“Indeed, he presented himself as the perfect caricature of a burnt-out old-school college professor.”
SlimC had instructed the cast of his inspired new reality-TV show project, Kiss Me on Kalea, to fly out to Tahiti, take the ferry for the short hop over to Moorea, and meet up for dinner at Cook’s Bay Resort restaurant the night before the early departure at sunrise the following morning. The crew of Kalea, along with SlimC, would join the cast at dinner where they could all to get to know each other a bit before heading out to sea for seven days.
Captain Bob, Lua, and I had been given brief profiles of the cast members ahead of time to give us some sense of the personalities we’d be dealing with during our voyage to Rarotonga together. Knowing something about their personal histories might help when dealing with any conflicts between them, should they arise. And if no issues arose, well by golly we should work at a-risin’ them ourselves to kick up some drama and help boost the show’s ratings. No one wants to see people getting along swimmingly (no overboard reference intended) for too long on any reality-TV show. After all, respectful behavior, polite conversation, and smooth sailing does not good drama make.
We were anxious to get cleaned up after two days of sweaty, messy boat work and a short shakedown cruise. Fortunately, the boat test had been uneventful, other than the load-stressing that the new crossbeam lashings took, causing them to stretch a bit. This is not uncommon with any virgin-rope binding. The break-in stretching was just enough, though, to trigger the most unsettling sensation that the boat was kinda coming apart underneath us. We re-tightened the crossbeam lashings and added many more turns to the bindings. Linchpins of seaworthiness, there could be no doubt as to their strength and integrity.
After showers and my re-acquaintance with the novel feel of laundered clothing, we strolled over together to the restaurant to await the arrival of the half-dozen cast members. When Bob politely reminded Lua that the restaurant required footwear, she just smiled and responded,
“Oh, it’s alright Mister Bob, they know me there.”
As we walked into the dining room, I observed SlimC taking up a position next to an older gentleman seated at the bar. The balding, disheveled, grey-haired fellow was wearing a wrinkled wool tie and a tattered, coffee-stained corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches on the sleeves. Indeed, he presented himself as the perfect caricature of a burnt-out old-school college professor. He seemed engrossed in the bluesy Keb' Mo' song, A Better Man, being performed island-style by a too-loud trio on a too-small wooden stage in a too-near corner of the bar:
Sittin' here in my problem, what am I gonna do now
Am I gonna make it, someway, somehow
Maybe I'm not supposed to know
Maybe I'm supposed to cry
And if nobody ever knows the way I feel
That's alright, that's okay
Make my world a better place
Keep that smile on my face
Teach myself how to understand
Make myself a better man
SlimC didn't think twice about disrupting the semi-conscious barfly's nirvanic musical trance to boast about his success as a reality-TV show producer. Getting very little reaction from the scraggly sot, SlimC asked him what his name was.
“Schwartz … M. Schwartz … Michelangelo Schwartz.”
“Yeah, right. Do you even know what reality TV is Schwartzy?”
“Do you ever watch any of the shows?”
SlimC didn’t much care for his overly frugal conversation style and his apparent lack of interest, but he persisted.
“Which one’s best.”
He was hoping one of his more popular shows would be selected.
“Oh, you must mean the most recent one, the one just released last season — Petulant Paramours of Palm Beach County?”
SlimC was hoping for some clarification and perhaps to coax more than two words from the boorish boozer.
“No sir. My favorite one will be the last one that ever gets made; and the sooner it happens, the better!”
The man then turned away and staggered out of the bar, proving himself capable of using as many words as necessary to deliver a take-down zinger like that to a cocky Hollywood producer.
SlimC, being the thick-skinned, reptilian, ratings-whore that he had become, shrugged off the comment and turned toward us just as we approached to meet him. Unfazed by the bar patron’s low regard for his chosen craft of producing fake 'reality' drama, he greeted us heartily with handshakes and we exchanged the usual formalities. Then we took our places at the table to wait for the cast of love-seeking, 40-something second-chancers to arrive. Only one thought crossed my mind in those foreboding moments: the disturbing quote from existentialist French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Hell is other people.’