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Feeling Minnesota

Posted by evankessler on August 27, 2010

This past weekend the land mass of Minnesota , with it’s 10,000 moisture-filled pores known as Lakes, beckoned me to squeeze all of the life and excitement I could from the sponge-like state in a span of time others might deem entirely too brief to do anything of note. The challenge was to experience the vast array Midwestern American culture, wringing out all I could in the realms of cuisine, amusement, and general oddities all in a stretch lasting less than 84 hours.

Arriving at 1:30 CST in Minneapolis, I fully regret the three and a half hours it took for Operation Experience Minnesota to spring into action, but it was  a  detour since gathering friends together, renting cars and checking in to hotel rooms would ultimately serve us favorably in our stay in the Gopher State.

Having anticipated the journey weeks in advance, I came prepared with a bushel of activity to partake in. The most pressing matter upon our arrival was of the gastronomic variety. Throughout the course of this particular day, I had only had a bottle of fruit drink and some airplane peanuts; I was bordering on starving.

Gathering up a crew consisting of my high school friend Joe D, his wife JSarah, and a crew of Joe’s College housemates and their significant others; we made for the Minneapolis meat monument known as Matt’s Bar. Sure the name Matt’s Bar doesn’t call to mind anything spectacular. The moniker reminds one an insignificant small town dive along the lines of Moe’s Tavern; but Matt’s bar is so much more. It’s the home of the “Jucy Lucy.”

Matt's Bar: Home of the Jucy Lucy and Purveyor of Fine Budweiser

I Pledge Allegiance to Matt's Bar Its for Fine Meat and Cheese Fare

What, pray tell, is a “Jucy Lucy?” Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s a delicious burger with a molten cheese core and a renowned item on the list of Minneapolis culinary specialties.  It had to be tasted.  The six other members of the out of state crew agreed with my assessment.

We were able to procure a few tables in the back of the famed establishment after a brief wait and before even gazing upon the menu we all agreed what we were there for. Aiming to expedite our order, Laura (a member of our party) took it upon herself to round up the order so as to speak for the table when the waitress arrived. The preparation was all for naught as the waitress arrived and went on with her own system of taking orders simply blurting out, “How many Lucy’s? How many orders of fries?” She also had to go about the business of seeing the onion situation(fried, raw, no) for each individual burger. That hadn’t been accounted for in Laura’s original plan. The process was efficient nonetheless; and we tacked on a few pitchers of beer to go with our meaty delights.

The anticipation was great, but the wait didn’t seem too long. I was seated directly across from Steve and Laura who were situated below a wide-screen TV showing opening round games of the Little League World Series. This particular game was showing Minnesota vs. Texas and it seemed innate that I would be pulling hard for Minnesota to pull this one out despite being down 10-4 in the final inning. A brief tinge of excitement fell over me when the hometown heroes brought the game within a 2-spot with a grand slam, but that it all went downhill from there as they just couldn’t pull it out.

No matter, dinner was served. Placed before us, wrapped in sandwich paper, were our Jucy Lucys. The waitress instructed us to wait a few minutes lest we be scalded by the molten cheese inside. We obliged her warning, though I was definitely tempted to have a go at it. I opted to take my burger with fried onions au natural. I had read that you didn’t need to put any condiment embellishment on these delightful treats, so I tried to go as authentic as possible, just Jucy Lucy, me and a pint of Leinie.

Jucy Lucy Before

Slightly reluctant to scarf down the goodness in too few bites, my first nip revealed a very flavorful patty, but failed to draw first cheesy blood. The next bite was a different story. It wasn’t quite a Clint Malarchuk gusher, but it definitely would’ve warranted a trip to the emergency room if it were the result of sharp object on skin.

Jucy Lucy After

The yellow ooze was something more than just cheese on a burger. It was a flavorful burst of deliciousness that also served as a nice dipping sauce for the fries once it had settled onto the paper. The Jucy Lucy was indeed Juicy and a wonder for taste buds to behold. Part One of Operation Experience Minnesota was indeed a triumph.

The early goings of our experdition were not without casualties. Joes’s wife JSarah had suffered a bit of a neck strain/spasm earlier in the day prior to making the trip and it was not treating her kindly. So as we prepared for phase 2 of Mission Minneapolis, two key members of our team were knocked down for the count.

Like a Sergeant leaving behind two wounded soldiers (and a mediocre writer clinging on too tightly to war metaphors), we pressed on to achieve our objective; to have the most fun we possibly could during our one day in Minneapolis.

Using our next hour to recover from the “jucyness” of the lucy, the remaining revelers met in our hotel lobby at around 8pm. I had a plan in mind. I wanted to go to Nye’s – a bar so well-regarded that it had been named Best Bar in America by Esquire– as our first stop. My plans aside, I was only a small cog in part of a  group now. I wasn’t the only one who had ideas, so when Dan first suggested we go to Brit’s Pub, I reluctantly agreed with this as our first stop on the nightlife tour.

At first glance, Brit’s seemed like any other plain pub. For a gimmicky British Pub-type it had precious few options in the way of authentic British brews. Nothing, I couldn’t get at most bars in New York anyway. I voiced this opinion once, but refrained from anything else that might be construed as whiny because I realized it was silly. This place wasn’t so bad. It had Twins games and Rugby on the TV. No one was bumping anyone out of the way, so as to cause someone to spill their beer. This place was alright. Then we made the move to go upstairs and outside because Dan heard they had lawn bowling. I wasn’t too excited about lawn bowling since we have a few places to play Bocce here in Brooklyn, but once we made it outside I shut the hell up.

Brit's Impressive Lawn Bowling Expanse

Brit’s had an impressive, grassy expanse for which visitors could get competitive.  The well-manicured bowling green was unfortunately in use for a corporate event and we couldn’t partake in the festivities, but I was still impressed by the layout. We stayed at Brit’s for at least 3 beers before packing up our things and heading on to the next bar, but not before being joined by my good friend Matt and his wife Lindsay.

The next move was a bold one and one that I greatly approved of. Rather than grab a cab, we decided the night was too lovely and the next bar was too near. We walked through downtown Minneapolis seeing many impressive architectural specimens on the way til we came to a bridge that crossed the Mississippi River and brought us to Northeast Minneapolis where we were soon face to face with the aforementioned Nye’s Polonaise.

Along the way we saw a Mary Tyler Moore Statue...

and this lovely fountain scene...

before walking over...

the Mississippi River.

Nye’s seemed like a classic old-time bar. I don’t really know how to characterize it other than that. It had a long, dimly lit bar and older man with a foreign accent behind the bar. There was a tiny stage in the corner where instruments rested for the time being. Most of the people I encountered in the establishment were relatively attractive, but not overly hipster-ish. It had the general easygoing vibe of your local dive, but something more unique.

Nye's Polonaise!

A Classy Looking Joint

We arrived to find 7 available stools at the bar even though the vibe was anything but dead. Soon after our arrival the house polka band retook the stage and began steadily churning out standards. At one point I was sure I recognized one of the songs just from the first few notes as “Pennsylvania Polka” from the film Groundhog Day. Lo and behold, the singer started in on the lyrics. There was just something comforting at this bar as I sipped on Grain Belt and made easy conversation with an old friend. I felt like I was in Brooklyn.

Polka Your Eyes Out!

The night went on and my urgency to see all that I could see caught up with me. My friend Anna, a Minneapolite, recommended I check out U Otter Stop Inn for a dive-y karaoke bar. So our crowd gathered outside yet again, though we lost Matt and Lindsay, and off we went to the next stop.

