Sunday, January 12, 2020

Celebrity Equinox Cruise: December 14-21 PART THREE

     Being upfront here, I simply do not have the talent to take decent pictures nor write a proper description about Key West, Florida. A partial explanation is that while I have visited the place four times through the years, it was always on cruises that took me away after only a few short hours.
     But truthfully, I am far from an unbiased person when it comes to Key West. For years I listened to Jimmy Buffett sing about the place, its character, and its history. So I continue to be enchanted like a love struck teenager even though many people have tried to dissuade me of my clumsy romanticism. These detractors say Key West is tacky beyond redemption and that its banal commercialism has ruined everything special about the place.
     All very possible, but enough still lingers to make it close to paradise for me.    
    On my first visit to Key West way back in September, 2001 the aftereffects of a very recent 9/11 prevented a lot of the usual tourists from visiting. Long story short, that allowed me a lot of time at the Southern Most Point. There was no line of people waiting to have their picture taken at the colorful buoy.
    On all my other visits though, the line of people has been so long as to make it impossible for me to get another. So I just settle to take a quick picture as I ride by on one of the Couch Tour Train or Couch Tour Trolley.
    Caused a bit of an issue with my wife as we rode passed the Garden of Eden Bar on the very crowded Couch Tour Trolley. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the Celebrity Equinox was overwhelmingly an older crowd with many obviously of the more socially conservative bent.
    So my lovely spouse didn't appreciate when I loudly spoke out about how we needed to get off the trolley, go up to the Garden of Eden Bar and strip down ot our birthday suits like we did years ago. No, we never visited that bar but I did thoroughly enjoy my wife's discomfort and the weird looks we got from all the raging stiffs.

    Yes, there was a price to pay for my improvisation but it was worth the several hours of stony silence. I honestly can't say I would never visit a clothing option bar like Garden of Eden. While on cruises I generally follow the idea that since I will never see any of those people again I can act as stupid and foolish as I want.    
   The "Lost Weekend Liquor Store." With such a name, that place screams to be added to a story of some hard luck loser looking for redemption.
   From what I understand, it's actually a new business, not something from the days when Papa Hemingway could be found walking the streets.   

    If you look beyond the palm tree you will see the destroyed air traffic control tower at Key West Airport. Now the story told to us by the trolley driver was that the tower has been that way for years. That air traffic is controlled by some person sitting at the end of the runway with a radio.
    Not sure how about the truth of that story but it does sound cool.   

    Time, or the lack of it, has always been my enemy when visiting Key West. On this trip I accompanied my wife to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, not a place many would expect me to like, but it was awesome. If my heart was normal, allowing me to drink beer, I would have done the bar crawl again.
    But be that as it may, I did enjoy seeing the 50 to 60 different species of butterflies that live in the indoor park.
   
    Not sure what species this bad boy belongs but this was one of my better pictures. It was funny how many shots I took but because of the nature of butterflies, failed to capture any image. 

    In the center of the park was a pond where two flamingos lived. They are named "Rhett" and "Scarlett" and didn't give a damn about any of us humans prowling around their humid home.     

    This butterfly looks like he, or she, has seen some rough times. Not sure if butterflies fight, but I can't think what would have caused this damage to its wings.

    A better view of the insides of the conservatory. 
    Like the previous visits, we had to get back to the ship much too early. These two Princess Cruise line ships were tied up at the Mallory Square docks. One of the things that fascinates me about cruising is the complexity of these ships, even medium-sized one like these two. Pack a couple of thousand spoiled North Americans and Europeans on a ship with about a thousand paid crew members answering their every whim.    

    Don't really know why I included this picture. Maybe because all the others I took at Key West were just not good enough. Riding the Couch Trolley wasn't really conducive to taking good photographs. Plus my wife was having issues with her knees making walking highly problematic.
    While I have forgotten the name of this little island just off Key West, I do remember it's one of those upper crust, exclusive communities.    

    Barely an hour after leaving Key West I took this picture. I really liked the contrasting blues of the sky and ocean. The next stop on the cruise after a day at sea was Costa Maya, Mexico.  

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Celebrity Equinox Cruise: December 14-21 PART TWO

Returning to a more pleasant subject, this was our cabin on the Celebrity Equionx. I wouldn't call it spacious but it was more than comfortable for the seven day cruise. We did have a fully stocked minibar refrigerator with seven dollar candy bars and five dollar can sodas. Neither my wife nor I ever considered touching any of those items. Especially since room service would have been "free" except for whatever tip we gave the waiter. 

The bathroom was enormous compared to what the Disney cruise ships offered. The one caveat to that statement was that Disney Cruise ships have TWO small bathrooms in their cabins. The logic being someone could be getting dressed in one while the other would be used for it usual purpose.  

Our veranda was awesome giving us a great view of the ocean.

Way back in 2000, my family and I did a cruise on what was then call "The Big Red Boat." That cruise line went bankrupt and out of business around 2002 but the casino aboard it was my only encounter with that level of gambling. The Disney ships don't have a casino and it was something I was quite grateful. The Big Red Boat's casino was a seedy place whose clientele I honestly found creepy. While I didn't gamble on the Equinox, I was surprised to find its casino a clean and well maintained place free of individuals that tried to look like third-rate Bond villains. Truth be told, the casino never was crowded for the entire cruise.

I did sort of laugh when I saw these slot machines. Back when Linda Carter played Wonder Woman on television I would have never imagined seeing her image on one-armed bandits.   

Instructions on how to launch the lifeboats. Several years ago a cruise ship began sinking in the Indian Ocean with the crew being the first to abandon ship leaving passengers to fend for themselves. The news reports did say the passengers were able to get themselves off the ship. So this is why I search out these instructions on every cruise. Not saying teh crew on Disney nor Celebrity ships would do anything unprofessional, but it's better to be prepared than surprised. 

They had a sort of art museum on board with a few dozen paintings hanging in one of the common areas. Wanted to take pictures of them all but my wife said that would be uncool.  

The outside pool area on my early morning walk. That morning we were a few hours away from docking at Key West.
What can I say about Key West that hasn't already been written by better men. It's tacky, spoiled, and overrun by tourists searching for a replacement for their lost shaker of salt or a flip flop repair shop. But I love the place even though I've never spent one night there. Making matters even worse, my wife and I did the trolley tour just like millions of other human locusts that have plagued that paradise over the decades. More pictures to come soon, that is if the Orange Buffoon has not started WW3.   

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Just Hit and We're Already FUBARed



We're not a day into 2020 and already I want to puke from all the warm, fuzzy and sickly gooey expressions of hope and unfounded optimism saturating social media concerning the new decade. The straw that broke this camel's back was an Instagram post by a B-list celebrity I actually like saying he “knew” the new decade would be filled with love, charity, and a couple of other things I missed due to an oncoming wave of nausea. Sorry to break anyone's bubble, especially after a night where they may have gotten laid, but folks we're fucked.

Everyone put on their memory hats and think back to New Year's Day 2010. President Obama was in office and the Democrats had control of both houses of Congress. Think about all the wonderful progressive expectations that were suppose to magically appear out of thin air. Of course the reality of the massive FUBAR situation hit the Obama coalition about six months later with many becoming disillusioned that wild herds of unicorns were not roaming Washington DC farting out rainbows and happy endings.

In fact several internet friends of mine, extreme progressives, would go as far to suggested President Obama was some sort of corporate Manchurian Candidate out to maintain the Bush/Cheney status quo. Which was funny in a way since the Republicans had lost what little remained of their minds by screaming on everyone of their media outlets that Barrack Obama was a secret Muslim born in Kenya out to ban guns and Jesus.

God in Heaven's sake, I would have never guessed that knowledge of the workings of basic politics was such a rare commodity. Especially after the 2010 midterms when all those progressives stayed home allowing the Republicans to take back the House of Representatives. Instead of rushing to the voting booth to bolster President Obama, liberal/progressives had something better to do like standing in line for that new Iphone or sipping coffee at Starbucks.

Yes, some good legislation was passed during the Obama Administration but a lot more stuff went to shit because of the irrational assholes controlling the U.S. House and eventually the Senate.

Let's see, Moscow Mitch McConnell cock blocked President Obama's last Supreme Court pick. Due to the crazed whining of Ted Cruz and the Tea Party types in the House, the credit rating of the United States Government was downgraded when they allowed the country to default on its debt payments. Without going on a long tangent, I'll just write that Republicans threw in numerous other monkey wrenches into the delicate workings of our government all in an effort to discredit and embarrass President Obama.

All this lead to the disastrous 2016 presidential campaign where we ended up with Donald Trump in office. This allowed the Orange Sociopath two Supreme Court picks with Ruth Bader Ginsburg edging ever closer to a meeting with the Grim Reaper. Throw in hundreds of Trump's lower court picks, all quickly approved by Moscow Mitch's Senate majority. You want a political dystopian nightmare? Well with Trump picking federal judges and Mitch allowing them express lane approval you have a good chance to live it.

So here's the skinny on 2020 as I see it from my humble but wise observations.

