Sunday Post 18: No Ketchup?

On our cruise two weeks ago our ship stopped in Haiti.  It wasn’t the Haiti I pictured in my mind.

The vessel pulled up to a brand new doc on an private beach on the Nortern Side of the Island.  As we meandered down the pier I fully expected Mr. Roarke and Tattoo to greet us with a lei and a mixed drink.

The beaches were white, the water was clear.  There was parasailing, a huge zip line, a market that was clean and well-kept.  Our kids spent an hour in the lagoon climbing up gigantic blow up slides and trampolines.  The grown ups lay single file on comfy beach chairs that were arranged by locals on staff.  We gave them a couple of dollars for their assistance.

At lunch, we stood in line for a Royal Caribbean feast:  grilled chicken, hamburgers on fresh made bread, several salads and corn on the cob.  All was good… until they ran out of ketchup.  How can you serve a hamburger with no ketchup?  As many times as they’ve served this meal over the past year, certainly they have a good read on how many packets of ketchup they need to serve the passengers.  Needless to say, I was annoyed.

I stood and waited – for ten or more minutes.

“It’s coming sir,” they promised.

“This is ridiculous,” I murmured under my breath.

This was ruining my lunch – I couldn’t believe they didn’t have ketchup.

Finally a brave gentleman stepped in front of the buffet line.

“We are out of ketchup.  I am very sorry.”

Unbelievable.  UN-BE-LIEVABLE!

I went to join the rest of our group.  I wasn’t the only one who craved the condiment, but clearly I was the most upset.

I had started on my oriental salad when Michelle walked over.

“Dad, do you see that boy over there?”

“Where?”

“He’s on the other side of the fence.  Why is he waving a plate in the air?”

I glanced up, intending to take only a slight break from my chicken.  About 100 yards away stood a dark-skinned boy, he looked about 8.  He was Michelle’s size. 

Royal Caribbean had done a good job of hiding the fencing and barbed wire that kept him out.  It was painted dark green and there was a large barricade and a paved road between the shelter where we sat and the 8 foot high fence.

As I froze and watched, this boy lifted his shirt and began rubbing his stomach with his right hand, his left still waving the plate in the air.

“Daddy, I think he’s hungry.  We need to help him.  Can I give him my food?”  Michelle was visible concerned, her eyes big – her desire to help immense.  But there wasn’t a way – the barricade too thick, a security guard policing the area.

He’d have been satisfied with a ketchupless hamburger.  Why wasn’t I?

The Navigator of the Seas Part 1: The Not So Good

Posted by Danny

Spring Break!!!!  Whoa-Whoa!!!!

Someone once told me that the best way to keep your kids from getting into trouble during spring break is to get them in the habit of taking a great family trip that week.  I’m doing my best!

Last week we headed to Florida for a five night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas.  I’d never been on a cruise before so this was quite an eye opener.  We really had a great time and I’m going to write more later this week.  But there were a few things I could have done without!

I went with some reservations.  I get a little claustrophobic and don’t really like the idea of being somewhere with no escape. 

My fears were realized when I walked into our room.  It was smallish.  And the bathroom – whew.  The shower was so little I had to wash the front of me, back out into the room, turn around and shimmy back in to wash my back side.  I am convinced that some of the passengers were unable to wash themselves on the boat – there just wasn’t a way.

I’m also convinced that one woman, who quickly garnered my attention (and ever other male on board) at the 11th floor pool, had to wash some of her parts individually as well.  She should have considered that before her surgery.

On night four, late in the evening, the boat pretty much turned over.  I didn’t like that. 

 I was in my room and although I did not fall, I turned sideways, back parallel to the door.  A friend was in a store on the Lido deck (I’m not sure of the name of that deck but I learned Lido from the Love Boat and liked saying it) and the sunglasses display toppled over onto the floor.  Apparently several hundred pair.  The women manning the shop began spouting out what must have been cuss words in a foreign tongue.  My friend wasn’t sure if they were torked at the captian or if they were fearful for their lives.

