Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The right decision

Hilton Head Island is a fairly popular vacay destination for moneyed people, but my friend Adam, another AmeriCorps buddy, is actually from the area and has lived there most of his life. I was looking forward to hanging out with him, since he's one of the people I haven't seen since the program ended a few years ago. I got to his apartment and met his dog, who is unfortunately suffering from some kind of mite-caused skin disease that makes the skin all scaly and scabby. Basically it was kind of like a zombie dog, but its not contagious and the dog didn't seem to be in intense pain from the disease. And Adam was having it treated. It was something to do with stress and the dog had recently been moved around a bit, so that's probably what caused the outbreak. Otherwise it was a nice, well-behaved dog that responded well to commands and didn't try to lick me too much, so I was okay with it.

I got to the island a bit later in the day given my drive from Orlando, so Adam and I discussed our options and decided to head toward the mainland movie theatre to catch Hot Fuzz, from the same writer/director combo that made Shaun of the Dead, which was hilarious. Fuzz was no disappointment, either, and neither were the random people all gathered in the little plaza in front of the theatre who were line dance while a band played the electric slide. I felt like we had accidentally walked into someone's wedding reception. But I do love the E-slide, so I couldn't knock it too much. After the movie we headed to a local bar where Adam had once been a bouncer to have a drink. We had some good chatting time and eventually made our way to another bar where Adam's friend Zac was performing.

Now, Zac is a big guy, probably over 3 bills but he was fairly amazing. He was accompanied only by a bongo player and his looping machine. He would play a few riffs on his guitar and then start looping that, then do some beatboxing and loop that in too, and maybe some more rhythms on the guitar and once all that was going, then he'd start to play and sing the actual song. It sounded like a full band playing. He would even sometimes loop his voice and then do his own harmonizing, which was also really impressive to hear. It was pretty stellar to listen to. There was also this really cool oil on canvas painting on the subwoofers in front of the stage that I tried to buy, but Zac was reluctant to part with it without consulting the artist first. I told Adam to pursue it for me after I was gone, so we'll see if I have something to hang up in my apartment in Chicago.

While Zac performed some of Adam's friends came, Beth and Jarrod. Jarrod was a cute guy and we had an enjoyable time talking that night. ;) After Zac had played a bit more, the four of us headed over to another bar called Money Pennies, which wasn't really a bar but a club, of which I guess I must be a member. The benefit of being a club is that it didn't have to close at two with the regular bars. So we ended up staying there until something around 4-5 in the morning. We spent our time mostly playing a bowling arcade game. I won the best of three match, though by the end Adam was the only one still really trying and he was really close. I like to think that some of my mom's good bowler genes must've gotten transmitted down the line. At another point in the evening, a schwasted guy came out of the bathroom and came up behind me and proceeded to wrap his arms around me and pick me up and shake me. I kind of freaked out because it was totally unexpected and I was flailing about saying "Not happening!! Not something you're allowed to do!!" He put me down, but I was very nonplussed for a while. Then later I almost got into a fight with the bartender lady because she wouldn't let a guy go in the women's restroom, despite the fact that the men's toilet was clogged and on the verge of overflowing and spilling shit and piss all over the bathroom floor. They were single use bathrooms, one customer at a time. What's it matter if it's a guy or girl? Just let people pee!

We finally headed home and I laughed as I remembered I had told Adam that I didn't want to stay out really late because the next day's drive was fairly long, up to Hayes, VA and I was supposed to arrive by 5 to go sailing. I thought it would be a 7-8 hour drive, so I planned on leaving in the 8am range to make it by 5, with gas breaks and pit stops and the like. Obviously, that wasn't happening. I slept in a bit, but still got on the road around 10ish. It all turned out to be okay because when I called ahead to Candi to tell her I probably wasn't going to make it for the sailing, she told me that it was okay and the sailing had been cancelled anyway. So I knew that I had made the right decision to stay up drinking, and really, when faced with the options, when isn't the right decision to stay up drinking?

My Hero(es)!

My return trip to Orlando brought me to the University of Central Florida, where my friend Christina is doing an internship for the summer. She's a graduate assistant student at Ball State, studying res life, among other things. It's kind of like running all those things about a university that make it run but that aren't the academics. Just don't call her an RA!

I arrived in time for some dinner action at a local pizza shop where Christina was meeting with some college friends who now teach high school in the area and were getting ready for the graduation ceremony that evening. I was getting myself ready for a far more important step in the advancement of the world: the season finale of Heroes. I was stoked when Christina told me that there was actually a special program that night to watch the show in one of the lounges and get some free eats. In the between time, we drove my car to visitor's parking and then hiked the mile back to the dorm, passing by a disc golf course on the way that Christina hadn't known about. Hopefully she'll take advantage while she's down there. Disc golf is awesome, and that's coming from someone who loathes the actual game of golf.

