Elizabeth Kuyper

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Elizabeth Kuyper

The Vessel

As I embark on building a new habit of writing every day, I Googled ‘Writing Prompts’ and here’s what came up:

The Vessel: Write about a ship or other vehicle that can take you somewhere different from where you are now.”

First thing that pops into my head – I know I’ve told this story verbally but not sure I’ve ever written it down…

In 2012, my folks told me they’d booked a cruise for spring 2013 to the South Pacific, and asked if I’d like to go along. The first thing that popped into my head was NOT: Lord of the Rings, clear blue water, Australia (Hugh Jackman; surely there are more there), Tahiti, Islands, and well, the South fucking Pacific. I mean, I was brought up not just in Southern California, but Laguna Beach. Kinda the South Pacific. Instead, what DID spring to mind immediately was 1997 and the Holland America Cruise I went on with my parents to Alaska (the inside passage). I immediately said, “Oh god, no, no thank you!” I didn’t recall the beautiful scenery of Alaska you can only see by ship; the glaciers, the bald eagles, the Grizzly bears, the cultures, the vast landscapes of forest suddenly stopping at a glacier, beautiful Vancouver… no no, my mind immediately went to the tiny prison cell cabin I was forced to share with someone older than my grandmother (only being ageist for how old I was; it did not work) who was very sweet, but um, should not have been traveling alone. The bed space between two travelers who’ve never met, sharing one tiny closet bathroom was about three feet, and that’s generous. Several nights – at least the first two – I awoke in the night, or was it first thing in the morning (now that I do get up to pee in the night I’m not sure anymore), let’s just say, the bathroom – not just the toilet, the bathroom – was unusable. My roommate had unfortunately a big problem with either incontinence, or timing, or aim, none of which she seemed to be aware of, so I’m not sure how clear her mind was either (and why it wasn’t a good idea she traveled alone). I wish I could remember what I ended up doing; I’m guessing I worked those kegels hard while I cleaned up just so I could go. Then I promptly got dressed and went straight to our tour organizer, hoping I’d never have to return again. Fortunately, I did not. She managed to get me a room to myself. RELIEF

But that wasn’t the only issue, unfortunately. I the youngest person on the boat, by FAR, aside from maybe a couple of children, BUT, I was still traveling with my parents, so … not really a ‘single’ traveler? There was a Country-Western night, and I thought I’m gonna go, and meet me a nice tall Dutchman from the crew. Nope. I sat, like a wallflower, completely and intentionally ignored. No idea why. Too young? It was as if the crew was instructed to only ask the ‘old’ ladies to dance, as the gals on either side of me, 20+ years older, had loads of attention from the guys in the uniforms. I was invisible. Still don’t understand it. I was still a paying guest, right? Never understood that.

But the real cherry on top of the unpleasant cake was the staff. Not the crew; comparatively I’d much prefer to have been ignored. Not only was I not ignored, I was SPOTLIGHTED (spotlit?) – the crew, I believe mostly if not all Malaysian, treated me and my family as if they’d never seen a person, male or female, over 5’8″ in their lives. I didn’t get it. Still don’t. No tall people in Malaysia? This is a Dutch cruise ship! The crew is tall!? I don’t get it.

Hallways on cruise ships are unavoidable of interacting with others. Only if you’re lucky, and walk at a speedy pace, might you be able to get to your destination without crossing paths with another human. Second best, the person coming in the opposite direction feels the same, and you’ll both quickly squirm through a muttered ‘evening/’evening as you brush past. Some of the passengers, yes, I had that luck. Not with the staff. They would come to a halt in the middle of the hallway whenever we approached. And stare. Stare, as if seeing an alien being presenting itself on planet earth for the first time. Mouths agape. Eyes wide. Usually followed by a “You SO TALL!” statement. As if it was news to us.

My favorite (sarcasm) moment was when I went to meet my parents in the restaurant for a late lunch. I hustled in, knowing the restaurant would close soon, and saw my parents in a booth, trying to eat, but having to take pause as a waiter stood at the table, giving them the same look the staff in the hallways gave us. He then turned his stunned gaze to me, unaware he needed to move aside a few inches so I could sit at the table. No welcome, no greeting, no what can I get you…

“Excuse me, may I sit down please?” 

“Hi honey, here’s what we’re having for lu…”

“How tall you?” staring. Smiling. Smiling like he wants to kill me, or take me back to his people to prove I exist.

“Excuse me?” I heard him. Why am I prolonging this?

“You very tall! How tall?”

Picking up the menu, not making eye contact

Sigh “I’m 6’2″.”

“Six…two – six-two – what is that?”

“Six feet two inches. That’s what that is.”

He laughs. “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know inches. I know centimeters.” 
“Mmkay. Well I don’t. But we both know, it’s tall. OK? May I have some water please?”

He doesn’t move. After a beat,

“In my country, you be a big, BIG giant!” He laughs.

“Ha! In my country, you’d be a big asshole!” No I didn’t say that. What do I do? I asked him for a glass of water. Again.

…..

So no, my knee-jerk initial reaction to my parents’ invitation to join them on a cruise around the South Pacific was rejected.

And then I thought better of it.

To be continued…

Traveling to distant lands, distant worlds..?

Travel is BACK, Baby! Yes, I am late to the game? Again? Like returning to the movies? Welp, better late than never, right? And maybe they won’t lose my luggage or make me miss my connecting flight… I still have hope…

Scene Stealers

In the midst and mayhem of Self-Tape May (An actor’s challenge to complete 16 self-tapes, which is what most auditions consist  of these days), in addition to self-taping real auditions we may get (yay!), many of us over-thinkers grab onto scenes from our favorite films (as the goal is JUST to complete 16 tapes, not win an Oscar or a lead role, but hey…this is what dreams are made of, right? RIGHT?!), which involves WAY more dialogue than necessary… a simple line can have a HUGE effect. Or a short scene, which is how I thought of this hilarious scene-stealing gal in a very intense (and brilliant) film, Hell or High Water… her character’s name? ‘T-Bone Waitress’…

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