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11- I have become a countdown junkie

11 days until I am off the boat, 268 hours until I am home, but then everyone on the ship has become a countdown junkie.

It used to be when something crappy happened you would just shrug your shoulders and say, meh- shiplife what are you going to do, but now when something shitty happens the response, as it was today, is- “11 days”  As in, I only have to do endure this for 11 more days.

I think counting down helps you manage the time, give you something to look forward to- it contextualizes it, it gives it a handle, something to hold on to.  When I wake up tomorrow it will be 10, but I won’t be thinking about 10 more days, I will be thinking that in only one day I am in the single digits, which I will hold onto for about as long as it takes to realize that that means in two days it will be one week.

The names of the days of the week became useless to me a long time ago.  They have no meaning here.  The names of days are, Sea Day, St. Kitts, Nassau, that has relevance, it tells me what is going to happen that day.  This last trip though, I think the thing that will supersede the name that has meaning for that day will be that day’s number.  St Croix will not be St. Croix this time it will be “7” and St Maarten will be “4”.

Stay tuned to Dave’s countdown fever.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

18- Miami

I hate Miami, although the weather is spectacular, coolish, not too hot.  But I will stick to my Miami hating ways.  The security here to get off the ship is insane, I will have to take my shoes off just to get off the ship, like at the airport and be subjected to pat downs and other rigorous security protocols. 

I’m an American, I shouldn’t have to take my shoes off to get from a ship onto the soil of my own country, a driver’s licence should be enough.  besides, you can’t fit that much heroin in a pair of Birkenstocks, God knows I have tried, you have to spend all night hollowing out the cork and then for what?  A couple hundred dollars and a useless pair of shoes.  Last time I was smuggling smack I had to buy a new pair of Birkenstocks because you can’t walk in them right once you have hollowed them out and what are you supposed to do, keep them full of heroin??  That is just dumb.  So half of my ill-gotten gains went to buying new shoes, then after that I barely had enough to resupply.  I don’t think this is a brandable business model.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

19- I’m short, man.

I’m in the teens until I get to come home.  It is starting to look like I’m going to make it.  When I signed on, I really wanted to jump ship.  It looked like a viable option at times.  I’m a good swimmer, if I didn’t get chewed up by the screws…or you know, sharks, I could totally make it. 

But now it is only 19 days away and yes, I am counting.  Counting the days until I get to cook whatever food I want to eat, the days until I can sleep in a decent bed and have a real shower, the days until I can have real internet access and keep up with what is going on in the world. 

So here is to 19 more days on the high seas and then home.

February 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

20- Foggy departure

One of my favorite things to do when we leave Baltimore, besides leave Baltimore is to go up on deck 14 all the way forward and watch as we go under the Key bridge.  Depending on the tide, we clear that thing by as little as 10ft and it really is cool.

I have been drafted to be the guy who does the spa raffle, something about sparkling personality or some other bullshit Michaela fed me to get me to take over from her and I always tell people after the raffle, that I am going to be up on deck 14 for this and they should check it out.  I usually get a good 10 or so people to come up there and they tend to be somewhat hardy as it has been pretty cold lately.

As we were coming out of Baltimore it was really dank and foggy, and then what happened next was.. well… it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, it really shouldn’t I have been in fog before, but you know what big ships do when it is foggy?  Ya, guess where they put fog horns?  High and forward, say on deck 14 all the way where I was. 

Fog horns are designed to be one thing.  Really really really loud.  I have never been so startled in my entire life and the looks on the faces of the dozen or so hardy souls standing around me said just one thing.  OK, two:  1.  I think I am going to have to visit the restroom on our way back and 2.  How could the guy in the white coat betray us like that.

Lesson:  Fog horns are fucking loud when you are standing right in front of them, for that matter they are loud relative to any position you could take.  A fog horn with no observer is fucking loud.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

23- Naked people

“You are going to St. Maarten?  I love St. Maarten.  You have to go to Orient beach.  It is the best beach in the Caribbean, it is more like beaches in the Med and the French side is much nicer than the Dutch.”

