Friday, January 30, 2009

Bananaman Thanks You

Since I was out of town for my actual birthday, I didn't feel like planning any big dinners or parties like I normally do.  I would like to thank those of you who were still kind enough to celebrate with me when I returned from my trip, though.

A group of friends indulged my craving for Filipino food by going to Salo-Salo with me.  We had the Kamayan Seafood Platter, the Sinigang Sugpo, Beefsteak Tagalog, Pansit Canton, Adobo Fried Rice, Vegetable Lumpia Frito, and Turon with Mango Ice Cream.  Everyone seemed to be full and happy.  I'm glad that you were all there. 

Hungry Linda trying to have an early appetizer

Jenn was going to take me out for a spin in her pretty new car, and we were going to go to her favorite restaurant, but that didn't happen.  So she took me out for a spin in her pretty new car, and we went to Caffe Opera in Old Town Monrovia instead.  The online menu seems to need updating.  I had Risotto with Spicy Scallops, which was tasty and filling.  The risotto had bits of bacon in it.  Yum.  Jenn had one of the specials: Beef Stroganoff.  That was tasty, too.  We shared an appetizer of Shrimp and Bacon Brochette, which was delicious.  I was also treated to a complimentary Chocolate Dream cake, which was basically a big truffle-like cake with raspberries.  Mmmmmm....   We had been to this place before, and I would return again.  The service was great, and the staff thought Bananaman was cute.

Bananaman checks out the Bread

A couple of co-workers and I celebrated birthdays for me and Marilee at Red Lobster.  I got a bunch of fried food and then wondered why I thought I would possibly finish such a platter.  It was good, though, and I'll be eating leftovers for awhile.  The lobster pizza was also very good.  Now, combined with the fried food, the salad, and the bread, combined with my not having that great an appetite, I think that I must have been delirious when I ordered that huge platter.

Formal thank you notes for the dinners and nice gifts will be sent shortly.  Now, for the person who sent me the Mills Brothers CD anonymously: thank you, too!  I think I have an idea of who it is, but if you're reading this, please confirm, so I can send you a card, too.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coming Home from Out Of the Cold

Presidential Inauguration Trip: Day 8

Friday, January 23, 2009

I woke up today in time to give James a hug goodbye, and told him that I'd be checking to make sure that he was behaving for his mom.  Liz and Marg left to take James to day care, while I took a shower and packed my stuff.  I'm happy to say that I left with the same number of bags with which I had arrived, although one of them was my little tote bag that was in a small case before, and was now acting as my carry-on bag.  

Liz and Marg came back with breakfast from Panera (another carrot-walnut muffin for me), and Liz told me that I was show-off because I was able to pack everything so that I could carry it all.  I told her that she should just leave her cold-weather stuff there, since she'd be back to help Marg get Easter Egg hunt tickets in a couple of months, and they'd be sleeping out in the cold.  I don't know if she took my advice, though.

They took me to the airport, and we said our goodbyes.  I'm really going to miss hanging out with the Ward family.  They were hilarious.  

My plane rides home went well.  I slept quite a bit.  When we stopped at Chicago-Midway for a short time, I could see snow on the tarmac.  It was COLD when they opened the door to the jetway!  Wow.  I did hear some new jokes from the flight attendants during that time.   There was a long one involving Baby Bear's custody hearing. 

Here's a short one.
Question:  "What did the Zero say to the Eight?"
.
.
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Answer:  "Nice belt!"

I had a short layover in Vegas, and was happy to see the light of the Luxor pyramid.  A trip to Vegas, no matter how short, is nothing if you're there at night and haven't seen that light.

I arrived at Burbank and was happy to get home.  It was a nice, balmy 67 degrees or something like that.  

I had a great trip.  Was it worth it?  All that cold, the travel, the cold, the bodyaches, the cold, the sardine-packed intersection from hell, the cold....yeah, it was sure worth it.  I have new warm shoes that held up in all of that cold and with all of the walking.  I had a great time hanging out with fun people who didn't mind having Bananaman in their presence.  I got to see plenty of historical landmarks and cool museum exhibits.  I tried new places to eat.  But most of all, I can say that I was in Washington, DC to witness the Inauguration of the First Black President of the United States.  I can say that I waved to his little girls.  Heck, yeah!  I had an absolutely fabulous, unforgettable, freezing time...and I'd do it all over again.  But only if Liz is there with me. ;)

Thank you to Liz for the invitation.  Thank you to Margaret for your hospitality and DC expertise.  Thank you to the Wards for their hospitality, the internet service, and the ride to the train station.  Thank you, my newest buddy James, for a birthday song that I'll never forget.  My love to you all, and I hope that every day can be at least half as inspirational for all of you as it was for me on January 20, 2009.  

The Last Shot
Obama Sher to the Rescue!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meltdown? What Meltdown?

Presidential Inauguration Trip: Day 7

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This morning, James wanted to bring food for all of the other kids in day care.  Marg said no, which, when added with Aunt Liz closing the refrigerator door and turning off the lights, resulted in a meltdown.  He was already bundled up by that time, so it was too difficult for him to cross his arms, and just pouted and stared at us.  We needed to get going, but it took way long for Marg & Liz to get him buckled into his car seat, because a) James made himself stiff as a board while hysterically crying; b) James made himself weigh 50 pounds heavier; c) they still needed to take off his big coat in order for him to fit in the car seat; and d) they really didn't want to break anything in order to get him to sit down and strapped in.  It was madness. 

We were finally able to get going, albeit with James screaming "NO!!!" at absolutely nobody asking anything.  After dropping him off at day care, we went to the bank so that Liz could try to get her money back.  She still had to file a claim, so she didn't get it right away, and will have to wait until after she gets home.  Marg drove us to DC and dropped us off so that she could go to work, and we went to the Capitol.  
Jesus Birds on Water in front of Capitol



Capitol Steps

We were trying to find the Visitors Center, but I didn't want Liz to ask anybody that was holding a gun.  Unfortunately, those were the only official-looking people available, so she did anyway.  We shopped a little bit, and had breakfast downstairs in the cafeteria.  We saw that they had crab cakes and lobster rolls on the menu, but couldn't order them because we were too early.  We briefly looked at the exhibit in the main hall, which included a replica of the statue on top of the Capitol dome.  We also looked a little bit at the Emancipation Proclamation exhibit, which included a history of Congress.
 
We went back to Longworth Hall to buy stuff, like a space pen and a pretty Great Seal charm for Liz.  We went back outside, and were curious as to where the Senators have their offices, so Liz asked Capitol policeman in ski mask about it.  Now, normally I don't want to ask anything from someone wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun.  I didn't want to this time, either.  So Liz did.  He pointed across the way, and we didn't have time for that, so we instead walked to the Washington Monument and tried to avoid the Pro-Life picketers.  Wow, there were a LOT of them!  It wasn't as many people as the Inauguration, but National Mall was quite full.


Well, you KNEW he had to be here somewhere, right?

I don't remember ever seeing the WWII Memorial before, and saw that the Philippines was one of the countries in tribute, so I took a picture there and refrained from taking Bananaman out for the picture.  I do have some sense of how to be somber, you know.  On the way to the Lincoln Memorial, I saw that the Reflecting Pool was still icy.  I've now decided to name certain birds "Jesus Birds," because they look like they're walking on water when the reflecting pool is frozen.  We walked over to the Lincoln Memorial, and I almost cried while reading the quote of the Gettysburg Address on the wall.  
Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln really is quite something for one's eyes to behold, and I thought of how his presidency paved the way for Barack Obama to become President himself.  So I tried not to totally lose it, and shopped in the bookstore.  I bought a book there which I'll be using in later blog posts, as well as a sticker book for the nephew, because he likes stickers, he likes pennies, and he might as well learn about Lincoln while he's sticking pennies on stuff.


