Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Vacation Particles

Death Drive

I find, as I age, that I'm less and less capable of staying up past the grandfatherly hour of 11pm (or even up to it at times). This is probably due, in no small part, to the fact that I've been getting less sleep since Aaron was born. You'd think that, having a baby, this would be expected. You'd be right, but wrong in assuming that he was the cause of it. In fact, I can find no particular reason why I've been missing sleep of late and it's somewhat alarming. Of course, he was at fault the night before we left for Vegas, so that made driving to Amarillo (our first stop) tricky. However, there were far less occurrences throughout the trip of the dreaded asleep with eyes open condition that I've experienced in the past. Far less. That, however, didn't make the couple that did happen any more comforting.

More alarming, however, was when my car unexpectedly overheated at Cuervo, NM. I hadn't noticed the temperature gauge spiking, so I was surprised as I pulled into the gas station for a refill to see the water and coolant my car so desperately needed gushing onto the pavement. The day before our return trip ('cause I put everything off to the last minute) I replaced the thermostat with the help of her cousin. That is to say, I watched as he did the real work.

I did burn my thumb, though.

Vegas, baby! VEGAS!

Suffice to say, Vegas has earned every last bit of it's reputation. Andria and I lost a combined total of $9 (unless you count the $10 she was up on the slots at one point) and that even includes her $5 bingo game (her grandmother's choice). I got to play Empire Strikes Back on the slots at the Stratosphere, which was cool, though not being able to go up to the top of the tower because we were 3 minutes late to the ticket counter (we'd passed it before, but the shrouded kiosks blocked our view of it as we rushed to the elevator at the end of an extremely long walkway) because nobody at the elevator up knew where we'd get tickets.


Andria's family was great, as usual. We had a few minor comfort issues (apparently, most houses are not built to sleep an entire familial group with ease), but that was hardly a bother. It was nice eating at Jack-in-the-Box, too. We need one of those around here. They have a bacon variant on almost all their items.

Including their shakes!

Ok, not really the shakes.

The two things that did bother me were that, first, my brother-in-law's girlfriend stated that she would in no way take $1 million dollars from Donald Trump, were he to offer it, merely because she didn't like him, and second that he referred to the Bush divorce while speaking of his personal feelings about George W. Honestly, I can let the second slide. I mean, when you watch almost no news, sometimes it's hard to remember where you saw what headline and something from The Globe might sneak in. It's really the first that blew my mind. If Osama bin Laden himself offered me $1 million, no strings attached, I'd be running to the bank. Mind you, I'd turn it down in a heartbeat if even someone generally considered to be a saint offered it with the stipulation that I do something I would feel to be wrong.

Well, maybe two heartbeats...I got bills, man...

The Devil be my Guide

I love technology. I do. Anything that can remove some of the tedium from life and free up some time to do something preferable is a good thing in my book. Unfortunately, anything new can cause problems. If the technology is new, it often has glitches. If the user is new, well, I'm sure we've all seen the effects of inexperience before, even when the user is quicker on the uptake than the standard.

That said, our trip was guided less by a printed map from Yahoo! along with ye olde Rand-McNally, and more by my father's Palm with a GPS....er...doohickey (totally technical). Most of the time, it was great. However, when Andria and I decided at the last minute to take a side trip up to Las Vegas, NM, things got a little weird. Our little detour looked innocent enough, at first. I mean, you could see the road on the map, which seemed like a good sign, so I wasn't too worried when it turned out to be a windy two lane road with no shoulder. Indeed, I wasn't even bothered when we entered a small town either called Villanueva or El Cerrito (Yahoo maps has it listed as both in the "hybrid" view). I even tried to stay optimistic when we turned onto a dirt road, though as the rocks grew larger and the hills and valleys steeper I found that to be a bit more difficult. Then, we hit a gate. The road went through private property and had been locked off.


After a moment or two of consideration, we headed back until we saw a guy in a truck coming from a side road. He seemed rather eager to help, probably because we were the first people he'd seen all day, and gave us new directions. It turns out the road DID at one time go off in our previous direction, but then they closed that road off in favor of a newer version of the same road. So, we headed off in the direction he pointed and the road continued with it's rocks the size of a jet ski. This was no longer new to us, so we weren't concerned until we saw "The Hill". I'd been warned about the hill by the friendly rancher, but he said it was nothing we couldn't handle, so long as we took it slow. He failed to mention that it was a gravelly mess, at a 45 degree angle and that the road was no wider than our car as it wound down the side of a mountain with a 100+ foot drop where the shoulder would be.

So, yeah, that sucked.

Then, it turns out that if we'd just set the preferences to "real road" or "don't kill me, please" we might've taken an actual highway. Silly technology...

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Truth in Advertising

My mouth is on fire.

