Car repairs clang
Morning birds chirp
Garbage trucks grind and groan
An elderly woman power walks in hot pink leotards while sweating to the oldies. She tunes the suburban symphony orchestra with the vigorous pumping of her hot pink weights. A squirrel scurries alongside her, pauses, and waves. She tips her oversized sun hat in response and continues pumping away. All along the sidewalk, the row of homes flowed in synch with the Saturday morning Symphony… all except one.
From inside that home came the plea of a four-year-old. “PAPI! I WANNA HEAR ‘RHYTHM IS GONNA GET YOU’ AND ‘CONGA’!” His 2-year-old backup dancer squealed in agreement. Pride filled that father’s heart as he queued up the two requests on his phone, plugged it into the speaker system, and opened the garage door for the whole neighborhood to hear.
A munchkin duet performed on the garage stage and warned the hot-pink golden girl, “You know it, the Rhythm is gonna get ya!” and other unintelligible threats. All restraints were loosed, however, once Conga blared from the speakers. The musical minions took their tour to the mean sidewalks of Summerfield and launched their own Saturday Symphony. They flung musical notes from their fingers as they marched down the sidewalk singing, “If you want to, do the conga, you’ve got to listen to the BEAT!”
A famous cruise t shirt once said, “I like big boats and I cannot lie.” I am neither famous nor a t shirt, but I have been on one cruise. And since this was my first cruise ever and most of my prior knowledge about cruises came from the occasional Love Boat rerun and the ill-fated Speed 2 movie, this review may be as helpful as Speed 2 was entertaining. Yet after three days aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas Bahamas voyage, I believe I can help prepare all of you to be a real Dread Pirate Roberts on your next cruise.
Three characters you will meet on any cruise
Captain Ron: This is the overworked office employee who’s taken in a little too much sea salt. Although he’s not a crew member, he thinks he is. While everyone is swaying back and forth like drunks on the first night, Captain Ron can be seen yelling commands like “hoist the mainstay!” “Avast! Batten down the hatches ya landlubbers!” and “Where be my speedo?!” to bewildered waiters and housekeeping staff. He usually dons an unopened Hawaiian shirt, awkwardly brown tan, wind-frazzled wispy hair and an optional wooden parrot attached to his shoulder.
Abercrombie Axel: This is the frat boy who goes shirtless everywhere on the ship, just because he can. At least one night of the cruise is “formal dinner night” where passengers get dolled up in order to spend more money posing in front of backdrops of smiling, jumping dolphins and photoshopped sunsets. Abercrombie shows up with cut off jean shorts and a slim fit, muscle exposing, clever cruise-themed shirt. Stay classy, Abercrombie!
Drunk Deangelo: This is the passenger who starts walking upright and balanced when the boat is swayingwith the waves. I met DD during a “Battle of the Sexes” game where he staggered on to the stage and was somehow chosen to be the captain of the men’s team. The final challenge involved both teams forming a forward-facing line with legs shoulder width apart. Each team member, starting with the one at the end, had to crawl through until the whole team had passed through the tunnel. However, when the men’s valiant team captain crawled in, he misjudged the length of the journey and shot up halfway like one of those whack-a-moles, racking the billiards of another fellow. I never knew observing drunk people could be so much fun.
When we weren’t watching the colorful parade of people on board, we had the choice of other maritime madness such as night club dancing, karaoke and trivial pursuit championships. Since “Shut up and Dance With Me” was not available on the karaoke lineup (read this story for more on the power of this song) and my club dance moves expire after anything post ’99, my only place left to shine was at the trivial pursuit showdown. Since our vessel had top notch facilities, we envisioned the trivial pursuit championship as a full-on Vegas-style game show, with Pat Sajak and Vanna White guest starring. With the massive amount of useless information gathered in my brain over the past 40 years, I knew I would be crowned Trivia King of the Seven Seas and take home a new car. However, when we arrived at the designated location, we found a gathering of about 15 elderly people surrounding a lounge piano. Our presence brought the average age down to 70. Driving this tug boat of fun was a lonely 20-something Australian girl who probably drew the short stick of “cruise activities.” She was reading off trivia cards unceremoniously, repeating them loud enough for the contestants to hear. No Pat…no Vanna…no car. The most exciting part of the game was when she was reading off the correct answer to “Name Snow White’s seven dwarves”. A silver haired mutiny rose up against the lass when she insisted that that question was worth one point and not seven, much to the crowd’s chagrin. We left right before they tossed her on one of the wheel chairs and threw her overboard.
You’ll find the staff on cruises to be very helpful, accommodating and informative. Just how informative is what I wanted to find out. Sure they could tell me where the casino was, that the captain did not resemble Captain Obvious and ‘no, sir, we don’t have a crow’s nest’…but I needed more useful information. I approached one of the security guards: a no-nonsense, stocky, young man of Filipino descent checking passengers as they get on the cruise.
“Excuse me…where’s the brig on this ship?”
“You know…the brig. Where you put unruly passengers or mutinous chefs.” I was ready for a full tour of an exotic underwater cell.
