Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Miami Diari, Days 4 and 5 (now with pictures!)

When last we left our intrepid hero...

It was Saturday, in Miami, the final day of the AAJA national convention.

Then moving intervened. But now, the conclusion of our story, featuring, as advertised, the two most amazing words in the English language:



That's right. Saturday was the day of my big trip to Monkey Jungle...

But first, the convention.

The most awkward moment of the weekend: I was sent, by proxy, to the chapter treasurers' meeting. Please note: I am not the chapter treasurer. There's a reason for this. That reason can best be summed up by saying: I don't handle the money. And I don't do math.

Needless to say, it was, outside of the free leftover breakfast items, an absolute disaster. One other participant-by-proxy fled as soon as even remotely dignifiedly possible. I lasted a bit longer, but not much.

Then we were off, driving our little rental car (a Chevy POS that, other than the lack of power locks/windows, actually kind of grew on us) through the Florida equivalent of over the river and through the woods to...

Monkey Jungle: Where Humans Are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild!

This is probably my new third- favorite place on Earth, though you'll have to take my word for it for now. At least, until I can post pictures.

This was awesome. Except, probably, for the fellow who got peed on.

And the fact that it was, once again, hot as hell.

Monkey jungle is what seems to be several acres of Florida jungle, with caged tunnels running through it, which the monkeys wander down from the trees to climb on, and you can put little raisins into little bowls-on-chains, which the little monkeys pull up to the roof and eat from.


We didn't see any capuchin monkeys - my favorite - sadly, but we saw tons of squirrel monkeys - Marisa's favorite.

There was also a gorilla - big monkey sit! - and an orangutan and lots of others.

Don't worry, there will be pictures! Big monkey sit!

Despite the heat - the soda we bought out of a machine came out near boiling, it was that hot - we struggled through, then retreated to the air conditioned car and went back to the hotel for the evening's festivities.

That included a silent auction, where M raided the CD-for-$2 table, and the great big gala. I served as one of the ticket-takers for the event, continuing my journalistic-event tradition of serving as the world's worst bouncer.

Then it was inside for a fairly nice dinner and a terrific, moving keynote speech by David Ng, the executive editor of the New York Daily News and a former colleague - in fact, the very man who talked me into joining AAJA.

Did I mention, at one point, as Tina Kim fled the room briefly, she stopped by my table for a wink and a nod?

Then it was...

Karaoke night!

Once, again, AAJA fights Asian stereotyping one free beer and dreadful song at a time. Actually, it's a pretty entertaining event, led by three young ladies in dresses that could only be described as lingerie crooning "Like a Virgin," and a couple of guys who jumped off the stage into the crowd and stuff.

Then there was some kind of hiphop guy who started grinding on folks in the audience while performing - after stripping off his shirt - and somehow, to M's probably unending delight, chose me as the token "yeah, let me grind on a guy for laughs" victim.

So I got into it a bit, grinding back. I think that got him by surprise, but hey, I was good and drunk and fully confident that - unlike last year - I was taking a good-looking woman back to my hotel room at the end of the night.

Yeah. I'm confident in my masculinity.

Then it was...

Tina Kim time!

That's right, capping my new don't-read-this-M lust for the journalist-turned-comedienne, she did a set at the show.

I thought it was pretty darn funny, if a bit ill-timed - by the time she hit the stage, everyone was kind of drunk and well into their conversations, so she had to shout over the crowd sometimes. Still, it went off quite well, and then Miss Kim disappeared into the night, and my fond memories.

And after that, 'twas time for a last free beer, then off to bed.

Sunday was getaway day, but because last year's convention had some Sunday programming, I scheduled an evening flight... and this year's didn't have any.

So we checked out, had a spot of brunch - giving our balloon munkee to the hostess at the hotel restaurant, for her little sister, thus ensuring it had a nice home rather than, say, bursting on the flight with a loud POP and causing both tears and a Homeland Security investigation.

After that, we went for a quick stop at my grandparents' graves in the Tamarac area. They don't get many visitors anymore, but I wanted them to meet Marisa. And, of course, I cried like a baby. But I did make sure the graves were well-kept. I miss them, especially at times when I think of our wedding and the house and how I hope they can see me and they're proud of me. How I wish they could be there.

We also passed the Seminole Hard Rock hotel, which is probably best known as the place where Anna Nicole Smith died.

And then it was time-killing time.

The first plan: Beat the heat at the Miami Seaquarium.

Problem: It turns out, most of the Miami Seaquarium is... outside.

So after watching the sharks feed, the dolphins ("Flipper"!) leap and M melt, we fled for the indoor paradise of ... Dave & Buster's.

(M got much better pictures of the leaping dolphins, by the way, a practical lesson in the difference between an 8 megapixel camera and a 3 megapixel camera.)

So Dave & Buster's is at the famous Dolphin Mall in Miami. That probably suggests we could find it easily.

Ding. Try again.

So after driving around Miami for about two hours...

(This way. That way. Always headed to the West, but never quite finding the right North/South crossing.)

We finally found it - mercifully, we discovered it was close to the airport when we... drove right past the airport. We're both two stubborn to have actually given up and gone to the airport without finding the food.

So, in the end, I had my first Dave & Buster's experience, capped off by beeping the horn repeatedly on some kind of cross-country trucking arcade game as M got farther than she ever had before on said game.

And then the airport, a fond farewell - no fighting this time - to our little rental car, and our flight home, mostly harmless but for one of those "let's bounce through the clouds on descent" kind of landings.

Which leads us to our last strange story of the trip.

We're at the airport, waiting for a cab (I'd parked at the office), and I look around the taxi queue, and I swear I see a fellow who resembles the publisher of my paper (for those unsure, that'd be The Man).

I'm looking at him, he's looking at me, we're both looking puzzled.

Now, it's 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday night/Monday morning, and I'm thinking our publisher should either a) be able to afford a limo; or b) be able to afford airport parking. M suggested I offer to share a cab to the office, which I vetoed on the grounds that this would be the sort of thing that might lead to a) my being embarassed that it's not the guy I thought; b) my getting fired; or c) possibly my getting promoted to something impressive.

As I think it might've been Woody Hayes said of the forward pass: Only three things can happen, and two of them are bad.

So we got our own cab back to the garage, and as we're standing outside debating whether M should stand out there with the luggage while I get the car...

The publisher drives out of the garage with a little "hey, that's the guy from the airport" wave.

Which begs the question: No, not "why was the publisher taking a cab?" which was my first instinct, but more practically speaking, "how did he beat us to the garage?"

I guess it pays to be The Man.

And thus ended my Miami trip, and thus resumes my regular blogging.

I leave you with this bit of football expertise: My fantasy team's quarterback is Vince Young, whose rights I kept because I think he's just a couple of pit bulls away from being the next Michael Vick!

Editor's note: I added a bit, and added the pix! Enjoy! Big munkee sit! Little munkees pull!

That's it... back to the blog!