Wednesday, December 26, 2007

So I stopped posting for a long long time...unfortunately this blog thing didn't really work out as I had planned. The main reason for this is my laptop got water on it and died and I was so heartbroken by this that I just didn't use computers for a month except to do the basic email/facebooking.

A lot a lot a lot has happened...I am returning home January 27th because I realized I need to be back on land doing things there and setting up my life there in order to feel grounded and like I have a place on the planet, because right now while I'm having fun and making good money I don't feel like I fit into the real world. And I want to be in the real world.

The ship is still a lot of fun, I definitely have a few friends that I will be keeping in touch with after the ship and visiting. Right now my plan is to get off, spend a week in LA/drive up to San Francisco with my parents, do a day or two there, fly home to Boston, take a bus to New York and see if I want to live there for a little while. Then I will stay there or go to Chicago or do something else WHO KNOWS!?!?! I have some money and some time now and that means I have some freedom so we will see. I love the ship but I am very eager and excited to start life on land.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friday 11/2/07 At Sea LA to Acapulco 5
3:00 am

I’ve really settled into the swing of things fully now. Today was a very good but very typical non-show day (of which I have five…and only three show days) and also a very typical Sea Day (as in a day without a port...completely at sea, of which there are 3 every 8 day cruise). So I’ll walk you through the day and you’ll see what an average/good day is for me.

The day begain at 12:50 in the afternoon when Libby called my room and woke me up. We’d made lunch plans last night for 1:30 but she was calling to tell me she wouldn’t be there til two. I got up, my roommate and I watched some news and ranted about how much George Bush sucks, then he went to get some lunch. I had time to kill so I watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica. I got to lunch at about 2:10. Libby didn’t make it until 2:15.

Lunch is usually done at the Market CafĂ© which is a free buffet style place. Today I got my usual: a small salad, a roll of bread, some carved meat that they carve for you on the spot that’s usually pork, turkey or meatloaf and is usually good, grandmotherly style…some carrots and/or potatoes and some watermelon and pineapple. Other days I get pizza or tacos and a Caesar salad. Dessert is usually free ice cream cones but today I went for the bread pudding and cappuccino cake.

After lunch I went to the gym. I won an iPod shuffle the other night in a crew Halloween party raffle so I was eager to try it out. I listened to Ben Folds’ new album, Songs for Silverman, decided he’s improved lyrically but not so much musically over his past album, and lifted some weights for a little…did mostly chest and core. Then, as it happened to be happening right when I was finishing with weights, I attended a spin class. The spin class costs $30 but for crew it’s free if there is space available. Only one woman had signed up so three of my friends and I did the spin class as well…my friend Andrej runs it and he’s very inspiring. Just having a dude with a German-sounding accent shouting at you (resistance is UP! RESISTANCE IS UP!!) makes you want to give it your all.

After spin, I get back to the room, grab my bathing suit and head over to the spa. The spa also normally costs some kind of fee, I think $20 a day, but it’s free for the entertainment staff to use. I shower off, join two of my JAR friends in the hot tub for 20 minutes, chat with them, swim a lap in the indoor pool, then lounge in a chair and chat with Libby for an hour, watching the sun go down to our left as we stare straight out the back of the ship via a giant wall of glass in the spa…seeing the trail of white water the ship has left in its wake all the way to the horizon. We make plans to see the 9:30 magic show.

After chatting, I go back to the room and hang out with my roommate and another second city guy. My roommate has been playing gameboy for 5 hours because I gave it to him last night and he got re-addicted to his childhood love: Megaman. I literally mean five hours. He plays for an hour longer while he, me and the other guy talk. We eventually get hungry and go down to Versaille, the free main dining room, for dinner.

The hostess is Olga, one of my good friends. She smiles and is excited to see me and she sits us down at a table. I order a lamb sausage with feta cheese and a dash of hummus for an appetizer, a spicy tortilla soup with shredded chicken for a second, a new york strip steak for the main, and a dessert of coconut cream pie. We finish eating around 9:10. I head over to the magic show and watch a two time world champion of magic perform tricks that I’ve seen four times now and yet still there are many I don’t’ get and boggle my mind. He’s a genius with cards and does an incredible 4 minute card-choreographed song to “Shape of my Heart” by Sting. Greatest thing ever.

