Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Olympics and Social Media .... Not a Match

I love the Olympics. Sports, Drama, and the appeal to my hyper-patriotism....it's a perfect combination to me.

I love social media, particularly twitter. It allows for instant news updates from around the world. It connects me with like minded people from my area, state, country, world.  Hell, because of Twitter I met my girlfriend.

I HATE OLYMPICS & SOCIAL MEDIA TOGETHER! ... I like to watch sport, and be riveted on the edge of my seat as it unfolds on TV.  With the Olympics being in London this year, NBC is doing what they always do when the Olympics are taking place in a country with a large time zone difference. They pre-record all of the drama, and give me a condensed 4 hour blast of everything I need to know.  It's perfect summer night television!

However, people have this need now for immediacy, so NBC has provided an online feed for live events. Now the every day twitter user, who works late/has no job/slacks on the job/works from home, can watch the games as they happen in real time.  Great for them, but that's not what I want.  So, with their need to share what they just saw, coupled with journalists' need to be the first to report in order to justify their dying profession....I've essentially been banished from the internet by no fault of my own.

I've long complained of friends giving spoilers to television shows on Twitter. It's a DVR world, don't ruin things for everyone else.  But, I can still watch the show and appreciate it.  If I know a sporting event though....completely ruins it.  What if I told you that the Brewers won a baseball game 4-1...would you have this need to watch the game after that? ... Probably not, what's the point? With sport, the beauty of it is....it's not scripted, anything can happen, so, if you know what happens, you don't get that "edge of your seat" feeling.

I learned on Monday, to stay away from all news sites, because they are inconsiderate, and are reporting on their front page what happens. It's simple news sites....A LINK! "Click here for results of Women's Gymnastics" ... If people want to know, they click, if not....you don't infuriate them! ... but, I learned that lesson, and I wasn't going to give them any CPM revenue for the next couple of weeks.  Then CNN found a way to still tick me off....a twitter post!

Now, I should've known better. But, I honestly wasn't thinking about it, I was on lunch, just scrolling through, killing time.  And, I didn't expect a major news site to ruin it via twitter, they should have a link that directs you to their site.  But, there the result was ... evening plans, ruined.

Now, CNN wasn't the only one at fault, there were plenty of individual users who blasted it as well.  So unbelievably rude and inconsiderate! ... Sure, I don't have to look at twitter, but why should I be the one going out of my way to avoid rudeness?

People keep saying #NBCfail....and I have no idea why. NBC offered a live option for those that wanted it, and a traditional option for those who want it. It's really a #socialmediafail that's upsetting people, not the other way around.

Now, this is the first big test to the tape delayed Olympics/twitter pairing for the US market. 2008 twitter was in its infancy, and 2010 the games were in Canada. ... 2016 will be back in our time zone as well, but 2014 will be in Russia...let's hope we get the same courtesy to one another as we do with the NSFW tag.  We've mastered not sharing porn without a warning...let's do the same with sports.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Adventures of Dustin & Sara - Part 3: The Harrowing Adventure at Sea

 Click Here for Part 1

Click Here for Part 2

11-12-11 - After an early night, we wake up early, refreshed and ready to take on the salty sea. I do a quick weather check, and much like it's been the entire trip, warm, but windy (15-30mph to be exact). Now, I'm not a seasoned boater, but I do know that wind + water = waves. I think it is one of Newton's lesser known laws to be honest with you. But, the sun was out and the temp was warm, so I'll follow Meatloaf's law that 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Though I now worry that our not picking up Dramamine for Sara, or even for myself, may become a crucial error in planning. But, why worry, today is to be the highlight of our trip, snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, OH MY!

We give Al, the cab driver a call (he had entrusted us with his business card the day before), and he dropped us off at the proper Fury Water Adventures staging area. The sun is out, clear blue skies, but that wind is ferocious. I try to get that out of my mind, as I'm handed the packet of forms that gives away all of my rights should I be maimed or killed. Naturally, I pretend like I'm reading these forms, but then just sign and date them.  Sara hands hers in, and it's all filled out right, but when I hand mine in, I'm told I forgot a page and that I lost.....shit.

When I get excited about things, I tend to be ridiculously early. And this was the case here, because we had a lot of time to kill still.  So, we walked the marina a bit, went into a Key Lime shop, and when it looked like most people were there, went back by the catamaran. They split us up into two groups, we were group one, so we got to board first. The captain welcomed us on board as we stepped on, and I'm happy to see that he is wearing a Brewers hat. I figured that it had to be a good omen.

A Fury Catamaran
Everyone is quick to board, and we all start filling our plates with the continental breakfast that was provided. We're being told that we're going to be going snorkeling first. I'm rather relieved to hear this, because it's probably the one thing on the itinerary that makes me the most nervous. See, while I love going to the ocean, I'm not the biggest fan of being too far in them. Riptides, crashing waves, and slimy ocean life often enter my brain. That all said, I'm still excited for snorkeling! It's something I've always thought would be cool, and here I am heading to a reef. They said it's a few miles offshore though, so we have a little time to relax and take in the beautiful waters.

As we get further from land, it's quite evident that the high winds are causing some high waves. It's a rather, unsettling feeling. I've only had motion sickness one time in my life, and that was when I was on a ferry in the Seattle area. It was only a 20 minute ferry ride, but sea sickness set upon me quickly. I've been on ferries and boats since, and I've been fine, but that rough Pacific chop had me green, and I was nervous that these rough waters would do the same to me again, potentially ruining my whole day. I look to Sara, and see she's struggling herself. She's got her eyes on the horizon, a trick I once learned and taught her on our ferry ride to Alcatraz in San Francisco.  She confirms that she's not feeling good, and I immediately regret not looking harder for the Dramamine. I look down though and even with the rough waters churning things up, I can still see the ocean floor...damn this is clear water. And not just clear water, it's about 1,422 different shades of blue, absolutely beautiful.

