Thursday, February 3, 2011

The ‘SS Dramamine’

In May 2009, I made the decision to move to Venice to be with my love, Robert, on a permanent basis.  Robert joined me in Ottawa in June to help in preparations that lasted two full months.  As July wound down, I went through the motions of day-to-day living, but my mind was already in Venice.  Actually getting there was a bit more of an adventure.

The first stop on our journey from Ottawa, Canada to Venice, Italy was Boston. Robert has cherished friends there that he had wished us to visit. By Boston, Robert actually meant the greater Boston area. And by the greater Boston area he actually meant the American eastern seaboard. So, it was in following his encompassing line of thought that we had found ourselves, one Friday afternoon, taking the fast ferryboat out to Cape Cod.
The weather in Boston for the late July week leading up to our departure to the Cape had been unpredictable. Waking up in the morning I never knew which unseasonable it would be. Unseasonably cold, unseasonably wet or unseasonably like the gloomy depths of autumn. The day of our departure it was unseasonably gloomy. I had been a little disappointed that restricted visibility, due to the fog, had spoiled my chances of getting to see the great oceanic vistas I had heard about. This disappointment was immediately usurped and cast aside when I was greeted by a sunglass clad young gentleman (I guess he didn’t want to get his eyes wet from the rain) passing out seasick bags while offhandedly providing what I soon discovered was a very understated explanation. “It’s a little rough out there today.”

The fast ferryboat from Boston to Provincetown meets neither my standard of fast or of ferryboat.  I’ve been around ferryboats. If they cross anything wider than a river, they are rather large car carrying water-pit-bulls that stubbornly plod along with single-minded disinterest in anything that is not the pier looming on the approaching shore. Crashing waves are but delicate crystal upon those mighty hulls.
However, the ‘SS Dramamine’ that shuttles from Boston to Provincetown, is not a pit bull. It is a jaunty excursion craft that weathers rough water like a cork. Alright, that is a bit of an exaggeration. The boat is slightly more substantial than a cork, but not by nearly enough.

The fun began in fairly short order once we were away from the dock. Swish up, swoop down, list this way, then that way, burrow under the crest, spray windows into a translucent melting smear, pop back out, and then turn yourself about! Repeat, but this time with feeling. Wheee!

Maybe I’m showing my age but for some reason in my mind Jacques Cousteau’s soothing but authoritative Parisian accent was providing the voice over. “Cape Cod, she is a giant sandbar of immense destructive power. During the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds and hundreds of ships ran aground and were smashed to kindling by the merciless waters of the Atlantic. Un temps terrible pour les marins.

There were two related phenomena that didn’t quite fit into my passage of the Calypso scenario. First there were the three televisions suspended above the forward windows.  All were on the same channel, the sports network, and therefore showing the same round of golf. Keep in mind that the pervasive backdrop behind the onscreen stately and peaceful emerald greens was the pitching grey brine of the sea and a murky, landless, horizon. The sound was down but the games were helpfully closed captioned in teeny-tiny letters to encourage further nausea for those wishing to enhance their experience.

The only passenger who seemed to take note of, and offense to (to no avail), the programming was an inebriated fifty-something year old dude-want-to-be wearing a black wool and leather varsity take on a biker jacket. His voice was scratchy and etched. As he wobbled and teetered in front of me kvetching to the previously mentioned sunglass clad seasickness bag greeter, I had time to judge him harshly while sipping my wine.

Across the back of his jacket were fat, richly piled, cloth letters in a pub inspired ‘days-of-yore’ font which spelled out ‘Harley Davidson’-- correctly. I’m not sure if he had stitched the letters on himself or if the jacket came from Walmart that way, but in either case they offered a glimpse into the man’s glory-days psyche. Finishing off this summer ensemble, from the ‘You’ve got to be joking’ collection, was a matching baseball-cap, bill to the rear. Twines of blond rinsed hair, which might have been included with the cap, I don’t know, squeezed out from under the rim like frayed wet straw. There were many stories onboard the vessel, his was the stupidest.

The wine that Robert and I had been sharing was a bottle of Ciros de Susana Balbo. It is a charming, but not spectacular, Malbec, that was perfect accompaniment to an open sea crossing peppered with bouts of white-knuckled bracing, should you ever find yourself in the market for such a thing. The woman sitting across from us applauded our tenacious perseverance to civility in the face of “this is the worse I’ve seen them go out in” commentary from the more experienced passengers. We decided it was time to finish up when the changes in elevation became so rapid that the wine in our glass failed to keep pace and spent fleeting moments airborne.

Sometimes, when there was a particularly steep and rapid fall (just love that particular combination by-the-by) from a high swell, I’d get that funny feeling I used to get when I was on the top end of the teeter-totter and the kid on the bottom hoped off. Great playground times when there was a brief mid-air test in physics where my testicles traveled to the ground at a slightly slower rate than the rest of my body and would pass through me until catching up to speed. There were a few such gloriously nostalgic moments. Again, wheeee!

Not to get too graphic, but as you can imagine there are those for whom a weaving horizon and agitated sea might cause queasiness and perhaps projectile vomiting. As one might guess the thoughtfully provided bags were indeed used, en masse. Of interest, people really do go green and the blood really does drain from their face when seasick. As Robert napped, yes napped, I made a game of predicting who was about to blow while watching helpful attendants, all of whom wore surgical gloves, run around to provide fresh baggies. Now that is service.

Also of interest, the bar was opened the entire time. Those who had the foresight to have taken Dramamine prior to the trip were getting laced, for although Dramamine does quell a queasy stomach it does not quell the fear of a cold and watery grave. Did I mention wheeee?

Sure this went on for a relentless two hours, but I don’t want to scare off any potential visitors, so for the sake of somewhat balanced reporting rest assured that it was not as if we were off of the
Tierra del Fuego archipelago rounding the “Horn” in the icy grip of winter  (I’m certain then that you’d need to drink the wine directly from the bottle to prevent spillage). Our return trip two days later was very beautiful.

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