Archive for the ‘Travel’ category

Brain bursts

July 15, 2013

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novel, but with the same enthusiasm as my 3 year old niece being told it’s nap time. I love the idea of writing something more involved and comprehensive, but then The Lazy starts broadcasting everything else I could be doing, and how difficult all of the research would be, and my resolve crumbles like cheap drywall to the wrecking ball of  my easily distracted attention. Plus, there’s screaming and crying for no apparent reason. I don’t simply have issues, I have whole subscriptions.

Several key ideas about how my brain works have presented themselves in various, and ridiculous, ways lately, and I’m struggling to determine if I’m amused or irritated with what I’ve found. Here’s a partial list of thoughts I snagged on their ninja stealth-rampage through my brain-box:

1 – If lightning strikes this house while I’m peeing, will it travel up the contact my fluids are making with the toilet water and fry my nethers?

2 – I wonder if my cat thinks I’m an idiot for trying to speak her language… mrrrrow.

3 – Do you think Darth Vader ever used The Force to choke himself? For practice? Or, you know, David Carradine style naughtiness?

4 – If the news media are owned by big corporations, and big corporations have a financial stake in what news makes it to the public, isn’t it safe to assume they care more about sensationalism, hype and money than true journalism?

5 – I want to crop dust the ISS. Farts probably  permeate an area faster in zero gravity, and I won’t be able to sleep until I know for sure.

Those are only a few of the random bits of flotsam bumping around in my personal mental pond. I’m not entirely sure how much background noise they would provide if I tried to make myself write an entire novel, but my guess is “some”.

Recently at work, I vehemently denied it when a co-worker said I was OCD…then I proceeded to move everything he touched on my desk back into geometrically pleasing parallels with the edges of my desk. Touché, douché. The funny thing is, I’m not that way with everything around me all of the time. Just my desk at work. And sometimes other people’s desks. And any table I’m sitting at in a restaurant. And my kitchen counters/table at home. And magazine tables in businesses I visit. I need help.

I’m itching to travel again. We usually take at least one trip to a familiar location for a 3-4 day weekend, but our schedules have been a bit chaotic lately, so that’s been a factor, along with my 20% pay cut from furloughs. I had been looking forward to one of Achebeyo’s teaching gigs that would take her back to my home town so I could tag along and hang out with friends while she slogged it out in the educational trenches, but it was canceled, leaving me a lazy, pouting mess. We’ve got plans to go to Europe’s thigh-high boot later this year, and then, if I’m really lucky, Boracay for some of the best SCUBA diving of my life…I hope. As long as I don’t piss Achebeyo off between now and then, it should become a part of my traveling history.

Until my life gets more interesting and blog-worthy, I’m going to hook the video game IV back up and swing a digital laser sword at digital “bad” guys for social validation and geek prestige. Try to restrain your rampant jealousy.

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Cura-meh-cao

April 12, 2013

***I’ve put off writing this article for lack of inspiration, but then it hit me: maybe THAT’S my inspiration.***

It probably isn’t fair to start off a report about such a beautiful and storied island like Curaçao by giving the impression that I didn’t like it. Makes me seem like I’ve got an industrial strength rod lodged in the ol’ methane-hole. The thing is, I didn’t dislike it, it simply didn’t resonate with me.

They labeled the island…just in case.

Maybe it was the fact that Achebeyo and I have traveled all over the Caribbean so this was just one more in a long line of tropical shopping malls, or possibly the fact that we must have unintentionally chosen International Non-Stop Kite Weather week for our visit (you could have stayed airborne the entire trip with the right parafoil kite). Any number of factors combined could have created this distinct lack of enthusiasm for writing this article, and that simply isn’t fair to this tropical paradise.

The island really is gorgeous, with beautiful multicolored buildings that would seem at first to riot against one another, but actually work quite well on the larger canvas of the island. The shorelines were rocky where we stayed, but there were plenty of beaches on the map boasting flour-soft sand. The people were friendly and helpful, often guiding us away from our own time-wasting ignorance, such as leading us to the pay station in the middle of the longhouse-style cafeteria when we mistakenly stood in food pick-up line. Nothing about this place was bad…it just wasn’t great.

From atop Fort Rif, defending against…loud tourists?

We arrived on a Friday afternoon and had managed not to mangle each other emotionally during what I like to call Arrival Angst. It’s that frustration that builds at the airports and parking lots and taxis until you actually flop onto the bed (minus the crime scene comforter, of course) in your destination. Aside from the typical travel warning my gastrointestinal tract issued (“Per standard operating procedures, we will be halting all functions for the foreseeable future, barring any infusion of significantly spicy food or foreign tap water.”), our arrival was uneventful.

