Posted: June 15, 2018 in BBQ, Cooking, Food porn, Traeger

I had an interesting opportunity this week. I had BBQ class with a true expert. And now I want to BBQ the world.

A little backstory.

I’ve always been a fan of good BBQ. I love me some pulled pork and brisket. Love the taste and smell of something done on a wood fire. Supportive Partner Woman’s cousin and her husband have had a Traeger wood fired grill for years and were always raving about it. Never really considered getting one until last June. SPW (lover of 80’s music!) and I were attending a Tears for Fears concert at Verizon Center and the usherette in our section started saying how she was hungry for smoked macaroni and cheese. I looked at SPW and said, “I’m going to talk smokers with John when next we see him.”

The following week we were at a family function and we chatted a bit. Went home that night and ordered a Traeger Junior Elite. It was a small unit, but I figured what the heck, it’s a start.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and our local Costco was having a Traeger roadshow. They had a far larger unit that was on great sale (about $300 off). I said, “Want,” snagged it and returned the smaller one.

This has provided some tasty cooks over the year that I’ve had it… my biggest fear was to spend money on good meat and then screw up the cook. All that aside, this beautiful Traeger has saved my bacon at Christmas, providing enough space to cook a ham and a turkey, both of which tasted amazing. I recently did some Copper River salmon with alder wood pellets and some salt, pepper, and olive oil. SPW (consumer of tasty salmon!) stopped licking the plate long enough to express a desire for more.

Still, that touch of PA Dutch conservatism came to mind. Did I want to spend big bucks on a nice brisket that I could easily eff up?


So when I saw that the Traeger shop class would be in the area for two sessions, I signed right up. I had read reviews of these classes… taught by real champion pitmasters, lots of knowledge and a great way to meet other pelletheads in the area. Let me sum up by saying that the reviews were spot on.


Diva-Q talks the fine points of reverse searing with class participants.

The instructor for both sessions was Danielle “Diva-Q” Bennett. She’s brash, direct, passionate, and an accomplished pitmaster and teacher. She’s quick to point out that she teaches the fine art of BBQ to over 2,000 students a year. That’s a lot of knowledge imparted to some eager BBQ enthusiasts. I can’t say enough good about Diva-Q, even if she disagrees on my like of alder pellets (yes, it’s mild, but if I’m making fish, that’s what I want). I had taken a brisket class before… yet one hour in this class, I feel ready to tackle an expensive Wagyu brisket. That I’m willing to cast aside my usual fear of failure after such a short time speaks volumes about Diva-Q’s teaching ability.


Not the official taste tester, although I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded

Both nights opened with a tasting of Traeger’s smoked lemonade. Available in regular and high-test (with Tito’s vodka), this is refreshingly tart, yet not overpowering. Diva-Q is quick to give credit to Natalie, one of the shop support folks, who has a more mainstream taste when it comes to tart things. On the first night, this was followed by Margherita pizza, which was excellent. It’s amazing you can use your grill/smoker to make a perfectly acceptable pizza. The lessons are marked with added tips… for example, if using a pizza stone, make sure you heat it WITH the grill rather than putting it on the grill when hot.

First night also included reverse seared steak and St. Louis-style ribs. I should state up front that I was not a rib fan. After trying these, I’m all in on good ribs. One of the biggest tips you get is how to pick quality meats, what to look for in terms of marbling, and also how best to trim the meat.

The last item on the first day was peach cobbler. We can sum that up with “YUM!”

Second night was called “Meat Master” and there was a lot of meat. Not quite meat sweats level, but very meat-centric (not a bad thing). First item on the list was spatchcock chicken. Learned the art of trimming chicken and how best to set it on the grill. This was followed by reverse seared ribeye. Basically, that means smoke the steaks BEFORE you sear them.


Pulled pork (photo credit: @divaqbbq)

This was followed by the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. The photo is hijacked from Diva-Q’s Instagram since I couldn’t get close enough to get my own shot, but it’s a thing of beauty. No sauce needed… just tender meat with a good, solid rub.

The last item taught was brisket. Included how best to trim the brisket, what to do with the trimmings, how to properly wrap it, and the importance of letting it rest. Also, how it’s best not to skimp on your brisket quality.