Maybe We Otter Not

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe I was spoiled by the great feel of the last 2 places, but U Otter Stop Inn was cramped and kind of annoying. Gopher and Viking Pride lined the walls and the crowd was a bit rowdy, though not completely out of hand. Part of me longed for civility, but also held on for somewhat of a unique experience. Instead, I just got your run of the mill cheap beer and some underwhelming karaoke without the thrill of participation.  I put in for a few karaoke songs, but was pretty sure I’d never get to hear them.

I have no idea what this song is.

Minnesota Pride

Rather than wait it out til the end of the night, we piled in a cab and headed back downtown where we ended our night at a place called The Local. After a beer or two it was closing time and we each headed back to our respective hotel rooms. At some point in the night Joe and his wife had made for the emergency room to deal with her neck issues. I returned home to the empty hotel room that the 3 of us had shared and passed out happily on the firm slab of heaven that was my bed.

I slept like an angel, even though at some point I heard Joe and JSarah tiptoe back into the room. I wasn’t waking up for anyone at that point. I was just too comfortable.

Not sure what time I woke up the next day, but I knew we’d be checking out soon after I did. Joe had secured a late checkout thanks to his emergency room visit. We didn’t hurry though. Steve, Dan, and company left before us for some breakfast and got a head start out west towards Spicer, where we were all headed for a wedding.

Our plan was to pick up Suli at the Airport and maybe catch up with them by the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Darwin, MN. It didn’t really work out that way. We got a later start than expected after grabbing brunch at The Local and having some issues with our GPS on the way to the airport. We eventually reached Suli waiting by pickup section of the Delta Terminal. He had been waiting a bit, but his trip was just beginning. All told it was probably the same amount of time he would’ve waited to rent a car.

So we were off. Not really much to do but drive west and wait to be enveloped by small town awesomeness. That awesomeness enveloped us about an hour and 25 minutes into our road trip. We had just stopped to get some water and take a bathroom break along Route 12 and been cruising along through towns with miniscule populations for close to a half hour when on the driver’s side Suli spied a wrestling ring surrounded by a crowd and with some townsfolk cheering on some grapplers. Someone in the car let out a “holy shit!” and before we knew it we were looking for a spot.

Hell Yes!

Upon parking and further investigation, we were about to witness the FLWA Wrestling and the Dassel Church of Christ’s Bible Slam 2010. At first we stood back as mere observers afraid of being pegged as outsiders. A match had just ended and the ringmaster was announcing another FLWA event two Sundays from the day. He encouraged the audience to make the scene, while also putting an accent on the importance of going to church that day too…or at least finding some time to go to church if you were going to go to wrestling on a Sunday. With that reverent proclamation, he proclaimed that it was time for a ten-minute intermission.

A Thing of Notable Importance in Dassel

JSarah and I took this as an occasion to wander around the town. We saw a sign for the Dassel Historical Society four blocks away and made for it with excitement as a way to pass the time between bouts. We were cut off as Joe and Suli pulled up in the car and told us to get in. Joe said someone gave him the finger and he wanted to leave due to feeling unwelcome. This was a bit of a red herring. Some woman in a car gave us the finger when we didn’t know if we could cross the street as she waited for us to cross. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It wasn’t as if the townspeople were waiting to sink their pitchforks in us. JSarah and I got in the car, but convinced Joe and Suli to pull over and stay awhile. We were going to see going to catch some of Bible Slam 2010 no matter how welcome or unwelcome we were.

Before the wrestling commenced there were some announcements and the ringmaster got some volunteers to throw out some Bible Slam shirts to the audience. Joe and I hooted and hollered but still didn’t get any of the precious apparel thrown our way. Sure we could have paid $5 for one from anyone in town, but we didn’t want to give them the feeling that small town folk were so novel and we were mocking them in anyway.

Once the shirts were all distributed, the next match was announced. The Challenger/Villain Sammy Savard took to the stage and started bashing the audience and the town of “Dass-hole,”(Dasshole) Minnesota and its inhabitants with repetitive banter and insults that made you think he was just waiting for them to announce his opponent. Luckily, the FLWA champion soon arrived.

” (Paul the ?)Psycopath” arrived in a Ghostbusters-like vehicle with his face plastered on the side of it. He sat in the back seat and the driver/orderly from the Mental institution came around to let him out.  Psycopath paraded around the stage…and that’s when all hell broke loose. You can see it below.

We didn’t stay for the entire match. Things got a bit ridiculous after awhile and we had a ball of twine to see. We were so close we could almost taste the quirkiness of the upcoming roadside attraction.  Several small towns later, we found ourselves parked across the Darwin, MN Gazebo that housed the Giant ball of twine 12 ft. in diameter. It loomed quite large, but didn’t make for a great photo op since the plexiglass that protected it was entirely too reflective. If only it had been a more cloudy day.

The Sign Says It All

The Picture Doesn't Say That Much

Eager to obtain further proof of my visitation, I went to Jack’s Tavern across the street to seal this momentous occasion with a souvenir shirt. I liked quite a few of the shirt designs, but most of them were either size XXL or only available in silly colors that I would never wear. After making the poor girl behind the counter remove nearly every single shirt I was going to have to settle on buying the first Medium of any shirt she found. I threw $16 her way and off we went towards Spicer; the site where our good friend Eric would be tying the knot the very next day.

Upon our arrival at the Willow Bay Resort, we rejoined our friends who had left ahead of us and made friendly conversation with the folksy proprietor of the establishment located on beautiful Nest Lake. The owner/manager was surprised when we asked him for the key since locking the door was not such a common occurrence in them there parts.

Our cabin situated above the front office/store, had quite the homey feel with a nice view of the lake. There was a living room and kitchen area and two bedrooms, one of which had a bunkbed in addition to the queen-sized. Each cabin also came equipped with it’s own grill and fire pit. We had stumbled into a bit of a rustic paradise for what was definitely a reasonable  rate.

Our Little Slice of Minnesota Heaven

The first order of business after settling into our temporary abode was to enjoy some soft adventure on the placid lake. There were a pair of kayaks, a paddle boat, and two water-bikes for the taking. Having a bit of kayak crush, I made my selection. We had several hours to kill before a booze cruise with the bride, groom, and other guests, so the lake was our chief source of entertainment prior to grilling some dinner, during which Dan impressed everyone with his ability to duplicate (to an extent) the “Jucy Lucy.”

Dan Brings Jucy Lucy to a Simmer

Dinnersota

Class of Dinnersota '010

Once water amusement was had and patties were enjoyed, we made towards another cabin retreat where we met up to have drinks with all who would be joining us aboard the booze cruise. Some old acquaintances were on hand and some new ones made as we enjoyed a few brews in celebration of the bride and groom. The party continued as we headed out into the middle of Green Lake aboard “Cruisin’ at Melvin’s.”

Joe and Eric Go Cruisin' on Green Lake

For all the fun that goes with the idea of going on a booze cruise, the prospect looses of lot of its luster when the Booze Cruise in question carries a somewhat rank odor and resembles the infamous bug scene in Indiana Jones in Temple Doom. There were areas of the boat that were quite literally covered in creepy crawlies– the bathroom probably being the most notable.  So while people sucked down drinks and alcoholic whipped cream, their enjoyment was tempered by the fear of being chewed down to the skeleton by a swarm of various mites. Post booze cruise there was another round of drinks at the aforementioned cabins and some tumult that followed before we could effectively call it an evening.

