March 1979-III

The Fondas Magic Temple.

Box Jumping has its hazards. Jo actually had some scars from a few mishaps with the swords.


My parents let me move back into my cabin. I cleaned up the mess left in the room after the tirade. I had thrown the torn photos away, but then pulled the pieces out of the trash and taped them back together. It is hard for me to stare at those fist-sized holes in my wall and door and then look Gino in the face with the same loving eyes. I don’t know what will repair that damage.

For better or worse, I found out that we are leaving the ship after this trip; two months early. I’m told the cruise line is replacing the three of us with a single magician to save money. I wonder if that’s the truth or if my parents asked to be let out of our contract so they could separate me from Gino.  Or, maybe the cruise line didn’t want to put up with any more trouble from the two of us.  In any case, it is over, and I’m packing to go home.

Gino apologized, yet again, this time for the scene in my cabin. He gave me a really beautiful Italian gold chain that he always wears. He wants me to run away with him to his home in Canada and get married, and then come back when I’m 18 so he could work in the States. He is convinced my parents are responsible for me having to leave the ship, and insists that we only have each other to count on.  I don’t see it that way, but it isn’t worth arguing the point with him. I frankly don’t think my parents have done anything unreasonable given the circumstances. They are just looking out for me, and don’t want me to get hurt. I’ve taken a few hits from swords in the magic act, but I’ve yet to be really hurt by anything in life.

It’s not like I want to be seen as perfect, but I just don’t want to hurt them, or have to see that disappointed look in their eyes again.  Especially my father.  My mom does whatever she can to keep him from getting upset about anything. She’s really easy, but the cardinal rule in my life is basically, “don’t piss off Daddy.” Up until now, I’ve done quite a good job at that, too.  I probably held the record for worst attendance when I was in school; I stayed home as often as possible with the slightest of excuses, and my mom and I played cards and board games and hung out all day. In the half hour or so before she had to drive our lone family car across the bridge to the plant to pick him up from work, we both ran around the house to tidy up, get rid of any evidence that I had been home all day, and make their bed.  Always, the bed had to be made.  My mother has no interest in being a good homemaker, which is why she loves being out on the ships, even though she gets sea sick. My dad is tolerant about the messy house and the ever-growing piles of dirty dishes and laundry, but he has always insisted that their bed be made so that when he came home from work he could comfortably lie down and take a nap. He retired “early” after working 35 years as a toolmaker at General Electric.  As soon as he retired, we started going out for months at a time on the ships with the magic. He’s doing the best he can to give us a good life and lots of travel and fun with virtually no money.

I really don’t think either one of them would have voluntarily gotten off this ship early. I can’t do anything to hurt them. I can’t believe Gino doesn’t understand that, and that he feels betrayed by me, and gets in my face singing the line from Santana’s Black Magic Woman“Don’t turn your back on me baby…” like I’m being cold because I won’t defy them.

Click to Play Black Magic Woman – by Santana [audiotube id=”10gH-bC3iXo”]

March 1979-II

Ruth Fonda with the type of nice old gentleman cruise passenger who would think I look like Cheryl Tiegs


Just when it seemed I had hit rock bottom, I stumbled through another crevice down to new depths with Gino. Being grounded by my parents isn’t really all that bad; I still can’t go out with Gino, so I’ve just been happily and peacefully reading in my cabin.  Stowed under my bed is a bottle of Tia Maria that I bought in Jamaica, and a coffee cup that was gifted to me by an older gentleman whom I had helped to make a costume for a party; he kept coming back to me for help on different things throughout that cruise, and never failed to mention that he thought I look like Cheryl Tiegs.  Remembering his misguided compliment puts a smile on my mug every time I bring a glass of milk back to my cabin after dinner and mix it with the Tia Maria in that big coffee mug. I was reading and enjoying my evening mug when Gino came to my cabin, knocking loudly on the door and staggering in right past my ineffective attempt to nonchalantly fill the doorway.

I told him he couldn’t stay, and that my parents would be mad if they found I had let him in. I could smell the booze heavy on his breath as he got close to my face insisting we had to talk.  His eyes then looked past me to a low table in the room, and focused in on a few pictures I had from the day we had driven around the back roads of Cozumel together.  His eyes squinted into slits and his lips pursed tightly as he flat out accused me of going through his stuff behind his back. I’m pretty sure he was right there with me when I had removed that small group of photos from the envelope after we had them developed. I took ones he didn’t care about that were just photos of some alligators and monkeys and of the crumpled up blanket had we used on the beach; not a single human in any picture. He snagged the prints up from the table and held them up to me, dramatically ripping them apart, and asked if I had been in his footlocker and gone through or taken any of his other stuff.  I had no clue where he kept the key and I was not even the least bit curious about what was in that locked trunk he obsessed over. I explained when and where I got the photos and that I never touched the trunk.  He knocked everything off the table, rummaging for evidence of other stolen items, finally overturning the entire table when nothing was found.

He continued hurling nonsense accusations at me, while I just sat on the bed saying he had to leave.  He typically talked with his hands, animating whatever story he was telling or point he was trying to make. As his rant went on, his arms flailed more wildly, echoing the volume of his voice, and his tightly balled fists accentuated his angry tone.  Without any threat or warning, he hauled back and punched a hole in my wall and then turned to throw another punch breaking through the wood, hollow-core door.  At that point, my mother burst through the bathroom door at the other end of the room, commanding him to get out.  He flat out refused, claiming we had the right to see each other and that she couldn’t keep us apart.  She picked up the phone receiver giving him one chance to leave before calling the purser.  He stormed out, slamming the pockmarked door behind him. My parents made me sleep in their cabin, with me on the top bunk and the two of them sardined together in the lower twin bed. Jill enjoyed having the other cabin all to herself.

March 1979

Ruth Fonda and Sid Kane doing Pork Chop Routine

Ruth Fonda and Actor Sid Kane doing comedy routine on Kazakstan on the big brass dance floor in the Music Salon

I am so pissed; my cabin-mate, Jill, screwed me over good. To be more specific, it was a Russian that she screwed, but I’m the one who bled after that particular cherry was popped. Everyone understands the rules: the Americans are not supposed to fraternize with the Soviets.  Those rules are applied more loosely to the top ship officers, but are really strict when it comes to the crew.  You have to be careful about with whom you seem to be too friendly.  One day, I went in the music salon, where we have dancing and stage shows, and found Svetlana, a crew member I like, polishing the huge brass dance floor by hand all by herself.  She actually had to use a toothbrush to scrub the crevices to make it perfect.  I felt so bad for her; I got my own toothbrush and stayed the day to help her; we enjoyed chatting in her broken English and my pathetic Russian.  She was afraid I’d get in trouble, but I didn’t think it was a big risk.  The next day, in gratitude, she gave me some Russian perfume. The oval shaped bottle, with its glass stopper top, is very nice, but the stench is an overpowering assault to the senses. I think the Soviets like strong perfume because it covers up B/O.  I imagine they shower regularly, however, I don’t think they use deodorant, and then they wear the same clothes over and over and over again before laundering.  Bottom line is that I won’t be using the perfume except as a vanity ornament.

