Tag: Auckland

Hey TSA, Let’s Ban CornNuts

I can remember flying from Auckland, New Zealand, to Los Angeles in the smoking section of the airplane. Yes, Virginia, people used to smoke on airplanes. At that time, the entire world was filled with Don Drapers, lighting up wherever and

Don Draper

Don Draper (Photo credit: Christina Saint Marche)

whenever they wanted. If you didn’t smoke that was okay, you just had to learn to smoke the second-hand way.  The flight was a twelve hours long and when the plane landed at LAX I smelled like I had spent the night at the Whiskey A Go-Go. I am not a smoker and breathing someone else’s smoke does annoy me, but it was not the worst assault on my personal space while on an airplane.

A few years back I was on a flight from Seattle to Reykjavík. The airline, who shall remain nameless, (IcelandicAir) is one of those budget numbers where nothing on the flight is free except water and air. (They do not charge to use the bathroom, but I expect that has been discussed at shareholder meetings.) On flights like this people who are even more frugal than me bring their own snack items onboard. Generally this is not a problem because most people have the good sense to bring things like candy bars and little sandwiches purchased at the airport. I don’t bring snacks. Once the plane is off the ground I throw caution to the wind and pay 10 times too much for food of questionable quality. As I recall, I had ordered a chicken curry wrap and was busy munching away when I smelled something so offensive that my nose burned: CornNuts. If you have never smelled CornNuts before then you are a lucky person, because CornNuts stink. For those of you who have not been assaulted by CornNut smell imagine being placed in a coffin, covered from head to toe in corn chips, and then buried alive for a month; that is what CornNuts smell like.

The odor of CornNuts must have some interesting chemical properties because it is the one odor that never goes away. Your nose does not adjust to the smell, your poor brain cannot delete the smell from your olfactory senses and the stink of CornNuts  only gets worse as the mouth-breathing idiot who opened the bag in the first place is now chomping away like a dog eating peanut butter.

CornNuts brand Corn nuts product samples. 3 fl...

CornNuts brand Corn nuts product samples. 3 flavors L-R: Original, Barbeque, and Ranch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The flight from Seattle to Reykjavík is eight hours. I had the pleasure of smelling those CornNuts for 7:45 hours of the flight. Had I been able to pinpoint the moron eating the CornNuts we might have had an “international incident” and I then would be writing this blog from some jail in Nova Scotia.

I am not saying that CornNuts are not a tasty treat, they are just a treat that must be enjoyed away from the general public. If you want to eat CornNuts knock yourself out, just do it outside and at least 20 feet from the entrance of a building, preferably in the rain. Anyone who choses to eat CornNuts must also brush their teeth and gargle for five minutes before being allowed back inside the building. If you wish to eat CornNuts on an international flight, you must do so while sitting on the wing of the plane. That means you will not be permitted inside the plane at all, bring a jacket because I hear it is cold out there.

Ideally the TSA would ban the use of CornNuts in airports, airplanes, airport shuttles, elevators in airports, and anywhere within 500 miles of an airport. Violators would be subject to working in a CornNut plant without a mask for a month. If they survive that they can return to civilized society only if they promise never to eat CornNuts again.

Hey, Macklemore, can I come to your Pizza Party?

My son and daughter have grown up in a family of two English teachers so it is not unusual for all of us to talk about fictional characters as if they are real. My children have not suffered because of this phenomenon, but there have been times when it has confused my kids.  The tables have not only turned, the tables have been upturned as my children have gotten older. The world they exist within is not the same world I grew up in, but like any supremely cool parent (sarcasm intended) I have tried to allow them to exist within this alternative universe while doing my best to educate myself about this other place. It is why I have attended my first rap concerts, learned to text message, watched the stupidest television shows ever produced, and kept my fingers crossed that I wasn’t a terrible parent.

This past week I learned a few more things: 1. Each year Seattle rapper Macklemore has a pizza party for his fans, 2. There is always a contest to get into the pizza party, and 3. Columbia City is not a bad place to spend three hours if you have not been invited to Macklemore’s pizza party but your daughter has.

On Tuesday morning, I received an email from my wife (we still like to communicate the old-fashioned way) that informed me that Owour sent a text to my daughter and invited her to Macklemore’s pizza party. I knew who Owour was because my daughter talks about these Seattle rap folks by first name, and I have seen him on television several times jumping around with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as they played that “funky” music the children love so much.

The invitation was an unexpected and generous act that caught us unprepared. The party started a 6PM and was in an area of Seattle that my wife and I were not familiar with, so that meant I would be going. I get to venture into the unknown because I am taller than my wife and don’t mind getting lost.

We live a bit away from Seattle so it was a dash to make it to Columbia City in time, it didn’t help that the Mariners were having a game downtown, but we made it to the pizza party in time for my daughter and her invited guest to stand in line for a few minutes before being swept in through the VIP entrance. It was a little like taking her to the airport and dropping her off for a three-hour trip to some place fantastic. I know enough about the band to know that she was in a safe place with some great people.