The next morning, Sunday, bore a large resemblance to the previous day after we had arrived at the cabins; there was plenty of time for water sports and grilling prior to the wedding that was to begin at 5pm at the local Bible Camp Chapel. Being of Jewish background I always view the act of entering anything seemingly as Christian as a Bible Camp with a little bit of caution and cynicism, but the scene was both lovely and rustic. We were greeted by a babbling brook and a mini-waterfall on the way up to the chapel and when we we entered a hair late, the wedding was just set to start. Joe, JSarah, Suli and I hurried past the wedding party and found our seats near to the rest of our group and took in a wonderful ceremony that lent equal portions from both the Jewish and Lutheran (?) faith.

Some Wedding Going on or Something

The act of actually departing from inside the chapel was a little time consuming. Each row, before exiting the building was  to be received by the bride and groom while still seated in their pew. It was nice to stay seated and relax for a bit, but it was a perfect day outside and I did have a longing to enjoy the outdoors.

Once outside we were all given lacy baggies of birdseed, in lieu of rice, to toss at the newlyweds on their exit from the premises. In anticipation of the moment I undid the bow of my baggy feeling that I had it safely in hand. Within a matter of seconds my birdseed had emptied out on the floor in tragic fashion. Thankfully, someone was kind enough to lend me some of theirs so that I could load up and loft some projectiles into the hair of the bride and groom.

Bride and Groom Unknowingly Wandering Towards a Birdseed Firestorm

Bible Camp was a merely a pitstop on the road to the wedded bliss of Sunday evening. The party carried on in the small resort town of Spicer, from the shore of where it had gone mobile the previous evening. Melvyn’s on the Lake played host to the reception and also played host to what was probably the first ever dancing of the Hora in the history of Kandiyohi County. After the just married couple arrived via boat to the venue, there was a wonderful cocktail hour followed by heartfelt speeches and plentiful  dinner and dessert options; though it wasn’t until the dancing portion of the evening commenced when the wedding felt as if it were in full effect.

Behold, Jewish Folk Dancing!

It started with an awkward invitation for the attendees to witness some “Jewish Folk Dancing,” which seemed to lend with it an air of  novelty along the lines of watching walruses mate at the zoo for the non-chosen folk. The DJs had to be instructed to put the song on repeat for when the track on his CD first ended we had barely started circling the room and were not even close to lifting up the bride and groom on their respective chairs. Our mission was eventually accomplished and our heritage celebrated, but it was not without some uncomfortable pauses in the excitement.

The Elevated Portion of Jewish Folk Dancing

From there on out the wedding took on the personality of late 80’s early 90’s prom. The DJs, who were employees of 94.1 “The Loon” knew somewhat we wanted to hear, but also were not shy about accepting our requests. They seemed in awe of our uninhibited, sloppy-enthusiastic dancing. Maybe they were gearing up to put our moves on youtube or were truly captivated by the zeal with which we took to the dance floor, but I think we kind of knocked their socks off with our collective will to party and request good songs that they themselves were into.I was sober for most of the wedding, but I didn’t hold back when it came to having a good time and more or less kept myself in motion throughout.

Post-Wedding Fireside Chat

The party eventually dwindled down and it was back to the cabin for our crew which had grown to 10 in the past few hours. Rather than call it a night a few of us sat out by the firepit and drank a few beers. There was even some irresponsible lakefront high jinks as JSarah and I pedaled around the lake as a few others swam out to the floating dock.

At one point I was having a few steering issues and everyone had gone in. I found myself helplessly pedaling in a very undesirable horror movie predicament. I was waiting for some creature to emerge from the lake and mysteriously swallow me. Fortunately, I was able to wrest control of my floating bicycle and bring it safely to shore after a few minutes. Jsarah and I sat out for a few more minutes finishing our beer and then called it a good night.

I was somewhat sad to leave the Willow Bay Resort on Monday morning. Nest Lake looked so inviting upon waking up. Sitting in a kayak in the middle of it while wakeboarders hydroplaned in the not-so-distance seemed like a nice alternative to how I would’ve liked to spend my day. Alas, we had to get to Minneapolis. Our flight was leaving a little after 5pm and there was still a little we wanted to do.

After saying our teary goodbyes to our fellow temporary lake-dwellers, Suli, Joe, JSarah, and I headed out of Spicer only to be snagged by the prospect of lunch at the town Dairy Queen –where I’m pretty sure most of the employees were 13 years old. So…after Dairy Queen with high-tailed it out of Spicer, stopping only along the way to Minneapolis to take a photo of the sign for Darwin, MN.

It had also been previously decided that we were leaving Spicer at an earlier time to make an appearance at the (in)famous Mall of America, the largest Mall in the United States– if not the world. Upon our arrival at the daunting shopping complex our first task was to find the perfect parking spot. We settled on the section marked Georgia Peach where we found a juicy spot right next to the entrance. We braced ourselves for commerce and we got it in triplicate.

Suli About to Find Out How Welcome Pakistanis are at the Mall of America

The overwhelming monument to shopping boasted an impressive expanse of ways to waste your time. From an amusement park to a casino/hotel. Luckily, I didn’t find the casino in time as I’d have been content not to waste my time gazing into the various Caribou Coffee storefronts or the Minnesota Vikings locker room team shop in its stead. I may have never even found my way to the food court where I ended up deciding to dine on an underwhelming salad option.

What I regret most about my trip to the Mall of Americas is that I didn’t make it to the cheese shop or ride the roller coaster. But those are adventures reserved for another time. It’s hard to hit all of the choice emporiums when you have to wade through several incarnations of The Gap and other well-known retailers who seem to be populating an abundance of the storefronts in different wings of the shopping arena, just in case shoppers tire out and decide the north end of the mall is entirely too far of a hike and one’s purchasing pals would be better suited leaving them for dead near the Rainforest Cafe.

Who Doesn't Love the Smell of Commerce in the Afternoon?

We covered 3 of 4 mall compass points and then it was off to the airport to bid the fair state of Minnesota adieu. I’d love to say something climactic and uniquely Midwestern occurred during our wait for our Delta flight, but aside from a bit of a delay it was just standard airport fodder. I was hoping the flight would be overbooked so that I might volunteer my seat and spend a little extra time in town and possibly score a free plane ticket to anywhere in the continental US for my troubles, but there were no such announcements.

Instead we boarded our flight two hours late and arrived back in LaGuardia without a hitch. All’s well that end’s in a boring fashion I suppose. Though, I can’t say I was the least bored by Minnesota.

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The Road to 2010 and Beyond

Posted by evankessler on January 7, 2010

It’s been over a month since my words were last encoded on this here site and while I’d love to lavish some sort of exciting tale as to where I’ve been all this time,  I’m afraid  my only reasonable explanation is, “sometimes a man just needs a breather.”  After all, I’ve been writing almost every day on OneRiot and honestly don’t think my everyday existence in the month of December was worth writing home or the far corners of the world blessed with Internet access about.

To sum it up it’s been a mixture of horrible occurrences and enjoyable holiday-themed parties which thankfully drew to a close when the clock struck midnight on December 31st, 2009.  Rather than close the loop right there I’ll spare you the lowlights that closed out 2009 and keep you abreast of the positive.

December 4th– My good friends Matt and Jenny threw a wonderfully classy gala to kick off the Holiday season.  I wore a tuxedo. There were delicious little ham and cheese sandwiches and pumpkin dip.  Matt got on the floor and danced to David Bowie.  I have video. I spent a lot of time talking with Stephanie K and her boyfriend Andrew of Mahogany.  Tricia (pronounced Tree-See-Ya) from Brazil put a Pillbox hat on my head. Pictures were posed for.

