Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis The Season

But I don't WANNA be Santa!!

But I will, 'cause I WUV You!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Howie Says Hi


My name is Howie, but some people call me black Benji, because that is who I look like.

I am almost one year old, and I live in a nice house in Dixie, with lots of woods out back, and three loving people to take care of me. I am a very happy dog.

One day though, I was playing on the side of our house away from the woods, and suddenly out of nowhere, a big car came by and before I knew it, I was rolling and rolling sideways and I hurt from where the car hit me.

I was very scared, but my people were not around and I could not get inside, so I crept into the deep, dark, scary woods and lay down to sleep. When I awoke, it was still very dark and I could not remember which way was home

Although it hurt to walk, I wanted to find my people, so I walked and walked in the woods to find my home. After a long time, I came to a clearing in the woods, and there I saw a house, but it did not look like my house. Still, I walked up to it and found a little-dog-sized place to get inside just under a hose.

But when I got inside, it was still very dark there, and the little strip of metal that let me inside closed behind me, and I could not get out. It was very dark, and I was cold and tired and scared and hurt where the car had hit me, and now I was hungry and thirsty as well.

So I went to sleep, because it was all I could do.

After a long while, I heard a car drive up to the front of the house and people got out, and they had a dog with them. As they went to go inside, I heard their dog come up to the wall right beside where I was lying and start sniffing and sniffing the wall of their house, just opposite me.

I could hear their footsteps above me for awhile, and then it was quiet and I slept some more.

This went on for three days and three nights, and I became very weak and of course very hungry and thirsty. I could hear them walking around and coming and going in their car, and every time they went out with their dog, he would stop and sniff the house where I was resting.

And then finally, one of the people walking the dog on its leash let him sniff his way around their house to the little hole though which I had pushed my way days earlier, and suddenly, there was the head and then the shoulders of a big brown hound sniffing inside under their house.

A few minutes later, a Nice Lady with a flashlight and a lantern came crawling under the house where I was lying. “There’s a dog under here” she cried out. “Alive” she answered the question yelled from outside. And so she came back with some hotdogs and a little leash and very slowly and patiently she tried to get me to come out of my hiding place. It took close to half an hour before we were out.

She made a nice little bed on her porch for me and gave me some food and water, while the Big Dog Who Lived There tried to play with me, only the man kept him tight on a leash so he could not reach me more than nose smelling. For several days, the Nice Lady fed me, and looked at the place where I had been hurt, and then she even gave me a bath! The Big Dog Who Lived There wanted SO much to play, but the man on the other end of his leash never quite let him do so.

And then, on Thanksgiving Day, a car pulled up and My People were in it! I was SO excited that I jumped and wagged and even barked a little bit happily. They hugged me, and hugged each other and hugged the Nice People That Found Me, and I went home for Thanksgiving. Seems that while the Nice Lady was feeding me and bathing me, the Man Who Lives There had a picture she took of me, and he was walking up and down the long street, knocking on doors and asking if anybody knew who had lost me.

And on the second day of doing so, he stopped a passing car who knew just who I was, and they called My People who came very quickly, stopping at the little General Store to take down the little sign that he had put up there with my picture on it, and we all had a Happy Thanksgiving.

I hopeY’All did too!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Today I took advantage of 64 degree temps to walk, alone, along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean amongst the tracks of people and vehicles which had gone before me.

As I did so, I watched the incoming tide begin to erase them gradually, and I wondered how many times since ‘the beginning’ had the tide crept slowly over that very beach before receding to prepare to do it all over again

Weekend crowds were manageable.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More Coast Cruisin'

Went with BG to another iteration of the assemblage of classic old cars in Dixie. Saw many old friends there, but this one was unfamiliar.

Anyone know what it is?

We do, now. Nice ride.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ten From the Trip

From the thousand photos which I took in the last two weeks, I am going to post ten.

I will gladly answer questions about them and certainly willing to post more--if interest dictates. Remember, they can be clicked twice for more detail.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Been VERY Busy (Well, comparatively anyhow)

So I have been WAAAY underdosed on my internetting. Real life took hold here for a week and two adjacent weekends, and a lot of good things happened.

Blogger Girl got a vacation, and since Fin had neglected to bring his passport from Yankeeland to Dixie, he and then we planned a substitute trip in the USofA, where the value of the Euro is not a constant irritant and customs and passport control are not added to the already intolerable idiocy of the TSA.

We got all our irritation and bad luck out of the way on our first night, when arriving after a trip which took us from the Gulf Coast to North Carolina, and then to Phoenix and then to Flagstaff, the rental car which we had reserved was not there. We had been up since 3AM to begin this oddysey, and it was now six PM and we were not in the mood for corporate shenanigans.

Their position was here is what we have; take it or leave it. There were NO other car rental agencies open, so their bargaining position was pretty strong. The photo shows what they gave us on the right, and what Fin pounced on like a jungle cat the following morning, and in which we spent the next two thousand miles of motoring.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"A Little Travelin' Music, Ray"

As Jackie Gleason used to say on his television day, back in the day of 7 channel television.

One of the most enjoyable of many enjoyable aspects of being with Blogger Girl is sharing with her some of the places that I have visited and enjoyed in my past. These have included the North Island of New Zealand, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Maui and Mt Haleakala, the enchanting island of Bermuda and the mystical pyramid complex at Xuantanich in Belize.

She has shared her fun places with me as well, like West Texas, New Mexico, San Antonio, Austin, Lukenbach, TEXAS, and New Orleans, as well as the gorgeous barrier islands in the Gulf, from Dauphin to Deer Island.

One of the places I very much want to go with her is Banff, but I cleverly forgot my passport this trip, so instead we are going to see a little more of the US together. Next week we hope to visit the Grand Canyon, Sequoia and Yosemite in a car trip beginning in Flagstaff and ending in Sacramento. We are also looking forward to meeting an old journal space friend that we have never seen, and another that we HAVE seen, several times, several places.

I lived in California for almost two years, but have not returned, for more than a day or so, in almost fifty years. I am hoping we can manage to visit San Simeon, Monterey, Carmel and San Francisco along the way.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This Fascinated Me


I'll add the reasons why tomorrow, in comments.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Da Hood

Quite the range of neighbors, here in Dixie. From this:

to this:

and this:

Mr Ed sez LEMME IN!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

story can catch up later

Dateline - at sea
A day of sunshine, and pools to play in, changing vistas when we near shore, blackjack and internet on demand (either for a price or sometimes making money on it – my last session with Laura got me a quick four hand streak or twenty up for the session).

Up one flight of stairs and forward to the spa, and a man with the age and physique of Bert K (Katmai) and his equally elderly bride were ensconced on the only two exercise bikes in the gym and showed no signs of flagging. I took a glance at his time the second time I went by and he was up to a half hour. No matter, I went up one more floor (deck) to the sun deck (I think) and there I found the usual collection of speed power walkers and joined in for two quick laps, or about a fifth of a mile, before descending one more level to see if the ex bikes were free or not (not).

Descending by foot again, I found to my delight, a chart on the doorway leading to the pool deck (Lido) where nautical map of Los Angeles was placed (the ‘other’ island by Santa Catalina is called San Clemente) and better still, a map of the entire route of the voyage with lat long lines thereon, so from now on I shall be better able to locate our position after taking a reading with the gps. In the main, I am content and perhaps happy.

Movie of the day is Charlie Chan in Panama. There is a movie scheduled for 11am regarding the canal, which I shall endeavor to attend. Meanwhile, let the record show I skipped breakfast(s) and had only a banana so far. .

I have now collated all the lat/longs for the journey and am going up to take another reading and plot our course on the wall map. Have also been walking down all stairs for awhile.

My next foray into the gym was a much more satisfying one than up till now, because I got onto the right hand exercise bike (aft) and rode it for a 101 calorie burn in 4.25 miles in twenty minutes or a little over an average of 12.5mph. this is much more in tune with my belief in my own abilities to date and the only drawback was that looking at the clock it said quarter past eleven am which it should have been quarter past ten, and so sometime during the night without my permission or even knowledge, they have switched ship time to Central time. There came an elaborate announcement from the captain at noon (well noon plus a minute according to my gps set clock) giving our lat, temp, dist from Long Beach, dist to Acapulco, swells (five feet from the west) sky cover (scattered tho he didn’t use that expression, air temp (didn’t hear it) and a sea temp of 88 degrees f.

Finished with the ex bike, I then made my way to the tail end of the movie on the Panama canal which I would dearly like to have seen, it being about the only interesting on board ship in the past two days other than the blackjack dealers from around the world. I caught about ten minutes of it and left before it ended to avoid what looked like a mass of a thousand people inside watching it.

I took my 101 calorie lighter body aft for a hamburger (w/o bun this time) but they were not quite ready – so I am now even – too early for lunch and too late to see the movie, and so I had a light breakfast instead of a tiny bit of scrambled eggs, pancake and two pieces of ham and a hash brown. I ate it out on the deck on a bench which is probably a no-no but took my plate back inside almost at once and handed it one of the over thousand crew members. I chatted a few minutes with the security guard who is basically having a paid holiday with all the senior citizens aboard as opposed to the usual drunken fight filled trips to Catalina and back overnight. He was happy. I am content. I took my gps reading N 19 15 W 105 15 and noted our position on the map which I have found on the lido deck at the exit to the pool and slide. Nearest airport is MMZO and Acapulco lies 400 miles ahead on a course of 115.

