Tuesday, December 12, 2006

new post coming...

It's on it's way. Really. In the meantime, here's a picture of an evil dummy bound and gagged and hanging from the ceiling of a backwards E.T.-wallpaper-covered closet. Discuss.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My Photo of Scary Balls

Back when I lived in Quincy, I was accosted in my sleep by a grim specter of evil. Or, like millions of Americans, I suffer from sleep apnea. It all depends on your willingness to believe that there are some things in life that just can't be explained away. As for me, I feel content thinking that it was just isolated sleep paralysis, although it is a bit strange that while it happened several times in that apartment, it hasn't happened before or since. Only happened there. Granted, I've made it a point not to sleep on my back since then, (it only happened while I was on my back) I usually move around so much in my sleep that I'm never in the same position when I wake up than when I went to sleep.

I'm curious about stuff like that; ghosts and the unexplained and stuff. Not too curious, because I'm also a tremendous chicken, but curious enough to check online every once and a while and see what kind of experiences people have had. Searching for ghost pictures can be fun, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that most of them are either blatantly fake or are nothing more than specks of dust on the lens or overexposed film. But every once in a while, there's a genuinely creepy one. That doesn't mean it's real, but it doesn't make it any less creepy.

I found a site, quite a few, actually, that were purported to have ghost pictures only to find countless photos of "orbs," (the energy transferred from a source to the spirit so they can manifest, according to theshadowlands.net)Orbs? You mean lens flares? What a let down.

I figured I could rummage through some old photos and find a ton of these so-called "orbs" and...didn't find anything. Not until a few years ago, when I went out with my friends for a "random picture day" (the day we found that creepy hut in the woods.) After we left Bare Cove, we took some pictures at the beach and then a graveyard. In the graveyard, I took this picture:

I'll be damned. Orbs! Two of them. Now I'm not saying they're ghosts, far from it, but I wasn't able to get any of these stupid orbs to show up on any other pictures aside from the one from the cemetery. Weird.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Zombie Midget Realtor

I don't quite remember what caused it, but a few years ago I missed a dentist appointment and never rescheduled. I haven't been back since, and I'm pretty sure every tooth in my head is completely decayed. It's now to the point where so much time has passed that I'm afraid to go back, just out of shame. I don't want to face the inevitable lecture. I never had a single cavity when I was growing up, and now all my teeth feel weird and hollow. That can't be good.

Last summer I had about 30-something returning visitors to this blog every day. It's not a lot, but it's nice to know that, of the hundreds of millions of blogs out there, a couple dozen complete strangers are bored enough to spend their lunch hours reading about my fascination with Asian coffee drinks. After moving into our new place back in August, and all the new clients piling up at work, I've been too drained to read or write anything (and I'm not the only one), and after weeks of no new posts, those thirty people have shrunk to 9. That was a few weeks ago. I haven't checked since then. I'm afraid to even look now, just like going back to the dentist.

So whoever's left, tell your friends that guy with the rotting teeth is back online, and he's making a concerted effort to post on a semi-regular basis, at least until the next psychological crisis renders him unable to do anything but rock back and forth under his desk and drool. In other words, I should be good until around Thanksgiving or so.

Alright, there's so much to catch up on, but right now all I'm focused on is an ad I saw Friday in the Metro. It was for The Learning Annex Real Estate & Wealth Expo, and featured a frighteningly large photo of Donald Trump's shiny, greasy face. It looked like he just dunked his head in a Frialator, to the point where his giant pores were actually a distraction from that weird animal carcass sitting on his head. Anyway, according to the ad, for just $99, you'll learn the secrets to becoming a multi-millionaire from Trump, as well as Keynotes speeches from George Foreman, Tony Robbins, and a smiling Asian guy. The ad didn't say whether Trump's hair would take the podium and give it's own seminar, but it did promise that Tony Robbins will "rock your world!" Obviously I have no idea what the secrets to becoming a multi-millionaire are, but I'm pretty sure one of those secrets is to get suckers to pay $99 to hear you talk.

To get the Donald's unsettling visage out of my head, I thought about one of the other ads for money-making seminars that have appeared in the Metro. During the summer they had one for the Cash Flow Generator Think Big Conference, another real-estate conference, led by millionaire twin dwarf brothers. The ad ran for a week or so, leading up to the event, which was held at an airport Ramada or something. It seems there's always some get-rich-selling-real-estate seminar taking place, but this one was different, because it had dwarfs. Not just dwarfs (dwarves?). Twin dwarfs.

And here's where it gets weird. Okay, weirder. I mentioned them at work, and when I was met with the usual blank faces, I looked to the trusty internet to prove I hadn't imagined two tiny millionaires in business suits. Not only did I find them, but I found the obituary for one of them, from 2005. Granted, when you ride the train to and from work every day, all the days sort of blend together, but I could swear that I saw that ad this summer, six or seven months after one of the advertised speakers died. That's sort of creepy. Don't you think some sort of acknowledgment that one of the founders of the program had passed and would therefore be unable to attend would have been helpful, and above all, classy? Or were they just going to prop him at the podium and wave his arms around, and hope no one will notice? I for one would have the surviving brother stand next to a mirror. Of course, it could be there's another set of identical twin millionaire dwarf brothers teaching real-estate seminars and I've got them confused. It doesn't seem likely though.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Post on Monday

Really. And it won't even be lame. Or at least it want be exessively lame.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Your Mission

At some point in the history of the world, somebody made an a cartoon about anthropomorphic firecrackers whose sole purpose in life was to explode. More importantly, at some point in my childhood I happened to see this cartoon. I think it was one of those "little ugly duckling that could" stories, where the larger firecrackers thumbed their noses at the little guy, who wanted nothing more to be part of a Forth of July fireworks display. And sure enough, in the end, his is the most spectacular display of them all. Or maybe he wasn't chosen, but was the lone survivor after all the others exploded. I forget. I don't really remember much about it, except it was pretty disturbing, and possibly at least slightly racist (my recollection is hazy, but at least one of the characters may or may not have been a caricature of Asian stereotypes.)
I think I saw it on the Disney Channel. I don't suppose anyone has any idea what the hell I'm talking about, huh? I just need to know that someone out there saw the same thing I did.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Computer Thinks I'm British

I've had My Yahoo! set up as my homepage for several years now. I can't say that I've ever really paid attention to the banner ads, although the low mortgage rates one with creepy elongated panting wolf with all the states written on him haunts my dreams.

But now for some reason, the past few weeks, every time I launch my browser, the banner ad on My Yahoo! is for a British company or website. Just today, I've seen an ad for Zurich Insurance (zurichinsurance.co.uk), "Europe's biggest ski-lift" (easyJet.com), Yahoo! Music UK & Ireland (music.uk.launch.yahoo.com), and BUPA, which is some kind of healthcare, I guess (bupa.co.uk). No explanation whatsoever. Weird. It's really great that HMV has free UK delivery, and that I can get 5 classic DVDs for just £5.99, but since I don't live in the UK and they wouldn't work in my region 1 player, I'd probably be better off going back to the stretchy wolf.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Worst Part of Waking Up

Labor Day. I'm not really sure what the point of it is, since all the stores are open anyway, but any chance I get to get in a few extra hours of precious sleep I'll take. Such was the case yesterday, as I layed peacefuly on the bed, wrapped snugly in an oversized blanket, dreaming of sugarplums or something, when suddenly I hear, "Guess who died?"

Still groggy, I ask who.

"Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter."

"Really? How?"

"A stingray punctured his heart."

"A stingray? Really?"

Well, great. How am I supposed to sleep now? I was bummed out for the rest of the day. I kept thinking about stingrays. She did the same thing to me when Christopher Reeve died. You can't just tell someone that somebody died first thing in the morning. What the hell is that? You've got to let them wake up a little first. Geez.

On the bright side, Brianna came home yesterday! Which of course would be significant to you if I'd mentioned that she's been in South Carolina with her grandparents all last week. She was in South Carolina with her granparents all last week. Maybe she'll write about her trip.

Anyway, I think people should wait until at least after breakfast to talk about death. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And Knowing is Half the Battle

I know you can't see it, but right now I'm doing the Dance of Joy. That's because we're finally (mostly) moved into our NEW HOME! I'm sure you want to know all about the move, but right now I want to share with you something I learned yesterday. I like to think that this blog, while ocassionally entertaining, is also ocassionally educational. Just like, as it turns out, unsolicited emails for sexual performance enhancers.

Unlike all the other emails touting a "SPECIAL 70% DISC8OUNT[sic] OFER[sic]" and exclaiming, "Just disolve [sic] half a pil [sic] under your tongue and get ready for action in 15 minutes," this one had "Order status, mummy wheat" as the subject line. Now, most of the junk email that manages to slip by my standard-issue spam filter have completely nonsensical subject lines like, "Your future, mud-exhausted," (which actually showed up in my inbox just now as I was trying to think of an example typically stupid subject line) but something about "mummy wheat" just struck me as funny. So I checked it out online to see if that word coupling had been used anywhere else.

