Backpacking in 82 Days: Kampot, The Witch of the White Mountain, Siem Reap, and Bangkok

I know, 4 topics for one blog is a little ambitious. But I’m an ambitious, amateur, pessimistic blogger. Devyn and I are currently in Bangkok (funny reference) and I personally hate this city. More on that later, let’s focus on the other 99 percent of the trip.

After a quick stay in Phnom Penh, we booked a bus to take us to Kampot. An alleged 3 hour bus drive doesn’t sound too bad at all. That is, until you hop on the bus. You need to give bus rides an additional 2-5 hours extra time because during your commute, you’re stopping every 15 minutes picking some random person up, or tagging along for their personal errands. No joke. We did a minor grocery store run as well as wait for the driver to make a personal call.

Once you get closer to Kampot the scenery is both breathtaking and heart breaking. It’s a vast landscape of rice fields and greenery. But this is where you notice how severely poor Cambodia is. Many of these houses are on stilts or no bigger than an average bathroom in the states.

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As hard as it is to see people living under .93 cents a day, being in these environments for over a month makes scenarios like this almost common place. The real trick is not to get used to it and remain appreciative of what you have. However, as grim as the conditions are, there’s oddly a sophisticated atmosphere to the poverty stricken lifestyle that is Kampot. These families embraced their relationships and did not appear to take for granted what little they had. Out of this simplicity, comes true happiness. In a way, I envied them.

Once in Kampot, at dinner we had our first unpleasant encounter with a Khmer person. It was just poor service, nothing like Bangkok. They just appeared to be irritated by us, or more specifically, westerners. It’s not the worst thing in the world. We get profiled at airports so we learned how to just take it with a grain of salt. After that dinner, we found our way to Kampot Pie and Ice Cream Palace. It’s a few doors down from where we were staying and thank goodness for that. It has a superb menu from breakfast to desserts, solid coffee, and a warm atmosphere. It’s basically Brad and Devyn’s restaurant baby. We love anywhere with hearty meals and a home like atmosphere. It harkens back to our love for Hobbiton. Its owner, Les, is this unique gent from Canada who owned property his whole life and ended up in Cambodia doing just that. He won’t steer shy from saying hello.

The following day, we found a tuk tuk driver and hired him for the day. Unlike our driver in Phnom Penh (who crashed into a car), this guy was a salty pro, but with a smile. He took us to their caves and the scenery on the way is, need I say again, stunning.

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The caves themselves are these gargantuan, cathedral like phenomenons. It’s a short trek, but you do some serious crawling and ducking. The coolest parts of the cave were not captured. It got too difficult while crawling through the dark.

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Afterward, our awesome tuk tuk driver took us to a Kampot pepper field. It’s a lot like a winery, but with Kampot peppers; these tiny little balls of fiery goodness.

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Serving wine at the pepper field wasn’t too shabby either. The coolest parts about taking a tuk tuk to these locations were seeing the people in their day-to-day lives on the way, as well as the awesome Khmer kids not skipping a beat when it comes to waving to you. It’s almost like being a celebrity. We were told that it’s just in the Khmer culture to display kindness and you certainly see that with the kids. I mean, I’ve rambled about Khmer kids already haven’t I?

Phnom Sor: The Search For The Witch Of The White Mountain This was something we found randomly in a pamphlet. We saw the words “hike” and “witch” so we were in. It wasn’t a tourist attraction and that has proven to provide the most fun days. Anything off the beaten path or locally recommended is the way to go. Nothing through tourist vendors or driving sightseeing tours.

Phnom Sor is more like an exaggerated hill than anything, but according to locals and others, it’s a 30 minute vertical hike to the top where an old witch lives.

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After taking a bit of a dodgy road, our tuk tuk driver stopped in a school yard. He thought we wanted to see the temples on campus, but we reiterated hike, mountain, and old woman he immediately asked anyone he could how to take the most direct path to the White Mountain.

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We ended up recruiting these two schoolboys who said they go up to see the witch all the time. This is a prime example of why you should find off the beaten path activities when traveling. It’s so awesomely random to end up being led to witch mountain by two boys after your tuk tuk driver was unsure how to get there. The boys led us along a long dirt road and you could see Phnom Sor’s looming presence. Dare I say, it has a Tolkien Lonely Mountain element to it. Refer to the the picture a few photos up.

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Once you reach the foot of the mountain, it’s almost a vertical hike to the top up rigid rock stairways. The scenery all over is breathtaking. The higher you get, the better the view gets. As our tuk tuk driver kept reiterating while walking up: “beautiful”.

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You almost forget you’re looking for a witch, being distracted by the great views. Once you get near the top, it gets eerie. It’s dark stones decorated with offerings leading up to a metallic hut. It is a place where a witch would live. The whole group kept their voices down to not disturb whomever we may encounter. So with our wits about and a $5 bill ready, (you’re supposed to bring an offering or you get cursed) we made our final steps to the top.

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Through the hut, there were more offerings and it led to another rock staircase leading down into the back of the mountain. There isn’t much walking room near the back and it’s where we found the creepiest aspect; the cave entrance to the woman’s rest area.

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We didn’t find the witch and the boys said she may be out and about collecting supplies. She must be a tough lady. I’ve seen photos of what she looks like and she is a small, frail looking gal. To make that hike is impressive. We paid our respects through prayer with our tuk tuk driver and just soaked in the views before hiking back down. If you’re ever in Kampot, this is something you should not miss. It’s a great hike and if you’re lucky, you will meet the legendary witch.

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The next day, following the high of an awesome day previously, we proved my earlier point; don’t do sightseeing tours. While some of the sights are neat, it’s relatively a waste of money and caters to tourists. It takes away the magic of it all. Here are some photos of the neater sights we saw.

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We both really like old, abandoned buildings so it was cool having this catered to our tastes. Other than the sunset cruise later that night, it was a pretty “meh” sightseeing trip. Luckily the company was good.

