Friday, March 20, 2009

First Day of Spring... already??

It's crazy, isn't it? One moment you're cleaning up from Christmas the next moment you realize that Spring is upon you. It sounds cliche to say that "so much has happened" since so much happens to everyone in the course of 2 months. In fact, I'd venture to say that if a lot doesn't happen to you in 2 months, you might want to put down the remote control or close the laptop and get outside more. That being said, here's a quick overview of what has happened since January 22, 2009, the date of our last blog.

  • February 9: 12: Homer takes a business trip to New York City and comes back with a new understanding of what makes NYC the greatest city in America. Yes, unfortunately, he drank the punch... and bought a black, wool coat to fit in.

  • February 13: Homer and Alicia celebrate the one year anniversary of meeting face-to-face by reenacting their first date. Japanese hibachi, sushi, laughing, oogling, touching, treasuring. It was a good night.

  • February 19 & 20: Homer and Alicia sign the final documents and pick up the key to their home. They are halfway to being the uncool, home-owning, mini-van driving parents their kids will claim they are as teenagers.

  • February 22: Homer is stopped by two Ogden police officers as he exits Home Depot and forced to convince them that despite the claims of the employees, he was NOT beating Eldon in the bathroom. The officers check him out and realize that the claims are unfounded and lecture Eldon to the point of tears for his bad behavior in the store.
  • February 22: Homer and Alicia re-enter Home Depot to finish shopping while every eye in the store watches them suspiciously and judgingly
  • February 23 - 26: Homer visits Home Depot each day to buy things for the house. He’s recognized each day by a different employee.
  • March 5: After getting his own haircut, Homer tricks Chandler into sitting down in the barber chair in order to finally remove his flowing, golden locks.

The rest of the time we’ve spent hanging pictures, setting up beds, installing blinds and ultimately making our house a home. We’ll be posting pictures of the inside of the house very soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Christmas Revisited

It's been a month since Christmas. It seems like such a longer time has passed than that since we all tore open presents and exclaimed our approval for the item contained inside. But I looked at the pictures again tonight and realized that we should probably document our time at Christmas here in the catacombs of the Internet so future generations of Purdys can someday look upon them and say "Grandpa Purdy blogged?? We learned about blogging at school. My teacher said that before memory recorders it was the way people wrote about their life in old fashioned days." Anyway...
The Tuesday before Christmas my sister, LaVonna, her husband, Michael, and their three boys, Brayden, Jonathan and Zachary arrived from Bakersfield, California. They had been driving all night, through the winter storm that was pounding Utah, just to spend Christmas with us. We enjoyed having them here. The boys, whom I affectionately nicknamed "The Stormin' Stropes" wasted no time settling in.

On Wednesday we picked up Chandler and Faith from their mom's house. The addition of the two kids gave us a grand total of 9 1/2 people living in a 900 square-foot apartment. Needless to say it was a bit cramped. Of course the Christmas tree in the living room was overflowing with gifts from the 26 pairs (actually 5) of grandparents, combined, that our kids have. That night we attended the Christmas Eve service at our church, then came home to participate in a family tradition. We all gathered in the living room and sang "Silent Night" while I played the guitar. Then we all thanks Jesus for giving us a very special gift and took turns telling Jesus what our gift to Him would be in 2009. Then we took our egg-nog-filled glasses and toasted. After the mushy stuff the kids got to open one gift each from under the tree. We hurried the kids into bed, telling them that Santa wouldn't come until they were in bed and sleeping. (Yes. We mentioned both Jesus AND Santa at Christmas.) The kids quickly wrote their own personal notes to Santa (always VERY cute) and crawled under their covers. After the kids were in bed and quiet, we participated in yet another tradition: fooling the kids into thinking that Santa was at the house. Carrying the torch that my father once bore, I knocked on the front door. Then I opened it. Alicia said "Hi Santa!! You're just in time!" Of course I carried on with the obligatory "Ho-ho-ho's" and such. I said "Are the kids in bed?" Then, Alicia said "Yep. They're in bed sleeping." So in a quieter voice, but still loud enough for them to hear me I carried on, asking if they were good kids this year. I finished up by pretending to put presents under the tree for them. Alicia reminded me that they had cookies and milk for me to eat. I laughed and pretended to enjoy the snack. Then with the same fanfare as I entered with I left with a hearty laugh and a "Merrrrrry Christmas!" I had Mike sign the card "Thanks for the cookies! - Santa." Alicia said that the whole time you could hear the kids in their rooms whispering loudly, saying "Guys! Santa is here!! He's actually here!!" The adults finished off the night with a round of Trivial Pursuit - 80's Edition and went to bed.

Christmas day was wonderful. We all gathered in the living room again and sang "Joy to the World!" Then I read the Christmas story from the Bible and we prayed, thanking Jesus for coming to earth to save our sins. I thanked God for allowing my family to be with me, and, I'll admit, even got choked up. After our prayer I donned the Santa hat and started handing out presents. It will never cease to amaze me that so many presents can disappear so quickly. All three kids made out like bandits. Brayden and Jonathan got some presents, too, but soon realized that they weren't getting as many as the other three. Alicia and I felt bad and tried to explain that the gifts were from their other grandparents, but when you're 5 and 3 the world is unfair, no matter what adults try to tell you.

After presents we had some breakfast and spent the rest of the day picking up and enjoying our gifts. Later that day we had a big Christmas lunch/dinner complete with ham, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. After it got dark, we went downtown to enjoy Ogden's annual Christmas Village display - a gathering of oversized dollhouses with big picture windows in order to look inside. Organizations and companies all over Ogden sponsor a house and decorate it inside with dolls and stuffed animals that mechanically move their arms and heads. It's not Main Street at Disneyland but it's fun. The whole park area is lit to the rim with Christmas lights. It was very cold out so we were all bundled up. We headed home and went to bed.