After that I jump upstairs to the Spinnaker lounge, which is where most of the entertainment staff, JARs, spa girls, second city, youth counselors and other people with higher privileged jobs go after the day is done to drink and chat and unwind. They do an adult Newlywed/Not-so-newlywed game which makes me chuckle a lot, and then I let two of the spa girls convince me to take them back to my room to get room service, because I can get it and they haven’t eaten all day cause they had to do some extra work they weren’t informed about until it was too late to eat before it.

We get back to my room, and we order room service: two pepperoni piazzas, a turkey sandwich, a roast beef sandwich, two cups of mousse and some rocky road cookies. I wasn’t hungry tho so they ate the pizzas and split a sandwich, my roommate came in and ate the other one of the sandwiches. Even though they don’t expect tips, one of the spa girls gave four bucks cause she was so thankful for the food. I loaded ET up into my video iPod, plugged it into the TV, and the four of us watched half of ET. One of the spa girls fell asleep halfway through and they both had to get up for work at 7:45am so they bowed out early. I finished watching ET while my roommate dozed in and out, read a little bit from a Music Directing for Improv book that I have, and then typed up this note.

Often on days like this I will go to the backstage of the Stardust Theatre and play piano, because there’s a grand piano right in the back that isn’t often used and if it’s free I’m allowed to practice on it. I’ve practiced for two or three hours at a time without disturbance. There’s also a bar that doesn’t open until 5 that’s out of the way that has a piano I can practice on if no one is up there and I’ve used it with success as well. I hope to get some more practicing going on.

I’ve also been reading Al Gore’s new book, “The Assault on Truth.” I got it a little more than a week ago and I’m about half finished with it, and it’s finally opened my eyes to the real life impact this administration has had not just on Iraq, not even just on the world, but on the very fundamentals of democracy, truth, politics, trust and the use of the media as a brainwashing device. Very interesting read thusfar…I want him for our president. This is an excellent follow-up to 1984, which I recently read finally, because I am seeing so many direct parallels between the two books that it really frightens me and is exposing to me how manipulated our political system has become.

Also: I’m not hugely good with the phone, or even sometimes the internet in terms of just calling/messaging people out of nowhere to say hi and catch up. If you don’t contact me, don’t be offended if I don’t call you or contact you otherwise…I have very limited communicative access and it’s more just the random times I get free internet, whoever happens to be online at that time I’ll chat with for a bit. So if you ever feel out of touch with me and seek to amend that, drop me a facebook note or something and I will try to remember to call when I’m in LA.

Yesterday I was offered an extension on my contract to stay on the NCL star for an additional four months. I believe I will be doing this…I’m 90% sure. This means I will be on this ship, going through days like this, for another 7 months or so. This also means I will leave the ship with so much saved money that I can theoretically take 2-4 months off and travel and not worry about anything on earth financially until those months pass and I decide to either get on another ship or attempt to settle in one of the main cities of my life: Chicago, New York, Boston. It’s all well in the distance for someone who’s so in the moment right now.

My parents come next cruise to visit me on the ship. It will be sooooo happiness to have them see my life on this ship, meet my friends, eat the food and generally live the experiences I am living. I think it’ll make this whole thing seem a little more real to me…exactly like the first time they visited me at college. Having someone from your main walk of life come and check out what you’re doing when you’re out in the middle of nowhere with people you’ve never known before helps tie those people and that experience down into the fabric of reality.

Wow…and now it’s 3:40…definitely time for bed. Tomorrow I’m helping out with some kind of art auction thing for an extra $10/hr…gig within a gig: woot. I will buy most of season three of battlestar with the money from the afternoon’s work. Huzzah!!! I love and miss you all and hope you’re having a wonderful time of it all!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mailing address!!

I have one! It's sexy. Give me stuff for Christmas. :)

Joel Esher
San Pedro Post Office
PO Box 1255 CA 90733

Monday, October 22, 2007

things take a downhill turn...

10-21-07 At Sea Puerto Vallarta to LA

Oh, but those of you who follow my itinerary judiciously may point out “But Joel! There is no Puerto Vallarta to LA. You go to Cabo San Lucas first.” To which I respond yes, reader, I do. Normally. But for the passengers this has been one of the worst cruises ever…and it’s not even anybody’s fault. Let’s see.

The entire trip we’ve been in this surreal fog that seems to have encompassed the entirety of Mexico as we have been in it pretty much since the second sea day out of LA. At the most beautiful port we stop at, Zihuatanejo, it was so rainy that some of the excursions were cancelled and they had to scramble to make events occur on the ship for the passengers who didn’t want to get off into the rain. Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta looked downright dreary due to this fog.

If you told me that this fog had somehow encompassed the entire world and we were living in a nebula, I would believe it…it has become more constant than the sun for like 5 days.

But the worst is this: Cabo San Lucas, the best port in my opinion, was CANCELLED ENTIRELY. This is almost unheard of. The reason it was cancelled is overnight, as we were traveling there, a cargo ship with 22 crewmen on board started sinking. They sent out a distress call and we were the closest ship so we turned back and went to them. We’ve been waiting throughout the entire night with them for the American Coast Guard and Mexican Navy to come out and assist them. They just arrived like 25 minutes ago and we finally got released right at this moment as I write this at 8:30am.

GI is going around this ship as well…I spent the day hanging out with one of my friends, sharing music and playing cards, and then later I find out she’s come down with it. My roommate woke me up in the middle of the night saying he had a fever and felt really crappy so he’s going down to the doctor, probably with GI as well. I feel as though I am marked for death, however somehow I’ve avoided it. I’ve felt a little nauseous here and there the last few days but so far it’s nothing serious to write home about (I acknowledge and embrace the irony of that saying in this medium). Hopefully it’ll stay that way.

I’m gonna try to sleep some more…I’ve got a music rehearsal this afternoon and a show tonight.


10-21-07 At Sea Puerto Vallarta to LA

Worst cruise EVER!!

So…things took a very unexpected turn. After my roommate came down with GI, he went to the doctors and then came back and informed me that we were both quarantined for the next 24 hours. I had no symptoms of the illness myself, but apparently because I am his roommate I’m high risk so I’m automatically quarantined as well. SO. I called the nurse and told her that I didn’t have any symptoms. I said I’d be fine being quarantined if I was high-risk or whatever but I requested to be in a different room from my roommate so that I wouldn’t pretty much automatically come down with the illness. She called me back to say that she’d put me in a different room.

I called my company manager to let her know this, but according to her this is very very unusual and she thinks I shouldn’t have asked for a new room and the only reason I probably got it was cause I may have been brusque.. I told her I may have sounded slightly annoyed on the phone but I asked properly and I didn’t say anything confrontational or anything. My roommate backed me up on this…and also they could have just said no if it seemed a crazy request. The one legit point of confusion is there is a chance she thought I was a passenger and not a crew member and that’s how I got the special treatment, however I pretty much am at this point – the new rules where Second City becomes passengers I think start to go into effect next cruise or the cruise after. But I guess this is a fairly huge concession, them giving me my own room.

The only reason I even asked for a new room was because of the two people I knew who came down with GI, one of them had a roommate who was not quarantined and the other was moved to a separate room from where he normally lived so he could recover. So knowing that in both those situations that happened I was under the impression that that was the norm. But apparently not. It’s just frustrating not knowing what is a normal request and what is an unusual request., especially when I had just seen two other people basically doing what I was requesting…because obviously I don’t want to come off demanding or rude, but I come from a world where if your roommate is sick, you don’t spend the next 24 hours breathing his air. The cruise ship apparently is not that world.

So I slept from like 12pm-7pm cause I hadn’t really slept much the night before – I got in at 4 in the morning and my roommate started going through his nightsweats around 6am. I just ordered room service (cause, again, quarantined) but it will take 90 minutes to get here. Fortunately I’m not quite hungry yet.

One good thing is a friend of mine who I thought stopped caring about me cause she hasn’t made an effort to hang out with me for a few days and when we were both in the crew bar she didn’t really hang out with me gave me a call down here to see how I was and ask about coming to see the show tonight (which I won’t be performing in).

So now I’m stuck here for another 13 hours...and I’m totally rested…Let the movie marathon begin…!


10/22/07 At Sea Puerto Vallarta to LA

Well. I am at hour 18 of my 24 hours of quarantine. Oddly enough I’m really not upset that I’m quarantined despite being by all accounts completely free of GI. I keep feeling like it might just show up at any moment…I feel woozy in my stomach but the ocean is pretty rocky right now and I’m waay lower down near the water than I used to be so I think that’s a big part of it. I just can’t believe I got away without contracting this thing, knock on wood.

So far it hasn’t been a big problem. I fear the next 6 hours might be really hard tho because I am going to want to sleep but the water is bobbing up and down so much that when I close my eyes it almost feels like I’m floating in space. So that’s weird and makes it hard to sleep. After I woke up at 7pm I’ve been awake this whole time. I read a little bit of a Dave Barry book, I played through all of Zillion and Super Bomberman (which was like 3.5 hours of solid 8-bit/16-bit gaming…long overdue), watched Not Another Teen Movie and some silly romantic comedy about a woman who’s job it is to get men out of their parents houses by pretending she loves them. Mankind is really reaching for topics these days.

Libby called me a few times and chatted which made me feel like I wasn’t the only person in the world. But other than that and the split moments that some SC people dropped off some supplies for me (and the two flashes of Philipino face I’ve seen the two times I ordered room service), I haven’t had any real human contact in 18 hours.

The worst part will definitely be if I actually start to come down with this GI thing because THEN I will have to begin anew the 24 hour quarantine, PLUS I’ll feel like death. That I don’t look much forward to doing, so I’m happy to wait it out in this room until it’s completely safe for me to go back to my old room and my roommate is over being contagious.

Things I wish I had:
A Window.
Soup (even tho I’m not sick it just feels like it’d be comforting)
TUMS (can’t believe I didn’t grab those…)
Clean clothes for tomorrow
My keyboard
Guitar Hero
My Wii


So all that happened and now things are okay...i slept alright, I'm not quarantined anymore and everyone on the ship thought I was sick and is asking how I am doing. Gotta go get ready for the show tonight. Peace!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

10/11/07 At Sea, Acapulco to Zihuantanejo 2

“I just threw banana bread into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”

First of all, I’m starting to notice crazy things like how it’s been a month since I was in Chicago having dinner with Erik Kaiko, doing some music learning on my persona keyboard (which I miss and love) and having late-night conversations with Tony about Yappers. I can’t believe it’s already been a month.

That said, today was Acapulco 2. Not nearly as Nirvanic as Acapulco 1 but still an amazing day/night. The night before I left the crew bar when it closed at 2am and, feeling generally unproductive because I had done nothing but laundry and sleep that day, I went to the theatre and practiced on the piano there until 4am.

Sidenote: You have no idea what it is like having two or three grand pianos completely at your disposal 75% of the time you’d want them available. So far every time I’ve gone back to practice the piano has been free cause there are only like three other pianists on board. And MAN. It’s a great fucking Yamaha grand piano in a back room all to myself where I can sing and play and rock out without any cameras or worries. It is ridiculous.

Okay. So Acapulco. I found a bowling alley that charges 2 bucks for a lane and 1 buck for shoe rentals. Holy crap. I’m sooooo there next week with like 5 or 6 other guys. Rob and Rachel are already down. I checked out some malls, bought some shirts and some nail lacquer (shut up…it’s for my guitar nails…), then went to the same beach bar I was at last time. It POURED while we were there for dinner and we huddled under the straw thatch roof of the bar and watched actual lightening bolts hit all across Acapulco one every half minute or so for an hour. It was as engrossing as a movie. More engrossing perhaps. Lots of dancing and merrymaking ensued.

I came back to the ship and then went to the crew party in the crew bar. That was awesome cause of free beers. I spoke with Kathryn, another East Coaster for a great while. She’s one of those few people that you can tell is really listening to everything you say and reacting to it as it comes her way and she’s really awesome. She’s also 26 so oh well.

Crew party ended, I went up to the crew hot tubs (cause I CAN) and lounged in a hot tub by myself for 20 minutes or so. Sufficiently relaxed, I gathered up my belongings (minus my name tag which I lost and will have to find tomorrow) and went back to my room. Called for room service but they didn’t pick up so I went down to Blue Lagoon, the diner on board, and got myself a hot dog and some potato skins (FOR FREE). While I was eating I talked to Judy, a nice Filipino girl who works there, and generally just made a good connection with one of the 2am shift girls so I can keep eating there (I’m allowed to eat there but sometimes the crew doesn’t understand that because they know I’m crew and I’m the only crew allowed to eat there so they assume I’m not allowed and make it a hassle. But as long as I talk and make friends I’ll be fine).
On the way out they had some banana bread lying out so I grabbed two pieces. I ate most of it but I walked home via the outside and I was so overcome with how awesome my life is that I just took a chunk of banana bread and hurled it into the middle of the Pacific. I cheered at myself and my life as the banana bread faded off instantly into the black past. Woooooo.

The best part is the lead dancer/dance captain, Kirsten, when I told her this was the best time of my life, she literally just laughed at me and was like “..I mean, this is good, but it’s NOT going to be the best time of your life.”

…I can’t wait..

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


10/9/07 At Sea LA to Acapulco 2
1:41 PM

Yesterday I actually had a real work day. I woke up at 11:15am, threw on some clothings and made it over to rehearsal at 12. We rehearsed our scripted stuff from 12-2. We then had two hours off. We came back for tech from 4-6. An hour off, then a 7pm call for the 7:30 show, half an hour off 8:30-9 then a 9 call for the 9:30 show. And each of those things I had to come early to and leave late from because of the electronics setup. So I actually did, for once since tech week, put in a real 7-8 hour work day.

The shows yesterday were a little wonky. It’s only the second day of the cruise for these people and so a bunch of the scenes we do that make fun of life on the ship – the elevators that close before you can get into them, the towel monsters that the room stewards make, etc…were kinda lost on them. Also in the second show there were a few drunk people who just kept shouting and making fun of us – we play Freeze Tag in the middle of the show as an improv game and throughout the rest of the show whenever there was the hint of a comedic silence this guy would shout out FREEZE!! And chortle. And we’ve gotten “fart” or “flatulate” two or three times as suggestions…I thought it was just a myth that people actually shout those things out constantly.

Needless to say I had a few drinks, stayed up until 4 and slept until now, almost 2pm (really 1pm but we moved our clocks forward an hour) to counteract all that work ;).

I like Russian women, and here is why. I was talking to some friends at a table, and I accidentally bumped into a woman behind me. I turned around and looked at her and apologized, and she without missing a beat was like “Oh! you are cute so it is okay!” To which I laughed awkwardly, I think maybe pretended to bump into her again, apologized again and then went back to my conversation.

White American Males are the most awkward demographic. But at least it’s slightly counteracted by suave foreigners taking up the slack.

After that I chatted it up with two other piano players on the ship for awhile. Heard some great stories from the Canadian in the show band about his life and times with his accordion (I’m serious this guy somehow got on MTV for 30 seconds cause he was playing Zeppelin and Sex Pistols on the accordion at Spring Break and was literally bringing down the house with it). I got some Dr. John DVDs from Monty and ripped that so I can now begin to check out New Orleans Piano.

My parents are coming in a month!! I can not wait to see them and show them what I’m doing. I think it will make this whole experience feel a bit more real and grounded for me to have them here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

At Sea and Acapulco

10/3/07, At Sea Zihuantanejo to Puerto Vallarta

Whoosh. Yesterday was amazing. We got off in Acapulco and took a taxi out across the bay to this bar called Paradise. It’s a beach bar with bungie jumping. A whole bunch of people kept accosting us and asking us to buy their shit. I was not happy with this but some of the other people in the cast got REALLY perturbed by it. So we walked down the beach and found a secluded rock area and set up camp there. We swam in the water which was so warm that I could walk in without any hesitation or wincing and it felt like bathwater after 20 minutes in it. I got out, broke out the guitar and we sang a couple of Beatles songs together…then I just tanned and read 1984. After awhile the rest of the guys peeled off so me Holly and Rachel went back to the bar and ran into a bunch of JARs and Youth Counselors so I decided to stay with them while the ladies went to a movie.

We started drinking, Anna bought me some chicken fingers so I got her a couple of beers and we talked for a long time…eventually a bunch of other JARs showed up and it was Chris’s birthday so we had a ridiculous time together…we ate Red Snapper and drank tequila and coronas and mai tais. I got drunk and went into the water…the waves were not huge but they were pulling back and forth really strong so I was able to just let the waves take me to their break and push me back out to everyone. I picked up Libby and threw her in the water which was entertaining too. Afterwards we went upstairs and I danced with a bunch of the spa girls, Justin and chris and some other people…then we went back to the ship.

The ship helipad party was more amazing than I could have imagined. It happens on the back top deck of the ship where the helicopter can land. Last night there was like torrential downpouring and lightning and we were all still out there – free beers and hot friends getting soaked and dancing together while the music fought the thunder and wind for aural dominion. I had a nirvanic moment where I looked around and walked over to Keith and said “it doesn’t get any better than this” and I actually meant it. I was standing there, watching the Christmas-tree light hills of Acapulco fading away behind me, feeling the wind of the black expanse of sea rushing at my face with water that no longer felt cold or wet just slightly prickly, and realized without a doubt that it was one of those moments people live for.

After that I found my way to a crew room with some musician guys and spa girls. Hung out with them til I was too cold and wet and soggy to stand it, went up to my room and passed out. Overall it was perfect.

Today I made friends with a passenger, Desiree, who was one of the audience participants in last week’s improv show. We were sitting next to each other in a restaurant and just started talking, and we decided we’ll go see the show tonight together. I didn’t expect to make passengers friends but it seems possible after all.