Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
With the action happening in England five hours ahead of us, the TV coverage started at 9 a.m. We watched just long enough to see Norman bogey the first two holes to squander his lead, then went to church to pray for the rest of his round. We got back at about 12:45 and watched the rest of the competition in wonderful DVR-delay mode. After the first nine holes, Norman's main competitor, Irishman and defending champion Padraig Harrington, had faltered a fit, allowing Norman to hold a one shot lead going into the last nine holes of the tournament. The regained lead lasted not at all as Norman made more bogeys to give the lead back to Harrington. For awhile it appeared that Englishman Ian Poulter, the self-proclaimed "next Tiger" with his own marketing company, would best both leaders, but Harrington took over on the last six holes, making three pars, two birdies and a sensational eagle on the par 5 17th hole, where he ripped his 240 yard second shot to within three feet of the hole. Our DVR tape ran out before Harrington could play the 18th, but by then he had a four-shot lead that he couldn't possibly lose. Norman finished in a tie for third, behind Harrington and Poulter, but I don't think he was too disappointed, given that his expectations ahead of the tournament were "nil", and that he could find solace in the arms of his new bride of three weeks, retired tennis star Chris Evert, who looked great for a 50-year-old woman dressed in three layers of clothes. She dressed that way because the whole tournament was played in winds ranging from 20 to 50 mph, sometimes accompanied by a cold rain, making Norman's contention and Harrington's finish even all the more remarkable.
Back to church. We attended services at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando. With their minister newly retired, the service was lay-led. A retired therapist gave an interesting talk on his life experiences with the theme of "necessary but unwelcome change". I always have a great time chatting with fellow UUs, and other congregations appreciate my hymn singing, though they included one hymn that neither they nor I knew. After the service they served a nice vegetarian lunch. We ate a bite and headed home for golf before we could learn about the program that inevitably accompanied the nice meal.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
With all that rest and a couple of meals I was ready for an early evening walk around the neighborhood. This turned out to be an unexpected delight as we encountered the neighborhood flock of wild turkeys. Two walked across the street right in front of us. Another seven or so looked on bemusedly as I took pictures. A smaller group of egrets scrounged for food on the other side of the neighborhood pond. Neighborhood lawns provided a variety of flora shots, including my mom's fruit trees, one of which has a basketful of grapefruit hanging from it.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
July 18 - Despite staying up until 2 a.m, the girls got up and out in good shape, though the desired 8:30 a.m. departure time for home got pushed back by about an hour. After the first time out of the garage, they came back at least once - to pick up Kay's cell phone and charger - and maybe a second time - to give me some cash - I'm not sure if they made it out of the driveway in between. We got a call from Kallie in Alabama at about 7 p.m. telling us that they were safely at Erin's house, where they'll spend the night before continuing on to Baton Rouge on Saturday morning.
Mom and I had a quiet day. After the family left, we watched golf until it was time to leave for her MRI appointment. The imaging center had golf on TV in the waiting room. On the way home we found a couple of locations of interest - the Royal Pacific Resort where the National Scrabble Tournament will be played, and O'Shucks Pub, home of Karaoke every night.
After the gruelling schedule of riding around and watching golf, I took a nap. We ate leftovers for dinner, nicely served at the table. At our house, leftover dinners are often "every man for himself."
We headed back out into the world a little after eight, this time back to O'Shucks for Karaoke. We didn't know what O'Shucks, located in a strip mall off International Drive, would be like, but hoped for the best, and had the backup plan of going to the Rising Star club at Universal, a clear second choice because of the $12 parking fee and long walk from the garage to the club.
O'Shucks turned out to be pretty cool, albeit smoky and eventually crowded with tourists, many from overseas. Buzztime Trivia helped kill the downtime between numbers. There were even a few regular trivia players to compete with. We got there early enough for me to be the second singer after the hostess - I opened with The Beatles "I Saw Her Standing There". Everything clicked and I got a nice hand from the small crowd. More than an hour later I got the call for my second song. I'd submitted "Wonderful World" ('don't know much about history...'), but she lost my slip (but fortunately not my place). She asked me what I wanted to sing. I switched to "Eddie" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", the song I couldn't stay long enough to sing in Savannah. This is such a fun song because you get to sing in about six different voices. I'm not sure how many in the crowd knew it because almost no one joined in on the catchy chorus, "Eddie, when he said he didn't want his teddy / you knew he was a no good kid. / But when he threatened your life with a switchblade knife / What a guy! / Makes me cry / Und I did". The role and appearance of Eddie in the Rocky Horror Picture Show is very poorly explained, even though there's a song about him and he sings a song ("Hot Patootie" - my least favorite song in the show.) In any even, I pulled off "Eddie" pretty well and the crowd seemed to like it.
The wait for song three was long and anxious as the 1 p.m. closing time for Karaoke approached. Finally, at about ten til one, a third rotation began. I went back to "Wonderful World". It took a verse for me to figure out the accompaniment and to sing in the right octave, but the rest of the song was pretty good. Mom said I sang on key, a step up from many other singers, but then again, she's my mom, what's she going to say? I think I'll try for a midweek return to O'Shucks, after we see if our smoke-infested clothes can be reclaimed. I have six request slips already filled out and next time I might even bring a camera with charged batteries.
July 17 - We had another "off day" before Kay and the girls head back toward Louisiana on Friday. I watched the British Open on TV while they slept in the morning. In midday, Dad and I went out for an oil change and wash (for the CRV) and a haircut (for both of us). We got the haircut at a shop in the nearby town of Kissimmee, which so far seems to have mostly avoided the Disneyfication of the area. Its old-fashioned downtown street looked like a lot of other small Southern towns. The haircutters were barbers instead of stylists, all guys. My barber actually shaved my neck with a straight razor--I can't remember the last time that happened. All that was missing was a red-and-white barber pole. Back home we emptied the CRV and vacuumed it. It will be nice for the crew to go home in a clean car.
Friday, July 18, 2008
In the afternoon we had a taste of future travel as I drove my parents' RV in a training session for our August trip to Sanibel Island. Successful driving requires taking everything nice and slow, no matter how hard the other motorists are cursing and shaking their fists. The big challenge of the campsite will be hooking up the sewer line. I'm not sure I can bend down far enough to do the job. More flexible Kallie refuses to get that close to the filth. We'll figure it out.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
July 15 - This was my last serious travel and sightseeing day, and we did a good bit of both. The girls got moving a little early. We made our exit from Savannah before 10:30 with Kallie driving. She handled a couple short stretches of limited access highway--even managing an on ramp and driving almost 60 mph at one point.
We planned all along to eat lunch in St. Augustine, FL, the oldest city in the U.S. The trip to that point was smooth, and our lunch at Conch House, which we found from a billboard, was both delicious and entertaining. The restaurant was part of a waterside resort. We were there at low tide and saw a plethora of marine creatures - crabs, pelicans, roseate spoonbills and boat-tailed grackles, the last of which scavenged the remains of diners' meals.
After lunch we tried a self-guided tour of St. Augustine. Kallie took a few pictures, but mostly it felt like we were trying to navigate all the one way streets rather than see the sights. Without a guide it's hard to distinguish the real historical buildings from the faux historical buildings. We recognized the fort and Flagler College, which was once the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
The final leg of the trip from St. Augustine to Orlando was a driving adventure of sorts, as rain and traffic stopped our progress about an hour east of Orlando. On the radio we heard about an accident blocking two lanes of I-4. We exited about four miles too late (they took about 20 minutes to cover) and asked Sac for advice. She took us to another road that the traffic reporter said was flooded. We conferred with my mom and dad in Orlando and decided to press on and deal with the flood if we find it. We found more traffic, but never went underwater. The trip took an extra hour but we arrived in time for dinner and the Major League All-Star Game--all 15 innings of it, ending at 1:30 a.m. It would have been hard indeed to miss that one.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Bless her heart, Kay found a restaurant/bar with Karaoke on a Monday night. We tried to take the girls, but the place turned out to be more bar than restaurant and the girls weren't welcome. We took them back to LaQuinta (Spanish for "the fifth" it turns out, though as I remember from the billboards, they say it means "free high speed Internet" or "recently remodeled") and made the eight-mile return trip to McDonough's.
It took awhile for the party to get started. A large group of young people celebrating a 21st birthday was more interested in smoking (outdoors, thank goodness) than singing, but the host and I kept things going for awhile. I opened with Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac", which I know well and is exactly in my vocal range - a definite keeper. Next came Jim Croce's "Working at the Car Wash Blues", which I've done before. Both of these are fun songs to sing. I didn't get much response - the crowd was somewhat self-absorbed, and too young to remember these numbers.
I stretched my range and sang The Beatles' "Dear Prudence" next. The first accompaniment was almost non-existent. With a second try, the host found the music I was familiar with. People knew this song, but it was a little outside my range on the high side, so I'd rate my performance as just OK. I went back to my comfortable range with Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money". The host really seemed to like this one, though the ending drags on a bit to accommodate a long guitar solo--there's not much for the vocalist to do beyond a few cries of "huh!"
The crowd had really filled out by this time. One girl did an amazing version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Her boyfriend made me laugh with "Ice Ice Baby", the original white rapper anthem. The birthday girl and a friend tried "Fat Bottomed Girls", but they were almost too drunk to pull it off. After this performance, the partiers hustled out the cake and sang Happy Birthday before the honoree passed out.
My last number was Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" (about Marilyn Monroe). This one is familiar and in my vocal range. I sang it reasonably well and got my best response of the night. I wanted to sing one more (from Rocky Horror Picture Show), but I would have been six or seven down on the list. We decided to head back to the girls. I expect to find another singing opportunity during my Orlando stay.
We head for Orlando (via St. Augustine) in less than three hours. I'll be there until August 2. The girls head back to Alabama and Baton Rouge on Friday. I don't know yet if I'll blog day-by-day after today's trip. I'll have to see if enough happens. I plan to spend a good bit of time lopping around my parents' house. A home-cooked meal and the Major League All-Star Game are on the agenda tonite.
Many more photos from the day are available at http://www.photoblog.com/dadlak/2008/07/14/savannah-sights---day-38.html I hope you enjoy them.
Monday, July 14, 2008
In Savannah we played a game of Scrabble by the pool and then headed to the Riverwalk for a late snack. The Riverwalk is a fun collection of hotels, restaurants and shops on the Savannah River. Musicians and artists also perform, a la the New Orleans French Quarter. A blues guitarist invited me to sing a couple of songs with him--I did "House of the Rising Sun" and "The Ballad of Curtis Loew"--neither went quite as well as they did at Karaoke in New York--there I was more familiar with the accompaniment and had help with the lyrics. Still it was fun, and Erin shot some video. Maybe I'll have the courage some day to watch it.
Check out more pictures from Orangeburg and Savannah at http://www.photoblog.com/dadlak/2008/07/13/former-orangeburger-goes-home---day-37.html
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
July 11 - Our trip from Chester, VA to Myrtle Beach, SC was one of our best yet - about 320 miles covered in just over 7 hours. A quick lunch at Subway helped keep us moving. Kallie's driving stint took place between Fayetteville and Lumberton, NC. She got off the road just in time as the next "turn" was an on ramp. US 74 in North Carolina is setting up to become I-74.
I told the girls that Myrtle Beach was like Pigeon Forge with sand--a collection of tacky amusements and shops. I don't think I missed it by much. It hasn't changed much since we were here on vacation in the '90s.
The Holiday South hotel in Myrtle Beach is no jewel of hospitality, but it does have its good points--a balcony with an ocean view, a beautiful pool, and access to the beach after less than a 50 yard walk. Our room has a fridge, microwave and stovetop, but two days just isn't enough time to set up for housekeeping. Otherwise it's a typical older beach motel with mildewed rugs and peeling paint. Kallie was put out that both the ceiling and the walls were spackled. Decoration is not a value here. Neither is Internet access or cell phone coverage. The building is a concrete bunker of sorts, which appears to interfere with cell phone signals - kind of like living in an elevator shaft. They don't offer wireless Internet either (or wired for that matter), but the desk clerk did tell me that I could probably get a signal at the picnic tables outside, which is where I am right now. I have become enough of a fixture here for people to comment on their way in.
The girls are upstairs watching "Nancy Grace Weekend" on CNN Headline News. They've become big fans of the feisty former prosecutor/now TV host's exposes on lurid crimes. I find her a little too intense, which I suspect is mostly for our entertainment. They also saw her playing herself in the Will Smith movie "Hancock". Erin came back insisting that every movie would be better if Nancy Grace appeared in it.
Kay insisted on eating a seafood dinner in a non-buffet restaurant, a bit of a trick in Myrtle Beach. We drove about 10 miles to nearby Murrell's Inlet before we found such a place, the Inlet Crab House. We tried sitting outside on the patio to enjoy the beautiful weather and live music (a one-man band--singer, guitar and laptop accompaniment), but South Carolina's famous gnats drove us indoors as they swarmed around Kallie's crab leg dinner. Back at the hotel we crashed early. Tomorrow should be a nice relaxing day around the beach and pool.
En route we drove through Delaware. In particular, I wanted to see what the University of Delaware looked like. I graduated there in 1976 and haven't often (ever?) been back since I left the Delaware Valley for South Carolina in January 1977.
The quad where my dorm was located, and the adjoining academic quad were essentially unchanged, but otherwise I could hardly recognize anyplace for all the new construction. Main Street was still the commercial district, but as you'd expect, all the business names had changed in the intervening 32 years, and many old buildings had been torn down and replaced. I saw a poster for the Deer Park Tavern, notorious watering hole for underaged drinkers in my time at the U of D, but didn't see the tavern itself.
The basketball arena and football stadium on South Campus were also easy to spot. Delaware's basketball team has produced no legends or reasons to upgrade the arena. Delaware Stadium exhibited one change--the field was named after legendary coach Tubby Raymond, who led the Fighting Blue Hen football teams through the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. He was also the father of Dave Raymond who was at Delaware the same time as me. He went on to fame as the first Phillie Phanatic, the greatest mascot in sports, as I've mentioned at least twice before.
Kallie drove when we left Newark, giving her the privilege of driving over Delaware's greatest physical landmark, the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, affectionately known as the "Big Ditch". The bridge was under construction, but Kallie held herself together well driving on a narrow lane with pylons on one side and a concrete barrier on the other.
Later I drove across the large and much more impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which connects the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, get it?) peninsula to the mainland. The remaining trip through Maryland and Virginia was uneventful. We found some Yuengling Beer (brewed in Pottsville, PA) in a convenience store in Chester and were ready to go.
After dinner we watched History Channel shows about car crashes and the history of ice cream. The youngsters (now there's an old-fashioned word) went to see Will Smith in Hancock. Later on we switched to Baseball Tonight and watched Ryan Howard hit two home runs vs. the Cardinals. The Phillies won the afternoon game 4-1, and the series with the Cards two games to one.
Tomorrow the Wilsons board a plane for Florida and we continue south by CRV to Myrtle Beach, SC for a couple days on the beach.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I sat in my seat in the fifth row of the third deck between home and first, a great view of the field, despite being in the upper deck. The sun continued to bear in over the third base side of the stadium. In fact by moving upstairs we effectively moved the sun higher in the sky. In spite of the splendor all around me in Citizens Bank Park, including Ashburn Alley, a Phillies Hall of Fame and who knows what else, I had only enough energy to watch the game and take a few pictures. Bless her heart, Kay roamed the stadium to find cheese steaks and drinkable beer.
The Phillies seemed to be suffering from heat fatigue too, as they managed only six hits in a 2-0 loss. Every time they got a rally started, the batter hit into a double play, four in all.
Bless her heart, my friend June, who'd gone to the game with us, drove back to Chester County. I so looked forward to a Wednesday with nothing to do and no place to go before our travels resume southward on Thursday.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
After Kallie drove her short stint in Connecticut (we could only manage a parking garage for her during our short trip through Rhode Island) Kay took the wheel. She planned to turn it back to me before we reached the city, but bypassed the last service station and ended up driving all the way to Brooklyn (with Sac's expert help and my direction).
I took over for parking. We unloaded a few necessary items in front of the apartment before I started searching the neighborhood. My task was complicated by the fact that street cleaning was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. the next day for one side of the street. If I found a space on that side, I'd have to move the car again in the morning. I looked for a "Wednesday (street cleaning)" space so the car could stay put. Fortunately, I found a spot just two blocks from the apartment.
We ate dinner at a Spanish/Mexican restaurant just two blocks away. At my peril (and against suggestions) I chose Mexican over Spanish. My margarita was great, but the fajita meat was tough. I finished early, so Annabelle and I took a walk in front of the restaurant, which made the whole meal worthwhile.
On Tuesday morning we ate brunch at Tom's Restaurant, a Brooklyn neighborhood institute. Almost three miles away--too far for a walk, but Sac handled the trip easily. Tom's makes great breakfasts and provides personal service and little extras - orange sections and chocolate chip cookies. The place has been so respected in its community that rioters protected and bypassed it during the riots following Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
The museum did a good job of telling the story of JFK's family (Joe and Rose Kennedy and their nine children) and of his career leading up to the presidential race of 1960. The rest of the exhibits hopscotched through the major events of the campaign and of Kennedy's brief Presidency, the televised debates with Nixon, the Peace Corps, the Cuban Missile crisis, the space race, the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. There was also a significant exhibit on Jackie Kennedy's transformation of the White House and its entertaining. We were too late for what would have been an excellent film of JFK talking about the Cuban Missile crisis. My knowledge of this event comes mostly from the Hollywood movie "13 Days". I wish I could have heard Kennedy's spin on the moment in history when the Cold War nearly resulted in the destruction of the world. Whatever else Kennedy did or didn't do during his term, his coolness under the pressure of both the Soviet Union and his own advisers may have saved the world--legacy enough.
We left the museum when it closed at 5 p.m. and headed back to the North End for a last dinner in Boston. Terramia was a little pricy, but everyone's food was both creative and delicious. Before dinner we checked in with my mother, who had watched the tennis action closely from Florida, even taping it for us to watch later. She shared the happy news of Nadal's victory. Later we saw highlights of play and of both players' gracious remarks after the 4 hour and 48 minute (plus three rain delays) match.
Tomorrow we leave Boston for New York. It will be odd to be driving through the city and in Brooklyn. Check back for an update.
Monday, July 7, 2008
The outside of Fenway Park is nothing special, but the inside is amazing, particularly for a stadium that opened almost 100 years ago in 1912. The current management has done a great job updating the facility for the benefit of the fans, and to a great extent has avoided the relentless marketing that mars many other sports venues. Our guide told the stories of the Green Monster (the 37' high left field wall that by itself is synonymous with Fenway Park), the pervasive green color of the stadium (it's called Fenway Green, and it's trademarked), the fire that burned down a set of bleachers (which weren't removed or repaired because the team was broke at the time), the 502' home run hit by Ted Williams in 1946 that "knocked some sense" into a sleeping Yankee fan. At the end of the tour I coaxed one more story by asking to "go inside the Green Monster", where the operators of the manual scoreboard do their work. She said that not even she had been inside, but there wasn't much to see - a four-foot wide hallway with one electric light bulb and a laptop computer, no heat or A/C, and no rest room. Still, the scoreboard operators have missed a total of three games in 14 years, and 300 names are on a list to fill in for them.
I took a lot of pictures, but forgot to ask someone to take a picture of me, so I bought the souvenir shot--something I try hard not to do--but hey, it's Fenway Park--who knows if I'll get back here.
The girls came down to the ballpark area for lunch in a sports bar. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the hotel. Dinner came at a strange venue up the street, Cafe Ascari at F1 Boston. F1 Boston is an elaborate go-kart track, where adults and kids pay $28 per race to run 15 laps around a serpentine go-kart track in vehicles that can reach about 35 mph. I wish I'd brought my camera, about the only time I decided to leave it at the hotel - I figured, what could I see at another restaurant? My bad.