We make holes in teeth!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I dub this blog entry as such because of the movie with the same name, obviously. I was going to go with Blazing Saddles but this was more appropriate. It should really be Ships, Automobiles, and Planes. Or maybe Ship, Taxi, Plane, Shuttle, and Car. Or maybe one malfunctioning ship, a peaceful taxi ride, a canceled plane, an alternate plane, a shockless shuttle, and a car. This is the story of our last day of vacation.

I woke up at 6:10 to my phone alarm. Why 6:10? I don't really know. It was set that way so I left it there. I got up, got dressed, and left the stateroom in search of a cup of coffee and a pre-breakfast. I was hungover though the full effects weren't in place yet so I didn't actually know it. Ignorance is bliss.

The first thing I noticed was that the weather was bad. Overcast and rainy, not a good day to be traveling but it is what it is. The next thing I noticed was that we weren't in port yet and we didn't seem to be terribly close though I could see land - worst case I swim I guess. As I sat there eating my eggs, fried potato variant, and breakfast meat I also noticed that the boat didn't seem to be moving. At all.

Shortly the captain came on the PA and announced power had gone out overnight and we were running late. Whatever. Then when I left the dining room the men's bathroom was flooding the lobby. Whatever. Then when we all came back up to eat breakfast a bit later the AC had broken. Hmmm, not whatever. It was disgustingly hot and in theory they wanted you out of your room and waiting in the various lounge areas by 8:00. To be sure, that was fart-in-church material and we had nothing doing on that front. We basically took our time but did get to the lobby at maybe 9:00 or so.

Of course the lobby was a madhouse and we went out on the deck where it was hot because Florida is always hot. It crept up on 9:30 and they still hadn't let anyone off the boat yet despite 8:00 being the expected start time. Eventually Terren went to ask the desk a question and the guy basically told him to fuck it, just get off ASAP. While he was on line the debarking had begun, so we got in line, said fuck waiting, and we were off the boat in 15 minutes.

We were met by a passport line, then a luggage line, then a customs line, then a line to make people be in 4 lines in a row. But all in all it was smooth enough save for the fuck-face porters who just cut in line as if they owned the world. Did I mention the other day what a bunch of assholes our society is filled with? This also in light of the fact that nobody anywhere makes any concessions for people in wheelchairs. Are you for real?

Anyway we were out in relative short order and hopped in a taxi with no car seat and in the airport in less than 10 minutes where we quickly learned our flight had been canceled because of bad weather. In New Jersey. After some talking with the guy at the counter I decided that flying into JFK on a 1:00 was better than getting a hotel and hoping the next day was OK. Fuck that bro. My philosophy is to get as close as you can and let it work itself out.

Well at 3:45 we were stopped on the tarmac at JFK. At 4:00 we were still stopped and getting hot because the stupid fucking mechanical arm-ramp thing wasn't working and the plane had shut down which means no air circulation. Incredibly Julia handled it all well and had even napped for an hour on the flight despite the worst turbulence that I had ever personally experienced. And the landing was harsh because there were strong winds which you apparently thwart by hitting the runway at approximately 40,000 mph and hoping your landing gear doesn't disintegrate.

Nat is exhausted by now but I know we still have a fair amount of real estate to cover so my head is still in the game. It's all mental and if you start to let yourself slide then you can go downhill pretty fast. Thankfully that didn't happen, even after the lady at JFK told us we missed the Newark shuttle by about 2 seconds. Of course she was jabbering on the phone with a friend which might have had something to do with it but whatever, it would have been a perfect timing thing anyway and that was obviously not the order of the day. Oh I forgot to mention that we had to take a shuttle from the plane to get the luggage so that was actually yet another mechanized vehicle we rode in, so bring the tally up to 6.

So we are led over to a waiting area where we take turns chasing Julia around. She's happy, I'm happy. That's basically the way it goes because if she's unhappy the shit hits the fan. The shuttle is scheduled for 5:00 but 2 people tell us not to expect much more than 5:30 and at 5:25 a short hermit-like man shows up and says he's our driver and grumbles something about paying him now. He refuses to make eye contact.

