Class Warfare on the High Seas

Where to begin?

Cruise Critic asked yesterday on their Facebook page for opinions about the “ship within a ship” concept, such as The Haven by Norwegian. This is a private area of the ship with suites, a private restaurant, and higher service levels. It is more expensive than the rest of the ship, so it is more exclusive. I expected a few people who have stayed there to say, “It’s nice”,  a few to say, “Don’t care, can’t afford it”,  and all the Carnival fanboys to say, “Norwegian sucks. I would never travel with them.”

That wasn’t the case.

Apparently, a lot of people are really, really upset that there are suites on a ship. There were howls of protest, and calls of class warfare and elitism. Seriously?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around “It’s not fair.” I’ve flown over a million miles in First, Business and coach, and I’ve never sat in coach, looked at the front of the plane and thought, “The fact that First Class exists isn’t fair.”

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I stayed in the Haven on the Norwegian Breakaway last year. It was really nice. I liked having a butler, even though I really don’t have any idea what he can do for me. The concierge was great for getting seats for the shows and solving problems. The private restaurant makes it easy to get breakfast in the mornings. It’s pricey, but we got a last-minute upgrade offer on our Transatlantic cruise, and I figured since it was all sea days, that would be a good time to have some extra services. So, we spent the extra money.

We’re in the Haven this year on our Transatlantic sailing, as well – mainly because my Mom is going with us, so we needed a cabin that holds three people. We thought about just getting two cabins, but it was more cost-effective to just get one large suite with two bedrooms than two balconies next to each other.

According to some people, if we’re in the Haven, we shouldn’t be on a Norwegian ship at all, we should be on a luxury cruise line. Wow.

I’m going to tell my butler I expect him to check the door to the Haven every day for people with pitchforks and torches.

This has nothing to do with class. It has to do with the personal allocation of money.

People today associate money with class (the upper classes have money and the lower classes don’t – and it’s not fair), and the two do not necessarily go together in all cases. There are people who have money and will only sail in an inside cabin, because it’s the cheapest way to go and then they can take more trips. (I don’t have the time to take a lot of trips, so I tend to spend more on the ones I take.) If you go to South Dallas, there are people who live in shacks that could probably be condemned and there is an Escalade parked out front. Some people like driving expensive Cadillacs. It’s their prerogative. It has nothing to do with class. It has to do with how people decide to allocate their money, and what is important to them. Cars are more important than housing to some people.

I am going to spend more on my cruise than some of the other people on the ship. It’s my prerogative. It has nothing to do with my social status. I am not going to look down on the others on the ship and think, “I’m better than you.” I may think, “Wow, I know how to dress better than you”, but that’s a different discussion altogether.

I might be able to afford a luxury cruise line (where some of the complainers think I belong), but I choose not to do so – because it costs more than I’m willing to pay. It’s my prerogative.

I don’t understand people who think just because they can’t afford something, it shouldn’t be allowed. These people are pissed about suites on ships, and First Class on airlines. If you don’t want to spend the money, you don’t have to spend it. If you’re in an inside cabin or a balcony or a suite, the ship is going to the same places. You still get room and board included in your fare. You still get free entertainment. What is the issue?

If you persist in feeling bad about yourself, because you’re not in some exclusive area of the ship (or the plane, or the train), that’s between you and your shrink. It’s not my fault. You can’t deny people services they are willing to pay extra to receive just because you can’t (or won’t) pay the same amount.

As far as I know, virtually all cruise ships have different types of cabins at different price rates. Should ships be built with only one type of cabin so nobody feels bad? Suck it up, Buttercup. This isn’t fourth grade soccer where everyone gets a trophy. This is real life. In real life, companies cater to different people by having different price points.

An interesting question – how many of those complainers would turn down a free upgrade to a suite, because, after all, the suites should be eliminated? 

If you are going to complain that people in the suites are trying to get away from the riff-raff, you are probably admitting you think that you are the riff-raff. That is just sad. Really, you should have a higher opinion of yourself. Even if you can’t afford to stay in the Haven.

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan

To quote John Lennon, “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup”. That sounds much more literate than, “I’m rambling around a topic, but I’m not sure I have a conclusion.”

Tonight was the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I know this, because I watched the special. I was pre-warned by any number of commercials in the past few weeks. It will be interesting to see how many more people watched the special than watched the original show.

Fifty years is a very long time, indeed.

