Posted tagged ‘work’

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.

Be thou not half-assed

July 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sky-flyin’ Friday

July 19, 2013

***I’ve been informed that I must strive to write about something besides not writing. My blogging Sith Master has spoken.***

You wouldn’t know it from looking at me, but I have over 500 skydives…and about 8 cutaways (what you do when your main parachute throws a temper tantrum in the air). To the people who claim that skydivers are reckless adrenaline junkies, I won’t bark at you like a junk yard dog to convince you otherwise, but I will pee in your shoes when you aren’t looking. It’s what I do.

To the average person, with their feet firmly lodged in their mortgage, white picket fence and overpopulation dreams, skydiving is seen as frivolous at the very least and downright insane at the worst. Both assessments are about as fair and reasonable as spinach-oregano cake at a kid’s birthday party, though you likely won’t get punched in the junk for offering a slice of free skydive. The truth is, skydiving is as fun and as safe as any activity that peels asses from couches and puts them more than 50ft from a television.

Me…trying to slow down for the cameraman.

Achebeyo and I met back in 2002 on a canoe trip to the outer banks. Since we were the only two people on that trip not in adult (or child) diapers, we naturally gravitated to each other and hung out extensively while camping on the island. Beginning a trend for our impending relationship, we traveled all over the island together and even discovered the herds of wild ponies…and nearly got trampled when they rallied to protect a foal from the friendly nose-kisses of my dad’s dog. This sort of adventurous outlook on life would set the pace for our leisure activities in the years to come.

Long before we met, Achebeyo had been on a tandem skydive. For those not really savvy on the terminology, that’s the kind of skydive where you are strapped to another biped with a massive parachute that can easily accommodate you both, and that person spooning you in the air controls everything on that skydive except your vomit reflex. It’s kind of like the test-drive for the sport, where you can try it out and possibly decide to make your next jump a 1-parachute 1-person jump, or you can flip the sky a trembling bird as you empty the semi-fluorescent and chunky goo from your innards. Sometimes it’s a little from column A, and a little from column B.

My buddy Barry realizing he’s fallen out of an airplane with someone on his belly.

After we had been together for a while, Achebeyo and I began to notice parachutes landing near the freeway every time we would make our way into areas of civilization with more than a well-known supermarket and a buffet or two as the main attractions. We decided that we would make an effort to find out where they were jumping from and how much it would cost to start jumping ourselves.

We ventured into an area where you’d expect to hear both the sound of banjo music and your sphincter slamming shut permanently, and found a nice little grass-strip dropzone with plenty of non-rapey, helpful people. We learned quite a bit about the sport simply talking and observing. Though the price for starting the Accelerated Free Fall course, the one that eventually leads to you becoming a licensed sky-jumpy-jumper, was a bit steep for us at the time, we vowed we’d find a way to make it happen without selling internal organs or fluids. And we did.

New skydiving student leaving the plane with her two instructors.

We pooled our resources, and with a little help from my unsuspecting father (who likely would have bought me cement shoes and a strait-jacket if he knew what the inheritance money he gave me would be used for), we began our adventures in the air.

Understand that you aren’t just slapped into clothing you wouldn’t even wear for Halloween (unless your family was being held hostage, and then you’d REALLY have to like your family), saddled with a parachute rig and shoved out an open airplane door the moment you pony up the cash. No, there’s a life-saving, but near coma-inducing, 6-7 hour classroom and equipment instruction, where you learn all about the essentials of body position, comprehensive equipment functionality, canopy (parachute) flight, altitude awareness and emergency procedures….that you will promptly forget the moment you step off the aircraft for the first time at 12,000ft. That’s why you leave the plane with two instructors locked onto you like they’re transporting Riddick across the cosmos to face temporary justice.

It’s not that you aren’t smart enough to absorb 6-7 hours worth of data for something you’ve never experienced before that will require you to save your own life. It’s the tunnel vision. Seriously. You can be the best student on the planet, someone the rest of us secretly hate (you teacher’s pet), but once you step off of that plane, everything you learned is reduced to a singularity from information overload. There’s so much to see and take in that new students tend to only see what’s right in front of their face, which hopefully includes instructor hand signals to get you to alter body position, check your wrist-mounted altimeter or deploy your main parachute NOWNOWNOW! Whether or not you pay attention in class and can apply what you learned in ground school in the air determines whether or not your instructors feel you are ready to move forward in your training, but don’t worry, they’ll deploy your parachute for you if you exhibit signs of waking air-coma.

See? They don’t leave until your inflatable wing is out and…inflating.

With a 2-way radio strapped to your chest, and turned on before you leave the plane, it’s now up to you to fly your inflatable wing to safety. The instructor on the ground gives you a few commands to follow so that he or she knows you’re paying attention, then proceeds to direct you into a safe landing pattern that will bring you in comfortably on your butt, or your feet if you’re just that good your first time, show-off. I think I gave myself a grass enema on my first jump, but nothing that required anything more than a quick brush-off. At that point, Achebeyo and I were hooked.

We completed all of our student jumps in a few weeks (we had great instructors who took the time to make sure we weren’t air-tards), and soon moved off of student status and on to exit solo-land solo jumper status. Not long after that, we passed both our written and practical tests for licensing with the United States Parachute Association (USPA), or as I like to call it License to look THAT good…in the air. We’d keep jumping together for a year or so more, until I was lured away by the dark side discipline of freeflying.

Most of what you see in movies and television for skydiving is what Achebeyo once accidentally coined as “belly-w”, or relative work (RW for acronym-nazis). It’s the kind of skydiving where you link up with others and make shapes together as you freefall; all in belly-to-earth orientation. Freeflying is the kind of skydiving that looks like badass aerial ballet…without the tights and tutus. It’s typically in feet-to-earth and head-to-earth orientation, and it’s much faster than RW. It also requires you to have much more minute awareness and control of your body positioning and movements. Back when I started skydiving, these people were the rock stars of the sport. And I’m all about being in proximity to perceived greatness. I was enthralled, but it took time to even be mediocre at it. Didn’t stop me from having a blast and making friends from all over the world.

My brother in law making me look good as the cameraman.

Me and some friends on what is known as a “zoo dive”. (Photo credit to Arvel Shults)

Achebeyo and I have traveled quite a bit, and have made some truly wonderful friends from all walks of life in our skydiving adventures. I was even fortunate enough to help plan, organize and execute an event at our home dropzone, The Raeford Parachute Center, where jumpers from all over the globe come to share air and time. We call these events boogies. They’re a concentrated serving of fun the likes of which you’d be hard pressed to find at home…or anywhere else people are rotting their brains on television and salty carbs. Heck, even the spectators seem to really enjoy sharing in the excitement and fun…from tables, chairs and bleachers, of course.

Whether or not you skydive, whether or not you even view skydiving as something other than people “jumping out of perfectly good airplanes” (which don’t exist anywhere, by the way), you’re likely to be at least a little bit social and sociable. If you ever wanted to meet a wide range of professionals and slackers alike, people from all walks and stages of life who enjoy what they do with their free time and love talking about it, go hang out at a dropzone and politely express interest at the level you are most comfortable with. People will jump (heh) at the chance to tell you all about their experiences and get your own blood pumping at the prospect of flinging yourself across the sky. And who knows, maybe you’ll get all infected with the idea that skydiving isn’t as crazy as, say, wasting away at a desk five days a week so you can afford to spend your weekends gathering tales of couch lint and bed sores to share with everyone on Monday.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Go catch the sun in the sky, like my buddy Joe.

Brain bursts

July 15, 2013

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novel, but with the same enthusiasm as my 3 year old niece being told it’s nap time. I love the idea of writing something more involved and comprehensive, but then The Lazy starts broadcasting everything else I could be doing, and how difficult all of the research would be, and my resolve crumbles like cheap drywall to the wrecking ball of  my easily distracted attention. Plus, there’s screaming and crying for no apparent reason. I don’t simply have issues, I have whole subscriptions.

