Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vacationing in a Flood Zone - Part Deux

Happy Sunday, all and sundry.

I made it home from GA earlier today. Way earlier than my original flight, too. I tried to stay awake since I knew taking a nap would make the whole sleeping tonight process much more worthless, but I just couldn't. I completely unpacked(!!!) and then just needed to sleep. I set the nap alarm, but my body would NOT get out of bed (and I don't blame it all). It was a very exhausting Wednesday-Sunday kind of weekend.

Due to the flooding in Atlanta, we didn't do the tourist-y things we had planned (MLK museum & some civil war site - I was bummed about missing MLK, not so bummed about missing Civil War stuff) and it didn't matter anyway. I'm one of those anal travelers. Airlines tell me to get to the airport two hours early and I get there two hours early (the time I don't will be the time I miss my flight), so I was sitting at my gate waiting for my 10:30 am flight on Wednesday when a NorthWorst/Delta employee comes over and tells the few of us sitting there to go and get on that plane over there (if we were 10:30 flight ATL passengers). He said something about a mechanical problem, but I was really not sure what was happening. Turns out that the plane for my 10:30 was the plane with the mechanical problem and that flight out and out canceled. He had said our luggage probably wouldn't make it, but I decided what matter was that I get to GA. I land in ATL right around the time as HRH and we get the rental and head out to get some food as my luggage wasn't going to arrive until 3:00, which would have put paid to our tourist schedule if we hadn't already decided not to play tourist.

We head for our hotel in Lawrenceville and on the commute I said something about making dinner to meet college friends of mine. And she says, "Didn't you get a hold of her yesterday to cancel?" "No, I tried to get a hold of her to see how things were, but I never did and I didn't know I was supposed to cancel?" Turns out that when HRH had suggested just heading straight to the hotel and getting settled, she had just meant canceling the MLK & Civil War stuff, she met canceling dinner with my friends. I called my friends and there was no flooding there and even though there was flooding in L'ville (or so we were told), we never saw a bit of it. We checked in and ran and made it to my friends' house before the "man of the house" even got home from work.

We had a lovely evening with my friends, HRH and Man of the House and his mother (who was visiting to babysit the 3 daughters this weekend so my friends could go to Florida to hang with friends) got along famously bitching about health care. I heard the words "health is a privilege, not a right" spoken. I had already abandoned the table to help clear up, because I was not getting sucked into the conservative discussion. I knew the opposition and was not prepared to engage and heat up an evening with friends I don't get to see very often. Of course, just to set the stage - I was sitting in a 9000 ft house with secret doors and granite countertops the size of my bed.

Thursday we went to the track (Road Atlanta) and met up with one of our old racing buddies, DH1 whom we hadn't seen since Cleveland 2007. Even though the forecast had been rain and thunderstorms and cloudy, it cleared up and got damn close to 90F. And even though I put on my sunscreen (SPF 55) as soon as I sat down and again later, I got sunburned in interesting locations. *sigh* It was bad enough that on Friday I wore a regular t-shirt instead of my tank top. DH1 and I walked the entire track on Friday - saw the spot where Scott Sharp had a massive shunt on Thursday and put the entire schedule behind as they had to repair about 900 ft of catch fencing which had done its job of catching the car and throwing it back on the track instead of it ending up in the spectators.

We were all exhausted by the hot sunny day and didn't stay on Thursday for the combined night practice (we figured we'd see them race in the dark on Saturday). Oh, were we wrong. The weather prediction for Saturday was for rain all day to which HRH was looking forward, but I was not yet. It never fails that when she wishes for rain, we get a friggin' deluge and they "race" in the yellow which means running behind a pace car which means no passing - essentially a parade of race cars in the rain. This time, however, we got red-flagged which means they stopped the damned race, because of thunder and lightning. I had made a new friend, Liam (19 year old Brit whose father works for Panoz), at the race track (as I usually do) and was sitting with him down at the fence just before they disappear under the tunnel to go into the last turn of the racetrack. As much as HRH says she loves racing in the rain, she really hates the outdoor elements and she was watching in the van (rental, of course) and DH1 was watching from his truck. Anyway, Liam and I were being diehards and sitting the rain (in our rain ponchos and under Liam's umbrellas until the thunder and lightning came, and they red-flagged the race. We sat in the van drying to get dry and watching the rain run down the straightaway and carry red Georgia clay with it across turn 10a. We stayed for a few hours, but when they announced that the rain was supposed to let up in about an hour and half and that they would then start to prepare to re-start the race and this was 6:00 p.m., we figured if they ever did go racing it would be at 8:00 p.m. at the earliest and it would be an hour and half race at the longest. We decided it wasn't worth it and maneuvered our way around the freaking Honda minivan that was blocking us in. Liam called his parents to come and pick him up (at one point, he said, "I'm sitting in a car. pause with my buddies.") and we said we'd wait until his father got there so that he wasn't sitting in the rain with all of his stuff, and then we made straight for ATL as HRH had a 6:30 a.m. flight out to Toronto this morning. Our incredibly icky hotel room was directly under the flight path and I don't mean a few miles away, I mean planes flying about 50 ft overhead as they prepared to land. Good times.