While the room occasionally made noises like the plumbing was filled with movie-grade, mutant, angry bees, and randomly farted when neither of us was standing in that part of the room (I swear), it was a typical hotel sleeping berth. Let’s gloss over the part where our room faced a softball stadium and we occasionally heard noises from that place like someone was murdering werewolves…for fun or profit, I can’t be certain. Regardless, our first “day” was mellow and fairly uneventful. We ‘splored the surrounding mini-city of our hotel complex, but managed not to get ensnared by the excessively-marked-up name-brand stores.

Our hotel village from the pontoon bridge.

We got vague directions to the nearest dive shop and proceeded on the Renpiti plan of navigation: go in the general direction of the half-understood, vague directions until we luck out and find the place so I can dispense the I-told-you-so‘s with feigned confidence. The place was being run by a visiting couple, he of ‘merican heritage, she of Aussie descent. They were warm and friendly and booked us for a wall dive the following day. We wandered around the city some more until we felt we had accumulated enough pinkened skin, then ventured back to the hotel room. We had dinner at a local Indian place and stiffed the staff on tips because I assumed they included it in the pricey bill (like most places we visit outside of the U.S.). Yeah, I was unintentionally that guy. We slunk back to our room like the dirty foreigners we were.

Even though we would be entering the sea from the shore the following day, and not an ocean-borne vomit comet (that would be the next day), I implored Achebeyo to take some light-coma-inducing motion sickness pills just in case. With the winds nearing skin-peeling force, it’s never a bad idea to issue stand-down orders to your stomach in advance. We set triple alarms for the following morning and slept like the sweaty dead.

When we awoke and snarfed down some meager snacks, penance for the lack of tipping the previous night, we made our now-confident way back to the dive shop. We geared up and carried what might turn us into scabbed crybabies to the entry point. You never want to duck-walk in fins over gravel mounds. The entry point was along a pier and very calm. We dove to 15ft before ever reaching pukeville.

The dive was clear and beautiful. If I wasn’t so afflicted with The Lazy, I’d pull stills from my GoPro and share them with you. Alas…

After we finished the dive, with Achebeyo deciding we didn’t need to be molecularly bonded the entire time underwater, we opted to clean up and head back into town to do two things: find an affordable place to eat, and discover the whereabouts of the elusive Piranha Jack t-shirt store. That day, we would only accomplish the former.

The place we chose to eat, after being repeatedly snubbed by a few touristy restaurants (our tipping fiasco must have been shared on the morning news), happened to be where all the locals were eating: a Nordic longhouse-style cafeteria. I sent Achebeyo off to find a seat while I stood in what I thought was the line to order food. A local soon informed me that I would need to actually place an order before standing in this line. It was fortunate he was kind enough to walk me to the ordering table, as it was buried in the middle of the rest of the tables full of happy diners. I finally ordered, paid and went back into the order placement line. After about 10-15 minutes, they took my ticket and told me to go sit among the multitudes of random faces and they would bring my food to me. I joined Achebeyo and three other friendly folks (one resident and his two visiting sisters). These people told us two fundamental facts: 1) we absolutely MUST visit Kleine Curaçao, and 2) if the cafeteria got our orders kind of right, it was as close as we would get. Fortunately for us, we got exactly what we ordered, and it was the best meal we had the entire time on the island…not to mention the cheapest.

The pontoon bridge of pontooniness.

It looks like a barge, but it handles like a skiff.

Ideas for tomorrow’s adventure burning in our brains, we wandered back across the pontoon bridge to our hotel and promptly booked the following day’s Kleine Curaçao trip. This deserted island is located 15 miles off of Curaçao’s eastern tip, and it promised to be more than simply a boat ride to a remote beach, if the shore shattering waves in the bay were any indication. Once again, we both took anti-puke-a-tron meds and sank like lead weights into sleep.

If you’ve ever been anywhere in the Caribbean (or any other island environment), you’ll know what I mean by IPT. For the uninitiated, that’s Island People’s Time. That means if you are supposed to be downstairs and ready to board the shuttle at 7am, they’ll be there at 7:45 to pick you up. I mean, I’m no stranger to The Lazy, but come on! We managed to make it to the boat in time to stand in line with all the other late-arriving passengers (otherwise known as “everyone”), and promptly made our way to the upper deck to stake our claim on…standing room only. This would actually prove to be a boon, as we’d be forced by location to stare at the horizon, instead of the bile-agitating floor of the boat’s top deck. Thus began what I like to call Puke Roulette.