Kazakhstan Music Salon from Ship Brochure

It’s fine to talk to and hang out in the clubs with the officers, but going to a cabin alone with one of them is definitely off-limits. The most I have ever fraternized with a Soviet officer was on the crew change trip to Cuba last year when we had a mixed staff and officer cabin party/wake in honor of the cruise director who had just died. I played Monopoly with one of the Russian officers, and after my game-winning move, he abruptly pushed back his chair, stood tall, and called me a damn capitalist, loud enough to make the others in the room quiet and turn to look.  Maybe that was for the benefit of those listening on the other side of the light fixtures, but I thought it was funny. Since Jill speaks fluent Russian, she regularly fraternizes much more than that. On the night she screwed me, I’d been hanging out with Gino, and when I went back to my cabin, I found Jill had doubled locked the door from the inside, so I could not get in, even with my key. From the hallway, through the door, I could hear Jill having sex in our room.  I left, irritated by the thought that she was probably in my lower bunk bed; I came back later, but it was still double-locked.  So I called from Gino and Nicky’s cabin next door; I could hear the phone ringing though the wall, but she would not answer, nor would she answer the door when I knocked again and again. I eventually gave up and went to sleep with Gino in his upper bed while Nicky slept on the bottom bunk.

The first thing in the morning at breakfast, I saw my parents, who wanted to know exactly where I had been all night.  I simply told them that I was locked out of my cabin, so I just slept in Nicky and Gino’s room. It was a truth I should not have told; they were pissed. I explained that Nicky was there too and that nothing had happened. They said I should have gone to their room to let them know what was going on, but I explained that it was late and did not want to wake them to go through the other side and interrupt an awkward situation.  Apparently, they were already awake and knew very well what was going on because they had heard her. My dad had gone through the adjoining bathroom and opened the door into our cabin and saw Jill and the Russian in my bed. They listened to that action all night, wondering where I was.

Later that morning, my mom cornered me alone and said that my father was so upset that he was going to have a heart attack, and that I needed to tell him I was still a virgin. I did talk to my father, apologized for making them worry, and swore nothing happened that night, which was the truth.  I did not claim I was a virgin, and he didn’t ask outright.  Then, he wanted to have a talk with both Gino and me about sex and responsibility.  He sat us down together and explained that he understands that sex is all good fun and pleasurable, but warned us about the risks of getting pregnant and about disease, and added that it was illegal because I was underage. I give Gino credit for just listening and being respectful to my dad.

For the first time in my life, I am grounded, which means that my parents need to know where I am at all times, and I cannot see Gino alone. I’ve managed to talk to him a few times out on deck, but that is about it.  I feel like everyone is mad at me…although my parents are probably more disappointed than angry.  They have given me a lot of freedom and now they are wondering if that was a mistake.  My mom tells me that it is going to be a long time before they will be able to trust me again. That hurts more than any punishment they could impose.

Gino is pissed because my parents are keeping us apart, and he is mad at me for not defying them. He feels I should stand up for him and go against their new rules.  When we got a chance to talk out on deck, he said that when it comes down to it, there really is just us two alone in this world, and that everyone else will let me down.  My family, my friends, everyone else I know will disappoint me and turn their backs, and that only he will be there for me in my life.  But because I won’t just ignore my parents, he now questions if I will be there for him.  He says my betrayal of him is like one of the Al Jarreau songs, You Dont See Me.  A while ago, I made him this little booklet based on songs on the Look to the Rainbow tapes. My book quoted the lyrics that meant something special, and I illustrated each page. He, on the other hand, selected the one negative song on the whole cassette to throw in my face to illustrate that I’m not supporting him.  He got so pissed off at me that he practically ripped off the white dinner jacket we bought together at that vintage store in New Orleans, balled it up, and hurled it overboard. I’m lucky I didn’t tumble in myself trying to stop him and catch it.  But I missed, and watched it fall and then disappear into the black ocean.

Click to play You Don’t See Me – by Al Jarreau     [audiotube id=”7gb9mcJxTjw”]

February 1979-II

Captain's Night on the MS Olympia  Jo's First Cruise - Age 9 February 1972

Captain’s Night on the MS Olympia
Jo’s First Cruise – Age 9 February 1972


I’ve been traveling on ships with my parents since I was nine, so there are few ports of call that I still find to be new and exciting after seven years of cruising.  Sometimes, I don’t even bother disembarking, and more enjoy being on a virtually empty ship for the day.  Cuba is an exception, and both my parents and I like exploring the country as much as possible.  In just about every port we visit, one of the first things on my dad’s to-do list is to locate other magicians to meet, learn about magic in that area, and talk shop with his own kind. He and my mom did find some magic friends in Havana, and they make plans with them to get together each time we dock there.  They invited us to their home, and we were amazed by what wasn’t there.  So on each trip, my parents smuggle in small loads of basic necessities and appliances for them from the States, in exchange for local Cuban crafts we can justify as souvenirs when going through customs.

It may be illegal, but nobody notices their stash of goods coming in because there is usually a flurry of activity around the Cuba port of call time. Among the staff, we joke about guessing which officers are actually KGB; I figure they are the ones who don’t seem to ever be doing any real work, or a new guy who got on in Cuba.  We just assume our cabins could easily be bugged; it is a running joke to talk to the light fixtures in the room if one of us says something questionable, to make sure they heard it all clearly. There is nothing we talk about that the KGB would care about anyway. We also play Guess the CIA Operative to pick them out among the passengers.  That game is fairly easy when you see guys traveling without family, and seemingly looking around more than lounging on vacation. I imagine every trip has both KGB and CIA snooping around like in that Mad Magazine Spy vs Spy comic.

Just about every trip, I escort an evening tour group going to the Tropicana Night Club in Cuba. This time, after all the stage shows ended, my job was to stand at an intersection  of paths on the long walkway between the club and the parking lot, and make sure everyone made the correct turn, since you could not see the busses from that spot.  When I didn’t notice any more people from our ship coming out of the club, I headed over to get on the bus myself. But all our busses were gone. It was around midnight; I had absolutely no money for a taxi, and no way to get in touch with anyone on the ship. So I went back in the club to see what I could figure out.  There was a small tour group of American guys who were still there hanging out, and said their bus could take me to the ship on the way back to their hotel. In the meantime, we danced, drank Cuba Libres (my usual rum and coke) and had a great time.  The ship wasn’t leaving yet, so I knew I was fine.  The next day, I told my parents about it all and, as I figured, they never even knew I was missing.  In fact, only Gino noticed I wasn’t back on the ship.

