Posted tagged ‘summer’

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.

Advertisements

Beach-sauce redux

August 15, 2013

After spending a few days back at work and realizing that I’d rather be at the beach watching my language, instead of cursing at my phone, monitor, keyboard and career choices, I decided to head back to the beach house my dad had rented and spend some more time plaguing my family with bad puns, methane emissions and a new game.

In the past, my choices for family games has met with…we’ll politely call it “vociferous disdain”. If I like a game, they hate it, especially if I brought it and the rules require more thought than holding numbered cards of varying colors and matching them in one of two ways. The one that comes to mind most readily, as that is the one they immediately ask me NOT to bring when we plan these things, is Drakon, which bears a strong resemblance to the algorithmic visual programming language which I’m sure it was at least partially based on.

This is an admittedly complicated game where you not only have game pieces that represent your fantasy adventurer self, but also “cards” that you draw that are also map pieces with different rules for how to play/move across them. Oh, and there’s also Drakon, the dragon who is guarding this ever-shifting maze-map and will gank all of your coins if she lands on the same tile as you. Since that is engineered by the other players, it WILL happen. I can understand my family’s hesitance in playing this game, especially when I frequently have to consult the rules as each of us ponders what card/map piece will simultaneously help themselves and screw the other players. I keep telling them if we play it more often, it will be easier to play. Their answers, when not mocking my looks and intelligence, are crossed-arm, stony stares that seem to indicate they wish Drakon would maul me and my stupid game.

This time, in addition to hauling Drakon along for the humor factor (watching their faces light up at the mention of games, then fall again as I drag Drakon out of the bag is a game all in itself), I brought a new game called Cards Against Humanity.

If you want a quick peek at what the game is like, click the link and prepare to laugh until you feel like you’ve performed a 90-minute ab workout. The basic gist is that there are two kinds of cards, black cards that contain questions or fill-in-the-blank statements, and white “answer” cards. One person each round is the judge and picks a black card at random to read. Everyone else picks from their continuously replenished 10 answer cards to present what they think the funniest answer will be. The judge reads them all and picks his or her favorite….if they can get through the reading without falling off their chair or crying from laughing.

I’m sure there’s some Apples to Apples-esque scoring mechanism, but we were having so much fun playing the game that we didn’t bother to keep score. We learned a lot that evening, not the least of which is one horrible way to lose your virginity: tickling Sean Hannity even after he tells you to stop. The one that turned my dad into an adult fetus is too obscure out of context to share here. Plus, I really want you to play this game for yourself and report back one ridiculous thing you learned from it. You’ll thank me…if you aren’t rolling your eyes and shouting at your monitor that, “I already HAVE that game, MORON!” Still, your obnoxious condescension aside, I’d like to hear what you learned from this insanely hilarious game. Oh, and don’t purchase it if you’re strictly religious, or have a stick up your bum the size of a redwood. It’s not for you, trust me. They don’t call it the party game for horrible people for nothing.

Other than that, the rest of my time upon returning to the beach house was spent either eating, drinking, being pummeled by mother ocean or any combination of the three. It was a much needed break from The Work. And I think my nieces escaped without too much corruption from Uncle Ren.

Thanks for another great summer of fun memories, dad. Next year, we’re having a Drakon-a-thon until we all know how to play without consulting the rule-novel. Either that, or I unveil my Epic Pouting. It’s your choice.

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.

Snafu

July 22, 2013

*** My name is Brett.  One of Kevin’s high school friends.  He asked me to be a “guest writer” on this blog.***

*** First of all, I am not a writer.  Just because I struggle with writing I am not a struggling writer.  Secondly, through all of Kevin’s other posts, you are most likely familiar with his past work.  I would like to lay claim to some of his success as a comedy genius, but please don’t blame me. When approached by Kevin to write a story, recalling a memory of our oh-so-mature childhood days (because let’s face it, when boys are fourteen, fifteen, or forty they are cool know-it-alls) a few stories came to mind, but honestly, since I have not partaken of each blog post, I decided it behooving to stray from the stories of lizard lassos, snake whips, and pond drains for fear of boring readers with repetition, redundancy, or superfluousness.***

Being a middle school teacher, and parent, I feel I understand adolescence, primarily that of the twelve to fourteen year-old.  I have been instructing seventh and eighth grade students for somewhere around fifteen of my twenty-three years in education, the last six of which have been in Multimedia, a class which, in our district, focuses primarily on movie production (speaking of movies… although I have stayed in the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, I have yet to visit any mansion with said moniker resembling the likes of Versailles (other than Versailles)…and have been advised not to).  Now, having taught middle schoolers for so long, having two (currently) middle school daughters, and having been a middle schooler myself, I believe that upon finishing the application process and being hired, any and all middle-school teachers should be granted a knighthood, sainthood, riding hood, or any kind of hood available to those courageous (gullible) enough to voluntarily enter the position.  This philosophy is based mostly on the fact that I was a middle schooler myself and that my position as teacher now is not one of nobility, but one of karma (Karma= God’s “I told ya so.”)

