Uncommon Ground
Volume 4 Book 3 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 4)

[ Book 4-2 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]

March 10, 2005.
Worst Little Whorehouse.
A quick story that happened last night before we dive back into the cruise:

So last night my friend Michael got free tickets to see Best Little Whorehouse at the Kodak Theatre here in Hollywood -- where the Oscars are held. Very photographic theatre. When he asked me if I wanted to go, I said I'd rather shoot myself but then Jim reminded me that it featured football players in jockstraps dancing and I let my bad self go in for the pulchritude.

Unfortunately, this production... My first clue was that in the program there was no union listed. That means that in the most beautiful, most glamorous theatre in L.A., we were seeing a non-union bus and truck tour that more properly belonged in a barn in Yeehaw, Texas.

And god was it awful. Mind-numbingly awful. The leads were so bad. The "Dolly Parton" character was fat, slow, and dull. The cussin' sheriff was such a ham, you'd have thought it was Easter dinner on the ground in Galveston. heeyuk heeyuk.

The poor dancers. It was like first year dance class where nobody can stay together and if they tried to spin, their legs and arms would fall halfway through the turn. But WORSE THING OF ALL, was that when the football players finally did their thing, no jock straps. Just skinny non-union gaybois with their shirts off and where the most effeminate one had the best body (if you like skinny, ill-defined or slightly flabby bodies NO ONE would EVER mistake for an actual football player).

We left at intermission, as did most everyone else with any sense. At the door, they actually told us that they'd need to scan our tickets with the beeper to let us back in, as which point I looked at the girl and WANTED to say, "BWAHAHAHAHAHA. Sorry. I can only take so much torture and no more." (But I didn't).

So my friend, Michael, and his friend and I walked over to Mel's Diner where a gorgeous Black waiter served us a fried onion blossom and we ranked out the show all night long until we finally rescued the evening with excoriation and over-syruped Diet Coke while we watched the tourists outside taking pictures of the sidewalk.

Okay, back to the cruise diary:

February 19-21, 2005.
Getting Settled.

Here is a little snippet of conversation I overheard at our first breakfast aboard.
Man 1: So, do you golf much living there in Palm Desert?

Man 2: Only five days a week. You?

1: Only sevens days a week.

2: Well, I really go six days a week and then to church on Sunday.

1: Have you met the golf pro on this cruise?

2: No, I can't stand up on this ship. [The seas are a bit choppy and we're rolling.]

1: His son is on the Pro Tour. He's pretty good. He's usually surrounded by a pack of Japanese men. They follow him all over the place.

2: Yeah, they love their golf.

[That last statement was made without a bit of irony from men who had just confessed to golfing every waking moment of their lives.]

One of the nicest surprises on this cruise is that in the club (where I'm able to work using a beautiful, perfectly tuned Yamaha grand piano -- the tuner is actually on board and is one of the other musicians) the night cleaner is the same one from our Christmas cruise a couple of months ago. His name is Cleo (Clay-oh) and he is from the Philippines.

Cleo & Steve.

He is so adorable. Like most of Filipinos I've met on cruise ships, he works especially hard and he is diligent about saving money so that he can return to Manila with enough cash to start a business or buy a house. He told me last night that he has a fiancee, a high school sweetheart he ran into 10 years after graduation. She works for Sony and so he works here in order to make enough money for them to get married and start a life together.

Healthwise, I started coughing the moment I boarded the ship. It got worse and worse until I was coughing up green gunk, but it happens that this time around I brought aboard some powerful antibiotics -- some samples I had left over from a previous bout with strep. So I started taking them and already, three days into the regimen, it's all starting to clear up. (Makes me wish we were cruising Mexico where I could just buy it over the counter).

Yesterday was the first day after Sydney that we reached another place for the ship to stop. We were at sea for two days as we headed due north. The seas were a bit rocky for some of the passengers but I love the motion, being an old sea salt.

Each morning I've been getting up at 3am or 4am coming down here to the club. I have several new pieces of music I've been working on. One in particular began very loudly and with much tempestuousness. The chord structure appealed to me, though, and through the flush of the creative flow, I worked it for hours and hours and hours so that my hands could fit into it and find the contours of the progression. Then, once I found that, I pared the whole thing down to two notes at a time, stripping it to its essentials so that I could get the words in. It's a very energizing process to be playing two notes while beneath is all, there is this raging turmoil of rhythms in my head that leak out around the edges -- present but not dominating.

Approaching Hamilton Island.

Once we reached Hamilton Island we made our way around the tropical paradise to find an Internet connection since it's so expensive to use the onboard system which is connected to satellite. The rich people who can actually afford a cruise like this, I guess the charges are nothing to them. But, the charges are by the hour.

As a matter of fact, we found a business center in a large resort hotel that allowed free access, so that was really fun except for the part of about having to stand around for a bit waiting for the terminals to become free.

The hotel with the free Internet connection.

The view from the hotel.

Anyway, we got news from New York. Our producer met with the owner of the off-Broadway venue which approached us after NYMF. They love us. They love the show. But they felt that with the economics of off-Broadway, they didn't know how to market us and bla-bla...

Jim went numb. My heart sank but I was trying to maintain a brave front.

I said to him, "Look, I'm really disappointed. But I'm also kind of relieved. At least we have an answer." (One we'd been waiting months for). I repeated to him what Jana, our stage manager, had said. That we need to create a groundswell of support for the show -- but we can't do that unless we're in New York. Hell, we could be doing it at the Duplex one night. Sing it on the damn street corner if we had to."

(Jana passionately believes in Big Voice. A lot of people believe passionately about Big Voice.)

Our little guerilla campaign, trying to create a groundswell in the provinces, out of town, hasn't quite crossed over to the commercial media in New York.

He said, "They want us to respond. I don't know how to respond. I'm just numb."

It was so depressing. After we got back to the ship and I could tell Jimmy needed to be alone to process.

I felt so huge. It was one of those comic days where you know someone needs to be alone -- and you manage, somehow to always feel in the way. Ship cabins are small things. The two of you in the bed. He's sleeping. I'm coughing.

The TV is blaring.

I turned the sound down after opening the outside door and just listened to the sound of the water.

It woke him up. He blearily said, "Why'd you turn the TV off?"

I said, "I just wanted to hear the sound of the waves."

He didn't get mad or anything. We know each other so well.

The worst thing happened later. I was off watching the repertory acting company do "Sylvia," a comedy a man, his dog and his wife -- with another woman playing the dog. I got back to the cabin and saw that he had showered up and was eagerly writing something.

I decided to download some video. In doing so, I unplugged the extension cord that his laptop was using and it crashed his computer. He lost everything he had been writing.

I don't know why I don't just set fire to his beard. Awkward doesn't begin to put it into words how I felt. I downloaded some video, most of which was boring nature shots from our bad news day.

Except for one thing.

Breakfast with koalas. [See picture at top of page.]

It was before our bad news.

Up on the left, climbing the hill, there was a little wooden building, shack-like in its design. On the front was a sign, "Breakfast with Koalas."

It was a restaurant connected to the nature preserve right behind it (with guided tours, etc.). We kind of wandered into the outer reception (a gift shop raising money for the preserve) and a beautiful indoor/outdoor restaurant area. On the back wall were four wooden tree trunks.

On each tree trunk was a koala. A sleepy, scratchy, adorably cute koalas.

The clear water around Hamilton Island.

The next day we were in Cairns, Australia. Feeling a big better but still not knowing what we'd do about the show, we took a little walk around the town and posed for goofy pictures.

Jim and giant koala.

Steve and strange Japanese man.

And, ultimately...

[ Book 4-2 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]
© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
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