Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Different Kind of Last Week

It just occurred to me that it’s the last week of the 2009. I know, sometimes I am slow about things. It also occurred to me that I normally spend the last week here reviewing the past year.
Clearly, that isn’t going to happen this year – at least not right now. I just don’t have it in me. I will however provide some numbers:
  • Blog posts this year (thus far): 139 including this one [poor performance]
  • Movies seen (thus far): 109
  • Books read (thus far): 23*
2009 was not a great year but I am still standing and perhaps that is the best motivation to enter 2010 with some positive direction.
I am once again eternally grateful to all of you who forced me to think, rethink, and learn. Thanks for being part of this wonderful community.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Positive Thoughts Can Make All The Difference In The World

I saw this on Essentially Me’s blog and was touched by it. Read it, post it, and know that if you are one of my regular’s, I love you.
My friend, Brandy, has asked several bloggers to post this extremely heartfelt post, that she wrote, on our blogs today so that the awesome power of positive thinking can work its magic.
Please feel free to copy and post this on your own blog.
Brandy, much love to you and the one you adore.
My name is brandy. And I have a blog.
And a plea.
I use my blog to showcase the crazy I meet everyday, share the stories of the kids I teach and document my love for tequila, dairy products and the abdominal muscles of Ryan Reynolds. Rarely do I talk about personal issues on my blog- as personal as the dude that I adore (who I actually met through my blog- single ladies, let that be a very good reason to blog, the possibility of meeting someone as wonderful as my man), but I need your help. And it involves my dude.
He's a guy who made math comics for my class, so they would love learning about addition. He's the kinda guy who sends my friends gift cards when they are having hard times, who remembers every story I ever told him, who was the first person I celebrated with when I got a teaching job. He's the guy who sent flowers to me at school- dozens of my favourite pink roses just because he loves me. He's a guy who has spent a year patiently explaining (and re-explaining) everything there is to know about football during the important games when silence is preferred. He's made me word puzzles and comics and stayed up late playing Scrabble with me (even though I beat him almost every time). He's listened to me cry about school and family and jobs. He is everything I never knew I needed and everything I always knew I wanted.
The holidays have hit us hard. He's recently been told he may have something called multiple myeloma- an incurable cancer, that gives a person an average of five years of continued life. Though this news has came as a shock, he continues to be exactly who has always been- spending his time worrying about me, rather than worrying about himself. He's the most selfless individual I know- (he stayed late on Christmas Eve to work, so his co-workers could leave early) and a post like this would never be something that he would promote or encourage but when I'm overwhelmed and feeling helpless, the blogging community has always given me tremendous support and comfort, two things I desperately need at this time.
As I write this, the future is uncertain and we aren't sure what's happening. He'll need to see an oncologist soon, to verify what's going on in his body. My hope is that everyone who reads this think positive thoughts and if you are a person who prays, could you add him to your list? (You can refer to him as 'brandy's hot awesome dude'). If you don't pray, please keep him in your heart.This cancer is only a possibility and I believe that the prayers and positive thoughts of people can make sure it never becomes a reality.
I want to give a big thank you to the blog owner who scraped their original blog plans and graciously put this up. My goal is to get as many people as possible to see and read this post. If you are reading this and want to help, copy and paste my plea into your blog or send a link through twitter, so more people can keep him in their thoughts. I would be so very grateful (even more grateful than I am to my friend who first showed me the picture of Ryan Reynolds on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. If you haven't seen it, google it. You. Are. Welcome).
I realize this all sounds dramatic, a Lifetime movie in the making- but this is life. Right now. And I'm throwing away any hint of ego and am humbly asking for you to pray or think kind thoughts. If you are able to pass this on, thank you and if you know anything regarding MM- please email me (my email is on my blog). This isn't a call for sympathy or a plea for pity. It's just one girl hoping you can think positive thoughts for the person she adores. If my current heartache provides you with anything, let it be with the reminder that life is short, love is unbending and no one knows what could happen next. Maybe it is silly, but I really do believe that positive thoughts can make a huge difference. Thank you for reading this and if you haven't already? Please tell someone you love them today.
I did.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Festa Dei Sette Pesci

I am watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay right now and he is being challenged by Rao’s restuarant, a famous NY based Italian restaurant, to create a meal based on the traditional feast of the seven fishes.
I couldn’t help but recall my childhood. My dad was born and raised in Italy (Mola di Bari) and the whole fish thing on Christmas eve was as much a part of my growing up as cuts and bruises.
I sit here relishing the wonderful memories of growing up and the cultural influences of my dad and my Brooklyn upbringing; the holidays, family. So many years have passed and so many things have changed and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I longed for some piece of that past right here in the present.
I’d kill for a nice plate of octopus sald, perhaps a little frutta di mare – some baccala….

Thursday, December 17, 2009


So I am missing in action for weeks and instead of anything deep, I go for the laugh. this is super funny – Lionel Richie on a German TV show being challenged to sing his megahit “Hello” on helium…
I laughed hard at this and I hope you do to.
Much Love.

Monday, November 30, 2009

from the rooftop

In this very space, just a few short years ago, I exercised my first amendment rights and expressed my personal thoughts and anger over a situation that occurred in my workplace. I named names and said things that can easily be interpreted as offensive and in that particular case, I meant to offend – I was angry and repulsed. Whether or not the extent of my expression at that time was “appropriate” or what have you, it was my constitutional right. Sadly, my constitutional rights were violated at that time and because I am not wealthy enough to retain a lawyer, I had to pay dearly for that – I will always have some bitterness in me and never forgive the fact that my rights were so violated.
Sometimes, I like to push the envelope of language and expression and dabble the lines of dark (even morbid in some cases) comedy and expressionism. Sometimes I use words that have shock value and are offensive to some, perhaps even you dear reader. I’ve received about a dozen emails in the last couple of days, every one from someone I respect and love dearly and from people that have known me for a very long time – some of you, I actually hope all of you are reading this because it’s how I’ve decided to respond…
I know that if you have read (or listened) to any of what I’ve recently put out there, and you actually know me, you know that:
  1. I don’t actually want Chris Brown to Beat up Rhianna
  2. I don’t condone violence between any people
  3. I don’t actually thing that people that camp out at Walmart to buy a DVD player for $11 should actually kill themselves
  4. etc.
My commentaries have simply been exaggerations in the vein of dark comedy and yes – I know that some will not find it funny and some will totally hate it. I also know that some will find it humorous and even thought provoking (I’ve even gotten a few email affirming that as well).
I will occasionally push the envelope and sometimes what I write or say will not be popular with some of you. I suspect that there will be times when I do say things that will make sense to you and perhaps be more “appropriate”. Either way, as long as the first amendment exists and I live in this country, I will continue to exercise those first amendment rights and hope that more often than not – what I say will make sense to someone.
I do have great love, admiration, and respect for all of you.

Podcast: Chris Rants on Things Current and Otherwise

Too lazy to type, I take the bulleted list to audio form with some rants about things going on in the news as well as a few other things on my mind. Oh, and I use "colourful" language here and there so be forewarned!



