brian_clareyby Brian Clarey

It’s not such a terrible thing to work on Easter Sunday when I’m typing away on the elevated poolside deck of the Carnival Fantasy ocean liner, a smoke burning in the ashtray beside me and a thousand or so revelers parading around in various stages of inebriation and undress.

The sunburn’s been setting in since yesterday, when we swam in the impossibly blue waters of the Caribbean off the Bahamian coast, the worst of it on my shoulders, my knees, my bald spot, the tops of my feet.

It’s a small price to pay for the sense of escape a cruise like this — short, sweet, marked by abundance and easiness — provides a family like mine. We’ve been on the grind so long I don’t think we realized how much we needed it.

There’s no wifi out here on the open ocean. Well, there is, for a very reasonable fee, but we knew if we ponied up for it our children would shut themselves in our cabin with their screens. It took half of the first day for them to acknowledge that their phones would not work the way they wanted them to out here, and since then, for the most part, the devices have been stacked on a table in the cabin, fully charged and functionally useless.[pullquote]It’s embarrassing to be an emissary from the Old North State these days, even on a pleasure cruise where none of the passengers seems to know what has transpired there.[/pullquote]

I haven’t been this far out of the loop in years: No New York Times, no Facebook, no text messages. Not even Words With Friends. I don’t know what my NCAA bracket looks like. At this point I barely care.

On the day we left, the NC General Assembly passed its most disturbing law since the marriage amendment just a few years ago, this one further reaching than any in the short time since the GOP took Raleigh in 2010. And while I can imagine the outrage among my fellow freedom-loving North Carolinians, from this distance it barely seems real. There’s no hate on the cruise ship, no fear of the unknown when together we’re charting open waters and relishing the great wonder that it is to be alive. Like the humans who designed and built it, the ocean liner is built to move forward, only going in reverse through great, effortful manipulations from the bridge and the smaller tender boats that push it around. And even then, pulling into port, I can hear great groans of resistance from the machinery that makes the thing run.

It’s embarrassing to be an emissary from the Old North State these days, even on a pleasure cruise where none of the passengers seems to know what has transpired there. When we return to our port of disembarkation and everyone learns what we have done, I hope none of my new friends thinks less of me for my association, however tenuous, with such a backwards state.

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