My Blog Has Moved

Well folks, I've finally done it. I've switched to WordPress and my blog is now on my own domain. So say good-bye to Blogger and good-bye to the bling. But don't be sad. Life is full of change. Change is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes. It challanges us and makes us stronger. And as your next President... oops, I got a little speechy there, didn't I?

Anyway, check me out at:

http://www.meandtheblueskies.com/

I'll look for you there.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Snack Attack - What Goes In Your Mouth?

American's love to snack. In fact, so does the world. One of the most popular snacks around is the good old Potato Chip. In 2005, potato chips generated a total global revenue of 16.4 billion dollars. That accounted for 35.5% of the total savory snacks market that year. Hey, that's a lot of snacking. But that still leaves 64.5% left over. Here's a few of the more unusual flavors available to the savory snacker.


These fried chicken skins were described as tasting like fried grease. Yum! I bet these are popular in rural Arkansas.


Who doesn't love sour cream and clams? And then add it to ptotato chips and you've got a loaded baked potato that's on every seafood restaurant's menu. NOT!


That's real Buffalo (like the animal) not hot buffalo sauce. Hey, nothing's more American then meat and potatoes. And we all know how discerning the American palate is. Why just the other day I was telling my friends how we need more "Buffalo" flavored foods.


Oh yes, food of choice by every rapper in America. I can just see them now, in the hood, eating cheese and honeydew...come on now, who thinks up these things? Who eats cheese and honeydew? And if I did, why would I want it crunchy?



Fuzzely melty prawns!? What's next, crunchy creamy tripe?

The full name is Walker's Marmite Yeast Extract Flavour Crips. After all, Yeast is THE most popular snack flavor in the world.

Hey, we're not the only ones with wild snacks. Just take a look below at some of these tasty tidbits from other countries. I may be able to handle seaweed but Octopus, Squid, and Cuttlefush? The octopus chips look like big gold fish crackers. The taste like lobster for about 2 seconds before turning into a rotten fish taste. The squid crackers smell like a 3 day old third world fish market and taste like fish that were carried in dead by the tide. The cuttlefish snack (what the heck is cuttlefish anyway and why snack on it?) look similar to bugles and have the same nasty did fish smell...but if you can get past the smell, they don't taste that bad. Hmmmm.




















Yo, I didn't even include the pickled onion snack crisps or the Vale D'Ouro Biscoitos de Polvilho, which are biscuits that look like peanut packing shells and taste like cardboard with an old sneaker aftertaste. Yum. I think I'll just stick with good old american potato chips. And if I want something wild, I'll get Bar-B-Q flavor or whip open some Fritos. Ole!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Junk Drawer Blog

I've just come across a really cool blog called, The Junk Drawer. It's run by Kathy Frederick, who seems to be a pretty cool gal herself. Her theme is "fresh and delicious stories about anything that amuses me, confuses me, or makes me blow a gasket." I love fresh and delicious! And who hasn't been amused, confused, or... uh, well, I won't go there. Anyway, she's got this great post titled, There's Always a First Time.

It's a simple post. She lists 10 questions about "firsts" and then asks her blog readers to respond with their answers. It's the perfect post. It's flattering, voyeuristic, and narcissistic for her readers. After all, most of them are bloggers so they already LOVE to write about themselves. And boy do they reveal a lot!

I've gotta give her her props. I'd have stolen her idea (and it wouldn't have been the first time for that) but she's had so many responses that its too much fun reading them all. And trust me, it'll take you some time to get through all of them.

So go ahead. Hit the link. Go to her blog and answer her questions. Read the answers. Read my answers. I dare you! In fact, I'm begging you. I wannna see your answers. I NEED to see your answers. (God, my life is so dull) Just do it and tell her I sent you her way. There's a first time for everything!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sarah Palin as VP? Maybe Tina Fey Would Be a Better Choice



Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be Vice President? Well PBS is holding a poll which asks that exact question. At the time of this post, the results were in a heated tie: 49% Yes and 49% No. I went and voted NO and you can too by simply visiting PBS here and placing your NO vote. (Or yes, if the above video has convinced you otherwise)

Shocking News! Clay Aiken is Gay! It's True! It's Really, Really True

The world is all abuzz with the stunning news that Clay Aiken has announced that he's gay! My co-worker Erin Blackwell (from Laughs and Rants From My Inner Child) summed it up best when she expressed her shock to me this morning and exclaimed, "Who's next? Liberace?" In fact, the whole blogger world is abuzz with this revelation. Check out was Frugal Fag has to say by clicking here. And don't miss Shoeboxblog's announcement here. For a more sympathetic announcement, check out a gay dad's response here.

