Category Archives: Inspired by wine

Wine snob

I started a new job in June. When you’re thinking about taking a new job, you think about the actual work involved and what they are going to pay you and if there is free food, but all that goes out the window on your first day when you realize you’re the new kid and you have no friends at this place.  So I was pretty pumped to get an invitation  from one of my new co-workers regarding a wine party at her house.  She said all we had to do is bring our favorite bottle of red.  I felt like that was a sign from God that I had finally arrived in the right place because red wine and I are closer than Jada and Marc Anthony were last week. Red wine is my fucking specialty.

This party would give me a chance to introduce BD to all my new co-workers and in turn, I would get to meet their spouses.  I always hate when you know someone at work forever and you’ve never met their spouse.  Because really, there is nothing more interesting and shocking to me on God’s green earth than meeting your co-workers’ spouses. Well, and that Charlie Sheen continues to find crazies to have his children.

I always create this detailed idea in my mind about what my coworkers’ spouses look like.  Dudes that I would have dated when I was single I imagine with really hot, cool wives.  Dudes that I are d-bags? They have super ugly, dumpy wives.  And the cool women I work with have hot hubbies and the bitchy ones have gay husbands.  Unfortunately, my track record on guessing what someone’s spouse is like is about as good as Kirstie Allie’s on staying away from ice cream.  Suffice to say there are a lot of clown couples in this world. But these type of parties generally have me sitting back and marveling to myself (before two glasses of wine) about how on earth some total zero landed his wife and then after two glasses I marvel to my colleagues about it. Needless to say, I have had my fair share of CLMs (career limiting moves) at parties such as these.

But I’m pretty pumped for this party because BD and I will have to go into the city for this one, which is like a bona fide, full-on real date like the kind we had before we produced our litter.  I mean, the babysitter is going to have to stay until after 10pm. After 10 pm!  I’m going to miss the beginning of Saturday Night Live! Aww, yeah. Big pimpin’ baby.

I need to take this seriously. The wine choice is paramount. The instructions were to “bring your favorite bottle of red”.  I felt some pressure. I mean, I drink a half bottle of red wine every damn night. And that is kind of an expensive and time consuming habit, because I’m kind of particular about the alcohol I imbibe. I have spent hours in agonizing over wine choices at the liquor store – finding good ones under $15 is an art. An art! (which, fortunately, I have mastered).

While we’re on that subject: let me just tell the 12 of you who read this whole Internet that those $9.99 bottles with the Kangaroo on them? Are shit. You already know that, right? When people bring that to my house as a hostess gift I want to just smash it on the doorstep the second I see it.  Not out of anger, but just because I could kill two birds with one stone: my dehydrated hydrangeas would finally be watered and I could quickly and safely dispose of that toxic waste before my children were exposed.   The issue is that you can’t even re-gift the shit, because as a wine snob, I sure as hell am not going to give that to someone I actually like and/or respect.  So really, the only thing that kind of wine is good for is donating to the crazy homeless alcoholics who hang out at the local food pantry along with my expired garbanzo beans to find someone who can really appreciate that shit together, or smashing it on my doorstep as soon as it is presented by people who clearly hate me.  Or don’t know me at all. Cue the Weepies.

But back to the momentous situation at hand: my wine selection. I’m terrified if everybody brings their favorite bottle, that might mean that we drink them in some sort of order and if I actually bring my favorite I’ll become pretty surly if it’s like the bottle people drink after they are already smashed and they don’t know what the hell they are doing.  On the other hand, if I just bring my everyday go-to $13.99 bottle, I might look like I’m unsophisticated and don’t really know the difference between the wine you get drunk on every night versus the wine you get drunk on on your anniversary.

So I discussed with BD and he suggested the bottle of wine we always ordered at our favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago (word up, Via Veneto).  It cost $65 there, but its only about $25 in real life at the liquor store.  I liked his idea.  The wine had some sentimental cache for us, plus if we would routinely pay $65 for it, it had to be insanely great, right?  The decision was made and I was okay with it.  It’s an awesome wine, but not too expensive so if it gets opened last, I’m not going to shed tears all over the place. Not like I would if I had brought my true fave and people didn’t bow down and worship it like Bobby loves Whitney. So we went with it – the David Bruce Petite Sirah — the very wine I happen to be guzzling sipping as I write this.

The big night arrives. I dress up our wine. Well, as much as I’m capable of dressing up anything. It had a paper bag on it. It was a sparkly purple one with some bling that I felt was a nice nod to Martha Stewart and Jay-Z together. I found it in a drawer somewhere and wondered if perhaps the Artist Formerly known as Prince had once presented me with a hostess gift? Not sure.  Anyway, that is about as crafty as I get,  so it was kind of a big deal for me.  We show up and I’m still a tad nervous because I’ve only worked with these people a month and I don’t know what they’re really like.  They seem pretty cool at work. Maybe a little too intense for my taste,  but good people nonetheless.

So we get there a half hour “late”, but we were the first people there, so right off the bat? Dorks.  So much for being fashionable.  Then the hostess tells us to write our name on the bottle and then to wrap it in a plain paper bag. Well, maybe this is for the best because I’m starting to really regret my sparkly purple bag. The sooner it disappears, the better.  I’m totally back in junior high with a fucking Timex and Lee mom jeans when everyone else has Guess and Swatch.

I’m shaken from my insecurity by the news that at this party, we’re having a blind tasting where everyone submits their wine and they all look the same in the paper bags and then we rate each bottle.  PLUS, we put $5 in a pot and then whoever wins for best wine wins the pot.  And I can’t stand to lose. I don’t care what the competition is (well, except if it involves running, swimming, biking or all three) — I’m going to fucking win.  You know, this was almost unfair.  I mean, I am the queen of wine and even though I didn’t bring my favorite, we brought a fucking contender. Surely some ass clown will bring the stupid $9.99 wine referenced above, and even those who don’t will likely bring a terrible bottle because nobody has the sophisticated taste for red wine that I have so carefully honed the last 15 years.

So an hour later, the place is packed and for once in my life, everybody’s spouse matches. They all turn out to be kind of awesome and beautiful and there are no clown couples to be found.  Because OMG, now I work with normal people.  Wait. *Love has an a-ha moment* If they aren’t clowns, could this mean that they too might know something about wine? Something more than I do with my infinite wine wisdom? I start to feel a twinge of anxiety. I will not be beat at my own game!  But I make the best of it. Maybe I’ll discover an even better bottle than the one I brought.

Yeah, right.  Mine will win.

The wine tasting begins.  There are eight bottles to judge.  I immediately try to figure out which bottle is mine, so I can rate it the highest. But I can’t figure it out just by looking at them. The bottles are too dressed up. Damn. Cheating is not going to work.

I don’t know if you’ve actually done this before, but tasting eight different reds in the span of a half hour is highly int(r)oxicating. I consider myself kind of a heavy weight given my daily wine consumption, but at the end of that exercise I was loaded. I could barely see the rating sheet, let alone figure out on a scale from 1 to 5 what my rating was.  So I decided the best route was to cheat off BD’s paper.  Our tastes on wine are the same, so that is a no brainer.  He would recognize our wine and give it a 5.  And I would copy him since I was too drunk to figure out what the hell I was doing.  And we would win.