That night I slept with no covers thinking that if water came rushing in, I’d struggle to get the wet blanket off.  If it weren’t for a couple of Tylenol PM, I don’t think I’d have seen sleep the rest of the cruise after that debacle.

The final thing I wasn’t a fan of was the constant rocking.  It was particularly noticeable in bed and in the bathroom.   At night I sort of felt like my mother was rocking me again – a couple of nursery rhymes and I’d have been sucking my thumb.  It made me feel happy inside.  But peeing on board was like trying to take a leak while on a skateboard.  Number 2 wasn’t much better – tough to read a Newsweek in motion.  You didn’t move much in the shower because each side of you was sandwiched by the wall.

I never got sea sick but had to take a break while ice skating on the Promenade Deck (again, not sure of the real name).  Yes, they had an ice skating rink.  And an ice dancing show – which was remarkable considering it was the size of a school multipurpose room.  Imagine a triple sow cow in your den.

I nearly cried as we walked off the ship on Saturday… for two reasons:

1) I decided it would be faster to carry our own lugguage out of the ship.  I toted eight bags down six floor because we couldn’t get an elevator to stop and then they requried you to walk three miles to customs where I declared two $11 neclaces and a pair of pink earrings.

2) We had to drive 12 hours home.

Dancing

Posted by Danny

There is a lot of writing about guilt and grief.  I think many people who lose someone harbor a great deal of guilt or have a number of regrets about things they wish they’d have done differently.  I only have one.

Lisa and I loved to dance.  We weren’t always the best dancers on the floor, but we could hold our own.  We particularly enjoyed shagging.  You learn a handful of twists and turns and you can use those moves with any number of genres. 

I remember last spring when it first dawned on me that I would never be able to dance with my wife again.  I was driving back to Raleigh from my parent’s house in Fayetteville; we were on I-95.  The radio was on and the kids were distracted.  I don’t recall the song; but I do recall the stunning realization that I would never again hold her on the dance floor. 

I could picture the smile on her face when we would master a new move.  I could almost feel her body in my arms as we moved closer for a slow song.

I could remember sitting at a table when the music started – she’d say, “I love this song.  Let’s go.”

“Nah.  There aren’t enough people out there yet.  I don’t want people staring at us.”  Or “Let’s have a drink first.  You know I move better after a glass of wine.”

And that is my regret.  We danced a lot.  But there were times she wanted to hit the floor and I resisted. 

I can’t believe I let those opportunities slip by.  Why did I care what other’s thought?  Why wasn’t I sure enough about myself to respond to her request?  If I just had one more dance –

I’m determined not to make that mistake again.  At the wedding last month in DC, I grabbed my girls as soon as the band started.  Michelle and I hit the dance floor – Jesse grabbed Stephanie.  Soon all five of us were hands in the air, shaking our booties.  When our favorite family rap came on (doesn’t every family have a favorite rap song?), we all stood in the middle of the dance floor, singing to the top of our lungs:

In New York,

Concrete jungles where dreams are made of,

There’s nothing you can’t do

Now you’re in New York,

These streets will make you feel brand new,

Big lights will inspire you

Let’s hear it for New York.

Jesse and DJ are learning the verses – the rap part between the chorus.  We’ll be even better prepared at the next event.

It’s really about maximizing your time.  It’s really about maximizing your opportunities.  It’s about not sitting out of the dance.

Dad, got any gum?

Posted by Danny (written last Sunday)

My trip responsibilities used to be:

1)      Carry all suitcases to the car after they were packed.

2)      Load the car.

3)      Get cash.

4)      Drive.

5)      Swim with the kids at the hotel (Lisa did NOT swim at indoor hotel pools).

6)      Carry all bags into the house when we returned home.

My have things changed. 

