.An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

TOP TEN LOVE SONGS FROM THE HOPEFUL ROMANTIC



This is a list of my personal top love songs carefully chosen over decades. The songs that celebrate love and how good it can make you feel. No, these aren’t the songs to listen to when you just got dumped, but these are the songs to play when you’ve decided to give it another go, or when you’ve met somebody new. These are hopeful songs from the hopeful romantic.

I never tire of these songs, each time I hear them they make me smile. These songs are the soundtrack to my life. I didn’t know what was behind the writing of these songs so I scoured the Internet to tell you a little bit about each of them. Maybe you will agree with my list, but if not I hope it will inspire you to make up one of your own.

  1. Today by Jefferson Airplane from the first album, Surrealistic Pillow
To me this song will always represent my first love. When I was in high school, my very bad boyfriend made me sit on a couch because he wanted to play a song for me. It was the most powerful song I had ever heard and it still is. Today was featured in the movie, A Walk On The Moon. It is the background music in a love scene between Diane Lane and Vigo Mortenson, a scene is so hot it sizzled.

  1. Layla by Eric Clapton with Derek and The Dominoes,
The inspiration for the song Layla was taken from an old Persian poem called "Layla and Majnun". It is a story of a man driven mad by his love for a woman who was unattainable to him. ('Layla and Majnun' is loosely translated into 'Layla and the Madman').

Eric Clapton was hopelessly in love with Patti Harrison, wife of the Beatles' George Harrison. He had tried several times to convince her to leave her marriage to be with him, to no avail. Layla was Clapton's last ditch effort to persuade Patti and convince her of his love. Even this proved unsuccessful, however. In despair, Clapton went on a heroin binge that lasted a few years.

After Clapton went through rehab for his addiction, Patti and he began a relationship (her marriage to George Harrison had ended) which culminated in their marriage in 1979.

  1. Come On Get Higher by Matt Nathanson
This is how Matt explains his song. "Did you ever eat a bowl of ice cream that was just the best ice cream you've ever eaten? And it's so good it makes your teeth hurt and you can't stop eating it and you just want to pull that ice cream's hair and slap its ass and really bruise it up and make it hurt a little bit. That's what this song's about. I think I just wrote an R. Kelly song."

Who wouldn't want to get higher with him!
  1. Ice Cream by Sarah McLachlan
Speaking of ice cream, who couldn’t love a song whose lyrics are:
Your love is better than ice cream.
Better than anything else that I've tried
.
This is a song that celebrates how great love makes you feel. This is from her album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, wow what a great title, and what a great metaphor for love.

  1. Love Story by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift told The Morning Call the story of this song: "I wrote it about a guy that I was talking to. He wasn't the popular choice, but I believed in it. I thought, 'This love is different, but it's real.' And I knew I needed to put that line in somewhere. I think that this song is really more about a love that's not convenient and not as comfortable as something else, but it's something you have to fight for. I added the ending [a proposal] ‘cause I want that ending. I want someone to say, 'I love you and that's all I really know.' That's the girly girl in me." It’s hard to believe that she was only sixteen when she wrote this.
If you'll be my Romeo, I'll be your Juliet

  1. If I Ever Lose My Faith in You by Sting
Sting explains, “Well quite deliberately in that the song is, two distinct parts. The first part is about the things I've lost faith in. It's quite easy to be, um, precise about the things you've lost, at least I've lost, faith in. Politics. Media. Uh...Science. Technology. Things that, y'know, everybody feels this at the moment. And yet I, along with most other people, have a great deal of hope and y'know, a feeling of things can, things will and can get better. But so what do we place our faith in? What do we still have faith in? And I can't define that as easily as I can define what I don't believe in anymore. Uh, and yet it still exists. So I haven't defined it. I've just said, "If I ever lose my faith in you." And you, or you (laughs), could be, uh, my producer (laughs again). It could, it could be, uh, faith in, in God. It could be a faith in myself or a faith in, um, romantic love.”