We have an individual occupying the White House who pals around with authoritarian dictators. Who openly expresses contempt for a free and open press while “joking” about running for a third term. If that wasn't nightmare enough, you don't have to look hard to find some of his supporters speculating about other members of his family running for POTUS and establishing a dynasty that one meme had lasting until the 2050s. An individual who calls foreign leaders and extorts them to open investigations on his political opponents. I could continue but the icing on this rancid cake is how next to no one in his party dares to whisper the slightest opposition to his growing megalomania delusions. For brevity's sake I'll just mention there is a whole host of environmental crises that Trump not only refuses to acknowledge, but actively works to make worse.

Assumptions are a dangerous practice, but I'll go way out on a limb here and say the Roaring '20s as that B-list celebrity put it will not be filled with love, charity, and whatever else he said. We're in survival mode here folks, this coming 2020 election is not an “opportunity” as Elizabeth Warren has said. If the Democratic nominee happens to win, something I'm coming to doubt, we'll spend years just trying to mitigated the damage Trump and his sycophants have done to the United States and the rest of the planet

The 2020s will be a decades of work and rebuilding on all levels with an eager population of ignorant Trump supporters ready to rush in and finish their job if the liberal/progressives become distracted by yet another shiny object. Sorry to piss in your corn flakes this morning but if you ain't scared and ready to do everything and anything to defeat Trump, you are all sorts of wrong.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Celebrity Equinox Cruise: December 14-21 PART ONE


Truth be told my wife and I underestimated the time it would take us to get to  port of Fort Lauderdale so we could get on the cruise ship. Having traveled to Disney World more time than I can remember we both assumed the traffic would be about the same as I-4 going into Orlando, It wasn't.

A little south of Vero Beach traffic got heavy and only got worse as we got closer to Fort Lauderdale. In fact it took us close to two hours to drive between Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale itself. By the time we reached the motel would stay Friday night, we were both quite stir crazy from the drive. Long story short, I'd advice everyone to consider flying to Fort Lauderdale if the alternative is a long drive.

The motel we stayed at that night before we got on the cruise ship was an interesting adventure in its own right. My guess was that it was built in the 1980s and had gone through several cycles of decline and haphazard renovation. I would describe it as having a clean but but well-worn look which catered specifically to travelers like us who were about to board one of the many cruise ships based out of the Fort Lauderdale port. The one slightly funny aspect of that motel is best typified by the picture in the upper left.

Like many other motels these day, it offers a free breakfast for its guests. So when my wife and I stepped into the room just off the lobby to join in for the morning meal, I found it overrun with cranky blue-hairs all scrambling for those free waffles, bagels, and small cups of orange juice. While none of these irate Boomers said a word to me, I'm over six-feet tall and with a normal facial expression Clint Eastwood would find intimidating, it was fun to watch two gentlemen squabble over just who was going to get the last boiled egg inside the motel refrigerator.

  

After "breakfast" there was still time to kill before we could head over to the Celebrity Cruise line port terminal. So I walked the motel grounds just to explore. The alternative being sitting in the buffet lounge as my wife drank coffee and looked at her phone.

Got to admit, that motel did work hard at making their pool area something close to a playground/garden. It had nicely landscaped grass sections with plenty of foliage giving it a tropical feel. Being early morning I did about shit my cargo shorts when I saw this in one of the landscape islands. Being Florida, you can't ever really play it too safe when it comes to encounters with alligators.

No, don't anyone go all nature expert on me, I know alligators are not naturally aggressive. Its just that you don't walk up to one like you do a friendly dog wagging its tail. That replica looked crazily real and it took me about a minute to be sure of that. Yes, I saw the cow behind it and instantly knew it was not a living bovine but remember, that was Florida.



Yes, we eventually made it to the port to begin the process of boarding the amazing Celebrity Equinox. Not before checking out of the motel where my wife for some reason began telling a long drawn out story to the desk clerk about how bad the traffic was in fort Lauderdale.

While she related every microscopic detail to the befuddled clerk who obviously didn't care one nanogram, I was doing my best get her to the car. The one thing about the desk clerk, the guy looked exactly like a young version of Desi Arnaz and I found myself fighting the urge to scream out, "Lucy, you have some 'splainin to do." Yeah, I know that reference puts be ever closer to joining the blue-hair crowd.

 After getting to our cabin and dumping the luggage, we did a tour of the boat with me taking pictures of everything that moved. Fort Lauderdale port is not some huge expanse, I found it quite tight with all sorts of ships entering and leaving with only a few meters to spare between them. 



