Monday, December 28, 2009

What's to come....

A Teaser of What we did on Maui!

Rehearsals and Settling In...

Our first week after Merchant Marine training was spent rehearsing for our show. We said good-bye to the first cast and hello to our director Matt and our producer Nate. They were on for the whole first week.

We had a lot of fun rehearsing. Our show opened on Wednesday night (aka Kona Night) and it was very well received.

We did other stuff besides rehearsal although that did take up most of our time. We went to Paia (on Maui) to have dinner at Flatbreads. We went to Ken’s Pancakes on Hilo - famous for their Pancakes - and I had a Moco which is a local dish. Moco is a bowl filled with rice, some kind of meat (I had portuguese sausage), eggs and gravy. It was delicious. We went walking on the boardwalk in Kona.

We were on the island of Kauai on Thanksgiving. We weren’t sure what we were going to do for Thanksgiving dinner but we knew we didn’t want to stay on the ship. In one of our travel books we found a great listing for a place called Gaylord’s. They just happened to be serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It was fabulous and it even included Pumpkin Pie. We did our first improv show that night and it was great. I thank the Pumpkin Pie.

Then we went to the beach (a 10 minute walk from the ship) and it was a perfect day. We did a little swimming and then off to the ship to teach a workshop and view the Napali Coast. The Napali Coast is the North side of Kauai and it is gorgeous. It’s very dramatic and on that particular day the light had this beautiful apricot/gold/pink glow which was a wonderful contrast to the greenness of the coast.

After we said a fond Aloha Oy to Nate and Matt, we started the business of settling in to our new ship lives. We decided to explore Honolulu and do a little Christmas shopping. We headed away from our ship and walked down Ala Moana blvd. It’s a busy street that has a lovely beach on one side and shops on the other. We went to the Ala Moana mall which is’s huge and it’s all out doors. I got a haircut and Larrance got an iPhone.

We spent that first week just exploring the ports. On Maui, we took a bus from Kauhalui to Lahaina. In Lahaina, we saw a huge Banyan tree and a rainbow. We wanted to go swimming but it was raining.

On Hilo, Larrance and I walked to downtown Hilo which took us on Banyan Tree drive and Queen Lill’aukalani Park. The Banyan Tree Dr. is lined on both sides with huge Banyan Trees. The name of the person who planted them is on a plaque in front of the tree. It was a hot and muggy day and the shade and coolness of the Banyan was very welcome. The Queen Lilliaukalani Park is on the ocean and it’s a Japanese inspired garden park. It was very peaceful and beautiful. Then we had some amazing Mexican food at Reuben’s. I’m going to say this about Reuben’s - we ordered the chips and salsa to start and the salsa was so hot that it was spicy even for us. We LOVED it. The food was great and downtown Hilo was adorable.

On Kona, we went to the Kona Brewery. We tried several sample sizes of their delicious beers. It’s a very nice brewery with a great restaurant attached. We discovered a snorkel spot just off the tender that day - it had an amazing amount of fish considering that it’s right next to the tender boat spot.

Basically we started exploring the various ports and getting a handle on all the things we want to try and do.

Since then we’ve been on the ship for about a month, and we’ve done our shows which have been well received. Just this week we did a show for the Crew on Tuesday night which went great. We celebrated The Second City’s 50th Anniversary with cake and champagne (courtesy of our great Cruise Director, Silas) and we went on a crew excursion to the Makapu’u Lighthouse.

We also had an adventure in Maui but I’ll tell you about that in my next post.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Photo Time

Rainbow over Lahaina, Maui
Mike is serious about beer tasting at the Kona Brewery
Orchid from the Foster Botanical Garden
Queen Liliau'kalani - view of Hilo
Queen Liliau'kalani Garden, Hilo
The whole cast ready for their Merchant Marine Training
Merchant Marine version of us!
Orchids at the Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu
A denizen of the Botanical Garden, Honolulu
Palms, Kona

Sunset over Kaui'i thanks at Gaylord's Plantation for a fantastic holiday dinner.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


We arrived in Honolulu on Saturday November, 14th. We were whisked to the ship and signed on with very little trouble. This was due in no small part to the former cast - Jeff, Jeannie, Brett, Chris, Robin & Mark. They were all hugely helpful.

For the first week, we were all put in temporary housing. Larrance and I ended up in a crew cabin with bunk beds! The room was okay and frankly we were so tired that I fell into bed and didn’t wake up until 5:30am.....of course to my body it felt like it was 9:30am.

It was good that we were getting up so early because we had to go to our first Merchant Marine training class. We had CPR & Life Saving with Stu. Stu was great - funny, informative and smart. The class was actually very interesting and fun. We learned how to do CPR (there’s been some updates since I last took CPR in 2005), the Heimlich on a conscious person and how to help a choking unconscious person. We also learned how to bandage wounds, stop bleeding, bandage wounds with stuff sticking out of them and how to make splints. We had a written test at the end of the day. I missed one and I disputed the phrasing of the question but to no avail. Mike & Rance both got 100’s!

The next day we had the day off. So we got off the ship and ran errands. We went to the Mall to check on getting internet sticks. I didn’t get one but others did. Larrance and I tried Maui Taco and it was delicious! It had a great salsa bar - pineapple salsa with tomatillos and a super hot avocado salsa. Delicious.

Then we walked to the Post Office Box and signed it over from Brett to us. After that Jeff & Jeannie took us to their favorite yogurt place - Tutti Frutti. I wasn’t going to get any yogurt but after I saw the flavors - Taro, Lychee, Lillikoi and some normal flavors like chocolate and peanut butter. They also had a great toppings bar with brownies, blueberries, lychees and captain crunch and a bunch of other stuff. I tried the Taro, Coconut and Vanilla with brownie chunks.....Fantastic!

After that, I was coming to grips with the fact that I seemed to be coming down with a cold. I never got a fever or aches but I had a lot of congestion and I was losing my pain just no voice. So I went home and neti’ed and then went to bed. The next morning my voice was worse. I couldn’t rest because we had our Crowd Control and Human Behavior class with Amanda.

Amanda was great - our class was part info about CCHB (Crowd Control & Human Behavior) and part info about the islands. She did a good of keeping the class interesting. She was fun to talk to and we found out that her husband is from Maine and that they visit Augusta in the Summer. So, of course, we told her about ImprovAcadia and she hopes to visit next summer. (Also - Amanda played a big part in our Fire Fighting and Water Survival so more on her later!)

By that evening, I knew I was in trouble but I went to play games for a bit. The two casts got together and played Pit & Uno. It was fun but I was still in bed by 10:30pm.
After I neti’ed again....always the neti!

We had the next day off and we were in Kona. Kona is probably the cutest port we go to. All of the ports are beautiful but many of them we port in a very industrial Kona we tender so when we get off we’re right there in the cute beach and shop area. Kona has a great boardwalk and the ocean is right there. We got coffee with Robin and then we walked to meet Jeff, Jeannie, Brett and Chris at the Marriott tennis courts. After that we all walked around the gorgeous grounds of the Marriott and then got lunch at Quinn’s by the Sea. Jeff wanted us to try Ono which is a local fish. We all had Ono fish and chips which was delicious but very rich.

We returned to the ship to study for what was to be our largest and most important test on Thursday. We met to study for our Fire Test - we’d all been studying on our own all week with our Fire Booklets from Piney Point, MD. We quizzed one another and we all felt that we were ready for the test.

The next day we attended Basic Fire Fighting training taught by Barry. Barry was great - like Stu - he was informative, funny and smart. He really did a great job of teaching us the material. He would teach a chapter from the book then he would quiz the entire class. The class at this point was getting pretty friendly with one another. We were in a class of 16 people from several different departments. We had fun screaming out the answers to the test.

We took the test. There were three different tests passed out so the person sitting next to you had a different test from you. The tests consist of 60 multi-choice questions and are culled by the Coast Guard from 3000 questions. The Second City cast, Deanna, Rance, Mike, Piero, Larrance and myselft, had studied very hard but the test was difficult and there were several questions that had not been directly addressed in class or in the booklet. Why would they do that? Well, if anyone in the class gets a 100 on the Fire Test they have to throw out the test. So there were a few questions that were real stumpers. Everyone in our cast did well but......Rance and I both got 100’s!!!!! Woooo! Barry was thrilled even though he had to throw that test out.

