Posted tagged ‘animals’

A date with 30 girls

March 6, 2014

*****Bear with me here. I promise goodies at the end if you can muscle through my attempts at being witty.***

As much as I would like to regale you with tales of my adventures in finishing the 2nd draft of my book, complete with riveting paragraphs of muscling through writer’s block, multiple and frequent interruptions and a losing battle with The Lazy, I fear you’d quickly tire and look for less exciting fare. With that in mind, here’s a little break from that chaos.

I’m a lover, not a fighter. Okay, to be fair, I’m not much of either, but I can fake it like anyone else. Achebeyo and I decided to put my imaginary Don Juan skills to the test in the Bahamas. I packed the tools of my part time trade and we made our way down Island way.

Unfortunately for all of you still reading here, there wasn’t anything of note on the flights. People were fairly polite and relatively quiet, something that is rare in this age of “I can do anything I want because I’m alive and there’s nothing you can do to stop my annoying-assed behavior”. Shocking, I know. Even the TSA was miraculously kind and generous, only stopping my bag once in the scanner to review the metal and plastic contraption that was part and parcel of my intended purpose in visiting the Bahamas. Easy as cake-pie.

We arrived at the airport and were directed to a double-stretch limo that would take us to our resort. Even though the inside was devoid of booze, blow and floozies, we still felt like rock stars pulling up to the front of the resort. The moment we exited our plush ride, we were greeted with drinks (fruit juice, non-fermented) and directed to the front desk to check in. The lobby of the place was quite active and I could see pool tables, a gym and ping pong tables close by. There was also a bar and what looked like a stage with lots of tables just inside beyond the hallway past the front desk. I was excited to think I would be talking a lot about going to the gym while actively avoiding it.

We were given our room keys, instructions on how to find our room and wrist bands that indicated we were “all inclusive”. And they mean all inclusive. When I timidly asked if all drinks were included, they knew exactly what I meant and explained that the pool bar would be right outside our sliding glass back door. This would wind up being a blessing and a curse.

The room was, as advertised, nestled right behind the pool bar, and conveniently located for all of the central courtyard activities. Also a blessing and a curse. A blessing if you want to mingle freely with all the bulging, sweaty masses like me, a curse if, like us, you want to be a ghost at the resort and just interact with each other and the ocean. It’s not that we’re anti-social, it’s that Achebeyo is. Okay, not really, but she does like to keep a low profile, while I like to be the belle of the (always wearing a shirt, even in the water) ball. I’m gregarious, what can I say. Regardless of our differing views on interacting with the rest of the all inclusive crowd, we settled in and began preparations for the following morning.

I made several phone calls to find a proprietor who could, and would, service my needs. One place, recommended to me by a passing stranger in the lobby, one who could apparently sense a kindred spirit, offered part of what I was looking for, but not the essence of what I wanted. I called the number of the place I was warned to stay away from and found out they had pretty close to what I wanted, if not exactly the brand of ladies I was looking for. I checked with Achebeyo and got the thumbs up. We would be picked up early the next morning and transported to our day’s destination, just not in the same rock star manner to which we had become accustomed after one short ride the day before.

That evening, we ate at the lavish and gut-busting buffet of fine foods, limiting ourselves to enough calories to ensure we could forgo most of breakfast the next morning, but still be able to walk back to our room. Since it was still early after we finished, I wandered past the pool bar and ordered what amounted to a few plastic cups of rum with a splash of soda for flavor. They were too generous with the alcohol and I was only able to choke down one before switching back to water. Besides, I didn’t want to be hung over for the ladies the following day.

We woke up early and got ready, opting out of full-blown showers and anti-stink chemicals. The kind of ladies who would be entertaining us weren’t impressed by things like cleanliness and nice body odor. It would be a “in the raw” kind of day for us. The bus that picked us up also stopped at a few other locations along the way. Other people looking to be tantalized and titillated by the lovely ladies we would all be graced by. We made our final stop of the morning and began the process of signing waivers and shelling out the currency to make my dreams come true.

While Achebeyo wasn’t as thrilled by the day’s prospect, she wasn’t against it either. She would prefer that we indulge in less exotic activities, but she is always down for adventure, and this would prove to be quite fulfilling that regard. Once we finished with all of the red tape associated with our day’s adventure, we were instructed to board a particular boat for our…wait for it…dive with reef sharks. Yes, all that anticipation and potential animosity at your perception of what a womanizing jerkwad I am, only to find out I was making a very thinly veiled and feeble attempt at manipulating your online emotions. But as the pictures will reveal, it was the dive of a lifetime, so it was worth your scorn.

The two dives in the morning were fun, but mere cheese and crackers to the big emotional meal coming in the afternoon. We dive two beautiful wrecks, including one that supposedly had human remains in it. I would never find out, because the dark hold of the sunken ship was where Achebeyo draws the line at following me into adventure, and I couldn’t leave her to navigate the wreck on her own. We saw some lionfish which, even though they are considered nuisance fish, are truly beautiful underwater. Unless, of course, you jam a camera rig with strobes all up in their scaly grills. Then they get all poison-spine bristly and aggressive.

After we finished those two dive,s we made our way back to the docks and dumped our gear in front of the next boat, as instructed. We didn’t just go all elitist jackass and expect that the staff would cater to limo-riding wanna-be’s like us. I even sat vigil on our gear while Achebeyo took her usual 25 minute bathroom break. I keep wondering if she’s conducting international business transactions in there.

It was difficult to wait for the next dives. I was anxious and eager, like a kid who’s slit the plastic tape on his gifts days before Christmas and already knows what he’s getting, but still can’t wait to open them (yes, I was that kid). When they let us board, I listened intently to their extensive speeches about the dive rules and etiquette. You might have even gotten the impression that I was an attentive good listener…if all you had to go on was that one encounter with me. Still, it pays to know what not to do on a dive with that many razor sharp teeth attached to living torpedoes.

We reached the dive site and proceeded to make the first descent, one that would take us along a wall with a 6,600ft drop to the Tongue of the Ocean. From the moment we began descending the anchor line, my heart was racing. The reef sharks, knowing what the black-clad meatbags with all the bubbles coming out of their face-holes would mean in just a little while, were gathering to watch us flounder around in their world. They were curious, but not aggressive. While we saw many beautiful fish and some huge lobsters, my mind was on the coming dive. The one where they would feed the sharks while we watched from our “seats” on rocks in a nice sandy area about 45 feet deep known as the Shark Arena. I couldn’t have been more excited if you told me that you would finish writing my book for me, give me all credit, that it would be an instant best seller and that I would never have to work another day in my life. That’s The Lazy talking.

Back on the boat after the first dive of the afternoon, we listened again to the safety briefings and the consequences of breaking the rules. Interestingly enough, the big threat wasn’t that a shark would hurt you, it was the rest of the divers. See, the way it was explained to me, almost as if they knew I would be the one diver would would want to issue hugs to these pelagic beauties, is that if we broke the rules, the dive would end immediately and everyone would go back to the boat. At that point, who could blame Lady Justice for taking the form of an angry mob of shark divers? Not me. I vowed to keep my hands to myself. Now, I imagine the dive crew has had this same conversation with the sharks, but they don’t really have to listen, do they? It’s their world and we’re just tourists with oxygen. They can (and did) touch whomever, whenever they want.

Even after all of the briefings and explanations, about how there would be 30-40 sharks around us at all times, I figured they exaggerated the numbers to make the dive seem more interesting before you took your seat in the Shark Arena. I was wrong.

This is just a small cross section of the entire dive. Most of the rest of these beautiful ladies (and a few gentlemen) were off camera, making their way in as the snacks were presented. I was tail-smacked, brushed and ogled, but never once did I worry that things would go all Spielberg on me, where I’d be forced to fight off the swarm of hungry fish with my own bitten-off leg. They were curious, but cautious. They did get a little “competitive” when the snacks were made available, but they knew exactly what they wanted and we weren’t it. I mean, if humans were on the menu, they had an underwater buffet to pick from. You know, once you peel off the neoprene wrapper.

It took everything I have to not stick my hand out as they swam by, but as the safety briefing explained, the dive team target feeds the sharks and my hand might make a motion similar to that target feeding motion. I didn’t want there to be any mistakes about what snacks were available and who was providing them. You can’t sue a shark for accidentally assuming all the bubbling meatbags could provide food.

