In 2014, almost exactly two years ago, I made an investment in my future. I bought a backpack—a Tom Bihn Synapse 25. Here’s a review!
In 2014, almost exactly two years ago, I made an investment in my future. I bought a backpack—a Tom Bihn Synapse 25. Here’s a review!
Coffee tastes bad.
It does, doesn’t it? Objectively, coffee tastes like strongly brewed poop water. No one’s ever tried coffee for the first time and shouted, “This is a fine, delicious beverage! Pour me another!”
Or maybe they have, but their taste buds got put on upside down and inside out and they’re not complete, functional humans who could have ever survived in nature. No disrespect to em but they the dum-dums who would’ve eaten the rotting, festering flesh of some beast, washed it down with a handful of poison berries, burped, sharted, and died. Cause clever folks know not to fuxs with bitter.
Humans have trained themselves to accept some bitter food. In coffee’s case, we drink it because it’s nice and cozy and full of a mostly harmless—though still fun and energizing—drug. Those are objectively good things that excuse its foul taste. My mom can’t distinguish between the smells of coffee, dog food, and poop, and yet she drinks a cup o josé every morning.
That’s all. Don’t pretend coffee tastes good. You love it, I get it. With enough milk and sugar and ice, I like it lots too. But it’s gross as shit. Please acknowledge that.
I’ve never been seasick or carsick. Never in my whole life. Not a once.
Impressive, ain’t it? It’s probably my favorite thing about myself. That and my four intact wisdom teeth. And how small my feet are in proportion to my height. Oh, I also like my feet’s high arches. And that they’re orange—that’s cool, too. Damn, I guess I like my feet pretty good.
Other than my mouth full of wisdom teeth and my small, orange feet, my ability to not get motion sick is my favorite thing about myself. I can read in cars as they speed along winding roads and I can happily fall asleep on a cruise ship as it rocks back and forth.
So, earlier this month when Alastair and I crossed the Cook Strait by ferry—from the South Island of New Zealand to the North Island—and our departure got delayed due to rough seas, I was excited. I’ve heard lots of horror stories about vomiting ferry passengers, and I wanted my own. I wanted to test my stomach’s limits.
And it was the perfect storm for testing my stomach’s limits. Not only would I be crossing tumultuous waters on a ferry, but I’d also eaten a lot of food that day. (We’d stayed at a bed and breakfast the night before, and they fed us like queens and kings. If you ever go to a place called Kaikoura, I highly recommend the Nikau Lodge.)
Below is a list of the things I ate. I remember it perfectly because all I think about, ever, is food. (Food and also my feet. Did I mention I can pick things up with my toes? I just finished petting a cat with them, actually. Holy moly they some good ass feet.)
I encourage just skimming this list, as it’s long and boring and basically a grocery list for a family of four.
Sounds grotesque, listed out like that. I should consider eating less.
NEVERDALESS, when we boarded the ferry, I knew it would be the true test of my gut’s durability. During the three hour journey, I kept a log of my nausea. Here ‘tis.
Finally on the ferry. I ain’t worried bout nothin.
Nausea scale: 1 out of 10, only because I ate old cheese.
A gross man just chose the couch next to me, took his shoes off, and kicked up his sour-cream-and-onion flavored feet directly next to my head. A minute after that, I heard the thud of a baby’s head as she fell on the ground. Had to get up and go to the bathroom, just so I wouldn’t hear her wails, and everything I touched there was wet.
I could very well throw up tonight.
4 out of 10, eff.
Had to get up again and find the deck for some fresh air. Saw someone eating a corndog.
5 out of 10.
On the deck. There are smokers out here and, uh, the seas is churning.
5 out of 10.
Back at the couch and my head hurts. Both Alastair and Mr. Stanky Feet are asleep. Finna lie down despite the one million stains on this couch.
5.5 out of 10.
Put my headphones in and chose Trey Songz’s “Gotta Make It.” I can’t stop thinking about the eggs I had for breakfast, in a bad way. All right, truly going to try to sleep.
6 out of 10.
I’m making myself sick with this log, thinking too much about smells and noises. Motion of the ocean is actually fly, I feel like I’m skiing! Stomach hurts though.
