Sunday, January 27, 2013

“Stand Up Guys” – Movie Review



This weekend, my movie class held the first bonus screening of the Spring Semester with “Stand Up Guys”, starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. 


Once a gangster gets released from prison, he’s reunited with an old colleague – but when a vengeful mob boss wants the colleague to murder his friend, will he be able to risk payback in order to save his buddy’s life? 


After more than 20 years in prison, Val (Pacino) is finally released on probation – and there to greet him when he leaves is Doc (Walken), his best friend from the old days.  Elated at seeing each other after all this time, they decide to go out for a bit of a party to celebrate Val’s freedom.  But despite being in the company of an old pal, Doc is not exactly in a partying mood – Claphands (Mark Margolis), a gang leader with a score to settle, wants Val dead…and orders Doc to carry it out within the next 24 hours. 

Doc’s conscience is now at odds with his survival instinct – does he murder his former partner in crime (literally) or let him live, only to have Claphands’ crew execute both of them?  While he wrestles with this decision, the two men reminisce and suddenly realize that they are missing Hirsch (Arkin), their old getaway driver.  In order to correct their oversight, they decide to visit Hirsch in the nursing home where he now resides and convince him to join them both in their modest celebration.  Although they briefly relive the old days upon stealing a car and eluding the police after an elaborate chase with Hirsch at the wheel, all of their evening’s adventures prove too much for the sickly Hirsch and he expires behind the wheel with the car parked awaiting the return of Val and Doc. 

Finally, Val is forced to come to terms with a truth that he already suspected – now that he’s free, Claphands won’t let him enjoy his newfound freedom for very long.  Val is now determined to learn who Claphands will send after him to get the job done – unable to lie to his amigo, Doc confesses that Claphands has picked him to get the job done.  Despite knowing that it will be his closest friend who will pull the trigger, the idea of Doc killing him still does not sit too well with Val – and understandably so.  But with Doc admitting he’s finding it difficult to bring himself to finish off his crony, can Val persuade Doc to abandon the plan or will Doc find it necessary to take out his comrade in order to survive?     


While the concept of seeing these three actors together as a team of septuagenarian cons trying to resurrect their glory days is appealing, its execution in “Stand Up Guys” is nothing special – which is why, unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable recommending this mediocre movie.  The screenplay, written by Noah Haidle, is challenged by the periodic suspension of disbelief the writer imposes upon his audience; when we are forced to ask questions about so many events in the movie (e.g., how those old guys bury a dead body by themselves, why no one has a cell phone,  or the unrealistic effects of Viagra), the film ultimately loses any kind of credibility with its viewers.

Although “Stand Up Guys” tries to make many attempts at humor, I found that the jokes generally fell flat.  Additionally, the casting of the movie is a little misleading – despite the fact that Alan Arkin appears to get equal billing to both Pacino and Walken, his role of Hirsch is very small and relatively insignificant to the main story.  His brief appearance in the middle of the film makes you wonder about why the marketing of this motion picture is such that you are led to believe that Arkin has much more screen time than he really does. 

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed the film’s director, Fisher Stevens.  Stevens revealed that an attempt was made to produce this movie a few years ago, but it fell through when Pacino was cast as Doc and Walken cast as Val; eventually re-teaming, they switched roles and both actors felt more comfortable with the casting.  One technical note that I found interesting was that Stevens said filmmakers have a new technology available to them for shooting car chase scenes – the method is called a Biscuit (and if you read the credits at the end of the flick, you’ll see that someone had the title of “Biscuit Driver”).  The way it works is that the car in the chase scene is attached to the top of a flatbed and the actors are secured in the vehicle; then, a stunt driver with a crash helmet is put in a small vehicle beneath them and makes the car appear to perform all those crazy moves.  According to Stevens, this allowed him to get much more shot coverage, using up to four cameras while shooting the chase scene. 


