If I had just one word to describe this past week, it would have to be INTENSE!!!! Tessa and I took some vacation time to go up to Indiana to visit her long lost brother, Jason and his fiancee, Ashlyn. On Monday, we took a train to Chicago since neither of us have ever been. Since we had skipped breakfast, we were starving so we decided to get a couple of genuine Chicago hot dogs as soon as we arrived in the city.
We wanted to get the most out of our short visit, so we decided to each get a CityPASS which allowed us to visit five of the biggest attractions in the city. We started with the Shedd Aquarium which was great! Unfortunately, when we finished the aquarium, a nasty storm was rolling in off of Lake Michigan. Having a lot left to do in a very limited amount of time, we braved the elements and got soaked on the way to the Adler Planetarium. I was freaking balls because of the lightning that was in the vicinity.
Too bad the planetarium was not worth the trek through the monsoon. We had to skip the two free films due to time constraints and were unimpressed with the exhibits which sucked because I'm usually big on space exploration.
We made it out quickly and hit the Field Museum which was much better. The only downside was that it was very similar to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC which we had just visited back in March. We ended up skimming some of the museum then hailed a cab to take us down to the Museum of Science and Industry which was easily the coolest of the museums and rivaled the aquarium! The neatest part of the museum was the science of storms section complete with a 40-foot vapor vortex! What sucked was that we were running out of time as they were closing in just over an hour from the time we arrived. However, we managed to speed through most of the museum spending a few extra minutes at the cooler exhibits.
When we were done, we took another cab over to Chicago's Hard Rock Cafe because that is another requirement of ours if we are near a location we have yet to go to (with the one in St. Maarten being the only known exception since we were pressed for time at port on our cruise of engagement).
After dinner, we took yet another cab to Willis Tower for the last of our five destinations on our CityPASSes, Skydeck Chicago! We took the elevator 103 stories up and walked out onto the Ledge, a glass balcony extending four feet and dangling over 1300 feet off the streets of Chicago! Ironically, Tessa had to pull my ass out onto the balcony because that was scary even for me and I don't normally mind heights that much as long as I am on stable ground and secure.
Once we made our descent to wear sane people dwell, we took one final cab (yeah, we spent a small fortune on cab fares) to get us back to the Museum Campus train station. However, our cab driver had no idea where the train station was so we got out next to the Field Museum since that was the first place we had approached from the train station earlier in the day. We ended up on the wrong side of the ginormous museum so I pulled up the Google Maps app and eventually made it to the station in time to take the next eastbound train on the South Shore Line. Unfortunately, I didn't read the timetable right and consequently failed to realize that the last train back to South Bend Airport had departed an hour and a half earlier. So we had to get Ashlyn and her mom to pick us up at the eastmost train station in Michigan City and take us back to our car at South Bend Airport.
We stayed in Indiana a couple more days then made our way back home Thursday morning in order to get back in time for Birthday Bash 2014. Mark had me broadcasting live from the show during my usual on air hours. He also had me booked solid with interviews including the one and only John Cooper from SKILLET! During the interview, I mentioned that I have seen them so many times that I had lost count after a dozen times and that I should be their touring bass player since John occasionally likes to put down his bass to focus on just being a frontman. His response was to ask me if I knew how to play "Monster" (which I did not) but, being on the spot, I, of course, said that I did. He then invited me to come on stage and play it with the band later that evening and pointed out that he was making it official since we were on the air and not just saying it in passing.
When the interview was over, I asked him off the air if he was serious and he confirmed that he was. I then explained to him my dilemma of being a lefty to which Tessa stepped in and volunteered to go home and grab my bass in order for me to step up to the challenge. John agreed and the game was on!
About 30 minutes before SKILLET's set, Tessa and I went backstage to get my bass tuned to accommodate for the tunings of a five string since I play a four. After their tech got me tuned, I went back to their dressing room to go over the tune with John. I continued to go over the tune over and over again during most of the band's set. Then the tour manager escorted me back to the tech to retune and get powered up for my performance. Then John called me out on stage and my three minutes of fame began!