Can you see the Monument's reflection in the icy pool?

We hadn't realized how close we already were to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  We saw the wall and walked beside it, and all I could think of was that there were too many names.  Too many soldiers died for that war, and the personal touch of the flowers and drawings that people left really saddened me.  Liz showed me the book where you can look up someone's name to find its place on the wall.
Back of White House

On our way over to the White House, we passed by our bleacher section and Liz realized just how close we had been sitting to the end of the parade route, and also that we could have been in the section to see Obama get out of the limo and walk.  She was NOT happy.  She even had me take a picture of her, so clearly she had lost her mind at that point.  I will not risk my life by posting that here, but suffice it to say: Liz was quite miffed.  We witnessed some of the press box being taken down, and weren't able to get a good angle for pictures of the White House from the front because of all of the bleachers.  Other people tried to get past the barricades anyway, which prompted yellings of "Ma'am!" quite a few times.  

video
Video in front of White House

We shopped a little bit in a political souvenirs store, and saw that they were selling a Limited Edition number of 500 bottles of Cristal especially made for the Inauguration.  I don't have a spare $200.00 plus shipping to buy that, so I took a picture instead.  

We went to Corner Bakery for a snack, and somehow Liz and I continued our trend of buying the same item even though we ordered separately and nowhere near each other.  Corner Bakery is in a little mall, which has a White House store where I finally found something I had been looking for all week.  They also had a cool painting of all of the presidents standing in front of the White House, with Obama included.

We successfully took the Metro back to Marg's work, and, despite the horrific traffic, picked up James ON TIME.  YAY!  Our dinner was at UNO, where they had a special pepperoni pizza in honor of the Inauguration, since Chicago is Obama Country.  I think they also had a special margarita, too, but I didn't have either one of those.  I had a Numero Uno personal pizza, and a salad with pomegranate-blueberry vinaigrette.  That was some good salad dressing, and I enjoyed the pizza as well.  There were plenty of leftovers, so I decided to take mine to go for the trip home.  Margaret reminded James that he had not yet sung Happy Birthday to me, so he proceeded to do so.  In the bathroom.  While I was at the table.  He did sing for me later, though.  See?  You have to either tilt your screen or your head, though. video

When we got back to Marg's house, James asked me to color with him, and he actually let me use different colors as we switched crayons back and forth.  His mom asked him what he was doing, and he said, "I'm playing nice with Miss Sherry."  Awwww....  Marg didn't want to make him go to bed because he was being so pleasant, but it was also a good time to take him to his room so that he wouldn't argue.  She broke the news to him that I'd be leaving the next day, so we made sure to take pictures together so that he'd have them in his room when he got home from school the next day.  Liz attempted to start packing and decided that she would, indeed, need to check another bag.  Well, she did have stuff from a few weeks ago when she was there, too.  The evening was all fine and dandy until James somehow got his foot stuck in the slats of his bed.  Liz and I heard Marg yell from upstairs, "ELIZABETH!!!" and she ran up the stairs, thinking that she'd need to perform some kind of CPR.  Instead, they needed to just calm the child down and get his foot back out.  Poor thing.

After everything settled and James fell asleep, I finally ate my dessert from Famous Dave's,  while Liz fell asleep in the armchair.  It's been quite an active day.  I'm surprised that I made it upstairs myself.  It was probably the bed calling my name.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do You Want *GOOD* Crab Cakes?

Presidential Inauguration Trip: Day 6

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

After waking up and saying our goodbyes to Liz's parents, we drove back to Alexandria to drop off James at day care.  While waiting for Margaret to get back to the car, David, my best friend from high school, called me back, asking where we were at the moment.  We had thought that maybe we'd be able to get together for lunch today, but David was going to go to the airport in 20 minutes, and we weren't even in D.C. yet, so no go.  That was a bummer, since I haven't seen David in over a decade.  We're going to try to get together when he's in So Cal in a couple of months, though.  We did get to talk a little bit, and he said that his family was able to go to the Children's Concert before the Inauguration.  He said that son Sean had a great time at his first concert, and is looking forward to his next one.  He also said that Mrs. Obama was really nice and elegant.  I just love hearing David talk as a dad.  Aw, I'm really sorry that I didn't get to see him.

We went to Marg's job, and Liz told us to go about "halfway around" Dupont Circle and we'd find the Krispy Kreme, which was right by the Metro entrance.  So there we were, walking around Dupont Circle in a counter-clockwise direction, thinking that it didn't matter which way we walked since it would be exactly across from our point. 80% of the way around the circle later, we found the Krispy Kreme and Metro station.  We really could have been there much sooner if Marg had known that it was really only 2 blocks away going clockwise.  Oh well.

We exited the train at Gallery Place, and walked down 7th Street.  There was no line at Red Velvet, so we got cupcakes, and I got a free one, which was cool, because I couldn't decide between having another Peanut Butter one, or an actual Red Velvet Cupcake, so I was able to get both.  Oink, right?!  Anyway, we passed by the Intersection from Hell, and tried not to get flashbacks.  We went back to the Obama Superstore, but things we wanted weren't on sale, and the line was way too long to deal with.  Further down the street was the Zenith Gallery, which had an "Inaugural Inspiration" exhibit.  They had a really cool poster from Academy for Ideal Education "March to the White House," which I really wanted to order.  There was a gal at the one desk in the gallery, and she looked perturbed that I had interrupted her personal cell phone call.  She kept the other person on the line as she told me that she knew nothing about the poster, nor whether or not they could ship it to me, as they were just allowing the association to sell it from their gallery.  Girl, that is NOT good customer service, and you have now lost me as a potential customer for one of your $5K pieces.  No, I wasn't going to get one, but what if I was planning on it?  People like that just irritate the hell out of me.

We went to the beads store to see if they had anymore of the Obama as Superman shirts, which they didn't, so I was at least glad to have bought the tee with just the "O."  I just ordered the one with the drawing online, though.  I don't usually wear people's faces on my shirts, but I really like this one.

We went back to Teaism for lunch, and I noticed that the same bento box meals that were available the other day for $10.00 were now priced at $8.75.  Um, gouging much?  The food was still good, and Liz was happy to have her udon soup again.  I opted for Shrimp Spring Rolls and some Edamame.  We forgot to go to the Teaism shop, but maybe that's for the best, since we were already buying a lot of stuff.
National Mall: The Day After

We returned to the National Museum of American History and looked at the First Ladies exhibit, where Liz talked to a Congresswoman there that she knew, who will try to talk to Joe Jr when she's in Afghanistan.  Michelle Obama's picture is up there now, although there is no personal item of hers on display yet.  I visited Stephen again, but refrained from making him meet Bananaman.  We briefly looked at the Entertainment exhibit.  I was happy to see the Seinfeld Puffy Shirt, Ruby Slippers, and Bob the Dummy from "Soap".  
Wouldn't it be funny if  Bob or Oscar was *wearing* the puffy shirt?

We thought that maybe we'd be able to see Karla, who was in DC with her school's kids, but they decided to leave DC a little early.  The Star-Spangled Banner exhibit made me cry.  Wow -- that's the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem.  Some of the flag, like one of the stars, had been cut out for people in that era to keep a piece of it.  The flag was GINORMOUS.  It was amazing.

