Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cairns, Australia

I’m sitting in the Cairns airport in Queensland, Australia. It’s 1:25p, Friday, Sept. 20 – sometime at night on Thursday in the States. I’m waiting to board my flight that leaves for Sydney at 2:20p, where I’ll be visiting my sister and the city itself, for twice as long as I was here.

I landed on Monday. I filled each day with something different. Monday and Friday were half day’s – so we’ll just count the full days:

Day 1: Booked: Snorkel trip. Expectation: Snorkeling the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.

Outcome: I learned to scuba dive. Well, that was unexpected.

Upon checking in at 7am – each day was an early fucking start and after 35 hours of travel the day before and then learning that a global unlocked phone is a lie (fuck you, Telestial) left me losing 3 hours to confirm this and then getting an Aussie phone, but my body seemed to forego almost all jet lag and just be tired after early mornings and full day activities – a older, attractive gentleman popped up looking for pens and told me to hold on a moment and he’s show me the way to the boat. He was likely made more attractive by his accent. And good teeth. Plus, he showered me with compliments all the way down the pier, so fuck, compliment me, I’m not gonna complain non-creepy-non-old-man.

Old men at Safeway hitting on me; not cool. Well-traveled accented gentleman with good teeth; bring it on.

Well anyway, back to the story. We get on the boat 
after a blonde girl from the UK found me and the Diving Instructor on the pier and followed with us. She sat with me; filled out her form for diving. I didn’t think that was an option, I expressed to her, if we had never dove before. Apparently there was an intro dive we could do. It was $70. I was interested, mainly because she was my new friend who could take my photo underwater. But that became nnecessary soon because two guys sat down next to me at the table; one was wearing a Steelers hat. Instantly, we were friends.

Small fucking world.

Those boys could serve as my underwater photographer instead of UK, but my interest was already piqued with the diving because – as, with all things I do – it would make a better story. The diving instructor was giving his speech on diving and asked me, by name, at this point, why I wasn’t joining. When I expressed that I didn’t sign up to dive, he said I could sign up now – and besides I’d get to spend time with him. So, I went diving.

And then I panicked. They were so insistent that you DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH that when I held my breath - because I was concentrating on blowing air bubbles out of my mask, as told by Instructor – still just learning and only a foot under water, I panicked and went back up. I was done. But the Diving Instructor gave me the good ol’ calm down and back under I went. The intro was over, did I want to spend the $70 to dive. Yes, I did, if only to conquer my fear. Did I mention I’m terrified of sharks? I wasn’t even thinking about that; I was focusing so much on not holding my breath.

When we got back I decided that was it; I was a horrible diver and it wasn’t for me. I went snorkeling and after that I ate about 90 pounds of pasta and couscous for lunch on the yacht. After lunch, the diving instructor convinced me to go again at the second location. I declined; that one panic was enough.

He said he’d hold my hand. In in my life of indecision is a decision, I put on my wetsuit and went diving again. This time I didn’t panic, but I’m still a really horrible diver. Even though, over dinner (I'll get to that in a moment), the Instructor told me I did just fine.

While heading back to Cairns the Instructor spent ample time with me. This was after he sent the other two girls we were diving with back up out of water and kept me down there to give me a hug. So if nothing else, I got a free wet suit rental, a scuba hug and a free cider out of the deal.

Side story: The free drink came when it appears I went on a date with the Instructor. He was trying to get in my pants. I was trying to get a story. Exiting the boat he asked me to meet him for drinks, I needed a shower and instead gave him my number. After a few texts back and forth, where he said I should come to his house and I said I didn't want to be murdered, he texted back something like: I want you to come here and get you naked and see what happens next. I replied that I was heading out for food and drinks and he could join if he wanted. After dinner, he texted that he really enjoyed my company and we should “catch up” again before I left – he followed up again, two days later, on Thursday (more on that in a moment).

Day 2: Booked: white water rafting.  Expectation: Rafting down a river; kangaroo bbq for lunch.
Outcome: I switched over to the “Extreme” white water rafting. I was asked when I boarded the bus at 6:45am (Seriously. I got up at 6am. Voluntarily.) they asked if I wanted to switch over to the extreme versus the regular rafting trip because it would even out the boats; as I was just a single. I declined and said I was a pansy. Then I began to look around and noticed that the people with the extreme wristbands were all of the non-asians.

“I know this is going to sound incredibly insensitive,” I said at the pub during bus transfer for the normal to the extreme trips to the guide who asked me to switch over two hours earlier when we got on the bus, “But am I the only non-asian on the not extreme trip? Because I hate Asian languages.” (Asians, not Asian Americans. Don’t judge me, I also don’t care for southern or Brooklyn accents. So it’s not racists, it just honest.) He laughed at me and said 90% of the trip was that; I switched to extreme.

