I never fail to be surprised at the things that will make me gasp or shriek - because even I cannot predict my own reactions sometimes. Most recently, I was a tad startled when I found myself shouting out a "YAY!" of happiness while sitting alone in my office at work and coming across this photo from the set of Indiana Jones 4 - showing Harrison Ford once again in the "Indy get-up." Isn't it awesome?
The movie, which does not have a finalized title yet (Indiana Jones 4 is just the working title), is currently shooting in New Haven, Connecticut. They have transformed parts of the town to look like the year is 1957, and supposedly it's pretty cool. It is also rumored that they will be filming in Hawaii.
Cate Blanchett, John Hurt and Shia La Boeuf join the cast this time around, but Sean Connery is out - "enjoying retirement too much" to come back to work, even for Indy, he stated.
Less than 9 months to go!
Friday, June 29, 2007
I never fail to be surprised at the things that will make me gasp or shriek - because even I cannot predict my own reactions sometimes. Most recently, I was a tad startled when I found myself shouting out a "YAY!" of happiness while sitting alone in my office at work and coming across this photo from the set of Indiana Jones 4 - showing Harrison Ford once again in the "Indy get-up." Isn't it awesome?
Last weekend, I was re-watching the "Lost" finale and accidentally hit the "Live TV" button on the Tivo remote control. What popped up on-screen just so happened to be a replay of Matt Lauer's interview with Prince William and Prince Harry, which I had forgotten to record when it originally aired. It was fate that I hit the "Live TV" button! I then quickly pressed the red "Record" button to capture the show before returning to "Lost."
I was so curious to watch the interview with the princes that I stayed up way past my bedtime to do so that same night. Like many people, I remember where I was when I heard that Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, had died, and I remember that my first thought was of the young princes - my heart broke for them. I cried and cried and cried. My dad just so happened to be in London that week and he took pictures of Kensington Palace - the entire lawn, the gates, the trees... EVERYWHERE there were flowers, stuffed animals, pictures of Diana - knee-deep in some places. I was there exactly one year later, and the outpouring was still overwhelming - the entire gate and front area of the Palace were covered with flowers and the crowd was still quite large - with many people crying. I also saw Mohamed Al Fayed (Dodi's father) during a dedication ceremony at Harrod's (which he owns) of a memorial to the couple. Today at Harrod's there is a statue of both of them, entitled "Innocent Victims."
Having read so much about Prince William and Harry in the past ten years, I feel oddly protective of them. I know that's silly because I don't KNOW them... I've never met them and I never will (and I'm not even British, though I think I was in a past life...), but I'm sure I'm not the only one who wishes the best for them. We've all seen them grow up in front of the cameras that it's hard not to have any interest in how they're doing. And that topic was much of the focus on Matt Lauer's interview: how does it feel to be them, and to live in the public eye constantly?
What I could gather from their responses was that since the princes have really never known anything other than paparazzi covering every move they make, they have made peace with it. They know that their mother "hated the cameras," and the irony that she died being chased by photographers is not lost on them. But they have taken in the high road in how they deal with the media - they claim not to read any of the tabloids because it's not worth the frustration, and they are surprisingly understanding about the public's obsession with Diana and the mysteries surrounds her death. I have to say that overall, I was extremely impressed by both of them. One thing that struck me as I watched the show was that I've never really heard them speak - to it was almost strange to hear their voices. It's really just been picture after picture after picture for nearly two decades since they were born, but they rarely give interviews. So it was cool to see a bit more of their personality - they were constantly poking fun at one another but were well-spoken and mature. I felt proud of them in the same strange way that I feel protective of them.
Their attempt to "control" the media and the messages that surround the tenth anniversary of their mother's death (on August 31st) has resulted in the Concert for Diana, slated for this Sunday (which would've been Diana's 46th birthday) at Wembley Stadium, a little outside of London. Everyone from Duran Duran to Kanye West to Rod Stewart will be performing (and even Fergie - see, the Royal Family loves guilty pleasures as well!) As William and Harry stated in a joint interview they gave about the event late last year, they want the concert to be a celebration of her life, and the "best birthday present" she'd ever had. I have no doubt that it will be.
The Concert for Diana will also be telecast by dozens of broadcasters around the world, including NBC and VH1 in the United States, BBC1 in the United Kingdom, RTL 2 in Germany, and Nine Network in Australia.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Yesterday, I took a break during lunch and walked to a nearby gardener's market to pick up some flower bouquets. It was hot and muggy, and partially cloudy - but overall, it was a nice day outside (remember: I LOVE the heat!). The Man does not provide me with a window in my office - so I just assumed that the weather remained kind of sunny for the rest of the day.
But I was mistaken. There were flash floods in the Chicago area for a few hours in the late afternoon, as I learned when my friend came to pick me up from work to go to dinner. After a nice meal, I took a cab home and immediately knew something was wrong as I walked toward my place.
EVERY SINGLE owner of a condo on my block was standing outside, and many were crowded around a guy wearing a Department of Water Management uniform.
I busted through our front door and yelled to see if my husband (who had been home for at least an hour) had bothered to look downstairs. "No, why?" was the reply. I hurriedly explained that everyone's place on our street had flooded... and then we both went downstairs, bracing for the worst. At first, all seemed to be well. There was nothing we could SEE that was wrong. I made my way to the back guest room, while my husband inspected the front room.
"YEP, there's something!" he hollered and I ran to join him. He was walking around on our carpet near the furnace room, and I could hear a sloshing sound with each step. We opened the furnace closet door and lo and behold, there was a dirty brown mess of dried up water all over the floor. Awwwww, CRAP!!!!
Needless to say, Tuesday night sucked. There were essentially two rectangles of damage - one in the back-half of our TV room (luckily all furniture was spared) and the other down our hallway. We spent hours pulling up the carpeting, peeling off the sopping wet padding and throwing it away, and then draping the carpet over various folding tables and chairs to get the airing-out process started. We bought two extra fans from Walgreens, bringing us to a total of four fans strategically placed to blow over the most carpet possible. The dehumidifier was set to run non-stop, the air conditioning was also turned to run constantly, and we called it a (late) night.