As a middle-schooler, (and by the way, I am tired of my word processor’s red line indication that the word schooler is not in the dictionary.  It is.  If it isn’t a word, it should be.  Schooler: 1. an adjective describing a specific age of child, 2. a synonym for teacher) I was not as popular as I had hoped to be, but luckily, I was in middle school so I didn’t care. I entered seventh grade in Rapid City, SD, son of an Air Force Captain and entered the second half of eighth grade in Riverside, CA, son of an Air Force Major.  All of the moving, as any military brat can attest, leads to the development, honing, and perfection of certain adolescent survival skills; skills that most children do not learn until adulthood.  Among these skills are “if you don’t want people around you, don’t shower after gym class,” and “if you want people around you, be humorous.”  I learned to master both by the time ninth grade was over, and then spent the rest of my life trying unsuccessfully to practice more of the latter than the former.  This, combined with the fact that I had only been in California for five months, resulted in a lack of friends by the end of the school year.

The summer between eighth and ninth grade was boring, even for a newbie Californian.  That being said, and tying this together (finally) with the topic of middle-schoolers, adolescents are very easily influenced, as exampled by my trip to Universal Studios at the age of 13…I now am a walking filmography resource.  Generally speaking, adolescents do not have direction in the world yet, they don’t have a complete set of social graces, and they are gangly and clumsy; all the ingredients for what we call “goofy.”  This, not surprisingly, is the state in which Kevin and I began high school.

I met Kevin in 9th grade I believe, and our shared affinity of all things goofy, silly, stupid, ignorant, dumb, and dangerous was the magnet that brought our friendship together; well, that and English class.  Mrs. Polite (Saint Polite), our English teacher, “put up” with our shenanigans for an entire year, or possibly two.   How she ended each year with a full head of hair I’ll never know.

Riverside, California seemed to have a pool in every other back yard.  My next door neighbor had one, one of my friends down the street had one, and Kevin’s grandparents had one in their yard as well.

There was one particular night over the summer where Kevin invited me to spend the night at his grandparents’ house.  Not to belittle our friendship, but the selling point for me was the pool.  Even though I was not a good swimmer (to this day I pinch my nose when jumping in), I loved being in the water.  I accepted his invitation, even though I had never been to his grandparents’ house; nor had I ever met them.

As it turned out, Kevin’s grandparents had to go out for the evening.  I’m not sure I told my parents that they would not be present during our “sleepover.”  They might not have let me go had they known that we had access to a pool with no adult supervision.  Even so, it wasn’t the pool that would be the cause of fun for Kevin and I that night.  Instead, it was the food and the videogames.

We went to Kevin’s grandparents’ house, and immediately got into the pool.  (I believe it was after dinner-time as I don’t remember eating a meal there).  While swimming we played the usual games (all with snorkeling masks on) like Marco Polo, and one of our favorites, Spiderman; a game in which you can observe each other underwater clinging to the side of the pool as Spiderman would to the side of a building, then watch each other launch from one side of the pool, glide through the water, then land on the other side of the pool, clinging to that “building.”  Over the next year or two we would play this game again many times, especially at Club Mud, Palm Springs.

After swimming to the point of raisin toes, we decided to treat ourselves to a well-deserved snack.  I distinctly remember Kevin opening and closing the kitchen cabinets and the fridge and freezer pulling out items to include in our teenage smorgasbord.   Included in these were the staple of ice-cream (I want to say it was chocolate of some sort with marshmallow), chocolate covered cookies, whipped cream, cherries, assorted chips or crackers, maybe some licorice, and so on.  We piled all of our food onto large bowls filled with mountains of ice-cream and headed to the TV room.

Apparently, Kevin’s grandparents had everything that a growing teenage boy could dream of as there was a video game system hooked up to the television in the sun room.  I believe it was an Atari.  After a while of playing Space Invaders and PacMan and eating ice-cream and cookies to the point of misery, Kevin had a new game that he wanted me to play called SNAFU.    I had not heard of this term before and had certainly not heard of any such video game.   Time, being the greatest teacher of all, taught me what the acronym SNAFU means, and to this day I still don’t understand what it had to do with the actual video game that we played, which, if memory serves, was a basic “snake” game wherein the objective is to trap the opponents snake within the trails of the tails; very Tron-esque, light bike game.

The conversation was simple and went as follows:

Kevin said, “I have a new game that you need to play.  It’s kinda cool.”

“Sure. What is it?” I asked.

“SNAFU.”

“Gesundheit.”

Now, it may not sound like much now, nor may it even make you smile or smirk, but back then, at the age of 13, on the tallest sugar-high ever imagined by two water-exhausted, pruny, goofy ninth graders, “Gesundheit” was the funniest comment in the history of comments that anyone could have made at that particular moment.  We must have laughed for over an hour.  It was the worst (best) case of the giggles that anyone has ever witnessed.  As a matter of fact, if Guinness was there, it would not have been recorded as the longest, funniest case of the giggles because the record keeper would have lost track of time due to his own excessive giggling.

When we were finally capable of collecting ourselves, we had tears of laughter streaming down our faces and the worst stomach aches any teenage boy could ever deserve.  So, we ate more ice-cream.  Honestly, other than playing that video game, I don’t remember anything else that happened after that.

It was one of the greatest times of my goofy childhood that I’ll never forget.

Thank you Kevin.

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.


%d bloggers like this: