You shut up.
No, YOU shut up.
No, I throw up and you come around the corner and lick it up.
Ah, the grammar school exchange. A fourth grader's version of fuck off. Only relevant at the moment because I have two cats. One of them, the girl, Lily, just threw up in the hall. Our boy cat, Roman, immediately ran over and ate it. The embodiment of juvenile witchcraft. The hex made real and reenacted by cats.
The vomit isn't nasty, well, relatively. She does it semi regularly, and always right after she eats, so it still looks like dry food, just slightly digested. I'm sure there is a similar technique in French cuisine, where you soak meat in an acid for a moment so it is perfectly tender. No wonder why he likes it.
Not that I feel a tabby cat is the most discerning animal when it comes to food. We tried many kinds of cat food, fancy, expensive cat food, a variety platter of wet and dry, trying to find food they would eat. Turns out Purina dry food is their preference. The boxed wine of cat food.
Whatever. Works for me. But I'm not going to pretend the vomit eating isn't disturbing on some level, but at the same time, I have to some degree, fooled myself into thinking this small furry creature is a person in a cat suit. Sure they have different personalities, distinct things they do and "say," ways they express themselves. But I am convinced in some way that they share a friendship with me, that nuzzling and headbutts mean "I like you," when it probably means "let me mark you as my property, tall food giver."
They have never once offered to clean up the apartment when I'm at work. They seem to resent trips to the doctor, when I'm only trying to help them. No, they are not friends or surrogates for anything specific, only wild or wild-adjacent animals I have put up in my home, with food and water, and a litter box. Yes a wild animal shits in a box in the corner of my house daily. They have permeated the very fabric of my shirt. The lint trap is filled with a smattering of lint and enough cat hair to knit an Abyssinian.
Still I find myself seeking and comforted by their company. Regardless of how occasionally revolting I may find them. And I get an insight into parenting. Hopefully my someday toddlers will not eat vomit of any sort, regardless of how tasty it looks, or how Frenchly it was prepared.
After the time that I spent "abroad" this week, and I use that term loosely because I am fully aware that the shrink wrapped experience of a cruise excursion is hardly comparable traveling to the country and spending two weeks wandering through its cities and experiencing the culture, I have decided that I don't ever need to go to Jamaica again. I am starting here because it was the most recent of our stops and the one for which I feel the most conviction. I'm not entirely against a cruise-like excursion at some point, but a pretty significant change will have to occur for me to want to ever travel there as a destination and spend time walking around. There is only so much time one can be there before the mask of congenial attitude and jerk chicken drops and all the short-comings surface.
And it seems of the people I have spoken to since returning who have also been to Jamaica, all have a story, which either involves being almost kidnapped or being kidnapped.
I am not against spending more time in Grand Cayman. It seemed that there were many more intriguing things to do there, aside from the turtles (but rest assured, turtles would be one of the stops), and given it seems less depressed, it would be a more enjoyable destination for a period of time.
If I ever need to go to Key West again, I'll drive. It's an interesting place, but it doesn't exactly scream out, "let's shell out a thousand bucks to see polydactyl cats and have mashed potatoes!"
As for Florida, I know we will return again at very least to visit Nana. And there are plenty of things to do here. For example, I'm sure we will return to Orlando at some point and have the Disney world experience again. There are lovely beaches and a million restaurants, good ones, all along the Atlantic coast.
But I do not picture myself moving here, for another 80 years, or until they solve that pesky hurricane problem.
This morning, we ate breakfast at a restaurant so boring I don't remember the name. It was the most boring eggs, grits and hash I have ever had. After that we had to liven things up. So having a few hours before our flight, we basked for a few hours on Haulover Beach, which is a clothing-optional beach, and the only official one in Florida.
Signs line the walk ways cautioning, "you may encounter nude bathers beyond this point." The thing that surprised me most about this place is there were a LOT of people. This was quite possibly the busiest beach-going experience I have ever had The official parking lot was completely full, and we parked at the second lot, which was huge and also quickly filling up. As we swam about in the amazingly clear water, we noted the beaches on either side of the clothing optional area were comparatively vacant. There were both men and women, and the unofficial gay area was on the north section of beach, so we went there, but even that was mixed. Being a state-sanctioned locale, there is no funny business allowed, beach goers are there to enjoy the sun and the ocean. The instructions state clearly to bring lots of sunblock and keep your hands to yourself.
To satiate your curiosity, reader, I did not exercise the option, and kept my swim trunks on. However in the future, who knows? There were all body types, and I mean ALL. All types, all ages. I would venture from early 20's to 70's, though most were in their 40's and 50's. It was an interesting experience and I can see myself returning there, but mostly because the beach is REALLY nice. Very clean, and the water was very clear, and now that we know the deal with parking, very easy parking for $6.
Interestingly, the water felt a little colder than when we visited the beaches near Del Ray last week, possibly due to the storm while we were gone. It wasn't dramatically colder, only a little. And I'm not sure if it was the 90-degree heat on our skin, or what. You could still walk right in and in a second, you would be used to it.
We saw a big school of very tiny fish and a few small barracuda, clearly smelling our blood. I guess today wasn't the day to be eaten by a school of tiny fish, as they avoided us when we swam near.
As for the cruise experience, I just don't think I could do a cruise again that wasn't a gay cruise. I'm going to try to explain what I mean. We are very discerning people, so we know when it is appropriate to hold hands, or steal a kiss, or pretend "partner" means "as in a law firm." I feel like if we had walked around the ship holding hands, that we would have been in some kind of danger of a certain kind of reproach, and that is not acceptable to me. Here's the thing, there would not even be a second look if a straight couple were holding hands on a gay cruise, other than, "did they book the wrong ship?"
And I'm too exhausted to evangelize. After spending most of my life 15 minutes late for everything, fuck it, I'm on vacation. I just want to relax and have fun. It's not a teachable moment, and it shouldn't be. The only reason I feel it is worth mentioning is I didn't see another gay couple displaying any affection toward each other publicly either, probably for the same reason. There were other gay couples on the ship, at least four that I saw, and they probably felt the same way we did. It seemed most of the people on the ship were from Georgia and Alabama. And at a time when people are so needlessly divided about gay rights, it's hard to do what is natural for the sake of what is safe. Does that make it right? And if so, for whom? I love my husband, and I don't understand what is so controversial about that. Love is as simple to understand as anything, yet I feel relegated to constant self censorship.
