After ten years of unremitting coaxing,
we have finally persuaded Rick and Mary Jean to come on a cruise with us.
We took the train to Seattle.
Mary Jean was delighted with the train
station, having admired it often from outside, she greatly enjoyed her first
view of the Edwardian opulence of the interior décor.
The train was on time, our seats were comfy,
the weather was clear and the view was incomparable, as always.
We had two hours in Seattle, and as
Rick was familiar with the area, he and Kyle went out and hunted down lunches
Falafel and babaganoosh, and
tabouli and enough garlic to fend off vampires.
Three hours on the bus got us to
Vancouver, and ten minutes in a cab got us to our hotel, the exquisite Pan
Pacific. Where the views are breath-taking, the rooms are palatial, and the
service makes you feel like the particularly favored guest of the queen.
A delicious dinner at Steamer’s Pub
capped off our long and uneventful day.
They brew their own. The Stout and the Nut Brown Ale were quaffed with
As a certified lightweight, I went for the IPA and found it
beer has a higher alcohol content than American, we all went straight to
Wish I could have stayed awake, though.
There was a performance of Indian Music in
our hotel, and I was enchanted just watching the arriving patrons.
A sari is SUCH a graceful garment!
And the men with their big dark eyes and
flashing white teeth, the turbans and glorious beards and moustaches – Such
romantic, virile fellows!
view of our vessel in the dawning light.
We like the Pan Pacific for so many reasons – one of which is the fact
that the cruise ships dock right there.
Embarkation was well organized and as efficient as could
reasonably be expected.
And our rooms
were freaking glorious!
We had splurged
on adjoining Neptune Suites.
cheerfully opened the partition between our verandas, so we could enjoy the
It was fairly chilly in
Vancouver, though, so we didn’t spend a lot of time outside the first night
Always take a jacket or sweater to life-boat
drill in Vancouver.
That sea breeze can
I’ve been frustrated with my hair,
trying to grow it out a bit, and it’s at one of those awkward stages.
So I went to the salon and asked if they had
any operators who could braid it up Caribbean style.
The manager smilingly handed me over to Juan
from Sri Lanka.
He was a lovely boy with
kind eyes, warm hands, and not a clue where to begin.
“French braid?” He asked, running his hands
with some puzzlement through my curls.
“No, Caribbean style.
Lots of little braids, flat to the
Like they do in Jamaica.”
He smiled (What a beautiful smile he had) and
said, “Be right back.”
He returned with Shirleen, the nail
girl, who was Jamaican.
immediate charge and said, (With a rich Jamaican accent) “You do it like
Then she sectioned off an inch
wide band of hair from my forehead to my crown, leaned my head back firmly
against her generous bosom, and began plaiting the silver strands into a neat,
“Like this, man,” she said,
with her fingers flying.
“Can you do it
- try,” he murmured.
His accent was also thick, and the two didn’t
really communicate well.
Shirleen had evidently braided
squirmy little kids because she was very firm and efficient.
“You watch, man,” she commanded, and started
My hair is longer in back, and I
wanted braids coming up, so that all the ends met at the crown.
She stood in front of me, pulled my head
forward so that the top of my forehead was pressed firmly against her sternum, wedged
between those tender cushions, and continued plaiting briskly away.
This process requires that the hair be tugged
firmly and the braids be torqued as snug as possible.
When she started with those short hairs on
the back of the neck I would wince, and she would say, “I am sorry for your
Beauty comes with pain.”
Other hairdressers gathered around
to watch her deft expertise.
customers, coming through the shop would pause to watch.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” I heard a man ask.
“It’s worth it.” I said.
“You supposed to say, ‘no,’”
Shirleen told me.
The salon manager had to go find
little rubberbands to hold the braids.
In the meantime, Shirleen had Juan handing her clips to hold the ends
Shirleen’s next nail appointment showed
up, and another hairdresser, a beautiful boy from the Phillipines with a mouth
like Mick Jagger.
He explained that the hair at my temples was
too short to French braid, and too silky, but, using gel and lots of hairspray,
he managed to put it in a tiny lacquered queue over each ear which he pulled
firmly back till the wrinkles around my eyes were stretched smooth, then pinned
the end tightly into place.
I think he
would have used hot glue if he had a gun handy.
The manager showed up with the rubber bands, and Mr. Jagger-smile began
tweaking and jerking.
He devised his own
variation on my intent.
I had wanted all
the ends tucked neatly into a bun and pinned down. He fluffed them up and
created a coronet of curls across the crown.
He was RUTHLESS, jerking the clips out and wrapping those rubber bands
In situations like this, I
try telling jokes to distract myself.
Evidently my humor doesn’t translate well into Phillipine or Sri
I kept laying out a beautiful
punch line and hearing that flat silence, then the polite, “Haha,” that says, “I
have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Shirleen kept popping back to
supervise the finishing touches.
make sure it’s right across the top of de head,” she cautioned.
“Else she can’t sleep on it.”
I imagined having to cant my head on the
pillow to avoid lying on those knots of hair and rubber bands, and I blessed
While Juan and Mr.
