Being in Orlando is like going through chemotherapy. It's stressful and I'm bald. Seriously, I do NOT understand how it can possibly be that people actually pay large amounts of money to voluntarily come here for vacation. The girl that is training me in the fine art of exam proctoring and I finally were able to escape the hotel and go to Universal Studios yesterday... ugh. That place is horrendous. We didn't do the ride thing, ($80 for a day pass! That's insane!) but they had a sort of a small Universal City walk with all kinds of completely plastic and phony experiences and a multitude of cheap crap for souvenirs. And thousands of people. Fat, crying, stupid masses of walking human cash cows who were suckered into this obscenity of a "holiday", and are somehow convinced that going to see The Blue Man Group Show is the hight of all culture. Regina and I had loads of subject material to be bitingly sarcastic about, so it was a really good time.
We ate at the Bob Marley themed restaurant, "Tribute To Freedom" where I had the 'No Woman, No Cry' salad and the 'Satisfy Your Soul' chicken wings. Like I said, loads of subject material to be bitingly sarcastic about. Which is good, because I don't know what I would have done with myself if for some odd reason I could not have found something to complain about in this most commercially mercenary of all cities. Regina is my new lesbian friend by the way. When she hasn't been busy showing me the ins and outs of proctorship, we've been at either TGI Friday's or the Tiki Lounge drinking too much. Because that's Orlando; Hotels, crap chain restaurants, and manufactured adventure parks. (And I don't mean for the adjective manufactured to refer to the park itself, but to describe the so-called adventure. It's a manufactured adventure. Which is an oxymoron, stupid, misleading, and insulting.) And freeways. There are no actual roads in Orlando. The only way to get around is by very confusing pretzel shaped freeways, and half of them, naturally, are toll roads.
So other than our jaunt to Universal yesterday, I haven't been able to get out. You're kind of expected to be around for the most part while students are taking their classes, just in case someone needs something. It's an easy job; I've probably done more drinking and had more lesbian relationship conversations than actual work, but I'm on call 24/7. Sigh. In the future I will have to book more time after the ends of classes in order to do any real touring. But, I did get to see Orlando's very own Devils Tower:
I call it Dreyfuss, the Tuna Chronicles of his Madness. Or maybe, Orlando in a Nutshell.
And last but not not least, because of all the nagging, KC tagged me and I promised I would respond. I put it off as long as possible, but I had to pay the piper sooner or later. 15 arcane items about me, whose format I stole directly from KC so I wouldn't have to think too hard about it:
1- Orlando triggers my gag reflex. (Another chemotherapy comparison. Also, it makes my body really sore from all the drinking.)
2- By the time I graduated high school I had attended 10 schools.
3- I met Pete Seeger backstage when I was 5, and I asked him to play Abi Yo-Yo on his next set, and he did.
4- My parents used to put covers over their coffee cups when I was 1 because of the time I peed from a prone position in my bassinet right into Dad's coffee.
5- I followed my friend Joshua and his girlfriend Lauren as they intensely followed J.G. Thirlwell around a bar in Salzburg after a Foetus show, scaring him a little bit with the intensity of their star-struck questioning.
6- I absolutely do not like musicals. Except for the South Park movie. And the Once More With Feeling episode of Buffy.
7- I once walked from Main St. Stroudsburg over Fox Hill to the Delaware Water Gap during the worst Blizzard we'd had in years back in '93 to go to the Birthday Party of a hot girl I liked. She wasn't impressed, really.
8- I was in a fashion show my senior year of high school and was forced to wear a wedding dress. (double-ugh)
9- I taught myself how to snowboard.
10- I have a newly 21 year old sister whom I try not to think about what the hell she's getting up to in that damn liberal arts school of hers.
11- I have an affinity for plain black T-shirts. And plain black socks. And plain black pants. And different brightly colored polka-dot boxer shorts.
12- I have a very healthy relationship with myself. Details are personal.
13- As a child, I used to tell people that I was a
14- I think about Buffy. Constantly.
15- I have probably been to the country of your birth.
The only people I would in turn tag with this are people who read my blog. And there are most likely less than 15 people who read this. So, consider yourself tagged. Unless you don't want to be. It's cool, I totally understand.
It's been a slow month, I know. I've been training my boots off for the last two weeks at the office. Right now I'm at Newark airport waiting for my flight to Orlando... This is a real one though; I don't think that I'll be able to go see the Orlando sights on this trip. I have to play Training Camp customer service rep full time on this one, so no Disney for me. Ah well, life is hard.
I got to see my family down at the Jersey shore last week... My Uncle bought a really nice place over there and he had an engagement party for my cousin. I got to see some family I hadn't seen in years, namely my cousin Kevin, who has been busy surfing in Australia where he met his fiancé, (A very nice Aussie) and Aunt Peggy and Uncle Mel, who read my blog but never comment! Which of course meant I had no stories to tell because every time I'd start one they'd be all like "Oh yeah I read that on your blog." This has made the conundrum of being an autobiographical blogger apparent to me. Nobody wants to talk to you at parties because you've already bored them once with your blather!
