Just got to Greenville SC after a drive from Tucson (and a cruise to Alaska.) Observations:
1) There are no bears or whales to be seen in Alaska from a cruise ship, although the staff frequently sighted many from the bridge and excitedly told everyone to look either to port or starboard. (Favorite awe shucks: “Must have gone under the ship to mate with Nessie.”)
2) The only calving of glaciers to be seen from a cruise ship are on the videos they attempt to sell you (along with photos of you taken by them every chance they get…plus liquor.) The ship (Holland America) turned around some four miles from the glacier, and didn’t approach another for safety reasons “because of icebergs” (although in the publicity shots you see the ship surrounded by icebergs.) I think this is to sell more shore excursions. Indeed, I took a shore excursion to one of the glaciers, but had to run part way to it due to “time constraints.” (The driver joked, “You know what the bears call tourists five minutes late for the bus? Lunch.”) Again, and alas, no calving or bears. Or bald eagles. (“Look, there’s one! See it?” Everyone in unison: “Nope.”)
3) Cruise ships burn the equivalent of two swimming pools of fuel every week (yes, with a deep end suitable for the Olympics), and there are hundreds of such ships, along with dozens of tankers transporting the oil from the Persian gulf. Not to mention thousands of jets and millions of cars in operation at any one time. In fact, we’ve gone through millions of years of fossil fuels in one century, and this last year was the hottest on record. So why can’t I see one sheet of ice fall from a glacier while being asked to buy videos and tee shirts featuring whales and bears and eagles…and rum drinks?
4) Alaska is wild and cold and huge. Driving across Texas is wild and hot and (according to Sarah Palin) “a cute little place.” That cute little place took the better part of two days to traverse nonetheless, with drivers who imagine themselves NASCAR racers (complete with tee shirts.) I heard on the news that Texas needs so many new prisons they’re thinking of letting reckless drivers and drug dealers out early to save on bed costs. Why not let loose the serial killers too? Sure, just take away their driver’s licenses and put them to work in road construction. Then the DUIs and NASCAR wannabes will take them out, two jailbirds with one stone(d). Better yet, we should charge admission to prisons for tourists, like at theme parks. Bring the kids, make a picnic of it. A year in fees of $20 a head would pay to keep Gitmo open for one more week.
5) I never made it to Paris, and who knows, maybe I never will. Never got married either. (Nor did my sister, with whom I traveled to Alaska and across the country…she’s nine years older than I, legally blind, and can’t drive OR spot wildlife.) A girlfriend once told me that she couldn’t wait until I became rich and famous as a writer. The next day I learned that she meant it, literally. She couldn’t wait, and didn’t. Me? I’m still waiting. Next up, my memoirs. Fiction, I think, mostly. My real life is just too boring. In my fictional life, I married Kim Kashkashian (violinist), went to Paris, bought a big house with a tall white picket fence for the bald eagles to land on…and to keep out the bears. We have a yacht bigger than James Patterson’s, and as it roars past the glacier, engines burning its $20 per gallon fuel, huge blue slabs of ice fall into the aquamarine waters. And then, inexplicably, a charming and friendly whale, rising from beneath us, (fresh from his tryst with Nessie), smiles on us and breaks one of the floes into fragments small enough for our rum drinks.