Photo-bombed by a shark

In the video I shot of the whole dive, the soundtrack is filthy with the excited and happy noises coming from my face. It’s not very intelligible, but the shark feeder understood when I bubble-mumbled “THIS IS SO COOL”. His head nod and hang loose hand gesture to me was all the verification I needed.

The dive went on for probably about 30 minutes, but I was so enraptured that I’m not really certain how long it actually took before we were ushered out of the shark arena and back up to the waiting boat. I made up my mind then and there that my retirement plan will include working for these guys as a Shark Don Juan like that guy.

There was definitely more to our visit to Nassau, including getting to do some basic trapeze work and fighting off persistent seagulls when food was available, but I think this about sums up this trip and my feeling about it:

Happy baldy.

Various and sundry

August 30, 2013

I had an idea for a post called “Ghostbursting”, but it later turned out to be just a bullet item on a Friday stream-of-consciousness post. The basic gist of it is twofold:

1) are there no ghosts from any time earlier than one hundred years ago because people just got lazier and lazier and couldn’t see the point in wasting a perfectly good afterlife drifting around waiting for their 15 seconds of ethereal fame?

2) this thing known as “Electronic Voice Phenomenon” (EVP), makes me want to slap people in the soul for not seeing the obvious. If you’re watching a show that was recorded and shown later, why does it take an additional, post-production-edited recording of the recorded show to hear something that can only be heard after it has been recorded? Logic fail, ghost hunting shows.

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We were supposed to go to that third world country, Detroit, this weekend for a comedy tour. I was going to write a post detailing, if you know me personally, how to lay claim to any of my stuff after I fall prey to one of the highest crime rates in the country. I don’t want all of my fun stuff, like remote control bugs, Sleestak mask and rubber dragon wings, to collect more dust than they have to. I want them to have loving homes. Turns out, however, that a series of life’s how about we make a different choice moments for both myself and Achebeyo has given us pause. When your cat horks up everything she ate in the last 24 hours three days in a row, and your car explodes (even if it wasn’t a movie-grade explosion), it’s time to listen to that voice saying, I may want to keep this bad streak closer to home. We’ll brave the turbulent carpet of our own property this weekend and see what happens.

————

Modern telephony. We’re all aware of the technology. Unless you’ve been examining your agrarian skill sets for the last decade or two in preparation for one of the popular apocalypse ideas these days (zombies, aliens or zombie aliens), you are probably aware that it doesn’t require a megaphone attachment to get microphones on modern phones to pick up sound. So please tell me why 90% of the people in this country feel the need to town crier their phone conversations to the world at large. HEAR YE HEAR YE! I’M BRINGING DINNER HOME AFTER PICKING THE KIDS UP FROM SCHOOL!

Okay, we get it, you’re important enough to have one of them there fancy cell-u-lar telephones that are so difficult to come by these days. You want everyone to know that Billy-Joe-Jim-Bob can warsh his own laundry and live with his new baby-momma if’n he cain’t keep his junk all locked up…and stuff. Just don’t be surprised when the Secret Society of People Who Still Know How to be Polite give you those looks or frown at your general existence.

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Many of my real life friends who read this have mentioned that they absolutely cannot relate to my video game reviews. In their honor, a few paragraphs.

I was recently handed leadership of an in-game guild, a loose association of like minded people who want to band together electronically to inadvertently keep birth rates down while conquering their respective digital realms. This guild was a popular, active and well-known guild, and I was a neophyte in it’s ranks. At some point, the game developers made some drastic changes to help bandage the hemorrhaging outflow of paying customers and revoked the guild’s original name in the process. In a frantic dash to ditch the guild while pillaging its resources, the leadership apparently made an over-the-shoulder fleeing shot to bestow the guildmaster title, and I stumbled into the path of said shot.

Being the kind of gamer that I am, I immediately began a recruiting frenzy that only a three-toed sloth could truly relate to. Most of the previously active members were no longer playing, but their numbers still counted towards in-game benefits. This was my chance to step up, take charge and show the kind of digital fortitude it takes to build the leading guild on the server. Rather than hassle with all of that, I recruited a recruiter. Within a matter of days, we tripled our active player base, and gave them the ability to recruit as well. Now we’re a happily growing tribe of miscreants bent on helping each other waste as much time as possible being utterly unproductive in real life. At least I require them to  be polite to each other and represent us to the rest of the server in a dignified manner befitting faceless Internet entities with a conscience.

