Sunday, January 31, 2010

Formal Night #2


What a great night it was on board the Crystal Symphony. We really landed so lucky with our tablemates.  We just so enjoy them and the six of us look forward to seeing each other and discussing the events of the day as if we live in a small village and are meeting up at the local restaurant that evening.

I had the caviar to start and then Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska.  


Saturday, January 30, 2010



"The Dutch West Indies"

it sounds like something from a grammar school history class about trade and the Europeans and the "New World."  All those hours sitting in beloved Mrs. Gervais' class and I never thought I would be here.  I was not the boy who dreamt if island adventures and pirates, but here I am and I love it.  We are 15 miles north of Venezuela.   In fact. Aruba was originally called "Venezuela" or "Little Venice" by none other than Amerigo Vespucci who got "America"  named after him not to mention landing a big number in "West Side Story" to boot!  Eventually "Venezuela" went to, well, Venezuela and Aruba was named after a nail polish color or something. Not sure.

But here we are indeed. In Aruba today.   And it was lovely. I think it was one of my favorites islands.  Just a vibe, I guess.

We went to Palm Beach and went swimming.  Simple and perfect. Not alot to report different that the rest of our island visits.  But much happiness with all our friends on board and how de do's everywhere we go.  Feels like New York City to me in that way!

Friday, January 29, 2010


We landed so lucky with our main dining room companions.  It has been a delight over indulging with them every night.  We like each other so much we decided to go en masse to the Italian restaurant on board called Prego. It was FABU.  And intimate dining space with excellent personal service and glorious courses of food. I had carpaccio AND lobster to start.  There was soup and salad afterwards before hitting the rack of lamb. I finished off with a sensible gelato. 

Ellie and I enjoy our tablemates so much.  We have George and Celia from Orange County,CA and Penny and Gordon from Toronto. We are, of course, from New York City!

Galley Tour

This ship goes through 2,300 eggs a day and 90 gallons on milk and 500 lbs. of flour.  Not to mention 400 lbs. of fish and 500 lbs of beef.  (About 250 of those pounds I think are me!)

The Executive Chef gave us the tour of the galley and it was fascinating.  I cannot fairly describe the amount of dishware on board and all the unique pieces.  There is just so much of it the mind boggles. I think of the washing up!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life aboard the Crystal Symphony continues its hectic pace!

We arrived in St. Lucia this morning.  Beautiful island.  Ellie went in the water for the first time in 30 years.  This after having her first sushi dinner.  She will either go sky diving or rob a bank next I am guessing.  Amazing the capacity for trying new or very old things. I will choose to be inspired by her enjoyment of it all.

Had a great beach day and then relaxed on board ship after.

Another grueling day. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Informal Night leaving Antigua.

Tonight was informal night on board which I thought was casual night, but it is really jacket and nice shirt night.

Ellie and I walked out of our staterooms and we noticed we were both wearing khakis and navy blazers.  Twins!  Like Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

(Editors note: I am NOT suggesting either of us look like Danny or Arnold, but we are equally unlikely twins!)


English Bay. Lovely.

This morning we docked at Antigua.   The plan was to tour a bit by car and then end up on a swimming pool-style beach with hotel ashtray level white sand and then back on board the amazing Crystal Symphony.

We got the tour okay, but it was about 3 hours of goats and shanty towns and primary schools and police stations.  Vernon, our guide ensnared about 6 of us and took on an endless journey. We did catch a glimpse of the beautiful English Bay and he did take us through Fig Tree Drive, which is supposed to be the 17 Mile Drive of the Caribbean, but it was just lushness and more goats.  I know I sound like a spoiled Westerner.  (Shoe fits?), but I have to report it as I see it. 


Ellie and I were both dying to get back on board our beloved ship.  The beach he promised us was indeed beautiful but right at that moment the heavens opened and it would have been insane to get out of the van.  We got back to the ship and had salmon burgers and ice cream poolside. True paradise.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hola Tortola!

Land Ho! 

