All Posts By

seankent

CONVERSATIONS WITH A SERIOUS MAN

By | Uncategorized

I got my my prognosis from a very serious man, who was seated in a very small office, with very small chairs, and very bad lighting. Before he said anything, I was already aware of almost everything

I knew all that because I’d been Googling everything I could find about recurrent Hodgkin’s Disease (HD). I knew the prescribed treatments and the statistical survival rates almost as soon as I found out my cancer had returned most uninvited. I’d run straight to my computer because it’s what we all do nowadays. In the 21st century, when someone receives a diagnosis of a disease, ailment, or condition, that person immediately goes online and tries to find out if they are going to be lain waste to by their particular malady. This is 100% true in all cases, even if one has only been diagnosed with conjunctivitis. 

This is modern day phenomenon that has really chapped the hides of doctors in a way nothing has since the invention of malpractice lawsuits. You see, before the internet, doctors and patients had a very specific power dynamic, a relationship that had existed for centuries. Much like priests who plied their trade before the Bible was published in any language other than Latin, doctors were to be the sole gatekeepers of information.

For thousands of years, doctor’s everywhere got to seem abnormally smart and mysteriously wise. They were full of received wisdom from on high and only they could tell you what was wrong and what to do about it. They were shamans, Rasputins, miracle workers and healers! How fun was it to be a doctor before Google! The deliciously helpless look on a patient’s faces as their doctor diagnosed them with a descending transtentorial herniation (sprained ankle) or an acute onset of helix aspera (tonsillitis).

But alas those glory days are over, never to return. Nowadays any jackass can walk in off the street, take an educated guess as to what’s wrong with them and what medicine they need, and the doctor is left with nothing more to do than run a couple of tests and then write the appropriate prescription. All while begrudgingly admitting the patient was indeed correct. I assume this is why doctors tell patients things like, “Well, that may be the case, but let’s run a few tests to rule out other things that are insanely fatal and terrifying and that I’m only bringing up so I can scare the bejeezus out of you because I’m quite tired of you jackasses coming in here and correctly telling me what’s wrong with you!”.

This new doctor/patient dynamic would greatly affect my relationship with the aforementioned very serious, man, who was to be one of my major players in my fight with cancer. He was so serious all the time that I took to calling him Dr. Overly Grim (OG for short) behind his back. 

I was at his office with my wife at the time, or WATT, as I will refer to her from now on. I call her WATT because she was my wife at the time but now we are divorced so she is not longer my WATT. This is definitely a positive thing – for her and for me.

I also call her WATT  because I don’t like to type, say, or even think her name. When I do any of these things it makes me feel like I’m back in the house we shared, having another screaming match or having another something thrown at my head. Seeing or saying her name reminds me that while we didn’t spend a lot of time happy, we did spend a lot of time not having sex. It’s just kind of a major downer, and life is full of major downers. So I don’t do it, and instead I call her WATT. I’m not alone in this practice. I know a few other people who never call their ex by their name. They prefer terms like, “that asshole”, “that prick”, “the mistake”, or my favorite one, “Voldemort”.

My relationship with WATT was rocky from the minute we got married until the minute I returned home to find my possessions in a storage locker. I suppose this is what happens when you marry someone you hardly know after only four months of dating. 

I should’ve known better than to do that, but I had just survived cancer (for the first time) and doing something like that makes you feel very romantic and very urgent. Plus WATT was beautiful, we had fantastic conversations, and she liked me. You just don’t find that easily in Los Angeles. At least not all three in the same package. 

In fact, in the preceding eight years in which I’d lived in LA, I’d usually settled for somewhere around 00000000000000000000000000000000148301 out of three. Then I met WATT, who was a cool, clean, perfect for the money and we spent several months on what seemed like a very long first date. WATT was good for me then and she helped to heal my soul. Being with her was fun and I needed some of that after surviving 5 months of cancer treatment and the most brutally tough work experience in my life.

*I had a writing job on a TV show that was so bad it was like a satire of how evil show business can be. Most times it felt like my life was being scripted by Paddy Chayefsky. Every day was chock full of mean people, credit stealers, insecure egotists, yellers and backstabbers, and it never stopped, even up until the end. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, after surviving months after months of pettiness, snide remarks, and soul-destroying levels of ass kissing – they laid me off the day after I finished my chemo. Hollywood! You gotta love it! 

Yes, there were some warning signs that WATT was a little “daft”, as the Irish call it (or “bat-shit crazy” as my Gramma Pat would call it), but nothing so prohibitive as to warn off a 28 year old idealist who had a long history of not analyzing decisions before he made them. 

Yes, occasionally she’d get jealous when I’d hang out with my friends, even though she had specifically told me to hang out with my friends. Yes, often times she would give me the silent treatment over a perceived slight, however minor and frankly ridiculous. And yes, she had gone through my phone once or twice to see if I was still in contact with my ex or maybe to see if I was a Russian spy. But these things weren’t enough to scare me off because they were on the whole minor infractions, and they were also pretty typical behavior in relation to the women I’d gone out with in the past. So I just didn’t register the ominous things they portended.

In retrospect, I wish she had burned down my apartment and drowned my cat.

In WATT’s defense, it must have been tough for someone married only a month to find out their partner has been diagnosed with something so awful and deadly as recurrent lymphatic cancer. However that’s about as far as I’ll go in her defense. I am going to try and refrain from casting aspersions on her too much, though, or attacking her character, as she’s not here to defend herself. So I plan on relegating her to the background for most of this book, even when she was in the room. That’s because I don’t want this to be a sad or depressing tale, but rather an uplifting, inspiring and funny one, and talking about your ex-wife is probably a good way to undermine that.

Back to the appointment…

WATT and I were there to find out my official treatment plan an prognosis. I had received my official diagnosis many weeks prior to the scheduled appointment with OG. Since that time, I’d had a chance to discover all the news, good and bad (mostly bad) that pertained to me. I knew I needed a Stem Cell Transplant (SCT). I knew the immense and multiple risks the procedure would provide. I knew names of the drugs they would probably use. I even knew I that before the actual SCT, I would have to go through a few rounds of “warm-up” chemotherapy (more later on that procedure with the most hideously casual moniker). 

Most important of all I knew the survival rate, or as I called it with morbid humor, my “odds of still being alive” , or “OOSBA” . I pronounced this as “ooh-sba”. As in, “Give it to me straight, Doc. What’s my OOSBA?”).

I arrived early for the appointment, with WATT in tow, at Kaiser-Permanente Hospital. It’s located on Sunset, on the border of Hollywood and Los Feliz, in an especially dirty part of Los Angeles. The hospital sits across from the Church of Scientology’s headquarters, which can best be described as a grandiose, yet creepy building that looks like it’s populated by deranged, power-mad cultists.

The Kaiser building is your standard, fluorescent lit collection of offices and cubicles. Kind of drab and very dreary.  I was not receiving an aura of healing from my surroundings and it gave me a sense of unease as we entered the parking garage. 

It took me a maddening little while to find the doctor’s office that we needed to go to. It was located in something like Sector C, Upper Quadrant X, Building 401, Room 29321D, Suite LQR99. Why is it that hospitals, places of incredible tension and anxiety, are also devilishly difficult to navigate around, which only increases the tension and anxiety? It’s like they were all designed by MC Escher after he’d smoked peyote.

Getting lost meant that I actually showed up at the doc’s office about five minutes late. As I signed in, the desk lady asked me who I was. I told her and she proceeded to look at her computer uncomprehendingly in a search for my name. After what seemed like forever, she irritably pointed out that I was late and handed me a clipboard full of papers to sign.

There was too much tension in the room for me so I blurted out, “Well, I’m here now, and I’ve sure as heck got cancer! Can I still see one of the doctors?”. This was funny to me but not to anyone else in the room. My record of increasing tension with my humor instead of lessening it is astounding. I’m really terrible at diffusing things. If I was on a bomb squad, I bet I could get the bombs to make much, much bigger explosions.

We waited for a bit and were finally called in to meet Dr. OG. He was a sort of a funny looking, tallish man in his late 50’s, and he looked very much like Groucho Marx, right down to the Groucho mustache that he wore without any trace of irony. Maybe without the Groucho mustache he wouldn’t have looked so much like Groucho, but then again maybe he would’ve. It’s a chicken and the egg thing when it comes to Groucho mustaches, I tell you.

