Archive for December 2012

Holiday Brain-Fog

December 26, 2012

I’m not going to lie, if you don’t see me posting for a while and I’m not bragging about some upcoming trip I want to rub your face in, it’s likely because I’ve fallen prey to a near crippling case of The Lazy. Oh, I could paint any number of viable-seeming excuses over it, but it boils down to me selfishly hoarding my free time for the things that require the least amount of barely-warmed synapses firing. Since nobody is paying me to do this, I figure I’m fairly safe.

The holiday was a nice break from work…mostly. If you don’t count nearly electrocuting myself while rewiring a GFCI outlet in the kitchen. For the uninitiated (read: unzapped), a GFCI outlet is supposed to reduce the chance of electrocution and house fires…just not when you’re installing them with the wrong circuit breaker tripped. Hey, I’m not the one who labeled the breakers and gave two of them the same name. I’m simply the guy who would rather light up the kitchen with a massive fireball than turn two breakers off at once. On top of that, my vacuum cleaner decided it was time to fill the house with the warm and welcoming smell of burned rubber (the belt) before taking its own life. Apparently it respected us enough to not take us along for the ride to the electronic afterlife. With these two wins under my belt, the (holiday) world was my oyster.

Typically around this time of year, I’ll haul out the old (looking) frying lagoon and risk becoming a greasy statistic to prepare a potentially delicious dead bird in a metal bucket full of napalm. Seeing as how my brother here on the east coast has a young child (and now a newborn as well), I figured it was time to pass the list-fuse dynamite on to him and switch to a cooker that doesn’t require a tanker truck to fill and empty the heating chamber. Never fear, it requires propane, so there’s still some inherent risk of making the local news.

While this new “fryer” doesn’t require the aforementioned lake of oil, it still manages to cook a turkey to juicy perfection…just not in 45 minutes like the oil fryer. It’s been a figurative eon since I’ve been in the near vicinity of an oven-cooked bird, so I’m not sure what the cooking times are for that scenario. I’m told I can Google it. I’m guessing (The Lazy) it’s more than 2.5 hours, the amount of time it took to cook a 14lbs bird in my new propane-powered hair dryer. And with the exception of a drip pan nearly overflowing with turkey goo of some kind, it was fairly easy to clean.

Apart from a late Christmas day call from work (I didn’t realize “you’re in charge” meant “you’re on call”) that didn’t require me to leave the house, everything was fairly quiet and reserved. Achebeyo and I had our seasonal argument about when to open presents: my stance being the moment we get bored, regardless of the date, and hers being two weeks after Christmas to make the holiday last longer. As usual, we settled on Christmas morning…as long as I cooked everything the day before. I got up early and arranged the gifts and stockings in such a manner as to suggest no other options for that morning, then set off to lure Achebeyo out of bed with promises of tea and snacks. Between that plan and our feline facilitator (I swear our cat has a pro-wrestling background with the way she assaults the door if we’re not up before 5am), everything went off without any hiccups.

Achebeyo surprised me this year by taking my very short list of wants to mean you’ve known me long enough now, surprise me! And she did. While I got the stuff I asked for (mainly games, toys and accessories for existing toys), she also dug into the short list of other stuff I like and wowed me with a few simple additions. I would have returned the favor, but the few times I’ve gone off her pre-filed flight plan for gift-buying, it’s been a disaster of epic pouting (me) proportions. She likes what she likes at the exact moment she likes it, and if I try to go off my memories of what she once liked, I’m left stacking stuff in closets to re-gift to other family members later. Regardless, she did get one gift she was only half-expecting: a certificate to get her body mauled and scraped at her favorite day spa. I say half-expecting because I typically get her one every year, but I cleverly disguised this year’s gift in an odd box.

You got me a home bunion kit?

She was pleasantly almost-surprised.

When we weren’t vegging out to streaming shows or Blu-ray movies, I was enjoying one of my newly gifted video games (which I’ll drag you through a review of later). We also managed to make some calls to family members around the States…once we emerged from the food comas we self-induced. While I missed spending time with my family in various locations, it was kind of nice to stay at home with no obligations except to keep from blowing up the house and not falling into the final sleep of the over-fed.

