Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vegas Wedding

Sent 5/19/08

It's been a while since I've sent an email update, but if you received an email from the India travels, that's probably how you ended up on this email list. Also, I took off all the work email addresses.

Background Information

I have a two-part vacation in progress – a wedding in Vegas followed by a two-week stint in Oklahoma for my little brother's graduation. It is presently 3:26 a.m. in Las Vegas as I wait at the airport for my 6:00 a.m. flight. It turns out we don't have a hotel room for tonight, so I checked out of the hotel at 11:00 a.m. and have since been wandering the Strip like a penniless vagabond, or a creepy old man who just gambled away his Social Security, whichever sounds hotter.

Top Three Vegas Memories

3. The man next to me on the flight to Vegas gave my other neighbor investment advice. Basically, Seat 14D suggested Seat 14F dump out his 401(K) and put it all in a currency, specifically Spanish currency. This brilliant idea is made difficult by this crazy new replacement currency called the Euro. Dear 14F, while making the most of your retirement funds, perhaps you should also consider typewriter futures and butter churning apparatus. They're going to be huge.

2. Tonight while wandering around for hours and hours on end, I made my way through the MGM Grand. I saw the sign for the Grand Garden Arena. I like Gardens. However, it was more of an Arena. A closed Arena. A closed Arena next to the auditorium for the Country Music Awards. Fortunately, the Awards program ended as I was turning around to walk back to the Casino. I was honored with the privilege of marching in this parade of bolo ties, big hair, and cowboy hats through the MGM Grand. I felt underdressed.

1. For the bachelorette party for the wedding, we went to an amateur male revue of sorts, titled American Storm. My friend Jessica was selected from the crowd to come on stage. Turns out, Jessica, fellow sorority member and former OU pom squad member, lost what ended up being a lap dance competition to a girl in braces.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Holiday Update

Sent 1/3/09
Holiday Recap
I decided somewhat last minute to surprise the family and just show up for the holidays. As I walked past the dining room window and my mother Bonnie looked up from decorating her sugar cookies, I received exactly the warm, evocative response I’d anticipated, “Oh sh*t.” Thanks, Bonnie.

The flight to the Sooner State proved informative. After cringing from the man who threatened “Woman, you better shut your mouth before I womp you” to his wife, I settled into my seat next to an older gentleman from southern Oklahoma. He enlightened me to the below:

Bush is going to pardon everyone he can and then resign. After which, Cheney will step up and pardon all his buddies and then resign. Then Condi will become the first black president – not Obama.

Interestingly, Condi and W are having an affair, and Laura will leave her husband after Obama is installed.

When it all proves true, I want you all to know you heard it from Seat 8B first.

I spent Christmas Day at the VFW. The buffet consisted of monochromatic vats of starch – stuffing, corn, mashed potatoes. My parents and grandparents grew very uncomfortable while at the dinner when my sister mentioned Obama. Apparently, he’s not too popular in the northeastern Oklahoma VF-Dub.

Sibling Update
Zach, a recent graduate of Harrah High School, informed me of his contributions to his community. Remember when we were in high school and someone would show a video about STDs and safe sex and answer any questions? Yep, that’s now my brother. He tours the local high schools teaching kids how to use condoms and explaining what STDs are.

Caleb gave me a copy of his most recent yearbook photo. Should you ever get your hands on a Panther yearbook, you can easily spot by brother, as he is the only member of the junior class with an afro and fully grown mustache.

Jury Duty in 2007

Sent 6/16/08

I have been on jury duty since Thursday, June 13th.

Schedule so far for Monday, June 16, 2008
9:30 a.m. – Show up on time. It’s not like they’re taking attendance and it’s not like it’s starting on time, but if your one objective for the day is to sit around and wait, you feel completely worthless if you can’t even show up for it on time.
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. – Sit on a bench in the hallway until told to take a coffee break until 12:00 p.m.
10:30 a.m. to 11:59 a.m. – Continue sitting on same bench in hallway setting record for viewing the most Facebook wedding albums in one sitting.
12:00 p.m. – Told to take a lunch break until 2:15 p.m.
12:00 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. – Exchange rolling of eyes and snide remarks with fellow commiserates
12:05 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. – Aimlessly wander nearby Chinatown and then return to write this email
Conclusion: Add in two hours of watching Melrose Place reruns and an hour of EBay bidding for Hannah Montana collectibles and you have my daily routine for any other day of the week.

