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Me-hee-co

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On the beach in Mexico

Just a few weeks after traveling to California, I went down to Mexico last month for my brother Al’s wedding.  Yep it must have been wedding season again, because aside from the two family weddings I also had a few friends get married too.  Anyway this was a destination wedding down in the Riviera Maya area of Mexico near Cancun, where from what I could tell 75% of the area is devoted entirely to all-inclusive resorts for Americans.  The other 25% of Riviera Maya is devoted to trashy looking stores alongside the crazy highway that probably cater to the locals (who almost all work in the resorts).  I had never been to Mexico before, so this was a pretty interesting trip, although going to a resort means that you’re pretty much still in America and don’t exactly get to experience a Mexico for what it is.  Instead it’s kind of like a very spoiled version of the US, where food and drinks are all free, you don’t have to wear pants or shoes, and you live next to the beach.  So while I didn’t get to experience what Mexico as a country is really like, I did get to experience what it is like as a vacation spot.

It was a small group going down for the wedding – pretty much just family and a few friends of the couple.  We were at a resort called Dreams Puerto Aventuras, which I heard is supposed to be one of the smaller places but it was still pretty awesome.  There were at least 5 different restaurants on the property, several bars around the beach, a few swimming pools, a creeper danceclub/bar inside the main building for older people to dance to disco, and other random activities inside the main building and around the beach.  It was all inclusive, which is a pretty amazing concept that I hadn’t experienced before.  Basically (and I have no idea if this is standard for these kinds of resorts, but it probably is) you pay 1 price per person, which includes round trip airfare and your room at the resort for x number of nights.  While you’re staying at the resort, you don’t have to pay any extra for food, drinks, etc.  It came out to be really reasonably especially considering how much food and drink we gorged ourselves on.  The food was pretty good quality too, and room service was included pretty much 24/7 (more on that later).

It’s a little hard to remember what order we did stuff in since we were all pretty much just relaxing the whole trip (I’m not including Al and Amanda in that, who actually had to do some planning for their wedding).  For the first two days we pretty much just ate and hanged out around the beach.  The resort’s signature drink is the “Miami Vice” which is basically just half pina colada and half strawberry daiquiri.  And I am not embarrassed at all to admit that I drank these (not exclusively of course).  WE WERE ON VACATION AT THE BEACH.  OK maybe a little embarrassed.

One night my parents and my other brother Joe took a cab off the resort to the local town called Playa del Carmen.  It was actually my mom’s birthday and we got info from the concierge about a local casino.  Apparently it’s not advertised too much that gambling is legal, but the place we went to called “Win Pot” was real modern if not a little small.  They had only machines, including a digital roulette setup which was pretty cool.  Also minimum bets were super low (it being Mexico).  When we came back to the resort that night, we headed to the beach/restaurant area.  There was some kind of event going on, and over the loudspeaker I hear my other brother Al on the microphone introducing himself.  “Al from Missouri.”  Huh?  So yeah we got closer and apparently they were doing some kind of dance contest and my brother was unwillingly one of four contestants.  They had one of the staff members dance to the song “Kuliki-taka,” and the contestants then had to imitate the dance/do their own thing one by one.  It was pretty hilarious.  Even better that Al ended up winning.  No prize, but the best story of the trip.  It was really dark so we couldn’t get any really good pictures, and when he was actually dancing we were too shocked and horrified to get any photos or video.  Probably one of the biggest mistakes we made, but the story will undoubtedly live on forever at family gatherings.

Al getting ready to win the contest

Night before the wedding, Al had to stay in me and Joe’s room since the hotel didn’t have any open rooms for him and he wasn’t allowed to see the bride after midnight.  And instead of going out to drink or something, we ended up staying in the room and ordering room service.  No, let me be more specific.  We ordered a TON of room service.  I think between the three of us we got like 9 dishes, and this was after we had already eaten a normal dinner.  Why did we do this?  Because we could.  The guy showed up with the food as was like “Hola seniors!  Somebody’s huuuunggrryyy!”  There’s not really much else to say about how ridiculous this unnecessary second dinner was, so just go ahead and take a look for yourselves:

Somebody's hungry!

So yeah that was pretty disgusting.  We didn’t even end up eating it all, and had to hide the remains so they didn’t think we were total jerks.  Todo valle!

The day of the wedding, it was pretty relaxed until around lunchtime, then we had to start getting ready for the big event, which was scheduled to happen in the late afternoon so they could have pictures at sunset.  Luckily Al did not throw up on himself like I might have suggested, although he was feeling pretty nervous about the big day.  He also ate about 3 bottles of Tums.  But the wedding went off pretty much perfect, although I still can’t believe that my brother threw in a “That’s what she said” during the ceremony.  Afterwards about twenty thousand photos were taken, and me and dad creeped around and took a bunch of pictures ourselves, even though Al and Amanda ended up buying all the professional ones anyway.  There was a small cocktail hour and then a private dinner on the beach, with a violinist who I think only my dad clapped for between every song.

Congrats to Al and Amanda!

My brother is not actually that tall.

And what better way to wrap up a nice wholesome family adventure, than to go on a fishing trip?  Um.  So yeah the morning after the wedding, everyone’s still tired but for some reason we had scheduled to go deep sea fishing.  We all piled onto a fairly small boat, just us and three crew members, and went flying out into the ocean.  Horrible, horrible idea.  At first I guess it all sounded pretty fun, and even during the mini orientation we had at the dock it sounded like it could be a cool trip.  You have a chance to catch a lot of different fish, including huge ridiculous ones like marlins and swordfish.  For some reason I did not really take into account the whole seasickness factor, and we forgot to even bring the Dramamine we had bought for this purpose.  I can’t actually say I’ve ever gotten seasick before, yet of course I’ve never really been on a boat this (relatively) small in the freaking ocean.  I don’t get carsick usually and never get planesick, but I don’t like roller-coasters.  And that’s pretty much what going into the ocean on a little diesel-powered boat feels like.  A constant up and down, up and down, giving me (and my brothers) a pretty bad feeling in the stomach.  Please note that during this whole time my parents are both smiling and looking like they’re having a great time, apparently immune to this horrible up and down feeling as the boat was propelling towards what felt like Liberia.  Note: things are about to get a little gross in the next paragraph.

I think I sprayed this guy with puke.

Near the beginning we caught a few small bonitas or tunas, just a foot long or so.  At one point when it was my “turn” we had a huge sailfish on the line, that actually jumped out of the water and looked like a dimetrodon, but it got away.  I find it amazing how fish can even manage to grab onto the tow lines coming off the boat, considering we are moving at mach 5.   By that point the up and down feeling had gotten pretty bad, and I just stood up and announced “Yep, I’m going to puke.”  I think everyone thought I was kidding since I said it pretty normal, but then they saw me hanging over the side of the boat spraying chunks all over.  It was even worse because we were cutting through the turbulent water so fast that salt water would spray all over me with every wave.  I pretty much felt like a torture victim, hanging on for life while puking and being sprayed with water and wind.  I thought Al was being really nice when he asked if I wanted to turn the boat around and go back, but I said to keep going on as planned. He actually wasn’t being nice or anything, it’s just that he also felt like crap and wanted to go back.  So yeah after a few minutes of puking I went back and used all of my energy to make myself fall asleep immediately.  Thank goodness that worked, and I was able to pass out for most of the remainder of the ride.  If it hadn’t been for that special power it would have been a pretty miserable few hours.  My brothers were in pretty bad shape too.

I don’t care that I’m not a sea-man.  I’d rather stay here on land and order room service.

And that is the end to this drawn out account of my trip to Riviera Maya.  It was overall a pretty awesome trip (I could have done without the boat ride) and I’d totally go down there again sometime (But seriously, no more boat rides.)

California 2010

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Palo Alto, CA

I went out to California in mid-October for my cousin Mei’s wedding.  We flew into San Jose and traveled up to San Fransisco twice during the trip, but the majority of my time was spent in Palo Alto, on or around Stanford’s campus where my now cousin-in-law goes to school.

Pretty much the entire trip was spent eating, which I guess is pretty much one of the only things a guest at a wedding needs to worry about.  That, and wearing something decent for family photos, of which we took approximately five thousand.  I can’t imagine how many total photos the bride and groom were forced to take, but it was probably closer to a million.

I’m already slipping out of chronological order, which is not good for continuity or coherence.  So first up was a fairly early Thursday morning flight to LA, where we changed planes to go to San Jose.  I don’t think there was much to note about the two flights other than me falling asleep almost immediately on both of them.  In LA since we had like a two hour layover we got California Pizza Kitchen for lunch, which kind of a mistake at LAX considering each 10-inch pizza costs about the same as a semester of community college.  From San Jose my uncle picked us up and drove us up to Palo Alto, where our hotel was.  After checking in and saying hey to some relatives, I jumped on the CalTrain, which happened to be right next to the hotel, and rode it up to San Fransisco since it was going to be my only free night to hang out with friends there.  Got to catch up with the VidSF crew, Kieran, Steve, and Ray, and checked out the shared office they use which was pretty awesome.  We got dinner and drinks in Japantown at a place called Mums which had shabu-shabu tabehodai and nomihodai for a pretty good price.  It was like being back in Japan already. We were pretty stuffed by the end of it.  Mueller is out in SF too and he showed up about halfway through at Mums, so it was great to see him too.  Stayed out until last train (haha just like Japan!) and managed to get back to the hotel in one piece around like 2AMish.

Dad's favorite restaurant, Bow Hon

Next morning, woke up and loaded into a car with my parents, brothers, cousin, and uncle and drove up to… San Fransisco!  Yeah, if I would have planned it better I should have just spent the whole night there but oh well.  Anyway the main goal of this little excursion was to check out Chinatown, where my family used to come quite a bit for family trips.  Things are pretty much exactly the same as I remembered, which isn’t saying a whole lot since they are just very general memories.  These include:

  • Lots of old dudes gambling in the one main pigeon park.
  • Lots of restaurants with awesome food.
  • Lots of stores selling junky crap, like coolie hats, snap ‘n pops, chopsticks, and those postcards with naked ladies on them.
  • More old Chinese people.
  • Some funky smells on the street with origin unknown (for the better).

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So yeah, good old SF Chinatown!  I actually really love this place and wish we would have had more time to stay there.  We ended up doing some browsing at random stores, buying food at at least two bakeries, and then later eating lunch with another cousin and her family.

After eating way too much food in Chinatown, it was time to pile back into the car around our boxes of mooncakes and get back to Palo Alto for the rehearsal dinner.  This was at a very authentic Italian restaurant.  Having an all-Hispanic staff is pretty authentic Italiano, right?  I am pretty sure there were at least 4 main dishes at this dinner.  Two of my uncles had joined us by this time, so pretty much we had my dad’s entire side of the family in one room for the first time I can actually remember.  Too bad my Uncle Ron missed out on that $50 bottle of wine.  Shoot. Oh yeah –  I can’t really remember now, but the men’s bathroom at this restaurant was pretty sketch.  There were either breasts everywhere (paintings, pictures, sculptures, etc) or penises.  I only remember being uncomfortable.

That night, the night before the wedding, there was a traveling party of sorts with the groom’s friends on Stanford campus.  I don’t want to go too much into this whole exciting evening, but somehow Stanford being a private campus means it is a bizzaro land where the police don’t act like you would expect and you can wheel an active keg around all you want.  Me and my brother were all ready to devise some kind of exit strategy at the library but we didn’t even need to.  Pretty crazy.  After the non-incident with the police, my brothers and cousins decided it was time to head back anyway, so we walked from campus.  Little did we know that this would be like a 45-minute hike.  It’s a straight shot, but Stanford’s “driveway” has got to be several miles long.  We couldn’t even see the light from where we started when we were like midway through.  To make up for all that walking we ended up driving to In N Out that night at like 2AM.

Congrats to Mei and Josh!

Day of the wedding, we were all up fairly early to get dressed, etc.  Headed back to Stanford, this time on a bus (thank god) and the wedding ceremony was held at the school’s chapel.  It was a shortened version of a full Catholic ceremony, which made it much shorter.  There was a lot of stuff that was different from my image of a Catholic wedding (as seen on TV), like the circle of power, the chairs up on stage, etc.  And also, not being Catholic I was a little thrown off when the audience had lines and everyone seemed to know what they were supposed to reply back to the priest when he called out.  I have no idea.  Also at the end there was like a “give me your energy” hand motion salute thing that struck me as a little awkward, but all in all it was a really nice ceremony.  After the nice ceremony we all went outside where around 5000 photos were taken.

