Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shopping With Sears

Whirlpool ED5KVEXVB 25.3 cu. ft. Side by Side RefrigeratorI commented yesterday about the impending demise of my refrigerator and the fact that I ordered a new one to be delivered on January 2nd.  For reasons that are unimportant, I had to cancel the order.  Well, I had to try and cancel the order.  I ordered it from Sears.  They had a relatively nice online ordering system and a good selection of refrigerators on tap.

Sears also has a wonderful website for order status.  In fact, it says, "Home Delivered Items:
Home delivered orders can be canceled at any time prior to your scheduled delivery date by calling Customer Service at 1-800-732-7747."

Me being the direction follower, I called the number.  The long and short of it was, "We're sorry, your order is not in the system yet.  You'll have to call the online order department to get an order status at 800-xxx-xxxx".

I called the online order department and a nice lady managed to tell me that she cancelled my order but it could take up to 5 days for my credit card to be credited.  "Not a problem," I say, "but can I get an email confirming that it has indeed been cancelled."  "Sure," she says, "I'll get that right out to you.  Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

I never received the email.  I checked the order today and it's still "in progress".  Then the new fangled little "live chat" window popped up asking if I needed help to click the "chat now" button.  I did.  It was unpleasant.  I've edited out the personal details and bolded the really cool parts.  I also didn't repair my old fridge.  I just decided to wait and shop around a bit.  I was trying to simplify things for the morons:

Shane: Hi, my name is Shane, and it's my pleasure to assist you today as your Personal shopper. May I have your name please? 

Gar: Yeah, I called last night to cancel this order. I managed to repair my old fridge. But it still shows like it's "in process" online. Is there a way to get a confirmation that it's been cancelled?

Shane: I'm sorry for the delay. I'll be right with you.

Shane: Thank you for choosing Sears.com. I will be glad to help you today.

Shane: May I have your confirmation/order number please?

Gar: 2002xxxx 

Shane: Thank you. I'll be more than happy to assist you today. May I have your name please? 

Gar: Gar Theone

Shane: Hi Gar, I'm glad that I had an opportunity to chat with you today. 

Shane: If you don't mind waiting a few minutes, I'll be happy to check on this and get back to you.

Gar: Thanks

Shane: You are welcome.

Shane: For verification purposes, may I have the name on the account and the billing address along with the email that was used to place the order?

Gar: Gar Theone 2042 Windy Lane Timbuktoo, TX 75048 simplicity@gar.com

Shane: Thank you Gar.

Shane: I will be right with you.

Shane: Yes, I could pull up the status now.

Gar: So, it has been cancelled?

Shane: I can see that your order is not cancelled yet. I would be very happy to inform you that your order status is still being processed and your Expected Arrival Date was 1.2.2011.

Shane: I would also be glad to provide you the Phone Number of our Shipping/Delivery department at 1-800-732-7747, which will be very helpful for change, setup your delivery time.

Shane: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

Gar: Can you cancel it? 

Gar: I called 3 800 numbers last night to get someone to cancel it. I was on the phone for 30 minutes. Is all of Sears stupid?

Shane: Thank you for waiting. I'll be with you in just a moment.

Shane: I am really very sorry for the inconvenience. I would like to inform you that as our Web Application was slow yesterday, and the order is still being processed, we are unable to cancel it.

Shane: However, let me assure you that as the expected Ship date is 1.02.11, you will be able to cancel it while the order status will show "Complete".

Shane: I would suggest you to contact us before 2nd Jan. We will be glad to cancel your order.

Gar: lol. You're joking. Because your web applicaion is slow you can't cancel the order. That's pretty funny. 

Gar: In your infinite wisdom you have determined that your web application will "speed up" before January 2nd. Okay. That's wonderful news!

Shane: I am sorry for the inconvenience caused for this, you please contact before 2nd January, when the status will be Complete, we will be able to cancel it or return it back.

Shane: I appreciate your business and appreciate your patience in this process. Thank you Gar.

Shane: I will also be glad to make a note on your order so that we will be able to cancel it soon.

Shane: May I help you in any other way today?

Gar: Oh no. I wouldn't want to pressure your slow order system. It might cause other refrigerators to get erroneously delivered.

Shane: I will be right with you.

I closed the window to write my blog.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Knocking Noises Grow Eager

Off to the land of my knocking refrigerator.  For you avid readers (gluttons for punishment), you may remember that I mentioned my knocking refrigerator and the fact that I thought it was my ice maker.

It wasn’t the ice maker.  After turning off the ice maker, the knocking continued.

Over the weekend its knocking became incessant.  So incessant that I dug for my tool set and wiped the dust off.  It was time to go to work.

Had I known at the time this would become blog fodder I would have taken pictures.  As it is, I’ll just have to steal pictures from other sites.  Recently, I’ve discovered that Windows Live Writer somehow links to pictures on other sites.  Some of my posts are missing pictures because of this.  It’s not a practice I condone and it was done accidentally.  You have my heartfelt apologies.  If I weren’t so lazy I’d go fix all my old posts.


This is kind of what the bottom of the back of my refrigerator looks like.  Except backwards.  The black canister with the white label is apparently the compressor (compresses the gas to make things cold).

When I rocked it, it made a noise almost exactly like the knocking noise that had been accosting me for the last few weeks.  I had found the culprit, but how to fix it?  It was bolted to the bottom of the fridge and the bolts were lose so I tightened them.  But, the knocking was coming from inside the canister.  Logically, I figured if it couldn’t rock, then it wouldn’t knock.  It seemed logical at the time.

I took some pizza boxes apart and used some duct tape to create some anti-rocking wedges.  I wedged one underneath the canister and another above the canister.  This, my eager readers, was not a good idea.  In hindsight, I can see why.

The thing knocking, on the inside of the canister, continued to knock.  And now that the canister couldn’t rock, all the thing inside could do was continue to knock.  Knocking without rocking encourages louder knocking and a more persistent knock that continues for up to a minute rather than the 15 seconds or so.

I removed my pizza box duct tape wedges and did my Google research.  Immediately I found a guy that explained that inside the canister the compressor site atop springs and when the springs break or weaken, the compressor knocks.  All I have to do is replace the compressor or the springs?  The guy also explained that when this knocking starts, it signals imminent system failure.  It could last a week.  It could last a month.  It could even last a year.  He also explained that it’s not something you can fix.

A new compressor costs around $600.  A new fridge costs around $700.  Today, I have ordered a new fridge.  It should be in on January 2nd.  Merry Christmas to me.

Another interesting tidbit is that in the great state of Texas, they are offering me a $250 rebate on the purchase of an energy star appliance!  It kind of depends on what you are ordering (the amount of the rebate).  They don’t guarantee you the rebate.  It relies upon proper disposal of your old unit and that the funds don’t run out before they get to your entry (sorted by postmark).  You just gotta love the government.  I know I do¡

Friday, December 24, 2010

Quick Lost Update

image Back in May I said I was going to watch all of Lost in one year.  Today, I finished it.

Without ruining it for anyone who hasn’t watched it… Well, maybe I’ll ruin it.

Bullet number one: they should have quit after season 5.  A nuclear explosion would have been a glorious way to end this series.  Sure, it would have left lots of questions unanswered.  It would have left a lot up to your imagination.  However, it would have been wonderful.  Wonderful I tell you.  I’d have opted with the opinion that it was all erased.  None of it ever happened.  I would have bought the series on Blu-ray.

Bullet number two: the last 20 minutes of season 6 were so incredibly stupid I was starting to be irritated with myself for watching the whole series.  The magical rancid poison for a perfectly well written science fiction program is to explain it all away with some kind of religious dogma (not to be confused with Battlestar Galactica which is built around religion – and a fine series).

