Monday, August 25, 2008

Drive My Car

A map of every state I've visited. It's only when I look at it like this do I realize how well-traveled I'm NOT! A couple of notable states for me:

Utah & Arizona: This is the far end of the long driving vacation I took with my family when I was probably 10 or so. Think "National Lampoon's Vacation" without the dead aunt, Wally World or Christie Brinkley, and that's pretty much it. I counted the states in between there and Indiana, as we had to stop and pee sometime, right?

California: I took myself there for 5 days after my first divorce - figured I'd do something I always wanted to do, but never would while married. However, since I was cash-poor, I didn't really do anything except walk 20 blocks to the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater and eat McDonald's. I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything!

Wisconsin: Boy Scout summer camp in the middle of the state. The two notable things on this trip: getting inducted into the Order of the Arrow, and our entire caravan of three vans getting pulled over by a cop for u-turning in the grass median of the interstate (and man, did that cop let our scoutmaster have it!).

Florida: I've been to Florida for vacations and business more times than I've visited any other state (other than my home states of Indiana & Kentucky). Damn near every time on someone else's dime though!

You can make a map for countries visited too, but other than the U.S., I can only claim Jamaica, so it would have been boring.

I've got a lot of traveling to do!

The Incredible Shrinking Ray - Week 33

Sticking to water only (well, 90% of the time) is working well for me again. I still haven't gotten to the gym yet.

I really need to lay off the pizza - I've had it three times this week. Damn the convenience of it! I'm surprised I lost as much as I did!

Starting Weight: 237 lbs.
Weeks 1-32 Loss: 21 lbs.
Week 33 Loss: 2 lbs.
Current Weight: 214 lbs.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I've Just Seen a Face

Some recent photos that reference back to recent blog entries:

The room full of Beatle's album covers. These are the Japanese Beatles. "She ruves you, reah, reah, reah!"

RedFaery and I recording a Beatle's song (Let It Be).

My Musketeer outfit, minus the sword.

RedFaery in her Rennaisance outfit.

RedFaery's birthday dinner last night. Fifteen came out to celebrate with us. We had Jockamo's pizza and a decadent chocolate rasberry cake made by one of our friends (it gave Red a "cakegasm"). The waitress missed putting in our order, so we ate about 40 minutes after everyone else at the table (she felt so bad about doing it on Red's birthday, she didn't charge us). People brought giant balloons, one reading "Best of luck on a speedy recovery" as a joke (she's still laughing about that). Afterward, just the two of us went to karaoke, and I sang a couple of songs just for her. Great evening!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


RedFaery is officially 35 today! Due to an inside joke, I still refer to her as 32 though.

Last year she tried to get people to go out with her to eat to celebrate, and no one showed up. She lost quite a few friends that day ("lost" being a soft word for "kicked them out of her life"), and it was a miserable time for her.

This year some new friends we've made have planned a celebration at a local pizza place we've never tried, and about 15 people have already responded saying they're coming out. Even if only 10 of them make it out, it's already a better birthday for her!

Afterward we'll probably go karaoke - one of the attendees recommended a place that has it Wednesday nights. I don't know if she'll hold out that long (been plagued with a bad headache for over a week now), but I know she'll try.

The best part (and potentially the best birthday present): she had a solid job interview yesterday (only the third since being laid off over five months ago), doing the same type of work she really enjoyed two jobs ago. The interviewer gave her all kinds of positive vibes - they have another candidate to see Monday, but she'll know that evening if they want her. Should make for a tense weekend for her, but it'll help that I'm taking her shopping for new clothes - focus that nervous energy towards something positive and fun!

All my love, baby!

Glass Onion

One of my new addictions. I've solved all the existing levels (those last three are a bitch!), and I'm considering signing up ($10) to play levels created by others (and making my own).

Right now, I'm replaying each one trying unconventional methods - intentionally making it harder on myself. For example, if it's just a matter of building a car that takes the pink ball into the pink zone, I'll try making a catapult to hurl it instead.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Honeymoon Song

(NOTE: Yes, that's a Beatle's song title, from "Live at the BBC")

Always a groom, never a groomsman. Until this last weekend.

I'd met Celtic Kleric and Tymber thru an online community many years ago. Eventually they found each other and found love. Like RedFaery and I, they married once for insurance purposes, and were now going to have the big ceremony and celebration with their family and friends.

Since between them there was a ton of family and friends, choosing who was to be in their wedding party was going to be a chore, so they left it up to chance and drew names out of a hat. RedFaery was one of the bridesmaids. When CK mentioned one of the groomsmen may not be able to afford the outfit, I casually mentioned to him that if he needed someone else, to just holler. A couple of weeks later, he did just that!

I mentioned the "outfit", right? What I didn't mention was that it was a Renaissance-style wedding, and the theme was based off one of their favorite movies, the Disney version of "The Three Musketeers". Now you know what I mean by outfit, right? Full musketeer garb - hat with plume, tabbard, breaches, and rapier.

CK & Tymber let me know that they were supplying the rapier (groomsmen's gifts!), so I just needed to come up with the rest. They showed me a couple of online sites to start my search. Red and I had been trying to come up with a good Renaissance outfit for me anyway, so this made life easier for us.

Speaking of Red, she was looking for a new outfit too since she'd dropped so much weight. We went to a Kentucky Renn faire a few months ago, and she found a nice medium blue skirt and a muffin hat to match. But the crowning jewel of her ensemble was a bodice with intricate patterns stitched into it. It gave her the look of upper-middle/working class, and showed off her new figure well.

Look at me, sounding all "What Not to Wear" up in here! Moving on...

We dressed at home and drove 90 minutes to Frankfort, to the Buffalo Trace Distillery where the outdoor ceremony and indoor reception were to be. No one else was dressed yet, and everyone was still decorating the hall. Red and I pitched in wherever we could - laying tablecloth, setting up chairs, carrying in food. We then ran thru the ceremony briefly, climbing a hill up a flagstone set of steps, and standing on a bridge high above were the audience stood. Pretty simple, and not nearly as hot outside as I thought it would be.

The actual ceremony went well. No major screw ups, other than one of the ring bearers being in a grumpy, noisy mood. Red and I, standing across from each other, got our own little signs of love to one another that no one else notices, so we kept ourselves entertained.

Afterward were the photos while the crowd went in to eat. There should be a good pic of CK and I mock sword fighting somewhere in the mix. He mentioned wanting a "honor guard" of musketeers holding swords aloft and making a tunnel, military style. Easier said than done, since the happy couple were both at least 6-foot tall!

I took it upon myself to make sure everyone saw the entrance. When we were lined up and ready, I used my best theater voice and shouted PRESENT ARMS!. Definitely got the crowd's attention, and they they turned away from the buffet long enough to applaud the couple. The maid of honor, Jenn, wasn't quite expecting it though - she turned to Red and said, "I think I just peed myself!"

As we're enjoying the food, we hear rumblings of toasts by the maid of honor and best man. However, the best man is terrified of public speaking, so I offer to step in there as well. I'd already thought about what I'd say if I had the chance, so I took it. It went something like this:

"I'm not entirely sure when CK & Tymber started dating. In fact, I don't even think THEY know when they started dating. When I'd ask them if they were, they reply with something like, " don't's complicated." How is this complicated? Either you are or you aren't I say - well, to my wife I'd say that anyway, not to their faces! Anyway, they seemed to eventually figure it out, which is great. So everyone please raise their glasses. To CK and Tymber, may it never be complicated again!"

Eventually things started dying down, and we started to help clean up. Once we did all we could to help, we gave them hugs, wished them a great time on their honeymoon, and headed out. It was a fun day, and I truly hope Red and I helped make it a memorable one for them.

The Incredible Shrinking Ray - Week 32

Coming back from vacation, I've noticed the same thing always tends to happen to me. Specifically what goes on in the bathroom. I'll spare you the details - let's just say I don't get rid of much while my body is adjusting to the change of pace. Eventually it smoothes out after 3 days or so.

Never did get to the gym - renew that commitment. And ate extremely good, rich, and undoubtedly unhealthy food at a wedding this last weekend (more in the next blog), so that didn't help either. Probably would have dropped more if I focused on it.

Starting Weight: 237 lbs.
Weeks 1-31 Loss: 19 lbs.
Week 32 Loss: 2 lbs.
Current Weight: 216 lbs.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Her Majesty

(Anyone that's familiar with "Abbey Road" will get the use of that song title for this vacation postscript)

One more memorable moment from the Beatle's convention I forgot to mention...

Sometime Saturday when we were sitting under the stairs singing, I noticed that the musicians were keeping with the simple guitar ballads. That's all fine and dandy, but we were drifting slowly into the "I Gave My Love a Cherry" sequence from "Animal House", and this scene needed a "Bluto".

After a song was over, I shouted out to the closest picker, "How about playing 'I'm Down'?" For those not in the know, "I'm Down" was one of Paul McCartney's songs that was loud and up-tempo. Think of Little Richard meets Metallica.

The musicians kinda rolled their eyes, getting a look on their faces like "this is going to suck". One of them said over his shoulder to me, "If you think you can sing it..."

That's all I needed to hear! I responded, returning the snarky attitude with, "Oh, I can sing it - I just hope you can keep up!" And off I went...


A couple of things happened at once:
1. The guitarists got this "Oh Shit!" look on their faces, but recovered quick enough to start playing.
2. Some poor teenage girl sitting in front of me (and her back to me) never saw it coming. I didn't know anyone could jump that high from a sitting position on the floor!

And for a brief three minutes, everyone on the basement level of the Hyatt know who I was. Worth the cost of admission all by itself.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Magical Mystery Tour (Part 2)

We begin with Sunday morning of our vacation again at Dunkin' Donuts, and a very happy RedFaery. I'll have you know I didn't eat just donuts each of these visits - I enjoyed a ham, egg & cheese cresent and hot chocolate as well.

We got on the highway and started towards the downtown area. Somewhere along the way, Grue called to make sure we were underway. My keen navigational sense was working as well is usual, so we wondered off the path somewhere between Lake Shore Drive and the Museum of Science and Industry and meandered around until we found it.

Clan Grue showed up a few minutes later (Grue, his wife HairTech, and their two sons) and we began our journey. No real plan of attack, we just casually moved from one exhibit to another taking it all in. Grue and their eldest got tickets to explore the submarine while the rest of us relaxed in the commissary and taking in a few more stops along the way. All the walking around from the day before caught up with me and RedFaery, so we headed out to eat.

As I'm following Grue to the restaurant, we get separated when he decides to make a u-turn (a random street festival blocked his path), and I opt for a normal turn. As we chatter on the phone with each other trying to meet up again, we magically appear at the restaurant before him! I wasn't aware it was valet parking only, so I quickly take a spot. The valet comes over to inform me it's $8 to take that spot. I wasn't born yesterday, so before I took his word for it I ask him to go to the valet booth with me - only then, when I determined he wasn't just some guy off the street, I paid him. Probably didn't endear me to him, but he'll get over it.

Ever since I've known RedFaery, she's talked about a place in Chicago where the waiters are intentionally rude to the guests and how she'd love to take me there. It just so happens that's where Grue decided to take us. Ed Debevic's is a widely popular burger joint (yes, that's four hamburgers for RedFaery in three days!), and they all wanted to subject me to it's charms. The funny thing was that everyone else kept the waitress busy bantering with her that she never really did have time to banter with me specifically. The worst I got - I was forced to wear a paper hat.

The burger was good (I got the 5-Alarm spicy burger - I give it 3 alarms tops though), and at one point music starts up and the waiters dance on the floor and on the bar. I still have "Get Up Off of That Thing!" by James Brown running thru my head.

Off we drove (at 70 mph!) to Casa Grue. While Red jumped in the car with HairTech to go pay a bill, Grue gave me the grand tour - including showing off the house server for their four computers, the in-house salon, and an amazing array of museum-quality ancient software Grue was especially proud to have accumulated over the years.

We topped off the evening enjoying a movie ("enjoying" being a loose term - "Highlander: The Source" we all agreed wasn't too great of a flick) and some popcorn. Occaisionally I was whisked upstairs to their eldest son's room to watch him play a Star Wars game on his X-box. Somewhere along the way, HairTech gave RedFaery a lower back massage, and Red found another substance she's developed an allergy to recently (almond oil is the likely culprit).

When the kids were sent to bed, we hung out with HairTech and Grue in their kitchen just chatting about the online site we're all members of, children, health issues, jobs and whatever else. Time flew by and it was 1am before we knew it (2am Louisville time), so we toddled off to bed. I think we were both out when our heads hit the pillows.

It was pitch black. We were not eaten by a Grue. He had to get up very early to get to work, so I felt sorry for him in his zombie-like state.

Monday morning we got up and said our goodbyes to the kids, then HairTech led us out to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts (once more, with feeling!) and pointed out the interstate to us. One last hug, a couple of jelly/creme-filled joyous moments later, and we were on the road again.

All of RedFaery's family live in northern Indiana/southern Michigan, so it only made sense to visit them on the way back. We met up with her mother, sister and nephew and stopped by the new home her sister and family just got. Nice little modular with enough room for their son to run around.

We headed to Red Lobster for lunch where I had my normal Endless Salad and Soup, and RedFaery had another hamburger (just kidding - no more hamburgers!). It was a nice relaxing stop, and I enjoyed bantering with Logan now that he's getting better at talking. I think he was just glad to have a guy around so he wasn't forced to go into the women's bathroom with his mom.

Hugs goodbye, and off we go again to visit RedFaery's grandmother. She's 85, very spry and intelligent, and a very positive person, so it's always great to see her. However, my body is already weary from the driving, so I take a catnap in the guest bedroom for 40 minutes while the girls catch up.

When I get up, we head out to grab a pizza. When we're finished eating, Red's aunt and uncle (who live nearby) stopped in and we catch up with them as well. It's a long 4+ hour drive home, so we couldn't stay very long - one more round of hugs and off we go.

We get home about midnight (back on our time again), love on the cats a little, check our e-mail and head to bed. I took the next day off as well, since I knew the drive would wipe me out, plus I had a couple of other tasks I need to tackle.

So there you go - how I spent my summer vacation. It may be another 2 years before we take another one, but I think we made the most out of our time off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Magical Mystery Tour (Part 1)

Vacation's over. Insert sad face here. Here's the wrap-up!

We left mid-morning for our long drive to Chicago - no big hurry. RedFaery made a couple of music mixes for the CD player to keep us from being bored. No Beatles in the mix - I insisted we'd both be sick of their music right after the convention, and we wanted to listen to the mixes on the way back too.

About 5 hours later we hit the Chicago traffic. I've been thru worse - we hit about 3pm local time, so it was well between lunch and end-of-day rushes. RedFaery's Mapquested route had us avoiding Gary, Indiana as well, so that was an excellent bonus! The last 15 miles of our drive took about two hours when all was said and done.

Unfortunately, the Beatlefest directions sent us to the wrong Hyatt. Fortunately, we were able to confirm with them that we had reservations at the O'Hare location. Also fortunately, that Hyatt was only a couple of miles away, so it didn't take long to get there. And most importantly, the Hyatt we were at let us use the bathroom!

So we checked in, got settled in our "executive suite" (same as any other suite, but with a desk), and laughed at the prices of the crap in our mini-bar. We then set out to find cheap eats and settled on a Denny's. I ate half the menu, and RedFaery got a nice big hamburger (remember that for later!). When we left we explored the area and found Red's "holy grail" - a REAL Dunkin' Donuts store! Around Louisville, the only DDs we have are attached to gas stations and only sell the simplest stuff (glazed, powdered, krullers and bearclaws). At a REAL Dunkin' Donut store, she could get her long-missed Bowties (glazed cinnamon twists) and vanilla-creme filled powdered sugar donuts. We now had breakfast for the next few mornings planned!

We wandered around the hotel after dinner, and I marvelled at the changes since I'd last been there (at least five years now). The biggest change, and one of our biggest disappointments, was that the pool was gone. We were looking forward to a relaxing swim when we had downtime, so that sucked.

There were already small pockets of people playing guitars and singing around the place. Another significant change was discovered - the tiny cramped stairwell where my fondest memories of the Fest began had been taken out! In it's place was a huge staircase, complete with escalators. Sure there was still space underneath - enough for 100 easily - but the charm of being squished in with 50 people creating a massive fire hazard was now lost. Oh well, time marches on...

We sat down for a little bit and sang along with the dozen or so gathered, relaxing and enjoying the doing-nothingness of vacation. RedFaery was remarking how different it all was and that it wasn't quite what she was expecting, and I told her "you ain't seen nothing yet!"

The next day we got our donuts, then our convention wristbands, and wandered around. I was sad to see that the usual travelling exhibit of John Lennon's art was missing, but plenty of other pieces took up the slack - primarily Ringo's artwork and a photo exhibit of the Beatles studying with the Maharishi. My favorite new exhibit was a room dedicated to all the Beatle's album covers from all over the world. I think I got a pic of "Abbey Road" in Japanese somewhere on our disposable cameras.

As we wandered the merchandise area, I hear "Is that Ray?" and turn to look at a vaguely familiar young man. Since it was obvious I couldn't place him, he clued me in - my nephew from my previous marriage. He was there with his mother and his aunt (my ex-wife). When we were still together, we brought him and his sister to a Beatlefest when he was only 8 years old, and it made a huge impression on him. Sure enough, we eventually caught up with the rest of the family and talked about travel war stories and updated each other on our lives. I should have expected they'd be there (the ex is a bigger Beatlefreak than I am), but it never once occured to me. After that, we ran across then about five more times among 10,000 or so people.

RedFaery graciously indulged my desire to sit around and sing under the stairs many times Saturday. After a while, the singers and guitar players would start to get really lousy and we'd look at each other and say "Wanna wonder off again?", only to come back a couple hours later to a fresh group. I credit this for not getting sick of the music this time. We even went back to the room once to catch a catnap - hey, it's a vacation!

We went out for lunch and found a local bar with a nice selection of food. The only thing on the menu that caught Red's eye was the hamburger. Yet another inexpensive meal! For dinner we planned on doing the $10 buffet at the hotel restaurant. Turns out the buffet was nothing but snack food, salads, pulled pork and...hamburgers. So even more dead cow for the Faery!

While we were back to singing under the stairs, I got a call on my cellphone. Grue, our online friend whom we were going to the museum with Sunday, was letting us know that we could stay at his place Sunday night, saving hotel costs and bypassing the worst of the Chicago traffic. We could barely hear each other over the dulcet tones of a hundred people singing "Getting Better", but I told him we'd let him know if we were going to take him up on the offer. Brief discussion with the boss, and we now knew this was our last evening at the hotel.

(Wow, that's only half of it! More in the next entry)

The Incredible Shrinking Ray - Week 31

Don't ever let anyone tell you that calories consumed on vacation don't count - because they do! I ate like the fatted calf (minus the slaughter), lounged around a lot, and the scales show it. I guess it could have been worse.

Back to portion control and water, maybe some gym time on Sunday. I'll post a vacation report blog shortly.

Starting Weight: 237 lbs.
Weeks 1-30 Loss: 22 lbs.
Week 31 GAIN: 3 lbs.
Current Weight: 218 lbs.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ticket to Ride

My last blog until probably Tuesday. So those of you waiting with baited breath on my weight loss info (both of you) will have to wait a little longer.

Tonight is a dry run of the Improv Challenge. Doing this for the first time ever, I don't completely know what to expect. Here's what I'm assuming will happen:

Scott, the cameramen, and the improv artists (a mixture of the pro team the Indicators, some of my old improv buddies, and actual competing teams trying to get their sea legs) will pow-wow on how it's all going to go down. I'll give brief examples/training to the teams on the various skits, with the other improvisors demonstrating how it's done.

Then we'll do a mock taping of the show. They WILL be running the cameras, and some of the footage will be used for commercials to run on TV and web (and if I have my way, be included in the Season One DVD collection - I'm nothing if not ambitious!).

My biggest tasks - learning cues from Scott on how much time we have before and after commercial breaks, learning how to make it interesting, and trying to not look like the rank amateur I really am! No problem, right?

We'll be doing it again next Thursday as well, so I'm not expecting all smoothness and miracles tonight.


Then tomorrow morning, RedFaery and I leave for our vacation to Chicago. Yay, a Friday off - first one since the honeymoon!

Saturday is the Fest for Beatle Fans (Beatlefest is SO much easier to say - damn lawyers!). I get to show my wife all the exhibits, merchandise and artwork that I love. I'll probably record a song or two, and I always buy a loud tie. But the most fun is relaxing with 5,000 new buddies, doing nothing but kicking back and singing Beatle's songs. It's the closest to being a hippie I ever get. I just may confuse RedFaery completely!

Sunday we're meeting a few pals from an online community we both frequent (Tech Support Comedy) at the Museum of Science and Industry. RedFaery and I haven't been there since we were kids, so we hope to act like kids the whole day. We've partied with Grue and HairTech before, so it's going to be a blast. Dinner afterward at the location of their choice - always trust the locals when it comes to cuisine!

Monday we'll begin the drive back home, stopping along to way at RedFaery's mother's home. Seeing the new home her sister's family is moving into in two weeks is on the docket as well.

I'm still deciding whether or not to take Tuesday off to get a few more things accomplished. I'll just play it by the ear. Hey, it's a vacation, right?

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Ray - Week 30

I did make it to the gym, but I paid very little attention to what I was eating and when. I also drank far less water. It cost me.

This week I'm finalizing things for vacation, so I'm already going to be hard-pressed to follow any kind of gameplan on eating or exercising. I'll do my best though!

Starting Weight: 237 lbs.
Weeks 1-27 Loss: 24 lbs.
Week 28 GAIN: 2 lbs.
Current Weight: 215 lbs.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da

In this blog, I'm going to pick up random questions I found online, designed specifically for blogs. No reason.

Have you ever fired a gun?
Yes. When I was a Boy Scout, I actually was certified in firearms. I preferred .22 calibur weapons due to them having less kick. I'd occaisionally go with my dad to the firing range. However, I've not picked one up since then. Probably due to too many John Lennon songs.

Are you good with directions?

Sometimes. I have intermittent internal radar. Problem is I don't know when it's on the blink, so I'll stubbornly get us lost while insisting I'm right.

What's in your pockets?
My cellphone, too many keys, and an empty wallet.

What's your nickname?
"ActingUpAgain" is my most common moniker. I grew up being called "Sugar Ray" a lot - to the point that I really don't care for it. And there's one set of theatre friends that still call me "Peter Quince" (or just "Quincy") due to their first meeting me while performing "Midsummer Night's Dream" together.

What is heaven?

Heaven is a place where you have enough time and energy to do what you want. Currency doesn't exist in any form.

Choose one line from a song that sums up your life thus far.
"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." - the Beatles (of course)

Monopoly: yay! or no way?
Yay, at first. Once someone gets ahold of both Park Place and Boardwalk, it's just a matter of time. And it's NEVER me.

Do you like the thrill of a chase?

Absolutely not. I'm the most impatient person you'll ever meet, although I'm very good at hiding it. I want the conclusion and the payoff, and I want it NOW!

What won't you share?
My dinner or my wife. Pretty much everything else I'll give up without thinking, and I have the credit card bills to prove it.