Monthly Archives: October 2013

One time I got overrun by hundreds of spiders in Canada

When I was a little kid, like eight or nine years old, my grandparents took my brother and me on a road trip to Ottawa to hang out with some of our Canadian relatives. We were in town during Canada Day, and one of my cousins rented out a hotel suite downtown for a big party. The place was huge, I remember lots of rooms, a giant balcony overlooking the city, it had the perfect up-close view for fireworks.


Everyone was having a great time, but, and I remember this vividly, as soon as the sun set, all of these giant spiders started crawling out from everywhere, from under the furniture, from inside the vents in the ceilings. I’m not even exaggerating, there were hundreds of them, big brown ones, probably the size of a quarter, and they took over the suite. The balcony got hit especially hard, it was like you wouldn’t notice them, not just by looking out the window, because their dark bodies blended in with the night sky. But by shifting the view, or just by walking close enough, you could see they were an omnipresent force, hanging from their invisible threads, it looked like, if they wanted to, they could have covered the whole sliding door in a sheet of thick webbing.

I’m creeping myself out just thinking through this twenty-year-old memory. Actually being there, a little kid in a foreign country on a hotel floor that was being slowly overrun by spiders, I was freaking out big time. But what could I do? I looked around, all of the adults were acting like it was no big deal. I gave my grandma a nervous face and she dismissed my concerns, like I was being a baby, like I shouldn’t be afraid of a few spiders.

And now looking back, I still don’t understand what was going on. Because if I were there right now, of course I’d be scared, at the very least I’d be visibly uncomfortable, squirming around, swatting away at imaginary itches and tingles I’d feel across my body. What was going on here, are Canadians exempt from the near-universal fear of a spider infestation?

Or was everybody just being super polite? I’m having this imaginary scenario play through my mind, it’s my Canadian cousin, he’s in the hotel lobby booking a room with the receptionist. “Well sir, our standard rooms do fill up pretty quickly, especially on Canada Day,” and he’d be like, “I see, well, I guess I’m looking for something kind of affordable. What are your standard rates?”

And she’d lure him in, “Actually, we do have an executive suite available, it’s got plenty of room for all of your guests, plus there’s a great balcony overlooking the center of town. The rate is exactly the same as any of our standard rooms.” My cousin would be skeptical, “I don’t know, this sounds a little too good to be true. What’s the catch?”

Of course there would be a catch. “You see sir, the suite, again, it’s fantastic, but there’s a little bit of a spider problem.” And maybe my cousin would hesitate. But that’s a hard offer to pass up, suites are expensive, surely a group of adults would be able to handle a few spiders. “All right, I’ll take it.”

Cut to the party, people are inches away from being devoured by arachnids, but nobody wants to hurt my cousin’s feelings, after all, he was the one nice enough to pay for the entire party. It would be extremely rude to mention the spiders, or even acknowledge their existence. So everybody put on a show of having a great time, all while trembling on the inside, counting down the minutes until it was OK to make an exit.

I don’t know, I have trouble believing the accuracy of these old memories, even though I can still see them, congregating in spider clusters in the corners, by the legs of the furniture. Maybe my traumatized childhood mind embellished what actually went down. Who knows? But for real, there were a lot of spiders. I’m not making it up. Sometimes I still get nervous in hotel rooms, even if I’m nowhere near Canada. I’ll run down to the receptionist right before dusk, I’ll be like, “You guys don’t have any sunset spider problems, do you? Because if you do, just tell me, I won’t get mad, I promise, I won’t even ask for a refund, I’ll just leave, you can still rent out the room. Just, come on, no spiders, right? Promise?”

Too good to be true

If you think something’s too good to be true, that’s when most people would say something like, you’re right, it is too good to be true. But it might not be. It might just be too good while at the same time being totally true. Like winning the lottery. I’ve never won the lottery, so I can’t actually make a comment based on any sort of real experience, but people win the lottery. Regular people, week after week, jackpot, winning numbers, ten million, fifty million, three hundred and seventy six million dollars that previously had not been in your bank account, and all of the sudden you have to hire wealth management companies, you’re looking to diversify investments. Again, it’s never happened to me, but that right there, it seems like it’s way too good, and totally true.

Like when you’re at a professional sporting event, and you see a camera crew walk in through the closest gate, you’re thinking, holy shit, they’re going to come over this way, somebody in this section probably won something, and they’re going to play it on the Jumbo-Tron, this week’s Home Depot Lucky Slam Dunk Winner, you and a guest just won tickets to a taping of America’s Greatest Home Bathroom Makeovers airing this Sunday.

