Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Four More Years

I just read my last blog entry, which was nearly nine months ago.  Crap.  I'm getting worse at this.  I'm just going to start typing and see what comes out.  Hopefully it's somewhat coherent.

This morning at breakfast, Ethan looks over to me and says, "Dad, if you have tough hard water stains, you need to get some Lime-A-Way."  He doesn't even watch that much TV, so this brings other questions to mind.  Does my child have a photographic memory of some sort and can remember everything he sees and hears?  Is advertising so effective that even a four year old is compelled to buy things?  I do believe marketing is often geared toward children, but in this particular instance I have to think that Ethan is not part of their main demographic.  That said, now I am looking at my bathroom and thinking maybe I do need some of that product.  I didn't even see the commercial.  Maybe kids should sell everything.

So Ethan is four years old, which is crazy.  For the most part time has flown by, though there are days when I wonder if it is almost time for him to move out.  He is a pretty good kid, although like everyone he has his moments.  Sometimes he is just difficult for the sake of being difficult.  I'm guessing he gets that from his mother.  His annual checkup at the doctor's office went well.  Here is the statistics that I remember for all of you die hard Ethan fans.  He is just shy of 43 inches tall (3'7''), which puts him into the 95 percentile for height.  Basically he is a giant.  He weighs 39 pounds.  That seems light to me, but according to the doctor he weighs the perfect amount for his height.  He had to get three shots this year.  He barely flinched.  I was really proud of him.  I think he conned us out of ice cream or something, but it seemed like a fair trade.  We have 19 year olds who come to the pharmacy with their mommies and cry because they don't want to get a shot.

For those that don't do Facebook, or for some other reason are out of the loop, here is what the rest of the year has been like so far.  In May we took a family trip to Hawaii.  By family trip, I mean the three of us, my sister and her son, my mother, and my grandmother.  It was exhausting, but all in all it was a good time for everyone.  In June, Tiffany and I made a trip to Detroit for the second annual Orion Music and More Festival.  This year was a giant improvement over last year's festival  in Atlantic City.  I don't know if it will be in Detroit again next year, but I figure wherever it is, we will try to make it.  This is the third year in a row that we have had to catch a plane to see Metallica.  One of these days they may come back to Texas, but in the meantime we are having fun traveling the globe.

Since Ethan was born, we have fallen behind on many of the great movies and television shows that have come out.  Recently we spent a week or so watching the entire run of The Walking Dead.  Now we are working our way through Breaking Bad.  Hands down these are two of the best shows on TV.  I would recommend them to anyone, except my mother.  They aren't for the faint of heart.  Anyway, that was kind of a random shout out to TV, but it was on my mind.  I figure if I spend too much time thinking about this blog,  it will never get done.  Now I'm going to go find some pictures to put with it.  Often I have the pictures first and I just write about what's been going on.  If the pictures don't have anything to do with the text of this blog, you're just going to have to get over it.  That is all.

OK, that's not all.  The last picture of Ethan (the tie shirt) is the most recent.  I took it about a week ago.  While I was looking at pictures, I came across this.  It is a photo collage from last year's Orion festival in Atlantic City that a superfan from Canada put together.  I'm on there three times, which makes me practically famous.  Two pics to the right of the logo is me in the electric chair.  The upper right corner of that picture is me holding a beach ball.  The lower right and down a little is a pic of me and Tiffany.  You may have to zoom in to see us, but we are there.  You may not care at all, and that's fine too.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Office

Due to either a technical glitch or human error, this didn't post when I wrote it.
Original post date:  October 30, 2012

A couple of weeks ago we made our annual pilgrimage to the Texas State Fair.  It's just our luck that the beloved Big Tex burned down the day before we were there.  I think the publicity from that may have contributed to the enormous crowds this year.  Also, only in Texas would it be 90 degrees outside in the middle of October.  The trip wasn't a total bust though.  We still managed to eat a few crazy things.  My splurge was a fried bacon cinnamon roll.  Tiffany opted for a fried red velvet cupcake.  We also ate other healthy things such as nachos and corn dogs.  Our friends Matt and Lisa joined us at the fair, and their daughter was a perfect companion for Ethan on some of the rides.  Afterwards we went back to their house, drank some wine, and solved all of the world's problems.  Sunday we had a few errands to run in the big city before heading back home.

