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


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The Rock and The Monkeys

By Milt Abel | November 15, 2011

The Rock and The Monkeys

Rain kept me from seeing the monkeys of Gibraltar. They’re also called Barbary apes, but ‘apes’ sound big and scary, while ‘monkeys’ sound like they could be leashed to an organ grinder; attached a gorilla to an organ grinder and it’ll be the chap with the handlebar mustache doing the tricks for tips. So I’ll use the term monkey.

I’m aboard the Holland America Maasdam, riding along on days 13 through 22 of a 45 day cruise. This “Atlantic Adventure Cruise” began in Ft. Lauderdale, October 28 and will end when the ship returns December 12. I joined November 9 in the port city of Tenerife on the Canary Islands and had quite a scare when I flew in.

I left my house at 4AM on November 8th and three flights and 36 hours later (only 28 hours if you subtract the time zone changes) the plane is banking into its approach to land in Tenerife and I can see a cruise ship steaming out of the harbor. I usually don’t sit by a window, but just for drama’s sake I was sat next to one, and almost as an effort to be mean, the plane tipped its wing so I could clearly make out the Holland America colors and logo on the ship that was leaving -as I was still in the plane.

It happens. Mistakes are made. Holland America has fifteen ships, two to four guest entertainers continually joining here and there, leaving here and there, while traipsing all over the world. It’s a lot of complicated logistics. One time I arrived at the airport in St Marteen only to find the airline’s ticket counter was closed, in the middle of the day, because they didn’t fly on Tuesdays, my return ticket was booked for a month later than the day I was there. (That was Princess, not Holland)

Would you believe there were two Holland America ships in Tenerife that day? Tenerife isn’t exactly Miami, where cruise ships are hanging around like day-laborers near a Home Depot. This is an exotic port in the Canary Islands. But there were two ships, which I didn’t believe until I actually saw it from my transport’s seat -which was late picking me up. I get out of the luggage area and there’s no one to pick me up (of course, because the ship has already left!) but you play it until the end, working and reworking your excuse of why you missed the ship. In this case it was pretty much “I just went to where to told me to go, when I was supposed to be there.” But the thought of more traveling after a day and a half… It turns out there was a ship’s contractor with the last name Martin, and that’s close enough to Milton for 90 percent of the taxi drivers in the Canary Islands, so off they went. You try and not be high-maintenance and stressed as a traveler, but sometimes its hard.

Our first stop after Tenerife was Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. There was a lovely seaside walk that went on for miles and I walked most of them. Here’s a photo looking back on the walk.

I spent a good part of that morning trying to find a wifi connection, which is pronounced ‘weefee’  in the Canary Islands and Spain. I’d walk into a cafe’ and ask a single word, ‘weefee?’ I felt like I was looking for a lost poodle.

We had another stop in the Canary Islands, which I missed exploring, on the whole, because I was resetting my Circadian clock. I’m still adjusting it, a week into my stay in Europe. The next day the ship was at sea, then we stopped at Casablanca, Morocco.

I know it sounds romantic and glamorous, Casablanca, but they’ve added a lot of shipping containers and poverty since Bogart and Bergman were stomping around the casbah. I performed that night and the general assessment from the audience about the day’s port was “bleh.” Even after adding color, the general impression of the city named after the beloved movie (or is it the other way around?) was that it was a washout.

The next stop was Gibraltar. I was anxious to try and approach a monkey. I was warned they would grab anything lose and throw it down The Rock; glasses, hats, cameras, anything they could grab. They hang out in the upper portions of the Rock of Gibraltar and it calls for a tram ride to get up there. I’m always on a budget, and I love to walk, so it was my plan to walk as far up The Rock as I could and hopefully encounter one of the monkey while I wrapped my arms around myself in an anti-theft embrace. But it rained heavily and I never got far. I strolled around the base, wading through the rain puddles and broken cameras and glasses.

Topics: comedy, cruise ship, humor, travel | please add Comments »

Mesquite and Laughlin

By Milt Abel | October 24, 2011

Mesquite and Laughlin, Nevada

I received a last-minute call to replace a comic who did what I often do; cancel booked worked because more lucrative ship was offered. I guess karma does works, even when it needs a phone call and a cheap hotel to balance the ledger.

The cheap hotel was the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. It’s only now, two days later, that I realize what was so unnerving about my hotel room. It had no bed coverings, just sheets and blankets, no artwork whatsoever on the walls, and was supplied with the bare minimum of personal hygiene products; one paper-wrapped mini-bar of soap and one (1/3) roll of toilet paper. It was what I envision a minimum security prison cell might look like (if my hedge fund scheme gets exposed, I’ll be able to confirm). I was capable of leaving, but things would just get worse if I did.

Adding a Kafka-esque touch was the radio-alarm clock. The small black box displayed the incorrect time, and when I picked it up to set it I noticed all the print had come off the six buttons across the top as well as on the two sliding bars used to change modes and functions. It was a puzzle that could take all the time I hoped to nap -and use the alarm for. How many compulsive gamblers had used that alarm before me to wear off every bit of print on the adjustments? We feel we are not time’s prisoners when we can at least compartmentalize it. Incorrect, and without a recourse to correct it…? That’s unjustified imprisonment. If I was still in that room today I’d probably smuggle a spoon out of the 6.99 breakfast buffet and use it to scratch the days in hash marks on the barren walls.

I asked at the front desk if there was a gym or exercise room. “No.” Then asked if there was a jogging or hiking path anywhere in the rolling dessert foothills that surrounding the casino on several sides. “No.” Then I asked if there was anywhere in town where I could go for a walk and get some exercise. “Yeah, there’s a walk along the river, that goes for, I don’t know how long. You just drive downtown and the path starts right in between the Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Arby’s.” A health mecca Mesquite is not.

Nor is Laughlin, Nevada. If Las Vegas is called Sin City, Laughlin, not being as committed in its hedonism, could be called Bad Habit City. The amount of overweight people waddling through the casinos, wearing tee-shirts that advertise a better time somewhere else with someone else, is depressing. Like litter blown about, the white trash gathers in eddies against slot machines, tethering themselves with curled cords attached from their clothing to their gambling club discount cards inserted into the machines: each suckling from the other.

The audiences turned out to be pleasant enough. A friendly young man from the Saturday night show, sitting at a front a table with his fiance (we discussed this in front of everyone) bought me a drink on stage. Something that hasn’t in a long time, probably because of all my cruise work. Older, staid crowds and all that; I’d be more likely offered a comforter  or good book.

I nursed the drink through my set, and typical of comedy club audiences, I started getting ribbed about not chugging it. So with just a few minutes left in my set  I threw my head back and downed the bourbon and coke. Knowing every eye was on me I felt some physical joke was appropriate, so I used the cascading ice inside the cup to pretend like something was inside it. A gift. I mimed gagging slightly, then pulling something out of my mouth.

“A ring!” I announced. I looked at his fiance at said, “It looks like your out of the picture.”

I thought it was funnier than the audience’s reaction, but maybe that was the bourbon and coke doing the thinking.

Topics: comedy, humor, travel | please add Comments »

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