OG had the conciliatory air of a funeral director and he offered us chairs and a Kleenex box upon entrance. He introduced himself and I learned he had the same name as a very famous TV detective. Because I’m me, I instantly pointed this out to him, not realizing that of course everyone else he had ever met in his entire life had done the exact same thing. He gave a deep sigh and shot me a look that let me know my comments were not appreciated.

OG took out his clipboard and proffered the Kleenexes once again. I asked him why he wanted me to take those and he said, “Well, sometimes the patients get a little emotional.” I told him I didn’t think I would, and he gave me a smug little look that said, “Oh, you will. I’ll break you down. Just you wait, smart ass.”

As he read off my diagnosis to me, followed by my course of treatment and my odds of survival, I sat there calmly, waiting for him to finish. The whole time he talked he used a his best “calming voice”, or at least what I guess he thought a calming voice should sound like. His tone was oddly robotic and I got the sense he had given this exact same speech word for word, many times before. On top of it all, he kept pausing intermittently and looking up from his clipboard dramatically, almost as if he was giving me time to begin weeping uncontrollably.

There was no real emotion behind any of his words and I sort of stopped listening to him after a while. Here I was in a small office with a man I’d never met, who was pretending to care about me and looked like he sort of hoped I’d cry. It was clear to me he wasn’t actually connected in a real way to me at all. Anyways, we had only met two minutes earlier so how could he be expected to care about imminent threats to my mortality? I was wishing he’d just been businesslike or straight to the point, because the whole “I care so much about you, person I just  met” Oprah-vibe was pissing me off.

Part of the problem was me. On a good day I don’t like to be in a subservient position to anyone (and this was defiantly not a good day). I’ve never enjoyed it when someone feels that they’re smarter than me, even when they are smarter than me. I didn’t get the sense that OG was any great shakes intelligence wise, I just thought he was more knowledgeable about a certain subject than I was and he was using this to control our power dynamic. I got the uneasy feeling that he actually enjoyed these talks with patients because of the ability it gave him to manipulate their emotions. I don’t know if any of that was true about it him, but he had definitely managed to annoy the shit out of me and we hadn’t even been talking that long.

I grew impatient and by the end of it, I had started to finish his sentences for him, or cut him off with an impolite, “Yes. Yes, I know.” He was at first confused by my behavior, and by the end he was greatly annoyed. He shuffled his papers in a sort of pouty manner and asked me where I had heard all that information. I said I’d been doing some research online. BIG MISTAKE. I should have told him one of the previous doctors I’d met with had given me the run down. Or I could have told him my dad was an oncologist, or that an angel had appeared to me in my dreams and read medical textbooks to me in tongues. Anything besides the internet.

His face crumpled and he looked disgusted with not just me, but my whole generation. “The internet,” he said, as if he were saying the name of an some ancient enemy. “All you guys think that what you find on there is true, but it isn’t. It drives us doctors crazy!”. I didn’t have the heart to point out that everything I had said was in fact true. “Listen,” he said, “don’t go on there anymore. It’ll only drive you crazy. and fill your mind with nonsense. Then he left the room without saying goodbye and so began our rather rocky relationship. 

I was to meet regularly and chat with OG again many times over the course of my treatment. He saw me at my best, he saw me at my worst, he even saw me naked a bunch. Throughout it all I never doubted that I was always annoying him. He was a good doctor, but he liked to be in control and he he had zero sense of humor. As I said, I deal with everything through humor, for good and for ill. So he’d be doing some gruesome medical procedure on me (like extracting my bone marrow through my hip, ouch), or trying to have a serious conversation with me (always a dicey proposition) and I would bounce jokes off him right and left at rapid speed. 

Every joke I uttered would land on off his face and then tumble slowly down to the earth like a fly that had been killed mid-flight. Then it  would lay on the floor between us, dying an awkward death as we sat there staring at each other. 

Each time I tried to be funny it would literally make him wince, like I had just taken a little bit of time off of his life. I’m sure if he could’ve gotten away with it, he would have told me to shut my stupid mouth. To OG’s credit, he never did. Our relationship was doomed to always be based on annoyance and bewilderment. This extended even up to years later, when he was no longer my doctor and I ran across him. 

It was a happy day, a few years after my SCT, and I was giving a speech at a gathering of fellow survivor’s. We were on the grounds of the hospital where we’d all been treated and where OG was still working. I had been speaking at this particular gathering every year, and I always poked gentle fun at the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, and of course myself. It was always a big hit and I’d been invited back every year.

OG found me in the crowd after my speech. He grabbed me by the arm and told me he wanted to talk to me.  Since everyone else that day, from patients to the chief of oncology, had been effusive in their praise, I naturally assumed OG wanted to compliment me as well, or to tell me that he was so glad to see me doing well. Perhaps he was happy he’d played such a large role in helping me overcome cancer. Boy, was I was wrong.

“Hey,” he said, stone faced and with piercing eyes boring a hole in me. “I saw your speech last year and I didn’t think it was very good. I don’t like it at all when you poked fun at the hospital. I didn’t like it at all. It was too much and I just found it all really annoying and It wasn’t funny.” Then without another word, he stalked off angrily. He looked like a man who’d just gotten something off his chest. I sat there, open-mouthed and uncomprehending. I didn’t understand what had just happened. I was unsure as to how I could’ve made so many other people so happy, but made this one man so mad. 

That was the last time I ever saw him.  

Years later it dawned on me why he was so mad. It wasn’t the speech. It was our first meeting. OG had never, ever forgiven me for day. One of his favorite things about being a doctor, perhaps even more than doing good, was how how smart and strong it made him feel. He liked the power of having information, and of revealing that information bit by bit. He liked being a rock for people in their time of ignorance and need. That’s why he had the Kleenex. Not because he was a super empathetic individual, but because this was his moment to be a shoulder to cry on, and he wanted to milk it a little bit. He loved that moment as much as he loved anything else about doctoring, and I had taken it away from him. I felt sort of bad.

When I realized this, I didn’t really get angry at him. Yes he was deriving pleasure from being strong when others were falling apart, but so what? I’m just a comedian. I make people laugh for a living and I still get bummed out at work. OG was an oncologist, which is the most depressing job in the world behind maybe ambulance driver or beached whale caregiver. Even the word “oncologist” is depressing. When I tell people what I do, they think of laughter and good times. If you tell someone you’re an oncologist, they immediately start to sweat and check themselves for lumps. So if he got joy from the rougher edges of his job, then so be it. 

In essence, the reasons we didn’t like each other were all based on simple miscommunication. All the times OG was expecting me to be weak and needy, I was pretending to be strong. I was joking around, making light of the situation, coming off as cocky, even. Every time I did that, I took away an opportunity for him to be the strong one in the room, the Gary Cooper, the man with the calm demeanor and all the solutions. 

It wasn’t a one way street, either. When he didn’t laugh, it made me feel stupid for joking around, and it also made me more concerned about my health. If he’s not laughing at the awesome jokes then it must be because I’m in trouble here! He must know something dark and terrible that he’s not telling me!  What OG didn’t understand, is that I wasn’t being strong when I kidded around. I was actually being the weakest I’d ever been in my life. I was crying out for help, and my constant wisecracks were a desperate attempt to hide that from him and everyone around me. 

It’s too bad it went down like this because we had a lot to offer each other. I could have taken him away from his depressing job and made him laugh for a moment, and he could have been a rock when I needed one most. Looking back, it’s all a shame. We were at cross purposes and neither he or I ever got it. Ten years later I still wish* he would have let me make him laugh, and I’m pretty sure he still wishes I would have shut the hell up!

*I also still wish he’d had a better sense of humor because I’m really funny and I don’t care what he said about my speech, so there. Ha!

I Learned to Love My Biggest Fear

By | Uncategorized

 

THIS IS ME WITH A SHARK.

If you had talked to me about sharks two months ago I would have said this:

I hate sharks. 

I know that’s not cool to say. I realize sharks are endangered because people are dumb and cruel and cut off their fins to make soup and the big fishy shark ironically drowns.

This is awful and I know it. I just wish that sharks had never existed. Because they scare the shit out of me. I can’t get in the ocean because of them. I have a hard time getting in a swimming pool or a lake even. I know this makes no sense but I can’t change it. I will never love sharks or even respect them. They will always freak me out and be nothing more than death-dealing, robotic, soul-less creatures of the deep.