It turns out mummy wheat isn't just some word salad in a spam email, there really is something called mummy wheat. It's wheat that was found in Egyptian tombs in the 19th century by Napoleon's army. It was believed that the 6,000 year old grains had regenerative powers, perhaps mystical in nature, and if planted, could yield seven ears of wheat. This wasn't true, of course, they were far too old to grow anything at all, but at the time, people we willing to pay good money for a few grains.

So thanks, HansHill@01com.com, for sending that informative email. Now I know.

And knowing is half the battle.

By the way, when I was looking for an image from a G.I. Joe PSA, I found this. It's a site split into two categories, Realms of Faith, and the Complete Guide to G.I. Joe. Yup, someone out there created a website with a section called What Jesus Did and posted pictures of his personal vehicle collection. Yikes. Just yikes. I don't know, I've got an Obey Giant parody sticker of myself dressed like a butler on my site, am I really in any position to make fun of this guy? Let's check out a bit of his bio...

"I enjoy a wonderful family life with my wife DeKay and my daughters Snert and Plasma. Just kidding, I'm single."

Yeah. Think we saw that one coming there, buddy.

So what have we learned today? We learned that there is such a thing as mummy wheat, although agriculturally speaking, you'd be better off planting an old shoe. We learned that your purchase of online performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals is absolutely confidential and secure. We learned that Jesus Christ and Cobra Commander can coexist peacefully in the same little corner of the internet. And finally, we learned the answer to the question, "What's the saddest headline ever?"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Farewell, Sweet Prince...

You know those round tins of fancy butter cookies that every grandmother in America is required to have in her house at all times? Well my boss just came back from lunch with one of them and announced that she brought cookies for the office. Yay, cookies! But it turns out she had ulterior motives.

It seems her daughter's pet gerbil, Tom Brady, died last night and she needed something to bury him in. So she bought a tin of cookies and told us it needs to be empty by the time she leaves for the day. So we're eating out of a casket. Great, thanks for that.

Sadly, Brianna's own pet gerbil Nibbles also recently passed on. She too got a tin box send-off, although hers was an empty one we found in our garage as opposed to someone saying, "Hey, finish off these cookies, I've got a dead animal to stick in here!"

Over the years, my parents' backyard has become the final resting place of many a beloved pet. Scattered around the edge of the property line in shallow, unmarked graves are half a dozen guinea pigs, two gerbils, two parakeets and a cockatiel. Tin boxes became the tomb of choice after wild animals dug up and ate the remains of pets buried in cardboard boxes. Even the stray cat we found laying lifeless by my grandmother's shed one day was dug up and eaten the night we buried it. The next day, all that was left was a hole in the ground and a few swatches of fur.

I don't know what's out in those woods that's eating these things; wild cats, coyotes, scrunts...but whatever they are, my grandmother used to go out to the edge of the woods with plastic microwave dinner trays filled with anything from steak to salmon to manicotti for them to eat. Just like Betty White in Lake Placid. Just to make sure you understand this now, a little old lady shuffles out into the woods at dusk to feed whatever dug up and devoured an entire cat.

Speaking of my grandmother, she's now living at a rehab center just a few minutes away from the house. She's doing okay, but she keeps asking for her girdle. At least she's not out in the woods feeding salisbury steak to wolverines.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's Not All Smiles And Sunshine

As Joe would inexplicably blurt out every couple of hours, "Sherman, set the WABAC Machine to the nine-teen-fifties." Yup, he actually says that, and in true Joe fashion, it's always "the 1950's". Didn't that show come out in the 60's? (1959, actually.) In it's entire 90-plus episode run, I don't think they ever did an episode where they went back in time 10 years. It was always like the old west or ancient Egypt or something. Anyway, instead of the '50's, let's go back about three weeks.

Ryan had just come home from China, and had a little over a week of downtime before he and the rest of my family left for Bermuda. We went to see the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel that weekend. Glenn didn't go, because he went in town to see it dressed as a pirate the night it opened. You'd think a bunch of teenagers dressed like pirates would be the strangest ones in the theater, but according to Glenn there was some drunk lady there that threw up on herself twice during the movie. So I guess she gets the prize.

When we got back, Glenn said that Bunny called to say my Uncle Dan had died. That was all that was said about it; he lived in Texas, so we wouldn't be going to the funeral. Not that I'm a funeral junkie or anything, I just...I don't know. It was weird that no one really talked about him after that, like isn't somebody going to say anything?

He was actually my dad's uncle, his mother's brother to be precise, just like my Aunt Marion was her sister, but it just wasn't worth the effort to add "great-" every time you mentioned them. "Uncle Dan" worked just fine. Some people called him "Dana," but as I've mentioned before, I just can't pull off nicknames. I hadn't seen Uncle Dan in years, since we last visited him in Florida. I think it was in '99. He had a really nice house down there, with a screened-in pool and hot tub that was accessible to nearly every room in the house. And the interior doors slid into the wall instead of swinging in or out. And he had a room filled with videos, lining every shelf, three rows deep. He recorded everything and kept an organized list on his computer. He had all these tapes of A&E's Biography, which he never actually watched. The last time we were there we watched Blazing Saddles and there was a huge storm outside. At one point, we were actually in the pool, watching outside as enormous bolts of lightning struck all over the place. If I ever figure out how to upload video onto this thing, I'm going to post that.

He always wanted people to come visit, but he was closer to the Gulf coast of Florida, away from all the attractions. There was a Greek fishing village near his house, that was about it. When we did come to visit, he always tried to convince us to stay longer. My dad's sister and my cousins live in Boca Raton, closer to Disney and Universal and all that, so we usually stayed with them for the majority of the trips. I remember the car ride from their house to his, apparently there's a long stretch of Florida that's nothing but cow pastures.

I didn't even know he moved to Texas until a few months ago. And honestly, when I heard he died I could even remember if his wife was still alive or if she'd only died in a dream. That's an awful feeling, because I really couldn't tell if it was real or imagined. People always die in my dreams, especially Jose. He always gets shot; not by anyone we know, just a random act of violence that takes a friend away. Jeez, my dreams suck. The saddest dream that I keep having takes place at 'Olly's house during a party. My grandfather is sitting in his chair in the den, and gets up to join the others in the dining room, but someone tells him that he can't come because he's dead, and he looks really dejected and fades away. I really hate that dream.

I found an obituary for Uncle Dan, which indeed confirms that Aunt Barbara, his wife of 59 years, is still with us. It mentions his 20-year career in the Army, serving tours in Italy and Korea before retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer in 1964. It highlights his work at M.I.T, and Draper Labs, working with scientists and engineers designing systems for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. But it doesn't say anything about the big Labor Day party he'd have every year when he lived in Walpole. I think it was Labor Day; I was just a kid. But we'd go there once a year and he'd cook lobsters by the pool and he had a shuffle board which was really cool. There was a changing room inside the garage, which was actually more like a carport, I think. Upstairs, he had a computer with a 16 color display, which to me was amazing. My computer at home could only display four colors at a time, (black/white/cyan/magenta, or black/green/red/yellow, depending on the program) which I thought was pointless. One of my friends at the time had a black and white Macintosh SE/30, and I thought it was better to have just black and white then to have four measly colors. It looked cleaner.

The party at Uncle Dan's house always seemed like a big deal. There was always family members I'd never heard of there, and they'd come from all over the country. I remember one time being really embarrassed after running up to a woman who I only saw from the back that I thought was my Mom. My cousins would come in from Texas. Again, they're really my dad's cousins, but they're closer to my age. Wait, that's not right. Their parents would be my dad's cousins, right? So second cousins? Well, whatever. I guess that would make them Uncle Dan's grandchildren. They were always cool. The youngest, Danielle is a year older than me, and after not seeing her in years, she was one actually of the first people that found me on MySpace. (Although I didn't open her email right away, because I was sort of traumatized by the name.) The last party was for his retirement in 1992. First we went to Draper Labs, and I got a whole bunch of stuff to color and a couple of Draper Labs keychains. After that, he and Barbara moved to Florida, maybe expecting to continue having big parties, but my family and Nanna and Bunny hardly ever went down there. Maybe that woman who wasn't my mom went, but the lobster-by-the-pool parties stopped when they moved away.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a bit about Uncle Dan with you. I feel really bad for Aunt Barbara for her loss, and also for thinking she was dead.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the family...

My mom asked Michele and I if we wanted to go to the big family reunion in Lexington. It was going to be held that Saturday, the day before they left for the cruise. I always liked going, but at the same time felt out of place, and self-conscious about always showing up alone. The older you are when you go stag to these things, the more the whispers and rumors start churning. But now, somehow, I've finally managed to get a girl to settle for me, and at last I could walk into the reunion with pride!

