September 17, 2009

My Letter To The President Of The United States

Message to the New President

By Brendan McFarland

DEAR MISTER PRESIDENT: Congratulations on winning the election. I always knew you would win, and not that other guy. I told all my friends that. You can ask them.

Mister President, let's get down to business. One of your first jobs, and most important jobs, will be to appoint ambassadors to other countries. I am pleased to inform you that I am available to become your ambassador to any of the following countries:

HAWAII—This is one of my favorite countries. But there is a problem here: The people worship volcanoes. One of my first actions, Mister President, would be to outlaw this practice. At first the people might resist, but later they would get down on their knees and thank their lucky stars.

BRAZIL—The name of this country gave us the words "bra" and "zillion." Also, it is home to the Brazil nut. My goal, Mister President, would be to eat as many Brazil nuts as I could, day in and day out. Then I would invite my friend Don to come visit me. He is deathly allergic to Brazil nuts. The hope is that just by shaking his hand, I could make him pass out. Some people say this is a long shot. But what's the alternative? Unfortunately, I believe, it's global warming.

FRANCE—As you are probably aware, Mister President, there is a place in France where the women wear no pants. This is a disgrace. Also, there is a region of France called "Champagne." The idea of women with no pants drinking Champagne is one which I would make my top priority.

VATICAN CITY—I'll be honest, Mister President: I would love to ride in the Popemobile. Riding behind that protective glass, making obscene, taunting gestures at my friends while they fired bullets at me, would be the spiritual highlight of my life.

IRAQ—I know what you're thinking, Mister President: Why would anyone want to be ambassador to Iraq? First of all, I would require extra danger pay. But here's the best part: It wouldn't really be me waving from the balcony or the back of the convertible. It would be a dummy! That's right, a dummy. And guess where I'd actually be. Hawaii. Pretty good, huh?

GREENLAND—I'm not really sure where this is, but the name sounds lush and inviting, and makes me want to resettle there.

INDONESIA—The main reason I want to be ambassador to this country is for the joke possibilities. I could be at a party and someone might ask me what country I'm ambassador to. And I'd say, "I can't remember, I must have Indonesia." No, wait. I guess it's amnesia, not Indonesia. Anyway, I think the joke still works.

BEERSTEIN—Quite frankly, Mister President, I'm not sure there is such a country. But I wanted to put it down just in case.

PORNOGRAFICO—(See "Beerstein.")

NORTH KOREA—This might seem like an odd choice. But go with me on this, Mister President: First, North Korea is our enemy, right? Second, an ambassador cannot be arrested. With your permission, sir, I would go on a crime spree the likes of which North Korea has never seen. I would rob banks. I would vandalize everything I could get my hands on. I would draw cross-eyes on pictures of their "glorious leader," whoever he is. I would shoplift and then just throw the stuff away (after I broke it). I would walk around drunk in public, wearing nothing but my underpants, and shoot blowdarts at people going by. If a policeman confronted me, I would just mimic what he was saying while I made the hand-flapping motion. Then I would pull my ambassador ID out of my underpants and show him. He would stamp his foot and storm off—but without his policeman's hat, because I would take that. My favorite thing, Mister President, would be to go into a fancy North Korean restaurant and order everything on the menu, then not pay. "Won't you at least pay with some of your bank-robbery money?" they would plead. I would just laugh, then go outside and hijack a car and drive to my fancy hotel room. I know what you're thinking, Mister President: What if the hotel locks me out of my room? I will just go to the nearest hardware store, shoplift a sledgehammer, and bash in the door. They won't try that again. This seems like a win-win situation.

ENGLAND—I know England is not our enemy, but I would go on a crime spree here too. What the heck.

TAHITI—It's no Hawaii, but I would be willing to give it a try.