The next day we had to be in class by 6:30am to learn about PSSR (Personal safety and social responsibility). This class was taught by Don and he was an ex-Navy man who’s now a security guard and part time Merchant Marine trainer. We watched a lot of videos about ship wrecks (including the Oceanos in which the entertainers saved everyone after the crew abandoned the ship). Then Don lectured about life boats, life rafts, water survival and how to keep morale up in a life raft. Then we took a test which we all passed. And we were done!........No, not quite.

The next day was our practical exam at Barber’s point.....

We got up before sunrise and headed up to the Aloha CafĂ© to have a carby breakfast. We watched the sunrise over Honolulu and then we got on a bus to Barber’s Point. The testing facility was about 45 minutes away so we had a nice drive through Honolulu. Upon arriving we went in and met Amanda who briefed us on what we were going to be doing. The morning was devoted to fire fighting and the afternoon would be water survival. We went outside to a container - the kind that you would see on a ship - and we were given our fire fighting gear. We got helmets, coats, pants with suspenders, boots, hood and gloves. The boots were very heavy - they were steel toed with a metal shank that ran down the length of the foot. The coat and pants were like 35 pounds together and the helmet was more comfortable than you would think. We proceeded to take our gear inside. They let us look it over and put it on. Then we took it off and were told we would at some point be tested on putting it on. I set my pants up the way I’d seen them in the fire lockers onboard the ship. Then the alarm sounded! Amanda told us we had 60 seconds to put all of our gear on - I objected because I was told we’d have 90 in doing so I wasted precious seconds. I managed to get everything on in just over a minute. Although my coat was crooked.....but I’d gotten everything on.

Then we were divided into teams of six. I ended up on a team with Deanna & Piero while Larrance was on a team with Rance.

So my team consisted of:
Deanna, Piero - both Second City
Wendy, Bar Staff - can’t swim
Miles, Bar Staff - super tall and kind of quiet
Eben, Bar Staff - quiet

It was a good team.

First up was fire fighting rehearsal! Barry ran us through how to handle a fire hose, how to command a fire team, how to handle the hose, how to follow a fire team leader and how to provide support. We had to wear all the gear except the SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) and it was like 80 degrees F. and we were in direct sunlight. We didn’t fight a fire but we operated a live hose. We were handling a 1 1/2 inch hose with a Vari Nozzle that was pumping 95 GPM’s (Gallons per Minute). The nozzle was like 20 pounds and we had to operate the hose and command the team but there was no fire until later.
By the end, I was pink faced and sweating. Deanna joked that we should get to run through the fire hose. Barry said no but then he sprayed us with a low velocity fog as we walked back into the building. It felt great.

We then headed to SCBA donning and doffing training. Kind of boring but important. We got a look at an SCBA. Then we learned all important parts - how do you get air without blowing out your lungs (the air in the tank is at 220 ppsi), how to turn it on, how to use the bypass valve, how to change a tank and how to check your gauges (there are two). We tried on our masks. The masks were a bit freaky. You have to put it on and then put the regulator in and then you have to take sharp inward breath to activate your airflow. The mask feels close and you feel like you can’t breath but you can - it’s a good reminder to breath slowly.

Next up the zero visibility maze. The zero visibility maze is just what it sounds like. There’s no light and you have to find your way to the second floor exit. When you enter the maze you’re put into teams of three and told to keep your left hand on the wall and your right hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you. You are told to never lose contact with the wall or with the person in front of you. In the maze we wore our boots, pants, gloves and helmets. The helmets came in handy as I was bonked by an elbow, sat on by my leader and hit the wall with my head several times.

Deanna and I were put on a team with Miles. Miles is very tall. Deanna and I are around 5 ft with a few more inches. So we decided that Miles should be our leader. He was tallest and he might feel some parts of the wall that Deanna and I would never know were there. It was a good choice. He did a very good job although Deanna and I had to do most of the talking. He was quiet - we were chatty. Not chatty but communicative. We finished the maze in just under 8 minutes.

Larrance and Rance had Walter on their team. Walter’s from Puerto Rico. He’s very smiley and nice but in the zero visibility maze I guess he became confused and in his confusion he started to let go of Larrance and the wall. He also was having trouble remembering what English words meant. So Larrance had to coach him through the maze - example: Rance climbed up a ladder and lifted a hatch. Larrance went through next. You let go of each other for this but you follow your partner’s foot to the ladder and wait for the okay to come up. Walter had had a hold of the ladder but he let go and wandered off. So Larrance had to climb back down the ladder - get Walter and guide him up the ladder. Isn’t Larrance the best?

