Sunday, February 27, 2011

Musical Stinkeye

Nothing makes me more likely to give somebody the stink eye than overhearing their mp3 player blast music at ridiculous volumes while I am riding the subway.

Now it’s not because I don’t like music. In fact I love music. I loooooooove music. It helps me write, it helps me think, it is fantastic. But that is my music. Not your music.

The longer I live (and subsequently the closer I come to being a crotchety old man) the more it seems people are listening to their music at absolutely intolerable levels.

It’s usually pretty easy to tell who it is too. It’s not the person grooving around and jiving in their seat. No, that person is just crazy. I’m fine with them.

The person blasting a concert into their noggin is the person who is completely still and facing straight ahead of them barely even acknowledging that there appears to be a live performance going on in their cochlea.

Logic says that if somebody is doing something that annoys you, you should say something. But I don’t use a logic based approach, I use a fear based one. And the fear based approach says don’t say anything because this person might stab you.

Even though it’s quite possible this level of volume is affecting many people not just myself. So why should I be the only one who gets stabbed? But then, if the person did stab everyone on the train, then I would probably be held responsible, and that’s just something my conscience can’t take.

But my desire to make it stop has actually been replaced by a different desire… to ask them if it bothers them.

Listening to music at that level can’t be enjoyable can it? Unless they are dead. And judging by the lack of movement that’s entirely possible.

Because I just honestly believe there isn't a need for 285 decibels of meringue music at 7:15 in the morning. But hey maybe I'm the crazy one. I want to say:

Excuse me sir, but you are going to go very deaf very quickly! For your own sake you should turn that down.

I mean it’s not that I don't enjoy hearing a tambourine from 50 feet away (honestly it’s great, thank you for that) its just, well, is it really necessary?

I can understand how people may not always want to listen to other people’s conversations or hear the sound of the train on the tracks. But its 2011, and while the train can be noisy, and at times, very screechy, there has got to be a better answer than hearing somebody rap so loud it makes my clavicle shake.

Sometimes I do want to hear music that loud. Maybe say, when I am dancing out the weeks frustrations at 2 am. But there is a huge difference between 2 am, and 7:15 am.

How come the person blasting their music is never listening to like... Beethoven or... a really hilarious comedian, or.... sounds of the enchanted rainforest.

No its always like, 'guy screams curse words outside an exploding car horn factory.' Just once, ONCE, I would like to hear a waterfall, ocean waves, hell I would settle for 'sounds from a leaky pipe' if just to get a bit of variety.

But knowing my luck I would probably get the guy who bought ‘dogs barking at nothing' because he misses his time growing up next to the pound.

Isn't music supposed to relax us? Frankly it seems like the people on the train who are listening to music are trying to get amped up for something.

But what? We are all trapped on this same tramped train for the next 45 minutes. We are not going to start moshing. There will be no tickle fights. What are you getting so excited for? Relax. RELAX DAMN IT.

The sheer volume and duration of exposure has to be harmful. I mean, it has to be causing brain damage... right? I mean in 5 years you almost are going to have to be stupid. I mean, I know you are in high school but by the time you get to college I have a feeling you won't be worrying about things like passing calculus you will be worrying about things like… how to zip up your pants. I can't imagine brain damage is going to be cool. I imagine these individuals saying things like:

Look how much times I can shut the door on my hand without cryings.

I have yet to mention the people who listen to music on speakerphone. They don’t even utilize their headphones. They must think to themselves:

Hey ya know what? I like bad music. I bet everyone else on this train does too!

And perhaps the worst of all are the people who don’t have headphones or even have a song to listen to. So instead of just engaging in something productive like thinking or drooling, they take the time to cycle through and test (aloud) every single frigging ring tone on their phone.

Seriously? I mean are you completely unaware of your impact on the universe. I surprised that you are not also walking around with a bag full of live squawking parrots while blowing a whistle.

I am sure you had a rough day madam. And that sampling all of the ringtones on your pink bedazzled phone that looks like it belongs to a cacophonous 14-year-old girl relaxes you. But ironically and amazingly it does not relax me. In fact it does very much the opposite. It makes me to rip the sparkles off of your phone one by one and then check your phone into the sea.

But hey maybe I just don't understand the future. I mean it’s quite obvious I don't understand the present. I can hear it though. That is for damn sure.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fiji - Staying There

Traveling with me is a bit like taking a very frail, weak stomached, gangly child out of the recovery room and into the world for the first time.

That is why packing my suitcase to visit an island on the other side of the earth entailed me filling my suitcase with the following items.

That is 2 bottles of SPF 50, 2 bottles of Bug Spray, a bottle of Aloe, a bottle of Pepto, a jar of gummy vitamins, travel toilet seat covers and toilet paper, individual Neosporin packets, and a box of Anti Diarrhea medicine.
Now you might be laughing thinking who would need such things?

