Musings

The Queen is… Dead?

 Wow, the queen died. Who could’ve seen that one coming? Aside from everyone, of course.

It’s like that extra verse of Alanis Morisette’s song. A ninety-six year old woman died. Isn’t it ironic? Dontcha think?

And yet… 

I know I’m not the only person shocked by the news. I don’t know how many times I heard, and remarked myself, over the initial weekend, “Wow, I can’t believe the queen died.” 

Maybe shocked isn’t the right word. We’ve known it’s bound to happen. We tracked her reign against Queen Victoria, against Francis Joseph, against Rama IX. In the end she fell short of only King Louis XIV, the French besting the British in another round of a century-old rivalry. Then again, Louis was underage when his reign began. Sorry Frogs, regencies don’t count. Or I guess they do, according to Wikipedia. Maybe I should make one of those signs: Louis XIV is not MY longest-reigning European monarch.

And yet… We all thought she was going to hang around long enough to deliver the monarchy straight to William, didn’t we?

In our brains, we knew she couldn’t live forever, but she’s ALWAYS been queen. Sure, it’s called the United Kingdom, but it’s been a Queendom pretty much forever. Hell, if you add up Elizabeth’s and Victoria’s reigns, Britain’s had a queen at the head for 134 of the last 185 years. Not bad for a country that spent the entire sixteenth century obsessed with producing male heirs. Of course, they’ve updated their succession laws to allow female heirs. Right in time for a line of succession with three males at the top. Unless Princess Charlotte goes medieval, we probably just witnessed the last reigning queen of our lifetimes. 

More on that later. Trust me, if you’ve read my blog at all, you should know I’ll have some thoughts on Queen Elizabeth’s progeny.

Now that she’s gone, I have questions. Major, world-deciding questions:
1. Is the national anthem changing to “God Save the King?” Or are they now hoping He only protects Camilla? (Note: At the funeral today, I saw they did in fact change the lyrics. Not sure if Bernie Taupin was consulted)
2. Same question, but with James Bond. Is he now on His Majesty’s Secret Service? This feels even more sacrilegious than a minor thing like the national anthem. 

I thought maybe I could go back to the source to see if the James Bond’s work pronouns changed, but it was no use. Casino Royale, the first James Bond book, was published in 1953, one year after Elizabeth took the throne. Perhaps a first draft might provide an answer, but I found no reference. Did they have to change it after the book had been sent to editors?

Let’s dwell on that: Ian Fleming created the character based on his service in World War II. Fleming died in 1964, three years after a suave thirty-year-old, relatively unknown actor took over the role on the screen. That unknown actor went on to become a cultural icon, dubbed the “Sexiest Man Alive,” and was even knighted by the queen. He retired from acting twenty years ago and died in 2020.

My brother-in-law is British, so I thought maybe I could ask him what’s going to happen to the national anthem and James Bond, but he’s the same age as me, so it’s not like he’s ever learned a different set of lyrics. His mother was born in 1948, so she might not know either. 

That’s the weird thing about this one. When Pope John Paul II died, it was new and exciting for me, having been born in the mid-1970s, but older people had been through quite a few papal conclaves. John Paul I only lasted a few months, so they got to experience two in the same calendar year. Sure, they didn’t have 24-hour news networks with cameras trained on the smokestack in 1978, but the whole idea of a new pope was only shocking to those of us thirty and under. By contrast, nobody under the age of 75 remembers a different monarch.

By the way, electing a new pope is way better than ascending a new king. I was able to run a gambling pool on the new pope. Charles’s odds are at something like -1000000000.

But I’m not talking about Charles yet.

Americans allegedly were shocked when FDR died, wondering how anybody else could possibly run the country, and that dude had only been president for thirteen years. Soviets had a similar reaction when Stalin died after 25-30 years, depending on one’s definition of when Stalin was actually in charge. Then again, Stalin had systematically murdered most of the people who remembered life before he was around. He couldn’t quite master that whole “living to be almost 100” thing. 

Add together Stalin and FDR’s reigns and you’d still be missing almost half of Elizabeth’s reign. When people say they don’t remember any other ruler, they’re being literal. There aren’t a lot of people over the age of 75, American politics notwithstanding. Unlike Stalin, Elizabeth didn’t murder all the eighty-year-olds. That was Covid’s doing. Although if I’m to believe all the tweets about how genocidal she was, perhaps she’s the one who leaked the virus from the lab. Unfortunately, her primary target, a certain British noble born in 1948 named Charles, mustered up every ounce of his reptilian blood to avoid the virus.

There are plenty of tropes I’ve had in my back pocket for years that are now gone. Like why the hell does Canada have the queen on their money. Or pointing out the young Elizabeth when showing The King’s Speech. When teaching about James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England, it’s helpful to point out Prince Harry being farther down the line than his snot-nosed nephews.

And now there are two strikes against Naked Gun. O.J’s still alive, but the queen is dead. If you haven’t seen Reggie Jackson’s tweet, go look it up. Classic. Now if only they can solve the mystery of why the Angels were playing a game at Dodger Stadium in that movie.

While we’re mentioning former colonies, why the hell are we running the flags at half-staff in the United States? Didn’t we fight a little thing called the Revolution to avoid having to lower our flag when a monarch dies? Yeah, I’m writing a few thousand words about my shock, but that’s not the same as a directive from the government. Did we lower the flag when Betty White died? Because the two women occupied similar places in our zeitgeist, but last time I checked, Queen Elizabeth never made tawdry double entendres on the Match Game. Point: Betty White

Sure, some tropes still work. I can still put the side-by-side of Prince Harry and James Hewitt to discuss who the real father is. Speaking of Harry, how the hell did he become the beleaguered hero in this whole thing? Just because he married a woman who made him disown his family? That’s heroic these days? It seems nobody remembers him dressing up as a Nazi. That used to be my intro to The King’s Speech. When you’re the second son, nobody gives a shit about you. Some react with a deep-seeded inferiority complex. Others dress up as Nazis.

Okay fine, we’re talking about the family. I can’t believe the fucker went with King Charles III. For years, I was told he wouldn’t take that name. The first Charles was beheaded and the second was damn near run out of town because everybody hated his wife, who he cheated on incessantly. A little too on the nose, huh? The difference was that, after Oliver Cromwell, the people liked Charles II, so a little closet Catholicism wasn’t enough to change the king. They waited till his brother took over. 

A beefeater at the Tower of London once told me the British people’s real fear about Charles becoming king. Since he’d (allegedly) ruled out Charles, he could use any of his other names. He’s Charles Philip Arthur George, for those keeping track. Meaning he’ could ‘d likely go with George VII or Philip I, although they technically had a Philip when the Spanish king was married to Bloody Mary. He considered himself king on England, but the English didn’t.

Or he could’ve gone with that… other… name. For the past hundred years, they’ve given a lot of the royal princes the middle name of Arthur as an homage to that mythical leader, with the understanding that nobody would be obtuse enough to name themselves King Arthur. Then again, have you ever heard Prince (shit, King, I mean) Charles referred to as anything other than obtuse? Hell, he might as well have gone with his most well-known moniker and become King Tampon.

Which brings up another question. If a king eventually opts to take the reginal name King Arthur, would they be King Arthur I or King Arthur II? Technically there is no English monarch named Arthur on the historical register. 

Fortunately, Elizabeth lasted long enough to make it a complete joke for Charles to pick any name other than Charles. You can’t be Prince Charles for seventy fucking years just to be all, “LOL guys, call me Arthur now.” Hell, William’s only 40, but even if he became king tomorrow, could he really go with one of his other names? One of which is Louis, by the way. How would you like that, Mr. Sun King?

I wonder if we’re beyond the time when princes could take a new name when they become king. The last two new kings changed their names, but that was almost a century ago. I don’t know how “call me George now” would fly these days. Sure, they’ve always been celebrities, but we don’t interact with our celebrities the same way these days. The old kings didn’t have Twitter accounts. They were celebrities in the vein of Frank Sinatra, aloof and afar, not Miley Cyrus showing off her junk. The paparazzi didn’t follow Queen Victoria around, filling tabloids with pictures of her in a Nazi outfit.

Shit, George I didn’t even know a lick of English. Times have changed. The only people who want their figurative leaders incapable of communicating in the vernacular are Americans, who elected Bush, Trump, and (in California), Schwarzenegger. 

Hopefully we’ll get these answers soon enough. I don’t think Charles is up for a seventy-year reign of his own. I also don’t think the transition to William will be quite as somber. We might’ve just witnessed the end of an era in more ways than one. Not even sure the English people will care.

And I’m damn sure not gonna lower my American flag next time.

Great Wolf Bacchanal

I recently posted about my family trip to New York, then Boston. I glossed over the middle part, where we spent two nights, and a very full day in between, at the Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. There are many Great Wolf Lodges throughout this country, but this was the first one we ventured into. I assume many of them are similar. Once you find a business model where parents shovel money toward a bottomless pit for ten minutes worth of child engagement at a time, why bother switching it up? Just ask Disney.

The Great Wolf Lodges combine water slides and a ropes course, with an arcade and a scavenger hunt. Throw in a buffet and a Build-a-Bear with exclusive content, and it’s like a childhood Mardi Gras. You’re just as likely to send you home with rashes in uncomfortable spots. 

Water Slides

The thing they’re probably most known for is the ginormous water park smack dab in the middle of the hotel. Daughter’s finally to the point where we feel she can exit the pool after finishing a water slide. Still not sure I’d be comfortable with the types where they plunge her into the pool at the end, but if the slide comes out at the same level as the pool, such that her momentum is already heading toward the exit, she’ll be fine. Fortunately, a park that caters to five-to-ten-year-olds isn’t gonna have much of the former. In fact, the only slides that ended in anything other than a splash pad were tube rides. 

Not that getting out of an innertube is easy at my age. But the park ain’t catering to me. The only part of the parents’ bodies they give a shit about are our wallets.

While the wave pool and lazy river (more of a stream) are more meh than wow, the slides are legit. Two of them drop the entire four stories of the hotel. As a bonus, you don’t even have to lug the tube up to the top. They have a conveyor belt elevator for that. 

Unfortunately, you still gotta get your own ass up there. No conveyor belt for the humans. The look of pain and exhaustion on the adults at the top of this torture device spoke volumes. We all needed a breather and maybe a calf massage. 

Even worse, I wasn’t wearing my Fitbit. I must’ve missed out on fifty floors that day.

And now my kid wants to plummet all the way down and then hike right the fuck back up. Forget the massage, how about a margarita bar up here? They’ve got lifeguards down there who can get her out of the family tube that probably flipped over on her fifty pounds, and I’ll be waiting for her when she gets back up here. With a salt rim.  

Unfortunately, the booze is at the bottom, so I might as well ride down with her. 

I just gotta grab my gas mask first.

The chlorine level in the air is, after all, enough to kill any random waterborne or airborne pathogen. Or any stray boche soldiers out in No Man’s Land. 

Holy crap! 

Fortunately the waterslide area is closed off from the rest of the lodge, cause man, it hits you as soon as you open the door to the water park. The air is THICK with chemicals. But at least down by the chaise lounges, it’s technically indoors and climate controlled. The tubes, on the other hand, go outside, where you’re now ensconced in a thick plastic tube that’s baking in the sun, heating the chlorine inside into a substance that’s been banned since the Treaty of Versailles. 

Chemical weapons aren’t the only war crimes being committed in the water park. Their drink policy is also a Geneva Code violation. 

For lunch on Water Slide Day, we opted for the food stand instead of returning to Lodge Proper for a wedge salad. The “burgers” were meh, but the cheese curds were good. Then again, I’m not from Wisconsin, so I probably wouldn’t know the difference between a good or bad cheese curd. Are there really gradations of deep-fried dairy?

We also bought a round of drinks, each of which was a maybe 10 oz. cup to access one of those “add your own flavor” Coke machines are growing ubiquitous. Heck, we even have a movie theater nearby that uses them, which is saying a lot, because movie theaters usually don’t let you pour your own drinks lest you break their golden ratio of nine parts ice to one part soda. I usually love these machines, because Coke Zero tastes a hell of a lot better with a bit o’ raspberry and lime, something I never would’ve guessed four years ago.

This particular drink machine seemed defective at first. It kept telling us we were using the wrong cup, which I wouldn’t think is something a non-sentient machine can determine. The employee exchanged our cups and then it worked fine. Although it still oddly had different fruit flavors available or unavailable for different drinks. For instance, raspberry ginger ale was shadowed as “temporarily out,” but raspberry Coke Zero was available. Isn’t it the same flavored syrup being added to either drink?

But that was nothing compared to what happened when I went up for a refill. I got maybe two ounces in the bottom of the cup before I got a similar error message about the wrong cup. But this message was slightly different, in that it acknowledged the cup was correct but it had already been used. Holy shit! They’re tracking refills now? And even worse, they’re not giving you ANY! Because what was in the bottom of my cup was pretty much what was missing from the top of the last one after you account for bubbles subsiding. 

Then there’s the unsettling addendum to this thought: my first cup had already been used. By someone else. Not sure if there’s enough chlorine to wash that taste out of my brain. Good thing I can go to the bar. At least I know ahead of time I’ll have to pay for my second glass of beer. And, again, it’s a glass that’s SUPPOSED to be reusable.

I ended up having that wedge salad for dinner. It was pretty disappointing for a wedge salad. They chopped up the wedge. It’s supposed to be a ginormous wedge. Hence the name. And if I had to guess, they used ranch over bleu cheese crumbles instead of actual bleu cheese dressing. And that was in the “restaurant” portion, not the snack bar or buffet portion. We had buffet for breakfast the next morning, finishing the hat trick of disappointment. 