But we didn't go. My grandmother was going, and I hadn't spoken to her since November when she and my mom got into a yelling match in the car which resulted in Michelle, Brianna and me unceremoniously packing up our clothes and moving in with my parents. 'Olly said some mean things about Michele, said there was always clothes all over the guest room (remember, we got half a closet to store clothes for three people; there were two bureaus in the room filled with her stuff that we kept asking if we could use) and that she didn't like strangers living in her house. Michele breaks down in tears every time this is brought up, and I've been too uncomfortable to even look and 'Olly since then. I know it's not her, it's what's happening to her. This isn't the same thing as Mel Gibson's tirade against the Jews. Her mind just keeps slipping away. And it's getting worse.

So we stayed home, although Brianna was determined to go, so she went with my mom. My Uncle Mike was in town from California for the reunion, and just before my family left for Bermuda, he, my mom, and my Uncle Jay had a meeting with 'Olly to give her the option of either hiring a live-in caretaker or going to a retirement home. Apparently, they'd already hired someone to come in and do her laundry so she doesn't have to go up and down the cellar stairs, but she's been re-doing the laundry after they leave.

I don't know what they decided, but it's not really relevant now. Friday night, two days before my parents were set to come back, Jay called the house and said that my grandmother was in the hospital. I don't know if you're aware of this, but there's a nation-freaking-wide heat wave going on right now. And 'Olly never drinks water, or anything at all, really, and she was out in the hot yard all day. That evening she called Jay to say that she couldn't get out of her chair. To save you the trouble of reading an extra five paragraphs, after a chain of events he now lives in the house between my parents' and 'Olly's, so he was able to get to her quickly. Except, when he got to the door, the storm door was locked. We keep telling her not to lock it for this exact reason. He got in by breaking a window in the basement or the garage; I'm not sure which, because I haven't been over there to see it. When he found her, she was crawling on the floor, so he called for an ambulance and then called us to let us know. He said she seemed fine, probably just dehydrated, so there was no reason to call my mom while she was still on her trip. He and his family were going away the next day, and asked if I could go visit her at the hospital some time on Saturday.

This was it. I didn't see her on Christmas or Easter, but I went in Saturday with Brianna to see how she was doing. Michele stayed in the car. When I got to the room her eyes were closed, but she opened them when she heard us come in. Which is to say, when we were standing right next to her. She was so happy to us and asked where my "wife" is. She always calls Michele my wife. She couldn't remember Michele's name, and said she has such a hard time remembering anything anymore. I said Michele was waiting in the car. Then 'Olly said she liked Michele and wanted to tell her she was sorry. Sorry for what, she didn't say. But I know it made me feel a lot better. I've never blamed her for what's happening in her head, but what got me mad was she keeps denying saying things. Why couldn't she just admit that she didn't remember? In the hospital with tubes in her arms she broke down and said she's losing her memory, in that same dejected tone my grandfather has in those dreams. It must be a hell of a thing to go through. Before we left, she said to ask Michele to come next time.

When my parents came home, we went to back up to the hospital to see her again, but Michele still didn't go. She said that she didn't like the way 'Olly always spoke poorly of my family, especially my mom. My mom always took her shopping and went over to fix her TV whenever she accidently changed the channel from "3" to "2," yet she always went on and on about how lucky she was to have Betty (my uncle's wife wife.) The rift is really bothering me because I know she's only got so much time left, and I have a whole lifetime of wonderful memories of her and Michele only has these last few months. It's not fair that she's going to go on the rest of her life thinking of my grandmother as only that person. When Michele first moved here, she kept saying what a nice person my grandmother was. Now she doesn't want to have anything to do with her. It's sort of killing me inside. I wish she could have met her when my grandfather was alive. I wish she could have my memories.

When Jay called, he said that they'll be moving her to a rehab place short-term, then to a home. She didn't know any of that when I saw her and she kept telling Brianna that she'd be back home in a couple of days to see her swimming in the pool. My mom and her brothers decided to let the doctor tell her that she wasn't going home. She got out of the hospital yesterday and was brought to the rehab place. In the meantime, we don't really know what's going to happen with her house. At first, it was just going to stay empty, then my uncle said something about renting it out. My mom asked if it was too late for us to back out of the town house, but we've already paid the last month's rent and Michele has already said she wants nothing to do with that house. I don't know what's going to happen, but it will be really weird if complete strangers move in there because it's so connected to the family; literally and emotionally. There's a path in the woods that connect our yards and I can't imagine ever closing it off.

On the bright side, we're finally moving a week from Friday! The place is really nice, bigger then the apartment in Quincy, and we never would have got it if all this other stuff hadn't happened first. Life has a weird way or working itself out.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Please Stand By

I don't know when I'm going to have the next post ready, but when it is, it's going to be a long one. Things aren't all smiles and sunshine right now.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Somebody Get The Drano!

I know that some of you have been coming here day in and day out, only to have your little hearts crushed by seeing that same Brave Little Toaster Goes to Albany story from weeks ago (or the haunting visage of the Great Amazo, depending on what link you used to get here). And I apologize, but you have to understand how the internet works. See, the internet is not a truck. I don't know where you got that idea. That's just silly. No, it's a series of tubes. Those tubes can only hold so much before they get filled. And that's a real problem, because when I try to update the blog, and the guy in front of me is stuffing huge amounts of material into the tube, well, it's going to get clogged. It might even back up and start to overflow all over my desk.

Ironically, an influx of disscussion about the series of tubes have actually clogged the tubes themselves. Hopefully, it won't get to the point where they need to have a guy come in to take the whole internet apart. And what happens if he needs to replace a washer or a metric flange or something? The whole internet could be down for days!

So that's where I'm at. It's not for lack of trying; my posts have just been clogged in the series of tubes. You understand. It's out of my hands, really. C'est la vie, snakes on a plane, series of tubes. What can you do?

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Albany: Part 3

It was well after midnight by the time we got to bed. But the plan for the next day was to be up and out to breakfast before seven-thirty. Whoever decided on that did not take into consideration how much I enjoy sleeping. Especially on a bed! I hadn't slept on a real bed in months and planned on sleeping the hell out of it.

Saturday morning started off rainy, which didn't bode well for our trip. But considering the distance some of us had traveled, we knew we'd still be going, rain or shine. I sat in bed, waiting for the others to call, and turned the TV on. They were showing a bunch of clips of Aaron Spelling, ending with a static photo set to sad, drippy music. They didn't have the requisite dates at the bottom of the screen, but considering the maudlin music and that he'd had a stroke a few days before, it was pretty clear that he was dead. Unlike the turtle, he only looked 175. I never realized how many shows he produced. His obituary said he set the record with 3,000. I'll assume by "shows" they mean individual episodes and not 3,000 entire series.

Anyway, we checked out and had IHOP for breakfast. NYPinTA called Michele's phone while we were waiting to be served, which was a big relief because we didn't have any way of contacting her and didn't know when she'd be calling. Except Michele told her to hold on for a second and gave the phone to me. I know I've said this before, but just to reiterate: I HATE THE PHONE! I didn't know what to say. Sure, this is someone who I'd talked to many times online and even met in person the night before, but it didn't matter. I just don't like talking on the phone, I get all nervous and incoherent. I mean moreso. Michele took the phone back and translated whatever it was that I'd tried to say, which was something along the lines of IHOP is right across the street from that Sears parking lot where we met Lance and Ali, so let's meet there. She said she hadn't been to that mall in years, but knew where it was, so we agreed to call her again when we were about to leave. But first: breakfast, which included Michele explaining that her parent's named her Michele Lynn, after the Michelin brand tires. Really. I asked if they had that name before or after she was born, because maybe she looked like the Michelin Man as a baby. For some reason she didn't find that nearly as amusing as I did.

Shiny posterWe met NYPinTA in the parking lot and she presented Michele with the UK version of the Serenity poster, which she won as a door prize. Nick had his eyes on the poster, but he won an autographed picture of sultry Brazilian actress Morena Baccarin, who plays Inara. I didn't win squat, but since I live with Michele, I won the poster by proxy. Hurray!

We set off from there in three cars. Michele and I rode with NYP, with Michele riding shotgun, of course, Nick and Christy riding with Jose, and Lance paired with Ali. The Brave Little Toaster lead our caravan, and I don't know if it was because he was trying to show off his mad driving skillz to Christy, but Jose broke away from his standard "old lady" driving technique and took off like greased lightning. The way he quickly became a dot on the horizon, I just figured Nick was driving. But it was all Jose.

The ride to Agawam was about an hour and a half. Along the way, I saw a fawn grazing on the grassy shoulder of I-90. Always excited to see animals in it's natural habitat (in this case being the grassy shoulder of I-90) I blurted out, "Hey! A deer!"

Saying "deer" in a car isn't quite the same as saying "bomb" on an airplane, but it's pretty close. I understand that. Now.

