Monday, October 25, 2010

lucky punk

2010's local adventures found us at the gun range, with the usual suspects.

Aside: it is truly rare to find people that won't drive you crazy after a few hours, let alone a few days.  You know, people who will stop to let you take funny/beautiful pictures or who understand the need to eat something new and different when you are actually some place that is new and different or who indulge in stunts/stops so we can say that. yes, we did it and no, you probably never will.  People who have mental check-lists of things to see/do/eat and who agree that there's enough time to sleep when you're dead.  I have a renewed appreciation for AnCe and Nish.  Who better to shoot things with?

So: gun range in Gormley (where.  the fuck.  is that.).  FUN!  We shot three 9mm handguns (Sig Sauer, Smith  & Wesson, Glock), a 45mm Glock (my fave) and a Smith & Wesson .22 Rifle.  Of these, the Glock 45 is my favourite.  It's heavier, but I think because of that, it feels more solid.  Regardless, the Glocks were the better gun - a long first trigger squeeze, but smooth and consistent.  Leave it to the ...Austrians?  Huh.

I got ready for my introduction to the 12-gauge fabarm shotgun.  Understand a little of my trepidation: I knew someone who dislocated her shoulder from the recoil of a shotgun.  I had seen the bruising that had crept all the way up her neck.  As I waited my turn, the person in front of me actually lost her ear muffs from the barrel of the gun smashing into them.  Oh.  Dear.  God.  Ance and Nish had already gone and they were happy as clams.  I was last to shoot.

A new (very appropriate zombie) target is posted.  Here's how to stand: left foot in front, lean forward, ass sticking out, place the stock on the meaty part of your right shoulder, round your body around the barrel - hug it like you love it! - left hand on the barrel, right cheek on the cool, smooth stock.  Close my left eye, shuck the barrel back, adjust my shot, slow trigger squeeze and BLAM!  In the left cheek.  Recoil?  Who cares, it's still alive.  Shuck the barrel, the empty case comes flying out, adjust my sight and BLAM! Skims the right ear and jawbone.  Shuck the barrel, adjust my sight, one shot left, make it count.  Blam!  Through the throat.  The instructor laughs as he takes down the target.  "You took his head clean off!  Nice job!" And he's right.  If it wasn't for the white border, the actual zombie would be in two pieces.  God, that felt good.  And totally badass.

the valet kind of life

If you're going to turn 30, you may as well do it with style!  That's what AnCe decided, anyway.  That's how I found myself pulling up to King Edward's Hotel for brunch.  With Pollyanna in the passenger seat, I'm marvelling at the architecture.  And then, a valet pop ups and opens the door.  To my car.  My scratched-up, now-discontinued, plastic Saturn.  Bizarro!  Ignoring all my ghetto twinges of leaving my keys in the hands of some stranger, we walk into King Eddie's lobby with all its early twentieth-century charm.  We are, of course, last to arrive (Pollyanna + Brown Time = inevitable delays).

After the introductions (none of which I remember, really) we dig in.  Brunch is a seven-table affair with some of the most delicious food I've ever had!  Pre-peeled shrimp and made-in-house cocktail sauce, beef Wellington, Latin-style shrimp-and-scallop salad, lamb with mint sauce, four kinds of pate and seven kinds of cheese, cracked-for-convenience crab legs, ... I was in heaven.  And the desserts!  A display case of fudge, tiny muffins, cake, cake, cake, and that mousse-in-a-wineglass.  *faint*

So, yeah, it was expensive, but completely worth it.  If for nothing else but to get a glimpse of how the other half lives.  Happy birthday AnCe!

Now Playing: Social Network

I went to see Social Network last week, starring a very talented cast, headed up by Jesse Eisenberg.  Let's get it out there: I don't know Mark Zuckerberg personally (obviously) nor am I affiliated with him in any way; however, I do not like him.  Thank you for Facebook, Mark, but could you please stay out of my pictures?  So, yeah, I wasn't very interested in seeing the movie, but it was getting some very positive reviews, some Oscar buzz, and I thought "alright, fine". 

The movie was very good.  I mean, really good.  Every single cast member brought it to the set.  Jesse Eisenberg was amazing and Andrew Garfield hit it out of the park.  All other cast member, including usually banal JT, turned it up.  They were required to deliver quick, pithy script and to deliver it in a realistic and believable way.  That scene where Eduardo freaks out over an article about his pet cannibal chicken?  Priceless!  It's the little details that you find in these exchanges that make the whole film memorable.

