Otherwise titled: “Top Five Situations People Pay to be In, Which I Would Pay Lots of Money to Avoid”
#5 – A Crowded Beach on a Hot Summer Day
I have a knack for being the one hit in the head by the Frisbee, football, whatever – it’s just my thing. Why I can’t transform that phenomenon into, say, winning lottery tickets… it’s an alchemy yet manifested. Meanwhile, I’ve experienced many a hot summer burn your feet, packed with bodies, peak days at beaches across Southern California, the East Coast, Waikiki, even the French Riviera. Luckily, since then, I’ve been spoiled living on a tropical island with a limitless number of optional sandy settings to choose from. Though we consistently get bombarded with tourists, you can always suss out some private spot that includes only you, your dog and your other dog (your boyfriend). There is no reason ever when I prefer to be sitting downwind to tourists spraying each other with carcinogenic sunscreens chock full o’ DNA-distorting nano particles (far-fetched thought in the modern weird world but… I’d rather croak from fun in the sun than a can of chemicals). These same plebs immediately jump into the ocean, where it all washes off and destroys the reef and adds a lovely toxic slurry for the marine life. To compound the clichéd unconsciousness, they then go sit in the blaring midday sun without an umbrella or hat and wonder why they resemble baked lobster. I would pay $150 if necessary to be removed in handcuffs from that situation.
AMOUNT I’D PAY TO AVOID: $50-150
#4 – Hotels
These days even five star hotels are not immune to roach motel level scum thanks to the onslaught of bed bugs. Many a yelp review sounds more like a cry for help as guests – from the budget conscious to the high rollers – are subjected to a variety of pestiferous aggravations that range from being nibbled upon to having complaints/concerns dismissed with a courtesy move to a new room without compensation for the inconvenience. If you thought the flame retardants from California’s overkill mattress standards were bad, these rooms are even worse as they get fumigated over and over (bed included) on a regular basis. And if you want to check on a hotel before booking, don’t rely solely on bedbugregistry.com; you need to do a thorough Internet search as there’s no solely reliable clearinghouse for experiential public commentary regarding this matter. Though most hotel staff keeps mum about how bad the situation really is, one Oahu-based concierge spilled the beans: “All hotels in Honolulu have them and if they say they don’t, they are lying.” Bringing these bugs home = a whole other nightmare most people would pay thousands of dollars to avoid.
AMOUNT I’D PAY TO AVOID: $250-500+
#3 – Coachella
(Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Burning Man, etc.…) I highly recommend going to at least one music festival when you are young, you know, so you understand why you don’t need to go to them. Beyond that, you have no excuse. Thousands of people in any one location, integrating into the biomass; sweat on, shoved, pretending to have a blast watching the best band ever (when in reality you could barely see or hear a thing). The bands that play, who might otherwise be good, often suck in these huge venues. As a music reviewer (and previous Lollapalooza magazine editor), I attended my fair share but in my defense, I always finagled a backstage pass as means of escape – and heck, it was free and I was getting paid to write about it. Honestly, most of the time it was the smaller stages that I’d enjoy, unless I was being entertained by behind-the-scenes antics (think Love-allapalooza circa 1995).
Not to sound like a “back-in-the-day” party pooper but Burning Man, SXSW, etc. were comparatively small events with maybe 20% the number of attendees. We made events like Burning Man manageable by having our own theme camp (the “Water Camp”), flush with the most desirous desert compound H20 (thanks to Brian Doherty and his van full of tap-filled garbage cans), beach chairs in kiddie pools, water wings (for extra protection from awkward social situations), a cardboard ship, sea shells, a sea shore, as well as a big M*A*S*H tent (stocked with food, alcohol, Ouiji board) to hide out in during the wind storms.
In summary, if I wasn’t viewing an omnipotent mass corporate conglomerate event while parked backstage in a reclining massage chair enjoying complementary food and cocktail service and a loin-clothed hottie fanning me, I would pay $500 to have a private driver pick my ass up and escort it straight to Al’s Bar (old skool LA reference but just think small run down smokey dive bar with your fave band before they became popular in any town near you).
