Sunday, August 28, 2011

I was fresh meat on Grindr (my family reunion in NC, Part I)

On the 4th of July weekend when all the gays were on their way to Toronto Pride (seriously, how did that get so popular among NYC gays this year?), I hopped on a plane to Charlotte, NC for a family reunion, which could only be fun and exciting with a family like mine. Not that I have family in Charlotte; it's just a lot more exciting than Columbia where my parents and siblings live.

Mom picked me up from the airport, and it wasn't until we were back on the interstate and Mom had me look up what exit the hotel was off of that I realized that we were not, in fact, staying in Charlotte. The hotel was in Concord (a good 20 miles northeast).

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this was an actual establishment close to our hotel... they did oil changes, too

Mom always books at least one spare room at these reunions, so she told me and Hippy Cuz we could split one. But for whatever reason she didn't give us keys when we got to the hotel. No, we went directly to the hospitality suite. As much as I wanted to get settled, they had wings and liquor!!! most of the family was already catching up there.

After a much-needed snack and a few drinks, Mom finally gave us our welcome packets from the hotel, which included our keys, passes for the breakfast buffet and drink tickets for the daily manager's reception. My phone was about to die, so I really needed to plug it in (hello: I was fresh meat on Grindr in Concord!).

Back in the hospitality suite, my poor brother-in-law was passed out in the bedroom while 15 of us were playing music and cackling out in the living room.

Me: "But wait, have y'all heard of Go the Fuck to Sleep?"
Older Cousin: "No, what's that?"
Me: "Oh my god! It's hilarious! It's written like a kids book with illustrations, but every line ends with 'Go the fuck to sleep!' There's a video on YouTube where Samuel L. Jackson reads it!"
Other older cousin: "I'm pulling it up on my iPad now."

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You would have thought we were seeing Mo'nique in Queens of Comedy the way we were hollering over this video!

Around 3, we finally called it a night. And of course, when we got to our room, my brother was sprawled out across one of the beds. Mom, who had come up with us, gave us keys to another room she'd reserved. I nodded along and as she double-checked the room numbers in the leaflets the keys came in and reprised the earlier key-granting ceremony because I knew it would make her feel better. But in my head, I wasn't so calm.

Did I mention we were supposed to be going white water rafting the next day?

It was a half-hour drive to the US National Whitewater Center, a large set of man-made streams for rafting and kayaking (they have rock climbing with hot, shirtless belayers, too), and somehow, I got roped into driving. This especially sucked because my brother had brought me back some rum from his trip to the Dominican Republic, and I had to finish it or ditch it before I got on the plane back to NYC. Today was supposed to put a dent in it. 

When we finally split up into groups for the rafts, my group got one of the few female guides, who was surprisingly hung over laid back. She made an effort to get us excited about our runs, but it seemed like excitement just wasn't her style. But she was knowledgeable and polite.

Guide: "We call this rapid M…"
Me (in my head, bracing myself): "Ah, it does have kind of an M shape..."
Guide: "…like Mike Tyson. Because it packs a punch. Ready?"

First rapid: Class III. Half the raft fell out, but the water was the temperature of a bath (the county’s reservoir supplied all the water for the facility). It wasn't like falling into  Nantahala, the river we used to raft when I was a kid. Fall into Nantahala and you can't feel your fingers for the next 10 minutes!

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We collected our family members and their paddles and had a fall-free remainder of the run, which totaled about 4 minutes. After a couple more times down that, and we were feeling really confident.

Guide: "Y'all wanna go down the Rodeo course?"
Everyone: "Yeah!"
Me: "Oh, fu— uh, I mean, yeah!"

So this run had Class-IV rapids, and I could def tell the difference. But we made it through twice with everybody on the raft! The guide told us we had time to do 1 more run, and the whole time, the kids wanted to do a run backwards. The adults eventually warmed up to the idea.

Before we started, our guide was showing us the ropes in the raft. One of the things she said was "Everybody in", where you're supposed to huddle with your knees on the floor of the raft and lean in. As we were going into the last rapid, she yelled "Everybody in!" I think I was the only one who heard.

I remember losing my balance. I remember seeing water splash over my head. I remember grabbing a leg that felt like it was going over and figuring out it was the guide's. And when I finally got my bearings, again, half of  my group was gone. Once those of us who were still in the raft realized that we were still in the raft (it took a good 10 seconds), we pulled our comrades back in. 

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As we pulled up to the docking area, I realized there was something in my pocket: my Skull Candy ear buds! But best believe when I finally dried off that they still worked just as well as before!

Our wristbands would have allowed us to do another 90 min of rafting, but everyone was pretty much all set after one round. Dad spent a shocking amount on burritos and tacos for all the kids (myself included) while I flirted with the cute guy making them. And by flirted, I mean made eye contact and smirked (hey, it was a busy assembly line).

After lunch, which we ate at the table Mom had camped out at while we were rafting (you couldn't find one in the shade, Ma!), my 13-year-old nephew announced to Dad that he wanted to go kayaking. After a “why didn't you say something earlier,” Dad relented and took him over. I was really touched by Dad’s agreeing to take him, mostly because my Red Bull was wearing off. If he'd've asked me, I'd've been like, “We're leaving!” But it ended up being an hour wait, so they ended up nixing that idea anyway.

Most of the teenage boys were, in fact, ready to leave since it was so damn hot. The one teenage girl in the family that actually came with us wanted to do the zip line, which was a good half-hour wait. Mom said she's wait for our zip-lining cousin, which was great since I was ready to go back to the hotel for a nap myself. Did I mention that Mom was in the car I was driving? Yeah.

Coming up in Part II: The family banquet and how we got around the cash bar (?!!). 

Click here to check out Thankgiving with both sides of The Fam. 

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