Sunday, July 25, 2010

The drive up to Missouri, the wasp drama, and then on to Harriman on Monday.

After a whirlwind week in Memphis, Missouri and Harriman, Denise and I are enjoying some down time here in Bowling Green, where Denise's youngest daughter Lynn and her new granddaughter Payton reside. I've had enough time to get all my pictures fixed and posed to FlickR, so you can check them out by clicking on this link. I can't post them all here, so go ahead and enjoy. There's some good ones there.

Anyway, we've been gone a week now. We spent two nights in Memphis so we could make a special trip up into Missouri. I made this trip on my own last year, but it was a short visit, and I wanted to make it a little longer this time. Plus, I was bringin' my little woman this time.

So, after we had a good, fillin' breakfast at the Cracker Barrel on I-40 and I-55, west of Memphis, Denise and I made the two-and-a-half hour drive up through flat, featureless farm country, to Cape Girardeau and Jackson, where the terrain starts to roll and tumble a bit, reminding me of the part of Texas I live in. Low hills, rolling off the edge of flat prairie. Beautiful. I just wish our trees were as tall as these.

I won't tell you EXACTLY how to find old Bruno. He's kinda sensitive about strangers... Well, PEOPLE, coming uninvited to his door. Believe me, it's for your own good. There a LOT of raw land around there to bury folks in. You know. Enough said.

Anyway, we got there and the greetings went well. The rains had come through that morning and cooled the place off a bit. After the mugginess of Memphis, Bruno's place was actually cool and comfortable. Well, sorta. You know.

Anyway, he took us in the house and sat us down, and we were diggin' all his stuff when his wife got home from work. Turns out I'd timed our trip perfectly. We sat around for a while, getting reacquainted, and then we decided to head over to "a fledgling-but-developing outdoor museum of military-equipment, which is an open-to-the-public, privately-owned collection of Dr. Charles Pewitt, of Jackson Medical Center. " I got that last bit from the horses ass, er, mouth, himself.

So, how much EXTRA money would it take to get you to buy, let's see, an M-109 "Paladin" self-propelled howitzer, an M-42 "Duster", an M-551A1 "Sheridan" tank, an M-113 APC, and, drum roll please... A decommissioned Pershing-1 friggin' ballistic missile? And that don't count the field artillery.

OK, I know. Why the hell not? It's his money. That is, until the new state run govt. health care system takes it all away from him. Poor bastard. For me, I'd have a Royal Tiger, with the Porsche turret, of course, a Jagdpanther, and maybe a T-34-85. Yea, I know. I have rich taste. What can I say? My shit would really work too, for when the gubment tax man comes to check my paperwork.

And I know my buddy Bruno would be right there too, with some special, home made fun set up, all on his own.

So, here's where the plot thickens. We were checkin' out the Pershing, all three pieces of her, and I'd gone over to get a few shots of the Sheridan, and then Bruno says something about how the Duster over there is his favorite. I say something like "Yea, me too. I think it was the very first model I ever made when I was a kid." We walk over to the ass end of the vehicle, and I notice that the radio phone on the ass end of the thing, in a box just above the right track, is in excellent condition. I think to myself, "Cool!", and reach for it, pulling it up and looking at it.

That's when a shit storm of red wasps erupted from the phone box. There'd been no warning of it before. No random critters wafting around to warn a dude. Naaaa, just a dozen or so pissed off little fuckers, swarming me and getting a few good shots off. My left ring finger and my right forearm took hits. The stings burned a bit at first, but I didn't get too excited about it. By Tuesday though, as you can see from the shot to the left, my hand had swollen and was itchin' it's ass off. Same with my arm.

I was hittin' the Benadryl pretty hard by then. Of course, since then, the whole thing has blown over. My hand and arm are back to normal, and I'm off the pills. I still don't know how Bruno missed getting stung. But then, you know, it may be like they used to think about those huge friggin' sauropod dinosaurs. You could hit 'em in the ass with a mallet and they wouldn't feel it for a few hours, they were so friggin' huge. Anyway, I'm just sayin'.

