Posted tagged ‘SCUBA’

The battle internal

June 23, 2014

Would it be fair to say that this place has lacked attention lately? Sure. Okay. I won’t fight you on that one. Heck, I won’t fight you for much of anything, unless it’s making me do something The Lazy doesn’t want me to do. Imagine the battle going on right now in my head over writing this article.

Me: I really need to do a brain dump and get some things off my sluggish mind.

The Lazy: Or, you could get sidetracked by your annoying co-worker who has taken over loud-speakerphone duties from the guy who held the championship belt before he retired.

Me: But what about sparking creativity and advancing my skill?

The Lazy: Here’s a bag of salty snacks and some meaningless videos to tempt you back to the brain-couch.

Here’s the problem: my soul is starting to itch. That deep-down itch like a million caterpillars are crawling out of my spiritual bunghole and I’m on some public stage where I couldn’t possibly itch it without causing a scene. And it was made worse this past weekend.

A good friend of mine unknowingly turned a set of high-intensity flood lights on my lack of meaningful accomplishments in life. It wasn’t his intention. He’s just so smart that he can do two things at once: 1) reveal a plan to revolutionize space exploration that is so simple and perfect that you can’t imagine why it hasn’t already been done and 2) cut to the core of what is going wrong with society as a whole. Interestingly enough, his stated reason for wanting to make his dream come true, aside from the obvious “holy crap, this is going to be so cool!” factor, was to get people talking again. And I don’t mean here, in the land of ones and zeros, but face to face. And even this was lost on at least one person who had to immerse himself in his social media while the discussions were still on-going. It made me smad. Sad/mad.

Having highly intelligent, and motivated, friends can be like owning the world’s most powerful computer. You know you could grow and expand your mind, pursue lofty and meaningful goals and likely become a better person. But then you see a commercial for a new video game, or you notice that Princess Pretty Face posted about her dinner on social media, and you get distracted. Well, not the truly intelligent folks, but people like me who anthropomorphize states of being and give them names like The Lazy to cover up the fact that they’re simply…well, lazy.

Finding out that a good friend of mine will likely be the talk of generations to come should have been like a defibrillator on my sleepy spirit. It should have galvanized me into returning to my attempts at finishing the second draft of what will likely end up as my never-finished book. What did I do instead of slapping myself hard across the face and then pounding away at the keyboard like a crack-addled primate? I took the easy way out, I let stuff distract me. In that moment, I realized that I’m no better than the person at my friend’s meeting who buried himself in social media while meaningful discussion was still going on.

To be fair to myself, I actually am currently pursuing lesser goals. I’ve knocked out fifty percent of a technical certification I’ve wanted for a while, and I’m working toward another goal that I’ve recently begun touting as a large part of my retirement plan: SCUBA instructor. But I’m still restless, which makes me wonder if the ants in my creative pants mean that I’m still not doing what I’m meant to do. But I’m nothing if not selectively patient. Make hard decisions about what path to take in my life that will lead to fulfillment and happiness? Eh, I’ve got time. Grind out countless hours on video games and movie-watching? I’m on it, stat!

Maybe I just need to stop being so rough on myself for not accomplishing anything but making it through each successive day without pissing too many people off. Maybe that’s the problem, not being rough enough on myself to spur action. Action that can get past the goal-line defense The Lazy has set up for anything that takes away from my beloved “free time”. Maybe I just need to get over myself. Yeah, that last one.

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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.

Writing instead of writing

February 14, 2014

Listen, I’m not going to sit here and toot my own horn…much. I mean, the whole purpose for me to have a blog in the first place was to work on honing my writing so that I could make a run at something more ambitious, something you’d want to get as a gift and read in places other than the bathroom. And by run, I mean a drunken snail’s pace toward an unknown finish line.  And that’s exactly where I’m at.

Over the past four months, I’ve been working on the first draft of my first book. It sounds…not really impressive, I know. Four months? What, am I writing a review of some game or movie I encountered a couple dozen years ago? Something to get someone’s attention somewhere so they’ll ask me to agonize over writing something monthly, or worse, weekly? Yeah, not so much.

Understand that when I say I’ve been working on the first draft of this creation, I mean that I spent about two weeks last November crushing out the requisite 50k words for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated), and then slapped a few sentences together every other week or so until the story had the rough shape of what I wanted from it.

About a month ago, I got a wild hair (read: got bored) and decided to start an epilogue and prologue to my unfinished story. I thought it was a fun romp and it gave one of the characters a vehicle for venturing onward, if The Lazy and I can ever come to an agreement that means I’ll ever attempt to slog my way through writing another book. It did not, however turn out as I had planned.

Here’s the thing about creating something, from my admittedly limited perspective: it’s kind of like mad science. In my case, being the socially eclectic kind of person I am, I started slapping pieces and parts of life together from things I’ve seen, experienced directly or vicariously or simply wanted to try. What was born out of that process was rather like hooking Dr. Frankenstein up with Jim Carrey’s green alter-ego in The Mask. You may think it would be great to create something with the torso of Dwayne Johnson, the head of Peter Griffin from Family Guy and the arms of Verne Troyer, because hey, Human Tyrannosaur. Who wouldn’t like that? My proofreader, that’s who.

