Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snorkel Fun!

One of the group activities I agreed to experience in Cancun was snorkeling. I've never done it - I regrettably passed it up a couple years ago in Maui. While my prime directive was to just relax in Cancun, (..sit on the beach, have cocktails and stare at the ocean), I felt compelled to stuff...since my wonderfully nice and generous in-laws were footing most of the bill.

All 7 of us piled into a mini-van, along with about 6 other folks, including a somewhat attractive, but very talkative Mary Kay saleswoman. I got to sit next to her. Lucky me.

We journeyed for about 25 minutes or so, ultimately reaching a road under construction. Another resort was being built on one side, and on the other was a swampy looking area that contained many crocodiles monitoring our progress, which had now halted while we waited for some machinery to get moved so we could pass. Nice touch!

When we arrived, we were all handed a box lunch, which while nice, proved very cumbersome to hold on to as we were all rushed through huts to pick out life jackets and fins. It was a bit frantic, but fortunately the first set of fins the dude handed me seemed to fit just fine. Note to self: trim toenails before wearing flippers..

We then were herded to small tables covered with thatched umbrella-styled tops. This is where we were to leave all personal belongings, including our lunches. Lockers were provided for valuables.

After a brief pep talk, we were sent down to our boat. About 20 of us "boarded". Stacey bashed her leg as she was being dragged aboard resulting in some of the most spectacular bruises I have ever seen (she bruises like a banana).

The weather was very overcast and the wind was chilly. Aside from flying, I think one of the things I hate most in life is being cold. Once the spray of the ocean hit me as we boated to our snorkeling destination, I knew I was in for a rough afternoon. I was freezing!

During our ride, we were all handed masks and snorkels. Once I saw all of us trying these on, I did find a moment in my misery to laugh at the sight. We were now all aliens! Aliens that were being taught to spit into our masks to prevent fogging. Well, I don't know about the rest of my new alien friends, but due to my usual state of white-knuckle stress, coupled with my battery of anti-stress medications, this particular alien had absolutely no spit to even consider. I guess I should of asked the talkative Mary Kay rep to borrow some, but that was a missed opportunity.

After about a 10 minute ride, we came upon our first snorkeling site. Great. More than one site?! We were given a relatively brief crash course on how to snorkel and then told to jump in. Jump in? Just like that? Into this Arctic Sea? It is freezing!!!!

It was actually worse than I imagined. Honestly, I thought my heart was going to burst. Usually that cold-water sensation goes away quickly, but this time it went on, and on, and on. Screams (and curses) of my agony were bubbling under the ocean's surface. While it took way too long to acclimate, I (we) finally did, and we found the ocean to be the warmest spot to be in at that moment. ...ocean=warmth=mother....sigh.... yeah, right...

The first site was pretty shallow and we were cautioned about the potentially eviscerating coral formations. Most of us got the hang of snorkeling pretty quickly, with the exception of the few (including Stacey's dad) that had to cope with ill-fitting masks due to facial hair. Drag, but the reefs were pretty cool and there were plenty of fish to see if you could....see. Note to self - next time, order prescription goggles for Stacey. Poor thing is blind as a bat without her glasses..

One of the guides was in the water with us. He had a big red buoy and would regularly call out to us to try to keep us somewhat together. It was pretty easy to get caught up and "wander" away from the group. It was sort of like a sadistic game of Marc Polo, because you could find yourself poking your head out of the water to see where we were all going, but as soon as you put your face back into the water, you could suddenly be way to close to some coral and my mind would flash to the image of my blood and insides spilling into the water from my ripped open underbelly. Relaxing.

Aside from the horror of underwater disembowelment, swallowing water, accidental flipper slashings, occasionally losing sight of Stacey, and most importantly, the absolute dread of getting back onto our Alaskan cruise passenger boat, it was pretty neat. In spite of no sunshine, the water was still very clear and many things could be seen and appreciated.

After about 30 or so minutes at site #1, that dreaded moment of getting back on that damned boat occurred. It did not disappoint. As each person climbed (or was pulled) back onto the boat, the individual moans (some screams) as the Arctic chill hit our bodies soon merged into one. In a vague sense (not unlike the recent economic...downturn), there was a tiny bit of comfort knowing that as one, we were all suffering.

We were purple, we had goosebumps, our teeth were chattering, we hugged complete strangers in failed attempts to get warm. We were united. We were one. Sorry Obama, but No We Can't!

Not soon enough, we arrived at site #2 which was deeper (colder), but had more complex and beautiful reefs. We were aliens that had found an unknown planet. It was very cool. And it was great to get off that damned boat.

I didn't like the feeling of losing sight of Stacey, so I developed a method to help me locate her while we were in the ocean (usually her red hair can do the trick, but when wet, most hair looks alike). I decided that the best way to locate her was to look above the water for her blue (swimsuit clad!) butt. That seemed to work fine once I figured out it was a blue suit she was wearing, not the green one I thought she was wearing. My apologies to the lady with the green ass!

After about 30 minutes, we were dragged back on board the torture ship and headed back to land. Sweet, sweet land with boxed lunches and towels. We did it. We were still alive. Just some impressive bruises on Stacey and a little salt water in our ears. And in store for me the next day, were some very sore muscles in parts of my body that I don't usually use (which is most of 'em!). But that was OK because the following day, I was scheduled for an 80 minute therapeutic massage in our resort's spa. Sweet!

*My underwater pics I took are not developed yet. If they come out OK, I'll be glad to share them, but in the meantime: here's another kitty picture!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

There Is A Santa!