That’s what I would have said for the first 39 years of my life.

Then I went to Australia and did something crazy. Especially for someone who is scared of sharks.

I went to Australia and I swam with sharks. It was amazing. I now love sharks. Let me tell you what happened.

I was told to go on a trip to Australia by a website called GoMighty.com. They are a website that is all about being (as the name implies) “mighty”. Which is not a word people use to describe me in my private life. On stage I feel mighty and I feel I can be mighty. In my regular, civilian world I think people would be more likely to describe me as “cautious”, “nervous”, “neurotic”, “anxious”, “careful”, “grumpy”, “drowsy”, “curmudgeonly” or perhaps “slightly misanthropic with a dash of bullshit”.

I looked it up and none of those are a synonym for “mighty”.

So it was a surprise and a bit discomfiting when GoMighty.com told me (they are very mighty people so they don’t ask, they tell) that I was going to Australia and that I should do some things that were brave, out of my comfort zone or just in general not things I would normally do but perhaps should. You know, things I would do if I was “mighty”. Which I most certainly am not in most ways that count.

As a semi-joke I told them I would like to swim with sharks. Because ha ha ha, they’ll never make me do that, right? That’s something people do on the Discovery Channel during Shark Week. That’s something crazy white people who are thrill seekers do because they need to feel alive. People who jump out of planes swim with sharks. I do neither of those things. Because both of them are scary and pointless. Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane and why put yourself needlessly in danger by getting in the water with an apex predator? Better to read a good book about someone who does those things than to actually do those things yourself. Right?

Then I got my itinerary. On my 9th day in Australia I was indeed to go swimming with sharks. I was to head out to Manly Aquarium on Manly Bay and be well… “manly”. Oh crap.

I tried to get out of it. I told Rachel in a jokey manner that no way would I swim with sharks and we’d find a reason we couldn’t go. I was testing the waters (pardon my pun) to see if Rach would let me turn yella and weasel out of this thing. She wasn’t having it. She said she was shit-scared of scuba diving so if she could go scuba diving then I could swim with sharks. She said we both were going to enjoy it if we could just face our fears and what an opportunity this was.

I laughed nervously and told her I thought I had pneumonia and I might die if I went scuba diving. I had looked it up on the internet and I’ll be damned but sure enough if you show signs of having pneumonia you are most certainly not supposed to scuba dive. She just looked at me like I was being ridiculous. Which I was. Sort of. I mean, lying to get out of swimming with a 7 foot killer shark isn’t that ridiculous is it? I told her it would be lame and “not real”. That we would be at an aquarium and it would be sterile and pointless. She merely nodded and continued to ignore my cowardice.

Then came the day we were to do the deed. We took a ferry out to Manly Bay from Circular Quay in Sydney. The lovely ferry ride over to Manly Bay is lovely, but its stellar views of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the Pacific did nothing to calm my nerves. On any other day it’s honestly one hell of a ride. If I lived and worked in Sydney I would find a way to have to take it every day. It’s about a half an hour and the whole time you’re gazing at the bright blue Australian waters and/or one of the most gorgeous cities on the planet. I’m sure if you’re not terrified of being turned into shark shit it’s the best ferry thing ever. However I was at that moment terrified of being turned into shark shit.

image

DO I LOOK HAPPY TO YOU? BECAUSE I WAS NOT HAPPY!

We got to the aquarium and were five minutes late, which bothered me greatly. I can’t stand being tardy for things. Even things I manifestly don’t want to do (like get turned into shark shit). It turned out fine though, because like everyone else we met in Australia the Manly Aquarium folks were super nice and accommodating. I was a little bummed because I had hoped being late (which I hate being) would have disqualified us from swimming with the sharky warks. No such luck.

Side note: Do you see how my brain works? Do you see???? I was mad about being late but hoping being late would get me out of doing something I had asked to do. I AM INSANE A LITTLE I THINK.

We were quickly ushered to the back where we met three other unfortunate souls who would be joining us on our dip. Brendan Kelly, the charming, cherubic and shaven-headed operations manager was there, swaggering about and joking with us. I think he probably just has a gregarious personality but to me it seemed like he was trying to break the tension in the line for the gallows. I’m sure Brendan would be a great guy to have in the trenches with you during WWI or to be stuck on a tall mountain with. He seemed very capable and confident in his abilities. His jokes were funny, his eyes had a twinkle. He seemed calm about the fact that his job involved swimming with monsters.

I on the other hand, was freaking out inside. I was nervous, nauseous and unhappy. I wondered if it would be weird if I asked if I could hold Brendan’s hand during the dive? It seemed like a fair question given the circumstances. But then I thought Rachel might get jealous or more likely, never let me forget how I had to hold a guy’s hand when I swam with sharks because I was a scared little weenus.

The first thing they do at Manly Aquarium Shark Dive Xtreme is make you sign your life away. I didn’t bother to read what I was signing but I’m sure it said that if a shark ate my genitals in front of me I was not allowed to sue the aquarium because that happened. I usually read stuff before I sign it but I didn’t really think there was much point in this case. If something went wrong I wasn’t going to be around to sue anyone. Also I had to keep up my false bravado. I joked about how the sharks were lucky because today they got to swim with me and I was the most majestic thing they had ever seen. This got some laughs. I began to feel a little better.

Next the nice people at Manly Aquarium tell you how you are in no danger by getting into their aquarium with a bunch of flesh-devouring sharks swimming around your head. Which to me sounded like they said, “YOU ARE ABOUT TO GET IN AN AQUARIUM WITH FLESH-DEVOURING SHARKS OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU STUPID AMERICAN???!!!”.

They really do try and put you at ease with their spiel. Then they show you a DVD about your upcoming experience. This DVD is very “Shark Week”. In other words, it has ominous music and makes the sharks seem extremely dangerous. This DVD did not put me at ease.

Next it was time to get in the showers and put on a wet suit. I don’t like wearing business suits or leisure suits or even track suits, so wet suits are definitely not my thing. Plus they didn’t have one that was quite my size because I’m a giant oaf so my arms were a little restricted. Also I mis-timed my pee break rather badly. So as soon as it was time to get in the icy cold Sydney Harbour water, I immediately needed to go to the bathroom. So there I was, needing an emergency wee, submerged up to my chest in cold sea water, dressed in a too-tight wet suit and about to face the greatest fear I have ever feared. I was so close to leaving. I’d say another 30 seconds and I would have been out of there.

But they do a great job of moving you along at Manly. “No chances for tourists to back out” must be their motto. They give you a quick lesson in scuba diving basics, they tell you that the water in the Aquarium is from the Harbour (which is awesome that we were swimming in the actual Harbour and not just a fish tank) then they show you some scuba hand signals and it’s time to go. Holy crap.

You enter the shark area by swimming from a little holding pool through a hole in the side of the wall. I was second to go with Rachel right behind me. This was it. I was about to get in the water with the killers of the deep, with the monstrous beasts I dreaded most in the entire world, and I had to do it. None of the other divers were backing out and Rachel gave me a much needed shove in the back. Through the hole I went and sunk down about eight feet so that the sharks were swimming a few feet above.

Almost immediately I felt Rachel tap me on the back and point up. I looked over my right shoulder and a 6 foot snaggly-toothed Gray Nurse Shark swam about 3 inches away from my head. Apparently the sharks don’t always stay at the top. Sometimes they like to pick out the guy who is the most scared and pull a funny one by immediately buzzing his tower. I panicked and tried to back away. Because of the weights on my back this translated to ineffectually shuffling my feet and then falling on my ass. I know you can’t hear underwater but I looked at Rachel’s face and I could see she was laughing really hard. I lay there for a second analyzing my situation. I had been in the shark tank for about a minute and so far the sharks were pretty much ignoring me. There were beautiful sting rays and fish swimming everywhere else about me. I forgot I was cold. I forgot I had to pee. I forgot everything about being afraid and I began to laugh at myself for being such a doofus. Brendan came over and pulled me up and our dive began in earnest.

As we walked and swam through the tank while leisurely observing the animals it struck me that sharks were way cooler in person than they were in theory. The ones in this tank were in a bit of a playful mood and a male kept breaching the surface to show his dominance over the others. I looked in their eyes and realized how beautiful they really are. That’s what sharks are to me now – big, noble, not terribly intelligent, sea-puppies. All my misconceptions proceeded to melt away in the next 30 minutes and as became time to get out of the tank I didn’t want to leave. I was really digging hanging out with sharks!

