Monday, December 31, 2007

Scenes From A Bowl Game

The other day, our family went to the Meineke Car Care Bowl at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Normally, I don't have an interest in college football, but since Wake Forest was playing, and both my sister and brother-in-law went there, it was a no-brainer to go.

The game was great: Wake Forest were down 10-0 at halftime, but came back to win 24-10. We had great seats in the end zone, and were lucky that Wake scored a couple of times right in front of us. The only downfall were the assholes sitting a few rows in front of us who wouldn't sit down, and nearly started a fight with the people sitting right behind them.
It was a fun game to see. The bowl game atmosphere was electric - even though the stadium was only 2/3 sold, it sounded much louder than that.

While I root for Wake Forest, I'm not a die-hard fan like John, my brother-in-law. He lives and dies with every up and down that Wake Forest sports has, particularly basketball and football. Going to this bowl game would either mean that John would have a good day or a bad day. I carefully watched John as the game went on and documented his emotions. With every score, John's emotions and body language changed drastically. Here, is a photo essay I took of John reacting to the game:
1. Alarmed (Wake Losing, 7-0)
2. Surrender (Wake Losing, 10-0)3. Hope (Wake Losing, But Coming Back, 10-7)
4. Confidence (Wake Takes The Lead, 14-10)
5. Elation (Wake Extends Lead, 17-10)
When Wake was losing at halftime, John was silent, confused, and absolutely stunned. It was almost as if he couldn't speak any more. But as soon as they started to come back and were winning, John was talking again, and predicting a 20-10 victory.

I'm happy for John that they won. I'm happy for Erin that they won, and John was happy. I'm just happy it was a good game. Heather was just happy to have some nachos.


The (Man-made) River Wild

I am not what you would call "an outdoorsman." I am not afraid of sunlight or fresh air, but I'd prefer to sit at home and nap than go for a hike. Even the mere idea of camping makes me retreat to my couch. (I mean, how can I live without tivo, xbox, and my bathroom?) But something came over me last week, and it came as quite a surprise to Heather when I suggested that we should do something outdoors-y.

Last year, when I was at my dad's house (in South Carolina) for Christmas, I had read about the opening of the US National Whitewater Center just outside of Charlotte. It's a training facility for US Olympic kayakers (and hopefulls), but it's open to the public and has plenty beyond kayaking for novices to do. According to wikipedia, "The Center's primary feature is the world's largest and most complex recirculating artificial whitewater river." When it opened last year, it was a big to-do in Charlotte, and it sounded impressive.

So this year, when I got down to my dad's, for some reason, I was reminded of the Whitewater Center, and thought, "That might be kind of fun." Wait, what? An outdoor activity, fun? That's not me thinking, is it? Apparently, it was. I felt bold, different, unafraid of tackling river rapids in a man-made facility. Instead of thinking beyond that, I decided to book a whitewater rafting trip at the Whitewater Center for Heather and I.

The weather was anything but promising. The temperature was barely in the low 50's that day, so the water was going to be freezing, and at any moment, it was about to begin raining. Because it's winter, we were hooked up with wetsuits, some sort of water shoes, and waterproof jackets to seal around our arms and necks.

After a safety orientation, we were thrown into life jackets and helmets and boarded the rafts. At this point, it started raining. We were placed in the raft with four other people, plus a guide. After learning some basic commands from the guide, we were off.

For the first two runs, we went down a long, bumpy "river," which is supposed to be the easier path to take. In the picture below, it is the loop that goes around the bottom of the picture, around the trees.
As we were going around the loop the first time, we were thrown around at one specific spot, and Heather thought I was about to be tossed from the boat, so she grabbed me. At the same time, I thought she was going to be tossed from the boat, so I grabbed her. Heather held on to both me and her paddle, but I let go of both Heather and my paddle. Luckily, we stayed in the raft, but when I saw my paddle floating down the river, I felt like an idiot. The guide assured me it happens all the time, and I felt better when I saw another boat lose two of their paddles.

When you finish your run, you're quite a bit below where you started, so you paddle over to a long conveyor belt and ride up it, much as you would a log flume, and get dropped off at the starting point to begin your next run. At that point, we stopped to get another paddle and went for our second run.
(I'm in the blue helmet. Heather is across from me, her helmet looks like its covering her eyes)

After two runs on the longer loop, they decided to take us on the much harder rapids, which they said has class 3 and 4 rapids. I had watched a few kayakers on this section earlier, and it was much more harrowing than what we had just been on.
It was clear from the very first moment on these new rapids that we were going to get thrown around a lot more. I was convinced that I'd go flying, but somehow, I stayed in. Any time we were going over the bigger rapids, our guide would yell, "Weeee!"
(Heather is in the front row and I'm right behind her)

It was incredible when you hit some of these bigger rapids and the water just came pouring into our boat. You couldn't see a thing in front of you, and had to just hope that you weren't going to tip over. It really was like going down a roller coaster, but without a seatbelt. And sometimes, you were going down backwards. Or sideways.

After two passes on the tougher rapids, we went back to the easier loop we started on and our guide had us "surf" the rapids: we paddled in from the side of the eddy and straight into the rapid, and our boat sort of "surfed" into the rapid.

After "surfing" on a few rapids, we took one final pass on the tougher rapids.
Our two hours of rafting felt like they took ten minutes. It was an awesome experience, an absolute blast. I was shocked that the cold water and weather didn't bug me - the wetsuits were perfect. The only bummer was that we weren't going again right away.
The Whitewater Center is really impressive. Besides the whitewater rafting and kayaking, they also have climbing walls, ropes courses up in the trees, and a bike path to ride around. It seems like it's in the middle of nowhere, but I guess if you're building a massive man-made river, you kind of have to build it in the middle of nowhere. We were going to a zip line down 100 feet, but because of the rain and bad conditions, it got canceled. Next time we're visiting my dad, both Heather and I agreed that we're going to do another rafting trip. I can't wait!

Maybe I am an outdoorsman after all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas To All...

Merry Christmas friends and family!

To share in the good cheer, I wanted to share a legendary Christmas story from my family, back from the late-60's. My dad was drafted and went to Vietnam, and made one Christmas pretty memorable for everyone.

This is from my Aunt Ellen:
"Your dad had spent the last year in Viet Nam.  He came home
in July, and
his only requests were to have Budweiser and Christmas.
The tree was
up, wrapped presents under the tree, and the Bud was on ice.
All was
well, and we were all totally ecstatic to have him home safe.

But he still had to serve, and for the rest of his tour of duty,
he had to go to California.
Safe place, but so far away from New
Jersey. Christmas was coming up, and my Mom,
and all of us,
were missing Jerry terribly. He was not going to be able to
get home for
Christmas and Mom, especially, was sad about that.

A day or two before Christmas,
Jerry called Janice,
his girlfriend (ED NOTE: my mom), and told her he was able to come

home for a few days. Janice called me and we kept it
secret from everyone else.

After a late evening celebration of Christmas on Christmas Eve,
everyone went to bed,
except me. (I did tell my Dad so he wouldn't
think I disappeared in the night.)
Janice picked me up to go to
the airport, way the heck to some airport in New York. His flight
coming in about three am. We sat giggling in the airport, anticipating
how surprised
everyone would be. When he arrived, we were tired but
psyched. We arrived back in
Bogota, NJ, at about six in the

We tiptoed in, and then Jerry yelled at the top of his lungs,
"Hey, where is everybody??"

With that, I heard my Mom's voice say, "Is that Jerry??????" and I
heard Edward yell,
"Yippee!!!" and the entire family tumbled down
from the upstairs rooms and jumped
all over Jerry.

My favorite Christmas, ever.

I can still hear mom's voice saying "Is that Jerry???" What a day!"
It's one of my favorite family Christmas stories. Sadly, I don't have any video of his Christmas surprise, but I do have some old film of his initial July return to the States from his tour of duty in Vietnam. (Cast note: My mom is the one in the white dress and black bow, my dad is in uniform, aunts and uncles are all around, and there's no audio) Enjoy:

Merry Christmas! I hope someone out there has as great a story as that one after today.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Not In Kansas (Or Los Angeles) Anymore

I'm sitting in a bright pink library, sitting next to a woman in a Dixie flag jacket whose phone keeps ringing "Sweet Child O' Mine" and is getting flustered by the "computers and electronics and stuff." There are a pair of horses in the back, painting pictures. On the drive over, we saw a couple of guys hanging outside of their garage, staring at the engine on their Camaro (and I believe one person was wearing Zubas).