I really thought Gino would have laughed about what happened and been proud of how I handled the situation like my parents felt about it. But he was pissed.  He was not mad because his girlfriend had been careless or reckless and he had worried about my safety. He was pissed that I hung out with and took the bus with the guys. He wanted to know all the details about who was there, and who I danced with, and did I like them, and did I have sex with any of them and stuff like that.  He basically implied I was doing it on the bus with a football team or something.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  I just got a ride back and had some fun while I was hanging out waiting to go.

We stood in the stairwell near our cabins where we usually sing and play music, fighting for what seemed like hours of insults and accusations from him, and defensive pleas of innocence from me.  I was crying to the point where it is hard to get any air through the dense sobs, and my entire body was shaking uncontrollably. I finally sat down on the bottom step and stopped, peacefully barricading myself into my own cocoon with my head resting on my knees, and my arms wrapped around my shins. I just stopped; stopped crying, stopped arguing, stopped explaining. He finally quieted as well.  I eventually lifted my head and plainly told him that I’m not a rubber ball, and I can’t keep bouncing back up every time he throws me down to the ground.  At that point, he started crying and asking me to believe how sorry he is. I’m just getting worn out from all the fighting and crying.  We sit on that same stair, listening to Al Jarreau sing Could You Believe, making promises, asking me to believe, and to have the courage to carry on.  I know Al’s talking about something else, but I’m not so sure I can just believe in Gino much longer.

Click to Play Could You Believe – by Al Jarreau     [audiotube id=”NJ7K9-dBs1Q”]

February 1979

Hanging out in the Troika Lounge


Gino and I have been seeing each other secretly.  We had been hanging out a lot and I was happy just being friends. I had no intention of getting into a relationship, but he was persistent about getting closer. He says that he loves me; he’s the first guy I’ve ever said that back to. Quite honestly, his matter of fact ,”Ti Amo” felt less like an affectionate declaration of emotion than it did a challenge statement, basically throwing down a gauntlet that I had no choice but to answer to, even though I was far from being prepared or sure in my response.  I hadn’t seen Paul since we spent the day together in St. Thomas a few months ago, and had no interest in anyone else, even though neither of us has made any commitment to the other. And there had certainly been no mention of love, or any feelings at all for that matter, other than missing each other’s company.

One evening, when we were still just friends and hanging out in the lounge having a few drinks, Gino told me that he had talked to Thomas at the beginning of the season and asked questions about the staff on board last year, and that Thomas actually told him about our relationship, and said I was, “f-able”. I find it hard to believe that he would have told anyone, never mind a new guy on the ship, but yet Gino knew. Was I being offered up as available as if I was some kind of hand-me-down that was no longer needed?  I don’t understand why Gino would even tell me such a thing, even if he was drunk. I brushed it off, didn’t acknowledge the relationship with Thomas in case Gino was just guessing, and I never mentioned it again; not to either one of them.  But that word, that attribute, that label: “f-able” plays over in my head like a bad song you hear late at night that gets stuck like a broken record while you are trying to sleep, worming into your dreams, and still lingering when you wake up.  It’s only by playing a new song that you can get it out of your brain.  I think I ended up with Gino to hear a new tune.

We do spend a lot of time together, and it is usually awesome.  He is so much fun most of the time. Sometimes I play my guitar while he plays conga drums, but we mostly listen to and sing along with tapes, especially Al Jerreau, Santana, Gino Vanelli, Earth Wind and Fire, Chic Corea, Steely Dan, and some others. I say it is usually awesome because he’s fine as long as he just drinks beer.  But when he drinks hard stuff, he is a different person all together.  He’s cold, and paranoid, and can be really mean to me.  It’s not like he is physical or anything, it’s more like he doesn’t give a shit how I feel about anything or what he says. “Mangia merda” is a favorite insult I wish I never learned.

When he drinks more than beer, we end up in an argument, and then the next day he’s saying how sorry he is and that he didn’t mean any of it and that he loves me. And I forgive him and he promises it isn’t going to happen any more. I must be stupid or something to believe him.  I guess it isn’t stupid if you love someone. But it’s as if he sets me up to say or do something that he can blame me for later. That happens even when he is sober.  I care about him, but I really don’t know if this is going to work out. I was a lot happier last year.

But we do have so many great times, like the day in Cozumel we rented a convertible and drove all over the island to isolated beaches and found a little zoo in the middle of nowhere with alligators and other odd animals. And the day we went shopping in a vintage clothing store in New Orleans; I bought an antique silk blouse and a beautiful white petticoat style puffy skirt, and Gino bought an old boy scout shirt and a white suit jacket – the kind a 1950’s nightclub band guy might wear.  He looks so cute in that shirt with his troop number on it, and the jacket is really stylish when he dresses up at night. Those are the good times, and there are a lot of them. I just don’t know how to make him be happy and normal all the time. I never know what to expect when I see him. I try my best to not say or do things to piss him off, but I don’t really think it has anything to do with me when he acts that way.

Click to play I’ll Write a Song For You– by Earth Wind & Fire [audiotube id=”_yKr8Q8PNuc”]


January 1979

Clark Fonda on Kazakhstan New Years Eve

My Father Time December 31, 1978


Happy New Year!

We, and my little stash of joints that I stuffed into the bottom of tampon tubes, flew back to New Orleans to meet the Kazakhstan in time for our second Christmas here. I had saved a lot of money from waitressing in St. Thomas, so I bought my parents a boom box with a radio, cassette player and a little TV.  They were surprised by the big gift, and have been having fun dialing in channels when in port, mostly finding fuzzy Spanish variety shows. We’ve been traveling for months at a time for the past three years with no TV at all.  You get used to it. The best place for reception is when we’re in port in New Orleans, which is about the only time we get any real news.  The Soviets censor the news here, and are not subtle about it; they print out the day’s news off the wire service, and actually post the original pages with permanent marker blacking out the parts they don’t want people to read. Sometimes I try to stare my way through the black ink to see what it is I shouldn’t know, or that they don’t want the Soviet crew to read. I read everything I can get my hands on. If one of us finds something really good, we all read it. When we were home last summer, I could have cared less about the TV. I just wish we could get Saturday Night Live out here; I love that show.

Sales are good, and the ship is filling up, so they are making a lot of the staff double up this year; the other hostess quit as a result, so they made me hostess again, and squeezed Jill and me into this tiny cabin. There’s barely enough room for the two of us to get dressed at the same time, and no space for all our clothing.  We also share a bathroom with my parents, whose room connects on the other side. Shower times have to be coordinated among the four of us, and we have to remember to lock and unlock both doors on either side of the bathroom so you don’t get walked in on or lock the other room out.  We have all messed that up multiple times.

