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!