I guess I'm getting to the age where I'm not as willing to do that anymore unless it is a really good reason. Which is why I prefer to simply avoid situations where people might kill me with sticks. The word to describe my takeaway: illuminating.
So one vacation/adventure/experience down for the year, and I'm predicting two--maybe three--more to go. I look forward to each in their time. Until then, I will happily reflect on time spent with Nana, and the rest of the family, eating too much food, among them key lime pie, playing with turtles and then eating them, going to hell while in paradise, flying through a rainforest in a myriad of ways, surviving unbearable heat and humidity, and falling asleep to a lightning storm at sea, and best of all, getting to experience it with Jill and Gregory. I wish Ron could have been there too, but according to Jill he would have hated every minute.
We were up before sunrise because the world hates me, in order to leave the ship. Jill was chomping at the bit to get the hell out of there. I suspect she packed on Tuesday. As though if a crazy man on a raft came by she was ready to toss her luggage and join him while he rowed toward the main land on his wood slab.
Leaving was easy, too easy, but there were some physical elements that have stayed with me all day. For example, I have felt as though I am still on the ship. Everything is swaying gently back and forth, though I'm pretty sure the Starbucks I was in earlier and the Best Western were not afloat on gently rolling waves, but it sure as hell felt like it. It's like getting mini-vertigo every few seconds. If that is the price I have to pay in order to have avoided any serious motion-sickness, I'll take it.
The day started off nicely as we ran up to the buffet to grab a quick bite to eat. Then grabbed a hot chocolate and returned to the room to gather our things. As soon as they called our level, we were headed down the stairs.
After we got through customs, we waited what felt like several hours for the rental car shuttle. I was becoming part of the bench. After what felt like several more hours we arrived at said rental car office. The next step took forever as I waited in the line for the one guy to walk over, get in the car, and drive it 15 feet over to us. Finally it was my turn and instead he helped some other lady who just walked up; hadn't waited at all. I was getting mad. Dollar rental car, you're on notice.
So after getting our rental car, we decided to head toward Key Largo and a Jim-Thompson-recommended restaurant for some delicious key lime pie: Hobo's. It was going to take about an hour and a half to get there, so we decided to stop at a Dunkin Donuts on the way. I have mentioned before that I don't get the draw, but now I'm actually pissed off. First of all the place we went, none of the people spoke or understood any English at all, and we were not in an ethnic neighborhood, and most of the customers in the place were all conversing and ordering in English. Secondly, half the donuts Gregory and Jill wanted, they didn't make at that location, and the lady didn't understand that Gregory was asking which location had the donuts they were seeking. And the thing that was really annoying, Jill discovered they screwed up her order. And all of this wasn't the worst part of the experience, it was the attitude like it is somehow the customer's fault. I'm not expecting out of this world customer service, but I do expect the bare minimum, and if you can't do at least that, failure. As in zero-star Yelp review, and/or a strongly worded letter to some corporate sympathy bot. Every corporation has one, it's the one office where they allow feelings, which are administered to the outside world by a robot.
We tried once again at another location and they didn't have the donuts either. Does Dunkin Donuts, not actually make and sell donuts anymore? Apparently in South Florida, they don't. I was pretty whatever about Dunkin Donuts before, but I have to say that I actively hate them. I might actually have some T-Shirts made.
We made it to Hobo's just before lunch, and ordered conch fritters, a lime-shrimp thing that was delicious and rich, a lobster po'boy, and some fried clams. They were all good, but this journey was all about key lime pie. We each got our own slice. The verdict is that, I'm sorry Jim, but I have to put it as second best. It was really, really good, great even, but about nine months ago, we had key lime pie at Rutherford's Grill in Rutherford, near Napa, and it was ecstasy in a graham cracker crust.
We heard the traditional way to serve key lime pie is traditional pie crust with meringue, but no one down here seems to do it that way. It is graham cracker and whipped cream topping. So I'm not sure what gives. At Hobo's, it is the one dessert they make in house, and you could really taste the love. Then our waitress gave us a few ideas of things to do nearby and we took her suggestions.
First stop, they Key Largo Bird Sanctuary. This was really cool. They had all sorts of birds that had been injured and were being rehabilitated. We each donated money and it was well worth it. The habitats were made with the best of intentions. It wasn't a small place, but it wasn't enormous, and some of the dwellings were a little crude, but it literally ran on donations and volunteerism. They were temporary homes, anyway. They had owls, hawks, cormorants, cranes, pelicans, a couple of parrots, some song birds, mourning doves, and more pelicans. Some were in enclosures and some were just hanging around. The property was on a wetlands, which was also being cared for, and it was right on the gulf.
We walked over to the water and we saw a crab walking toward the open sea, all creepily sideways, and suddenly a second crab rushed it, and their claws came out and we thought they were going to spar, but they avoided each other very warily and went their separate ways.
I'm only going to mention this quickly that they have these strange spiders in Florida with a triangular body and there were lots of them in the trees near the crab, and I had to walk through this living nightmare twice. They weren't doing anything, just sitting on their webs spidering about, but the problem is they were EVERYWHERE. And cue the chill up the spine.
Our next stop was called Robbies and it was a water-sporting place where you could rent jet skis, or go out fishing in the bay. There was also a flea market with some interesting local arts and crafts. They had cool picture frames made from old lobster traps, and they had been varnished and some were covered with shells and barnacles. It was very cool, because the shell/barnacle growth was real, but we couldn't think of a way to get them home in one piece.
They also had a tarpon feeding place, where you could pay $1 to see them, or $3 to feed them. I just wanted to see them since feeding them involved throwing little feeder fish to them from a bucket. I didn't want my hands smelling like dead fishies, so I opted to just watch. Tarpon are big. There was one that had to be five and a half feet long, and about as big around as a size 4 soccer ball. And there were a lot of them in all sizes, but throwing a feeder fish results in quite a little frenzy. It was pretty exciting for a while. And there were a lot of kids and dads on the pier that were having a really good time, the dads probably more so.