Not A Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat

December 11th-Andrew M had a pretty sweet party to not only celebrate the first evening of the Choliday known as Chanukah (which I really prefer to spell Hannukah, but that was my attempt at a horribly lame Hebrew language joke) but also his preferred holiday known as Christmas.  Even though it was 14 days away we got into the Christmas spirit by drinking wine and bourbon and rockin’ around the Christmas tree with Bill M, Gigi, Laura B, Laura R, Dan F, Krissy S, and a few others. Later in the evening Dan F took his shirt off, though he lacked a proper change of costume in the form of a gorilla suit or banana suit, so he settled for some of Andrew’s clothes. Krissy also made me sing the Hannukah prayer a 2nd time.  A fun time was had buy all…photos were taken.

"On The First Night of Hannukah My True Love Gave To Me..."

Andrew Next To Dan Aykroyd In Spies Like Us

December 12th- Zak and Emma added to the total of sweet holiday bashes.  This one may have been the tops thanks to the hot toddies, backyard fire pit, and above all the yankee gift swap.  Being by the fire with a hot refreshing drink  and meeting a wonderful group of people aside…the Yankee gift swap was the star of the evening.  I ended up having the 3rd to last pick of the gift litter. Plenty of desirable gifts were traded prior to my pick including  a set of glasses from Crate & Barrell, a set of nunchucks along with some other weaponry, and a duck alarm clock.  I figured I might be trading up with someone who went before me.  There were but a few gifts left under the tree, none of which had packages that caught my eye in the early going.  So to decide I engaged in a round of eeny-meeny-miny-moe, which left me pointing to a bag.  I had previously surmised that nothing good could come in a bag, but how wrong I was as I unwrapped the gift paper surrounding my prize I was met by the fearsome brass-like head of what appeared to a cougar.  As I examined it further I came to realize that not only was I the could-be owner of a brass cougar head, but I was the could-be proud owner of a brass cougar head stapler!  Game. Set. Match.

I quietly prayed over the next 2 gifts that no one would see fit to rob me of my coveted present.  The person that followed me netted bacon jam, so I was safe…and the final gift belonged to someone who was not there…I believe.  I was in the clear.  I spent the rest of my evening carefully caressing cougarhead stapler.  The best gift of all-time.

This Coming Chinese New Year is The Year Of The Cougarhead Stapler

December 13th- On a day I hadn’t planned anything I was invited to attend the birthday Bill M, proprietor of Wasabassco Burlesque and brother of Andrew M,  at Union Hall.  I had only planned to go for one drink but was having entirely too much fun as our small crowd of friendly revelers made snide comments at the overly enthusiastic bocce players before that gave way to our play-by-play critique of a first date in-progress.  Let’s just say the girl was exhibiting very friendly body language while the guy was increasingly awkward and did not mirror said language at all.  None of us thought he would score, but Andrew was increasingly optimistic.  Unfortunately, I left before seeing anything come to fruition.

December 16th- House Hannukah Dinner- Departing roommate Sara B made latkes and applesauce which were delicious.  All 5 roommates ate dinner together and played a lengthy game of dreidel.  Matt G stubbornly refused to use any Hebrew terms throughout, instead preferring to use the english word printed on each side, which oddly didn’t correspond to the outcome of each spin.

December 17th:Home for the Holiday- Went home to Rockland with my brother and his girlfriend to exchange gifts and celebrate Mom’s birthday.  I got a shirt and some loot, not to mention heaps of delicious leftovers that I promptly polished off in the next day or so.  Mmmm…Latkes.

December 19th: Snowpocalypse 2009- The lord unleashed fury in the form of snow on the Eastern Seaboard.  We probably got between 6 and 9 inches of snow.  Rather than just sit in and watch the snow outside, I trekked through gusty winds and piles of white powder all the way to Fort Greene to celebrate Ajay’s birthday at Der Shwarze Kolner.

Surviving Snowpocalypse '09

Early on in the night I ran into my old college friend Craig D.  We caught up for a bit. Jason, Kayvalyn, Kishore and Morwin were also showed up eventually.  Later on in the evening, Kishore, Kayvalyn, Jason and I  trekked further into Fort Greene despite the threat of Tauntaun snow beasts and an ever-increasing,  treacherous amount of snow.  We went to Jason’s co-worker’s party that happened to be in some weird frat house.  It was one of the more bizarre party’s I’d been to…but that’s what happens when you’re in the midst of a snowpocalypse.

December 23rd- Trivia night at Pete’s Candy Store.  Our team “Avatarded” consisting of Myself, Suli, and Morwin nets 2nd place.  We get a free round.

December 24th- Suli and I see Avatar.  The visuals are great, the story is lame.  It’s in 3D.

Still December 24th- I got with my friend CS to a Jewish Christmas thing at a bar called Destination in the East Village.  They have a piñata that is shaped like a hundred-dollar bill.  I’m still trying to decide if this was Anti-Semitic.  On the plus side, they did offer free Chinese food.

Happy Jewish Christmas?

December 25th: Christmas Day– Watched Food Inc. and decided that Monsanto was the most evil corporation in the world.  Had Christmas dinner at Katz’s delicatessen with my brother.  A Japanese tourist came up to me because my Matzo Ball soup had piqued her curiosity.  Got home relatively early and watched The Deer Hunter for the first time ever.  Wow. That’s a powerful movie.  Avatar can suck it.

December 26th- Watched Food Inc. and decided that Monsanto was the most evil corporation in the world.
Watched Cool Hand Luke for the first time ever.  Another powerful movie.  Avatar can still suck it.

December 29th- My friend Joe bought a house in Pearl River.  Suli, Rich, Lina, and I went to Pearl River to see his new house. In other news, my friend is grown up enough to have his own house with a wife, a front yard and fridge full of Hot Pockets.  You know, the works.

December 30th- Hung out with my friend Victor’s friends who were visiting from Spain in Williamsburg.  Good times and a good opportunity to practice mi espanol.  Unfortunately, I have no photos.

New Year’s Eve- The day started early as Eric, Laura B, and I got the house ready for the party.  Actually, it was mostly Eric and Laura B.  I had the difficult task of making a musical mix for the evening in addition to the brownies I baked. Laura did a fantastic job of decorating the kitchen with ornaments and making some sort of weird apple rum punch.  Eric made a 22 lb turkey with stuffing and gravy amongst other things.  He also made pizza rolls.  Maureen, in from LA, came over early and helped out with said pizza rolls.

The crowd started rolling in some time after 9 to ring in the new year.  We tried to make a fire pit on the deck but the rain quashed that dream.  The party however was a rousing success.  Dick Clark was back on the air, Katie H announced her pregnancy, Maureen made up a list of everyone who was going to appear on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ eve including Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Champagne was spilled all over Laura B’s room.  The Black Eyed Peas performed too many times from Vegas.  Jason, Kayvalyn, Suli and Andy showed up after midnight.  My good friend Brian who lives in Idaho showed up around 3am with his girlfriend Jess.  We met up with friends at Union Hall and closed down the bar.  Before it was all over I determined that 2010 would be the year I do it for the ladies, which led to this enduring image.

2010! The Year I Do It For The Ladies

January 1st- New Year’s Day Hangover.  Brunch at Stone Park for 14.  Mmm… Pork Belly B-L-T.   Later that evening…My first time at Bull McCabe’s in probably 8 years to hang out with Jess I and Mike G, who had just been married the week before but would be celebrating their wedding the next day in Ft. Greene.

January 2nd- Housewarming Brunch at Lauren and Rosario’s in Ft. Greene although Ajay and I had already warmed said apartment 5 or 6 month’s earlier.  A small crowd was on hand to drink mimosas and compliment Lauren on her flavorful salsa.