Woke up this morning with a lush green island right outside my bedroom window.  The amazing thing about cruises is the scenery always changes. We had not seen land in a few day and here was this ISLAND!  Magnificent feeling.

I had a run around the top deck listening to that song "Gypsy" by Shakira and just loved every second of being alive even though I felt dwarfed by the massive Royal Caribbean right next to us. People in this next ship sat out on their balconies and waived! Very neighborly.

Upon debarkation, Ellie and I took a treacherous taxi trip over the mountain to the beach at Cane Garden Bay.  Lovely beach. Swam in the aqua ocean and read a book.  I stayed shaded and loved the relaxing feeling.  Ellie took the sun as only she can.  This is where our people are clearly from different tribes!

Then it was back on board the ship for lunch!   Gee it is always nice to get home.

What is the rest of the world doing?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ellie Eats Sushi

Today the ship's amazing kitchen served up a buffet lunch beyond belief. It was as if someone was getting married.  Loads of seafood and prime rib and a cheese table that covered most nationalities.    Ellie loves her salmon barely cooked and it seemed time for her to graduate to sushi. She was game and loved it!  Tomorrow we are going to the sushi bar by Nobu on board!   What a fun lunch.

Settling into a Morning Routine

With all the food going down like my gullet like a seal being readied to be foie gras, I have to offset this with some exercise. Got up early and walked around the ship on the top deck.  It is stunning being at sea in the early morning when everyone else seems still below deck.  I had a great walk and then lifted weights at the gym followed by a steam all before the buffet breakfast!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Stateroom

My stateroom aboard the ship is just perfect.  My window looks out onto the ocean (where else really?) and it is just so comfortable and roomy.  I have a bowl of fruit and a desk and the most comfortable bed and a small sitting area. The bathroom has a shower that could rival the best ones on land.  Full pressure and hot, hot water.   In fact it is bigger than some New York apartments.  I will not speak of the 24 hour room service.  Though I will ring to have some camomile tea delivered after this grueling day of eating, lounging, and dressing up.

Formal Night

Tonight was the first formal night on the ship.  Ellie looked smashing and I pulled it off with help from a black suit and Sean's amazing tie. (Something borrowed...)  

It was a very fun evening at our table with all the folks all dressed in their finest with lobster and oysters to match. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Today was the day.  My maiden(head) voyage on a cruise ship.  Ellie and I boarded the Crystal Symphony at the dock in Miami Beach.  What opulence!  What service!  What skin care  products!

OMG the eating is scarier than a Las Vegas buffet.  There is amazing food to be had everywhere. AND 24 hours.  Holy Self-Control Batman.  I better get a grip and head to the gym aboard.

We had lunch in the main dining room which was really exciting.  Then we walked around the ship and took the spa/gym tour, saw all the wonderful facilities and then it was tea time!  Smoked salmon sandwiches on crustless bread and tea cakes.  I passed on the clotted cream knowing I had 10 more days to indulge. 

This evening we met our tablemates at Table 51 in the main dining room.  Celia and George from Orange County, CA and Penny and Gordon from Toronto.

Then at 9pm we SET SAIL for the Caribbean. Wow.  This 5 Star Hotel actually moves!

Ellie and I admitted that we are probably the most confusing couple aboard!

So far, Day 1 this has been an amazing cruise!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Manhatin Goes Miami

Ellie and I left the frigid Northeast for the tropical climes of the Florida and beyond today.  (Okay, it wasn’t that frigid, but it makes for a more dramatic contrast.)

I truly could not believe the aqua-hued water directly below the plane as we flew into Miami, however. I felt so pastywhite-dorky seeing it. Like we were in an episode of Law & Order that was off to do a sweeps-week special in Florida as we would land in fish out of water winter clothing. 

Tomorrow we set sail on the Crystal Symphony, but tonight it is reunion time!  It was a total "This Is Your Life Ellie Krach" evening. Ellie’s nephew Bernie and his wife Susan picked us up at the airport.   Just seeing Ellie in action makes me realize how she really is the matriarch of her family and they all love her for it. They were both so, so nice. I really enjoyed meeting them.

