July 25, 2008

Track 5.5: Dido - Life For Rent

Posted by Mixtape at 3:11 AM | 30Dates, 30Dates

Hello everyone out there in internet land! Mixtape here, comin’ back at ya with a long overdue Act II. I’ll be completely honest...there is absolutely no excuse for my blogging hibernation. Much has happened since the beginning of the 30dateLA journey, but in a lot of ways, I’m back to square one. So with all apologies out of the way, feel free to rewind that dusty cassette tape and reminisce about the previous tracks (introduction, prelude, Track 0, Track 1, Track 2, Track 3, Track 4, Track 5). Then when you’re ready to get back in the mix, head back over here before flipping it to Side B.

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January 13, 2008

Belize 2007 - Day 3 - Actun Tunichil Muknal

Posted by CaptainMelo at 11:37 AM | Vacation

That night I dreamt of drowning rooster dogs and Chinese-speaking Latinos until I was interrupted by the sound of Randy’s alarm at 6AM. Thankfully, I did not feel feverish from plague-infested mosquito bites. Daniel was immediately dressed and geared up while the rest of us struggled to get out of bed. Fortunately, the sky was clear and bright, as if Belize had finally decided to open up its land and welcome us. Our guides at Mayawalk had told us we would be swimming through a cave today, so I left my camera behind, donned a sleeveless athletic shirt, and put on an old pair of Adidas tennis shoes that I didn’t mind getting dirty. All of these decisions proved to be the wrong ones.

According to Martin’s lengthy description, Actun Tunichil Muknal, or the Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher, is the most spectacular Mayan site in all of Belize. We thought that he might have been hyping it up excessively for our benefit. Brandon and I had done some preliminary research back home on what activities to do in Belize, and Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) was more of an afterthought. We were more concerned about hitting up every Mayan archaeological site we could in our limited time. As far as ATM, we had no idea what to expect, nor were we prepared for what we would see.

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January 12, 2008

Belize 2007 - Day 2 - Caracol

Posted by CaptainMelo at 11:14 AM | Vacation

Vacation ostensibly provides the weary capitalist an escape from the interminable routine of waking up early every day to slave away for arbitrary deadlines. However, should one of these capitalists be weary from utter laziness instead of hard work, vacation is the time to buckle down. Brandon serves as a prime example of the lazy-capitalist-slash-dedicated-vacationer. On trips planned by Brandon, sleeping in is not tolerated and walking slow leads to abandonment. On our eight-day visit to Belize, he had planned three day-trips to Mayan sites from San Ignacio and two snorkeling excursions from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, leaving only enough free time for transportation in between. Our first trip was to the Mayan ruin site of Caracol in the Mountain Pine Ridge.

We woke to the sounds of dogs howling and roosters crowing in the middle of a torrential downpour. It was still dark at 5AM - two hours before we needed to wake up - but I couldn’t fall back asleep. I remained in bed and stared at the ceiling. At least the mosquitoes hadn’t gotten to me through the sheets. When the sun rose over the forest of trees to the east, the rain stopped and skies cleared. As we got ready to leave the hotel, Randy noticed the chair in the living room was wet. We looked up to see that there was a leak in the roof. That put a slight damper on our overall appreciation of Martha’s Guesthouse, but it was only a minor annoyance at the time. We could only hope that it wouldn’t rain anymore, even though an online weather service predicted rain for the entire week.

We stopped in Mayawalk and sat around waiting for our ride to show up. The British girl running the office, Angela, introduced us to Evril, our tour guide for the day. Evril slumped into a chair next to Angela’s desk and barely managed to nod towards us in acknowledgement. His lack of energy was in stark contrast to Martin’s enthusiasm. I overheard Evril and Angela talking about Evril’s ex-girlfriend.

“I finally met her the other day,” Angela said. “She’s cute.”

“She’s crazy,” Evril replied.

“All women are,” Angela offered.

A few minutes later, another Mayawalk employee came in the office and handed us our bag lunches. Evril asked us if we were ready to go. We all stood up, flinging our backpacks over our shoulders. Evril sized us up.

“We’ll see if we actually make it,” Evril said to Angela.

Angela told us with a heavy dose of sarcasm that Evril was their most optimistic guide. I asked Evril how long the drive was to Caracol, hoping it wouldn’t be as long as our ride the night before. He said it was only two hours. Oh well. We piled into an old blue Ford van, and after a loop around town through the narrow one-way streets we were off to Caracol.

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January 10, 2008

Belize 2007 - Introduction

Posted by CaptainMelo at 5:34 AM | Vacation

Clutching the sharp limestone slivers of the cave walls, we carefully measured every step as we passed single file through the narrow gap underneath the low hanging stone ceiling. Water flowed around our ankles and mist reflected our headlights back into our eyes. We emerged into a massive cavern, latticework stalactites nestled together fifty feet above us. The Mayans believed these stalactites were the roots of the Tree of Life, descending below the earth and beyond the realm of the living. All our worldly thoughts of comfort, money, and career had been left behind an hour ago at the entrance to the cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal, and the idea that we were plunging into the depths of the ancient Mayan underworld felt fully possible.

“If the world had any ends, British Honduras would surely be one of them.” – Aldous Huxley

Belize, formerly British Honduras, lies on the eastern coast of Central America, immediately south of Mexico. I had first heard of Belize when I was working at UCLA and had just turned in my two-week notice. I had a month to kill before I started my new job, so I asked my intrepid coworker, who had just spent the past summer traveling the world alone, where I should go on vacation. Belize, he said. I was thinking more along the lines of Brazil or Peru or Japan, but he recommended Belize enthusiastically. With its diverse geography, including subtropical forest with extensive Mayan ruins and enormous caves, and over 200 island cayes within the second-largest barrier reef in the world, Belize serves as a prime destination for adventure travel. However, it is still relatively obscure as a vacation hotspot, particularly among young people. White sand beaches, warm ocean waters, and beautiful scenery are all part of the package, but it’s not the main appeal. Belize exceeds its third world roots in safety and friendliness while maintaining its laid-back, multicultural identity. It’s a rare place of vast beauty that has up to this point managed to avoid the whitewashed decadence of tourism.

Maybe some day, I thought to myself, I might go visit. Three years later, as my time with the job I had moved onto from UCLA came to an end, my old coworker's descriptions of Belize had somehow stuck in my head. I had to find out what was so great about Belize for myself. On December 1, 2007, I went on one of the best vacations I have ever had.

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January 7, 2008

An Update for the New Year

Posted by CaptainMelo at 6:27 AM | About

A common refrain heard among people in my age group:

“Wow, 2008, damn I’m old.”

Which isn’t necessarily true or false, but it illustrates the mindset of those of us approaching our thirties. We start to question who we are and what we’ve accomplished. For the majority of us – not much. We probably landed a decent paying job, starting saving for retirement, moved closer to marriage. Maybe we’ve found a career track we can stick with, or a city to live in that suits our tastes. For those lucky ones (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), they might have gotten engaged or even married. But for the rest of us still muddling around in what is supposed to be the prime of our lives, a sort of paralysis sets in. The older we get, the more we define ourselves by the things we haven’t accomplished. And that is precisely what is expressed when we say, “Damn I’m old.”

Normally at the end of each year, I like to do some retrospective introspection. More often that not, I end up depressed. This year, I didn’t spend too much time thinking back on my life. Some of it sucked, some of it was great. I did get to travel all over the world, mostly thanks to my sister and her three wedding ceremonies – one at home, one in Pittsburgh, and one in Taiwan. I went to Hawaii with good friends and ran a half marathon. However, I spent most of last year at work, and between falling asleep at my desk, taking two-hour lunch breaks, and damaging my liver with weekly binge drinking, it felt like a giant waste of time. Originally, I had planned on quitting work and traveling abroad for a couple months before starting film school. Before I could commit career suicide, my former boss presented me the opportunity to continue working remotely while attending school. This would provide me the means to eat and live, something I had grown accustomed to. The most practical choice was to take the offer. After I accepted, I started to look back on my past three years of work differently. I had grown as close as family with some of my coworkers, honed my basketball game in lunchtime pickup games twice a week, and improved my people skills, slightly. I was also able to start this blog, which in turn helped me get into film school, and hopefully that will enable me to devote the rest of my life to exploring LA and the world. But in the meantime, since I couldn’t quit work before school started, I would only have one week of vacation to travel.

So in the beginning of December, I traveled to Belize with a group of high school friends. I will post the recap of our adventures in the following posts. It was one of the best vacations in my young life. Unfortunately, I feel just as mentally unprepared and even more financially unstable for film school than ever before.

Due to the fact that I will be working and attending school full-time, I don’t know if I will have the time to find contributors for 30 Day LA in the coming years. In all honesty, the success of the project resided more in the experiences of the individual contributors than what happened to be recorded in these pages. I am happy that they were able to take part in 30 Day LA, as much as I am grateful for the readers that happened to wander by. I grew up a lot during my initial month on this project, but it opened my eyes to how much more time and experience I had ahead of me.

One of the core reasons why I sometimes find myself disappointed with the direction of my life is my lack of focus. Consistency has never been my strong suit. However, as with every New Year, a foolish resolution is in order. For 2008, I resolve to become more consistent and focused. So for my first attempt at consistency, I will keep alive my tradition over the past two years of saying peace out to the year.

Peace out 2007. Will youthful wisdom find us all in 2008.

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Thirty Day LA documents the attempt of ordinary Los Angelenos to do something new every day for 30 days and document their daily adventures through the ever-changing landscape of LA (and now San Diego!).


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