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The Happy Side of the 2005 SSQQ Rita Rhapsody Cruise

Written by Rick Archer
November 29, 2006

The story of this year's Rhapsody Cruise will make no sense unless we put it into context. Our trip was delayed for three days because Houston narrowly missed a harrowing encounter with a deadly hurricane.

Our late September Rhapsody Cruise was cut in half by complications arising from Hurricane Rita. This powerful hurricane narrowly missed hitting the Houston-Galveston area due to a last-minute shift to Louisiana.  Like a nasty game of Russian Roulette, we may have been spared the worst part of getting shot, but facing our 1 in 6 chance of being annihilated still took its toll.

Those who stayed were scared out of our wits. Those who evacuated faced an ordeal fighting the biggest traffic jam in United States history.  No one was spared misery.

Let me amend that. A few Houstonians were having a good time.  While we sweated with worry back at home, the Rhapsody was riding out the storm in Jamaica.  The passengers who had gotten aboard the Rhapsody the Sunday before Rita came to town got three extra days at sea plus a wonderful stay in Jamaica for no extra charge!!  They were the lucky ones.

The SSQQ group was definitely not so lucky. Thanks to Rita we had our seven day trip cut to down to four including only three days at sea - one day sailing to Cozumel, one day in Cozumel, and then one day back to Houston. Just about the time we began to relax from the Rita ordeal and started to enjoy our vacation, boom, we were back in Houston. 

What was really terrible about losing half our trip is we couldn't get an ounce of sympathy.  Not even one tiny little "aw, that's too bad, what a shame!" from anyone!

It seems after all the bad things that had happened to the people of New Orleans with Katrina and all the bad things that happened to people with Rita, no one seemed to feel sorry for our tragedy of losing 3 days of vacation time.  No one saved a bit of human kindness for us. 

Maybe our unsympathetic friends had a point.

For example, here are "before" and "after" pictures of Holly Beach, Louisiana. This is the spot where Hurricane Rita finally decided to land.  Holly Beach is just a small beachside community without any defenses whatsoever. As you can see, the place looks like a bomb hit it.

Just imagine what would have happened to Galveston!!

Oh well, if you expect me to put things in perspective, I will begrudgingly admit our loss was perhaps slightly less serious than what happened to Holly Beach. That said, I still think someone should feel a little sorry for us.

A lot of us suffered a great deal during Hurricane Rita.  For example, I had to miss playing basketball on Saturday morning because the whole team had evacuated and couldn't get back in time.  What were they thinking?

And one of our cruisers - name withheld - suffered great damage to her property.  I will share this moving letter with you.

-----Original Message-----
From: P
Sent: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 7:33:48 AM
Subject: Hurricane Damage Photo

Attached is a photo illustrating the serious damage caused to my home in west Houston from the hurricane Rita that passed through on Friday night.  Thank God I don't value material things!

My close brush with disaster really makes me cherish what  I have. It reminds us not to take things too much for granted.  Remember to hug your loved ones and tell them how important they are.   Live life to fullest and appreciate every moment.

Take care of yourself and be safe.


(Scroll down to view the picture she sent me of the devastation)




Words can barely describe the damage this poor woman had to suffer.

Thank Goodness her begonias were spared.

This will help you realize the extent of the suffering those who "stayed" here in Houston experienced at the wrath of deadly Hurricane  Rita!!

No one disagrees that New Orleans and Holly Beach people suffered a lot, but as this picture clearly shows, no one was spared.

Our cruise members deserve all the sympathy you can spare.

If you get a chance, be sure to hug a cruise person and tell them you feel their pain.

By the way, you will be able to identify them from the tan they got in Cozumel.

The Happy Side of our Rhapsody Cruise

The Hurdy-Gurdy Man

For starters, Marla and I would like to thank Danny Herdejurgan (the Hurdy-Gurdy Man) and Jeff Plaster for talking all their friends out at the Tumbleweed into joining our group. We called them "Danny's Dozen" although I think there may have been more than that in his group.