Ok, it's time to gather around and learn about snorkeling. This girl does her spiel about being safe, and what to not touch (everything), yada yada, nothing exciting. She does however, say the water is only like 70 degrees and recommends people renting wetsuits to help stay warm. Sara and I mull it over, and at the last second rent some suits. It took them awhile to find the "giant" sized suit, but I got one, and literally, squeezed into it. Now the goggles, flippers, blow some air into a non life saving life preserver, and watch as people make the plunge.
The waves on our boat (Dramatization)

Here's the thing. They have you jump about 6 feet into the water. On any other day, I'm cool with that....but I'm sort of nervous about this whole, being in the middle of the ocean with giant waves crashing on me thing, and there were already people who jumped off, that were back on the boat complaining that their only experience was mouthfuls of salt water. Ummm, I decide to opt for the water noodle now, as a little extra floatation can't be a bad thing.

I love life experiences, and I wasn't going to let some nerves get in the way, in fact, I'm excited. So I finally step up to the edge, hold my goggles, and jump:

I'm not physicist, but when a 260+ pound object, falls 5 or 6 feet into a body of water, there has to be a large amount of force that's created. This isn't usually a problem for me, but it was for my water mask. I was holding it tightly, but it still was ripped off my face. I immediately try to put the goggles back on, fearing for whatever reason, that this would ruin the entire experience. I surface, and place the goggles back, and attempt to get my bearings straight. Except that I realize that I seem to be on the opposite rhythm of the waves crashing onto me. I kid you not these waves were well over my head in the water, and I'm for some reason trying to maintain breathing through the snorkel, instead of just getting to where I needed to be first before putting the snorkel in. On top of that, I felt like I was sinking. I'm clutching onto the noodle for dear life, and I feel that I need more air in my vest. One of the crew was there to give me a floaty thing while I put more air in my vest. I finally was able to catch my breath on this as well. I look up to see where Sara is at, and she's still just standing there. I release the lifeguard flotation thing and try to swim out of the way, I look up at Sara, and she's still not jumping. I give her the "A-ok" signal, trying to coax her into coming, but she's not. I later learned, she didn't think I ever once looked up at her, but the truth is, I was waiting for a brief bit for her.

Ok, so I no longer have fear rolling through me, and I try to swim forwards, but I'm going nowhere fast. My legs are tiring, I'm starting to get queasy from the copious amounts of salt water I've ingested. Then the panic sets back in, and I yell "where's the guy" "where's that guy"...then like a young David Hasselhoff, there he was, swimming his way over to me, and gives me the flotation thing again. I tell him I need back, this is going nowhere. So, in a truly embarrassing moment of my life, this fine strapping crew member helped guide back to the boat's stairs on the front side. I sit on the stairs and the waves are just forcefully moving them up and down as I try to move up them. The girl crew member just kept yelling at me for grabbing the rope, but god damn it, I kept feeling like I was falling off. I was tired, sick, embarrassed...so I didn't listen to her. Finally I get up, and Sara was still on deck. After watching me struggle, she opted against hopping in. I yelled at her to do it, don't worry about me. But, mostly, I was embarrassed, and I felt like I ruined this for her.

Later on, after the day long adventure was over. We learned that they had cancelled all of the remaining snorkel adventures after our trip, as the seas were far too rough. ... Really, they shouldn't have let us out there either. Half the people seemed to come back aboard right away because of the waves, and Sara said she only heard one person say they saw anything...a jellyfish. In hindsight, I seemed to do about everything wrong that I was ever trained. I was so reliant on the noodle to help me float, that I thought I could just use that. This was dumb, and I wish I didn't have that noodle. I would have used my hands and my body to help lift me over the waves, and to help propel me through the water, as if I was in a wave pool. The noodle and my reliance on it, was my biggest mistake, and also me trying to breathe through the snorkel before I even got to the area to snorkeling area ... If I had to do it over again, I could. It's just one of those moments where a panic sets in, and all rational thoughts cease. It was embarrassing, like I've mentioned multiple times, but, it is also a lesson learned to just, calm the fuck down and think.

Taking off w/ nervous smiles
Back on board the catamaran, the snorkeling was over, and we headed back towards land for our other adventures. Both Sara and I are sitting sort of sick on the side. Me from 53 gallons of seawater ingested, and Sara, from motion sickness. But still, I manage to eat lunch, and it settles me down a bit. When we get to the area where we'll split off for parasailing and jet skiing, they split us into two groups, and our group is picked first for parasailing, AWESOME! This was what I have been most excited for. Our group hops onto a speed boat of sorts, we get briefed, and we're off.

I knew this adventure was going to go a lot better, because "Jukebox Hero" by Foreigner was blasting on the radio...yep, I'm ok with this. First up was a kid and his brother, the kid seemed annoying, but he was excited, I couldn't hold that against him. When they lifted off, I thought, cool. Then they kept going up, and up, and higher, and higher. Sara clutches onto me and repeats multiple times, "why are they so high, why are they so high"? Yeah, it was a bit nerve racking, knowing we were up next. The nerves got a little tighter as it was our turn to strap in and go. Sara is freaking, I'm nervous, but excited, I just have a smile on my face. Then the wind catches the sail, and we're off the boat.

We go up a little bit, and the they purposely splash us in the water. This happened three times, then it was up, up, up we went. The further up we got, the more peaceful everything was, then we sailed for some time at the top, over looking the water, seeing the individual currents and the colors of the waters.  At one point a large Air Force Fortress looking plane flew overhead. We could see the island, the many boats out to sea, basically, it was a cool experience, and I want to do it again. We get lowered back to earth, and watch as everyone else on our boat goes up, and comes back with a smile.

Next up was the jet skis. We hop on, Sara yells at me for not balancing, so I just go slow a few times in a circle. We park it, that was jet skiing. It was hard to keep a good balance with the waves, and Sara didn't even get to drive. I'd rather have a flat lake to speed on where you can take turns driving. Not overly impressed here, my eyes weren't either with the salt spray they received.

