Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Visiting Home

Sooo, what I have here is an entry that I started while I was at home, but couldn't finish, because that's just how much stuff I was doing. Enjoy anyhow.

I've been back in the states for about three weeks now, and I'm still unable to answer one fundamental question, one that all visitors to the Rock contemplate at one time or another, one so common that at least one blog that I know of takes its title from it:

Was any of that real?

Seriously. It just blows my mind how everything here is so different. Or maybe I should say that it is not not different. Everything on the Rock is different, and here it's the same that it's always been. Understand? Good, explain it to me.

And those differences makes for some good stories. The buildings there are different. The food is different. The driving style is different. The ATMs are different. And if you plug your clock into the wall, time moves differently.

But suddenly I'm back home and everything is the way it's always been: predictable. The buildings are made with tile roofs. The food is classic American. You can use most ATMs without getting out of your car. Time moves at about the same speed no matter what kind of clock you're using. It's like I spent the last 18 months in a dream and have suddenly woken up. OR HAVE I?

I'm not going to spend 15 entries detailing everything that I've done while here, but instead I'll just offer up some moments that really struck me:
  • Mispronouncing the name of a certain bus stop in LA twice, and not getting laughed at. This is the moment where I knew I was no longer on the Rock.
  • Riding a bus from the airport seated next to a person who, due to some sort of cosmic coincidence, is on his way to Guam for the first time.
  • Eating lunch with my college friend and host Ben in an LA restaurant, and people behind me are actually discussing a TV show for more than thirty seconds. And in English!
Yes, I was amazed enough to take a picture. Riding on this was, and I quote, "Just like NASCAR!"
  • Being in front row of the audience of the Tonight Show with Scarlett Johansson as the guest. She's apparently been in some movies or something, but in my world, she is most famous for this photo:

  • Eating Krispy Kreme. Yessss.
  • Hanging out with, and more importantly, getting Chipotle with, Ben and our friend Catherine, the latter of whom was awesome enough to get us those Tonight Show tickets.
  • Discovering that Venice Beach has somehow gotten wilder since I last visited LA in 2006. I didn't think that was possible.
  • Spotting the Carolina Panthers' team plane parked at Charlotte/Douglas Airport

  • Seeing my parents for the first time in nearly a year.
  • And my dog, too. Was she ever surprised to see me!
  • And my sister. I saw her as well. Since it was her college graduation that I came home for and all.
  • Staying in a mountain cabin for a week with a view like this:
It looks even better if you mentally remove all the blue discoloration caused by my cameraphone.

  • Actually feeling truly cold weather for the first time since November 2008.
  • Getting my hair cut by my sister, who used a beard trimmer for most of it. Nothing like a haircut that involves getting as much hair yanked out as trimmed.
  • Watching my sister graduate college, complete with an awesome speaker who kept quoting Green Day. "This is the dawning of the rest of our lives."
  • Attending a huge party at the cabin that approximately 1 metric crapload of people showed up to, including a former Dean of the University.
  • Going hiking with my family
  • Going kayaking with my family
  • Going tubing with my family
  • Going fly fishing with my dad on an awesome guided tour where we didn't even have to untangle our lines.
  • Getting my car unfrozen from the cryogenic storage pod next to Walt Disney's head, which took about $80.
  • Slowly but surely learning how to drive over 30 MPH again.
  • Eating Chick-Fil-A. Yessss.
  • Going to Greensboro to see the epic play Avenue Q with my friends Stephanie and Tom and discovering that it's basically the perfect time in life for all of us to be seeing that show.
  • Giving my good friend and reader of this blog Anthony a lava lava, which he almost immediately started wearing as a cape, 'cause that's how he rolls.
  • Watching a music video that I directed in high school and then going out and eating dinner with the same friends that were in it. We ate at, of all places, a Filipino restaurant that's opened up since I've been away. I like it better than the one near my workplace.
  • Seeing Iron Man 2 and being blown away by the picture quality.
  • Attending a Charlotte Knights ballgame, which ended in a tie-breaking home run- wait scratch that, a really impressive foul ball. THAT WAS FOLLOWED BY ANOTHER HOME RUN BY THE SAME GUY!
Such a great turnout.

  • Going to the brand-new NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is the single most awesome museum ever.

  • While there, getting to be in the background of an ESPN2 show that was taping there. Yes, I called home and had it DVR'd.
  • Road tripping with my sister up to DC, then Delaware and the Baltimore area to see our grandmother and three other relatives. Of course, we also did plenty of the touristy stuff in DC.
  • Going to the beach in Delaware, which I just now realized means that I hit beaches on both coasts during this trip.
  • Going to Carowinds with family friend Mitchell, and, after going on nearly every ride, including the thrilling new Intimidator (that includes 10 rollercoasters, BTW) went for a swing on the Xtreme Skyflyer.
See that tiny speck by the top of the tower on the left in the back? That's where they drop you from

Okay, I've gotta break format to tell about this one; this picture just doesn't say enough. You have to pay extra for this, but it's worth it if you're completely insane. After being strapped into a harness, they tow you and up to three friends 153 feet up in the air. Someone with a bullhorn gives you a countdown, and you pull the release cord on yourself and swing, pendulum-style, toward the ground. It's been there since 1995 and I was always too scared or poor to go on it, but not this time.

One thing that's really unnerving about getting towed up is how you're hanging horizontally, with your face facing the ground, so that you both can't look anywhere but down and you don't know how high you are until you get to the top. I kept expecting to be there, but I just kept getting farther and farther away from the ground. Finally, we reached it, the guy below gave a countdown, and I gave the handle a yank.


I tried again. And again. Uh-oh.

"PULL THE YELLOW CORD!" yelled the bullhorn-guy below. I twisted around (a bit scary in itself) and saw that, genius that I am, I was pulling on one of the metal loops on my harness that didn't do anything. Behind it was the yellow handle. Despite ever instinct in my body, I gave it a yank and began plummeting from the top. I let out a Samoan war cry as I swung toward the earth at breakneck speed.

It's actually pretty fun once you get past the terror of that first drop. I have to credit my time on the Rock, a relatively dangerous place where your typical year involves an earthquake, a cyclone, and at least two flash floods, for eliminating my fears of silly amusement park rides that 100% of the thousands of people who have been on them have survived. Anyway...
  • Getting a new camera, so that you won't have to be subjected to all of these camera phone pictures.
  • Saying goodbyes and then flying from Charlotte to Dallas to LA (with a one night layover there) to Honolulu, only to see this unlikely mindscrew in HNL airport:
When you see it, you'll poop bricks.

  • Flying from there back to the Rock, on an unbelievably empty flight. We're talking about two dozen people total. Although I met some UH students who were headed down there for the first time and got to tell them all about what they were in for.
  • Fully realizing that I was back on the Rock when I called my cell phone's voicemail and was told that the caller is not responding at this time.
Of course, there were lots of other great moments that I will never forget, and good times had with family and friends, and lots more funny little culture-shock bits that deserve mention, but I'm tired. Too bad for them.
blog comments powered by Disqus