Advice if you should ever be summoned
Well, the courthouse is located near Chinatown. So bring your list of all those errands you always needed to run in Chinatown – Rolexx watches, Fende purses, ReyBan sunglasses, the new Coldpage cd, etc.
Don’t bring a gun. Apparently, in this great United States, the most important amendment to the Bill of Rights, the Right to Bear Arms, is not applicable. Me, sitting in this courtroom, surrounded by fellow citizens, and I am forced to check my concealed weapons upon entry. It feels like doing your civic duty in Communist Russia.

What I have learned on Jury Duty
Everyone from high school and college is married (source: Facebook)
During the obligatory, annual Father’s Day phone call to Doug Hagan, the ever-so-lovable and always engaging Douglas informed me he served on the jury for a murder case back in the eighties. Verdict - guilty. So not only is Douglas responsible for putting the dog to sleep but also sentencing a man to a life in prison. Basically, the American criminal justice system rests in the Hagan hands. You’re welcome.

November Update

I have not written an update since Peru, so here goes… in chronological order.

Peruvian Vestiges: How South America Changed My Life.
I left the Peru with priceless memories, new friends, and a wealth of unique experiences. What I did not leave Peru with was my work phone. This misfortune resulted in over $6,600 in stolen phone charges for calls made from Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, and Mexico. AT&T will not waive these charges on a work phone, and I have to take it up with my employer. Things are not looking good. Cost of trip - a little under $1,500. Cost of involvement with South American drug trade - $8,000 ($6,600 in stolen phone charges and $1,400 in legal fees should the DEA prosecute me).

Upgrade: We Might Be Up to Central Heating in About 20 More Moves.
I did not receive the hand-written letters and care packages you have sent the past month since I moved back in October. Let me recount how it all unfolded:
Monday: Receive call from roommate Sarah Lindenberg instructing me to not pay rent for the month
Tuesday: Sarah looks at an apartment in the Lower East Side and talks the broker down from $3,300/month + $3,000 broker fee to $3,000/month + no broker fee. She has skills.
Wednesday: Fill out paperwork and sign lease.
Thursday: Move.
Conclusion: we picked up ceilings high enough to walk upright uninhibited, a sink we do not have to use for the bathroom and kitchen, a bedroom wider than my arm span, and an additional roommate, Annabel. Win, win, win, win all around.

We Hope You Enjoy Your Stay: Because Meanwhile Some Stranger is Auditing the Sh*t Out of Us.
This brings me to the now. I have spent the past week auditing a hotel chain. I just show up solo, ask for the controller and have two days to audit the hell out of them. Tablecloths – depreciate over one year. Items left behind by guests – debit goods to resell and credit other sources of revenue. The valuation adjustment for spoilage of complimentary cookies and chocolates on your pillow, an allowance for clean-up after the annual Mold Removal Convention. There are entries for this.

I have met many characters on these excursions. My favorite is a thirty-four year old controller who invites me out for drinks at 5:00 p.m., though I return afterwards to keep working. During one of these happy hours at the bar in the nearby mall, she stands up and shows me the various tattoos emblazoned across body parts rarely exposed to light, especially not in public. "This one was when I separated from my husband." "These rose petals have the initials of my cats and my grandparents." "I got this one to help me get through my bankruptcy." It was all a cry for help. I loved her. I love America.

Farewell: Near, Far, Wherever You Are; You are Safe in My Heart and My Heart Will Go On.
I am finalizing the design for my holiday card and accompanying ink pen. Please provide your mailing address. Even if I sent you one last year, please resend your address.

August Update

It's been a while since my last update.