In the first email exchange we had after I sent her my first draft, I actually read the first few paragraphs and had to abandon the email for a few days. When someone starts outlining all of the things you feared were wrong with your project, the tendency is to protect your creation, to crawl into a hole and pout about not being able to create perfection on your first try, even though you knew there were issues that would need addressing. Well, at least that’s how an immature person like me reacts. I got over my pouting fit after a few days and realized that she simply wants to help me perfect what I’ve already done. And I honestly should feel good that I knew the problems she outlined existed before she addressed them to me directly.

Don’t get me wrong, she likes the clay I’m working with. She’d just like for me to give it some more definition and color than when it came out of the bag. That is how clay arrives, right? Bags? I can’t imagine ordering clay and having it arrive in a cardboard box full of packing foam bits. Regardless, she has given me some very valid points to ponder, as well as constant encouragement about the entire process.

Apparently, completing the first draft is supposed to be the most difficult part. And it really helps to have someone review my progress who has no vested interest in it other than to see me succeed and possibly be a note in the thanks or dedication section of the (hopefully) published end result. Still, I find myself doing more talking about what I’m going to do to make the story more enjoyable, coherent and cohesive than actually writing it.

I know it’s ridiculous, but I think I love the idea of this story more than actually doing the work to make it happen. That’s The Lazy talking, I know, but he can be very persuasive. Sometimes, however, his wiles fail to work their seductive magic on me. There are those moments when I stomp upstairs to my office and face two desks: one for gaming and one for writing. My mouth pouring out the idea that I plan on doing nothing that seems like work, I sit down and find that I can’t enjoy anything that is supposed to distract me from writing. So I wander the house, or visit this blog, wondering what the problem is when the problem is clearly me and my tendency to think that I’ve got all the time in the world to complete this project. Those are the times I reluctantly slide over to the writing desk and start taking those raw chunks of story and massage them into some semblance of a cohesive and enjoyable story.

Next week, Achebeyo and I are off to dive with sharks and bask in weather not summoned by ice-loving shut-ins. I hate trying to type on a tablet, but if I want to keep the new ideas that spawned as a result of my proofreader’s comments I’ll need to stay on task or risk losing these new ideas to the sun, the sea and late-night karaoke. But really, could you blame me if I take another break? Says The Lazy. I really need to evict that guy from my head.

Be thou not half-assed

July 30, 2013

I had a dream last night (the last thing you ever want to read or hear from someone) where I was part of a production with Zooey Deschanel, only it was pretty clear that she considered it a career evisceration to be partnered up with me. In the dream, I attended the production meetings, where I was constantly questioned as to why I was there. Nobody bothered to check to see that I was on the “talent” sheet, and I obviously wasn’t a big enough name for them to say, Oh, that’s Renpiti. That dude is really going places. So I latched on to Zooey and followed her everywhere…until she ditched me in a food court. She’s dream-wily like that.

It dawned on me when I woke that my brain was fighting with the imaginary friends who’ve been created by (and now plague) me. The biggest and most powerful of these is (ironically) The Lazy. Dude is all about naps, snacks and video games…and death to all aspects of hostaged Creativity (not including new and ever more vitriolic curses while playing video games). The thing is, The Lazy’s got a point: why stress?

Writing, for me, is rather like going to a supermarket without a specific agenda: you wind up all over the place, easily distracted with lots of stuff you don’t need. I’d like to have more structure and direction when I write, but then The Lazy forces a signed confession out of Creativity stating that true genius for me comes out of the gooey ether of my unfocused mind. I can see the sub-text, though: Creativity is just struggling to stay afloat in the tank The Lazy is holding him in. Any mediocre port in a bland storm.

Self Doubt, who delights in supporting The Lazy in his brain-couch campaigns, tells me that either way I look at it, I’m screwed. If I write, it will suck; if I don’t write, I’m the epitome of loser. The Lazy coos into my ear at that point and tells me that Self Doubt is a whore, that he’s all about making me feel bad about any choice I make, but that it’s okay not to make a choice at all.

At this point in the mental debate process, something shiny catches my eye and I’m off to forget what I was fighting myself about in the first place. But it does give me a moment’s pause. It makes me think of all of the things I’m interested in and how I’ve really only put marginal effort into each of them. I wont blame it on a cracked skull, but it does make me wonder if I was more motivated before that.

I got a friend of mine interested in SCUBA last year. Now he’s a Master Diver while I hold on to my advanced and nitrox certifications like they’re the pinnacle of diving advancement. I started out freeflying (skydiving) with a young lady who was about my same skill level who now is requested to organize freefly jump loads at big events, while I still flail around in the air like plate of spaghetti (minus the plate). The list goes on and on, but you get the point.

The reason that all of this has become so prominent in the general chatter of my brain is that I’ve started taking the first steps toward planning to possibly think about writing a book…maybe. It’s quite a departure from anything I’ve ever even remotely conceived of writing before, so it’s taking some time to coalesce into a few key points to start from. To help me stall prepare for this gargantuan-seeming task, I’ve gone back to read some of my favorite authors, not the least of which is Paul Neilan and possibly my favorite book ever, Apathy and Other Small Victories. This process actually helps me to iron out issues that The Lazy and Self Doubt collaborate on to get me to quit by showing me what modern entertaining writing looks like.

It’s going to happen. Maybe not soon, and maybe not efficiently, but it will happen. I just felt myself flinch writing that, as if The Lazy was scouring the Internet for something to create a monumental distraction so I don’t make a fool of myself. Self Doubt just crossed his arms and shook his head in a condescending way. Both of those bastards can suck it. I’m going to try.

Now, back to dreams of chasing celebrities off of production sets and into dense crowds where they can lose me easily.

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.


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