My only regret is I did not have enough time to get to know these people better. In the brief time we spent together I discovered they were a really neat group.

Jeff and Danny on the left,  Lois Izquierdo, John Wedeking, Bobby Kirkpatrick, Cynthia Glasscock, David Pinder, Nancy Moncrief, and Kathy Bryant-Riser (Kathy was not an official Danny Dozen girl, but obviously enjoyed being in the picture).

Our trip may have been short, but we managed to have a Formal Night nonetheless.

Pictured below are Abbie Barbley, Leslie Grapevine Barkley, Gary Mr. Hat Schweinle, Stephanie Rocky Top Barrow, and Alex Zimmerman.

During our stay in Cozumel, a group of us decided to hit the famous Beach at Chankanab.

Pictured from left to right are Don Juan Schmidt, Iqbal (Ask Mr. Knowitall) Nagji, John Frierson in back, Julia Ghozali, Joe Lachner, Beth Swim Swam Swum Case, Me (Rick), Jean Munnerlyn, Patty Harrison (Joe gave Patty this trip as a birhtday present - we told her in class one night and she nearly fell down in shock!), beautiful Betty Richardson, Marla in front, and Mr. Jammer Gary Richardson, who was our wonderful photographer.

Pictured below are Leslie Grapevine, Stepanie Callihan, Maureen Brunetti, Stephanie Rocky Top, Steve the Great Gabino, Abbie Barbley, and Alex Zimmerman.


An Update on "The Usual Suspects"

This term developed on last year's trip when it became obvious the Same People kept showing up time after time wherever there was trouble. These 7 were deemed the Mischief Leaders. Without a doubt they combined to cause ALL trouble on last year's trip

Sad to the say, this year 4 of the 7 Usual Suspects from last year's trip didn't come remotely close to equaling their previous antics.
  One carved out a new role while 2 of the group burned like supernovas.

The Usual Suspects in 2004

We were really disappointed to lose their leadership!!  A lot of people don't know how to misbehave and need guidance. Without the Usual Suspects to cause trouble, our cruise was in danger of getting PRETTY BORING.

Fortunately as you will soon read and see, two returning Suspects - Alph and Center of Attention - displayed their uncanny superstar ability to create mischief and chaos practically everywhere they went.  Like the Grinch who Saved Christmas, as you will see these two troublemakers combined their powers to save the trip from Boredom!!!    We were so in their debt!

Alph and Center also helped initiate a new member into the Suspect clan.  They corrupted Mr. Hat by taking him on a drinking binge. This adventure helped Mr. Hat to get in touch with his Inner Bad Boy and become a Suspect himself. 

In addition two new Bad Girls stepped up to add serious deviltry to this year's trip!! 

As a result of their energies, even though this trip was short, it certainly wasn't dull.

Last year's 7 main troublemakers were:

  1. Eva Love is Blue
  2. George Mr. Handsome Sargent
  3. Steve the Great Gabino
  4. Lesley Grapevine Barkley
  5. Gina Lollabridgida Garza.
  6. Leslie Alph Goldsmith
  7. Phyllis Center of Attention Porter

Here is their Report Card for the trip:

1. Eva Love is Blue.

The picture at right is from last year. Eva didn't go this year. She cancelled just before departure for reasons unknown. Bad move. You Gotta Go to Make the Show.

In addition she was rumored to be one of the "Mutineers" who tried to talk people out of going on this year's trip. 

Bad move.

Grade: F
Off the team.


2. George Mr. Handsome Sargent.

Our incredible trouble-making MVP for the past two years was a mere shell of his former self. If it weren't for his past glory, I would not have known it was him.

Handsome even refused to participate in the infamous Scavenger Hunt.  No man on earth does "girl" better than Handsome!!  Passing up a chance at glory?  Now does that sound like the Mr. Handsome we once knew? 

