Living in Amerika

 

I’m sitting in an underground heavy metal bar in the capital of a former Soviet Republic and the elevated Yamaha speakers are blasting Rammstein. I’d love to know what my 16 year old self thinks of that sentence. I’m typing this on a next gen Chinese smartphone. The bartender here is wearing studded platform boots, one of which she stomps along to the beat as she scrolls through her Instagram feed on a Taiwanese phablet. Teenage patrons in cutoff shirts shout over each other in a tumbled mix of Russian, English, and Other. Richard Z Kruspe’s curdled Denglisch chorus comes into focus: We’re all living in Amerika, Amerika, ist wunderbar. I sip my Jack Daniel’s and think, yeah, pretty much.

 

 

Moving to another country means less than it ever has. Or maybe it’s the word ‘country’ itself that feels antiquated to me. Like it or not, globalization is a real thing. It’s speeding up. It’s here and it’s happening. But I’m going to sidestep that gnarly tangent and refocus on the topic at hand.

 

Years ago, I had a dream. More like a vision. Of the future-future. Of me. I had a full head of silver hair. I looked a little frail. I think I might have been a vegetarian. I was wearing flannel and standing in a somewhat forested area while hammering in a fence post. A greyhound named Stanley was by my side. Behind us, on the deck of a modest cabin, a woman who I intuited to be my future wife was cursing at me in a mixture of English and Other. Screaming at me to make some damn money for a change. To write another book or something. She may have be holding our crying baby or grandbaby. I don’t know. I remained focused on my fence post. I kept my back to her. I started whistling. This was and is my dream. Say what you will about it but it’s mine and I’ve analyzed it and I like it.

 

There are many ways that dream could become a reality. But I’m an extremely stubborn man. For the last ten years – and maybe always, in retrospect – I’ve refused to put anything but passion first. How long can one go on like that though, practically speaking? I’ve done the math. Plotted the trajectory. Calculated the end game to a certain point. You’re kind of forced to, again and again, as time goes on.

 

 

In 2014, I started test piloting new countries. Hungary. Serbia. Kosovo. Ukraine. Turkey. Other. Looking for a place I could pursue my dream, my way. Do my job. Make my art. Pay my taxes. Save money. Fall in love. Visit strange and beautiful and sometimes dangerous places. Meet weird and interesting people with a whole spectrum of perspectives. Be in the middle of things. Maybe one day buy a house. Or a modest cabin. Build a fence around it. Start a family. It’s my American Dream. And in a very Matt way, it’s fitting that I’ve left America, left home, to pursue it.

 

I’ve moved over a dozen times in the last ten years. My parents have their nomadic version of this trip going on, too. So the word home has taken on strange and malleable meanings. And maybe it’s something that’s easier for me to describe from a distance. I see more similarities to home every day. And the differences – both subtle and overt – function as either new ways to see old things or as a mainline injection of third-eye opening empathy.

 

You can’t really leave home, I’m learning. It’s a place you carry inside you. A place you build and rebuild each time you move, using the tools and parts you’ve collected, weightlessly, along the way.

 

I’m sitting in an underground heavy metal bar in the capital of a former Soviet Republic and the elevated Yamaha speakers are blasting Rammstein. I like the fact of that sentence so much that I am repeating it. This place, this moment, it feels kind of like America. And then it suddenly feels totally foreign. It’s both. It’s somewhere in between. It’s the future. It’s Other. It’s home, for now, for me.

 

Epoch Transition #2

If you were to slice me in half through the belly button and analyze my rings, you would be able to break apart my life into four epochs:

#1. 1983 – 1990: The Shit Your Pants and Be Happy About It Era
#2. 1990 – 2001: The I’m Better than You Era
#3. 2001 – 2008: The Arms Wide Open Era
#4. 2008 – 2016/17: The Searching Era

It takes a large and/or significant event to define a new epoch, and in 2008 mine came in the form of the greatest thing I have done in my life, which was to chase love through South America.

Leading up to that, I had to leave behind the conveniences which we all take for granted. I quit a kush job that would have easily seen me through the financial crisis of my lifetime. And maybe most difficult was to step back from many relationships that had cultivated and matured over many a wonderful year.

And that sucks.

But what nobody told me is that by making those gaps in your capacity as a person/friend/lover/co-worker, you can fill them again with new and wonderful experiences and even more amazing people. Not to replace what you had, but to enhance both the old and the new. Enhanced through a new and better you and your appreciation for a more inclusive world.

Ultimately I did find what I was chasing, I just didn’t know it… until I found it. When I have challenging moments with my wife, I find solace knowing that it was her who got me to where I am today. It was her who inspired me to be a better human. And we will always be better together. Thank You.

So to anyone who is pondering a serious life change or relocation… to anyone  on the precipice of your next epoch, jump far… and jump long.

...
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 
...
- Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Dear Zoë Alexandra Payne

I was recently told that I have not properly mourned your death. Considering it has been 14 years, maybe it is about time I start trying to figure that out.

I guess the way in which Dad and I tried to spread your ashes doesn’t count towards mourning. Trust me, in our head’s it seemed monumental to spread your ashes in the hills you spent so much time. But Dad got tired so we barely got up the first 100 meters of rocky peak. And when the urn merely cracked instead of exploded and the ashes barely fell out instead of flying majestically through the air, we could only think that you were watching and laughing hysterically.

But I digress…

I was only 18 when you died. I was just beginning to figure out for myself who I was as a human. I realize now that the Luke you had to deal with was nothing like the Luke that I am today. And there is no doubt in my mind that we would get along like a house on fire. I have been told a number of times, in recent years by the people that probably knew you better than I ever did, that I am definitely your son. By the things I do, the way I do them, the people I meet.

There is so much I wish I could share with you. My beautiful wife. How I learned a language, how I want to learn more. I wish you could have taken my golden retriever before I came back to Chile. Where I have travelled and lived. I want to travel more than you! I like making things out of wood. I had a cat with seven toes. I race bikes now. So much to tell you!

Sadly, I sometimes forget your voice, or your smile, or struggle to remember when we last touched each other. And I feel like a horrible person for that. But life has a pleasant way of reminding me that you will live on indefinitely in high def clarity.

leo_smallMy friend Brian messaged me the other day explaining just how amazing it is that 26 years later your Lion picture is being admired and used for texture and study in illustrations of the latest Ice Age movie. Oh, or how your friend Denise got a hold of Ros and wanted to give me a picture that you had given her when you were living with Jeff. And she went on to talk about that time of life and how impressive you were as a person and gave me a new window to see you through. But most importantly you will forever live on in my sense of adventure, my brown eyes, and my belief that there is so much more to this world.

I wish I hadn’t been the naive teenager who chose not to care more during those last difficult years of your life. I don’t know what I would have done or could have done, but when you decided that life wasn’t just hard, but impossible, I wish I would’ve been there for you … with you. I wish I wasn’t such a jerk! You might remember the last words I said to you a week before you left…

“Wait Luke, before you go … what do you think about my new walker?” as you leaned on it with one hand and waved over it with the other.

“Pathetic.” is all I could say while I looked you up and down and I jumped on my motorcycle in a rush to get back to university and the new life I was living. I didn’t even think twice what I might had just done.

I want you to know that I would do anything to erase that moment from existence. To replace it with me looking you up and down, and walking over and giving you a big hug and a smile and telling you that I love you.

A week later you left us. I want you to know that I love you and I appreciate everything you gave me and did for me and I want you to know that you were, and are, and always will be one of the most important influences in my universe.

Exceeding Expectations

In high school I felt untouchable. But at a large university, it was easy to compare yourself to others and realize you just aren’t that good. I was a B+ student getting wrecked by all the Asians in my computer science classes. I was a red shirt on the soccer team filling in for the guys who were exceptionally talented. I wasn’t very tall or short. I wasn’t very rich or poor. I was run of the mill. But on one Saturday morning, I scoffed at the mill and exceeded everyone’s expectations.

I was sitting with my roommates at Wahoo’s Tacos in Costa Mesa. It was 10am and my face was deep in my palms as I tried to sooth the pain in my head that was roaring from the night before. It had been a long night and I had only gone to bed a few hours earlier. I don’t want to risk my reputation or station in life, but let’s just say that the night before involved a lot of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

In the middle of my second taco, my shitty japanese knock off palm pilot “DINGED!” at me with a message saying:

11am: Go be experiment at Physical Sciences building 2a for $100. Woop!

Two weeks earlier I was asked by a random person on campus if I wanted to be a test subject in a Science Experiment. They would pay me $100 and it would last 3 hours. I didn’t need any more details. I was in. The only other pre-requisite was that I could not eat or drink for 12 hours prior to the experiment.

So hangover and all, I raced my motorcycle to the Science building and prepared to lie through my teeth about the last time I had put any sort of substance into my body, food or otherwise.

As I entered the building, I was greeted by a grad student who asked me to fill out some paperwork while he asked me questions about my mental and physical health. I averted eye contact and speaking more than necessary to avoid any automatic disqualifications from pupil size or bad breath. All seemed to be going well and he moved on to explain just what exactly they were going to do to me.

