There are many noteworthy beaches on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Maarten. Perhaps the most notable of these is Maho Beach. This particular strip of sand meets sea is situated dangerously close to an airport runway. By dangerously close, I mean that the tires of incoming 747s skim the tops of beach umbrellas. Revving jet engines fold the oncoming tide back onto itself, shred the air with heat, pummel everyone outlying with steaming, translucent fists. Unfashionable visors leap suicidally from heads and are vaporized before even reaching the sand. Bodily harm is a genuine possibility for beachgoers. Thus, Lil Ray was beyond excited.
I too was very excited, not beyond excited, but nestled firmly in excited’s jittery nook. I woke up at 9 A.M. with a grandstanding hangover. Overnight, my skeleton had gained considerable weight. A sure set of hands had apparently rung my brain out, over and over, like a fraying dishrag. I rose, teetered, dressed, teetered. Banana stopped napping long enough to ask me what I thought I was doing. I told her, I think I am going to the airplane beach but you can never be sure. Banana asked me what an airplane beach was. Painfully paraphrasing, I explained the vacillating tide and disintegrating visors. Banana decided to accompany me.
Somehow, in the fiery midst of pre-disembarkation breakfast rush, Big Ray had managed to seize seven buffet tables. He accomplished this by using mannequins. Apparently during boarding, Big Ray had snuck fourteen mannequins-each bearing an uncanny resemblance to a respective member of The Fam-onto the ship. Now, he was putting them to glorious use. No one was sardined. Still, there were seven independent pulses beating painfully in my body. I got one bite into my breakfast with the Noni mannequin and decided I would not be getting off the ship.
I said, “I can’t do it. I can’t go to airplane beach; a beach specifically built so airplanes can tan and stand in the shallows up to their landing gear. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t.”
“Me too,” agreed Banana.
“Come onnnnnn,” plead Lil Ray as he devoured an ice cream cone, disappointedly.
We promised to make it up to him. We would later make due on that promise. For the time being, Banana and I returned to 13098, where we slept dense, lovely sleeps long into the P.M.s.
After we probably went in the pool. After that we probably napped. After that we probably showered. After that we probably got dressed for dinner.
WHAT AUNT MICHELE ORGANIZED THAT NIGHT:
Post-Dinner: Whiteout Party at Bliss Ultralounge
Moderno (roughly translated Modern) is a carnivore’s nocturnal emission. You are given a card. One side is green. The other side is red. When you leave the card on green, militaristic wave after militaristic wave of food servers pile every variant of meat onto your unsuspecting plate until you offer up conditions of surrender, or turn the card over. The strips of meat are tiered, skewered and stacked like discs up the spine of a spear. The Fam flipped their cards onto green (except for Jordy, who was quarantined with tummy flu, and Maya, who I assumed had converted to veganism after being kicked out of the teen club).
Hilariously and out of nowhere I threw a french fry at Banana. A direct hit to the noggin.
“Ha, ha!” I cried. “Food fight!”
Banana laughed and threw a saucer of rice at my face. A direct hit to my face and pride. I returned to my meal.
One by one we were satiated, and, one by one, we flipped our cards to red. The Litigator’s card never flipped. He snatched meat from the skewer with his mouth, chomped bones to the marrow, laughed manically and wore a thick beard of meat juice. Eventually, the staff had to take his card away from him. The Fam understood.
In the hours preceding the White Out Party, Steffy, Noni, The Momma, and I played Roulette. Everyone lost, but during, we did make note of the peculiar but well-dressed college-age kid losing $50 a spin playing only 17&26. We dubbed him 17&26. His Rolex gleamed, his Ferragamo’s winked. He lost $1000 and took a sip of beer and asked for $500 more in chips.
He didn’t quit. He lost everything. We went to the White Out Party.