Ya snooze, ya lose.  Grade: C-


3. Steve the Great Gabino
Steve was lost in love with Ms. Ooh La La, Christine Lozano. 

While we missed the Great Gabino's gift for mischief, he had a good excuse. It is a known fact that being in love largely inhibits the misbehavior gene. 

Personally, I don't blame Steve one bit.  A former naughty boy myself, I found some things in life are more fulfilling than the never-ending quest to get in trouble and cause trouble.  Even troublemaking gets old.

As one of 3 Suspects in a relationship this year, I congratulate Steve for being the only one to stay active in all events. He kept the energy going.  I also congratulate him for being w/o question the most photographed man on the trip. The Great Gabino managed to to get his picture taken constantly, but I think there's a catch.

Since I know who the photographer is, I have a hunch the real credit for the steady stream of pictures should be given to the alluring Ms. Ooh La La. 

Yes, Steve and Ooh La La were an eye-catching team without a doubt.  Kudos to the Power Couple!

Grade: B+


4. Leslie Grapevine Barkley
Grapevine was extremely well-behaved.  Shame on her!! The girl with the great smile didn't bring the heat this year.  Perhaps the mellowing influence of her cordial roommate Alex Zimmerman took the edge of off last year's wild child.  Or perhaps it was the mysterious good behavior of her partner in crime from last year, Mr. Handsome.

Whatever the reason, Grapevine was a different girl. I will give her good marks for being extremely active in the hot tub stuffing events. She is a great tub stuffer!! 
Grade: C


5. Gina Lollabridgida Garza
Lolla made the team of Usual Suspects last year mostly on the rumor of footsies and hanky panky under the water in the hot tub.

None of this was actually proven and Lolla denies anything happened.  However her enemies were certain something was going on out of sight.  In fact, one woman in particular bought an underwater camera just so this badness would be revealed.

Alas, no incriminating photos crossed this desk.  Other than being the glamorous beauty that she is, Gina kinda let us down in the mischief department.  For example, unlike last year, this year I didn't even see a good "drunk" picture.    

Oh well. Grade: C+


We have added three members to the Usual Suspects this year. First let's welcome Mr. Hat to the All-Star Squad!!

Gary Schweinle easily beat out former Top Dog Bad Boy Mr. Handsome and nudged the Great Gabino out of first place on the wings of a Diva-level drinking performance.

Mr. Hat fed off the heat created by Hall of Fame Bad Girls Alph and Center of Attention during an all-afternoon drinking binge at Cozumel. However Mr. Hat showed he wasn't just a puppy dog taking orders.  Judging by the pictures you will see shortly, Gary showed an impressive nose for mischief all of his own. He made the team with flying colors.

Truth be told, we didn't have Mr. Hat on our radar as a contender for the Throne of Mischief at the start of the trip, but like any good dark horse, he came out of nowhere and won the race going away!   Gary is this year's winner of the Top Dog Bad Boy award. Congratulations!!

Grade: A


Let us welcome Rocky Top, aka Stephanie Barrow, to our immortal flock of Usual Suspects. 

Stephanie got her Rocky Top nickname due to her deep affection for the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

However I have trouble calling a girl "Rocky" so I added "Top" to her name. I proud to announce Rocky Top misbehaved a lot.

Rocky Top was seen involved in Karaoke singing, Bungee Jumping, flirting with handsome Royal Caribbean staffers, sharing X-rated photos of her friends, frolicking in the hot tub, wearing a revealing Red Dress that only a hussy would dare be seen in, dishing rumors right and left, plus vamping it up with wild dancing in the Disco.

All in all it was a busy trip for the Top!!
Grade: A-


Rocky Top's partner in crime was Abbie Barbley.  However in order to be a Suspect, you have to have a nickname so welcome to the Gossip Pages Ms. Abba Dabba Do, Abba Dabba for short.