On the ride out of the calm harbor, they gave us lengthy instructions in Dutch. The English version seemed like an afterthought, as the translator was on his first boat trip himself and tended to disappear below and return covered in cleansing sea water. The gist of what he told us was that if we needed external stomach-storage, he had the plastic bags. Looking around me, grinning ear to ear, I began to silently predict who would be having shouting matches with Ralph.

It was a long roller-coaster ride out to the island, and many people availed themselves of the bounty of plastic bags, including one Dutch gal whom I previously had money on making it all the way without showing her last meal. My upheaval-avoidance plan was two-fold: stare at the horizon when not predicting the yakkers, and laugh my tail off each time someone else sang the song of the stomach. You’d think karma would have visited me like a greasy avenger, but I must have banked up some cosmic favors, because I was happy and laughing the whole time. Achebeyo too, though she frequently accosted me for making her look at the technicolor contents of the plastic bags being handed forward.

We finally arrived at the island and endured a 20 minute speech IN DUTCH, extolling the virtues and explaining the dangers of the island. Once that was finished, with no translation, they began taking people to shore by Zodiac boat. I could have swam to shore with the other enthusiastic, impatient folks, but Achebeyo insisted that my life would be cut tragically short if I left her to carry all of our gear to shore on her own. I opted to live longer.

The beach of not-so-much solitude.

As the island had grown in our view from the boat, it looked like that flat patch of barren coral was flipping us the bird. Upon closer inspection, it was merely the island’s diminished manhood in the form of a lighthouse and two oddly placed outbuildings.

Eff you too, island.

We had befriended a lovely couple on the boat: he a heart surgeon living in Philly, and she a medical manager from Jamaica. We bonded over “breakfast”, a Dutch meal comprised of sandwiches and boiled eggs. The jokes shared were funny in context, but hard to relate here. For instance, “I’ve never found anything like that in my butt before, officer” doesn’t really play well out of context. Regardless, we truly enjoyed hanging out with these two, as well as the Dutch couple who’s female participant I had previously bet on not yakking on the boat. They asked to borrow our snorkel gear when we weren’t using it, and I was happy to oblige. Any chance to share one of my most favorite activities in the world.

Achebeyo and I explored the ruined lighthouse, conveniently placed in the middle of the island, and then moved on to view the results of such strategic placement.

Who needs accurate maps when you’ve got a lighthouse?

Apparently, most charts showed this island as having a lighthouse at the eastern tip of the island, instead of smack-dab in the center. Makes late-night navigation a bit…wrecky. We made our way back to the beach in time for lunch, then walked down to where we were told the turtles were out in force. We saw three.

After some snorkeling and solo exploration of the island, I was able to convince Achebeyo that my life would end tragically if I was not allowed to swim back out to the boat before everyone else made it back there, if for no other reason than to secure our previous places on the upper deck. She finally relented and I made my chubby-dolphin way underwater back to the boat…only to find others had the same idea before me. Luckily, none of them wanted to stand, so our spots were available. We eventually made it back to the cove and the buses that would deposit us where we started from that morning. We didn’t manage to get contact information from the Dutch couple, but the first couple we chatted with gave us a business card and email addresses to stay in touch…which I’ve been unable to find after unpacking.

The last day was spent in a dogged attempt to find the Piranha Jack place (a compelling logo is a compelling logo), and hanging out at the Infinity Pool at the hotel. It’s a second-floor “beach” that starts out like this…

2nd floor beach access.

shows more of itself the closer you get…

Still 2nd floor beach.

then reveals its secrets only when you risk your expensive camera by swimming to the ocean edge of the pool:

Dive off that ledge and you’ll eat delicious rocks.

It was a wonderful novelty beach, but it lacked the thrill of potential stingray and jellyfish encounters. We soaked up as much shaded sun as we could endure, then cleaned up and went to dinner one last time. I tipped graciously, seeing as how I won $22 on penny-slots at the hotel’s casino. What can I say? The hotel gave us free $5 gambling cards and we had nothing else to do. Achebeyo’s card lasted less than 5 minutes, but at least she didn’t lose her own $5. Oh, and I managed to find that darn Piranha Jack store and get the requisite t-shirt.

On the way back, I nearly lost it at Miami International airport when a bored mother decided to let the rest of the airport babysit her sugar-amped child while she buried herself in a magazine. This kid was racing around for hours, flinging saliva and noise everywhere he could, but I was the bad guy when I shooed him away from me and my bags. I can live with that.

We returned to a feline overlord with a urinary tract infection and jobs that seemed far busier than they were before we left. At least, that’s my excuse for not writing sooner. Will we go back to Curaçao? Probably not. Am I glad we went once? If for no other reason than travel-bragging rights, yes.

