Show Time

This entry is part 19 of 25 in the series Cruising With the Mothers

The sound of the rain on the rooftop was soon drowned out by the sounds of footsteps on gravel. People materialized from the fog in all directions, seeking shelter from the sudden deluge. Kris was wearing a white jacket which caused her to initially appear as a body-less apparition, her face hovering a few feet above disconnected legs.

“Didn’t you go to the top?” Kris asked.

“Yeah—nice view,” I said.

“How come I didn’t see you?”

“Did you see anything or anybody?”

“Not really.”

“I’m sure we walked right past each other,” I said. “Not quite like the last time we were here…”

Our time was nearly up, so we encouraged the mothers to finish their shopping. Thankfully, the rain diminished somewhat for our walk back to the bus, although we were all quite damp—100% humidity will do that. A motorcyclist passed by, making me feel better about the prospect of traveling by bus than ever before…

The ride back to town was uneventful, though the lack of visibility and a timid driver ahead of us made it a challenge for the driver. We took a shortcut that had us back in Bar Harbor in just a few minutes, where we expressed our gratitude to the hosts in the time-honored way.

The weather in town had taken a slight turn for the better. It was no longer raining, and for a few minutes, at least, visibility was up to about a third of a mile—meaning that we could actually see Maasdam in the harbor. It wasn’t quite 3 p.m., about an hour and a half before the last tender to the ship.

“More shopping?” I asked. “Back to the ship?”

“I dunno, Chester,” replied my mother. “Whatever everyone else wants to do is fine with me.”

“You decide,” said Pat.

“I’ve had enough,” said Kris, sparing me the role of spoilsport. “Let’s go back and relax.”

We crossed the street and walked around the dockside building to the pier, where we encountered a significant percentage of Maasdam’s passengers. By the looks, everyone had the bight idea to return to the ship at the same time. A tender was just pulling away, and hundreds of eyes watched with envy. Another tender came and went while the weather closed in again—rain falling in brief spurts. We finally found ourselves at the head of the line waiting for the fourth tender—the third tender only had room for two more when we reached the gate, so we deferred to a couple

standing directly behind us in line. By the time we got on the ship, four o’clock was ancient history.

“So…hot tub?” asked Kris.

“I don’t think we have time,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Because we have to get dressed for dinner,” I said.

“What time is dinner?”

“Eight.”

“Well that’s ridiculous. We have plenty of time,” said Kris.

“We need to be dressed for dinner before the show,” I said.

“What’s that got to do with it? We have dinner…then we go to the show. Same clothes.”

“The show is before dinner.”

”What?!”

“They flipped things around. The show is at 6:00, and dinner is at 8:00,” I said. “I told you about this months ago.”

“But I love my relaxation time before dinner—a nice soak in the hot tub, a shower…sit around in a bathrobe with a book and a cup of coffee…”

“You’ll have to relax at the show—in your dinner clothes,” I said.

Kris was bummed. After just two cruises, she had already developed a set of deeply ingrained habits. The mothers were not nearly so put out—dinner and a show, or a show and dinner, it was all the same to them. As far as I knew, neither had ever been in a hot tub—which probably explained their indifference.

Tonight, the main show in the Rembrandt Lounge was a full production of A Prairie Home Companion—or close to it. The radio broadcasts are two hours long, but tonight’s show would have to be a few minutes shorter to allow us time to get to the 8:00 dinner.

We agreed to meet in our cabin as soon as everyone could get changed and ready for the evening. Maasdam set sail just as we got back together at a few minutes past 5:00.

It had brightened up considerably outside, so we headed to the verandah. I spread towels and bathrobes on the wet furniture so that we could enjoy the view for as long as it lasted—about 5 minutes, I’d say, before fog rapidly enveloped the ship. It wasn’t the gloomy, dark and drab fog we had become accustomed to—is was brilliantly bright and gold-hued, glowing as if illuminated from within. Cool…

Although the temperature and the sounds of the sea were enticing, we’d all had enough moisture for one day. No one challenged my suggestion that we go back in to the cabin for a quick toast.

“Hey—looks like we have a new table assignment for dinner,” I said, reading a card left for us on the bed. “Mom—did you guys get one?”

“I don’t know, dear—I didn’t notice. Pat, did you see anything?”

“No—we were in such a rush…”

“Do you want me to run down and look?” asked my mother.

“No—that’s OK. We’ll just assume that they got it right,” I said. “We should probably head out so we get good seats.”

We hadn’t had a chance to check out the theater, and I held some concerns from my pre-cruise research. Although written reports praised the facility, floor plans and pictures made it appear that the undulating rows of seats in the balcony would tend to have patrons facing every which-way, craning their necks to see the stage. I wanted to make sure we found a spot on the main floor.

Although we arrived more than twenty minutes before the start of the show, the very elegant and intimate theater was already packed. The only empty seats were of the undulating variety, high up in the balcony. The best we could do was to pair the mothers in one row, while Kris and I sat behind them in another row. People continued to pour in right up until show time.

“Somehow I have a feeling that some people are skipping their dinner to see an extra show,” I said to Kris.

“Is the theater big enough to hold half of the passengers at a time, or do they count on some people not showing up?”

“I think it’s more than big enough, but I’ll have to look it up to be sure.” I have since verified that the Rembrandt Theater seats 600, slightly more than half the passenger count on our trip.

There was apparently just one waiter assigned to work the balcony, though for as often as we saw him, he could have been responsible for the whole theater. Every time he came into view, people frantically waved their arms to get his attention. For most, it was to no avail—the waiter was hopelessly outnumbered.

I was pleased to discover that the view was just fine from the undulating balcony seats. From our perch I could see my mother’s face in profile, allowing me to monitor her reaction to the show. As I’ve mentioned, I was convinced that her attempt to listen to an APHC performance on the radio was unsuccessful, so she had no idea what she was about to see.

Kris and I took Pat to an APHC show that was performed in New Hampshire a couple of years back. When I told a co-worker that we were going, he asked why anyone would want to watch a radio show. It was a silly question…

The lights dimmed, and Garrison Keillor strolled on to the stage, dressed in his trademark tux, red tie and red sneakers. We were treated to nearly two hours of typical APHC fare, including top-notch music ranging from gospel through silly, country, honky-tonk and jazz, hilarious skits like Why Men Go to Sea, The Continuing Adventures of Guy Noir, and Lives of the Cowboys. I was relieved when, early on, my mother dug some tissue from her pocketbook to wipe away the tears of joy. The entire regular cast performed—the extremely talented voice artists/impressionists, Sue Scott and Tim Russel, sound-effect artist Fred Newman, and Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band (curiously missing Rich Dworsky, an amazing pianist and band leader).

In one skit entitled How I Got Into Radio, GK and the cast recounted an imaginary history of radio shows from our host’s childhood. It was side-splitting stuff, complete with segments from shows like “Broadway Bandstand—brought to you by Bridgeport Brand Bromides, the quick easy solution to stomach acids caused by overindulgence, with Brad Brickhouse, the heartthrob of mature women,” “Sheila the Christian Jungle Girl, brought to you by Brainerd Brand Baked Beans, the family favorite!” and Family Mystery Theater. Each show segment was preformed just like old-time radio, with sound effects, musical interludes and even commercials with brightly sung lyrics like:

Brainerd Baked Beans are delicious
And they’re also good for you.
And if your system’s clogged up
Our beans go right on through.
You’ll love the baked bean flavor
And the music’s lots of fun.
They will make you bigger, give you vim
Brainerd Baked Beans, Number 1.

-and-

Jensen’s Medicated Gel
Is good for what ails you.
Prevents seizures, and distempers,
Episodes and syndromes too.
It’s good for nervous breakdowns,
Bronchitis and gangrene
Cures warts and bumps, chicken pox and mumps,
And it leaves breath fresh and clean.

All too soon, the show was over and the house lights came up.

“That was too much, Chester,” said my mother. “Garrison looks so dour. I had no idea he was so funny…”

I felt pleased and somehow vindicated. “Like he says…a face made for radio.”

As we left the theater, though, I was suddenly stricken with doubt once more.

“Time to see what our new dinner table will bring,” I said.

You just never know…

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