Anyway, we went down to the beach and I swam in the Atlantic. I love the Atlantic; it has a certain wavy and slightly dangerous quality which I haven't seen in other Oceans, and I didn't realize I had missed it until last weekend. We used to go on weeklong family vacations there every summer when I was a kid, and I'd go body surfing every day on the high Atlantic waves. While bobbing in the water and gazing out at the endless horizon with pleasure boats, larger ocean liners off in the distance, and prop planes tugging banner advertisements for some seafood restaraunt or other went lazing by to the sound of seagulls, (I love that sensation!) I'd try to imagine what the land waaaaaaay on the other side of the ocean was like. It was rather bucolic. I had some very pleasant moments last weekend as it all slowly came back to me, although this time I knew what the land on the other side was like, and it made a rather gratifying bookend in my mind. Very nice.
Although, my Uncle later said that he had looked on a map and figured out that he was more or less on the same latitude as Portugal, which I haven't visited as of yet, so kind of I was wrong in my mental bookend there. Doesn't matter! When bridging the distances of Oceans in your mind, close enough is good enough, and I'm sticking to my story!
Well this officially concludes my first real hypertrek on US soil... I've learned a few things. Hypertrekking is by nature a vastly different business in the US, especially in the West, than it is in other places. Public transportation is more advanced and convenient in Egypt than it is here. If you don't have a car, you can't go anywhere outside of a major city. Unless you fly or take the bus... but when flying you don't get to see much and bus travel totally blows. I speak from an abundance of experience... I took the bus from NYC to Seattle, WA.... two summers in a row. UGH! So compared to that, driving is not so bad actually. Uh, except you know, for the environment and all that. Really, trains are key, and it's infuriating that a country famous for its railroad culture back in the day has such a shoddy rail system nowadays.
But anyway I got to see everything on my agenda. I arrived in Rapid City, SD on Monday afternoon, (I love the name Rapid City... it sounds like a DC Comics city name) and drove up to Gillette, WY where my job was at a coal mining company. Apparently Gillette is the energy capital of the US, producing 30% of the coal we use here, although that could be a bit self-aggrandizing. But my job is so easy! I was all a panic worrying that I was going to screw up, but I administered the test and everything went well. It was really weird, showing up in a strange Wyoming town and going to a coal mining plant to test them on their computer knowledge.
On Tuesday morning I got up early and drove over to see the Devils Tower, which I already posted a picture of. The Devils Tower is one of those things that strikes you silent when you see it. I felt like one of the monkeys at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey when they found the obelisk. I do think it's possible that I found it to be so awesome also because of the modern mythical influence given it by Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but so what. It's huge and imposing and strange, and very out of place. I saw prairie dogs and a rattlesnake. Some douche lady poked a stick at the rattlesnake trying to get it to do something, and I started taking video hoping it would bite her, but no such luck.
After walking all the way around the tower I hit the road again and went to the town of Sundance where the Sundance Kid got his name from, but not where Robert Redford's film festival is, much to my disappointment. They had a statue of the Sundance Kid in front of the courthouse... You have to love a culture which celebrates its famous outlaws that way. After that exciting ten minutes, I drove on to Deadwood. There I got to sit in the seat (I think) where Wild Bill Hickok was shot while playing poker. At the very least, it was the seat where they hung his original grave marker over. Or a copy of it. Or something. I also got to visit Wild Bill and Calamity Jane's graves. But mostly, Deadwood is a huge chintzy tourist trap of a slot machine town. It was cool to see it, but there's not much there that doesn't have a gag effect. It's all slot machine casinos and bad steakhouses. Kevin Costner owns a building there with a restaurant on the second floor which has a western film theme, sort of, but is mostly a museum dedicated to himself with posters from all of his films and glass cases with movie costumes he'd worn displayed in them. Like I said, gag effect.
The next day I drove 5 hours to Yellowstone, and spent about six more hours driving through there, trying to see all the high points. Got to Old Faithful just in time for the big spurt. Saw loads of bison and gaggles of Yellowstone tourists pulled over on the sides of Yellowstone roads with HUGE binoculars and cameras, pointing off into the Yellowstone woods where a Yellowstone grizzly bear had been seen 15 Yellowstone minutes before. Apparently they were hoping the Yellowstone bear would come back out for a Yellowstone photo-op. It seemed fairly Yellowstone unlikely. It was like something out of those old Disney cartoons based in some national park where a bear is walking peaceably through the woods and all of a sudden Goofy or somebody sees it and then there's a great "huggalah huggalah huggalah!!" and a hundred cameras start flashing and freak the poor bear out and he runs away. Who knew those cartoons were a form of Yellowstone social commentary?
I spent the night just outside of Cody, WY in a ranch-type cabin hotel, which was very nice, and drove back to Gillette the next morning just in time to do that whole job thing I was sent there for in the first place. Afterwards I sped from there two hours back to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore. Here's the thing with American tourism: Every bloody thing is a big bloody show. It drives me nuts. At the Rushmore monument, there's a big silly stage at the base of the mountain. I had arrived right on the cusp of nightfall, and they have a lighting ceremony every night for the 4 big heads. So I was subjected to an extremely long, sanctimoniously patriotic video about how great America is and how we tried to make peace with the Indians before killing them all and blah blah blah before they turned on the spot lights.
It says something about our government that they always feel the need to put on a show for us when the thing we came to see is awe inspiring enough as it is. I mean Mt. Rushmore really is cool. It was carved by some mason with a really funny name. Gutzon Borglum. I have a lot of admiration for at least three of those four Presidential dudes. And I never realized before that they actually carved a collar and shoulders for George Washington there, also. I'd only noticed the heads in pictures before.
After Rushmore, I drove back to Rapid City and found myself in the middle of a bizarre city-wide fancy antique automobile event. The streets were lined with people cheering me on as I drove amidst old Model-Ts and sport cars and other classic autos in my rented Ford... whatever modern bland model car it was. It was kind of freaky actually. As it turns out, the reason they were in fact shouting at me, not cheering, is because I'd forgotten to turn my headlights on. I realized this when I was pulled over by a cop, and the section of classic auto fans on the side of the road where I'd been stopped started yelling "headlights!" at me. I guess they knew the difference between nice cars and rentals, after all. Rapid City police are very understanding, however, and he let me off with a warning and directions to a nice hotel.
But the West is crazy when it comes to distances... I was talking to the boss of the coal mining plant in Gillette, and he was telling me how he and his wife don't think anything of driving the two hours to Rapid City just to go out to dinner, and then turn around and come home. I couldn't believe how far you can drive without seeing anything. And how empty the roads are. Very different from what I'm used to over here. The distances between towns actually mean something out there, as there are no gas stations, fast food joints, or, for the most part, rest stops in between them. Very peaceful driving actually, especially considering that cruise control is a way of life out on western highways, and the scenery is fantastic, if a bit stark at times.
Anyway, the rest of my pictures are now up over at smugmug for both Wyoming and South Dakota, so feel free to check 'em out. I took way too many shots of the Devils Tower, of course. But mostly, I feel that I was wanting in the photo department this time around... I was rushing around quite a bit on this trip because I only had two days, essentially, to see all this stuff, so I didn't really take the time to look for the best angles for the most part. I got a couple of nice ones, though. This last one I took off of the side of the highway at some point; it's on the outskirts of a Wyoming town named Ten Sleep.
I think that Ricky Gervais is the funniest man alive. I just watched the British version of 'The Office' for the 4th time... and every time I watch it it's the same. It's so funny that rather than laughing periodically as one would at, say, the American version's gags, I am instead consistently filled with a deep internal laughter and a heady sense of well-being. It's so funny that I can't laugh, because nobody can laugh that hard. It has to be released as great sighs on a regular basis; as pressure is released from a valve. The first time I saw the series, there was one scene in particular that was so uncomfortably funny, so cringing, that I actually did a sitting 360° turn on the end of my bed, because I couldn't stand to sit still from discomfort.
So I just applied to a Frequent Flier program... I've never done that before, which is probably crazy considering all the flying I've done in the last few years. I'm not sure why I never did... It seems like I never flew on the same airline more than once or twice and even though I know there is that whole partner airline thing that they do, it just didn't seem worth it. Well, I can be pretty dumb about things sometimes. I think it's awesome that even though my company paid for the ticket, I can redeem the miles. My new job is so cool.
This past week has been interesting. Another thing I love about this job is the drive to work itself, which is a rare thing to love about a job. I live about 15 minutes away from it, and to get there I take River Road from the Water Gap to Fernwood. For those that aren't familiar with the area I live in, River Road is a State Park road which runs through protected, and therefore quite natural and mostly untouched forest land by the Delaware River, and it is an extremely beautiful drive. And this time of year, with all the vegetation coming to life, it smells awesome. It's a good way to start (and end) the work day, is all I'm saying.
Also, I've figured out what my job actually is a little better by now of course, and it's not as simple as they made it sound when I applied for it, naturally. I will spare you the full job description, but suffice it to say there seem to be a thousand little details which I have to remember every time I go out on one of these trips, which in a way I enjoy because it's distracting and makes me feel like I'm actually getting paid for a reason for once (It's been a few years since I felt like I was actually earning my pay) but on the other hand they probably mean that on most trips I won't get to actually enjoy my surroundings very much, or get much out of the travel part of the whole deal.
My upcoming trip to Wyoming however, will be a small exception because since I crash coursed it this week, they only gave me the barest bones of the normal responsibilities, and it looks like I will have two to three days of free time, and Yellowstone is a mere 5 hour drive from where I'll be... Don't know exactly how that's going to pan out, but I'm looking forward to it.
Anyway, there are two links I keep meaning but forgetting to post. For anybody that's interested in computer junk, here's the website for my new company, which lists all of the training courses and facilities which we offer. And for anybody who is interested in Blacksmithing, here's the website for Artisans of the Anvil, where I'm taking classes. They have some great pictures in their portfolio of their past work. Really beautiful stuff.