Are You Afraid of the Dark?


I don’t do well with ‘spooky.’ I never have. My gut tells me I never will.

My unfortunate relationship with Halloween has been well documented on this blog. But it’s not just that holiday, it’s all things scary, and haunted. I don’t have a desire to be scared. The idea of it actually scares me.

I’m sure we can trace this one all the way back to my childhood.

When I was really little, the most deliberately scary experience I can remember was going on was Mister Toad’s Wild Ride in Disney.


That wasn’t scary as much as it was just a tiny acid trip for children. That I remember enjoying. Lots of black lights and fluorescent lights and frogs. Pretty easy to handle.

As I got older there were these annual carnivals that would come in to my town. The kind that show up for weeks complete with scary looking dudes trying to get you to go on a ride that spins around upside down that they assembled that morning out of what looked to be bobby pins and erector set pieces.

These carnivals inevitably had a haunted house. And since the haunted house had to be packed up and thrown on the back of a trailer every other week, they didn’t have the most tremendous special effects. So they hired local teenagers to put on masks and jump out and grab you while in the dark.

In retrospect this probably could have been called Mr. Toad’s Lawsuit Ride. I don’t think I would have ever willingly volunteered to go on such a ride. But I remember one year my next-door neighbor and I went together.

My next-door neighbor was an interesting kid two years older than me who had moved into the neighborhood late in elementary school. He was from the city, from tougher parts. His parents called the street ‘the gutta.’ I knew this because they were always telling us:

Get outta the gutta!

We willingly obliged until they went back in the house.

My neighbor also taught me the phrase ‘flat leaver.’ As in, if you were hanging out with somebody, and then left to hang out with somebody else, you were a flat leaver.

It was about the worst thing you could call somebody.

One year my neighbor and I went to one of those carnivals, and either because neither wanted to admit the other was scared or because we convinced each other it was a good idea, we went in the haunted house. Certainly I must have feared being called a flat leaver for not joining in the experience.

Shortly into the 60 second “ride” my neighbor was grabbed too hard by one of the volunteers.

When the ride was over we complained to the…  well, carnie, running the ride about what had happened. He promised us he had never heard any complaints like that before.

Regardless, it was the last haunted house I ever entered at a carnival.

Several years later my parents, my sister and I went up to Salem, Massachusetts. Home of the famed Witch Trials and a noted haunted place.

Back in those days I was so blissfully unaware and was more excited about the whole vacation then any specific haunting in particular. Whereas today I would probably stress out so far in advance that I would have an ulcer before I could leave my apartment.

There are all kinds of wonderfully kitchy things to do in Salem. There are walking tours, and reenactments, and of course, haunted houses.

We were there for a long Labor Day weekend. It was a distinctly cold and dreary weekend, seemingly apt for such a vacation. We did all of the family type stuff that the city had to offer, and when my father proposed a haunted house that you walked through, we all thought it would be hilarious to do as a family.

In hindsight I realize that if I ever end up in a haunted house again, I don’t want to be near anybody I know. Because, well, basically after they see how I behave the will lose any and all respect they might have had for me based on how I behave.

It is, in a word, embarrassing.

Into the haunted house we go. We have to walk down a flight of steps into what is essentially a set path through basement hallways dressed up elaborately in a variety of themes. It was really quite something. In a matter of minutes my mood shifted from excitement, to amazement, to concern, to all out paranoia.

We weren’t just walking through narrow halls with sloped ceilings looking at spooky stuff. There were actors in full costume, corpses come to life, ghosts, zombies, and all other manner of undead.

They would walk up behind you, jump out in front of you, all in very very close quarters.

As we made our way through the house my heart rate quickly became unbearable. I had experienced enough. I couldn’t handle the anxiety of the upcoming scare. I didn’t want to be scared anymore. I had no idea how many more ‘boos’ lay ahead.

So, after we passed a corpse on a table and a man with a knife jumped out at us, I had decided that was enough and faked hitting my head on the corner of one of the arched doorways.

I did this by kicking the wall as I gently bumped my head.

Cowardice makes one wildly creative.

Immediately, Frankenstein came out of nowhere to make sure I was OK. My parents fawned over me. I said I was OK it was just an accident. But by that point the majority of the scaring was over and I think we passed through the rest of the haunted house rather unscathed.

We emerged into the sunlight, which quickly solidified the guilt in my chest I felt from having to fake an injury to get out of being scared.

A guilt I never felt from my time with Mr. Toad.

New People in Old Orleans


I looked up at the fare meter on the dashboard of the cab. Though ticking slowly it had already hit $5.50.

I leaned over to Megan, who was still holding a half full cup of beer, and whispered:

I only have 4 dollars in my pocket. Do you have any cash?

She rummaged quickly through her purse before looking up at me.

I have 3 dollars.

At that time we were only halfway back to the hotel. We didn't have nearly enough cash.

I quickly spoke up:

Excuse me sir, would you mind passing the Chase bank on Royal street, I just realized we don't have enough cash.

Since the advent of the credit card machines in New York this was a situation I had rarely found myself in. I never needed to check my pocket before getting in a cab in New York. It was a liberty I had taken for granted the whole time we had been in New Orleans.

The cab driver responded.

Oh don't worry about it. I got a big tip earlier this evening. These young guys were going out tonight and they gave me 30 dollars and it was only a 10 dollar cab ride. So don't worry about it. It all works itself out.

Megan and I thanked the cab driver profusely. I turned back to her and shook my head. Why did this keep happening to us? Why did strangers keep doing nice things for us in this city?

Everybody was so friendly and sincere and welcoming. We were so embarrassed. Here we were, staying at one of the nicest hotels in the French Quarter and we didn’t even have 10 dollars between the two of us.

I had spent most of my night, heck, most of my nights, giving my money to bartenders who couldn't hear me over the loud music in the bar, mouthing my words so they could understand what I needed.

And now the one person who could actually hear me, the one person who was probably more deserving of my money than anybody I had given it to that entire trip, said he didn't need it. He had already received a nice tip that evening.

I can't imagine saying those words to somebody. If I drove a cab I don't know that I would be that generous and understanding.

Everywhere we went we found more people who wanted to tell us their story and their unique point of view. More individuals who wanted to share the history of the city, of what we've seen and what we should see.

So it should have come as no surprise that our dinner plans for our last night in New Orleans ended up completely changed because of somebody we met.

Megan and I had been out and about, doing what we do best, eating, drinking and walking around the city. We followed that up with the other thing we did best, synchronized napping.

Since losing the ability to sleep past 9 am, my ability to spend all day exploring a city and partying deep into the early hours of the morning is severely compromised without a nap.

We had dinner plans for a restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter. When Megan's Miles Davis cell phone ring woke us up from our nap, it could only mean one thing, her father and his girlfriend were ready for a pre-dinner cocktail.

But as it turns out they were calling for a different reason. They had been having a drink at a local landmark when they met a woman named Rochelle and her friend David. Rochelle and David were extremely friendly and inviting. So much so that David had invited Megan's father and subsequently us, to join for a pre-dinner drink at the restaurant his family owned, a famous French Quarter establishment around the corner from our original reservation.

By the time we got there, we were immediately overwhelmed by the owner, her son, her son's friend Rochelle, and Rochelle's friend Theresa. And the invitation for a drink had turned into an invitation to stay for dinner. It was like kismet. We were supposed to have dinner at this New Orleans main stay that only 100 years earlier had served as horse stables.

We were inundated by questions and directions.

Tell us about yourselves, where do you work, have a drink, would you like a tour, have you met so and so, get your drink it's time for the tour and so on and so on.

We changed our dinner reservation with reservations of our own, but figured when the owner of a restaurant extends you an invitation to eat at their restaurant while on vacation in their city. You have no choice but to say yes.

By the time we got to dinner, the stories we had been hearing so far started to seem more like tall tales, and the kismet started to seem slightly fixed.

