lessons learned, nostalgia, silliness, TV

Life lessons from The Love Boat…

I love watching cheesy TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I especially enjoy watching them when I’m laid up in bed and in need of comfort. Although I’m mostly over the virus that kicked me in the butt all weekend, I was still a touch under the weather for most of Monday. I did experience sort of a second wind later in the day, but not enough of one to call myself “well”. I managed to find the energy to wash all the bed linens and turn on the robot mower 😉 , which I forgot to check on, and later found stuck in the corner of the backyard. I even summoned the energy to walk the dogs in the afternoon, which they both appreciated. But then I came back, hurled, and spent more quality time on the toilet.

Yesterday, I watched The Love Boat, an Aaron Spelling/Douglas Cramer television show that aired on ABC throughout most of my childhood. Someone on YouTube uploaded a bunch of episodes from the 1982-83 season and I found myself glued to them for most of the afternoon. Although most of the plot lines were completely ridiculous and implausible, it was still kind of fun to watch. There are even a few pearls of wisdom within the episodes.

Yes, I did have to suspend belief when I watched the late Eva Gabor (born in 1919) playing the mother of a teenaged boy in the early 80s. It was a bit jarring to see Connie Needham (born in 1959), playing the fiance of her mother’s ex boyfriend Gene Barry (born in 1919), only to have her mom steal him back. I’m sure Alan Hale, Jr. and Bob Denver, both of whom were best known for their roles on Gilligan’s Island, had a great time on the show. It’s a trip to watch the crew members romancing the passengers as they live in huge, sumptuous quarters that I know are not the reality for actual cruise crew members. But still, I remember yesterday afternoon, actually stopping in my tracks to ponder when Dr. Adam Bricker (played by Bernie Kopell) said something unexpectedly profound. Or, at least I thought it was profound when he said it… I wish I could remember what he said at this moment, but alas, the thought has passed. Oh well, next time, I’ll make a note of it.

It’s always a treat to see Charo perform. Seriously– Charo is a very talented entertainer, especially when she plays guitar. She was a staple on The Love Boat, though, and I don’t think I ever need to watch her sing “Physical” again. My respect for Charo came when she was on The Surreal Life around 2004 or so. Even though that was a silly show, Charo showed everyone that she’s a lot smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for in her heyday, and she can REALLY play guitar.

Granted, this is supposed to be tacky and obnoxious, but it kind of goes beyond the pale. Charo later said she “cuchi cuchi-ed” all the way to the bank! I think I see a little Las Vegas era Tina Turner in this performance.
But at around 12:25 on this video of The Surreal Life, you can hear Charo play guitar… she does have some chops. I’d rather hear her play guitar and listen to her sing. Incidentally, this was one of the better seasons of The Surreal Life.

The Love Boat also did a couple of on location two-parters during that time period that were fun to watch, especially since Bill and I have been to some of the places they went. In 2013, we did our last SeaDream cruise from Rome to Athens, which included pre-cruise stops in Venice and Florence. The Love Boat, which usually focused on cruises to Mexico, went to Italy and Greece. They did one two-parter based on an Italian cruise, and one was based on a Greek cruise. I noticed they had some pretty high ranking guests for those episodes, too. Both specials made me want to travel! I have wanderlust anyway, but COVID-19 has made it more intense.

I’m sure all of the footage for the Italy and Greece episodes was filmed at the same time, production costs being what they were. I came to the conclusion they were filmed at the same time because I noticed that Lauren Tewes’ hair was the same “Sun-In” bleached blonde in both of the specials, plus the used the same footage of a TWA plane taking off. Forty years later, I’m amazed that people in the 80s thought that orange hydroxide look was attractive. Lisa Whelchel, who guested on the Greek special, had the same bleached hair with brassy overtones. It was pretty ghastly. As I watched the show, I realized it was work for everyone involved. But it also looked like a lot of fun to film.