The morning alarm came waaaaay too early. I had an 8:30 meeting where all of my fellow employees looked at me with pity as I explained my plight. Which of course comes on the heels of my kitchen being flooded just over a month ago. TO ALL THOSE WHO DO NOT OWN A PLACE - keep renting! You will miss the building's repair man when you don't have one at your beck and call anymore!!!!
After putting in some more time for The Man, I called a friend whose place flooded last night, too (the third time she's had to deal this situation). She recommended a carpet company for me to call to see if they would put down new padding and re-lay the carpet. I called them, while my husband called Home Depot. My husband reported back that Home Depot wouldn't re-lay "damaged" carpeting. The place my friend recommended took down all my information and said they'd call back. I wasn't holding my breath.
I then decided to try Home Depot myself. Someone who sounded half-dead answered the phone. I explained the situation, and then she said, "Lemmetransferyoutothacarpetspecialist."
Hold music, hold music.
Finally a young man picked up.
"HELLO???" he yelled, accusingly but yet disinterestedly.
"Ummm... is this the carpet specialist?"
"Who is it that I'm speaking with?"
"Be for real."
"What? I mean, what is your name?"
"My name is B 4 Real, ma'am."
I then proceeded to tell B 4 Real my problem, but I have to admit, it is REALLY hard to expect that you're going to be given great service by a guy named B 4 Real, much like it's hard to take him seriously. He immediately cut me off and said, "We don't do that. We don't touch carpet that's already had wear and tear. You can buy NEW carpet, though..."
Of course. They want you to spend thousands when all the carpet needs is a steam cleaning...
"I don't get it - my friend's done this three times."
"Had her same carpet re-attached three times after getting water damage, and it's been fine."
"I don't know what to tell you - that's crazy."
"What if I don't need any warranty or guarantee?"
"We're not going to do it. Good luck!" And he laughed as he hung up.
Is it wrong that I want to go to the store just to see B 4 Real in person? And to ask if that's his birth name or if he just "goes" by that?
Around 1 PM, I checked the weather forecast and sat frozen in horror as the graphic for "thunderstorms" popped up for the late afternoon. I decided to head home so that I could hopefully prevent any further damage if things started backing up again.
Luckily, the company who I called in the morning DID call me back, and said that they would be right over to give a quote - so I was happy that I was already en route home. The carpet company representative arrived, took stock of the damage, and said it would be $400.
"Just make me feel better and tell me that you've seen worse," I pleaded.
"Oh, I've seen MUCH worse," he said, nodding his head.
Now the clock is ticking on when the carpeting will be completely dry, as it is set to be put back down a few days from now. Then we need to get it deep cleaned and that needs to dry before three of our good friends arrive for the 4th of July! Wish us luck.
As I wrap up this post, the skies have turned darker.... nooooooo!
Monday, June 25, 2007
Have you ever been outright ashamed by a "guilty pleasure" of yours? Something that you know is just really stupid, but for whatever reason, you just like it?
I rarely get embarrassed by anything, and don't really care that everyone knows that I love(d) 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, or Milli Vanilli (went to TWO of their concerts)! Nor would I mind if anyone knew that I love the movie "Xanadu," still watch "The Real World" even though I'm in my 30s, and would read Star magazine over anything serious any day of the week.
But this morning as I was walking to the El, I realized that I have finally found something to be ashamed of... the fact that I have downloaded/purchased not one, not two, but THREE of Fergie's songs (even more if you count Black-Eyed Peas songs).
Fergie has many, many qualities that I do not like:
1) She used to be a crystal meth addict
2) Her eyebrows are extremely strange
3) She has a boyfriend (Josh Duhamel from 'Las Vegas') who is way too cute for her
4) She acts about 10 years younger than she actually is and gets away with it
5) Her lyrics are utterly stupid
Yet, I have downloaded "London Bridge," "Fergalicious," and just yesterday, "Big Girls Don't Cry."
Why, God, whyyyyyy have you cursed me to like these songs? At least I didn't give money to support the train wrecks that were "My Humps" and "Glamorous."
Anyway, I think I figured out why I like these songs... they are all very good for work-outs - they have good beats that make you want to pick up the pace. And as Fergie herself says, "I'll be UP at the gym, just workin' on my fitness!"
In addition to that extremely deep line, here are some of my other favorites:
From 'London Bridge':
As the drinks start pouring,
And my speech start slurring,
Everybody start looking real good!
T to the A, to the S-T-E-Y, girl, you tastey!
(That's right friends, tasty is now spelled with an e, get used to it!)
From 'Big Girls Don't Cry':
And I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket...
but it gets better:
Like a little school mate in a school yard,
We'll play jacks and Uno cards
First off, I guess I should have some sort of respect for the fact that Fergie brought UNO into a song?!?! I mean, it is a good game. But really, it's kind of strange to have in a song, don't you think?
I have come to peace with the fact that I like these songs. I don't LIKE that I like these songs, but I cannot deny my enjoyment when I listen to them on the way to or from work.
And guess what? You have a song that YOU like that is just as bad, I guarantee it!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
After attending the impressive Fab Four concert and then enjoying an excellent meal at Tao, our Saturday night in Vegas was topped off with a visit to the Wynn casino to see "La Reve." I had wanted to go to this show last year, but it had just opened and was sold out. "La Reve" is a creation of Franco Dragone, who also produced Celine Dion's "A New Day" concert that's been running for years at Caesar's Palace and is now in its final days. I went to that show last year despite the fact that I cannot stand Celine. I knew it was going to be much more than a concert, and it was - it was absolutely amazing. So I had high expectations for "La Reve," and it did not disappoint.