Regardless I still have to throw the boy some Kudos his way since he decided it would be best to be honest about who he is now that he has a child. Speaking as a gay parent, being open about who you are with your children at a very early age is best for everyone involved. My daughter had no issues about who I was while she was growing up. It was always a part of her life so it was normal to her. And even though she encountered some hostilities from some of the kids at school (and some of the parents, too), she always stood her ground and I believe she's a better person for it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Song Titles That Didn't Quite Make It

Folk Music

1. If I Had a Hammer (You'd all be dead)
2. Puff the Magic Drag Queen


Political

1. The Sarah Palin Song: I Shot the She-wolf (But I did not shoot the Polar Bears)
2. The John McCain Song: Wake Me Up Before I Go Go All Over...


Country Western

1. Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth 'Cause I'm Kissing You Goodbye
2. They May Put Me In Prison, But They Can't Stop My Face From Breakin' Out
3. She Got the Ring and I Got the Finger


Broadway

1. Spermalot
2. On A Clear Day (You can see Russia from my house)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tortilla Press Cantina Review.

On Monday night, Heather and I went to the Tortilla Press Cantina in Pennsauken. It’s the sister restaurant to the Tortilla Press, in Collingswood, where we had brunch. Collingswood is dry but Pennsauken is not so we were looking forward to having a couple of margaritas with our meal. We made our reservations through OpenTable.com and earned 1,000 dining points because it was a Monday night. Woo-hoo!

The inside of the restaurant is bright and lively, decorated in primary colors of red, yellows, and blues. A center, raised dining area is surrounded with a u-shaped area of tables on the right and the bar on the eft. Our waitress, Rebecca, was extremely helpful and patient as we struggled with choosing from the assortment of delicious-sounding menu items. Actually, I can't remember when I've had better service.



We decided to start with some top shelf margaritas on the rocks, the Supreme Cantina Margarita. ($7.00) Rebecca assured us that the margaritas were made from scratch and not from a mix. Boy, was she telling the truth! What a difference it makes to have a margarita made with fresh limes. And top shelf for only $7.00 is truly a bargain. While we were deciding what to eat and sipping on our drinks, complimentary chips accompanied by salsa and black bean dip arrived at our table. The dip was “scooped” on top of the fresh-made salsa and tasted wonderful together with the crisp tortilla chips.

One of the specials of the night was 2 chile rellenos made from poblano peppers. It sounded so good but we each had decided to get burritos so we asked Rebecca if we could get one as an appetizer. She eagerly obliged. When it arrived, it looked beautiful. Heather and I attacked it and we were almost done when I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture of it. I guess I am still a novice at this restaurant review stuff.



Heather ordered the Fire Hot Beef Burito. ($15.00) It came chock full of shredded beef, beans, cheese, and roasted jalapeno peppers and a side of Jalapeno Potato Salad and beans. Their burritos are made with rice inside and Heather requested to have the rice on the side instead. It was no problem. I have to tell you that this is one tasty and hot burrito. I had a bite and my lips were tingling for a good 10 minutes afterwards. The jalapeno potato salad was not spicy but Heather said it went well with the heat from the burrito.


I ordered the Shrimp and Scallops Burrito ($16.50) which was was filled with huge shrimp, scallops, white rice & sautéed spinach and topped with guajillo chile cream sauce & queso fresco. It was served with sautéed vegetable medley. All I can say is, “Wowsa!” This was perhaps the best tasting buritto I have hade in my life and that is saying something. In fact, it was so huge I could eat only half. (The rest was lunch the next day)

We had so much fun dining at the Tortilla Press Cantina. If you’re tired of fast food style Mexican meals, then this place is for you. The service is excellent, the menu extensive, and the food is fresh and innovative. Add in the reasonable prices and you’ve got no reason not to go. Aand if you do, you’ll probably see us there because we definitely will be back!

The Tortilla Press Cantina is located at 7716 Maple Avenue, Pennsauken, NJ. 856-488-0005

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Argh! I Really Wanna Post

Yikes! Heather and I went out to dinner last night and I had quite a few magaritas. Tonight we went to a beef and beer benefit for 3 kids whose father died and we got back late. (and I had quite a few vodka, cranberry, and OJs.) So no post again. Please don't hate on me. Tomorrow I will download the pictures from our dinner at The Tortilla Press Cantina and you can all drool over the good food we had. Hang in there kids.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Low Fat Boston Cream Pie

Heather made a delicious and low-fat Boston Cream Pie the other day. She took the recipe out of the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of Taste of Home Healthy Cooking.

It's a wonderfully dense and slightly springy cake with a thicker than pudding or custard filling with an icing that is made from powdered sugar and cocoa.

It's slightly different from traditional boston cream pies but yummy none-the-less. It was submitted to the magazine by Nancy Zimmerman from Cape May Court House, NJ. I can't link to the recipe on Taste of Home's website because you have to be a "member" to see the recipes. Since it's not an original Heather recipe, I am not posting the ingredients. But the mag is on sale at your local newstand or just go to http://www.tasteofhome.com/ and become a member.

A little blurry but I'll get better with the camera.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tinto - Basque tapas from Jose Garces

My friend, Linda, really wanted to partake in Restaurant Week where various restaurants throughout the Philadelphia area offer 3 or 4 course menus for $35 per person. She suggested that we go to Tinto, a Jose Garces restaurant. Now I have been a little low on funds but I did receive that Homestead Rebate check not too long ago and still had a little extra hanging around, so I opted to go.

Jose Garces is the king of tapas in Philadelphia with his restaurants Amada, Distrito, and Tinto. A co-worker of mine (Rafael) is friendly with the chef and while we were in Chicago for business, we ate at Garces’ tapas restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa. They gave us the royal treatment. If you want to know more about Distrito, you can check out Mac & Cheese’s post here.

Tinto is located just off of Rittenhouse Square practically on the corner of 20th and Sansom, just down the block from The Adrienne Theatre. With its dark brick exterior and dark sign, it practically disappears into the block much like the Leaky Cauldron does in the Harry Potter books. Linda is posing in the above picture with some unknown menu-curious diners.



The restaurant is divided into two dining areas both of which are long but not very wide, but this is very common of Philadelphia architecture. The entire restaurant is rather dark, with dark wood tables and very dim lighting. The second dining area includes a bar to the left and an open kitchen area in the back. Bar tables and stools replace regular dining tables.



We were seated in the second area near the end of the bar. Because of the dim lighting, I had a hard time reading the menu, but Linda had a little better lighting so she read it to me. We could choose two items each from the first and second courses and one each from the third. I decided to let Linda choose the first course.



Idiazábal cheese - pressed cheese made from unpasteurized milk that usually comes from the Lacha and Carranzana ewes breed in the Basque Country. It has a somewhat smokey flavor, but is usually unsmoked.


Jamón Serrano - a type of dry-cured Spanish ham similar to the Italian prosciutto served with egg salad.


Aceitunas Maceratas - marinated verdial olives, which are thick-skinned, medium to large-sized olives normally grown for their oil. I apologize for the blurry picture.

Gazpacho - heirloom tomato, avacado

I’d have to say our least favorite was the olives but only because everything else was so fantastic. The best was the gazpacho. A cool and creamy concoction including bits of avocados and what I believe to be, green peppers. It was served with a duo of warm, roasted jalapenos. It was THE best gazpacho that I have ever had. I wasn’t sure if I should eat it or rub it all over me--it was that good!

By the way, our server was fantastic. (and quite a cutie too) I asked him his name several times and he even spelled it. It’s Hawaiian and the for the life of me, I can’t remember it. He was friendly and knowledgeable yet not overbearing. I love a server who is attentive yet not up my butt (so-to-speak) the whole meal. In fact, the whole staff was attentive and friendly. Everyone was professional yet they seemed to enjoy themselves and this set a very pleasant tone for the whole restaurant.

Linda and I collaborated on the second course.

Hongos a la Plantxa - wild mushrooms, roasted potato, shallot, parsley

Alubias de Tolosa - black beans, pork belly & chorizo, braised cabbage

Merluza en Salsa Verde - sea bass, cockles, salsa verde

Pollito - poussin, truffled pochas, shaved carrot escabeche

Picking a favorite from this list was near impossible. Linda finally decided on the mushrooms which were balanced perfectly with the potatoes and truffle oil. My favorite was the Alubias de Tolosa. The beans were tender and sweet with the meats and cabbage mixing nicely. There was only one small problem. The dish only had one tiny piece of pork belly. When Linda and I cut it in half to share, the pieces didn’t even equal a bite. A little bit more would have been nice. The other two dishes were impressive themselves. The seafood was perfectly cooked and when Linda ate the poussin (very young chicken), she exclaimed that she never knew chicken could taste so good.