In the evening it was back to Ft. Greene this time dressed to the 9’s, but not in a tuxedo (I consider that 10’s) for Jess and Mike’s wedding dinner.  I spent a lot of time talking  to Brian,Jess, and Marika as well as Jess’s friend Frances, who I hadn’t seen in many years.  I spent a good portion of the latter part of the party convincing Jaime W-G to give her maid of honor speech she had prepared.  She kept hoping it would go away, but I kept bringing up to everyone she was talking to so she wouldn’t get off the hook.  She wrote a wonderful speech, it would be a shame if it had gone to waste.

Jaime W Speechifies The Room

I Call This One Married Couple in Black and White

Frances drove me to the bar after in her car, but as we walked to her car to make the drive I noticed lights on a car in front of us turn on.  I thought this was Frances’s car that she had just unlocked… it wasn’t.  I opened the passenger side door to see an African-American woman with a look of confusion painted on  her face as she talked on her phone.  I quickly shut the door, realizing I wasn’t getting in that automobile.  Frances had a honda.  She drove us safely to High Dive for some drinks after the party. A few drinks were had and then we all went our separate ways.

January 5th- Brian and his girlfriend Jess came in and we went to Dinosaur BBQ for dinner.  Sweet…sweet Dinosaur BBQ.

Alright, that about catches me up to present day. Onward and upward.  2010! Let’s go hang out in the den.

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Think Globally, Wed Locally

Posted by evankessler on October 6, 2009

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The merry peal of wedding bells echoed along the tree-lined streets and off the distinguished brownstone facades of Park Slope this past weekend.  Friday night brought the long awaited nuptials of my good friends Matt and Jenny.  As far as I’m concerned, Matt and Jenny have been married since I’ve known them, which is to say I don’t know anything other than them existing as a couple.  They’re also one of the more pleasant couples to be around  as they’ve never given an off that overly attached vibe.  While they complete each other, they’re also equally as wonderful in an individual sense.  I suppose that last fact makes their union even more charmed, as you couldn’t wish a better mate for two lovelier people.

I remember the day several months back at Rope in Fort Greene when Matt announced to me and Arby his honorable intentions.  He was so sure of himself and so excited to be reaching this grown up chapter in his life.  It was as if he developed tunnel vision staring directly at his wedding day, knowing exactly what it would be like down to every last detail on the wedding ring.

I was a little taken aback by the short span of their engagement since usually you get more time to digest these stages, but I suppose when a couple has been together as long as the couple in question, throwing a year in between calling yourself engaged or husband and wife is just additional time best left for other things.

As I walked towards the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on an absolutely beautiful Friday evening in the fall, I had the feeling that I was walking into a storybook.  The perfect couple, the perfect place on a perfect night.  Unfortunately, I forgot to pick the perfect place to enter the ceremonial grounds.

Minutes before shipping myself off to the wedding site, I had been offered a ride with Arby, Megan, Robert and Courtney to the grounds.  I declined figuring it was the perfect night to walk and I’d really only have to walk between five to ten minutes down the road.  Passing by the Grand Army Arch and Brooklyn Public Library along Eastern Parkway, I came to the entrance of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  There were several ticket windows open.  I walked up to one of them and notified the worker that I was there for the wedding.  The worker waved me in neglecting to tell me that the wedding was on an entirely different side of the park.  I spent the next ten minutes or so aimlessly wandering the premises trying to figure out where everyone was.  Part of me figured that I must be early, while the other part of me knew that I was a long way from witnessing any wedded bliss.

After a spate of back and forth calls with Arby, I came to the realization that I had used an entrance on another side of the Garden.  I quickly reversed field leaving from whence I came and walking a shorter distance than expected to the Washington Avenue entrance to the brilliantly welcoming garden grounds.  Upon my entry I was immediately directed to the whereabouts of the reception.  I was ensured that I was in the correct place when Jeff G emerged from the area where the ceremony would be taking place with a brief flash of the finger guns.

Just like that I was immersed in a sea of friendly faces dressed to the nines for the special occasion.  Arby, Robert, Courtney, Abbi, Zak, Emma, Andrew P, Alix, and many others were enjoying their first sweet taste of wedding bliss as shaped by a champagne flute.  Rather than jump directly into the land of alcoholic indulgence I decided to pace myself with a splash of sparkling water.  I didn’t want to get myself in trouble too early.  It had been a few days since I’d tempted a rise in my blood alcohol content on account of an illness the result of either a 48 hour bug or food poisoning seemingly kicked only  minutes before departure.

Somewhere during my glass of Pellegrino the wedding planner beckoned the guests t0 please take their seats as Matt’s bandmate Rich coolly played some Steely Dan songs throughout the process of getting everyone situated.  Arby and I took to the back row as we had many times before in Music industry classes back in Syracuse University, though this time we were not armed with pencils and crosswords, just a desire to not be too front and center.

The wedding party entry seemed to happen rather fast.  Matt seemed to cruise non chalantly down to the wonderful willow tree reserved as scenic mark of matrimony, the “I do” spot if you will (and you will).  Next came Marie (from what I can recall), the maid of honor and Jenny with her father to give her away.

Here Comes The Bride

Here Comes The Bride

Lovely Setting For A Wedding

Lovely Setting For A Wedding

Doing the officiating was their friend Dan, who though not a religious minister of any sort had gone through the necessary pains to be ordained and have authority invested in him by the state of New York.  Dan read from a thankfully non-religious, but nonetheless lovely nuptial script, though a good deal of his dialogue and the couple’s mimicry of his orders got lost in the sounds of whipping autumn wind through the trees.  Adding to the proceedings, Matt’s sister Brooke read a poem, as did Jeff G.  Jeff’s poem struck me funny as it was mostly romantic, but the first line of “now you are mine” was read in almost a terroristic sense, like a film villain declaring that he’s finally got his arch nemesis exactly where he wants him.

The Newlyweds Make Their Way Up The Aisle As Man and Wife

The Newlyweds Make Their Way Up The Aisle As Man and Wife

Nothing, however, could mar the setting and the reason we were there though as two excellent people that I think the world of ultimately tethered themselves to one another with the bond of marriage.  Once that was done, all bets were off.  It was time to celebrate.

It still took me a while to morph into celebration mode.  Still feeling a bit uneasy about my physical state I first cautiously nipped at the hors d’oeuvres with ginger ale in hand before upping the ante to champagne.  Caution thrown into the wind, and the wind certainly blowing the night got off to a more relaxed than rollicking start.  After moving the festivities to the lovely reception room the food was delivered in rapid fire succession in the midst of a few speeches and first dances.  Matt didn’t let his first dance with his new bride go by without one of his trademark leg kicks. That was followed by the best man speech delivered by Pete and a Maid of Honor speech delivered by Marie.

First Dance Pre Leg Kick

First Dance Pre Leg Kick

Just after the former and before the latter I was making a comment to slight bag of nerves that was Marie as she was about to get up to give her speech.  While erratically grabbing my champagne glass I managed to fumble my drink sending a wave of bubbly over my face and some splashing on the soon to be speaking maid of honor.  The entire absurdity of the brief happening seemed to loosen Marie up and pave the way for a more than memorable speech.  Not to shine a light on my clumsiness, but I was glad I could help.

