What goes up must come down

156 emails! 156 new, unread, and decidedly unpleasant emails in my inbox. After working all day, I've gotten them down to 118 that will require some kind of work on my part to satisfy them. On a good day, I can handle between 5 and 8 if nothing new comes in. This is the punishment for going on vacation. It's career suicide. I've decided to run away and become a professional cruise ship stowaway.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Last Day of the cruise. We have said goodbye to the Bahamas and are sailing back to Jacksonville. I have determined to make the best of it by soaking up as much skin-damaging sun as possible. It has occurred to me that I may not be as dark as my jealous co-workers will expect, and I can't let them think for a minute that I have not been enjoying every moment of the tropical weather. So, a little sunscreen (because no one is jealous of skin cancer), another cheesy romance novel, and hours of quality time with Mr. Sunshine.

Other events of interest: the ice carving demo, where a tiny Filipino guy carved a 300 lb. block of ice into the elaborate shape of the cruise ship in roughly 15 seconds, the Hairy Chest Competition (where this guy won, hands down), and the evening Show, which was a tribute to country music. (Normally, I do not care for country music, but you have to admit that it's fun to dance to, and they did a great job with the dancing. I think it was the best show they've done so far. Plus, they played "Rocky Top", so I certainly can't complain about that).

Dinner: Caesar Salad with "Hearts of Romaine Lettuce Tossed with our Caesar Dressing, Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese and Herb Croutons" and tamarind roasted prime rib of aged American choice beef, baked potato, Balsamic glazed tomatoes, and sautéed green beans & cauliflower. I haven't a clue what Tamarind is, but I do not care, because it was delicious. I'm really going to miss the stoic Dejan and friendly Svetlin. They've almost become like friends. Ones who never actually talk but are happy to see each other all the same. Dejan actually smiled today, briefly. (Maybe because he knows he's finally rid of the uncouth Americans, but still.) I admire the kind of service where the patrons know you're inwardly smirking at them, but they like you all the same. I need to be able to take that kind of lesson back to work with me.

Goodbye wonderful food! Goodbye breathtaking scenery! Goodbye charming event hosts! Goodbye food! Goodbye amusing games! Goodbye enertaining dancers! Goodbye food! Goodbye poolside lounge chair! Goodbye casino poker dealer! Goodbye food! Goodbye nightly towel animal! Goodbye exciting ports of call! Goodbye food! I will be counting the days until we are together again next year.

Visiting with the Bahemian National Bird

Today is another port day, and Tony and I escaped the ship to do a little exploring on our own before our guided city bus tour and visit to the Zoo. (Because where do zookeepers go while on vacation? To other zoos of course!) Actually, the zoo/garden was really good. I was surprised. It's a small zoo, but you can really get up close and personal with the animals. Unlike American zoos, where you are separated from the animals by a fence, then a decorative hedge, then another fence, then a low concrete wall, the animals here are just a chain link fence away. One, I might add, that many visitors think nothing of sticking their hands through.

"Look Mommy! The hungry and bad tempered wild tiger is coming over so I can pet him!"

Also, just roaming around the zoo are about 100 flamingos. I have never been so close to so many flamingos in my life. Come to think of it, I've never been close to one flamingo in my life. But here, in paradise, they'll let you walk right through the middle of the herd. Flock? Group. I'll include the picture for you who need the visual to nudge your imagination in the right direction. I so totally recommend you hit the Zoo if you're ever in the neighborhood of the Nassau. Awesome little place. It's like a little private garden with a bunch of tropical animals thrown in.Dinner: Beef tenderloin with béarnaise sauce, broccoli and mashed potatoes. Two deserts, because 1) I could not decide between the chocolate Frenchie thingie, and the apple pie Frenchie thingie, and 2) I'm a gluttonous pig. But our waiter, Dijan, is only too happy to encourage diabetic comas, so he brought me both without comment. (Not that I've ever heard him comment, but still...)

Goin' with the motion of the ocean

We were in port at Key West today, and even through it's been choppy and rainy and windy, the cruise program director informed us that our snorkel trip will continue as planned. Not being ones to shirk away from potential sea sickness, Tony and I gleefully boarded our party catamaran and headed out on 10' seas to our designated snorkel spot. Snorkeling in choppy water is a bit like trying to lay down while on a roller coaster...during an earthquake...with people throwing salty water all over you...and submerging your snorkel tube in water. The trick, I have discovered, it to completely relax your body, so that your top half can be cresting the next wave while your bottom half is still on the last one. I, being naturally willowy, got the hang of this rather quickly. Tony almost drowned. The visibility wasn't much since the water was churned up, but snorkeling in and of itself is fun, so not a bad trip all and all. That is, right up until I got seasick on the ride back to the cruise ship. I have never been more thankful to get back on dry land, even for a few minutes.