While walking by the pool, I marveled at how people can BAKE in the BROILING sun with no breeze anywhere in a sun that must be approaching 90 degrees or more. Even on the top deck with the most sun, it is a very warm wind that is blowing, but hell, we are approaching the equator and the cliff divers that have been in my consciousness since forever. Will quite apparently need to set my alarm to see this all happen.

The local time now is quarter to one in the afternoon, and there is a gentle rocking to the ship. I am in a leather chair with large table in front and bench under a five foot window, and it has turned out to be one of the better places to input stuff. I can hear the constant racket from the casino, but the people here are quiet, reading or just staring out the window or even dozing. It is not a bad way to live.

// Coming up on 1600 local now. Have walked length of ship several times, and swum in the top rear pool where the water was very warm and I was youngest person in pool and only male. Felt delightful. Followed by drying in sun on rearmost deckchair port, taking second picture of bare feet framing wake. Quick hello to A*** in internet room who said it was a good day for me to break the internet habit, cuz the isp was down most of the morning. I did about two tenths of a mile on the exercise bike (second time today) . Moved some more pix into the computer from the camera, but they are all still in the camera as well.

L*** is at a 25 cent roulette wheel and super busy. Don’t know how long it will go on, but it is a real crowd drawer. Am looking for a cabin steward because I just discovered that my bottle of water in the room is $3.25 and I want to make sure that they know I have only used the one. Discovered this just before thinking about having a coke in the room, which is probably free on deck and several bucks here in room R11. Also have questions about luggage and laundry.

Whilst seated looking out the starboard side, writing on the computer and enjoying the view, I was stunned and surprised to see a very small rowboat with a single occupant drifting past our window at I suppose 18 knots. Did another ten min on the ex bike, but it was the forward one and not the one I prefer. Spent a few min on the sun deck temp 95 degrees, taking another gps reading: N 18 18 w 103 54 with sunset at 2053. We are now about 275 miles from Acapulco and I shall need to set an alarm to awaken me from whatever dreams befall me tonight.

Supper was a rather chewy stringy piece of filet mignon. I skipped appetizer and salad and desert as I have most nights, and elected instead to have ice cream later. Lost a quick twenty (theirs not mine) as I passed the blackjack table, and spoke briefly with the South African. now to walk the decks and look for a sunset shot. Days and nights are almost the same length here now, and the sun sets almost exactly in the west, either due to the location or the date or both. Wandered back and this time got a dish for the ice cream which dripped out of the last cone. I sat on the back deck and took shots of the sun as it dropped into the sea precisely as foretold by my gps and directly due west, whether due to the latitude or the time of year I dunno. The equinox is upon is almost and the days and nights are each twelve hours long now.

Ran into m** who eats at our table (except last night when he wouldn’t get dressed up) and he won eight thousand nickels in a slot machine today, and further won another thousand on another slot. He came down to the cabin to see the photos taken on the trip so far, now more than hundred including the ones of the sunset hitting the ocean tonight.

Having found out that my tour begins at 0730 tomorrow morning (I did NOT sign up for any specific time) I asked for a wakeup call, and after accompanying Mike back to the casino, and having only Kiwi to talk to, and him then being moved to a roulette table which takes a good deal more concentration, I returned to the room, took a chocolate from the steward and commenced to turn in for the night to see what dreams I get tonight and to get everything as ready as can be for the cliff divers of Acapulco tomorrow. As of now, I have caught up on all the little notes for this trip so far.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Trio

Frankly, I was very surprised to go looking for some photographs for my last entry and found almost NO good photographs of ANY of my three airplanes.

It is possible, maybe even likely, that a large number of print photos exist and will come to light in time, as I work my way through decades of such photos.

So these are not good quality, but were all I was able to find even searching external drives in case some had gone missing.

My first, over the Atlantic shoreline


amd finally, most recent

For over half of my adult life, I have somewhat mentally classified people into two categories: Airplane Owners (lucky) and those who do NOT own airplanes (perhaps equally lucky in some ways). Owning an airplane has been a sort of cachet, and although the three which I have owned have always been of the quite modest variety, it was still entrée into a world which I enjoyed and in which for the most part I felt at home.

There is an old joke -- that a plane only gives you pleasure two days: when you buy it and when you sell it. It has also been applied, equally applicably one supposes, to boats, and in fact it was demonstrably & undeniably true in the instance of one’s Divorce Present Eldorado, with its elegant ride and 8 mpg thirst for highest octane gas.

But such was NOT the case with my beloved Cessna 152. I owned that little bird for close to twenty years, and it only failed to start twice:…once for my Uncle’s funeral in Rhode Island, and once when I had undertaken to fly a photographer onto the airport itself at JFK airport. Both of those instances were colder than usual mornings and the failure to start was likely as much my own unfamiliarity with her cold weather starting needs, as any failing on her part.

In short, it was faithful and trustworthy, and just knowing it was sitting there, and that it could, if I chose, take me to look at the tops of nearby clouds, or have me in New England in less than an hour, was enough to keep my spirits up on dark days. I was able to be an honest member of the Airplane Owners & Pilots Association, cuz I was one of each, and it was a good feeling.

But times change. People change. FAA rules change. Airspace restrictions change. Availability of 100octane low lead fuel may change, and has appreciated alarmingly in recent years. ELT requirements change. VOR maintenance may change. Towers are closed or go part time. Airports close. Insurance premiums, tiedown fees, mechanics labor and parts, oil, radio repairs…all have increased a good deal more than a comfortable margin for a middle class pilot/owner. Medical examinations become more of a challenge with passing years, {particularly if one is partially bionic but has not always been overly forthright about the fact}.

And there is a bit of the ‘been there, done that’ element too, when one is so fussy that one refuses to fly if the visibility is 8 miles instead of 12, or if one goes out and doesn’t start the plane because the pattern is full of students, whose first language is quite apparently not English and one may be wary of mid-air happenings as a result. If one looks at the sectional map of New England and can not find a single airport where one has not landed, the feeling may be similar to, if not exactly burnout.

But changing a lifestyle comes with some emotional tumult, no matter how obvious the decision may be to vacate the first and migrate to the second category of people. The words of Ecclesiastes 3:1 certainly seem applicable.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

I am so pleased that many of the people whom I love and who have been and are close to me have had the opportunity to slip the surly bonds with me. Those are cherished memories which I hope time will only burnish. We’ve had a good run, and been lots of gorgeous and magical places, and I would not trade those memories and experiences for anything.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

[EXECUTIVE SUMMARY---another longish entry and we did NOT get to Acapulco today, merely passed Cabo San Lucas, so it is also skippable, and quite similar to the one before it. One ate, internetted, interacted, gambled and walked.]

Dateline N 24 06 W 111 53 97 miles due west of MMLP LaPaz 768 miles from Long Beach

Today I woke and took the gps and camera only and went outside to see the remnants of hurricane Ivan. Sky black and lowering, sea really not rough at all, but obviously heavy rains had been at work. I grabbed one cuppa from the inside part of the restaurant behind the pool and went topside on the second highest rear fantail and was taking a reading when, just in the manner of the Katmandu Holiday Inn caper with the Royal Nepal Airlines airline captain, a man came over to ask what I was doing.

He is Bob D, retired from 31 years in the *** State troopers and now working for FEMA. Needless to say, we found a GREAT deal to talk about, and only quit when he went to find his wife who is a self employed insurance adjuster.
It is now 11am local. I am hungry. I used my own computer and a wireless card to get onto the internet awhile, browsing thru some of the ttbrapsoit thread, back comics, emails to s** and to L** tho neither of them were very literate, quick look at drudge and a few others.

Stopped at the blackjack table on my way to the lecture, and I was sure I put down twenty bucks, but I got quite a stack of chips back, which I promptly doubled down twenty bucks on an eleven, and the guy before me got my ten. So I took my remaining chips to the cashier and got back twenty, so I either gave him thirty or he made a mistake. We are singing happy birthday to Cheryl, who just called the bingo. I stopped off at the information desk (purser) and they will call Bob’s cabin for me so I can give him one of the *** cop patches.

/// didn’t stay long at the talk, because they told me all I wanted to know about the sub ride (very popular, sells out quick, goes down 100 feet) and I don’t care a fig about Jamaica. Found a soft seat with back and table directly facing the ocean and am going to do a bit more catching up before going in search of another hamburger. . Still grey and overcast but not raining and forecast for canal is excellent.

Now it is quarter three in the afternoon on Sunday in ny, but I am not in NY, I am out in the Pacific ocean and it is 1313 Mountain time. I just came back from the gym where I did another five minutes on the ex bike and Bob D was exercising beside me. Met my table mate coming out of the casino, quite dejected saying the blackjack tourney is postponed till the 25th and he has apparently lost some more money at poker. Came back to the room to get gps and hat and do the deck walk thing which I am hoping is a few miles, although not fast. Later still I need to go turn in the wireless card for the puter and work a few more sites, as I have no idea how many of my 250 minutes I have used up.

