Our Last Hurrah

November 19th, 2010

Part 1

By Robert Braverman

Recently my wife and I learned that our lives as ex-pats were coming to an end, so we decided it was time to take one last trip and enjoy one last adventure…in short, we wanted one last hurrah. 

Living in the U.K. has made travel easy and we’ve had the good fortune to visit more than 20 countries while here. So our challenge was where to go and what to do.  What would be a memorable, fun and something unique…something different than anything else we’ve experienced? 

That’s when I came up with the idea of a cruise.  Not a huge ship type cruise, but something smaller, something more intimate, something just like a 12 day Mediterranean excursion aboard the 430 foot Royal Clipper vessel, cruising with 200 other passengers and 100 crew members. 

Day 1 – Our adventure began in Civitivecchia, Italy, a seaport a short distance from Rome. In high spirits and hoping for calm seas, we had suntan oil at the ready, and packed shorts and flip-flops in anticipation of sunny skies.

After a three part boarding process which included mug shots, security checks and surrending our passports, we were up the ramp and on the way to our luxury mega-yacht experience.

The Royal Clipper

A welcome cocktail greeted us and a deck hand, Hadi showed us to our home for the next week and a half. It was Cabin # 316, named Marco Polo. One of only two staterooms on the aft of the ship, it had access directly onto the deck. We hoped this was well worth the cost. A bottle of wine and petits fours, as well as a stocked mini bar helped to convince us.

As we wandered around the ship and took into account the ships’ amenities, our fellow passengers ages and origins, I was confident that the decision to make this our last big trip, was the right move.

Our first night’s dinner continued in grand style with a Florida couple, Darrel and Jen, and a lovely pair from Germany, Werner and Elizabeth. The lobster was good and apple tart dessert was quite nice. We followed this up with a beer at the Tropical bar.

Back in the Marco Polo just before midnight, we were in good spirits and were looking forward to awakening in Corsica.

Clipper at Night

Day 2 – The ship moved more than expected throughout the night, waking us up a few times and giving me a bit of a queasy stomach, but a few minutes of fresh air on deck, a lovely sunrise and a brisk walk up to the bow renewed my faith in the journey.

Surprised not to see the island close by, I ventured into the pilot house (only possible on a small ship), to speak with the Captain and his first officer. I was duly informed of the situation, a strong headwind had set us back a couple of hours and was also the source of the ships rocking and rolling during the night. Additionally, due to current and wind conditions, it would not be possible to anchor off Bonifacio, so we would have to change our plans and arrive at a more leeward location, Porto Vecchio to allow the ships tenders to shuttle passengers to and from shore.

We were scheduled to arrive at 10, but it was after noon by time the tenders started moving the passengers ashore. Scheduled to leave at 2:30 pm, this did not leave much time for those wanting to see the port and do some shopping. Not that it mattered, as we arrived on Sunday and everything was closed.

I decided to go scuba diving, as this was the only day we were going to be able to enjoy this water sport. Equipped with a small marina platform off the stern, this was launch point for sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving. The six of us who signed up for the dive meekly congregated at the lower aft of the ship and began to sign away any responsibility the cruise company had for us should we not return from the dive in one piece. While this seemed unlikely at the time, it later appeared to be a distinct possibility.

When the marina platform was lowered we were each issued our scuba gear. Next a Zodiac entered the water and our boat driver, Maria maneuvered the small craft into position on the port side.  Soon the Zodiac was loaded with seven Scuba tanks, BCDS, weight belts, fins, mask, snorkels, two tanks of fuel, six divers, our other dive master Tracy and Maria. Tracy had expressed a bit of skepticism over Maria’s boating skills and would have preferred to have Jimmy, another dive master along, but he had other duties at the time. Given the deteriorating weather and the tricky anchoring maneuvers that would be required at the dive site, Tracy’s concerns seemed perfectly justified.

After about 2 minutes, our boat began to take on water off the stern and was really struggling with the weight and the load balance. We all shifted as much as we could towards the bow and moved the gear forward to the extent possible. We opened the drain plugs and had Maria give it full throttle and the water level began to lessen as it was forced out the holes in the zodiac.

The crate with the weights dug into my calf, and the sea water stung my face, but it was all good, because we were going to dive, and for me it had been five years since my last under water experience.

Though it only took 20 minutes to reach our dive site, it seemed like hours.  It’s then we began the arduous task of setting the anchor. Forward, stop, reverse, too close to the rocks, head into the wind, is it set, are we drifting; these phrases were bandied about by Tracy, Maria and Wally, who was the most experienced boater/diver amongst us. After distributing BCD’s and tanks it was finally time to jump in. By now, the wind had picked up, the water was choppy and the current was fairly strong. Jim, a happy-go-lucky Californian went in first, followed by Harold, a German with limited English language skills. I was next and while I maneuvered over to the anchor line and bobbed up and down in the waves, Jim decided that it was too much for him and Harold began to panick.

The remaining divers hauled Jim back onto the zodiac, then Harold.  Wally, Michelle, Tracy and I started for sea floor along the anchor line. With the amount of wet suit we were wearing and the salt content of the water, getting to the bottom was harder than we thought. It took a lot of kicking and paddling, but we finally met up at 10 meters, then set out to view the three sunken ships.  It was clear enough to distinguish the keel, the rudder, an anchor and the main hull of these various wrecks and we encountered many types of fish including Gruper and a friendly eel.

Forty minutes later, we surfaced and paddled our way back to the boat. While the ride out to this point seemed longer than it was, the trek back to the Clipper seemed even longer. 

Zodiac with Divers

When I saw my wife and Harold’s wife waving and calling our names from the stern…it was great relief. We shed our gear, headed for hot showers and then to eat. We were barely seated at lunch when the Clipper set sail for our next stop, Mahon, on the Island of Menorca.

What’s your favorite…?

July 22nd, 2010

I was at a summer party some time ago, hosted by a person I had just met through work. Suffice it to say, I didn’t know anyone except for the host, and it seemed I wasn’t alone. There were about twelve of us gathered in a living room (in Fountain Hills, Arizona), sipping our drinks, trying to make small talk…after an painstaking hour of asking and answering questions like, “How about this weather, hot, isn’t it?” and “What do you do?” I was wondering when it would be polite to leave.. That’s right about the time someone asked, “What is your favorite Seinfeld episode?” And that’s when the party turned into fun night.

I talked about the “Puffy (Pirate) Shirt” episode. It’s still one of my favorites, even today. That’s the one in which Kramer has a soft spoken clothes designer girlfriend who Jerry and Elaine dub the “lowtalker” and Jerry inadvertently agrees to wear her puffy shirt on “The Today Show.” When Bryant Gumbel laughs at the shirt, Jerry says he didn’t want to wear it (but felt pressurized into it)…and the low talker obviously hears this on t.v. and after the show, she goes to Jerry’s dressing room to confront him. This is also the episode in which George becomes a hand model and he’s in the dressing room after Jerry’s t.v. appearance, along with Elaine. He is showing his hands to her and mocking Kramer’s girlfriend who hears this and gets so upset she pushes George, he trips and ends up burning his hands on an iron, ending his hand modeling career…So, what’s your favorite episode?

New www.laughter.com Features!

July 13th, 2010

Wow!  We really appreciate your feedback since the launch of www.laughter.com in April!  We’ve now updated our website based on what YOU’ve asked for.  Check out our new features:

* You can now log into your FACEBOOK account from our site.  Simply click on the f connect feature in the top right hand corner of the screen and type in your password.  It’s as easy as that!

* You can find our CONTESTS feature underneath the Videos Photos Writing Audio All banner.  Check frequently to find out what monthly contests we’re offering.  By participating in our contests, you will be eligible to win tee shirts, other www.laughter memorabilia and even tickets to see cool comedians like Ricky Gervais!

* You can use our new BOOKMARK & SHARE feature and with a click of the mouse you’ll have access to twitter, MySpace, your Favorites and more!

* You can now purchase anything your heart desires (well, almost) by clicking on the AMAZON ad on the left hand side of our screen, or go to SHOP or SHOP UK at the bottom of the page. 

Thanks again for your input.  Keep your comments and suggestions coming!!

Lighten Up!

June 6th, 2010

LIGHTEN UP!

- by Sharon A. Braverman, appeared in The Arizona Light, May 1997
Lighten up! We’re bombarded by these words everyday. T.V. commercials, magazine ads, even food labels all tout the benefits of eating and being lighter. Let’s consider another type of lightening up – one that has nothing to do with calories or fat content – it has to do with our attitude towards life, about living. Let’s talk about laughter.
According to a recent article in Psychology Today, “the average six-year-old laughs 300 times a day, the average adult, just 170. Why is that?
No Laughing Matter
Somewhere along the line, we learned not to laugh.  Consider that a baby giggles for the first time at about 9 weeks of age. Between 4-6 months, touch and sound make a baby laugh and by 10 months an infant will seek out laughter, usually through games like peek-a-boo. This is a natural part of human development.
But at some point, perhaps when we enter school, we begin to hear messages like, “Don’t act so silly” and even ”Grow up”. Remember? We hear these phrases countless times throughout our formative years. So what we learn is: be more serious and be more mature.
No Laughing Allowed
Then we learn about No Laughing Zones. They are everywhere. Places we frequent. Places where we spend many of our waking hours – like work, school, even church. We are expected to keep our nose to the grindstone at work, be mindful at school and be reverent in church. Anything else is, well… inappropriate.
To top it off, Laugh Stoppers lurk within us. Their names are: Embarrassment, Humiliation, Pain, Rejection and Criticism. They tell us to keep our composure, stay in control and for heaven sakes – don’t act foolish! We learn to believe Laugh Stoppers and conform to their rules. Yet, they hide the truth.
The Truth and Nothing But It
Laughter is good for us. What other bodily function can give us a healthy workout inside and out, can alleviate stress, relieve pain, and help us gain a better perspective on ourselves and our lives?
Laughter is a tension reliever. Have you ever felt your mounting anger give way to a burst of laughter? It can be an icebreaker at a party. “Did you hear the one about…?” Laughter has the ability to transform us from fearful and discouraged to spirited and encouraged.
Often, we have little control over life’s events, but if we learn to see humor in these situations and laugh, we can minimize the impact.
Just one more reason to laugh: Men’s Health reported that watching a couple hours of Mary Tyler Moore reruns will actually burn about 100 calories. Ha! (Now that’s en-lightening!)
Try It, You’ll Like It
Here are a few tips on upping your laugh per day quotient.
1. Figure out what makes you laugh. Laughter is a personal thing, so maybe t.v. sitcoms crack you up, or funny movies. Humorous books or comedy club performances may be more your style. It could be an activity you liked as a kid, like ice skating or the circus. Make a list. Whatever makes you laugh, do it more often.
2. Surround yourself with funny people. Ever notice how humorous folks always have a crowd around them? Laughter is contagious, it puts people in a good mood, encourages interaction and wins affection. Make some funny friends. Whoever makes you laugh, be with them more often.
3. Develop your own sense of humor. Immerse yourself in the world of fun. Take a comedy workshop. Read and learn to tell jokes or humorous stories. Make up games to play. However you do it, be funnier more often.
Bringing more laughter into our lives means unlearning what we’ve learned. Let’s act silly again, put more smiles on our faces and be childlike. Let’s change No Laughing Zones to Laugh When Appropriate Zones and banish Laugh Stoppers.
So, go ahead and laugh! Lighten up!

Laughter Contests

April 11th, 2010

What kind of www.laughter.com related contests would you like to participate in or see on our website?  Please let us know!  If we use your idea, you will receive a prize….we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Welcome to Laughter.com

April 5th, 2010

Welcome to the launch of www.laughter.com!  

Feeling a bit lost in the sea of ‘tubes’ and ‘books’ and ‘chirps’; well look no further?  Become part of a new, friendly, and extremely personal community. At www.laughter.com, you can still have a user name that does not require extra numbers at the end, you can be noticed and appreciated by receiving tips and comments on your postings, and most important of all, you can be you.

If you like what you see and want to be part of the community, just register. There is nothing to buy, no credit card required, only a valid email address and a desire to share your talents with others.  We look forward to hearing from you soon!