Carnival Spirit: Notes on Dancing and Bananas

I didn't keep the usual handwritten daily diary, not even scraps of bullet lists, on the last cruise. Instead, I fashionably tapped notes into my phone, which was convenient at the time (not having to try to remember when back in the room later), but too tap-tap-tedious for me to write much. This may be why I only wrote three posts upon our return:

The Nouveau Steakhouse

La Paz, Baja California

Cabin 7258 - the Best Cabin on Carnival Spirit.*

*(Not including the aft wrap, but that's assuming you like the sound and vibration at the back of the ship, and that you don't care about balcony privacy or don't care about being on Deck 4, just like booking 7258 assumes that it's just the two of you and neither of you need wheelchair access, and you're really into balconies.)

Now that I'm finally feeling better after nearly three months of either being sick or catching up from being sick, I thought I'd go through those notes and share whatever memories spring to mind.

Cha-Cha Drama

This time, not the %$#@# text/answers service. On the first night, Beth-the-Aussie-dancer gave a cha-cha dance class. I didn't go up on stage because my dance partner doesn't dance. Yes, I too am disappointed. Mike's lucky that I got fat, or I'm sure I'd still be taking a jillion dance classes and probably trying to enter ballroom dancing competitions. (I have this whole side theory that I subconsciously stay Stay-Puft-fluffy to avoid chasing stupid dreams and/or going broke with last minute travel and other things you can do when you don't have to worry about the hass and expense of getting an extra seat, just in case.)

So, we're up front, watching the class, which is the compromise between me pulling Mike on stage and grinning a lot, and him looking around with mortification and nervous shifting because someone might notice he's there and, I don't know, blog about it or something. He doesn't mind singing showtunes in public or snidely dissing the hurf durf booya mentality found in sports bars, so you've got me on why dancing makes him miserable. I think he was traumatized by the square dance lessons in elementary school. (Which I, of course, loved, and Mike need only say the word and I will start researching all of the square dance calls. As soon as I lose 100 pounds. Then maybe 30 more. Those skirts are pretty short. Thank goodness I have so many hobbies that I seldom notice that how much of my life is indefinitely on hold.)

So we're watching the class, and there's this older couple who come off the stage and sit in front of us. I figure it was too crowded or tiring or uninteresting for them, but this woman - who is dressed like she's trying to land an Astor, and keep in mind that we're on Carnival and it's the first night, before most people have their luggage - she is just fuming.

According to her, Beth is teaching the steps backwards. I have no idea if this is true because my dance experience is limited to the 1970s suburban standards of tap/ballet/jazz/modern plus the 1980s ex-suburbanite standards of belly, Bharata Natyam, and miscellaneous folk. I.e., dances you can do by yourself. I mean, I did once keep renewing a book from the library about how to tango, but it worked about as well as could be expected, plus it's surprisingly hard to tango to Fleetwood Mac's "Tango in the Night." (Hey, Falco had a song of the same name. Not a great song, but I miss Falco.)

The best bit came when the woman, who was rather audible there by the edge of the stage, finally sniffed and allowed that maybe Beth wasn't trying to undermine decades of dance etiquette but was only doing the steps backwards because she is Australian.

That's right. Australia: where the men are men, and the women are also men for the purpose of dancing, which I guess makes the men women, and no wonder Mike doesn't want to dance.

For what it's worth, here are my notes on how to do the cha cha:

  • Ladies back - right foot first (men forward left)
  • Four counts of back-together then cha-cha-cha (it made sense at the time)
  • Switch (feet?)
  • Switch sides (what?)
  • Cross with everyone right first (diagonal?)

Next time I'll practice what I write, as now I just don't quite know what I'm talking about. (And no, I never learned Labanotation, although I checked out plenty of books on that as well.) Should I go to Wikipedia to see if the female starts right-foot-back? Did Han Solo shoot first?

Wikipedia is with Beth. Damn. I so wanted there to be regular cha-cha, then Australian cha-cha. Maybe Mike would've danced it out of national pride. (He tends to show that by buying a lot of "really Australian and not just Australian-style" licorice online.)

