Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 20 - Descending to New Heights


Like theater
There are few sounds in life that are as miserable as an alarm clock. Even if it’s waking you for an epic day – the shrill sound of slumber dying always evokes misery. After around 5 hours of sleep, Pete and I hit the breakfast buffet, stock up on some bars, and walk a couple blocks to the bus station. We’re heading to the Brazilian side of Iguacu Falls National Park, which is a 45-minute ride away.
San Dimas High School Football rules!
When we arrive at the park, we take a double decker bus to the Path of the Falls stop, which overlooks the mouth of the falls and has several lookout points, or as they called it - contemplation belvederes. (An aside - how pompous was Mr. Belvedere? And how annoying was Wesley? Can’t believe how successful that show was. A testament to Bob Uecker.) There are about 275 falls on the Brazil side, which dates back to about 150 million years ago.
The main fall is Devil’s Throat, which is about 90 meters high (around 288 ft). It Is a beast. There’s a walkway that takes you near the fall, which is so powerful that the spray leaves you more drenched than Napoleon in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”.  I don’t remember what Niagara Falls is like so I can’t compare, but the scope and power of these falls is magnificent.  I wonder how much energy can be harnessed by these powerful falls. On that note, I’m amazed at the brilliant scientists from back-in-the-day that thought it possible to harness and convert all that natural power. Incredible. Some people are so smart. Bastards.
Brazil needs cups
As we walk the falls, we encounter a Greek-German woman who is excited to run into some people who speak English. At first, she’s so eager to talk, that I keep checking my bag to see if she’s got a partner who’s pickpocketing people. Don’t know if she’s working with Linus from Ocean’s Eleven. Turns out, she works for Mercedes Benz and has been sent to Argentina for work. She and a coworker are trying to catch some sites while in the area. She’s excited to find out we’re from Southern California, because she’s visiting for the first time in a few months. She says she can’t wait to go to Southern California and be away from Benzes. Good call. No Benzes in LA. We mention that we’re thinking about rappelling down one of the cliffs, and her co-worker mentions that it’s not worth it; that we should take the safari boat ride that goes underneath the falls instead.
More powerful than a Blake Griffin dunk
After exchanging facebook info with this woman (crazy how Mark Zuckerberg has changed the way we communicate), we head to Canion Iguacu where the excursions are. Listening to Benz co-worker dude, we eye the ropes course, which looks fun but is in the rainforest area and doesn’t really take advantage of the waterfall views. It also looks geared more towards families. Meanwhile, the pictures of rappelling really don’t look that gripping, so we ask a staff member what’s the most thrilling adventure they offer – he says rappelling hands down. We decide to rappel despite dude’s advice. Best. Move. Ever.
Tom Petty's "Free Fallin" comes to mind
We march down a steel sky walk that juts over a cliff, where we’ll rappel 55m (180 feet) down to the river bank. The guy at the top speaks no English, attaches a waist harness with belaying device similar to rock climbing, and tells us in Portuguese to essentially walk the plank. He spends a good 5 seconds pantomiming how to rappel, before telling me to sit off the edge of the plank and plummet to my doom.
That first step off the plank was certainly unnerving. A stunt double for “XXX 3: Forcing a Franchise” I will not be.  Not knowing how much weight assistance I was receiving, I gripped the rope as tightly as I could as I teetered off the edge. It takes me about 15 seconds of death-gripping the rope before I ease up and get comfortable with my environment, but once I do – it’s mad funzies! I start to spin and kick off the ledge. As Pete goes through his gravity initiation, I’m now comfortable and start smacking him around on the butt. Uncool dude. I’m sure Pete is contemplating murdering me at this point. But he quickly adjusts and it’s bombs away.

Pete trained Bruce Wayne
We control our speed of descent for the most part, but if it seems like we’re out of control, an employee at the bottom tightens the slack and slows us down. I tried to let go completely of the rope and see how fast I could freefall, and after about 2 seconds, the dude quickly slowed me down.
This Fisher Price helmet feels safe
Even though we’re a good distance away from the falls, the 360 degree view is incredible. Like hang gliding, the freedom of dangling in the air is invigorating. We’re completely out of our element, and it’s awesome. Pete described it best, at no point during our 5-10 minute descent, did we think about jobs, interviews, or anything else, we were completely wrapped up in the moment. I hope that everyone has one of those moments at least once in the day – when you don’t stress about any of life’s details and just enjoy the thrill of it all. 

Dip Dap
After the abseiling, we headed back to Foz do Iguacu. I guess on Sundays most of the city is off work, because the whole town seemed abandoned like theaters showing a Nic Cage action movie. We found at churrascaria called Gaucho, so naturally we UCSBers dined there. The food was tasty, including some strong stroganoff, but there were so many flies inside the restaurant I thought Piggy and Ralph were going to run out of the kitchen with a conch.
Lord of the Flies
Back at the hotel, we relaxed in the jacuzzi (or kiddie pool, come to think of it there were no jets) and played some ping pong. Despite being Chinese, I suck at ping pong. Pete’s actually pretty good, but he lost to me so I don’t know what that says.
Tomorrow we add another stamp for our passports as we head to the Argentina side of Iguacu Falls. Gauchos in the land of the gaucho. Fitting.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 19 - Crack is underrated

This Saturday is as exploratory as the Nina or Pinta. For lunch we indulge in a Saturday culinary tradition in Brazil – the feijoada. We eat at Garota de Leblon, one of only a handful of places that serve the dish, which mixes black beans, rice, beef, cow tongue (which is surprisingly sausage-like), and other ingredients in a sort of stew. It’s good, but mainly because of the thrill of eating a native-dish. I won’t lose any sleep if I never eat it again.

After lunch, we head to Leblon beach (west of Ipanema) and get an umbrella and some chairs. The sun has been merciless. The beaches have a UV index, which goes as high as 15. It’s 14 the days we’re at the beach. Our paltry SPF 30s are no match. It would be like using a pay-for-play scheme to bring down Cam Newton – it takes more than that! Having been raised practically under the sun, like Nuclear Man in “Superman IV”, I’ve never had a problem with too much heat. Yet in Rio, I found myself having to reapply sunscreen as if I were a Wisconsin-native and the temperature is 70 degrees.
Featuring the voice of John Candy
After lounging for a bit, Pete and I head to the Jockey Club, a seemingly upscale racetrack where we hope to strike it rich like Richard Dreyfuss in "Let it Ride". While I know nothing about betting horses, I enjoy the track simply to act the part of the stereotypical degenerate gambler who rips up his ticket in disgust and throws a hat on the floor. Unfortunately, because Pete and I are wearing sandals, we’re not classy enough to enter the Jockey Club, which is for the better since we’d probably get punished like Tim Robbins in “Shawshank” (prior to redemption).
Someone asked me about calculus
The next stop on our epic walk is the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a large lake just north of Ipanema and Leblon beaches. Seriously, this town seems to have an endless supply of geographical gifts. We look for a spot to kayak, but surprisingly the lake doesn’t offer many sporting activities.

On the way back to Copa, we stop by a grocery store called Hortifruti, which Pete takes great delight in saying. Here I get my first taste of some an amazing acai smoothie. Where the hell have I been that I haven’t indulged in this magical superjuice, which combines berry, guarana, and banana? It’s a purple drank that would make Jamarcus Russell flip. Screw apples – this should’ve been the forbidden fruit that served up cognitive dissonance for Adam and Eve.
Not bad travelocity. Not bad.
Crack chicken
After a long day of exploration, we head back to the hotel’s rooftop pool to wind down and catch the sunset. For dinner we go to “O Crack Dos Galetos”. I don’t care what that translates to - this place has some addictively delicious chicken. It's a small hole-in-the-wall that looks like a 60’s diner in Cuba (the waiters even sport bowties). Completely uncomplicated and juicier than Couture, Crack serves up some of the best roasted chicken I’ve ever had. Pepper, garlic, and salt made-up the majority of flavoring. Perhaps the hype surrounding Brazil’s beef set my standards too high, but I found this chicken (which was really inexpensive) to be among the best meat I ate in South America.
After dinner, it was time to head to Foz de Iguacu. On the cab ride to the airport, the driver is watching a soap opera that feature an implicit oral sex scene. I pray we don’t get into an accident. Safe to say, the ride was awkward.