As I sit here writing this, I cannot say with any assurance that the fact this actually went down has fully registered with me. It still feels like a surreal dream experience even though more than 50 hours has passed. I have done nothing in my life to have deserved such a truly rare privilege and honor of such an experience with a band I greatly admire. I am just so thankful for the chance and glad I didn't screw it up too badly and managed to put on as much of a show as I can with the physical limitations of being out of shape and overweight! This is going to be extremely difficult to top! EVER!!!!
Well yesterday was my 38th birthday. Yup, I had the dreaded Monday workday birthday and, man, was it a doozy! With Mark AND the Rise Guys on vacation, I had a lot on my plate on top of what is already a stressful start to the work week. Plus I had other irons in the fire and some unexpected fires to have to put out so let's just say my day was extra crispy! However, I had the support of many loyal listeners and Facebook friends that helped me get through it! That and last weekend made my birthday!
On my way to work on Friday I swung by the mall to take advantage of Tax Free Weekend and pick Tessa and myself up a pair of Chucks. Unfortunately, Journeys didn't have my size in the particular shoe I wanted so I had them order them for me.
After work on Friday, Tessa and I went to Regal Simpsonville Stadium 14 & IMAX to see the new Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy in IMAX 3D. The film was quite amazing and is now one of my favorite Marvel movies along with The Avengers, Iron Man and X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, I do not agree with my cousin Tonya's online assessment (or Facebook proclamation, if you will) that it was better than Star Wars. Granted an argument could be made for its superiority over the first installment (1977's Episode IV - A New Hope) which, despite being groundbreaking, was quite cheesy in many ways. However, the first sequel (1980's Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) was FAR superior and is, in my humble opinion, the best movie ever made. So, no, I do not think that GOTG is better than SW but it was definitely a crowning achievement for Marvel!
The next day Tessa and I did some more shopping to further take advantage of Tax Free Weekend. Inspired by the movie and the advertisement before it started, I sought out the Nerf version of Star Lord's gun to add to my collection of toys in my office. And, lo, it was good!
And, as if to make up for yesterday, these were waiting for me when I got to work this morning:
I've said it before and I'll say it again, birthdays are awesome; getting old sucks! Therefore, I refuse to grow up! And, the next time my birthday falls on a Monday, I'm taking the day off! I don't care who's on vacation!
Just FYI, I stole the title of this blog from an episode of Monk! However, this weekend was, indeed, my 20 year high school reunion and boy did we make a weekend of it! The festivities began with a gathering of Hillcrest High School alums at Carolina Ale House after work on Friday night for some food and spirits. Some of us got more 'spirited' than others but I'm not going to name names (Michael Robinson)!
The Twisted Missus even joined us after she got off work. Either that or she would have had to fend for herself for dinner! Yeah, I blackmail my wife from time to time! Then I force her to be my personal photographer! I'm awful, I know!
The next morning, Tessa and I got up bright and early and made our way to Hillcrest High School for a tour of the building to reminisce and see what changes have been made over the past 20 years.
Immediately following the tour, we made our way down to PD Terry Park in Fountain Inn for the reunion picnic. They had some barbecue catered so we ate and socialized for a while before heading back home to get dressed up for the dinner later that evening.
The dinner was held at Carolina Springs Golf Club where a nice buffet was served as well as a cash bar that, thankfully, took other forms of payment! It was great to see a lot of people I hadn't seen in the last 20 years. Everyone was fairly pleasant although a few people had some poker faces and plastic smiles but most of them, overall, seemed genuine. I was pleasantly surprised that quite a few fellow alums who no longer live around here knew what I do for a living. Ironically, some that do live here did not. I'm not one to toot my own horn but the question "What are you up to these days?" usually pops up when you haven't seen someone in two decades. I was also relieved to know that I wasn't the only one that got fat and bald!
It was a weekend I won't soon forget! Especially since it was 20 years in the making!
My Aunt Pat just celebrated her 80th birthday a couple of days ago on Monday. So, this past weekend we had a little get-together at her house on Saturday since Father's Day was Sunday. My mom got the cake and ice cream and the family all brought her some gifts to mark the occasion.
