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The Last Hoorah
Episode #16 (Updated December 21, 2017)
by Charles Reuben
Edited by Linda Schwebke
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The photos shown below were created by Dave Niblack of imagebase.net. These photos are not related to the story. Dave's photos are here to add some much needed color to my gray text: Thanks for your support, Dave!

4:30 p.m. Sitting on the sun deck as a calypso band takes the stage with “Sitting on the dock of the bay… wasting time.”

It's astonishing how much food the kids on this ship eat. I know I eat a lot, but at least I eat mindfully. No wonder some of them get so fat....and their parents don't set much of an example.

I remember that right before I dropped out of a student teaching program (the last hurdle before I could become a certified English teacher), my supervising teacher made a very astute and very accurate statement: “You don’t like kids, do you?” Of course, I resented that remark, but she was correct, and to this day I do not regret getting out of the business of shaping young minds.

8 p.m. Mom could not attend the private cocktail party for veteran Celebrity Cruises because of her swollen foot, but I attended the affair and drank five Mai Tais in the delightful company of a Canadian whose wife also chose not to participate. Technically I have never attended a Celebrity Cruise before, but I have been on a few Royal Caribbean Cruises, and since those two companies merged with Celebrity in 1998, I figured I should be allowed through the front door.

I explained my theory to the front desk, and they eventually broke down and gave me an invitation, which I readily accepted. So, for the second time on this cruise, I got free drinks! Yippee! The highlight of dinner was its flambé dessert, which exploded on cue to everybody’s delight. The entrée (or entrées in my case) were exceptional: a medium rare steak and scampi with scallops.

Our ex-green barrette dining companion said that during his youth, he worked with a bunch of foul-mouthed fishermen who used to catch stingrays and then use cookie cutters to chop up their wings and sell them to the fish stores. He claimed those stingray fillets were the spitting image of scallops and nobody could tell the difference.

The conversation segued to our missionary tablemates who had spent the afternoon swimming with velvety-skinned stingrays at Grand Cayman and had a wonderful time. Evidently, the stingrays are very friendly as long as you don’t upset them. Mom told our dining companions a story about the time she traveled to Baja with my sister Sophia and went out on a whale-watching boat that eased itself right beside a friendly leviathan who allowed itself to be petted! That topped everybody’s experience, and they all looked at Mom in awe.

10:45 p.m. Well, it’s Christmas eve now, and when we got back to the cabin, there was a basket of fruit and cookies waiting for us. Only the missionary couple seemed to regret not being with their children, but Allen pointed out that when they returned, they would be appreciated all the more. I said I hoped that would be true about my boss as well, and everybody laughed.

Lots of activities are going on tonight, and I still have a bit of energy left in me since I wisely stayed out of the sun this afternoon. I'm reclining in the aft section of the Horizon in a Cabana --- that’s the most comfortable lounge chair on the ship that is generally occupied. I am lying beneath a canopy of stars, watching the occasional meteor sweep across the heavens. Hundreds of miles away, the farrolitos are being lit all over Albuquerque, illuminating the streets and houses. Farrolitos are little paper bags filled with a bit of sand that holds up a lit candle. Line up enough of them, and, voila, you have created magic!

How about a long Christmas prayer?

Dear Lord, bless the fish in the sea and my family and friends. Bless all the critters, especially those that are on the verge of extinction. Lord, I know I ask you for a lot of things. All my life I have asked you for stuff and nine out of ten times you have delivered. That other one percent - it was probably a good thing you didn’t because it would have led to no good. I trust your judgment, Lord, and I really try to listen to you. It’s hard sometimes. I can’t always hear you. I wish you’d talk just a little bit louder. I thank you, Lord, for everything you have given me. I do not regret the things you have denied me. How can one person have everything? You’ve got to spread it around. A little happiness here, a little happiness there. But what is happiness and how long can it possibly last? Dear Lord, I thank you for all the surprises in my life. I accept your will and no matter what happens, I am grateful for this life and for the love you have given me. Make me strong. Make me direct. Don’t let me hurt people if you possibly can. I don’t want to leave a wake of destruction trailing behind me. Make me an instrument of your will, dear Lord. Help me make the world a better place. Am I boring thee, Lord? Am I testing your patience? Most importantly, am I good? I want to be good. Damn it, I am good! Dear Lord, on this Christmas eve, I ask you to shower your blessings upon the world. Upon every creature and every stone. Let good emerge out of evil. Amen.

Midnight. Christmas Day. Just turned the clock back an hour and waiting for the sleeping pill to kick in as I lie here in my cabin. Tonight I let it melt on my tongue, just to see if it kicks in quicker. Not much taste to it, really.

Tonight I looked carefully in the mirror. Jeez, what ravages time has taken on what used to be a comparatively handsome face. Can’t imagine what people see in me. Especially when I compare (and I know I should not compare) myself to some of the younger buff guys who inhabit this ship. Looks aside, I cannot believe some of the crap that comes out of their mouths. And I really wanted to smack an older teenager at this evening's midnight buffet who began making a high pitched hum on the lip of a wine glass by rubbing his finger along the edge. What a fuckin’ moron. He just had to disturb everybody’s peace, and I was tempted to alert the Liberian goon squad about his lack of consideration: They were watching us from behind the mirrored walls, no doubt.

Christmas Day. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2001. 6 p.m. Highlight of the day was a classical performance of Chopin’s works by Jack Freedman. He sounded great, the piano looked gorgeous, and the acoustics in the auditorium were splendid.

Mr Freedman's musical selections were interspersed with a botched narration by the tour director about Chopin’s bizarre life and his turbulent relationship with author George Sand (who the tour director thought was a guy to imply a homosexual relationship! For God sakes!). Freedman received a well-deserved standing ovation, and he thanked the tour director for his unique narration. Our dinner mate Allen says that Friedman was sarcastic in his commendation of the tour director. I think the tour director tries hard, but, because of a lack of education and worldly experience, cannot help being a bit of an idiot verging on being somewhat insulting sometimes as well.

I spent a couple hours in the ship’s Jacuzzi or whatever it is and about 20 minutes in the sun. Didn’t burn, but got close. Getting awful lazy and will probably turn in early after the evening’s show in preparation for a big day tomorrow at Chichen Nitza.

8:15 p.m. So Ron, the missionary, finally asked the question all my slightly pudgy dining companions have been thinking since we arrived. “Chuck,” he said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you. How the hell can you eat so much food and not have it show on you?” I looked up from my second entrée (first was beef tenderloin, the second was a seafood medley). I looked Ron in the eye and said, “Beats me,” as I ordered a Yule log and finished off Mom’s minced pie.

We all agreed that Jack Freedman’s concert was excellent - one of the best performances we had ever seen. Dinner conversation focused on Allen’s brilliant military career and talk about dolls, Lionel train sets and other amusements that were now considered valuable collector items.

“Hey Allen,” I asked, “So tell me, how can a guy who is totally color blind, cannot march in step, can’t stay within budget and manages to insult Generals at every turn get in positions of authority?” “Guess they wanted to get rid of me and saw no alternative but to advance me up the ranks,” he said.

I washed out all my underwear in the sink today, and they’re now hanging on the nifty suction clothesline in the bathroom.


This marks the end of the SIXTEENTH installment of "The Last Hoorah." If you'd like to start from the beginning, then please click this page.

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