If you follow the above link, you’ll notice that I said that the writers of Lost seem to be very good.  After the last 20 minutes of season 6, I have looked up the creators and will avoid, like the plague, anything else they create.  They are: J.J. Abrams (stupid ass number 1), Jeffrey Lieber (stupid ass number 2), and Damon Lendelhof (stupid ass number 3).

I wonder why Michael and his son didn’t get to go to heaven with the rest of them?  Racial tension?  And how did Claudia manage to spawn two white children?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Countrified Weekend With Green Lines & TSO

Or, you can make up your own title. 

image Last Friday I was invited to go out dancing at W.W. Fairfields in Richardson.  My momma always told me if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

It’s not one of my favorite rules.  To prepare for my outing, I donned my blue jeans, western shirt, cowboy boots and hat.  It’s my one Halloween costume that I wear periodically throughout the year.

Let’s see, something nice.  The door lady at W.W. Fairfields was nice.

I live about 10 minutes from where 635 meets 121 and 114 so I jaunted over to 635 to head east to 75.  W.W. Fairfields is about 2 miles north of 635 and about a mile east of 75.  Google maps told me it should take about 30 minutes to get there.  I left at 8:20.

At 8:40, 635 became a parking lot.  Apparently some poor little car spun out and crashed a bit (maybe not in that order) and managed to screw up three out of five lanes.  At 9:15, I finally got past it.

At 9:25 or so, I finally arrived at the watering hole for lost cowboys we’ll call Fairfields (because I’m tired of putting the W.W. in front).

Now I was invited to Fairfields by Lisa and she’s very easy on the eyes and as a bonus she can deal with my random banter so I can’t complain too much.  Having said that and hopefully saved me some grief, Fairfields gave me chills in places I didn’t know existed on my person.

I even went so far as to dance until my feet hurt and my bum knee started going out in an effort to mitigate the creepy feeling that I was entering “another dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind”.

I’ve been the only straight guy at a gay bar called “Pekers” and not felt that out of place.

However, I recommend you go to Fairfields on your own.  You might like it.  The drinks were cheap and the people watching was fun.  The dance floor was rectangular and I’m accustomed to round dance floors for country dancing.  The geometry of it managed to make me lose any grace I pretend to have.

On Sunday, Lisa invited me to the TSO (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) concert at the American Airlines Center.  Now, I’ve seen them twice before and blogged about it.  I won’t bore you with the details.  If you haven’t seen a TSO show, you should definitely put it on your list of things to do.

A bonus cool thing about this event was the new Green Line on the DART rail system.  I’ve been looking for an excuse to try is since it opened on December 6.

If you click on the link you can get a better picture.  I live up near the North Carrollton stop.  So instead of having to fight traffic into downtown Dallas, then find a parking place near the American Airlines Center, and finally paying $15 for my trouble, we were able to take a 15 minute drive to the Carrollton Park & Ride facility and hop on a train.  30 minutes later the train deposited us within 50 yards of the front door.

Yay Dallas!  I love the Green Line.  A day pass on DART costs $4.  Four bucks is cheap for a stress free round trip ride into downtown Dallas from my neck of the woods.  The Green Line has stops at American Airlines Center, West End (House of Blues), and Deep Ellum (just to name a few).  I may never have to drive into downtown Dallas again.

Another interesting discovery on Sunday was that the American Airlines Center has good beer.  They have several hefeweizens including Franziskaner and Paulaner, a smattering of beers from the Saint Arnold’s brewery in Houston, and that’s just the ones I remember.  There were several I hadn’t seen before and didn’t bother to note the names.  At each “corner” of the building (if you walk around the ground floor just as you enter), there is a different beer bar.  Each one is dedicated to a certain “locale”.  The one I stopped at was the Imports section.  They had at least 4 German beers on tap.  There was a Texas section, an American section, etc.  Very cool.  Well done American Airlines Center!  Of course, they cost $7.50 for about a 16 ounce cup, but variety is the spice of life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Cruise, Icemaker, and Sucking

Last Saturday I left at 6 AM to drive to Galveston where I would be boarding the Carnival Ecstasy for 5 fun filled days in the Gulf of Mexico.  I was a little leery about doing the whole “solo cruise”.  But, as it turns out, I am fairly capable of meeting people and having a grand old time.  The title will make sense shortly.  I think.  Oh yeah, and I’m going to do something a little different.  I’m going to try and remember and share exactly what I was thinking.  I’ll tell you what I saw and what I thought.  At least the rated PG version of what I thought.  It’s rare that anyone gets to visit the mind of Gar.  It’s even more rare that someone understands what’s there.  It’s not called Random for nothing.

Saturday: The Embarkation

When you cruise from Galveston, they open the ship at 12:30 and want everyone onboard by 14:30.  It’s about a little over 5 hours driving from Dallas.  I love vacations, but I hate going.  I have all kinds of disaster scenarios running through my little paranoid head.  What if I have a blowout?  What if there’s a wreck and the highway gets closed down.  What if I have a wreck?  What if my car breaks down?  What if two angry beavers emerge from the trees and start doing the nasty in the middle of the highway and I’m forced to stop and watch?

Anyway, I left at 6.  By 10:30 I realized I was going to be way early so I stopped for gas.  The McDonalds at the gas station hadn’t started serving lunch yet, so I left.  At 11:15 I stopped at a Wendy’s for lunch.  By this time I was already in Houston.  At 11:45 I stopped at a Walmart to pick up things I forgot (like sunscreen and sunglasses).  At 12:45 I was at the harbor.

Carnival doesn’t really consider people taking solo cruises too much.  We are a rare breed.  The instructions on my ticket said, “Drop your party and luggage off at the door, then park your car and ride the bus back to the facility.”  This wasn’t going to work.  A quick search online revealed a place with covered parking across the street from the dock.  It was $5 cheaper than the “Carnival Approved” parking (which is not covered and requires the curb side drop off and bus ride).

The guys at the parking lot were real nice.  They helped me back my car into the garage.  They laughed at me when I told them I forgot my new sunglasses and needed them to re-open the garage so I could get back into my car.  They took me in the little golf cart for easiest access to the boat.  I was already happy and I hadn’t even got onboard yet.  I was thinking I needed to tip the poor guy, but all I had was a $10 and a $20.  I did ask him if he could break a $10.  He told me not to worry about it, so I didn’t.

I got on the boat, put my luggage away and made like a bandit to the nearest de-stressing beverage.  It looked almost exactly like this:

The first day always involves a lot of “pre-shows”.  They kind of gear you up for what to expect.  The only thing I was disappointed in so far was the temperature.  I’m a West Texas boy.  I like it real hot and this was a shade cool for a Caribbean cruise.  Apparently the cold front that dropped down into Texas was spreading it’s love as far south as it could go.  More on that later.  I immediately fell in love with one of the comedians.  She had the awkward sarcastic humor that I am a big fan of so I made a note to catch her show the next day.

Saturday night they have the karaoke show in the “Starlight Lounge”.  I was obviously tired form being up since 5 AM so I was in no mood to participate, but I did watch.  Have you seen those Carnival commercials about how something strange happens when you get on a ship?  I’ll see if I can find one… I can’t.  Anyway, it goes something like, “When people get on the ship, they change.  They leave their troubles behind and set out to have fun.”  There were two ladies at the karaoke show who took this a little too far.  I heard rumor that they were kicked off the ship at the first port.  There was nudity and running up and down the halls.  It wasn’t pretty nudity.  I went to bed before I could see anything that might scar my eyes, but apparently they got sick and spent the night in the infirmary.  I also heard that several passengers (I assume in neighboring cabins) complained about the noise and if they were unlucky, the eye scarring.