This is advice I got before I left and it seemed to be reasonable.  I had never been before and this person had.  I knew that Orient beach is noted not just for being a nice beach but for having a section that is clothing optional.  Fine enough.  I have been to St Maarten now a good handful of times and I have stayed on the Dutch side every time.  The beach is close, you can get two beach chairs an umbrella and a bucket of beer for $15 if you want it.  The water is nice, lots of shopping, why pay for a taxi to go to the other side?

Because someone else suggests it I guess and they did– so I did.  Here is the thing about it. 

1.  You have to get a cab and by cab I mean minibus where they cram as many people in as possible and you pay $6.  The ride is hot and I have never wished for 40ft seas more than when I was in the back of that bus.  I don’t get motion sick easily, but was green until I got off that thing.

2.  The French side is Euro denominated, so your $$ were worthless and you end up paying 17 of them for a cheese burger.  Now I have to  say that it was a good burger and came with a ton of fries, but it wasn’t $17 good.

3.  They speak French.  This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, it is after all the French side, but I have never heard Dutch on the Dutch side, so I guess I was a little surprised to hear French on the French side.  But I only heard it being spoken, like, between waiters.  Everyone seemed to speak perfect English.  Which now that I think about it seems very French.

4.  The beach is lovely, but they want $20 for chairs and umbrella and, yes, you could get a deal in other places, but I brought a towel and was OK with the sand. 

5.  Oh, and- breasts.  We weren’t even on the naked part of the beach and there were smatterings of toplessness.  It was a younger crowd at this part of the beach, I would bet the average age was in the late 40s to 50s and some of the topless women made my eyes wander just a bit.  It was that thing where you want to look, but you don’t because it would be rude if your were caught looking. 

6.  The naked people.  We wandered down to the clothing optional part of the beach.  Frankly, I was doing recon.  I have been telling people that during the last time we are in St Maarten I am going to go get naked.  I am going to cast off the shackles of my American Protestant shame (there Brian.. see how I didn’ t malign the Puritans like you would expect) cast it right off with my swim suit and join the league of people who are free and can exist in this world shamelessly, like they were two years old.  I would go on, probably at length- but that is another story, about how being naked outdoors reflects a rejection of an artificial and pointless value system and my rhetoric even got a couple of people saying they would come along and get naked with me.  Ya man, fight the power……. of, you know.. clothes.

And now I have to come up with a reasonable explanation that ties in all the things I just said about values etc and leads to not going back to the naked beach… really ever.

 I don’t know what I thought I would be like.  Maybe this is where Playboy models vacation or maybe there was going to be a naked NCAA cheerleading camp there.  Maybe there would even be a redeux of the time the entertainers spent the day naked at runaway bay and had vodka fueled beach wrestling.   (I wasn’t there, but saw the pictures) Really I don’t think I thought about it in anything but the abstract, but the reality is… well… ewww.

Look!  I’m OK with naked bodies.  I have my hands all over people’s asses every day, all shapes and sizes and ages. (can’t put a needle in the belly of the piriformis without being witness to some butt crack) but honestly something about that beach was… well OK here is one thing, and for the visual thinkers out there you might want to look away.  Grandpa waxes downstairs.  For that matter so does Grandma, so try to get this eye-worm out of your head, Wilfred Brimley going in for a back, sack and crack wax.  How good is aesthetician school looking to you now girls?  Also, breasts aren’t supposed to… look, we’ve all seen National Geographic.  You know what I am talking about and maybe there is something noble about long sagging breasts on tribeswomen from New Guinea, but Grandma’s double G’s that have never seen a bra in 70 years and are hovering right about her belt line with a scaly burnt orange sun-kissed glow lack the same…. the same.. Oh for the love of God tuck those milk monsters back up in some spandex woman. 

The whole beach looked like a senior center outing and one of the things the surprised me is that I wouldn’t have thought that circumcision was a recent invention because here is another eye-worm for you, grandpa has foreskin, orange scaly sun-kissed foreskin which 100 meters in the other direction would have, at least notionally, been concealed by grandpa’s buggie smugger of a swim suit.  I can’t ever think of a time when I wished that someone, at least, was wearing a speedo, but there I was wishing it.

On the other side of the beach with the marginally attractive women who still had on bottoms, you know, that side?  Marginally attractive, by the way has, by comparison, been elevated to supermodel.  On that side, you look away from what you want to see, on the nude side you stare at stuff you don’t want to see. 

