Father and Son Cruise
Tonight Kris and I went to the Holiday party sponsored by her school. It had been postponed due to snow. We all decided to honor Valentines Day since we are closer to it than New Years. President’s day was in the running, but lost out in the end.
At 3:00, I started to worry. Did he fall overboard?
As soon as I opened my eyes, I was filled with dread. This was it – the last day of the trip.
I could see the hulk of Ryan under the covers on his bed. He hadn’t fallen overboard. Relief.
I tiptoed around for a while. The ship was still, and a peek through the curtains revealed that we were next to a land mass. The view was unlike the one I’d memorized on the Galaxy stop in Key West. The ship was docked further from town.
Ryan soon emerged from his brief slumber, and we made our way upstairs for coffee and breakfast. Out on the stern, a crew was carefully painting the handrails.
“So, what’s the plan today?” asked Ryan.
“I need to get something nice for Mom. Other than that, just hang out. Key West is a pretty wild place anyways, but I’d guess that since today is Halloween it’ll be entertaining to just walk around.”
“Do we need costumes for tonight?”
“Yeah, we should get something. I’m sure there’s plenty of places in town for that sort of thing.”
We had been regaled with tales of Key West’s Fantasy Fest — a Halloween event — at the dinner table the night before. Neal and Traci knew all about it, whether through legend or first-hand experience I’m not sure.
“They ought to have plenty of costumes left. It sounds like everybody runs around naked,” I continued.
“Oh boy,” said Ryan. It was a wary expression, not a lascivious one.
Seated at a table, I was facing out to sea. Something caught my eye. Across the windows in the covered pool area, a dark shadow crept. The men painting the railing stopped working and stood straight up.
“Look!” I said, pointing toward the encroaching darkness.
Suddenly the view was filled with another ship. The Majesty of the Seas slithered by silently just a few dozen feet off the Mercury’s starboard side. Everyone stopped what they were doing and gaped. It seemed to take minutes for the whole thing to pass us by on its way to the downtown dock.
For the remainder of breakfast we enjoyed the show as the Majesty docked. I had watched the process from onboard the Galaxy months earlier, but this was a completely different perspective. It is an amazingly complex ritual.
We took our sweet time. It was so pleasant to just sit and watch the world go by.
Ryan chuckled to himself, and he wore a big smile.
“What?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing. It’s just – This is so awesome. I can’t believe we’re doing this!”
Once the rush to get off the ship had passed, we made our way out on to the dock. Celebrity provided complimentary transportation into town using “Conch Trains” and similar conveyances. We boarded one.
Along the way, the driver stopped to drop off a couple of people who wanted to go to the beach. From what I’ve read, Key West doesn’t really have any nice beaches, as ironic as it may seem. Most are man made.
The driver narrated the ride into town. As we traveled down a street lined with shaded town homes, he rattled off the names of famous people who lived there. It was an impressive list.
Once downtown, I decided to attend to business first.
“I’m going to look for Mom’s present first,” I told Ryan. “You don’t need to hang around with me if there’s something you’d rather do.”
“Naw – I’d rather hang out with you.”
We marched together in and out of one jewelry store after another. Kris had been eyeing tanzanite on the Galaxy trip, but it wasn’t in the budget then. For that matter it wasn’t in the budget now, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. After trying several stores, I began to get worried that I wasn’t going to be inspired by anything.
We entered a small shop. “Tanzanite?” I asked.
“Hummm. We only carry a few things,” said the clerk. He led the way to a showcase and pointed. “There, in the middle.”
There they were – a pair of earrings sparkled back at me as if to say, “I dare you”.
“May I see that pair – no, one to your right – no, the other right.”
The clerk honed in on the correct pair. He snuck a look at the price tag before carefully folding it away from my view. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he considered the commission. Bad sign.
“A very nice selection.”
I thought so. The lighting in the store was designed so that it could make a lump of charcoal sparkle. I played the savvy buyer role. It had been 23 years since I’d last purchased a pair of earrings, near as I could figure.
“I’d like to see them in natural light,” I said.
“Of course, sir. Go right ahead.”
I was a little surprised not to be accompanied by an armed guard as I stepped out onto the sidewalk. The earrings sparkled out there, too.
“Those are really nice. Are you going to buy them?” asked Ryan.
“I don’t know. Let’s see how the deal goes.”
Back inside, the clerk was busy making calculations. I produced a coupon from the ship’s flyer that entitled me to a small discount, which he factored in to the equation. He gave me the net figure.
When my head stopped spinning, I took a breath and made a series of faces to highlight my indecision. I let silence work for me.
“I can take another $50 off, just for you.”
Ryan looked at me, unsure. Quietly he said, “Dad, that sounds like a good deal. You better get them.”
I let the standoff continue. The clerk made some more calculations. At length he said, “Let me go talk to the owner and see what he’ll do.”
When he was gone, Ryan gave me a funny look. “What are you doing??”
The clerk was gone for several minutes. When he emerged from the back room, he had a figure written on a piece of paper. I looked at it. Much better.
As the sales slip was written up, I looked at watches. Remembering that my cheap Timex had fooled Harry, the watch collector, I came to my senses.
Out on the street, Ryan asked, “What was that all about?”
