Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On a Boat

If you squint you can just barely see me and my kid sister eagerly anticipating our turn to board the ship we spent our Fourth of July 2011 on.(JK, this is a film still from 'The Titanic).

Joking aside, watching this movie approx. 20 times the Summer I turned fourteen was the best preparation for the seven hour tour we embarked on that afternoon. OK, OK, Leo screenings were probably the next best -- there were those middle school mornings spent trading my father half hour stints on Gilligan's Island for Saved by the Bell.

NYC has elected to steal our fireworks and instead show off for Jersey.

I don't know if you're aware of Jersey's ever rising prestige on the reality television front but if you are, sit back and ask yourself... "WHERE IS THE HUMANITY?!"  At any rate, I had a fun, but relatively uneventful Fourth last year. I spent the evening running through Prospect Park with friends, sure that there was some kind of mistake and that any minute the sky was going to alight. Later we followed up with root-beer floats and the Boston Pops in front of the telly in Park Slope.

I decided to pull an Ursula and take matters into my own tentacles. This year I was going to go on a cruise and catch me some  fireworks. I was browsing the internet the way Meg Ryan would in any Tom Hanks movie when I got a gmail alert from my favorite discount shopping site, Living Social.

For half the cost of a normally $300 cruise, you could find yourself sailing on Jersey's luxury Cornucopia Princess on the Hudson for the holiday. Voila! Obviously this was meant to be. That is how (well plus a very shady windowless Time's Square office with ticker tape on the floor and bars on the door) I came to be the proud bearer of two tickets to a prime firework seat on our Nation's birthday. 

Note: Later I realized that this Living Social deal greatly spoke to the hilarity of our time at sea. The ship's passengers were widely varied, consisting of people who paid full price, $600 a couple, or in some cases much more for a family intermixed with people who had pooled all their money to afford the half price deal. 

There were little hiccups along the way, but what cruise doesn't have hiccups? Sure, we were supposed to leave at 3 and didn't board until 4:15, but we were going to be on a boat, and that was all that mattered. 

We were instructed upon boarding to immediately go to our assigned seats at beautifully manicured tables in a grand ballroom.  Oh yeah, this was going to be good. "Behind me I heard a "Oh this shit be FAAAAAANNCY!" So that's where you see the note I made about a range of social class start to play out.
 By now you have learned that here at She Sure is Sketchy, we have authority problems, and why, friends, would we go directly to our seats when we could climb to the dock and marvel at the skyline?
In the single most intelligent move of the year, April and I dragged an iron-rod table from the back of the boat, where there was no view, to the front of the boat where there was all view. There we sat. Soon other rebels joined us. On our boat, that I would later learn housed close to 2,200 people, a lucky ten managed chairs and tables up on the deck. Keeping with our Titanic analogy, this clairvoyant move is what later separated us from steerage.
We laughed. We felt the wind in our hair. We read. We sketched. It was simply lovely. Meanwhile, down below the deck, things were getting dicey. This is where I would cinimatically  pan from an exterior shot above to an interior shot down near the water.  At this point we were still blissfully unaware that anything was amiss. It was at this point that I started collecting quotes. 

My favorite quote of the evening, and there were plenty to choose from, was issued by a wildly enthusiastic muscle-bound Jersey boy -- complete with sky-high shellacked hair who offered this gem: "My whole life, yo. My whole life, I been sitting in my uncle's balcony on this day every year and watching the boats go by over here, and NOW I am ON a boat! That's right BITCHES! I am ON a boat!" (i wrote this one down in my sketchbook. I wanted to be sure I kept the nuance.)