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Siem Reap: We had to bid a sad farewell to Kampot at one point. With the warmth of the community and how often we frequented Kampot Ice Cream Palace, we started recognizing faces, being recognized, and felt like locals.

The bus drive to Siem Reap was a 12 hour endeavor which included a transfer. Fortunately, the bus provided humorous Chinese music videos and films dubbed in Khmer. Once in Siem Reap, our tuk tuk driver couldn’t find our accommodation. It made for an interesting night and it was a moment where Devyn and I practiced our “don’t mess with me” looks, just like we do in Bangkok.

You know what, Siem Reap was a pretty low key point in the trip. When you’re gone for so long, you can’t have every day be adventurous or a “go-go”. It burns you out. For the most part, we stayed out of the heat by frequenting a coffee shop, read, did Christmas shopping at their awesome daily night market, and discovered Asian countries can’t do Mexican food.
Of course, we checked out Angkor Wat and the other temples. These are awesome sights to see, but overwhelmingly filled with tourists. It truly takes the magic out of it all. I’d suggest checking out some of the smaller temples on the outskirts. These are more decayed by age and are overgrown by vines and trees. To Devyn and I, we found these temples much more appealing.

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During our temple of doom run, we were ripped off by monks. They insisted on praying with us, burning incense, and making us bracelets. Of course, where there’s religion, comes asking for money. They expected donations the whole time. I gave them a few bucks and they saw a $20 in my pocket. Naturally, they wanted more. We took off fleeing and mind you, this was only a 15 second ordeal, so anything more than a few George Washingtons is a little excessive. Here’s a picture of me being frustrated after:

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But, we did have an awesome last night in Siem Reap. We wanted a romantic night together and we found this charming restaurant called Bugs Cafe. We enjoyed an insect fondue with each other. It’s love baby. Yup, just a cricket and silkworm dessert.

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The place is cleverly put together though. The owner told us he stresses that the restaurant be spotless clean to help customer’s psyche when eating bugs. The menu items are mixed with normal food items as well, so it’s not too overwhelming. A solid end to Cambodia.

Bangkok: Ok, so if you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know I haven’t had much positive things to say about Bangkok, Thailand. I’m keeping this brief. The flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok is hilariously short. Without exaggeration, it’s like flying from San Diego to Los Angeles. I listened to a song on my iPod before they announced we were descending.

We met a German couple who were coincidentally staying at the same place we were. Good thing too because the ride from the airport cost 400 baht. ($12ish USD) This commute shouldn’t have been more than 150 baht, but Don Meung Airport has a clever way of running taxis at higher rates. It is what is, and was no where like the scams we encountered.

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The people in Bangkok are polar opposite of the Khmer. They’re gruff and bitter looking. You get an unwelcome vibe in the city and they appear to be pissed off all the time. On top of that, everyone is out to rip you off. Our driver this morning to Siam Square filled up gas after picking us up, but kept the meter running. We told him to restart it and even though he knew he was caught, he was livid with us and rushed us out of the car once we reached our destination. Lonely Planet has sound advice about avoiding these notorious scams. Drivers will often offer flat rates that are three times what it should be or “forget” to turn the meter on and charge you a flat rate.

We checked out Siam Discovery which is a mall that of Singapore standards. Their malls are huge. We spent time in that part of town to avoid the heat and scammers. Getting home was a different story. After turning down two drivers trying to charge 500 baht for an 80 baht ride, we had to settle for the third driving offering 150 (originally 200). It was here that we realized during their rush hour, they scam foreigners with flat rates saying their meters don’t work. But, they have functioning meters when it comes to Thai people. It only takes a few looks in other cabs to witness this.

Basically, Bangkok sucks. The rest of Thailand is supposed to be amazing, but Bangkok sucks. Everything I wrote and more of the stuff I didn’t is the epitome of why Bangkok sucks. Everyone is trying to rip you off and those that aren’t, scowled at you and make you feel unwelcome. We take off the Vietnam tomorrow and we are ready for it.

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Backpacking in 82 Days: The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide

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I wanted to have The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng in a separate post, as opposed to how I have been blogging our trip. If anything, it’s just for myself because I want to remember all the thoughts that went through mine and Devyn’s head on our morbid day of visiting these locations.

Until I planned a trip to Cambodia, I had no idea about the Khmer Rouge or the genocide that took place from 1975-79. There’s so much to explain for the context and photos to make sense, and I’m still learning more about it. I immediately purchased a book about the atrocities after we visited both locations.

Here’s a quick gist (and I’m still learning more about it, so if I got something wrong, please let me know) Throughout the early 70s, Cambodia was already in a civil war which had a history tracing back two decades. Pol Pot (the eventual leader of the Khmer Rouge) was well educated with his comrades and they, along with many others were not in favor of their Prime Minister, Lom Nol. Lom Nol was very pro-American during the Vietnam war and at that time, the USA were conducting bombing raids on small Cambodia towns trying to push Vietnamese communists back into Vietnam. Many towns were destroyed and a lot of innocent lives lost. Those who survived were easily recruited by Pol Pot’s group, for they hated the States and how Lom Nol allowed this to happen.

They recruited many peasants, on top of an already pretty well educated group, who did their studies in France. Eventually, this created a group known as the Khmer Rouge. They overthrew the government and forced an evacuation of the city of Phnom Penh. They were the new authority of Cambodia and forced many civilians out of their homes.

Over the course of over three years, the Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot, killed over 3 million of their own people until they were finally overthrown and forced to flee after an invasion by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge wiped out any traces of multiple religions, schools, family systems, places of worship, and anything culturally based. They destroyed it; physically and abstractly. They wanted the ultimate power to be looked upon to be them.

