Friday, December 29, 2006

A Christmas Story

A few of you reading this blog have heard this story before, but do allow me to refresh your memory, as the incident I am about to reminisce on serves a couple of good lessons to all of you out there.

4 years ago, after I just moved to San Francisco, I unexpectedly found out I had some personal time off work to burn before the end of the year and decided to go to Mexico for Christmas for a few days. All I could find on a short notice was a relatively inexpensive hotel in Los Cabos and slightly less inexpensive flight there from Oakland.

And off I went – by myself, of course. My only trip to Mexico prior to that was Cancun in 1998, which was rather uneventful and reminded me more of a trip to Florida than abroad. So as the plane landed, I was somewhat disappointed to find out that Los Cabos, in essence, is Mexico’s second Cancun, or rather, second Southern California. At least that’s where most of the tourists there seemed to be from.

But, to my delight, I soon discovered that for these very Southern Californians – one of the most spoiled, finicky group of Americans – the ocean water at balmy 65 Fahrenheit was too cool for swimming, and as the sky had a tad few clouds, I had the local beach almost entirely to myself, bar a couple of European backpackers. I laid in the sand, read bloke magazines, and swam in cool but perfectly tolerable waters, chasing the occasional fish.

Speaking of chasing fish, other than what was in the water, there was really not much else to chase in Los Cabos on that Christmas break. Most women came with their mothers or even entire families, and the nightlife atmosphere that Los Cabos is supposedly famous for had the excitement of a beet-root juice party at a retirement home. Bars were half-full, or should I say, half empty, nightclubs seemed to be teeming with the local hotel employees and everything was just about quiet at a kiddy time of 2 am.

Nevertheless, I was determined to have fun. Apart from four-wheeling in the sand-dunes (great fun) and nearly killing myself climbing a rock (another story), I decided to go on a sunset booze cruise on one of the catamarans on Christmas Eve. The deal was simple: for about $25, the boat took you around the picturesque rocks around the actual Los Cabos cape, where you could enjoy the sunset for two hours, breathe fresh air and mingle with fellow holidaymakers. Oh, and the all-you-can-drink the booze was included in the price.

There were only two slight imperfections with the booze cruise: in order to catch the winter-time sunset, it started at 5 pm and ended at 7 pm, and the only booze available on the boat was tequila and cheap Mexican beer. I quickly realized that despite wild photographs the boat’s bartender was showing of half-nude gringo girls doing body shots on his bar, the type of the mid-age clientele present on the boat was unlikely to partake. Yet somehow miraculously I managed to get pissed off my shoes by 7 pm. Pissed to such a degree that I could barely crawl off the catamaran when it finally docked at the pier, and if it hadn’t been for the assistance of the very nice 2 teachers from Minnesota, god bless their hearts, I would have been left right there in the port dumpster where I had to make an urgent detour. They were nice enough to walk me to my hotel, where I passed out only to wake up at about 9 am the following morning, feeling surprisingly refreshed.

I spent Christmas Day lounging on the beach, and then decided to see if the party capital of the whole southern Baja had anything more exciting to offer that night. My forages were finally rewarded by finding a bar with a local master of ceremonies giving a bit of a show (involving, I believe, volunteers losing their trousers). The place was full of Americans, and soon I was talking to the very hot young girls from Orange County. They told me they were 18, and that they love to party and love coming to Mexico where they can drink uncontrollably. I got slightly disinterested when they told me they were with their families, but they quickly assured me they were fully on their own when it came to partying, drinking and having fun. They told me they shared a hotel room and that there was no curfew.

I even paid a compliment to their rather MILF-y mother, who, as any 40-something simply blossomed when I told her I thought she was the girl’s older sister. She was all smiles and flirts with me, oblivious to the presence of her rather stubby husband. Despite the girl’s assurances, they were on the way back to their hotel with their parents soon, but before they left, they gave me the name of the hotel, their room number and told me I should stop by.

Now, I honestly had absolutely no intention of ever seeing those two again anywhere, let alone in their hotel, which by the way was about 7 kilometers away from the town centre. I walked around the streets though, and soon realized the party was pretty much over despite it being only midnight. I wasn’t even drunk yet, and after about 12 hours of sleep the night before, I was rested and ready for something exciting – I just wasn’t sure for what.

The decision to go and pay a visit to the two girls I had just talked to was surprisingly simple. I figured I had nothing to lose – I could take a taxi, check out the place, see what those two were up to, and come back. I mean, I was only half-sure they gave me the correct room number, and that they would even be interested in seeing me. On the other hand, there could be some long-needed action to make my Christmas holiday a memorable one, and I decided to go for it. And boy, a memorable experience it was indeed.

