September 02, 2012

Photo Essay: RMS Queen Mary, Magic Hour to Dusk

This weekend was the annual Art Deco Festival hosted by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles on the Queen Mary, a streamlined cruise ship whose Art Deco interiors have attracted tourists and visitors since its permanent mooring in Long Beach in 1967.

The opening night party - and monthly edition of ADSLA's Cocktails in Historic Places - was free and a good excuse for me to not only explore Long Beach a bit, but to get a good look at the oceanliner, which I'd previously only visited last year during their annual haunted house. I didn't get to see much then.

I was thrilled to walk the deck and the promenade freely during the Magic Hour...

...unaided by a tour guide or an audio tour, unfettered by security staff.

My photos were uncontaminated by tourists...

...and as the sun set, the only thing that got in my way was my own shadow.

The lifeboats still hung low, their red-painted interiors chipping and peeling from disuse... the gulls perched to take in the late-day view.

I more or less followed the path of the self-guided tour without the companion audio tour, visiting the Radio Room, the Captain's Quarters, the Chart Room and the Bridge, examining the Stone System, the hydraulic door controls, and the swimming pool filling mechanism without disturbance.

But as night began to fall, I felt that I should join the cocktail party that I'd come to the Queen Mary for. And at first, I was delighted at the costumed attendees, decked out in suits and dresses of The Great Gatsby time period, adjusting their ties, repinning their hats, lighting up the dance floor and sipping their drinks.

And then I realized: everyone was dressed to the nines, outfitted to the hilt for the Art Deco era.

That is, everyone except me.

At first, I thought I must be the youngest party-goer there, but as the evening wore on, I started to spot couples my age, and then couples even younger than me. And then I wondered: where did these people come from? And, more importantly, how did they find each other? Flying solo, I particularly stuck out because any other attendee who wasn't part of a couple was embedded into some kind of like-minded group, deep in conversation. The one person I knew - though not well - would have been impossible to extract from his social circle.

In present day, modern society, these Prohibition-era patrons might be considered freaks, but at their party, during their festival, in my black and white striped maxi dress which I thought was at least "nautical," I was the freak.

And, attending alone, improperly costumed, not only was I an anomaly and quite literally an anachronism, but I was also somewhat of a novelty. Those who did strike up a conversation with me only wanted to point out how alone I was and how much I didn't belong.

It's amazing when you visit an Island of Misfit toys and you're too much of a misfit to belong there. You get turned away, even from there.

But, in truth, I hadn't gone to the Queen Mary for drinks, conversation, or even romance. I went for the ship itself.

And that, I got my fill of.

So, after only a swig of pink wine, with the Port of Los Angeles twinkling in the distance under a swath of twilight clouds, I disembarked, returned to my car, and drove inland, home.

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1 comment:

  1. I sailed on the Queen Mary as a child in the 1940s after WWII.Incredibly glamorous then.Black tie and long gowns at dinner. On one January crossing, we hit very bad weather at dinner and everything went flying. The next day all those shoes left outside the cabin to be shined where all over the place. I was one of the few passengers not plagued with seasickness. I felt I had the whole of this great ocean liner to myself. When we arrived in South Hampton, ambulances awaited to take those with broken bones off the ship.