Friday we decided to go sledding across the street at the golf course. The whole thing is built in a valley, so there are some great slopes for tubing and sledding. First we had to make a run to Big 5 to buy sleds. We brought some water bottles and snacks, but best of all we brought a thermos of hot chocolate. The kids took off to try out some bumpier hills, while the adults and littlest kids stayed back and enjoyed the longer, smoother (faster) slopes. Not very long into the fun, Eldon and Faith called out to me that Chandler had hurt himself. I ran over to him and found him crying. He said he'd gone off a bump and landed hard, hurting his back so badly that he couldn't get up. I knew that he'd jammed his lower back, like so many of us have in life, so I carried him back up the steep hill and had him lay down. His sledding day was over. The rest of us sledded for about 30 minutes more and then decided to head home. That night we gave Chandler a treatment of ice packs and heat packs. He said his back was feeling much better when he went to bed.

Saturday we loafed around. Sunday we went to church. The Stropes left us not long after.

It was a fantastic time. Here are the pictures. We were blessed to have our family with us during Christmas. Next year we'll be in a home with enough space for guests. (crossing fingers)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Turkish Firs Are A Menace

(by Homer)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. finally. After a weekend of Christmas activities our home has that glow and smell that comes with a fresh, decorated tree, warm homemade cookies, hot glue and Crayola markers.

On Saturday, Faith headed off to choir practice, while the rest of us prepared our apartment for the addition of a tree in our living room. Around noon we picked up Faith and headed off to run our list of errands. After going through the drive-thru of a local burger place for lunch we were off to the storage unit to pick up our tree trimmings and Christmas decorations. Then it was off to Walmart for some last-minute meal items, new stockings for the family (since the ones we currently had were three years old and didn’t have Alicia’s or Eldon’s name on them). Once all the boring stuff was done it was off to the Christmas tree lot to pick this year’s winner. I have gone to the same lot for my tree for the last 3 years. They are usually very pretty trees for a reasonable price. As we exited the car the kids began to squirm and wiggle with anticipation as if somewhere deep in their brains their primitive instincts to run naked in the forest were kicking back in. I set some basic guidelines for how tall our tree should be and Alicia and I turned them loose. After Alicia and I got their clothes back on we focused on finding a tree. Amidst the barrage of “I want this one!” Alicia and I located one that we both liked and called the kids over. Now some of you will understand why we didn’t actually let the kids pick the tree, and some of you won’t. If we had actually let the kids pick the tree, we’d have come home with two trees. Faith stuck next to Alicia’s side and agreed with everything she said, while the boys teamed up and picked one of their own. I eventually (and wisely) decided that the girls’ tree was the one. It was a Nordeman, a.k.a. a Turkish Fir. The two-toned needles made it look as though there was snow on the tree. We paid the men and they strapped it to Alicia’s little red car.

Once we got home and got the groceries and decorations in the house I headed down to get the tree. I wrestled it up three flights of stairs and into the living room where I began my meticulous work trimming branches from the bottom to give the tree a balanced look. I treated it like my own private Bonsai tree. When I was finished, it went into the new stand, carefully balanced and leveled to look just right. Then I strung the lights and made sure they were ready to go.

Alicia set to work making homemade pizza (including the dough). Then she started on the homemade cookies while I sat the kids down for a little arts and crafts. After distributing three wooden clothespins, markers and foam rubber paper to each person we got to work making our 2008 Christmas tree ornaments – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Each person put their own personality and style into their ornament. They turned out really well.

The cookies were done and so it was time to decorate the tree. The kids tore into the boxes of ornaments playfully enjoying the moment of unbridled creativity. They hung and ate, hung and ate. Christmas music played softly in the background creating just the right mood. In about 20 minutes the kids were done and they stood back to enjoy their masterpiece. The tree looked as if Christmas had thrown up on the tree. Alicia and I looked at each other with understanding as we telepathically communicated “we’ll fix it when they got to bed.”

And fix it we did. Well, Alicia did. Again, I wisely stayed out of the way and shouted words of affirmation and encouragement. When she was done we had a beautiful Christmas tree that we could enjoy for the next few weeks and promptly dismantle, unceremoniously.

On Sunday after church we headed back home and ate a casual lunch. After lunch we changed our clothes and headed into Ogden Canyon to a spot near the river where we took our family pictures. Each of us were adorned with sweaters and scarves. We located a spot near the Ogden River with large boulders, perfect for a family of five. The cold air and a nearly-dead battery in the camera shortened our experience, but thankfully we captured the moment.

And that’s it. It was a great weekend. Presents are starting to appear under the tree now. The house has that fresh tree scent. And there’s no doubt that this crew has somehow formed a family.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


(by Alicia)
Thanksgiving 2008. Our first holiday together as married people. It was FUN. It worked out that all the kids were away with their other families so Homer and I got to spend 5 days kid-free. It felt like we were actual newlyweds - no schedules, no obligations, doing what we wanted, when we wanted. Yes, we missed our kids, but having our first major holiday be one that we got to spend alone, just talking, laughing and doing normal, adult around the house things was the perfect way to spend it.

We did some shopping and went out to eat, watched movies, caught up on our favorite TV shows online and more. I had SUCH a blast.

On Tuesday, we took Eldon into Salt Lake City so he could fly to California to be with the other side of his family and after that, Homer and I drove around the city looking for a watch repair shop that ended up being torn down. We decided to grab some dinner at Red Rock Brewing Co. I had schnitzel. It was so great. I've always wanted to try it, After that, we headed home and relaxed until bedtime.

The movie "Australia" was coming out the next day, Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving and I was pestering Homer to go and see it. He was … non-committal. So on Wednesday, we decided to use a gift card we had gotten as a wedding gift to go out to eat at a restaurant called "Ruby River" - voted best steakhouse in Utah, six years running…. And they did NOT disappoint. I ate so much that I had to unbuckle my belt and unbutton my pants at the table AND I refused dessert. Their food was outstanding and we were FULL. I want to go there again and not eat as much. Steak only. Yum.