Like Cirque du Soleil's "O" (housed in the Bellagio), "La Reve" is a water-based performance. Whereas "O" has its stage at the front of the theater, "La Reve" has its focal point in the center of an auditorium, and all seats surround it. Its web site describes the show as an "intimate experience," and I definitely agree with that - there's not a bad seat in the house and it does not feel like you are in a gigantic theater. But looks can be deceiving, as the sets are wildly complicated -- the floors rise, the ceiling opens, and people (and doves) are flying all over the place. There are also huge video screens lining the uppermost part of the theater walls, which add to the effect of each act in the show. If there's one thing Dragone rocks at, it's his videos. At the Celine show, the entire wall behind Celine was a video screen, and it was utterly breath-taking -- at times it appeared that everything was floating in space, or that a huge tree was growing right on the stage.
With "La Reve," besides the fact that it is always cool (to me, at least), to see people flying around in the sky and then dropping from really high above your head into a gaping pool, I also liked that it had somewhat of a comprehensible story line. "La Reve" means "the dream" in French, and sure enough, the show started off with a couple ending a date, the woman went off to bed... and then a whole bunch of freaky people showed up and she was immersed in her dream for the rest of the time.
I enjoyed this show and would recommend it. I still think "Ka" is the best show I've seen in Vegas, and I think "O" is a bit more impressive than "La Reve," but I wouldn't necessarily say that it was better. The strange thing about going to "La Reve" was that only about half the theater was full, and it was a Saturday night?!? I've NEVER seen a not-full theater for any show I've been to in Vegas, so that isn't a good sign. They probably need to lower the prices...
The first two rows are the "splash zone," so take heed if you go. e's always lookin' out for ya!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Anyway... despite our reservations, we waited at least 20 minutes, which is what you just need to expect anytime you try to go somewhere "hip." It wouldn't be a hip place if they didn't make you want it really badly! So I had a "Tao-tini" at the bar, which was tasty. I also grabbed a small handful of what I thought was something OTHER than wasabi-encrusted nuts from a bowl in front of me. Lesson learned there - Hot, hot hot!
We were seated on the third level, looking down on two other floors of trendy diners. My husband commented, "This is definitely a girly-place." He was right - it was probably 70% women (and many all-women tables and bachelorette parties) in the restaurant. My theory was that it was because all women read the gossip magazines, see Tao constantly mentioned and then think they're going to see a bunch of celebrities if they go there - just like I had assumed.
Despite the lack of famous faces, we still had a nice meal - edamame, four large sushi rolls and an excellent molten chocolate dessert. If a place has an all-chocolate option on the dessert menu, then I will be a fan - it's about as simple as that.
The next night, we went with a group to Samba, a Brazilian restaurant located in the Mirage. While it was much, much smaller than the typical Brazilian steakhouse, the heart of the experience was still the same. Waiters constantly circle the floor with huge skewers of every type of meat imaginable, and if anyone at your table wants more, you have an indicator at your table that you flip to GREEN and the food will keep coming. Once you think you are going to throw up, you flip the indicator to RED. Every Brazilian steakhouse has some version of this tool - when I was in a "real" Churrascaria in Rio de Janeiro, they had this little sign with a cartoon pig that you kept in front of you - a happy pig with a green background kept the waiters running to your table, a sick-looking pig with a red background earned you some respite. A few guys I was with at that time had a "meat-off" to see who could eat the most... and let's just say that ALL of us got ill watching them stuff themselves for hours with hunks of meat. Nas-tay!
Back to Samba... it didn't have a lot of the traditional aspects you would come to expect if you've been to a few of these types of restaurants. There was no long, winding salad bar. In fact, there wasn't a salad bar at all - a salad bowl was passed amongst the group at the beginning of the meal, and that was it. They also didn't serve any of the little bread roll thingys that I came to love while in Brazil. I don't know what they're called, but they even serve them at McDonald's down there!
But what I did eat there - turkey wrapped in bacon, many kinds of steak, and chicken - was excellent, and everyone else in the group had their fill and was satisfied.
Which way to the gym?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
When I was in Vegas last spring with my parents and Grandma, I found out about a Beatles tribute show at the Aladdin - 'The Fab Four.' I went by myself (my parents were not interested: "They just keep repeating the same thing over and over again!") and loved it, and since my husband is also a big Beatles fan, I figured that we should go together (and for me, again) this past weekend.
Luckily, this show is never sold out, and therefore you can always get half-priced tickets the day of (but they don't play on Fridays) - so that's what we did - $26 a ticket, not bad for Vegas... But when you get to the "V" theater in what is now the mall of Planet Hollywood (bye bye, Aladdin) and realize that you are herded in to a small room with folding chairs, you'll be glad you took my advice and didn't pay full price!
While my view was partially obstructed by a big column in the middle of the room (I oh-so-unselfishly gave my husband the better spot as I had seen the show before), overall we had decent seats. Before the show, they put Beatles trivia questions up on a few screens around the room. I knew I had a major freak sitting directly behind me when the first question, "Where did the Beatles grow up?" came on and the guy screamed: "LIIVVEERRRPPOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLL!!!!!" like his life depended on it.
First off, "Duh!" Second, another choice (yeah, the quiz was multiple choice on top of being easy) was "Las Vegas," so it's not like this was a qualifier for MENSA or something.
"Who was the Beatles manager that died from an accidental prescription drug overdose?" "BRIIIIIAAAANNN EPPPPSSTEEEEIIIINNNNN!!!!"
This was just a game to pass the time before the show, but the guy behind me was in it for blood. About half-way through, he complained aloud, "Man, I wish we were playing for something, I would totally win this!" However, the lack of a prize, much less of any recognition whatsoever, didn't stop him from continuing to shout answers at the top of his lungs.
At 6 p.m. the show began. While I would be able to tell if a Beatles cover band was REALLY BAD, I would never know if they weren't using the right instruments and I certainly wouldn't catch whether or not they were nailing small musical details embedded in songs. If they sound even the slightest bit like the Beatles, can fake a British accent and wear good wigs, I will be a happy girl. I even forgave the fact that, when I saw the Beatles Brunch at Dick's Last Resort a few months ago, the guy playing Paul McCartney was Indian?!?! But my husband (and apparently the guy behind me) knew all the things to look for, and after the first song, both he and Trivia Guy exclaimed, "Wow."
