Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Trainwrecks and Filthy Rags

My father used to ask me, "As an outsider, Patrick, what do you think of the human race?" He wasn't being unkind; just observant. I have always felt like that strange fellow in any Fellini film. You know the one: people are having conversations, playing volleyball on the beach, etc. and there he is, the man in the hat and suit, walking through the middle of them, out of place, unobserved. This sense of dislocation has been a defining part of my life since my earliest memories. With that said, you might be ready for the rest of this post. Read it all, though, for you if read only part of it you will think that I am a perfect jerk and that is not true. Nobody's perfect....

The absurd and I are buddies. I like to spot "what's wrong with this picture" moments, like the one where Kami and I are eating lunch in Pancho's Backyard (Cozumel's best Mexican restaurant, by the way) soaking up the atmosphere and listening to a marimba band play the Mexican Hat Dance and other Mexican (tourist) favorites when all of a sudden they started playing Strangers In The Night. It was noon, but that wasn't the point. I was just coming down from the patch (see last post) so this was just strange enough for me to find hilarious. It was a day for strange events.

There was a Chinese family on board the ship, a father, mother and three children. I never saw them smile. In fact, while the rest of them had expressionless faces, the father looked angry most of the time. Every morning, without fail, they would go to the Lido deck to the incredible buffet laid out there for breakfast... and all of them would get one bowl of Froot Loops. That's it. They would then, without a word, take them to a table and eat them slowly, without comment, sit a moment longer, and then leave. Every wonderful breakfast food you could imagine was waiting there for them each day... and they had Fruit Loops.

We walked into the dining room that night -- after having successfully dodged Cindy and with Dennis on the horizon -- and the background music was the theme for Titanic.

The decor on Carnival ships has to be seen to be believed. Think "Psychedelic Mosque" or "The Sociopaths Got Control of the Crayola Box." I am a shrink and have been one for some time, but I cannot imagine the brains of those who put those colors, images, angles, and lights together. Yet, they are making millions and most of the cruisers were repeat customers (and so were we) so which one of us is the crazy one....?

The talent show was a trainwreck... but they didn't know it. The five (who passed auditions, for goodness sake!) performers would have been slapped by Paula Abdul on the first night of "American Idol" but you could tell they thought they were wonderful, and so did their families. One act was a group of oriental people singing 70's disco tunes, heavy on the Kool and The Gang standards. Their rendition of "Celebrate good times, c'mon!" will linger in my brain long after the scopolomine has left.

Did I mention the "hairiest chest" competition? That was bizarre but, hey, that woman from Arkansas won it fair and square! (just kidding)

At the end of the day we returned to our cabin to find that the cleaning ninjas had been there again. You can't leave for five minutes without them getting in there, straightening everything, and leaving a towel animal on the bed. It is really cool -- but weird. We never saw them, but we could tell they had been there! That night, it was a towel monkey they had posed hanging from our lights. I told my wife, "Look! It's a French monkey!" She asked me how I knew it was a French monkey and I said, "Well, it's hands are already in surrender position..."

When darkness fell and I stood alone on the balcony of our room, I talked to God about what I had seen and recalled the words of Jesus telling us that after we have done everything as well as we can do it -- it is all really just filthy rags. It might look great to us, but to someone with a different point of view, someone with greater wisdom or more experience, it is almost comically bad. I had tried to be a good husband that day, kind to every person I met, more than generous in tipping the guides, encouraging to the newlyweds who sat across from us, and so on. I had presented my best to God, but I am certain that, from His viewpoint, He could have picked it apart as "out of tune", "not quite on pitch", "inappropriate setting", ad infinitum. In other words, He could have found me nothing more than an object of amusement, somewhat to be pitied. He had given me a buffet of blessings and I had eaten my Fruit Loops and moved on.

It doesn't take any talent or courage to be a cynic. It is not a sign of intellectual superiority to be able to find fault with others. It doesn't make me a good man just because I notice what is wrong with others.

Tomorrow, I may not do much better. But I plan to at least check out the buffet.


At 7/12/2005 12:18:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

I went on a Carnival cruise to Cozumel in April... missed the hairy chest contest - wish I had missed the talent contest. Kareoke (sp - 1) was the greatest ever!

At 7/12/2005 02:14:00 PM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

Yeah, but the great thing about having God at the head of your family is that, in spite of His ability to hear our righteousness for the karaoke it is, He still applauds and hugs you when you come back to the table.

At 7/12/2005 03:00:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Patrick -

You're WAY too hard on yourself, buddy. Having a terrific off-the-wall sense of humor like you have is a tremendous ASSET and isn't the same at all as being a "cynic" or a "perfect jerk." I only know you from your writings, of course, but it is obvious you have a very deep and tremendous heart of love and compassion.

I know in my own life that many situations can only be faced in any kind of positive way by having a sense of humor about things. Otherwise, at least for me, deep depression can creep in or at the worst of times, utter dark despair.

At the very least, many others might have looked upon the cruise in a negative way and not seen the irony and humor that was obviously (from your point of view and in the telling) present. I mean, Froot Loops for breakfast and the theme song from Titanic with a hurricane out in the gulf?! Too funny!

And, I understand completely how you feel about being an outside observer peeking in at life. I really do. For most of my life I've that way, too. In fact, I can remember everything about the exact moment in my life (I was in my late 30s) when I first felt like I was in the center (of myself, I guess) looking OUT at the world, rather than being on the outside looking IN. It was a very profound moment for me and a huge shift in my thinking.

We who follow your here on your wonderful blog (and I think I can speak for all of us) have nothing but respect and admiration for you in all your abilities and talents, humorous and otherwise. And, I figure God gave us senses of humor for a good reason and wants us to use them.

After all, in looking around His world He created for us, you find endless examples of His own humor, I think, in many aspects of His creation. Probably not the least of those examples are all of us human beings ourselves.

At 7/12/2005 03:39:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

Let me echo what Dee said about appreciating your humor. I know God made us all different, and not all of us appreciate the same things.........but having said that, I sure hope you know how MUCH I appreciate your humor! I see it as a gift he gave you, and you are taking those talents he blessed you with and USING them! I see it as you honoring Him, using the gifts he gave you. I pray the rest of us use our gifts as well as you are using yours.

Now to the part about women from Arkansas......I have you know my wife is from Arkansas. :) We have found there are a LOT of products out there that help.

Just teasing, and NOBODY ever repeat what I just said. If you do, the boogie man will visit you for sure.

Thanks PM for another great post!

At 7/12/2005 09:05:00 PM , Blogger Morris said...

"Look! It's a French monkey!" She asked me how I knew it was a French monkey and I said, "Well, it's hands are already in surrender position..."

Man, that is priceless..

and yes, I think we were created with a sense of humour. I think our Lord also has a sense of humour, after all he created us, didn't he? (and yeah I know you've all probably heard that one before)

Thank God we are so much loved despite our foolishnesses..

At 7/13/2005 08:26:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

That's why the French eat snails: it's the only animal they are brave enough to hunt!

I know: some of you are thinking "You're going to make French people angry!"

And the consequences of that would be......??

At 7/13/2005 09:56:00 AM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

Well, to answer your question about the consequences of insulting the French, I was going to quote a line from the French k-niggets guarding the castle in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" about doing something "in your general direction," but I thought better of it.

At 7/13/2005 10:15:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Brilliant, Keith! Just brilliant! And how did you know my father was a hamster and my mother was an elderberry.....?

At 7/13/2005 02:03:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Well, if we're going to talk about real off-the-wall humor and Monty Python, my all time favorite Monty Python movie is "Life of Brian," which may lose me a lot of staunch "religious" friends here (and/or elsewhere among people I frequent), but I find it hysterically funny, somehow, every time I see it.

When they are out listening to the Sermon on the Mount, but can't hear every word clearly and can't figure out why on earth "the Greek shall inherit the earth" - sooo funny.

Then, there are all of the "women" dressed up like men with beards, etc, so they can attend the "stoning" and throw rocks and someone throws one early by mistake. What's so funny about that is I've known some fellow Christians who might have been the leaders of the "party" in such an expedition to not miss one second of the action.

Patrick - you just THINK you're the only one who is friends with the absurd and wacky world of satirical humor! (Or am I the only one who sees the humor and truths in "Life of Brian?")

At 7/13/2005 04:15:00 PM , Blogger Billy D said...

Your sense of humor is an endearing quality. I understand what you mean about the filthy rags. But, I guess Jesus cleans them up for us to present to G-d. He's the necessary go-between.
Sounds like it was a great cruise all in all. Glad your back though, selfish as that seems.

At 7/19/2005 02:57:00 PM , Blogger TCS said...

catching up on my tentpegs reading. I was so sure that being a cynic was a spiritual gift and now you have gone and ruined that for me.

At 8/02/2005 01:10:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see why you left out the hope in the story in order to make the point. Your point is exactly why the old covenant was not sufficient to save. It's such a gift that our salvation was already accomplished 2,000+ years ago. If it were all up to me, I blew it on the first day.

-Dan Curtis


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