Thursday, November 26, 2015

'I Like the Shawties': Cruising the Caribbean

Listerine ‒ the oral cancer-causing mouthwash ‒ meant something else two weeks ago when I cruised to celebrate my friend Infinicuralier’s wedding, which took place mid-cruise in Grand Cayman. Cruises are expensive to begin with. And they are extravagant if you don’t smuggle “Listerine” on board.

Smuggling whiskey on board cruise in empty Listerine bottle
Infinicuralier and me carefully pouring lowest-shelf Colonel's Pride whiskey ($10 for a liter) into an empty Listerine bottle, which I placed in my checked bag and smuggled onto the cruise ship
My stateroom mate, Crabcakes, and I sat on our balcony many evenings searching for sharks with cool glasses of Colonel’s Pride Colonel’s Pride in my hand and anything but Colonel's Pride in his.
Sunset from cruise ship balcony in Florida
Crabcakes and I could watch this from our stateroom balcony for hours every day. We had no mobile or internet service and, at this point an hour into our cruise, guessed we were still off the coast of Miami, Florida, which seemed to stretch for dozens of miles. Few other experiences throughout my life have made me feel both so small and at peace than looking out at the endless water and stars in the sky, and the curvature of the Earth.
“Search for sharks” meant something else last week, too.

Twenty, from the wedding party, had told me she was scared of sharks and wanted to walk around the cruise ship deck, so to isolate Twenty away from the group one night I said to her, “Let’s go search for sharks,” and we left. I was just being witty and awesome. When I later returned to my stateroom and joined Crabcakes on the balcony I realized the amazing trend I had started.

Crabcakes: When you said “Let’s go search for sharks,” nobody thought much of it. Then Infinicuralier said, “Does that pickup line actually work?” I said, “Hell no it doesn’t work!” Then Infinicuralier’s dad got on the dance floor and placed his hand perpendicular on his forehead and waved it from side to side, like a shark fin. I thought I was going to die laughing. Then a random woman from North Carolina came over to Infinicuralier’s dad and asked about “the shark fin” dance move, and she started doing it! Soon enough, everybody on the dance floor started doing “the shark fin.”

The next time you go clubbing and see “the shark fin,” now you know.
Shark fin hat from Margaritaville
Shark fin foam hat from Margaritaville that Infinicuralier's dad bought me.
I had never been on a cruise before and didn’t know that Holland America caters to the plus-90-year-old crowd. The only three single girls on the ship of 2,100 people approached me, not because I am irresistible but because there were even fewer single men. I’ll cruise with the geriatrics any time.
Holland America Eurodam ship docked at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Our Holland America ship, the Eurodam, docked at its own private island, Half Moon Cay, in Bahamas.
On most cruises the ship docks at exotic locations in the morning and departs the same afternoon. Though I prefer to experience new locations completely, including after sundown, we made the most of our time in Key West, Florida; Grand Cayman; the Bahamas; and Falmouth, Jamaica.
Bunny Towel Creature
Our stateroom attendant ruled and made us towel creatures. He made this lazy bunny (left), and Crabcakes and I transformed it into this degenerate bunny (right).
I anticipated that Jamaican vendors would push their products on tourists. That is how they make a living and I appreciate how they must always be jovial and high performing. They can’t afford lethargic days on the job like many office workers.

Some from our group hadn’t expected aggressive sellers and were caught off guard. While walking around Falmouth, their urge to return to the port complex – along with dwindling tourists and increasing drug sellers as we got further from the port – led us to the real treasure of the trip: Jamaican rum. (Besides my close friend from childhood’s wedding, obviously, in case he or his new wife reads this.)

Crabcakes, BakedAlaska and I drank Jamaica’s own Appleton Estate rum at a small bar near the ship. Our bartender, a guy in his early-to-mid twenties who moonlights as a DJ, talked with us all afternoon about his culture and lifestyle, and in exchange we convinced passersby to buy his drinks. I later bumped into several others from the cruise who had apparently joined us at the bar and knew my name. I remembered the pretty German’s name. The rest, I didn’t recall ever having met.

“This is a good job, mon. Better than being out there [outside the port complex]. It’s tough getting this job. Very competitive. You have to know someone. Once you get it, you don’t give it up. Plus I can drink rum every day.

“How many people on your ship? You have lots of old people. I like the Carnival ships. They’re big and full of pretty young women. Last week these girls were doing body shots off the bar. First from their belly buttons and then from their. . .”

I tired of delicious fruity drinks and switched to drinking rum neat. “You want to try ‘white lightning’?” our bartender said.