Meet Dexter. 2 days ago, Stacey and I filed for adoption of this fine kitty from Oakland's Hopalong & Second Chance Rescue, and obviously, we were accepted! He's about 7 months old, and so far, seems about as perfect a kitty as we could have hoped for! He plays, he sleeps, he's an amazing leaper, and he loves to sit in our laps and kick back.

He's a fine kitty. Oops...check that. I just had to get him down from walking on my synthesizer....Oh yeah, he's a kitty, alright!

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008


While not nearly as adventurous as my Mazatlan vacation (thankfully), our Cancun vacation was very nice! A couple of relatively minor adventures came our way, but for the most part it was just a week of eating, drinking and hanging out by the ocean or the pool (under umbrellas, of wife is a vampire with a huge sun aversion, and certain medications I'm on don't take to sunlight too kindly, either).

We stayed at a humongous resort compound named the Moon Palace. It's a timeshare kind of situation that Stacey's dad treated us to. All food and drinks were free. There was a full size jacuzzi in our room. We were waited on hand and foot. I loved it! I needed it! I deserved it! Sure, it sort of felt like we were staying at the "Village" the Prisoner was trapped on, but it was the perfect setting for someone like me.

We were joined by Stacey's dad, stepmother, brother and some friends of her dad's. I haven't seen her side of the family for some time, so it was cool to combine a vacation with a family reunion.

My priority was to sit on a beach, have cocktails and stare out at the ocean. It was mostly overcast (fine with us), warm, and pretty darned windy the first couple of days, but that didn't seem to hinder my chillin' at all. Unfortunately, the ocean was red-flagged the whole time, so we couldn't hang out in the water, but that didn't bother me too much, either (the constant parade of kelp removing tractors did, though..). The pool was way too cold for me, but I was fine just hangin'. Stacey's dad and brother are pretty buffed guys and her step mom used to be a Playboy bunny, so I wasn't looking forward to them seeing my pathetic little sunken chest (see above..)!

The resort has several restaurants to choose from ranging from "Mexican", "Italian", "Caribbean" and "Asian". We tried them all, and Stacey and I were shocked at how bland most of the food was. Some of it was very good, but I guess there must be a prime directive to not scare off the tourists with spicy food. Weird!

We ventured out of the safety and comfort of the resort a couple of times. Stacey went out silver shopping with some of her family and scored a very nice silver necklace for me, some amber and earrings for her. I believe on the same outing, her stepmother (now a nurse) scored a bunch of very cheap prescription drugs (nothing illegal!) at the local...Walmart!

We all went on a snorkeling adventure that I will write about soon. Not the most...pleasant part of the vacation, at least for me. And on our last full day, we all went to the Isla Mujeres. Not quite the relaxation I wanted on the last day (it involved a 30 minute bus ride and another 30 minute boat ride on a party boat), but I'm glad I went. view:

...his view: time!

For the most part, it was a very nice and much needed vacation. It's just the getting there I can't stand. I hate flying, airports and airplanes. So much, as a matter of fact, I think that the next time I feel the need to see a foreign land, I'll rent the DVD instead. I know...I suck.

(Some friends I made at Isla Mujeres...)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Me llama es Gilberto

The last time I went to Mexico (Mazatlan in 1986 with an ex-girlfriend), we had an adventure on our very last night involving an ill advised and drunken trip to our waiter's home to visit with his mother and to see "how real Mexicans live".

The trip involved a tiny village, his crazy mother (La Bruja), a dance with a giant wooden phallus, flooded roads, no taxi service, a ride back to town in a stranger's jeep, a machete, a stalled out jeep, and being surrounded by a carload of young Mexican men.

I hope our trip to Cancun will be boring. See you next week!

Uno mas cervesa, por favor!

Monday, December 1, 2008

You Are My Candy, Girl!

Sunday, Stacey and I (and 2 friends) drove up the road a piece and took a free tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California. Being Sunday, the factory was shut down, but we still got the tour, saw the machines, and had an informative guide. There were short videos every couple of yards that explained all you need to know as to how Jelly Bellys are made.

Ronald Reagan made these gourmet jelly beans very popular while he was president. I guess Jelly Belly is very grateful because the whole damn place was outfitted like a shrine to him. Lots of Reagan portraits made with Jelly Bellys. Whatever...I'm not a big jelly bean fan anyway (hate Easter), but it was still a fun diversion.

Jelly Belly has many wonderful and unique flavors (I'm partial to the "soda pop" ones, myself), but they also make godawful yucky ones that I assume kids go for. Well, some of us must have been feeling like kids cause we went for the worst of 'em at the "sample bar". Here's what we tried:

Booger - disappointing because it was edible. Sort of...salty and warm.
Pencil Shavings - Stacey tried this one and liked it.
Moldy Cheese - Stacey tried this one and spit it out rather quickly.
Skunk Spray - Jennifer and I both tried this one and I think it stayed in Jennifer's mouth much longer than it did in mine. I barely cracked it with my teeth and that was enough. Out it went.
Vomit - I could have possibly gotten a little further with this one, but Stacey mentioned that she bet it would taste like pepperoni. It did, and I couldn't get it out of my mouth fast enough. Not that I hate pepperoni, it's just that I recently had a bout with a nasty stomach virus, and surprisingly, pepperoni sort of summed up all that is bad when it comes to to hurling.

I wonder if Jelly Belly has ever made "playdough" or "paste" flavors? Could be big.