One of the items I found curious when we boarded were these folks already enjoying the outside pool. My wife and I really literally in the first group of twenty people to board the Equinox but they were clearly in heavy relaxation mode with the pools bars open. I was later told those people were doing double cruises having already spent a week living the high life.







The view looking towards the bow from our cabin veranda.  

Not sure what was the deal with this yacht, it was obviously part of some local television station promotion. Half expected to see some hulking football player and his supermodel, bikini-wearing girlfriend hanging out on deck while sipping drinks, but no luck.  

Obviously a party boat, would be interesting to hear some of antics that occurred on it. 

A Dole freighter coming into port. That ship passed by the Equinox so closely I could smell the fumes coming from what looked to be an open hatch leading to the engine room. Not a big fan of Dole products given what the family did to Hawaii back in the late 19th century.   










Parting shot of Fort Lauderdale with the Equinox heading out into the Atlantic. 














As the day progressed everyone onboard began settling in and relaxing. Caught this shot of the sunset just outside the coffee bar. Given my condition I rarely even drink de-caff coffee but that didn't stop my wife.   

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Back from the Cruise


Well, my wife and I got back home from the cruise late yesterday evening. The drive up from Fort Lauderdale took a little over ten hours and was exhausting. The traffic going north on I-95 was tough but it wasn't as near as bad as the insane number of cars going south. I-95 heading south through South Carolina was bumper-to-bumper and literally crawling at times.

When my wife and I arrived home we dropped our luggage on the floor and went to bed. It's early evening Sunday now and we're still getting organized. So here's a few pictures from the trip with a lot more to follow.

We were on the Celebrity Equinox and the first picture is of the outside pool area looking aft. A much bigger pool than I have seen on other cruise ships.           

This is a bad picture of the cabin. Can't really see the rest of space because my wife got in the way. It was around 190 square feet and was the nicest cabin we have ever stayed on any cruise.

This ugly son-of-a-bitch had an absolutely great time on the cruise. He had one little bout of seasickness involving a ferry boat taking him from the island of Cozumel to the nearby Mexican mainland. His group was going to see the Mayan ruins of Tulum and while to the trip to the mainland had no issue, the seas going back to the cruise ship were brutal.

Got to start getting ready for work tomorrow, so I'll post more over the next few days.    

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Caribbean Cruise Time



When my wife unexpectedly announced about two months ago that she and I would be going on a cruise I was excited to say the least. Our last Disney Cruise was way back in 2011 and I had begun to doubt we would ever go on another.

The stupid kid in me was really happy when she said we were not going to take any of our children with us. Our college graduate son is 24 years-old and now has a real job, so that was a no-brainer. I couldn't imagine him even wanting to accompany his aging parents onto a cruise ship filled with married couples with young kids or older folks like my wife and me who are both hardcore Disneyphiles. Putting it bluntly, you simply do not see single, unattached people going on Disney cruises.

Single parents, yes, in fact they have special programs for the adults so they can enjoy the trip as well as the kids. But if you do see an unattached adult on a Disney cruise, something has seriously gone sideways for that person. The best example being our 2003 cruise on the Disney Magic when word got around that the thirty-something guy by himself had been left at the church altar by his wife-to-be.

But even our high school senior daughter is going to be staying home on this trip as well. There is good reason being that her Christmas Break does not start until the cruise is well underway. She has dreams of going to some pretty fancy universities next year and needs to pay special attention to her grades. I'll make a terrible admission, I'm glad the trip will just be my wife and myself.

What really surprised me though was when my wife told me we were NOT going on a Disney cruise. That I would not be hanging out with my personal god, Goofy, or ogling any of the attractive young women playing Disney princesses onboard. Something I need to be careful about after slightly and accidentally groping Ariel during a character photo-shoot years ago. Hey, I have long gorilla-like arms and Ariel told me to come take a picture with her and my much younger daughter.

After a stern warning by Disney management, I promised never to bother the princesses again. 

This seven day cruise will be on the Celebrity Equinox with stops at Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and one other place I can't remember. Not sure about the Celebrity Cruise line but whining about it is the definition of ridiculous First World problems. So I will not be looking this gift horse in the mouth.

