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Pictures taken by Steve Gabino

The SSQQ Suntan All Stars!

Rick Archer's Note:   For the second year in a row, Steve Gabino was kind enough to be our official Trip Photographer.  As you will see from the pictures I have posted, Steve has quite a bit of talent.

That is Steve seated beside Vivian Gustafson.  This is the only picture of Steve I have seen so far.  The problem with being the photographer is that you are usually on the wrong side of the lens.  Fortunately, Steve knows how to look good in addition to his skill at taking pictures.  That's a professional pose if I have ever seen one!

Veterans of SSQQ know that Steve is good.  They have seen his Halloween Pictures enough times to realize his pictures look better than theirs. 

In case you have an event you would like photographed, Steve is definitely for hire.  He has developed his talent to the point where his hobby has become a money-maker for him.  For example, Steve has photographed many SSQQ weddings.

If you are considering hiring Steve for a special occasion, back in 2009 I wrote a story about Steve that I think you would enjoy. 

One of my biggest regrets is not having many pictures from the first few years of my dance career.  After all, that era is when all the wildest events took place... but no one believes a word I say!   Well, it's my own fault for being camera-phobic at the time.  Now that I think of it, there aren't many pictures from my childhood either.  I didn't grow up around cameras.  Being an only child with no relatives within a thousand miles, I guess my mother figured there weren't a lot of "Family Occasions" that called for pictures.  

Fortunately people have contributed lots of studio pictures over the years to make up for my slow start.  I remember a guy named Jim Fogo who asked permission to take Halloween pictures back in 1980. Sure, why not? 

Fogo gave me copies of the pictures afterwards.  I was so impressed that I went over to Texas Art Supply and got a poster board to mount them on.  Then I hung the pictures up at the studio.  The effect was electric.  Everybody milled around those pictures with excitement.  The grins and laughter made it obvious they loved the display.  And that is how I grew my Halloween Party.

From that point on, I made it a tradition to hang pictures from our biggest parties up on the wall.   We had a long hallway that served as a photo gallery for all the wonderful times at SSQQ.  That was a good move.  As people entered the studio, they could see this was a place where people had fun.

When SSQQ remodeled in 1997, that long hallway disappeared so the pictures moved over to Room 6 which served as our new entrance.  Now students enjoyed looking at all those pictures during registration. 

Unfortunately, all of those pictures were removed in December 2004 when a lady decided to paint Room 6 while I was on vacation.  Without bothering to ask permission, she took all the pictures down and they stayed down.  I was really angry!  Unfortunately, it would have been a lot of work to put them back up.  Oh well.  So I put the 40 posters full of memories in my car and took them home to live in my attic.  That incident still makes me mad.

It was Gary Richardson who taught me that pictures on cruise trips are just as valuable.  Gary went on our 2002 Rhapsody Cruise.  Like Steve, Gary takes photographs as a hobby.  On that cruise, Gary took shot after shot. All day long and all night long, Gary snapped away.   When the cruise was over, Gary was nice enough to put the best pictures on a CD and hand them over to me.

I took one look at Gary's CD with all those wonderful pictures and had the exact same idea as I did with Jim Fogo's Halloween pictures.  Except this time I posted the pictures on the Internet where they couldn't get painted over.

Slipping Into Darkness

Gary's photos were not only wonderful for the entire studio to see, each picture reminded me of a story.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I say a picture and a story to go with it is even more priceless.  Those pictures did magic for my imagination.  All sorts of stories appeared in my mind's eye. 

After all these trips, I still have trouble writing the stories without reviewing the pictures first.  The pictures serve as my inspiration.  This year as I viewed Gabino's pictures from the trip one by one, I mentally took note of the stories I wanted to write. Take the nice picture of Chris, Eurindia, Vivian, and Linda from the first day of the trip.  That picture gave me an idea to write a story about sun tans.  On the last night of the trip I had lined up the six "darkest" people on the dance floor for a "Best Tan Picture".  As I took the picture, I distinctly wished I had a "Before the Trip Started" picture for comparison. 

That explains why I grinned with satisfaction the moment I saw Steve's picture of the white boys and girls from the first day.  Only one problem. The darkest person of all - Eurindia - wasn't in my Sun Tan All-Stars picture.  Darn it!

Fortunately, I discovered Steve had included a picture of Eurindia after her "transformation" had been completed.  Eurindia is from Mexico, but one of her parents is from Europe.  That explains her exotic name which combines "Europe" and "India".  Her Mexican heritage explains why she tans so easily. 

Two other people who were pretty dark were Steve Gabino and Zorro.  Like Eurindia, both men have Spanish blood in them as well.  

As I studied my All-Sun Tan team, I noticed my two friends with African heritage - Iqbal and Mona - were among the darkest.  Iqbal was born in Tanzania on Africa's East Coast and Mona was born in Egypt. 

On the other hand, I had no explanation for Vivian and Marla's tanning prowess.  Vivian traces her bloodlines to Sweden, so that makes no sense. 

Marla traces her ancestry to Russia of all places.  I have always suspected a dark-skinned Romanian gypsy that Marla's grandmother dated for a while contributed to Marla's family heritage. But Marla insists there is no possibility of scandal.  On the other hand, Marla has no explanation for her amazing tanning ability either.  My money's on the gypsy.

White Boys

There is a theory that as more and more people continue to disregard racial boundaries, in the future all Earthlings will become light brown.  Judging from the pictures, it looks like SSQQ is already there.  There are exceptions of course.  Two of the exceptions are Gary Richardson and myself. 

We have an excuse.  Gary and I are mortally afraid of the sun.  Both of us burn at the drop of the hat.  I cringe in terror at the very thought of even walking across the deck.

On the 2002 Trip, I went snorkeling in Cozumel.  Our guide begged us not to use suntan lotion for fear that the chemicals would destroy the reef.  His plea worked.  My guilt kept me from using lotion.  Dumb move.  At the end of the day I had the worst sunburn of my life.  Ouch.

Lobster Awards

That said, there were many Anglos among us who disregarded their Nordic heritage and braved the sun anyway.  And they paid for their foolishness.

This year's winners of the Lobster Awards go to Mary (pictured with her paleface friend Andy) and Dave (pictured with his paleface friend Susan).  Both Mary and Dave are smiling in those pictures, but I bet they are miserable inside their own skin.  Just looking at Andy's arm on Mary's pink shoulder makes me wince thinking about her sunburn.   Glad it was her and not me. 

The Suntan Saga is a silly story yes, but you will agree it would be a waste of time to write without the photographs.  The pictures tell the story.

Photographs have played a big part in the ongoing success of the SSQQ cruises.  From the start that Gary gave me in 2002 all the way through to Steve's work this year, these pictures and the stories that go with them have helped me convince an entire generation of SSQQ dancers that our dance cruises are the real deal.  Seeing is believing, that's for sure. 

In addition, it is so much fun to go back to earlier cruises and recapture memories.  Those photos are like a family album to me.  They are lasting testaments to all the fun and good times our group has had together. 

Marla and I owe a huge debt to Gary.  His contribution of those 2002 photographs was the gift that taught me the importance of photography.  Like Sports Illustrated reporting a sports story complete with brilliant photographs, Gary's photographs made that year's cruise come alive in ways the previous two cruises had missed.  As a result, the 2002 Rhapsody Trip had the best cruise stories to date. 

I have no idea what all I will end up writing for this trip.  I think I will start posting my favorite pictures and see what stories pop into my mind.  The pictures tell the stories so well that all I have to do is add the words.  I just stare at the picture and my fingers launch into action.

One more thing - let me thank Steve again for his brilliant work.  The Great Gabino is very great indeed. 

Vivian and Steve, two members of this year's All-Suntan Team

Betty and Gary Richardson.  Neither Gary nor Betty made the Sun Tan All Stars

Chris, Eurindia, Vivian, and Linda on the first day of the trip. 
Note how light Eurindia and Vivacious are.  Compare to their pictures below.

By the end of the trip, many people had turned golden brown.
The members of the SSQQ Suntan All Stars include Iqbal, Marla, Mark, V,
Zorro and Mona.  Too bad Eurindia wasn't in this picture.  She was very tan

Aha!   Thanks to Steve, I found exactly the picture I wanted.
As you can see, Eurindia clearly belongs on the Suntan Team. 

