How to entertain yourself on an airplane.

I’ve have spend a few hours on an airplane. If “few” could be defined as more than a 1000. When the US Banks did their big-bail out in 2008, it dumped the world into a recession, BUT it also bumped my Business class privileges to Cattle class levels. We all know that sitting in a chair for eight hours becomes a bit tedious as there are only SO much one can do on a plane. And then you might even end up in an old model WITHOUT a screen on the seat in front of you!!

For those who want to live on the wild side I’ve taken the liberty of providing a list of things that will ensure your flight is extremely exciting. I have even ranked them for entertainment value and quick reference.

1. Wear a fat suit. It’s not that I have anything against fat people, but your average economy class seat has very specific, confined dimensions. Once your girth exceeds those dimensions, the result is an overspill of your skin/fat into the next seat. This excess body will rub and touch your fellow passenger for the duration of the flight. And if you’re really lucky you would have hit the jackpot with a middle seat. I rate this one a 7.

2. Get up mid-flight and inform the air hostess that the passenger on your left has a gun and is sweating anxiously. Tell her he has been mumbling some Arab prayer. Then stand back and watch a full-blown action movie unfold within seconds. The obvious risk would be that you might not get to your destination, miss your connecting flight and spend the next few nights in some jail. You will also have the wrath of 250 other passengers on your conscience. But then again, you only live once. Bonus points if you’re sitting next to an actual Arab looking dude. I rate this one an 9 for it takes some serious balls to try this. And with balls I mean nuts. And with nuts I mean, ah man you get the picture.

3. Consume copious amounts of garlic prior to boarding your flight. For more efficient results, do this the night before boarding, but then again, don’t expect any goodbyes from the wife on your way out the door. Remember when I say copious amounts I mean a shit load, enough to make your eyes burn. Add to that smelly feet, and you have a real winner. This is a much less adventurous option so I rate this one a 4. It’s 4 da wimps…

4. Talk non-stop and loud throughout the flight. About anything, about nothing. Just let your tongue do the work. (And for those grinning now, perve…) The trick is to continue talking even if the person you’re talking to puts on headphones and would obviously prefer being dead than listening to another word sprouting from your mind. Then you know you’ve succeeded. It’s mind-blowing to see normal people descend from friendliness, move past politeness, fly past irritation and rudeness and end up in full blown state of not even acknowledging your presence. Some people do it a lot faster than others, especially hearing about your cousin’s acne or your irregular bowl movements. Bonus points if you can dress-up and act like an old lady. Or a nun. I rate this one a 6.

5. Spill everything you drink on the same person throughout the flight. Do it with exaggerated motion whilst talking, or when you’re passing drinks, man anything. Find ingenious way to spill. Water, coffee, red wine! Please note that even the most feeble, soft spoken person will get pissed off with this, so you’re guaranteed to have a fist/palm in your face at some point. The fun is to see how quickly you would be able to feel knuckle skin on your teeth. I rate this on an 9, if only for the courage required for perfect execution.

6. On the flipside, drink excessive amounts of liquids to the point that your bladder feels like Mount Rushmore. Or like you’re about to give birth to quintuplets. Then get up. It would be really bad luck if all the lavatories are occupied when you need to go, but  it’s all part of the challenge, is it not? Once your back in your seat and feel ten gallons lighter, just start the process again. Ignore the frowning, condescending looks you will receive.  It’s all about the luck of the draw, but another bonus point if you got the window seat. This is a definite 7.

7. Fight for the arm rest like it’s the last thing you’ll ever be able to do. The confrontation will start as soon as you board the plane and shove your luggage in the compartment. You’ll have to buckle quickly and take your position. If you arrive at your designated row first, it’s easy, but the real challenge come when someone is already seated. Then you will need skill, to ensure success with a subtle, quick, sneaky move. It’s about displaying dominance early on. And not the black leather, whip-carrying type, just big man-little man type. Once you taste success, see whether you can maintain that position for the duration of the flight. Also another 7.

8. When the cabin lights goes off and the shades are pulled down for the “sleep sessions”, take your blanket pull it up to your chin, snuggle in the little pillow and close your eyes. After a few seconds flip your head to the side and make sure its falls on the shoulder of your fellow man. Make cuddling noises, then wait another second or two before you commence snoring. Full on sleep hypopnea-indusive snoring. Like Barbara Streisand with a nasal infection. Another 6.

9. Whilst watching your movie, lean over and take a few glimpses of the one the person is watching next to you. If you’ve seen the movie, motion for them to remove the headphones and then give a full blown movie review, dropping hints about the ending or any other plot twists that might ruin the said movie for them. If you haven’t seen it, then just lie, blatantly. You might have to duck after that conversation. Or change seats. Or receive some immediate medical attention. And you can always try to calm them down by ordering some wine, only to spill it once again for good measure. Another 8 because no guts, no glory.