Several key ideas about how my brain works have presented themselves in various, and ridiculous, ways lately, and I’m struggling to determine if I’m amused or irritated with what I’ve found. Here’s a partial list of thoughts I snagged on their ninja stealth-rampage through my brain-box:

1 – If lightning strikes this house while I’m peeing, will it travel up the contact my fluids are making with the toilet water and fry my nethers?

2 – I wonder if my cat thinks I’m an idiot for trying to speak her language… mrrrrow.

3 – Do you think Darth Vader ever used The Force to choke himself? For practice? Or, you know, David Carradine style naughtiness?

4 – If the news media are owned by big corporations, and big corporations have a financial stake in what news makes it to the public, isn’t it safe to assume they care more about sensationalism, hype and money than true journalism?

5 – I want to crop dust the ISS. Farts probably  permeate an area faster in zero gravity, and I won’t be able to sleep until I know for sure.

Those are only a few of the random bits of flotsam bumping around in my personal mental pond. I’m not entirely sure how much background noise they would provide if I tried to make myself write an entire novel, but my guess is “some”.

Recently at work, I vehemently denied it when a co-worker said I was OCD…then I proceeded to move everything he touched on my desk back into geometrically pleasing parallels with the edges of my desk. Touché, douché. The funny thing is, I’m not that way with everything around me all of the time. Just my desk at work. And sometimes other people’s desks. And any table I’m sitting at in a restaurant. And my kitchen counters/table at home. And magazine tables in businesses I visit. I need help.

I’m itching to travel again. We usually take at least one trip to a familiar location for a 3-4 day weekend, but our schedules have been a bit chaotic lately, so that’s been a factor, along with my 20% pay cut from furloughs. I had been looking forward to one of Achebeyo’s teaching gigs that would take her back to my home town so I could tag along and hang out with friends while she slogged it out in the educational trenches, but it was canceled, leaving me a lazy, pouting mess. We’ve got plans to go to Europe’s thigh-high boot later this year, and then, if I’m really lucky, Boracay for some of the best SCUBA diving of my life…I hope. As long as I don’t piss Achebeyo off between now and then, it should become a part of my traveling history.

Until my life gets more interesting and blog-worthy, I’m going to hook the video game IV back up and swing a digital laser sword at digital “bad” guys for social validation and geek prestige. Try to restrain your rampant jealousy.

A big slice of lame

June 25, 2013

You may be saying to yourself, “Dude, I thought you were going to write one article a week. What the heck happened?” To which I would reply, “Listen, crazy nagging voice in my head, is ‘dude’ the best you could come up with to get my attention? What about ‘lazy word pimp’ or ‘punk-ass scribbler’? Also, you’re not the boss of me, other me.”

Seriously, I’ve started several posts that I’ve slogged about 1/4th of the way through before abandoning them like dumpster babies. Canvas-bag-of-puppies-in-the-river? I don’t know, whichever is more offensive, but you get the picture. I lose my connection to the piece and begin to heckle my own topic and style. I know, I don’t like that guy either.

I’m just feeling a distinct lack of inspiration lately, the kind of lull where you are more inclined to follow the happily pestering voice cajoling you to go play more video games, or plant yourself on the couch for re-re-reruns. Those voices are getting more funding from my brain lately, so they’re campaigning like champs, promising me leveled-up game characters, bags of snack foods and frequent naps. Their constituents, my hands, feet, mouth and stomach, are weak and easily swayed. Bastard traitors.

To make things worse, I keep a calendar at work that I write the title of each entry on each day I’ve written something. In bold permanent marker. Makes the blank spaces stand out like screaming white holes of shame. But is is fun to come up with witty explanations for the calendar words.

Co-worker: Why do you have “Stupidity” written for Wednesday?

Me: That was the day you called me at my desk phone and asked me if I was at work.

Here’s the thing: I’m not a celebrity, so writing about what I’ve eaten, or what project at work is giving me brain-pain, or who I’m sleeping with (a hint: it rhymes with Achebeyo) is just plain boring to anyone not related to me or trying to keep constant tabs on me for obscure reasons that make me constantly feel like I need a shower. And I’m clearly not doing this for me. Much. Okay, the ego boost of having people read what you write is almost worth the pillow-wringing frustration of seeing fewer and fewer hits on your blog.

