Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Granny had a Secret

So today me & my business partner got on the subject of female empowerment. Not the Gloria Steinem, down with men type of stuff, but more on the business acumen of women and how difficult it would seem to us to be expected to stay home. Its different if you choose to as I did when my kids were little, but to have that expectation forced upon you is different.

So I was telling her about the book I read about the whale ship Essex. It revolved around the community of Nantucket in the early 1800s where the men would be home for a few weeks or months and then frequently gone for as long as 2 or even 3 years at a time. The women ran the entire town, all the businesses, municipal government, everything. They were truly empowered and apparently loved it as some of them noted in their writings that they married whaling men specifically for the freedom it gave them.

The author of that book also noted that in the renovations of one of the historic homes, they found some letters along with a plaster penis ....hummm.....Granny had a little secret! She didn't need a man at all if a stiff piece of plaster would work....I found it really funny that the author would even mention it but it just goes to show that we are not so different as those who came before us - no matter how much we think we are.

On another note, the Ghostwriting class started again last night at AC and even though it was cold and snowy several brave souls showed up....

Monday, January 26, 2009

Books Read in Transit

The only time I get to read anymore is on an airplane. On this last trip I read Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers – it was really interesting. In it he examines those who become successful and why. One of the most intriguing ideas he presents is that we are a product of where we come from and a person’s ability to rise above and succeed is dependent on a series of lucky breaks. He also noted that the amount of time it takes for someone to gain superior expertise in a particular profession is around 10,000 hours. Very interesting.

I also read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is a historical narrative of the ship Essex that was sunk by a whale in the 1800s and was the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The true story is pretty gruesome as the survivors were forced to eat their shipmates as they died and at one point they even killed one who was still alive and ate him. One of the most interesting parts of the story is the psychological changes that take place in a survival situation. It makes you ask yourself what you would do in the same situation – or maybe it just had that effect on me because I happened to be on a cruise and wondered what would happen if the boat sank! The book also tells what happened to the survivors later in life and how the actions were viewed by others. Again very interesting.
I will be on a plane again at the end of the week on my way to LA so maybe I’ll get a chance to read some more.

Mexican Cruise Day 8

The weather got a little chilly as we rounded Baja and neared California. We saw quite a few whales which was pretty neat. The last day is always sad. Its also the time when everyone is trying to print off their boarding passes in the library….Little old people have significant difficulty with the technology thing. We packed our bags after dinner and would have sat on the balcony but it was too cold. I’m looking forward to being back at the castle again but will miss the warm tropical weather. All in all, I’m really glad we went. Had it not been planned, I would have put it off as I always do but I need some downtime!! I have no idea what our next vacation event will be but I’m sure we’ll take our birthday cruise in Sept though I’m not sure where we’ll go…we may even go back to Hawaii…

Mexcian Cruise Day 7

Another fabulous day at sea!! I was going to work – but I blew it off and played poker most of the day. The day was mostly uneventful. EXCEPT – there’s always an ‘except’ – for the little incident we witnessed right before dinner. Me & Kevin were sitting in the lounge area enjoying some wine before dinner watching all the people and of course there were a few that were very drunk. One in particular happened to be a dwarf girl in an electric wheel chair….she did a donut right beside Kevin and was laughing and talking loud…you almost felt guilty laughing at her– but it was funny. Then she was zooming down past the restrooms and totally took out this little old man. I know – again it shouldn’t be funny but you had to laugh. The sauced Oompa Loompa takes out grandpa on the high seas…so politically incorrect but so funny. We ate in the supper club instead of the dining room and it was wonderful.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mexican Cruise Day 6

Manzanillo! This is the first port we stopped at where tourism isn’t the main industry. They have a HUGE shipping port, factories and other industry. They bussed us into the downtown area where there were many cantinas, shops and all kinds of everyday business. The neat part of this place is that it is full of locals just going about their daily business and ignoring the tourists for the most part. We sat at a little cantina and watched kids go to school in their uniforms and then walked around to shop and also saw people doing their laundry at the laudromat, getting their daily tortillas from the tortillaria and many other activities. I found a hand woven rug with an Aztec design and a big colorful serving dish with chili peppers for the castle. I also got Harlee a cute little linen dress with pretty embroidery on it. We stayed a few hours and it was nice.
I heard several other people say they didn’t like it because it was dirty, but we didn’t see any of that and compared to old Acapulco it was sparkling! We had some great guacamole and margaritas and didn’t worry about it as the place was really clean. Kevin gave their Banos an A+ (comparatively).