Sunday: The First Day at Sea

Anytime you leave out of Galveston, your first day is spent in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico heading towards your first port of call.  This was no different.  I don’t remember much about Sunday.  It was mostly uneventful.  The comedy acts onboard the ship always have to have two shows.  The PG version and the R version (for the 18+ crowd).  They do a family rated show on Saturday to kind of get you prepared.  There were two comedians on the boat.  I decided at the pre-show that I liked Kim Harrison the best.

Kim Harrison

The above video is kind of the rated R version, but with the cussing bleeped out.  I liked her.  She was quite funny.

Monday: In Progreso

Monday I lost my mind.  I decided to take an excursion to see the Chichen Itza ruins.  I know you are thinking that this doesn’t sound too bad.  It’s about a 2 and a half hour bus ride from the ship to the ruins.  If you took the time to click on the link, you’ll know that it’s a large pre-Columbian archeological site.  It would probably take you 2 full days to explore the whole area.  As it was we got to walk around it for 2 hours and sit on a bus for 5 hours.

I had to sit with Rob Thomas on the bus ride over there.  I was by myself, you see, and the bus was full so I got to sit next to a stranger.  His first name was Robert, middle name was Thomas, and he said he goes by Thomas.  Rob Thomas was just easy for me to remember and I make fun of everyone.  He was from San Angelo though and he knew where Kermit was so we are all happy.  He was chaperoning his niece’s cruise. 

What do I remember about Chichen Itza, besides Rob Thomas?  I remember the sinkhole.  At some point I learned to say sinkhole in Spanish and in Mayan.  It was a hole in the ground that was filled with stagnant water.  There is no debate about where the water comes from.  I think the guy said there was 90 feet of water in the well.  Apparently the Mayans believed that the gods created the well so they made sacrifices to the gods via the sinkhole.  Clean people up in the sauna, slit their throats and throw them in the well.  What did I take from all this?  The Mayans blamed their sinkhole on the gods.  In West Texas, we blame our sinkholes on the oil companies. 

Oh, one other thing in case you were wondering.  I also need to warn everyone to not buy souvenirs at the first place you stop.  There are better and cheaper ones later.  The whole Chichen Itza archeological site was one big souvenir shop.

The first time I was in Progreso, I sat out on the beach while the souvenir vendors would hand carry things to your table.  After you drink enough, even the souvenirs started looking better.  I kind of wish I had done that again this time around.  Except I would have missed the acoustics.  Mayan ruins with acoustics and a sinkhole. 

Back on the Ship

I went and talked to the “future cruise lady”.  Her name was Catherine Louise and she oddly kept up with my banter.  I’m not going to go so far as to say I’m a social butterfly, but when I go out, it’s rare that I meet someone who can “keep up”.  Catherine Louise could keep up and fire back.  It’s rare.  I’m not allowed to call her anything except Catherine Louise.  Well, or CLA.  I don’t think I was told what the A stood for.  Odd thing about CLA and all you astrology naysayers is I successfully guessed her as an Aquarius.  Her birthday is January 28th.  She’s from California.  One of the few crew members from USA.

Once back on the ship, I decided to go hit the Karaoke spot in China Town.  I met Natosha.  I try and talk to any women named Natosha.  It’s one of my favorite names.  Natosha was from Macedonia.  I didn’t even know where Macedonia was.  Natosha was hard to understand, but she was friendly.  She convinced me I should sing a song, but I didn’t know which one.

As I was sitting upon my stool contemplating which song to sing a large woman came and gave me a high five and plopped her grandiose butt down on the stool next to mine.  This inspired me to sign up for “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”, by the Georgia Satellites.  Obviously, the context of the lyrics was a little different, but you have to listen to inspiration when it strikes.

When I went to sign up for my song, some guy grabbed me.  I looked up and it was Rob Thomas with his two nieces!  They were excited to hear me sing.  The guy DJ’ing the karaoke was from Brazil and I can not ever remember his name for more than 5 minutes.  Let’s call him Ignacio.  He seemed awkward at times, but he was friendly and good at what he did.  I hung out with him on Tuesday.  When I put my name down for Karaoke I always put GAR.  Normally, people get this correct.  Ignacio said, “I’m not sure who this is.  It says, G. A. R.”  I got up and went on stage and told him it’s Gar.  The crowd went wild.

I have this strategy where I hang out and listen to what other people are singing and try to sing something more partyish.  On this particular night everyone seemed to be trying to show off with various Frank Sinatra type songs so my strategy was to pick up the party people with a little Southern Rock ‘n’ Roll.  I was successful.

Tuesday: In Cozumel

It was so windy in Cozumel that they had to cancel some of the “excursions”, like parasailing.  I had actually considered signing up for the parasailing thing.  I’m glad I didn’t.  It was so windy that they had trouble parking the ship.  I heard later that they had to have tug boats on standby in case they couldn’t get it docked.  Apparently the cold front that had gone through Texas had made it’s way to Cozumel.  All I know was at 7:30 in the morning, the whole ship was vibrating like a, well, like a 70,000 ton vibrator.

I don’t like Cozumel.  It’s a bit too touristy for me.  It’s much more fun to hang out with the locals when they aren’t trying to sell you some goofy sombrero they probably bought from some American company who had it manufactured in China.  However, the last time I went to Cozumel I found a neat little Mexican bar on the beach called Fat Tuesday.  A Sexy Mexican Tequila Police Woman comes over and sells you a shot of tequila which she administers followed by a mini massage and a kiss on the cheek.  It’s well worth whatever it is she charges.  This time I was going to offer money in exchange for a better kiss!

To my great disappointment, I learned this time around that there are two docks.  This time we docked at a pier that was closer to downtown and much further away from Fat Tuesday.  In fact, it was so far away, that I couldn’t get there to see if my Sexy Mexican Tequila Police Woman was still there or not.  I had to settle for Margaritaville.

While sitting (alone) at the Margaritaville bar, this flamboyant gay guy came and said (with a thick accent), “Hey Gar!  How are you doing?  See, I remember your name now.”  It took me a minute because out of his ship uniform he looked completely different, but it was Ignacio from the ship.  And he was sitting with Kim Harrison (the comedian).  When they saw that I was drinking alone (good George Thorogood song by the way), they invited me to come sit at their table where they were enjoying 32 ounce mojitos.

Kim is hilarious in person.  She’s very sarcastic, like me, and we spent lots of time cracking jokes together.  I told her that my happiest moment as a parent was the first time one of my kids was sarcastic.  It was like I had successfully continued the sarcastic trait into the next generation and where would this world be without sarcasm.  Then I asked Kim my riddle, which is, “Can you be sarcastic without lying?”  She quickly said yes so I asked for an example.  She said, “Well, I’ve only got one daughter, but when she misbehaves, I can still sarcastically say, ‘Ahh honey, you are the best daughter ever.’  Sarcasm without lying.”  I think there is still some fudge factor there, but it was funny.

Back on the Ship

Kim asked if I would do karaoke again and if I’d be willing to sing a duet with her.  I agreed, but it didn’t pan out.  I arrived much earlier than she did and by the time she showed up, I had just finished “You Shook Me All Night Long”, which went over very well, but it also does some strange kind of twisted scarring to my vocal chords.  So, when Kim wanted to sing some Evanescence, I had to gracefully decline.  She found two  healthy young studs who tried to mumble the lyrics.

Early that evening I went out by the pool and met Alexandria.  I don’t remember where she was from, but she was funny.  She did the spray on tattoos by the pool.  I asked her if she had anything erotic that I could show off to my colleagues at work.  The best she could do was a Marilyn Monroe where her dress is flying up.  That wasn’t good enough.  Next thing I know Alex is accusing me of wanting a pornographic tattoo.  Alex laughed at everything.  She, was, by far, the happiest person I met on the cruise (and perhaps met in a long time).  I’m amazed that people can be that happy without chemical help.  She denied having any chemical help.  Maybe there was something in the temporary tattoo spray.  Alex did let slip that they were having a “crew only party” at 11 PM.  This, of course, kept me occupied for the rest of the evening.  The trying to get into the “secret party”.