“Normal business. Just keep it in mind next time you buy a car.”
The ship’s television show about Key West had recommended a trip to the top of the highest building in town – a seven-story hotel. We found it and went up for some pictures. The view to the dock area showed the Mercury and the Majesty with their backs symbolically turned to each other. Key West has a lot of natural beauty, but what was striking was how every vista was marred by an ugly tower or hanging wire.
Further up Duval, we came to good old Margaritaville. An old man, slightly less inebriated than the bicycle guy, stood outside in the shade of the canopy.
“Hey! Are you father and son?”
“Yes, we are.”
“I knew it. How y’all like Key West? You gonna go in this place and have y’selves some lunch and something to drink?”
He didn’t wait for an answer. Perhaps caught by the rotation of the earth, he spun off in another direction. His power of suggestion was strong, however, so we went in.
Just inside the door, at a table overlooking the sidewalk through the wide-open front of the bar, we found some familiar faces. Paula (flseagal), her friend Barbara, Cindy (Travel57) and a few others were having lunch. We took an empty table next to them, and had a nice chat. We each had the Cheeseburger in Paradise – all in all, an apt description. The margaritas were perfect, time after time.
As we slowly made our way back down Duval Street, I kept my eye out for the fine food store where I’d had the encounter with the “stunning” clerk on the Galaxy trip. I thought it might be nice to re-visit. I couldn’t find it.
We had seen few signs of the wild side. A 60’s Lincoln Continental convertible passed by with a ghoulishly decorated casket perched on the trunk. A few businesses were decorated. There was a rumor that the Mercury might stay late tonight as a special Halloween treat, though the official word had us departing at 5:00.
“I guess the crazy stuff happens after dark,” I said to Ryan with some disappointment in my voice.
A few minutes later, we ran into WallyB (another CC’er) on the street. I asked him to autograph my cruise journal. As Ryan was taking our picture, he spotted something across the street.
“Look. There’s something wild.”
A woman in costume was buying an ice-cream cone. Her male companion, also costumed, sat nearby waiting patiently. He was wearing a leash, which the woman held.
Ryan jogged across the street and asked permission to take some pictures. The woman consented. This was without doubt the most wild thing we saw in Key West on Halloween.
We decided to go back to the ship. On the way, Ryan wanted to detour to a cigar shop. Inside, he developed a craving for a particular cigar, and agonized over whether to buy a whole box. He got an early birthday present.
On the ride back, Ryan shared a realization.
“We forgot to get costumes,” he said.
“Well, why don’t we just wear our tuxes? Maybe we can borrow some white gloves and go as butlers.”
“Yeah, I guess we could do that.”
We were back on board by mid-afternoon. I suggested that we do some packing, just to get it over with. A knock came at the door. I opened it to find Aldrin, the cabin attendant.
“I’ve come for the tuxedos please, sir.”
Our back-up costume plan went out the door a minute later.
At 5:00, the Mercury departed and the party started. It was time for another Adult Cruise special, the sail-away open bar.
We went topside disguised as ChesterH and RyanH. Ryan went on ahead to hook up with some friends while I snuck into the Navigator to see if it was decorated. On the way I saw a witch and assorted other creatures hanging around in the hallways. The nightclub was quite a sight.
Back outside, I peered over the railing and down to the pool deck. The party was in full swing. Some poor clown sat alone at a table just below me. He was slumped in his chair and seemed to be left out of the fun.
Some people had gotten so carried away with their costumes that they could barely manage to sip their free drinks. A whole gaggle of Draculas lurked in the shadows, and it became impossible to tell which witch was which. For as many costumes as I saw, there didn’t seem to be anyone wearing one just like mine.
The 90-minute sail-away party seemed to be over in a flash. Its end signaled dinnertime. Entering the dining room on the upper level, I was greeted by a whole new cast of characters. One well-dressed group appeared to be holding a séance at their table.
I met up with Ryan at our table, and immediately excused my self to roam around with the camera. Below is a rather large montage of some of the evening’s sights.
We finished dinner and said our goodbyes to Tracey, Neal, Brenda, Paul, Maro, Ozgar and Pablo. Ryan and I parted ways for the evening. I needed to take it easy, and said I’d take care of getting the luggage out for pickup on time.
I spent some time getting rid of my remaining quarters in the casino. The wait staff happened by with platters of oriental treats every two minutes, or so it seemed. For a while my machine was hot, and I was way ahead. Once it began, the inevitable slide quickly drained away all winnings, leaving me even-steven for the trip.
For kicks, I wandered around checking out all of the various parties in progress. The Navigator Club was hopping, and an eerie light on the dance floor full of costumed characters made it all seem unreal.
I made good on the suitcase commitment, and had them in the hands of the attendant by 11:30. After that, I went out on the balcony – just the sea and me. Once again, the strange little lights darted around low on the horizon. One came close enough for me to see that it was a bird. They must travel with the ship, as these were surely the same ones I’d been seeing for several nights.
Halloween was always the biggest holiday of the year in our house. I hoped Ryan was out there having a blast. As I dozed off, I thought of little Ryan during those years when the Great Pumpkin was king and candy was better than a pot of gold. Simple times…