We walked to Smithsonian Castle, and for some reason, this was on the crosswalk in front.  Please appreciate this picture.  It could have been the last one that I ever took, because I almost got hit by a truck coming down the road at me when Liz couldn't remember my name in order to yell at me to get out of the way.

No, I have no idea why.

At the gift shop, Liz and I had to make sure to buy pins before some rich dude bought 40 of them.  He had started at only 10, then it turned to 20, then 40.  Dude!  I just want 2!  We took the metro from there and returned to Dupont Circle, and took the short way to Marg's office, instead of going back around 80% of the circle.  We ordered dinner from Chop't, where they have salad and something called "salad sandwiches."  Marg told me that it was a fancy name for "wrap."  So I ordered one of those, and they messed up my order, giving me a salad instead.  You know, if you would just call it a "wrap," then the person filling the order would see a "W" instead of an "S," and would probably know the difference immediately.  I'm just sayin'.  So, of course, that made us even later in picking up James.  

The traffic in DC was insane.  We thought that we saw Sasha and Mallia being taken home from school in their limo, because we were right by the White House entrance.  (We later realized that it was probably Hillary Clinton, according to the timing of the news reports that we saw the next morning).  Anyway, while we were near the WH entrance, Marg was on the phone, blocking traffic, and asking a friend for advice for a restaurant that would have crab cakes.  He asked her, "Do you want '*good* crab cakes?"  No, I want horrible ones.  What?  APPARENTLY, they have places with good crab cakes, and places in the 'hood have crab cakes as well.  We ended up not getting any crab cakes anyway, but you know that if I had met that friend, he would not have lived that question down.

We were afraid that James would have major pouty face, but he was actually smiling when we picked him up.  After we ate dinner (my Palm Beach Shrimp WRAP was wonderful, BTW), I colored stuff blue with James (he's into the monochromatic thing) before his drama started.  I swear I didn't give him any sugar!  After he fell asleep, we enjoyed our cupcakes, and I finally wrote postcards.  I had meant to write them and send them out on Inauguration Day, but I left them at Marg's house and we were at her mom's.  Oops.  After watching the new episode of Top Chef, I went to bed.  What a nice day of sightseeing.  We're in for even more tomorrow!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yes, We Can, BananaMan!

Presidential Inauguration Trip: Day 5

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We woke up REALLY early to go to train station to take the Virginia Railway Express into DC.  The temperature was 19 degrees, according to Mrs. Ward's car.  It sure felt like it, as we stood on the steps to the platform, outside in the cold.  We talked to people from So Cal and Georgia about the cold, but everyone was in really good spirits because we knew why we were braving it all.  One lady advised us to keep our arms down in order to keep them warm, so we all immediately did so.  It did work a little bit, perhaps so that the circulation could work?  I don't know.  The train tickets had sold out, and the line extended down the stairs and around the building.  We sat on the second level and relaxed in the warmth of the VRE.  

BananaMan and special VRE ticket

When we arrived at Union Station, we had already placed our toe warmers in our shoes, and our hand warmers in our gloves, and headed outside. The city was bustling with activity, and Liz and I just made sure that we could see Marg at all times so that she could lead us in the right direction.  We picked up breakfast at McD's, where it would take 30 minutes to get coffee, so Liz ordered tea, which was about to take a girl 15 minutes just to put lemon in it.  My goodness, that was dumb.  Then we made our way out to find an entrance to National Mall.  Marg asked one of the DC policemen where we should go, and he said that there were only 2 entrances to get to the parade route.  The entrances to National Mall were not even our goal by this time, because we were told that we would be unable to even get to National Mall for the inauguration.  On one of the corners, we were waiting to cross the intersection as we heard a siren, and saw the Clown Fire Truck approaching.  As it got closer, we finally realized that it was honking at US, and a lady pulled Marg's coat as Liz and I jumped out of the way.  Yikes!  Those crazy clown firefighters!

We ended up at 7th and E, which was extremely crowded.  People were still in relatively good moods, since we knew that we were actually keeping each other warm.  We pointed out to each other that there was a woman in one of the windows above us, just staring at the crowd while talking on her phone.  I kept wanting her to just do tricks because we needed the entertainment.  She never did that, though.  As more people packed in, it became quite uncomfortable, and I was at the point of standing on the balls of my feet instead of actually planted on the ground.  At one moment, the big guy in front of Liz turned his body around to have a conversation with people behind her, so her face was right at his chest.  At that same moment, a guy next to me had his big stomach right next to me, and I had just about had it.  Our tickets to enter were at a different intersection, and it had come to the time that they were going to open those gates.  I asked Liz how long she wanted to stay and wait to see if Margaret could get in, and Marg said that she'd be OK, so after establishing our meeting point, we decided to leave.  Easier said than done.  I tried to get by politely, but then I got to a point where the people wouldn't budge.  One guy told me to just push hard, so I did so, and hit a poor lady in the bladder or something, because now she needed to go to the bathroom.  Well, then I was stuck with people who were just angry that I pushed them, and still wouldn't move.  Eventually, a skinny lady came pushing through the crowd, and we followed her out.  We realized after passing about 20 people deep that there was plenty of open space.  All the people had to do was back up at least one step, and the people in the front could have breathed.  What gave these people the idea that they needed to crush up against the ones in front of them, almost toppling people over the barricade?  There was absolutely no need for that, and it pissed me off.  I refrained from yelling at everybody since I was just thankful to be alive, and Liz and I hoofed it over to 15th and F.  

At 14th street, there was a long line to enter the non-ticketed portion of the parade route, but it was at least organized.  It was taking a long time because of security, but the line moved.  We marveled at the incompetence of whomever was in charge of (or had abandoned) the entrance at 7th and E, now deemed by me to be the Intersection from Hell.  The entrance for the ticketed people was very relaxed, but the line was slow-moving even though there weren't more than 100 people in line.  The security was very high, as the Secret Service was not letting in anyone with large bags.  So the volunteers kept telling a woman in back of us that they wouldn't let her bag in, and that she'd need to leave it at the gate, with no guarantee that she'd find it when she returned.  She ended up checking it in to the hotel desk nearby.  Then the volunteers said that even Liz's bag, which was already small, would be iffy, because the acceptable dimensions were 8" x 6" x 4".  Um, her bag was NOT that big.  Another volunteer said that the bags could only be the size that you would use for passports and such, but they let us through just fine.  The second volunteer was just dimensionally challenged or something, I guess.  Our bags were searched, we passed through a metal detector, and we also got wanded.  I just smiled, as I did at the museum yesterday, that the guard had to take Bananaman out of my bag in order to see what else was in there.

The volunteers told us that, based on our Blue C section ticket, we could sit in one of the two sections on either side of the crosswalk bleachers.  I suggested to Liz that we get into the seats where the sunlight was headed, and she agreed since we were both cold.  We sat in the front row of the bleachers.  We didn't have shade for most of the day, and the sunlight that we did have didn't last for more than an hour.  We didn't have a jumbotron, either, so that was a bummer, because we really wanted to see the Swearing-In live.  We did have big speakers near us, which piped in the ceremony through National Public Radio.  We saw the National Guard march in and take their places along the street.  We really had no idea where on the parade route we were sitting, much less which direction the units would be marching, but whatever.  We just couldn't stop thinking about how cold we were.  If our brains had been less frozen, I'm sure that we would have walked around and looked at what was going on, but unfortunately we were just too cold to think at that point.  Pop music played through the speakers, and the DC police tried to get us to get up and dance and move around, but I was too amused by their singing and dancing to do so.  No, the Guard did not dance.  We looked overhead to see Marine One flying around. 