Not overly surprising for a place that caters to kids. In keeping with that theme, the Dunkin’ Donuts was meh. I’ve tried Dunkin’ on many occasions, and I don’t think I can ever get more than a meh out of it. Not really sure the appeal. I’ll take Starbucks any day over bitter coffee and mediocre donuts.

MagiQuest and the Rest

Food aside, the Great Wolf Lodge experience was solid. Daughter wants to climb any and everything she comes across these days. It must be a thing for kids her age, because the Lodge was prepared with both a rock climbing wall and ropes course. I figured she’d only want to do the rock climbing wall once, so I was going to buy her an unlimited on the ropes with one or two runs on the rock wall, when they told me that if I bought unlimited on both, it was only an extra four dollars. Why the hell not? I wonder if it’s always four dollars more than whatever it is you’re about to buy.

Hey, give me a beer for $10. 

How about a beer with unlimited rock climbs for $14?

Sold!

Those courses were nice because I didn’t have to follow her around. And, legitimately, there’s a beer barn and tables right there. I can look up into the air and give Daughter a thumbs up that she thinks is because she made it across the rope bridge, but in reality is my signal for one more blueberry ale. 

Unfortunately, the game that occupied most of her time required a tad more movement from the parentage. In a direction away from the beer. At least at first.

Magiquest is a scavenger hunt of the entire property. Kids are given a laser tag magic wand that, when aimed at various places around the resort, causes them to light up or animate or say something. Treasure chests that open up, paintings on the wall that change when activated, random stars in the ceiling that you don’t even notice until they light up. At first it’s unnerving when you’re just walking around the resort only to hear random sparkling with an ethereal, “You’ve already completed this task.”

There are maybe thirty total targets throughout the resort. Some of them give you virtual gold pieces, many are used in different quests as the player “levels up.” The first quests were for the fairy princess, then the goblin king, and finally the dragon. While the princess missions only required Daughter to pick up three “items” (at completely opposite ends of the resort), by the time she was constructing her weapons to defeat the dragon, each quest took six or seven steps. And to defeat the dragon, you have to make four or five of these weapons. But by then, Daughter knew precisely where to go. The “portal” (basically a mounted Android tablet) showed her a crown and a rose and a star, and she’s off running around the hotel because she knows precisely where the crown, rose, and star are. All on opposite ends of the place. 

Even better, Wife and I could just sit there as she ran back and forth, checking in with us to excitedly tell us how close she was to the dragon. 

Did I mention there was a brewery? I call that a win. 

I’ll even overlook the whole war crimes thing.

But not the one drink policy.

New York with Family, the Personal Stuff

A few weeks ago, we took my eight-year-old daughter to New York for a trip originally planned before the pandemic. In my last post, I wrote about the touristy stuff we did, like Statue of Liberty and Coney Island. This post will delve more into the personal things, the people and oddities we encountered that you won’t exactly be able to book through a travel agent.

Concert Upgrade

While in New York and Boston, we did two concerts and a Broadway show. The show was Aladdin, which was neither great nor terrible. There isn’t much chance for surprise from a show that follows a 30-year-old movie beat by beat. Unlike the Frozen musical, which adds a song, “Hygge,” that might be better than any in the original movie, the only songs worth knowing in Aladdin are all from the movie. The magic carpet ride, however, was pretty fucking cool. Daughter was mostly “meh” throughout the first act, but when everything went dark and the carpet took off, she couldn’t lean forward enough.

The second concert we went to was Lake Street Dive in Boston. I’ll review it in my normal year-end post. Normal as in “every year up until 2019.” Pretty sure that’s the dictionary definition now. Normal (adj): occurring regularly prior to 2020.” We also spent a few days at the Great Wolf Lodge, an experience which will get its own addendum after I post these two New York writings, because I’ve got a LOT to say about that juvenile bacchanal. 

But the first concert we saw was Billy Joel, performing his 80th “straight” show in his Madison Square Garde “residency.” I don’t know how it qualifies as a residency if it’s only one show a month. I also question the designation of “80 straight,” for which they raised a banner to the rafters next to those of the Knicks and Rangers. After all, we originally had tickets for a Billy Joel concert at the Garden in June, 2020 that didn’t happen. Perhaps “residency with 80 straight concerts” is just a fancy way for Billy Joel to say, “I ain’t coming to your town, you’ve got to come to mine.”Not that I’m knocking it. If I could just roll out of bed once a month for my job, sign me up. On second thought, Billy Joel is over 70. I sure as shit hope I’m not still teaching then, even if it’s only once a month.

Billy Joel is known for giving away his front row seats. He got tired of looking into the audience and only seeing super richies who didn’t give a shit about the concert. Next time you watch a baseball game, check out how many people behind home plate aren’t watching the game. So Billy Joel sends his band members and/or security out into the crowds before the concert starts and hands out front row upgrades. That way, not only does he get a “real fan” who was willing to see him from a half-mile away, but he also gets a real fan who is super excited to no longer be seeing him from a half-mile away.

Evidently, now that it’s a well known practice, many fans go to the shows looking for the undercover ticket people. Then they loudly talk about how excited they are to have these Row ZZZ tickets to see their FAVORITE artist of ALL TIME. With signs to boot.

I was not one of those people. I was just a dumbass tourist trying to figure out how to get up to the nosebleeds of an arena I’d never been in before. We were supposed to be on the fourth floor (which, oddly, is beneath the third floor) behind the stage. The fourth floor, or I suppose I should call it the 400s section, only exists in one area of the arena, only accessible by one set of stairs. It isn’t by any arena entrance and isn’t referenced on many of the signs showing people where to go to find their more plentiful sections. 

“I think we’re up here,” I said to my family when we found a random staircase in the general section of the arena where I thought our seats were. I’m still not entirely sure the staircase was marked with the sections it led to.

I’m not entirely sure what the guy in the suit first said as Daughter barreled past him. It was something along the lines of “Why are you going up there?” Although it might’ve been more directed, like “You don’t wanna go up there” or “That’s the wrong direction.”

Still completely obtuse, I responded something like, “We’re in section 413,” showing him my phone.

“No, you don’t want those seats. Do you want to sit somewhere closer? “

At this point, I’m thinking the guy is trying to swindle us. Been to far too many ballgames where the “I need tickets” guy is 50 yards away from the “I’ve got tickets” guy. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I slowly realized that, wait a second, we’re already inside the arena. Not the smartest place to engage in ticket scalping when all your customers already have tickets. Like the T-Rex at the Natural History Museum waking up from a nap in the tar pits,  I remember we are at a Billy Joel concert, and Billy Joel is famous for…

Fortunately, Wife was much quicker in the uptake. “We’d love better seats. We came all the way from California and it’s her-,” puts hands on Daughter’s head,  “first concert. She loves Billy Joel.”

(Never mind that Daughter’s way more excited about Lake Street Dive in a couple of days and, while she does know most of his songs, is mainly just tagging along for this leg of the journey.)

“Are you okay with her being in the floor?” the guy asks. 

Are you fucking kidding me? Of fucking course she’s fine sitting on the fucking floor and if she isn’t, then she best be shutting the fuck up about it right the fuck now. We paid $100 for these tickets and were about to be sitting in $1000 seats. 

Remember that whole thing about wanting excited fans in the front row? I think my last comment is what he’s going for. 

Of course, once we had the tickets, we had no fucking clue where to go. We returned to the spot at the bottom of the stairs to ask the guy, but he was gone. They’ve got to keep moving. As soon as attendees see other random attendees being handed tickets, the swarm is on. After our exchange, we heard other people muttering, “No, it’s usually a lady, but this time it’s a guy in a suit. Look for a guy in a black suit.”

Eventually, three elevators and four or five confused ushers (“Those are floor seats. What are you doing up here in the nose bleeds?”), we finally made our way to the floor. The last usher knew the score. “Hey, you’ve been upgraded!” 

So anyway, on the left is a picture of where our original seats were. Third row, right above the Bud Light sign. The picture on the right is the view from our actual seats. Not bad for $110 on the secondary market, huh?

In the past, Billy Joel was criticized for having hot women in the front row. He explained that he gave the tickets to his band members and roadies to hand out to whoever they thought would be good for the front row and, well, guess who they want looking back at them? Not a couple approaching their fifties with an eight-year-old who kinda sorta knows some of the songs. 

I assume Billy Joel has adjusted who gets to hand out tickets, and presumably now that he’s playing the same spot every month, he’s switching up who hands out the goods. That’s why the other fans expected a woman. And clearly the guy who gave us the tickets wasn’t going to be staring into our bosoms for the whole concert. Billy Joel now has a daughter close to my daughter’s age, so maybe there are general instructions to find families with kids. Or maybe it’s just to look for the numbnuts who clearly have no idea what they’re doing. That fit us to a T. 

Either way, Daughter’s has a lifetime of concert disappointment in front of her after getting front row at Madison Square Garden for her first.

Hotel Bathroom

I’ve got to save a few column inches to discuss the bathroom at our hotel. Not that I have any clue what the fuck was going on in said bathroom. I assume it had something to do with New York being visited by many Europeans, so maybe it’s what happens when you translate bathroom into metric? I know it fucked up the Hubble Telescope. And I might’ve been able to see alien galaxies with the contraptions in there, if only I could figure out how to use them.

First up was Toilet 2.0. What’s that? You didn’t think toilets could grow sentient? 

Of course, it had a bidet. That’s to be expected if you cater to foreigners. I’ve dealt with them before, and by “dealt with them,” I mean I’ve largely ignored them because, thankfully I’ve never used a toilet that was bidet only, like many bathrooms give you no paper towel option, only air dryers. How did Covid not do away with those germ spreaders? Every person leaving a dryer-only bathroom is still shaking water from their hands. 

While I didn’t use this bidet, I did at least take note of it. It’s got your normal settings for back wash and front wash. The person requesting the front wash looks suspiciously female, which would seem to be a no-no these days. There’s also an option for soft or hard, which makes sense on the back end. Some visits require more aftermath, if you know what I mean. Although I don’t know how a bidet user knows which visit is which. I usually need to check the damage on the TP to know how the rest of the visit will go.

What strikes me most about this bidet is that you can program in two user profiles. What is there to do beyond front or back, hard or soft? I’m trying to think of the person who has a specific bidet method that requires a complex procession and progression through the four options, such that they must save the profile. Add to that the fact that this is a hotel, so you’re really only using this bidet for a few days. And he’s probably still wiping when he’s out and about. Oh, and he’s got someone else in this very hotel room that needs their own super secret, super special progression of H2O up the Wazoo.

More unusual than the programmable bidet, however, was that it appeared to be a self-cleaning toilet. Not in the manner of a self-cleaning oven or coffee maker, where you can set it to a cycle. More like a Hal-9000, Terminator gaining sentience style of self-cleaning. Every time one of us walked in the room, we would hear the water running. Not like a full flush or anything, but a trickle of water, a sprinkling, like a pre-lubrication of the bowl. 

At first we worried that it would run all night, but it seemed tied to movement. It ran even if we kept the light off. So now my toilet is taking notes of how often I’m visiting. Should I expect an introductory email from my friendly neighborhood proctologist by the time I return home? 

Oh yeah, and the seat was warm. At first I thought I was imaging it, but Wife and Daughter confirmed. It was like the car seat warmers, except that those can be turned on and off. The toilet seat was on ALL the time. Sometimes when I’m back from walking Central Park on a muggy June day in New York, I might want to deposit funds in the porcelain bank without scalding my sack.

Considering the damn thing had AI and enough energy to power a nuclear power plant, it isn’t surprising that this toilet came with an extensive list of rules and regulations, a standard list of dos and don’ts to avoid liability when it leaves the hotel room to kill Sarah Connor. 

The list took up the entire inside of the lid, and while I didn’t read all the terms and conditions before accepting (I had to pee, after all), I noted the first warning, which was “Don’t get water inside.” Um… it’s s toilet. Do… do they not know how toilets work? It takes some water to help alleviate the skid marks. Because even after an overnight of self cleaning, they were still noticeable. 

Next to the toilet was a shower that had not two, nor three, but FOUR shower heads. None of which were a standard shower head.  First up was a hand held wand, like an old game show microphone with the water coming out the sides. Then you had the overhead waterfall spigot. We’ve got one in our house and I don’t fucking get it. Who the hell wants the water to be dumping down on them from above? Such that,  if any of your skin gets merely a splash of water,  your entire body is also drenched. How does one lather up or apply shampoo?

The final two shower heads were in the wall, one about chest height and the other at my thigh. They were adjustable to a point, but their sprays were still only able to make it up to my chin and waist, respectively. The spray also maxed out maybe two feet from the wall, with a force equivalent to a water fountain. Not enough to rinse off my armpits or undercarriage, two spots I also couldn’t hit from the overhead. And the microphone came out with too much force for the giblets. 

There was only one handle to control all four spigots. Turn it a little bit and you’ll have both microphone and wall. Go too far and you’ll cycle back around to the waterfall. Another handle controlled the temperature, but it didn’t matter, because all four started out frigid. 

By day three I figured out how to conduct a masterpiece like I was a few blocks over at Carnegie Hall. Use the wall to get wet, use the microphone to rinse off. Try not to teabag the wall. Turn the microphone on to wet the hair, then off while I shampoo, then back on to rinse. Avoid the third rail of the waterfall faucet at all costs. 

Do I get a doctorate at Columbia for figuring all that out? 

