Archive for category MCC

Weekend Update: Concert (part 2)

We arrived at the hotel by 4 o’clock, still a little full from lunch at MC’s parents, so we just hung out at the hotel, setting up the fold-out couch, and getting ready for the concert. The room was nice enough – two queen beds and a pull-out sofa, but I was thinking it might actually be two seperate bedroom spaces (like I have had at some other hotels)… oh well…

My sister had not told her boys what the grand plan was for the weekend, but they had picked up that we were going to a concert. The youngest asked, “Mom, are we going to a concert?”

“Yes,” she replied. “And who would you want to go to a concert to see?”

He contemplated this question, tapping his chin in deep thought. “Rush?!” he said, his voice almost asking a question, as well as giving an answer. He’s seven, and likes to rock. His older brother (10) got in on it, “We’re going to see Rush?” And there was much rejoicing by them.

We stopped off at a Bob Evans, right next to the hotel, for dinner on the way to the show, and finalized the seating arrangements. I would be in the closer group of seats, with the two oldest boys.

We tried to use text messages between the sections, during the course of the show, but there just wasn’t the same immediacy as sitting with MC to point out some of the videos, or items on the stage. Also, since they released a live album from last year’s tour, and there are plans for a live DVD to be released this fall, I wasn’t so worried about trying to track down the setlist (like last year… which, by the way, I realized I was wrong with what I thought some of the songs were…).

The main recognition that MC’s nephew had with Rush was “YYZ” from Guitar Hero 2 (which was the last song they played), but he enjoyed himself. Of course, my nephews had fun (even though the youngest fell asleep during the encore, I was told his head was rocking along during the drum solo. MC was actually quite receptive, overall, for her first substantial exposure to them. “They’re obviously very talented,” she said, “but I couldn’t really understand them. And with everyone standing, I couldn’t really see the screens.”

However, one point of humor that has to be pointed out… you know how most of the time the line at the men’s room is usually very non-existent, or moves quickly, while the ladies room will extend 20-30 people from the entrance? Exact opposite… the ladies room was a breeze through while the guys were stuck waiting to go. “And I’ve never seen so many mullets it one place,” MC mentioned (referring to many of the fans).

Another humor point that my sister and I noticed – a guy, driving a black Ferrari… and having to park in a gravel parking lot. What the hell was he thinking?

We returned to the hotel, blessedly by way of a “back route” (the same way we go to the venue, actually – but it did not involve getting on I-85, which was how virtually all of the rest of the traffic was heading), everyone showered, and collapsed onthe beds for a few hours of sleep.

The next morning, we met up with my friend Ben who lives out there, and we all went to breakfast (at Cracker Barrel, again, as it was too early for the lunch-themed restaurants, and we were all hungry). After breakfast, we all went to Concord Mills mall for a little over an hour, to do a little shopping “since we were there”. After dropping Ben off back at the CB, we reversed the route, going back to Winston-Salem before coming back east, and calling it a trip.

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Weekend Update: Concert (part 1)

What had started as a plan to go to the concert with my sister and my fiancee morphed into something else… a family trip. As previously recounted here, I took my sister and nephews to see the Rush: Snakes & Arrows tour in 2007. When I heard they were doing another leg, extending the tour into 2008, I planned to go. I had only planned for the three tickets, since the nephews could have been with their other parental unit in Texas for most of the summer (didn’t happen, long story, but the ex-bro-in-law has moved back to NC… and I mention this only because it’s relevant to the story) on the anticipated concert date…

But I am a geek in that respect… I had the three tickets, but wondered, “Is there anything closer?” I checked, and there were (by about 15 rows), and I got another three tickets. But I had time to decide what to do with the other tickets, so I didn’t sweat it. I checked with some other friends (and MC’s family), with no takers. Since the ex-BiL was in the vicinity, I did the nice thing and offered to sell them to him – not because I really wanted to see him, but because it would give him a chance to actually, maybe, be a parent and allow him to spend time with his kids. And that fell through.

So we changed tack, and decided to take my nephews, which left us with one ticket – a little easier to deal with. So we tried the adult rounds again, but with no takers. MC had been considering seeing if her nephew (age: 14) could go, and with everyone else in our area declining, she called “out west” to see if he could go. Which, after some discussions out there, it was decided that he could go.