10. Masturbate. While in your seat. Without a blanket. And see how quickly you get arrested. Or thrown off the plane. Or maybe you’ll receive some assistance. Who knows? When I was finishing off during my last inbound flight… Yes, I’m kidding. What do you take me for? An average male? This is my only 10 on the list. And rightly so, for it’s all about execution, and everyone needs a climax at the end of great post, don’t you agree?

So here is me wishing you all a very entertaining flight, the next time you travel by air.

For more insanity hop over to Ah Dad… where I try and entertain a lost world AND hope my kids read my ramblings one day.

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“How to Get a Camel into the Eye of a Needle”

How to get a camel through the eye of a needle is a very common question that isn’t often answered very effectively. Allow me to shed some light on the subject.

1. Visit the desert. You may want to make sure you have plenty of water and a cooler full of ice so that you do not die of exhaustion or heat stroke. Be sure to bring a needle.

2. Visit a camel rental and rent a camel. Make sure the camel is well behaved and in good health. Be prepared for some spit.

3. Tie one end of a tether or rope to your camel, and the other end to the nearest cactus. You may want to purchase some thick gloves prior to doing so. This will prevent your hands from being mauled by the cactus.

4. Find your needle. This step is essential.

5. Prepare yourself for a mind-blowing experience.

6. Ensure that a distance of at least 25 yards is between you and the camel.

7. Hold the needle very close to your face, so that you can see through the hole in the top (otherwise known as the eye.).

8. Adjust the needle so that the camel appears to be inside of the eye. You did it! You got the camel into the eye of the needle.

9. Convince your traveling companions and any spectators that you are not insane. Good luck!

How To Choose the Best Motel

This post first appeared on The Monkey Bellhop

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Hello friends.  If you’re like me, you live for family road trips.  If you’re not, don’t read any further and go do something productive.  I’m the last guy to want to force you to stick around and read about something that you couldn’t give two hoots about.  I’m not being magnanimous here, I’d just expect you to do the same thing for me when you write about something on your blog that’s of no interest like “The Art of Blacksmithing is Alive and Well in Skokie, IL!” or “I Went to the Mall. It’s Crazy There!”.

Road Trips

There is nothing more rewarding or adventurous than a planned or spontaneous road trip. The exhilaration and feeling of excitement you get simply by locking up the house and yelling across the street to the neighbor you get along with that you won’t be back this way again for a few days, maybe more!  The opportunity to dust off some old organizational skills and call upon every working cell in your brain to successfully fill your car with your spouse, children, suitcases, duffel and sleeping bags, beloved pillows, stuffed animals, coolers and 275 pounds of iPods, iPhones, iPads, computers, navigation equipment, cameras, headphones and charging chords — all while leaving a postcard size space in the center of the rear windshield so you can identify whether the driver who is tailgating you is a headcase or not and whether or not you can safely give him “the look” the moment before he hurtles past you.

And of course, the steel will and determination required to not leap from the vehicle you are driving at 72 miles an hour when, 15 minutes in,  everyone begins arguing about when, where and what kind of food they will or will not eat and what type of motel they will or will not stay at for the night.

I’ve stayed in hundreds of motels across this great nation of ours, from smog encrusted California to the pristine, oil sheeny banks of the mighty Arthur Kill in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  From the Pat O’Brien’s tourist trapped, sticky red Hurricane rum soaked streets of the New Orleans French Quarter to the pristine, oil sheeny banks of the mighty Arthur Kill in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  From the Canadian owned and operated, how could they possibly be that friendly, I bet they say sarcastic things about me when my back is turned, jagged and slippery rocked Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, to the pristine, oil sheeny banks of the mighty Arthur Kill in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  Yes, I always return to NJ.  It’s not because I love it.  It’s because I’m on probation.

Why Motels?

On long trips of 500 miles or more, the need to spend a night at a motel often arises. When I travel long distances by car, outside of knowing the ultimate destination, I don’t always plan ahead.   I like managing my vacations the same way I manage my life and as far as I know, it’s sort of worked out very well.  Depending on who you ask.  Do me a favor and don’t reach out to anyone direct.  If you’re that interested, I’ll get you a list.