Since there were only two desserts on the menu, we opted for one of each.
Gateaux Basque - traditional basque cake, pastry cream, black cherries. This was Linda’s favorite. I think the black cherries made the dish.

Bananas y Azafran - chocolate cake, caramelized bananas, saffron crema. A decadent, flourless chocolate cake that when added to the bananas and crema created a symphony in my mouth. I now know how Remy the Rat from Disney’s Ratatouille felt when he mixed foods in his mouth.

Overall, our dining experience was exceptional. If you like tapas and are looking for foods that will excite and arouse your palate, then Tinto is your place. Tinto is located at 114-116 South 20th Street in Philadelphia. Call 215-665-9150 or visit opentable.com for reservations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

George Takei & Brad Altman Wed

Nichelle Nichols, Altman, Takei, & Walter Koeniger

George Takei (from Star Trek) and his partner of 21 years--and yes, I said 21 years--Brad Altman decided to face their final frontier by marrying in Los Angeles. His past co-stars, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koening, were maid of honor and best man respectively. Takei is 17 years Altman's senior. There are plenty of jokes here but I just can't bring myself to make fun of a gay couple that has not only been together for over 2 decades but who also speak out for gay rights on a regular basis; however...

Poor Nichelle has not aged well. She looks like a freeze-dried version of Tina Turner from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. And someone better make claim to that lost ferret that has settled on Koenig's head. Plus where's Captain Kirk? Perhaps Shatner stayed behind the scene and assisted everyone with their travel arrangements. Somehow I can see him hiding in the background, making those karate chop/kicks he does so well in those commercials. Anywho, I say congrats to George & Brad. May you live long and prosper!

To read the whole story, click here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spicy Chicken Stew with Peppered Dumplings Recipe

Unfortunately, our bowls are the same color of the stew!

Tonight Heather treated me to her personal variation on Chicken and Dumplings that I’ll call Spicy Chicken Stew with Peppered Dumplings. The stew she made up as she went along and the dumplings are simply a standard dumpling recipe with the addition of parsley and cracked black pepper. The stew is both creamy and chunky with just a touch of heat that is complemented by the peppered dumplings. While most dumpling recipes use shortening, this one calls for butter providing a richer tasting dumpling.

Spicy Chicken Stew with Peppered Dumplings

Peppered Dumplings Recipe
1-½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
3 tbsp butter
¾ cup milk
2 tsp cracked black pepper
(or 10 grinds on peppermill)
Chopped fresh parsley

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in mixing bowl. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form. Stir in milk, parsley, and pepper until incorporated. Set aside and prepare stew.

2 large chicken breasts cut into 1” cubes
4+ cups water (approximate)
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup organic creamy chicken soup
2 carrots sliced into rounds
1 small onion, chopped
2 tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 sweet potato peeled and cut into 1” cubes
¾ cup lima beans
1 banana pepper seeded and sliced into thin rounds
¼ cup half and half
1 tbsp corn starch

Place chicken in 4 quart pot. (You need a wide rather than deep pot) Pour water over chicken to cover by 1" above chicken. Poach chicken for 15 - 20 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients omitting corn starch and half and half. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 15 minutes. Stir halfway through cooking.


Hoorah for the new digital camera!
While cooking, form peppered dough into 8 equal dumplings. Mix corn starch with half and half. At the end of 15 minutes, stir in corn starch mixture to stew. Place dumplings on top of stew, cover, and cook for additional ten minutes or until dumplings appear done. (Slightly springy to touch) Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with 2 dumplings. Serves 4.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Bought a Samsung S860 Digital Camera, Finally!

Sissy - I haven't learned red-eye reduction, yet, so what?

First, I’d like to say thanks to the people who left me such nice comments to my “Random Acts of Kindness” post. Like I said in the post, I wasn’t looking for kudos. I was sharing a story in hopes that other people might do the same--without looking for any reward, unlike that Nanny Goats person and her little Emmy-looking trophy thing. (Congrats girl, I’m so jealous)

Now to the good stuff: I bought a camera! Yes, I did. Can you believe it? (And to all of you out there who I know were gearing up to get me one, you’ve been reprieved!) When I checked my checking account balance it was almost $800 too high, so I called the credit union and they informed me that my NJ Homestead Rebate was deposited today. Yee haw to found money!