After dinner, we were heading back home and Homer was taking a … roundabout way. I was chatting on the phone when we pulled into the mall. It was kind of late, but I had been wanting to do some kid-free Christmas shopping so I assumed that's why we were there. We walked in and went toward the movie theater. I looked at Homer, confused. "Why are we here?" He looked soooo nonchalant, of course knowing he was about to make my night. He said nothing and simply pointed at the 'Australia' poster.

I almost squealed. We didn't even have to buy tickets. He had bought them online earlier in the day, all the while rolling his eyes and saying he didn't want to see it. So, we bought candy and settled in to watch. Although I'm pretty sure he was completely bored, because he mentioned it once or twice, he was a trooper and didn't doze off once, while I was sitting with rapt attention. I really enjoyed it and he was so thoughtful and sweet to surprise me.

We were out LATE with the movie. It got out around 1am, so we slept in on Thanksgiving, which was a wonderful, rare treat. We lounged around and then got up to start the Thanksgiving traditions.

I cleaned the house and got some much-needed decorating done while Homer cooked the entire meal - start to finish. Turkey. Green bean casserole. Sweet potatoes - everything was great. The table was all decked out with a table cloth and place mats and the works. My mother always told me to marry a man who could cook and well, DONE. :) We toasted, gave thanks, took some pictures and ate. It was great to be able to just enjoy a nice meal together and talk and laugh. Then… football time.

Even though I don't particularly like sports, there's something about turkey and the sound of sports on TV that makes me want to fall immediately asleep. We laid out on the floor and turned on the Cowboys (Homer's favorite team) game. I asked a few questions about the downs, which encouraged Homer and then… well, I got up and left to read a book, which discouraged him. I'm trying to be a good, wifely companion to him and learn about football, but it’s a slow process because Alicia is to football as a fish is to a 4-wheeler. Asking two questions was all I could muster that day. I loved the whole 'first Thanksgiving' thing, though. I couldn't have thought of any better way to spend it.

Friday was shopping. Black Friday. We braved it and it wasn't bad at all. We actually got some really, really good deals on things for Christmas for the kids and for ourselves. Friday night - our current favorite past time - catching up on 'Arrested Development' online. We giggle like little kids when we watch that show.

On Saturday, we had to head into Salt Lake to pick up Eldon so we went to the new, trendy spot to shop, "The Gateway" and walked around and did some more shopping and grabbed a late lunch and some fudge at the candy store. Soon, Eldon was home and we were so glad to see him. He was tired and suddenly we were no longer responsibility-free newlyweds. Back to reality.

So, our first Thanksgiving was perfect and fun and we got to be alone and we had a blast just being together as we always do. Such a mounting pile of things to be thankful, I'm going to start making a list now for next year so I don't forget. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FINAL Honeymoon Blog - 10/14 to 10/16/2008

Sadly, as I predicted, the last three days of our honeymoon didn’t prove to be as interesting as the day of the Talent Show. That day - the day we left the Bahamas - was the climax of our trip. As proof of this, I offer you the small amount of pictures we took. So instead of detailing each and every moment like I’ve done before I’ve decided to mention the high points of the last three days.

On Tuesday night the ship’s musical crew performed a wonderful musical tribute to the Beatles called “A Ticket to Ride.” There was singing and dancing and props and lots of costume changes. It was really well done, in my opinion. Sitting behind us were Dave and Barbara. Barbara did not seem to enjoy the show as much as Dave did. During the last song of the show, glow sticks were distributed to each member of the audience, so that they could wave them around as they sang along. The last song ended with shower of shiny, silver confetti.

After the show we enjoyed what would be our last “Hangin’ with Dave” time. As we had done before, Alicia, Dave and I sat out on the back of the ship, at the Orpheus Bar and enjoyed talking about whatever topic came up. I promised Dave that I would find him during dinner the next night so that we could exchange email addresses.

On Wednesday afternoon, Alicia and I entered a “Battle of the Sexes” competition. There were three events in which a group of men and a group of women squared off in trivia and physical activities. The first event was random trivia. 10 men and 10 women were lined up on stage and given a topic (ice cream flavors, breakfast cereals, etc.). Then, one by one, each person in the row had to come up with an example within that topic. If the example was stated twice or incorrectly, that person sat down. Alicia and I both participated. The men won the first round. Then it was time for musical chairs. The men won that round, too. Finally, Alicia and I participated in the last event. I’m not sure what the name of the game was, but the object was to put 3 quarters into a cup using nothing but your butt-cheeks. 3 men and 3 women were each given a quarter and told to stand behind a line. A cup for each team was placed about 10 feet away. One by one, each person had to affix the quarter between their *ahem* cheeks and walk to the cup where they could squat or stand over the cup in their attempt to *ahem* deposit the quarter into the cup. First team to have all three in the cup would win. Alicia and I proved to be valuable for our teams as both of us deposited our quarters and ran back for another. Ultimately the men won as I deposited my second and the winning quarter in the cup. There was no prize, however, and Alicia and I walked away disgruntled.

Later in the day, we returned to the Phantom Lounge to compete in the last movie trivia game of the cruise. It was random trivia from all genres. In previous trivia attempts, Alicia and I would work together to fill out one answer sheet. This constantly seemed to cause a bit of frustration as Alicia and I would take turns saying “I told you to put that!” as some of our answers turned out to be incorrect. So this time, we decided to each fill out our own answer sheets. The plan was that when one of us felt absolutely confident about an answer we would put that answer on both answer sheets, but when neither of us was very confident we would write down our own gut instincts. This proved to be the winning strategy as I won the contest with a comfortable lead. The prize? A bottle of champagne.

Thursday morning found us pulling into New York Harbor again. After breakfast we spent the majority of the morning packing up. Since we decided not to use the ship’s valet system to handle our luggage and chose, instead, to carry our own luggage we were allowed to leave the ship before most people. As soon as we got off the ship in NYC we pulled out our cell phones and called our families.

