The Great Escape

Friday evening we relaxed. Jill got home early from work, and I wasn’t hungry, so she made egg salad. She asked me to make bacon, and that made me hungry, so I made some breakfast burritos. We were going to watch Threshold, but it was a repeat, so I caught up on Daily Show and Bill Maher, and finally finished a DVD I was happy with (Queen, working on an emmet swimming one now). Saturday I got up relatively early for a neurosoma appointment at 10. I ran errands afterwards, making it to Reston in time for a 1:30 hair appointment (with the only place allowed to cut my hair, according to Jill). Got back home and put everything away in time to leave to go over to Mom’s.

We’d brought Illa over to Mom’s twice before without incident – he’d race around for a bit, then hang out. This time was a bit different. One of the neighbor’s dogs jumped the fence, and Trina was active, but two dogs weren’t enough. The neighbors on the corner had two dogs, and he could hear them but not see them. So he got a running jump, then cleared the four foot fence of the neighbor behind Mom. I jumped the fence behind him and gave chase. The only reason I caught him is he was racing around the house with the dogs, trying to get to them. I grabbed him by the collar and frog marched him back to Mom’s, where he stayed on lead the rest of the visit.

We’re disappointed, because that was one place we thought we could let him off leash and he’d be ok. So we went back home, and he was pretty pooped, so I watched TV (old Alias and Smallville) while Jill did homework. That extra hour of sleep was nice, and instead of being rushed to take him out before the football game, I took my time. Coincidentally, our neighbor dog Bear (the lab) was out, so I put Illa on lead and attached the other end to me, and that worked ok. Maybe next time at Mom’s we’ll put him on two leads and that’ll be enough. The football game didn’t go so well, but I finished off the newspapers and made a good stab at straightening out the office and paid bills tonight.


Since we didn’t have time for a private dinner on the weekend, tonight Jill took me to the Palm in Tysons Corner. Whoo boy am I stuffed. Asparagus and crab soup and calamari to start, then Jill had the mahi mahi and I had a 16 ounce filet mignon, and we wrapped it all up with carrot cake. And I think we have enough for another meal in the fridge now. The food and service were fabulous. Jill hadn’t been there before, but I’m almost certain I have (the building is the one I got my LASIK done in, but I know I didn’t use valet parking for that, and I have a vivid memory of using that parking, though not the Palm itself).

Cruise update

Sounds like we’re going to Costa Maya instead of Cozumel.

October 26, 2005
Wilma Destroys, Damages Cozumel Cruise Piers
(12:30 p.m.) — Cozumel is currently closed to all cruise ship traffic, and at least one of the three piers on the island has been destroyed — the Puerto Maya Pier was lost during Hurricane Wilma. Reuters describes Puerto Maya as having been “pulverized, massive chunks of concrete torn away and thrown onto the beach.” The International Pier and Punta Langosta Pier have sustained damages and are being assessed, according to a representative for the port.

The fate of these piers affects nearly every major cruise line as Cozumel is a mainstay on Western Caribbean routes. However, Carnival Corp. (the parent company of Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn and Windstar, among others) is particularly affected as it has invested a good deal of time and money in creating shopping areas — and the now-destroyed Puerto Maya pier — in Cozumel.

Electricity is out on the island, and a timeframe has not yet been established for repair and recovery. However, a representative for Costa Maya tells us they are expecting to accommodate additional cruise ships due to the closure of Cozumel until April of 2006 — six months from now. Ships that are anticipated to visit Costa Maya in lieu of Cozumel include Carnival’s Carnival Valor, Sensation and Inspiration; Princess’ Star Princess; Disney’s Disney Magic; NCL’s Norwegian Sun; and Holland America’s Volendam, Veedam and Zuiderdam.

Costa Maya’s pier and surrounding complex sustained no damage and continue to operate at 100 percent capacity; all shore excursions are up and running.

From Carnival’s Costa Maya shore excursions list, the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins seems like a good replacment for the one we’d planned on doing from Cozumel. It’s also cheaper to do a tour not affiliated with Carnival.

Happy unhappy happy birthday

Friday we went out with my friend John and his kids to Fuddrucker’s. I wanted an ostrich burger, but there’s apparently a shortage right now, so I settled for a regular 1/2 pound burger and fries (just about the only place I always get fries because I can put melted cheese and jalapenos on them). Afterwards, we went home and watched Threshold, then I went online while Jill caught up on Lost.