Writer’s Rape

March 22, 2013

Let the bashing over the title begin…

Let’s be honest, you either “get” something or you don’t. You find what you want in each and every aspect of living this life and you cling to it like a toddler to plague. Some people even bring out the industrial strength backhoe and dig industriously in each moment of their life for what probably wasn’t there in the first place. These people I’ll call “The Bristly“. This next statement is for them:

Hey The Bristly, don’t get your thorns in a bunch over the use of the word “rape”. Just know that it’s often used to over-sensationalize something bland to get your attention. In other words, take the imaginary gun that’s making you read this away from your temples and go champion some other online cause.

Moving on.

Last year, my good friend Katie over at Domestiphobia got me motivated to start writing again. Her blog is fun, insightful, adventurous and funny. She recently had an excellent article on choosing to be childless published at the Huffington Post. You really should go check it out here: Katie’s Article. While our styles differ somewhat, she really knows how to capture a moment and make it engaging, even when she references girly-girl shows that interest me like a bath full of live scorpions. When she and my sister, another talented writer, began blogging together, I did everything but beg to guest-post.

Here’s a tip for the men: we often complain bitterly that we can’t read womens’ minds, but they can’t read ours either, apparently. Unless we’ve done something wrong.

Katie and my sister embarked on a 3-month working adventure to Costa Rica, and my jealousy started a war on two new fronts (in addition to the writing one): they quit their day jobs, and were working off the grid in COSTA-FREAKING-RICA! I stewed for a month at least. But then it dawned on me, nobody was stopping me from doing my own thing. Writing that is. I mean, I’m sure there are at least a few people that would stop me from moving into their billion-dollar mansion, eating all the snacks and clogging all the plumbing.

When my sister and Katie returned, they had all sorts of stories and memories and mental stuff to weave into brain catching tales. I badgered them both for a while, asking all sorts of questions about their travels and the writing…always the writing. My sister returned to a more scholarly bent and went back to school to advance her degree (not because of my badgering…hopefully), so she opted out of the team-blogging deal. I contemplated petitioning Katie for a chance to step in as her gender-opposite new partner in literary shenanigans. Several email exchanges later, that idea fizzled. I could tell she was doing fine on her own and didn’t need me to muddy the waters for her readership. Pestering her about starting a blog would continue, however.

Katie gave me some pointers, offered some advice on hosting, page layout and content, but essentially let me know that this had to be mine. Between her, and Chris Hardwick’s book, The Nerdist Way, I was feeling more motivated than ever. The Awesome was simply gushing out of my brain. I promised myself that I would write at least one article a week, intially, to get my bearings and smooth out my style. The thing is, sometimes it doesn’t feel right.

Anyone who’s read here from the start can probably tell when I’m writing to fill the weekly objective, when the inspiration simply isn’t there, but I go through the motions to keep my ego happy. Those articles don’t grab you by the junk and make you giggle, gasp or groan. They probably make you wonder if you left the stove on, or if those darn kids are on your lawn again. Believe me, I feel your pain.

Any time I sit down without an idea burning in my mind, it feels like I’m forcing myself to jam something into this space, and that’s not fair, to me or to you (because really, who writes in a blog just for their own benefit?). All of the experts will tell you that you should keep writing, no matter what: write, blog, jot, scribble one-liner notes to yourself about that guy air-drumming his heart out in the car next to you, anything. Just write.

What I’m finding is that you can’t force it. When you do, it serves as an example of how you could have simply gone back to mining digital asteroids on your day off from work, or whatever distraction keeps you from creating. Holding yourself to a self-imposed deadline can take the fun out of this process, and that’s not just The Lazy talking. Sometimes focusing on meeting a contrived deadline can make you miss that tiny blip on your creative radar, external or internal. So while the experts say to write no matter what, an upstart like me would say to write when it’s right, and let your mind be clear and receptive to new ideas the rest of the time. Observe, soak everything in, and keep an eye out for the quirkier moments in your life, because those make for excellent (embellished) stories.

And to the lady in the car next to me who looked ready to call the nearest mental-mobile, it was a long stoplight and you can’t pass up the chance to pretend to play drums with Jack White…unless you’re The Bristly.

 

How to go bald in 5 easy (Japanese) steps

March 15, 2013

Back in September of 2002, I started down the path of least humiliation regarding male baldness: shaving my head. Here’s how you can join in on the fun in your own backyard…

STEP 1: Get signed on to a Japanese television production depicting agony

Not that my part-time wanna-be acting life has ever been truly stellar, but gigs were a bit more sparse back then, and I hadn’t transitioned from my old representation to my current excellent agency. Plus, I still had amazing hair. Amazing in that I still had plenty of it.