So I glanced over there after about my 3rd or 4th wine rating and something was awry.  Every wine I gave a high rating, he gave a low rating. I mean, WTF? We share a bottle of wine every night. Surely we should agree on the quality of the wine before us? Right?  Maybe BD’s ‘2’ was actually a ‘5’ he wrote backwards because he is drunk too. Or maybe that was me.

So I couldn’t cheat off that bastard because he wasn’t keeping it real like me.  So I had to do my best to drink each wine, figure out which one was mine, and judge all the others poorly which is really a lot to ask after three or four glasses, I promise you.

So everybody finishes and we turn our sheets in and I’m pretty damn confident that although I’m drunker than I should be, the wine will stand on its own.   At the very least I’m not going to embarrass myself.  So the hostess starts by naming the 6 bottles of wine that did not win…or lose.  Of course, we weren’t in that category because our wine was the winner and I was going to win the coveted Wine God crown. Wait? Was there a crown up for grabs, because in my state of mind at the time, I really felt that wearing a crown for the rest of the party would be an appropriate reward.

Finally they get through all the yada yada yada bullshit and the glory that was all mine was about to be announced. The only problem? The two wines left – the winner and the loser — I rated a 3.  But that didn’t really make sense because I rated the wine I brought a 5.  And so did BD, I’m sure. Or didn’t we? Something had gone wrong. Very wrong.

This wasn’t adding up, even in my embarrassing drunkeness. What could have happened here? How could we both handicap our own superior wine?  Surely a bottle I rated a shitty 3 in my infinite wine wisdom isn’t the winner….or the loser. I gave out 1’s pretty freely too.  What is happening here? Am I this sloppy drunk? Why is everybody talking slow? I wonder why Oprah named her dog Sadie? Oooh. That guy’s wife has shiny earrings….

Well, this much was clear: when we were crowned the winners, it would be sort of a hollow victory,  given that the most either of us could muster for our favorite wine was a stupid 3.  This wine we paid $65 for on a pretty regular basis. I mean, what wine did I give a 5 to then?

The winner was announced. That guy’s wife still had shiny earrings.  And as expected, we were…not the winner.  Wait – what? We were the losers? Indeed. THE. LOSERS.  I mean, out of eight red wines, we LOST. And you know why? Because we both gave our favorite fucking bottle of red wine a ‘meh’ rating of 3.

The world hasn’t really been the same since then.  It’s like how you remember where you were when the Challenger blew up.  And when the Twin Towers fell.  I’ll never forget this moment when my wine was voted WORST WINE EVER AT THIS PARTICULAR PARTY WHERE  I WAS TRYING TO IMPRESS MY NEW COWORKERS AND THEIR GOOD LOOKING SPOUSES WITH MY WINE PROWESS AND EXPERTISE BECAUSE I’M A WINE SNOB, DAMMIT.  The fall out has been kind of horrific, as you might imagine.

I’ve learned a couple of things: first, I realize that my husband and I have completely different tastes in red wine. I don’t even think he likes red wine.  Our entire relationship has been built on lies and deceit. So there is that. Second, fuck you David Bruce Petit Sirah.  Third, shiny earrings can be super distracting at a serious wine tasting fiesta. Fourth, I lost. No money. Just shame and heartache. And PTSD if you must know.  I can’t look at a bottle of red wine any more and not question whether I can tell whether or not it sucks or rocks.

Even though I don’t deserve it, I don’t know how not to be a wine snob.  I still say affirmations each morning to myself about how awesome I am at identifying the best red wines in the land, but I kind of know deep down I’m just a self-righteous asshole who knows just about nothing about anything I pretend to know something about, giving me and Rick Perry more in common than I’m comfortable with.

No more fucking wine parties for me.

Love’s PhD Trilogy: Judges

Okay, so I decide to get a PhD from a top program and then I get accepted to said program, even though I was about to have a kid and getting a PhD with kids is like climbing Everest with kids. I’m not sure anybody has ever done it.  Everest with kids, that is.  But that isn’t a totally fair metaphor. Because people have earned PhDs with kids – it just that they are mostly the men that didn’t give birth to those kids and it didn’t come without cost.  This became kind of apparent, kind of early on.  But I’m not making excuses, because people do it. It gets done. And it was my plan to be one of them.

As I looked around on my orientation day at the 6 people who were to be my cohort I was kind of comforted. First, they looked normal.  Second, no douchebags. Finally, I could understand all but one of them when they spoke.  Plus, there were five women and two men. The feminist in me had my hands in the air just like Miley – noddin’ my head like yeah, movin’ my hips like yeah. (Please let the record reflect I had this move WAY before Miley’s song and I do not condone references to Miley Cyrus songs. Ever. Except when you were already doing that shit when she was nine and you I want credit because I deserve it, dammit.). But I think all that movement freaked some of them out because my very large, protruding pregnant belly wasn’t making it cool. It kind of looked like maybe I had gas or I might go into labor.  I eventually stopped so the men wouldn’t pass out.  But there was one thing that stood out — I was the only person married and the only one who was going to have a kid when we started.

Two of the women just graduated from undergrad, so they were like 22.  And then there were four of us who tried the whole working for a living thing and decided to go back to school and then there was another woman from China. She didn’t speak English all that well, so I don’t know what her story was.  All I know is that she moved here from China for the program and she had this Chinese boyfriend that followed her around everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean he actually would follow her into our seminars. You know, where the 7 of us were learning how to be smart and he would just come along and sit down like he was in the class. It got so weird because at some point he was volunteering to present papers to the class and it was like, “Dude!? You aren’t even in the program. And you don’t speak English. The fuck?” but Google translator doesn’t really do a good job putting that into Mandarin.  So he kind of just hung around and while his girlfriend slept through the seminars, and he took notes and we all looked at him like “WTF?”. I don’t think the look needed to be translated. I’m guessing it was the same in China as it is here.

The least he could have done was solved the Rubik’s cube for us, but he never did.  Probably our fault for not bringing one.  But he eventually was told to get a life by the faculty and she eventually wound up getting kicked out because unfortunately she wrote English worse than she spoke it, and then there was that little problem she had with narcolepsy. When you’re in a class with 7 people and one prof who holds your future in his hands, you don’t fucking sleep through it.

I digress –  I need to stop talking about my cohort, who I  love to death because they did humor me and talk about US Weekly with me and Oprah and they are way cooler and way smarter than me, which is the kind of company I like to keep. And now they are all PhDs and professors and prestigious universities across the country and abroad, so I don’t want give their students any fodder for ridicule. No – lets just talk about fodder you can use to ridicule me.

I wanted Professor Bourbon to be my advisor.  I took some of his courses as an MBA and most of my peers found his class super strange and abstract and not applicable to being an investment banker, so they didn’t like it. But I thought he and his work rocked. He was really an anthropologist by training and the stuff he did research on was fascinating.  He was kind of a hippie at heart, but still he dressed in tweed sports coats with little corduroy patches, so we had a shared sense of fashion.  And his office was like this really dark, cozy lair because all of the walls and windows were covered floor to ceiling with books.  He told us once he read 10 books a week – and that was just fun stuff. Not the stuff for work. Oh yeah, and he was so nice about me getting preggers and all.  So see? He was pure awesomeness.