Now both of my last bonuses from work went strictly to paying bills. In fact, the only thing I got for myself out of my last bonus was a $40 bottle of Ketel One. Boy, do I know where to spend my money. Anyway, I decided to buy myself something special from this windfall, before I used the money to pay bills. And even though I could have totally paid off one particular nagging bill, I went to Circuit City and bought myself a green colored, Samsung S860 Digital Camera with 8.1 mega pixels, 3x digital zoom, image stabilization, red eye reduction, face detection, and a 2.4 inch LCD screen. It also came with an AV cable and a 2 GB memory card AND all that for only $99.95, plus tax. Am I the good little shopper, or what?

So I won’t pay that one bill off completely. I can live with that because now I can adorn my blog with pictures that I’ve actually taken myself, like the ones here of my dogs, Sissy & Dave. Don’t you just love that kitschy lamp shade? And please don’t make any comments about the mess and/or dust in the pictures, either. I’m not your typical gay man. I’m a slob. My gay friends all have pristine homes and apartments where you could eat off the floors. I don’t even want to sit on my floors. In fact, when they come to visit, they usually ask me, “Are you sure your gay?” Of course, I’m very, very sure.

Well wish me luck with my new camera. I can’t wait until Heather makes a new meal, we go out to dinner, or I see something cool that I want to blog about. I can just snap a picture and be on my happy, blog-posting way. I’ve had some great posts in mind but it involved taking pictures. And no, not any of THOSE types of pictures, puhleeze. I want you folks to come back. After all, that’s why we all blog, camera or no camera, right? Happy blogging guys!

Good ole Dave lickin' his chops

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness

I was at the Walmart the other day picking up some dog food and a belated birthday card for a friend whose birthday I missed. (The card was for the friend-the dog food was for my two dalmatians.) Anyway, I put the dog food in the trunk, got in the car, and turned my head to look out the window. Looking at the car next to me, I noticed a huge nail in the tire.

Not very long ago I had a nail in my front passenger tire that I knew nothing about until I walked to my car at the end of the day and saw a completely flat tire. It was 5:15 pm on a Friday and I was not a happy camper. So I dragged out the donut tire and flimsy jack from the trunk and proceeded to change my tire. Fortunately, one of my coworkers, Jeff, saw me down on the ground, and knowing what a macho-mechanical kind of guy I am (not), he decided to lend a hand. Actually, he did most of the work and I watched and acted like I was helping.

I thought about how nice it was of Jeff to help me as I sat in the car, staring at the nail in the tire. It was a Friday night and I'm sure he wanted to get home. And I would have eventually gotten the tire changed. After all, I can mow a lawn so I should be able to change a flat. It was a kindness--maybe not a random act of kidness because Jeff has known me for many years, but it was an act of kindness none-the-less.

I got out of the car and looked at the nail. I looked inside the car and saw a teddy bear and a small child's backpack. It would really suck to be a parent with a small child and get stuck somewhere with a flat tire. I didn't have a piece of paper so I wrote a note on the back of a ShopRite receipt. I stuck it behind the windshield wiper, got back in my car, and drove back to work.

I don't know who owned the car or if they saw the note before they drove away. I hope that it helped and that they weren't stuck with a flat like I was. In my youth, I did kind things in hopes that someday someone would do kind things for me. That isn't kindness. It's immature thinking. True acts of kindness require no reciprocation or acknowledgement. I'm not looking for a pat on the back or for people to start sending me money or gifts. (although I still need a digital camera. hint. hint.) I did it because it was a good thing to do. And it's something that people just don't seem to do much any more...a random act of kindness.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Major Award, Kind of











I’ve received another blogger-to-blogger award: The Kind Blogger. I would like to thank JT from Prepare to be Absurdized for passing this award on to me. Check out his blog. He’s some kind of blogger! Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are tons of these types of awards floating around the blogger world. Regardless, I’m still thrilled and here are the rules the winners must follow to post this award.

1. Four winners have to be followers of your blog.
2. One has to be a newbie follower.
3. The last one has to be the one who sent you this award. (See above)

There you have it. It’s very simple. So drumroll please…the recipients are:

1. Fried Chicken and Grits – TKM was one of the first bloggers to show kindness to me. She also handed me my first award, so right back atcha girl!
2. Nanny Goats in Panties -- The name says it all. Nanny Goats couldn’t be nicer and her blog always makes me laugh. Here’s one more for your trophy case, Margaret.
3. I Do Things So You Don’t Have To – JD does things so you don’t have to. How kind is that?
4. Sass & Veracity and Kellmentology – Kelly is my newbie. A two blog woman, she describes herself as “Wifey, mother of three older sons, serious foodie, pet affecionado, and erstwhile English Teacher all wrapped up in one.” She’s certainly one of a kind.

