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The Last Hoorah
Episode #13 (Updated October 31, 2017)
by Charles Reuben
Edited by Linda Schwebke
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The photos shown below were created by Dave Niblack of imagebase.net. These photos are not related to the story. Dave's photos are here to add some much needed color to my gray text: Thanks for your support, Dave!

11:30 p.m. I am sitting by the poolside in an area well sheltered from the wind. The kids on the ship are remarkably well-behaved. If they aren’t, I’m sure somebody will throw them overboard.

Cruise ships, after all, are not subject to American laws and things can get a bit wild on board. Got a problem with that? Take it to the Liberian Embassy, under whose flag we sail.

Sunday, Dec. 23 7:30 a.m.

“Passport to Paradise” was a charming song and dance extravaganza that took place in the pillarless Palladium Show Lounge last night. The Orchestra was excellent, the dancers were professional, the choreography was delightful (very ballet-like), and the costumes were spectacular.

There were really no scenery and no moving platforms on stage (like the Carnival show on the Elation), but it was all very well done, and the performers got us all clapping to the music. I clapped my hands so hard I hurt my injured tennis elbow, so I really must be careful about that in the future.

The theme of the show was travel and adventure, and the many musical numbers reinforced that idea, such as “Zorba’s Dance,” “Arabian Nights,” and the “Folies Bergère” to name just a few. Mom had a great time.

After the show, I walked around a bit and watched the teenagers dance to the music of the day. They are so much fun to watch, especially one rosy-cheeked boy who danced alone in his tuxedo. But you cannot watch teenagers without them watching you, or at least glancing at you from time to time. So, perhaps we were sizing up each other. I don’t know. All I know is that I find people-watching to be a much better way to pass the time than throwing quarters into a stupid slot machine.

1:45 p.m. I was astonished to learn that the Horizon, being an older ship, does not have a jacuzzi. The Carnival Elation did have one, two actually, but they were standard fiberglass affairs sitting in a stuffy, humid room.

What the Horizon does have, however, is something much better than a jacuzzi. Sitting next to the main swimming pool is a smaller pool lined with two-inch diameter metal tubes and filled with warm, filtered salt water. A mighty stream of bubbles percolates out of the holes in these tubes every ten minutes or so. When a person lies upon them, his or her entire body is periodically bathed with soothing, therapeutic bubbles, unlike a jacuzzi which tends to localize its bubbles.

This "bubble bath" relaxed every muscle in my body, and most notably my injured tennis elbow. The bubbles continue for about five minutes or so, and then stop to recharge. It is incredibly comforting. And the salt water feels so good against my skin. I have always maintained that gargling with salt water is one of the best things a person can do when they have a sore throat (I learned this from Mother) and lying in that pool is like gargling one's entire body.

It was great for my aching muscles, my skin, and social life as well. The kids enjoy it too, but if they get in the way, one can just push them aside, and they respond in a timely and considerate fashion. They’d better respect us adults, or we'll throw them overboard. The Liberian Constitution totally permits this. I suppose kids can’t help acting like children and I do try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Lucky for them they are cute: It definitely improves their chances of survival when they are in the company of curmudgeons like me.

This fantastic bubble bath is situated in the open air, so things don’t get stuffy like they would if it were tucked inside the ship. And there is so much space in the pool that even if there are children in the vicinity, one can always find and establish ample personal space. The children on this ship do tend to be respectful of those that are older and wiser than them. If they don’t, the penalties can be severe.

Remember, the ship is pretty much its own country, ruled under the benevolent yet oppressive arm of the Captain (whose word is final) and the laws of Liberia. Nonetheless, I have noticed that these little imps will assert themselves at times. Mainly when they are leaving an elevator where they have a tendency to push every button on the board, thus making it difficult for the rest of us to depart and arrive at our desired floor in a reasonable space of time.

While we were sitting on the deck, we happened to find ourselves next to a retired Chaplain, with whom I engaged in a philosophical debate. During our discussion he said, “We get to know ourselves by the stories we tell.”