Busy battling Freddy to the death

The flight to Foz de Iguacu is around two hours. We fly TAM Airlines, which unlike all our domestic carriers – is offering service like Pan Am in the 70s. They give us a butter toffee as we sit, and serve warm sandwiches later. I didn’t eat one because I was sleeping, but still – I appreciate the efforts. TAM also hooks us up with headphones with cushioned ear buds! Hell yes!! Ironically, on the flight to Rio, my headphones lost their soft buds, so I'm beyond delighted. 
Foz do Iguacu doesn’t seem like much of a happening town – and that’s pretty much straight from the cab driver’s mouth as he takes us to our hotel, the Golden Tulip. Tomorrow, we explore waterfalls like Daniel Day-Lewis in “Last of the Mohicans.”
By the way, I’ve set a new record for non-movie blog blog movie references. Word.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 18 - Touching the Void

Pete just found out I'm his dad
Like Kanye West circa 2006, today Pete and I touch the sky. After 4-and-a-half glorious hours of sleep, we get a 9am wake-up call. We’re heading to Sao Conrado, Rio’s most southwesterly beach (and least populated), to go hang gliding from the summit to the shores. A battle-weary jeep straight off the set of “Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” picks us up at 10.
We jump from that roof ramp
A side note, all the tour books and research we did prior to going to Rio said hang-gliding would cost no less than $300R. If you ever do this, don’t book in advance. Those guys are free most of the time and you can easily get a better price by calling either the morning before or after. Plus, weather conditions can also change if you book too far in advance. The lesson here – forget planning! We booked the day before and noticed the prices kept getting lower. We paid around $250R. One bummer is many outfitters don’t take credit.
As Steve Miller said: fly like a pteranodon
Our pilot is Ricardo, who’s last name I forget. He’s been gliding for more than 30 years and done from altitudes high enough that you’re required to use an oxygen mask. He speaks a good deal of English and seems pretty fun-loving. I tell him I’ve gone paragliding before but never hang gliding. He smiles and quips, “Paragliding is for pussies.” Fair enough.
Before we take off, we need permits. Pete asks Ricardo how many hours it takes to become a guide, to our chagrin – he says – none! He explains that you have to be a level 3 pilot, and by going on our first flight – we are already level 1. Uh, come again? At level 2, you have to be able to fly with company in certain conditions. As I mentioned, Ricardo speaks a lot of English, so there wasn’t anything lost in translation – I’m merely hoping he yada yada’d some details. What kind of accelerated certification system is this? That’s probably why Rio is the Plastic Surgery Capital of the World. Level 1 of training is looking in a mirror. Level 2 is holding a knife with someone else in the room. Level 3 is Heidi Montag.

Higher than Charlie Sheen

Pete's nickname is Cpt. Hugglesworth
Near the summit of the mountain, Ricardo determines that I will go first, and after flying to the beach, we’ll head back up and Pete is off. After strapping up, I’m loosely attached to Ricardo at the waist, we do a quick run-thru. The key is to keep running off the ramp as opposed to jumping off. The faster you run, theoretically, the better the flight. So I'm practically sprinting during our run-thru. Noticing this, Ricardo tells me not to run faster than him. Who’s the pussy now?! F Ricardo! (That was just for joke – he’s cool!)
The sensation of running off the ramp into the void is exhilarating. You have something underneath you, then nothing. It’s spectacular to feel, to the one-zillionth degree, what a pterodactyl once did. No? Is pigeon the more comfortable comparison?
The flight circled over the mountains and beach, lasting just under 10 minutes. Ricardo was cool enough to let me snap pics and video with my camera (several other outfitters would not); and even though I had to put my hand in a certain spot, I was able to get our takeoff and bumpy landing. Apparently, the wind changed directions on him as we approached the beach, and instead of running along the beach to a stop – we just smacked the sand.
Here’s an edited video of the flight with multiple angles of the takeoff and landing:

After our landing, Ricardo convinces a group of young women to fly. This takes a little while, and Pete is chilling at the top of the mountain wondering if we’ve left him for good. Ricardo ends up swapping Pete’s flight for a young woman (don’t know if she’s old enough to read “Twilight”); and calls a buddy named Chico to fly with Pete. As far as we know, Chico could be a Level 2 guy! Thankfully, Pete doesn’t die.
In soccer voice: Skoooooooolllllll
By the time we’re done with all the gliding, it’s around 2-3 in the afternoon. We get a quick bite at Tropical Delirio, a buffet-style place where management had to come out and assist me with ordering, and head to Ipanema Beach. I have a couple more Brazilian beers, Skol and Antarctica, and pass out in the sun for about 30 minutes.
That's the sun

My vacation attitude is typically relentless. Do as much as you can, take it all in, because you never know if you’ll be there again. We’ve been going nonstop for the last few days (quite honestly – for more than two weeks since I left Mobile), and sitting on the beach doing nothing felt every bit as rewarding as any of the hikes or sightseeing we did previously.
A watershed moment against sandal racism

Who are these people?
There happens to be a professional Brazilian volleyball tournament near our hotel on the way back from Ipanema. So we swing by to watch some random v-ball. Neither of us know who the heck is who and where they’re actually from, but what I do know is that the announcer has a voice just like the uber-exuberant soccer announcers who make everything exciting. This reminds me of a store where I saw a can of Pringles, which were marketed as Pringoooooooooolllllllllls!
Wishes that was Capri Sun
For dinner we go to a popular local bar chain called Devassa. They have one of the best light beers I’ve ever had, but I don’t remember the name of it. The food is lackluster, and from here we head to a bar called Mudbugs. Many of the bars in Rio are strange when it comes to buying alcohol. When you enter, you get a card and must use this card to buy drinks. When you’re all done, you take it to a cashier who calculates how many drinks you’ve had, then you pay. It doesn’t seem very efficient. Also, if you lose your card, you have to pay some large amount of reals. At Mudbugs, we run into an attractive Canadian woman who met a Brazilian man and followed him south of the Equator. Pete’s looking to do the same. The bar seems to have an infatuation with “Staying Alive” (Bee Gees not Wyclef), as it runs on loop at the jukebox. Of course, gorgeous women are plentiful, but most of them are busy making out with random dudes. Pete is seething. 
As we walk back towards the hotel, we walk by an outdoor bar/restaurant called Mabs, where an elderly woman (read: prostitute) leaves her table and companions to approach us. She tries to engage us in conversation as we try to scurry off. But before we can, she manages to kiss us on the cheek. When we get back to our room, Pete applies Purell to his face! I can think of no better metaphor for our attitudes (or fear) toward the local women. Purell to the face. I leave with you that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dia 17 - Ola Gata!

I forget what part of Rio this is

Not like the pose in "Dogma"
Sightseeing time! Today we knock off all of Rio’s main tourist attractions. First up – Corcovado, the mountain where the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue overlooks the Marvelous City.  Pete and I jump on the bus around 9am (I’m guessing. Again – we have no concept of time), which takes us to Cosme Velho, where a cable car climbs toward the statue.  On the way up, a Samba band plays and dances in the car. One dude gives me what looks like an aluminum pepper shaker, to which I of course - play the shit out of! Unfortunately, this instrument is only fun for a few seconds, and then I’m just stuck holding the thing Debbie Downer-style for the rest of the ascent to the top. 