Throughout the show my husband continued to be impressed. Apparently the band used all of the same guitars as the "real band" did for every single song, on top of playing songs that are hardly ever attempted by cover bands - like 'Penny Lane' and 'A Day in the Life.' I dare say that this concert was the highlight of our trip for him.
At the end of an hour and 15 minutes or so, the show was over, and I finally had a chance to glance back at Trivia Guy. He was NOT what I expected in the least! Very punk-rock looking, appeared to have on make-up, wore a leather jacket, had spiked hair... one of those people whose voice does not fit what he looks like. I thought I was going to be staring at some dorky middle-aged guy yearning to still be cool, but I didn't know what in the heck to make of Trivia Guy once I saw him. But I was glad that he, too, loved the show. If you are a Beatles fan, I highly recommend The Fab Four show, but you should still try for the half-priced tickets at Tix 4 Tonight.
Beatlemania continued the next night when we saw 'Love' by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage. We were in the second row, and other people we were traveling with were in the ultimate last row. Shortly after buying our tickets a few months ago, we learned from a friend who had been to the show that it is actually much better to sit as far back as possible. Curses!!! I have to agree with his insight after seeing the show myself. There are many visual effects that simply cannot be appreciated from a lower vantage point, not to mention the fog machines constantly blowing in our faces. So heed my warning - if you go to 'Love' - sit the farthest back (ultimately the center section, last row) that you can - you will get the best view in the house for about half the price! Then you can write and thank e for cluing you in!
Regarding the show itself... I think I had my expectations set too high. I had heard from several people that it was incredible, I had seen promising clips on the web site, and had purchased and memorized the soundtrack eight months ago. Plus, I have seen several other Cirque du Soleil shows so I had a lot to compare "Love" to... and the thing is, it just didn't really seem like a Cirque du Soleil show! I was expecting people flying all over the place and crazy stunts and impossibly limber people making my mouth drop open... and while there was a little of that, the show was by and large more of an interpretation of Beatles' songs rather than an acrobatic spectacle. Don't get me wrong, it was a great show and I will probably see it again (if for nothing else then to experience it from a better view), but I think I was more awed by 'O' (Bellagio) and 'Ka' (MGM Grand). 'Ka' remains my favorite show to date.
Things I actually liked BETTER about 'Love' than any of the other shows is that I actually knew what in the hell was going on for once... each song had dance numbers or stunts that were clearly inspired by the lyrics. For example, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" had a woman (presumably Lucy) whizzing all around in the air and the theater was all dark and there appeared to be a whole bunch of sparkling diamonds floating around. I GET IT, YAY! I prefer that to scary clowns and angry-looking bald dudes engaged in some inexplicable battle that is set to fairly crappy music and lyrics you can't understand any day. They also showed a lot of clips of the Beatles themselves, as well as audio of the band talking in recording sessions.
If you would like to see some of the show for yourself, visit this site and click on either Low or High Res in the upper right, and a bunch of highlight clips will load. My favorite performance of the show was "Octopus's Garden," which is interesting because that is not a song I would typically seek out to listen to, but what they did with it was very cool and fun.
There are very few bands in the world-- in fact, I can think of no other besides The Beatles, that could have a show like this pack a multi-million-dollar theater in Vegas night after night (the one-year anniversary is June 26th), and I would bet that every person in the auditorium had a great time. So if you want a very spot-on Beatles experience in Vegas, go to The Fab Four show, and if you want a surreal tribute, go to 'Love.' And if you're like me and really love John, Paul, George and Ringo - then do both.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
If I claimed to be a huge Jimmy Buffett fan, I would probably run the risk of offending REAL parrotheads. I've never been to one of his concerts, I've never read one of his books, and I know none of his songs outside of the "Songs You Know By Heart" greatest hits album. If fact, I'm probably a "real" Jimmy Buffett fan's worst nightmare. But I still really, really like the guy (from what I know of him), and "Songs You Know By Heart" would definitely make the list of items I would want with me on a desert island - so that has to count for something, right?
When I was in Key West during Spring Break 1994, I sought out his restaurant and ordered a Cheeseburger in Paradise. Unfortunately, the place was kind of a dump (at that point in time... I've never been back, but I have a feeling it must be nicer now), and I lost my appetite after seeing huge cockroaches scurrying down the hall near the bathroom.
That didn't stop me, however, from checking out the Margaritaville restaurant in Las Vegas last year. In fact, hours before flying back to Chicago, I literally ran there by myself and drank a frozen margarita alone just to be able to say I'd been there - how's that for dedication?
This past weekend, I had a chance to visit the restaurant properly, and not a moment too soon. We were making our way back to our hotel (The Paris) from the Wynn, and in the 110-degree weather, I was about to keel over. As The Venetian is adding on a huge new wing and is therefore generating major construction, there is no option but to walk outside on the pavement in full-on sun for about 10 minutes. By the time we got to Margaritaville, I was positive I had lost ten pounds in sweat alone.
There was a 35-minute wait (at 2 PM on a Friday?) and the bar area was PACKED, but because I am an EXCELLENT stalker, I moved in within milliseconds on a table at the bar that was leaving, much to the chagrin of a not-quite-as-aggressive couple who had been waiting much longer than we had. Too bad, suckas!
Once we were seated with frozen margaritas in hand, the world became a much happier place. While I didn't get the Cheeseburger in Paradise this time around, my husband did - and as you can see above, it comes complete with Heinz 57, French Fried Potatoes and a Big Kosher Pickle. If you like Jimmy Buffett in the slightest, and/or if you like frozen margaritas (they truly are better there, no lie), then I highly recommend a stop at Margaritaville... they are in cities all over the place, not just Vegas and Key West. Attached to the restaurant is a store of related merchandise (of course) and there are some great finds in there. My husband had to drag me away from the "Yes, I am a pirate!" wall hanging. Since I'm still thinking about it, that signals to me that next time we visit, I definitely need to buy it!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Hello my dear friends -
I am back from Vegas, which means that I didn't win it big and then triumphantly quit working for The Man this morning. I lost $60 (spread across three Wheel of Fortune twenty-five cent slot machines at three different casinos) - but luckily my husband won that and a little more back in blackjack right before we left.