I get the vibe that Jill, the other hostess, does not care much for me, although she was friendly when we worked together on the Odessa. We coexist in a room that is about the size of a walk in closet, but are silent most of the time; although her glares of disapproval of most everything I do speak very loudly to me. Jill’s American, but speaks fluent Russian, and spends more time drinking straight vodka with the officers than she does hanging out with the rest of the staff.

New to the staff this year are two Italian guys, Gino and Nicky, who play drums and accordion.  They are just a couple of nuts, and I laugh the whole time we hang out; the passengers seem to like them and their music a lot.

Thomas and John are both on the ship again this season. We’re all just friends… no benefits.  Paul is not here, which breaks my heart; he’s  assigned to another line, so we just continue to write, which gives me something to look forward to whenever we are in port.

For the New Year’s Eve party, the cruise director asked my father and me to dress up and work the audience around midnight. My dad was dressed up as Father Time in a costume I made, with a sickle from cut up cardboard taped to the end of a broom handle and covered with foil, a white sheet, and ghostly white makeup; he walked around the room, looking quite ominous and frankly, a little creepy. I represented the New Year.  My costume was high heels and a bunch of balloons all attached around me like a giant blob of colorful soap bubbles.  When they played Auld Lang Syne at midnight, I had to work my way around the audience while they eagerly popped my balloons, until I was down to just a bikini and a Happy New Year 1979 sash, which is kind of creepy on their part. That’s a normal evening in my show business life.

Click to Play Auld Lang Syne – by Guy Lombardo [audiotube id=”Q-ncPPArxEk”]

November 1978


Jo at Age 13 on Kungsholm


The cockroaches seem to have moved on to a better place, except of course, in my dreams.  I wake up in the middle of the night brushing what feels like dozens of bugs off my face and arms, and jumping up to stand on the mattress and strip the bed of all the blankets and sheets. I shake out each piece of bedding before remaking the bed.  I have yet to find a single actual critter when I fully awaken. It’s all in my head.

One very nice redeeming feature about this apartment is that it magically produced a little present for me to make up for the bugs. For no logical reason, I decided to pull one of the drawers all the way out from the dresser to look behind it. The drawer was not sticking out or sliding oddly, or making a noise when it moved, so I have no idea what made me want to remove it. But, when I reached way back into the dark empty space, I found a plastic baggie half filled with pot and some rolled joints.  Curiosity found the stash. And it brought back a lot of satisfaction. We are right on the beach, so I just go out for a walk, smoke a joint, and am not worried about getting caught since I’m smoking out in the fresh ocean air.

The best time to be high is right before I go to bed when I listen to this hypnosis tape my dad just made for me. He read an article that stated that applying heat to the breasts causes blood flow to them, which would increase their size.  So, he has a theory that he could use hypnosis to get the body itself to send blood to the breasts, and if it is done on a regular basis, you could permanently increase bust size that way.  Since mine are small, I am his boobie guinea pig; and he’s measuring my chest every few days to see how much it grows.  It actually seems to be working.  Nothing huge, but every little bit helps.

I’ve been hanging out on the beach during the day, and have gotten to know the guys who run the suntan oil booth. They are all really cute, especially Dirk.  He and I went out to a costume party; I was a harem girl and he was Lawrence of Arabia. They hired him as eye candy for the women on the beach; he is a model or something back in the states. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he is very well chiseled himself.

As much as I enjoy the beach, it got boring quickly with nothing else to do, so I’m working as a waitress in the beach snack bar during the day and as a cocktail waitress at night, except when we do our shows.  I make the best tips because the other waitresses are so slow and don’t even try to keep up with the tourists’ vacation thirst. My tables’ glasses are usually replaced with full ones before the last sip is gone. The other waitresses are being flagged down by customers raising an empty glass toast to them across the room with a nod and raise of the eyebrows begging for more. The workers are not lazy; they just run on island time. All I have to do is operate at normal speed here and I look like a super hero dancing along to the Calypso music from the Mighty Whitey singing, Move Your Mudda Ass. The bar manager invited me to his room to get high one night and I went, since he was friendly at work. We were sitting on the floor passing a bong back and forth and he suddenly whipped out his junk and put his hand on the back of my head and started to pull me down. I just got right up to bolt out, seeing his little helmeted soldier quickly retreat into its bunker back under his shorts. It is a bit awkward at work now, but that’s not my fault. Last person to try a move like that was a ship’s officer, when I was 13. He wanted to show me his cabin at the very front of the ship.  The cabin was very cool, with an awesome view, but I was totally horrified and took off.  Again, awkward.

Paul is assigned to a new ship and will be docking at St. Thomas soon. I can’t wait to see him again, even if only for the day.  We’ve been writing to each other regularly. I miss him so much.  I wrote to Vinny back home a few times since I left but he’s never sent me anything… no big surprise.

Click to Play Move Your Mudda Ass – by Nicky Russell aka Mighty Whitey [audiotube id=”jfhhP6eiUiU”]

October 1978 – II

St Thomas Hospital

St Thomas Hospital 1942… there were some improvements by 1978


After 24 hours of my “stomach bug”, I was in the ship’s hospital with a high fever, severe cramps, and dehydration from having thrown up every ounce of fluid in my body.  The Russian doctor’s diagnosis was appendicitis, and he said I needed immediate surgery on the ship while we were on the transatlantic crossing from Europe to the Caribbean. My folks felt it was safer to wait out the few days until we got to St. Thomas than it was to put me under the knife on the rolling seas with not much more than vodka for anesthesia, in questionable operating facilities. My parents packed my stuff, knowing we were not going to be on the ship after the next port. If they found this journal in the process, maybe they were deterred from reading it by my first page pathetic poetic plea for privacy: Unless Ive gone missing, or to do so I said, please dont read my diary unless I am dead.

After being loaded onto the gurney, I closed my eyes to hide myself from embarrassment while  I was rolled through the crowd that was gathered to disembark, and then precariously carried down the gangway to the ambulance waiting on the dock. Tears silently fell from the corners of my eyes, not from the pain or because I was leaving the ship, but because this meant no more time with Paul. I had no doubt he would move right on; everyone does. At the island hospital, which didn’t seem to be much of an improvement, they ran a few blood tests and said it is not appendicitis, but a fallopian tube infection. I overheard my father outside in the hall with my mother, in a hushed tone that actually sounded like it was being yelled through clenched teeth, “I know exactly what that really means.” She was skilled at arguing in a soothing tone to diffuse his anger, “Not necessarily…. It could be just a fluke infection from the water on the ship… God only knows what is in it.” That seemed to work, because when they came in my room a little later, his brow was not furrowed, and she was smiling. Nobody asked my opinion. We always used protection, so I can’t imagine there was any risk of pregnancy. Every time someone opened the door, it hit the foot of my hospital bed, and sent shockwaves of pain into my back, so I think it was more likely I had a kidney infection from too much sex. Whatever it was, kept me in the hospital on heavy doses of antibiotics and fluids for a week.