We had some time before Heroes once we got back to the dorm, so I worked on French and she watched Sex and the City on DVD. When 9 rolled around, we made our way to the lounge and I blissed out to one of my new favorite shows. It was, of course, spectacular, and I'm so interested to see where they'll take it next season, who'll be the new bad guy/new good guys and what their powers'll be. I thought they were really creative this season, like Charlie, the girl who remembered everything and Isaac and his painting the future. I think Christina got a kick out of the fact that I was so happy to watch the show. Afterwards, we went to her office and she showed me some pics of the new boy she had just met and I did some surfing of my own. Like most people who have actual jobs, she had to get up in the morning and go to work, so she headed to bed while I finished up some French work. Before I left in the morning I stopped by her office to say toodles (it was just downstairs from the dorm room) and then I made the trek back to my car. Next stop was Hilton Head, SC, a nice little drive and a chance to get out of Florida.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Land of Panthers and Lesbians

Immokalee (two points if you knew to say im-AH-kuh-lee) is a bit inland of Naples down near the southern tip of Florida. Much of the land there is held in various federal preserves for the rich biodiversity and wetland protection. Much of the land is also being rapidly and extensively developed into retirement communities (average age in Florida: 65). My goal was the Florida Panther National Wildlife Reservation and my friend Eryn, a feisty redhead from my AmeriCorps days. Finding the reservation was a bit tough as it's completely unmarked and you just have to keep an eye out for a break in the fencing that indicates you're at the gate to the houses. The hard part is that you're driving around 70mph because otherwise the people behind you go zipping past, honking all the while. I missed the turn the first time, but the second I was better prepared, and I didn't care about the massive inconvenience I caused the woman behind me, what with the five seconds of her life she lost because I needed to slow down and turn. My bad.

The bunkhouse reminded me a bit of the one that my AmeriCorps team lived in while we were on fire duty in Crown King, Arizona, a little mountain town. This one only had three bedrooms, though, not ten, so it was a bit less crowded. I picked Eryn up, met some of the housemates, and we headed into town. This being a Saturday night and Eryn taking the day off on Sunday, we were planning on hitting the local gay bar. Of course, that would mean chillin' in town until 11 or so when the gays come out to play. So we strolled around, hung out with the hippies and their drum circle in the park for a bit, and got a bite to eat. Chatting with Eryn is always fun, not just because she's usually got some good drama in her life, but because she takes a good attitude about it. And she has a great laugh that trails into a chuckle that's just musical.

So we head to the gay bar, watch the drag performances and meet some of Eryn's friends. The drag performers for the evening include the girl who normally performs and a visiting queen, a big black girl who does the obligatory Tina Turner numbers (Private Dancer, Proud Mary) as well as the non-standard Mo'nique riff about "fat bitches". I love drag queens and I enjoy when they vary their performances from the traditional lip-synch/dance routine and branch out. The black drag queen was also aided by a very unshy lesbian who kept dancing and grinding on her during her songs. She was referred to as "white girl" throughout the course of the night. Between drag shows people danced on the stage, although at first it was only white girl and some older guy who I kind of felt sorry for because he was a) dancing by himself on a near-empty dance floor, b) wasn't overly attractive and c) had a really nice body, which I only saw because he gradually unbuttoned his shirt while dancing by himself. There was something about it all that just said "lonely and a little desperate". Eventually the dancing got really going and Eryn and I cut a rug for a bit before they closed us out and we headed back to the preserve.

Sunday was wonderfully lazy. We slept in, had some breakfast, tooled around, made our way into Naples, checked out the beach/pier, watched the fishermen and their mad attempts to either catch fish or injure pelicans, I saw a dolphin for a second, and we drive around looking at the gaudy and enormous houses in the area. Back at the bunkhouse we had some dinner (personal tortizzas - putting pizza sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you'd like onto a tortilla and either baking or microwaving - very tasty) and grabbed a movie from Eryn's roommate. Now, given that I'm a movie whore, there were only three movies out of maybe 100 that I hadn't seen, so that narrowed it down, and Eryn picked Failure to Launch, which ended up being rather cute. Plus Matthew McConaughey is shirtless a lot, so that was nice. Eryn had to go to bed after to movie because she had to get up in the morning, but I stayed up writing a French composition about globalization and then watch the season finale of Brothers and Sisters with her housemate. Spoiler alert!!! Don't read the rest of the paragraph if you haven't seen it yet!!! I'm so glad that Jason and Kevin finally turned their angry sparks into make-out sparks. That was hot.

The next morning Eryn had already gone, so I packed up and headed off back to Orlando, this time to see Christina at University of Central Florida.

A little Hotlanta love, and some Orlando magic

The drive from Louisville to Atlanta is a fun one, with a lot of up and down in the Tennessee hills that had my ears popping. Traffic in Atlanta itself was ridonculous and it took me an extra couple of hours just to make it to the apartment once I was already in the city. Originally, the Atlanta plan had been to stay with Lem, another Bryan House boy, but he ended up heading off to a wedding. Nicely enough, he arranged for me to stay at his girlfriend Laura's apartment, where Laura's roommate was off in Europe. I had hung out with Laura a bit for Halloween when the boys had headed down to Atlanta to see Lem, since he was the most distantly scattered person at the time (discounting, of course, Adam, who lives in Istanbul, Turkey). Laura had chosen a lovely costume as a fan of a rival college, and had made herself up appropriately, with bad makeup and Billy Bob teeth. It was nice.