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(Crazy) Coincidence dot com

Against my better judgment…timeout. I took that timeout because that phrase made me laugh – more accurately, what that phrase implies in the context in which it was used implies, that’s what made me laugh.
Okay, here’s the actual story. Against my better judgment, I returned to work today when I really should have taken another full day to rest my ills. To help comfort my symptoms, I took some over the counter generic product that doesn’t do nearly as much to alleviate the symptoms as it does to place one in a lethargic enough state such that the symptoms are irrelevant.
If you see someone with a red nose walking around with a giant snot noodle hanging from his nostrils, this is usually a good sign they are on this type of medication. You see, while the medicine didn’t prevent the snot noodle, the person was so doped up, they either had no idea the snot noodle was there or just didn’t give a crap.
So back to me, I was chatting it up with a colleague who asked me how I was feeling. I replied, “I’m coming down from my semi-lethargic (you’d think I was getting a commission for this word in this post) state brought on by a dose of over the counter cold medication.” I then walked away and before I made it out the door, I felt a vibration in my right pocket.
Since I was certain there were no giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches (not very relevant, but I just had a fear factor flashback and couldn’t resist the reference) in my pocket, I retrieved the Blackberry that was in the pocket to find I had a message in my inbox and here folks is where the semi-catchy title of this post was inspired. No sooner did I just utter the words referencing the wearing off of cold medicine when I receive an email from none other than  with the following subject line: “Is it time to reorder?”
How’s about them apples?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Difficult Tasks

As if feeling as sickly as I did yesterday wasn’t enough, before arriving home for adequate doses of Ibuprofen, tea, and rest, I had to do something that was as difficult as anything I have ever had to do.
As Junior Warden of my parish, I was tasked, along with the Senior Warden and Rector, with telling our church secretary that we had to eliminate her position at the end of the calendar year. making this task somewhat more difficult is the fact that the secretary has been employed there for more than 25 years.
This was not a decision that was made or taken lightly. However, we’ve ran our operating budget at a considerable deficit for several years now and we really had no choice to but eliminate one of our five salaries positions, unfortunately, the most expendable one was that of the secretary.
While in my professional life, I’ve had to fire people before, it was never like this. In the past is was irresponsible teens who showed up late every day and didn’t give a crap, not someone who has has been dedicated for 25+ years.
I know that she is sad about this and I feel awful but there truly was no way around this.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I’m Still Here

Hi everyone. I've not posted in two weeks but I haven't abandoned this blog. I'm certain that aside from the things going on in my life that I am not ready to talk about that there are enough things for me to create interesting* content here but the fact is, I just haven't.
I expect to take a trip to a fort in the woods in the nearer future so that I can let off some steam and get in touch with that which provides a bit of a safe haven, away from the oh so public nature of this place. However, please know that I never intended this blog to be a place where I had to post, rather a place where I chose to post when it felt right.
While I need to be a part of this community and love it so, I must also be true to who I am and I don't want to be the blogger who posts simply for the sake of posting – at least not regularly. I'd like to think that even the stuff that may seem vanilla still has value as it represents a real life experience and for me, that's what this blogging thing is about, sharing real life experiences in a community of those who have real life experiences (this does not mean that I have a problem or don't enjoy works of fiction or blogs that focus on that).
I have received emails from some of you who have expressed your concern and friendship – I am so very grateful to all of you, it warms me to know that there are people who care. That isn't meant to sound like I am one of those folks who doesn't believe that anyone cares, I know that, I am just saying that sometime having affirmation of that goes a long way to healing the soul. To all of you, this is not about any kind of disease or illness, at least not that I know of. The only dying I am doing is the normal kind that comes with living.
For now, I continue to seek inspirations and work through what I am working through – don't think for a minute that you are all not in my thoughts because you are.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Goings On

The Magic 8 Ball here says it all. While I (have to ) believe it’s all a temporary condition, for the time being, I’m living in a world where every request to the 8 ball ends up in such a response (or may as well anyway).
This fucking world series is killing me. If I am being honest, my Yankees are not playing as well as they could, or should. Dare I even say that for the most part they are kind of sucking and are really lucky that thus far, Philly has been sucking more (mostly). I very badly want he Yankees to win this thing but it’s out of my hands anyway – I gotta just deal with the nightly stomach acid until it’s all over.
And now for some bullets:
  • I’m still intrigued by Mad Men
  • A certain group of instructors are totally lazy asses
  • Happy so far with my Fit
  • Been having a hard time getting into my reading groove
  • Joe Buck absolutely sucks!
  • I know that I should break up with chocolate, I just can’t – it’s an addiction
  • To all my blogger peeps, I miss you and am sorry I’ve been quiet-ish – things are dicey for now but won’t always be.
  • 530

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Last Twenty

I used to purchase many more CD’s than I do now. With a mortgage and other financial priorities, I have taken to the public library as a great resource.
I also don’t care much for radio and as such, I don’t listen much at all. As a music lover, my main sources for musical discovery are recommendations (from a variety of sources), TBTL, NPR, and a few others.
So I get a bunch of things from the library, rip them into iTunes, then listen when I can. Of course, the music adds up faster than I can listen, so I made a few play lists to keep track of it all and then I listen when I can.
Today, I listened to 20 songs from these playlists. Some of them are songs I know and some are totally new to me. Some are by artists I am very familiar with and some are by artists that are fairly new to me.
I thought I would share a list of the songs I listened to – all come with a thumbs up:
1. Footprints – Bill Callahan
2. Life is Hard – Bob Dylan
3. The River – Brian Eno & David Byrne
4. So Beautiful – Raul Malo
5. Carpetbagger – Jenny Lewis (w/Elvis Costello)
6. Little Bit Stupid – Joe Jackson
7. Knee Deep at the National Pop League – Camera Obscura
8. Constructive Summer – The Hold Steady
9. Everybody Pays as They Go – Jakob Dylan
10. Old days – John Hiatt
11. Handle With Care – Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins
12. White Shoes – Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band
13. Wine, Women, and Song – Harvey Danger
14. Endless Sleep – Leo Kottke
15. Two Cups of Coffee – Josh Kelley
16. ‘Til Summer Comes Around – Keith Urban
17. Things People Say – Lady Antebellum
18. Destination Unknown – Missing Persons
19. Communist Daughter – Neutral Milk Hotel
20. Turn This Car Around – Tom Petty

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Large Phillipino in a Hatchback Story

Nestor in a Mazda
On April 17, 2008, I told a story that I titled, Wicked Monks and "The Big O" I Promised. Please click the link and go read that post, even if you recall it; that was a fun post – I just re-read it and laughed hard.
Anyway, in that post, I talk about this rather large dude named Nestor who hitched a ride with us, only the only place for him to ride was in the hatchback since the car only had 2 seats that were occupied. The photo above is the picture of Nestor in that hatchback – very funny!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Black and White

Funny how this language works. A statement could be made and depending on the context or perception, it could be taken as something very positive or something very negative.
For example:
  1. There are some major changes happening in my life.
  2. I find that I am randomly overwhelmed with an assortment of emotions.
  3. I never expected this could happen to me.
Others apply…
Nothing more to say at this time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thankfully, It Didn’t Jump the Shark