I came to a conclusion while I was down there. Sharks are not mean. They are not cruel. They are what they are – beautiful, totally in harmony with nature and meaning mankind much less harm than we mean them.

I no longer hated sharks or feared them really. Instead I loved them. I respected them. I understood how dumb I had been to hate them in the first place. Like most hate it had come from fear of the unknown. Now that I had been up close and personal I knew that hating sharks because they attack the odd human (when we are in their habitat in the first place!) was like hating bears or tigers or elephants for doing the same thing. Of course I don’t hate those other animals. In fact they are some of my favorite species on the planet. And now sharks are too.

I want to go swimming with sharks again. I want to get in a cage out at sea and watch Great Whites. I want to learn more about them and read books on all the wonderful, amazing and varied kind of sharks we share the earth with. I want to protect sharks now and I don’t fear them one little bit. All because the people at the Manly Aquarium took me to visit the thing I was most afraid of. Then I looked the thing I was most afraid of in the eyes and saw beauty, saw grace, felt harmony, felt pity, and experienced empathy.
I EVEN FELT CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO DO THIS!

A few days later Rachel and I were hanging out at Bondi Beach in Sydney. I don’t really like the beach because I don’t like to get in the ocean because my whole life I’ve kind of been terrified of sharks. But that day I wasn’t. That day I decided I wanted to go swimming.

Rachel asked me, “Really?” and I confidently replied “Really,” as I took off my shirt and ran for the waves. I have never enjoyed being in the water so much. I couldn’t stop laughing or smiling. All of the scaredy-cat part of me had been removed. It felt like a rebirth. It felt refreshing. It felt fun. It felt like a gift.

It felt that way because I had indeed been given one. I had been granted a release from needless, mindless, ignorant fear. Most of my fears have turned out to be my own ignorance masquerading as cowardice. Most of my fears can be conquered. That’s what this experience reminded me and I will never forget it again.

The day we left Australia I asked Rachel if she wanted to go on a quick dip in the ocean before we got in the car to the airport. Again she looked at me like, “Who is this brave man I am with?”. She agreed that getting in the Pacific one more time was agreeable to her so we left our hotel in just our suits and carrying a couple of towels. We laid them on the beach and one more time I frolicked – FROLICKED I TELL YOU! – in the ocean. I have never thought of the ocean as anything other than where sharks live. Now I think of it as my friend and I want to swim in it more often. Too bad I didn’t learn this lesson when I was living in LA for 16 years instead of now when I am land-locked in central Texas! Oh well. I suppose it doesn’t matter. A lesson is a lesson is a lesson at any age.

My experiences in Australia taught me that at 39 I still have a lot of growing to do. Thank you GoMighty.com for making me be mighty for a day and thank you Manly Aquarium for bringing me on an incredible, literally life-changing journey.

 

#GoMighty #GoAustralia

For more about my adventures in Australia go to www.GoMighty.com. 🙂

My Favorite Building

By | Uncategorized

 

I’m affected by my surroundings. Probably too much.

I get bummed out by a drab hotel room, huge parking garages give me the ick, the Brutalist architecture in eastern Europe is dehumanizing to me and to top it off I find the entire season of winter deeply offensive

As a comic I am required to visit many cities that have the aesthetic value of shit piled on top of shit. Most of the hotels I stay in are designed by Brutalism’s happier, dumber cousin, “Functionalism”.

I’m always alone (or almost alway alone) when I’m traveling and going to these not so nice places. This causes me to suffer from a disease known as “I want to do a lot of drugs-itis”. I fight the good fight against this and have been winning for many years.

This is why I wish the entire world had been designed by Jorn Utzon. Who is that, you ask? Utzon was a famous Danish architect who was destined to do two things:

1. Have an impossibly fun name to pronounce – “Yee-orn Ewt-zsen”. Say it. Say it!

2. Design the most timeless, beautiful theater I’ve ever seen.

image

Ladies and gentlemen, the Sydney Opera House.

Well played, Jorn. Well played.

This building makes me happy. It makes everyone happy. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the Sydney Opera House. Even people from Melbourne like the Sydney Opera House! If you knew the extremely visceral, knee-jerk way that people from Melbourne dislike anything Sydney-related then you’d know how big a statement that is. it’s like someone from Boston admitting the Yankees are a world class organization. Yeah, it’s that big.

Jorn Utzon nailed it. And he had zero margin for error. He was tasked with putting a city-defining, perhaps a nation-defining building across from what was already the most famous man-made landmark in the country, the Harbour Bridge.

image

If you’ve seen the Harbour Bridge (the picture above you), then you know it’s stunning and perfect and Australian in the best sense of the word. It’s sturdy, beautiful, clean, forward-thinking, timeless and happy. That is what I think of when I think of Australia. That and koalas.

Speaking of which, is there a way we can get a koala infestation going on the Harbour Bridge? How awesome would that be? That is literally the best Idea I’ve ever had and the only way that bridge could be improved. Although to be honest pretty much anything ever would be better with a koala infestation.

image

When the Opera House was completed the Harbour Bridge must have breathed a massive sigh of relief. As we all know, civic projects can run the gamut from jaw-dropping beauty to downright eyesore. The same architect can be guilty of both in their career. I’m looking at you, I.M. Pei. Love your work, buddy, but you will never convince me that ridiculous pyramid belongs in front of the Louvre.

image

BLECH!!!

I imagine the Bridge must have seen its new neighbor and felt a momentary twinge of jealousy, followed by relief that its permanent harbour-mate would serve not to distract or deter from the beauty of the Harbour, but rather add to it in its peculiar, unostentatious way. Look how well they go together even though they were completed 41 years apart!

image

The citizens of Sydney must have been relieved too. Sydneyites are particular when it comes to protecting the natural beauty of their harbour. They must have been well-pleased with Mr.Utzon’s work. Actually I know they were because when he quit the project mid-construction due to lack of payment from the New South Wales government, the people of Sydney took to the streets in protest! They wanted their Jorn back and they wanted him now! Protesting about architecture. You have to love a citizenry that cares that much about their aesthetic.

I always wonder what Australians thought of the Opera House when they first saw it. And I wonder how long it took them to forget it hadn’t always been there. Not terribly long I’d imagine. This is because the Opera House could only be designed for the place upon which it rests. That is the secret of why it sings so sweetly (pardon my pun). That is why it doesn’t look dated, even though a building that looks like a 1970’s catamaran should by all means look and feel dated

How many buildings can claim that? You could put the Empire State Building in any major downtown center in America and it would be fine. Domineering but fine. Same goes for the Sears Tower and also for the Eiffel. Heresy, you say? Listen, the Eiffel Tower is undoubtedly a staggering work of genius, but it has always been more about what Gustav Eiffel could build than it has been about capturing the soul of Paris. There are a dozen other buildings or structures that could define that marvel of a city just as nicely thank you (Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe), they just aren’t as tall. If you ask me the Eiffel Tower would do just as fine in its surroundings if it were laid in a serene, scenic park in Luxembourg (nobody has in fact asked me or is planning to).

But not the Opera House. One look at it and you know it is meant to be there. It is not possible for a man-made structure to give you the same sense of well-being that you get from seeing a lake carved out by a glacier hundreds of thousands of years ago but the Opera House comes close. Because like the aforementioned lake, it seems to be a piece of nature, something that occurred, something that just happened rather than something that was planned. Making you forget a building was planned and constructed with heavy equipment is no easy feat but I’ll be damned if Jorn didn’t do it.

And so it was that the fierce Danish God of architecture did lay waste to the ideas of the other, lesser Gods and reveal his marvelous creation to the Odin-kin. They saw that it was good and Odin did decree a feast day in Jorn’s honor.

I have only been to one play at the Opera House. I took Rachel to see Romeo and Juliet. In other words I took the woman I love to see a play about undying love inside the building I love.

image

RACHEL AND I ABOUT TO GO SEE A PLAY AT THE OPERA HOUSE.

That’s about as perfect as it gets.

Listen to Sean Kent every week on his podcast “The Midweek Meltdown”. Available on iTunes or for Android and Windows.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sean-kents-midweek-meltdown/id725400407?mt=2

#GoMighty #GoAustralia

image

ATOP AND AMIDST MY LOVELY OPERA HOUSE

The Greatest Zoo On the Face of Anywhere

By | Uncategorized

 

Going to a zoo sucks. I effing hate Zoos.