Floating Fun Stations
So, after all of that fun, we were able to swim out to an adventure area, where there was some water floating things. Some you could climb, or jump on a trampoline. Sara and I climbed to the top of one, and sat up there for awhile talking. Then the same kid from parasailing came up, then a couple of more people. When we all decided we should go back down, the kid spotted a jellyfish.  Ummm, shit. Then more people saw some...then I saw some. Fuck it, I'm staying up here. The jellyfish keep hanging around, so finally Sara says she's bee-lining towards the catamaran. She gets off and swims, people yell at her to change direction as she's about to hit a jellyfish, she hears them and avoids the stings.

My turn! I hop off and swim fast and straight towards the boat. Apparently people were telling me to change direction, but I wasn't listening, I was focused. I hopped on the boat, thankful to no get stung, Sara is laughing at me not listening to people trying to help. But, we were unscathed, but some other were not so lucky. A couple of people got stung. What a bummer.

I'm on a boat!
Well, the adventure was over. But, they did have some beer for us to drink, so I got out of the wet suit, and had a couple brews in the sun. Was a nice, relaxing end to what was a rough start. Oh, I did ask the captain about his hat. he said his girlfriend is from Milwaukee and he found the hat for cheap when he went to a game last summer.  Good story right?

After our day at sea, we decide it's best to eat some seafood. We walk over the Half Shell Raw Bar (recommended by Al the cabbie), get some delicious oysters on the half shell, some oyster shooters, and some delicious plates of food. I highly recommend the place. The birds were a bit much, but there were nets to keep them away for the most part.

Oyster Shooters
We decide we're tired, and we've been in the sun all day. We should relax by the pool/hot tub tonight. After Sara chases some chickens, we find a cab and hotel it up. We walk to the nearby liquor store, grab some beer, then go to the hot tub, it was occupied, and the people using it never relinquished it for others to use, so we swim for a bit then just basically crash out for the night.

11-13-11 - We wake up, and it's a sad feeling. Back to Ft. Lauderdale today. We pack up the car, stop at Waffle House, and make the terrible terrible drive. I have no interesting stories to share.  We get to the Holiday Inn near the airport, and drink some beer by the beautiful pool area. Eventually, we get ready and go grab some steak at Longhorn Steakhouse down the road, stop at Publix for some wine, then we just took over the hot tub. It was a relaxing last night. Some drinks, some water, some old ladies talking about some weird dancing convention. I guess it's like a cajun style dance? I don't remember the name. This was a fairly chill night as well. I did eat Checkers for the first time though....I can't complain.

 11-14-11 - We flew home, wahhhh. But, on our flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa, the Southwest flight attendant, who had everyone in stitches from his announcements, gets on the intercom immediately after we take off and says "due to the short flight, we'll be passing out the peanuts right now, please grab some as they roll by". I opened my eyes in confusion, as we were literally just off the ground, and then I saw what he was doing. He released all of the bags of peanuts on the ground to have gravity push them towards the back as we ascended. People were picking them up off the ground and distributing to their fellow passengers that were sitting towards the windows Now, Sara and I were in the very last row, and a lot of peanuts came into my possession, as I was the last stop between passengers and the back of the plane. This was rather fun, funny, amusing, and I can not ever say a bad thing about Southwest employees. I really do enjoy flying that airline. After that good service, we were charged $23 for a 3 mile cab ride....welcome back to Milwaukee, vacation is over.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Adventures of Dustin & Sara: Key West - Part 2

 For Part 1 of our Trip please click here: Key West Trip - Part 1

11-10-11: We wake up, well rested, and we order ourselves some room service for breakfast (our package included free breakfast). Sara gets an old faithful for her, Eggs Benedict, and I decide I'm going to be adventurous and get the same. I'm not usually a "however those eggs are cooked" kind of guy.  The food comes, and we sit out on our balcony, overlooking the ocean. Already in the morning, it is hot and sunny. A beautiful Florida day, a day you don't want to waste four hours in a car in, but that's exactly what we are about to do. But, no matter, there's too much excitement to get to to Key West. We pack up the car and we head out. See you Fort Lauderdale!

Stop, pull over, fucking GPS on my phone is froze......and....come on stupid thing.....there....see you Fort Lauderdale!

The drive around Miami was your typical highway driving, then after Homestead, there was a lot of, nothing. We had entered the bottom part of the Everglades. Much like flying over it, it was, a wasteland of sorts. I just hope to not hit a gator, or crocodile for that matter. Then after some swamp/waterway/wasteland there it was the first key, Key Largo (yes, the god damned Beach Boys song entered my head). I was excited, but, it looked like a run down tourist trap. Part of me wants to stop and get some Key Largo memorabilia, but, no....quicker to Key West, quicker to fun in the sun.

On The Drive
I wish I could report the loads of fun we had on this drive. But, the novelty of seeing both the Gulf and the Atlantic at the same time in a dazzling blue color scheme quickly wore off. There were lots of bridges, and some towns that really just slowed us down.  Most of the Overseas Highway is a two way road, so, when you got behind someone slow, well, it sucked.  Seeing the sun, and the water, just teased us after awhile. We needed out of the car. We even just grabbed Wendy's for lunch in Marathon, just to keep things moving. I didn't even really realize that we went over Seven Mile Bridge until after we were off of it. I was a sad panda for this, because I didn't get to annoy Sara with a 'True Lies' reference. "TAKE MY HAAAAND" (Ah'nold voice).  On one island (key) there was this Key Deer endangered area. Don't worry warning signs, I don't want to hit a deer either, but maybe these retard deer shouldn't have stranded themselves on an island, just saying, let's let evolution do its thing. Besides, we looked them up, they're just small white tails. I assume they're small because they're malnourished, from living on a tiny island in the hot Florida sun. Anyways, more bridges going over channels with stupid names, blah blah blah.  Oh yeah, there were a retarded amount of hawks in the sky too.

