The first time I ever needed my passport! I've had it for 15 years, planned to use it a dozen times. Something always came up. This time it didn't.
Money is tight right now, I'm getting by nicely but there's not a lot of wiggle room for exorbitant vacations and unnecessary luxuries but let's say 'thanks to the generosity of a friend' I was able to take a cruise to the Bahamas last week. It wasn't a lush trip, we didn't have a stateroom with a balcony, but it was definitely one of the most memorable weeks of my life. For many reasons.
I went with a friend who had recently had knee replacement surgery. I was nursing my bum knee more than usual, so we figured we would hobble along nicely together. And we did. We exchanged our fancy canes according to what we were wearing and even though our sizes were several numbers apart, we could exchange some of our clothing. And we wore the same size shoes!
We had dreaded the long lines and potentially hours spent standing, waiting to board etc. No worries, mon. We arrived, were directed into a covered building that was being used for handicapped parking. No charge (the healthy sheep had to pay $50 to pay to be in the acres of parking in the sun and rain). Wheelchairs were waiting at the door when the shuttle arrived with us. We were taking directly to our cabin where our luggage awaited us. It was the first time for either one of us that being "handicapped" had bonuses. We unpacked, settled in and headed for the most important part of any cruise. The food. It was a bit overwhelming. Like a city on the sea, there were shops and bars and restaurants lined up along a long corridor. We chose burgers and fries for that first meal. Then a couple of hours later, we went to the main dining room for a gourmet meal. I just had appetizers, my stomach was too small after three months of eating nothing but small, healthy meals. I fixed that little problem over the next three days. I could fit a Volkswagen in there now.
We both slept like babies that night, rocked in the cradle of the deep. We missed breakfast we were sleeping so well. We finally pried our eyes open and wrestled our way out of bed. My main complaint of the cruise was the horrible mattresses (if you're cruising Carnival, ask about their mattress situation, I'm pretty sure there are prisoners sleeping on better mattresses than we had...I could feel springs all over it, and there was a definite dip in the center. Kept me from falling out of bed, but also made turning over near impossible, even without the weight of two dachshunds (sniffle) holding me in place. (Thanks so much to Aunt Susan for letting the girls stay with her while mama ran away from home. I think they would have preferred staying with her instead of coming back home with me yesterday).
After the laborious task of deciding what we wanted for brunch, we settled in the "Serenity Area" where no one under 21 was allowed. Unfortunately, 21 year olds out in the world for the first time are a lot louder and more obnoxious than many younger kids. We aimed for the pool (one of the four that was promised) to find a teacup filled with screaming children. Not a fan of kid soup, we looked for the others, only to find that they were actually teeny "whirl pools" that were filled with old people mostly. Eww. So, we went back to the cabin and read until time for dinner. (another gourmet meal in the dining room. I had "cured salmon" and I think it absolutely needed more medical treatment. It didn't taste 'cured' to me. Definitely, still ailing. P.U.) I did have escargot (delicious), cheeses I don't know the name of and cheesecakes of absolutely mind-numbing variety. Like I said, I can fit a VW in my stomach now. Nothing will ever top the chocolate melt cake though. I drool now thinking of it.
After supper we went for a stroll along the promenade. While waiting for the glass elevator (I conquered another fear) I noticed a young girl crying and trying to tug her dress back up on her shoulders. I went over and asked if she was ok. "No," she sniffled. "I will never be ok again." She had bruises and scratches on her shoulder and her dress was more off than on. I walked with her over to the elevator to take her to the clinic and Jackie took over the "mothering." Suddenly this big tough young dude strides up and demands to know "why she's crying...again...all you've done of this f-ing cruise is cry." I stepped between them first and suddenly Jackie (Chan) pushes me out of the way and gets in the guy's face. I was impressed with her extensive knowledge of curse words. Nose to nose they growled at each other as the guy continued to use his entire vocabulary. Mainly consisting of "F**k You, Bitch!" At one point he suggested that since we were so concerned about the girl, maybe we should just F each other. Then he called Jackie an "old lady in a stupid looking outfit." (A nice flowing scarf dress, perfect for cruising) Jackie inched him backward, wielding her cane and denouncing the marriage of his parents, several rectal references, as well as a few words I still have to look up to be sure what they mean. I was holding her by the back of the dress trying to pull her away from the elevator eye so the door would close. She thought I was "holding her back" so she aimed a few of her choicest words at me followed by "let me at him." I didn't. He took a step forward and I used my cane to push him backwards and gave her dress a bigger tug. She stepped back into the elevator and the doors closed and the big tough dude strode away angrily down the hallway. When the doors opened on the next floor, the girl dashed out and we never saw either of them again. We told security what had happened, but when it was suggested we might need medical assistance for "shock" we both dissolved in laughter. Poor guy hadn't known how to handle two pissed off old ladies. With canes. He must have thought we'd be a pushover. We weren't. Jackie was a force to be reckoned with. And I had her back...well, her side and a handful of dress. A few minutes later Jackie stopped laughing and asked pitifully, "Does my outfit really look stupid?" Then we dissolved into laughter again. She, we both, had been inches away from a potentially life threatening situation and what she took away from it was that she might not be dressed correctly.