Our Vegas exploits will be covered over a series of posts in the coming weeks, but the first thing I must mention was the ungodly heat. I should preface this tirade with the fact that I LOVE heat. Have you ever played the game with your friends where you ask them dumb questions like, "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?" or "If you had to be a liquid, solid or gas, what would you be?" Well, my answer to "If you HAD to be either too hot or too cold for the rest of your life, which would you pick?" is certainly "I'd rather be too hot." I can stand extreme heat - I don't know why. Whenever relatives visit Chicago in the summer and I am running them all over the place and everyone is sweating buckets, I am not fazed in the slightest. I hate air conditioning, I always carry a wrap or a fleece with me, and am rarely not cold, even in the depths of summer. I met my match in Southeast Asia a few years ago - Thailand and Singapore were two places where the heat (mostly because of the humidity) was nearly unbearable. But then I went to Las Vegas in mid-June.
I'm not sure if you can make it out, but the picture in this post is of the outside temperature as recorded in our friend's rental car.
Yes, it reads 110 degrees.
110 degrees has officially become my heat tolerance level. In fact, it's actually more like 105, because Saturday and Sunday hovered around that temperature, and it was still too much for me. All weekend, even when booking it between casinos right next to each other on the Strip, my skin felt like it was being seared off and I became faint after minutes. Good thing Margaritaville is strategically placed in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
On Monday, I got to O'Hare in Chicago a bit early, and was all excited to get a seat via standby on a flight that was leaving about an hour earlier than my booked flight. How naive! I forgot that NO TRIP will EVER go smoothly when both O'Hare and LaGuardia are involved.
I boarded the earlier flight at 2 PM, and after everyone was seated and we were awaiting take-off, the pilot came over the loudspeaker and announced that there were substantial air traffic control issues in New York at the moment, and we had been instructed that we could not leave for another hour. However, they of course HAD to push the plane away from the gate in order to make room for the next incoming flight... or, as some more cynical travelers would say, to still show an "on-time" departure. That's right, all that counts in the airline's statistics they like to tout is the time that the plane left the gate, not the time the flight actually goes "wheels up."
So, there we all sat on the plane in some little corner of the runway grounds for an hour. It was at this point in time that I wished I had brought some food with me. I had been so excited about getting an earlier flight to NYC and therefore being able to meet a friend for dinner that I forgot to have a Plan B. Critical error!
Eventually we took off, and when the stewardesses came down the aisles with drinks, I chose to spend/waste $3 on a jumbo pack of M&Ms "just in case." And then I promptly ate 2/3rds of the bag. Plus a cup of tea. The combination of those two caffeinated items made me nauseous, so I had THAT goin' for me, which was nice.
To add to my nauseousness, the plane started making fairly tight circles in the air... which was shortly to be explained by the pilot, who came over the speaker again and said that we had now been told to remain in a holding pattern in the air until further notice, because there were still air traffic issues over LaGuardia.
Less than a half-hour later, we heard his voice again. It's NEVER a good sign when the pilot's speech starts out with, "Well folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but..."
The "bad news" was that we were running out of fuel. ?!?! What?!?! Nevermind wondering how that could be possible when the flight was fairly short... it didn't matter. They stated that we had no choice but to land in Hartford, Connecticut. So... I knew that was going to tack at least an hour on to the travel time, and I was now REALLY mad at myself that I didn't bring any food with me.
The guy next to me was freaking out because he needed to be at a meeting for work that evening. The woman on the other side of me (oh, yeah... I had the MIDDLE seat, too!) didn't speak English and kept trying to ask me in Spanish what was going on, but I don't think she understood my feeble attempt at an explanation. The couple two rows behind me had a two-year-old who screamed at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason. It wasn't crying, it was screaming. Even my iPod couldn't drown it out. You could sense the tension amongst the passengers!
When we landed in Hartford, we were informed that we were refueling at a terminal that was scheduled to be torn down, and therefore there were no food vendors open for us. That information just made me all the hungrier. We were also told, "You can get off the plane if you want to, but if you do, you're on your own." The guy sitting next to me decided to take that risk... he thought he was better off trying to find a rental car and driving to his destination. I hope it worked out for him! As he was gathering his things and exiting the plane, I froze in horror as it hit me that I FORGOT TO PACK MY SHOES that went with the suit I was going to wear. I was only going to be in NYC for one day, and the sole purpose of my trip was a press event early Tuesday morning. I knew there was now no way I would get to the city in time to find a shoe store... so as we could use cell phones while we were on the ground in Connecticut, I called the friend (Miss M) that I was going to meet for dinner that night and explained my predicament. Miracle of all miracles, she just so happened to be in front of a Banana Republic store when my call came in, and they just so happened to have a pair of black heels in my size that she found within 3 minutes. She bought them for me and a crisis was averted. Then I called a co-worker who had a flight from Chicago that was leaving about 3 hours after mine. She said that everything leaving Chicago was now delayed, including her flight, by three hours. No surprise there...
It was 4 hours after we had taken off from Chicago that we took off from Hartford and toward NYC. Finally we were cleared for landing in LaGuardia, and we touched down in New York... 3 hours late.
The highlight of the day was that I did get to see my friend, the shoes that she found for me would work, and we had a wonderful dinner and one of my favorite drinks in the world, the the Mata Hari, at Employees Only.
