Friday, March 17, 2017

The Cruise, the Diplomat Gets Cultural and I Shuck Oysters

We recently came back from a one-week fabulous cruise to some islands in the Caribbean (truly immaterial which ones, given that all I cared for was to have a beach and a place on it to sell drinks with colorful things in them). This was our second cruise ever and I was so excited, that I was squealing all the way from the airport to the Miami port. Reading the sign “Miami Cruise Port” on the highway brought me to uncontrollable giggling and hand-waving and generally annoying the Diplomat and Son with my unbridled exhilaration. Even the hour-long line to check in did nothing to dampen my exaltation; worse, it made me even more excited and frenetic so that when we finally reached the check-in desk, I beamed so brightly at the poor clerk that he let out an audible sigh and went to fetch our board cards.

Cruising is an amazing experience and I don’t care who scoffs at it! What’s not to like: you can eat at any time of the day (which I did), you travel to all kinds of warm places (unless, of course, you don’t), there is a pool on the ship for those days at sea, there is different entertainment every night, and, if you have been smart to buy a drinks package, you can get drinks at any point, any time, anywhere on the ship (which I also did). Because of the timing of this particular trip (end of January, when normal working people are back to work after the holidays), we had the refreshing opportunity to travel alongside 3,601 octogenarians and 3 couples our age, one of whom were our friends P+C. This spritely demographic on the ship presented us with a rather unique experience during the trip. Electric scooters, driven by determined mature gentlemen raced gamely down the narrow galley ways; hundreds of walkers were parked outside the dining room; since no one ever took the stairs, it took whole afternoons in order to get in one of the elevators; late-evening game shows with adult themes revealed unnecessarily graphic details of 50-plus marital bliss; the casino didn’t have an empty chair; and high-waste khaki shorts were all the rage. I also developed a certain appreciation for those members of the gentler sex, who did not think that age should dictate the size or the era of their bathing suits. It was seven days of traveler bliss and the Diplomat even played a round of expensive golf on the stunning ST. Kitts while I roasted my winter-white skin under the gentle rays of the January sun. On sea days, we barely saw Son and his bosom buddy V (P+C’s son) who ruled the ship running up and down its 13 floors and generally giving all the old folk arrhythmia just by looking at their endless energy.

Returning renewed to freezing Washington, DC, the Diplomat suddenly turned rampantly cultural and decided that 1) we will be taking ballroom dancing lessons, 2) we will go to the Kennedy Center philharmonic as my Valentine’s gift, 3) he will learn to play the piano. So, we started taking ballroom dancing classes with a charming Brazilian gentlemen and his Chilean wife with enormous and highly distracting eyelashes. At this point, we boast a highly awkward tango move and a choppy waltz. The Philharmonic was lovely and Son only fell asleep after half an hour, but woke up in the break, demanded a Sprite, drank it and stayed awake for the second part, which featured a scary dramatic piece by Dvorak about a witch and a little naughty girl who dies, which left an indelible impression on him. Finally, the Diplomat has begun teaching himself the piano with ferocious determination, reading thick books on music theory and playing Mary Had a Little Lamb after a YouTube tutorial. The man certainly has resolve, which makes me somewhat apprehensive as I have been hearing recent mentions of riding and archery lessons.

Recently, a colleague of ours dropped off a large bag of fresh oysters for our enjoyment. Folks, there are few foods in life I enjoy as much as oysters. I go nuts for them. So, that smelly bag of tightly-closed Virginian oysters made me dance in the kitchen. Until I realized that they would have to be shucked. To be honest, I didn’t even know the word “to shuck” existed before that day (I mean, can’t we just say “to open” the damn mollusk??) The Diplomat promptly went on YouTube, his personal guru on how to do, um, kinda everything and watched 8 videos on the subject. After that, he decided it was not for him and instructed me to do it. So, there I was, armed with an old kitchen knife, (NOT a specially-designated shucking knife as all those cool folks in the videos), trying to pry open – oh, pardon me! – to SHUCK the prized oysters using detailed internet instructions. What could possibly go wrong?! After cutting myself only 4 times, in 15 minutes, I had successfully shucked two, which I ate triumphantly and immediately. Eventually, I managed to shuck a few more, at the cost of Herculean and meticulous labor and an almost severed pinky. The rest had to be stored, and so the Diplomat made the brilliant suggestion to put them in cold water and into the fridge. Which pretty much killed most of them. Apparently, salt-water critters don’t do so well in the sanitized Arlington sweet tap water. The next day, when I opened the bowl, I saw a mesh of tentacles and other freakish-looking soft matter coming out of the semi-opened shells. It took a lot of dedication and love for oysters to dig through the slimy mess and find the resilient ones who were still tightly shut, and mercilessly shuck them and eat them with gusto. Ii will be some time before I decide to shuck oysters again. Until then, I will continue to eat them at overpriced restaurants.

Life in arctic Arlington continues its merry way.  Even though every Monday I resolutely tell the Diplomat that THIS weekend we are not going to host a single party, dinner, impromptu backyard drinks with neighbors, a BBQ or any other “thing” of such sociable nature, we inevitably end up doing such a thing and then spend the Sunday recuperating. Well, so be it! Life is better spent with friends!