Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday April 30, 2015

PThe AHad a bit of a day today. Down, depressed. There is a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn entitled Wherever You Go There You Are. It's seems an incredibly stupid title but really there is a lot of wisdom in that statement and I've been experiencing a bit of what I think Zinn is talking about today. For months I have been anticipating this trip and building it up in my mind. Now here I am and I don't feel as I imagined that I would. I don't feel giddy or energetic or excited. Mostly today I just felt tired and kind of bored and frankly very much myself which is apparently what I was hoping to avoid.

So what specifically went wrong today? Well, first we went to the dining room for breakfast. Usually we go to the buffet breakfast not the sit down breakfast. This morning however we decided to mix things up. It's doubtful that we will do that again as the wait for our food was interminable. 

Needlepoint spot one

After breakfast we attempted to find a spot where we could needlepoint. Our first spot of the day was by the pool at the bottom of a set of stairs and next to the pool bar. Well we both felt too "on display" and the bar was quite loud so it was difficult to hear the audio book we are listening to with earbuds, so we moved. Our second spot was near our favorite spot from the day before. No sooner had we set up than people started to come over to see what we were working on and to chat. This despite the fact that we both had our earbuds in. The coup de grace though was the music trivia game which started on the loudspeaker at noon complete with a "Let's all party mahn" Jamaican host. 

Central lobby area with glass elevators

Spot number three came after lunch. The Sky Bar. This started out  poorly as it was stuffy and warm. Also the Sky Bar (Deck 14) is located under the basketball court (Deck 15) and apparently there was one heck of a game going on! We figured we would try to gut it out but then a trivia contest began at two pm (which was really three pm as we were to turn our clocks ahead one hour today just as we have done for the previous two days). On to spot four -- the library. This attractive though completely exposed space (it is open to the atrium and in full view of the bank of glass elevators running through the heart of the ship) featured contemporary wing chairs which succeeded in being both claustrophobic and confining -- not ideal for needlepoint. 

Didn't even try to needlepoint here as all they have in the way of seating is chaise lounges (plus it smells like chlorine anyway!)

At this point, having been repeatedly discouraged, we figured the little piece of deck outside our cabin was maybe our best bet. It worked though the splashing of the ship as it moved through the waves made listening to our audiobook difficult. (What's the audiobook? It's called The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It's really good. What a disaster the main character is though! Just one bad decision after another! So frustrating!

R decided to take a nap and I did some reading (The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope). Before dinner we sat and talked about our down day. I mentioned that I was worried about how we will do during some of our longer cruises with a room that is even smaller than the one we have now (and no window either). Of course we will have more ports to visit so I am hoping this will make a big difference because with these upcoming cruises I don't think needlepointing in the cabin will even be an option.

The other thing that was bothering me today is embarrassing to talk about but I will nevertheless. I noticed when I went to get coffee this morning that the two people in front of me in line had different passenger "charge" cards than I did (these are the ID cards that you are issued at the start of a cruise that are used for going on or off the ship and for charging items to your account). We all had our cards out so that we could pay for our speciality coffee. The two people in front of me in line had "better" cards than mine. One was an AquaClass card and the other was a Concierge Club card). Now I don't know anything about the rewards program for Celebrity Cruises but I know that cards with words like "class" and "club" surely beat out my plain Jane blue card with no writing on it. 

So, I saw those cards and I was jealous. I am not special I thought. They are special. But I like to be special. I want to be special. But I am not. I just have an ordinary room on a tatty, ten year old ship by some cruise line (that isn't Seabourne)  whose service and food are mere shadows of what they once were. You can see how quickly this sort thinking  spirals into a death spin.

So I couldn't find a comfortable place to needlepoint and I don't have a special card and, did I not mention that at breakfast this morning these two gay guys got their food before us when we had been there long before them? And I think that their waiter was being friendlier to them than our waiter was with us!

So, this is the level of thinking I have been dealing with today. I want. I don't have. Why not? Poor me. No wonder I didn't have a good day. I did say to Russell that I was thinking that you probably get as much out of a cruise like this as you put into it and so far I have not put too much into it. At least not in the way of meeting people or going to activities. I would like to say that I am going to do more. Get out there and meet those people. Attend a lecture. Go to bingo. But I probably won't. I am however going to go exercise tomorrow and that usually improves my mood. As for the rest of it? I suppose we will just have to chalk it up to a serious case of "stinkin' thinkin'" and leave it at that.

As an aside, I seriously wonder about fellow cruise mates who study the daily schedule put out by the ship's staff and mark off all the things that they want to do. Like go to a lecture on "American Madams" (11:15, Equinox Theater) or rush to participate in a game show "gender war" (Celebrity Central, Deck 4) or make it to the "unveiling" of Tag Heuer watches at Pieces of Time (Deck 4 @ 4:00pm). Honestly. What are these cruise directors thinking? But these events have attendees, so what do I know?

