Thursday, May 01, 2008

The First Dream - Greetings From Vera Cruz, Mexico!

Originally mailed October 30, 2005.

Hey y'all!

So, what's new? Welp, as I write this we are sailing away from Vera Cruz, Mexico, on our way to Progresso. We are now doing seven day Caribbean cruises out of Houston, Texas, and our itinerary is constantly changing due to adverse weather conditions and continuing problems with bad engines.

So on our first Caribbean cruise we were scheduled to go to Cozumel and Belize. Actually, way back when the passengers bought their tickets, the itinerary was going to be Cozumel, Cancun, Roatan, and Belize. Having bad engines has changed that to what we have now, or did have. Because of Wilma we skipped Belize and went to Progresso. We actually were in Cozumel about two days before Wilma hit there, along side the bigger, nicer, and newer Norwegian Sun.

On the next day we hit Progresso, which was surprisingly a lot of fun... This time we were docked across from the Carnival Elation... in a word: huge.

Yes, the bows were at the same point on each side... We were celebrating a fellow cast members birthday and spent most of the day (and night... we finally got a late night port!) eating fish tacos and drinking Pina Coladas. Oh, but before we got to celebrating, I explored the city with my buddy Amy, who is a personal fitness trainer on board. When I think of Progresso now, this image will flash in my head first...

Seems as though the highly popular "American Circus" has branched out to Mexico. They were doing a show at a local school, and obviously it wasn't time for the monkey act yet. I got a few pictures next to the monkey... well, I was next to the monkey... Amy was safely taking pictures from across the street. Later a young boy came to untie the monkey and bring it in to the school to do things like spread rabies and cause general fecal mayhem.

Whose my cute little monkey? Monkey wanna banana? Ahem... sorry.

Anyway, so after convincing myself not to pet the monkey, we went over to have birthday tacos and stuff. Later that night, Uri and I were walking around the town. I spotted the well lit lighthouse and decided that it'd be pretty neat to climb to the top. So, Uri spoke to the night watchman, and whaddaya know, next thing I'm seeing is Progresso from 120 something feet up... What would you do? Well, Uri and I pretended to fly off of the edge, which was quite low by The American Lighthouse Safety Organization's standards... (ALSO)

Oh, and for those interested in the historical aspect, the engine that powers the big rotating fresnel was built by a French company in 1893, and still works today... Or at least the day we were there.

The only other point of interest here is that we had yet another batch of petitioners. Brought together by Kismet, and the passion for pissing on everybody else's good time (most folks just dealt with the changes) a group of about 4 or 5 women bothered everyone they could to get a signature. They even got up on stage before one of our shows and without microphone said their piece for a good three some-odd minutes. That was the first time our show had an opening act.

So, this cruise we are going to Vera Cruz, and then Progresso. So far no one has complained... so far. Vera Cruz is probably the most metropolitan city we have visited in Mexico.

When we got off the ship there were hundreds of people crowding the dock, bands playing, local groups dancing... It seems that despite its exotic sounding name, Vera Cruz doesn't get too many cruise ships. Probably most amazing was the number of school kids who asked to take our picture! No kidding, every fifty feet kids were asking us to stop as they got out their cameras and cell phones. After a while, I decided I should get pictures of them...

Go ahead, make your jokes... But honestly at night there are a BILLION Jr. High age kids in uniform running around. I asked them in my best Spanish (more on that in a sec) why they were out roaming around at nine o'clock at night. Turns out that many of them have a class or two in the afternoon, then return at night to finish class for the day, er... night. So now you know...

Afterwards Uri and I ate some street tacos and then went to eat at a local spot... Which marked the triumphant return of Mr. Tortilla Face...

Wait a second... Sr. Fache de Tortilla. Not bad huh? Once I did that on a date... When I dropped her off at her house, she didn't even wait for me to catch up with her as she walked rapidly to her door. Ah, high school... now such sophisticated tortilla humor is met with thunderous applause from loved ones and strangers who proceed to lift me onto their shoulders and parade me around the restaurant parking lot yelling things like "Sr. Fache de Tortilla es muy guapo!" while horns from passing by motorists beep the rhythm to Shave and a Haircut... two bits. Later as I return to my booth the Maitre'D (or however it's spelled) brings me a rose and congratulated me on my remarkable performance. In any case...

Now on to my remarkable Spanish speaking skills, which is not to be confused with my afore mentioned remarkable performance of Sr. Fache de Tortilla. Although my grasp of the Spanish language might not make Sra. Croft, my Spanish I and II teacher too happy, I have come to the remarkable conclusion that although I am not that good at Spanish, I am quite fluent in the language of Mexican Restaurant. No kidding, sit me down in front of an extensive menu (in Spanish) and a large basket of freshly fried tortilla chips and pico de gallo, and I become well studied in the language. I can pronounce every word, tell you what kind of food it is, how it's prepared. I can then tell the waiter what I want, what I don't want with it, ask for little extra things... Bottom line is I can get fed with no international mishaps. As soon as I leave the restaurant, it's back to "Donde esta el bano?" and other classic gringo phrases.

They had another stage in a plaza area where they were dancing and singing, lots of music in the streets. And since we had an overnight there (first one since New Orleans... way back in April) we had all the time we wanted to explore and see the city. So we took a cab over to the Flamingo club, where a live 10 piece band played samba, salsa, and meringue! Very cool. It was mostly crew from the Dream, so it became a surrogate crew bar.

If you squint, you can see the band... Piano, electric stand bass, drums, bongos, three trombones, three singers... it was great!

Got in around 4 in the morning, and the next day Eric and I had lunch, and afterwards I took this picture...

Hey, when ya gotta go... Funniest part is that the poor boy had to go so bad (fumbling with my camera took at least 15 seconds)... he had to go so bad he was holding himself up by resting his head on the car. Anyway, just thought I'd share.

So now we're back on the Dream, hobbling our way back to Houston (I am now writing to you after hitting Progresso again, and in between shows if Sea Legs at Sea). We have two cruises left, then it's adios. Also, because of hurricane Wilma, the next cast has come to the Dream a week early. Seems that Wilma destroyed (among other things) the Marriott and the rehearsal studio, where you spend your days and nights while rehearsing for a JAR show. So, they are now onboard rehearsing their shows around our show schedule and all the other events scheduled in the theatre (Bingo). Unfortunately, that pretty much means rehearsals start around midnight... just when you thought your rehearsal schedule stank...

Well, I gotta get ramblin'... I'll be back to San Diego in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime it's still life as usual here. Hope y'all are doing well, and I'll talk to you soon!

Your pal,

Michael Lamendola (who is interested in the same thing as both the monkey and that other dude)


Look for another super cool song from our shows in a couple of days!



  1. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  2. Thanks! They do get better as they go on... kind of a "Self Taught" thing.