I asked Alex if I could go, she laughed at me and said it was crew only.  So I started asking all the crew members who walked by if I could buy their name tag for $1.50.  No one took me up on it.  I went back to CLA’s “future cruise” desk and asked her if she would invite me.  She also told me it was crew only.  I started asking for uniforms and increasing the dollar amount for name tags. 

Natosha was my bartender at the karaoke lounge and I asked her as well, but was again denied.  You have to give me an E for effort though. 

Wednesday: The Last Day

The last day of the cruise is always kind of blah.  It’s depressing because you are just starting to get to know some of the crew.  You know you have to pack your bags.  And, you know you can’t drink as much because you must be able to drive for 6 hours the next day after you get off the ship.

At first I was thinking I was going to go take pictures of all the crew members I hung out with.  But, for some reason, I changed my mind.  I wasn’t in a picture taking mood.

At 9:30 I did a “Behind the Fun” tour where I got to go down to the galley, the engine room, the laundry room, the crew area, and finally the bridge.  That was very enjoyable.  I’ve got a picture with the Captain.  I look really dorky though so I’m not going to scan it.  I feel sorry for the other people in the group.  I really messed up the group photo.  I look like I’m slightly insane.  The tour lasted for almost 3 hours.  I was supposed to go see CLA to the “future cruise” show at 12, but I missed it.

I went to the dining room for lunch.  When I’m waiting to be seated the hostess always asks me if I’m alone.  They should come up with a better way to phrase that.  On Wednesday, they seated me with another couple who were from Euless.  Then, a couple came and sat with us who were from Fort Worth.  And, finally an older lady came who was from the Houston area. 

All of us had about the same experience with cruising (about 3).  Except for the older lady.  She had been on so many cruises she had lost count.  She was a “platinum” card holder on Carnival (which means 10+ Carnival cruises).  I’m going to go off on a tangent.

I’ve been divorced twice.  When I was younger if anyone had ever asked me how many times I intended to be married, I would have said once and only once.  I’m overly nice.  I’m not at all mean.  I can’t imagine, any reason, why I wouldn’t want to spend my entire life with one woman.  Both of the women I married, left me for no other reason than, the grass appears greener.

The lady that was the platinum card holder said she was cruising by herself.  She said she and her husband had been on so many cruises together that she was addicted to the experience.  Then, her eyes started watering and she started staring at the ceiling trying not to cry because her husband had died 2 years ago and she had a hard time finding anyone to cruise with.  They had been married forever and had gone on 100’s of cruises together and now she’s cruising alone.  This was my first cruise alone and at times I was feeling sorry for myself.  When she was telling her story, my eyes started watering too and I had to occupy myself with other thoughts.  My youngest daughter is fond of telling me, “It could always suck more”.  When I listened to this older lady trying not to tear up as she recounted all the cruises her and her late husband had taken, I thought of that quote.  It kept me from turning into an blubbering idiot.

After lunch I went out by the pool and asked Alex if she had been able to locate any more tattoos.  She informed me that she had been too busy at the crew party to do any research.  Then, I went to the pool bar and talked to Natosha for about an hour.  She explained where Macedonia is and why it’s not part of the European Union.

Later that afternoon I went back and bought my next cruise from CLA.  I’m taking my children to Cozumel on July 28th.  It’s the most expensive cruise I’ve ever purchased.  Apparently summer months are high traffic months, but I promised my eldest I’d take them on a cruise before she graduated so this summer is hopefully my last chance.


I had assigned seating for dinner at 8:15 PM.  That’s a little late for dinner, but the formal dinners are probably about my favorite part of the cruise.  The food is always good.  The waiters are always nice.  They always put on a pretty good show.  Normally, you become “acquainted” with the other people at your table so it’s  a good chance to meet some people.

I sat alone at a 4-top.  The waiter said that 2 other people had been assigned to the table I was at, but apparently they didn’t like the dinners as much as I did because I never saw them.

However, in my area, there were large round tables with entertaining folks.  On the table to my left was a family reunion of some kind.  The grandmother would always look my way and smile when the grandkids or children were acting up.  She was funny.  On Wednesday, the youngest kid (he was probably 7) was eating butter packets while his dad video taped.

The tables to my right were odd.  The two groups were obviously together, but I guess there were so many of them that they had to have two different tables.  There were 12 women and 1 man.  The 12 women ranged in age probably from 22 to 65.  They weren’t family.  Too many ethnicities for that.  But, they always appeared together and they always ate.  4 at one table, 8 at the other.

The big table was apparently the immature table.  There were tears of merriment more often than not.  Mainly because of a heavyset dark haired girl who decided to fake an English accent for the duration of the cruise.  On Wednesday, she came and asked me, in her cheesy fake accent, if I was alone.  Then, she asked where I was from.  Then she asked my name.  I wasn’t nearly as inquiring, but I did find out they were from Corsicana and Fort Worth.  I forgot to ask what their story was.  I figure they were all from some sales force (like Amway) or something, but who knows.  It could have been some new religion.  It is Texas.

Thursday: Back Home

I hate US Customs.  I don’t understand the purpose and the efficiency is slightly better than eating chicken broth with a fork.  I compare the USA to a reverse roach motel.  They’ll let you leave, but it’s hard to get back in.  It’s at least an hour of standing in line so this guy can look at you, look at your passport, ask if you bought anything and then wave you through.  It’s a ludicrous and inefficient filtration process.  I can’t describe it any better than eating chicken broth with a fork.  I outdid myself.

When I got back home I started watching my DVD of Glee.  Don’t hate me because I like watching Glee.  That show cracks me up and the music is good too.  Anyway, while watching, I kept hearing someone knock at my door.  I’d get up and go check and no one would be there.  It’s took me a while to figure out that my icemaker was misbehaving.  If anyone knows how to fix an icemaker so that it doesn’t sound like someone's knocking at your door please share.  As it is, I just turned it off.  It won’t be too long before I’m going to need some ice.  Now that I know it’s not working, I’m craving it.

Sorry, my thoughts were a little scattered.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Last Blog

Well, my last blog until next week sometime.  Tomorrow, I am going on my first lonely cruise.  I’ve been on cruises before, but never on my own.  I was kind of scared at first so I asked around to see if anyone wanted to go with me, but I had no takers.  I guess I’m not as pretty as I used to be.  As it approaches, I’m kind of looking forward to it.  I won’t have to worry about anyone’s happiness except my own so I’ll do whatever I want to do.  And in the wise words of a crazy man, “I’ll do whatever I can do.”

While I am on the high seas, I don’t touch computers.  I don’t think about computers and I definitely don’t think about the Internet.  I go into a complete relaxation mode that you simply must see to believe.  But, you won’t be able to see it.

I really hadn’t intended for this to be the topic of my last blog.  As this year comes to an end, it’s probably going to go down as one of the most depressing, fun, entertaining, scary, irritating, frustrating, lovely years of my life.  I’ve met lots of new people this year.  I’ve probably met more people this year than I’ve met in the last 5.

One thing that happens when I meet people is they seem to think I “look like someone”.  As in, “You look like that guy from that show, you know the one.  I can’t remember his name, but he’s got dark hair, you know!”  But, I don’t.  Today’s blog will go down the list of famous people I’ve been accused to resembling. 

The first one I remember (this from 20 years ago), was David Cassidy.  Or sometimes, they’d just say Keith Partridge.  What I’m going to do is try and find a picture that I think possibly might prove the theory.  It would be too easy to disprove.  I would also try and post comparison pictures of myself, but that would require too much time and I have to pack.  When I got my hair cut (about 9 years ago), and had a new picture made for my driver’s license the lady at the DPS (Department of Public Safety) asked me to sing a David Cassidy song before she cut up my old license (with the long hair).


About a month after I got my hair cut I had a couple of people tell me I looked like Hugh Grant.  I never could see that very much.  I think you’ll agree.  I look nothing like him.  Maybe I was just having a good hair day or something.  Who knows.  Either that or some crazy old lady had the hots for Hugh and also an overactive imagination.  Perhaps I should have made more inquiries of the source.  You just never know about these things.


In the last few years I have gotten the David thing some more.  Only this time it’s been David Duchovny and David Spade.  It’s actually starting to make me think my momma named me wrong.


Just this last week one of my relatives said I looked like one of the brothers from “The Band Perry”.  I’ve never heard of them before so I looked them up.  I don’t know if I should be flattered or horrified.  I’m choosing to be flattered because I’ve always been told to wear my rose colored glasses. 


I guess this is proof that all the people I know hallucinate.  I always thought I was the only one.  I’d like to meet their sister though.  She’s kind of cute.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Weekends in Wichita Falls

This last weekend I went to Wichita Falls to see two concerts.  Josh Weathers Band (who I’ve blogged about before) was playing Friday night and Del Castillo (a Latin Rock band from Austin) was playing Saturday night.  I was looking forward to Del Castillo because I had never seen them before.  They were both playing at The Iron Horse Pub in Wichita Falls so I decided to make a weekend getaway out of it.  I try to be mostly honest in my blogs so now I’m just going to let you know that I’m about to fudge some details.  You can ask questions if you want and I’ll try to answer.

I booked a room at the Howard Johnson in Wichita Falls.  It was a short cab ride from there to The Iron Horse Pub.  One of the first things that impressed me about Wichita Falls was the cab prices.  $4 for a ride from the hotel to the pub.  If I had taken that same ride where I live it would have been a minimum of $10.  And the cabbies are cool.  I took 3 cab rides which I might get to and in each ride, the cab drivers were personable.  It’s a rarity.

imageHoward Johnson had a bar and as soon as I arrived at the hotel I went to the bar and ordered a Shiner from this funny old German bartender.  If you can imagine having a persnickety old lady with a keen sense of humor tending bar, you’ll get a good idea of what she was like.  She was complaining about the 2 Christmas parties out back and she was the only one available to run the restaurant and the bar out front.  She was rather efficient.  You just couldn’t be in a hurry because she really was the only one working.

She had German efficiency which Americans and our “instant gratification” mindset don’t understand.  She didn’t start tabs.  She just expected her customers to be honest and keep track of how much they drank so when they came up to get the bill, they’d tell her what they had and she’d tell them how much they owed.  It was really rather refreshing.  Expectations of honesty are often underappreciated in the world today.  Just don’t tell Doctor House I said that.

At her busiest moment (bar full of happy hour patrons), one of the guys from one of the Christmas parties came to the end of the bar and asked her if she could make a “lemon drop martini”.  I thought she was going to faint.  She put her hands over her head and said, “I have no idea what that is.  I can make a lemon drop shot.  No, wait, I will try.”  You have to picture this in kind of a hysteria with a very distinct German accent.  I laughed so hard I almost peed myself.  She proceed to pour who knows what into this cup and deemed it a “Lemon Drop Martini”.  I’m not sure there was anything lemon (or martini) about it.  It was blue.

At one point she walked through the bar area and asked a group of guys standing out front of the bar if they’d been helped yet.  They proceeded to make their drink orders while she walked away calling back, “I don’t have time now.  I have to get the food out for a table.”  The guy who ordered was like, “Why did she even ask?  I feel like I’ve been the victim of a drive by.”

While I was giggling like a little kid, a big burly guy next to me was like, “Hey man, are you making fun of my mother-n-law?”  If he wasn’t smiling I would have shit myself.  As it was, I just said, “Man, she’s the greatest bartender ever!”.  I kind of thought he was joking, but discovered he wasn’t.  His wife was sitting next to him and she lamented about having to be brought up by the persnickety old German lady (in a playful manner).  I got the impression this old lady was well loved and respected by her family.

After the happy hour festivities, it was time to head to The Iron Horse Pub.  My first Wichita Falls cab ride.  The cab drive probably weighed 350 pounds, but he was 350 pounds of coolness and the ride only cost $4.  It was well worth the show so I gave him $7. 

The Iron Horse Pub is an interesting place.  If you’re ever in Wichita Falls, I’d highly recommend it.  They’ve got a pretty good beer selection for a place called Wichita Falls.  The show was good.  I met some people who I don’t remember.  They were cool though and let me sit at their table.

Before I can go on with the rest of this story, many of you will think that I drank too much.  And, I did drink, but not nearly enough to constitute what happened next.

Saturday at 3 AM I got sick.  Saturday, at 3:15 I got sick.  Saturday at 3:30, I got sick.  Okay, maybe slight exaggeration, but I was sick about every 30 minutes from 3 AM until 2 PM.  At 4 PM, I thought it was finally over.  I even managed to eat some soup and drink a 32 ounce diet coke.  By this time I had already cancelled my Del Castillo plans.  Then at 8 I got sick again.  Then at 11 I got sick again.  Then at 11:30 I realized I was back onto my every 30 minutes cycle and things were starting to hurt (real bad).

I think it was about 12:30 when I staggered into the emergency room of the local Wichita Falls hospital.  I guess I looked the part because they managed to get me to the front of the line.  The ER doctor said I was in DKA (or diabetic ketoacidosis).  Now, I’ve had diabetes for over 30 years and I’ve been sick before, but this was a new gem.  My diabetes never ceases to entertain.

My doctor, who I’ve been seeing every 3 months for the last 15+ years, always insists that I get a flu shot.  I always ask why because it never bothers me to get sick.  She always says, “Trust me.  With diabetes, you don’t want to get the flu.”

My weekend stomach virus or food poisoning or whatever it was made a believer out of me.  The ER doctor told me that when you get sick like that you get dehydrated and if you get too dehydrated your fat cells will quit using the insulin (from my insulin pump in this case).

Once they started the saline drip, the pain immediately started going away.  Sunday morning I was in the Intensive Care Unit of the Wichita Falls hospital on an IV drip of insulin, saline and potassium.  By that time I was already feeling better and was wanting to go home, but I could understand their caution about wanting to keep me.  The room I was in had one of those horrible crucifixes.  I really don’t like those things.  There’s a cartoon about them here.

At 2 PM, they let me out of the ICU and down to a more normal room (without a crucifix).  At 8 PM, they finally agreed to let me go home.  I did ask a hospital accountant friend of mine what would happen if I just yanked the chords and went home on my own.  She said that insurance wouldn’t pay.  Apparently you have to be released by the attending physician for Insurance to pay their part.  That’s probably fuel for another blog on another day.  It’s like a roach motel with a financial road block.

I took my last Wichita Falls $4 cab ride from the hospital back to the Howard Johnson where my car was located.  I was so excited to be back at my car, I left my discharge papers in the back of the cab.  I’m kind of nervous about what kind of personal information was on the paperwork.

It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Wichita Falls to Dallas.  It was a very nice drive.  I was looking forward to be back in my own comfortable house. 

The people at the hospital were all very nice though.  I flirted with all the nurses even though my hair was disheveled and I hadn’t showered in two days and my breath stank like… Well, we probably don’t need to know that.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Moment of Silence: Thanksgiving Weekend

I went to the Texas Panhandle to visit my parents for Thanksgiving.  If you can imagine, poor Gar driving a small car with three teenage girls, then you can imagine the highlight of my trip.