Pineapple Beach Resort Hotel, St. Thomas, USVI

The silver lining was that I got my wish to not have to slum it in Italy; instead, we will be working at a beach resort hotel here for the 10 weeks or so until we go back to pick up the ship in New Orleans around Christmas. While I was in the hospital, they roamed the island and negotiated a deal with free room and board in exchange for a couple shows a week at Pineapple Beach Resort Hotel.

The beach is great, the food in the restaurant is good, and the hotel property is fairly nice. However, we’re staying in some sort of run-down staff studio apartment on the grounds.  It’s really only one room with a curtain separating my parents’ bedroom area from the living room where I sleep on a pull out couch. There’s a small bathroom about the same size I’m used to on the ship, so if I wanted, I could shower while sitting on the toilet.  The cockroaches seem to have taken advantages of that synergy as well; the other night, I went to the bathroom and actually sat on one in the dark, and the next day I stepped on one in the shower. We finally went into town to get some spray to get rid of them, but no aerosol can get rid of my ongoing cockroach nightmares.



October 1978

Ruth and Clark Fonda on M/V Odessa


Paul, from the staff on this trip, is 19 years older than me, but I feel closer to him than I have to any man in my life. I first met him last year when he was working here on the Odessa, and I was on the Kazakhstan and our ships were in port at the same time. We spend hours together, and never run out of things to talk about; I love the sound of his voice. He patiently listened to me play the piano, even though I know I suck. Instead of criticizing or, worse, lying by saying it was nice, his advice was that if I was going to play, I should play with feeling, and not just hit the notes. That is probably good advice for life in general. Sometimes I think I’m going through the motions in life, just hitting the notes instead of engaging with feeling. I think it works for him; when he plays guitar and sings Your Song, I feel like it really is mine, just for me. It is like I’ve somehow known him all my life. He wears a chain around his neck with half a heart on it; I guess his has been broken. I have not asked a lot of questions about it; some things I really don’t want to know.

He’s done so much already, and has wonderful dreams for the future. He talks about wanting to one day own a dive shop in Key West. I feel childish even thinking about it, but I can actually imagine a life with Paul. I was born to live in the tropical weather.  I’m hoping to learn to SCUBA dive soon.  I could snorkel all day; it is so peaceful. I know I would love diving even more. Personally, I’d want to own a bar and restaurant and maybe an inn there too. Dive during the day – run the restaurant at night.  I’m not talking about any of this stuff or how I feel out loud because I don’t want to scare him away or freak him out. But, I just want to spend all my time with him. My dad is 14 years older than my mom… not much different. We are practically inseparable in our free time.  My favorite day was just walking hand in hand, wandering through the streets and shops in Barcelona. And when we are together in the tiny bunk bed, it is for the whole night.  I wake up early to get myself back down to my cabin before other people are up.  One day I woke up too late, and had to put on his jeans and t-shirt, and leave my evening gown in his room so it would not be an obvious walk of shame.  He’s a thin guy, so the clothes actually fit me pretty well.  I haven’t given them back yet. Not sure I will.

I’m not feeling so great tonight, so I came back to my cabin before dinner. I have a fever and chills and cramps and I threw up a couple times; probably a stomach bug. Paul came by my cabin to check on me after my mom told him I wasn’t feeling well when he asked where I was. I wish he could have stayed; I miss him.

Click to play Your Song – by Elton John [audiotube id=”xubavlo3CFk”]


September 1978

Little Jo Red Cross Clown

“Little Jo” – The Clown for Red Cross Blood Drive


Summer went by fast, and I stayed busy. I got my lifeguard certification, and spent most of my time with the Red Cross, where I’ve been volunteering for quite a few years, working in the office and at blood drives; they had me dress as a clown for one of the blood drives. Seems fitting since my mom has been a clown for almost as long as I can remember.

The only thing that made me sad about going back out is that I’ll miss Vinny. My girlfriend and I saw the movie, Grease, at the mall theater, and then went shopping afterward. We were walking around and I heard The Load Out / Stay playing in one of the shops. Jackson Browne is my favorite, so we went into this men’s clothing store to hear it. That’s where I met Vinny – he was working behind the counter, and we chatted for awhile, since we were obviously not there to buy anything. As we were leaving, he asked if he could call me.  So we started dating. He’s what you would call a nice Italian boy. He lives at home, and his family is very kind to me. He says he’ll still be there for me when I get back next spring. That is a long time, though. I don’t expect anything, and I didn’t promise anything either.


M/V Odessa

Odessa Soviet Cruise Ship

We just flew to Turkey to meet another Soviet ship, Odessa, for a Mediterranean cruise. Our luggage – and all the magic props – got lost along the way. So we had no change of clothes for 2 days until they found our stuff.  It was lucky that we were staying over in Istanbul for a couple days before the ship left port.  When my parents went to pick up the huge load in the airport, they wound up on Turkish television. The customs people wanted to know what they used all the weird stuff in their bags for, so my dad figured it was easier to demonstrate than to explain.  Turned out there were television camera crews in the airport that dropped what they were doing and filmed my dad doing tricks for the customs agents.  Anyway, we got our stuff back in time. It could have been a disaster.  Knowing my dad, he would have somehow made props and come up with shows to do on the ship.  But also knowing my dad, I would have been wearing the same clothes over and over, because he wouldn’t want to buy anything new, since I had perfectly good clothes somewhere between the US and Turkey.

Jo at 14 – Spotlight Queen on the M/S Kungsholm


This is my second Mediterranean cruise. A couple years ago, we worked on the M/S Kungsholm, which was a much nicer Swedish ship, and did cruises around Europe and around South America. At 14, I was the queen spotlight operator on the Kungsholm, and was convinced that was my future career calling. This trip starts from Turkey, travels around Europe, and then sails trans-Atlantic to New Orleans.  After that, we go back to Europe with the ship. Then, we are hanging out on our own in Italy for 6 weeks or so, and then catch the ship back to New Orleans again to do the week-long trips in the Caribbean. My father wants to stay in these really cheap places in Italy so we can afford it.  I wish we would find something better for that time.  I really do not want to go. I’m actually hoping that they will let me do something else by myself instead, and they can have fun staying in the pensions like college students bumming their way around Europe on their own. Unfortunately, I don’t have a say in the matter.  I don’t think my Mom is thrilled, either, but will do it because my dad wants to and because she won’t have to cook.

