What I learned on vacation

Two days ago was already the one month anniversary for Lisa and I. Man is this marriage thing going fast. We were so unprepared that the evening consisted of leftover Chinese food and a couple episodes of NewsRadio. Lisa mentioned the frozen top of the cake, but neither of us were in the mood to break it out – we’ll see if it makes it though year one.

But time is most certainly flying by. I can’t believe we’ve been home for almost two weeks, and yet it feels like Hawaii is 2 years in the past. Last night I was talking to one of the VPs here at work as he prepares for his trip out there this winter, and I felt jealous of having that in the future rather than the past. It was a lot easier to leave the islands than it was to deal with it once we got back. While I continue to delay actually writing about the trip, let me share with you some insights I learned while on my honeymoon:

  • Hawai’i ain’t the Carribean – Yes, it’s absolutely beautiful and can be very relaxing, but we’re not talking about a place like the Bahamas where everything moves at half speed. There are natives and tourists alike who will get pissed at you doing the speed limit, and there’s plenty of hustle and bustle going on in the towns.
  • The water is an angry mistress – You know when you’re at the Jersey shore, and everybody’s “riding the waves”? You know, they jump up when a little swell that’s chest high rolls by so they get lifted? Yeah, on a calm day during the dry season the waves will body slam you on the beach and then drag you, kicking and screaming, back for more. The beaches are beautiful, but scary.
  • Natural wonders take effort – People didn’t build roads near blowholes and God didn’t build blowholes nears roads, so get your hiking boots on. I absolutely loved all the hiking we did, but man was it real tough in areas. The long walks through forests were nothing, it’s the 100 yards over battered lava rocks and boulders that’ll get you. We’re probably both in better shape now than we have been in years.
  • CHICKENS! – You may not know this, but the most populous wild animals on those islands appear to be chickens. Some hurricane busted them loose years ago and they’ve been taking everything over. It’s really quite amusing, and we actually kind of enjoyed the rooster that woke us up regularly on Kauai, but I get the definite impression that Hawaiians hate them like New Yorkers hate pigeons.
  • Kona – That’s really all I need to say. If you love coffee, you will kill for Kona. If you only sorta like coffee, you’ll probably still be willing to commit at least pett theft for Kona. It has a wonderful taste and the low acid and caffeine content means less jitters and stomach woes. We probably brought back at least 3 pounds for ourselves (ok, we’re giving some of it away).
  • Luggage expands – Even if we didn’t buy anything to bring back, I swear our clothes gained about 10 pounds on the trip. Then you have the whole frustration of packing all liquids in the big bags because hand cream can take down a Boeing. I swear, bottles of wine must be at least 5 pounds each.
  • Made in Taiwan – What’s the point of buying gifts and mementoes of places you visit, unless you actually visit Taiwan? I tried to limit my spending to items made in Hawaii, but that’s much harder than you might think. Souvenirs suck.
  • Airports suck – Almost everyone we dealt with at the airports – at ticketing, security, etc. – we’re pleasant and helpful. It still didn’t change the fact that it would take us 4 hours to travel between islands when the flight is half an hour.
  • These people know their pig – I had ham, sausage, and bacon all in one sitting. I got to see an entire kaloa roasted pig falling off the bones. Hawaiian cuisine rocks. And while I did eat plenty of seafood (amazingly only had sushi once), beef and pork was a much bigger part of it than I expected.
  • Note to self: islanders age well – We met a guy who looked to be in his late 40s (maybe early 50s). He was playing in an over 65 baseball league. This was pretty common out there. Lots of people looked younger than they were.
  • Hawaii is owned by ABC – No, not the TV station, the store. It’s a slightly touristy WaWa/7-Eleven type store. Except there’s one every ten feet.
  • Hilo Hatties rocks! – While ABC is slightly touristy, Hilo Hattie is the ultimate tourist store. You don’t need to go anywhere else to get your fill of aloha shirts, macademia nuts, tiki gods, or dashboard hula girls. Every exotic destination should have a store like this!

Alright, that wasn’t nearly as funny as I had been hoping. But I just need to get this crap out so I can start posting for real again. Possibly the oddest note about the whole trip was the Internet access. We stayed in a Sheraton, a bed and breakfast, and a studio condo. The Sheraton was the only place that didn’t give you any (at least not for free). My faith in hotels is wavering.