Random Thoughts

1. Daughter doesn’t know what cigarettes are. Not sure if this is a sign that we’ve parented well or poorly. Maybe it says more about the times. She thinks she knows what cigarettes are, but what she’s actually smelling is marijuana. She doesn’t like the smell, and she doesn’t encounter it often, but now that I think of it, she probably encounters it a hell of a lot more often than cigarettes. I mean, who smokes tobacco anymore? Anyway, whenever she smelled weed (and trust me, it’s all over the place in New York, and that’s coming from a California guy), she’d plug her nose and whine, “Ugh, really? Why do people have to smoke cigarettes here, too?” I’ll be curious to see what she calls it if she ever smells a legitimate cigarette.

2. On our first day in New York, after checking into the 44th floor of our hotel, Daughter looked out the window at the 57th Street abomination. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but it looks like a damn pole. It only takes up maybe 100 feet by 100 feet of real estate, but then shoots up 90-odd floors. The top floors aren’t finished yet and are currently on the market for $180 million. What a bargain. Anyway, when she saw it, she asked, “Is that a skyscraper? I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen one.” Bear in mind she’s visited her aunt in San Francisco no fewer than twenty times. And did I mention we were on the 44th floor of our own hotel? Not sure what them kids are calling skyscrapers these days. 

3. She ended up being fine with the subway, but her only complaint was that it should be more like Disneyland. Shouldn’t everything? But what she was specifically looking for was the part of the Disneyland train where you go through the dinosaurs and Native American lands. I mean, what good is an underground train system that transports you miles closer to where you need to go for three dollars if it doesn’t also have some racist animatronics?

4. In my whole trip, three people jumped out at me that I needed to note. First was the lady wearing her Miller High Life t-shirt to see Aladdin. Look, I know it’s a show for kids and all, but it is a Broadway theater. She couldn’t upgraded to her nice MGD shirt? Second was the dude wearing a “Don’t California My Texas” t-shirt. At the Statue of Liberty. In New York, which is neither Texas nor California and probably doesn’t want us apply either of the latter two locations to their former. 

Third was the guitar dude at the Imagine mosaic in Central Park near the Dakota building where Lennon lived and was shot. Seems it used to be a quiet, contemplative spot, but the last two times I’ve been, it’s a spot for selfies and self-important douchebags who bust out their accoustics for poor renditions of Beatles songs that nobody requested, as if two of them being dead wasn’t bad enough. Anyway, when we walked by this time, Dude was playing “Get Back,” which… um… is a Paul McCartney song? Under normal circumstances I might not critique a guy for not knowing that John had nothing to do with the writing or performance of that song, but Peter Jackson just made a nine-hour documentary, that anybody with the audacity to think they deserve to play their own instrument at a John Lennon memorial ought to have seen, which showed “Get Back” being created from scratch while John was still sleeping off a heroin hangover. 

5. Last time I was in New York, I made sure to have pizza from Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in America. This time I added a few more iconic food items: cheesecake from Junior’s and a hot dog from Nathan’s. I mistakenly thought Junior’s was the cheesecake referenced in Guys and Dolls, but apparently that’s Lindy’s, which has closed. Good thing, too, because the cheesecake was just kinda meh. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it didn’t have much flavor to it. It was sweeter than I expected, more cream than cheese. I’ve had plenty of better cheesecakes in my life.

The Nathan’s, on the other hand, was solid. I’ve had a ton of Nathan’s dogs at various establishments, but the ones at the original location are different. They grill the buns, which the ones in the mall don’t. They also seem longer and thinner than the ones you find in the store, and the griddling (not boiling or grilling) is uniform and thorough. My only regret was standing in the long line with the people who wanted burgers or who knew they served clams, before I realized there was a hot dog express lane where I could’ve got my dog and fries twenty minutes earlier.

6. I don’t mean to criticize these photo op guys in Times Square, but…
*Hulk needs to work out a bit. You wouldn’t like me when I get a beer belly.
*Spiderman, a secret identity does no good if you stand around with your mask off the whole time.
*Grodd is a DC property, not a Marvel property. Shouldn’t be hanging out with Avengers. Oh wait, is that supposed to be King Kong? Dude, he doesn’t even HAVE a comic book title.

7. I only found one sign to add to my collection. If you’ve followed my other travelbolg posts, you know I love signs that are a little too cutesy or on-the-nose. The sign on this particular trip that amused me was neither of those. In fact, the only thing I enjoyed about it was a missing letter. 

Sure, I know it’s really just a room. But am I alone in thinking a luggage storage ‘roo would be much better? I mean, it already has a pouch. And then when I’m finally able to get in my room, it can just hop them up there for me instead of making me do the schlepping my own shit after hours of walking around Central Park after minimal sleep on a red-eye. Imagine my disappointment when it was only a closet manned by a human being. I guess I’ll swap the tip for a smaller bill.

I probably need to visit Sydney to find an actual Luggage Storage ‘Roo.

New York with Family, Touristy Edition

Back in February of 2020, we had a summer trip booked to New York with Daughter. She was really into Billy Joel Radio at the time, and it seemed like all the good movies and video games take place there. Heck, she was playing (or trying to play) Marvel Lego Super Heroes, where Magneto literally makes the Statue of Liberty walk off her pedestal and attack the Lego heroes. Not sure how that works with said statue having no actual legs. But other that that minor squabble, the physics of a Lego video game are entirely spot on.

Somehow that vacation fell apart. Can’t put my finger on it. Did anything major happen in March or 2020?

Regardless, we finally decided that two years was long enough a wait. Billy Joel wasn’t getting any younger, there was a new favorite band playing the same weekend as him, and the time share was going to keep charging us “maintenance” fees whether we used the room or not. 

So in June of 2022, we finally made our 2020 trip to New York. I’ll break this into a couple of posts, one about the generic New York kinda touristy stuff, and then a second one about some of the experiences more personal to us. 

Masks

No true Travelblog this decade is complete without an update on when and where, and under which conditions, we must mask and/or show proof of vaccination and/or bend over and have a random stranger shove something up our ass. 

Wait, that last one isn’t a Covid precaution? Damn, I want my money back from that dude in the trench coat.

Most of New York is mask-free these days, with some notable exceptions. JFK Airport required masks, even though the planes didn’t anymore, so as we landed, the flight attendants told us to put our masks on before leaving the plane. Would’ve been a nice thing for them to tell us before we checked our baggage.  Fortunately I had one in my carry-on because we connected through Seattle, which I figured was second on the list of places most likely to still impose masks. Turns out we only needed the mask to get off the plane. Once in the terminal, many people weren’t wearing masks and nobody bothered to enforce it. And I’m not talking pulled down in chin diaper fashion, I mean no sign of cloth anywhere near their face. The situation was similar in the subways. Masks are required, but only about fifty percent complied and nobody gave a shit. 

Where we had to mask the longest was the American Museum of Natural History. We went there on our first day, before we were even able to check into our hotel and shower. So the other people in the museum were probably happy to be wearing masks. The museum was one of the first places on our go-to list because we’d made Daughter watch the Night at the Museum movies as prep, so she was jazzed to go. Her favorite movie was the sequel, which took place at the Smithsonian, but she still couldn’t wait to see the statue of President Robin Williams. Unfortunately, the one on horseback has been removed because it had Native Americans in it. I was also worried she wouldn’t be able to find Sacajawea, who features prominently in the movies., but we finally found her tucked away in the back of the fourth floor. Unfortunately, no Egyptian pharaoh or magical tablet that brings them all to life. Daughter was pissed.

We also had to wear a mask en route to the Statue of Liberty, but only for the one airport-style security room. Then the masks came back off. I think we had to wear them in the Statue of Liberty museum, as well. Because, you know, liberty! Ironically, the one other place where we were harangued about wearing a mask was the Hamilton store. Similar to the Statue, Hamilton is an endearing symbol of standing up to an arbitrary, overreaching government…

After New York, we went on to Boston, where masks were less mandated but more prominent. Imagine that, people wearing masks only out of concern for their fellow humans. Almost as if, with freedom and liberty ought to also come respect and responsibility. Ha ha, jk. This is ‘Murica, where freedom means I don’t gotta do shit while everybody else needs to kowtow to whatever made up offense I’m feigning this week.

Taxi in from Airport

Last time in New York, when it was just we adults, we took the subway in from JFK. Easy enough. But arriving after a red-eye from the west coast during morning commute, with an eight-year-old not accustomed to mass transit, we figured we’d splurge for a taxi. It was the first of many “We haven’t vacayed in three years” splurges over the next six days.

In retrospect, maybe not the best decision from a timing perspective. Holy crap, that morning commute is brutal. I thought nobody drove in New York? Those streets and freeways (sorry, “turnpikes,” cause they ain’t free) were bumper to bumper! It took us well over an hour to get to midtown from JFK. It was a half hour before we realized that the tiny windows on the side of the minivan/prison-transport hybrid could open. That was a blessing, because it’d been 24 hours since we showered and the Plexiglass partition was making the environment moist.

At first I thought a $52 fixed fare seemed a bit steep, but it ended up a blessing. If we paid normal taxi “idling time” surcharges, it would’ve been in the triple digits. A few days later, I checked Uber to Coney Island, which is a little bit farther than the airport, and it would’ve been $80. Plus that wasn’t during morning commute, which I’m guessing would’ve been prime surge time. So yeah, $52 was a screaming deal. 

We did get two “congestion charges” of $2.50 each, added at the thirty and sixty minute marks. Plus a six dollar charge going through one of the tunnels. But how often do you ride in a taxi for over an hour and add less than $10 to the fare?

I kinda felt bad for the driver. Sure, we tipped him 20%, but that still only came out to $16, which might not even be minimum wage in New York City. Hopefully he hung around Manhattan and picked up a bunch of $20 fares in rapid succession. 

Next time I’ll splurge the $3 for a subway ride and all those commuters can just deal with my luggage. 

Statue of Liberty

When I went to New York with Wife in 2018, we intentionally skipped some of the more kid-friendly attractions, like Coney Island and the Statue of Liberty, in favor of stuff like the 9/11 Memorial and Avenue Q, figuring we’d be bringing Daughter back with us at some point. So this time we did all the stuff that she’ll roll her eyes at when she’s a teenager. 

I did the Statue once on my first trip to New York in the 1990s. Back then you could go up into the crown, which I did. When my mom first visited in the 1950s, you could still go up to the torch. Now you can’t do either. Turns out the Statue of Liberty is a great metaphor for the lives and restrictions of Boomers vs. Gen X vs. Gen Z, or whatever the hell they’ll call Daughter’s generation. Can’t wait to have my grandkids on my knee some day, while looking at the Statue from the boat, the closest we’re able to get by that time, regaling them with stories about lawn darts.

Allegedly they’re going to bring back crown access at some point, but I can’t find reasoning for shutting down in the first place. It doesn’t seem to be a Covid restriction, since you’re still allowed in the pedestal which necessitates many people in small confines. I don’t think it’s a remnant of 9/11, per se, but I think since then, they’re looking for any and every excuse to shut it down. They’re doing some construction refurbishment on the former military fort under the pedestal. Maybe that’s their excuse. Although, again, pedestal access would be just as damage to the base as going to the crown. Then again, they’re also drastically limiting pedestal access – it was sold out for all three days we were there. That’s what happens when it only costs thirty cents more than regular ol’ island access.

At least we took the correct ferry. We almost got duped into the “Liberty Cruise” from one of those hop-on/hop-off busses. The wording is very questionable, claiming to be the only bus tour with “close up” views of the Statue. Complete with a “live audio tour.” And a “Statue Selfie Spot.” Good thing yours truly considers himself well versed in the English language. I became skeptical that the boat tour started over near the Brooklyn Bridge, not Battery Park, and if you look closely at the map, it doesn’t actually dock at the island. Once I saw how the dock is actually run, there’s no way they could have more than one operating companies. We were on the bus when a whole bunch of excited people got off to go “see the Statue.” Totally wish I could’ve been on the bus that collects a bunch of pissed off patrons afterward.

If we wanted a “close up” look, we also could’ve taken a helicopter. Not that I saw any advertisements for that. They don’t cater to the TKTS crowd. But I saw a heck of a lot of them flying around. Many of them were black, a detail I might not have noticed with my vision topping out at about ten yards. But Daughter noticed. “Look, it’s another black helicopter. There sure are a lot of black helicopters flying around the Statue.” 

Of course there are. The real question is: government? Or aliens?

Turns out there’s an even better way to get up close. Walking around the island is kinda groovy. 

The Statue is, who woulda guessed it, majestic and beautiful. I don’t think I bothered to look up in awe much back when my primary goal was to climb upher insides. Probably a metaphor for a lot of my twenties. But when you’re staring out from the crown, all you’re see is Manhattan, a view you can find from many locations. Including a “Liberty Cruise.” But this shot can only be found in one spot:

The audio tour has some great info, too. Sure, a lot of it I already knew because I’ve taught U.S. History many times. So I only yawned while Wife and Daughter were fascinated about Pulitzer’s fundraising drive and Gustave Eiffel building the superstructure ten years before he repeated the process with a minor tower in Paris you’ve probably never heard of.

But all the scientific and construction stuff was news to me. Turns out the outer “skin” of copper is only the thickness of two pennies. The individual sheets could be bent to conform to Eiffel’s structure. If you look close enough, you can see the seams between one plate and the next. Impressive, to be sure, but all I could think is that’s an awful lot of coaxial cable. I mean, aren’t people stealing catalytic converters for a couple ounces of copper? Liberty’s got 62,000 pounds!

I’m envisioning a heist story. Kinda like Die Hard, the assumption will be that the criminals are storming the Statue for terrorism reasons, but the twist will be that they’re just trying to take off her dress. And face.

I think I just figured out why they won’t let us in the crown anymore. Bring a file and you can buy your own Liberty Cruise.

