War Comes to Middle America

A hometown Life magazine picture taken in the summer of 1942 by legendary photographer Alfred Eisenstadt.  Loehr Drug Store, Brown Shoe Store, and the St. George Hotel were still there when I grew up.  The shoe store had a fluoroscope–later outlawed as being unsafe.  The courthouse in the background looks the same today.  Parking is less chaotic today.  Traffic flows in a circle around the town square–which is to the right.  This was along the first routing of US Hwy. 66.

Lundi Gras

Wasn’t it strange, with everyday being about the same as a retiree–this was the end of the Mardi Gras season?  This year with even more finality, as it coincided with the conclusion of Super Bowl festivities.

It’s Fat Tuesday, Lundi Gras, Fasching Dienstag–whatever you choose to call it.  For all intents and purposes this is the celebratory last hurrah.  Children throughout the state have the school day off to enjoy parades, catch prizes, beads, candy thrown by parade float riders.

This is not a holiday from school in other parts of the country.  Local businesses are closed.  Illinois school children took off for Casimir Pulaski Day.  Casimir Pulaski was a Polish priest and Revolutionary War hero.  Would this have been a holiday, had there not been more people of Polish descent in the Chicago area, than in Krakow, Poland?

There are no more official, rowdy, celebratory holidays, till Fourth of July–sigh.  Wait, what am I saying?  There’s St. Patrick’s Day and Easter parades.  OK, I didn’t mean to offend those that quaff beer dyed with FD&C green #7 once a year.

Ground Hog Day, now there’s a strange holiday dedicated to a giant rodent.  Too bad I missed it this year.  I didn’t observe the groundhog seeing/not seeing his shadow.  Does this mean winter will endure?

“Max, I just brushed you off.  You’re dirty again.”  There’s dead grass everywhere.  Spring can’t come soon enough.


–Image, http://www.lynnjordanphotography.com/



The Debate Continued

“Do we have any visitors?”

“I’m Bill and I’m not a cruise-a-holic.”

“Hi Bill.”

“It’s been nine years since my last cruise.”

“I’m not even sure why I’m here.”

“There are other things I could be doing right now other than cruising.”

“No, I’ve not succumbed to the allure of the seas, exotic ports–the cacophony of different languages and customs.  Duty-free hasn’t been calling me.”

“It’s OK to be in denial.”

“Why did I have to make a choice?  It was so negative.  Winners/losers–for every winner there had to be a loser.  Everyone liked winners and hated losers.”

The obligatory post-cruise satisfaction survey came today.  What to say?  It will go something as follows.

All-inclusive resorts were a better value for the money.  Air fare and lodging billed together in a neat package.  With the exception of solicitors at the airport hawking condo packages, time shares, real estate deals, there was none of what one finds at cruise ports of call.

There were no waits for pool or beach access.  Themed restaurants had no cover charges.  Only reservations were required.  Buffets were near beaches and swimming pools.

Every cruise ship shore excursion worker had their hands out for tips.  Wasn’t the excursion price enough to pay?  Whose fault was it they weren’t paid decent wages?

For my significant other, the debate ended there.

Excursions at all-inclusive resorts included tour guides, any ancillary fees, and lunch.  Brief stops for souvenirs at local shops were also included.  Some native dancers expected tips–as did bus drivers.

Accommodations were superior to cramped cruise ship interior cabins.  All rooms had balconies.  Liquor cabinet drinks weren’t extra.  Drinks at numerous bars weren’t extra cost either.

The ocean and beach were a short walk away.  Beach chairs, rafts, paddle boats were free of charge.  All were first come, first served.  Kayaks and jet skis were extra-cost items.

It was a question of money–good value for the money.  The dollar went further in Mexico.  Souvenir prices could be bargained down to more reasonable levels.

Why did it have to be one over the other?

What was wrong with liking both?

I liked to visit new destinations.  Learn new things about cultures, history, and geography.

Could it be that Cuba will be the newest cruise destination?  We cruised around the entire island nation.  It was so close and so far away.


Living On Island Time

DSCN0575Sensations passed:  gentle rocking, mechanical vibrations from massive engines–along with Cuban cigar smoke, countless buffets at the Windjammer, salty top deck ocean breezes.

Memories faded to tropical sunsets.  Special mention went to the Haitian reincarnation of Phil Silvers at the last port of call, who was,  “Going to give me a good deal on dese tings because he liked me.  For you, only fifty dollars.”  I donated ten dollars to the Haitian economy–made a quick escape.

Those that dared plant their derrieres at marathon cruiser, “Super Mario’s” reserved table and chairs on deck 11 were soon corrected.

Every morning, the Tai Chi lady greeted the sunrise.  She maintained remarkable flexibility for her age.

The “Loud Sisters,” from the state that made beer famous, provided daily entertainment.

A very large man, with an apparent sleep disorder, fell asleep with lighted cigarettes in his deck chair every day.  On the last day, two cups of coffee didn’t help.  His lighted cigarette fell on his chest, then to the floor.

“Sam” the retired medical supplies salesman from Chicago, who’d been everywhere,  sailed to new ports, new adventures.

Mariah, our Jamaican tour guide at Good Hope Plantation mansion, aspired to be a comedian.  Senior white folks parroted “Ya Mons” and other Jamaican inflections to the point of madness.

How could one go on a cruise and not partake of delicious food and drink?  Why couldn’t the embarkation on the first day go as smoothly as ship debarkation on the last day?

Well-organized seniors monopolized the adult pool area.  There was nary a seat to be found–ever.  Why couldn’t they give another old guy and his wife a break.

Mornings for early-risers began with trips to the fifth floor for coffee, then to the top deck to enjoy the sunrise.

Would I do it again?  Probably.  It was an overall good experience.  The entertainment was excellent.  The cabin and dining staff gave superb service.  It was my third cruise–three different cruise lines.

“License #GDO-XXXX, from Minnesota in the GMC Acadia, you’re a “badonkadonk” butt.”  The post-vacation drive home dragged on into late afternoon.

Discussion topic:  cruises vs all-inclusive resorts, which was better?  Spirited discussion ensued–to be continued at a later date.

It’s great to be home.  I’m master of the barbecue grill.  Today, my timing is a wee bit off.

Don’t worry ’bout a ting

Every little ting’s gonna be alright… Bob Marley & The Wailers






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