I was up at 3:15 today to get HRH to the airport on time, and to deal with NorthWorst/Delta (whom I am never ever flying again - if Southwest doesn't fly to a destination, I don't need to go to that destination - that's my new rule) who had sent me an e-mail on Thursday telling me that my 2:30 p.m. flight was canceled and that they had moved me to a 10:30 a.m. flight - which in actuality was better for me, but I was still annoyed because if HRH didn't bring her laptop everywhere she goes, I wouldn't have been able to check my e-mail and find out about the change and in theory could have shown up at ATL at 12:30 for my canceled 2:30 flight). Anyway, I go to check in and it says I can't, so I find a real live person and she tells me that I'm on the 2:30 flight, I explain that I got an e-mail saying it was canceled, she checks again, etc. In the end, I gave the nice lady (she really was pleasant, but her charming personality doesn't make up for NorthWorst's shitty policies) my Southwest credit card to pay an extra $50 so I could get the bloody hell out of the Atlanta airport earlier than 2:30 p.m. (it was at that point 4:50 a.m.) I shall be calling Northwest, sending them a copy of the e-mail which said my flight was canceled and getting my $50 back. Fuckers. At this rate, I can pay an extra $100 for a Southwest flight and still be ahead when you take into account the ridiculous $15 baggage fee and the aggravation of dealing with the world's shittiest airline - Northwest/Delta.

And now it's time for me to get ready to go for dinner. A friend is moving to Atlanta and he leaves tomorrow. I shall miss him but wish him much luck.

I hope you all had a less eventful weekend - or at least less stressful, i.e., didn't have to deal with air travel! ;-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Vacationing in a Flood Zone

I have proven my drought-breaking abilities once again. I have an airline ticket to Atlanta tomorrow...and if you've been paying attention, you'll know that they've been getting shitloads of rain and been suffering from floods. I'm so excited to be spending my vacation in a flood zone and more than likely a quagmire of mud at Road Atlanta.

You're probably wondering about my claim of drought-breaking. Well, a good 20+ years ago California was suffering from a drought. I made plans to go and visit my aunts in SoCal and NorCal....and it rained the entire freaking time I was there. It started in Los Angeles (where I also started) and it followed me to San Francisco. It rained the entire time I was there, after a few years worth of drought.

Essentially, I'm just letting you know why I won't be posting - all three of you readers who are left. ;-)

Have a great weekend and please pray that somehow Road Atlanta dries up really quickly and I won't be traipsing through mud for the entire time I'm there.

Oh, and the ENTIRE TEN HOURS of Petit Le Mans will be broadcast live on Speed Channel, so check it out for a few minutes on Saturday.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I love live music.

Earlier this summer I received a phone call from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra asking me to consider subscribing to a concert series as I had in the past. As there had been no new rumors about lay-offs at work, and thinking about how much I had missed going to the symphony, I went for it (fewer concerts for about the same amount of money), and tonight was my first concert, and Opening Weekend. I waited until the last minute to find someone to go with me, because when I got the tickets, it just seemed so far away. Oops. I sent an e-mail to my friend RE on Tuesday, but never heard back from him (figuring he's on vacation and doesn't use that handy Out of Office message supplied by most e-mail software programs). Next I tried my friend Carol, but she couldn't (can't remember why), third was my other friend Carol (she thought she had to babysit her granddaughters). I then had the brainstorm to ask one of the engineers from Mexico. He's returning to Mexico in three weeks, and although he's done a lot (hell, he knows how to get downtown which is something my mother can't do although she's lived her entire life) and taken advantage of his time here in Detroit, he hadn't gotten to the symphony.