We needed to get to JFK to meet Eldon but in order to take a taxi we needed cash. So began our second great adventure of dragging our luggage through the streets of New York to a Bank of America ATM. We were merely blocks away when I decided to quit. I told Alicia to leave me with the luggage and cover the last 4 blocks on her own. When she arrived, she discovered that the ATM we were looking for was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t a total loss, however, as Alicia discovered a Port Authority Bus terminal that could take us to the airport for a third of the cost. She walked the 4 blocks back to me and helped me gather the luggage again. We walked the 4 blocks, again, dragging (literally) the luggage behind us. We paid the fare and boarded the bus.

We got checked in and waited for Eldon to arrive with Alicia’s mom and dad. After Eldon arrived and was checked in we decided to grab a quick lunch before we went through security and headed to our gate. There weren’t many places to eat immediately around JFK Airport, so, while stopped at a red light Alicia’s dad rolled down the window and asked a taxi driver where he suggested we eat lunch. Without hesitation he suggested a place called “The Cantina” where he said “all the taxi drivers eat.” It wasn’t until we pulled up to the place that we realized that he was being literal. ALL the taxi drivers did eat there. Not only did they eat there, but it was where they congregated and waited for work. To make the whole scene just that much more uncomfortable each and every taxi driver was Middle Eastern or Arabic looking. We had walked into what appeared to be a post-9/11 nightmare. Unfazed and undaunted, gripping Eldon just a little tighter, we walked in and ordered our food from the counter.

We made it back to the terminal without incident and said goodbye to Grammy and Poppy. Surprisingly it wasn’t as emotional as I had expected. We went through security in a breeze and found our gate. Hours later we were in Utah.

So that’s it. That’s the end of the Honeymoon Saga. Alicia and I both feel that we’d definitely go on a cruise again someday with the kids. It was 8-days of a laughter, inside jokes, silliness, beautiful scenery, and most of all romance.

Let real life begin.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Honeymoon Blog - 10/13/2008

After a day of roasting in the sun, snorkeling in the turquoise ocean, and swimming at beach you can imagine how deep the sleep was last night. We awoke to the drastic realization that we were sun-burned, but not nearly as bad as we could’ve been if we’d neglected the sunblock. Today’s theme is “One Last Hurrah.” Here are the pictures.

I can’t be really sure, but I suppose that the conversation with “gun-in-the-mouth” lady scared us off from going back to the dining room for breakfast. We’ve never been back. And today, we were too lazy to even make it up to the buffet. We just called room service and had a continental breakfast in bed. Today would be our last day in the Bahamas. We were docked at Road Town, Tortola, and we only had half a day to do some swimming, buy some local arts and crafts and sample the local fare, so we had to get moving.

We stepped off the ship at around 8:00 a.m. Since we were both planning on doing some swimming at local beach neither one of us cared very much about how we looked. We immediately found one of those taxi-trucks and climbed aboard for what would end up being the best rollercoaster ride $6 could buy.

Imagine, if you will, a one-lane road weaving its way up one side of the mountain the island was made from and down the other side. Now imagine a large F-450-sized truck with a bus welded to the back doing 40 to 50 mph on this road. Most of the time the only thing separating your taxi and a sharp 200-foot plummet is small metal rail. Now take that one-lane road and make it a two-way road. Then just for kicks add some light drizzle. The rig we were riding in roared up the road, often moving over to the very edge of the road to allow oncoming traffic to go by. And just to add to the experience cars would skid to a stop as we rounded corners simply because there was only room for one at a time. Then came the downhill portion of the adventure. It was stressful enough to worry about whether or not we were going to be killed or fall off the road, now we had to worry about those things AND pray that the brakes weren’t going to fail. What makes this whole situation so much more entertaining is the fact that Alicia slept soundly, with her head in my lap, the whole time.

No worse for the wear, we arrived at Cane Garden Bay. The first thing I noticed about this “resort beach” was the level of poverty. Homes were dilapidated, cars were useless, and it seemed that there were chickens and roosters everywhere. We turned few corners and stopped on a dirt road next to a hotel, that, in my young, single days, would’ve been an adventure I would’ve enjoyed. But you wouldn’t catch me in that hotel these days. Blame it Hilton & Marriott. This was the end of the ride. We climbed out of the taxi and walked in the direction of the beach. We emerged onto a beautiful beach looking out onto a gorgeous lagoon-like cove. People began offering to rent us beach chairs. There were tables with snorkeling and swimming gear for rent. The entire beach was lined with pubs, bars and restaurants. We found a place in the sand next to a freshwater stream flowing out from the jungle and underneath some coconut trees. Once the towels were laid out and the sunscreen applied, Alicia and I dove right in – me into the ocean and Alicia into her book. Although the water was clear and warm, the sand below offered up no treasures – no shells, no coral, nothing. Well, not “nothing.” We did end up finding three aluminum cans, a plastic plate, a beer bottle, some bottle caps and a coconut tree frond that had somehow washed out to sea. While I was frolicking in the ocean (I’m not sure it’s a good thing when men frolic), Alicia was laying on her Carnival Miracle courtesy-beach-towel on the sand reading her book. Unbeknownst to her a small, scruffy black puppy was playfully scampering up the beach toward her. This dog had obviously been told over and over how cute it was and felt that its sworn duty was to show everyone (especially the tourists laying on beach towels reading books). The puppy ran right up to Alicia’s face. Alicia recoiled in repulsion and terror. This whole scene was even more hilarious to me, watching from 50 feet out in the ocean, because I knew of her total disdain for anything having fur. Once the puppy had sufficiently proved its point and convinced Alicia of its cuteness, it continued on its way. This seemed to Alicia to be a good time to go swimming. Splashing into the small waves, she made her way out to me. Being the wonderful, sacrificial husband that I am, I offered her my goggles. She took them and began to adjust the straps and BLOOP they were gone. She had lost her grip on them and they fell into the water, sinking to the bottom. We both just looked at each other for a moment before I dove under and blindly began feeling along the sand for them. After surfacing again and again to catch my breath, I realized that they were probably long gone. Some poor sap and his wife would find them someday, buried in the sand as they looked for shells and coral. I stepped toward an apologizing Alicia and felt something under my foot. Without moving my foot, I submerged myself and surfaced again with my goggles. Alicia had had enough swimming and we decided that two hours of swimming was enough. We exited the ocean and began to gather our things. We packed up and headed back to the waiting taxi.