Slowly people started making their grumbly way on deck, "what bad attitudes," I thought. "Don't they see how beautiful it is here?" Meanwhile, April and I bask in the glory of the sea.
 Hunger sets in as the sun sets. Eager to make it back to our primo seats in time for the big show I leave the sissie and head down into the hull, dinner tickets in hand. My animator roots take hold as I descend the grand staircase overlooking the ballroom. A long line circles the dance floor. I sense an overall vibe of seething anger. Also, people are drunk. I went to Pratt freakin' Institute, an art school in Clinton Hill where the five spot used to give you 21 free shots on your 18th birthday. I know the difference between drunk and durnk. These people are the latter.  Nor are they happy drunk. They are collectively angry drunk. I wait in line for my food and make "friends" with a grabby boy who likes boys but in his inebriated state is willing to also like my boobs. 

The line takes forever. Somewhere in the distance a table is turned over. There is yelling. Hmm... this does not bode well. When hosting my adorable little sister thousands of miles away from her home, my chief concern is to always keep. her. fed. Little miss April can go from strawberry shortcake to the Incredible Hulk faster than I can Scarlett O'Hara blink my eyes. After years of practicing my Vivien Leigh we are talking fractioned split-seconds. 

As the line snaked longer, I start to panic. What if she gives up our front row seats to come find me? What if she gets too hungry and loses it? What if there is no vegetarian food left for her when I get to the front of the line?!  Take heart, I tell myself, the menu on this ship's masthead was elaborate, organic, gourmet. They will have plenty of.... BURGERS AND HOTDOGS?!
Correction. They will have NO burgers or hot dogs. They will have nothing. They will eat fists. This picture was taken while my gay boyfriend held my place twenty minutes down the line. By the time I got there there was a tub of greasy floating hot dogs (I swear i have never been so disgusted. It was barfaroni casserole) and nothing else. At the end of the line a crustal bowl held a solitary packet of mustard next to an empty bottle of ketchup. 

In amazing news, I arrived right when this situation really heated up. I got to witness a punch and a duck worthy of Ralph Maccio. There was yelling. There was crying. It was magical.

Gay boyfriend transitioned from slightly odd to truly crazy. He picked up a cold hotdog and waggled it in the manager's face. "This is frozen!!! THIS IS FROZEN! Feel this!" The manager takes it in his hand and throws it back into the dish. "I JUST TOUCHED THAT AND NOW YOU PUT IT BACK IN THERE!?!? WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU BEEN DOING TO CONTAMINATE THIS "FOOD"."

Seriously, the air quotes GBF was sporting made me wish I had only manicured the index and middle fingers of my hands. I have a problem around people with Southern accents or girls speaking Japanese at the salon. I want to mimic, not to tease but to study. To my right several girls and their pimp cousin skipped their index fingers and communicated in other ways with their hands. I watched a hamburger fly into a man's head hurled with surprisingly great aim from a woman who looked to be in her seventies. To my left, I thrilled at a rousing game of "I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you". Sigh. Good times. For about ten minutes, I thought that maybe I was waiting for more food to be cooked and brought out. No, I was waiting for mutiny on the bounty. There was no "food" (that's for you GBF) to be had. 

P.S. Who among us can't help but stare while someone yells "THIS IS ME BEING NICE, ASSHOLE! YOU WANT ME TO GET MEAN, I CAN GET MEAN!" all the while pointing a three inch bedazzled finger nail millimeters from a man's eye?

I soon realized that the reason everyone was drunk was because the ship, in addition to boasting a worth-$300-gourmet-menu also boasted an open bar. In true we're going to party like it's America's birthday form, those who could not eat, made up for the cost of the cruise by drinking. I tip-toed over a fallen reviler and up the stairs to rejoin my little sister on the dock. 

Wonderfully, I was met by a smiling kid sister. April had waited, happy as a clam. Thrilled to be out at sea with the wind in her face and Macy's fireworks on the way. "You missed it," she let me know. "People have been going crazy." Tee hee.
Once we realized we were going to be starving until we docked we both tapped into our upbringing. Last week I read an article saying that if you were raised a certain way before 1992 you were raised 'right' and if you were raised the same way today you were 'abused'. April and I are well brought-up children of the 80s. We know that if nothing's going to change you might as well have a good attitude so nothing worse happens to you. We put on our smiley faces and happily inked the petitions that the angered fall-downs were bringing around as written on the ship's linen napkins.