The weekend came for the concert, and my sister and nephews came up on Saturday – and we went out for dinner at Cracker Barrel, and breakfast at a local bagel shop – before leaving kinda early on Sunday. We drove out to Winston-Salem to pick up MC’s nephew, and switch vehicles (into something that would be more comfortable for six people). From there, we rolled down to Charlotte so we could check in to the hotel, relax a little, and get dinner before the concert.

Next: The details…

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Las Vegas, pt. 3 (The Trip Concludes)

[Originally started on 2/28/08. Photo added on 6/6/08.]

When last we left our weary travellers, here, they had returned to their hotel room after a windy walk back from the Venitian, where they had just seen Blue Man Group.


So, yes, it was a very windy walk back, and Blue Man was cool. And we were tired. And we went to bed.

And we slept late. Thursday, being what it was (birthday & Valentine’s Day), we happily slept in. We got up, went for a late breakfast, wandered around a little, and then returned to the room for an afternoon nap. We had dinner reservations for shortly after 6pm, so we got up around 4 to start getting ready (two showers, taxi in traffic… and allowing a little “fluff” time). We made it to Paris around 5:30-5:45, and killed a little time with some slot machines until presenting ourselves for the reservation.

The Eifel Tower was great. There was a “special” (limited) menu, and we sampled each others meals. Despite the smaller-sized portions (especially compared to the other Vegas meals we had experienced), it was easily enough to fill us up. We were positioned so we could face Bellagio, able to see the tops of the fountains when they would spray high enough. It was in this setting that I “officially” proposed.

After dinner, we were whisked away from France, back to Italy (via cab, from Paris back to the Venitian), where we had other, grander, festivities planned. As I have mentioned before, the trip planning started back in November. In looking at shows that were available, I decided to go on a limb and do something really cool as the icing for the birthday trip. Comedy is fun. Wayne Brady is funny. Put them together, and we had a ball. I got front row tickets (special VIP seating) for the show that night (which, it turns out, included a meet-and-greet after the show). We ended up sitting almost center stage (about two seats off center).

The show itself was awesome. It was set up in two distinct segments. After the initial “welcome to the show” montage, there were a few “Whose Line” style games that were played. After a brief intermission, it was all music – an homage sequence (song & dance) to his various R&B/Soul influences, including James Brown (among others). This is my one true regret about not writing these when I actually wanted to (right after the trip), because the details that were fresh then, are fuzzy now – like Wayne & the male dancers in the show all dressed like Tina Turner for a number, and MC’s comment that the female dancers were “real dancers” (changing styles as easily as the music could change), and how funny & stupid drunk (audience) people can be – especially when associated with improv comedy!

During the “Meet & Greet”, though, as we were near the end of the line waiting for the photo op and autograph, was one ofthe cooler experiences of the show, for me. MC went first, and they were chatting a little about it being her birthday, and that the trip and show were for her. Wayne looked at me, and extended his hand. Now, the specific words are lost, but it was something to the effect of “You are the man.”

[edit: 6/6/08 – click on the picture to get a bigger version.]

We (MC & I) walked back to the hotel, laughing and reliving moments from the show, and prepared to call it a night.

Friday was our “open” day – we had nothing planned, short of using some of the day to shop and pack. We had been debating for most of the week about trying to take in one more show – George Carlin (in town for a couple of nights doing a work through, preparing to film an HBO special). We seriously considered it, but were just too tired to try and go to the show (way off of the strip), and still get ready to fly back the next day.

So we just spent all day shopping, wandering around another mall that was across another street from our hotel. It was in this other mall that we secured a couple of items. MC wanted to get me something, and we wandered into a Cross (pen) store. I had been reading Neil Gaiman’s site (he states that he does a lot of his writing with fountain pens), and I had been thinking about trying one out. So I have a nice, lightly used (now) pen, crying to be put to the page… but that’s for another story…

The other (much more significant) find in the roaming of that “other” mall were the rings. We had been looking all over, here, trying to find just the right rings, and kept coming up short. While walking around the shops in Vegas we were looking, just to see what was around, and came up big in one of the last shops we decided to look into – and we got all of the rings at the same time! We stopped of for a snack before trekking back to the hotel (a stuffed pastry wrap and a “bubble tea” – interesting). We packed some, but still had a few more people “unaccounted for” in the gift area.

