Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cruise Control

My colleague and friend, Jackie, gets all antsy when I haven't posted a blog in awhile, so this one is for her. I am flattered and happy to keep her entertained. In exchange, she entertains me with Tyler (her adorable son) stories....which makes me wonder why Jackie doesn't have her own blog??

{Go get a drink right now, because this is gonna be a long one. It's about weddings, ships, the Bahamas, travel, the meaning of life, and all things sunshine and beach.}

Travel Day

Flew JFK to MIA. First flight was over-booked. Voluntarily bumped myself in exchange for a $200 voucher on Delta and a $14 voucher for breakfast/lunch. Had to wait about 2 and a half hours for the next flight. Not bad, for $200 towards my trip to Brazil in April and some crappy airport food. I was seated in an Exit Row, window seat. I almost always choose this seat for several reasons:
1) Extra leg room
2) Always secretly dreamed of being a flight attendant and helping others off the plane in case of emergency
3) Tall men tend to sit in that row. And they tend to pick the aisle. So if I'm in the window seat, there may just be a seat between us which creates even more extra room. And the tall man in the aisle row might be really hot.
4).....and most of all, no children are allowed in the exit row!
****Not that I don't think children are adorable, but I don't deal well with screaming, crying ones on airplanes.

On this particular flight there was no hot man in the exit row. There was a woman in the aisle seat. There was a man in the middle seat. He smelled like a liquor store. (Aside- why do people always say boozers smell like a liquor store? My neighborhood liquor store smells not like liquor, but like a homeless man, because he goes in there to warm up.) Perhaps it's more appropriate to say he smelled like he bathed in whiskey? So Whiskey is seated next to me. But Whiskey talked to Aisle Seat Woman for most of the flight, so his breathing was not invading my space anymore. The flight went pretty fast, considering I delayed myself at JFK an additional 2.5 hours.

I landed and arrived at the hotel, just as Jeff and Missy (bride and groom) and all of their wedding party were headed out for dinner in a place called "Coconut Grove". It sounded so tropical! They invited me to come along. But I was disheveled and really just wanted to shower and rid myself of the airport/airplane funk. The hotel (motel? what distinguishes the two?) was a creepy little place with flickering fluorescent lights in the hallway and a noisy ice machine in the hallway. The pool was a bit aged with cracked tiles and greenish water, and it reminded me of the pool in that M. Night Shyamalan movie....the one about the water nymph in the swimming pool. And the motel was LOUD. Airplanes were flying directly above my head. The window of my room was a runway. My sister-in-law and I were talking on the phone and she thought I might have been calling her from an air hanger. The background noise was extreme. But nonetheless, I got a good night's sleep. (It's the New York in my blood.....I am just used to sleeping with traffic noises outside my window. I guess it's not only limited to cabs honking and cars, but also includes airplanes....)

Wedding Day
We all woke up and took shuttles to the Port of Miami to board the ship. Jeff and Missy were sticking with the "we can't see each other before the wedding" tradition, so we went in separate shuttles. I was on the early one with Jeff. We got off the shuttle and headed to the ship, only.....Missy had Jeff's passport. And his luggage tags, which were color-coded so the suitcases get delivered to the appropriate cabin. Oh- and his tux had not yet arrived. Finally everything got straightened out and we boarded. I did not want them to stamp my passport because I only have 2 empty pages and one of them has to be empty for my Brazil visa. Fortunately they did not stamp it and on I went.

The wedding was very sweet and simple (just how I like them to be!) and it was in a lounge on the ship. The bride and groom looked like this:

After the wedding, I took a short nap, then watched the port of Miami grow smaller and smaller. Talk about Deja Vu.

In the evening, I met Jeff et. al in one of the lounges to play "Finish that Song". Missy was actually spending time with her family, so I was elected to go on stage with Jeff to stand helplessly with a microphone and fill-in the missing lyrics. A scary situation for me. The first song I had was "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to..." My line was "You would cry too, if it happened to you." (I passed that round with flying colors, but got nixed after the second round, which was some silly song from "Grease", which I pretty much hate. The lucky guy next to me got Tom Petty. Now if I could have only been one person over.....) I can talk in front of audiences for hours. Sing....not so much..... But the best part was the fact that an announcement was made that Jeff (also eliminated after Round 1) was married that very day and since Missy was off somewhere else on the ship, people came up to congratulate...yours truly!!!! Little Ol' ME! I found it funny and good practice, in case I ever do get married. So THIS is what it feels like to be congratulated for committing to someone. ~I dig it~