1400 or so – land ho. Off the port side, mountains. . I walked around the track with him, and people a decade older than I were passing by me like bullets, including the third iteration of Bob D who had his bride with him. Find self thinking it is really time to exercise a little more often and a little more vigorously at home. Ate nothing while I sat and looked over the pool deck. Everywhere you look, people are doing things they enjoy. Some sit in the sun and read, or write letters, or play cards or just sleep. Some sit in the shade and do the same. Some dance, many drink, many many eat constantly. Some swim, splash, play video games, play slot machines, take a sauna, shop, saunter, jog, play bingo. Some are surfing the net, some on their own computers, including me later on, because I am going to give back the card at ten PM.

Stopped by the blackjack table and watched a guy drop a quick hundred bucks in about five minutes to the pretty (well cute) little dealer from Romania who reminds me somewhat of a sweet M** if such a thing is possible. Just when I was wondering whether I could chat up the girl, he pulled out a second hundred and I walked away to come back and get my binocs.

Cabo San Lucas N 23 09 W 110 23 [or thereabouts]

This is some place I have for some always wanted to go but never have. It is at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, a long drive in a four wheel drive vehicle, popular spot for cruise ships stopping and sort of tricky to fly to because of the federales and the banditos who strip a plane in the time it takes to write this.

I found my way to the port railing amongst quite a crowd of people and with my computer, binoculars, camera and gps I was quite loaded down. A nice grandmotherly type babysat the dell while I took a gps fix in cabo san lucas,, shot up quite a string of pictures of the shore as it slowly rolled by and stared at the multiple new lovely dwellings and wondered (out loud) how many were earned honestly. But it was fun, it was a destination to cross off my to do list, another gps fix with happy memories, and I wandered around to the other side to watch the sun on the water, watch the mountains slipping astern and contemplate the beauties of life, even single on a cruise which is largely not.

Followed that up by sitting in with the piano player about whom I wrote earlier, a Scot named B who is friendly and he let me play a few numbers (I it took a painful five or more minutes to remember the name of ‘For you’ which I played, and then we played some four handed stuff which was really much better than it should have been.

This was followed by dinner with prime ribs and the little Bali waitress putting her arms around me etc. So I am developing a warm friendly relationship with some of the crew with whom I shall be in contact for the next almost two weeks. The dinner was the best of the three so far…prime ribs. I still have the internet flash card and so I feel OBLIGATED to get back onto the net and use it up…I have two and a half hours of time left for my hundred bucks. And sadly the little girl who runs the internet is not quite warm, but efficient and polite.

And who can forget going thru the line and getting my pic taken with the captain and chatting with him a few minutes as well. Pic taken with d***s camera, not theirs. So all in all a very pleasant evening, and I am looking forward to a sunset deck stroll and some more computering later on.

The rhythms of the ship./// following dinner I walked to the top deck where the jogging track is and there was not a single soul on the entire deck. Not one. The wind was very warm but blowing so hard I had to hold onto my hat again. Down one or two decks for a walk around the stern and same thing – not a soul in sight. Then down a deck or two to the promenade deck and it was so packed you could hardly get thru the corridors…many of the women in long dresses and more than a few men in tuxes. One looked just like the monopoly man.

So it is perfectly possible to have solitude and quiet any time you want to go against the flow. Most of the people were in seeing a show which had a rauchy comedian and was introducing all the staff members of the ship when I went by the door to the theatre. It will probably be on the tv tonight anyhow.

Walking back to the cabin, I got a compliment on my piano playing which was a rush and makes me smile to think about it because we were doing ‘what a wonderful world’ and we did a neato job of it and then I found I had left my key inside, which is stunning considering the lengths I go NOT to do this..

And for the end of the day, I won twenty bucks from the little Romanian and finally got the computer girl to warm up to me when she looked over and saw the fishers island pix running by in a slide show.

The computer worked pretty well on their internet but then it got real slow, and I couldn’t get to my usual msn screen to send email or pix, so I gave her back the wireless card, and then showed her basically almost every foto in the whole computer and she seemed genuinely interested.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

[Note- this entry contains 2,500 words, and basically nothing happened. It is merely an account of how a non-drinker, travelling alone on his first long cruise spent a day getting accustomed to a totally different life experience. Those craving more action will hopefully be more interested in the next entry, being prepared now, when the ship arrives in Acapulco, playground of the rich and famous in the 1950s.]

Saturday, September - At Sea

Dateline Lat 30 54 Long 117 05 Crs 155 Speed 22-23 mph Nearest airport MMES (65mi 025) MMES = Ensenada, Mexico

Today began quite early, even in NY time. I woke quite awake at 0535 NY time, which is 0335 local time, although up to now I haven’t been able to get the name of the local time zone[mountain]. As I lay there, I felt the unmistakable sensation of roll. I think that my cabin (R11) almost at the waterline, is probably less susceptible to discomfort than that of the Okie truck driver on the top deck with the balcony, but I enjoy it. I dressed in grey sweat pants and the hooded sweatshirt and hit the top deck with my GPS. It was not quite as windy as departure yesterday, but I had to hold onto my hat and was glad of the sweatshirt. It was warm however and the stars were pretty. I looked longingly into the bridge with the glowing instruments and thought about my good luck at the hotel in Kathmandu when the airline captain was interested in the same gps that I had with me now. No nibbles.

Walking back to the lido deck, it was a whole ‘nother world as I walked into people swimming, dancing, splashing, sitting in a whirlpool and lying on deck chairs with loud disco type music playing. It was quite a shock from the staid, air conditioned inside atmosphere from which I had just emerged.

A fellow passenger also walking around directed me to hot coffee in the rear of the ship. Finding a South African super in the casino, I asked him about the internet café which will cost a hundred bucks but is worth it. I should have gotten a wireless hookup however as they do not have them. [sic – they rent the wireless cards for ten bucks a day] T** was his name and he argued with me about the flying time from NY to Joburg and I went back to see him (happened to be wearing my cape point t shirt as it happened) and showed him my own backseat logbook which is going to have to be brought up to date, because I made an ink entry for yesterdays’s trip before filling in the trip from Warsaw to NY (God that seems a long time ago, but I got a real nice email from P*** just before leaving.

My next chore was to work on the photos. D*** had a death in the family and no time to spare, but he did give me the memory card for the computer, and I have successfully gotten many of the pix into the computer from the camera…about thirty six or so, some of them quite good, but am having difficulty in arranging them, and this will take a certain amount of expertise, which I may find aboard the ship.
The list of things that has been lost and found includes tickets, passport, water, pen, sweatshirt and wallet. However, I think the only so far lost and not found is the little maglite with brand new Duracell batteries in it, which could have dropped in the airbus I suppose.

What is worse is to open the zipper dopp bag with stuff in it and find a charger and not have F*** CLUE what it is supposed to recharge. It isn’t for the razor nor the computer, and the multi band scanner which I don’t know how to use doesn’t have one. It is lovingly wrapped up and I am a bit upset over not know what it is supposed to recharge. The missing flashlite is not expensive and easily replaced and not needed, but I am so trying to be careful and it is still upsetting when these things happen. Going for another deck stroll I think.

//Well as I prepped to leave the cabin, I spied my trac phone – and that is what the charger is for. I actually got a signal on in briefly but it was gone by the time I had dialed s**’s number. I caught a good breakfast on the rear deck buffet which is good till noon. Found out that we are in mountain time, and the time difference is two hours not four. Found out that bridge and engine room visits disappeared after Sept 11th.

If I didn’t mention it before, the coast guard came aboard in force to watch the life boat drill which I had been fixing to ignore but decided, wisely, to comply. Got some decent pix of it. I think I now have all the pix I have taken in the computer somewhere. Need to get some help sorting them out. As it turned out, the guy in the information desk had an identical camera and got it going when it had locked up again.

NY Time now is 1030AM. Located is 300 miles south of Long Beach airport heading se at 22 mph. weather is broken with temps probably in the sixties. Must bring room key along with thermo on it. I am presently sitting on the fantail with the wake streaming behind us between my feet, pic taken.

The computer does not work very well outside and not at all when the sun comes out, so I have read the first sixteen pages of my radio shack pro-95 handheld scanner which I’ve had a year in December and still cannot work.
I had an experience this morning akin to my hike at Katmai, where I went into the gym at 8am and found a bunch of young and old people working out. I rode ONE MILE on the exercise bike, burning off a total of 25 calories, heart rate of 122 or so and did a single mile in five minutes. The old guy next to me was cranking along at about triple the rate and was there when I got there and still going at 94rpm when I left. And forget about the ladies on the treadmills with 3,6 mph walking for what seemed like forever. Being that I DO live alone, I don’t have a lot of opportunity to compare my performance on a bike etc with anybody else, and it is sometimes a bit of a shock when I do.
Nevertheless, it is cool and pleasant on the fantail deck with almost no other people here. The ever present disco music cannot be heard here, nor in the bow either where my cabin is situated. My breakfast was scrambled eggs, one slice of ham, one slice of bacon, one slice of cantelope and one hash brown. And one cuppa. // ok, with the screen and sun conditions here now, I can create but not edit, and since I still have a lot of yesterday to fill in, and in fact brought along Poland to finish up, will close down the puter and read some more. Before returning to my cabin, will try to find an inside table with ocean view and do some refining. Played blackjack last night and down five bucks. Would dearly love to win enough to pay for the internet use which I have resigned myself is gonna be a hundred bucks or so.
Despite only burning off 25 calories in the early morning workout, I had a modest second breakfast and expect to have that hold me till dinnertime. The fellow at my table (R** from Wisconsin) wandered by while I was on the back top deck and we chatted awhile and then I came inside and had a second, modest helping of ham, hash browns and sausage, and one pancake with honey on it. I found a dark table with an ocean view between the ‘internet café’ which is two terminals, both in use, and the casino which has five bucks of my money which I want back. In just one hour I will go to the orientation speech ref shore leave. Last position (7 satellites) was 29 24 N and 116 24 west. Have now read about forty pages of the idiot instruction manuyel for the scanner, and managed to get it to scan the marine band, which, surprise, is mostly Spanish. Nearest airport is now 160 miles and is Mexican also. Course continues 155 or so.