If you work at a zoo, or are involved with them in anyway I am sorry. I know you do wonderful work and without you and your trained team of dedicated experts all the animals in the world would be dead like five days ago.

It’s just that because of my career I’ve been to South Africa and had the incredible opportunity to play with baby lions and romp with a baby tiger. I even got bit by that little bastard tiger. It broke the skin and I bled. Not very much but I did bleed and therefore I was in fact bitten by a tiger and you can’t take that away from me.

While I was there I also got to pet a cheetah. No shit. Do you how fast you have to be to pet a cheetah? Actually not very fast at all. They’re super demure and like a good scrichy-scratch right behind their ears.

So to sum up, I have frolicked joyously with smiling, golden-hued lion cubs, I have leisurely stroked the fur of the fastest land animal on earth, and to top it off I haver survived a (baby) tiger attack.

How the hell is a zoo going to impress me after that?

“Oh, look! The tiger came out of its hiding place and is standing a mere 50 yards away from me, safely behind 20 foot tall iron bars and razor wire! Wow, what a unique, up close experience! I’m shaking with awe!” – not something I’ve ever said.

I honestly thought I was done with zoos. Seriously, how many times can you experience “Holy shit, monkeys are cute!” and “Wow, that’s a fantastic looking bear I can almost see over there inside his enclosure that makes me feel sorry for him because he’ll never leave it” before you stop paying the 40 bucks admission and go bowling or something else for the afternoon?

Then I went to Featherdale Wildlife Park. It’s in a nondescript part of Sydney (Blacktown) and it has a nondescript looking exterior. Everything else about it is super “descript”. Or descriptive. Whatever. It’s awesome and I mean that in the fullest sense of the word.

Featherdale isn’t the biggest zoo I’ve ever been to. It is not the fanciest. Nor does it have the most variety of species. In fact it only has animals native to Australia (which I think is pretty cool) so there are no lions or tigers or bears because none of those live in Australia.

But that’s okay, because the animals that live in Australia are like nothing you’ve ever seen and Featherdale Wildlife Park has the largest collection of Australian animals anywhere in the world. Only having animals from Australia might sound limiting but it’s the opposite. I was there with my Rachel and we remarked that we had never before seen more new animals in one day. It was like watching Avatar only the creatures were real. Apparently Australia has way more cool critters than just koalas, kangaroos and baby-eating dingos.

We are not the first people to notice this about Australian Wildlife.

The animal kingdom as developed in Australia presents us with anomalies and peculiarities perhaps even more remarkable than are exhibited by the plants.

Alfred Russel Wallace, Australasia, 1893

What he’s saying is this – the animals in Australia evolved over millions of years spent apart from the rest of the animal kingdom and they did so under a unique set of circumstances. So they are the definition of exotic. Every time we went to a new animal habitat Rachel or I said a variation of, “Wow, I didn’t know that animal was a thing that was but boy is it cool looking and I’m so glad it exists.”

Like the cassowary. Say hello.

image

This bird is the size of a small ostrich and it’s the most insane color of blue and pink you will ever see on a living creature. Also, like most animals in Australia, it will kill the shit out of you. It’s inside claw will disembowel you most likely if you ever get attacked by one.

image

So don’t get attacked by one. Which you probably won’t because they only live in a tiny (like smaller than Rhode Island tiny) part of northern Australia. And also at Featherdale Wildlife Park. In fact it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door. I gotta give it to ‘em. Featherdale knows what animal to go with to open the show. You go with a freakin’ 6 foot tall, giant, dead-eyed death-dealing blue bird straight from a galaxy not of our own deign. That’s how you do it.

image

image

After you look at the cassowary and are done grooving on its majestic deadly awesomeness, you will probably look to your left or right and notice wallabies just sort of hanging about, like teenagers lounging outside a mall only way less threatening. They are not in any cages or anything. It’s sort of disconcerting and it feels like maybe you should alert the zookeeper that hey, THERE’S AN ESCAPED WALLABY IN YOUR ZOO!!!

However they are not escaped at all. Rather they live in that part of the park! Sure they have a place where they can go to get away from people when they want but otherwise they have the run of the whole area. It’s awesome. You can wander over to them because they’re insanely used to people and you can proceed to PET A FREAKING WALLABY. Or you can just watch them loll about in the lazy Australian sun.

I chose to pet them immediately.

image

You have now been at Featherdale for about 10 minutes and you have already seen the strangest looking, deadliest, most beautiful bird in existence and you have MADE AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION WITH A WALLABY. You could turn around and leave right then and it will probably still be the greatest “going to the zoo” experience of your life.

However I recommend you continue, because waiting around the corner from you is a parcel of land that I wish was outside every building everywhere. It is an area of the park that is so hard-core adorable, so amazing, so giggle-inducing that you could take an emo kid, a goth, a clinically depressed person and an angry Adolf Hitler, drop them there for five minutes and when you came back the goth and the angry Hitler would be hugging each other and jumping for joy while the emo kid would be smiling from ear to ear as the clinically depressed person laughed and took pictures.

What is this place? Why it’s the koala enclosure. And screw Disneyland, the Featherdale Wildlife park’s koala enclosure is the happiest place on earth. I’m telling you straight up, if you can visit the koala enclosure and not experience childlike wonder and pure, unadulterated joy, then you are most definitely dead inside and probably a terrible person who punches children for fun.

Here’s what it looks like in the koala enclosure – complete with Rachel’s almost tearful, childlike reaction to it all.image

It’s actually a pretty simple set up. There are a bunch of short eucalyptus trees and a veritable plethora of koalas lounging about, looking adorable, sleeping (koalas sleep 20 hours a day which OMG makes them even more adorable) and perhaps moving slowy from one branch to the other. They are very close to you. You’re only about four feet away from most of them. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to a koala in your whole life, you think to yourself. And if this was all the koala enclosure had, it would be enough.

However when you are there you can also do this…

image

Yeah. They let you pet them. And smell them. And gaze into their eyes and baby talk them and whatever else you do while going out of your mind from overdosing on 100% premium grade adorable. They let you do this for as long as you want. And they don’t charge extra (which they totally should but don’t tell them). Let me repeat – you can do this for as long as you want and it is included in admission. What? Seriously? Yes. Seriously.

Throughout the day they rotate different koalas in and out of the petting zone and the koalas seem to genuinely, sleepily enjoy munching on sweet eucalyptus tips (they like the tips best) while tourists give them loving pets, pats and scritchy-scratches.

You will notice that they feel soft like wool and that they seem to be very blasé about the whole thing. To be honest, koalas have a brain the size of a walnut, so they’re pretty blasé about most things in their life. In other words koalas are really dumb. Like way dumb. Like so dumb they make dogs look like Mensa members. But that’s okay because dumb things can still be cute and a lot of wildlife in Australia is not very smart in the noggin’. This is because it’s very hot in Australia and thinking burns calories and requires energy. So if you can evolve to a state where you don’t have to think, you do that. It’s like the American South in that way. It’s hot, so what’s the point of thinking? Kangaroos are like this too, by the way. If you thought deer were dumb, wait until you meet a kangaroo. Which you will do next. But right now you’re posing for a selfie with a koala.

image

Or the staff is helping you make a koala look like it posed for a selfie because the Featherdale staff has a sense of humor and this is a great picture…

image

If there is any animal on earth that deserves to be cuddled more than a koala then I’ve never heard about it and I consider myself a connoisseur of cute animals. They look like a teddy bear crossed with Benjamin Franklin (the cuddliest of all the founding fathers except maybe James Madison and Madison is only cute because he was tiny).

You say they slow loris is cuter than a koala? I say you’re wrong and challenge you to a duel at sunrise. Guns or swords, you pick. I will fight you over this. That’s how much I believe in these little tree-sleeping, bags of awesome.

Besides being cute, koalas are also exceedingly endangered. That’s the problem with being a slow animal that isn’t very smart. When your habitat is taken away at the rate theirs is and you have to figure out a new place to live and you’re not terribly bright or fast, well you’re probably going to wind up getting eaten by a dingo or hit by a car before you can close escrow on a new tree to live in. It also doesn’t help that out of hundreds of kinds of eucalyptus, koalas can only eat a select few varieties. Plus it takes them forever to digest it, which is why they sleep so much. They’re basically in an adorable food coma for about 90 percent of their life.