I know this is a common phenomenon, but it seems like life was a lot more fun in the 80s… I know it probably wasn’t, for many reasons, but I was a kid back then. Actually, looking back on it, the 80s were hard for me, personally, because that was when I was growing up, and I didn’t have the greatest childhood. But we had all these feel good TV shows that were light entertainment. The Love Boat always had happy endings, with people falling in love, getting married, or discovering a new path in life. The staff on the ship was caring, friendly, and always invested in seeing that everyone had a good time. The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were great shows to watch on Saturday nights when I was growing up– at least until we had The Golden Girls, which was a much better show on all levels.

Granted, The Love Boat definitely jumped the shark around the time they kicked Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie McCoy) off the show because of her cocaine addiction and other issues, but it always featured old movie stars alongside up and coming stars of the 80s. It was great fun to watch when I was a kid, and probably more fun to watch now for entirely different reasons. I could imagine someone turning it into a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type of show, where there are snarky comments made for every ridiculous scenario, cheesy band number, or godawful evening gown. Also, I noticed all the women wore dresses no matter what, many of which were pretty frumpy and uncomfortable looking, even if they weren’t having dinner.

As a child, I was oddly enchanted by evening gowns and fancy events. It’s probably because I used to love reading fairytales. I also used to love watching beauty pageants, not because I believed in evaluating women by their looks, but because I loved the evening gowns. I liked the colors and designs. But times change, and just like The Love Boat and silly shows like it, beauty pageants have also gone out of style. Even Miss America, which was probably the most prestigious pageant, has changed its focus more toward promoting scholarship and community service than beauty. I think that’s a positive thing, but I must admit that as a kid, I loved the glamour of 80s television. It was fun to revisit it over the past couple of days, watching The Love Boat, a televised intellectual equivalent to empty calories.

Having now been on some cruises myself, I now realize that there’s a price to be paid for wearing fancy duds, and not just at the cash register. I have a few sparkly dresses, but I don’t wear them well. I find them uncomfortable, and I never want to spend a lot of money on dresses that I won’t wear more than a time or two. Consequently, I don’t really look smashing in an evening gown. Even if I had a really cute figure, I think I would rather just wear a nightgown with no bra, rather than a hot evening dress that is always too long for me and heavy with sequins. And that is exactly what I did yesterday, as my stomach and intestines launched into a few more revolts. I did feel markedly better yesterday, but I wasn’t quite all the way…

Well, I’m happy to report that today, I feel 100% better. I have a spark of energy, and I managed to eat a banana, toast with butter, and drink two cups of coffee with cream without feeling like I needed to puke. I’m sure there will be some residual crud from the virus my body seems to have vanquished, but I think I’m on the mend. It was the first time I’ve been sick in ages. In fact, I don’t remember the last sickness I’ve experienced since moving to Wiesbaden. I was sick more often in Stuttgart, probably because Bill was always traveling to Africa and exposing me to exotic pathogens.

One thing I’ve learned from being sick for the past few days is that I needed a reminder that I don’t enjoy the experience of sickness. In fact, perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I definitely don’t want to catch COVID-19. I have no idea how I got this stomach bug, which I’m guessing is less contagious than COVID is. But being sick for the past few days has SUCKED, even though I was somewhat functional the whole time. Maybe if this bug has done anything, it’s renewed my resolve to stay healthy.

Will I watch more Love Boat today? Maybe… I was watching the second part of the Greek two-parter when Bill got home. He worked late last night and stopped by the store to get me some OTC meds and food. I might watch the second part, just to finish. I could tell I was getting better, though, because as the day wore on, I was getting more tired of the lame storylines. I may need to view something with more substance today, if I choose to watch television at all. It’s amazing the boost one gets when that initial post-sickness energy surge hits.

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expressions, lessons learned, musings, YouTube

“You should never meet your heroes…” or should you?

A couple of days ago, when I was watching the movie, Camp, I was reminded of a famous saying. “You should never meet your heroes…” ostensibly because the reality of who they are will always be a disappointment. The character, Vlad, actually says those words when he runs into his hero, Bert Hanley (played by real life musician, Don Dixon), who is rip roaring drunk. Vlad idolized Bert Hanley for being a great musician and songwriter, but he didn’t know that Hanley was a cynical drunken asshole. And he was disappointed when he found Hanley, who was supposed to be directing the camp, completely bombed. Adding insult to injury, Hanley vomits on Vlad as he tries to help him up. Real class.