The Jim and Pam wedding on The Office had me worried. Leading up to the one hour episode, all I kept thinking was that this could be a “Jump the Shark” moment for one of my favorite shows.
Having watched the episode almost twice, I can say definitively, that the show did indeed not Jump the Shark and I can be at peace having laughed my way through all of that worry.
In other comedy television news, I watched the first seven episodes of the first season of “Flight of the Conchords” today. I’m not going to say I am loving the show but there are (thus far) enough moments to hold my interest and keep me laughing that I will complete the season.
I am looking forward to this weeks season debut of 30 Rock. I only finished watching last season a few weeks ago and loved every minute of it.
Moving to drama, I have finally begun watching the highly acclaimed “Mad Men” having seen the first five episodes of the first season. Again, I am not yet in love with what is so highly acclaimed I expected to be blown away right off the bat, but I am interested and do agree with the brilliance in the quality of the production.
Later for now.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sorry for the Silence

More time has passed than I wanted between posts so I thought I would stop by and say hi. I know I’ve made it quite clear that there are some things going on with me but have been mum as to what.
And mum I shall stay for now – it just needs to be that way for a while until I can get my head all together.
In the meantime, I am overjoyed to see my NY Yankees playing post season baseball again and really hope they go all the way, no team in the majors deserves it more.
I’ve watched the first two episodes from season one of “Mad Men” after hearing recommendations from numerous sources. Thus far, I like it but need to see more to make any definitive commentary.
IMG00029When life hands you apples, make apple pie…so I did, and then I ate it (with ice cream).
IMG00030I took this at lunchtime today outside my workplace.
Her official name is “Betty” – ain’t she purty?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thinking About Things

Over the past four or five weeks, I’ve spent so much time thinking, my brain smells like bacon.
There’s the workplace. I work for a state funded community college and as such, our budget has been battered by the national and local economy. The state of our budget along with other factors have made the workplace very stressful. I still love my job and genuinely feel that I contribute a great deal every day – but feeling that stress is not a nice feeling and it’s just bad for the health.
There’s death….3 of them in just a couple of weeks time. The 23 year old son of a colleague; I didn’t know the kid and don’t know exactly what killed him – I do know that this kid only had half the time I’ve had thus far and it could just as well have been me – why do I deserve my life while his was cut short?
Diane, an old friend from the neighborhood passed away at the age of 46. I hadn’t seen or spoke to Diane in about 25 years but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel just as close to her, as I feel about all of the old gang. I am who I am partly because of those early years and the people that were a part of it. I love all of them and losing one of them just plain hurts.
“Skip”. Skip was a 58 year old man who I first met when he was a student at the college where I work but later he began attending services at my church. Skip had be unhealthy as long as I have known him, was as close to the poverty line as one can be and still have some roof over his head, and had no family at all. The rector at our church was his emergency contact – that's how we learned of his death.
If anything, all of this death has me feeling much more grateful for the life I have been gifted with and more aware if it’s uncertainties. That, plus some pretty major stuff going on right now in my life and I’d be lying if I said keeping it all together was an easy task.
However, I am filled with hope and faith that the road ahead, though in the immediate future will be what it will be….beyond that I am confident there will be a new unknown to explore. Keep me in your thoughts – I need that right now….

Friday, September 25, 2009

Twists and Turns

Life's little twists and turns turn out sometimes to be not so little and every so often, the turn is far sharper than you were expecting. Then, sometimes even knowing of the inevitable sharp turn your complacency leads you down the road oblivious to the obvious. You read that right but go ahead and read it again, keep it stored in your frontal lobes and a few other places as backup.
I have learned something in my time on this planet, that just as such twists and turns make shake the foundation you walk on, sometimes faith and miracles can shake back and bring life back into balance. Right now, I am banking on that faith, as well as a few other things people should be able to bank on. Sadly, often the faith part comes through while the more tangible things don't but I guess that's just another think I must leave to fate…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Something to Talk About

Ch Ch Ch Changes
I could probably come up with many names for this post but suffice it to say, my world is about to change in a big way. In some ways its as depressing as humanly possible and in some ways, there’s the potential for some excitement. Only one thing is for sure, it’s all about to change.
“Hey, what the hell is he talking about?” I assume that is the top question out there for those that are reading this and are wither curious, give a crap, or both. In the weeks and months to come, I will share it all, or at least all I will share – can share…
Right now I am overwhelmed, nervous, and even scared but in the words of George Michael, in who I am not sure is the mightiest example to be quoting – though the words are appropriate…”gotta have faith!'”
Until next time….

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Magnificence

Now that I've slept a few more hours, I thought I would say a bit more on the U2 concert; a few things worth mentioning that I overlooked (and a few things that could probably go unmentioned without being missed but I'll mention them anyway).

The set. I've seen some elaborate sets in my concert going career. I can't even begin to fathom how this particular set gets put up and taken down and moved from stadium to stadium – it is enormous, elaborate, mesmerizing, and seemingly integral part of the show. While I am confident that this band can do the barebones, no set, in your face show and let their talent and the music do all of the talking – as Bono described, and I paraphrase, "the design of this set has a purpose to bring the band and the audience closer together." As I mentioned in the last post, Bono has mastered the art of incorporating these multimedia elements and knows just how to use the set as a tool such that the set achieves its primary purpose and doesn't end up being a giant point of wonder. I had this grand vision (not to be confused with a hallucination) of the set, which is supposed to be a space ship, actually taking off after the show and getting to the next city on the tour on its own.

Politics, Religion, and Her (a title of a Sammy Kershaw album but an adequate opening to this paragraph). U2's music has always come with a message rooted in Bono's political and religious beliefs. One of Bono's skills, in my opinion, is to effectively express his point of view without being pompous, pretentious, or overbearing. I know there are some people who just hate the idea of mixing music with these sorts of messages and if that is the case with you, don't go see U2 and definitely don't go see Bruce Springsteen (the greatest live performer in performance history) – buy the CD's and be done with it, then you'll have nothing to complain about (though you'll consistently miss something special).

Oh, the Her part…what is that all about? I neglected to address the "Her" in the title of the previous paragraph so I will accomplish that here in this one. Folks, let's not forget this is Rock and Roll if Bono (along with the other guys in the band) is a bona fide rock star. As such, there was a point in the show where Bono cleverly brought a lady from the crown on stage with him to participate in the show and leave her with a night to remember in her fantasies while adding to the mystique of a guy named Paul Hewson, but goes by Bono (Vox). As Bono said, "there are advantages to being in my line of work." Let us not all forget that being in his line of work has both advantages and responsibilities, clearly, Mr. Hewson (I wonder how often he is referred to that way) wants us all to know he has a handle on both.

There's not much more I can say about the show specifically other than reiterating how amazing it was and how extraordinary this band is as a live act. After the show ended, things got pretty ugly as Gillette Stadium (and the entire Patriot Place complex) was poorly designed from a city planning perspective. Either payola on the Kraft bunch or stupid oversights on the town and state planning commission led to an oversight about how the complex would affect infrastructure; particularly traffic. I sat in my car for two full hours before even starting the car, much less any movement taking place. Once moving, the three short mile trek up route 1 to get me to a back road out of town took another hour and a half. U2 left the stage at about ten minutes before eleven and I didn't get home until three in the morning (I only live about 40 miles from the stadium). Other than the negatives – I'll just remember the good stuff…if you have a chance to see U2 for the first time (or any time), go for it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


U2 was one of the bands I have always wanted to see live but until last evening at Gillette Stadium, I hadn’t. While I’ve seen the band perform on TV shows and films of concerts, I couldn’t have imagined the difference it would make to be there live during the performance. Bono commands the stage with a mystical presence and has mastered the art of incorporating multimedia elements into the performance.
The music and the message were loud and clear without pretentiousness but with charm and true rock and roll grace. There wasn’t a moment of the two hour show that I wasn’t feeling some deep connection to the band, the music, and the message – it was beyond what my simple words can describe.
Here’s the set list:
Main Set: Magnificent
No Line on the Horizon
Get On Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Your Blue Room
Beautiful Day
Unknown Caller
Until the End of the World
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
The Unforgettable Fire
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On
Where the Streets Have No Name
Encore(s): Ultraviolet
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender
With more than 25 solid  years or churning out incredible music, I knew it would be impossible to walk away from this concert without hearing something I wished I had, except, in the end…I was moved so deeply not just my the songs, but by the words and how they were delivered, there was no room for concern about what hadn’t been.