Click to play  The Load Out / Stay – by Jackson Browne [audiotube id=”8BJTtPrSNEA”]

June 1978

Jo and Mom (Ruth Fonda)


It’s good to be home, but in some ways I’m more out of place here than I am when we are away. I’m used to having so much more freedom. My best friend, Kathy and I hang out during the day and when she doesn’t have a date. More often than not, I help her get ready to go out then I’m back across the street in my room for the night. She’s 18 now, and can date and drink and go dancing out to clubs. While we’re away on the ships, I go wherever, whenever I want. I’ve been all over Cozumel, through the woods, to the remote beaches, to the clubs. I know people all over town and at all the resorts. Here, I have to ask permission to go anywhere, and have to be home early.  The rule change happened automatically; I’m not going to bring it up for discussion because I don’t want to point out the ridiculous amount of freedom I get when we are away from home. I know how good I have it, and I don’t want that taken away. Quite frankly, being on ships is a break from reality for them.  No cooking, no cleaning, no house repairs, no expenses, no demands from family or any of life’s normal responsibilities.  Since they apparently look the other way when it comes to me, there are no kids to worry about either. Just do a few magic shows, and enjoy the ride and each other’s company. Can’t blame them.  I don’t blame them.  I like it this way.

My dad is making me spend a lot more time on school work now that I’m home. All I have to do is read the books and do the workbooks and then mail in my tests for grading.  For the most part it is pretty easy, and I don’t really even need to do all the reading to pass the tests.  I have quotas for how much I’m supposed to get done each week, so sometimes I am pushing to get through the tests.  On the ship, I didn’t do nearly as much as I was supposed to do. But the grades I do get are all good, so my parents don’t bother me much about any of it.

Kazakhstan Orchestra

Russian Band onboard Kazakhstan

Too bad I’m not getting tested on Russian and Spanish. I know enough to be polite and talk about basics and I can understand more than I can speak. When we were on the Italian and Greek ships, I learned a lot of those languages too. I can be dropped almost anywhere in the world and be able to say hello and ask for a bathroom.

I got to try my Spanish out in Havana, Cuba when the Kazakhstan stopped in for a crew change after the last trip.  There weren’t any passengers on the ship, just the officers, crew, and some of the staff.  The Russians go to Cuba all the time, but I think we were one of the few Americans to be there in a very long, long time.  They are getting ready to start letting American tourists go there again; next season, we will be going to Cuba every other week.  They have a lot to do to be ready by fall.  Right now, it’s as if the country was frozen in time in the 1950s, like some sort of Twilight Zone episode. The cars, clothing, appliances … all the everyday stuff is really old.  Lots of things that have been invented in the last couple decades are nowhere to be found.  I guess the whole island used to be a really beautiful place where the “beautiful people” came to play.  Not so much for them to do there now, even if they could come.  There are huge mansions that have several seemingly poor families living in them.  Everywhere you look, you see Communist signs and statues and posters and pictures, and reminders of the revolution. It should be interesting to see how much Havana changes in the next few months.  They have a huge old rundown former Conrad Hilton hotel they are going to refurbish to make nice again. I told my parents that they should rename it the Comrade Hilton. Ha Ha Ha.  They thought it was funny. They keep telling their friends my little communist joke. With all the travel I’ve done, it is clear to me that people are people, and you can’t make any general statements about groups of them based on where they are from. Friendly communist is not an oxymoron.

May 1978 – II

Ruth and Clark Fonda Substitution Trunk Magic

Ruth and Clark Fonda – Substitution Trunk


It’s been a sad end to the season; our cruise director died after a car crash in Cozumel. I was lying in my bunk reading when my mom came into my cabin to tell me; I had known about the accident but assumed he would recover. I was stunned, but after she left I went back to my book, not knowing what else to do. He was such a good spirited and fun loving guy, it is hard to imagine he is really gone. On the cruise staff, we are all like a family – probably closer, because we spend every day, all day and all night living and working and socializing together, going to our separate cabins basically only to shower, have sex, and sleep.  Since he died, it’s like we’re all in a daze, operating on auto-pilot, going through the motions, and being careful to not let the passengers see our grief. I’m not sure any of us have truly had the chance to feel it.

He used to read this poem at the end of the last show of  the cruise:
Did you know that God above created you for me to love?
He picked you out of all the rest,  because he knew I’d love you best.
If I’m in heaven before you’re there, I’ll carve your name on the golden stairs.
If you’re not there by judgment day, I’ll know you’ve gone the other way.
I’ll give the angels back their wings, golden halos and everything.
And just to prove what love can do, I’ll even go to hell with you.

He’s really the first person I’ve been close to who has died. My grandparents on my father’s side are dead, but I hardly knew them. I vividly remember when they died, because it happened on the same day, although not at the same time. They were both in a nursing home.  Shortly after they told my grandmother that her husband passed away, she also died quietly and peacefully in her room, I guess from a broken heart. Or maybe she was just ready to join him. That’s a kind of love I want in my life. Mary Genter Fonda Frye  and Harry Frye

I don’t remember a lot of grief when they died either; the focus was just on the things that needed to be done to plan a double funeral.  I don’t have many memories about my dad’s mother, but there were quite a few stories.  He says that when she was younger they used to call her “Big Tit Mary”.  I didn’t inherit that feature from her.  I only knew her as an old lady with a big nose and big ears whose boobs merged with her belly under the baggy threadbare house dresses she wore on the rare occasions when we visited her and my dad’s step-father, Harry, in their rickety house in the middle of nowhere, near my heritage town of Fonda, NY.

Mary’s House


My dad tried to take care of his mom, but by his account, it seemed like whenever he did something for her, it backfired. One time, he opened the door to their house and was overcome by a stench like raw sewage.  Mary had tried to grow tomatoes in the kitchen, and actually spread out manure and dirt on the already cracked and buckled linoleum floor to grow the plants. He cleaned it up, like a lot of other shit he felt she left for him to handle.


My dad has come a long way from the hard life growing up with his crazy mom. She had three boys, but the other two died in childhood. His dad was an irresponsible alcoholic, and basically deserted the family; his mom was probably an alcoholic too, and couldn’t keep her act together enough to always take care of him, so he spent some time in an orphanage. My dad’s real name was Adam Clark Fonda, but the kids in the Catholic school used to make fun of the name Adam, as though the image of Adam and Eve naked in the Garden of Eden was something embarrassing to tease a kid named Adam about. The teasing had an impact; he picked Joseph as his confirmation name, and then when he was older, changed his legal name to his middle and confirmation names, Clark Joseph Fonda, and dropped Adam all together. His father was Douw Adam Fonda; based on the family lineage, it was supposed to be that each generation would swap first names between Douw and Adam.  So if I had been born a boy, my parents would have named me Douw Adam Fonda. There’s a good chance I would have changed that name as well…. maybe to Joe.

