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.

Colosseum

Colosseum

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.

Ciao!

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.

While we were there…

Posted: May 30, 2015 in Travel

Ahhh, Denver.

It’s been a great trip. Sure, there’s been weather and uneven temperatures, and even ice on the roads, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve seen some places and things that I never would’ve thought to see, and got to visit with some very good friends.

Did I mention I didn’t even have to go to work?

I told you about our fun times in getting here. Sunday was a little better. As Supportive Partner Woman (Lover of malts and hops!) was tuck conventioning, I headed first to the Wings Over the Rockies Air Museum. Housing a small, but diverse collection military and civilian aircraft (most notably, one of one four B-1A bomber prototypes ever built), the Wings Museum is located on the grounds of the former Lowry Air Force Base. Also among their collection is a 3/4-scale Incom T-65 straighter, best known as the X-Wing from the Star Wars movies. This unit was left on loan by Lucasfilm and funds were made available to keep it maintained and on exhibit in the hangar.

1/2 Growler of Oatmeal Milk Stout from Finkel & Garf

1/2 Growler of Oatmeal Milk Stout from Finkel & Garf

After an enjoyable visit, I got on the road for Boulder, to visit a certain craft brewery with a unique name. Finkel & Garf Craft Beer is a small taproom/microbrew located on the outskirts of Boulder. The weather again featured hail, which did not make things much fun, but there was a few seconds where I actually saw mountains. I should note that while Denver is called the Mile High City, it’s not really in the mountains. It’s east of what is known as the Front Range, and could be considered to be part of the Great Plains. That’s beside the point, though.

If you get to Boulder, stop by and sample some of Finkel & Garf’s brews. They have an oatmeal milk stout that is so smooth, it’s hard to believe. I managed to score a 1/2 growler for SPW (Did I mention she was conventioning?) and took in the taproom. Not much on the menu, basically packaged snacks from all over the country, but the have building blocks and toys at every table, not to mention Nok Hockey, table shuffleboard, and other games to play while you’re quaffing your brew.

I should also mention that I made a brief provisioning stop at a local supermarket. One big change I noticed was that there wasn’t a snack aisle like we have in Pennsylvania. There was nowhere near the myriad of chips, pretzels, etc. that you can find in any market at home. Your choices are basically Frito-Lay or Frito-Lay.

I noticed on my way back to Denver a place called Smashburger. I had heard of it, but had never tried, so when SPW was done with her meetings, we hopped back in the car and headed for noms. Now, we are used to Fuddruckers and Five Guys, but this was a pretty tasty burger. Also ordered smash fries, which were coated in olive oil and rosemary. They wound up tasting a lot like the popcorn at Troegs. Made us feel like we were home. I would highly recommend. Not necessarily the best nutrition out there, but it was yummy.

Looking toward the Batter's Eye from behind home plate at Coors Field

Looking toward the Batter’s Eye from behind home plate at Coors Field

Monday started with me heading back to Coors Field for a stadium tour. I got there a little early (and if you’re in the area, street parking is free on Sundays and holidays), got myself checked in and wandered around taking pictures. The tour started pretty promptly and our tour guides, Chuck and Jack, had a wealth of knowledge about the stadium that made it worth my while.

Probably the highlight was being on the warning track. Chuck specifically told us to stay off the field itself, but to stand behind the plate and look at the massive stadium really puts things in perspective. To know that there are 50,000 people with their eyes on you must be a great weight to carry, or you have an amazing amount of focus.

They actually HAVE these things

They actually HAVE these things

After the stadium tour, I intended on going to the zoo. Apparently, most of Denver had the same idea. I bailed and drove around for awhile. I came upon the Greatest Mall Ever. It had a Lego Store, an Apple Store, a Chick-fil-A, and a Tesla store. Plus, it wasn’t in Pennsylvania. It was like retail nirvana.

The real highlight of the trip was Tuesday. Supportive Partner Woman was done conventioning and we were able to see some sights together. We are lucky in that we had some awesome tour guides. Our dear friends Bryan and Melanie saw to our tour guide needs.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Our original plan was to take the cog railway to the summit of Pike’s Peak. There was about 10 feet of snow up there, so we opted for a drive through tour of the Garden of the Gods, which is amazing, and followed that up with a visit to the United States Air Force Academy.