It’s hard to find a niche when you don’t really have any true direction in your writing. Oh sure, I could blather on and on about the silly stories I have from my life, or, you know, post multiple entries about struggling to find something to write, but who really wants to read that every week? Maybe you do. But you need to bring more friends to this place and put in a few orders for those mental menu items of mine. You show a little interest and I’ll show a little (brain)skin.

Those are a few of the many thoughts that plague my every finger-poke on the keyboard during these moments of creative flat-line. And I’m not sure that forcing myself to write would do anything more than fuel my internal peanut gallery’s derision of my attempt to keep this ability stretched and ready to run that literary marathon.

That’s the long way of me saying I have loads of respect not only for published authors, but for bloggers who write incessantly and in a manner conducive to increased traffic on their sites. My couch-rumpled hat is off to you. Now back to playing something sci-fi based and time-consuming.

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

April 19, 2013

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

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

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

A picture, in lieu of raking.

This one gives my brother nightmares.

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

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

My brother-in-law posing for me.

He used this one on a business card.

My buddy Tony rockin’ a dust broom.

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

Places with views like this are preferred.

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

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

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

The great Kiwi oppressor, Mao…or something.

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

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

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

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

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

Here, I got you this baby dinosaur.

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

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

Cura-meh-cao

April 12, 2013

***I’ve put off writing this article for lack of inspiration, but then it hit me: maybe THAT’S my inspiration.***

It probably isn’t fair to start off a report about such a beautiful and storied island like Curaçao by giving the impression that I didn’t like it. Makes me seem like I’ve got an industrial strength rod lodged in the ol’ methane-hole. The thing is, I didn’t dislike it, it simply didn’t resonate with me.

They labeled the island…just in case.

Maybe it was the fact that Achebeyo and I have traveled all over the Caribbean so this was just one more in a long line of tropical shopping malls, or possibly the fact that we must have unintentionally chosen International Non-Stop Kite Weather week for our visit (you could have stayed airborne the entire trip with the right parafoil kite). Any number of factors combined could have created this distinct lack of enthusiasm for writing this article, and that simply isn’t fair to this tropical paradise.

The island really is gorgeous, with beautiful multicolored buildings that would seem at first to riot against one another, but actually work quite well on the larger canvas of the island. The shorelines were rocky where we stayed, but there were plenty of beaches on the map boasting flour-soft sand. The people were friendly and helpful, often guiding us away from our own time-wasting ignorance, such as leading us to the pay station in the middle of the longhouse-style cafeteria when we mistakenly stood in food pick-up line. Nothing about this place was bad…it just wasn’t great.

From atop Fort Rif, defending against…loud tourists?

We arrived on a Friday afternoon and had managed not to mangle each other emotionally during what I like to call Arrival Angst. It’s that frustration that builds at the airports and parking lots and taxis until you actually flop onto the bed (minus the crime scene comforter, of course) in your destination. Aside from the typical travel warning my gastrointestinal tract issued (“Per standard operating procedures, we will be halting all functions for the foreseeable future, barring any infusion of significantly spicy food or foreign tap water.”), our arrival was uneventful.

While the room occasionally made noises like the plumbing was filled with movie-grade, mutant, angry bees, and randomly farted when neither of us was standing in that part of the room (I swear), it was a typical hotel sleeping berth. Let’s gloss over the part where our room faced a softball stadium and we occasionally heard noises from that place like someone was murdering werewolves…for fun or profit, I can’t be certain. Regardless, our first “day” was mellow and fairly uneventful. We ‘splored the surrounding mini-city of our hotel complex, but managed not to get ensnared by the excessively-marked-up name-brand stores.

Our hotel village from the pontoon bridge.

We got vague directions to the nearest dive shop and proceeded on the Renpiti plan of navigation: go in the general direction of the half-understood, vague directions until we luck out and find the place so I can dispense the I-told-you-so‘s with feigned confidence. The place was being run by a visiting couple, he of ‘merican heritage, she of Aussie descent. They were warm and friendly and booked us for a wall dive the following day. We wandered around the city some more until we felt we had accumulated enough pinkened skin, then ventured back to the hotel room. We had dinner at a local Indian place and stiffed the staff on tips because I assumed they included it in the pricey bill (like most places we visit outside of the U.S.). Yeah, I was unintentionally that guy. We slunk back to our room like the dirty foreigners we were.

