Shitty guy shit

About a year ago or so, before Harvey Weinstein, and Louis C.K., and Charlie Rose, and that Today show douche Matt Lauer–who was seeking a $30M golden parachute for, in part, getting fired for showing his penis at work–I was in my therapist’s office grousing about something or other, and all of a sudden, I was like, “You know what it is? It’s just shitty guy shit. Just random, they don’t realize they’re doing it, shitty fucking guy shit.”

She laughed and was like, “You should do something with that.”

So yeah, that was almost a year ago.

Now that all this shitty guy shit and #metoo stuff is coming into the fray, I’ve put off putting anything down. But it keeps coming to mind. Wow, some of that shit really happened to me. And how fucked up was that? Very. Very fucked up.

Perhaps most of all, re-living that stuff in writing is painful as shit. As so many women know, once you bring it up again, you open yourself up to all kinds of criticism, scrutiny, and even, stunningly enough, new fresh, wonderful, personal attacks piggybacking on the old ones.

It pains me to say that I’m not surprised that most of my female friends and colleagues have endured some sort of physical or emotional trauma or assault in their lives. What’s more painful is just how acceptable it has been for men to act like that, get away with it, and often live incredibly rewarding lives while tearing down those around them in spite of their shitty guy shit.

The worst part? I know that most of these guys would claim to be “good guys.” Good fathers, husbands, employers or employees. No self-awareness whatsoever. How nice, how very fucking nice for you all to keep on, keepin’ on.

This is just a list, plain and simple, of the personal shitty guy shit I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Oh, and I’ve omitted the regular shitty guy shit that includes: Lying, cheating, stealing, and freeloading. To make this list you have to have been violent, abusive, or a total creeper. So gnaw on that for a little while.

1. My first high school boyfriend smacked me across the face when I told him I didn’t want to get back together — after he dumped me to basically fuck around with one of my best friends.

2. Same boyfriend also: Slammed me into a set of lockers at school in front of a lot of kids (no one did anything); and also pushed me down at a party. My head landed a few inches away from a rock or tree stump, I don’t remember. I just remember I’m very lucky it didn’t split my head open.

3. In college at University of Iowa, Iowa City, I noticed the same car following me on my route as I was running one Friday afternoon. At the end of my run, the guy pulls up in front of me. He has his pants open and is jacking off.

4. Same guy follows me again 2 weeks later. Also jacking off.

5. Also college: Random dude in apartment across the way is pacing in his apartment, muttering obscenities. It’s summer and our windows are open, and my blinds are slightly open. I’m back from work and want to change clothes so I shut my blinds. He says, “That’s right, go ahead and shut your blinds, you fucking cunt.” I am terrified to call the cops because this psycho obviously knows where I live.

6. My roommate, when I relate this story to her, laughs and says, “Oh, yeah, he did that to me, too.”

7. I am getting a ride home at 2 a.m. from a concert with a work friend (I am sober), when a large roving pack of drunk college boys are walking past my apartment. They start swarming around her car, and she and her friend are thoroughly freaked out. Instead of going around the block and waiting for them to leave, they scream “get out” and kick me out of the car in the pack.

Two guys stay behind. They are wasted and trying to convince me to come to the afterparty. I am terrified and trying not to piss them off, politely declining, saying I have work first thing in the morning (true) and to go ahead without me. One guy is huge, about 6’5″ and 250 pounds. They keep badgering me to come with them to the party, edging me closer to my apartment complex’s brick wall.

The big dude snaps, gets in my face, and yells at me, “You fucking bitch. I’m going to kick the shit out of you.” He continues to get closer and yell in my face, about how he is going to “kill me,” and “fucking beat me to death,” and I think, “This is it. This is how I’m going to die,” and imagine him pushing my head into the brick wall.

The other guy says something, and he stops yelling at me and looks at the other dude. I take off fucking running for my life and dive underneath a nearby car to hide. The two drunk dudes continue to argue in front of my building and search for me for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they finally give up and wander off.

I finally get into my apartment, and am too terrified to turn on the lights, and basically crawl on the floor to bed, where, of course, I do not sleep. The next morning, when my colleague asks how I “made it through that group of drunk dudes to my apartment,” I tell her to go fuck herself.

8. I’m happily walking home from class one day, while a carload of random frat boys catcall somebody, and when I look at them, they yell, “Not you, you ugly fucking bitch.”

This was all in Iowa, BTW.

9. In Las Vegas, as an entertainment reporter, I am constantly asked when I’m going to get a boob job.

10. I am also asked, inevitably when in line at airports headed back to Vegas, by regular Midwestern Joe’s in khakis with their golf clubs, if I’m headed to Vegas to strip.

11. In Vegas, while running one night with my hair up, I hear two pre-teen boys up the street start talking about me, “Is that a girl or is that a fag?” one says, total hate in his voice. “That’s a fag!” says the other one. “Let’s beat him up!” I take off running faster than I can ever remember because I know if they catch me they will either beat me up or worse. I tell my friend, a public defender, this story later that night. “Future clients,” he says.

12. In Vegas, also while running, I had more slurs hurled at me from moving cars than I care to remember. Also, quarters  (which hurt from a moving car), and once, part of a Subway sandwich.

13. In Chicago, one boyfriend often gets drunk and berates me, calling me “ugly, fat, and stupid” on a regular basis. One especially lovely New Year’s Eve, he gets wasted and starts yelling at me for hours, and makes me sleep on the floor.

14. Also Chicago, there is a man assaulting women in the near North neighborhoods. After work, in daylight, walking back to my apartment from the bus stop, I get the weird feeling that someone is following me and closing in. I turn around and just fucking glare at him. The guy following me looks exactly like the police sketch. He and I give each other looks, like we know what’s up. And I just keep glaring at him, like, “Look, you can try motherfucker, but it won’t be easy,” until he crosses the street.

Whether it was him or not, I do not care. I am not willing to “spare someone’s feelings” at my own expense. I wait for him to disappear before I, again absolutely fucking terrified, go into my building because I don’t want him to know where I live.

15. Also Chicago, while walking to bodega to get milk, I accidentally witness a drug transaction in our back alley. The dealers, two dudes in a car, glare at me and slowly follow me in their car to the bodega and sit outside while I am in there for 10 excruciating minutes. Finally, they leave. I walk back to my apartment utterly terrified to go out for milk in the middle of the day.

16. I have no shitty man shit incidents to report from New York City. It was, oddly enough, the safest place I’ve ever lived.

17. Seattle: When I write pro-women, pro-equal rights articles for a popular tech news site, women and minorities are often called out in the comments by tech bros for being a bunch of fucking crybabies who get special treatment at work. Oh, and we’re also taking their jobs.

Are you tired yet?

Northern Thailand and the Best Meal I Had This Year

When you travel you will meet many people, but there will only be a small handful who stick in your mind as remarkable. On my trip throughout Southeast Asia I met two such people: Here is the story of the first.

“What should I do next?” I asked my Airbnb host in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Of course, I had the guidebooks and the internets and my friends’ recommendations, yet what they were all telling me to do next didn’t really jive with what I wanted to do. After the chaos of Bangkok and the still very-white-European experience of wandering around Chiang Mai for days, I was really jones-ing to get away from coffeeshops and dreadlocked Germans.

“Let me rephrase that,” I said. “What would you do if you had a few days off?”

When you travel, of course, you do all the tourist-y stuff. I mean what would be a trip to Seattle without seeing the Space Needle, or NYC without a visit to the Statue of Liberty, or not seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Honestly, I don’t really care for that stuff.

I was only Week Two into my big Southeast Asia trip and if I had to take my shoes off and go through yet another temple to look at more gold Buddhas, I was going to go mental.

My Airbnb host looked at me, sizing me up to see if I’d really dig the local stuff. Then he said, “There are two places not too far from here up in the mountains. This one has really cute little huts, and still has some Wi-Fi and massages and stuff like that if you don’t totally want to go off the grid,” he said, pulling it up on his laptop.

“But this other one is really remote. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s incredible. I’ve had families go up, and the kids come back and they were like, ‘It’s boring! I hated it.’ But their parents love it cause there’s nothing up there but the bamboo huts and the woods.”

Kids hate it? Sold.

No sticky, sugary treats? No big-screen TVs? No video games, or internet, or shiny things, or overpriced plastic shit to buy? Done and done.

The place, Bamboo Nest, is about 23 kilometers north of Chiang Rai, which turned out to be a very bumpy four- to five-hour, nausea-inducing bus ride from Chiang Mai.

From the website:

Bamboo Nest , we offer without electricity, fan or air-condition only breath fresh , cool mountain air, live with nature , relax without pressure to buy things you don’t want.
We provide light at nighttime by solar power”

Photo credit: Bamboo Nest

Photo credit: Bamboo Nest

Once I got off the bus and was waiting for someone to pick me up, I found a few other passengers who were clearly waiting, too, including a nice couple from the UK about to embark on a bike tour through Laos, a single woman traveler from Australia, and two charming young couples from Denmark and Croatia.

The place is owned and operated by a pair, Nok and Noi. When the woman Nok rolled up in her pickup to load our bags, then a different open-air truck came to retrieve us, and we started ascending super-steep, bumpier, smaller dirt roads that turned into even smaller, bumpier dirt roads, I was pretty much in heaven. The final road to the camp was so steep that we had to get off the truck and hike up about a half mile.

The road from the village to the camp.

The road from the village to the camp.

Once we got up there, the man Noi, started grabbing our bags and showing us our cabins, little bamboo hits in the hills. I found mine and just left my rollaway outside the door while I went in and started poking around and opening the windows.

Noi came up to the window and was like, “Here, let me get you your bag,” and started to put it through the window. Then, he picked up some stray dead bamboo leaves off the pristine garden outside the window, muttering to himself, “So much to clean up, so much to do!” and wandered off.

This was my room.

This was my room.

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This was my hut.

I was thinking, what a curious little man.

The next day, I signed up for a “jungle tour and lunch then river cruise” along with a few of the other people. I figured we’d walk thru the woods and then stop at a local village for lunch, as did everyone else. That was not the case at all.

Noi, who was pretty much the one-man show of the camp, doing all the construction (I saw him with two huge logs on his shoulders, powering up the bumpy road driving his motorbike with one hand), grounds work, and now hospitality, started leading us up a crazy steep path into the jungle.

“Are there poisonous snakes here?” asked the Danish girl.

“Noooo,” said Noi, then paused. “Only cobra.”

So was Noi’s humor, taking us through the jungle.

After about an hour and a half of steep hiking, we stopped in a clearing in the path. And he goes, “Ok, now we have lunch.”

We look around at each other. Huh?

“This is my second kitchen,” he says.

Then we see where he’s going with this. He takes his machete and starts hacking away at dried, dead bamboo and builds a fire. He then takes huge bamboo leaves to cover what now appears to be ramshackle table made out of dried sticks. He bounds off into the woods, “Now I go get some frogs for lunch,” he says, leaving us there.

“You don’t really think he’s going to get frogs, do you?” said the woman from the UK, laughing.

“Don’t know. Seems anything is possible at this point,” said her husband.

Noi comes bounding back with some huge bamboo shoots. He then starts hacking those up into tubes, and unloads his backpack, which we know see is filled with baggies of egg, rice, chicken and coconut water.

“Ok,” he says. “Now you help make lunch.” He shows us how to tamp down food into the bamboo shoots, filling it with coconut water a little at a time, filling each with egg and rice. Then we stack them over the fire. Next up is spearing the chicken and placing that over the fire.

Noi making a fire in his jungle kitchen.

Noi making a fire in his jungle kitchen.

Noi covering his jungle kitchen prep space with bamboo leaves.

Noi covering his jungle kitchen prep space with bamboo leaves.

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Noi showing us how to put food in bamboo to cook it.

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More bamboo stuffing.

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We eat our meal with our hands right off the prep table. Best tasting chicken, rice and egg I’ve ever tasted.

While Noi is constantly hopping around, hacking at bamboo with a machete, this 90-pound man is chain-smoking cigarettes, and telling us tales about how the locals believe in “black magic,” so if they get injured or “bit by cobra” they drink some potion from a local medicine man, and just pray and do the “black magic” to save themselves.

We don’t know how much he’s putting on a show or not, but he’s a pretty amusing storyteller. But he also tells us that we don’t see any animals in the jungle because the local people have pretty much eaten them all because they are starving, a very sobering thought indeed.

When the food is cooked, we peel the bamboo shoots just like a banana to reveal cooked eggs and rice, which we stand around the table and eat with our hands. For dessert, he pulls out tiny pineapples and chops them up. It is one of the most delicious meals I have ever had in my life.

Later that day, after we discover that Noi himself is a vegetarian — he goes through the woods, plucking plants from the ground and eating them “Oh, this one is good,” he says, like a Thai version of “Survivor Man” — he takes us through local villages with starving dogs, buying a few buns to feed them, spreading a little peace and goodwill everywhere we go from village to village.

At the end of the day, we get picked up by the truck, and there is not enough room for everyone in the front. A former farm kid, I’m more than happy to sit in the back with Noi.

“Where are you from in America?” he asked me.

“Seattle.”

“Seattle…Boeing!” he says, very excited. “What was flying here like?”

“Well, it’s very long, like 14 hours, and they serve you a couple meals and you sleep and watch movies…” I watch his eyes widening. “Have you never flown before?”

“No! That is why I’m asking you!” he says.

So, I try to explain more about what I know about airplanes, which is not a lot at all, in the back of that truck climbing up the mountains of Thailand, and I realize that this incredibly handy man, who engineers buildings and kitchens in the jungle out of next to nothing would probably have made a damn great airplane engineer at Boeing.

“Where would you go if you could fly anywhere?” I ask Noi.

He pauses. “South Africa,” he says firmly.

“Why?”

“I want to see the animals,” he said.

A few days later, as I was packed up and ready to depart back to the Chiang Rai airport, Noi and I had a smoke, a moment and look, and he was like, “You please make sure to come back now.”

I didn’t meet many other Americans on my travels throughout Southeast Asia or Indonesia. One, it’s dang far away. Two, we just don’t get enough vacation time to make that journey work. Three, I believe that, here in the U.S., we tend to be raised without the natural curiosity and openness to experience other cultures, in fact, we are taught the opposite — to fear and distrust “the other.”

If you do not travel or even open your mind and heart to “the others,” you deprive yourself the priceless experience of meeting and connecting with other people around the world who have much to teach you. I did not always understand their viewpoints, or even agree with everyone I met or sat down with, but I think about each and every one of the people who helped ferry me safely along my journey, and especially those who taught me something over a home- or jungle-cooked meal. And for this, I am thankful.