5 out of 10
Had to turn up my music. Far too much coughing around these parts.
5 out of 10.
I slept! But woke up to a chorus of babies coughing and confident men laughing. Terrible alarm clock, but otherwise I feel fine.
4 out of 10.
This coughing baby sounds like it’s going to throw up.
5 out of 10.
Aw, remember that time Coogan threw up in the car because he ate too many blueberries? You weren’t there but he told you about it several times. Vomiting babies aren’t so bad.
4 out of 10.
Back to the bathroom. Smells like Fritos and bunny pee, which is redundant because they have the exact same odor.
5 out of 10.
We’re almost to Wellington and the seas have calmed down. I miss the rough seas, they were more fun. The worst part of this whole trip has been my inability to put my hands down the front of my pants (for sleeping comfort).
3 out of 10.
I’m gonna put my hands down my pants. I’ll keep them up high, but I’ll never see these people again anyway and plus where else does one keep her hands when recumbent?!?
1 out of 10.
Back in the car, on dry land. I’m snacking on sour worms and savory crackers and my gut is strong as ever.
0 out of 10, hell yee-haw.
p.s. THE ANSWER IS NAH.
I am an OK surfer. I’ve been doing it since I was about 10—so I should probably be better than I am—but I manage all right. There are still days when I go out and can’t catch a single wave, but more often than not, I rip.
PLAYIN! I’ve never ripped anything but my wetsuit. Truly though, I am OK, at least by New England terms.
And that thar’s the qualifier—New England terms. Ya girl surfs strictly Rhode Island and Maine, strictly June through October, although I did rent a surfboard in Florida for a few hours once. I shared waves with a surf instructor that day, and he told me I “did really well for my first time.” That was two years ago—so I’d been surfing for 14 years—if that gives you some indication of my ability.
Despite my mediocrity, I like it a lot. Part of the reason I came to New Zealand was to do some surfing, and some surfing I’ve done. And snoop doggy dogg, ain’t it scary.
The first day my cousin Alastair brought me out, we went to a beach called Muriwai on the Tasman Sea. You ever been to the Tasman Sea? It’s the sea on the west coast of NZ, and it is corporate as hell. It probably has an MBA from Wharton. Probably works on Wall Street. Do Wall Street people have MBAs? I don’t know. I’m not that corporate, but the Tasman Sea sure is. THE TASMAN SEA MEANS BUSINESS.
When we first got out, I had a couple of shaky but decent rides. Then, about half an hour in, a wave crashed directly on my face. It wasn’t a huge wave, and I’ve been crashed upon many a-time, but this wave wrecked me. It held me underwater, threw me almost into shore, and put one gallon of water into each of my facial holes. That’s five gallons straight into the dome, seven gallons if you count my eye holes. (Feel free to count my face holes however you want. It’s all exaggeration, don’t matter.)
I’ve had a lot water in my face before, but this was beyond my realm of experience. It burned. It felt as if I’d swallowed a full glass of Polyjuice Potion and had started to transform into a Slytherin.*
After that wave tored me up, I turned into a sugar bowl lady—too timid to really try for any more waves. I eventually gave up entirely and paddled into shore, where I built sandcastles and befriended an outgoing baby while waiting for Alastair to finish up.
The next day, still damaged from my beating at Muriwai but ready to get back into the water, Alastair brought me to a beach on the east coast, Te Arai. He told me the South Pacific Ocean was gentler than the Tasman—more of a not-for-profit type vibe—and he was right. The waves were smaller and less powerful and much better suited to my delicate, New England constitution. Alastair (and all other New Zealanders, I guess) have much stronger constitutions that don’t really fuxx with small waves. I was the only person in the water.
I had myself a grand time! I stayed out for an hour, riding baby waves to my heart’s content. The waves were the perfect size and the crystal clear water was the perfect temperature.
“You can see anything in these gleaming glass waters!” I shouted to myself. “Why, I can see the sand ripples on the ocean floor, and I have terrible eyesight! Hurrah for the South Pacific Ocean!”
In between waves, I started making a list of all the things I’d be able to see through the clear water.