 I better sign off now before I bore you completely to tears. S

My humble blue card! (Which I see now says I am a "select member" so maybe there are actually people with worse cards than mine! Wahoo!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday April 28, 2015

Sitting here by some ludicrous plot of "real" grass which is supposed to be the "Lawn Club" but looks more like a waste of space to me. 

Still it's a pleasant spot. Not too crowded, some breeze, some sun. Doing a little post-breakfast needlepoint with R. It's our anniversary today -- 29 years! Hurray for us. 

So far the seas are calm and there has been light to non-existent rocking motion. Temperature is mild -- lower seventies-- breeze is pleasant and sky is partly sunny. All in all a most satisfactory day weather-wise.

Heading out to the Atlantic

We were passed this morning by another big cruise ship (a Norwegian Cruise Line boat). Not sure why I mention this only it somehow seemed significant and certainly it was surprising given the fact that we are far off shore and our boat was bigger than theirs.

Looking back toward Ft. Lauderdale 

We boarded the ship yesterday around noontime. The boarding process went relatively smoothly meaning Russell didn't "mix it up" with anyone else in line. So that was a good thing. The ship is quite large and in relatively good shape given that it's been in service for ten plus years I believe. It's the same class of ship that we took on our cruise through the Panama Canal and down to Chile. It has a beautiful central atrium with glass elevators and lots of public art throughout the vessel. 

Of course there are the usual shops casino, and big theater but also a coffee shop and a two-story dining room. Our "stateroom" is quite spacious (for a ship) and includes plenty of storage for the ridiculous amount of clothing that we have brought with us and even room to hide the luggage in which it came. We have a balcony this trip (on our next two cruises we will have an inside cabin) so that is a bonus (we were able to open the door this morning and get some fresh air).

I have to say that I immediately realized during the check in process some of the things that I don't like about cruising on these big ships. The biggest problem of course are the lines and the subsequent air of constant competition (to be first in line for the clerk, the buffet, the elevator, the seat on the bus, the theater seat, etc.) I find it all to be quite demoralizing and energy sapping as I am constantly on edge and worrying about R "mixing it up" (there's that phrase again). I suppose if I as a more evolved person I wouldn't worry about such things because what R does is his business and has nothing to do with me but I am a people pleaser and I loathe confrontation of any type so it's hard.

Golf competition under way

Just heard someone ask if this is where the "golf competition" is going to be held so it looks as if this patch of grass in front of me is meant to be a putting green -- only thing is that it seems to be missing any cups/holes!

Russell in the Quasar Bar!

Well, I am going to get back to my needlepoint now. Plus we have to move. Perhaps I will write more later.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday April 26, 2015

Today we went out for breakfast with Russell's brother Steve. We had a satisfying meal and pleasant visit at TooJays restaurant, a Florida chain. 

After breakfast we did some stitching at the hacienda. I am currently working on a 3D Valentine's Day house. My hope is that it will brighten our house every mid-winter. 

I have to say that it is a little embarrassing to show this piece to people because even for me -- a gay guy -- it's rather on the girlie side! But hey I have never been much for gender boundaries.

It was a hot day today (93 degrees) and I foolishly waited  until 12:30 pm to begin a long walk around Lost Tree Village, the gated community where R's mother and her husband live. This highly manicured landscape shows what can happen when anal compulsivity meets Community Association. While undeniably lovely for walking I've begun to think of it as Ground Zero in the fight against income inequality. 
One house on my walk

Dinner was a Russell special -- rotisserie chicken with various salads and condiments a la Publix (the local grocery store chain). Dinner was followed by more stitching and yet another failed attempt at television watching (some people just don't learn!).

Ready to get on the boat tomorrow where I can stop being the "plus one" of "my gay son" and become, once again, just one half of that "older gay couple". Better? Worse? Not sure. Seems like I am having issues with my sexuality this evening. Ah homosexuality-- it's the gift that just keeps on giving!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday April 25, 2015

Up late this morning but shared a delicious breakfast with Phyllis & R at French cafe just down the street. Hot and humid morning for needlepoint outside but needlepoint outside I did whilst enjoying the occasional breeze and the lovely view.
(The golf course fairways have all been "killed" prior to scheduled replacement this summer thus the wide brown swath in photo above). 

After a couple of hours stitching al fresco and moving my chair to stay in the shade, the four of us (Russell's mom Phyllis, her husband Howard, R & myself) got into two cars and went to visit Marge at her new place. Marge has worked for the Palmers for nearly thirty years and she moved on Friday to a nearby retirement community. Her new place is great and she seems happy there. Certainly the dog, a Javanese with a humping problem by the name of Alvin is adjusting well.

