spooky pooches!!

OMG!! I just went to the Halloween Dog Parade at Tompkins Square Park. It was mutha-flippin’ CRAZY!!! People have way too much time on their hands. And I am SO in favour of that!!!

Dogs are hard to take pics of at the best of times, but when they’re dressed as buses or cans of spinach, it’s even harder. Factor in that 80 million people are around you, all vying for the poifickt shot. Seriously, I felt like I was part of the paparazzi!!

Dinosaurus Rex

My highland goatee-oatee-oatee-oatee-oat

Prince William Terrier!!

Corgi bus!! There was a small child with him dressed as a bus stop...

This French Bull-Frog was over it...

The Best Behaved Dog Award goes to... The Fireman

Doggy Gaga

Skelator Pooch

Maestro Dachshund (look at his little feet!!!)

Well, DER, it's Spaghetti & Meatballs dog!!

Mario (his owner was Luigi)

Are you torkin' ta me?

Tim Riggins, is that you??

a little guy with a stick

We have been doing lots of family-ish touristy stuff in New York with the girls here – it’s been really fun and funny and intense and busy and we’ve been doing lots of walking and talking and sitting and eating and lining up and looking around.

On Friday afternoon we had a luvverly time strolling around the American Natural History Museum – we split up and I wandered around with Eva and we marvelled at African vistas and the reproductive systems of frogs and humongous jellyfish suspended from the ceiling and… the list goes on. I was truly amazed and astounded and felt like I could have spent the whole day there. I think I might hafta go back and pay Natural History another visit. Sit in the Hurricane exhibit, or see the Butterfly House, or spend more time with the dinosaurs….

Eva and I chatted as we strolled, about favourite breakfasts, favourite lunches, favourite dinners, what to do in the event of a snake bite…

It was so totally stunning though. Being there made me want to go back to school and relearn all that jazz about biology and evolution and history and geography. It made me want to get a job in a museum setting up life-like exhibits of forest scenes and making models of poisonous mushrooms and dusting off stuffed buffalos and impalas and that sorta thing… Mayhaps I could incorporate a Natural History element into my bowling alley roller rink band venue?

O hai guyz, howz mah beard?

Doe! A deer!

Aw yeah, you like mah hair??

So from a thing of a beauty and inspiration, it would only make sense that we then spend one hour in a line outside a ‘haunted house’ on Varick Street, called ‘Blood Manor’. ‘Terror has a new home’ screams their website, which is adorned with hideous photos of exposed flesh (not midriffs, like, bits of guts) and scary clowns and revolteh sideshow freaks. Eva saw a poster for it a few days ago and was DESPERATE to go (much to my chagrin) so I gritted my teeth and said “Sure, that sounds great, I’d LOVE to go to a haunted house”. I actually didn’t say that at all. What I said was “No way, there is no way on EARTH I am going to Blood Manor. Look at their revolting website. I am not going. NO WAY.”

But over the course of the day, I was peer pressured and eventually caved.

Where was I? Yes. So we stood in line for an hour on windy Varick Street, surrounded by screaming teens and couples on hot dates and every so often a terrifying ghoul would stroll past and scream at us, or a scary zombie, or a lookalike of the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, or a child in blood-stained pyjamas wielding a mallet. Good times.

Finally we were at the front of the line and headed up a long dark stinky staircase, and then into a dark corridor… Every so often some cliched screams would play over the speakers (way too loud, if you ask me), but weirdly, after the screams they played a bunch of farm animal noises. I get the reference of the screaming pig, but when they had an ee-aw-ing donkey, I thought ‘This is not really very scary… Since when is a farm a scary place to be?’.

So my pounding heart was starting to pound a little less. I was starting to think that the scariest part of the evening would be the anticipation we felt in the line outside.

Until.

A security guard walked past and told me to take off my earrings and my necklace. What the hizell was I getting myself into???

I can’t even do the absolute terrifyingness of it justice. I’m not even going to try. We were pushed into the first ‘room’ of Blood Manor in a group of about 12, and somehow, I found myself at the front of the group. Clutching onto Eva, we were the first people into every room, thus the first people to get every fright and experience every level of eff-upped-ness. Like the second room we entered, which was a completely pitch black maze. So we had to feel our way along. And there were SCARY PEOPLE IN THERE BEING SCARY!!!!