It would seem that the price of throwing off the shackles of shame would be a cab ride and expensive burger and that for what you would get in return, that would be cheap.  But the cost is much greater.  You can’t unsee granny on her beach chair slipping into her seabreeze induced beach nap and as she starts to snore, her boob slips off her belly and falls, like it has a mind of its own, down to the sand.. thud.  You have to carry that around for the rest of your life.

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

24 morning sex?

People come and go on ships.  It is part of the culture.  The girl who was in the room next door to me, we will call her D was very nice and particularly beautiful.  She was the future cruise sales person, so most of the day she was stuck behind a desk luring people to her with unnatural good looks.  The men were easy sales.  They were likely signing a receipt for a balcony stateroom in the Baltic in two months with what little part of their brain was not imagining D naked.  The women D talked to spent much of the conversation imagining what they would look like naked if they looked like D.  She was, in short, a perfect selling machine, but even perfect selling machines need a break and she, with little fanfare, went on vacation.  So little fanfare, that I didn’t notice.

On ships often a room with go with a job, I am in the acupuncturist’s cabin and the cabin next to me is future cruise sales on one side and activity manager on the other.  With D gone, her replacement has taken over that cabin without me knowing there was any change, until that is, the music started.  Pumping house music.  Which seemed odd, D doesn’ t listen to music, she is quiet as anything, in fact she asked me once if I ever heard her talking on the phone to Mami and Papi.  Nope. 

Now house music.   It made sense to me when, at a meeting, the new future cruise sales person was introduced, we will call her B and D’s quick departure was explained the way you hear politicians explaining that their colleague needed to spend more time with family.  There was just a hint of that kind of corporate deception and double talk , but now we have B and B likes house music. 

Cabin walls are thin and this morning there was more than house music coming through the cabin walls.

In my world, the world of broken people, it is not unusual to hear that it took 20 minutes to get out of bed.  Now pain sounds are not all that unique, in fact they can often, out of context, be mistaken for sex sounds.   Slipped discs can produce a lot of grunting… not in two completely different registers… the pain theory has a few kinks to work out, but I can imagine that after 15 minutes of what sounded like a valiant effort that once in a seated position at the edge of the bed a person in pain might exclaim YES!! a couple of times and then be so pleased with the new upright position that she would also exclaim, RIGHT THERE  a couple of times.

So if I see B in the hall I should offer my services and see if maybe we can get here more comfortable so getting out of bed won’t be so much of a struggle tomorrow, when, God willing, I will get to sleep a little later.

February 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

33- video post

Today is officially the 3/4 done mark.  I only have 33 days left and I can taste it. 

Here are a couple of videos taken from the storm we went through, not really crazy stuff, but kind of cool.

http://goo.gl/FIvVZ

This is Rachel (or RayRay because there is another Rachel) she is attempting to climb the stairs to deck 14 to get in clear air.  You will notice the fabulous camera work.  The wind was so strong and gusty that I couldn’t keep the camera steady.

http://goo.gl/Kk6j4

This one I took mostly on deck 11 forward.  There is a door in the spa where you can get to a section of the boat that is normally closed off in bad weather and it is one deck above the bridge, so they can’t see you there unless they are checking the CC-tv.  I point the camera at me a couple of times which was a mistake only because I really like the blue of the sky and the sea that comes from it being pretty dark combined with the howl of the wind. 

http://goo.gl/Z9As5

I woke up early the morning after we went through that low pressure system off Cape Hatteras and as we were travelling North and my cabin is on the starboard side I got to see the sunrise and with the colors of the sunrise combined with the blue and white of the sea along with the clouds, thought it was actually quite mesmerizing.   I think this needs an ambient track behind it because obviously the way I was holding my phone amplified my breath sounds and even though I was just breathing normally, the damn mic pics it up.  You can just pretend that it is wave noise from outside, which is what I thought it was at first.

January 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

35- Storm

I am on a manager’s list for email and as such I get all the general annoncements about schedule and ratings and heavy weather.  Just about every trip back to Baltimore, there is an email from the Captain saying that the weather conditions could deteriorate as we head north and the corelation between getting this email and actual heavy weather, in my experience, is weak. 

