<$BlogMetaData?$>

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kentucky Fried Grizzly Carnage

I woke this morning at 8:30 like clockwork, which is to be the new state of affairs I suppose. I left the wife and Yorkie sleeping and made myself some tea, then fetched the newspaper and read through that while eating some cereal at the kitchen counter, feeling rather suburban and domestic. My hunger pangs satiated, I spent some time picking up the kitchen and washing the remaining dishes left over from yesterday evening's entertaining.

I eventually bored of that and moved into the Office as the clock crept toward the noon hour, where I worked with the PC to run through all of its various scans and virus software, just to keep things running smoothly. The wife finally stirred; she and I cleaned the rest of the stuff laying around the kitchen and put away the crystal and the like that'd been used for the party, then she busied herself with the backlog of mail from the past week.

Beware The Grizzling!I eventually moved into the den and the wife joined me to watch a little something off the To-Watch Pile called Grizzly, a film that a couple different podcasts have covered or are about to cover on their shows that I decided should finally get a day in court. It was decent enough, though I have to admit to being surprised at the amount of money it pulled in during the post Jaws '70s; I guess nature was the scariest thing going at the time. Knowing what to expect from it may be the trick to further enjoyment, I can see giving it another look at some point to get a few laughs out of the various over the top kills and the use of fake bear arms in most of the attack scenes.

The wife wanted to catch a nap after the movie, so I actually laid down with her in the bedroom, but was only able to sleep for about an hour. I snapped awake in much the same fashion as I do in the mornings, so I went back to the den and threw in a movie to pass the time, leaving she and the pup snoozing.

Catholic High School Girls...In Trouble!I elected to dive into the To-Watch Pile with a re-watch of Kentucky Fried Movie, a film that makes for great nostalgic and episodic fun. I mean, how can you not love a film with the hilariously exploitative skit Catholic High School Girls In Trouble? The wife joined me toward the end of the film and seemed amused with it as well, then I was left wondering what to dig into next.

I kinda wanted something in the same vein to follow it up, so I dug around the To-Watch Pile a bit and finally came up with a total shot in the dark:

TV Carnage: Casual Fridays was something I had grabbed from the now defunct HK Flix to pad out an order to qualify for free shipping, as it was a random sale title that sounded interesting but had the possibility of being awful. Essentially a mixtape edit of bad television, commercials and infomercials, it's an hour and a half of bizarro content edited together for comedic effect with varying results, but I have to say that it by God wasn't boring. Very Casual...There was a good amount that made me laugh, made me wince and gave me the douche-chills as it spotlighted some awful stuff from television in the late '80s and early '90s. I mean, what the fuck were we thinking? I am now faced with the task of tracking down the rest of these DVD's, as the website presence related to them doesn't look to have them for sale and Amazon looks to only have expensive copies available. I mean, I thought this thing was amusing, but I refuse to go into hock to own the other volumes, that shit just ain't happening.

As evening rolled around we got into the normal Fox animation fare, then finally flipped over to check out the new True Blood and Entourage before calling it a night.

Be seeing you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Party Over Here, Then Over There

So there we were this morning, laying in bed about half awake when the doorbell rings. It's 8:45 in the damned morning on a Saturday and we have flowers arriving. I suppose they thought they were doing us a favor, but honestly these things didn't need to be there until 5:00 in the afternoon. Oh well, since we're up anyway...

We got dressed and headed out to check out a friend's garage sale, as it was within our neighborhood and was meant to benefit a charity relating to their church. We visited for a bit and poked around, I eventually threw down a whopping dime on a vintage picture frame with the original color tinted photos from the era still in it. I will proudly display this until I die, then some other asshole can buy it and ironically decorate with it as well. After we left there we stopped into the little library thrift store nearby, we I found tons of great shit. Tawdry!This included a couple of the Parker novels by Richard Stark, AKA Donald Westlake, as well as three of the Hard Case Crime titles that I want to use to add some color to the Library Bathroom when that gets redecorated. I dunno if I'll use these specific books or if we'll try to print something off to use in there, as I kinda hate the idea of destroying a book I'm interested in just for decorating, regardless of how cheap it might've been.

After our shopping trip full of win, we killed some time while waiting for a deli to open, as a nice fresh sandwich and soup sounded good to me. We hit up a recently opened organic grocer's to pass the time, as I had never been in there to check it out. This being a small town, we naturally ran into a friend who we hadn't seen in quite some time and visited with her for a few, then I got the lay of the land at the store. Noting the time, we headed back down the street to the deli and had a great early lunch, then picked up cupcakes for the wife's party on the way back to the house.

Not a bad morning all things considered. Back at the house we unload and start to pick up the old homestead a bit for the party. The wife does the windows out front while I work on stuff indoors, then I do the back windows and give the front ones another pass, as I kept noticing streaks and it was bugging me because I'm anal like that. We were both a bit tired at this stage of the afternoon, so we found ourselves migrating to the sitting area off the kitchen to chill for a few and catch our breath.