The Patriots and Me

How this boy from Brooklyn, New York came to root for the New England Patriots.

I must first proclaim my undying love for the New York Yankees; a love of somewhere between 35 and 40 years that will not ever change. I I preface this post because regardless of any other sports team I align with, I could never align with the Boston Red Sox - I will be a gentlemen and not bad mouth them, but I will never root for them.

Through the 7o's and right up through Troy Aikman's retirement, I had been a Dallas Cowboys fan. Despite growing up in NYC, I never considered myself a Jets or a Giants fan. The Roger Staubach (and accompanying team) years were truly memorable, especially when the rival team on the field was The Pittsburgh Steelers - it was always a magical contest.

The post Staubach, particularly the Aikman years were fun to watch as well, but clearly there seemed to be a shift in the Cowboy organization and after Aikman retired, I not only lost interest in the team, but the sport of football in general.

I took a few years off from giving a crap at all and as the 90's were coming into the later part of the decade, I moved from my native city of Brooklyn in 1997 to Massachusetts. I learned quickly that it was going to be difficult to be a Yankees fan in Red Sox land and while I hadn't watched so much as a single down of football (except for a few Super Bowls), I was itching to have a team I could give a crap about.

Since most of my new friends were heavy into the Pats, I thought I'd at least socialize a bit by joining a few to watch the games together and it was watching this team play that opened my eyes to something that I found to be rare in football and in fact, rare in most professional sports teams. I studied a bit more about the organization and such and found that I really liked the Patriot organization - it had a certain class about it. Perhaps it is all an illusion, a smoke screen - regardless, the players were fun to root for and along with the camaraderie of some buds from around here, I got hooked.

So, that is my story and I am sticking to it. I like the game of football - it interesting to watch and try to understand the strategies and logic that goes into the game. Some have mentioned that the Pats are "cheaters" and to that I say, If your only source in information is "Mangini", I think you might want to find a more credible source of information. I'm not going to say that Bellichick (who in my opinion is the best head coach since Tom Landry) or the Pats are perfect, but they do have what seems to be, or at least resemble what's been so lacking in the capitalistic generation of pro sports. I can't even bring myself to give a crap about hockey anymore...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Out With The Old and In With The New

I bought this puppy brand spanking new, my first new car, in October of 1998 and drove it right through last evening when I surrendered it to the government "Cash for Clunkers" program where it will be crushed (after being scavenged for scrap metal and the sort) and put to rest.

Other than bad gas mileage, this car has served me well and was an overall positive experience to own. I hope that it gets the 72 virgin greeting when it gets to it's final resting place like they told me it would.

Here's me and my new wheels, a 2009 Honda Fit Sport. The photo couold have been taken at a more interesting angle showing off the vehicle a bit more. Here's to hoping I can have as sweet a relationship with this car than with the last.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Teacher Files: Careful What You Ask For

I received an email from one of my students who had a few problems taking the online quizzes. Turns out, I had addressed the potential for this problem, and I was hesitant to offer this student an second chance for several good reasons. In fact, this was my exact response:
I am inclined at this time to not reset either of these quizzes. On Thursday, I posted an announcement and a document that addresses this very issue. Also, I am uncomfortable with the fact that after having this problem with the first quiz, you just went on ahead with the next one instead of dealing with the issue on the first one. It appears that you took the practice quiz successfully and finally, you took this course, just a few weeks ago - you should know better. So, convince me why you deserve another chance to take these quizzes.
You see, this student took this same course with me over the summer in an accelerated session and received a passing grade. However, it was a poor grade – not one that would successfully transfer and for other “personal reasons,” this student chose to repeat the course. Anyway, re-read the last sentence in my initial response before you read her reply back, which follows (I’ve removed names and altered town names):
Because I bombed the last class because my husband was addicted to prescription pain killers, had himself arrested, came back home, proceeded to smash in my windshield and tear apart the house. At which time I had him arrested again and placed a restraining order on him. His psychiatrist had him committed to a facility in [***far away town***] which is an hour drive from my house. This took a whole lot of driving time...I live in [***my town***], work in [***work town***} and went to see him in [***far away town***] before driving back home to [***my town***]. While committed, he called the police on me claiming I was stealing from him. I had to deal with many phone calls from the police who were, thankfully, understanding and did not give me any grief about the situation.
My husband tried to commit suicide while in the detox/psych. clinic. I visited him 4 times throughout his 9 day stay. This was very stressful and completely turned my life upside down. During this time my dog was also hit by a car. Thankfully, he survived and is almost all healed. Now.........
Despite all this I went online 2 or 3 times a week and did the best I could to keep going forward and do what I had to do to get one step closer to becoming a nurse. I knew that I needed to get a better job and that everything that was happening in life right then was temporary.......things would get better one way or another. So, now my husband is home, clean and sober, and I have purchased a new Dell computer that seems to be giviing [sic] me a few problems.
I will however, read your note about the problem that I experienced while taking these tests. I would very much appreciate it if you would reset these tests because I want to pass this class with flying colors as I know I am able to do. Please, please, please, give me one more shot.
I asked, didn’t I? I gave the student a second chance but that’ll be where it ends. It’s hard not to be compassionate to such a story. I hope this student didn’t bite off more than they can chew and that everything works out for the best.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Podcast: Dealing With These Deaths

There seems to be a whole lot of dying going on, and with people way to young to be dying. This podcast is raw and at times, a little all over the place. However, it is the real deal - me just pouring out how I am feeling about all of this in the moment.

When I originally recorded this it was about 14 minutes, there was nearly 6 minutes of silence - which I have edited out.
or, listen here:

Saturday, September 05, 2009

I Yearbooked Myself

My buddy Rob did this and posted his pics to FB where I saw them, laughed, then had to do it myself.
If you want to try it out, click here – but first check me out in my various yearbook incarnations (this is truly what computers were invented for).
YearbookYourself_1964 circa 1964, with a mild case of vitiligo
YearbookYourself_1968circa 1968, hippy dippyish
(friends, don’t forget to breathe while laughing)
YearbookYourself_1974circa 1974, I’m a black man again
I love the giant bowtie
YearbookYourself_1978circa 1978, very Dwight Schrute-ish
YearbookYourself_1988circa 1988, the discovery of the mullet
YearbookYourself_1996circa 1996, ya gotta love that dippity doo doo thing covering my forehead
YearbookYourself_2000circa 2000, clearly after a visit to Jamaica
What a fun trip down memory lane. Of course, if you never visit the website, there are some of you who might actually believe that any of these are actual photographs of me and that would be the funniest of all. LOL!!!
I less than three you.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 19 [The End]

canadian-coins After rumbling through my backpack, I found that I had around two bucks in Canadian currency so I stopped at the Hudson News and grabbed a soda and a bag of chips. The soda and chips came out to almost 8 dollars! OldDutch-Baked-CreamyDillThe chips, which cost around 5 bucks, I must confess, were quite delicious. I can’t recall the brand name but do remember that the company was in Winnipeg (I found the photo with Google images as I was posting this]. The chips were “baked” and “creamy-dill” flavoured and once again, I must say they were delicious.  In fact, the dill flavor would later offer subtle reminders that I ate something with dill flavouring (I’m just showing off now with the spelling of flavor). The plane finally boarded (on time, it was the wait that prompted the use of the work finally) and took off on time and as I write this very sentence, (4:28 PST), there remains about an hour before landing at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. Fortunately, I was initially writing this longhand so I didn’t have to put away my notebook for takeoff and landing.
The landing at PHX was smooth and on time. The bowl of grits at breakfast, many hours and a country ago along with those chips, of which the dill flavor still wishes to express itself, represent my total consumption thus far and as such, I was hungry. More accurately, I was starving to the point where I had a really bad headache and was feeling a bit dizzy. I stopped at a fast food joint in the airport; I think it was called “The Great Steak” and something something. great steakI ordered a “great steak combo” which consisted of a cheese steak sandwich, fries, and a soda. I polished the food off far faster than I should have but when it was done, I craved something sweet which led me to Starbucks and a slab of delicious and overpriced (I know, redundant considering I already said Starbucks) crumb cake. With about two and a half hours left before my flight leaves for Boston, it was time to get serious about time wasting and people watching – I needed something to pass the time.
* * * * * * * * * *
LIVE IN-FLIGHT UPDATE: It is 4:27am EST and there is just under an hour left until the scheduled landing time in Boston; and I am having the flight from hell. The flight itself is okay, but I personally am having a host of issues that are creating the hellishness. DO you recall the cheese steak sandwich I ate in Phoenix? Clearly my food choice was a bad one and it was rumbling about in my belly so badly that for a moment, I went into the restroom thinking I may need to vomit. I haven’t vomited in more than 20 years and perhaps even 25 years. I’ve been nauseous many, many times but I hate vomiting and perhaps even fear it some; so much so that I would rather feel like vomiting than actually vomit. That is, there are times when some might wish to just get the vomiting over with and perhaps even induce it knowing that once they vomit, they will no longer feel like vomiting. Me, I’ll go hours feeling like crap, like vomiting and do anything to prevent it from happening, even at the cost of continued feeling crappy.
I stood in the cramped restroom with my head leaning against the angled ceiling above the toilet and somehow, with the movement of the plane (blended with the noxious fumes of airplane toilet 80% through a long flight with a plane load of passengers, many of whom used it), there was some sort of calming effect and the nausea began to subside. In addition to my tummy woes, my legs were far more restless than usual and I was almost completely unable to sit still. I had enough restlessness that I had to get up constantly to stretch and walk the aisle, which didn’t make me popular amongst the rest of the passengers since they were all trying to sleep. I was at one point so darn fidgety that I began to get self conscious thinking that all the passengers, at least the ones who either were awake or awakened by my fidgety freakiness, had begin making judgments about me and even had come up with “secret” voodoo wishes and nicknames.
The rest was uneventful. After landing in Boston it was get the luggage and then the shuttle to long-term parking before driving home and then collapsing in exhaustion. I was lucky in that I had the rest of the week off to re-coup my energy and enjoy the memories of a wonderful vacation.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 18

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009 (The Last Day, The road home) continued…
I’m just sitting in the terminal, with no Canadian Currency and a Starbucks looming in the near distance calling my name for some odd reason. As a reminder, I am sitting in the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia thousands of miles from home. I look up and notice a couple of folks whom I know, from back home in Massachusetts. What the heck are the odds of that happening? Neither of us knew that the other was travelling much less passing through the same airport and as it turns out, at the same time. While they were on a different flight, for me, that didn’t negate the awesomeness of the coincidence and it was also a pretty nice break from the waiting around monotony.
Okay, back to the U.S. customs line – it moved along at a pretty good pace through to the first checkpoint where a young lady asked to see the customs declaration form before passing me through without incident. The next room included another human sized mouse maze (sans cheese) eventually leading to break offs where there were yet new lines for each booth were the final waiting spot before meeting with the customs agent.
The original last line I was on seemed a bad choice as there was a large Asian family that were being fingerprinted and questioned – it was taking long enough for me to decide to switch to a different last line that appeared to be moving quicker (and had less of a criminal element being processed). It was at some point waiting on this new last line that I looked over at my old last line to find that standing there waiting was none other than comedian Rex Havens who performed on the ship this past Wednesday evening. I couldn’t stop myself from approaching him if only to let him know how much I enjoyed his show. I told him the same as I wrote here in my journal, that I thought he was very funny and that in my opinion, he should be as well known as anyone else in his business. He thanked me and shook my hand saying that I was very kind to say so. I assumed that would be the end of the pleasantries but a few moments later, Rex approached me, handed me a business card and asked me to send him an email and he would send me a copy of his book and CD “on-the-house”. I told him that I would do so and that he was generous to offer and we both proceeded to deal with the customs process as he made it through his like to meet with an agent and shortly after, I got to meet with mine.
After passing through the customs agent line, and what I expected to be the last line, there was yet one more mouse maze to pass through eventually leading to the x-ray/metal detector screening lanes. Oh, I almost forgot – before entering this line, there was a conveyor belt waiting to relieve me of my checked baggage, which was nice. As I moved along through the line, there were occasions where Rex Havens and I passed each other. I didn’t want to be one of those awkward fans who feel obliged to interact each time we crossed paths. Surprisingly and delightfully, Mr. Havens took the time to interact with me offering jokes and conversation and again reminding me to email him. He is not only a terrific entertainer, but also a cordial and delightful gentleman.
As if enough oddities, both pleasant and not, could happen, there was another waiting for me as I passed through the metal detector, set off an alarm, and became the center of attention. Oh, before I discuss that annoyance, I must say how awful a mistake I made not wearing socks with my Rockport boat shoes. The thing is, I never wear socks with these shoes, certainly never with shorts. Anyway, I had to remove my shoes to pass through the metal detector leaving me barefoot to walk through. I was so thoroughly disgusted I thought I was going to faint or go into shock – I am not even kidding about this. Worse, as I mentioned, I set off the metal detector making the amount of time I was barefoot on this disgusting floor feel like an eternity. The absolute disgust I was feeling had me feeling woozy, nauseous, and light headed. The disgust did distract me from the embarrassment of my frisking and paddling to detect the source of the alarm. Believe it or not, it was my passport! I mentioned that it seemed odd that my passport could set off the alarm but the dude with the wand said it wasn’t all that unusual as there are microchips inside the passports (I did not know this).
Once cleared, I got my shoes back on as immediately as possible and headed over to gate E87 where I would wait for flight 500 to board.
To be continued…