So, remember that paragraph you read about the taxi ride TO the beach? Let’s just say that I never imagined that I would long for THAT ride. The trip back to the dock was twice as bad, except that this time we had to swerve around goats that were grazing on the side of the road. As I got myself right with God, Alicia beamed with a smile and occasionally let a “wheeeee!” slip out. This is the same woman that jumps every time I quickly turn around and say “boo!” I’m glad she enjoyed it. I knew that if we died, at least I’d be going to heaven.

We arrived back at the dock and decided to go aboard the ship to drop off our bags of beach gear. When we’d done that, we headed off to the rows of street vendors hocking affordable, (read as cheap) touristy souvenirs. We went from tent to tent looking for items that the kids would like and would represent our trip to the Bahamas. We found beautiful coral and seashell necklaces for each of them. Alicia honed in on what I assume was a handcrafted necklace with a very pretty ornament made from wire and green stones. It fit her style perfectly. As we shopped a woman sat in her tent belting out a song that consisted of the same line over and over - “Bettah gate red-ay. Jesus ees cah-men!” Remarkably, it blended with the marketplace atmosphere perfectly.

True to form, we insisted on sampling some of the authentic food from the island. We wandered up and down the busy street looking for just eh right place that didn’t appear to be a trendy tourist trap. But, we soon realized that those types of restaurants were probably deeper into the city than we had time for. We had to be back on the ship at 12:30 p.m. and it was currently 11:45 a.m. After passing the same restaurant two times we finally conceded to eat at Pusser’s Pub. When we walked in the ambiance was very cool. There was an obvious British influence in the pub, but it was mixed with items and artifacts from ships and the sea. Alicia and I had looked at the menu outside so we knew what we were going to order when we sat down. The waitress was a little surprised when we told her our order upon being seated. The food came fairly quickly – conch fritters and Caribbean jerk-seasoned chicken. We shared the food, eating it as quickly as we could and paid the bill. Now the fun would really begin. It was 12:20 p.m.

There have been a few moments on this honeymoon that I’ve been glad that Alicia is fit and athletic. This was one of those times. Not unlike our run through the streets of New York, we had to cover a respectable distance in a short amount of time, so we started running. Our running turned to sprinting as the time ticked down to 12:30 p.m. We arrived at the dock, out of breath, and sweating (most of it was condensation from the humidity) only to find a line of passengers waiting to get on the ship. We made it. We didn’t need to run.

Still a little hungry, we headed to the lunch buffet to eat. We went through our normal routine “divide and conquer”, going our own ways to get the food we wanted and then meeting to find a table. Since we ALWAYS sat in the same general area, it worked for us.

After lunch we made our way to the Fountainhead Café to sign up for the Talent Show. We’d read about it the night before and thought that it’d be fun to perform the Evolution of Dance routine we did at our reception. The rules were simple. Due to the fact that they assumed there would be a HUGE demand to be in the talent show, there were only going to allow six acts. In the event that there were more than six entries they would hold a drawing. Alicia and I arrived early, and already had our music with us on a USB drive. The night before I cleaned up the timings a bit and swapped out the Michael Bolton song we danced to at the reception with the love song from Titanic. Long story short there were 7 groups that showed up and a drawing was done. We were in. Binky escorted us to the Phantom Lounge and had us run through our acts one by one for a sound check. Those men and women who were planning on singing were going to be accompanied by the ships’ jazz orchestra. Alicia and I asked to be last so that we could maintain the element of surprise. It was finally our turn and we took the stage. The music started and we stumbled and tripped our way through the first 1 minute of music and then said “Okay, we’re done.” There simply is no way to describe the look on Binky’s face as we exited the stage. The best way to describe it was a look of terror and nausea. “Don’t worry,” I said as we passed him, “we’ll practice and be ready.” He obviously took no comfort in my promise.

Because of the day’s activities and the pending late night performance we decided to take a nap – a good, LONG nap.

After our rest, we got dressed and headed off to dinner. Tonight’s selection was really, really inviting - beef stroganoff, rack of lamb and black bean enchiladas. While Alicia passed on them all, I decided to try them all. Somewhere around the middle of the stroganoff my stomach sent a message to my brain that it wasn’t happy anymore and that the black bean enchiladas I had already eaten were quite enough. My brain sent a message back telling my stomach to shut up and keep working as the rack of lamb was placed in front of me. Thus began the total revolt of my digestive system. We wrapped up dinner and walked through the ship on our way to the Mad Hatter’s Ballroom where I would reprise my karaoke stardom. As we rounded the corner into the Fountainhead Café I caught wind of the all-you-can-eat sushi bar now in full aroma. And that’s when the surrender flag went up in my stomach. I darted into the next restroom where I… um… well… gave the rack of lamb, the stroganoff and some of the black bean enchiladas back to the ship.

Four years of studying theater taught me that the show must go on, so I entered the Mad Hatter Ballroom and submitted my name for another round of karaoke. This time, however, my performance didn’t have the same… pizzazz. I sang “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole and, while Alicia said it was good, it was just not the same attention-grabbing, show-stopper that my previous performance was. Honestly, I was okay with that since I was trying very hard to forget what had just happened moments before.

After one more nap, Alicia and I prepared for the talent show. We practiced our slow dance in order to make it stiff and awkward, the rest we were already prepared for. Alicia dressed in the same beautiful black dress she had worn to the first elegant dinner and I wore black slacks and my favorite blue dress shirt and tie. We polished ourselves up and headed down to the Phantom Lounge.