In my last two years of missing the symphony, the DSO hired a new music director (Leonard Slatkin) to replace Neeme Jarvi (who is irreplaceable in my book) and he was the conductor this evening. As is normal, we started with the national anthem. It's the most amazing thing. How many sporting events have I gone to with tens of thousands of people where everybody is too damn cool to sing the anthem? Not so at the symphony. Everybody stands (of course) and sings proudly. It really is quite moving, at least for us wusses.

After the anthem, the orchestra played Dvorak's Carnival Overture which was spectacular. That was followed by a Sibelius Violin Concerto with soloist Midori. It was fine. The woman at the end of my row, however, was quite impressed because the second it was over she was on her feet yelling Bravo and clapping madly. I have nothing against Sibelius, but he's not my favoritest composer ever. In fact, while listening to it, I was making up a list of My Favorite Composers (mostly in order) which I'm going to share with you...otherwise, that Sibelius was completely wasted. ;-)

1) Mahler - I know he's not universally beloved, but I think he's utterly brilliant. Check out his Symphony #5.
2) Shostakovich - Have you heard his Symphony #7? It's been much too long since I've heard it. I'm getting it out to rectify that problem.
3) Prokofiev - I have two words for you - Alexander Nevsky. Netflix the movie, buy the CD. It's stirring.
4) Tchaikowsky - I like bombast, percussion and, in case you couldn't tell, Russian composers, particularly late 19th Century/early 20th Century Russians.
5) Dvorak - Symphony #9 "From the New World" is special, but don't limit yourself to only that one.
6) Beethoven - Hey, look! Late 18th C / early 19th C and not Russian (yes, I know Mahler and Dvorak aren't Russian). He was my first classical music love.
7) Mozart - I know people who don't like Mozart and I can understand (to a degree), but he has written some beautiful violin concertos.
8) Haydn - I really like his so-called "London" symphonies

After the Sibelius and the intermission, we were treated to Copland's Symphony #3 which is very Copland-esque, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I figured it was a nod toward 9/11 by having an American composer as the main piece of the night.

I don't love all 20th Century music, just for record. Have you heard Messiaen or Boulez? Kill me now. When I lived in SF, I had a six concert series and the SF Symphony likes to play a 20th century piece as their first piece for every concert - at least, that's the way it seemed. Anyway, they all sucked, except for the Benjamin Britten work. I heard a Messsiaen, a Boulez - one of which was described as "repetitive and clangorous" - doesn't that make you want to run out and buy it? - a timpani concerto which was godawful and a viola concerto which wasn't much better.

That said, we were treated to an encore just like Maestro Jarvi used to do, except that Maestro Slatkin actually used a microphone to talk to us (I never could hear a word Neeme said) and he told us that he was going to continue the tradition, except that we wouldn't always get an encore (we always did with Jarvi) and we wouldn't know when we would be so treated. He said he was being humble by playing his own piece as the encore. He got the appropriate laugh and applause with that line. The piece played was called Fin and he said he wrote it when he was in Florida and saw a pod of dolphins swimming. I quite liked it.

Not only did I get to listen to great live music, I got to see Norbert who sits across the aisle from me. He said that he spent the past two years looking for me wondering if I were ever going to show up again. We were both happy to see the other person, even though we only know each other from the symphony and only talk briefly. He knows where I work and was happy to hear I was still employed. I know where he works and was also happy to hear he was still employed. All in all, it was quite a lovely day.

It's now 2:30 a.m., the bar is finally quiet and all the loud, yelling drunks should have gotten to their cars by now, so I'm going to go to bed.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Happy Labor Day Weekend! August Books & Movies

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

I hope everybody has fabulous plans for the last real weekend of summer. The weather here in Michigan is finally supposed to be nice. 70s and sunny all weekend long! Woohoo!!! I'm going to sit outside Sunday and Monday.

Saturday is Yarn Fest Aught-Nine (that's what a co-worker named it) which means heading up to Port Huron to Mary Maxim's for the end of their August Tent Sale (better sale prices than at the beginning of the sale) for our third straight year. I have a list, so I'm not buying all willy-nilly (which will probably still happen – sigh – because I have ZERO self control when it comes to yarn), theoretically.

Last night I crawled into my lovely warm soft comfy bed at 9:00 p.m., got all settled with both cats cuddled with me in their preferred locations (Boris at the knees, Igor at my upper arm) when we all got the ever-livin' shit scared out of us when fireworks started going off about 3 blocks from my apt. The cats lost their minds and were gone before the first firework faded. My heart started racing from the adrenaline of the cats rocketing off the bed, and it didn't stop for an hour.