Freestyle is my homeboy

The view from Corcovado is incredible. It’s also the most touristy spot in the entire city, probably country. The statue is magnificent. With the base, it’s 38 meters tall (roughly 125 feet), 30 meters (98 ft) by itself. Work began on it in 1926, and was completed Oct. 12, 1931. The statue, heretofore known as Cristo, seems to watch over the entire city. There doesn’t seem to be a single part of Rio that can’t be seen from Cristo’s eyes. Rio is a very religious, particularly Catholic, city. But I find it interesting how the city’s views on sex could seemingly not be any further from that of the church. From wearing practically nothing on the beach to the abundance of prostitutes and sex clubs, the city’s attitude towards sex could not be more cavalier. Yet the city is devoutly Catholic. Call C+C Music Factory, because we got things that make you go hmmmm. (An aside: that “Gonna Make You Sweat” album was the business! “Just a Touch of Love”, “Everybody Dance Now”, and “TTMYGH” – that was the early 90’s! Without C+C, slumlord Joe Pesci would never have had a transcendent bonding moment with his tenants in the Oscar-worthy flick “The Super”. Good lord, could you imagine our world if that never happened? Unfathomable.)

All that walking and this is the best pic!

After Cristo, we took the bus and subway to Maracana Stadium, an enormous soccer stadium that seats around 83,000.  The stadium is closed due to renovation for the 2012 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. We decide to walk around the entire stadium, which feels like the same distance as the Boston Marathon. Unlike athletic venues in the Estados Unidos, there weren’t any food options nearby. Actually, there was one exception, but as we walked by I glanced into the kitchen and saw the cast of Ratatouille, so we passed and continued to trek around Maracana in the grueling heat.
Getting the hang of the subways
When we get back into town, we get some grub at Kilograma, a churrascaria where you pay by the kilograma. Delicious again. The food helps us recharge for our bus ride to Urca/Sugarloaf Mountain. Pete and I are starting to understand the buses and subways a little better, and I’m definitely becoming a fan of the public transportation.
It takes two cable trams to bring you to the top of Sugarloaf, which provides a beautiful alternative view of Rio than Corcovado. I’m told the sunset is worth watching from Sugarloaf, so Pete and I relax for a little while (me with a Brahma – my second lackluster Brazilian beer) and run into some foreign exchange students, and a retired couple that lives near my hometown in Orange County. Ironically, the couple tries to set us up with their daughters – who are apparently successful doctors and lawyers. I ask if they have pictures.

Wondering how thrilling it'd be to ride on top of the cable car

True to form, the sunset is gorgeous and I can’t help but think that Rio has won the geography lotto. Incredible beaches book-ended by shapely mountains with a rainforest and lake as backdrops. The retired couple says the place is wonderful like California. Listen, I rep the west like Ice Cube, but come on, brosef! You’re going to compare Long Beach to Rio de Janeiro?! The guy is actually a former physics professor at Cal State Fullerton. With those types of comments – I can only wonder what kind of misinformation those Titans science geeks are getting. Certainly not the education the Nobel Prize-winning Physics faculty at UCSB is delivering. Can I get an amen?!

Ever wonder why Fiats are so popular in other countries?

Back in Copacabana, we eat some delicious empanadas at O Rei Das Empanadas, a Lonely Planet suggestion – one of the few good ones mind you. A quick shower, and bidet splash(!), and it’s off to Ipanema. We figured we’d start off at Garota de Ipanema, where the song “A Girl from Ipanema” was written, but the place looks ho-hum, so we walk to some pizzeria pub. The pub is right next to a club that’s lined up with beautiful people.  I wonder if the Brazilian dudes are totally desensitized to beautiful women. Do they think they’re like Fiats or something? Just everywhere and not noteworthy to anyone but Americans?
At the pub, which name I don’t know, I have the local special – caipirinha, a sugar cane drink that tastes like a cross between margarita and mojitio. This drink floors me. Totally feeling it, I’m thinking it’s time to bust out my lines “ola gata”(hello pretty lady) and “gosto de voce” (I like you). But the line at the club is dwindling, and we discover it’s a $70R cover. Not wanting to drop that kind of dough, we decide to roll elsewhere. We ask the cabbie where’s a nice place to meet ladies. The dude says Barbarella. Coincidentally, the same place Jorge, the cab driver-potential kidnapper from the previous day suggested. Sweetness.
Barbarellas is the spot on the left with lights... and whores
We arrive at Barbarella, which is conveniently near our hotel, and I’m pretty buzzed still. Yet I'm coherent enough to notice this doesn’t look like the bars and pubs we’ve been frequenting. Once we walk in, it’s a strip club. Really? We ask people where to meet ladies – and they take us to a strip club? Come on Brazil! You can do better than that. What’s even more shady, there wasn’t even that much stripping going on at this club. Instead, the women  (who mind you – are still beautiful – which begs the question – why are they in this place?) proposition guys. Two women approach us and the first thing one of them says to Pete is “Sexo?” Errrr… no thank you. Buzz kill. Night over. Disappointing end. 
Although… I still got to drop my Portuguese lines.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 16 - Hello Rio! (Now available in Portuguese: Dio Dezesseis - Ola Rio!)