We both rested for a few while checking e-mail on our phones, then the gifts for the party were delivered by an older man who managed to drop a crystal butter dish on the ground at our very door. He then had to go and fetch another one, acting a bit as if this might somehow be our fault. He returned within the hour, drops off the replacement piece and was on his way, so I started to boil water for some tea, as I felt like I was fading fast and had a full evening ahead of me.

The wife joined me for a cup, then she hopped in the shower to get cleaned up for the evening. I soon followed suit, then the co-host of party arrived and we put the final touches on the party, setting up food, etc. in advance of the rest of the group turning up at 5:00. The guest of honor arrived first, accompanied by her mother, I said my hellos and then greeted the one other guest I wanted to say hi to specifically, as I hadn't seen her in some time, then the Yorkie and I retired to the bedroom to allow the wife to mingle & entertain in peace without her yapping at everyone.

Oh The Magnificence!I read through the rest of a Horrorhound Magazine, then remembered looking up a book on Amazon from the book store earlier and seeing that it was available as a free download for the Kindle, so I hopped on the iPad and busied myself with downloading The Magnificent Ambersons, the novel that was the basis of the Orson Welles film.

As the party began to wind down the wife and a friend came into the bedroom as part of a tour of the house (how there are still friends of ours who haven't seen the place is beyond me), so I allowed the Yorkie to roam a bit, but she was still being a bit of an asshole, so the wife or I ended up holding her while talking to the last few remaining guests, just to keep her quiet and out of harm's way. The last few folks trickled out and once everyone was safely on their way, the wife and I headed over to Shioda's mother's place just down the road a bit, where there was a baby shower being held for he and his new bride, celebrating the birth of their son.

Their gathering had started at the same time as ours, so by the time that we arrived it was winding down a bit, his various family members leaving in couples or groups, which meant that we actually ended up being able to visit with he and his wife, as well as a mutual friend and his new bride for a couple hours with no real interruptions, which was quite nice. We headed home a little after 10:00, as we were all getting a bit yawn-y by this time. The wife and I snacked on the leftovers from the party as our dinner and watched a couple episodes of The Boondocks on Adult Swim, then called it a night.

I spend about an hour in the Office working on the notes for today's post, then head to bed to read a bit before I fall asleep.

Be seeing you.

Friday, July 29, 2011

We Got A Great Big Convoy, Ripping Through The Night!

I found myself awake at 8:30 this morning and was laying there debating my options when the Yorkie took notice and nudged her way under my hand for some petting, then took it upon herself to wake the wife. We both yawned and stretched and tried to come alive, then we finally dressed and got the grocery list finalized.

The grocery shopping wasn't all that bad, as the town has fairly emptied out for Summer and we hit the store early enough to avoid all of the usual crowds. We headed home and unloaded our stuff, then put in a call to the Mother In Law, as we'd picked up some sodas that she'd expressed interest in while we were abroad. She was unaware that you could still buy Coca-Cola in the small glass bottles that we frequently had served to us while on the cruise, so we headed over there to drop them off, along with the borrowed Deadwood DVD's. We hung around and visited for a bit, talking about the book that a family member has written about himself and the family in general, or at least as it relates to his own experiences. This is all well and good on the surface, but being that it's produced by a vanity press and printed on a heavy stock with color illustrations, it's priced well beyond the means of the average reader. I find this to be a bit ridiculous if you want anyone besides your family, who presumably feel somewhat obligated to read it, then don't price it out of the range of your audience.

Once we left the MIL's we stopped to pick up party supplies for the party we're hosting on Saturday, then headed back home and dug into our groceries for a bit of lunch, as something light like sandwiches sounded really good.

The wife relaxed in the bedroom with the Yorkie, watching some television and chilling out while I spent some time online with the blog, then made myself a couple cups of tea to shake off the mid-afternoon yawns. The tea has been pretty good to me so far, and since we'd got some cream on this grocery trip I was able to replicate the high tea from the ship fairly well. All I need now are some crustless sandwiches and a well dressed guy to serve them and I'll be in business.That There's Rubber Duck...

I eventually retired to the den and watched Sam Peckinpah's 1978 film Convoy, which I'm sure I've seen with my family at some point in my youth, but have absolutely no recollection of. I say that I know I've seen it only because I was raised steeped in the country music of the era and I know my dad would have certainly watched this had it ever aired, and I would have been right there with him, rooting for Kris Kristofferson as Rubber Duck. It was a really enjoyable film, something that gives a nice look at a style of film that will never be made again. They Had A Great Big Convoy...
I was struck later by the fact that I still can't decide of Ali McGraw was hot or not in the film, as she looks great from certain angles but kinda blah from others. It doesn't help that she's as tan as our Louis Vuitton luggage and sporting a strangely short and kinky hairstyle that almost looks like she has an afro. It's a cute look in certain scenes, but not very flattering in others. Oh well, no one is losing sleep about this, right?

Wife left for a pedicure while I was watching the last half of the movie so I wrapped my flick and piddled around until she returned, then we had some sushi for dinner over another Ghost Hunters International.