Despite my delays, I got in just in time for the season finales of Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy, which I was very grateful to catch. Love those shows. I'll miss them this summer. It's going to be a little depressing next year when my grade suffer so that my TV watching doesn't have to. But what can you do? It's an addiction.

Laura headed off to her new CDC job the next morning and I loaded up for another long haul down to Orlando, Florida. A word of warning for anyone traveling to or in Florida by car: the insects are just crazy. Sometimes it sounded like it was raining, there were so many splats on my windshield in rapid succession. I washed my windshield regularly, and it was still horrible. The number of love bugs plastered to my front bumper was just phenomenal. But I made it through the plague and arrived at the house of Justin Greider, and old buddy from high school swimming and band. I had gone to Justin's wedding a few months before and had a great time with him and other high school superstars. Obviously, he was a little busy at the wedding itself, so it was a lot of fun to get to hang out with him one-on-one for a bit down there.

We toured the new neighborhood where he and his wife are building a house, I defended myself against his dogs (though not too much, they were pretty well-behaved), and enjoyed some pizza from a nice little place that's actually a part of the "downtown" of his neighborhood. It's a cool set up, designed to allow people to walk more and not need to drive all over the place to get their basic essentials. There's a grocery store and restaurants, and I would assume a pharmacy, too. It was a neat idea and I'd love to see more of it. But through all of this we chatted about our families, friends in common, old memories and the like. Justin had to pack that night as he was heading off the next day for a conference in Vegas of basically everyone who does anything with malls. He works for a real estate firm that is involved with various mall permutations and so was heading off with his co-workers for some desert fun. Then he would actually be heading back to Indy to see his family for Memorial Day weekend and the Indy 500. His parents are just wacky people that I love to death, so I'm sure he had a good time. Amidst all this Andrea, the wife, returned home from working at a trainer at a spring football game, an event that would have been illegal in Indiana. She was delighted to find left over pizza in the fridge. I call her "the wife" because that's quite literally what Justin calls her. He manages to infuse it with affection and consideration, but it's still a bit startling to hear him just say things like "Wife, did you look up those directions?" He says he has to watch himself in public sometimes because people will think he's being derogatory or disrespectful, but Andrea doesn't even notice and thinks nothing of it. I found the practice charming, almost like the old prairie-style of a husband who would address his wife as "Mother", more as a title of respect and position than a simple designation.

Once he'd finished packing, Justin and the wife headed to bed. Andrea would be gone by the time I woke up, but I got to take Justin to the airport and see him off to Vegas before continuing on my merry way down to Immolakee, near Naples, FL.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fun, Southern style

The drive from Evansville to Louisville is a short one, only about two hours. However, one has to remember that Indiana went crazy last year and decided to join the whole Daylight Saving Bonanza, which means that while Evansville, IN is on Central time, Louisville is Eastern and an hour ahead. So when I called Carson to find out when would be good for him to meet for lunch, it turned out the best time would be an hour before I was going to arrive. But we made it work. His judge was out for a couple of hours, so it was all good.

Carson's a former housemate of mine from good ole IU. You can check out the zaniness of our lives at It doesn't get updated much anymore, but it's a good reminder of some fun times. Carson left IU to go to Harvard Law school (yeah, I've got smart friends) and is now back in his native city clerking for a federal judge and planning a move to NYC so that he can actually make some money in life. His gf, Maria, will also be heading to The City, so that's convenient. ;)

After lunch, Carson let me head back to his apartment so I could do some French homework and await his day's end. Once he got home, we headed off with Maria to do some shopping. She had some weddings to go to and all of her dresses were either white or black, so she needed something different to wear. Carson and I tooled around on our own and ended up getting Carson some new shirts at Express. They had a sale on pique polos, 3 for $60, so Carson loaded up. When we met back up with Maria, I was amazed to find that her shopping had taken her to the Black and White store, where, you guessed it, the clothes are black and white. Her new dress was gray though, so I guess it counts as new and different. We had dinner at an Irish pub-style place (vegetarian clue: a Welsh Rabbit is just a grilled cheese sandwich, no rabbits involved), and then headed back to Carson's place to watch Lost. I'm rather stoked for the season finale.

Maria headed home and Carson headed to bed. I settled in on the lovely Ashley Furniture couch and slept the night away. Carson headed off to work in the morning and I struggled to understand his shower, finally realizing that the four knobs were actually two sets of controls, one for the bath and one for the shower. I ended up taking a shower that left me standing a foot of water because I left the bath running the whole time. Yeah, I'm not smart.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Straight Trippin'

After a few days at home, I'm heading out again for a nice three week road trip, seeing friends along the way. My first destination was St. Louis, to visit Kerrie Boodt, a friend from Camp Miniwanca, a leadership camp in Michigan that I attend every summer. I didn't leave Indy until fairly late, about 5. My mom just couldn't really understand the idea of just going to someone's house to see them for a couple of hours, going to bed, and driving the next day to a whole new city to spend a few more hours with someone else. But I'm looking forward to it.