I ran into that quote myself a few weeks ago on the Cruise Critic messageboard. I was reading SeaDream Yacht Club’s board and joked that I really wanted to meet a regular poster named Jim Avery. And another regular poster wisely pointed out, “You should never meet your heroes.” He’s probably right. I’ve met a few people on SeaDream cruises who were posters on the messageboard. Some of them legitimately turned out to be people I wish I’d never met. I love SeaDream cruises, but I have to admit that it’s a line that attracts a fair number of entitled twits. In all fairness, though, some of the other passengers probably think I’m a twit, too. Especially when I’m in the piano bar. 😉

Some of the people on SeaDream probably think I’m not unlike this guy… I even have a similar physique.

I do love being on a SeaDream cruise, though. I haven’t been on one since 2013. I honestly thought we would eventually do another cruise with them, but Bill was going to be retiring in 2014, and I wasn’t sure what his employment prospects were going to be. Also, I knew that he would likely be starting a new job with limited vacation time. Then we ended up moving to Germany, and the rest is history. We have done three more Hebridean cruises, though, and Hebridean is as expensive as SeaDream is. I booked those cruises because of the themes and itineraries… and unfortunately, thanks to COVID, I’m not sure when we will be cruising again. So I will probably never meet the famous Jim Avery. I might be better off for that, since he might turn out to be a mean spirited jerk. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe I would think he’s funny and witty. I may never know.

Wonder if, when she has a quiet moment, Anna regrets being a “super fan”…

This topic comes up, in part, because Katie Joy on her YouTube channel, Without a Crystal Ball, did a video about how Anna Duggar was a “super fan” of the Duggar Family, back in the day. Katie Joy talks about how Anna admired the Duggars, having seen their public persona. She was dazzled by their images. I wonder if she now thinks the reality of being a Duggar is anywhere akin to what she imagined when she first saw Josh and his family. Especially now that it looks like Josh is going to be heading for prison soon. Maybe he’ll manage to get off, but I have a feeling he’s going to be wearing a striped uniform soon.

Then again, sometimes the opposite is true, and you should meet your antiheroes because they’re not nearly as bad as you think they are. You think someone is a real jerk, and it turns out they’re the opposite of being a jerk. Reality is often unlike what we think it is. I’ll give you a real life example.

For years, I thought Bill’s daughter was as hostile as her mother is. I was angry with her for a long time, mainly because she and her sister rejected Bill and refused to speak to him. It pissed me off that a man who is as kind and loving as Bill is, was being treated the way his daughters treated him. I was tired of people giving them a pass for that behavior.

But then Bill started talking to his daughter again, and he started to learn about what was behind that seemingly cruel behavior. And now I know I was wrong about Bill’s daughter, and fully admit that I was wrong. She’s turned out to be a very resilient and empathic person, much like her dad is. She is the very opposite of her mother. It had only seemed like she was a mean and judgmental person. The reality is, she’s not like her mother at all.

This week, Bill’s daughter wrote to Bill expressing her worry and dismay at seeing the crisis in Afghanistan. She wanted to know Bill’s thoughts on the situation. Bill explained to her that he never went to Afghanistan; he did his time in Iraq. But he has many friends and colleagues who served in Afghanistan, and they are devastated by the news. It’s heartbreaking to see that all of the time, money, effort, and lives spent on Afghanistan have seemingly gone to waste.

Bill’s daughter has decided to do what she can to help. She says she’s learned how to say “Hello” in Farsi, which is lovely, although Bill wrote back to tell her that most Afghans speak Pashto or Dari. She says that she knows that it means a lot for people to hear their language. Bill’s daughter is even putting together hygiene kits for refugees. She’s turned out to be a very good person, in spite of everything. She’s finding out that her dad and grandmother, both of whom were demonized for years by her mother, are actually excellent people who love her.