After we finished our meal I decided to pop in The New York Ripper for a bit of horror, as the wife mentioned that we hadn't seen a horror flick in quite some time. Quck, Quack Bitches!In a strange bit of synchronicity, the killer quacks like a duck when he kills, which was something of a bizarre coincidence I didn't even think of until about a half hour into the movie. It was a truly strange film, but pretty watchable; I don't think Fulci has ever bored me with any of his films that I've watched.

We watched this week's episode of The Soup, then called it a night, as we have a somewhat busy day tomorrow, including two showers for various people and an evening out with friends from out of town.

Be seeing you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interior Designing Dinner

The wife and I both rose early today, as we were expecting the Interior Decorator to turn up at 9:30 in the AM. Once he was officially about 20 minutes late the wife called to confirm the date and time, only to find out that somehow we'd gotten our wires crossed and they weren't on tap til 1:30 in the afternoon.

Finding ourselves with a bit of time to kill, I hopped online and polished up and posted another blog entry, as I now seem to be about an average of a day behind but find myself enjoying the significant reduction in my stress levels brought on from posting things a day late, as I feel less pressure to stay up until all hours dicking around with this. Perhaps this is the most significant thing to come out of our Mediterranean holiday, that I now find it completely acceptable to let this crap lie for a day or two if need be. After I got that squared away, I spent the rest of the morning reading the various things I had on the nightstand that were almost finished: wrapped up two magazines and three books in the process. That certainly gave me a sense of accomplishment, getting some of that ever teetering stack of reading under control.

The Interior Decorator and his assistant turned up on the dot at 1:30, so we set up in the kitchen counter area to hear their proposals for the two rooms on question. Both procedures sounded solid, so we should soon have a fresh new look on the Library Bathroom and our Guest Room/Suite, with this decorating project tying both the middle bedroom and the adjacent room together much better. This will involve taking out some built in desks and shelving plus re-carpeting, but it'll also go a long way toward making the rooms look less like dorms, which is essentially what they were, housing the previous owners' teenage boys.

Once we got all that squared away and saw them off, the wife spent some time with her knitting while I stepped out for a burger, as I was getting rather hungry by this point in the afternoon.

When I returned I ate while watching an episode of Ghost Hunters International with the wife, then she and I both dozed on the couch. I naturally snapped wide awake after 20 minutes (I'm just not built for naps), so I spent some time on the stationary bike in the bedroom, then showered and got ready for dinner out with the wife and the new Executive Director from the Museum.

The new ED is a fun guy; I really enjoyed getting to know him further and it was nice to linger at the restaurant trading stories and anecdotes. As it turns out he and I have a lot of television in common, so that was interesting to bullshit about, as I find few locals who watch the shows that the wife and I tend to enjoy. Afterward the wife and I grabbed a late coffee since we were out, then finally headed home.
Brother Louie
We chilled out and watched this week's episode of Louie, which was great. The episode looked like it was filmed in the '70s, opening with Louie riding a grimy subway and encountering all manner of strangeness, then he and Pamela Adlon wandering the city talking; those two have an amazing chemistry. Such a great show.

We wrapped the evening with the new Futurama, then I spent a few minutes online checking e-mail and whatnot, then headed to bed to read a bit and crash early.

Be seeing you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Maid & Socializing

I rose early this morning, as is my new custom, then saw the wife off on her morning errands, which would include dropping the Yorkie off at the Groomer. I got the house opened up for business, hit the stationary bike for a few, then finally hopped on the internet to update the blog and pass the time until the Maid turned up.

I eventually got a bit peckish, so while rummaging in the pantry for a breakfast bar or something to tide me over until lunch I ran across a pack of English tea that'd been in a gift basket we got for Christmas. A bit of further rummaging in the Appliance Closet in the hall turned up a tea kettle and one of our China place settings so a had a nice fancy cup and saucer to drink from. The tea wasn't bad at all as it turned out, so I added both cream and tea to our ever growing grocery list, as I know we have a shopping excursion planned for later in the week.

The Maid finally turned up around noon, so I let her in and she got started on her routines while I heated up some leftovers for my lunch. I Can Recall A Time When Smith Didn't Make Me Cringe When He Opened His Mouth...I'd recently discovered that the old standby of indie cinema from my late teens and early '20s has begun to offer their entire run in PDF format, so I spent most of the morning downloading old issues of Film Threat magazine to the PC, as I figured I could load up the iPad with them later this evening.

While I ate I took a break from messing with all that noise and instead watched a coupel episodes of the 3rd season of X-Files via Netfux Instant Watch.

The wife returned with the pup, we caught up on the day, then she and the Yorkie relaxed in the bedroom once the Maid was on her way, while I spent more time in the Office downloading the rest of the run of Film Threat, then loaded them onto the iPad and went through the process of updating its software, because most Apple products seem to need a lot of attention like that at least once or twice a month. John Waters!It's as if they're always tweaking and noodling around with shit that seems to work just fine as it is.