We decided we better head back toward town, and for dinner, we made reservations to have sushi at Asia Bay in Ft. Lauderdale. To kill a little time until then, we went to Sawgrass Mills and walked around. I felt like I was going to go crazy because this place was insanely busy and I still felt as though I was on the ship. Add the crowds and the shopping for crap, it was like I was still there. Finally this third level of hell (busy mall, screaming children, and the occasional inconsiderate cretin) came to an end, and it was time to head to our restaurant. I was, for the first time in several days, starting to feel a little hungry.
The restaurant was in a beautiful part of town, just at the edge of the row of fancy restaurants. It was a combination Thai and Japanese restaurant, so we ordered Tom Kah soup in addition to a variety of rolls. For dessert, Thai donuts, which were a basic light dough, fried and served with sweetened condensed milk and chopped peanuts. Delightful! It was a lovely meal to officially end our vacation.
Tomorrow we return to Los Angeles a little crispier and a little wiser. Jill will have to leave at 4AM to catch her flight. Ours doesn't leave until 6PM, so we have some time to kill tomorrow, probably spent at the beach, mentally going through the list of all the reasons why I don't want to live in Florida. For now I'm just looking forward to a decent night's sleep.
This morning I intended to wake up and go to the gym before breakfast, but I overslept and since we planned to meet, I would have to rearrange my schedule. No problem. My only goal for the day was to spend as much time as possible in the sun and humidity. I was feeling a little guilty having taken a couple of days off. By this point in the cruise, even the ship feels fat. Which makes sense, being full of left overs, passed overs, and keeled overs.
We decided to have breakfast in the sit-down restaurant and it really wasn't worth it. There was only one unique thing about this experience and that was something called Nordlinger Bread or something like that, Nordhoff or whatever. It wasn't on the other menu. It was a dark dense, oaty, wheaty bread, that had a really nice flavor, healthy, just a touch of cinnamon. The waiter brought us a couple of pieces. Other than that, it was the same old shit. The only difference being that we had to wait for them to bring it to us, rather than just going to the buffet and shoveling it into our feed bags on our own. Go to the sit down restaurant if you want a slightly better illusion of portion control (or just order multiple entrees to continue your shame pattern).
After breakfast we split for a few hours so I could hit the sun deck and figure out my plan for the day. I intended to go to the gym, but as I laid there in the heat and humidity, I began to realize that it wasn't going to happen.
For lunch we went to buffet and I got a ruben from the deli. I was behind a family who had the cutest little girl. She had blond curls and dark prominent eye lashes and big brown eyes. The dad told me she was two and she was engrossed in a serious game, playing "got your nose." It was a little more like a tournament. But she would take the nose and then eat it, then pull it out of her mouth and put it back on. Clearly this family is teaching their daughter to be a bird. "Now regurgitate Daddy's nose, honey."
But the most disturbing part was she didn't stop at the nose. She took his lip and his tongue, and I think she may have seen that article of the man eating the other man's face. I wonder if she, too, dreamed of S. Epatha Merkerson and didn't know why.
Again we split and and I went out on the sun deck to do my lobster impression. Yes I got burned. I got my wish. I was thinking of getting some sunburn tattoos, coming up with a pattern and etching it into my skin with the sun. That would be fun. A bunch of people were walking around with hollowed out pineapples presumably filled with pina colada. By the time I admitted to myself that I wanted one, they were out of the pineapple shells. I decided at that point it was a sign I had enough for the trip and just drank water all afternoon.
For dinner we had reservations for the Sun King Steakhouse. I got a prime cut and Gregory ordered a flank cut. Jill ordered surf and turf. Sadly her lobster wasn't as good as a few nights ago, but her filet was excellent. Gregory's was really, really good, and I would say that my cut was great. They had some incredible mashed potatoes, probably a ratio of 3 to one, as in 3 sticks of butter to 1 potato. It was really good, though whipped too smooth to win the ultimate potatoes. That honor now resides at Sweet Tea in Key West. My steak was pretty big, and by the time I had eaten half, I felt like I had stuff myself with an entire cow leg. Well, I did also have tuna tare-tare as an app, followed by a tomato gorgonzola salad, so it is possible that may have also contributed to my fullness. There was no way I could eat another bite. I was already stuffed to the point of delirium.
For dessert, they had to back Gregory's cheesecake out with those orange light sticks normally used to guide airplanes to the gate. They had apparently chipped this off a cheesecake iceberg. It stood about four feet tall and said "mama," and was surrounded by chocolate swirls. It was very light and fluffy. Possibly the second best cheesecake ever? Best still goes to Pain. Vin. Fromage. in Paris. I ordered the chocolate sampler, which had four cups about the size of votive candle holders, which contained, banana panna cotte topped with champagne sorbet, a chocolate ganache topped with hazelnut ice cream (this was my personal favorite), tiramisu, and mango cardamom ice cream with a chocolate berry shazam. It was all so decadent. I wanted to throw myself on the table, and just have a tantrum. I just didn't know how else to react.
I went with my other option and said thank you and left the restaurant. I was tempted to ask for a wheelchair, but decided I really need to try to remember how to walk.
When we returned to the room, we packed up all our stuff, and surprisingly only purchased the rum and rum cakes. It made the declaration form a breeze. Now as our floating Gomorrah hotel of gluttony, excess, and other earthly delights speeds toward Fort Lauderdale, we are surprised and lulled to sleep by a beautiful lightning storm in the distance, flashes across the sky, bright jagged bolts to the ground of far away islands. And we fall asleep at sea, the last night of our cruise, our full tummies turning all that delicious food into poo.
We dock at 6AM and hopefully are off the boat by 6:01. Tomorrow's destination: Key Largo, and a recommendation for REAL key lime pie. Cause apparently the pie they tote in Key West is a giant fucking fraud.