Click to play You’re in my Heart – by Rod Stewart [audiotube id=”v1qxJPzjObI”]

May 1978

Pirate Night – Jo & parrot-dove


It’s Pirate Night, Arggh! I really do enjoy this silly fun night each cruise when we dress up like pirates, draw fake tattoos on each other, try to fit in as many ‘r’ words into a sentence as possible, and hear or tell stupid jokes like, “what kind of socks do pirates wear?”  “Arrrggile.” “How much does a pirate charge for corn?” “A buck an ear.” I walk around with a dove from the magic act on my shoulder, pretending it’s a parrot.

My pirate night days are numbered; we’re going to be going home soon. I’m looking forward to that, knowing we will be back out again in the fall. It’s been fun, and I have some really good friends here. I haven’t done a whole lot on the correspondence school work, so I’ll have a lot of catching up to do when my parents figure that out. The things I have learned are not in any of the high school textbooks stashed in the bottom of my closet.

Thomas and I are what you’d call “friends with benefits”. I realize that we’re not dating, or anything like that, but it still gets to me when I see him trying to hook up with one of the passengers.  One trip, I could see he was really falling for this girl, and that it was more than just casual. I ended up becoming close friends with her.  “Ended up” isn’t really an accurate statement. Truth is that I was trying to mess with him, and got close to her just to make it weird.  The three of us were hanging out in the lounge, and she kept asking him to dance, but he didn’t want to.  So I took her hand to dance with me instead. He sat with an awkward smile on his face, fidgeting in his chair watching us get down in front of him on the shiny brass dance floor. Despite the fact that my motives were questionable, she and I actually ended up being good friends, too. I totally get why he likes her so much. As soon as that trip was over, he came right back to me. I know he missed her, and I kind of felt bad for him. Kind of.

Thomas and I do talk all the time and do always have fun together. No pressure, no expectations.  We are good friends and just hang out a lot of the time and never really discuss the other part of our relationship, whatever it is or isn’t at any given time.  Sometimes, we pick a spot in the stairwell or under a covered part of the deck with good acoustics and I play guitar and he plays the flute. Neither one of us is particularly good, but we both enjoy playing, even if badly, late into the night together. We’re learning to play Cat Steven’s, Sad Lisa.  It’s such a beautiful, haunting song, although we just play the melody and don’t talk much about the words. I think they remind him of someone else from his past; they remind me of me.

Click to play Sad Lisa by Cat Stevens     [audiotube id=”Vd0zduRDa6w”]

February 1978

1978 The Fondas Chinese Act on the M/S Kazakhstan


Last night, after our Chinese magic act, I hung out in the Troika lounge, which was pretty dead; Thomas and I were the only ones from the staff left in the bar after the rest of them had called it a night. He asked if I wanted to go listen to some new music in his cabin, which happens to be next to mine. We sat on his bed and chatted, listened to his tapes, and drank some cognac. He reached behind me and turned off the main light switch, leaving only a calming dim night-light in the room.  I relaxed back against the wall, as the sea rocked the ship, seemingly in time with the music. Then, he just leaned in and started kissing me.  He kisses so good; it felt as if we were melting together, like the heady taste of the cigarettes and cognac on his tongue. I’m really not sure how it all got going, but I ended up having sex with him. There wasn’t any asking this time… it just kind of flowed. Maybe it was the alcohol, but it felt like a floating dance instead of an awkward exercise. I didn’t need a white-knuckle grip on the headboard this time. Afterward, he gave me a really sweet kiss goodnight. I got back to my room around 4:00am.

But then today, he was kind of cool and distant. Not like he was mad or anything, he just seemed far away, as if nothing ever happened. I hope our friendship isn’t ruined. Later on in the bar, we hung out with some other people, but didn’t even sit next to each other.  He said goodnight to everyone pretty early, stating that he was really tired because he didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. I’m not sure if that was some sort of acknowledgment to me, or if he was just stating a fact. I can hear his music next door through the wall, but I’m not going to go over.  He knows where I live, too.

Actually, I’m pretty tired myself; today was a long day.  One of the two cruise hostesses quit, so I’ve been recruited as the replacement, even though I barely speak Russian, which was the major skill that got her hired.  I don’t get paid beyond a $10 a week allowance from my parents, but it’s good to have stuff to do.  I work in the office in the morning, doing administrative tasks and manning the desk to answer passenger questions. Throughout the day, I help with activities like card tournaments, bingo, horse racing, and other games like that. At night, there are occasional cocktail parties I have to attend and socialize with the invited guests.  It used to be that the only work I had to do was perform on show nights with my parents.  We only do a few magic shows the whole trip, so there was a lot of free time.  My parents have always volunteered to be escorts on shore bus tours so we could go on the excursions they wanted to do. Now, it’s part of my duties, and I have to go on the bus tours to the same places over and over again; thank God for books to keep me distracted from the monotony. My parents, on the other hand, do what they want with their free time.  I don’t mind though. Like I said, it is better to have stuff to do; too much free time isn’t good.

 Click to Play How Deep is Your Love by Bee Gees     [audiotube id = “BBMriOspUvA”]

January 1978 – II

The Fondas magic 1978

The Fondas Ruth Clark and Jo Magic onboard M/S Kazakhstan 1978


I just finished another show, packed and stored all the magic props away and am free for the rest of the night.  We have a lot of different routines that we cycle through on each cruise.  The newest act my dad put together is Mexican magic night, so we can fit in nicely on a theme night after leaving the port of Cancun.  All the effort required was to go shopping in Cozumel for a big sombrero and a serape for my dad and a couple of dresses for my mom and me, and then change the music selection.  Biggest challenge was teaching the Russian orchestra to play like mariachis on their balalaikas; they are more accustomed to playing Moscow Nights.  Doing the shows is easy. My dad drilled every move, down to the slightest gesture into my mom and me in rehearsals, over and over again until it was perfect every time for every routine.   Perfection is what got us on the ships and keeps them hiring us time and again. I’ve been traveling with them on various ships since 1972, and we always get great scores in the passenger surveys.

Mexican Magic Night


I’m happy that John and I are back to being good friends.  Probably just as well to leave it at that anyway.  He found me up on the deck the other night. I was doing correspondence school work, and had been getting rum and Cokes at the bar and taking them back out to my spot at the aft of the ship. I have a great deck chair where I can read under a bright light, and still enjoy the sound of the waves and the wake, and feel the slightly wet, salty breeze while I study.The bartenders always serve me; I do look older than I am, but reality is that nobody really cares that I am underage. My parents would care if they knew, but they don’t. Just have to hope they don’t see my bar tab. Anyway, I kept going in for refills and wasn’t thinking one way or the other about how many I was having.