Coco Cay Day

There was no clock in the room and I had no idea what time it was. Tried to turn on the ship's GPS channel, but couldn't really tell what time it was on there, either. I woke up when I felt like it. Which was around 8:30. (No sleep for the weary.) Coco Cay is Royal Caribbean's private beach island. It was not incredibly hot, in fact it was quite breezy. But pleasant. I spent my day like this:

Then I found Missy and her friend Monique and we did this:

Nassau Day
Once again, no idea what time it was. Went to the famed resort "Atlantis". I stumbled around the grounds, lost myself in its vastness.

Took a self-guided tour through the aquarium, which I later found out was supposed to have cost $35, but I went in through the out door and not a single person stopped me. I plead ignorance.

Headed back to ship. Found Missy and Jeff. Sat on the balcony of their cabin and chilled with them for awhile. Then they had to go look at wedding photos. Jeff asked Missy "Honey, can I have the guys over for the Jets game later?" So I think some of them piled into their cabin to watch the game. I went to dinner. My reservation somehow was not connected to Missy and Jeff's, so I was apart from everyone else. I was seated at a random table with one Chinese couple. They were very sweet. I had an Indian waiter, a Turkish busboy, a Jamaican cabin steward, and Chinese buddies. That sounds about right and suits me well. Soooooo much better than the overweight tourists from Arkansas with bulging abdomens, and whose idea of culture is wearing a Hawaiian print shirt and being first in line at the midnight buffet.
* No offense to anyone who fits this description. It is simply FACT that 75% of the tourists on this ship were >30 pounds obese and stampeded the dining rooms. And probably have not traveled much out of the US, based on the comments and conversations I heard going on. Very different crowd from the Semester at Sea voyagers.

Go Home Day
I took the "Express Check Out" option and got off the ship, carrying my own luggage. I can't imagine how crazy their luggage-check system must have been. And finding it again before customs.... I'll carry my own, thank you very much. I headed to MIA airport and it was pouring down rain. Apparently it was pouring down in New York too, because my flight was delayed for four hours. It went fast though because I met a very sweet couple from Queens who actually know my best friend's father. The husband is a musician, and the wife works for an employment agency. We are actually facebook friends now. (Hi Rob and Danielle!)

Finally made it to JFK, and took the Air Train to the subway to get home. Saw a huge rat on the subway platform, which came charging at me (no joke!) which is why I couldn't get a clearer picture. Made friends with other folks waiting on subway platform and laughed hysterically about the rat. A rat: the iconic symbol of my beloved home. Welcome to New York.....
*See him? He was the size of a squirrel, but the photo doesn't do it justice. On the edge of the track towards the middle of the photo, he blends in with the grey strip. If you click on the photo, it will make it larger and you may be able to see him better.

Thoughts on the Wedding and the Cruise
Maybe it's unfair to Royal Caribbean, but I couldn't help but constantly compare the cruise to my voyage......i.e. "the captain would NEVER run a muster (life boat) drill this way!" "my cabin was MUCH bigger on the explorer" "everything was so much cleaner on semester at sea!" "these people don't even know what side is starboard!" "My cabin steward was so much better on the Explorer!", etc. It felt more like a community on Semester at Sea. Whereas, this cruise seemed like a free-for-all of overweight people from the midwest. Again- don't mean to burn any bridges here- but I feel I can say this, since I am from Ohio. **Even though Ohio is not really the "midwest", only New Yorkers think that. But my thoughts on regions of the US and the quirks of each is another blog for another day. Over-all I had a great time. The Bahamas are very touristy, and very geared towards Americans who have not left the US too much. But I still had a great time, and felt very relaxed.

Weddings- also another blog for another day. So I'll keep this part brief too......Normally I pretty much hate weddings, and I wish for my own to be as simple as possible, should I find a lucky fool to marry. I do not enjoy a big "to-do" and lots of fancy planning. This wedding was absolutely perfect. Very simple, low-key, and fun. If and when I get married, all I want is a chance for my friends and family to come together and get drunk and celebrate. No registries. No ugly bridesmaid dresses on my friends. No arguments about where to have it. No tight budgets. No seat assignments. (I always seem to get placed at the odd-ball table. Me, a freakish family, and conversation that revolves around diaper-genies. No thank you.) So, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU so so much Jeff and Missy for having the perfect, simple, yet incredibly fun wedding.