“Seashells. Urchins. Crabs. Fish! Ooh, so many fish. Um… stingrays. Sharks. Hey, I wonder if I could get eaten by a shark right now.”
I spend a lot of time in the ocean, and I’ve never been scared of sharks. But before Te Arai, I’d also never been out surfing, all by myself, in warm South Pacific waters.
“What if a shark did come and bite me? What if I died? Then my family would have to tell people I got killed by a shark while surfing in New Zealand, which sounds far more extreme than it is. These are baby waves, for heaven’s sake! I’mma get out of this water now.”
So I got out of the water. I needed a drink of water and more sunscreen anyway, plus I have a rib that juts out goofily and it was aching something awful.
When I got back to where Alastair was lying on the beach, I asked him about sharks.
“Oh yeah, there are sharks here,” he said. “Hammerheads and bronze whalers all the time. You’re fine though. You were near the shore—they don’t come in that close.”
“Cool. And if they did, I could bop them on the nose and they’d leave me alone. I ain’t never scared.”
“No,” said Alastair. “If a shark were going to bite you, it’d swim up beneath you. You wouldn’t see him coming.”
“Ah, right. Think I’ll stay here and read for a while, then.”
After half an hour of reading, Alastair stood up and said he was going to jump in the water. I was burning up (it’s hot there) and had kind of forgotten about sharks, so I decided to join him. I grabbed the board and we headed out.
As soon as we got out there, I caught a wave on my board and Allie caught a wave on his body. (Like me, his nickname is Allie. Who ever heard of two cousins—a boy and a girl—with the same dang name?!) When we paddled back out, we faced each other to congratulate each other on our successful wave riding. We were probably six feet apart, me facing the shore, Alastair facing the ocean.
Suddenly, in the clear ass waters, I noticed a large shadow on my left. At first I thought it could be my shadow, and then I noticed fin-like features and thought it could be an enormous stingray. Alastair thought the same thing and asked, “Is that a stingray?” By this point it had swam, very slowly, right in between us. As he said it, we both made out what it actually was.
I said with authority, but did not scream, “It’s a SHARK!”
And ‘twas. ‘Twas a goddamn shark. It cruised right by, probably two feet away from both of us. Alastair says it was probably a mako shark, four to five feet long. I say five to six. And, seeing how he uses the metric system and doesn’t know feet as well as I do, you ought to believe me.
After it passed between us, I caught the next wave and rode it in boogie-style and had myself a quick heebie-jeebie type shiver. Alastair swam closer into shore and hung out there until he could tell another swimmer about the shark. Once he did, we left.
It was scary and cool, and I look forward to it never happening again.
*For those unfamiliar with Harry Potter, I suggest you read the series then return to this post, in order to understand the reference.
I traveled to New Zealand this week. Here are seven highlights from my journey:
On my flight from Boston to San Francisco, I sat between two white businessmen. One of them read the same pharmaceutical magazine for the duration of our nearly seven-hour flight. He also invited me to hop in his rental car and go on a run to the bank in downtown SF during my layover. After light consideration, I declined.
The second white man had an aisle seat and got to put his bags in the overhead cabin. I had a middle seat and did not get to use the overhead cabin (‘twas full), and the homie wouldn’t let me store my second bag under his seat. FOR REAL YOU NEED THAT EXTRA 12 INCHES OF FOOT SPACE? I wanted to shout that at him, but I dint.
Also, I sneezed and neither of them blessed me. Them and they hating asses SMH.
In San Francisco, I lost the ticket for my flight from there to Auckland. I had to leave the security area to talk to the people at the ticket booth, but the ticket booth was closed and the self-checkout kiosk was unhelpful. I then looked more carefully in my bag and found my original ticket. That was good news.
I almost bought a $7 candy bar. I didn’t know the price until they scanned it, and when that woman ever told me $7 dollars I shouted IS YOU SHIZZING ME (but with less anger). I did not buy the candy bar. I bought a Twix somewhere else for like a buck fifty.
I filled up a water bladder with water but couldn’t get the water to come out the nip (nipple), for it didn’t have a nip slit. A Japanese chef at a Japanese restaurant watched me gnawing on it in futility and offered a toothpick (for poking purposes) but I turned him down. We had communication barriers and plus I didn’t think a toothpick was really up for the job. Still it was a generous offer and I respected him for it.