Packing:  I do pretty well at remembering the critical things that must accompany us on trips:  bathing suits, toothbrushes, rubber bands for hair.  It’s picking out the clothes that stresses me out.  I can’t imagine that we’d ever be in Boston in February and need shorts or flip flops.  But I pack them.  What if a heat wave rises from South America?  What if we unexpectedly get invited to a Hawaiian themed party when we get there?  My mother-in-law can fit two weeks’ worth of clothes in a book bag.  It’s a combo of good folding and strategic planning.  Not me.  What if someone pees in their pants?  Might need an extra outfit or two.

Shopping:  In Boston I went with DJ to a store to help pick out flats (that’s a type of women’s shoes) for the cotillion dance on Thursday.  Actually, she’d already been in the store with her Nana and Aunt Sallie, but since I was carrying the credit card, I got to make the final decision.  She asked for a size 8.  I made the woman bring an 8 ½ too.  I’m not sure why – when Lisa bought the kids shoes, there always seemed to be a lot of boxes sitting around; it seemed like one just wasn’t enough.  I had her stand up and walk and felt for her toe.  I’m pretty sure I came across as knowledgeable.  After that I looked at the saleswoman and at DJ and said, “What do you guys think?”

“The 8” they replied in unison. 

“Yeah – my gut was leaning in that direction too.”

Gum:  Does gum come with the pocketbook or do you have to buy it separately?  I’ve never met a woman who did not have gum or lifesavers on her person.  Men produce sweat.  Women produce lifesavers.  They never run out.   I’m now in charge of trip gum.

As kids my mom always made us split a piece of gum in half.  Until last year, I didn’t know you could fit an entire stick in your mouth.  And when I finally did chew a full Wrigley’s, I felt ashamed. 

“Dad, why can’t we have the whole piece?” 

“I don’t know, ask your grandmother next time you see her.”

Skipping and dancing:  Today at the airport, Michelle was holding my hand and said, “I like to skip.”  Although it was phrased as a comment, it was really a question.

“I like to skip too.  There’s a big, long open hallway right here.”  And off we went.  I thought I’d get some eye rolls but instead got warm smiles.  It gave me enough courage to take the next step (the airport wasn’t crowded).  I learned to Chasse and Grand Jete.  Took me about 12 tries, but once mastered, it was good enough for Michelle to brag on me to her siblings.  At least I think it was bragging, she said, “Everybody, everybody, look at Dad!” and she was laughing in a proud sort of way.

I might give Jesse some props too.  Yesterday at the nephew’s birthday party, he broke out some impressive moves to in Sync’s Bye Bye Bye.

I did do two things that are typical dad.  We ate dinner at Dunkin’ Donuts tonight and this morning I coaxed Stephanie into going to the lobby to fetch my coffee.  Some things never change.

Raleigh or Bust!

Posted by Danny
We’ve escaped!  Flew out of Raleigh at 6:55 am on Thursday to spend a long weekend with Lisa and Jesse’s sister and her family in Boston.  Finally, we get to meet Kinsey – the new addition to the family (remember who’s the Godfather!?).

This summer, Sallie, Matt, Sam and Kinsey are moving to Raleigh!  Sallie has accepted a job with Duke and Matt is seeking employment in the Raleigh area (he is gainfully employed in Boston – head of marketing and communications for a large national nonprofit – if anyone out there needs him, I can forward his resume in a matter of seconds).  We can’t get them down here soon enough.

I thought I’d share the top ten things that I believe Matt and Sallie are going to love about Raleigh:

10.  Not as much snirt (snow mixed with dirt).

9.  We throw our empty bottles of liquor in the recycle bin.

8.  No Maritime museums where you have to look at Uncle Jesse in too small dress-up clothes.

7.  If you’re a witch, less chance you’ll get burned at the stake.

Site of the Salem Witch Trials (or close)

6.  No toll roads – ahh, well maybe we shouldn’t really count that one (North Carolina Turnpike Authority – ooops!).

 5.  We don’t have these.

I'm not sure what this is and I'm not 100% comfortable sleeping in the same town with it tonight.

