The world’s most relaxing song.

If you’re looking for something that will really, really relax you, look no farther than the Mindfulness Pack on the archive.org website. It has four tasty tracks that mix soothing synthesizer music and binaural beats to create a truly unique meditative experience. There are tracks for quick meditation, endorphin release and lucid healing, but the real find here is the fourth and final track entitled “The World’s Most Relaxing Song”, a 9-minute track that will truly immerse you into the deepest relaxation you’ll ever feel. I’ve yet to try out the other tracks, but if it can relax me to the point of pure calm, then I’d expect the other tracks to work wonders as well. This album is a real find.

Relax in a hurry.

Recently I was exploring the archive.org web site for some relaxing music when I came across a rather interesting album entitled Relax in a Hurry by a group called Lucky Dragons. This album claims to offer extremely brief, 3-second meditations that will have you relaxed “in the time it takes to look at a web page”. Some of the tracks are nothing but short clicks at varying frequencies that are supposed to trigger some sort of a relaxed response while others are short pieces of otherworldly music. Is this album really an innovative approach to meditation or is it a creative approach to getting noticed by an unforgiving music industry? You be the judge.

A train wreck of an excursion.

Everyone aboard knew the old train wasn’t going to make it. It was struggling with all its might but it just couldn’t reach the top of the steep incline that was part of a track designed to take us tourists around the mountain. Suddenly the engine quit and even with the brakes on, the train began slowly sliding backwards. Then came a somber announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to inform you that our train has run out of coal. To add insult to injury, the brakes are failing and will not hold us stopped on this steep incline for much longer. It will only be a matter of time before we start rolling backwards at high speed back into town before our train smashes itself to smithereens. Therefore I ask that we all rise and observe a moment of dignity before our unexpected and unfortunate demises.”

We all rose to our feet as a man holding an acoustic guitar walked to the front of the cabin and began singing the Ozzy Osbourne classic “Crazy Train” as we all stood still, trying our best to ignore the trees streaking past the windows outside as the train rolled backwards into town at high speeds before smashing itself to smithereens.

There the train lay, now nothing but a pile of scrap metal with all of us buried underneath. Then pieces began to move as we all dug our way out of the wreckage, laughing and feeling the satisfaction from what had been an adrenaline rush available to those hungry for a thrill few have had the courage to seek.

“How was that?” the guide had to shout above our cheering. He didn’t need an answer, as our enthusiasm gave him the response he was expecting.

“That’s it for the train ride,” the guide announced. “Gather your belongings and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for your souvenir picture taken just before the crash.”

We all thanked the guide and then raided the gift shop, making sure to purchase the “I Survived A Train Wreck” T-shirt along with our pictures. Meanwhile, the train outside was reassembled and readied for its next terrifying trip down the mountain.

Ziplining at Icy Strait Point.

Icy Strait Point, Hoonah, Alaska.

The single most memorable excursion on my vacation to Alaska was going ziplining at Icy Strait Point. This was my first time on such a ride and I was a little nervous but at the same time was excited about it.

20190719_1257156816569246214037437.jpg
Should I or shouldn’t I?

The excursion began with a bus ride through the neighboring city of Hoonah, a seaside community small enough where everyone knows each other. It has its own post office, school and a general store whose motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Then the bus began its bumpy climb up the mountain on one dirt road after another. At least the driver had enough of a sense of humor to announce that everyone was about to receive a complimentary back massage. Finally, the bus reached the top of the mountain, and from there it was a short walk down a steep trail before I arrived at the zipline. The mountain was high enough for me not to see the ground without the clouds in the way.

20190719_1405502529832519667475202.jpg
Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

The ride has 6 cables to accommodate 6 riders at a time. After the riders are strapped into the specialized chairs and given safety instructions, they are sent plummeting along the side of the mountain, descending 1,330 feet with speeds up to 60 miles per hour before the ride ends less than two minutes later.

But what was it like? Not scary in the least, not by my standards. Although the ride is fast, the descent is smooth and the view spectacular. At once you can feel what it’s like to be a bird in flight high above the trees. I could use my arms to adjust my view of the surrounding area but it felt wonderful to be alive and so free as I have never felt before. Never mind that it was cold and rainy, never mind that I got rain on my goggles, never mind that I got wet, this was truly a thrill of a lifetime. I’d do it all over again, rain or shine.

ziplining6505093760019674497.jpg
Woot.

Bonzi Cruises: A nightmare at sea.

I’m sure we all still remember Bonzi Buddy, that cute purple gorilla with the bad spying habits. I couldn’t help wonder what would have happened had Bonzi Software had stayed in business long enough for it to become a global business empire. I can see it launching its own discount cruise ship line but alas, the discounts would have come with steep prices of their own.

Passengers are advised to avoid the onboard shopping show at all costs. Hosted by a faceless animatronic robot with dangling glasses who goes by the name of Professor Wallet (“I am going to save you SOOO much money you won’t believe!”), the lowlight of the show is the firing of three cannons loaded with Cruise Cash coupons that supposedly ensure discounts for onboard purchases. The cannons are so loud that it leaves everyone’s ears ringing for the duration of the cruise. The coupons themselves are incinerated during the cannon fire, leaving behind nothing but ashes all over the auditorium. Attending this show is a total waste of time.

There is free wifi aboard the ship, but it comes with a serious catch. All online activity is monitored and the data used to suggest products and services based on that activity. Bartenders use this data to identify passengers with certain political views for engaging in shouting matches with them later should they decide to visit the bar. Privacy advocates have criticized Bonzi Cruises for spying on their passengers this way but the policies have remained firmly in place.

Not surprisingly, the Bonzi Buddy mascot makes appearances throughout the ship, including unannounced visits to passengers’ cabins while they sleep or take a shower. Terrified screams are common during the night and are hardly reason to ensure a good night’s sleep at all during the cruise.

The onboard entertainment is horrific, in fact none of the live shows are worth checking out. The comic Lenny Laff constantly cracks jokes on disasters that can break out on the ship, such as capsizing, catching fire and breaking in half. The magician Matt the Magic performs illusions of such inferior quality that the audience can easily see how they were done. The band Party Pants claims to perform top hits from decades past when all it does is play the same cheesy rhythm while repeatedly yelling out the song’s title. Little wonder that passengers have either attempted to escape the ship by manning the lifeboats or just jumping overboard altogether.

To keep prices low, the ship does not count its passengers prior to leaving port. It will not wait for those who are late returning to the ship and will leave without them. Afterwards their suitcases are salvaged and their contents sold at the onboard stores.

Don’t let the low fares mislead you. Bonzi Cruises charges for everything, from using the bathroom to accessing the elevators. There are charges for using the swimming pool, the hot tub and even for walking around on deck. This is one cruise line to avoid, in fact it’s cheaper to just stay home for the rest of your lives.

A different kind of excursion.

“Are you crazy?” my wife was surprised. “There’s kayaking, canoeing, hiking…”

“I know,” I sighed.

“…ziplining, bus tours, train rides…”

“I know,” I repeated.

“And you’d rather…?”

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” I insisted. “There really aren’t excursions like this anywhere else in the world!”

“No thanks, I’d rather stay in the cabin. Either that or go with you with a paper bag over my head. Go have fun on YOUR excursion.”

With that, my wife plopped down on the bed and refused to say another word. But I still wanted to do this, so I left the ship and went to my excursion on the dock.

“Welcome!” the guide greeted the small group of people who had gathered near the sign marking the site of the excursion. “No doubt you had to put up with snickering and words of disbelief from those in your travel group, but it’s well worth it as this is the only excursion of its kind in the entire world. I know you’re all excited, so let’s get started. Let me show you how to drive a forklift.”

A peculiar turn of events.

I needed a moment to digest what had just happened. There I stood, in the middle of the store where I worked while wearing nothing but my boxer shorts. All around me customers and coworkers snickered at my appearance. Yet just moments ago I was in my cabin of a cruise ship thousands of miles away. What happened?

“Mike! You’re back!” My boss interrupted my thoughts. He had joined the growing crowd of snickering gawkers. “Why aren’t you dressed for work? You know I can’t have you work like that.”

“But I’m on vacation,” I protested.

“Being on vacation doesn’t mean parading into the store in your boxer shorts. Go home and get dressed, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll forget we had this conversation,” my boss retorted. “And besides, your vacation ended last week.”

“But that’s impossible!” I exclaimed. “I’ve only been on vacation for a few days!”

“Go home and get dressed or else I’ll make your vacation permanent.”

I started feeling my pockets for my car keys but alas, my boxer shorts didn’t have pockets. I didn’t have my keys either. They were in my suitcase in my cabin where I was just moments ago.

Then it dawned on me. I knew I shouldn’t have found that hidden elevator on the ship that goes only to the 13th floor.

Incident at the border.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now arriving at the Candanian border. Please have your passports and paperwork ready.”

All the passengers aboard the tour bus retrieved the requested items from their purses and wallets, myself included. I gazed out the window and saw the customs and immigration building underneath the Candanian flag flying in the breeze. I was hoping this part of my vacation would go smoothly.

The bus coasted to a stop as the driver announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, please gather your belongings and meet the customs officers inside the building. This shouldn’t take long.”

Everyone unboarded the bus and made their way inside the building where they formed a line to present their passports to the customs officers. The line moved swiftly as the officers glanced at the passports and paperwork and welcomed the tourists to Candana. Maybe this won’t go so badly after all.

Then it was my turn to go to an available customs officer. He greeted me warmly as he examined my passport. Suddenly the smile on his face vanished as his eyes widened with shock. “Come with me, sir,” the officer ordered as he led me to a back room where five officers surrounded me and immediately began shoving me around.

“Wait, wait!” I yelled.”Why are you shoving me around?”

“You are from Loridfa, correct?”

“Yes, that’s where I live.”

“And that’s where tourists from Candana go for the winter, correct?”

“Yeah, so?”

“On the morning of November 15th of last year, you were driving on the interstate when you swerved and cut off a driver who happened to be a tourist from Candana. An attack on one is an attack on all! It’s payback time, beeyotch!”

And so the shoving continued, much to the chagrin of the other tourists who seemed to know the reason for the delay.