I should have brought some playing cards. Though great for filling time, books would have drawn stares and awkward questions about ‘antisocial behavior.’ The copious amount of spilt beer, BBQ sauce, and oyster juice nixed my iPad. Hell, even my cell phone was about to die, reminding me every two minutes to search for a nonexistent outlet. Boredom played on my brain like a death march. Thus, we arrive at the missing playing cards.
Patrick’s father-in-law had invited Kevin and me to a stag bull and oyster roast at an American Legion lodge across town. Forty-one tables (I counted) of over-weight blue-collar men filling Styrofoam plates with stacks of pit beef, pork, and German sausage, draining pitchers of cheap beer, and slurping brine-soaked mollusks. After an hour, I was ready to sneak out to my favorite bookstore or Gamestop.
Recently, I had invested in amiibos, little interactive statuettes of my favorite Nintendo characters, which I can then train on my Wii U to fight other amiibos in Super Smash Bros. What I had first conceived of as a marketing gimick has grown into an obsession. Matches in our house decide what we watch come movie night (always go with the animated flick) or what we drink (as long as it fits in my mason Renaissance goblet, I’m game). I recently trained my Toon Link to level 50, what is essentially a badass, and plan to use him to cremate Dasad’s Sonic the Hedgehog . . .
The thing is I would choose battling plastic figurines and Castle in the Sky over fatty beef and awkward conversations about football or baseball or the one with the sticks and the pads . . . hockey? Croquet? American Gladiators? After the allure of free food fades, I’m find myself at a lost about topics.
Luckily, this year my brother’s father-in-law had invited a friend, Key, who hailed from New Zealand, Middle Earth itself. Dasad and I had tossed around the idea of visiting the fabled land of orcs and hobbits last month, but decided against it when we realized June through August were winter months in the Southern Hemisphere. Any chance of touring The Shire or even hiking through the various trails might prove impossible, especially if Aussie winters compare to that experienced by Boston and Connecticut this year. Of course, as my brothers pointed out, I could always ski . . . but there are less expensive slopes within fifty miles of home to fall on my ass.
So, nibbling on a mound of uneaten — and unwanted — mashed potatoes, I riddled Key about weather, sightseeing, and the wildlife. My mother and sister had, upon hearing my desire to visit the Southern Hemisphere, dregged up every website imaginable about Australian spiders, snakes, and sharks. Their message was more or less clear: Murph if you leave home, the outside world has fangs and will poison, rip or tear your body limb from limb with scary nasty teeth. Mother Gothel’s song in Tangled seemed subtle by comparison.
“Deadly spiders, snakes and the other weird poisonous shit?” Key asked. “New Zealand doesn’t ‘ave one. Australia on the other hand . . . yes. Kids don’t worry about the boogyman under dere beds, ’cause ol’ Mother Nature’s more twisted than anything we’d ever dream up. But as long as you avoid the Northern part of the continent, you should be good. It’s a grand place to visit.”
“Yeah, well . . . I just have to figure out when to go.” Admittedly, I did not intend to whine like a lonely five-year old in the pet store, but God as my witness, shellfish makes me feel needy.
“I just don’t know when we can go. I’m free all summer, but its winter in the Southern Hemisphere then. Not a lot of room to hike and see hobbits. ‘Course I could ski, but I have the balance of Sport Goofy and why travel half-way across the globe to face-plant in someone else’s native soil . . . ”
Key wasn’t quite as sympathetic.
“Quit your excuses, mate. Get off your f*#@ing ass and go! You can always . . . ALWAYS find a reason not to travel, not to speak your mind, or kiss the girl. That’s the path to regret, mate, and that mother-#@#er is one wicked bastard.”
Similar platitudes were stated until the conversation devolved into a half-hour cat poster. The thing is their advice was sound, but the logistics of melding wanderlust with a working school schedule remains unconquered. Any veteren teacher could tell you that the pain and stress of planning sub-work overlays the joy of scheduled vacations. Moreover, only Christmas break afforded any time to travel in the Southern Hemisphere (summertime then), but I gladly face a pit of black mambas over convincing an Irish Catholic mother to support her eldest child in traveling overseas on Christmas Day. Even Frodo would blanche at that prospect; one ring be damned.