 Ellie and her beloved nephew, Bernie

Next up on “This Is Your Life Ellie, Miami Edition” was a reunion with Ellie's dear friend Claudia. She and Ellie had not seen each other in 38 years until tonight!  I do not know why they don’t re-do that show, because this stuff gets me every time! Seeing them hug was just so moving. You know you can't possibly feel what they feel, but that is what makes it so moving!

 Ellie and Claudia. 

We all had dinner together and the stories flew.  Claudia and Ellie met on a cruise ship when Claudia was Ellie’s future husband Bill’s singing partner! That is some history there.  And Bernie grew up in Manhattan and was a real part of Ellie’s family growing up.  It was wonderful to hear all the stories about that.

So much history, so many memories and more keep getting made.  I never tire of tales of yore even if I have no straight connection whatsoever.  Stories are ties to the past and keep long gone loved ones alive and remind us that we have lived.  They also remind me how important it is to keep making more.  And tonight we did.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Met my friend Jage Toba today for a chat.  A professional, what's going on, what are you up to, anything happening style chat.

We had one of these before which was quite fruitful, but it was at Le Pain Quotidien which about anybody can do. But what about "Why don't you meet me at my club and we'll have tea and talk?"  Now that is harder to pull off.  I certainly cannot offer up this line unless you want to me at the Y, but Jage is a member of Norwood on West 14th Street in Chelsea.

It is a club that, well, that uh.  Oh, here is their blurb:

Norwood is a private club that draws its membership from the creative arts and in addition to basic sustenance aims to provide members with a salon of discovery through talks, tastings and stimulating events as well as being an active sponsor of creative talent in the New York area.

Norwood is in an old, sprawling "Upstairs/Downstairs" townhouse that has the feel of a British club, but it is artsy more than Wooster/Jeevesy. And from the website I thought it would be severely pretentious artsy, but it was pretty casual.

We had a good visit and he showed me around the place. It really is quite cozy and lovely and I want to join so I can go back there and be on my laptop having tea in the lounge when it is snowing outside.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A View From the Bridge

Went with my friend Ellie to see Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" at the Cort Theatre today.  It stars Scarlett Johannsson and Liev Schreiber.   I had heard so so things about it and was thus not expecting much. But I have to say I was thoroughly engrossed.   The play is from 1955 and touched on themes I had not expected.

And Scartlett in the Julia Roberts Comes to Broadway Role of 2010 does a really good job.  You don't think "movie star" when you are watching the play.

I had never seen Liev Schreiber on stage before and he was that character.  All the actors are good. 

Did not like the fake blond hair on the blond brother whose hair is vital to the play and (**SPOILER ALERT?**) Liev kisses him which you know was not in the original script and it just rings so wrong for the character though you know it is an interesting idea.   But still.

All in all I thought it was very good.  And it send "Present Laughter" packing IMO.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beware of Irish Bearing Gifts

What did you do today Pat?
Well I went down to South Street Seaport and played bagpipes on the pier in the cold while a Greek Orthodox priest threw a cross into the East River and shirtless men dived in to retrieve it. You?

 Greek and Irish bearded sages meet.

Winner holding cross and wearing shirt.

This is an annual event for the band and the first time I got to do it. I have no idea why bagpipes is part of this tradition, but the Greek contingent is so nice and we all love to do it. Last year it snowed and there were ice floes. This year was downright balmy by comparison.

Here is the write up from the church's press release that explains all:

THEOPHANIA (Epiphany) at South Street Seaport

The Holy Metropolis is pleased to announce that for the ninth time since 2001 the blessing of the waters for Theophania (Epiphany) 2010 will again occur at the South Street Seaport, in New York City.

On Tuesday, January 19, 2010, following Divine Liturgy at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Markella, His Eminence PAVLOS, the Metropolitan of America, will lead the clergy and faithful to the seaport where he will conduct a service to bless the waters of the great city. He will complete the blessing by casting a Cross into the icy waters. This symbolizes the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan at the hands of St. John the Baptist. Dozens of young men will dive into the harbor hoping to reach the Cross first and return it to Metropolitan PAVLOS.

