29 November 2003

heres what i really did for thanksgiving:

thursdays are the best days, they are the days that make me actually want to be a guest on a celebrity cruise, the days that make me see how really beautiful it can be, how happy everyone is. there are three things that happen: the baked alaska parade, spotlight broadway, and le grand buffet.

baked alaska is the best, so ill save that for last. spotlight broadway is our final production show, and it makes me happy just because i have such a close relationship with so many of the shows: the music man, les miserables, west side story. the les miserables section i particluar leaves me tearyeyed, as i think ive mentioned before (my family took me to this show several times as a youngster, thank you much!!). "tomorrow well discover what our god in heaven has in store!"

le grand buffet is amazing: its the final midnight buffet, served in the grand formal dining room, and there is lobster and beef wellington and exotic cheese and over two dozen creamy cakes. for thanksgiving, i sat at a table with amazing people: anna, a lovely slovakian who told me about how great communism was (i impressed her with my pro-indian thanksgiving explanation and my political fantasies of a euro-asian attack on the us); paul, a trombone player who was extremely impressed with the small chocolates available in a box also made of chocolate; and best of all, steven, jamican keyboard player, and sasha, beauty specialist from south africa. steven was hitting on sasha in the most obscure ways; at one point he turned to me and said, in a barely comprehensible martini drawl, "you see man, when god make the woman, he asked adam. yes? he asked him, what do you want? because you see (pointing to sasha) you see, he knew what we want, yes man?" sasha blushing, clevage dangerously emerging. so it was a great dinner. and there was indeed some turkey.

but baked alaska parade!!! this is what it is: the band (trumpet trombone alto clarinet bass drums and me) gathers in the martini bar as the guests are finishing their dinner (and there are two seatings, so we get to do this twice). we wait, and watch as waiters start to collect in the foyer. each waiter is holding a silver platter with a beautiful, unlit baked alaska on it (this is an ice cream cake covered in meringue which is later set on fire. i once tried to make one for cwg and ended up setting her floor on fire).

when the restaraunt manager tells us it is time, we march through the restaurant, a strong tuxedoed force, to the top of the balcony, where a piano, a snare drum and a podium wait. the cruise director, eric, stands at the podium like a minister, and we play a fanfare, then "the best of times", as eric introduces the head chef, the pastry chef, the maitre d', other important people. each is given generous applause. then the head waiters, we switch to the rocky theme, and each waiter is cheered and saluted by their tables; you can tell who the best waiters are because their tables cheer the loudest. everyones pretty excited by this point, theyre all turned in their chairs and enjoying their coffee or brandy, and the satisfaction of their richly filled bellies, but now: listen.

the music stops. the crowd waits. eric speaks. "ladies and gentlemen, now please get your napkins ready, as our entire restaurant and bar staff joins us for our grand baked alaska parade!" a drum roll, and then trumpet hits the pickups to "when the saints come marching in". and the dining room is flooded with people, waiters and cooks and bartenders, and over a hundred of them are holding baked alaska platters, now lit, the overhead lights dimmed so you can see all the mystery blue flames floating through the restaurant, and those without platters are clapping their hands, lord i want to be in that number, and they are smiling and running up and down the stairs and the cruise director is dancing at the podium. and each guest, every single one of them has taken their beautiful white linen napkin and is twirling it over their heads. there are nearly 1000 people doing this, these swirling white circles, the world of joy turning. looking down, i see the restaurant an ocean of blue flame and white waves, and the sound of cheering and dixieland clarinet is deafening, and people are just smiling, and hooting, and hollering!! its a purely beautiful moment. it lasts a while, too, a good six choruses, and the piano isnt miked so i remember an old bukowski poem and play the piano like a percussion instrument until the fingers bleed a bit. and then, as it ends, the napkins go down, hands are joined, memory is created and we sing "auld lang syne". everyone holding hands and swaying. so nice! it finishes, i go into a solo gospel coda, and eric announces the names of each celebrity ship, each one answered with a cheer, and then finally the constellation, and everyone cheers again, a last chrous of auld, and then its over. we march out and people thank us on our way, and i am so grateful to hear their thanks.

man now tell me thats not something!