Not a scam… honest

Early this year when I was at a Pearl Jam concert in Camden, I stupidly entered one of those drawings for a car. A Ford Mustang, or some other car I really wouldn’t want. Surprise, surprise, it’s actually just a way for some company to get your information so that they can call you nonstop. In this case I started receiving calls from Dowd Marketing on behalf of Sundance Vacations. From what I have heard, Sundance itself is a decent company, but it doesn’t matter much when you hire a rather unscrupulous firm to handle your marketing.

The first calls were actually back in May. I just ignored them and deleted their messages as I wasn’t interested. After a couple months I listened to one more closely, and found out that they were offering a 3 day/2 night stay at any Marriott along with a $500 shopping spree for coming to their 1 hour sales pitch. I always approach these things with a skeptical mind, but also remember that they can also be worthwhile (my Dad got an incredible deal on a condo rental at Smugglers’ Notch years ago for the entire family, and simply had to spend a couple hours at a dinner listening to their sales pitch). I figured a free weekend somewhere would certainly be nice and $500 is definitely worth an hour of my time.

But wedding and honeymoon plans prevented me from scheduling a meeting, and when they called me two days before we left I had the impression that the promotion would be over by the time we got back. Despite the fact that they had been calling me for months, I was assured that these packages were quite popular. Whatever, Hawaii was far more important. When we got back, I decided I’d give them a call but managed to get another call before I even had a chance. So I made an appointment for Lisa and I to head out to Rockaway the following evening for their sales pitch.

Unfortunately for them, the guy threw out some info at the end that made me realize this probably wasn’t on the very up and up. Suddenly the hotel room couldn’t be used on consecutive nights (which means 3 day/2 nights is an outright lie) and the $500 shopping spree is for a specific website I’d never heard of. So a quick Google led me to a thread on Scam.com about Sundance. There I read other horror stories about dealing with them (mixed in with some good reviews of the company itself, and some probable employees of the marketing company lurking). I’m glad I didn’t waste my time, as you have to jump through hoops to even get the hotel room, and the website sells 5 year old video games for 10 times what you can get them for in stores (plus ridonkulous s&h charges). So we kept our Thursday evening for ourselves.

Now they’ve stepped up the calls, and we’ve received multiple each day for the last few days. Of course I could try to deal with this through proper channels but, instead, I’ve decided to take advantage of technology. This morning I found this neat little option with our Sunrocket account (our VoIP provider). There’s a little button next to the numbers on the caller ID list on the webpage – when you click on it, one of the options is “Block Number.” Buh-bye Dowd. You no welcome here no more.

The moral of this story: Ford cars still suck…

The Honeymoon, part 1 (O’ahu)

Alrighty, here we go. It’s time to give you guys the lowdown on the honeymoon. Since a full recap would just take way too long to write now, I will instead resort to everybody’s favorite cop-out: an outline. We drove over to Lisa’s parents’ apartment, who then drove us to the airport since they were going to use the minivan while we were away. We got there with plenty of time to shop for extra crap to bring with us on the trip. Oh you marketing geniuses at Newark… excuse me, Liberty International Airport.

This is longer than expected, so I’m actually breaking it up by island… Continue reading “The Honeymoon, part 1 (O’ahu)”

Aloooooooooha!

And we’re back. We flew in yesterday around 1 PM, but I barely slept on the plane so I’ve been in a daze for awhile. After driving Lisa’s parents home (they “borrowed” the minivan while we were gone, so they transported us to and from the airport), I crashed on our couch for a little bit until we decided to go to bed. Then, surprisingly, I got a third or fourth wind, and we watched Kyle XY and Eureka until about 1 AM. And that would be why we woke up at noon.

Being home again after a long trip feels pretty strange. This is the first time I’ve been away for more than a week since a two week training trip I took back in 2000, and probably my longest vacation since my family went to Disney World… in 1981!