When we left Dallas at 9 AM, it was a balmy 80 degrees.  When we arrived in Amarillo, it was already down to 65.  Amarillo, however, wasn’t our final resting place.  We had to cruise south down Interstate 27 for a few miles to get to Canyon.

The aforementioned three teenagers stayed with me Tuesday night so we could get an early start on Wednesday.  Can I get a show of hands from anyone who has experienced Texas Highway 287?  It must be in the top 5 list of most boring highways ever constructed by the highway building folks.  God bless ‘em.

Luckily this time around I did have my trusty XM Satellite Radio to protect me from the 60 mile stretch of rode where the only FM signal comes from the Mariachi Baptist Country Revival Farm Report Clinic From Hell (complete with occasional static).

Thanksgiving morning in Canyon it was almost 20 degrees.  I think 17 was the low.  To have started off in the upper 70’s on Wednesday and be brought into the 20’s on Thursday, I almost stayed in bed.  I thought Hell had frozen over anyway so all kinds of cool things were about to be coming my way.

My dad showed me how to make Tiger Juice.  Apparently he learned it from watching some cooking show (I secretly worry about him).  Best I can tell, it’s a mix of 50/50 mayonnaise and horseradish.  Wednesday night we had it on potato chips.   Friday I had it on a roast beef sandwich.  Sometime this week, I’ll attempt to make my own.

I helped my dad make the turkey.  It’s probably the last time that will happen.  Luckily he made brisket too.  But that, to me, is what Thanksgiving is all about.  It’s not the food, but the fun.  My dad and I had fun laughing at the little pop-up thermometer in the turkey that wouldn’t pop while my mother’s complaints about our ineptness reached a fevered pitch.  We burnt the dressing that Mom made because it was in the same pan as the turkey with the pop-up thermometer that wouldn’t pop. 

On Friday we rested.  On Saturday we removed the dealership sticker from the back of my car.  Another thing cool about my dad is his inability to be bored and to think of fun and interesting projects.  There has been no other time than Saturday that so much fun has been had by any two people in removing a dealership tag from the back of a car.  I threatened to take pictures, but was afraid it would ruin the moment.

You have to envision a blow dryer which has been rewired and taped together with electrical tape (it quit working and my dad “fixed” it).  At least 3 sets of extension cords that have also been taped together (mostly with electrical tape) and leading into the house.  And a father and son standing behind a new car trying to heat up the glue on a dealership tag with a hair dryer so they can remove it.  I’ll wait while you formulate your imaginations.

We got the thing removed and I was quite proud.  We even used WD-40 and  a smattering of paper towels to clean up the vestiges of super duper double sided tape (yes, it hadn’t been glued at all).

On Sunday, we drove back home (well I drove back home and the 3 teenagers slept).  There were signs everywhere that warned of high fire danger.  Just south of Vernon we did see smoke and smell the cleansing smell of burning grass.

I was home by 5 and watched the second DVD of Lost season 6.  I’m sad to be home alone.  Sometimes I like being alone.  Today, I don’t.  Therefore, I’d appreciate you all spending a moment of silence in appreciation of my lonely self.  I’ll be here all week.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Procrastination Strikes Again

Just found out today that the Ruthie Foster concert on January 7th has been sold out and I never got around to buying tickets.  I'm sure that 50% of the tickets were sold to people hoping to finally meet the infamous Gar so maybe Ruthie will take pity on my poor poor procrastinating soul and find me a ticket.

So, Ruthie, if you can get me a ticket, click here for submission information.

Okay, that was a sly trick to get people to click on coolness.  I have a friendly relative trying to do some artistic website authoring thing.  If you click on my little picture to the right or here, there are email instructions.  Really.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Solo Cruises

CarnivalI just purchased a Carnival cruise ticket out of Galveston.  Actually, it’s quite impossible to purchase a ticket so technically I purchased 2 tickets.  However, I know no one who wants to go with me who’ll put up with sharing a queen sized bed so I suspect I’ll be going  alone.

I’m kind of wondering if there’s a market for escorts who’d like a cruise.  I suppose I could call around to the local escort services and see if any of their ladies are interested.  How odd would that be?

image Anyway, if you are female, not scared of sharing a bed with a strange man, don’t stink, are mildly entertaining and attractive let me know.  Oh yeah, you also have to be free from 12/11 to 12/16.  We’ll leave early in the morning on December 11th and I’ll have you home by 5 on December 16.  I may even be able to get them to give me two twin sized beds…

Maybe I should come up with a downloadable application.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

John Butler Trio

If you haven't been paying attention, last weekend I went to see Vallejo and discovered The Dirty River Boys.

I usually try to keep my concert appearances down to about once a month.  However, I have just discovered that John Butler Trio is going to be at The House of Blues Friday night (11/19).

Should I stay or should I go?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rocky Horror, Randy, Amber & Hat Tricks…

Guess what I did this weekend?  I did things that were best photo documented and I didn’t take any pictures!  They say a picture is worth a thousand words so to give my weekend justice I’d have to write about 100,000 words.  Don’t panic.  It’s not going to happen.  In fact I’m going to give you the summary and depending on the lack of comments I’ll probably opt to leave you questionless folks in a state of hopeless query.

On Friday, Randy (R.K. Milholland) of Something Positive invited us all out to the Lakewood Theater to watch a shadowcast of Rocky Horror show presented by Amber Does Dallas and guest starring R.K. Milholland.  He did the inviting.  I love his quotes.  The one at the bottom of the “invitation” comic was one of my favorites.

The show wasn’t scheduled to start until midnight.  I went to Humperdinks for happy hour.   They have their own menu of craft brewed beers on tap.  It’s a good place for happy hour.  Our waitress’s name was Katy and she was a good sport at playing along with my sign guessing shenanigans.  She’s a Capricorn.  Her boyfriend’s an Aquarius so it was only natural that she was willing to tolerate my Aquarian mind games.

I’ve never participated in a Rocky Horror show.  We had one veteran slut who offered to go with us and show us virgins the ropes.  I invited a friend or two and had to ask her (the veteran slut) how to dress.  She recommended various costumes for the guys (the crazier the better) and apparently women must dress like sluts.  Fun was had by all and I have no pictures.  The Shadowcast by Amber Does Dallas was wonderful.  It’s definitely something I recommend and will probably do again sometime.  Lots and lots of open minded fun loving people with a range of ages and lifestyles sharing a common goal. 

I was glad Randy invited me and I did get to talk to him briefly after the show.  I wish he wasn’t so busy, because just from my brief talk with him I could tell that he and I would be very dangerous playing mind-f*ck games with people at a bar.  Of course, I guess we have to spread the wealth a little bit.  If you get too much of that kind of thing at one table or in one vicinity, dangerous reactions could occur which may cause dire personal injury or irreparable mental harm.  I exaggerate a little bit.  Some people who read my blog may actually have been there.

Saturday found me at Hat Tricks again.  I’ll give you time to go read that.  I’ll wait here until you get back.  You’ll take note of my obvious overuse of the word shenanigans.  Which is funny because I can’t even spell it correctly without the aid of a spell checker.

Vallejo was going to be there.  They were going to open up for Cas Haley.  You can watch the Vallejo video at the other shenanigans link.  I noticed AJ was drinking and I saw him have at least one shot.  I don’t know if that had any impact on his performance, but I’ve been watching these guys ever chance I get for the last 15 years or so and it was one of the best shows I’ve seen them do.  It was, at least, in the top 5.