Dinner: Mixed Garden and Field Greens with Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Carrots with Choice of Dressing , Mississippi Delta Prawns (I'll say it again to give you a chance to fully absorb how incredible they were...Mississippi Delta Prawns) with American and French Cocktail Sauce (I have no idea what they are made of, these sauces, and at the risk of being...what, a nationalist? I must say that the American sauce was much much better than the French sauce. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I am an American and so am naturally biased).

Anchors a-way, my boy, Anchors a-WAAAY!

Hmm, I'm not sure what has inspired all of this nautical singing on the blog. Possibly the stirrings of the steel drum band here on the deck of this Truly Lovely Cruise Ship.

Anyway, a run down of Day 1:
The morning was spent checking in and waiting for the ship to allow us to board. There were about 1600 people getting checked in, but the entire operation was surprisingly smooth. So smooth, in fact, that I had to really work to come up with one gripe. Luckily I found it, and his name is Ed. (I doubt Ed was his real name, but I never got close enough to the name tag, so I'm calling him Ed for simplicity. Besides, he looked like an Ed). Anyway, Ed was horrible! Ed was the affable cruise ship employee whose only job was to guide the people coming out of the check-in queue to their seats in the back of the giant lobby. It wasn't hard. All he had to do was point to the chairs and ask the people to sit. Except Ed, being such a friendly guy kept wandering away from his post to talk to other people already in line! And with Ed being otherwise engaged with his conversation about what he was going to eat for lunch later, the poor people coming out of check-in had no idea where to go! They wandered right past the turn, right past the chairs, right past Ed's brilliantly stimulating conversation ("Sometimes I get turkey, but most of the time its ham") and congregated with uncertainty along the wall. COME ON ED! Don't you know that people without a clear sense of order, people who don't know THE PLAN, get very uncomfortable? Of course, the entire episode tugged at my little order-loving heart. I wanted to jump up and lead them to their chairs. I wanted to let them know the plan, but I couldn't leave my own place in the line. Finally, some other Carnival employee noticed the congregating mob of confused people and led them to their chairs. A crisis averted.

But I digress. Once we got onto the ship, it was fantastic. We had a good lunch, unpacked our stuff and sat on the deck by the pool to watch the "Farewell to Jacksonville" party. Tony was totally psyched over two dolphin sightings on the way out to sea, and that has convinced him that he wants to move to Jacksonville immediately. We spent most of the afternoon wandering around the ship, trying not to get lost. There are 10 decks to the ship, and about 40 different staircases (which, I am convinced, move around like in the Harry Potter stories, because I SWEAR we took that staircase two minutes ago to get to the piano bar, and now we can't find it again). These ships are freakin' HUGE, and this one is only considered a mid-sized ship.

Favorite places so far: The second sun deck overlooking the pool with the waterslide. Good place to listen to the music and watch the people, but without actually having to be down there with them.

Dinner: An absolutely perfect Filet Mignon with green beans and mashed potatoes. Also, a side salad with ranch and the best. Chocolate. Cake. EVER. for desert. I can't pronounce half the fancy French names for all this awesome food, so I pick out the one word I do know in the description and use that when ordering. ("I'll have orange sauce"). Our waiter, bless his stuffy Frenchie waiter soul, is the epitome of fancy stuffy Frenchieness, but is good enough to pretend like he knows exactly what I'm talking about when I'm waving vaguely towards the menu and ordering um with orange sauce. I could so get used to this.

Bon Voyage suckers!

"I'm lea-ving, on a cruise ship! Don't know when I'll be back a-gain, but bay-bee, I'm-outta-here-so-fast-that-I'm-trampling-both-small-children-and-the-elderly-and-NOT-EVEN-giving-them-a-backward-glance."

That's right folks! I am OUTTA HERE! Finally, the time has come for my much anticipated, much celebrated, and most desired 5 days cruise to Key West and the Bahamas!

I have purchased my sunscreen, I have packed my bags (4 of them, because I take the boy scout motto "Be Prepared" very seriously, and you never know what you'll need when you're surrounded by nothing by ocean) and I have selflessly rubbed my jealous co-workers faces all over the brochure so that they are extra sure of how much fun I will be having all week while they slave away at work.

If I feel like making the effort to set down my umbrella drink, I may record all my merrymaking here on the blog so that all of you can also be insanely jealous of my balmy tropical paradise.
We'll see.

Happy Birthday Billy Joel!