We were following Ali's car until we got separated at a tollbooth, at which point we were on our own. And I'm happy to report that we didn't get lost. Okay, we did stop for directions to see if we were going the right way, and it turned out that we were. But would you consider that getting lost? I choose not to.

It seems to me that the last time I went to Six Flags, it cost something like $35. This time, it was $50, and they charged not by age, but by height. As ridiculous as that sounds, it actually sort of makes sense. The taller you are, the more rides you can go on. They had three price ranges based on height, but it seems like they set it up so that most people fall within the $50 range. Michele is only 5'2" and she still qualified for the highest pay level. The other weird thing is, at least according to the girl that sold us our tickets, they don't take credit cards. That doesn't seem right. If a family of five goes there, even with the different price ranges it could easily cost a total of $250, and they're expected to have that in cash?

Michele exchanged some choice words with the girl, and we joined the others, who had already got their tickets. Somehow they missed the postings on the teller windows about the pay-by-height thing. I guess they just said "four adults" and pooled their money, which meant Christy got screwed because she paid full price when she didn't have to.

I was afraid that bad weather was going to spoil the day, but the weather actually turned out to work in our favor. It was overcast all day, but it never really rained. Still, the threat of rain kept would-be park-goers away and all but eliminated the long, endless lines synonymous with theme parks. It was a virtual ghost town, The clouds kept the temperature nice and cool, avoiding that other theme park staple, blistering heat. Another bonus.

I'd never been on a ride with Michele, so I wasn't sure how she was going to react. Maybe we should have started with the merry-go-round. Instead, I chose Mr. Six's Pandemonium, which can best be described as a Tilt-A-Whirl on a rollercoaster track. Each car seats four people. I sat next to Michele, with Nick and NYPinTA facing us. The others chose to sit it out. Actually, Jose doesn't really ever go on any rides. But he's good to bring along, because you need someone to hold your stuff for you while you're hanging upside-down on the Mind Eraser. And Lance has epilepsy so he didn't go on too many, either. Which stinks because that means he basically paid fifty bucks just to hang out with us. I hope we were entertaining.

But back to the ride...Michele started screaming almost from the moment it took off up until we got unfastened. And not the regular rollercoaster-type scream. This was like a blood-curdling, getting-murdered-type scream. Then she dug her fingernails deep into my shoulder, which hurt like hell and made me scream. And laugh. And wince in pain. Nick and NYPinTA couldn't stop laughing, especially when Michele was grabbing at me with her other hand and I reached over as we clutched each other for dear life. I had no problem with the ride itself; I thought it was great, but I was crying in pain from laughing and because she took a good chunk out of my shoulder. I checked to see the damage after the ride. It hurt, but I only saw a scratch. It wasn't until we got home and I took my shirt off that I saw just behind the little scratch was a big black dried blood stain. It still hurt days later.

I wanted to go on the Flashback next, a rollercoaster that starts off going up an incline backwards before getting pin-balled down all the way through the track going forwards before getting shot back and going through again in reverse. Nick, NYP and especially Michele were all set with that one, but Ali and Christy were brave enough to go on with me. There's a long list of rides that I would have gone on, but no one else wanted to. Which is kind of funny, since I'd only really started liking these types of rides within the past few years. Usually HeDie's there to go on things like the Tomahawk, actually, she's the one who initially forced me to go one those rides in the first place, but she was off rafting in Maine or something. The coasters I like have tons of loops as opposed to steep drops. I can spin around and hang upside-down all day, but I hate that feeling in the pit of my stomach on those drops. Which is why I'm quite happy never setting foot on Superman, and while I did go on both of the park's two wooden rollercoasters, I don't see a need to ever do that again. Wooden rollercoasters...shudder. When your butt lifts off the seat and the only thing that's holding you down is your own white-knuckled hands clenched firmly to a metal bar loosely "locking" you in, it's perfectly acceptably to start blubbering wildly and soiling yourself.

Next up was Houdini's Ghost Tries to Kill You. I don't think that's the official name, but it's the basic plot. It's hard to explain; it's not really a ride, it's more like an optical illusion. I always thought it was pretty cool, but the story they came up with for it is completely ridiculous. Basically, after Houdini died, he somehow became evil, and now he says "Mwa-hahahahaa!" a lot and makes the lights flicker on and off. We all went on this one except Lance and Jose. The idea of the attraction is that you appear to be turned upside-down, but in fact you're still level; only the walls move. The seats do move a little, but no more than at a 45 degree angle, after that point, the walls are what's moving. The walls keep moving until the doors, pictures and exit signs are all upside-down. Then Houdini says something along the lines of "You're in my world now, and only I have the keys to set you free!!! Mwa-hahahahaha!" As soon as he says that, the doors open and the ride is over. So I guess he let us free. He must have thought we seemed like a nice crowd.

After that came the much-ballyhooed Air Hockey tournament. Actually I planned on ballyhooing it on this website but never got around to it. But it was still somewhat ballyhooed nonetheless. And also ultimately anti-climactic. The first round went to Nick, who soundly beat Jose 7-3. I was the next challenger, and did about as well as the U.S. soccer team. I didn't stick around to see Nick finish off Lance, because I went off to find the men's room. When I came out, NYP was waiting for me.

"Michele's sick."


"She threw up."


Great. Michele kept saying she was sorry, and I said I was sorry for making her go on that spinning ride and then the Houdini mind trip. Fortunately she didn't get any of it on her, in fact it was a neat, almost invisible little puddle in the dirt behind a bench. It was almost cute even. After the ordeal, she felt much better, and was fine the rest of the day. On the way out of that section of the park, which was themed after the Old West, I chuckled at a Chinese Laundry sign on one of the fake buildings and grabbed a packet of honey mustard from a food stand selling Turkey legs. Because you never know when you're going to need some honey mustard.

We took a break from the rides and Nick convinced those who didn't know any better that they had to see the Batman Thrill Spectacular. It's the same logic you'd use to justify seeing Catwoman; the act of enduring the show will ultimately make you come out a better person. Actually, the only way the Batman Thrill Spectacular could be any worse would be if it was based on Catwoman. Instead, it's loosely based on that other cinematic masterpiece, Batman Forever. I know what you're thinking: why base a stunt show on a crappy movie from over a decade ago? Well, there's three reasons. First, they built the whole elaborate set around the plot of Batman Forever, and it probably cost a fortune. You can be sure they're going to get their money's worth out of that set. Second, while it would have made sense to update it after Batman and Robin was released, that movie was so tear-inducingly bad it mad Batman Forever look like Shakespeare. And even though Batman Begins is infinitely better then any of the previous films, it's a whole different franchise that doesn't really lend itself to cheesy stunt shows. And finally, the movie was called Batman FOREVER, people, this show ain't going anywhere.

And what a show it is. There's a fine line between "so bad it's good" and "so bad I want to dowse my head with lighter fluid", and this show straddles that line like a champ. Every line is hammed up big time and accompanied by spastic, grossly overexaggerated hand gestures. Batman, alternately riding around on a dirtbike with cartoonishly oversized fins on the back or a replica of the Batmobile that does upwards of three MPH depending on the scene, battles the evil forces of Two-Face and the Riddler, both of whom are played by the same actor. Or should I say overactor? No, actor works fine. Lt. Montoya, the female lead in this little theater of the absurd, gets her ass handed to her no less then three times and takes her sweet time figuring out the bad guy's "riddles." Here's a sample:

"What isn't right but isn't wrong? Hmm...I know! Left! Left isn't not right, but it isn't wrong! To find the Riddler's hideout I need to turn left!"

At which point she turns her head slightly to the left and sees the enormous bright green "hideout" with purple question marks all over it. Very subtle, Riddler. No one will ever think to look for you there. And I know they only have so much space to work with, but even the three-year-olds in the audience were shouting, "It's right next to you, moron!"

Actually, I do love the method they used to solve the riddles. The climax had Batman's voice booming from offstage: "What do you get when you cross a baseball stick (!) with an adult human male?" to which the Riddler slowly replies: "Bat...maaaan?" It was like the two-head monster piecing together words on Sesame Street. Bat. Maaaan? Oh, I love it.

After an overpriced lunch ($6.50 for a slice of pizza, no drink), Lance and I staked out the best spot to get a picture of Christy and Ali on Superman: Ride of Steel. It turned out that Christy wasn't tall enough to get on, so Ali went on by herself. The cars went by way too fast to get any pictures of her, but I got some cool shots of the coaster itself that I'll put up at some point.

We wanted to find a ride that everyone could go on, and apparently that ride is the Skyway, one of those slow-moving, hamster-ball-on-a-ski-lift sort of things that every amusement park is required by law to have. Each hamster ball seated two people, and since there was eight of us, that meant no one got stuck by themselves. A light rain began to fall as we stood in line. Then this happened:

"Hey, Nick. You can dance if you want to."

