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 to create the new show 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. The 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, year after year, 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.
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 schoolwork and had been getting rum and Cokes at the bar and taking them back out to the aft of the ship. I have a comfy 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.
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 dashed to stick my head 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 my stuff and me 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.
This ship, called 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.
The vessel 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, stocked with really old records. The live band is a Russian Trio that tries its best to do American style music. 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 wealthy 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, and by Harvard standards, we would be considered poor.