Saturday morning, I woke up minutes before my alarm sounded. I love the extra hours that come from traveling west. :)
My aunt lives in Long Beach, and it occurred to me, only moments before we boarded the plane to LA, that I should see her while we were in her town. As a sad commentary on how well I've kept up with my extended family, my call to Mom started with "is Auntie Mame still alive?" Mom was pleased to call and get in touch with her, since I wasn't sure how much longer I could use my phone after we boarded. Mom had a nice conversation with her, and she texted me her current phone number, along with her invitation for us to stay the night.
When we landed in LA, I couldn't reach Auntie Mame. The number just rang and rang == who doesn't have voicemail in California, the heart of technology? Flar wanted to stay in the hotel anyway; he felt it was simpler for using his cycler, etc. Mom eventually returned my voicemail about not getting Auntie Mame and checked the number she had against what she texted me. There were a 6 and 8 reversed, aha!
I called Auntie Mame before my shower, and we got to spend the morning together. She drove to the hotel to pick us up, and took us to her apartment building. She and her Mom built it way back when, and they both moved into one of the units when Mame's second husband passed away. I call her Auntie Mame, because she is an actress, and that is one of the more interesting roles she played in her heyday.
Mame's apartment is beautiful. It's like stepping into a different world, to enter first the garden and then the apartment. In her garden, she has beautiful huge trees and palms and fountains and humming birds and doves and cats and itty dogs with curly tails (whom I think belong to one of the tenants). There are twining vines and leaves decorating the outside stairs, and everywhere you look are angels or plants or flowers. Inside, the walls are covered with artwork and pictures and there is more foliage and blossoms. She has a plush white rug that looked like fur in the center of her sitting area, and a grand piano separating that room from the dining table. Upstairs, the feeling of plush continues. She's turned her dressing room into a small office, with jewelry and paperwork commingling in what seems a perfectly natural style.
We had a mission of replacing the sync cable for my iPhone, so after a time admiring her home, we set off. She took us to Best Buy, where I found a cable marked for use by iPod touch that seems to work fine. Then she took us to some of her favorite haunts. Signal Hill is a little township next to Long Beach that is built on oil. There are little "dunking bird" pumps scattered about behind fences, in the midst of a typical California suburban area. She drove us uphill to a park that marks the significance of oil in the origin of the town. It had a poetry walk up to an art installation featuring a central metal sculpture representing a gusher, surrounded by wall segments showing "shadows of the past," then by benchs, then a low wall circling the edge of the small hill. From there we could view the surrounding towns and city. She says she goes there every Sunday after church.
The park had a sign listing the restrictions, such as "please clean up after your dog," which including among the proscriptions against skate boarding and bike riding "no golfing." I don't recall ever seeing "no golfing" signs anywhere, but I could see both the strong temptation and the foolishness of driving a golf ball off that height over the houses below.
Next Auntie Mame drove us to the community theatre where she's been involved for so long. At her house, she had told us about her last play. She was to reprise a character she'd played before, who literally jabbered almost stream of consciousness level of prose. It was in the first script-down rehearsal that Mame released she could no longer rattle off such long passages without help, and decided to step out of the role rather than face embarrassment on stage. Theatre has been such a huge part of her life for so long. She says she is still able to keep her hand in, in smaller roles, to keep sane. :)
The Norwegian Pearl
Auntie Mame dropped us back at the hotel in plenty of time for us to pack up, check out, and wait for our taxi. We had to call Baxter to get the delivery information for Flar's dialysate, but everything else went as smoothly as expected. We boarded swiftly, with no lines. In the enormous embarkation room, we went through old-style airport screening (no getting the laptops out or restriction of liquids, that is), then we were escorted to the first open computer to check in. We filled out health statements - no flu symptoms, no exposure to flu patients, handed over a credit card to fund our shipboard account, and received our silver card keys. We're staying in a Penthouse Suite, so next we met our concierge, and then we were escorted into the ship.
The Norwegian Pearl is beautiful. The stateroom hallways are paneled with teak, and the doors are bright aqua. There are signs mounted by the doors which can be dialed between Welcome / Please Make up the Room / Do Not Disturb / Please Turn Down the Room. The states are color coded: yellow / green / red / blue. I even discovered the doorbell right away - rather than finding out we had one by hearing it ring. ;) There is colorful art everywhere, even hanging in the stateroom hallways. The public areas are filled with art and color and light and comfort. The Crystal Atrium has a inviting velvet couches and an enormous Wii Screen. One of the crew was describing to me how he's able to play even from the balconies, and that when they were still using Guitar Hero (since withdrawn due to not being a single household playing environment), he could run up and down the stairs while playing.
There is an over-the-top elegant dining room, the Summer Palace, for those who really want to DRESS for dinner, then a more contemporary dining room, the Indigo, which allows for the resort casual code that is common for the rest of the ship. The Garden Cafe even allows shorts at dinner, for those whose definition of casual doesn't include pants. ;)
We had to wait for Flar's dialysate to be delivered to the room before we could truly feel comfortable, so I brought a burger and chicken sandwich down from the Garden Café for us to eat in the room. I've gotten the soda card, which gives me any drink out of the bar guns for free (Pepsi products, soda water, ginger ale, etc.). Flar is sticking with water and iced tea, since he doesn't drink nearly as much as I do. We're really close to the nearest bar, so it's no trouble for me to pop out for a drink. :)
After the boxes were delivered, we wandered the ship. We sat in the Martini Bar together, where I had a Raspberry Torte (it's a martini, really!), and Flar had a scotch that he declared to be properly stinky, er, I mean fragrant. Then we ate dinner in the Indigo. We asked for a group table and ate with two other couples. One of the women and I carried 75% of the conversation, with Flar and her husband taking up most of the slack. When the other husband spoke up, it seems he had pretty interesting stories, but he seemed content to merely listen.
The food here is delicious, but I've promised myself to be restrained. While we were out last night, our butler "call me J" dropped by with a plate of hors d'oeuvres and a silver bowl (? it's really almost a footed colander, I'm sure there's a proper name for it) of fruit.
We stopped in the internet café on the way back to our room so that I could purchase the 250 minute package in time to get 20 bonus minutes. When I tried out the signal last night, I found that the wireless reaches our room just fine, so I won't need to use an ethernet cable or wander the ship for a hotspot. Our luggage was in our room when we returned from dinner, and by the time I'd unpacked mine, I decided I wasn't up to going back out for the comedy show. Instead, we watched "The Proposal" on the in-room TV.
Yesterday I learned that the Suite Life is indeed sweet, and that a martini really enhances the rolling of a ship on the high seas. :)
Time to wake sleeping beauty in time for tonight's dinner, so I shall pop online for a few minutes and post this.