Friday, April 15, 2011

Regreso de vacaciones

At least I think that's correct.

Yep, I'm back from six days and five nights in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Thought I should give you something brief on the blog, to end my six-day drought and encapsulate the trip.

So not 15 minutes after we'd gotten to our room in the all-inclusive resort did I start to panic about whether we'd brought enough DVDs. We had two rented from Netflix and had brought three from our own collection. However, only two of the three from our collection would play. My wife has an Australian DVD that's from an incompatible region, a movie we've been meaning to see that was given to her by her family, called Wake in Fright. We thought it was possible that the resort's DVD player was some different region, capable of playing both American DVDs and DVDs from other regions (as all DVD players should be, if there weren't some kind of pernicious DVD industry conspiracy controlling everything). But such was not the case.

So we had four movies for only five nights, one of which was our anniversary night. Somehow this did not seem enough to me. When I arrive places on vacation -- especially these all-inclusive places (this is the second one I've visited) -- I tend to spend the first hour or so completely out of sorts, overwhelmed by how to take it all in. During these times I fixate on ridiculous details, like whether we brought enough movies to carry us through our vacation, when we should be spending our time doing everything imaginable except watching movies. Having a small child along with us would restrict us somewhat, sure, and make movie-watching something we might do more than if my wife and I were alone. But we had babysitting lined up for over half the nights we were there, so my worries were irrational indeed.

And indeed, we watched Dirty Work (which I'd already seen) and the first half of The Switch. These were our two rented movies. Neither of the movies we owned (Lost in Translation or Almost Famous) made it anywhere close to the DVD player.

The reason we rented Dirty Work (which I've seen about three times and once owned on VHS) was because my wife showed me a clip of Norm MacDonald's standup on the internet the other week. I didn't realize she thought MacDonald was funny, and when I learned she hadn't seen the Bob Saget-directed masterpiece Dirty Work, I thought it would make great vacation viewing, when we'd stumble back to our room full of free alcohol. She agreed and it was a done deal.

Well, it didn't hold up as well as I'd hoped. I mean, I found it funny, but I recognized it was something that probably didn't translate that well to most women of above-average intelligence. I will say that she ended up loving the last 20 minutes, and I can't tell if that's just because we broke up our viewing between the end of the night of our arrival (when she was falling asleep) and the next afternoon (when she wasn't), or whether it contains genuinely stronger material. Anyway, I was glad that at least some of it clicked with her.

I was reminded of the fact that MacDonald is one of my favorite comedians in terms of delivering a punchline. It's the way he hits the punchline that kills me. He's not among my top ten favorite funnymen, but some of his individual jokes hit with a force that earns him that consideration. If you don't have MacDonald's particular speech intonations in your head when you read this, some of these lines won't be as funny, but here they are anyway:

"There's two kinds of people in this world: Those who get stomped on and those who do the stomping."
"Where'd you come up with that theory?"
"That famous guy said it. What's his name? Uh... Oh, yeah: Jesus."

It's that perfectly McDonald-ian emphasis he puts on the word "Jesus" that makes it so great.

Then there's this one:

"Note to self: Remember to get ass wart cream for giant wart on my ass."

Maybe by itself it's not a line that reeks of comedic brilliance, but when delivered by MacDonald ... c'est magnifique! This is how it comes out, with emphasis in bold: "Remember to get ass wart cream for giant wart -- on my ass."

They can be simple, too:

"Note to self: Learn to fight."

He enunciates each word clearly: "Learn to fight." That's all you need. (And it helps that he's just been thrown out a glass window, in a terrific looking stunt by the stuntman, which alone is worthy of a good burst of surprised laughter.)

And then the part I always loved when I was younger, when he returns from being anally raped in prison (although it affects him in a purely comic way, not in the traumatic way it would in real life). He looks back in the direction of the off-screen prisoners who supposedly just did the raping, and scolds them in a way as though he were disappointed more than traumatized:

"You fellas have a lot of growing up to do, I'll tell you that. Ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. Can you believe these characters? Way out of line. Way out of line. Have a good mind to go to the warden about this. You know what hurts the most is the ... the lack of respect. You know? That's what hurts the most. Except for the ... except for the other thing. That hurts the most. But the lack of respect hurts the second most. Ridiculous."

Okay, enough quoting Norm MacDonald for today.

What else about our trip? We had a really nice time, though it's certainly hard to juggle a baby and trying to relax in a resort. (Not literally juggling, that would be dangerous.) However, we pulled it off pretty well. I consumed no less than six alcoholic beverages per day, and I swam in no fewer than six pools. (Okay, maybe five.) I also went parasailing, which was a first, and which took my breath away. The food was a mixed bag, but more good than bad, and some of it great. The place failed on a lot of the comical little details (we had to ask several times for things, they were pathologically unwilling to replenish our supply of Splenda in our room) but succeeded on the big ones. And my wife did get some good relaxation in, a bunch of little temporary breaks from the full-time job of motherhood. That was the most important part.

I said at the start that we only watched one-and-a-half movies, but I actually watched pieces of others in an attempt to improve my Spanish. One of the first ways I felt out of sorts is that I'd spent exactly zero time boning up on my Spanish before I left, and though it was barely needed because everyone spoke very good English, speaking no Spanish at all would make me feel like a tourist. So when I was having trouble producing certain easy words, I felt no different from a red-faced chucklehead Republican who flew in from South Carolina for a week to go golfing and call everyone "Jose," regardless of his actual name. That's right, even though I was a tourist, I didn't want to be confused with one -- at least not with an American tourist. (Maybe they thought I was one of the number of different Canandians we ran into.)

So I spent a little time doing what I did before we went on our honeymoon three years ago, which was watching movies in English with Spanish subtitles. There are no end to the choices of American movies available on Mexican TV, and though a number of them were dubbed in Spanish (such as Rocky III, of which I saw about 40 scattered minutes), there were also a fair number in English with Spanish subtitles. These were slightly more helpful, because if you're just hearing the Spanish language spoken, the words can get lost in a steady flow of sounds. It helps to see where the words break from each other, and that's what you get in English with Spanish subtitles -- you hear the words you know, and you see them in the other language. That's the best approach if you ask me. (Rocky III also worked a bit, because I've seen that movie about ten times, and remember much of the dialogue.)

What interested me is the random selection of movies that were playing. Movies I watched at least short chunks of included Daisy von Scherler Mayer's The Guru, Raymond de Felitta's The Thing About My Folks and Bernard Rose's Immortal Beloved. (It's best if you do this with a movie you've already seen, so you don't miss out on the plot while you're concentrating on teaching yourself the words.)

Of course, as with everything on the trip, it was a project I could pursue only in short bursts. There was one valuable word I learned in Spanish, however, while watching The Guru: "pelicula." It's a word I should have known before now, or at least remembered that I already knew.

Yep, "pelicula" means "movie."

Adios y gracias, damas y caballeros. Hasta manana.


Nicholas Prigge said...

"Ah, you didn't count on me and my loyal army of prostitutes."

Don Handsome said...

"Are you telling me that you bet on the fight in Rocky III, and that you bet against Rocky?"