So the program requires you to take two years of seminars on marketing research and stats and math and psychology and sociology and all kinds of fun stuff, but at the same time you’re also supposed to figure out what kind of research you are drawn to so you can have a dissertation topic at the end of the two years, that you will spend the next 3 to 4 writing.  In the meantime, you have to write papers for faculty review to start your big career as an academic researcher.  Unfortunately for me, I’m the type of person who likes to be a user of knowledge, not a creator of it.  And unfortunately, it turns out that in order for professors to keep their jobs, they have to create knowledge in the form of research that gets published in journals that only about 40 people read, and those are the 40 that publish in that journal and they don’t really want anybody else to publish in their little journal.  So when you submit a paper, they read it and tell you in very academic language that you suck and hope you fail miserably in life and reject your paper.  And then you cry and get over it and try to kiss their ass until one of them will let you write a paper and put their name on it and then they’ll let you in their journal.  Apparently teaching and facilitating panels of CEOs is just what they do on the side and counts for nothing as far as their career goes.  Yep. Didn’t really know that before I signed up.

But no matter – Professor Bourbon inspired me. Compared to other academics, he was like the man version of Mother Teresa.  He didn’t seem to get the same glee that his peers did in humiliating his students and working them to the brink of a mental breakdown. At the same time, he didn’t coddle. He just told you that you sucked in a really nice way, without using the terms “suck”, “ludicrous”, “trivial”, “excrement”, or “fuck you” and then encouraged you to do it all over with some helpful suggestions, but you left feeling like you still wanted to live instead of hanging yourself, which is about the best feeling you can hope for as a PhD student.  Other professors would be more likely to yell at you for wasting their time even reading the drivel you spent that last three months on.  Then they would set it on fire in front of you and spit in your face.  Okay, no. They didn’t do that, but you could tell they would if they had a lighter and if their desks weren’t so wide.

So after my first year I was going to declare Professor Bourbon as my advisor when, quite out of nowhere and suddenly, he resigned. He got an offer at his alma mater to be chair of the department and he probably was sick of the assholes he had to be around at my school and he left.  And the school he went to didn’t have a PhD program. And he couldn’t be my advisor. And my blissful PhD world came to a screeching halt.  He was leaving me? Noooooooooooo! It’s not FAIR!! I kind of had a mental breakdown about it, but it didn’t change anything. I was S.O.L. Nothing I could do.

So I had to find another advisor.  I surveyed that landscape and there was one other Professor I had as an MBA that seemed to like me alright and I liked her when she taught me back then.  Lets call her Professor Dragon.  She did completely different research than Professor Bourbon and she was very, very good and well-respected for her contributions, but none of it really interested me.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  And I knew if I could work with her, I’d be learning from the best in her field and I’d get stuff published. Plus, she said she’d work with me. So.

But after my first couple of months as her advisee, I began losing my grip on my will to live. I started working 70+ hours because no matter what I did, it was never good enough.  Professor Dragon was born and raised in Hong Kong.  She came from a culture where if you like someone, you tell them that you hate them, because that will make them stronger.  So on a daily basis I would walk into work and she would ask how my son was, and then she’d ask what I had done lately and then she said it wasn’t enough and my ideas were lame and maybe I wasn’t serious and that she was disappointed and maybe I needed to try harder or maybe this wasn’t for me and I was embarrassing her and she didn’t want my loser ass dragging her down. This is actually how she showed her love — the students she didn’t like, she just ignored completely. But her love kind of felt like hate to me most days.

It got to the point that for the Saturdays when I was physically at home, my thoughts were still at work and I would feel guilty for bringing my son to the park because I had so much work to do. BD was doing all of the cooking and cleaning and childcare when he wasn’t at work.  I never thought I’d win a Mom award, but I suddenly realized at some point that I was probably in contention for Worst Mom and Wife Award.  But I wasn’t going to quit. I wasn’t going to break because I could do this. Plus, my husband wasn’t going to let me because of all we’d sacrificed for this and plus, it was only going to be three or four more years of torture. I could probably endure it, right? I mean, I bet Dr. Phil had to pay his dues before Oprah gave him his own show.  I just had to be Dr. Phil and suck it up and get through it.  It’s not like everybody else in my cohort was on easy street. Then again, it wasn’t like anyone else in my cohort was married with a kid either.

One thing I noticed almost immediately when I started was that every single one of the tenured professors in my department were on their second or third marriages. They’d all lost their first spouses early in their career when they were working like dogs to get tenure.  It wasn’t long before I could feel myself getting on exactly the same track.  Somehow this fun “game” of mine – to get the PhD — had higher stakes than I’d ever imagined.  With this new lifestyle, more kids were out of the question for us.  We always wanted a bunch, but I had no time and no money and the situation wasn’t just temporary — there was no logical time that having other kids would make sense until after I got tenure, which would put me about about 40 – best case scenario.  So here I was in Year 2 of my bright, shiny dream to be a bonafide intellectual with papers to prove it and my advisor apparently thought I was a fucking moron and I was convinced she was right about that.

Wow! So my big, beautiful dream had turned into a nightmare and I wasn’t sure I could find a way to earn three new little letters at the end of my name without losing those three little cherished letters at the beginning of it, namely MRS.

For spring break of my second year in the PhD program, BD and I left the baby with my parents and we escaped to Napa Valley for a weekend.  Just to get away and to spend some meaningful time together  getting drunk having fun, which happened very seldomly at that point.

The life changing plane ride that happened next was kind of a small miracle and will be revealed in Love’s PhD Trilogy*: Exodus.

*Yeah, I know this is the third installment and I’m telling you there will be a fourth and it’s only supposed to be a trilogy, but they don’t have a word for a four part series, so what am I supposed to do? Blame the person responsible for making up words like “irregardless” and “moist” instead of a more valuable term like “quadlogy”.

Round here, we stay up very very VERY VERY late…

BD and I went out last night on a real, live date.  We usually go out to eat once a week sans kids, but it’s usually a quick dinner around 6 – when all the old people are just finishing up.  Last night, the kids stayed somewhere else and for once, we didn’t have to be home at any given time.  We went to dinner late when all the cool-people-without-children eat, drank a lot of wine and went to a late night Christmas-themed burlesque show a friend of mine was in, which was a first for both of us.  The dancing ladies paid particularly close attention to BD, (maybe because my friend told them to), and we just laughed and cat called and a tipsy BD even was pulled up on stage to dance.  It felt like we were 22 again and I was transported back to a time before marriage, mortgages, and motherhood. And apocalypse planning and terrible hang overs.  But I won’t lie — it was totally. mindblowingly. awesome.

And at some point during the evening, “Round Here” by the Counting Crows came on (which is the best heaping helping of awesomeness ever served up in a pop song, EVER) and we discovered for the first time, after being together 10 years, that both of us distinctly remembers exactly where we were the first time we heard that song.  It was a defining moment for both us, like where we were when the Challenger blew up and JFK Jr.’s plane went down and 9/11.   And it was the same moment for both of us too– when the Counting Crows were on SNL in 1994 — that we both heard it.  Proof that across time and space we were totally meant to be (don’t fight me on this, quantum physicists).  Anyway, that got me thinking of a note I wrote to myself a month later when I was a senior in high school, after a particularly bad relationship, which turned out to be eerily prescient.   Its one of the only things I wrote that year that isn’t both hilarious and atrocious in its over-the-top ridiculousness, although it is still both of those in many parts.