More pics from Bamboo Nest:

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This is the view from top of hill at camp. The roof of my cabin is bottom left.

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The view from my balcony.

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Sunset.

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Ye old fire pit where everyone gathers after dinner to drink cold beers, smoke cigs and talk. My trip, there were people from Australia, UK, Denmark, Croatia, and Austria.

 

 

Headed to a Red State for the Holidays? Here’s a Survival Guide

With the travesty of last week’s happenings behind us, and many of us still shaking from Week 1, aka the Worst Week Ever if you’re that woman who got punched in the face in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, or a kid who had to listen to your classmates chant “Build that Wall,” or just a general peace-loving citizen who’s now being maliciously attacked for just, well, being, if you made it through this week somewhat intact, well, congrats.

Unfortunately, for those of us swaddled in our Coastal Liberal Bubbles of North Face jackets and NPR, we are not totally immune to ‘Mer-Kuh when it comes to that age-old quest: Heading home for the holidays.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it here: It’s painful to dislodge yourself from the land of sky blue waters and intellectual freedom to find yourself in the backdrop to a sadass Alexander Payne movie (is there any other kind?) about Midwestern strife, only to rub your eyes and realize that Alaska Airlines did not drop you in a shitty Hollywood backdrop with Jack Nicholson smoking nearby. It has, indeed, dropped you in Omaha. The real Omaha. And shit’s about to get real, yo.

This year my worst holiday nightmare won’t be enduring a crappy meal at Red Lobster, or sitting around watching my nephew puke up his quinoa in protest while yelling “IDIOTS.” This year will involve immersing myself, still fresh with the very raw wounds of our eventual demise and downfall, in the land filled with the willful ignorance that deposited that troll into our very highest office in the country. And I, too, will be fighting back an undeniable urge to puke on every dinner table and yell “IDIOTS” every chance I get.

But, as they supposedly say, I am an adult. And this year, it’s all about self-preservation. Fuck trying to “get along” and listen to idiots talk about their idiot ideas, which are very likely not based in fact or reason, but in easy-to-repeat slogans printed on T-shirts made in China. I’m taking the Zombie Apocalypse view of heading to a Red State for the holidays. And that means self-preservation at all costs.

Here, my quick guide to surviving the holidays in a Red State:

Photo credit: Cypress Hill

Photo credit: Cypress Hill

Pot

I come from the land of milk and honey and pot that is basically spilling out of shops on every corner. I live directly across the street from one such recreational shop, and may I say that it is better than living close to a bar by leaps and bounds. People come and go, but don’t linger, as this is a quick business exchange of stress relief/happy fun times for money and they respect it as such.

That said, DO NOT TRAVEL with weed. I know several people who risk getting arrested for a $20 spot of the green and let me say, fucking with TSA and the Federal government is not worth it. Weed is pretty plentiful everywhere. And sure, I don’t expect the Midwest shit to be as awesome as the great Pacific Northwest shit, but it will probably be enough to get me through.

Find your local hometown pot connection and makes plans to get some shit ASAP upon landing. It will help sustain you through the next three to seven days, which brings me to…

Don’t drink too much (or at all)

Yep, you heard me right. Want to guarantee you lose your cool and get baited into some dumbass argument over Christmas dinner with dipshit Uncle Ted and his Make America Great Again hat? Drink too much. Alcohol, usually your friend to endure the holidays, is not your friend this year. Save it for when you get back.

Noise-canceling headphones. This should explain itself.

Photo credit: Amazon

Photo credit: Amazon

Netflix. Hulu. HBOGo. And holy-shit-I’m-even-recommending Amazon Prime. 

I hate Amazon, but holy shit, they got good shows. Get your subscriptions. ALL the damn subscriptions. Load up your programs, big kudos to those that champion diversity like Transparent, and prepare to watch the holy fuck out of all of them.

Books by the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, and every other damn Pacifist/Activist/Buddhist you can think of. Double points if you crack open a book by Barack Obama.

Find the other liberal friends who are either still home or plan to be. Make plans to hang out in a safe zone (not your town’s local bar or bowling alley or anywhere a methed-up someone is likely to pull a hunting rifle on you) and talk shit about the state of the world.

Stay busy. Book the fuck out of this trip back. Is there a tiny goat petting zoo you have always been dying to go to? GREAT. Fucking get stoned and GO DO IT. With your headphones on, of course.

Book a spa day. Seriously, these spas tend to be dirt cheap. Go ahead, get your rub on.

Go thrifting. I love me some thrifting in small towns for a couple reasons. 1. The old people die and leave behind vintage shit that the local Abercrombie & Fitch wearing locals don’t want. 2. See the dirt cheap thing.

Go to Target. I love me some Middle America Target. It’s worth a few hours to kill.

Give the gift of non-hate. I love the recommendation to give gifts to organizations like Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, the Trevor Project and more, per this Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment, to your Trump-lovin’ relatives. The double beauty of this is that is also makes up for every shitty gift they’ve ever given you.

And, finally, make your place super awesome to come home to. This is your Present Self taking care of Future Self. It’s going to be rough. You’re going to go into the trenches of hate, despair and unlimited buffets. You need to have a safe, warm respite to look forward to when you get back.

Wash your sheets and make your bed pretty. Clean your house. Load your fridge with your favorite foods, buy those fancy-pants artisanal sodas and twee cheeses and crackers and speciality lotions, potions and candles. Your fucking deserve all this locally sourced, small-batch, organic farmer shit. You know why?

You just survived the holidays in a Red State.

10 things that are better in Southeast Asia

Traveling is a superb way to try on what life might be like somewhere else. And like everything else in life, some aspects are better than others. Here are a few things that Southeast Asia does better than the U.S.

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The good stuff.

1. Mosquito repellent. Several years ago while traveling in Jamaica, I needed bug repellent, but all I could find was Johnson’s Baby mosquito lotion. I bought it figuring, “If it works for babies, why wouldn’t it work for adults?”

Guess what. It does. Better even. It smells great and has a light, non-greasy texture. I loved it, and when I brought it back to the States, my friends at the beach, barbecues and other outdoor shenanigans loved it, too.

I don’t know why our mosquito repellent is so awful — that chemically, greasy, strip-your-skin-off stuff that prevails in most American drugstores — but it is. Maybe it’s because these fancy-pants mosquito repellents have banned chemicals that give kids ADHD, but I could not have been more thrilled when I found Johnson’s delightful little green bottle of baby mosquito repellent in Thailand.

Other countries, like Vietnam and Indonesia, had their own awesome versions, too. In fact, I bought one in Vietnam called Remos thinking it was a light moisturizer and didn’t even realize what it was until it started burning my face off. Mistake noted, it ended up being a great repellent when used properly.

The aloe is deceptive but this is one hell of a repellent.

2. Natural food. Food is harvested, taken to market and served in a pretty tight timeline. When you’re sucking down coconut milk served from a coconut(!!!) for 50 cents and eating fresh pineapple, your digestion system starts to thank you for giving it a reprieve from all the preservatives, chemicals, hormones and nonsense we pump into ourselves in the States — even if we try to avoid it.

Delicious and nutritious.