The Khmer Rouge killed anyone who they felt were traitors to their communist movement, be it an intellectual, those with soft hands, or glasses. People were tortured for alleged involvement against the Khmer Rouge or for being an individual. The country today, has an average age no older than 35 because so many of the older generation was wiped out. Once you visit this still beautiful country, you can see the poverty as a result and how this horrendous moment in history set them back.

Choeung Ek: Now, onto the attractions. We arrived at the Choeung Ek, The Killing Fields, and at first, it’s not much to look at. It is what it sounds like. It’s a beautiful lay out of grasslands and rice fields. The first thing you see when you walk through through entrance is a gargantuan memorial. But this is not your average memorial. It contains the skulls of the thousands of people that were killed and dug up.

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An audio tour guides you around the fields and throughout the walk, are numerous 4ft deep divots in the earth. They’re graves. Once the site was abandoned, many graves were excavated and up to 400 people in one single grave could be found.

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What’s intense is that the kills were not quick. Due to the country being poor, bullets and guns were expensive. Any blunt objects that could be used were. Axes, sticks, knives, whatever. A handful of prisoners were tortured first At Tuol Sleng, before being starved and transported for execution to Choeung Ek. The majority of the skulls have signs of blunt force trauma or holes from being beaten to death. Devyn and I felt weird taking pictures, so we kept it minimal.

It’s the testimonies of the perpetrators and victims in the audio tour that add an additional heartbreaking element. There’s stories of witnessing a family member having their throat slit, a woman feeling shamed after being raped and so much more.

On the trek, which includes walking around bones and victim’s clothing that are still stuck in the earth, you eventually come upon the killing tree. People, primarily children, were beaten against this tree. The part the stuck with me was how the KR would grab babies from their legs and smash their heads against the tree. Yes, they killed babies. Pol Pot wanted to avoid revenge plots against them and felt the youth would seek them out for killing their families. As well, Pol Pot believed that when you cut grass, you need to take out the roots too.

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To prevent those outside of Choeung Ek from hearing the screams of the prisoners, propaganda revolution music would be played over a loud speaker to cover it up. Imagine hearing that during your last breath, as your throat is being slit with tree bark.

Tuol Sleng: I felt Tuol Sleng was more intense, if that’s possible, than Choeung Ek. Mainly because much of the location is left as is. Torture devices are still left out and the buildings are still up. The buildings at Choeung Ek were immediately torn down. Tuol Sleng was a high school before the KR took over and turned three 3-story buildings into torture chambers.

Building A’s rooms mainly consists of rusty looking beds with shackles next to it. In many of the rooms, there are photos of what happened to some of the prisoners in the room you’re standing in. Notably, a prisoner was beaten with a shovel and the photo shows their skull protruding from the flesh.

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It’s hard enough to stomach that you’re inside rooms where people were tortured, but there’s still blood splattered on the floors. And it’s not just drops. It’s dried up puddles on puddles. Almost every room in each building is covered. The photo I took was of a smaller puddle; it felt weird taking more.

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The courtyard of Tuol Sleng has a set of gallows, where they would hang prisoners upside down until they lost consciousness and then submerge them in fertilizer water to reawaken them to answer questions.

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Not all the rooms in the three buildings are the same. There are larger rooms where a multitude of prisoners would be chained to a wall. I think Building C was the building with individual wood and brick cells. I’m pretty sure you and I have used a port-a-potty bigger than these cells. Mind you, prisoners in these cells were chained to the ground and often tortured.

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Building B, I believe, has the rooms littered with photos of prisoners and workers. Looking into their eyes, each person had their own story and many were killed in these rooms. It makes you weak in the knees. Only seven prisoners walked out of Tuol Sleng as survivors. Chom Chey, one of those survivors, was on site that day selling books. You could see the pain in his eyes, but his smile remained genuine and true. The epitome of the Khmer people. As Lonely Planet puts it, they have gone through hell and back. Their smiles are so true and beautiful that you have to experience it to understand. They’re so thankful for life, it’s incredible.

Some of the other rooms have a history of the site, as well as mini biographies of the main people behind these atrocities. The three still alive are still on trial, or had their hearing in 2011. I can’t remember the information properly. Pol Pot, he died under house arrest living a peaceful life, with a family and everything. How the hell does karma exist? He never apologized or showed true remorse. A torturer at S-21, known as Duch, is the only one who has lived up to what he participated in.

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After leaving Tuol Sleng, I was shocked at how this is not common history back home in the US, especially because we were largely responsible for the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention in World History when I was in high school, but I don’t remember hearing about a country being damn near forced back to the Stone Age as a result of our war with Vietnam. It was genocide on the same scale as the Holocaust. I understand why we may know more about the Holocaust; Germany was our direct enemy at the time and a religious group was slaughtered. I don’t understand how the KR killing its OWN people through means of personalized and individual killings/torture on a large scale is not common knowledge. The US is partial to blame, along with a few others. France too. It’s heartbreaking and I blame myself for not being better educated.

I don’t want to preach because that’s not why I write. But it’s the age old saying; if we don’t learn our history, we are destined to repeat it. These visits made me eternally grateful for the fact that I get to see my family again and helped me focus on the important things that are easily overlooked. I have a great family, fiancé, health, food, and a home. I was standing in rooms where the people who were butchered had lost all of that.

Devyn and I went to the night market that evening and it ended up being an experience whichever complemented our visits to these sites. I ended up getting in an epic dog pile with these awesome Khmer kids. They got a few lucky punches in, but I still think it was a draw.

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These kids are so pure and genuine. It’s hard to imagine that kids no older than them were butchered against a tree. Unlike the pussified and entitled brats our iPhone carrying kids have turned into, these kids are so high on life with nothing. They were having paper airplane contests. I have never felt so spoiled. As I mentioned earlier, the Khmer, especially the young ones, have smiles, that are infectious and genuine.

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Truly, to hell and back and appreciative of life. How does someone look at the epitome of happiness and think that they’re nothing but deep “rooted” rebels, whom deserve death? These kids brought me back to my childhood, where it took nothing but a stick to make me happy and entertained. They gave me new life again, and I’m eternally gratefully to them.