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Jenny Dances With Her Dad

Matt As Mama's Boy

Matt As Mama's Boy

After a good period of culinary fulfillment featuring the likes of Cornish Game Hen  conversation with my stellar tablemates  about the artistic musical format known as the LP gave way to an all out 80’s dance party, with a few classic oldies thrown in for good measure.  The youthful contingent jumped onto the dancefloor and made sure the evening was a lively one.  I assume Matt had a big hand in putting the music playlist together because there was not a bad song in the lot.  Megan and I had a nice, yet mournful slow dance moment as we paid tribute to the fallen Patrick Swayze during Unchained Melody.

Marie and Aleks in the Throes of Dance Party 2009!

Marie and Aleks in the Throes of Dance Party 2009!

One unfortunate hiccup befell the party during this jolly portion of the evening.  Marie notified the crowd that the karaoke guy that had been secured for the post-reception entertainment had to cancel due to a death in the family.  While we understood, we were also extremely disappointed.

Negative news aside, there was a welcome break from the frenetic dance pace as  Matt helped answer the somewhat existential question of…”if you have a band…and you get married, does your band play at the wedding?”  The answer…Yes.  Matt and his bandmates in Mahogany took to the floor and banged out several stellar songs much to the delight of the audience.  Ever the showman, he groom did his share of on his knees writhing so as to ensure the audience that this indeed was still  his day.

Mahogany: All Dressed Up

Mahogany: All Dressed Up

While Mahogany’s performance seemed to spell the near end of the festivities the party was to rage on downstairs at Union Hall.  Splitting several cars to the bar on Union Street, we all met ready to continue our merrymaking ways, but with little in the way of organized entertainment.  While Karaoke would’ve given us our second wind, the party without it seemed to be a futile slog through the evening save for an extremely lovely tribute to the couple Arby edited together that we were able to show on the screen of the venue.

Having refrained from hardcore boozing for a large portion of the night, I wasn’t quite where everyone was.  People were very tipsy to say the least.  I could tell the night was winding down solely on the lack of balance displayed by some of the revellers.  This was the sign of a successful wedding.  Smiling faces and a worrisome wobble.  The night would soon come to an end and I wandered the few blocks home after a pleasant evening experiencing another blissful union.

The rest of the weekend wasn’t so eventful.  I ditched out on a baby shower on Saturday on account of feeling under the weather and I watched football Sunday.  I didn’t feel like I missed anything either.  Nothing would’ve compared to such a perfect Friday evening.

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Thailand Day 3-7: The Reason We’re Here

Posted by evankessler on December 30, 2008

A lot has happened since I last wrote .  The rehearsal dinner for Jayvalyn’s wedding Saturday evening (Saturday Morning-NY Time) allowed for merriment poolside at the Royal Suites hotel.  There was an array of tasty Thai food and wine.  Speeches were made and a general good time was had.  It was also the first time several of our other New York friends such as Flosario and Enisha made their presence felt on Thai soil.

Enisha's Debut Appearance on our Thai Adventure

Enisha's Debut Appearance on our Thai Adventure

More Delectable Thai Treats

A Mix of Delectable Thai Treats

The strangest part of the evening was the selected soundtrack, which we think was put together by Kayvalyn’s brother, or maybe he just gave directions to the DJ.  The entirety of the evening’s musical selections consisted of easy listening cover versions of past popular hits.    I didn’t realize this until halfway into dinner  when after recognizing a soothing version of Prince’s “Kiss”, I walked towards the buffet table only to be intercepted by Jason’s dad, who then asked me who was singing the current song.  I told him what the track in question was and he remarked something along the lines of, “oh, that’s why I know it.”.  The song that immediatedly followed was a slowed down ballad-y version of “Funkytown.”  I made sure to notify Jason’s dad and from that point on I realized that those were not the only two weird covers and that in fact, each successive song fit that mold.

Having had a good amount of wine made falling asleep and getting more in step with the 12 hour time difference a good deal easier for the next day.  Having arrived at Sunday the 28th of December , the stage was set for wedded bliss, better known as the entire reason for our trip to Thailand in the first place.  Before things got ceremonial, however, they got edible.  Breakfast was served in the lobby restaurant yet again and even more familiar faces made their Thailand debuts.  Ken, Andy, and Jeff had flown in the previous evening and were ready to join in the ritual revelry.

We weren’t set to explore the city some more before the big event.  Jason and Kayvalyn thought it unwise if we were to get lost and not make it back to the hotel in time to catch the shuttle to the church.  Instead we would be having our bodies explored and stretched to their limits by masters in the art of traditional Thai Massage at Healthland.

We left the hotel lobby at 10am and were whisked away to two hours of being pampered.  Actually, it was more like two hours of having someone’s elbow pressing into your groin while simultaneously kneading your calves, but in the end it felt absolutely wonderful.   Before we went in for the operation, the ten participants, including myself, were treated to some sort of flower-flavored water.  They made us take off our shoes and provided us with some official Healthland sandals.  .

At that point the ten of us, Flosario, Miller, Morwin, Ken, Andy, Jeff, Justin, and Meghan were led into three separate rooms.  My room included Jeff and Andy and three masseuses who in body English directed us to to our massage mattresses, which were simple, firm, twin mattresses placed on the ground.  It sounds a bit seedy, like a heroin addict’s apartment, but it was actually very clean and comfortable.

We were then handed a change of clothes that more or less resembled outfits that might be worn by a boy band shooting a video on the beach.  It took us a while to figure out which was the front of our pants and how to tie the drawstrings, but once that was sussed out we were ready to go. Soon enough our professional muscle stretchers came back into the room and had us lay with our backs on the mat…and just like that, we were off.

Andy and Jeff in The Video for Their Smash Hit, "Girl I Want To Be With You This Summer"

Andy and Jeff in The Video for Their Smash Hit, "Girl I Want To Be With You This Summer"

My Thai Massage Machine unsympathetically explored my muscled contours starting with the toes, making sure to crack each one.  She then slowly worked her way up my legs towards the groin area.  Once there my valuables were delicately moved aside a few times as my leg was put in a position that equaled my maximum threshold for flexibility.  An elbow then applied steady pressure to my groinage in such a way that I would not have to double over in pain.  My vitals were spared and my tendons and ligaments were beginning to feel surprisingly limber.  Meanwhile on the other side of the room there was a lot of chatter.  Andy’s masseuse was tossing him around quite freely and remarking about the size of his feet, or so he thought.

The massage of the left and right legs each took about a half hour each.  Before we flipped over Andy’s masseuse asked him if he wanted to go to the “Hong Nam.” Jeff and I took this as our cue to head out to the bathroom as well as I had had to pee the entire first hour of the massage and was worried that should I feel too relaxed I might just urinate all over the place.

Luckily that didn’t happen and we returned once again to our respective beds and had our flesh kneaded and  pressed.  Elbows ran along the frames of our musculature and when it was all over, we felt great. Before our time at Healthland was through we were treated to one more amenity in the form of a soothing cup of tea.  It was all quite the bargain way to spend the late morning/early afternoon in the throes of relaxation.  Just over $14 to be treated like a king or rag doll depending on your circumstance for two hours.  ‘Tis not bad.

With just under an hour and a half until the shuttle bus left for the wedding, we arrived back at Royal Suites.  Ken, Miller, Morwin, and I set about finding a little food shack before getting ready, as we were all pretty hungry and we weren’t quite sure how long the ceremony would last, and just when we’d be eating next.   We walked about five minutes down the road and found a meagerly accommodating restaurant of sorts tended by an effeminate Thai man wearing pink nail polish.  Before we realized he didn’t speak any English, we had already sat down. When we tried to tell him we wanted chicken, he couldn’t understand and had to fetch a neighbor to take our order, but when all was said and done and we had been served our four orders of Chicken with Basil and chilies; it was quite enjoyable.