Lastly, I had a chance to reflect on my career and my social networking and where I've ended up. It is safe to say that I wouldn't have had this cruise, had I never pledged Alpha Gamma Delta during college. Jeff and I eerily similar. I think I've mentioned this before, but just in case I didn't- Jeff and I met in Indianapolis. We were both Leadership Consultants at our fraternity/sorority Headquarters, traveling the US and Canada to a new campus every five days to visit, assess, and provide Leadership development. (He- Lambda Chi Alpha, me- Alpha Gamma Delta.) Throughout the year, we would both occasionally bump into each other on college campuses. The LC job was one of the best things I've ever done in my life, and initiated my love of travel, and quite frankly I can say it led me to grad school, which led me to my internship at Barnard, which ultimately led me to New York. .....But it also led to a lonely existence back in 1999. It was refreshing to see a familiar face "on the road". Jeff was that familiar face. Eventually he moved to Miami and I moved to New York and ultimately Jeff came back to the South Jersey area, so now I am in close proximity to him and Missy. Jeff has a very dry sense of humor and a very witty style of writing. We are each other's muses and when the honeymoon stuff winds down, he is consulting with me on a book he is writing. Missy will tour NYC while Jeff and I work.

Also, I found out that Jeff also put diesel in the gas tank one time, accidentally in Indianapolis. I did this once, as well. My friend Sharri (also a former Leadership Consultant) now a lawyer, who lives in Georgia *never* lets me live this down, and proceeds to tell everyone we know. It is fantastically humiliating. So Sharri, now I have a response to your story. Gas stations in Indianapolis all SUCK! They need to clearly label their products....

Crappy gas stations aside, I was grateful for the opportunity to cruise and to reflect. Next trip on the agenda: Brazil. Weight watchers to start Tuesday, so I can have Smokin' Hot Brazil Body and no more Flabby Ass Bahamas body.
*** This was the above-explained Bahamas-body on the ship, and I had to cut the picture in half, because my waist-line is not acceptable to be shown in photographs.

Will keep you all apprised of progress on Weight Watchers......

** Sorry for the messed up font situation. Blogger was kinda quirky on a Saturday afternoon and I tried umpteen times to fix no avail.....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Off to Miami in the morning, and then boarding a ship and sailing to the Bahamas.

That sounds vaguely familiar....when did we go that way before?

Exactly one year ago, it was. Last year, this very week, I was on Leg 1 of Semester at Sea.

This time it's just a 4 day cruise on Royal Caribbean for my friend Jeff and Missy's wedding. Can't wait to get outa dodge. It's been a busy few weeks. Today I had to do something at work that involved a formula, not dissimilar from the Pythagorean theorem. Sunshine, the sea, and a wedding (not my own) will do me some good.

Pictures, stories and eternity to follow.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar!!

So I brought in the New Year with a glass of champagne, watching fireworks over the Statue of Liberty from the forward deck of a boat.

***Yes, a boat. Not a ship this time around. .... Because it would have been inappropriate to have called my ship a boat, or to have called"starboard" right or "port" left or "aft" back. I was really enjoying the sea-faring terminology. In fact, I still sometimes call the front of my apartment building the "forward". And I sometimes refer to the speed I am driving as "knots" instead of miles, although that one is just because it's fun to say, not because I'm confusing the two.

So on New Years Eve I was on a boat. An honest-to-goodness boat. A boat for drunk tourists, not a ship for worldly students, although I *will* be getting on an actual SHIP in two weeks for a cruise to the Bahamas for my friend Jeff's wedding.

Why was I on a boat for drunk tourists, you ask? Because I was managing an event for a company who hires me seasonally to hostess a New Year's Eve party. They market, promote, ticket, manage and organize parties at 40 different venues around the city, and this is the third year I've worked for them. I've got to admit, I was kind of dreading it, even though the pay is pretty decent. New Years Eve is not my most favorite holiday. It is always freezing cold, there is never a cab to be caught, there are drunken crowds everywhere you go, and to get to my boat, I had to get off at the subway station in Times Square to brave the masses of folks lined up to see the ball drop and venture allllll the way over to 12th avenue where the pier is, on the freezing cold Hudson. Oh, and since my role is "Event Manager", guess who gets to facilitate all the complaints from the over-indulged tourists who spent upwards of $150/ticket (some of the VIPs were even $300) for their New Years Eve cruise around Manhattan?