At the cocktail hour after the wedding, my Uncle Jeff ate approximately half the ocean’s worth of shrimp by scoping out where the waiters come out of the kitchen.  Sneaky.  Later in the evening we had the full reception dinner which was really good.  Then more photos, my cousin dancing, and I think that was about it.  Oh yeah, you know “Bros Icing bros?”  They did that at the reception to the groom and the groom’s father.  Normally I’d be against this kind of thing but it ended up being pretty funny.

We had brunch the next morning and from there headed back to St. Louis.  It was a pretty awesome weekend, and kind of counts as a mini family reunion as well I guess.
Congrats again to Mei and Josh!

3W + ∀

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Phew. Wedding week is finally over. Last week I had 3 (pairs of) friends get married/have wedding parties, meaning that in a 7-day period I had a total of 2 receptions, 3 after parties, and 2 after-after parties to attend. It was a busy and expensive week. On top of that, Ari, Seth, and NR7000 were in town so there was the 2010 A-Team reunion to add to the Earth-shattering awesome festivities.

Monday was a holiday here in Japan, so Yuri and Sho-chan had their wedding party down in Kamakura. I hadn’t been out there in probably a few years and the weather was really nice. The wedding reception was super close to the shrine where the ceremony was performed, and it was a huge formal reception afterwards. Blanchard and I sang the Kishidan wedding song which was embarrassing to say the least, especially considering that the families of the bride and groom were also there. At least we uhh… practiced a lot for that. Ha, ha. The pressure and shame were short lived though, since the third and final karaoke song performed at the reception was by the bride and groom, meaning by the time they finished everyone had hopefully forgotten about the two off-key gaijin who sang earlier.

On Wednesday Seth somehow overcame his broken leg, broken cell phone, and broken computer and arrived in Japan.  Oops!  Met up with him in Tsudanuma and I grabbed some food at Jonathan’s while Seth sat around shocked that the restaurant was 99% chicks.  Then headed into the city to meet up with Bryan and Brian for some yakiniku tabehodai.  Thursday Nick came up via shinkansen, and we went to a creepy maid cafe in Akihabara.  They’ve got a stamp card system, with the top tier “Black Card” requiring over 2000 visits.  That is not a typo.  Two.  Thousand.  According to our maid, there are about 6 or 7 potential serial killers with multiple mental disorders who have this card.  Be very afraid.  After having enough of our souls depleted at the cafe, we headed up to Namja Town for some gyoza and ice cream, followed by Lockup 2999.  Lockup had some kind of campaign for March where you get half of your bill back as coupons.  It’s actually a pretty decent incentive to come back.

Friday was the main event, Y’s.  In the daytime we hit up Saize in Makuhari and Seth made our way to IES and Kanda.  Shin-san wasn’t at IES, but we talked to Kudo-san and got to see some of the new kids.  Vest!  Crashed Hosoi-sensei’s office and caught up on old times with her.  I’m pretty sure she remember every single detail about everything ever, since she even remember Seth’s girlfriend at the time, IUSTV, and that the Musashino line was late every day.  We met up with her again later before Y’s with Bryan, and Mikey was super late for that.  Couldn’t have been a better entrance.  Hosoi-sensei knows how awesome the A-Team is.  Y’s, even without the usual counter, was epic.  Ari showed up direct from Narita and it was just like old times.  We’ve been doing this for almost 6 years!  Thanks to all the fans and supporters who came to celebrate with the A-Team at the 2010 Reunion.2010 A-Team ReunionBryan and Saori’s wedding reception and after parties were probably the highlights of wedding week, since everyone was there and also because I’ve known Bryan the longest.  It was pretty awesome, especially when the picture slideshow had so many A-Team shots.  I gave a speech which ended up being a little shorter than I had planned, but I think it was fine.  We made some new friends with (well actually just probably creeped out) Saori’s friends, ate some good food, and celebrated something that really made me feel old.  Also at the second party and karaoke there was a kid who smelled like wet garbage.

After not going to bed until about 8:30AM on Sunday, I had to get up for Isoroku’s wedding after party that night.  It was also pretty sweet, in a fancy lounge in Roppongi near the Ritz Carlton.  I was worried that I wouldn’t know anyone there, but luckily there were some Kanda people I’d met years ago and from there I was able to mingle and such.  Isoroku also gave out some pretty classy party gifts.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with Ultraman Tenga.

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