One thing we didn’t do was go to the pharmacia….when in Mexico, buy cheap drugs!! We totally forgot about that! I also didn’t find the chocolate liquer for Liz so she’ll have to settle for Kaluha….

Mexican Cruise Day 5

So we woke up already parked off the coast of Zihuatanejo (that’s “Zae watt ten a hoe” for all you gringos. They also have excursions over to Ixtapa (Icks Tapa) for those who choose. I chose a quiet day on the boat….Its hot, I’m tired, its Mexico….so there….Kevin got off and said it’s a little fishing village not much to see. They used the life boats to tender everyone in to shore.
So one thing I left off from yesterday is the whole explanation of why I don’t pee in Mexico. While we were in old Acapulco shopping with the Loenardos yesterday, the shop owners kept giving him free beer. So of course, after a short while he has to go. The only place close is the ‘Banos Publico’ – which is a public restroom….he said he was almost afraid to whip it out…the floor was dirt and the fixtures looked as if they were original turn of the century. The sink is on the outside where they have a convenient coke bottle filled with half shampoo and half water to wash your hands…then little napkins to dry off with. Of course the Leonardos assured him it was one of the best Banos in the area….so needless to say I held it….
The biggest highlight of the day was watching Kevin doing the Macarena at dinner…..

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mexican Cruise Day 4

Got up decently early. We’ll be docking in Acapulco at noon which is great as we’ll get to see the view coming into port which we don’t usually get to do as they come in early to most ports. We had our room service and hung around on the balcony as we neared the port. In the shallower water, there were sea turtles everywhere – they’d pop up by the boat every couple of minutes – I guess the boat disturbed them and they had to pop and see what the deal was. Bonnie and Howard are going on an excursion today to release baby sea turtles so I’m anxious to hear how that goes. Yesterday I thought I saw a whale – several others did – but I just got one glimpse so who knows. As we came into port a pod of dolphins zipped by us followed by what I have to describe as two planks lashed together with an out board motor. I couldn’t decide if it was two fishermen or Gillian and the Skipper making a run for it.

Acapulco Bay is really beautiful and we decided that since the boat will be docked until 1 am, that we’d wait until it was a little cooler and then get out and wing it and hopefully find a great place to eat and maybe shop a little.

I spent the afternoon in the library working but I was also highly entertained by the crew as they took some of the lifeboats out for maneuvers as they often do at the various ports. These life boats aren’t the little inflatables, but the 50 person hard shelled fully enclosed types – so they aren’t small. The lifeboat right in front of the library window had an issue. At first it got stuck as they were winching it out over the water and then about the time six or eight ship’s officers showed up to see what the deal was, one of the cables broke and they dropped it on top of the rail. It bounced off the rail and swung out and smacked the side of the hull until the other cables caught it but it was funny to see the guys in white uniforms scatter like mice. The head guy started yelling something in Italian that I didn’t understand, but I’m sure it translated to something like “Who’s dumbass idea was that?”

They had to call some repair guy from the port and he showed up looking like a surfer dude from California. Again, don’t know what was said but one of the guys in a dark blue jumpsuit (these guys are the maintenance crew who keep everything running) was telling the story to the repair guy and they were all laughing – until a white uniform showed up. So I have to believe they were definitely having a chuckle at some officer’s expense. It’s interesting how much you can gather just from watching people interact even if you don’t understand one word they are saying.
We got off the boat about 4:30 as the sun was going down. There was a breeze and it was in the low eighties so it was nice. We met a cab driver named Leonardo. The first cab guys you met at the terminal are the ones who are the ‘offical okie dokie’ guys there to make sure you don’t get in with an unscrupulous cab driver. We also learned they are the only ones who are allowed to drive Tahoes while all the other cabs are Volkswagens – not the sedans mind you but the bugs. This is because in the old part of town the streets are very small and only the smallest cars can navigate them. Kevin was a little hesitant at first, but when he found out he could be in a VW bug he was thrilled. Besides, I’ve met enough slimy Mexicans to be able to tell the good ones and Leonardo was a good one – reminded me of my ex’s dad actually and very nice. We told him we wanted to shop for jewelry and find a good restaurant and that’s it.