We parallel parked our floating gluttony box in Ocho Rios right at sunrise. I know this because we were awake, against the sensible laws of the universe. Gregory ran out to photograph it, and I stayed in slathering myself with the 50SPF. By the time I glanced at the--wait, was that a hill? Yes, Jamaica has hillsides, like 700 feet above sea level. Grand Cayman and Key West are flat.
We had be up early, early today for our day excursion into Jamaica. It started early and the boat was leaving at 2PM, so we had to get right to it.
We had been filled with nightmare stories of the horrors of Jamaica, and its very anti-gay sentiment, its aggressive 3rd world desperation, and its general seediness. I will say that all of that is true. However, the place we went to, Mystic Mountain, was awesome. It's basically a theme park, and was very polished and nice, but more of an adventure than say Disneyland. We had two things planned: the zip-line and the bobsled (or toboggan). But unlike a conventional theme park, it requires things of you, rather than passively being strapped securely into a ride vehicle and being spoon fed an experience in a specific and certain way, you need to be present and alert which made it really engaging.
In order to get to these attractions, the bus drops you off at the park, and then you have to take a ski-lift to the top of the resort. The only downside of this is how long the ride is to the top. It's not necessarily a huge distance, but it moves really slowly. I'm pretty sure I saw an entire tree grow in the time it took us to get to the top. The view is spectacular, though. You can see the entire bay, the ship, the beach and much of the town.
The vegetation is spectacular too, very tropical rainforest, lots of gigantic birds, huge bugs, I saw a bee carrying an arm, I saw a tree of spiders and then some gigantic spiders on a web, luckily nowhere near us, and heard but didn't see some velociraptors stamping around below.
We made it to the top and were instructed to do the zip-line first since it took almost 45 minutes to do, and they wanted to make sure that people who signed up for it were able to do it. We were saddled up with helmets and harnesses, and were taken over to the launching point. We had two guys helping us and they were awesome. And hot. Very athletic and charming. Messing with the guests is part of the shtick, so they would say things like "slow down" when there is no way to slow down, or as you were leaving, "no wait, not yet!" when there was no way to stop. They were transparent about it though, and everyone had a really good time.
The zip-line tour consisted of two zip-lines, a vertical drop, which they sold as rappelling. Then you cross a suspension bridge and then two more zip-lines. Rappelling my ass. They hooked you to a rope and then dropped your ass about 20 feet, catching you about a foot off the ground. Hilarious. They made jokes about, "don't pee-pee on me," and "no golden showers," which was a little strange to hear since since I typically associate that with a different context, and they just mentioned it like a casual term that everyone knew. The main guide kept calling Jill "Queeny," and his goal was to make her scream in terror, but he couldn't make her do it, no matter his antics.
All of this was through the tropical forest. You basically end up about halfway down the mountain, and you have to catch the ski lift on the way down, return to the bottom and stay on it going all the way back to the top. I had opened a business and it went bankrupt in the time it took us to get back (of course it went bankrupt. I know nothing of Jamaican commerce.).
At the top, we stood in the never ending line for the bobsleds. Luckily Gregory and I are professional line standers. We can deal with the worst of queues. The ride was a lot of fun and you could basically go as quickly or as slowly as you wanted. It was a very smooth roller coaster for one. This shit would never fly in the states, and I'm glad I got to do something like this. This attraction, too, took you down through the forest with drops and spins and twists, it was really cool, but rather than leaving you down there, you got hooked to a line and like a roller coaster, it pulled you back up the hill to the top, letting out back where you began.
There was a red-flag point near the end of the fast part, where you needed to slow your vehicle yourself. In America there would be some fancy auto braking system. I wondered how many people slammed into the connection without slowing at all. And there was one guy stationed down near the red flag area, who was reading a book, helping people make the connection to the cable which connected to your ride vehicle and took you back to the top. It was funny because while the park is a nice setup, there are some things about it that are primitive, like this guy sitting in the middle of the forest at the connection point at the end of the ride. There is no concrete pathway to where he is stationed. There's no underground series of tunnels or "backstage." There is a trail through the forest and he sits there on a lawn chair reading a book making sure each customer slows down properly and makes the connection safely. But he just supervises this. There isn't actually anything he physically does. I just want to make that clear. They probably put him down there for the dumbasses that couldn't figure out what to do, or that didn't slow down and splattered their limbs all over the forest. That would at least explain WHERE the bee found the arm.
Speaking of eating arms, by now it was time for lunch and we were going to head back into town to find a restaurant that had jerk chicken, which, if you come to Jamaica and don't have Jamaican Jerk Chicken, what is your damage? Gag me with a spoon, mon! Mystic Mountain had a little restaurant and after taking some pictures from the rooftop observatory we decided for the sake of convenience to just go there. It was delicious, and one of the guys there brought us a couple of extra things to sample, just single bites of a plantain, something made from cassava, and a kind of hush puppy, a bread that was only a tiny bit sweet, just a kiss of sugar and cinnamon and then deep fried. They were all really delicious.
Before we returned to the ship, we were delivered to a small taste of the shopping experience here. Although similar to Grand Cayman in appearance, there is a palpable difference in the level of desperation. The way people hock their wares here has an urgency about it. Even the busses have signs, saying "It is customary to tip your driver upon safe arrival," or something to that effect. Two of our table-mates were saying their tour guide on the waterfalls (another excursion we decided to not attend), was very aggressive with them about getting his gratuity.
As we left this grouping of shops that all seemed to sell exactly the same thing, we walked a block back to the ship. You would think with only one city block to go, we could get to the ship without hassle. We were panhandled at by two legless people, shouted at by a man selling food, and a man with a guitar and a tooth asked us if we wanted to buy anything from him to smoke. I wonder what it could be?
As we crossed the security checkpoint and began to walk along the pier, there was a young boy probably around 14 or so, selling necklaces, three for $5. He had sneaked past the security point and was down on the rocks out of sight of the police. He was proffering black beaded necklaces to the guests returning to the ship. I thought about trying to buy some just so Gregory could get a picture of him, the blue water, and the white salty sand and rocks, and his dark skin, and the desperation. The problem with this exchange would be he was a good six feet below the railing, so am I supposed to drop my dollar bill down to him and he throws the necklace up to me? How about the fact the wind was blowing? I could not figure out exactly how that was going to work, other than that little fucker stealing my dollar and leaving. And I didn't want to have to shout, "come back here with my necklace!" or possibly have him shot by security for skipping over the gate.