It was actually before my time, logically if not actually chronologically. The Beatles played in February, and I would turn four that April. So, I didn’t see the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, because I was too young. I was not one of the 70 million or whatever insane number saw the Beatles live that night. Live. Think of that – no DVRs, no OnDemand, no YouTube. You saw it or you didn’t, until it got released on video or DVD forty-something years later. You had to see it live, because the technology to see it later at home wasn’t there yet.

So, I watched the special tonight as an interested observer and Beatles fan, but not as someone reliving the past, however glorious that past may have been.

I did finally see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1970, but they weren’t playing live – they had sent promo clips from “Let It Be”. The Internet tells me they played “Two of Us” and “Let It Be”. The videos they sent Ed were better than much of what you would see on MTV today (if you can even find videos on MTV today).

Nobody else in my house cared much about the Beatles in 1970 – my brother was too young and my parents were too square. So, I’m pretty sure I tuned into Ed Sullivan alone that night in February, 1970, ready to be enlightened.

I remember being confused.

In the years since I missed the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I had been fed a fairly steady diet of “Meet the Beatles”, “Yesterday … and Today”, “Revolver” and “Magical Mystery Tour” from my friend, Jim Suhler (today, the guitarist for George Thorogood and leader of Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat, in those days the co-founder of Stagecoach VII), so I knew the Beatles. I could sing most of the songs on those albums by heart. (I can probably still recite some of them.)

It turned out that I knew the 1963-1967 Beatles.

The Beatles that night were the 1970 Beatles, who were about to become ex-Beatles. They were tired. They were grumpy. They wanted to go back to basics. They were brilliant.

So, I finally saw the Beatles but I was three years out of phase. They didn’t play anything I knew, and they didn’t look anything like their album covers.

I think Ed Sullivan mentioned the Beatles were hard at work in London, so they couldn’t be there in person. He didn’t mention they were hard at work, preparing to sue each other. I’ve seen the clips since then, so even though the memories have faded, they have been reinforced over the years.

It was a magical moment for me. If you can find a bootleg copy of the movie “Let It Be” or your grandmother has it on VHS in the attic, you can see what I saw – the clips are near the end of the movie, before the rooftop concert. The camera pulls back, and there is Paul McCartney at the piano, in all his bearded glory, singing about “Mother Mary”. His Mom was Mary. My Mom is Mary. Our Lord’s Mom is Mary. Take your pick. It’s a masterpiece, whoever the actual Mary may be.

That night was one of the moments that put me on a quest to find all the Beatles albums Jim didn’t have yet, and learn everything I could about the band. That way, I could be Paul McCartney when I grew up.

When I got my first real job, I saved until I could buy a stereo, and then I bought all the Beatles import albums at Peaches. (I was realizing even then I was not going to be Paul when I grew up.)

When I was in my only air-band contest, in college, I played bass, left-handed. My band won the contest, by playing “Can’t Buy Me Love”. My roommate played guitar, which was interesting, since he didn’t know the song or how to play guitar. I went home that night, and tried to figure out the bassline. It’s difficult. I thank Jameson’s Irish Whiskey for the ability to play an instrument that wasn’t there with the hand I don’t use. (I’m sure the fact the bar was using all my import albums in order to do Beatles Night had nothing to do with my victory.)

When I went to London without my parents, I walked across Abbey Road. (I could never have explained the importance to them, so I didn’t even try to add it to their schedule.) By some miracle, Paul McCartney was playing in London that night, so I put a ticket on my corporate card and went (I didn’t expense it.) It was a great show.

I’m still collecting Beatles stuff to this day, and have amassed a lot of fairly useless knowledge over the years.

In fact, I told my wife tonight that it looked like Maroon 5 had used the same font to write their band name on their drum head as the 1964 Beatles. She just shook her head and wondered.

Now, consider this – All my Beatles obsession and possible insanity since 1970 was from hearing their albums and then seeing the Beatles on TV, on tape.

So, I can only imagine what seeing them live in 1964 did to the children of the half-generation before me, beyond spurring any number of them to pick up guitars and start bands.

I still can’t play guitar. I make enough to be able to afford tickets to Sir Paul and Ringo a couple of times each, but I’d really rather play guitar.

Jim Suhler can play guitar. In fact, one of my favorite Beatle memories isn’t of the Beatles at all – it’s of Monkey Beat. Jim used to play his song, “Shake” to finish a set. In the live version, he would play any number of other songs or snippets instead of a simple guitar solo. For a time, he would play “Rain”, or most of it, anyway. It always made me very happy that one of us actually got paid to play a Beatles song, since that was my career plan from when I was seven until I was twelve or so.