Backpacking in 82 Days: The Gilis, misc adventures, and reflective thoughts

Logging everything according to individual date has become unnecessary and tedious. In NZ, we actually had a pre planned itinerary broken down into a day by day schedule. It was much easier to keep track of dates and activities that way.

Once you lose that, your days tend to blend into each other and, for at least Devyn and I, we only remember bigger events and our reflective thoughts if it’s important. That’s what it has been like in Asia. Some days, we just did nothing but read or hang on the various beaches. I don’t want to blog about that and I’m sure my audience of 4 doesn’t want to read that. So, where to start…..

Today is November 10 in the afternoon and this is being written after getting in an altercation with a hawker that ended in a “go fuck yourself”. Needless to say, I’m a little livid and writing about positive events while drinking a beer is a good way to unwind.

The Gilis- A set of 3 islands (we went to Gili T) in which, in my perspective, is a complete free for all. They’re beautiful beaches located in a world without motorized cars or police. People go to the island we went to for partying without any real rules. For anyone who think they’re badass for partying in Vegas, I suggest heading over to the Gilis. You really are isolated from the rest of the world.

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Yet, somehow, there seems to be order. It’s like a well-organized Lord of the Flies scenario. You’re in no more danger than the rest of Indonesia; you keep your head up just the same.

Devyn and I stayed in a cottage for $16 a night. It came with its downside however. A load of ants in our bed and other critters in our bathroom. Your bathroom is technically located in a room outside, adjacent to your living space. We made friends with a spider the size of my fist and a few cockroaches. But, the family running it was super nice and fed us every morning. You are on an island, so no room is without these problems I learned, unless you fork over more cash. A lot more. We personally wanted more money for activities.

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Another hilarious downside was being right next to a Mosque. Mosques broadcast prayers 5 times a day over a loudspeaker everyday. A pretty cool experience 4/5 times. However, 1/5 times takes place at 4am for a good 20 minutes. At that point, you feel like a religion is being forced upon you, and it almost seems selfish to make the rest of the world hear your prayers. It’s like church bells. Shortly after, I read an article about Israel trying to pass a bill, deeming it noise pollution. Look it up. But, from various sources, a good chunk of Lombak and the Gilis are Muslim, so I have no real right to complain. Especially since, I don’t know if you know, there’s some tension between certain Muslim groups and the States. Here’s a few pictures that are irrelevant to what I’m saying:

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No pictures do Gili any justice. We went scuba diving and snorkeling and, hands down, the best you will ever experience. The water is crystal clear, bath tub temperature, and littered with amazing sea life. It was after these dives that Devyn and I got drunk and started discussing veganism. I can’t recap it verbatim, but went something like this:

Many of the places we have visited so far in Asia are poverty stricken and it’s only going to get worse when we are in Cambodia and Vietnam. Places like this survive on meats and poultry. It’s a genuine strife for survival. One thing animal rights groups don’t realize is these countries don’t have the means or proper resources for “free range” animals or what not (Anthony Bourdain also has said this). A place like the Gilis especially, their economy survives a great deal from fishing.

It got us thinking that veganism is such a 1st world issue and privilege. Would we really have the audacity to tell these people to stop eating animals? Basically, cut out most of your diet because I don’t agree with it. On the flip side, the call for veganism has brought attention to problems like factory farming in the states, which is horrible. But these issues, from what we are seeing, is our own fucked up nation’s issue. You can’t call for a “greener lifestyle” or international meat free diets when that’s how these people survive. Unlike the states, places like NZ and from what we have seen in Indonesia don’t have the factory farming issues. We’re just fat asses who over indulge. There needs to be more focus on eliminating that disgusting shit, as opposed to what it has now turned into; an elitist movement set on telling people what to do. Why can’t we ever focus on moderation? Why is it always so extreme? Just kill off Texas first and we can start from there.

I don’t want to bag on that lifestyle because I do think it’s a great way to live when done without patting your own back. Just don’t tell me how much healthier it is to be vegetarian/vegan while you’re smoking a cigarette. Living a greener lifestyle and reducing one’s meat intake is great, especially in the states where indulgence is such an issue. Also, this blog is not meant for too much venting, more just inner thoughts about what Devyn and I have discussed. So please, feel free to tell me how much of an uneducated asshole I am in the comments :).

Too much reading, here are more Gili photos:

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If you want to save money, eat at side streets and food markets. Devyn and I fed ourselves for $4 USD almost every night. Sure, it is nice to go to some of the other restaurants conveniently located on the main strip, but if you want your bang for your buck, take an extra few minutes to do some searching. Speaking of Devyn and I, anyone who thinks they’re in a solid relationship, I dare you to travel this long with each other. Boy, do you work out kinks. If anything, this trip has made me realize why this girl is my forever. Mediocre relationships wouldn’t survive this so yes, I’m tooting my own horn; we are awesome.

It was during the Gilis where we realized we were planting ourselves in one country too long. Meeting people who work in the Gilis (especially our dive instructors) we realized we can’t just do play time forever. Many of the workers from other countries work during the day and rage at night. Repeat. Devyn and I can’t wait to be a boring, home bodied couple drinking wine and watching movies after a long days work. We aren’t meant for the party lifestyle and a trip like this makes you ready to grow up. Here’s more photos:

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If you ever do a budget trip like this, don’t stay in one country too long. You get bored. We ended up booking a flight two weeks earlier than originally planned to head home.

After the Gilis, we decided to spend the last week of Indonesia back in Kuta. With our bigger budget from cutting the trip short, we hired a guy to drive (you can find these anywhere) us around and take us parasailing, to a coffee plantation, and an awesome Hindu Temple with wild monkeys. We got ripped off for parasailing by a few hawkers, but it was still fun.