We returned to the ship and I went out again to work on my tan. I desperately want this sun and humidity to be burned into me. I just know how cold it's going to be when we return to freezing Southern California. There has been so much that we've done and so much more that I have taken away already from this experience that I want to keep--more even than I have written. I looked for trinkets hoping I could find something appropriate to serve as a memento. So far, I have only found junk that I don't need or want. And I think of all the crap I already have back home, and feel even that is unwieldy at times.
We decided to attend our regularly scheduled dinner tonight. Jill wanted to dine in the buffet. They had some kind of self-award winning fish entree. Gregory and I weren't impressed. They had some kind of beef with a mustard crust and some really good mashed potatoes that was excellent. Dessert had us visiting Alaska. Baked. It was Baked Alaska. I had never had it before and was curious to try it, but I also wanted the amaretto cake, which was basically a chocolate ganache in a cake shape. It was amazingly chocolatey. I wish I had only gotten this. The Baked Alaska was good, but honestly that cake was amazing.
We decided to see the last comedy show of the cruise by the comic Macio. He was okay. He riffed on a bunch of racist stuff, because we all know how hilarious racism is, and the crowd laughed. Some of the jokes were genuinely funny and he did a lot with interacting directly with the audience. It was fine enough, but I was kind of glad when it was over, partially because we didn't have seats and had to stand in the back.
I'm so exhausted now, and I'm thankful we have a day at sea tomorrow. Our last full day of the cruise. I can sleep in and have real breakfast. I'm looking forward to that.
Due to a lot of strange things in my brain, not limited to the news story of that man eating that guy's face off, I had a dream that I ate S. Epatha Merkerson, and I did a really terrible job of hiding the body. I was really wasteful when I think about it, because I really only ate her calf, and then wrapped the rest in saran wrap and threw her in a dumpster. And I was caught and going to prison, because shock of shocks, my finger prints were everywhere. I can't even remember the last time I saw an episode of Law & Order, so why the image of her? I say image because the woman looked nothing like her, I just know in my dream it was supposed to be her.
Anyway, we had to order room service to get an early start again. This time they brought the toast in pairs, but thinking last night they wouldn't, I ordered two, and consequently got four pieces of toast.
Getting off the boat was quite the ordeal as the cruise ship had to be moored some distance offshore, and there was no pier long enough to stretch, which is surprising. You'd think they would be all over that, but why have a pier where people can just walk to shore? It's better yet to have boats that can handle 150 people at a time and take 45 minutes to load, travel the 500 yards to shore, and unload. It makes so much sense for the end of the day, too, to make everyone waiting on the pier in the hot, hot sun as they slowly load the boats. What kind of Disney ride is this?
We had good timing as we were among the last few people aboard the boat, so we walked downstairs, walked right through the checkpoint, and walked on to the boat, which immediately left and dumped us on the docks of Georgetown. There was some tourist trap shops, and LOTS of people trying to get you to go on their tour. If you get on shore and want to go on a tour and can't find one, there is something wrong with you. These people are every five feet and yelling their pitch at anyone who will hear. Which is everyone because they are loud.
We got there very early because there was a little bit of confusion between "ship time" and "island time" and what our tickets said, but we passed the time by wandering around the market which was itself a big tourist trap. There were plenty of trashy things to do, buy discounted watches, diamonds, and tanzanite (which I had never even heard of until this trip, but apparently people love this shit). You could buy various art things, Swarovski crystal in the shape of an elephant or a tiger (as Anna says, klassy (yes, with a 'K')), duty free liquor, and various tourist crap. You could go to a fancy I-talian restaurant, or you could drink breakfast at Margaritaville (tempting, I will admit).
We walked by the shore, remarking at the blue clear water, wanting to jump in it. It was really, hot and humid, moreso than any place we have ever been. There were beaches that were roped off, and little reef/coral rocks you could walk out on and watch little crab walking all creepily sideways. Crabs are creepy. They are just an underwater spider with claws. Strange. I'm able to dismiss that image entirely when I eat them.
We wandered away from the main drag and back a couple of blocks and found a chachka shop filled with all kinds of junk I would never buy, and further down the street a small park that consisted of a tree and around this tree, more wild chickens. I had a moment with one of the chicks, slightly older than a peep-chick, and almost all its baby fuzz gone. It looked at me and cocked its head. No pun intended. I tried to whistle at it at the same pitch, but ultimately I don't speak chicken, and I'm pretty sure it spoke only Castilian Spanish. I think it was swearing at me as we left, and then it hailed a cab.
Thankfully our tour started and we headed back to the tourist trap at the port. At the check in we were assigned to a bus and seated behind us was this amazing looking family. They were so good looking, they could have been models. I poked them to see if they were made of cardboard. They weren't. The husband was of Asian descent and had an athletic build, and the wife was black and had these uniquely shaped eyes and a gorgeous smile. I thought she might be Jamaican or from one of the islands, but I didn't ask; she sounded American. They had two boys, one was about seven and the other was an infant. Even the kids could have been child models; they were really adorable. God, it was annoying.
Our first stop was the glass-bottomed boat, which was a pseudo sub. We drove over two shipwrecks and a big reef. We saw tons of fish, a barracuda, a sting ray, sponges, corals, and more fish. It was very Finding Nemo. The announcer or excursion narrator, or as I like to call him, Captain Screamypants, was loud. He was very, very islander. Lots of "ya mon," and he had an interesting accent. I imagine that in the privacy of his home, his real accent is either proper British, or Texas.