Saturday, January 26, 2013

“The Old Man And The Sea” – Book Review



This year on my winter vacation, I continued my annual tradition of reading an Ernest Hemingway book with his classic, “The Old Man And The Sea”.  What made me pick this one?  Well, after doing a small bit of research, I came to learn that this was the 60 year anniversary since its publication; it won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year and the Nobel Prize for Literature the year after that.  Given that coincidence, it seemed like an appropriate choice for this year’s read.

A bit of background about the book, in case it’s unfamiliar to you:  “The Old Man And The Sea” is considered Hemingway’s last major work that was published during his lifetime (although other significant books were released posthumously following his suicide in 1961).    Although the story takes place mostly at sea, its location is basically Cuba, where the author lived for a few years after leaving Key West, Florida; he ultimately left Cuba some time after Fidel Castro’s takeover, following a falling out between himself and the nation’s new leader. 

The Old Man And The Sea” is what’s technically referred to as a novella – either a really long short story or a really short (one chapter, in this case) novel, depending on how you look at it.  It is a story about an elderly fisherman named Santiago and his mentoring relationship with Manolin, a young man who aspires to learn the skills of fishing so that he may pursue this as a career and carry on the long, proud tradition into another generation.  Manolin has been joining Santiago on his fishing expeditions for quite some time now, but at the exhortation of his parents, has ended this relationship because they believe Santiago to be unlucky since he has not caught anything for nearly three months.  On his next fishing trip, Santiago is forced to go out all by himself in order to catch a marlin which he can sell for a huge profit upon returning to his village.  Following a protracted struggle with the valiant fish, Santiago finally catches the marlin and attaches it to the side of his skiff before making his way back to land – but will Santiago be able to fend off the predatory sharks accompanying him on his journey or will he be forced to return empty handed after his efforts? 

Subsequent to my reading of “The Old Man And The Sea”, I decided to extend my research with a critical analysis of the book.  I find doing so to be an invaluable aid in providing a deeper understanding and appreciation of what I’ve just read, as well as either confirming or rejecting beliefs I formed during my reading.  Additionally, it fills in areas I either missed altogether or found to be rather murky.  This research forced me to come to terms with the extensive allegory – particularly of a religious nature – that is spread throughout the story, which had eluded me in my original reading. 

As a baseball fan myself, I was especially interested in the discussion of the sport, which also pops up at various points in the book – The New York Yankees and Joe DiMaggio (including his bone spurs).  The analysis addressed one of the issues I had where Santiago mentions the Yanks losing to the Cincinnati Reds – an impossibility during the regular season since the two teams play in different leagues.  While I was glad to see the point discussed, quite frankly, I didn’t buy the explanation that it was a way of illustrating the irrationality of fears.  Ultimately, where I did find some degree of accord with the analysis was in terms of its explanation of the human condition -- the story of Santiago as an aging man trying to combat his enervating physical abilities as well as fighting death, loss of dignity, self-respect, virility and the struggle to regain a purpose to his life.

While reading the book during my vacation, I was approached by a woman who told me that she had also read this particular work by Hemingway back when she was in high school; she recalled her impatience with the story, thinking, “Oh, let’s just catch the damned fish already so we can all go home!”.  I understood her frustration; the story occasionally felt somewhat static and overly (perhaps unnecessarily) contemplative and I came away feeling a little disappointed that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I wanted or anticipated.  Why was this so?  I think I was so focused on the story itself that I ignored the inherent value of how it was written – in other words, I believe I placed too much emphasis on merely completing the book that I totally missed its finer points of style and subtler meaning.  Given how short the book is, it can be re-read reasonably quickly; what with all of the accolades it has earned over the decades – not to mention the fact that it has remained heralded as a classic during all of that time – it deserves a second read on my part … and I fully intend on doing precisely that one of these days. 


Saturday, January 12, 2013

“god Is Not Great” – Book Review




This year on my winter vacation, I finally finished reading “god Is Not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything” by the late Christopher Hitchens.  Actually, I started reading it towards the end of last year’s vacation, but didn’t finish it; although I had resolved to do so during the summer, time slipped away from me and I never got around to it until my next winter trip rolled around. 