“Ohh..we don’t have that. Those passengers get put back in their cabins and they can’t come out until the ship docks.”
“We also put a security guard outside their door.”
“So, it’s like a grown up time out?!”
“I guess so. They can’t leave until the ship reaches the next port.”
“I guess i’ll have something to write in the post-cruise satisfaction survey after all. Thanks.”
I could write more about my “fat kid in Willy Wonka’s factory” experience at the 24hr buffet, but i’ll leave that for a sequel.
In conclusion, I highly recommend setting sail on your own adventure on the seven seas. Relax and tan your moon on the top deck pool or keep it classy, like me, and ask fellow passengers to take pictures of you posing as “Jack, king of the world!” at the bow of the ship. And although the only pirate you will encounter is Captain Morgan, you’ll still have a swashbucklin’ good time.
There are three skills that will never be endorsed on my LinkedIn profile: nunchuck skills, street fighting skills, and Hip Hop/R&B skills. I was recently reminded of my lackluster R&B knowledge by a student who tried, with a restless heart, to explain to me one of today’s top artists in that genre.
My student Chanchita could best be described in three words: short, smart and sassy. What she lacks in height she makes up for in attitude. I was helping her with some geometry homework and during one of her many “brain breaks”, she asked me what I was doing this weekend.
“Oh, you know… teacher stuff. Erasing chalk boards, eating apples, finding practical uses for algebra,” I responded while drawing a one-handed, mad skills circle with my compass.
“Cool,” she nodded as she measured an acute angle. “Since I got good grades this past quarter, my mom got me tickets to go see The Weeknd.”
My circle stopped mid spin with a screeching sound.
“The Weeknd, mister…he’s like an R&B singer.” She deftly spun the protractor around her index finger.
“And his name is – the Week End?”
“Mmhmm,” she continued her thoughtful geometric calculations. I was confused.
“See this guy on my shirt?” She pointed to an odd looking fellow. “That’s him.”
“Why does he have 2 black cauliflowers coming out of his head?”
“MISTER!! That’s his hair! And he doesn’t wear it like that any more.” she answered indignantly, slamming her pencil down.
“Ok, ok, sorry. But why is he called ‘The Week End’? Does he not like to work?”
Chanchita rolled her eyes with disgust.
“Of course he works. It’s spelled WEEKND.”
“So – he doesn’t work and he needs a dictionary.” I penciled inside my well-constructed circle. I could see Chanchita’s adolescent fuse sparking. Excellent.
“Ugh,” she sighed with disappointment at my ignorance.
“Anyway,” she pressed on painfully, rolling her eyes. “My seats are pretty far back. To get up close to him is around $1000!!”
“$1000 to get up close to the Weeknd?! I’d rather just wait for Friday at 5pm!”
She ignored my comment, showing raw restraint.
“I’m going to get his new album before the concert.”
“Is it called Saturdy/Sundy?” I continued poking the embers of teenage angst.
“Argh! Mister!” she growled at my irreverence through gritted teeth.
I leaned back coolly in my chair. “It’s just not a cool artist name…The Weeknd. Why’s he hating on the weekdays?” I paused, but no reply. “You know what a cool band name is?”
“What, mister.” She was in no mood for games.
“Def Leppard..that’s a cool band name.”
“Deaf Leopard?! Sorry, but that’s a dumb name. How could a deaf animal be a cool name for a band? It can’t even hear music!” she threw her hands up in confused annoyance.
She has sound logic…although her spelling is flawed.
“Look, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. You have fun this weekend with MC SaturdaySunday, and i’ll enjoy jamming out to deaf animals.”
With an exhausted look of frustration she sighed, “I don’t get you, Mr. Rivera.”
Some students really know how to affirm a teacher’s masculinity.
I was greeting one of my migrant students who works weekends and summers in the Florida heat picking fruits and vegetables ranging from tomatoes to watermelons. These kids know what hard labor is like and they’ve got the work ethic to prove it. I gave him a firm handshake and my best, sparkly teacher smile.
Immediately after the handshake he looked at my hand and admired, “Wow Mr. Rivera… you’ve got soft hands!”
I was taken aback at this revelation but masked my surprise with my still sparkling teacher smile.
Why you little…I can do 12 straight pull ups, 25 push ups and some intense pilates moves with these hands. These vice grips dominate my neighborhood community gym!
But of course, as a teacher we are trained to put our internal dialogues through many filters before they reach the ears of our tender, impressionable students. After much thought, I flatly responded through a now fading sparkle:
“Thanks, Fernando. I used to be a hand model in L.A.”
“You know… home shopping club, fancy watch commercials, perfume ads.” I waited for this to register as I flashed my ten digits in front of his face as if they were celebrity jazz hands.
His face remained unimpressed.
“Oh…ok mister. I guess that didn’t work out for you.”
Overhead in an English Language Learning classroom:
A recently arrived Cuban student who speaks limited English asked a fellow student a very important question for today’s text savvy teen.
(in a thick Cubanazo/Cuban accent)
“Oye chico… que significa WTF?” (hey, what’s WTF?) he asked, looking at his phone in confusion.
