The story behind the cruise.
It began in the snowy north.
Don't get me wrong; taking a trip around the world on the Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth II on their 2007 World Tour is an extraordinary and unexpected adventure.
But the circumstances that led to this development are just as extraordinary and unexpected as the trip itself.
In 2004, some friends and I founded an artistic project called the Gothic Funk Movement. We've hosted some parties and posted some manifestoes and photos online. About a month ago I was contacted by a Mr. Fushigi from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada.
It read as follows.
Dear Mr. Coyne
I have enjoyed reading about your group and their artistic experiments. I very much respect and agree with the work you are doing, but you cannot possibly hope to prosper working under such unacceptible conditions. Writers and artists and actors and scholars must benefit from ocean breezes and tropical shores, the power of unfamiliar cultures and the weight of history.
I have taken the liberty of booking you passage on the Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth II, which will be circumnavigating the world in early 2007. The ship disembarks from Brooklyn, New York on January 8th and returns on April 27th. This should fit neatly into your schedule, enabling you to leave with ease and return in time for your graduation this May.
Of course, I am also willing to book passage for any friends or associates affiliated with your project. I will not be able to arrange transportation to New York, but I have in fact reserved the Queens Suite for your whole group, which I trust is spacious enough to accomodate however many travelers you will be arranging. You will, I hope, enjoy the complimentary wine and champagne that comes with the invitation.
Please respond if this invitation finds you well, and if you are inclined to acquiesce to my offer.
Naturally, I thought this was a joke. However, Mr. Fushigi renewed his offer a week later "with all assurances that I do not jest," and the next day I received a confirmation phone call from the Cunard Line. The following day I received by mail tickets for my passage, and the Cunard Line contacted me again, saying that I must let them know soon how many people I would be bringing along.
Who was this "Mr. Fushigi"?
I worked some Canadian contacts I have through my cousins, who lived in a Toronto suburb for six months in 1985. I was actually able to obtain a "photo" of our benefactor:
You can see him standing a few hundred feet out, past the lip of the hill from which the photo was taken. Mr. Fushigi is dressed in Ninja gear and holds a Samurai sword slung over his back. In fact, the Canadian government contacted me itself, since they thought I might be able to supply some information on this individual.
It turns out that he doesn't actually live in Iqaluit proper, but on the aptly-named "Road to Nowhere" that winds out onto Baffin Island outside the city limits. He lives a half-nomadic existance, using pack ice to travel as far as Siberia. He comes into money by unknown means, but has always given generously to charity, and is scrupulous about reporting his income, which is considerable, to the Canadian government. To date, they have not been able to interview him. While I think their concern is justified, we agreed it was more a precaution than anything else. Mr. Fushigi fits the profile of an upstanding eccentric trying to make the world a better place.
Needless to say, I wasn't not able to help them out.
Once I had been convinced of the seriousness of the offer, however, I was eager to move forward. I contacted my advisors and peer group in my MFA program, and they were more than happy to correspond via email for the next three months. I contacted friends through my blog and the Gothic Funk Movement, and five friends have decided to join me.
And there it is. This monday we will be departing from Red Hook's Atlantic Basin in Brooklyn, New York.
We're going to sail around the world.