Saturday was my birthday, and initially we were planning on spending the night in Richmond after going to my college homecoming. But my buddy Rusty would be gone until late evening after homecoming, so we changed our plans to go home afterwards, then up to the Baltimore area to catch Eddie From Ohio in their first show since Julie’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. We were already planning on leaving Illa at doggy day care overnight, so we dropped him off around 8:30 and headed south. My fraternity has just been reinstated at my college, and it was nice to see the letters up and the pictures on the walls.

We were there about an hour and a half before I remembered to turn my cell on (usually turn it off on the road, both for driving and the way it drains the battery). I had a voice mail from the doggy day care. Illa had been there previously for a half day and a whole day without incident. They told us he got along fine with the little dogs, unlike the other big dogs, including another malamute (which in hindsight should have been a warning). A little while after we left, he was in with the small dogs and crushed a yorkie. As far as we know, no one was watching them at that exact moment and so it’s unknown if he was provoked or not (although Lezlie from mal rescue tells us yorkies and most other small dogs do not get along with mals). We decided to come right back and get him. When we did, we discovered the yorkie had died from its injuries, and Illa was banned.

We’re still kinda shocked, though we wished we had conferred with Lezlie first as she doesn’t feel mals do well in day care. We feel horrible for the yorkie’s owners, but don’t feel comfortable contacting them. We’re just going to keep him away from any creatures smaller than him – we still want to keep him, and have to remember he’s not a human, and doesn’t have the feelings we would have in a similar situation. He was unaware of the situation, and we just took him home and walked him.

The rest of the night was better. We rode with Stuart, his daughter, and Meg (other Edheads from Falcon Ridge) up to Owings Mills, where we met another 8 Edheads at CJ’s Crab House, a seafood place. We had a classic Baltimore waitress, and a good meal. The show was very moving, and Julie looked great. They brought out “The Water Is Wide” and “Oh My Brother”, and we were amazed, both at how good the band was, and the crowd response (half first timers!). Got home late, and went to bed later as I tried to catch up on newspapers.

Sunday I got up around 12:30, walked Illa, heated up breakfast, cleaned the kitchen and master bath, and watched the Skins pulverise the Niners while I read more newspapers (caught up to Saturday). Jill slept ’til almost 4, then helped take car of Illa while I loaded the car with recyclables. We went out around 6, she needed to run an errand at CVS, then I looked for a tub stopper at Home Depot.

We met my family at 7 at Sweetwater. First time for most of them, and everybody enjoyed it. I made Jill drive so I could have the beer sampler (or beer on a stick), and had the prime rib while she had the jambalaya (and the tasty bread too). Then we headed over to my mom’s for cake. My big gift was the Complete Calvin and Hobbes. Enormous and attractive, I only have one complaint: the commentary from Watterson in The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book and Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995 are not inclued, neither are the original b&w Sunday strips from the latter. Small complaint, I know, but if you bill yourself as complete, you shouldn’t leave anything out.

U2: pretty good opening band

Thursday morning I took Illa to doggie day care, then went to work. Jill picked him up and deposited his worn out self at home, then picked me up at work at 5:40. We slogged through heavy rush hour traffic, getting to Ballston around 6:45. Talking in the car, we’d decided to go to FlatTop Grill, the Mongolian BBQ place. Of course I remembered I had a buy one, get one free birthday coupon in my email, so Jill dropped me at Kinko’s and I went in and printed it out while she found parking. The meal was good, but we didn’t get out of there until 8. We drove down to Clarendon and parked, then hopped on Metro. We got to MCI center around 8:45, and went in. We’d missed the opening act (started at 7:30), and figured U2 would have started by then, but we would have seen the start if we hadn’t stopped for a bathroom break. Good show and pretty decent seats, but as we discussed later, the seats we’d had for the Queen + PR show were so awesome, these paled in comparison. Can’t beat the setlist, though, and Bono was in fine form.

We left during the second encore, and headed back to Clarendon. Our reason for parking there was emmet swimming playing at the Clarendon Grill. Normally I like to catch all of their show, but I made an exception for U2. The club was pretty packed, and they had good beer (#9 on tap here now, but it was broken so I had a hefeweizen and Jill had a Blue Moon). We didn’t stay to the end, either (it was almost 1 when we left), though we did see accordian king David Strickland join them for a couple songs and a nice crowd singalong on a cover of “Wish You Were Here”. Ran into construction traffic on 66 and got home around 1:30. Thankfully, Illa was still out of it and just wanted some belly rubs before we put him back to bed.

