a nice ending to a nice day.