Selecting the right motel is never easy as the motel industry, as a rule,  has its share of nebulous characters and nefarious practices.   Or is it nefarious characters and nebulous practices?  I don’t have time to look it up.  My wife has decided we need to get the house in order today and I’m already in trouble as it is.  Anyway, while you sleep — scratch that.  While you toss and turn at night or feign sleep so you can ignore the tossing and turning and complaints of your loved ones, the motel industry plots and schemes against you.  If there was such a thing as reincarnation, and such a thing as karma, and such a thing as the entire motel industry dying and being reincarnated, it would come back as a Venus Flytrap.  Most likely a national, loosely affiliated chain of Venus Flytraps.

What to Watch For and Consider When Selecting a Motel For the Night

On road journeys, there are two types of motel “environments”.   You have what I refer to as the “Major Chain” clusters that exist in larger towns and cities and are located directly off the highway exit — your Holiday Inn Expresses, Hilton Garden Inns, Marriot Courtyard Suites, Comfort Inns, etc.  They are often situated conveniently near six or seven major chain restaurants and two you never heard of but will check out to see if there is any local charm before heading over to Ruby Tuesdays.

The other motel environment is what I refer to as the “OK, I’m Getting Off At the Next Exit” category, situated in the, “For the love of God, the kids and I need to eat something and get some sleep!” part of the country which is two towns past all the major chains you flew past in spite of the whimpering and begging of your family.   Generally, these motels are located on the outskirts of unincorporated townships where people who have faked their own deaths for the insurance money live.

Since this is not a large market area, these motels are often unaffiliated with major chains but will give themselves names that sound vaguely familiar and reputable like “Motel 6 1/2″, “Hollandaise Inn”, “Marionette Motel Suites” or “Hitler Garden Inn”.  If you end up staying in a motel in this environment, whatever happens is as much your fault as the motel’s.

Restaurants in the “OK, I’m Getting Off At the Next Exit” category are practically nonexistent so I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of “Zagat’s 2013 Vending Machine Ratings Guide” before padding down the hall and deciding whether or not to spring for a microwavable cheesesteak sandwich with a picture of Artie Shaw on the label.

To be fair, the opportunity, though slim, exists that you may stumble upon a quaint, charming, independently owned motel in a remote corner of the world which is operated by a kindly, conscientious caretaker who has never stood in a lineup or spent weekends waiting on top of a large hill, mountain or garage roof to be picked up by extraterrestrials.   Regardless, always keep your wits about you when assessing motel options.  Legions of crafty proprietors across tourist trap communities all over America have learned that an enticing sign, facade and check-in area are the only investment needed to convince weary and road worn guests to sign on the dotted line.

It is only after, upon entering their rooms while pondering the limitless depths of their exhaustion and anticipating the good night’s sleep that will restore them in the morning, that the guests realize they have have agreed to pay $119.99 plus state, local, special occupancy, tourism and variable sundry taxes to spend the next eight hours in a room so sketchy, the Joads would have walked out to spend the night in their truck.

After years of staying in bad motels, I have assembled a list of experiences to remind me to look around and ask questions up front before deciding to check in or not.   I hope this list will help you as well:

How to Tell You Are In A Bad Motel:

  1. The night clerk is also the day clerk
  2. The majority of the signatures in the guest book are signed with an X
  3. When you turn on the television all the programs are in Kinescope
  4. The shampoo and conditioner comes in soy sauce sized packets
  5. The water pressure in the shower is so low, there’s no need to dry your back when you get out
  6. When the towel you wrapped around your waist brushes against the dresser two coats of varnish rub off
  7. A sign on the air conditioner warns that if you turn it up to “high”, you must inform the front desk first and sleep under a table or doorway
  8. The desk clerk comes to your room for coffee
  9. When you hear the couple in the next room moaning and banging the bed against the wall, it’s because they’re scratching themselves
  10. When you call the front desk, the clerk says, “We’ve already been made aware of the situation” before you have a chance to speak
  11. When you meet a fellow guest in the parking lot or reception area they ask. “How long are you in for?”
  12. You can hear your spouse or kids trying to fall asleep by repeating the mantra, “What ever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.
  13. You are visited by ghosts in the middle of the night and when they scream at you to get out, somehow you can just sense they are good ghosts
  14. The outdoor, in ground pool has a 1974 Dodge Dart “play station” at the bottom of it.
  15. You’re almost 100% certain that the brown eyes in the mounted moose head above your bed were blue the day before.

My recommendation is whenever possible, to always select a nationally recognized motel within a major chain cluster area.  While a four star hotel and an advanced dinner reservation will enhance your marriage and delight your children, and a night at a clean and pleasant Holiday Inn Express will neither hurt or harm the marriage as long as there is some sort of pool to delight your children, a terror filled night in a joint called Eddie’s Hideaway Inn with an empty pool and a beagle with one eye snarling up at you from the bottom of it can lead to a request for separate vacations right in the middle of the one you’re currently on.

