Sunday, 6 January 2013

Part Three: A Life of Laze in Key West

The wonderful thing about a road trip is that you are never bound to a destination or how you will travel. If a place piques your interest than staying an extra night is an option, if by morning you find that it just does not add that certain excitement you expect, then packing up and leaving is as easy as that- packing and going. So, with our New Orleans part of the journey coming to an end, choices had to be made. Where to next? How were we going to travel? Did we stay an extra night? Being Christmas morning and just about everything shut down but the trusty old Starbucks (where we all made hurried calls back home, lest we land up in mom’s bad books and had to forgo a Christmas gift for next year), the best choice was driving another 20 hours straight through to Key West, Florida. Now it all seemed very practical; no accommodation costs (we would be sleeping in the car), we could actually fit this unique destination into our travel itinerary and we had something to do for Christmas day since everything was locked tighter then my brothers secret stash of money. But thirty minutes into the drive and with another nineteen and a half to look forward to, you have to wonder what possessed you to think that driving so long would be such a brilliant idea. The car begins to feel like a moving prison cell, the radio sounds much better when it’s playing static then the endless hits radio stations keep leaving on repeat, and you much prefer the company of the four other people in the car with you when they are dead to the world rather than awake and breathing. In this case I mean when they are napping, but the thought did cross my mind a time or two.

Arriving in Key West, Florida is like driving into a place that does not quite understand that life in other parts of the world revolve around busy schedules, hurried work lives, screaming children and far off thoughts of that idyllic retirement all alone on a secluded island. Key West is that place we all dream of going to, to unwind and forget that we have a job to go back to. It’s the place where a, “I’ll see you in 5 minutes,” can mean anything from 5 hours to 5 months. You set your own pace here, or none at all for that matter. Arriving bright and early the next morning we made our way to a Laundromat to do laundry. Yes, even on vacation this heinous task will still present itself. With laundry in and taking its sweet time to run through a cycle, I spotted a bag of homemade nuts, raisins and m&m mix in the car and with my stomach and me having many life changing conversations in that car over the hours, I eagerly grabbed it before someone spotted the loot. And then what would walk across my path? A rooster. Now you should know this about me, I am a sucker for poor, starving helpless things, even when that perceived starving helplessness is in my head. So, my only option was to feed this poor thing with the only food I had available to me. My stomach was already protesting, but I was doing this for the greater good. I love m&m’s and my absolute favorite kind are the blue one’s. So seeing as I was not going to eat the other colours, I began throwing them out to the Rooster who quickly devoured his morning meal. After about 5 minutes of this and thoughts that maybe chocolate was not the best choice for a morning meal I quickly switched and gave him raisins instead, figuring a fruit a day would keep doctors away and all that. When I decided that overeating was not an indulgence this fine looking Rooster should partake in, I abruptly ended our meal together and bid him farewell. Unfortunately he did not quite get the farewell part, and instead took it as in invitation to invite his fellow chickens. Well, at least Shaii got some great pictures in between running away from chickens and throwing them food to encourage better poses for his photo’s.

With laundry all done, our next stop was food and a doctor’s office. We did not harm anyone in the process of this road trip, but the ever stoic Kevin did manage to get himself sick. Remember that unhurried pace the citizens of Key West choose to enforce in their lives? Even doctor’s offices implement this concept. So after about the second hour and no sign of Kevin emerging out the air conditioned building; Kate, Shaii and I made ourselves comfortable by rolling the windows down low, leaning our heads back and just slightly closing our eyes. Now if you were to do this anywhere else in the world you could find yourselves without a car and a couple of limbs, but considering the time it would take for people to do this and all the work it would be we figured we were more than safe in this community. What seemed like an eternity later, Kevin finally came out with a prescription for Strep Throat and a mood blacker then a starless night. And not a drop of sympathy from his fellow friends.

The rest of our time in this breathtaking place was spent lounging and drifting into bouts of much-needed sleep on the warm beach with the ocean at our toes. With the sun slowing descending against the horizon and realizing I had forgotten my camera in the car, Shaii and I made the mile long walk to fetch it. How could we come to Key West and forgo a picture of the sunset? With the camera strapped securely around me, we made the arduous trek back to the sleeping beauties on the beach, but somehow got side tracked when Shaii spotted an Iguana. This prompted me to tell him that in South Africa we have the same except with one flick of their tail they can break your legs, and then screaming that one was coming for us. It brought tears of joy to my eyes to see him get so scared and uncertain. Believe Shana or lose my legs were probably the thoughts colliding in his head. We also got to explore a fort complete with cannon balls and dingy prison cells and still made it back in the nick of time to take the most gorgeous photos of the sun slowing slipping behind the ocean.

With the sun set on this part of our stay, it was in the car and off again to a new place and a whole set of new memories to be made


Thursday, 3 January 2013

Part Two: Forever Altered by New Orleans

In life we have all these outrageous social classes and groups that separate us from one another. You have the ultra-conservative people who balk at the sight of some of the shenanigans the liberals undertake in, then there are the business type who work harder than they intend to play, there are the family-orientated who make changing a diaper seem like the next best thing after a grand reception with the president (well, this may depend on the president who offers you that grand reception), and then there are those wild college students who at the age of 30 are still there studying the effects that ethanol will have on the organs. In normal life we do not mix, we are required to each stay on our dividing sides of class and tolerate each other. Yet, come to New Orleans and you will see a meeting of the classes that will so baffle and intrigue you at the very same time. More specifically, set your foot amongst those walking the tar on Bourbon Street; mingle with a lady old enough to be your grandmother, talk politics with a child barely out of a high school classroom and boogie all night with someone who could quite possibly be more formal and stuffy than your father. On Bourbon Street this is the way of life.

Arriving amidst peak hour  traffic after seeing the inside of a car for too long, the best and most logical thing would be to find our hotel, take a shower and sleep until waking up would actually make us happy people again. We arrived at the hotel, where I was trying very hard to keep my judgment well hidden, and found our room. Walking the corridor to our room was like standing outside the KFC in Dundee, South Africa. Being the Christmas season it kind of made you feel nostalgic for all of two seconds, and then the smell really hit and having reminders of home did not seem that important anymore. So after taking about an hour to unpack the car (none of us got the memo to pack light), we made plans to be out the door by 7pm because Kevin was going to show us how to really party. It never happened that way; it was a kind of rough estimate of what time to get up.

First rule to remember when partying: always, always have something to eat beforehand. It makes the headache the next morning only a little less as intensifying. Being in New Orleans you have to try the food no matter how absurd it may sound. If you do not it is like going to France and completely missing Paris, it is just not done. There are many options and something will satisfy your curiosity, being the adventurous people we were we decided to try a sampler of all the different kinds of food. And Shaii being a vegetarian opted for the cheese pizza (at the end of our trip he has officially tasted more cheese pizza then anyone I know). My favorite was the Gumbo, I know it had rice in it and some other stuff (sometimes it is best just to eat and not ask). So with the bellies all filled up it was time to go see Bourbon Street for the first time, and be transformed.

Now many people think Vegas is the party capital of the world, yes they may be right, but Bourbon Street in New Orleans is thee party capital that does not distinguish between people. If you decide to make a night out on the town in your fluffy pajama’s with cute white bunnies then good for you. If you have just come from a long day of exploring other parts of the city with your huge camera bulging in your front, your white socks pulled up smartly somewhere between your calf and knee and your flowery flip flops on your feet, then there is a place for you here to. The one very interesting thing about New Orleans is that alcohol is permitted on the streets, just not in the container it comes in. It is kind of like the philosophy most parents have about their teenagers, “We know terrible things are abounding in your rooms, but just close the door and we can pretend it’s not really there.” Another very important rule to remember when going out is to always carry a phone or in the worst case remember your friend’s number. I sadly did not heed my own advice here and got separated from the group somewhere between meeting a new friend, trying to scream a conversation to a stranger and dancing the night away in a smoke filled room. When deciding that Bourbon Street had come out a victor this first night, I waited to tell my friends it was time to go and could not find a single familiar face. Now the time comes when you want to rewind the hands of time, charge that phone and carry it with you. With hundreds of bars and clubs and places to be on that crowded street, finding my friends was like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. So against everything I had ever been taught by my wonderful parents, I went home with a stranger so he could help me get a hold of my friends and find the hotel I was staying at. I was lucky that night; I never went home with an axe murderer who would later feed me to the alligators. This person helped me find my friends and hotel and even dropped me off at 4 in the morning, now that is real Southern Hospitality for you. I do, however, not recommend this to anyone.