The Dirty River BoysBefore Vallejo came on and before the show was officially scheduled to start, they had a band called The Dirty River Boys come on and put on a pre-show.  I was glad we arrived early!  They hail from El Paso, TX and if you haven’t seen them yet, you are kind of missing out.  I’m pretty picky on the types of music I enjoy well enough to write about, and these guys were surprisingly good!  A video hardly does them justice, but it gives you an idea.  They remind me of Bonepony (one of my all time faves).

Dirty River Boys

Vallejo put on such a good show that Cas Haley was a bit of a disappointment.  He sings really good.  I like reggae music.  But after a while, I think you need some kind of chemical enhancement to keep listening to it without falling asleep.  Two hours of reggae makes me sleepy.

The Dallas Cowboys won on Sunday.  I actually watched the football game in its entirety.  So many rare things I accomplished over the weekend.

When I separated from my spouse back in April I decided that the only way I was going to survive would be to surround myself with friends.  I’ve made many new friends since then and enhanced some friendships I already had.  Just so people don’t ask me if I’m still separated, the divorce was final in August.  I blogged about it somewhere.  Slight tangent.  I thought if I met enough people and kept myself busy I’d get over it.  The last few weeks I’ve realized I still miss her.  We did so much together that I find myself thinking, “Man, she would like this!”  But she’s not there.  Apparently, it’s going to take time for me to get over this and once you hit the age of 40, it seems that time is something you don’t like spending.  One of my friends told me I just need to relax and take it easy for 6 months.  He might have mentioned fasting and self-reflection.  Another of my friends said I need to get into a semi serious relationship so I can see what I want (or don’t want).  I’ve decided I don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s going to be a blast!  And I’ll apologize now for any collateral damage.  It’s not intentional.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paris: The Experience

I arrived in Paris Saturday evening.  I learned later that there had been strikes on Saturday.  Likely causing my having to stand in line for a cab.

Sunday I was planning to spend the day learning how the Metro system worked.  I paid an excess amount of euro’s to get wireless Internet in my hotel room.  I used my relatively new Android based MyTouch 3g Slide to download maps of Paris and schedules for the public transportation system.  It’s kind of amazing to me that 10 years ago I didn’t even own a cell phone and now I can’t live without it.

It turned out to be about a 20 minute walk from my hotel to the nearest Metro station.  I could have taken a bus, but I am not fond of being cramped into small places with a bunch of sniffling sneezing people that I can’t understand.  At the Metro station I bought a 5 day tourist pass which would allow me to take any form of public transportation I needed to within Paris (what they call zones 1, 2 and 3).

image I took the Metro 13 down to Les Invalides.  The Metro stations are pretty much all underground.  There are no guard rails keeping you from falling down in the tracks and I didn’t see any way back up if you did fall.  The crowds of people waiting to get on the trains made me nervous about this situation.  But, I obviously didn’t fall.

Since, this was my first time in Paris, I picked out the Eiffel Tower in theimage distance and just started walking towards it.  It was an obvious landmark to help keep my bearings as I explored a new city.

A friend of mine from England picked me up while I was exploring the area underneath the tower.  It was my first time to ride in a car where the controls were on the wrong side, which is the right side, of the car.

imageWe went for a drive up to  Charles de Gaulle airport where we stopped for a late lunch and then I had to figure out how to get back to my hotel.  The airport was in zone 4 or 5.  It was a fun drive though.  Bob showed me several little interesting sites in Paris that are not necessarily listed on the tourist maps (like where the hookers hang out).

I spent most of Monday at a cemetery.  The Cimetière du Père Lachaise.  It was rather surreal.  I got lost several times.  It’s like a labyrinth of sepulchers.  I think if you go to Paris, you need to go see it.  I don’t know that I’d ever want to see it again, but it was rather incredible.  I went and saw where Jim Morrison is supposedly buried.

I took lots of pictures…

 IMAG0099 IMAG0101 IMAG0104 Picture 015 Picture 027

Picture 079 I also walked to the Louvre.  They had an interesting outdoor art exhibit going on.  After spending time at the Eiffel Tower and various other towers, I was starting to understand why they call it, “The City of Love”.

They had an interesting piece of architecture resembling aPicture 072 broken American flag.  I’m not real sure what the intent was, but I thought it looked real cool.  That’s my best vocabulary of the day, “real cool”.  My kids thought maybe it was done because the French don’t like America.  It’s an interesting take on it.  I wonder what everyone else thought…

Tuesday was “cruise day”.  I took the river boats all day.  It was nice and relaxing.  After the cruises were over I set out to find the Statue of Liberty.  It’s on the end of a man made island.  I had literally given up on finding the darn thing when I decided to explore this stair case in the middle of a bridge.  I thought it odd to have stairs coming down the side of a bridge at it’s apex over the water.  So, being the curious person I am, I decided to investigate.

It led to a walking trail which I later learned to be part of a man made island.  As I approached the trails end, I decided to go up the next set of stairs to get back up to street level.  This is what I saw… It almost brought a tear to my eye.


Picture 103 image

I finished up Tuesday with a bottle of wine at an Italian food place underneath the EiffelPicture 114 Tower followed by some miraculous attempts to take night time photos without a flash or a tripod.  I spent a lot of time Picture 113precariously balancing my little pocket camera on fence posts…

I should note, at this point, that I never ventured into any buildings.  I realize I could have paid some bucks and went up the elevators in the Tower, but I’ve done stuff like that before.  I pay the money, get to the top of the tower, say, “Wow.  Breathtaking,” and then try and figure out how to get back down.

I also decided that if I set foot inside any museums I’d probably spend my entire 4 days indoors.  So, I just looked in from the outside.

On Wednesday I had no real plan so I just went walking.  As I walked I discovered an interesting way to discreetly take pictures with my cell phone so I decided to make Wednesday the day of the people. 


As I  was walking along I also saw a McDonalds so I had to stop in.  I’ve now eaten at McDonalds in Amsterdam, Berlin, Milan and Paris.   image


You can see all my pictures here:

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gay Paree: The Arrival

I think it’s about time I quit procrastinating and get this thing written before I forget what happened.  I’ve been home from Paris for almost 2 weeks now.  If you’ve been following my various other shenanigans in Europe, this may be a bit of a let down.  I didn’t really do anything “exciting” in Paris.  I took a lot of pictures and I made a few observations.  I’m torn between making this an opinionated piece or a story.  I’ve kind of decided to do both in a most random fashion.


I took a 3 hour train ride from Karlsruhe to Paris.  A friend of mine lives near Karlsruhe and I went and helped throw a birthday party for his wife.  Okay.  That’s not entirely true.  They threw the party.  I just observed.  Karlsruhe and the surrounding cities are in the black forest area of Germany (Schwarz Wald).  It’s very pretty.  He actually lives in Neuenbürg (I believe).  As you can see, I’m not always 100% sure of the facts.  I think it snowed ten inches the day after I left.

He warned me about the strikes happening in France, but I decided to risk it anyway.  I arrived at the Gare de l’Est train station in Paris at about 8:30 PM.  It was dark and cold so I decided to forego my rule of attempting to take public transportation and just went to the cab line.  It’s the first time in my life I’ve had to wait in line for a cab.  Someone told me later that it was because of the strike (that I had to wait in line).

There were already some interesting people in line.  A quite attractive woman stood right in front of me.  While standing in line I saw movement to my left and a person in a “hoodie” approaching my location…

I didn’t think much of it, but then they started whispering to me in French.  I thought it was a guy at first, but when I looked up I realized it was a woman.  She wasn’t entirely unattractive, but she had that piercing through the bridge of her nose and those things always make me mentally wince.  I don’t know why.  Okay, I do know why.  I told her I don’t speak French and she translated to English, but not very good.  She wanted money for something.  I couldn’t determine if she was going to give me favors for a euro of if she wanted a euro for drugs or if she wanted a euro for food.  I chose to pretend I didn’t have any euro’s.  It was kind of disconcerting thinking, You know, if I met this person in a bar I’d offer to buy her a drink and here she is begging for money.  At least I think she was begging.  It’s probably good I ignored.

