Monday, July 23, 2012

Giant Centepedes and Other Monsters

When we were in Hawaii, we decided to go for a hike (my previous Hawaii post is HERE.)

After a confusing bus ride, a short walk up a twisty road with no shoulder that had directions that made us walk WITH traffic (and thus made my mind say in no uncertain terms that I WAS DOING IT WRONG), we finally made it to the trailhead, and this sign:

In case you can't read this, it says, "PIG CONTROL IN PROGRESS"... some other stuff  blah blah blah and then "Full Moon Hunts Will Be Scheduled".  Well, that... sounds... interesting.

Sounds good.  Wait, what day is it?  It is awfully had to keep track of this stuff when hanging out in paradise for a week.

I had checked out the hike on the internet, and learned the following things:

1) Bring bug spray, the mosquitos will eat you ALIVE!

2) There is a such thing as 8 inch centepedes, and they exist in Hawaii.

3) There are no large predators in Hawaii, and no poisonous snakes.

4) Where we stayed in Waikiki averages about 20 inches of rain a year.  Where we were hiking, a few miles away, averages about 280 inches of rain per year.  We WILL get rained on.

5) There is a fantastic view at the top.

What could possibly go wrong?


Maybe I should make a list.

Or better, allow me to give you a small snippet from my brain...

Do you like steam of consciousness?


Well, here's the turnoff... away from the tourists and kids, shit it's hot.  Is that mud?  I hope the trail gets better, this shit's slicker'n snot.  Why does it smell like pooh?  Great.  It's probably pig pooh from the pig hunts.  Damn it's hot.  And humid.  Why did I wear a shirt again?  I should totally be hiking in my bikini top.

Wow, look at that, there's no one behind us.  I wonder if this is a real trail, or if someone's just leading us astray.  Shit, I wonder if "pig hunt" is a euphemism for hunting humans.  I don't think Hawaiians were traditionally cannibals.  No, I'm pretty sure I would have read something about that on the internet.  

Don't touch anything.  There are probably big bugs here.  Oh yeah, eight inch centipedes.  Great.  Big. Giant.  Fuckers.  Why did we watch that Animal Planet show last night in the condo?  The one with the Grasshopper Mouse that howls like a werewolf and hunts giant poisonous dessert centipedes. The centipedes here probably aren't poisonous.  It would have said on the internet, right? The internet is never wrong.

Those grasshopper mice were pretty freaking cool.  I wonder if they are like, descendants of were-mice or some shit.

Holy crap, FULL MOON HUNT.  They're totally hunting were-pigs, aren't they?  THAT'S what they're doing.  I wonder if it's close to the full moon.  Great, I almost twisted my ankle, is that how they get you?  Leave all these roots lying all over the trail so you can't outrun them?  Pigs would totally eat people.  I saw Hannibal.  I saw Snatch.  Fuck, I'm gonna die.  I should totally stop watching so many scary movies.

And who the fuck decided that were-animals were sexy?  I mean, come on, people.  What's next?  Sexy Ents?
(I'm looking at you, Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris!)

Boyfriend is totally right.  It IS quiet out here.  I can't hear anyone.  The bamboo sure makes weird noises.  Like Ents or some shit, talking to each other, rattling and shit.  Or maybe that's the were-pigs signaling that they have some victims walking into their trap.

Fuck, I'm hot.  Oh, wow, this is beautiful.  I've never been in a bamboo forest before.  Why is this so hard?  The elevation is what, 500 feet?  I should be flying up this trail.

Eight INCH centipedes.  INCH.  INCH INCH INCH INCH.  Stupid brain.
It's a tree.  They said eight INCH centipedes, not eight foot.  What the hell is wrong with me?  

I thought this trail was only a mile and a half.  It feels much longer than that.  It's because the were-pigs moved the trail, they're totally going to kill us and eat us.

Why won't it fucking rain already?  Don't touch that, there could be a centipede.  It's a trap!  Wow, my shoes are MUDDY.

Wait... really?  We're there?  Just in time for the rain.  Fuck, yeah, we made it.  This is absofuckinglutely beautiful!

So yeah, all in all, a good hike.  I even learned some things:

1) Anyone who complains about the mosquitoes in Hawaii has not been to Colorado.  That or we were EXTREMELY LUCKY, because mosquitoes LOOOOOOVE gnoshing on some Leauxra (I think it's because I have Kool-Aid for blood), and I never got bit in Hawaii.

2) DO NOT CONFUSE the word "inch" and "foot" in your head, or you will spend  the entire hike worried about eight foot centepedes.

3) There are no large dangerous animals in Hawaii, except probaby were-pigs, and that they hunt on Wednesdays, Sundays, and during the full moon.

4) There are places in the world where the rain is warm, and it isn't terrible to walk in it.

5) There really is a fantastic view from the top.

See?  Paradise.  Told you.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Celebrity Diet

I braved the Wal-Mart (and yes, there is a "the" in front of "the Wal-Mart"... it doesn't sound right if you don't say it that way) last weekend.

Originally we were going to go camping, but the sky was doing this:

Actual photo of the sky above my house.
So we decided to get the car out of the garage, and use the space to brew beer instead.

Sitting around the turkey frier while the wort boils is pretty much more awesome than camping.  Especially when it's in the garage with the door up and you collect 9 gallons of rain water in about three minutes from the one of the gutters for later use on the garden.  Especially when it is the first real rain in a few months, and the mountains are all flooding, and the lightning is making your teeth rattle it's so close.
We had such a good time, and another three empty kegs to be filled that we decided we were going to do it again the next day.

I decided, though, that we are also desperately low on cider.  The alcoholic kind, I mean.

So we went to the Wal-Mart for the main ingredient.

You really don't have to use organic, single-squeezed apple juice from happy trees in Eden.  Any old thing will do provided it doesn't contain any preservatives stronger than ascorbic acid.

Things are never as fast as you would imagine them to be at the Wal-Mart.  If you go to the express lane, you are guaranteed to be behind at least one person who is an extreme couponer, someone else using who wants to split the $12 total between cash, a card, and a check (I really was tempted to just pay for his purchase, but he was a little bit scary), and a checker who is so happy to be there that they are in a coma.


I was in line for a Very Long Time.

"Is that your favorite drink?"

It took me a moment to realize that the guy behind me in line was talking to me.

I eyed him cautiously.  He didn't look crazy, or even weird in any way, which was strange in and of itself.  Just a normal young guy.

"Oh," I said, looking down at my cart.  "Yeah, well, I'm trying that new celebrity diet.  All apple juice, all the time."

He stared at me for a moment, confused, and then laughed.  "Good one!" he said.

I smiled.

I turned away as it was my turn in line.  "There's 8 of these," I said.

The cashier sighed, and swiped the bottle 8 times.  She was not interested.

How to Make Hard Cider:

1) Clean the shit out of all your stuff.  Uninvited Microbes = Bad Juju.

2) Pour your FuckLoad of apple juice into your fermenter.  In this case, a plastic carboy.

This takes concentration.  And a funnel.  Unless you really like sticky cement.
3) Admire your nearly 6 gallons of apple juice.  This is approximately 398,476% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C.

The foam is the cleaner/sanitizer, specially formulated to make the ale yeast happy.

4) Aerate the juice.  That means getting some bubbles.  Shaking 6 gallons of liquid is hard.

My head is HUGE in this picture.
5) Add the yeast.  Any old yeast will do, but we actually want this to taste good and not be too alcoholic, so we went with an ale yeast.

Stop staring at my wrinkly thumb.  They're double jointed so I have alien hands.
Just pour it in.  Millions of little yeasties will eat sugar and shit alcohol and carbon dioxide.  Appetizing, yes?
6) After mixing again, put a bung in the top (that's what's the lid is called, I promise), and add some way to let air out.  If you don't do this, your bottle will explode and you will have a juice fountain in the basement.

In this case, we used a food grade plastic hose, and a small bucket of water.  This will allow carbon dioxide to leave, but no nasty little bacterias or wild yeasts to get in.

7) Store in a cool, dry place until it stops bubbling in about 2 weeks, or you're sick of waiting.