After the little drama at the museum, Bruno and his wife followed us to a Bob Evans restaurant down the road. One of the things I'd thought of last year, as I was driving away of course, is that I should have taken these folks out for a meal. I was determined to get it done this time. It turned out to be a great time. We all ate our full, which for Bruno and I is really sayin' somethin', and then we headed back to their house, for a casual beer and a cigar in the yard. Bruno's version of "porch time."

Back when I was planning this trip, I iced down a six pack of Yuengling just for this occasion. Bruno'd heard of it, but he'd never partaken. I made Denise a "shandy", and the rest of us just sucked on a cold can. I offered my buddy a Kuba Kuba, but he declined, preferring his own milder pleasures. We spent the next half hour or so, relaxing in their yard, enjoying the lack of humidity as the sun began to set.

The other thing I missed last time was seeing Bruno's man cave, the shed and shop where he works his magic. It was really cool to finally see it all. It makes my little shop in the garage look anemic, but there you go.

Once again, I took the opportunity to capture a video of the man, basking in his domain. Check him out, he's the one and only.

As the sun began to set on southeastern Missouri, the time came for Denise and I to head back to Memphis. The partings on the trips are always bittersweet. We live so friggin' far away from one another, the folks in this little circle of friends, we don't have too many regular opportunities to hang out. And yet, through the years, through the blogs and emails, we've grown quite fond of one another. Anyway, we'll be back next year, or maybe we'll figure out some way to come back in the Fall, when the weather is a bit more civilized. We'll see.

The drive back to Memphis was uneventful. We slept in again, waking up and getting out by 11AM. We made a few stops along the way, including a stop for Brunch and a wonderful, brand new Denny's in Jackson. We rolled through Nashville and made it to Harriman by about 6:30PM, thinkin' we'd made great time. But then we realized we were in a new time zone. It was really 7:30, and we were gonna be connecting with Mushy (not his real name) and Judy later than we'd promised. That turned into a theme for our visit. Late, late, late. But hell, it's called VACATION people. Anyway.

We met up with Mushy and Judy at their place, and then we all went to Big Ed's Pizza, in Oak Ridge. Mushy drove. he ended up totin' us all over eastern TN. over the next three days. It was wonderful.

The pizza at Big Ed's was wonderful, as usual, and the pitcher of Yuengling was great too. But the best thing was to be back in Mayberry with my buddy and his lovely wife. He's always shown me a great time, from my first trip in 2007 to now, taking me around and showing me some of the cool spots he's blogged about over the years.

I look forward to these trips all year long, and dream about figuring out some way to live there. It's a beautiful place. But, for now, these visits will have to do. We had three days of fun ahead, so I was flyin' even though it was late, and it'd been a very long day. After some couch time at their place, another Yuengling for me and Judy introducin' Denise to her "special" iced tea, we hugged and parted, having made plans for the next afternoon. Denise and I drove back to the hotel, showered and hit the sack. Pooped!

Here's a shot of me, just a little sad (note, the lower lip) back in the room in Harriman, suffering from the swelling in that hand. It was getting worse by Monday night. You can see the lines Denise drew, to track the spread of the infection. In truth, it didn't get much worse during the week. The lines didn't survive the shower that evening, and we never bothered with them again. All in all, I'll admit that the wasp stings HOIT like hell for a while, but the worst thing was the tedious swelling and the itching. I woke up Tuesday morning itchin' like CRAZY. That's when the Benadryl and Pepcid kicked in. After that, it was just a case of waiting for the healing process to take it's course.

It's mostly over now. What's left after a week is essentially the same as two mosquito bites. I scratch them when the itch, but I stopped taking the pills Friday. I think they jacked up my blood pressure during the week, so I'm well rid of them. They served their purpose though, and I was glad to have them.

So, the next post will tell you about our adventures in eastern Tennessee. Stay tuned. I've got a SHIT LOAD of spare time here in Bowling Green, while we enjoy the little wiggler, so I'll probably keep posting. Cheers!

This one's for Bruno, and all you other big kids out there.

I know it's out of sequence, but who cares. When we were on our way back west to Nashville and Denise's family here in Kentucky, we made a short stop in Crossville, at the outlet mall. While Denise looked at clothes, I went through a book store, and then found this cool place with all these electric trains.