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Last Minute Chowdown

The only downside was that we had 50 minutes to get ready for the wedding.  However, being a men and not resigned to looking perfect, we were ready with plenty of time to spare.

Waiting in the lobby we were greeted by Eric S and his friend Judy.  They had been to a wedding in Chiang Mai a few days before, so they stayed in Thailand to make it to Jayvalyn’s affair.  It was excellent to see Eric as I had completely forgotten that he would be attending.  It’s always nice to have another familiar face around in a foreign land.

Soon enough, the majority of the wedding guests had made it downstairs and a few shuttle vans took us to the Church which seemed relatively far away.  We arrived to find a rather pristine building with a large Christmas tree in front at the end of a dirt road in what seemed like a more rural suburban area.

Eric Finds Jesus and Father Christmas at the Same Time

Eric Finds Jesus and Father Christmas at the Same Time

Flosario's Glamorous Arrival

Flosario's Glamorous Arrival

The Groom and Family Arrive With The Best Man in Tow

The Groom and Family Arrive With The Best Man in Tow

We stood around for about 45 minutes as Miller and Ken practiced fighting techniques in formal wear. The priest arrived and spoke to a few groups of people.  I was sort of hoping the backup priest would be officiating as the stringer had been afflicted with the shingles days earlier and the bench warmer was supposed to be a really famous preacher named Father Joe.  Oh well, we didn’t get to be in the presence of a prestigious prostheltyzer, but things worked out just fine.

It's Ken!

It's Ken!

Vs. Miller!  The Battle Rages In Our Hearts and Will Eventually Spill Over Into The Ring

Vs. Miller! The Battle Rages In Our Hearts and Will Eventually Spill Over Into The Ring

The building itself was wonderfully clean with lots of natural light spilling in to complement that which was unnatural.  Jesus loomed over the altar from on high with an abnormally large head that made him look like “The Buddy Christ” from the film Dogma.

The Watchful Eye of The Buddy Christ

The Watchful Eye of The Buddy Christ

The ceremony itself was rather beautiful.  Two great friends finally cementing their relationship after about seven years of being together. If I was listing the two biggest highlights of the event it would probably be the entrances and subsequent walking down the aisle to an organ rendition of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” and Kayvalyn messing up the beginning of her vows by stating, “I, Jason.”

Man and Wife Take A Flower Shower

Man and Wife Take A Flower Shower

Once the ceremony ended it was back into the shuttle and off to the reception.  The site of the party was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  It was actually some rich guy’s ridiculous house.  It didn’t actually seem like someone’s home, but more like a movie set.  It made me think of one of those criminal mastermind compounds like Victor Maitland’s in Beverly Hills Cop or wherever Schwarzenegger rescued Alyssa Milano from in Commando.  I half expected henchmen with machine guns to pop up as we approached the breathtaking, largely open air space.   I would’ve taken pictures of the entire place, but they couldn’t possibly have done it justice.

Judy Arrives at The Colossal Wedding Compound

Judy and Eric Arrive at The Colossal Wedding Compound

The evening was an entirely splendid affair, but not very dancy.  Thai people apparently don’t love to shake themselves around.  Our lively group tried to get things going at some point towards the end.  Jayvalyn finally had their first dance, Jason’s parents were cutting up rugs and Kayvalyn’s American cousins were certainly involved on the dance floor along with myself Andrea, and Andy. I danced with the groom’s mother for a bit, though “spun Jason’s mom repeatedly” is probably a more accurate description.  I can’t tell if I had her convinced I was a good dancer, but perhaps.

The First Dance

The First Dance

A Photo of Me Dancing in An Embarrassing Manner With Kayalyn and Andrea

A Photo of Me Dancing in An Embarrassing Manner With Kayalyn and Andrea

Andy and Andrea gave the best man/maid of honor speech together, finishing one another’s sentences and cutting into  anecdotes like a lounge act.  It was completely improvised after Enisha put the kaibosh on the original speech topic which had an anecdote about a certain incident involving urination that was deemed to not exactly be in the realm of good taste according to the senses of humor of many in attendance.

Jayvalyn React to the Best Man/Maid of Honor Speech

Jayvalyn React to the Best Man/Maid of Honor Speech

I somehow ended up sitting next to the newlywed couple during the duo’s dynamic spewing of kind words and remembrances, so there’s a good chance I’ll be in the midst of a lot of wedding photos, though I didn’t purposely position myself to be embedded in the memories of their special day.

It wasn’t terribly late when the wedding drew to a close, but before it did we got in a few more toasts or shouts of “Chayo!” to the couple in a little sidebar in a well-lit nook of the party house.

Nook Photo #1

Nook Photo #1

The Andy C. and Jeff show

Nook Numero Dos: The Andy C. and Jeff show

Chayo!

Chayo!

Prior to hopping back on the shuttle bus, Jason’s dad asked us what we’d be doing after the wedding.  He still wanted to hang out and drink for a bit.  He suggested meeting poolside at the hotel with a few beers from our room.

On the ride back to the Royal Suites, we popped in a Kung Fu Movie with Thai subtitles which we had been watching on our way over to the reception.  Since it wasn’t in English we entertained ourselves by inserting our own dialogue.  It was  a fun way to pass the time while our driver fought his way through the brutal Bangkok traffic.

When we finally made it back to our temporary residence, Jeff, Andy, and I checked by the pool for Jason’s dad but to no avail.  Rather than keep the party going, we went to bed.

The next morning (Monday) I was slightly hung over but worked myself over it at the hotel gym.  Afterwords I went for a swim along with Ken and Andy.  Unfortunately, my ear has since become clogged with either wax or water, hampering my hearing abilities.  This usually happens about twice a year and I have yet to unclog it without a doctor.    I was a little worried about the blockage coming so early in the trip but I guess I’m just going to have to deal with it.

Regardless of my ear’s condition, Monday was to be the last full day in Bangkok before heading to the beach at Koh Lanta.  There was plenty we could do in a city as large as Bangkok, but we decided on visiting the Grand Palace where the King lives.

That's One Grand Palace

That's One Grand Palace

It was a very dudes kind of day as myself, Ken, Jeff, Andy, Miller, and Morwin took off in two cabs and found orselves at the palace some time around 11am.  We walked around snapping photos of wonderfully detailed structures, murals, statues, and greenery.  I probably took the most classless tourist photo in history though no further detail is necessary.

This Is Not The Most Classless Photo in Tourist History...But It Is Semi-Cheesy and Sort of Stupid

This Is Not The Most Classless Tourist Photo in History

We went into 2 weapons museums within the walls, the first of which was overwrought with pikes, lances, swords, and axes; all of which seemed repeat throughout the room.  It was an impressive, yet somewhat redundant display of arms.  The second was more of the same, but with pistols, revolvers and other types of guns.  Ken geeked out a bit noting that the Mauser Pistol was the inspiration for the Star Wars guns.

Waiting outside the museum I was chatted up by an Aussie woman with a deformed hand.  I know it sounds horribly insensitive but I am severely uncomfortable around people with deformities.  I think it goes back to being in Hong Kong as a child and seeing a guy with a bone pretty much sticking out of his back. It’s probably not all that uncommon, but even if I’m not sure if someone has a deformed limb, I begin to imagine something amputated even if they are just holding their hand behind back.  I don’t really know why that freaks me out so much.  It didn’t stop me from making conversation of anything, but I did feel consciously fixated on it even though I didn’t make it obvious.

Anyway, after having our run of the palace, we all went to the local market to grab a bite to eat.  The stand we chose had the widest array of Thai culinary choices and  they even allowed us a taste before settling on our final choice.  I picked yet another chicken dish, though some people made bolder choices.  Either way, I was happy with what I ordered.

A Cornucopia of Culinary Options

A Cornucopia of Culinary Options

With lunch firmly entrenched in our bellies and our stomachs handling the ingredients with much fortitude, we perused the market a little longer.   A few additional dishes were sampled.  Andy had Octopus balls.  I don’t think they were actual testicles of an Octopus, they were just pieces of Octopus rolled into a ball.

When our market adventure ended it was on to Wat Pho to see the Reclining Buddha, a ridiculously large sideways gold statue that took up more or less an entire temple.  The odd part about some of the Buddhist shrines were the donation jars.  Wat Pho had some sort of line of ritual donation bowls where people would drop change in each one as an offering to the Buddha.  I’m not so clear on the tenets of the Thai’s particular mode of Buddhism, or most modes of Buddhism for that matter, but my previous understanding of the beliefs system was that according to the Buddha “Being is Nothingness” not a monetary pursuit.  So then what good would offerings of money to the Buddha do.  Maybe it’s a show to the Buddha that they don’t require monetary possessions and therefore they are offering it to the Buddha as a show of their respect for his teachings.  I don’t have any good answer.

The Buddha In Relax Mode

The Buddha In Relax Mode

Anyway, after seeing big Buddha bless his disciples, we made a decision to get lost.  We wandered a few blocks looking for a bar to grab a drink but ended up in the electronics district where Miller kept stopping to look for plug converters in each store.  This was only slightly annoying.

Our aimless plight succumbed to the realization that we were not in an area heavily populated with  drinking establishments.  After getting a call from Kayvalyn we planned to meet up with her and Jason at Khao San road, the popular backpacker area of Bangkok.  Ken, Andy, and Jeff hopped into a Tuk-Tuk to get there.  Morwin, Miller & I decided against that route as we had heard that Tuk-Tuks were liable to take you anywhere but where you wanted to go.  They’d take you to a tailor store, a jewelry shop, or anywhere that sold valuable curios that tourists are wont to buy when forced to.  So rather than subject ourselves to such a fate, the three of us jumped in a cab after a slight bit of hardship hailing one.  We eventually hailed one and he charged us 100 baht for the trip which only ended up being a few blocks to the tourist haven which was more or less a glorified street fair for Americans in the midst of Thai tailor shops, massage parlors and bars.

...And Most Importantly, McDonald's

...And Most Importantly, McDonald's

The six of us quickly found each other on the road and settled down at a place called Silk bar.  After spotting a table with a looming tower of beer, rather than order individual pints, we ordered one of those towers of Singha Beer for ourselves.   We sat there for a bit sharing some beer and some laughs and listening to six Tracy Chapman songs that seemed to be playing on a loop.  They wouldn’t have been our optimal choice for musical entertainment at the moment, but you play with the cards you’ve been dealt.  We kept joking that Tracy Chapman was actually playing on the corner repeating the same six songs over and over again….”Give me one reason to stay here…and I’ll turn right back around.”

Singha Tower of Power

Singha Tower of Power

Jayvalyn joined us towards the end of the tower and we headed to another bar where we had even more food and I partook in at least two large Changs before leaving.  We met up with Andy C and Tracy and had dinner at a restaurant on the water somewhere before closing out the night at another bar, again with a heaping helping of Chang.  The plan was to not stay out too late since the very next morning we were leaving for the tropical island of Koh Lanta.

The next morning I awoke at 6:15am.  The shuttle was leaving at 8, and our flight to Krabi at 10:30am out of Subvarnhumi airport.  Everything was more or less clockwork despite the sheer volume of people traveling.   We made it with plenty of time to spare, checked in, and went through security. The only hiccup on that end was that my bottle of Thai Whiskey got confiscated, but other than that it was smooth sailing amid a minor hangover.

To satisfy my hunger and thirst I got a water and some Men’s Pocky.  I don’t know why the Pocky was for Men, but I made it abundantly clear, no chicks could partake.

This Pocky Is pH Balanced For A Man

This Pocky Is pH Balanced For A Man

The plane ride to Krabi was a breeze and the two ferry’s to Koh Lanta just as easy.  We rode a floating parking lot or two between to reach two different islands and subsequently the Relax Bay resort.  The only problem was that when our van arrived, I went to the front desk to check in only to find that my and Morwin’s room reservation was lacking.  The manager was accommodating however, and drove us in the back of his pickup to Mook Lanta, 100 feet down the road.

Ken, Morwin, and I split a bungalow for 2000 Baht a night…about $19 a night per person.  Aside from not being directly on the beach our spot was perfectly lovely and even though we were paying less we had an air conditioned room that would serve as a perfectly lovely location for recharging in between the days of hanging out on the beach.

After getting situated we rejoined the bulk of our party back at Relax Bay for a large lunch, during which we saw a wedding taking place on the beach.  The bride and groom both dressed in white walked along before a minister and a guy playing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” on guitar.  We all applauded when the knot was tied and then went for a swim in the sea.

Miller Being Miller by The Bonfire

Miller Being Miller by The Bonfire

Sittin' Down By The Fire

Sittin' Down By The Fire

One thing led to another and before we knew it we were drinking by a bonfire in the evening with two pale blond unsupervised  South African children named Jack and Paige keeping a constant supply of flammable material on hand so our party did not die.  At around 9pm myself, Jason, Kayvalyn, Andy, Morwin, Miller, Jeff, Ken, and Meghan found ourselves at a tiny restaurant on the beach eating Thai specialties one at a time as there was only one cook.

The way it worked was that one person would finish their meal, we would wait a few minutes, then came the next person’s food.  They’d finish, we’d wait a few minutes, then would come the next person’s food…They’d finish…We’d wait a few more minutes…and so on.   In between we’d hear bouts of the cook yelling at the waiter.   It was ridiculous, but also amusing.

The Waiting Game

The Waiting...and Then Eating...And Then Waiting Game

During the evening we also saw two lanterns shot into the sky.  Jason told us that this was done to honor the dead.  It reminded me of balloon day at Camp Westmont, when we  launched a balloon with a postcard attached in the hopes of having it returned from an exotic locale so we could win a visit to said exotic locale.  I once received my postcard back from Oneida, New York, but never told anyone because I had no desire to visit there.  If only it had landed on a beach in Thailand.

The night from that point ended pretty unremarkably, but it’s New Year’s Eve (not quite yet in NY), so there’s high hopes for good fun after a day of relaxation…or should I say relaxasian.

Posted in beach, Thailand, Travel, vacation, Weddings, Weekday Recap, Weekend Recap | 1 Comment »

The Pitfalls of Success

Posted by evankessler on September 6, 2007

I’d like to take this moment to apologize to the regular readers of EvanKessler.com who have been expecting a weekend recap of my labor day weekend over the past few days. Due to a hectic work schedule and the culmination of the long journey that was the “If I Blog It They Will Come”, I’ve been unable to uphold to my obligation to my own personal musings and meanderings.


Now if Kevin Costner would only look at this blog.


Once I finally get around to posting it, it will probably be called, “Ithaca is Weddings” playing on the “Ithaca is Gorges” slogan but making a lot less sense. It will feature pictures from a family weekend in Central New York at the wedding of a life long friend to his mate of 11 years, as well as photos from a ping pong party the day before the trip. I know the anticipation is killing you, but for now it’s back to work.

Posted in Kevin Costner, Weddings, work | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »