Friday, December 22, 2006


Coming home from work this past Wednesday I had a blowout to the left rear tire. The spare was fixed to the undercarriage at the rear of the car. It was the most pathetic, bedraggled-looking little donut tire ever. It appeared not much more reliable than an actual donut. And a donut with sprinkles might have had more traction. Another disconcerting question entering my mind was: Should I be able to squeeze the tire with my bare hand? Anyway, I got the spare on and Judy came to the rescue with some fix-a-flat. And that folks, was the very first tire I'd ever changed.

So, two things I've only done once in my life are: changing a tire and changing a diaper (about 20 years ago). Guess which one made me gag.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Back In Manhattan, Nov 28th '06

This was the very last picture I took before entering Terminal 7 at JFK to catch my flight home. In one of my first postings I commented that prior to going there, most of what I knew of NYC/Manhattan was gleaned from Seinfeld, Law & Order, etc. On my very first trip to New York back in Nov '03, this sign was the first thing that caught my eye as I walked out of the airport. Hey, I thought, it's the Van Wyck! For non-Seinfeld fanatics, the Van Wyck is the freeway Elaine nearly conquered in her attempt to drop off her loser boyfriend at the airport for a 10:00am flight. I seem to recall that when family/friends asked me about the sights I'd seen, my reply was something like "Lot's of stuff - The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, and the Van Wyck Express sign!"

This has become a traditional first photo location dating back to my first trip. I may have described it's location before, but in case I haven't, it's in the southwest corner of Central Park. It was taken about 6am. Lots of booths were still there at nearby Columbus Circle, leftover from the Thanksgiving parade.

This is The Hello Deli of Late Night with David Letterman fame. As you can see, it was not open yet. But I have eaten there. I believe it was the trip before last. Rupert Gee, proprietor and participant in many a Letterman skit, was right there behind the counter. It felt a little bit wierd. Having only known him via television, it took some effort to realize that he really does own and run that little eatery. And when I say little, I do mean little. There is just enough room for about four or five people to stand inside, as long as they keep still. Rupert is a friendly sort, and chatted amiably with two old gents from Italy who were in line ahead of me. He asked them how they were enjoying their stay, etc. Apparently they get Letterman over there. When it was my turn to place my order, not wanting to give myself away as a "tourist", I ordered the "New Yorker." Pastrami on Rye. I think he may have seen though me, though.

Here are some decorative Herald Angels. This plaza leads straight towards the Rockefeller skating rink and the TREE, which are right behind me.

Meredith Veira, Today Show. I like her, but sometimes there is such a thing as smiling too "bigly."

Ann Curry and Matt Lauer's understudy. Judy told me his name, but it's gone. There really is a cult-ish vibe surrounding the folks who stand around spectating and smiling beatifically. I found it kinda fun as well, which I took as a sign it was time to leave.

Al Roker. As George Costanza once said of Newman, "He's merry." BTW, if any baseball fans are viewing this right now, take a look at the guy on the left. If he is not a near dead-ringer for Curt Schilling, then I'm a dementor. I hold no delusions that it is him, 'cause why would he be by himself hanging around the Today Show set? And him a Red Sock? I don't know. They say each of us has a twin somewhere.

I had not heard this young lady's story before I clicked away at her as she sat for her interview piece with Meredith, and indeed I felt quite sheepish once I had heard it. I feel bad that I don't recall her name, but she was a pioneer in NCAA football in that she was the first female to start on a team - and ended up getting raped by teammates, I believe. She was the placekicker. So there I was going paparazzi on her only to hear her talk about this terrible thing that happened to her. She sure is a stunning woman, though. Maybe she's part Veela. Any out there who know her name feel free to let me know.

Here is another photo with a Seinfeld connection. This soup counter, run by one Al Yeganeh (you can see his name if you look closely), was the inspiration for the famous "Soup Nazi" episode. Mr. Yeganeh cursed Seinfeld's name to the heavens when customers began calling him Soup Nazi. "Hey, you're the Soup Nazi, aren't you?" Although it undoubtedly gave a huge boost to his business. If you're like me, when you look at the sign you'll hear Newman's voice saying "jamba-LA-yah" in your head. Don't fight it.

So yeah, they go in for huge decorations in Manhattan. Christmas lights, fancy ornaments, and (as Deacon Brown in Flower Mound, Texas would style them) "shiny balls."

THE TREE. They actually didn't have the big lighting ceremony until the evening of the 29th. When I was at the Today set, I was kinda looking around for it. I had no reference point, being unfamiliar with the area. I'm glad I didn't ask a cop as I had been considering doing, because I finally realized it was right across the street from where I was standing. Looking at the Tree, the Today show set is straight left from it. It is an impressive piece of vegetation, no question. Oh, BTW it costs around $24 to ice skate there if you don't BYOS. Like $9 rink fee, and $15 skate rental.

Washington Square Park. I learned some new facts on this trip. Previously I had rather vaguely assumed that the Arc structure was somewhere in Central Park. I had planned on visiting this particular park because it was located in Greenwich Village, which was a district I had not yet been in. So I was pleasantly surprised to see this monument to George Washington suddenly before me. I did not spot Liv Tyler or Gwyneth Paltrow as hoped, however. Near the top on the south side there is a quote from George Washington which reads: "Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair - The event is in the hand of God"
I also found out that NYU is located just south of the Park.

Here is an old white haired squirrel successfully stalking what appears to be a flippin sweet nut. I love those little squirrel hands.

I tried to get at least one good shot of the fall colors. I like this one. I had a good time on this trip. I forgot to mention getting my lunch at Chelsea Market (a grilled parmesan chicken panini with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and roast eggplant) with the alterior motive of bumping into Rachael Ray (nope). I did not buy any Feaux-lex watches in Battery Park this time around, thought they were selling some pretty nice looking ones at the airport 2 for $20. So, I picked out a couple. The flight home was quite hellish, I must say, due to the fact that I'd caught a cold that afternoon and also had a raging headache by the time I boarded. But it was a good time anyway. I got some good pics, saw some cool stuff, and learned a few new things. Well worth it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Halloween at the Manor

Halloween '06. I went to work as "Three Hole Punch Zack." Anybody who is an avid fan of "The Office" will know what's up with that. Turned out that few people down at Us Airways did know. I realized early on that I was gonna be spending all day explaining my costume choice. Eventually whenever someone would ask about "those dots on your shirt," I would in turn ask, "Do you ever watch 'The Office?'" Then, when they shook their heads no, I would say, "Then don't worry about it."
I filled a huge tub with an enormous candy salad consisting of M&Ms, Snickers, Kit-Kats, Mike & Ikes, Now & Laters, Tootsie Rolls and Dum-Dums. My apologies to any candy I've omitted. Generally I would just grab a small handful and drop it into their bags. One little girl said excitedly to her parents as she walked away, "He's giving handfuls!" There were lots of princesses, one Darth Vader, many super heroes, and one kid who showed up as Napoleon Dynamite - complete with a Vote For Pedro t-shirt and nerdy afro. It was quite funny. On a couple of occasions we got the obligatory visit from young punky types whose voices were just a little too deep for Trick-or-Treating. But hey, those punky types need candy too. Who am I to deny them?
It was a fun night. There were actually two or three kids who knew about my shirt dots. "Hey, you're like the guy from The Office!", one kid said. Seems to me that Halloween is gradually becoming fun again, not withstanding the safety measures which have become necessary. Some things won't ever be what they were, the state of the world being what it is. I was happy to see parents accompanying most of the groups. Hooray for Halloween! Which besides being a lot of fun, is also the Big Kahuna of candy holidays.....Candy is awesome.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Giving the Gift of Al

Many of my favorite musicians or bands have gone the way of the Dodo. As an 80's teenager, I saw Van Halen give David Lee the boot, then have a sucession of frontmen (kinda like Spinal Tap's drummer curse). The Monkees had a comeback, which was nice for awhile - then they went away again. The Straits are no longer Dire and the Men quit Working. Where have you gone, Thomas Dolby? Howard Jones? Duran Duran, where are you, are you?

Somehow, even though so many acts have fizzled, retired, or broken up - a man named Wierd Al soldiers on. Bless him, for whenever a diva starts to believe her own hype, a lead singer starts acting like Bono, or a band starts believing they are the next Beatles - Al will be there to burst the bubble.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

L.A./"Idol" Pics

Here are some photos from the trip Judy, Mom, Caitlin and I took to L.A. back in August to see the American Idol show. Judy very aptly described the show itself, so I don't have much to add there. I spent my time alternately enjoying the show and snapping away with my camera.

Caitlin, Judy, and Mom on the Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier. We try whenever possible to steer clear of the "touristy" type places, so we decided to dine at a charming little "out-of-the-way" place called Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Caitlin, myself, and Judy outside the "venue" with one of the posters from Taylor Hicks' triumphant performance in Provo back in July. The poster turned out to be too big to take in, so Caitlin ran back to put it in the car, which was lucky because we then found out that cameras were allowed, so Judy called her and had her bring mine to me. Thanks, KK!

Caitlin, Judy, and Mom in their seats just before the show started.

MANDISA. A perfect way to start the show. She sang "I'm Every Woman." She did great and got everybody pumped up - her legs really are that big, btw. My camera added nothing, I assure you. She was definitely a crowd favorite, just like on the tv show.

Ace Young. Whatever. Doesn't look as though he's seen any "pretty butterflies" yet.

Lisa Tucker. She's cute and talented, but seemed kinda dull after the "Deesa."

Paris Bennett. She did great. I think here she is singing 'Midnight Train to Georgia.'

Bucky Covington. He did pretty well. This, as well as the ones of Paris and of Taylor below are kind of blurred - it's hard for me to stay steady when focusing on things far away - but I think the blurr made them look kinda cool.

Kellie Pickler. During the tv show I found her pretty annoying most times. Nothing against her voice, though. But during the live show, I don't know, she seemed a lot more cute and charming. Maybe it was just her hottie-tottie outfit.

Elliot Yamin was g-reat. The crowd loved him and he totally worked them. I agree with Judy about the shirt, though.

Here's one of the guys sans Taylor. ??? They harmonized well. I was particularly pleased with how this one turned out.

Ace and Chris Daughtry. Check out Daughtry belting as he rocks his acoustic. You know, I'm just now realizing I forgot to include one of Chris by himself. I'll get to it.

This photograph represents my biggest regret of the night. This was the very best shot I could manage of the lovely Katharine McPhee. No cool blurring action like with Paris, Bucky, and Taylor. I tried, Kat. Man, did I ever try. No, the blurring in her case produced a variety of undesired effects such as "Kat with receding hairline", "Kat with third eye", or "Kat with no neck." Judy can tell you that I am a card-carrying member of the Soul Patrol, but I also have case of McPheever - in an extremely advanced stage. I just wish she'd be herself and not go for the Aguilera acrobatics.

THE MAN. I love this one of Taylor doing a classic Taylor spazz-move with his classic Fender Strat.

Here Taylor is doing his thing accompanied by a surprisingly mild mannered-seeming keyboardist. Maybe he has a day job as an accountant. Judy commented how the staging of the show really didn't give Taylor his spot as "the winner." I agree, but I'd have to add that it was the audience, along with Hicks himelf, who gave that to him. As much as sections of the audience might have had their particular favorite, it became clear when Taylor hit the stage that he was The Guy. He just has a knack for energizing with his performance.

At breakfast the morning after the show. Caitlin and I found another nice out-of-the-way place with sidewalk seating. What was the name? The Best...West...ern... I....HOP?

After breakfast we drove up the coast to look around a bit. I'd heard that in Malibu there is no public access to the beach. Well, we found out that there really is no public access to the beach. So, we drove back down towards LA, stopping at one of the first public beaches so that I could get a shot or two. I was really happy with this surfer action shot.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Another Taylor

Well, I had planned on going to Dallas this weekend to visit and make a long overdue visit to the Texas State Fair, you know, "corny dogs, shetland ponies" and whatnot. However, my prospective return flights on Sunday were all filling up and I decided not to risk getting stuck and missing work.
As it turned out, I'm glad it worked out the way it did, because I was able to see Jeff and Alisha's new baby girl, born just after 3pm today. She appears to have Jeff's nose and Alisha's jawline and mouth. Can't say much about the eyes, though, cause she never opened them. What's up with that?
Anyway, here are some pics of the little bundle.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gas is the Word

Yep, it's been awhile. Since the last blog entry I went to LA with Mom, Judy and Caitlin to see the Idol show (more about that - including pics - later), answered hundreds & hundreds of phone calls regarding air travel, and.....acquired a GAS-powered lawn mower - the first gas lawn mower my family has owned, at least since I've been in it.
As we were discussing this fact, my Mom said, "Yeah, Dad sure swore by those electric mowers, didn't he?" I swore by them too - just about every time I used one. Operationally they aren't that bad, but managing the power cord is a pain, and you just don't get the same testost-o-rush plugging in your mower that you do when grabbing the cord and letting 'er rip.
Other fun happenings in recent days - My friend Melissa and I went to the Greater Phoenix Greek Festival this past weekend. I can Greek dance, btw. Uncle Dwaine, I can bring some music to the reunion next year. That is, if you don't already have some. I began going to the festivals years ago because of Becky's husband Ted. They are sure fun. It's fun seeing inebriated WASP-y white folks try the steps (like Ian Miller's parents in Big Fat Greek Wedding). Years later I invited Melissa who, due to the fact that she is already an accomplished dancer, picked up the steps in about two seconds.
She had a blast and it became kind of a tradition for us to go. Anyway at the festival this past saturday night we went out on the floor and joined in with a particular line of dancers which unfortunately was being led by a tall young girl who danced like a newborn fawn. Several other ladies then zeroed in on Melissa and her "awesome skills" and eventually asked her to move to the lead position, which she did. I was pretty proud.
They have lots of interesting things for sale - jewelry, pottery, music, and several Greek-type grocery items. They sold great crocks of Kalamata olives. I bought a package of Greek oregano (It's a powerful smell - no need to open it to find out), a wooden morter & pestel (sp?), and some Greek olive oil (extra-EXTRA virgin olive oil - that's e-e-v-o-o to you Rachel Ray).

Hey Melinda, here are two of my favorite "Office" quotes:

Michael: "Was this year's Dundies a success? Well, let me see, I made Pam laugh so hard that she fell out of her chair and almost broke her neck. So, I killed...almost."

Jim: "You look cute today, Dwight."
Dwight: "Thanks, GIRL."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mom's Las Vegas B-Day Fest, 28-30 July 2006

"There was this kid I grew up with - he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me, you know. We did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition we ran molasses into Canada - made a fortune - your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him - and trusted him. Later on he had an idea - to build a city out of a desert stop-over for GI's on the way to the West Coast. That kid's name was Moe Green - and the city he invented was Las Vegas..."

Las Vegas. The above quote of course is from Lee Strasberg's character Hyman Roth in the classic film "The Godfather - Part II." I found out later that "Moe Green" is Godfather code for Bugsy Siegel, much like how "Johnny Fontane" is code for Sinatra (according to Puzo, he never intended for that connection to be inferred - but I think it's pretty obvious). Anyway, the Hyman Roth quote came to mind late Friday night, July 28th, as we passed through the mountains and could finally see the city lights in the distance.
Ironically, it rained for about the first four hours of the drive, but luckily it ended before the mountainous parts leading up to Hoover Dam. We exited the freeway at Las Vegas Blvd. Making our way towards the strip, we saw a number of the infamous wedding chapels, and then further along there were two "Elvi" walking along - one in a dark jumpsuit, the other in a powder blue jumpsuit. Viva Las Vegas.
And then, at about 11pm, we arrived at the "Strip" and checked into our hotel....

Ahh, the exquisite and lavish Bellagio Hotel - which is right across the street from Bally's, where we stayed. It's kind of a generic hotel, meaning it doesn't have a theme like MGM Grand, or Caesar's, or Venetian, or...

The Paris Hotel, which was right next door to Bally's. Bally's was pretty cool, though. One good thing is the kiosk in the lobby sells awesome strawberry tarts. And if you do the breakfast buffet, get the breakfast steak. It was while walking through the Paris on friday night that I first experienced what I will call "The Vegas Effect." We were walking through the Paris casino, then we passed into a mall area with shops and restaurants - all very Parisian, the cobblestones were even treated to give them that "just rained-on" look. Anyway, we were moseying along, seeing the sites, and then all of a sudden we were entering the Bally's casino. ??? I would later find out that The Strip, and the Hotels on the strip all have a certain labyrinthine quality.

This photo, as well as all of the previous ones, was taken friday night. I was pleased with how this shot across the water turned out. As for the Bellagio fountain, seeing it on tv or film does not do it justice. I was amazed at how high the water shoots. During the first "show" the soundtrack was Gene Kelly doing 'Singing in the Rain.' Appropriate. The spray from the fountain felt good with the breeze.

Saturday, after my first official "Vegas Buffet," (it was at Bally's Big Kitchen Buffet, which Jennifer dubbed "The Big Fat Food Kitchen") we went over to Mandalay Bay to see the Shark Reef exhibit, and just to look around in general. This giant reptile resides at the Mandalay Bay pool. I thought he looked cool, and just look at him now, immortalized in a blog.

This is one of three specimens of the rare Golden Crocodile at the Shark Reef exhibit. Dig that devious, croc-y grin. The other two were a little darker shade of gold.

Here are some fish in a tank.

Mom and I are standing by the stingray pool, waiting for them to make another go around.

This is the Big-Daddy stingray, or...the Big Mama stingray. It's a stingray. It's probably two feet across and maybe three or four feet from tip to tail.

Here are Jenn and I, hands-on with the stingray. They feel basically kind of slick and gelatinous. BTW, they also had a couple of small sharks in the tank, just a couple feet long. I think it's pretty cool that they encourage touching the stingrays. Incidentally, I heard that it's been much more of a hit than the original concept, "Bobbing for Stingrays."

This is a cylindrical tank containing many jellyfish - the effect is a living, breathing (do they breathe?) lava lamp.

Here is a close-up of one of the jellyfish - apparently mugging for the camera. While looking at this picture, see if you can spot a certain member of my family.

An eel.

"Floss much?" Now smile and say "chum."