I chatted with a New Zealand lady while waiting to board the flight to Auckland. She had the neatest voice, you should have heard her! Google “new zealand accent” if you’re curious. That’s all it was.
(It’s the vowels that are the best, I think. Sounds like every vowel is pronounced like an “I.” Bif kissirole. That was one of the dinner options on the flight. I opted for the chickin with limin pippir sauce instead. I didn’t taste no limin pepper though.)
Pooped four times on the second plane.
When I landed in New Zealand, I threw away a napkin in an airport trashcan. The trashcan had a sign that said “NO SPITTING, USE TOILETS.” That’s a stern yet helpful sign. I liked that.
I’m here now, and it’s very nice. Here’s a picture!
It’s been almost two years.
It’s been almost two years, and I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. About the time I went to a Russian bathhouse.
A Russian bathhouse—or banya—according to Wikipedia, can refer to a number of types of steam baths popular in Eastern Europe. A Russian bathhouse, according to me, is an underground swamp hell, built of germs and hair and sweat where overweight Russian men glisten and beat patrons with branches.
In 2014, I went to one for my cousin’s birthday.
This cousin’s name is Caitlin. If there ever existed an objective list of the world’s most fun, pleasant people, Caitlin would be at the top. So, two years ago, when I found out she’d be celebrating her birfday in New York City (she lived in Puerto Rico at the time), I traveled down to meet up with her and join in on the festivities.
The festivities were fly. Caitlin, her friends, and I ate hamburgers on English muffins and drank drinks with alcohol and I think even danced dances, maybe. The next morning we ate bagels and peanuts and more hamburgers. By Sunday afternoon, we were engorged with meat and booze—and while the process to get there had been fun, we felt and smelt like beefy alcoholics.
Caitlin decided a trip to the Russian Turkish baths in Manhattan would reverse our feelings of beefish alcoholism. She told me that when she still lived in New York, she and her friend Nikki would go there all the time. It was really hot and intense, Caitlin said, but wonderful and rejuvenating.
“Well, I despise heat and intensity,” I said. “But don’t I love wonder and rejuvenation. Plus, I trust your judgment. I’m horrified by the sounds of this, but I will join you.”
“Word!” said Caitlin. “We’ll just have to buy some bathing suits first. I think today’s a non-naked day.”
If you’re ever invited somewhere, and you’re told it’s a “non-naked day,” I suggest you shout NAH THANKS PLAYA and turn the eff around. If a place a business has naked days and non-naked days, I promise it’s not the type of establishment you want to mess with. That’s important advice I did not learn until after I went to the Russian bathhouse.
We bought bathing suits at a department store in Brooklyn called Bobby’s. No disrespect to Bobby’s, but their bathing suit selection is … straight covered in pudding. For real—the day we went, every bathing suit available at Bobby’s had been manhandled by grimy pudding fingers. I bet you’re thinking, Pudding? Why do Bobby’s customers got such pudding hands?
Here’s a secret just between you and me, homie: Bobby’s customers probably don’t have pudding hands—they probably have poop or blood hands. But we told ourselves it was pudding because Caitlin’s friend Nikki was already waiting for us at the bathhouse, and the train was coming, and we needed bathing suits—poop, blood, and pudding be damned. I chose a shiny blue bathing suit and Caitlin chose a pretty teal one, neither of which we tried on, for $3.99 each. Then we went to the bathhouse.
When we got there, several men with round, gleaming stomachs greeted us. They were all half naked, sitting at tables, eating pork and mashed potatoes.
“Hey,” I whispered to Caitlin. “What’s going on with all this pork? Where are the garments for these men? THIS ALL SEEMS VERY STRANGE TO ME.”
“Come on, there’s Nikki. Let’s get our locker keys,” said Caitlin.
We got our keys and then went into the locker room, which was located directly off the pork café and had only the flimsiest of saloon-style doors.
“I like how these doors swing so freely,” I thought. “A very nice quality for locker room doors.” (My thoughts were hella sarcastic that day.)