A National Book Award finalist, “god Is Not Great” is a brilliantly written, meticulously researched book that is simultaneously hilariously (dare I say devilishly?) funny, thought provoking and intellectually stimulating; in short, it is The Bible for Atheism.  If its late author is not remembered for anything else in his extensive oeuvre, it is this book that should stand above all as his ultimate triumph.  Hitchens’ writing style and combative approach toward all religions of the world combine for a refreshing “Take No Prisoners” approach in advocating a new enlightenment for mankind. 

god Is Not Great” contains 19 chapters where Hitchens relentlessly bitch-slaps every known religion mercilessly.  His attacks are well thought out and backed with a phalanx of facts for those who would dare to question any of his assertions.  Chapter 5 is titled, “The Metaphysical Claims Of Religion Are False”; in its introduction, he includes a quote that pretty much sums up the author’s views of religion of any kind:  “We sacrifice the intellect to God”. 

But that said, I certainly wouldn’t recommend you stop reading right then and there – or at least if you did, you would be doing so at your own risk.  To fail to read further would be doing yourself a disservice because you would miss the sheer fiendish delight at which “Hitch” (as I’m given to understand his friends called him) dismantles the sanctimonious and the pious alike, proving that evil is not committed in the absence of religion, but rather, it’s committed by the presence of religion. 

Religion, Hitchens asserts, is a hypocrisy which exists not only as a money-making enterprise but also a means by which to both control and enslave the weak-minded – thus, it is exceedingly more dangerous than merely being an emotional crutch, as is the frequent accusation.  The concept of “Intelligent Design”, he insists, is nothing more than bombastically re – branded creationism – and isn’t even “intelligent” in the first place, given that much of the design is poor and faulty. 

Hitchens also uses the opportunity to address the use of the term “god” versus “God”, saying that “god” is more about “anti-theism” which is not to be confused with atheism.  He further maintains that religion and totalitarianism are both mutually supportive of each other and somewhat symbiotic.  Regarding The Gospels, Hitchens believes that they are inconsistent and at times even contradictory.  Yet somehow, they have long gone unquestioned.  Why?  Jesus himself has been depicted as possessing the hubris to be both judge and jury in various instances – he forgives “sinners” but gives little or no thought to the people who were wronged or hurt by those “sins”.   

Criticisms of “god Is Not Great” are few and far between.  For one thing, there was no discussion of either L. Ron Hubbard or Dyanetics – perhaps the author felt this was low-hanging fruit he didn’t need to pick in order to make his salient points.  Also, one must admit that Hitchens is (if you’ll pardon the inexcusable pun) preaching to the choir – he is catering to an audience who already shares his world view, after all.  Would religious people even deign to read this book?  And if they did, would it result in them questioning their faith?  If so, then you could rightly suggest that their belief was rather shaky to begin with.  In all likelihood, most would immediately dismiss the book or come equipped with what they think are sufficient arguments to refute Hitchens’ allegations. 

Christopher Hitchens was a mind that was tragically robbed from society far too soon a little over a year ago.  One might well pose the question what other valuable insights about religion he would have given us with more time and opportunity?  To quote The Beach Boys, “God Only Knows”.   

Friday, January 11, 2013

“The Bobby Gold Stories” – Book Review



This year on my New Year’s vacation, I finished reading “The Bobby Gold Stories” (published by Bloomsbury in 2002) by Anthony Bourdain

Although “The Bobby Gold Stories” is described (on its cover, anyway) as a novel, it really is nothing more than an eponymously titled book containing a collection of 12 short stories whose only common thread is its fictional protagonist, Bobby Gold; it is really just the last few stories (I hesitate to call them chapters) that appear to have any kind of a narrative story that ties one to the other, much in the way that you would expect a novel to do.  While entertaining, funny and a quick read (it’s a short book that you’ll fly through quickly whether on vacation or spending summer weekends at the beach), it is hardly what I would think of as a novel in its strictest – or most traditional, at least – sense.

