Welcome to Guest Scrapbook
by the Guests
2011 Virgin Islands Cruise!
Memories are an important part of every cruise trip.
Now that Marla and I have published our personal
invite our guests to create this Scrapbook of their own. Every person on the trip
is welcome to contribute pictures to the Scrapbook page. Using
email, let's limit it to your six favorite pictures. Email to
In particular, I didn't
get many Formal pictures. As I pointed out earlier, a rainstorm in Grenada
ruined my camera right before the last Formal Night. Oh
So by all means send me
a Formal picture plus a few more of yourself and your friends.
That way this Scrapbook is shared by our entire group! Thanks!
Adventures of the All That Jazz Family
I met Gina and Joy Al-Jazrawi at the
SSQQ-Bissonnet studio back in 2007 in our Western classes.
I liked these two
sisters from the moment I met them. They were intelligent,
they were funny, and they were extremely likeable ladies.
However, I discovered their popularity was just a masquerade.
Once they got to know me, they started to gang up on me. That
is when I discovered they possessed a quick wit which they enjoyed
using on me. I tried fighting back. Trading insults, the
three of us became sparring partners. Naturally they won all the time.
Few men are smarter than even a single woman, but no man is smarter
than two. I never had a chance.
It was in
early 2008 when I met their vivacious mother Ann. Ann had come to take
an East Coast Swing class. I have never met a warmer person.
Ann was just as friendly as her daughters. I immediately liked
her much better than her daughters because Ann didn't pick on me... or so
One night Ann found an
ingenious way to torment me.
We had just finished our
dance class at the studio. Ann and I were just standing around
having a nice conversation. As we were chatting, Ann mentioned
she and her husband Sam liked to travel. Smiling, I casually
mentioned that my wife and I like to travel too. I told
Ann that Marla and I were planning to visit Europe for the
very first time in August 2008. Okay, so I was
bragging a little, but it was harmless. I was just
trying to impress Ann and make her think I knew a lot about
foreign countries. I guess I should add that at this
point I had never once been out of the United States. But
she didn't have to know that, right?
Ann smiled back politely. Oh really? That is when she
began to tell me about a trip she and her husband Sam were going on
starting in May, one month from now.
As I listened, I
could hardly believe this woman's story. Ann's Big
Adventure started with a
two-week luxury yacht cruise that wound its way throughout the Aegean Sea.
Ann and Sam would be visiting
a dozen beautiful Greek Isles. Seeing my eyes bulge, Ann promised she
would be sure to
say hello to Circe, Cyclops and Poseidon along the way.
Ann paused for a
second to take a sip out of her soda. Then she looked
back at me and explained how tiring it was to try to
remember so many details. Ann said she was exhausted
just thinking about it all.
Oh please. Give me a break, lady.
As I listened to Ann
tell me more about her trip through the Greek Isles, I was crestfallen.
This was the most wonderful trip I had ever heard of! My envy
was off the charts. So imagine my shock when I discovered the
Greek Isles was merely the warm-up act to Ann's Big Adventure.
I stared at Ann with
incredulity. You mean there's more?
As her story continued,
I discovered Ann's trip was so
elaborate it would take them to 8 different European countries
spread out over three months (May through July 2008).
Athens, Rome, Nice, the French Riviera, Geneva, the Swiss Alps, Paris, London,
Bremen. OMG! This lady was about to visit every place I had
ever dreamed of visiting and she was going to do it all in one trip!
I was so envious that I
began to tremble! What I wouldn't do to experience a trip like
Looking back, I probably should have known better than to reveal my
feelings, but I didn't know who I was dealing with.
Ann was amused. She
could see I wasn't handling my feelings very well. Ann decided to
take advantage of my weakness.
The next day Ann emailed
me her entire European Trip itinerary.
It made me sick to read
about it all. Switzerland,
Spain, Turkey, Greece,
Italy, France, United Kingdom, and Germany were among the
My mind reeled.
What a dirty trick!
After I got Ann's
email, I casually asked Marla what a trip like this might cost.
Marla rolled her eyes. "This is one of those things that
if you have to ask, you can't afford. That trip is so expensive that to
tell you what it would cost would break your heart. Let's just
put it this way. We would need to find Aladdin's Lamp to
The thing is, I had no idea
that Joy and Gina were members of such a well-to-do family. Both
ladies are so down to earth that I never imagined they had come from
such privilege. Many children who grow up with advantages in
life grow soft, but not these two.
Indeed, as I got to know
them better, the work ethic of the two women was something to
All Joy ever
talked about how hard she worked as an immigration lawyer here in
Houston. I got the impression that Joy put in a seven-day work
week. Gina sounded just the same. All she ever talked
about was how hard her boss worked her at her engineering company.
It took me a while to realize that Gina's mean boss who worked her
to death was also her Father Sam! Interesting.
raised these two ladies the right way. Knowing this, I
couldn't possibly hold a grudge over Ann's dirty trick. Well,
not a big grudge.
finally got to meet Sam, Mr. Paterfamilias, during the cruise. Sam
struck me as a quiet guy
who always seems to have a twinkle in his eye. Sam and I never
got past the cordial stage, but I kept an eye on him nonetheless.
Judging by his smile, I think Sam thoroughly enjoyed spending time
with his family on this trip. I think this gentlemen enjoys reaping
the rewards from his lifetime of hard work as a businessman and a
father. With a family as wonderful as his, I think Sam has every
right to be proud of a job well done.
and Brandon got married in 2003.
2009 was the year a
certain young man signed up for membership to the All That Jazz family
when Gina gave birth to
their son Laith. It was definitely a happy occasion for the
entire family. Laith quickly became the main object of
affection for everyone!
2009 was also the year
that the All That Jazz Family won second place in our SSQQ Halloween
"Best Group Costume" contest. Those are authentic Arab outfits
by the way. I tried shaking them down for some upgrade money to
get them into first place, but it didn't work. Joy said never
mind, her father had taught her how to be thrifty. Just my
While asking about the costumes, I learned that Sam was raised in Iraq back in the
late Forties. He later received his college education in Europe
(England if I remember correctly) before emigrating
to the USA.
This picture gives every
indication that the family is quite proud of their Arab heritage.
The Al-Jazrawi family is a perfect reminder that there are many good
families of all nationalities here in America.
I don't care what color
someone's skin is, what religion they adhere to or where they were born.
If a person from another country comes to America and works as
hard as this family does, I feel fortunate to benefit
from their contributions and from their good will... even if these
particular women do
play rotten tricks on me.
My biggest regret after selling SSQQ-Bissonnet in
2010 was losing touch with so many of my friends
back at the studio. Therefore it was with
great delight that I found out the infamous All That
Jazz Family was coming along on our Virgin Islands
study the pictures from the trip, I am sure you will conclude they
had a good time. Now let me remind you that
the Eastern Caribbean islands probably aren't quite
as fashionable as the exotic Greek Isles steeped in
mythology. You know, according to Plato, those
Greek islands could possibly be the only thing that
remains of Atlantis. And it is hard to beat a
yacht trip that takes people to some of the same
islands that brave
Odysseus visited on his ten year ordeal after
the Trojan War.
other hand, I
think our jaunt to the Caribbean Islands was just as
special to Sam and Ann because they were able to
share it with their entire family. I have a
hunch having the family along meant more to them than
the Greek Islands in the world.
Zaid, Joy, Sam, Ann, Gail, Dave,
Laith, Gina, Brandon.
Gail and Dave are Brandon's parents.
Zaid is a cousin of Gina and Joy.
It is extremely difficult for
a family with a very young child
to take a vacation. I think Gina and Brandon
very appreciative of their awesome support system.
As you can see
from these pictures, Laith was all over the place!
These pictures show just how neat it was for the entire
family to participate in Laith's first big cruise trip.
Judging from everyone's smile, they loved having Laith along.
amazing to watch how effortlessly this close-knit family of
9 was able to merge with the larger group of 62. They were a
Family within a Family. Nor did they stick to
themselves. Although the Jazz clan had their own table, I noticed Joy visit
other tables frequently (and Gina as well whenever
freed up from Mom-duty). The cruise trip
allowed everyone to move fluidly from one set of
friends and family to another.
beauty of a cruise trip is that it provides such a
convenient opportunity for an uncomplicated "Family
Adventure". What other type of vacation
accommodates 9 people all from different life stages so effortlessly?