We went back to the shops around the Venitian for dinner, and poked around for ideas for the remaining people on our list, finishing off the shopping before it was too late. Back to the hotel to begin the packing adventure, which we eventually finished, and called it a night.

Our shuttle to the airport was scheduled for around 8, so we were up around 6:30, getting dressed and finished packing the “incidentals” that couldn’t be packed away the night before. We ate breakfast at the hotel buffett, and strolled out into the brisk desert morning to wait for the transport to arrive. The ride back to the airport, like the one to the hotel, was cool for the exposure of stuff “behind” the strip.

And it was annoying, because of the nagging old lady that was sitting behind us for the entire ride. She had been out there with a goup of folks, and has been several times before, but she didn’t really seem to have anything nice to say – and her friends really didn’t have a chance to say anything else once they got her started. MC & I looked at each other, and exchanged our comments after they had left the bus.

The flight back was long (direct, so no chance to stretch legs) and full. I did manage to get quite a bit of Grapes read by the end of the week – mostly on the plane (I was down to the last hundred or so pages by the time we landed). We drove home, after calling the hotel shuttle to collect our plane-weary bodies from the airport.

And that was Vegas. With no Elvis. Go, us!

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Las Vegas, pt. 2 (The Trip Continues…)

[This was originally started on 2/28/08.]

When last we left our escapades, we were skirting around on skates, being mindful of the toepicks…. wait, that would be the Icecapades… Let’s get back to Vegas! Right…

We were beat when we went to bed that Monday night. Since our bodies were still on Eastern time, we were awake by 7am onTuesday. (Actually, it took us until Friday, I think, before we even managed to start really functioning in “Vegas” time.) We were up and dressed by about 7:30 – and hungry! We made our way downstairs, trying to decide a) what we wanted for breakfast, and b) what we wanted to spend the day doing.

As the elevator doors opened, and we were walking into the lobby, Mary Catherine was amazed to see folks still perched at the slot machines – not a lot of people, but enough to make one go, “Hmm”. The depressing part, or the image that has stuck with me, was seeing a little old lady, nursing her alcohol – it looked like it might be a scotch or a darker mixed drink – puffing away on a cigarette (holding it between her fingers, a slight trail of smoke snaking away from a half-inch of ash, hanging from the end of the half-burned cigarette), her hands moving between pushing the “bet”and “Spin” buttons on the machine. Part of the Vegas stereotype, for sure, but a bit erie to see it at 7:30 in the morning.

We made our way around the lobby, grateful for the lighter traffic (and lighter cigarette-smoke cloud), and decided to have breakfast at Kahunaville. It was still early (they did not open until 8am), so we walked around a little more. Up a flight of stairs (or an escalator ride), there was a “$10 or Less” shop, and a tram to the Mirage, located next door. The tram didn’t start running until almost 10am, but we figured it would be a good thing “for later”. We went back downstairs, and had a very good breakfast at Kahunaville – and the interior setup (with a fountain wall, etc.) gave us a great vibe to start the day.

After breakfast we returned to the room, and got ready to go out for the day – getting cameras, etc. We made our way back to the tram, and shuttled over to the Mirage, where we toured through the “Sigfried & Roy: Secret Garden and Wildlife Habitat”. We spent a couple of hours hanging out, watching the few dolphins that they have swimming, or walking through and seeing all of the cats (white tigers, a panther, etc.).

From the Mirage, we made our way over the Caeser’s Palace, where we wandered around the Forum shops. The detail work was cool to see, and was very interesting when thinking that most of it was probably done almost 30 years ago! After wandering the shops, we headed back to our room, os we could get ready for dinner and our show – tickets to Cirque de Soleil: Mystere. Dinner was excellent food from the Steak House (inside the hotel) – we ordered a “skewer” meal (a meat skewer, packaged with two sides), with an extra side, and a dessert. Splitting the meal between the two of us, we still had some left over (but no fridge to keep it with, ach!) We then went around to the theatre for the show. Overall, it was pretty good, as an experience (and to watch some of the technical elements, putting on my “Theatre D&P” hat, were just plain awesome!), but not a style of storytelling that I felt comfortable following (in otherwords – no discernable plot, or through story, that was easy to follow). But it was a cool experience, nonetheless.