September 10, 2009

Link for Key West trip pics below

click for pics

Key West Road Trip 2009

So we decided to load up the Jeep, and head all the way to Key West Florida with just over 2 weeks in total to make the trip there and back, with as much leisure time as possible. So off we went on the wee hours of August 21 for the first leg, a 10 hour drive according to my GPS, a trip we have made many times before, but good ol GPS doesnt take into account that I am a compulsive SPEEDER! So we got there with stops for lunch etc in under 10 hours. We checked into our favorite - the Hyatt Grand Washington, washed up, and headed for the usual feedbag, awesome, meat lovers paradise fogo de chao Brazilian BBQ steakhouse. I wont post links for it on this post, as Ive done it many times before on previous posts. In a word, awesome. I was introduced to the new love of my life, rum-wise, Zaya - a smooth, velvety, aromatic and syrupy sipping rum, with overtones of vanilla, chocolate and coffee. It is made in limited batches, and has won numerous awards among the rum and vintage powers that be. It took me until I got to Key West to actually find a bottle of this stuff, and with the $55 USD price tag, although well worth it, it is a rum to be cherished. You wont find it here in Canada as far as I know, but I recommend it highly. We spent the following day touring the free of charge Smithsonian museums which although were pretty cool, were not quite as grandiose as we were expecting, but it was hot, packed, and we saw what we wanted to see, in the time wanted to spend. The Abe Lincoln exhibit was tops in my books. We went from there on a 5 hour bar hopping spree that got pretty out of hand, but we woke up Sunday morning in not too bad shape - to begin our next leg - to Norfolk Virginia to see our friends and fellow adventurers, Keith and Michelle.
We got to their custom designed and built, stunning home, deep in the Virginia woods on a lakeside, around 4:30pm and enjoyed catching up, a few drinks, and as usual a fresh caught fish and seafood feast which would more than fill any seafood lover. On the menu was fried grouper, more than you can eat snow crab legs and even a sampling of frogs legs which I tried but wouldnt again. The next day the four of us travelled to the Outer Banks (OBX) region of North Carolina, about a 3 hour drive, to Nags Head to see the beaches and have lunch. Awesome place. Great Surf culture there, and just a really cool place overall. I even got to go through a drive thru beer store (bru-thru), I mean thats just awesome - filled the cooler with Red Stripe and on we went. We parted ways with K & M after lunch and continued down the OBX on US 12 through Rodanthe (stopped at some surf shops and the beach for some drinks and swim) then down to the tip of Cape Hatteras and got the free 45 min ferry to Okracoke Island. This was the main home of Blackbeard, his favorite haunt, site of his last week-long beach party, and ultimate resting place after he was beheaded and thrown overboard at Teaches Hole, a small inlet at the back of Okracoke in about 30 foot of water. We stayed the night at the Anchorage Inn and Marina not 50 yards from Blackbeards party area, and watery grave, and swam alone in the inn's pool under full stars. It was wicked. The next day we spent some time touring the island, and then caught the 2.5 hour ferry back to the mainland en route to Beaufort Inlet to continue south on our travels. Nice trip on that ferry we just sat on the roof of the truck, listened to tunes and had a few drinks. Good times. Once ashore, we hit it back to the I-95 to begin the long stretch through the rest of NC, SC and Georgia.
We stayed in NC near the 95 that night, and the next day blasted through all of NC, SC, and most of Georgia, stopping in a place called Brunswick GA, at a Holiday Inn which had the wickedest restaurant attached to it - Millhouse - and ate like royalty. Another awesome pool at this place, where we dipped, again, alone, and had a ball. It was indoor and saltwater. The next day we got down into Florida, and began the stretch to the Keys. We stopped at Ron Jon in Cocoa Beach of course, had a pizza on the strip and then punched it down to just south of Miami to a place called Florida City where we stayed at another Hoiday Inn and ate at the coolest, non-cheesy, pirate themed restaurant we have ever seen, which we stumbled onto by chance called The Mutineer. Awesome seafood etc, and cheap. Awesome decor, all non-cheesy. The next morning we were in the Keys!