This ancient, Holy Christian ritual, dating from the time of the Emperors in Constantinople, will be witnessed by the people of New York through the cooperation of the local authorities, and NYPD, FDNY, US Coast Guard harbor launches and scuba divers.

Bagpipes, shirless divers, Greeks. It is all here baby!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wet Socks

I have these shoes. They are not that old.  I threw away the receipt. They have cracks in the soles.  It rained. My socks sucked up the water and my feet were soaking.  It was the same sensation as getting into a wet bathing suit: uncomfortable, odd-feeling - a type of bad mushy.

Without being too metaphor about it, even though my socks were soaked and I was miserable as a result, I looked like everyone else on the street.  I had the proper coat, an umbrella, I was wearing pants.

But inside I knew I was not the same.  I was marinating in dirty rain water and I was not up to the task.  I was less than and miserable and trying to keep it all together to appear normal.  But I was drowning. 

I did a sane thing.  I went home and took off my shoes and socks and got dry.  

Now to do that with my brain.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New York - It is a Fairy Tale

My friend Robin Palmer came to New York about a month before I did and here she is now a published author of a Young Adult book series riding around a carriage in Central Park plugging her latest book - Little Miss Red in a Penguin-produced video to help promote the release. Fantastic, Robin.  It can all happen here with hard work and talent.  That fairy tale I truly believe.

They really can come true!!  But watch out for the woods you're riding through,  Robin Red!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Humiliation and the City

How far will one go to get a job?   And what is one open to doing? 

These are really brother can you spare a dime times.  So at this point, anything.

Having not worked in a year and a half, I have gone from "I want to be an astronaut" to "I can flip a burger better than anyone."

I have to put food on the table, but it seems I also have an ego to feed. 

I got a call yesterday from an agency that left a message that there was a job I might be interested in.  I was all excited. My skills were being recognized!

Turns out it was for an executive assistant position that was to only last a year.  --But with full bennies and a stipend for a salary.

"It has a broken wing and needs to be on a ventilator and smells of boiling cabbage?"

"I'll take it!"

I have been both an executive and an assistant so I know the territory.  But it was a huge EGO pill to swallow to put myself in the running for something I did 20 years ago.

They asked me if I could make my resume seem more "admin-like."  Sure, I will take out the words "Vice President, Executive Director, and managed a team of 37" and replace them with "excellent coffee, stapler, and fries with that."

They then asked me to be on call today to come in for an interview.


I started even fantasizing about commuting to work and having a paycheck and healthcare.  I went there. 

Then I went out an got a haircut and asked the barber to cut it so I could look like the kind of guy you would trust answering your phones.

Tumbleweed ran through the day. No one called. I finally called the agency. I was told "They said you did not have enough administrative experience."

I got up from the chair where I sat all day in my yellowing wedding dress and said to the recruiter, "Could you not have stroked my ego just a little and said something like 'they found you over qualified'?!!!"

I don't have enough admin experience?!!!   I have booked many a flight, made pots of coffee, done excel spreadsheets and arranged lunches in the boardroom for 23.  But that was all 20 flippin' years ago.

I was so upset I went out and got my back waxed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Time Stands Still

Me with Jerry and Maryann

What a night!  I got the "gold ticket" and was invited to be a special guest for the evening to my friends' subscription series at the Manhattan Theatre Club to see "Time Stands Still" by Donald Margulies starring Laura Linney, Eric Bogosian, Brian D'Arcy James and Alicia Silverstone.  Jennifer and Jerry kindly hosted me and it was such a great evening to be out in the bracing weather embracing all the that New York has to offer. 

Feeling kicked in the teeth lately, I welcomed the escape into a play about a couple who cover wars for a living but are back in New York because she almost died in a roadside bombing and he had a breakdown and now their relationship has landmines all over it.