The Experiment

The goal of the experiment was to determine just how soon they could release a patient from the hospital after they had received general anesthetic. The sooner the patient could leave, the more beds would be available for more patients, and thus more money. So I was either going to be given a low dose of general anesthetic (to add to my cocktail)  or I was going to be given a placebo. I would then be asked to perform tasks and they would measure me. Seemed simple enough.

I was led into another room that was no bigger than 15 feet squared with no decorations and a single window looking into an office. At it’s center was a big brown leather chair and the grad student told me to take a seat. At this point, I would like to imagine this grad student, who was reaching the climax of his educational career and about to finish all over the faces of his advisors with this experiment, put on his headphones and began the final jerks. He casually strapped my shins and biceps to the chair so escape was not possible. He effortlessly stuck me with an IV and flicked the tube as he looked into my increasingly concerned eyes. He roughly attached electrode sticky things all over my chest and neck. He then walked behind me and almost caressingly, placed a breathing mask over my mouth and nose and gently tightened the straps above my ears. And finally he rolled a cart directly in front of me. It had a computer monitor about 18 inches from my face and a special keyboard that had four big buttons on it labeled one through four. One and two on the top row, three and four on the bottom.

“OK, I think that’s everything. How do you feel?” he asked while he stood in front of me looking over the various connections and straps as if there was no human behind them.

“Actually, it’s a little tig…” I began to muffle through the mask but he quickly continued before I could describe any discomfort.

“Excellent. OK, we have already began giving you either the placebo or the drug. There is no way for you to know so stop trying to smell it. Once I leave the room, the monitor is going to start showing you images. If and when you see a red dot in one of the four corners, as quickly as you can, press the button that corresponds to the corner the dot is in. One is top left. Four is bottom right. Understand?”

Now, at this point, it did occur to me that $100 was not worth whatever the fuck they were about to show me. But I meekly and groggily nodded my head in agreement, and he left the room.

The lights were dimmed and the monitor flickered on. The first image came up. A picture of a family laughing in the park. It stayed on for two seconds or so and was followed with a cat sleeping that had a red dot in the top right. I pressed two. The next picture came up of a gruesome car accident with blood flowing from the head of the dead driver and a red dot in the top left. I pressed one. Then a picture of students studying. Poppies in a field. African children with flies in their eyes. A car driving with a red dot in the bottom left. I pressed three.

This went on for at least 100 pictures and then the screen was turned off and the grad student entered.

“So how was that?” he said to me while he checked the connections and straps.

“I don’t know man, that was pretty fu…” I tried to blurt out from behind the mask but again I was interrupted.

“Excellent.” he said coldly. “OK, now we will begin the actual experiment now that the medicine has had time to enter your blood stream.”

Now, at this point, it did occur to me to Godzilla my way out of this situation, ripping out IVs and straps and running through campus in a hospital gown. (I was’t actually wearing a gown.). But I again weekly nodded my head in resignation and looked towards the monitor as he walked out.

The lights dimmed and the process began again. The process was the same but it went on for a lot longer and the time intervals between images were never the same. A few times I was left looking at a child crying with a gunshot wound and a red dot in the bottom left for what seemed like an eternity. Flowers. Rape. Love. Violence. War. Language. Travel. Starvation. Open wounds. Dead babies. And red dots.

After roughly two hours and one five minute break where I was allowed to not have the monitor directly in front of my eyes, I was unstrapped and unplugged and told to go wait in the first room I had been doing paper work in. I was then asked to write down as many images as I could remember that had the red dot on them and in what corner. This was not easy as I had seen hundreds but I made a best effort and handed them the paper. They asked me to wait a few minutes while they reviewed the experiment and would be out shortly to give the results and the money.

The Results

Now, at this point, it had occurred to me that these people were fucked up. What computer were they on looking up all this child porn and animal killing images? I paid tuition for those computers? How many people had seen this stuff? Why would people coming out of a surgery care if a grand mother cut in half by a hack saw has a red dot in the top right corner? My thoughts were interrupted as they came in.

It was now the grad student and an older looking professor who was carrying a manilla folder full of papers. They didn’t seem happy and anxiety and guilt began to surge through my veins. Guilt for lying to them about not eating or drinking or whatever else I wasn’t supposed to do before these last three hours.

“First Luke, thanks for coming in today and helping us. We understand Saturday mornings are valuable.” the professor began which immediately made me feel I was in the clear and I had just a few more nods and smiles to give before I would get my hundred bucks.

The professor continued, “But it seems we have some anomalies with your results, and we are not really sure how to interpret them. In fact, we are not positive we can even include these in the experiment. In all my years of Science I have never seen anything like this. In every aspect of the word, you are an outlier.”

“Outlier?” I questioned with a twist of my head as the possibility I wouldn’t get my money came back into play.

“Ya. You see, the human body has a minimum time that it must take to perceive something, process it, and then react. In your case, it was to see a red dot, determine what corner it was in, and then press the appropriate button.” the professor explained while pointing his fingers at his eyes and brain and hands. He continued, “The whole point of this experiment is to measure that time while the affects of anesthetic are present in the body.”

They seemed to be waiting for me to say something but I stared blankly at the two of them. Not because I didn’t understand, but because the hangover was demanding I go get some sleep.

Eventually the professor ended the silence, “You are an outlier because you repeatedly were reacting significantly faster than what science believes is the human minimum time. And this was WITH the anesthetic!”

The professor seemed to want to jump up and scream that last sentence but restrained himself when he noticed me not giving a single fuck. He composed himself, straightened his jacket, and stood up gesturing for me to as well.

“Again, Luke, thanks for your time.” and he handed me a white envelope with a hundred dollar bill inside and sent me back into the mill.

Noviciado Bike Race, Santiago Chile

Five years ago I was in Santiago Chile pretending to race my bicycle. I wrote about my first experience then, which involved a much steeper learning curve than I experienced today. None the less, I feel compelled to document how today came to pass so I may help future racers and my own shitty memory.

Where to get the Information

So first thing is to be friends with the facebook person/page https://www.facebook.com/canadelaciclismo.santiago . They seem to do most of the communication through facebook although they have a website but it does not seem to be updated as often.

While you are at it, you can befriend https://www.facebook.com/ciclismo.amcla which is the other organized racing I hear about but have not participated in. Maybe it will come in the summer? Additionally, the following page seems to be trying to represent the Chilean cycling scene so it’s worth a check every now and then, http://www.ciclismolaboral.cl/category/competencias/ . It included a slightly more helpful instruction set for today’s race.

I was sent the following post to instruct me on the winter cycling season for the Canadela association.

So, I am now living in an enormous city with a shit load of little towns all around. And this is all the information I get for the whole winter. If you google map Cerro Navia you get a highlighted area of maybe 15 square kilometers. Fortunately, Canadela is on top of it and sent out this post a few days ago.

Don’t worry about the Spanish. Basically it says, the start is at the corner of Las Torres and J.J. Perez, it’s gonna be neutralized until Noviciado and the finish is in an industrial area. $8 entry and start time is at 9:30am for the first category.

OK, so even in California, cycle racing maps are notoriously shitty. It seems that all bike races are limited to about 18 words to describe how to arrive to a point in the middle of no where where you will likely not have cell phone reception. If you look through the comments of the post above, you can see me begging for someone to confirm the start (partida) on a google map, which no one did. Eventually I was able to confirm it to be here which is about 4km from where I am staying, nice.

Race Summary

IMG_20150816_093317I woke up at 7am to bake the bread I prepared the night before. I ate three eggs on top of it, it was lovely. I left at 9:15am and got there at 9:25am. My race was not to start for another 70 minutes and it was like 5 degrees celsius. Fortunately the Morris Family was still making a killing selling coffee and snacks to these races! These guys took me in like a son 5 years ago, and became my cycling family. Took me to races. Made fun of my Spanish. Gave me a jersey. Drove me to all the races. Gave me free food and coffee. So I fought off the cold with some banter and a coffee this morning.

There are five categories you can race and there is really no qualifications for any of them as far as I can tell other than age.

  1. Debutantes: first timers, youth.
  2. Dorados, Super Masters and Women: the best of the old guys
  3. Senior B and Master
  4. Senior A
  5. Adult A and everything else: my group, the good group

You will see all types of bikes at this race but for the most part, people got them well tuned and looking clean. A lot of no-name wheel manufacturers with a few that got their hands on some expensive brands. Almost no tubulars since the roads are pretty crap. Teams do not seem to be as big of a focus as they are back home, but indeed there are many of them.

PANO_20150816_101037
From the start line as one of the masters groups was starting.

The race was set for 80km. They explained the directions to us but I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about as the announcer would say things on the microphone to everyone like “… so you know that little town with speed bumps, you’ll do a u-turn there, and then when you get to the highway, you’ll do a few turns and then you’re at the finish line.” Not ideal for me but it’s all I had. The race started with 10km of neutral riding out to the country. Once we were set free an attack went off from the get go and the pace picked up.