3. Outdoor showers. Nothing beats washing off a day of saltwater, sunscreen and sweat than an outdoor shower. It’s a luxury every warm-weather place in the U.S. should have. Plus, you can hose your kids and dogs off outside. What’s better than that? 

4. 4G in Thailand. When I popped my SIM card in and fired up my Thai 4G I was blown away by the almost instantaneous speed. America, we got a lot of catching up to do.

5. Paper face masks. They sell these paper face masks in practically every convenience store throughout SE Asia. Having a grimy day? Get too much sun? No worries. For about a buck, you can put on one of these masks that make you look like Jason from “Friday the 13th” for 15 to 20 minutes for a little skin-saving treat. I can’t wait until I can buy one of these things alongside a pack of gum and Lotto tickets here.

6. The idea that you don’t need to work all the time. While it might seem counterintuitive to the way Westerners have been programmed, businesses tend to open and close when the owners feel like it. Are they leaving some potential cash on the table? Sure. But they probably see their friends and family more.

7. Cheap massages. Amazing. $12-$20. Once-a-week treats isn’t unheard of even for the locals. Be sure to tip the practitioner a lot.

8. Cheap food. No meal was over $6 in Vietnam. And believe me, I tried.

9. Little hand-held spray hoses by every toilet. This should be self-explanatory.

10. The “it’s all gonna be all right” mentality. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But stressing out about stuff doesn’t help anything.

Walking into your room to these? Excellent.

Scuba diving, a love story

If you’ve ever been on your hands and knees on the upper deck of a rollicking boat, wiping up your own banana-chunked vomit with a sarong, then this story is for you.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.

I have a love/hate relationship with scuba diving. Unlike its sexier cousin, surfing, I never had any strong desire to scuba dive, and it certainly doesn’t hold the appeal of the rush you get when you catch an awesome wave.

To surfing’s “great kisser, fast guy on a motorcycle vibe,” scuba diving is like hanging out with a cute nerd who can add some awesome new features to your computer — you don’t want to see or care about how he got there, but damn, sometimes the results are great. But most of the time it’s boring. And you just want to see some cool shit and get out of the water.

Besides, I learned how to scuba dive with my ex, and it was always more his thing. In fact, he still loves it and even goes cold-water diving in the Pacific Northwest. There’s only one reason to go diving in murky, unfavorably cold waters as far as I’m concerned, and it better involve looking for a body.

So how did I find myself on a live-aboard dive boat in the Indian Ocean?

Well, as Virginia is for lovers, Thailand is for divers.  I am certified and there is supposed to be world-class diving, so I figured why the heck not? I’m here. I got my Padi dive card itching to get out. I need the practice. Let’s do this.

Originally, I had planned to dive the gulf side by the island of Ko Tao, but a diver friend said that the west side on the Andaman Sea was much better. This was an opinion that was supported by several other experienced divers I met (including my dive master on the boat who’s taught in both places). However, if you want to dive the Andaman Sea, you pretty much have to sign up for a live-aboard dive trip since the islands you dive around, the Similan Islands, are about 60 kilometers off the coast.

I’d never been on a live-aboard before, but since I have plenty of experience on boats and have never once experienced sea or motion sickness, I figured I could handle anything for three days. So I happily signed up for a dive shop that came recommended and looked like they had the nicest boats online.

Right before — and I mean literally 30 minutes before — I was to be picked up for my live-aboard dive boat experience, I was polishing off an espresso and had that dreaded feeling. That “uh-oh, I don’t feel so hot” feeling. At first I thought it was heat and dehydration, so I drank more water, popped a Pepto and did a power lap in the pool.

After the driver took me to the dive shop, I was breaking out in feverish sweats, and I realized I was getting full-on sick. I was met at the dive shop by Mark* (not his real name), a stern-looking, serious, blonde, tattooed German with those disgusting gauge ear piercings that make your earholes really big.

On a side note, I would like to know why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to get these. When you want to take them out one day, and you probably will, you then have these huge gaping holes where your earlobes used to be. Nothing is a bigger boner killer than looking at the sad, saggy lobes of an ear that once was. 

Back to Mark.

“So, it says here that you’re open water certified,” he said. “You won’t be able to do any of the dives on this trip since most dives are around 30 meters, and you need deep water certification. But you can get certified on this trip for only 8,300 bhat (that’s about $230).”

“Ugh, classes,” I say, sweating and nauseous. The thought of taking more diving “courses” even when I’m feeling well would piss me off good, but when I’m sitting there with a fever trying to quell down the vomit train, it was enough to make me want to cut a bitch.

The dive “courses,” btw, are tedious. When you get open water certified, you basically have to take your equipment off and on a million times, and do a bunch of underwater drills. It’s important because it teaches you what to do if things go awry — and they will go awry — but it is a real pain. And I hate anyone messing with my mask and my eyes since I wear contacts and can barely see. It’s my thing. Knock my respirator, aka air, out, the one thing that keeps you alive underwater, and I’m like “no biggie.” Get a little water in my mask? I freak the fuck out like Kanye West at an awards show.

The thing is, Mark, who I later dubbed “Neo Nazi,” was quite adamant about following the regulations, which breaks all the “fast and loose cowboy rules” I’ve enjoyed with former shops, where if the dive master wanders past 20 meters you don’t spontaneously combust and die.

“Well, you won’t be able to do any of the deeper dives, and you’ll miss all the cool stuff and the fun,” Neo Nazi says.

“I’m too sick to make this decision right now,” I said. “I’ll tell you later.” Which was entirely true since I’d already told Neo Nazi that I wasn’t feeling well when I arrived.

From the get-go this dive shop really pissed me off. Not only was I sternly told that I was to be ready for pick up at 6 p.m., which I was. But guess what happened next? I spent the better part of the next three hours at the dive shop waiting for the other passengers to show up and watching a completely disorganized staff try to corral the ensuing chaos.

I also watched the dive shop employee at the counter try to up-sell every single person who came in on buying something else they didn’t need, especially Nitrox. Man, did he ever want you to get your Nitrox certification.

And then he refused to refill my water bottle and told me to go buy a bottle next door.

“I’m a paying customer who’s diving with you for the next three days and have been waiting here two hours,” I said, red-faced with clumps of vomit-streaked hair sticking to my face. “I know you have a water station back there somewhere. Refill my water bottle.”

They refilled my water bottle.

The dive shop also housed a frying station where they were deep-frying everything. Dive instructors and van drivers were chain-smoking cigarettes like, well, like everyone smokes in Thailand, and waiting vans and cars were pumping exhaust fumes into the shop, burning petrol like a Saudi Prince on spring break. All in 90-plus degree heat.

If you ever wanted to know what Hell’s waiting room looks/smells like, you’re welcome.

Fried food. Cigarettes. Car exhaust. I was in that filthy dive shop bathroom throwing up every 15 minutes. 

By the time we got to that fucking boat, it was probably close to 10 p.m. A shattered shell of a human being, I just needed to lie down. It took every ounce of energy I had not to throw up on the van ride there.

“Ok everyone gather on the main deck for the dive boat briefing,” Neo Nazi said.

“Is it Ok if I just go lie down and get the briefing later?” I asked.

He looked at me like I was insane. “No, it is very important safety information.”

I think I just stood there, blinking. After a few minutes, he finally relented, sighed and said, “Ok, you can go to your cabin.”