Jagger-smile were still cinching the rubber bands down, a Serbian hairdresser
with gorgeous brown cat-eyes showed up, carrying a handful of bobby pins and
she began nailing the ends of the curls tight to my scalp.
She didn’t actually draw blood, but I don’t
think she would have cared if she had.
And then, Mr. Jagger-smile picked
up and aerosol can and said to me, “Close your eyes, darling.”
He proceeded to lacquer the whole confection
into a stiff, shiny edifice.
walk through a hurricane, and those curls will not move.
Kyle calls it my Jamaican facelift.
I feel like a queen. Women keep coming up to me and telling me how beautiful it
is. And I CAN sleep on it.
pain, but a few aspirins take the edge off.
Our first full day on board was a
day at sea which is always great for figuring our where you are and getting
your sea legs.
And, for getting your
hair done if you want.
The next day, we arrived after
lunch in SanFrancisco.
Sailing under the bridge was a treat!
Rather than sign up for a ship-sponsored excursion, Rick and MJ, who
knew SF well, suggested we take the hop-on, hop-off bus.
Our first stop was Chinatown.
MJ wanted to buy some tea, so we
stopped at a herbalist’s shop. The
smells! The sounds! The things for sale!
Giant dried mushrooms and colorful boxes of
I watched a
bone-thin old lady in a white coat measuring out
twelve careful handfuls of bark onto twelve
white squares, then adding carefully weighed doses of a yellow powder, then
counting out a precise number of little red things.
I think she was the apothecary.
Chic young women in high-heels and business
suits came in, spoke to the clerks in Chinese, handed over credit cards and
walked out with neat white little packets or zip-lock baggies full of tea, or
paper bags containing dried fish maw. (I have no idea why.)
We were the only round-eyes in the shop.
We bought Gunpowder tea, Rose Darjeeling, and
five blossoming green tea balls.
stopped at an emporium that MJ and Rick knew about, and I left with a gorgeous
aubergine silk coat.
The bus tour continued on through
the painted ladies – the victorian houses that have been maintained and
decorated with playful abandon and careful attention to detail.
We were on the top deck, and I nearly twisted
my head loose, gazing at this cornice and that dentil molding and those columns
And then – oh then, we went
through Haight Ashbury!
Yes, it has been
fourty years since the summer of love, but I still resonate to those plangent
I was grinning so hard my face
nearly split in two.
Finally, over the
Golden Gate Bridge, then back across it to the docks and a return to the ship.
For Mary Jean’s Birthday dinner in the
You may notice that Mary Jean is
wearing blue eyeshadow.
This is quite
unlike Mary Jean but she did it as a gesture of solidarity with me.
You see, the ship sponsored a 5K walk for the
cure that morning before we reached San Grancisco, and we both
I was goofing off and
tried to do a grapevine step to vary the workout.
I tripped over my own feet and fell like a
great sequoia, bruising leg, hip, arm, shoulder, and cracking my right
occipital ridge against the deck so hard that the people walking ahead of us
turned to see what the noise was.
had a sizeable audience to witness my embarrassment.
Over the next few hours, the
eyebrow bruise flowed down
By the time we headed to dinner, I
had the “smokey eye” look perfected on the right side.
The next morning we docked in Santa
Catalina. I was up early, savoring my
tea on the veranda, when I noticed splashes in the water. The approached the ship and I saw that they
were fish, leaping and frolicking and headed straight for the ship. Rick, on the adjoining veranda is quite
familiar with these waters and confirmed my guess that they were dolphins. “It’s a nursery,” he “Adult dolphins are larger. Like that one there.” For at least half a mile, the sea was churned
by leaping little dolphins, swimming up to smile at us. (I think the ship may have frightened schools
of fish toward them.) It was a glorious
Which set my wag into gear for the
We proceeded to take a
zipline tour. It was so fun! MJ is fearless! Kyle and Rick are dauntless. And I gleefully squealed my lungs out.
a thouroughly forgettable meal at Coyote Joes (don’t go if you can help it) we
took a semi-submersible boat ride over to Lover’s Cove. I was on my knees on the floor with my face
against the glass most of the trip. It’s
a good thing we weren’t crowded. The
bright orange Garabaldis are like gold coins in the clear water. The seaweed and kelp swoop and sway. The sea-urchins munch their patient way
across the sea floor. There were calico
bass and opal eyes and a gazillion little dark fish that were too skittish to
identify. It was awesome!!
We were all pooped from our exciting day, but I still
had some mischief left. I had to do a
little yarn bombing while I had the chance.
The next morning, we docked in SanDIego, the end of
the cruise. Again. Rick and MJ knew the
places to go and the things to do and graciously took us up to Point Loma, told
us stories about their lives in the city and their courtship there, and finally
got us to the airport in time for our flight.
They stayed in So. Cal for a few more days to visit Mary Jean’s
family. Kyle and I flew home to our
happy kitties, our secure internet connection, and our own sweet bed. Life is so very good for us right now!!