No matter where we cruised, nothing got guests as excited as the brunch buffet. Ok, maybe the Mayan ruins or watching humpbacks rocket out of Alaskan waters. But those events didn’t come with a side of hash browns and the most perfectly runny eggs benedict this side of Denny’s.
Brunch was reserved on days when the ship required time at sea to get to our next destination. Along with lectures from our naturalists, we’d use gluttonous amounts of potatoes, eggs, fruit, waffles, and anything else we could possibly fit in the dining room to capture the guest’s attention. For a small adventure ship, this was the closest we ever got to behaving like the floating hotels.
The morning began with pre-brunch mimosas and smoked salmon in the upstairs lounge as the crew prepared the dining room for the carnage that would ensue. I’d keep the guests entertained in the lounge the best way I knew how — by rocking out.
I learned to play the guitar in seventh grade. It’s the same old story, really – kid from the suburbs, perfectly fine family and life, small safe world, finds solace in Slayer, Metallica, AC/DC and Hendrix. My guitar, with jagged razor designs on the fretboard, was permanently plugged into a 400 watt Marshall amp that I loved more than anything in the world. That thing could wale. And I could shred. If you closed your eyes, got concert parking lot drunk and listened to me fingertap the speed solo of Metallica’s masterpiece One, you’d swear it was a long haired, tattooed rocker holding the axe. Open your eyes and the illusion was cruelly shattered by the sight of khaki pants and a crisp polo shirt tucked in as tightly as possible to avoid any overhang whatsoever.
Don’t let the khaki fool you.
I took to legends like Ozzy Osbourne (Randy Rhodes on guitar), Led Zeppelin, and the face scrunching blues licks of Stevie Ray Vaughan. But I soon learned that only your guy friends go upstairs at a party to listen to you attempt all 9 minutes of “Texas Flood.” Maybe girls just don’t know how difficult playing the second three-minute solo behind your back really is. It could be biological. Eventually, as many others have as well, I broke down and bought an acoustic guitar and a Dave Matthews songbook. Before long, it was Van Morrison and John Mayer and songs about feelings and just how bright the sky is when such and such girl is around. All along I worried that Ozzy would break into my room mid-song and bite the head off my pet rabbit for crossing over to the dark side.
As a young shredder I never would have guessed that someday I’d play for a room full of senior citizens on a boat at cocktail hours. It began as a necessity. Brunch took so long to prepare that guests Not only did playing versions of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” on the Captain’s classical guitar delight passengers, it gave me a full hour to sit by myself, not answer any questions, and block out everything but the next note. My favorite moments where when I’d disguise songs like Ozzy Osbourne’s “Diary of a Madman” as a classical masterpiece.
“Is that Bach?” guests would ask.
“Something like that.”
Once, I was in the middle of Malaguena, a Spanish classical song, struggling to get it right, when a guest came up to me. I glanced up and said hello, quickly returning concentration to the nylon strings and my awkwardly stretched fingers.
“Yes?” I said, still watching where my fingers went.
“Excuse me!” she yelled.
I stopped playing and looked up.
“There are no forks.”
“There are no forks at the table and you’re serving little beef Wellingtons. How do you suppose we eat without forks?”
My mini concerts weren’t always interrupted — most times they were a raving success. The applause after every song, the only applause I’ve ever received in my life, made me feel like a rock star in my own right. Sure, some of my groupies probably couldn’t get their oxygen tanks past stadium security, but they were my groupies. And those oxygen tanks would probably be popular with teenagers in the parking lots.
Some passengers would request songs and if I knew them, even just the chorus, we’d have a little sing along. One traveler actually took a picture of me playing and mailed it to me at my parent’s house with a thank you note included. Can you believe it? I got fan mail!