Anyway, it’s time to put it out there, but not without my additional comments in red. This one’s for you, BD:

February 1994

To The ‘One’:

I wonder what you’re doing now.  I wonder where you live and I wonder, God forbid, if I know you.  My guess is that I’ll meet you in college and I guess that’s about the right time for me, but we’ll see.  Well, I just broke up with another boyfriend, and probably things which I had experienced with him, I’ll remember when I’m with you.

Like I hope that you aren’t obsessive, whether it is with a drug, a person , an idea, or even me.  I also hope you aren’t the jealous type, someone who smothers me and demands all of my attention and time.  Although I hope to spend my entire life with you, and be in love with you always and forever, I just don’t want us to lose OURSELVES.

I won’t define myself as YOUR wife, but a huge part of me will be dedicated to our relationship and your happiness and well-being.

So, a friend is setting me up with another guy. Who knows? It could be you.  Then again, I could do something or experience something with this guy which may, even in a small way, affect us (hopefully I wasn’t talking about contracting HIV).  Kind of strange, huh? I mean, everyday I get closer to the one that I’ll meet you, and I wonder if I’ll even know the significance of it.  Have you ever thought that the first time you set your eyes on someone, you could know in that instant that you were going to fall in love with them?   It’s never happened (obviously) to me, but I think that when and if it does, he will be you (HA! This part came true).   I don’t know if this is strange, because I’m only 17, but all I want to do right now is find the one I’m going to marry (you) and do it ASAP.  If I’m 20, and I know it’s you, I’ll be ready to get married as soon as it’s convenient. (Really? As soon as it’s convenient?) I guess I assume you’ll feel the same way, but I guess I also assume we’ll agree on almost everything (um, no.).

I wonder if you’ll be as in love with me as I will be with you.  My last boyfriend says that my husband will be whipped (meaning able to make all of his opinions, beliefs and thoughts fit to my own) also meaning (when asked to do something, does it for no other reason than that he was asked) (My last boyfriend was also a total ass).  Well, I know if that’s being whipped, its where I’ll be.  I guess I believe a married couple should be (um, no.).  Well, cheers to one day less I’ll have to wait before meeting you, love.

Love always, Love

So it didn’t all turn out like I thought it would.  BD and I met after college, but it turns out we were actually in the same class at the same university and just never met, even though we shared several mutual friends.  And it turns out that the first time I saw BD, I did know he was to be my husband.  Because I’m psycho psychic like that.  However, I wouldn’t say that either of us is whipped, by my ex-boyfriend’s definition at 17. We do not agree on everything, especially as it relates to the best way to mix up packets of instant oatmeal (hot tap water, obviously), whether LED light bulbs are the worst things ever invented, or the best (they are the worst), or how many dish towels are necessary for one household (the more, the merrier, I maintain).

But all in all, I did alright.  Sure, I had to stalk him, and it took a year for that first (terrible) date, but with Oprah’s encouragement, I finally landed him and started living my best life — and now I have BD, bacchanalias and burlesque. What else do I need?

I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad…

My husband just passed me the Kaukauna port wine spreadable cheese and I find myself strangely overcome with lust and desire.  For the cheese.  And as I skimmed a little of it off the top with a fresh Wheat Thin (BAKED! Not fried!) just now and savored its pure awesomeness,  suddenly my head heard the lyrics to  “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music.  And I thought, hell, I haven’t written on my blog recently. I shall post about my favorite things.  Because everybody totally cares about them.

Which naturally led me to think of Oprah, and her favorite things.  Remember when she would do that Oprah’s Favorite Things show where she would just talk about products the whole time while her audience members got all the stuff?  The first couple of years she did that show, it was off the hook.  I would watch and lust after all the stuff she picked out, in awe that the whole audience got to take it all home.  But by year three, that show just pissed me off.  All those screaming, fainting whores audience members got thousands of dollars worth of stuff for being a damn teacher or because someone wrote Oprah a note and said they helped an orphan escape from Russia or they just showed up on the right day. I’d feel like crap, because  the only time I got tickets for Oprah was immediately following 9/11 and hurricane Katrina. I shit you not. Anyway, I just got to the point where I stopped watching that show every year because it would just make me angry that I wasn’t there while all those lucky ass bitches jumped around with their heads turning around 360 degrees and popping off (which mine would have as well, no doubt).

Jealousy is a bitch. Sometimes I would tell myself that she picked out all lame stuff I wouldn’t want or know what to do with anyway – like soaps that are like $13 and refrigerators with built-in TVs that would probably only fit into 5% of the kitchens in this great nation. And I couldn’t help but wonder if a cable or satellite hookup was necessary and who the hell has that stuff in the kitchen? See? So who would want to win that on Oprah’s Favorite Things?  Me. ME, DAMMIT!! That show made me hate myself. Thanks, Oprah.

Then one year Oprah decided instead of giving away an obscene amount of shit to people, she would give everybody $100, and then they’d have to go out and give it to someone else and whoever was the most creative or made the most out of that $100 got to come back at a later show.  Ha ha Bit-chez! That put a smile on my face because I knew as the cameras panned the crowd of pleasantly smiling faces, those women and their mothers were secretly thinking: “God DAMN you, OPRAH! I got a ticket for your Favorite Things show and all I’m taking away is this punk-ass gift card and a mandate to give it to someone else?  I fucking hate you. And your dogs too.”  But I’m sure in the end, giving away that $100 made them feel so good and warm and nice inside that they didn’t hold a grudge. Or tell everyone they knew how they got screwed and wanted to die.  Which would totally have been my — I mean, a healthy reaction. I’m pretty sure.

Anyway, I digress.  It’s just that I can’t think about Oprah’s Favorite Things without wonder, fascination and pure snarkiness.  On to revealing my majestic list of favorite things.  If I had a blog wherein I could name all my favorite things and give them to those of you that regularly comment, this is what you would get:

1) One year’s worth of Kaukauna port wine spreadable cheese and Wheat Thins.

2) A Mac.

3) A subscription to “O” and “Us Weekly” — the only publications with real import these days.

4) Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, a gallon of skim milk and a martini shaker.  Equal parts of these ingredients shaken with ice makes me incredibly happy. I think it would make you happy too.

5) Take 5 bars. A lifetime supply. Proof that God loves us.

6) TiVo. I honestly don’t have the words to explain my love, devotion and adoration for TiVo.

7) Counting Crows “August and Everything After”. Best album ever.

8.) Vaseline Cocoa Butter Deep Conditioning lotion.  I suppose it’s a good moisturizer, but more importantly it somehow captures “new baby smell” like you’re within a few inches of a newborn’s little head at all times. I get high off the fumes on a pretty regular basis.  SO much easier than having to give birth again.

9) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.  Funniest book of all time.  All time.

10) Tickets to Oprah’s show.  If you get them, be sure to let me know. We can go together and hope that my attendance doesn’t mark the end of the world. Oh yeah, and did I ever tell you about the time BD turned down a job at Harpo? She brings everybody and their families on these really swank all-expenses paid vacations every year. I would have hunted her down and convinced her by now of our destiny if he’d just taken it. But he didn’t.  And we’re still married. That’s love.

11) Josh Groban’s “Noel”. Shut up. Wipe the smirk off your face, because I’m giving it to you for free, bitch.