United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel

United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel

It’s graduation week, so there will be a performance by the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team. We were fortunate enough to get to see a practice session from the Academy grounds. We also got to visit the Cadet Chapel, which is a stunning building. Sadly, only the Protestant non-denominational chapel was open. We were unable to see the Catholic or Jewish chapel.

After leaving the Academy, we got to see real, live buffalo and went to the Buffalo Bill grave and museum. It sits on top of a mountain overlooking Golden, Colorado, home of the Colorado School of Mines and the Coors Brewery. You also look at North and South Table Mesa (Table Table?). It’s actually pretty awesome to see, especially coming from the east, where our idea of a tall mountain is 3,000 feet. Today’s trivia fact? The highest point in Pennsylvania is lower than the lowest point in Colorado.

So this brings me to today. I’m killing time in the Detroit Airport, which is actually nicer than Philadelphia. I have to tighten up the post and add the art, but suffice it to say it’s been a great trip. I honestly wasn’t ready to leave. I’m usually happy to go home, but this is one of the rare places where I felt perfectly at home. I looked at SPW and said, “I could live here.”

Who knows what will happen in the future, but Colorado is a great state with some friendly people and a rich heritage of quality beer (Coors being the exception).

I hear myself humming John Denver.  Is this a bad sign?

Greetings, good readers (if any of you are actually still out there)

I know I’ve really let the blog slide over the last year. Lack of focus, then the personal toll of losing my mom just really made me have no interest in a lot of things. Writing being one of them.

It’s been in my mind to start writing again, since I’ve backslid terribly in the past ten months. I’m not going to start being all rah-rah. That’s not my style. I do, however, want to discuss our latest travel adventure.

I write this from an eighth-floor hotel room in Denver, Colorado.

Yes, Colorado.

A state with no obvious Disney presence.

See? We do go places other than Orlando!

I write in the title that getting here was half the fun. Let me enlighten you.

We had booked this trip many months ago. Supportive Partner Woman (Sports Editor of Great Acumen!) is a member of AWSM, or The Association of Women in Sports Media. She noted that their annual convention was in Denver. I said, “OK. Let’s go. You can convention and I can see a game at Coors Field.” I found a decent airfare on Delta out of Harrisburg, PA, which is only 25 minutes from my house. I jumped on it. It was perfect… left around 10:00 AM, no getting up at the asscrack of dawn, etc.

Delta then changed the flights eight times. EIGHT FREAKIN’ TIMES!

Finally, we were leaving at 6:15 and getting into Denver around 10 AM MDT. I went on StubHub and scored club seats for the Rockies-Giants game at 2:15. Even got a great deal, although I’m pretty sure that since the Rockies don’t have a stellar record, that helped a lot.

We arrived at MDT (Harrisburg’s in-the-know airport code), got checked in, got boarded, they closed the door, the jetway pulled back and nothing. The pilot came on the intercom to inform us that there appeared to be some damage to the cabin door and they needed a mechanic to check it out. They then said it would be at least an hour before they could get a mechanic there to even look at it.I looked at SPW, said, “We only have an hour layover in Detroit… we’ll never make it.”

We deplaned and got in line to see our options. The gate agent was not very helpful. There was a guy in front of us in line trying to get to Spokane, and as he would try to explain what he wanted to do or ask questions, she would rudely cut him off.

After waiting patiently for around 10 minutes, I finally realized that the device in my pocket wasn’t just for looking at videos of cats, it could actually make phone calls. I dialed up Delta’s toll-free number, expecting to get “Too bad, so sad” from the person on the other end.

Instead, I got to talk to Kitty. I am not making that up.

Kitty, in a word, is awesome.