Coney Island

The other child-friendly locale we skipped last time was Coney Island. Or I guess we didn’t “skip” it, so much as didn’t give it much of a thought. We “skipped” the Empire State Building, meaning we went past it, discussed going in, but decided to move on. If you aren’t partaking in Coney Island, being an hour-plus trip on the subway, it’s easier to just ignore it.

I assumed Coney Island would be kinda sleepy, kinda sleazy. And yeah… As long as you’re expectation is a bastardized love-child of a Six Flags and a county fair, you’ll be fine. Honestly, the midway was fun. The rides were fine. The only thing that this SoCal-raised guy found truly beneath me was what they passed off as a beach. So maybe they should just move it to the Upper East Side.

The rides were expensive, but that’s to be expected when it isn’t one-ticket-for-all access. Most of the rides worth riding were in the eight to ten dollar range, depending on what bulk you bought the tickets. Considering the rides last, on average, a quarter to a third of the time a Disneyland ride lasts, it doesn’t take long for the trip to cost in the Disneyland range. I think Daughter and I rode six rides each, so that’s over $100.

It was only supposed to be five rides each, but we got duped into the “Liberty Cruise” scam of Coney Island. There are two companies that run the amusement parks, but they own random lots that aren’t always adjacent. So you’re in Luna Park, but to get to another Luna ride, you have to walk through Deno’s, where you’ll have to buy a different ticket card. Overall. we did a pretty good job of purchasing tickets a la carte (a.k.a. more expensively), for specific rides we could see nearby, to make sure we didn’t waste money. 

Until we didn’t.

One of the biggest rides, viewable from blocks away and one of the first you see when exiting the subway, is called the Thunderbolt. It goes straight up, then straight down. Sign me up. It’s a Luna Park property, although there’s nothing on the ride that designates it as such. Nor was it referenced at the other Luna Park a few blocks away, where we rode a painful ride that lays you down flat and then cracks your back more than a chiropractor, but not as therapeutic. Reminds me of the signs I saw at a water slide. Don’t go on if you have back or neck problems. What do you mean? I’m using this water slide to FIX my back and neck problems.

Deno’s also has a ride called the Thunderbolt. Not that I rode it. I don’t even know if I saw it. I only know they have a Thunderbolt because the sign with ticket prices, in plain view of the legit Thunderbolt, said that the I could buy ten tickets to ride the Thunderbolt. A block away, when the Thunderbolt employee told me my tickets wouldn’t work, I explained where I bought them and they said, “Yeah, that happens a lot.” Kinda weird in a city renowned for an overly aggressive government that likes to regulate what size soda you can get. 

We didn’t go to the Freak Show. I didn’t even notice it until we were on our way back to the subway. That’s another thing I’m surprised is still allowed in twenty-first century NYC. You can’t call her a bearded woman anymore, she’s a bearded birthing human. Unless she can’t give birth. And to be fair, the sign didn’t specify bearded women, it only listed “Weird Women,” which is kinda worse. I mean, I’m far from uber-woke, but who the fuck are the proprietors to designate what is weird and, by extension, what is normal. They run a business at Coney Island, for chrissakes. I don’t think I saw a normal person the entire time I was there, present company included. 

The one Coney Island attraction we didn’t partake was the only fucking one I wanted to do in the first place, which was the Cyclone. It’s the original wooden roller coaster that’s been there for almost one hundred years. It’s a Luna Park property, but we actually had the correct tickets that time. The problem came down to weights and measures. The ticket lady didn’t want to let us get in line until after she’d measured Daughter to ensure she was 54 inches. She failed.

I’m not saying, for sure, that Daughter is at the magical height. Its damn close, but I feel like she hit 54 at all the other measuring spots. But the measuring stick they used here wasn’t a permanent fixture, but a pole they lugged out of the ticket booth and held up next to the child being measured. From my vantage point, it appeared the sidewalk was on an uphill slant. Well, not really uphill, more 95-year-old heaving pavement. They put the stick on the uphill side of her and she ended up being just under it. It was close. Kinda like the when the NFL brings the chains out to measure first down, despite having not placed the ball at the correct forward progress. And I couldn’t ask for video replay to confirm the stick wasn’t on level ground.

I was about to point this out, but figured the most likely result would be they take my money and still not let her on when the numbnut at the front of the line was just at inept at measuring children as the one at the end of the line. So I guess I have to wait until next time to ride the Cyclone. Not sure if there’ll ever be a next time I visit Coney Island, but whatever. It’s been there for ninety-five years, so maybe when I have grandkids. Not that they’ll be tall enough to ride.

Come back next week to hear about our hotel bathroom, marijuana, the most awesome thing that can happen at a Billy Joel concert.

Best Student Answers Ever

Since it’s finally the time of year when the joys of teaching are realized (ie when we don’t have to deal with people who haven’t turned in a damn thing all year wondering what they need to do to pass), it’s a good time to look at some of the other minor perks.

The pay, for instance. And the respect.

No wait, sorry. I must’ve been thinking about something else. In reality, random politicians who wouldn’t be able to pass my class get to tell me I’m not teaching correctly. Yes, Congressperson, you’re supposed to provide a check and balance on the president, even if he’s in your own party. Grandstanding while bequeathing power to the Executive Branch is not, actually, one of the enumerated powers.

But hey, at least we’re gonna get free guns soon, right?

I won’t spend much time on this one, since I don’t think it’s a good faith argument, but arming teachers would be a phenomenally bad idea. There’s a teacher at my school who’s about 4’10”. Explain to me how she keeps her sidearm when the six-foot linebacker lunges for it. And you know that teacher that you’re convinced hated you? Spoiler alert: They really did. Now imagine that they had a gun every time you mouthed off in class. Should I fire a warning shot into the air to wake up all the kids who think Emmett Till is “boring”? I doubt the second-floor teacher would appreciate that.

No, the real gift of being a teacher, at least for the ten months out of the year not named June and July, are the wonderful answers we get to out insightful questions.

And no, I’m not talking about the good answers.

How did Hitler come to power? He was really popular, you see, because he threw a Nazi party. Ain’t no party like a Nazi party cause a Nazi party don’t stop… until 1945.

After twenty years, bad answers don’t phase me much. Answers I used to find hilarious now seem pat. They lack the flair they once had, and are usually just copied from Wikipedia these days. 

For instance, every year I ask “When and where was the Berlin Conference of 1884?” Wanna guess how many students just write “IDK”? A couple months later, I ask where the Berlin Wall was built. Can you imagine that they STILL haven’t figured out where? Maybe I should give them the hint that it’s in the same place they held the Berlin Conference. 

Paris, naturally.

But I got a response recently that broke through this grizzled vet’s exterior. The type that makes me run to the other teachers in my department and repeat it for guffaws. Ironically, it wasn’t even a wrong answer.

The question, from a random reading (not a test or anything, which is where I usually see the best responses), asked how Leon Trotsky died. The answer read, quite correctly, “A Stalinist agent in Mexico City struck him in the head with an ice pick.”

Ouch. Not a fun way to go. Where’s the joy, you may ask? It stemmed from an unrequested addendum, a cherry on top of that otherwise pat answer.

“I think it was murder.”

Whoa! Slow down, Perry Mason!

After all, I also teach Intro to Law. Doesn’t this eighty-year old “alleged” criminal get any due process? Sure, the fifth amendment doesn’t apply in Mexico City, but considering he was working for the Soviets in Mexico, I think it all cancels out. They call that quid pro decisis.

Sure, the perpetrator (sorry, defendant) had a letter on his body claiming his intention. But it also included lies about who he was. And if we can’t trust a guy to level with us about his name, why should we take at face value his admission of intent? And the fact that he was carrying around an ice pick under a trenchcoat in the middle of August in Mexico is completely circumstantial. I’ve seen plenty of David E. Kelley programs. The DA doesn’t have a case. Maybe he was on his way to the North Pole? Or maybe it was self defense! Yeah, yeah, the sixty-year-old attacked him, totally unprovoked. Good thing my client had that sawed-off ice pick under his summer trenchcoat!

Okay, okay, maybe he did it. Good eye, Student, for delving into the mind of a murderer to get at true intent. Although all you really had to do was describe the act. Save your opinion for things like the decision to drop the atomic bomb. 

But nah, this student was totally mute when I actually asked to debate motive. 

For now, I’m saying this is my third favorite student answer, but that means it wins the bronze medal. The best student answers of my tenure work a lot like the American two-party system. The top two are forever etched in stone, and depending on my mood, they’ll switch who’s in the driver’s seat. Trotsky’s alleged murder and Hitler’s bumpin’ parties are the Ralph Naders and Gary Johnsons. They make me chuckle for a season or two, then are largely forgotten when the newest batch comes in.

Statement number one came on an economics test. The question requested a where to set a price ceiling. A price ceiling, for those of you who haven’t spent much time in an economics class over the past decades, is a maximum price set by the government, which often creates shortages. For a recent example, take a look at that “anti price gouging” bill going through Congress right now. Clearly none of the members of Congress have spent a lot of time in economics classes. Why, it was only a couple years ago they were convinced that macroeconomics was a defunct study, and that inflation wasn’t really a thing anymore. How’d that turn out?

Anyway, for a price ceiling to be effective, it must be set below the market price. This is the concept the question was testing. Many students assume that, since it’s a ceiling, it should be high. Very confusing, I know, but a price FLOOR would have to be high. If that anti-gouging bill said the price of gasoline couldn’t go above $20 a gallon, it wouldn’t be a very effective law. At least for the next month or two, after which that’ll probably be where supply meets demand anyway. 

I know, Congress doesn’t really care about making effective laws. They care about getting YouTube views and Twitter likes. 

Don’t worry if the concept of price ceilings is foreign to you. My student also didn’t understand the concept. Not only did she fail to give me a dollar amount, she didn’t even acknowledge the product the question was about, chocolate chip cookies. Instead, she discussed the price of… ceilings. 

Most ceilings, you see, are similar to each other and should probably be priced the same. It isn’t the price of the ceiling that’s important, she informed me, but the quality. Cheap ceilings are more likely to leak.

Had she delved into the complimentary or supplementary market of roofs vis-a-vis ceilings, I might’ve given her the points. I’m all for bringing in real world examples, and maybe this girl ran a stucco company in her free time. When I asked another student, after reading an article about the supply and demand of illicit drugs, what determines the price of cocaine and marijuana, he happily told me pot is about $50 for a quarter ounce. 

But since ceiling girl couldn’t provide me with an actual price of the top of my house, it’s a big fat zero. 

Zero, it turns out, would’ve been a good answer for an effective price ceiling. I’m surprised Congress hasn’t attempted to make those evil oil companies give us gas for free. Can’t imagine any drawbacks to that plan.

What separates the final answer from those that came before was the fact that it was an unforced error. Price ceilings and Nazi parties and Stalinist Law & Order were in responses to prompts, either after readings or on a test. I applaud ceiling girl for trying to make sense of the question and taking an “educated” guess instead of opting for the ubiquitous “IDK.”

This last answer, however, came on a term paper. He didn’t have to write a damn thing, but opted to go off the board with a phenomenally preposterous statement. Probably shouldn’t be surprising from a guy whose bibliography included, I shit you not, http://www.thegovernment.com. I guess http://www.thegovernment.gov was already taken? 

The term paper could be on any political topic, like abortion or gerrymandering or sin taxes. He opted for the draft, which doesn’t pique too many interests these days, but is always an acceptable foray into timeless queries of individual rights versus societal responsibilities, of implicit versus explicit government powers. So sure, kid, but me up with some knowledge. 

“The U.S. military draft,” he began, “is very similar to the NFL draft.”

Cue the record scratching sound effect 

So wait, which branch of the military has the number one pick this year? Does it rotate between the branches or, like the NFL, does it go to whichever branch had the worst year? How is that determined? I mean, the Afghanistan pullout didn’t go swimmingly, but I don’t know how to assign the blame. I assume the army, but the lasting image was of the airplane leaving Kabul Airport, leaving the top pick to the Wild Blue Yonder.

More questions abound. Let’s say the navy has the number one overall draft pick one year, but the top prospect is a sniper. Do they draft him in the hopes of “developing” him into a submarine captain? Or do they trade that pick to the army or marines? But I can’t imagine they can get a lot in return, since the army knows they won’t draft the guy anyway, and they can just wait to draft him in the two or three spot for less money.

Come to think of it, other than the Marines, I don’t see a lot of overlap in the skills required by the top recruits in the various branches, leaving the draft with little suspense and less action. No wonder they don’t televise that thing.

But wait, Space Force is an expansion franchise, so they should get the first pick. Damn, I really hope the number one pick isn’t infantry. 

I was recently at a minor league baseball team’s military appreciation night. After every inning, they asked all current and former members of a specific armed force to stand up and be applauded. At first I thought they were stretching the definition of military when we had to applaud the Coast Guard and the National Guard. I mean, shit, the latter were all just Vietnam draft dodgers, while the former’s claim to fame is running slow motion in Baywatch scenes.

Come to think of it, that Vietnam War draft was televised. Although the only trades going on that day were people trading their residency to Canada. 

Just like John Elway and Eli Manning. 

Holy shit, my student was right! The military draft IS just like the NFL draft.

I’m never doubting http://www.thegovernment.com again. 

Bump, Set, Coach

You know how sometimes you wake up in a weird location? Sometimes it’s a dark hotel room when you turn the wrong way while looking for the bathroom. In my younger days, I found myself sprawled out on my living room floor with the front door still wide open. I’d managed to make it all of two steps inside my domicile.

In a similar fashion, I recently looked around, bewildered, coaching my daughter’s volleyball team.

An odd place to find oneself, to be sure. At least when I passed out in my living room, I knew how I got there. But coaching a sport one never played beyond maybe junior high takes a gargantuan lack of organizational skills. Surprisingly, in this instance, not my own.