A friend of mine, and former agent, asked me to venture back to Spokompton, WA (single, meth-head-mom capital of the world) after recently uprooting my entire life from there to move to North Carolina. While I was reluctant to return so soon after seeing that place compress to a singularity in my rear view mirrorthe opportunity to be on location for a shoot was too good to pass up. Plus, it wouldn’t really be shot in Spokane, but in a nearby small town that would turn out to have a significantly uninformed local newspaper (they said I was a stuntman from Universal Studios in Orlando, FL). Toss in free airfare and lodging, and I was sold.

STEP 2: Walk unknowingly into a situation where you’ll have stuff cemented to your head

The role I would be playing was that of erstwhile former pizza delivery man, Ezra Bias, who took a length of rebar through the skull in a freak accident on the way home from his last delivery. For reals. Apparently an oncoming car or truck kicked up the offending rod from where it lay, plotting just such an attack, and hurled it into the air, through Ezra’s windshield, into and through his noggin and lodging in the headrest of the car seat, effectively pinning him there. He would be found by another driver as he was still conscious and trying to remove the bar on his own. Imagine the crap you could talk if you yanked that sucker out yourself and survived! Paramedics would eventually convince Ezra that his temporary new horn would be best left in place until professionals could handle all the gooey grossness that would ensue once it was removed.

To simulate the presence of the bar on my own head, without adding to previous attempts to crack open my brainbox, the Japanese film crew would affix an old-school rebar-through-the-skull gag appliance to me and drizzle syrupy redness all over the place to indicate essential fluid loss. What they didn’t tell me was that the method of affixing would turn out to be how they keep automobiles from falling apart and buildings from crumbling back in Japan. Seriously, if they had used this stuff to stop Godzilla, there might have been only one movie about him: Godzilla, the Cementening. In other words, if you never want something glued permanently to all of your DNA, don’t use this stuff. Unfortunately, I don’t read kanji, so I wasn’t able to understand the warning label.

STEP 3: Finish filming and begin panic relieving meds when appliance refuses to detach

Between the stunt driving, the ambulance ride (where a real-life EMT contemplated flashing me while I was strapped securely to the teflon torture board in her ambulance) and the hospital scenes, it was certainly the most interesting and fun role I had in that era of my life, even though we were depicting a rather freaky tale of chaos & survival. Since we had shot the hospital recovery scenes before they molecularly bonded me to the appliance, the last of the shooting meant I could finally remove the fake rebar from the front and back of my head…with the help of Hercules, the Hulk and Doc Manhattan. That thing had put up a white picket fence and was contemplating the children it would raise on my face.

We tried scissors. My sliced scalp was unimpressed.

We tried rubbing alcohol and other potential solvents. My sliced scalp was filing divorce papers.

We tried giving up and searching the Internet for traveling carnivals looking for a rebar’d talking monkey. Nothing worked.

STEP 4: Give it the old high-school yank

Once it was determined that, barring some radical and rapid advances in teleportation-related fields of science, I would have to take matters into my own hands, I shooed away anyone who could talk me out of scalping myself and set about creating impromptu skin grafts.

It took three, vision scrambling, tries at each end, but I was finally able to remove copious amounts of skin and hair as the appliance reluctantly ripped free from its moorings. I went to the after party with the crew (at a small-town pub that must have thought we were crazy space a-leens, from the looks we got) with patches of skin and hair missing from both the front and back of my head. It looked like I had perhaps recently escaped from a cult and was starting my new life as that white guy with all the Japanese people. I may have worn a hat at some point, I don’t know. The pub had drinks and the production company was buying. We may even have re-enacted Dragon Ball Z scenes at some point in the night. I would only remember my newly acquired head wounds as part of the morning-after malaise.

STEP 5: Have Achebeyo tell you a full head of hair is wishful thinking now

I returned to NC and told Achebeyo everything about the shoot, including the uber-coolness of hanging out drinking with a crew that spoke almost no English , and how that doesn’t matter when you’re REALLY connecting with people. When Achebeyo’s eyes began to show signs of rolling from impatience, I lamely wrapped it all up with and now I’m back home. I always have trouble with my endings.

After taking some time to inspect my wounds, she speculated that I should start getting my hair trimmed down to decent lawn care standards. A few months into that plan and she recommended simply shaving it all entirely, as the newly developed helicopter landing pad on my scalp was showing signs of buying up the adjacent properties.