Time – 1615 eastern daylight. Location – double porthole room R11, Starboard Ecstasy

Was thinking just now, what a diff a day makes, as I walked into the room, one handed my door key out of the kangaroo pouch and walked barefoot into the place as though I owned it. I had been down the giant two story water slide twice and had a much bigger lunch than two breakfasts would dictate…hamburg, hotdog, fries and apple turnover. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but each thing was huge and in fact I left most of the fries because at that rate the fifty or so calories that the stupid bike machine says I’ve burned off isn’t going to do any good at all. I didn’t swim, but I have walked extensively back and forth, mostly outdoors, enjoying the atmosphere.

I stripped to shorts on the rear fantail when I saw a beached whale doing the same, and while reading my scanner handbook, got the marine band to scanning, any by chance heard our captain, capt of the ecstasy, calling a Russian ship out of st Petersburg which had just gone thru the area where Javier is, first on channel 16 and then switching down to channel ten, which I have learned how to make the damn thing do, and they reported 5 meters per second wind (11 mph or so) and 5 meter swells, which I shall enjoy!! It was fun to hear the Rusky wishing me and all other 3000 people a safe and pleasant journey.

I have caught up on some of the notes from Poland and from yesterday, which is now seeming like a bad dream-- at least the ship boarding part. For the next two weeks, I should be care free. At the info desk I asked whether they had a spot where they posted their location, and they don’t. I asked if there is a bulletin board for fresh news, and there is not.

Instead there was a contest to judge who has the hairiest chest and a contest to guess 25 television theme songs (The Jeffersons??) and a wine tasting seminar.

Different stokes obviously, just like the golf on the plane tv yesterday. Now I’m stripped out of my wet bathing suit and headed back to the casino and internet area to listen to some live jazz and hopefully get to play a bit.

It is 1900 eastern so coming up on five pm here. “Here” is N27 42 W 115 41.7 with steady course 160 at about 21mph all day. They blew the boilers and I got some good pix of same.

The jazz band is much too modern for my taste, sounded as if they had never rehearsed together, were too loud and it just didn’t work for me to try to sit in. Went further aft and sat in the shade overlooking the pool and the water slide and enjoyed another live band out there when they did Marguierita ville, but left them when they did Kokomo. Still a little miffed at losing my five bucks at blackjack last night (don’t usually lose) I sat until I was up a total of fifteen bucks and then spent it on the internet. I am paying 75 cents a minute plus a four buck activation charge. I couldn’t find my comics or e-mail anywhere, and the drudge report mentioned that parts of the northeast got up to five inches of rain. Oh well, I did what I could before I left and it’s in God’s hands now. There is nothing much to see outside the window but lots and lots of ocean, but I sense that we are pitching more than rolling and that the swells are quite small. No sense yet of the 15 foot swells mentioned by the Russian captain that he encountered last night.

I went to the orientation at 1100 about shore leave, and think my two choices are the correct ones. After two breakfasts and two lunches, I am really not hungry for much of a supper, but I am looking forward to telling the Bulgarian waiter that I was in Sofia and showing him the ID card I got from there. Like the logbook, the odds of my having it are indeed remote…both were in the writing case. Turned off the air conditioner in the room so that I can sleep warm tonight. I think tomorrow I’ll take my own laptop up to the internet room so I can at least look at some of my favorite websites. I should probably just pop for the fifty bucks for a package of minutes.

Back now from supper where I was perhaps the only person in the dining room wearing a jacket. Formal seems to mean no tank tops. The food, lamb, was decent but not great and the conversation the same. The only one of the three I like at the table is the old man who was in Korea. Two are diabetics. All are in single rooms and deducting, all paid a good deal more than I did for my outside cabin.

I had key lime pie and ice cream for dessert and on my way back to the cabin to get out of the turtleneck and blazer, i passed a cocktail pianist in white dinner jacket and bow tie who was so –well, not great -- that I asked for and got permission to play one piece (What’ll we do) and got a smatter of applause as well. The casino was totally deserted as everyone ate. Did not see my female dealer there from last nite, nor the south African. I am up fifteen bucks there and it was all spent on the internet and pretty useless at that. I think the swells on the ocean are increasing, but it is time for me to take my binocs, camera, scanner, short wave and perambulate here and yon.

I walked from the top deck to the cabin deck and along the way I met a woman from Minnesota married to an Italian and living in Italy (pit boss) a young Kiwi living in Australia (poker dealer) a young guy from Bulgaria who cracked up at my Sofia casino id card, (which I showed to the waiter as well who is also Bulgarian) and a sweet young girl from Romania who took twenty bucks off me quicker n anybody cuz I upped bets to ten bucks when I shouldn’t have, but she was sweet and it was fun.

Lastly I went to the internet lady and said I’d be up there tomorrow with my laptop. One of the guys suggested going to an internet café in Acapulco where an hour costs a buck, not a hundred.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Sea Voyage Begins [clickable pix included]

Today is the day I am leaving for my ocean voyage. It is off to a little hickupy start. First off, I discovered that there had been a short in the plug of the computer, or it wasn’t plugged in properly or something, because the lights were not on for the computer or the plug itself, and the battery was almost fully discharged. Second, I had to pack a white shirt and two neckties due to L**’s urging, on top of S**’s. ‘Pack the shirt the way you think the laundry would do it’.

The digital numbers on the bose radio are going off and on, making it impossible to read the time or alarm. And the MSN web tv is unavailable periodically, so I have been unable to check Long Beach weather, or the distance there. Currently the puter is charging but 61% battery is not going to last the length of this day. Glad this stuff all didn’t happen upon my return. And the coffee looks funny but tastes ok. Got emails from p** and M**. And the format on the computer here is funny.

Looking ahead, I think my biggest concerns now are missing the flight because of a foul-up of some kind and whatever hassle is involved in getting my suitcases to the ship and to the cabin. Have done what I can to take important stuff with me so that if stuff gets lost or pilfered I won’t be helpless. Long Beach identifier is KLGB. The distance from JFK is 2136 NM. Temp in Celsius is 20 and dew point 17. I decided to throw in the instruction book for the new handheld scanner and see if I can work out how to use it in a half month.

Hurricane Javier is headed toward Baja. Charge is now up to 61%. The alarm is set for 0400 and will be going off shortly, but I woke at -0300 and decided it was useless to toss and turn, so I made the coffee and turned OFF the dehumidifier. It is currently clear in Long Beach and 68 degrees with a lite NW wind. Javier may impact our route. // checked and the puter is now up to 90% battery capacity…much better. The shore excursions for Aruba include horseback riding and tank diving, but also show a submarine ride, which I caught a quick [two second] glimpse of as I left Aruba last time, on my way to Caracas, and would like to do that. It is gonna snow in Colorado. Gonna have some toast and jam and put the little remaining bread in the freezer. Checked last websites for awhile if it costs 75 cents a minute to surf aboard. Think I will call limo service at 0500 just to be double sure.

// 0445 had some toast and jelly and dumped the dehum and left it turned off - doh. The puter is back up to 97% charge. . One of these times when I am looking at old diary, gotta figure out how many times I have crossed the country, including ocean to ocean. It’s a lot, as I prepare to put the puter into a case and connect the phone. Just 0500.

Dateline jfk airport, jet blue terminal, gate 17.

so far, fairly routine trip. The limo had the usual trouble finding me, but I was the only passenger and I was at the airport way early. The limo was pitch black inside and stank of gas. He was a very jerky driver and I almost actually fell twice as I sat in the third row (2 suitcases in row 2) and the seat wasn’t as long as I thought. There was almost no traffic at all, and he took sunrise to robt moses and didn’t hit his brakes till he was a quarter mile from jfk. I tipped him *** bucks. We argued before leaving over whether the fare was $45 or $49 and I won. He wanted me to pre pay the return and I refused, as I didn’t want to strip half my cash before getting out of the driveway.

There was nobody in line at jet blue and I checked in quickly and without hassle. When I got up to the security line I realized I had left my water bottle at the checkin counter 25 and went back to get it. Security was the longest delay to date, with four lines but over a hundred people waiting. It was very slow and the computer had to come out of its case and go thru on its own. They checked my other bag for residue and put d**’s camera thru twice.