“That’s white rum,” BakedAlaska said. “It doesn’t even list its proof. It’s considered ‘overproof.’ I bet it is 80 percent alcohol.”

“Pour it!” I said.

Ever since I developed an obsession with reaching and maintaining ultra-low body fat I have sacrificed sugar- and calorie-dense substances in favor of plainer ones, including alcoholic beverages. I switched from beer to vodka sodas to whiskey on the rocks to whiskey neat. I now tolerate drinking anything straight.

Everyone tried some of my white lightning. “It tastes like rubbing alcohol!” the pretty German said.

When I finished white lightning I slammed the empty cup down, proud in my accomplishment and thrilled to never have to drink another white lightning.

It was almost time for us to return to the ship. BakedAlaska explained which type of Appleton rum I wouldn’t find in the States and should buy from the duty-free shop across the complex. I entered the shop, forgot the reason I was there and grabbed the less expensive type that U.S. stores also sell.

I brought my rum to the cashier, a Jamaican woman in her forties. “Do you like Jamaicans?” she said. “I’m looking for a husband. I like the shawties.”

The other cashier said, “Yes she does. You’re built strong and shawt and perfect for her. Have you been with a larger Jamaican woman? She’ll do things nobody else will.”

My first marriage proposal: the highlight of my trip including the wedding, even if Infinicuralier or his wife reads this.

I returned to the small bar. “You didn’t get the 12-year-aged rum like I told you!” BakedAlaska said.

Fucking white lightning.

I returned to the duty-free shop and explained that BakedAlaska told me I purchased the wrong one. The store manager wanted to meet my advisor, so she followed me back to BakedAlaska who explained what I never would have remembered. “He wants to exchange this for your 12-year-aged rum.”

I succeeded and returned to my friends, and we said goodbye to our bartender. We were the last ones back on the ship. We later learned that the captain announced, “We’re just waiting for the last few to arrive,” as Mrs. BakedAlaska flipped us off for many consecutive minutes.

I bet she didn’t want to search for sharks that night.

I made a video from my trip, which you can view on YouTube or below if your Web browser allows. Enjoy it, mon!

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

If You Had One Week to Get Your Dream Girl

You are a “nice guy” and never get girls. What do they want and what are they looking for in a guy? The New England Patriots are more likely to lose to Boston College’s football team than you deciphering the key to a woman’s heart.

Now you meet an intelligent, bubbly, funny and beautiful girl in class. You talk and joke a little. Class ends and you vow to woo her at next week’s class. These are the steps you must take over the next seven days to win her over.

men use pickup artist and other techniques to get women
Day 1
You’re too old to grow and one week isn’t long enough to increase your body mass or attain a v-shaped torso – the three physical features that have attracted women across time. Instead, buy new clothes and have them tailored to create the perception of those features, unless you are taller than 6’5”, in which case you should walk barefoot.

Day 2
Practice smiling which improves mood and makes others feel comfortable around you. If a man hits on you then you smiled well.

Day 3
Practice displaying confidence, a behavior so attractive it could even make up for skipping Day 1’s step and allow you to continue wearing capri cargo pants. If a man hits on you again then look him in the eye and say, “You have a crumb on your lip. Cheers!” You just pointed out something embarrassing he can correct. You’re his g-damn hero.

Day 4
Practice being outgoing and charismatic, which make people around you feel special. Talk to strangers. Don’t ask generic questions such as, “What’s the weather like?,” and instead speak in statements, which is more revealing and inviting. “My dog and I are going to roll around in the muddy leaves. Now I finally have a reason to wear my capri cargo pants.”

Day 5
Practice assertiveness, which may increase your leadership skills even more than your mate value. When friends ask you where to eat lunch, say, “We’re going to Waffle House,” instead of offering options.

Day 6
Practice progressive and light touching, which has the power to not just arouse but also reduce pain and fight illness. Just never touch service dogs or random children.

Day 7 – Your Next Class
You squeeze your Reebok Pumps four times each, take two quick shots of Fireball and head out the door. You sit beside you dream girl and implement what you learned the past week. She laughs, touches your arm, makes fun of your professor for being boring – classic indications of interest.

You leave class together. “I bet Professor heard me and is going to kill me in my sleep,” she says.

“Even sooner if your homework submission tonight contains passive voice,” you say. “I really like spending time with you. Let’s get coffee next week.”

“Yeah! I could use more friends,” she says.