Monday was back to business as usual.  When I picked up Ethan from school, I was informed that he had been to the office earlier in the day for throwing a crayon at his teacher.  To my knowledge, this is the first real discipline problem he has had at school.  The teacher wasn't really sure what set him off, and the best I could get from Ethan was that they weren't his crayons and they were in his way.  We talked about just moving the crayons, or politely handing them to his teacher.  He seemed to understand, and we all chalked this up as an isolated incident.  The next day when I dropped him off at school, one of the girls in his class immediately ran over to him and informed us that we shouldn't throw crayons at the teacher.  There in the moment I did have to reiterate that she was right, but the teacher came over and broke up the conversation.  She said it was best not to dwell on it.  I agree, though it will still be on the internet forever in the form of this blog.  That afternoon when I went to pick him up, I was informed that he had been in the office for a second day in a row.  The worst part about this whole thing is that I feel like I'm in the principal's office when the teacher is talking to me.  I asked what he did, and was told that during naptime he wouldn't keep his legs on his own mat, and was putting them up in the air and then kicking the child next to him.  He spent naptime in the office.  Now I have the problem child.

The good news in all this, is that it does kind of seem to be an isolated thing.  The rest of the week he was on his best behavior.  His teacher has told me that during lessons he is completely attentive.  Maybe he didn't feel good, or he was exhausted from the long weekend.  He seems happy everyday when he tells us that he didn't go to the office.  Let's keep our fingers crossed.  I know every kid is going to have some issues from time to time.  I can't say for sure, but the first time I remember going to the office was in middle school.  I was in the library when I should have been in the lunchroom.  I wasn't being bothering anyone, and I'm not really sure what the problem was.  When I was a junior in high school, I did get busted for leaving campus during lunch.  When I was in high school, we had an hour for lunch.  I don't understand why they felt the need to force the nasty school food on us.  Often we went to friends houses and ate sandwiches.  Sometimes we went to Taco Bell.  I left for lunch probably three times a week for the entirety of my sophomore and junior years.  We got caught in the last six weeks of school.  It was totally worth it.  The punishment was that me and three of my best friends had to go to the school for two hours on a Saturday.  We weren't allowed to talk to each other, but we were allowed to read our own magazines and books.  Two hours of my time was a small price to pay.  If they had told us up front that the punishment was two hours on a Saturday, I still would have made the same deal.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Terrible Threes

I'm scared that I'm running out of things to say.  Actually, I think with the amount of social media has rendered blogs somewhat archaic, kind of like paper books.  I still have plenty going on, I just don't seem to have to time to get it typed.  Maybe I need some kind of device where I talk into a bluetooth headset and that text appears on screen.  Then I could blog from my truck.  I'll have to look into that.  I'm sure something like that exists.  This is 2012.  I guess it doesn't matter that much since the world is about to end anyway.  I will give a shoutout to a blog that is much better than mine (and much more often updated).  Check out Lucky Emily.  After you are done there, come back and read a little more of my blog if you are so inclined.