When I got on the tiny extreme bus I found myself sitting by a group of white kids. We all began to chat. Each of us from a different country: Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Canada and me. When they told us to split outselves into groups of five for rafting, Cananda said we should all just be a group. And so it was: Group nationally white kids. Our guide? Roy – a former member of the Australian rafting team. Six countries.

The day was brilliant. Filled with more adventure on a raft than I could have imagined. Thank god I don’t care for the sound of Asian languages! I got to cliff jump and flip over on a raft and go down a “drowning simulator” part of the river and “surf” for like 5 minutes. And then we had grilled dingo for lunch! Just kidding. We had hamburgers.

And on the bus ride back, Canada – and adorable little 21 year old gay – and I chatted while I drank my likely contraband Strongbow in the back of the bus. Later, we went to dinner and shared a local-grown Australia vegetable plate.  I now see how vegetarians get full. We left; made plans to meet up in Sydney when he heads back down next week.

I also made (tentative) plans to meet up with my row mate on my flight from DC to LAX. He’s from DC and lives in Sydney. We got drunk in our row – with a nicely placed empty seat between us (that never happens for me) and it seemed to me to be a good omen of things to come. He said he’s a good tour guide with cute, single friends. That sounds good to me.

Day 3: Booked: Fitzroy Island sea kayaking. Expectation: Sea kayaking; snorkeling; lunch on the beach – blanket and all.

Outcome: My latest wake-up call: 7am. Woo. We get on the ferry for a ride I didn’t even think about as being so beautiful. While waiting to move after boarding; I feel like a roasting chicken so – after eating my healthy breakfast of a hazelnut Snickers (that’s a thing!) that I got while buying a bag of rice to stick the half-dead “waterproof” camera in and a $3.50 Coke - I load on the sunscreen.  

45 minutes later, we arrive at Fitzroy Island. The small group of kayakers is told to head to Beach Hire at 10:30.  I kill 30 minutes by trying to figure out why a section of the surf is read and why no one else is convinced Jaws killed a swimmer that morning and no one noticed they were missing yet. The beach is made of old, broken coral; it feels like glass beneath your feet and I would later be bemused by the other patrons of the island walking on hot coals of broken glass and while enjoying a Strowbow at the bar at day’s end with the most amazing Happy Hour location of my life. Content is an understatement.

We leave around 10:45 and I’m with the girl who is training; it’s her first day and she’ just moved to Cairns hoping to be offered a full time job with the kayaking company.  I’m a bit jealous; the jobs of these people: Amazing. Fuck offices, I say.

I take a small pack with me because that stupid underwater camera is only half working. And I want photos. Thank god. The photos I got were amazing. Because, as part of the continuing unexpected surprises these adventures kept seeming to offer: Once to the small island adjacent to Fitzroy, aptly named “Little Fitz”, we pulled up our kayaks on the beach, and scaled the rocks of the island to get the view from the top.

Awesome. JUST FUCKING AWESOME. We head back down, grab our snorkel gear out of our kayaks and pop into the water to look at some fish and some reefs and pretend we became convinced over the last few days that sharks don’t exist.

An Asian falls down. She’s alright. We paddle back to Big Fitz (they don’t really call it that). We’re told we can keep our snorkel gear for an hour. I head over to the beach  - hobbling my way through the broken coral and discovering if you step on the larger pieces it doesn’t hurt so much. I look like I’m playing a really fucked up drunk game of hopscotch.

I put on my flippers and back into the water. It’s a bit merky – I’d gotten used to crystal clear, damn spoiled, I tell you – and my goggles are fogging. I spend about 15 minutes in the water until I can’t convince myself that I can see a shark if it’s coming anymore. I head back out and up to a path called
the “Secret Garden”. I walk through rainforest; I’m the only one there. I can hear every skink and lizard andbird in the forest. It’s both eerie and amazing. I get back tot eh bottom and head over to the bar; the appreciate of the proximity of which is not lost on me. I have a cider here – UTTERLY FUCKING CONTENT...

and then go back to boat. And the boat heads back to Cairns.

 Prior to leaving for Fitz that morning, the diving instructor had texted earlier in the day that he’d like to see me again before I leave. I told him I’d be back around five; he said he’d see me later. Around seven I started to feel some sort of guilt and texted “was I suppose to text you”. He suggested we meet up and I – trying to avoid all the awkward sexual tension – said I was going to head out in town a bit, grab dinner and drinks and if he headed into town, to come and find me. I gave him a (what I thought was) clever (but probably wasn't) out, but I think it was mostly miscommunication. He declined and said it was great to meet me; I later realized maybe he took “find” literally and not in the sense of “text me” that I meant. Just as well. I got what I wanted anyway: A night alone in Cairns, wherein I saw a fire show, walked through the lagoon, had awesome mahi-mahi and a glass of white, did a little late night shopping, perused the club scene and decided I wasn’t missing much, then headed back to the hostel and passed out; exhausted, yet again.

