Posted tagged ‘tourism’

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.

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The lull before the…other lull

October 22, 2013

Imagine if Adam Sandler made a martial arts movie. That’s the train wreck my life has seemed like since last I slapped a keyboard with these ham-hands. Yes, I know there are people with bowel-eating bugs and bullets for neighbors in other countries. This isn’t their story, it’s mine.

We went to Italy. I could post pictures and tell a goofy-yet-alluring tale of our time there, but I’m pissed. Up until the rental car turn-in, it was a magical ride through a beautiful country, peppered with stony silences when I pissed Achebeyo off from time to time. Now comes the rant.

While I usually don’t out companies, good or bad, I have to say that Sicily By Car is a criminal organization that hides innocuous and unnecessary parts of their rental cars, tells you that you lost them when you return the car, then charges you FOUR TIMES the amount it actually costs to replace the part you never knew was supposed to be in the car in the first place. Beware of this company if you ever travel to Rome and want to rent a car. MAKE them go to the car with you before you sign anything and MAKE them explain every last little piece that should or should not be there. Then take pictures of the car and the criminal in training to use as evidence later. This company can suck the dirt out of a dead donkey’s stinkhole, as far as I’m concerned.

Upon returning home, we were faced with a cat who decided that her goal in life was to completely cover our carpet in regurgitated food and hair. You’d think she had eaten at several wig-and-food buffets each day while we were gone for the amount of puke there was all over the house. It was the final impetus for us to purchase a carpet cleaner for our home, and the final piece of the cat-food puzzle we needed to determine that our cat is allergic to…well, everything. Everything except venison, apparently. I’d hate to see how she would fare out in the wild on her own. Just looking at her, you can tell she doesn’t have the chops to take down a doe on her own, let alone a buck with horns. After horking up a squishy hair-turd a few days ago, I think she’s finally back on track to keeping what she crams in her facehole mostly rear-exit-only.

My job has provided me with unending inspiration for frustration. Between multiple furloughs because our government is more concerned with their own financial futures than any genuine concern for “We the people”, an office neighbor who believes that speaker phones not only need to be set to ear-liquifying volume, but also need to be shouted into with a bullhorn, and another office neighbor who feels the need to read every email sent to everyone OUT LOUD to make sure you understood it, things have been tough. It’s enough to make you want to join one of those vow-of-silence monasteries. At least it would be quiet…if a little too non-co-ed.

Every time I’ve sat down to write, something else catches my attention. Me and The Lazy have become pretty symbiotic lately, and I stopped fighting him openly. I took this moment while he’s busy plotting my unproductive evening to slip in a quick refresher on tossing letters together on screen. Maybe if I win my current battle with Italy’s Satan’s Bullying Car service, I’ll write more about that trip later. I’ll just have to find something long-range for The Lazy to start planning to keep him occupied.

Various and sundry

August 30, 2013

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

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

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

————-

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

————

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

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

————

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

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

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

———–

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

———–

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

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

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.

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.

On the offensive

February 8, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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