Monday, November 3, 2008

On the Deck of the Cruise Ship
Imagine walking through this immese structure perched precariously on the rim of the canyon. Passing through the double doors and into the lobby, the Dining Room is down half a flight of stairs and to the right, the guest check-in is straight ahead and to the left, and to the far left up a half flight of stairs is a big meeting room/social hall. Long ago, guests and staff would put on shows in this room, just like in Dirty Dancing. Now the room is used mostly for nightly ranger talks and Sunday worship. (Tonight, there is a ranger presentation on "Women of the North Rim." I know Shawn will want to hear that.) Straight ahead and down the stairs is the Sun Room and we can see out the giant picture windows while waiting to register. On either side of the Sun Room are balconies that sit right on the edge overlooking the canyon. They are furnished with rockers, lounges, settees and small end tables.

This evening, everyone is beginning to gather on the west balcony for the sunset. With drinks in one hand and digital cameras in the other, everyone wanted the best and least obstructed view. The crowds were crowding in on each other and jostling for position, leaning over walls and crawling over each other for the perfect vista. As I walked out the double doors from the Sun Room I suddenly felt like I was on the deck of a cruise ship. At least, had I ever been on a cruise ship, I was certain that it would look and feel just like this.

In spite of the crowds, the sunset had serious potential and so I asked Shawn for the camera and gave her my drink to hold while I played with the exposure settings. My hope was to filter out the multitude of multitudes huddled on the steps and walls of the deck below me and still get a good frame of the western horizon. The tall woman with tight hair was on the deck, now with two drinks. Another platinum woman was with her. This one's hair was not pulled back, but looked hard and shiny and like it might've just been placed on her skull. Kinda like a Star Wars Storm Trooper helmet. They exchanged air kisses and gave each other the kind of "no touch" hug that goes with the both hands holding mixed drinks territory.

I am intrigued by the air kiss. And not just the mechanics of it. Even the sound is interesting to me. If you've never experienced it, imagine you are made of a kind of moveable porcelain and your jaws are open just slightly enough so that if you suck your cheeks in tight to the underlying skeletal structures there will be a slight dimple where the porcelain flesh is vacuumed into the gap between the teeth of your upper and lower jaws. You then purse your lips so tightly that you could pry off a bottle cap with them. Then you lean in, turning your hollowed cheek at the last moment, careful to maintain both the vacuum and at least two inches to prevent any direct porcelain to porcelain contact.

The actual kiss requires a subtle vocal element that begins with a hum: "Hmmmmm ...." (Imagine your Great Aunt Mildred getting ready to grab your cheeks and plant a big lipstick smear on you ...) and then a sudden breaking of the vacuum. With the proper release of the pursed lips, the porcelain mouth will reflexively form an "O" and then relax into a broad, but unexpressive smile accompanied by a momentary in rush of air to fill the vacuum. (This forced inhalation is the reverse of the legendary "Belch and Blow" and can hide a multitude of sins.) The spontaneous movement of air combined with the instantaneous reshaping of the mouth and lips completes the sound begun with the gentle hum: "Hmmmm ... whah!" Which just so happens to be the English transliteration of the French pronoun, "Moi." Which means, "Me."

Now imagine that you are back on the deck of the cruise ship and everyone is greeting each other in this manner.

It would sound like this:



"(No,) Me!"

"Me (too)!"

"(No, not you,) Me!"

"(No, I'm afraid you're mistaken ... it's) ME!"

And this would go on until the entire frenzied frenzy of "Me's" drown each other out.

If you've never tried this before, practice in front of a mirror. Like most new skills, start slowly and take your time attempting to build speed. Just a little practice and you, too, can be reminding everyone of who the most important person really is whenever you greet them!

Meanwhile, back on deck, the sunset lived up to its promise ...

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