Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.

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By Milt Abel | March 9, 2012

| March 9, 2012

What a Wondeful World

 

Having grown up seeing my fair share of television medical dramas, it’s unnerving to walk through Tokyo’s Narita airport with so many people wearing surgical masks. You get the feeling an ad-hoc surgery, like a flash mob, is just a few seconds away.  Already jet-lagged and hopping between flights, I worried if I feel asleep across the bench-like seats near my gate I’d wake up noticing I was not only missing my flight, but a kidney as well.

 

I passed through Tokyo’s airport on my way back from Australia and Indonesia. I had just finished ten days aboard the Crystal Serenity where we sailed from Perth, up and through Indonesia, and finally Singapore, which was used as a turnaround port of sorts. Unlike my usual gig of a seven day cruise, this was a 17 day segment of a 78 day world cruise, where a good fraction of the passengers boarded in Sidney and disembarked in Singapore; vacating their cabins for new passengers to sail the next segment; Singapore to Hong Kong.

 

There were 274 people doing the complete 78 day cruise that left Los Angeles, sailed around Australia, up through Southeast Asia, Japan and Russia, then across to Alaska and back down to L.A. Pricey? On this very high-end line? You betcha. Once, when it was just myself and another male passenger riding in an elevator, I tossed off some inconsequential trifle about the cruise. He commented back, in a bored and bothered tone, “We’re doing the entire cruise. One hundred thousand dollars. But if it makes my wife happy…” And then he stepped out before the doors closed behind him. My wife and I argue about money, mostly about keeping track of it, and just a few dollars, properly accounted for, gets her in a good mood.

 

We stopped in Bali, and I had intended to go to the local high school so I could get a picture of Bali High -nothing wrong with a visual pun to share on Facebook or over coffee with friends as we pass our smartphones back and forth looking at photos. But it was so hot, we were near the equator in the summer, and the locals were such a pestering lot for taxi rides and tours, that I barely got a quarter mile and turned back for the comfort of the ship. To prove I’d been to Bali, I did stop and take a picture with someone who just happened to be nearby. Looking at the photo I think I chose him because his belly was slightly larger than mine; I appear in better shape by default.

When we pulled away I heard the ship’s public address system blare out Louie Armstrong’s recording of ‘What a Wonderful world.’ I had heard it as we left Perth as well, and it became obvious by the time we left our second stop in Indonesia, Semerang, that it was the ship’s signature of sailing off to the next port of call.

Semerang reminded me of Vietnam. Another guest entertainer and myself took a taxi into town so he could buy some asthma medicine at about a fifth of the price it would cost him in the States. Of course there was a little nagging doubt about the medicine’s purity and effectiveness, but the price alone allowed him to breath easier. We rode for a good ten miles through the city and neighboring urban sprawl and accompanying us every inch of the way was a swarming horde of motorcycles. A father had his three girls siting behind him on one, but it didn’t stop him and all the other motorbikes from flowing around our cab like we were a stone in a river.

The mall were we bought the asthma medicine was an unforgettable warren of shops, and levels, and side alleys, and kiosks, and storefronts all under one roof. We were escorted, by one of the few locals that spoke English, from the pharmacy to a moneychanger hundreds of stores away inside this mall. It became comical, then absurd, then frighteningly disorienting because of so many turns and escalators and clusters of stores we needed to pass. Without that guide we might have never made it back and forth to the pharmacy, maybe ever out of the mall altogether. It’s worth noting, even though we were weaving through a second to third world economy marketplace, every third shop consisted solely of cell phone accessories.

Watching how the locals lived and worked during our taxi ride back to the ship reminded me how lucky I was to live in the affluence of United States. I think it was very telling that this luxury ship played ‘What a Wonderful World’ as we pulled away and left these ports behind, rather than as we pulled in.

Topics: comedy, cruise ship, humor, travel | No Comments »

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