4.  No need for locks on your hub caps – seriously, they just bought a new minivan and opted for the hub cap locks (we do not have hub cap locks in NC).

3.  I think there may be a Fatima’s franchise in Wake County.

Fatima's Psychic Studio

2.  Warmer climate; no need for a hat like this.

DJ's cheer pom poms weren't that big

And the number one reason Matt and Sallie are going to love Raleigh:

1.  They may be sited in this blog more often!

Goin’ to the Lodge

Posted by Danny

Hell is not hot.  It is cold.  It is not below us; it is southwest of Raleigh.  It is in Concord, NC.  It is…The Great Wolf Lodge.

I am in a wonderful program run through the YMCA, the Y Princess Program.  It is a father child program that is similar to scouting; however, the father and child are required to participate in all activities together.  We have ten fathers and their daughters and we camp, participate in service projects, and earn patches for our tribal vests.  Each person in the tribe chooses an Indian name.  Mine is Screamin’ Hambone.  Michelle is T. Bird

We are supposed to camp each year to earn a patch.  My fellow fathers decided they did not want to camp this year, probably because last year we camped in the middle of a swamp in Halifax County.  The bathroom, where you slept,  and where you ate, were one in the same.  So someone suggested we go to The Great Wolf Lodge.  It is an indoor water part north of Charlotte.

This is what we do without wives.

It started innocently enough.  We met for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel near the airport.  A nice creamer and syrup pyramid.  We arrived at The Lodge at 1 and I’ve been one big chill bump ever since.  Someone told me it would be warm in the water park.  That person is a liar.  They say the water is heated.   That is a lie.  It’s a bit warmer than lake water in February in Montreal, but I suspect that is only because of the volume of pee from the 13,800 children floating around me in the giant wave pool.

It’s like a swimming flash mob.

There are people here wearing bathing suits that show me things that I don’t want nor need to see.  One woman was wearing the same size bikini as Michelle.  And yet she was the same size as Ethel Merman.  She leaned over and I saw everything from the waist up.  I mean EVERYTHING.  She caught my eye.  I sort of shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “It happens…”  I quickly dove under water which only made me colder – but it seemed my only option at the time.

There is a really neat slide called The Canyon.  You walk up 84 (I counted them) stairs and get on a large raft (sits four).  The 24 second ride is tremendous.  Want to ride again?  No problem.  It’s only 84 steps away.  For some reason I did not feel a need to jog this afternoon.

I did see a really interesting tattoo of The Mona Lisa surrounded by a burning bush.  And the calf it was painted on looked like Popeye’s.

I’m not a nut about crowds.  I am not a nut about standing in line – especially with my shirt off while I’m dripping wet and the air temp is 62 degrees.  I did not like other people’s rafts rubbing up against my body in line.  It made me uncomfortable.  I do not like buffets – too many people breathing on my food.  This is like  a big Golden Corral of water rides. 

They do provide towels and they’re clean.  They use so much bleach that it’s sort of like drying off with a hairbrush.  My friend said the towels have a dual purpose:  they dry you off and act as an exfoliator. 

I act as if I was miserable the entire time and that’s not exactly true.  There are some good points about The Lodge.  It’s reasonably priced and there is a lot to do.  Plus, it’s not far from Raleigh and they serve beer at the pool (I imagine if you drank enough, you’d warm up quite well).  I love this group of guys as I have in all three of my Y Princess tribes.  It’s worth the trip for that.  Michelle had a blast – we were actually the last ones to leave today.  But the best thing about this weekend?  I got to be a big chill bump for thirty hours with one of my favorite people on this earth.  Man, I love that child!

Wedding Weekend in DC

Posted by Danny

Top ten things about our wedding weekend in DC

Number 15 (I couldn’t list just 10, sorry):  Stephanie taught me that “sit on a potato pan Otis” spelled backwards is “sit on a potato pan Otis.  I thought she was a genius to figure that out!  Jesse says he’s heard it before.