We called it a night after the show, and preparedfor the next morning…


We woke the next morning, still close to 7am, and prepared to do everything over again. We decided we would try something different for breakfast, so we walked down the strip, heading back towards Ceasar’s. We wandered through, checking out the interiors, and seeing what they may have to offer, but we were not really impressed until we were in Bellagio. During the planning of our trip, one of the doctors that Mary Catherine works with had suggested a place in Bellagio called “Noodles”… which is where we ended up having “brunch” when it opened around 11am. The food was good, and fuelled us through our walk and explorations of other properties, as we made our way back towards our hotel from the other side of the street.

We journied through a large, indoor mall near Paris. We strolled through Paris to findout where we needed to go to get to the Eifel Tower restaurant. We checked out the Venitian, to both pick up the tickets for our shows, and just to explore a little. In the process, we wandered through some of the shops at the Venetian – it was, honestly, a neat property to walk through.

We went back to our hotel and got ready for our evening out. Since we were going to be seeing Blue Man Group at the Venetian (hence, our explorations earlier), we decided to go for dinner over there, to make it a little easier on getting to the theatre. Blue Man was a great show – very different from what I was expecting, but a great show overall. I was a bit confused in the beginning, when they were passing out streamers of paper to everyone, pulling them from spools at the end of a row, and feeding them all the way across. I would recommend checking them out if you are into rhythm/drum based music.

After Blue Man, and a stop in the gift shop, we made our way back across to our hotel. It had gotten very cool, and there was a heavy wind blowing, which made crossing part of the street very interesting. We have since joked that it felt like we could have easily been blown over if we had baggier clothes on! Once we were safe (and wind-free) inside our room, we called it a night, for the next day was V-Day (and her birthday)…

But that’s another story…

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Las Vegas, part 1 (The Trip West)

[Originally started on 2/28/08]
Las Vegas. The trip origins go back to the early fall, when the collective “we” (me, Mary Catherine, and her friend Melissa) had talked about taking a trip to New York. The timing didn’t work out to try and go to New York (before it would be to friggin’ cold for southerners to by in the City), and at the same time, there was the Stage Hand’s strike putting a damper on a lot of shows. So, I just randomly said, “What about Vegas?” and Mary Catherine was excited. She had never been before, and I had only been way back in a former life (for a conference when I was the manager for an ice cream franchise – but I pretty much stayed in the Bellagio the whole time – about 3-4 days – and didn’t explore too much).

So, I planned the trip around Thanksgiving, for a February travel window. Mary Catherine’s birthday is in February, and I figured it would be a great way to celebrate it. Go me. We went out for a week (through a travel agent, the pricing was very reasonable, and included tickets to a show), and we stayed at Treasure Island – what better place for two Pirate alumni to stay?

We drove out to Raleigh on Sunday (2/10/08), so we could relax, and actually sleep, before catching the flight out. There is also the added benefit of using the hotel’s “Park and Ride” service to make the return that much easier. After a visit to Waffle House (right down from the hotel at about 7-ish AM on Monday, we hung out in the lobby, waiting for our 8-ish shuttle. And we waited. And waited. We had signed up the evening before, when checking in, to make sure we would have plenty of time to get to the airport and through security before our flight. I finally talk to a person standing behind the desk to ask about the shuttle – and it turns out to be the shuttle driver. He claimed to have done the route – but we had arrived in the lobby about 5-10 minutes before 8am, and never saw the shuttle out front…

I digress, though, since we did get taken to the airport, and we did make it through everything with plenty of time to spare. In order to get a later flight out, we had to do a connecting flight, instead of non-stop. Our connector? Through Chicago! I had been a little nervous with the way the weather had been (cold, and lots of snow flurries), but everything was fine when we landed – but yes, there was snow on the ground, but the sky was clear while we were there. We had lunch from McDonald’s – after debating how much overpriced airport food we wanted to get for a somewhat reasonable price. And we ate our food, sitting in the airport terminal, and watching the weather forecast on a television, and waited for our plane to be ready. At this point, it was almost 12 o’clock – but that was now Chicago time.

We flew out of Chicago for Vegas, and settled in for a slightly longer flight. Again, the flight went rather smoothly, and we landed without any issues. Mary Catherine watched our arrival through the window of the plane, and commented on our arrival when talking to her folks later, “It was like it came out of nowhere. We were flying over lots of open desert, and then we were flying over Vegas.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what she said. As I am writing this, the trip was three months ago, and I think it’s pretty good that I’m remembering what I AM writing down, but I digress again.

An added benefit of going through a travel agent are some of the little “extras” that come with buying the packages through them. Our round-trip shuttle service from the airport was included, but I didn’t really realize it until we were standing in line, waiting for the shuttles. I saw a couple of people ahead of us in line with their forms, which prompted me to look closer at mine. We got our vouchers for the shuttle, “Just make sure to ask for return vouchers, and ask about scheduling the return trip” (call the day before to schedule, since it’s based on a timed route). The cool thing about riding the shuttle, since it was a multi-property run, was that we were able to see some of the “behind the scenes” areas – places that we otherwise wouldn’t have gone.

By the time we got to the hotel, checked in and settled, it was only about 4pm – but that is Vegas time! We had been up, easily, over 12 hours, and we were tired. We went downstairs for dinner, and ate at Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant inside the hotel. The food was great, and we tried Vietnemese tea (not so much… interesting flavor, but the tea itself was orange colored, and would definitely be an acquired taste). Over dinner, we talked about what we wanted to do during the week – during the days, anyway. After dinner, we went back up to the room, and slept. It was only about 7:30-ish, Vegas time, but after 10pm Eastern, and were easily beyond beat.

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No December Rain…

[originally started on 2/28/08]
Things here have become quite a bit different, as I am thinking back to when I started this post.

I am engaged. Mary Catherine and I had actually been talking about things and wedding dates, and we sort of tripped and backed into the initial wedding plans. I officially proposed while we were out in Vegas (more about that in another post, I promise!).

So, the festivities are being planned for December 2008, and an extended vacation is planned for the honeymoon.

And yes, the title of the post is a slight nod to Guns and Roses, from the era when they were actually producing music. But that is another subject entirely…

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Updates and Moderate Grumbles…

It has been a few days since my last tidbits on information, so here’s the new skinny.

I have finished my first 10 pages for the “Four Corners” script project. Already starting on that item from my resolutions list. I say “my” as opposed to “the”, since I am not really going chronologically. I am writing in scenes and segments that I will later be piecing together in the correct order. I know the general story line (have for years, actually), but there are certain scenes that beg to be written at different times. How it will all turn out, I don’t know, but I am enjoying the ride.

At the same time, I am using Final Draft – a software package that was suggested by Ben (and others), and that I got back in the summer. I honestly cannot think of an easier way to learn the form (at least, from a layout perspective). I tried using another piece of software the other day (after first using Final Draft), and while the interface was similar, I had already been spoiled. At least I know what I will be using for drafting my scripts. Enough of the commercial, time to do more updates.

I had my first massage last Thursday night. MC had arranged one for me as one of my Christmas gifts. Ugh, I did not realize how tight my back was before I went in! If you’ve never had one, I highly recommend the experience.

There has been significant progress in another item in my resolution list: the office. I have managed to clear 75-80% of the “stuff” that was on the floor. I actually had more completed, but with some of my school items, I have had to sacrifice a little, for the short run.

There is one thing I am not thrilled with about academia: reading patterns. I like reading, but I like to (try) and focus on a single work, going from beginning to end, and devoting my full attention to it, immersing myself in the world the author is trying to create. If you notice my “Currently Reading” list (which, as of 24 Jan 08), has four titles “in progress”. That bugs me a bit, because I have to stage my reading time a bit better. Of course, the other side is that if I don’t layer my reading, I could easily end up stuck with things unread for class. Like “Grapes” – at about 450 pages, if I don’t start now (knowing how dry, no pun intended) that read may be, I may not finish but the time it’s time to be discussed next month.

And about my readings: Yes, I am rereading HP Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s been years since I have read it (after the movie came out), and it is required for my “Film” class. And, no, I have never actually read either Grapes of Wrath or Huck Finn before (also for class). So, in that respect, I guess I am also putting a dent in my reading goal, as well.

And on Tuesday, before my class, I ran a sub-10 mile. And I still had a little bit of spring left! I still have a long way to go, if I want to try and actually last through a biathlon or short (5K-ish) race, which I would like to do.

Which pretty well catches us up… I’ve already gotten a couple more pages written for the script, and am working on arranging another trip for later this year, as well as some “lighter entertainment trips”…

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