CM Chronicles – II – 8/2/07

After packing up everything I could fit into two duffel bags and a bit of panicked frustration when two days before my flight, I had yet to receive my plane tickets, I was off to the airport. I am not, have never been, nor ever will be a fan of flying. I do believe it’s because I have control issues. But, this new adventure was waiting on the other side of the flying tin can ride.

I had researched this Club Med place and the place I was going in particular. It looked so pretty on the website and there was so much to do. I could learn to sail, waterski, rollerblade, play tennis, or fly on the trapeze. The trapeze?!?! The thrill-seeker in me couldn’t wait to try that one out.

Club Med, Sandpiper is located in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, otherwise known as ‘God’s waiting room’. The closest airport is West Palm Beach at a 45 minute drive, next is Fort Liquordale at about an hour and 15 minutes, and then Cuba Miami International at a smidge over 2 hours depending on traffic which means 3 hours. In their infinite wisdom, where do they fly me into? Of course, Miami. So now after I’ve sat on a plane for what seems like forever, I now have to sit in a car for 3 hours while the driver feels that he must talk to me. (What a sign of things to come.) At least, though, upon my arrival at the airport, my driver was right there to help with my bags and I had to do no looking around in a state of confusion.

My flight landed around 6pm, so that put me in CMS (henceforth known as “the village”) at a bit after 9. By the time I got my bags to my room and changed clothes, because there’s nothing I hate more than having other people’s dirt all over me, unless it involves sex, but that’s another story, dinner was long over. I ventured out of my room and over to the bar because that seemed to be where all of the action was.

In the new crew of bartenders, I was the last to arrive. The others were already in the bar partying on down. The chef du bar (bar manager), Stephan, came and introduced himself. We chatted briefly, he asked if I had had dinner and on my no response, offered me the only thing there was: bar pizza. Yep, it was gross, but when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. Some of my fellow noobs came over and introduced themselves. They appeared to be hammered. Now, by no means am I an angel, and at home, I would’ve proceeded to join them in getting hammered, but I’m a little older, maybe a little wiser than my cohorts and so I decide to head back to my room. Besides, our training starts bright and early tomorrow.

Next time: This is training?

CM Chronicles – I – 8/1/07

If you read my blog, you know that I’m long-winded. These chronicles are just a rehashing of parts of my four years at Club Med. They may contain swearing, sex, or otherwise possibly offensive things so consider yourself warned. They also may be chronically boring to you, dear reader, and for that, I apologize but the reality is that it’s my blog and I’ll write about my boring life if I want to.

Back in the early spring of 2000, I had recently moved back to PA after living in NY for a couple of years. I was fortunate enough to still have a place to live in PA – the house I grew up in. At that time, my brother was still living in the house where he had, apparently, been living the high life, throwing parties and such. I was a wet blanket on the festivities. Not that I didn’t enjoy my fair share of partying, but he was accustomed to having the house to himself without me there to bug him or his friends.

I picked up a bartending job and life was good, or life was good for me. I don’t think to this day he’d admit it, but in the way little brothers do, he wanted me out of the house. As it was, I didn’t spend tons of time in the house. I did what I could to catch up with friends and make some new ones. I only worked a couple days a week since my bills were few. (man, that was the life.) The rest of my time I spent just doing random stuff like ripping wallpaper off the wall and repainting the walls a ridiculous color. I was constantly looking for a new job because, well, that’s just my nature. To this day I can’t help but to browse the want ads just to see what’s out there.

One particular afternoon, I’d have to say that this was in April or so, my brother saw an ad and he showed it to me. He said, “Hey, you’d probably be good at this”. I don’t recall the exact wording of the ad, but the gist of it was ‘be a bartender, travel, see exotic locations’. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I gathered up my resume and a photo and sent everything on its merry way. In the waiting for a response period, I did some research into this Club Med place and found that it seemed pretty cool. I got excited about it. But then days passed, weeks passed, and my Club Med dreams slipped way into the back of my mind. I had other more pressing matters such as going to see my favorite band play and heading out to the bingo hall. Yes, you read that properly. Bingo. BINGO! I swear to you that the old ladies hated seeing me in there and hated when I won. Never did I have fear though, since not a one of them could catch me in a foot race.