I got to my hotel around 10:15 PM... it was a five-star hotel (The Current Man is not as cheap as The Previous Man was, at least!), but the staff did not have their act together at all. The guy next to me at the check-in said that he lived at the hotel four days a week, and he didn't recognize any of the staff! He thought perhaps over the weekend they fired everyone and hired a new group of people?!?! Anyway, it took a full 20 minutes for me to get a room because they had to "find" one for me, because they were "kind of sold out." So much for the late arrival guarantee that was on my reservation...
Finally they located a room for me, which was a downgraded room ($60 less - still $600 though!) but they assured me I wouldn't notice. Damn straight I wouldn't notice because I was about to fall over from exhaustion! I checked to see if they still had my co-worker on the list of people who hadn't yet checked in, as I knew she would get in much later. They said she was on their list (but I later found out that she had the same sort of experience at check-in and ended up with a Smoking room, which is the worst).
Tuesday morning came very early. The work event went well, and I wanted to head to the airport early to avoid the domino effect of delayed flights that would inevitably happen once it hit evening time. I got back to LaGuardia and had a standby voucher for a 3:55 flight (my booked flight was at 4:45). But we all know that it couldn't have worked out for me, now could it? Actually, it worked out for very few people that night. Because of what appeared to be some dark clouds in the distance and a rain shower that lasted approximately 5 minutes, they started canceling flights out of LGA (and particularly those going to Chicago) left and right. All flights that were not canceled were pushed back to 6 PM.
Once you've traveled through LaGuardia more than, say, TWICE... you come to expect that you will be delayed at least two hours. There is no point in getting upset about something that neither you nor the gate agents can control. So, I changed into jeans, bought two gossip magazines featuring "Stars without Makeup" and "Stars who Beat Cellulite" and settled into a chair in the gate area with an Auntie Annie's hot pretzel.
Around this point in time I emailed a co-worker of mine from The Previous Man, who was also in NYC on business and supposed to fly back to Chicago that night. I forewarned him about the situation developing... and he checked his flight and sure enough, it had been canceled. He ended up getting rescheduled on a 6 AM flight Wednesday morning (which also got canceled... so he switched airlines and flew out that afternoon). The friend I had had dinner with the night before was now in Ohio... and her flight back to NYC was canceled, so she was stranded in Ohio. A current co-worker of mine was at a conference in Washington D.C. and her flight to Chicago ALSO got canceled, so she was stranded as well. Unbelievably, the flight I had originally booked was one of the only flights that ended up actually leaving LaGuardia that night. Once again, I got home a few hours late, but at least I got home!
What is the moral of this tale?
It is this:
Worst airport ever: LaGuardia!
Monday, June 11, 2007
I have survived the Megabus! I wish there was a t-shirt or something I could buy to proudly share this achievement with the world.
On Thursday I went from Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan on the bus... and on Sunday I came back. Here's the debrief:
On Thursday, although the bus was almost full, I lucked out and had no one sitting next to me. It must have been that "Stay away from me!" vibe that I was purposefully trying to emit. I was hoping I'd be able to read the approximately 30 pounds of magazines and books I had brought with me during the trip, but unfortunately the bus still felt very much like a car (probably bumpier, actually), and I was sure I would've gotten motion sickness so I made no attempt to crack anything open. Therefore, I fell asleep for the first two hours and listened to my iPod the rest of the trip (which was about 4.5 hours total) and did a lot of thinking. When we were only 1 hour away from Ann Arbor, the bus driver pulled into a truck stop/Hardee's/convenient store place and announced that we would be there for 30 minutes, and she would not wait for anyone if they weren't back in time. I was annoyed because we were so close to Ann Arbor, I didn't understand why we would stop at that point. But later I realized that there was a subset of travelers that were continuing on to Detroit, which was at least another hour past the Ann Arbor stop.
I've never eaten at Hardee's and wasn't about to start after checking out their fast-food menu and having some bizarre older trucker in the line ask me if he's seen me before. I said, "I don't think so..." and he said, "Don't you always come on the bus? I'm sure I've seen you!" After mumbling something in response, I discretely shuffled over to the convenient store part of the building, got an ice cream cookie sandwich and then retreated to the safety of the big blue bus.
We would have arrived on time, except that the bus driver got Exit 171 and 177 near Ann Arbor mixed up and we had to circle back around the highway for a half-hour. In general, though, it was a smooth trip.
On Sunday, I knew the bus was going to be packed because there were a TON of people waiting at the commuter lot in Ann Arbor, and that wasn't even counting the people who would have already been on the bus from Detroit. So, sure enough, I ended up sitting next to someone on the way back. We never even acknowledged each other... he had headphones on and a laptop open the entire trip, and I like to keep to myself anyway, so it was all good. I'm not sure if it was because the bus arrived about 15 minutes late to Ann Arbor or if it was left to the driver's discretion, but we did not make any stops on the way to Chicago, which I was happy about.
On the way to Ann Arbor I don't think the air conditioning was on at all, which was fine by me because I am always cold. However, the temperature on the bus got very chilly on the way to Chicago because the driver was cranking the air conditioning. I had been forewarned that this was sometimes the case, so I brought my fleece jacket and remained comfortable. But when the guy next to me was blowing air onto his hands and rubbing them together like people do in the winter, I knew that the bus was unusually cold and I was glad I had three layers on.
You can tell that the buses themselves are pretty old... but they are clean and fairly comfortable (a neck pillow would've been ideal, though... and several people brought their own). While I had heard that movies are aired during the ride, that wasn't the case for either leg of my trip. Which, once again, I thought was just as well.
For me, taking the Megabus rather than driving myself or taking Amtrak came down to time and money. You are not going to get a cheaper mode of transportation between Chicago and Ann Arbor than the Megabus, so that option wins the cost battle, hands down. I would also bet that the Megabus will always be closer to arriving on-time than Amtrak ever could or would be, based on experience. I can quickly get to and from the Megabus station (which is the same place as the train station) from my home or office, so that's better than needing to go to a rental car office and dealing with paperwork and getting keys and the car itself. Plus, you can't relax in the car if you are the one driving. So all in all, I'm happy that I now have the Megabus option for my trips to Michigan.