The wife had planned for us to have dinner out with the woman who taught her way back in 1st grade, so we dressed for that and went by to pick her up from her son's apartment, where she is staying on this trip and babysitting her grandbaby. We visited with the son for a few as well, as he is a mutual acquaintance, then headed to the restaurant, which was surprisingly busy for a Wednesday night in our sleepy little town. We also managed to run into half the world at the restaurant, so even leaving to drop her off took a bit of doing, as we had to stop and chit-chat with numerous people on the way out.

We dropped her off, electing to pass on coming in due to the granddaughter possibly being down for the night, then we headed back home. It was too late to really start a movie or anything, so we just vegged out a bit, flipping channels before getting fished into about 20 minutes of The Social Network, then I wrested myself away and briefly updated the blog before heading to bed to crash out and catch some sleep.

Be seeing you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Robot Chicken The 13th

I continued my strange new pattern of rising without the alarm, as I found myself up at 10:00 with no provocation whatsoever. I hit the stationary bike while some laundry was doing its thing, then got the house opened up for business and packaged up a Swap A DVD trade to be mailed while I was out running errands.

Since our return to town I have found myself feeling the siren song of commerce; today being no exception, I found myself checking out a couple pawn shops to kill time before I met the fellas for lunch. He's Back! The Man Behind The Mask.Though several stores had nothing of real interest I was pleasantly surprised to find a super cheap copy of Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. I've been kinda holding out for a Blu-ray release of this one, but since I have no idea how long Paramount is going to string us along waiting on that to happen I figured I could drop a couple bucks on what is perhaps my favorite film in the series.

I got my stuff mailed, then met DR at our alternate Thai restaurant. We spent some time catching up about the trip, then were joined by EL and his son TL, who is out of school for the summer and available to hang out from time to time. We visited for a little over an hour, then I pointed the car towards home.

I visited with the wife back at the house, then I spent afternoon on the PC, while she caught a bit of a nap after her early morning errands.

I eventually retired to the den and watched Robot Chicken Star Wars III, which had arrived in mail that afternoon. The wife eventually got out to pick up dinner while I finished going through the special features on the disc. Enjoy Your Toys.Fun fact I always forget: Zac Efron does voice work for Robot Chicken.

We watched the Friday The 13th flick after we had dinner, as I was hot to see if it held up as well as I thought it would. Also realized that there's a ton of behind the scenes stuff on this one on Wikipedia that I need to check out, as there were numerous cuts and studio meddling surrounding this one. It's still my favorite of the series, as I think it might've been the first one I saw on late night television in my formative years.

We watched the conclusion of the first season of Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated after the movie, just for something light and because I was curious to see how much of their main storyline they could wrap up in a mere 30 minute show. Answer: not much, unfortunately. Looking forward to another season of the show, I hope it continues

We called it a night shortly afterward and I hopped online to start notes for this post and then back trakced to publish something from last week, as I still find myself behind even as we're hitting the midpoint of this week.

Be seeing you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

The wife had her jury summons for this morning, so she was long gone to make that meeting when I woke at 8:30, with no alarm. I've been on this weird internal clock thing since we've been back, and I can't decide if I like it or not. On one hand, I'm feeling kinda fatigued a lot of the time, but on the other side of it, I'm also getting a lot of stuff done because I'm not sleeping my usual odd hours and rising early each day.

I hit the stationary bike and put in some time there, then got the PC fired up and the house open for business. I grabbed a shower, then spent some time working on the blog posts from the end of the vacation before packing up several things to mail out for some Swap A DVD trades. I was about to leave to go and hit the Post Office when the Yorkie alerted me to one of the Lawn Guys giving the sprinkler system the once over, so I stepped out to ask him to dial it back a bit, as he had it coming on in the early evening, which I didn't like as it had a greater chance of spotting up anyone's car who might be visiting.

The wife returned while I was talking to him, so she and I made plans to grab an early lunch and run a couple errands. We had a good meal ahead of the lunch crowd and then ran my few errands, then picked up a tasty beverage on the way home from Starbucks.

The wife piddled around the house in the afternoon while I spent my time back on the computer, working up the last few days worth of blog posts. I honestly don't know when (if ever) I've been this far behind as far as the published material goes, so I wanted to get at least part of each day's entries written up, just to have a framework to work with before I started to lose details about anything.

The afternoon was broken up by the AT&T service guy, who turned up to look into our inability to receive phone calls here at the house. We'd been able to make them since our return, but when someone called in we only heard a small chirp of a ring, with no ability to answer it. Brian said it'd suddenly started doing it a couple days before we got back, with no hint as to what might've caused it. I met the guy in the alley and he started looking around at the connections, then had it working again within ten minutes, so that's cool that it was a hassle free repair.

The wife had yoga this evening, though she left a bit early to drop some stuff by the Mother In Law's house and a luggage tag to the Older Sister, as we'd somehow had one of their tags attached to our bags during the return flight. I have no idea whatsoever how this happened, but no one lost any luggage, so I wouldn't wanna rock the boat.

I finally left the computer and moved into the den, watched a bit of television until the wife returned, then I started making us some dinner, just a simple little box dinner thing since we haven't been to the grocery store yet. Brian dropped off some brownies that his Mother had made for us, in exchange for a day bed the wife had given her. He visited for a few, then split as I started serving up the food.

Sayonara, Fellas.The wife and I caught up on the new episodes of True Blood, Entourage and the like, then called it something of a late night around 11:00.

I put the wife to bed, then got started on this, as I think I'm calling it an early night myself around midnight.

Be seeing you.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Errands, More Television, Etc.

So regardless of falling into bed fairly exhausted (for no particular reason, I might add), I woke this morning around 9:30 with no hope of going back to sleep. I spent some time on the computer while the wife spent some time on the phone catching up with Morris since they'd been out of touch for a couple weeks.

After spending some time on one of my normal DVD forums I figured I should make use of my early morning and head over to Odessa to check out their Big Lots, just to see if they had finally had a turnover of product as well. I invited the wife to go as well, but she was finding the bed particularly comfy and anticipating a busy week once Monday rolls around, so I dressed and headed out, my iPhone full of podcasts to entertain me for the afternoon.

I did find a few new items, as well as picking up a couple cheap multi-disc sets for trade on Swap A DVD, as I've had a ton of activity on there and wanted to make sure that I don't burn through all my credits and find myself missing out on something fun should it become available suddenly. Having taken the wife's order for some lunch before I left the house, I hit the Wienerschnitzel for some tasty (though terrible for us) food and headed back to town to see what she was up to. As it turned out the wife had succumbed to the bed again, so I left her snoozing and chilled in the den with my awful (tasty) food and vegged out with some television for most of the afternoon, eventually popping in the Blu-ray of Charade to kinda drift in and out of while reading through the Sunday paper.

The wife eventually joined me and we settled in for the standard Fox evening programming while our other racier stuff on HBO and Showtime recorded, but by the time the funny stuff was over the wife was fading one me fast, so we elected to save True Blood for Monday night.

I finally got some of the blog posted and then headed to bed somewhat early, as I feel like I will be awake at the crack of dawn whether I want to or not.

Be seeing you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Early To Rise; Lazy Saturday Afternoon

I rose early again today, which I can only guess is my body telling me that it's not quite readjusted to the time, because I'm never up this early unless there's a damned good reason. The wife seems equally baffled by this, but she's happily able to sleep through it, so I suppose it works out well in that I'm not disturbing her with my activities.

We lay in bed for a bit, discussing the day's possibilities, most of which concerned the couch and the television, as neither of us were feeling all that industrious. I did take time to trade several text messages with Anastasia Beaverhouszen's hubby Kno1, as they have recently moved back to town and the wife and I wanted to try and take them to lunch or dinner, their plans permitting. The wife and I spent the day with the TiVo again, which kind of makes me marvel at the sheer amount of dumbass television we somehow consume, and it's not as if we're into the average mainstream fare, so it's not like we have hours upon hours of 'reality' television to catch up on, it's all character driven stuff.

Finale. Finally.On a wild hair I decided to pop in the last two discs of the Robotech Macross Saga stuff that I'd been revisiting before we left on the trip, as I kind of wanted to feel the accomplishment of wrapping something up this afternoon. During this process I was able to nail down our dinner guests to a time and place, so we finished the show just a half hour ahead of their arrival.

We visited for a bit, then headed out to a Mexican place on the South side, had a great meal and related the details of our trip to them, comparing notes on their own experiences in Florence, where they vacation for about a month each year. We grabbed a coffee after dinner and then retired to our place for a nice long visit that lasted until around 11:00 in the evening, when we finally said our goodbyes.

I decided to blow this crap off altogether that night, as I figured I'm already behind anyway, who's going to notice? I put up a little placeholder post to let people know we were still alive, then fell into bed in hopes of sleeping late on Sunday.

Be seeing you.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The (Fri)Day After

I gotta be honest with you: the next few days worth of posts are going to be pretty boring, as there's very little happening and we kind of like it that way.

I managed to wake this morning at 6:30 in the freaking morning, which is borderline ridiculous considering the amount of time we spent traveling yesterday. The wife was also roused by me getting up to hit the bathroom, so she and I decided to grab a bite to eat since we were awake at this unGodly hour and hadn't ever really had anything for dinner last night.

We ate and looked at the newspaper a bit, then the poor wife had to finally head back to bed, as she has been feeling the return trip much more than I have. I gathered up the recycling stuff and dressed to run a couple errands, including my normal series of bookstore stops to track down my various monthly periodicals. I eventually secured a tidy little stack of reading, as well as picked up a tasty beverage in the Starbucks in Barnes & Noble, then poked my head into Big Lots to see if anything new had finally turned up there in the intervening weeks since my last visit.

Don't They All?I ended up grabbing a small smattering of stuff, including early Spike Lee (She's Gotta Have It), Larry Cohen's Special Effects and the original Walter Matthau version of The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, all for $3 apiece, so that wasn't too shabby.

I picked up some lunch for myself, then headed home to see what the wife was up to.

Back at the house I spent a bit of time getting the blogging slightly updated, then spent the afternoon catching up on some of the television that the TiVo had dutifully saved for us. Sadly enough, this was to be how most of the weekend would be spent, catching up on television and just trying to acclimate to our normal routines.

The day gave way into evening and the wife and I blew through several episodes of Louie and The Soup, then we had a little dinner before returning to the comfort of the couch in the den. The Yorkie stuck pretty close to us this entire time, a sure indication that she'd missed us and was happy to have us home. Normally she would find herself on the couch in the sitting area off the kitchen, but tonight she stayed in her little bed at my feet beside the couch, which I though was really sweet of her.

The wife headed to bed around her normal 10:00 or so and I spent some time on the web in the Office, going over the last bit of notes from the trip and making sure everything looked alright as published, then I synched the iPhone and started editing the pictures from the phone to spruce up the existing posts a bit, get them more in line with the normal look of the blog. I finally called it an early night around midnight, which is kind of rare for me.

Be seeing you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Mediterranean Vacation, Day Seventeen

The alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, so I turned it off and got some lights on in the room, then tried to get the sleep from my eyes. The wife got up shortly after I did and we dressed and started to make sure everything was securely packed and the various odds and ends that belonged in the carry-on were where they needed to be.

We called for a bellman and had the bags taken down, then joined the rest of the family in the lobby. The drivers and bellboys loaded up all of the luggage and we were soon on our way to Heathrow, where we made our way into the terminal and braved the Continental desk to get the bags checked and our boarding passes sorted out. We made our way through security ahead of the rest of the family and were waved into a short line. This seemed great until the security woman was making the party ahead of us practically disrobe to go through the metal detectors. I dunno if this was a profiling thing or what, but her replacement who waved us through didn't even blink at us or the woman ahead of us, but this group of black people were told to remove their shoes,etc., which didn't happen to any of us. It just seemed as though they got a lot of extra attention, for whatever reason.

Once through the wringer, we had time to kill as you always do at an airport, so we walked the length of the terminal to get some coffee with the Niece and Nephew, while the rest of the group went to our gate to chill. The Brother In Law picked up some ties in one of the shops and the Older Sister loaded up on some new and varied sinus remedies, as every little bit helps.

We were soon boarded and on our way back to the States, strapped in for the longest nine and a half hours of our lives. The wife can sleep anywhere, so she was cool to crash out after the meal and catch some ZZZ's, but I found myself just sitting there wide awake for the duration of the flight. I read several magazines that I had taken on the cruise but had never gotten around to, so I guess that they served their purpose after all.

Once we finally (!) reached Houston we had to make our way through customs and do that song and dance again, then head downstairs to retrieve our luggage that had thank God all made it here safe and sound, then re-check it at the baggage counter further into the building. Then we had to make it through security for a second time, just in case we'd had a chance to assemble a bomb or something in that hallway between the baggage trundle and the security area. The wife and I looked particularly suspicious today, as we were both asked to go through the full body x-ray and then the pat down station. Play On PlayaI walked up to Handsy McGee after being x-rayed, but he was in the middle of a conversation with two of his fellow molesters, excuse me security staff, so I just kinda stood there for a few beats, then finally interrupted by saying "So, am I good to go or do we have another step here?" He finally acknowledged that there was a human being standing in front of him, waiting on him, so he pantomimed the stance he required to give my legs and junk the once over, then we played a little slap and tickle and I was on my way. I was gathering my stuff up when I finally placed that he reminded me of Andre 3000 from Outkast, so I can now start telling everyone that he (or a very reasonable facsimile) has touched me in front of God and everybody, right there in public.

We trekked through the building toward our gate, then stopped to grab a bite at a Chili's, even though I don't think the wife nor myself were all that hungry, but it seemed like a reasonable time to have some food so as to prevent having to eat a weirdly late meal as any jet lag started to set in. The family headed down to our gate afterward and the wife and I killed a bit of time bumping around looking for a currency exchange, where we got rid of the last few pound notes that we had left from our time in England.

Once we joined the family we didn't have too much longer to wait, so I rea da bit of Bob Fingerman's Bottomfeeder while we waited.NYC Vamps Continental provided unfortunate entertainment with periodic updates about a flight to Wichita, which first had to be delayed for a half hour to replace the tires on the plane, then was delayed indefinitely because the flight crew (read: the single stewardess) was a complete no show. They eventually came back on the mic to tell Wichita victims, er, passengers that they had located a stewardess but that they were an hour away in Corpus Christi, so the delays would be further. They began giving those poor bastards food vouchers and apologies around the time we finally boarded our flight, a tiny sardine can that I felt safe in because frankly if it hit anything, there was simply nowhere to fucking go.

A short flight and a Diet Coke later and we were on the ground in our hometown. We shuffled downstairs and spent a good half hour applauding for various servicemen who were returning from Iraq and the like, as there was a little welcome wagon group there doing it and we had nothing else going on. This only got slightly annoying when we tried to take our luggage outside to meet our ride at the curb, only to find that this welcome committee had taken up residence outside the doors and were waiting on the military folks again, with a series of flags and all the other rigamarole that we now had to find a way to avoid ending up in the middle of. We finally got our stuff to the curb, said our goodbyes and thanks to the family, then waited a few minutes for our ride to turn up.

Brian and our friend JH soon slipped up to the curb and we loaded up the luggage and headed back to our place. The Yorkie was as ecstatic as we'd expected her to be, making little cries for about the first 10 minutes we were in the door, not sure who to run to first. We finally got her calmed down, then our friends visited for a bit before taking their leave to allow us to start the whole decompression process. They were both off to grab a bite for dinner, which the wife and I had no interest in, having just fed recently in Houston.

We went through the piles of mail and newspapers, unpacked our stuff and put away the luggage to give the Yorkie a bit more piece of mind that we were home for good, then finally settled into the den to look at some television that'd stacked up on the TiVo and go through the more important bits of mail.

The wife headed to bed around 10:00 or so as would be our normal custom, so I moved into the Office and spent a bit of time online, checking e-mail and working on the blog, then headed to bed myself at 11:30, which was the 24 hour mark for my being awake, as I hoped that powering through until a reasonable hour of the night would allow me to avoid as much jetlag as possible over the weekend.

Be seeing you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Mediterranean Vacation, Day Sixteen

I managed to wake at 6:30 this morning, as the ship had begun its' docking routine, but I was unable to fall back asleep as several people on our floor had begun to mill in the hallways, presumably heading out to breakfast to start their day off right.

We dressed and packed up the last of our stuff, then sat and debated our options, as we couldn't even begin the disembarkation process until after 8:30. The buffet was in full swing, so we grabbed something light from there, but headed back to the room to eat, as there was no seating available. The buffet area was an absolute madhouse, so the room seemed to be the easiest bet, rather than walking around for a half hour hoping to stumble upon some empty seating.

We eventually headed down to the Britannia Dining Room, our 'holding area' to wait for our little luggage tag color/number to be called, whereupon we would make our way off the ship. The wife noted that our color/number was next to absolute last, so we probably had a good long wait ahead of us. She knitted to pass the time and I tried to read, but I couldn't tune out all the random conversations around us, so I eventually gave up and people-watched a bit. The whole 'hurry up and wait' side of the trip has been a bit like slow death.

One odd thing I noticed was that while we were to be in the dining room at 8:30, we had wandered that way shortly after 8:00, just to be safe. As I was typing my notes for the day to kill some time, I notice that as late as 9:25 there were still people trickling into the room. What puzzled me was whether or not these folks were being sent here after they tried to line-jump and go ahead of the color/numbering system, or if they've just been laying around in their staterooms until the Stewards finally rousted them like a bouncer at a bar, cleaning house with the last few lingering drunks?

Our color/number is finally called, followed a few moments later by 'everyone else remaining', which makes you feel a lot less special when they put it like that. "Orange Four. Oh, and anyone else who is still stuck on the ship, please leave at this time."

We made our way off the ship, happily found all four pieces of luggage with no issue, then met the waiting family outside. The drivers were soon shepherding us back through Southampton and on into London.

The Four Seasons again managed to be a clusterfuck as we checked in, having somehow lost the wife and I's room reservation. This situation somehow led to the Mother In Law's room being upgraded to the Presidential Suite, presumably because it was a large room that they could put us all in while they tried to figure out what was wrong, rather than having the 8 of us milling in their nice lobby getting increasingly agitated over the state of the reservations.

It's eventually confirmed that we do have a room, so we're shown to it and drop off the luggage, then we reconvene in the MIL's room, where the family has ordered in burgers. Embiggen for details of the skanky windows.The wife and I managed to get shorted a burger in this deal, but we're cool to just split one and some fries, so we chill on a chaise in the living room and watch the heavy traffic outside. We also spent some time (along with the rest of the family) checking out what was happening down the block at the Park Lane Hilton, which had a disturbing amount of people hanging out laundry in their windows. I mean, from what I can discern, the Park Lane address is a very desirable one, so to look out the window of the Presidential Suite and see people's towels and clothes drying, rooms with the curtains tied up to the side, it was like looking down at a hostel rather than a (presumably) nice hotel. I mean, for fuck's sake, I watched a woman bring a child to the window in a towel, then remove the towel and leave the kid standing there nude in full view of the world for several minutes while she disappeared back into the room. What the hell is going on in this hotel? Click on the pic above and look at the rooms on the building in the middle, it's very strange.

The In-Laws finally got their own room assignments, so they went to settle in, though the wife and I made plans for an outing, as we both felt like getting out of the room would be the best idea, otherwise we'd end up just sleeping the day away.Harrod's Pet Spa.

We headed to the lobby at 2:00, saw the Older Sister and Niece off to Starbucks and a drug store to pick up a few incidentals, then the Brother In Law and Nephew accompanied us on a prowl through Harrod's. We spent a couple hours or so there, did a bit of shopping and had a little snack in the food area before grabbing a taxi back to the hotel.