I heard Abba Dabba got kicked off a floating  trampoline in Cozumel. Apparently she and her partners in crime Handsome, Rocky Top, and Stephani Callihan weren't supposed to be using a toy meant for children.  Extra points go to Abba Dabba for pointing out the trampoline floated unoccupied for the rest of the day. A true Suspect needs to make pointed barb-leys whenever possible.

Abba Dabba was a serious leader in the Hot Tub. I don't think I saw one hot tub picture where she wasn't either in it or near it  (and there were a LOT of Hot Tub pictures.)

And then there was Abba Dabba's lascivious Disco Dancing. A picture tells a thousand words. Let me add Dabba Do made the team the instant I saw that picture.

Grade: A-


Honorable Mention goes to Michael (Hot Legs) Manuel and the Hurdy-Gurdy Man Danny Herdejurgan.

Michael won the Sexy Legs Contest aboard the ship. Of course it helped greatly that many inebriated members of the SSQQ Hot Tub Stuffing Team screamed bloody murder in support of Michael.

However a review of the pictures indicates that Michael might not have needed their help. For one thing, any cursory look at this picture shows that Michael not only has a great body, he really does possess perhaps the best set of legs since Secretariat.

But even better, Michael is seen here displaying some serious gamesmanship. He is seen hiking his pants to do whatever it takes to influence Ms Pony Tail Judge (who appears to be taking the bait, I might add!). Nice smile, too.
There is just "something" about Danny Hurdy-Gurdy Man that makes me think he would give Mr. Handsome in his prime a run for the money in the Mischief Department.

I think all Danny would need to do to win the coveted prize would be to show up in a few more pictures and perhaps actively seek some publicity (some of the Suspects never go anywhere w/o a camera to document their exploits).

Here in the picture at right, Danny was fortunate to stumble across a video in the making for "Cozumel Girls Gone Wild".  If you look closely, you will see a cameraman in the background.

One look at the grin on Danny's face shows he is not in the least bit uncomfortable with this situation. Just the way he bends his knees to hit the pose indicates he might be a natural.  The girl looks like she has met her match.

The Alpha Hussy.

Last year Leslie Goldsmith was the Goldmine, but this year she earned a new nickname. "Alph" is short for Alpha Hussy.  

Leslie made me smile earlier this year when she sent me an email stating that all the girls would be playing for Second Place now that she had entered the contest.

For the record, let's take another look at a quote from that infamous email:

"I am of the personal opinion that the Rhapsody 2005 would be in for even more "serious trouble" with the return of a Soon-To-Be-Single-Again Goldmine!!!!!

After all, I have the most legendary toes at the studio. I also earned the distinction of being named an "Equal Opportunity Flirt" during last year's cruise. And I consider these to be significant achievements, considering my Not-Yet-Single-Again status last year.

Sending in my deposit today!!!!  Be sure to let the men know I'm coming. Goldmine"

My reply was such:

Holy Smokes!  Sounds to me like Ms. Goldmine has personally announced she intends to be the Alpha Hussy on this year's trip. The rest of you gals better roll out the red lipstick and let those fingernails grow or the Goldmine will personally collect every guy on the trip for herself. Better sharpen those claws now or you'll be looking for your men in the Nerd Pile. 

And now you know the origin of the Legend of the Alpha Hussy.  As you can see from the picture, Leslie has a nose for self-promotion.  Leslie let everyone know she wasn't kidding when she wore her pink "Alpha Hussy" shirt and made certain it got photographed.  She didn't want anyone to think she was just kidding. Plus she knew it was smart to advertise. 

Indeed throughout the trip, Alph displayed the ability to cause trouble or get into trouble practically at will. Her ability to draw attention to herself bordered on the uncanny.  She lived up to her bad reputation in every way!!

Truth be told, of the seven original Usual Suspects, only Alph and Center of Attention exceeded their performance from last year.  At some point, they banded togehter and developed into a formidable power couple. 

For this year's trip, Alph and Center of Attention will share the title of Top Dog Bad Girl.  They were constant partners in crime.  Grade: A+


As I previously started, Alph and Center of Attention will share the title of Top Dog Bad Girl.

I can't imagine an odder "Power Couple" than Alph and Center, but their teamwork on this trip was phenomenal as you will soon see.

Alph is a born Hussy, albeit a kind-spirited one. She enjoys attention as much as the next girl. Center is not a Hussy, but she is a born attention-seeker. That is what they have in common - a love of attention and an amazing ability to attract it.

Where Phyllis Porter differs from Leslie is that she is also a born trouble maker (in a nice way, of course). Center is a professional agitator!!!  For example, I heard Center had a ball heckling the Lounge Singing Emcee.  That is one of the things Center does best - she agitates! If she isn't careful, that could become her next nickname - The Agitator!!

Center is incredibly good at getting people in trouble. She is the ultimate tattle tale and will provide a picture as evidence. Please note in the picture above her camera in her right hand. She never wants to miss an opportunity to dish which is why another nickname is "Paparazzi".

Frequently Center of Attention showed her willingness to corrupt others. In the picture at right, Center is attempting to lure Lollabridgida into another "drunk picture" like the one of Lolla a year ago. Just look at Phyllis in the picture - she is so proud of herself!!  Bad Girl!!

Soon you will amazing shots of Center luring Mr. Hat and poor Robert Frisky Business into behaving very badly at the "Girls Gone Wild" bar. Maybe we should also call her "Circe" for her ability to lead men to their doom. 

This year Center was seen in some interesting shots of her own.  In the past Center never actually got caught doing anything bad; she just spent time getting in trouble then took their picture.  This year as as you will see, Center of Attention is turning into something of a bad girl herself. Now if we could just get some more pictures!  

Most of all, I would like to thank Center of Attention. She filled the badness vacuum created by Mr. Handsome and made my job of writing the stories so easy

Phyllis is a born mischief maker!  I visualize her childhood as one where she constantly tricked her brothers and sisters into doing stuff, then turned around and told her parents on them.  Now that I think of it, doesn't that sound like "Lucy" in the Peanuts cartoon?  Phyllis is EXACTLY the kind of person who would pull the football away just as Charlie Brown were about to kick it.

That said, we owe her a debt. She was the Engine that drove the Cruise. Every time I turned around she was getting people to go bar hopping or setting hot tub stuffing records or helping Alph flirt with the hired help. You could ALWAYS count on Center to cause trouble wherever she went.    Grade: A+

The Adventures of Alph and Center -  Those Handsome Rhapsody Men!!

As I said earlier, Center and Alph were the great power couple on the trip. They were SSQQ's answer to Thelma and Louise.  One of their favorite pastimes was flirting with the Hired Help.

In the picture at right, Alph flirts with Samir, a waiter in the dining room who hails from India.

In an interesting side note, this was Samir's final trip on the Rhapsody. After we docked, he got off and headed to Denver, Colorado, to live with his wife.  He had recently gotten married and was finishing out his contract working on the ship.

Samir became a friend of mine on the previous trip last year. He was so kind to me it was wonderful. As I got to know him, I discovered in addition to his movie star good looks, he is also alert and very intelligent.

I felt like I knew Samir well enough to ask him about his wife. To my surprise, she was not Indian.  She is an American. I raised an eyebrow. Samir grinned and explained he met her on board the Rhapsody. That's right!!  She was a passenger and that's how they met.

I had heard the employees were not allowed to "date" the passengers.  For example, I watched from a distance on the trip we took last year as one the ladies in our group made a serious pass at Samir.