We made it through though. Into a clowny-carnival-y room of mirrors. There was a zombie clown sitting on a bench with guts all over her face, and she was wearing polka dot tights. I was wearing a polka dot t-shirt. She was wielding an axe. I tried befriending her, saying “Hey, we match!” pointing at my teesh and her tights. She said “Yes we dooooo. I’m going to KILL YOU FOR YOUR SHIRT!!!!!!!!” which I thought was a bit extreme.

Room after room, each one grosser and more revolting than the last. I can’t even explain or describe how truly awful it was. Eva and I screamed our guts out and clutched each other for dear life.

In the very last room, a dwarf popped out from a chimney with black eyes and a big stick. He looked at us (Rich – 40, me – 32, Scarlett – 15 and Eva – 12) and said “Get outta here, you bitches”. That, to me, was the most shocking element of the whole shebang. And I could see that he was shocked as well; that he had his lines that needed to be read and his scary looks that needed to be looked, and he saw a family and called us bitches – there was definite hesitation before he did it. I think he felt bad… I almost told him he shouldn’t call a 12 year old a bitch, but I was too scared he’d hit me with his stick.

When we came out 20 minutes later, we were exhilarated and sick and excited and cold and hungry and buzzy. For all my wah-ness it was actually pretty amazing and pretty scary and definitely exciting and fun. I was so glad to get outta there though, put my lucky llama necklace back on, and get some pizza in my belleh.

Post-Blood Manor dinner, scary faces still abound...

coney island baby

New York seems to be in the grips of a crazy heatwave at the moment – it’s early October and the days are sunny and shiny and 28 degrees. It’s quite blissful!

Yesterday we packed our backpacks, did a little research on Google maps, and trained our way to Coney Island for some rides and fried treats and oversized cups of lemonade.

Coney Island is kinda bananas. I always thought it was one big theme park, but when we got there (and spent an exorbitant amount of cash on wristbands for ‘limitless rides’ at Luna Park) we discovered that there are actually SEVERAL parks, each proclaiming to have the best rides, the best thrills, the best fun. I think we picked pretty well with Luna Park though (even though we didn’t really know it at the time).

Like many things I’ve confessed to on this here blog, I’m not very good at rides. It’s not that I’m a particularly vommy kind of person, but I’m not very thrill-seeking, I’m scared of heights, and I refuse to go on a ride that goes upside down. I was anticipating not only a headache but broken limbs and a punctured lung on the way to Coney Island. What I was not anticipating, however, was a FLIPPIN’ GREAT DAY!!!!

First ride up was the Tickler, which is a disgusting ride. You are strapped into a circular dish, get hoisted up a rickety ramp (with no apparent machinery actually keeping you from flying over the edge), and then you’re hurtled around, spinning and whip-lashing, up and down slides and ramps and bumps and zigzags at breakneck speed. It’s a little bit like the Mad Mouse, only worse. I screamed the WHOLE way. It was amazing.

Just LOOK at that evil face - ew!!

Next up was the Raging River Log Ride. We partnered up (I was with Beev) and got into our logs, that – great – had no seat-belts or straps or anything to actually keep us in. Only bars at the sides to hold onto. Which doesn’t feel all that secure when your palms are sweating like cheese in the sun. Our log, floating on a gushing river of chlorinated water, burst away from the entrance and around some bends, up a ramp, down a slide (water splashing dramatically all around us), around a few more bends, then up a MONSTROUSLY ENORMOUS RAMP and down a slide that was pretty much a sheer drop (note: it wasn’t really). The splash at the bottom drenched our bums and legs and backpacks. I screamed the whole way. It was amazing.

Did I mention that the Raging River Log Ride was actually for little kids (possibly even babies)? How do kids handle that shizz?? It was intense and GREAT! I wanted to go on it again STRAIGHT AWAY!!!

After the terrifyingly exhilarating Raging River Log Ride, I took a time out to gather my thoughts, and my guts, and soothe my screamed-out throat with a little (read: huge) drink of lemonade. Delicious. Rich and the girls went on a revolting aeroplane ride, that scissored up and down and upside down (yuck) and seemed to spin faster than the speed of light. Rich and girls emerged a little wobbly and woozy, but one sassy tween loudly declared “That ride was so boring, I dang near fell a-SLEEP” (note: I saw this sassy tween an hour or so later on this very same ride, and she was indeed SLEEPING!!! What a Sassy McSass Pants! Kids these days….).

"Bein' usside down is so boring, I asLEEP"

After a few other ‘HighThrill’ rides that I was too terrified to partake in, Rich and the girls were ready to tone it down a notch, ready to ride with me on a ‘MediumThrill’ baby-ish-looking train that looked way more my speed. There were lots of 6 year olds on this ride. And a grandma. I was in safe hands.