Me. The answer is me.

After an amazing first stop in Los Angeles for a day, Lauren and I hopped on an overnight flight to Fiji. We landed at 5 am and hopped a bus to our boat, which would take us to our first resort.

Here’s a tip for all you folks out there. Some things are good in chewable form Dramamine is NOT one of them.


So anyway we travelled away from the mainland up past an island group called the Mamanucas up to the Yasawas. There were tiny islands everywhere you looked.

Some islands were only big enough to hold a palm tree; some were big enough to hold a mountain. And there were some that were just big enough to hold a hotel. It was like a perfect fit.

Now there are a lot of things I can tell you about Fiji. I can tell you how perfect it was. I can tell you that that the sun, sand, and ocean were so perfect I would regularly scream out curse words from my beach chair because it was so amazing. I can tell you that travelling by ferry between the dozens of islands of all shapes and sizes made me feel like a pirate explorer at sea, except for the fact that I didn’t have a peg leg, a parrot, or scurvy.

But after a while that would just get annoying. And plus the goal of this is not just to make you jealous (cough cough).

I would rather tell you about how my favorite part of the trip was getting to indulge in things I never get the opportunity to living in New York. Things like…

Doing Nothing.

When we first got there, we met an older gentleman named Jim who was semi retired. He told us that he spent half his year working in the states and half his year living in Fiji.

Internally I judged him. Wondering, how could somebody spend all his or her time doing nothing?

Well, I figured it out pretty quickly.

Every day we woke up when the sun came in our room, threw on our bathing suits and went down to an amazing breakfast of fresh fruit and omelets. Then we went down to the beach. When we heard the conch shell blow that meant it was time for lunch. We’d eat lunch, then go back and nap in our beach chairs. Or swim.  Or just lay in the ocean and float. (Not me personally, because apparently I can’t float) Or just sit in the sand.

When cake suddenly appeared on the bar, that meant it was 5 o’clock. When the sun went down, that meant it was time for dinner. And when mosquitoes bit you, which meant it was time for bed.

That was pretty much the schedule every single day. I was so disgustingly happy the entire time.

Some places you look at and think, oh wow, that place almost looks fake it’s so surreal. Fiji was the complete opposite. It was like I was a part of the landscape (and I honestly moved so little I pretty much was). But everything was so vivid, so real, to just incredibly beautiful. It was like being a part of the most beautiful painting.

But even though we were docile and relaxed the local wildlife was not. Like one night when Lauren was out on balcony of our hotel room and turned to me and said:

Are there monkeys in Fiji?

I felt a slight panic, as at the time both of our doors were wide open. And knowing monkeys’ penchant for leaping on to things, I fully expected to be drop kicked as a chimp came flying through our room.

But alas know it was just a gigantic bird the size of a monkey weighing down a branch. And I would have given no further though to it, had I not woken up in the middle of the night to birds screaming at each other over money they owed each other.

I’m guessing. I can’t imagine what else would require birds to scream like that at 2 in the morning.

The most terrifying experience though happened our first night in the second hotel. Listening to the breeze is a great way to fall asleep but in the dead of night I heard a sound that I immediately thought was the earth trying to swallow a cheetah.

It sounded like this first 10 seconds of this video.

I sat up in bed terrified. “What was that?” I asked. Lauren barely stirred, turned over and said:

Sea Cat.

Oh… cool.

Of course now that I was up, I had to go to the bathroom but was so freaked out from the Sea Cat that I thought one of our suitcases was a cat and almost peed myself.

But not all of the critters were terrifying, some were just hilarious, like the hermit crabs.

I had never seen so many in my life. They were everywhere, always moving, always with someplace to go.

On our last night at the Octopus Resort, we participated in International Crab Racing. Basically what happens is the staff collects 100 hermit crabs from the beach into a bucket, and then dumps that bucket out in the sand. Guests can then pick crabs to enter into the race. It costs like 3 bucks to enter a crab into the race.

Having known about this race the whole time we were there we studied many of the crabs on the beach. We even followed some of the quicker ones and considered training them to enter the race. But we quickly realized we’d have nowhere to keep said crab until the race started. So we just picked our crabs when everyone else did.

However, I made sure I got one of the quicker crabs out of the bucket. In fact, I got 2. They were quick sleek little crabs, and I liked their style. Lauren picked 1.

There are 3 heats. If your crab isn’t in the top group to make it through to the next round you can yell out bribe afterward, and for 3 more bucks you can send them into the next round.

The first heat happened and my 2 guys made it through, but Lauren’s didn’t.


The second heat happened and again, both of my guys made it through. Lauren’s didn’t.


Then it was the final round and in a nail biting finish my crab finished second place which meant we got 2 free drinks. Woohoo!