To me, it looked like they were going off from my "favorite" bar, Crave, and I was secretly hoping one would backfire and burn the fucking place down (while not affecting any of the adjoining businesses or hurting anybody). I texted Urs to find out if she had a freaking clue why there were fireworks on Thursday, Sept. 3. She, of course – being the in-touch person she is (she follows the city on Twitter) – knew that the City was setting off the fireworks that had gotten rained out during Homecoming (first weekend of August). I believe my response to her text about settling in with a cup of tea because it was "promised to be the biggest of the year" was "Oh, for fuck's sake! My heart's still pounding from the initial shock." She laughed and said she could hear me saying "Oh, for fuck's sake" and that it was appropriate because her house was shaking as if we were having an earthquake and her dog was barking like mad.

After they were finally over I went looking for the kids. I never found Igor, but Boris was under the couch as low to the ground as he could go and looking out at me with HUGE eyes. Poor sweet pea. I told him it was all over and okay to come out, but he chose not to believe me and figured he was safer under the couch. I petted him for a bit and then went to bed where I had to practice deep breathing exercises in a worthless attempt calming myself.

Honestly, a Thursday??? What was wrong with any of the nights of this coming weekend? Bloody stupid decision making. I'm guessing City Council didn't work today.

My August Books and Movies follow…


40. The Eight by Katherine Neville (598 pages) – This book should sound familiar because I'm pretty sure I've talked about it previously. It's my favorite book which is saying something since when I first read the back cover of the book way back when in the mid-90s I thought to myself, "Dear God, historical fiction about chess. This is going to suck." The premise was that there was a mystical chess set that had belonged to Charlemagne and had been buried in a convent in the Pyrenees because it was so dangerous, but the nuns dug it up during the French Revolution because the Bishop of Autun had passed a law which allowed the government to acquire all of the church's belongings. The chess set ends up dispersed across the lands and the story switches from the time of the French Revolution to early 1970s New York & Morocco. It's called The Game and there is a white team and a black team (the Black team is the good guys). At any rate, I started reading it (it was a Monday, I remember, because my plan was to start it that night but return it to the friend who had lent it to me the next night at the bar and back then Tuesday was bar night) and it hooked me immediately. Now, I do not enjoy the game of chess, although I technically know how to play in that I know how each piece moves, and a book about chess could not be good obviously. I was so wrong. I've now read the book three times with each subsequent time me wondering if it was going to stand the test of time. It does. I re-read it this time because Katherine Neville had finally come out with a sequel and I wanted to refresh my memory before diving in.

41. The Fire by Katherine Neville (451 pages) – The thing that struck me about reading The Eight this time was how prescient she had been about oil consumption, etc. And oil raised its head in The Fire. I enjoyed The Fire, but wish it had been longer and dealt with the historical aspect a bit more. I don't want to give away too much but suffice it to say that The Game starts up again with descendents of The Game played in the 1970s and a few players who are still around. It's a perfectly good book, but just not as good as The Eight.

42. The Kindness Handbook: A Practical Companion by Sharon Salzberg (172 pages) – This is a book I got from one of my book clubs by not stopping the stupid automatic shipment. It's about treating yourself and others with lovingkindness which in this book is one word. It was okay, but required more effort than I was willing to put forward right before bedtime (which is when I read this).

I wasn't a complete slacker book-wise, although it looks it. I'd also read about 180 pages of Fordlandia and 200 pages of Sophie's World. I could have finished Fordlandia if I had concentrated on it, but I'm finding it a bit difficult to read because that project was an incredible bit of cluster-fuckededness.

Book of the Month: I'm going to break my own rule here and choose The Eight (not that I don't think you should read The Fire as well).


I did much better on movies than I did books.

38. (8/1) Sands of Oblivion - 2007 (Sci-Fi) – I had DVRd this movie because it has Morena Baccarin and Adam Baldwin of Firefly in it. Wow, did it suck. If you want to read a synopsis, click the link. I'm not wasting my time.

39. (8/7) America - 2009 (Lifetime) – Another movie watched solely because it was filmed in metro Detroit . This one has Rosie O'Donnell working as a psychiatrist/social worker with at-risk youths in a group home. The title character was just a Detroit kid that Rosie saw in a downtown Detroit restaurant that had the look she wanted. My favorite trivia from the interviews were when she went over to his family having dinner, they said, "You're Roseanne Barr, right?" And she responded, "Close enough." I thought that was hilarious. The movie was what you'd expect from Lifetime – a tear-jerker and a bit overdone, but I thought the actors did a really good job.