The next day we headed ashore to Nassau's shopping district. I got a lovely new black straw hat at Straw Market, as well as the traditional beggar bag with "Nassau, Bahamas" on it. We had "Bahamian punch" at a drink bar. Non alcoholic, but SO much carbonation. I couldn't speak without belching for an hour. Which produced hilarity. And more belching ensued. We were the talk of the town I'm sure. We WERE dressed appropriately though, so no snide remarks from the peanut gallery today. I took a break sitting on Jackie's walker while she prowled one of 2000 shops we went through looking for the perfect mug and shirt for her husband. I didn't realize the front of the shop tilted a bit and suddenly I was careening out of the store, sitting backwards, flailing my cane trying to catch my balance, and out onto the busy sidewalk. I was stopped just inches from a bustling street by a very handsome dark black man who grinned, gave me a hug and said "slow down my beauty, life is too short to hurry" in a most delightful accent. I fell in love. But he soon melted into the crowd and was gone. Ah, those island romances. Now I understand.
The day melted away and I realized I had come to the Bahamas and hadn't even gotten sandy feet. I was bemoaning that as we aimed back to the ship 45 minutes from last boarding call. Another delightful dark skinned man asked if I wanted to go to a beach. I said yes. Minutes later we were in a strange van, speeding through alleyways and tiny back streets, weaving among stalled traffic (driving on the wrong side of the road, I didn't remember they did that there as well as across the other pond) and being met with waves and smiles instead of the curses and gunshots he would have gotten here in the States. I leaned over and whispered to Jackie "tell mama I loved her"...and we both dissolved in nervous laughter, neither of us completely sure we weren't being taken to our final resting place to rest in pieces. Suddenly though the tacky houses faded away and it was the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. Pristine, and not a soul in sight except for a lifeguard. "This is where I bring my family" the driver said. "Tourists don't find it." It's a portion of Junkanoo Beach, but not the part where most drivers take tourists. "You looked like good people" he explained. He waited while we danced in the surf and I collected a couple of pieces of coral stone. The lifeguard came down and took our phones to take pictures and it was the absolute best part of the entire trip for me! Finally the driver said "we must go if I get you back in time" so we left. I WILL be back someday!!!! As we got out he handed me a bright yellow bag that weighed at least 20 pounds. "I saw you pick up a rock so I got you more." He had picked up rocks while I was cavorting. What a sweet sweet man. I could easily have fallen in love all over again. But he disappeared into traffic, weaving like a madman to get home to his family that he takes to the most beautiful beach in the world. Later when the porter groaned as he loaded my luggage asking "Whatcha got in here, lady? Rocks?" I just smiled.
My phone step-tracker said I'd walked almost 3 miles that day. While I was carrying my phone. I'd done a bit of walking before we left the ship when my phone was in the room. So, I'm calling it 3 miles. My knee today says it was 30. It lies sometimes.
We took a quick catnap, then showered and dressed for dinner. We stopped for a photo of the two of us together in front of a pic of our ship with fireworks going off in the night sky. When the traditional poses were done, we went into "air guitar" mode and that was the picture that sums up my entire week. NOT being an adult. Letting go and letting life take me wherever it wants. I'm a willing piece of flotsam in the ocean of life...
We were the entertainment every evening in the "formal dining hall" where we dined with six different people each night. We were great straight men for each other's jokes. Except when I told our waiter that it was our anniversary (I knew they gave free caramel cakes to anniversary couples). Jackie's eyes just got wide when I explained that it was our fifth anniversary "God Bless America." Of course everyone caught on soon that I was joking, so there was no cake. Thanks JS. Sigh. (Jackie's weak contribution to the skit was to say that she was the woman of the pair. Ahem.)
In a crowded elevator I asked Jackie if her chest scar was from a chemo port (as mine is). No, she said solemnly. It's a gunshot wound. The elevator got very quiet as we talked about her ordeal, pretending to not notice that everyone was hanging on every word and when the doors opened at each floor no one got out. Finally we got down to our floor and we stepped off. My last words "...at least you saved the little girl." A sigh of "awwwww" followed us down the hallway. (Incidentally, my chemo scar became a knife wound, fighting off an assailant who attacked me and a friend. I didn't even realize I was wounded until she gasped and pointed at the streaming blood after the armed man fled into the night. I had wounded him, so he didn't get far and I got a medal for helping the police catch him. Just in case none of you knew that. A few people on the USS Ecstasy do.)
All in all, it was a fabulous few days. I will never forget any moment. Not sure I want to cruise again soon, but I WILL be going back to Nassau. Where my lovely private empty beach will be waiting. Until then...
THAT'S MY STORY
I've never been normal. I've never tried to be. I can't imagine anything more boring.
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