Our bus driver and tour guide was Damion and he was from Jamaica originally. He riled us up by getting us to respond "ya mon" to everything he said. He really was from Jamaica, though so I didn't imagine him at home with a totally western accent. But it's funny to imagine. The next stop was Hell. This was a place where a bunch of jagged, black limestone rocks protrude from the ground across a section of land in a creepy and interesting way. It would have been more severe had the entire thing not be lined with greenery. Apparently this place is really cool at sunset, but we only had 15 minutes, and it was all we needed. There is a small wooden walkway and a badly painted standup devil with a speech bubble saying 'Welcome to Hell!' It was a little anti climactic, since what I was picturing was way more amazing than this, but when I think of attraction, I think Disney, and I have been spoiled by quality.
In their gift shop, we asked the lady if they stamp passports. She said they weren't supposed to, but as she was saying no, pulled out her stamp and pad. So now my passport shows that I have been to hell in the Cayman Islands. Gregory also bought a Cayman Island dollar. It has the Queen on one side. Helloooo!
The next stop was the Tortuga Rum factory. I wish there was more of a tour of this place with a little history and a cheesy photo op, than just dumping us at the gift shop to sample and buy. But the samples were awesome, so we bought. Rum cake party when we get back!
Next stop was the most amazing thing and worth the trip to the Cayman Islands, quite possibly the entire cruise. As in I want to come back here and do this again, but spend all day, because apparently we only saw part of the park: The Cayman Island Turtle Farm. First of all, my experience with turtles is ordinarily chocolatey with pecan clusters, or the turtles have been small and not particularly friendly. These turtles were HUGE!!! And they were so cute all swimming around with their flippers and looking around with their turtle faces. We made our way over to the younger turtles that were a little smaller and they were hilarious. Damion reached in the water and pulled one out by the shell and it started to "swim" away from him, its flippers going crazy. He handed it to someone, and as they took it, he started to gently stroke its chin and neck, and it immediately stopped flailing and stayed there docile and content to be held and petted. The shells are so cool feeling as is their scaly skin, and this kind of animal is so foreign to my simple cat-dog universe, it was fucking awesome to hold a turtle!
I want one.
Right after that, we went to the cafe and had turtle burgers.
Here's the thing about that: you don't need to do this. You can do this, but it's not like meeting a cow and then having filet mignon. You will not be wowed by the experience because turtle, although apparently quite healthy and it does has a nice flavor (it does NOT taste like chicken), is tough like a shoe. There is nothing chicken-like about this experience. Do it if you must, but I'm Switzerland here.
Incidentally there were iguanas everywhere, not just in the park, but wild, like the chickens. We would be driving by and see several on people's roofs, in gardens, or in their driveway.
Sadly our excursion was over, though not after Damion showed us a couple of homes for sale (3 bedroom condo for 650k) since some of the people on the tour were asking about real estate (show offs!), and he also drove us past the ridiculously lavish Ritz Carlton hotel and golf course. Amazing! looking… because I don't play golf, so… pretty!
As a side note we drove past the world-famous Seven Mile Beach (which is only five and half miles, but whatever), and what we were able to see of it, did not scream out best of the best beaches. And like downtown Georgetown, at the port we were just not impressed with it. We imagined that something like THE CAYMAN ISLANDS RESORT would be a lot nicer, more posh, more polished, not as dumpy as it is. The Turtle Farm by contrast, was very nice and I look forward to returning there someday.
When we returned to the ship we went our separate ways to nap, Gregory and Jill to their respective rooms and I went to the deck to work on my tan while I snoozed. But I started doing that almost asleep jerk violently awake due to squirrel attack. I realized too that the ship had turned and my sun was now gone. I have the kind of skin that can tan in the shade, but I decided to move nonetheless and went up to the back of the ship to catch the last rays of the sun before it disappeared into the slightly overcast sky.
We didn't see the sunset since our room now faced south as we headed toward Jamaica and Ocho Rios. We ate dinner in the buffet tonight instead of our assigned table, and it was good for a change. I tried not to eat too much, but might have tipped it ever so slightly. The wind really picked up toward the end of the day, and the ship has been rocking gently back and forth, just enough to make you think you are drunk already. I did my best to limit it to one bottle of wine for today. Tomorrow is a very early day: up at 7, ready to walk out the door at 7:30 since our excursion begins at 8.
Today nothing happened. It was the trip from Key West to Grand Cayman, which apparently takes two days when you drive your hotel at 25mph. I'm sure the speed limit on the ocean is faster than that, but for some reason hotel no want to faster go. Since there was nothing going on today, I awoke leisurely at 8AM to go to the gym. Had to give one of the hamsters a break for a few minutes anyway. Hey who knows how long it would take us to get there if this hotel suffers from hamster strain. I refuse to be held responsible.
I have no pretense that my workouts are really doing anything for me. But I'm trying to combat some of the bad caloric choices I have made--mostly alcohol related--I'm sure in vain. Plus there are some seriously nice bodies on this ship, and it is really tough to compete with that. I'm convinced this one guy has a 24 inch waist and shoulders as wide as the doorway. He has to turn sideways to get through the door. His abs make a ringing sound like an Indian bell tree--you know like, "you will know when it's time to turn the page?" Only this is more like, "You will know when it's time to put down your second plate of pizza, fatty."
So we ate breakfast and afterward Jill split up from us and went to wander around on her own, as did we. We lazed on the deck for a while, sat in a hot tub. The day was overcast and was becoming overcasterer, and as we sat in the tub, nearing a bank of particularly forbidding clouds, I began to wonder how likely it was that the ship was creating any special kind of static electricity, and would that be enough to result in a lightning strike, and would it really hit the highest point in the boat, or would it go for the place where it was most likely to conduct. I became increasingly more convinced that we would be cooked in the hot tub like people soup and started to picture the headlines on that one, imagining the grief, confusion, and absurdity of dying from a lightning strike to the cruise ship hot tub.
Eventually it was time for our food and wine pairing. It was taught by the ship's sommelier and it was really informative. He showed us five wines, a Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, Bordeaux, and a Chianti. They served a plate with a small piece of steak, salmon, a cracker with brie cheese, a slice of apple, wedges of lemon and lime, a strawberry and a blueberry on top of some orange marmalade and small teaspoon with some very course ground salt. We would taste a bit of something, then sip the wine and he would demonstrate combinations that both worked well, and didn't work at all. Some that made the wines taste really horrible, which was very illuminating to me, and really valuable as a lesson. It made me wonder that while I ate the cheese with certain wines that perhaps I didn't have the right kind of cheese, or perhaps that wine shouldn't be paired with cheese at all and that I should have fruit, or something more savory instead. I say that because I have had some terrible wines, and while I'm not fully convinced the wines weren't terrible of themselves, it is possible I didn't do anything to help their case.