Now, I realize that boats are very small spaces, and I’ve been on many, and in no way was I expecting luxury accommodations, but when another very nice dive master/crew mate started leading me down to the lower deck, and then headed for the ladder one deck lower than that, I realized I was fucked. Totally fucked.

In other words, this is where they put all the poorest people on the Titanic, who subsequently were trapped below and drowned to death.

She opened the door to a tiny, airless, windowless cabin in the bottom of the hull, with four bunks, humming and vibrating with the sound of the engine.

Oh, HELL NO, I thought.

“Is there a bathroom on this level?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Is there another cabin with a window open?” I asked.

“Let me go check,” she said.

I’ll let you guess if there was a cabin with a window available.

At this point, I just needed fresh air. I’d been puking for about five hours, and it was just painful dry heaves at this point, and I couldn’t even keep water down. After a few minutes in the tiny, airless cabin and after my last bout of dry heaving into a plastic bag, I headed for the upper deck.

“Oh, great, you’re up. Now you can get the safety briefing,” Neo Nazi says.

Do you want to know what the oh-so-important boat briefing was? “Write down what you take out of the mini-fridge, like beer or candy bars, here on this clipboard so we can bill you after the trip.” Oh, and don’t fall off the boat. Because they will never, ever find you in the Indian Ocean.

At this point Neo Nazi points to my plastic barf bag and tells me not to spill any vomit on the deck. I realized I would be getting zero empathy out of Neo Nazi. Ever.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I think I have food poisoning,” I said, vowing to never eat prawns again.

“There’s a virus going around Thailand,” he tells me. “I had it a week or so ago. We had a boat with 12 passengers who had it. It will pass in 24 hours. You’ll be fine.”

The thought of returning to my hellhole below sounded awful. But the main deck had a big day bed, and I spread out on that sucker, the sea air actually doing me good. Turns out, that day bed was also one of the Thai cooks slept (when you travel in developing nations on boats, much of the crew sacks out wherever they can while the guests sleep in their cabins. They don’t even get rooms. Tip generously to these hardworking folk.) She was super nice, asked me how I was, got me a blanket and some water. So it was me and this Thai lady on the day bed. I will forever be grateful that she let me sleep there, remember those little acts of kindness and regard that woman as my own personal savior that night.

The next morning, I met the dive master of my group, a jovial American named Matt. I swear, if I hadn’t been assigned to Matt’s group, I would’ve chucked myself overboard.

Matt was the anti-Neo Nazi, in other words. He asked how you were doing, if you needed anything, you know, like a decent human being.

I pulled it together enough to do two dives that day. But in between the last dive and the night dive, we got some bad news.

“So, the wind is really bad here and where we’re going, so we have to change course,” I heard Neo Nazi tell the group. “So that means we are going to be moving. It will take another three or four hours to get to where we’re going, in probably 3 or 4 meters (9 to 12 feet) of chop, so it’s going to be a little bit of a rough ride.”

I could feel the illness creeping back, but I could not go back to my tiny room. With my handy day bed already claimed by other bodies, the only place to lie down was the top deck, which only had a few mats and partial cover from the sun.

At one point, curled up trying to get out of the sun, and after a few hours of the boat churning through this surf, I started to feel ill again. Then, it came on fast and furious. I was gonna barf and there was no way around it.

Problem was the bathrooms were two decks down. Two very steep, precarious ladder climbs in even the best of conditions, let alone a boat rollicking through 9-12 foot waves.

Fuck me. I knew there was no way to make it to the bathrooms without either A) falling down the ladders and killing myself, or B) not being able to make it and therefore vomiting in front of everyone hanging out on the main deck below me.

Frantically, I looked around the top deck. Not so much as a bucket or a trash can. I looked around the railing, factoring in what would be the best possible position to hurl from — front or back, starboard or port? (that’s fancy fucking boat talk.) I decided, with the wind factor, that the back would be best and to try and projectile it enough so it would move away from the boat.

I don’t think anyone has put as much thought into vomiting as I did on that fateful day in Thailand. Then I let it fly.

After a few heaves, silently hoping that no one below would look up and see a bunch of puke flying by from the top deck — a ridiculous wish, like shitting your pants on the subway and hoping nobody will notice (I’ve not done this btw, but let’s just say you get exposed to a lot on NYC’s MTA) — I hear from below:

“Molly, if you’re going to be sick, go to the lower deck,” Neo Nazi said.

Wow, like that thought NEVER crossed my mind.

Two other guests unfortunate enough to witness my puke fest asked me if I needed help or was OK. It was then I looked at the few chunks on the deck and on the rail and began to wipe it up with my clothes since I had nothing else. I then retreated to my cabin to lie down like an injured animal waiting to die.

The good news? Neo Nazi was right. The virus did pass in a day, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t food poisoning since all I did was puke my lungs out. Thank goodness for small favors. The only thing worse than puking on a boat nonstop would be shitting and puking on a boat nonstop.

Since I was doing all the dives anyway, I figured I’d go ahead and get my Advance certification, which means that now I’m totally badass, or at least half badass, when it comes to diving, and I can roll up anywhere and do your stupid deep/wreck dive and no Neo Nazi will ever tell me differently again.

Here are a few other takeaways from my live-aboard dive experience:

I went from Never Fucking Again and vowing to quit scuba diving altogether at one point, to having a good time and doing some great dives.

I realized that Neo Nazi was in charge of keeping 20 divers from across the globe and his crew and boat safe, on schedule and so on. That’s a hard job for anyone. But damn, he did not have the disposition of a leader. He was certainly “business polite,” but his commanding tone and the way he presented info, like this dive trip was some sort of Navy Seal mission instead of a holiday, continued to annoy me. I also saw him be passive aggressive and condescending to his crew mate Matt in front of us so it only sealed my opinion that the guy was just an asshole to everyone.

Buddhists say that you are confronted with people/things that bring up your own weaknesses so that you might learn from them. I’m taking away that Neo Nazi was there to make me strive to be a more compassionate, patient and understanding person, especially to those who are down and out.

I still like surfing more.

I will never do a live-aboard with a bunch of strangers again. Now chartering a boat with some cool diver friends? That’s a completely different matter.

Stuck in the Middle

“Where are all the people my age?”

“They’re breeding,” a travel friend told me in Vietnam.

Hello! After quite a long hiatus when a shit-ton of life stuff has happened (you’ll get filled in on the details here and there throughout these coming posts), I decided to take the Trip of a Lifetime, or the trip of at least of my midlife crisis, and spend at least three months traveling Southeast Asia.

If you are now rolling your eyes and thinking that I am on my Elizabeth Gilbert ‘Eat, Love, Pray’ Spirit Quest, you can quit imagining that right now. Here are the main differences between Liz’s journey and mine.

I will preface this by saying that I have interviewed Ms. Gilbert about her subsequent book on marriage, and she is one of the most delightful human beings on the planet. Really. So take issue with her writing however you like, but damn, is she a nice, humble person. Just watch one of her TED talks if you don’t believe me.

That said, my journey did not start like this:

Me: “I need a $200,000 advance so I can travel the world on my quest to get fat on awesome food, flirt w/ strangers, achieve enlightenment in a few short months and end the whole shebang by finding the love of my life!”

Book Agent: “Go fuck yourself.”

I’m kidding! I don’t even have a book agent!

My Spirit Journey was financed 100 percent by me. And the hundreds of Airbnb people who paid me to stay in my extra bedroom. I scrubbed my guest toilet for what felt like 1,000 times, wrote what felt like a bazillion blog posts, case studies, Google ads and a whole river of other piecemeal work trying to finance this little sojourn.

So, after the end of 2015, I closed up shop, put everything in storage, quit all my jobs and headed out.

Traveling is quite like a relationship — the first few weeks are glorious! Everything is new! Everything is special and for the Very First Time! Wee!

We all should know what begins to happen next.

Realities start to creep in. For example, I just changed locales yet again, and every time you do this, there’s this emotional dip, like ‘oh, what now?’ that comes with getting the grasp of the new lay of the land. It’s not a big deal, but a few weeks of this can become a little emotionally tiring.

I feel like this might be the equivalent of the “Oh, you again,” look you give/get at breakfast. Or when you ask your significant other how their day was, and they start in with the same tired bullshit of office politics, wasted time in meetings and issues with management. Which is probably a huge reason why I don’t work in an office anymore.

Look, travel is wonderful and glorious and opens you up and makes you be so super self-sufficient — something I’ve spent a lifetime proving and finally realized on this trip, “You know what? I don’t need to fucking prove how self-sufficient I am anymore.” If they gave awards out for being self-sufficient, I would be the Leonardo fucking DiCaprio of self-sufficiency right about now.

That’s when I let the 20-year-old surf guy assigned to me for the day in a strong current drag me behind him. Fuck it. I have nothing left to prove. Especially in heavy surf. Let the kid drag me.

This is a long round-about way of getting to my above point about traveling in middle life — it’s fucking lonely out here. No one — and I mean hardly anyone — travels in middle age. Or at least extensively and in exotic locations.

There are two big universally accepted moments in one’s life when people really grab the horns of that travel bull and go batshit for it — right after college, packed down like miserable, sunburnt pack mules, and when they’re retired and therefore kinda old and cooking themselves like rotisserie chickens on some godforsaken, all-inclusive fucking beach in Thailand.

Now, a few reasons why you shouldn’t put off a journey — a real one, no resorts or cruise ships here — to Cambodia or your nearest national park much longer:

1. Travel is physically hard, yo. Even for me, and I’m in pretty great shape, hiking up and down a lot of stuff, the hot weather, the stairs of ancient temples, the mountains, the ocean, etc. It’s all a grind. And if you leave this shit for the end of your life you will regret it big time. Or not even be able to see it.

2. Traveling flat-ass broke is only fun when you’re a kid. In midlife, I can afford some boutique hotels, nice spots on Airbnb and decent meals. I don’t sweat paying for a sweet 45-minute plane ride instead of a 16-hour hellish bus ride sitting next to a chicken and hungover German. (I’m going to make fun of Germans a lot here).

3. You are actually sober enough most of the time to enjoy it. Aka, you don’t spend every night in a shitty night club and the entire next day fighting a hangover.

4. You are kind of in that sweet spot of knowing better and still being able to have a conversation with whatever smart, worldly people you meet.

5. You can walk into a fancy hotel or restaurant without looking like a vagrant and get served.

6. A lot of this stuff out here in the world is degrading fast — especially the natural world — and will be gone. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer about it, but there you go. Find an environmental scientist to argue differently and I’ll be amazed.

7. You have zero guarantees in life that you will even make it to retirement to see any of this. Do. It. Now.

But Evil Molly, you say, I have jobs, kids, responsibilities. Yeah? We all do. Somehow, it’s important to life engineer travel in — or adequate breaks. In fact, I’ve seen enough nice European couples hauling their well-behaved kids around to think that travel only broadens kids’ minds and makes them better. It always makes a person better when they meet/see/do things different from their native cultures.

I don’t know how you’re going to do it — I hate those whimsical “I quit it all and lived my dream!” travel websites. Unless you are independently wealthy, or just sold a company to Zuckerberg, you’re gonna have to do it the hard way. But somehow I think it’s imperative that we all make time for more travel in mid-life, which really is the best time of life to travel when you think about it.

 

It’s official: I’m the bitch on the porch with a shotgun

These damn kids these days…

I think there’s a point in everyone’s life where there is a discernible shift from tolerance, indifference and acceptance, to “oh, hell no.” And this shift occurs somewhere from your mid to late 30s, but well before your 40s. It’s called, “I am officially getting old, and you fucking kids are pissing me off.”

I hit my moment when I was walking the dog before work one morning. We live just a few blocks south of the local high school, and there were some girls, I’d say 15-ish, smoking cigarettes in the alley, all gothed out, black jeans, punky hair, I’m sure before their school day. Me, in my classic London Fog trenchcoat, decked out for my office gig, looked at them and my first impulse wasn’t “Oh, yeah, suck in that sweet temptress nicotine. Fuck the man!” But “I really should call the police on them and scare the living shit out of them.”

It was then that I officially realized I was old.

This is not a new scene in my life. When I was 22 and living in London, I used to see a gaggle of school girls in their Catholic uniforms smoking in the alley by my apartment every single day on the way to the Tube. What was my first impulse? To light up, myself a very enthusiastic lover of cigarettes? Yes, and then to laugh and move on, thinking how pathetic their lives were because they couldn’t sit in a pub and puff away to the Smiths and talk about shit over a proper pint.

But these kids, these little Seattle riot grrrrls in the making, or just gutter punks, really pissed me off. And it didn’t have anything to do with their smoking. It was envy. Envy that there are seemingly few roadblocks left for me, rights of passage if you will, things that I can’t do that are illegal or just a little naughty that will piss off my elders–because there merely aren’t that many elders left to piss off and the ones who are left could really give zero fucks. Much like me. I mean I can smoke in alleys and swig beer out of tallboys, but that doesn’t make me reckless or defiant. It just makes me the token neighborhood pathetic, crazy alcoholic lady who keeps flashing everyone her tits. And our neighborhood already has one of those.

Public service message: Also, smoking is just really fucking stupid. There really is no justification for it. I’m pretty lucky that I look young for my age (thanks acne and an early introduction to Retin A and exercise and sunscreen!), but sometimes I wonder, “Shit, if I hadn’t done all that damage to myself as a younger person, just how hot could I be? Like Jane-Fonda hot when I hit 70?” As it stands now, I’m just shooting for Phyllis Diller hot, and I’ll be lucky if I hit that.

On a sick note: I still love cigs and can’t wait to start smoking again when I hit 75, maybe 80 (we’ll see how things are going…).

This also leads into my daily life, which I feel has a large part of lecturing to my boyfriend’s 13-year-old daughter about “wasting energy and turning lights off and don’t throw away perfectly good food,” and all that shit. Holy fuck. I’m my parents. Also, living with a teenager is like living with a really shitty, freeloading roommate who has absolutely no incentive to listen to you whatsoever. They also tend to have really crap taste in music. And you can’t kick them out.

I'm pretty sure I've seen the lady on the right's tits. You keep on chillin' the most!

So, there you go. If old age is enjoying a decent glass of wine and listening to vinyl and playing card games, then fucking sign me up.

When did you first realize you were officially getting old?

Let’s talk about Rad Stuff: The end of 2013

I just....no.

I had the pleasure of having a couple New York friends in town over the last couple weeks. And they both asked me why I don’t write on Evil Molly anymore.