That's right, I'm in Florida.

Heather and I are here, visitng her grandparents for the holidays. Her mom and brother Mark are here, and the rest of her family is coming down in the next few days.

I'll be without email for the next few days (HOW WILL I SURVIVE???), but can always come here to the local public library to sign up to use these public computers. The kid next to me is playing some dragon slaying game. That looks like a lot more fun than blogging.

Oh, and I'm now obsessed with getting a crossword puzzle book. I finished on in the back of the US Airways magazine on our flight yesterday, and I'm dying to do more. Weird, right?

Okay, that was a whole lot of randomness. Really, what I wanted to say was, if you're trying to email me over the next few days, I might not get to it for a while. I may be too busy with my corsswords.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My New Favorite Sports Jersey

This was on deadspin today - if you go to this site you can type in your name and figure out your name if you played on Brazil's soccer team. Mine would be:

I guess it's pronounced "Mac-Cah." Not a bad ring to it. What's your name?

(And the 23 is in honor of new LA resident, Don Mattingly.)

Power Out

Blackouts happen in our neighborhood whenever it A) gets too hot outside and everyone's running tons of air conditioning (which happened in September during our heat wave) or B) whenever it rains steadily and fairly heavily. Of course, for a day-and-a-half, it rained steadily, and I guess the electricity in my neighborhood decided to take a break.

Last night, I hopped in the shower around 8. I was about to lather up when suddenly everything went black. Luckily, after our last blackout, Heather and I prepared for another by setting up candles and flashlights around the apartment. Of course, I had to find them while dripping wet.

Luckily, I left our Menorah out, so I lit the Hanukkah candles. Surprisingly, it was almost brighter than all our other candles combined. Next Hanukkah, I will add a personal prayer when lighting the candles to say "Thanks for keeping my apartment lit during times of blackout."

Heather and I were ready for a night without power. Heather worked in front of the fireplace, I watched a DVD with the remaining power on my laptop, and the cat did whatever it is she does.

The power nearly came back at one point, but it quickly shut itself off again. We could hear the crews working throughout the night. I woke up early this morning, our lights finally on. Based on my blinking alarm clock, I assume that we got power at about 4:45 in the morning.

This was much more tolerable than when we lost power during the Labor Day Weekend heatwave when tried to sleep without AC in 105 degree heat, sweating, hoping and praying, that either the heat would end immediately or that our power would miraculously turn on and stay on for more than 4 hours at a time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's This Dusty Thing In The Corner? (Updated With New Picture Goodness)

That's right, it's my blog. I totally forgot about it - it was buried under that pile of laundry in the corner.

Okay, so I've been ignoring this thing for the last month. I really don't have any good reason other than I was suffering from a severe case of "laziness."

So to get back into the blogging spirit, here's a few little things that amused me recently:
  • Heather's theater company had their Christmas party last night, and she asked me to pick up some chicken from Ralph's. I went to the counter to get some, and saw the price tag, "8 pieces for $5.99." The woman working the counter came over to help and I asked for "12 pieces of chicken." She stared at me, dumbfounded, and mumbled, "That's more than 8." I stared back at her, myself now dumbfounded as well, and noted, "Yes it is." Eventually, after we stared at each other awkwardly for a while, she got me 12 pieces of chicken. It apparently was a major challenge, but she overcame it.
  • The night got even better later on, when I walked into the theater party and saw an elderly man I totally recognized, but couldn't quite place the face with a name. I knew he was a character actor of some sort, but couldn't quite figure out what he was from. After a few moments, I realized, it's UNCLE LEO...from SEINFELD! It took a lot for me not to yell out, "UNCLE LEO!" in front of the entire party. I will forever remember this as the "Christmas of Uncle Leo." UPDATE: Here's the picture he took with Heather:
  • The rain in LA has me feeling like its a snow day. We had our fake fireplace on today, Christmas tree lit up, and I'm sitting in comfy clothes, relaxing, trying to recover from a cold. It certainly is "winter" in LA.
  • Oh yeah, and here's our Christmas set-up this year...
That's all for now. I promise to blog again sooner than another month.