Authors: J. Minter
by j. minter
The single best thing about life on my dad's new wife's yacht (you remember, don't you?) was that, for a short time, almost everyone I really care about was close by and easy to locate. That's what the last thirteen days were like, and it's what the next two weeks should hold in store, too. Except now we're on an even bigger boat, with tons of girls.
Okay, let's make a long, twisted story short: My dad married a woman rich even by our standards named Penelope Isquierdo Santana Suttwilley (or PISS, as I like to think of her). She's got a yacht, one of those two-hundred-fifty-foot deals that you can live on, with a crew and everything, and she and my dad decided to have their honeymoon on it. They invited me and PISS's son, Serge, and they told me I could bring whichever friend I wanted, which ended up being all of them: Arno, Patch, David, and Mickey. Don't
even ask me how that happened.
Our days of cruising had their ups and downs, of course. David never got used to the movement of the ocean. In fact, he looked a little like the Jolly Green Giant with the flu from day one. And then Arno started yelling “Where's the bucket!” whenever he saw him, and that, as you can imagine, got old fast. Mickey took to diving off the yacht unexpectedly. We'd hear a loud scream: “I got my mind on my money and my money on my â¦
” and turn to see a bright pair of Vilebrequin floral swim trunks lying on the deck, followed shortly by a loud splash.
Needless to say, all the screaming and name-calling gave my new stepmom a case of the nerves, as she told us many times, and she was forced to up her sedative intake. Her nerves gave me nerves, but still, most of the time I could see all my friends from wherever I was standing, and I liked that.
I'd never seen Patch in a more natural setting. He and the captain's son would fish off the back of the boat and drink Coronas in the afternoon, and then meet up with rest of us for hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour, and the chef would cook up the fish they'd caught for dinner. And
even Iâwho had no choice but to deal with this jet set Latin spitfire of a new stepmother, and with having to have “talks” with my dad (who is basically a wealthy deadbeat)âeven
was almost perfectly content. Even with Mickey's erratic diving, I knew there was no place for him to go but back to the big cabin we all shared (unless he got eaten by a shark or something totally awful, which was a possibility I wouldn't even think about). And that contented feeling pretty much went for all of my friends, too.
Plus, the whole yacht/white deck shoes/Persol sunglasses/champagne look is something I really got into. Before we set sail from Miami, Dad took me and Serge on a shopping spree to Gucci and Neiman Marcus in Merrick Park, and I got V-neck navy sweaters and some white pants, and the whole look was very sailor-at-rest.
Of course, the shopping was what cued me in that there was going to be some kind of trouble. That's when I met Serge. We all drove over together in the vintage Karmann Ghia that Dad keeps in the lower level of the yacht, and the whole way Serge kept sort of squealing, “Barneys Co-op Mee-AH-mee!” But I'm at Barneys all the time in New York, so why would I
want to go there? Anyway, to make matters worse, he had this greasy spiked hair that had a sort of unintentional Hives look, and he was wearing oversized wraparound shades and a collared shirt that was open to nipple level, revealing a few curly black chest hairs. This is what we call
in Manhattan. You find a lot of these people hanging around the NYU area chain-smoking and looking like they've been up all night doing E and talking about life and ratting up their hair. I got over that scene back when I was a sophomore.
After my new stepbrother got his way and we left Barneys, he pushed down his wraparounds, looked at me, and said, “By the way, Joan-a-tin, nobody calls me
but Mama. You can call me
SergeâI mean, Robâhated being on the boat, and all the way through the Caribbean he sulked and holed up belowdecks and chain-smoked. That's how he and David initially hit it off. They both complained about the smell of the ocean, so while the rest of us enjoyed lazy evenings watching the sunset turn the horizon into golden explosions, they'd be downstairs complaining about how much everything sucked for them.
David tolerated Rob's smoking because Rob tolerated the endless videos of Peja Stojakovic's layups that David had to watch before the beginning of the next basketball season. They watched Peja, inhaled secondhand smoke, and turned pale while the rest of us browned.
After ten days, once we'd lost count of the picturesque seaside villages and breathtaking natural phenomena, and after we'd visited with the Venezuelan half of PISS's crazy family, we arrived back in Miami. The night before Dad and PISS flew back to London, he put in a call to Mom. When he handed me the phone, she explained that they had “reached a new level of peace” and that to prove it she was going to have Rob stay at our house, in my brother Ted's room. It might have annoyed me, except that I was about to sail across the Atlantic with a full crew to pamper me and my friends, and I didn't have to even think about any crazy parent drama until the program was over. I was feeling pretty freakin' great about everything.
Maybe you're wondering, What program? Where am I? And how'd I get here? Put it this way: Blame my mom. She decided to bring up all
that junior year, precollege anxiety while I was packing to go on what I thought would be the worst trip of my life. (I had no reason to assume the trip would be so relaxing and awesome at this point, and she really didn't, either.)
Flashback to right before I went down to Miami. I was sitting with my mom, and as usual, I was about to get some weird, weird news.
“Jonathan,” my mom said, sitting on my bed and giving me her serious face. She took a sip of the eggnog that was left over from our Christmas party. “The Grobarts were just telling me about this winter break precollege program. It's on a cruise ship called the
, and you board in the Mediterranean, so it would be perfect timing with this trip you're going on for your father's honeymoon. When the yacht makes its return trip to Greece for winter storage, you can stay aboard. It would be really good for you, a little something different to put on those college apps. Maybe your friends could go with you. Think about it, okay?”
She put a brochure on my bedspread, and then said, “I'll leave you alone,” like she was doing me a favor.
The brochure said:
Ocean Term: Be a Student of
, and it had a glossy picture of a good-looking girl sitting next to an old, sun-wrinkled man. They were both laughing. The caption said:
Stephanie Rayder, Sicily, Winter '02.
Inside, it described how, for two weeks, a “diverse, international” student body of three hundred teenagers would sail from Athens, through the Mediterranean, around the Iberian Peninsula, and on to London. Along the way, we would study classics, history, and sailing. This would provide us with “innumerable character-building challenges,” including an overnight survival test. It all sounded kind of earnest and boring, and I had been planning on coming home quick after my dad's honeymoon, because things had just started to get good again with Flan Flood and me. Besides, I almost never leave Manhattan, so the idea of four weeks away kind of freaked me out.
But then, unbelievably, everyone in the group of guys I've been best friends with since fifth grade said they might be down to go, and it started sounding fun.
Patch was easy to convince, because he grew up on a sailboat and has never been comfortable in a conventional classroom. This was kind of like asking him to go to heaven. And Arno's parents,
who are famously crazy New York art collectors, had just confessed that their marriage was a sham and so his whole family life was crumbling very publicly. There had been some gossip column chattering about it, and everywhere Arno went, people stared at him, and not in the usual good way. I couldn't blame the guy for wanting to blow town. Mickey and his girlfriend, Philippa Frady, had finally admitted to each other that their relationship was just too intense, and had tentatively called it quits, so Mickey was this constant streak of destructive, single-dude energy. He took one look at the girl on the brochure and he was sold. And David? Well, David never really knew how to negotiate New York without us, so he was in, too. Arno, Patch, David, Mickey, and me, Jonathan. It was almost like having just about everything I like about Manhattan come with me.