Well there you have it. Congratulations to all the winners! And if there are any more awards around, be kind and send them my way.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lest We Forget - Where Were You on September 11, 2001?

I was visiting the Fried Chicken and Grits blog where I saw her post about remembering September 11. I had almost forgotten. It shocked me to think that it’s been 7 years since that horrible date. Of course, 9/11 has become what Kennedy’s assassination and Pearl Harbor was to generations before: An event so shocking and overwhelming that we can’t help but remember where we were on that day.

I was on a business trip to Orlando, Fl for a tradeshow. On 9/11, my boss was staying later that day to make sure our booth was packed up properly while I was flying home early that morning with 3 other co-workers, Allison, Janice, and Ginny. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time before our flight.

Because we arrived at the airport so early, we were able to switch to an earlier flight home. If you remember pre-9/11 flying, the airlines were very flexible with their flight schedules. Not only that, but we had overloaded our carry-on luggage with all kinds of goodies like bottles of wine and souvenirs. We were very excited to get an earlier flight which meant we would get home earlier, we thought.

Somewhere over the Carolina’s, the pilot announced that we were taking a detour because of a “National Security Problem” in New York. The pilot then said to prepare for landing and within ten minutes we were on the runway in Charlotte. The guy next to me calls his buddy, who is picking him up in Philly, when his buddy tells him that a plan has crashed into the World Trade Center.

Since none of us were sitting together, I ran to the back of the plane to inform my co-workers. The news spread pretty fast and within another ten minutes, the pilot came on the speaker to give us the gory details. He went on to say that there were no more spaces for the plane and we would have to disembark and walk across the tarmac to the airport.

It was quite a creepy experience walking across the tarmac with so many planes all over the place, like a mixed up parking lot. Inside the airport, people were frantically running about and long lines formed at every pay phone. Only one in my group had a cell phone and she couldn’t get a signal. We found the only lone booth in a snack area and plopped ourselves down. A TV loomed straight ahead of us.

We watched in horror as smoke billowed from each tower when all of a sudden the first tower came crashing down. People were stunned, some shouting and some crying. I think we were all in shock. I remember this awful feeling of dread sweeping over me like a tidal wave. Somehow I had to call home.

Eventually we all managed to call home to our loved ones, who were panicked because they couldn’t reach us and we hadn’t been on the flight we were supposed to be on. There was talk of closing the airport so we decided we should go down to baggage claim and check out the scene. We left Janice to watch the carry-on luggage while the rest of us headed out.

As we walked to the baggage claim, many stores were closed or had their gates half-down. We reached the escalator where two security guards stood. Before we went down, I asked the guard if we would be able to come back up and he said, “No, the airport is closing.” We turned around and hurried back to the restaurant where Janice was struggling with the carry-on luggage and fighting with a restaurant person because they wanted to close the gates.

When we got to the baggage claim, I divided us into two groups: Allison and I would look for the luggage and Ginny and Janice would try to book us hotel rooms and get a cab. The baggage area was pandemonium, in every sense of the word. Luggage was piled everywhere and people were running about and yelling. Airport workers were trying to organize groups of luggage by flights. Announcements for luggage locations kept changing, sending us back and forth in our search for our luggage. People were pushing and fighting. Everyone looked angry and panicked.

Eventually we found our luggage and dragged it over to the other group. Ginny had found rooms at a hotel 30 minutes away and Janice was in line for a taxi. We waited a good 45 minutes to an hour for a taxi while the Red Cross handed out water to drink while we waited. Finally we got a cab and told the driver where to go.

As soon as he took off, the cab driver told us he had to stop for gas. There were three hotels next to the gas station and the first one Ginny called had four rooms. We booked them and told the driver to drop us off across the street. After we got our rooms we decided to try and find something to eat. A huge mall across the street was completely closed, including the restaurant. In fact, there were only two stores open in the whole area, the liquor store and a fireworks store. We went to the liquor store and bought beer and snacks. We returned to our rooms to watch the carnage on TV when an announcement came on saying trains would start running from Charlotte to Philadelphia the next morning. I jumped on the phone and booked four tickets.

The next morning we arrived to a fairly empty train station. We boarded and quickly took over a booth in the dining car. Unfortunately, the train stopped at every single stop on its way to Philadelphia. By noon, the train was standing room only and the only thing left to purchase to eat was M&M’s and Twizzlers.

I remember passing through DC and seeing a helicopter in the sky and thinking how odd it looked. We arrived at 30th street station later that evening, which was bustling with all kinds of activity. My ex-partner, Wade, couldn’t find a parking space so he kept driving around the station until he saw me come out. I was so glad to be home.

Planes constantly fly over my house as they approach the Philadelphia airport and it was eerie to see the sky so empty, to not hear the planes rumble and roar as they passed over head. I remember staring up at the empty sky thinking how lucky I was—how easily fate could have directed me to one of those doomed flights.

I remember when I was younger and my mom would talk about where she was when Kennedy was shot. I recall my grandfather talking about what he was doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He told me that we should never forget what happened that day. Although it was interesting to hear those stories, it wasn’t the same for me as it was for them. I wasn’t there; it was just history to me. And someday, the same will be said for 9/11.

It’s happening already. Not one person at work so far today has made mention of it. In a world of instant-internet news, events become old as quickly as you can refresh a web page. However, we are decades away from being relegated to history books like “Remember, the Alamo!” So please take the time to remember. I’m not a religious man but I’d like to quote Rudyard Kipling:

The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart;
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
A humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet
Lest we forget -- lest we forget

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fatty Fatty Two-By-Four...

I know I have been overeating. I know that I have been substituting food for smoking. I know that I have been chowing down like a starving, wild animal after I have just a few drinks. I know that my pants are getting so tight that the are leaving tread-marks around my waist so deep that you could run a hot wheels race on them. I knew all this and still got up the nerve to step on the scale today.

Before I got on the scale, I made all those lame promises you make to yourself in the hopes that what you see won’t be as bad as you think it is. No more binge eating…no drinks except during the weekend…no take-out… and so on and so on, as IF it really would magically make the weight gain not be so bad. Unfortunately, it didn’t work this time.

I now weigh 187 lbs. That is 17 lbs heavier than I was the week before I stopped smoking. I’d throw myself off a bridge except I’m afraid I'd just bounce. Things really have gotten out of hand. It’s been 5 years--yes that’s right, 5 years--since I weighed that much. I can’t let this pattern continue. I won't go back to being huge.

If you look on my side bar, you’ll see a new widget, Big Tub o' Lard. Every day I will post my weight for all the world to see. Watch while I struggle, like a blob fish out of water, as I attempt to return to my former, less flabby state. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. So cheer me on when my weight starts dropping and chastise me if it starts to climb. Trust me, I can take it. I’ve got a thick coating, for now anyway.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lost America - Amazing Images of a Not Too Long Ago Time

I was doing a little google search on ghost towns and I just happened to stumble upon an awesome website, Lost America – Night Photography of the Abandoned West. The site is hosted by Troy Paiva, a true artist with a camera. Apparently, Troy traipses around California, Nevada, and New Mexico, photographing modern ghost towns. And yes, there are tons of modern ghost towns.

Similar to the ghost towns of the wild west, these are the “modern” equivalents, remnants of the 50’s and 60’s. Saloons, blacksmith shops, and little wooden houses have been replaced with abandoned gas stations, drive-in theaters, and mobile homes. The cactus and tumbleweeds that dot the west have been joined by television shells, ripped-up furniture, and rusting home appliances.

The website describes how Troy first came up with his idea of using light painting in his photographs. “Wandering the deserted backroads of the American Southwest, Troy Paiva has explored the abandoned underbelly of America since the 1970s. Since 1989 he’s been taking pictures of it . . . at night, by the light of the full moon.

A multi-discipline artist, Troy needed to find a new medium to create personal art while he worked in a heavily art directed graphic design job. Sitting in on a few night photography classes, he had a revelation when the subject of light-painting came up. Here were techniques that would be perfect for capturing the atmosphere and mystery of the modern ghost towns and epic junkyards he was already exploring.”



Troy describes how he creates light painting, “The moon is the main light source in most of these images. My exterior night photography is all done within 4 nights of the full moon… It took me years to develop my light painting technique. There was lots of experimentation and note-taking. Using a DSLR today means you can preview the images as you go, fine-tuning your lighting until you get exactly what you want.



Troy's website is divided into many sections of photographs like Immobile Homes, Ghost Towns, and Cold War Relics, to name a few. You can learn all about light painting on his webesite and even sign up for a workshop headed by Troy. (Unfortunately, the October 2008 workshop is sold out. You'll have to wait until 2009.) But the best part is browsing through all of those wondeful images. And if you get tired of looking at them online, you can buy his book or order a print.

How someone can find beauty in all of this is pretty amazing, but Troy has done just that. These aren’t just photos in a historical sense, this is art. He is not just preserving these decaying scenes as they are, he's turning waste and abandonment into beautiful images of mystical light. His photos are both eerie and fantastical yet haunting and surreal. It’s a true talent that reflects itself so genuinely in his artwork.



For more information, visit Lost America where you can purchase a print or his book, Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration. Special thanks to Troy for allowing me to use his images in this post.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Skid Marks to the Rescue

Even Miranda on Sex In The City
Couldn't Handle Steve's Skid Marks!

I am always on the look out for new, unusual, and totally outrageous products so when I came across these Security Briefs, I almost wet myself. But I don't have to with the already built-in skid mark!

Yes, that's right! Now you can store your valuables, your other valuables, in your tighty whiteys and protect them with a skid mark. What an oxymoron! Normally guys want you to find the valuables they store in their undies. It's the perfect hiding place. It's stupid. It's gross. And it's the perfect guy gift.

Security briefs are available at all the best websites, like As Seen on TV Guys.com, stupid.com, and Baron Bob.com for as little as $5.95. Who knew cleverness could be so cheap. But don't take my word, just check out the high quality video below created by the folks who make Security Briefs. And if that doesn't convince you, you probably thought that Blades of Glory sucked too.



Friday, September 5, 2008

John McCain and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow Promises

Forgive the poor photoshopping but take a look at the glum expressions on the circled faces. The arrow points to a guy partially hidden by the podium yet you can still see the "What the hell am I doing here?" look on his face.


I hate to admit it but I missed McCain’s speech last night. It was totally unintentional. I had just finished watching Jungle Book 2 and still had 30 minutes until his speech. (I can’t help it. I’m gay. I LOVE Disney, even their low-quality sequels.) Anyway, I decided to lie down for a few minutes and the next thing I knew it was 11:10 and I hear applause and commentary coming from the television in my living room. In the words of the immortal Charlie Brown, “Rats!”

Based on the responses I read this morning on the internet and the somber reaction of the crowd to McCain, I wasn’t the only one sleeping during his speech. Based on those reviews and the snippets of videos I caught today, not only did McCain fail to ignite his audience; he also did not bring anything new to the table. In fact, he made the same promises that George Bush made 8 years ago while, at the same time, trying to distance himself as far as he could from the President, someone whom he supported 90% of the time.

This is as far as I can comment as I didn’t watch his speech. Even if I had watched it, it wouldn’t have changed my opinion of McCain. In general, I like him. He’s a decorated war hero who supported his country and suffered because of that support. I think he’s one tough cookie and he genuinely loves his country. But he hasn’t singularly cornered the market on Patriotism. And let’s face it folks, he’s really, really old. Plus he represents the party that has controlled the white house for 8 years and is responsible for the predicament we are in today.



"Pay attention guys, I'm making a speech!"


If he gets elected you can kiss gay rights and Roe vs. Wade good-bye, especially with Sarah Palin nipping at his heals daily. If he is elected, he will continue to vote the same way he has in the past, supporting the same ideals George Bush supported. I, for one, cannot idly stand by and let that happen. He may have the support of Pit Bull Soccer Moms, but he doesn’t have a clue about the millions of other mothers out there – the moms who have to work and can’t afford to stay home and run their kids all over the universe in a gas-guzzling SUV. Nor does he have the volunteers and community workers who devote their time with little or no pay to make their communities a better place to live, the same people the Palin put down in her speech the night before.

The Republican Party has no clue about the real working people of America. I am happy that McCain is successful enough to have 7 or so houses, even if he’s not sure of the number. But most of us are having a hard time keeping the one house we own. And congrats to him that his wife can afford to spend over $300,000 on an outfit she wore at the convention yet my daughter has to debate over whether or not she can afford a $30 dress on sale at Kohl’s. These are the real issues that face Americans. These are the issues that the Republicans repeatedly overlooked. Instead we were served sarcastic and down-right nasty attacks on Obama and empty promises of change. And America does need change, but not the kind of change we’ll get from McCain/Palin and four more years of Bush-like policies.


"This is how I brace myself when I fall!"