Except that I WASN’T!!! This baby/grandma-up-&-down train ride went ON ITS SIDE and was just as hurtly gurtly as the flippin’ Tickler. ‘MediumThrill’ my bum – that is a lie. I screamed and screamed (to the point where Grandma got just a little bit more deaf) and had to sate myself afterwards with another lemonade. I am DONE with these misleading rides!!!

But then we noticed that the swingy swing was open. You know the one. There are lots of arty photos of the swingy swing on various websites about the place. You sit in pairs, and the swing swings around, and you kinda swing out to the sides a bit, and it’s gentle and peaceful and a great way to see the sites. I could do this.

The Brooklyn Flyer... (it's really really high)

I’ve gotta stop being so overly confident about my ability (or inability, as the case may be) to enjoy, nay, partake in carnival rides. The swingy swing (AKA The Brooklyn Flyer) is actually not what it appears to be. After being strapped into the swing (and by strap, I mean you lower a bar onto your lap and clip a loose belt between your legs) the whole flipping contraption shoots up into the air about 50 metres, and then you start swinging around. And it’s not a leisurely swing. It’s really really fast. You swing out to the sides. You feel a bit like you’re going to fall out of the swing and PLUMMET TO THE GROUND!!!!! Not everyone feels this though – just me. Because I am SO terrified of heights. As I looked around (Wildly! Nervously! Anxiously!) I noticed everyone else on the ride completely and utterly chilled. The couple in front me had their arms around each other and were gazing into each others eyes. Eva and Scarlett, on the other side of the ride, were chatting and waving. I was gripping onto anything I could and screaming and shouting “IWANTTOGETOFF I WANTTOGETOFF!!” while Rich said soothing things like “Just shut your eyes… Just don’t look down… Woooaahhhh Look at how HIGH we are wooooohhhhooooohhhh!!!!!”

What a compassionate and loving husband.

Fortunately, and obviously, I did not topple out of the swingy swing, and although I nearly vommed my guts out with fear and dizziness, it was also amazing. And fun. And very very very scary. And after the Brooklyn Flyer, I was definitely done with rides.

Rich and Eva and Scarlett were keen to go on the Ghost Train, at which point I put my foot down. Instead, I opted to have my palm read and my fortune told by a lady with long long eyelashes and lots of mascara and a constantly ringing mobile phone (which kinda takes the magic out of visiting a psychic). I held out my palms, thought of two wishes, told her one, and she told me some things that I cannot repeat (bad luck, she said, to relay a fortune outside a reading). Then I paid her, and she pulled my change out of her bra. Amazing!! I didn’t know people actually kept money in their bras.

This creepy grandma did not read my tarot

Pondering my future, I met my gang (who confessed to keeping their eyes shut through the majority of the Ghost Train), we headed back to Coney Island station and made the hour long journey back to Brooklyn for a big bowl of pasta and ice-cream.

bintan – part 2

After 2 nights at Yasin, we decide to step things up a notch, get hoighty, and head to the ‘Resorts’ district. It’s  a whole other world in here… Our rickety bus passes through a security checkpoint, complete with barbed wire and armed guards. One guard seems to have the very important task of pointing a running hose at each vehicle that passes through. That’s not a euphemism. It was a rubber hose. With water coming out.

We drive for about 20 minutes until we enter the hallowed gates of the Bintan Lagoon Resort. IT’S WEIRD!!! There are people sitting at the side of the road picking weeds out of the grass. There is a golf course. THERE ARE MONKEYS!!

The foyer is ENORMOUS. We are welcomed with iced tea. And hot towels. And the promise of wifi. How bougie are we??

Our room has air-conditioning. And NO MOSQUITOS!! Rich and I are both very excited at the thought of a full nights sleep without that squealy whine in our ears and the opportunity to give our bodies a rest from being eaten alive.

There are 12 restaurants here, all essentially serving the same Western fare, along with a nightclub!!! And a karaoke lounge!!! Flaps up, gang. On Friday night, during Happy Hour in the main restaurant, the barman makes cocktails WHILE JUGGLING FIRE!!!! A sight to behold, and certainly a very different world from what we’ve just experienced on the other side of the island.

The music here is also awesome, but again, in an entirely different way. There is a band (four singers, guitar, keys, and I’m guessing there’s a drum machine in there somewhere as well) who sit in the foyer, singing earnest covers of Metallica and Faith No More. It’s really loud. And the singers are really off key. But it’s still totally incredible and hilarious.