I saw how uncomfortable the woman's bold advances made him, but he clearly resisted taking the bait. I admired him for his poise (I was mad at the woman for putting him on the spot by the way).  Samir seemed incorruptible.  Imagine my surprise when I found this poster boy for self-discipline had taken a different passenger up on her interest in him. Samir was obviously just waiting for the right girl.

Several of our ladies hinted to me just how "friendly" the Rhapsody men had been with them during this trip. It never occurred to me that getting married was a ticket off this ship to freedom, but apparently that is now a possibility.  More likely they were just lonely. 

This door swings two ways. Alph and Center didn't seem to mind doing a little enticing of their own. They participated in a serious pictorial menage a trois with a handsome young man from Russia. First Sergei assisted Alph in raising her leg as Center looked on with approval.  Alph's dress was pretty short to begin with, so she was clearly flirting with disaster!

In the last picture, here we see Sergei lifting Center of Attention off the floor as Alph smiles approvingly. That is a very intimate caress from Center to Sergei's cheek, don't you agree?  And Alph is soooo close to him!  I wonder if he is married?  At the rate he is going in these pictures, he will be soon!

The Further Adventures of Alph and Center - Phyllis Gets The Shaft!

One of the problems of wandering around Mexico in a chemically altered state is you never know when an artifact might suddenly catch your fancy.

In this classic case illustrating a total loss of good sense, there is only one explanation for the following pictures and that explanation is known as "Tequila". 

Why else would a grown woman who has always behaved in a ladylike way suddenly appear to be unable to resist the advances of a Mayan Statue?   We all know a hard man is good to find, but really this is a little kinky.

Notice that Alph is clearly egging her on.  I think this is a good thing!!  After all the times Center has gotten other people in trouble, it is about time we saw the tables turned. Here Center falls for the trickery of her trusted ally. 
Notice also Alph's classic "hands-on-the-hip" look of total satisfaction for a job well done.

I must admit Center did a lot for international relations on this trip.  First, she flirted with From Russia With Love, now she is flirting with the Mayan Man. 

And now I ask you, "What was she thinking?" And I have some other questions to ask too.

How far did she go?  Did she touch it?  Did she stop there or did things get out control?  Did she bring protection?  After all, she doesn't know where that Shaft has been.

I mean, the way Center is staring at the Shaft, you wonder if there was a fourth picture that didn't quite make into the "Share Pool" for the rest of us to see. 

But did he call?  Did he write?  Did he respect her in the morning?  Did he remember her name?  Have there been others?  And was she sore the next day?

Shaft, Juan Shaft. 
Sex Machine to las touristas.

The Further Adventures of Alph and Center - SSQQ Boys and Girls Gone Wild!!

"In a little cafe just the other side of the Border... she was a sitting there giving me looks that make your mouth water..."

Center and Alph decided to invite some boys along to go bar hopping in Cozumel.  Center took her camera just in case something more exciting happened than blowing up some balloons.

As you can guess, the foursome did some serious drinking. They got Looped out of their minds (which explains the Mayan Man story perfectly).  Just look at the size of those drinks!!

Just about the time they were feeling no pain, to their total surprise "Something" really did happen!  Suddenly out of nowhere a bunch of Wild Women showed up to participate in a "Girls Gone Wild" video that was being filmed in the bar that day.

Their defenses down and their virtue drowned by intoxication, before you could say "One Tequila Two Tequila Three Tequila Floor", our two Amigas - Alph & Center - and our two Amigos - Mr. Hat & Robert Frisky Business - had made some new friends!

You know what?  Things quickly spun out of control.

As you will soon see from the pictures Mr. Hat went so wild he was drenched in passion.

Alph ended up in the arms of new boyfriend.

Frisky Business met a woman so exciting he nearly got married. 

Everyone but Center found love.  Meanwhile Center got really aroused watching all those undulating and pulsating sweaty bodies. It drove her over the edge. She lost control and attacked the first guy she met outside the bar - The Mayan Man!!

One final note:

Center of Attention says she will be selling the Video at the studio soon.  Alph definitely will appear with her boyfriend, but no word on whether Center's love scene with the Mayan Man will be added. 

Our Final Story: The 2005 Hot Tub Stuffing Competition

Back when I was a little kid, there was a craze known as Phone Booth Stuffing.  As I became a teenager, the craze became VW Beetle Stuffing. I always thought these people were nuts.

did I know that someday I would allow myself to become involved in a Stuffing Event. How completely immature of me.

Last year Mr. Handsome and Center of Attention created a Hot Tub Stuffing Craze of their own.  Who could imagine something this stupid would be carried over to this year as well?

Last year's record stood at 20. This year Center of Attention was determined to set a new record.  On our way back to Houston after the stay in Cozumel, we had a dance class in the afternoon. At the end, I announced that Center of Attention needed their help setting a hot tub record.  Our group immediately responded to the urgency of the situation by rushing to the hot tub area.

Center almost made it her first try pictured below, but they only made it to 20. 

Once the group realized they were one short of the record, they spotted a gentleman walking by and invited him to jump in.  Little did they know that he would take them literally. He jumped in!!

That is Carmen (Hitman) Vito on top in the picture below.  My guess is he didn't want to get wet.  By the way, I wonder where Alex's other hand is under Carmen??  She sure looks happy!!

A record may have been set, but who can tell??  Assuming no one from the picture above got out, then Carmen would have made 21.

I think I see Julia's bathing suit, but it's pretty dark under there. Where's Iqbal?   Judging by how happy everybody is, I guess we thought we set the record here.  But I think we need to see faces or some body part that reveals the presence of a person. 

Then I noticed another problem.

Assuming we had set a new record, half the group took off.  But after I reviewed the picture on "Instant Replay", I pointed out that Mara was not technically in the pool. You gotta have your butt in the pool or directly over it to count!    Record disqualified.  Center of Attention was furious!

We needed to try again.

Unfortunately the Hitman had left, but then Sharon and Eduardo passed by.  Here we go!!

This time I thought we set the record fair and square.  However it turned out Mara was just getting out of the pool when the picture was taken (see leg at 11:45).  She thought the picture had already been taken when in fact it hadn't.  Mara's butt was NOT in the pool.  Another disqualification!!

Center of Attention was fit to be tied over a mistake of this magnitude!!  What was Mara thinking?!?!  This was the Hot Tub equivalent of missing two free throws in the final seconds of the Big Game! 

Mara had a veteran butt, but she had made a serious mental error. Mara knew better.  It was hard for her not to cry after letting the group down like that.  Mara takes these things so seriously!! 

In the meantime several people - Holly, Loretta, and Leon - had left.  So did Sharon and Eduardo. So did Joe and Patty. Seven people would be hard to replace.  We kept begging people to join, but unfortunately the ones who would have fit in were sober and didn't want to get anywhere near us and the ones who were willing to join wouldn't fit. 

There had to be a Murphy's Law to explain why the wrong people were walking by.

What were we going to do?  We only had 14.  People were getting hungry and wanted to go.  5 minutes went by, 10 minutes went by. Things were looking dark.  We needed 7 more!!

Then Penny came along.
Then Kathy came along. 
Then the Stephanies came along. We just needed three more.

Suddenly the woman of our dreams came along - Jean Munnerlyn!!  She is on the diminutive side so we squeezed her in with no trouble at all.  Too bad she didn't have a twin.

Two more, two more....

Sharon and Eduardo walked by again.  They had been in an earlier picture and left. We begged them to come in.  They were hesitant.  We begged some more. Finally they agreed to participate. They got in and we took the picture!

This time however I wouldn't let anyone leave till there was a review of the picture.  I immediately got angry.  I only counted 20 people!!!

But Center of Attention demanded a recount so we counted the people who were still there. We counted 21 with our fingers.  I backed off, but I wondered why I couldn't find 21 in the picture.  I decided I had miscounted the picture and let it go. The hot tub crowd immediately dispersed.