Of course, I am not literally emitting flames from my oral cavity, merely expressing via word picture that the chips that I just ate are, indeed, spicy, but you knew that. What you may not have known is that my vacation hate list was also not meant as expressed. I do hate most of the country I have to drive through while on vacation, a major reason for why I opt to do a lot of night driving, but I haven't ever, in memory, had a vacation where I didn't visit some family. Unless you count the honeymoon or our brief anniversary trips, which I don't.

Family most certainly isn't invited on those.

What may come as a shock to you is the fact that I am often given to hyperbole and, when that isn't enough, lying for effect. I'm not a funny man, but that doesn't stop me from trying. In fact, I've nearly completed my transition from "guy who thinks he can draw" to "guy who thinks he can write," though I'll likely always dabble in both.

Mostly, though, I'm just covering my butt so that no one thinks that I'm not looking forward to going on vacation this weekend. Frustrating as it has the possibility of being (based on the few based-in-reality gripes from before), it sure beats hanging around here for the week.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Vacation of Folly

People have such odd ideas about vacations. They spend the whole year looking forward to them, saving up their time and money so they can go some place and do some thing. They treat it as if that week or two a year is going to undo the other 50 weeks worth of trauma caused by the crushing reality of adulthood.

What they fail to remember is that the vacation itself is more apt to crush souls than the job could ever.

Allow me to explain:

First of all, you have to plan for a vacation. This involves investigating destinations, plotting courses, figuring out what you're going to do when you're there and deciding whether or not it's worth it to take a vacation at all. That last one usually comes up near the end of preparations. Not only that, but this is when a large chunk of change gets dropped. If you fly, you've got to pay for your ticket ahead of time. If you drive, you've got to make sure your vehicle is in working order. You need to check and see if you have a swimsuit for warm climates, heavy coats for cold. You have to invest in sunscreen, snacks, travel games, and various other things that you don't just have. A cooler, for instance.

Then, you have to pack. Nothing sucks more than packing. It isn't JUST that you have to figure out a way to fit enough clothes to live in for the time you'll be gone, because there's no telling if you'll find facilities to launder them and spending vacation time at a laundromat is no fun. No, it's also that you have to decide what it is you'll need to have packed, just in case. For instance, you may be going to sunny Florida, but what if a hurricane blows in? Do you have a heavy-duty raincoat? And what if you forget your toiletries? Those little bottles of hotel "shampoo" (which is more like corn syrup mixed with your grandmother's perfume) and the disposable razors you can obtain at the front desk (or at Wal-Mart if you're staying at a Super 8) are hardly a substitute for what you usually use. And it gets worse if you accidentally leave your good stuff there!

Once you leave, it doesn't get any better. People always say they want to "go to..." (insert location here). What they mean is, they want to be in (same location). Airports are a nightmare. The threat of a full cavity search is enough to put anyone on edge, and that can be bad news for people who say inappropriate things in stressful situations. And it's not like traveling horror is limited to the airways. Nobody enjoys long distance driving unless they're an AARP member and they're in an RV.

And those are the people ruining it for the rest of us.

Even with the interstate system linking all the places you'd want to go, you don't want to actually have to see them. This isn't only due to anticipation of the destination. Sure, that's a large part, but, seriously, it's boring out there!

Which brings up another annoyance: those games people play on the road. It's bad enough you're crammed in a four foot by five and a half foot space with people who also don't want to be on the road for hour. Why would you want to add in a six hour marathon of I Spy or license plate Bingo? And slug-bug (aka punch buggy to some of you weirdos) always degenerates into a fight.

This, of course, is only broken up by the occasional pit stop. This is not without its own complications. First of all, one restroom is almost always out of order and, for some reason, women don't like using the men's room almost as much as they don't want men using theirs. This is, I suppose, due to the fact that women are ashamed of how nasty they make their restrooms (the atrocities I saw in the women's room at the grocery store I worked for shall haunt me the rest of my days). That, or they don't want to share the couches.

What's that all about anyway? Women sit down to pee already! Do they really need to take a load off before they take a load off?

And there's those four words that haunt any driver..."Are we there yet?" It's not like the driver isn't also ready to be out of the steel and fiberglass deathtrap that is a modern motor vehicle. Usually, the driver has some sort of time investment in the trip, such as vacation days, which would be better spent being somewhere, so the added question of whether or not the group has arrived, which it clearly hasn't, is almost enough to make anyone swerve into the nearest gas tanker.

Then, you get there. Sure, you have the opportunity to do the things you planned for in the beginning...half of which won't pan out...but it's going to cost you the other arm and most of the other leg to do those things. And that's to say nothing of having your sleep disrupted. Nobody goes to bed, eats, pees, whatever...on the same schedule as they do at home. I'll bet Ex-Lax makes a killing in the post-vacation market. And hotel pillows are bad, almost across the board. Not as bad as the rolled sandpaper the leave for you to wipe with, but still pretty bad. Of course, you could stay with family (should you have family where you're going), but that means you have to put up with family and that's just the kind of stress that makes us need vacations in the first place. I mean, not only are there the usual personality conflicts, but also the conflicting interests and schedules. If one group is on vacation, the other's presence in their own home usually means that they are not. Do you wait for them to get free so you can hang out, or do you do your thing and see them on your way to bed? Is it rude to want to have your bloody vacation when you're on vacation?