By reading this email, you are acknowledging this message cannot be forwarded to:
Anyone at my work, especially if they are members of an Asian accounting society
Anyone affiliated with P.S. 243
Anyone on my roommate's tennis team

Saturday, August 16, 2008 – Asian Accounting Society Convention
Friday afternoon I receive an email from a manager at work asking for assistance putting together the slides for an accounting convention. I show up Saturday morning at the Grand Hyatt. Turns out it's an Asian Accounting Society Convention. Between the intermittent exchanges in foreign languages, I sense they are arguing back and forth. Awkward. So this is how I spend Saturday morning, surrounded by strangers speaking broken English, instructing me to type dates and such into Powerpoint slides and fake laughing at accounting jokes.

"I don't know if you want to order lunch at Cosi; did you see Footnote 7 in their 2005 10-K?"

I don't know, but the woman across from me isn't even Asian. I am thinking about making a motion to throw her out.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 – P.S. 243
New York has an annual community service day where flabby, pale cubicle dwellers attempt to paint a mural on the cafeteria wall of an underprivileged school, while wearing oversized t-shirts with their company logos emblazoned across the chest. This allows them to pat themselves on the back having painted the shape of a monkey green while dripping paint all over the gym floor.
I participated last year and had a good time and signed up again this year. I receive an invitation to an orientation on Thursday. Turns out, I inadvertently enrolled as a site captain. I'm scared. I have no clue what I am doing. So if anyone wants to show up on the day of and help me out, let me know. The event is on Saturday, October 18; the school is somewhere in Brooklyn. See you there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008 – I'll get your hair did.
Arthur Ashe Kids Day is one of the opening events for the U.S. Open. My roommate's tennis team volunteers every year. Sarah, co-habitant of 112 MacDougal, was selected at CBS to cover the National Conventions and had to leave for Denver – kinda like how I was selected to copy regulatory calculations at work and had to leave for the 4th floor but more prestigious. Therefore, I filled in for her at the event.

Saturday morning I find myself in Flushing Queens wearing a medium men's polo shirt. The team leader for the event, wouldn't let me tuck in the shirt because I "disregarded" her instructions and wore non-khaki colored shorts and I could "get her in trouble." So here I am supposed to greet kids and families looking like I am not wearing any pants.

They have face painting and hair braiding and other attractions at this Kids Day festival. The hair braiding booth was late; they didn't bring enough people. I was recruited. They taught me how to weave and bead hair. So I spent four hours Saturday morning in Flushing Queens, surrounded by a Caribbean family, weaving hot pink polyester hair and beads into strangers' hair, sans pants.

Let me know if you want your hair weaved. I do events, bat mitzvahs, weddings, etc.

Saturday, August 30, 2008 – America?
I am leaving for Peru. It says it's still in America, but I cannot find it anywhere on the map. I guess it's probably by Hawaii. It's my birthday present from myself. I'll send an email update while I'm down there.

Saturday, September 6, 2008 – Lots of Motion in Multiple Directions
I'll be back from Peru and want to go dancing. Please let me know if you can make it on the 6th and I'll email you more details.

It's been real. Hope you're all doing well.

Peru Updates

Peru Update 1 – sent August 30, 2008
So the journey starts in Lima, Peru. I realized the taxi driver and I didn´t understand each other when we had the following exchange:

He motions for me to get down.
I don´t.
He motions towards the empty seat next to me.
I notice it´s really congested and we aren´t moving anywhere, so I think he´s indicating he´s not able to get in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane because he only has one passenger. "Oh, yeah, I guess we could have picked up another person. It probably would be less congested if we could be in the High Occupancy lane."
"Bandito, bandito, bandito, muy danger..."
I then realize he wants me to move my bag off the empty seat and hide it on the floor of the car.
I guess that was the sketchy part of town.
I wish I knew Spanish.

The hostel is in Central Lima. It´s swank. Chandeliers, fake marble statues, swank. I am staying in some hut on the roof. The wooden door is two feet wide and five feet tall and locked by a small padlock on the outside. I am not sure how I am going to be able to lock it from the inside though.

