Somewhere nowhere after
Tempe, Arizona…

“could princess be my savior?”

2 parts


Remind me to send my mother five dozen daisies and the Hope Diamond when I return from this two-month trip (mostly business, so Eddie can lay his parents’ estate to rest in Florida). Better yet, I’ll send her on a Princess Cruise Line vacation to Mexico (the one I’ll be on with the husband and child tomorrow, 5 p.m., as of this writing, for a week) with her boyfriend Mike for Mother’s Day.

Now, almost two months later, I fully understand the pity and horror etched on the faces of my married-with-children friends from church and in the neighborhood after I told them we’d be headed off on this two-month trip across the country. As with the entire extravaganza of pregnancy and childbirth, the understatement and superficiality with which my mind absorbed, left deeper implications to sink in during the actual experience, day to day.

James turning three on January 21st only unleashed even more of the uncontrollable a mere two-month trip inspired. He exerted his authority, I barely survived. Forget Super Nanny and the latest results from the childhood Gestapo dictating yet another reason for the husband and wife to lose touch with each other (keep that baby on the breast for at least a year, throughout the night, every day 24/7)… don’t be like me and find out later when it’s too late just what it’s like to be stranded in the middle of nowhere for two months with a growing, demanding, insatiable little boy, just don’t travel until the kid’s at least oh, 21, or if you can’t help it, bring a nanny. Go into hock.

Windmills in the light, finally…

It annoys me how the celeb media  constantly fawn all over the stars for doing something as basic as going forth and multiplying. Like they discovered the cure for the childhood whines. These people, for the most part, employ a phalanx of super nannies to take care of the chaotic business of child-rearing. They have another phalanx of beauty experts to take care of their appearance, so every hair is in place, and heaven forbid the paparazzi catch lens of a pabulum burp-up. In the middle of breakfast at the Waffle House one Wednesday morning outside of Phoenix, AZ, James wanted to help me taste whether he’d put enough sugar in my coffee, took the spoon and force-fed it to me, splashing more than a spoon’s worth all over my shirt. He then dropped grape jelly on my jeans, then casually wiped his syrupy hands on me too, the human napkin.

The naughty seat doesn’t work, btw. Unless you don’t mind spending all day and night monitoring your child in three-minute increments without looking like you’re monitoring him, while the rest of your chores go to pot. Trust me.

Finally, one day before we would board a Princess Cruise ship, James ran amuck at Wahoo’s Fish Taco, upending his soft taco onto my barely eaten plate of ahi rice and black beans, after having demanded a taco in the first place. We went to the hotel, I washed up, took my digital camera, cell phone and $20, and bid the husband and child a quick farewell, while I took a long walk on a long pier, and thereabouts in Huntington Beach, CA – as near to Long Beach, where we’d board, without actually risking life and limb to stay in the pit hole.

The sporadic rain kept my four eyes from seeing much, but I didn’t care. I had some time to myself. I took some near-sighted pictures, wished I were hungry and thirsty enough to just hang ten at Duke’s restaurant and bar, but wandered back into the one-street town again anyway, solo, breathing in my new-found freedom.

Bought a tall mocha from Starbucks – where I’d e-mailed my columns (for the week of Feb. 14th) two hours ago in a frenetic hurry while the husband and child did laundry down the street – and pretty much had no idea what to do with myself. So I trudged on back to the hotel, Eddie and James fast asleep, still raining outside.

 Blessed peace in a storm at
Huntington Beach, California.

Only 30 minutes had elapsed.

I really hope there’s all-day daycare on the ship.

board the Diamond Princess, James plots the
destruction of daddy’s keyboard.


I could be diplomatic and speak only of the good parts. If I could remember any. Right now, all I can do is wish for a quick end to what was supposed to be a two-month road trip/vacation/a little bit of personal family business. 

I could also list everything that went wrong, but what’s the point? I chose to tag along with my husband so I wouldn’t be alone (again) in the big house with a rambunctious three-year-old son, figuring the benefits – more family time, daddy bonding – would outweigh the drawbacks. 

The cruise, on board the fairly new Diamond Princess ship (second largest), would’ve been fabulous to go on – about 14 years ago as newlyweds. Instead, we spent most of our free time scheduling our son’s Kiddie Kare time, in three-hour increments, running up to the second to the top deck on the 15th floor every other half-hour we were paged to change his diapers (even if it was a trickle of pee), and his eating time at the Horizon Court Buffet open 24 hours. 

At first glance,
Puerto Vallarta seemed the
same sleepy small town as “Night Of The
Iguana” from long ago and far away. Until
the jewelry stores, the Senor Frog’s,  the sushi
teppanyaki joints, the Wal Mart.

One day into the one-week cruise to three ports of Mexico (Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas), Eddie went to the bottom deck of the Medical Center after tossing and turning with chills and fevers, only to discover he had walking pneumonia (which probably started back in Florida when he started working on laying his late parents’ estate to rest with a swollen right throat), had to take antibiotics which caused him frequent bowel movements, his taste buds to go numb and his attitude to stay on the downward spiral. He spent most of his ship time taking pills, fighting fevers at night, not breathing so he couldn’t sleep, heavy-sighing and snapping at us. Not much daddy bonding there. 

James caught a stomach bug toward the last day of his ship stay, characterized by explosive continuous diarrhea, which made for preparing to disembark quite a challenge. We had to leave our suitcases packed and labeled, ready to go, outside our stateroom the night before, ensuring we had a change of clothes for the morning. I had two changes of clothes for James, but it didn’t matter because he crapped right through them both, the last right before we were called to go through customs. 