AMOUNT I’D PAY TO AVOID: $500-750
#2a – A Cruise Ship
Why anyone would want to be locked up with a bunch of over-processed vacationers, in tiny, swaying, vertigo-manifesting cabins, on a floating all-you-can-gorge island buffet of germs and bacteria is beyond me. If I were in charge of marketing such a scam, my campaign would highlight: pee-enhanced swimming pools; questionable quality music at high volumes; canned sitcom laughter; copious amounts of indulgence swathed in white trash decadence. And while you are just out to sea, you will find comfort in that as you depart, a boatload of shit (yes, the load in the boat’s hold) is being dumped into the eco-system (visit, pillage, leave your mess behind). It’s not just actual crap but miscellaneous algae, bacteria, etc., stowing away in the undercarriage to be spread with no prejudice to each port visited. And sure, boats also have a tendency to hit whales, reefs, and sink. The ONLY reason to go on one of these monstrosities is to see icebergs (Titanic fans call dibs on your lifeboat early). I would pay $1,000 – $2,000 (depending upon how ill I felt; or if Isaac Washington was tending bar) to be helicoptered off a cruise ship direct to the nearest spa.
#2b – Group Tours
This is a similar situation, something designed for young or old people and/or those whose have little time, energy, or creativity to plan out their own trip. Sure, there are certain instances where a group tour makes sense – eco-adventures, searching for a boy/girlfriend, cultural tours (I even like those) – but the problem with group tours is that, unless the group is made up of people you already know/like, the company you will be forced to keep is a crapshoot. The type of tour and who it attracts in this case matters most. Depending on the length of the trip, I might pay $1,000 to escape a bad group tour. Certainly a zombie hipster tour to Fukushima… er, I mean Chernobyl, is not on my bucketlist.
AMOUNT I’D PAY TO AVOID: $1,000-2,000
#1 – Celebrity
Being universally recognized, wanted, and gossiped about by the general public is one of the most desired existences. It’s representative of humanity’s insatiable ego and the desperate pursuit of a “perfect life” via the illusion of “love” and wealth (and all the problems such things will solve). Anyone but an alien, and maybe the Dalai Lama, is not built to survive such onslaught without being permanently afflicted. Still, many spend their lives devoted to such a quest, with little consideration to the soul-selling consequences and what it truly takes to maintain such a facade. Imagine achieving world-wide fame, never being able to escape it in your lifetime, especially in those moments you want to leave the house with your hair unkempt; have a private nefarious relationship; do something stoopid in public; or simply be alone, in private, out in the world. I’m not terribly opposed to the idea of “almost famous”, where someone might recognize you once a month, once a year, because they actually appreciate your work rather than because you’re a part of the talent-optional pop-culture milieu they’ve been programmed to hyperventilate over. If faced with a life of TMZ status on the level of Aniston, Pitt, Jolie, Madonna, Spears, Kardashian Inc., etc., I would pay $1,000,000 to not be famous. Actually, I would pay much more.
AMOUNT I’D PAY TO AVOID: $1,000,000+
The Greek System – Kappa Delta Brutal – if it’s not Animal House why bother; the line at any Amusement Park on a dizzying 90°+ day being sprayed with atomized chlorine mist; Sweat Lodges, obviously; Colonics – just because Groupon offers a coupon does NOT mean you should do it! I’m not against things getting shoved in people’s butts per se, but enemas seem more safe and inexpensive; Korean Baths – I’m adding these on here for my friend, Kerin, who hates the idea of them almost as much as feet and bed bugs; Silverlake, CA / Hipsterville U.S.A. – though I have friends who’ve maintained amazing, tempting rent control situations, most punks would pay extra to NOT be residing next door to the mustachioed and hip-for-the-sake-of-being-ironically-droll – wow, it is like life as a bad episode of New Girl (no offense Phil Hendrie, you always rock our world)! This is pretty much consistent with all gentrified locales. In the end, it would likely even out in terms of expenses: You may pay more for a non-rent control place somewhere less trendy but your mochas won’t cost $8.00 plus tip (hello, LAMILL) and the act of eating out won’t force you to take out a loan either.