We figured Daughter had more chance for success in volleyball than in the standards like soccer and softball. Sports that required endurance and precision, or even a general awareness of where your body is at any moment, were never going to be her forte. 

First we tried soccer. She was okay with it, except for the fact that it was a co-ed team. The boys were mostly ball hogs and the girls had little desire to assert themselves. The following year, it would’ve been girls only. Not sure why they wouldn’t do that from year one, but whatever. Daughter wasn’t opposed to trying soccer again, but also wasn’t gung-ho to return to the pitch.

In softball, she was already a year behind some of the other players. Then everything got shut down for Covid. In 2021, when it returned, we still weren’t sure it was the best idea, so by now she’d be three years behind other players and, even worse, at the age of eight, she’s at a point where she’d notice being behind, and Daughter ain’t the type to use that as motivation to catch up.

Volleyball, we figured, was a better option for her. She loves playing keepy-uppy with a balloon, which is the basic concept behind volleyball. Don’t let the damn thing hit the ground. She’s also, somehow, always been tall for her age. Don’t ask me how. I’m 5’8″ on a good day and my wife needs tip-toes to reach 5’5″. Neither our parents or grandparents come from tall stock. A bunch of diminutive Irish and Italian ancestors. Yet Daughter has consistently been above the 90th percentile for height. Her birthday is in May and she’s usually the same height as her classmates whose birthdays are in September and October. 

Allegedly my dad was one of the tallest kids in his elementary school classes. Then he stopped growing in eighth grade, and by the time I knew him, he was 5’6″ and looking up at the gents the ladies call handsome. So maybe Daughter will peter out in time. Maybe she’ll be the blocker in elementary school before transitioning to the digger in high school.

And no, basketball never entered into the equation. Remember, she has virtually no coordination. Basketball requires not only running up and down the court, but bouncing a ball at the same time. If it’s possible to trip over both a foot and a ball at the same time, Daughter would find a way.

So it’s volleyball or curling. And I don’t think many colleges offer curling scholarships.

I still wasn’t planning on coaching, though. That came much later. Much, much later. As in, two days before the season started.

We signed Daughter up in January and, apart from an initial acknowledgement of registration, we heard nothing for a good eight weeks. It got so bad that my mom thought we lying to her about having no schedule, trying to finagle out of her visiting, but it was legit. We were less than two weeks from opening day and were still on radio silence.

I was on my curling club’s Board of Directors for six years, and ran the league for a good portion of that time. I totally get that these endeavors are chaotic in the best of times. You can tell people when the sign-ups are, you can email them repeatedly, and you’ll still get a whole lotta “Wait, when does league start?” Noting’s more infuriating than, a week after the “deadline,” when you find yourself with an odd number of players/teams, you contact someone asking if there’s any way they can spare the time, expecting an ”Of course not, otherwise I would’ve signed up,” but instead getting a “Yeah, totally. Sounds great.” Umm… then why didn’t you… You know what? Never mind.

But at least when we were rearranging teams 24 hours before the start of the season, we were still sending out information. “Don’t forget we start this weekend.” “Here are the dates, but we might be assigning byes, so let me know if there’s a date you’ll be out of town.” “We’ve got more teams than skips, does anyone want to try their hand at a new role?” In reality, we were still recruiting ten players while those were going out, but from the members’ perspective, it seemed like it was ninety percent set.

With volleyball, it was a whole lotta nothing until about ten days out, when an email gave a generic list of days, not dates. “Every Thursday and Saturday, starting next week.” No mention of which days are practice, which are games, but if I know anything about youth sports, the games gotta be on Saturday morning. Just maybe not the first Saturday? Cause Daughter doesn’t know shit about volleyball yet, and given that they don’t allow any kids younger than her, for once she won’t be the only clueless kid.

Buried in that first email was a brief mention that there were still coaching spots available, so hey, if you’ve ever thought about maybe wanting to help out, they’d love to have ya.

Yeah, no thanks. Looking forward to letting someone who knows what they’re doing take the reins.

As a bonus, the email went on, the coach gets, not only their own kid, but one other player of choice to ensure your child’s with their friend. Considering we didn’t know anyone else signing up, that wasn’t much of an incentive. Also, while I was unaware at the time, they only had enough kids for one under-nine team, so whether I coached or not, Daughter was going to be on the same team as everyone younger than fourth grade.

Another week went by before we heard anything else. This time they were a *little* more focused with their messaging. We need fifty coaches. We only have ten. As of now (three days before the first practice (or maybe game), your child’s team does not have a coach.

Okay, that’s a little different. If they were forty coaches short, one wonders what the numbers looked like when they sent out the, “Hey, have we got a great opportunity for you” email. Maybe they should’ve been in four-alarm fire territory long before the eve of play. 

While the email never explicitly said that if we didn’t step up, the season wasn’t happening, I took it as such and signed up to assistant coach. So did one other parent and one older sibling who’s in high school. Wow. A team of thirteen and, even after a “you have no coach” plea, only three sign up to assistant coach. Maybe if there’d been more regular communication, they might find more buy-in.

At least no other parents better bitch about my coaching. Cause they all coulda had the position.

Ironically enough, when I followed the link to sign up for assistant coaching, I had to provide two references, particularly people to attest to my volunteer work and work ethic. Uh huh, sure. It’s Wednesday and you are hoping to get forty-plus coaches “hired” before Saturday. I’m putting my hooker and drug dealer in the field and daring you to tell me no.

Instead of a “sorry, but no” email, I get, predictably, a “Hey, thanks for your interest in being an assistant coach. Wanna be coach?”

To which I reply, “Not really. I’ll miss at least one practice and I am bad with names, to say nothing of my propensity to beat small children.”

“No problem,” they respond. “Welcome aboard, Coach!”

Evidently, Adolf Stalin Beelzebub must’ve given me a great reference.

They sent me and another co-coach (Who also reluctantly signed up to assistant) a couple YouTube videos, and wit twelve hours to spare, we were set to teach a bunch of seven-year-olds how to spike a volleyball.

Wait, spiking is first? Not bumping? I thought every volleyball instruction started with bumping. Maybe this is why they only recruit coaches two days before the season starts. Fewer questions.

Coaches were told to come a half-hour early to help set up nets, for which there was also a YouTube. When I showed up early, however, it was absolute chaos. We gravitated toward a few parents who had volleyball t-shirts, meaning it’s at least their second season. They showed us how to set up a net, but there was little guidance beyond that. 

By the time the hour was up, and all the peons (ie parents smart enough to not bow to last minute, passive aggressive recruitment) showed up with children ready to play volleyball, only half the courts were set up. Parents and children practiced bumping to each other during the delay. Bumping, that skill that won’t be covered till the third or fourth practice. After setting. How the hell does one set without first receiving a bump?

There was supposed to be a coaches meeting ten minutes before practice started. In reality, it took place ten minutes after practice was supposed to start. My co-coach and I already had our kids in a circle playing the “name game” when we were called away. Um, so maybe let the kids keep playing the name game amongst themselves? It’s not like we coaches need to know their names or anything. 

The coaches meeting, it turns out, was only to go over the agenda for today’s practice. Like the name game, which we were already doing because they’d sent the agenda out the day before. We’re to spend ten minutes playing the name game, then fifteen minutes spiking, then thirty minutes serving. Except now we only have about thirty-five minutes left for the whole practice.

Again, I understand these volunteer organization difficulties. At the curling club, we throw a number of events that come off by the skin of the grace of God’s teeth. There are league games where the rocks sink into the ice because we forgot to bring them down to temperature first. Or learn-to-curls with five instructors and forty students. 

The difference is that participants rarely know when we’re skimming the tangent of disaster. In my eight years curling, six of which I was on the Board, we never once made a new learn-to-curler carry a rock to the ice. Even if we were still setting the hacks while they receive introductions in the warm room, the second they walked onto the ice, the picture’s pristine. After we rope them in to the game, then we can rope them into helping.

If Big Volleyball wanted to look like a well-oiled machine, the type of organization other parents would want to join, they probably should’ve had us fools who agreed to coach show up an hour early, not a half-hour. Then, when the average parent shows up ten minutes before the first practice, the courts are all put together and the coaches are off to the side at an ooo, aaah, special meeting that wouldn’t you really like to be part of in the future?

Other practices followed suit. The coaches meeting that is supposed to occur ten minutes prior to practice actually takes place five minutes after call time. My co-coach and I stopped going to them, because they only go over the practice plan, which was emailed to us at 10:00 last night, and which we’re going to promptly ignore. Unfortunately the damage was already done, because half our team doesn’t show up on time anymore.

The reason we ignore the agenda is because it isn’t what our kids need. I understand it’s hard to make a practice plan that fits teams ranging from ages 7 to 14 And far be it from them to come up with, I don’t know, two practice plans. So we’re stuck “teaching” our team how to block a powerful jump spike. Because that happens all the time with seven-year-olds. How about we focus on getting the fucking ball over the net instead? Or, I don’t know, maybe explaining the purpose of the game to them?

Their long-term planning is even worse than the short-term. The night after our second practice, we received the agenda for practice the following day when we were finally going to go over bumping. A coach replied-all that the invoice we were sent didn’t have the park reserved tomorrow. Does that mean we’re on Spring Break? An hour later, the “in charge” guy emails back that, hah hah, oh yeah, the next three practices aren’t actually happening. See you in two weeks.

Um, okay, but are you going to tell all the parents who I said “See you Saturday” to last night?

Damn, I really wish we had gone over bumping first. If for no other reason than I don’t want to spend the next ten days making my daughter work on setting, a skill that rarely shows up before varsity-level high school.

Later in the season we had another late all-call. “Reminder:” the text read, “Tomorrow is a game day. The game will last two hours, rotating fields every twenty minutes.”

Perhaps they don’t understand the subtle nuance of “reminder.” It’s usually meant to imply something we’d already known. For instance, I can “remind” my wife that I’m hitting the grocery store on the way home from work. I can’t “remind” my students about the fall of the Berlin Wall when we’re still studying the Enlightenment. 

Needless to say, when we showed up the next day, I had a whole bunch of parents coming up to me saying they had to leave after an hour. If only they’d known beforehand. I fired back that I was right there with them. As coach, I’d love to have more than twelve hours notice that we might have a game instead of a practice or scrimmage. 

That’s the particularly shitty thing about this arrangement. I’m somehow seen as an authority figure, as if I have any fucking clue about what’s going on. When I told them I was as surprised as them, they roll their eyes as if I’m just a slacker. Shit, they probably think I came up with the bright idea to hold off bumping until after Spring Break. I can only politely remind them that they could’ve had the fucking job.

Fortunately, whatever league was visiting us didn’t have a u9 team to play against, so the fact that I would’ve been down to three players after one hour didn’t matter. The guy in charge said they contemplated rotating us in with the 9 & 10 year olds but decided against it. Of course, they didn’t incorporate any of the coaches or parents to these discussions.

The guy in charge, by the way, says he loves teaching our age level. They’re so enthusiastic and their growth during the season is spectacular. In fact, he’s coached the u9 team each of the last four seasons. Really? Well then why the fuck did he leave it up to a couple know nothings who can’t even convince the kids that the goal is to get the ball back over to the other side of the net this time? How about he give us the 14-year-olds he’s currently coaching. I’ll have them setting like motherfuckers.

Although maybe not. Then I’d have to stay for two hours on game days, whenever the hell those things are. Probably with only half a team, all of whom were pissed at me for hoarding the information to myself. 

So maybe I should just stay over here on my court with a bunch of kids who have no idea what they’re doing. 

They’ll be in good company.

Captathalon 2021

Holy shit. Camptathalon 2022 is less than a month away. Maybe I should finally transcribe the 2021 journal? I mean, I’ve already posted about my January 2022 snow camping. Plus spring break in Hawaii. Maybe I should stop throwing the log in with the camping gear at the end of the summer. Meh. 

If this is your first visit, Camptathalon is an annual guys’ trip/competition. We jot down much of what is said and done for posterity’s sake. You know, got to keep the proper historical perspective. 

All statements are accurate, if deliberately out of context.

Thursday
12:50 PM text exchange: Getting one growler of brown ale, one of pale. A coffee porter sounds interesting.”
 -“Wait, there’s beer?”
 – “Of course not. No way am I already at a brewery that’s an hour and a half from work.”

1:04 Iceberg lettuce drenched in bleu cheese and bacon = healthiest meal of the weekend.

2:08 Arrive at Silvertip Campsite. Just the Tip # 17. Matt Gaetz’s favorite campsite.
2:34 Camp host gives the whatfor about quiet hours. “I know what five guys are like.” Dude, we’re in our forties, not our twenties.
2:35 “Don’t leave your beers out, or the bears will drink them.”
“The last thing we want is some drunk bears.”
“That’s not it. They like the sugar.”
3:20 First beer. Other than at brewery
4:25 Sparky arrives
4:30 Wow. These campsites are really close to each other. Should we go check the first come, first serve campsite?
5:05 Much better
5:43 First site packed up, So long, Matt Gaetz. So long, Buzzkill camp host.
6:40 Campsite 2.0 finished
7:06 Burgers
10:15 Night, night
10:17I hope the bear doesn’t play my sudoku

Friday

6:23 There’s pee coming off my pee
6:43 I’d fail the COVID screener. I have a sore throat, but it’s totally explainable.
6:55 We’ve got a coffee three-way. Pour over, French press, and percolator
7:16 Wow, I can say Alexa out loud.
7:30 Climb the Big Fucking Rock, because why not?