The Skyway is a one-way trip from one end of the park to the other that gives you a birds-eye-view of the happenings below. While we were getting in, a Looney Tunes parade was marching down the street, butchering some old song or another. "Imagine listening to this all day," said the old black lady that strapped us in and pushed or hamster ball off into the sky.

Nick and NYPinTA were in the first ball, and Nick decided he didn't want to walk all the way back in the rain. There was no line on the other side, so they just got back on and rode it back. We all did the same. It was only six o'clock, but Lance had to be somewhere at a certain time, so we only had time for one more ride, the Buzzsaw. It was just me, Nick and NYP on this one. The Buzzsaw is like the Viking ship ride, but instead of rocking back and forth, tilting you more with every swing, it always swings parallel to the ground so you're always upright. There's probably a better way of explaining it, but I'll be damned if I can think of it.

I think we chose this ride because we were in a rush to leave and there was no line for it whatsoever. Since there was no line, we started to make our way 'round the wooden railing labyrinth to get to the ride, only to have the witch in the enclosed booth overlooking the ride to screech "PLEASE STAY BEHIND THE CHAINS!" out of her loudspeaker. As painstakingly diagrammed by NYPinTA, the waiting area for the ride had two perpendicular chains; one that led to the stairs for the ride and one on the other side of the railing. When the ride stopped and it was our turn to get on, the witch's flying monkey that ran the ride opened the chain on the other side of the railing rather than the one right in front of us. So we walked all the way around the railing (which is what we started to do in the first place before we got berated) to get to the second chain. Freakin' jerk. So we sat down, and as soon as the saftey bar clamped down and the motor started up I remembered Oh yeah. I hate this ride. As we kept swinging up and around, with my feet slipping on the wet floorboards, I continued to protest and express my disstate for that particular ride, much to the delight of Nick and NYP, and probably the flying monkey. Freakin' jerk.

And that was pretty much it. Except for the scary, scary Great Pumpkin. A woman in a skintight orange top and somehow even tighter orange leggings who believed herself to be about fifty pounds lighter than she actually was. Nick had caught a glimpse of her earlier in the day, but I didn't see her until we were about to leave, prompting me to simply say a drawn-out, "Oh."

Goodbyes were said, Jose and Christy shared a hug, and we were all off. NYPinTA followed Ali back to Albany and the BLT went the other direction back to the South Shore. The ride home was uneventful, save for a rousing few rounds of "The Movie Game." The rules are simple: someone starts by sayings the name of an actor and the next person has to say the name of a movie said actor was in. The next person names another actor from that movie, (without repeating anyone who's already been said) and so on. If you can't think of one and you've used your one pass, or if you're incorrect, it's game over, man, game over. The last one standing wins. As usual, I handily won the first game and lost ever single one after that. In one game, all Michele had to do was name a Robert DeNiro movie, and it took forever trying to think of one. She said she kept getting him confused with Al Pacino. After several minutes diliberating and repeatedly saying, "I can't get Al Pacino out of my head!", she came up with "Scarface." Oy. She should have gone with Heat or the Godfather Part II so she'd be right even if she was thinking of the wrong guy. Oh well. There's always the next trip. And when will that be, exactly? Anyone?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Albany, Part 2

Yeah, yeah, it took a while. But it was still quicker than the breaks in-between Henry's Woodstock story. Okay, so we were waiting for Christy at the airport, with most of us not even knowing what she looked like. I thought Jose should have held up a sign with her name on it, like in the movies and beer commercials so she'd spot us. After nearly everyone from the flight had cleared out, Ali saw Christy. This was it. Jose's big moment.

As funny as it would have been if at the last minute he'd have taken off down the hall like the Cowardly Lion and jumped out the window, he seemed pretty relaxed and didn't try to run (although we were blocking the exits). He stepped up and greeted her. She's a little thing. Jose actually towers over her. She probably hugged him or something and he gave her a rose and a Doctor Who DVD. It was a warm, fuzzy moment.

After everyone introduced themselves, we all went back to the airport parking lot. Jose got in Ali's car to ride with his woman, so Nick drove Jose's car and followed Ali to the hotel. She wasn't sure if the hotel was down the road to the right or the left. So of course we went the wrong way. Nick figured it out before the other car did, seeing the addresses were getting higher instead of lower. Phone calls were made, and we got back on the right track, but not before some crazy person tried to run a red light and kill us.

My part in this trip was to get the hotel. I reserved two rooms the week before, one under my name and one under Nick's. They didn't have any with twin beds, only queen. Adult heterosexual men can NEVER sleep in the same bed together, under any circumstances, so Jose said he'd sleep on the floor, since it would be better for his back When we went to check in, the clerk said the rooms weren't together because they were booked solid. But it wasn't a big deal; we were only going to be there for the night and then be on our way. Michele and I took our stuff to our room, which was as far away from the main building as possible and facing the parking lot of the mini-mart next door. But it was just fine for the price. The room had a queen-size bed, a mini fridge and a microwave. Michele didn't have time to take a shower before we left that morning, so she stayed in the room to take a shower while I went back outside with Lance, Ali and Christy. I called Jose to see what we were going to do next, and he said something about the couch opening out into a bed.

"Couch? You guys have a couch?"

Somehow, they ended up with a suite, complete with a kitchenette, sofa, armoire and a big-ass TV. It worked out better this way anyway, but why would they give the crappier room to the person who made the reservations? That's just tacky. Ali and her gang were supposed to stay at the same hotel, but they hadn't made reservations yet. Like I said before, the place was booked solid. I went up to Nick and Jose's room to see how much better then ours it was, and asked if the others wanted to come up and look at the room. Since it was a suite, maybe they could all stay there and they wouldn't have to find another place down the road. But they said they'd look someplace else, so I left them there to check out the room. Jose had the TV on some weird European channel that had coverage of the World Cup, or whatever that soccer thing is called. In-between updates, they did a story on a giant 175-year-old tortoise that died of "apparent heart failure". I'm pretty sure it died of being 175 years old.

While we were watching TV, Jose's phone rang. It was the others outside, who were waiting for me to come back down and let them in. But they said they were going to go find another hotel! If they wanted to go up the room, why didn't they come with me?

We stayed in the room until about six o'clock. Then we broke off into two groups, since Jose, Christy, Lance an Ali were going out to a Mexican restaurant and the rest of us were going to the charity event for abused women. I'd been emailing NYPinTA back and forth about the Serenity thing for months, helping out with flyers and stuff. But I somehow never got around to asking her when we were supposed to meet. Nick had his laptop with him, so we tried to see if she was online, but she was already at the theater at that point. We had the directions, so we took Jose's car and hoped that we'd just meet up with her at the theater.

And who was the first person we saw when we got inside? I don't know, some old woman selling tickets. But after that, there was the internet's NYPinTA, selling T-shirts and wristbands in the lobby, which I was instructed to buy. I didn't have any cash on me, but there was an ATM conveniently located across the lobby, so I had no excuse not to pony up some cash and buy some swag. We hung around the table for a bit before finding our seats. I ordered an orange soda at the concession stand from a woman who's dog had just died. As I was about to pay, I noticed that they had grape and asked if I could switch. She said it wasn't a problem. Man, that story didn't really go anywhere.

Nick called Caboose again, who was now in New York and wanted to know how to get to the theater. Nick gave him directions and he was in his seat before movie started. I still don't know how he did it. Before the movie started, there was a somewhat muffled announcement that there would be an intermission, "at the projectionist's discretion." With that, the house lights went down and it was time for the show.

The music and sound effects really boomed in that big old theater, but it was so cavernous that the actors' voices were nearly drowned out to the point where if you were watching it for the first time, it could be hard to follow what was going on. As promised, in the middle of the flick, actually in the middle of a scene, the movie stopped and an authentic "Let's go out to the lobby" cartoon from the 50's was shown. It was hilarious, but for some reason, they never announced when the movie would start back up; it just came back on without warning and some people were still out getting snacks. After the intermission the voices sounded a lot crisper, so I guess they adjusted the sound.

Anyway, the whole thing was great, even though I still died in the movie (because I'm clearly Wash. They killed me. Those bastards!) Afterwards, NYPinTA was right back at her table, and Michele kept elbowing me until I went up and asked if she wanted to come with us to go eat. She said she was going to finish cleaning up first, so Michele gave her her cellphone number and we left. At which point we all thought, "Hey, we probably should have offered to stay and help out." It's the thought that counts.

We walked back to the car, which was in a lot a couple of blocks away from the theater. Boosey parked somewhere else, so we saw him drive off down the road while we were getting in the car. As he went past, Nick yelled, "Bye, Boosey!" and a voice from the bushes behind our car yelled, "Bye Lucy!" It was creepy.