Attacks were often and with passion and seemed to make sense. The roads were long and straight and slightly windy so it was difficult to get a big gap. The group in general seemed fit and my presumption that they were in winter mode meant fuck-all. Initially I planned to sit in and conserve. But where’s the fun in that? I attacked at 10km, 30km, 40km, 60km, and a few more times as we got to the pointy end of the stick.

I was happy with all my attacks until the end. I was able to fend off the group for a few kilometers each time and by the end of the race, I was getting whistles as I would jump away. But then things got messy. As we hit the 75km I was sitting in the top 5 letting a team do the work. I heard them and others talking and lead myself to believe that we had 1km to go. So when someone jumped, I followed him and we got a gap. I told him I would help him win if he got me to the finish line and then we turned what I thought was the last curve, and saw just more straight road. He told me we still had 5km to go. So I let the peloton catch us. This same sequence happened again with, what I was told, still 2km to go.

We hit the airport, did a few curves and were sprinting for the finish. I rolled in with the back of the sprint fighting off a cramp. The 80km race was more like 84. But I guess if they can put on the flyer a city name as the starting point, they can round to whatever the fuck they want for the distance.

10km to get home and a nice pork chop lunch with the family. Great day of cycling.

Here’s the Strava with no specific start or stop to the race. Power meter battery has been dead for a few days so need to replace that.

Iceland – Part II

Continued from Part I.

Note: The first several paragraphs of this blog go into detail about my hike with Naomi–which I found interesting enough to include, though it isn’t exactly my typical content. If you only read my writing for the sex-related stuff, skip down to the bolded “Weekend #2.”

 

At first, I was pissed Naomi had woken me up at 8 just to catch an earlier ferry. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was probably for the better. Nothing would be going on at the island during the day, and it would be nice to have a bed to sleep in to recharge for the night.

It’s no secret that partying is a big part of my traveling experience. Naomi, however, would rather read a National Geographic about Madagascar wildlife; she likes to party, but not if it gets in the way of her top priorities. And at the top of her list was the 49-mile hike we’d been planning for the past few months. The both of us had loaded up on expensive mountaineering gear, and had even gone on some practice hikes through El Morro Canyon, so this trek was easily the crux of our trip. Our journey began early Monday morning, but I still had no intentions of wasting a party night in Reykjavik. I was 5 for 10 over the past three nights, which was a better percentage than my 2003 Havasu spring break days. So taking a break from the roll I was on would be like giving up my spot at a hot craps table so I could play Keno.

As it stood, my Sunday plan was such: Arrive back in Reykjavik; eat; check into the hostel where I’d take a colossal nap until 9; hit the bars ‘til 1; fuck an Icelandic Goddess ‘til 3; sleep ‘til 8; wake up, pack, then catch the bus to Skogar to begin our hike. But when Naomi caught wind of my plans, Hippo shit hit the fan.

We were riding in the empty ferry, sitting on a couch by the exit when it happened.

“So what do you want to do today?” she asked me.

“I’m taking a big-ass nap. Tonight should be going off, so I’ll probably head out around 10.”

“You’re going out tonight?” Her voice suddenly had an edge in it.

“Yeah, no one works tomorrow. People will be out.”

“ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?” She was pissed. “Dave, we need to be rested for Monday, and you can’t be hungover. Cuz if you are, then honestly, you’re a liability, and I’m not gonna do the hike with you. I know you think ten miles a day is easy, but this isn’t like the hikes we did in El Morro. Even professional hikers struggle on this trail. Can’t you just not party for one night? Just ONE night, Dave, that’s all I ask.”

I was shell-shocked. “Okay.” Naomi had some serious conviction in her voice, and basically delivered a verbal bitch slap, which is probably what I needed. My Sunday plans were shattered like a freshly-purchased bottle of Blue Label. As heroic and outlier-ish as I think I am with my drinking, Naomi was right: I couldn’t afford to risk fucking up the next 4-5 days, and maybe the whole trip, for one night of partying.

Truth is, I’d always thought hikers were a joke. How hard could it be to just walk down a marked path for a few hours? But when I started hearing stories about people dying on this trail, I changed my perspective (A few years back, an Israeli guy got caught in some bad weather and ended up dying of hypothermia a week later). I had no idea what kind of climate to expect; and in Iceland, the weather is so volatile that you can only predict the forecast 24 hours ahead of time. Theoretically, we could leave on a crystal clear Monday morning, and get caught in a 25-degree high-altitude thunderstorm come Tuesday afternoon, and our entire hike would go to shit. Or worse, we could get stuck in the middle of a mountain, miles from the nearest shelter. Lastly, I didn’t spend over a thousand bucks on hiking gear from REI to look cool; I really wanted to experience the beauty of this country without having to worry about trivial things like hangovers, blisters, or my shivering scrotum.

So I stayed in Sunday and rested. I was so tired I never even left the room. Naomi was awesome enough to bring me a chicken kabob and salad from the downstairs restaurant, which I ate in bed, and then passed out again. I must have slept 14 hours before finally waking up Monday morning.

Our goal for the day was 15 miles, the first three of which were paradise. We walked along the green bluffs with the excitable sheep, waterfalls everywhere, crisp air, and a cool breeze at our backs. We stopped for pictures several times, our walking sticks raised in glory we hadn’t yet achieved (Thank God for these walking sticks. I’d always thought they were overkill—similar to how my friend Tele wears leg backpacks when he goes to the shooting range [see below]—but those sticks took a ton of pressure off my skinny-ass legs over the course of a few hours).

leg backpack

Things started to unravel after the fourth mile. My 32-pound backpack was destroying my shoulders. Was I even wearing it properly? And a pair of daunting glaciers we were supposed to pass between towered in the distance, constantly reminding me of how far we still had to go. Naomi was semi-pro at this stuff, so she was perpetually 50 meters ahead of me, walking in small but quick strides. Apparently, we were on a deadline, as Naomi would frequently look back at me and yell at me to hurry, which prompted me to take four super-fast steps while she was watching, only to return to my normal pace once she turned around.

After the sixth mile, the scenery had mutated from green splendor to a gray, rocky hell. My shoulders screamed in agony; we’d barely put a dent in the glacial pass; and now that we were at a higher altitude, the coldness had dropped to the thirties. Throw in a wind chill factor to go with the ever-dropping temperature as the sun sunk lower, and I suddenly felt a pang of fear. There was no way I could hike nine more miles today in these conditions. Then off in the distance we saw a triangular white hut—unless it was some sort of cruel mirage. No, it had to be real.

Though way farther than it seemed, the hut was real. It took us a good hour to finally get there. When we walked inside, it felt like we’d made it to the Icelandic Caribbean. We dumped our backpacks at the front door area and were greeted by a tall grisly man in his late forties who talked like Lyman Zerga. I hobbled across the wooden floor and collapsed into a chair. After gathering my breath and letting my body temperature stabilize, I joined Naomi at one of the tables and poured myself a coffee—only because it was something hot.* Turned out Naomi was just as physically defeated as I was (something about her ankles), so she asked Lyman about sleeping availability. The place was a steal. It was only 12 bucks to stay there, in which we got personal mattresses and an unlimited dose of Lyman’s hiking stories, weather reports, and trail info.

*I never drink coffee. It’s one of the biggest shams in human history. Why get addicted to something that temporarily rejuvenates you, only to leave you reliant on it every time you feel tired and crappy? Why can’t we all just power through those first 10-30 minutes every morning and live in equilibrium? Then you’d never be addicted to that stuff in the first place; you’d save money, be less dependent on something that takes forever to consume, and no one would ever turn into a grouchy coffee gorilla zombie if they miss out on their morning fix. Life shouldn’t be this difficult. (That being said, ask me about alcohol)

There have only been two instances when I felt my life was legitimately at risk. The first was while surfing alone when I got sucked out by a riptide and nearly drowned. The second was Day 1 of this hike. Had this hut not been here, I might have died (seriously) and/or Naomi would have had to take care of my sorry ass. I was probably acting like an outright weenie, but before I saw that hut, I was already envisioning the headline in the Icelandic Tribune: IDIOT AMERICAN THINKS HE KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING, CAN’T HANG, DIES PATHETICALLY, UNLAID FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE.

But probably the most important thing I got from the hut, other than survival, was when Lyman showed me how to wear my backpack properly, basically saving my entire experience (apparently you’re supposed to tighten the waist straps extra snug so that all the weight of the backpack goes to your hips and legs rather than shoulders). Suddenly a new man, I conquered the next day of hiking, in which we again covered eight miles (I didn’t exactly conquer it; but I was able to go a solid six miles before starting to ail like a broke bitch, as opposed to just three miles like the day before). Day Two was a different kind of scenery than Day One—less rock and waterfalls, and more volcanoes, snow, glaciers, and mountains. It was also more of an up and down climb. At one point we had to traverse a cliff with nothing but a rickety chain to hold onto for support. Naomi nearly had a heart attack here, which made me feel manlier for being able to handle it.