These classes are fantastic… if you get the chance and want to up your BBQ game, do it. Next time they are in my area, I plan on taking SPW (Who can then make her own BBQ!). In the meantime, even if you don’t own a Traeger, I can recommend visiting their site and downloading the app. There are many fantastic recipes available, and it’s worth the time. Even if you don’t like the recipe, you can always make it your own by using different spices or different flavors of wood pellets

So, after the tantalizing taste of summer over the weekend, the weather here in Pennsylvania has devolved back into the giant gray ball of suck.

Looking up at Chiques Rock

I’ve noticed recently how much my mood changes with the weather patterns. When it’s sunny and warm, especially with a nice breeze, I’m almost ebullient in my general demeanor. When it’s gray and yucky, I just want to watch the world burn. Maybe I have that seasonal affective disorder. Who knows… but I doubt one of those lights will really change my outlook that much.

There’s something about the tactile sensations… feeling that warmth of the sun on your face and feeling the breeze in your hair. This is probably why, while I love biking, I LOATHE a stationary bike. We’re talking more than I loathe the University of Michigan.

Looking down the Susquehanna from Marietta

That being said, I managed to take advantage of the nice weather at the end of the week and get out on the trail. It was a nice discovery, though… getting out earlier in the season really let me see some of the landmarks from a different point of view. One that’s typically obscured by foliage later in the year.

Old rail tunnel on the Northwest River Trail

I also find that getting back on the trail helps rid me of the inner turmoil that seems to be more of a constant every day. It’s almost as with each mile, my inner self feels less burdened. Same thing with home projects. Each cut of wood, or nail hammered is tangible proof that I’m making a difference somewhere, even if it’s just my guest room. I can look at that floor and know that I did that… with my own two hands and my own achy knees.

I think it’s important that we have something tangible to look to as the fruit of our labor. A carpenter can look at a cabinet he or she built. An author can see a book. An ironworker can look at a skyscraper and say, “I made this.” I’m not saying that you must be a tradesman to feel that sense of accomplishment, far from it. A medical professional can look at a patient and say, “I saved her life.” A prosecutor can look at a criminal they helped convict as tangible proof of accomplishment. Even a mathematician can look at an equation and say, “I did this.”

The new floor in the guest room

Honestly, everyone can find something they accomplished, whether it be doing something amazing and ground breaking, or something as simple as waking up in the morning. I’ve had days where my greatest accomplishment was not throat-punching someone who really, REALLY deserved it. But that’s life and you just keep on moving because that’s all you can do sometimes to stay sane in this messed up world. Just remember the words of that famous anti-hero Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Until the next time.

I just looked and I’ve not posted anything on here in 10 months.

10 months?!?!?

I’m not going to make excuses… I wrote no fewer than 12 drafts that referenced the 2016 election and wound up purging them.  Too political, too negative, take your pick. I realize you don’t really need to hear my political ramblings. Plus, I’m sure that it wouldn’t do much good.

I know you’ve read my trials and tribulations of getting exercise and losing weight. You’ve heard the tales of my blistered and mangled feet.

I’ve gotten a solution.

I’ve rediscovered just how much I enjoy biking.

This started a couple of years ago when I visited my local Trek dealer. I didn’t know much about bikes (my last one was a 10-speed Schwinn from 30 years ago). I left with a pretty metallic blue Shift 1. I rode it sparingly the first two seasons. I was always finding excuses not to ride… my legs hurt, it was too hot, it was too cold. You get the point.

Then, for whatever reason, it clicked.

Shock’s Mill Bridge over the Susquehanna River

I started riding regularly. First three days a week, then four. Now it’s usually six days a week (I mow grass on the seventh day), and I have been known to get all seven days. What started off as a struggle to reach five miles a day has me feeling like I’m not getting it done if I don’t get 15-20 miles a day. Some days I do the entire trail for a grand total of 23 miles. There’s some lovely scenery along the way… old ruins from the region’s pig iron days, a really neat railroad bridge, and lots of wildlife. I ever rescued a really cute box turtle today after he was almost mowed down by some Lance Armstrong wannabe. I stopped, picked him up and carried him to the side of the trail. Figured it was better than having Lance get a second shot at him on the return leg.

Yes, my tubby ass has grown to love the biking.

As a result, I found that I was outgrowing my beloved Shift 1. Limited to seven gears, it wasn’t allowing me to get the work I wanted. So, I went shopping for another bike. Since I was so enamored with the Trek product, that’s where I started and where my search ended. The Shift line was no more, but Trek had introduced a line called Verve. Bigger tires, stronger wheel construction, all aluminum frame, and 24 gears.