Kerrie is a little fireball and I've never been with her and not enjoyed it. She has a dog, Fry, who hates men, but he was staying with Grandma for a while, so I didn't get barked at all night. We headed off to dinner and ended up at a Vietnamese place because I had never had Vietnamese food before. The first two places we were going to go to were closed because it was Monday and I guess things close early on Monday's in the Loo. We talked about the general issues of life, including jobs, boys and futures. My line of the evening, describing the gay beach in Waikiki: Families, people in board shorts, Speedos. There's a hand gesture that goes along with it.

Kerrie might have to be deciding soon to stay in St. Louis or move to Chicago, and I was half-joking that we would make great roommates. Then at the end of the evening, she opens her fortune cookies and it says "You will soon make an important decision." No joke. We both laughed for a solid minute. The universe is funny when it wants to get your attention. And since we were on a destiny kick, when we went back to Kerrie's place, we used her numerology books to figure out my numbers. Turns out I'm a 6 in terms of destiny and a lot of 5s for other things. So far the most accurate astrological things I've ever read about myself have come from a feng shui book I read that told me I was a 1 Water Star, but the numerology was pretty good too. Unfortunately, it couldn't tell Kerrie to move to Chicago and be my roommate, so we went to bed and left it at that.

The following morning had me heading for Evansville, Indiana, after dropping Kerrie's housekey off while she was at lunch. I was supposed to be in Evansville for dinner and it's only about 2.5 hours, so I stopped at a rest area about 30 miles outside the city to relax and do some French homework. It was quite relaxing, really. My friends in Evansville were Laura and Mikey (aka Danger and MacGyver, and she really is and he really is, in case you were wondering). Laura and I met as freshman at IU during a pre-orientation rockclimbing trip. I had a really ugly goatee at the time, which I luckily shaved off before classes started. When I ran into Laura later in the week, she didn't recognize me and I had to convince her it was me.

Danger is definitely one of the most interesting people I know. She's my age, but has had 13 jobs, almost all involving dead or naked people (sometimes dead naked people), has black belt in tae kwon do and just planted berry bushes. Mikey, her husband, could literally build a house from the ground up given the materials. Sometimes I think about all my years of education and I realize that when the apocalypse comes, I will be worthless and Mikey will be the leader of a rag-tag band of survivors, hanging on to life and some semblance of humanity while the rest of us scrounge for scraps and slowly go feral.

We had a bit of pizza out on the town and I got to hear fun stories about Laura's social work clients and their...eccentricities (think peeing on sidewalks and "laser eyes"). When we got home, we discovered that Domino, one of their cats, was waiting for us outside the back door. Domino hadn't been seen since yesterday and some coyote scuffling sounds the night before had raised the Threat Level to Orange, but she was back, much to the delight of everyone, including Mr. Gonk, the other cat of the house. After some mild celebration, we settled in to watch Casino Royale, the newest Bond flick, with Craig Daniels as a blond Bond. It was a pretty rockin' movie and I especially enjoyed the parkour chase scene at the beginning. My brother Gerold had called me a few nights before to recommend watch it and a new movie that's just coming out called Waitress, starring Kerri Russell. So if you have the chance, see both. Gerold claims Waitress is Top 5 Movies, and his judgement is usually fairly solid on matters of taste.

The kids had to work in the morning, so they headed to bed while I had some popcorn and continued watching the first season of Desperate Housewives. I'm loving the show now that I can start at the beginning. Bree has some of the best one-liners. I totally aspire to give dinner parties like her. The morning would see me off to Louisville, Kentucky, and into the arms of my former housemate, Carson. ;)

History All Around

My last day in Hawai'i took me to Pearl Harbor. The museum and memorials there are just amazing, in a heavy, important way. First, the mueseum just has all kinds of interesting artifacts from WWII and the soldiers that were involved, along with a bunch of models and illustrations of everything that happened during the attack. The official tour consists of a 20 minute movie about the attack and then a boat that takes you out to the memorial for the USS Arizona. The Arizona sank in nine minutes when a Japanese bomb penetrated its armoring and exploded in the ammunition cache, literally blowing the ship apart. 1,177 men were lost when the ship went down, nearly half the total of all the people killed during the attack. The ship still rests on the sea floor, with nearly 1000 of the bodies still inside. It remains as a shrine and cemetary for all the men who died that day. Even today, men who survived the attack can be accorded a special honor on their death. Their ashes can be taken down and interred in the Arizona, if they want. Over the ship there is a large memorial building where visitors can look out and see the Arizona just a little bit below the surface of the water. Some parts even still protrude above the water, like the mounting for the rear gun turrett. There's also a wall inscribed with the names of all the men who died on the ship. The optional audio tour that I was listening to included an interview with a survivor of the attack, who described what it felt like to look at the wall and see the names of friends, people that he knew, to see faces in his mind that go along with the names. It was powerfully sad and moving.