He told us we had to see the cliff divers, but we thought it was really a tourista thing so it wasn’t on our list (we watched the opening of the Love Boat for years and saw the cliff divers so how great could it be?). Leonardo took us to a small jewelry story on the edge of their big market. He cautioned us that many of the 400 booths in the market did not sell real jewelry – just the junk - so we needed to stay with the ones he pointed out. They probably get kickbacks from those booths, but as it turns out I found exactly what I was looking for at the first one and at a great price so I don’t care if they have a whole cartel going. Kevin got a couple of shirts and Leonardo Sr had to go back to the terminal to pick up a scheduled group so he turned us over to Leonardo Jr who was a beginning cab driver and had a Grand Marquis.

I know many of you have heard me say that once you go Mexican you never go back – for seconds - due to the fact that my first husband was Mexican. However, I have to say Leonardo Jr would make a nun rethink that. He was HOT! About 25ish with a mustache and great smile. He took over from his Dad and drove us to a great restaurant called El Zorrito….and I have to say it is perhaps the best Mexican steak I’ve ever had in my life!!

Leonardo Jr. also said we just had to see the cliff divers and that it was really nice at night as they have it all lit up – not too tourista. So after dinner he drove us over and we got in free (not for the $35 admission fee (apparently only stupid gringos pay that price!) and we watched front row as nine of these guys swam the little channel of churning water and then free climbed 510 feet up the sheer side of this cliff – while they were wet! I now think that all those free climbing hot shots on the discovery channel with their chalk and safety gear are wooses! Try doing it in a Speedo covered in sea water with a whole crowd of spectators watching. What really got me was how fast they were. They scaled this cliff in less than a minute flat – they have to have amazing spidey senses… and then they jumped one by one from various levels doing flips, jumping backward – showing off really. Then suddenly three of them jumped at once!...after that a guy jumped from the very top spot…it was amazing and I’m so glad we went. We then returned to the boat and needless to say the ‘Leonardos’ got a big fat tip…..Viva La Acapulco!!!

Mexican Cruise Day 3

We rolled out of bed about noonish and ordered our regular morning room service. We sat on the balcony, drank coffee and were generally lazy. I was going to go back and work – but it just didn’t happen. I played electronic poker all afternoon instead and didn’t even check my email. I looked around at the jewelry so I could get an idea of the prices. When we get to Mexico I want to have a good idea of price ranges on the boat so I can tell if it’s a better deal. Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not, especially if you look like stupid gringos – which we do. Bought a couple of T shirts cause I’m already out and Kevin’s not doing laundry until tomorrow when everyone else heads into Acapulco. Had dinner again with Bonnie and Howard and then played a while more in the casino. We also sat at the atrium bar where ‘Pat’ plays every night. He is the best country singer ever – sounds just like George Strait! And he does a great Willie and Waylon impression. Went to bed about midnightish…we were pooped…thank God there was no midnight show! We’re getting to old to hang with it….

Mexican Cruise Day 2

Our first day at sea!!! I’m wired (as in I have internet) and ready to roll. Of course we’re still on Texas time and got up at the crack of dawn – us and about 1000 little old people on the boat. I found the library/internet cafĂ© and it’s really a nice set up. It was still very chilly out on deck and at one point we were completely fogged in – talk about creepy! But I stayed in the library and put in a full day’s work which was great since yesterday I didn’t get much done due to the travel day.

We didn’t do much around the ship except lose money at black jack. We had a great dinner with Bonnie and Howard and then decided to stay up for the midnight comedy show. It was not the best, but they usually have great comics on Carnival so we’ll try the next guy. We stayed up til 1 am – that’s pacific - so 3 am our time so we were tired and will totally sleep in tomorrow.

Mexican Cruise Day 1

Of course most of the other people in the hotel were going on our cruise too so we joined the rest of the parade of people wheeling their luggage across the street to the terminal the next morning…even I couldn’t justify paying a cab to make a U turn. The cruise terminal is very very dinky…which is good and bad. Good in that there were virtually no lines. Bad in that this is the last cruise on our VIP status and there was no special VIP lounge….bummer. But we were still first on the boat so who cares? The boat is called the Spirit and I like it much better than the Triumph but not as much as the Liberty or Conquest. We’re not even going to discuss the Eurodam extravaganza. It was business anyway but I would sure never pay to go on Holland America. Carnival does it so much better and the sad thing is they are the same company! It’s like Wal-Mart and Saks being owned by the same corporation and Wal-Mart kicking their butt! But enough about corporate America.

Our stateroom was a new experience this time. We got one of those extended balconies near the elevators – it was the same price as the regular balcony so we opted for more space. We had no idea how much space!! It is a foot & a half wider and three times as long as a regular balcony. We have as much square footage outside as in! It reminds me of that long hallway in the Shining, but with an ocean view and deck chairs….totally cool.

