"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves." -Shakespeare
It was a strange day on the Sunday I was supposed to leave Brooklyn on a sea cruise of fun and wonder, and it started off rather well with the revelation that unlike past cruises, we were going to have real ESPN in the stateroom. Not ESPN Deportes, not ESPN International, not ESPN Cricket, but real...honest to goodness...John Buccigross and Harold Reynolds...ESPN. And that means I could keep at least one eye on the rubber game between the Mets and the Yankees.
After 4-1 Mets, even after the evil Ron Villone blocked David Wright's attempt to bust the Sunday game wide open, I was confident enough to leave the stateroom while wearing my travel hat (the black Mets hat faded enough by past trips to sunny locales like Vegas and Mexico that it's the only hat I'll ever travel in). Now being that this trip was leaving (allegedly) out of New York, that the majority of the travelers would be from our fair city. So it was no small surprise when I was asked what the score was...my report of 4-1 Mets drew some scattered heartfelt applause when the wife of the man who asked me told me "Oh, you must be mistaken"...to which I replied with a twist of my trusty travel hat from back to front: Ma'am, I don't believe I am", met by more applause. My time away from the room went back and forth between imagining the Mets continuing their onslaught against the Yankee bullpen, and things falling apart for Alay Soler.
Never did I imagine what I actually saw when I returned to the stateroom:
And it wasn't like I could take comfort in sailing the open seas, because we were in Brooklyn until 1AM due to a batch of bad fuel coming in from New Jersey, not only delaying our departure, but causing all of us to miss our scheduled stop in Grand Turk. So it's midnight, we're still in Brooklyn, our cruise is compromised by a nickel and dime fuel company, and Alex Rodriguez decides that tonight is the night to start being "MVP".
I knew things were horribly wrong when I attempted to face the music after the game, you know...seeing what this site looked like after our earth was scorched. But as I typed in the url at the $0.35 a minute internet cafe, I get this message:
"This site has been blocked due to objectionable content."
Since when is hate objectionable?
After my failed internet foray was when I was alerted to the fact that we were traveling with a lucky garden gnome, which had been all around the world before. Well that's comforting...everything going wrong, we're still in Brooklyn, and we had a lucky charm.
"You think we should take it out of the box?"12:15AM-Gnome leaves box.
12:30AM-Ship finally leaves Brooklyn Marine Terminal.
So as you see, the fault lies not in our stars...not in Alay Soler for being scared of the strike zone, or Xavier Nady, whose error let in four extra runs...but in ourselves, for not having the foresight for not letting our gnome breathe free. Let this be a lesson to all of you...good luck charms are worthless while still in the box.
July 3rd: Bingo!
The gnome starts his magic as our shipboard accounts are credited $200 due to missing one of our scheduled ports, and Metstradamus wins another $200 playing Bingo. Unfortunately, the luck doesn't carry all the way back to Queens, as John Maine fails as Petey's understudy, and Monday's game seems to be a complete waste of time.
July 4th: When Losing Turns Into Winning
The good times continue as I turn two losing tickets from the "Dicey Wooden Horse Race" into two bottles of sparkling wine as a nice consolation prize on America's birthday. Today was also the day where I try to start my dominance on the mini-golf links on the top deck of the ship.
The Mets, meanwhile, finally get over their American League hangover with a 7-6 win over Pittsburgh on the strength of an Xavier Nady two-run single. Now I didn't see X's error during the Sunday game. Don't want to...ever. But I couldn't help thinking that after Sunday, he owed us one. And seeing that I was in a good mood after winning some free alcohol, I'm willing to put X back at even.
July 5th: Rainy and Cranky
My rampage to mini-golf dominance is halted as our third sea day in a row is rainy, and there were puddles on the course. I myself would have liked to be able to play mini-golf with water hazards! Safety: BAH! So I turn my attention to paddle tennis, a game I don't dominate at all, but I always relish the chance to dive around like Boris Becker out there. Our first match came down to the wire...about eight or nine deuces on the third and final set before finally falling. It could have been the quintessential doubles match of the day, if not for this marathon out of Wimbledon.
Indulge me for a brief second, but in the spirit of Stan Marsh, I learned something today. Now keep in mind that this wasn't a typical cruise out of Fort Lauderdale where everyone travels to Florida to cruise. This was a New York cruise...and just about everyone was from New York. I learned we New Yorkers, collectively, can be a tad obnoxious sometimes.
Take into account Wednesday afternoon's Bingo session, which is now growing a bit more crowded as nobody is winning the rollover jackpot. These three haggard old women ask me if the stools next to me are taken, to which I replied not at all. So they sit down...then as I go up to the front of the bar to place horsie bets, while leaving a full drink by my seat, she steals my seat!
"Excuse me, I'm still sitting here!"Believe me if there was another place to move I would have been gone. This old wench, her two old wench friends, and their two kids then proceeded to complain about the cruise, the bingo balls, the woman calling the bingo numbers, and basically about life itself...and did so in between every number. These women even heckled the bingo caller! And I was forced to sit next to them...it was like sitting next to Marge Simpson's sisters. I feel sorry for those kids, because if today was any indication, they're going to be raised as brats.
"Oh, well you don't have to get nasty about it, you left."
"I left my drink here lady...what the hell do you want me to do?"
Not for nothing ladies and gentlemen, but if you're on a cruise, and all you do is complain...and look for things to complain about, then you don't deserve to ever, ever, be on vacation again. In fact, you don't deserve weekends. You deserve to be chained to your desk without so much as a day off for eight months...which is about the amount of time that stateroom stewards and other cruise ship personnel have to work without a day off. Oh yeah, and you should be made to work eight months straight without a day off in addition to being extrordinarily nice to ingrates like yourself every minute of every day, which is what these cruise ship employees have to do.
And I'm sure that these fine people work under the premise that "the customer is always right". They have to, to make the cruise experience a special one for you. But I have news for you guys: Sometimes, the customer is wrong. And more often than you'd want to admit, the customer is a moron. If you believe nothing else I say, believe that.
So be nice to your stateroom stewards and bingo callers.
Meanwhile, Orlando is taking care of business back at home base. It always baffled me how Hernandez has been so successful with that slop that he throws. But seeing him on a semi-regular basis, and juxtaposing him with Alay Soler makes it clear. Hernandez's junk at least gives an impression at some point during its delivery, that the pitch was going to be a strike. Soler, however, pitches scared. You really don't need a great batting eye to know that Soler's pitches with runners on base are going to be nowhere near the strike zone. Now if the Mets aren't going to trade Soler to the Orioles to get, say, Kris Benson back...then Hernandez better get that message across to his former rotation mate.
All of these sea days in a row made me loopy...so much so that I thought I heard that Soler was out of the rotation in favor of: Jose Lima. That couldn't be right, could it? I was dreaming, right? It was the rough seas playing tricks on my fragile little mind, right...right?
July 6th: Alcohol makes certain things better
What better way to try to forget about the return of Jose Lima than to hit land and take a shore excursion to the Bacardi Rum distillery in San Juan for a tour (and free drinks). Be forewarned, if you ever go into the place, and they put you in the small room to tell you not to take pictures inside before they send you through two medieval looking wooden doors, you will have the Oompa Loompa song running through your head.
My favorite part of the tour was the exhibit showing Bacardi advertisements and commercials from throughout the years. Not coincidentally, the "Bacardi and Diet Cola" commercials with the cheesy "Miami Vice" routine and the midget playing the part of "Diet Cola" was nowhere to be found.
Luckily during my time in Puerto Rico, no evidence of Robby Alomar's existence was evident.
But not so luckily, Pedro lands on the disabled list.
I think Pedro needs a garden gnome...or at least he misses his little friend.
July 7th: The Circle of Life
It was National Geographic day in St. Thomas, as one of the first things we see as we go into town is a stray duck being chased by a stray dog with bad intentions. As I step off the ferry, I very nearly step on the dog, who was coming out from under our taxi with the duck, now deceased, in his teeth.
When I got wind of tonight's pitching matchup, I pretty much knew who was going to be the dog (Dontrelle Willis) and who was going to be the duck (Lima).
Also today, for some reason we were switched to ESPN Deportes, where I've gotten pretty good at translating their "bottom line" into English. And I learned that "grand slam" when translated into Spanish, is still "grand slam".
Not until just now did I learn that Jose Lima...who couldn't even get past the fourth inning much less the fifth...was once again, designated for assignment.
Talk about dead ducks.
July 8th: 62*
This day at sea featured a run at the cyber golf deck, and I'm going to plug the technology...because this was really something. You can basically play 18 holes, indoors, by hitting golf balls with all different clubs at a video screen, which then simulates where the ball is going. You can play at pretty much any classic course you'd like, and I shot a 62 at Pinehurst.
Really! A sixty two at Pinehurst! I mean, this technology is accurate!
Oh, I guess I left out the words "over par". I shot a sixty two "over par" at Pinehurst.
Meanwhile, the Mets split a doubleheader with Florida. And I finally get around to checking some e-mails, when I got this:
"The Mets are aptly on vacation TOO!!!!!! Better get home soon!"Ships only move so fast.
So is it "Tommy and Pelfrey, and get the bats out of the belfrey?"
You try rhyming with "Pelfrey".
Sunday July 9th: Bermuda and Boneheads
Some random facts about today's destination, Bermuda, that you may not have known:
Did you know, that people who are buried in Bermuda are buried pointing east/west...unless they are a convicted murderer, then they are buried north/south?
And did you know, that homeowners display bottles of water, each with a different color of food coloring, to discourage stray dogs from peeing on their lawn?
We also got back to the ship in time to watch some of the World Cup Final on the big movie screen over the outdoor pool. Don't get me wrong, my dominant Italian heritage gave me a clear rooting interest, so I'm happy with the result. But please allow a relative soccer novice to get something straight here (Jaap, you wanted soccer commentary, you got it):
France's best player selfishly gets himself ejected after responding to being called a name with a head butt to the chest...after France's other best player was replaced by the head coach (why?)...basically putting stripping his team of any advantage in the overtime and in the penalty kick phase.
And he gets named the World Cup MVP?
This guy isn't even allowed to come back on the field to get his medal...and he's the tournament MVP??!???!?!!?
What's next: Todd Bertuzzi wins the Lady Byng trophy for gentlemanly play?
And now there's all this speculation that Marco Materazzi called him a name. Hey Zidane, guess what? You did exactly what Marco wanted you to do. You fell for it, and you cost France the World Cup. Congratulations, Tournament Most Valuable Player!
It's like when Kris King taunted Dino Ciccarrelli during a Rangers/North Stars game just days after Ciccarrelli was arrested for an alleged indecent exposure incident. After King got Dino off his game via the physical play, Ciccarrelli warned King not to do that. To which, legend has it, King replied: "What are you going to do Dino, whip it out?"
Ciccarrelli went berserk, got himself thrown out, and the Rangers won the game. See, happens all the time. You have to keep your cool in that spot.
Zidane did not, yet still wins MVP. I get that about as much as I get why the referees got medals. For what? For sucking? I thought NHL refs were bad...never will I think that again.
But the great part was seeing all of the Italian crew members on board going insanely happy with the result, and raising a glass or two or thirty...some even ran around the ship with Italian flags, and a couple of crew members had a faux World Cup trophy that they had in tow as they went around to all the restaurants and piano bars singing "Volare". Thank goodness our captain was Scottish or the ship would have freakin' capsized.
Meanwhile, I'm watching Cards/Astros on American ESPN, but they go to the ESPN Deportes feed because the audio feed is out. There's English font and Spanish font on the same screen. I'm all confused now. But I did learn that Carlos Baerga is part of the three man baseball booth for them this season. No word on whether Candy Maldonado gets to eat any doughnuts anymore during the pre-game production meeting.
July 10th: Getting closer to New York, and gearing up to hate once again
So ESPN's Sunday Conversation, which I saw Monday morning, is with David Wright, and Jeremy Schapp asks David something to the effect of:
"We've seen sooooooooooo many great plays by Derek Jeter...they're indelibly marked in our minds forever and ever and ever. Walk us through your barehand play last season."What?
If the question had been, "Jeter's great, blah blah blah" followed by a question that actually had something to do with Derek Jeter, I could have accepted it. But don't you think "walk us through your barehand play" would have sufficed? Did we really need Jeremy Schapp to drop to his knees to accept some Derek Jeter man juice for the benefit of a question that when all said and done, had nothing to do with Derek Jeter? Of course he did, because Met fans apparently must be reminded over and over and over and over again that there's another team in New York...WE KNOW ALREADY!!! LET IT DIE!!!
Jeremy hereby wins this week's: "Jeanne Zelasko award for unnecessarily stroking Derek Jeter".
Apparently, I wasn't the only one on the ship who was testy and ready to go home...paddle tennis was particularly nasty as I was hit in the throat with an overhand smash, I did my annual Boris Becker dive (we wound up losing the point), and one woman was treating this little tournament like it was Wimbledon...wanting rules clarifications and citing the other team for being in the wrong position during the finals...all for a two dollar medal that's not even made of real gold. This tournament was now less about hitting great shots than about hitting this other woman in the throat as the balls were struck with a little more purpose. It was so contentious you would think it was Miguel Cabrera and Scott Olsen out there.
The final bingo game with the $2,500 jackpot was also crowded and nasty, as the Bingo wenches returned for more heckling of the number caller with their voices that made nails on a chalkboard sound like Pavarotti. The irony today was in these women trying to shoosh their kids when the kids started in yelling after every number. Seems like the path to brat-dom has started already. And to that cause, I hereby am appointing these three bingo wenches as the charter members of the new "Metstradamus: Out At Home" foundation.
Because it IS your fault.
But I won my second straight mini-golf gold medal. I'm awesome. (Well, the last two rounds were rained out again so we basically won because the other team didn't show up. But I showed up, so that makes me: you guessed it, awesome.)
July 11th: A phone call, will it change my life?
How did I know I was back in New York? A fellow cruiser tried to steal our cab.
Tried and failed I might add.
But when I get home, as the sun had set on a spectacular respite, I thought the gnome had one more good omen in him. Apparently, I got a call yesterday from the New York Mets.
Really? What could this be about? They want me to blog on their site? They want me to work for them? They need me to pitch for them?
No, they want to sell me tickets.
At least they wanted to sell me playoff tickets...and that was a direct quote from the fine ticket representative. I like how that sounds.
Good to be home.