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Year of the face-bite

December 19, 2012

Anyone who knows me well knows that I cannot resist petting every single dog that crosses my path. This penchant of mine is typically accompanied by stern lectures from Achebeyo as she tries to keep her adolescent adult companion out of most avoidable mischief. Sometimes she succeeds, and sometimes the mutual failure is etched into my body somewhere.

I rang in 2012 with a trip to the emergency room on New Year’s day, complete with multiple injections in various locations around my body. One of the two nurses who attended to me explained that I could brag to my friends that I was stripped and handled by two nurses at the same time. In this instance, it would be like bragging about playing naked with two needle-wielding linebackers. Not really a badge of honor, ma’am.

We had decided to spend the early morning of New Year’s day walking loops around our 1-mile subdivision to start the year off with non-couch-bound activities. As we passed a small woman who was having her arm dislocated by three leashed dogs, I called out asking if it would be okay to come across the street to pet them. I mistook her uncomprehending reply of “okay” to mean “come pet these barely manageable maniacs”, instead of “I no understand, okay”. Once the dogs got within lunging range, one of them made a grab at my face, and one snapped at my hand. The lady dashed off one way and we made our way back home to assess the damage…without getting any information at all from the Face-Bite Fun Family. This would prove to be a fairly stupid way to start the new year.

We got to the emergency room, a place I avoid like the…well, the plague. No offense, but hospital patients wig me out. All that potential goo and grunge in such close proximity to me makes me want to demand the Silkwood treatment. And don’t skimp on the wire-brush scrubbing. I managed to keep my panic internalized, and made it into the interrogation room, where I tried to minimize my own stupidity in not getting contact info from my assailant’s walker. “Sir, you mean to tell me you were bitten by a dog on a leash in a closed subdivision and didn’t bother to ask for any information at all?” “Well, if you’re looking to make me feel more stupid than I am or look…”

The doctor took down what information I had and sent me off to the stab-team nurses. The ones in my hip were a bit pinchy, but not terribly bad. At least all of the horror stories I endured as a child about 7200 shots in the stomach were finally put to rest. I had to go back for about 6-8 weeks for one single shot each time before I was deemed not rabid. Not a terribly bad excuse to get out of work for a few hours each week, but one I’d probably avoid in the future. In fact, if I could start off this coming new year with less biting of my face (or anywhere I’ve got cells), I’ll consider it a vast improvement on this year.

Spending to save

December 17, 2012

Achebeyo and I love to travel, when she isn’t looking to grind me up into a fine paste for something stupid I’ve done.  We’ve developed a system where we make at least two trips per year to someplace interesting enough to write about later…even if I don’t take the time to write. Typically, we’ll also try to toss in a short trip to someplace familiar and close, but still far enough away from here that we can forget the wage-slave lives we normally live. St. Thomas is a great 3-4 day weekend trip, and now it looks like Costa Rica will be added to that list. Sometimes, however, we plan to stay more locally just to build up “points” for other trips.

Eventually, there will be an entry on our trip to Thailand, complete with silly/beautiful photos of most of the places we visited while there. No, really. I’m working on a plan to start thinking about sitting down to start procrastinating on that project. For realsies. Until then, imagine that the trip we took was entertaining and wonderful enough to warrant the rare return trip. Since we always prefer to seek out new adventures in new locations, we rarely return to distant shores unless there are incentives. Enter the concept of “points”.

It’s rare that I buy into any of the corporate bull dirt aimed at getting people to spend, spend and spend some more. I’d rather save my money for when I need it most: the most recent part x of a video game franchise I’m mildly attuned to, and blu-ray movies I’ll wish later I’d passed out at the store and forgotten to buy. However, this concept that you can spend money now and get free stuff later does kind of resonate with me. Like any pseudo-savvy spender, I gravitate to vague promises of swag and future rewards like a raccoon to your tossed chicken bones. Our first trip to Thailand was subsidized by this concept, and has provided the impetus for our return: stay free in paradise by paying to stay a few dozen times in anti-paradise.