  1. True Companion by Mark Cohn
Ready for a love story that will melt your heart? When Cohn was touring in 1991, he would introduce "True Companion" with some version of this story:

"Here's a tune that I wrote in the back seat of a cab going to meet my girlfriend. I'd been living with her for about seven years and all she asked me the last three was, 'How come we're not yet?'" (female audience members murmur knowingly) "I didn't really have the answer and I wrote this before I knew that I was ready to be a married man. Songs kind of tell you where you're at sometimes. I sang this tune to her in the restaurant and I was excited because I thought it was a great lyric and she was excited because she thought it was a proposal." (laughter) "Men are scum!" (more laughter) "OK, I'm scum. But it worked out in the end. We did get married and we have a baby boy now, six months old." (lots of applause)

This song is very popular at weddings, in fact some friends of ours got married in our front garden and we played this song as they walked to the preacher.

       8. Once in A Lifetime Love by Keith Urban
This is a song about a man starting a special relationship with a woman. Urban says in the lyrics that she doesn't need to be afraid to love him, because she knows how much he loves her. He also says it's tough, but he'll never give up because what they share is a "once in a lifetime love." I’m pretty sure this one is dedicated to Nicole.

  1. Come to Me by The Goo Goo Dolls
To me this a realistic look at life, love and second chances.
 Lead singer Johnny Rzeznik wrote Come To Me, ‘obviously it is inspired by the fact that I am getting married in July and the sentiment is very simple and something thing that everybody can relate to. I was really influenced by the people I was writing with. I decided that for my 10th album I really needed to learn more and see how much I could be challenged and grow as a writer. I wrote a lot of the record in New York. Every time you walk out the door in Manhattan the amount of stimulus coming at you is just so incredible that I find myself being so inspired. And then I go back into the studio and ideas just start to flow.

  1. All I Need is a Miracle by Mike and the Mechanics
I used to work on a cruise ship and this song was always playing on the jukebox in the crew bar. At that point in my life I had given up on love. But then a miracle did happen, in walked my future husband. Ray was a Scottish croupier from Glasgow and I was a simple Southern belle. So this song will always have a special place in my heart.
The composer Mike Rutherford explains in an interview prior to the song's release as a single, Rutherford commented, "The thing that makes 'Miracle' different, to me, is that it's a happy song - or it's primarily a happy song. It's 'up'. And I don't do that very often. ...It may not be optimistic, but it's a positive attitude to life." Of course, I disagree because I got my miracle.


About the author:
Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.or read more blog posts at carabertoia.blogspot.com

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014



I live in Palm Springs and like most people I harbor the belief that my hometown is one of the best places in the world. One of the reasons for my love of Palm Springs is because once a year I take a week off work to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival and view my little city through the eyes of the world. The first thing you notice about Palm Springs is that the sun always shines and by the early afternoon the town almost glows. Palm Springs is filled with mid-century architecture, characterized by walls of glass and outdoor patios surrounding the swimming pools so ubiquitous in Southern California. Although we live in the desert the gardens are filled with colorful blooms watered by an ancient underground aquifer. And if that weren’t enough the entire city is encircled by mountains that look as if they were made from pieces of chocolate bark that have been pressed against the sky.

For me the week begins with the Gala held at the Convention Center. Now I could do the adult thing and go to the actual Gala dinner and listen to all the speeches, but for the last few years my husband, cousin Bob and I have joined the crowd that waits to greet the stars before they enter the Gala. It is a regular red carpet affair and before you say it, I know it is cheesy and touristy but is also a whole lot of fun. Now to see the stars you have to have a strategy, this year I took my chair down there around noon, brought my book and settled in. But I wasn’t the first, not even close. There were people who had arrived the night before, I call those the pros, their hobby is autographs and they come prepared with pictures and paraphernalia for the stars to sign.

The crowd was in a party mood and everyone chit chatted and introduced themselves. Later my husband and cousin arrived, egg rolls in hand to distribute to those around us because by this time we were famished. My cousin is a great photographer and every year he manages to get better and better shots of the stars. Everyone was fed and content by five thirty when the first star arrives, it was Lupita Nyong’o from Twelve Years a Slave and she is gorgeous.

Lupita Nyong’o a flawless beauty
 In fact all the stars look even better in person. Matthew McConaughey superthin from his role in The Dallas Buyers Club, dressed in a shiny suit oozed star quality.
                                                                       
Mathew McConaughey shines!

Meryl Streep looked like a perfectly natural woman, with the emphasis on no plastic surgery.
Meryl Streep acts naturally.

 But my favorite is Sandra Bullock she has always epitomized beauty and class and besides she attended East Carolina as I did, and you always have to root for the home team! By this time the exuberant crowd chanted, “Sandy we love you,” while she signed autographs. 