12) McDonald’s gift certificates. Enough to buy a Value Meal #2 with Diet Crack Coke and two happy meals with apple dippers twice weekly.

Okay, and go to this post to see the Oprah Favorite Things SNL skit, along with all my favorite YouTube stuff…

So I feel like if you got those 12 things today, you probably wouldn’t have a need for anything else. Ever.  Feel free to print and substitute for your Christmas/ Hanukkah / Kwanzaa/ Festivus list.  One day when I am rich and famous and lunching regularly with Oprah, I will make sure that my commenters do receive all of these things, making your friends seethe with jealousy and rage.

‘Tis the season, after all.

The search for my tribe

This January I found myself back in the place I have perpetually been throughout my life, which is wandering around aimlessly, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life and how I got to the place where I am and how that place where I am always feels like a place I’d like to leave – immediately.

You know why I love Oprah? Its not because of her fabulous hair or because everybody is afraid of her or because she gets to hang out with Obama all the time.  It’s because she doesn’t go two weeks on her show without doing a story about somebody who was nobody until they got inspired one day and then changed the world.  I live for those stories. Without believing in those stories I would have no hope that one day my life will abruptly and powerfully change and my angel will come to me and say “Love, lets do this.  3-6-34-51-52 and the Powerball is 22. I’ll let you know what God wants you to do with it, but in the meantime, why don’t you just go ahead and buy a beach house in Zihuatanejo, kay? You can run your new philanthropic foundation from there”. I mean, Oprah has me convinced that one day I’ll be minding my own business and ordering my Value Meal #2 at McDonalds and suddenly the heavens will open up and I’ll just “know” that the cook in the back is a genius orphan who is homeless and just needs a chance and I’ll adopt her and she’ll grow up to be the President and I’ll get to live in the White House and she’ll make me ambassador to Tahiti and life will be totally sweet because of my awesome inspiration to take her home with me on that fateful day I was quenching my insatiable hunger for a Quarter Pounder with cheese.  I could tell you about a million other scenarios I’ve feasted my mind on, but you get the point.  Nobody loves stories more than I do about ordinary people doing extraordinary things that make this world a cooler place to be because if I’m being honest, I really believe that one day I’ll get to be one of them.  When I hear those stories I don’t think, “Oh, thats really neat.” I think, “When is it going to be my turn?”

Which makes me really a different sort of person than the people I find myself surrounded by most of the time. I know this because I’ve taken every damn personality and motivation and self-discovery test this world has to offer in an attempt to find out why it seems like I can’t find anybody like me out there in the world.  And usually my results break the computer or they come back but it says something like, “ERROR- value unknown” or “Only 1% of the population is this type…” and when you read the description of a person that would get this score, it is usually brief because it commands a total loss for words to describe. I think the issue is two-fold: only three people have ever scored this combination and those three people are too strange to really describe. When you look at professions that are good for my personality type, you wind up with stuff like unicycle rider, psychic, manic-depressive and homeless.  What you don’t get is ‘efficient little cog in big corporate machine’, which is what I am, except for the efficient part.

On the other hand, the fact that there are a few people out there – that it is humanly possible to meet someone like me – gives me a lot of comfort.  There are so many days when I look around at the people I work with, or the parents at my kids’ school, or my neighbors, or whatever group and just think, “am I the only one thinking…(x,y,z)?” and I’m pretty sure I am.  And after awhile you start to feel weird and lonely because people look at you really funny when you tell them what you’re thinking. So I’ve learned to self-edit, especially when at work.  It is very unbecoming for a professional salesperson to say she could care less about the money and sometimes she tells her clients not to buy stuff from her, because she knows her competitor has a better widget.  These things are completely foreign concepts in the circles I travel in and they would likely get me fired or at least demoted. Some days I fantasize about getting fired. But then I cry inside knowing that if that happened, the bond between me and my favorite fabulous gay salesman Leonardo at Banana Republic might be broken forever.

So back in January I decided that I either had to go into therapy or get a life coach or I might go insane because I was born to change the world and so far all I’ve done is changed careers four times. And a lot of dirty diapers.

I thought if I went into therapy there was a good chance I might never get out, so I thought it was safest to try a life coach first. So I began the search for a life coach to tell me what I am supposed to do with my life and why I always feel like a fish out of water wherever I go.  You want to have a fun couple of weeks? Interview some life coaches.  Ones you find on the Internet and not through a referral because of course, you don’t associate with anybody who doesn’t double over laughing in amusement by the whole concept.

But it was awesome. Wow. Some life coaches have PhDs, or some sort of relevant training and some life coaches have an extra phone line and illusions of grandeur.  And honestly, a lot of the times you can’t tell which is which by talking to them.  Some are really great and some are train wrecks. But, to their credit, they are amusing train wrecks. Like the guy who I was interviewing that talked to me for a half hour about why he thinks his second wife left him. I had to interrupt him, “Hey, could I offer you some coaching? She just not that into you.”  After that moment of genius, it got me thinking that maybe I should be a life coach. I mean, if all you have to do to be a life coach is give people advice and help them solve their problems, then sign me up.  I clearly don’t have a great grasp of the world, but I know about people. I can read people. And like I said, my personality books tell me I’m well-suited to be a psychic as well. So who wouldn’t want a psychic life coach?  But, I’m an intellectual snob and as such, I can’t get behind waking up one day and calling myself a life coach.   So that is a whole other fun story, but the point is, I actually found a coaching situation in February and signed up for a year and it has, much to my delight and surprise, actually changed my life.

That said, the meaning of life hasn’t presented itself. And I’m still working for The Man. And a few months into it I was still feeling pretty alientated from the world.  My coach recommended that I do stuff that comes naturally to me, take inspired actions and go find my tribe.  She suggested that perhaps people in my tribe don’t hang out at my corporate entity.  Perhaps if I were really living the life I was born to live, it wouldn’t be as a corporate drone at a Fortune 100 company. It would be me, doing something else, surrounded by other people that teach and inspire and make me laugh everyday.

A concept I hadn’t thought of. One I wasn’t sure existed.

So what did I do after my third glass of wine one night? I started this blog.  People in real life laugh at my stories. And it turns out that when I’m at my best, I’m entertaining people with my stories, but they aren’t always of the ilk that are appreciated around the water cooler at work, or at dinner parties with parents from my kid’s school. So I decided to hell with it – what if I just wrote all my stories down and didn’t worry about what my coworkers or family or the world in general thought about it, and then maybe my tribe would find me. Maybe people who “get” me will enjoy what I write, and start reading it and I will have a community of people who I can entertain and who I “get” and who will teach and inspire and motivate me to be great.

And here you are.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for commenting on it. Thank you for following me. Thank you for writing your own blogs that are real. That teach and inspire and make me snort Diet Coke out my nose laughing and unable to read the screen through eyes full of tears. I think the vast majority of you know exactly what it’s like to need to blog as an outlet and tell your stories and write down your thoughts and be validated by other people. So we’ve found one another. Our tribe.  Lets keep blogging, keep reading about each other, keep commenting and validating one another and maybe we can keep each other from going postal or owning too many cats. Maybe we can be great together.

The time in Australia when I almost got murdered by drunk wild boar hunters – The Finale.