40. (8/7) Witness for the Prosecution - 1957 (TCM) – From the TCM website was this synopsis, "A British lawyer (Charles Laughton) gets caught up in a couple's (Marlene Dietrich & Tyrone Power) tangled marital affairs when he defends the husband for murder." This is the movie where I first heard/saw Marlene Dietrich singing which had me in stitches thinking about Blazing Saddles and Madeline Kahn. I had always thought she exaggerated the singing style, but she didn't. Elsa Lanchester (you'll recognize her from Murder by Death and Mary Poppins) was very funny as the annoying nurse trying to take care of Charles Laughton's character.

41. (8/9) The Breakfast Club - 1985 (K) – I'm pretty sure I don't need to tell anybody about The Breakfast Club (or the following two movies). This was my John Hughes Retrospective Sunday.

42. (8/9) Pretty In Pink - 1986 (K) – Same as The Breakfast Club. For the record, having been a teenaged girl, the ending is what a teenaged girl would have wanted, so anybody who argues that she should have ended up with Duckie, stop thinking like an adult and try thinking like a teenaged girl.

43. (8/9) Ferris Bueller's Day Off - 1986 (K) – I have nothing fabulous to add, although I think there is some interesting trivia re: this movie. 1) the house where Cameron lived was put up for sale within the past few months. 2) The actor that played the principal had a run-in with the police re: child pornography. Try watching that movie now knowing that and think how much ickier it makes him.

44. (8/10) Quills - 2000 (N) – I have to say that I did not really enjoy this movie. I don't think it was as bad as Sands of Oblivion, but I still wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. The people at Yahoo! Movies gave it a rating of B…no way in hell it would get a rating that high from me. The acting was quite good, but I think it was a bit over the top.

45. (8/16 & 17) Coraline - 2008 (MKJ) – I love Neil Gaiman and I enjoyed the book. The movie is very well done, but as is usual it didn't follow the book and although I did listen to the commentary and the director/writer explained away his differences, I want to go on record that I do not pronounce "Pontiac" that way. I did enjoy looking for the teeny tiny knitted items she wore… ;-) The funny thing is that I borrowed this from a woman at work whose daughter loved the movie, but hadn't read the book. I gathered up all my Neil Gaiman and lent them to the daughter who read Coraline but didn't really like Neil's writing style, so wasn't even going to try the rest of the books. Does anybody else wonder if Neil is generational, i.e., appeals to those of us who are about his age, but teens/young adults don't get him?

46. (8/22) To Catch A Thief - 1955 (TCM) – Yes, I own this movie, but I have lent it to a girl from work and when I was over visiting some friends, I noticed they had it recorded on their DVR and I said what a good movie it is. Amy asked if it were appropriate for her second oldest (13?). Heck yes! It's 1955 and Hitchcock. I covered his eyes during the kissing scene (which he probably didn't want to see anyway). Her oldest son (16?) had been the one who recorded it, so I'm excited that kids these days appreciate old movies. Amy thinks he has an old soul. So, next time I go over, I'm going to take some old films.

47. (8/22) Flushed Away - 2006 (Amy) –Yeah, I know I just watched this, but the younger kids had come home by the end of To Catch A Thief, so we picked a kids movie. What can I say? I like this movie.

48. (8/23) Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - 2006 (N) – Another movie, like Quills, that I picked because it had some good actors in it and I thought the premise sounded intriguing. Not so much in actuality. I think the murderer was supposed to come across as sympathetic, but he didn't. Even though he was supposed to be some sort of perfume genius, he came across as slow and I don't mean like a turtle or a snail.

49. (8/29) Religulous - 2008 (N) – I enjoyed the movie, although I have to say that I thought the Catholics came across as the most with-it of the religious people interviewed, which probably helped my feelings toward it. If you're religious and believe the earth is only 6000 years old, you'll hate it, so don't waste your time. I can't argue with someone who takes on the Creationism museum.

50. (8/29) RocknRolla - 2008 (F) – If you liked Guy Ritchie's Snatch and/or Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrell, you'll like this movie. It's your typical Guy Ritchie British caper film. It was fun with excellent actors (Thandie Newton, Tom Wilkinson, Gerard Butler), and a set-up at the end for a sequel.

Movie of the Month: I'm following my own rules for this pick (meaning I have to pick something I haven't seen before): RocknRolla.

I hope you all have a great Labor Day!

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the general public never harbored any fantasies about one day owning a 1985 Dodge Diplomat." JM, 9/1/2009

I laughed out loud sitting at my desk.