We changed. Since it was towards the end of winter, I hadn’t seen myself in a bikini in a while—and I’d never seen myself in a bikini quite as sleazy as the one I got from Bobby’s. There was an alarming amount of pale flesh and dark hair (and I’m on the blonde spectrum, fam!). It was as if someone had dropped an industrial-sized batch of white bread dough on a dog groomer’s floor, picked it up, and then stuffed it into a glimmering string bikini.
“Yo, peep this,” I said to Caitlin, turning toward her. “I look like someone dropped an industrial-sized batch of—WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!”
“I …” said Caitlin. “Something’s gone astray.”
Nothing had gone astray with Caitlin—something had gone astray with her bathing suit. It was tiny. So crazy tiny. Child’s size small tiny. Which makes sense, because that’s the size bikini she’d purchased, child’s size small. It covered about 1/50th of her body, but that didn’t matter. She still had to wear it. And wear it she did! Right down into the depths of the bathhouse.
Imagine, right now, that you are sitting in a room. That room is made of stone blocks and is 130 degrees and has at least an inch of water on the floor. You’re wearing a dirty, undersized bathing suit, likely with someone else’s poop or blood or pudding on it. There are 25 other people in the room with you, some of them touching you, most of them grunting or moaning, all of them sweating like old men eating plates of pork and mashed potatoes. Scummy soap bubbles build up around your feet, and a couple branches float by. You find a long strand of hair between your fingers, from a different color spectrum than your own, fam. Two men start shouting at you in Russian.
That’s a bathhouse.
If you want to make it extra terrible, like Caitlin did, you can purchase a platza treatment. Doing so will get you 20 minutes of being violently attacked with branches and contorted in unnatural positions by a burly Russian man. She loved it; I did not. I did not even like watching it. I felt like the worst Samaritan of all time, standing there not doing anything while my cousin got the shit beaten out of her on her birthday.
After an hour and a half—an hour and a half of simmering in the sweat of strangers in a literal cesspool—we left. On the way out, the man who had whipped Caitlin with branches gave her a hug and promised the next visit would be on the house. I told you, she is objectively the world’s most fun, enjoyable person.
On the drive home back to Maine, I had the driver’s side window cracked. It was precipitating a wintry mix that day, and a plow truck in the southbound lane sprayed some slush across the median and it hit me right in the face. It was amazing actually, how fully it got me. A straight up white wash.
For scale: The experience of having a pound of gritty slush smack me in the face while driving on the highway was at least 16 times better than going to a Russian bathhouse.
All right, did it. I told my story, and now I will never speak of it again. (Unless you want to go, in which case I’m in.)
After several years of watching the stock market, I finally bought some of it. I went through a ridiculous rigmarole to get set up to invest through an investment company, and then I invested the majority of my savings. I won’t tell you how much exactly because that there ain’t none of your business.
That was in November. I invested in a total stock market ETF, which means that rather than investing in a couple companies—like Apple or Facebook—I invested in all of the companies. Or most of the companies. I don’t exactly know, but it’s something like that.
Anyway, I invested some money. I felt responsible and mature and rich. The stock market had been doing well and, I figured, would probably continue to trend upward. For a little while, it did. And then it did not.
The stock market straight sucks right now.
It took a giant poop dive (that’s a nosedive but into a pool of poop) and I lost a bunch of money. Again, the exact amount ain’t none of your business. Plus, to be honest, I don’t know the exact figure. But I’ve lost enough that it sucks. Losing five bucks sucks, and I’ve lost considerably more than five bucks.
Beyond that, I’ve also recently made the decision to quit my stable, decent paying job, and not because I have another job lined up. I intentionally do not have another job lined up, in fact. So not only have I lost money in the stock market, but I’ve also lost my source of income.
What does a person do when these things happen?
A person keeps her money in the stock market, because as long as humans continue to innovate it’ll probably return to pre-poop dive levels one day, and if she sells now then she’s really losing that money forever.
A person stops spending all her money on stupid shit like diet Snapple and fancy trail mix and crazy backcountry tents that she thinks she’ll use one day but of course never, ever will.
A person … I don’t know. What else does a person do? You tell me. Please. It appears I am stupid and have made a series of very poor decisions.