Afterwards we took her out to eat at Green Tomato Buffet on Woodruff Rd then we took my mother-in-law out to see the new DreamWorks film How to Train Your Dragon 2 since she, too, is celebrating a birthday this week. The sequel is every bit as good as the first if not better! Hiccup finds his long lost mother and faces a new enemy named Drago who is amassing a dragon army to impose his twisted will. See what I did there?
Yesterday was the day Tessa and I have been waiting for ever since our DC trip when we went to go see The LEGO Movie. We went right after visiting the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center since we had some free time. She was initially skeptic about my choice of movie to see but I told her to trust me on that one. She did and she loved it! So we were waiting for the movie to drop on Blu-ray which it did yesterday so I picked up a copy on my way to the station.
I picked up the Everything is AwesomeEdition which contains both the 3D and standard versions as well as a LEGO Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman's character) minifigure among other fun stuff like outtakes and numerous featurettes. The one thing that is seemingly missing from what I can see thus far is the "Behind the Bricks" featurette which is hilarious! To make up for said shortcoming, here's the YouTube vid:
Well there was definitely no rest for the Twisted this weekend as the Twisted Missus and I headed to Asheville for the weekend. We made a detour through Rutherford County so that we could stop and drop off our dogs with her mom and take her out to lunch.
We arrived in Asheville around 2 pm and went straight to the Biltmore Estate and took a tour of the Biltmore House.
After our tour of the house, we visited their gift shops and roamed through the gardens before getting back in the car and making our way over to Antler Hill Village & Winery where we took a tour of the winery and did some wine tasting.
After all was said and done, we made our way to our hotel and checked in shortly after 8 pm. We both tuckered out around 11:30 that night but both of us were wide awake shortly after 6 the following morning. We went downstairs and grabbed a modest complimentary breakfast and chilled in the room for a while before making our way to Cracker Barrel for a more substantial brunch to power us through the day.
I, for one, had a large day ahead of me as I was braving some ziplining at Navitat Canopy Adventures just outside of Asheville in Barnardsville, NC. I had spent most of the morning freaking balls since I am, like most folks, a little apprehensive about heights. However, not as much as my wife who elected to stay on the ground and entertain herself for two hours while I was on my high-flying mountainous adventure.
I had been ziplining once before but on a very short zipline that soared over a few decks on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This, however, was far more....let's just say involved. My tour was set to start at 1:30 in the afternoon but they managed to get my group started a few minutes early so we were geared up and ready by the time we were supposed to first convene.
We loaded into a QuadVan that zipped us a mile further up the mountain on a fun, bumpy gravel road. We got out then hiked to the first of the three ziplines featured on the Blue Ridge Experience tour.
The first was the worst for me because it was the one I was the most nervous about since, well, it was the first. Each zipline was a dual racing line where two zipliners go parallel to each other 'racing' to the end of the line. I think I stayed in the third group of racers the entire time so I could watch a couple of groups do it before I took the plunge.
When my time finally came, I was locked onto my trolley then walked it down the ramp and placed my feet up on the gate hanging there until it was released and I went soaring. And once it did, all of my fears were left on the platform I had just come from as I raced towards the other platform over the wonderful lush mountainous landscape. The worst part, for me, was hitting the brake at the other side. It jolts you much like the brakes on a roller coaster so, if you're not expecting it, can be a jarring experience! However, I could not wait to get to the next zipline!
The next zipline was, by far, the longest and highest on the tour with a length of 3600 feet dangling 350 feet from the ground at the deepest point of the underlying valley. It also was the longest and harshest hike on the tour but well worth it to get the monster zipline! I am, however, thankful that it was not the first zipline considering how nervous I was going into the first one!
The last zipline took us within eyeshot of the parking lot so we basically zipped down about a mile of mountainous terrain on our tour! I had an amazing time and I cannot wait to do it again! Next time I may have to take the Ultimate tour which combines the Blue Ridge Experience and the Moody Cove Adventure! I will have to figure out what to do with the Twisted Missus since she is in the 'no-fly zone'!