And that night was the peak of my physical excitement, exertion, and bliss. I’ve never been so excited to retire!

For a complete recap, check out this video!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fiji - Getting There

I am a big fan of the weather. I enjoy experiencing a wide assortment of elements throughout the year. I like the variety and the changing of the seasons. Granted when I was in Arizona and we had 330 days of sunshine... that wasn't bad either.

This winter in New York though is easily the snowiest I can ever remember. It seems like it has snowed every single week when usually it seems we don't get our first big snow storm until February.

And since I live and work a block away from a subway stop, and don't have a car, the fact that we have been virtually abused by snowfall hasn't made me that upset. Honestly the city is prettier under new fallen snow. Granted the nasty black tire slurpee the streets turn into after it snows is another story but hey, I try to see the good.

Usually New York winters get so brutally cold that your face freezes and the wind makes you angry. You find yourself walking up the street at a forty-five degree angle on a particularly blustery day screaming at the wind:

Stop it! Just stop damn it!

But when it snows it at least gives the cold purpose. Like that was its job, to produce cold. And it succeeded. Good job weather!

And I do love the snow. I think it’s beautiful and amazing. I revel in it. I stare at it. I soak it in. I take pictures of it. I think it is the coolest thing in the world… until I have to go somewhere.

As the vacation I had spent the last two months planning approached, I became more and more aware of just how panicked the weather can make you (and by you I mean me) when the country’s biggest snow storm and your two week trip to Fiji fall on the same day.

Let me back up.

I won a trip to Fiji last year for a video I made for the Fiji Water Air Pacific contest. Two round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Fiji.

And that's F-I-J-I ladies and gentlemen. Not FIGI as every single person I know seemed to be calling it.

So I had to first get the time off, find a travel buddy, and then actually book the trip, which was like trying to teach an otter to play the saxophone.

At least that’s how it felt.

Here's the abbreviated version:

I call the Fiji hotline 4 different times to check available dates (I didn’t trust the operators I spoke to).

I call Fiji to book my trip. They say call the main office.

I call the main office, they say I must call Fiji back and tell them to book it for me.

I call Fiji back, and the same dude says I must call the main office and go through them.

I say NO! You book it!

He books it.

I have to mail in my certificate proving I won. I do so. They don’t receive it.

Now I have to fax it.

And of course this is the one day of the year I am home sick from work with the winter plague.

At home, I don't have a fax machine. I don't have a scanner. I don't even have really good handwriting. So instead... I now have to schlep myself to the copy store like an idiot. I feel like salty death. Its raining and I am now wearing snow boots, ASU tear away pants, a sweatshirt, and an orange down vest. I look like I am on the starting five of the home depot polar basketball team.

Did I mention I feel like death?

I get to the copy store and essentially… buy a fax? Because that's what I am doing. So I buy one fax to send to the Fiji people to prove I am not some random idiot calling to pretend I won a contest to fly 97 thousand miles around the planet just so I can plant my pasty white ass in the sand. There are a lot of places much closer where I could do that!

Eventually the fax is received and the peasants rejoice. And even though this is a trip that I won, I still have to pay taxes on the tickets. So after the back and forth my credit card is charged for roughly the same amount as the Louisiana Purchase.

And then days before my trip, I read reports of cataclysmic rains attacking Australia and the warning of a CYCLONE heading for that region of the earth the same time I am due to arrive.

It is as this point that I realize I have no idea what the hell a cyclone is.

So I Google cyclone.

And then I Google “How to survive a cyclone” where I find my 2 favorite tips.

Protect yourself with rugs and blankets.

Never assume the cyclone is over.

Right, because I’m sure my jungle beach hut made out of grass in the middle of equatorial nowhere in the middle of the Pacific will have an abundance of “rugs and blankets.” I’m not packing those either.

And never assume the cyclone is over? So what am I supposed to do, just walk around the rest of my life hoping the cyclone is over but carrying a bag full of rugs and blankets just in case?

Hey Rich what’s with all the rugs and blankets?
Oh there was a cyclone 5 years ago, but I’m not sure it’s over yet.

Once I managed to finally wrap my head around that awesome bit of fear the snowstorm of the millennium hits, well, America.

With it comes snow and freezing rain so severe that news anchors are going outside and punching ice... to prove how icy it is.

I even saw a newscaster pointing out all the different kinds of ice. Ice in the snow. Ice in the trees. Ice on the sidewalk. It was like Dr. Seuss was doing the news. Hell it probably would have been better if Dr. Seuss did the news, I love it when things rhyme.

So I check my airline to see there are six flights to Los Angeles the day I leave. The first four have been cancelled before I even wake up. Mine is the sixth. And by the sheer will of the universe, I make it to the airport, onto my plane, and off to L.A with no issues.

And so began 10 of the most amazing days of my life.

To Be Continued…