I can see my house from here
We arrive in Rio around 1:30pm. From this point on, Pete and I are off the grid. No cell phones. No watches (which upon reflection was a bad idea!). No concept of time. And before we even got out of the airport, I thought I was going to die.

I wish DeNiro was this taxi driver
Most of the cabs from the airport to our hotel, the Merlin Copacabana, run about $90R ($1 US is equal to about $1.60 Brazilian Real). As we're heading towards the cabline at the airport, a guy pops out of nowhere and says Merlin - $80R. He's persistent and speaks a little bit of English, as well. Against all better judgment, we decide to take this guy's discount taxi - which isn't on the cabline mind you, but parked at the bottom of the parking garage.... and unmarked!!! I've got more questions about this decision than Alex Trebek. I ask the guy where his permit is, and he gives me a business card. Jorge. That's all. No license, tags, or permits on the windshield. No meter. I look at Pete, trying to communicate through telepathy: "Why the F are we getting in this car?!" What I actually say is, "Are you sure want to do this?" He replies, "We're all the way down here, might as well." Famous last words.

I try to memorize the cab's license plate; and as we drive towards Copacabana Beach, I'm thinking "Man on Fire" and "Taken" meets "City of God".  For sure we're getting kidnapped and our Brazil trip will merely entail the airport, ransom notes, and bags over our heads. This was the most nerve-racking cab ride I've ever been on. I try to make small talk with Jorge to become buddies so he and his cronies won't kill us; ask where all the gorgeous women are, what's the must-see in Rio. Turns out, Jorge's a nice dude and I was merely operating off stereotypes. But would I ever take an unmarked cab in a foreign country again? HELLLLL NOOOO!

After we drop our bags off at the hotel, we head to Copacabana Beach immediately, shoot my stand-up with my digital camera, then grab lunch at Balcony, which is across the street from the beach. Craving the world-famous Brazilian beef, I get a filet mignon sandwich and a Lokal Chopp, some bland Brazilian light beer. Pete gets some fried fish sandwich. It's all good, not slap-yo-momma-in-the-face good, but decent enough.


As we're eating on the patio, this gorgeous Brazlian woman walks down the main beach street. She's easily a 10 and for all I know, is featured prominently in the latest issue of Vogue. Out of nowhere, she sticks her thumb out, hitchhiking style, and a tiny, white, unmarked minivan picks her up. The van is full of 5 Brazilian dudes who, for all I know, are featured prominently in the latest issue of Ben Roethlisberger Monthly. This does not seem like a safe move on beautiful woman's part. Pete and are flabbergasted, concerned for women's safety, and immediately contemplate renting a minivan. >) Turns out, these little rape vans act as complements to the bus system.