The Lounge was full. I estimate that nearly 300 people were seated by the time Alicia and I arrived and sat with the other performers in the reserved rows up front. We were told what order we’d be performing in and were pleased to learn that we were going fifth. The first man performed “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” by Barry White. It was really good. The next man performed “I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow. It, also, was well done. Next a sweet, old black woman got up to sing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” She sang in a very warbled, opera voice and spent most of the time off-key, but everyone applauded her willingness to be on stage. Next an older black man peformed “Oh Danny Boy” on the harmonica to a taped accompaniment. His performance was about 4 to 5 seconds ahead of the music, but again he received his applause. These two performances only made what Alicia and I were about to do more perfect. We were finally announced as “The Purdys” and took the stage. The Titanic music started and we began our terrible, elementary attempt at slow dancing. You could feel the tension in the room as hundreds of people asked themselves if they would stick around for 5 minutes of this awful display of dancing. Just as the audience couldn’t take any more, the record scratched and I burst into rendition of Elvis as “Hound Dog” blared through the speakers. The audience went crazy. Suddenly everyone sat back down. Alicia pushed me aside and took over with “The Twist” by Chubby Checker. On and on we went from song to song, making our way through the decades of music until finally the record scratched again and Alicia joined together again in our awkward slow dance as the Titanic theme played out. It was over. We bowed to a standing ovation. The audience LOVED our performance. We had now become “THAT couple.” After a brief interview by Lenny, the activities director, we exited the stage with our bottle of champagne, a ship on a stick and a talent show certificate. The last singer took the stage to sing “Just Once” by James Ingram. He did a great job and the talent show was over.

The lights came up and one by one people came up to us to shake our hands. Some even gave us hugs of congratulations, each one expressing their enjoyment of our dance. Some confessed that they were on their way out of the Lounge when our dance took its exciting turn. Many people that we’d met on the ship waved at us, but one of our friends in particular made his way to us – Dave from Connecticut. As I was talking with some other “fans” Dave asked Alicia if we were going to join him at the Orpheus Bar later. Alicia, under the impression that we were going to bed, told him the unfortunate news that we would not be hangin’ with Dave tonight. We finally made our way out of the Lounge and started to head toward the elevators when I decided that we hadn’t basked enough in our fame and suggested that we walk through the ship together. I was not prepared for what happened next. As we walked into the casino applause broke out. We graciously smiled at everyone as we passed. Some people chose to follow us, still applauding. We left the casino and entered Metropolis (the open space where the glass elevators were) and other talent show attendees shook our hands and patted us on the back. We finally reached the other end of the ship and entered the elevators with some other people. The elevator doors shut and all became silent. After a few seconds of quiet, someone spoke up asking “You’re the Purdys, aren’t you?” We smiled and said yes. “What a wonderful job you did. Are you professional dancers?” We chuckled and I said “No, just two people without inhibitions.” Everyone laughed and the elevator doors opened up to the Lido Deck.

We turned a few corners and reached the Orpheus Bar. Alicia found a table and I headed to the bar to get our amaretto sours. When I returned to the table, I found Alicia sitting with Dave. She had noticed him sitting a few tables away and went over to him and asked him if he’d like to sit with us. So we DID end up hangin’ with Dave, anyway. Alicia, Dave and I talked about random topics – our dance, his life in CT, our future in Utah, our kids, his kids, and other random topics that came up. After an hour or so, we said goodnight to Dave and headed to our room.

It had been a great day – a day that began on a warm beach ended with our last hurrah on stage. Neither of us can imagine how the remaining days of the cruise will ever compare.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Honeymoon Blog - 10/12/2008

Apparently last night there was a gigantic party on the Lido deck complete with live music, dancing, singing, more dancing, dancing contests, a dance line, oh… and alcohol. I learned today that it was THE moment that the Carnival crew looks forward to. Alicia and I slept. And you know what? I don’t know about Alicia, but I don’t regret missing that party. Not one bit. Because for me, sleeping next to the woman I love, the woman I have waited for was more amazing and brought more joy than any conga line in the world. So that’s what we’ll give today as a theme: “The World In My Arms.” Normally I’d put the pictures here, but I’ll wait to the end.

We slept until about 7:30. The ship arrived at 6:00 a.m. at Long Bay in St. Thomas. When we woke up we checked the Bow and Stern channels and saw the small town of Havensight. We were both anxious to get going. Today would be the day that we would indulge in the only shore-excursion we’d purchased – a 3-hour tour (cue music). The tour consisted of a short catamaran ride to a small island where we would anchor in a cove and snorkel. The whole thing would start at 9 a.m. so we needed to get moving.

We grabbed some food at the breakfast buffet upstairs - the usual Fruit Loops, eggs, sausage & fruit that we always eat. There was a quiet, unspoken anticipation of what we would see and experience. We’d purchased the underwater camera in expectation of seeing some amazing things. We knew that we’d talk about this day for the rest of our lives. There was a part of me that wished, secretly, that our kids could be with us to experience it, too. BUT they couldn’t. So there.

We stepped off the ship at just before 9:00 a.m. noting how blue the water was. The smell of a passing, morning rain storm was still in the air and made the already sticky air smell a bit sweeter. Next to the dock ran a long chain-link fence with one exit. Along the ship-side of the fence stood men and women holding signs on which were written the names of different excursions. We scanned the signs for our excursion, but didn’t find it, so we decided to exit the dock through the gate in the fence, thinking that our group would meet by the dozens of taxis lined up in the parking lot. Now, when I say “taxi” what I really mean is homemade bus. Think of it more of the lovechild between a Ford F-450 and a parking lot tram at a Disney theme park. Then, just for comic effect someone sticks a Yellow Taxi sign on the top of the cab as a finishing touch. There were rows and rows of them, each one with a more-than-eager driver asking “Taxi?” when you make eye-contact with them.