I still don't know how I feel about a biopic based on a living person and on a story less than ten years old (can it be accurate? is it being influenced by people with vested interests?  how biographical is it really?).  Then again, how accurate is any story and don't all movies have the directors/producers influencing the subject matter?.

Anyway, it's worth checking it out.  I "like"d it.  4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the grandest canyon / O!

We took a two-day trip to the Grand Canyon National Park, going over the Hoover Dam to get there.  A word (or several) about Hoover: that Dam is pretty cool.  I mean, the engineering of it all!  That kind of labour could only happen during a depression when people are too desperate to say no to 14-hour days of pouring cement while a several-million tonnes of water was waiting to burst through.  It was worth the sidebar.

So, the Grand Canyon: it is not the widest, the deepest or the longest, but it is the grandest.  We arrived at around 1400 and it all seemed very pretty.  I mean, it was big, but mostly, it was the colour of the rocks and almost-painting like quality of the view that was so beautiful.  It wasn't until sunset that it became spectacular.  The shadows lengthened, the rocks took on a burnished-gold hue and the entire place just seemed to steep itself in awesome.  The sun took about three minutes to set and within five minutes of that it was dead dark.  I mean, DEAD dark.  Considering the serious lack of guardrails throughout most of the park, it's no wonder that the shuttle buses that spirit travellers through the vast area picked up anyone at any point on the roads.

The next day we took a leisurely three-hour rim walk.  It was just as amazing.  Being a little sensitive to perceived "dangerous" situations, I spent  the walk with tingly palms and soles.  I was sad to leave so quickly, but I hope to return one and make to the bottom as well as to the North Rim.


Back in Vegas, there was only one thing left to do: O!  Here is but a sampling of statements made:
- Did that guy just walk on water?
- Is that a pool on the stage?
- Oh my god, the entire stage is a pool!
- How are the mermaids breathing under there for like thirty minutes?
- Haha, audience participation...
- Wait, the audience guy just got pushed into the pool!
- Hey, that guy's on fire!
- I think my brain just went poof.
...Go see O.

Also: Batman with showgirl on his arm.  'nuff said.

A quick jaunt to M&M World, dinner at this tiny place called Nobu (which was freakishly good), a random movie and then home. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

viva las vegas (and related adventures)

Where had I left off?  Oh yes - Napa!  So much happened...

Napa: we toured in wine country for a bit, finding a Canadian winery (!!)  and, of course, drinking there.  During our wander about town, I declared a need for seafood and we tried A Fish Story, but was too smelly.  A few doors down, there was a sushi place so that's where we popped in.  When I actually looked at the menu, I realised that we were in a Morimoto restaurant!  Hai, indeed!  After that, we stumbled back to SanFran, with a little llama detour, and spent our night in the sketchtastic Americania.  Seriously, don't stay there.

Next: Yosemite.  Glacier-produced bouldery goodness.  It's such a different park than what I'm used to here in Canada.  I mean, seriously, wheelchair-accessible?  The trails are paved, not just mashed down grass that looks vaguely trodden-upon.  We did four trails before heading off to Vegas the next day.  Or at least tried to head off to Vegas.  The direct (seven-hour) route was closed - thanks a lot boulders! - and so we had to detour and do an eleven-hour trek through Fresno, of all places.

Anyway, we arrived (exhausted) in Vegas and checked into our swank PH Westgate suite with its King-sized bed and its padded headboard and soaker-tub-with-water-jets and I spent a delirious evening getting clean.  The next day, I wandered about the strip, taking pictures while consulting my Lonely Planet and being a total tourist.  I must have caught the Bellagio fountains at least seven times, but each time was amazing. Went to bed early that night in order to make it up for 6am the next morning.

Next stop: Grand Canyon!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Now Playing: The Town

So, I needed to kill four hours in Las Vegas on a Sunday afternoon.  Naturally, I went to see a movie.  Which movie?  The Town, starring and directed by Ben Affleck.

