[For the introduction to Bill’s travel literature return to the first installment of this serial. Here – below – Bill is steaming down the northwest coast of South America, heading for Peru, Lima and Kel. He is looking at the moon.]
The weather so far this morning is overcast and humid. If things were a bit prettier outside, a walk along the beach would be an appealing prospect, but I am more interested in talking with Kel about our plan for her picking me up on Friday. Cars are not allowed to approach the ship, so she will have to park somewhere, perhaps on the other side of the port gates, and then walk 50 meters or so to meet me as I disembark. I am so excited to be seeing her after these six years that I cannot put my mind to doing much else except anticipate that moment when we first see each other.
It is after two in the afternoon and there is nobody on the beach, so I’ll stay in. There is a movie at three that I’ll watch at least the first part of just to keep my mind free of irritation. Also, we have been receiving warnings of gastrointestinal diseases breaking out so now I’m shying away from the food, especially the desserts, which the sick women paw over. I have already bumped into a couple of coughers, I sanitize my hands continually and try to keep my fingers out of my eyes nose and throat.
Having passed several pleasant hours putting together the Panama Canal movie, I looked forwards to our nightly trivia meet. We won a bottle of champagne by coming in first place. I really like those two couples with whom I play, and try to arrive early so that we have enough time to chat before the game. Last night, we remained chatting for an hour while drinking our prize champagne, Then I hot-tailed it to the computer to Skype with Kel, after which I wandered about listening to the tacky singers and comedians in the showrooms and bars. there is a really sickening guy who plays Broadway tunes on the piano, but last night the cast from Tonight’s showroom act was hanging out there, doing some stellar versions of neo-Broadway hits such as “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. I also enjoy hearing two or three selections from the string quartet each evening. Tonight, however, there isn’t much at all going on. Perhaps they are spooking it up for Halloweenie-o. I go back to my stateroom to read, but couldn’t sit still long enough to read that Pablo Neruda biography, but did manage to scab through several chapters of Roger Ebert’s memoir. What a dope he is. Then I walked up to the Crow’s Nest, where I saw, for the very first time, the Peruvian moon, the moon Kel sees when she is seeing the moon, and all those years when we looked at the same moon together from such far away points, seven thousand miles between us. And tonight, I stood on the deck of the ship, looked up and saw the moon from the same angle asked has seen it since she first saw it, as a baby with her eyes to the sky.
I had Hummus and Eggplant with focaccia for a midnight snack, topped off with five desserts and coffee. Dinner wasn’t much but the snack was tremendous. I like it here at night, wandering the decks in search of tacky entertainment. Tonight I saw a show that was an embarrassment even by Vegas standards. Just appalling. The Susan Boyles of the world have replaced the Julie Andrews and the male singers have been permanently corrupted by the effeminate register in which jean Valjean’s part has been written. What has happened to the masculine baritones of Broadway? Then I pleasantly dozed listening to the adagio strings, awake enough to hear the music bust asleep enough to remain seated. Many of the solo acts who play the same sets in the same bars have become laughingly tedious. How do they stand it, especially when the rooms are bare? But I like it here at night, wandering the decks, especially when the sea is smooth and the boat stable.
We are off the coast of Peru now, and will be docking at 5:30am in Salaverry, and then I disembark at 9am the following morning in Lima.
What a journey this has been. I realize that never in my life have I gone on holiday, taken a vacation, or been anywhere in outside of the United States and Canada. As we passed through the Panama Canal, I could not really believe I was really there, in that place, and not just imagining it from the garret of the forsaken art house. Tonight I watched a Las Vegas-types show in the Showroom at Sea, a comedian/singer named ‘Doug Starks, who spent seven years portraying Sammy Davis Jr. in a tribute to the Rat Pack. I was thinking this may be the last time I will be in such a place for a long time, a showroom filled with international travelers, enjoying a Vegas show, something that incidentally I have never seen before. Sure, it was tacky, but there was an element of style to it as well, and I enjoyed the experience.
Earlier in the same room, I experienced an afternoon tea with ballroom dancing. This has been such a relaxing, pampered experience, having my stateroom cleaned to perfection twice a day, getting to know people from around the world, sleeping well at night, relieved of the worries and cares of life, but I can never fully appreciate these days because I am still apart from Kel, and would love nothing more than to be sharing these days with her, the way these couples, some of whom have been married for over fifty years, are enjoying sharing these days of theirs together. But to know that Kel and I will soon be one of these couples, making life and sharing life together, is the most profound joy I have known. And this life will begin 33 hours from now.
In these moments I think of my friends on the ship, and the sadness of leaving them. My trivia team won again tonight, and all expressed dismay at my imminent departure. They are such good, decent, intelligent people. And so much fun to be with. When I speak, they listen carefully and respond honestly and articulately. And when they look at me, their eyes are open, and I look back at them the same way, no false looks obscuring some hidden thought, everything open and sparkling. This morning Tony, a Chinese man living in Vancouver, came to my room and videotaped an interview with me that he wants to put on YouTube for the Chinese people who, he believes, will benefit from hearing what I have to say, or maybe just seeing is a person whose thoughts and expression are unfettered. He has read the excerpts from my Cinema penitentiary and wants to translate it into Chinese. Tomorrow I will give him the permission to do so, and strike some kind of a deal. Then there is Harvey, the Australian singer who was to have been in the talent show with me, but only the two of us applied to be in the show, causing its cancellation. There are other people I did not get to know well, such as the couple across the hall from me, the woman of whom was sick for a couple of days. It was so inspiring to see how the man cared so much for her, in fact the thing that touched me the most among these mostly older couples was the love they shared and the closeness between them. I will do everything in can to make Kel as happy as these men have made their wives, and even happier than that, because love is truly the greatest gift we creatures have received from this great, lonely cosmos in which we have come to life.
Last night was so rich in dreams that it seemed like I had slept many hours, but woke up after only two, then again after another two, so I was up looking at the tights of the Peruvian coast at 4:30, and went out at 6 after it became light enough to film>Now I am charging my camera so that it will transfer the material to computer where I can edit it. What a splendid morning, on the shores of Salaverry, the mountains rising from the desert, the pelicans on the rocks, the fresh overcast morning, I felt like kissing the ground.
And now we conclude the second part of this tale with “Pelicanos,” my first Peruvian movie: