I woke up, thankful that I drank a ton of water the night before, but still bummed about how things turned out. One moment everything had been going better than expected and I was making friends, the next moment they were ostracizing me. But I did not despair! I had plans that night, and I was going to bust out my secret weapon.
My “morning” was fairly typical. For starters, we were still in San Juan. (Weren’t we supposed to leave during the night?) I went to the buffet for lunch, which was actually great. I’d say the buffet was higher quality than the fancy evening dinners, relative to their expectations and limits.
I found my parents where I expected to find them: by the pool bar. I laid out in the sun with them and read my book between conversations. My parents introduced me to their friend Willy, a bus driver from New York that actually looks like snoop dog. Willy was funny, nice, and genuine – a welcome contrast from the customer service line people I met the day before, and I could see why my parents liked him.
Eventually the belly flop contest started – a favorite cruise ship event of my parents. We had a decent view on the top deck, and it was about what you would expect. The cruise ship director Mercedes would introduce a contestant, they would dance for the crowd, and then they would jump into the pool. One of the contestants, a large Santa-esque man, had red suspenders on with his swimsuit. My dad found this incredibly amusing, as he had just been telling my mom how he needed suspenders for his swimsuit. This man got third place. A larger man won.
During the competition, the other guy who was dancing alone the night before walked by and we started talking. I introduced him to my parents. Idle chit-chat, and at the natural moment in the conversation where I expected him to leave, he didn’t. Momentarily awkward, but fine with me. He watched the next event with us.
The next event was The World’s Sexiest Man contest. (I doubt it was widely publicized.) At least two of the contestants I recognized from the belly flop contest. Each contestant had about a minute to dance for the five lady judges. The guy that seemed clearly ahead on looks (the only fit young guy) bombed the dancing portion. I thought the guy with the nice smile had it in the bag, but the gold medal ended up on the neck of the Silver Fox. I think they need to ban fedoras.
The captain of the ship started making announcements in the afternoon about the ship’s progress. I’m sorry we’re still in San Juan, I know I said we were going to leave, the tool to fix the ship got in late, we’re removing bolts from the propeller, we’ll be giving you hourly updates, we expect to leave this evening. Stuff like that. I guess people had been complaining about the lack of communication. The first of the routine hourly updates was simply “This is your captain, work on the ship is continuing, thank you.” Everybody on the pool deck laughed. Oh how we laughed! I could sense the captain’s “you want communication? I’ll give you communication” attitude. These updates continued until 10pm, when he announced that they wouldn’t be making hourly announcements while people slept, and they expected to leave port that night.
Dinner was one of the dress up fancy nights, but my parents decided not to pack their fancy clothes this trip. (“It’s a whole other suit case and we just don’t want to deal with it.”) I wore my dockers and a nice shirt, continuing my tradition of looking sharp for dinner, but I still felt a little under dressed. A had another white Russian with dinner, and even though politics came up it was largely uneventful.
After dinner I went to a show in the theater, the one Oliver the dancer invited me to. It was a typical “history of rock” mashup of songs and dances. One of the singers did an amazing job with I Will Always Love You, so that was cool. Oliver struck me as the older goofier member of the bunch, and I spent a lot of the show wondering what it’s like working on a cruise ship. For some reason I was viewing them more as people than performers in that moment – maybe because I had met one of them, or maybe because that’s how my brain works. I had this little dream that Oliver would be like “oh hey, you’re cool. Want to hang out with us backstage?” But I knew it was just a dream.
After the show I changed into shorts and a t-shirt. (Even at night it’s hot in long sleeves and pants.) Then I made my way…to karaoke! I was determined to win over the hearts and minds of my fellow cruisers, and karaoke was my next play. I had been practicing Eminem’s Just Lose It for months. Whenever the right beat comes on the radio, I bust it out. I know the words. I was even going to do the lyrics over an entirely different song: Feel Good Inc by Gorillaz. If they didn’t love me after that, they would never love me!
They didn’t have Feel Good Inc. But they had Just Lose It! I knew I was losing some points without the live mashup twist, so I would just have to crush the normal version. I signed up, fifth on the list.