I often wonder what it’s like for Bill’s daughter now. She missed knowing Bill and his mom for most of her life. She was told many lies. Now she’s old enough to seek the truth, and she’s been brave enough to do it. I’m sure that as exhilarating as it is to know Bill again, there’s been a lot of pain. It’s not easy to find out that your mother lied to you, took advantage of you, and was completely abusive and horrible to so many other innocent people. Bill’s daughter has children of her own, and I know she wants to protect them from her mother. That’s got to be hard, especially when so many people have bought into the false story.

I have also gained more respect for Mormonism. I still don’t like the doctrine and I think it does a lot of damage to people who can’t fit into the mold. A lot of people have been harmed by people in the church. But Bill’s younger daughter managed to find good influences in the church, and some good hearted members helped her escape an abusive situation. Granted, she could have found help elsewhere, but in her case, it was the church that helped her. Going on a mission humbled her and broadened her horizons. She started to see perspectives that had been kept from her for so many years. In her case, the church actually helped her grow. It filled a need for her like the Army filled a need for Bill.

Now that I think about it, the Army has also damaged a lot of people… like those who fought or died in Afghanistan for what seems to be naught… But was it really all for naught? I read that some Afghan girls on a robotics team were rescued from Afghanistan. If not for the war in Afghanistan, would they have been rescued? Would they have ever had the chance to study robotics or be on teams that were successful in North America and Europe? What about the other girls who got the chance to go to school during our twenty years in Afghanistan? If not for the war, what would have happened to them?

What about the people who were born because of the war? There were romances between Afghans and Americans. Surely, there are people who exist now because we went to war, just as many people died because of the war. Those relationships help bridge understanding of the cultures. They add stories to the collective… and everyone does have a story. The war seems like it was a huge failure on many macro levels. But on micro levels, maybe it wasn’t. I’m reading about people in Afghanistan defying and protesting the Taliban, despite their fearsome reputation of being brutal in the face of defiance. Would they be doing this if not for the war? To be honest, I think Afghans are the only ones who can save their country from the Taliban. It can’t be up to any other country.

I think sometimes we get lost in what appears to be, rather than what is. It happens when we worship an image over what’s real. Or when we assume we know the truth about something when we really only have some of the information. The situation in Afghanistan looks very bad right now. I can’t deny that. But there are always other perspectives and other ways to look at things. Every new situation brings with it new opportunities. Hell… Bill’s daughter is using the situation in Afghanistan for inspiration. She’s learning a few words of a new language in hopes that maybe somehow, she can help someone. Maybe she will be an actual hero to someone, rather than a hero based on an image, reputation, or facade.

Maybe a lot of people view the United States as “heroic” on some level. And sometimes the USA is heroic. But more often, it’s comprised of fallible people who are living life as best they can. They look to their heroes for inspiration. Sometimes, that view is much better than reality is. And sometimes reality is better than we’d ever hoped or expected.

Well… I guess it’s time to wrap this up. Arran and Noyzi are breathing on me, hoping for a walk. The sun is finally out this week, so I guess I better take advantage before the weather turns shitty again. Have a happy Friday.

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lessons learned

“Now I can see why you’d love her…”

Today’s post is somewhat of a rerun in that I’ve written this story before. The last time I shared this tale was about four years ago. I had added it in conjunction to a video I’d seen about gay black men who said they had trouble dating outside of their race. But today, I’m just going to rewrite the story on its own, mainly because it has nothing to do with the dreaded “c-word” that is on the lips of everyone right now. You can decide for yourself whether or not you think it’s a happy or a sad anecdote.

Back in November 2011, I was 39 years old. Bill was 47. We had decided to take our second cruise on SeaDream I in honor of our ninth wedding anniversary. It had been an eagerly anticipated vacation. In those days, we had little time or money for traveling, especially SeaDream style. SeaDream cruises are considered by many to be in the luxury category. They’re mostly all inclusive, with a heavy emphasis on good service and food, an open bar, and exotic locations. SeaDream cruises are mostly marketed to couples. There are no programs for children and, although families can and do sail with SeaDream, it’s really more of a romantic cruise.