That would be so awesome, you’ve never won anything at a game before, but just as you’re planning out how you’re going to be able to look straight at the camera while only subtly diverting your eyes now and then to soak up the image of your face on the big screen in the center of the arena, it turns out that you got carried away, that the camera crew was headed this way, but you weren’t the winner, it was the family of four sitting two rows in front of you, that these lucky spectators won a fifty dollar coupon to Outback Steakhouse, and they didn’t even try to look at the camera, they were all staring right up at the screen, smiling, waving, their sideways profiles of pure joy on display for everyone in the arena to see.

That was too good to be true, for you yes, but not for the lucky winners. Or maybe, depending on how you looked at it, I guess fifty dollars isn’t a lot of money, not for four people at Outback Steakhouse, and so it’s like, do you really feel like going out for a bloomin’ onion tonight? Not really, but the kids keep bugging about when you’re going to get to use the coupon, that stupid coupon, all right, I guess it’s Outback tonight.

What about when something’s not good enough, clearly not that great, but also true? Like when you’re at that same sporting event and an usher taps you on the shoulder, he’s like, you’re a lucky winner, go over and meet the camera crew at Gate 32. You run down, you have no idea what to expect, and there’s a little hockey net set up behind the middle row of seats, there’s the camera, some announcer is like, “OK! Let’s give a hand to our lucky contestant! All you have to do is hit these pucks into that net!”

Which should have been simple enough, but when was the last time you held a hockey stick? And this thing isn’t big enough, it’s hard to get a grip. You shoot the first puck and it’s a miss, you hear the entire arena let out a collective sigh of disappointment, are they playing this on the Jumbo-Tron? Two more shots, each one similarly unsuccessful, the audience starts to boo, they’re turning on you. “I could have hit that! You suck!” everybody’s chanting on your way back to the seat.

But the producer felt bad for you, he’s like, “You know what? I’m just going to give you the prize anyway, even though you didn’t hit the net, here you go.” And for a second, you’re spirits are buoyed a little, I could use a fifty dollar gift certificate, that would be a lot for just one, and you’re already starting to lick your lips when the guy hands you a rolled up t-shirt, it’s for the hockey team you’re here to see, but it’s a size XXL, and it’s got a big advertisement on the back, so you’ll never wear it.

Forced birdwatching with my uncle

One time when I was in high school my mom made me go on a bird watching trip with one of my uncles. He was a member of some ornithological club, and every time I’d see him, he’d be like, “Rob! What’s up buddy? You’ve got to come bird watching with me and the boys this weekend. Come on, it’ll be fun! It’s always good to pick up a new hobby, what do you say?”


And what was I going to say? I couldn’t be like, “No, I don’t want to go bird watching, that sounds boring, all I want to do is stay inside and play Nintendo 64,” because you can’t talk to adults that way, especially not your uncle, my mom would have been pissed. So I did what probably any other teenager in my situation would have done, I gave a really unenthusiastic non-committing response, a, “Yeah, maybe, that sounds cool,” and then I’d just answer every follow up question with simply a yes or a no, making sure to pause at least two or three seconds in between each answer, trying really hard to make it look like I was just barely paying attention.

But I guess my uncle either couldn’t take the hint, or he took it and he said to himself, nah, I’m not going to take that hint. He probably thought, sure Rob doesn’t want to go bird watching, but that’s because he doesn’t realize how much fun it is. I know, I’ll go behind his back to his mother and make plans for next weekend.

And you know, being fourteen is probably the worst age any human can be. You have pretty much all of the mental faculties that you have as an adult, like, I can remember all of my high school years as if they happened last year. You think for yourself, you have your own opinions. In any other time in human history, fourteen year olds were not only expected to be completely independent, but they were most likely already parents themselves. But when I was fourteen, for some reason it was totally acceptable for my mom to shout up to my room on Friday night, “Robbie, you better get to sleep, your uncle’s picking you up for a bird watching trip early tomorrow morning.”

My fate was sealed. “What?” I could scream and protest for as long as I could sustain my pleading, “You made plans for me to go on a bird watching trip?” it wasn’t going to change anything. And sure enough, before I knew it, seven o’clock rolled around and I was being forcibly dragged out of my bed to take a drive up to some remote bird sanctuary near Tarrytown, NY.

I had expected my uncle and all of his friends to be this bunch of nerdy looking doofs, but I got in the car, there was my uncle and two guys that, I don’t know how to describe them exactly, but they didn’t fit the description of what I had imagined a birdwatcher to look like. One guy had a black leather jacket, the other guy was wearing a knit cap, it wasn’t even that cold out.