I realize it’s been over six months (six months!) since my last post on the summertime wonders of indoor water parks. The truth is, there are several reasons, which are more like the sad, pitiful excuses of a lazy-ass American: A lot of it is burnout, writer’s block, not having enough adventure time and so forth.

But, as a book I recently read on dharma told me: “If you bring forth what is within you it will save you. If you do not, it will destroy you.” That is some heavy shit. What is my dharma, probably the only thing that is hardest yet brings me the most joy? Writing. And I have been ignoring my dharma. And, much like Justin Bieber on a Brazilian bender, it has been wreaking its karmic revenge.

The truth is the last half of this year has been some heavy shit: relationship woes, late 30s woman baby-making issues (oh, boy, is that a fucking fun ride, about as fun-sounding as menopause), a bumpy path in career decisions–every path has seemed like the path of the most resistance, covered in broken glass and Sarah McLachlan-abused-puppy commercials. This Winter Solstice day I feel tired, wretched, fed up and pretty much like I’m wasting my life away on meaningless shit.

Welcome to the Christmas season.

I think a lot of this time of year brings forth, a final pounding crescendo if you will, your year’s accomplishments, pressures and problems into one shitstorm of pressured happy good time holiday feelings. If you’re not dealing with the guilt to spend hundreds of dollars and precious few vacation hours to go sit with family, then perhaps your kids are hounding you for a new gaming system. Since I don’t play video games, I have no idea what this year’s release is, but I’m sure it’s some barely updated piece of plastic shit you bought them last year, so there you go. Last Christmas I watched my boyfriend’s extended family open their Kindles and gadgets and smartphones in a fury, the conversation then came to a screeching halt, while everyone shut down and hunkered over their screens. It was probably one of the most depressing displays of humanity I’ve seen yet.

If the end of this year has somewhat got you down–and that’s a perfectly natural way to feel (it’s 4:16 p.m. and the sun is already setting here…Welcome, Dark Lord, Seasonal Affective Disorder)–why wait til New Year’s to take stock of all the wonderful, life-affirming, little things you did and learned this year? Here are a few things that make me feel better already:

1. We finally shut off the cable. I had full intentions of not having cable when I moved to Seattle. Then, of course, the Evil Empire known as Comcast (one of the WORST companies in the world, as far as I’m concerned) basically told me that it would nearly cost as much to have internet and phone alone as it would to bundle that all up into a neat little package of $99 a month. Well, after an introductory period, $99 turns to $150, then to $160 and so forth. It keeps creeping up. And while I love my ‘Real Housewives’ and ‘Fashion Police,’ they’re hardly worth nearly $200 a month. The combination of Brian’s daughter watching TV all the time and my last three-hour bout with Comcast on the phone finally pissed me off enough to cut the cord. I can say we’ve been happily cable-free for nearly nine months, and I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing.

2. I quit my stupid gym and tried something new. I grew up outdoors and played sports all my high school life, so this year marks the 20th anniversary of taking care of my own physical fitness regime. I feel like I am down to try almost anything, but there are a couple things I’ve learned over the past two decades: I hate exercising on machines, and while I have my cardio discipline down, I need someone to yell at me and tell me what to do on lifting weights. There’s a Cross Fit studio a few blocks from my house. I finally tried it. I like it. It’s not a cult. It’s fucking hard (but not too hard), and everyone makes you feel positive and like every action is doable. Pushups are now the easiest part of the workout for me. And I fucking hate pushups.

3. I joined Air BnB. A friend of mine has been doing this successfully for years in NYC and I’ve always wanted to give it a try. This past summer I finally did it. I figured I’d get one or two people a month, and it would be a nice supplement to offset my rent. From the moment I posted, I got three requests within an hour. That was July. I was basically fully booked until the end of October, with a few stragglers here and there for the low season. It paid my rent for a few months, which allowed me to pay off a student loan. People always ask, “Do you get any weirdos? Is it creepy to have someone in your house? Do they steal stuff?” While we’ve really only had one guest we weren’t wild about, everyone has been right cool in their own way. No one’s stolen or destroyed anything. In fact, it’s been downright fun at times. We’ve met and made friends with people who live all over the world–it’s almost like traveling in your own home–including one guy who really taught me something about how to approach life. (More on that later).

4. I’ve met a lot of rad new people I didn’t know a year ago. Sure, it’s great to work at home, but that first year in Seattle I didn’t meet many new people. Now, my network is easily three times as strong, and I’m extremely lucky to work with talented people who make me laugh all day long.

5. And I’ve met a lot of strangers who have really taught me a thing or two…If there’s one word I would use to sum up this year, it would probably be frustration. Frustration nation, kids. But nobody ever learned anything from smooth sailing all the time. Just take a gander at anybody who’s never had any real barriers in life and has always pretty much gotten what they wanted. There are particularly three people who were albeit brief presences in life who taught me valuable lifelong lessons.

Our second Air BnB guest, Willie, was a visiting professor from Germany. This guy showed up, all smiles and curiosity. I usually just give folks the house tour, hand over the keys and that’s that. But Willie wanted to see the neighborhood, so he went with me when I walked the dog. And we walked and walked on a warm July night all over the place, had a beer, some pizza and sushi. Willie became a fast friend to both Brian and I, and he showed us some good stuff: One, he was always optimistic and curious about life, and had an appetite for exploring the Great American West, often embarking on long roadtrips and adventures. Two, he had very little disregard for money. “If we wanted to be rich and just make money, we could set our focus on that. But that’s not really what makes people in life,” he once told me. And three, Willie could have fun just about doing anything. That German loved to party.

This second guy, Ed, really made the comeback of the year as far as I’m concerned, proving that anyone, at any time in life, can make a change for the better. I met him while traveling. He had just lost his wife and was recovering from some pretty serious health problems. Ed not only resolved to lose weight, exercise more to recover from health problems, but to move forward and continue to enjoy everything in life, wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready for more. He was in his 80s. If someone in their 80s can overcome all that and rebound in such a damn inspiring way, then we all can.

The third lady was a random we met while surfing on the Oregon Coast. Now that day was pretty rowdy wave-wise. I’m a novice surfer at best, but I’m usually pretty decent at getting up on the board. That day, my first go at cold-water surfing, I just could not time it right. I had a problem finding a decent wave break and then I just could not get up. After about an hour and a half of this, I came back to the beach, stripped off my wetsuit, and hunkered down by the bonfire. Linda was sitting behind our group, I’d say a lady in her late 50s who had driven from Portland (she says she does it at least once a week, maybe twice if she can swing it) to surf. Linda, enjoying her red wine after her surf session was all sparkly eyes and cool chill–this is the lady you want to be when you turn 50. When the guys went back to surf, she asked me, “Why aren’t you out there?” When I told her I’d given up on the day, she said, “Ah, they’re not all gonna be great. Just think of it as a training day.”

So that’s what I’m taking out of this year. When it gets rugged out there, just think of it as a training day. At the end of 2013, I can do more pushups, have a stronger personal network, and a new German friend who also happens to have a lake house in Italy. And that ain’t half bad.

22 hours in hell, or what it’s like to be trapped inside a kid casino

“Just what is this place like?”

Long pause. “I imagine it’s like a kid casino.”

If you have never experienced the all-American greatness that is an indoor water theme park that may be like, say the Great Wolf Lodge just off I-5 in Grand Mound, Wash., then I have to say, good for you. You are winning at life so far.

