Day 5

March 19

At Sea

For those who have read the typical day of a cruise ship passenger, do not get the idea that everyone is typical or that we are necessarily following the typical schedule. (Yes, we are getting at least an hour of vigorous exercise a day and are going light on breakfasts and lunches.) But it is hard not to miss the observation that there is a bit of self indulgence, perhaps even decadence, on this leg of our adventure. Does this sound like Joe and Embry?

Well, first of all we had no idea what this leg would be like. Our goal was simply to get across the Atlantic without flying. Our travel agent, D’Lane, figured this part out. The ship was being moved; and because of the low demand for transit cruises, the price was low. We figured the ship would be mostly empty with few amenities. Anything but. Way to go, D’Lane!

But to fully appreciate the dynamics involved in the Big Trip you need to know two things and only two things about us: Embry is a Presbyterian and I am an Episcopalian. (Yes, we both are active members of All Souls EPISCOPAL Church in

DC, but Embry was brought up Presbyterian and insists on identifying herself as such.)

First a word on Presbyterians. Presbyterians are earnest, hard working and serious. Because they are hard working and serious, they make money and they save money. The fundamental principle, however, which governs behavior by Presbyterians is inconspicuous consumption, which is to say that they do not ever want to do anything that would let on that they have money or are anything other than the God fearing, simple-living people that they are. This fact is important for a number of reasons, the most important being that Embry is financing this trip.

Episcopalians on the other hand are polar opposites. Because of our obsession with self indulgence and pursuing the good life, we spend what little money we have on ourselves and have little left over for savings or anything else. The driving principle behind our behavior, however, is to create the illusion that we are successful and wealthy, and for the most part we succeed in this—in some cases thanks in part to an industrialist grandfather or rich uncle , who being a good Episcopalian did not give his fortune away to worthwhile charities as would surely have been the case were he a Presbyterian . The whole idea of understated elegance was invented by Episcopalians because we have good taste but can’t afford to buy anything. An Episcopalian friend of mine once commented that anything requiring hard work was not worth doing. That pretty much sums it up. This fact is important for a number of reasons, the most important being that without an Episcopalian involved, Embry would be staying exclusively in third class hotels and taking buses across Africa. That would not be a good thing. And were not a Presbyterian involved, this Episcopalian would be glued in front of the TV watching the NCAA basketball tournament and complaining about the weather and the Republicans in Congress. This also would not be a good thing—at least compared to this alternative.

And because we have been married for 50 years (come December 28), we have both have had a positive influence on each other. Embry is enjoying this Holland America cruise as much as, if not more, than I am. And I am working hard every day to prepare myself mentally for the container ship Pacific crossing on the penultimate leg. Without each other this trip would never have happened.

5 thoughts on “Day 5

  1. Wow! Thanks for the education. As a Quaker/Buddhist raised by a French mother with a keen interest in paganism, I wonder a lot about the Protestant denominational nuances in my US family. Your insightful observations here remind me of what my great uncle (Embry’s uncle) Donald Stephenson of Covington, Georgia, said when I asked how the Presbyterians and Methodists there got along: “We speak to each other, if that’s what you mean.”

    Another classic for the Joe Howell anthology! Thanks, keep them coming, and have a great rest of the trip.

    Love,

    Alex

  2. Yet another brilliant entry. So glad to hear you’re making the most of the luxuries (like good Episcopalians), and not letting them get the best of you. I am a bit worried about you disembarking 15 pounds heavier. Cuz those roller bags ain’t gettin’ any lighter.

  3. The sermon at church this morning on Passion defined Anglicanism (and Epscopalism) as Passionate Coolness. So enjoy every bit of your trip, but don’t get too passionate about any of it and you’ll both be in character.

  4. Wonderful! you’re launched! I went into this in a gloomy mood and I laughed all the way through; and so was restored, at least to a measure of health and sanity (though I don’t know for how long) and of insight, as to the current state of our civilization, as revealed in a 20-story cruise ship brimming with restaurants on the high seas. Thank you Joe! And thank you Mimy, for being such a good Presbyterian!

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