Sandra Bullock pretty as a picture
But the highlight of the night was when Bono kissed the hand of the woman standing beside me. This U2 fan was so excited she kept repeating long after he was gone, “He kissed my hand.”
Bono pre-kiss
video
 
The best thing about the festival is that it is low key and personal. The next day we had brunch at a gorgeous terrace restaurant. Melissa McCarthy from Mike and Molly sat to the north of us and Jonah Hill was to the east and Marisa Tomei was tucked away in the corner.

Later that evening we went to the world premiere of Everything We Loved from New Zealand an intense film about love and loss. After the movie was over the director and writer Max Currie and producer Tom Hern  invited the audience to Melvyn’s (a desert haunt with a star studded pedigree) to discuss the movie. I don’t know about you but no director has ever wanted to know my opinion of their movie. We couldn’t resist the invitation and we had a blast.

Since this is an international film festival featuring more than 200 films from 70 countries, the directors jump at the chance to come to Palm Springs. This year the directors showed up for every screening we attended and they all stayed for questions and answers with the audience. One particularly interesting talk was from Sebastian Lelio the director of Gloria. He told the story of how a young man came to make a movie about a 58 year old divorce. He said that back in Chile his mother had gone to a dance club for ‘silver hairs’ and how that had sparked his interest. I found the movie to be an honest look into middle age; it was such a departure from Hollywood that it actually showed the middle aged body in all its glory. And that is why I am always seeking new movies, no formulas, and a trip to foreign lands. I am happy to say that my home town delivers it all so I will be back in 2015, maybe I’ll see you there.

About the author:
Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.or read more blog posts at carabertoia.blogspot.com

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships


Sunday, September 15, 2013

THE TOP TEN REASONS TO WORK ON A CRUISE SHIP



Before I wrote Cruise Quarters I wondered would people find my story interesting, after all it was just a story about two average people traveling around the world on a very big ship. But since the publication I have received so many e-mails from readers who obviously love to cruise or in some cases are just looking for love and what most of them say is, “I wish that I could do something like you did - just run away to sea.” So in this article I will give you my top ten reasons for working on a cruise ship.

Just before I decided to join cruise ships I was working as a systems analyst in Boston. I was commuting on Route 128 America’s technology highway.
Through rain, fog and snow, constantly in fear of crashing my compact into the rear of a tractor trailer, every day felt like a suicide mission. The rest of the time I was stuck in an office with the same twenty people, claustrophobia slowly settling in. I dated a lot, some of the candidates hailed from the finest institutions our country has to offer. I was dating more but enjoying it less, dates seemed more like job interviews.

But I always felt like I was missing out on something, the Germans have a word for it torschlusskpanik, literally the feeling that you are missing the boat. Then a friend who was working on a cruise ship came through town and while she was joining a ship in New Zealand, I had a four hour drive to Albany on my itinerary. Four months later I had cajoled and pleaded my way into a job on the Star Princess. My first port was beautiful Saint Martin where the sea glistened a deep shade of aquamarine. I always say that was the day my life went from black and white to Technicolor.

RAY AND I ENJOYING A DAY OFF IN THE CARRIBEAN
The point of my digression is this I was in my thirties when I changed my life but it is never too late to go for it. On the ships I worked as a blackjack dealer but there are many other jobs on a cruise ship. Are you a nurse or a doctor? All ships need one of those. Do you work with children? There is always a need for someone to coordinate children’s activities, are you good with accounting? The purser’s staff keeps track of passenger’s accounts and shipboard expenditures. Retail experiences on your resume? All cruise ships have shops. There are so many opportunities to work on a cruise ship and with a little research you just might find your niche.

  1. You will completely change your life.  Living on a cruise ship is like moving to a new country where the captain is the king. You will make new friends, travel to new places and most of all your life will be filled with new adventures. During my five years on ships I made friendships that still last to this day and I visited every continent on the globe except Antarctica.

  1. You live on a waterfront mansion and the best part is - it moves. Wherever you live on a ship you are only a few minutes away from a gorgeous ocean view. I never got tired of sitting on deck and watching the world go by. Sail-away from Venice is one of the most beautiful sights in the world and I had a front row seat every ten days.

  1. Every day the ship goes to beautiful ports because, ships don’t travel to ugly places. This means every day you get to wake up in a beautiful European city or a tropical island.