We stopped in Key Largo for some browsing / shopping and had a drink and light lunch in Marathon Key's apparently world famous Cracked Conch Cafe. They serve exactly that, Conch. They cant be world famous for the service or friendliness of the waitress, but whatever it was an experience in the 96 degree heat and the beer was almost cold. We boogied on, and hit Key West in the mid afternoon, now a full week since our departure date, at the Hyatt Resort and Spa Key West. Our room wasnt quite ready for check in, so we hit the pool and cooled off as best we could even though the pool was too warm, but it was wet, and that was all that mattered. Awesome place overall, incredibly beautifully appointed rooms, well laid out, nice pool. Had some trouble getting our room made up each day but my complaint about it got us $50 in resort credits which we used for brekkie and some drinks.
Key West was wonderful, very touristy, but wonderful as long as youve travelled before, know what you like, how and where to get it, and can smell a rip off or tourist trap. Great bars, night life, restaurants, and attractions. Among some of the better restaurants we ate at were A&B's Lobster House (awesome lobster, mussels, oysters, etc), La Trattoria (awesome Italian, home-made pasta, good seafood), and a little hole in the wall called Johnny Rocco's (eat here only at happy hour - which for them is twice a day - and the oysters are 50 cents each, and the creamiest, nicest Ive ever had). Im proud to report that yours truly ate a total of 4 dozen over the course of my stay. ;-)
We did some shopping for shirts, snorkel gear (lost our masks and snorkels somehow on our last adventure) - likely booze related - and did some attractions. We stayed far from the tourist trap, sunset sails, snorkel trips etc, those just suck ass anyway. We hit the beach and floated and drank one day, we went to the Key West Butterfly Conservatory (awesome!) and I went to Pat Croce's "Pirate Soul" Museum one morning alone while Renee enjoyed a 60 min massage at the spa. The museum is the BEST of its kind I have ever seen, and Ive been through a few. It beats the one in Nassau Bahamas hands down, and has actual artifacts with providence (proof of ownership) back to actual pirates we all know like Thomas Tew for example. Awesome, awesome place. Did the tour, alone, no one else in the museum, took tons of pics in the "no photography" museum, and bought the t shirt. By Monday we had been there three nights, and were debating staying another, but decided against it as we had seen all we wanted, bought all we needed, and wanted the extra jump on the way back to give us a nice long weekend back home to unwind before heading back to the dreaded - WORK! We hit up Bahia Honda State Park up the Keys on the way back that Monday morning, and spent a few hours alone on a couple mile long stretch of beach, in blue waters. Awesome. We then trucked it back, took our time, and got all the way back to the Mutineer restaurant where we gladly ate again, and drove another hour or so up to Boynton Beach FLA for the night. The next day we drove, stopped in Cocoa Beach again, bought a surf board for shits n giggles, and continued on - stayed back in Brunswick at the same place, and ate at Millhouse again. Not as awesome as the way dow, but not bad. By now depression was setting in on us, as we were now just trudging back to home which means WORK, which means misery to us. It was like being at the edge of a precipice, struggling to back away with a mechanical wall pushing us forward. We did our best to overcome it, and make the best of what was left - we turned off the 95 and headed to Myrtle Beach - Renee had never been there, and I hadnt been since I was 7 or something, so we decided to check it out, knowing what we were walking into - a pimped out version of Niagara Falls' Cliffton Hill district. Mucho non impresso when we got there, but we went to the Ripley's Aquarium, 3 out of 5 stars I would say, ate dinner at an awesome little Italian chain place called Carraba's, and moved on to Lumberton NC where we slept. The next day we drove all day to get to Washington DC again, for one last hurrah at the Grand Hyatt, and another clogged artery at Fogo de Chao. Mmmmm I can still taste it now...god its good. Flip that paper coin to the green side, and its non stop Brazilian Gaucho dudes, with never-ending selections of perfectly spiced BBQ's meats on huge skewers which they slice off onto your plate -and about 18 different kinds of meat to boot. Gimme a feast there one night, an all you can eat Lobster feast the night after, and I could die a happy man. :P
By 7pm the next day we were done the last leg, the trek through the beautiful PA and NY countryside (stunning views and scenery) - through customs, and sitting at our favorite table, with two of our favorite people (Renees folks) and eating a comfortable, well loved meal at our favorite restaurant here at home - Vincents Spot - a little hole in the wall at Midland and Kingston Road in the lower east side of Scarberia which has been around since the early seventies with the same owners for the last 30 years...That was the end of this adventure, but we are already planning another...stay tuned.

June 2, 2009

WOOT work and live in Bermuda?

So I have my second interview today for a position in Bermuda working at a telecom company there. I thought the first interview wasnt so great but I guess I nubbed it ok. At any rate theres some good to being there working and some bad, and I need to find the side of the fence Im on with it all. Firstly, the positive - youre living and working in paradise, nuff said. Also, the income tax rate there is only 4.5% as compared to 30% here in Canada at times. When you get off work, youre on vacation. Downtime can be spent doing those things (if youre that type) that you save money to go on vacation and do - snorkeling, scuba diving, spear fishing, sailing etc. You have a year round tan, and the experience must be incredible with the people you meet, things you do etc, plus youre bringing home almost all of your very reasonable, in US dollars, paycheck.

Secondly, and now, the reality...this isnt mean to sound completely negative, just realistic based on what we are used to here..

You need to completely cut all ties with Canada to be considered non-resident by the CRA. This involves selling or renting your house ( so you technically dont have a place you can come back to) sell your cars, boats etc, and you need to bring your spouse, kids with you, or those are ties and you will have to pay tax on your money. Essentially, Ive read you need to sell it all - everything - and act like youre never coming back - ever. close bank accounts, credit cards, memberships, even magazine subscriptions. After 6 months you lose your health coverage, or something like that, and your license, passport etc etc. Why the hell would I want to give that up, I dont care if I was offered a job in heaven for 1 million a day.

The cost of living is also significantly higher there for expats (non-Bermudians). For instance, some crappy 1 bedroom apartment can go for anywhere from $1600 on the really crappy side to $5000 on the nice side, and when i say nice, I mean living like youre used to here, with AC, appliances, and no bugs. Im told there are cockroaches everywhere and I dont do cockroaches. When I see them, I light fire to the entire block I saw one on.

Typical day to day items are 3 to 4 times the price, like shampoo etc, and forget fresh fruit that has to be imported.

Im told most Bermudians are quite friendly etc, but that there are those few, around 5% of the population that resent us being there, thinking we are taking their jobs. Who knows if they are even skilled in that profession, have any certifications or education/experience with it, but such is the case. The reason we are there working is because there was no Bermudian who could do the job in the first place. but i digress...

So, if you think of all the above, you could be working in paradise for a great salary and thats a dream come true right? But what if it costs you most of what you bring home each month just to live (thanks to greedy reinsurance companies and landlords), live uncomfortably for the most part (mold, mildew, bugs, etc), not have access to some of the things you want and use in your regular daily life - wouldnt the thrill of living and working in paradise quickly wear off after a few months? I dont know to be honest. I mean we can all do without some things, rough it, etc right? Some things Ive read, people have gone through all this and still say they will never leave Bermuda as long as they have a work permit - others say the thrill wore off within weeks and it was a huge mistake.

All I can say, is that I will do ALL the math beforehand, check ALL the angles, and then make an educated decision before I cut all ties here and move to an island. I love being in the islands, the sun, sand, surf, all of that - but lets not forget I have a 5 star resort or cruise ship to go back to, or a well appointed sailboat, and I get to go home eventually to my home, car, life that is established, that I own, and in a country that is the best in the world. On the more positive and adventurous side, it IS the opportunity of a lifetime if one can manage the leap to go do this kind of thing. You undoubtedly will enrich your life experience tenfold, meet people you otherwise would never have met, do things you never would have got to do and create memories that are second to none, whether good or bad. Remember, my favorite things to do like beach bummin it, snorkeling, scuba, sailing are all incredible, but only when done when the rest of life is in order, and Im comfortable, slept well, have peace of mind etc. If I can ensure that for the most part that this will be the case, we are gone. If I cannot, Im staying put.

I'll keep you posted.

March 30, 2009

Yet another winter Caribbean Cruise !

We just got back from an early 2009 Cruise through the Southern Caribbean to islands including Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and Antigua. We had been to all of them before except St Lucia which unless youre staying at a 5 star resort, dont bother visiting. If you do, dont even think of renting a car, just get a cab to the beach - otherwise you'll be in for a day of being lost, getting poor directions (unless you pay or take on what they call a "guide") and just generally disappointed and frustrated. The locals have taken down all the road signs (the main highway around the island is the only thing that even resembles a road, nevermind trying to get to a beach) if youre renting a car it better be 4X4 and have a huge ground clearance. So back to the locals, theyve taken down all the signs so that you have to ask directions and it seems that everyone on the island is a tour guide willing to hop into your car and take you to all the points of the island for a fee. If youre like me, I dont take on strangers regardless of where I am when travelling. They are keen to this hesitation and will direct you to the Police Station and tell you to get directions there, but the cops dont seem to know anything about the island, and direct you to take on the fellow who sent you to them..The whole thing is a stupid money grab and the cops are in on it. The rest of the islands were great, we did the usual stuff, snorkelling at Coki Beach in St Thomas, did a nice deep dive in Antigua just off Nelsons Dockyard, by the Pillars of Hercules, drank the day away at Pusser's in Tortola, spent the day at our favorite beach in Barbados (missed the goddamn Mount Gay distillery again as I seem to be unable to get to it when driving back to the ship) but all in all great trip. Not posting links on this post, because we've done most of it before. New places I will post are the following which we found this time, and had never been to before, but are now must sees when we go back:
In Tortola - go to Pussers Pub and have a painkiller (of course) and try the painkiller shot, with the shot glass you can take home..
in St Thomas, a new little gem we found - Gladys's - a wonderful lady, great food, and makes a HELL of a painkiller ! NOTE - get some of her 3 varieties of hot sauce to take home !

September 11, 2008

Bahamas and Key West with Tropical Storm Hanna

We just got back from Bahamas and Key West Florida by Jeep (boat to Bahamas of course) and survived Hanna. Barely. The weather was great in Nassau for a day of drinking in the ocean, by the beach, as well as Key West for some shopping, site seeing - Mel Fisher’s Maritime Museum - which was very cool. Once back in Florida, we hit Ron Jon Surf Shop which is now open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Talk about dedicated to serving the surfing community. Got the T Shirt. Headed back through the Carolina's, made a brief stop at what I thought would be a historic visit to Charleston South Carolina, only to find out its a college town full of trust fund kinds...ahh well Hanna chased us out of there also. Stopped at an excellent Restautant / Inn in a place called Santee North Carolina, called Clark's which was a beautiful place, and I would definitely go back there someday if in the area. We of course, as on the way down to Florida spent another night in Washington D.C. - one of our favorite cities. It just has an excellent, historic, clean and magestic feeling. We stay at teh Hyatt Grand usually although it impresses Renee more than I, and we ate (both on the way down, and on the trip back at the BEST meat lovers restaurant in the world, I seriously want to open one of these in Toronto. Its called Fogo de Chao, a sweet Brazilian Cowboy style BBQ place. You will not leave hungry. For the $50 price tag just to sit down, its well worth the money. We of course did some shopping along the way on the road trip portion as well (as Nassau and Key West were by good ol Royal Caribbean Cruises) at some outlet malls. Name brands like Nautica, Polo, etc are hard to find up here and certainly hard to find at reasonable prices, but theres an outlet mall every hundred miles along the I-95 it seems.
Didnt take a ton of pics, but the ones we did take are in the gallery as usual. Enjoy.

July 8, 2008

Back from Painkiller-ville !!

Well the trip was excellent, a few minor irritations but all in all, an excellent trip. Renee's Mom and Aunt surprised us down there on our third day and showed up for the wedding! It was nice to see familiar faces, as we were feeling a little lonely. Had some excellent food, at what I think is the best restaurant on the island - A Room With A View - awesome Lobster Thermador and steaks. Service was top notch also. Had a wicked fun day getting blasted in St Thomas, did some shopping then started hitting bars in Red Hook...we had a few at "Off The Hook" before heading to Molly Malone’s. This place was a great little Irish Pub at the Red Hook Marina. Got drunk, got the shirt.
We also spent an awesome day with Captain Jim aboard the Jester, a fiberglass 38 ft. sloop rig racer/cruiser, built in 1988 by Irwin Custom Yachts in Clearwater, Florida. This is the boat for us, for sure. Pics of our day on it start about here.
We then had the best day ever at Magen's Bay floating on a $15 kids air matress which was more worth $3, but worth every penny as we clung to it all day drinking our faces off, through sun, rain, and more sun again...we were there about 4 hours, and the server "Sherry" would come out and serve us our drinks right in the water, we didnt ever once have to come was the best - pics start about here. That evening when we got back to our hotel room, we got a call from the General Manager of the Wyndham, who took us out for dinner which was way cool. We went to Romano's - an Italian joint right at the road up to Coki that I have never seen although Ive obviously passed it a million times. We met the chef and owner who made us the best linguini vongole I have ever tasted. Although I was drunk as hell, but truthfully it was awesome.
The next morning came quickly, and a 6:00am wake up for a day trip to the BVI's had me considering cancelling the whole damn thing. But our desire to go back to The Baths pushed us ahead. We took the Stormy Petrel a 42 foot motor cruiser / sport fisher, rigged out for passenger comfort (sort of). ;-) Pics of this day start about here. We hit The Baths, Cooper Island for lunch, then over to Jost Van Dyke for a swim in to the Soggy Dollar Bar, famous among vacationers and sailors alike, and claiming to be the creator of the Painkiller, my favorite alcoholic beverage. We took our last day slowly, hopped aboard the Atlantis Submarine for an underwater tour of Buck Island, then back to shore for some so-so sushi at Beni Iguana's. Over-priced, and poor selection (they make a bunch of different rolls all with the same things) although they call this great selection. I could make you 18 different hamburgers with only a few condiments depending what I throw on it, and which I leave out - and call each one something different. but anyway, it was ok. The next day was travel day back home, some scary flights, and many drinks later, we are home safe and sound. Looking forward to Ireland in late August.

June 27, 2008

St Thomas USVI bound

So we're headed to St Thomas today for a little over a week to relax, drink, sail, dive, and get married! Should be a blast, we plan on exploring more of St Thomas, (although its our 4th time there, and we are quite comfortable with it), heading over to St John for a day at honeymoon beach and sail / snorkel around the island, and also over to Tortola and Virgin Gorda for some drinking and snorkeling at The Baths. Will be heading finally to the Soggy Dollar Bar - a famous, accessible only by sea, drinking hole, which lays claim to being the creator of my favorite drink, the Painkiller. Should be a great trip. We will spend a day at Magens Bay also, on St Thomas, whichever day there is no or few cruise ships. Once the cruise ships get there, the place is a zoo, and just horrible. Will be back in a little over a week, home for seven weeks, then off to Ireland!! - But THATS another post to come !

April 15, 2008

im still alive

just thought i would update this.

June 25, 2007

44' Lagoon Catamaran Adventure St. Vincent

So July 7th I'm off to St. Vincent in the Grenadines for a week of sailing and scuba. This 44' Catamaran sleeps 8 in 4 separate staterooms, with a full dining area, fly bridge, and massive foredeck trampoline. We are rigged out with full provisioning, scuba gear and tons of BOOZE. We'll be sailing the Grenadines area and with the size of the ship we can reach intimate locations not normally visited by larger ships - essentially eliminating any crowds. We will spend days on deserted islands, reefs teeming with life, and hammocks with rum in hand - in my favorite pirate style. Bob Marley will be the tunes of preference, rum the drink of choice and lobster the fare. The only thing that sucks will be the three inter-connecting flights on the way down, and worse - the FOUR on the way back...jesus help us. I may never return if I decide to become governor of some little island somewhere. As long as we get wifi Internet Im savvy.
pics will be up on the gallery upon our return.
"Yo Ho, Yo Ho - A Pirates Life For Me" - drink up me harties!