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SPEAKING OF HAWKERS!!!!!! I mentioned them in another blog post, but did not explain what they are. Kuta is the main destination for a lot of people visiting Bali, so naturally it’s full of hawkers. Hawkers are people who set up little shops on sidewalks selling faux versions of various products (ie. sunglasses, shirts, etc). Usually it’s really cheap because it’s bootleg copies. From what I heard, most of them are not Balinese.

I really wanted Bintang (their local and only beer) t shirts because my clothes reek and I thought it would be cool. Devyn and I venture into a little store where, of course, they’re trying to pressure you. It comes with the territory. But, this guy in particular, tried selling me two shirts for 750,000 rupiah, or over $60USD. I said no way and only wanted one. Mind you, I got a sweet pair of sunglasses a few weeks ago for $4. We went back and forth and I told him no more than 75,000 rupiah at best. He took that as a deal, bagged the product and stuck it in my face. Devyn, being the smart person she is, said no way and it’s going to be no more than 50,000. One thing led to another, he got pissed and (for my younger audience, the rest of the this is explicit) said “fuck you” to Devyn.

When someone says that to your fiancé, your natural instincts are to punch the guy. But you’re in a country where that leads to serious problems with the po-po. I tried being calm and telling him to not speak that way, so he said “fuck you” to me. Dev and I took off while flipping him off. He continued being an asshole which led to a darker side of myself. Without too much detail, it ended with me saying, “Have fun eating dirt for the rest of your life, you cocksucker.” (I told you mom, but it’s clean language now)

I’m human and have minor anger issues, especially when my fiancé is insulted. It’s incredibly horrible to say that and is not a 100% my character, but when you’re worked up, it’s amazing what you will say. The whole point of this trip is to see the world and have learning experiences. This particular experience is a good example of how I have many flaws, and I should work on not allowing it to bring out cruelty. I’m an asshole sometimes, but who isn’t? It’s why I disagree with Sirius XM firing Anthony Cumia. People get worked up. Look that up.

The only thing I regret is grouping hawkers in with the Balinese. Balinese, true Balinese people, are beautiful souls who never have anything bad to say. We even met a guy named Putu who invited us to his brother’s wedding. Hawkers are not true representations of this culture, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t exactly wish I didn’t say what I said.

I’m an American. I’m a white male. Naturally, I was born with privilege. I don’t deny that. But out of this, no matter the scenario, I can learn to be a little more humanistic and apathetic to others without what I was born with.

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Backpacking in 82 Days-October 2nd, 2014

Day 1 of our trip through NZ, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia. We are currently at LAX; it’s really beautiful! Talk about soaking in the sites. I have terrible flight anxiety so Devyn and I went to the airport bar, drank and took a Xanax. Off to a solid start! It’s also the smallest terminal I’ve seen. You have a Starbucks, a bar, a toilet and that’s it. #whitepeopleproblems

Aloha!

Aloha!

That's beer

That’s beer

Kings 2014 Champs=Good for hockey in California

It’s probably been about 20 minutes (probably even longer once this is posted) since I watched LA King’s Alec Martinez score in double overtime in a game 5 against the New York Rangers to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Easily, the King’s road in the playoffs, for me personally, was the most exciting four rounds of hockey I’ve watched in a while. A few weeks ago it was even hailed that the Western Conference Final between LA and Chicago was classic, fast-paced hockey. Needless to say, watching the King’s in the playoffs has been heart pounding and exciting, with an excellent finish.

Now, before the bandwagoning accusations start flying, let me set the record straight: I’m a diehard Red Wings fan from pre-puberty days and I laugh at modern day Kings fans who don’t know who Barry Melrose is. Below I will demonstrate my proof:

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I’m about 10-years-old here; around two years after the Wings swept the Washington Capitals to be the last team to win the Cup two years in a row.

 

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I also got arrested in October of 2011. Notice anything? That’s right! My face does look chubby!

 

 

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I’m also a huge fan of the sport in general. I played for my high school and won state back in 2006. So does this eliminate any bandwagon allegations yet? If not, well, I can poop on your face if that helps.

 

Back to the topic at hand: the Kings, at the hands of muppet face Darryl Sutter, now lead the three California hockey teams (Anaheim-1 cup, San Jose-0, LA-2) in Stanley Cup Championships. Now, regardless of how you feel about the Kings, set aside all emotions and just hear me out. With LA bringing the Cup to SoCal twice, not only is California slowly being put on the map in regards to hockey, but it seems California residents are finally paying attention to a great sport. Now that the Lakers suck, those alleged sports fan have another local team to root for.

Throughout my childhood, basketball, baseball, and especially football dominated popular sporting events and I was always the outcast watching those pasty Europeans and Canadiens chase a piece of rubber around. Now, California’s basketball teams don’t make it past the second round of the NBA playoffs and the NFL is turning into a circus sideshow, with players bitching about pass interference to get an extra 15 yards. And baseball, well, I’ll try avoid being bias about baseball (it sucks). When the Anaheim Ducks won back in 2007, it brought some minor attention (and yes, bandwagons) to the sport. It was also great seeing Teemu Selanne get his name on the cup. I mean, who doesn’t like that guy? Unfortunately, Anaheim is not a major city like Los Angeles, so the attention is minimal. And let’s be honest: The San Jose Sharks are the San Diego Chargers of hockey. They look great in the regular season, but blow it in the playoffs. I don’t think anyone is waiting around for San Francisco’s unwanted step brother to pull off any magic.

With Los Angeles, people know that name. With Anaheim, I generally had to remind my friends in San Francisco (I spent my college life there) that it’s where Disneyland is. When I say hockey is a great sport, I don’t use “great” lightly. It’s fast, physical, intense and most of all, there’s so much respect in the game. I recommend to anyone who is new to the sport to read The Code. It discusses the aesthetics of fighting in hockey and how wrong people are when they call it “barbaric.” Anyone else notice how at the end of every playoff series there’s a handshake line? There’s so much respect and class in that sport that it’s mind boggling how people watch anything else.

