It was years ago in late fall that we arrived at the dock in Baltimore to board the massive cruise ship Discordia (POA Lines) to the Bahamas. All expenses paid, all food, all drink, all entertainment, all rights and responsibilities, prepaid by someone else on a credit card with unbelievable rates forever. Who? We’ll get to that. Needless to say, it was a feast, a feastival, Thanksgiving on the high seas. What could be better? But whom does one thank for such luxury?
Ten stories or more soared up above the harbor waters. We took the gangplank up and then a glass elevator above the glittering lobby to our floor, seventh or eighth. We had a little window balcony and two beds. A bathroom slightly larger than an old fashioned phone booth. Unnecessary really, since the party was 24/7. Once we’d put our baggage away, we began to explore the narrow hallways, the grand staircases, the endless murals of Renaissance nudes merrily debauching their fantasy lives away.
Hmmm, that’s subliminally norming lewd and lascivious behaviors. Sort of classical pornography, if that is not too much of a stretch. The pantomimed message, “Drink, lust, seize, surrender your soul, revel in the flesh.” But it’s just wallpaper, right? Not hypnosis.
The crew were quietly efficient with shiny skin and flaming eyes. They were present to meet every earthly need we might conjure up. We could not guess that behind lustrous ivory teeth their tongues had been removed. Even the band on the lido deck played songs appropriate for surrendering the flesh… “Hotel California”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Positive Vibration”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in a loop. As the huge ship plowed out of the Chesapeake Bay, under the double span of the Bay Bridge, the guests’ vibe changed like a new set of clothes, from almost winter to almost nothing. We slipped collectively into a new groove, into babbling citizens of a shining suburb of Babylon, Babble On, Babble On… Onward toward the dark islands where black slaves had produced bleached white sugar for lily white Europeans not so long ago.
Once out of the Bay, countless stars glittered in the black skies above and reflected in the choppy black waters below. The power of this craft was unimaginable, able to hurtle three city blocks of human cargo forward at twenty knots per hour, cutting the horizon into two silver plumes. Our destination did not matter. The speed and power, the rhythmic momentum were all as if in a dream. Certainly, it was dreamlike. The monstrous engines below reverberated imperceptibly until sleep, when our dreams were massaged by their humming undertow. Gray noise. Narcotically even. Such sleep! Such pleasures of the nether world suffused our naked minds and bodies.
By day two or three I began to sense something was not quite right. Everyone had every carnal need met almost before awareness of the need arose. Passengers used words like “nirvana” and “heaven” to describe their experience thus far. So saturated with luxury, they began to explore beyond usual prescribed boundaries. Couples began schmoozing with other couples and rubbing their legs shamelessly at the pool or in the hot tubs, toes touching erotic landing zones were met with excited giggles. No one seemed to object or even notice. It was all one good, fun, party. Since we were in international waters, no specific country’s law applied; and so the law of the jungle came to rule across the ship’s many splendid decks. Every one did what was good in his own eyes.
In the fine dining rooms guests ate with their hands while sitting in damp bathing suits. The staff smiled witlessly, encouraging beastly behaviors. They seemed to enjoy the mess. No worries.
Down in the casino everyone was a winner. No one lost. The signs at the slot machines and black jack tables said, “All winnings paid out at d’hotel Fornicatio, Nassau, in U.S. dollars tax free.” Unbelievable. The euphoria built up like a summer thunderstorm. Free money. Free booze. Free sex!!! The whole scene was like the hippie movement of the late 1960’s– no consequences. Free love. Guiltlessness gurgled gleefully.