Even in the best of times for me, I’m not a fan of most tourist spawning grounds. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’d go to most theme parks every single day if you paid me to (except for aquariums now, after watching The Cove and seeing the atrocities detailed therein). But locations where the main focus is eating and shopping? Just kill me now and save the taxpayers money later. The more people we cram into this planet, the more loud-mouthed jackasses like me we produce. Few places are more indicative of this than Myrtle Beach, South Carolina….typically.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t take me within a 45-minute radius of that place without hearing me whine for hours about wanting to hang out at Broadway at the Beach. These days, it’s only fun when people who haven’t braved the wilds of southern novelty malls are visiting and we give them their first glimpses into entertainment options in this region. This time, however, we were on a mission to finish gathering points. My arguments were moot by default.

Not long after arriving and getting settled into our hotel room, it became apparent that some inverse social factor was at work, because the place was nearly deserted. I expected to be larynx-deep in sweaty shoppers bashing each other obliviously with bags of crap they don’t need but feel they must buy to show how much they love and are loved by others. Not the case. Heck, there weren’t even enough people to keep most of the novelty attractions open. Oh sure, the ever-present carp were eager to battle it out with the seagulls over cat food pellets, and the now humorous (to us)”zip-line” was open if not in use. But the general sense of get-the-eff-outta-my-way wasn’t prevalent as in previous visits. Apparently people have better things to do than cram their cram-holes with over-priced food, and empty their bank accounts over mostly useless carp (not the fish). I say mostly useless because there were a few spots of note.

Hot sauce. Two words that when joined in the temple of the mouth can mean anything from drenching scalp sweats to please-kill-me-now lava-mouth (and bowels). This place had the full range of products. After trying a few samples and making my choice, I made a last-minute decision to try something from the you’ll wish you hadn’t category of sauces called “Scorpion Stinger”…I think. It’s all a little fuzzy now. Suffice it to say that if the bird and carp fouled water of the bay wasn’t 20 feet below the rail, I would have risked stomach parasites to stop the pain. The shop next to that one really needs to be a mouth-transplant facility.

In between episodes of me saying or doing something to incite the ire of Achebeyo, we had a nice dinner at what I assume is a chain restaurant. It was hard to tell, because their menu was intriguing and the staff didn’t appear to have been cobbled together from the masses of disaffected youth roaming the commercial centers of the world, and people who tried to retire at least once. While the place wasn’t busy, by any stretch of even my vivid imagination, our waitress didn’t feel the need to visit us every third sentence in our conversation. I can’t stress enough how important that is to me, especially in this age where people seem eager to step on your face to get their words out over yours. Dinner was marked a success.

There may have been some miscellaneous shopping at other locations in the area, but I think I’ve blocked the perceived horror of those events with a few naps. Regardless, we now have enough points to re-visit one of the most peaceful, gorgeous places we’ve ever traveled to. Hopefully after I’ve written about the last visit.

Behind the curve

December 12, 2012

***There are a few recent events that I’ve been too lazy to chronicle here. Let’s see how bored I can make you.***

If I haven’t made it clear before, Achebeyo and I love to travel. Wait, let me rephrase that: we love being in places other than home, but could do without the hassle of getting there. Honestly, science needs to get on the ball with that whole quantum transportation thing. They’ll have at least one lifetime subscriber the moment teleportation is perfected.

A few weeks ago, we braved the corridor of doom (I-95 on the east coast of the US) to visit Achebeyo’s recently relocated sister for Thanksgiving. Aside from the driving, which was extensive, we had no responsibilities or obligations on this trip. Now, I’m not lazy, but that appealed greatly to my generally lazy nature. We showed up ready to eat until the associated moaning & napping set in.

Achebeyo’s sister and her boyfriend live in an undisclosed (to you…on pain of death to me) location on a canal where marine wildlife was touted to make frequent appearances. It sounded idyllic, and it was. We didn’t know it yet, but we were in cougar-infested paradise.

I’m not typically the focus of anonymous female attention, which suits me just fine. The last thing I need is trying to explain to Achebeyo the hows and whys of unwarranted and unsolicited interest in me from outside sources. I’ve read that’s a no-win scenario even with bulletproof innocence. However, while taking in some sun and sand on this visit, we were able to witness the kind of bold desperation that would turn aging eyes my way.