After everyone had done the maze and the SCBA lesson, we all got SCBA’s and went outside again. It was time to fight real fire! We got into teams of three again. Deanna, Miles and I staying together. It was a bit hard because Miles was so tall that the hose was in my armpit but to be honest my arms were like jello pops at this point. Amanda lit the fire and Barry was standing by in case we fell down or something like that. Then we proceeded to lay down a high velocity fog to protect our team, then we approached the fire and the back team member ran up and turned off the fuel. I was the first to go. I rocked it but I almost fell down when we were backing up. The hose is so strong that it pushes you back so you always have to push forward. Well we were walking back over a concrete block and I lost my footing a bit. My team took the weight and I recovered! Then I had to switch to the back and then the middle position and then I was done.

We were wearing the SCBA while were doing this. I thought my breathing was pretty controlled but when the fire would go out (it roared) I realized I was breathing quite hard and fast. So I would slow it down.....then it would creep up again. Fire fighting is super hard work. After that we had to support the other fire teams.

Then we had lunch. Lunch was a bit too long for me. I wanted to eat and then get back at it before my body decided it was time for bed. I was tired and somewhat sick. Actually my voice had gotten better but we had water survival so I knew that it would get did.

So we changed into our swimsuits and headed out to the pool. Everyone was issued a life jacket. We donned those and then we had to jump into the pool in the survival position (one arm over life jacker, one hand holding your nose shut, feet crossed and knees slightly bent). We had to jump into the water which was weirdly the scariest part for me. Amanda was right by the pool and I told her I was bit scared. She rolled her eyes at me and then I rolled my eyes at me too and jumped in. We had to swim to the other people and make a circle. Then we had to kick our legs to attract attention. I hated that part. It was easy but it hurt because you kept getting kicked but you better believe I would kick if I wanted to rescued.

Then we had a dry raft boarding....basically we climbed in from the side of the pool. Then we had to exit the raft by sitting on the side and falling over ( think like a Scuba entrance into the water). Easy.

Then we had to do a wet entrance which meant - jumping into the pool, swimming to the raft and then pulling yourself in. We had our life jackets on which I thought made it harder. I get why we had them on but--boo! Also my arms were at this point like little chicken noodles so I had a hard time with this. As I was trying and failing to climb into the raft, Barry jumped into the water to coach me and Amanda was also there. I wasn’t scared (they thought I was) but I was pissed at my noodle arms. I ended up getting there but it was hard and it hurt. I bruised my arms up pretty good. I wanted a second chance because Larrance told me I kept trying to pull up with just my right side. You’re supposed to cross - pull with your right arm and push with your left leg or vice versa. I eff’ed it up and I wanted a second chance to prove that I could save myself but after thinking about it I decided that I probably would be able to in a real emergency.

Next up was the Gumby suit. The Gumby suit is really called an exposure suit or some such. When you put it on, you look like a red gumby. We had to get them out and lay them out and put them on in less than 60 seconds. Then we were going to line up and jump into the pool one by one. So we all laid our suits out then Amanda blew the whistle. Everyone struggled to get into their suits. Larrance got into his in a flash and then surprisingly he jumped into the pool. Amanda was like - did he fall in? What are you doing? Larrance thought he was supposed to get the suit on and get in the water in under 60 seconds. When he realized his mistake, he sprang out of the water like a fish or a sprite and landed on the side of the pool in a standing position. It was funny. They were so impressed with his agility that instead of getting mad, they all congratulated him. Then we lined up and went into the pool one by one. The suits are one size fits all so I was swimming my suit - there was room for at least two of me - but Rance & Mike barely fit.

When you jump in the water in a Gumby suit, it suctions to you. It is the weirdest sensation. You can’t swim in them, you have to float on your back.

Then we just had to swim the length of the pool which was delightful after all of that. I wanted to stay in the pool for a bit but it was time to go back to the ship. We thanked Barry & Amanda and headed home.

I was tired, bruised and bumped but very happy to be done.

Oh, I was also a real Merchant Marine. Cue laughter!


Next: GI Joes Assemble!