I explained the situation to her and she put me on hold as she looked to see what she could do. Her first option was a later flight on Delta, which I would have grudgingly accepted since it would have meant we would miss the game. I told her that it really wouldn’t work as I had tickets for the 2:15 game. She said, “Let me see what I can do,” put me on hold, and came back a few minutes later with the word that she had gotten us on to an American Airlines flight that would be getting into Denver around noon. She also would be refunding our seat and baggage fees.

Perfect.

We made it to the American gate about 10 minutes before boarding and we had managed to ask Delta to pull our checked bag and take it to the American gate. The agent at American, Don, was super helpful, got our bag on board (and didn’t charge the fee), got us seats together and we also got priority boarding. Plane left without incident and we got to O’Hare almost 30 minutes early.

That is a big damn airport.

We did the O’Hare death march and arrived at the new gate and got seats assigned. Toward the back of the bus, but c’est la vie. Got boarded, closed the door, jetway pulled back and pilot came on the intercom to tell us that there was an indicator light fault on the cabin door and they had to have someone look at it. Luckily that was fast, as O’Hare is a major American hub and mechanics abound. I was starting to feel cursed.

Two different cities, two different airlines, two different airplanes, issue with the same system. I’m suspecting sabotage by Disney because we weren’t going there. More on that later.

The flight gets to Denver International Airport, otherwise known as the headquarters for the New World Order (I am not making this up) without incident. Favorable winds, I guess, but we got there around 20 minutes early. Deplaned, got the luggage, which had miraculously accompanied us, and grabbed the rental car shuttle. It started to rain a little.

By the time we arrived at the Alamo lot, it had begun to rain rather heavily. We grabbed the first car in our row, which was a Nissan Altima, and headed to the exit gate. As we were being checked out, it started to rain in earnest. Along with some hail.

We hit the road for the hotel, and as we travelled the 25 miles to the city, well, the storm reached biblical proportions. Monsoon rain, thunder, lightning, hail, black clouds, water in the streets six inches deep… Ugh. Basically, it was like Noah, except I was in an ark built by the same company that gave us the Pulsar. I was not particularly confident.

Managed to make it to the hotel and get checked in. I might add that I was running on three hours sleep (I don’t sleep well on a plane) and SPW was working on whatever she managed to grab on the flights. I figure the game was a loss, but as we arrived at the room, the weather started to clear. SPW checked the Rockies Twitter feed and sure enough, they removed the tarp from the field. First pitch was scheduled for 4:25. Since the stadium is only 3/4 mile from the hotel, we opted to hoof it. It was windy and overcast, but dry.

Coors Field main entrance

Coors Field main entrance

Got to our seats, grabbed some grub along the way. A slice of Marco’s pizza did wonders, as our only food had been a Subway breakfast sandwich at Harrisburg. We sat down, the skies darkened, and the rain came. Again. This time, we had ponchos, and sat through it. Our patience was rewarded with what turned out to be a beautiful, albeit cold, afternoon. Thank God for fleece.

At any rate, I’ll be sure to update you all on the remainder of the trip.

Thanks for reading!

2014 in review

Posted: December 29, 2014 in Administration

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything. Been terribly busy with my mom’s estate, working, and a lot of other stuff.

This little encounter inspired me to post something, though.

Mom had Pennsylvania-American Water for her water company. At best, they were unreliable. She lived alone and didn’t use a lot of water, so she would get a monthly bill of $15. After she passed away, there was even less water being used… primarily if we were working on the house or flushing toilets or washing hands. That was it.

They sent out a letter saying that there must be a problem with the meter and they wanted to replace it. I called and told them that mom had passed and they expressed their condolences and said they would change the billing name to reflect the estate status. There was no charges mentioned to do that and again the person expressed her condolences.

I thought we were good.

The latest bill came and those bastards charged $30 to change the account information.

$30 to type “Estate of” in front of a name.

I called them tonight and it was not good from the get-go. First of all, they were all “That’s the policy when we change a bill.”

I asked to speak to a supervisor and he was, of course, out to lunch. I left word for Don to call me back to discuss this and, of course, he hasn’t. These guys make Comcast look like pros in the service department.

Seriously, folks, if you are looking to buy a home and you find that Pennsylvania-American Water is the local water utility, well, look for another house. They really are that bad.