———–

Italy! Europe’s thigh-high stripper boot! We’ll see you soon. I know you’ll give me stuff to write about and take pictures of so that the people reading this have something substantial to look forward to. Our whirlwind tour will take us first to Rome, then Venice, then Florence then back to Rome. While I personally would like to stay clear of the unwashed masses at your most popular tourist traps, Achebeyo has insisted we rub sweaty arm meat with other travelers and see your top sights. I’ll be happy to try real pizza for the first time, and to eat other real Italian food that isn’t mass produced, frozen then cooked and served by angst ridden teens. Regardless, I’ll be the bald polite guy hoping he doesn’t do anything to get him accidentally thrown in jail. Purposely thrown in jail…that’s another story.

———–

As a Friday parting thought, which theme park ride would you hate to be stuck on while they fix it and why?

Me? I’d hate to be stuck on “It’s a small world” at Spendneyland, because all that singing from robotic children seems like something straight out of a Wes Craven nightmare. I’d almost rather be trapped in Chuck E. Cheese on a summer Saturday. At least there would be games.

Gooftacular Tales

July 23, 2013

***Having Brett guest post really got my gray matter oozing awesome, and now I must share. Thanks for the brain-boost, buddy!***

Remembering how one of my best friends from high school and I met  and became partners in The Silly triggered all of these other memories of how awesome we thought we were. Granted, few others agreed with our self-assessment, but that did not deter us from forging geektastic paths in those days.

Brett, being the humble guest blogger that he is, failed to mention that he was (is) a genius when it came to making costume replicas of some of our favorite characters from movies. Since we had the dangly-down human parts, we were enamored with the thought of being Mad Max, Han Solo or his 1940’s other-galaxy alter-ego Indiana Jones. Interestingly enough, neither of us was interested in being Luke Crywalker. Maybe we sensed his parentage before Lucas did, or maybe we just weren’t into kissing our sisters. Either way, Brett paved the way for me to explore all of the avenues I had to keep girls at a safe distance…for them.

I’ve never been much use when it comes to building things that aren’t comprised of squiggly lines on paper or computer. I’ll spare you the tired cliches about having a birdhouse condemned by government agencies, but I will say that my most brilliant accomplishment of the hand-made variety at that time was the lizard leash that Brett mentioned in the previous post. More on that some other time. Suffice it to say that if you wanted to look like an Imperial speeder bike scout on that teddy bear planet, he was the one to make it happen. And did.

Since he lived at one end of the national park and me at the other, it was usually a 15-20 minute bike ride for me to get to his place. Or, if I was lucky and feeling brain-dead, a 5 minute ride on the cargo trains that frequently passed by my house on their way past his. After nearly shredding myself on unforgiving crushed rock as I leaped to safety on one such ride, bikes became the more viable option to reach Brett’s house. Not to mention, it meant I had a way home that didn’t mean a 30-40 minute walk.

On one particular visit to Brett’s house, he showed me the aforementioned speeder bike scout helmet he made. It was so authentic that I immediately pledged my undying love and devotion to the plastic and cardboard construction and begged Brett to let me wear it on my bike ride home to show the world what a super-stud I was. I think Brett knew the actual outcome of such a solo-parade, and was likely curious to view the results. He capitulated gracefully and I plonked the helmet down over my ear-to-ear grinning face. I rode home like the winds of goofy change and just knew I was the envy of everyone who saw me.

Eventually I had to return the helmet, but not before infuriating my mother by wearing it constantly around the house. While I was busy dorking it up with the inanimate love of my life, Brett was busy re-creating other heroes of ours. Our next adventure would be a little closer to our home planet. Okay, ON our home planet. A little adventure I like to call “Indiana Beckett and the Snakening”.

Brett made himself an authentic Indiana Jones costume, and even was allowed to purchase an authentic whip to make it complete. I think his parents thought he would likely not be able to master the skills necessary to do more than flop that leather rope around like a soggy noodle. They were mistaken.