It was a no-brainer.

The new bike as I left the shop.

I was fitted for the bike, and I took it for a ride the day I picked it up. It was a little too tall for me and given my normal choice of riding attire, I managed to fall off. See, I usually opt to spare the world from the sight of me in bike shorts, so I would generally wear a pair of gym shorts over the bike shorts. They got caught on the seat and I ever so gracefully landed on my keister. No harm done… plenty of padding. I lowered the seat a little and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. It also helps that I just said the hell with it and let people see me in bike shorts.

An old high school friend asked me why I loved the new bike and the best thing I could say was that it works for me. Maybe Trek isn’t the greatest thing on the road, but I enjoy riding this bike and I look forward to riding as far into the fall and winter as I can.

It’s nice to be able to get the activity I’ve been craving.

P.S. I have no idea what my weight is these days. I haven’t looked at a scale in months. I’m not stressing and I know things are working because I can feel changes in muscle tone and how my clothes fit. Eff the scale.

The New Home Saga: Comcast Rising

Posted: October 25, 2016 in Comcast, Xfinity

So, SPW and I moved into some new digs. It was a really long distance move… one whole block. As part of the move, had to handle the essentials.

TV and Internet.

As we are bereft of choices where we live, we deal with Comcast, because Century Link sucks. Have their infamous triple play. Pay way too much for it, but that’s the way it is. I don’t have man y complaints on the service itself… the TV is clear, the internet is blazing fast, and our service is reliable.

My issues come pretty much anytime I have to call them. Or change anything. Or breathe wrong.

The most recent snafu came with the move. I started the process online and never quite finished, mainly because I was waiting to make sure all the inspections were approved and whatnot. I got a call from the fine folks at Comcast offering to set up our move. I was told since we were only moving  a block, staying in the same neighborhood, same municipality, hell, same side of the street, we’d be able to transfer our DVR recordings and our telephone number.

OK, good.

Come Sunday, the tech showed up and something got messed up. Our DVR wasn’t able to be transferred and they gave us a new phone number. I asked about this and the basic gist of the reply was “Too bad, so sad.”

So, basically, Comcast lied about being able to keep our phone number. So all the time I spent changing addresses with various accounts and banks and utilities and whatnot has been a complete waste of my time because I have to go back and do it again.

I guess since I’m a nobody, my time isn’t valuable. But what I really REALLY like is our old phone number back.

I guess there’s no chance of that. Because I don’t matter.

Last I left you, SPW and I were in Everett, Washington, taking in the Boeing factory tour. I really enjoyed the museum shop… although I’m pretty sure SPW would’ve ditched my ass in a New York second if I bought some of the stuff they were selling. See, they had some kick ass furniture that was a lot out of my price range, especially since people keep winning my lottery jackpot. There was a table made from a repurposed 707 engine… as well as a chair made from the cowling of a Pratt & Whitey JT8D from a DC-9. Together, it would’ve been about $15K and that probably wouldn’t include shipping (and I just checked… shipping would be another $787. I settled for a couple of t-shirts and a book.

Once we were done, it was back into the Hyundai and south to Seattle. I blame a lot on Beci… the whole trip to PNW, for one thing, but I really need to blame this next one on her. She suggested a room at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle. She said SPW would love it.

She was right.

The Beatles fishing from their room at The Edgewater

The Beatles fishing from their room at The Edgewater

A little history about this hotel. It’s quirky. Very quirky. It’s built right on a pier near the Seattle Aquarium, and it has played host to many famous folks throughout the years. That would include Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, Bill Clinton, and this other British band that someone took an iconic photograph of…

Yeah, those guys.


Ferris Wheel, as well as Century Link and Safeco Fields

While we weren’t in the same room, we were still treated to some lovely views. We lit the fireplace, opened the windows and just took in the boats and sunset. Very relaxing stuff. I did a total Forrest Gump and was waving at everyone going by on a boat. Because I could.