Danyer (who i’ve secretly nicknamed “Danyer Mouse”) arrived from Cuba 3 months ago and has since jumped into the deep end of the English learning pool.
This should get interesting…
A few snorts and chuckles rumbled through the room.
Reynaldo, his English learning wingman from Guatemala, has been here about a year and has el swagger to prove it. I could see in his eyes that this question created two paths before Reynaldo: 1. Maintain the innocence of this English newbie at the expense of future social humiliation 2. Thrust him into the harsh world of street English/text jargon.
Reynaldo paused and rubbed his chin in thought to indicate the seriousness of this question. Danyer Mouse was treading water, waiting for his friend to throw him a line. He leaned in.
“Mi querido Danyer,” (my dear Danyer) he began. “Que buena pregunta” (what an excellent question). He purposely enunciated every word slowly to build up the suspense.
“WTF significa… wacala! ‘ta feo!” (WTF means, yuck! that’s gross!). A few snorts resounded in the back of the class.
Danyer nodded slightly, perplexed look across his face, probably because this new revelation did not match the context of the text he received.
“Wacala…’ta feo?” He repeated slowly, trying to make the square peg fit into a non existing hole. “Tu ‘tas seguro , chico?” (you sure, bro?)
“Claro… no te llevaria por el mal camino hermano!” (of course, I wouldn’t lead you astray bro!).
And so Reynaldo chose the path of innocence for Danyer, who was now armed with another slang phrase he could use in a peer conversation, thus proving his progression in the English language.
…until lunch time arrived and it was Danyer’s turn to receive a healthy portion of slippery Salisbury steak, soggy green beans and mushed over tater tots from the cafeteria lady.
“Enjoy your lunch!” said the uncharacteristically cheery, hair netted matron. She obviously brought her own lunch.
Danyer looked at his glistening meal and had a visceral reaction that transcended language, but eventually registered with his most recently acquired English phrase.
“WTF!” He said to himself, only a bit too loudly.
The sweet Queen of Salisbury gasped, not expecting this mild mannered foreign student to have turned to the dark side so quickly.
“Young man! That is not the type of language we use in my cafeteria!” Her gloved index finger wagging at a wide-eyed Danyer.
Shocked at her reaction to his honest assessment of the substance on his plate, he decided honesty wasn’t always the best route in the English language. Knowing the cafeteria staff cared about the students’ health, he adapted his new found phrase to try and mend the situation. Wacala…’ta healthy, he reasoned. With a big smile on his face he responded:
“That’s it! Give me that and get out!” she snatched his tray of congealed rations and pointed to the exit.
And so poor Danyer learned the hard way that asking your wingman to interpret random texts from a random language and applying it to very random foods left him… wacala, ‘ta hungry.
It was a lazy Saturday morning in my suburban kingdom. The air was buzzing with the sounds of lawnmowers, birds and ice cream trucks. I was nestled in the recliner, watching an obscure Knight Rider episode where KITT faces his arch-nemesis and evil counterpart KARR, when suddenly an impassioned argument in Spanish between a man and woman erupts in my kitchen.
“Desgraciada! Tabasco es mi hermano! Como pudieras!?” (You wretch! Tabasco is my brother! How could you!?) burned the bottled male voice.
Startled, I sprang up to investigate as the yelling got louder and louder.
“Cobarde! No te atreverias!” (coward! you wouldn’t dare!) came the defiant female response.
… but by the time I arrived in the kitchen –
it was too late:
Thanks for visiting SuburbanLuchador.com! Luchadors have been a part of Mexican folklore since they first entered the wrestling ring in the 1950’s. I would consider them one of the first modern-day superheroes. Villains ranged from rabid vampire bat-men and killer dwarf cavemen; heros could be anything from a brave fighting rooster to a man in a silver mask. They fought each other in the wrestling ring in ultimate battles of good against evil.
I am neither Mexican nor a dwarf caveman, but I do embody the noble spirit of the valiant luchador in my suburban Florida neighborhood. With my mighty forearm I lift my son from certain death when aquatic ligers attack our foam noodle adventure raft. With my cape of justice I wipe the snot from my little princess’ nose, all the while maintaining my identity a mystery to all except my beautifully enigmatic tag team partner, La Luchadora. This lady of lucha graces many of my stories with her muse-like powers such as misquoting movies, exuberant excitement at life’s simplicities, and an unquenchable search for adventures in her stay-at-home wonderland.
When i’m not blowing up shrieking eels with a nerf football or fighting the dad-bod in my underground Fisher-Price gym, I double as El Maestro AKA “the migrant resource teacher” at a different kind of wrestling ring: the high school. In this ring I coach some of the greatest underdogs in the public school system: children of migrant farmworkers. It’s a job I take with much pride as I see how these hard working youth face the challenge of moving back and forth from Florida to various northern states picking vegetables year after year, yet still maintain the goal of graduating from high school.
And none of these adventures would be complete without my Source of Truth, power and inspiration: my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has always been in my corner through the winning and losing matches.