In this final episode, I eventually get to the part about my almost-murder by the drunk Australian wild boar hunters. Let’s recap:

I am too drunk to know to say “no” to participating in the “Outback Rainforest Adventure” during my visit to the Great Barrier Reef in Part I, then the tour guide rips off his clothes and goes swimming in a rainforest waterfall pool in an Australian flag Speedo and I get all hot and bothered by it in Part II, and that was just the first day of this whole unfortunate trip.

I really want to remember every last activity we did the whole three days because they all sucked in their own way and because I revel in complaining, and it would be fun to tell you all about them in detail. But I only remember the very worst moments.  So I’ll just have to stick to those for the finale of my Outback adventure tale.

Okay, so the second day starts and Dundee herds all of our hungover asses into the Outbackmobile (this is the new name for our vehicle – since I can’t really describe what it was) and he tells us that we’ll be leaving the rainforest and entering the Outback. I was delighted to be leaving the rainforest behind, because I thought my chances of survival were significantly greater the further we got from all of the poisonous small things that wanted to kill me in the rainforest. But I wasn’t sure about the whole Outback thing. The closest I had been to the Outback prior to this was the Steakhouse, which, let me tell you is as beautiful to me as Oprah herself. I mean, you can order thick, fat steaks and pick them up in a drive thru after 20 minutes? Fucking genius.

So I had high hopes for this thing they called the Outback. Perhaps there would be cute kangaroos throwing colorful boomerangs around that happy Aboriginals dot-painted especially for them. Oh, and an old Aboriginal dude playing the didgeridoo while the koalas sat in a tree unobtrusively eating leaves or sleeping. That would captivate me for about 5 minutes, which is a very long time for me, so it looked like a ray of sunshine was in my future.

That is not what the Outback is like.  The Outback is possibly the most boring landscape in the entire universe. I’m a Midwestern girl, so I thought soybean fields were about as boring as a landscape could get, but no. The Australian Outback is the worst. Even the desert beats the Outback, because it’s all mystical and stuff and there are cliffs and canyons for you to fall off of, so it packs in some drama too.

Not the Steakhouse

See what I mean?

So anyway, Dundee drives us into a landscape much like this one above and stopped the Outbackmobile in all of this nonsense and we had to go have a “look-see”. This is what Dundee called it when we were about to get out of the vehicle and wander around aimlessly. I hated look-sees. You would just walk around and get sweaty and look at dirt and a bush here and there and be like “wow. a fucking bush. awesome. where the fuck are the koalas I was led to believe Australia was rife with?” Dundee was animated. To him, this was all fucking awesome. Again, he was so like the Croc Hunter. He was jumping around with his machete bouncing up and down on his hip pointing out these huge ant hills and animatedly explaining how exactly the ants make them. He’d get down on his hands and knees and ogle the ants’ handiwork. I mean these things were about a foot or two off the ground, which is hella bigger than the ones you find on suburban sidewalks so I guess they were impressive compared to that, but they weren’t the fucking pyramids or anything. Dundee seemed to think they were the work of the gods.  Really? I mean, it’s a fucking two foot hill in the middle of nowhere. And plus, there aren’t any ants or termites or whatever crawling all over them, which was good, but creates too little drama to make me care.  I never got the five minutes of captivation I was so looking forward to.

So we had a day long look-see in the Outback and all we saw were these ant hills all over the place. And there was a little rocky hill thing we climbed too. And by “we”, I mean everybody else. It looked pointless to me. And maybe like it would cause me to sweat more than I was comfortable with. So I just sat at the bottom rolling my eyes and being annoying and scanning the horizon for killer koalas or at least some boxing kangaroos. No luck.

Okay, so then it starts getting dark and Dundee brings us back to the Outbackmobile and he declares that this is where we’ll camp tonight! Ummm – surely you jest? There aren’t any tents in the back of the mobile! How are we going to camp? Dundee informs me happily that we’re “sleeping under the stars – didn’t you read it in the brochure, Love?” No I didn’t fucking read it in the brochure.  I think we established if I had, I would be at a club chugging a Strongbow instead of in the middle of BFE with a Speedo-clad, machete-carrying, Steve Irwinesque tour guide.

And, even if I had read the brochure, aren’t there supposed to be tents? No. We were going to sleep in “swags”, which are kind of like sleeping bags, except instead of being soft and snuggly, they are made of heavy duty canvas and they are kind of shaped like coffins and you’re supposed to zip up your damn head inside them. And that is where I am supposed to fucking sleep. I mean, he didn’t even put a tarp down under the swag. It was like, unroll the swag and just put it on any dirty dusty spot and get in. Oh, and by the way, they don’t breathe at all, so get naked or you’ll probably sweat to death. The FUCK? Dundee was all about getting naked. And in places where a multitude of insects could claim any of your orifices as their own swag. Um. No thanks.

So this is where I have a little mental breakdown. There is no toilet. No shower. No bed. No alcohol. No McDonalds. Nobody, for miles, except us and Dundee. And I’m completely freaked out because I am sure that something or someone is going to attack me as I sleep. I mean, everybody knows that dingoes eat babies in Australia. So whats to stop them from trying to eat my arm? And how unnatural is it for people to just sleep outside under the stars? Are you kidding me? That’s the whole reason we fucking evolved – so that we could live in cool urban lofts with central air and skylights so we could see the stars in our temperature controlled, insect and psycho-free abodes. Why do so many people have such a huge problem with the great indoors?!  Who was going to keep me safe?!

Dundee’s machete. Thats who.  At least that was what he was telling me while I was on my knees screaming to God and tearing at my greasy hair. His machete was pretty big. And by now I was convinced he wasn’t going to kill me, though I was sure that he wanted to. Many times. He told me that he had some chocolate if I would just come back to the fire he built so we could have dinner and tell stories. It was blantantly clear I wasn’t the first hysterical woman he had talked off the ledge.  I was hungry. And I needed chocolate. So in tears, I returned to my friends and the British couple and we sat around a fire as Dundee cooked our dinner. I was still ruminating about how maybe I should spend more time sober so I wouldn’t agree to these insane “adventures” ever again, when suddenly from very far away, we saw headlights.  In the middle of the Outback. We were nowhere near a road. I thought that perhaps God had heard my prayer and sent Ed McMahon with an oversized check to deliver me from this hell. I started jumping up and down, elated. I was sure that I was being saved. It was the only logical explanation of what could be happening.

Dundee looked very concerned. That bastard wants to see me suffer, I told myself. He’s pissed Ed McMahon found me all the way out here. The tenacity of the Prize Patrol in this case was impressive. Those guys just wouldn’t be deterred once they found their winner, even though she is sitting in the middle of the fucking Outback. It was really very moving.  But, then again… We were kind of far away from civilization. And I didn’t know if satellite would reliably work that far away from civilization and it wasn’t really prime time in the US yet, so if they did it now most Americans would miss my glorious moment.  Plus, it would be really expensive to bring Ed’s makeup person all the way into the Outback. Maybe it wasn’t Ed.

The headlights were making zig zags all over the place, but seemed generally headed in our direction.  Now is a good time to remind you that at that time, cell phones came packed in briefcases and were used by about .8% of the population. We had no communication channels to civilization, so whatever was going to happen was going to happen without the benefit of 911. Dundee got up and started pacing. He told us to be quiet and not to talk to whoever it was and he then turned on the Outbackmobile and shined the headlights in the direction of the speeding vehicle that was barreling toward us, presumably so they wouldn’t run us over.