Mary and Andy

Dave and Susan


Twenty Four Tables

Marla expresses herself in words without any difficulty whatsoever.  However once in a while she is able to use a very powerful form of non-verbal communication known as "The Look". 

In this case Marla is able to speak without speaking.  Here Marla is saying, "Can you hurry it up?  We are the last people here!"

So what am I up to?   I am trying to take a picture that will convey the utter vastness of our group of 190.  My back was to the wall as I  took this shot.  Every table in this picture plus one on my right and two more on my left belonged to our group.  

We had 24 tables.  We literally stretched from sea to shining sea. 

One story that I have never written about is how much energy Marla puts into organizing her dining tables ahead of time.  Marla takes this responsibility as seriously as any football fanatic does picking his or her Fantasy Football team.

I would estimate in the weeks leading up the trip, I typically see Marla working on her seating arrangement a minimum of two nights a week.  She likes to study the charts during commercials.  It is pretty strange watching Marla trade a person from one table to another table like a fantasy football owner gone mad all the while humming 'Activia' at the same time, but that's my girl.

Table-Hopping Nomads

Marla's excessive preoccupation with seating goes all the way back to 2003.  Jubilee 2003 was Marla's very first trip to organize.  It was a big trip too.  We had 144 people, many of whom didn't know each other.  For that matter, Marla only knew about a third of our guests by name.  So arranging the tables was guesswork at best.  Marla pretty much tossed all the unknown names in a hat, shook it up and assigned tables at random.  

Although some guests really liked the people they had at their table, others had a different opinion.  Several people pointedly asked permission to switch tables.  Marla and I decided to say 'yes' since it is much easier to ride the horse in the direction it is going to go anyway. 

For the remainder of the trip it was common for people to move from table to table each night as a simple way of meeting everyone on the trip.  Although our table hopping nomads enjoyed their freedom, this practice led to some serious anxiety on the part of the cruise line.  They were absolutely convinced that switching tables seriously undermined the important guest-waiter rapport that resulted in big tips for the waiters at the end of the trip.

I had some sympathy for the dilemma of the waiters. After all, the tips were the major part of their salary.  Coming from poor countries, they were deeply dependent on the kindness of their guests.  If they couldn't form a bond with the people at their table, how could they expect to be rewarded? 

On the other hand, many of our guests had paid for an expensive cruise specifically so that they could make new friends.  After checking everyone out at their assigned table on the first night, they were anxious to see who else might be available.  So they roamed from table to table all week long.

Thanks to Jubilee 2003, Table Switching became the norm.  Although our guests liked it, I caught heat.  Every trip I would have to confront some authority in the Dining Room who was mad about our group violating their stick-to-your table policy.

The Maître d' Who Made Rick Miserable

I prefer not to name the trip, but on one of our cruises the Maître d' was very upset with me.  We will call him Andre.  One of the waiters had complained to him that our people were moving all over the place.  Andre came over with a seating chart and looked for himself.  Once he confirmed our guests were table hopping, he confronted me at the end of the second night of the trip. 

Andre explained that he was adamantly opposed to allowing this to happen.  I could tell he expected me to back down.  Au contraire.  I replied that Marla and I predicted he would cause a minor rebellion if he insisted everyone stay at their assigned seats.  Did he really wish to antagonize over a hundred customers? 

For some reason, my bluff worked.  I actually had this guy believing my dance students would follow me, their Fearless Leader, to the very footsteps of Hell.  We all know better, but at least I fooled him.

Sure enough, as he surveyed the size of our group, Andre backed down a bit.  He had heard enough about Texans in his homeland to know we were rumored to be uncivilized.  Sensing an opening, I offered a compromise. 

What if we insisted that our Table Hopping Nomads had to return to their official table on the Final Night so they could tip their official waiters?   Andre begrudgingly accepted that compromise, but on one condition.

He said that he would monitor the situation all week long. Then at the end of the trip he would give me the results of my plan.  Oh, lucky me.  I get to deal with this guy every night for the rest of the week.  Sure enough, he meant what he said.  For the rest of the week, Andre found me after dinner each night.

I have to be honest.  Each night I would spend my entire meal looking over my shoulder for this guy. I dreaded his visit with the same feelings I reserve for trips to the dentist.  Every meal for the rest of the trip was ruined because I knew this guy was going to find another reason to make me feel guilty. I was the one who let my friends roam around his dining room and deprive his poverty-stricken waiters of their lucrative American tip money.  It was all my fault. 

Sure enough, just as my coffee was being served, Andre would casually drop by and engage me in a running conversation about how poorly he visualized this experiment would turn out.  Andre definitely got my attention.  In fact, towards the end of the trip he actually had me kind of curious.  So just how smart is this guy? Was he right?

On the final night of the trip, everybody handed their tip packages to the various waiters.  I was sitting there alone at my table waiting for the results.  Andre had asked me to stay behind while he tallied up the results. Meanwhile Marla, my faithful companion, had ditched me. "I'm going back to the room to pack, Honey."  I felt like the Lone Ranger deserted by Tonto.

As I nervously awaited the results, I decided this was definitely the only time in my life when packing would have been an improvement.

Then the Voice of Doom approached.  Andre the Maître d' announced triumphantly that several of our guests had not left a single dime for their waiters.  Only 85% of our group had rewarded their waiters.  Not only that, he had a list of their names.  When I looked at the names on the list, I was embarrassed.  I had naively thought everyone in my group had the decency to tip their waiters. 

With his arms crossed, Andre the Maître d' gave me that smug "Told you so" kind of look.  However, I didn't give up that easily.  I asked Andre what percentage of the general population of cruisers fail to tip their waiters.  That's when I detected a hint of a smile.  It turned out that our group was actually above average compared to all the people who sail.  However, before I could gloat, the Maître d' added a swift 'but'. 

"But for a well-heeled group like yours, I would ordinarily expect a 95% compliance rate."  Ouch.  Touché.   By the way, have you ever noticed the word 'ouch' is part of the word 'touché'?  Coincidence?  I think not.

Okay, I conceded the Maître d' had made his point.  Our table-hopping did seem to reduce our generosity. Although Andre was a major thorn in my side, I also admired him at the same time.  The guy obviously had a lot of nerve.  If we switched roles, I am not sure I would have had the guts to risk alienating a valuable customer to prove a point, but this guy was fearless. I might add I also admired Andre for his straight-forward talk with me.  He didn't mince his words one bit. 

It could not have been pleasant speaking so candidly to a total stranger like me about such a touchy subject.  He was definitely going to bat for his people.  I am sure they appreciated his effort to educate me on their behalf.  Leaders like Andre don't come along very often. 

Back to the Drawing Board

We didn't exactly become buddies, but I will say I learned a lot from Andre about the cruise business.  Still, the stress on both Marla and me from dealing with this formidable guy was nerve-wracking.  After the trip, Marla and I talked about this uncomfortable incident.  We scratched our heads for a solution. 

Marla said she had an idea.  For the next trip, Marla promised to work very hard at matching people up at each table.  It was like cooking.  Maybe if she mixed the ingredients just right, each table would click instead of just a few.  In other words, if a rapport could be developed quickly on the first night, there would be less incentive to roam for the rest of the trip.  Marla's plan was to create something she called 'table loyalty'.

So for her next trip, Marla honed her strategy carefully.  Marla did everything in her power to match up each table scientifically.   It wasn't easy.  I distinctly remember Marla pulling her hair out every time someone broke up with someone.  "Why can't these people get along till after the cruise?!!!"

People typically sign up for a cruise six months ahead of time to get the best rates.  However, in the crazy world of Being Single, someone's relationship status is bound to change at least once, twice, maybe even three times in a long span of time like six months.  Can't have an ex boyfriend and girlfriend at the same table, now can we?  Sure enough, every relationship change meant Marla had to redo her seating chart plus phone in the changes to the cruise line. 

Another headache were Family Squabbles.  Marla understood from the beginning that clusters of "Friends" had begun to develop on the 2002 Rhapsody Trip as well as on the Table-Hopping 2003 Jubilee Trip.  It was natural for Marla to group these new friends together on the next trip, except she learned the hard way that even friends have falling-outs.  And every time there was a tiff of some sort, it was back to the drawing board. 