By the third day, Naomi and I were starting to get on each other’s nerves. We’d spent enough time now to know what slight habits irked us—though I incessantly make noises and say the same shit over and over, so I’m sure my mannerisms were far more annoying than hers. For starters, I was burping like Barney every ten minutes (farting, too). Second, I wanted to walk at my own slow pace, which didn’t fly with Naomi. Third, my borderline Tourette’s was driving her insane. My main peeve about Naomi was her insistence on hurrying. I wanted to take breaks at least every mile to relax, eat snacks, urinate, and soak in the scenery, while Noami just wanted to reach the finish line.

Because we were more exhausted than two teenagers who just discovered how to masturbate, we decided to end our journey after the third day having hiked 29 of the 49 miles we’d originally intended. That last day, however, was by far my favorite. I was well-rested; I’d eaten a hearty breakfast; and my muscles, though strained, had impressively adjusted to the labor, like a man. The hike was flat for the most part, and because we left at 7 a.m., we had the whole trail to ourselves. The occasional breeze came in from the north, the weather was perfect; and with the rolling hills at our sides, in all my life I’ve never felt the serenity as I did on that Wednesday morning. There are countless days in my life I wouldn’t mind living again, this was one of them.

The second half of the day sucked, however. Once we reached the next campsite, we had a hideous, ashen-laden three-mile walk down a dirt road to a bus station in the middle of what suddenly looked like the Mojave Desert. We bussed it out of Barstow and ended up at a small town—where I somehow lost my ATM card, causing me to have to borrow money from Naomi the rest of the trip—then we took another bus to the eastern side of Iceland where we camped out. We spent Thursday checking out Glacier Lake, although it was rainy and windy as hell, so after taking some pictures we ran for cover and then took a six-hour bus ride back to Reykjavik.

Before I continue, I must point out how thankful I am to have done this hike with Naomi. Her optimistic attitude was unmatched; she pushed me to my physical limit—which sucked at times, but looking back I’m now forever thankful; and if it wasn’t for her, I surely would have taken a bus back after Day 2 and missed out on that extraordinary final day. More importantly, because of Naomi I now can officially call myself a “hiker”—even though had we been on Naked and Afraid, Naomi would have ditched me to increase her survival chances, and/or I would have tapped out after the second day, with my “PSR” dropping from a 3.1 to a 1.8. (It’s also worth noting that on the final day of the hike, Naomi took a shit in the dirt and buried it like a cat, which made her four times cooler. I am proud to call her my friend)

(For those who want a visual of our hike, watch this four-minute clip: http://vimeo.com/49643332. Other than the northern lights and nude swimming, a lot of the images are things we saw and experienced)

Weekend #2

No one in Reykjavik was out that Thursday night, so after drinking a couple beers I headed in early and crashed around midnight.

After checking out the Blue Lagoon during the day, I was ready to party again come Friday night. This had probably been the longest stretch (six days) I’d gone on any vacation without partying. Apparently I’m getting older.

Only problem was it was Gay Pride weekend, and the homosexuals had not only taken over the street, but maybe the entire island. They were everywhere, which was fine, but no matter where Naomi and I turned there was a bar blasting either Madonna, The Village People, or that “Dancing Queen” song. The girls all had Dolph Lundgren haircuts, and the guys were either yolked and clad in all black, or awkwardly skinny and dressed like the Mad Hatter. And they all danced bouncily, arms out wide, with no regard for safety like Rocky Horror Picture Show rejects.

Naomi hung out for a couple beers but called it a night sometime before two, leaving me alone at the bar (which was a straight bar last weekend), making me fresh prey to gay men everywhere. Moments after she left, while leaning against the bar, I frighteningly made eye contact with a dude in a red tank top with feathers in his hair who was singing along to the fifth consecutive ABBA song that was on. He approached me and screamed, “This is my favorite song!” I nodded and looked away. He took the hint, picked up his two drinks and walked off.

I finished my drink and bolted. I went to a local’s bar a block off the main street hoping it was queer-free (Note: “queer” is an acceptable gay term in Iceland). That wasn’t the case. Three minutes after sitting on a bar stool, a tall fat guy who looked like Donkeylips from Salute Your Shorts sat in the chair to my right and asked what I wanted to drink. I told him I was fine, I’d already ordered a beer. He ignored me and bought us both a shot of Brennivin (Icelandic liquor similar to jager). What the fuck!? Did this guy really think he had a chance with me? I like to think I’m at least a 7, but this guy was a 2, tops; I was way out of his league. But now that he’d bought me a drink, I figured I was obligated to talk to him or something, officially making me an OC club chick. He pressed me about political crap like the terror in Israel and how he hated the world blah blah blah. Then to make matters worse, another queer sat in the open stool to my left, caressed my bicep, bought me a vodka-soda, and in the disgusting process salted poor Donkeylips. While the free drinks were nice, I had to get out of this place, stat. After another few minutes of answering their questions about world issues and my shirt, I told them I had to go to the bathroom, and then slithered out the door.

FUCK THIS! There had to be at least ONE straight bar somewhere. I strode down the hill towards Austur, the bar from last Thursday. The further I walked down, the more long-haired chicks I saw, and the guys seemed to be dressed shittier. I’m no homophobe, but never in my life have I felt so happy to see clusters of guys wearing skate shoes and wrinkly plaid shirts.

While waiting at the island festival bus stop the previous weekend, I’d briefly encountered a young punky-looking blonde with pink streaks in her hair—my perfect type. As I stood at the edge of the dance floor at Austur, this same girl brushed by me, turned around, and we made eye contact. I smiled, and her face brightened. “Hey!” she gleamed.

The music was blaring, so I had to practically yell at her. “What’s up!”

“I know you!” She left her friend who was at her side and stepped towards me.

“Yep. We met at the bus stop. I never saw you at the festival, though. Did you fall off the boat?”

She laughed. “I was there! Where is your wife?”

“Uh…what?”

“The girl you were with at the bus stop.”

I chuckled. “That wasn’t my wife; that was my friend, and she’s lamely sleeping.”

“Oh! I totally thought you were together.”

“Nope. I’m single. Are you?”

“Yes.”

I learned her name was Sera, 21, and was still in college. Her name was actually way longer, uglier, and impossible to remember, but I never provide girls’ real names on here—and I wanted to save writing space, so I nicely named her Sera. (Icelanders have the strangest female names probably anywhere in Europe. Researching S names, I found the following: “Snorra,” “Snot,” “Sigga,” “Skugga,” and “Steinborg”) Skugga and I danced for a few minutes at the edge of the dance floor, until her face got close with mine, and we started making out (Sorry, I know I named her Sera, but I just wanted to see how Skugga looked in writing).

She’d come with her roommate, and the three of us drank at a table as her friend took pictures of us making out, giggling, and acting like ninth graders. After Skugga finished her drink, she got up, took my hand, and stepped toward the exit area (that was the last time; I’ll call her Sera from here on out). Then, as if forgetting to turn off the lights, she leaned over to her friend, said a few words, and off we went, leaving her roommate in the dust. Unbelievable. (To her friend’s credit, she’d been smilingly texting all night, so I’m sure she’d made plans to get plowed by some dude)

“Where can we go?” asked Sera.

“What about your place?”

“There are five people staying the night. We can’t go there.”

“Well my roommate is asleep, so we can’t go there. C’mon, let’s find a hotel.” At this point, there was no need to get cute. Sera had already made it clear that she wanted sex. Toward the end of our footsie session at the table, she abruptly stated, “Everyone in Reykjavik is fucking right now except us.” And with her face, body, and age, she was at least an 8/8.5. There was no way I could pass this up because I couldn’t find a proper fuckstation. To Sera’s discredit, however, she was undoubtedly a huge slut. She bragged about how she liked older men because she’d banged a 37-year-old last weekend at the island festival. Plus, she was one of those stupid chicks with drawn-in eyebrows—which was apparently a mini fad in Iceland. For all girls reading this: NO GUYS FIND FAKE EYEBROWS ATTRACTIVE. I can’t speak for every man, but I can speak for every man I’ve ever met.

The cab ride was a disaster. There were no rooms available anywhere. We checked out at least five different spots, but the homosexuals—on their weekend of glory—had monopolized all the hotel rooms, leaving people like me to frantically scamper like Commodus after Maximus knocked his sword away.

Having accepted our probable fate of public sex, I had the cab drop us off back at my hostel, praying there’d be an obscure couch in the corner of the lobby we could use.

There were plenty of potential areas, but incredibly, a couple girls were still working the main desk (it was 5 a.m.), which was visible from the two couches I had in mind. I then led Sera up to my floor because I remembered there was another couch in the corner by the stairway entrance. But some frumpy whale was swashbuckling in her PJs with her laptop out. Fuck! I had no options. There was no way I could take her to my room; Naomi would rip my left teste off. Just as I was about to take Sera back downstairs to search for more options, I noticed a glass door at the end of the hallway.

It was a kitchen! Even though it was the size of a bedroom, the door was to the right of the actual room, obscuring us to anyone who might walk down the hallway.

Sera leaned me up against the sink, pulled down my pants, and started blowing me before I could even explain that this room was our best option. She didn’t care. We fooled around for the next hour, but disappointingly she failed the finger test (halibut), so I never went down on her—though I did produce a squirt. Her figure was incredible; it was the perfect shade of tan, and she literally didn’t have a single mole—or freckle even—anywhere on her body.

After sex, I was in my jeans chilling on a dining chair watching Sera get dressed when an Asian guy walked in with one of those red Korean noodle packs. Sera was sprawled on the floor in her underwear with her tits hanging out. The guy noticed her, said, “Oh! Sorry,” then hesitated like a frightened kangaroo, and retreated back towards the door.

I got up, swiftly scooped up the used condom, tossed it in the trash, then said, “No, it’s cool, man. Come on in.” Sera didn’t care; she nonchalantly grabbed my shirt and threw it around her while the guy hurried to the stove, heated up some water, and waited in a chair opposite me, occasionally stealing glances at Sera, who was crawling around the floor like an overgrown kindergartner looking for her scrunchy or something.

Moments after the guy left, Sera threw my shirt at me, proclaimed she was horny again, laid on the floor, spread her legs, and started playing with herself through her panties. Turned on, but not excited about her fishiness, I stood above her, whipped my shlong out and let her suck me off again. I hadn’t had too much to drink, so whiskey dick wasn’t a problem.

After busting in her mouth, we were both exhausted. I told Sera she couldn’t come to my room because Naomi was asleep, so she laid on the now-empty hallway couch and said she’d pass out there. I probably should have left her, but I felt guilty and semi-responsible for her since she was just three years older than my students. So I forced her to get up and summoned her to my room, reminding her multiple times not to make any noise.

It likely would have gone to plan, but our room door opened louder than Century Link Field, causing Naomi to rustle, groan, and then roll the other way. I led Sera inside, and I laid down in bed—which was adjoined to Naomi’s—leaving enough space for Sera, who put her purse on the ground and fiddled with her shoes. Ok, she’ll just quietly crawl into bed in a moment; Naomi will never find out! Nope. Sera and her eyebrows decided to walk to the other side of the room Naomi was facing and lay down on all of our luggage like airport surplus. Five…four…three…two…o—Naomi whapped me on the arm. “Dave! What the fuck!” she hissed.

“We’re not hooking up,” I whispered back.

Get her out of here!

Fuck. I got up and herded Sera downstairs. “Why did you sleep on all our crap?” I asked her.

“I didn’t know where else to go.” It was time for her to go home. I ordered a cab from the front desk, said goodbye, went back upstairs and crashed instantly. Before parting ways, Sera whined, “You’re just going to leave me?” to which I replied, “Well, if you had gotten into the covers quietly, you could have slept in my bed, but you decided to walk right in front of Naomi and sleep in the worst possible spot in the entire hostel.” She gave me a perplexed look, so I saved her the thinking trouble and told her I’d hit her up on Facebook the next day.

Naomi and I spent our final Saturday inside a volcano (Iceland is the only place in the world you can do this; they lower you down the length of two statues of liberty into the frigid bottle-neck caldera of an active volcano. If the volcano were to erupt, we were all goners). The night went about the same as the previous night.

“Are you coming out tonight?” I asked Naomi.

“No, I have to wake up early tomorrow. Plus, what’s the point? You’re just gonna meet some chick and ditch me anyways.”

Makes sense, I suppose. So Naomi stayed in, while I went out by myself…again. I hooked up with the very first girl I hit on, a tall 20-year-old blonde with an unnecessary headband, who was conveniently in a shitty relationship (these chicks always find ways to make themselves more miserable, like fucking a stranger). After leaving her indifferent friend alone at the bar, the blondie followed me outside (I’ll never get over this chick-ditch-friend thing, ever). I was starting to get greedy, however. This girl was a 6.5, and though a probable sure thing, I was on such a roll that I considered ditching her to go after hotter chicks, ultimately deciding to ride her out.

We couldn’t go back to her place because her boyfriend was asleep, so I thought of my options, and decided she wasn’t hot enough to book a hotel room. Fuck it, back to the kitchen!

It was a total bust. She was wearing some gnarly full-body outfit, which made it nearly impossible to get her naked, so after some fruitful efforts to deflect her boyfriend-since-she-was-14-guilt, all I was able to do was finger her for a bit, suck on her tits, and get half a blowjob, ending it with a piss-poor handjob. I never nutted. She was a cool girl, though, which compensated for her 20-year-old prudishness. She seemed genuinely interested in who I was and my passions, which led to some interesting conversations post-accepting-that-I-wasn’t-gonna-bust. And since I seemed like “a guy who understands the world” (her words), she wanted life advice from me, which I gladly gave her (all occurring as my pants were around my knees): First, break up with your boyfriend—you obviously don’t like him that much; two, quit your job at the aquarium and go back to school; three, have sex with me because it will be fun (she laughed, then stared at my penis, which was flopping around willy nilly); four, stop asking people for advice—you already have all the answers. We talked for another ten minutes, then I pulled my pants up and led her downstairs where I called her a cab. I crashed shortly after. I may or may not have masturbated into a toilet.

I spent my final day in Iceland shopping and relaxing. I have to hand it to Naomi, though. She took a six-hour bus (and back) to the other side of the island to go glacier climbing. She really knew how to maximize her days.

Before I end this blog, I have to touch upon the greatness of Iceland from a hook-up perspective. After careful analysis and calculation, over the course of my two-week stay, which consisted of 4.5 nights of going out (the 0.5 was for the first Thursday of the trip, which was semi-dead), I officially went 7 for 13 (with two lays, which could have easily been four if the circumstances were different). SEVEN FOR THIRTEEN! I say this not to brag, but for those who know me, know such stats are an obscene anomaly. Plus I know some of you have future travel plans and care about this stuff as much as I do, though you may not admit it. To shed more light on it, let me break down my “sex probability” at different places across the globe as of October, 2014—meaning, if I party at these places, these are the chances I will have sex that same night. The numbers are all meticulously calculated and research-based…

NEWPORT BEACH BARS: 8%*

HUNTINGTON BEACH BARS: 5%

ORANGE COUNTY CLUBS: 13%

LOS ANGELES: 2% (fuck that place)

VEGAS NIGHTCLUBS: 37%

VEGAS CASINOS (NO CLUBS): 17%

NON-CALIFORNIA OR NEVADA BARS/CLUBS: 15%**

THAILAND: 14%***

AUSTRALIA: 15%

NON-ENGLISH-SPEAKING EUROPEAN COUNTRIES: 3%

POPULAR TOURIST SPOTS IN EUROPE (NON-SCANDINAVIA): 26%

SWEDEN/NORWAY: 31%

DENMARK: 40%

ICELAND: 52%

 

*This used to be a lot higher, and back in my Woody’s Wharf heyday (2007-2011), was as high as 22%, but I got older, and the girls stayed the same age, which has made me creepier.

**The chances are elevated from California because it probably means I’m on vacation, which changes my attitude considerately. Plus, girls tend to fuck traveling guys more—especially those from “Cali”–because there’s no strings attached and less next-day judgments.

***This doesn’t include prostitutes you sickos, just travelers, many of whom don’t speak English, making Thailand tougher than one might think.

But as you can see, Iceland is far and away the easiest place on the planet to have free, meaningless sex. Was I just lucky? Perhaps. There are many possible lurking variables that could factor into my calculations, but from what I’ve experienced from my sample size, this is how the numbers stand.

The following Monday, Naomi and I took our bruised bodies to the airport, and thirty hours later we walked into our respective homes back in California. Will Naomi and I ever travel together again? I don’t know. Things change—attitudes, opinions, lifestyles, circumstances. Time has a funny way of unwinding.

The only sad part about these trips is leaving, because deep down you know you’ll probably never get to experience that place again. While the money may always be there, time will not. And there are too many places I still want to see and experience. And even if I go back, it won’t be the same. It never is. All I can do is share this small piece of my life with you, hoping you can live it one day, perhaps better than I did. For now, I must move on. New journeys await.

 

 

Iceland – Part I

Travelers always give the best advice. Over the years, word was spreading like wildfire: Trust me. Go to Iceland. Ask yourself what you’re looking for, and Iceland will have it.

Since I don’t trust online forums or professional travel writers—most of whom are middle-aged and married—this was all I really needed. The main thing that had hindered me from going to Iceland in the past had been the insane air prices, which averaged around $2500 for a roundtrip ticket. But when I looked it up in March, they were an unbelievable $1000. Only problem was that all of my travel buddies had become lamer than a co-ed fantasy football league. Axe had a hazy summer work schedule and couldn’t give me a straight answer; ODR had become employed to an engineering company that gave him a whopping five days off a year; and Punchline was still broke after spending thousands on his wedding a few months prior. From the looks of it, I’d be going solo.

Then one night at Woody’s, I ran into Naomi, an old college friend. She knew about my book, and had been to Havasu spring break with me a couple times back when we were undergrads, so she knew I was scum. Being a teacher, she got the same time off as me, and after ordering drinks at the bar and lightly discussing the idea of “Oh, we should travel together!” we went our separate ways as I turned in another 0-fer at Woody’s.