Oh hey, we're getting into Key West! My brain now is now doing it's "I'm about to drink a mojito dance", but first we need to check in. Our hotel, The Inn at Key West, is a decent place. A super nice pool area, and we had thought it was going to be a private patio area (it was, sans the room above could look down, sad), but overall a decent place.  It's not situated in Old Town area, but we had figured that the island is like, 5 miles long, that any cab ride would be cheap.  Well, I'll say this to anyone thinking of going to Key West, spend a few extra dollars and stay right where all the action is, you'll be glad you did.  But, remember I mentioned the awesome pool area? Yeah, we get ready, and head there first.

Drinks by the Pool
It's mojito time. Now, you might think that going somewhere tropical and having a mojito seems cliche, but I'm 90 miles from Cuba.....I feel that it is a very appropriate drink.  Sara has herself a key lime martini.  Both drinks are fantastic. Yes, I'll admit, her foofoo (fufu?) martini was a delicious drink that I envied to have. The keylike limeyness, the graham crackered rim goodness, the alcoholicy niceness. Oh well, I'll have another mojito.

I was told by someone, that Key West is a place for Europeans to visit. That seems weird to me, why Key West? Why not the Bahamas or Jamaica or something? Well, first afternoon in Key West, and sure enough there's speedos....which of course means Europeans, French it sounded like. I want to make statement to any European readers, STOP WEARING SPEEDOS!  Also, stop being creepy. Another time when we were at the pool, we spot this guy, just blatantly staring down this girl, almost standing over her...staring. Peripherals buddy, peripherals.......errrr...I mean, gross dude.
Pool Area

After some time in the warm pool, and a couple drinks. It's time to get ready and head to Duval Street. For those unfamiliar, this is the party street, where everything happens. We dress appropriately for warm weather, hop in a grumpy cab driver's cab, and he drops us off. Party time.

We start to walk Duval St., and it's too hard to decide what we want, so many bars so little liver capacity.  We find Sloppy Joes, the famed bar that was Ernest Hemingway's favorite spot, but we want to sit outside, so we scoot across the street to a little bar that's basically an open air bar. Only two things of note here, one, there is a sign on the wall saying RIP to a racing boat crew that died the day before, and two these guys bought a Corona and put a shot of tequila (as well as a lime) in their beer. I forget what they called it, but, I just remembered I want to try this.

We then find Fogarty's Flying Monkey bar, and they have fresh fruit frozen drinks with high alcohol in them. Well, if you're going to drink grain alcohol, you might as well have fresh fruit with it we decide....makes it healthy!  I'll be honest, I wimped out and got a drink which only had Bacardi 151 in it...for shame, right? It was a nice outdoor area at Fogarty's, but we've hardly explored, so I check to make sure we could carry our alcohol on the street.  Funny thing, the guy said about the same thing as they did in Ft. Lauderdale, that it isn't technically legal, but no one cares.  Good enough for me, as I left my pussy pants packed securely in my suitcase.

We walk to one end of Duval St., then the other. Taking note of which bars we might want to stop at, and where we could possibly eat. Our overproof frozen drink is proving to be a great starter.  Finally, we decide on a spot to eat, a Cuban restaurant, El Mason De Pepe's.  Neither of us have had Cuban food before, so it sounds like a great idea. You know what they say, when closest to Cuba, eat as the Cubans eat.

I grab a Presidente beer, Sara gets some liquor drink and we're handed bread, apparently, I've been missing out on Cuban bread my whole life, all sliced, buttered, put back together deliciousness. We decide we don't really want to gorge, and want to try a few things, so we just get a few appetizers and have a sort of tapas style meal.  One meal was different meats stuffed into plantains, another was this fantastic sausage dish, and lastly conch fritters. Yes, I know that isn't authentic Cuban, but damn it, we want to try it. Everything is great, the waiter, the atmosphere, the food, the drinks, all of it!

After we leave, we find a fritter stand that has $2 cans of Miller Lite, or better yet for me $3 tall boy of PBR (I'm not a hipster, I've long liked PBR). After more walking and finishing our beers, it's time for another bar stop.  We see the Bull & Whistle, which has an upstairs patio overlooking Duval Street. This seems a perfect spot, so we walk inside and head upstairs.  I'm already thinking of hitting the bar, when Sara points me to another set of stairs...a rooftop bar! I love me some rooftop bars, so we walk up.  It seems as if it is its own bar, called Garden of Eden or something, whatever.  Sara marches through, but I spot a sign that seems odd. It said something to the effect of, "no cell phones or other recording devices allowed, and no sex" .... no sex? I shake it off, thinking it's just one of those kooky bar signs.  We walk to the edge of the rooftop and you can't see over, well, what's the point? Anyways, we go to the bar get some drinks, and the TVs are playing, porn of sorts. One channel is showing people painting nude bodies. Ummmm? Then a light bulb hits me, it's a nudie bar! Everyone there at the time had their clothes on still, so, we took the opportunity to leave without having to endure any psychological trauma. I decided that there's probably more nudity during the day, when people can soak in some rays. I'd joke with Sara for the rest of the trip about going, but I assure you all, I didn't want to.  The majority of the crowd was older, rednecky type. Rich rednecks is what we figured, and I didn't need to see any leathery 60 year old bodies.  Next!

Store front window, let's just say those were giant
We drink our drinks on the patio on the 2nd level, then move on, but first order of business, is to get a sweatshirt for Sara.  See, at night, in November, it gets a bit chilly, even if we are just about 2 degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer. I'm sure everyone has been in a tourist t-shirt shop, well, they're mostly cheap junk. I wanted to get a fun Key West T-Shirt, but every shirt that wasn't gaudy as hell, was made of the rubbery paint that washes off in two washings.  After numerous stops, we finally find a nice sweatshirt, ah, warm Sara.  I will say, on our adventures of these shirt shops, we commented on the always ridiculously tacky shirts these shops have "got pot" "fuck the cops", etc..... After specifically saying, "who the hell would ever wear a shirt that says 'Super Bitch'"? A man turns around and excitedly tells us, "MY WIFE".  He gets his wife to turn around, and sure enough, there's a sparkly Superman logo with the phrase "Super Bitch". We try to save face, and say it's funny, and blah blah blah....but seriously lady? Classy.