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And I can’t fathom how Superbowl Champs call themselves “world champs.” It’s an American sport! No one else plays it, so I guess technically, you are the best team in the world. But I was too distracted to give a fart during Kurt Russell’s pre game introductions. Going back to class in hockey, watch Teemu Selanne’s post game 7 interview, after the Ducks lost to the Kings earlier this playoff year. It was Selanne’s last NHL game and the Kings pounded their sticks on the ice (it’s a hockey way to convey various positive emotions). I think he sums it up quite nicely. “[Class] it’s what the game is about.”

 

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https://www.evernote.com/shard/s370/sh/374afba9-c68b-4e14-8fb9-1b63e06bff77/35c79a29b5042ae895545803516a749b

Click that ^ please to further your understanding.

Once LA started gaining momentum and looked like a threat in the playoffs back in 2012 (first time since 2001) people started paying attention. I’ve noticed a surge in old friends and companions I had back in high school who started waving the King flag, but flash back to when I’m 16, they didn’t know what icing was. Now, they’re talking hockey smack and going to sports bars to rep their team. Hey, I completely agree with many of the bangwagoning accusations. Yeah, more likely than not, they’re paying attention because the Kings won. The Kings have them. The Ducks had them. The Red Wings have them. There’s no escaping it. But regardless of that, it’s a great stepping stone for hockey to gain more West Coast recognition and fans. Those poor souls who wait all year for a 16 week season (football) of prancing goons, or those who have the time to watch all 8,435 baseball games, now hopefully, have had their eyes opened. There’s a great sport being played and we can finally stop basketball from being played at every restaurant! The Mid-West and East Coast are fine; they don’t need any additional help. The West Coast does! Especially California.

We’re a coastal state. People are surf bums, potheads, hipsters, assholes, and there’s a ridiculous rivalry between NorCal and SoCal, where all the beef is really in the Bay Area for reasons I’ll never understand, other than to toot their own horn. Even if you’re a disgruntled Shark fan, look at the grand scheme of things! We’re not known for this sport on ice, but we’re slowly gaining momentum and fans along the way. It’s the last few sports played with any real heart.

Sure, some of the fans will probably dwindle away once the Kings lose their crown, but to sum all of this up, how I see this, it’s great exposure to one of the greatest sports ever played. The more fans that this sport can gather, the better. Speaking of cups, I say this with the upmost sincerity:

There is only one cup in my book and it has nothing to do with soccer.

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Hockey memes courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/hockeymemepage

Check that out! Quite hilarious.

 

Jesus, let’s grab a beer: Intro

It has taken me a while to transcribe my thoughts and feelings about these endeavors. Everything I am writing (now and in the future of this “series”) probably won’t be conveyed as well as I hope. I’m sure I will forget minuscule, yet important details. This series, if I bother to keep it going, will include something I hate doing; taking myself serious. 

Before getting to the main point of all this, like everything else, it’s probably important to start in the beginning. My girlfriend and I went to see the musical, “Book of Mormon” and the show’s playbill had advertisement saying “the book is always better.” It offered some number to text, and receive a free copy of the actual book and being a sucker for free shit, I caved in. 

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A few days later, I get a call from Mormon missionaries asking if we could get together. I knew it! There’s a catch! I can’t even get a free book without a lecture. It’s like those time share scams. But, I agreed and they came over. And this is where my journaling started. Being fascinated by religion, I started meeting any religious affiliate I could to not just educate myself, but understand how people believe this stuff. “Jesus, let’s grab a beer” includes my journal entries about my conversations, while including my two cents. 

INTRODUCTION: 

To explain what I believe in takes too long and may sound too vague. I guess you could say I’m an Agnostic deist if we had to use labels.  I do feel like there’s something spiritual out there and if there’s a higher being or creator, he doesn’t give a shit. “You’re a bad game of sims.”-Bo Burnham 

Any religious belief, be it Christianity or Mormonism, the burden of proof is on their end and I have yet to be convinced that what they believe is credible. I don’t dismiss Evolution and I lean more toward science than faith, and why I lean that way is a different discussion and not the point of why I’m doing this.

Whether or not a person believes religion is the heart of evil or the central foundation of a person’s life, I find religion fascinating and want to learn more. I don’t know, maybe it’s my love of fantasy or science fiction as a result of what excites me about religion, as cooky as they are. It’s why I haven’t converted to anything; I want to learn about beliefs on the whole spectrum, but it’s impossible if I have a presupposition about Jesus; then discussion turns to debate. Basically, I can’t be a Christian trying to learn about Mormonism because it wouldn’t be a learning experience; it would be a “No, my fairytale has more truth than yours. You’re wrong!”

I’m not looking for a heated debate nor am I trying to call someone stupid, I just want to talk. The discussion aspect has a tendency to turn to mockery, while religion uses hell and outdated metaphors to oppress gay people. I don’t want anything like that. I did this for myself and I just recorded my own thoughts and reflections.

After spending my last year in college reading Richard Dawkin’s book, or following the late Christopher Hitchens, the debate excited me. I was fascinated with Lawrence Krauss’s discussion on “nothingness” and I watched a lot of Atheist Experience out of Texas. I also laughed every time Pat Robinson and Ray Comfort opened their mouths. I started leaning toward the atheist perspective, but it became a bias and I would just look for anything that would discredit religious beliefs. If I really want to learn about this, and if I’m as “open” about it, I should hear it from other people that aren’t on the internet.

So, my journals encompass my experiences as what they are; learning experiences. I don’t profess to know anything and quite frankly, I understand jack shit about the majority of these topics. These are not meant to really be viewed as anything more than journal entries and if someone decides to read it, awesome. But, come on Jesus, let’s grab a beer.