And then, once we got going, nobody talked, there was no chit-chat. I’m thinking about my life right now, if I went on some sort of a trip with a bunch of my friends, and one of them brought along his fourteen year old nephew, I’d at least try to make conversation, “What’s up champ? How’s high school? You play any sports?” basic small talk, it’s not that hard. But this was awkward, no radio, the guy riding shotgun was chain smoking cigarettes with his right arm resting on the open window.

Finally we got to this wooded area, I’m not sure if it was a bird sanctuary, I didn’t see any signs, and what happened next always made me doubt if we were where I was told we would be. We hiked around for a while, my uncle had a map but wouldn’t say where we were headed, after about an hour or so we came upon this big tree.

“All right boys, this is it,” my uncle said as the other two guys started unloading a bunch supplies. Grappling hooks, lots of rope, some weird manual drill looking thing, besides the binoculars, none of this stuff looked like anything I’d associate with bird watching. “Don’t you guys usually carry giant books with drawings of birds and stuff?” I asked nobody in particular.

“Can it, kid,” did that guy just tell me to can it? “You’re the lookout.” I asked, “The lookout for what, aren’t we all lookouts? Aren’t we looking out for birds or something?” The other guy said, “Don’t be a wise guy, now just keep your eyes open.” I looked toward my uncle for something, I don’t know, reassurance, maybe a little information as to what was going on, but he just handed me a small backpack, he said, “Just hold onto this for a second.”

And then they all put on these harnesses and started climbing up the tree. I had no idea what was going on, but like half an hour later this park ranger shows up. The guys had pulled up their ropes so, unless you were looking straight up, you’d have no idea what was going on. “What are you doing out here?” the ranger said, “This is protected land. What’s in that backpack?”

I didn’t know what to say. I only hoped that my uncle had prepared me for this, that that’s why I was holding this backpack. I handed it over and the ranger undid the zipper. He fished inside for a few seconds and came out with a small pipe, a lighter, and a dime-sized bag of pot. “All right buddy, you’re coming with me.”

I should have said something, I should have told the ranger to look up, but I froze, I didn’t know what my uncle was doing with those guys up in that tree. Years later I read some article about egg-snatchers, how in the United Kingdom there was this weird secret society dedicated to collecting various types of eggs.

But I never got to connect the dots. The ranger called my parents, they had to drive north to pick me up, my uncle played dumb, giving my mom some bullshit like, “Well, we were all watching birds but Rob said he had to use the bathroom. We looked everywhere for him but he disappeared. Thanks for ruining our trip!” and then when my mom turned to yell at me, he kind of gave me a wink, but not a nice wink, like a threatening wink, like you ever tell your mom about this, a misdemeanor marijuana charge will be the least of your problems.

First words on Mars

I’m always thinking about what my first words are going to be when I step off of the shuttle that takes me to the Martian surface. “Remember Rob,” I can hear my flight trainers words echoing in my memory, “You’re about to be the first human being to ever step foot on Mars. Your words will be immortalized. I’d put some serious thought into what you want to say.”

mars astronaut

And the ship’s doors will open, I’ll walk out, my foot hitting the red soil, and I’ll shout out, “Yee-haw! I’m on Mars! Fuck yeah mothafucka! I’m on fucking Mars! Mars baby! Ho. Lee. Shit! Mo! Ther! Fu! King! Mars! Who’s on Mars? I’m on Mars! Maaaaaaaaars!”

At this point, I’m expecting my second in command to be a little confused, she’ll be worried, she’ll be like, “Captain? Are you OK? Captain?” but I’ll just be running in huge circles around the landing site, kicking up clouds of red dirt, screaming the whole time in celebration. She’ll wonder if the long journey, the months spent in isolation, if they’ve finally caught up to me somehow. Is this space madness?

“Captain!” she’ll try to get my attention, to warn me that I shouldn’t be acting so reckless, the cartwheels, the handstands, that I might puncture my space suit, that we’ve gone too far for me to jeopardize the entire mission with any accidents I might incur as a result of my laying on the ground making Martian dust-angels.

And yeah, I know, it takes something like half an hour for communications to reach the earth, and so everyone at home would be patiently awaiting the news, all of the TV stations would have gotten rid of that seven second delay that they use for other live events, because, come on, who would expect such a crazy speech from a professional astronaut? And little kids would be gathered around their living rooms, they’d hear me go, “Fuck yeah! Mars!” over and over again.

And they’d go to school the next day and they’d be going nuts, sitting in their classrooms, everybody parroting my speech, “Fuck yeah teacher!” they’d be running their own circles around the desks, “I’m Captain Rob! I’m on fucking Mars!” and what could the teachers possibly say? You’re going to stand up there and tell little kids not to curse? Why? The first person to ever step foot on Mars, he’s up there right now, he’s probably still cursing.