The taxi trip was almost $20, but I didn’t care. The hotel turned out to be a rather posh compound by the beach, surrounded by a gated fence from the side of the road. I got off, and being a foreigner, I walked right across the lobby to the elevator uninhibited by night guards or bellmen that were half-asleep anyway.

I reached the 4th floor where the girls’ room was supposed to be, walked along the corridor to the door with the number they game me, gave it a knock…The door opened, and – the stocky dad came out instead of the girls.

I opened my mouth, trying to mumble some embarrassing excuse, but he looked me up and down and said, “Not tonight, pal.” He then followed me back to the elevator and then walked along the corridor to what must have been his and his wife’s room.

I went back downstairs, called for the taxi to go back to Cabo, and while I was waiting, I decided to call the girls’ room from the guest phone. I thought they at least owed me an explanation after all those coy invitations. The girls were indeed in the room, and told me the father was just checking on them, that he’s gone to sleep and that I should come back upstairs.

Yes, I admit that going to the hotel in the first place was perhaps not the brightest decision I ever made. And yes, I would even agree that going back up to the girl’s room was borderline insane, but nevertheless, that’s what I did. Or, more exactly, that’s what I attempted to do, because as soon as my elevator doors opened on the 4th floor again, I was greeted by the same very dad clearly waiting for me in a considerable rage.

“You fucking pervert!” he called out, and punched me in the face.

“OK – Okay,’ I said, clutching my jaw and stretching out my open hand in defense. “I’m going downstairs, have a good night.” I felt that a) he was understandable in his fatherly protectiveness of his girls at that late hour, and b) I deserved being punched in the face ONCE for my stupidity that night. But the man sensed my surrender and wanted blood. He was on the path of war.

“You are not going anywhere before I kick your ass, you motherfucker,’ he shouted, trying to corner me and pommel me with fists. I somehow managed to escape the corner, and as it was clearly going to be difficult to get into the elevator, I dashed out for the corridor leading to the stairs. He followed, his arms swaying wide from his body and his fists tightly clenched. “Hey, get out and watch me kick this pervert’s ass!” he yelled as we passed by the girls’ room. The two little witches came out to watch, as did the man’s wife, who was not impressed and started pleading for him to stop. A couple of other doors opened - people were woken up by the commotion and were complaining. The man wouldn’t relent, and tried to punch me more, now performing for his women. I realized he was not going to just let me go in peace, so I remembered about my red belt in taekwondo and kicked him several times in the chest and the stomach. That stopped him in his feet, gave me a pause to reach out to the stairs and run down. On my way, I heard one of the disturbed guests call for police.

As I got to the lobby, my taxi was still waiting, and although there was a sizeable movement around the security, I told the driver to move it. Unfortunately, he had to leave the gated compound of the hotel first, and the gateman refused to open, clearly on orders from the hotel to keep me inside till police came along. A rendezvous with the Mexican police was not in my plans for that trip though, so I jumped out of the taxi, pushed the gateman aside and ran through the door outside the compound to the dark, empty road.

I ran for a little bit to make sure nobody was chasing me. For a while, I was hiding in bushes at a sight of cars’ headlights fearing police or security looking for me. After a while, everything seemed to calm down, and the cars on the night desert road were far and few between. I had no choice but walk back to Cabo, as I was not about to hitchhike.

Fortunately, about 4 kilometers on my way, I stumbled upon another hotel that was accessible from the road, and the much surprised night man called for a cab for me. I came back, slept, then woke up, spend a few more hours on the beach and left for Bay Area in the evening.

Just in time to celebrate New Year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Women - Men's Best Friends

I don’t really know how it happened, but majority of my friends are women. It’s been like this for a good 4-5 years, and any one of my female friends will sigh and tell you how I, Eugene so-and-so, have a difficulty meeting men and making male friends. In fact, I often say that making a male friend in San Francisco is much, much harder than meeting and dating a woman. American young men tend to be competitive, homophobic, and afraid of any sincere conversation with another guy unless it is about sports, cars or female conquests. The latter subject is usually where sincerity pretty much evaporates. Therefore, most of my male friends are either foreign, or of strong foreign background.