Where our next steps were exactly, I'm not sure, (and for the rest of this blog, my timeline might be a bit off). I'd say we either went back to get cheap tall boys or we went to Sloppy Joes, So, I'll just speed through the non essentials. We stopped at Sloppy Joes. They had decent beers on tap, which was nice, a live band, which is always fun....and a bajillion people (record scratch). It wasn't the most enjoyable time we've ever had because of the large crowd. Plus at this point we've been drinking all day, Sara has on her sweatshirt and I have on my best "I'm a tourist" shorts and polo, all in a sea of people dressed for a night out...so we decide to bail, there's plenty of other bars to drink at.

Smallest Bar
Oh, you know how I made it a point to mention the annoying people at the airport baggage claim, yeah, guess where they were? Being drunk and obnoxious in Key West on a golf cart (a normal way to get around).

We stop at a couple other places, the most notable is the Smallest Bar, which made the world's weakest drink I think.

We head back to get cheap beer at the fritter stand, then find a spot tucked away that has series of bars/restaurants. We find a table and drink away. There's this giant party going on at this bar behind us, and it appeared you had to be on a list by the way the bouncers were checking. But, it was all of the redneck people. Was, just strange to us, but, we didn't want to immerse ourselves in that anyways. We just drink and enjoy each others company for a little bit and rest our feet. We make a plan to grab more cheap beer, and head back to the patio bar at the Bull & Whistle.

Drinking from Above Duval St
We spend a significant amount of time there, watching the drunk crowds below us, enjoying ourselves. It was nice.  But, after a bit of relaxing, I'm ready to hit the streets again. I tell Sara I am going to take us to the dueling piano bar I saw. I don't think she really knew what to think, apparently had never been to one. But, I'm still considering it her birthday, and since we didn't go to the piano bar in Beach Place like I wanted to, I'm still itching to embarrass her.

Nipple Bite
We're obviously inebriated on our walk this time, as we start taking photo ops with a statue of an Indi....Native American. I then decide I needed a cigar, a Cuban cigar of course. I begin to plead the cigar shop owner that she needed to go into the back and get a Cuban cigar for me, I knew she had it, and I wanted it. She guaranteed me multiple times that she didn't have true Cuban Cigars, but this Dominican cigar was made from Cuban seeds. I wasn't sold, and kept pleading my case....I lost, I bought the Dominican cigar, and it was good.  .... What is this contraption on the street? Why, it's....a payphone! Yep, we need to make a call. It's decided that we need to call my friends Mike & Andrea. I make a decision that Andrea would be the most likely to answer, so we plug in the quarters and dial away. ... Well, she didn't answer, but we left a great drunk message, from a payphone, from the street, in Key West! Who does that anymore? We do, that's who!
The Payphone

We walk into the piano bar. The crowd is fairly light, but there's a couple groups in there, one I think is a bachelorette party or something, maybe another birthday girl. All I know is I fill out the card for them to sing a birthday song to Sara and I enjoy my Yuengling and cigar while I listen/laugh.

Dueling piano bars usually get a mixed review from people. It seems you either like them, or you don't. I personally like them. It's fun, it's spirited, it's usually pretty funny to me.

He Did Flatter Me in The Song
After some time, and many laughs later, they finally invite Sara to sit on the piano, and begin to sing "You've Lost That Loving Feeling". It's everything I want, vulgar, funny, embarrassing! At one point another birthday girl hands Sara her rose, with her mouth, to Sara's mouth, it was funny and awkward.  A girl that we spent a large night talking with, who was a wasted mess, was trying to convince me to get on my knees....um, no lady, no.

I know I didn't do the piano bar story justice, but usually late in the night, you need everyone involved to tell the story, to piece it together. I assure you all though, it was a great first day/night in Key West.

We hop a pink cab back to the hotel and sleep it off.


Southernmost Point
11-11-11 - Happy Veteran's Day! We get up, feeling alright thankfully. Today is going to be a lower key day. We partied hard Thursday night, today we do tourist things. So, we shower, call a cab, and head to the Southernmost Point in the continental U.S. Thankfully, our cab driver is super friendly this time.  He asks if we're in town for the world championship speed boat races? ... Suddenly the rich redneck crowd makes sense, he tells us about the crash that killed a crew, and suggests we go watch the races if we get a chance. Thanks Al, your a good ambassador of the Friendly Cab Co.

Rum Monkey
We wait in line to take our pictures with the giant buoy. Read some history, and then start walking to find a lunch spot.  Basically we were on the very south end of Duval St, so we know there's all sorts of food spots. It's warm, bit windy, but warm. I kind of wanted to go to the original Margaritaville, but Sara was right, it's a chain, ew, chains evil. We eventually stop at a cafe looking place, eat some pretty good upscale lunch items and have a couple of cocktails for some "hair of the dog".  Of course those cocktails lead to us wanting to have a few more drinks. I say we go check out the boat races.  We walk all the way back to the north end, catch a glimpse of the boats, but decide our first order of business is to get a drink out of a monkey.  Sara suggested it, but I for whatever reason was being weird. I eventually came to my senses and thought, "why wouldn't I want a strong rum drink out of a coconut monkey!" The races actually seemed to be finished, so we moved to a spot along the water and enjoyed our drink and our view of the water. In hindsight, that little 16oz tasty drink, got me kind of buzzed up.
Live Statue guy

 We then go explore an area we missed the day before, nothing too fancy, but we do spot a man in military fatigues painted in gold (to look like a statue) holding a flag. It's a nice Veteran's Day tribute, and was pretty cool. The only time he moved was to flick a kid a piece of candy. Which is a lesson for everyone, don't take candy from strangers, unless they're a military member....wait, what? Then we see there is a big memorial of all of the wars and how Key West played in integral part. Was cool.

The Beer at Kelly's
We hit a couple of shops, drink a couple of beers, eat some conch fritters, catch a glimpse of the Veteran's Day Parade going on, sit down for another beer, and that's when I decide that there has to be a brewery of some sort on this island. The locals were telling me no, but my phone said that there was, and it was right around the corner.  So, we walk to this place called Kelly's Carribean Bar, Grill,  & Brewery. Really a nice place, cozy, a really cool outdoor seating area for dining, but, we want to try their beer. They only make three, a golden ale, a red, and a wheat.  I get the red (Havana Red), and Sara get's the Southern Wheat. Both are very good in my opinion (I tried the gold as well, also good). We enjoy the beer, laugh at some dominatrix Barbies and then decide we're tired and that it'd be a good night to go to the pool & hot tub. We had to be up pretty early for an adventure at sea on Saturday, so we both know it needs to be an easy night.  We pick up a 12er of Miller Lite at CVS after failing to spot the Dramamine (in case Sara gets sea sick) and find a cab in the hectic crowd after the parade finishes up.

Dominatrix Barbies
The plan for dinner was to go to a nice restaurant around our hotel, but neither of us craved anything, so we just ordered Thai food for delivery. It was delicious and just what we needed, some comfort food of sorts. We have some beer, go out to the pool, wait for a group of people to leave the hot tub. That group never did leave the hot tub, so we went back in the hotel room and drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day on the sea. Snorkeling, Para-sailing, Jet Skiing, Water playground.....
... Let's just say, you'll want to stay tuned for the harrowing adventures!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Adventures of Dustin & Sara - Key West (Part 1 - The Fort Lauderdale leg)

11/9/11 - Also known as the day that two 11's sandwiched 9. But, that was no reason to hop on a plane and go on a vacation, no, the 9th of November was Sara's birthday, and that folks is why we were hopping on a plane to go to Florida. Well, it was a good reason to get the hell out of Wisconsin in November at least.

The day started as any normal Wednesday does for any normal couple, with me giving Sara some diamond earrings, packing our bags, and heading to the airport, normal. (You're damn right I'm going to tell you that's what I got her, you should all know, I'm wonderful.)

Moving on, I would like to send a big thank you to Tracy, Sara's longtime friend for driving from Kenosha to take us to the airport. That was very nice. Though, I do not apologize for manually opening and shutting your fancy back door of your SUV. One, the automatic open/shut goes far too slow for me, and two, I'm not used to fancy things...I'm just a lowly commoner. Ok fine, I'm sorry.

Rainy Milwaukee = Bad
The airport was quite dead, we quickly got our tickets, got to security, gave the TSA operator a sexy show of blurred nakedness, and then....well shit, we had a lot of time to kill. Thankfully, there was a restaurant, which appeared to have a nice, breakfast diner feel to it, Johnny Rockets, so we went there for some foodstuffs.  Now, I wish I could report having a great breakfast, but, it was your typical "shit in an airport".  Next time, I'll know better than to stray from the Alterra breakfast burrito. Oh looky looky, it's about time to board.

We flew Southwest Airlines, and if you paid attention, then you'll have read that we got our tickets whilst at the airport. Apparently, a big no-no if you fly Southwest. See, Southwest has the world's stupidest boarding procedure.  It's first come-first serve. Which sounds great in theory, but often leads to people not being able to sit next to each other. Well, thankfully, we were able to score two seats next to each other still, way in the back. Southwest has great employees and great prices, but seriously Southwest, change your boarding procedures!

The flight, as most flights are, was fairly uneventful. There was some heavy turbulence over Indiana, which I found to be no surprise since I've recently made Indiana a nemesis of mine.  Otherwise, we just fiddled on my tablet for a bit, read Sky Mall and made fun of the stupid gizmos, slept, etc... We made a stop at Tampa, where we were able to move up to the front of the plane, and then we took off and landed in Fort Lauderdale. There was this nice family, with very well behaved children who we talked to for a little bit. It turns out they were also going to be making the drive to Key West for a family member's wedding, so it was nice to know that we weren't the only ones crazy enough to make the long drive through the keys.  Also, I will note, flying over the everglades is sort of creepy, just miles of untouched nothingness. It did remind me though of how much I distrust alligators, ancient ornery assholes is what they are to me. Another thing I distrust, the ocean and ocean life (foreshadowing?)!

As we stand waiting for our luggage, there's this group of, well rednecks is the best way to describe them, yet they had an aura of wealth about them. They were loud, annoying and quite rude working their way through crowds grabbing their luggage. I also assume they had some money by this one dude's girlfriend...let's just say she didn't have a lot of realness about her. I hate to stereotype, but I'm assuming money is what keeps this girl with this guy (she was also rude and annoying, so maybe they were just a match made in everyone else's hell). But, it's the airport luggage claim, I'm sure they won't be seen again. I mention this, because it's odd to see rich rednecks (more foreshadowing?).

Studly Car
Rental car time. Two items of note here. One, Budget needs to stop using Dot Matrix printers....good fucking god. It broke, and took about 15 minutes to fix.  Second, we end up with a Nissan Versa Hatchback. Suddenly, I  regret not upgrading to the Mustang the lady at the desk was trying to push on me. It's the kind of vehicle where I expected 25 clowns to pile out of. I'll stop there, since Sara seemed to like it. I'm driving a hatchback, in south Florida, where hot cars are the norm. But, as Sara reminded me, it gets good gas mileage, and all we really need it for is getting to the Keys and back. I calm down, but am irritated that there is no center console, or arm rest. This becomes a larger issue later.

We were only staying in Fort Lauderdale for one night, and that one night was Sara's birthday, so I wanted it to be nice and chose a hotel accordingly. As we pulled up to the Hilton Beach Front Resort, I remember that nice hotels equal being served, to which I'm not comfortable with. Immediately, the valet asks for my name, then another valet worker asks my name....then I have to give my name to the guy working in the valet booth. THEN, the bellhop comes out, and I have to give my name again. I'm getting irritated as well as confused as to what proper etiquette is. Ok, we're inside and I check in, then another bellhop comes to me, and I swear another person had said "enjoy your stay Mr & Mrs Thompson" (I had Sara's name listed as an additional guest). Now, I'm following the bellhop, he pushes the elevator button for us, opens our door for us, puts our luggage down for us, even asks if the temperature of the damn room is acceptable....because as guests, we're not allowed to do anything for ourselves. I don't like this, maybe I'm just a bumpkin for middle of nowhere Wisconsin, but even if I become hugely wealthy, I'll never like this. He does warn us about the step onto the balcony, a warning we both fail to heed multiple times (You had to step over about a 6 inch metal hurricane flood protector thing, stubbed toe city). Anyways, I realize that while I have cash, it's in Andrew Jackson form, not George Washington....so the poor guy got $2 in crumpled up bar cash. I assume that's not a good tip, so for that sir, I apologize and feel bad! But, I quickly stop feeling bad after he left, and I throw on some shorts and we prepare for some dranks on the beach!

Drinks at Kahunas
We walk down to Beach Place, which to those who aren't familiar, is just a collection of bars and restaurants located on the beach. It was warm, which was nice, but it was very windy, no storm or anything, just, windy. We stop at a place called Big Kahunas, I think it's a chain, but, whatever, it had an outdoor balcony overlooking the ocean, and I was able to get a treat that I can't get in Wisconsin, a Yuengling. Does anyone have a bad word to say about Yuengling? If so, I question their judgment on all things life related. .... Moving on....we left after just a couple of beers, because we had to get ready for something far more important, steak dinner!

A couple weeks prior to leaving, Sara said if there was one night we do a fancy dinner, it was for her birthday.  So, we investigated possible places of fine dining, and we both agreed we wanted to go to Shula's On The Beach. A fine steak venue with a view of the ocean, it was perfect, and personally, I can't argue with what Coach Shula says I should eat. So, we made reservations.

Back to the hotel room, where I was disappointed that the staff, who made sure to do everything for us, failed to put champagne and chocolate covered strawberries in the room like they were supposed to. So, I called, and then they came, and I laugh since on the envelope it stated "Mr & Mrs Butteris", I jokingly tell Sara that I feel better now that this mistake corrects their earlier mistake.  We put everything in the fridge though, and we start to make ourselves look all fancy. Sara puts on a black dress, and naturally, looks amazing....putting my look to shame, which consisted of wearing what I usually wear on a night out, just with a sport coat, but we look good damn it.

Sexy People with Sexy Martinis
We take the short walk to Shula's, they have our reservations, but say we can dine inside, as the outside seating is a really long wait.  I was obviously slightly upset, because we had put that we wanted to sit outside. Sara reminded me that the reservation never guaranteed us outside, so I felt a little bad for getting slightly firm at the hostess, and I said we would just wait at the bar. A few drinks would be fun, and would pass the time. We each order up a martini, w/ blue cheese olives of course and it's delicious, fantastic, wonderful! Sara orders hers dirty, and she swears they put the perfect amount of olive juice in it. We talk about just getting an appetizer while we wait, but then the hostess comes to us, and lets us know our table is ready. We had only waited, 10-15 minutes tops. So, a giant kudos to Shula's. I wasn't mad, we were having fun, prepared to wait, and they still came through for us.

We are seated, and quickly our waiter and his waiter-in-training are welcoming us. We're set for drinks for now, but decided we wanted a dozen oysters to start with. I usually go with just lemon on mine, but Sara loves the fresh horseradish and I feel like I should let that be known. Main course, we both go surf & turf and order a bottle of nice wine. A feast of steak, lobster, bearnaise sauce, butter sauce, and mashed potatoes became just a blissful haze as we devour what is surely one of the best meals in both of our lives. As the haze lifts, we realize that there's no way we can finish, so we take our leftovers with us, figuring it may make a great drunk meal later.  High praise to you Coach, for your fine, fine dining experience. That meal was equivalent to a 17-0 perfect season, all in my stomach.

Ok, enough food porn. We head back to our hotel to change back into "drinking on the beach" clothes. For me, this meant loose shorts, which is great for my now expanded waist. We first pop our champagne and eat our strawberries and just sit on the balcony watching the lit street and rolling ocean. We're happy just sitting there, but soon, the champagne is gone, and we realize there is trouble. We have no booze, and it's after 9!

Well, problem solved, only in Wisconsin, where they try to keep us from killing ourselves from alcohol poisoning do they often stop sales at 9:00.  We make a walk down to a liquor store, near beach place again. We decide we don't want to go to any bars though, just grab some beer and head back. We have a long day ahead of us in the morning. So, we just grab a 12 pack.  Sara asks if we can drink legally on the streets.  The guy working the counter assured us that while it isn't, legal...it isn't enforced.  I apparently put my pussy pants on, because I'm not entirely sold on this.  So, he offers us up tiny paper bags to conceal our cans. Now, I'm sold!

Fort Lauderdale Beach at Night
We take our opened cans into the world. Our first stop though...the beach.  We find a quiet spot, sit in the sand, and tip back. It was a near full moon and the street lights behind us also provided plenty of light to see the ocean rhythmically crash the shore. One of those, perfect type of moment scenarios. Us, the waves, the moon, some beer...it was nice.  But, we go back to the hotel, drink for a little longer, and decide that it's best to call it a night. The real vacation doesn't start until after our long haul to Key West. We estimate a near 4 hour drive.

Good night Sara, good night Sara's birthday, good night Fort Lauderdale, good night part 1 of this blog.

Stay tuned for drunken nights and a harrowing adventure at sea!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dream Valley Brewing Returns

When I last left you, you probably thought I'd have a few more home brews to share with you. After "Potable", which most of it was dumped for being largely...bad, I tried to make a Chocolate Cherry Porter.  However, I encountered problems during bottling, so was too upset to share.  I did get a few good bottles that actually tasted pretty decent. No, it wasn't anything great, but quite drinkable. After bottling those successful bottles, a cherry skin plugged up the spout, so I tried to fill the bottle by dipping my hand in, exposing sediments, cherry bits, and likely beer's worst enemy, bacteria to them all....they, were sadly, dumped as well.

