Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'll Get Up And Fly away

Some of you may know it was my Birthday the other day. I share this with nephew Zach and my little buddy, Jack Diamond. Chloe turned 2 the other day and Vanessa has a birthday in a week or so.

Everybody has them, no big deal, really. Plus, as they get up there in the 60's, birthdays are not as cool as they used to be.

But Kimberly loves 'em and loves to celebrate. She insisted I be home at 11:30.

Then without saying anything, she told me to drive in the direction of the airport. I was trying to figure out what this surprise was going to be because I sort of dislike surprises. Finally, thinking we were going up in a helicopter, I settled down a bit.

But that was not to be. When we walked into this office near the airport, I learned that i was going on a flying one minute.

The instructor was a cute girl, Michelle.

Before I could even say anything, I was strapped in and trying very hard to straighten up my head (which I had unwittingly unstraightened eariler) and focus on all the dials and knobs and flaps and headphones.

The entire thing lasted 45 minutes and she let me do a lot of the flying and turning and climbing. We were always safe because it was like a driver training car with 2 sets of controls.

The whole thing was really great and I am still thinking about it today.
So happy friggin' birthday to me!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hey 19, That's 'Retha Franklin

I had to get up at 4:00 am to watch the peaceful transition of power. These are my Inauguration Highlights:

With all due R-E-S-P-E-C-T, what has 'Retha been shoveling into her pie hole? I reckon she is up to 300 pounds. The Queen of Soul, AKA The Fat in the Hat, looks like the black Artie Lange. Still has the great voice, but looks worse than Ben Franklin. Same thoughts about Al Gore. When he walks, he must leave a very large (carbon) footprint. I hope Tipper gets on top during intimacy.

The quartet of minorities played extremely well. We had a chick, a slope, a negro and a hebe. By the way, that was NOT Itzhak Perlman on the violin. At the last minute, he was replaced by recently elected Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, who plays a smokin' fiddle.

My favorite moment of the ceremonies came when Dick Cheney was rolled out from his cage in a wheelchair. He brought to mind George Bailey's nemisis, Mr. Potter, a warped, frustrated old man.

Appropriatly, Old man Bush also sported a classy walking stick. Can he skydive with a cane? If W. somehow became hobbled, what a hat trick that would be. By the way, was it me, or did his reception define the term, "smattering of applause"?

Was not that crazy about Rick Warren or the poetry lady, but loved the old rev. with the soul patch, who stirred up the crowd with not one, not two, but three "AMENs"

Obama's speech was good, but not his greatest. I bet Bush did not understand half the words.

We shall see what happens next.

I'm going back to bed until Hannity tells me what to really think about all this.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's A Rainbow Full of Sound, It's Fireworks, Calliopes and Clowns

In 1770, Captain James Cook was feeding his exploring addiction in Southern New Zealand when he came across the entrance to a potential anchorage. The weather and winds being so inclement, he feared entering, feeling he would never be able to get out. Thus, came the name, Doubtful Harbor, later changed to Doubtful Sound.

In 2009, it still isn’t easy to get in and out this place.

Today it involves an hour-long boat ride across Manapouri, New Zealand’s loveliest lake. Next comes a rugged 22 km van ride along sand fly strewn Wilmot Pass to the interior entrance of Doubtful Sound.

Wilmot Pass is known as the most expensive stretch of road in the country, costing 100 dollars an inch and the lives of 5 men. This road was the key to building the power station. The story of the hydro plant on the West Arm of Lake Manapouri is one of vision and remarkable engineering. It also formed the roots of New Zealand’s staunch stand on environmental protection. But that’s another story for another time.

We arranged to spend New Year’s Eve on an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound. The hype on the place was so strong; it seemed like the perfect way to wash away the slime from 2008. Quite a few outfits will take you on a night trip, but the best one is Deep Cove Charters.

The company is owned and operated by Kiwis Chris and Diane Lemin and has been operating since 1991, mainly catering for daily diving and fishing charters. In 2003 they started overnight cruises. In 2007 they decided to build a brand new vessel "Seafinn" with comfort and privacy in mind. Other companies will take on over 70 passengers. Maximum on The Seafinn is twelve. Cruisy.

December 31 began with a tremendous rainstorm. I was thinking about canceling as I reckoned we would just be soaked for 24 hours. Kimberly had other ideas, called me a pussy and punched me in the arm to steel my courage.

Bravely, we pressed on.

Chris picked up the 12 intrepid travelers and drove to The Seafinn docked at Deep Cove. Once on board I felt heaps better as it is the coolest boat ever with lots of comfortable cushy seating and big glass windows. There are 7 separate sleeping cabins for all the couples and an ample galley stocked with plenty of food. The craft ran smoothly in any weather the gods decided to toss at her.

Did I mention the rain? It never stopped. Apparently it rains in the sounds 80% of the time. The good news is that all that liquid created waterfalls, thousands of them, each more impressive than the one before. The stories high steep cliffs shrouded in clouds were hemorrhaging fresh water to mix with the salt of the sound.