When I got to the waiting area I sat where I could see the tail number of our bird when she came in, and got it. I asked another passenger to watch my bag while I tapped a kidney and topped off the water bottle. We have an hour to go before departure, but I am calm and relaxed and everything so far is under control.
My seat was 4F for Jet Blue flite 221 nonstop from JFK to Long Beach, Calif.
Captain was E— and FO was R---. Totally full flight. I had a young couple sitting beside me who held hands and absolutely STARED at a golf game the entire trip…transfixed. We hit clouds immediately on takeoff, and were in the soup till Gary, Indiana, when suddenly I saw and pointed out first lake Michigan and then an absolutely thrilling view of Chicago with both remaining airports and the sears tower clear thru my binocs. Although the moving map display is crude and totally inappropriate for aviation use, I did the best I could to keep track of our progress across the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and Iowa and Nebraska.

------------Chicago and Lake Michigan

To my surprise, I caught sight of Longmont Airport and the diagonal road, following it up to the school which is located just about where B Drive is and couldn’t wait to tell S**, although she did not pick up after four rings, (or $1.10 in minutes). I also rang L** four rings for another 2 units. I also got great views of Las Vegas and so much of the countryside – shots of Interstate 70 running thru the wilderness of Utah etc.

IN short the flight was a great one, with sensational views, Saw several eastbound jets but not in time to take pix of them.. I ate blue potato chips and a bit of the snacks that I had with me, and half finished my bottle of water. I was as excited at seeing the mountains etc as the first time I saw them, and didn’t bother my seat-mates a third time. Almost sure I saw the same Cedar City, Utah motel where I stayed two nights, including coming over the mountain with the elk in the roadway after about an 800 mile day and they had power out.

Sign on the tv: “Without you, we’d just be flying a bunch of TV’s around”

At destination, we hit some clouds and the approach had to have been ifr. I used the bathroom and filled my water bottle before going to baggage claim which was OUTDOORS, and HOT. I was wearing the blazer and a cashmere there was nobody there from the cruise lines, and a taxi cost twenty two bucks to get to the ship. I balked and tried to find a shuttle van that would do it cheaper, and just wasted time because I got my suitcases fairly quickly but there was a lot to handle and it was hot and I had been up since 0300. On the plus side however, my bags came off the belt fairly promptly and I was somewhat mobile without a cart or porter. Carts were for rent, didn’t see any porters.

Finally I decided on a taxi and they helped me with the four bags and took me along the interstate to the pier with the dozens of cranes, past long flatcars loaded with containers, many of them coming in on Chinese ships, which reminded me of New Orleans and the grain going to Russia on eastern bloc countries when j** and I were there in 76. Or the steel mills in Bethlehem with the acres of empty parking lots.
He let me off in a parking lot ($25) and I walked toward the ship past dozens of guys standing around with vests saying ‘security’. They were apparently porters and they ignored me, and as a result, plus my own innate cheapness, I ended up on a line with two thousand other people in the broiling sun and I was the only person who had ALL my stuff with me. The rest had just carry on stuff. There was a group of 47 pushy Asians behind me and young couple in front of me smoking – tattooed truck driver appreciaters. And that is when D**;s camera decided to act up as well.

Many of the people are a good deal older than I, and they didn’t appreciate the hour or more standing in line any more than I did. It was also at this time that d**’s camera decided to stop working and give me a yes/no screen which none of the buttons had any effect on,. The only way I was able to resume was to take out and re insert the memory card.

When we got inside, it got worse, as it appeared that my big suitcase would not go thru their security screening. We were all forced to go thru airline style security screening, with scanners and baggage exrays. When I got up there, between the computer, green knapsack, H’s bag and my two suitcases, kangaroo pack, I had about six separate items on the belt. Guy told me to take the big suitcase back outside, and I said , look – I’m **** years old and have been traveling for 14 hours, and he lifted the metal gate and put the bags thru.

I then managed to lose first my tickets and then the passport. I was really low. I kept going thru the kangaroo pouch, the green knapsack, zipper pockets on the leather bag etc, but I had put my suitcase down on top of them. [Note-I have some good pix of this stage, but do not want to post any photos of people with identifiable faces on the internet!]

Next stop was a huge long counter and I was behind a very jovial and chipper employee dealing with a pair of Asians who understood not a word. It must have taken ten or more minutes. Finally I jumped to the line beside me and a nice lady filled out a credit card receipt for onboard purchases and some info about my return flight, and I then dragged all the suitcases to a shot taken by a camera, and then an on-board ID card (which I was subsequently to find was for late seating)then a room key (don’t lose it –ha) and then, after what seemed like hours of stress, heat, sore back, sore neck etc, I struggled across the gangplank and onto the Ecstasy.

As everyone else had had their stuff taken to the cabins, I got to crowd onto a tiny elevator with one young girl pushing a wheelchair with my collection of junk, down to the Riviera deck which is the bottom one except for crew. As I knew, my cabin is all the way forward, starboard, and the final last straw when I got to the front door is that I couldn’t work the key! Finally I got it sorted and came inside and was quite pleased to find a PAIR of portholes above the waterline of my very own. The room has a tv and two beds and basically resembles a room at a holiday inn somewhere.

Minutes after I arrived, an announcement said to hurry up and book your shore tours on the Empress Deck, when I got there, surprise, there was a long chaotic line but a dynamite looking British chick blond and very overworked. I asked for the cliff divers, the jungle walk and the submarine in Aruba. And got all three although I didn’t know this until much later.

Met L** B** in the only sunny spot on the deck with a chair, and we noted that even tied up (by the Queen Mary) the ship was doing a slow roll if you looked across the rail to a shore point. Then I found out I am scheduled for late meal, and surprise, yet another line to see the maitre D and the line was not moving, as it turned out a bunch of people all wanted to be seated together.

However, in the manner of the time when I swapped a aisle seat for a window seat while waiting to fly from Calgary to Denver, I found myself behind a pair of people who wanted to switch from early to late, and so one other man and myself sort of followed them up to talk to the maitre d when the line finally moved, and I was assigned early seating for meals, and that is a good thing.

I had happily settled onto a place topside where I could watch the hawsers cast off and the gangplank pulled back, talking to the Ok truck driver on his second honeymoon when the announcement of the lifeboat drill was made. So instead of watching the pelicans, I had to go back to the cabin, a ten minute trip, get my lifejacket and go to a huge theatre with hundreds of other upset and bewildered people.

We sat there till we were mustered to a station which has life rafts only. I was, however, glad to see that we had not cast off, and in fact my muster location was almost exactly where I had positioned myself before I (very wisely) decided to conform with the request to play lifeboat drill. The power boats are for the rich people topside. Got some pretty shots of the Queen Mary, a relic from my childhood but still magnificent in the manner of the old steam engines and constellations. Heard her blow her horn and it was splendid.

It is now 1730 eastern daylight time, and I am in my stateroom, room R11 on the Riviera deck with two portholes which are above water when the ship isn’t rolling to starboard. It has been 14 and a half hours since I woke and I am whipped, but content. We sail in an hour and a half, and I plan on going topside on the front deck to watch. I am pleased to see old dell is working so well after thumping around on my leg all day. Didn’t use it in the plane or much in the airport, but I have just dumped a few pix taken around the ship into the puter and they are fine. The air trip was basically perfect and the transition from getting my suitcases to getting to the door of my cabin was a bloody nightmare.

We steamed slowly out of the harbor about an hour late, accompanied by a tiny coast guard boat that reminded me of nothing more than a yapping dog, but I find myself wondering whether it is now a requirement, or whether there was a specific threat to our ship or whatever.

Notes say that there were perfectly gorgeous clouds over Catalina Island (another place that I have often fancied visiting) and I have four or five really nice pictures to prove it. While we were still relatively close to land, I tried calling S** and L*** but hung up after three rings apiece and a total cost of about two and a half bucks. My notes say I sat by the porthole and walked topside, and played five hands of blackjack.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Cruise Saga - Coast to Coast

Cruise from Long Beach California to Miami Florida
From September 17 to October 2 stops at Acapulco, Costa Rica, Panama, Aruba and Jamaica.
Carnival ship Ecstasy.

---------- INTRO

This time I am going to make some effort to intersperse photos in the text as I go to hopefully make the experience more palatable for those who choose to shovel their way through the verbiage.

Chronologically, this was the first of the three which I have posted. It was a different cruise line, and I was not offered nor expected any of the VIP perks which accrued to later cruises.

This was a cruise on which I had significant computer AND camera problems, and even as I begin the editing, I am not sure of what the continuity of the entire trip will be. In fact, one very kind gentleman who was attempting to help me 'find' sixty or so photos on my borrowed digital camera lost ALL of his own photos for the trip with one wrong push of a button on his own camera.

We both tried to find other cruisers willing to share some of their photos with us, but to their eternal shame, the cruise staff refused to make a PA announcement on the subject, preferring instead the inane babble about hairy chests contests and bingo.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Break from Cruising to Bike

Thanks someone. After years of putting up with bicycle riding on roads such as this:

and this:

and--we have a WINNER here--this:

It was an almost indescribable pleasure recentlyl to encounter this:

Thanks someone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day Eleven -- The End It is Over for now

Today is our last day at sea on the beautiful Norwegian Dawn, scheduled to dock in NYC at 8AM tomorrow morning. I woke at 0445, quite wide awake and thinking it was daylight, and vaguely remembered needing to go sign up to see J*** again about some details of the S America cruise on which I shall try to go, but perhaps skipping the Machu Pichu add on for another time. I was able to ride the elevator to the 12th deck, go to the swimming pool, swim quite a few laps, soak in the Jacuzzi, come inside and get coffee and return to my room without seeing a single other guest.