We helped unspool a carpet for her and Russell attempted to get her phone working. I say attempted because it took over an hour and three calls to Verizon before we discovered that the problem was that we had plugged the phone into the phone jack. Yes, you heard me right. The problem was that we plugged the phone into the phone jack and what she has is essentially an in-home cell phone, no cord from phone to phone jack needed (even though one was supplied in the box). Needless to say that was more than a little bit frustrating. The whole process took so long that it was no longer possible for me to go for a run and be ready for dinner at five thirty (the only time we could get a reservation for). 

Russell working on Marge's phone. 

Fortunately we still had time for an "emergency" trip to Saks Fifth Avenue where I got two fabulous bathing suits and one Robert Graham "Limited Edition" shirt because yes I am just that shallow. Howard when he heard that I needed a bathing suit suggested I stop at ... Marshall's. I said "Oh no Howard I need a fancy swim suit" and did I ever get one (two actually). What can I say? As much as I hate to admit it, I still can be that same shallow, acquisitive, status-conscious kid I was forty years ago:( But the clothes make me feel good and who is it harming really anyway? I just really appreciate the fact that Russell allows me to engage in this silly and superficial (and expensive) behavior from time to time rather than lecturing me on the value of money, the perfectly all-rightness of less expensive clothing and the need to live without status symbols. I like expensive clothing -- I can not lie. I wish I didn't. I would probably be a better person if I didn't but I suppose it's best not to read too much into these things.

So I had an opportunity to wear my special shirt tonight at dinner. We (the four of us plus Marge and Russell's brother Steve) had dinner at the Kee Grill. I had some delicious lamb chops plus a Caeser salad and too much divine bread slathered with garlic and butter. Dessert was take away from Carmine's -- a local gourmet grocery store. Phyllis made some decaf Italian Roast and R & I stitched while we all "watched television". I say "watched television" because really it is not possible to watch TV here. Entirely too much chaos, talking, distractions and activity. So, the TV is on but no one is actually watching it. It's just noise. Visual and aural noise. Of which I have had enough for one day and now will sign off.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday April 24, 2015

Well, that was quite the flight! As Russell says "flying just isn't fun anymore". That certainly is true. The check in process was protracted as we needed to check our two massive bags. They weighed 70 and 72 pounds respectively and cost us --brace yourself--$400 to check!! Gulp, yikes and phewy! That's fifty dollars for each bag checked (already pretty steep if you ask me) then $100 for an overweight bag and $200 for a bag over 70 lbs. what a rip off. This was after we had paid $26 each for priority boarding -- can you imagine paying for that? Who knew? Anyhow all the additional charges meant that we paid more for our bags to make the flight than for seats for ourselves!

As we waited for the plane I of course was asking myself why the heck we were doing this -- going away for so long, leaving friends and family and the business. What are we crazy? We should just turn around right now and go home. Pretend this never happened. Then of course I would take a breath and do a few more stitches.

The flight was of course totally full (where do all these people come from?) and the guy sitting next to me had a big bag of M & M's that he would open and help himself to every so often sending the scent of chocolate my way but never offering either Russell or myself a single candy! Imagine. 

Fortunately we had a strong tailwind and made the flight in record time. The driver was waiting for us at the airport, the bags came out quickly and the 95 wasn't backed up. Dinner was salad, hamburgers and baked potato with Howard and Phyllis. It's good to see them and we even got a chance to watch the Bruce Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer. I did like how they teased us with a come on about seeing him dressed as a woman only to tell us at the last minute that we would see that in the next post surgery interview. I feel so used!

Practicing with our new selfie stick!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ready to Go

Bags are packed and we are nearly ready to go on our European adventure. Here's Russell trying to figure out just how it is all going to fit!
First thing to go in the bag? Needlepoint, of course.

 I've got some butterflies in my stomach as I contemplate the road ahead. Fortunately we've got our trusty binders to aid us. These two massive volumes include all the e-mails, receipts, confirmations, information regarding destinations, etc. for the whole trip. They are so big we've dedicated nearly an entire suitcase just to them.
I wonder what the airport security people will make of a carry-on suitcase filled with just two binders and some phrase books/guide books. I suppose I should  be more concerned with how much the airline is going to charge us for the two sixty plus pound bags we will be checking. Glad tomorrow is one of just two airplane flights we will be taking (the other will be from Rome to Zurich). 

I am a little nervous about how R & I will fare with so much time together and in the tiny cabins on the ships that we will be taking. Of course there are few people who have traveled as much as the two of us and we've done the majority of it in accommodations of less than 200 square feet so we've probably got all the preparatory experience needed.