Friends it is…

* * *

Author Neil Strauss, a “nice guy” turned “Master Pick Up Artist,” wrote in his book The Game that parents and friends failed him and other unsuccessful men by never teaching how to become fully effective social beings. He has it backwards – the lessons have always been out there and it is up to us to grab them.

They say it takes 10,000 hours of repetition before one becomes an expert at anything. We “nice guys” dedicate our lives to playing instruments and athletics, studying and working; reading about how to acquire wealth, be more efficient, and be better people. We can even improve ourselves greatly by spending a week learning how to be attractive but we can’t learn how to woo women in a week because it involves positively affecting another’s mindset. Attracting women is a delicate skill that, as opposed to the piano, for example, which only a small percentage of people play, half the world wants and competes for.

The good news is that life is long unless you drive a Yugo. The goal of our genes may be to reproduce but the goal of our intellect is to improve ourselves a little bit every day. So keep learning and practicing and maybe next semester she will entertain the idea that you have more to offer than friendship.

Leia Mais…

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Weekend at Colorado Breweries and Mountains

"Let's take a weekend trip to Colorado," my friend Greek said to me on October 3. "There are some breweries I want to see."

"Colorado is my second favorite state. I'm in," I said.

We targeted a weekend in December.

Days later Greek texted me, "It's cold in December. How about we go in two weeks."

"Sure, why not."

Kayak for flight + Priceline for rental car = booked.

We stayed in between Boulder and Denver. We planned specific breweries to visit each of our three days in Colorado and otherwise went wherever our rental minivan took us. Town & Country led us high in elevation in hippie-town Nederland and to McDonald's for three straight breakfasts even though McDonald's now serves breakfast all day. Though, the main purpose of the trip turned out to be logging beers in the app Untappd.

We had great fun and learned a life lesson: we're too old for this shit.

Some photos from our trip are below. I also recorded parts of our trip and published a video, which you can watch on YouTube or directly below if your browser supports it. Cheers!

Avery brewery near Boulder, Colorado
Avery brewery built a stunning new facility. It's awesome. Avery's Rumpkin beer has 18 percent alcohol by volume. It's not awesome.
Benjamin Rubenstein with mountain skyline in Nederland, Colorado, on vacation visiting breweries
Feeling on top of the world many thousand feet above sea level in Nederland, Colorado . . . until my thalassemia trait (low hemoglobin) revolted against the limited oxygen.

Benjamin Rubenstein sampling Titan IPA at Great Divide Brewery in Denver
I rated this Titan IPA from Great Divide Brewery four stars on Untappd. Greek liked this rating. I later gave the Yetti beer two stars, which Greek gave a double negative toast.
Owner of Oskar Blues Brewery Dale
Greek was so excited to see Dale, founder of Oskar Blues Brewery, that he was researching Dale's life and looking at pictures of Dale 12 hours later. Did you know Dale provides his employees with free massages (not personally) every week? Yeah I didn't care, either.
Greek weighed his suitcase before leaving so he knew exactly how much weight in beers he could take back home. He over-purchased, including this pack of six beers at Oskar Blues for nearly $80, and had to leave some for the maids at the hotel.
Marijuana Retail Store in Nederland, Colorado
It would take me a while to get used to seeing this.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, October 11, 2015

From Awareness to Acceptance in Two Months: MFA Bound

I apologize to you, my awesome readers, for writing infrequently the past two months. This is why I have slacked, with some added fiction because, well, it fits.

July 23: I tell JD I’m considering becoming a part-time barista so I have more time to write.

Over the last decade I authored two books. I have spent my time writing, marketing, taking marketing classes, speaking, receiving training in public speaking, starting a company, and creating a super-sweet spreadsheet to track my inventory and expenses. In exchange I have sacrificed or neglected undergraduate grades, video games, television and pop culture, dating, probably friends, and definitely the news besides staying updated on everything related to Miley Cyrus. After my dedication to my health and fitness and current full-time job, and unless I experiment with polyphasic sleep, I have limited time for my true passion.

JD says, “I'd be happy to sit down and discuss your future plans. For what it's worth, I think it's something that would make you happy and help you to focus on what means the most.”

July 25: I meet with the Whiskeys over some whiskey to pick their brains on how to accelerate my writing skills. Mr. Whiskey is also a writer and even attended Viable Paradise, a prestigious writing workshop. Mrs. Whiskey is currently working towards her MBA. They know shit.

I take notes as we discuss and compare a master’s in literature, writing classes and workshops like those offered at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and a master’s of fine arts in creative writing. I tire of taking notes and Mrs. Whiskey continues for me. She also writes all the books I should read, and draws pictures.

Our brainstorming leads me to conclude that a two-year low residency MFA program is perfect for me. This would allow me to rapidly learn and improve my writing, work towards a goal (a master’s degree), and stay in the Washington, D.C., area, except during the two-week residency each semester which is either on the university campus or in Europe. And in D.C., there’s always a new Starbucks that is hiring part-time workers.

July 29: I spend hours at Starbucks to study baristas and low residency MFA programs. I create a new super-sweet spreadsheet to track programs and their rankings, costs, requirements and application deadlines. I filter out any program that requires applicants to submit GRE scores. I don’t have time or intelligence for that shit.

List of low residency master's of fine arts in creative writing programs
Mr. Whiskey connects me with his friend who graduated from the Stonecoast MFA at the University of Southern Maine. “I spent two years at Stonecoast's low residency program, got my MFA, and had an utterly delightful time,” she emailed me.

Stonecoast’s website, faculty, and nearby breweries are so welcoming. That is my number one choice with everywhere else a distant second. The application deadline is September 15. I have seven weeks to write a super-sweet 15+-page short story. Ready, set, go!
Stonecoast MFA in creative writing at the University of Southern Maine
Sept. 1: I finish my first draft and send it to Mr. Whiskey who will review it for me. “Took me forever and taught me that I know nothing about writing,” I emailed Mr. Whiskey.

Have you ever begun doing something without having learned the proper way how, and you continued doing it and improving? That is how I became a writer. When I was 20 the idea to write a book flew into my head and like a bird stuck in a chimney, it wouldn’t leave.

I’ve been writing for 11 years and will continue writing forever but I can’t describe how; I don’t know the basic writing techniques that all graduate-level writing students probably learned when they were small children.

I don’t believe I will get into Stonecoast, a top four ranked low residency program in the country.

Sept. 14: I complete my short story after days of back and forth with Mr. Whiskey. I really owe him lots of whiskey. I also complete my two shorter essays and online application. Just before Rosh Hashanah dinner, at 6:01 p.m., I email my materials to Stonecoast’s admissions department. “Thank you for your consideration. I can't wait to be a student at the University of Southern Maine,” I write.

Sept. 25: I list other programs to apply to that all have an application deadline of September 30. My literary agent is leaving the country and won’t be able to submit her letter of recommendation through the schools’ online systems. Ahhh!

My phone beeps. I have an email which I open and read. “After reviewing your application, the Stonecoast faculty believes you have the talent and drive necessary to succeed as a writer. We feel strongly about your work and about your ability to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by a Stonecoast education. We look forward to the possibility of welcoming you to our community of writers.”

I temporarily black out from excitement and shock and when I revive, I scream non-English sounds at my dad who is next to me driving.

I begin at the Stonecoast master’s of fine arts in creative writing program, in fiction, at the University of Southern Maine on January 8. Over two years that will include five residencies in Portland, Maine, and possibly Ireland, I will probably get kicked out of many coffeeshops for “camping,” especially if I camp on the job when I become a barista. I am MFA bound. Ready, set, go!

Leia Mais…

Friday, September 25, 2015

I’ve Been Arrogant for 15 Years and Now I Atone

As published on Gather the Jews

It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In synagogue I recited one of the most important prayers Jews read each year called viddui, or the confession. Al chet she-cha-tanu l’fanecha. For the sin we have committed against you.

There are many sins. One stood out to me.

“. . .The sin we have committed against You by our arrogance. . .

For all these sins, O God of mercy, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement!”

* * * * *
Benjamin Rubenstein at his Cancerslayer table at CureFest DC 2015 on the National Mall
I distributed stickers of my Instagram character named Cancerslayer to the sticker-hungry children who visited my table. “Cancerslayer fights illness by day and bad guys by night!”

I stood at my Cancerslayer table at CureFest on the National Mall and talked about my Cancer-Slaying Super Man books, which I displayed along with information on how to purchase them. “My memoirs are about how I survived childhood cancer twice by believing I was superhuman,” I said to interested visitors.

My table was wedged between two nonprofits that raise awareness and research money for childhood cancer. The two nonprofits’ founders were present to represent their organizations. The three of us talked to each other and also to cancer victims and their family members who attended CureFest and visited our tables. Each nonprofit founder sat and listened to me repeatedly share a concept that I have embraced since my first diagnosis almost exactly 15 years ago: Cancerslayer is the attitude that has helped me survive and thrive. Keep reading I’ve Been Arrogant for 15 Years and Now I Atone.

Leia Mais…