June 7, 2009

Unique New York, New York

"This is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and that no one will copy again throughout human existence, and if nothing else, you’ll be remembered as the one guy who ever did this, this one thing."

After Natalie Portman says this in Garden State, Zach Braff responds by making a weird noise and moving his index finger a couple times. When I think of doing something that no one has done before and no one will ever do again, I usually think a little bigger than this (although definitely not always - during high school lunches I used to make mashed potato sculptures that I'm sure no one will ever duplicate). I've finally figured out what Zhou and I can do that no one else can: travel the world for 11 months.

Oh wait, lots of people have done this. And lots of people will probably do this in the future. This is easily going to be the most life-changing year of both my and Zhou's life, yet in order for Zhou and me to do something new or make an impact, we'll have to do more. I feel like this is a great opportunity for us to do something meaningful, if only we could figure out what that would be. I'll start figuring the only way I know how: by writing a blog post about it.

Here's the plan: To get the blood flowing, I'll first write about a few things I've done in the past that have been completely unique, and that will segue into some great - make that spectacular - ideas for Zhou and me to make our trip memorable for more than just ourselves.

Let me think...

My family recently took a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate both my brother's 21st birthday and my mom's birthday (I won't say which one, but I will say that the background idea for the present was things in multiples of 50).

As part of my mom's present, I gave her $20 and a card. (For you younger readers, I would advise not to give cash presents to your parents unless there's a good reason for it. Like this.) In my mom's card, I wrote a poem outlining how exactly she had to spend the $20. Along the way, she had to answer a couple random questions that would eventually decide whether or not she would wind up with any money. At the end of the card, everything was explained to her: she would get four chances to turn $5 into $500 at the roulette table. In each of the four, she would bet in the exact same pattern: red, 2nd 12, red (this was what her responses determined earlier), then on her birthday numbers: 10 and 18. If she happened to hit this exact order, she would be $500 richer. If not, she would have hopefully had some fun. After all, everyone loves roulette!

On her first try, we were in one of the smaller, dirtier casinos, and clearly she lost. We decided to up our game and head to New York, New York. We found an open table, and she slapped down the $5. The roulette guy looked incredulously at her, as if to say "do you not realize where you are? I wipe my butt with $5 bills, and I'm just the roulette guy." We all decided to ignore his steely glare. Two spins went by, and my mom had quickly turned the $5 into $30. She shoved it all on red, Steely quickly shoved back $60. As the card dictated, my mom couldn't leave now - she then had to put $13 on both 10 and 18. As she nervously pushed the chips back onto the table, the dealer began to put on his friendly face, no doubtedly thinking he should begin gunning for that big tip.

The wheel spun in what seemed like slow motion. My mom was ready to walk out with just the $34 she had won. What a present that would be! The ball rattled around the numbers, bouncing in and out, never settling. Pretty soon a large crowd had gathered. I think I even saw Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in the background, their eyes growing wide in anticipation. The ball finally stopped, to a huge gasp from the crowd. 10! It had fallen in the 10! Pete Rose gave Art Schlichter a mighty bear hug. Steely, his jaw agape, pushed my mom's winnings to her. She tossed him a couple chips before high-fiving Phil Ivey and cashing in her winnings.

Wow, that got out of hand quickly. The point was that this card and present are an example of one of the unique things that I have done in my life. I don't think that anyone has ever done that before (including winning the money), and I doubt anyone will ever do it again. Even if someone else comes up with the game, there's only a 1.75% chance that their mom will win.

[As a side note, I got Steve an iPod Shuffle, which he broke within six months. However, he has recently made up for it by tying Paul for the blog competition lead.]

I was going to write another story about something original that I have done in the past, but not only are you probably not paying attention to this post anymore (if you are, thank you for letting me indulge myself over the last several paragraphs), but also I don't think I have any other unique stories, unlike this guy:

So how will Zhou and I make a lasting mark on our trip? Not many people get a chance to do something like this, so we'd better make the most of it.

Several of our friends have spent time overseas doing volunteer work, mainly in Africa. While this wouldn't be all that unique, I definitely would feel like I made a difference. One of the things I'm most looking forward to on our safari is our day or two meeting with children at an African school. I hope that the short time that we'll have there will be enough to make an impact. It's unfortunate that we won't have enough time to actually volunteer while in Africa, and, for that matter, at any of our stops. The way Zhou currently has the trip planned, there isn't a minute of free time anywhere.

In researching different details of the trip, we have come across people who have found unique ways to leave a mark. For example, in Cuzco, Peru, a lady founded Nino's Hotel, where all profits go to children's aid projects also started by the hotel's founder. Also, here in the States, for every pair of shoes that Tom sells, he donates one to a child in need. Although the shoes don't look all that comfortable, the idea is definitely unique and is a good way for Tom to leave a mark. (Ok, I saw this while watching the Super Bowl, not researching for the trip, but I really like the idea.)

Perhaps we can follow in Angelina Jolie's footsteps to make an impression. No, not by stealing Brad from Jennifer (I still don't know how Angelina did this) and having a million babies. Instead, by using the celebrity we have found since starting this blog to do good in the world. The only problem with this idea is that I use the term celebrity very loosely. And not in Angelina's case, but in ours.

(If only...)

The more I write, the more I realize that we won't be able to plan out how we will differentiate our trip from those who have done the same thing before us, or who will do so after. When we first decided that we would take a year off to travel, I secretly hoped that I would find my calling while on the road. I never once hoped that I would find it while blogging about what we would end up doing on our journey. Hopefully a year from now we will have done something meaningful.

And if not, I can always pee on a yak.

[Editor's note: the below anagram has now been corrected, even though Steve already solved it without all the letters]

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

A Lyrical Anagram From Every Party Since 1981:

Roaming vast land
Will wilts... ill
Long Journey

Scrabble Games: 50 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 25; 368; 355; REPOsED
Kevin WPLB: 25; 368; 339; BRAiSED


  1. How did Angelina steal Brad? Have you SEEN her?

    Also, I was very relieved to find out that the "pee on a yak" link was not a link to a Youtube video...

  2. The puzzle almost anagrams to, "Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world," but it's three letters off. The word "ill" needs to be in the anagram somewhere. I'd be surprised if there's another 1981 song that works for the anagram, but maybe I'm wrong.

    And the iPod shuffle was too damn small. Couldn't even find it when I checked my pockets. They make those washing machine proof anyways.

    Don't we all remember that famous Pete Rose-Art Schlichter hug after mom won.

  3. Hi,

    I Were see blog on on your topic and find details on Garden Games that is very nice but You are not mention in details so explain in details about croquet balls, outdoor chess, garden chess.giant jenga

  4. Cool Mom story!

    Don't be so worried about being different on your trip. The main thing to focus on is how this trip with teach you, educate you, entertain you.

    Almost EVERYTHING in the world has been done before. But how it affects each person is entirely different.

  5. As the Mom, I can validate the story. What a wonderful celebration of my 25th birthday!

    Kevin's Mom