Somehow, we kept winding up on dead end roads on the way back to the hotel. We drove down three different dead ends, all of which were next to the airport. We finally found the road back and went to eat at the Bennigans in the hotel parking lot. We got a table for four, but Jose and the others soon joined us and doubled the size of our group, with Boosey's local buddy coming and the possibility of NYPinTA showing up later. We were all starving, but the others had already eaten so were just there for drinks. Perhaps due to the confusion, our waiter took some time in getting our orders. Michele gets frightening when she's hungry, so I tried as best as I good to calm her down. We finally got moved to a larger table and everything went pretty smoothly. Jose ordered an obscenely large dessert that he thought would be small but took up nearly the whole table. Boosey sat at the bar with his local buddy, with Nick going back and forth between the bar and the table while downing rum and Cokes. NYPinTA never called, and we got a little concerned because she was supposed to go to Six Flags with us and we had no way of getting in contact with her. In hindsight, we probably should have gotten her number as well. As it was, she had to call us.

Stay tuned for Part 3, in which the Great Pumpkin emerges from the pumpkin patch, and Lt. Montoya tries to decipher the perplexing puzzles of Gotham's Quixotic quizmaster, the Riddler. Same squeegee time, same squeegee channel!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Albany, Part 1

Until last Friday, the last real road trip I went on with my friends was to Niagra Falls. That was three years ago, before Michele and Brianna moved up here and Nick started going on long trips for work. It was the end of an era, really, and I can't think of a better send-off than being asked to leave Canada. But that's a story for another time. Today is all about the weekend trip to Albany, which could be considered the start of a new era. Or not.

Noticeably absent this time around was Hedie, the primary orchestrator of most of our previous trips. When Nick first told her about it, she wanted to come, until she found out it was the same weekend she was whitewater rafting. Or just rafting. How many kinds of rafting are there? I'm pretty sure it was whitewater rafting. It's not like she was lazily floating down the Mississipi with Huck Finn and N-word Jim. Anyway, she was in Maine, leaving us to fend for ourselves when it came to trip planning and booking hotels. You know, the boring stuff she usually covers. and since this trip was my idea, I was left in charge of finding a hotel, for the first time in my life, I think. Jose made some dinner plans and everything else just sort of fell into place.

Also missing from this trip was my mom's minivan, which Jose inexplicably christened "Talula." After getting her windshield washer fluid caps ripped off by baboons on a previous trip, Talula was given a reprieve. Not that the baboon incident had anything to do with it, it's just that Jose, as much as he loves Talula (and he does), he was eager to break in his spankin' new Scion. Which I lovingly dubbed the Brave Little Toaster.

We packed up the BLT and were on the highway by 11:00 A.M. Michele was in the passenger's seat, because she said she gets carsick if she sits in the back. I always thought that was just a scam, but I was content with sitting in the back. Jose had the directions, but we also had a streets and roads program on Nick's laptop as a contingency. Lots of nice scenery out in western Mass and New York. No houses, no buildings, just lots of misty rolling green hills, broken up every so often by a barn and some cows, or whatever they are. There was one really cool-looking old silo that, if I was making a movie, I would pick that location for the setting and then work out the tiny details like plot from there. Maybe it would be like, where some kid died fifty years ago and now their restless spirit gruesomely slaughters anyone foolish enough to venture there. Or maybe there's a singing pig. The possibilities are endless.

Surprisingly, we didn't hit any snags. No detours to Booneville this time. Things went fairly smoothly. At least on our end. The plan, if not the whole point of the trip, was to finally meet some people we'd known online for years from a Farscape website, among other places. Nick, Michele and myself were in town for NYPinTA's charity screening of Serenity. Jose had arranged to meet with Alicia and Lance, aka BC and the jolly LaBomba, respectively, at the Albany International Airport where his lady Christy would be arriving from. The movie wasn't until eight. so we were all going to tag along to meet Christy.

I had my iPod going for most of the ride, but at some point while we were driving through western Mass, Jose got a call from Christy saying that her flight was delayed. She had already safely landed in New York from South Carolina, but she still had a connecting flight from NYC to Albany to deal with. Her layover was already four hours, and now there was another hour on top of that. So she was stuck for five hours at an airport that was two hours away.

By the time we got to Albany, Christy's flight still hadn't taken off and Nick had finished reading Election, the book he started when we got on the highway. We got a call from Ali and Lance to meet them in the parking lot by Sears in some dumpy mall. Lance was wearing the same Can't Sleep...Clowns Will Eat Me shirt that I have. Eerie. While we were waiting for them, Michele went into the mall to look for a bathroom. They pulled up behind us not too long after that and we all took a look around the mall.

The mall was in what I'll call a transitional phase. It was in the middle (or actually the begining) of remodeling, to make it more competitive with the newer, modern mall that I'd image was a few blocks away. So by this time we'd all made our acquaintances, but Michele was still AWOL on her bathroom quest. We were standing in front of an FYE, which neither Nick or I really care for because everything's needlessly expensive there. But it was the only store that sold movies and games, so we went inside. The others stayed in front of the store, and since Ali and Lance hadn't met Michele yet, I described what she looked like and said to flag her down if they see her.

I wasn't in the store for very long before I happened to look up from what I was doing and noticed Michele on the other side of the mall trying to find us. I ran out to get her and introduced her to the group. At which point Lance started laughing, because he asked Jose if that was Michele when he saw her go by and Jose said, "No."

We had lunch in the food court and hit a couple more stores. Jose wanted to get something for Christy before her flight came in, and Michele was eager to check out the As Seen On TV store, perhaps more eager than what is deemed appropriate when referring to said store. I also paid a brief visit to the scary, scary bathroom at the end of the food court, where none of the stalls had doors, except for the very first one, which was occupied by someone taking trumpet lessons. Or at least that's what it sounded like.

As we were about to leave to mall, a heavyset lady about thirty feet in front of us dropped to the floor. She just took a dive and we all stood there and watched, like the last episode of Seinfeld, which always annoyed me. But I wasn't sure what I should do. I didn't want to run up and help her, because if she just slipped, she'd probably be really embarrassed and wouldn't want to draw much attention to herself. On the other hand, what if she had a stroke or something? Heady stuff. Everyone stood around and watched as she rolled around like a turtle on it's back, presumably waiting to see if she'd get up. Nick put his headphones on. I nonchalantly walked back into the As Seen On TV store and pretended I didn't see anything. She got up and walked away. As best as we can tell, she dropped her drink and went down with it to try to salvage it. She must have been extremely embarrassed, but lesson learned; sometimes you just have to let it go.

Before we left the mall, Nick got a call from Boosey. Boosey as in Caboose, then name he was given when he joined the projects team at Best Buy. They were naming the new guys were named after Red Vs. Blue characters at the time. I don't think I even know his real name. I think it's Brendan. Or Brandon. Or Steve. Anyway, he asked Nick what he was doing that night and Nick said he was in Albany to see Serenity at eight. I couldn't hear the other end of the conversation, but it was something to the effect of "I'm there!" Which was great, because for some reason I thought he was going all along and already told NYPinTA we'd have four people. It was four o'clock at this point, and we didn't know if he'd be able to make it here in time for the movie, but he was coming anway, becaus even if he couldn't make the movie, he had a buddy in Albany that he'd meet for drinks. He hung up and we drove to the airport.

The Albany International Airport looks an awful lot like my old junior high school. Even the inside looked like the library. If someone was watching my life on TV, they'd probably think we were too cheap to get new sets and just recycle old ones, like how Lost in Space used old sets from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Anyway, we were at the airport for an hour or so. Despite being there to meet people, I reverted to my "frightened of people" state and mostly stayed in the corner, talking with Nick and Michele. But Jose didn't seem to have a problem, oddly enough, and he chatted up Ali and Lance, who conveniently blocked the exits to keep him from backing down.

When I first met Michele at the airport when she came here from South Carolina, (C'mon! Not only are they using the same sets, but now they're just rehashing old storylines! This show is going downhill.) I wasn't really nervous, which was unusual for me. But the first time I saw her, I wasn't quite sure that it was her. She looked like her picture, but I still wasn't sure if it was just someone who looked like her. So to safe, I stood behind her and waited for her to turn around. Pretty romantic, huh folks?

Speaking of romance, while we were waiting for Christy at the airport, Michele came up from behind me, reached her arms around me and gave me a big hug. Except it probably wasn't the best time to do that, as at that moment I was silently...she wouldn't even have known if I wasn't giggling like an idiot. Anyway, from that point on, Michele said I needed to have a safety word to warn her. So for the next two days, every once in a while I'd blurt out "You can dance if you want to."

Well, finally Christy's flight came in, and wave after wave of people stepped out of the gates, but no Christy. I hadn't even seen a picture of her, so I had no idea what I should be looking for. Finally, Ali spotted her.