This particular cruise was in the South Caribbean. It started in Antigua and ended a week later in Barbados. Our first SeaDream cruise had been in April 2010, starting in San Juan, Puerto Rico and ending in Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I was excited about our second SeaDream cruise, because the first one had really bowled us over in a big way. This was also only our second time in the Caribbean together, so I looked forward to exploring new places.

Antigua is incredibly gorgeous! But my skin paid a price.

Before we got on the ship, Bill and I spent a couple of days in Antigua. Antigua has stunningly beautiful beaches, which I loved. It also has incredibly strong sunshine, which my pale skin doesn’t love. We spent one day on Segways and another on an “extreme” circumnavigation tour around the island, after which some of us jumped off the boat and swam in the deep blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Despite using a lot of strong sunscreen, I got a terrible sunburn complete with blisters.

Prior to our cruise, I had been posting on Cruise Critic. A man wrote that he would be joining us on our cruise and wanted advice on what to pack. I answered him, and once we got on the boat, we met him. I’ll call him “Dick” (obviously not his real name). He was from England, and told us that his wife had just died of breast cancer, so he was taking this trip alone. I initially felt a bit sorry for him, especially given that besides a large family group led by an overbearing guy with a mustache that resembled a gigantic brown caterpillar, this cruise mostly consisted of couples.

Our anniversary cruise got off to a good start. We saw some familiar faces from the last time we sailed with SeaDream. The weather was great, and SeaDream’s two identical vessels seem custom made for the Caribbean. Bill and I befriended a couple of other British couples. There was also a group of friendly Norwegians whom I thought were great fun, although Dick didn’t like them at all. He repeatedly complained about them being loud and obnoxious. I liked the Norwegians, though. They were gregarious and nice, and not at all snobby, unlike the large group of Brazilians who were on our first SeaDream cruise. I remember one of the bartenders on SeaDream had complained about the Brazilians, because they stayed up all night, got very drunk, and basically took over the cruise with their antics.

Over the course of a few days talking to Dick, he told us a bit about himself. He was fairly good looking and obviously had a good job that paid enough that he could afford SeaDream. I remember Dick had very intense blue eyes and silver hair. Though he was a bit paunchy, he carried it well and probably didn’t have much trouble meeting women. He was also kind of witty, intelligent, and charming, if not somewhat cocky and rude.

As an example of his rudeness, Dick actually wondered out loud how it was that Bill and I could afford to be on SeaDream, since Bill was at that time still in the Army. He also called his wife a “cow” for “dying on him.” I heard him make other comments that indicated that he had certain standards when it came to his women. I didn’t take his comments seriously, because I am already married to a great guy and not looking to impress anyone else. Still, I was kind of shocked that Dick claimed to be mourning his dead wife, yet he repeatedly called her a cow because she’d had the gall to get very sick with cancer and die. In retrospect, that should have been a clue that we should have stayed away from him.

One thing I hadn’t done during our first SeaDream cruise was visit the piano bar. Instead, I participated in a horrible karaoke session led by a guitar player who wasn’t very enthusiastic about the job. I was pretty much the only person who sang. I ended up meeting some great people after that show, but I was grateful that they didn’t offer karaoke on our second cruise. It was legitimately terrible, with few songs to choose from; those that were offered were of poor quality. The experience was not made any better by the reluctant guitar player, who clearly would have preferred playing his instrument to spinning badly produced pre-recorded tracks for shy cruisers.

As I discovered on our second and third cruises, it was far better to go to the piano bar, where a friendly Filipino pianist named George would play music and sing. The bartender would bring out non-stop drinks and people would lose their inhibitions and join in on old pop songs. It was a lot of fun.