Dinner was underwhelming, despite the folklore that was imposed upon us.

Try the oysters, you have to have them. They’re on me, I'll send over two orders.

And the prospect of turtle soup seemed curious. I asked the waiter about it.

What is this turtle soup?
It's turtle soup! Made from turtles. It's delicious

And that was that. So I tried some of that, though I couldn't figure out if I liked it or was turned off by it. Either way I had never felt a guilt like that consuming anything else in my life.

Rochelle made several appearances throughout our meal, standing next to our table and talking for slightly longer than seemed necessary. Theresa showed up as well, considerably drunker than everybody.

We began to wonder aloud, though quietly, to each other... was this a setup? Had Rochelle and David set up camp at that local watering hole waiting for unwitting tourists to stumble in so they could bring them to their delightful though probably overpriced restaurant? Were we a bunch of rubes, so caught up in the magic and charm of the city and it's people that we couldn't realize a setup when one literally looked us in the eye?

It was no matter at that point. We were far and away past the point of no return.

By the time our longer than necessary meal ended and our bill came (foreshadowed by claims of "comps" and "on me" though devoid of such fulfilled promises) we were ready to have our own night. And as politely as possible, we excused ourselves from our hosts company and ventured off on our own.

So by the time Megan and I were more than our fair share of sheets to the wind, and met that cab driver whom we had waited too long for, we were absolutely primed for genuine gesture.

We were ready to accept such an incredible event as routine. Because this one couldn't be anything but real, there was nothing he could get out of it. It was just New Orleans charm at it's finest. And that's how I, and probably all of us, will choose to remember that city.

Oh and that turtle soup? Despite my waiter’s enthusiasm for it, 12 hours later, because of poor preparation or massive guilt, I decided I was done with it and returned it the hard way to the hotel toilet.

Fiji - Staying There

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

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


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

Me. The answer is me.

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

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

Bleah.

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

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

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

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


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

Doing Nothing.

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

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

Well, I figured it out pretty quickly.

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

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


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

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

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

Are there monkeys in Fiji?

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

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

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

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

It sounded like this first 10 seconds of this video.

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

Sea Cat.

Oh… cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRIBE!

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

BRIBE!

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



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

For a complete recap, check out this video!

A Good Look Back

Seeing as I had a bit of a rough spell a couple weeks ago, I want to end this year on a positive note. So instead of dwelling on something shitty that happened, I want to focus on what has been an otherwise incredible year.

I can say hands down, this has been one of the most incredible and intense years of my life. There are so many things to be grateful for. So I am glad to provide a retrospective on 5 things that people either said to me or did for me that made my year so wonderful.

#5 - The Cab Ride

New Years Day. It’s just after 1 am in Chicago, Illinois. Myself and 2 female friends are celebrating at a bar on the outskirts of the city. After some drinking and much dancing we decide it is time to go. We go to retrieve our coats which quickly turns into the most awful experience involving a coat I have ever been a part of.

We step outside to get cabs along with the 200 other humans, most of them blackout drunk, looking for cabs. We are in a very industrial part of town not necessarily known for its hopping night life. In retrospect, we would have picked a place easier to return from.

It is 0 degrees and I realize my coat, while stylish, is essentially useless against the cold. I am so cold I want to cry frozen tears while laying in the street but that thought freezes in my spinal cord before my body can make it a reality.

I am miserable. I have been cursed at, pushed, shoved, and told by the police that I can’t wait inside for a cab. A guy around my age, let’s call him Tom, is also hopping up and down in the freezing cold asks me where I’m going. I tell him. He tells me he’s headed in the same direction and that since he only has one person with him and I have 2, we should split a cab.

I readily agree with Tom, but my faith in this pact is lacking. If I get a cab and this guy is nearby, of course I will give him a lift, but I know I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to track him down. We are outside for 10 minutes, 20, a half hour. Tom walks further down the street to see if he can hail a cab. I go back inside to check on my friends. I get yelled at by police officers. I go back outside and that’s when I see him.

Hanging out the rear window of a cab is Tom.

Rich, Rich! Over here!

He is waving to me, flagging ME down to get in the cab with him that he has been circling in to find me. I am blown away. I tell him to hang on, I run back inside and grab my friends. We push through the hundreds of frozen drunk idiots and into our cab.

I thank Tom profusely. I thank him out of sheer gratitude to be out of the cold, but I also thank him out of guilt. Because I cannot picture myself circling to track him down. I am embarrassed and ashamed but also grateful. I give him my business card. I tell him to contact me that I need to thank him again.

We make it home and go to bed. I never hear from Tom again.

#4 – The New Job

After years toiling away in positions that I didn’t really believe in, doing things that didn’t really make me happy, I found a job this year that made me believe in my ability to succeed in a corporate environment. Since I was rapidly descending upon the possibility that I might have to become a career tour guide.

I make tons of new friends and as a ridiculously ridiculous awesome bonus, for my second staged play, my company purchases 40 tickets for employees to go to my show. I am blown away. They attend. They clap. They support me. I remain blown away.

#3 - Miami

Random Girl: Who ARE you?
Rich: Who are YOU?
Random Girl: Everybody here knows you as the guy who is always having fun.

‘Nuff said.

#2 – Glass Half Full

I spilled my drink. This is is not a new occurrence. I regularly do this. I also regularly knock cutlery off of tables and blow out candles using my nose.

I don’t do this on purpose mind you. As a human being, I tend to use a lot of air, and when I laugh, I dispense that air through my mouth and quick exhalations via my nostrils. And I like to lean over the table to be closer to whomever I am talking to. And that usually puts the candle in direct line of fire from my nasal blasts, so I laugh, and then the candle goes out. It happens. EVERY. TIME.

I was meeting with my writers group (sounds chic doesn’t it? Well it is.) and I was gesticulating grandly, as I tend to do, and I knocked over my nearly full beer. I quickly righted the glass but the beer was gone.

And right then I witnessed one of the greatest gestures of friendship I had ever witnessed. Without even missing a beat, my buddy Phil who was sitting to my left with a nearly full glass of beer poured half of his beer into mine.

He did it without hesitation. It was just, your beer is gone, here is half of mine. I absolutely LOVED that his first instinct was to make sure I had some beer, not there is a mess of beer on the floor now.

It might seem kind of small or trivial, but it was quite significant. And just another reminder for me how awesomely lucky I am to have incredible people around me. And that it really is the little things that stir us.

#1 – Friends

Through everything that has happened this year, far and away what has made anything worthwhile has been sharing my experiences with my friends. Whether it was the good, the bad, or the heart wrenching, I know I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded with the people that I have in my life.

With the awfulness that happened, so many people went out of their way, to say, offer, and do things for me that I probably will never be able to repay. I hope those people get to read this and know just how violet with gratitude my heart burns. Thank you so much.

And now, enough with the past! Here is to the future, to a 2011 filled with all of everything that we want, and none of the nothing that we don’t.

May your new year be filled with big things, or little things, or whatever it is you seek.

Cheers.

Why Bugs Love Me or How Angelina Jolie Saved My Life

Be it my charming personality, my succulent skin, or perhaps my manly scent of awesomeocity, bugs frigging love me. And not just some bugs. All bugs everywhere, all the time, always.

This is a problem for me because I do not love bugs. I do not like them in my face; I do not like them in my place. I know they have an evolutionary purpose and they have a spot in the universe and all that crap. That’s awesome. Good for the bugs. But I don’t want them near me.

If I am in a group of people I seem to be the one that the bugs seek out. Perhaps the reflection of the sun off my pasty white skin makes all bugs think I am some sort of beacon of buggy hope.

Something about me seems to make bugs think it is OK to just stick parts of their ass into my skin. Bees, mosquitoes, whatever. That is not OK. No.

I am also not OK with even the sounds of flies. You know when they buzz so close to your ear and rattle your eardrum so severely it feels like a monkey is shaking your spine.

Maybe you don’t know, because that fly is always hanging out near my ear and nobody else sees it, they just see me slap my own ear like I’m trying to quiet the voices.

The only bug I am OK with landing on me is a lightning bug. They are so unique, and bright. But perhaps all these other bug attacks are payback from those lightning bugs I stepped on so I could see them glow… dead.

Yea, that was probably a poor decision.

But I apparently have “Sweet blood.” Which god help me if Vampires ever really do overwhelm the earth, I am going to be like the amuse-bouche of the undead.

I remember getting bitten by mosquitoes a lot as a child. But there was no time more outrageous than my first trip to Jamaica.

I was there for a convention during high school and I was staying in a house that didn’t have any air conditioning. So they left the windows open and had multiple fans going all night long. However this didn’t stop the mosquitoes from biting.

When I woke up I noticed the dozens of bites I had received on my exposed parts overnight. They weren’t just little bites that rose into a round circle. No, these were Picasso bites. Rising and elevating themselves into impressionist type shapes across my very sweaty epidermis.

Over the course of those 4 days I received over 130 mosquito bites that swelled and spread until I looked like a 3D topographical map of the earth.

I was reminded of all this bug hatred a couple weekends ago when my sister and I went up to Maine for a little R&R.

We were having a perfectly wonderful weekend until it came time for a little lakeside relaxation at night. Instead of hosing myself down in DDT and pesticides like one of our friends did, I thought I would use a little bit of common sense and just wear some long pants and sleeves.

And of course, common sense failed me again.

The mosquitoes BIT ME THROUGH MY CLOTHES. THROUGH MY JEANS. What kind of bugs were these? Thick heavy cotton and long sleeves protecting me and yet they STILL managed to pierce through to me.

Do you know who didn’t get bit? The guy in shorts and a t-shirt who was sitting outside drenched in bug spray - he was OK. The guy wearing pants and sleeves? Not so much.

But the culmination of it all happened back at my apartment. The scene of the worst bug experience of my life.

For the past 2 years, my… situation had been almost nonexistent. After those first 2 isolated incidents, I had lived a pretty much relaxed and uninterrupted experience.

But that all changed this past week.

I was in my bathroom getting ready for bed. Now I’ve mentioned before that since I live alone I rarely close the bathroom door. And I was changing out of my clothes when I saw him out of the corner of my eye.

The ghost of Barry Bonds was back in my apartment. Just as grotesque and awful. This was Larry Bonds.

And Larry Bonds was just outside my bathroom door facing away from me. If I had been in a better mood I might have laughed at the fact that Larry Bonds appeared to be mooning me. But I was too busy obsessing over the idea that either he had to die, or I was going to commit suicide, because I couldn’t live like this.

I think it is also worth pointing out that I was naked at this point in time.

Of course. Of course I am going to see Larry Bonds when I am completely naked and feeling most vulnerable. I panicked. My bathroom light was on but the rest of my apartment was dark. And if he made a break for it, I would never find him, which means I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night, nor any of the nights after it, spinning me into a maze of stress and psychosis that would ultimately see me losing my job, apartment, and friends, and just sitting under a bridge with a can of Raid screaming “LARRY BONDS CAN GO F*** HIMSELF!”

Luckily I realized that was not my best option.

I quickly scanned the bathroom for a weapon. My eyes caught the toilet brush.



Long enough to strike, but not really a killing type of weapon. I have stepped on creatures like this that then popped up and ran away cursing at me in Spanish (I imagine).

Toilet brush was no good.

I then grabbed the toilet brush holder.


But realized it didn’t give me the grip I needed for a killing blow.

I was panicking; he was going to make a break for it at any moment I knew it.

And then I saw her.

She was like a vision, a beacon, and a symbol of hope. Angelina’s scimitar eyes gazing up at me (still naked mind you) from the cover of my Vanity Fair magazine sitting on the floor of my bathroom.


Remembering that Jason Bourne had once used a rolled up magazine to stab a guy in the eye, I figured I could do something similar to kill this beast. I grabbed the magazine and rolled it up tightly.

I took one step out of the bathroom and he made a break for it.

Shit!

I quickly swatted, clipping him on the side, he jogged away and into the dark. I took another swat, smashing him into my floor. Success!

But because these things are obviously robot aliens from space he was still twitching.

Asshole.

So I grabbed a sneaker, put it on, and stepped on him with all of my weight. Compressing him so hard I fully expected and hoped to see a cucaracha shaped diamond stuck in my sneaker when I was done.

But that did not happen. Only death. And that was success enough for my naked self.

I went to bed relaxed and relieved, realizing it wasn’t clothes that I needed to give me the strength and courageous fortitude to defeat bugs... just Angelina Jolie.

Thrillist Miami - The End of... ME


So its not even noon in Miami and it is 100 degrees outside, and it is humid as a Turkish sweat lodge, which I’ve been in! The pool deck is massive with hundreds if not thousands of chairs, and cabanas and sexy sexy people in their sexy sexy swimsuits… and me.


The palest American ever.

(P.S. Thanks to Nick McGlynn for capturing for the world why I should never ever take my shirt off... ever)

So I got comfortable in the VIP section and started chatting up everybody. There was very loud dancey pop music playing putting people in a good mood so I just danced it up, but quickly realized I was going to burn to a crisp.

So I quickly put some sunblock on.

You put on sun block but you can’t stop sweating so you are just mixing sun block and sweat into a type of baste. So you baste yourself and realize you are so damn hot you have to get in the pool, which is super warm.

So it doesn’t really cool you off it just feels good. A sweaty, bastey, feel good soup of people.

So you are in the pool and you realize, you are thirsty, so you get out and you get a Corona. But as you drink your Corona you start sweating again, so you bring it into the pool. And so that’s how it went for the next 5 hours.

But being in the pool with a Corona is dangerous. I like a little limejuice in my Corona, not a little Chlorine. So I put my Corona in a water bottle.


Problem solved.

The people from Thrillist had brought a beach ball for every single person in the hotel, or at least it seemed as such. I decided to lend my powerful lung capacity to blow some up. After blowing up 1 I realize… I don’t have powerful lung capacity. So I quit that and went back to my Corona.

Something about pushing a beach ball up in the air is like Spanish fly for people looking for a good time. We had a dozen people tossing it up in the air and every 4th hit it would bounce off some strangers head, but we didn’t care. We had numbers! Somewhere between 200 and 300 people were poolside living it up like we had all just escaped from an island, an island of sobriety and no pools, and we were here to live!

Of course I lived a little too hard because I jumped up and tried to swat the beach ball and felt my shoulder pop (quickly) out of and back into its socket. I realized this was going to be painful, so I went and put more Corona in my water bottle.

I also ran out of sun block at some point and went to the hotel gift shop which only had SPF 15. The price? SIXTEEN DOLLARS! Outrageous! I mean shouldn’t there be some sort of “No more than a dollar per SPF” type of rule? But not wanting to burn, I bought it anyway.

Then my new British Vietnamese friend suggested we have a chicken fight against a 30 year old mother of 3 with a crazy slamming body.

I refused. Chicken fights, for those of you who don’t know, are when women decide it would be fun to wrestle each other while sitting on the shoulders of men who are trying not to drown.

I am a HUGE fan of not drowning. I mean I had thus far survived not getting a nosebleed in the pool and I just had a bad feeling that having 2 women fight… above me could end poorly.

So naturally I ended up in one. The BritNamese chick climbed on my shoulders and Mom of 3 climbed on another dude’s. I was almost positive we were done for. I remember thinking

Hmph, I never would have thought I would die in Miami.

I mean a mother of 3 who looked like she did Tae Bo in her sleep versus a tiny BritNamese girl with a very ladylike accent. I thought the fight would end in 2 seconds unless my girl bit the mom’s ear.

So it starts and it is crazy. I have no idea whats going on because I am just trying to keep my balance and the girl on my shoulders and I can’t look up cuz I need to keep track of how close to the water I am so I don’t drown… which I hate.

Thirty seconds later we finally went down and I came up thinking we had lost but it had been a valiant effort.

No. Not so much.

No, BritNamese was locked in battle with Mom of 3 until she took Mom of 3's head and palmed it into the water.

WE WERE CHAMPIONS!

So I celebrated with a Corona. Little did I know that this chicken fight would be the reason I wouldn’t be able to move my shoulders for 2 days. But I didn’t care. More dancing on the pool deck, more dancing in the pool. I was living it up. The crowd was amazing, and everybody was happy.

And that’s when the greatest moment of the weekend happened.

I was doing my nonsense thing in the pool when a girl I hadn’t talked to much came up to me and said;

Girl: Who ARE you?
Rich: Who are YOU?
Girl: Everybody here knows you as the guy who is always having fun.

I laughed, toasted her, and went to get more Corona.

Then the poolside concert happened and things REALLY got into gear. I can’t even really describe what it feels like to be dancing, in a pool, with a drink in your hand, surrounded by beautiful people, and knowing you haven’t spent a DIME to get any of it.



Oh yea did I mention there were Klondike bars? They came out of nowhere and rocked all of our worlds.

But we had to wrap it up and head to dinner.

And I went back to my room and noticed the beginning of the sunburn. But I couldn’t waste time I had to get to dinner on the roof of Red Steakhouse. And I know what you’re wondering.

Rich, this was your last night in Miami! You had only 1 more chance… did you…

You bite your tongue! How dare you question me? YOU of all people, how dare you? You want to know if I did? Of course I did.


I rocked the $#!% out of those white pants!

Boom!

We all were in our Miami best when we got to dinner where we were greeted by a violinist playing the classic hits. Including this piece of awesomeness.




I mean it really doesn’t get much better than that. We went up to dinner on the roof, and we had many drinks, and there was a ridiculous rainstorm which we thought would kill the fun.

And yes we ate, and danced, and drank the night away.  We all looked at each other knowing nothing ever would come close to Hotel Thrillist, the greatest weekend of (almost) all of our lives.


And it's funny, we all got these bracelets that got us in to all of the events. They say I "thrillist logo" Miami. And it's kind of ironic because a chunk of the "I" on mine is missing.



Which makes sense, because I definitely left a piece of myself down there.

The End.

P.S.
And yes, I did get burnt to a crisp anyway.

Damn it.

Thrillist Miami - The Beginning of the End


Today, right now, as I write this to you, I am in considerable pain.

And I know what you’re thinking. Rich went to Miami with Thrillist and drank too much and now he is hungover.

But honestly it wasn’t the booze that did it. Not that there was any shortage of booze!

I mean it was possibly the swag, the yoga, or the 100 degree sun, or the Nerf Football chucking, or the pool beachballing, or maybe it was the massage, or the dancing in the pool, or the dancing next to the pool, or the dancing at dinner, or maybe the dancing at Club LIV, but really… I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s go back to the beginning.

Friday morning I boarded a flight to Miami. I didn’t know anything except that when I landed I would be escorted to, what was promised to be, 36 hours of awesome.

I landed and immediately met a bunch of great people who were ready to get it popping. We get to the hotel and instantly the Thrillist special check-in had gift bags with so much swag that as it was handed to me I think I felt my bicep rip.

As I plowed through my swag and mugged it up for Nick McGlynn, the best damn photog in the business with my new homey Kim from Chicago, I realized the gift bag alone was worth the trip! But more details on that later on.

So then we said alright, cool we’re in Miami, let’s get our bathing suits on and go poolside! A quick room change and we got to the pool where I immediately grabbed an icy Corona and a fish sandwich.

I know what you’re thinking, Rich, a Fish Sandwich to start the weekend? Did you learn NOTHING in Istanbul? I know, I know. But it was worth it.

And that’s when the wind picked up like CRAZY and it started to rain. For an idea of how bad the rain got, take a look at my special (and slightly dark) report with Number 1 stunner himself, Todd the Weather Stunner!




In fact that chief weather expert eventually lost it and went for a swim should have pretty much clued me in that this was going to be my buddy for the weekend.

So we went back to our rooms again and showered and got ready for dinner and drinks and looking our best.

Here’s what I learned about a 495 dollar a night room with a beachfront view in a 1.3 Billion dollar hotel: It is hard to leave. I mean the TV in the bathroom was enough to gather my love. But the phone next to the toilet I mean, I wanted to make a long distance phone call while sitting on the bowl just so I could tell the person on the other end of the phone:

Hold on I’m watching the game.

But I eventually got my life together because after all, there were 200 strangers I needed to meet for free drinks.

The great thing about meeting 200 people for free drinks is nobody really knows each other. So you can do one of 2 things. You can sit on the side and only talk to the people you know, or you can walk around and try to toast every person with a drink.

Guess which method I use?

So we had some Coronas, some vodka shots with warm pineapple (incredible) and the drink of the weekend which was Bacardi Torched Cherry. And if you haven’t tried this beverage let me tell you, it will get your engine started.

We had dinner and it was incredible. One of the best meals I ever had. All the hotel restaurants contributed just phenomenal things. Truffled this, braised that, I mean it was unbelievable, but the highlight, was far and away, the corn.



I wanted to tip the guy who served me that corn it was so good.

Mind you the whole time we are eating, there is a band playing with a guy playing the conch, and not just one conch… TWO CONCHS!




I mean if that guy doesn’t have groupies there is something wrong with the universe.

From there we went to Club LIV. We all got VIP wrist bands, but by the time I got to the actual entrance, there were already 200 people in an unruly crowd around the 5 very large bouncers guarding the velvet (possibly felt, I couldn’t tell) rope. So with no better ideas, I just put my wrist in the air like I was Wonder Woman trying to stop a very poorly aimed bullet.

And ya know what? It worked. I pushed my way to the front of the those saps and got into the club where there was much drinking, much dancing, and very low lighting so I wasn’t entirely sure who I was talking to or what was going on for most of the evening.

We danced until the wee hours of the morning and I got back to my room in need of some water and that’s when I figured out what 495 dollars (or in my case, 0 dollars) a night DOESN’T buy you… glasses.

There were no glasses to drink out of, and the hotel water was like, I think 482 dollars, so being the inventive invention genius I am, I filled up the ice bucket and drank out of it like I was some kind of peasant.

I woke up the next morning feeling slightly injured, and reached for my water bucket, and as I got to the bottom of it I saw my reflection and it was not good. I looked like Frida Kahlo after a slap fight.

But that couldn’t stop me. I hopped in my awesome shower, used my awesome hotel soap, popped some Advil, and made my way to buffet breakfast outside where it was already in the high 80s. And there I feasted on fruit, donuts, and truffled eggs.

What? Yes. I said truffled eggs. They were so good it made me angry. But I didn’t have time to be angry; I had to get to beachfront yoga.

There are few things that are more awesome than doing yoga on the beach. It was my first time doing yoga. I realized I am not good at yoga. For an hour we breathed, stretched, and contorted ourselves into poses like Sun Warrior and Wild Thing which really could have just been called “Wedgie” and “Bigger Wedgie.”

This is were I probably started trying too hard because I stretched parts of me that I have never used, including trying to get myself into “Pigeon Pose” which I have chosen to rename “I don’t want to have kids pose.” Awesome.

But it was still an awesome workout and then I jumped into the ocean to refresh. And it felt amazing but it was the warmest water I’d ever been in. I could have stayed in it all day, but there was a pool party to go to.

Poolside I met the awesome ladies of Nerf who supplied me with footballs which I then tried to throw 50 yards. I was nearly successful. I then thought the only thing better would be to punt one, and that is when I hit some woman in the back of the head. That is when I decided I was probably less dangerous in the pool.

And that is when things got RI-DIC-U-LOUS!

To Be Continued…

Miami Bound Machine - Part 3

My experience at the beach can pretty much be summed up by an experience from my college years.

I was home on Long Island, back from my first year at ASU. One weekend my buddy Mike, his friend Jen, and I all went to the beach. We parked the car, grabbed our stuff, and headed out to the sand.

After finding a spot and dropping our things Jen and Mike stripped down to their bathing suits and jogged merrily down to the water.

I on the other hand, took off my shirt and immediately got a nosebleed.

It wasn’t like a little one either; it was like what happens when one catches a football with their face.

I started to panic. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to track down a tissue at the beach, but trust me, they are in short supply.

The awkward thing about getting a nosebleed at the beach is there is just nothing to stop it. What are you going to use… sand?

Mike: Hey Rich why are you laying face down in the sand?
Rich: Oh nothing, just a nose bleed, I think this is how they stop oil spills. I’ll be fine.

No, you can’t do that. And of course there is nobody around, I am bleeding all over my hand and the only thing I have to stop the bleeding is the shirt I just took off.

It was either use my shirt or just go bleed in the ocean. So naturally I chose to use the shirt.

Imagine my friends’ confusion when they came back from the ocean to find me with a tank top in my nose and blood on my hands.

It doesn’t get more embarrassing than that. I mean I hadn’t even been there 10 minutes! And I had JUST gotten my shirt off, which is quite the event itself. My body being so pale and reflective it requires sunglasses just to witness.

Much later on, Mike told me about a conversation he had with his friend Jen and my name came up.

Mike: Do you remember my friend Richy?
Jen: Is that the kid who almost died when we went to the beach.

Pretty much. I mean I might as well title my memoir that

The Kid Who Almost Died When We Went to the Beach: The Rich Boehmcke Story.

And even though I sometimes spontaneously bleed there, I do love the beach. But for many reasons, the beach doesn’t so much love me. Typically a lot of awful things aside from nosebleeds have happened to me at the beach. Granted this is because I have done a fair bit of travelling by myself. So I am usually at the beach on my own with nobody to look out for me.

Going in the water by yourself is a stressful situation. I remember my time in Australia when I finally got up the courage to leave my stuff on the beach and just go swimming by myself, only to see this sign when I emerged from the ocean:


Awesome.

My body was built for many things: sitting on a couch, reaching for high up objects, making really dramatic awkward movements, but the beach? No, this vessel I have is not necessarily beach ready.

Those of you who have seen me in person (and once again, my apologies) know that my skin is not really a durable looking kind of skin. I am pale. While my mother is of Italian decent, my father’s Irish German lineage beat out my mother’s genes when it came to whose skin I would get.

While “lily white” is a beautiful color, it isn’t exactly a good color for skin. And it certainly isn’t a sun proof kind of color. It is the main reason that from the ages of 6 up until recently I always wore SPF 45 when I went to the beach. And not just SPF 45, a very specific brand called Water Babies.


It is a fine product that works well but you just get to a certain age and you just look to avoid using products that have pictures of half naked children on them.

So if I am going to go to the beach I need to make sure I have plenty of sun block on hand. I reapply many times, and make sure to hit all exposed areas.

Though if I am by myself, the issue usually arises about what to do about my back. If I apply it to myself, I usually miss a rather large spot in the middle of my back, which I don’t know about until somebody points it out to me later on.

This became very obvious to me in Chile last year.

It would be beneficial if somebody could invent some sort of back scratcher/sun tan lotion applier. This way I could go to the beach alone and actually enjoy myself. Half the time I am just standing 2 feet into the ocean praying I don’t get burnt and staring at my blanket hoping somebody doesn’t steal my stuff.

But Miami should be different because I will be there with friends.

Well, not really friends, more like 100 strangers I have JUST met, but hey, same thing.

This fancy hotel I am staying at will perhaps have some sort of sun block applier. I sure hope so anyway because my goal to show up tan has failed.

In fact at this point I have really lowered my hopes for all the things I wanted to be before I showed up in Miami. I realize I won’t be buff. There is a good chance I will be ostracized for my clothes. And as for tan? Like I said, I’ve given up any hope of that.

Now my goal for when I show up to the beach is just not to look like Gollum.


Stranger: Hey Rich why is your nose bleeding?
Rich: THE PRECIOUS!

But that all remains to be seen when I finally put my feet in that Miami sand, which hopefully, I will not need to use as clotting material.

The End.  (Kind of, I’m sure there will be a recap.)

Miami Bound Machine - Part 1

I mentioned recently that my Cold-EEZE video won the contest it was in. And my prize for that was a mystery vacation. The details of my vaycay were recently revealed to me. I will be going on an all expenses paid trip to MIAMI!

Awooohooo!

The itinerary for the trip was posted on the website.


It is going to be epic. I am beyond excited. I knew it was going to be someplace warm and awesome and Miami is both of those things.

But then I started thinking.

This is Miami. This is where, at least according to Will Smith, there is a party in the city and the heat is on.

Miami is like the Las Vegas of the East Coast without all the hookers and the gambling (I’m guessing).  Nobody ever comes back from Miami with a story like

“Yea it was OK, I mean, it was kind of quiet, real low key, we just kind of hung around and ate chips.”

No, every time I talk to anybody who has come back from Miami it’s always like:

“Oh my god the beaches were so hot and everyone looked amazing and buff and then we went to the craziest club at night, and danced in an upside down anti gravity chamber of awesome. And then we drank champagne out of David Caruso’s wallet!”

Miami is the city of players, and playas, and la playa, and probably papaya. This is a city of bespoke linen suits, and bottle service, and the sexiest humans on the planet.

Well, in 3 weeks it will be home to the sexiest humans on the planet and this guy;


This just will not do. I can’t roll up to Miami looking all hokey and foolish... ya know, like myself. There will be about 100 very cool people getting on this plane to go down there for this party. And I just keep having visions of myself walking onto the plane and hearing:

GO HOME DORK

As a tiny empty vodka bottle and a honey roasted peanut hit me in the side of the face.

No, I have to get my act together. The way I see it there are 3 parts of my life I need to get in order before I make my way down on a plane full of trendy, sexy, party animals. And the first part of it is my wardrobe.

Even though I think I look OK when I go out in New York, it is always different when you go to another city. Like last year when I shot down to D.C. for the 4th of July and my friends and I went out at night. I thought I would look good in my New York staple black. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at a bar full of people who looked like they were on an Easter egg hunt.

I realize now that certain cities require certain style.

Now I have had some interesting outfit choices over the course of my life. In fact it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I actually started understanding how to buy and wear clothes.

Up until then it was a lot of hit and miss with many more misses than hits.

Like back in 8th grade when I so badly wanted to dress cool and look like the other cool people. At this time there was a popular accessory in my school. It was a belt made out of a seat belt.

I didn’t have such an accessory, and I really wanted one. And this feeling hit me about an hour before the 8th grade dance when I was visited by the pants muse. And suddenly I fancied myself a designer, a pant closure genius if you will.

So I tried to invent my own belt. I went into my father’s closet and got out one of his old leather belts and cut off the metal clasp. Then I poked a hole in both ends. And then I took, get ready for this, a combination lock, and hooked it through the hole on one end, and then the other and then I CLOSED THE LOCK.

I walked over and took a look in the mirror. Sweet! I looked awesome. This would totally make other people think I was cool.

Have you seen Rich’s awesome combination lock belt?
Man, Rich has the coolest belt ever!
It’s a belt, it’s a lock, it’s both!

Satisfied with my invention I went to open it and realized a crucial fault in my design. It was still a combination lock. And now I had to put in the combination, on an upside down lock, which was secured tightly to my pelvis.

And that’s when I started to panic. I was having trouble opening it and starting to sweat. And then I realized I had to go to the bathroom. I was like a crappy Houdini. Except I didn’t have any magical abilities and I wasn’t trying to do a magic trick, I just had to pee!

Since then I have avoided the trends. I have stuck with basics, things that worked, and things that did not require the training and expertise of a locksmith. I imagine most people would say I have a pretty clear style, nothing too crazy or outlandish.

But this is Miami! This is the place where ya know… stuff happens.

(I would be more specific here but I have never been to Miami and therefore have no idea what actually goes on)

I want to make a statement so that when we all go out to the clurb to get our drink on and dance on, people will say, hey who is THAT guy?! And not just because I managed to get Pina Colada in my hair, but because I look good!

This thought process led me to an investment reserved for a certain class of people, those either playing shuffleboard in Boca Raton or those people named Ricky Martin. This led me to an investment I never thought I’d make.

I bought white pants.

Now the actual ramifications of this decision remain to be seen. I am not sure when or where I will display these pants. But they are coming with me. I am going to rock them. I am going to show the world my confidence… or lack thereof.

But most importantly, when the time comes to go to the bathroom… I will be able to do so.

To Be Continued…

I'm Done

I've come to a decision: I'm ready to retire.

Now I know what you are thinking. "Rich you are too young and full of pep and zest to head south for the rest of your life!" But I really don't think I am. I've taken stock of the things I enjoy in my life, and the things I would be able to do as a retiree, and aside from the fact that I have no idea how I would be able to support myself financially... I really do think it is about time for me to retire.

As I cross the hump from my early 20s into my late 20s, I have started to wonder: shouldn't I be a millionaire already?

When I was in my teens I looked at 25 as the pinnacle of my life. That would be the year of my prime, the year in which I was wanted by gorgeous women, making tons of money and reveling in my success.Well since rounding 26 and heading deeper into this decade of my life, I realize the only gorgeous women who want me are those who need a jar of jelly opened. I certainly don't make tons of money. And after some unmet expectations, I have redefined success as getting through the whole day with my fly closed.

So if I can't have the life I had anticipated, I might as well fast forward to the end of this movie and head right into retirement. I think it is really the best option at this point.

My parents are retired and living in South Carolina. This is a fine place to retire. Visiting them makes me realize that while I may have to give up certain things I enjoy to live in a place like they do, the benefits to my life would far outweigh any losses I would suffer.

Here is why I think I should retire.

While I enjoy an active and engaging lifestyle I also really like doing nothing. Not the kind of nothing that involves bumming around the house, fiddling with this and that. No. I mean nothing! Staring out the window at a tree kind of nothing. Doing so much nothing that I fall asleep because I am so relaxed. That is the kind of nothing I can really sink my teeth into.

Here is a rough itinerary for the days I typically spend visiting my parents.

Wake up, eat, golf, eat, nap, eat, watch TV, read, eat, sleep.

This is by far the most beautiful schedule I have ever seen. Picasso couldn't have painted a better schedule if he put its nose on the side of its face. Now the activities may switch place or occur in a different order, and once in a while there will be something additional like "shopping" or "visit Savannah" or "eat thirty cookies" thrown in. But for the most part, the schedule here is pretty accurate.

I would like to take this moment to point out that the golf is not a fixed structure on the calendar. While I generally enjoy golf I am so bad at it I really do question why I continue to play. It is a sport that entails a fair amount of adding. And the way I swing the club I have to do a lot of adding. The ball never goes in a straight path. And I usually end up spending half the day walking around the woods like I'm trailing Sacagawea.

Retirement relaxes you... I'm guessing. At least I feel relaxed when I am pretending I am retired. The only reason I even wear my watch when I visit is to make sure I didn't miss my tee time. Otherwise who needs a watch? What was I going to miss? It is always time to eat a cookie and take a nap. Always.

And as for my phone I just leave it in my room. Nobody calls me. The only person that calls me is my friend Megan and I'm pretty much the only person that calls her. So if we both walked around without our phones the only thing we would be wondering about is what the other person is doing.

In fact a lot of the time I turn my phone off. Why not? Nobody is going to call me to ask me to have dinner or hang out or anything like that. All my friends are 800 miles away. Who is calling me? Phone, you can be turned off.

I want to lead a life like these dogs I saw in the backyard of one of the houses on the golf course.


Any place where dogs hang out on lounge chairs has to have something really special about it.

Now maybe you think I am going to miss out on some really important things by skipping right to retirement.

Like what?

Working for 40 more years? Pass. Fighting commuters, crazy cab drivers, and mass hordes or tourists? Pass. Battling the freezing cold? Really pass.

The only concern I have is how I will support myself financially. And to be honest I really don't know how I will do it. But I'm sure there is a lot of money to be made in the untapped market of opening jars for old ladies. And as long as my fly stays up, I will have all the success I need.

Roommates

Living with people after high school hasn't really been something I've had much success with. Growing up at home was pretty normal. I mean the standard conflict about my messy room, or having not cleaned the bathroom existed, but that was pretty basic. And aside from those things, I survived without too much drama.

Once I left for college however, it was a whole new ballgame. I was not aware that some people could be so otherworldly oblivious, or that 2 people could have so many different things to disagree on. Here now, is a brief history of my college roommates.

My first college roommate took it up on himself to let his friend sleep in my bed the 3rd night I knew him. I came home late to find a strange woman sleeping in my bed. It is not nearly as cool as it sounds.

I left that situation after 3 weeks to get my own room, but I had a suite mate whose friend would take Adderall and bang on my window like a savage at 4 in the morning. I was too scared to even open the curtain.

Then my next roommate liked to smoke pot. So much so that he got taken out of our apartment in handcuffs by the police. I think that he thought I called the cops because the next day he took the TV out of the living room and moved it into his room. I never told him that the cops had been walking past our balcony and heard him say, and I quote, "This is some really good pot!"

Then I had roommates in Italy. One of which dropped a giant glass beer bottle next to my bed while I was away one weekend and didn't tell me until I found a shard of glass on the floor the size of a shrapnel grenade. I asked him what happened. He said he didn't remember.

So it stands to reason that by the time I left college I was done with roommates. (Aside from the 2 extra years I lived with my parents, which is a story for another time)

When I finally moved into my own apartment last year it was the greatest relief of my life. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and never had to worry about about anybody else cramping my style.

One of the benefits of having your own apartment is being able to open up your home to your dear close friends who need a place to stay when they come to visit. I have been more than willing to offer my pullout couch to the half dozen or so of my friends who have been brave/masochistic/desperate enough to spend a couple of nights at my place.

As I started preparing my apartment for my guests to arrive, I began having flashbacks to cleaning my room when I was a kid. My mother was so emphatic about every inch of the house being spotless before our guests arrived.

Did you vacuum under your bed?

No. Why? Will our guests be sleeping under the bed? Are they trolls?

Did you dust?

What do you mean did I dust? Of course I didn't dust. I never dust. Why would I dust?

All of this effort seemed extremely unnecessary. Would I ever really care if my home was that clean?

The answer of course, is yes.

I did not expect the neuroses I would develop about having my apartment being clean enough so that my friends wouldn't think I was some kind of filthy hippie when they arrived. I immediately began channeling my mother and putting everything away.

I found myself refolding the clothes that were already in my closet. Like my guests were going to throw open my closet doors, find unfolded shirts and say... "What is this? Unfolded shirts? I am outraged! I am leaving this dump!"

But some things can't be hidden. Things like 10 pounds of protein powder in a giant blue keg. I couldn't really put that away. What would my friends think when they saw that ridiculous purchase? Or the PedEgg in my bathroom? Try as I might I still can't find a great reason for owning that.

I tried to remember what it was like when I stayed at my friend's place in California last year. She is so sweet and when I arrived she told me to make myself at home. But instantly I knew she couldn't possibly mean that.

Even though we were good friends, I think she would have been quite shocked to find me sitting on her couch in my underwear at 2 in the morning drinking out of the OJ container while watching Britney Spears videos on YouTube.

I mean it's just a hunch.

Not that it is a normal nighttime activity for me, but ya know... sometimes.

But I didn't act like myself when I got there. I acted like a really awesome version of myself. And I did that by being as agreeable as humanly possible. I become a yes man. In order to make it easy as possible on my host, I just go along with everything.

Hey Rich I don't have a spare bed. Would you mind sleeping on our unfinished deck full of rusty nails and rabid cats?

No problem.

Hey Rich I wake up at 6 am and scream like a banshee for half an hour, do you mind?

Not at all.

Hey Rich for breakfast I always eat half a sheep brain, would you like one?

Give me a whole!

And sure enough the friends that came to stay with me were extremely flexible. Even though my neuroses had me making sure everyone had a different colored towel to use so nobody would get confused and use the same towel, my hosting screw ups went nearly unnoticed.

Like when I forgot to replenish the toilet paper stash before I went to work in the morning. Or when I forgot to turn on the A/C before they went to sleep in my sweltering living room. They didn't seem to mind.

But I did need to acclimate myself to having people in my home. I had to remember to do little things I didn't normally have to. Like close the door when I went to the bathroom, or put on pants when I walked out of my room in the morning.

As it turns out I really like being a temporary roommate to my friends for short periods of time. It is like a vacation from your own life.

And if you'd like to stay with me, I'd love to have you. Just let me know in advance so I can hide my protein keg and practice putting on some pants.

Oh and by the way, I actually wake up at 5 to scream like a banshee. I hope you don't mind.

I Brake for Shrubs

I have always been a good driver. Both of my parents taught me to drive, but my Dad is the one who spent more time with me in the car. We'd drive around neighborhoods with wide streets on Saturday mornings in my sister's white Ford Tempo, running errands and such.

The Tempo was barely more than a go-cart itself, which suited me well because that was what I had the most experience driving anyway.

I'm not entirely sure why I drove more with my Dad more than my mom. Maybe it was just one of those things, or maybe it was because my Dad and I had bonded over an experience that took place while I was still in the thick of puberty. The event I speak of was both traumatic and hilarious. It is a story my father and I recount often. it is the story of my first "car" accident.

The accident I speak of took place while we were on a family vacation. During family vacations we would usually pair off. My Mom and sister would spend the day shopping or at the pool, and my Dad and I would play golf.

Mom would drop us off at the golf course and my Dad and I would load our clubs onto the back of a white electric golf cart.

Now there are rules about minors driving golf carts. I'm pretty sure I remember it being that you must be 16 years old to drive the golf cart, and in some places you must have a driver's license.

My Dad has always been very trusting of me. And we both thought that rule was ridiculous. Did they honestly believe that maneuvering a 600 pound plastic lawn mower around a park at 9 miles an hour is exactly the same as going 70 down the highway in a 2,000 pound Buick?

But my father believe in my ability to be responsible and handle such a complex task as knowing the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal, and the subtle variances between going forwards, and going in reverse. And besides, he was sitting right besides me. There was no traffic. Was there anything that could really go wrong?

The answer of course, was yes.

We had just finished hitting practice balls at the range, and were going to head over to the putting green for a little practice before we teed off. I asked my Dad if I could drive. Sometimes he would wait until we were out past the first tee box but this day he wasn't worried. Either because I was starting to look older, or because he was relaxed being on vacation. The point is, he let me. Way to go Dad!

So we hopped in and I started along the little path to where I thought the putting green was. Humming along at all but a brisk pace we took the turn around the clubhouse and were approaching a fork in the road. Thinking I knew where to go I started to turn the wheel to the left.

"Left?" I asked my dad, already deep into my turn.

And my normally calm and relaxed father realized my error.

"No RIGHT!"

Slightly panicked I yanked the wheel to the right. But golf carts don't come with power steering, so my race car like maneuver was not nearly as sharp as I had hoped it would be. And instead of swerving to the right path we were now set to split the fork and crash into a wooded area.

I would like to take a moment here to tell you a little about my experiences with crashing vehicles up until this point in my life.

While I had driven a golf car before, I had never crashed one. in fact all of my collisions had taken place no on 4 wheels, but on 2. My black 12 speed mountain bike was my primary form of transportation up until I got my license.

I rode that thing with moderate success over potholes, ice patches, and all other manner of obstructions. Once in a while I'd lose control and jump a curb or hit an old lady. But I would brace myself for impact, like all other kids did, by using my hand brakes and taking my feet off the pedals, putting them out in front of me to brace myself for the crash.

So it makes sense that as my father and I headed for a (kind of) high speed collision with a gaggle of shrubs, I didn't step on the brake. No. I instinctively put my legs out in front of me to stop the cart from crashing.

And seeing as I was not Fred Flintstone, this did not work.

Instead we crunched over a plastic bucket which made a horrific sound and we came to a rest firmly embedded in the shrubbery.

"Back up back up!" My Dad said, more embarrassed than angry.

Terrified that we were about to be in serious trouble, I threw the cart into reverse (which actually means I just flipped a switch). It might not have attracted as much attention if it hadn't made the ear piercing EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE sound when it was put into reverse.

With the cart screaming for attention I punched the gas and we crunched over the bucket again, scraping it along the pavement, the sound even more horrific the second time.

"Go go go!" my Dad said, as I killed the screaming and put it into forward gear. Flooring it, we drove away trying to play it like we had not just crashed a $4,000 machine into a $4 bucket and a beautiful bit of greenery.

We tried to stay out of sight as long as we could, but we had to drive past there to get to the first tee. We passed the scene of the crime shortly thereafter and saw a golf course official inspecting the mutilated bucket and destroyed bush, wondering what moron could have possibly been so incompetent.

My Dad and I both peered over at him raising our eyebrows as if to say, "Oh geez I wonder what could have happened there."

But of course we knew.

My Dad had been my partner in crime. We were both guilty. He would tell me later that he realized the next time I started to make a wrong turn, he would let me continue on instead of trying to correct me halfway through.

And I realized that the real reason they want you to have a license to drive a golf cart is so that you realize the breaks are located inside the cart, and not, as I had thought, in the bottoms of my shoes.

Oh well. Live and learn.

Snow Day

I think often about my childhood. I think about the things I did and no longer do, or the things I had and can no longer have. And whenever winter storms blow in, I think about snow days.

As a child there was no greater lottery than getting a snow day. The sheer chance that school would be closed because there was too much awesomeness outside seemed almost unfathomable.

We had a bunch of snow last week in New York and I got something that is as rare as the white whale, an adult snow day. My company has a rule that we must close when New York City schools close. Last Monday my work was closed due to snow.

What follows is a step by step recount of how a typical snow day went as a child and how it did for me last week as an “adult.”

Child: Wake up at 6 am and run to the window to see the snow. Run to the TV to find out if schools are closed. Wait in anxious anticipation. Turn on radio and listen to school closings while watching the ticker on the bottom of the news. Witness my district on the TV as one that’s closing. Jump for joy and celebrate by running around the house and gathering up all snow gear for day of playing in the snow.

Adult: Wake up normal time. See text message announcing work is closed. Text back, “really?” Celebrate by immediately closing eyes and going back to sleep.

Child: Spend 45 minutes putting on long johns, shirts, sweatpants, 2 pairs of socks, snow boots, jacket, gloves, scarf, and hat. Zip everything up closed and tight. Get ready to spend several hours jumping and frolicking in the snow. Realize I have to pee.

Adult: Spend 45 minutes trying to go back to sleep but curse the irony that on my day off I can’t fall back to sleep like I do every other working day. Walk around apartment in boxers and lay down on the couch. Get comfortable and ready to spend several hours not moving. Realize I have to pee.