There will now be a brief intermission

Thursday, June 22, 2006


There's a big truck outside, pumping water out of the parking garage next door. It's making a very loud humming noise, and it's annoying everyone in the office. Except me. I kind of like it. It reminds me of when I was a little kid, and my parents would vacuum during the weekend. I always liked that sound. Not when it first turned on; that part was always abrupt and loud, but after that when, it had been going for a while and became a background hum. Sometimes I'd be watching cartoons, and I'd turn the TV way up so I could hear it over the vacuum, but most of the time the TV was off and there was a tape in the stereo. To this day, Cyndi Lauper reminds me of vacuuming. As does Air Supply and that song Gloria. Not G-L-O-R-I-A Gloria, but the one that woman sang in the eighties.

The vacuum humming was relaxing, and I was always a little bummed out when it stopped. I'm going to miss the noise outside the window, too.

Anyway, I was going to ask a question today. And I still am, so here it is...

What the hell is a cow?

I mean, the females are called cows and the males are called bulls, but what is the name of the species? One of the first things you learn as a kid is the names of animals, and the See 'N Say groups "cow" with "dog" and "cat." But unlike dogs and cats, cows refer specifically to one gender. There's no such thing as a male cow or a female bull. Not to mention cow and bull is used to describe the sexes of a bunch of different animals, like moose, elephants and whales. So what are the things we get our milk and Salisbury steak from officially called? Sure, they're of the genus bos and the subfamily bovinea, but that's not their name. Nobody says C. l. familiaris; they just say "dog."

I said I was going to ask that, because apparently the answer is cattle. It doesn't sound quite right though. I always thought of cattle as a group, but you wouldn't use it to describe just one, like, "Hey, look! A cattle!" So what's the singular noun for cattle? According to the wikipedia article, there isn't one, however both male and female cattle can be referred to as "ox." So dairy cows are oxen?

But the same article says the term "ox" is generally reserved for adult castrated male cattle. I just assumed oxen were a different type of animal within the same family, like the difference between wolves and domesticated dogs. But what do I know, I'm hardly an expert on cattle, oxen, or whatever the hell they are.

Regardless of the proper terminology, cows are female. Somehow that got overlooked when they were making Barnyard. The trailer's been around since at least last summer. It's a movie about cows with guys' voices walking around on two legs with their udders flapping around. That's just wrong on so many levels. Kevin James squirting milk out of his udders is enough to put a kid in therapy for the rest of their life. I still can't figure out how this movie got from pre-production all the way to completion without anyone saying, "Shouldn't we get some actresses to play these cows, or make them bulls maybe?"

I suppose you could say that you're already suspending your belief enough to accept that the cows can talk and stand on their hind legs in the first place, what's wrong with suspending it a bit more? Well to that I say, "My believe can only be suspended so much before it snaps, sir!" Anthropomorphized cows are one thing, but getting their genders wrong? That was the straw that broke the cattle's back.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Laser For Every Occasion

When lasers aren't choreographed to the music of Pink Floyd, they're busy performing an ever-growing number of tasks. From LASIK corrective eye surgery to assisting symposia keynote speakers point to charts, it seems there's nothing lasers can't do. What other invention of this or any generation can be credited with aiding in the printing of homemade greeting cards, as well as being the primary weapon used to fight the evil forces of Cobra's dreaded Crimson Guard? I don't see Gore-Tex™ making any such claims.

For some time now, I've seen ads for laser hair removal. But yesterday I saw an ad that confused and frightened me. It was for laser hair restoration.

What the...? How can lasers get rid of hair and make it grow?! That goes against everything I know and stand for. It disrupts and kicks sand in the face of all that I hold dear. How does something perform two contradictory tasks? It's like saying keys can open doors, but also lock them. Oh, wait. Well, there goes my whole argument.

It still seems weird though. Maybe different colored lasers do different things. Like, red lasers remove hair and green lasers grow it back. And blue lasers blow up the ocean.

Lasers giveth, lasers taketh away.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Best Two Bucks I Ever Spent

Nick and Jose embarked on an epic trip to the cineplex for a six-movies-in-one-day marathon Saturday. While I admire their proctal fortitude that enambles them to sit for intervals that mere mortals can only begin to contemplate, I had to forgo the cinematic extraviganza to take care of some tedious but probably significant things at home.

Namely, getting the house ready for a party next Sunday. Michele and I will be away this weekend to check out NYPinTA's Serenity showing and spend hours in the line ride at Six Flags, so we tried to get as much done around the house before we left as possible. I've still got a lot of my stuff up in the living room that my mom wants in the basement.

The good news is, we should be out of the basement by August 12 and into a three bedroom townhouse just a few minutes away. The bad news is, it just started getting hot enough to turn the central air conditioning on, which is making all the exposed pipes in the basement sweat, which in turn is dripping water on us in our sleep. So we have that to look forward to for the next couple of months. Yay.

Anyway, the party is sort of a dual party. It's for Ryan, who's leaving for China for two weeks at the end of the month, but it's also for Glenn's birthday, which is on the 26th.

Also, I somehow just found out that at the end of July, my parents and brothers are going on a cruise to the Bahamas. Without loveable old me! The injustice of it all.

So we had some chores to do. But Saturday night, I had tickets to the PINK FLOYD LASER SPECTACULAR at the Bank of America Pavilion. The face value is $20 apiece, but Michele got them free from work. She was able to get the last three in her office. The third ticket went to Glenn, because he'd probably like it more anyway and Ryan's already going to China and the Bahamas, so nuts to him.

I'd never been to the Pavilion before. It's right on the harbor, and used to have the easy to remember name Harborlights, before every single venue had a ridiculous corporate sponsor's name tacked onto it. The Pavilion is bigger than the South Shore Music Circus, which is a tiny round stage with a few hundred lawn chairs around it, but not as big as the Tweeter Center.

The show was pretty cool. They broke it up into two parts; the first part is the entire album Dark Side of the Moon, which was for the most part accompanied by scenes from The Wizard of Oz in addition to the lasers. It did eerilly link up, especially how the Great Gig in the Sky lasts for entire scene of the house caught in the tornado, then the film changes to color just as Money starts. And when the song changes tempo, the Lollipop Guild shows up. Interesting stuff.

Ironically, this is the first concert I've been to that didn't have the distinct smell of certain illeagal substances floating around. Actually, make that the second. I'm pretty sure the air was clear at the Weird Al show a couple of years back. However, to enhance the veiwing experience, they were selling cheap paper glasses for two bucks that give everything a kaleidoscope effect.

With the glasses on, the lasers had red and green counterparts in all directions, whereas without them, all you see is the primary white or bright yellow laser. The downside to the glasses is that when someone stands in front of you, nine people stand in front of you. But they were still cool. And I'm actually wearing them right now. I love these things.

There was an overly enthusiastic little kid sitting next to us who screamed in approval of everything that appeared on stage. He just kept saying "Yeeaah!" like the kid riding the giant pekingese at the end of The Never-Ending Story. I thought it was kind of funny, but Michele kept squeezing my arm and said with her teeth clenched, "Somebody get that kid to shut the hell up!"

There was a short intermission after Dark Side of the Moon was over, and Michele made Glenn part with his precious two dollars to get some glasses. He really fought it, but eventually gave in and watched the second half in Chong-o-vision. The second part was made up of several songs from The Wall, as well as a couple each from Wish You Were Here and A Momentary Lapse of Reason. I guess a lot of "fans" don't really like AMLOR (Christ, did I just use shorthand? The world as we know it is coming to an end) because Roger Waters isn't on it, but screw them, I think that's my favorite Pink Floyd album.

Anyway, it was a cool show. They ended with Run Like Hell and featured the ever-popular Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man. The laser-themed highlights included an inexplicable cameo by Bevis and Butthead, a coffin when the words "One day closer to death" were sung, and a creepy naked asexual Mac Tonight. Also, no one else in the entire world will find this funny, but at one point as The Wall portion of the show was starting, the words "Sound Effects!" were flashed in laser on the screen. It flashed between "Lights" and "Action," but seeing "Sound Effects!" written out in lasers just cracks me up. I can't really explain it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Turtle Turtle Turtle

In the summer of 1994, as American televisions were tuned into O.J.'s harrowing slow-speed police chase, a slow-speed chase of another kind was talking place right in my backyard.

A few months earlier, a giant snapping turtle dug herself into my grandparents' garden and layed her eggs. The day they hatched, eight baby turtles started off on a long and perilous trek, presumably to the river to which their mother had returned after burrying the eggs in the dirt. Actually, it's not such a long and perilous trek. In fact, if they'd just gone in the opposite direction, the river was about ten feet away. But I guess instincts hadn't quite kicked in yet. So instead they traveled down the driveway, onto the path in the woods. Once they were in the woods, they once again could have made it to the river by taking a left, but instead followed the path into my backyard, where my dad found them.

He called me and my brothers outside to show us. They were tiny. Even with their tails they were still not much bigger than a fifty cent piece. We found a long windowbox to keep them in and put it on the front porch. We put some food and water in there, added something they could crawl in; everything we thought we would want if we were turtles.