We started to panic a little. Our normally jovial Dundee broke out in a sweat. Apparently this part wasn’t in the brochure. Who the hell was in that car, and what the hell were they doing driving around in the Outback at night?  The headlights keep coming closer and we kind of all huddle together having no idea what to expect, but my hopes of it being the Prize Patrol were diminishing every second the lights came closer. No way Ed McMahon would drive that fast and erratically. Only somebody completely tanked could be driving.

Let me say it again. Only somebody completely tanked could be driving. Aw fuck. Lindsay Lohan was only 10 then. So who the hell was this?  The truck was upon us and our campfire within two minutes. Probably less. Dundee continued to pace nervously, and he took his machete off his belt in anticipation.  We did not have to wait long to find out who was driving. Two men, who I can only describe as extremely hillbilly-esque (they had no teeth – I swear to God), half rolled, half fell out of their jeep. But their messy dismount from the jeep did not affect their ability to hold their rifles.  At first they appeared to be very happy drunks.  They were laughing and wheezing and wanted to know who we were and what we were doing.  Dundee said we were having a look-see and camping.  He inquired about what they were doing.  I couldn’t understand a damn word they said, but I found out later they were looking for wild boars. They were wild boar hunters. Wild. Boar. Hunters.

Ummm….whaaat? Nobody said anything about the possibility of wild boar, let alone their hunters. They wanted to know if we had beer.  Believe me, fellas – if there were any beer, you would find it all coursing through my veins. Instead, I had more than my share of adrenaline flowing through them at that point.  Drunk hillbillies with guns scare me.

Two of my friends on the trip were from New York and LA, and they are whispering that we’re all going to die.  They were pretty sure that these guys were going to open fire at any moment.  I found it pretty ironic that the whole time we were in Australia, the Aussies would ask my friend from LA whether it was safe to go out on the streets in LA because of all of the drive by shootings. Hollywood makes LA look like the killing fields.  They thought Chicago was probably safe because the mob only killed everybody back during prohibition. We thought it was hysterical. But now the tables were turned and three chicks from LA, NYC and Chicago respectively were never more frightened than when faced with random drunk wild boar hunters.

You know how they say you get a “fight or flight” reflex in a situation like this? Now I know I’m a flight person. My goal was to get shot dead running away because there was no way in hell I was going to get myself raped by those two mother fuckers and then killed. Nope. I decided that I much preferred to get killed right away. I told my friends I’d take the first bullet. You know, for the team.

A heated argument seemed to erupt between Dundee and the hunters. They wanted to sit with us and be friends, but Dundee told them they weren’t really invited. Their initial joviality faded and then they seemed to be telling Dundee something along the lines of “Well see, we have guns and you only have a machete”. A pretty solid argument for how sloshed they were. But Dundee kept them talking and at a semi-safe distance from us.  Then one of my friends declared “They’ll kill Dundee first. And then they’ll rape us all and kill us. We’re so dead.” We looked at the guys we came with and asked them if they were going to stand for this. Like maybe they should back Dundee up or something. You know, act like men. They said the hell if they were going to get into the fray. Those guys were big, dumb, drunk and armed. I think their plan for escape was to run while we were getting raped. Pussies.

As Dundee and the hunters argued I was able to reframe the whole situation and kept thinking about whether it would be worse to be shot dead by these guys or to sleep under the stars in that coffin/swag thing. I was leaning toward the former (I seriously was) when suddenly the guys got back in their truck and peeled off into the night.  Wait. What? I was still alive and unraped? Whoa. That was heavy. Dundee came back and told us who they were and what they wanted. He wound up having to buy them off with some of our food. Good thing for me that Dundee was such a skilled negotiator, because if they had asked for one of the women,  I would’ve been the first one Dundee gave away.

I asked if maybe it would be best for us to drive to a hotel. Dundee said we’d be fine. Those guys weren’t coming back. Yeah, right. With all these naked coeds in swags? They’re totally coming back to rape us. I lobbied for us to forfeit our adventure and hightail it to Cairns. Dundee wouldn’t hear of it. He was back to his old self. Gleeful in my misery.

Eventually I had to get into the swag. But first I had a few questions for Dundee:

What if it rains? It won’t rain.

It doesn’t rain here? What if a pack of wild boar comes? No worries.

What about all those ants that built those big pyramid things? There won’t be many insects. Just get in. And take your clothes off or you’ll die of heat.

The hell if I was going to get naked. I had never had crabs and hell if I was going to get them from a “night under the stars” in a cheap swag in the Australian Outback.  I zipped myself in and the gross BO smell was overwhelming, and as promised, it was hot as hell, so I opened it just a little for some air. And I fell asleep.

Only to be awakened in the early hours of the next day by a very large drop of water which fell on my forehead. The fuck? And then another one.

“DO. NOT. TELL ME IT IS. RAINING. ON MY HEAD.” I said this as loudly as humanly possible, without having it turn into a shriek.  Oh yes. It was raining. My declaration woke the rest of the group.  I quickly unzipped the swag to sit up and start bitching more, when my eyes focused on two, no three, no FOOURRR!!! ant-like things that were bigger than a baby’s arm crawling on top of my swag. “HO-LY-SHIIIIIT!”

“I hate it here! I hate Australia! I hate you, Dundee! This is ridiculous. Get me the fuck out of here! You said it didn’t rain? What the fuck is it doing right now? We almost get shot last night and now there is some sort of fucking flash flood in the Outback and these fucking ants want to eat me. I HATE YOOOOUUUU! I hate this! ALL of this! I have never been more miserable in my entire life!” (If this story ever gets made into a movie, only Meryl could handle this complex character. Only she has the power to accurately convey the powerful rawness and the depth of my soul at that poignant moment.)

Dundee shrugged and smiled and said that we should fold our swags up and get in the Outbackmobile.  He was going to take us to a horse farm, then an Aboriginal village and then we were going to a pub. And then we were going back to Cairns. You know when you are fighting for your life, like you fall into any icy river, and your body conserves all the blood and gives it to your heart and lungs and brain and you have this intense focus to stay alive? Thankfully that is what happened to me in that very moment! My survival instincts finally kicked in and my brain focused on the word “pub” and I lived. Thank God Almighty. I lived.

It rained all morning.

The horse farm? Smelled like shit. Like I suppose most horse farms do.

The aboriginal village? Um, it was like going to the projects. We got to hang out with people who hate white people for ruining everything for them and then making them paint boomerangs and didgeridoos so that they could get some money from us so they could use the money to go back to being drunk again.  Awesome.

The pub? Glorious. And I kicked Dundee’s ass at darts. It felt good to be back in my element.

And then we got on with the rest of our vacation. And I lived to tell the tale.

SO…now you know what not to do in Australia.

You’re welcome.

The time in Australia when I almost got murdered by drunk wild boar hunters, Part Deux

If you’re just joining me, I highly suggest reading Part I, because its important to grasp how fucking clueless I am before you go any further AND how I got myself into this awful mess in the first place.

Okay, so I left off where we were just leaving on our “Rainforest Outback Adventure” for three days, with a guide who was a 30 year old Crocodile Dundee/Steve Irwin type.  A true caricature of every Australian stereotype one could imagine, which is why we insisted on calling him Dundee the whole time.

