Friday, September 18, 2009

[redacted] Is Going to Asia

biking in Hanoi

In case you didn't know (and why would you, you're not my mom – or are you?) today I'm leaving for Vietnam.

While many years ago, that sentence may have meant a big going away party where I get laid a thousand times and people hug me saying things like, "Good luck in The Shit, boy," now in 2009 all it means is that I'm taking a vacation. A long, much-needed vacation.

What's that? You say I just got back from a vacation? Something about a road trip? Jesus, detective Blog Reader, you really pieced together that puzzle. Fine, Colombo, you caught me. Brooke and I (and Puppy) just went away two weeks ago. But our Labor Day road trip to Apalachicola was more of a warm-up. A dry run, if you will. Even though Brooke and I have taken some business trips to New York this year (and Brooke even went to Cabo for the weekend to raise a lion king without me), this trip to Southeast Asia would have been the first proper vacation we've taken since Costa Rica. And since we almost drove into Nicaragua by accident and nearly died while playing indigenous river games, I thought maybe we should brush up on our traveling technique.

It wasn't pretty.

First, Brooke got sick. The day we were supposed to get in the car and drive the nine hours to a small coastal town on the Florida panhandle, Brooke woke up complaining of a stuffy nose and sore throat. We immediately got into a small fight because I still haven't realized that when women complain about feeling sick they don't want you to say things like, "I'll get you some Sudafed," or "It's not too late to back out of the hotel reservation with no cancellation fee." What they want to hear is, "WHY, GOD?! WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO BROOKE? SHE IS TOO GOOD FOR THIS. Stay alive, sweet woman. I will love you no matter what." I'm working on it.

The entire drive would be too ambitious to tackle after work, so we planned to stop somewhere for the night. I voted for rolling the dice on Priceline for a three-star hotel along the Florida Turnpike. (I’m a gambling man.) Brooke vetoed that idea, insisting that we stay at a seedy motel to add a sense of danger to the trip. She was all excited about sex in a Motel 6 off the highway, like we were having an affair in a movie about the Midwest. We compromised on a Ramada Inn, which, it turns out, is approximately 65% less nice than how you picture a Ramada Inn. The room was like where they hide people in the witness protection program, because apparently if the Russian mafia is after you the first place they look is a Marriot or Holiday Inn Express.

We woke up bright and early the next morning, mostly in anticipation of leaving the motel room. Brooke's conditioning was worsening, though I assured her that it was a passing virus, nothing more than a 36-hour bug. Like those famous New York Times travel columns: 36 Hours in Brooke's Immune System. Before hitting the road, we stopped at McDonalds to get coffee, because that's what you do at exit 427 on the Florida turnpike. No amount of reasoning about how a quaint mom-and-pop diner would really suit this neighborhood will change that fact. Especially when it would have to occupy a space next to this:

bad hair salon

Luckily, Brooke was somewhat fortified by our arrival at Apalachicola. And how could you not be? It's the kind of place they write hand clap songs about – turn of the century bed and breakfasts, old fishing boats, and a store run by the retired editor-in-chief of the Apalachicola Times who now sells Tupelo honey. It was all Brooke could do not to knock him unconscious and bring him home with us.

The next morning, though, things took a turn. Apparently, Brooke is allergic to old-world charm. She got worse, not better, and fell into the depths of an Afrin addiction (seriously, I found a bottle hidden under the couch last night). She tried to power through, trooper that she is, but it was futile. The cold was winning.

Apalachicola cold
A typical vacation photo from Apalachicola.

By the third day, shit was hitting multiple fans. I started getting sick, too, and in a tiny town where all there is to do is eat and drink, we were two sad, pathetic people who couldn't taste food or stomach liquor. All that was left to do was hang out in our room. I'm not going to lie – Puppy suffered the most.

Puppy reading
Deciding what to do next.

Puppy wearing shoes
Being silly to pass the time.

In fact, about the only good thing to come out of the trip (besides a new appreciation for Tupelo honey) was learning that Puppy really isn't as dumb as he's pretended to be his whole life. You see, the bed in our so-charming-you'll-shit-your-pants bed and breakfast was about four feet off the ground. This was a problem for Puppy, who is accustomed to sleeping with us. It may have taken him a day and a half to learn, but apparently with the proper motivation (snuggles) he too can achieve greatness.

All in all, not the most reassuring practice vacation. But the way I see it, now that the colds are over with, our immune systems are stronger than ever. Plus I learned a valuable lesson about how to properly order an egg cream in a traditional soda shop. How this will help me in the jungles of Cambodia has yet to be determined, but Brooke and I remain confident that we're good to go.

So I'll be gone for the next sixteen days. I won't be blogging from there because one of my life rules is "Never use sarcasm in a communist country," but I'm sure that upon my return there will be a story or two, probably one about how some Thai masseuse asks me if I am "happy at the ending of my massage" and there's some big (zing) misunderstanding.

And please, if you don't hear from me soon upon my return, assume that I have been captured and sold into the seedy underworld of human trafficking. Band together and stop at nothing to find me. Or at least make a Facebook group in my honor. Thanks, you guys are the best.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Road Trip!!!

I know the three exclamation points may create an air of false enthusiasm, like when you write to a friend "I can't wait to see you!!!" what you really mean is "It really hasn't been that long since we saw each other last and honestly so little has happened that I'm afraid we'll run out of things to talk about twenty minutes in, but it's important that we keep in touch because emotional connectivity is what separates us from the animals!"

But I'm actually really excited about this road trip. It's the first one Brooke and I will be taking together, if you don't count the time it took us nine hours to drive home from Key West. But that was our mistake. The normally three-hour drive became a nine-hour odyssey due to Memorial Day weekend traffic. It was so unbearable that halfway through we pulled off for margaritas, pulled back on two hours later into the same traffic, sat for half an hour, and then pulled off again into the same restaurant for more margaritas. (Note: It's not considered drinking and driving if you're just drinking and inching forward.) So yeah, I don't think that one counts.

This time we're headed to a small fishing town on the Florida panhandle called Apalachicola. (I like to think the natives gave it such a stupid name to scare away infiltrators who may be intent on pilfering it's fresh seafood, old-world charm and gold.) I haven't studied up on it much, but I do know that for the next four days Brooke and I will be staying in a quaint bed and breakfast (cute!), chowing down on fresh oysters (sexy!) and . . . antiquing maybe? I don't know. This is uncharted territory for me. The last time I drove through the Florida panhandle I ended up at a foam party in Panama City. But I don't think it will be anything like that. Hopefully.

For the record, Brooke just came in and read that last sentence over my shoulder and said, "What do you mean 'hopefully'? You never know what's going to happen. That's the beauty of a road trip!" Um, really? Because I always thought the beauty of road trips is the quiet contemplation of a barren straightaway; the cosmic gut-check of experiencing the world's enormity one mile marker at a time; the liberation from schedules, lunch hours, and the awful familiarity of the day to day; and, of course, the freedom of the open road.

sheep jumping in road

He knows what I'm talking about.

Happy Labor Day, everyone. I hope your long weekend isn't so baaad.