Life is happening faster than I can keep up with this blog.  At the end of June, we celebrated Ethan's third birthday.  Due to various scheduling conflicts (and rock concerts), we didn't do much in the way of a party.  We instead had a handful of mini-parties.  This actually worked out well for Ethan, as he got to celebrate over and over.  I did have to explain to him that he wasn't 4, and then 5 and so on just because we had another party.  We did have a little cake and ice cream thing the weekend after his actual birthday.  His major gift this year was his "big" bed.  The first day we set it up, he was ready to go to bed about 5:30.  We did manage to talk him into dinner first, and although he did mention once that he wanted his old bed back, he has slept just fine ever since.  The one caveat to all of this is that every thing he owns must now sleep with him.  If he gets anymore stuff, we may have to buy an even bigger bed.  As I was looking at pictures for this blog, I realized that I don't have a picture of the bed.  Epic fail.  I'll try to get one sometime.  I will tell you this about pictures.  I love them, and I love to take them, but if you spend your whole life trying to get the perfect picture, you might actually miss everything else.  Just enjoy being in the moment once in awhile.  This also applys to cell phone cameras at rock concerts.  Nobody cares about your crappy youtube videos.  Put the phone down and enjoy the show.

His three year check up at the doctor went by without incident.  He's still tall and skinny, but not too skinny we were told.   The vital stats are as follows:  35 pounds and 40 inches tall.  That's right, 3'4".  The doctor said that he will probably be at least 6'2".  Yes, that's taller than me.  He started Pre-K a couple of weeks ago.  This is a "first day of school" picture.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The King?

Today is the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death.  I can't vouch for the authenticity of this story, but I have been told that when he died in 1977 that my mother was upset that I would never really know Elvis.  Whether that is true or not, it is a correct statement.  I never have really understood Elvis.  That's not to say that I don't like some of his stuff.  I do think he has made some worthwhile contributions to the music world, but I have always found it hard to comprehend the King label.  Maybe it's a generational thing.  I thought Motley Crue did a pretty good cover of Jailhouse Rock.  It's funny how history repeats itself.  Michael Jackson died four days before Ethan was born.  Admittedly I was sad, though by the time he died his reputation had moved way beyond the "King of Pop" into some sort of a weird recluse--at least here in America.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I was always a fan until the day he died.  I guess some of my musical influences did come from my parents.  Even though Elvis didn't rub off on me, I do still listen to plenty of Neil Diamond and Willie Nelson.  As an overall rock fan though, I do plan to make the pilgrimage to Graceland one of these days.

After the big festival in Atlantic City, we took the time and drove to Washington DC.  I hadn't been there before, and I just wanted to see what it was all about.  I knew one day wouldn't be enough to see the city, but it was a nice way to get an overview for any future trips.  We spent the day walking around the mall area and visiting the monuments.  We were able to see quite a bit including the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.  There was no water in the reflection pool because they were doing repair work.  We also saw memorials for Martin Luther King, WWII, Vietnam, and the Korean War.  I would very much like to go back to DC and visit some of the museums.  We may be back on the east coast next year for Orion 2013, so we may try to make it a longer trip this time.  I will get some pictures from DC up on Facebook and maybe even add them to this blog in the next day or two.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's A Long Way To The Top

Disclaimer:  This post was written in four or five sessions over the course of a month.  I apologize if it seems a little disjointed.  The pictures here, along with others are on Facebook for those people who can't get enough.

If I had all of the money that I had spent chasing bands around the world, I could probably retire early.  Of course I would be pretty boring.  What I lack in riches, I make up for in life experience.  That's what I'll be telling myself when I am still going to work at 75.  At the end of last month, Tiffany and I attended the Orion Music and More Festival in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  This is a brand new two day event that was hosted by one of our favorite bands, Metallica.  We arrived in AC that Friday night.  After checking in at the Trump Taj Mahal, we walked over to the House of Blues for some food and to check out a couple of bands playing that night.  The first was Cage the Elephant, who I didn't care for much.  The second was a band from Jersey called The Gaslight Anthem.  I had never heard of these guys before we made plans for this festival, but in that short time I have become a fan.  All of their music is great.  They actually have a new CD out this week.  Not only did I have a good time, but the crowd seemed to love these guys as well.  We met a couple of guys from Canada who were apparently superfans.  They were sleeping in their car, and they smuggled their alcohol into the bar in plastic bags.  It's actually kind of genius.