The tasting was in the fancy steak restaurant and I felt underdressed as I was the only person there in my swim trunks and a tank top, though this was at two in the afternoon, and what did they expect? I had just come from poolside where I was slamming Rum and pineapple juice. I did mention I was working on my figure.
I wish I understood wines more, and this is of course a step to learning, but it is often so hard to figure out all the flavors the wines evoke. People were getting almond here and licorice there. I was getting notes of wine. The Chenin Blanc was my favorite by far. It was sweet and fruity, but complex and the sommelier classified it as a medium body wine. The Riesling was nice, but it just tasted like a Riesling. The Pinot Grigio was okay, but dry. Not sweet at all, and just very blah, even with the pairing. The two reds, the Bordeaux and the Chianti didn't work for either of us. I think we are too infantile in our oenology to get European wines. I think they may rely more on the pairing of food than California wines. They are complex, and just need more attention than I'm willing to give right now. Maybe someday I'll be ready to invest more time and energy. The other problem is that many of the French wines they sell in the states are second rate, ones they don't want or couldn't sell locally, or mixed with petrol (which I believe is a European varietal). France keeps its best wine for its citizens. So the chances of finding a good French wine in the states already seems like the cards are not in your favor.
After lunch, we decided to have lunch. The food on the plate at the wine pairing wasn't quite enough to satiate us until dinner, so a sandwich was in order. We stopped by the deli, as that seemed more appetizing than the pizza place. I have seen so many people walking around with huge plates of bread covered in cheesy melty, but as good as that sounds, the sight of it it really made me ill. I saw a woman--not a big woman--who had the equivalent of regular price $4, $4, $4, $4 on a tray sitting alone, and clearly had an evening planned. Or a last evening. I looked around for a defibrillator, but didn't see one. Not that I've been looking but I haven't seen her since.
What was I saying? Oh, I had a pastrami on rye and Gregory had a Ruben. It was simple and good.
Afterward Gregory returned to the room for a nap until it was time for dinner, and I decided to wander around some more. The clouds had gathered enough to close the top on one of the pools. I settled onto one of the lounges and found myself falling asleep. But I wasn't quite comfortable enough to sleep, and I kept doing that jerking thing where just before you nod off, you kick your leg or suddenly twitch your arm violently, then you try to play it off all cool. Yes, I clearly meant to lie still and then unexpectedly spasm like I had been hit out of nowhere with a cartoon taser. I got up and had a drink at the bar and watched some straight guys antic-ing around the pool. It was a welcome change from the cleavage parade I've been experiencing all week. But eventually I got bored with that, and decided to start some conversation with some people hanging out near the bar. They weren't interested in being friendly, or maybe I came off as creepy (totally a possibility--I'm not above admitting that), so I headed up to another deck. The wind was picking up and it was definitely going to rain at some point. I decided to head back to the room and ran into Jill.
It had been a couple hours since our lunch and Jill had had nothing and was hungry. Gregory had just woken up and we headed up so she could get some lunch. After, we walked around the upper deck while it rained gently (not the downpour I expected), and we just chatted about life and nothing in particular. It was close enough to dinner time that we decided to get ready. Tonight was "elegant fancy night" where we had to dress up for dinner. I guess it is more fun to eat lobster in a suit and tie. The only thing more fun than that is a little surf and turf with an extra plate of surf. Stuff yourself until your buttons pop. We may be off the coast of Cuba, but while you're on the ship, you're in A-mur-ukuh. We had alligator that had been deep fried and served with some kind of pickled veggie / tomato sauce something that was delicious, but completely overpowered the reptile. I was looking forward to experiencing the flavor, but it's not that it tasted like chicken, it just tasted like "fried with sauce." Then I had a strawberry mint bisque. It tasted like melted strawberry ice cream with delicious moments of fresh mint, interesting, but I'mma say fail on that. Because while it was fancy, it really did taste EXACTLY like melted ice-cream. For the main course, Gregory ordered prime rib and I had a plate of lobster and shrimp. Jill ordered a second plate of lobster and offered to split it with me. I accepted, though I shouldn't have. You can have too much of a good thing. At the time it's amazing, but sadly, I had no room for dessert. Because in A-mur-ukuh, you have cherries jubilee or spiced apple puffed pastry or molten choco brûlée whip alamode cake pie after your nightly Thanksgiving snow-shoveling of entrees and sides, and wash it down with a diet coke*, because I'm on a diet.
I decided to exit the restaurant early and go to the GLBT meet-up in the wine bar to meet the four other gay people on this cruise. Needless to say, this is a strange feeling that here we are, such a tiny group of people. It was both vindicating and disappointing. I have a lot of conflicting emotions about hanging out here, so I don't have too much to say about this other than I had an occasion to try the Hess 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, which we have a bottle at home. Unfortunately by now, my palette was shot and I couldn't even bring myself to finish it. It just didn't taste like anything. I suppose it doesn't pair well with frustration.
I decided to come back to the room and write this. Gregory and Jill went to the jazz show, which was apparently only so-so. Great band, marginal singing and dancing. The Ahmanson Theatre has spoiled us. Tomorrow Grand Cayman, and it's going to be an early start.
*DISCLAIMER: This was a joke. I don't soft drinks. I hate diet coke because it sucks and it's horrible and there is nothing remotely redeeming or healthy about this or any soft drink beverage.
