Saturday, December 29, 2007

And I'm back. I still have sea legs, which is an interesting feeling--there's the persistent expectation for the ground to tilt up in front of me or pull up behind me, and my legs automatically feel lighter or heavier. Then it sort of feels like my body's disappointed, and there's a subtle jarring sensation.

I didn't get off the ship--the MS Elation--once all week. I just wasn't interested in setting foot in Ensenada or Cabo San Lucas, our two stops, to see cheap tourist crap amongst conspicuously expensive homes juxtaposed with poor kids selling Chiclets. So from 1:30pm Monday to 8:30am to-day, I was on water.

First thing, when my family and I walked onto the deck on Monday, a guy handed each of us the first, and the only free of charge, drink of the voyage, a Mai Tai in a big, pink plastic goblet reminiscent of a humming bird feeder. It tasted a little like toothpaste. Meanwhile, an over-amplified reggae band was performing onstage, first, predictably enough, "Stir it Up", followed, somewhat bafflingly, by an unselfconsciously eerie, merry rendition of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". The singer, who claimed between songs to be "keeping it nice", didn't seem to find anything ironic about "That long black cloud is comin' down" when everyone within earshot was on an expensive vacation.

The faux-tropical atmosphere and the rum beverage put me in mind of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and the anachronistically grim song had me thinking of soft, naive bourgeoisie who thought they understood how cruel the world was. "But people die in the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie," said one voice in my brain.

"Yes," said another. "And two of the characters get married during a swordfight. Our lazy American voyeur mistakes charming bloodlust for a confrontation with reality."

There were several shows each night onboard the Elation, and like much else about the ship, the two I saw had the feel of cheesy, old-fashioned Las Vegas. During a dancing/singing medley on Tuesday, I kept thinking of the line from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas--this is what America would be doing every night if the Nazis had won the war. Though, actually, most of the people working on the ship seemed to be from eastern European countries like Romania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, which only added to my belief that the ship was at least partially controlled by gypsies.

I think I mostly got this impression from the hypnotism show I saw on Wednesday, when I saw a remarkable demonstration of a how a room full of rubes could be schnookered by a confident carney. This guy called "Jak" (pronounced like "Jacque") called for about ten "volunteers" from the audience, many of whom instantly clambered up onstage. He went through the "you're getting sleepy" spiel while the lights did funky things and lousy light jazz played. He pulled a few of the volunteers offstage, apparently for failing to go under, then suggested to the remaining group that it was getting very hot, and that the men ought to take off their shirts. Some of the men pulled at their shirts a little, but no-one took anything off. After this, Jak pared the group down to three young, attractive, white girls and three young, attractive, white men. Then he easily had them doing things like getting orgasms when they touched their foreheads with their thumbs, getting orgasms whenever he said the word "amore", and, for the men, experiencing the sensation of their penises falling off.

I could tell this was fake. Even if it weren't for the convenient configuration of the supposedly entranced volunteers, the behaviour of these individuals was broad and obviously timed for comedic effect, as when a girl, close-dancing with Jak, waited until Jak's back was to the audience before she grabbed his ass. It's only because I knew it was fake that I wasn't thoroughly disgusted with the proceedings.

The bulk of the crowd, however, ate it up completely, laughing and cheering at what looked to me just like six young people goofing off. Once again, it seemed to me these voyeurs were both naive and brutal. I don't think I could blame Jak and his cohorts if they didn't feel the slightest twinge of guilt for fleecing these people. The world really is full of suckers. I was strongly reminded of Nightmare Alley.

Jak asked for complete silence at the beginning of his act, but he noted without the slightest hint of irony that anyone who wanted a drink could still wave to a waiter to get one. All food and beverages were free onboard except for alcohol. And I found, in fact, there wasn't a whole lot to do on the ship except drink and gamble. I ended up spending around sixty dollars just on drinks for the week, and that was with exercising a lot of restraint. I sampled all kinds of liquors and cocktails I'd never tried before. I developed a fondness for straight, Captain Morgan rum, which Trisa recommended to me two weeks ago*. I think, also, that I can now officially declare that Jameson is my favourite whiskey. It's not nearly as sweet as any of the scotches I've tried and it's incredibly smooth.

There were bars all over the ship, but I noticed that a restaurant in the forward section made, by far, the best vodka martinis, in which I requested Grey Goose vodka consistently. I also tried a gin martini for the first time, and I liked it, but was surprised to find that gin seems to go to my head much faster than any other alcohol had previously. Though this impression may be enhanced by the fact that, that night, the sea had been particularly rough, and walking around felt like being thoroughly hammered even before the alcohol.

I gambled a little, too--I stuck exclusively to Blackjack. The first night, I played with my sister; she won forty dollars and I won thirty. The next night, I went by myself and lost the thirty in the time it took to blink four times. I'd won from a warm, friendly Romanian girl in glasses, but I was taken down by a severe, dark haired dame. The next night I managed to work ten dollars of chips up to thirty--getting two Blackjacks in a row--before slowly spiralling down, loosing a total of forty dollars that night. Then I swore it off, only returning once a couple nights later to lose five dollars--the dealer let me get up to twenty dollars before bringing me back down. I noticed this was a pattern. Thank the gods I resisted the very strong temptation to return to the table. As it was, I had exactly enough money to-day to buy the two new tires I needed for my car.

I was also saved by the fact that I'd brought things with me to do. Even though I'm a slow reader, I managed to read almost all of William S. Burroughs' Exterminator!, which was an incredibly satisfying read. I'd been in the mood for some Burroughs for quite some time, too. Exterminator!'s a collection of stories, and the story "Ali's Smile", about a murderous, kris-wielding Arab kid had a strange resonance as I watched CNN's coverage of Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Because CNN was one of the few decent channels available, I followed the story quite closely, when I wasn't busy feeling disgusted by the killing of a tiger. Knock this shit off, fuckers.

I drew a lot while listening to CNN, and I wrote a lot, too. Both tasks related to a really big project I'm working on that just seems to be getting bigger and bigger in scope, and, the gods know, I need it. I also had my video iPod, but I had no means of recharging it, so I had to make eight hours stretch all week. I was really tempted to watch Detour, one of the few full length movies I have on my iPod. I watched some of it to-day while my car was being worked on.

"Did you ever want to forget anything? Did you ever want to cut away a piece of your memory or blot it out? You can't, you know. No matter how hard you try. You can change the scenery. But sooner or later you'll get a whiff of perfume or somebody'll say a certain phrase or maybe somebody'll hum something. Then you're licked again!"

I love that movie. Anyway, I guess I'll leave you with a song that's been rather perfect for my mood lately;

*I neglected to mention talking to Trisa a couple weeks ago. I was really worked up on the 15th over something that'd been bothering me for months. It was a cold night, but walking in it at 11pm, I just felt hot. I paced back and forth by Gillespie Airfield venting to Trisa over the phone, and she did me the enormous kindness of not only listening but also of telling me that I had every right to be angry, that I had acted reasonably, and that I wasn't crazy. It's always nice to hear those things, particularly from a girl you used to have a thing for. I'm really thankful that she and I have managed to be friends.

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