But women are different. To me, it is easier being friends with women. There are so many reasons for that:

1) Female friends are better listeners than men. You cannot turn to your guy-friends with your problems. Only in movies the main male character always has close, attentive, sensitive and understanding buddies. In reality, men usually do not care about other men’s problems and at best pretend they are interested in your bitching about life, and at worst – shut you out or tell you to shut up. Women will not only listen, they will give valuable advice or offer a shoulder to cry on.
2) Women friends really DO care about you. They wish you best, they are the ones who bring you tea and soup when you are ill, or help you go shopping, or give you second opinion on your girlfriends. Every woman has a nurturing instinct, and in the absence of a boyfriend, they will turn it on you. Men, on the other hand, are competitive with each other and will not always wish you the best if your best conflicts with their interests.
3) Women are the only creatures men can share their feelings with. Women are all about feelings – they love listening to them, reacting to them and talking about them. Men secretly have feelings too, and wouldn’t mind talking about them, but they cannot possibly share them with other men. That’s a sign of weakness among men, and can even be construed as gay. Men can talk only about sports, cars, female conquests, maybe some other hobbies. Anything too deep though, and you might see some raised eyebrows.
4) Female friends can help men get in touch with their feminine side. They can give insights on how women think and why they act a certain way, which may help their male friend pursue a woman of his interest. This has to be used with caution though, for reasons mentioned below.
5) Having female friends can elevate a guy’s value in the eyes of a prospective date. She would think that because a guy has female friends, he knows women, is more sensitive and gentle. Again, this is not to be overdone, for the reasons described below.
6) Men are also more comfortable talking about sex with women than other men. With men, the sex talk is all about “I banged her, huh-huh, hell yeah” or “Man, she gives great head”. Women are used to talking about sex with other women freely, and can be good conversationalists for men who want to talk about sex more seriously, without risking losing their alpha status with their male friends.
7) If you have really good-looking female friends, you can take them as dates to social functions, such as office parties, clubs, birthdays, if you can’t get a real date. This, again, cannot be overused, because women tend to get sensitive for being used as a substitute.
8) Female friends can pose as a tough spouse/girlfriend when needed. For example, when shopping for a car, or furniture, or anything that requires bargaining, you can arrange for your women friends to play the “bad cop” and tell you to walk away from a bad deal. That’s because men really do have weak sales resistance, especially with cars and gadgets.
9) Women can introduce you to their girlfriends. By doing this, you would be skipping many phases of elevated guard, suspicion and mistrust that women greet new men with at first. You will somersault straight into their comfort zone of those women, because being introduced by a female friend automatically gives you a huge amount of credit in a woman’s eyes.
10) You can take women clothing shopping, and they will not only gladly oblige to come along, but actively assist you in choosing the right outfit. That’s because women love having little pet projects involving buying things, even if it’s not for them, and generally, have better taste than men. Similarly, they can give you valuable advice on interior design, hair style, cologne, and so on.

Of course, befriending women also harbours many perils and potential dangers. Now, I risk offending some of my female friends who read this blog by listing these reasons for these very reasons, but I do hope that they are better friends than that.

1) Women ARE more sensitive than men; so many things you say that would be OK with your mates may not fly well with women, even the ones that know you well. A simple “you are such a nerd” may be easily taken for offense even by a woman who is your friend.
2) Women are also much more perceptive of body and facial language than men, so a simple grimace or an eye-roll that would remain unnoticed by other men, may offend your female friend. Many female friends will expect the same sensitivity to gestures and facial expressions from you as they do from their female friends.
3) Due to their biological cycles, women are prone to heightened sensitivity to both (1) and (2) while PMS-ing. You would probably have to stay away from your female friends at those times. Unfortunately, since you don’t date them, you may simply not know when they are.
4) Because they often treat you like other men in their lives, women friends may give you similar treatments when they are unimpressed with you as their boyfriends/husbands. That includes prolonged silence, bouts of poutiness even crying.
5) Women like to chat about completely un-interesting things for a man, such as handbag shopping, cooking, complaining about other women, etc. They may make a mistake of trying to chat with you about it as they would with their female friend.
6) Women, in general, like having male friends, especially gay ones. But sometimes they might try taking advantage of you by asking you to be a stand-in boyfriend, cargo carrier, shopping companion, etc.
7) Female friends can disappear from the horizon if they have new boyfriends or get married. Their husbands may not be impressed with them being friends with another man, and they themselves may not want to hang out with you once they have another strong male in their lives.
8) Women are jealous creatures, and can be overly-protective of you towards your other friends, especially female ones. This is particularly true if they are in the period when they need you for emotional support, such as after a break-up with boyfriend, fight with parents, layoff, etc.
9) Conversely, if you get a girlfriend, she might get jealous of your female friends. Some girls are also suspicious of a guy having female friends in general, and may feel threatened by their presence.
10) But the biggest danger and peril of all is developing romantic attachment, either by you to your female friend, or by her to you, or a lingering emotion stemming from your past, especially if your friendship is a result of a past romantic encounter. That is indeed a constant threat to any male-female friendship bar a few exceptions. Dealing with that can be complicated, painful and prone to continuous drama. A swift conversation as early as possible into the situation is the best way to deal with it, albeit far from guaranteed success.

Still, having said all that, I am happy with my female friends and think any man should have more. Remember guys: women are not the enemy camp! They are your friends and wish you well. Now, where can I meet more men?