10 p.m. “Write it down, write it down, you won’t remember ‘em,” says Jack Freedman, piano virtuoso and unique comedian speaking of the wonderful jokes he related at this evening’s show in the pillarless Palladium Show Lounge. Mr. Freedman is British, and Mom says he’s Jewish too. “You can always recognize a landsmen,” she says.

Here are some of Mr. Freedman's jokes:

A man approaches a stonemason intent on making a tombstone for his dearly departed wife. “I want it to say: Born a Virgin, Lived a Virgin, Died a Virgin,” he tells the stonemason. The stonemason looks at him at says, “I’m afraid that will be costly with all that lettering, but leave it to me, I’ll come up with something just as good, and it will save you a lot of money.” The big day arrives, and the tombstone is about to be displayed. The curtain is lifted and the man is horrified to read the following: “Returned Unopened.”

Write it down, write it down.

Next: Three men are discussing the women they would just love to marry. "Sophia Loren," says the first. “She’s just so beautiful, I don’t know why anybody would not want her.” The second man says, “Yes she is beautiful, but she can hardly compare to Brooke Shields. That’s who I want. My life would be perfect if I had Brooke Shields to call my own.” The third man says, “Yes, Sophia Loren and Brooke Shields are marvelous, but I’ll take Sara Pipilini.” “Sara Pipilini! Who is Sara Pipilini?” say the other two men. “See,” the man says thrusting a newspaper in their faces. “That is Sara Pipilini. No woman can compare with Sara Pipilini!” The men inspect the paper and laugh. “You read the paper upside and backwards. Look, it reads: Sahara Pipeline Laid By 30 Men in Three Days!”

Write it down, write it down. You won’t remember it!

And here’s the last one I can remember (because I neglected to write the rest of them down).

The ship’s steward runs to the sun deck, climbs the steps and says, “Madame! Nude sunbathing is not allowed on this ship!” “But sir,” she responds, “I may be naked, but I have a towel on top of me that covers me from head to toe!” “That may be the case,” he responds, “but you are lying on the glass ceiling of the dining room!”

Write it down, write it down.

All these lovely jokes were accompanied by his outstanding piano playing, very much in the tradition of Victor Borge, and his dialogue embellished with piano flourishes. He also played straight music as well. Some Chopin, a Gershwin medley played entirely with the left hand and some other popular and classical pieces. We all walked out of the auditorium smiling.

We have dispensed with grace before the meals because our missionary friends have given up on trying to save us. Well, we were all willing to submit to whatever they wanted us to say or do. Perhaps on Christmas, we will pray again before dinner.

In place of prayers, we had an engaging discussion about torture which was led by Allen.  It was his area of expertise in the Green Berets.

It seems there are all sorts of ways to torture people, from the mundane to the sublime, but Allen reminded us that when it came to torture, he had to sleep at night. So he really did his best to be humane.

Regarding group torture, one way to approach the matter was to take a member of the group and let the others watch as he got a shower, a fresh set of clothes, and a delicious meal after which he was placed back in the cell with the unwashed masses. That was supposed to be particularly effective.

Then there was truth serum, which works very well. If they don’t start talking right away, just a little bit more will definitely get their tongues a-wagging. But one of the most effective methods and the one that he found most disturbing was to take the prisoner and put him in a tiny room, just big enough for a chair. The walls were blackened with burnt rubber and so black that the light from a watch would make no difference. Then, they let him sit a while. 

After a few hours, introduce two slithering garden snakes. They don’t have to be poisonous, just creepy. Next introduce a rat. After a day or two, they will talk. And they will still be shaking a few weeks later. It’s all about fear. It’s not about violence. If violence is introduced, they will clam up and not say a word. But scare the hell out of them, and they will start singing like a canary in no time.

This marks the end of the THIRTEENTH installment of "The Last Hoorah." If you'd like to start from the beginning, then please click this page.

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