The story doesn't end there.

When I put the picture above on my computer back home in Houston, I counted again.

Names of the people along the Perimeter of the Circle in the picture below
(from 6:00 counterclockwise)

1. Alex
2. Marla
3. Rick
4. Phyllis 
5. Stephanie
6. Abbie
7. Stephani
8. Beth
9. Mara  (yes, her butt was IN!)
10. Robert
11. Kathy
12. Penny
13. Julia (poking her head out)
14.  Lesley  Grapevine

Names of the people Inside the Circle

15. Jean 
16. Iqbal
17.  George 
18. Lila
19. Sharon 
20.  Eduardo

Twenty. No record.

I counted again. This time I noticed something peculiar. I saw an unaccounted-for eyeball. That's right, I saw a EYEBALL.  I looked again. Sure enough, there it was.

21. Eyeball.  No, not Iqbal... Eyeball!  (Can you find the missing Eyeball??)

21!!  We set a record!!    20 People plus an Eyeball

I have heard of winning by a nose, but never by an eyeball. There's a first for everything.

I am very sorry to say I don't know who the Winning Eyeball belongs to.  If I had to guess, it was where John Frierson had been sitting, but he is too big to have turned into an eyeball.  Besides it's a little eyeball. It looks like a girl's eyeball.  I don't have a clue.

What I do know is the Eyeball made us a winner.  There is no rule that says we have to know everyone's name.

But wait!! 

Another review of the picture seems to indicate that Grapevine's butt was out of the water!!  Or was it?  Was Grapevine's butt big enough to extend all the way from the water to the upper edge?  Go look for yourself at the picture above.

No wait. I think this calls for a butt enlargement picture. Something this serious must be reviewed.

Upon further review, I believe that half of Grapevine's butt was on the edge.  The other half sat on top of Julia Ghozali, whose face was poking out in the earlier picture just below Penny and the Eyeball.

Memory tells me Grapevine has a great figure.  You know what I mean, right?  There is no way her butt was big enough to reach any water!!  The butt of the Grapevine was dry! 

I am deeply sorry to say the new record is disqualified.  There have to be 21 WET BUTTS.  That's the rule.

Therefore the official SSQQ Hot Tub Stuffing Record remains at 20.

We will just have to try again next year and get some butts that are willing to sit down, get wet, and be counted!  We also need to go into training to NARROW our butts as much as possible.

One more thing - if you take a look at all the smiles in the hot tub pictures, you realize this totally we were having a lot of fun with this ridiculous activity. 

For one thing, it clearly didn't require much skill! (although Mara and Grapevine might disagree). 

We had a very goofy group.  We were blessed that we were able to be very easily amused in the company of our many friends. 

Looking back at the hot tub pictures, you would never guess that one week earlier practically everyone in the picture below had been completely miserable facing the threat of Rita. 

What a difference a week made. 

Our trip was short, but sweet.  I just wish the trip didn't have to end so soon.  We all left the ship feeling vaguely robbed of a lot of fun.

You will also see Marla smiling in those pictures. This was the first and only day of the trip she finally managed to relax.  The previous two days had seen a lot of tears.

Most of you have no idea how many problems Marla faced trying to organize this trip and then trying to hold the group together when Rita hit.

Sad to say, shortly after this picture was taken, things were about to get much worse!   Little did Marla suspect that sheer misery awaited her back on shore.

Soon Marla would almost go nuts trying to handle the financial problems of the passengers after it was over... all while worrying constantly over a cancer threat  (which fortunately turned out okay).

It didn't help that Marla was even accused of being a crook in the process. That was the last straw.  Marla decided there was so much confusion, it was time for her to set the record straight.

Marla's story about her frustrating experiences makes for a darkly fascinating read.
The Rhapsody Nightmare

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