I painted this
After lunch, Pete heads back to hotel for quick nap, while I go to an internet cafe to send my stand-ups back to my agent. When that's done, Pete and I take a long (2-miles and seemingly 5 hours - remember, no concept of time now) walk down Copacabana Beach towards Ipanema Beach. We didn't hold hands. At the intersection of the two beaches is Arpoador Point, where there are several rocks to climb on and a gorgeous spot to watch the sunset cascade over Ipanema. How gorgeous? Everyone cheered the sunset like it was a Pavarotti concert. Pete cried. That's not true.
I go by Cary-Lou Retton

Not a judgement free zone
In the same area, there was a gym on the beach where the weights were made of rocks. It's fun when people ask how much you bench - Ohhh, two big rocks. There was also a slackline nearby to test your balance skills. I evidentally have none.

Pete's archnemesis is Ralph Macchio
After our Ishtar-like hike (disclaimer - haven't seen the movie, solely judging off old VHS box cover), we ate at Porcao, a Brazilian rodizio where the staff continously brings out meat until you throw in the towel. And you typically throw in the towel Rocky-style when Apollo's in the ring. In other words, too late. We ate a cornucopia of filets, ribeyes, top sirloins, baby backs, chicken, pork, sausages, gizzards (surprisingly good if you don't think about it); along with a salad bar with all the fixings, including fresh sushi. The meal was heavenly until the bill came. Not fully understanding what was included and what wasn't, we dropped a total of $240R. That's nearly $150 US. Not exactly how we planned to budget our meals.

I photoshopped the hookers out
We tried to walk off the food, so we passed on cabbing back and walked nearly 3 miles. It didn't help the digestion, just made our feet hurt, too. On the way back, we noticed many of the beach kiosks were still open with plenty of customers. It's around midnight on Wednesday. Impressive. We were also whistled at by several prostitutes, some of the transvestite variety. Less impressive.

Grow up dude
Too full and too tired, we got back to the crib and crashed. The partying would have to come another day. Actually, at the hotel, I used a bidet for the first time out of curiosity. That was kind of like a party.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 15 - NYC

I don't know any good cabbie jokes

On January 25, my boy Pete Wong and I were about to begin our Brazil journey. I woke up around 5:30am for an 8:30 flight out of LAX. The American Airlines flight had a 5-hour layover at JFK in New York, landing there around 5p, and leaving there around 10:30. Seeing as how Pete had never visited the country's largest city, we felt 5 hours would be enough to catch a little of Yankeeland, at least enough so that Pete could notch another tally in his US city visitations. We didn't want to take any chances flying internationally, so we had to get back to the airport by 8:30 latest. Give 45-60 min for the cab - that puts us in the city around 6, leave by 7:30, we have an hour-and-a-half to burn in the Apple (that was an inadvertent marijuana reference). Yet time wasn't our only issue.

Those Chow kids! Such black hair.
My sister, Patti, who lives in NY, tells me that there's record cold temperatures out there. This creates a packing conundrum. You see, it's summertime in Brazil - temps around 90-100 degrees. NY's around 10 degrees. It would be most unfortunate to have to pack a big ass winter coat for a mere 1.5 hours. So we devise a plan to wear winter jackets in NY, meet with my sis for a little bit, drop our jackets off with her, and freeze for a few minutes before jumping in a cab back to the airport for our flight. As long as there's no snow or ice - we be golden.

Crazy Pete's goin' straight Asian on me
Once we landed, we quickly cabbed to Rockefeller Center, which is uptown Manhattan and somewhat close to where Patti works. We hit up 30 Rock, NBC, Radio City, grabbed a hot dog and gyro from the street, met up with my sister who leads us to Time Square, aka Touristpalooza. We pop some freestyles there. I'm really trying to take it to the next level with these freestyles, using the core to maximize time, height, and foot trajectory. I would like to write a book called "The Science of Freestyling by Dr. Cary Chow." But wait - I'm not a doctor!! OH SNAPALAFUGUS!!! I don't know where that came from. I think I've freestyled myself stupid.

Good thing this f'style wasn't in Bryce!
 My sister realizes she's got to catch a Broadway show at 7p, so she's got to split. We leave our jackets with her and briskly walk to the Empire State Building so Pete can take some pics. This entire little excursion is not for culture or really anything, it's just so Pete can take pics to say he's been to NYC. Mission accomplished. We hop on a cab and are back at the airport before 8p.

