Cruising Speed, Part II


I was writing about National Review’s latest voyage, a cruise of the Western Caribbean. Would you like to read Part I? Go here. Just plunge into Part II? Okay. Speaking of plunging: One of our islands was Grand Turk, and that is the island on which — near which — John Glenn splashed down, in 1962. He spent the next couple of days on that island. There is a little monument there, commemorating the splashdown.

I have a memory from the 1984 campaign — from the Democratic primaries of that year. Mondale, somehow, made fun of Glenn’s experience in space: talking about how he had ridden around in a capsule. And Glenn, in one of the debates, mocked Mondale’s pronunciation: “capsool.” “. . . when I was riding around in that capsool, as Vice President Mondale would say . . .”

I have another memory — of an interview I had with Fred Thompson, in the late 1990s. Perhaps it was in 2000. Senator Glenn had repeatedly blocked investigation into Clinton’s financial dealings with the Chinese. And I asked Thompson whether he discerned a link between this blockage and the administration’s willingness to have Glenn take a final ride in space. Had some sort of deal been cut? Was there an understanding? Thompson said, “That’s between John and his Maker.”

Our cruise director’s name was Shane. I never saw him, but I heard him, a lot. He’d come on the PA and say, “This is Shane, your cruise director.” Very pleasant voice. And I thought the name was perfect.

We had a passenger who celebrated his 85th birthday onboard. He is a Wisconsin businessman, very successful, and he has seen a lot — and survived a lot. What he mainly survived was the Battle of the Bulge. After that, everything must be cake, I’m thinking.

On Grand Cayman, I tramped all over a Jack Nicklaus golf course. (Without playing, I mean.) On the golf courses I worked at, you could never have just taken a walk. We would have kicked you off in a heartbeat. This course was far more relaxed. It’s true that it was a rainy day, and that there were very few players. Still — I thought the personnel were nice to just let me tramp.

Down by the water, I saw a marvelous blue heron. At least, I think it was a blue heron. It looked blue heron-ish. Who do you think I am, Roger Tory Peterson?

Next to this golf course is a swanky neighborhood — a gated community. There are signs saying “Respect Our Privacy” and all. There are little security huts. I took a good long walk through this community, unmolested. Unstopped, unquestioned. I had a terrible thought: “Am I able to stroll without incident because I’m white? If I were black, would I be stopped, or questioned, or at least looked at?” I’m afraid I would have. I could sort of sense it, from all I saw. And this felt — to use that word again — terrible.

“White skin privilege”: Sometimes it is not just a leftist slogan. In some places, white skin will cut you slack, and in other places it will cause you trouble. The same is true with black skin, or skin of other colors. Skin: There could hardly be a stupider aspect (which is the mot juste) of human life.

Elsewhere on Grand Cayman, I saw a restaurant calling itself a Texas roadhouse — or smokehouse, one or the other. A sign advertised “Real Texas BBQ.” I thought, “Let Kevin Williamson be the judge of that.”

Speaking of Texas: I met a couple of cruisers — NR cruisers — who run a ranch there. A ranch for the mentally disabled. The lady of this husband-and-wife team said, “Everyone assumes you’re a liberal, just because you work in charity.” Her husband later said, “There is a story to be written about conservatives in the non-profit world.” I think there is.

I met a lady who grew up on Central Park West, many years ago. She has no New York accent whatsoever. She told me her father was British — that made a difference. She took the subway to high school, and it cost 5 cents. “What is it now?” she asked me. Two twenty-five. She was amazed.

I’ll tell you something she has in common with Bill Buckley: When she says “Broadway,” she puts the accent on the second syllable: Broad-way. That is very Old New York.

One of our cruisers, knowing I was a Jack Nicklaus nut, brought a precious photo: a high-school snap of Jack. She and he went to Upper Arlington together. (This is the Columbus, Ohio, area, of course.) He wrote a note on the back of the photo: highly amusing. And he had excellent penmanship, did Jack the High-schooler. He virtually wrote like a girl. He didn’t play golf like a girl, however (or football, or basketball).

How about that lady, that dear cruiser, bringing that photo for me to look at?


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review