The Castmates Converge
“Humans plan; the gods laugh.”
The three male members of the group were the first to show up. They came in together, having apparently already gotten to know one another a bit on the ferry ride over from Papeete.
Tucker was a rich, ambitious Internet software developer who had quickly risen to the role of CEO. His company made most of their money from ads on their many tacky websites. He was an atheist and a staunch Republican and was known to be a cold, cunning, ruthless business man. In conversation, he rarely blinked and would stare through you with an unsettling half-grin. He was blessed with ferocious Hollywood good looks, which included a head of thick wavy dark hair and big brown puppy-dog eyes, and was uninterested in anything unrelated to money. Tucker signed on to the show hoping to boost his public profile and further inflate his ego and his wealth. His wife of ten years had left him after it was discovered that he had had an affair with one, or two, or … er … possibly ten of his young, attractive female employees.
Paul was a Wall Street commodities trader and hedge fund manager early in his career. Whip-smart and driven, his early successes on The Street helped him build a personal fortune and drew him into the unhinged world of potent recreational drugs that eventually resulted in a ferocious heroin addiction. The love affair with uncharted states of consciousness shipwrecked his career and sank his marriage — the heroin proving to be more desirable than his relationship with his wife. On his path to redemption, he joined a congregation of Unitarian Universalists and sought to regain balance and joy in this life. He re-established a healthy friendship with his ex-wife, though she’d already moved on to a new relationship with a slick but far more stable insurance agent who drove an exquisite custom metallic-tungsten Tesla. Paul was looking forward to having some offshore time with other single professionals who might help him figure out what to do next with his life.
Jack was a scientist. His interest in marine biology began early in life when he would spend his summer days picking up clumps of seaweed that washed up on the beach and examine all the tiny crabs and other small, squirmy sea dwellers that clung to that miniature world. Jack lived with his girlfriend for twelve years during and after college before she left him for a rich, world traveling, smooth-talking day-trader. In the end, she didn’t have the patience and psychological self-reliance to be a loyal companion to an often distracted, passionate student of Nature. He was brilliant and witty. With his rugged good looks and great variety of interests, including playing bongos with a local Latin-jazz band, one would think he’d be a real catch. But he had the unfortunate habit of socially ‘checking out’ whenever he was onto something big; and he was often onto something big.
The women showed up about ten minutes later.
Julie was a successful self-made restaurateur, having built her business steadily over two decades. She saw her business as a vehicle for social change and as a kind of ministry: spreading the gospel of food, fun, and social activism. She was proud of being an early adopter of organic produce, fair trade practices, and alternative sourcing: purchasing from local farmers and small growers in other countries. Julie was easygoing and cheerful and loved dogs. Politically, she considered herself a Democratic Socialist and was a very effective and passionate community organizer. Julie had agreed to participate in the silly reality show as a break from her busy professional and social work and would be content to find a warm companion, more so than a hot new romance. Her architect husband had passed away from pancreatic cancer three years earlier.
Clara was a very attractive but embarrassingly overconfident local politician. She engaged in shameless self-promotion at any opportunity, including participating in a new reality-TV show. She never went out in public without multiple layers of makeup, unnecessary as she had lovely natural features. She had divorced her husband after she got bored with his too-predictable, risk-averse ways — or maybe it was his respect for science. She was an Evangelical Christian and had her own special way of processing world trends and historical events — let’s just say she never gave much thought to deep time — in either direction.
Jan was a corporate lawyer for an oil company. She was a tall, striking woman with long straight blonde hair, large green eyes; and she was wicked smart. Jan was a passionate Republican. I could already see her and Tucker hitting it off with their shared interest in fast talk and fat paychecks. But Jan had an unpleasant mean streak and loved provoking people unnecessarily. She was always fishing for a good verbal tussle, trying all manner of bait to hook unwary prey. She never revealed why her marriage fell apart, though one could imagine that her husband had had enough of her unrelenting combativeness and probably swapped her out for some mild-mannered librarian to compensate for too many years of verbal abuse. She figured she’d just have some fun hooking up with one of the male castmates on the show to monopolize the camera, get noticed by an agent once the show airs, and then drop her legal career — and the credulous castmate — and become a shock-jock talk-show host.
These cast members from the mainland — none but Jack had ever stepped foot aboard a bluewater cruising sailboat before — would be our close companions for the next seven days as we made our way to Rarotonga. I wondered how they would get along. Would there be any emotional breakdowns during our time at sea? Such drama would be great for TV ratings and for SlimC’s career, but not so great for the breakdownee, and certainly a potential catastrophe for our minimalist crew of three.
But by far of greatest interest to me — would any of these characters, specially selected for their soap-opera good looks and incompatible personalities, find anything resembling romance during our very short, close-quarters time together? As Lua and I ambled back to our rooms for the night, after an eerily subdued dining experience with the whole gang, I asked her what she thought might happen over the next seven days with this odd ensemble of ill-matched castmates.
“Well, Mister Rico, who knows what will unfold on this trip. Surely, not anything we expect to happen. You know what they say, ‘Humans plan; the gods laugh.’ ”
“So true, Lua! I never expected to be part of a loony reality show with an old sailing buddy I hand't seen in years aboard a gorgeous one-of-a-kind Polynesian cruising catamaran. And in the South Pacific! As John Lennon observed, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ (RIP)”
“Exactly, Mister Rico.”
Then, giggling with childlike delight, she disappeared into her room for the night.