The Guide To Being A Man?? LOL

How old this column of “advice” may be, I was just recently exposed to it. It is essentially CNBC’s John Carney, who also is behind the @GSElevator twitter account, giving his insight on being a “real man” You don’t know who John Carney is? It is ok. A simple google search won’t clear that up. Anyway, Mr. Carney was kind enough to offer his insight on what it takes to be a “real man” in 2013. But it all it ends up sounding like is a graduated frat boy’s list of how to remain a douchebag, yet, still try appear as an adult. You can check out the original page here. In the meantime, here are my rebuttals to his list. I am just another asshole with an opinion, keep in mind. 

(my responses are in bold)

You will regret your tattoos.- Will I really though? I love my tattoos. Mine are just a reflection of my Norwegian background and my love for Irish music. Mr. Carney, do you have tattoos? Do you regret yours? I’m pretty sure I’d regret my tattoos as well if it was ridiculous font spewing out “Only God Can Judge Me” or having my last name tattooed on my back. Then yes, I would regret my tattoos. I’d also be writing a column on how to be a real man, when in reality, I’m just suppressing how big of a tool I am. 

Stop talking about where you went to college.- This is the first of many words of wisdom that has no correlation with being a man. Yes, someone who talks about their college continuously is irritating, but so are roided out brothers talking about how many handles of no-label vodka they killed. To each its own Mr. Carney. This does not contribute to one’s masculinity, it contributes to whether or not people are going to want to hang out with them. Let people be proud and live in the past as long as they want. 

The best public restrooms are in hotels.-Um, I’ll call bullshit. The best public restroom is the great outdoors. Ever been camping and were in desperate need of a quick piss or poop? Have no fear. You just drop your pants and let your body do the rest. There are no stall lines and you don’t have to deal with the pesky task of washing your hands. I don’t need my shits to feel prestigious, elite or 5 stars. I just need enough dirt to bury my shit in a hole. 

After college, never stay out after midnight three nights in a row… Unless something really good comes up on the third night.-Or unless there is a 3 day weekend. You let me dictate my own sleep pattern Mr. Carney. A real man comes inside when the street lights come on. 

If riding the bus doesn’t incentivize you to improve your station in life, nothing will.-Do you live in San Francisco? Owning a car sucks, and has nothing to do with your station in life. Riding the bus is great! You can drink all the Natural Ice you want and not have to worry about driving home! Why does owning a car make you a man? At $4 a gallon, it makes you stupid. I have professors on tenure or sabbatical and they ride Muni. I would say my professors, who encouraged my growth and learning experience, have a great station in life. Does owning a nice car make you feel better about yourself? Most people just end up making fun of your penis size.  

Time is too short to do your own laundry.-…said the person who doesn’t know how to do their own laundry. But hey, I can’t help but agree. Time is too short to wipe your own ass, blow your own nose, pump their own gas: YOLO bro.  

When the bartender asks, you should already know what you want to drink.- Unless you’re at a brewery bar or speakeasy. Been to one of those? You’re foolish if you don’t take the time to enjoy the different options of the beers or cocktails they offer. But no, you’re right. Just continue having your whiskey or rum watered down with Coke. God damn, what a man! You probably drink Cosmopolitans too. 

You don’t have to like baseball, but you should understand the concept of what a pitcher’s ERA means. Approach life similarly.-Well that’s stupid. Do you understand the concept of icing, cross-checking, boarding or a Gordie-Howe hat-trick? If not, it is probably because you don’t watch hockey and I wouldn’t expect you to know these things otherwise. Speaking of which, if you want to discuss manliness, just look up professional hockey players Steve Stamkos or Greg Campbell, and that will help define your precious definition. The best part about these guys and sport is the humility, which, if we are going to discuss being a “man,” just makes you a decent person; much more than discussing those bitches you fucked with your frat buddies while jerking off on each other. Take notes. I don’t like baseball because it’s stupid, boring and being how unpatriotic I am, I could care less if it is America’s favorite past time. Also, stop trying to sound deep by applying the concept of understanding baseball terminologies to living life. Try this one on for size: If you don’t like something, don’t watch it. Deep, eh? 

When people don’t invite you to a party, you really shouldn’t go. And sometimes even when you are invited, you shouldn’t go.-When people don’t invite you to party, you really shouldn’t go because you weren’t invited. It’s rude. When you are invited, and still don’t go, well then you’re just a flake and most people will stop caring about you making an appearance. Nothing to do with manliness, just being pretentious. You’re on a roll good sir. 
 


When in doubt, always kiss the girl.-Sure, but your mom doesn’t count. 

Tip more than you should.– Also, nothing to do with masculinity. However, a very kind gesture. Anyone in the service industry will certainly appreciate this. So, you’re not completely hopeless. 

When the bouncer says it’s time for you to leave, it is.-Yeah, probably. What’s your manly point? 

Buy expensive sunglasses. Superficial? Yes, but so are the women judging you. And it tells these women you appreciate nice things and are responsible enough not to lose them.-Are you only going for superficial girls? I have Star Wars posters in my room and heck, my girlfriend still likes me. I also have an HD Television as well as a Pearl Export drum set. Both of which are more expensive than sunglasses, more useful, in good shape and I appreciate these nice things a lot. Does that really say anything more than I enjoy my movies in HD and I play music as a hobby? Guess what Mr. Carrey, or is it Carney? Sorry, this got long. Chicks dig musicians! I’ll stick to my Wal-Mart sunglasses while being better at something than you. This doesn’t make me more of a “man” than you; it just shows that I have a passion for something other than being Patrick Bateman. Enjoy your spray tan. 

Do 50 push-ups, sit-ups, and dips before you shower each morning.-You’re health conscious. That’s a great thing. Something that applies to both sexes. You’re so smart.  


Eat brunch with friends at least every other weekend.-Why brunch? Whenever I’ve had brunch, no one has ever walked by and said, “Hey Connie! Look at that man!” Is brunch really the manly meals of all meals? Can’t I just circle jerk with my friends every other weekend instead? It’s cheaper and we still have time to watch the game. 