On the first night of the cruise, Bill and I went into the piano bar just after dinner. We were the only ones in there, mainly because no one else had yet discovered it. I was feeling a little shy, but decided to sing a song for my husband, who had generously paid for our anniversary trip from his meager Army officer’s salary. As I was singing to Bill, Dick happened to be passing. He walked into the bar, eyes widened in surprise and mouth agape. Then he looked at Bill and said,

“Now I can see why you’d love her.”

I must have looked shocked, hurt, and upset, because Dick then grabbed me in an awkward, sweaty, and somewhat unwelcome hug and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” The hug made the situation worse because Dick had gone from a backhanded compliment to pity. He had been drinking, so his inhibitions were lowered. It was a bit embarrassing, but at least we were the only ones who witnessed it besides George, the pianist.

It turned out that Dick was himself not a bad singer. He joined us, and pretty soon, other people came in and sang along, including the rowdy group of Norwegians. The Norwegians took a liking to me and chatted up Bill as they took pictures and videos of me singing. Unbeknownst to me, the Norwegians took pictures of me with my camera. I was kind of mortified by my appearance. I looked pretty terrible. My skin was red and blistered from the sunburn. I was wearing a casual dress that was lightweight, but not particularly stylish. I’m also fat, especially by SeaDream trophy wife standards, and I don’t photograph well under the best of circumstances. The damp Caribbean weather had made my hair a frizzy mess that defied styling. But we still had a really good time, despite Dick’s rude comment that let me know how he really felt about me.

At an earlier time, I might have been horrified by Dick’s comment and the unflattering pictures taken by the Norwegians with my camera without my permission. But then I took a good look at Bill’s face in those photos…

Despite looking like a middle-aged frump, I ended up becoming somewhat of a “star” during that cruise, which was kind of a thrill! We enjoyed a few fun evenings in the piano bar, although I made a point of not going in there every night. Later on during that cruise, Dick got pissed off at the Norwegians and actually challenged one of them to “step outside”, which no doubt would have resulted in someone being kicked off the cruise. This was after he and another passenger, spotting a bar that was unattended, snuck behind it and helped themselves to bourbon. Granted, the booze was mostly covered by the fare anyway, but helping oneself is a no no.

At the time all of this was happening, I kind of excused Dick for his dickish behavior. I figured he was distraught and grieving, and maybe it was hard for him to be on a ship full of couples and a couple of rowdy groups. Now, after thinking about it, I just think he was a narcissistic prick, and I wish I had just told him to fuck off. It later occurred to me that I may not be the type of woman this man “fancies”, but that doesn’t really matter.  In my eyes, Bill is a much better “catch” all the way around than that drunken asshole is.  I’m not sure why he felt his opinions about my looks were really important, anyway. He’s not married to me, and thank GOD for that. Besides, there’s no reason for anyone to pity me. I live an enviable life with a man who honestly loves me for who I am, and not just for what I look like and how I can make him look standing by his side.

On a different cruise with nicer people and no sunburn… Although unfortunately, hours later, I was flattened by a stomach bug, which probably made me look as bad as I did with the blistering sunburn.

Unfortunately, the world is rife with self-absorbed jerks who think nothing of subjecting innocent people to their boorish behavior.  Too many people care what assholes think about them and they allow these shallow fucks the power to alter their moods.  I admit it.  It offends me when people say stupid, hurtful things to me.  As I age, I’m trying to get better at not caring.  

If you aren’t comfortable with yourself, you can send out signals that others shouldn’t be comfortable with you, either.  I really think that’s the root of the issue.  If you don’t love and accept yourself as you are, it’s hard to expect others to love and accept you.  But still, I get why it’s hurtful and depressing to have no control over some aspect of your appearance and have other people make unkind remarks that insinuate that you should care about what they think.  Many of us are conditioned from birth to care what others think of us, which makes thoughtless and rude comments about appearance brutal to hear.

Years later, he still loves me. This year, we will celebrate our 18th anniversary.

It can take time before you can see a person’s inner beauty. Someone whose looks are average or below average may have attractive qualities that don’t immediately meet the eye.  How will you know if the sunburned heavyset lady with the weird hair has a pretty singing voice and a wicked sense of humor if you never deign to speak to her? Incidentally, I’m still not a raving beauty, but there have been times since that trip that I’ve looked a lot prettier than I did on the night Dick insulted me. Not being sunburned, letting my hair go natural, and not being in a humid place really helps. See?