And then it's time to pack. Again. Of course, now you've not only got all your dirty clothes, but all the crap you bought that will be taking up space in a closet at home because God only knows what you were thinking when you spent $50 on a water bong shaped like the Dali Llama.

Finally, you get home, worn out from either driving too long or sick from sitting in an airplane, trapped for hours with some outbreak monkey who didn't have the good sense, or the common courtesy, to stay their butt home. But, the good news is, it's back to the grind tomorrow! You can just make up for the lost rest next year!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

That Doesn't Work!

Item #1: The dog likes cat food and the cat likes dog food.

To be honest, I understand where the dog is coming from. The cat's food is like the forbidden fruit, except that I give her some every time I feed the cat, so, of course, she's going to go crazy for it. The cat, on the other hand, doesn't make sense. She eats the dog food just because. Well, I suppose, it could be out of spite. She does hate...everything with a fiery passion, but without her claws while being saddled with the inborn need to remain immobile as often as possible common in cats, even the effort it takes to eat the dog's food seems a bit much for her.

Item #2: That's TV for you...

I was watching an episode of The Dead Zone this morning as I gave Aaron his early morning bottle, the bottle I get up at 6am for, and I noticed in the conclusion that there was an oddity. Apparently, wherever the show is set (I've only seen a handful of episodes and never the old movie), vandalism and terroristic threatening are NOT offenses which can land you in jail. The basic story for this episode, for those of you who don't watch it, was that Johnny the psychic guy's son, JJ (who does not recognize him as "Dad" but as a genetic donor), was skipping soccer to stalk an acrobat girl at the local circus (let's forget for a second that this town doesn't look like it could sustain a continuous circus, yet the owner talked like it had been there a while...but it was early and I may've misunderstood). So Johnny goes to see what's up and ends up meeting an old friend who, in the time since they knew each other, killed a girl. Another man, who had gone to jail for the murder, was back and kept shattering mirrors and doing things to spook the real murderer into confessing. This brings us back to the end where, after the vandal was captured, the real murderer confesses and is arrested. Just before his capture, vandalman had messed with the rigging on a swing knowing that as soon as murderman's weight was on it, it would snap, falling all of a couple feet, since it wouldn't hold him long enough for the swing to be raised by the pulley. Well, since murderman was in jail, the acrobat girl and went to show off in front of JJ who, thanks to Johnny, had ceased his stalking and tried talking to the girl. Well, the rigging starts snapping and vandalguy was trying to fix it and then trying to hold the cable with his bare hands and does so long enough for Johnny to lend half a second's help before the girl falls and lands on JJ. All this to say, vandalguy should've been back in the pokey and the girl should've ended up dead. Thankfully, laws mean nothing on TV.

Item #3: Feh, coworkers.

I work with this unbearable woman...well, no...that's not entirely true. She works here. I work here. But, we don't work at the same time. Usually. Anyway, she somehow tricked some higher ups into having her come in during the summer (she's usually off) a couple days a week, this month and next. Tuesday was supposed to be the first, so, of course, she called in sick. Apparently, she just needed to have more days she could not come to work on, since there are only so many days during the rest of the year. So much truancy, so little time.

Item #4: Auto-NO-bile

My vacation plans changed, rather suddenly, last week. Originally, Andria and I were going to use my one week (I used the other one I'm allotted last year with its 2 weeks) to...well, I'm not actually sure. But, we weren't going anywhere far or for all of the time. Just enough to enjoy our 3rd Anniversary. Now, we're going to Vegas (baby! VEGAS!!!! ) . Unfortunately, that means getting the car checked and then repaired, because it can never NOT need repairs. So, I'm staring down the barrel of $300+ bill and I know it's got another $150 in tires still in the cartridge.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

And Nothing but the Tooth...

So, the little guy is teething. It's always fun to see him passing these little milestones, but I really wish he wasn't going by them so bleeding fast. Seven months used to seem like an eternity. Now it's just a flash. He does so many things that I'm sure he's not supposed to do yet, mostly because I'm not ready for him to, and it's frustrating. Not because I don't think I've been taking advantage of my time with him...I'm a good father, at least to a baby...but because there's hardly time to savor the flavor of each new thing before another comes rolling down the pipes.

I love me a good mixed metaphor.

Of course, I constantly worry about him. Mostly because there are certain kinks in our system that we haven't worked out yet. He's the first and that makes him the guinea pig.

I should know.

And then, there's the worry about what unfortunate traits I've unwittingly passed on to him. For instance, I have what could be described as symptoms of ADD. They come from a different place, but with similar results. That probably contributes to the fact that I rarely write one of these posts in less than three bursts.

Usually more.

Also, I forget where I'm going with this. And that's sad, because it was amusing when I was thinking of it...seven hours ago.