Real Life On Hold - these are the adventures of California native Travis Emmel, as he takes time off from the rat race to travel and see the world.

Journal Entries

Posted Some Photos

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Posted some photos here:

Made It!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Made it across the pond drama-free! I forgot what it was like to travel on a real airline (been doing too many Southwest flights, lately); I would highly, highly recommend New Zealand airlines. Had a great flight, two good meals on board, lots of wine with dinner, and tons of movies and other entertainment to choose from, so much, in fact, that I never even opened my carry-on to pull out one of the 4 books that I brought with me.

Right now, I'm sitting at Lianna's place, totally exhausted and waiting for 9:00PM to show up so I can go to bed (I feel about as well as I do after a 3-dy stint in Vegas) and try to beat out the jet lag.

More tales when I have time and feel more rested...

A Day In Purgatory The Passport Office

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Once again, the post office, in conjunction with the US Passport Agency, has let me down. My passport failed to show up in my mailbox by Thursday, so I was forced to make the trek up to LA to utilize my Friday morning appointment that I made the other week. Adding to the excitement was the need to finalize everything with my place in San Diego so the new tenants could move in later this week. Amazingly, I got everything done and started the trek up to LA late Thursday afternoon; oh, did I mention the need to stop through Hemet to pick up my birth certificate since my old passport was now lost in the system somewhere?

Traffic was lousy getting out of San Diego, but once I got to Temecula things opened up and I was at Chris' place in Pasadena in less than two hours. Chris was nice enough to put me up for the night and to not act too put out the following morning when my alarm went off at 6:00AM.

The passport office proved interesting; it was the most organized cluster f**k I've ever had the displeasure of being a part of. Initially, things seemed to go very smoothly and after waiting in three sets of lines over the course of about an hour I was finally able to turn in my application. I also learned that my original application was still in limbo somewhere in North Carolina. Since it had never been processed, they didn't bother charging me for the second go-around that I was now more intimately involved in. Spending all that time in line, I did get to hear a few interesting stories. There was the family that drove in from Arizona at 3:00AM that morning to get their passports for their flight to Iran the next morning, as well as the guy who was getting married the next day and instead of partaking in his rehearsal ceremony, he was standing in line with the rest of us.

After submitting my application, I was instructed to come back that afternoon between 1:00PM and 3:00PM and my passport would be ready for pickup. Having not eaten breakfast, I decided to take the opportunity to walk around and find a bite to eat. A few blocks later, I found myself at Jerry's Famous Deli where I got a very satisfying breakfast and was able to relax for a bit. The lack of sleep from the previous night finally started catching up to me and I decided to head back to the car and take a nap until it was time to pick up my passport.

The rest of the day was not nearly as pleasant. When I returned to the will call area at 12:45PM, a line had already started to form and wrapped halfway around the building; I pulled out my receipt and joined the masses, eager to get the whole process over with. About 45 minutes later, I found myself at the front of the line presenting my claim ticket to the woman at the will call window. She punched my information into her computer, wrote something illegible on my ticket and told me to get back in line. Deflated, I trudged to the back of the line which was now about twice as long as it had originally been.

I made it through the complete cycle again after about another hour. When I approached the window for the second time, my passport had yet to show up and I was again sent to the back of the line. This repeated itself one more time and by then it was well after 3:00PM; on this occasion, however, I was given another piece of paper and told to return to the area where I'd applied earlier that morning, feeling quite familiar with what purgatory must feel like.

Back in the holding pen within the building, I found myself sitting around with about 75 other people who had yet to receive their passports; the majority of whom seemed to be accompanied by loud, restless children. It was during this waiting period that I witnessed what had to be the highlight of my day – a true diamond in the rough. While doing my best to lose myself in a book and shut out my surroundings, I happened to glance over at the little boy next to me. Clearly, I was paying more attention to him than his mother, because as I looked over, I saw him feverishly digging around the underside of the chair next to me. When his hands reemerged, they held a marble-sized, gleaming, bright pink ball of chewed bubble gum. And then things got good. The little guy took his newfound plaything and stuck it to the middle of the chair. He then grabbed the topmost portion and started to pull. I'll be damned if he wasn't able to get a good ten feet from the chair with the gum still intact and it looked like it was going to hold for another ten. With the wall standing in the way of testing that theory, he did the next best thing, doubled back and started to wrap the bubble gum string around his sister who was innocently sitting by, playing with her doll. I think he successfully got it entangled in her hair and the doll's hair before the mother finally caught on to what was going on. Clearly enraged, the mother did her best to simultaneously punish her son while detangling her daughter from the pink mass that now tied the entire family together. Somehow those last ten minutes of waiting for my passport seemed to pass by pretty quickly.