I’ll never forget finishing up on my morning crap, seeing James at the entrance to the restroom of the ship, staring at me with unease, smelling his crap, taking him to a stall, trying to remove his full, wet diaper, splashing half the contents on the floor, on his formerly clean khaki pants, his sneakers, my jeans, my sneakers, his diaper bag,… me on the floor on my hands and knees, strands of my hair stuck in a sweat to my forehead, over my eyes, glasses fogging, wiping every last drop with one wet wipe after another while my son attempted to escape several times while yelling, “cow doo doo!” 

It got better. We disembarked on President’s Day weekend, so when we finally drove up north from Long Beach, California, arriving in San Luis Obispo , no hotels were available. None in the two towns further up either, and it was closing in on 7 p.m., we hadn’t eaten lunch or dinner, James had soaked his pajama bottoms with more diarrhea, four hours’ worth, it hurt too, I needed to start my soap columns but the hotel had no Internet, and panic began to set in. Coughing in fits, Eddie finally dialed up the next Best Western he’d spotted on a billboard for King City a half hour away, making reservations for the last non-smoking room available. 

Eddie at Pipi’s in
Puerto Vallarta, as captured by James.

We got there, climbed up the stairs, passed three signs warning us of “detectable amounts of chemicals” that could cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive disorders in and around this facility, and felt the dooming hand of fate. (Turned out to be a false alarm, c/o of the over reactive California government. The signs were posted to indicate that detergents were in the laundry room of the hotel.) 

As I lay in bed later that night (last night as of this typing), my mind went through the various events on board the ship, hoping to find something of value, enough for the long, continuous trouble. 

Waking to an ocean view six mornings in a row. Eating an international buffet every chance I got, pancit, cioppino, chicken curry, grits and fried eggs. The one Thursday afternoon I sat bare feet on a lounge deck chair with a mound full of shrimp cocktail, prime rib and veal scaloppini in front of me while Eddie played outstanding solos on the keyboard with Darrin’s band. Three lobster tails for free in the International Dining Room. Getting weepy while telling my favorite waiter Trex from Grenada how much it meant him going out of his way to provide apple juice for my son (all you can drink cranberry and orange juice, Coca-Cola, 75,000 bottles of tequila, but no apple juice?!) when nobody else on staff would. Watching this guy at a Puerto Vallarta taqueria make the best guacamole in the world from scratch on a mortar and pestle. Struck dumb by the statues, chandeliers and stained glass reflections of a Mazatlan cathedral. Tasting the best (but hottest) soft tacos from a truck stand behind a construction fence off the bay in Cabo San Lucas. Seeing our son charm the crew (even when he dropped a Mucha Lucha token in the slot where the Princess ID cards came and went), the other kids in Kiddie Kare’s Pelican Club and every other person who happened his way. Taking a precious half hour to swim 12 laps in the Neptune pool when nobody else but a Mexican girl half my age would, because the water was too cold and the temperature 68 degrees. Enjoying one of the last unspoiled meals with my husband, over afternoon tea of smoked salmon sandwiches and raisin scones.


 Postcard? Nah, just my picturesque eye through the digital
viewfinder, of a boating harbor in Cabo.

Me being me, my mind also dwelt on the bad. The Double Dimwit Bimbos traipsing around like they owned the ship, their male entourage requesting “Baby Got Back” of Darrin’s jazz band, Eddie with looks that killed. I toyed with the bimbos earlier in an elevator ride, telling them that no ship or hotel has the 13th floor because it’s bad luck, one of ‘em bragging about an aunt who hand-made the straps of her slippers from Swarovski crystals, me pretending to be in awe and wanting a picture, them giggling clueless. Mouthing off loudly to some old guy asking me to stand somewhere else the last night of a lame, standing room only Princess Idol show featuring amateur singers from the passenger roster, “I’m the only person standing up in your way?! Yeah, right! Whatever!” Crowds everywhere I went at the peak and prime season of eating, window seats only, hanging and swimming. Wading through way too many old people, old money, entitled rich white folks looking down on the foreigners serving them (Trex told us that he felt out of place being one of only three black men on board). Sitting through one nauseating tale of rich people buying yachts and mansions after another, told by some very beautiful but very ungenerous rich people with sticks up their rich buttocks. Hearing a drunken ugly American mock the Mexican families waving from the shore below our ship. Having to sit with strangers at the same table, #15, every night, except Wednesday when James threw a fit and refused to go to Kiddie Kare for pizza night. Standing at the exits just as a guy got tackled by Mexican security at the Puerto Vallarta Wal Mart for attempting to flee with ill-gotten gains, after knocking an old lady down. 

James, Ed, a taco truck stand… doesn’t get any
better, unless we had an extra three hours like we
did on the previous two ports of call.

 Ed vainly tries to keep James from running
off in Cabo.

If we do this again – and I’m referring to the ship cruise, not the driving across country to finish putting the final nail in the coffin – we’re doing it as husband and wife only, James with the sitters, and on the Royal Caribbean, hopefully with Trex as our favorite waiter, the beaches are supposed to be clearer, bluer, cleaner, and maybe my mom on board as my gift to her for putting up with me as a rambunctious kid. 

Till then, this Swarovski crystal green starfish on a gray pebble will have to do.




"cubbyhole[s ic]" archives

"General Hospital News and Gossip"
Soap Zone