Negotiating the Motel Rate

The cost of any motel room is always 10% lower than advertised or stated over the phone.  In order to receive the 10% reduction simply say the following, “Do you have a?”  Before you finish saying the word “Do”, the check-in clerk will drop the rate 10%.  My understanding is that the discount could be associated with AAA or AARP but I’ve never been asked to show a card or prove membership.  I believe affiliation with AAA or AARP really doesn’t matter anyway because the motel clerk always marks up the room tax by an additional 10% .  It is widely known that there are only three people in the United States who understand how the hotel/motel room tax is structured in the first place and the odds of you being one of them are slim to none.

Using Motel Pools

An indoor motel pool is always the highlight for most children and normally the requests to go for a swim begin at the same time the clerk is jacking up the room tax to offset your AAA or AARP discount.  I have found the experience to be a mixed bag, with some motels going all out with large pools, free towels, attractive lighting and life preservers that aren’t actually bolted to the wall, while others seem to have “phoned in” their indoor pools, providing tiny, vaguely vat like cavities situated in gray, dimly lit rooms and located at the rear of the building where there is often a view of the highway you wish you were back on at that very moment.

While the shape, size and atmosphere may vary, there are two things that are common in every motel pool in every town or city in America.  The first is that there is some sort of chemical reaction that takes place between chlorine exposed skin and industrially laundered motel sheets and towels that creates the sensation that your body is either slowly being consumed by a low grade acid or being attacked by millions of tiny insects.  The second common aspect found in every motel pool in America is that no matter what time of day or evening you come in for a swim, there is a couple in the pool who are on their honeymoon.

So should you take the plunge?  I don’t see any lasting harm as long as you don’t try to soothe your skin afterward with the complimentary free lotion the motel provides.  I’m not a scientist or a chemist, but I will swear to you that there’s an ingredient in that skin lotion that reacts with the chlorine and industrial laundry detergent and believe me,  if you slather that stuff on after going for a swim, taking a hot shower, drying your body with one of those 80 grit towels and then climbing under the sheets,  you will wish you had never been born.

And as always, don’t go anywhere near the hot tub.

In Summation

Well, I hope I’ve provided you with some of the information and tools you need to choose the right motel for you and your family.  Finding decent lodging should never be a chore and road trips really are the only option people have these days if they truly want to get to those destinations the airlines say they can fly to but then don’t because God keeps messing with their weather.  If for any reason, after reading this article, you’ve decided motels are no longer an option, just remember there is always camping.

© 2013 The Monkey Bellhop and John Hartnett

How to Be a Tourist In New York City

The following post was written by Jenna Nobs.

1. Hold your iPhone at arm’s length from your face as you struggle to orient your direction on Google Maps. You might also consider carrying a sign that says, “Free mobile device, I won’t put up a struggle.”

2. Look right at the Empire State building and tell your friend that it’s not the Empire State Building. I mean it can’t be, because the other buildings around it look taller, right? Perspective, what’s that?

3. Buy a hotdog from a street vendor. Oh, this strange unwashed man is going to nestle this oddly pale dog into a bun with his bare hands? What a personal touch, isn’t New York City charming!

4. Run up to people in Elmo suits like it’s fucking Disney World. Walk away with a souvenir photo and a complimentary squeeze on the ass.

5. Marvel at people who have coated themselves in metallic paint to look like statues, then scream like a little girl when they jump at you. Natives, by contrast, never lose their cool. Twerking in the middle of the sidewalk, no problem. Body pulled out of the Hudson, another day on Law & Order. Remember tourists, always lose your cool.

6. Apologize for bumping into people, and I mean every single one. We live in a civilized society.

7. Point in a completely random direction when someone asks you where a major landmark is. It’s just so flattering, how can you not mask your ignorance in that situation?

8. Comment that you’re pretty sure this is the street corner where Ice-T called someone his bitch on SVU. It’s perfect because you can’t be wrong.

9. Hail a taxi like you’re sticking your hand into an open flame. New Yorkers do tend to bite.

10. Walk down the block in a random direction to determine whether you’re going uptown or downtown, then turn around because obviously you’re wrong. Again. Seriously do natives have an internal compass?

11. Make eye contact with pushy street vendors and listen to their ten-minute sales pitch/accept a lot of fliers you don’t want while native passersby snicker at your vulnerability.

12. Whip out your disposable camera every time you see a building that looks historical or a guy in a Spiderman suit. Feel free to block foot traffic as you do so.

13. Be in Times Square.

14. Don’t give up your seat on the subway, no matter how old, pregnant, or weak standing passengers may be. Jesus Christ you guys, I’m kidding– this is New York City, not Lord of the Flies. Have a fucking soul.