Essentially, it contains tales of Bobby Gold, ostensibly a hit-man for the mob while holding down a “normal” security job at nightclubs and restaurants owned by his gangster bosses.  While a teenager, Bobby was convicted on a drug bust and spent a decade in prison, where he effectively attended graduate school on how to be a criminal and constructively spent his time building up his scrawny Jewish frame into a muscular and imposing 6’4” physique.  Emerging from his stint as a tough guy, he is ultimately re-hired by the men he worked for as a raw youth – but now, in a rougher, tougher, more dangerous endeavor. 

Following many tales of Bobby both on and off the job, we are treated to something of a love story – or should I characterize it as a lust story? – when Bobby hooks up with Nikki, a cook at the club where he works as a bouncer.  Ultimately, Nikki confesses to Bobby that she collaborated with a kitchen colleague to relieve their mutual employer of some excess pecuniary instruments without said employer’s prior knowledge or consent.  This peccadillo results in the employer sending some of his select associates after Nikki to reclaim the booty – but when Bobby decides to assist Nikki in her escape, this results in the both of them putting their lives at risk.

As a fan of much of Bourdain’s work – including and especially his fiction – I have to say that this was not one of his best efforts.  In an attempt to wring out yet another tale of organized crime connected with the hospitality industry, Bourdain only succeeded in what appears to be something of a half-hearted effort that lacked much of the soul and enthusiasm of other works like “Gone Bamboo” or “A Bone In The Throat”.  An uninspired piece, this is hardly something worth savoring; if you do choose to read it, finish it quickly and don’t try to think too much about it after you’re done – any further energy spent would most certainly be an egregious  waste.






Saturday, January 05, 2013

Hedonism II – New Year’s Eve 2012


An ice sculpture wishing everyone a Happy 2013

Hedonism II -- Where you can be wicked for a week!

Hedonism II – Where the pleasure comes in many forms!

Hedonism II – Where you can find women performing Their Wifely Duties … with men who may or may not be their husbands!

Yeah, if it’s New Year’s Eve, then I’m there again – a place where I’ve spent the past 15 of them rather than to brave the wintery weather here in my home of New York City as multitudes of tourists flock to Times Square in order to ring in the new year. 

But is my time there winding down?  Mother Of Mercy!  Is this The End Of Rico?  In my mid-fifties, 18 years a diabetic and recently diagnosed with glaucoma, as much as I hate to admit it, perhaps it is indeed winding down …

As many of us who are long-time visitors of Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica know, the demographic of its clientele has been changing; the majority are repeat visitors who have been vacationing there for many years and the aging of those guests eventually result in their ultimate demise.  According to experts, this simple act of “dying” (as I’ve often heard it called) tends to directly impact on the amount of time spent vacationing; shockingly, dying results in a decrease in the amount of vacation time and dollars spent. 

But is Hedonism II something of an Evergreen?  Can it outlast the dying-off of its original customer base by marketing to new, younger vacationers who will continue to keep the place going?  “Hedonism II:  The Next Generation”, in effect?  I don’t know.  That’s why the theme of this year’s Trip Report is …

Fifty Shades Of Gray Hair

The Aging Of Hedonism II Vacationers

Day 1:  Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - “The Usual Suspects”

Flags at the entrance of Hedonism II

Recidivists.  Repeat Offenders.  The Usual Suspects. 

Call them what you will, these are the vacationers from all around the world – many of them from The United States and Canada – who have made Hedonism II their home away from home many times over. 

Following my check-in shortly after noon on this Boxing Day, I had lunch, then immediately went to my room to unpack.  Exhausted from an all-nighter to catch my 6AM flight that morning, I took a nap shortly thereafter.  A few hours later, I awoke somewhat refreshed and began to make my way to the piano bar where I heard The Repeaters Party was being held. 

On my way, I ran into another Hedo New Year’s Regular, a man I shall refer to as Mr. New Year’s Eve because he is just as much a part of the New Year’s celebration at Hedonism II as is the stroke of midnight on December 31st; in fact, as a gentleman a decade my senior, he has spent more of them here than I have.  Subsequent to his always warm greeting, he told me that he had just arrived a short while ago himself and sadly informed me that not only had he lost several Hedo friends earlier this year but that a couple we knew – also Hedo regulars at New Year’s – would not be joining us due to the fact that both of them had encountered significant health problems throughout the year.   Later, after a purchase in the gift shop, I ran into a couple I knew from previous Hedo visits at New Year’s who also gave me a similar story about yet another couple who would be skipping this year. 

