December 11, 2008

No, Really, What Was It Like?

Because I can never leave well enough alone, here you go:

How to fold a towel origami dog

How to fold a towel origami elephant

How to fold a towel origami dead chicken monkey

Despite my describing the cruise as “surreal, a world gone mad, truly a trip down the rabbit hole…weird…artificial…hard to wrap my head around,” Dear Readers are still asking, “No, really; Ryan, how was it?” You silly gooses. It did its job; it distracted me from my first Thanksgiving alone in 21 years. Other than that, it was overwhelming and confusing, really—except for perhaps the five minutes of parasailing at Half Moon Cay.

The parasailing almost didn’t happen because I came close to chickening out about, oh, 99.5 times and the people involved suffered a severe last-minute attack of “island time,” but, in the end, there I was, strapped to a boat.

Here’s how it works, for the curious: You climb on a little boat, which immediately bounces out into the middle of nowhere. They throw a life jacket on you and clip an industrial-strength harness around your waist (just your waist, which seemed underkill for me at first blush; I had imagined a full-body harness like what fighter pilots wear—maybe complete with the reflective-visored helmet.). The trick to all of this lies in the bulk of the harness which sags behind you like a badly fitting diaper—a good look for a 48-year-old.

You stand on the front of the boat, they clip the parachute to you, and instruct you to sit down. They rev up the boat, the parachute balloons out behind you and—presto—you float into the air, one inch, two inches, a foot, two feet. It’s at about this point where your tooshie slips backwards and down into the badly fitting diaper, which magically becomes a comfortable sling chair, and thirty seconds later you’re floating above the tiiiiiiiiny little people in the boat below you. You look around at the emerald blue water, green islands, white waves, and yellow sun, you sigh, you relax, you nestle that last quarter-inch into the sling, you swear you’re never coming down again, that they will, in fact, have to blast you out of the sky like a Mallard in hunting season—just in time to notice that the distance between you and the boat is growing shorter and shorter and shorter, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And then you land on the boat, light as a feather, standing up. No sitting, no bumping, no, as feared, arse over teakettle pratfall.

You look at the pale, terrified faces of the other tourists on the boat and try to reassure them but they won’t listen. As one of the Newly Annointed, all you can do is smile serenely and beatifically in their direction, knowing all will be revealed to them in time.

Now, this is one of the other women on the boat, but I suspect I looked much the same:

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But that was at the tail-end of the trip. Let's return to the beginning and see what else I can throw out, starting with Benny helping me pack:

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On the way out (and back), this is all I saw of Dallas:

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It could've been any airport in the world, but this was when I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore (or maybe, come to think of it, I was in Kansas; now I'm confused):

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The other remarkable thing I saw in the Dallas airport was an iPod vending machine. You put in a credit card or debit card or something, push some buttons and an iPod is delivered--kerplop!--like a can of soda. Definitely not in Kansas.

Here, a pointless, artsy photo of the cabanas on the beach in Fort Lauderdale:

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Our berth at Fort Lauderdale. Exciting, no? (Also insert here the two photos from the last entry of women as far as the eye can see because this is when I took them.)

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Then we headed out to, in order, Samana, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas, V.I.; St. Maarten, V.I., and Half Moon Cay.

Samana was a last-minute replacement for Turks and Caicos, which are still recovering from Hurrican Ike. At risk of sounding like the Ugly American, I was underwhelmed. Unlike the other ports, we were the only cruise ship there and no one seemed quite sure what to do with us, as if our arrival were a bit of a surprise. Samana offered trees:

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And a small, unprepossessing beach:

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Moving right along...

From here on out, I didn't take many pictures, but here is a picture of our welcome party at St. Thomas...

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And a view or two:

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Rounding out this travelogue, we ended back at Half Moon Cay which is spectacular. Here, again, although its hard to tell, the beach was a wall of women from end-to-end. Made one feel quite proud.

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And, here, the distance I traveled home the next day:

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In sum, to my "sisters" out there, who are probably still asking, after this rather dry run-down of ports and excursions, no, really, Ryan, what was it like (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)?, I say it was like no experience I've ever had. Besides the ports and the excursions, on board, there were funny, irreverent and bawdy comediennes; solo singers and groups; more activities than you can imagine (so many you often had to choose among three or four); a formal night; a dessert night; a barbecue night; commitment ceremonies; karaoke; much gambling; large amounts of drinking; much smoking of questionable substances obtained on the islands; dancing every night until the wee hours of the morn; hook-ups and break-ups and booty calls; some drama; lots of fun; and most importantly, mountains of food. If you get a chance, do it. And if you don't want to take my word for it, take the word of the woman I sat next to on the bus to the airport, who has been on sixteen of these cruises. I have my work cut out for me!

Next up, San Diego.

Posted by Ryan at 11:55 PM | Comments (6)

December 05, 2008

Crooze

Now that I distracted you with my woeful tale about losing my yarn—slyly buying myself time to process my trip photos—more about the cruise. (Oh, and in answer to the oft-asked question, I think the yarn was from a company called “Fly Dyed.” Found it at a fiber fair or maybe one of our local all-purpose fairs. This is the only substantial link I could find online to anything Fly-Dyed related.)