So she’d give up on pointlessly trying to censor everything that comes out of her students’ mouths. Everybody would, parents, the government, nobody would care about cursing anymore. They’d lift any restrictions about what you’re allowed and not allowed to say on TV. “From now on,” the chairman of the FCC would make an announcement, “You’re allowed to say whatever the fuck you want.”

And so I’ll have ushered in two new chapter of human history with one dramatic speech, and centuries from now, when human beings are living in space colonies throughout the galaxy, they’ll look back, to the first generation of astronauts. And because we’ll be so comparatively close together, they’ll look at Neil Armstrong and they’ll think, well, the moon’s not that big of a journey. But Mars. That’s huge. Also, Armstrong tried to say something big and grand, but he botched it.

And then they’ll look at me, my recording will be timeless, the whole, “Yee haw!” thing really tapping into the human spirit, and it’ll also be the first time that humans were allowed to say fuck on broadcast television. I really hope NASA accepts my application to be an astronaut.

NFL prediction: The Giants are going to win the Superbowl

The New York Giants are 0-6. It’s not looking good. But it’s going to start looking good. Yup, you’re hearing it first, right here, I’m calling it. The New York Giants, after a dismal start to the season, are about to go on an unprecedented winning streak, coming back from their lowest point in recent history. They’re going to win every single game, starting this Monday, culminating at the Super Bowl. It’s totally going to happen.


It’s going to start this week against the Vikings. Not the first half though. The first half is going to be a rough game of football for the G-Men. It’s going to be everything that you’ve come to associate with the 2013 Giants, interceptions, incomplete passes, just bad football. The Vikings will be up at the half.

But that’s it. Once the third quarter starts, that’s the last that you’re going to be seeing of a losing football team. They’re going to come back and crush Minnesota, I’m thinking a final score of like 37 – 17. And it’ll feel good, finally, after seven weeks, a win. It’ll take a lot of the pressure off of Eli, maybe he’ll sleep a little better this week, maybe Coughlin will stop calling him up every hour, “Eli. Are you studying those plays Eli? Because you said you’d study them last week and we still lost to Chicago. Eli?”

Giants fans will let out a collective sigh of relief, but it’ll be anything but a celebration. One out of seven is hardly anything to get pumped up about, and they’ll go online after the game and all of their Jets fans friends will still be posting really annoying status updates on Facebook, like, “Hahahah too bad I wanted to see the Giants go 0 – 16, J-E-T- …” you know how it goes.

And even after the next week, when the Giants beat the Eagles, New Yorkers are still going to be a little wary. And can you really blame them? I mean, it would foolish to get your hopes up after only two wins, wins that were preceded by six consecutive losses. I still remember back to week three, and I read something like, OK, the Giants only have like a nineteen percent chance of making the playoffs. And then the next week, when they lost again, I read that the Giants haven’t been 0 – 4 since the early nineties. And then week five, week six, I’m sure it was something equally abysmal, like, statistically speaking, the New York Giants aren’t even predicted to finish the season at all, like somewhere around week twelve, they’re all just going to give up.

But three weeks from now, when the Giants destroy the Raiders, fans might finally start to allow themselves to enjoy maybe just a few fleeting minutes of subdued optimism. Three in a row is pretty nice, those losses start to recede in the rearview mirror of the city’s memory, and plus, remember how I said destroyed? It’s going to be a huge victory. It’s going to be like one of those 37 – 0 games that, by the end of the third quarter, people won’t even really be paying attention to the TV anymore, it’ll be too much of a blowout.

You’ll see the negativity, stuff like, “OK, whatever, the Raiders suck, and so do the Eagles. Let’s see the Giants against a real team.” And then week ten’s going to roll around. Packers: destroyed. Week eleven. Cowboys: obliterated.

You guys starting to get a feel for where this is going? The Giants are going to go on such an unstoppable tear, that nobody’s even going to remember those first six games. It’s going to be all about, who can possibly defeat the Giants? And only once the playoffs start, once they start making those video montages of the entire season, that’s when the early season difficulties are going to make for a nice narrative arc.

“Everybody counted them out,” that’s how it’s going to go, playing highlights of interceptions and sacks before detailing their unprecedented winning streak. And I’ll watch the video and think, everybody counted them out but me. I knew they were going to come back. I called it.

And this is me, calling it. When everything happens just like I’m saying that it’s going to, I’m probably going to be visited by all sorts of government officials and scientists, they’ll be like, “Do you have access to some sort of time machine that we’re not aware of? We’re going to have to bring you in for some studies.” And I’ll go, I don’t care. Because seriously, fuck the Broncos, fuck every other team, it’s going to be the Giants, winning the Super Bowl in New York. Definitely.