Eventually, my name was called to retrieve my passport sometime around 3:30 that afternoon. After picking it up and verifying that all the information was correct, I got in the car to embark on what turned out to be a 4+ hour drive back to lovely Hemet.

The Best Beer I've Ever Had

Monday, May 21, 2007

When it comes to friends, there’s a general hierarchy:

Tier one is occupied by the “friends” that will come over to your house, drink your beer, pee in your pool and kick the cat when you’re not looking.

Second degree friends are a slightly more refined bunch. These are the folks whose company you can actually stand and would not be opposed to grabbing a drink or dinner with or just willing to be seen accompanying each other in public.

Third degree friends are the real deal; they’re willing to listen to you drone on and on about that girl who ordered the steak and lobster on your Friday night date and didn’t offer to pay or how that bitch in accounting is trying to ruin your life.

The next tier is filled with very high quality people – airport friends. If you’re getting married and look over to your left (right for ladies), there’s pretty good odds that you’ve been taken to the airport by or dropped off by one of the people standing there

And, at the top of the heap, we have moving friends. Anyone willing to give up a Saturday and help you move is when you know you’ve found a good friend. Might as well put ‘em on your speed dial list right now because they’re not going anywhere for a long time.

Saturday, I had a great crew of ‘moving friends’ to help me load up the U-Haul and put all my junk into storage for the next 13 months. A big thank you goes out to Jimm, Kurt, EK, Do’, Mark and Don – without you guys there’s no way Saturday would have been as successful as it was.

The day started off with Jimm and me picking up the truck down by SDSU; a location that made no sense to me considering that there is a U-Haul site less than 2 miles from my house. When the lady turned the keys over to me she said, “Oh, you’re getting one of the good ones!” Clearly, this woman and I differ as to our opinion of the definition of a ‘good [truck]’ because that thing was a beast to keep on the road. Alternatively, if this really was one of the ‘good ones’ then I can only assume that half of the trucks this company rents out end up as flaming scrap heaps at the end of a move. Cue U-Haul truck t-boning a tanker truck complete with huge explosion and Little Johnny’s tricycle wheel rolling dramatically from the wreckage. I’m sure we all remember those old black and white movies where a guy is driving and is constantly turning the steering wheel from side to side to assure the audience that he is, in fact, driving. My experience on Saturday was very similar, except that instead of ensuring those around me that I was actively driving, I was forced to constantly turn the steering wheel from side to side to prevent the truck from leaving my lane and taking out one of the cars on either side of me.

The actual moving of boxes and furniture went both smoothly and quickly and we remained ahead of schedule for most of the day. We probably lifted a combined total of about 3000 pounds of stuff over the course of the day - a testament to the fact that I own too much crap. Although, I am proud to say that I probably threw away or donated about 25% of my belongings.

All that heavy lifting and sweating in the afternoon heat (it was about 90 degrees that day in Hemet – the final stop on the moving tour) lead to what was easily the highlight of the day. After moving the last and certainly heaviest piece of furniture we were finally able to relax and enjoy a little bit of the afternoon. It was then that I cracked what had to be the most refreshing, tastiest, ice cold beer I’ve ever had in my entire life. Add in the homemade chicken wings, mac and cheese, and bruschetta that my mom threw together and all the stress from the move seemed to melt away.

Reason #628 Why Moving Sucks

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Opening the box for my stereo receiver only to have my nostrils pummeled by the smell of mouse urine and then noticing that all of the packing material has either been soiled or shredded, completely defeating the reason for saving everything in the first place.

The Terrorists are Winning

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

With less than two weeks to go before my Europe departure date, I’m starting to get a little nervous about the fact that my passport has yet to show up. Even worse, I now have to deal with the Passport Center’s Automated Appointment Service in an attempt to make a bail out appointment for next week, should my passport never arrive. The message, seemingly read by the Performance Artist from Family Guy, is so brutal I had to post it. See if you can make it to the point where the guy with the Speak ‘N Spell voice reads off every single letter of the web address without slitting your wrists. This is what the emo kids should be listening to.

SF Bars > SD Bars

Thursday, May 10, 2007

You know why I prefer going out in San Francisco over San Diego; I mean, aside from the more interesting bars, multidimensional people, and ability to get home without worrying about having to drive? The restrooms are all too small for a bathroom attendant to set up shop.

There’s nothing I find more irritating than dealing with Bathroom Attendant Guy. It’s always the same experience, too; when the time comes to wash my hands, I approach the sink which has been converted into a porcelain oasis surrounded on all sides by various potions and products, all designed to change the smell of breath or body. Bathroom Attendant Guy, who always seems to be wearing a white shirt tucked half-way into a pair black pants that don’t fit, rushes over with his little squirt bottle of soap, shoots a few drops into my hands and simultaneously turns on the tap (because these are all things I’m incapable of doing on my own). As I wash my hands I get hit with the always classic, “what’s up, bro, how’s the night treating you?” Meanwhile, I’m looking into the mirror, watching hordes of guys walk behind and out the door forsaking cleanliness in an effort to avoid dealing with this guy. Rinsing my hands, I now await the always flourished finish, where Bathroom Attendant Guy removes a couple of paper towels from his stack, gives them a quick flick of the wrist ensuring that they spin a full two rotations before alighting on the counter next to me all the while flashing me a toothy grin in hopes of garnishing a healthy tip. Which leads me to my next issue - I’m all about tipping when it’s appropriate; however, when I’m in a situation where unsolicited (and unnecessary) service has been thrust upon me, I don’t feel that tipping is appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m appreciative of the guy’s help, in this case, and I always make it a point to look him in the eye and thank him but, again, I did not request or want help washing my hands. On the other hand, if I do use any of the multitudes of products laid out before me, I will definitely compensate him because now he has provided a desired service. Finally, if I’ve seen the guy on multiple occasions throughout the night, I’ll throw him a couple bucks at the end of the evening as a gesture of goodwill, knowing that he’s just doing his job and probably has to deal with a lot of lousy people in the course of a night.

Maybe I should undertake putting myself in Bathroom Attendant Guy’s shoes for a night to get an inside perspective on the whole thing. Then again, do I really want to put on a bowtie to sit in a bathroom and experience people doing their business all night?

San Francisco, Redeux

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I’ve been having a great time in San Francisco thus far. Dave and I met up on Thursday afternoon and caught up over a couple beers at happy hour. On Friday, we signed our lives away and rented some bikes to tour the city on. My bike ended up being a total piece of crap and by the end of the day, it wouldn’t shift into half of the available gears and would randomly shift into the remaining ones on its own. Incidentally, not a great thing in a city riddled with hills. To add further injury to insult, with about a mile to go in our ride, I was going up a hill (standing) and naturally, the bike decided I was in the wrong gear so it shifted mid-pedal stroke causing me to slip and come crashing down on the seat. The seat, in turn, came loose and lodged itself in a very awkward position with the nose pointing skyward; a position it remained in for the remainder of the ride. It will be a miracle if my ability to father children is ever restored.

I accompanied my sister to a ‘get to know your neighbors over wine and appetizers’ function that was sponsored by her apartment complex. When people asked what I do, I replied with my current, ‘I’m retired’ line. However, after the second person, it occurred to me that up here that’s a reality for a lot of people my age and it kind of lost its novelty.

My sister took me out for lunch yesterday at a sushi bar across the street. Evidently, it’s the only sushi place in a two mile radius so they can get away with super crappy service; something that she brought to my attention the minute we stepped in the door and were ignored for a good five minutes. “This is typical of this place; they have the worst service of all the restaurants around here.”

“I assume the food makes up for it, then?”

“Actually, the food’s not that amazing, either.”

When we ordered, the waitress told us that the sushi would be at least a 25 minute wait. To stifle our hunger pains, my sister asked for an order of edamame. When 20 minutes passed without a sign of our drinks or appetizer, she commented, “this is usually the time when I flag down the waitress and tell her to cancel the edamame. Then, when the bill comes, we’ll have to argue for them to take it off.”

I find it amusing that a sushi fix for my sister is worth putting up with all of that.

Speaking of food, one of the tell-tale signs of a good ethnic restaurant is that the place should be filled with the corresponding clientele; e.g. a good Japanese restaurant will be filled with Japanese patrons. After listening to Dave insist that it was worth the quest and then allowing him to lead me on a wild goose chase around half of China Town looking for the House of Nanking restaurant, we finally found the place. We walked inside and, with the exception of the staff, Dave was the only Asian person in the entire restaurant. In my head, I immediately thought that was a bad omen. We were rushed to a table and after looking at the menu for about 30 seconds, a surly Chinese woman (SCW) came over to take our order.

“You been here before?”

Dave: “yes, but it was many ye-“

SCW: “ok, what you want?”

Dave: “can we get a minute to look at the menu?”

SCW: “just tell me what you like, I pick for you.” To me, “what you like? Chicken? Shrimp?”

Me: “uh, chicken sounds fine.”

SCW, to Dave: “ok, what you like, seafood? Squid?”

Dave, pointing to the menu: “what about this shrimp dish”

SCW: “ok, you want shrimp? I pick for you. You like.”

And with that, she grabbed our superfluous menus and headed to the back. About 10 minutes passed and our food showed up. To the woman’s credit, everything was great, but I would have no idea how to order it again if I ever end up back there.

Copyright 2007, Travis Emmel