Over the weekend, the Twisted Missus and I, among other things which I won't bore you with the details of, went to go see the new Disney film Maleficent. As you may have figured out already, it is a reimagining of the fairy tale "The Sleeping Beauty" but told from the point of view of the villain or 'alleged' villain. The trailers make no attempt to hide the fact that the title character, played by Angelina Jolie who bears a striking resemblance to the villain of the animated version (also done made by Disney, I might add), is really just a misunderstood victim of betrayal bent on revenge.
With that in mind, the film becomes very predictable as you start to see the humane side of the once-thought-to-be coldhearted villain. It even becomes clear of how the climax of the film is going to turn out but I am not going to spoil it for you but rather let you figure it out for yourself. If you don't, then all the more surprised you will be when it comes. I will say, however, that predictability isn't always a bad thing once the premise of a film is revealed and, as in this case, it was done early on in the marketing process of the film's release. In a nutshell, if you are going in expecting to love the villain, you can, in good conscience, do so as it was the evident goal of the film.
Oh yes, it is time for my obligatory recap about the holiday weekend. And so it begins with my review of the new mutant superhero flick X-Men: Days of Future Past which the Twisted Missus and I went to go see after work Friday night. This film marks the return of director Bryan Singer to the franchise which he had abandoned to go and make that piece of crap we know as Superman Returns. As a result, not only was Superman Returns a big steaming pile of cow dung but so was X-Men: The Last Stand so, in a sense, we can blame his decision to leave the franchise for resulting in two crappy movies. Maybe I am being a little harsh considering that the third X-Men film at least had some redeeming qualities.
Anyways, my harsh criticism of Mr. Singer subsequently brings me to his ultimate act of redemption and triumphant return to the comic book franchise as he has turned in a far superior sequel that not only made up for but basically negated the third film that resulted from his departure. He also managed to almost seamlessly merge the two eras of cinematic heroes and villains: the ones from the past and the ones from the present/future. Not only that but, in true Marvel fashion, successfully teased the next installment of the franchise after the rolling of the credits. It took damn near a decade to undo your bad decisions, Mr. Singer but, by George, you did it! Well done, sir. Well done.
The next day, the missus and I picked up my mom and went to Lowe's to get some mulch and other stuff to shape up the shrubs and flower beds in our front yard. While we were there, I spied a Master Forge gas grill on sale and decided to buy it since we had no grill at home and no plans for any cookouts for Memorial Day. After taking my mom back to get her car, we managed to fight and get the new mammoth grill into my car.
On Sunday, we met up with some friends and grabbed some dinner at Chili's while the skies decided to clear so we could go take in a round of miniature golf at Frankie's Fun Park.
On Memorial Day, my mom and Aunt Pat came to the house to help us get our yardwork done and to reap the sweet rewards of our new grill! While spreading a couple of bags of mulch, I quickly came to the conclusion that the five bags we had purchased were not going to be nearly enough. So, I sent my mom and the missus back to Lowe's to pick up 15 more bags of mulch. After slinging nearly 20 bags of mulch myself, my ass is draggin'!
After work yesterday, Tessa and I went to Hollywood 20 for a sneak peek at the new Seth McFarlane flick A Million Ways to Die in the West. The film is the second big screen venture for the comedic writer who, of course, is best known for the hit animated TV show Family Guy. His first venture onto the big screen was Ted, a comedy about an animated potty-mouthed Teddy bear (think Pinocchio for adults).
As with Ted, this film is another R-rated comedy full of gross and lewd humor some of which serves just as shock value while some is genuinely funny for those of us that appreciate such vulgarity. The film is also cast with some Hollywood A-listers such as Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron and is packed with more celebrity cameos than you can shake a stick at. One of which has apparently been a heavily guarded secret since it hasn't even been credited with an 'uncredited' listing on IMDb so you'll have to go see it for yourself to find out who it is! All I'll say is that they save it 'til the very end, before AND after the credits!
Led Zeppelin has put together a video for their new release of "Whole Lotta Love." It's the bonus version contained on the companion disc to re-mastered Led Zeppelin 2, which will be released along with Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin 3 next Tuesday, June 3rd