Before I go much further, let me say that Atlantic City is not a place that I would spend much time.  Our hotel was nice, and the Boardwalk has a certain appeal.  I was asked by a coworker to check around and see if the property values were in line with their ranking on a Monopoly board.  From what we saw, almost all of it was scary, though Baltic Avenue may have been a little worse than others.  Maybe I'm being overly critical.  I didn't actually see every street.

Saturday and Sunday were spent mostly at the festival.  The event was held at Bader Field, which is an abandoned airstrip.  The weather was in the mid 80s the whole weekend, which is much cooler than it was here in Texas when we got back.  The number of people there varies wildly from source to source, but my best educated guess is that there was between 30,000 and 40,000 people each day.  Since Metallica was the host for the weekend, many of the things at the festival reflected different aspects of the band and its individual members.  Each of the four stages were named after their songs.  Different band members introduced many of the other acts that played.  In the Metallica Club area, there were Q & A sessions held with various people associated with the band.  We were able to attend the one with Toby, the guy in charge of all Metallica merchandise, and Dan, the guy who runs the website.  We also sat in on one with Tony Squindo who does some of the artwork for the band.  Beforehand, I wouldn't have thought these would be interesting, but we were able to gain a lot of insight and hear stories of the band from an insider's perspective.  Each band member also had there own lifestyle activities set up.  Among these were a custom car show, a film tent, a collection of horror memorabilia, and skating and surfing events. 

In addition to all of this, there were over 30 bands that played at this event.  Though there isn't any real way to see every one of them, it is fun to walk from stage to stage and discover new bands.  I did a little bit of homework and bought a collection of CDs (yes, actual CDs) to listen to beforehand.  Some of it was good, some of it I didn't care for.  I'm not going to list all of the bands, but you can check out the website here if you are so inclined.  In addition to the previously mentioned Gaslight Anthem, the highlights for me were Volbeat, Avenged Sevenfold, and comedian Jim Breuer.  Metallica closed both nights with full sets.  Saturday night included the Ride the Lightning album in it's entirety, including one song that had never been played live before.  Sunday night's setlist was similar to the recent European dates and included the entire "Black" album.  We also had snakepit tickets on Sunday, so we were actually standing inside part of the stage.  Both nights were amazing, and I think the band sounds better than they have in years.  For those who are hard of hearing, Metallica even had an interpreter for the deaf.  Nothing is cooler than watching someone use sign language to translate a rock song.  There was something for everyone at this festival, and I believe a good time was had by all.  We met people from all over the world. Metallica really is a global sensation, and I think they have some of the greatest and loyal fans in the world.  One of the Metallica Club members collected flags from people coming to this event, sewed them together, and hung it up for people to sign. We sent him the Texas flag.  They also have a few celebrity fans.  I know Bradley Cooper was in the snakepit on Saturday night, and on Sunday we stood next to famous skater Tony Alva.  As I am typing this, Metallica is in the middle of an 8 night sold out run in Mexico City. Not many bands could pull that off.  There is already some discussion about Orion 2013.  If they decide to do it again, I feel like it is something we would try to work out.  I wish they would move it out of Jersey though.

I have been a little ADD about this blog, and for the first time in the history of my blog I have been trying to go back and make sure I haven't forgotten things.  I have done a little editing.  Generally I just type it and go.  I'm sure there are things that didn't make the cut.  It has been over a month, and my memory just isn't what it used to be.  In the case of this particular post, I have a few more things to post, which hopefully will be in a few days.  I have much of it already written, but I have decided to cut it off here for thematic continuity.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Don't Tread On Paris

WARNING:  This post is about a rock concert and all of the general fun and debauchery that goes along with it.  If you don't want to know, you can stop reading now.  My guess is if you made it this far, you're going to keep going though.  Secretly you are all rock fans.