A few weeks later, I got extra antsy and nearly booked a solo plane ticket, when I remembered my conversation with Naomi and decided to shoot her a text: So where you gonna go this summer? She threw out some crap about camping in Africa, which I immediately vetoed, and presented my Iceland plans. She was sketchy at first, but I told her to do some research and get back to me. After discovering that National Geographic had rated Iceland as one of the top ten hiking destinations in the world, Naomi confirmed she was in, and we booked our flights.

The Naomi I knew in college was a party girl, always up for a good road trip. The current 31-year-old version of Naomi was still somewhat of a wild child, but had become more active and spiritual; she taught yoga on the side, chose reading over TV, and consistently did weekend hikes, camping trips, and the occasional triathlon. It was tough to see myself traveling with…a female, but I knew Naomi understood me enough, was cool, and any looming hook-up drama between the two of us would never be an issue (she had a boyfriend; I was after Icelandic girls; and plus, “it’s not like that”). Off we went.

We arrived in Reykjavik on a Thursday. Iceland’s capital city had a population of roughly 120,000, though the city looked a lot bigger. The buildings and houses were all white and squarish with colored roofs; and the streets were rather quiet, more buses than anything else. Apparently we’d come just in time for a national four-day weekend, which could only mean good things for the night scene. After booking some upcoming tours and events at the front desk, Naomi and I checked into our hostel and took much-needed naps.

Unlike Friday and Saturday, the bars were only open until 1. We went downstairs to the hostel bar for a drink and began our night. We learned earlier that 5% of Iceland’s population was at a huge annual music festival all weekend at the Westman islands, which meant all the fun Icelanders were probably over there (we were so sold on this event, that we even booked ferry tickets to go there Saturday night. Well, at least I was sold; Naomi was convinced it’d be all high school and college kids).

Reykjavik had been dubbed by many as the party capitol of Europe, so I was expecting seismic mobs of horny attractive people, endless bars, exquisite nightclubs, and the best music on the planet. As we finished our drinks and walked into our first Icelandic night—sort of, in summer months it doesn’t get dark in Iceland ‘til close to midnight—it was somewhat of a letdown. The good thing about the party scene here was that all of the bars and clubs were on the main street, so I never had any distractions to get cute or greedy and try to cab it somewhere twenty minutes away (we’d made it a point to book a hostel on this street). But as we barhopped, we realized that every spot was loaded with goddamn tourists. While Naomi got hit on by a middle-aged bachelor party from Toronto, I roamed the bar to find myself in one of the biggest sausagefests I’d been in since maybe 2009. There were girls, but they all grumpily sat in chairs against the wall surrounding the seedy dance floor like Napolean Dynamite’s dates. After one drink, Naomi and I took off.

We went to a few other places, but it was more of the same middle-school-dance confusion. Sometime around midnight we ended up at a place called Austur that actually had locals inside, and enough space where I could chill without having to snake my way through loud-ass Canadians.

Before I discuss my interactions with chicks, it’s worth noting that I read somewhere (some blogger named Roosh) that Icelandic women don’t like to have long conversations and make out all over the place like they do in the states. Supposedly, the city is so small that everyone knows everyone and the girls don’t want to be judged by their peers. Instead it’s optimal to have a five-minute conversation with one, give them space, and when the bars begin to close down, find those planted seeds, ask them, “Where’s the post-party?” and then take them home for a fuck. And you have the get-to-know-you conversations afterwards. Other than turbo sluts, only female baboons would ever value physical pleasure with a stranger over mental stimulation, so I didn’t take that guy’s advice too seriously. Although I did plant a few seeds with girls, I’d later find out they’d all come with a big group of friends.

There was one exception. Earlier I’d asked some brunette/redhead (I couldn’t tell) where the bathrooms were. She enthusiastically guided me around the corner and pointed to some stairs. With the bar now closing, this girl—sitting alone in a chair now–was literally my only option. She was about a 5 (though Naomi would disagree), in her thirties, and had a worried look to her. Fuck it. She was Icelandic; I was horny; and she was cute enough.

“So where’s the post party?” I asked her.

“You again?”

I smiled. “I found the bathroom.”

“Yes. I know. I took you there.” She paused for a moment. “What is your name?”

And just like that, I knew she was good to go. A few questions later she asked what hotel I was at. I didn’t want to tell her I was staying at a hostel because the chances of her thinking I was crashing in a six-person dorm might turn her off (our room was just Naomi and I), so I told her I was staying at a place “just up the street.”

As we exited the bar, Naomi appeared out of nowhere and joined us on our walk home. Naomi introduced herself to the girl, whose name we learned was Klara. There was a moment of awkwardness as we trudged down the street. Klara didn’t know what to make of the situation, so she quickly asked me, “Is this your girlfriend?”

“No, we’re just friends. She has a boyfriend back home.”

She gave me a look of confusion and continued on our stroll. Naomi has a tendency to embrace the company of strangers, so she and Klara struck up a conversation; I occasionally chimed in here and there, but Naomi provided most of the entertainment.

When we arrived at our room, I cracked open one of the Viking beers I’d bought earlier and shared it with Klara. Annoyingly, Naomi remained in the room as well, munching on an old sandwich. After ten minutes of shooting the shit with Klara, I was getting horny and impatient, and with Naomi still in the room, nothing was ever going to happen. When Klara wasn’t looking I went to the Notes app on my iPhone and wrote, Omg give me like 10 minutes. I stealthily showed it to Naomi, who nodded and proclaimed she was gonna go brush her teeth.

Klara and I made out for a bit, but she didn’t let me do much more—other than lamely suck on her right boob. Then Naomi returned from the bathroom and hung out for another few minutes until I gave her a wide-eyed look to indicate that I was viciously horny and she should leave, which she finally did.

It was all for nothing. The Naomi factor had caused Klara to feel judged. She said things like, “What did you expect was going to happen when you brought me here?” to which I lied, “Nothing, just have a beer with me, and maybe make out.” After that she claimed all foreigners think Icelandic girls are sluts. Then she told me how weird it was that there was a girl here and how she thought Naomi and I had to be hooking up. No matter what card I played, aspiring detective Klara wasn’t having it. Finally, she got a piece of paper from her purse and wrote down the name of the bar she was going to tomorrow. “Meet at 5 a.m. outside of Dillon’s Whiskey Bar tomorrow, and I promise you things will be different.” (So tomorrow I should expect sex, but tonight I shouldn’t? Makes sense…) Too bad she wasn’t cute enough to waste a Friday night on, so I told her how it was:

“Yeah. That probably isn’t happening. This is it. I’m right here. Just stay and party with me now.”

She paused a moment, looked at the wall, then back at me. “Meet me at Dillon’s…5 a.m.” She put her purse on her shoulder, leaned over to kiss me, and left.

Naomi returned shortly after. “You sure know how to pick ‘em, Dave.”

Drunk, horny, and frustrated, I spoke my mind. “It would have been better if you never came into the room with us.”

Naomi got into bed. “Well this is my room, too.”

“I know. It’s just that, you being here made her feel judged. But whatever, it’s not like she was that great anyway.”

We left it at that and got ready for bed.

(To Naomi’s credit, she’s not exactly experienced at traveling with hook-up fiends like me, so she didn’t quite understand the wing-woman role. Plus, had I brought home a more attractive girl, I’m sure she would have given us space) (Also, I wrote this knowing that Naomi would read it, and don’t really forgive her as much as I say I do)

We spent Friday doing an all-day bus tour around the Golden Circle Road. It’s the most popular tourist route in all of Iceland, stopping at famous waterfalls, hot springs, craters, and churches. The ride reminded me of driving through Norway, only much flatter since the entire island was created from volcanoes. The lava-coated terrain was blanketed in a lush layer of moss that made the entire landscape look like something from Zelda’s Ocarina of Time. I’d sit there, stare out the windows, and never get bored. And the air was so clear that you could see mountains and glaciers that were dozens of miles away, yet appeared close enough to reach in a quick jog. Pure magnificence.

Naomi is apparently one of those people who gets “car sick,” so when the bus dropped us off at our hostel around dinner time, she was already talking about taking it easy that night. Since Friday and Saturday nights in Iceland follow the typical Euro schedule, I tried to explain to Naomi—who claimed to be a Europe-partying expert because she spent a week in Barcelona a hundred years ago—how the bars don’t get started until one. She disagreed with my 1 a.m. theory but somewhat went along with my eat-nap-get-ready-at-midnight plan anyway.

I still had yet to see a significant amount of attractive Icelandic girls. Thursday night no one was out, and other than a few I saw at the airport, I still couldn’t tell what all the “Icelandic girls are hot” fuss was about. That all changed Friday night. Naomi and I left our hostel shortly after one, and hit the suddenly crowded streets. It was a complete 180 from the previous night. Icelandic people were everywhere, and even though it was fifty degrees outside, the girls were still dressed like it was August in Arizona, hardly anyone wearing more than one layer (I don’t know what it is about black leggings on women, but it’s so damn sexy).