In this case, we had two
sets of grandparents - Sam and Ann (Gina's parents),
Dave and Gail (Brandon's parents) - who came along with
Gina, Brandon, and their son Laith, plus Aunt Joy and her cousin Zaid
for good measure.
mind, the big winners were Brandon and Gina. With
their entire family along, Gina and Brandon had all
sorts of win-win options. They could strike
out on their own with Laith any time they pleased
(see picture). Then at other
times Gina and Brandon
had two sets of grandparents plus Aunt Joy to look after Laith for awhile. Not
that Joy or Ann minded a bit! It
really was a great arrangement for everyone.
The star of the
show was Laith who just turned 2. I have never seen
anyone get so much attention! In addition to his
loving family, many of the other people on the trip were fascinated
at how talented and well-behaved Laith was. This young man
mesmerized all of us with his constant good temper and sharp
intelligence. I was shocked when wunderkind Laith was able to say my name aloud the
first time he heard it. Except that he pronounced it "Ick".
Why am I suspicious that he was coached to say that?
I have never seen a kid more
full of energy! As it turned out, I had a
cabin on the same level as the Al-Jazrawi clan.
Practically every morning I was amused to come out of my
cabin to see Ann or Gina chasing Laith around the ship.
Now I know why Gina is the luckiest Mom ever to have her
sister and mother to help keep an eye on this bundle of energy. Laith must be the happiest boy in the
A cruise trip is
so flexible that everyone had a chance to hang with the
family, hang with the group, or simply strike out their own.
I was pleased
that Joy and Gina found time for me. I thoroughly
enjoyed my chance to hang out with Gina and Joy again.
Few people know this story, but our friendship deepened
several years back due to a very unusual situation. At
the time, every Friday night there was a very attractive
Asian lady who made a point of seeking me out for a dance.
The moment she walked in, this woman made a beeline for me.
And then it was another dance later on. And then
another dance. Whenever I turned my back on her, she
would sneak up and tap me on the shoulder.
I was never quite sure what was going on, but it seemed to
me like she was angling for more than just a dance. This woman didn't speak
English very well. Instead she let her
body do the speaking. The Dragon Lady as I
referred to her always wore
revealing outfits and didn't seem to mind brushing up
against me several times as we danced. She would laugh
and smile the entire time.
I didn't know
what to make of this woman, but I was flustered. I think she knew I was married,
but that didn't seem to bother her. One time I
deliberately mentioned I
was going on a cruise "with my wife". Some women would
get the hint, but this woman replied, "Ah, why don't you take
me too?" Her smile made it very clear that she could
not have cared less that I was married. In fact, I
am pretty sure she was married as well. And judging by the quality of
her expensive designer clothes, she wasn't poor either.
Whomever she was married to obviously could afford her.
Perhaps I should
have felt flattered, but mostly I felt uncomfortable. Finally I had
enough. I didn't even want to be near her. One night she showed up with that look on her
face and I panicked. The easiest way to deal with
temptation is to avoid it completely. Where to find refuge?
That's when I noticed Joy and Gina chatting together on the
couch in the Big Room.
I quickly walked
over to them and plopped myself between them for safety.
That's when I explained the situation to Joy and Gina.
Once I was sure I had their sympathy, I
asked them to be my bodyguards. They smiled and said
sure. From that point on, any time the Dragon Lady
showed up, I would rush to their sides for protection.
Whenever I was next to these women, their frowns of
discouragement sent a clear signal to leave me alone.
I think the woman got the message. She stopped asking
me to dance and moved on to other men. Thank goodness. Problem solved.
After that, I
looked forward every Friday night to
spend regular time with the two sisters. However their
friendship came with a price. That when Joy and Gina became
my regular sparring partners. We had
some great good-natured arguments and we teased each other a lot.
In addition to teasing me, I discovered that they also liked
to match wits. Joy in particular liked to
challenge me in trivia contests. Her strengths were
American Presidents and American Capitals. My
strength was world capitals. It was a great
competition because I secretly studied the order of the Presidents in
a vain attempt to beat her. She admitted she did the same thing
with world capitals. We were both making each other smarter.
Those were fun times.