With Marla trying to put some logic into the Seating Arrangement, each change meant reshuffling the delicate balance.  Marla is not always the most patient person in the world, but she doesn't give up easily.  Marla stayed with it.  She was determined to see this project through. 

The Dawn of Table Loyalty

Thank goodness Marla hung in there!  Marla's 2004 Seating Arrangement worked like a charm.  Marla must have done something right because on the very first night I noticed most of her guests seemed to prefer the people they were first seated with.  Only a few people brought up the subject of switching around.

That changed the dynamic overnight.  Now people were starting to get mad when they found some stranger sitting in their chair at dinner.  They wanted to sit with their friends and who was this stupid Goldilocks person trying to steal their spot?  Things got a little snippy there and the table hoppers got more cautious about sitting at a new table uninvited.

Once that grouchiness began, it created a fairly swift change in attitudes without either of us having to say a word.  Although switching tables was not forbidden, the days of the Table Hopping Nomads were fading fast.  From that point on, fewer and fewer people bothered to switch tables on each new trip. 

Quite frankly, on this Bahamas 2010 Trip, there was little obvious table hopping at all.  I can think of only two people in particular who noticeably bounced from table to table.  The vast majority of people were perfectly content to stay at their original table. 

That said, I did notice some very subtle switches.  There were people who migrated to the table they preferred, then stayed there for the duration of the week.  This was done quietly enough that I would have never guessed except that I had the seating chart. 

Rick's Advice to Men - Take a Hint from Joel!

For the purpose of this story, I asked Marla to describe how she decides who sits where. 

For starters, Marla said she divides everyone into two broad categories - Single or Double.  First and foremost come the "Singles".  Marla said she was forced to make some tough decisions on this trip due to the always-difficult boy/girl ratio.  Although men do enjoy taking cruises, women take it a step further.  They like the safety, they like dressing up for Formal Nights, they like the dancing, they like the spa, and they like the elegant dining. 

It's a fact.  Women go gaga over cruises.

Thanks to the strong female preference for cruises, we have never had a perfect 50-50 balance and probably never will.   The best we have ever gotten was 45-55.  Sometimes the ratio drops as low as 40-60.  Some people have suggested we seek "male volunteers" to balance the ratio like we do for dance classes.  They forget we would have to pay for the volunteers.  No thanks. 

Another suggestion has been to limit the number of women on each trip to the number of men who sign up.  That idea is not very practical.  Any woman denied admittance for that reason would be completely insulted.  Why anger someone? That makes no sense.  Furthermore they could just as easily sign up for the same cruise behind our back out of spite.

It is what it is.  There will always be a few more women than men.  Oddly enough, on every dance floor during the Bahamas Trip there were always plenty of guys to dance with.  I am not sure why the numbers balanced out, but I didn't see the ladies sitting much at all. 

Since single guys are da man in demand, Marla had to be sure she meted out her single men like the precious commodity that they are.  This wasn't easy, but she made sure every "Singles" table got at least a couple eligible bachelors to keep the ladies amused. 

Still, the numbers don't always work out, so as you can see Marla makes sure to put the extremely suave and debonair men like Joel with five or six women at a time.  Only men like Joel have the skills necessary to handle the demands of excessive female attention with complete aplomb.

If you are a single guy, pay attention. I have told the men over and over - If you want to meet women, learn to dance and take a cruise with us.  A cruise trip should be your happy hunting ground assuming you go about it gracefully rather than aggressively.  Those strong ocean breezes and soft romantic music turn every night into some enchanted evening.  Just a little footwork, a little charm, add a great smile like Joel's and you might just get lucky. 

Let's face it - if you are a single guy on a cruise and you can dance, unless you forget to take a bath or have a personality disorder, you are sure to receive ample female attention.  Take Joel for example. Judging from the pictures, not only can Joel dance, he remembered to bathe. 

And to think I still remember the days when Joel was a very shy guy.  Joel has become a living breathing poster boy for dance lessons.  What a difference "dance" has made in his life! 

Learn to dance and maybe you too can have your very own towering
Pyramid of Women on the next cruise!


Families, Friends and Couples

Marla said that Family Tables are pretty easy to create.  The cruise industry loves 'Families'.  They understand that Families are the backbone of their industry.  Hence they go out of their way to make sure their ship has activities that appeal to every Generation to ensure everyone from Granny to Mom and Dad to Toddler has fun. 

Our SSQQ Travel Group is no exception.  We have Families within our Family.  For example, as I pointed out earlier, on this trip Donald and Jean Taylor set a record with seven family members.  They were given their own table although Don and Jean rotated back and forth between their table and the "Fun Table".  

Another family on board were the Greasons.  Richard and Toni Greason brought their daughter Leah and Leah's best friend Rebecca along.  That was half a table right there.  

For that matter, Peggy brought her two sons Richard and Tyler along.  For the most part, Peggy let the boys entertain the pretty girls at their table while she hung out with own friends at the Dancers Table.  However, I did notice Peggy dining with her sons one night as well.  Just checking in, I'm sure.

It seemed to me that everyone had the best of both worlds - they could hang out with their families and they could hang out with their friends.  And if anyone needed them for a problem, they were sitting one table away.

Donald Taylor wrote this:

Rick, you pretty much hit the nail on the head when you guessed why Jean and I like your cruises so much. 

You said this:

My guess is that Donald and Jean come all the way from Oklahoma for the same reasons as everyone else.

On a cruise, the old saying 'the more the merrier' holds true. Donald and Jean have the best of all worlds - they have their daughter, they have their parents, Donald has his sister, they get to see their friends from the studio, and they even get to have some time alone with each other.  What more could you ask for?

We just love being with all the dancers and you just can't beat walking around the ship and knowing someone every time you turn around.

Three Boring Tables

"Couples Tables" are much easier to arrange than managing the Wild Singles.  Putting five couples together is a very natural grouping.  For example, on the Bahamas Trip, Marla and I sat at the "Sliders Table" along with four other couples.  We behaved beautifully and set a perfect example for decorum.

There were several tables just like ours.  For the most part these tables were so well-behaved I don't have any stories to share.  So much for the rewards of decorum.

For example, there was another "Couples Table" right next to mine.  During the entire seven nights on the trip I didn't hear a single sound coming from this table.  Yet I think they were happy.  I saw smiles whenever I looked over to check on them.  Plus they look happy in their picture.  Well, Gary looks sad, but I am sure he is just thinking how much fun it would have been to misbehave.

I think their problem was they were all either rookies or second-timers.  No one had taught them how to misbehave yet.  Shoot, they didn't even have a clever nickname for their Table. 

I think the problem with the Quiet Table was they didn't have a born instigator in their midst.  You need someone who is naturally rowdy to bring out the worst in people on these cruise trips.

Another quiet table was the Blockus Group.  Tim, Lisa, Phyllis and Susan all come over to my house once a month to play Blockus.  These people are all my friends.  They are really nice people and it isn't their fault they don't like to cause trouble.  Sam and Teresa do not like to cause trouble either.  I wonder if they want to learn how to play Blockus?

Now I do believe Phyllis has some mischief in her.  However Phyllis had just gotten engaged to Larry, her boyfriend in Houston, the week before the trip.  So Phyllis missed Larry terribly and was in no mood to cause trouble. 

Gerry and her sister Nancy are another story.  I think both women are more than capable of causing trouble and getting other people into trouble.  Based on a Salsa lesson I had with them, I am convinced there is something quite sneaky about both of them.

However, when you are brand new to a group and you are outnumbered 6-2 by a bunch of goodytwoshoes, what's a girl going to do? 

I will say one thing.  The Blockus Table was lucky to have the sisters.  If it wasn't for Nancy sending me this nice group picture, this table would have been missing in action like many of the other tables.  That's why I think Nancy and Gerry have potential.  They like attention and know how to get it.

I think both ladies could be rowdy, but I guess they will just have to wait for the next trip to make their breakthrough. 