Someone once asked me what I get out of writing stories like these. First and foremost, I write to learn about myself; I never know what I actually know until I write it. Second, I feel like I’m contributing to the world in some small way. Lastly, I write because interacting with chicks, hooking up with them, getting rejected, and then writing it down is basically an unofficial way of studying women. As a man torn between monogamy and autonomy, I want to know which path will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life. So it should come as no surprise when I say that I am truly fascinated by women—the way they dress, talk, walk, smile, frown, flirt, dance, make faces, get emotionally upset, look in mirrors, react to the unusual, decide on an outfit, ogle other girl’s outfits, gawk at men, sip drinks, eat candy bars, sit on couches, fix ponytails, adjust bra straps, stare at penises, cross legs, show attraction and disgust. The list never ends.* One thing that draws me to different parts of the world is to find out what makes their women unique. And now that I finally had my first real look at Icelandic women, I still couldn’t tell culturally what set them apart, but as far as physical attributes, they for the most part had a Norwegian look to them, but with a paler and slightly cleaner complexion—which is likely due to the lack of sunlight they receive; they get a cruel two hours of sunlight certain days in winter. As far as overall beauty goes, they weren’t quite up there with Croatia or Belarus, but their perfect skin and Scandinavian features certainly put them near the top of the list.

*I still don’t understand why Universities don’t offer classes on dating and relationships. All heterosexual men should be able to take a class to learn about women, and vice versa (Psychology and Human Sexuality courses don’t count), since most people are clueless about their gender counterpart and how they operate, their body language, what leads to attraction and seduction, how to text, date, sustain healthy relationships, and basically act like a man or woman. It’s apparently required to take two years of a foreign language that will teach us how to communicate at a 20% level in a language 90% of us will never even use again. Yet we ignore educating people on the driving force behind every human being: the opposite sex.

Back to Friday. We had to catch an early-morning bus ride to reach the ferry that would take us to the island festival, so Naomi had two or three drinks, chatted up some locals, and then crashed sometime before 3. After she took off, I wandered the crowded streets alone, and entered a Texas-style bar called Lebowski’s. I was still sober, which meant I was still in my natural introvert state, which spelled disaster for picking up chicks. Truth is, without booze I’d never get laid at bars or clubs. Typically, my personality refuses to blossom until I’ve spent weeks or sometimes months knowing someone. But the beautiful thing about whatever genetics my parents bestowed upon me is the influence alcohol has on my behavior. And I’m not talking about basic liquid courage; having the balls to talk to girls doesn’t necessarily mean much. Alcohol has a much more profound effect on my system. Not only does it shrink my personality-comfort thing from weeks down to a few seconds, but it extracts all self-doubt, monotony, and fear in my voice and demeanor, and it injects me with confidence, animation, and extrovert abilities that turn me into a valiant womanizing warrior around girls with whom I’d otherwise have no chance. If I put on Jim Carrey’s mask from the movie The Mask it’d basically turn me into Drunk Dave Glenn (Alcohol also zombifies me to vagina—in addition to making me say and do stupid shit from time to time—which is a curse I’m willing to accept).  Yet as I sipped my beer alone at the bar, I was starting to fade. The girls all seemed to be in dude-saturated groups; the dance floor was an obnoxious obstacle I had to slog through to reach the bathroom I so frequently visited; Naomi casino pa natet was asleep in our room, reducing my below-the-neck hook-up probability considerately; and the early bus ride loomed heavy on my mind. I should probably just call it a night.

Fuck that! Sandbagging a Friday night in Reykjavik was completely out of the question—though I won’t lie, I was very close to throwing in the towel. Instead I downed what was left of my beer and immediately ordered a Vodka-redbull. I was going the distance tonight.

After chatting with some blotto British dudes (who were strangely obsessed with Tom Brady) and wasting 20 minutes talking to a German chickenhead who proclaimed she was gay 19 minutes into our conversation, I hit the streets in search of other options.

The main road was twice as bustling as before. Gloriously buzzed, I crossed to the right side of the street to find a group of three chicks walking and laughing (Usually I stay away from groups of three or more, but this was Iceland; anything goes). Two were fat blondies; the lone brunette had a Jennifer Connelly look to her. Very sexy. Her only downer was her outfit, a hideous puke-yellow sundress, which probably meant she had a bush. But whatever.

“So where are the good bars here?” I asked the group.

“They are down that way,” Connelly said. Conveniently, she was in outside position and closest to me. “Where are you from?”

“California. You girls aren’t Canadian, are you?” They laughed.

“No,” said Connelly. “Why would you think that?”

“It’s a long story. So you’re Icelandic, then?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, good. I hope you guys know where you’re going.”

“Come with us. We’ll show you a good bar.”

It was a solid five-minute walk to the bar, which gave me plenty of time to chat up Connelly, whose disgusting name was actually Engla. She was 30, worked as a high-end secretary somewhere, and conveniently lived by herself in a flat that was two blocks off the main road. As far my staying-in-Reykjavik-with-a-female-roommate-who-was-asleep-in-the-room situation, I’d hit a potential jackpot.

The bar was hipster galore. It was a five-dollar cover to get in, but instead we chilled on a grassy area outside the actual bar, which was also packed with tight-jeaned people lying down, reminiscing, and smoking cigarettes.

At this point, I had known Engla maybe ten minutes, but it was already past 4, so I figured it was worth a shot to throw out my let’s-fuck line. “So do you have any beer at your place?” I asked her.

“I only have wine,” she said, smiling.

“That’s fine. I hope it’s red.”

She looked away in thought for a quick instant, then turned to one of her friends—who was suddenly eating a huge vanilla ice cream cone she’d acquired at God knows where—and spoke to her for maybe fifteen seconds. The friend nodded her head in an understanding and approving manner, then Engla turned to me, said, “Let’s go,” and we marched off.

As we walked to her place, I was baffled at what just happened. Not only did I not get cockblocked, but the level of approval from her friend was hall-of-fame worthy. She didn’t get jealous, needy, or judgmental. She didn’t try and convince her to stay, or tell her how she disapproved of me. In all my life, I’d only seen that kind of…cock-assisting a few times—mostly in Vegas and certain parts of Europe. If all girls were like that in Reykjavik, this city was an outright hook-up heaven. And I was God.

Engla’s studio apartment was L-shaped; the bedroom merged with the living room, and then there was a door to the kitchen where her two cats who, though cute, were meowing at an unacceptable rate. Jennifer fed the felines while I flopped on her bed, which was surrounded by Rastafarian bananas, voodoo-like sculptures, with colorful fabrics tacked to the walls and ceiling (Update on my Icelandic-women-culture thing: the hipsters are into Jamaican shit). It then hit me that I hadn’t even kissed her yet. Still new to Icelandic women, I hope she didn’t actually think I wanted a glass of wine. That all changed when she returned from the kitchen, took off her vomit dress, crawled onto the bed, and started making out with me.

My ugly dress theory was spot-on as I discovered Engla had a galactic bush (light brown). Remembering I was in Europe, I dove right in. She would have tasted good, but her pubic hair had a lingering scent. I didn’t care. I went to town. She eventually returned the favor, showing veteran penis experience. Then suddenly she looked up at me and smiled. “What’s my name?”

Fuck! Even though she’d told me just 15 minutes ago, I’d gone momentarily brain dead. I looked up, then right, then up again—because sometimes that helps me think. One second, two seconds, three seconds, fo—“Hengla!”

“Engla,” she said, still smiling—not as big as before though. Then she returned to my junk.

We fucked for the next two hours, both because I was whiskey-dicked, and because she was awesome in bed; and I was in no hurry to finish. After going through four of her condoms (I wanted blowjob breaks), we finally finished around 7 a.m.

Naomi and I had to catch the bus in an hour and a half, so I petted Engla’s cats, said goodbye, and made the three-minute walk back to my hostel. As I walked home, I still couldn’t believe how perfectly things had worked out. From 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. on that July morning I had gone from nearly giving up on the night to having a two-hour fuckfest with an Icelandic hottie on a comfortable bed a block from my hostel. I’ve come up clutch before, but never facing such daunting odds. Then again, things just felt different here. It was almost as if I’d found the one place on the planet that not only accepted me for who I was (a horny bastard), but also refused to let me blow it like I always do.

The night came with a price, however. I didn’t get a single minute of sleep, and we had a long day of traveling via bus and ferry, in addition to setting up camp on the island and getting situated. I dragged ass all day until finally I was able to take a two-hour nap in our tent around 4.

The beer/music festival was called “pjodhatid,” but pronounced with a “th” and with all sorts of Nordic crosses and dots on the letters. It’s been an annual Icelandic tradition since the late 1800s, and is essentially a massive four-day boozefest with the occasional performance from notable local bands. It’s the closest thing Iceland has to Burning Man or Coachella. Supposedly five percent of the national population packs onto this tiny island for nonstop partying, music, and orgies (one moronic girl I met the following morning said she hadn’t slept in four days). Two guys we talked to on our bus ride from the airport had flown out from New York solely for this event. And every travel agent at our hostel said that this was a must-go for anyone who wants to experience Icelandic culture.