Alicia and I looked around and took in the beauty of the mountain covered in lush, green jungle that we were now standing on, and yet, still at sea level. Gigantic homes dotted the mountainside. Not what I expected. We didn’t see a sign or any indication as to where our excursion was supposed to meet, so we decided to turn and walk back through the gate. Of course, not before we showed our passports and “sign & sail” cards to the man that just saw us walk out of the gate to prove that we hadn’t somehow changed our identities in the last 5 minutes and were now dangerous to the security of the ship. I approached a crew member and asked where our excursion was meeting. He pointed along the fence. It was right about then that a young man named Andy waved and asked us if we were waiting for the catamaran/snorkeling excursion. He told us that it would be about 30 more minutes before we left, so decided to take advantage of the time and see if any shops were open in the open-air mall 100 feet away. We exited through the gate again, winking at the security… guy. Our luck wasn’t so, um, lucky, because none of the shops were open, yet. SO in what could only be seen as funny to, well, me, we walked to the gate again. This time, however, the man looked as us as we handed him our passports, gave us an annoyed look and waved us through without checking our identities.

Andy was there, but this time with a group of other eager shipmates ready for their boating and swimming adventure. We were instructed to move away from the fence and stand near the edge of the dock and our boating crew would be along to get us. At this point it started to rain again, though not much. The clouds were patchy so it was obvious that it would soon end. The other people in our group, who were, in fact, black, started complaining about getting wet and the effects that the rain would have on their hair. Alicia and I looked at each other with an understood look as we both wondered if these people were confused as to the “underwater” nature of snorkeling. We just smiled in our quiet entertainment.

Enter Chris the Dude (our nickname for him). Our host for the adventure was the iconic example of a guy who had decided in college that he would prove his parents wrong and make a living being a beach bum. His tanned skin contrasted with his sun-bleached, long, blond hair. Shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops completed the package. He was a dude. Having been a dude, once, I recognized it. Alicia recognized it. Chris greeted the group and explained that the boat was a “good walk” away and asked everyone to stay close. Then, you guessed it, we walked out of the gate. I smiled at the guy again.

We made our way along the island-side of the fence, following Chris. This gave me a chance to chat with Andy. I found out that it was Andy’s first day, his training day, on the boat. He mentioned he had spent the longest amount of time in Colorado Springs but had moved around a lot. Seemed like a genuinely nice kid who just wanted to work in an industry that, let’s face it, was more interesting and beautiful and fun than where you and I work.

We arrived at the catamaran, called the Castaway Girl, and received a quick introduction to the rest of the crew – Jeremy and a large, pasty-white man named Carl, who was our captain. We were asked to remove our shoes and drop them in a red, plastic bucket before we boarded the ship. Once everyone was aboard and seated the boat immediately pulled out of port and the safety speech began. Chris the Dude, delivered a very rehearsed speech complete with jokes that charmed everyone on board except for Alicia and I. In fact, Alicia leaned over to me and asked me how much action I thought he gets from the female tourists with his beach-bum attitude, accent and attire. “Too much” was my response. Now you have to imagine that Chris the Dude’s manner of speaking was a delicate cross between Keanu Reeves’ “Ted Theodore Logan” and Mike Myers’ “Wayne Campbell.” His repertoire of charming humor went something like this:

“In case of emergency there is a life raft on the board. It will fit, two cases of rum, myself and three women.” (Surfer laugh)

“There are life vests under the seats” He continued. “Don’t worry. There are enough life vests for the crew.” (Surfer laugh)

He finished with “You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘the crew goes down with the ship,’ but I assure you that doesn’t apply here in the Caribbean. If you see the crew suddenly jump into the water, there is something wrong with the boat.” (Surfer laugh)

As soon as he was done with his shtick, Alicia and I quickly moved to the very front of the boat just atop the right pontoon. We rested our feet on the cargo net stretched between the two pontoons. There were just over 20 of us on the boat, not including the crew. Some other guests took our cue and joined us on the forward deck of the boat. Just then, there was a loud WHIIRRRRRR followed by a loud BANG as the main mast went up. One of our black friends from NYC, an older man named Charles, yelled out “What the HELL was THAT?! We’re not used to sounds like that in the City!” This should’ve served as a warning to everyone on board as to what to expect from Charles and his family, but it gets better , keep reading.

The water was as warm as the day and Alicia squealed happily as we crested each wave and came back down, sending a spray of sea-water onto her face and body. The sail lasted about 30 minutes and the excitement of the adventure grew as we came closer and closer to Buck Island, a small, 40-acre bird sanctuary. The catamaran slowed and pulled into Shipwreck Cove, where it anchored itself to a buoy. During the ride, each person was handed a pair of flippers. Once the catamaran was anchored masks, snorkels and inflatable diving vests were distributed. Now, it was Chris’ turn to speak again.

Chris began to explain where we were – a U.S. wildlife preserve, off-limits to tourists. No one was to remove anything, living or otherwise, from the island or the cove. In fact, no one was allowed to set foot on the island at all. Then Chris began to explain to us the art of using the equipment we’d been given. The vests had a black tube that pointed up that could be used to add or remove air as needed. If you wanted to be assured that you’d float all you had to do was simply press down on the tube and blow into it. If you wished to dive below the surface, then pressing on the tube would release the air inside. Jeremy, the most experienced diver amongst the crew then carried out water noodles that could be used for additional floatation. Charles’ wife, a heavy-set black woman with Don King-like hair raised her hand and sequestered 7 of them. Chris then instructed us that since water would likely end up in our snorkels, the easiest way to expel the water was to shout the word “two” into the snorkel. Charles’ wife, now aptly nicknamed “Noodles from New York” by Alicia, interrupted Chris to clarify. “Tube?!” she inquired fretfully. “Two,” Chris said calmly, obviously at the outer limits of his patience, “but you don’t actually have to say it out loud…” He digressed. After some instruction about our masks and another warning about messing with the sea creatures Chris told us to get in the water. Alicia and I were the first ones in. Camera in hand, we immediately started diving and testing out our abilities in our new world. Chris, Jeremy and Andy were some of the last in the water. Chris told us that we were welcome to swim off on our own, but that a guided tour of the cove was available. He would be pointing out fish and coral along the way. Since we paid for the excursion, Alicia and I decided to go with the tour, although we were two of the most experienced swimmers amongst the guests.