Two beers and a cider hanging out in the basement.

8) Later, we will put these guys into kegs and pressurize with CO2 to give it bubbles.  There are other ways to get the bubbles, but that is the easiest.

Apparently in Colorado, you can homebrew something like 200 gallons of beer per year for "personal use".  This is about 15 gallons, or 13 twelve-packs of beer (and cider) brewing in the basement.

Whoever it is that needs 200 gallons is some kind of impressive, really.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No Sharks No Sharks No Sharks

I tried to force my breathing to slow down. Calm down calm down calm down. There is no such thing as sharks.

Just float. Just float.

That Australian tourist said there was a turtle over here, but the water was so close to the coral that I kept worrying I was going to slam into it. I couldn’t seem to get use to the tunnel vision of having the mask on. I can’t see! I can’t breathe!

The world was silent except for little splashy noises and my Darth Vader breath.

Just float. Stop splashing, you’ll attract sharks. No I won’t. There are no sharks in Hawaii.


Is this what drowning feels like?  Note to self: don't drown.

The snorkeling almost didn’t happen for me. The first mask the tour company gave me was a piece of shit that had a mask that was really good at filling up with water, and a snorkel that I couldn't breathe through. Crying, panicking, nearly screaming, I was making my way back to shore when Boyfriend stopped me.

He traded masks because apparently he doesn’t mind the feeling of drowning as much as I do, and he really wanted me to have a good time snorkeling. I stood there for a minute or two, trying not to feel like a failure or embarassed by my freak out, pulled myself together, mostly, and tried again.

Yes, I can swim.

I took lessons as a child because I was so afraid of water my parents could barely bathe me.  One of my earliest memories is my mom dipping me in a kiddie pool and me getting water up my nose.  Another early memory involves banging my elbow in the bath tub and passing out, and waking up with my brother holding my head out of the water and screaming for Mom.  She left for a minute so my older brother could pee, and I nearly drown.

Go me.

So. Swim lessons when I was 7. I was older than the other kids in the beginning class.  I remember those lessons with a combination of fear and embarrassment.  I think the next oldest kid was about 4.

I was so afraid of the water, chest tightening fear would hit me at random while we did our lessons, that I would wake up in cold sweats the night before swimming lessons.

And then they forgot about me and I almost drown.

They wanted the kids to swim from one end of the pool and back.  And I didn't make it back.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. Why couldn’t I touch the bottom? Where is the edge of the pool? It should be right there… Then my body wouldn’t respond, and I got even more scared. I couldn’t lift my arms. I was going under. Where was the teacher? I was drowning. No, this isn’t right! Why can’t I move my arms?

Through the water I heard a whistle and shouts, and splashes, and suddenly the instructor yanking me up by one arm. “What are you doing?” she shouted.  She was angry with me because she forgot to watch me.

I couldn’t speak as I gasped for breath.  I'd almost died! If I'd had the strength, I would have punched her in the face.   Once she righted me, I found out that actually, I could touch the bottom.  I huddled on the side of the pool for the rest of the day, and went back the next week.

But I learned to swim.

I won’t drown, probably.

A slightly larger wave pulled me away from the coral, then back down. I bobbed along the top in my life jacket and rented snorkel gear.  Remembering the time I almost drowned was a bad idea, but there was a similarity here.  I felt helpless.  I felt scared.  But I wanted to like it. I wanted this to be fun.

I tried to relax.  This is fun, goddamnit.

This wasn’t the chlorinated pool water at the civic center. This is the huge wild ocean. I was thousands of miles away and almost thirty years from my childhood drowning experience. I haven’t had a problem swimming in years and years. And since I got my eyes Lasiked, I actually like swimming.

But the panic was there, just underneath.

No such thing as sharks, if I don't look they aren't there, I CAN'T SEE YOU.

I tried not to imagine braining myself on the sharp edge of the reef. Or getting sucked out to sea. Or sharks. Or giant squids. Leviathans. I made little movements, and tried to propel myself with little mermaid kicks with my feet.  Look!  A clown fish!  And what was that!  That fish was yellow! Neat!  I want to see an octopus.  Where the fuck are the damned octopusses?

Calm, calm. Breath in, breath out.

Shit, why did I think of mermaids? Those bitches are going to fuck you up.

Deep breath, but not really through the snorkel mask. Darth Vader.

And then the coral dropped away from me to the sandy floor, and there it was.

It’s a motherfucking sea turtle, y’all.

"'Sup, bitches?"

My eyes saw it, but it took a moment for my brain to sort it out, to understand what I was seeing.

I let myself float over it, and past.  Holy fucking shit.  That thing was huge.  And it was watching me!  It's real!

I pulled my head out of the water.

I called out to my boyfriend, who was maybe 20 yards away. I waved at him, and then stopped. I didn’t want to look like I was drowning, even if I did just inhale a mouthful of seawater and turtle pee.

He looked over.

I pointed down. “Turtle!” I shouted.

And then I put my mask back in and my face down because I was choking on the water and I didn’t want to touch the reef but it’s too shallow to just swim with my head out of the water like that.

Saw it.

Hellz yeah.

Time to go in.

Relief washed over me as I took off the mask and flippers. I tried not to feel guilty for barely being able to tolerate snorkeling. My fear had been unexpected.

As I waded up on the sandy shore, I glanced back out to sea.

Holy shit, look where I am!

Not to scale*

*Holy crap, I should illustrate more, it's so slimming!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Quick Note to Crayola

Dear Crayola,

I have always been a huge fan of Crayola colors.

I have more crayons than any adult has right to.

And colored pencils.

And markers.

If I ever have a daughter, I will name her Crayola Pavlov*.

Recently, I decided I was going to start illustrating my posts on this here blog with markers and colors.  It was going to be completely damned awesome.**

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home.  I had an excuse to go down the school supply aisle!  The yellow and green Crayola packaging glowed out at me, the logo smiling its rainbow smile.

Not only are these the best and most brilliant colors, but unlike the fancy shmancy Prismacolors that "professionals" seem to like so much, these were cheap, easy to find, and washable.

After some back and forth, I went with the largest package I could find of Crayola SuperTips.

Sure, I noticed that there were some "fun scented" markers in the package... it did not escape my notice that there were absolutely no large packages of markers from you that didn't have "fun scented" markers included.

I'll be honest, though... I thought when you said "fun scented", you meant something more along the lines of, oh, I don't know, fun for children in some way.

But honestly, I didn't think much of it.  I assumed that the scented markers would be mostly fruity smells and it would be akin to coloring with my old Strawberry Shortcake dolls' heads.

Mostly, I was just excited.  So many colors!  So.  Many.    I couldn't wait to get started.

I was a little disturbed that these so-called fun-scented colors were dressed all in black, like some kind of biker gang coming to crash the local debutant ball, but I still wasn't too worried.

In fact, I looked at them with growing excitement.  They might be fun.  I started opening them up and sniffing them without even coloring with them.

Yes, Crayola.  You did this.

You got me sniffing ink (and they didn't get me high (not that I was trying)).

And despite the little marks of red and brown around my nose, I was still mostly OK with it.  Cherry!  Oh!  That one is burnt marshmallow!  How fun!  

And then we got to the blues and greens.

I don't know about you, Crayola, but when I think "Forest Pine" or "Fresh Air" or "Bay Breeze", the first thing that doesn't come to mind is an opium den.

What ever happened to Raspberry, Lime, and Blueberry? Why did you do this to me?  Why?

If you are going to perfume your markers with THAT kind of fun, you should just be honest:

Fresh Air: A Teenager's Bedroom

Bay Breeze: French Whore

Forest Pine: Lysol

I would appreciate it if you would please update your labels.

Thanks so much for listening,


*I will also train her to respond to bells and whistles.

** Why YES, Virginia, Leauxra IS working on some new posts, and she's ILLUSTRATING them.  With Crayolas.  And  ***SPOILER ALERT*** They're about Hawaii.  First one comes out on Thursday***

*** I am trying to get back into a twice a week schedule... Mondays and Thursdays.