A short moment of panic among the monotony

A normal night, or so I thought. I was working a little late, had to go and pick up the weekly vegetables from the farm, and got home just in time to walk Illa before I watched CIC.

Except he was jumping up as I tried to attach his leash, and I didn’t do a good job, because as soon as he pulled, the leash came off. We were in the back and I ran after him around the front. He thought it was a fun game and ran circles around me, not letting me get close enough. I was deathly afraid he’d go right towards the parkway, and once when he did he came back when I screamed.

The second time he didn’t listen, but someone was looking out for us as the parkway traffic had a red light. And as soon as he crossed the street he pooped, and I caught up with him before he finished (even had the presence of mind to bag it).

We had a nice slow walk after that, but I was fairly wigged out. Went back in and played with him as I watched CIC, then most of Bowling For Columbine as I made an enormous breakfast dish and burgers for dinner. Didn’t finish ’til after 11, and I just got through posting some eBay auctions (Queen stuff I want to get out now while there’s publicity, and before the cruise). Now a short sleep.

Queen weekend Part 2 – Crown jewels

We tried to check in to the hotel before we got to the arena, but the hotel I’d booked (Extended Stay America – again on Priceline) was on a service road off Route 3, and AAA had had trouble trying to map it, and the directions were lousy, and when we got to the spot indicated, the hotel wasn’t there. Running late, we got a little lost before I just headed south looking for big roads. We were supposed to be at the arena at 2:30 – we got there at 2:20. I’d purchased the premium ticket package which included “a guided tour of the backstage area and tea party with other fans”. They put us in two groups, and the first one went off at 3, ours didn’t leave until 3:30. It was a nice tour, and they did have tea and cookies, but I won’t lie – I was hoping to meet the band, or at least catch soundcheck. Still, the people we met were nice, and part of the swag we did get included an autographed program, and the night did get much better.

I called the hotel for directions, and it was pretty easy to get there from the arena. We checked in, dropped our stuff off, then headed over the NJ turnpike to a nearby mall to get dinner. Jill had a craving for chicken pasta dish at Pizzeria Uno’s, so we went there. I had a pepperoni and ham sandwich, Jill had a beer, and I had Jameson’s and diet coke (the waiter was new, and first tried to bring my drink as a glass of diet coke and a shot of Jameson’s). We didn’t take long, and were back at the arena by 7. Our lanyards got us back in the VIP bar, so we sat at the bar and had a couple drinks, finally heading down to the floor just before 8, when they were scheduled to start. Now I knew we had third row seats, so I was pretty psyched, but was astounded when we got there. The middle section of seats in the front was removed to make way for a catwalk, and our seats were right next to it! (see the red dot in this picture). They took an extra half hour to get out, but even Jill was starting to get excited. The opening music came on (a remix of “It’s A Beautiful Day”), and we were up and waiting. The real intro was to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, then Paul came out followed by the rest of the band to thunderous acclaim.

To anyone whose read this far and is wondering “didn’t Freddie die?”, yes, he did. But any time more than one member of Queen gets together (with Elton John, Robbie Williams, George Michael), they bill it as Queen + singer. Last spring, they’d gotten together with Paul Rodgers, legendary vocalist from Free, Bad Company, and the Firm for a British TV show, and had hitten it off well enough to do a small European tour. I very much wanted to go, but decided the airfare, tix, and hotel for two people was just too expensive. But this was the first of two shows in the US (other is in LA next week) and I had to go. I knew it would be a great show, but if it wasn’t the best show I’ve ever seen, it was damn close.

They opened with “Reaching Out” (a charity song Paul had done with Brian) and went straight into “Tie Your Mother Down”, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Another One Bites The Dust”. Little breather with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, then Paul brought out the first of his hits with “Bad Company”. Paul took a break and Roger stepped out to sing the only new song, “Say It’s Not True” (written for Nelson Mandela’s 46664 benefit), then Brian came out alone to sing “’39” and “Love Of My Life” with crowd accompaniment. I was worried when they dropped “’39” from their warm up show in Aruba the week before, even going so far as emailing Brian to put it back in. Don’t know if he saw it, but it was fantastic. He started a slow version of “Hammer To Fall” out there, then Paul joined him to take it into the fast version. Another Paul classic with “Feel Like Makin’ Love”, then Roger spotlighted again with a drum solo and his big hit “I’m In Love With My Car” (which means that both Brian and Roger did the songs they sung lead on “A Night At The Opera”, their biggest album, which also features “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Brian returned to the stage for his epic “Brighton Rock” solo, leading into “Last Horizon” from his first solo album. Roger came back to sing “These Are The Days Of Our Lives”, then started “Radio Ga Ga”, with Paul coming in halfway through. Two Bad Company tunes next, “Can’t Get Enough” and “Rock & Roll Fantasy”, followed by “I Want It All”. The show closer was of course “Bohemian Rhapsody”. They started with Freddie on the big screen for the first part, then Paul came out for the rocking bits, finishing up with a duet at the end – very nicely done. The encore was “The Show Must Go On”, then the Free classic “All Right Now”, and they couldn’t end with anything but “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions”.