Before you think that New Orleans was a one stop party destination, I will assure you we did see more of what this truly rare part of America had to offer. We drifted through the French Market by day somehow being bargained into buying things that just touched the corner of our eyes. We ate more food than I think humanly safe, but savored every last morsel. And after lunch we had coffee at the famous Café Du Mont, where icing sugar brought out the child within and the coffee just refined the behavior. We watched passengers embark on the last Steam Boat and were greeted by a homeless man making many exuberant sounds; Shaii seemed thoroughly delighted in communicating in this manner. We took a tram ride to nowhere and back again just because we could and enjoyed it regardless.

If it is at all possible, every person should make a stop in New Orleans at least once. To see what a meshing of the social classes and cultures is like. To see difference as something that makes you special and not what separates you. Albert Einstein once said that, “The distinctions separating social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on force.” I think when he said this he must have been dreaming about the faraway place of Bourbon Street, New Orleans.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Part One: An Introduction

I have survived the impending doom of the end of the world, and now am at this very moment am undertaking an event just as life changing. I am now on a road trip from New Jersey down to New Orleans for my Christmas vacation, with three of the most unique specimens of mankind on board our interesting ship of a car. Sides have been chosen, and re-chosen more times than the unlimited miles of quaint road between point A and B, and war has been declared. As of yet the enemy is unknown and the cause, well that is undecided too. Let me introduce you to each opposing force occupying a space much too small for each implied thought of self greatness.

First up on the list is Kate. This list is going in alphabetical order with the last person being the most likely to succeed this impeding friendly war known as the Winter Road Trip. Kate is Czech, and for most that should be information enough, but since that will not suffice for others let me elaborate. Many times I fail to quite describe just how truly unique Kate is. So I will resort to making references to fairytales. Kate is like a dainty Princess in an Ivory tower, very beautiful but very useless. The beauty charm works very well in most cases like when photos are needed and, umm I am sure there was something else too. And for Kate, the useless thing works very well in a car. In a car Kate is just like a Princess, stuck in her Ivory Tower unable to do anything relying on her minions. Oh, but she does encourage and entertain us with just how amazingly similar the Czech Republic is to America. Five minutes into our road trip I feel as if I have seen more of the Czech Republic then most of the states I have passed through on our 22 hour drive down.

Next is Kevin. The SUPER glue (because any ordinary spit and stick glue is not good enough for Kevin) that holds the constantly perceived  fraying pieces together. The long road down to New Orleans has been made less boring with his one of kind renditions of classic songs, that all somehow seem to portray our less than desirable qualities. But as they say many life lessons are taught through the words of a simple song, apparently Kevin has caught on to this theory a lot quicker than most. Thus far Kevin has exhibited very human-like qualities (or alien depending on who’s glasses you use to view this scenario from), a minor number of insults and a relatively small head for awesomness. But this is just the start.

Shaii’s name just came up in my mind and all my fingers wanted to do was type away. But I will use constraint. Shaii in normal circumstances is like my much loved arch nemesis. On the road trip he has evolved into the much loved one man comedy show of an arch nemesis. Shaii has this wonderful way to make you feel very liked and insulted from just one word out of his mouth. And he has this, to me, annoying penchant to sing themes songs to my life. Although I love the feeling that I live the movie star style life with all the travelling, constantly being serenaded with Bob Marley’s Who Shot the Sheriff is not my idea of the ideal theme song for my time in life at the moment. At this moment though he has added a new song to his playlist for my life, I can still hear it echoing in my head unless of course that is his voice. I like big butts and I cannot lie….

And the last person in the car? Well that’s me.

Oh, and we did make it down to New Orleans somewhat fuzzed out on Nyquill (Shaii), having lost only about two hours of sleep out of a normal twenty four hour day (Kate), smelling a tad like a fresh patch of stink weed (Me) and much convinced of his ability to party like a sixteen year old (Kevin).