As I have said, the rhythm of the ship. Yesterday, there were mobs of people around the watch table set up in the lobby, to the point where it took awhile to make it to the table. The bollywod show was mobbed as well, and lines often form for some of the restaurants 15 minutes before they open, reminding me of the cattle call on Southwest airlines.

Below this entry I have a list of internet things to do when I get home, but I think I am going to forsake paying shipboard prices today, and probably stay out of the casino as well, since I AM money up for the trip, not much, but I AM ahead, and other than seeing J*** and taking my pictures to R*** to look at, I don’t have much of an agenda today. I have already started to pack, on the assumption that I am going to carry my own suitcase off the ship, so the cashmere turtlenecks can go therein. Wet bathing suit drying, or at least sitting, in the wind on the balcony. It is coming up on six AM and the gym is next.

//short. Knee hurt and rap music on the speakers, loud, others there. Discontinued almost immediately. Door still showing no enter to garden café, so I called for room service. My two waiters last night in the steakhouse restaurant (cover charge about what I won on the casino) were both Romanian, and one of them ‘neighbor’ of C**** on board…said there are eighty of them on the ship, including A** of course. The steak was so tender I ate it with no probs whatever.

It is now quarter to seven, and I have gone thru the slew of papers that accumulate on a trip and tried to throw away some, but have saved the good morning Mr F*** welcome to whatever descriptions of the islands, and the freestyle daily bulletins. I don’t know why…someday someone will throw them in an industrial sized dumpster in the front yard, or ?? Maybe I’ll sell them on ebay for hundreds of dollars…ha.

Still feeling a bit raw, unloved and unwanted, and definitely bummed out about the cruise ending. I filled out the comments card and was effusive and honest at the same time. For the second time, when the cabin door was opened and the sliding door to the balcony was partially opened, a whirlwind took all the loose papers in the room and put some of them in the hall, including the trip to Antarctica. But with 25 hours to docking, I am well and truly on top of the situation. Ordered juice and coffee from room service

//Well, quarter past seven AM and I have already turned in my effusive comment card and completed my customs declaration. Packing is half completed and I am feeling somewhat organized for a change. I am going to the lobby around 0915, in two hours, to wait for the sign up sheet for seeing J*** again, and hopefully R*** can look at the pix at about the same time. An added bonus would be if A** were there and chatty simultaneous.

//Well, not only was A** there, but the beautiful and charming C*** was sitting beside her, and I told them I had written to CV about them, said nice things about them on the comment card, that they had made my trip super and I hoped I had not intruded too much into their private space, and they politely and sweetly said I had not. They did not press to see the pictures of the flight to Tortola which I said I had with me, and I didn’t push the issue.

R*** found me and we sat on a cushion and looked out at an ocean which is certainly no longer tropical, but grey and whitecapped with swells to 15 feet. Officially categorized as rough. However, we had not a drop of rain on the cruise, and were told by the captain that it had rained on both the two preceding ones. We are currently off Cape Hattaras. R*** looked at many of my pictures and gave me her card with her internet address on it.

Announcement just now ‘important message for the gentleman who lost his gold rolex watch – the time is quarter past eleven. Got a smile out of me. But I am smiling anyway, because I have already booked another cruise, around the horn of south America, almost below decks in cabin 4112 of the Crown.


I had a very pleasant exchange with J*** who is also single, and says she does not like to shop. She declared me ‘fascinating’ and asked if I were a professor or something. She certainly would have been good company if I had known earlier….Anyhow, by cutting out the Machu Pichu trip and downgrading to a deck 4 cabin, we were able to make an affordable Antarctic Excursion for next February. I told C** and A*** first of anybody in the world, and wish they were going to be aboard her.

J*** said she worked till midnight last night, and was BADLY backed up again today, but she is booking a lot of cruises, and said to have at it as far as cruisecom getting me a lower rate. She was al;so visibly staggered to hear that I paid **** bucks for a room that costs 3600, let alone with private concierge service. For that alone, I owe NCL the next cruise, which should knock off any further desire to go to Antarctica.

Went to the cruise debarkation meeting, and on my way out of my room I saw some bright red VIP luggage tags for me, so I will NOT carry my suitcase off as planned, but will use the last of the good will that CV and R*** have created to lessen one small chore. I told R*** I was going on the Crown and she seemed more interested and pleased than the reservationists, who, I hope, are merely tired…and they have to turn around and do it all over again tomorrow night.

On the plus side, barring the unexpected, I have a safe, warm and comfortable house to go home to, whether there is anyone there to be glad I am home or not. Still feeling somewhat ragged and sad, but another quick visit to the Casino improved my mood with three straight wins including one double. In an uncharacteristic burst of generosity, I tipped the room steward and the beaming M*** from Philippines *** bucks apiece. Re reading the VIP disembarkation procedures, I am to meet in a lounge at 9:30 and be ESCORTED off the ship personally. Hot damn!

After the casino, I saw A*** again to ask if she expects Impressions (prime ribs) to be crowded tonight and she said she does. She looks pained…hope it is overwork and not over me. I will have to ask whether hostesses get tipped.

Given the new (and improved) set of circumstances, I guess I shall change plans back to NOT wearing dungarees home. Don’t want to be a VIP looking like a slob amongst the others, some of whom sport huge diamonds and are very very fussy about which stateroom they and their party want on their next cruise (poor J***).

Sun has come out again, but the sea remains rough. Going up top for a few hotdogs…first solid food today at 1215. Having done my second Jacuzzi in as many days, I then did my second walk on the treadmill in two days as well.

Dr H** Ph.D. O.M.D. LaA.) called and he and his wife came up and sat in the sun on the balcony (yes, it is out again) very briefly before going off to watch Spiderman II. I hope we can have supper together at Impressions. I want to see A** one last time and see if I can coax one more gorgeous smile out of her…have gotten a few this trip.

When Dr was coming, I hurriedly hid All the VIP luggage tags, and as a result could not find paper to write his name on, nor the description of the upcoming cruise the end of February, but they turned out to be in the well traveled satchel I got at Ed W**’s garage sale. // Took another stroll around the deck, noting with embarrassment that all the people who had positioned their deckchairs so that they were directly in the line of travel…were men. Enjoying the sun to the last, they are up there slathering on the lotion and enjoying the last rays of the trip. Forecast for tomorrow in NYC is supposed to be in the fifties, so we lucked out again, as we have the entire trip.

Sat in the over 70 degree sun till after 1530 and looked at affordable houses on St Croix, tho one supposes they are all in black neighborhoods. They still have some five digit condos as well. I wrote a blog entry about the story about the man in the Uniondale Museum who was shot down and captured by the Germans --- all ready for posting, and I edited P ’s name out of the account of my visit to Poland, so it can go up immediately I get home. I intend giving A** ten bucks for use of the internet and hope she takes it graciously….tell her I won it in the casino, which is true.

Made a trip downstairs and left R** a *** buck tip as I have never dealt with a concierge before and they said it was not a breach of etiquette. The asst concierge said I was ‘famous’ and that is how she knew my name without asking, but she wouldn’t say WHY I am famous. The sun is setting over the water right outside my balcony now, and I have taken a LONG hot shower and feel spectacular. It is still seventy degrees and 57%humidity and it is gorgeous, and yes, we are lucky lucky lucky!

Walked forward to learn that they would ‘let it go’ for five hundred bucks – it being the painting of five bears. About ten times my top offer, and that was being ridiculous. The sunset is absolutely gorgeous, and the camera picked right then to be finished with the batteries, but since I had got replacement ones on Virgin Gorda, I kept right on shooting. I like to think it is a good omen, and that Dr H and his wife will be on time and that A will be happy with ten bucks to look at the internet. While she is melting the hearts of a new bunch of men tomorrow by the elevators, I’ll post the bit about my Poland visit, as I went thru the scratch pad and eliminated all names from it. May have already mentioned I wrote up a quick bit about the downed airman in Germany and his reunion in Belgium years later. Dist from NY 250.2NM at 1830.

Went to Impressions after a quick visit to the casino where I did not play this time – quite smoky. I got there and worried like a school kid over what kind of reaction I was gonna get when I gave A** her ten bucks, and needn’t have worried, cuz it was another light up the room smile for me. I hope she reads the account of the visit to Poland and responds sometime, somehow.

The elderly Chinese couple (hell, they’re two years younger than I am) didn’t show, so I didn’t wait a minute past 1730, but went to table 16 by the window and again skipped soup, salad, appetizer, bread and went for the prime ribs and baked potato, which were ‘ok’ but not great. Will supplement it with ice cream and cookies later on.

Went next to internet and used their special of thirty minutes for twelve bucks, and went thru it just on pprune and putting a one liner on my blog and reading s’s account. Yahoo news, comics and drudge report glanced at, but no email and no asf for days and days now. Hope I mentioned how very spectacular the sunset was. I have said my goodbyes to C** whom I will write and A** whom I cannot but will try to keep in touch via C***.