I gave up my hopes of growing the rest of my locks long enough to coil up into a hair turban on the top of my head and began the painful and messy process of learning how to shave just the hair from my head and not the anchoring skin as well. It took a while, but I finally incorporated this grooming process into my routine…mostly (you know, The Lazy).

So there you have it. Any time you want to experiment with pain thresholds and bonding agent strengths, just ask any Japanese person what they use to hold steel girders together, and I’m sure they’ll hand you a tube of Super-fun-crazy-molecule-bonding-salve in response. Just don’t get any on your crotch.

On the offensive

February 8, 2013

Did I ever tell you about the time I made a French Canadian kid cry?

Montreal is a beautiful city with so much to do that you’d be hard pressed to experience it all in a brief tag-along visit with Achebeyo while she attends a conference. That is, if you were the one dating her and not me. But that would probably negate all of my other Achebeyo stories, so let’s just move on.

With so much to see and do, and with Achebeyo stuck in meetings for days on end, her sister and I ventured out into the city to explore. We expected to have more to do than time to do it all in, but we neglected to factor in my lack of desire to linger in any one place for more time than it takes to snap a few photos and make the appropriate appreciation noises and motions with my face. Once upon a time, I would spend hours watching a capybara drop deuces in an indoor canal system, but not these days. With the sole exception of The Underground, which I could spend days in just pretending to live in a post-apocalyptic mole-town, Achebeyo’s sister and I managed to see most everything there was to see for tourists, including someone expelling processed fluids against a building, and an insane woman who chased us toward the expensive restaurant district before deciding bald, crazy-eyed tourists might not like being pursued longer than a block or two.

We visited a gorgeous botanical garden with both Chinese and Japanese gardens; we rode to the top of a massive Olympic monolith and ordered $15 bottles of water before descending again; we explored a wonderful indoor multi-ecosystem zoo with Golden Tamarinds and deucing capybaras; and we visited an amusement park where we watched a 3-D Bob l’Eponge video adventure. It was a perfect day, but we reduced the amount of things we could do in that city as tourists significantly in just six hours. That doesn’t mean we lacked for amusement.

Once we had explored most of Montreal within a 2-mile radius of our hotel, Achebeyo’s sister and I decided we would venture down the docks and see what there was to entertain us there. We had previously had lunch in The Underground, so we were entering the gastrocolic reflex zone by then. Let me deviate for a moment to gross you out a bit. When I’m on trips like this, I tend to get what I refer to as “travel bowels”, meaning if you were waiting on the McDuck intestinal train during those times, you’d better reschedule for a few days after the trip. For some reason, my body chose the docks as the time to let me know what was in store for me once the train finally left the station.

There were many stores and outdoor vendors along the docks, thankfully, and we casually perused a few as we made our way down the walk. At some point, I indicated to Achebeyo’s sister that she might want to take up a position a few yards ahead of me so as to avoid the tooth-blackening, eye-gouging invisible pain that was about to be unleashed. She happily complied, and I relieved some (thankfully) non-material pressure building in my innards. We continued on as if nobody had just rendered a portion of the docks unnavigable. As we passed a family of three, nodding politely to the parents and their son, we smirked at the thought that they might have a moment of stinky confusion as they entered the hazard zone. We weren’t emotionally prepared for the actual results.

As the family was enveloped by the invisible cloud of foul, the son, leading the way with his youthful mouth wide open in wonder at the spectacle unfolding before him on the docks, inhaled a lungful of good old American stink, and promptly (and quite loudly, I might add) gag-gasped his dismay. This was our cue to either collapse in helpless laughter, or dart ninja-like into a nearby vendor’s store. We opted for a combination of the two, peeking out only to ensure the way was “clear” before trying to hide our tear-stained, beet-red faces from anyone who might have encountered the cloud of doom. We escaped without retribution, but I feared that at any moment we might be stopped as malodorous miscreants on our way off the docks. Thankfully, nobody but the family of (weeping) three had been unfortunate enough to endure the attack of my intestines.

While I’m not proud of what happened that day, I still think back to that incident during times of emotional distress, and manage to turn most of my frowns into shameful smiles. Oh, and I’d gladly go back to Montreal to see more of that beautiful city…if they’ll let me back in.

Blips on your Friday radar

February 1, 2013

In lieu of something substantial this week, I thought I’d stream some nonsense across this page and see what stays with you. For instance, it’s apparently very annoying to your co-workers if you sing the gibberish beginning of that Kid Rock song over and over. Now you’ve got another weapon in your pestering arsenal.

Have you ever noticed how the word arsenal starts with the word arse?