The Not Quite Ready For Prime Time Players

Speaking of "breakthrough", there was one table in particular poised for a major story.  Lobster Girl Mary, for example, contributed a very interesting picture with a cigar.  But no one - repeat no one - would dare come forward to explain the significance of that cigar and the curious look on Mary's face. 

Then there was a picture on Don's cell phone of some super-model he had run across at the beach who allowed him to take her picture.  Don was so smitten with this woman, he had a coffee mug created with her face on it.  Unfortunately that's where the story ends.  If there was just one more tidbit of gossip attached to this story, I think I could have run with it. 

Now take a look at the group picture for this table.  Take a closer look at Joanne.  Just study her face.  That's not a smile... that is a grin.  That's right, Joanne is grinning.  Anyone who grins is hiding something.  I think that is the face of a troublemaker.  Joanne is saying to the world, "I've got a secret."

Don't ask me why I think that because I have absolutely no evidence to convict her with, but I think Joanne could have caused mischief and I didn't catch her. 

Lobster Girl Mary is one of my favorites.  This is the woman who once sent me a picture to replace another picture where she wasn't smiling.  Obviously on this trip, Mary needed no help remembering how to smile.  The thing that bothers me, however, is just how 'angelic' that smile is.  I think that smile is misleading. Based on the cigar picture, I am positive this woman is quite capable of misbehavior. However, no stories ever cross my desk. 

Then there is Tracy.  I know Tracy is a born instigator.  However, Tracy is a sneaky devil woman.  She always knows where the cameras are and puts on her "Who, Me?" Good Girl mask just in the nick of time.  I think Tracy and Mary both share their good girl side for the cameras and save their bad girl personalities for the right occasion.  hmm.  Well, let me change that.  Now that I see Mary's cigar picture, I guess only Tracy knows when to duck.

I have to hand it to Tracy.  She did her best to try to stir up trouble.  Tracy was ready to go on the record with all kinds of vicious gossip about her friend Sherry.  Here's the problem with Sherry.  Sherry sees how much fun Tracy has being a naughty girl, but Sherry is afraid to be bad.  Sherry is conflicted.

One night, Tracy pulled me aside and said Sherry had complained to her.

"Rick never writes anything about me.  All he ever does is write about you.  What about me?  I come on lots of cruises too.  When is Rick ever going to write something about me?

Sick and tired of Sherry's incessant whining, Tracy made a promise to Sherry.  Tracy said that as her best friend, she would help Sherry get some of the worst cruise publicity in history.  Like the friend she is, Tracy immediately began to tell me stories about Sherry and the waterslide that cast Sherry in a much different light... very revealing things.  Plus Tracy called Sherry a very bad name.  In fact, let's put that in capitals.  Tracy called Sherry A Very Bad Name! 

Frankly, the things that rolled out of Tracy's mouth were so risqué that Sherry actually began to pale at the thought of being written up.  What would the people at work think when they read this stuff?

Sherry immediately changed her tune and begged me not to say a word. Too late, Sherry.  Tracy has gone on the record with gossip about you.  You know the rules... unless you give up gossip on Joanne or Mary or Tracy, I am going to write you up.  I swear I have never seen a more pathetic look in my life.  Sherry is such a sweetheart that she could not even tell tales to save her own skin. 

I fully intended to make Sherry regret her decision and print everything Tracy told me, but then one day Sherry chipped a crown on the waterslide. Not only was she in minor pain from that point on, she was so worried about the crown that she developed a crooked smile.  It crushes me to admit this, but I actually began to feel sorry for Sherry.  So I canceled the story. 

This could have been a hot table.  This could have been the table that won the coveted "Most Rowdy" award.  But they blew it.  I blame it on a failure of courage on Sherry's part.  If she had just let me print that story about losing her top in the waterslide complete with picture, this table could have been a contender.  Close, but no cigar.

Actually, it isn't just Sherry's fault for getting cold feet.  I for one am very disappointed in all of them.  I hate wasted potential.  Talent without direction will always lose.

The Look of Love?   No, this is a totally different kind of Look.

The Look of Love?  Definitely! 
Marla and I love Gerald and Virginia McEathron and Pat and Jess Carnes.
Both couples have taken over ten cruises with us.  Thank you!

The Look of Love?  Maybe.  Actually, this is a very strange kind of Look

The Look of Love?  Maybe.  Amber is grinning because she's the only girl on the trip with two boys to one girl.  Those handsome young men are Peggy's boys Tyler and Richard

The Look of Love?  I'm not sure what that Look is. 
On the outside, Peggy is smiling, but on the inside she is wondering why
Andy has the weirdest demonic raised eyebrow since Jack Nicholson.

The Look of Love?  Considering Rachel just got engaged, probably not.

The Look of Love?  OMG.  Don't ever come between a Boy and his Boa.

The Look of Love?  Definitely! 
Congratulations to our Newlyweds Toni and Richard.

And why is this man so happy? 

Gee, those Suave and Debonair Guys get all the girls!

The Look of Love?  Actually that's a Look much closer to Bliss.

The Look of Love?  Definitely!  That's Savannah and Elmo
Donald and Jean came all the way from Oklahoma City to be with us
for the second year in a row!

The Sliders!
Gary and Betty, Jack and Jo, Joe and Patty, Jim and Denise, Rick and Marla
Unlike some tables, we were very well-behaved thanks to our obvious maturity.

Quiet Table: Gary and Ana, Julie and Omar, Sallie and Jeff in back
Mack and Amy, Beth and Jack in front.  Nary a peep from these Peeps!

Blockus Table: Sam, Lisa and Tim, Phyllis, Susan in back,
Nancy on the corner, Gerry (Ms Peekaboo), and Teresa in front

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time: Don, Ed, Andy, Sherry, Joanne, Mary, and Tracy

Angel or Devil?  Interesting question.

By the way, nothing I said about Sherry is remotely true except that she is a sweetheart.

Now Tracy on the other hand...
when I said Tracy was a born troublemaker, I meant it.


The Difference Between Single and Double

I don't think any story I write about the Bahamas Trip will make complete sense unless I can find a way to explain the difference between a Single Person's approach to the cruise versus a Double Person's approach to the cruise

Thanks to Marla, I have taken 19 cruises.  On 18 of those cruises I was a "Double", another way of saying the word "couple" or "married".  Remember, you don't have to necessarily be married these days to be a couple.  I know some couples who have been together longer than most married people.  For example, Patty and Joe. 

On only one cruise - 2001 - was I single.  And I was single on that cruise for less than six hours before I permanently became a double.  I was pretty much married to Marla after the third Margarita.  But that's another story.

The point I am getting at is that as a married guy, I took one look at the statue in Key West and all I could see was instant danger.  One look accompanied by an inadvertent smile and I might become burned toast for the rest of the day.

Oddly enough, I wasn't nearly as interested in the nudity as I was by my realization there was some nervy guy laying down on the ground staring up at their private parts.  I was mesmerized by the gall of that man.  I thought to myself, "That guy is DEFINITELY not here with a date, girlfriend, or wife."

Believe me, if I tried laying in that same spot, my wife would follow through on those death threats and I would be overboard before the trip was over.  I am convinced there is a subtle message underlying all those murder movies Marla watches.  I am convinced Marla watches those shows for the wrong reasons. She knows more about how to commit murder and get away with it than is good for my health.  This woman would have had Columbo spinning in circles.

Fortunately for me, I understand the meaning the word 'consequences' all too well.  I simply took the obligatory tourist picture of the naked statues and moved on.  And for safety's sake, I made certain not to show THE SLIGHTEST BIT OF INTEREST in the statuesque statues.  I am no fool.

I figured I would just check out the pictures later in the safety of my office.  After all, it is art appreciation, yes?  I love art. Those French artists are my heroes... they had the perfect ploy to persuade countless women to take off their clothes.

A few weeks after the trip, one day Smarty Marty Life of the Party sent me his pictures.  As I opened up my email, I gasped when I saw Marty had been photographed in the Forbidden Pose.   My pulse raced. 

OMG, where did Marty get the guts to have that picture taken?   And that's when I remembered that Marty was "Single".  I started to breathe again. 

The point of this particular section is to make it clear that two men might see the same statues, but will react in completely different ways depending on their relationship status.  The man who is double has the sense to stay one hundred yards away and take a snapshot without feigning the slightest bit of interest.