7:43 Way down isn’t as fun.
7:47 Oatmeal for breakfast. We are old.
9:22 I hope the last guy to use that toilet didn’t have crabs, because my fat ass was touching every possible surface.
9:34 Neighbors packing up & leaving. The toddler who’s been shouting “I don’t want to go camping” for the past 16 hours won the argument.
10:04 New people move in next door. More kids. Bonus!
10:19 From the campsite next door: “Push it through more!” Good thing I’m not drinking yet.
10:42 Rick arrives. We have a quorum.
10:46 “I’ve added a twist to the loser libation this year.”
11:09 First beer of the day
11:14 First whiskey of the day
11:22 Sparky returns. He had trouble getting wood.
11:36 Trying to remember the last time we had Pringles.
11:45 Chris H arrives.
12:05 “If everyone grabs a corner of the EZ Up, it’ll go faster.”
   “If we keep sitting here drinking beer, it’ll still get done.”
12:15″Will the twist happen at the same time as the Loser Libation?” (Thinks) “No. Not necessarily.”
12:41 That beer ain’t gonna drink itself, bitch.
12:50 “Trust me, I know what a climax is.”
   “Really? Did he enjoy it, too?”
   “Why the hell should I care?”
1:09 “Damn, the family next door is back. I guess I’ll put my cock away.”
   “It’s not like they could see it.”
1:35 Alright, fucking bitch.
1:37 “1:37 is a good time for whiskey.”
1:50 “Do it! Take my bishop, bitch!”
1:54 “I puked in a cup at a Tesla concert.”
1:59 There’s a joke in there somewhere, but I haven’t figured it out yet.
2:01 Like a good condom, you can reuse it.
2:12 Love box.
2:26 Chess game over. “Thank you for making me feel good.”
   “Did you give him a reach-around, too?”
2:32 No, seriously. Take it all off.
3:05 Chris D arrives.
3:16 And it doesn’t even mention pedophilia.
3:17 Cheese Balls arrive
3:18 More Tesla stories: Trying to get into a video shoot at a bowling alley.
3:27 Chris D packed the wrong chair: Unicorns & rainbows.
3:30 Official Opening Toast
3:33 Flag is up
3:36 Loser Libation wrinkle revealed: Two libations. Fourth place chooses which one he drinks, assigns other to 5th place.
3:45 “It’ll just come out same color, different smell.”
3:54 Any time you put a cock in front of me, I’m going to take it.
4:43 You know parliamentary procedure makes me hard.
4:48 Cheese balls open.
4:50 I hate to bring it up, but my grandma loved cheese balls. Sorry, MaMaw.
5:06 So Chris, how is Mein Kampf going?
5:27 We could do some damage with a rifle.
5:35 Chili for dinner. Side of mellow corn whiskey.
6:11 Camptathalon Event #1: Poker.
6:18 “Not sure how I’ll do. I had groin surgery.”
   “Most of Camptathalon is based on groin strength.”
6:30 Dave Winfield is disappointed
6:33 It’s not my fault you ran into my full house last year.
6:47 $50 bet by the pre-ejaculate
7:04 Are you pouring water in your vagina?
7:13 First all in. Loser Libation(s) revealed: Goldschlager & Jagaermeister
7:14 Chris D finishes DFL
7:19 Pocket queens nullified by a misdeal
7:29 Who brings drums camping?
7:43 Tony all in on Anna Kournikova: A/K looks really good but rarely wins.
7:44 Tony selects Goldschlager, assigns Jagaermeister to Chris
7:58 Standings after one event: Chris H. 5, Sparky 4, Rick 3, Tony 2, Chris D 0
8:35 When did “Filling the Bucket” start referring to licking someone’s ass?
8:40 Rumors of Rick spewing have been greatly exaggerated
8:42 A month before he was murdered, JFK was in Marilyn Monroe
8:55 Fast Food Draft:     

Chris DTonyRickSparkyChris H
1st Rd.Wingstop
Lousiana Rub
Western Bacon CheeseburgerBig MacDouble DoubleMcDonald’s
French Fries
2nd. Rd.Surfin’ Bird
(Beach Hut Deli)
Ultimate CheeseburgerChick-Fil-a SandwichSourdough JackAnimal Style Cheeseburger
3rd Rd.Chicken Katsu (L&L Hawaiian BBQ)Mexican PizzaWendy’s
Spicy Chicken
Beefy 5-Layer BurritoWhopper
4th Rd.Burger King
Double Cheeseburger
Quarter Pounder
w/ Cheese
Egg McMuffinSausage McMuffin w/ EggArby’s
Roast Beef
5th Rd.Panda Express Kung Pao ChickenPopeye’s Spicy Chicken SandwichCrunch Wrap SupremeJimboy’s Beef TacoBaconator

9:05 During Draft: Tony’s dick. “That ain’t fast. Baby, that takes all night.
9:06 During Draft: I wonder where Arby’s will go?
9:52 Rick & Chris D down for the count
9:54 They rally.
10:00 Rick’s down for good this time.
10;15 There’s a hole in your pants. Is that where the water goes?
10:38 Was “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” by Loverboy?
10:53 Tony calling it a night.
11:10 Okay, for real. Tony’s going to sleep.

Saturday

6:59 Rick falls back asleep at the fire.
8:00 Still only two of us awake. What the fuck is this, vacation? 
8:44 Where did all the Maker’s Mark go?
9:06 Last person finally wakes up.
9:07 “A bear came into my tent last night and shit in my mouth.”
9:25 “Ooo, that one smells like rotten chili.”
   “My work here is done.”
9:44 First beer of Saturday
9:49 Butter removed from ice
10:10 First whiskey shot of Saturday
10:46 Camptathalon Event #2: Home Run Derby
11:07 Deadball era: First round ends with three-way tie for first with 2 HR each.
11:17 Round two: 3 HR, 3 HR, 1 HR, 0 HR. Still no need for a jack-off
11:24 Chris D has only needed one home run in each round
11:26 Chris vs. Chris in the final
11:31 Chris H get zero, Chris D only needs 1 again.
11:32 With grand total of four, Chris D wins Homerun Derby
*After Two Events: Chris H 9, Sparky 7, Chris D 5, Tony 4, Rick 3*
12:00 Camptathalon Event #3: Cornhole
12:27 Chris D comes back from 20-7 deficit to win 21-20
1:14 Chris H comes back from 20-10 deficit to win 21-20
1:32 Cornhole Results: Chris D, Sparky, Chris H, Tony, Rick
*After Three Events: Chris H 12, Sparky 11, Chris D 10, Tony 6, Rick 3*
2:22 Is Rick down for the count?
2:28 Zombie Rick emerges
2:59 Two first-roll Farkles in a row
3:12 “Do you want more sausage?”
   “That’s why his back hurts in the first place.”
3:13 Rick’s back down again
3:41 Camptathalon Event #4: Jon Goudreau Memorial Butter Toss

3:42 Target: California COVID Tiers

3:49 Butter Toss Results: Sparky, Chris D, Chris H, Tony, Rick
*After Four Events: Sparky 16, Chris H 15, Chris D 14, Tony 8, Rick 3*
3:55 Slingshot a cheeseball into somebody’s mouth
3:57 Last time I checked, the number of balls was not an issue
4:15 The paper towels we wiped the butter off our hands with catch fire in the pit, giving the campground a pleasant movie-theater smell
4:18 Meat stick?
4:21 Radio announcer: “All four batters this inning have really smoked their balls.”
4:34 Are you ready for adventure? I need balls
4:40 Camptathalon Event #5: Adventure Bocce
5:15 Sparky can’t find one of his balls
5:38 Adventure Bocce Results: Chris D, Rick, Sparky, Tony, Chris H
*After Five Events: Sparky 19, Chris D 19, Chris H 15, Tony 10, Rick 7*
7:05 Rick has a beer
7:10 Camptathalon Event #6: Slingshot
7:17 Everybody goose-egged the first round. Great fucking idea.
7:46 Slingshot Results: Chris D, Chris H, Tony, Sparky, Rick
*After six events: Chris D 24, Sparky 21, Chris H 19, Tony 13, Rick 7*
8:01 Sparky boycotts Event 7, Cards Against Humanity, giving Chris D an anticlimactic Camptathalon Championship
8:37 First reading of the Rimmer book
10:09 When Pete Townshend masturbates, does he do it windmill style?

First Concert of the 2020s

After more than two years away, I ventured into a super-spreader event.

Sorry, I meant a concert. Damn you, autocorrect!

Trust me, I’ve been to plenty of super-spreaders. Most of them included forty-five hormonal teenagers thinking their masks are supposed to go on their chin, not live music.

Oddly enough, the hormonal teenagers are STILL wearing masks around their chins, even after the mask mandate expired. I guess it’s the new version of wearing conservative clothes when you leave the house then going full goth. Their parents think they’re wearing the masks. But if that’s the case, why not put it in your pocket when you get to school?

Sorry. Concert. Right. A friend of mine texted me on a Monday night, asking if I wanted to go to a concert two days later. Seeing as the ticket said 7:00 show, I thought that sounded like a capital idea. I should be home by, what, 9:30? 10:00 at the latest.

Midnight?!?

Turns out the doors opened at 7:00. And they had this thing called a, what was it, opening band? I guess I’m out of practice.

In addition to getting my sea legs back, this was a band I didn’t know many songs from. I had heard of them, and when I checked YouTube, I recognized a few of the songs, so it’s not like I was totally flying blind. But it turns out there’s a difference between being marginally aware of a band’s songs and knowing (and singing along to) every fucking lyric, which described roughly every other human being in the place. It felt really awkward when the lead singer pointed at us to finish the chorus and all I could do was mouth some bullshit. Reminded me of the Apostle’s Creed back in my Catholic days. Did I miss the week when Catechism covered the Airborne Toxic Event?

That was the name of the band we saw, by the way. The Airborne Toxic Event. With special guest Mondo Cozmo. In case you’ve forgotten, as I clearly had, “special guest” means opening act. That band goes on at 8:00, not the 7:00 printed on the ticket, and the band you’re there to see, or that your friend is dragging you to see, won’t be on for another ninety minutes.

My friend invited me because his son, who was the original owner of the extra ticket, had dutifully cleared a night in June of 2020, not April of 2022. He might have been able to make the makeup date March of 2021, but hat didn’t happen, either. In the intervening two years, he’d dropped out of college, had a kid, and started working construction. He (perhaps wisely) didn’t want to attend a late concert then wake up for work the next day. Instead, his twenty-year-old ass makes the two pushing-fifty guys do the late night thing. What am I missing here? Isn’t that what being twenty is all about? I remember overnight trips to Reno (without a hotel) that ended with me getting home just long enough to shower and head into work with no sleep.

Then again, I didn’t have a toddler till I was forty.

Or maybe April, 2022

The concert was almost pushed off again. The week prior to our show, they had to cancel another thrice-rescheduled show in Southern California because somebody on their bus tested positive. Fortunately, he got the negative test before the Sacramento show.

Are the 2020s maybe not the best time for a band named “The Airborne Toxic Event?” If any new Covid cases are traced back to their concert, the headlines might become confusing.

The venue they were playing was one I’d always been curious to attend, which helped counteract my reluctance to miss sleep. It caters to bands that don’t cater to people my age. Bands with names like Goth After Dark or Dub Stars or Guadalupe Hidalgo. Or Gwar.

Holy shit, Gwar is playing there Memorial Day Weekend! I’m super curious about the clientele at a Gwar show. They were already an obscure joke back in 1990. So it’s got to be a slew of fifty-somethings that never really got the joke. I’m tempted to buy a ticket for crowd watching, but the bastards would probably expect me to sing along with their choruses.

The venue is tiny. And crowded. Hopefully Whitesnake never plays there, because any errant pyrotechnics and we weren’t getting out. As it stood, I couldn’t even leave my spot to grab another beer. I might not make it back. Not that I wanted any more beer, because it would be four hours before I left the confines, and who the hell goes to the bathroom during a concert? I might miss the lyrics.

Wait, are they saying, “Like gasoline”? That’s what it sounded like on maybe the fifth iteration. I guess that’s a cool lyric. I think the line referenced making out when they were seventeen. It rhymes. And, you know, gasoline is explosive. Fire equals passion. Just ask creepy elder statesman Bruce Springsteen and his “Hey little girl, is your daddy home?” Or Whitesnake.

Maybe this band isn’t too bad.

Two people in my close vicinity passed out. We’re all out of practice.

Oddly enough, the pass outs happened not during the concert while people were jumping around, but in between the opening band and the main event. The first lady to pass out was one of the only ones wearing a mask. 

Did I mention super-spreader event? 

Not too surprising. It was stuffy as hell and people were jockeying for position, despite the fact that nobody in the entire venue was more than twenty feet from the stage. And I know we’re only supposed to mock people who claim that it’s harder to breathe while wearing a mask, but I imagine that when five hundred people are jostling around you, the mask can’t be doing wonders. It was hard enough for me to catch a full breath, and my nose and mouth were wide open. Each inhalation contained about 85% body odor. Plus 15% Covid.

Her mask fluxed in and out heavily a couple times, then her eyes fluttered and she did the standard pirouette before being caught by her companion, also wearing a mask. The crowd was nice enough to part to let him pull her out. As long as you’re going away from the stage, you’re golden. Five people moved into the spot she vacated.

I suppose I should thank this particular canary for reminding me I was in a coalmine. After she went down, I remembered to bend my knees more often. Flex those calf muscles! But after four hours of standing in more or less the same spot, my feet still felt like they’d gone 25,000 steps. You know what’s nice about seeing Classic Rockers in arenas and stadiums? Assigned seating!

