Chapter 3 1987 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

As an organization, the “I and Angela Mall Foundation to Eradicate World Hunger,” (I AM FEW Hunger, as it was popularly known, despite not making a lot of grammatical sense) basically ran without a need for oversight by I or Angela. Their initial infusion of money to get things going was a great boost, but it was the people who ran the day-to-day operations who were the real stars of the show. I’s vision, and he truly felt that’s what his dream was, was fulfilled, if not in the manner he dreamed (no one was lined up at the gate to get fed). However, he still did not feel fulfilled.

“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” he complained to Angela one day. “I thought the foundation was going to be the answer to my longing, but now that it’s going on its own, I feel like we are back to just sitting idle; nothing to do.”

“The picnic area is available year-round,” Angela prompted.

“Well, I don’t mean there’s literally nothing to do. Of course, I love spending time with you and Chrissy, and I think that now that she’s 18 months old, perhaps we can consider doing some traveling.”

“I’m afraid she’ll be a handful at her age,” Angela mused. “She’s never traveled any significant distance. What do you have in mind?”

“Well, frankly, I’m thinking about a Mediterranean cruise.” Angela looked at him quizzically, if not with total incredulity.

“I’ve seen that look before,” I noted. “But hear me out.” He paused, for a bit, then continued. “A cruise is just a hotel on water, in fact, more like its own little town on water. Every need is taken care of, and you barely have to lift a finger. They even provide babysitting services, if we want to partake in some more ‘adult’ activities.”

Angela’s skepticism began to fade. “You mean we might have a little time to ourselves?” She was warming to the idea.

“Within reason, of course,” I continued. “We certainly don’t want to abandon Chrissy to a stranger for the whole trip.”

“I like the idea of a cruise,” Angela agreed, “but I think it’s better to get some time alone to ourselves. Mom and Dad will certainly look after Chrissy, if we ask them, and your parents would certainly help out, too.”

“OK, then, let’s start planning for that trip!” I was excited to finally have a goal.

Angela and I visited the nearest travel agent and got a number of brochures describing all of the wonderful Mediterranean cruises available. They chose the finest line at the time, La Voyage Princesa, a French-Italian company that had a reputation as the best overall. The cuisine was exquisite, according to the reviews, the service impeccable, the staff without flaw. The booked a package with a flight to New York, then non-stop to Naples, Italy, where the departure was scheduled. Stops included Monaco, Marseilles, Barcelona, Tangiers, Palermo and back to Naples for the flight back home.

“This is going to be the trip of a lifetime!” I was clearly exuberant. “This will be so much better than when the band did our world tour. We spent more time on a bus that anywhere else.”

When the day of departure finally arrived, suitcases lined the hallway leading to the home entrance.

“What’s all this?” I asked Angela.

“My clothes, and other things that I things I’ll need on the trip.” She countered.

“We’re only going to be gone for two weeks,” I cried. “This looks like we’re moving to another part of the world.”

“Well, in fact, we sort of are,” Angela offered. “I don’t want to be lacking for anything while we’re gone.”

“But the stateroom is only so big, with all this, we won’t have room for ourselves!”

“That’s OK, I made sure we have two staterooms, one for most of the luggage, and one for us. And if we have a fight, one of us has a place to stay,” she teased.

“That’s sounds excessive, but I guess it will have to do,” I accepted, “At least we won’t be needing anything else on this trip. What’s in these two large bags?”

“Those are my shoes. A girl can’t have too many shoes, can she?”

“Two suitcases with nothing but shoes? How many pairs?”

“I’ve got twenty-five pairs in each case.”

“Twenty-five! Fifty? That’s four pairs for every day we’re gone! How in the world can you possible wear all those?” I was clearly getting upset.

“It’s not so much ‘How in the world?’ but ‘Where in the world?’ We never know where we might need a fashion change, and I’ve got to be ready at all times.”

“So, which one of these bags is mine?” I asked, indicating the vast array.

“Yours aren’t packed, yet. I’ve laid out a couple of pairs of slacks for you upstairs, and you tuxedo is handing in the hall.”

“Do I at least get a suitcase to hold them in?” I asked sarcastically.

“There’s a carry-on garment bag hanging in the closet. That should be fine.”

I popped his hand against his forehead. “I should have had a V8,” he complained.

The cab turned up about an hour later, and when the driver spied the numbers of bags, he nearly fainted. “There’s no way I can possible fit all these into my cab. I’m going to need a bigger vehicle!” He radioed into HQ and asked for them to send over a stretch limo. “That’s about all I can do, unless you want to call for a city bus!”

The limo arrived about thirty minutes later and everything was packed in, leaving only a small amount of room for the two passengers. Even I’s garment bag had to find a space in the front seat beside the driver.

“Is the moving van far behind?” he asked. “Should I wait?”

“No, this is it, thankfully,” I returned. “To the airport, and step on it. We’re going to be late!”

With the extra weight, the limo was slow on accelerating, but finally managed to hit the freeway and arrived at the airport about an hour before the flight was to leave.

“What did I tell you,” he said. “Plenty of time, you probably even have a while to relax at the bar before you board your flight.”

“I’ll need a drink after that wild ride!” I noted. “I just hope I have enough cash to enjoy the rest of the cruise. I just about went broke tipping the skycaps!”

I reached into his wallet to grab a tip for the limo driver, only to find it bare. “What did I tell you, wiped out!”

The driver glared at him. “The fare is $150! You’re not going to stick me with that!”

“Calm down, good fellow,” I adopted a faux British accent. In times of tension, he felt it offered a calming influence. “I have a check right here.”

“No checks, cash only!” The driver insisted.

“Do you take a credit card?” holding out his American Express.

“Cash only!”

I was in a pickle. He decided to play the trump card. “Do you know who I am?” He took off the sunglasses he was wearing, to make sure the driver got a good look.

The driver continued to glare. “Yeah, you’re the guy who owes me a hundred and fifty dollars! Cash!” No hint of recognition.

“Ok, ok, calm down. Here’s comes my wife. She’ll have the cash. I hope. “ I was beginning to get worried.

“Honey,” I began as Angela arrived. “Can you pay the nice man? I used all my cash in tips for you suitcases.”

Angela reached into her purse. “Here’s twenty, keep the change.”

“ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!” The driver began to turn a shade of purple.

“One hundred and fifty dollars,” I stated to Angela, A bit more calmly.

Angela looked at I, then to the queue of bags waiting to be sent into the terminal, then to the driver.

“Oh!” as she came to the realization of the situation. Reaching into her purse once again, she pulled out two hundred dollar bills. “Yes, please keep the change,” she repeated.

As an aside, I whispered to Angela, “And don’t even consider asking for the twenty back!”

He noted the driver’s color returning to normal. “Sorry for the mix-up,” he declared to him. “All’s well?”

The driver stuffed the $220 into his pocket, turned his back to get into the limo, but not before tossing off a parting remark. “You rock stars think only for yourself. Never think of the little guy.”

As the driver pulled away, I stared back at him in disbelief. Apparently he did recognize him, but also apparently, was unaware of I’s humanitarian efforts.

“Don’t let it get to you, I” Angela consoled him. “Some people can only see one side of the coin. Let’s cruise!”

The flight to New York was without incident, but for the long flight time, and when they arrived at the departure port, after yet another limo ride (this time, they made sure that plenty of cash was available) they boarded the ship. As recognition dawned on some of the passengers, the couple were mobbed and requests for autographs and pictures were honored for the next hour. I addressed the assembled crowd.

“I’m pleased that you are excited to be here with us, but please note: we are on vacation as well, and would really appreciate some privacy while we are cruising. I’ll talk to the cruise director, and if it can be arranged, and if they can get together a small combo, perhaps I’ll play a private concert for you, my faithful fans, sometime during the cruise.”

A cheer from the crowd went up, and attracting the eye of yet more passengers, the autograph session went on for another hour. Without looking, I had found what he was looking for.