The man who is single sees the statues, runs to to the naked women as fast as he possibly can, and then plops himself down on the grass to enjoy the view.  That, my friends, is the difference between single and double.

Men who are single on a cruise can make complete fools of themselves any time they wish with a minimum of consequences.  Just ask Marty.   On the other hand, men who are double on a cruise just try to survive.  A man never knows when a dangerous situation like the naked statues will present itself.  Married men have to be on guard at all times and learn to walk that tightrope. 

For that matter, I am sure that women have to walk that same fine line as well.  I guess I am guilty of assuming women are naturally better at it than men.

This statue at Key West is a public menace. 
It serves as a potential deathtrap for any happily married man.  

By the way, check out the guy on the ground staring up at the naked women. 
Is that the Look of Love?  Probably something different than Love.
I will say one thing, he's got a lot of nerve.

Is that Smarty Marty Life of the Party flaunting his Singleness? 
Now there are two guys staring up at the naked women. 

But wait... isn't the second man the same guy as in the first picture?


Sophomore Slump for the What the Hell Table

Last year's winner of the coveted "Most Rowdy Table" was the infamous What the Hell Gang.

Whenever I use the word "rowdy", my mind races to Velma.  The word was probably invented for her.  Last year Velma was the undisputed Captain of the "Rowdiest Table" imaginable.  I have never seen any woman stir up more noise than Velma! 

Last year Marla put together a table of nine single people who didn't know each other from Adam.  No matter.  Velma took them under her wing and taught them how to misbehave.  Velma had them yapping incessantly.  Yak Yak Yak.

That was the noisiest, rowdiest darn table in history!  They were so loud sometimes the highly intelligent conversation at my table had to come to a complete halt till those raving maniacs settled down for a moment or two.  Thank God for their need to breathe or they never would have shut up.

In the process, these nine strangers became a fearsome trouble-making unit complete with a catchy nickname for their Table - the "What the Hell" Gang.  Thanks to all that noise, they were an easy choice for "Rowdiest Table".

They were strangers last year, but a united team this year. The infamous "What the Hell" Gang from last year's trip came back almost intact for this year's trip.  Led by the charismatic Velma, 8 of the 9 members from the same table on our 2009 Cruise signed up again.  That's a pretty amazing total!

Given last year's track record, naturally I expected a repeat performance this year.  All they had to do was replace one spot on the roster for the person who didn't return and fill the empty seat from last year. 

Filling the missing chair was easy.  Carol had acquired a handsome new boyfriend named Jim.  That solved one problem. But what about the other spot?  Velma asked Marla if there was anyone out there with potential.  Marla replied there was a man in her Pre-Cruise Dance Class who had a lot of enthusiasm.  Velma nodded.  She was in that class too and knew exactly who Marla was referring to.  And that's how Velma got draft rights to Dave.

I have to hand it to Marla and Velma.  They know how to spot the right guy. Dave would not only become the trip's Rookie of the Year, he even acquired a really clever nickname - Lobster Boy Dave.  Good job, Dave!

Oddly enough, the What the Hell Gang had a sophomore slump on this year's trip.  For example, I can't find a single group picture of this year's "What the Hell" Gang.  Last year you couldn't get the cameras to stop clicking. 

Everybody knows that after reaching the pinnacle, it is tough to repeat the next year.  It is so hard to get that adrenaline pumping again!  Velma did her level best, but after winning "Rowdiest Table" last year, this time everyone settled down.  I have a theory what went wrong.  Half of the table coupled up!  Everyone knows that singles misbehave at a far greater rate than doubles.

For example, last year Lisa and Gene were wild singles who didn't know each other.  This year they were a quiet couple.  Last year, Mark and Roberta were wild singles.  This year they were a quiet couple.  Last year Carol was a wild single.  This year she brought her boyfriend Jim.  And he is naturally quiet, so Carol became quiet too. 

Only Susan and Edward and Velma managed to dodge Cupid's Arrows.  All three plus Lobster Boy Dave did their best to create mischief, but let's face it, as a rule, on these cruises it is the Wild Singles who misbehave while the Boring couples go 'tsk tsk tsk' and live in fear of the dog house. 

The Wild Singles at Velma's table were outnumbered by the Tiskers six to four, so the antics were understandably more muted this year.  But don't blame Dave.  If it wasn't for Lobster Boy, this table wouldn't have even been in the game.

The Look of Love?  Definitely. Everyone loves Velma, Captain of the What the Hell Gang

The Look of Love?  Quite possibly.  From what I gather, the Single Guys had it good on this trip.  For example, David's Lobster Boy status didn't hurt his popularity one bit.

No, that is definitely not the Look of Love.  And why is this woman screaming? 
She is being attacked by Lobster Boy Dave!!

Now it is time for another case study in the difference between Single and Double. 

Study the pictures of these three totally contented 2010 What the Hell Couples. 

Now compare the 2010 picture of Mark and Roberta to the 2009 picture of Mark and Roberta taken during the formative stages of their relationship. 

In 2010, they are the epitome of respectability and decorum.

In 2009, they are both whispering something naughty.  Is that the Look of Love?   Well, sort of.  Actually I think I would call it something else.

But you get the point, right?     Singles and Doubles behave differently .

Now you know why poor Velma had nothing to work with in 2010.  Her team deserted her to chase contentment.  How selfish!  So much for the Rowdiest Table Award.

Rick and Marla Make the Team!

Personally, whether they win the championship or not, I still love the "What the Hell" Gang.  I complained about all the noise they made last year, but secretly I envied them for all the fun they were having. 

Did you know that Marla and I are now considered official "What the Hell" Gang members?  Yes, it's true.  But first we had to pass a difficult initiation ritual.  

Velma was kind enough to invite Marla and myself out to dinner at Ninfa's the night before the cruise with the Gang.  We met up with Velma, Susan, Carol, Jim, Mark, and Roberta for margaritas and the inside scoop on everyone's love life. 

The next thing I knew, Velma said that I was now one of her peeps and that I was now officially in the club.  I was really flattered, but curious too.  I asked Velma what I had done to deserve such a great honor.

Velma smiled and replied I had managed to drink three margaritas without passing out.  That made me her kind of guy. 

I smiled.  That makes the second time in my life that three margaritas have played an important role. 

The Look of Love?  Most definitely.  Our wonderful marriage is a lasting testament
to the power of Tequila applied at just the right time.

The first time of course was back on the 2001 Cruise.

That was the Trip when one night I plied my future wife Marla with margaritas in a desperate attempt to render her vulnerable to my charms  (by the way, if you haven't read the story of how Rick and Marla met, it is actually a pretty interesting tale).

Regarding my liberal use of margaritas as a way to open Marla's eyes a bit, my conscience on this issue is clear. 

Considering Marla had not paid a single solitary bit of attention to me for over six months, I needed all the help I could get.  Sick of being ignored, thank goodness my underhanded ploy worked.  Those margaritas were the best investment of my entire life. 

To this day, Marla continues to cringe every time I bring that story up.  If pressed, Marla will admit she was surprised when I began to seem interesting after one margarita.  If pressed further, she will confess I began to look cute after two margaritas.  But I doubt she will ever admit that the third margarita rendered her completely defenseless.  

What the Hell!



Mara's Volleyball Table

Don't they look charming?  Don't let that fool you. When you study the picture of Mara's Table, it may not be obvious due to the tuxedos and the elegant gowns, but every person at that table is a volleyball assassin.

The What the Hell Gang is special because they started as complete strangers last year and became a team overnight.  The Volleyball Table has been with us for several years now.  These people have histories together going all the way back to 2002.  The uniting feature of this table are the lasting friendships formed over many previous trips. Except for Liana, the only rookie, all of these people have memories going back several cruises. 

At every successful table, there is usually one definite leader even though that leader would modestly deny it was him or her.  In my opinion, Mara was the "Velma" of her "Volleyball Table".  This table really clicked.  There was constant laughter and positive energy that came from this group all trip long.

Mara and Marla first became friends on the 2002 Rhapsody Cruise.  Mara had such a good time on that trip that she would go on to sign up for seven more cruises during the 2000s.  In the process, Mara became an important leader within our group.

