Posted tagged ‘shopping’

On Broadway (at the beach)

August 22, 2013

This past weekend, Achebeyo and I decided to buy into the inherently flawed, corporate-sponsored the more you spend, the more you…spend mentality with a national hotel chain. You know, one of those situations where you only need to spend another $450 dollars to get $25 worth of savings later kind of deals. Still, we needed something to break our recurring weekend code:

10 goto computer

20 goto couch

30 goto bed

40 goto 10

A short ride in the Ren-mobile, and we were at one of our favorite “local” distractions: Broadway at the Beach, where fun and frivolity can be had for just a few paychecks, and foot blisters are free…because there’s plenty of walking to do. It’s essentially a combination of a weekend carnival that got permission to hang out longer, and an outdoor shopping mall. There are various attractions around a manufactured lake, connected by various shops and restaurants who are all vying for your frivolous shopping dollars. Luckily for us, we were only there for the karaoke…and hot sauce…and 1500 thread-count sheets…and candy. But nothing else.

We got into our hotel room later in the evening than our usual dinner time. Thankfully, we had arranged to fill the boiling bile in our bellies (alliteration is frequently fairly fun) with over-processed junk food on the drive down, so we weren’t any more hungry than any other time we’ve gone 2+ hours without cramming carbs in our face-holes. We did, however, find that because of Achebeyo’s membership in this hotel’s Spend-a-rama plan, we had been upgraded to a room with a jetted hot tub. Off to the store I went to acquire the necessary items to create an unholy mess for the cleaning crew.

Since I never know how much bubble bath to put in those things (especially when you’re not really supposed to put any bubbling solutions through a jetted tub’s system without a structured plan to spend the hours following your bath wasting more water purging your mistake from the entire contraption), I of course added what turned out to be a sitcom-esque epic amount. Picture a bubble mountain where one entire side of the room used to be. I guess I really need to trust measurement instructions for stuff like that.

We managed to clear that mess up by draining the tub and giving it 8-10 hours for the foam to subside. We got up early the next morning to run on the hotel’s treadmills and act like none of the rest of the previous night’s chaos had happened. Turns out the running, as well as a 2-hr follow-up walk around the previously mentioned carnimall, gave us the kind of energy boost that meant we’d need to take a nap for a few hours to ensure we’d be up for the real reason we were there:  an evening of karaoke.

We dragged our carcasses out of bed from our life-giving nap and prepared for the evening ahead. For me, that meant putting on slacks and a classy two-shirt combination, one that makes me look like a mafia bowler. Add shoes and I was ready to roll out. For Achebeyo, it’s a bit more involved. There’s a convoluted process that no straight male will ever understand where most women get ready, and I’ve found it helps to have extensive distractions to while away the vast time between when I’m ready and when she’s ready.

After construction was complete on Going-Out Achebeyo, we walked back to the human fly-paper that is Broadway at the Beach and picked a nice sushi restaurant to have dinner. The food was great, the service was fast, and we never felt like the waitresses were timing their visits to deliberately interrupt us every 2-3 sentences of our conversation to see if everything’s okay. If I’m not looking around like I want someone’s head on a platter, I’m usually good. And this place was aware of the subtle difference between helpful wait staff and I’m filing a restraining order against my waitress (COUGHtakenotewaitressesCOUGH).

We had, unfortunately, timed our dinner to coincide with a 2-hour wait before karaoke would begin at another destination in the same complex. Being that we had some time, we decided to work on our evening blisters, and walked around the 3-4 block area of attractions again. We window shopped, we gawked at interesting tourists and we even took time to cater to a few of the billions of carp in “Lake Broadway”. You think I’m kidding when I say “billions”, but I’m not. Go see for yourself. I was too afflicted with The Lazy to take any pictures. After playing some air hockey and a 2-player shooting video game, we finally settled in outside our destination and waited for the clock to tick down to go time. We had less time to wait than we originally thought.

Turns out that start times for events in pubs down there are pretty fluid. If they SAY they’ll start at 9:30, they really MEAN they’ll start when customers begin shelling out cash and plastic. Luckily for us, I was antsy and peeked inside an hour before their stated start time and we dashed in to get good seats before too many more people piled in.