Monday, August 31, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 17

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009 (The Last Day, The road home)
6:15am came quicker than it should as the alarm sufficiently got me out of bed to begin what would more than likely be a long stretch of unpleasantness and my goal was to do all I could to get through it all and perhaps it will end up being just a little less unpleasant than I expect.
With bags all packed, I went up to the buffet realizing that after last evening’s big dinner, I was in no shape for a big breakfast. I settled on a bowl of grits, added a touch of salt and pepper, and that was that.
I was expected to disembark the ship by 8:30 so I obliged and went from the ship to the Canadian customs counter. The process was painless, smooth, and quick; kudos to the pleasant Canadian customs agent. I arrived in the port terminal with the intention of getting a taxi to the airport but found a shuttle service offering a considerably lower fare so I bout a ticket. Moments later, I was seated in a comfortable, air-conditioned motor coach en route to YVR.
The ride to the airport was pleasant and traffic free. A group of us, including the driver, engaged in conversation which made the excursion more pleasant than expected. The airport however, was the beginning of where my patience, and certainly my endurance, would be tested.
yvr1 Here I am at YVR and it’s 9:30am. The problem, my flight from here doesn’t depart until 2:30pm and it will still be a couple of hours before I can check in, drop the luggage, or go through U.S. customs. Even more painful, the thought that the flight still 5 hours from takeoff will leave me in Phoenix, Arizona – a 4 hour layover preceding  a 5 hour flight.
As I write this sentence, it is 10:13am and thus far, I don’t yet hate everyone or everything around me – but it’s still early…
Around 11something, I had noticed the US Airways counter open so I went over to the kiosk to check in. Of course the guy who got sunburned in Alaska wasn’t going to have it so easy. After entering my confirmation code into the kiosk and then seeing my name magically pop up on the screen, I thought I would soon become the possessor of a shiny new boarding pass – I was mistaken. being me can be special sometimes, like this occurrence when I touched the touch screen where it asked me to and a longer than expected “processing” indicator soon became an “unexpected error, please see a US Airways customer service representative for assistance. We are sorry for any inconvenience”…I should pursue a career in bad luck. BTW, I don’t believe for a second that anyone was actually sorry.
The line for customer service wasn’t too bad, the agent was courteous and friendly and happily took my credit card to handle the baggage fees (how fucking bogus of the airline industry). Of course, with U.S. customs on the horizon, I had to bring the luggage along for the process. I moved down on to the line to learn that it was actually three levels deep (yikes) but moving fairly quickly (thus far). Wait! How could I forget to tell this story of incredible coincidence?
Of course, you’ll need to wait until the next post – I am pooped and must go to bed…
To be continued…

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 16

Saturday, August 1st, 2009 continued…
norwegian_sun_big After lunch I played a little game of “how many different places on the ship can I do as little as humanly possible (except of course going from place to place).” One of my main goals of this vacation was to relax as much as possible. I needed to recharge my batteries and I know once I get back home, things are only going to get stressful. The day after I get home, the vinyl siding project kicks off and then, back to work on the 10th where…I’ll stop here with that stuff. At 3:00pm I went to the Windjammer bar, call me nuts but that just oozes gay bar name to me, for another game show, “Win, Lose, or Draw”. These games shows have been great fun.
I just remembered a story. When I first got into my stateroom on the first day of the cruise, I picked up the “Freestyle Daily” newsletter to see what was going on about the ship. I took notice that at 6:00pm in the chapel, there was a “Friends of Bill W” meeting, which I know is Alcoholics Anonymous. Just beneath that listing was another group gathering in the “Havana Bar” – the “Friends of Dorothy”. I had never heard of this group before and I was curious who they were. I made the humorous assumption that it was shopaholics anonymous and even began making inquiries of my fellow cruisers. I got nowhere until several days later when I decided to Google it on my Blackberry. Now this would be the most logical place for me to reveal who the Friends of Dorothy are but each of you reading this fall into two groups: those who already know and are already laughing at my naivetĂ© and then those of you who don’t know – and for those of you that fall into this category, I am going to leave it to you to look it up – so you could laugh at me later.
Funny thing I’ve noticed, at home, time drags when I am doing nothing; perhaps because it is so hard to be completely relaxed at home. Here though, I have loved every minute of doing something, and of doing absolutely nothing. Heck, here I went out of my way to plan special times to do absolutely nothing! I lie down on a lounge chair poolside in one moment and in the very next moment, it seems hours have gone by. Today was no exception to this odd time phenomenon and as I write this at 7:15pm – I consider the balance of my day and see dinner and a show in my relatively immediate future.
sun_four_seasons_184x133 Okay, it’s dinner time at the Four Seasons restaurant and I am taking this one seriously. “The Last Supper” as it is jokingly referred to by some and the menu choices were so wonderful, that I chose to eat like a Roman emperor. Here’s what my meal was made up of:
  • Gravlax Salmon Tartare – cucumber salad, toasted brioche, dill honey
  • Escargot “Bourgignone (sp.)”
  • Fresh Mozzarella and Vine ripened Tomato Salad with sweet basil and extra virgin olive oil
  • English Cut Strip Loin with Yorkshire Pudding, Roasted Potatoes, and Horseradish Cream
  • Raspberry-Almond Torte with Semi-Sweet Chocolate Ganache
  • Mocha Cheesecake with Caramelized Banana Sauce
For me to say that this meal was extraordinary would be gross understatement. As a plus, the waiter was a delightful and distinguished older gentleman from Jamaica who really enhanced this dining experience. I would have loved to walk around for a while after a meal such as this but the last show was set to start in less than 20 minutes at the Stardust Lounge and it would fill up fast; so I went to rustle up a seat in the theater.
I made my way to an excellent seat as I awaited performances by Brooklyn (my hometown) born tenor Alberto Sanchez and another comedy/magic performance by Jean Pierre Parent. Sanchez offered up several operatic numbers including a two song tribute to Pavoratti as well as show tunes and several standards of popular music. Jean Pierre added some material not seen/heard in his full length performance form Thursday evening. Both performers did a great job keeping the crowd entertained and when all was said and done, it was time to consider the vacation over and prepare for disembarkation tomorrow followed by a long (very long) day of travel. I returned to my stateroom, packed my luggage, set a 6:15am wake up call (paranoia) and off to sleep was I.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 15

Saturday, August 1st, 2009
I woke from a really odd dream. I was in New York City, right near my alma mater, NYIT, in Columbus Circle. At first I was in a bar talking to my pal Johnny D about a concert I had tickets for and how I was conflicted because I was supposed to start a class (as a student) the same night as the concert (keep in mind in that I currently live in Massachusetts, not NYC). The next thing I recall is being on a street corner with my cousin Julian discussing the various Blackberry telephone handsets and when I looked up, I was suddenly in Montreal and less concerned about my Blackberry than how I was going to get back to Manhattan in time for either the concert or my class. Johnny D. reenters the dream here, seemingly out of nowhere, to offer the advise of hopping in a cab, then pointing to Manhattan, which in the distance seemed only a cab ride away – very odd. I woke up right after that so I don’t know if I hailed a cab or made it to Manhattan in time and if so, whether or not I went to the concert or to class.
I checked my new watch to see that it was 7:30am and decided to prepare for my day with a shave and a shower. Have I mentioned that I somehow managed to get a pimple on my neck? Not just any part of my neck, the front, just a centimeter or so from my Adam’s apple – WTF!? I went about my business and headed down to the “Seven Seas” for some breakfast. My menu selections were:
  • Chilled melon platter'
  • Toasted bagel
  • Smoked salmon platter
  • Decaf
  • Cranberry juice
I assembled the contents of the salmon platter, which included sliced onions, capers, tomatoes and cream cheese, onto the bagel making a sandwich familiar to my native New York city sensibilities. I settled on the cranberry juice as my main beverage since I wasn’t certain I was poured decaf (the urn had a black handle and all the other urns to date have had an orange one). It was a perfect breakfast, not too heavy – a perfect precursor to my next important activity, nothing…that’s right, nothing; nothing but relaxation.
I walked on over to the Observation Lounge opting for an indoor venue as the weather had not yet been living up to the forecast and was at this time quite foggy and a touch nippy. After a good while luxuriating in a comfy chair and no responsibilities (for the time being), I relaxed my way to the near noon hour and moved on down to grab a cup of coffee on the pool deck. The weather had improved enough to hang outdoors and I was looking forward to a cup of coffee, having missed the one at breakfast.  I sat around and did nothing until around 1:30 when I recognized the fact that there were only two more wonderful meal opportunities and since the Seven Seas stops serving lunch at 2:00, I made my way there and enjoyed a wonderful meal including:
  • Roasted red pepper hummus with lavash
  • Garlic & shrimp bisque with baby shrimp
  • Churhasco (sp.) style marinated skirt steak with red peppers and carrots
  • Coconut and rice pudding layered with semi-sweet chocolate ganache
I am so happy I decided to hit the restaurant over the buffet or the BBQ on the rear deck.
To be continued…

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 14

Friday, July, 31st, 2009 continued…
I was too full to eat dinner yet so i thought I would go to the 7:30 show in the Stardust Lounge and have dinner afterwards. The show was called “Cirque Pan” and was billed as a tribute to Peter Pan. Again, there were some terrific performances, the dancers, singers, and acrobats were all quite entertaining and talented but the show itself wasn’t much – poor direction/production – very disjointed. Smack dab in the middle of the show, which to that point at least had characterizations that were relevant to Peter Pan, a group of performers come out and sing “Lady Marmalade”; it was so out of left field. It was a fabulous performance of a great song but what the heck does it have to do with a tribute to Peter Pan? Perhaps it was there for those on the heavier drinking plan than I and to them it made more sense.
DSC00180 When the show portion of the show ended, many of the staff and crew came on stage during a song – I know this is super corny but I kind of liked this. Having taken three cruises now, I’ve spent a little bit of time chatting it up with the various employees and a good part of the crew stay on board for 10 months at a time leaving their family and lives behind to earn a living – and they work very hard. So, for me, I think it is really nice to see these people who work so hard to make my vacation special get some recognition.
I left the theater around 8:40 and was ready for some dinner. Just a couple of floors down from the theater sits the familiar Seven Seas restaurant where I headed for what was a superb meal that I will share with you now:
  • Seafood ceviche
  • Curried butternut squash soup
  • “Surf and Surf” which included: shrimp, mussels, scallops, filet of snapper and a lobster tail over a bed of linguine (though it was actually fettucini)
  • Flourless molten chocolate cake with raspberry sauce
After dinner, you know by now I went walking for a while. I notice a small boat heading for the ship. As I was nearing the front of the vessel, one of the crew with a heavy Phillipino accent looked at me, pointed to the oncoming boat and said what sounded like “Pi-rate!” I got freaked out because there have been some stories in the news involving pirates and with a full belly and an evening Alaska wind blowing, muffling a thick accent – I thought, for a very short time, that there was potential trouble on the horizon. And, I was suspicious of the dude with the heavy Phillipino accent because he was smiling when he said what he did and then ran quickly inside a staff/crew only door.
So here I was, caught in a moment where I thought that a pirate ship was heading directly for the Norwegian Sun. I took cover behind a wall while peering out to see more of this oncoming boat. Very rapidly the boat got close enough for me to see a large Canadian flag waving proudly and seconds later, the word PILOT emblazoned loudly on its even louder yellow exterior. I began to laugh, almost uncontrollably, and then proceeded indoors as the wind was picking up while the temperature was dropping.
I stopped by the Internet cafe to use the last six minutes of the time I had purchased. The slow, crappy Internet rendered those six minutes useless so I just let it go – no sense being bitter at this point. By now it was 11ish and I was right next to Dazzles, the nightclub. the “White Hot Party” was just getting started, stealing a party theme from the famed Sean Puffy P-Diddy Diddy Combs. On this ship, they weren’t as strict about the white clothing only rule as Diddy is and it was something they were promoting the heck out of the last day or two. I decided to check out the action and it was quite crowded. The cruise director’s staff planted themselves in the center of the dance floor, all decked out in white. They were working the crowd as best they can while showing off the effects of an all white wardrobe under ultraviolet light. I stuck around but only for a short time realizing that my desire to sleep at some point won over my desire to continue partying. Somewhere just before the strike of midnight, I wandered back to my room and called it a night.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 13

Friday, July, 31st, 2009 continued…
DSC00177After a while I felt the need to continue to do nothing (but relax) but I wanted to do it outdoors. There happens to be a neat deck above the Observation Lounge (technically, it’s roof).
With the exception of the foghorn blowing every 90 seconds, it was a perfect spot – almost directly under the sun. You might think the foghorn blowing every 90 seconds would be annoying or distracting, but it didn’t stop me from relaxing (the proof is in the photo’s) and it didn’t take long for me to settle into the lounge chair, fall deep into relaxation and fall asleep.
I awoke with a smile and a thought that if I didn’t go to lunch soon, I wouldn’t have much of a chance at lunch (except for room service or a very limited menu). I went over to the Garden Cafe and loaded up a plate with a small sampling of items including:
  • Cinnamon scented rice with cashews
  • Marinated skirt steak
  • A sampling of cheeses with grapes and pecans
  • Ice cream
A stroll about the “strolling track” on deck six before a quick visit to inquire about transportation from the docks to the airport found me back on the roof of the observation deck for even more relaxation.
I almost forgot a few more “self-portraits” that I snapped while kernoodling inside the Observation Lounge for a short time just before returning to my little spot on its roof.
For me, one of the best parts of cruising is the ease at which relaxation comes (not something that comes as naturally in my daily life). Right now I am in the spot I’ve been speaking of, on the roof of the Observation Lounge, writing this very sentence and listening to some TBTL (being the Time Bandit that I am) and it’s around 4:00pm. For now I am closing my journal and will do some listening and relaxing – oh, can’t you just feel the sunshine?
* * * * * * * * * *
I decided to pick up the pen again because I am currently so entertained, I’d like to share it with you. I’m lounging here on the deck listening to TBTL (for the Tens that may be reading, the 7-8pm hour from July 1st). Jen is at the Shawn Colvin concert so Luke and Sean are just hanging - “bro-ing” it up and are KILLING! I am so laughing out loud, disregarding fellow cruisers relaxing nearby – very funny!
***MEDIC ALERT*** I am about to speak of an unpleasant medical condition – not super gross but unpleasant.
One of the problems I had this vacation is with, UGH, I hate to even say this, eczema. It wasn’t all gross or anything but my legs, from my knees down, were just a but rough and super itchy. This afternoon, the itch was really driving me crazy so I used some of the complementary moisturizing lotion in the room. As it was nearing 6:00pm I decided to head indoors. The minute I got indoors, I felt an intense burning sensation (pretty sexy, eh?) in my legs. When I got back to my stateroom, upon further inspection, I realized that I toasted myself while sitting in my spot on the upper deck. The exposed portion of my legs were quite red and if you think sunburn can be uncomfortable, try it out on top of eczema. I felt like I was molting at the legs, in fact, I was kind of hoping to molt at the legs.
What’s crazy is that most people that know me, know that I am not a big fan of the sun, I never “stay out in the sun”. I don’t mind it being sunny but I have been tracking the increase in skin cancer cases…okay, not really tracking it but I know of two people very close to people I know well who dies of cancers that began as a melanoma. The sun is not all that healthy and I am a burner. I know I should have used sun screen and shame on me for not doing so (I just slapped myself on the wrist) ….moving on.
To be continued…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 12