That’s for you, Dick…

There’s a lot more to people than their appearances. Sure, a pretty face and perfect body are attractive, but what if that good looking person is a mean-spirited creep or a self-absorbed bore? Maybe it’s lucky that I met Bill online and he got to *see* my personality before he saw what I look like.  On the other hand, on my ugliest day, I’m still way more beautiful to him than his ex wife was.  And my beauty compared to hers has nothing at all to do with physical looks, but rather with how I treat other people, Bill in particular. We get along beautifully because we like each other, laugh at the same jokes, cooperate in each other’s successes and support each other in our failures. What’s most important is that we truly love each other– the whole package– even when we’re fat, unstylish, sunburned, and have weird, frizzy hair that defies taming. Or, in Bill’s case right now, hair that has been cut three times by his wife, who isn’t a skilled barber…

These Norwegian guys were a lot of fun, though… And I’m glad they were sensible enough not to get into a brawl with “Dick”…

Anyway, I don’t know what happened to Dick. I hope he found himself the woman he truly deserves…

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funny stories, music, obits

Rest in peace, John Prine… and I am not a Catholic lesbian.

First thing’s first. This morning, as I was waking up, I was very sad to read about John Prine’s death yesterday. For the past few weeks, he’d been suffering from the affects of COVID-19. I knew he’d been on a respirator, and the longer a person spends on a respirator, the less likely it is that he or she will be able to recover. I knew he’d already beaten cancer twice, and that he was in his 70s. I still had hope that he would pull through. I won’t claim to be one of his biggest followers. I love his song, “Angel From Montgomery”, and have sung it many times. I also recently discovered some of his other creations, including the adorably quirky “In Spite of Ourselves”, a duet he did with Iris DeMent which makes me think of my life with Bill.

I think this song is a new favorite…

Thanks to my friend, Susan, I recently purchased several of John Prine’s albums and introduced his witty genius to Bill. We’ve enjoyed a few nights listening to Prine’s brand of offbeat, humorous, and poignant storytelling in the form of beautifully crafted songs. A lot of my friends are genuinely sad that we’ve lost another American treasure. I won’t pretend to grieve as much as they’re grieving, since I am admittedly late to the party. I do remember playing his music by request on my radio show back in college. Incidentally, college is also where I discovered Bonnie Raitt, who made Prine’s song “Angel From Montgomery” a hit back in 1974. I know Bonnie is grieving, too.

Anyway, I’m genuinely very sorry to see John Prine go. I was really pulling for him. And I offer my deepest condolences to his wife, Fiona, and their sons. Besides music, John Prine and I also had Stuttgart in common. He lived there during the 1960s, doing his stint with the Army. I read that he downplayed his military service, saying that he spent it drinking beer and “pretending to fix trucks”. I spent a lot of my time in Stuttgart drinking beer, too.

My own turn with John Prine’s song, “Angel From Montgomery”. I’m no Bonnie Raitt, but I get by…

And now… what’s this about Catholic lesbians?

Because I don’t want to write much more about the depressing subject of COVID-19 right now, I’m going to shift subjects. This morning, as I was looking at Facebook posts from the past, I noticed a quirky status update I wrote on this date in 2016.

Just so everyone knows, I am neither Catholic nor a lesbian.

And it’s true. I’ve never been a Catholic, and I’m definitely not a lesbian. However, I am on an email list from DignityUSA, which is an organization that celebrates “the wholeness and holiness of LGBTQI Catholics”. I’ve got nothing at all against that mission. I don’t care what people do in their bedrooms as long as everyone involved is able to consent. I think love is love, and everyone should be allowed to experience it. But it’s not a cause that I’m particularly passionate about, either.

So how did I get on DignityUSA’s mailing list? It’s kind of a funny story.