It was okay.  It did its job (i.e. waste time) and it was true to life in that it didn't have any real resolutions at the end.  I did think that most of the characters got off a bit easy, but whatevs.  I can't get super-excited about this review as the movie was a mere "meh".  It wasn't good, it wasn't bad, and it wasn't ugly (enough).  3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

The stars aligned for this month's Book Club pick: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.  It's a Halloween-themed book (death) and is set in San Francisco (where I read most of it) - yay!

This is the third book by Moore that I've read after Lamb and Stupidest Angel.  I thoroughly enjoyed Lamb - it's on the left as one of my must-read books - and Stupidest Angel was pretty solid.  High expectations were had before I even cracked open the cover. 

In short:  expectations met. 

In long: despite the glaringly obvious conclusion, reading the book was really fun.  Maybe it was because I was actually on Powell Ave and in Ghirardelli Square as I was reading, but I got a real sense of the City by the Bay and all its eccentricities.  It's like the city became a character in an of itself - its sewers, bridges, hills and trolleys.  It was a really neat perspective.

Charlie has to be one of my favourite literary characters in recent reading.  Assuming his Beta Male mantle with ease, he does his best (and it is a very good best) to cope with wife's death, his daughter's "kitty" powers, his dogs and his employees' growing weirdness.  In many ways, Charlie is a great success in most everything he does, including his second job as a Death Merchant.  He makes a good case for the evolutionary necessity of embracing your Flight (over Fight) tendencies and the aphrodisiacal effect that a man who listens has on women.  Also: they make good dads, as he demonstrates with Sophie.

All in all, considering this was a Halloween-themed pick, I recommend it highly. In fact, i recommend Christopher Moore highly. He's always an intelligent read without being a intellectual exercise.  And he uses swear words in the most creative ways possible.  Heinous fuckery, indeed.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

shark-infested waters

5am: wakeup call.  Yuck.  Then I remember why I'm getting one: sharks!  Dress very quickly.  Still battling my cold means that I have to convince Divemaster (hai!) that I can breathe through a regulator.  At the marina, we board the Superfish and we're off.  It's still dead dark and it isn't until we're under the Golden Gate bridge that the sun finally makes an appearance (wrapped in fog, of course).  Divemaster catches me trying to surreptitiously blow my nose and asks if I'm sick:  yes.. but only a little!  I'm sure I'll be fine!  He asks me to take three deep breaths with my mouth closed.  That doesn't work.  Then he asks me to take three deep-ish breaths through a straw.  I start coughing halfway through the second one.  Sorry, grasshopper, no dive for you.  Come back, one year.  Half price.  Hai Divemaster.  My scopamine patch cannot stop this particular feeling of sickness on the belly.

Once we clear the Bay, it's nothing but open ocean until we hit the Farallon Islands.  And open ocean means three things around here: cold, rough and boring.  Didn't help that there was no sun and it was nearly two hours before we get to our destination.  Of the twelve of us on the boat, at least eight seek refuge in the cabin, eyes closed and hoping not to chum the waters ourselves.  And then we're there.  The Farallons: nothing but a hunk of rock with some seals, gulls and a few gazillion flies.  Why do they need a research station out here?  and why is this, of all places, a sanctuary?  Birds, apparently.  And the seals are the perfect bait for some hungry, hungry Great Whites.  I watch, in jealousy, as the first three people change into their wetsuits and lower themselves into the cage.  I am not, however, envious of them entirely.  The water is a frigid 10C.  And now we wait for our sharks.

Here's the thing, though: no chum in the water.  According to Divemaster (hai!), Great Whites are only interested in seal meat, so chumming with anything else is "useless" - okay, but why would a shark (a creature so lazy, it has decided that it will only eat in the most efficient way possible) come anywhere near a boat when it could just east seals?  And, though it may be a "visual hunter", why would it go our decoys when the water visibility was so crappy?  But, hey, these guys are the professionals.  It's now 0900 and we have seven hours to go.

By 1330, everyone has been in the cage and has seen absolutely nothing.  Topside, I've seen a few seals in the water, a couple of grey whales, but that's it.  Suddenly, my not being in 10C water isn't so bad.  At 1400, we call it quits.  The weather is dismal and cold, providing no visibility (my picture of the grey whale?  in grey water against a grey sky?  yeah.  useless.), and the water is really choppy.  Sometimes it was calms for many moments and then we'd get rocked for no reason, pitching us against railings and throwing all our gear all over the cabin.  Personally, I think a few Great Whites figured us out and decided to knock us about a bit.  I mean, it's not like we could see them even five feet under the water.  On our way back, we encountered Blue Whales (they were HUGE!!  40 feet at least).  But our extended visit with them was too much for even me and for the first time ever, I contributed my own biofluids to the ocean.  Ew.