Perhaps the best view came as we were doing some fine dining on Wheat Thins and EZ Cheeze (don’t judge). SPW (skilled photog!) managed to get a great shot as two high masted boats sailed

After the sun set, we got some sleep and even slept in. We didn’t have to be anywhere until 12:30… we were going to tour Safeco Field (Home of the Mariners). Sadly, there was no baseball being played (All-Star break), but we figured we’d check it out regardless. First, though, we had to get there. Having read horror stories about the parking, we actually opted to start walking. We realized we were hungry, so we stopped at Anthony’s Seafood and grabbed an early lunch. This made it impossible to walk to Safeco in time. Enter Uber. I had never used it before, but it is really convenient. Since I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, our first ride was Uber Select, so the guy picked us up in a Lincoln Town Car. Sweet ride, for sure. He got us there in plenty of time and we toured the field. It’s a gorgeous stadium… one of the few with a retractable roof that is simply that… a roof. Or, as our guide kept calling it, an umbrella. It’s a truly massive structure, and we went from the top to the bottom. It was fascinating to hear about the construction and the facts of the field and roof.

Safeco Field

Safeco Field


After we were done at the ballpark, it was time to play tourist. We summoned another Uber ride (regular, this time) and headed to Seattle Center. A little history of the area… it was the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, or, Century 21 Exposition. It’s the home of many performing arts venues and athletic fields, as well as the most iconic structure of the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle. Rising 605 feet above Seattle, the structure was designed and built in under eight months. The observation deck is a mere 518 feet above ground and is reached via three exterior elevators. Now, I should note that both SPW and I are notorious acrophobics. They manifest differently, though. I love to fly, while SPW is not all that fond of the airborne experience. The tower-type stuff is a different story. I can look, but I have a white-knuckle grip on the railing. Because, if the tower collapses, me holding on to that railing will save me. I know… I’ll keep telling myself that.


One of Chihuly’s large scale installations

The Space Needle as seen from the Dale Chihuly Garden

The Space Needle as seen from the Dale Chihuly Garden

We bought our tickets, but our window didn’t open for another 90 minutes, so we saw there was a Dale Chihuly Garden next door that could be combined with the Space Needle tickets. It was, in a word, astounding. The glass looks alive more than anything. I managed to have yet another happy accident photograph, framing the Space Needle in a swirl of blown glass. After viewing both attractions, we took a seat by the EMP Museum and did some people watching.

Grabbed some dinner and headed back to the Edgewater to grab the car and off to SeaTac for our redeye flight back East.

We got the car returned, headed to the terminal, breezed through security (Thanks, TSA PreCheck) only to find that our flight was predicted to arrive in Boston 28 minutes late, giving us a whopping 7 minutes to get to our Baltimore flight.

That could be a bit of a problem, so I went to the JetBlue gate agent and asked what could be done. The captain of our flight overheard my concern and said, “I have a quick turnaround, too… we will get you there on time.” We landed five minutes early. I looked at my flight tracking app and saw we were traveling at 695 mph. In an A320. Helluva tailwind is all I can say.

I know that JetBlue has gotten a bad rap in some quarters, mostly due to circumstances beyond their control. I’ve found their agents and crew members to be very professional and I like the extra space they give you over Southwest, especially on a longer flight. We’ve not had a bad experience with them on any of our flights.

So, that’s our trip to the northwest. We met some great people and found that most folks we interacted with were super friendly. My only beef was the transportation infrastructure (or lack thereof) but you have that anywhere. I look forward to returning and spending some more time in the region, even making it to Oregon to experience some quality microbrews.





So, Supportive Partner Woman and I just returned from a new travel spot (for us).

See… we do travel to places other than Orlando.

We headed to the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet… primarily on the recommendation of our friend Beci, but also because of the lure of 1) never having been there, 2) Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr, and 3) My inner aviation geek was going to see the Boeing factory at all costs.

To make a long story short, well, mission accomplished. It looked a little dicey for awhile, though.

Let’s turn the hands of time back to last Friday. We had a mid-morning flight out of Baltimore. If you’ve never used that airport, it’s actually pretty nice. The layout is readily understood and it’s clean. It doesn’t have that peculiar airport odor that you find at Philadelphia… you know, that odd combination smell of desperation and urine. The parking is reasonable and plentiful, and there are lots of flights. Before we could leave, though, we had to get out of the house. This was made more difficult when we discovered a small ant infestation in SPW’s backpack. We finally got that cleaned up and I sprayed the hell out of the living room. The culprit was apparently a lone forgotten caramel creme that had attracted the little buggers.