According to the radio deejay this morning, today is Billy Joel's birthday. (This was an excellent reason for the deejay to then play 4 Billy Joel songs in a row). I like Billy Joel. I can sing along with them, and if I can do that, it classifies as a good song to me. If you really care, you can read all about him and his 50 bazillion albums.

Happy Birthday Billy!

I Dare You To Eat That

Lately, Mason and Dixon have been playing a great game, "I dare you to eat that", or alternatively, "Who can cause the biggest vet bill?". It's been a very close game, and loads of fun for all involved. Dixon scored first by (to use the highly scientific medical term) barfing any and all cat food ever consumed back up all over the floor. Repeatedly. Everywhere. A trip to the vet revealed...a stomach full of cat fur, commonly known as the hair ball. Points scored: $105 ($75 for the blood test and $30 for the visit). Dixon was not able to take advantage of any medication cost points, however, because he had pulled this stunt before, and we were already prepared. Not to be outdone, Mason countered with his own barfing THE VERY NEXT DAY. Mason's tummy trigger of choice turned out to be half of a furry caterpillar that he found out on the back porch. (You would think that thousands of years of ingrained instinct would tell him not to eat furry caterpillars, but alas, instinct is no barrier when your brother looks you in the eye, nods to the caterpillar, and says, "I dare you to eat that"). Caterpillar, by the way, makes the kitty cat VERY sick, and Mason was able to rack up $66 for the vet visit, $30 for a follow up visit a week later, and $30 for the anti-caterpillar medications, resulting in a grand total of $126. At this point, I'm thinking that actual children would be cheaper than these cats.

Follow-up thought: Do cats "Double-dog dare" each other, or is there such a thing as a "Double-cat dare"?

Got Milk?

Because who wouldn't want a picture of themselves with a milk mustache?

It was Milk Day a few weeks ago in our local Downtown Square, and what better way to avoid doing an honest day's work than to sneak out of the office and have your picture taken with your milk covered co-workers? Pay special attention to Chris's milk FuManChu on the left. That little beauty was compliments of your truly tipping the milk cup up for him "to ensure good upper lip contact". I did such a good job that it also ran down the sides of his mouth, creating a bold new statement in milk facial enhancements. (Luckily, Chris was raised not to hit girls, so I actually got away unscathed). Other partners in crime include Stevie, whose milk mustache lasted for roughly .0003 seconds before his highly advanced (or severely dehydrated) upper lip absorbed it, Jennifer (who actually doesn't like milk but went along for the ride anyway) and Jennifer (who likes milk so much, this was her second milk picture of the day). Together, we managed to steal 10 minutes of paid work time from "the Man", and get this lovely commerative picture in the process. God bless Milk Day.

Ritual dances around the giant phallic symbol, and other memories of my youth

Happy May Day to you all, happy blog readers.
It has come to my attention that many people today are not aware of the significance of May Day and the appropriate celebration thereof. (I am one of those people, but I will try to convince you of knowledge I do not have with vague truths and a sense of authority). Here goes:

When I was but a wee lass, and living in the deep South, we celebrated May Day with the traditional May Pole Dance. There was a large celebration in the historic town square, complete with music and food and the required entrepreneurial vendors. And of course, the May Poles. (If the reasoning behind the May Pole was ever explained to me, it has since been lost in the mental archives, but I'm pretty sure that the "Germanic pagan fertility symbolism" part was not in the brochure at the time.) I do remember that May Day was a very big deal. We all had costumes, which for us girls consisted of identical white dresses with pink bows on the back and a wreath of flowers on our heads. And white ballet shoes, which is by far that coolest footwear that one can manage to wear. Anywhere. My second grade class practiced for weeks to perfect the May Pole Dance. We were divided into boy-girl pairs (my partner was a boy named Grant, and the only thing I can remember about him was that he was shorter than I was, which was very disappointing to me, because everyone knows that the boys are supposed to be taller). Anyway, everybody holds on to a ribbon that's attached to the top of the pole, and you weave in and out of the other dancers, thereby weaving the ribbon around the pole in a (hopefully) aesthetically pleasing manner. In truth, our class usually ended up with sometime accidentally tied to the May Pole and several arguments about who was supposed to go over and who was supposed to duck under. Ms Carroll, our teacher (bless her patient soul) would work tirelessly, untying knots, breaking up fights, and clapping in rhythm while yelling "Over! Under! Over! Under!" from the sidelines. Eventually, Ms Carroll's desire for perfection would shatter under the weight of 8 year old clumsiness, and anything short of mass accidental strangulation was considered a success.

That, my friends, is how you celebrate May Day.