There’s a vase in our house that has a collection of shells I’ve meticulously retrieved from various locations around the globe for my love. While stooping & scooping in this new location, I noticed someone angling toward me from farther down the strand. Trying not to be a bothersome walk-block, I moved higher up the strand, toward Achebeyo. No luck. It was a homing-cougar on a recon mission. As I mumbled some version of ‘excuse me’, she angled in and gave her best attempt at a sultry hello. I’m pretty sure the reality of whom she was addressing slammed into her tanned grey matter at that moment, and she veered away rapidly. I mean, there were likely much younger guys with less salt in their pepper looking for a sugar momma farther on down in her walk. Achebeyo and I shared a laugh over it and went back to our respective activities, hers being the horizontal absorption of warmth through scantily-clad skin. It wouldn’t be until later the next day, however, that we would see these predators in full form.

Thanksgiving day went exactly as expected: a delicious meal prepared by our gracious hosts, accompanied by a visit from a pod of dolphins right off their dock. If I hadn’t been in the pre-nap groaning phase of feasting, I would have had the presence of mind to take some pictures. Alas…

The following day, we paddled around the canals and saw more dolphins and some exotic birds, then walked around the neighboring housing developments to see what was for sale and how much we could expect to pay to own property in this area. We quickly determined I don’t have enough viable organs to sell to afford living there at this point, so we wandered back to home base and began preparations for the evening’s events.

Dinner was at a novelty chain restaurant based on a movie character. It was good, but the highlight was when we made the waiter nearly fall over laughing when we read his mind (“Just shut the eff up and sign the form.”) From there, we decided that we would have a few drinks somewhere nearby in preparation for karaoke at a place that wasn’t quite ready for their own festivities yet, based on the few grizzled and grumbling faces we saw the first time we poked our heads in the door. We gravitated to a local watering hole and began our cougar-watching in earnest.

Now, I’ve got nothing against people who come together out of any need or desire that isn’t physically or mentally abusive. Watching the hunt, though, made me wonder who was hunting whom. It was also a bit like watching a wasp lay its eggs in a live tarantula: horrible, but riveting. We endured that for a while then made our silly way over to the karaoke bar.

By the time we got there and got settled in, I was ‘comfortable’ enough to think I could play pool effectively. ENK! Wrong. Also darts. Strike two, folks. And when it came time for me to finally sing the one song I’m really good at (Stray Cat Strut by the Stray Cats), everyone was well beyond ready to go home. While they made preparations to leave in the dubiously sanitary bathrooms, I sang my heart out. As the last “WHOOO!” left my mouth, my companions were making their way out the door and I had to step swiftly to not be left at the mercy of the aging crowd.

We returned and walked our hosts’ gorgeous dog, then racked out until morning. We made the long drive back in record time and managed to avoid the state, county and city tax collectors (police) along the way. It was a perfect short trip, full of food, fun and frolicking in the wilds of cougarville.

Holi-what?

December 11, 2012

Over the years, and especially since moving to a coast far, far away from my childhood trauma grounds, this time of year for me just tends to be a time of coming together in increasingly smaller groups to avoid hordes of consumers eager to trample me to death over the last nightmare-inducing talking toy or Golden Girls boxed set. I’ve so lost my way in this corporately co-opted “season” that I can barely be bothered to think of anything I actually need, aside from quality alone time with “The Talkening” so I can put my gaming OCD to rest over that electronic abortion. Seriously, Bioware needs to hemorrhage a few more folks, most especially anyone who had anything to do with the percentage of dialogue versus the percentage of action that DA2 has (75% vs. 10%…there’s walking too). In the local parlance, “it ain’t what it used to be.”

While few people really want to hear extended tales of my youthful exploits that don’t involve me adding to an impressive adolescent scar collection, or teaching my brother to fear every waking moment, it should be noted that I wasn’t always looking for the nearest fallout shelter with internet access and console gaming around this time of year. I was once a doe-eyed holiday youth like any other.

Between my grandparents and my aunt & uncle, Christmas always seemed like something out of one of those pop-up books where the decorations come alive and everyone is smiling. For many years, my uncle actually had one of the coolest tree skirts: an honest to goodness gingerbread village, complete with a “don’t EVER, E V E R touch that” train, pond with magnetically moving ice-skaters who only seemed to fall when nobody was around to watch the giant mutant hand deliver digital justice (get it?), and a plaster of Pairee mountain with skiers. I don’t know why, but I never felt compelled to mess with those plastic schussers. I know how bad it can suck to bite it hard on a steep, icy slope. Regardless, that tiny town, and the visit to sing songs and eat until the crying began were some of the happiest moments of my childhood.

As the distance from that life and time increased, so did, by an inverse proportion, my desire to do anything even remotely festive. Achebeyo and I even started one of the laziest traditions ever not long after we first met: the Christmas Chair. As the name might vaguely suggest, it was a chair…for Christmas. As a concession to the mandatory color scheme, we threw a green table cloth over it and put anything we bought for each other in it. On Christmas eve, we’d stay up all night watching the same two or three DVDs on a 20″ tube television from 15-feet away, and then wake up with stiff necks and back pain to open our gifts. Hey, it worked for us. I’ve since been convinced that one (new each year) tiny concession toward seasonal tolerance WILL be implemented. Ah, the wonders of couple-hood.

Occasionally, we’ll get an invitation to spend time with my father and his wife (and sometimes other semi-homeless people he’s more than a little worried about) on Christmas. I have to admit, while I would normally be quite comfortable concocting a previously unknown bowel disaster to stay glued to the couch and whatever game I’ve been fortunate enough to be gifted, spending time with my dad is fun. As you may or may not have noticed from his comments here and there on this blog, he’s one funny paternal monkey. I see where I get all this awesome from. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that he has the power to remind me that this time of the year isn’t all about buying things and feeling as if love should be measured in return receipts and credit ratings. It’s about being able to write a humorous tale or two the day after about everything that made someone (even if it wasn’t me) laugh.

Carp this!

December 6, 2012

Being the kind of busy I’ve been lately means that by the time I leave work, my creativity is pooled in my shoes and waiting to be drowned in bubbly warm water (I love bubble baths…sue me), along with the rest of any motivation I may have had. In fact, I’ve never wanted to have an extended out of body experience more in my life. I imagine Achebeyo poking me repeatedly, trying to snap me back along that wireless connection to this hunk of meat and associated juices. While I’d likely be punished for what she’d perceive as me pretending to ignore her, it might still be fun to hover behind  her, all incorporeal, and mock her efforts from the spirit world.

There are few of us wage-slaves who are ever more than a few misfiring synapses away from a screaming leap off of the nearest elevated landmark. And while I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, I’m sure it has something to do with anticipation of getting the heck out of here and traveling again as soon as possible. Like yesterday. Seriously.

Part of the plan for travel next year includes a minor trip this weekend to a local town to stay in a well-established hotel chain (not this one), in an effort to build up the necessary points to return to Thailand and stay in paradise for free. What’s that, you ask? Why have I not posted regarding that previous trip? Because that trip was completed long before I decided to chronicle my adventures here…plus, I’m lazy. I took over 1100 photographs, most of which were about as varied as several dozen rolls of freshly minted pennies. Achebeyo kindly reduced those down to a more manageable number, but it’s still a bit daunting to my video-game-craving brain sac. I’d write it this weekend, except for the aforementioned local trip.

There won’t be any SCUBA diving, like this from one of my favorite dives in this area:

There won’t be any sea lion rides:

Or smooches:

Or elephant lovin’:

What there will be is some quality walking-around- trying-not-to-get-trampled time in one of the more touristy locations in my neck of the North American woods. But it will be worth it: no computer begging me to play games so that I don’t worry about not writing; no blu-ray player coaxing me into near-coma status with streaming online shows and movies; and no loving cat to body slam the door repeatedly when we don’t wake up before 5am. Unplugged bliss.

Mondays are for laughing…at me

December 3, 2012

***You never want to have kids like me…it just happens.***

While conferring with a writing mentor regarding the difficulties in writing for an audience (because, let’s face it, if you write anywhere online so people can see it, you’re not doing it just for your own giggles), I was encouraged to power through any blocks or dry spells. Forcing my ramblings on anyone else while in that state seems unfair and ridiculous. Enjoy!

There was a time in my off-the-rails developmental period when it seemed like I was preparing for a full-time career as a crash-test dummy, and there wasn’t any one single event that ever gave me pause enough to consider either chilling the heck out, or possibly wearing a helmet all the time. Starting from launching myself out of a two-story window as a toddler when I honestly believed a window screen would act as a vertical trampoline, to numerous full-body scabs due to “space launches” off of school swing sets, there were few periods of time where I wasn’t trying to prove my head was a sawdust-filled rock.

Once such test session happened, as these things do, during fake combat. My friends and I tended to use the national park in our town, the one right in my back yard, as a proving ground for why kids end up barely-functional adults. Our favorite hobby, aside from specimen collection and subsequent home-release, was running around in old-school camouflage outfits aiming painted-up plastic guns at each other and pew-pew-pewing it up for hours on blistering southern California weekends. We were toy soldiers.

Whether or not the following events happened on the same day is irrelevant. Unless my childhood chums are reading this and object strenuously, we’ll combine the two misadventures into one for the sake of brevity…which I’m typically not known for.

This national park had dry, sagebrush hills and mountains, as well as several flood-control areas that were either devoid of trees and great for shooting arrows at each other, or so cluttered with trees and shrubbery that you could hide behind one tree and not know someone else was hiding right next to you until the dreaded pants’ wetting moment of your own fake demise. We typically defined one area for each round and stuck to it, and the rules, for the duration of the game. Of course, if your initials were MW and rules were your bitch, well… Suffice it to say that we were a problem looking for our moment to shine.

Enter the U.S. Air Force. Or Army. Hard to remember which it was after all those sleeps. Regardless, while running around in face-paint and cammies, we got so worked up over our imagined endeavors that we failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation when a large military helicopter flew over. Thinking we’d be cool (idiot) rebels, we positioned ourselves so that our realistically painted plastic guns would appear to menace the nut-descendingly real soldiers with real weapons. Apparently, the U.S. military is trained to actively resist the deadly pew-pews from fake guns, and they made several passes overhead despite taking fake fatal damage from us. It didn’t take them long to decide it was time to help us void our innards.

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY!

They may have made other imperative statements, but that one was enough for us. We cowered in our now-stinky hiding places until they got tired of flying around, then made a break for the dubious safety of higher, open ground on the other side of the railroad tracks. At this point, the nature of the game changed: we would stay out of the trees and not point our ineffectual weapons at people who could accidentally kill us for looking like threatening morons.

The rules were simple: we all started from the same place; each player would enter the defined battle zone two minutes after the prior player had entered; and no ambushes at the entry point. This all worked quite well, with each of us giving as well as we got over the course of several sweaty hours. Then someone with the previously mentioned penchant for taking rules and cramming them in other people’s cram-holes decided no more Mr. Fair Play.

Being the last one into the zone this round, I knew I’d be in for tough times. There was really only one way into the area, hence the ‘no ambush’ rule. Apparently, that rule was one rule too many in our fake war games. I was ambushed. After issuing several loud “NUH-UH”s to the rule-rapist’s “GOTCHA”s, I did what any reasonable kid in my situation would do when faced with loud noises and imaginary gunfire: I dove over a 20-foot cliff. To be fair, I thought I was diving behind a tiny sage bush that would have offered all the cover of a stage with spotlights in real combat. I failed to assimilate the information my eyes presented of the tops of houses on the other side of the bush as meaning there might be a difference in elevation.

It took about five minutes for me to stop grunt-groaning and get back on my feet at the bottom of the cliff, during which time nobody bothered to check to see if I had gone from fake corpse to the real thing. I guess my attacker had faith in my superhero talents like flying and safe head-landings.

The walk back to my other friend’s house, where we all agreed to meet after the games were over, alternated between muttered bitter curses for cheaters, and musings as to whether or not my cliff-diving counted as a ‘death’. Since nobody knew I had left, they kept playing, assuming I had managed to soar to safety and sneak back into the zone. Much later, they returned and found out that I had walked home, ticked, bruised and needing the kind of sympathy nobody would be willing to offer under the prevailing circumstances.

Needless to say, I learned the hard way that my talents were better spent pretending on stage, where my family could sue the school if anything went wrong. Unfortunately, it never did.


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