Even though we would be entering the sea from the shore the following day, and not an ocean-borne vomit comet (that would be the next day), I implored Achebeyo to take some light-coma-inducing motion sickness pills just in case. With the winds nearing skin-peeling force, it’s never a bad idea to issue stand-down orders to your stomach in advance. We set triple alarms for the following morning and slept like the sweaty dead.

When we awoke and snarfed down some meager snacks, penance for the lack of tipping the previous night, we made our now-confident way back to the dive shop. We geared up and carried what might turn us into scabbed crybabies to the entry point. You never want to duck-walk in fins over gravel mounds. The entry point was along a pier and very calm. We dove to 15ft before ever reaching pukeville.

The dive was clear and beautiful. If I wasn’t so afflicted with The Lazy, I’d pull stills from my GoPro and share them with you. Alas…

After we finished the dive, with Achebeyo deciding we didn’t need to be molecularly bonded the entire time underwater, we opted to clean up and head back into town to do two things: find an affordable place to eat, and discover the whereabouts of the elusive Piranha Jack t-shirt store. That day, we would only accomplish the former.

The place we chose to eat, after being repeatedly snubbed by a few touristy restaurants (our tipping fiasco must have been shared on the morning news), happened to be where all the locals were eating: a Nordic longhouse-style cafeteria. I sent Achebeyo off to find a seat while I stood in what I thought was the line to order food. A local soon informed me that I would need to actually place an order before standing in this line. It was fortunate he was kind enough to walk me to the ordering table, as it was buried in the middle of the rest of the tables full of happy diners. I finally ordered, paid and went back into the order placement line. After about 10-15 minutes, they took my ticket and told me to go sit among the multitudes of random faces and they would bring my food to me. I joined Achebeyo and three other friendly folks (one resident and his two visiting sisters). These people told us two fundamental facts: 1) we absolutely MUST visit Kleine Curaçao, and 2) if the cafeteria got our orders kind of right, it was as close as we would get. Fortunately for us, we got exactly what we ordered, and it was the best meal we had the entire time on the island…not to mention the cheapest.

The pontoon bridge of pontooniness.

It looks like a barge, but it handles like a skiff.

Ideas for tomorrow’s adventure burning in our brains, we wandered back across the pontoon bridge to our hotel and promptly booked the following day’s Kleine Curaçao trip. This deserted island is located 15 miles off of Curaçao’s eastern tip, and it promised to be more than simply a boat ride to a remote beach, if the shore shattering waves in the bay were any indication. Once again, we both took anti-puke-a-tron meds and sank like lead weights into sleep.

If you’ve ever been anywhere in the Caribbean (or any other island environment), you’ll know what I mean by IPT. For the uninitiated, that’s Island People’s Time. That means if you are supposed to be downstairs and ready to board the shuttle at 7am, they’ll be there at 7:45 to pick you up. I mean, I’m no stranger to The Lazy, but come on! We managed to make it to the boat in time to stand in line with all the other late-arriving passengers (otherwise known as “everyone”), and promptly made our way to the upper deck to stake our claim on…standing room only. This would actually prove to be a boon, as we’d be forced by location to stare at the horizon, instead of the bile-agitating floor of the boat’s top deck. Thus began what I like to call Puke Roulette.

On the ride out of the calm harbor, they gave us lengthy instructions in Dutch. The English version seemed like an afterthought, as the translator was on his first boat trip himself and tended to disappear below and return covered in cleansing sea water. The gist of what he told us was that if we needed external stomach-storage, he had the plastic bags. Looking around me, grinning ear to ear, I began to silently predict who would be having shouting matches with Ralph.

It was a long roller-coaster ride out to the island, and many people availed themselves of the bounty of plastic bags, including one Dutch gal whom I previously had money on making it all the way without showing her last meal. My upheaval-avoidance plan was two-fold: stare at the horizon when not predicting the yakkers, and laugh my tail off each time someone else sang the song of the stomach. You’d think karma would have visited me like a greasy avenger, but I must have banked up some cosmic favors, because I was happy and laughing the whole time. Achebeyo too, though she frequently accosted me for making her look at the technicolor contents of the plastic bags being handed forward.

We finally arrived at the island and endured a 20 minute speech IN DUTCH, extolling the virtues and explaining the dangers of the island. Once that was finished, with no translation, they began taking people to shore by Zodiac boat. I could have swam to shore with the other enthusiastic, impatient folks, but Achebeyo insisted that my life would be cut tragically short if I left her to carry all of our gear to shore on her own. I opted to live longer.

The beach of not-so-much solitude.

As the island had grown in our view from the boat, it looked like that flat patch of barren coral was flipping us the bird. Upon closer inspection, it was merely the island’s diminished manhood in the form of a lighthouse and two oddly placed outbuildings.

Eff you too, island.

We had befriended a lovely couple on the boat: he a heart surgeon living in Philly, and she a medical manager from Jamaica. We bonded over “breakfast”, a Dutch meal comprised of sandwiches and boiled eggs. The jokes shared were funny in context, but hard to relate here. For instance, “I’ve never found anything like that in my butt before, officer” doesn’t really play well out of context. Regardless, we truly enjoyed hanging out with these two, as well as the Dutch couple who’s female participant I had previously bet on not yakking on the boat. They asked to borrow our snorkel gear when we weren’t using it, and I was happy to oblige. Any chance to share one of my most favorite activities in the world.

Achebeyo and I explored the ruined lighthouse, conveniently placed in the middle of the island, and then moved on to view the results of such strategic placement.

Who needs accurate maps when you’ve got a lighthouse?

Apparently, most charts showed this island as having a lighthouse at the eastern tip of the island, instead of smack-dab in the center. Makes late-night navigation a bit…wrecky. We made our way back to the beach in time for lunch, then walked down to where we were told the turtles were out in force. We saw three.

After some snorkeling and solo exploration of the island, I was able to convince Achebeyo that my life would end tragically if I was not allowed to swim back out to the boat before everyone else made it back there, if for no other reason than to secure our previous places on the upper deck. She finally relented and I made my chubby-dolphin way underwater back to the boat…only to find others had the same idea before me. Luckily, none of them wanted to stand, so our spots were available. We eventually made it back to the cove and the buses that would deposit us where we started from that morning. We didn’t manage to get contact information from the Dutch couple, but the first couple we chatted with gave us a business card and email addresses to stay in touch…which I’ve been unable to find after unpacking.

The last day was spent in a dogged attempt to find the Piranha Jack place (a compelling logo is a compelling logo), and hanging out at the Infinity Pool at the hotel. It’s a second-floor “beach” that starts out like this…

2nd floor beach access.

shows more of itself the closer you get…

Still 2nd floor beach.

then reveals its secrets only when you risk your expensive camera by swimming to the ocean edge of the pool:

Dive off that ledge and you’ll eat delicious rocks.

It was a wonderful novelty beach, but it lacked the thrill of potential stingray and jellyfish encounters. We soaked up as much shaded sun as we could endure, then cleaned up and went to dinner one last time. I tipped graciously, seeing as how I won $22 on penny-slots at the hotel’s casino. What can I say? The hotel gave us free $5 gambling cards and we had nothing else to do. Achebeyo’s card lasted less than 5 minutes, but at least she didn’t lose her own $5. Oh, and I managed to find that darn Piranha Jack store and get the requisite t-shirt.

On the way back, I nearly lost it at Miami International airport when a bored mother decided to let the rest of the airport babysit her sugar-amped child while she buried herself in a magazine. This kid was racing around for hours, flinging saliva and noise everywhere he could, but I was the bad guy when I shooed him away from me and my bags. I can live with that.

We returned to a feline overlord with a urinary tract infection and jobs that seemed far busier than they were before we left. At least, that’s my excuse for not writing sooner. Will we go back to Curaçao? Probably not. Am I glad we went once? If for no other reason than travel-bragging rights, yes.


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