As Marla and I soon discovered, Mara is a born hostess.  Mara loves to entertain. For example, over the years Mara is known and much appreciated for her lavish Christmas Parties at her home. 

Oddly enough, Mara's husband Bruce was on that same 2002 Cruise as well, but they didn't connect on that trip.  It would be five more years until the stars would align and they would fall in love.

Mara's 2008 marriage to Bruce resulted in a beautiful home in the Briar Forest area west of Beltway 8.  Now that she had a lovely swimming pool and a larger home, Mara was able to expand her operation.  Throughout the year, Mara and Bruce began to host some pretty wonderful parties for the friends they had met through the dance studio and the cruise trips. 

I can now reveal that Mara had a hidden motive.  Although the world knows her as the gracious hostess, her real reason for throwing those parties was to scout for new Volleyball talent.  You see, the main event at all of Mara's get-togethers is a vicious game of water volleyball.  Invariably the guests are told to get in the pool and play volleyball whether they want to or not.  It is almost impossible to refuse.  The peer pressure is almost unbearable.

I always find Mara's volleyball preoccupation fascinating.   Mara was once terrified of the water thanks to a near-drowning incident when she was a child.  Obviously Mara has made a lot of progress with her fears because she is now the deadliest water volleyball player of all.  Every day at home she spends an hour practicing her lethal serve.  Mara has become the ultimate water volleyball warrior.  Personally speaking, it is very embarrassing to admit this, but I am terrified when she gets ready to serve her guided missiles.

Each person has a different role on the team.  For example, it was at Mara's parties that Marsha acquired her incredible Margarita-making skills which led to her perfect nickname Marsharita.  It turned out that some people were reluctant to play.  However, once they had a Marsharita Margarita in them, their willpower to resist was gone.  Some put on swim suits, some didn't even bother. Off came their clothes and into the swimming pool they went whether they wanted to or not.  The next thing they knew, Mara was aiming missiles at them.  It was learn to play or get hit in the head and drown.  Tough crowd.

Some of these people seem like nerds and wimps in real life, but that is just an act.  They are trying to lull you into complacency.  Trust me, once these people disrobe and the ball is in the air, they turn into natural born killers.  As you can see from the pictures, these people are true Beach Gods and Goddesses who worship nothing else but the almighty Volleyball. 

When it comes to Volleyball, the star of the team is none other than Mr. Handsome.  Mr. Handsome's volleyball ability is the stuff of legend.  With his lightning quick reflexes and dashing good looks, Mr. Handsome was born to play the role of Volleyball Champion.

By the way, has George been working out or is he just sucking his tummy in?  And check out the tan on Mr. Handsome.  Not bad, George!!  Looking pretty good out there.  Wasn't that clever of George to find a couple of palefaces to stand next to him to make his tan even more obvious?

Over the years, Handsome and I have formed a brutal volleyball rivalry.  For the most part, the series has been even.  However, last year Mr. Handsome's team defeated my team handsomely. The bitter memory still stings.

Here's the funny part.  Can you believe they had the nerve to take this pretend picture like they had just beaten my team?  What a bunch of sissies. No one ever said a word to me that day.  All they had to do was say, "Yo Rick, Game On, Bro!" and I am right there.  Not one person bothered to tell me there was a game. That's because they wanted to take this fantasy picture.  

In case you can't figure it out for yourself, these people are baiting me. Judging by those smug smiles, they obviously thought they would end up crushing me. Humbug.  I am not afraid.  For the record, I will take on George and Mara's team any place any time. Trust me, I'll catch up to them next year.

Mara's Volleyball Table -  Mara and Bruce, Andy, Mona, Steve, Vivian,
Liana, Charley, Marsharita, Mr. Handsome George, and Rowena. 
Looks like Mara and Handsome are Sun Tan All Stars as well. 

One reason these people are so good is they practice constantly!!  Look at their perfect form and powerful concentration.  They will be tough to beat next year.

Whether it is water volleyball or sand volleyball, these people are fanatics.
Thank goodness their wore their swimsuits on this public beach. 
At Mara's house they usually train in the nude.

Is this the most obnoxious picture you have ever seen?


Flapper and Zoot Suit Night

From what I gather, Flapper Night was the inspiration of my friend Charley.

At first I rolled my eyes and thought this was a pretty silly idea.

But when the night unfolded on the cruise, I got a huge kick out of it. 

My only problem is that

1) I don't have a group photograph of all the Flappers and Zoot Suits together.

2) I don't have a story.  Don't these people know how to "Finish"?

Surely an idea as clever as this deserves to be told properly.  Don't ask me to write it; I have absolutely no inside knowledge of the thrills and spills of the evening.  So I challenge the group to produce a tale of Flapper Night on the cruise.

In the meantime, I would like to acknowledge my buddy "Superfly" Richard for having the nerve to wear that striking purple Zoot Suit in public. 

As you might imagine, Richard stuck out like a lighthouse on a dark night.  But look - his outfit turned him into a Babe Magnet!

Who would have guessed? 

Just another example of how the world was upside down on our Bahamas Trip. 

The Look of Love?  I'm not sure, but the girls are definitely smiling and that's always a good start.  Like I said, the Single Guys had it good on this trip. 
Normally you would assume a Purple Pimp Suit would raise an eyebrow or two, but on this trip, Richard was the very definition of a Sharp-Dressed Man.


The Dancers Table

I would like to thank Joan for contributing this picture of her table.  I sent out a letter asking people to contribute pictures for me to include in my stories, but only 20 out of 190 responded.  People assume I can keep tabs on everyone.  Actually I barely have a clue what goes on.  There are just too many stories and too much mischief to keep track of... the No Flapper Story problem is the perfect example.  So I happily accept any help I can get. 

By the way, the pretty lady in the blue dress is Jazzy Joan.  Besides Joan, Peggy was another leader at this table (Peggy is in the picture, but you can barely see her).  Joan and Peggy kept this table buzzing all trip long.

Neither Peggy nor Joan is a troublemaker or instigator like some of the other aforementioned hussies.  But they are definitely leaders.  They are full of energy and usually at the center of all action on the cruise.  You can always find them near the dance floor.  After all, both ladies can really dance.

Joan is easy to spot on the dance floor because she likes to show off.  In addition to her obvious talent, Joan mixes in some elements of comedy on the dance floor.   For example, Joan put on some West Coast Swing exhibitions with her buddy Gary Windjammer that had the spectators mesmerized. 

I think Peggy Sue is in Joan's league as a dancer, but Peggy prefers not to draw attention.  Peggy is more the "smooth operator" type. 

Incidentally, Joan and Peggy are not the only talented dancers at this table.  Iqbal can definitely hold his own on the dance floor as can his pretty friend Ann. 

After watching Ed and Larry on the floor, I noticed they have picked up an impressive array of dance moves along the way.  In fact everyone at the table is a veteran dancer.  Wayne, John and Jenny are excellent dancers as well. 

Let me add that Linda, who was missing from the group picture, helps Gary Windjammer teach Night Club.  Since I took that class, I can attest to her ability as well. 

I don't know if these people can play Volleyball, but this table would be a strong contender in any dance contest between the tables. 

Now that would be interesting to watch!

The Dancers Table: Iqbal, Ann, Wayne, John, Jenny, Ed, Zorro, Peggy, Larry

Peggy, Linda, and Wayne. 


The All About Me Table

This is a story about the destructive power of "Egos". 

One of the great mysteries of this trip is the absence of a single photo of one of my favorite tables.  The members of this mystery table included Karl, Deborah, Joel, Kristi Fuzzball, Chris, Eurindia, Maite, Penney, Carolyn, and Sandra.  

The problem is that unless the reader was on the trip, they don't have a clue who these people are.  Don't you agree a group picture would help? 

But I don't have a picture to share.

Here is what is weird about the Missing Table.  Karl sent me pictures.  Kristi sent me pictures.  Joel sent me pictures.  Maite sent me pictures. 

In fact, more people sent me pictures from this table than any other single table... but not one picture was a group shot of the people at their table!

What conclusions can we draw from this?  Were these people ashamed of their table?  Were they upset their table didn't have a cool nickname or a unique identity?  Were they ashamed that their table lacked chemistry?   Were they boring?

No, none of those explanations are likely.  I have my own theory. 

Practically every person at that table was a STAR on this trip.  Each person was busy jockeying for their own slice of personal glory and that extra helping of publicity.  As veteran cruisers, they knew their antics would be documented in the cruise writeup.  They only sent pictures of themselves because they didn't want any of the other people at their table impinging on their growing fame.

These people were solo acts, not team players.  They pretended to like one another, but I wonder if it was all just an act.  I think some of the members of this table only cared about their own personal reputation. 

Mind you, I even tried to give them a second chance.  I liked the people at this table so much that I went to the trouble to write personal letters to two of the people at this table asking for help.  No luck.  They completely ignored me.  So for that reason, I have decided to name this the "All About Me" Table.

To be honest, there were other tables missing in action.  In fact, as I looked over Marla's seating chart, I saw that THIRTEEN TABLES out of 24 failed to send me a group picture of their table  (please do send one if you get the chance).

The difference between the "All About Me" table and the others is that this group clearly understood the importance of "Publicity".  The other tables were not attention seekers like this group and didn't know any better.  But the omission here was glaring because these people all knew the Game.

Since this is an article about "Tables", not "Individuals", this table missed the boat.  Sorry, but this is a Snooze You Lose situation.  It's too late now.  I have permanently reassigned the space originally meant for this group to a bunch of hussies.  At least those hussies know how to play nice together.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  

These ladies would like to thank the All About Me Table
for making this space available so they could show the world
 how pretty their shoes are.  See what nice team players they are? 


More on the "All About Me" Table

A note from Karl in response to Rick's story above: 

From: Karl
Subject: The table of egos, and other tales

In regards to your story about my "All About Me" table, I regret that it will be difficult to get a picture of our entire table.

After looking through all my pictures (Deb and I shared her camera), Joel's pictures and Kristi's pictures, none of us took a picture of the entire table. I haven't seen Maite's pictures, so she might have something hidden up her sleeve.

Fortunately, I did find a good picture of the table (amongst Gareld's pictures), and in a sense it does tell one of the stories of the table.

You may have noticed that Penney, Carolyn, Deb and I aren't in the picture. (Neither is Chris, but he's just outside the shot to the right.)

That's because our table was a popular spot for people to visit, and latecomers usually found the table full by the time they arrived. On that particular night, Deb and I had joined Joe and Amber after discovering the table was full. To the best of my recollection, the only time we had the original group was on the first night. Since nobody was consistently tardy, nobody was consistently bumped

Rick's Note:  Here is the picture that Karl submitted.

In my opinion, this is the single worst picture of a "Table" I have ever seen.   

I contend that EVERYTHING I said about this table holds true.  No one at this table wanted another person to get the slightest bit of attention.

Listen, there is no "I" in "Table" either.  Having a good table involves
teamwork, something these glory hounds have no concept of.




The Cork and Screw Table

This particular table was disreputable.  It was populated by Single People who behaved terribly.  However, I think they could care less what I think.  They were naughty.  They were bad.  And they had a great time.  So what about it?

The ringleader was Smarty Marty Life of the Party.  This is supposed to be a secret, but I can now reveal that back at home Marty was being treated by a leading psychiatrist for his inability to censor the slightest naughty thought.

From what I gather about Marty's condition, no matter what terrible thing enters his mind, Marty blurts it out before he can stop and ask himself whether this is an appropriate thing to say in polite company. 

Although Marty cannot be blamed for the terrible incident that gave this table its name and bad reputation, I do think it is his fault for creating a climate where people could say the most terrible things with complete impunity.  Tsk tsk! 

And where exactly did the table's shocking name come from?  On the first day of the trip, one of the ladies at the table had driven down on the Magic Party Bus.  Hours later when dinner started, she was still smashed out of her mind. 

Marty casually mentioned that he had brought a bottle of wine aboard that he intended to share with the girls.  The lady in question blurted out, "Gee, do you have a cork and screw for that bottle?  I could really use one!"  

Smarty Marty, Nina, Valerie, Sylvia, Richard Superfly , Karen, Rose, Lila.
And which lady uttered the immortal words?  I'll never tell, but I bet Marty will.


The Fun Table Wins the highly coveted "2010 Rowdiest Table" Award!

Historically, I have always believed the Coveted "Rowdiest Table" Award should go to people who misbehave because badness is something that comes natural. 

If I followed this criterion, then the terribly rotten "Cork and Screw" Table would have been the hand's down winners this year for Rowdiest Table.  They were bad without giving any thought to being rewarded or complimented for their poor behavior.   They were bad for its own sake.

Alas, the "Cork and Screw" Table ran up against a group of organized attention seekers who elevated behaving badly to an art form.  It was enthusiastic amateurs versus cold-blooded professionals.  The "Fun Table" actually planned ahead of time how to be bad!   How cynical can you get? 

It is one thing to be an obnoxious attention seeker when the person is unaware of what they are doing, but to deliberately don the persona of an obnoxious attention seeker is something completely different.   People should be bad because they don't know any better and they are clueless about how poorly they are behaving.  There should be a sincerity to their efforts.

But not these people.  They only acted "bad" because they wanted everyone to notice them wherever they went!!!  That's right, it was just an Act.  They weren't sincerely bad; they were a bunch a phonies pretending to be bad!!

Even more irritating, they set me up.  They knew I was going to write something about them.  And they didn't care what I said just as long as it was about them.  That just isn't right.  I hate being so easily manipulated, but they knew me too well and played me.  They knew I couldn't resist writing about them.   I became their dupe, their tool.  THEY USED ME!!

Take this picture for example.

Can you believe they had the nerve to wear matching goofy hats in public?  And matching "Fun Table" buttons? 

And look at the grin on those people.  They know this picture is going to make the cruise writeup.  They are thinking, "Ha ha ha, look how cute we are!"

Every time I walked by, they would shamelessly yell, "Yoo hoo, hey Rick, come over here and take our picture!  Look at us, we are unbearably wonderful!"

And each time I would pretend I didn't hear them. 

I can't believe they got Steve Gabino to take their picture.  I told him specifically to ignore them.  What is the world coming to?  Doesn't anyone listen to me?

I have one question.  Can you tell who the ringleader was?  Just look at those faces.  I bet there is not one person who won't get this right. 

So Who are These Nuts?

I shouldn't tell you this, but SSQQ played a big part in the romances of all six of these escapees from the loony bin. 

Keith and Betty Baker are on the left. They met elsewhere, but credit SSQQ for nudging them toward the altar back in 2007.

Bette Polishak and Tom Huddleston are in the middle.  They met at SSQQ and got engaged in 2007. 

Keith and Penny Patterson are on the right.  They met at SSQQ and were married in 2009.

Along the way, all three couples decided they liked each other.  At the time, I thought it was neat to see these couples all hang out together.  Obviously I never realized their friendship would come back to haunt me. 

How the Fun Table was Created
Story written by Keith Patterson

One night before the cruise three couples - Keith & Betty Baker, Tom Huddleston & Bette Polishak, as well as Penny and I - got together at Wild West .

We danced a little, had a couple beers and began to chat about the upcoming cruise.  That's when we decided to brainstorm some fun for our cruise.  

We figured if we were going to be on the Fun Ship, then we should have a "Fun Table" (Bette's idea), complete with our own Fun Table Buttons.

There would be four different "Fun Nights" in the Conquest Main Dining Room

1. "Pink Boa & Fedora Night"
2. "60's Night"
3. "Hawaiian Night"
4. "White Night"

We knew we would have four other people at our table who would not be up to speed.  But we assumed with patience and training and loving communication, they would soon become one of us. 

Sure enough, after a couple of nights at dinner, our other four tablemates, Don and Jean Taylor, Robert Friske and Rachel Martin, were able to achieve Fun Table status. 

We were so proud of them for their accomplishment that we awarded them their very own Fun Table Buttons.

Robert in particular was overcome.  For a second, I thought he was about to get emotional.  I was pleased to see he cared so much about this honor.