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.  And what’s that annoying ringing in my ears, anyway?

Day 2:  Thursday, December 27, 2012 - “Power To The People”

On this day, we had an hours-long power outage that began in the afternoon and lasted well into the early evening.  The entire resort was in complete darkness by 6PM, after the sun had set; the power came on briefly a half hour later, only to go off again in 15 minutes.  By 7:30PM, the power had been restored for the remainder of the evening.  Throughout the resort, the staff laid out a number of candles – the same ones used on the tables in the main dining room during dinner; Housekeeping even wound up putting lit candles in the guest rooms as well. 

At one point, there were so many candles around the main dining room that the bar looked like the altar of a Catholic church.  Eventually, they ran out of regular candles and were forced to use citronella candles instead; while this succeeded in keeping the bugs away, it also caused the dining room to reek something awful.  Later that evening, when the power had remained on for a sustained period of time, employees from the Housekeeping Department visited each guest’s room to collect the candles.

That church-like feeling stuck with me for a while; it felt somewhat like we were attending a funeral – one for Hedonism II, maybe – and that everyone was in mourning.  If the guests weren’t dying right before our eyes, could it be possible that the resort itself might be in its final death throes? 

Day 3:  Friday, December 28, 2012 - “Carpe Diem”

Pool Rules

Although everything appeared to be normal in the early morning, scattered electrical problems continued throughout most of the day in a majority of the resort.  A Hedonism II employee was overheard telling another guest that the problem had to do with a transformer that went out; a crew was dispatched to repair it and the problem seemed to be resolved last night, but whatever they did turned out to be nothing more than applying a band-aid to a hemorrhaging wound. 

What had looked like a nearly empty resort was now slowly starting to fill as departing guests were being replaced with new arrivals.  While the new guests were inconvenienced to find no electricity upon their arrival, existing guests such as myself naturally didn’t experience any real problems during the day – it was only after sunset when problems developed.  Unlike yesterday, at least the lobby and main dining room had power – so, at a minimum, a few guests could be somewhat mollified by having the bartenders make them blender-based drinks. 

Exhausted, I finally returned to my room around 8:30PM in dire need of a shower, which I was hesitant to take in a darkened room where the only light came from a single candle (supplied again by Housekeeping).  Only five minutes later, I heard (and felt) the room’s air conditioning kick in; checking the lights, I found that power had been restored – but for how long?  Nevertheless, I quickly showered and dressed with an alacrity that would have rivaled Usain Bolt since it was impossible to know how much longer we would have electricity.  That night’s Gala Buffet was hardly gala, given the circumstances. 

Day 4:  Saturday, December 29, 2012 - “Let There Be Light”

Between the number of people checking in late last night and early this morning, the resort appeared considerably more populated than it had been the previous couple of days.  For those of us that have been here for a while, we’re all rather tentative and a bit punchy by this point -- somewhat waiting for yet another shoe to drop in terms of either a power outage or some other kind of service disruption. 

As things were to turn out, not only did the electricity remain on for the entire day, but there were no other significant power outages for the rest of my stay, thankfully.  During the outages, the General Manager was highly visible around the resort – and clearly busy and stressed out.  I saw him walking all around the resort with his cell phone seemingly glued to his ear and at other times, conducting impromptu stand-up meetings with staff at various locations around the resort in order to get updates on the situation.  Despite the frustration, I must say that he seemed on top of the situation at all times and from my own limited perspective appeared to have managed it well.  Therefore, it was good to eventually see him more relaxed and at ease, even smiling occasionally. 

Also here during this week was The Bare Bottom Bunch, a group that has been present for the last several New Year’s Eves at Hedo.  On this night, they sponsored a foam party in the disco; while I didn’t attend it myself, from all appearances, it was rather well-received.  Attendees I spoke with generally said that they had a good deal of fun and that they enjoyed themselves considerably. 

Day 5:  Sunday, December 30, 2012 - “Resort Or Retirement Community”

Had another chat with my friend Mr. New Year’s Eve today.  He told me that he has been retired for the past couple of years and that while he gets a pension and collects Social Security, he still has to withdraw money from his bank account every month in order to make ends meet.  Despite this, he somehow manages to make it here to Hedonism II every year in order to celebrate New Year’s Eve with the rest of us.  Is it any wonder that I want to be just like him when I grow up?

Last night at dinner, I saw an elderly woman in a wheelchair being pushed around by an apparently similarly-aged gentleman throughout the main dining room – probably her husband.  This afternoon, I spotted him pushing her to the back of the nude pool area.  She sat there for a few minutes looking wistfully at all of the interaction and playful activity that developed between the couples.  Was she nostalgic for days past?  Or was she yearning for a past that never was?  Maybe both.  Shortly thereafter, she instructed her “driver” to wheel her away. 

Is Hedonism still a resort?  Or is it now on the verge of turning into a retirement community?  Sometimes, it almost seems as though it is on the verge of making that very transition.  Certainly, it would be a very different kind of place to send one’s parents once they can no longer fully care for themselves.  But what then should we expect?  The elderly being permitted to wear Depends adult undergarments on the nude beach? 

Day 6:  Monday, December 31, 2012 - “The Pre – Party Party”

New Year's Eve Daytime Activities

Without a doubt, this afternoon seemed to be the most sexually active than any other day I’ve spent here so far.  It almost felt like no matter where you looked – or when – there was something on which you could feast your eyes.  Whether it was the pool, the lounge chairs or the hot tub, there was no shortage of playtime between eager couples.  On this day of New Year’s Eve, you might say that this was the pre-party party.  In spite of this, it still seemed to me that the crowd here was not as big as those in New Years’ past; we’ll see what the guest passes bring this evening. 

New Year's Eve Nighttime Activities

As in years past, they did sell bottles of Champagne, but it was much more low-key in comparison to last year; usually, they set up a table at dinner time near where the buffet line starts, but this year, they did not.  Instead, I had to inquire the bar manager if they were in fact selling any bubbly; she said they were and that the menu was available at the front desk where it could be purchased.  This year’s menu included Moët & Chandon for $100, Prosecco for $30 and sparkling rosé brut for $25; seeing as how I didn’t particularly care for any of the choices – and that (unlike in past years) I was not at a table with a group of people, I skipped purchasing a bottle.


Another difference from past parties is that there was no martini bar; in some years, they would set up the martini bar next to the Champagne station on New Year’s Eve while in other years, they would hold off on the martini bar until dinner time on New Year’s Day.  This year, they did neither.  Fortunately, they had the martini bar set up on the previous Friday during the “Gala” Buffet, so I didn’t miss it completely. 

Midnight on New Year's Eve 2012 at Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica

Day 7:  Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - “Good Morning, Brooklyn”


Brooklyn, it would seem, is its own brand.  I have noticed this over the years when seeing how people react whenever I tell them where I’m from.  When going away on vacation, I do not hide the fact that I am from New York City’s most famous borough; quite the opposite, in fact – I exploit it.  In the event I am asked where I am from, I never respond with “New York City”; I’m always more precise than that – I instead reply with one word:  Brooklyn.  Then I stand back and watch the response. 

This tends to become more of a factor how I relate to people (or more specifically, how they relate to me) after they’ve seen me in my t-shirt that proudly proclaims:  “Brooklyn:  Only The Strong Survive”.  After that, people who meet me don’t forget me, even if they can’t recall my name.  “Hello, Brooklyn!”, I’ll hear on the beach or “Happy New Year, Brooklyn!” screamed at me from across the bar or even, as was the case early on this day as I headed to my lounge chair by the pool, “Good Morning, Brooklyn!” from a gentleman sipping coffee from the upper floor room overlooking the hot tub.