Since my game reviews tend to come only after everyone else has already tossed the game into the local trade-in store’s greasy pre-molested bin, and/or soulless superstore chains put them on sale for less than half their original price, I think I’ll start calling my posts $20 Reviews. Either that, or the much longer title I know I’m late to the party, but what’s the rush when you’re playing games the big companies convince you to get at midnight on release day because they know you have no life. They’ve both got their appeal.

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to try my best not to cast aspersions on creative people in a caffeinated, cheese-puffed rage that channels all of my pent up frustrations at never having created anything similar and focuses it like a maladjusted, anti-social laser on processes I can’t possibly understand. While I will point out features and functionality in games that might not resonate with me, it’s always with the knowledge that if my life depended on coding a pixel that moves to touch another pixel, you’d be spared these rambling posts for the rest of your own lives.

Along those same lines, I’ve long abandoned the tendency to wonder publicly if my soul was stolen or damaged by any given film or television project that I don’t personally appreciate. When you work in that industry, even at the lower levels where I lurk, you see the hard work and dedication everyone involved puts into every project. Spend a couple of 60-hr weeks on a set getting paid to pretend, then see how you feel when some basement-bachelor gastropod posts a foaming-at-the-mouth review of the work you just put in. My guess is, you’d feel like Ewe Boll and want to challenge these angst-ridden bile-bags to a publicized boxing match. Watch the movie Heckler on Netflix and see what you look like to the creative world when you bash people who have the stones to put themselves and their work up for the world to see without the veil of protective anonymity the Internet allows. It’s kind of fun to watch some smart-mouthed joystick jockeys get their posteriors handed to them by the filmmaker they blasted in their reviews.

Achebeyo and I are headed to Curaçao soon, if she doesn’t murder me in my sleep over a bag of mouth-destroying chips. Note to anyone still paying attention: never snarkily state your preference for roasted fecal-flakes over the product that was lovingly bought for you as a snack-surprise. If I survive until then, the Curaçao trip should provide some excellent stories and some beautiful dives that I can share with those of you still putting up with my nonsense.

If you love a good, quirky-fun story that also incorporates some elements of action and adventure movies, give Seven Psychopaths a try. The ensemble cast does a great job of playing their roles as average, everyday psychopaths, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a performance by either Christopher Walken (whom I admire greatly) or Sam Rockwell (one of my all-time favorite actors) more. Of course, Woody Harrelson and Colin Farrell deliver excellent performances that will make you wonder how you thought you knew their respective acting ranges. It’s the kind of movie that is poking fun at itself, while telling a few darker stories within the larger one. And if you don’t like it, do the honorable thing and challenge Martin McDonagh to a public fistfight…or, you know, write, direct, produce and film something comparable and see what kind of reviews you can get.

Thai for Two – part 4 (Muy Muy Samui)

January 16, 2013

***A weekend of unabashed laziness and a busy start to the work week is no excuse to not entertain people I don’t know.***

After Achebeyo and I finished battling over how much time we’d spend underwater, we decided to explore the resort and the surrounding neighborhood. The resort itself was gorgeous, even if their private beach was a bit unforgiving on unshod feet. They had several pools, two restaurants, a massage therapy clinic and much more than I’m currently able to adequately relate with my sleep-deferred memories. While we aren’t really resort-minded people, we’re definitely going back to this place in the foreseeable future, or else…you know, with the pouting and tears and stuff.

The surrounding neighborhood had a little 24/7 market where we picked up some much needed supplies (we live in the US, so that would be snacks), and a nice little open-air restaurant that served the best woon sen noodles I’ve ever had (it’s Thailand…HOME of authentic Thai food). We made it a point to go there every night for dinner, as it was a nice walk both ways.

After the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had on vacation (don’t get me started on Crete and the insanely noisy Irish tourists who all got hang-up calls from me at 6am, after they woke us up getting in at 4am), we awoke to prepare for what had been touted on the never-fallible Internet as one of the best dives I would ever have. The British ex-pat who ran our tour soon yanked (get it?) the rose-colored glasses off of our faces and informed us that during that time of the year, it was one of the worst dives we could go on in that part of the world. After losing my GoPro Hero camera and mask on the first dive, as well as having to buddy-breathe with Achebeyo on the second dive due to a faulty regulator on my rented gear, I wholeheartedly endorse this “worst” rating. Listen, can we stop talking about it? It’s making me agitated all over again. Suffice it to say that any diving we do there from now on will be with a different outfit, and likely in the Phuket region.

We set our sights on the next day’s land tour: Grandfather Rock (a decidedly phallic rock formation), a wildlife park, hand-carved statue garden on top of a mountain, and secluded waterfall with a natural rock pool big enough to jump into and splash the smiles from our fellow travelers. What? Everyone was jumping. I was just the only one doing cannonball drops.