Our "60's Night" was really a hoot...the Filipino rock 'n roll band playing before dinner in the Casino was grooving to our groovyness.  Peace signs were flashed by the band, and the casino patrons, and the bar patrons, and us right back at them.  The Love Generation was back thanks to us.  Joy to the World!

We were so flattered that people would ask to have their pictures taken with us in the lobbies.  We felt just like celebrities and basked in our groovyness.

Our "White Night" was aided immensely by our Fun Group having participated in a Disco Dance class in the main showroom during the day.  Our Fun Group of course was the center of attention throughout the class as we should be.

When we showed up for the SSQQ private party that evening, it was totally unplanned that Steve Gabino would play a couple of 70's disco songs. I believe our Fun Table consciousness had linked us with him on a higher plane and Steve was now one with the Fun Consciousness that permeated the spirit of our beingness.

When Steve played the Bee Gees, it was a signal from the Cosmos that we were meant to dance our routine to the music and to share our inspiration with the Sisters, Lovers, and Water Brothers who joined us in the Disco that night.

From the inspired applause that we received, I gather that we were wonderful.  That doesn't surprise me in the least. 

By the way, since our appearance was totally unplanned, none of us were able to foresee the need to bring along a video camera. 

Therefore, if anyone in the audience was able to record footage of our magnificent performance, I would be so thrilled if they would share it with us. 

Any pictures would be appreciated as well.  If you can help, just contact our publicist Rick Archer and he will get you in touch with us.  In return, we promise to give you a "Fun Table" pin and award you honorary status as a Fun Table Immortal. 

One last thing - if any of you wish to join our Fun Table Fan Club, be sure to let Rick know.  I am hoping he will set up a web site for us soon.   

Thank you all so much,  your friend in world unity, Keith Patterson 

Keith and Penny Patterson, Betty and Keith Baker, Bette and Tom



Here is a 2009 picture of Keith before his transformation.  Now that I see this picture again, yes, I can tell the potential was always there.

Is this the Look of Love?  No, not really.
This look reminds me of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The one in pink was the mastermind.  That woman is a Genius.

Rick Archer's Note:

I guess in retrospect I am more jealous than anything else that these six people would so unabashedly seek attention and behave outrageously for the sheer pleasure of it. 

I always like to think I am a bit of a character myself, but I am ashamed to admit I can't begin to hold a candle to these guys. 

Good job, Fun Table!   No one can misbehave like you can!  I salute your inspired lunacy and your shameless attempts to seek glory at every opportunity.   You have set the standard for SSQQ Cruise Insanity.  This might be a record that will never be broken.

One last thing.  Before I conclude this story, I would like to draw a comparison between last year's dynamic Rowdy Table Winners and this year's Rowdy Table Winners.

You have to understand that the Fun Table completely broke the mold.  To understand what I am getting at, we have to explore the dynamic of Single Versus Double one more time.

Check out the 2009 picture of Keith Baker above.  In that picture, he is behaving like a typical Boring Double Guy.  Now compare 2009 Keith to the picture of 2010 Keith.  Here Keith is behaving like a bizarre Wild and Crazy Single guy.  Totally different person!

Check out the dynamic 2009  What the Hell Gang back in their prime.

This picture was taken before they all turned into a bunch of soft, comfy and contented
moo cows.

They lost their edge.

I have always assumed that the Coveted Rowdiest Table Award would automatically go to a Wild and Crazy Singles Table.  Indeed, before the cruise started, I would have put my money on a repeat performance from the proven What the Hell Gang or a dark horse like Smarty Marty Life of the Party and his Cork and Screw Table. 

What the Fun Table has done is rewrite the rules.  They have proved BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT that a bunch of old fat lazy moldy married people can still kick ass.  In the process they taught the Wild and Crazy Singles a lesson in how to misbehave on a cruise trip. 

They did it through inspiration and team effort.  No "All About Me" with these guys.  It was All for One and One for All.  Indeed, if I were a Single Person on this Trip, I would be ashamed of myself for letting some old fat married people steal a honor which should rightfully permanently belong to the Domain of the Wild Singles. 

As an old fat lazy moldy married man myself, I am grateful to the Fun Table.  They may be escapees from the loony bin, but they are my kind of people.

At first I couldn't believe they were such desperate attention seekers, but after I saw what they were up to was a coordinated effort, I changed my mind.  Now I saw them as brilliant attention seekers.  They had figured out a way to be goofier than anyone else.

Now I consider the Fun Table group to be an inspiration to all the Stuck in a Rut Doubles on this Trip.  They have taught us Double People a lesson.  We don't have to be permanently dormant after all.  We too can misbehave!  I hope another Double Team wins the award again next year!!  Maybe even my team!!   Thank you, Fun Table, for opening my eyes.


Singing the Doghouse Blues

Yes, in case you are curious, there is a definitely a dog house on cruise ships too.  Just one wrong word behind too much wine and a man might just find out the real purpose of the Balcony is much different than his fantasy purpose.

I haven't made many trips to the cruise ship doghouse, but I did make one on this particular trip.  Marla and I had a disagreement on how to handle giving away an extra cabin that had come available.  You might think this is a trivial issue... and yes it is... but when handled the wrong way, it's back to the balcony.

I have seen one example after another of cruise trip bad boys one year who take a trip the following year with a female companion along.  These guys are so tame and boring I swear I can almost see the invisible leash and dog collar.

My buddy Mr. Handsome is the perfect example.  When George is single, I swear the guy is a human highlight film.  No one knows how to get the cameras clicking faster than George.  But when George is double, he disappoints me terribly because he refuses to say or do anything even remotely interesting.   George traveled "single" this year.  Not surprisingly, he was in one picture after another... and usually with a different lady on his arm.

I have never quite understood the dynamic, but judging from how docile most "accompanied" men seem to be on our cruises, women appear to be even more powerful at sea than back on land. 

A rogue wave hits a cruise ship, flips it over, everyone drowns and goes to heaven.  God says, "I want the men to make two lines. Make one line for the men that dominated their women at sea and make another other line for the men that were dominated by their women."

God waited for a moment and then looked at the two lines. The line of the men that were dominated by their women was miles long, and in the line of men that dominated their women, there was only one man.

God became angry and said, "You men should be ashamed of yourselves. I created you in my own image, but made the mistake of giving you free will. Now ever since that damn Eve, I see that every last one of you were all whipped by your mates."

Now God sees a solitary man in the other line and a smile came over his face. "Behold the one man on that cruise ship who stood up and made me proud.  You guys can learn from him!  Tell them, my son, how did you manage to be the only one in this line?"

The man replied, "I don't know, God, my wife didn't understand your directions and told me to stand here."

In particular, men who cruise with a significant other quickly to learn to keep their mouth shut at all times and keep their hands to themselves in the hot tub... or else they soon learn where the dog house is located in the cabin.

Usually its the balcony or the couch, but after one especially bitter argument, one man said he got to sleep on the bathroom floor.  He said he had to sleep like a pretzel.  He was so sore the next day he had to relearn how to walk.  No, it wasn't me, but for $5 I'll tell you who it was.  Another man reported sleeping on the floor in a different cabin with two of his buddies after a disagreement.

In my opinion, the existence of the dog house at sea is the single main reason that tables with lots of "couples" never win the Rowdiest Table Award.  The risks involved with behaving like the Life of the Party being what they are, most men tend to be overly cautious on board.  After all, with hundreds of eyes everywhere, it is almost impossible to do anything naughty and go unnoticed. 

Now that I have explained why a Table full of couples has virtually no chance of winning "Rowdiest Table", this year's Fun Table opened my eyes with a slam dunk victory.  Suddenly three men who I thought were in permanent Married Zombie status rose up and misbehaved like they were Mr. Handsome in his heyday.  Shocked, I began to ask myself, "How did a bunch of Double Guys get away with behaving like this on a cruise trip?"

So I went back and reviewed my article on the Fun Table once more.  My eyes stopped when I read this sentence.

"We figured if we were going to be on the Fun Ship, then we should have a "Fun Table", complete with our very own Fun Table Buttons (Bette's idea)."

There was my answer.  The men misbehaved because the women told them to. 

Check out the cruise ship dog house.

George is always so much more fun when he comes on these trips alone...

Apparently the phenomenon of men dominated by their women
 extends to the King of Beasts as well.

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