After driving an hour or so, Dundee pulls off the road and we wind up in a field of sugar cane. Just a random field. And he takes out his machete and gives us some sugar cane to suck on. Don’t get me wrong. I fucking LOVE sugar and all sugar substitutes, and even high fructose corn syrup please don’t mention this to Dr. Oz or Oprah.  But eating sugar cane straight off the stalk was not the same as a blow pop.  Blow pops are way better.  It was kind of disappointing to eat sugar in its raw form, which is why I guess I’m such a big fan of highly processed food.

Anyway, we didn’t stay long, I assume because Dundee was stealing sugar cane for us and he wasn’t sure if the owner of the plantation was going to shoot us or not, so he told us to finish chewing our sugar cane and get back in the vehicle and mentally prepare for our upcoming hike into the rainforest. Fuck. Seriously? So soon into the trip? Shouldn’t we have lunch or something first? I have a way of telegraphing exactly what I’m feeling by my facial expression and Dundee saw the “how the hell did I get here and how do I get out of it” expression and laughed heartily. “I kin tail thays ah gyohweeng tuh bay thray lohng dayees fah yeh, Lowv.” (translation: I can tell these are going to be three long days for you, Love).  Okay, if I keep trying to write it phonetically it will take me 7 days, so I’ll leave it that.  But suffice to say, Dundee had my number from the beginning, and he didn’t like weak Americans with bad attitudes. Which is a shame since I can’t think of a sentence that describes me any better than that.

Anyway, so this guy goes off-roading with us into the rainforest and seems to pick an arbitrary place to park. And we get out in the midst of all these vines and plants and….nature….and I’m beside myself because all this stuff is touching me and there are bugs and it is kind of steamy and I just brought a pair of running shoes because I’m a just an exchange student who never planned to hike the rainforest. I was mostly planning on hanging out at bars since I could drink legally there. But Dundee didn’t want to hear excuses. He told us to take all our stuff and follow him in a single file line and not to go off the path because there was a lot of poisonous plants and animals that he was going to avoid for us. I raised my hand. “Um….where are we going and how long is this hike going to be and what are we having for lunch?” These seemed like solid questions.  He smiled and said “No worries, mates!” and just started hiking. Which didn’t answer any of my questions. I readied my inhaler and prepared for the worst.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of brisk hiking and being completely unable to see more than 10 or 15 feet ahead, I began to think that Dundee might be insane. And he was leading us all to our deaths. And nobody would even know we were kidnapped and dead until we didn’t come back to school in 10 days.  I wondered if he would just let us die by letting dingoes eat us or if he would hack us to pieces with his machete and feed us to his pet wallabies. As I pondered these deep thoughts about my own demise, suddenly there is a clearing and a huge waterfall flowing into this magical pond came into view. In the middle of the fucking rain forest. Like in a Jurassic Park movie, which is the only frame of reference I have for this sort of thing.  It was really stunning. Just absolutely beautiful.  I checked my bag for my camera and when I finally found it and got it out to take a picture, I noticed something moving in the lower right hand corner of the viewfinder.  It was Dundee.  In a Speedo. With an Australian flag design. Oh Christ.  Yes. Our tour guide. In nothing but a patriotic Speedo, diving into a waterfall. Ummm?!  The man was able to strip down and dive in within 3 minutes of getting there. I’m feeling rather awkward. First, because men in Speedos are ALWAYS WRONG. But secondly and most disturbing, he rocked it. I mean, he looked pretty fine in it.  I had a flutter. Or a few. God, that is so wrong……. But I digress.  Does he expect us to just watch him swim there? Because I totally will. Did we bring water? I’m suddenly thirsty…

He suggests we join him.  I look around for the dressing room, but we are in the middle of a rainforest with weird animals and deadly vegetation and no other humans or vehicles anywhere nearby.  Surely, he doesn’t mean that we are to strip down on these rocks in front of everybody and just jump in, naked? YEEEESSSS. Yes, he does.  Perhaps a group orgy would be a great ice breaker.  Okay, so I’m pretty sure getting naked with the tour guide was not included in the brochure. If it had been, I would have paid more attention to the pictures and I sure as hell wouldn’t have gone with the guys I went with.

But anyway,  I’m pretty sure the guys and girls I did go with are not the types who are just going to rip their clothes off in front of everybody and just jum—–the guys we came with cannon-balled into the pond.  The old British couple were totally on board as well.  Um…what the fuck?  They’re like 65ish and just going in naked. Bullocks!! Who knew those Brits were so crazy? Okay, so part of me is saying, “Well, if those old people are doing it When in Cairns….” and the other part of me is saying, “The water is probably freezing cold and there are probably big fucking poisonous snakes or crocs in there and anyway all those pints haven’t done much for your thighs, and if you aren’t wearing a Wonderbra, then they may think you’re  guy trying to pretend you’re a girl like the opposite of that “Boys Don’t Cry” movie and they might get all weirded out and try to kill you and things are going to get totally “Lord of the Flies” in a big fucking hurry.”

I really, really didn’t want to get in, but I think my friends were talking me into it and I decided I’d change into my bikini, just to be social. No way I was going in there without a bottle of wine and my Wonderbra bikini by my side. So I did it.  I was proud of myself. Because as a general rule, I don’t swim. I don’t put my head underwater, EVER. I mean, I know how to do that stuff, but I prefer not to ever since Ricky G. held me underwater at the community pool until I almost drowned. Yep. And swimming is a form of moderate exercise, which as I said before, I’m not that into.  Me exerting myself, especially me exerting myself ensconced in water, is unheard of.  But peer pressure can be a good thing and I wound up taking a dip in the most glorious little place on earth. It was actually really pretty cool….But I’d be lying if I told you that blissful feeling lasted longer than 6.1 minutes.  Thats all it took for me to realize I might be in paradise, but paradise was cold. And I couldn’t feel nor touch the bottom, so for all I knew, there were 8 foot piranhas lurking or something even worse. And even though Dundee was hotness, I wasn’t going to let some fucking Loch Ness eat me or some huge mutant leech affix itself to my tasty ass. That’s also when Dundee mentioned something about some sort of insect we should try to avoid. Yup. Thanks. I’m gone.  So I got out, put on my clothes over my soaking we bikini and prepared to keep trudging along for the day.

It was really awesome. To be all steamy and wet with waterfall scum and my shorts chafing the skin on my thighs as I traipsed through dangerous trails and avoided poisonous things everywhere and stopping every five minutes or so Dundee could make sure there were no wild animals tracking us. Really awesome.  So awesome that I don’t remember what happened until we finally made it back to the vehicle and Dundee announced we were going to a hostel to spend the night. Well, thank God we weren’t pitching a tent and sleeping outside.  I felt so grateful at least there was a bed and a shower and even alcoholic beverages in the near future.  That night we sat in the big living room and told stories and drank. Dundee fondled his machete throughout.  When we were ready to turn in, Dundee told us to make sure to shower, because that was the last time we’d have the chance before he brought us back to Cairns TWO DAYS FROM NOW. He took special care right then to look at me right in my terrified, deer-in-the-headlight eyes and smile with pure glee.  Ah, FUCK. Really???! How on earth did I get here?

…I need another glass of wine now.  Next post, I swear I’ll get to the hunters trying to kill us part. Promise.

Click here for the finale