Rock of (phallic) Ages

The best part of the day, for me, was the wildlife park. While I often go off the rails on other web sites about humans being the only species on this planet that hold other species prisoner for our own amusement, here on my site we’ll assume we don’t know that guy (it’s still wrong, but that type of tirade isn’t what I want for this blog; bash me all you want, faceless Internet personalities) and press on.

While there were many points of interest on this part of the trip, including breaking my rule of no trunk on the first date:

I trunk you too, bro…wait, are you drunk?

elephant “happy” endings:

Not me. I’m not stupid enough to put my junk in jeopardy like this.

king cobra dating advice:

Bite my lip once, shame on…me!

and prehistoric death-machine teasing:

I think I left my sock in there somewhere…

By the way, take a close look at the “wall” around the cobra love-zone. Where do you think an angry lord of the serpents goes when he’s tired of being sexually harassed in the workplace? That’s right! The audience! Thankfully, I’ve been snapped at enough by Achebeyo that I can avoid the much slower monarch of snakes.

After we rode an elephant around a large compound, we vowed never to do it again. Not only was the ride incredibly painful and awkward, the elephants all looked like they wished for a Dr. Pachyderm Kevorkian. Doesn’t make you feel very proud to be human. There was a picture of me practically laying on top of a full-grown tiger that might seem impressive if not for the obvious presence of substances that suppress the urge to maul and slowly digest greasy tourists. Still, it was worth a visit to elephant Alcatraz to say I courted contrived and controlled danger.

The rock garden was impressive, especially when you consider that these very heavy stones were hauled up the mountain one at a time by one man and his ox, back before steam-powered motor carriages were a sparkle in a Flemish man’s brain. The garden had many variations on different themes, including animals, houses, warriors and a Thai rock (no roll) band. The best pictures of that place were Achebeyo’s, and I’m too lazy to ask her for digital copies. One more reason you really need to visit the place yourself.

The following day, we arranged to rent a scooter and visit a local mall for souvenir gifts before heading to our appointment with what I can only describe as the absolute center of the serene universe: a resort spa where cameras were not allowed, and you felt like violating that rule would be like jamming an angry king cobra in your pants before landing your first commercial aircraft. Just plain wrong, in other words.

It was all outdoors, but constructed in such a way that you welcomed it. Even the men’s shower was outdoors, if properly secluded. It took me back to my nudist days, only with fewer opportunities for a bruised and battered body. We had enough time before our appointment to don their supplied sarongs, dip in the cooler outside pools before venturing into the steam heated Hobbit holes to sweat out the poisons. At one station, there was even a fruit-based body scrub that I indulged in because I knew this betrayal of manhood would never be witnessed by anyone else.

Before long, our massage therapists were ready for us, and they led us to a raised pavilion on a hill overlooking the whole compound (hello, me from earlier, showering nude outdoors!) and proceeded to provide the kind of G-rated massage that poets write epic poems about. At one point during the hour and a half session, I fell asleep to the sound of the gentle rainstorm that passed through while the birds were singing their little hearts out. If I could have applied for a job as furniture there, we wouldn’t be sharing this moment now. Stating that I will return would be like stating I’ll pass that nickle I accidentally swallowed on a dare: it will happen in time.

We spent the last day on the island being lazy and hanging out in our villa snacking on various salty goods. When it came time to leave, we had made such good friends with the staff that they actually teared up at seeing us go. While I’m rarely critical of any place we visit, it’s also rare for me to go out of my way to write glowing reviews. You know, The Lazy. The moment I had access to high-speed Internet, I was on Trip Advisor talking that place up like I owned it. We left a little piece of us there, and not just the usual skin cells and hair.

Back in Bangkok for one day before we left, we decided to keep it simple and just walk around the places we had already visited. We went back to the mall where we had the excellent meal, and even went into their basement aquarium attraction. It was interesting, if crowded. Since we were carry-on only passengers, we (she) had to limit what we (she) bought at the mall. We made it out of there with some candy and a few shirts.

The flight back to the US was long, made even longer by the impromptu, storm-dodging stay in Tokyo over night. Not the way I wanted my first trip to Japan to be, but it was better than becoming a real-life JJ Abrams story. Even that delay couldn’t dampen the post-travel, soft-fresh-cookie feeling of our Thailand visit. We agreed that we would do everything possible to make it back there in 2013. I think the amended agreement now reads, as soon as reasonably possible. Your own travel constitution should be amended to include a trip to this beautiful, friendly country. Or, you know, stay put and live vicariously through me.


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