  1. Not only do you visit beautiful places, you get to come back every seven to ten days. If you spend a season in the Mediterranean your cruise might start in Barcelona and go to Venice with lots of great ports in between. Then it starts in Venice and returns to Barcelona, by the end of the season you feel like you know these ports and start feeling more like a local than a tourist.

  1. You don’t have to pay any rent; your room and board are taken care of by the cruise lines. As a dealer we had a great gig on the ships we were allowed to eat at any of the buffets, so every day I feasted. Imagine not having to write that rent check every month.

  1. There is no commute, that was the icing on the cake for me. For five years I would wake up each day and decide do I want to take the elevator to work or walk up the stairs. Now who wouldn’t like a commute like that?

  1. It is a great place to save money for all the reasons I have mentioned, free room and board. And I didn’t have to buy a car which meant no car payments. I know you are thinking that sight-seeing can be expensive but if you work on a ship you can always volunteer to help the tour guide by joining the tours and keeping an eye on the passengers. I left ships with the money to start a new life in Palm Springs.

  1. Another perk of ship life is meeting people from all over the world. The crew of a cruise ship is like a mini United Nations with crew members from across the globe all working together to meet the passengers every need. In my casino alone we had staff from Australia, Scotland, America and Canada, and since that time many Eastern Europeans have joined the casino staffs on many ships.

  1. Crew life is fun, although many of the crew work very hard, imagine being a waiter and you are expected to serve three meals, two buffets and a tea-time. So to let off a little steam there is a crew bar where all the crew meets for camaraderie and fun. We have so many crew activities; we danced under the stars, had a pizza party for Venice sail-away and played trivia. There was also crew talent show which just gave the Brits an excuse to dress in drag.

  1. You just might fall in love. For me that was the highlight of my time at sea. I left with a very special souvenir my husband Ray. He was from Scotland and I would have never met him if I hadn’t run away to sea. We met when we both worked on the Star Princess, my lucky ship, and were married four months later. In fact, I know so many couples that met on cruise ships and many ended up married. The majority I am happy to report are very happy.  Though there are no guarantees it just might happen to you and there is no better way to change your life than to fall in love.

So for all of you that have that feeling of torschlusskpanik, I just want you to know that you can change your life. Now hiring practices vary but there are big cruise lines like Carnival, to small lines like the exclusive Silver Seas. There are European lines, there are ships all over the world and in the last ten years river cruises like AMA have become popular, but I am sure that with a little work you can find out if cruise ships are a fit for you.

                                                                    Happy sails to you!

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.or read more blog posts at carabertoia.blogspot.com

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

GET A GLIMPSE BELOW DECKS OF A LUXURY YACHT ON BRAVO



Ever since I was very young I always wanted to run away to sea. I was born in Charleston, S.C. and love the ocean. I did finally join a cruise ship as a croupier and everywhere we sailed to, there were yachts. At the Cannes Film festival there were gorgeous yachts filled with beautiful Europeans. In the Caribbean the yachts moored in secluded coves too small for cruise ships. I was always curious what would it be like to be part of the crew on a private yacht.

Now I have my answer. Bravo has recently debuted a reality show about the crew on a private yacht. In the pilot the show sailed out of Saint Martin which holds a special place in my heart because my future husband and I had our first date there. It is a beautiful island divided into a Dutch side filled with duty free shops and a French side filled with fantastic restaurants.  We both worked on a cruise ship and the best part of a cruise ship is that you have much more time off than the crew of a private yacht. They work with fifteen other crew members we worked with over six hundred.

THE CREW OF BELOW DECKS ABOVE DECKS
In the show the crew is on call twenty four hours a day.  The officers are trained professionals, but most of the cast is a group of attractive people doing essentially service and maintenance jobs; you won’t need your college degree here. But since the pay is all in tips and room and board is included what a great place to save up money to pay off those loans. The cost of the cruise can run up to $100,000 a week, and the average tip is between 10 to 15%v of the cost, so tips for each crew member averages around $1,000 a week. That being said some of the guests are very difficult, the chef has to change his menu on a guest’s whim, and the stewards might have to not only unpack but iron all the passengers’ clothes. You would think they would go on vacation to relax but to type ‘A’ personalities making demands and finding fault are part of a good vacation. Since most people bring their friends it is also a way to try to impress your mates with your importance. It really does show how hard the work is and that you have to have nerves of steel, to handle out of line comments such as ‘how great your tits are’.

