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.