Friday, July, 31st, 2009
With a couple of sea days in front of me before returning to Vancouver, I “slept in” today. Having to return an hour overnight as we sailed back into Pacific time, it was in the neighborhood of 9:00am as I headed into the shower, got dressed, then decided to check email on the Blackberry to see if there were any issues with my students that needed dealing with.
I had two students who reported a problem with an assignment which prompted me to seek time on an Internet terminal so that I can get those students issues resolved. The Blackberry is a handy tool but I needed a real PC to take care of this. I typically avoid the ship’s Internet cafe for (at least) two reasons: one, I am on vacation and two, it’s ridiculously priced at 75 cents per minute (unless you buy a plan for $100 which brings down the per minute price to a still insane 40 cents).
As luck would have it, with only two days left in the cruise, “bargains” were popping up and the Internet cafe was no exception (I think I just vomited in my mouth a little). As of this morning, two new time plans were made available and while reluctant at the still stupidly overpriced plan, I opted for the 30 minute plan which was priced at $12, plus a one-time $3.95 set up fee (fuckers). I do love cruising as a vacation option and I know these practices aren’t limited to cruising but I really hate being raked over the coals – you know, nickel and dimed. I really wish someone would truly embrace the all inclusive concept.
The Internet service was dreadfully snow (worse than dial-up), but I did manage to review and resolve the outstanding student issues. Oh, I almost forgot – on the way to the Internet cafe I saw a table DSC00176full of stuff for sale and walked on by to notice some “cheap” watches that were being sold a few days ago for $44 and now being “cleared out” for $10. While I hated giving in to this chicanery, I hated being without a watch on my wrist even more and for ten bucks, I was willing to call myself a schmuck and bought the watch.
All of a sudden it was 10:30”,and the breakfast choices were limited. I noticed in the “Freestyle Daily” they had listed a Jazz Brunch at “Le Bistro”. I was excited because “Le Bistro” is usually only open for dinner and always charges an additional cover charge (as it is considered one of the premium restaurant offerings). There was no asterisk next to the brunch listing so I assumed it was being offered with no extra charge. The doors opened almost at the exact time I stepped off the elevator and to my disappointment, they were asking for a $15 cover charge so I walked away and headed for the buffet where there was a plethora of delectable choices already included in the price of my cruise. The following items appeared on my plate for a brief time en route to my digestive tract:
  • Scrambled eggs
  • 1 link of pork sausage
  • 1 strip of bacon
  • 1 croissant
  • Smoked salmon
  • Cream cheese
  • Sliced onions
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sticky bun
  • 1 fig
  • 3 prunes
  • Cup of decaf
  • Orange juice
The weather is a bit foggy and it was only about 60 degrees fahrenheit at this point of the day. I am fine with that temperature but with the early morning breeze still blowing, there was a modest chill in the air. As morning became late morning and into early afternoon, the breeze was a bit milder and the temperature may have risen a few degrees. Either way, I opted to grab a lounge chair on the pool deck, point it at the windows overlooking the water and laid back to relax (and write some of this stuff).
After a while I moved indoors to the Observation Lounge, after grabbing a cup of coffee and seated myself as near to a window as the crowd with the same idea as me (actually, they were already there and it was I who had their idea) would allow. There was some light pop music complementing the ambient noise of the lounge which features a full length, or rather full width, panoramic view out of the front of the ship which right now, is still quite foggy but nonetheless peaceful. I even allowed myself to view the artwork on display from strictly an appreciation perspective. There were some works by Salvador Dali and one of my favorite contemporary artists, Peter Max.
To be continued…

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 11

Thursday, July 30th continued…



The Chocoholic Buffet is a neat little Norwegian Cruise Line thing.DSC00166 They did it on the Hawaii cruise I was on a few years ago and happily, I was able to attend another on this cruise. After a terrific comedy magic show, I took a little outdoor stroll and made my way to the Seven Seas restaurant a few minutes before the scheduled time for the feast of chocolate.
I made a number of choice selections such as a chocolate covered banana, a chocolate covered strawberry, chocolate cake, a different chocolate cake, yet another type of chocolate cake, and some chocolatey thing with nuts – nice, eh?
I know that you must think after all that chocolate there is no way I’d be getting to sleep anytime soon. Guess again, I was winded. This was a day that as you may recall began with a 6:30am accidental alarm and I was so friggin’ content with my day that I decided to put it to rest.
I write this sentence at about 11:30pm with a heap of memories from my day, hours of joyous relaxation in the till, and a belly full of gourmet foods and chocolate. Here are a few more pictures of chocolate masterpieces:
DSC00170DSC00171DSC00172 To be continued…

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 10

Thursday, July 30th continued…
Here’s a paragraph from one of the promotional pieces for the excursion I selected; a ride on the White Pass Scenic Railway: “Experience the panorama of the mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles, and historic sites from the comfort of vintage parlor cars. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience this historic railway." With a description like that, a $120 price tag, and having to follow all that I’ve seen thus far (most notable Mendenhall Glacier and the Tracy Arm Fjord/Sawyer Glacier), this tour had lots to live up to – perhaps too much.
While it was an okay excursion, factoring everything into play, it was way overpriced and the cars weren’t particularly comfortable – just okay. There were some very nice moments, some nice scenery (as some of the pictures that follow will show), and so – no regrets; it was and experience that I’ll always have and I shall leave it at that.
DSC00147DSC00146There was a point at the end of the run (before the return trip) where we actually crossed the border into Canada. This picture indicates the approaching border crossing as both the US and Canadian Flags are present. Since we were at no point disembarking from the train, there was (thankfully) no need to deal with customs.
DSC00148 Upon my return and re-entry on the Norwegian Sun, I passed the time before dinner doing absolutely nothing, just relaxing. There are so many high quality relaxation opportunities on a cruise and I strongly suggest that should you decide to cruise, that you explore as many of them as possible.
I didn’t have to think about where to go for dinner, I showed up at the Seven Seas where a gourmet menu was awaiting. Here is what I chose from the many options:
  • Scallops with some awesome sauce (you like when I do that) and a jasmine rice cake
  • Chinese duck salad
  • Farfalle with Italian sausage, hot peppers, and pine nuts
  • Warm strawberry soufflĂ© with vanilla bean (fancy French word) sauce
My all too common post dinner stroll about the ship followed my delicious meal and I followed that with a visit to the Observation Lounge for yet more relaxation while enjoying some music and later, some Karaoke. I stuck around until about 8:40 and then made my way to the Stardust Lounge for a comedy magic show by Jean Pierre Parent.
Jean-Pierre was delightfully entertaining, very funny and the man has some serious prestidigitation skills.
In the next installment, I will bring you with me to:
DSC00164To be continued…