About 30 minutes before we board our flight to Rio, I discover I need to shoot a pair of video stand-ups (similar to the Denver erotic cakes bit from a few days earlier) for an incredible job. With Pete's help, we shoot something at JFK, as on-lookers look-on with bewilderment, and will shoot the second bit when we get to Rio.

Rio. Not to be confused with cartoon movie about birds.
As we board the plane, I exhale like Angela Bassett. Brazil is now a reality. Our in-flight movie is "Eat, Pray, Love" - which is how one of my friends described my recent moves. I can't lie, it is similar, just without the mid-life crisis. I try to stay up to watch the movie, but I'm out like the Steelers against the Pack. Unlike EPL, I'm pretty positive my adventures won't be a snoozer.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 13, 14 - Homecoming

In real time, I just got back from Brazil. So this almost feels anticlimatic.

On a side note, hearing and seeing how devastating the storms have been this past week across the states, I'm intensely relieved that weather didn't come one week earlier. Otherwise, I'd most likely not be just getting back from Brazil. My off-road mishap seems eerily fortunate now. Funny how life turns.

To the Delorean...
Doc Brown's view
From Vail, it was time for a 10 hour drive to Vegas. I stopped through Grand Junction for gas and food. That´s a television market that´s comparable to Casper, WY. No disrespect to my WY roots, but I was surprised by the prevalance of chain restaurants and stores in GJ, especially burrito joints like Chipotle and Qdoba. I would´ve killed for those in Casper. In fact, I stabbed a guy for one.

Couldn't help but think of Pixar's "Cars"
Driving west, it never dawned on me how scenic Utah is. Unfortunately the entire state has no reception. Seeing as how I was making good time and was slated to arrive in Vegas around 6pm, I started debating on visiting one of the state´s national parks, Bryce or Zion. Bryce was closer, but still about 110 miles out of the way and possibly a 3 hour detour. As I came upon the I-15 exit for Bryce Canyon, I called a late audible and took the exit. When was I going to be driving around here again? Live in the now right? The main concern I had was that it was around 3:30, and I didn´t want to go all the way to the park when it was dark.

Natural Bridge

I've lost my mind

Canyonero (Simpsons what?)

No worries. Made it with an hour to spare. Bryce is gorgeous. Since it was late and the winter, many of the trails were closed or seemed closed because of snow. I should note, my boy Stu McCann gave me the audiobook for "127 Hours", the autobiography of Aron Ralston, a climber who got stuck in Utah and had to cut off his own arm for survival (recently made into a James Franco movie). Couldn´t help but think of the irony; yet it was also a determining factor in me going. Anyway, I decided to freestyle the shit out of Bryce, but no photos were post-worthy. I spent about an hour-and-a-half absorbing the natural beauty of Agua Canyon, Natural Bridge, Rainbow Point, and more. The thought of climbing through the canyon makes me believe that I'll return to the area one day.

Looking for my contact.

I got into Vegas around 9:30, and met my buddy Jon Castagnino at the Fox station. He had to work, so naturally I took the time to start blogging. It was good to see how well he's been doing, especially since he recently got engaged. To celebrate, I thought I´d help him pay for the wedding via craps. We headed to the Orleans and ended up losing a collective $200. Whoops. We made an uber late night visit to see our friend Amy Carabba at the station, as well. Initially, I thought it might get a good night´s sleep and have a chill time in Vegas, but ended up going to bed around 4am... once again.

Sin City? More like Dim City! Hey-yo!
Come Monday, I left Sin City around noon, and it´s amazing how short a 3 hour and 15 minute drive seems after several days of double digit driving. I made it back to my mom´s house in Orange County around 3:30. Did some light unpacking, solely to pack for my 9-day jaunt to Brazil. As much fun as it´s been on the road, it was an incredible relief to reach a final destination (of sorts).

Here are some quick road trip stats:
Days: 8
States: 11
Miles: 3,000
Friends Visited: 13

Brazil escapades to follow next.
I leave you with this.