About ten years ago, Bill and I took our first cruise on SeaDream I, one of twin mega yachts owned by SeaDream Yacht Club. It was our first luxury cruise experience, but we were not really financially equipped to afford a luxury cruise. In those days, Bill was still paying child support for his youngest daughter; I still had student loans; we also had car loans and a lot of credit card debt.

I managed to find a five night Caribbean cruise taking place in late April 2010. I booked a guaranty rate of $1599 a person, which was a great deal for a SeaDream cruise, but still quite expensive for us. I had a feeling that if could just get Bill on the ship, he’d be sold on all inclusive cruising on small vessels. Naturally, I was correct. After our first cruise, Bill was as big of a SeaDream fan as I am.

Our first SeaDream cruise really bowled us over. On board with us were a couple of approachable celebrities, a group of rowdy Brazilians, some obviously wealthy people, and people who were more like us. It was mostly all inclusive. The food was amazing. The service was incredible. The scenery of the Caribbean was glorious. I actually got to meet the people who launched Joan Jett’s career and they still talk to me today. Michael Moloney of Extreme Home Makeover was also on the ship, although I didn’t know who he was. Yeah… we were blown away by it so much that I pre-booked another cruise for 2011. The next cruise was 7 nights, and cost a lot more than $1599 a person, although we did get a 15% discount for pre-booking onboard.

We scheduled our second SeaDream cruise for November 2011, in honor of our 9th wedding anniversary. I worried about how we’d manage to pay for it, while simultaneously salivating at the idea of going on another wonderful cruise with SeaDream. Someone on Cruise Critic had posted a tip that people could buy coupons for SeaDream cruises on some Web site that I no longer remember. All we had to do was make a $100 donation to one of the listed charities, and we’d get a $500 voucher for the luxury cruise. It was akin to getting $400 off of our cruise for donating $100. I thought that was a good deal, so I bought a coupon for DignityUSA and applied the voucher to our second delightful cruise.

I don’t remember if there were other charities to choose from besides DignityUSA. Knowing me, I probably did think it would be a good group to support. I think certain religions can do a lot of damage to some people, particularly strict religions where a person’s diet, dress, or sexuality are dictated. However, I do think a person can be of a non-traditional sexual orientation and still be religiously faithful. Some people get peace, faith, hope, and love from their religious beliefs. I don’t fault them for that, even if I’m not particularly religious myself.

Anyway, ever since then, I’ve gotten emails from DignityUSA. I think I also used to get mail from them, but that stopped after we moved a half dozen times. Sometimes I look at the emails, but since I am neither a Catholic nor a lesbian, I’m afraid that’s about as far as it goes.

I should probably unsubscribe from DignityUSA’s mailing list, since I’m only a casual and rather accidental supporter of their cause. However, for some strange reason, I just don’t have the heart to do it. I do support their cause on some level… even if I don’t believe in Catholicism and I don’t really understand what it’s like to be homosexual or transgendered or any other way other than straight.

As for our love affair with SeaDream… well, it’s been about seven years since our last cruise with them. Our third cruise– which had stops in Italy and Greece– was probably our favorite of the three. However, I didn’t pre-book another cruise that time because it was a year before Bill left the Army and we didn’t know what his job situation was going to be like in 2014. I did have my eye on one of the cruises offered last summer, but Bill was reluctant to book it because, again, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to arrange the time off for when it was sailing. Also, SeaDream cruises are even more expensive now than they used to be, although to be honest, I’m not sure if the line is going to survive in the wake of the virus crisis. Based on what people are posting on Cruise Critic, it looks like their treatment of people who had signed up for cruises this year is alienating a lot of their customers (even though their crew on the ship is fantastic).

Still, I’m grateful that Bill and I were fortunate enough to sail with them three times. I see from Facebook memories that we booked our last cruise, which was on Hebridean Princess in Scotland, about a year ago today. It’s amazing that a year ago, we didn’t have a care in the world about a pandemic. And now, we’re seeing it ruin and end a lot of lives and livelihoods, as it also somehow brings people closer together in all kinds of ways. I suspect I’ll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.

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