After two failures, I decided that I was done with Mr Beer, but it was confirmed to me that this was a hobby I could enjoy. Yes, it was time for a real home brewing kit!  I know some time has passed since I last wrote, but during this absence, my friend Kevin (@HighReiser38) had said he could make me a starter kit with equipment that he used in the past.  See, Kevin has gone on to bigger and better things in the world of home brewing: kegging, growing his own hops, etc... so, I happily accepted his gracious offer, and am now hoping to master the art myself.  If you read this Kevin, I thank you again for your generosity.  It is truly appreciated.

Though, my first batch with the new kit has had some road bumps, I am soon to crack open my first completed beer and (hopefully) enjoy.  Of course, I will be starting a post, sharing the story of how my (boringly named) "Oak Creek Cream Ale" came to be.

Stay Tuned & Stay Thirsty!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homebrewing - Batch #1: "Potable"

In the last several years, I have been getting more and more into craft beer. The big name lite/light beers have been fun, and they did what their intended purposes were in my early 20s, they got me drunk. And, there will always be times where I just want a light refreshing beer, but lately, I've been enjoying this thing called, flavor. Having tried now over 100 or so different craft beers, I came up with the crazy idea of, brewing my own.

I researched, nothing. I just know Mr. Beer is a beginning beginners kit, so, I went on Amazon and ordered one up. It came, with an American Pale Ale mix. Of course I didn't just want to make the beer that they already had formulated, I needed to put a touch of my personal genius in it. Hence, the start of Batch #1.

I should have maybe thought of stuff that might compliment the pale ale better, but, I had this crazy idea of, brown sugar, maple syrup, macadamia nuts, and vanilla. Recipe is as follows:

1 can of the Pale Ale wort stuff (included in kit)
1 of the booster stuff (included in kit)
1 cup of Pure Maple Syrup
1 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Cup of chopped Macadamia Nuts
Tbspn of vanilla extract (more on this)

So, I think the vanilla may have been a bad idea, well, scratch that, I think extract may have been a bad idea. To add vanilla flavoring, I'm thinking now that beans should be used.

Anyways, I let my beer ferment for about 3 weeks, though I think for so many ingredients and the higher ABV, perhaps I should've let it ferment for a month or more, but, I was antsy. Then 2 Sundays ago, I bottled the beer to start the carbonation process. After 7 days, I was far too anxious to see what I had created, and threw one of my liter bottles in the fridge to cool down for consumption.

The verdict that night, was...not so good. The aroma was of, not sure, the taste, was, sweet, and slightly off, though it overall tasted like beer, so that's good. I couldn't drink it, and left the remaining bottle in the fridge for an extra day. Then last night, I opened it back up, and wouldn't you know, it was much better. It was, drinkable. The flavor still isn't anything anyone would ever purposely buy, but it did make me realize that I need to let the remaining bottle condition for a while longer, perhaps 1-2 weeks more, and I might have what can be called, a likable beer on my hands. I named it, a very appropriate name: Potable.

Well, I felt like I needed a "brewery" name. I couldn't come up with anything. I can be a perfectionist that gets nothing accomplished when I try to think of names. Then, for really no reason, I thought of the name my Dad had given to a fulfilled dream of his. Back when I was a kid, my dad wanted to start up a deer farm, and from what I think I remember of the story, he was told by some that it was nothing more than a dream. Well, with hard work and determination, he succeeded (yes, I grew up on a deer farm, fallow deer if you feel like looking it up), and named the farm, "Dream Valley Fallow".

I live in an apartment, nowhere near a valley, but I felt for batch #1, it was only appropriate to name my "brewery", Dream Valley, in homage to my dad, my mom, and my childhood, hence the start of Dream Valley Brewing.

This however, isn't a dream job or career of mine, I have no delusions (like I do with so many other things). No, this is just going to be a hobby I want to start. It's mostly in fun that I call my homebrews a "brewing" company, and using a Mr. Beer kit seems like it is cheating. But, I hope to in the future get actual home brewing equipment, and hopefully create beers that are more than just, potable. Up next, is a porter. Details to come soon.

Batch #1: Potable, is just that, not great, not good....potable

Monday, February 28, 2011

T'was the Night Before March

T'was the night before March, when throughout the household,
The ice was a creaking, from the bitter February cold;
The wet socks were thrown near the fireplace with haste,
With hopes that warm weather, we'd soon get to taste;
The Children were nestled, shivering in their beds,
For the heating bills have added to the family's large debts;
The wife in her Snuggie, and I also in mine,
turned the channel to the news, to see we soon might be fine;
Because on the TV, we heard a familiar noise,
It was crack of the bat, from the summer time boys;
The remote I then grabbed, & turned the volume up high,
Spring Training had started, and that meant spring time was nigh;
I walked to the window, just to peer out,
but was angered by the snow, and wanted to shout;
But then I remembered through all of that sadness,
With March comes a tournament, coined as March Madness;
The Wisconsin Badgers I did pay attention to and cheer,
Will once again, be playing in the tournament this year;
Most are unknown, and will achieve very little fame,
but I'll still cheer them on, and holler each one by name;
GO! Keaton GO! Evans GO! Jarmusz and Taylor,
Go! Bruesewitz GO! Gasser GO! Wilson and Leuer

To the Sweet 16, to the Final Four,
Shoot all you can, and run up the score;
But as basketball wanes, and baseball now waxes,
March offers more fun, before we pay our taxes;
The airports are all busy, from vacations families take,
Getting their opportunity to head south, while the kids are on break;
There is also a holiday, which we adults all hold dear,
Where the bars fill with patrons all wanting green beer;
A day in which we are all Irish, even if we're not,
And we'll shout "Erin Go Bragh", over a Jameson shot;
So I step back from the window, a smile now stretches wide,
"Another winter defeated" To my wife I said with pride;
She set down her book, she smiled at me and did chime,
Tomorrow is March? It's about fucking time!