When I returned to my stateroom, R** had called thanking me for the gratuity and I was glad I had done it. Total tips is ** bucks and well worth it…** each for the cabin stewards and ** to A** and ** to R**. My pants feel tight, but I did go to the gym and use the treadmill and exercise bike fairly vigorously. Was up over 4mph on the walking there are two huge chess sets on the game deck but I only saw them in use one time. Seas still rough, 12 feet. Some suitcases have already hit the hallway and mine won’t be far behind. Going to wander down to the guest talent show and sit where I can leave in a hurry.

On this trip I did not once look at my 1954 diary, let alone transcribe any of it. I spent very little time at all in the casino, went to two or three shows, ate in two specialty restaurants, had chateaubriand, filet mignon, prime ribs and sirloin steak as well as my hotdogs. Experiences the Jacuzzi, treadmill and latte for the first time, and altogether thoroughly enjoyed the karma that flowed from the call from R*** : Are you the Mr **** who wrote to C? I said “not necessarily…is there a problem with that?” And she had replied, no quite the opposite, and she weren’t kidding.

So – this ship has popcorn and the Ecstasy didn’t. No ice cream dispenser, but it is available most of the afternoon and evening, not two hours a day. I set my new ten buck watch, and probably harvested a total of thirty five to forty bucks from the casino. I didn’t mess up too bad anywhere any time, being prepared for the tours etc, and even my Robinson Caruso foray onto the beach at Virgin Gorda had an OK ending at the marina. Nobody fell in love with me, but overall I would be hard pressed to rate this experience any less than a 9 on a ten scale. And, of course, I have treated myself to a really magnificent Xmas and birthday present all rolled into one, with a shot at Antarctica. Way down in steerage…unless CV should choose to intervene another time…..[ed-he did]

I was warmed by yet another dazzling smile from C*** as I waved at her for I suppose the last time and returned to my room to pack my suitcase and put it in the hall with a massive red V I P sticker on it, which they said would not even require me to put my name on it. We are going to be escorted off the ship first, and perhaps I shall prevail on Mr V to do that one little thing for me in Buenos Aires.
Sad that the cruise is over…last towel of a swan on my bed and photographed.

Finished a bowl of blueberry sherbert, and already had strawberry and vanilla ice cream and a cookie. No wonder my pants are tight. Put my suitcase out in the hall and brought it back three times as I found clean underwear and stuff in drawers, but I am five hours ahead of their 2AM deadline if not the first to get it in the hall. Still comparing this to the ecstasy – and it is a close call. The VIP treatment has definitely skewed the emotional balance in favor of this trip. 3703.9NM + 203.0NM equals this trip distance.=3907NM [4,499 miles, in real money]

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day Ten -- Heading Home

Today I woke sometime before six, and by six I was down at the pursers desk ref a charge on my bill for discover scuba in st Thomas. They said I needed to talk to the tour desk at ten, and I opt to try to let R*** sort it out if she can. But otherwise, the morning has been wonderful. I went on deck and the swimming pool (and surrounding deck) were deserted, even of staff, so I had my first good long swim, many laps, many strokes, and followed that up by almost my first ever that I can remember visit to a Jacuzzi, with ambient temp of about 98. It is 76 degrees out now, but those bubbling jets fooled my old body into thinking it was in the thirties again.

Followed this up with a cup of coffee from the forward galley at the garden café (lukewarm) and one from the aft galley, just right for drinking back in my cabin, which I am. Wearing my new Virgin Gorda gym shirt and will shower and dress shortly, with no particular agenda for the day. Packing won’t be much of a prob, and other than a visit to the tour lady for a price of south America and machu pichu trip and a crew talent show at 1430, have a wide open day at sea.

There were a few lovely shots of a moon with the globes, but I already HAVE em from the Sea, and am really beginning to think enuf is enuf. OK, I broke down and got one t shirt, but I passed on them from almost all of the places that we visited, and even let go of the refrig magnets as well, as I have so many they fall off when I open the frig. Wind 22 knots. Pool 83 deg. Jacuzzi temp about 97 deg moderate seas, high steady barometer. Took my shower and finally figured out that the left handle does strength and the right one is hot/cold. Works better when you don’t think they are respectively hot and cold.

Wrote letter to J**, the South African NCL rep aboard and asked for package for S America including air and Macu Pichu. Sat on my balcony and proof read trip so far, pasting parts into the trip diary and into scrap for posting on my blog. Comfy in my new gym shirt and shorts, but nobody has called (R*** or anyone else) so may take a bike ride awhile, or just stroll around the deck in the warm sun. I got noticeable color yesterday while stranded on my Robinson Cruso beach.

It is ten thirty now, and I am back on my balcony. This has happened since I last wrote. I went to the gym and rode for twenty minutes on the recumbent exercise bike, burning off about 80 calories. Then, having had one first already today (jacuzzi) I had a second, finding an empty treadmill with nobody waiting, and walked on it for ten minutes, at speeds ranging for 1.1 to 4.mph and with a little incline for part of the time. It occurs to me that such a device might be a good thing for me to use regularly.

Followed that by a walk around deck (probably 2.5mph I should think) and thence down to deck seven, and there I stuck a note under J’s door re a quote for a South America trip and Machu Pichu add on, and set myself up for a 3:30 appointment as well to talk to her. That is an hour after the crew show.

Then I saw R*** who told me she had taken care of the erroneous charge on my bill, and so I asked her for a cuppa in the same place where we had our first one, and we repaired to the same table and talked, and I had my first ever latte, which came in a huge square cup and was sort of lukewarm. Most pleasant visit and she told me about her visit to Machu Pichu, and about the Crown which is the vessel which makes the transit. I fell into conversation with another disgruntled cruiser who had paid $150 to upgrade to an outer room (deck five) and she was, I think, unsettled to hear of my gratis upgrade to a balcony, which I took great pains NOT to tell her how I did it.

So – three firsts in one day…Jacuzzi, treadmill and latte. Now I am off to look at designer watches half off and try my luck in the casino again…twenty dollar stake.

// And that turned out, for the second time to be a mistake, as I drew a pair of eights and had to hit it instead of split it against a six showing. So I lost my twenty real quick and then walked by the entrance to Impressions and saw the big piano empty and the room empty, and so I asked R*** for the key, and she made a quick call and sent me up to the 13th deck opposite the steak house. There, the Yamaha was unlocked but has a cracked sounding board for which I do not intend to take the blame. I drew a spattering of older people who stayed,, listened, made requests and left. I had only half brain freeze and was able to pull up some of my favorites from memory.

The designer watches, btw, all had expansion bands and nobody to size them for me, so instead of saving hundred, I saved eighty.//Flashing light invites me to go up and see Don in 11626 which has lounge chairs on the balconys and almost an extra room…quite nice, but more than I need. I showed them and then just him some of the pix from the last two cruises, and he even seemed to want to see bears and Kuwait, but I didn’t stay long, but went to the crew talent show.

Instead it was so jammed that I sat in the very very back and heard three ok vocals against the non stop muttering of a pink old dowager next to me. I finally said to her, quite loudly. “Are you going to talk throughout the entire concert?” She looked like she had been slapped, mission accomplished. But then they began the PC version of Old Man River, and I had just read it on line anyhow, so went to the art auction and did not see the bear picture going. Some pix went for $40 and some for six or seven thousand. Je ne compred pas.
Next stop was J***, from Durban, and our exchange was rather brief but pleasant.

The 14 day cruise from Valparaiso to Montevideo is $5200 and there is space available in February. It is the Norwegian Crown and leaves the end of February. Adding in Machu Pichu and airfare to Chile and from Argentina brings total cost up to around ten thousand, but look what mileage I got out of the supersonic jet fighter [electric lightning] ride for about the same price. It is a big temptation to leave her a deposit tomorrow.

In fact, I wrote to C*** and told him his fairness and generosity had turned out to be a good business decision, as I am probably going to go for a cruise at quadruple the cost. My supper was all cashmere and again, I said no to bread, wine, appetizer and salad and desert, opting instead of filet mignon, onion soup and a baked potato. Top notch. Solitary table by the window. Watched joggers going by as I ate my steak.

Went next to the internet cafe where I checked on LI wx ( 33 low 49 high), but no precip in fx for tomorrow or Thursday, when we get home. Wrote to CV as said, and quick look at my blog before time ran out. If a special presents itself tomorrow, I may buy some, but as it is, I can go a full day without internet….I think.
The show dollywood is scheduled to begin in less than a half hour, and I intend to remain dressed up and go to it

// And I did. On our first day aboard, I sat in the very first seat in the first row. Tonight I sat in the very last row, second floor, in the corner. It was a lot of dancing, with smoke and loud music. The theatre was fairly full a full 15 minutes before the show was to begin. It was fine, but not my thing, and after about 40 minutes, I was in the casino where I played three hands only, winning all of them, and feeling better as I left. I went to the desk to ask about express debarkation, and while they do not have what the Sea did, they said it is fine by them if I want to carry my suitcase off myself so I don’t have to search for it on the pier. So I began packing.