We set sail at 4 pm – it was getting dark as the sun sets very early on the west coast and as soon as that sun started dipping the temperatures plunged!! We were shivering as the boat pulled out of San Diego bay. I got some great pictures of the skyline and military base as we went by. We also saw a pod of dolphins as we left. It didn’t take long for the decks to clear and everyone scurried inside.

We met our dinner mates for the first time – Bonnie and Howard from LA. They both work for the electric/water company in LA so Kevin had something in common with them. They seem nice and very normal.

I’m looking forward to two days at sea to work a little and relax a lot. Our first port of call is Acapulco so it will be a couple of days before we get there.

Mexican Cruise Travel Day

Day one of our fabulous Mexican Cruise although it’s really not a cruise day, it was a travel day. We left Amarillo about 10:30 am and landed in San Diego about 3 pm Pacific. The flight connected in Las Vegas so it was pleasant. There were also a ton of Chiropractors on the flight but I didn’t talk to any of them about a book…I’m still working on the spinal decompression book and one at a time is plenty…although he may be my favorite Chiropractor ever. He’s so nice and unassuming – a rare thing in doctor ranks. Anyway, the hotel was a $10 cab ride from the airport….so yes we probably could have walked but hey, I wanted a cab. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay which is a whole 20 steps from the cruise terminal and our boat docked right in front of the hotel.

We ate at a little restaurant built over the water called Antonio’s and yes, I had sea kitten – fillet of sole to be exact. We sat out on the balcony in our hotel room and enjoyed the near perfect 75 degree weather (no wind) until the sun went down. It was a beautiful first day and can’t wait to hop on board and get away. I’ll still be working of course, but I can do that anywhere which is the absolute beauty of being a full time writer!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And we're off!!!

The last two days have been insanely busy!! Not only has every dormant author decided to start working on their book again, they all had to call to chat before I left. Yes, I feel the love but I'm ready to feel the tequila infused air of Mexico a lot more.

We've come across two great projects for our publishing company and are very excited to see how they go. I'll be revealing more as thing progress on those. I've also caught up a few things so I'm getting everything cleared out for the new onslaught of projects as seminar season kicks off. It usually doesn't get swinging until the end of Feb, but this year its starting mid-January. I guess its a sign of the times as people seek answers to the problems (financial and otherwise) that they have.

In other news, I'm a little wary about leaving the fishys in care of Liz and Chris for the week. I've left them before but it wasn't the dead of winter so I'm just hoping that they keep them from being fishcicles by the time I get back. Speaking of fish I saw something hilarious today. It's an article about the fact that PETA has 'rebranded' fish as 'sea kittens'. I know - I'm still laughing. Anyway it seems they think that fish need an image make over so all those bad people will stop torturing them by catching them and *gasp* eating them!!! Can you believe it? They even have bedtime stories and everything for wacked out people to read to their poor impressionable children. Here's the link - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99249669

You know, perhaps they should 'rebrand' cattle - they could be 'milk horses'. Chickens could be 'egg parrots' and carrots could be 'Chia Roots'. The world has gone mad - MAD I tell you! This will give me something serious to talk about on the boat when I've had one too many.....

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mexico here we come!!

So finally we get a vacation that's just to relax. I know that it seems like a travel a lot, and I do but not very often just to relax. Of course I will still be working on the boat from my laptop, in fact i think some of my best work comes from relaxed cruises, sitting at the bar with a fruity drink close at hand.

On this journey, we're headed down the Mexican Rivera. I'm looking forward to the warm sea breeze and great Mexican food. Since its Mexico, we won't be doing much off the boat. While it may seem exotic for someone from the great white north, its not all that different for Texans. I really wanted a cruise that had lots of days at sea and wasn't a hustle and bustle of shore excursions to places that were unique and different. When its like that you feel obligated to get off at every port, but Mexico is Mexico so it allows me to relax and soak in the sun.

As soon as we get back from Mexico I leave for LA and then on to Vegas in Feb. Its the start of seminar season so our business will be picking up again and running full tilt until the holidays next year.

For those waiting on a castle update, the newest issue is that it seems to be mating season for some of the neighborhood cats and since we seem to be the only yard without dogs they choose to exhibit their loud kitty foreplay on the back patio while the labs next door bark themselves into a frenzy. I may rent a dog for a few weeks so they will at least take their sex screams out to the alley.