Lots of old geezers and their toys, and lots of kids, old and young, enjoying the hell out of them.

The detals were cool. You could tell they'd spent a lot of time getting the sets right.

I helped one old dude out, with one of my natural talents. When one of his engines came off the rials on a tall track, I reached over and put it back on for him.

In the end, I decided to use the new camera and get some cool videos.

This first one shows one of the bigger trains, the conductor using it to deliver candy to the kids who stand by, watching the fun.

Pretty cool eh? I love the sound effects. It was hilarious to stand there and have them pass by.

Before I left, I went up to the counter and put some money in the jar set aside for contributions. I told them "Thanks for the fun," and walked off. The folks there thanked me profusely, and as I walked off, I heard one say to another, "Obviously, NOT from around here." Made me wonder if the locals care as much about electric trains, or maybe they don't have the money to donate.

Well, there you go dude. I hope you liked it. Cheers!

OK, well shit, I guess I need to start posting about this road trip.

Seein' as how both Bruno (not his real name) and Mushy (nope, not his real name ether) have both posted stuff about my visits, I guess I should get off my ass and contribute somethin' to this drama.

Let's see, it all began a week ago. We left Killeen at about 8:45AM, two Saturdays ago, and drove all day, getting to Hope, Arkansas, just east of Texarkana, by the early afternoon.

When we got there, Denise decided that we needed to check out Bill Clinton's boyhood home. I was like, "Huh?", but it turned out to be very interesting. Seriously. I wouldn't shit you about that.

They have the place set up essentially as it would have been in the 1940s, when Bill and his mom lived there. So all the gear and fixtures were from the period. As a history dude, I found that cool. WAY friggin' cooler than I thought I would when the little woman broached the idea.

They had some of the books that little Billy read... Or did he just look and the pictures? Hmmmm.

All in all, it was a cool interlude in the long assed drive from Killeen to Memphis. When we left, I took the opportunity to relieve myself. I won't say WHERE I relieved myself, but I promise, it was in an appropriate place. And when we got back to the car, I opened the sunroof and lit up a good cigar, sort of, in commemoration of the moment. Of course, mine wasn't slathered in the stuff Bill had enjoyed in the Oval office, but still, the sentiment was the same. We drove on east from there, arriving at the Westin in Memphis around 7PM. It was a long drive, but it was uneventful.

When we got to the room and cleaned up a bit, we headed down to Beale Street, which is only about a block or two down from the hotel. This is where Mushy (again, not his real name), Judy and I stayed last year when we spent a few fun filled days in Memphis during my last road trip.

Denise'd missed out on that trip, having to fly home early to go back to work. So I'd promised her that we'd go back. Believe me, it was my pleasure. The hotel is VERY NICE, and Beale Street is becoming one of my favorite pit stops. Hell, they even had Elvis there in the lobby to greet us when we arrived. I think he was really waitin' for his ride, but it was cool anyway.

When we checked in, the little girl behind the counter told us we'd been upgraded to a better room. I was like, "That's cool!" I knew how nice the room had been last year, so my mind was racing, thinking about the possibilities. However, when we got in the room, my impression was mixed.

It was interesting, having all this work-out equipment in the room, but who the hell do they think they're dealin' with here? Oh yea, we put it to good use, just like the stair machine in my living room. By the end of the day that treadmill was covered in clothes and bags. I did take the weights down once. They were pretty cool, but I'm glad they upgraded me to this room. I'd a been pissed if I'd had to pay for all this useless shit.

On the other hand, the bathroom was the coolest! There was a huge assed shower in there, with two big nozzles that swiveled independently. Yea, that thing could EASILY accommodate a half dozen folks, who wanted to get REALLY well acquainted. The tub was cool too, but I've never been into sitting in a pool of my own filth... Unless the water's REALLY hot and movin', if you know what I mean.

Like I said, after freshenin' up, Denise and I headed down to Beale Street. The cool thing about this hotel is that it's right next to all the fun on that famous street. You walk out the front door and around the corner and you're right there. The two other times I'd been to Beale, the crowds on the street had been fairly tame. Not this time. I guess Saturday night is the night to hit it. It was wild, and the crowds were thick.

