Friday, October 27, 2006

Day 14: Gettin’ wiggy

In the pantheon of this trip’s tacky touron geegaws (and believe me, it’s a pantheon – even near the Pantheon!), nothing is more ubiquitous – and stranger – than the hat-wig combo. It’s your classic tourist ballcap, the gaudier the better, with long strands of Wayne’s World-era locks sewn in. We’ve never seen anyone wearing one, or even considering one. Still, they’re everywhere. Guess there are a lot of follicle-challenged grandpas back home getting the souvie of their nightmares!

And speaking of wigged out, we had a dinner for the ages the other night. It’s the cruiser’s daily conundrum: where to dine among the ship’s dozen options. Traditionalists opt for the two “scheduled seatings” at the same table with the same tablemates every night of the cruise. The idea is you create a regular little social group for the length of the cruise.

Less-social rebels like us go for “anytime dining” – which means you can eat at pretty much any dining room whenever they’re open. And that can lead to some pretty darned interesting dinner conversations.

Thursday night, we were at a table for 10 that spanned the English-speaking world: A couple from New Zealand, another pair born in England but living in Canada, two Canadian buddies whose wives chose a different dining room, and four Americans: A husband and wife from Alabama and us Texans (for the moment).

Right away, our faves are the Brit transplants. Harry’s a retired surgeon, prone to rambling on a bit about history but a delightful conversationalist. Frances is almost 73, a former school board kingpin and self-proclaimed political junkie who starts the conversation by saying she won’t talk about politics tonight. Too divisive.

I, of course, immediately whip out the red cape to agitate the bulls.

One of the fascinating things about the trip has been the reaction to Americans. The war is hugely unpopular in Europe, and whenever we say we’re from Texas, eyebrows get cocked. Politics is usually not discussed, but when it is, the general tone tends to be strongly anti-Bush, but not anti-American.

Until you meet Mr. Alabama.

The guy’s straight out of Karl Rove’s central casting agency – a self-professed millionaire who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps and now wants to convince the world his way is the only way. He’s like a cartoon – brash, obnoxious, pretending to want a conversation but really just wanting to hear himself crow.

Drawling like crazy in the seat next to Frances, he takes the floor: “Ah’d lahk tuh ask y’all one simple question: Do you believe in equal opportunity or do you believe in income redistribution – that’s called socialism?”

Remember in the Star Wars saga when Hayden Christensen finally goes over to the dark side? The eyes darken, the forehead furrows, a blood-red aura drenches his face.

Think of Frances as a 73-year-old-social-democrat-transplanted-from-Britain version of Hayden Christensen’s forehead.

Scary. And fun.

Mr. Alabama slaps the table. Frances pleads with him to be reasonable. Mr. New Zealand (whose wife bears an uncanny resemblance to Mrs. Ari on Entourage) thunders, “That’s the craziest thing oy’ve ever hehd!” Mr. Alabama (whose wife has just fled in embarrassment) refuses to listen, then boasts about Bill Gates and “that Buffett guy” (Jimmy, maybe?) as iconic Americans voluntarily picking up the world’s needy.
Things escalate. Then Frances, the picture of decorum, turns to Mr. A. Asks, “Will you just shut the f*** up?”

And that pretty much shuts him up.



At 9:42 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Makes you proud to be an American, eh? When are you guys coming back?

At 4:16 AM PST, Blogger Rick Holter said...

We're in London now, back on the evening of the 1st. Conscious by the weekend!


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