Last night this barely felt like our home. The way we rushed out last Monday left it in a state of disarray, and the lack of television (more on that later) killed our typical method of chilling at home. There’s also the total lack of goobers – Shadow and Booboo Birdie are currently staying with one of Lisa’s co-workers – which leaves our house too quiet. Kind of like the life is gone out of her.

But now we’re getting back into the swing of things. Amazingly we’ve already started unpacking and cleaning up the house. I’ve got tons to share with you guys, including lots of advice for anyone considering going to Hawaii (number one advice: DO IT!) and a couple thousand photos (obviously I’m going to cut that number down a tad). For now, let me sum up our honeymoon by saying that, no matter what we missed, what we didn’t do the best way, and how much money we obliterated, it was absolutely incredible and satisfying through and through. I am quite content right now, even if I’m stuck back here in Jersey.

Good times ahead

We’re supposed to be leaving right now for Lisa’s parents. After a quick brunch, it’s off to Newark for our honeymoon. Don’t worry, we’re not staying there. There’s supposed to be some large, winged vehicle that will wisk us several hours West, to some group of islands known as Hawaii. It’s supposed to be nice there, we’ll see.

I’m out of here for two weeks of fun in the sun. See you suckers later. I’ll have intermittent e-mail access (at least in the beginning), so if any of you guys want to beg me for some Kona coffee or evil tikki gods, send me a message. Later…

And then we were one

Let’s see, what did I do this weekend?

Okay, seriously, I just can’t figure out how to write this entry. How do you blog about your own wedding? Talking about someone else’s is one thing, but trying to describe your own is just… well… futile. There’s no way I can capture all of the emotions that went into that day – and I wouldn’t want to try, either. These are things that I can only really share with Lisa, and talk about with people in person. Whatever I say here… it’s just a way of trying to mark the occasion.

I can tell you how Friday night was a wonderful dinner with family and friends that ended in a nigh disaster with the screwed up bill. I can tell you how perfectly Saturday started with all of my groomsmen showing up at my hotel room on time along with the photographer to capture those special “men getting dressed” moments. I can then go on to describe how much the pre-wedding moments dragged on as a realized that, not only were the women folk not ready on time, but the keyboardist for the ceremony was stuck in traffic. Perhaps the ensuing almost-breakdown would best be described by my sisters who bore the brunt of my subdued outbursts. Regardless, none of that mattered once the the keyboardist swept in just before Lisa walked down and the ceremony began with Lisa and I nearly crying once we finally saw each other.

The oppressive heat was hopefully just a minor inconvenience for our guests to bear for what seemed to be a short and sweet ceremony. Reverand Fox – who met us less than a month before – was perfect in his casual demeanor and big smile. And before we knew it, we were man and wife. For a more thorough description, you’ll just have to talk to me in person, or perhaps go through my co-worker Cindy’s entry for her magnificent photographs of the event.

As for the reception, everything they say is pretty muuch true. It goes by in a blur. There is not enough time to do everything and speak to everyone. We miss it already. There’s a certain sadness thinking that all of that buildup is over in an instant. I got to talk with all of my friends and relatives, and at least had greetings with most of Lisa’s side, but I needed a few more hours to fully enjoy it all. I don’t care how exhausted I was at the end, another 2 hours of dancing to keep everybody around would definitely have been worth it.

While I was against hiring a videographer (and forgot to press record on our own camcorder), there were a few moments I wish I could relive. Things like our first dance, the cake cutting, etc. I’m not sure that I could deal with hearing Mark’s speech again, as I was almost in tears halfway through his first sentence. You’re a great friend, Mark, and I’m happy that you took the time to get to know me. At least Cindy (my goodness, we probably should have just hired you) captured most of Lisa’s surprise duet with her father (well, I knew about it, but most of the guests didn’t):

The most meaningful part of the event has been the feedback from everybody. I have had so many people tell me how wonderful everything was, how beautiful we looked, how good the food tasted, how much fun they had. I love all of you guys, and I’m so happy that you could share our day with us. If I had the money, I’d do it all over again every year (with the same wonderful woman, of course).

We won’t be getting the professional photos for another month, but in the meantime we’ve been enjoying those from friends and family that have already rolled in (including Kris’s shot of our first dance uploaded on the spot). Thank you to everyone who celebrated with us. This is such a wonderful feeling, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.