Mount Rainier

Our flight to SeaTac was in two legs. First one was BWI to Denver (aka HQ of the New World Order). I actually like the Denver airport, bizarre sculpture of the demon horse aside. Sadly, we didn’t have a lot of time at DEN. We made it to the departure gate only to find they were a little behind schedule. Turns out some weather on the east coast had impacted Southwest’s flight schedule and the flight attendants scheduled for our flight to Seattle weren’t going to make it. Southwest loaded some crew on a plane from Las Vegas and they kind of got off the plane and got on ours. There was also a special needs person that took awhile to get seated. No worries, it happens. Found the only pair of two seats on a Southwest aircraft, and even got to see some beautiful scenery, namely Mount Rainier. It’s a beautiful sight to see poking up above the clouds as you whiz by at 500 mph and 32,000 feet.

For being our first time at SeaTac and not being familiar with their car rental system, I think we did OK. They have a consolidated off-terminal system, so we grabbed the shuttle, picked a car, and off we went. We knew things were tight, time-wise, but Siri said we’d just make it to Everett in time for the Boeing tour. What a liar Siri turned out to be. See, what I didn’t know was that after 2:00 PM, the I-5 around Seattle turns into a large parking lot.

I was, of course, freaking out… I mean, my aviation geek fantasy was evaporating in a cloud of slow-moving vehicles.

Thankfully, SPW (mistress of the telephone!) was along. She called the Boeing tour center, talked to some fine folks there and was able to get our tour rescheduled.

Crisis averted.

Got to our hotel in Lynnwood, which was an Embassy Suites currently under construction. No matter… they still have a yummy breakfast included. Met up with some friends, met some new friends. Observed the opening night Disney trivia contest, only to find that this is a primarily Disneyland meet. No matter… an Imagineer is still an Imagineer, no matter the coast. Also met Don, the meet organizer. Went for a late-night forage, and off to bed, as the time change caught up with us.

Saturday was the meet day. We hopped in the rental car and headed to the nearby Lynnwood Convention Center. It’s a nice little venue, next to a strip mall… go figure, but nice regardless. There was the usual round of get-to-know-you bingo and some welcome remarks by Don, who introduced Stacia Martin, a Disney artist and historian. Ms. Martin gave an interesting presentation of her work and her role in the company. Afterward there was some time to look at the various exhibitors and see what they had to offer. I might add that before the speakers started, both SPW (possessor of the Magic Geek Vest!) and I managed to get autographs from Messrs. Gurr and Sklar, as well as Ms. Martin.

I should explain that this was R.H. “Bob” Gurr, the man who pretty much designed every ride vehicle at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar, former head of Walt Disney Imagineering. I was fanboying like nobody’s business. I had brought along my copy of Mr. Sklar’s book to have him sign, and SPW had all three guests sign the Geek Vest. There was some great art available, as well as some authors who have written books on Disney history. One author, David Lesjak, had two books, one on the role of Disney Studios during WWII, and one on Walt Disney’s service in WWI as an ambulance driver. I look forward to reading both. Mr. Lesjak was able to sign both of my books, which is always cool.

Bob Gurr, Don Morin, and Marty Sklar

Bob Gurr, Don Morin, and Marty Sklar

Sunday, there was a Q&A session with Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar. It doesn’t take long to realize the level of mutual respect between these two men, as they joked back and forth and reflected on their long careers working alongside of Walt Disney himself, as well as after Disney’s passing. The time for this session went way too quickly, that’s for sure.

After the session was done, SPW (Most patient wife EVER!) and I headed north to Everett for our tour of the Boeing factory. A few facts about the factory… the assembly building has a footprint of 98 acres. There are six assembly bays. Each bay’s doors measure the length of an American football field (100 yards or 91.4 meters), and the newest additions actually measure 120 yards. It’s hard to get a sense of scale until you are on ground level and realize just how massive the building really is. In this building, Boeing assembles 747s, 767s, 777s, and 787s. The smaller 737 series is built in Renton, south of Seattle. Guinness has certified this as being the largest building in the world by volume, enclosing over 472,000,000 cubic feet (13,385,378 cubic meters). The building itself in around 0.25 to 0.30 miles wide. The tour starts in a theater where a short film on Boeing’s relationship with the community is talked about. You board a bus and are taken across the field to the assembly building. We were very fortunate to have great weather that day and began our tour with a visit to the 747 production area. There were two planes currently being worked on… a 747-8 freighter and a 747-8 Intercontinental passenger liner. Back on the bus to go to the other end of the factory, because that’s the fastest way to get there. This end saw us on a balcony overlooking the 777 and 787 lines. One thing we did notice was that on each assembly bay, there are representations of the tail art of all airlines they have built that particular aircraft for. The 787 that was closest to completion was the first one being built for Uzbekistan Airlines. Very cool.