Number 14:  Everyone in the family tried brussels sprouts for the first time.  One enjoyed them, two were neutral, two gagged at the table and spit them out in their napkins.

Before sprouts

Number 13:  No plastic bunny cups.

Where's the bunny?

Number 12:      A full cavity search at the Capitol and the White House.  Those silly secret service agents.

Number 11:      The reading of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Seuss, at the wedding.  Well, he didn’t read it but the book is by him.

Number 10:      The champagne tower.  Ideally, two waiters pour campaign into the top glass and it spills over into the next layer and so on.  Because the venue was an old mansion, the floor was a bit warped and it didn’t work exactly as planned.  But it’s a really cool idea!

Number 9:  An individual, personalized note inscribed for each guest at the wedding!  A thank you note before they get the gift!  Now that’s class.

Number 8:  Really nice handwriting. 

Number 7:  Uncle Jesse saying “spies” in a whispered tone, 167 times and around every corner at the Spy Museum.

Number 6:  The bride and her father (from a dad’s perspective, better than a bride and her new husband).

Number 5:   13 year olds who look so old they are offered wine at the reception (she’s wearing her mom’s shoes!).

Number 4:  Slick backed hair that makes you look ten years older than you are.

Oops, wrong picture - not enough hair to slick!

Number 3:  Dessert on a stick.

Number 2:  Yoko Ono, Jr. (wore them all weekend long indoor and out).

Number 1:  A big bench; a happy family.

Clampets Hit The City

Posted by Danny

Do you ever feel that you are in a social situation that is a bit over your head?  I will reiterate that my wife was a debutante – that must mean something.  If I can get my girls to stop burping at the table (and other things), perhaps there is hope for them too.  One of my major fears is that we have lost all refinement in our household.  Although Jesse and I are comfortable at the country club, we certainly aren’t Miss Manners.

We just arrived in DC for the wedding of dear friends, Kenny and Katherine.  They were in no hurry to wed, I think they’ve been dating for 15 years.  Katherine is refined.  That is why she chose the Hotel Monaco as the hotel for her guests.  It is REALLY nice.

We arrived in the Katsopolis family van.  My father in law keeps this ten year old vehicle just for trips like this one.  And it has come in very, very handy.  But when you arrive at a hotel and the bellhop scowls and says, “We can’t park that – it’s too big”, you know there’s a problem.  I bet if we arrived in a new Cadillac Escalade, his butt would find a spot big enough.

I know, it's as big as a Y van

The entrance was beautiful. 

When we registered, they asked if we wanted a goldfish in our room.  My response?  “Is it free?”  That’s a tacky response, but I’ve been to The Ritz before and been charged $10 for plastic cups.  And I am “cheap”, according to my first born.

He was free (or you wouldn't be seeing a picture of him)

His name was George Washington.   My kids changed his name to Toby.  Toby, really?  What about Patrick Henry or Harthacnut?  Or Edmund or Antonin?  Out of all the names in the world, they chose Toby.

Toby? Why Toby?

The room is nice and there are leopard print robes (I wish Lisa was still here).  I bet I’ll get charged for this.

 

There’s a phone by the toilet.  Now that’s convenient (how could you have a conversation with someone when you are sitting on the toilet?).

Admit it, we've all done it

There is a stairwell that looks like “Gone with the Wind”.

“Oh, Rhett! Please, don’t go! You can’t leave me! Please! I’ll never forgive you!”

Frankly my dear, I don't give a...

Their art is nice, but I think I could have painted it.

It's red and purple - pretty, but is this art?

I call this one "Yellow"

Their curtians (I mean drapes – sorry Miss Manners), are pretty and very, very big.

Nice drapes Monaco

Hallway reminds me of something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

If you look at the rug too long it upsets your stomach

But the best part of Hotel Monaco besides the fact that the shower curtain smells good?  Free Cabernet in the lobby!  I feel more refined than ever.

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