There are 11 of these motherfuckin’ things spread about our fine nation in such glorious vacation spots including the Wisconsin Dells, Williamsburg, Va., and Niagara Falls. And may I say to the planners, makers and owners of such establishments, well done. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good ol’ fleecing of the lower and middle-class upfront, and the folks who built these things are fucking geniuses when it comes to taking money from people who likely can’t afford to part with it. Geniuses.

We, however, not of the geniuses, were taking my boyfriend Brian’s daughter and her friend there for her birthday weekend. This is, apparently, what happens when you allow children to make choices. Or have children for that matter.

In my mind, I imagined this place might actually be a real, you know, lodge, in the woods, surrounded by picturesque hiking trails, scenic lakes and such.

What I had in mind...

What actually happened.

A co-worker once went here to escape the winter drudgery and forewarned me, as he, too, had a rustic Pacific Northwest lodge weekend in mind. Apparently the indoor water aspect, a smooth, controlled 84 degrees year-round, was calling. Then he told me what it was really like. “It’s like you’re being peed on by children. Constantly. Everywhere. Oh, look, there’s another drop. Of pee.”

A sign encourages parents to take their kids to the bathroom often. The bathroom was the only part of this park that didn't have a line.

Once we walked through the door, we knew what we were in for…hundreds of barely watched spawn running through the halls, waving sharp, projectile instruments, or “magic wands” that they had to buy at a “magic shop” to play a game called Magic Quest. What kind of game is this, you may be asking, gentle reader? Several points were marked out on the first five floors with stops and clues, where a handy bear or wolf would talk to you, but only if you inserted your “magic wand” into the slot. These plastic pieces of shit cost about $15. Oh, want a deluxe one? That’ll be $22. Not satisfied with your wand performance? You can upgrade your wand with several accessories, for a few more bucks! Oh, and there are no prizes or winners of this game. It’s just a hellish kid free-for-all all over the damn hotel.

But fuck wands. Let’s talk water slides. The place was mayhem, a shitshow if you will, of mass proportions packed into teeny-tiny bikinis and swim trunks. And an employee told me there aren’t even into high season yet, which is July and August. I watched throngs of people playing in an ocean simulator, and while, yes, the Pacific is a bit chilly this time of year, I thought, “Holy fuck, the ocean is right over there–how many of these people have even taken their kids to see it?

Tired of the water slides? Why, step into the Arcade, aka the hard-core casino part of the kid casino, where games look like actual slot machines and no thought or skill is required to win prizes! Just tickets…Lots and lots of $2 tickets to play a game.

Kid casino has many of the fine aspects of a real casino.

What else did this place have? Why, dream it up, and you can do it, as long as it involves sugar and plastic. Want to get a mani-pedi with your kid, while sitting on a ridiculous piece of plastic and eating an ice-cream sundae? You can do it! For about $50 a pop.

Step into the Scoops Salon for all your Pepto Bismal pink needs.

Are you ready to eat a real meal? Great! We have multiple options–the Loose Moose Cottage, buffet-style options, all-you-can eat, of course, only $14 for breakfast! Or try the Camp Critter Bar and Grille for its less-than-an-airport-quality $16 burger! I ordered a vegetable pasta dish for nearly $20. “That looks like they fucking took a frozen bag of Barilla with that cube of melt-in-the-dish sauce,” Brian said.

Would you care for a classy cocktail to wash away your frozen pasta dish?

Oh, and sugar was everywhere. Around 7 p.m., the sugar-crashing, pre-bedtime battle was ramped up to mythical proportions. If one of the world’s most pleasant sounds is a child’s laugh, one of the worst is truly their cries: “Do you hear the screams?” Brian asked as we walked down our hallway, the chorus of dozens of tantrum-throwing children echoing throughout the Great Wolf Lodge’s halls.

We roughly calculated, based on the Best-Western-in-the-middle-of-nowhere look and feel of our hotel room — which was around $300 per weekend night — that the average family of four would part with about $1,200 for a weekend here. Twelve. Hundred. Dollars. And that’s a pretty conservative estimate.

Brian: "This place is just nice enough to keep the pubes off the floor."

And when a kid allegedly pooped in the wading pool, with that, it was time to go. We made it through nearly 22 hours of the kid casino.

So, what did we learn from this experience, gentle reader? Nearly two weeks later, I sit here, with that forlorn, lost, dazed look on my face, trying to figure out how to sum up this experience. I can’t. Perhaps the best way is this: Sitting back in Seattle, at a local restaurant, before biting into a local grass-fed burger, Brian said, “I am so glad to be back in the city.” Hallelujah.

The end.

 

 

 

 

An Idiot’s Guide to the Gym

At best, the gym is a slightly tolerable place in which to exercise in a calm, focused manner with maybe a nice steam or sauna at the end. At worst, the gym is a torturous place, filled with filth, germs, over-muscled juiceheads and pounding, autotuned dance remixes of the Killers “Mr. Brightside.” A step above hell, in other words.

I’ve belonged to many gyms in my life, ones I’ve adored (hello New York Racquet and Fitness) to what I believe is the douchiest gym in the history of douchey gyms that I ever belonged to (LA Fitness Clubs, you suck huge donkey dicks) because it’s simply close to my home and has a pool. And now, I realize that I am paying for that access to a pool in more ways than one. And that close proximity to the human race while it is sweating, straining, grunting and getting naked can be as disgusting as it can be a delight. People are fucking gross, yo.

But January is the worst. The worst. The other night, as I realized there was a scabby band-aid mere steps away from my setup in my bodyworking/abs class, I was about to lose it. Here’s a quick guide to you January idiots on how to behave at the gym:

1. Please deposit your scabby band-aids, maxi-pads and used paper towels — and any and all of your trash in the numerous trash bins scattered about the place.

2. Same goes for gym-issued towels you use to thoroughly wipe your dimpled asses after you emerge from the shower. There’s a huge hamper in the locker room for a reason. The floor and lockers are not, nor have ever been, the appropriate place to leave your towel.

3. Please don’t sit your bare ass on anything.

4. Don’t wear light-colored shorts and/or workout pants. There will be crotch sweat.

5. Oh, and if there is, wipe it up, will you?

6. Guys, yes, women do like to work out with free weights. Please, share your space with no fucking attitude, Ok?

7. Don’t spit in the pool! Don’t spit in water fountains! Just don’t spit anywhere!

And wait your turn.

8. Staff: Don’t spend a good minute or two discussing last night’s date and why they didn’t text you back, etc., when you have people lined up three deep waiting to check in and/or ask questions.

9. Instructors: Workouts do not live by squatting alone. Please come up with some varied routines. Thanks. Also, berating us is not cool. For instance, Aggro in spinning who insisted on yelling over and over, “Come on, Monday! Keep up, Monday! This is a serious cycling class, for serious cyclers! You know if you don’t want to take it seriously, there’s a waiting list of people who want your bikes!” as he forced us to listen to the Greatest Radio Rock Hits of the ’90s for a solid hour. We had enough of that shit in high school gym class.

10. More pool etiquette: Guys, waxing. Not just for women. Think about it.

The only thing I want to see a coat this thick on in the water is an otter. At least they are adorable.

Got more gym peeves? Please share.

Adorable!

More adorable! How is this much extreme cuteness even possible?