Archive for January, 2010:
I’m writing this to make a plea to Americans everywhere. Give just five minutes of your time. Not for the homeless or the hungry, not for the children or for any charity. For all of us.
We all know those things our parents and teachers told us: Do it right the first time. Go the extra mile. But a lot of us don’t. And the issue is this – that extra mile, that ‘getting it right’ is often only about five extra minutes of time.
Think about the words to Kanye West’s “Stronger”. This song was immensely popular and spawned several covers. Though Kanye is often great with the words, he owes us that extra five. Did he really think it was okay to leave us with rhymes like “since OJ wore isotoners” and “Klondike”? They appear to be the only rhyming words within his reach at the time. But an extra five minutes could have resulted in so much more. Clearly he’s capable, but no, we get left with what could have been a truly great song had he put in the extra five.
While we’re on the topic of music, think about what it would have meant if Alanis Morrisette had taken an extra five minutes and made friends with a dictionary. It wouldn’t even have to be a big one. Even a small, elementary, pocket dictionary would have contained all she needed to know that not one thing in that stupid song was actually ‘Ironic’. “Isn’t it ironic?” No, Alanis, it wasn’t.
Though the rooms on board a ship aren’t what anyone would call ‘large’, they beat the hell out of the servants’ quarters. In the days of the Titanic, there was a steerage class. But that was cruise for transport rather than vacationing. These days, our rooms all have plush carpeting, made beds and towels folded into animal shapes. Every now and then you catch a glimpse into the service stairwell or such. The hallways the attendants use have no carpet, only that tread-like plastic flooring that says they want to just hose the whole place down rather than actually clean it.
There’s more to the underbelly of a cruise than just the actual service areas. Like on most ships, our attendants came from any number of different countries but almost none from the USA. We heard rumors that ships won’t hire more than fifteen percent of the staff from any one nationality, for fear that they’ll stage some kind of coup and mutiny on the guests.
What this means to the traveler is that you can’t understand your captain very well until the word ‘diarrhea’ comes over the speakers. And are they serious about that! If you are ill they will quarantine you. Apparently, they only hire germophobes to work on cruise lines. Though they smile at you, they won’t hesitate to squirt you with a near-pure-alcohol substance they refer to as ‘hand sanitizer’. Then they smile and say “Welcome” with a smile and an accent, while you discover cuts you didn’t know you had on your hands.
Whether or not you are aware of it, you know about pity sax. You hear it all over – sometimes in expected places and sometimes when you were sure you’d be listening to something else. It’s any pop song, from any era, turned into a mellow sax version for your enjoyment. Or not.
This is the reason Kenny G is so incredible wealthy. It’s not because anyone is going to his concerts. And the crowd that does attend his events is that one that thinks tipping a server thirty-five cents shows how appreciative they truly were. So you know he’s not raking it in from shows. He could be selling CDs, and I bet he does. Right along with Yanni, Kenny G is your go-to gift for the grandma or great-uncle that you don’t know well enough to choose something thoughtful for. Even so, there’s more at play here. Both these guys can afford palatial estates on multiple continents without resorting to Hasselhoff-like drunken declarations that ‘they love me in Germany!’
It’s not just them, there’s enough of this crap to keep a lot of fantastic-but-not-quite-Yo Yo Ma musicians in the green for a long time. It seems as soon as a song hits the top forty there’s some company out there recording it in a partially orchestrated, horn-heavy mosh.
Right now, I am sitting in the breakfast bar of a cruise ship. I’m looking out over the waves and not seeing the whales. The captain swears there were several spotted right off the bow just a little while ago. And science agrees – this particular place and season is both the birthing and mating spot for scores of whales. Instead the only whales I have seen are those who seem to think all common courtesy about speedos no longer applies once you have hit international waters.
We are headed back to LA after a week in the Mexican Riviera. We have seen Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. We rode Zip Lines in the canopy and ATVs on the beach. We did see actual whales on a sailboat where they plied us with margaritas and fresh guacamole. And we learned not to reply when we heard the word “Touristas”. We also learned that we might as well have a target on our backs – my good Spanish accent does not make up for the fact that many words I learned so long ago are out of my grasp now. I find myself with a reasonably well-crafted sentence that stops dead while I think “now what’s the word for ‘cheap’?”
The ship itself provides a lot of interesting things, too. It really is a floating city with a promenade, restaurants, theaters and even an ice skating rink. Yes, I have gone ice skating on the Pacific.
I have cruised before this – I’m not a virgin. This ship is a different cruise line than the last time and it’s noticeably bigger. Given this, we assured everyone that we were not going to get sea-sick. Big ships don’t roll the way little ones do, and our last cruise was rock solid. If you hadn’t seen the sea just beyond the plexiglass you wouldn’t have known you were on it.
I’ve been traveling a little bit lately, and I’m disturbed by a trend I am seeing: Oxygen Bars. Yes, you can pay good money to sit at a ‘bar’ or lay on an ergonomic table and have a canula put up your nose to deliver a hit of good old O2. This used to be reserved for those on their last legs and was intended to be accompanied by a good amount of wheezing. But, no, now it’s trendy.
These little oxygen bars are popping up a lot in airports, so you can suck down some overpriced air between flights. I’ve noticed, too, that it seems to be overwhelmingly professional men using these bars. This surprises me, since when you sit at the bar with the prongs up your nose you can’t help but look like a pussy.
But there they are, men in expensive suits watching their oxygen bubble through their choice of two out of four colored liquids that should add something extra to the oxygen they paid for.
While I understand that the bubbles are mesmerizing, you can certainly find better things to stare at for twenty minutes. Trust me, many stores carry these Lucite cubes with colored goo in them. They have a hole between two compartments and function like a liquid hourglass. Trust me, these can keep a whole roomful of people in thrall for far longer than a mere twenty minutes and you don’t have to pay an upcharge or anything, just turn it over.
Well, it’s a brand new year, and that means it’s time for the same old resolutions. Yup, most years, me and mine resolve to become healthier / lose weight / get ripped. And most years nothing comes of it except that long about March we get a niggling sensation that we forgot to do something important.
Last year, we decided that if we were really going to stick to it, it would have to be fun. And hey, if we got Wii Fit, well that would be fun, right? We could get the kids on the healthy track early and yada yada yada.
As the first household in our immediate family circle to get the Wii fit, we became the place to come to play on the balance board.
First, if you have a Wii, then you are familiar with the concept of a Mii. This is a little avatar that you get to make, and like the name suggests, most of us go all narcissistic and spend several hours trying to get these little cartoon blobs to look as much like us as possible. After coming to grips with the fact that, yes, our eyes really are spaced like that and the square chin does best match our own faces, we get freaked out by how much this little conglomeration of features does look just like us! Creepy!