The second fainter fell a couple minutes before the band came on. His pass-out was the more pedestrian, self-inflicted style. No mask near his mouth, but he did have a beer, and it clearly wasn’t his first. And “near his mouth” was the closest he came. He couldn’t quite find it. When he faceplanted toward the back of the woman’s head, somebody else grabbed him and stood him back up. At first I thought they were together, but second dude might’ve just been a good Samaritan. Drunkie then sways backward, toward said Samaritan.

When security came around, Samaritan held his hand up, signalling toward the drunkard like a plane’s flying over his deserted island for the first time in a decade. Security was already looking for the drunkard, which was impressive because as far as I knew, the guy had just shown up. Maybe they’ve got us all under strict surveillance. We didn’t have to show our vaccination card because they’re already monitoring our biorhythms from the 5g DNA sequencing that Bill Gates put into our bodies!

Sir Sways-a-Lot didn’t put up a fight. I don’t even think he knew they were ushering him away, nor whether he was at a concert in the first place. Security used the “hey buddy” approach instead of “Respect my Authori-TAY!” and dude was easily led toward the back. For good measure, he took one more sip from the IPA while following along. Not so much rebellion as inertia.

Good Samaritan immediately took two steps forward to take the vacated spot.

How was the band? Not sure. You might want to check with someone who knew what they were seeing. They had a viola player. Or maybe it was a violin. Perhaps even a fiddle. When she wasn’t on the strings, she played the keyboard. But then when she was playing violin, other members of the band stopped playing guitar and went over to play the lonely keyboards. By the end of the concert, that thing had more people tickling its ivory than your mom.

The opening act was also impressive. Much like Jethro Tull, I don’t know if Mondo Cosmo was a person or the whole band. Unlike Jethro Tull, nobody named Mondo Cosmo invented a seed drill. The guitar player was great. Drummer, too. But in looking at this guy’s/band’s videos online, it’s clear that, Mondo Cosmo or not, Mondo Cosmo is the only guy who gets camera time. 

He’s pretty hard core. Every bit the Mondo. Seemed way more comfortable on the songs he was jumping around the stage than on the songs he had to sit still and play rhythm guitar. I feel like he’s either going to make it big or flame out very, very hard. I’m rooting for the former.

The drawback of the band was that they had way too much pre-recorded backing tracks. It took me a number of songs to figure out where the hell the bass was coming from. Was he behind the curtain? Was the lead guitar busting out low notes on the thick strings when he wasn’t in solo mode. Once I realized the bass was still going while he was soloing, I realized it was all a ruse. 

Then they did a cover of “Bittersweet Symphony.” I knew for a FACT there was no string section in the three-man band.

Did you know you could jump around the stage and headbang to “Bittersweet Symphony”? Although, as a general rule, you shouldn’t get more into another band’s songs than your own. 

I don’t want to give away too much, because for the first time sine 2019, I can have a year-end concert review. I’ve got tickets bought for at least one more, with potential plans for as many as three more. When it rains, it pours.

I just had to make sure I got that “your mom” joke in before I forgot it.

Maui Trip, Part 3

Wrapping up my quick jaunt to Maui. This was my third trip to the islands, but first time to Maui. I posted earlier about things like luaus and booze and Covid restrictions. Read on for more thoughts, like ziplines, pancakes, and airport bathrooms.

Businesses: Might as well make this a true TravelBlog and highlight a few businesses you should frequent if you’re there. No, you don’t get a discount. Nor do I get any kickbacks. I don’t know if it makes these more or less legitimate. Whatever. I liked them and I’d like them to still be in business should I ever make it back.

*Camp Maui Zipline: There are a few zipline companies in Maui. The one we did was at Camp Maui, just outside of the town of Haiku. Haiku, a small town. Barely even on a map. Old school Hawaii. (See what I did there?)

The zipline company is on an old World War II base, and they claim to have a “museum” of stuff unearthed while digging out the course. Don’t go out of your way for it, though, as it’s really just a couple planes and jeeps in a tent. Then again, the stupid Pearl Harbor exhibit is just a couple stupid ships that you’re not even allowed to walk on because they’re under water. Who the hell puts ships under water? I want my money back.

This is kinda cool, hanging on the walls of the museum, although clearly ripped off from the Pearl Harbor museum. Still, props to FDR for changing “world history” to “infamy.” Not even the first result on thesaurus.com. After the past two presidents, I kinda forgot we used to elect leaders who didn’t fumble through the English language.

To add to the lackluster “museum,” the ziplines are pretty much run of the mill, some barely dropping enough altitude to let gravity do its work. They had to throw Daughter like a damn fastball or else she would’ve come to rest smack dab in the middle. I guess I’m not doing a great job of selling it, but once she asked, they put enough spin on her to make it into a curveball.

That’s because the staff, at least the ones we encountered, made it fun as hell. They were consummate professionals, despite exuding full hang-loose loadie personas. In a weird way, they made the safety elements cool. When listing all the dos and don’ts, a guy who told us to call him Loki started with “Don’t trust your farts.” Then, when reviewing, he asked the most important rule. Safety first? Have fun? “I mean, those are all important,” he said, “but I think I said don’t trust your farts first.” He turns to his co-guide. “Did I forget to tell them that?”

At one point, when they had to scooch past us on a platform (because they had us all go up the ladder first, then they had to get past us to the zipline), they actually snapped their safeties onto each of us as they passed. I was already attached to the line, so if they slipped and fell as they passed me, we both would’ve gone plummeting off the platform, but we’d only go as far as my rope allowed. Guessing it would be easy to half-ass that part on a course they’ve been on thousands of times. I wouldn’t have noticed that they were unattached for the three steps it took to get past us, but I noticed (in a good way) that they clipped onto me. Daughter might’ve worried that made them look like the “only stupid instructor at the zipline.” 

But once everything was secure and on the actual zipline, they encouraged hands free, spinning, leaning back. Loki (turns out his real name was Danny, but he didn’t reveal that until the end. Even when you know, you don’t call Superman “Clark”) even did a forward flip off the platform one time, resulting in a barrel roll for the first half of the zip. I’m sure they would’ve preferred having a non-stop line of fit twenty-somethings, but they were totally at ease around a bunch of kids. I doubt either of the guys have children of their own, but their repertoire of dad jokes put this dad to shame. But then you see them working the brakes and coming halfway back up the zipline to collect the lightweight who didn’t quite make it, and they’re back to being caring professionals. 

My favorite was one of those difficult stretches where one guide threw my daughter extra hard to get her across. Right after the kid before her only made it partway and Loki had to yank himself uphill to retrieve him. Unlike the other kid, Daughter made it all the way across, but she was totally out of gas. Loki caught her, snapped one of his lines to her then “pretended” to forget about her and turn around when she wasn’t on her feet yet. All of our eyes grew wide as she started to go back up the zipline, thinking he was going to have to go out and get her anyway, when the line caught her after only a foot or two. Then he plays the “Oh, there you are!” and pulls on the line to bring her closer. 

Great time, indeed. If you find yourself there, ask for Loki.

*Surfing Goat Dairy: Another jaunt up into the hinterlands, this time to look at goats. And eat cheese. The goats were for Daughter, the cheese was for us. 

To be honest, the tour was kinda meh. You get to feed some goats. A ton of female goats plus a handful of males who, in typical dude fashion, try to muscle in with an “Are you gonna eat that?” At first I found the sex disparity odd, but then I remembered that guys don’t lactate. Best we’d get from male goats is some From’Undah Cheese. You’d think that, being a man, that bit of biology wouldn’t escape my notice so readily.

The males are only there to make the ladies pregnant to get the milk, and let me tell ya, they were gettin’ it DONE! Holy crap, the whole damn farm was pregnant. One of them looked either ready to burst, or else she was having quadruplets. The only ones not pregnant were those who recently birthed. There were six baby goats who had been born within the past week, including a baby just born that morning. Four hours old and she could already walk. I’m belatedly disappointed in Daughter for taking a year to figure it out. So much for humanity being the echelon of evolution. Then again, Daughter can now add two triple-digit numbers together while the adult goat peed on his beard to improve his sexual attractiveness. 

The cheese was decadent, so clearly Pee-Beard is doing something right. They had hard cheese and soft cheese. “Ping Pong Balls” swimming in garlic oil, a creamy Tahitian lime blend. And I don’t know which goat mixed some horseradish into her teat, but I appreciate the effort.

-Slappy Cakes: You won’t find this one advertised in your hotel lobby. No Viator busses shipping hundreds of blue-hairs to a catamaran to enjoy the local breakfast place. There was still a line out the door.

Once upon a time, on an obscure corner heading into the city of Lahaina, stood a Korean BBQ. One of those restaurants where you cook your own food on a hot plate in the center of your table, a mixture of Japanese teppanyaki and fondue. Unfortunately for that Korean place, the location isn’t overly convenient and, well, who the hell wants to cook for themselves when they go out? Your kitchen is a hell of a lot cheaper. 

Fortunately, someone took over the spot and, instead of gutting and revamping the whole thing, pondered if there was something else customers might enjoy cooking on a hot griddle. 

Sure, I can make pancakes back at home, too, but the batter doesn’t come in a snazzy squeeze bottle. And, oh yeah, I’m not at home and the hotel doesn’t have a stove top. 

So yeah, Slappy Cakes for the win. They’ve got three flavors of pancake batter, but I think one of them is gluten free, so that doesn’t really count. We ordered one tube of buttermilk and one of chocolate. I really wanted to try the red velvet batter that was on the daily special menu, but thought that would be too much pancake. At the time, I believed we’d make another sojourn to the Slappy Cakes. Unfortunately, we never made it back, so the red velvet remains a mystery.

The tubes come with a tapered spout. You have to squeeze a fair amount to get it out, not because the batter’s thick, but because the nozzle’s pretty small. This caters to a bit of an artistic flair. Even moreso when you get two flavors with different colors. Instead of a mon-colored Mickey Mouse, you can make the ears and chin in chocolate, but fill in the eyes with buttermilk. If only I had a little deep red, I don’t know, velvety color to throw in for accent.

You also get toppings. We opted for five, but probably could’ve gone with three, because they fill those dishes up. Fortunately, some of our toppings were crumbled bacon, macadamia nuts, and blueberries, so we could just eat them sans pancake. Next time, I’ll order fewer toppings and get that red velvet batter. I know it was listed as a “daily special,” but the frayed sheet of paper implied this wasn’t its first go-around. I also won’t get the shredded coconut next time, as they provide a coconut syrup free of charge, which was far more scrumptious than the shredded coconut.

They specify that the toppings are only supposed to go on AFTER the pancakes have cooked. Uh huh, sure. I know how insurance works. But bacon cooked into the pancake is a heck of a lot better than on top. You don’t get chocolate chips on top of your ice cream, do you?

The good news is Slappy Cakes doesn’t appear likely to follow the path of its Korean forebear. We got there at 6:55 am (five minutes before they open, because we went on our first morning, when our bodies were still on West Coast time), and the line was already ten deep. It was even longer when we left around 8:00. 

The price was affordable, too. Other than having to fly to Maui. Maybe they’ll franchise on the mainland some day, where West Coast time is behind everybody else, not ahead.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs

If you’ve followed some of my other trips, you know I can’t resist a good sign. Only a couple jumped out on this trip, but they’re doozies.

This guy’s got more problems than a minor traffic infraction. I can’t tell if he’s prisoner number 08 or if he blew a .08. I highly doubt either of those are accurate statements. Sure, Hawaii’s gotta be mostly peaceful, but I think they’ve had more than eight prisoners. Shit, before France even had forensics, they made it all they way up to 2460… ooooooooone. (How does one phonetically write out a long lead into the number 1? Wwwwwoooooon? But that’s a different word.)

As for the .08, oh hell no. The baggy eyes, the frazzled hair, the polo that hasn’t seen a laundry room in a week. That guy’s been on a weekend-long bender, at least. Maybe he’s on day 08 of ingesting all his calories through alcohol.

More importantly, why is he allowed to keep his beer with him when he goes to jail? Hey Hawaii, if you have a problem with drinking and driving, maybe you need to take away part of the incentive. Even if it’s empty, as it might be based on the fact that he’s partially crushing it, that’s still a level of dependency the public safety system shouldn’t be encouraging. He’s snuggling that empty can like my daughter with a stuffed animal at night. 

Furthermore, how long did it take them to book him? That’s got to be some flat beer. Unless it’s sugar, because on further glance, that doesn’t really look like any alcohol container I’ve ever seen. It could be a pull tab, but that means this guy’s got a time machine, and if movies have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t throw the time traveler in jail because he’s probably here to save all of humanity. And back in his day, .08 wasn’t considered “drunk,” it was considered “breakfast.”

No, I’m back to it being a sugar shaker. This guy’s got more problems than we can possibly imagine. Shame on the state of Hawaii for throwing him into the drunk tank. They’ll only have themselves to blame when he fails to prevent the forthcoming time-pocalypse.

Then we have this beaut, a bathroom, or maybe a conference room, next to the doozy of a TSA checkpoint line. I’m sure a lot of people fly out of Maui, but shouldn’t that give them more experience at ushering us through? Vegas seems to have things dialed, except maybe on a Sunday evening. We were flying out on a Friday morning, when most people should be flying into Hawaii, not out.

We’d heard horror stories about the agricultural checkpoint, but that was a well-oiled machine compared to TSA. I don’t understand their fear of taking agriculture out of the state. I’d think the worry would be bringing in foreign pests would supersede an errant pineapple boarding an airplane.

At least the long line gave me time to contemplate what’s going on inside this bathroom.

Fonzie’s office was, as we all know, inside the men’s bathroom at Arnold’s. But most of his office meetings didn’t take longer than a quick palaver about who does, and does not, deserve to “sit on it.” Nary a breakout session in sight.

Do the meetings inside this particular “conference room” provide continental breakfast or am I supposed to dine before I arrive? I’m a little worried at the placement of that coffee urn. I’ve never encountered asparagus-flavored creamer before. Anything like hazelnut?

I know the sign clearly says it’s for conference room use ONLY, but is it okay if I use it as a bathroom? Or do I have to go to a nearby room, with maybe some folding chairs and an accordion wall, to take a dump? Because I’ve got a keynote address brewing, ready to trumpet out among the attendees. I don’t even need a microphone.

But I am going to need to scan your badge.

Okay, enough with the fun and frivolity. I’m sure the sign means the bathroom is only to be used by people attending a conference in a nearby conference room. It’s not for us plebs doing the pee-pee dance as the TSA cycle through travelers with a pace even the DMV finds offensive. Hopefully the “no liquids” rule doesn’t apply to my bladder. High grade explosives, indeed.

Even the official story doesn’t make sense, however. Who has a meeting at the airport? The hotel next to the airport, sure, but the last thing I want while I’m discussing the application of the newest technology on the whatsit and the best contemporary practices of whosit, is to watch a steady stream of of grumpy erstwhile vacationers being anally probed by government bureaucrats. Most conference attendees already feel that way, they don’t need the metaphor to be acted out. 

Then again, that sunburnt guy in the TSA line might pass out if he’s touched. Let’s go to the bathroom and watch the shitshow.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve been to the Big Island twice, once as a child and once as an adult. I’ve done Oahu, but it was literally back in the Reagan Administration. The luau had a kissing line, where everybody lined up to be groped by random strangers. Can’t imagine why they stopped that sexual harassment waiting to happen.

This was my first trip to Maui. My main takeaway is that Maui is very touristy. The world of the resorts isn’t really tied to any sense of reality, much less the island. I’m sure Oahu is the same way, but at least in Oahu (from what I remember), there’s more of an urban environment. The resorts might be on the beach, but they’re still tied into the city. In Maui, the cities are separate.

The Big Island, to me, feels more like “Hawaii.” Lots of different things to see there. You can visit a macadamia nut farm or a coffee plantation, find a waterfall hike, or head into cities, from tiny to middling, each with certain personalities. Allegedly you can do similar things on the “Road to Hana,” which I didn’t do, but on the Big Island, those experiences aren’t isolated on the other damn side of the island, requiring a full day to get to. We didn’t do the Road because we have a seven-year-old and all anyone ever says about it are “Beautiful, but long.” I could never even figure out if there was anything to DO in Hana once you get there, or if you end up driving four hours in heavy traffic for the sole purpose of turning around and driving back. Like the Line Ride in that Simpsons episode.

When I went to the Big Island a few years ago, I had lots of things to say about the Hawaiian language and its lack of consonants. It’s not like people are walking around conversing in Hawaiian, but there’s a conscious attempt to keep it alive. On Maui, I never heard or saw the language much, aside from city names and an occasional “In Hawaiian, ona means drunk, and we hope you get very ona tonight.” At fifteen bucks a drink.

I’m told Maui is “not what it used to be,” that it “used to be a quaint little something or other.” I’m also told that, after shutting themselves off from the rest of the world for 18 months, Maui is now interested in diversifying their economy away from 90% tourism. Maybe they should’ve thought of that before they dug up all the pineapple plants and sugar cane, but meh. We saw a fair number of fruit trees, especially citrus, growing where the sugar cane used to be, but the trees were still tiny. By the time they’ve grown, they’ll be replacing them all with marijuana.

My father-in-law, who has been going to the same time share since he bought it in the 1980s (when it was the “only one in Kaanapali”) insists that the Big Island is now where Maui was thirty years ago. I often say the same thing about Amador County wineries vis-a-vis Napa. If that’s the case, then yuck. I guess I better enjoy the Big Island while I can, then get my ass a timeshare on Kawai before it turns into Vegas.

Maui Trip, Part 2

Welcome back. Part Two of my Maui trip is more about me and my family than the actual island, then I’ll wrap it up next week with some business reviews and final thoughts.

Alcohol

Most of my Maui tweets tweets involved the various alcohol policies at our hotel. Rules and regulations, pricing, what have you. But mainly the pricing. Take some resort lifestyle and runaway inflation, add in the fact that I’m not quite the bar hopper I once was, but damn!, those prices.

I love me some pina colada, but in ninety percent of social circumstances, I’m not likely to order one. Call it toxic masculinity, call it not wanting to be the asshole who orders a blended drink. Regardless, when I’m on a cruise ship or somewhere tropical, give me an umbrella drink, stat! But holy crap, fourteen dollars? They literally grow pineapples and coconuts right here on the damn island, or at least they used to, so it should be cheaper. I wanted to throw out the Pulp Fiction line about putting bourbon in it, but at at this point, I’d sell a testicle to get a $5 milkshake. 

Of course, they don’t use those pineapples and coconuts that should be in abundance on the island. Nor do they make a proper pina colada with coconut liquor. It’s just that Island Oasis pre-mix, that probably costs less than $14 for an entire carton of at Costco, and pour in some rum. Not that this stopped me from buying it. It just increased my bitching.

Last time I was in Hawaii, I gravitated toward those lava flow drinks, which are pina coladas with strawberry puree. At the same price, why wouldn’t I buy the one with the extra yummy? Except my hotel made a couple faux pas to lessen the lava flow desirability. 

First, they put banana in it. Blech. Banana is such a bullshit bully when it comes to smoothies. It deadens all the other flavors, making everything a banana* (with special guest star, raspberry) smoothie. I’ll never understand why Jamba Juice puts it in ninety percent of their drinks. One place we went, either Hula Grill or Cheeseburger in Paradise because those are the only places Daughter allowed meals to occur) threw in a mango instead of a banana. I probably coulda gotten on board with that. Unfortunately, wherever it was, I couldn’t just charge it to the room, so I opted for beer. 

The other Lava Flow misstep was not with the lava flow itself, but with the pina colada, which came with a floater of dark rum. I always thought of floaters as superfluous. Great if you want to light your Dr. Pepper on fire, but why not just throw an extra shot in the actual drink? Like separating the yolk from the white, even though they’re all going into the waffles anyway. This aversion is alleviated in a frozen drink, however, because the floater actually stays as a floater. And my first response when sipping from this pina colada was, damn, it doesn’t have a lot of pina colada taste to it. Tons of rum, though. The second half of the drink, after the two lifeforms had merged,  tasted more like a strong pina colada, which makes papa happy. In later incarnations, I drove the straw deep for the first suck, getting full pineapple and coconut, before heading back to the rum.

Both these drinks, mind you, cost the same fourteen dollars. So for the same price, I can either add either a banana and strawberry, or an extra shot of booze, to my pina colada. That banana bully has graduated to stealing my lunch money. If it was a nine dollar drink, it might be a tossup, but if I’m paying double digits, I’m milking every ounce of booze I can.

The beer, on the other hand, only cost seven dollars for a 12-ounce pour. That seems amazingly moderate, commensurate with what I pay on the mainland. In Sacramento, we have a minor league baseball park that charges more than ten bucks. Am I just out of the loop? Has inflation hit mixed drinks harder than beer? Is there so much microbrew competition now that you can’t charge too much? As opposed to Island Oasis, which has a monopoly.

The beer prices were so reasonable that I refused to order it during happy hour, which was two dollars off each drink. A $12 pina colada becomes marginally approachable. A $5 draft beer seems like overkill.

Said happy hour happened twice each day, both seemingly tied to the pool. The first one happened right when the bar opened, at 10:00 am. I applaud a place that encourages you to get your drink on as early as possible. As a bonus, you can model your business on people making poor decisions. How else to explain all the people spending money for those enclosures on the beach, then promptly falling asleep in them? Sure, it’s a lanai while you’re looking at Lanai, but once you’re there, you’re trapped. Play on the beach or in the water and you’re wasting your money. So instead they nap, spending a hell of a lot of money to do what the homeless people in San Diego do for free. Those people need a couple mai tais at 10 am. For twelve dollars instead of the normal fourteen.

It’s a lanai… looking out at Lanai

Ten o’clock was also the time the water slide opened. At first I thought this was to encourage people to behave badly. But after riding the water slide a couple times, I realized it wasn’t made for anyone in the 200-pound range. I damn near got stuck twice on a ten foot slide. So maybe they both start at the same time to give so we can shuffle our kids off while we go get a damn drink.

The second happy hour was the more standard one, from 4:00 to 5:00, coinciding with the closing of the water slide. It was a great breakaway for those of us who just spent hours feigning excitement over our children’s umpteenth slide down. What’s that sweetie? Did I see the slight change in your body position? Of course I did. That made all the difference, didn’t it?

The problem is that once the water slide is closed, we’re back to parenting again. Not to mention showers and dinner plans. Throw in the fact that for most of us it’s anywhere from 7:00-10:00 on the internal clock (those people in the lanai are snoring away for different reasons now), and it wasn’t surprising that the second happy hour had less partakers. Like a real happy hour.

The pool bar closed at 7:00 pm. And I mean CLOSED. I was grilling hot dogs nearby and wondered if I should get a drink (a beer, since it was not happy hour) to drink while grilling or to take back to my room with the hot dogs to consume with dinner? I chose poorly, because when I swung by the bar on the way back to my room, the bartender informed me they closed at 7:00. I checked my watch and it was, I shit you not, 7:02.

Daughter. 

Sometimes I forget that my daughter isn’t four years old anymore. Other times I have to remind myself she’s not a teenager yet. Occasionally, she loses track of these factoids, too.

Things she used to be afraid of, she’s now fine with. Things that were once of no concern now inspire existential dread. Her food palate seems to be going in all directions. In some instances, she’s more interested in new flavors, while at other times she’s regressing from loving broccoli to tolerating it. Last trip to Maui, she allegedly fell in love with fish & chips. That lasted for all of a month or so before she started hating it, so it was back to the usual mac & cheese/chicken strip restaurant fare. Nothing worse than paying ten bucks for the same box of Kraft dinner we can cook at home for ninety cents. 

This trip, she was on a cheeseburger kick, despite being iffy on them back home. For the first half of the week, she devoured those things. On our first trip to Cheeseburger in Paradise, which she was upset to discover wasn’t associated with Jimmy Buffett (yeah, I’ve got THAT kid), and she mauled that entire burger and some of her fries. Against our wishes, we returned a couple days later. She ordered the same thing, this time with avocado on top, and a side of fruit in lieu of the fries. She proceeded to eat the avocado, the bun, and the strawberries, but not the pineapple. Never touched the meat and/or cheese. All things considered, I shouldn’t criticize a kid who eats avocado and strawberry, but seriously kid, there were other things on the menu. You didn’t bother looking. And I don’t know where this new aversion to pineapple came from. She always loved it before. Perhaps she associates it with coconut, which she’s never liked. 

Then again, if she doesn’t drink pina coladas, would she associate the two? 

She loves putting the “Do Not Disturb” sign on our door, but she only wants to do it when we’re away from the room. That way, people won’t be knocking forever, wondering why we aren’t coming to the door. But while we’re in the room, then everybody’s welcome. I don’t know who she expects to come by. Probably a kidnapper. And we wouldn’t want him to waste his time. Since housekeeping during one’s stay is quickly becoming a thing of the past, it wasn’t much of an issue. Not that they’ve had the “Request Maid Service” sign for years. It kinda feels like now’s a good time to bring that one back, only to be used as necessary.

This trip was the first time I saw the beginnings of that persnickety social bullshit that is undoubtedly coming in shit-tons over the next decade. She has become aware that other people might notice and have opinions about her. Even worse, it happened at the pool and the beach, so my next Maui trip will include her lying around on a chaise like my sister used to do for her entire teenage existence. 

While we no longer fear Daughter sinking to the bottom each time she swims, she’s not exactly Michael Phelps. Even a normal jaunt into the pool requires a parent on hand. If for our sanity if not entirely for her safety. She can make it to the side of the pool on her own, but doesn’t exactly know when it’s a good idea to head in that direction. With the amount of excess energy she expends over each ounce of water, if one of us were not with her, she’d swallow half the pool by the time she made it there. Even when she’s “treading water,” (or sinking then bouncing back up) she doesn’t realize the purpose is to keep the water out of her mouth. Close your fucking mouth, kid!

So when it came to swimming in the ocean, we mandated some stricter guidelines on the off chance a current separates us or a wave changes the depth quickly. Wife wanted her to take an inflatable floatie out, but I said life preserver. While I don’t think either of us intended to combine the two, in Daughter’s mind this morphed into quite the hypothetical visual. Aside from the fact that it might be physically impossible, I can kinda see where she might have a problem with fitting the life jacket into the hole of the inflatable duck. Traipsing out amongst beachgoers with seventy-five layers of protection sounds very 1980s sitcom. Should we throw some colored zinc on her nose, too? Are glasses and headgear out of the question? 

It took me a while to come up with the word “headgear.” Don’t see those around much anymore. Technology might be destroying our planet and plotting humanity’s demise, but at least we improved the teeth straightening.

She never directly said dork or geek, I don’t think she ever even enunciated the phrase “embarassing,” but you could tell that’s where she was going. Her exact worry was not being, “the only stupid kid on the beach.” Ugh. Since when did she start noticing how other people perceive her? Are the mean girls already mean girling? Is Daughter on the sending or receiving end? And is it too late to return to distance learning?

Of course, we parents didn’t help matters by noting that none of these people knew her, to which she responded that made it even worse. First impressions, and all that. I guess it takes until middle school when you learn that strangers are a far safer commodity than people who see you every day and will remind you of said embarrassment every fucking chance they get.

Come Back for Part Three

One more batch coming up early next week. Find out my thoughts on ziplining, pancakes, and goats. Just what you’ve always hoped for!