So we get in and it's obvious he is paid to get from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible without killing anyone (or at least no passengers) and he does this well enough, but the constant slamming on the gas and brakes sends all of us lurching back and forth like bowling pins in a centrifuge. At several points Julia let's out a guttural scream of disapproval and at one point she just stares at me as if to ask me WTF we're putting her through. Fair enough, as this is hardly enjoyable for anyone let alone a kid. The fat people in the back of the shuttle manage to sleep through it all.

We get there in one piece and find my parents easily enough in terminal A. One more relatively pain-free car ride and we're home by 7:50 and I'm draining 2 cruise-size glasses of Syrah before bed and we all sleep like bricks that night. My total day at that point was 13 hours and 40 minutes. For Julia it was just about 12:15. Given that we did so much and she only napped an hour, she gets a gold star to be delivered at a future point in time.

Even with all of it, the delayed flight going there, the lack of things to do on the ship, the rain in Jamaica, and the adventure getting home, I want to do it again. While "it" may not be the exact same trip, I want to get out and be on an adventure of some kind. While we were sitting in the terminal waiting for the shuttle to Newark, I remarked that I was having fun with it all. Nat was kinda surprised I guess but having to stay on your toes and deal with whatever life throws at you can be kinda fun some days.

As Walter said, fuck it Dude let's go bowling.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Pronounce it Q-ba, or COO-ba if you want. The cruise basically went around Cuba. East side, slice between the Bahamas and Cuba, then around the South side, Johnny, and hit Jamaica. I loved seeing all the white people with the Jamaica gear and mini-dreadlocks. I guess if it makes you happy then cool. Drop your cash however you see fit, happiness is at your disposal. Anyway, a quick hop over to Grand Caymen to the West of Jamaica, where this British territory has them driving on the decided wrong side of the road. Then back home along the West side of Cuba to Fort Lauderdale.

And all the while, Cuba is off to the right. Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don't. But you always know it's there. And one day, as Terren and I stand on one of the decks watching blue and orange smoke come from a few of the smokestacks, the landscape juts up in rugged hills, surprising us both. Is this maybe where the Revolutionaries hid? Probably not, but it's mysterious, this island locked in the past by embargo.

Almost the whole trip the island is shrouded in bad weather, the Cloud of Communism as Terren jokes. I get jokes. But still mysterious, maybe even more so because of it.

We try to find the Bay of Pigs on a map, but it's not marked. I later learn it is in the South Central part of Cuba, and the translation "Bay of Pigs" is likely inaccurate, probably another fabricated media factoid used to stoke the engines of public acceptance. Why not foment revolution? They are pigs, schools and schools of them floundering in the water.

I imagine someday Cuba will be a port of call on these cruises. Fidel will be in the grave by then, having died with the notion that he was able to hold off the "bad old USA" for so long. But it won't last forever, as nothing much does. I imagine the Cloud of Communism will simply dissipate when it happens, and the mystery will be a bit disaplaced, though probably not entirely.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Welcome Back Hank

Vacations are often times really tough. That's the case today for me. Currently I'm sitting on the train to New York, my usual Hoboken route disrupted as a direct consequence of my vacation. This is how it usually goes, which is one reason I say vacation is tough. I usually get back in serious need for change. I was going to drive to Jersey City and take the Path from Journal Square, but the 1 inch of snow plus the fact my car barely started canned that idea. So I took the NY direct and expect to get to Brooklyn by about 8:00 this morning.

Vacation was good. It was nice to get away. This snow is interesting and makes the landscape look appealing, at least while we're still on this side of Maplewood. But it's a stark contrast to the 90 degree temps we saw down in the Caribbean. Am I ready for it? Yeah I guess. What choice do I have? I woke up at 5:30 this morning and got out before the sun came up. I like change. I need change. I'm dying to rearrange the furniture in the living room. I may change my name to Hank.

I think it's safe to say we're done with JetBlue. The flight down to Fort Lauderdale was delayed so we got to the hotel at 11:30 Friday night. No big deal save for the 19 month-old in tow. The cruise was good, a nice change of pace with a crazy amount of food, a fair amount of alcohol, and good friends in tow as Terren and Cheryl and little Livia joined us as well.

I have no cool highlights of the trip really. I broke an exercise bike in the fitness room as I put it on the highest level and did the hill workout. About 20 minutes in the belt went POP and that was that. It rained in Jamaica so we stayed on the boat. It didn't rain in Grand Caymen so we got off the boat and did a little beach and shopping. Overall it was a bit heavy on food and drink and light on stuff to do. But it was good to get away from this place for a while. I'm already looking for cruises and flights around Christmas time because I want to go on vacation again. It's unrealistic because the prices are mad high. But I want to get on a plane and go somewhere, even if it's a flight to Oregon and we stay no more than 2 nights. Just, you know, get the hell away.

The New York train is smoother and faster. But then the subway ride will be longer. But but the Path ride is cut out and I don't have to go outside. But but but this is more expensive. This NY train is really pricey now, $10.50 one way. I think the Hoboken is $8.25 though so it costs a lot either way. The Path adds $1.25 real money so it's $9.50 total with both legs. And I don't think this will end up being much faster, maybe 10-15 minutes, we'll see.

Our basic vacation day went like this. I would wake up before anyone else, maybe 6:30 or so. I would head up to the cafe and get a coffee and cereal and then either get another coffee or go to the gym. Nat would wake up around 7:30 and we would shower and have coffee then wake up Julia at some point. We would sit down for breakfast, all 6 of us, around 8:30-9:00 until about 10:00, and drink more coffee.

From 10-12 we'd find something to do, a kid's class where they would run out of the lounge every 30 seconds, or the splash pool, or get off the boat, or just explore all the while drinking coffee. Then we would eat lunch at 12 and nap the kids in the 1-3 realm, when Nat and I and sometimes Terren would sit out in the hall eating a second lunch and having more coffee. This is usually when I would start drinking beer or wine for the day. Between 3-6:30 we would find something else to do, such as Bingo or trade off watching the kids, and keep drinking. Then 6:30 dinner and after that Terren and Cheryl would get Livia ready for bed while we would go back to the room or walk around with Julia. Bed was usually 10:00 for us.

Yeah I know it sounds boring but it was a nice break in the routine. Would I do it again next week? No thanks. There's just not enough to do for the kids at this age and the cruise line doesn't go out of its way to help that. So there are no play groups or rooms for them which leaves us finding conference rooms to hang out in. But would I do it again someday? Yes, absolutely. Funny I was talking to Orion yesterday and he said basically this: Cruises aren't my thing but man that sounds really good right now. Right on, exactly that's how I feel now. I never much cared for the idea of a cruise but right now it lingers as a nice memory and stands in stark contrast to the white stuff on the ground. I think waiting until Julia is 3 or going with my parents in tow would make it better. It was a good time either way though. Good to escape from NJ for a brief foray into a world where people are paid to be friendly to you. One thing that's almost depressing is how not-friendly society is now that I'm back. Jeez what a bunch of jerks we all are.

On the bike, I rode Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday I felt like I was drunk on the trainer, my balance was all out of whack. Saturday I was outside and it was cold but not too awful. Sunday I did intervals of pain. So this kinda marks the start of the 07/08 season now. Sorta. On that note my 10 day drinking binge is over as well. Thursday I turn 36 and as a birthday present to myself I'm riding my bike out to my parents in PA where Nat and Julia will meet me and we'll have turkey and all the good stuff.

Anyway, welcome back Hank. I'll detail the return journey in tomorrow's blog if I don't drive to JC. I felt like I was in the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles that day. JetBlue dropped the ball again on that one. More to come when I get the time to sit down. Right now have to stare out the window for a few minutes.



Accommodation in aviemore