The tour began. Each time Chris would dive, I would dive with him. I wanted to get close up pictures of the sea life. We saw clown fish, blue tangs, yellow tangs, zebra fish, parrot fish, an octopus, two sea turtles, jellyfish, a barracuda and assorted coral. Alicia and I found ourselves being bombarded and man-handled by the slower, heftier, uncoordinated snorkelers in our group. Each time I would surface from diving, I would run head first into the thigh or belly of one of them. At one point a woman practically swam over my back in completely oblivious to what she was doing. Alicia enjoyed the moment as my frustration got the best of me and I planted my hand firmly on the woman’s butt and pushed her aside. It was then that the comedy reached its pinnacle. From waaaay in the back of the group came the frantic cry of Noodles. “JEH-RA-MAY!! JEH-RA-MAY!! HELP ME!! I’M NOT MOVING, JEH-RA-MAY!! THE WAVES ARE PUSHING ME BACKWARDS!! JEH-RA-MAY!!!” Everyone turned to see Noodles with her fully-inflated vest and 7 buoyancy aids flailing about in the water. Jeremy swam back to her, grabbed her by the vest and pulled her to the front of the crowd. Loud shouts of “TWOOO!! TWOOOO!!” came from her snorkel. Yes, even her children had realized how ridiculous she was and joined Alicia and I in our stifled laughter. Finally came the highlight of the swim. Out of the sapphire blue cove emerged a shipwreck in two pieces, 25 feet underwater. Chris explained the story of how the ship came to rest in the cove. In the 70’s a cargo ship was discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard to have a shipment of marijuana on board. There must have been an informant working amongst the good guys because by the time the Coast Guard reached the ship in Long Bay it was fully ablaze and the crew was gone. The ship sank and was left in Long Bay for 20 years, then relocated to Buck Island to create man-made reef. Sand bags held the wreckage to the bottom. We swam over the huge diesel engines that once powered the ship. Then Chris told us that a barracuda often hides in the hull of the ship and he would swim through the hull to flush it out. In a moment of bravado I decided that I would join him. Alicia panicked as she could read my mind. But, as Chris entered the hull, my better-judgment kicked in and I stayed out. After a few pictures of the ship and a couple of Alicia and I together underwater (courtesy of Jeremy) Noodles and the group headed back to the boat. The adventure had come to an end. It was time to head back.

The boat ride back was no different than the ride to the island, except that rum punch was being served now. Chris distributed some Chex-mix in a cup to everyone on board and, like before, Alicia and I enjoyed the front of the catamaran and spray of the sea. It was an awesome and fulfilling excursion. We are both very glad that we paid the money to go. The last adventure was getting past the crew as they stood on the dock with a makeshift tip jar. We hadn’t brought much cash with us, so while I’m sure that they were expecting fives and tens, Alicia and I scrounged up a whopping $1.80. We dropped the money in the jar, moving quickly to get away.

Once we were off the boat and wearing our shoes again we headed into the Havensight Mall again to find some lunch. As in Puerto Rico, it was our goal to sample some authentic local cuisine. We walked up and down random streets looking for something that appealed to us. Being that it was Sunday, there wasn’t much open. Like in Puerto Rico, there were some franchises there, but finally we settled in at the Havensight Café, an outdoor restaurant/bar. After running to a nearby ATM to withdraw some cash we ordered our food - Caribbean wings, Jamaican Black Bean Soup, beans and rice and curry chicken.

We decided to fly in the face of the age-old warning of waiting for an hour before swimming and boarded a taxi for a $6-ride to Morningstar Beach, a quiet and yet popular cove for swimming. We used the goggles we had purchased in Old San Juan to rummage the floor of the ocean for coral and shells to take back to the kids. We swam for about an hour. By that time it was time to board the ship again. Another taxi ride back to the Carnival Miracle and another trip through the gate (where we were recognized and waved through, again) brought us back to our stateroom and a hot shower. We cleaned ourselves up, dressed and headed off to Dinner to see our old friends D and Francisco.

After dinner, as was usually the case, there wasn’t much to do. So, Alicia and I decided that we’d try our luck at winning another ship on a stick. In addition to the desire to dominate the ship, we now had the goal to win enough trophies for each of our children to have. We currently had two. We headed to the Phantom Lounge to play a Classic Movies trivia game. Exactly as before, Binky played a clip from a classic movie, and then asked us to name the movie. He followed that up with two additional questions about the clip. Not being our forte, we didn’t win. So, we headed back to our room to change.

In a spur-of-the-moment, last minute decision we decided to head to the Orpheus Bar on the Lido deck at the back of the ship. This was an open-air bar/lounge where the wind was low and few people congregated. We settled into a table for two and I purchased amaretto sours for us to sip on. Alicia had never tasted amaretto sours before that moment, but soon discovered her new favorite drink. We sipped the sours and talked about our day, a deluge of rain soon began to pound the tarp above our heads. The torrential downpour swept in waves across the exposed wooden floor of the Lido deck, surrounding the pool and Jacuzzi at the rear of the ship. Just then, our friend Dave from Connecticut approached us and said hello. Dave Hass is a kind, grandfather type man, who stands, I'm guessing around 5'9". His grayed hair swept casually across his forehead in an obvious surrender to the wind on board. We invited him to join us, learning that Barbara had already gone to bed. We enjoyed our conversation with Dave as we meandered our way through numerous topics, finding common ground along the way. We discovered that Dave owns (or owned) an insurance agency, but that the business wasn’t what it once was thanks to oversized, under-experienced mega agencies. We learned that he was a respected square-dance caller, too. In fact you can find Dave here. Our time, known from this point on as “Hangin’ with Dave,” lasted for just over an hour. Then it was time for bed. We said good-night to Dave and headed to our room.

I woke up this morning with the world in my arms, spent the day with a world below the surface of the water within arms’ reach and went to bed a world away from where I had been only days before. What a beautiful world we live in. What a beautiful woman to share my world with. Tomorrow: Tortola.

Okay. Here are the pictures.