But I am thrilled to tell you, there were very few complaints, the weather was in the 30s (which is WARM as far as I'm concerned!), I did indeed catch a cab home, and the drunken crowds were really pretty tame, as far as I'm concerned. It was a very international crowd and I heard "Happy New Year" in a variety of languages. Thank you, friends from abroad, for visiting my big bad apple to support our tourism industry. There were plenty of handsome men to smooch at midnight, my staff was fantastic, I was surrounded by wonderful people, and it was smooth sailing. I ended up having an extraordinarily good night. And I got paid to host my own damn New Years Eve Party.

I had a staff photographer on board and I thought this was one of the better images she captured. It appears that the couple below are having a "gelukkig nieuw jaar". What do you think?

Here I am {pretending to know how} to dance with my ticket-taker on this sea-faring vessel:
New Years Day was spent watching TWILIGHT ZONE MARATHON, which also happens on the 4th of July. Oh how I love these black and white episodes. I also made "pork and sauerkraut", which is basically an Ohio thing. You eat this meal to bring in good luck for the New Year. New Yorkers don't really do this, but everyone in Ohio does. And people in Ohio have very good luck. Well soo did I. I mean, If you consider being gassy and bloated "luck", then my friends, I was indeed having some really REALLY good fortune......

The entire holiday season I was surrounded by friends, which definitely made my holidays more merry.

On Christmas, I was with the Finkels. (Yes, I know your next question before you even ask it.....Finkels are indeed Jewish, but they were gracious Christmas hosts, nonetheless, and we had a fantastic Christmas Eve, complete with Egg Nog, a yummy dinner, and sugarplums. And by sugarplums, I mean Dara, Cheryl, Celeste, and Ian.)

My favorite Finkel of all, Dara:
What else? I took some holiday photos of myself and Kitty.
At first it was difficult getting this little fuzzball to cooperate:
After some biting and scratching, we finally got a better one:
*That is my NYC-sized Christmas tree in the background, which I carried up 4 flights of stairs, leaving a trail of sap and a few needles behind, and mounted all by myself, thankyouverymuch.

Over all, it was a very joyous holiday season, even though I didn't get to spend this festive time in Ohio with my family.

I know you must be wondering about resolutions, no?

Well I've tried my best to make them attainable:
1) Learn to find Middle C on the piano. Background story: when I was a child of about 7 years old, I went to my piano lesson one day and cried my eyes out, because I couldn't remember which key was Middle C. My mom was so angry, and I remember being in a *lot* of trouble. So I decided now that I'm 33, I think I might be able to make it a goal to find "Middle C". Dara, a concert pianist, I'm fairly certain, will support me in this endeavor.
2) Start smoking. I mean, so many people resolve to QUIT smoking, so I might as well make it easy on myself. I figure if I'm putting cigarettes in my mouth, that means I'm NOT putting food in my mouth, so this is really just an effort in weight-loss.
3) Go to Brazil. After I already sailed around the world last year, I am having a hard time trying to top that. So I figured, since South America was not on our itinerary, I'll just go ahead and do that this year.
4) Have a baby. I really want to be a mother. Wait a minute. Does this one come into conflict with Resolution #2? Crap. I may have to re-think this one.
5) Buy a condo in Battery Park City. Because I like that neighborhood.
6) Stop dating douchebags and instead pick some better guys. I don't know how else to elaborate on that one.
7) Organize my closet. Still deliberating about this one. Might be too ambitious.
8) Publish a novel. Definitely attainable.
9) Better food choices. This one goes along with the nicotine.
10) Choose my words more carefully. Already started. There are some "deleted scenes" from this very blog you are reading. Maybe I'll show the "unedited version" in the day....
11) Be more altruistic. Like by volunteering at soup kitchens, orphanages, humane societies, and the like. I'm serious! If you guys have some good philanthropic opportunities, I'm up for the job. Because I can't just ship myself off to India again, I've got to find some local ventures to help others in 2010.
12) Azherbaijani. I've got to learn to speak this language. I accidentally set it as my "language" when I downloaded Skype and now I can't seem to figure out how to change it. Anyone want to practice with me?

How am I doing on these goals? So far, so good, my loyal blog readers. Thank you for following me on my journey in 2009 and I hope you will continue with me in 2010, as I achieve these resolutions one-by-one. I am a very fortunate woman and I am grateful for all of you.

My ship has indeed come in.