So the third night in Paris, we went to see Metallica.  For the record, we didn't make the trip to Paris just to see our favorite band--we were already planning the trip to Paris.  The timing just happened to work out.  I like to think of that as fate, or maybe good karma.  We took a detour by the Hard Rock on the way to the concert so I could grab a shot glass for the collection.  As soon as we stepped into the place, I knew we were among friends.  A guy saw our shirts and asked if we were going to the show.  He then proceeded to belt out Nothing Else Matters at the top of his lungs, complete with French accent.  We ate a quick pre-show dinner there, and the entire time they were playing Metallica videos and music.  People were singing and drumming on the bar.  This was a great start to a fantastic evening.  The concert was up in St. Denis at the Stade de France, which is the National Stadium of France.  They play rugby there, as well as football (soccer).  The place holds over 80,000 people.  It was sold out, and it was packed.  There were people everywhere, and it took us a little time to locate the box office.  We had our tickets in hand, but we had to pick up wristbands for the pit.  Tiffany and I had snakepit tickets, which means that we were in a little cut out section of the stage.  Hands down these were the best tickets to have.  We were super close to the band, but we didn't have to fight and push our way around with all of the general admission crowd.  Before we went down into the crowd, we made a couple of other stops.  First, we decided to go ahead and buy T-shirts beforehand.  This was a little bit of a challenge, as the people at the booth spoke very little English.  They certainly weren't mean about it.  There was a lot of pointing and hand gesturing.  I felt a little like I was in a game of charades where nobody was winning.  The hardest part was explaining that I needed an XL shirt.  She kept asking if I wanted small or medium.  I realize they don't have that many fat people in Europe, but there was just no way a small or medium was going to work.  They did have bigger shirts, and we ultimately got it figured out.  The shirts were all updated versions of the Black Album designs from the 90s, which was appropriate since this tour was celebrating that album's 20th (technically 21st) anniversary.  Next we hit the bathroom.  It's always a good idea to go before the show.  One, you don't want to miss anything, and two, you might not ever get back to where you want to be.  The men and women (like many places in France) basically share a bathroom with a small partition separating the two sides.  It's kind of different if that isn't what you are used to.  After we emptied our bladders, we decided to fill them up again with some cold beverages.  Here is an interesting concept that I would love some places in the US to adopt.  They sell you an eco-friendly souvenir cup filled with beer for 8 Euros.  After that, you can refill your cup for 2 Euros.  The initial price seems steep, although not too bad for subsequent fills.  I really just wanted the cup, so I just drank the one.  Also, too much beer requires more trips to the aforementioned bathroom.

There were two opening bands before the main event.  The first was a band called Gojira.  They are a French heavy metal band, even though their name is clearly the Japanese word for Godzilla.  Unfortunately we were still wandering around the stadium when they were playing, so we didn't really see this band.  I have a feeling they were better than the second band, which was The Kills.  We got down into the snakepit just as these guys started playing.  They had about four people banging on these giant drums.  There were two singers--one male, one female.  I don't really know what kind of music this was, but it wasn't the kind of music I wanted to hear.  It didn't really matter.  We got to socialize a little with the people around us, and just take the whole thing in.  We seemed to have quite an international crowd around us.  In addition to the French fans in the snakepit, there were people from England, Germany, and Holland to name a few.  My guess is we weren't the only Americans in the crowd.

It wasn't quite dark when Metallica went on about 9:30.  They have an amazing amount of daylight in France.  The show started as usual with Ennio Morricone's Ecstasy of Gold along with the video footage from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  Then the band came out and put on one of the best shows I have seen in years.  It was a full on rock show with new video, lasers, pyros, and a band that seems to have returned to their glory days.  In what was a stark contrast to the last tour, the setlist consisted entirely of old songs.  They played the entire Black album in reverse order.  Everything else was older than that, with the exception of one song from the current EP.  As I am generally a fan of their earlier stuff, the setlist was great as far as I was concerned.  It was also nice to see some stuff that is rarely played, including three songs that made their debut on this tour.  Being in the snakepit meant that at any given time we had band members on all sides of us.  That may sound distracting or crazy, but there isn't anywhere I would have rather been in the whole stadium.  I don't think they have had the snakepit at any shows since 1993, but I hope they keep it.  This was my 19th Metallica show, and I would probably rank it in my personal Top 3.  I am super excited about seeing them again in June, even though I don't get to fly to Europe this time.