After she left I saw a man, a woman and a woman with a walker cruising down the roadway.  They proceeded to go to the front of the cab line.  I’m thinking this is just some kind of French law.  If you need assistance walking then you go to the front of the line.  I’m not real sure about all this, but it was my first observance of inconsiderate French people and considerate French people and a puzzling mystery.  The group of 3 went to the front of the line and waited for the next cab. 

The next cab arrived and these 3 people had so many bags that they couldn’t get them all in the cab.  The lady with the walker was already sitting in the back of the cab so chaos ensued.  The man in the party of 3 proceeded to have a heated discussion with the cab driver.  Not able to speak French, but just observing the gyrations and the situation I surmised that the cabby was telling him that there was no way he could get all their luggage in the trunk so they’d have to wait for a larger cab.  Being that the handicapped woman was already sitting in the back of the cab, she was not budging.  Her butt was apparently permanently welded to the seat of the cab that wasn’t big enough for the luggage.

Finally, the guy got out of the cab and removed half the luggage and let the two ladies have the cab (the handicapped lady and the other lady).  As soon as he got out (about ten minutes after the fiasco began), a van cab pulled up that could have easily transported them all.  I accidentally laughed.  The good looking lady in front of me turned around and smiled at me.  I have that affect on people.  Then the most incredible thing happened.

The two ladies pulled away in their cab and the lone man took the van cab by himself.  If I had been able to speak French I would have muttered “stupid inconsiderate moron” loud enough for him to hear.  I had been waiting for about 20 minutes at that point.

Finally, it was my turn for a cab.  I knew I was quite a ways from my hotel and I was kind of worried that he’d tell me he couldn’t go that far or something.  I had the hotel address and I just gave it to him while trying to explain I didn’t speak French.  He got the idea and took me away.  I’m fairly certain he really spoke very little English.  I know French people have the reputation of not speaking English because they don’t want to.  But, I don’t see how he could have sat there straight faced as I told him all my good English jokes if he was pretending not to understand.

photo - Median ChâtillonThe hotel I picked was Hotel Median Chatillon.  I picked it because of the price and because it was close to a Metro station.  I knew I could walk to the Metro station and quickly get to downtown Paris where all the touristy stuff is.  When you select a hotel on the Internet and book it, they never tell you that the entire road in front of the hotel is under construction.  It made for a very unpleasant environment, but since I had already paid for the week with a non-refundable pre pay kind of thing.  I was stuck.image

The bed was the hardest bed I’ve ever “attempted” to sleep on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Google Blunder

I'm having some problems with my Google account.  Today, I almost wasn't able to get into my blog.  It seems they are starting to require a gmail account to access my Google account, but I don't have a gmail account.

I created a gmail account, but my gmail account has no affiliation with my Google account.

I figured out a way to bypass it for now, but somehow I need to figure out a way to give my blog to my gmail account.  This, then, opens up a whole slew of issues regarding adsense and various other utilities that are currently associated with my Google account which I'm going to have to quit using or somehow move to my gmail account.  I'm loving Google today¡  They have made me quite happy¡

All they have to do is allow me to associate a gmail address with my Google account and all would be right with the world.  For reasons that are only partially my fault, I can't do it.

I fear that if I don't get the situation rectified soon I will be locked out of my blog and the sadness will bring tears to millions.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back from Europe

In case any of you in my humble blogdom were unaware, I have returned from my 5 week stay in Europe.  I'm going to try to increase my blogging output to maybe twice a week.  I've gotten rather lazy as I succumbed to the Euro way of life with the Frenchman on strike because they are being forced to work an extra 2 years before retirement.

Anyway, I have some stories to tell about my trip to Paris.  I'm debating on just telling each rather boring day at a time (Sunday through Wednesday).  Or doing categories like my thoughts on the people, the socialism, the capitalism, the strike and the android.  Or maybe I'll just cram it all into one huge 500 word essay.  Once I finish debating with myself I'll post it (either as a series or a single post).

Monday, October 18, 2010

10 Days Ago in Frankfurt

I’ve been trying to set aside 2 hours to write my blogs.  My last couple of stories have been heralded as my best work ever by my blogging instructor.  Notice that it’s my best work ever.  You can say that and it still may barely be bearable.

Anyway, in my desperate attempt to keep the chain of best bloggings going, I’ve been waiting until I have time before actually writing.  I decided today, that this will never happen.

Today was my second day in Paris and I’ve just now decided to write about Frankfurt before I forget what’s left of the portion I remember.  But, I don’t have 2 hours to set aside.  But, without further ado...

A colleague of mine from work picked me up at my lovely hotel at 4 o’clock.  We were to be at another colleague’s house at 5 o’clock for BBQ and beer and who knows what else.

I remember being picked up.  I remember going to the store and buying some red evil feminine looking liquor (sorry for any redundancy).

We’ll call our host Marcel.  I don’t know if it is spelled correctly, but it’s a good name.  I don’t know how to spell his girlfriend’s name, but we’ll call her Andrea. 

We arrived at Marcel’s house and Andrea met me at the door with a friendly face and a mischievous smile.  I already knew Marcel had a bit of a mischievous sense of humor so I knew I was in trouble.  10 seconds in and I was already a little bit nervous.

Marcel offered me a hefeweizen.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you may be seeing an uncommon common denominator.  I drank a liter.

Then Marcel decided I was drinking too much beer and needed to slow down so I’d have room for BBQ.  This sounded like a good plan!  So, he started pouring Cola Lights (Diet Coke to you Americans) and rum.  This was frightening, but they were all younger than me so I had to show no fear lest I become “the old man”.

Sometime during all of this Andrea’s friend showed up.  Andrea was scared her English would not be good enough to keep up (or something) so she invited a friend over who I think could speak English.  But, her friend was more there to keep Andrea company in case “the three guys” went off on some English speaking tangent or something.  I think. 

We should call her friend Natascha.  Natascha was quite attractive and she smiled at all my witty jokes even though she pretended not to speak English.

Finally, we ate.  I remember enjoying the food.  Some good sausages with cheese if I recall correctly.  Once everyone finished eating the evil red bottle was opened and shots were poured.  I don’t know how many shots were poured.  I know at least 2.

I have this mode.  It’s a self defense mechanism.  When I’ve gone beyond the point of witty into the point of obnoxious belligerence, I flip this little switch in my head that makes me quit talking and go into “autopilot”.

When the decision was made that we had spent enough time at the house and it was time to go to Frankfurt.  I had already hit the switch.  I was in full autopilot.

Rumor has it that I walked in straight lines and I didn’t hit anyone, but I didn’t talk much either.

I vaguely remember walking to a cab station and waiting for a cab that could hold 5.

I remember going to an appropriately named rock club called, “The Final Destination”.  I remember someone buying me a Long Island Iced Tea.  I remember thinking about hitting the person.  I remember dancing to some Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson or something.  It was good for me.

I didn’t hit anyone.  Later we went to an Irish bar and this person that ordered me the tea got a drink called, “Cinderella”.  I laughed at him for 20 minutes.  He’s a big guy and I was picturing size 12 glass slippers.

Next day, I found pictures on my phone.  Here they are, in the order that I think I remember…


Cinderella’s on the right.


The beginning of the end.


Sorry about the blur.  But honestly, I don’t know how anyone expected me to take a picture without blur.


Waiting for the first Taxi (I think).


I am kind of embarrassed by this picture.  I don’t remember anyone taking it.  From looking at the picture now, I believe that this is how Cinderella convinced me to drink the Long Island Iced Tea without getting hit.