AN ASIDE ABOUT THE 9:00 P.M.-10:00 P.M. ADULT KARAOKE HOUR:
Every night Bliss Ultra Lounge plays center stage for Adult Karaoke Hour. Aside from an inspiredly sensuous performance of R. Kelly’s sonic masterstroke “Bump N’ Grind” with compulsory air-grinding and microphone-cord-bondage, Adult Karaoke had two performers. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” Nick from Nickelodeon and Big Steve. Both were inspired karaokers. With his patent yellow pleather suits and 6’3+” frame, Big Steve wooed the crowd before the opening notes of “Teddy Bear” even played. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” Nick from Nickelodeon sang “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters every night, and well. His performances were identical, heartfelt and vulnerable. A dash of real sadness marked the song’s finalizing vocal climb, and you couldn’t help sensing that “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” Nick from Nickelodeon had sung the song in countless unsuccessful Broadway auditions, and that he’d wasted substantial parcels of life singing the song to a mirror in a drafty, cramped New York City apartment, and this was his reward. Steffy wanted more than wanting to sing “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden. I told him we would for an entire week. We never did. I couldn’t do that to these people that had already been through so much. Still, I regret it. The only thing I love more than Steffy is Iron Maiden.
BACK TO THE WHITE OUT PARTY:
Noni danced. Big Ray and Aunt Michele and Aunt Colleen and The Litigator and me and Steffy and Banana and Jenny and Kelsey danced. Everyone wore white. For the most part, weddings are the only instances of reserved, have-a-glass-of-wine-with-Friday-dinner adults getting intoxicated and making wonderful fools of themselves. A cruise ship is another instance, only the drinker’s inhibition is amplified considerably. They will never see any of these people again and every Arbor Mist solidifies this thought in their minds until they’re dancing in the cages of Bliss Ultra Lounge and making out with Travis. To feast your eyes on a moment so awash in bacchanalia and epileptic dancing is beyond worth whatever x000’s of dollars you can waste on a luxury weeklong family cruise vacation. Take my word for it.
Soon later, I was numb with drink. Scrub Girl was grinding with a scrub. James+Michelle were dry humping on one of Bliss‘s four beds (they would taint every one by night’s end). The grown-up units of The Fam had retired to their respective staterooms, leaving the untamed youth of The Fam free reign over the ship. Mostly, our excesses were limited to dancing and drinking, drinking and dancing, and asking why The Papieto Clan was staring at us. Had we been a notch below whammed, we may have been able to parse that The Papieto Clan were staring at us because we were staring at them. Only, we had reason to stare. Granted, The Papieto Clan-all 33 of them and presumably Papieto himself-are dementedly good dancers. That’s reason to stare enough, but when the dancing turns incestuous (dad on daughter, brother on sister, mother breast-feeding on daughter, mother on mother, sister on sister) a certain amount of staring is expected.
The Papieto Clan thought otherwise. The Papieto Clan thought we wanted to do two things. The first one was that we wanted fight them. The second one was that we wanted to have sex with them. They never could quite figure it out, and Hermano took umbrage to both counts.
Prompted by our staring, Hermano crossed Bliss and gave Steffy a sharp elbow to the back. The Fam was dumbstruck. The F was that? thought The Fam. After making a directionless circuit around our table, he returned to The Papieto Clan. Kelsey started frothing at the mouth and rolling up his sleeves. Banana and Jenny began to strategize on the best method to, quote, “claw them [sic] bitches eyes out.” I doubled, tripled, quadrupled my rate of alcohol intake. We stared. The Papieto Clan stared. Stefano whimpered and continually asked what he should go apologize to them for please someone tell him. We told him to pipe down and stared and stared and stared.
When I came to we were at the Roulette Table, and I was way up. Immediately, I could tell I was channeling. Abandoning any and all methods, I flipped my chips like pocket change, letting them land at random on the board. I hit three consecutive numbers. Nice, said Roulette Buddy. Through backwards induction, I learned that The Papieto Clan had left Bliss without incident. Banana recounted everything for me at a piercing volume. I thanked her, flipped another chipped, missed this time. Jenny and Kelsey bid night night. I missed again. A few minutes later, Banana retired. Steffy and I remained; me flipping coins and slurring thick nonsense to the miserable dealer, he advising me to quit while I was ahead, and, so exhausted, I considered listening. My body longed for respite. I tendered my resignation, slid my chips forward and stood, but then I looked to Steffy, and his eyes spoke volumes, foot-thick musty volumes that said a single phrase in a billion different ways: “Don’t you dare quit.” I didn’t. I pulled my chips back in, shaking my head no, no, no to the nonplussed dealer. I flipped a handful of chips onto the board, and, with Steffy, waited for the number that had to, just had to come out.