After the memorial part, Jeremy and I went to Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor, and toured the USS Missouri, the last battleship to have been in active duty in the world. It was also the ship on which the Japanese offered their surrended to the Allied Forces. You can tour through the ship itself and see a plaque where the signing took place. The funniest part of the place is the fact that they have the signed surrender documents. There's a US copy and Japanese copy, with lines for signatures for representatives of Japan, the US and all the Allied forces. On the Japanese copy, the Canadian representative signed wrong line, and so all the representatives below him had to sign the wrong line and correct their designation underneath the line, until the representative of New Zealand was forced to sign the empty space below the pre-made lines and make his own. You'd think people signing the document to end the deadliest war the world has ever known could manage to get the right line. Jeremy showed me some other cool things about the ship. I highly recommend touring naval vessels with someone in the Navy. The insight is unequaled.

After my day of history, Jeremy took me to the airport and sent me off. I had the joy of an 8 hour flight from Honolulu to Chicago in seat 41J the last seat of the airplane, in front of the bathroom, and seated next a guy who decided that good airplane attire included a sleeveless hoodie. I don't care if you have nice arms (and this guy did, I'll give him that), but when you're going to be two inches from someone for eight hours continuously, that's not the time to be overly revealing with your clothes. I also disagree with wearing flip-flops on airplanes for similar reasons. I'm all for contact in appropriate circumstances, but airplanes are not among them. Seriously, people.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The world under the waves

Thursday was scuba day. The company I signed up with has you practice first in a swimming pool on an Airforce base. Jeremy dropped me off on his way to work and we managed to find the pool with directions that were literally "follow the road, veer right, then veer left, then turn left, turn right, and turn left." It was its own kind of miracle. There were two other guys in the class. I'm pretty sure they were a gay couple but I never managed to work it into the conversation so I don't know for sure (evidence: two guys from San Diego, travelling to Hawaii together for a week's vacation in the middle of May, same home address (I stole a look at their info when we signed out release forms), one with pierced ears, their sunglasses were Diesel and Versace, and when I mentioned that I had been watching the first season of Desperate Housewives on my flight out, they just laughed and nodded with understanding. Case closed). After practicing in the pool, we headed out to the actual dive sites in the bay on the other side of Diamondhead from Honolulu. On the boat were also two certified divers renting equipment from the same company that was taking me and two other guys who were doing their own thing.

Scuba diving is amazing, and if I lived somewhere that had ample opportunity, I would get certified and do it all the time. And its really easy, at least the basic stuff is. We suited up at the first dive site, jumped in and pulled our way to the bottom using the rope that was anchoring the boat above us. Immediately we found a sea turtle hanging out under a coral cliff. From there it was just cooler and cooler. All kinds of fish, some translucently colored, others that were all black or bright yellow. Really neat eels poked out from between corals. It was all just amazing, and over too soon. As beginners, we had to stay with our guide and head back up as soon as we got to 1000 on our gauges, which is still 400 above the red zone. In all we were down for around 35 minutes or so. We made our way back to the boat and waited for the more experienced people to come back. The two guys renting equipment with the company got back on board and one of them proceeded very quickly to begin puking. And boy howdy did he puke. I don't know how much he ate, but it must have been a lot, because he just repeatedly pulled up heave after chunky heave. We headed for the second site once the two other guys who were doing their own thing made it back. The three beginners suited up and jumped back in for another round of exploration. This time I saw a sea turtle that was swimming around, not just hanging out, though it was swimming away from us and the guide had to tell me to get back to the group. It was more amazing sights that hopefully will have been captured by my underwater camera (keep a watch at Facebook for them). Again, all too rapidly we headed back for the surface. I was surprised to see that Pukey McPukerson had gone down for the second dive after we had left the boat. Maybe it was a good idea to have at least a little bit of calm time, because as soon as he got detached from his tank, he was over the side with another load of fish food. It was actually fairly impressive, the amount of food he could sick up. But we headed back to land quickly and he recovered once we were in motion rather than tossing in the seas.

I got back to the apartment, chilled with Allison for a while as Jeremy napped (and introduced her to Ugly Betty), then cooked up a nice stir-fry for dinner while we watched the American Idol elimination show. After LaKisha went home, we ate (actually I had been really hungry and ate mine as soon as I was done cooking, though Jeremy and Allison had wanted to watch the end of the show). I ended up laying on the couch just zoning with the TV on and spontaneously passing out. I just zonked, and I didn't realize I was doing it or that I was even tired. I don't know if scuba just tuckered me out or something weird with different pressures underwater. It could have been the beef with the stir-fry, too (if you're surprised by that, I should mention that I've relaxed my vegetarianism for the summer in light of all my travels and especially because I don't want to miss out on some potential cultural experiences in France that might involve eating meat. I'm not out to get back into eating meat regularly by any means (I have rules: only if someone else cooks it for me and offers or if I'm cooking for myself and meat-eaters and I cook some for them. When I'm cooking for myself or at a restaurant or something, it's a no-go), and after this summer I'll go back to my stricter ways) (yes, that was a nested parenthetical, don't get confused). They woke me up a couple of hours later and I made my way to bed, knowing that in the morning I'd have to pack up and head off with Jeremy to Pearl Harbor and then the airport.