We would venture out into the national park, Indiana Beckett and his Baltimore Aquarium shirted side-kick, where he would rapidly acquire the skills to pop that whip like he was tearing open peep holes in the universe. He got good enough that he could snap leaves off of trees and even move small rocks. The best I could do was leave myself stinging welts all over my legs, neck and head, as is proper for the goofy side-kick. Knowing our respective roles, we ventured out into the searing heat of southern California summers in the national park and vowed to take on all of Nature’s “villains”. We were certain we could stop a coyote, bobcat or angry jackrabbit. Snakes would run in fear of Brett’s prowess. Or not.

As we ambled along the railroad tracks, Brett practicing his fear inducing whip snaps, me begging for the chance to scar myself further, we suddenly encountered our venerable hero’s biggest nemesis: a snake. Finally! A chance to showcase Brett’s prowess with the whip, and a chance for me to showcase my egging-on skills. Enter situational excitement and panic.

As I extorted Brett to show that snake who the boss of the railroad tracks was, it started rattling, turning Brett’s whip action into a tossing action mid-whip. Yep. He gave that snake the animal kingdom’s equivalent of a blow up doll, and it showed its appreciation by winding itself around the whip, daring us to try to regain our lost treasure. The snake standoff would last only until Brett realized that the whip’s handle was far enough away from the geometric tryst going on between snake and his paramour to allow him to grab it and make the jump to light speed.

Most of the rest of that afternoon is lost in the haze of screaming flight while shaking the snot (snake) out of that whip and hoping snakes can’t give accurate descriptions to the serpent authorities. We ran. Like the wind.

Once we had ensured our safety and distance, and checked to make certain we wouldn’t require changes of undergarments, we would embellish the tale of our encounter to anyone who would listen. To hear us retell the ordeal, we faced down a prehistoric demon-snake the size of a pick-up truck and lived to tell the tale.

We were heroes of our own imaginations.

We were also having the time of our lives.

Character development

April 21, 2013

I remember being afraid of spontaneous human combustion as a child. It probably wasn’t anything prevalent in the media, perhaps just one focus on this insanity type of passing story on some pseudo-science show. But it stuck with me. How could someone so normal and happy one minute wind up turning into a barbecued biped the next? With no warning?? I was terrified…for about a week. Then I shifted to other odd concerns, like why I couldn’t bend spoons with my mind. But human torches would be part of a trend for what I was willing to accept as possibilities in my life.

There was never any shortage of things to do, living where I did. There was the national park in my backyard, there was one grandparent’s ranch where many rotten egg fights were had and there was my maternal grandparents’ pool. Or as I like to call it, the pool of dreams.

In the southern California summers, that pool was an irresistible force, pulling me away from other fun and chores alike. It was where I learned the differences in pressure between the surface and the bottom of the pool when I had all the air sucked out of my lungs trying to breathe from a garden hose. It was also where I built an underwater air station with a bucket and a bungee cord. Hey granny! Watch me stay underwater…for ten minutes! That one got me in some trouble, but it was worth it.

In the winter, my grandfather and I would erect The Bubble, an inflatable, anchored cover that turned the outdoor pool into an indoor one. There’s something magical (and noisy) about swimming in the rain under a protective plastic bubble.

Minus the snow, of course…and the forest.

Nothing could prevent me from sneaking in there at all hours to swim in complete privacy. Nothing, that is, except Jaws. I was convinced that sharks, being the masters of time and space that they are, could either teleport directly into the pool, or fit through the little quarter-inch drain holes at the bottom, and would devour me messily before sneaking back out through the plumbing to the ocean. And if it wasn’t sharks, I was certainly going to be suction-cupped to death by a giant pool-squid. Those things are even more sneaky than plumbing sharks. Somehow, I beat the odds and wasn’t mangled by either species in my grandparents’ pool.

Plumbing sharks always roll with an entourage.

Ninjas. They’re real, and they’re spectacular. They could (and can) jump, flip, roll, dodge, fly and vanish in a puff of toxic chemicals. And they were coming for me. You know, because of my importance to the Asian community at a young age. They wanted my secrets and nothing would stop them from abducting me to get them (except reality). The only way for me to be safe was to pretend to be one of them. So I would dart around the neighborhood at night wearing my ninja costume, sneaking through un-fenced backyards and hiding in bushes when cars would drive by, all in an effort to ensure that, aside from me, the neighborhood was ninja-free. But was it really?

I was adopted.

Whoah! What the WHAT?? You can’t drop that in the middle of a series of stories about your crazy childhood fantasies and…oooooh, I see.

Yeah. I wasn’t, but I also wasn’t convinced by all of the overwhelming photographic evidence. I was certain I was a robotic experiment and these other meat-marionettes were simply observing my progress and protecting me from the ninjas and plumbing sharks until I could grow large enough to compute for myself. I was also part wolf and part tiger, because that’s how all cybernetic child-organisms are built. Look it up.

There was a door somewhere, if I could only find it, that would let a cyborg-tiger-wolf-ninja (cytwonja?) live the way cytwonjas were meant to live: fighting dragons, rescuing maidens and recovering lost treasure. This door was guarded by Mr. Rogers, and only a select few of us cytwonjas were allowed through. I never found it to ask permission to cross over, however. It certainly wasn’t at the far end of the abandoned mine shafts in the mountains behind my house. I kept checking weekly, though.

All of these fantasies, and more, led to me feeling as if there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do/be/experience at any time in my life. So far, it’s led me to getting my junk sniffed by a lion, becoming a skydiver, SCUBA diving with sharks and traveling the world in search of new places to make Achebeyo mad and make new friends. I’m always looking forward to what’s next. Unless a plumbing shark or the ninjas get me.

Top 10 things you’ll know about me after reading this

April 19, 2013

***I find posting information about me that you could certainly live without very pretentious…so here we go.***

I’ll spare you the woe is me for not having any writing inspiration, and just force-feed your eyeballs something I cooked up last minute for this week. It came to me while I was asleep in the shower this morning.

10. I once had an art exhibit of my photography at a local business during one of those come eat free food from several offices while you pretend to like local art deals. A friend of mine had watched me taking photographs before rehearsals (“12 Angry Men” with a local theater group) and asked if he could see some of my previous work. I hesitantly shouted Hell YES and promptly produced a book that Achebeyo published at Blurb.com for me of her favorite photos I’ve taken. My friend was sold and set the whole show up. People came, listened to the live musician and acted like they weren’t just there to eat the free food. I even sold about 15 photos. All in all, it was the kind of event that means I can brag about it for a few more decades. Here are a few samples:

A picture, in lieu of raking.

This one gives my brother nightmares.

9. I’m a part-time wanna-be actor. What have you seen me in, you ask? Well, if you recorded a GE commercial from a few years ago where people were line-dancing through an aircraft engine plant (and then across the globe), you could pause it and hope the resolution was good enough to see the bald guy in the black polo shirt just outside the plant bay doors for the millisecond he was on camera. Additionally, if you’re addicted to re-enactment shows, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being in both Wicked Attraction and Unusual Suspects on Investigation Discovery Channel. Both jobs were a lot of fun and gave me the chance to work with my current friends in the industry here, as well as making new ones. I’ve had the distinct honor and pleasure of helping local filmmakers pursue their goals and dreams of creating in their chosen art form, and I always come away wishing it would never end. However, my limited ventures into the world of entertainment don’t pay as continuously as my day job, so I continue to dabble until someone decides they need a bald, sarcastic smart-ass as a sidekick on an on-going basis. I’d point you to my IMDB profile, but I’m at that stage where a stalker wouldn’t seem like the dangerous threat it probably is.

8. I am a skydiver. Most of my skydiving friends would say that I was a skydiver, and that you have to make more than 2 jumps a year to claim that title. I would counter with you’re still a skydiver until you sell your gear. I have over 600 jumps from various aircraft (including a helicopter and a hot air balloon), and I even used to “fly camera” for a few skydiving teams. I don’t jump as much now because…well, because of The Lazy mostly. I make excuses like, everyone I used to jump with regularly has moved or moved on and waaaa for me, but it really boils down to time and motivation. Plus, it’s a tough call on weekends during jumpable weather between diving with sharks in the ocean or diving with monkeys in the air.

My brother-in-law posing for me.

He used this one on a business card.

My buddy Tony rockin’ a dust broom.

7. I love to travel. You may be saying to yourself, and the screen, Duh! Why do you think I infrequently visit this place of yours and fail to comment? What you may not know as you secretly snipe at me from behind the Internet is that my love of travel is more than simply a desire to generate stories for you to enjoy. The longer I spend in the teeth-grinding work-a-day world, the more these trips turn into retirement scouting. At some point, I’ll have reached that place in the employment process where sane people flip their boss the middle finger and wander off into the land of NOW what do I do? while not-so-sane folks contend with the voices in their head until Gollum convinces them to get rid of those filthy Hobbitses. With that in mind, if you own a tourist-friendly country and have properties in the 12-19k range that won’t make me look like I expatriated to become homeless, let’s talk.

Places with views like this are preferred.

6. I had my junk sniffed by a lion. Up close. While this is arguably a story for a much larger offering here, I’ll condense it for today’s effort. I volunteered for a time at an endangered species rescue park in the United States. I worked with leopards, tigers, lions and other exotic cats. One day, while in the safety area of this lion’s habitat, he decided I wasn’t entertaining enough through the fence and knocked the other volunteer out of the way as he left his habitat to join me in the not-so-safe-now-that-you’re-here area. While urine production may or may not have benefited me in that moment, I dried up like an Arizona mud puddle and calmly talked to the 300lbs predator sniffing my sack, imploring him that everything was okay as long as we respected each other and our individual bodily integrity. He finished giving me my exam and proceeded to knock over a few things in the safety area before meandering back into his habitat.  After that, me and my new bro-cat-seph were tight. And by tight, I mean through a fence.

5. Achebeyo and I visited a Korean prison…in Middle Earth. When we visited New Zealand a while back (another tale for later), we decided to hike up a hill in Queenstown where they had all sorts of animals roaming around freely, and where parts of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed. Remember that scene where Aragorn and company get attacked by Warg riders and he goes over the “cliff”? I fell off that same “cliff”…onto grass a few feet below. There were many markers on that hill stating which scenes were filmed there so you could feel like a time-displaced part of the show. The largest attraction, however, was a sizeable structure surrounded by barbed wire fences at the top of the hill. It kind of felt like the onset of insanity, with a picture of some Asian dictator painted on the front, until we saw the sign:

Remember when Disney was all about prison movies? Me neither.

The great Kiwi oppressor, Mao…or something.

4. I went through my online photographs to determine what most of these numbered items would be about.

3. If you felt cheated by #4, I don’t blame you.

2. However this type of thing happens, I don’t have a sense of smell. I was born without it. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother making the most wonderful meals and baked goods. She would spend days over the holidays making pies, cookies, candy, bread and other delicious treats. Everyone would drool over the smells wafting from her kitchen. I would play along, but all my nose picked up was a change in temperature, which my brain would translate into delicious. While it may seem that I miss out on quite a bit without a sense of smell, remember that I’m a male. Most of my time before, and between, relationships was (and is) spent with other males. When we gather, we generally don’t tend to fret over brief bouts of eye-watering stench. It can infrequently be a badge of honor if you can make one or more of your friends cry. If it becomes an on-going, pervasive thing, we might exclude you until you sort that problem out. Not being forced to endure the invisible stink-baths men are occasionally prone to emit is a bonus in my book. Plus, I will forever NOT be the one who dealt it, by the dude-laws of the United States. Look it up.

1. I love animals. Not in a lock him up so the farm can sleep easy kind of way, but in a goofy baby-talk kind of way. Achebeyo is constantly warning me away from touching furry unknowns everywhere we go. You’d think after getting bitten in the face and being the recipient of a battery of tetanus shots I’d be wary. Nope. You might imagine I’d be careful after nearly getting gored by the New Zealand version of a wooly mammoth. No way. And don’t get me started on the sharks. I love me some sharks. My goal for this year or next is to at least dive with the tiger sharks at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas or, optimally, great whites in South Africa. The sharks I usually dive with are big, but relatively harmless if you respect their personal space and don’t yank on their tails as they pass you. I’m looking to help show that sharks are not the mindless, demonic killing machines that Hollywood and the media portray them to be in order to earn ratings and money.

Those horns are made of foam, right? Right??

Here, I got you this baby dinosaur.

Before I got my good camera, I jammed my old one in this girl’s face. We dated for a while after that.

Thanks for playing Who the heck are you and why should I care with me this week.

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.

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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