Half Dennis, Jerry, Gary, Jennifer, Beth

Avant théâtre,  a few of us had pizza at Angelo's in the Ed Sullivan/David Letterman building.  I supped with Jerry and Greg and Maryann, whom I met for the first time.  Topics:  unemployment, dating, prostitution and basil.  And, no, we didn't tie them all together.

(I will take a moment here to plug Maryann's boyfriend's high end handmade furniture business in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  - check it out at  )

Williamsburg became a thread for the evening as the play ended up being set there. 

I think one of my favorite things about theatre in New York is pouring out onto the street afterwards.  You just feel part of something.  And when other theatres are pouring out around you at the same time it can feel like VJ Day and I just want to dip a nurse and kiss him.

Jerry, Gary, Maryann, Greg, Beth, Dennis, Jennifer, me, Rachel

For those who were there, notice I have not mentioned Tariq once in this post.  I write as if he were not even part of our evening.  I act as if he never existed because I can't stand the thought of him.  How could you?!  How could you?!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Paris, Rome, Pinched Nerve. 

These are reasons I have not been back to Zumba in a few months.  

I finally managed back to the Westside Y and Sam's Wednesday night zumba class this evening.  It burns calories and saves money on therapy for sure.

I realized tonight that I don't just go for the endorphins, but for the sense of belonging. If this class is symbolic of anything, it is symbolic of what makes New York so great: you can have a sense of family so many places.  I had not been in ages and it was like a reunion. There was Rachel and Lee and that woman who always dances behind me and the Japanese lady who has such a nice smile. And my friend who was in Nigeria for 3 weeks seeing her rels. We were all back and ready to MOVE!

What a fantastic night it was.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The New York Phil

There are times and performances that you will never forget your whole entire difficult life. Like seeing The Clash open for the Who in LA or catching Loudon Wainwright III at the Great American Music Hall in SF or seeing the Houdon exhibit at The Getty or Martha Graham at City Center.  Or St. Lawrence O'Toole Pipe Band's concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Tonight was another. I went with Ellie to see Alan Gilbert conduct the New York Philharmonic in works by Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff.  I don't profess to know anything about this stuff, but my body did and the tingling in my left hip was not a body part fallen asleep, but one come alive!  It was electric this evening.  The piano soloist Yefim Bronfman who played the difficult Prokofiev piece got the reception reserved for a returning war hero. And rightfully so. He was amazing and mesmerizing.

And Alan Gilbert.  I love that New Yorkers love him. Like he is an MVP for the Yankees. He is the first native New York conductor and his mom plays in the orchestra!  Anytime New York can have a homespun moment fitting for Boise, I love it even more. Mr. Gilbert is young, enthusiastic and in control.  You can feel that the orchestra loves him as well.

Whatta night.  It goes on my list.

Living La Vida Local

In my mind I go to the Union Square Farmer's market for seasonal produce and Murray's Cheese and that butcher next door on Bleecker and some amazing bakery for dinner rolls right out of their century-old oven. And I transport all this home on a bike with a basket while waiving to familiar shop keepers who are sweeping the sidewalk in front of their establishments. 

In reality I make the trek to Trader Joe's once a fortnight and stand in the Soviet-style food check out line for mango chunks and frozen potstickers. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Trader Joe's to an obsessive degree, but it ain't Paris. Or New York. But what is?

If I were Carrie Bradshaw I would write, "Can one really find and live the New York of their imaginations and if so, does anyone have the time?"

Today I was strolling past Porto Rico Importing Company after a job interview and I decided to pop in.  It is like popping back in time as well - a plus in my book.  They have sacks and sacks of coffees and all at reasonable prices.  I got an excellent French Columbian for $5.99/pound.  This is not today's 12 oz, but a real old fashioned pound.  The woman behind the counter was really nice and we spoke about the flat filter vs. the cone and if grinding to #4 was really as racey as it sounded. 

Instead of getting the thrifty coffee special at Westside Market (which ain't half bad) I could stroll a few more blocks (key words: "a few more blocks") and get my coffee from a purveyor that has been around over a century.

What will it be?