Here is what her evening was like:

The line to get into the world premire pizza party.

The line to get into the world premiere pizza party.

Em, Jon, Ray

My daughter with the director of the Thrift Shop video (Jon Jon), and Ray Dalton.


Macklemore’s shoes. I believe those are Ryan Lewis’ shoes to the right.

same love

Macklemore, Mary Lambert and Owour performing Same Love.

While my evening was not as glamorous, I did manage to survive. I ate an entire pizza in about ten minutes. Wandered down to Starbucks and watched some old ladies knit up a storm.


This is before Charlotte arrived. Once Charlotte showed up some serious knitting went down.

I found a great eyeless gnome.


My son was afraid of gnomes when he was younger, so I took a picture of this guy and sent it off to my son with this message, “Is this under your bed?”

I ate a small plate of nachos.


After the pizza, I could not finish the entire plate of nachos.

After the pizza, the coffee at Starbucks, the discovery of the gnome, and the plate of nachos, I still had about an hour to waste. So I wandered aimlessly around the streets until it got dark. I did discover a “Gentleman’s Club” just down the street but decided that even though I am a gentleman, I should probably skip that one. (I did not have my top hat and tails with me.)

My daughter eventually emerged from the party and by all accounts had a great evening. She saw the world premiere of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ new video, met lots of people, witnessed a mini-concert, and most importantly had an experience that she will remember forever.

If there is one thing life has taught me it is that experiences are priceless. My greatest regrets are when I passed up opportunities to do something because it was slightly inconvenient or cost more than I was willing to pay. I look back on those handful of opportunities with the knowledge that the $40 I saved by not seeing Pink Floyd in Auckland was wasted someplace not as memorable, the $75 I didn’t want to spend to rebook my flight to include a Fijian stop-over probably got spent on rice and beans in Spokane, and the chance to drive to LA to see Linton Kwesi Johnson in concert would have made me tired for work on Monday, but it would have created a memory that I still have today. It is those moments I regret, but those are the moments that help to remind me that driving to Seattle on a Tuesday night and getting back late was worth it even if the only thing I got was heartburn and a great big hug from my daughter.

Here’s the new video if you were curious.

Ugly Americans on the loose

A Curse Upon Both Your Houses

Ugly Americans on the loose

I can point to the moment I was first cursed with the travel bug. It was 1979 and my whole family traveled to New Zealand to spend a year. It was an odd arrangement that seemed perfectly natural to me. My father was a Presbyterian minister and had managed to exchange pulpits with a minister in Auckland, New Zealand. So the whole family packed up and traded homes, cars and churches for a year.

We landed in Auckland and my life was never the same. I went to Mount Roskill Grammar school. I learned to play rugby, cricket and tennis. I discovered BBC comedies and ate new and delicious food. We went to the beach and I learned to body surf, we traveled the entire country of New Zealand and I didn’t want to leave when the year was over. When I came back to the US, I was changed. I could no longer view the world from a strictly American viewpoint. When I watched the news I wondered what was happening in New Zealand (a country at that time that was hardly known in the US.) The internet did not exist and I felt like I was living in a world with blinders on. I hadn’t yet read Plato’s allegory of the cave, but if I had, I might have felt like someone else understood me. Sure, there was Mork and Mindy  but I missed Faulty Towers and rugby and cricket and the beach and climbing Mount Eden and the slower pace of life in the South Pacific.

These were thoughts I knew I should not utter aloud. As an American, I had a duty to believe that my country was the greatest country ever established on the face of the Earth and if I didn’t believe that then I should march on off to Russia and live in a gulag. I had trouble swallowing this because New Zealand had damaged my brain. I could no longer see the world as the US and then a bunch of moron countries that survived simply because we decided to allow them to exist.

Travel has a way of damaging your brain. Travel is a Pandora’s Box. Once the spirits of travel are let free you cannot put them back. Which brings me to one factoid that is troubling to me: In 2011 only 30% of Americans held passports. (Good thing we don’t need passports to invade countries. Cheap shot, but I couldn’t resist.) As a comparison, 60% of Canadians and 75% of UK citizens have passports. The US certainly has a lot to see, but if 70% of Americans never leave the country there is a problem.

I began thinking about this the other day when my son and daughter started to talk about missing Europe. We are not a wealthy family, but we have traveled to Europe as a family twice. I’m sure there are people who think it was a complete waste of our hard earned money, but I have always believed in investing in memories instead of things. I also believe that there is no better learning experience than traveling. You can always read about places or watch Youtube videos, but travel brings more meaning to what you read and how you think.

Would the US be a better country if more Americans traveled? I believe so. Would the world be a better place if more Americans traveled? I believe so. We misunderstand a good portion of the world and the world misunderstands us. Americans might be more willing to change their perspectives on education, health care, transportation and military spending if we traveled more. Ignorance of the world only breeds fear and fear makes us reluctant to change. I am proposing that we take the money Newt Gingrich wants to spend on a moon base and instead of sending 1,300 Americans to the moon, we send 13 million Americans to another country for a month. It couldn’t hurt.

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