Unfortunately because of deforestation, hunting (gross, if you hunt koalas I hope you die in a tractor accident) and also chlamydia (more on this later) the world koala population is down from the millions to the thousands.

Never fear, though. Because Featherdale isn’t just a place where you can find out what a koala smells like. It is also breeding koalas in an intensive, awesome koala breeding program. In other words, not matter how shitty things get in the world for these poor, dumb, helpless, adorable wooly critters, as long as Featherdale is around, there will always be koalas to pet. This makes me like Featherdale even more. Not only are they a place where you can see and interact with animals, but they work closely with many conservation groups to ensure the animals you are interacting with will alway be a thing that is instead of a thing that was. This is a very good thing.

But enough about koalas! It is time to do this with a kangaroo!

image

And this!

image

As if the cassowary to wallaby to koala opening salvo wasn’t enough to make you wet your pants with glee, the next part of Featherdale is a kangaroo/emu/wallaby feeding and petting area. I have wanted to pet a kangaroo literally since I was three years old and found out kangaroos existed. I have now done that. A lot. I have petted kangaroos more than 99 percent of people ever. I love you Featherdale, for making this true about me. I love you tons!!!

But even more than the fact that they fulfilled a childhood dream of mine, what I love most about this part of Featherdale (other than the obvious kangaroo fondling that occurs) – is you never, ever for even one second get the sense that the animals are stressed out or under duress by interacting with you. They have plenty of space they can hop off to (literally) if they get tired of being loved on by gushing tourists from around the globe. It’s a petting area with spots the kangaroos and wallabies can go too if they need a time-out because you’re getting to clingy. And you will get clingy. Total side-effect of petting a kangaroo is that you fall in love with them and get clingy.

That eases my guilt and I am always looking for something in a zoo or wildlife park to feel guilty about. I never found it at Featherdale. Much like everything else in Australia, the kangaroos seemed like they were getting a “fair go” as the Aussies call it. I’ll write more about “fair go” at some point. It’s a huge part of what makes Australia so wonderful. But for now let’s get back to the animals.

So you have now been at Featherdale Wildlife Park for maybe an hour. You have seen the most shockingly beautiful, deadly bird of all time. You have also no petted at least three animals (wallabies, kangaroos and koalas) that most people will never, ever get the chance to pet. Not only have you pet them, but you never felt sleazy about it and you never felt taken advantage of.

Admission to Featherdale is a mere 26 Australian dollars or about 24 American. That’s it. All included. Spend as long as you want with the koalas and the ‘roos. No one is hurrying you along or demanding more money for the experience. In fact they are probably sharing their love of the animals with you and patiently answering questions they’ve probably answered a million times before. Like “What is the deal with koalas and chlamydia and is it the same kind fraternity boys get?

The answers are no, it’s not human chlamydia (thank god ewww can you imagine) and the reason it’s an epidemic and such a problem is that when a species gets reduced to so few in number, a disease will come in and take care of the rest. For instance Tasmanian Devils are all getting facial tumors now. Yeah. I know. Facial tumors and chlamydia? All I can say is Death is not choosy in her methods.

Featherdale and other places like http://www.devilark.com.au/ are trying to stop the facial tumors from wiping out Tazzy Devils. They are doing a hell of a job. They are also isolating their koalas to make sure none of them gets chlamydia – which apparently causes a koala to go blind. Koalas are already fighting a losing battle against predators. They’re slow, they’re not too bright and their only defense mechanism is a cute attack. Going blind pretty much assures a koala will die.

But as I said before, as long as there is a Featherdale, there will be koalas. So go there. Give them your admission fee so they can continue to be awesome in all they do. Even the food there is good. How many zoos have good food? Zero plus Featherdale is the answer.

Let me give you a rundown on how to go do this because it can seem overwhelming at first glance.

1. Fly to Sydney, Australia. You were meaning to anyway, this just seals the deal. You’re going now.

2. Take a train to Blacktown. It’s easy and if you’re lost ask an Australian for directions. They are very good at directions and speaking.

3. Take a cab or a bus to Featherdale. Both are very clean and inexpensive.

4. Enjoy Featherdale in all its insanely outrageous, majestic glory.

5. Leave Featherdale and go back to your hotel in a childlike state of joyous ecstasy whilst smelling vaguely of koala musk.

6. Upload Instagram and Facebook photos and videos of your day.

7. Wait for your friends back home to wake up and see these pictures and videos.

8. Gloat.

SIDE NOTE – 

****Do all of this on a weekday as the park will be insanely uncrowded and you will be unhurried as you experience this unbelievably life changing experience. Seriously, Rachel and I were like the only people there. It was awesome.

If I haven’t convinced you to go to Australia with this post, or at least convinced you to think about going to Australia, then I’m not sure how to make you go to Australia other than kidnapping you and physically making you go to Australia.

Just know that when you get there, Featherdale will be waiting for you and there is a koala who needs petting with your name on it, just waiting to be loved on (not Ruben, though. Ruben is my koala and you can’t have him.).

I don’t love a lot of things but I love Australia. I love it so much it hurts. I love that this experience happened to me there and I love how happy I am right now writing this and remembering my day at Featherdale. I love that I’m on fire for animals and wildlife conservation again. I love that right when I got home I re-upped my Sierra Club membership that I’d let lapse and that I joined the World Wildlife Fund again.

I will be back to Featherdale as soon as I can. Until then I make it my mission to get you to go. What are you waiting on? Go now. Go soon. Go tomorrow! Just go. Yes, it’s a long plane flight. But so what? When you get there you get to PET A KOALA FOR AS LONG AS YOU WANT TO.

Listen to Sean Kent every week on his podcast “The Midweek Meltdown”. Available on iTunes or for Android and Windows.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sean-kents-midweek-meltdown/id725400407?mt=2

#GoMighty #GoAustralia

Making Up for Lost Sex

By | Uncategorized

I’ve taken a woman to Australia before. It was awesome.

Well, Australia was. The woman? Not so much.

I was with my ex-wife (at the time still my wife obvs). This was not so awesome. But it’s a testament to how completely, utterly awesome Australia is that I still enjoyed my trip even though she was the person I chose to go with.

You see, we never should have been married. We weren’t right for each other. In a myriad of ways we were actually beyond wrong for each other. Not that she’s a horrible person (he said through gritted teeth). But whatever she is, she is not for me.

I’m sure that someone out there is right for my ex and that she’s right for him. There just has to be.

Actually I’m not sure but I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt. After all, even serial killers on death row get love letters and sometimes married. So bearing in mind the serial killer on death row thing and the fact that there are 6 billion people on earth, I’m betting she can find someone who is really into girls who yell and scream a lot for no reason and are rabidly insecure and say mean stuff just to be mean and have moods that are more unpredictable than Texas weather. I’m just positive that someone is out there.

However that someone is not me.

Confession – my ex and I went on an amazing journey to Australia in 2005. We stayed in the nicest places and did all the nicest things. Well, all the nicest things except that one really, really nice thing. What I’m getting at, what I’m beating around the bush about (pardon my pun) is that during our whole stay in Australia my ex and I had sex exactly zero times. We may actually have had sex a negative amount of times. I don’t know if that is possible but honestly I remember us doing the deed approximately negative six times.

And here’s the worst part. We were there for 11 days! We had 11 days just brimming with opportunities to get busy. We had romantic dinners. We had scenic train rides. We had long walks on Sydney’s beautiful harbour. We drank copious amounts of delicious Australian wine! We had it all!

Except sex. We had zero sex.

This should have been my first clue we were headed for divorce. Who goes to Australia with their wife and doesn’t get freaky, nasty or at least a little lovey dovey? No one, that’s who! Except, obviously me. Clearly going to Australia and not having sex is something I am good at. That and podcasting.

I still don’t get it. It’s not like Australia doesn’t put you in the mood. The entire continent/nation of Australia is constantly enticing you to have sex. It’s the sexiest place on earth. I don’t know if People Magazine or the World Health Organization rank that sort of thing but if they did it would be Australia at number one followed by Tahiti. I’ve never been to Tahiti but that’s an educated guess based on photos and their Wikipedia entry.

England, however, would not even be in the top 50. But that’s for another blog.

Seriously, Australia, you sexy little minx. You’re so hot and you don’t even know it. Your flag should just be two hot, naked people in post-coital embrace, winking knowingly at onlookers.

Side note – How much would that rule at the Olympics? “Oh really, China? You have some nice stars on your flag? What’s that, Nicaragua? You have some sort of trippy, psychedelic pyramid thing going on? Cool, cool. Now check this out. We have two smokin’, freshly laid, hard-bodied Aussies festooned on our freakin’ flag. Yeah, son. See, your flag needs a pole to be raised. Our flag can actually raise it’s own pole.”

(I humbly apologize for the bad joke in that side note. I get one bad joke per blog. It’s a rule.)

Let me explain why Australia is the sexiest of countries. First of all, Australians themselves are walking aphrodisiacs. They are for the most part attractive, friendly, well groomed, smell nice, and are somehow blissfully unaware of how hot they are – which makes them that much hotter. Even if my ex didn’t want to have sex with me she could have let me do my thing while she pretended I was one of those outrageously handsome beach volleyball player dudes with six-pack abs you see on the daily in Sydney or Melbourne. Hell, I would’ve done my best to even replicate the accent! I’m good at accents, damn it! WTF?

Second, the country’s laid back, sexy sideways smirk of a lifestyle is uber conducive to recreation and procreation. Most people can’t have sex when they’re stressed and I’ve never been to a less stressful place than Australia. Hell the entire nation’s unofficial motto is “No worries”. It’s the Aussie version of “Hakuna Matata”. (More like “Hakuna Mata-tas,” am I right? Oh god, somebody please stop me.)

Here’s a typical vacation day in Oz. Imagine a beautiful morning at the beach surrounded by friendly, intelligent, engaging hot people (who don’t know they’re hot) and don’t act like just because they are hot they are better than you. This nice beach morning will maybe include a game of frisbee if you want. No pressure, mate. No worries.

Strangers will give you friendly looks. You get lots of inquisitive, friendly looks in Australia. Especially when they hear your American accent; Australia may be the last place on earth where people don’t automatically judge you for being an American. It’s really refreshing to not be immediately hated because of your passport. I wish the rest of the planet would take a hint from the Aussies on this one.

The people you meet may inquire about where you are from and when they find out they’ll actually be interested. Do not be alarmed. Australians love to meet new people!

If you’re like me you hate meeting new people. This is because we are Americans and therefore intrinsically mistrustful. Probably because you’ve been screwed over by these “new” people a lot. It’s a survival mechanism that Aussies haven’t had to develop and I love them for it.

During your conversations, these aforementioned awesome Australian folk will never, I repeat never ask what you do for a living or how much money you make. This is because how much money someone makes really isn’t that interesting to them. Wow. Just wow. This may be my favorite thing about Australians and what differentiates them from Americans the most.

Because whenever I meet someone I always ask them what they do for a living. I don’t even mean to half the time. I just do it. We all do. Because we’re Americans and our jobs define us. Not so in wacky, “life is about fun and not working yourself to death” Australia.

After a while this insane attitude starts to rub off on you and you become, what’s the word… oh yeah – “HAPPY”. Happy like an Australian. In fact that should be a saying. “He’s got the weekend off and he’s happy as an Aussie.” I’m coining it but feel free to use whenev.

If you are having a hard time believing me about the level of happiness in Australia then please do this immediately – spend two weeks in Australia and then come back to the States. The minute you go through customs and are back in the U.S. you will see something in people that will strike you as new but has always been there. You will see worry. A tremendous amount of it. It will shock you.

You will see most of this worry on people’s faces. You will see how much it is affecting them and you will wonder how you never noticed this before. Well the reason you never saw it is because as Americans we worry and stress so much that we can’t even feel how much we worry and stress anymore. It now feels normal to be constantly in a fight or flight mode. It’s like a bad elbow that you are used to and barely notice except when it rains.

It’s kind of like Americans are the guy who’s worked at a sewage plant so long that he can’t smell the rancid fecal poop stench anymore. In other words – when you live in shit and you work in shit, you can’t smell that shit.

But give that same person two weeks in Australia and boy howdy will they notice that stench when they come back home! They will be overwhelmed by it! They will wonder how they have lived this long with this amount of rancid fecal poop stench attacking their smelling parts! This person may even be inspired to make a change for the better and decide once and for all to reduce the amount of rancid fecal poop stench in their life!

Okay, I’m nominating that as a new Australian Tourism slogan. “Come to Australia and get away from the rancid fecal poop stench, mate! It’ll do ya right good!” Tell me you don’t want to go to Australia when you hear that! Tell me!

But back to our day…

Now let’s have some amazing food for lunch because Australians don’t believe in eating crappy food. There will be no Taco Bell consumed and believe it or not, no Outback Steakhouse. Instead you can just pick a random place on Sydney Harbour, plop right down and get a decently priced, delicious meal.

Next let’s take a ferry ride to Parramatta, cuddle a koala bear and pet Kangaroos and let’s do it for like no money because it doesn’t cost that much to do things in Australia.

Why are we cuddling koalas, you ask? Why would you not? My god! Are you even alive???

Next we’ll go shopping, then eat more amazing food, then drink the finest wines, then a walk along the most gorgeous harbour in the entire world, and then finally, deliciously, to bed.

Which is where we do not have sex. Ever. The whole 11 days we are there.

AGH!

See, that day I just described to you is an exact day I had with my ex the last time I was in Australia. I could’ve taken a perfect stranger on that date and gotten some nooky. Instead I wasted it on her and got the stink eye for even suggesting she take her clothes off and engage in light snuggling. Light snuggling I tell you! An activity at which I am greatly skilled, I might add!

Almost every day we were in Australia was as great as the day I just described. In fact that day may have been the least great and it was still freaking greater than the greatest day you can think of right now not counting when your kid was born or you got married. RIght? Right.

But before, during and/or after any activity we did, there was no “sexy  time”, as Borat puts it

This is because it was only two years into our marriage but we had already had one fight too many. We had already realized we weren’t going to be together forever. We knew things weren’t right even though we were half-heartedly trying for things to be “right’.

All I can say about my marriage is this – Never survive cancer then marry someone after only three months of dating because you’re in a romantic frenzy because you just survived cancer and you feel so ALIVE and also never marry someone who shows signs of being a total psycho because those aren’t outliers or one-time glitches, those are actually glaring warnings and eerily accurate predictors of future behavior. Then don’t stick it out for four years out of misplaced guilt and give away all your money in the divorce settlement out of even more guilt.

And certainly don’t bring that person to Australia and expect to have (figurative) balls to the wall, mind-bending, life altering sex. Because it’s not going to happen.

In short – don’t do anything I did relationship-wise between 2003 and 2007 and you’ll be fine.

Which brings me to this Monday, when I will be bringing the love of my life, hell the love of a thousand life times, Ms. Rachel Dory, to Australia.

If you don’t like to hear the word soul-mate, then stop reading. Because that’s what she is. She’s my soul-mate through and through and if I’d never met her my life would have been meaningless and all for naught. She loves me madly. She loves me fiercely. I love her back the same. We’ve been together for seven years and we still can’t keep our hands off each other.

Without going into too much detail, whenever we get a moment away from our kids (like the cruise we took in 2008 omg I’m still a little sore from that) we tend to not be able to keep our hands off each other even more. In fact we become a maelstrom of hands (which I’m pretty sure is the title of the next book in the Game of Thrones series. Book 6 – “A Maelstrom of Hands”).

So as a sincere apology to Australia for the egregious lack of sex I had the last time I visited there, Rachel Dory and I will be having egregious amounts of incredible, luscious, juicy, dirty, crazy (within reason), head-banging, athletic, vigorous sexy sex every single day while we are there. It starts this Monday.

As Caesar said, “Veni, vidi, vici.” Except in this case there will be less vidi, vici, and a whole lot more veni.

So fair warning, Australia. Fair warning. If the Great White Shark cage is rocking, don’t come a knocking. Unless of course it’s rocking because we are being eaten by the sharks. In that case PLEASE COME KNOCKING. MY GOD, MAN, COME KNOCKING!

Rachel, my darling, love of my life and the reason I take each breath – if you are reading this please don’t forget to bring a swimsuit and also your vagina. You are going to need both.

#GOAUSTRALIA #GOMIGHTY

Stephen Spielberg Ruined the Ocean.

By | Uncategorized

Stephen Spielberg ruined the ocean for me.