After walking up and checking out the scene, we decided to have some good BBQ at B.B.King's Blues Club, and the top of the road. We'd gone there a few years ago, and the food and entertainment had been wonderful. It had been a long day, so rather than experiment, we went for what we knew would be good. When we got there, the hostess told us it's be thirty minute wait for the table, so as Denise went for drinks, I started to capture a video of the talent that was rippin' up the stage.

This kid, Will Tucker, is 16 friggin' years old! I was amazed. I'd give anything to have that kind of talent. Maybe even sell my soul. I was soooo happy to be back on Beale. I love this friggin' place! By the end of the video though, Denise was yellin' to me, tryin' to get my attention. It turned out the wait was more like five minutes, so we had to head upstairs to our table.

Denise went for the pulled pork BBQ sandwich, while I chose the fill rack of ribs, with corn bread, BBQ beans, coleslaw and and extra order of hush puppies. Mmmmm, I'm tellin' ya, I think it was actually better than all the BBQ we'd enjoyed last year.

For drinks, we started out with a 7&7 for Denise and a Rum & Coke for me... Two rounds, and then we switched to Yuengling off the tap (with a 7-Up chaser for the little lady). It was all wonderful, and the music continued to be good until we'd filled up and had to depart. I found myself a new T-shirt on the way out, and then a few more at one of my favorite spots, Tater Red's, just down the road from BBs.

There were other stores there too, including the one where I tried on this hat. No, I didn't get it, but I did think about it. You can see from my shirt how hot and muggy it was. As bad as it was though, I figured hot and muggy was better than the thunderstorms we'd seen in the forecasts, and that we usually enjoy whenever we go to Memphis. This time the rain stayed away, but the heat was stifling.

Even so, Beale was hoppin' even more as the sun went down and the evening progressed. We took a long walk back down to road, and then back up, with me puffin' on a good cigar all the way. As we walked we saw and heard that the street performers were goin' strong. There was one kid, and amazing athlete, doing flips all the way down the road, to the applause of those lining the road. I tried to get a video of him, but it didn't turn out. What can I say? I'm still learnin' how to use this camera. Too bad. It would have been cool to be able to show it to ya.

My attention thought was always gravitating to the music that wafted up and down the road as we walked. The music was WAY better than it'd ever been on my two other trips to town. Saturday night is definitely the night to hit Beale. This kid and his band were making some good noises as we walked by.

As we headed back to the room, we both noticed all the official presence on the street. There were way more cops out there this year than we'd ever seen before. They were all over the place, and EMS folks were there too.

Denise noticed these mounted cops, and walked over to chat them up and find out what the deal was. It turns out, these guys clear the street at 2AM. They ride, four abreast up the road and rive the crowds out. Interesting. Maybe next time I come I'll try to get That on Video. Anyway, after that long assed day, we finally headed back to the room around 11PM, and then it was a great shower and a wonderful nights sleep in that killer room.

We slept in Sunday morning, getting a LOT of rest for the plans we had for the day. We got the car around noon and drove back west to the Cracker Barrel just off I-40 and I-55. After a good breakfast, we began the drive north on I-55 towards... Cue the music... Bruno! That's right, his Brunoness! The dreaded enigma of Jackson, MI. You know him, you love him. Just be glad they haven't come up with a scratch and sniff setting in Blogger. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, I'll save y'all all that drama for the next post. Remember, you can always click on any of these shots to see the larger version, and if you wanna see any more pictures from the trip, click here and enjoy. Cheers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My first day off.

Today is the start of my three week Summer break from school. Denise is still toiling away, but she's put in for two weeks off at the end of this month so we can both go visit folks. Yep, it's road trip time again!

My day started around 11:30AM, when I drove over to Temple to help my mom out with some chores. She had to go to Office Max and get a copy of her bank statement, and then she needed to go to the post office and mail some stuff off. No big deal, but with her hip giving her hell, I told her I'd come over and help her out.