Boeing factory

Remember earlier when I was talking about size and how it’s hard to get a handle on the actual scale of the aircraft? While we were not allowed to take photos on the tour, we were close to a GE90-115 engine that was going to be attached to a 777. This engine was as tall as the tour bus. The engine itself is as wide as a 737 fuselage. That kind of puts things in perspective.

There’s a lot more to the trip, but I will save that for the very near future.

Making a choice

Posted: April 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

I had my annual performance review at work. It was a nice change of pace, primarily because it was delivered by a supervisor that I can (and do) respect, and, it wasn’t a photocopy of last year’s review.

As is the case, there are always things that can be improved upon. One key for me was to not be so prickly (my word), because I seem unapproachable. My supervisor shard something he had heard before… that we all make a choice to be happy or not. His response was similar to mine… I was saying to myself, “What a bunch of horseshit!”

Then I thought about it.

I spend a lot of time cranking myself up into a walking time bomb and it’s foolish. If I stand outside of myself, I can see that I really don’t have that much to be unhappy about.

I have a loving and beautiful wife. I have a home. I have steady employment.

In short, I’m pretty well set. There are a lot of people out there dealing with a lot more crap than I have to deal with and they are happy.


They made that choice.

So, moving forward, I’m going to not be so prickly. I don’t necessarily have a reason to be. My efforts won’t always be successful, but I’m betting I’ll succeed more than I’ll fail.

Fair warning, if my computer has just crashed and I’m in the midst of swearing at it most heartily, wait a few minutes and try again.

Let’s flash back, shall we?

When Supportive Partner Woman (lover of gelato!) and I were dating, I once promised I’d take her to Italy. I finally made good on that promise… We arrived in Rome on Thursday and will be touring our way up and across the boot.

So far, it’s been a lot of what I remember… beautiful art, awesome food, insane drivers…

It’s also a spot where Stubby and Wayne have decided to get ornery. It’s already cost me part of the Colosseum tour. I’m hoping they don’t cost me much more, because this place rocks.

There was some drama before we left. Somehow, my credit card number wound up in the hands of someone in Illinois. No offense to the fine Illini, but I’ve never been to Illinois, other than stopping at O’Hare to change planes. I’ve certainly never been to a Home Depot in Illinois. Anyway, the card company was suspicious, denied the charge, contacted me and said they would be issuing a new card and would send it overnight.

Sure enough, they shipped it, but they opted for Federal Express (who need to change their tagline to “The Postal Service for a New Millennium). That’s when the hijinks ensued.

According to the tracking data, the new card went from Chesapeake, Virginia to Norfolk, then to Memphis, TN. Then, for whatever reason, it went to Dubai. As in the United Arab Emirates. When I called FedEx about it, the customer rep said, “Uh, I’m not sure why it’s there.”

Wow. And Chris Christie wants to track illegal aliens like FedEx packages?

Anyway, they put it on a plane to Paris, then back to Memphis, then on to Harrisburg, then to Lancaster, where it finally arrived on Monday. It’s about 325 miles to drive from Chesapeake to Lancaster. My package travelled some 17,000 miles. Ahh, progress. All I wanted was the frequent flier miles, but alas, FedEx does not give them.

Anyway, Wednesday afternoon saw us arriving at the economy parking lot at Philadelphia International Airport. I opted for PHL, not because of its stellar reputation, but because it was cheaper. Plus, I didn’t relish the thought of driving to JFK. We finally found a parking spot (no mean feat) and were treated to the most horrendous, kidney-bruising ride you could ever ask for. We were in a bus, which probably hadn’t had a working suspension in years, careening through airport property, just hanging on for dear life.

We finally made it to the terminal, checked our bags with the fine folks from British Airways, and approached security. The line was insane. As we were queueing up, a young man (who looked so much like Pharrell I expected him to put on a bad hat and start singing “Happy”) pointed out that the wait for security at Terminal A East was about two minutes. We said, “Why not?” walked over and were through in no time.

We got to the gate, and started boarding our plane. I’m an aviation geek and this was my first ever flight on the Boeing 777. We had seats in the World Traveler Plus section, which was pretty darn nice. Food was tasty (a shock for airplane food), the seats had some space, and there was plenty of IFE to keep us going.