I checked the electronic fish finder and saw that hundreds of the beasts prefer to hang around the rivers streaming off the rocks. Downpour or no, it was time to snag the big ones. Within minutes, one of our group, a complete and utter fishing novice, landed a large Blue Cod, later to be eaten for tea.

The competitive streak in me was awoken and, raining or not, I grabbed a rod and dunked it in the briny drink. Seconds later I was struggling fiercely to haul up my catch…a 6 inch Jock Stewart, the clown of the sound.

He was smaller than my bait.

My tiny new goggle-eyed friend was photographed and released. On the second try, I caught him again. I supposed he had an ego that demanded having his picture taken. He was like Paris Hilton with gills.

Eventually, I caught Jock a few more times, and then I reeled in Jimmy Stewart, Martha Stewart, Jon Stewart and Rod Stewart.

None made it to the frying pan.

Lunch arrived and the table was heavy with plates of freshly captured crayfish. 14 of ‘em. If one had to purchase them, the cost would be hundreds of dollars. There was so much meat, try as we might we could not consume it all. Three of the group developed serious cases of the gout after 20 minutes of gorging. The leftovers were thrown overboard to the utter joy of the Stewart family.

The Bottlenose dolphins interrupted our meal.

A pod of 60 live in the sound and came out to put on a show with their leaping ability. Cameras were clicking as they exploded out of the water like missiles, five at a time. It was like a visit to Sea World without the annoying parking hassle. If dolphins held Olympics, these guys are gold medal winners. I wonder if they know how totally cool they are. I like to think they do.

Inside the main cabin, I decided to find out more about my shipmates. One fellow told me he was born in Africa where his father was eaten by a crocodile.

Imagine that.

(Note to self: Do not go to Africa).

After getting to know the younger, fitter, more intelligent on board, I decided that if we were playing Survivor – Doubtful Sound, I would be the first voted off the island. Just to be safe, from then on, I stayed below the radar.

Chris wanted to have us understand the Captain Cook experience so he steered the vessel out into the Tasman Sea where the wind whipped, the rain pelted and the waves topped 30 feet.

It was at that time I offered Kimberly $100 to do Eagle pose. The result was a hard punch delivered to the arm.

As evening fell, we found shelter by a ubiquitous waterfall and enjoyed a sumptuous meal of the aforementioned Blue Cod and Captain Chris’ freshly killed tender barbequed venison, dripping in gravy and served on a bed of gout.

The witching hour was approaching and champagne bottles appeared. One of the cast had a cell phone that read 11:55. But the ship’s clock said midnight so midnight it was and the celebration began. Since we were 5 minutes early, we reckoned we became the first people on earth to welcome in 2009.

Happily, nobody had the music to Auld Lang Syne, so we settled for Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

And here we were as Chris sent hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks into the stormy midnight sky.

After an excellent night’s sleep on the surprisingly comfortable beds, we awoke to a sunny morning. All the waterfalls had dried up as if a team of plumbers made a night visit.

Breakfast and coffee were served and we were gently piloted back to the real world to face 2009 and crocodiles that wear suits and ties below their toothy smiles.
That's your Sound advice.

Friday, January 09, 2009


Since moving over here to New Zealand, we have met and befriended people from all over the world. We are able to hang out with folks from Holland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Israel, and the UK.

Quite a few of the latter are known by several sobriquets, some of which are derogatory. They are called limeys or poms. Pom supposedly stands for Prisoner of her Majesty, but that is unlikely. Either way, I think it is sort of an insult and usually is contained it the phrase "whiny pommie bastard".

These Poms also will talk in a secret language known only to them. It is called Cockney Slang. Those who recall A Clockwork Orange or Snatch or countless other British tough guy films might have noticed that you don't know what the hell the characters are mumbling about...that might be Cockney Slang.

We certainly have not been able to completely wrap our arms around this new language, but one day someone said they were going up the apples and pears. Turns out they were talking about "stairs".

Then they said they had to answer the dog and bone, which means "phone".

OK, so they exchange a simple word for a phrase that rhymes with the word. To make it more confusing, sometimes they just use the first part which doesn't even have the rhyme and everyone knows where they are heading and therefore understands.

For example, a Gypsy's Kiss is a piss. but a guy will be at the table and just say he is going for a gypsy and leave it at that.

A few weeks ago, Kimberly, me Trouble and Strife, and I were to be out with some Pom friends and I went to the web and downloaded 4 pages of slang and decided to play a game. I would say that phrase and Kimberly got the first attempt at its meaning. If she was correct, she got 5 points. When she missed, the Brits could steal for 2 points.

She did remarkably well.

Try these out yourself:

Holy Ghost

Jam Jar

Bo Peep

Brown Bread

China (short for China Plate)

Khyber Pass

Lady Godiva

Mincers (short for Mince Pies)

Porky's (for Porky Pies)

North and South

Plates of Meat

Raspberries (for Raspberry Ripple)

Thrupenny Bits

Whistle and Flute

Battle Cruiser

Bob Hope

Boat Race

There are tons of these and unfortunately, I discovered my usual drink, ginger beer, has a negative translation. Now I need to find a new drink to avoid embarrasment.