Here is the full setlist:

Hit The Lights
Master Of Puppets
No Remorse
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Hell And Back
The Struggle Within
My Friend Of Misery
The God That Failed
Of Wolf And Man
Nothing Else Matters
Through The Never
Don't Tread On Me
Wherever I May Roam
The Unforgiven
Holier Than Thou
Sad But True
Enter Sandman
Seek And Destroy

I didn't get a ton of pictures.  I am a lot more interested in watching the band.  Also, it's hard to get good pictures of people that are moving around so much.  The pictures at the bottom were taken after the show was over.  The band came out and held up some flags that people had brought.  The overhead shot of the snakepit was on Metallica's website.  I stole it because you can see Tiffany (barely).  She is the one wearing the white shirt holding her arms up to take a picture.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Things I Learned In France

1.  Bread, wine, and cheese all taste better in France.

2.  If you attempt to speak French, even poorly, most people will be nice and help you.

3.  Everything is much further than you think it is, especially if you are walking.

4.  Every old building in Paris has at least a couple hundred stairs to the most interesting part.

5.  The public transportation is better and easier to use than any other major city I have ever been to.

6.  Some French people do smell bad, but so do some Americans.

7.  Rock concerts are better in Europe.

We had a fantastic time in Paris.  For starters, any time I can have a few days off is a good time as far as I'm concerned.  After the lengthy flight overseas, we were able to take the train directly from the airport to our hotel.  We spent most of the first afternoon just wandering the streets around the Champs Elysees.  We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.  We also walked along the river by the Eiffel Tower and basically just enjoyed being in the city.  The weather was wonderful the entire time we were there.  We had a little rain, but it was hardly cold at all.  I didn't wear a jacket for one second of this trip.

Friday, we took the train out to Versailles.  We spent the better part of the day out there.  We took a tour of the main Chateau, which included access to several rooms not open to the public.  It was totally worth taking the tour as opposed to just wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out what stuff is.  We did plenty of aimless wandering when we were temporarily lost in the gardens.  We saw the private quarters of Louis XV, as well as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  We spent nearly the entire day there, and although we were tired from all of the walking, it was probably my favorite thing we did the entire trip.  We spent the evening at the Louvre, mostly hitting the highlights.  I would love to go back and spend some more time there when I have more time and am less exhausted.  The place was crazy packed, especially in rooms with famous pieces.  There was a bigger mosh pit around the Mona Lisa than at any rock concert I have ever been to.

Saturday included a trip to L'Hôtel national des Invalides which houses a military museum.  The highlight here is the tomb of Napoleon.  I have never in my life seen anything quite so elaborate.  His remains are in a giant six layer casket that fills an entire room under a giant dome.  It is quite impressive, if not a little bit strange.  After that, we spent some time at the Paris Opera House before heading up to the Stade de France for the Metallica show.  I will cover that somewhere else to spare those of you who don't care, but it was awesome.

Our last day was spent mostly around Montmartre.  We climbed up the hill to the Sacré-Cœur.  It's a beautiful church, and it was only 300 more steps to the top of the dome, which seemed like a good idea at the time.  There was a nice view of the city from there, but I realized on this trip that I am completely out of shape.  We ate lunch and drank wine outside at a little cafe, which made the trip worth it.  Afterwards, we stopped at every tourist trap along the way so that Tiffany could get her fill of Paris souvenirs.  By the way, souvenir is a French word.

After the long flight home on Monday, I have spent the last two days doing as little as possible.  I have gotten some reading done, and I have caught up on Jimmy Fallon.  Tomorrow I have to go back to work.  I'm not super excited about it, but I guess you have to work occasionally if you want to continue to make trips to Europe.  Maybe this will be my year to win the lottery.