I got a real nice smile from C*** as I passed LeBistro and a wan wave from poor A*** who is still feeling punk. Cannot deny however, that during the performance in the theatre I was feeling pretty raw and borderline teary, thinking of my dead parents, far away children, Xmases past and empty house present.

Don’t know if I have specifically mentioned it, but there are a substantial number of very handicapped people on board, in wheelchairs and seemingly palsied as well. Blind people.

Funny, but while I was watching the bollywood in the theatre, I found myself wishing that I could watch a good spy movie on tv instead, and that is JUST what came on tv tonight.

At Sea Lat 24 25 Lon 67 00 oat 76 deg

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day Nine - Virgin Gorda, British VI

dateline Tortola, BVI

Today I woke at 0615 and went straightway to the 12th deck café for coffee, and saw on the stbd side a most gorgeous colored sky as the sun rose over a scattering of small islands and the sea and sky were lovely colors. This being the second time I had ventured from my cabin without the camera, I went back quickly and shot a half dozen or so different pics as the sun rose and yet another cruise ship approached the island slowly. I hope the many pics do the scene justice. [Judge for yourself; see below] The ship passed us and is a celebrity liner with no name on stern. The one with us yesterday in St Thomas was the Serenade of the Seas, and my taxi driver was taking a cruise on her next week, about his 8th.

Dreams last night were wonderful, and life ain’t too bad awake either, as I sit drinking my coffee and watching the celebrity ship approach Tortola with a half dozen officious little police type ships swarming round her (and us) like Chihuahua puppies lusting after a great Dane. They are making quite a fuss and I was just telling ‘fritz’ the cfi yesterday about them rolling the cfr trucks at all the stops on the way to Bora Bora, and now I find myself wondering whether they have received some sort of threat to the ship,. Certainly it [cruising] epitomizes the type of living that Muslims find unholy.

Well we are cleared to tender, and I have twenty minutes to get myself to the stardust lounge for my shore excursion, which is ONLY a ticket to Virgin Gorda. Time will tell if I have screwed this one up, but it will be foot on a new island…..

And so I made my way to the stardust lounge, arriving about three minutes before our assembly time of 0730. It turns out that the Highlights of Virgin Gorda thing was the way to go, and we had a double deck boat filled with people on their way to get off the boat and onto open buses. No room for me. The ride across the water was lovely, and so yes, I have been boating in the BVI so there!

When we got to the dock, however, there was a lovely welcome sign and not a lot else. There was a closed customs bldg and naught else anywhere. The female running the tour told me there was no room. Someone else said there was, and she came along and said no again. So I walked away from the dock and to my right, toward visible ship masts which I hoped would yield a sail.

Found a hole in the fence and soon felt like Robinson F Caruso on a deserted island, as the ship was not going back for three hours and I was left with the following resources: sunscreen, binocs, gps, raincoat, two towels, camera, bottle of water, paper and pencil, a quiet pretty beach and a gorgeous view. So I fell back on my own resources to amuse myself, and immediately began a journal of the kamikaze event, and wrote letters to A** and C***, inviting them both to dinner in NYC if they ever have any free time. God help me if they ever say yes!

Went into the water up to my knees, and basically had resigned self to look into things next time a little further, when I decided to walk a little further. Thinking of Princess Bride, I listed my assets and what I was missing:

Have: water, beach, sunscreen, gps, writing stuff, binocs, rain parka, towels, lovely view, sectional.

Don’t have-food,, taxi, sailboat, toilet, bike, internet, postcard, reading material Incidentally, I picked up eight satellites on the gps, which it had not done since I was on the river in Bangkok heading to the Royal Orchid hotel and another kamikaze lobby entrance in my sweats.

Finally decided to walk a little further from the ferry.

It was like a twilight zone episode, as I came to a tourism center with internet (which at forty bucks an hour I passed) postcards, t shirts, batteries and candy bars, and I got them all. They had begging chickens, some pretty music, a chair and shade to sit in, and the rest of the time on Virgin Gorda passed very pleasantly. The first wasn’t really unpleasant, just a bit of a surprise, and there were a few sprinkles of rain, but not enough for me to put on the parka.;

On the beach there was even a man Friday, although he said no more than good morning as he mended his lobster pots or whatever they were. There was a tiny sandshark on the grass and again, some substantial yachts at anchor and moored alongside. The one that I saw a location on was Roadtown BVI which I now know is the capital of Tortola. I got a postcard of Virgin Gorda and one of Tortola despite my visit to Tortola being about five seconds (as Fritz dumped the flaps yesterday and I put power on the skyhawk hee hee= touch and go on runway seven – perfectly done).

Time now is 1325 local, 1225 NY, and we are under way, with no more stops till we are in NYC. I am already thinking seriously of re booking the Dawn again, even understanding that a balcony is not necessarily in my next trip for the price I paid for this one. I fell in love with being waited on hand and foot aboard the Ecstasy and this trip has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for it. BTW, I went off and left my do not disturb sign on, and have quite a collection of dirty dishes, but all otherwise fine.

When I got back to the ship, the ferry was smashing up against the Dawn as we debarked, and I remarked to myself that this was the very last time that I was going to climb aboard this lovely vessel this time out. For sure will keep an eye on prices for upcoming cruises on her, maybe even Xmas. I already spoke to R*** about same. As I wandered around, I felt again that there is just something for everyone here. Little kids were splashing in the t rex pool. Many others were at a poolside barbecue, and the garden café was also filling up, with all kinds of exotic food for every taste. Even mine, as I went to the Bimini deck for two hotdogs and some fries.

As we steam away from Tortola for NY, I have elected to remain on my balcony and catch up with the mornings activities, and won’t budge till we are out of sight of land.

For fun I just looked at my diary for a year ago, and I was dealing with nine inches of snow with the camper etc. Obviously, I have no idea what wx has been going on back on LI. But this is quite a bit more pleasant, with the warm trades blowing across my balcony and a succession of lovely green islands and white sailboats filling the gorgeous waters of the Caribbean. With the cabin gps and my TCA chart that I got yesterday, it is a cinch to see just where we are. I ran into Dr Ho earlier and asked him to telephone and come on up and share the balcony.

The British Virgin Islands are falling astern now (Jost Van Dyk off my balcony) and I am openly and overtly lonely now. . This gorgeous, sunridden balcony overlooking the gorgeous blue Caribbean and the even more beautiful virgin islands falling astern is downright lonely with an empty chair. I even thought of wondering how much a condo on one of these islands would go for.

After reading the description of the snowstorm last year on this date, the idea of sitting permanently on a warm balcony overlooking the warm water appeals. So does another cruise, although it will be tough to do without the balcony for sure. I think it is time to wander the ship and watch some people. Called Dr Ho but no answer.

Wandered here and there. Got some ham and turkey sandwiches and brought them back to the room which I forgot to leave the sign on to make up, and it is filling up with empty dishes. R*** sent some more too which I haven’t even looked at. I gave my letter to A*** and got one of her “light up the room but unfortunately infrequent” smiles.

Went to the meeting on upcoming cruises and they have one that goes to both Machu Picu and the Antarctic which sounds ideal. The ‘dead cow’ in the impressions dining room does not sound appealing so I am going to wait and have another burger in the Blue Lagoon (for such is the name of the little place next to reception). I figure to time it for 1900 and listen to the Philippinos and then go internet a little.

I stopped off in the gift shop and was successful in finding instructions which enabled me to stop the alarm from going off on my watch. While I was there, a couple was looking at a watch which sells for thirty five thousand dollars. I asked the clerk if they sold many, and she said no, they do not. I pointed out that for that price I got a house, car and airplane and boat. Her rather plaintive response was “well, it is platinum”.

And I went to the casino with twenty bucks, saw a $25 table with a rich old idiot lady and a slow dealer who was milking her dry, so as soon as I won one hand at the five buck table, I went over, and got a 13 against a ten showing. But the old lady split fours and sevens I think, and got every low card in the deck, so I stuck and the dealer broke on his 16. Feeling chuffed, I left posthaste with thirty five profit.[well, $30]

Watching CNN now, as the vacation is over and we are heading home. Terrorists attacked the US Embassy in Riyadh KSA. More mayhem in Iraq and attacks by ETA in Spain as well. Stocks seem to be way down…will go on line later tonight. . Stood awhile on the balcony of the internet café on the 9th deck watching the dancing to the Philippino trio who hit some really bad chords in Just in Time.

On line I checked and got another nice message from Mr V***, some more funny messages from S*** in Colorado who has developed quite a cult following, and no wonder, as her turns of phrase are marvelous... kind of like Erma Bombeck on speed. Quick post on pprune and I was off, without checking email at home or comics. . The blue lagoon was busy so I came right back to the room to see a sea turtle on my bed (towels) and photographed it, and looked at the last bit of stuff from R*** and it was chocolates, so I am prolly gonna skip dinner altogether.

But I did find myself back in the internet café catching up on the few things I missed first time, and to listen to the romantic trio playing. Have been catered to, waited on, looked after for eight or nine days, have seen and photographed five new islands, have six or so new postcards for the refrig area, nothing unpleasant facing me at home, and actually still two more days and nights at sea. And presumably the resources to do it all over again, to South America, Macu Picu and Antarctica if I want to. None of which explains why I feel like I do.

----Tortola Sunrise

-------- My Robinson Crusoe beach