I got a drink at the bar – another white Russian. I was nervous. More than I thought I would be. Usually Talking to Strangers involves jumping right in. There’s a moment, and you take it. This time, it involved waiting and second guessing and thinking about all the choices in my life that led to that moment. Remember that time freshman year of High School when you sneezed in gym class during a boring lecture in your never washed gym clothes and then said straight faced to Alexis your crush “sorry I’m allergic to fun” and she just looked away? REMEMBER!? Yes, I remember, but that’s not why we’re here…
“Jon!” The guy I talked to earlier that day, the guy who was also dancing alone the night before, was sitting at a table I could see, and he was waving me over. A friend! I took the empty chair at his table and was introduced to the other two guys. I don’t remember a single one of their names.
As I sat down, I noticed the table next to us – a girl with her mom. The girl made eye contact with me, and there was a moment. I don’t know what it was exactly, but there was something. I know this sounds weird, but there was a kind of fierce energy in her eyes. And she was absolutely gorgeous, the most attractive girl I saw on the ship…yet she felt familiar to me. I knew I didn’t know her, but I felt like I did.
This look gave me energy. I was going to talk to this girl, and I was going to do it after I crushed my karaoke song. My nervousness was gone, and I had a purpose. The four people that went ahead of me also boosted my confidence. The first was a large adorable man that talked more than he sang. Next was a girl that I felt bad for, because she was clearly trying but just didn’t have the voice. Third was one of the guys at my table, who was just ok and was clearly having fun. Lastly, an older guy with an awesome gravely voice did his thing. While these people were all fine in their own ways, they were all low energy.
“Next up, we have Jon. Come on up Jon!” Clapping. “Where are you from Jon?”
“Seattle. Let’s hear it for people in their 20’s!” Laughter.
“I think you’re the only one Jon. Ok, take it away.”
The song starts with some idle “guess who’s back” stuff. Then the main lyrics kick in with “Come here little kiddies, on my lap. Guess who’s back with a brand new rap.” So far, they’re intrigued. They’ve noticed that I’m completely ignoring the screen. Heads are cocked. Ears are perked. I pounced, and I put some fire in it.
“And I don’t-a-mean-a-rappa as-a in-a new case of a-child molestation accusate AH-AH-AH-AH-AH! No worries.”
BOOM! I had ’em. They were clapping, smiling, responding well to my energy. I was rapping, dancing, doing my thing. I was out of breath halfway through the song, but by then it didn’t matter. There’s a part of the song that goes “Yeah boy shake that ass. Oops I mean girl. Girl girl girl…” and I looked right at the girl as I said “girl you know you’re my world.”
Ok, so maybe I was a little over the top. But I had fun, and that’s what really matters.
The song ended, I took a bow, and I started towards my table. The girl’s mom was walking past me to the bar, and she highfived me enthusiastically. I walked right past her and sat down next to the girl. Her name is Devon.
At this point, I’m basically high on attention. It was the exact same feeling I would get after recording an episode of the Limited Resources podcast. Seriously, at three in the morning after recording a 5-hour set review show I would be completely wired and unable to sleep. That’s how I felt as I started talking to Devon.
Our conversation was fairly typical. She complimented my performance, we talked about how the cruise is going, where we’re from, who we’re with, stuff like that. Her mom came back and also congratulated me. (I never remembered her name.) They each asked me if I was going to do another song, and I told them the truth – I didn’t really have another song. They encouraged me to find something. The conversation naturally came to a close, I said it was nice to meet them and I hoped to see them around, and I went to the bar to get another drink.
I ordered my drink (a mojito this time), and the bartender complimented me. As he went to make the drink, a guy at the other end of the bar flagged him over and said “I’m buying Jon’s drink.” Once I got my drink, I thanked the man and he told me I should do another song. Then I returned to my table with the three guys, each of which told me I should do another song.
I should have let the first performance sit. I dropped the mic (figuratively) and I knew I shouldn’t pick it up again. Not tonight.
…but I couldn’t help it. Everybody was telling me to go again. This high wouldn’t last forever, I needed more! I hated myself as I walked back to the books to look for another song. I knew where this was going.
Their selection sucked. Not a single Beastie Boys song. (I can kind of do Ch-Check It Out.) No Bloodhound Gang. (Anybody can do The Bad Touch enough to be entertaining.) No Barenaked Ladies. (I’m not even sure I can do One Week.) The only other Eminem song they had was Lose Yourself, and I wasn’t about to try that. I actually walked away from the books at this point…but the pressure continued. People continued to tell me to keep looking. I thought of a song, one I knew they had before I even looked. One I knew I shouldn’t do…
Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy. At least Devon and her mom had left by now.
