Monday, July 5, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part #122

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 42
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 18
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 13


As 1997 drew to a close, both of my kids were involved in a musical titled “Suddenly One Christmas Eve.” A talented husband-wife team who were friends of Cassy’s vocal teacher wrote this ambitious musical. Adam and Cassy were happy to “work” together for the first time since grade school but this required both of them to commit to dozens of hours of rehearsals on top of their already busy schedules. Adam was in the middle of his senior year of high school and Cassy was in the middle of the eighth grade. Adam was working every weekend to have money for car expenses and to save money for college. At the same time, Adam was also rehearsing for his high school’s big musical in which he had a huge part as multiple characters. Cassy’s schedule was loaded with voice, dance and flute lessons, and a challenging course of studies at her school. But somehow they both made time for it all.

My wife and I were coming up to our 25th wedding anniversary within the next six months and we were thinking of something special to do to celebrate. We briefly considered a trip to Las Vegas to renew our vows with an Elvis impersonator but decided against it. While we were on a cruise in 1997 we thought it would be fun to have our entire family (sisters, brothers, and their spouses) all together on a cruise with us. We did some preliminary investigation into the cost of booking a vacation for over 30 relatives and although it was expensive, we were intrigued enough to still consider the idea.

When we got back after the cruise, we called each of our relatives and asked if they’d be interested in spending some vacation time with us on a “family cruise.” We offered to pay for everyone’s cruise but each person would be responsible for his or her own airfare to get to the Port of Miami. This would work out okay for many of our relatives because they had accumulated “frequent flyer miles” and could use these towards the trip. Even though we were planning to take our two kids with us, we decided that if our relatives wanted to bring any of their own children, they’d have to pay for them. To our surprise and delight, they all thought it would be possible to arrange the time off so they could come with us and the only children coming were my kids and my sister Sharon’s kids and they weren’t youngsters who would need lots of attention. Although none of our siblings’ kids are trouble, it would just be nice for the parents to be able to truly relax.

The next step was to contact Elsa, our travel agent, to see if she could put this all together. She tried “Royal Caribbean” first because we thought these cruise ships were a bit nicer than many of the other lines but the company wasn’t willing to give us a price that we thought was reasonable. Elsa tried “Carnival Cruise Line” and they were eager to offer us a good deal since we were booking so far in advance. We tentatively reserved fifteen cabins for a cruise that would go to the Caribbean during our 25th anniversary week. The total cost of this cruise (not counting my personal expenses) would be a bit over $30,000. This would be, by far, the most expensive vacation we’d ever taken, but since our wedding hadn’t been a big lavish affair, we thought this could be fun. Most of our relatives had never been on a cruise before and we were excited to be with them all for their first time. There would be lots of logistical details to deal with over the next six months to make this vacation go smoothly but I was eager to do it. I’ll let you know how the trip went in a future chapter.

Next chapter: The story of two of my customers and friends: The Dinsdales

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