Day 812: New Adventure

This was the last day in the immediate future Laetitia would begin by walking down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian.  Tomorrow, she would start her new adventure in Antarctica.  Last night there was a family party at Uncle Milt’s in celebration of her new life event.  She and her cousins, Alicia, Bryn, and Luciano, performed Reginald, the Fortunate Rake and Celeste’s Song. These were based on conversations that she had with both of them on Grande Cayman Island (Days 365 and 366).   Celeste’s Song is also connected to Laetitia’s visit with her group to the Bordello Museum in Wallace, Idaho (Day 177).  She borrowed the tune for Celeste’s Song from A Bird In a Gilded Cage, a sentimental ballad written by Arthur J. Lamb and Harry Von Tilzer in 1900.  She liked the old tune and decided to use it for a second set of lyrics that she called Bird in a Guilty Cage.  They performed that as well.

Bird in a Guilty Cage was based on Uncle Ralph’s story about his father (her great grandfather), who loved to sing – mostly fragments of old familiar tunes.  He could rarely remember all the words so he filled in the memory gaps with silly nonsense.  His version of A Bird in a Gilded Cage went, “She’s only a bird in a guilty cage, and her ears they are green and black.”  A short time ago, Laetitia wrote Celeste’s song using the same tune, so she made up a song about a female harlequin, a clown often depicted in a multicolored costume with face makeup that might include green and black ears.  In Laetitia’s version performed at the party, the lady was hauled in by the police and ended up in jail (guilty cage).  She also used the theme in a limerick.

Arrangements had been made with the powers that be at Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours for her temporary sojourn in Antarctica.  Since she was a veteran mind traveler, she could and would return to the Emerald Victorian to lead a tour about once per week when she had time off from her duties at the research station.  She would also join her cousins from time to time at Uncle Milt’s parties.

As a party song, it’s all the rage
‘Bout the “bird in a guilty cage,”
A maltreated belle
Who’s now mad as Hell
At her beau who brought on this outrage.

Day 811: Vermouth and Lost Youth

On this day, when she walked into the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia was a woman on a mission.  She needed to make a quick decision about the job offer she’d received at the research station in Antarctica.  She sat in a comfortable chair with a steaming cup of coffee at hand and thought over the ramifications of her decisions.  Since she was a veteran mind traveler she could still lead tours and attend Uncle Milt’s parties.  She made her decision and sent an email to the powers that be at Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours, wherever that is, telling them of the job offer and asking for a leave of absence.  She told them that she could continue to lead tours whenever she had a few hours of down time and that she would contact Sophie and several of her other cousins to see if they would be willing to fill in from time to time.  Realistically, though, she thought that tour numbers would likely drop from daily to once or twice per week.

Normally, she would now begin to think about what to post for the day’s limerick, but today, she didn’t need to.  The previous evening, Laetitia and her grandmother had dinner at one of Hibernia’s Indian restaurants.  On the way there she told her grandmother about the job offer.  Her grandmother seemed unsurprised by the offer and said, “I suspect it’s time for a break; I think the change will do you good.”

Cookie, a college acquaintance of her grandmother’s who was in town visiting relatives, joined them as did several others from grandmother’s local circle of female contemporaries referred to collectively as “The Girls.”  In her youth Cookie parlayed her good looks and athletic prowess into a career as a dancer and showgirl in New York, both on and off Broadway.  She never married and over the years enjoyed the largess of numerous boy friends: some wealthy, some shady, most flashy men about town.  She believed she was alluring enough that most of the men were true to her while these affairs were ongoing, even though some of her beaus were in occupations that were not quite respectable and probably illegal.

The conversation over dinner began cheerfully enough but as the evening wore on and more martinis were imbibed, turned maudlin as “The Girls” gave their personal accounts of losing the battle against aging.  Cookie talked about buying a Nook® because the print was too small in regular books and lamented that she was no longer was able to attract men of quality.  Her current beau is stingy and she thinks he’s unfaithful.  He often leaves her sitting at home while he has evening “business engagements.”  She suspects he’s actually cruising bars trolling for women. Laetitia found such conversations dreary but there was one upside.  She arrived at the Emerald Victorian this morning with a limerick ready to post.

A faded Broadway queen called Cookie
Once the darling of playboy and bookie
Now reads from a Nook®
Instead of a book
While her beau’s likely looking for nookie.

Day 810: Antarctica

Laetitia and her group stood in the mudroom of the small ship that was their temporary home while visiting Antarctica.  They stood in line wearing rain pants and knee-high rubber boots as they donned parkas and life jackets in preparation for the Zodiac ride ashore.  Their destination was a narrow strip of land on Elephant Island.  Here in 1916, Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean, and four other men started their 800-mile journey toward South Georgia Island in a small lifeboat.  Their amazing feat of navigation and fortitude succeeded and they organized an expedition to rescue remainder of the men from the failed Imperial Transantarctic Expedition, after their ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice.

Laetitia’s group enjoyed watching a colony of chinstrap penguins, including grey and black chicks and black and white parents with the characteristic “chinstrap” marking. Some stood as they incubated an egg on their feet, covered with a flap of skin and feathers that keeps the egg warm.  Both parents share incubating and nurturing duties.

Afterwards, the group visited a research station.  While her group took a tour of the facility given by a staff member, Laetitia chatted with the head of the station and was surprised when he offered her a job.  A medical emergency evacuation had left the group short-staffed.  The position would be temporary until the regular staff member returned, but he had no idea how long that would be.  As he described the job she found it interesting.  After two years of leading daily tours, thought she would welcome something different for a while.  She said she’d have to check things out back home and would contact him in a couple of days.  Meanwhile, she wrote a limerick about the chinstrap penguins they saw today.

Black and white with chinstrap and black bill
What these penguins eat likely won’t thrill
They cry out in harsh tones
That are said to crack stones
For their food’s ninety-five percent krill.

Day 809: Queenstown

The tour began in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island.  Laetitia and her group were on a cruise on the twin-screw steamship, TSS Earnslaw, on Lake Wakatipu.  Launched in 1912, the same year as the Titanic, the ship is coal-fired and has many of the same fittings, including those on the bow.  For a time, the crew had to make the bow off limits for guests to keep teenagers from re-enacting Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Kate Winslet’s iconic scene from the film, Titanic.

The scenery from the deck reminded Laetitia of being on a lake in the Alps.  The lakeshore is mountainous and forested with fir trees.  The Alpine appearance is recent, dating from the arrival of the Europeans.  The island flora and fauna evolved for millions of years without human inhabitants.  The coming of the Polynesians (Maoris) about 800 years ago and the Europeans in the nineteenth century significantly altered the biological landscape.  Populations of the endemic flightless birds, such as the moa and the kiwi declined.  The moas are extinct and the kiwis, from which the slang term for New Zealander is derived, are endangered and exist only on wildlife preserves.

Later the group did a tour with a local guide that included a farm that grew what most Americans call kiwifruit.  Known for its brown furry outside and succulent green interior, the berry has nothing to do with kiwis and is not endemic to New Zealand. It is native to China and New Zealanders originally called them Chinese gooseberries. The new name came about when New Zealand began exporting them and wanted a name associated with their country for commercial purposes.  Laetitia chose the kiwifruit as the subject of the day’s limerick.

She had by no means given even cursory coverage to New Zealand, Australia or the rest of the English Speaking world for that matter, but having encountered penguins, she was intrigued and decided to go to Antarctica next.

The brown furry fruit that doth please
Has nothing to do with kiwis
It’s a name that was made
For NZ export trade
Of a berry that’s native Chinese.