The cruise was surreal, a world gone mad, truly a trip down the rabbit hole: A 936-foot, luxury cruise ship turned into a temporary utopia for 1,745 women—all lesbians or, more exactly, 1,742 lesbians, and three MTF transgenders, who are lesbians, which makes my head spin. No men except the crew (of 800, so maybe that's not exactly "no men"). And no children. None. Not one. Two dogs, yes. But no children. (Which was good because later on in the cruise, the poolside became decidedly clothing optional. Not for me, mind, but for the young, perky and lithe who could get away with that sort of thing.)

Even for me, the whole experience was so weird, so artificial, so hard to wrap my head around that, for the first 24 or 48 hours, whenever I saw two women holding hands, my first thought would be, “Look! Lesbians! There are lesbians on this cruise!” And my second thought would be, “D’oh.”

Not wanting to out anyone, here are the safest photos I can post of the passengers, taken at the sailing party.

Looking down on the Lido deck:

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Looking up from the Lido deck:

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(Information about why a Lido deck is called that, for those who crave trivia as I do.)

Did I fall in love? Yes, but only with this fine lady:

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Did I have a shipboard romance? No, unless you count one sloppy, drawled, “I luuuuuuv you soooooo much” and a badly aimed kiss from a very drunk and very high woman with whom I occasionally crossed paths. The operative words here are “drunk” and “high.” I paid her no never mind.

I did, however, fall completely “in awe” of one woman, and you would have, too, whatever your personal leanings. The first day at the hotel, in a general social chat-group at the bar, I met a woman in a wheelchair. I was drawn to her by an easy, ever-present smile, a friendly yet slightly shy look to her face, a sparkle in her eye, and a way of being so comfortable with her chair, even proudly showing off its high-tech features, that you soon stopped seeing it.

I made some naïve assumptions about why she was in the chair: an accident, degenerative disease, recent surgery. I soon learned, however, that this friendly, warm, self-confident woman, this mother of two grown men, was in fact an Iraq vet whose torso had not so long ago been blown apart by a roadside bomb. She can barely eat because of the damage done to her internal organs, she had to have her breasts completely rebuilt because they were obliterated by the bomb, she will be in the wheelchair forever, she will require constant nursing care the rest of her life. And, yet, at night, in the nightclub, who was always in the middle of the dance floor, shimmying, laughing, flirting, gettin’ down?

Of the 1,745 women, she is the one I will remember forever—the one who, for me, put a face on the wounded female American soldier.

But there was, of course, more to the cruise than my silently worshipping at the feet of my newfound hero. Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, there was, for example, towel origami.

A heffalump:

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A doggie:

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And what I think is supposed to be a monkey but looks more like a dead chicken:

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Going from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, if there were any doubt that Holland America took this lesbian cruise seriously, take a gander at the urinals:

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More in a couple of days because I am, if nothing else, a master of stretching out blog fodder.

Posted by Ryan at 04:30 PM | Comments (16)

December 02, 2008

Creative Stash Management 101

Seven easy steps for destashing while on vacation:

Step 1: At Home
Decide at the very last minute what yarn you want to take with you and grab your all-time favorite sock yarn—the knitter’s equivalent of a wine that’s been saved for a special occasion—a beeyootiful, plump, variegated merino yarn of rich kelly green and royal blue. Realize that it’s in an unwound 650-yard skein but tell yourself you’ll have plenty of time to deal with that, what with airports, and a week-long cruise, and all.

Step 2: Waiting for the Flight from Seattle to Dallas
Fart around at the airport until you have just enough time to start the winding process and then have to cram the whole thing—now converted into one small, 50-yard ball and a 600-yard, hellaciously knotted mess—into a small bag, compounding the problem.

Step 3: On the flight from Seattle to Dallas
Ignore the nightmare that is lurking in your knapsack.

Step 4: On the flight from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale
Start the winding process again. Make good progress. Do, however, at one point, let the ball escape from you and roll across the aisle under the legs of the man across from you, who decides that the way to retrieve the ball is to grab the yarn and start pulling which means that the ball unrolls and unrolls under his legs as he pulls and pulls. You explain to him, your face glowing with embarrassment in the half-light of the cabin, that that won’t work and that yes, indeed, he’s going to have move his beverage, his food, his cell phone, his laptop, and his work documents from his tray to the tray next to him, fold the tray up, retrieve the ball, and then do everything in reverse. He was a mite ungracious. Fun times.

Step 5: Cruise
Ignore yarn for the full seven days of the cruise.

Step 6: Fort Lauderdale airport
Spend the four hours you have waiting for your flight undoing the Gordian knot and creating a huge ball of yarn.

Step 7: Flight from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas
Pull out the bag of yarn in preparation for starting your most favorite socks evar but, instead, spend the whole three hours talking to the two women sitting next to you who were also on the cruise. At the end of the flight, walk off the flight, forgetting the yarn. Get on your flight to Seattle, and fly away.

Ta-da! De-stashing the easy way!

Posted by Ryan at 10:11 PM | Comments (18)