June 4, 2008

Orange and Purple

Drama Bar, seating in the shop area, April, 2008.

Me: Reworked that essay for tomorrow’s class and a poem for Thursdays Poet’s Group. Played housewife and made doctor’s appointments.

G: Had a ball at work with new programs then came home and struggled installing a new printer.

Work: Going to the game Friday as a fan.
Every day is a very good day now. I walked gently yesterday, watched the Nimitz come in and reworked the ship piece that I had sent to Ronni Bennett’s “Time Goes By,” The Elder Storytelling Place. It was accepted and published on Thursday, May 29th. I noticed that the ending needed punching up, changed.

Today is even more exciting. I’m going back to school, returning to my writers workshop which will, I hope, improve what you read here.

One chilly January day my husband, George, and I found ourselves daydreaming of a sunny week when we could take our vacations together. What more could we want than a quiet cruise in our local cruise ship the Elation. We knew the reputation of Carnival Cruise Line… “Fun Ships.” We knew the reputation of the décor, but we felt brave. George priced a Mexican Riviera cruise on line. It was reasonable. Our travel agent got us a better deal. We were hooked.

On a sunny Monday morning after a long, hot, deadly string of workdays in the sun, my dear George hustled me into a taxi headed to the Cruise Terminal. There parked next to the pier was a modern box boat sparkling white against the blue of the sky.

I was tired and grumpy…too tired even to smile. Take off my glasses for my ship card? I did this with poor grace. Stand in this line? I grumbled. Move there? Not me. Oh, I was an embarrassment with behaviors fitting a five year old. We climbed the gangway into a shocking world of purple, pinks, and oranges. Surrounded by this unexpected cacophony plus plastic textures and surfaces punched up a bit by Cadmium Reds, I shrank into my tired self.

This was not a cruise ship but a product aimed at a particular market…the young and lively casino fan of 1984.

Peter C. Kohler, author and ocean liner enthusiast wrote in a May 2008 Liner’s List post, “A cruise is indeed a product in every sense of the word, a purely manufactured, contrived, wrought and rendered combination of accommodation, food, service, entertainment, destination etc. It's got more bits and pieces in it than scrapple. (It) is designed, rendered and wrought for a specific target market.”

Standing there in that visual cacophony, I didn’t feel like that target market at all.

Over the years, I’ve been nourished by Peter Knego’s portraits of the classic cruise ships. I’ve eagerly devoured web pages of famous liners and their décor. I’ve bought numerous pictorial history books that taught me of the engineering and design features, such as sheer and camber, that all classic liners have. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every book and video as they taught me about these elegant liners, their exquisite interiors, and the wonderful way of life that revolved around them.

I had read about the Carnival Line’s chief architect, Farcus. His designs for the early Carnival ships and his colorful enthusiasms helped create Carnival Cruise Line, the largest cruise company in the world. I’d been told by everyone that his ships were colorful…dramatic. His older ships were even more vibrantly decorated, our travel agent told us. That fact didn’t ease my thoughts at all as I stood in the colorful entrance hall.

Hunger sent us first to the buffet at the stern. Its iridescent, blue-green, plastic paneled walls were edged with fake Tiffany pillars and topped by a rippled metal ceiling lined with canes. Wooden canes. Passing through the purple and knobby amidships bar, I stayed cranky and even while looking out toward the pool deck and a second buffet line in the sun. George led me to the buffet. Hand carried me, and I found lunch was surprisingly good. After eating, I felt better. Behaved a bit better too.

We headed off to explore the ship. Finding our cabin, we were face to face with peach walls, an orange art panel, orange patterned carpet, and an impressive Cadmium Red metal stripe around the middle. I felt the intense peach ceiling crowding down upon us. The whole was obviously designed to get us out and about…so out we went.

At the dinner hour, I couldn’t look at the details of the main dining room. Perhaps color shock kept me focused on the food, which was wonderful…not the usual cafeteria style cooking at all. The pastry chef was excellent and far better than the one on our last, more conservatively colored, cruise. The waiter was awful. Perhaps he too was tired. We could forgive him because the Cruise Director was a winner.

Gradually I began to recover. The first tour was tolerable thanks to air-conditioned busses where I could sit if the tiredness grew. The following morning, after a good night’s sleep, I found myself “Walking the Deck for The Cure” in the cold winds off the Pacific. Quiet sea days gave me further time to grow back into myself. Cheery staff and ocean air offered recovery, and I found myself almost able to overlook the interiors by the third day. Always I kept a good book to hand. If I wanted distraction, shows, games, and constant entertainments were there to keep me busy. The final day, horse races in the purple, lumpy, tiered bar finally won me over into laughter.

In the end, although the artist and colorist in me was not converted to the ship’s impassioned interiors, I came to admit that the Carnival offered good value. As my tiredness left me, I learned that taking a cruise when I am teetering on the edge of complete collapse isn’t a good idea. I discovered that I needed to adapt new ways and new thinking to my work environment or I couldn’t survive out there in the real world…much less on a fun cruise to Mexico.

There are priorities, you know. I quit my job.

Orange and cadmium red hall near our cabin, April, 2008.

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