Aside from all the crazy decadence oozing outta the perfectly manicured lawns and air-conditioning vents, my absolute favourite thing about staying here is that you can swim in the ocean. And it seems that none of the other guests know that they are staying on a beach, with most of them choosing to sun it up (and burn baby burn) by the pool. The beach at Yasin was too polluted and stink to swim in, and nearly all the beaches we passed on the way here were too rocky to get down to, and too litter-filled to properly enjoy. The beach here is calm, but with enough little waves to make it feel like you’re in more than a giant’s bathtub. The three times we’ve been to the beach during our stay here, it’s been pretty much deserted, and amazing.

the one where I made myself sick on pork knuckle…

For starters, what would even possess me to order pork knuckle? Especially at a German-themed beer barn in a cobble-stoned lane in Melbourne – mayhaps if I’d been in the motherland it would be a different story…

I digress. With three weeks left to go before TBT (The Big Trip), I am cramming in as much BFF-time as I can. This has resulted in a weekly date-night, where we go to a ‘nice restaurant’ or, as last night played out, a ‘novelty restaurant’ (two words that should NEVER go together, unless it’s Bobby McGees circa 1991) and eat til we’re sick and drink copious amounts of wine/beer/martinis.

So on a crisp Melbourne eve, we decided to try somewhere different. We were both in the mood for something hearty; something goulash-y; something winter-y – preferably with sauerkraut and sour cream and meat. That’s a weird combination, isn’t it? It’s true though – these were the pre-requisites to be met before we ventured into the chilly air. And it dawned on us, like the sun peeking over the Norwegian horizon on the 14th of February (that’s the first day they see sun in, like, 4 months or something – FACT!!*), WE SHOULD CHECK OUT THAT JAH-MARN PLACE NEAR DING DONG!!!!

Off we went, and BOY! were we delighted when we stepped inside those heavy wooden doors…. Men in lederhosen!! Buxom wenches carrying around massive steins of beer! A band!!! Tables and tables of merry office workers and Lonely Planet-reading tourists enjoying schnitzel and pickles and potato dumplings and spatzle (my favourite word). According to their website, they also have yodelling and slap-dancing which we, unfortunately, missed…

But on ordering, and the subsequent arrival of our dinner, our excitement quickly turned as sour as the kraut on our plates when we were served two whole pigs lashed with crackling and gravy and mustard and cabbage (my pork knuckle even had a KNIFE sticking out of it!!!). O yes, I agree it sounds like heaven to anyone of European descent (sweeping generalisation), but when faced with it, it was too too much.

Here is a picture of us trying to be excited by our meals, but are, in fact, terrified.

We soldiered on for as long as we could. Based on the sheer size of the knuckle and belleh, I think we did a pretty good job to eat as much as we did without dropping dead of heart failure. Quickly and silently, we nodded at each other, strategically placed our paper napkins atop the uneaten swine, paid our bill, and left.

Hauling our sorry, salty bones outta there, we lurched down Little Bourke Street, bemoaning our poor decision to go against out better judgement and dine in at a restaurant where the staff were forced to heave their bosoms and pose with two steins for drunken businessmen (how many Facebook photos are titled “Nice jugs, love!” after a trip here???). Oddly enough, we went straight to Myer, where I purchased a new suitcase and several pairs of underpants.

High on brine, we staggered into one of our favourite Melbourne restaurants and demanded:

  • a candle-lit table for two
  • two Montenegros;
  • and a chocolate pudding

The candlelight cast us in a flattering light… The Montenegro aided our digestion…. The chocolate pudding and home-made vanilla ice-cream replaced the taste of vinegar and pork in our mouths and took us to our happy place…. Bliss.

The moral of this story? There’s not one. I love trying new things. And between you and me, novelty restaurants are kinda hilarious, because it’s not like you go for the food, right? Except that we did. Dummies! But this Jah-marn beer house is like a Euro-equivalent of Dracula’s or Witches in Britches. And I’m glad we went there, because it was something a bit different and something VERY silly and something filling and coma-inducing, but fun. Those 25 minutes before our food came out were the most exciting 25 minutes I’ve had in a long time.

And really, when you’re with your bestie, EVERYTHING is good. It really is.

xx

*this is actually not a fact. I think I saw something on Twitter about this a few days ago but now I can’t find it. But either way, it’s exciting when you see a sunrise after a whole winter of darkness. And it’s exciting having a lightbulb moment when it comes to dinner. So it’s all much of a muchness, right? Eep.