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I was wrong. - johnnyboatshow
johnnyboatshow
johnnyboatshow
I was wrong.
Now that I’ve written a somewhat comprehensive treatise on why seeing the world via cruise ship is a total crock of shit, I’ve realized I’m wrong. Or rather not totally wrong, but, I went off at the mouth and left out a couple of very important exceptions to the “crock of ship” rule.

One exception is if you’re traveling to places that are genuinely pretty exotic and not just “things to see before you die” places.

The ship has changed courses from the “famous landmarks of Italy that you have to take a two hour train ride to get to and then wait forever to get into and even then they might be closed” itinerary. Which on paper seems like a medium-level bummer. Like maybe I’d actually prefer another shot of going to Florence on a day when there’s not a museum workers’ strike (What did they want? Chairs?) instead of hanging out in Malaga, Spain.

But guess what? I would WAY prefer hanging out in Malaga, Spain. The only super duper touristy thing to see there is Picasso’s birthplace and official museum. And also there’s a pretty low key castle, but castles are pretty old news at this point (extremely bad pun intended) and are hardly worth mentioning. If you’re a town and you don’t have a castle and you’re anywhere near any coastline in Europe, then you’re pretty much bullshit. They built castles back in the day even if all they had was, like, two sheep.

So Malaga turns out to be an awesome and beautiful town that I’d never even really heard of until I was there admiring it. And best of all nobody there was telling me where to go because it would have been like, “Did you go to the Picasso museum?” “Yes.” “Great. See you around.” And then done. It wasn’t overcrowded with maniacal tourists taking snapshots of random tapas bars. It was just right.

The other exception to “crock of ship way to see the world” is if you’re allowed in the crew areas.

I have been allowed in the crew areas.

Now that I’ve been on for a month and the bad episode of M.A.S.H.ness of the whole setup has settled down somewhat, it turns out I have all the privileges I was worried about not having. I just do my own thing and nobody seems to mind.

So that includes the crew bar, which is a great resource because it has people in it that aren’t from America, aren’t rich, and aren’t old. In other words it’s totally different from the passenger bars. And it’s cheaper.

It was there where I spent about an hour last week listening to a Honduran cocktail waiter tell me about how America is being ruined by immigrants and foreigners who come to the country expecting everything to be easy and then sell drugs and shoot guns. Aside from the grammatical fun of “selling drugs” and “shooting guns” being two separate activities, or two otherwise benign activities which combined make for trouble (as in “I shoot guns, sure, but I would never sell drugs”), this was also a startling source for such a thesis. In other words, I met a foreign xenophobe. An adamant foreign xenophobe. From Honduras.

All kinds of things like that happen when you live on a ship. And that is a good way to see the world. By meeting people who are from all kinds of places all over it and listening to them drunkenly tell you what’s wrong with everything.

Today I got my hair cut by a Phillipino ladyboy, for example. No biggie. Nice person. Great haircut. I got no complaints. And who am I to raise an eyebrow if he comes from a place where there aren’t nearly as many women as men so they sometimes raise pretty boys as if they’re women for their whole lives so that they just are pretty much women except they have boy parts but it’s really no big deal to anybody because they need more women and they are strangely pretty in a way that I find not at all haunting to my very marrow. Get over yourself, me, if you think this is “weird” by American standards. The puritan days are over and it’s time to tip a ladyboy ten bucks in cash for services rendered to your hair. No big deal.

And you know what’s great about this? It’s that if I buy this ladyboy a bottle of Rose at the crew bar, then she (she wears lady clothes in crew areas), will likely end up telling me what can be done to fix the world. And I’m guessing she’ll probably be right about some things I’ve never considered before.

Also great about the crew bar, and just from knowing people, is you get the benefit of combined experience. I know that I already wrote that this combined experience mostly amounts to knowing great places to go eat lunch, but really great places to eat lunch are quite a nice little slice of life. If you let them be.

There’s a guy on the ship who sings showtunes and plays piano and knows everything about everything and he’s best described as being an “old fruit,” but in the best way possible. Like he’s basically a character from a Wes Anderson movie. If Wes Anderson was somehow also John Waters. And he lives in a farm house in Normandy and knows everybody and is generally the most likeable guy you’ll ever meet in your life, even if his general countenance when you speak to him can best be described as “a gentle, distant leer.” I don’t care. I have a friend in my life who’s been known to describe the most recent Times crossword as “a real dilly of a pickle.” And he’s a dude and not my Grandmother Peanut. Do you? I didn’t think so. So, you know, I’m on cloud nine out here.

And then when you go around form place to place, these people who work on the crew tell you about places they’ve been and you sort of all make your way through these places together, and you figure out what’s bullshit and what’s not.

Hey.

Do you know what they have for sale in Morocco?

Goat’s heads.

If you pay a Moroccan cab driver to take you to the Berber market and show you around he will try to hurry you past the meat market and you will tell him you want to see it and you’ll walk through a watery pool of bloody hose water into an inner courtyard and then it’ll smell not technically bad, just the air will feel kind of dense with slaughter as you breathe it in, and your throat will close up a little bit and your cab driver will tell you that that hanging meat hunk over there is a camel’s leg and he won’t mention the four severed goat’s heads with the hair and ears and eyes and everything still in place and the tongues lolling out of their mouths. You’ll think about The Lord of the Flies and you will feel slightly faint in some remote corner of your brain that you can control by telling yourself “hey, no big deal, that’s for goat’s head soup, yum yum” and you will breathe the strangely blood filled air again and be almost overwhelmed before noticing that five feet to your right there’s a café where people are just hanging out and eating lunch and it would probably be impolite to freak out and vomit, although you don’t know that for certain because this is a place so foreign to you that there are severed goats heads on tables five feet away from a reasonably priced out of the way al fresco place. That’s a major league “grow up, sissy” that you won’t soon forget. Not to mention a genuinely interesting place to eat lunch.

So maybe I can lighten up on the whole “woe is me” routine a little. I am enjoying it out here. It’s super weird. Things have been fine since I started telling myself “oh yeah, it’s super weird, that’s the whole thing with these, remember?”

p.s. Confidential to everybody: I am having a somewhat hard time with email, which is to be expected with ship internet, but I am getting emails. It just mostly fails to send my reply emails along. I will try, but sometimes the best thing to do when it swallows a whole email is to just walk away, lest I go totally crazy from frustration. But please keep sending me messages. They are great. And if they're important and I need to take action on them in some way, I'll figure out a way to do that. The phone is 20 bucks for 43 minutes and the hours are all messed up, but I'll be there in a flash if you need me, no problem.
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