Later it was revealed that the mass of champagne and wine bottles couldn't be opened because corkscrews had been left on shore and things really got intense.

As the night fell, people pulled the table cloths off tables downstairs and busied themselves by dragging forty pound dining room chairs up to the deck to better pad their livingroom forts at our feet. We had a clear view of Manhattan to one side and this to the other:

When a formation of 8 helicopters flew overhead and the mass begin to yell "SAVE US! SAVE US" 
April and I caught each other's sober eyes, raised our hands and high-fived. We knew who was winning this holiday. Well, we knew who was winning until the yacht ran out of waterbottles and cups.  We are Hawaii girls though, and we know how to deal, eh?

Then the fireworks started and the oohing and awwwwwwwing really got under way. For a perfect twenty minutes everyone forgot that they wanted to 'EFFING CUT THE EFFING MO-EFFING CREW" 

The most patriotic moment of the whole day, and mayhaps the entire year came in the gathering of ships in the harbor who leaned on their fog horns blasting Yankee Doodle Dandy and the Star Spangled banner. Their passengers, all merry by the look of them, waved jovially, jumping up and down  anscreaming 'HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!! to us. The feeling of  Americana radiated the air. 

The adorable Juliard trained girl next to me, said, "It is so cool they're playing John Phillip Souza" The guy next to her said, "Who dat?" 

And so, on the fourth of July, 2011, I stood hanging over the rail of that crowded deck of the ironically named Cornucopia Princess. I got a taste of what it might be like to be united against a common enemy, forced to take matters into your own hands. Maybe there was no water, not a drop to drink, and maybe everyone wanted to strangle our captors with their bare hands, but in the end we all were able to set aside our differences for the common good, a very kick-ass firework show. Afterall, dear friends, isn't that what this patriotism thing is all about?

Later, as I watched the crew argue with my sister as they wrenched her cup of self-rationed water from her lovely little hands while we disembarked and saw our new friends-in-distress kiss the germ-ridden NYC cement, I looked to the beautiful smokey sky, glad that I had decided to spend our Nation's special day out at sea. 
On the fifth I decided that the true crime was that the ship had sailed away from shore knowing that they A) only had crappy burned/frozen food to serve and B) didn't have enough of either to feed the thousands on board, I decided to call in and let someone know. Livingsocial picked up the phone on the third ring. 

"Hello, I'm just calling to register a compl..." 
--"Were you on the boat last night?" 
"Um, yeah."
--"Give me your name and email address please."
--"The cost of the cruise in full is refunded back to your account. Please accept our sincere apology."

And so I write this account of a topsy-turvy holiday to you, from where I sit in my studio, proud to be an American.


Rachel Campbell said...

Most important take-away for me: your wonder-cruise was F-R-double-E free!

Also priceless.

Lastly, and this seems like a slim chance, but I think it's true: I think I had my junior prom on that boat.

Amberbop said...

Haha. Wouldn't that be amazing? If you spent prom on this thing?!

The IC wanted to all come for the cruise but decided it was too expensive. In the end that was the only thing that saddened me. In the end it was truly priceless.

)en said...

I was just going to say-- you had all of that-- that amazing experience plus bad-a fireworks, and then got it all for FREE? Just when i was thinking i'd have paid full price. Lucky son of a gun. Happy 4th indeed.

Karin said...

Awesome story! These were the bizarre mix of people on my vacation last September. Everytime we tried to relax on the balcony, we were trust into some alternate universe, that made the dialog from Pulp Fiction seem like something from Sesame Street. Then the people we sat with at dinner, freaked out that hubby & I could drink a "whole bottle" of wine between the two of us. Good times, good times. Love that you got the adventure for free!


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