Day 4/4.5 /5: The next morning I had to check out. My body, at this point used to getting up really early, woke me up at 6:30. I declined to acquiesce.  I went back to sleep until 8:30 and then headed up to the front desk to book my airport shuttle and grab some free pancakes. The hostel offered them every morning from 8am till 9:30a and that was the first morning I wasn’t gone before the free pancakes. Weird.

Ninety minutes later I was showered and checked out of my room, re-organizing my hastily re-packed bags in the hostel’s pool/social area. A bit later I head to the airport on my shuttle. And a bit after that I’m off to Sydney – having enjoyed one of the best and most perfect week’s of my life.

Before losing WiFi again, I post: i've had 3 full days (and 2 half days) here. i snorkeled in 3 locations, learned to dive and dove in 2. i had a date... (random). i had lunch on a boat, on an island, and the banks of a river. i was flipped over in the raft, went down a "drowning simulator" on the tully, cliff jumped, white water rafted, made friends, sea kayaked, rock climbed (like a 5.2. ha.) laid on the beach, climbed a gumboot, hiked through a rainforest, had a strongbow in the most extraordinary HH place, drank delicious aussie wine, explored the city and had dinners alone and with people i made along he way. and each day the weather and elements have been perfect - including today, which makes it hard to leave. but damn, that was fun. i look forward to what sydney holds... — feeling free in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

What a way to check something off of the single person’s bucket list: Solo International Travel: Check! 

Next up: Sydney...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

'The Finesse of a Bulldozer'

Alternate Title: The One Where, Mr. Cuddles Edition

Last night was our last regular season volleyball game. This kid I had met three weeks ago at the bar post-volleyball had texted me yet again to ask if I'd be at the bar, because afterwards he'd like to come home and "cuddle". Allow me to present a short back story...

Picture it: Sicily 1926. DC Bar. August 20th, 2013. Approximately 9pm. Drinking water at flip cup. (Still recovering from Dewey.) A guy sets up at table next with his softball team and says if we need another player he'd play. He moves his chair closer to mine; I'm talking to GFC across from me. He welcomes himself into conversation. Shortly after, he asked if we had to pick, which of he and his other friend she or I would go home with. He put his hook in the pond and didn't care what fish he plucked out, as long as he got to eat that night. How appealing!

I told him that's not how the world runs. Normally people ask for a person's number, talk to them and then ask to go home with them. "Cuddle" was the word he liked to use. Later in the evening, once he had procured my number - a diversion/test tactic that clearly worked - he continued to text asking to come over to my place to "cuddle" and eventually owning up to that fact that he hoped that meant we'd "hook up". I did mention that we barely spoke that night, right? And the only reason he was getting away with any of it was because he was cute, with nice teeth.

But no one is that cute. At no point did I insinuate this was even the slightest of possibilities - aside from giving out my number (flippantly, per ush) - but he it continued text me weekly asking to "cuddle", eventually provoking me to ask if he was going to keep asking and once he said yes continued, "with the same tactics?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Not working so well so far. haha," I replied.

And to that, a lovely, mature response of: "haha is what it is but i'm also clearly not losing sleep over cuddling with you."

Um. Okay. This was getting good; three weeks later - last night, that is - it was even better. And that's when I decided to see how far I could take a conversation with someone before they would give up and go home. As it turns out, quite some time.

I can't imagine his tactics ever work. As GFC would put it: "He has the finesse of a bulldozer". Thank God I'm not 23 26 anymore. And for you, Internets, enjoy.

Preface: With no prior conversation in the evening - while at a table across from ours, four feet away - he texted me to ask me if he should go home or ride his bike to my house to "cuddle". (I shit you not.) I then left the bar and texted that I had left. He asked if he should ride his bike to my apartment, meanwhile I was heading to the metro and said he could only come over if he could beat the metro via bicycle and then play Trivial Pursuit with me. Note: The bar is over five miles from my house and metro is a 16 minute ride from that stop. That he even entertains the idea after this is ridiculous, but here we go:



[EDIT 9/12/13: In a lazy/oversight on my part, I left the kid's first name on the screen shots - since removed - and a friend in years past plays in the same softball league as he does. She confirmed with his number - I unknowing of the circumstance presented the last four digits of - and boop! it got back to him. Whoopsie. I hope the juju doesn't chase me...but "grope", really? Anyway this, thus, shall mark the first and last time I put a real name on my blog. Let anonymity reign!]

Monday, September 9, 2013

Time Warp


What the fuck was that?! I found myself blindsided. Sitting there wondering what kind of a wet fish of a time warp I'd gotten slapped in the head with. And why.