I still can’t play any instrument. My poetry is not exactly publishing-quality, in spite of what poetry.com has told me, in order to sell me books. My prose is not much better, as you’ve discovered by now. However, the Beatles still had a profound effect on me, even if I didn’t see them that first night. Part of that effect is from how much time I spent listening to them while growing up. Most of the effect may be due to their producing songs which are still fresh today, and will be played forever.

A year ago

One year ago today, my Dad passed away. His was one in a series of deaths that happened in rapid succession, so when I went back to look at my blog post about it, I realized I never wrote one. I think I set up his memorial website (http://www.johnvgilhooly.com) and linked it on Facebook, and that was about it for social media. It’s interesting living in an age where I have dead friends on Facebook.

We had just lost my wife’s Aunt in December, and I had created a website, helped write her remembrance, help choose readings for the service, and was just back from the service when Dad died. So, in a way, the death checklist cycle just started over, and I never really thought much about it – I just went through the motions again. A death can be surreal, especially when they happen close together. (From December 2013 to February 2014, we lost my wife’s Aunt, my wife’s cousin (a beneficiary in her Aunt’s will), one of our friends from baseball, and my Dad. So much for deaths in threes.) 

I lost a Dad and gained a Mom, since I’ve now spent more time with my Mom in the past year that I had since I left for college. My parents were a true partnership, and duties were divided, which meant when one partner left, the other may or may not have any idea about how some parts of life’s enterprise operated. Luckily, my Dad was an attorney and everything was pretty well documented. He even wrote his own obituary. This was someone who pays attention to the details.

So, a year later, I’m re-reading my eulogy, and I’m trying to remember the day.

I do know that I had been in St Thomas Aquinas Church hundreds of times – I had even served Mass there for years, but that day was the first time I was ever in the pulpit. I remember my brother and I were both frantically trying to find the lectern – he’d never been in the pulpit, either. So, I spoke from the pulpit. How we were spared fire from the heavens raining down is still a mystery to me. 

I tend to find something to obsess about during times of extreme stress, since if I have something to concentrate on, I won’t freak out about whatever is really happening. It’s the mental version of biting your lip to keep from laughing or crying. Distraction. I was actually obsessing about trying to remember which of my friends from work I had seen before the service, so I could thank them later, and I was obsessing about having addressed Abbot Peter Verhalen from Cistercian as “Fr Peter” when he is actually “Fr Abbot”, but I think he forgave me. It helps that I knew him before he was even “Father”, since he graduated right after I started there.

I’m not sure why I remember all that.

Here’s what I said that day – although I’ve been told that reading it was not as funny as seeing me deliver it. I don’t really like saying “deliver it” because it makes a eulogy sound like a sketch, which it should not be, unless I’m delivering it. Then, all bets are off. However, the best (and easiest) laughs are produced at times of crisis or sorrow, because nothing is funnier than when it is inappropriate to laugh. I really hoped people would laugh. I hate crying. I also thought echos of laughter in an acoustically sound Church would sound really cool. They did.

I said:

Reverend Fathers and Deacons, family and friends,

For those who don’t recognize me, I’m Kevin John Gilhooly. My Dad didn’t want a “Junior”, so I have his name as my middle name. I realized this morning, that had I been a Junior, people would now be saying, “Look, it’s Littlejohn”, so, my Dad was a wise man. For those who thought I was Stephen, he’s my younger brother. He’s next.

My memories of my Dad are very distinct moments in time, rather than a wash of almost 53 years, which is how long we knew each other.

My Dad was a first-generation American. My Grandpa Gilhooly emigrated from County Leitrim, Ireland early in the 1900s, and settled in Providence, RI. So, since this is about someone of Irish descent (and technically an Irish citizen), it starts with a drinking story and it ends with a drinking story.

This is the story of my first official drink. I was already 18 and I was working in a liquor store, so it was not my actual first drink, but this was the first one Dad bought me.

Dad had invited me to lunch, which was a bit unusual. We went downtown, which was a bit unusual. Since we were downtown, and the restaurant he chose was next door to St Jude Chapel, he suggested I go to Confession since we were “in the area”. I’ve always wondered if tricking someone into going to Confession was a sin. Probably not.

We went into the restaraunt and he ordered a bourbon and Coke. Dad asked me if I would like a drink. I said, “I’ll have a Jamesons and water.” He hadn’t realized that people that work at liquor stores get discounts, and that causes rather expensive taste. I think he was secretly impressed. It was a very good drink.