As usual, what makes trips like this fun despite crushing disappointment are the people you share them with.  JS from Oklahoma kept me laughing even in the van ride back.  The Vannahs (from Vegas) we re great company on the boat, giving us a list of must-eats in SanFran and SinCity.  In turn, I promised to share my NFLD itinerary with them - yes, I did my part for Canadian Tourism.  Marshall (that crazy mofo who spent three HOURS in the cage) was also a good sport.  The LucasFilm sweethearts summed up my feeling exactly: "I'll take a dorsal fin, like, 300 feet away at this point!"

What I learned:
1) I am clearly a landlubber.  Even as I type this, I'm gently weaving side-to-side as if I'm still on that boat.
2) No shark-diving without chum.  Ever.
3) Beware of cold-water diving.

Next: drowning my sorrows in Napa!

Friday, October 01, 2010

SFO and the slammer

Day one of the trip is complete!  and what a very very long it was.  We landed in San Francisco at 10am local time, leaving us with plenty of time to explore our first day.  Lucky for us, when we arrived at our hotel, our room was ready, so we were able to dump our luggage right away.  Doesn't surprise me that our room was ready, though, tiny as it is.  The bed is actually smaller than mine at home!  and guess what - there's only one!  We weren't going to let that dampen our spirits.  Once we were done checking in / freshening up it was already 1300.  That gave us 5 hours until our Alcatraz "cruise" allowed us to board.  We thought we'd just meander and with that tripped out of the hotel.

First stop: lunch!  Maru Sushi?  sure.  it was okay - a bit salty.  This is when I first realised that I wasn't tasting things properly.  Ruh-roh.  You know what this means?  I be sick.  I trooped on.  We were going to walk straight down Powell until we hit the piers and then just take it from there.  We were waylaid not two blocks away from the restaurant by a seemingly friendly old man who saw me peeking at my map.  He says: where are you headed?  I say: to the piers; is this the right direction.  He says: yes, but why not hop a trolley?  Well, we're just going to walk it.  And then he starts telling us where he's going and what a great place it is and how we should just get on the trolley and go there.  JC and I begin nodding and smiling.  Ruh-roh, indeed.  Once we we able to shake him off we just walked until we hit water.

At the pier, we saw a breakdancing show (to which I donated $5) and a steel drum show (to which I donated nothing).  We walked over to Pier 39 and watched some seals, had some soft-serve and took in all the tourist-y goodness that is the double-level, boardwalk-and-shop extravaganza.  I bought some starfish that were guaranteed not to break for my bathroom.  I resisted the rest.  We were beginning to get tired by now, so we thought we'd kill an hour over crab cakes and chowder at Chowder's.  Chattted a bit. 

At 1730, we made tracks to get to Pier 33 for our Alcatraz Cruise - I find it funny that they call a 12-minute ferry ride a cruise, but if Americans do anything right, it is marketing.  By the time we arrived on the island, it's just about sunset in the foggy Bay, a nice eerie feeling.  The night tour at Alcatraz gives you all the historical stuff that the day tour does - the inmates, the cells, the history, the drama.  But what only the night tour can deliver is "ambiance" - and what an ambiance it is!  The hospital wing - still under restoration - is so creepy and weird with outmoded "medical" instruments, it's downright horrific.  The cells where the guards were gunned down during a botched escape attempt, the old Spanish fortifications, the gun gallery... all very picture-worthy.  We caught the last boat out and were back in SanFran by 2200.

After a late-night snack at Lori's (Bay Shrimp salad!) and a stop at Walgreen's (Nyquil!) it was time for us two tired cats to go to bed.  But, the bed... it was so small.  So JC opted for the floor - maybe to spare me his tossing and turning, maybe to quarantine himself from my ever-worsening illness, who knows? - and by 2330, it was lights-out in San Francisco.

Today: dive suit and leisurely wandering.  Maybe an early check-in and more sleeping for me before our 15-hour day tomorrow (shark dive!).  Did you know if you're sick they won't let you dive?  No wonder JC took the floor...

Later poppets!