Around September, I believe, I received a phone call. It was a Friday and the answering machine said the message was left at about 5 pm. I didn’t hear the message until probably Saturday as I was working (and partying) on Friday night. A thick French accent directed me to give him a call if I was still interested in working for Club Med. (Looking back on this, I feel special. A lot of people told stories of jumping through major hoops before hearing from CM.) The old excitement monster stirred in the pits of my tummy, but it was Saturday and there was tons to be done.

Monday afternoon rolled around before I remembered that I needed to make that phone call. I found a quiet corner of the house and gave them a call. What I got was basically a phone interview. Typically, you’d be warned about something of this nature so you could at least be prepared, but no, not this time. I worked my way through the interview and at the end, I was told that the next step would be a face-to-face interview. For that, I could either go to North Carolina or to New York. Oh, by the way, they aren’t paying. I told him that either of those was a minimum of an 8 hour drive for me. He responded with “Oh, you don’t want the job?” I took that to mean I went to the interview or it was all over before it began. I told him I’d go to New York. He gave my the contact’s info and that was that.

Luckily, my very good friend was living in the Philly area at the time so I drove over to Philly and stayed with her for the weekend. My interview was on a Saturday and took place in a Starbucks. I kid you not. It was all very laid back with very few questions about my actual bartending knowledge. A better way to describe what took place was this recruiter explaining the CM lifestyle to me like I already had the job. I guess it lasted about an hour and I was once again on my merry way.

I returned to the western side of the state late on Sunday. I thought to myself that a follow-up call on Wednesday was good enough timing. I didn’t have to wait that long. Monday afternoon the phone call came. They offered me the position and asked when I could leave. I was still employed, albeit in a bar and under the table, but I still wanted to give my boss some sort of notice. I told him two weeks. He answered with, “Ok, we’ll send you a ticket for Sunday”. Umm, Sunday?!?! I guess in France 6 days equals 2 weeks.

I immediately gave my boss all the notice I could. He wasn’t upset. He was actually happy and quite excited for me. Some of my friends were a little bummed that I was leaving, but some of the people that I had met over the time that I was home and their actions (you Grimey bastard) pushed me in the direction of getting the hell out of dodge. In retrospect, I can thank them. While they sit festering in the small town they never left, I traveled North America, the Carribbean and Africa. I tied up my loose ends and started researching where I would be going. Sandpiper, Florida.

Next time in the Chronicles, the trip to Florida and my first week in my new environment.

5 word challenge – Backstage – 7/31/07

Nervous? Me? Nope. Maybe the first time, but not now. Besides, I’m 3 drinks into a long drinking evening. Those of us who aren’t in the first scene chat idly about whose costume is getting too small and who’s sleeping with whom this week. Back here, in the dressing room, it’s no-holds-barred. Nothing is taboo and besides, no one back here has even one ounce of couth.

We’re all whipped. Putting in a full day in the sun and having practically no rest will do that to you. It doesn’t matter though, we’re fueled on goldfish crackers and liquor. A duel between cast members has broken out with the props but no one bothers to even attempt to stop it. Everyone has been in this show long enough to know when it’s time to get out on stage. Speaking of which, it’s my time.

We try to be quiet as we step up into our “jail” cell. Almost every time someone trips and almost busts her ass since there’s no light back here. Tonight we all make it safely into the cell and we strike a sexy pose as we wait for our music to cue up. In case you’re interested, we’re performing “Cell Block Tango”. It isn’t exact but the costumes are similar as are many of the dance steps.

Occasionally, someone in the booth gets a little crazy with the Cheese Whiz. No wait, gets crazy with the smoke machine. Tonight is one of those nights. Not just clouds of smoke, but literal pillows of smoke burp out of that antiquated monster. We’re trying not to cough up a storm; we are on stage after all, but good gravy! What the hell can the audience see through this cloud?!?! Only bonus points are that I’m not first out of the cell so it will have cleared by the time it’s my turn.

Pop, six, squish, uh uh, Cisero, Lipschitz! I’m squish. He ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times. So what if I’m screwing the milkman! My partner in this dance is also my good friend. 9 times out of 10 that we do this show, we end up laughing so hard that we’re shaking. I’ve got to keep my composure! Maybe I shouldn’t have had that last drink. The fabric unrolls (this makes more sense if you watch the video), I wrap a leg around, and call me drunk, or call the floor slippery, but I just damn near busted my ass in front of 300 guests. Luckily, I recovered quickly, but what starts immediately after my recovery? Fits of giggles. Not just me and my partner, but everyone else who was on stage. Now, do I think the audience noticed it? Nope. They don’t know what they’re looking for. They love it. They tell me after shows that I should consider a career on stage because I always look so happy and like I’m having so much fun. That’s ALCOHOL people! Unfortunately, my stage career never took off and now I’m a paper-pusher with a considerably healthier liver.