On this cruise,
bright these ladies are, I jumped at the chance to
participate in a movie trivia quiz on the last day. As they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The game
was to hear a five-second clip of movie themes and guess the
movie title. Joy, Gina, Zaid, and myself proved to be a formidable team. I
helped with some of the older movies from the Sixties and
Space Odyssey, Goldfinger, Star Trek,
and Halloween. Joy and Gina got
Harry Potter, Chariots of Fire, Star Wars and Rocky (Eye
of the Tiger).
Working together we got 12 of
15 right which was pretty good.
Alas, we were
beaten by a team that got 13 of 15 right. They got
ET right and we didn't. That was the
difference. Gina was beside herself because she had
said "ET" a couple times when we were
guessing, but didn't suggest it when it was time for our
desperation answer. Oh well.
competitive these two girls are, I fully expected the All
That Jazz Clan would dominate my Eastern Caribbean Trivia
Contest. On the final night of the cruise, I handed
the pop quiz to each table just to see who had been paying
attention during the
trip. Alas, the Jazz Family finished second in this contest as
well. This time it was Joy who was beside herself. She looked at me
in frustration over another second place finish and said,
"Wait till next year. Laith will be 3 then.
We'll kick your butts."
Considering how bright that boy is, Joy probably wasn't
can't tell you how much I enjoyed sharing good times again
with my friends Joy and Gina and their wonderful family...
except Ann that is.
Do you know what that
rotten woman did to me? Just one short week before our trip, Ann decided
to jerk my chain again. Ann opened old wounds by sending me this email:
"Dear Rick, I
thought you would get such a kick
learning about three
other unusual trips
The first was Kenya in 1999. This
was the 1st trip that I did the Itinerary on the computer and
saved the info. Africa is so amazing!
You should visit it sometime.
Italy 2004 was an International Wedding. Our Nephew Feras
married Jala. Jala's Father was
Iraqi and her Mother is Italian. We have 19 International
weddings between Sam and my family. We could be the United
Our trip to the Middle East was one of my favorites.
Thank Heavens, we traveled last year before all the turmoil
occurred. Now, it would be impossible to travel to that part of
the world. What a shame you and Marla may
have to wait.
So far, the countries I I have been to in the Middle East are:
Iraq (1975 and 1979), Egypt, Jordan, Syria
Don't you agree travel is wonderful?"
"Don't you agree
Travel is wonderful?" - talk about rubbing it in!
How can anyone be so obnoxious and so sweet at the same time? I think the
woman should be paddled for deliberately aggravating me... and now that I think of it, maybe her
smarty pants daughters deserve a touch of the paddle too. I
can't tell you how many times I tried to kick both girls in the seat
of their pants on this trip for some smart-mouth remark, but they
were too quick for me.
At least now I know where the two daughters get their mischievous
side from. These acorns obviously didn't fall far from the
The two pictures below were contributed by the lovely Carolyn Cowan for
our Guest Scrapbook. By the way, as a note to ther guests, Carolyn
had the nerve to label her Table
photograph as "The Fun Table". She did
this in reference to the
legendary bad boys and girls who won the Bahamas 2010 "Worst
Behaved Table" award. I
guess that makes this group the early favorite for this coveted
prize. I would even go so far as to say they have the inside
track since they are currently the only horse
in the race.
Carolyn, Rick, Sandra, Peggy,
Shay, Ed, Tracy, George, Wanda, Greg
Isn't she pretty?
Rick's Note: Mara made vast contributions to our trip.
She organized at least six special events during the trip plus
created a photo album for us to view at her house a month after the
Here are six of her
Joan, Kurt, Tiffany,
Jean, Mara, Bruce, Rick E
Tiffany, Jean, Rick E
Cher, Rhoda, Mara,
Hats off to Kurt, Jean
in the sunglasses, Bruce in the corner
Joan, Jean, Tiffany,
Joe, Patty, Marla, Rick
A, Joan, Mara, Bruce, Kurt, Tiffany, Jean
Rick's Note: This
was Mel's first cruise with our group. Mel was very kind to
send us eight pictures of the people in the group, but was too
modest to include one of himself... so I added a picture of him that
Jim and Joan
Joan and Jim
Wanda and Greg
Mona, Wendy and Ann
Marla and George, Robert
and Cher in back
Marla and Rick
Nancy and Iqbal
Mel and Noreen