Peru Update 2 – sent August 31, 2008
Today, I woke up at six and decided to walk to the Pacific coast. It ended up being six miles and taking forever. Along the way, I crashed the synchronized warm up session for a 10-K (They coordinated their stretching en masse to techno, of course.) and some Catholic school girl parade.
While taking a cab back to Central Lima, the driver asked "¿Donde Estas?" I reply, "Estados Unidos." He lifts his hands in the air and yells, "Obama High Five!" We later bonded while whistling the hook to "Walk Like an Egyptian."

I am now in Cusco, which is absolutely beautiful. It´s in the Andes and full of winding cobblestone streets and steep stairways. I believe the previous statement is the equivalent of someone coming to America and saying "God, I just love Branson. It´s so clean and lovely."

Peru Update 3 – sent September 2, 2008
back to monday. sorry, but the caps doesn´t work on this computer.

i wrote thirty postcards and awoke early to mail them off, only to discover postage is two dollars a card, so yeah, if i promised you a card, it will be mailed from nyc.

i then headed back to the city center at the plaza de armas where a young boy percy approached me selling postcards. below are excerpts from the interaction, think back to 7th grade spanish class.

no, yo tengo trente postales y cero tarjetas. wtf?
como te llamo... yo tengo tres hermanos y tu... soy de estados unidos... escuela... me gusto matematicas... stuff like that

then i notice a gathering of citizens, banners and chanting.

que es?
protesta. gasolina protesta.
he shrugs.
want to check it out?

so percy, the thirteen year old kid selling postcards and i watch the gasoline protests for a while. he wanted my email address, so i gave him a business card. hell, who knows, maybe his postcard business will take off and he’ll need an auditor when he ipos.

later in the afternoon, i am standing on the street waiting for the tram. it never comes. a man approaches me asking if i want to take a tour of some ruins around cusco. the bus leaves in ten minutes. i get on the bus.

i meet evadio, not sure about the spelling. he´s creepy creepster and after the tour asks me to a "nice dinner." recalling he has a weak digestive system and aversion to health code violations, i inform him i only eat guinea pig at street meat vendors and proceed to enter said shop. unfortunately, i discover they have no vegetarian options, so i have to awkwardly hang out at the sketch establishment for ten minutes to make sure the coast is clear before heading back out.

they are playing the high school musical soundtrack at this internet cafe.

Peru Update 4 – sent September 4, 2008
I know I am behind but Tuesday.

Last Thursday, yes, two days before I leave for Peru, I book the one-day tour to see Machu Picchu because all the do-it-yourself train tickets were sold out. I don't know if they were sold out since I cannot read Spanish websites, but it wasn't processing my order.

Friday, the tour company calls because they cannot process my tour order without my passport number. I call back. No one answers. I fax it to them (not sure if that's safe). I call them Saturday and give them my passport number and ask where the meeting place for the excursion is. They tell me to call back. I call back Sunday and Monday, and they tell me they will pick me up at the hotel at 5:30 a.m.

It's cold in Peru in September. It's cold at 5:30 a.m. I wait. I wait. I wait with taxi drivers who, sensing my frustration, begin to teach me curse words in Spanish to use when the tour guide arrives. At 6:30 a.m. I realize I will not be able to make the 6:50 a.m. train to Aguas Calientes to see the Machu Picchu, which is the last train you can take if you want to return the same day and is my last chance since I am leaving Peru the next day.

The lady at the hotel calls the tour company and using her secret, magic language tells them to come pick me up. I make it to the Machu Picchu.

It's glorious and neither words nor pictures can explain it.

While there, the Americans keep asking me if I am from Japan. Damn Americans. Consequently, I join a group of unemployed Europeans for hiking in the Andes. One Frenchman was a plastic surgeon, specializing in breast augmentation; the others were all unemployed and just traveling the world for a year. Europeans.

Peru Update 5 – sent September 4, 2008
Alright, alright. Here are the pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2245636&l=31e8c&id=9604415

Thank you to anyone who read them. Thanks for being such great, supportive friends.