Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.

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Idiot Check

By Milt Abel | November 27, 2011

My good friend, and very good comic, Kelly Mcdonald calls it an ‘idiot check’; a last-minute turnaround to look at where you had been sitting in an airport, or restaurant, or wherever, to see if you’ve left something. A good idea, but horribly mislabeled. It’s a rather smart thing to do, and I found myself doing an ‘idiot check’ early Saturday morning at Portland’s airport as I began a week-long cruise on Holland America’s Rotterdam. If I had discovered something forgotten, my feeling thankful for remembering to check would have eclipsed any feeling of being an idiot. The only idiotic thing to do, besides forgetting something, is to not check. The real ‘idiot check’ is long after you’ve left something behind, after you’ve put some un-retrievable time and distance between you and your forgotten item; that’s when you look in the mirror to check for idiots.

Not that I’m a big fan on being hard on yourself, though I certainly spend time at it. It’s a fault of mine, but it’s probably best not to beat myself up about it; otherwise I’ll get in a loop I’ll never be able to climb out of. I’ve tried to make fun of it, even committed some stand-up material to the subject. A joke that I tried a couple times that never got the response I thought it deserved… “I was in the self-help section of a bookstore today and saw a book titled ‘Self Esteem for the Complete Idiot.’ I didn’t know whether to feel offended or buy it.”

This trip I’ve already left behind some great Thanksgiving Day memories. My eldest daughter had been away to college for a couple months and this was her first return home. It was a special few days, this Thanksgiving school break, where all of us were together, and atypically, there were no huge fights. It’s still an adjustment; when your first child moves out, and you reset the default of who you are living with; two kids instead of three. You think you know, and have adjusted, but her return from college made me realized what had been missing; a bright, beautiful young woman who completes my family. She brought home her dirty laundry too, gotta take advantage of that free washer and dryer. She is a college student after all.

Early today, Sunday November 27, I was met in the lobby of my hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica by my driver and several others who were bound to join the ship. There were six of us, and our driver, for the three-hour trip to the Atlantic port of Puerto Limon. I’ve made the drive many times and had a horrible experience once heading the other way when our van broke down in the rain forest and during a torrential downpour. The three hour drive turned into six.

This trip was pleasant and the company good. The drive spoke excellent English and chose to stop at a very friendly restaurant named, the Me Gustas Tu Cafe -which translates to the ‘I like you’ cafe. It had a couple open fires going that were partially covered with steel plates on which kettles of coffee; sweetened, or black, or with cream, sat warming and ready to be scooped up and poured from. Costa Rica has good coffee and to grab it hot from atop an open fire; well, that just adds to the flavor.

Here ‘s a photo of the seven of us inside (it was an open-air restaurant, as so many are along the drive from the capital to the coast) while we took a break from the drive. If you look close, over in the background on the right, you can see the kettles of coffee. That’s a mug of the stuff in my hand. In the photo are, from left to right, a gal flautist who was joining her boyfriend for eight days (and she wasn’t sure how smooth the sailing was going to be!), the bald guy with the glasses is a guest entertainer (along with the other gal, and the guy in the blue shirt standing next to me), the other standing gentleman was a photo technician who intended to be on the ship for only thirty minutes to repair something then catch a ride right back. And lastly, our driver.

It was really a pleasant stop, but I just now realize, as I compose this on the ship after leaving Puerto Limon, and we sail towards the Panama Canal, I didn’t look back to see if I forgot anything when we left the cafe. What an idiot.

Topics: comedy, cruise ship, humor, travel | please add Comments »

Spain is Lost

By Milt Abel | November 20, 2011

I joked in a Facebook post  ‘I’m headed to Spain to establish a Native America Casino,’  -consider it a sort of revenge. Because Spain had brought Imperialism to America, and not too smoothly pulled the country out from underneath their feet, it would only seem fair that Native Americans should get a chance to return the favor. Take Spain away from the Spaniards, a quarter at a time.

During my run (11/9 – 11/20) on the Holland America Maasdam we visited Almeria, Spain. This port contained a great fortress and governor’s residence, Alcazaba, that had its first construction in 994 and had been rebuilt and added to over the centuries, forming three distinct sections and styles to explore. And this historic site, high atop a promontory, was within walking distance of where the ship had docked.

Here’s a photo taken in the most recent addition, still centuries old, showing one of the many Spanish canons that overlooked the hill’s approach on all sides.

It was interesting to see the funneled opening that allow marksman and archers to pivot about on the secure inside while allowing the minimum of exposure to attackers. The day I was there the fortress managed to become overrun; with tourists from the ship. Locals didn’t seem bothered that me and my shipmates had seized the castle, They knew we would give up the caste in time for our dinner buffet.

Later in the morning I walked to the center of Almeria looking for a McDonald’s. I was told by a guide at the pier that the restaurant chain was a good place to get free wifi. I got a little lost trying to find the McPlace the guide had pointed to on my map, so I started showing the map to locals. In my broken Spanish I would point to where I thought I was, and then point to the nearest corner and ask ‘Es aqui, si?” But they were unable to make out references, printed in Spanish, of their own town! They couldn’t read a map. Over and over again, I approached people and I knew I wasn’t far from my guessed point on the map, but they couldn’t help, were lost in any reference to the paper map I kept stabbing with my finger. I realized that afternoon how Columbus could have been so far off; thinking the Caribbean was India, because he was from Spain. The Ponce de Leon story about looking for the fountain of Youth was indeed just that; a story. The dude was lost. So was Columbus. So was I.

The Maasdam’s next stop was Barcelona and my day’s adventure there was to walk to Sagrada Familia Church designed by Antoni Gaudi. Do yourself a favor if you’re ever in Barcelona, go to that church, it is a surreal experience. The architecture is different from anything else you’ve ever seen, yet functional, you feel like you’ve wandered onto the set of the first Sigourney Weaver Alien movie -the stuff designed by H R Giger. The scope (it’s huge) and it’s being like nothing you’ve ever seen before, will make you woozy.  And how often does a building do that? -that’s got good ventilation.

Here’s a photo of me standing in front of one of its four totally unique sides.

Over my travels, and helping as labor with my wife’s former landscaping business, I have learned a small amount of Spanish. Enough to get me in trouble, literally, but I think I’ve told that story in this travel blog before. I mention my weak proficency because  as little as I understand of Spanish, my understanding of Italian makes me look fluent.

I left the Maasdam earlier this morning to fly out of Leonadi DaVinci Airport, Rome’s airport, and I rode for an hour with a driver who wouldn’t let my not understanding a word of his was saying (he spoke no English) keep him from talking to me the entire trip. He could have been complain about his sex change operation, or that he was going to boil and eat all my house pets, I hadn’t a clue. I just kept nodding and looking in the sky for planes -because that would mean we were near the airport and the static could soon end.

I’ve been traveling too much. It wasn’t until I got inside the airport I knew I had been there before, -actually spent a good part of a day there waiting for a flight. That’s scary, not remembering you’ve been somewhere as significant as Rome’s airport.  I suppose it wasn’t remembered because I wasn’t excited about visiting it this time. It made me feel lost, Spanish almost.

Topics: comedy, cruise ship, humor, travel | please add Comments »


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