This place wasn’t just a bar, wasn’t just a dark room with an old flatscreen television and sticky floors. This place had a STAGE, with professional lighting, smoke machines built into the floor and monitors at various locations and elevations so you could wander a bit while singing and still see the lyrics you might otherwise have to fudge. They were serious. We were simultaneously impressed and intimidated. We were used to the barely-lit rooms with booze-sodden spectators cheering what was probably just buzzing and thumping in their ears by the time we sang. This place would actually feature the singers.

Achebeyo and I powered through our initial fear and filled out song slips. Our choices would turn out to be quite popular and make each of us a celebrity du hour. Achebeyo went first and chose Rumor Has It by Adele. She KILLED it. Men around the establishment were head-bobbingly enthralled, and the women were cheering her on and singing with her. She finished to a standing ovation.

Since I put a nickname on my slip, and was subsequently reprimanded over the PA system, I had to resubmit my selection of Stray Cat Strut. when I finally got my turn, I had fun with it and didn’t do terribly badly.

Achebeyo would follow up her 1st hit single with the Divinyls I Touch Myself. She made sure to disclaimer it at the beginning to discourage pervs, but she ventured on stage to collective repeated shouts of GO ACHEBEYO! Her real name isn’t as cumbersome to chant as her blogdentity here, so it sounded way better than it just did in your head. Again, she KILLED it. A second standing ovation and lots of happy congratulations on her way back to our table made her night.

My second selection was Faith by George Michael. According to Achebeyo, the crowd went wild. Apparently, that song is something of an anthem. Not only was most of the bar singing along with me, people actually got up to dance on the floor in front of the stage. It’s a fun, upbeat song that most people know and I had a lot of fun with it. As we left the bar following that song, we were both stopped by various people asking if we would be singing again. It was a night of fun, frivolity AND boosted egos. Score!

The rest of the weekend would pale in comparison, but our brief bout of beer-goggle-celebrity gave me loads of bragging rights at work on Monday, as well as something to write about besides not being able to come up with anything to write about. I guess the cure for casual writer’s block is doing something on your weekend besides vegging out in front of electronics and hoping something fun will spontaneously burst out of your noggin. I’ll test the opposing side of that theory this weekend.

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Milestones are for suckers

May 10, 2013

When I started writing for an invisible audience, I knew this day would come. A day, like many others, when I had less to say and less desire to say it, but with one big difference: it’s a numbered post that might indicate some form of ceremony or celebration should be involved. The Lazy tells me that’s just plain ridiculous. I can’t find any reasonable argument to the contrary, so let’s just proceed as if this is any other day of aimless writing.

“Casual Friday” in an office where we all wear jeans and slogan t-shirts most of the time seems a bit ambiguous. Not only am I not interested in being forced to concentrate on not viewing my co-workers’ nearly see-through leg-meat, I don’t want to subject them to my Wookie legs. If I thought I could get away with it without losing most of my body weight in water, I’d wear this in:

Improvised, unfathomable costumes have consequences.

This past week, I made some fried rice from scratch. Okay, so I didn’t grow the rice or the vegetables myself, I didn’t grind up the spices by hand (except the pepper, and it was more of a by-peppermill kind of thing) and I didn’t squirt out two organic eggs from my nethers. I did, however, manage to get all of the ingredients together in a palatable manner without burning the house down. And I learned a valuable lesson about myself: I make kick-ass spicy fried rice.

The picture is crap but the rice was not.

Last week, I asked my dad what my niece is into at 3yrs old, as her birthday celebration was last weekend, and I wanted to cement my title as Uncle of the Weekend by bringing the perfect gift. His answer? Pirates. I nodded politely while secretly thinking it might be time to start looking for in-home care for my dad. A 3yr old girl wants pirate stuff (booty?) for her birthday? Uncle Ren’s forging his own neural pathways on this one, thanks. I took a day off from work and spent the entirety of it debating myself in a well-known toy dispensary.

I should get her something girly. Why? because she’s a GIRL? That’s toy-sexist. Then I’ll get her something I would like. How do you know she’ll like what boys like? Then I’ll get her something gender-neutral. Yes, buy her something bland and unexciting, “Uncle of the Weekend”. I hate you, other voice of me in my head.

After 2700 laps around the store, I finally opted for something my eyes caught when I first ventured into Torture-R-Us’ labyrinth of misery: a musical, dancing & bubble spewing flower. It was a huge hit, but it turns out she really IS into pirates.

Parrrrrrtners in birthday crime.

Happy 3rd birthday to my niece, and happy 50th post to me.

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.

Spending to save

December 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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