Now since this is a reality show, the focus is definitely on bad behavior. I often wonder do these people have parents? On their one day off a week it is all about getting pissed and hooking up. It was like that on a cruise ship we even had a crew bar but we had some time off everyday, so when we got to port our major focus was sight seeing - and then getting pissed. As for shipboard romances, I am all for them I met my husband when we both worked on a cruise ship, and with no commute to work, or bills to pay for rent or food, it was a wonderful experience, a vacation from the real world. We computed everything in ships time, a week at sea is like a month on land for a new romance.

The crew has their issues, Sam hates Adrienne her boss because she is very demanding. CJ is upset because the captain keeps telling him to put his shirt back on. I can tell you if Sam was on a cruise ship she would have been booted of before the week was over for insolence. On a cruise ship an officer is to be obeyed.

This show will be interesting for anyone who loves to cruise. The setting is beautiful and there are facts to be gleaned between the cat-fights. The crew works hard and parties hard, but the work is the main focus for any crew. I just wish the show was more focused on the mechanics of the cruise world but alas the show is on Bravo not the Discovery Channel. I left cruise ships with wonderful memories and a Scottish husband, and thought not everyone can be that lucky I am sure the crew of Below Decks will cherish this experience for the rest of their lives.

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships


Thursday, May 9, 2013

THERE IS SO MUCH CHARM TO BE FOUND AT THE ROSE BOWL FLEA MARKET IN PASADENA, CA



When most people think about the Rose Bowl they think about the national college football championship game played on New Years Day but for many folks in Southern California the Rose Bowl is the home of one of the best flea markets in the country. I had heard about this flea market for years but somehow I never got the chance to go, but last Sunday I made the trek. The Rose Bowl flea market is held on the second Sunday of every month in Pasadena, Ca. a beautiful idyllic town filled with beautifully landscaped lawns, storybook houses and a charming old fashioned main street, filled with shops and restaurants. Just north of Los Angeles it is a short 90 minute drive from my hone in Palm Springs.

We left at about noon and when we got to Foothill Boulevard the surprisingly residential neighborhood where the stadium is, the police were turning all the cars back, "Too crowded," they said. We tried driving to another entrance, same story, the problem was the narrow roads couldn't handle all the traffic congestion. "Let's just go back to the other entrance, it seemed closer and maybe we can find parking on the street" said my husband. To make a long story short when we got back the cops were gone and we drove right up to the stadium and parked on the grass. So if the same thing happens to you just go grab a cup of coffee, let the traffic thin out and go back a little later.

The flea market is vast; vendor booths completely surround the stadium. There is a new section filled with all the typical things you will find at your local flea market but what the main Rose Bowl area delivers on is antiques, vintage clothes and Hollywood memorabilia. Whether it is clothes, furniture, memorabilia or jewelry the Rose Bowl took me back to a time when most things were made in America - and made to last. Everywhere I turned I found products form my teenage years, before I had a credit card, a time where I saved up for every purchase and every thing I bought was special.

My husband collects record albums, and we were able to snag a rare Beatles Magical Mystery Tour with the 24 page booklet inside intact. In fact, I have never seen so many record albums for sale. Thank god for the albums, searching for bargains kept Ray well occupied. He keeps telling me that vinyl is making a comeback, and I am beginning to believe him. The record vendors told us that most of their customers are in their twenties.

My husband's father was a watchmaker and jeweler and on a trip to Scotland Ray had taken one of his mothers old charm bracelet and filled it with charms as a surprise for me. I loved that bracelet and was devastated when it was stolen from my house with the rest of my jewelry. I loved the way the charms clinked together when I raised my arms. When we passed by a booth packed with jewelry a charm bracelet encircled with hearts caught my eye. I picked it up glanced quickly at the charms and declared "I have to have this." Well after a bit of haggling, because we all know that is one of the pleasures of a flea market, the bracelet was mine.


Walking away, purchase on arm I began to exam the charms; there was a cable car from San Francisco that actually turned on its platform. We've been there I said to Ray, next I found a donkey charm from Big Bear Lake, that is right up the road from us a great place to escape the summer heat. Ironically a charm of a bear and her cub were from Yellowstone and a cow skull from Jackson Hole. "Ray, look charms from Wyoming". We had driven there a few years ago. "We have been to so many of the same places. It's like someone collected all of these memories and gave them to us."

But the charm that touched us the most, was a shamrock designed in the shape of a stop sign that read, "I'll never stop loving you." For the next few hours all we could wonder about was who had given her this charm. Had he ever stopped loving her, had they been married, how long had it taken her to collect all these charms? Had she bought them in a jewelry store, were they presents from loved ones, or had she collected them over a lifetime? How had this bracelet ended up at the flea market? Had it been stolen or pawned or just sold by a relative that had no use for an old fashioned sterling silver charm bracelet?

We stayed at the flea market until it closed at four, our backpack stuffed with albums and nick knacks. When we returned home we shined up the bracelet. Every time I wear it I still wonder about the previous owner, I wish she knew how much it means to me. But that is the great gift of buying something old; it comes with a story and memories. Now it is my turn to add to the story.

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A DAY AT THE BEACH IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, THAT MEANS SWIMSUIT SEASON IS HERE AGAIN


What is normal these days? They sell a mixture that contains 15% pink slime and they call it lean ground beef, they put high fructose corn syrup in canned tomato soup, and when you fly on a plane you have to pay to check your baggage. These things happen and gradually we just accept them. And now in clothing sizes who the hell knows what the new Normal is?

I was dragging my husband with me shopping the other day. If he doesn’t like something I wear he lets me know it, so I decided he should go with me while I picked an outfit out, to bypass the insult. We were wandering around the department store where I was trying to find some new t-shirts. Well that might seem easy enough but I wanted a shirt that you couldn’t see through, that you could wash and that came past my belly button so that the top of my ass wouldn’t show every time I bent down.

My sweet husband picked up a t-shirt and held it up for me, “I like this it must be about your size.”

Bless his heart he had picked up a small. “A small are you kidding, have you looked at that shirt.” He held it up and I would have sworn it wouldn’t fit a young child but I looked around and we were in the women’s department.

“Well how about this one,” he reached for a medium.

“A medium, who do you think I am, Paris Hilton?’

“What do you mean - you aren’t a medium?”

“A medium, I hate to break it to you but for the last five years I have been an extra large, not a large but an extra large, and god forbid I ever throw it in the dryer.” I grabbed an extra large shirt and held it up to me.

I could see his confusion. I am 5”5’ and weigh 135 pounds on a good day, 137 on a bad one. A weight that shouldn’t be considered extra large. A weight that wasn’t considered extra large ten years ago. A weight that is a little below normal on the height and weight charts. A weight that I worked damn hard to get to in the last two years. I have lost weight but the funny thing is the more weight I lose the bigger my clothing size. I know there is something funny going on.

I am convinced that all the clothing manufacturers got together and said. Hey, how can we make the American woman feel even worse about herself? We can resize all her clothes. We will base all our measurements on a thirteen year old girl. And since everything is manufactured abroad the manufacturers can send anything over here slap any old size on it and save on materials! It doesn’t mean that the clothes will be cheaper. I keep hoping that since everything is made in China this is only a translation problem and XL really means Extra Lucky.
The perfect fit, a Grecian Slender Suit!
                                                            

But if you won't tell anyone I will let you in on a little secret. I don't dread buying a bathing suit. Would you like to know how you will never again have to stand under those unforgiving fluorescent lights in a retail store fitting room? One of the happiest days of my year is when The Lands' End swimsuit catalog arrives. For the last ten years I have ordered all my bathing suits through the internet. I choose a size larger than my own a 12 instead of a 10, and god bless, besides a great selection they even have long waisted swimsuits.

No, I don't have any affiliation with the company, and I am not getting a free swimsuit. But if they happen upon this blog and they are feeling generous I would love a Slender Suit, holds you in at all the right places, in the Sweetheart or Grecian style in that pretty rose color I saw in the catalog.

In the meantime, we the American consumer will grit our teeth and swallow a Zanax every time we have to go to the mall. It just means that if we find anything that fits we will wear it until the seams dissolve. I don't think it is as bad in Britain when my husband and I go to Scotland to visit his family I always go to Frazer's to  buy clothes because I seem to wear an average size there. As for gifts I never give anyone clothes anymore, I don’t want my friends to unwrap something labeled XL and get insulted.

Yes, our destruction is complete; the sexy, curvy American woman has been replaced by a botoxed, bleached, anorexic model. So I give up and surrender and wait for the day when I become an extra, extra large or extra, extra lucky.

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships



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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

THE PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2013


I love travel, movies and I am lucky because my hometown is the home of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. So for the last few years I have taken advantage of this by having a staycation here and I spend the week binging out on movies and feasting at our great restaurants. Our film festival was started 24 years ago by Sonny Bono the mayor at that time. Over the years it has grown into a star studded event screening 180 movies from 68 countries in 13 days drawing Hollywood and international celebrities.

For many years I skipped the pre-gala star gazing in front of the Convention Center but after last year when Brad Pitt and George Clooney both showed up I decided that maybe I should really get into the spirit. So on a sunny January day we arrived six hours early to save space for on the grass directly in front of where the limos would pull up. I thought I was early but many of the fans arrived at four in the morning ready to wait for that special autograph. The guys in front of me were pros, they had notebooks filled with star pictures.
A great photo my cousin Bobby took of Bradley Cooper

My cousin got took this shot of Ben Affleck signing a picture of - Ben Afleck. Little did we know that his film Argo would win the Academy Award for Best Picture. All day we waited and then just after the sun went down the limos began to arrive, and Naomi Watts, Sallie Fields, Bradley Cooper, Ang Lee and so many others it was hard to keep track of them all. I would like to think of myself as immune to celebrity but when Richard Gere's famous white mane showed up I did feel a little starstruck.
Another great photo of Ben Affleck autographing a photo of himself.

The celebrities are great but the real stars of the show are the movies. It is hard to pick from the best the world has to offer but I study my Desert Sun Festival at a Glance, trying to find movies that will make me laugh, make me cry but most of all take me to a far away place. I would like to share my top 5 films with you so that you can come along on my journey.

1. Every year I hope that we will pick the audience favorite but we never had. This year when we saw The Sapphires at Palm Springs High School I thought maybe this is the year. It is a great movie about an Aboriginal girl group from Australia that entertain American troops in Vietnam. It stars Chis O'Dowd best known for Bridesmaids. It is the kind of movie that comes along and tells the story of a people's struggle with humor. It was the fan favorite at Palm Springs film festival and I predict it will be your favorite too.
The Sapphires shaking their stuff in Veitnam

2. We went to Prague in December and I thought it was a beautiful city, so when I saw that In the Shadow was set in Prague I immediately bought tickets. It is about a time after the war when the Soviets were asserting their control over the Czech people. It follows one honest cop investigating a jewel heist. It is a hard boiled realistic thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

3. It is great to see an Israeli movie that is not about war or the troubles; The World Is Funny takes you to Tiberias, a pretty town set on the Dead Sea. It intertwines the tale of a fractured family, story telling and a famous Israeli comedy troop. It made me laugh and it made me cry and it showed me how the people in Israel lived their everyday lives.

4. A movie about a sex scandal in Sweden in the 1970's caught my eye. Our take on Sweden is that it is so permissive, that it had to be something. Well just like in America the politicians get caught with their pants down only this time it is with under age girls. The title, Call Girl, says it all. The movie centered on a prostitution ring in Stockholm. It not only transported you to another country but also another time, when sex, drugs and rock and roll were all the rage. Like many movies at the festival the director Mikael Marcimain was present and talked to us after the screening. A few hours later we were thrilled to see him at the bar at Workshop Kitchen, a great place to go for hand mixed drinks. That is the great thing about Palm Springs, it is such a small place that you never know who you will run into to.

5. My last movie was the most disturbing of the festival but probably the most honest. It followed the life of a Romany girl in a Hungarian village for a single day. The Romany people have suffered a spate of hate crimes, but prejudice follows them in everything they do. Just the Wind is the winner of the Amnesty International Film Prize and it is also the closest look you will ever have of the Romany community in Europe.

Here are some links to some of my other blogs about the movies:
Click here for My Top Ten Romantic Movies from the Hopeful Romantic
Click here for Casino Movies that Get it Right
Click here for Books to Movies at the Palm Springs International Film Festival

And Hollywood if you are looking for a novel based on a real life love story set in many far away places please check out my story, Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. 

About the author:
Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"

Please check out her most popular posts to find more blogs about cruising.

Below are the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships