Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Battle Ship

I am generally leery of the term 'Family Vacation.' In my experience, 'Family Vacation' has come to mean a parent (me) doing the same boring stuff I do at home like chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning, and chaperoning in some new and exotic place. Rarely is a parent (me) EVER free to do what they (I) want on these 'Family Vacations.' In addition, you also lack the homey resources one (I) take for granted such as cheap teenage babysitters, extended play dates with families far from home, and Vox Vodka which is super difficult to come by in Legoland.

In order for me to agree to any kind of 'Family Vacation,' I have several requirements:

A. They last no longer than two days.

B. That the venue selected have a fully operational support staff whose sole responsibility is to occupy my son's time.

C. Neither George nor Ethan is EVER permitted in my room without special dispensation. (It is rarely given)

D. There must be a fully stocked bar within 100 feet of my room.

So it was with great trepidation and resentment that I agreed to take a 'Family Vacation' with my husband George and our son Ethan on the infamous Rosie O'Donnell 'Our Family' cruise to Alaska. This particular 'vacation' (I use the term in the absolute loosest sense) already had a ton of strikes against it. The trip's duration was one week, George, Ethan and I had to share a small suite, and the shipboard 'Kid's Club' which I had been told was 'friggin' awesome' by some lesbians reeked of extensive parental involvement. In addition, the trip was wildly expensive and had a full itinerary of frightening family events such as 'Family Pirate Day,' 'Family Hawaiian Luau Day,' and 'Family Casino Night.'

"I think it's really important that Ethan see other families just like his." my husband George suggested one night over dinner.

"All the families Ethan knows are straight. One mommy and one daddy - imagine if your straight parents only associated with gay families while you were growing up - just think how confusing that would be."

Confusing? Hardly. I would have been thrilled. Instead of all the ghastly BroyHill bedroom sets my parents threw money at, my parent's educated and urbane gay friends would have insisted they buy fabulous mid century pieces by Eames, Saarinen, and Mies Van Der Rohe. Instead of the cheap and depressing 'colonial' art prints adorning our walls we would have had paintings by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns hanging in our living room. Pieces that years ago my parents could have purchased for peanuts, I must now pay tens of thousands of dollars for on 1stdibs.com and Ebay! It is wrong on so many levels.

Like many deluded couples of the 50's and 60's, my parents traded their intellect and will to live for a quarter-acre suburban tract house originally described in the newspaper ads as 'Idyllic,' 'spacious,' and 'baronial.' Bought sight unseen off of blueprints, the ads promised a magnificent 'lifestyle' that the developers failed miserably to deliver. The ads surely never mentioned the 'claustrophobic' bedrooms, the 'shoddy' construction, or the 'cookie cutter' aesthetic of the neighborhood. The frothy ads also failed to mention the dreary insurance salesman, accountants, and clerks who in addition to their narrow-minded wives would come to live in an 'idyllic' neighborhood where every original, tree, stone, or stream had been bulldozed.

On moving day I remember my mother sitting on the front porch smoking a cigarette and quietly sobbing.

"Mommy, are you OK? Why are you crying?" I asked.

Startled, my mother quickly extinguished her cigarette and casually said, "Oh, it's nothing baby, I'm just formulating a plan to burn this dump down. If you or your sisters need me, I'll be in the master bedroom hanging myself." I was three years old and hadn't yet learned to interpret the credibility or lethality of my mother's threats. I immediately ran to my father and told him that Mommy planned to burn the house down and kill herself. My father who at the time was trying to maneuver an ungainly, slip-covered sofa through the back door shrugged his shoulders.

"Don't worry about it," he said reassuringly "At least she's not threatening to murder all of us in our beds like last week."

George, Ethan and I arrived in Seattle and quickly made our way to the ship's dock. I exited the cab a la Kate Winslet in Titanic - and as I glanced up at the enormous ship expecting to see trim, well-dressed travelers crossing the gangplanks, their maid servants and valets lugging trunks laden with expensive tuxedos and gowns - I was greeted by a completely different site. From every balcony and porthole there seem to be an obese lesbian, dressed in an extra, extra large Hawaiian shirt waving frantically.

A dark, foreboding feeling overcame me - clearly I had made a mistake of epic proportions. I looked longingly at the cab that had just delivered us and contemplated paying the taxi driver whatever sum he asked to drive me back to Los Angeles.
Having glanced at the look on my face, George became increasingly alarmed. "Come on baby, it will be fun!" He said. I paused for a moment, thought hard and then responded, "You can go fuck yourself." The tone had been officially set for the rest of the week.

Perhaps it was the change in his normal routine, his shipboard chicken nugget and brownie diet, or his hatred for the 'friggin' awesome' Kid's Club which apparently had all the charm of a Soviet orphanage, Ethan never stopped whining or complaining. In one particularly nasty argument between George, Ethan and myself - there was at least one each day - I shouted that I would have gladly thrown each of them overboard if I could have gotten away with it. I stormed out of our cabin and headed up to the Lido Deck where I was again assaulted by a sea of Lesbians whose criminal sense of fashion consisted of over sized t-shirts, Bermuda shorts, and sandals. Frustrated, trapped, I sat on a lounge chair, pulled a discarded 'I Love Rosie' towel over my head and started to cry.

Out of nowhere, I felt a heavy (very heavy) person settle next to me in the next lounge. A soft voice asked me what could possibly be wrong on such a beautiful day. I took the tear stained towel off my face was prepared to tell whichever lesbo was bothering me to get lost, when I stopped completely in my tracks. The person in the next lounge speaking to me (Woman? Man? Transgendered?) took my breath away. He/she had to weigh at least 300 pounds, possessed glorious red hair, alabaster skin, and even had a slight trace of reddish peach fuzz on his/her face. Dressed in a mish mash of denim, flannel, velvet, and leather she/he looked vaguely like Henry the 8th of England.

"My name is Sue, what's yours?"

"Tod," I stammered.

"Well Tod, why you crying? Fight with your boyfriend?"

"Um husband...yeah." I replied.

"Well, that's to bad - anything I can do to help?"

"Yes..could you beat him up?"

Sue giggled and we talked and drank for the next three hours. Sue had come to this cruise with her lover and their two young children. They were very poor and had saved for 3 years just to book their fares. Their accommodations consisted of a tiny, windowless cabin in the ship's belly. To her, this was the most exciting, most glamorous, most incredible adventure of their lives. She was so thankful just to be there - and I couldn't stop complaining about our suite not having two televisions. I felt like such an asshole and in that moment realized "Oh my God, I am Kate Winslet and this must be my Leonard Di Caprio!"

Drunk and incredibly repentant, I returned to my cabin to find my husband and son gone. On the bed was a note that read simply 'Gone to the chocolate tasting. Come join us.' I staggered down to the main dining room where my son, my husband and a thousand lesbians were greedily devouring platefuls of cookies, brownies, ice cream, and assorted fudge.

I walked purposely up to my startled husband and son and said, "I really must apologize for my earlier behavior, my name is Rose DeWitt Bukater of Philadelphia. Tell me, how's The Baked Alaska?

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