Busting my stage cherry – 4/16/2007

So the title is graphic and a little naughty, big deal.

This is the story of my first time on stage in front of about 300 people.

When the concept of working at Club Med was first explained to me, I thought it to be interesting and fun, if not a little odd. I mean really, who pays you to do what you enjoy doing, learn to do new stuff, show off your new stuff on stage and to talk to random strangers who end up being your friend 6 days later? Well, Club Med does basically, or that was my understanding of it.

I like to dance. Mind you, I am a terrible dancer. An embarassment to anyone with rhythm actually. I can headbang with the best of them, although I’m getting off track. I have a tendency to be very active behind the bar (I think I left out the fact that I was a bartender), and therefore, I tend to be remembered if not noticed. Our choreographer, who came in for coffee every morning, was dying to get me in a show.

The problem was scheduling. You see, as a bartender, I was working during many of the rehearsal times and no rehearsal equals no show. Fortunately, in my first season working at CM, my co-workers in the bar really enjoyed drinking more than I did and were not the least bit interested in getting up early. Me, on the other hand, I would prefer to be up early and get my work done so that I can relax in the evenings. In the end, my boss gave in and let me take over all of the morning shifts so that I would have evenings free for rehearsals and shows.

These are not Broadway productions people. These were a bunch of folks whose talents lie elsewhere that were coerced into a show. A lot of rehearsals consisted of more yelling than dancing. I was behind in the learning curve since most people had already been doing rehearsals for a while before I got there, but I do learn quickly.

Here’s the thing about CM: if you’re asked to do something and you say yes, you’d better be ready to do it in a very short amount of time. I’m pretty sure I had about one week of practice before the choreographer decided that I was ready for the stage. How excited was I?!?! I told my co-workers and my boss about my pending big debut and all was happy across the land.

As the big night approached, I had no worries. How difficult could this be? That was not the correct attitude. I headed backstage before showtime and found my newly named cubby. It had my three costumes and my shoes. Whee!!! I made sure of the order of the show and pulled out my first costume and that’s when it struck.

Stage fright.

Possibly the worst case ever known to man. Okay, probably not, but my God, I couldn’t even get my shoes on. Mimi, who had the cubby next to mine, noticed that I was a bit on the nervous side.

“Sunshine, how are you doing?”

“Well, I have all my costumes, I think I remember the steps.”

“That’s good. Oh wait, you have that on backwards.”

“Ugh! This is terrible. I’m shaking like a leaf!”

“Oh, yes, this is your first show, right?”

“Sure is. I hope I don’t screw up.”

“Look, have you had a drink?”

Seriously, she asked me if I was drinking. I will not stand on a soap box and say I didn’t consider it, but I decided against it being the noob.

“Um, no.”

“Well, girl, go get one! Geez, you work in the bar, you drink for free, and you’re not having anything? Go get yourself a drink, and bring me one too.”

I’m pretty sure that I looked at her as if she had 3 heads before she told me to get a move on. There was a corridor that connected backstage with the back area of the bar and I made good use of it. I went back, got us drinks, had a shot of Jaegermeister for good luck and then headed backstage again where Mimi and I toasted my first show.

Did you know that alcohol kills butterflies? No scientific study needed. Proof positive. I went out on stage and busted a choreographed move. Not only in the first number where you couldn’t see any of our faces anyways, but in the second number and in the finale where I was in the front row!

As we changed back into our regular clothes after the show, I received congratulatory praises on my first performance. Even my boss pulled me to the side and said that I was right to fight for what I wanted to do. It was a great experience that lead to soooo many more nights on stage. After a couple years of performing, people started asking me if I’d had any experience on stage before because it always looked like I was having so much fun up there. A few people suggested that I should try a career in stage. HA! I laugh at them. I’m smiling and laughing because a)we do talk to each other up there even though you can’t hear it in the audience and b) give me a shot of Jaeger and I’ll smile at anything.

I’ve retired my stage shoes, they’ve been collecting dust for about 3 years now. That doesn’t mean I don’t get the urge to dance every now and again because I do. I just have to suppress these desires and be the mom/girlfriend/admin/web designer/soon-to-be business owner that we all know and love.

DDT! – 12/5/2006