Drinking is a good thing (really, it's in the Bible)

These posts are too long, so I'm going to make an effort to trim them down a bit. Wednesday's main focus was trying to surf a bit more. Allison had successfully left her job the day before, so after Jeremy left for work we packed up and headed down to Waikiki to shop for a Mother's Day present and anything else that might strike my fancy. There an "International Market" in Waikiki that's got a lot of little kiosks and small shops selling all the tourist-y kinds of things you'd expect and some prettier, nicer items as well. I ended up buying a few magnets of Hawaii to give to Rodrigo's mom (Rodrigo is my friend Kim's Spanish fiancee; I'll be talking about seeing them in six weeks or so), a cool spinning throwing think for my cousin (an another for myself) and some really pretty candles for my mom. They're white and blue, but in inverse patterns, and they look very flowery and ornate. I'm sure she'll think they're pretty, but I'm really hoping she'll actually find something decorative to do with them at some point.

After shopping, we hit the surf school and I grabbed a board to go out for a little bit on my own. The hardest part as a beginning is just knowing what's a good wave and when to start paddling to catch it. An instructor from the school was out there with another client, so every now and again he would yell out for me to start paddling and give me tips when I came back to try again. It was very helpful and nice to know that I could manage to surf a bit on my own. After a little while surfing, I headed back in and Allison and I met up with Jeremy. On our walk back to their apartment we stopped at Jeremy's favorite place to get a snow cone (technically, a Hawaiian ice) and walked back more along the beach than the main drag, which was a nice change of scenery. Back at the apartment, I showered and Jeremy started mixing me vodka and cokes while he and Allison had a few beers. We fell to talking and had a really long, really good conversation. We talked a lot about gay issues in general and my experiences when I was younger, coming out and fully coming into myself as a gay man, along with others things in Jeremy and Allison's relationship and their upcoming marriage. In all, it was a very comfortable environment (the alcohol didn't hurt either) and it felt good to just share with friends, in both directions. By the end of the evening I was thoroughly tipsy and we had no choice but to order a pizza again as it was too late to head out to eat. I fell into bed that evening thoroughly happy and peacefully content.

Vacation daze

I'm a firm believer that vacations should have a day or two relating to the root word from which vacation derives, a root which also gave rise to the word vacant, that is a day with very little going on except for relaxing, zoning out and the like. Tuesday was that day for me. I slept in a bit (my body finally beginning to adjust to the time change and not waking me up at 7am, thinking it's past noon), tooled around on the computer, watched some shows online (like Brothers and Sisters, which Jeremy and Allison don't watch, so I hadn't wanted to insist on seeing it, knowing it would be online and available), and just lazed about. Allison had to go to work a bit after 12, so when she got up I left the bedroom and chatted with her. She was quitting her job at the end of the week, but her boss was just so crazy and her co-workers (not all, but enough) were generally intolerable, so as we got to talking she worked herself up to just tell them that today would be her last day, instead of Thursday. I totally supported the idea, and when she left she took a change of clothes so she could turn in her uniform. She also forgot her key, and I was very confused when the doorbell rang, but the issue was soon resolved and I was again left on my own to focus on doing nothing, which I did with a ferocious intensity.

Jeremy got done with work fairly early, so when he got home we discussed evening plans. I had decided that I wanted to cook a couple of dinners for them to show my appreciation for their hospitality, and I figured that night would be a good one. Jeremy had to mail the wedding invitations, so he headed for the post office and I for the grocery store, picking up everything I would need for pasta with chicken breasts and beans for that night, and a good beef vegetable stir-fry later in the week. The grocery store stank oddly just inside the entryway, a fact that both Jeremy and Allison remarked on later and asked if I had noticed. Jeremy and I met up back at the apartment and headed down to the pool to lounge away the hour or so until it would be time to start cooking and heading over to pick up Allison on her last day of work. There's something vaguely disconcerting about sunning oneself by a pool when you can hear the ocean and feel the breeze with it's slight salt tinge, but it's lovely nonetheless.