That night, I heard what sounded like a cat screaching and whaling. I'll never forget that sound. My parents were downstairs watching Love Potion #9. My mom said the noise was the cat in the movie. Still, it sounded like it came from outside, and even though our doors were hollow and not very thick, I didn't hear any other part of the movie. The next morning one of the turtles was gone.

And then there were seven.

It would have been easy to just name them after the seven dwarves, but we had named them when there was still eight, although I couldn't tell you which one mysteriously vanished. They all looked the same, but they each had a characteristic that separated them from the rest. We did name one Sleepy, but not after the dwarf, but because it was always asleep. We kept thinking it was dead, only to have it wake up momentarly to prove it's still breathing before nodding off again. One of them had a larger lump on it's shell than the others, and was given the approriate name of Lumpy. The fastest was Speedy. I think there was one called Daredevil, because it was always trying to climb the walls and escape. And one was Gamera, friend of children, just because.

After a few days, we decided to let them go, except for two. So we brought them down to the river and realeased them. The other two were put in a small container while my dad took us out to the store to buy a bigger tank for them.

When we came back, one of them was gone. The one remaining was Speedy. It's more than likely that this wasn't the original Speedy, since he didn't try to make a run for it like his brother while we were gone. But Speedy seemed like a good name for a turtle, so that's what he was called from that day forward.

It may sound strange, but I was able to teach Speedy some tricks. I set up a circle of the clamshell Disney video cases around him and he could remember which ones were empty and therefore light enough to knock down. If he fell on his back, he'd use his long neck to flip himself over. He was a smart little guy. One day I put my finger on his eyebrow and he shut his eye. Then I put my finger on his other eyebrow and he shut that one. I went back and forth making him close different eyelids until he got pissed off and tried to bite me. He was in my lap at the time, and when he snapped, I jumped up and he flew in the air. No more messing with the eyebrows. Point taken.

I took him out to walk around every once in a while until he started snapping more. Then I just left him in his tank to do his own thing. He never came close to biting me, but it doesn't hurt err on the side of caution. The little bowl I gave him to swim around in eventually got too small for it's purpose and became a drinking bowl. He got a lot bigger than he was when he first found him wandering around in the backyard, but since he was confined to a 10 gallon tank, he didn't grow to be as big as he would have if he'd been in the wild.

I kept Speedy in my room for ten years. My mom always told me to let him go, but I said that he didn't have a chance out there and the other turtles that we let go were probably eaten long ago or didn't survive the harsh winters. Two summers ago when I moved to Quincy, I finially realised it was time for him to return to where he came from, so I brought his tank out to the bottom of the waterfall (because letting him go at the top would just be cruel) and let him walk out. He sat on a muddy patch and looked around at his new home. He stayed there until I left, but when I came back to check later on, he wasn't there.

Last summer my grandmother found a snapping turtle crawling up the steps to her pool. Sure enough, it was Speedy! His stunted growth due to years in captivity gave him away.

We gave him some bread and he started following me around, like a dog. A really slow dog. I walked over to the same path he'd traveled eleven years before and he followed. I lead him right back to the river where I'd let him go the year before, and stayed to make sure he went back into the water. It was a weird day, but it was good to know the little guy was still around, and seemingly even remembers me. That's pretty cool.

So here it is another year later, and what should I see down at the waterfall but my old friend, a completely different turtle! Even freed of the constraints of his tiny tank, Speedy couldn't have gotten this big in a year, unless Barry Bonds dumped his steroid stash in the Mill River. And anyway the shell is a different shape. But who's to say this isn't one of the babies I released in back in '94? It's still not anywhere near big enough to be the mother, but it could be one of Speedy's teenage non-mutant siblings.

It wasn't until after I took the pictures that I noticed something strange. Seems our little turtle friend has a few unwelcome visitors. And by that I mean disgusting freaking LEECHES!!!

Look at those things! Sapping and impurifying all of its precious bodily fluids. Holy crap that's gross. If I didn't value all my fingers, I would have tried to take those suckers off. As it is, I'm content just feeling bad about it. Poor turtle.

Friday, June 16, 2006

It's Friday!

Wow, this is some Friday, huh? Yup. Some Friday. I can't wait for the weekend that hasn't happened yet. I hope I see a snapping turtle and a Pink Floyd laser show. That'd be neat.

When I left work yesterday, (you know, Thursday) I saw a CBS Channel 4 News truck drive by, followed by a couple of police cars. Some people standing on the sidewalk turned their heads, and I even saw a couple of guys running to see what was going on. Obviously I had no choice but to check it out and see what was going on.

I turned the corner onto Boylston Street and heard music and a muffled voice over a loudspeaker. It sounded like it was coming from the other end of the garden. As I approached the other end of the block, I saw a cheering crowd lined up along both sides of Charles Street and the muffled voice became more clear. The voice was announcing a name and a time, followed by another name and time. Then I remembered those guys that were running. I think they had numbers on their shirts. It was a race. The JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, and those two guys must have had a pretty good lead on the rest of the pack, because I didn't notice any other runners until I tried to cross the street. That's when they all came pouring in.

I kept looking for breaks in-between runners so I could cross the street. I couldn't just cut in front of somebody and screw up their finishing time. So I waited for my chance. There were a couple of times where I probably could have gone, but I took too long to figure out if I had enough time to run across the street. I called my mom to tell her I was going to be late because I couldn't cross the street. I wasn't about to wait for 12,000 people to cross the finish line, so I walked up the street to find where the race ended so I could cross the street.

I'd never been at a finish line of a race before. And now that I have, I can safely say that it's not one of my top five favorite smells.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This Guy Needs An Agent

Okay, first of all, this was originally meant to be the June 7th entry, but Blogger went on strike or lapsed into a coma and otherwise refused to cooperate, so it was left in the queue until Blogger decided to play nice. Then I forgot about it.

But here we are, so let's get to it: Paris Hilton is completely useless and needs to go away.

She's famous for being famous. She was born into money, and used her wealth to make sure she was seen at all the right places, making her more famous, and even more rich. The fact that she has no talent and looks like a foot doesn't seem to matter.

Meanwhile, there's poor old Spare Change Guy. You've got to have a gimmick if you want to make it in the crowded market of eccentric street people, like the Asian lady that barks or the Even Better Guy. Yet Spare Change Guy stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack, and he does it by simply asking if anybody has any spare change.

Miss... hobolicious Trying his luck

Panhandlers the world over have been asking the same thing for as long as there's been minted coins, but it's Spare Change Guy's delivery that makes him special. He meanders downtown, disheveled and disoriented, with arms extended, asking each individual he encounters if they have any spare change. And that's all he needs to do. Sure, some may know him as Spare Change Man, or Spare Change Dude, or as one MySpace page put it, "that guy who screams does anybody have any spare change," but everyone in Boston knows Spare Change Guy (not to be confused with Spare Change Newspaper Guy, the guy that sells the Spare Change newspaper.) He's practically a local institution.

Just how well-known is he? A quick internet search brought up a man-on-the-street interview with him in the Weekly Dig, a hip and edgy free newspaper for people too hip and edgy to buy actual newspapers. For people who refuse to click on links, the interview went as follows:

The "Do-You-Have-Any-Spare-Change" Guy
Spotted scratching lottery tickets in Downtown Crossing

Do you have any spare change? Sir?

Hey, can I ask you a couple questions for the Dig?
Sure, that's a good paper.

Do you read it? What do you like about it?
I like the cartoons and some of the articles.

Some? Are there some you don't like?
You have to be interested in it to read it.

That's a nice beard you're sporting. Do you think they're coming back?
I don't know.

Why do kids listen to that rap music?
That's the music that's going down on the streets right now. I listen to some of it.

Really? Who?
I don't know their names. Do you have any spare change?

John M. has frequently seen Spare Change Guy ambling around in the background on Fox 25 News in the mornings. They even mentioned him a couple of times. And the new freelancer even directed us to a fan-made Ween video featuring the guy. The song's pretty creepy, sort of like Bobby McFerrin meets Sesame Street, but sure enough, there's Spare Change Guy walking around the opening scene, repeating his trademark phrase.

Basically, he's reached a near-Paris-Hilton level of ubiquity, but what does the poor guy have to show for it? A mangy beard and some scratch tickets, that's what. There's something wrong with the world when someone who had enough money for a lifetime to begin with is given even more money by the idiot masses who buy all the crap with her name on it because a magazine told them to. People know who Paris Hilton is, so they give her money. People know who Spare Change Guy is, so they walk on the opposite side of the street when they see him. What do you think he got, if anything, for the interview or that video? A couple of bucks? What do you think Paris Hilton commands for an interview? Given that they have arguably the same level of talent, it hardly seems fair. Spare Change Guy needs better management.