I’m pretty sure it is a CYA thing so that in the event of heavy weather, if you didn’t batten things down and something happened then there is someone to hold responsible. 

So when I got the email yesterday, I didn’t think anything about it.  Now at this point between the title of the post and this lead-in, I’m pretty sure you can see where this is going, but bear with me.  Didn’t think a thing about it, until I got the follow up.  This wasn’t from the captain, it was from the staff captain.  The captain is the general manager for the ship and the staff captain is the general manager for everthing else, hotel, F&B and crew.  It was pretty much a repeat of the first one and caught my attention about as much. 

Then, as I was finishing up with my last few patients, the wind started to pick up and the seas started to grow a bit.  This was nothing we haven’t been in before and no one freaked out about it last time or the time before that.  We have had really placid seas for the last several cruises so even 12 foot waves quickly became the topic of conversation for the passengers and the crew.  As I was hanging out in my cabin, someone knocked, it was the head of security asking me to put the cover over my porthole, to literally batten down the hatch.  We have never been asked to do that before.  This could get good.

And then we hit the front.  One of the cool things about being on the sea is that you can see weather coming from a long ways away and there looming in our path were some really angry clouds.. just waiting for us.  When we hit it, it was like going trough a curtain, where one side was windy and the others side was angry.  I love rough weather and one of the things I love the most is getting out in it.  Since I had finished for the day, I ran to get my shell and went to the highest deck and the farthest forward I could get.  I have been in about 60mph winds before on the ship, so I have a sense of what that feels like, these were really different, very gusty and shifty.  I felt kind of like you were a rag doll getting beat up.  Just as soon as you felt like you had your footing, something would hit you from 90 degrees off where the last gust was.  I talked to one of the bridge guys and he told me he had just come off the bridge and it was blowing 60knts.  Ummm that is 70mph  That is a force 11 on the beaufort scale, one below Hurricane.  IT WAS AWESOME!  I went out several times to a place in the front of the ship and almost one by one took some of the spa girls with me.  They didn’t really want to go out alone and as each one of them came back saying that it was awesome, more wanted to go. 

Each time we are in heavy weather it feels a little different.  It depends on what direction the wind is coming from, what direction the waves are coming from (not always the same) and what direction you are traveling in that mix.  Last night was the first time I had ever felt the ship shake like that.  Most of the time it feels like a rolling or bobbing, but last night felt like the ship was being grabbed by the bow and shaken.

The captain just made an announcement about the weather last night and said that we had breaking waves as high as the anchors.  The anchors are probably 40 ft off the calm waterline.  I slept right through it, like a baby being rocked to sleep.  Bring it winter.

January 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

36 Day in the life part 1

So often I post things here about hanging out at the beach and parties.  I don’t post the mundane things about ship life.  So here goes and I think this would be better in pictures.

Dental Hygiene is very important, gotta start your day right.

Here is where I catch my ride to work.  My cabin is down on the deck 3 and my office is on deck 12.  Unless I am going to work out, I take the elevator, which is usually full of guys from the laundry moving linen around.  If you are lucky sometimes you can squeeze in between bags of the clean and dirty linen.  On the bright side, my communte is mostly about 3 mintues.

This is the view out of my office today.  He look! We are in Key West again. 

Gezzus… MY EYES!!!!  Ahhhhh it is bright.  Oh shit, what was that over the PA system?… oh ya, Key West =

Fucking Boat Drill.  This is me at my muster station.  I have emergency #24 which is guiding guests, so I have to go to the cova cafe and help people get to where they are going.  Then the emergency siren sounds to tell you it is time to evacuate the boat.  What do I do then, you would guess haul ass to my lifeboat, but no.  We stay in position to continue to guide guests.  When we are told, over the loudspeaker, that it is our time then we go here:

This is me in my evacuation station.  I stand here with a bunch of other people and wait for the saftey guys to do their things.  We are all basically props in their drill, but they need bodies and we are it.  Although during this boat drill a woman came up to me and said, “Thank you for doing this drill, I appreciate what you go through to keep us all safe.”

Dumbfounded.  No idea what do say, “what, you mean this bullshit drill?”  No that wouldn’t work.  ummmm, “Are you batshit crazy?”  Probably not.  “Thank you.  No one has ever thanked me for doing this.”  Ya, go with that.