Taking the laptop so there will be numerous pictures. Try not to hate me when I post pictures of me in Key West eating a slice of Key Lime Pie. We'll be leaving for Florida early Thursday morning and boarding the ship on Friday.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Political and Societal Meanderings



  

   Right after the attacks on 9/11 there was a wave of patriotism that for a short time united the country. My politics were quite different back then but it felt good to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow Americans despite our differences. What grated my soul during that time though was a little encounter I had with a loud-mouth, fat civilian at the South Carolina State Fair.
   I was at the fair in my army BDUs as part of a recruiting drive for the South Carolina National Guard. Sometime while my fellow soldiers and I were walking amongst the crowd passing out brochures, the operation against the Taliban and Al-qaeda in Afghanistan was launched. Naturally, with my compatriots and I wearing our camouflaged uniforms we instantly became the center of attention and started receiving congratulations from the now adoring crowd. No problem there, although I personally felt uncomfortable with the adulation since I was essentially at home and not part of the campaign.
  What highly ticked me off though was getting slapped on the back by an overweight white guy, who while being careful not to spill what had to have been his fourth or fifth beer that late morning, preceded to give me military advice on how I was supposed to deal with those "rag heads."  Without going into details everything that non-serving idiot suggested would have gotten me charged with war crimes and court-martialed.
   I so desperately wanted to ask that fat moron that with his self-assumed and unearned military prowess how about he enlist and come join what he assumed would be a real life Rambo or Chuck Norris movie over in Afghanistan. In a rare display of good sense, I held my tongue and walked away but that encounter, and several others before and after still shapes my opinion of the general civilian population.
   Fast forward to the present and we now have the Republican Party, overwhelmed with non-serving, arrogant, white guys, picking apart the reputation and loyalty of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman, someone who served and saw actual combat. It's beyond surreal to have Republicans throwing hissy fits defending Trump attempts at international blackmail at the expense of a true American war hero. This is a degree of hypocrisy and decadence worthy of a Greek or Roman tragedy.
                  
    

    Since Presidential Derangement Syndrome is a persistent malady stretching back to at least Bill Clinton with symptoms appearing during Regan's tenure, my reaction to Trump could be played off as just another sore loser whining about politics. The trouble is that no president has ever embraced racists and racism like Trump. The best case in point was his reaction to the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia a few years back. Neo-Nazis, Neo-Conferates, Klan, and other assorted human scum generally classified as the "Alt-Right" were protesting the removal of a Confederate statue when they encountered counter-protestors.
    Violence ensued with a self-identified white supremacist deliberately ramming his car into a group of counter-protestors killing one person. Even with a collection of known hate groups on the right, Trump somehow found the gall to say there "were good people" on both sides. Yeah, I've got vital news for the ignorant, if you're consorting with Nazis, you're on the wrong side of everything. Trump's antagonism towards what seems everyone not white is about as self-evident as the sky being blue on a cloudless day.
            
           


   Hey, this one is not an attempt at knocking Christianity in general. There are millions of Christians across the world who truly try to practice the teachings of Jesus. None of us are perfect, except President Jimmy Carter who needs to be made a saint even though he's not Catholic.
   My beef is with the sanctimonious types who profess to be followers of Christ but yet hold intensely anti-Christian views when it come to the treatment of refugees. Yes, I recently had dealings with someone who while regularly claiming a moral superiority based on his religious beliefs but openly and proudly supports separating families and caging kids at the border. His "logic" is that all nations have a right to control their borders.
   A wonderful idea except I don't see American sovereignty threatened by Mexican and Central American people fleeing drug gangs roaming freely in their countries. Especially when those drug gangs are the creation of a complete lack of coherent drug policy here in the United States.  Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign and zero tolerance laws did nothing to offer a different path for people stuck in poverty. All those laws did was mass incarcerate millions of African-Americans giving us a bigger prison population than Commie China.  As for recreational drug users, who were quite often white and at least middle class, they seemed to escape much of the draconian punishments.
   So yeah, I find it darkly humorous that in the coming weeks nativity scenes will be pulled from dusty storage boxes and put on display. All the while those owners will whine and gnash their teeth at news videos of poor refugees fleeing persecution being rounded up and put in cages.      
       


   In a better world, Trump's campaign would have died right then. There were other candidates just as right-wing as he proclaimed. But they were slightly more polished, more able to act like a decent human being despite wanting to take away health insurance or cut social security. And those other candidates would have absolutely not kissed Putin's ass like Trump does on every opportunity. Trump's one talent is his ability to corrupt everything he touches. He plays to our worst fears and coaxes our worst hates out into the open like dry kindling does a flame. "Evil" is an overused word but for Trump, I think it fits.
   To all those disgruntled progressives who even now whine that their candidate hasn't been proclaimed the nominee already, this is the creature we face. He and his sycophants are actively working to undo every reform for the last sixty years. This election cycle is not an "opportunity" as some of us on the left have dizzily proclaimed. The November 2020 election is about survival. He's gotten two Supreme Court picks with Justice Ginsburg's health becoming more questionable. We're on the edge of an abyss and another screw up like 2016 will be fatal.