Now, some random moments.

My Dad and I did one “traditional” father-son activity together. The YMCA had a program called “Indian Guides”, a father-son activity. I was most excited since we got to choose Indian names for ourselves. After much consideration, I chose “Running Deer”. When the leader asked my Dad for his Indian name at the meeting that night, he just looked tired, and said “Walking Deer”. At least we sounded related. It was either about a six-week summer program, or that was how long Dad needed to discover he was not Native American. (Surprisingly, my brother Stephen was never an Indian Guide.)

There are many occasions where at the time, it seemed we didn’t understand each other at all, which is probably common with parents and children. These are the moments life lessons are passed down. Sometimes.

Two life lessons about food.

When Stephen and I were growing up, we usually attended 9:15am Mass on Sunday. As a special treat, some weeks, we would go to Kip’s Big Boy after Mass. On one of those visits, I was told I couldn’t have my original order because it was too expensive. So, I changed my order. (This was all before the waitress arrived, since orders were generally pre-approved.) Then, Dad ordered himself ten Silver Dollar pancakes. I was incensed. Ten dollars worth of pancakes after denying my reasonable request for extra bacon? (Or whatever it was.) Then, our breakfasts arrived. My Dad was paying a dollar each for some of the smallest pancakes I had ever seen! I finally had to ask why they were a dollar each. Dad had to explain they were the size of silver dollars. I had never seen a silver dollar. So, life lesson: never assume your parents are insane until you do the research.

Another morning, Dad made English muffins and asked how many I would like. I said four. Moments later, he arrived with a really large pile of hot breakfast treats. More than I had ever seen. I wasn’t sure I could finish that much. So, I asked, “Why are there so many English muffins?” He said, “You asked for four.” He counted muffins pre-slicing. I never realized I had been eating half muffins. Important lessons a parent can teach.

Life lessons about music.

In 1974, Joe Cocker had a hit song called “You Are So Beautiful”. There are not many more lyrics in the song than those in the title. Basically, “You are so beautiful to me. Can’t you see? You are so beautiful to me.” For a 14-year old who had been writing poetry in English class for homework, it was a moment of clarity – pure emotion in a minimum of words. For a 44-year old corporate attorney in the middle of a seven-hour drive to visit his in-laws, it was not. He said, “You think they would have bought a few extra lyrics.” To each his own, I suppose.

My first concert was the second Texxas Jam in 1978 at the Cotton Bowl. It was an all-day show, with multiple bands. My Dad was my date. Actually, he invited himself so I wouldn’t be maimed or murdered. I had never smoked pot, but I did recognize it when the guy next to my Dad tried to pass him a joint. (He declined). In fact, later on, Dad mentioned in a rather loud voice that he really didn’t like the smell of marijuana. We had more room around us after that, since I’m pretty sure everyone thought he was a narc.

The only band Dad liked was The Little River Band, and that’s because they closed with “Return To Sender”, a song older than I.

Fleetwood Mac closed the show. As Stevie Nicks sang, “Rihannon”, Dad leaned over and said, “What is she saying?” I was in the middle of a “You Are So Beautiful”-poetry moment, but I managed to answer, “Rihannon. She’s a Welsh witch.” That was the last time I got the “You kids these days” look. I suppose the lesson is that some music does not cross generations.

Some life lessons about business.

My Dad was part of the Bob O’Links Homeowners Association. In fact, he was the President for a time. That was the group that successfully fought to keep Bob O’Links Golf Course zoned for single-family homes while the owners were trying to get the City Council to change it to allow apartments. So, if traffic is a bit heavy on Abrams at times, think what it would be like if the area from Abrams to Wendover and Bob O’Links to Sondra were all filled with apartments. Thanks, Dad. Fight the good fight, because sometimes, you win.

I worked at TI for a couple of years after I moved back to Dallas after college. My Dad actually helped get me in the door. I was on a small team that produced ad hoc reports for people – in the days before PCs, only the IT staff could access information easily.

I had a report requested for someone in the legal department, and had done a number of iterations, but I couldn’t get what they wanted. I finally asked who the report was for. In a hushed voice, I was told “John Gilhooly.” So, I went over to my Dad’s office and asked what he was trying to prove. A couple of hours later, he had his numbers. So, find out who is in charge, and ask them. That was actually a real life lesson. Also, you may never know how important your Dad is until you see the level of fear in his people’s eyes as a deadline approaches.

I will close, as promised, with a drinking story. This one happened last Monday night, the day before Dad passed away. My wife Virginia and I went to visit him while my Mom was teaching her grief counseling class. Technically, we were Dad-sitting. He was asleep when we arrived. Since he was on pain killers, I thought he might sleep the entire time we were there.

Mom showed us where everything was (which was in the same place since 1972 when they bought the house.) She said he could have orange juice to drink if he wanted something. She wasn’t sure he would want food.

A few minutes after she left, I heard Dad calling me. He was awake and wanted to get out of bed. I helped him into his wheelchair, and brought him into the living room, so he could be with us.

I asked if he wanted something to drink and he said, “Yes. A Bourbon and Sprite, but only half a jigger of Bourbon.”

I thought for a moment. On one hand, here was a cancer patient on hydrocodone asking for alcohol. On the other hand, it was only half a jigger, and he’s Irish. Plus, he had a twinkle in his eye that meant “I know I’m being bad”. So, I made him a drink.

He said he was hungry. My (Italian-American) wife Virginia made him some dinner. She also gave him a piece of cake she had brought over.

So, the last thing I did for my Dad was fix him a drink, and the last thing Virginia did was feed him. Somehow, that seems appropriate. I am very thankful for that evening.

Goodbye, Dad. See you on the other side. I’ll have a Jamesons and water.

Thank you all for being here with us.

Short and sweet.

It’s interesting to read that piece again today, because the first time I re-read it, I realized that almost everything in the eulogy happened before I was eighteen or the day before Dad died. There was a long period of time where we were at odds with each other, over any number of issues. However, as the elder son, it was my job to fight all the battles, so my younger brother would know which battles to fight and which to pass.

I remember that almost being”Littlejohn” actually occurred to me as I was walking up to the pulpit, so I wasn’t exactly focused before I got started. The question about tricking someone to go to Confession is much, much funnier if there is a line of priests and deacons on the other side of the Sacristy that you can pause and look at, inquiringly. That’s when everybody laughed.

I don’t think I really cried until the piper started playing at the cemetery. I never knew my Dad wanted a piper at his funeral. In fact, obsessing about why an Irishman wanted a Scottish player at his funeral almost kept me from crying, but some songs make me cry.

It all seems like a long time ago, now. In a way, it was.

When you’ve been estranged from someone for a number of years, losing him is actually very awkward. Everyone expects that you had the same relationship with him that they did, but nobody else was his eldest son. It’s different.

My wife still thinks “I should call Mom” constantly and her Mom’s been gone for over five years – but they were very close. She thought about calling her Aunt for advice on doing her Aunt’s estate. My family does not have this type of closeness, for good or bad.

I haven’t thought “I should call Dad” very much in the past year, since I wasn’t thinking that when he was still there to call. We had managed to get from “estranged” to “distant” or “formally cordial” by the time he passed, so we were making progress. We just weren’t there yet. I guess we’ll finish on the other side.

He was still my Dad, estrangement, arguments and all. He’s still gone. That still sucks.

Super Bowl. Meh.

The Super Bowl is this afternoon – actually, this evening, so it can bleed into prime time. It’s our annual “once in a lifetime” event. A lifetime event that 30/32nds of the universe don’t really care about, because their team isn’t playing. So, why is everyone so whipped up? (Besides the ones who actually went to Vegas or online and have money riding on the outcome.)

The pre-game show is four hours long. The game itself is four hours long. This shows immediately that something is amiss. A football game is one hour in length. So, you expand that by 300% just because it’s on TV? The weekly NFL games are three hours long on TV, but this one is an hour longer. What takes that extra hour? Hmm. Perhaps the commercials are the reason to watch the Super Bowl. Why does it take four hours of pre-game to set the stage? There are only two teams. Are you going to do a biography of each player? Does it really take four hours to remind people who the team with the most points wins?

I don’t get it.

I admit, if I start watching, I will get dragged into it, because there’s just something about watching competition – it’s the same reason people (including me) watch chefs try to make something edible from a mystery basket. But at the same time, it’s a bit silly. One game. For everything. Until next year.

Maybe instead of the pre-game “banter” and “reporting”, they should just re-run last year’s Super Bowl, since nobody remembers who played in it. (Quick! Who won last year? Was it the team in your city? Did you lose money on one of them?) You know who remembers last year? 2/32nds of the universe. And half of them are still pissed.

Enjoy the game. Or the commercials.