Sherry and Frozen BananaMan

The Inauguration ceremony finally started, and I cried through most of the Benediction (especially as I recited along with the Lord's Prayer), and didn't stop until after Aretha's rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" was done.  Then the swearing-in of our First Black President happened, and I was in tears again.  No, not because the Chief Justice had flubbed, but because it meant so very much to all of the people that were in attendance that day, with the spirits of ancestors in their hearts.  My goodness, our country has come a LONG way in its short history, and I'm proud to be a part of it.  When President Obama spoke, I was really happy to hear his voice speak so eloquently.  He talked about the state of our nation, and that Americans would fight to get back to its posterity and great status in the world.  He challenged us to rise up to be the change, inspired us, and cautioned our nation's enemies.  My favorite part of his speech, though, made me grin widely through the tears.  There he was, talking about George Washington along the icy Potomac, and the words of Washington were thus: “Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].“ That was us, people.  Those frozen ones on 15th street and outside on the streets of DC and Capitol Mall.  Full of hope, indeed.  I tried to dry my tears for fear that they would turn to icicles on my already-cold cheeks, but there were just too many to deal with.  Thankfully, no ice formed. 

We had at least an hour before the parade would start, so we listened to more of the same music from those speakers, and wanted to kill the person that didn't know how to do more than a 30-minute loop of recorded music.  The lady seated next to us with her son decided to get some coffee at Borders and asked Liz to watch her kid in the meantime.  She was nice enough to pay for Liz's coffee, too, and later on promptly lost her own child when he went to the porta potties by himself.  I also went to Borders for a little bit and thawed out a little bit before going back to the stands.

We waited, and waited.  The time had come and gone for when the parade was supposed to start.  Liz's hubby Joe gave us updates whenever he could, and we found out that the parade was delayed because Ted Kennedy had fainted at lunch.  Liz and I made a game plan as to how long we'd stay, because we needed to get to our meeting place with marg and on to Union Station or the train would leave us stranded in DC.  By the time that Liz had talked to the policemen about possible breaks in the parade, it was already on our part of the street.  We were worried because Liz was told that we'd have to sit for the entire 2.5 hours, but somehow the people in the crowd convinced the SS and DCP that it was entirely too cold after already waiting for 7-8 hours, and people had trains to catch.  So they said that they'd try to find a break for us.  We were excited because we heard from Joe that President Obama and Michelle Obama had gotten out of their limo and walked on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Unfortunately, they got back in the car by the time they got to our portion, most likely for security reasons.  Our seating was right across from the Hotel Washington, which was closed for construction, and probably way too dangerous for the President to be just walking around.  When he passed by, we only got a glimpse of the back of his head, because he had turned to wave at the 3 National Guardsmen on the other side of the street.  We did get to wave to Malia and Sasha, though, as they excitedly waved from their window.  Too cute.  I don't actually have good video from our vantage point.  I was excited and waving and yelling at the President to turn around.  SORRY, sir.

We did get to see Joe and Jill Biden walking as we lined up to cross the street.  That was exciting, too, and I'm glad that we at least got to see SOMEONE from the Executive Office walking around.   Here's the video from our vantage point at the crosswalk.

video

Of course, as soon as the President reached the corner, he got out of his limo again.  Dangit!  We just missed all of that!  But then I had to keep consoling Liz and myself that had we been sitting over there, we would have missed our train, because there seemed to be no way out of those seats. Honestly, though, I would have rather seen him walk and then we ccould somehow get into Marg's office and sleep on the floor over there. The Secret Service finally let us out in groups of 2, and we hurried over to meet up with Marg at Teaism to hoof it the long way over to Union Station.  As we approached Teaism, I was able to see the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps marching on Pennsylvania Avenue, so at least I did get to see one of the DCI groups today!  The police, of course, had more roads blocked off, which made us walk a lot of extra blocks to get there.  Then at the station, the cops didn't have signs to guide everyone to the right place to catch the trains, and they yelled out different directions through their bullhorns.  It was crowded and people were a little cranky, but we finally made our way into Union Station where, BTW, people were much more relaxed and non-crowded.  So what was all that craziness outside?  A bunch of nothing.

We stood in line for the VRE and got onto the train, happy that we were on our way home.  Marg told us that she had to stand at 7th and E for 3 hours, and never even got to hear the swearing-in, much less see it on any jumbotron.  She did, though, get to see the President walking on Pennsylvania Avenue, so we all experienced a little bit of something that day.  Marg called their mom to tell her that we had made it onto the train, and Mrs. Ward said that she could take us over to "Five Brothers or Sisters or whatever it's called."  Marg told us and had a perplexed look on her face.  I had to tell Marg that I think she meant "Five Guys."  We all laughed hysterically before falling asleep for a short nap on the rest of the ride home.  Mrs. Ward was right there waiting when we arrived, and we told her our stories as she drove us to Five GUYS for more burgers and fries.  I decided to have different toppings from yesterday's burger, and was again satisfied with my meal.

When we got home, we witnessed the aftermath of Grandpa giving James Oreo cookies while Grandma was gone.  James kept saying "Knock Knock," but when we asked "Who's There?" we didn't ever get an answer.  So we ate our dinners as we watched extensive coverage of the Inaugural Balls and snippets of the ceremonies that we missed before going to sleep.

It's a new day, Nation.  Let's party!  OK, let me sleep, then we'll party.

A Janky Birthday It Was Not

Presidential Inaugural Trip: Day 4

Monday, January 19, 2009 -- Sherry's 41st Birthday
The Birthday Girl with Her Birthday Mascot

Marg noticed this morning that she needed gas if we were going to get to her mom's house this evening.  So we went to a gas station that was conveniently located next to a Burke and Herbert bank.  I went into the ATM room and got my money.  Liz went in afterward, and then Marg joined her.  They took awhile, and I wondered what was wrong as I talked to James for a little bit.  They both returned to the car, stating that the ATM ate Liz's money.  I didn't understand.  Well, it seems that Liz tried to withdraw money, and instead of the $100 that it was supposed to give her, it only gave $60.00, then the spool went all wonky and stopped giving her money.  In fact, you could actually see the money stuck in the ATM. 

 See the money in there?

Liz couldn't find any phone numbers by the ATM to call in case of an emergency.  Thinking that perhaps another request for money would push Liz's money out along with it, Margaret tried to put in her own card.  However, the ATM wouldn't even accept it.  So Liz and I looked through the windows at the bank to write down all of the phone numbers that we could.  She called them, but couldn't get through to anyone, even on the 24-hour line.  We dropped off James at day care, and Liz left a message on a random person's voice mail.  She managed to NOT say "Y'all are just JANKY!" as her sister had suggested if it had been one of those cheap, stand-alone machines.
 
We drove to the Franconia Metro station to use our pretty special edition Metro cards.

We took the Metro into town, and Bananaman was able to get his own seat, see?  
Doesn't he look happy?  Because it's his day, man!

We disembarked at the Capitol Hill stop and found the shortest line into Longworth Hall.  While waiting in line, we talked about the major cold with a nice couple from Utah named Kevin and Juliet.  THEY were really cold, and they had ski gear on.  Kevin said that it was because the humidity was different in DC than in UT.  Liz's House Rep, Linda Sanchez was holding a reception for her consituents, and it was really nice.  There were breakfast burritos, fruit, pastries, coffee, tea, cheese, and water available.  Two of the decorations on the table were the Capitol building made out of chocolate and white chocolate.  The aides told us that they were for sale at Costco of all places!  I talked to one of Ms. Sanchez's assistants about the catering for Margaret, and then Liz and I met Ms. Sanchez to take a picture with her and say thank you for the reception.  While we were in line, a couple of guys basically just walked right in there to talk to her and monopolized her time.  One of the aides eventually saw us and helped us get in to say hi briefly so that we could leave.  Of course, I wanted a picture of the chocolate Capitols, and was daring enough to ask if Bananaman could sit next to the chocolate.  The aide there got a kick out of it and said that it reminded her of the "Peanut Butter Jelly" dancers.  She showed BMan to the other aide, and he started to do the dance, so she did, too.  Margaret and Liz were simultaneously mortified and highly amused by the whole encounter. 

 Bananaman and White Chocolate Capitol

Liz was able to talk to one of the staff members in charge of the Inauguration tickets, and they said that if any tickets were unclaimed by 4:00 p.m. today, they were hers.  So all day I kept looking at the time to make sure that Liz would listen for the phone at 4:00.

One of my sightseeing goals for this trip was to see the painting of Stephen Colbert in the National Museum of American History.  We figured that this would be a good day to see the object of my Geek Love since it was my actual birthday.  We had researched the layout of the museum the night before so that we could make a quick stop there, and I was really happy to see the painting of Stephen, which is a painting of him next to a painting of him next to a painting of him.  Bananaman did not meet Mr. Colbert because I was smiling too much to remember.

Sherry + Stephen

During our walks around town and along National Mall, we checked out the different wares being sold by the vendors on the sidewalks.  You could get pretty much anything with Obama on it.  I bought a scarf because the one that I had packed was NOT warm enough for me the other night at the Kennedy Center.   At one point, Liz was going to buy a couple of shirts from a guy selling his stuff on top of the barricades on a street corner, and asked the man if he had a bag.  He looked at her like, "WTF?"  Marg whispered to me, "Leave it to my sister to ask for a bag from a man selling stuff on the street," and we laughed hysterically.  Marg was crying by the time Liz came over to see why we would not stop giggling.  Mind you, Liz did not live this down for the remainder of the trip.  Luckily, I had a tote bag on me so that Liz wasn't just walking around with shirts in her hand as she was apparently loathe to do.  Marg was like, "The only other person I could see doing that would be Mom!" Liz has apparently gone hoity-toity and forgotten what it's like to buy non-licensed merchandise off the street.

We walked to The Historical Society of Washington, DC to see the exhibit "Quilts for Obama: Celebrating the Inauguration of our 44th President."  The quilts were amazing and beautiful.  I was struck by the beautiful colors and the creativity of the different artists.  One of my favorites had little pockets with quotes inside of them.  I wasn't able to read any of them because we weren't allowed to touch or take pictures of the quilts.  I also liked one that had panels of the different events in Michelle Obama's family roots, leading up to the inauguration of her husband.  I'm really glad that we were able to see such a wonderful exhibit.

We walked back toward town, still looking at the time and anxiously awaiting a phone call.  As we walked, we overheard a gal talking loudly on her cell phone to her friend Shayne about Shayne's inebriated actions the night before.  We couldn't help but listen, because she was loud, entertaining,and walking at the same pace and in the same direction as us.  She was telling Shayne about what was going on with a guy at the bar, and here's a snippet of what she told her friend: "Your head had gone down toward his, you know, area, and I said, 'SHAYNE!' but you couldn't hear me...and he said to one of his friends, 'I'm getting this for FREE tonight!'"  O.M.G.  I was thinking at this point, "How could you possibly let your friend get to this point?" because there were other things she said that led up to this part of the conversation.  We finally lost her in the crowd, but were still curious to find out where Shayne actually was at the current moment, and where she woke up this morning.  Oh, well.  Our imaginations would have to suffice.

The gals had decided during the day that I needed to have a cupcake to celebrate my birthday.  Margaret mentioned that a new cupcake place had opened somewhere on 7th Avenue, but had forgotten the name.  She eventually said that she could smell cupcakes, but apparently my olfactory senses were failing me, because I couldn't smell anything.  But there it was, in neon letters: Red Velvet.  The line was out the door.  Yes, it was a small place, but there were at least 15 people in line in front of us.  I ended up getting a Peanut Butter Cup, which is Chocolate Chocolate Chip cake with Peanut Butter Frosting.  YUM-MY.  We didn't end up eating them until later, because we wanted to get ourselves back to Capitol Hill in case Liz got a call.

Cupcakes at Red Velvet

We were walking in front of the Capitol when the phone rang.  Liz missed the call (damn gloves), but she did get a hold of the staff member who said that all of the tickets were claimed.  Awww.  But good news!  He had two tickets for parade seating.  YAY!  So we quickly walked back to Longworth Hall and obtained the tickets.  

Happy to have anything special in our hands, we walked back to the Metro station and got back on the train to Franconia.  Remembering that James did NOT need to see that we had sugar handy, we ate our cupcakes on the way.  Margaret knew that we would be late picking up James, and asked us to join her in going inside to get him.  James had a major pouty face.  The day care staff gave him a few Hershey's Kisses, and we are now thinking that it was to punish Marg.  Isn't it funny how you can warn a kid not to hold chocolate tightly in their hand lest it melt, but they still do it anyway, then complain about it?  

We needed a bite to eat that was portable, so we went to Five Guys for burgers.  I didn't realize that a regular burger had 2 patties, but I was hungry, so I finished mine.  There were too many french fries for me to finish, though.

We drove to a town near Fredericksburg to stay at Liz's parents' big, beautiful house.   We stopped at a Sports Authority store on the way where Liz bought some toe warmers for us, and some warmer gloves.  We also went to Kohl's to get some other clothing, including this strange but warm thing that was like a big mock turtleneck.  We also went to an Office Depot, where they had run out of the memory card that Marg wanted to buy on sale, but I did find the portable cell phone charger that I'd been looking for, so I was happy.  Well, until James had a meltdown when he wanted candy and was rejected.  Oh, boy.  Liz said that he gained 50 pounds when he wouldn't budge.  The boy just knows how to make dead weight of himself.  We somehow managed to get him into the vehicle and calm him down before we got to the house.  James was supposed to sing Happy Birthday to me in front of his grandparents, but there was too much excitement when we got there, so that didn't happen.

That's OK.  It was a great birthday anyway: Colbert, Bananaman, Tickets, and Cupcakes.   The ATM at least gave me my money so that I could repay Liz for my wallet-less day, and found the charger that I wanted.  What more could a girl ask for?  Well, except for warm weather.

Thanks for a great birthday, Ward sisters!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Little Sugar Goes A Long Way

Presidential Inauguration Trip: Day 3

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We woke up this morning to pick up James from the sitter's house, and finally obtained coffee for Marg at Panera.  (Marg had been suffering without coffee for a few days already).  I had a yummy carrot-walnut muffin, and a chai latte.  I may go back there one of these days to try out their Egg Souffle.  Sounds interesting.

Marg dropped Liz and me off at home while she and James went to church, and we lounged around for a few hours before they got home.  By that time, I had eaten part of the extra cookie that Liz had conveniently purchased at Panera, and James saw the rest of it and asked if he could have some.  I swear, I only gave him a bite that was no bigger than 2 inches in diameter.  He seemed fine for awhile.

We didn't go in person to see the free concert for Obama at the Lincoln Memorial because it would have been cold and we didn't want James outside, plus the schedule would have been very tight.  Instead, we watched the concert on free HBO, then realized that there might be a lot of traffic after the concert was over, so we went out shopping for a little bit at the Landmark mall.  James was rambunctious by this point, but amusing to the salespeople there as he checked himself out in the floor mirror of the shoe department.  Yeah, I bought shoes.  They were pretty, I had been looking for that style for awhile, and they were on sale.  Of COURSE I bought shoes!  I also bought some pretty sterling silver earrings with pale green stones and what looks like Japanese or Chinese characters on it.  I need to figure out what those say.  Well, James eventually had a meltdown, and it was blamed on the slow release of sugar from my chocolate chip cookie.  SORRY!  I did get permission, you know.

We went for some take-out at Famous Dave's BBQ, which took a long time, but was good.  We ate our BBQ while watching the rest of the HBO special as it re-aired.  James wanted to eat the Oreo cookies that came with his meal, but no.  When Samuel L. Jackson started to speak, James looked at the TV and said aloud, "Grandpa!"  I asked if Marg & Liz's dad looked like Sam Jackson, but apparently not.  Nor does he wear those types of hats.  Okay, whatever.  I just loved the fact that whenever Obama was shown, James would shout out, "Barack Obama!"  I love that his face has become so familiar to this 3-year-old boy's mind that he recognizes him on sight.  He also joined in the entertainment and played his guitar when people on TV were playing theirs.  After all, his mom did wake him up yesterday by calling out to him, "Hey, Rock Star!"  That's James' goal, actually, and when we showed him a real rock star, Bono, he wasn't as impressed as we were.  He did enjoy the James Taylor segment, though. I told him that was because his name is also James.

Well, unfortunately, our little Short One (as Liz called him today) started acting up again, and had another meltdown upstairs.  As we waited out the tantrum, Marg went downstairs and found the Oreo cookie wrapper opened and some of the cookie missing.  James denied opening the wrapper, and so did Liz and I.  We knew that someone had to be fibbing, and since Liz and I were continuing our mellow mood of the day, there was only one other answer, and that answer completely explained how second meltdown must have taken place.  James cried himself to sleep, naked, with his underwear beside him, at the doorway to the bathroom.  A True Rock Star.

Mr. Bananaman Goes to Washington

Presidential Inauguration Trip: Day 2

Satiurday, January 17, 2009

We started our day taking forever to leave because James was lagging.  He's a kid, though, so he's forgiven.  He's only 3, you know, plus he was busy talking about stuff and taking this picture:
Yes, Mr. Bananaman has joined me for the trip!  I had thought of bringing Gloomy Bear, but since I'll be celebrating my birthday this week, I couldn't leave the Yellow Lewd Guy at home, now could I?  There was far too much for me to pack, so I couldn't bring them both.  Sorry, GB.

We got into the car and drove to DC.  I marveled at the Express Lanes on the highway which were going slower than the regular lanes, mostly due to the fact that there was an accident in the Express Lane up ahead, and there is a barrier, so there is no way for people to get off of the highway.  Meanwhile, the people in the regular lanes have exits and such.  I don't think the Civil Enigneers thought this through completely.  I was unprepared for the "Welcome to Virginia" sign, but Marg assured me that we'd see it plenty of times during the week.

We drove around a couple of blocks before finding a parking space, which was quite a score because the meters were much cheaper than the lots.  At this point, I tried to look for quarters to contribute to the meter.  That's when I realized that I didn't have any coins.  In fact, I didn't have my entire wallet.  OOPS.  OK, Sherry's going to be borrowing money from Liz for the *shopping day*.  DUH.

It was COLD.  REALLY COLD.  We didn't believe Marg's car, which said that the temperature was 24 degrees.  As soon as I could, I walked into the sunlight, and felt better.  We went into the store for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where we bought official inauguration programs, and Liz also got something for hubby Joe, a police officer.



We then went to the Official Inauguration store and got souvies for ourselves and friends.  Wow, the people in front of me bought a lot of stuff.  Expensive stuff.  My souvies were not so elaborate -- just little things for my friends.  The cashier was nice enough to give me a pin for free because I was polite to someone else, and another cashier also gave a free pencil to James.  What nice people they have here in the official store!  We also went to the Superstore to check out the unofficial merchandise, and I bought some postcards.  We then went to the Hard Rock so that I could get a collectible for someone, but I'm not sure if they'll like it, since the HR has stopped selling the guitar-shaped magnets that the person has in their collection.

We were hungry and wet to lunch at Teaism, which has been featured on Rachel Ray's "$40.00 A Day."  It's pretty much a fusion of East Indian and East Asian food, and is pretty reasonably priced food-wised, although the teas can be pricey.  I had the Salmon Bento, which had seared salmon, brown rice seasoned with something colorful, broccoli and sweet potatoes.  To get warm, I ordered Dragon Well green tea to go with my meal.  The other gals had Chicken Udon Soup, and James had chicken nuggets.  Everything was very tasty, and I would definitely return there to try some other stuff.

Afterward, we ventured back out into the cold to take some pictures of Pennsylvania Avenue before it would become a sea of people.  Here's a video that I accidentally took from an island at an intersection.  I meant to take stills, but this is funny just because I couldn't stop giggling and we were at the intersection for several light cycles while I took the pictures.
video

We also went to fill up our Metro Passes on our special Metro Passes, which had Barack Obama's picture on them for the Inaugural.  After checking out another vendor's wares and seeing a couple of Marg's friends, we quickly walked to the warmth of the car and drove to Alexandria to drop off James at the sitter's house.  On our way theree, we saw a bunch of cars parked on a turnout off the highway.  People had pulled over to take pictures of a bald eagle guarding a nest in one of the trees!  WOW!  He or she must be here for the Inaugural.  How extremely cool for our national bird to be in attendance!  We 3 gals went home to get pretty for the evening's event.

Our event for the evening was to see "Shear Madness" at the Kennedy Center.  We had obtained tickets a while ago to celebrate my birthday, since it would be pretty much overshadowed by the other events of the week.  The play was showing in the Theater Lab, located upstairs.  Liz and I went outside to take a couple of pictures before going in to see the show.  


View of Potomac from the Kennedy Center




View of Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial from The Kennedy Center.

The show takes place in a hair salon.  A murder takes place in the apartment upstairs, and it is up to the audience to solve the mystery.  The play was fun, the actors were funny and entertaining, and the audience participated, which when you have all 3, makes the show successful.  The jokes were topical, and they even included bits that mentioned certain locations where some groups (like school groups)  had traveled from.  One of the characters was a police officer, who took questions at intermission out in the lobby.  I refrained from placing Mr. Bananaman on the cocktail table in front of us, for fear that it would catch the attention of the actors and mortify my shy companions to the point of leaving me in DC alone in the cold.

Afterward, we went to the Roof Terrace Restaurant, where we had reservations for dinner.  Our table was beside the window, and we could see the Lincoln Memorial from our vantage point.  Unfortunately, the lights in the restaurant reflected a lot off of the glass, so I didn't take a picture from our table.  We ordered from the Prix Fixe menu and ended up all wanting the same choices:

Entr'Acte: Lobster Bisque
Finale: Potato Crusted Flounder with Green Beans sauteed in Beurre Blanc
Encore: Pumpkin Creme Brulee

I also had a glass of Hall Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, which was nice and smooth, and like most of the good stuff, from Napa, CA.

I noticed that another table had pink roses in a vase, which apparently could be pre-ordered at the time that the reservation is made.  That couple left their roses there, and I was tempted to get up and take them, but they were taken away before I could gather up my nerve.  Since this was a special birthday celebration, the Yellow Lewd Guy was on the table for the entirety of the meal.  I explained the Bananaman tradition to Marg, who agreed that he was lewd, but was amused by my craziness nonetheless.



We drove around DC for a little while to get as close to the Capitol as possible before Tuesday.  Here's a video that I actually meant to take:
video

 We started to get really excited about Tuesday's event, because it was all kind of hitting us at the moment that we looked at the Capitol Steps:  Barack Obama is going to be sworn in as President up there in 2 days.  Awesome.  It was very cold, and the pond in front of the Capitol was pretty much frozen, as were the shores of the Potomac.  Liz and I took pictures, and our fingers were VERY cold as soon as we took out our cameras and tried to press the buttons for our pictures.  Liz had bought hand warmers when she was in town earlier in the month, so she took those out and we learned how to use them.  They were really warm, so we were hopeful that they would work for Inaugural Day, too (Liz had bought several packs).  We tried to get some coffee in town, but were unsuccessful, and instead found a Target to buy some necessities.  On the way there, we had stopped at an intersection with someone's name on the street sign, which prompted me to ask, "Who is Jeff Davis and why does he get his own highway?"  Well, Sher, apparently "Jeff" is short for "Jefferson."  DUH.  Stop laughing at me, you two sisters!  We had heard a siren, and saw that the fire engine had some lights on the front of it that rotated, which prompted Liz to comment that it looked like the circus was coming.  I deemed it the Clown Fire Truck, and said that when they get to their destination, 500 firefighters were going to jump out of it.

On the way home, we encountered a couple of people driving backward down the ramp of the freeway junction.  APPARENTLY, there was an accident that triggered them to do this, although the behavior was clearly not sanctioned by the authorities, and looked like very dangerous actions to take.  For a moment I thought that, "Of course they were driving backward!  We're in MARYLAND!"  but then Marg informed me that we were in Virginia at the time, so I guess the whole backwards thing applies to the entire tri-state area.  We were only there for a few minutes before traffic started moving slowly, and got home to talk about what a wonderful day we had.  It really was a great day.  Great parking wherever we went, great company, great entertainment and great food.

Thanks, gals, for the wonderful day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Headed for ObamaLand

Presidential Inauguration Trip: Day 1

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back in November, I was elated to see that Barack Obama had been elected to be the next President of the United States.  My friend Liz has family in the DC area, and she invited me to stay with her and her family if I wanted to be in DC for the Inauguration.  Since I had already scheduled a vacation for the week, I jumped at the chance to go, and did so just before the airline fares skyrocketed. 

My days after that were filled not only with shopping for Christmas gifts, but also with shopping for the big trip.  After all, I'm a So Cal Girl: my idea of cold is 65 degrees.  The weather in DC in January is typically in the 30's and 40's.  So I had to get serious and get some cold-weather gear.  I ended up getting a couple of coats, a couple of new sets of gloves, a hat, and, of course, SHOES.  Nice Eddie Bauer cozy moccassin shoes, as well as some Sorel boots, complete with Thinsulate.  

The problem with cold weather is that you need multiple layers of clothing, which I'm not used to packing, but I somehow managed.  I got all of my stuff together, checked my packing list multiple times, and checked the DC weather forecast every day.  Yup, COLD.  I was thankful, though, that there was no threat of rain or snow by the time I was leaving L.A.  Yeah, there was the odd Canada Geese-Getting-Into-Turbines thing to worry about, but I just hoped that I would have a safe trip to DC, along with the millions of other people that would be in attendance to see the first Black President be inaugurated into the highest position in the world.

The first leg of my flight was from Burbank to Las Vegas.  The economy has clearly hit the airline industry, as on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, the airport seemed quite sparse.  My flight wasn't completely full, but I figured that people just weren't going to Vegas these days.  The Vegas airport was more crowded, though, and the leg to Dulles was completely full.

Here is my advice to people that do not travel as often as I do on Southwest Airlines:  if the overhead bins are closed, that usually means that they are full.  Please keep walking until you find a bin that will fit your luggage, and then sit down right away so that we can get all of the other people on board.  Do NOT keep going back and forth to your carryon bags, looking for a better spot.  We left 20 minutes late because of one woman holding up the line at row 3, and then other people still kept opening up the closed bins, even though they weren't going to sit in the seats near those closed bins.  Keep walking, people.  It is now YOUR fault that our flight is not leaving on time.  The pilot has been here, the flight attendants have been here, and the other passengers have been here ON TIME.  AUGH!  BTW, after pretty much everyone had sat down, one of the attendants opened up one of the closed bins, rearranged two things, and was able to insert another bag.  All in a matter of 15 seconds.  People, leave it to the professionals, please.

I whispered to the lady in my row sitting at the window seat about the Bin Drama, and we laughed at the inexperienced travelers.  We finally had to give up the seat in the middle of us to a man who said while he pointed at the other woman in my row, "Excuse me, but she took my ticket."  I told him that he was only allowed to sit in our row because he was funny.  We did have a fun trip.  Most of the people on the plane were going to attend the inaugural, and I overheard one guy (flying to Dulles on business) say that it was like being on a school bus and he was just along for the ride. 

When I arrived at Dulles, Liz had already been there for an hour or two, and she and her nephew James greeted me in baggage claim, then I met her sister, Margaret (Marg).  Margaret was kind enough to allow me to stay at her place for most of the trip, and she and Liz did most of the planning, since Marg works in DC and Liz is in the area a lot because her parents live in VA.  When we walked outside, James looked up and saw that no planes were flying overhead, and asked where they were. I said, "Oh, they went to sleep."  He looked at me with a look of "I don't think that's true, but I don't know you well enough yet to know if you're just kidding, so I'll just stare at you right now."  Liz later confirmed that we wouldn't see any planes because they were sleeping, so we're thinking that maybe he believed us.  Margaret later said that after we leave, he'll be talking to his friends at day care about the planes being asleep.

Marg lives in Maryland, the Land of Backwards Driving.  She took us to her house as James entertained us by handing over unwanted pretzel sticks and making up some story about a bear going into the house.  James' favorite color is pink, and I think he likes me because I was wearing that color when I met him.  He finally fell asleep when his mom suggested that his broken fingernail might hurt less if he went to sleep.  Then he was OUT for the rest of the ride, and was carried up to bed.

We stayed up for quite awhile, talking about some of our plans for the upcoming week.  I went to bed at about 4:00 a.m. EST, and the sisters were still up and talking.  

It's cold here in Maryland: it was 12 degrees when we landed at Dulles.  Yet the Ground Crew guy at Dulles was wearing shorts.  People are bananas here!  Hmmmm....Bananas....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Meanwhile, Back in Virginia...

Sorry that I haven't posted in awhile. I've been travelling and the Internet Access has been scarce. Trip reports will come soon enough, then y'all will be barrraged with stories.

Meanwhile, I'm having fun, enjoying the observance of history, and trying to keep as warm as possible.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bar Planet and The Brown Muppets

Ok, I love this. I don't know many people who have never watched the original Star Wars trilogy before, so this video was quite enlightening.

Enjoy.


Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Please Pass the Apples to Brad Pitt

Game Night 1/10/09

For several years now, my friends Jen & Larry have been hosting a Game Night at their house on about an annual basis.  We've played all kinds of different board games, and every time has ended in plenty of laughter.  I must have missed last year's GN because I didn't remember some of the stuff that everyone was recalling from that time.  I started to ask Shannon why I wasn't there, and we simultaneously concluded that I must have been at a Rockapella concert, since that's where I usually am when I can't be at other stuff.  Ah, my friends know me too well. ;)

Last night was supposed to be an Adults Only night, but plans always change when it comes to having kids, so there were still a couple of kids there.  I usually don't mind having the kids there, but I was hoping for a different dynamic where people didn't have to act like parents, and could act as peers, but that's OK.  We still had fun.

Our first game was "Catchphrase," which is like an electronic version of Hot Potato crossed with Taboo.  The object is to NOT be caught with the game piece in your hand when the buzzer sounds.  So you use a bunch of clues to get your teammates to guess the word you've been given.  You can change the categories for each round if you'd like, but I liked the "Everything" category because there was actually no way of knowing what kind of word you'd have to guess.  We had 2 teams of 6 people, and although there was some in-fighting over category selection in Team 1, they still ended up winning.  (I was on Team 2.  LOSER.  But at least I got people to say all of my words.  Others said that I had it easy, but all that matters is that I was never the cause of losing points for my team).  I just loved the blank looks on people when someone wanted to choose the "World" or "Sci/Tech" categories.  Our group is mostly comprised of people more familiar with the stage/entertainment industry, with a couple of scientists mixed in.  Of course, you know you're in trouble when somebody thinks that Gene Rodenberry directed "Star Wars."   I learned that Liver and Onions had stringy stuff on top of it, which is why kids don't want to eat it.

Since the 2 kids were getting bored playing "Apples to Apples" among only themselves, we played as a big group.  In this game, everyone gets 5 red cards, upon which there is a word (I think all of them are nouns) like "Chameleon" or "Meryl Streep" or "My Refrigerator".  Players take turns reading from the green cards, which have an adjective/adverb, such as "Eternal."  All of the other players take one of their red cards from their hand and place it in the pile.  The person reading the green card then judges which card is the best answer.  The "best" answer is, of course, up to the judge, so if your judge is particularly silly, you may want to give a card that is a complete non-sequitor, in hopes that they pick your card.  (You also need to remember which card you actually placed on the table).  If your card is picked, then you are given that green card as a point.  Since we had so many players, the first person to obtain 4 green cards was declared the winner.  Bierly, whom apparently had won last year's A to A game, won 2 out of 3 rounds this year, too.  We're convinced that she brought her own red cards with her because she had some really good answers.  The theme of the night started with her judging that "Mel Gibson" was a very good answer for a topic, yet she didn't choose it.  I did not get ANY green cards.  LOSER.

After one of the families left, we played "A Game About Things."  In this game, the Reader gives a topic such as "Things You Shouldn't Touch."  All players, including the reader, write down their answer, and then the reader reads them all aloud.  The object is for everyone but the reader to guess who wrote which answer.  You are not allowed to guess what the reader wrote, and the reader is not allowed to guess.  The game ends once everyone has had a chance to be a reader, so it gives everyone a round where they do not get any points.  If you have been figured out, you are out of the round, and therefore cannot collect any more points.   The game is a combination of logic, memory, and intuition.  (Although you are not allowed to actually SEE what the people wrote, the reader can read all of the remaining answers as many times as needed.  This keeps you from knowing who wrote what just from handwriting alone).  Shannon kept score because she didn't feel like actually playing.  I learned from her how to do a different way of counting points instead of using hash marks.  Like it.  Gonna use it.

This game is where the adult game night thing could have gone in a different direction had there not been any children in the room.  This is also where it can be difficult if you don't really know the people with whom you're playing, but can turn out to be quite enlightening.  I censored myself a couple of times because of who was in the room. :)  We laughed quite a bit because the themes of the evening kept emerging:  Mel Gibson, Liver and Onions, Brad Pitt and Tuba Christmas.  The last question even had multiple Brad Pitt answers, and one of them was "Brad Pitt AND Mel Gibson."  (The topic was "Things you wish could grow on trees."  You'd think that there would be 6 answers of "Money," but that was too obvious, and only one person answered that).  Anyway, poor Caesar didn't get any points for many rounds because we so easily figured out his answers.  By the time he did get points, though, he was on quite a roll.  His lack of points reminded me of when Ferdie was watching us play Trivial Pursuit at my house and wouldn't leave until I got a pie piece.  He was here for MUCH longer than he had planned.  My fellow players started to get scared of me after awhile because I must have looked at them in an accusatory manner when it was my turn to guess.  Yeah, but it worked, because looky here:  WINNER!!!!!  I was told that I had an unfair advantage due to my college major, but I pointed out that I had a "Psych" degree, not a "PsychIC" degree. :)

We had a lot of fun, and the food was yummy, too.  I look forward to the next game night.  We have already told Bierly that Apples to Apples might conveniently be lost by that time, but she'll probably bring her own red cards anyway.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Doogie + Joss + Music = A PhD in Horribleness

I've always been a fan of Neil Patrick Harris. I loved him as Doogie, I was very pleasantly surprised to hear and see him in "Rent," and I love him on "How I Met Your Mother." He's AWE...(wait for it)...SOME. He's also nice in person, and hilarious.

So what does he go and do? Make me love him even more by starring in Joss Whedon's internet series "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."

I'd been hearing about this for awhile and only remembered to actually look it up and watch it today. He's great, as is the rest of the cast. Nathan Fillion is hilarious, and I like seeing a certain someone from "The Big Bang Theory" in there, again playing someone with a friend in love with someone named Penny. Weird.

If you haven't watched it yet, and you're an NPH fan, Joss Fan, or Nathan fan, see it. Enjoy it. Love it. I did.  You can even buy merchandise!  



Grrrr....Arrrrgggghhh. ;)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dear Both of You:

In an earlier post, I referred to obtaining a local paper when Jenn and I were at the Cracker Barrel near the Wigwam Resort.   Rockapella was mentioned as one of the events happening that week.

My favorite part of the newspaper, though, turned out to be an advice column named "Annie's Mailbox."  The West Valley View website doesn't have this article listed, so I thought I'd share it here.
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Both spouses wrong in case of missing money

Dear Annie:
My husband and I have a tenant who paid her rent in cash four weeks ago.  I thought I placed the money on our table, but the next morning it wasn't there.  I spent every spare hour searching for the money and finally concluded that someone lifted it or it somehow was put into the trash.  I was ashamed that I was so irresponsible and didn't want to admit I could make such a costly error, so I said nothing to my husband of 50 years.
A month later, my husband nonchalantlyasked me if I had mislaid any money.  It turns out it was stuck in a pack of photo reprints from a store and sitting on a table in our basement.  He knew what the money was, but thought he'd wait to see if I'd tell him I'd lost it.
I'm upset that he is supposed to be my best friend, yet let me stress out and waste time searching for this money.  He says I'm lucky he didn't just take it.  Which one of us is more wrong? --I Lost and He Found

Dear Lost:
Your husband sent us a letter along with yours.  Here's what he said:
Dear Annie:
Our tenant paid cash for rent four weeks ago.  My wife hides, misplaces or loses things all the time.  She did not tell me she had misplaced the money.  However, about two weeks ago, I found the cash while looking at some pictures.  I didn't say anything since she doesn't like to be wrong.  Please let us know whose fault it is. --Somewhere in Pennsylvania

Dear Both of You:
It's hard to believe your marriage has survived 50 years of such nonsense.  you are both wrong.  The person who misplaced the money should have said so, enabling both of you to search for it. The person who found the money should have spoken up immediately instead of playing head games.  Now say you're sorry and don't do it again.
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I giggled the whole time that I read this to Jenn while she drove us back to the resort.  Did the wife know that her husband was also going to send in his side of the story?  Or did she misplace the letter, and he found it, read it, and added his own stuff before sending it in for her? 
 I love the fact that "Annie" found both of them at fault, since that is what is the norm in relationships: the root of an argument is usually from both sides of the issue.  I also love the admonishment at the end.  If only couples therapy was really that simple. ;)  Hilarious.