The Fondas 1978 M/S Kazakhstan

Clark and Jo Fonda

I had only tried Pink Ladies before this, so I didn’t have a clue how much alcohol is too much. Well, I found out I had too much when suddenly I was queasy and ended up with my head stuck out between the railings. I have never been seasick – even in huge storms with swells so high that when you were in a trough you had to look 50-feet up through the portholes to see the crest of the wave – so I know it was the alcohol. I hung my head out over the side of the ship like a dog through a car window; the ocean breeze relieved the nausea. Nice picture for John to walk up to.  He was trying to help me, but I kept yelling at him for being such an asshole by ignoring me. Regardless of my fit, he did get both me and my stuff safely to my cabin. I later left an apology note under his door. He’s a good guy and I’m lucky to have him as a friend.  I’m OK with that.

This ship, called the Kazakhstan, was built to be a Soviet Ferry, but now it is a cruise ship trying to cater to US and South American passengers who are looking for a cheaper alternative to the fancy lines. The fare is a lot less, and tipping the crew is prohibited. Americans supposedly hate the communists, but in this case, the USSR saves them a few bucks on vacation.  Compared to all the other ships we have worked on over the past several years, it is really very small, and only has the basic necessities. My dad always says that the difference between a boat and a ship is that a boat would fit on a ship.  By that measure, this is pretty much a boat.

Another Fondas Magic Routine

The ship is fairly new, but there is nothing fancy anywhere, including the Troika “nightclub” where I got those poisonous rum and Cokes. The lounge has a jukebox, something unheard of on any cruise ship I know, with really old records in it. The live band is a Russian Trio that tries its best to do American style music. I say tries because their accent is really heavy, and I don’t think they know exactly what the actual words to the songs are and what they mean, so with that combination they come close, but don’t quite get it. My favorite is their cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds; I sing along with their fake words instead of the real Beatles lyrics.Whenever we are back in port in New Orleans, I walk down to the French Quarter to shop and always buy a few new 45s for the jukebox. I bought a bunch of Bee Gees songs after I saw Saturday Night Fever.  It felt awkward going to a movie by myself, but it’s not like I’d to run into anyone I know in a New Orleans theater. I can do just fine on my own.  My parents do what they want to do, both on board and when we are in port, and I take off by myself or with others from the staff.  As long as I send in correspondence school tests each time we are in New Orleans they are happy and satisfied that they are not ruining my life with this high end gypsy carnival lifestyle.  A few years ago, there was a passenger from the faculty of Harvard, who spent time with us and said he thought I was smart enough to go to college there, and that when the time came, to let him know and he would put in a good word for me.  He didn’t say who was going to pay for it though.  My parents only appear to be rich because we socialize with the wealthy passengers.  Truth is, by their standards, we would be considered poor.

Click to play Moscow Nights – by Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi [audiotube id=”Cr1Xve0g9EQ”]
Click to play Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – by The Beatles [audiotube id=”eKXfqpg-Q-k”]

January 1978

Postcard of M/S Kazakhstan


It’s really late. My parents are asleep, and they have no idea where I’ve been. Thank God I have my own cabin on this cruise ship. Otherwise, my father would be so pissed right now. I just have to tell someone about the night, but there’s nobody I know well enough here to talk to, no phone for me to call anyone, no friend’s house to run to across the street. Despite all the people here onboard the M/S Kazakhstan, I’m pretty much alone out here in the middle of the ocean. I need someone to talk to and this paper is all there is for me.

I did “it” tonight – lost my virginity to a passenger named Peter. Funny thing is that he is also the first guy I have really even made out with since once back in grade school.  When I do something I guess I really do it. Kiss for the first time and then go all the way a couple days later. He’s just a passenger, and will be off the ship in a few days anyhow.  Then there will be another mass of new people coming onboard. To me, the passengers are a lot like the audience in a long running play.  Like actors, the people on staff play the same roles over and again, with some improvisation based on audience participation. We’re all hired to entertain the paying guests, but the real drama is in the backstage saga playing out from show to show, cruise to cruise.

I don’t even like Peter all that much.  More than anything, I was really mad.  Not at him, but at John, who works on staff with me. I thought we had become such good, close friends on the first two-week cruise of the season.  We spent a lot of time hanging out, laughing, and talking.  Then this cruise, a group of college students got on, and suddenly John has no interest in spending time with me.  It’s like I’m his little sister or something and he can’t be bothered with me now that there are older girls around. But why should he bother with a 15 year old anyway? I can’t compete with them. Peter is 18 and isn’t really much younger than John.  But he certainly didn’t think I was too young.  He says he loves me.  I seriously doubt it after only a week.  I didn’t think I needed to say it back. He didn’t need to say it at all.  I just wanted to hang out with him and his friends and let John see that I don’t need him to have a good time. And then John has the nerve to tell me to be careful.  As if he cares.

Peter and I went for a walk out on deck, and it really was a picture perfect scene.  The moon was bright and lit a long path across the dark water from the edge of the horizon to our spot by the railing where we stopped to kiss. It was warm, the sea was calm, and a light breeze blew the skirt of my strapless black dress, forming gentle waves at my knees. He asked if we could go to his cabin where it would be more private. There was no place to sit, so we lay down on the bottom bunk, which felt like a coffin; the twin sized bed is small, and closed in on three sides and above.  So there wasn’t much room to move or anything. We made out for a while; I think he grew 10 hands, and there were no straps to hold up my top.  I didn’t care. But I really didn’t get THAT feeling… the one I’ve felt before when a guy friend touched my arm or my back or something and it just sent a rush of a tingle right through my whole body. That had happened to me with John last week.  It happened with a guy on staff I worked on another ship with a couple years ago. Neither one was trying to make a move or anything, they just happened to touch me and my body reacted like it had a mind of its own.

So, anyway, Peter was amusing himself with my body parts, and the next thing I know, he’s on top of me, asking, “Can I?” I assumed what he wanted, and said ok. I did not plan it or anything, but it seems like that’s just what people do around here. It’s not a big deal – not like I have been saving it for anything or anyone special either. He had a condom in the drawer next to the bed, so I guess if it wasn’t me it was going to be someone else. He pressed against me, and I didn’t think it was going to happen after all.  The bed has bars for a headboard, and I had my arms over my head and grabbed on tight, because it wasn’t going in easy.  Nothing hurt like I thought it might, but it certainly wasn’t feeling great. I guess I should have been more excited and into it, but what kept going through my head was the song, “Is That All There Is?”  Maybe I’m missing something. Anyway, he’ll be gone in a couple of days and that will be that.  At least I got this over with.

Press to play Is That All There Is? – by Peggy Lee [audiotube id=”LCRZZC-DH7M”]