747-400s at Heathrow with 777 taking off in the background.

747-400s at Heathrow with 777 taking off in the background.

Landed in Heathrow (which is kind of like O’Hare, except it’s British and polite – also I couldn’t detect the usual O’Hare odor of hopelessness and desperation) and was treated to a view you never get in Philly. A row of 747s just waiting at Terminal 5-B. I know the A380 is larger, but the 747 is still the Queen of the Skies.

Cleared UK security (memo to SPW… only one bag of liquids allowed) and headed off to Rome. Couldn’t see much from the air due to the distance of Fiumicino from the city, and also the direction of travel. We cleared passport control and were met by an Adventures by Disney representative who escorted us to baggage claim and waited as we reclaimed our bags. The rep escorted us to a parking structure and left us in the capable hands of a Mario Andretti wannabe. After three near-death experiences, we made it to the hotel.

It’s a beautiful hotel… rooms are a tad smaller than I am used to, but it’s Europe.

We did a city tour yesterday… I maintain it’s not the walking that kills the feet, but the standing. We did a lot of that because there was a biblical rainstorm as we got to the Colosseum. The tour was supposed to include access to the underground levels as well as the third level. Due to the storm, the Italian authorities (rightfully) opted to close the areas off. We finally got to the main levels, took some pictures, then they were about to whisk us off to the Forum. By this time, the feet were starting to protest and I had an inkling as to what to expect, so I opted to head back to the hotel.



Big mistake… the folks who remained were able to run back to the Colosseum and get to tour the underground portion. Granted the run back would’ve probably killed me, but the chance to see that is rare.

rigatoniI’d also like to add that the food has been amazing so far. The first dish I had was a rigatoni in a light tomato sauce with very tasty bacon. Seriously smack your grandma good. The bad thing (or good thing) is that I’ll never want to eat Olive Garden again.

So, today we will be touring the Vatican. Maybe I should pray for less foot problems. Either way, it’s going to be awesome and I already have a foot doctor appointment for when we get back.


It’s July 8. My least favorite day on the calendar.

No, it’s not because it’s apparently “National Chocolate with Almonds Day” (I can’t make this crap up… somebody obviously does, though)

July 8, 2014 was a terrible day. The 7th wasn’t much better, but the 8th was the day that the world got a lot darker.

That’s the day we lost mom.

I’ve been through the complete gamut of emotions in the last 365 days. I’ve been very happy, I’ve been horribly sad. I’ve been morose. I’ve been giddy. I’ve been what has become my new normal… reflective and withdrawn.

As badly as it hurt last year, it’s still pretty bad, even worse in some ways. I catch myself tearing up and random moments, not exactly sure why, until I realize that something was subconsciously reminding me of mom.

I still think about calling her every day to let her know how things are going; to complain about work; ask if I can do anything for her.

It’s so easy to assume that since a year passed, well, everything should be simply hunky-dory. It ain’t. We go on.

Ten years ago, at our wedding, I had to come up with the right song for the dance with my mom. I chose Jim Brickman’s “A Mother’s Day” because it had the almost perfect lyrics. Some might deserve repeating here:

Have I ever thanked you
For everything you’ve done?
Now all that I can say is
“I love you, Mom”

Thank you for nursin’ me
Through all those colds and fevers
Thank you for believin’ in me
When they were no other believers

And it’s never too late to say
“I love you, Mom”

It might just be another day to a lot of folks, but July 8 will always have meaning as the day an extraordinary woman passed from this life to the next.

Miss you.

So, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that same-sex marriage is legal.

All I can say is “What took you guys so long?”

Some three years ago, there was a brouhaha at the local rag. Former chairman Harold Miller had put the kibosh on printing a same-sex engagement announcement. I took them to task at the time… you can find that here. The landscape has certainly changed… and for the better. Justice Kennedy has written a great summation in the majority opinion that reads:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

As for me, I’m happy for my friends who can finally experience the legal protection I have always enjoyed. I’m happy that they can now be considered the next of kin and not denied access to their partners by bigoted family members. I’m super happy that they get what they deserve after fighting for so long.

I’m sure there are people who will read this and react negatively. If that’s how you want to roll, be my guest. That’s the beauty of this country… you can express your feelings without legal consequence and today more people can do it than ever before.

It’s a legal victory. Now it’s time to win the hearts and minds of the close-minded bigots.