If you don’t know who he is, he is the guy who made the movie Jaws and a couple of other films you may have heard about. It’s funny, because he’s made so many great films people forget that Spielberg initially broke into the mainstream with a little scary-ass movie about a shark. I didn’t even know he had directed it until I’d seen the movie a million times. I might have been 12 or even 15 years old before I realized it. See I grew up before the internet, so you couldn’t just IMDB anyone you were interested in and find out every movie they’d ever been involved with. I think I I read it in a movie magazine article and it blew my mind that he’d made it. This was the guy who’d made E.T. and Raiders and a bunch of other light-hearted romps. He made Jaws? The most terrifying movie of all time? It didn’t compute.

I know people think Jaws is just a taut, well-acted thriller of some sort but you cannot underestimate the impact it had on kids of my age. It may be a nice little thriller to you but it’s also a really gory, really effing scary horror movie about a shark that eats people alive. And because Spielberg is such a good director, the movie had and still has a power to scare the living shit out of anyone who’s ever seen it.  In the hands of a lesser auteur, it would have just been a schlocky film about a giant, killer shark. Hell even the title “Jaws” is kind of cheesy when you think about it.

But it’s not a schlocky film at all. Far from it and that’s why it’s so damn scary. It seems like it could happen. The reality that Spielberg was able to ground it in is the reason a movie about a rabid, killer shark consistently ranks in the AFI’s top 100 movies of all time. Jaws has the same gritty, realistic 70’s vibe that The French Connection, The Godfather, Midnight Cowboy and a whole bunch of other more “serious” movies of that era have.

The difference is that Jaws is not interested in revealing anything about humanity to you the way those films are. It’s just trying to scare you to death with menacing shots of a dorsal fin and bloody limbs floating in the water and boy howdy does it do a damn good job. And let’s not forget that classic John Williams “Dunh, dunh, dunh, dunh” score. Jesus, you could use that score for the next Toy Story movie and it would scare the shit out of people.

A good horror movie can ruin things for you. Friday the 13th messed me up about the woods for a little while. After I saw Psycho (thank for letting me watch that movie when I was 9, Mom!) I was a hesitant to take showers for a while. For a few weeks after I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street I was legitimately afraid of going to sleep because “Freddy” might get me. After I saw The Ring I didn’t like soaking wet pre-pubescent girls crawling out of my TV.

But I’ve gotten over all those fears. I can walk in the woods alone at night and feel pretty okay with it. I’ve taken thousands of showers in hotels and motels and not worried for a second that a guy dressed as his mom is going to murder stab me. And it’s probably been over two decades since I gave a thought to Freddy Krueger other than one of amusement.

But I am still messed up about the ocean. Deeply messed up. Really I don’t like any body of water that’s large and where I can’t touch the bottom. Even a deep swimming pool can be intimidating to me. Whenever I get in there’s always a few seconds where I am sure a Great White Shark that no one else has seen in my neighbor’s backyard above ground pool is going to bite my leg off and I’m going to die a bloody mess. Literally every time I jump in I have an adrenal surge of this ridiculous fear.

What other movie has had this lingering effect on me? None. And it’s gone on my whole life.

For instance I never learned to surf even though I lived in Southern California for 17 years. That was a big time “no way” after I found out paddling on a surfboard makes you look like a seal to a Great White. What other sport does that, by the way? Playing racquetball doesn’t increase your odds of being devoured by a tiger, but surfing statistically and measurably increases your chances of being eaten by a shark, yet people still do it!?? WTF?

I haven’t been in the ocean in probably 10 years now. I’ve tried to enjoy it and I just cannot. I’ve done mental relaxation exercises. I’ve gone with friends I enjoy and swam close by them the whole time. I’ve sung favorite songs out loud. I’ve faked bravado in the hopes that it would turn into real bravado. I’ve done immersion therapy (which is basically just immersing yourself in the ocean) and I was still an unhappy wreck. I even tried to simply remember my favorite things like Maria Von Trapp said to do. It didn’t work. I forgot my favorite things and just thought about sharks.

No matter what I do, every time I’m in the water my internal monologue is this, “OMIGOD THERE ARE FREAKING SHARKS IN HERE EVERYWHERE WHY AM I IN HERE CAN I GET OUT YET I’M GOING TO DIE”. This does not make for a relaxing afternoon.

And you can’t reason me out of it. I know the stats! Hardly anybody that gets into the ocean ever gets eaten or attacked by a shark. In fact the number of people who have been eaten or attacked is so small as to be considered statistically insignificant and does not warrant my fear, blah, blah, blah. I realize that. However I have a better stat for you. NO ONE who didn’t get in the ocean has ever been eaten or attacked by a shark. That number still stands at zero. So I win that little game.

Now if you don’t mind, I’ll be on the beach playing Frisbee while you risk your life in a giant, wet tub of death.

Oh, did I mention I’m going to Australia soon and that I’ll be swimming with Great White Sharks? I guess I should bring that up. You know, while we’re talking about all of this.

I really, really want to swim with Great White Sharks and I’m really, honestly going to do that. Yet I have no idea why this is. I’m not an adrenaline junkie. In fact I’m on several medications that specifically lower my levels of adrenaline because I make too much of it. I don’t actually like or even enjoy adrenaline. Creating more of it seems like a bad time.

So why the hell am I going to get in a cage and swim with Great White Sharks in the middle of the ocean?

Other than, why wouldn’t you want to? I mean, seriously, if you were in Australia like I’m going to be, and you had the opportunity to swim with sharks like I’m going to have the opportunity to, why would you not do it? Even if you were afraid, wouldn’t you want to do it?  Wouldn’t you want to see if you could?

I think part of me isn’t worried too much because this activity is clearly a one-time thing. If people find out you like the beach, then vacations start getting planned there, people start assuming you’ll want to go swimming in the ocean, maybe surf with them, etc.

If I do this shark cage thing I don’t think people will inundate me with more offers to get in shark cages. I could be wrong but I think this will be a one-shot deal and I’m fine with that. And if they say, “C’mon, get in the water! You swam with Great Whites!” I can always reply, “I was in a goddamn cage, dumb ass!”

I feel like it will be safe, at least as safe as the zoo. At the zoo the animals are in cages. This time it will be the other way around and I will be relying on the bars to keep the animals from getting in as opposed to getting out. That makes sense, right? I hope it does. Very little about swimming with Great White Sharks makes actual sense so I’m going to hold on to that as one thing that does.

Also people have been doing this in Australia forever. Well not forever but at least long enough that there are a bunch of companies that will take your money and take you out to do it. If tourists were getting eaten every other day I imagine we’d be hearing about it. Then again I don’t pay attention to the news and for all I know last year 50 people were killed and eaten by Great White Sharks because they thought they were being awesome eco-tourists but really they were just being bait.

I do admit I have a small, nagging worry that I will chicken out. I can see myself paralyzed on the edge of the boat, watching dorsal fins pierce the water (just like in Jaws!!!). The sharks will be following the chum to and fro (will there be chum? I am imaging chum) as I prepare to make my leap. I do no honestly know what I will do when the time comes to actually get in the cage.

But while I can’t guarantee I’m going to do it, I would put my money on my sweet ass getting in that water and having the time of my life.

Am I scared? Hell yes. Am I going to be facing one of my biggest (if not my biggest_ fears? Hell yes.

Do I think this will cure me of my fear? Hell no. I’m not that simplistic and neither are my phobias.

But I have a feeling that this will be an adventure and a true and awesome experience. In my life I have always tried to let the potential for having awesome adventure and an amazing experience conquer and outweigh my petty little fears. Fear is the enemy of personal progress. Fear is the enemy of personal growth.

Yet fear is the friend of the ordinary, the mundane and the dreary. Fear is the drinking buddy of mediocrity. Fear is an asshole. Fear sucks. I reject fear. I choose adventure.

I’ve done this many times in my professional life, in my love life, in my artistic life. Over and over again I have refused the smooth contours of the safe path and instead have taken a leap of faith into the unknown and lived to tell about the consequences of my bravery (some would say stupidity).

Time and again I have been rewarded for this method of madness. For I have never looked back on my life and been glad of a moment when I let fear conquer me or guide my choice.

So in a life like this, where normalcy is anathema, where ennui is the enemy of the divine – what’s one more little leap of faith?

Even if it’s into a shark cage?

Viva adventure!

#GoMighty #GoAustralia

www.gomighty.com