While Jeremy picked up Allison, I cut and sauteed the beans, foil baked the chicken, and boiled up some rotini. We drank a nice Riesling with the meal and I was quite pleased with my efforts. We were a bit rushed though, as we had plans to meet with Jeremy's friend Tom (from the sailboat, see pictures on Facebook) to go see Spider-Man 3. Now, I'm a bit of a movie whore and I tend to like any movie so long as it's not wildly offensive in an inappropriate manner (movies that are offensive in an appropriate manner, see The South Park Movie or anything by John Waters, are divine). But I do have a special place in my heart for comic book movies, having loved reading comic books so much as a kid and dreaming of the day when I would face a crisis moment and my heretofore hidden superpower would become apparent. (PS-Still waiting) So I liked the movie, though the rest of the group panned its cheesiness and slow unfolding. To me it felt a lot like reading a comic book, which I guess is something you have to like first. I thought it a nice way to end the evening.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Surfing is a thrilling experience, and I highly recommend that anyone with a shot grab a board and a teacher for a couple of hours and head out to catch some waves. I spent a bit of time relaxing Monday morning and making arrangements, both for my surf lesson later that day and for my scuba trip later in the week. Once I was all ready, I headed down to Waikiki, the most surfed beach in the world, for a lesson at the Hans Hedemann Surf School. Hans was probably some big surfer back in the day, though when I saw him in the shop he was fairly portly (though I'm quite sure his grace on a board would make my face melt, nonetheless). I had signed up for a two-hour private lesson, but there were some other groups going at the same time, so we all went through some dry land practice first. In the ongoing war between the hemispheres of my brain (I write left handed, but bowl and throw a baseball with my right, though I can bat from either side and use a fork equally well with both hands, too) it turns out that I surf "goofy" (yes, that's the official term in surfer parlance), meaning that I put my right foot forward. If you don't know what foot you would use, try this test. Stand normally and tell someone to push you when you aren't expecting it. Just chat casually with the person and sometime in the middle talking, have them push you firmly in the back. You'll take a step forward to catch your balance, and if you're not thinking about it too hard, you'll step with the non-dominant foot. You can also base it on past experience with other sports, like snowboarding, skateboarding, tennis or anything that requires split-footed stances.

For us total beginners, the boards are huge, something like 10 feet long or so, which helps us be more stable and the like. You lay down on the board and paddle all the way out to where the surf is breaking, 100 yds or so from the shore. The hard part about surfing is that every time you attempt to catch a wave, whether you succeed or not, you have to turn yourself around and swim back out to the break point. It's kind of like skiing but without a lift. Most of the time in the water is spent waiting for a good wave to come and then swimming back to try for the next one. In all though, I probably made 15-20 attempts during my two hours in the ocean, and got up more times than I face planted. I enjoyed it tremendously, especially because I got it on my first try and the next few, while other people were still struggling a bit. It gives you that "I win" feeling, even though the other people didn't know it was a competition (Debbie knows what I'm talking about). My feeling, however, is that while surfing is fun to try, it would take a lot of time and effort to really get good at it, mostly because of all the downtime while waiting for waves. Perhaps a good simulator could speed up the learning curve, but out on the seas, it was slow going sometimes.

After my lesson, I headed back to Jeremy and Allison's place to shower off the salt. Allison got off work early (only seven) so we had time for nice dinner out at Dave and Buster's. Allison told me fun stories about the crazy people that somehow just end up in her life and we talked about all the fun stuff involved in planning a wedding, including needing to mail wedding invitations (that already come in their own envelope) in a separate envelope. Good times.

Monday, May 7, 2007

I'm sailing away...

In case you didn't know, Hawai'i is gorgeous. The plants, the ocean, the mountains, everywhere you look is just stunning. The weather is always somewhere between 70-80 degrees, not too humid and mostly sunny. It's a kind of paradise. I'm a cold weather guy, personally, but I can certainly understand the appeal. Buildings here are open-air structures, like the huge mall near my friend's condo or the airport, where one take a walkway with a garden on one side and the tarmac on the other on the way to the baggage claim. Everyone wears flip-flips or open-toed shoes and has an amazing tan. Caucasian people are a definite minority through most of the island unless you are in a very tourist/resort heavy area, like by Waikiki beach. Most people are Asian or Native Hawaiian descended, with a goodly amount of Pacific Islanders as well. Lots of signs are in English, Japanese and Korean, and most high-class stores will have staff that are native in various Asian languages. These are the observations I've gathered or discussed during my first day here that I found a bit surprising, but that make total sense in retrospect.

I came to Honolulu to visit my friends Jeremy and Allison. Jeremy and I used to live on the same block when we were younger. His house was kind of kitty-corner behind my house. His family had three boys the same ages as me and my brothers, with an additional younger sister, so they were natural playmates when we moved into the neighborhood. Jeremy and I used to go to his house after school and play Myst on his computer. It was good times. After high school Jeremy headed to Notre Dame and then to the Navy as the nuclear guy for submarines. He was in the Gulf for a while and now he teaches at the submarine training academy here in Hawai'i. He lives here with his fiancee, Allison (wedding is set for July 6th, so they're in the middle of lots of planning and preparation). I've gotten to hang out with Allison at some social functions, like Jeremy's brother Chris's wedding, and she's just fantastic. She works at a Fendi store right now, but her boss is horrid, so she quitting at the end of the week. They live in this amazing condo in Ala Moana area of Honolulu, on the 42nd floor so the views amazing. I seriously want to buy a timeshare for their guest bedroom, and then hang out on their little balcony drinking wine and gazing out at the ocean. But with air conditioning.

