Friday, February 25, 2011

Wilderness Survival For Dumb Kids

As an only child, I learned early on to entertain myself. Growing up in Montana, it was easy enough to let my imagination run wild. One afternoon I might be a stealthy ninja, hacking up frankensteins with my dual katanas...

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...and the next day I'd be a badass cowboy, laying waste to stupid vampires.

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I had friends, of course. I was a social child, but the fact was there were times when I'd be left to my own devices, and on occasion I'd get carried away. I remember one summer I set up a zip-line between two trees in my front yard, tied a blanket around my neck like a cape, and literally spent hours zooming back and forth through the air, kicking my feet and screaming at imaginary space invaders. My mother would watch me from the living room window, no doubt wondering how long it would take for the doctors to finally diagnose me.

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One winter we traveled out to the North Mocassin Mountains to visit a friend's cabin for a few days. On the first night there was a heavy snowfall, and the next morning I couldn't wait to go out and play in the woods out back. My mother fed me some breakfast and sent me on my way.

"Don't get eaten by mountain lions," she warned me. "But if you do, try to keep your snowpants free of bloodshed. I can give them to my next child."

And with that, I bounded out the door.

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It wasn't long before I was fending off an imaginary horde of zombies, punching and kicking my way to glory. I hopped onto a fallen log, then launched myself into a spectacular kick attack.

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Unfortunately, the snowbank below me was deeper than expected, and I landed in the soft white powder with a faint FOOMP sound. I was up to my neck in snow.

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Unable to move, I switched into panic mode almost immediately.

"Think, Adam! THINK!" I told myself, "You're a boy scout, you can get out of this!"

I'd only managed to earn two merit badges at that point, but I wracked my brain for a way to free myself. Nothing handy came to mind. All I could remember were useless tidbits about wilderness survival, none of which applied to my current dilemma. I remembered my scout leader had told me, "If you're ever being chased by a moose, just hide behind a tree. Moose are dumb and will probably forget they were chasing you in the first place."

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That didn't help me in the least. I vaguely recalled being taught how to free myself from quicksand, but the details were fuzzy, replaced instead by nonsensical scenarios from any number of adventure cartoons.

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There was nothing for me to do. Surely I was going to die.

Then, suddenly, I heard a rustling a little ways away. Fearing a mountain lion coming to feast on my face, I was relieved when a white-tailed deer appeared instead.

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The deer left and I was alone again, once more convinced that death was imminent. I don't remember how long I was trapped there in silence, but it felt like eons. Finally when I started to lose feeling in my fingertips, I did the only thing I could think of.

I started screaming my head off.

Unfortunately I must have been farther into the woods than I'd thought, because my yells didn't carry back to the cabin and my mother didn't come to rescue me.

Somebody heard me, though. After several moments of shrieking, I was approached by a man. He stopped in front of me, puzzled. He looked like someone out of a rural Southern Gothic novel, all grizzled and dirty, and my naive, overactive brain instantly jumped to the most gruesome conclusion.

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Thankfully, he did not eat me. Instead, he wordlessly reached down and lifted me out of the snowbank, and then disappeared back into the woods. Still not convinced he wasn't a murderous cannibal, I tore down the hillside back toward the safety of the cabin.

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I told my mom what had happened, but I don't think she believed me. Granted, I probably shouldn't have frantically started my story with, "So I was just minding my own business, high-kicking zombies, when all of a sudden..."

She made me some hot chocolate, and I drank it in front of the fireplace.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mahalo, Come Again

I'd had enough. I needed a break from life. Luckily Wells Fargo had just upped my credit limit, so I charged a flight to Hawaii before I even had a chance to second guess myself.

The buyer's high wore off pretty quickly when I realized I was going to have to get on an airplane in a matter of weeks. I always overlook this horrifying little tidbit when I go on vacation. I can't stand flying. Growing up it never bothered me, but a couple years ago on a flight to Boston I experienced the worst turbulence of my life, and it wrecked me for good. The flight had been smooth–almost too smooth, and I was just about to bite into my turkey sandwich and enjoy the inflight presentation of Beverly Hills Chihuahua...

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That's when the pilot chimed in over the intercom.

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Since then, I've never been comfortable flying. Once bitten, twice shy, three times a lady, etc. Now it's simply a struggle just to not have a nervous breakdown in the airport, so I try to keep myself occupied with little games. My favorite is Airport Bingo. It's a simple diversion. Before I get to the terminal, I construct a Bingo Card in my head of things one might see at an airport, and spend the time before my flight seeing how many points I can rack up. It's like people watching, only more judgmental.

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See? Easy. It keeps my mind off having wild fantasies about flaming Beoing 757's crashing into the ocean.

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I chose Hawaii for two reasons. One, it was cheap. Secondly, I have a friend who lives there, meaning no hotel was needed. Thirdly, and most importantly, I settled on Hawaii because the cast of Full House went there in season three, and I can honestly say Full House has influenced aproximately 80% of my life's decisions. It's more than a show. It's a lifestyle. Which reminds me, I need to buy a new hair crimper and start crash dieting for Kimmy Gibler's pool party...

Fortunately, my flight was smooth and uneventful, save for the overly talkative woman I was seated next to who insisted on gabbing to me about her planned "vision quest" in Oahu, whatever the hell that is. I fell asleep midway through her speech about the healing powers of crystals.

My first couple days on the island were spent in typical fashion: wandering around aimlessly, napping on the beach, and trying to avert my gaze from old dudes in speedos. I briefly considered filming a better ending to Lost on my camera phone (starring myself as every character) but I figured that would be too much work. Instead I opted for baking in the sun on a daily basis, waiting for the sweet, sweet melanoma to set in.

My vacation hit a slight rough patch around day four. To any future potential employers out there, let's just pretend this next bit is completely fabricated. To everyone else reading, let's take a moment and talk about drugs.

The friend I was staying with was, shall we say, a connoisseur of the ganja. One night he was getting stoned, and offered me some. It had been a few years, and I figured it couldn't hurt (which, come to think of it, is how the Tanner kids always got in trouble). Completely unaware of my own low tolerance, I took four giant rips off his bong, sat back, and waited. Nothing happened at first. And then a lot happened.

I began to feel panicky and paranoid. Then the walls started to move. Then the tunnel vision set in, and when I became convinced my friend had drugged me in order to harvest my organs, I figured it was time to lay down. I went into my friend's room, curled up in the fetal position on his bed, and laid there wide-eyed and terror-stricken in the dark. At one point I became convinced I wasn't even on a bed, but rather a giant, bloodthirsty forest animal.

This is the reality of what happened to me:

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But this is how it felt:

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I managed to fall asleep briefly, only to wake up shortly thereafter covered in sweat, and proceeded to search my body for mortal wounds because I was convinced my sweat was blood. I was fine the next morning, if not a little shaken up. "No more weed for a while," I promised myself. "Stick to black tar heroin from now on."

The next day, I decided some light reading at the beach was in order. I traveled to the bookstore in search of something I could finish in a day or two. Perhaps a paranormal teen romance, or something from Oprah's Book Club. I meandered up and down the aisles, waiting for something to catch my eye, and then, suddenly, there it was. The perfect book.

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Could there be a more flawless literary selection than Goosebumps: Ghost Beach? Anything more divinely meta than reading Goosebumps: Ghost Beach on the fucking beach? That afternoon was spent in utter bliss as I casually flipped through my new book on a tacky tourist beach–even though by page 19 I'd figured out the twist ending was that everyone was a ghost.

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By the time the sun was setting, I was all hopped up on shitty ghost stories and at least 14 shades darker than I'd been morning. I was Pantone 18-1242 (that's "Brown Patina" for the less graphically inclined). And what better place to show off a bitchin' new tan than the nearly pitch black dank of a dive bar?

Perhaps I hadn't learned my lesson against overindulging from my weed fiasco, because that night quickly got out of hand. I suppose I was excited to find the only bar on the island that served PBR, because I didn't monitor my alcohol intake very wisely. By 2 AM I was riding high on a malty, hoppy cloud of cheap beer, and I was ready to head home and pass out.

"Oh no," said my friend. "We're going dancing."

Well, shit. Little did I know that once the bars in Honolulu close, everyone floods to the one shady dance club to sweat out the Mai Tais and piƱa coladas. I was too drunk to argue, so I obliged. Fifteen minutes and one five dollar cover later, I was dancing up a storm amidst a group of other clammy drunks. Stumbling around on the dance floor, I sought out a dance partner for the evening, and settled upon a sleepy-eyed girl with frazzled hair and what I assumed was her mother. Sure enough, this assumption was confirmed when the girl slurred to me:

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And with that, she lumbered off the dance floor, leaving me alone with her mom.

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For a few minutes I danced awkwardly with the old broad, but it quickly became apparent that this lady was fucked. up. Hair mussed, eyes rolling back into her head, boob in danger of flopping out of her J.Crew cardigan––this gal was in rough shape. So I did what any standup gentleman would do. I left. I was barely keeping my own balance; I was in no condition to take care of an old lady jacked up on appletinis. After that, things started to get fuzzy, and I remember little between that point and waking up the next morning with the hangover of a lifetime. It was probably karma for leaving a poor old crone to die on the dance floor.

The final few days of my vacation were peaceful and relaxing, filled with swimming and hiking and shaking sand out of my nether regions. The only black spot on the whole affair was the faint, constant sound of Katy Perry being played everywhere I went. On the mainland, especially in Portland, I live a blissful existence free of Perry's warble, but she haunted my vacation relentlessly. It might've had something to do with the fact that I started every morning with coffee from the Starbucks next to the Honolulu Walmart.

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The final charming surprise of my trip didn't occur until my return trip to Portland. I was sitting in the terminal waiting for the boarding announcement when a little girl approached me, unprovoked and unannounced.

"WATCH MY DANCE!" She announced, and proceeded to work it with such fierce determination I was afraid she might have an aneurism right in front of me.

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At that point her mom shook a bag of Teddy Grahams at her and she immediately lost interest in dancing and scampered off.

Returning home with my batteries recharged and a complexion somewhere between Halle Berry and Denzel Washington, I took a moment to ponder my vacation. I don't remember how the Hawaii episode of Full House ended, but I'm sure somebody learned a valuable lesson and Danny Tanner had a heart-to-heart with one of his daughters (but probably not the middle one because she was off somewhere doing meth). I suppose the lessons I learned were to do drugs in moderation, and that drunk moms don't make good dancing partners. Not really family sitcom material, but hey, that's real life. Real life is full of drunk moms.