Family

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In 1969, when he was 34 years old (ten years younger than I am now–what exactly have I been doing with my life?), my father ran for School Board as one half of the Benton-Pascoe ticket. He strongly believed in giving a quality education to ALL children, not just his own. Benton-Pascoe ran in favor of integrating the schools but Denver was not ready for integration and they lost. This was the press release issued on announcement day, March 8, 1969:

Monte Pascoe, a 34-year-old Denver attorney, announced Saturday he is a candidate for the Denver Board of Education.

“We must provide quality education for our children,” Pascoe said. “To achieve this goal we must be certain our teachers are adequately trained and compensated, our facilities are in good condition and properly equipped, and our curriculum is designed to meet today’s needs.”

“We must also be certain our children have the opportunity to learn with each other, regardless of racial or ethnic background. The divisions in our community and in our country result, in part, because we isolate ourselves from one another. In the past public schools provided a way for all citizens to communicate with each other. If they do so again, our children will receive quality education.

“I am pleased Ed Benton has agreed to seek re-election. For eight years Ed has spear-headed the community’s struggle for quality education for all children and I would like to join in that effort.”

Pascoe attended Park Hill Elementary, Smiley Junior High and East High Schools. He is a former East High All-American football player. He was awarded a scholarship to Dartmouth College where he received the Barrett Cup, given each year to “an outstanding senior.”

After his graduation from Stanford Law School in 1960 he returned to Denver to practice law. He is a director and secretary of Junior Achievement and an elder at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church.

Pascoe is a Democratic District Captain, and last year was Colorado co-ordinator for the Humphrey presidential campaign. He and his wife Pat, a former school teacher, have three children, 8, 6, and 4 months. The older two attend Dora Moore Elementary School.

Wayne

My family lost a good friend this weekend. His name was Wayne Kakela and he was an American original. He and my Dad went to college together and they were big buddies. He and Linda and Annie and Kate are dear friends of ours, and central to many of my family’s greatest adventures. They have been our neighbors in Steamboat Springs for over 30 years. They are the reason we bought a place in Steamboat. Wayne is the one who moved our cabin from the town out to Strawberry Park. My nephew calls him his Steamboat Papa.

Wayne was a character. He was a builder, an artist, a rancher, a black powder enthusiast, a rugby player, a raconteur, a collector, a proud Fin, and an authentic Man of the West, though he was from Minnesota. He could fix anything and everything, and he did. He liked barter more than he liked money. I think about those mountain men who braved the snow and the Rockies back in the early 1800s and I don’t have to wonder what they were like. I knew one.

As I study genealogy, I’ve come to realize that friends are as important as family in telling our family histories. The Kakelas are an integral part of my family’s story and I’ll have a lot more to say about them in the memoir I’m writing.

Today I’m heartbroken over Wayne’s death. And today I’ve been thinking of one of my favorite quotes:

The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. — George Orwell

Life will break us all and it broke me a little today, but I wouldn’t trade that breakage for any of my memories of Wayne. If anything, Wayne’s death presses upon me the fierce urgency of now and redoubles my determination to get my memoir written. And I am comforted by the idea that my Dad and Wayne are sitting by a heavenly stream right now, in the shade of a cottonwood grove, drinking wine, eating steak and sharing a big laugh.

ship

The Coral Princess is a beautiful ship and was built relatively recently, in 2002. It sails under the flag of Bermuda. The Coral is 964 feet long, has a gross tonnage of 91,627 and carries 2,368 passengers and 930 crew members. (Gross tonnage is a measurement of total internal volume.) In comparison, the Titanic was 882 feet long, had a gross registered tonnage of 46,328 and carried 3,547 passengers and crew. Gross registered tonnage is not the same as gross tonnage but it is similar. How similar I don’t know. The Titanic could fit more passengers on a smaller ship because more people were packed into steerage. Incidentally, there appears to be no superstition among sailors about invoking the Titanic. Many crew members mentioned it. One cruise line once even proposed building a Titanic II. Wiser minds prevailed.

shipsI’ve read a lot about cruise ships before and after my cruise because cruise ship life fascinates me. I watched a lot of Love Boat while growing up. And I liked the movie Titanic. (I know there are strong feelings on both sides about this movie. Can’t we all just get along?) Life at sea in general fascinates me. The ocean makes up two-thirds of our planet and navigating the oceans has been a big part of human history. Until recently I didn’t know much about ships or the sea outside of reading Moby Dick. In my defense, I did grow up in landlocked Colorado. My oceangoing experience is limited to a couple ferries I took while traveling around the Mediterranean in 1990.

It used to be that passenger ships were merely a mode of transportation. The rise of the airplane put them in dry dock, literally and figuratively. Suddenly there were a surplus of passenger ships with nobody who needed passage. Booze cruises had been around since Prohibition. But most cruising was done by the wealthy. And even on passenger ships, the nice cabins were taken by the rich. The poor were in steerage, which was a miserable place of crowded conditions, poor sanitation, and bad food. The cruise industry, operating out of Miami rather than the passenger ship Mecca of New York City, changed all this starting in the years after World War II.

Old passenger liners were retrofitted to make those steerage decks more appealing. And the rise of the middle class provided the customers. Now cruising is one of the most profitable businesses in the country. At the same time, it’s under the radar. Flags of convenience mean the industry is the most free-wheeling in the world. You want to study an unfettered free market? Study the cruise industry. These companies enjoy the benefits of being United States corporations without the hassles, like pesky taxes and labor laws.