I flew in on the 5th and Jeremy picked me up from the airport in his very fast two-seater car (it's a Z350 or something like that). We went back to the condo, met up with Allison, dropped my stuff off and went out to a local bar for a few drinks (raspberry mojitos are delicious) and finally called it a night after I'd been awake for nearly a full 24 hours. I still woke up easily at nine the next morning because my body thought it was three in the afternoon. Allison had to work, but Jeremy was free, so we headed for Diamond Head, a huge crater on the southeastern corner of the island left over from some volcanic activity quite a while ago. It was turned into a military fortification and now it's a site to go and visit for good views of the crater and the city. You hike up a little trail for 15 minutes and get up a few hundred feet and you get to look out at the ocean and at downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. After checking out the view we headed to the dock to go sailing with Jeremy's friends from the submarine school where he teaches, Chuck and Tom. (PS-Chuck and Tom were both rather attractive, nice-bodied guys and I scolded Jeremy that next time he had to warn me when his friends were going to be hot. Chuck is the kind of straight guy that enjoys attention and sexual tension, so he made all kinds of jokes and suggestive remarks throughout the trip. I don't think he knew I was gay and the comments were definitely not homophobic; they were just made in fun, and several times I had to turn away and laugh more than was appropriate.) The boat was Chuck's and it was his first voyage on her since getting back from a 6-month tour in Afghanistan. I'd never been on a sailboat before, so it was really cool to see the process and watch them pull the rigging to cross the sail over. We hung out for a couple of hours on the water and then headed back in.

Jeremy and I went back to the Condo to await Allison's 7 o'clock end-of-day time. We discussed a wide variety of topics, including equality between men and women, general problems of society, and the fact that a lot of my tax money goes to pay for him moving around the world. That's one of the reason's why I've always really like Jeremy. Even though we hardly see each other, when we hang out, we can talk really easily and openly. He's a thinker, and so's Allison, which is one of the reasons why I think they'll do well together. After we got Allison from work, we talked a lot more and got around to ordering some pizza. Neither of the pair really cooks much, which is a shame because they have a really nice kitchen. I'm supposed to cook for them later this week to pay my rent. We ended the evening watching The Office. Jeremy and Allison are working their way through Season 2 right now via Netflix, so it was great to enjoy some semi-forgotten laughs. Both of them would be working the next day, so I figured I'd get up in the morning and see about learning to surf, one of my principle goals while in Hawai'i.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Terms of Service Agreement

A few friends told me they wanted me to write about all of my summer's adventures so they could live vicariously through me while I gallivant around. So I set this up to give them a place to check in and see how things are going. I have no idea how much I'll be able to blog, especially as the summer progresses, but I will make an effort to keep things semi-up-to-date.

Just to fill everyone in, in case you don't already know the 411, this summer is all about traveling and having fun. I got into the Northwestern MD/PhD program for the fall and am very excited to return to school and continue on my path to a career in medical research. But the program is a minimum of 7 fairly intense years, with a strong possibility of an additional year or two needed to finish up, and then I'll likely have to continue on into a residency and possibly other training/education related activities. The standing joke around the house is that I'll get a "real" job when I'm 40, which isn't too far from the truth. So this summer I've decided to have as much fun as possible before I start school.

Here's the basic plan: Quit job on the 4th of May. Fly to Hawai'i on the 5th, stay until the 11th with a childhood friend and his fiancee in Honolulu. Fly back to Indy to be with Mom on Mother's Day, then leave Indy on the 15th for a three-week road trip. Drive to see the following people/places: St. Louis (Kerrie and Jesse, maybe Dulle and other Wancas), Evansville (Danger and MacGyver), Louisville (Carson), Atlanta (Lem), Florida (Erin K, Eryn Y, Christina), Hilton Head Island (Adam), Hayes, VA (Candi), Washington, DC (Marge, Ayn, Gretchen), Philly (Holly and Mike), New York (Sean), Hanover, NH (Suzanne), Boston (Dave, Nancy, maybe Jeni and Thade), New York, again (Gerold, Debbie, Elizabeth, Brian, maybe Sean again), Cleveland (Michael), and back to Indy on June 4th. The first weekend in June, though, I'll interrupt the trip to fly from NYC with my brother down to Houston for two days for my cousin's wedding.

Once I'm back from the road trip, I'll take a day to decompress, then I'll head up to Chicago on June 6th to look for an apartment, coming back to Indy on Saturday. Indy for a few days, then I'll leave on Tuesday for Colorado with Summer Field Study. For those not in the know, it's a two-week outdoor adventure trip for high school students and it's amazing. SFS gets back Sunday of the last week of June and then on Tuesday, the 26th I fly to Europe. I'll spend the first five days in Madrid, Spain visiting my friends Kim and Rodrigo (and probably Pili, too) and then head to Strasbourg, France on July 1. I'll be in France for three weeks as a part of a study abroad program run through IUPUI, learning French and experiencing the culture. I come home on July 24th, and will hopefully have a few days to move in to the place in Chicago that I found back in June. Then it's off to Camp Miniwanca in Michigan on July 30th until August 10th. Once camp ends, there's a two-day retreat for the students and staff of the MD/PhD program somewhere outside of Chicago on the 13th-14th, and then classes will start on the 20th. Woot!

That's the plan, at least. We'll see how well it actually goes as the summer progresses. I'll post again about traveling to and getting to Hawai'i later today, I hope. Right now I want some breakfast. Toodles!