If I HAD to complain about anything, here's what I would forewarn future passengers about:
- The heat or lack thereof on the bus can be sporadic, so wear layers and bring a coat or blanket even if it is 90 degrees outside.
- Carry an iPod or headphones or earplugs if you are easily bothered by other people talking on cell phones or to each other, or by random things like the woman sitting in front of me on who cracked her gum for two hours straight.
- I personally do not think babies should be allowed on the Megabus. Am I discriminating against babies, you may ask? No, I am concerned for their safety... on a plane or on the train, there are never going to be harsh stops or quick changes of lanes like there is sometimes on the bus. The bus is essentially a large car, but someone else is driving it, you have no seatbelts, and there's really no place to go if you need to take care of a baby. But that didn't stop the couple who brought their baby on the bus to Chicago last night... this poor kid wailed nearly the entire time, and there was nothing the parents could do. Sure, that can still happen on a plane or train, but if I were those parents, I would've felt much safer with my child on a mode of transportation where I could at least get up and walk around to try and calm the baby down. There is literally no room and nowhere to go on the bus, and if you do attempt to stand, you will be tossed back and forth almost immediately, as I found out during the one time I made my way down the aisle to the small bathroom (which had no changing table... or sink) in the back of the bus. Don't put yourselves or other passengers through the stress of a 4.5 hours trip with a baby on the Megabus, that's my advice!
I'm off to NYC for The Man later today... the first time I've been back there since my last week with The Previous Man almost a year ago, so I am excited. More in a few days...
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Now that essentially all TV shows that I watch are off until the fall (or in Lost's and 24's case, the winter), I find myself with much more time on my hands both after work and on the weekends. I was curious as to just HOW much time I was spending (some would argue that it's time I'm wasting) on TV-related activities... so I added it up.
Everything I watch is Tivo-recorded and I either forward through commercials, or, in the case of shows like American Idol and SNL, forward through the majority of the show and just watch certain parts, hence the compressed times:
24 - 45 minutes
Lost blog - 2 hours
American Idol: 30 minutes
Lost blog - 3 hours
American Idol: 45 minutes
Lost - 1 hour
The Office: 22 minutes
The OC (series ended a few months ago): 45 minutes
Best Week Ever: 22 minutes
Saturday Night Live: 30 minutes
Lost blog: 5 hours
The Amazing Race: 45 minutes
Lost blog: 5 hours
Grand Total: Nearly 21 hours?!?!
For shame! And compared to a lot of people I know, I don't even watch that much TV! Granted, writing the Lost recap posts takes up the vast majority of that time, and now I've got those hours back for a full nine months. What am I going to do with myself? Besides write more on this blog, of course...
Well, for starters, I have to start making better use of my gym membership, because I've definitely been lax in the work-out area as of late. The warm weather always helps to inspire me to want to look and feel better - so if it would just warm up FOR GOOD in Chicago, that would help my motivation level. There's also all of the "home projects" that get pushed to the side during the fall and spring - I must get a new water heater before mine explodes, we need to get one of our blinds fixed in our main room so that I can see the light of day again, I need to email back people who wrote me months ago, I should call some old friends, and dammit, I need to paint my toenails. No excuses now that I've been given the equivalent of a full day back in my schedule!
Or, instead of doing home projects, I can leave home. I'm going to Michigan this weekend and Vegas next weekend, so the water heater's just going to have to wait!
I will not have Internet access this weekend (yes, it's possible this day and age to not have Internet access in some places), so you will hear my Megabus tales on Monday.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
This weekend I am going to Michigan... and getting there via the "Megabus" for the first time ever. I've gone back home by plane, by rental car (I don't have a car), and by Amtrak, so it's about time I try a bus.
The ironic part about all of this is that when Megabus launched their service to Chicago not so long ago, my dad was all for my mom taking it here for a trip where she was coming to babysit our dog. I freaked out and protested - saying that only "criminals" would be on a bus that only charges $1 each way! It also left from pretty much the heart of Deee-troit, which just still isn't a safe area. So my mom ended up taking Amtrak, and of course it was hours late, as always.
While Amtrak is a cheap way to make the journey, is has never once not been an ordeal. I used to take the train back to Ann Arbor every few weekends 11 years ago and it was always late, and I'm talking hours and hours late. Somehow what should be a four-hour trip turned into a nine-hour nightmare. One time the power even went out and we all sat in darkness, in the middle of nowhere, freezing (it was the depth of winter). I sat there shaking with my hat, earmuffs, gloves and thick winter coat on, watching my breath form clouds in the air as I exhaled. I was positive that evil little kids were going to start busting through the windows and kill us all like in some bad horror movie. So you can see why I would be interested in any alternative ways of cheap transportation.
And then... some luck! The Megabus added a stop in Ann Arbor, and positive reviews had been published in various newspapers in the Midwest. My mom came for another dog-sitting trip... and this time she said she wanted to try the bus because Amtrak was always SO late that the bus couldn't possibly be worse. So a month or so ago, my mom came and went on the Megabus and really enjoyed it. She had known (because of a write-up she had read on the service) that it tended to be a little cold on the bus, so she brought extra layers, but other than that had no issues. On the way here there were only 8 people on board, and she had a seat to herself and talked to a friendly person for the majority of the trip. It pulled in to Chicago on time.
On the way back, while it was my fault that my mom climbed onto the bus literally 30 seconds before it pulled away, taking years off of our lives (which is a story I'll write about at another tim, her trip was almost as good. This time it was extremely crowded and a half-hour late getting to Ann Arbor because of traffic leaving Chicago that was dead stopped. She said that there were some people talking on cell phones and some louder teenagers, but all of it was bearable (and all of that you can experience on Amtrak, too).
