Day IV, 9:30am
Last night was the proverbial 'hoot', but I'll get to that later, because we're docking on Grand Cayman Island right now. Lots of clanging on the boat and swarthy shouts from the huh-huh-huh seeeeamen.
I went onto the balcony just now and nearly had an aneurysm, for there, off the starboard side, amidst the backdrop of the cute little island-pooh, is THE, I mean THEEEE muthafuckin' LOVE BOAT! (And just when the song was about to leave my poor, tortured mind.)
It makes sense for us to be here in the Cayman Islands we're on the Royal Caribbean line and all but the Love Boat the Pacific Princess seems dreadfully off-course. But then, so was the show. So was the entire decade in which the show was filmed, come to think.
Today's biking trip doesn't begin until the crack of noon, so it looks like we'll actually have time for breakfast without fucking up and missing the tour again. Who's learning!
Day IV, 11:pm
A quick note about yesterday's bingo before I get into today: we lost. Also, there are some hard-core bingo players in this world, I learned. There seems to be an entire lexicon unto bingo that is as baffling and nauseating as Ebonics. When, for example, B-22 is called, the die-hards (or, due to the average age of an average bingo player, the die-soons) start quacking. I have no clue why B-22 would induce someone to mimic a duck, but it would be hypocritical, considering my old Rocky Horror days, to frown upon someone else's arbitrary show responses.
The bingo emcée was gay. Really, really gay. Gayer-than-a-spring-day gay. I felt like a truck driver by comparison. At the beginning of each new round, he bade his bingo maniacs to shake the cards in the air, "getting rid of unlucky numbers!" and rub the card on various protruding parts of one's neighbor's body. And while I would pounce on the chance to touch a blue-hair, the situation was too gay to be erotic.
The only other bingo I've played is Drag Bingo, once in Philadelphia where drag queens on skates would deliver the cards to the tables, and several times in New Orleans where Bianco del Rio, a notoriously bitchy queen verbally abuses the players as she barks out bingo numbers with dizzying rapidity. But hey, you didn't come all this way to hear about my bingo fetish.
Last night we closed in on Rod Stewart. We saw him at the 70s disco party on the top deck nightclub. Ben expressed his reluctance to chase after straight boys, while I pointed out that at that moment, Rod Stewart was busy spelling out Y-M-C-A. Ben felt a little better about the situation.
(For those of you exasperated by the Rod Stewart story and our lack of initiative to establish simple contact, let me just explain that, in my experience, The Chase is delicious. Conversely, the Finding Out That The Cute Boy Is A Fucking Idiot is such a let-down, and more often than not an inevitability, that sometimes it's just better to play I Have A Secret Crush On You rather than I'm Talking To You Now And Damn You're Boring.)
But where were we?
Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island, BWI. What a pleasure to be in an exotic BWI. For once, it didn't mean Baltimore/Washington International, but British West Indies. And a very British experience it was, too, complete with driving on the left and a ubiquitous Macarena beat throughout the island.
We took a 'tender', which is one of those funny boat words for a 'boat', to the shore and browsed the duty-free zone while waiting for our bike tour to assemble. One would think from all these ports of call that the peasant villagers in Mexico and most of the islands in the Caribbean do nothing but shop for French liqueurs and Rolexes and diamond tennis bracelets. And rum cake. When they're not thatching a new roof for their hurricane-devastated house or scrounging for food, I mean.
At the appointed hour for our bike tour, we were the only two of an expected seven assembled. Stupidly, I had a moment of kindness and suggested we wait for the next tender to arrive to see if any more of our group would show up. Two did. A pair of chain-smoking old men. Oh fantastic, I thought, we're gonna make great time on these bikes!
We took a bus to the other end of the island which was a nice way to see most of Grand Cayman which has that charming typical feeling of the Caribbean about it: flat, cozy, palm trees, and piles and piles of rubbish along the road telling of the latest natural disaster which tore this poor place a new asshole. A renewed sense of relief came over me that Hurricane Ivan recently missed New Orleans by inches. I had been flippant about it before. After seeing stoves, cars and roofs of houses thrown far from their intended situations, I am genuinely humbled and thankful that the worst damage we suffered was a broom that fell over in the breeze. [Pic 1 | 2]
At the bike center, we were met by our authentic Caymanian guides, one from South Africa, and the other from Ireland. The tanned Irish man with the Caribbean accent and rubber flip-flops explained to us the basic mechanics of working a bike and pointed out in particular that the front brakes had been disengaged due to too many corpulent American tourists flipping over head-first and staining Her Majesty's roads with blood, fat, scraps of Polynesian printed clothing and lawsuits. Fair enough, I thought, though it's unnerving to ride a bike on which half the brakes don't work. "The island is flat," he explained. "You won't need brakes." Comforting?
We pedaled off, and for every moment of pedaling, there were four moments of coasting, thanks mainly to the pace set by the older men bringing up the rear who, as it turned out, weren't going to let a little physical exercise stop them from their chain smoking.
A note: I smoke. I'm smoking right now, as a matter of fact. You won't find anyone who understands the detrimental effects of a good old fashioned nic-fit as I, but I do try to refrain when, say, biking, swimming or otherwise exerting myself and relying entirely on my lungs.
Our first stop was at the world's only green turtle farm. That is to say the turtles were green. Not the farm itself. The turtles were also very large, some spanning three feet as they flopped about in their concrete pools. We were told that although the turtles were not carnivorous by nature, try to keep your fingers and things out of the tank because they would be bitten off. Being told what not to do is all I need to hear to do it, so I kept a watchful eye on our guide, awaiting the aversion of his watchful eye to cop a quick feel of the turtles.
"Ooo! Smooth" I said.
"Get your god damned hand out of that tank!" said Ben.
"You shut up!" I hissed.
(We're snuggly like that.)
It was explained that the turtle farm was begun as a refuge for this endangered species. "Well there certainly are a lot of them now!" we said as we looked about at all the tanks teeming with these great gorgeous things. "When are they set free?"
"Set free?" It came out that after five years, they are harvested for turtle soup and jewelry from their shells. A heartwarming story, I know.
The doomed turtle tour ended and we were given time to browse the little shop inevitably attached to the farm. "All tours end in the gift shop," prophesied Ben.
The shop contained turtle-themed items. And rum cake.
We mounted our valiant no-front-brakes steeds once again and pedaled off to Seven Mile Beach, which is Grand Cayman's famous 5 3/4 mile beach. We were given twenty minutes to 'get wet', so Ben and I changed into our scandalously skimpy bathing attire and jumped in the sea. A little black island boy was swimming with us, thrilled to have company.
"Ahyuweefimin?" he asked me as we were bobbing about in the waves.
He smiled bigger and enunciated for the stupid American, "Ah. Yew. Weef. Wimmin?" A rather probing and personal question considering our casual relationship thus far. I didn't know how to answer. What does one say? "I think my divorce papers have been finalized." Or, "No, this is my lesbian boyfriend."
We bade our new nosey little friend farewell, changed back into biking clothes, this time filled in strategic and chafing places with large, gritty sand pebbles, and got back to our bikes.
Our next stop, Hell.
Hell is an inland city on Grand Cayman, named for the bizarre coral rock formation found there. We were told that in the hot months after a rain, the evaporation coming off these rocks resembled hell itself. It was bequeathed its name by a stodgy British hunter in the early 19th c. who found himself there in July, sputtering, "Bloody hell. It's hot as hell here! Let's get the hell off this island!" The name stuck. Now I wish to visit, This Sucks Ass, Kansas and Where'd You Learn To Drive?, New Jersey.
All tours end in the gift shop. Hell's gift shop had disappointing and uninspired hell joke memorabilia. And rum cake. But it does have a post office, the only in the world where one can send a letter postmarked 'Hell'. I thought of all the people I'd like to write to, but realized it would take several hours to get that much correspondence done, so opted out entirely. Sorry if you were on the list.
Hell is a fitting end to any tour, so we took a shuttle back to the port and caught another tender. After a quick, much-needed soak in a hot tub and a nap, we went to dinner.
All our old friends were at the table. (And when I say 'old', I don't mean 'long-time'.) I was getting worried about them, for each consecutive night, we would find fewer at our table. Last night, for example, there was just me, Ben, and the cowboy-joke-teller. It was like dining in an Agatha Christie novel. Who would be next? And who-dunnit? I eyed our neighbors with deep suspicions.
Someone at our table tonight had chosen to marinate herself in a particularly mephitic and pungent perfume. We rushed through dinner as fast as we could. I kept my nose pinched shut most of the time because the reek of this cheap perfume was clouding my eyes and I could feel my trachea closing off. Ben felt sorry for me. "Let's skip dessert," he said. I needed no further suggestion.
Our waiter wouldn't hear of us leaving, however. "Remember, tonight is the night of the Big Dance!" he said. With hurt-puppy eyes, "I told you about it last night. You can't leave." He looked about to cry.
We assured him we'd watch the dance, but from another table. Luckily, three New York girls we've befriended were nearby so we joined them.
Last night, when our waiter said they were going to dance with flaming cakes on their heads, I assumed it was a Caribbean figure of speech along the lines of "letting one's hair down." I can't say I was really expecting a conga-line of flaming-cake-headed waiters to bump and grind their way past us. I hadn't seen so much flammable pastry since the Queen Mum's final birthday cake.
"Now you've seen what we can do," shouted someone when the performance had ended. "Now it's your turn. You all remember The Macarena, right?"
I never heard the next line. Ben and I were dashing for the door like a house er, a cake on fire. I've spent too many years near Bourbon Street to ever be able to tolerate another bout of the bloody Macarena.
We returned to the room. Ben's back is thrown out. I bought him some Tylenol and gave him the rest of my smuggled Xanax and put him to bed. I've written my daily report. My tasks are done. I'm going upstairs to look for Rod Stewart now so I can spend more time not talking to him.
Went through the casino bar, which is an open bar for us, which is perhaps one of the most valuable perks for being a Harrah's VIP, considering what drunken fish I and Ben are. Ordered a glass of wine. Watched another bartender properly pour a Grand Marnier, tilting the glass to its side, filling it to the meniscus, setting it straight and topping it off. You rarely see Grand Marnier poured correctly. For my second drink, I asked that bartender for a Grand Marnier, "because you pour it well," I said.
He looked at me funny and brought me a glass of something purple and set it down with a well-you-asked-for-it look.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Grand Marnier and port."
"No, I said, 'Because you pour it' Oh, never mind."
I may be the first person on the planet to have had a Grand Marnier and port cocktail, so I feel it is my duty to tell you two things: 1) it's really not bad, but 2) don't try to compliment the bartender if English is a negotiated language or you'll end up with one.
Then me n' my Grand Marnier and port went up to the nightclub, ostensibly to look for my New York girls, but really to ogle Rod Stewart from afar, whom, I suspected, would probably be there. New York girls were nowhere to be found. Rod Steward was dancing alone, albeit rather confusedly, to a type of music I can only describe as Gangsta Reggae. Fuck da police, mon. We gonna smoke you like da fat spleef.
He was trying, lord he was trying. I give him an 'A' for effort. But even beautiful Rod Stewart, with his whimsical bleached spiky hair and vertical striped shirt to match his vertical striped pants couldn't pull off dancing to that crap. He sat down.
I was about to leave when 'Vogue' cued up. Having a sneaky suspicion this might motivate him, I stayed for a moment longer, lurking behind the lift to take a Sasquatch-like photo of him. I turned the flash off don't want to scare the wildlife. It's not a very good photo, but neither is any of Sasquatch nor the Loch Ness Monster, nor Roswell sightings, nor any other mythological character. I prefer to keep Rod Stewart mythological. Mystery is much more appealing than what I'm convinced would be a dull reality.
I like the Sasquatch analogy: big feet you know the rest
[The LOVE BOAT. Soon will be making another run. The LOVE BOAT, promises something for ev-ree-one ]