Beyond that, each ship is its own world, an authoritarian regime run by the captain. In the old days, sexual harassment was common and swept under the rug. There was a caste system on the ships with the usually European officers on top and the Third World laborers on the bottom. Officers could get away with a lot. The rest of the crew could get away with nothing. Though officially forbidden, sleeping with the passengers seems to have been a recognized perk for officers. Today everything has gone more corporate, which seems to be a good thing in some ways, though most crew members still have little job security.

CPWhen we first booked our cruise, my brother and I were sharing an inside cabin and our Mom was on the other side of the ship though on the same deck, which was the lowest passenger deck. As the cruise approached, we got upgraded for free to a cabin with a veranda one deck up and Mom was placed next door. That made things easier. Ted and I got the last cabin before the stern on the Emerald Deck. (See red arrow on the handy ship guide to the left.) I read that cruise companies do this type of free upgrade because it’s easier to sell the cheaper cabins at the last minute and cruise companies want to fill all the cabins. At a certain point of occupancy, each additional passenger becomes pure profit, not just because of the cabin fare but due to all the money spent by those passengers while on board.

The boarding procedure in Vancouver was very efficient. Clearly the cruise companies have this down to a science. At check-in, we each gave the woman a credit card number and she gave each of us a combination credit card and room key card. Throughout the cruise, we would use this card to purchase drinks (both alcoholic and not), items from the gift shop and anything else one buys on board. For instance, I assume in the casino you use your card to buy chips. There are also daily service charges added to your card as automatic tips to your hotel and restaurant staff. This does all add up though my final bill was not as severe as I feared it would be. I found out later that we could have brought a small amount of beer and wine on board. Not doing this was a big mistake.

Our room was great, much nicer than I expected. I envisioned some puny room like you would get on a train but it was more like a small hotel room. We had two twin beds very close together but there was also a living area with enough room for a small desk and a counter (under which was a small refrigerator). The bathroom was small but manageable. The shower was tight but okay for me. I imagine it would be a tough fit for a very large or overweight person. The highlight of the room was a huge closet area between the bathroom and the living/sleeping area. Ted and I could hang up all our clothes and there was a small safe to store our cash and passports without worry. The room also had a TV with many channels, including what I call the Bow-Cam Channel.

The best TV show was a daily “Morning Zoo” with the cruise director and his sidekick talking about the day’s events. It sounds stupid but it was very amusing. There is also a daily newsletter that our Room Steward gave us every day. Called the “Princess Patter,” it too sounds very stupid. And I mocked this newsletter before I came on board because I’d heard about the practice. But I was wrong. It’s invaluable. The movie is what and where? The comedian is when and where? The Princess Patter knows all.

ExpThe nightlife was near non-existent on this cruise. This was not a Caribbean singles extravaganza, this was an Alaskan cruise for couples celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary and honeymooning couples who acted like they were too. There were a handful of singles, a motley crew really, and we all congregated in the Explorer’s Lounge nearly every night. We made a few new friends, including a gutsy 20something from Florida named Shannon (pictured at right). She was on the cruise with her family and bored out of her mind. There was also a brother and his two sisters. They were underage so they played cards just outside the bar, by all appearances having more fun than we were. And there were some fun crew members, young people on the Entertainment Staff, doing their best to keep the Explorer’s Lounge alive and hopping.

ExpSometimes life on a cruise ship is boring. I had several books but didn’t always feel like reading. So I wandered the ship a lot. The pools were surprisingly small but as I’ve come to understand, that is standard. The hot tubs were lukewarm, I think because older folks complain when they are too hot. I complained they were not hot enough and by the end of the cruise they had warmed up slightly. It was fun to sit in the hot tubs in a cold Alaskan rain as we cruised past the glaciers.

The food. Everyone LOVES the food on cruise ships. Or everyone loves that food is always available on the ship and someone else is making it and someone else is cleaning up. I’m not that into food so I was not blown over by the options. The pizza was passable and I ate many slices. The midnight buffet was fun and I went there a few times circa 3am as part of my ship wandering. The food in the 24 hour restaurant did get a little old. On the other hand, eating dinner in the dining room was tedious. Every dinner there seemed to last three hours. I was relieved on the two formal nights when we had to eat in the 24 hour restaurant. (My Mom wanted to do the formal nights but Ted and I didn’t. We brought formal wear anyway so we could go with her. She did not because she thought we did not want to go. Textbook failure to communicate.)

sternIf we had been on a cruise without scenery (most cruises) we would have been very bored. But there was a lot of great Alaskan scenery, more of which I will put in a later blog posting. So cruising is a mixed bag in my mind. I did get the idea of a world cruise put into my head by a crew member, though, and here is what my research has yielded. It appears there are three ways to cruise the world on the high seas:

1. A cruise ship. Circumnavigate the globe on a cruise ship packed to the crow’s nest with rich elderly people. As with the other two methods, you may go through the Panama Canal or around Cape Horn, through the Suez Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope. Bring some good books. Prices $20,000 and up.

2. A freighter. Not as bad as you think. Travel with about 25 crew members and 15 passengers around the world. Most of these freighters have pools and the rooms are not too bad. The rest of the ship is low on amenities, however. The cheapest option, as little as $12,000.

3. Semester at Sea. Circumnavigate the globe with 700 college kids and a handful of professors. There are so-called “Lifelong Learners” on board too (10-40 of them) and that’s where you fit in. You have a hazy role that could include mentoring but might not. You audit classes and could potentially learn a lot about world cultures and ocean biology. (This is key, it sucks up the surplus boredom of being at sea.) This is my favorite option but it’s the most costly of the three, starting at $22,000 to $30,000 depending on the voyage you pick.

I don’t think I’ll be taking a world cruise anytime soon but it’s on my radar screen. I’m feeling the call of the sea…

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