A week prior I’d been asked by a guy who I used to date ravaged my heart if I would go to a concert with him. “I have an extra ticket for this show I forgot I bought tickets to and the person I was going to go with can’t go and if you want to go and [blah blah blah].”

“Oh, I would if I could, but I can’t. I’ll be out of town running a half marathon,” I responded, until I realized that we would be back by early evening and the following day was Labor day so hey! no work. I chatted back a bit later,“Well I can go, but is this a free thing or a non-free thing?”

“It’s free if it has to be, I guess,” he said. With all of my preparation for Australia (did I mention I'm going to Australia next week?!), sinking $40 on some concert I had no intention of going to in the first place was not on the top of my list - although I do like the band. I offered to be his back-up if he wanted to try to find someone who could pay; if he couldn't, I’d go. Instead he appeared to ignore that statement and just responded, “Sweet.”

I guess I was going to a concert then.

When I told my work friend slash male/dating guru about this, his response was that this guy was just trying to sleep with me. “Don’t be silly,” I said “this is the guy I had to nearly beg to sleep with me, remember?” (And this, kids, is why I don't recommend year-long celibacy promises to oneself.)

“Oh yea. Well, maybe you’re right,” he conceded.

Since concert crowds and I have a rough history at this venue, I had my past come over for drink before the show. When he arrived I was immediately taken aback by how deep his voice was - I had forgotten - and then went off to make him a drink. Mid-drinks, we talked about stories that happened nearly two years ago with each other and my roommate. This was somehow not awkward at all, which was surprising given our chat conversations over the past 18 months were sporadic at best and based mostly on music and fashion. In fact, recounting our sordid tales was not only not awkward, it amusing; endearing. After three drinks and eight tales, we left.

When we got to the venue, the band was already on and (thanks to no dinner and fatigue) I was already drunk. And thus, I unfortunately don’t remember the show. I do, however, recall the guy I accidentally dated (AD) coming up to me. I had no idea he’d be there, so I was surprised when he walked up, talked for a bit and then suggested we all go out to the bars after the show. (Fireball thinks this is how it happened.)

So after the concert, we headed out. The following day I was told by my ticket provider that the accidental dater was treating him like a threat or competition. “But that’s okay,” he would say to me, mid-afternoon, still lying in bed from the night before, “because I won.”

Well that was unexpected.

Had it not been for Fireball, I might have seen how the whole thing transpired; how I ended up on the wrong side of my bed with him…again. Instead, my mind simply chose to remember that: 1. I was drinking water at the bar, 2. AD was wearing a purple plaid shirt, and 3. I got out of a cab in the rain when my time warp was at the ATM and I’d forgotten what was going on and convinced him we could walk home in the rain, only we couldn't and had to hail yet another cab to get back to my place. (He and I don’t have the best history with cabs, it seems.) After that, it was just a bit of here and there and 2am mac’n’cheese and holy shit! when did he become such a good kisser?! 

“Did you kiss in the morning,” asked ER - one of the relevant few to tell this whole story to - when I said the guy had gone from bottom of the list to top three. “Maybe you were just drunk."

"Yes; for hours." We spent the waking, snogging, napping, showering, lunching day together. All of which I thought nothing of besides: He’s much funnier than I remember him. It was comfortable like a begone friend; like that person from high school who you haven’t talked to in years, but when you see each other again, it's as if no time has passed. Only it had – and he was different and I was different and we were better for it. What I had let go of was for a purpose and look at the wonderful people we have become independent from one another. And look at the people we are together; one person’s giggle a stepping stone to the other’s a stepping stone to five minutes of laughing together over absolutely nothing.

Over time, I had grown to assume that the connection I thought we had had was simply because of the circumstances back then, but this 20 hour window appeared to prove otherwise. What I had excused as circumstance was perhaps a connection that's always been there - and it didn’t fade with time. It wasn’t really romantic; I didn’t get butterflies in my stomach. It was comfortable; happy. I wasn’t really thinking about any of it or how it was potentially weird. I just enjoyed the moment; had fun again. And then he left.

And then I switched to outright confused: WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?

A hook-up I get, but spending the day together had me turning around in little WTF circles and the question compounded when ER (who's actually the 'three' friend in it) requested the entry for a memory refresh upon telling him the tale. In retrieving it, I read it - and remembered: I had forgotten about my hope. And how much that shit had hurt. But that story's bookmark was discarded last year when hope abandoned and now we’re - wait ...where the fuck are we? And what the fuck was that?! Did that mean something? Did it mean nothing? Did he just become another out-of-owner? ...Did he not?

If he did, it's a cruel joke: See this? Remember this? Connections; (almost) relationships? You don't have it! That’s like the worst gumdrop ever. TOURIST SEASON IS OVER. (You hear me, Universe?)