How Country/Western Brawls Start

Skipping over notes on trivia cheaters, two days later I did go on stage for boot-scootin' dance class, led by Brett-another-Aussie-dancer. Mike spent the time ironing his shirt for the steakhouse. Fair trade.

Brett was a good teacher, but there were too many of us on the stage. People didn't have room to do the moves, and then when Brett divided the groups for more room, there were plenty of people who hadn't learned the moves in the first place, so it was a little unsatisfying for all. (Plus add in your usual drunk contingent that doesn't mind taking up extra room no matter what.)

So, I learned the steps, tiptoed off the stage halfway through, and practiced them on the balcony later... and it was fun, but - let's make this clear - it was fun as total camp. I don't endorse modern country music, no matter what the ship's security cams imply. My students always ask what kind of music I like. When I say, "All kinds - name something," -they always start with country. Why? "Because you're white." Argh.

(I do like some classic country - pick any K-Tel 8-track commercial song list - but the Achy Breaky Heart scene and everything after it makes me want to slice my ears off. More for the rest of you to enjoy, I know. The music, I mean. Not my ears. Those can probably be sewn back on so I can keep listening to "So Far from the Clyde." I can't believe that some day my beloved cruise ships may be on the beach at Alang.)

Notes on "Country Line Dance" class steps:

  • R (where?), L beh(ind?), R together
  • Right heel out, feet together, left heel out, "lift" (IIRC you lift the left heel behind you, not unlike a flamingo, in anticipation of later slapping you left boot sole with your right hand.)
  • All of the above, reversed
  • Step back: R L R, feet together
  • Step forward right, scooch (drag) left foot to right, repeat step and scooch
  • Heel right, heel left, heel right, heel right side, tap heel left hand then right hand, and turn (You are on your own here.)
  • Left before belt buckle grab and "yee haw" on shunts and lasso on final heels before turn (I'm sure it will all come back to me someday.)

Bananas - Do They Grow Up or Down?

Normally I don't give away any trivia questions, but "Last Man Standing" is a bit of a different game, and this isn't really obscure knowledge. Or is it?

This cruise had about as much trivia as the last cruise, but it also had different games, like Carnivalaire (multiple-choice trivia where you do a body position to signal your answer, and heaps of stinky people cheat and copy you and refuse to close their eyes even when told, but still fun), and a game show with buzzers and a soundboard (and limited participation), and Last Man Standing. For LMS, you are asked questions with two possible answers, and you stand on the side of the stage assigned to the answer you believe is true. If you're right, you get to stay. If you're wrong, you sit down.

I think this game has great possibilities for the classroom, except in my classes everyone would just follow "the smart kid," or use it as an opportunity to follow their friends and talk. Or sit down as soon as possible and talk. But those of you who are better at your jobs may wish to try it.

Anyway, one question was, "do bananas grow up or down?" I immediately thought, "Up." Then I thought, "Oh crap, or is that pineapples?" Suddenly all smoothie parts are blending together. (So to speak.)

Then I did that awful thing where the answer seems so obvious that you switch answers. "I think bananas grow up," says my brain, "so I'll go stand over with everyone who thinks they grow down, because surely I'm being stupid and missing the trick part of the question." By now I can even sort of imagine how they'd look, growing down, despite having eaten bananas right off the tree as a child.

Of course I've made a mistake, and I'm left standing among people who are saying things like, "A fruit that grows upward? Who knew?!" Apparently not me, foiled by a curious combo of doubt and imagination once again. Which is to say that skepticism is good, but I take it too personally.

But the worst bit is that today, when I saw "bananas grow up down" in my brief notes, I had to go look up the answer. Because, thanks to having doubted myself at the time but at the same time knowing(ish) the answer, my memory is all cross-wired, and I no longer trusted any of it.

Just so you know, world at large, bananas grow UP... unless you're of the camp that feels they grow down but swell up, sort of doing both. I did find a letter to the New York Times' editor, dated 1902, that gets nicely snarky at someone for suggesting that bananas grow down in Bermuda. However, the writer does accept - per an earlier letter to the editor from an Australian - that bananas grow down in Australia.

(A banana tree in Queensland.)

And the circle is complete.

More notes some other time - Saturday is on.

27 March 2011 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)