Be a regular at more than one bar.-Or get a new hobby/past time. If drinking is your main activity of nightlife other than having people make fun of you, you’re stupid. 

No selfies. Aspire to experience photo-worthy moments in the company of a beautiful woman.-You sound like someone who instagrams their food. 

Posting pictures on Facebook from a private jet or Vegas suite let’s everyone know it’s your first time… and probably the last.-Or you can just let them post pictures about their life, when in reality, no one cares. Your pictures serve no more purpose to the general public or your friends than the aforementioned. I’d personally be pretty stoked to be on a private jet. Is being stoked about something you normally don’t get to do make you less masculine? Well then, I lost all my masculine points getting excited over Miley Cyrus’s new jam.   

You can get away with a lot more if you’re the one buying the drinks.-You can also have some money left over for that manly brunch date the next day if you’re coaxing others to buy your rounds. I can also get away with a lot more on the internet. What’s your point Darwin? 

Ask for a salad instead of fries.
-Dressing on the side right? This will make it ok to continue pumping alcohol in your system. Thank goodness for that salad. 

Don’t split a check.-Your server would probably appreciate that. You have some kind gestures littered through here Mr. Corny. 

Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.-…said Captain Douchebag. Have you ever worked in a bar sir? Often times, a pretty woman just wants to read a book (or iPad) and drink their wine. Or did your steroids and spray tan give you the impression everyone likes you? “They hate us, because they ain’t us.”-said every insecure jackoff. 

When a bartender buys you a round, tip double. -I will give you this; when it comes to restaurant etiquette,

 I’d really hope to serve you one day. Your man tips, however, come across as vague. 

Find a Times New Roman in the streets and a Wingdings in the sheets. She exists.-“A day without sunshine is like night.” What’s your point? 

Piercings are liabilities in fights.-Very true. Do you just assume, Mr. Manly, that being a man, means you’re going to fight? Anyone who has the audacity to make this list can have their asses kicked by my sister. (she’s pretty scary though) Pressing your faces close together, resisting a quick smooch, while yelling “What the fuck bro?” isn’t a fight. This is a fight.

Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don’t mind that she’s eating yours.
-Excuse me? Have you ever had Chubby Hubby? You’re missing out. You appear to fancy yourself a prestigious fellow. What about those fancy 3 course meals? I managed to have one in Napa, paired with different types of wine. When they handed me the dessert paired with a Cabernet, I didn’t act sexist and respond, “Oh, no thanks! Desserts are for women.” Desserts aren’t like a piece of clothing. 

Buy a tuxedo before you are thirty. Stay that size.
-You sound very health conscious. I admire that. But does it have to be a tuxedo? Girls do the same thing with a pair of jeans or their wedding dresses. The desire to want to fit into a piece of clothing you purchased at 30 doesn’t mean you’re a man; it means you want to remain fit. 

One girlfriend at a time is probably enough.
-Oh man, could you imagine having two? Think of the headaches! Actually, having more than one makes you a dick. 

Throw parties. 
But have someone else clean up the next day.-Be an asshole! Why don’t you have the people who do your laundry clean your house? Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?

Measure yourself only against your previous self.-A good piece of advice for everyone. Still, not applicable to one sex. You suck. 

If you wear a baseball cap in bars, the girls will assume you are balding.-What about beanies? Fedoras? Those cool hats from the 30s? If you wear a muscle t-shirt in a bar, the bar will assume you’re a tool. 

Revenge can be a good way of getting over anger.-Well, good thing I’m writing this.  



If she expects the person you are 20% of the time, 100% of the time, then she doesn’t want you.-No one ever liked you for your personality, did they?

Always bring a bottle of something to the party.

– A very sweet gesture again. There’s a human being in there! I can sense it!

Avoid that “last” whiskey. You’ve probably had enough.-It’s not whiskey if you put Coke in it, pussy.  


If you are wittier than you are handsome, avoid loud clubs.-Yeah, probably. Clubs are stupid and only exist to boost your ego for your mediocre social status. Enjoy your $20 vodka tonic. If you’re handsome and a real man, you spend an hour on WordPress responding to a “Be A Real Man List…” Duh!  


Learn how to speak before a large audience.-That’s what my speech teacher said. That class had more than just dudes in it. Probably a good skill to learn for everyone. 

Do not buy the product insurance.-Just because you said not to, I’m going to. You mad bro?

If it’s got velvet ropes and lines, walk away unless you know someone.-If the line is too long, get a Fastpass, and go on the Buzz Lightyear ride.  


No one cares if you are offended, so stop it.-This whole piece is just ironic then isn’t it, queer? Is that offensive?  


Never take an ex back. She tried to do better and is settling with you.-What are you, 17? 

Eating out alone can be magnificent. Find a place where you can sit at the bar.-It really can. But I thought if someone was alone, it should be assumed that they want us to talk to them. 

Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting.-Well, if you’re trying to pick up on superficial girls, they can’t read anything else except their iPhones, so the idea of reading is obsolete. Also, reading “The Hunger Games” doesn’t make you more interesting. 

Don’t ever say, “It is what it is.”-You’re a douche. it is what it is. 

Start a wine collection for your kids when they are born. Add a few cases every year without telling them. It’ll make a phenomenal gift in twenty years.Or be a “real man” and build them a treehouse, eh? What if your kids don’t like wine? What a phenomenal waste of time. 

Don’t gamble if losing $100 is going to piss you off.Probably, yeah. I still don’t get where this ties in to the man factor.

 

Holy shit, did you get through all that? If so, here’s a picture of the Emperor.

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Do you also find it funny that I took the time to respond to all of that? So do I. I’m just another asshole with a blog, my opinion doesn’t really matter, but I certainly have fun writing it. Thank you and go with Christ.