The event was in the middle of a gigantic crater, cliffs on all sides with an opening to the south, exposing the endless Atlantic. We set up camp in the middle of a large cluster of tents. The area was currently mellow, with a few groups of Icelanders chilling around a bonfire drinking beers. After my nap, Noami and I went to town to share a pizza, then we loaded up on mixers for the Vodka we’d bought back in Reykjavik (Buying alcohol in Iceland is like filling up an SUV’s gas tank at Chevron. A small bottle of fucking Smirnoff was almost 70 bucks).

Sometime after 8, everyone started trickling into the concert area, and before I knew it, there were literally thousands of people—half of whom were wearing neon orange or yellow rain suits because apparently a storm was on the forecast. A slew of different bands came on and everyone would put their arms around one another and sing along. Supposedly, midnight was when the party really started, so I paced myself on the drinking, while Naomi complained about some God-awful mixed drink she’d made, ultimately tossing the thing.

The rain came in waves. The first round occurred at 11. Naomi and I hurried to our tent and chilled for 20 minutes until it died down. When we returned to the main area, the place had somehow expanded by another two thousand people, neon outfits everywhere. Unfamiliar with Icelandic music, Naomi and I didn’t really know what to do except chill on the outskirts of the concert and observe. Things were just starting to get going when another rain attack hit shortly after midnight. We again hurried to our tent where we laid on our sleeping bags and waited it out.

I jerked my head up. Fuck! Without realizing it, I’d fallen asleep. The rain now gone, I glanced over at Naomi, who was out like a light. Once I came to my senses, I heard the pulsing music and screams down the hill and was able to relax. Thank God. I didn’t come all the way to this island to catch up on sleep. I got out of the tent, grabbed a beer, threw together a mixed drink, double-fisted both, then set them on the ground, popped some gum in my mouth, picked up my drinks, and headed back down. It was party time.

The music was still pounding in the distance. The green hill people had been chilling on was now blackened with mud, and everyone had migrated down to the concrete part of the concert. The night was just getting started.

A short while later, after returning to my tent for beer, I was on my way back to the concert area when I noticed two blonde chicks huddling around something.

“What is that?” I asked, approaching the duo.

Batta poosh jood-ima!” the taller of the two replied.

“Uh. What?”

“We are trying to hide from my sister.”

“Oh, yeah? I saw her up at the tents.”

She smiled, then paused and looked me up and down. “Where are you from?”

“California.”

“California? Then why are you here?”

“I heard this is the best party around. What were you guys doing over there?”

The tall one said something to her friend who brought out a small tube filled with black powder.

“The cocaine is black in Iceland?” I asked.

“No. Icelanders don’t do cocaine. This is tobacco. Here, try.”

Having never snorted anything in my life, I figured there was no harm done by snorting the equivalent of half a cigarette (I later learned this stuff is called snus, and has supposedly become big in Europe). The tall one poured a small bump onto her hand and held it out to me. I clumsily snorted using my right nostril, but missed 20% of the powder, so I had to stupidly go back in for a second go-round (This is the last time I’m snorting anything, ever. Maybe I’m a supreme retard, but I perpetually felt like I had boogers in my nose, and my right nostril irritated the fuck out of me for the next week. Snus is the equivalent of drinking whiskey through your eye—only if you have throat cancer does it make any sense).

After they took a couple hits, we talked some more. I found out the tall one’s name was Kira, and the quiet one was Dalla. Both in their early 20s, Kira had a slender face and build with hair down to her waist; Dalla was built like a cheerleader—short, slightly muscular, and a perma-smile. Too bad Dalla lamely had a broken arm (the sling kind). Stoked on hooking up with either, I asked them my typical traveling-in-a-foreign-land question:

“So when are you guys coming to California?”

“If you fly us out, we will come. And we will have a three-way with you,” said Kira.

I looked over at Dalla quickly, whose smiley expression hadn’t changed.

“Yeah, right. How ‘bout this: we have a three-way tonight, then I fly you out.” This was a risky move, but I didn’t care. Even if they turned me down, called me creepy, and ran off, there were still thousands of girls I could go after.

“I cannot promise that. But we can give you a three-way kiss.”

Kira put her arm around Dalla and brought her in. It wasn’t exactly a three-way kiss. It was more of a quick make-out with Kira, followed by getting Dalla’s slobber on my mouth area, then watching them go at it for a few seconds.

“Have you guys been with each other before?”

“Yes.”

Kira fiddled with a purse they were sharing and started down the hill. “Come on, let’s go down,” she declared.

The concert area was a clusterfuck of dancing, singing, and shouting madness. Kira and Dalla continued to take snus hits while I sipped my beer and tried to get into the music, which was hopeless. Some God-awful Icelandic rap group was on stage making cacophony they thought was supposed to be music. Iceland is well-known for breeding musical talent, but this group had to be an exception. “These guys are terrible!” I yelled in Dalla’s ear.

Unbelievably, Dalla was bouncing and moving her head in unison with the stage-noise. She turned to me and shouted, “They are big in Iceland!” She continued to dance like a poisoned poltergeist victim.

With my beer almost gone, and the girls engrossed in the music while being thrashed around by the concert mob, I told them I was going to the bathroom, and then went up to the tent to restock on alcohol. Hanging around them in this shit-show not only wasn’t fun, but was doing nothing to increase my chances. Sure I was risking a prospective threesome, but unless a 60-year-old married couple is involved, I always fuck those up anyway.

Before returning to the concert, I made a round through the food area, then up around the tents. There wasn’t much going on there, so I returned to the noise. Kira and Dalla were in the same spot, but now some short brunette had joined them along with a tall blue-haired chick who looked just like Kira, but hotter.

Kira’s sister (I assumed) was wearing one of those stupid fake-tit Halloween things around her chest. She was in the middle of chatting with Dalla when I walked up to them and slowly squeezed one of the plastic boobs, which crumpled in my hand. The sister, clearly proud of her outfit, lurched her chest forward allowing me easy access. Dalla laughed, and I high-fived her immediately.

“Who are you?” I asked the sister. Ten minutes later we were making out. After smooching on and off for the next thirty minutes I could already tell it was going nowhere. She took me up to a white tent her group had rented, but it was loaded with couples—including some dude and Kira, who saw me making out with her sister multiple times but didn’t give a shit. Too bad Kira’s sister wasn’t nearly cool enough to simply hang out with, so I had to either capitalize or move on. Twice I asked her if she had beer at her place, then suggested we go there, and both times she said she couldn’t leave her group. I guess I should have known; only a true prude would wear a titty outfit to live vicariously through girls who actually liked their boobs felt (unless she was a tranny, which wouldn’t surprise me). I told her I was going to the bathroom and took off (In hindsight I probably should have gone after Dalla; the quiet ones of the group tend to be the wildest in bed, but she was nowhere to be found after I started hooking up with the sister)

I wandered around for the next half hour, but there wasn’t much left. The concert was over; all the leftovers seemed either too old or too young; it was windy as hell; and it was almost 5. I returned to my tent and passed out instantly.

Naomi woke me up a few hours later because she wanted to catch the 10 o’clock boat. Tired and groggy, I rolled awake and started packing. The wind was coming in hard. When I went outside, all I could hear was the flapping of the surrounding tents. Not a soul was awake. We headed into town because Naomi required coffee to get her through the next forty minutes of life. We boarded the boat shortly after and began our three-hour journey back to Reykjavik.

Sunday’s plan: Sleep all day. Party all night. Monday was a national holiday; surely the bars would be going off later.

 

Coming up in Part 2:

-Sunday night

-Naomi and I go on a big ass hike, things don’t go as planned.

-I go hard weekend #2—which inconveniently is Gay pride weekend—I continue to be sleazy anyway.

 

One last thing: I didn’t include this in the actual story because no matter where I tried to put it, it just didn’t fit anywhere and disrupted the flow, but I sent this whole thing to Naomi beforehand, and here was her text back to me: “BTW I left for a long ass time that first night…I showered and read my iPad on the staircase for at least half an hour till 3 am. That in and of itself is top notch wing woman status and needs mention.” Anyways…

Part II

 

 

 

Presentation: How do I build an app or a webpage?

On Thursday the 23rd of October at 7pm, I will be doing a quick presentation on just what it takes to build an app or a webpage or in general anything that might need a software developer. This is not a sales pitch.

I have had the conversation a number of times with friends regarding how much they plan to spend on a website or how long it might take to build that great idea of an app they have. This presentation will hopefully be done in 15 minutes and I hope to cover the following topics:

  • How long and how much it takes to make various kinds of webpages like blogs, business card sites, portfolios, e-commerce
  • Native application development like Android and iOS
  • Graphic design
  • Outsourcing and how to find people to do the work for you
  • How to avoid common pitfalls most projects run into
  • Hosting and servers

If you have any specific questions please feel free to ask before hand and I’ll make sure to cover them or just ask during the presentation.

You can watch at the youtube link below or join the hangout at https://plus.google.com/events/c0q32br8en09127urj0acr0vo9g