3,610 Nautical Miles Later

Why is this man smiling? The buffet dessert selection.

The paucity of postings to this website of late is the result of an unusual and delightful experience: under the aegis of the Smithsonian Journeys speaker program, I was on the Celebrity cruise ship Mercury for a 12-night journey from Baltimore to the Eastern Caribbean and back to Baltimore. In the course of five talks I gave a kind of 100-year history of the Hollywood movie star: how they were manufactured in the studio days, what the X-factors are that contribute to the camera liking certain people, and why we choose certain stars in certain eras.

The Mercury also stopped at five warm islands, with beautiful beaches, in February, which is not a bad thing at all. And I think I ate more desserts in two weeks than I had in the previous year. Also not a bad thing.

I would like to thank: the people at Smithsonian Journeys for bringing me into this highly unlikely and unusual adventure, Celebrity Cruises, Activities Manager Jay and Cruise Director Stewart, my wife Mrs. Robert Horton, all the passengers we talked with, the ladies at Table 623, and the incredible crew that serves on the ship. Thanks also to Vic Stryker, whose astronomy talks were another part of the ship’s biorhythms and who took the photo above. Even the 18-foot swells on the way back didn’t affect the pleasure and kooky fun of the thing (although the screen was moving quite a bit during one of my talks, and I had to hold onto the podium a few times). Now I know what it’s like to see a whale jump from a ship in the middle of the ocean, too. (As a vigilante proofreader reminds me, I mean watching a whale from a ship – not seeing a whale jump from a ship.)