Today, our breakfast began as I wish most breakfasts did: complimentary room service. The menu was limited, but we selected a few things. Gregory lavishly asked for TWO salmon plates and a bagel and TWO cream cheeses. I pish-poshed that idea and ordered a yogurt and whole wheat toast. By the time it was lunch, I was fucking starving. The yogurt was about half the size of a human yogurt, and by your order of whole wheat toast, they assume you mean one, as in a plate with a single slice of whole wheat toast on it. Is there anyone who doesn't get bread in a pair? I can understand if it's really thick French toast, and then you might have only one slice, but come on. Bread slices come in pairs. Which brings me to Why, Orowheat? Why do you slice your loaves into odd numbers? I always throw away the nastiest heel, but still, who out there uses one slice of Orowheat at a time? You advertise yourself as sandwich bread, but you are smaller than average sandwich bread, so maybe you should change your marketing to Finger Sandwich Bread.
I am digressing. We needed room service in order for us to be ready to go for the first of our three stops: Key West, Florida.
The area of town as soon as you exit is a big tourist trap, however there are some things that make it unique. First of all, there are wild chickens everywhere. And a lot of the hens also had baby chicks that were peeping adorably. It is hard for a baby chick to do anything not adorable. Oh! It's shitting on me, oh! it's pecking the eyes out of that dead raccoon, oh! it is stealing my identity and charging up my credit card, but it is so cute with its wittle yellow fuzzy feathers!
And there were roosters, complete with pinky shiv, some with a big bravado announcement of sunrise, a big ole cock-a-doodle-doo, to you Mr. Tourist. Um, it's noon dumbass. Other roosters sounded like they were in the process of being slowly run over with a steam roller. Like that dog toy the dog has all but destroyed, where it once made a piercing squeak, now a brittle wheeze that can signal only one thing: failure.
We walked down one of the main streets, stopping occasionally into all the crap-shops (not that the shops themselves were crap, but they sold lots of crap), browsing a menu, since we all knew we would have to eat at some point, and keeping a lookout for spontaneous points of interest.
We walked down toward the end of the street to The Southermost Point of the Continental United States. If you didn't read that in a god voice with lots of reverb, try it again. But just before we got there, we stopped into a butterfly shop. Jill loves butterflies (and turtles and hummingbirds), and I was like, whatever. They had a bunch of dead ones on a variety of beautiful, however grim, displays, and it was really neat to see. Well it turned out this place was more than just a chachka shop. It was also a conservancy and for $12, you can walk through the garden habitat.
Do not miss doing this.
I was skeptical at first, but I was thinking, well, it might be kind of cool, lot of butterflies and all. I can tell you, it's cool. It's awesome, in fact. Being surrounded by butterflies is a little bit magical, having these bright colors flitting and flashing all around you. It's kind of like being in a fairy wonderland. That might have turned some of you off, but this experience is really cool. There is something about it that doesn't quite seem real, but it is something that exists in nature.
After this we begrudgingly left to get on with our day and we walked down to the end of the street to find a large cheaply painted buoy with the phrase, Southernmost Point of the U.S. on it. The line was really long to get your photo taken in front of this thing, so we passed on that and stood in front of the fence. So the pictures where we look like prisoners in a seaside reformery, are actually us standing at the southernmost point in the continental United States. Technically there was a rock that jutted out into the ocean, and I could have stood on that, but that would have involved scaling the fence, and I'm guessing due to the existence of the fence, it's not allowed.
Next was lunch, which I needed badly. I even paid $3 for a coconut in the interim, which a guy hastily drilled a hole into and then jammed a straw in the hole and handed to me. It was refreshing and delicious, but it wouldn't sustain me for long. We ended up at a restaurant and bar called Sweet Tea. I got meat loaf because I wanted a meal, dammit! It came with some of the best mashed potatoes I have ever had. Not too smooth, not too lumpy, buttery, and with skins, plus it was made of red potatoes. Gregory ordered a white-truffle mac and cheese that was sooo good.
After a quick re-application of sunblock, we rolled out into the sweltering humidity and headed for the Hemingway House. I had some cats to see! And they were all polydactyl. No not pterodactyl. We weren't be dive bombed by winged cats, though that would have really livened up Hemingway as an author for Michael Bay to adapt to the screen. It was a really neat experience and there were many cats, however none of them wanted to cuddle, and you're not supposed to cuddle with them, or touch them or pick them up. How in the hell am i supposed to cuddle with them, then? They were sleepy, and couldn't seem to be bothered anyway, probably because it was 90 degrees and 100% humidity and they are in Key West wearing a fur coat.
It was nearing time to return to the ship, so we walked back, but before we journeyed aboard, we stopped at a toy shop in the tourist trap. It was pretty cool, but most of the toys were for young children. HOWEVER, the merch was not the draw to this place. It turned out the shop owners had a KIKACHU, which was this cute little animal, the likes of which I have never before seen nor heard. It was a little cat-like, and about the size of a cat, but it had some slight monkey-like features. It was a little girl and she was fuzzy and adorable, but very shy and basically squirmed out of her owner's arms and ran to the cash wrap, and hid in the shelf with the cash drawer. Occasionally peeking her little face out. I wanted a picture, I wanted to hold it, and I wanted it. Add it to the list of animals that I'll have in my private zoo someday. Hopefully the tiger won't eat it.
We returned to the ship and opened up a bottle of William Hill Merlot 2006. Lots of berries (raspberry and cherry) and a very nice finish. It is surprisingly big for a Merlot. I look forward to trying it tomorrow when it is fully open. After dinner, we attended one of the cruise shows: the Newlywed Game, and they had a newly wed couple, a couple married 25 years, and a couple married 50 years. This was one of the funniest things I have seen in my life. My face and voice hurt from laughing and screaming. If you have an opportunity to see something like this, you won't regret it. Unless you have no sense of humor, like the people in front of us, in which case, there's no hope for you to survive the zombie apocalypse, so start eating a lot of barbecue sauce and begin the marinating process now, because, you are going to be good eatin'.
Tomorrow is a full day at sea as we work our way toward Grand Cayman. So I plan to do a lot of nothing tomorrow, maybe sun, maybe swim, maybe sit and stare at the water.
Oh! the water! last thing, where we are off the coast of Florida, the water has this deep navy blue color to it. It is beautiful. It's how water is supposed to look. When we first took off from the coast of Florida it was teal, but here it's almost indigo, it's so dark blue. Beautiful to watch a gold and red sun sink into. Good night.