Child: Run outside and start shoveling the walk into a huge pile on the lawn. Eat entire handfuls of fresh snow. Finish shoveling and immediately jump head first into the pile of snow. Lay there for 20 minutes making snow angels.

Adult: Excited to eat breakfast but too lazy to make something; lay on couch eating entire handfuls of dry cheerios. Go back to bed and dive headfirst into my pillow. Lay there for 20 minutes making bed angels.

Child: Build a snowman. Throw snowballs at trees. Build a fort. Throw more snowballs. Tackle snowman. Build a better snowman. Completely destroy all snow in front yard.

Adult: Wake up 2 hours later. Go back and sit on the couch. Do nothing.

Child: Come inside around noon because I am hungry and have to pee. Strip off 7 layers of snow clothing and realize under it all I am drenched in sweat. Go pee. Sit at the kitchen table where mom has prepared me a most delicious hearty meal of hot soup and grilled cheese.

Adult: Realize I have to pee. Sniff self and realize I stink. Contemplate eating. Think about the simplest possible meal I can make. Pour pre-made soup into bowl and microwave. Put cheese between 2 slices of bread and fry. Eat while lying on the couch.

Child: Redress in snow clothing, boots, coat, jacket, hat, gloves, socks, scarf, zip, zip, zip. Go outside with sled. Walk like a yeti to the park to join all the other kids sledding down the big hill.

Adult: Lay on couch. Watch progressively worse television. Do nothing.

Child: Sled down the hill, run up the hill, sled down the hill, run up the hill. Try to stand on sled while going down the hill. Fall on head. Pretend not to be hurt. Walk around dizzy for 10 minutes.

Adult: Lay on couch. Do nothing.

Child: Trek home from sledding around sunset. Put all clothes in dryer. Have cookies and milk. Run into the living room and plop down on the couch exhausted. Watch afternoon cartoons and finish your day.

Adult: Stuff half a Toblerone bar in my face. Chew while horizontal. Contemplate the meaning of the words “Saturated fat.” Look outside and notice it is getting dark. Decide to shower. Turn off TV and start my day.

Hostel Environment

Hostels, for those of you who may not know, are budget accommodations whereby travelers stay in dorm bedrooms of anywhere from 2 to 12 beds that come with either an en suite bathroom, or 1 for the entire floor. Some Hostels provide many amenities, some do not. And you pay a fraction of the price for a hotel or private lodging.

The first time I stayed in a hostel I was 20 years old. It was one of my first times traveling completely alone in a foreign country, in a new city where I didn’t know a soul. I was amazed at how easy it was to meet new people. The whole experience was exciting and I went on to stay at a dozen more throughout Western Europe. I had discovered a great way to see the world.

But three backpacking trips and somewhere over 30 hostels later, my views have started to evolve. I still agree that it is the cheapest and most unique way to see the world, meet people, and have adventures.

But I am 25 now and I’ve started to realize that it does require a certain mentality and spirit to stay in hostels. I’m not an elitist, I don’t think I am better than the other people staying in hostels, but I wonder if my mentality has changed. I wonder if the sun is setting on my time on this type of travel.

You meet a lot of people in hostels, people from all over the world. Mostly you meet other Americas, Canadians, Australians, Germans and people from the UK. This is not a bad thing per say but they just tend to be the people who travel most. People from Europe seem to stay in hostels well into their 40s and even beyond, but the Americans you meet in hostels tend to fall in the 18 to 23 age bracket. And I really noticed that more on this trip than any other

Perhaps it is because I am 25 now, in my 4th year out of college, that I became so aware on this trip. Generally the Americans you meet have just finished college, or are on a break, or taking a year off etc. Sure I meet people like myself taking 2 weeks off of work to see as much of the world as possible, but with each trip I take they are fewer and further between.

I am pretty comfortable with the whole hostel experience; I know the routine of checking in/out and how to go about making friends. But staying in a hostel is an exercise in tolerance. It is absolutely exhausting. The quality of a hostel itself is measured up against your desire to see that city on a dime. The more you want to see a place, the more you’re willing to put up with to see it.

You’ll put up with things like, bunk beds crafted by incompetent masochists that upon first glance, appear to be made of broken shards of used IKEA furniture. Or living out of the same backpack for days on end without doing laundry so that the smallest article of stinky clothing infiltrates the entire bag to create tour de force in revulsion any time you open your bag.

You begin to get very comfortable with yourself as you don’t really have a choice. When you don’t have a private place to change, being in a room full of strangers all in their underwear seems as natural as though you have been doing it your whole life. (Maybe you have, I’m not trying to judge)

I’ve already mentioned the snoring before, but oh god. It is a wonder any of these people will ever get married considering the sounds, moans, grunts, whistles, and wheezing that escapes them during sleep. Some nights I would open my eyes expecting to see a room full of baboons, or hyenas around me. But no, these were in fact human beings.

Walking into the bathrooms in hostels is always a hold your breath experience.

You hold your breath because you’re not sure how bad the bathroom is going to be once you get in it.
You hold your breath because it is either going to smell like the inside of a septic tank or some unfathomable assortment of chemicals used to kill the sense that you are inside of a septic tank.

And the bathroom is wet. Not just damp, but wet. The floor is soaked like the last 20 people to take a shower in there had pointed the nozzle straight up at the ceiling instead of towards the drain. Like the bathroom had JUST finished filming a raunchy Britney Spears video before I showed up.

I realized I had kind of hit a turning point with hostels on my last trip with the hostel in Uruguay where I spent 2 nights. I walk in and immediately the men’s bathroom smells like a severed foot left in a moldy locker full of expired hummus. There is water dripping everywhere of course, but despite all this I strip and get into the shower.

I am in there for about 3 minutes before I notice what appears to be a large piece of gauze stuck to the wall. I decide not to get a closer look. So I turned my head to the left to avoid looking at it, and I noticed what appeared to be a soaking wet pair of used blue briefs hanging on a pipe sticking out of the wall.

Awesome.

It was at that moment that I realized I might be done with hostels.

It’s not that that I don’t love traveling. I do. It’s very much a part of who I am and I value every trip I’ve taken. The opportunities that hostels provide are incredible. I have seen more of the world staying at hostels than I would have staying at any other hotel or budget accommodation.

Plus as an individual traveler it has allowed me to meet people that create unique experiences and incredible adventures that I wouldn’t otherwise just sitting on my bunk reading the complete Lord of the Rings Trilogy or an Ayn Rand novel.

But as I cross the hump from my early 20s into my late 20s, I find myself wanting more. It’s not just wanting to stay in nicer places where I can have a guaranteed good nights rest instead of playing Russian Sleep Roulette. It’s more how I experience these places that I crave more out of.

When I first started staying in hostels I felt like I had been let in on some incredible community of travelers. And I have enjoyed being a part of that community.

But a different need has surfaced within me, a desire to travel with a friend or group of friends close to me. I have always said that I traveled by myself because I got to see whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and I had no one to rely on but myself. And I loved that. There is so much to see though, and sharing it with someone changes the experience.

My sister and I still talk about the trip we took to the south of France for a week, and the funny things that happened, and how I thought I won 400 dollars at the slot machine when I had actually only won 40, and the markets, and the hilarious fish dinner. That’s what I love! I love being able to paint a canvas of memories with my loved ones that we can always go back to and relive.

Currently many of my travel memories are wrapped up written stories and in the memories of people whose names I can’t remember and will never see again. And that is all well and good because I have always loved the independence I felt while traipsing the globe on my own. But I have proved to myself I can do it. I know I am capable of such things. I crave more.

What I seek now is to continue to experience the world and laugh and drink and be amazed with someone close to me. So that we can relive it at my Wedding, at my 50th birthday party, wherever.

If nothing else, if one day I am traveling in some far-off country with a friend and I find myself in the shower staring a pair of underwear… at least I’ll know whose it is.