We were sorry to see it end. I was surprised to see Jill totally get into the show, screaming with a couple girls next to us everytime someone came by on the catwalk, and going nuts when Paul stopped to shake our hands. I took a buttload of pictures, and a third came out really well (I also kept some of the oddities). The show was everything I could have ever asked for (except for having Freddie back of course). Paul is an incredible singer and showman, and Brian and Roger haven’t lost any of their vocal talent and musicanship. I was just amazed to be standing close enough to Brian to touch him as he played.

We weren’t in a hurry to leave, tried to see if we could get back into the VIP bar and failed, and found we’d parked in a lot close to the exit. We drove around looking for a place that sold beer but were SOL, we settled for a stop at White Castle. Fortified with grease, we went to sleep – got up at 4:30 for a 6:10 flight. Uneventful trip, and Illa was very happy to see us at the vet in the morning.

Queen weekend Part 1 – Family matters

Friday night, Jill made soup, and we rushed around like banshees cleaning and packing. I misplaced my Brian May t-shirt, and spent at least 30 minutes looking for it. We watched Threshold and Bill Maher, but didn’t get any other time to attack our backlog of TV. Jill noticed a little after 11 Illa hadn’t gone out since 5:30, and I was getting ready to take him out when I noticed a suspicious spot on the dining room floor. Sure enough, he’d gone without every letting us know he needed to go. Not sure if it was us rushing around or something else.

Saturday we got up and going. I made breakfast, cleaned up and printed boarding passes while Jill took Illa to club vet and got some coffee. We got to Dulles right on schedule, got to our gate with plenty of time to sit back and read. The flight on Independence was fine, and we were in Newark right on time. We got the rental car from National (would have used Enterprise, but all the rentals were expensive in New York, so I used Priceline), and got on the road. After a couple mixups (AAA wanted to send us through downtown Newark and there was traffic on 280 and unclear directions after we got off), we got to the retirement community where my grandmother lives (technically step-grandmother, but my mom’s mother passed away before I was born). My uncle and aunt were waiting there, and we went in to see her. Nice apartment, pretty sizeable, and I took some pictures of the group. Soon my cousins with wives and children in tow arrived, then we went out to dinner at Frank’s Trattoria, where we split some NY style pizza (though Jill opted for a calzone). Afterwards we followed my uncle and aunt back to their place and hung out for a while, then went to my older cousin’s house for coffee and dessert. A little more chatting back at my aunt and uncle’s, and we were ready for bed.

Sunday Jill slept in past 11 as she’d had a tough time getting to sleep. I talked with my aunt over tea, then Jill got up and had breakfast with us shortly before my uncle got back from church. It was good to see them, hadn’t seen any of them since our wedding, but 1PM was time to go…

TV review

The new TV season has two clear winners so far. Commander In Chief is great – Geena Davis is very believable balancing work and motherhood as president, and the casting is superb. Threshold is another good one, they keep on bringing up ideas out of left field, unlike the very predictable Invasion. Kolchak is ok, feels very X-Files (there’s an ongoing mystery he’s looking for clues for, and some eps will deal with that, some won’t – the pilot was the strongest so far).

My favorite returning show has been Smallville. Maybe they just didn’t know if they’d get this far, but they’re pulling out all the stops on this show, and it’s better than ever (surpise hookups, betrayals, new villians – including James Marsters). Second place would be Lost (ooh, this week’s was good, Hurley is always cool), but Alias is fun (waiting to see how the new cast members fit in, Syd pregnant is a little odd, but they’re rolling with it), West Wing is gathering steam (I can’t wait for the debates), Desperate Housewives is mostly good (I like the basement plot).

Been missing Simpsons and Family Guy to a combination of being out on Sundays (thus taping WW and DH) and now them being preempted for baseball playoffs. Hopefully will catch up by spring.