“Please welcome back to the stage, Jon!” Oh how excited they were. The fools.
I tried to make another age joke. I had my phone in my hand, and I said “One second, I’m just sending a twitter.”
The MC asks, “…what are you doing?”
“I’m….nevermind.” Shit. Fuck me. Idiot. “Anyway…I know I said I was from Seattle earlier, but I grew up in Montana. That’s the part of me this song comes from.”
“Ok Jon, good luck.”
It went…ok. The song has a little too much actual singing to it. There’s also a part in the middle that I can’t remember, and I screwed up the pace – just like the last time I attempted this song, just like I knew I would this time. (I swear I heard somebody in the audience shout in frustration “come on!”) I tried to salvage it with some Gangam Style cowboy riding, but it wasn’t enough. I did get the audience to sing “save a horse, ride a cowboy” with me, which helped.
Sure, they clapped, but we all knew. I ruined the moment. I flew too close to the sun. I had a thing, and I ruined it. I Caddyshack 2ed it. I was normal once again.
That said, the high was still in my system. It lingered. I regrouped in my room and then rode the high down to Jesters night club. And who should I find there, but Rob and Corina! Our friends from New York. The three guys from Karaoke were also there. Friends! And Jessica was there. Mysterious enemies!
Jessica saw me and immediately turned her back to me and started talking into a female friend’s ear. This put the friend’s face in my direction, and she was clearly looking at me. Jessica finished talking and continued to deliberately ignore me.
You know what? Fuck this adolescent shit. I rode my high right on over to her, smiled, and said “hey!” She nervously responded in kind. I pressed on. “So…what’s your deal?”
“Umm, it’s complicated.”
“Yeah…I’m kind of seeing somebody.” Huh…I knew I’d have to try to unpack that later.
“Oh. Ok.” I lingered, like a bellhop waiting for a tip. She gave me nothing, so I moved on.
Even that interaction didn’t kill my high. Alcohol helped. I had a great time dancing with the three guys and Rob and Corina. High energy, lots of sweat, lots of water. Good times.
Rob and Corina and I took a break and started chatting at a table. I filled them in a little on my situation. Somewhat recently out of a long relationship, more recently out of a shorter relationship, that girl over there in the black dress hates me, dancing is fun. Rob encouraged me to dance with Corina, and she pulled me out to the dance floor. We danced, and it was great. It was that kind of dancing where you’re touching the other person. The kind that I have no idea how to actually initiate. (I feel so creepy trying.) Rob eventually joined us, and dancing continued with them and the three guys from karaoke. I was so grateful to have people around that liked me.
Eventually the group broke up and I started heading back to my room. I thought this was where my night would end, but I was wrong! On my way to my room, I took a brief detour to this little balcony by the elevators that overlooks THE PROMENADE. I noticed this group of teens (the ambiguous 17-20 group) looking up at me from the all-night cafe, so I waved at them. They waved back. An invitation! I said “I’ll be right there!” and left the balcony. I’ll be honest, I was still a little drunk, and a little attention high.
I was shocked by how friendly this group was, especially after my previous experience with that age group. They were very easy going and curious about me. The girls were cute, but certainly not an age group I was going to pursue. I wasn’t there long, maybe 10 minutes. I asked them about Facebook (they don’t use it) and complained about my empty age bracket. Then I said “I have to go to bed…but before I do, want to hear a joke?” They were very excited, and I launched into the awesome Napoleon joke I’ve solidly stolen from Paul Barclay’s English cousin. They ate it right up. I left feeling like a mysterious hero of the night.
Back in my room, trying to fall asleep, my brain began to unravel Jessica’s statement. Do I feel better knowing that she’s seeing somebody, and that’s why she’s acting weird? No, that’s not right, that still doesn’t explain her behavior. Was she lying? It’s one thing to be uninterested or unavailable, but this blatant ignoring is something else. I don’t even like her, it’s not like I want to be with her…so why do I feel like such a bad person? Why do I feel like a weirdo creeper, and what did I do so wrong?
Still, there were good interactions today, with friends that were unlikely to disown me.
With mixed feelings, I fell asleep.
UP NEXT: The casino opens…somehow with the ship still in port!