So she says and keep in mind this lady was at least 100 years old, “I’m ex-military and I know how boring drills are but it is really important for the fire crews and the everyone manning life boats.  You don’t want to have to think about how to do things in an emergency, it has to be second nature.. but is isn’t always fun and ultimately what you are doing leads to saved lives if something happens, and I appreciate it.”

I wanted to punch her in the face for making me seem so petty for bitching about boat drills.  Save lives?? You mean it isn’t just a mandated exercise that looks like this:

This is the crew preparing to get in life boats, or standing around pretending to prepare to get in life boats.  The guys standing up high are there to extend and retract the life raft davits and the guy walking down the middle is here to inspect us for not looking bored. 

Ok , that is day in the life the boat drill version.  Next up I think will be the food version.

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

36 yesterday in Nassau

I have never been to a beach in Nassau.  Typically when I have time off here I go to a bar and have a couple of Kalick golds and get frustrated by how slow the internet is.  But a bunch of people were going to a beach and I thought that, having the afternoon off and no patients later that a couple of beers on the beach would be nice.

One of the guys going is the shore excursions manager and we asked him to suggest a good beach.  He did, but no one listened.  They all wanted to go to the beach at Altlantis which is a big hotel.  He told us that it is the worst beach in the Bahamas but when spa girls make up their minds about something experience and logic need not apply. 

That beach was a short cab ride from the ship and almost as long a walk from where we got dropped off.  The sand was nice and white, pretty sure they truck in that sand, but maybe I am wrong. 

So the beach chairs were over priced $10, in St Maarten (a much nicer beach) you can get two chairs an umbrella and a bucket of beer for $20, $15 if you negotiate. 

A can of Kalick was $5.00, Geez you gonna kiss me first?  But the winner was the coconuts.  You can get a coconut filled with your favorite drink, Pina Colada (I tasted someones and it was disgusting) or some other sort of rum concoction, but you get 4 refills for $20.  I didn’t get one, but as you can guess that from the people who do, they pass the nut around to see if anyone else can taste the alcohol.  No one can.  When you complain, they tell you to go up to the “guy” and ask for something stronger.

One of the girls did just that and she said it was a little better and then she kept going back… and back.. and back and before you know it, well let me back up.  This girl is from Sweden and I don’t know if everyone from Sweden can drink like this or if she is a special case.  She however has a tell.  It is a drunk tell, and when she is drunk she sings a little song.  Du du dudo do, there is a rhythm to it I can’t really do here in print, but when we hear it we know what is coming next.  Yes, you guessed it, beach wrestling guys. 

So far 3 of us have taken her on, Roy, sorry to say, has one in the loss column, Miguel was surely a draw (part of me thinks he kept it going so long just to keep the wrestling going) and I, yes me, was decisively a victor.  I couldn’t take her gloating and decided to pin her to the sand with a headlock.  Now before you get all, geez Dave she’s a girl.  You don’t understand, she is from Sweden, they grow them differently there, more sinew, leverage.. maybe beach wrestling is compulsory in school there, but before you judge, just know she has a wake of bodies in her path and I wasn’t going to be one of them.

Ok, so the best thing about this beach was that… hmmm how to put this.  David Cross has a great bit about different voices.  There is the gay voice, that lispy lilty voice that not all gay men have but only gay men have and he compares it to the redneck voice that seemingly would identify those with it from a particular area.  Say rural Georgia, but as it turns out the redneck voice seems to be everywhere… including this beach. 

The Bahamas seems to be where people from trailer parks in Georgia go to party on the beach and…. and they are, or seem to be the prime demo for the show Jersey Shore.  I saw more guys, unironically, dressing and acting like their favorite characters from that awesome bit of TV.  I saw a couple of guys on more than one occasion ape the “Situation” and I heard the word Bumpit about 8 times, including a time when one woman was teasing another’s hair for a picture so she would look like she had this magic hair accessory.  They were unbelievably trashy, rude and very drunk.  At least when I get drunk at the beach, (well, if I got drunk on the beach) I would at least have some class.  Enough to keep my beach wrestling to a minimum.

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments