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.: 11.25.2008 

FINALLY

Ok, I have been very slack in the blogging. I've been sucked into Facebook (thank you, workplace), and it's a lot easier to do a status update than an actual blog. However, status updates are not very substantive, and I've got substance to discuss! Well, sort of. The cruise at least and events on days on either end of it.

I was smart enough to keep a journal as we went (on the cruise at least) so that I wouldn't have to remember everything when I got back, so here we go. Photos here for Flickr friends.

DAY -1: The AntiCraft's Third Birthday (Oct 25)
Three whole years—and the last one without Ne if you can imagine. I can't believe it has lasted this long. I can't believe I have issue plans for 2009. I can't believe I have people who give me their time and brainpower without anything in return other than my gratitude. C'est incroyable.

Raellyn made a fabulous cake (of course, since everything she does is painfully fabulous and makes me doubt any pretense of talent I might have). It was shaped like a gigantic sugar skull and flavored with orange and anise like Pan de Muerto. People were snapping photos like mad so I left my camera in my purse... must hunt down photos! (If you took photos, send me copies/links!)

This year's craft contest was macaroni-and-dried-bean art. Sarah won with a depiction of zombie-and-bat attack. (Black beans for bats, split peas for zombie skin.) Second place was LPP's depiction of the movie Black Sheep, including macaroni person running for her life with a big O mouth made from two pieces of macaroni put together. As all winners already have a copy of the book, I still need to find them alternate prizes—coffee at the very least.

Ne couldn't make it due to her hubby's work schedule, but R&R came from Cleveland so we did have a second judge. Afterwards, R&R and Rae and Bug went to Masala with us for post-birthday nosh. Then we stayed up much too late talking and having fun with the cats (who were VERY interested in R's purse!) than we should have.

DAY 0 - Driving to New Orleans (Oct 26)
So about 3.5 hours of sleep later, Hubby and I piled into the car to head to NOLA. We were at least smart enough to pack the car the day before, so mostly we just tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen to pour ourselves a cup of ambition... (Sorry, had to!) We got on the road and drove, drove, drove all day.

Navigating any unfamiliar city is no fun, especially in a car. But we managed to get to our parking garage without much fuss, and once we were at the hotel we watched some mindless Cartoon Network until we got hungry, which wasn't very long. Thanks to the magic of the internets, I was able to scare up a cheap restaurant within walking distance (3 blocks) of the hotel called Mother's. I had a fried chicken po-boy with cheese grits on the side and Hubby had a huge bowl of jambalaya. It was amazingly good. In fact, it was the only fried chicken I've ever had that I even thought was as good as my mom's. And yes, I ate grits. I don't know what happened to me, but over the past few years I've grown to like them. It started with cream of wheat, which I like to have savory with onion and cheese, and then grits just seemed a natural progression from there. Very odd. Thirty years of not liking grits and now I'd eat a huge bowl of them if you offered it to me.

After getting back to the hotel we passed out. It had a been a long, long day.

Day One and First Impressions (Oct 27)
Oh dear Gods, what have we done? This is a floating mini-hell.

You know the annoying family from Wal-Mart who yells at each other over 2 aisles? They’re here.

You know the rude people who shout at the movie screen or talk on their cell phone while in the theater? They’re here.

You know those yokels who think Vegas is honestly classy? They’re here.

You know the breeders who don’t understand why you don’t think Little Johnny is adorable (even after you, my hand to God, overhear the mother confess to a shipmate that usually she keeps him in a harness with a leash)? They’re here.

You know that guy you work with who reminds you of a used-car salesman? He’s here, and he’s singing Your Favorite Smooth Sounds™ amplified to a million decibels in a room that is all glass and chrome so the sound bounces and bounces and bounces. But he’s not the only one. Every little nook and cranny is filled with a synthesizer and Rat Pack crooner wannabe, all competing for the biggest sound waves.

Our shipmates are like tightwad zombies in a feeding-frenzy. They swarm, there is no other word for it, they swarm anything and everything on the ship that catches their interest, common decency out the window, elbows flailing, voices raised to combat the Smooth Sounds™.

Leaving our cabin is like walking straight into a nightmare cacophony.

Our cabin is, blessedly, a small but efficient use of space in soothing warm neutrals and a slightly zen modern style. It is a marked contrast to the neon, glass, and chrome 1980s gone very wrong that cover every inch of the rest of the ship. The Fantasy is a superliner. That’s a lot of inches.

Lunch was very unimpressive cafeteria-style food. Dinner was better. Water is $3.50/ 1.5L and sodas are $1.25/12oz. I had two margaritas tonight ($3.50ea., they were on special) and I think I got about half a shot’s worth of tequila. (Remember, I’m a lightweight. One drink and I’m giggling; after these two I was still fine.)

It’s 12:30am and we are still technically in Louisiana even though we left port at 4:30pm. At about 8pm we had to pull over to the side of the river and drop anchor because one of the engines wasn’t working properly. We don’t know what’s going on, but a man calling himself Big Tex who professes to be our cruise director keeps getting on the intercom to give us regular updates on how we still don’t know what’s going on. I’ve never met him, but I sort of want to hit him in the face. I suspect he just inspires that in people.

Day Two, Morning and Evening (Oct 28)
I awoke at 4:42am to realize the ship was moving again. Then I peed and went back to bed. When I woke up later, there was nothing but blue sea as far as the eye could see out our window. (Yes, we have a window and not a porthole, which is lovely.)

I figured if I couldn’t beat them I might as well join them. I attended a “destination shopping” seminar in hopes of winning some free stuff. Alas. At least I got a lot knitted on my parasol’s sling while sitting there. I also registered us to win 60 minutes of free internet access, so if you are reading this before November 2nd, we must have won.

Like a considerate wife I didn’t require Hubby to come along to the consumerpalooza (especially since he hadn’t brought anything to knit), but when I returned to the room I found Hubby gone and my consideration not returned as he had showered and left the door to our hermetically sealed bathroom open. This caused a clammy humidity to take over the room, my only escape on this devil’s ship. As I turned up the fan, opened the door to the hall, and wiped the window and mirrors clear with a towel (which soaked through, btw), I had to remind myself of the conversation we had just last night: we can’t fight on this trip or we’re doomed, because we’re the only thing that the other doesn’t hate.

Thanks, dear.

I spent the half-hour I had for breakfast de-humidifying the room.

An empty stomach, I then realized, is much more prone to sea-sickness.

Thanks, dear.



Ok, obviously I wasn’t in a very good place when I wrote that last bit. And to be fair, I only got a little bit queasy—I’ve not had any trouble with honest-to-goodness seasickness (yet). I was out of sorts enough that I didn’t feel like making a mask with the wrockers. (It’s unlike me to miss craft time, even silly craft time.) Instead Hubby and I went to an early lunch and talked about what to do in port until The Wizard Rockumentary showing. The filmmakers were on board and we declined to introduce ourselves as it took us an entire month to get them their leftover DVDs and cash after the Wizard Rock The Vote concert. Yes, we are choads.

After that we had a deliciously long nap and dinner. Tonight was “cruise elegant” night, i.e. you must actually dress up fancylike if you want to eat dinner at the adult table. We opted for the always “cruise casual” Windows On The Sea buffet instead.

Now my friend Robyn knows that I’ve got no love for the karaoke, but most of the wrockers were going after the fancy dinner, so Hubby and I headed to the karaoke bar. I must say, if nothing else, karaoke is the most fun place to be snarky and judgmental. The best part of the entire evening was a girl named, in a cruel twist of fate, Melody. She slaughtered no less than four songs this evening, including “Sweet Home Alabama” and Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman.” The cherry? Watching the pained look on folks’ faces and then cheering on a sister who effing rocked “Respect” a few songs later. (Can I say “sister”? Sistah? For realz, yo?)

It’s about 2am now, so I need to head to bed. Tomorrow we dock in Progresso and have our trip to Uxmal (say it “Ooosh-mal”). I’m pretty excited, but I don’t have my holder for my parasol finished. I need to sew the hem and knit the shoulder strap, which I can do on the 2-hr long bus ride to the ruins in the morning.

Day Three and the Monkey on my Back (Oct 29)
Queuing to get off the boat was quite possibly longer and more uncomfortable than queuing to get on it. I can’t tell you how many times that silly paper fan I bought has come to my rescue on this trip, and this morning was no exception. As we stepped off onto the Progresso pier, we were assaulted by crew members wanting us to take photos with poorly-costumed faux-mariachis. There was no getting around it; they literally blocked the gangplank. My mariachi came complete with a painted on mustache and the kind of enthusiasm that only being threatened with loosing your job if you don’t dress up as a mariachi can really bring. The pier of course held all sorts of terrible souvenir shops and duty-free stores, but we didn’t have time to stop and smell the luchador masks because we were hustling to get to our tour bus for Uxmal. Our Mississippi River pullover caused us to dock two hours late (which, you must admit, isn’t bad considering we were stationary for about eight hours), so everything had been held for us. That is the upside of booking via the cruise ship, I suppose!

Uxmal was… breathtaking. Amazing. Fantastic. Gorgeous. There are too many adjectives to list, but let me add a final adjectival phrase to the end of that list: surprisingly huge. Physically it was pretty taxing for us, especially me, but it was completely worth it. We’d climb to the top of a hill or a building to see only more buildings that had been hidden, dating back from Gods-Only-Know-When B.C.E. (I couldn’t quite hear the tour guide the entire time, so I’ll have to call in my resident Mayan archeologist, Gunn, on that one.) There was a pyramid, like you would think of when you think mezoamerican ancient history, a market area, a court for that crazy Hip-Ball game they played, and tons of other smaller buildings. There was also a building called The Governor’s House, but it was last on the tour and I was too knackered at that point to climb up there. Hubby persevered and got some photos of it.

The weather was perfect for it. It was in the low 70s and partly cloudy/overcast. There was enough light to see well and take good pictures, but not so much that you thought you were baking in the sun. My parasol was the perfect accessory because it gave me shade when I needed it and helped me up and down the startlingly steep rail-less stairs the Mayans are so fond of.

Back at the giftshop we got some awesome apple-flavored soda. Apple as in “real Red Delicious flavor” not apple as in “terrible sort of carbonated Jolly Rancher.” We bought an extra bottle to enjoy when we get home, to remind us of our first time in Mexico.

I think the worst part of today was wanting to speak Spanish and having things in my head ready to say but no chance to say them. Since we were doing the total tourist thing, everyone spoke English. It was pretty depressing. The mental exercise is doing me good, at least, because I’m remembering all sorts of things that I had thought I’d forgotten (“Tirarlo en la basura!”).

When we got back onto the boat it was immediately time for wrock fun. The Bezor Project and Witherwings played sets first. Hubby saw Bradley Malfoy with a crazy huge coconut filled with some kind of alcoholic drink and went on a quest to find one for me as well. It was a concoction of light rum, orange juice, and banana liqueur. I had two, which put me at zero to drunk in about ten minutes, which was about three songs into Draco and the Malfoy’s set. Hubby escorted me down to our cabin because my body demanded that I lie down right away. Of course I insisted I would be fine, but I didn’t factor in the sway of the boat into trying to walk straight while drunk. Hubby, to his credit, wouldn’t be waved off, and I know I gave at least five people a good laugh (including myself) as I tried to make it to the elevators.

I think I laid there for about 30 minutes. Then my body demanded food. Still drunk, but able to walk at least, I hit the cafeteria for a small improvised jerk pork sandwich and some froyo. I found Hubby at the venue and we napped until proper dinner.

Tomorrow we’re going to hit Cozumel for some vanilla and tequila, then stay on the boat to play on the waterslides. Olé!

Day Four, in Which We Prove We Can Be Taught (Oct 30)
Today we docked in Cozumel, which is Spanish for tourist trap. Hubby and I declined to pay between $40 and $60 pp to go to one of the pristine beaches. Instead, we slept late, got off the boat about an hour after everyone else (no waiting), and wandered the crazy duty free stores at a leisurely pace. We took a taxi downtown to a tequilaria where we sampled the fare. There we bought a fantastic bottle of a slightly salty añejo tequila, some tequila-based vanilla liqueur, two whole litres of Mexican vanilla extract, my customary souvenir magnet, and a luchador mask with horns. The entire excursion took about an hour.

Back on the boat, it was a bit like a ghost ship because so many people were on shore. We took advantage of the emptiness and played on the waterslides until our knees gave out from going up the stairs over and over and because I had injured myself. No, probably not like you are thinking. It went like this: Wheee! I’m going down the slide! Hey, I should probably lay back to go faster! Oh, I bet I will get water in my nose when I land. Hrm, maybe I should plug my nose before I land. Oh, holy sonuvabitch ouch, I forgot that I have a nose stud! When I stood up, Hubby looked at me in horror and ran to our towels. I still wasn’t sure what was going on, but I soon realized I was bleeding copiously from my injured septum. Thank goodness we had brought one of our own beach towels along, so I could bleed on my own stuff rather than the cruise ship’s. It stopped pretty quickly, so no worries, but it looked really bad when it happened.

To ease our aching legs, we spent the next hour or so in one of the many empty hot tubs on board. As if sent from heaven, a nice lady brought us fruity alcoholic drinks. Then we took showers and a long nap.

Before dinner, we watched one of those hypnosis shows where they humiliate folks on stage. It was HILARIOUS. I don’t care if the volunteers were faking it or not, it was a scream and completely entertaining. There was one woman especially who appeared to be quite under. She would even take directions that the hypnotist gave to the other volunteers, like taking her shoes off and putting them on the wrong feet.

I’ve neglected to mention that at dinner we’ve been sitting with Bradley Malfoy and his wife Sarah. This is notable because 1) he’s a wrock star, 2) Sarah is awesome (read: crafty!), and 3) I actually requested to sit with either of the Malfoys on a whim, never thinking it would work out, but it did! Actually, all our dinner company has been really enjoyable, so you will hear no complaints here about that. You’re shocked, I know.

Right now I’m writing to kill some time before more wrock concerts, after which we suspect I will crash very hard.

Day Five (Oct 31)
Last night’s concert was pretty cool—it featured a band I’d not really heard and was entirely trance-y sort of music that I keep forgetting I do actually like for all that I make fun of the candy babies and Gofficks. There was full-on raver fun with a metric crapton of glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces. I don’t dance (ok, I did do the Time Warp, but that doesn’t count), but I rocked out with improvised glow drumsticks. (Yes, I miss Rock Band. Shut up.)

This has been our laziest day yet. We slept late; Hubby until 9:30am and I until 10am. We went to the ship debarkation talk so that we’re ready for the process of unloading this crazy floating city in the morning. Then we watched Wayne’s World and some surprisingly good fan short films down in the WtB common room. One of the films covered the prank that nearly got Severus killed when the Marauders were still at Hogwarts and the other was about Peter Pettigrew becoming the Potter’s secret-keeper and the events that led up to the deaths of Lilly and James. Considering that they were very low-budget, they were really well done.

Afterward I checked out a loose-gem sale for some nice white topaz for a sparkly ring I’ve been wanting, but I couldn’t find any that were round-cut in a size I wanted. I was very disappointed. By the way, US customs considers loose gem stones to be the same as rocks and are duty-free, though actual jewelry is subject to the whole over-$800-and-you-pay-duty thing.

After that we took pictures of the sunset and watched Iron Man before dinner. Ok, this is sort of dumb, but when we got to dinner, our table was full. Our table seats eight, but only six people were assigned there, so that means our two empty spots were taken AND someone had stolen our seats. Now then, we technically had open seating every night except for our first night, but our table had been keeping to itself and I was looking forward to spending a last dinner with our tablemates, so walking in to find that four random folks had usurped our spots was a little distressing. We got a table for two nearby and tried to be good sports about it, but it really put a damper on things. (I have such a weird and tenuous relationship to wrock fans as it is; remember Wrockstock?) So tonight I’ve had the wrock wind knocked right out of me. I think I’m going to go see the comedy show on the big stage while Hubby does the wrock thing.

We’re all packed and ready to go. I won’t miss the cruise but I’ll miss being on vacation. At least we’ve gotten to spend the past five days completely out of reach of any political crap whatsoever, and then we vote!
---
Post-Cruise Wrap-up (Oct 31 continued)
Hubby ran into one of our tablemates after dinner and he seemed genuinely pained that our seats were taken and said he tried to save them for us. Again, it's dumb, but it made me feel better. I ended up going to the wrock stuff (Remus and the Lupins and Dreary Inferi). It was Halloween, and, yes, there wwere a lot of wizarding costumes but there were also regular costumes. One girl had handmade an outfit to match the clockwork French baddies from Doctor Who; she had left the wig as wrangling the skirt onto the boat was difficult enough, but she had also made her own twisted wire beaded mask. It was like a crafting orgasm.

Sarah Malfoy SWF'd me a bit that night, which was funny. I had been wearing my cat ears headband all day, and she showed up with ears as well. Hubby was in his luchador mask and so was Brad, so we both had luchador husbands. Then, with no coordination on our part, we both ordered mudslides to drink. This was perhaps funnier at the time than it is now that I'm relating it nearly a month after the fact.

We had a great time but stayed up much, much too late (not as late as the others) considering the next day was debarkation, starting at 8am.

Post-Cruise Wrap-up (Nov 1)
We took our own luggage off the ship and waited in line forever at customs. Back at the hotel room there was much napping to be had. We filled up on the free breakfast and then had a very excellent pizza from a local pizzeria (The Italian Pie) delivered to the hotel.

Driving Home (Nov 2)
We got a semi-early start at 10am. When we got the car out of the garage, it had a flat on the passenger side rear tire. The guy at the garage had a tank of pressurized air and filled us to to about 20 psi (BlackWarGreymon takes 34psi) and we were able to drive down the block to a service station and fill it up the rest of the way. Hoping for a slow leak, we headed carefully out of town, but accidentally went the wrong way on a road that sort of loops around New Orleans, so we lost an hour. Then, just after crossing into Mississippi we pulled over for food and tire check. Things looked fine before lunch, but after lunch the tire was decidedly flatter (but not totally flat). The folks at the restaurant pointed us to the only place open at 2pm on a Sunday: Wal-Mart. At 6pm we finally made it through the queue (they were also an employee short) and were on our way again. Things got dire towards the end—when we hit the KY state line I was trying to figure out if it'd be faster to get to Mom's house so we could spend the night, but it was just as much driving time as to get home. We arrived in one piece at about 4am Nov 3.

Monday, Nov 3
It's a good thing we had both taken this day off. We slept.

Election Day, Nov 4
We left the house at 5:50am to get to the polls (at this point our sleep schedule was all messed up and we hadn't been to bed yet). There was a line with at least 50 people in it when we arrived at 5:56am. We waited about an hour to vote. When we did, the elderly gentleman in the booth before had forgotten to cast his vote. I was a Good Citizen and did NOT look to see who he had voted for and hit the "cast ballot" button on his behalf. Then I voted for the candidate who seemed the least evil and most electable, knowing that Kentucky was going to go for McCain no matter who I picked. I have to tell ya, that's a depressing thought to have in the voting booth, but voted anyway.

We went to bed afterward, and I woke up in time later to join the SNB for our first ever Vote 'n Bitch. We were watching the Daily Show/Colbert Report special election hoopla when it was finally called for Obama. And honestly? Since we were watching Comedy Central I wasn't sure if it was a joke or not. We flipped over to CNN to confirm. I know a lot of people got emotional and cried, but I was really still too shocked and unable to believe it.

--Present Day--
It's finally sunk in, and I've been having a good time posting photos in the "A Message for Obama" group over on Flickr.

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