It is not unusual for me to be asked if I’m really from Brooklyn, as if it’s far too incredible to believe that anyone would so openly admit such a fact in public; apparently, it’s got a stigma attached to it that might be comparable to admitting that one is from the Jersey Shore after the popularity of a particular television show.   

Day 8:  Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - “The Last Guest At The Party”

The Main Pool early in the morning

Have I overstayed my welcome?  Is it time to go?  Where are all of the people we partied with on Monday night?  Clearly, I am that dreaded of all creatures, otherwise known as The Last Guest At The Party; I am The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave.  As fewer and fewer New Year’s Eve revelers remain, today appears to be something of a transition day; folks who didn’t check-out yesterday are now exiting in droves today.  And the cheese stands alone.

Over the many years now, it has long been tradition that during the month of January, a swingers group descends upon Hedonism and performs what is commonly referred to as a “takeover”.  Slowly but surely, this group is starting to find its way in to the resort.  Quite frankly, if the sexual energy level at this little corner of Negril wasn’t already high prior to their arrival, it is pretty much guaranteed to change, almost within the blink of an eye. 

The other visual clue that my vacation is nearing its end can be found in the lobby of the resort.  There, you can find tables set up for the different travel agents who specialize in swinger-oriented vacations; it is their groups who will be the overwhelming population here at Hedonism over the next few weeks.  Suddenly, I am beginning to feel – dare I say it? – distinctly unwelcome.  Quite the outsider, indeed.  Now, if only I knew where I left my passport …

Day 9:  Thursday, January 3, 2013 - “The Panic Attack”

What did I miss that I wish I had done?

What did I do that I wish I hadn’t? (The more likely question)

Who didn’t I speak to that I wanted to meet?

What tour did I want to take before I let time slip away from me?

What massage did I plan to have when I came here but forgot to schedule?

Which cocktail did I thirst for when I thought I had tried them all?

These are just some of the questions that one begins to ask oneself when their days at Hedonism dwindle down to their precious few.  A most distinct feeling of panic starts to set in and cannot be ignored, no matter how much one may try.  You can see it in those few remaining stragglers – it’s quite obvious, at least it is if you make the effort to look for the rather blatant cues.  Their last full day at the resort is spent as though it was going to be their last full day on earth and they try to live it to its utmost.

That beehive of activity is completely lost on me, but I manifest the dreaded Panic Attack in different ways – I get extremely fidgety.  All of a sudden, where I previously had absolutely no trouble staying on my lounge chair for extended periods of time, I now can no longer seem to be able to sit still.  Not if I tried.  Not if I wanted to.  Not even if my life depended on it.  My mind and my body are both plaintively trying to tell me that I’m ready to go, if only I’ll be willing to listen.   

Day 10:  Friday, January 4, 2013 - “The Inevitable ”

The legendary Moon Hill upon exiting Hedonism

The inevitable finally arrived – check-out and my return to New York City.  The long flight home provides sufficient time for reflection. 

What went right on this trip?  Well, certainly the weather for one – nearly every dusk brought us a perfect sunset, applauded by all gathered on proper side of the linked fence that distinguishes the population of Point Village from the rest of us Undesirables.  In fact, the only hint of rain came on my last day – just a few drops fell for about 10 minutes; I almost feel like I’m overstating matters to even call it rain.

What went wrong?  Obviously, the aforementioned electrical challenges that put a damper on things for a bit.  But even more of a downer was learning of either the loss or illness of some Hedonism regulars who usually join us at the party for New Year’s Eve. 

This point recalls the overarching theme of this year’s trip report:  the other inevitability -- that of aging and death.  Or the other flight home, if you prefer. 

On my last evening at the resort, I went to the disco and noticed all of the new crowd – many of them a young (I would guess in their 30’s) melting pot (accents overheard included Russian, Italian and British).  Yes, I suppose Hedo will go on, but what one must come to grips with is that eventually, it must go on without us. 

In the meantime, Brooklyn beckons.  And it’s where I belong.  For now, anyway.