So, I did the driving, and she sat out in the car, engine and AC runnin', while I did the copyin' and dealt with the postal service. In the end, I mentioned that there was a nice cigar store down the way from her local post office, thinkin' she'd sit out in the car while I went in to see what was what. But she had a better idea.

Mom took a $20 out of her purse and insisted that I take it and treat myself to something. I told her she didn't have to do that. I enjoy helpin' her out. But then she hit me with "Well it would make me happy if you went in and bought yourself something." So I guess I had to, right?

In the end, I walked out of the store with $19 and change invested in two great cigars. As you can see here, and Ashton and a Macanudo, both Maduros. I thanked mom, and she was happy that I'd found something I liked. I think I'll save them for the upcoming road trip. Porch time.

On the way back over to Killeen, I decided to take a trip over to the Human Resources building on the main campus. I'd had an issue Friday when I came home from San Saba and tried to post my grades for the classes that I'd just finished. Turned out only one of the three classes was set up for posting grades.

After several phone calls early this morning, I found out that some administrator had entered my name in the computer with a different social security number. So, there were two FHBs in the computer, and the two missing classes were set up for this other, extra fat hairy bastard. Yea, like the world needs another one, right?

So, I had to go out there and let them make a copy of my social security card, so the folks out there could work the mess out. While I was there, I picked up a class schedule for the next Ft. Hood semester.

I had no idea they'd already come out with these things. I opened the thing up and...

Yep, there I am. I'll have two government classes, as usual. Tuesday and Thursday nights, from 4:45PM to 7:25PM, and then from 7:30PM to 10:10PM. That'll be after three classes in Florence and one in San Saba. Yep, it'll be a long day, but I'm used to it, and I love it. It'll be great to see the guys out on the base again.

On the way home, I tried to call Denise to see if she could get away for lunch. But she didn't answer, so I decided to go ahead and try out an old Chinese Food Buffet down the road from my house.

Back in the day, we're talkin' the late 1990s, I used to go to China Star two or three times a week. I loved it! Their rice was the best, and their Gen' Tso's chicken had a special flavor all it's own. It was different from every other restaurant in town. Even their tea tasted better. But then the day came when the quality of their food seemed to decline, and I found a few better places to eat. Today, it's rare that I decide to go back and check the place out. I'd been thinkin' about it for a while. On the way home today, I decided now was the time.

My China Star tradition is two plates; Salad plate (yea, there's salad under there, with pork ribs, chicken wings, crab and fried shrimp piled on top)...

And then the Fried Rice, Gen. Tso's Chicken, and whatever else I have room for. The food was good. The fried shrimp melted in my mouth, and the special flavour of the General's chicken was just what I expected. Even the tea was great.

It was great, but it's still really nothing close to the quality of the food at a place like Dynasty in Temple, or the Great Wall cafe in Killeen, or the Beijing cafe in Cove. Even the Genghis Grill in Heights is better than this. Really, with all the great places to choose from around here, I have NO BUSINESS ever going back to China Star. But I'll be ready to try it all again in a few months. What can I say? I'm a Chinese Food junky.

Anyway, that's what my day's been like. Hope yours was relaxed and fun. Cheers!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Kinda cool, but...

Are you pissed off enough with the fans you have to wanna spend $300 for the cheapest model of this new thing? They range from $300 to $450.

And another question. Why didn't he call it The Breeze?

People just can't take a joke anymore.

Earlier this week Russian airline Avianova aired this commercial, which shows a team of bikini-clad flight attendants washing an airplane while a gaggle of men watch, and caused quite a controversy.

The Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that Secretary of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia Jo-Ann Davidson said ads like this "put flight attendants at risk."

Hmmmmm, yea. Excuse me, what was that question again?

This is cool as hell. You can do anything with special effects.

Monday, July 05, 2010

It's like a who's who of NATO.

Tornadoes, Harriers, F-15s, Typhoons, etc. Cool. What a kick ass airshow.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy 234th Birthday America!

Man, our Founding Fathers were some bad ass dudes. Check out this recently discovered video from Philly, circa 1776.

Yea, boeeeee! Seriously, how lucky we were to be born from such stock, and from such a time. I wonder what they'd think of what we've done with the heritage they left us?