Now the time has come for me to go back to Michigan, so I compared both Amtrak and the Megabus. Amtrak was a total of $67 and the Megabus was $40.50 (the $1 seats go quickly and then the price rises as the bus fills up, but I believe the max for a one-way ticket is $27). The upside to the train is that I don't get motion sickness while reading on a train because the seats are big enough that if I sit on the aisle, I don't see the movement out the window as much. But I knew on the bus I would most likely get nauseous trying to read. Which is a bummer, because my favorite thing about all kinds of travel is the down-time you get to just relax and catch up on magazines or listen to your iPod or go through emails or whatnot. I'm still going to try to read on the bus, but am prepared that I may have to put a halt to it.
Both the train and the bus leave from Union Station in Chicago, and both have similar schedules, but since Amtrak is just so unpredictable (they don't technically own the tracks so any time another train passes, they stop for a half-hour without explanation, it's maddening), I decided to try the Megabus this time around. I was a tad worried because after booking my ticket, when I went on the Megabus web site later that same night, a message came up that said, "Sorry, the web site is closed. Please try back later."
What?!?! Web sites don't CLOSE?!?! That's the whole POINT of the Internet? So then I immediately regretted my decision because I envisioned a bunch of people manually processing bus orders and they literally couldn't have the site open around the clock because they didn't have enough people working at night or something. It was a sketchy operation and now I was at their mercy to get home!
I have since regained my confidence in the Megabus and am looking forward to trying it out shortly. And I haven't seen the web site "close" ever since.
Wish me luck and I will be sure to write about how it was...
Article on the Megabus, if you're interested:
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
I've never seen the host, Sarah Silverman, perform before... all I knew of her before watching the show was that she was controversial and that she is Jimmy Kimmel's girlfriend. After squirming through her opening monologue, I thought she was awful and I was very unimpressed.
Drama surrounded the awards as always... in the weeks leading up to the show, a catfight played out in the tabloids between Cameron Diaz (ex-girlfriend of Justin Timberlake) and Jessica Biel (his current flame) because they wanted to avoid each other, but each wanted the walk the red carpet as late as possible (which is apparently a status symbol in Hollywood). I'm not sure who won out on that one. Other red carpet mayhem included the surprise appearance by Paris Hilton, literally hours before she started her jail sentence. After the hatred that was evident from the crowd that night, she's probably happy to be away from the public for a while!
My vote for "most awkward moment," however, was when Jack Nicholson accepted his award for Best Villain for his role in "The Departed" as mobster Frank Costello. He acted surprised, and then slowly got out of his seat (next to Adam Singer) and took his sweet time getting to the stage. He then fumbled his way through a bizarre speech which ranged from thanking our troops overseas to dropping the F-bomb to gibberish. It was very, very obvious that he was either on drugs or drunk. It wasn't funny, it wasn't cool - it was hard to watch.
Johnny Depp also showed up (I was shocked) to receive a few awards for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. As he typically shies away from these sorts of events, it was surprising that he showed up, but not surprising that he continued to sport that bizarre outfit he always seems to have on: a grunge-inspired flannel tied around his waist underneath a sportcoat. What IS that? He also looked extremely pale - like he had just come from filming Edward Scissorhands 2 or something.
I won't go into detail about "the kiss" shared between Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen as that seems to be the focus of all other write-ups. I will say that it still catches me off-guard to hear Sacha speak with a British accent as I'm so used to Borat-speak coming out of his mouth!
I've always thought it was weird that MTV started having a Movie Awards show, and I hold firm in my belief that the Video Awards are consistently better. Now we've got until the fall to wait for those - perhaps Paris will be the inspiration for jokes again by that point - I'm sure she or some other celebrity will be in jail come September.
For more 2007 MTV Movie Awards tomfoolery:
- A detailed account of the show by E! Online
- Behind-the-scenes moments captured by USA Today
Saturday, June 02, 2007
On Thursday I read an article online about the the new Harry Potter theme park that is being built within Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando. About two seconds later, my friend Nerdy P sent me the same article via email, and I'm sure thousands if not millions of similar emails were whizzing around amongst Harry Potter fanatics as the news spread. I will most definitely be first in line... I realize this may involve beating back thousands of pre-teens and maybe even pushing the occasional eight-year-old out of the way - but hey, whatever it takes!
I think the move is brilliant on Universal's part... the Islands of Adventure park is now ensured to be a cash cow for life. Think about it - parents can encourage their kids to read all of the books by holding the promise of visiting the theme park over their heads! "No kiddies, don't read these books for the pure enjoyment of reading - read them because you can then eventually be waiting in line for an hour to ride a fake broomstick or a fake Buckbeak!"
While I am truly excited about this latest addition to the theme park world, I am especially happy that its home is going to be in Islands of Adventure, because I went there last year and that place ROCKS. I have been to a lot of theme parks in my day, and Islands of Adventure is second only to Disney World, in my book. Currently it has a very large Marvel Comics area on its grounds that is absolutely amazing. I'm not even into comics and it blew me away, just with the attention to detail that they paid to every little decoration all around, not to mention that the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster and Spiderman interactive ride were each awesome. There is also a Dr. Seuss land and a "Lost Continent" area where there is a decent Jurassic Park ride as well as an extremely fun Dueling Dragons rollercoaster. Anything with dragons I'm going to like! The Harry Potter part of the park is supposed to be designed by the main creative director for the movies, so you know it's going to be good.
So whereas I would already have gone back to Islands of Adventure at some point in the future, now I know exactly when and why I will be going back. And of course I'll throw in visits to Disney World, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and a few others down there for good measure. I should probably just move to Orlando and get a job as one of the people walking around in character costumes just so I get discounts.
Until "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" opens, we have probably all three remaining movies and the remaining book to tide us over for our Harry Potter fix. Actually, now that I think about it - here is my prediction - they will time the opening of the theme park to the release of the final Harry Potter movie in either 2009 or 2010 (the official press release says the park will open in 2010 "but could open sooner). That may be a little aggressive, but we'll see.
Here's to hoping they have real invisibility cloaks for sale!
6/4/07 - Changed "Animal Planet" to "Animal Kingdom"!