The wife and I dropped off our stuff and then headed down to the hotel bar for happy hour. I gave their Old Fashioned a shot, as it was a drink I had got onto for awhile while we were marathoning Mad Men several months back, but wasn't a drink that I ever felt I'd perfected the production of around the house like I have with the martini. Best Old Fashioned Ever.The Old Fashioned they pour at the Four Seasons involves 12 year old Dewar's Scotch and was what I'd imagine tasting Heaven would be like. The wife requested something called 'nuts and berries', which the bartender wasn't familiar with (I'd never heard of it myself, to be perfectly honest), so we had to Google it to see what it consisted of. He gave it the old college try, though it wasn't quite as she remembered it, it was tasty nonetheless. Since he was at the table conferring about this mystery drink, he inquired about their signature Old Fashioned, which involved some alternate ingredients that included some form of chocolate and it actually tasted as good as the first one, possibly better, which I honestly didn't think was possible.

Amusingly, I ordered a 3rd and final drink and I'll be damned if the waiter didn't turn up with yet another drink for the wife as well. A look over the tab indicated we'd only been charged for one of them, which the wife guessed meant that he'd probably made a large batch of the drink in his testing phase and was trying to get rid of it, so we tipped generously and headed up to the room to confirm dinner plans with the family.

We met the BIL and the kids in the lobby, then hoofed it around the corner to try out the original location of the Hard Rock Cafe. The hour wait they gave us allowed for sufficient shopping time in the adjacent store, then we milled around the bar area while we waited for a table to open up. The bartender was a friendly guy who turned out to have vague ties to the Houston area, and the Niece would eventually get a chance to step behind the bar and get her photo snapped with him. The food was good, served up in 'American' sized portions, so we left stuffed.
Sex Pistols Display At The Hard Rock.
It'd begun to rain during our time in the restaurant so we braved the wet and made our way back to the hotel, said our good nights and headed up to our rooms.

Since we have to leave for Heathrow at 6:30 to account for traffic and potential molestation by customs the wife headed directly to bed. I worked on the blog, checked e-mail and looked around a bit at Facebook, but the Mac started to fade on me and I called it a night, as I had no interest in digging through the luggage to locate the proper power cord to charge the silly thing.

I took a long soak in the bathtub, then treated myself to a proper shower afterward, thankful to finally be in one that was larger than a postage stamp. The ship was nice, but the bathroom was the size of my glove-box. Once freshly scrubbed I retired to the bed and worked up the notes for this post so as not to lose any details, as I have no idea when I'll get this properly written up, but it will be at least late Thursday once we're back in the States, and even later when you are finally reading it.

I'm out kids.

Be seeing you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Mediterranean Vacation, Day Fifteen

I slept 12 hours last night in a Dramamine induced coma, then finally stirred to even choppier seas than we experienced yesterday. The wife and I lay in bed for a time, reading and generally lazing about, then finally ordered in some room service for lunch. The wife grabbed a shower in advance of the arrival of the food, then we ate while flipping through the in-room channels waiting for something to grab our attention.

The wife had made some tentative plans to spend time with the family today, but those were scrapped in favor of further napping and lounging in the room, which was fine by me, as the grey day outside left me with little energy or impetus to do much besides play around with the computer, trying to get the blog material nailed down.

I worked on that for almost 2 hours, then called it an afternoon and listened to a few podcasts while sipping a cocktail, as my eyes were kinda twitchy from the combo of the reading and extended computer screen exposure.

The wife went to dinner to meet the family down in the Britannia Dining Room.

This Trip Featured No Less Than 3 Diane Lane Movies!I elected to stay 'home' if you will, ordered in some room service for my dinner and started the packing process, as I figured it'd take longer than I expected as we'd acquired a few souvenir items here and there that had to be worked into the already stuffed baggage mix without exceeding the 50 pound per bag limit for the return flight to the States. I watched Under The Tuscan Sun while I worked on this, then the wife and I called it something of an early night, as we have to be up and running at the crack of dawn to start the whole disembarkation process.

I said a little prayer for our baggage as I set it out in the hallway, as they've already snapped the handle off the wife's Louis Vuitton bag between the curb and the stateroom, so who knows what they'll do to it when they have custody of it overnight?

Be seeing you.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Mediterranean Vacation, Day Fourteen

I awoke this morning to the sensation that we might've begun the return to England as an overland journey, as the seas were hellishly choppy. We're definitely back in the rough seas from whence we came as we left Southampton several days back.

The wife rose early and went to grab herself a coffee and look into the Bridge lessons being offered a few decks above. She's been keen to learn something about the game, so having it offered as an activity on the ship is right up her alley. I only fear that her interest may evolve into my own involvement in a Bridge group, the concept of which fills me with the same dread I associate with asinine new social engagements.

I elected to stay in the stateroom and punch up the notes for our day in Rome, as I am still fantasizing about getting the writing caught up and current by the time we hit the States.

**The astute reader will know that this was not to be the case, but I'm trying to keep the flavor of the writing I was doing at the time, for the sake of posterity.**

Care To Danse?I read a bit more of the Danse Macabre book, alternating between reading and working on the notes until around 11:00 in the morning, then decided to get dressed and go in search of the wife, as I was getting hungry. I had no idea whatsoever where the Bridge thing was to take place, so I took a wander through the areas I suspected they might meet, then eventually found myself in the theater in the front of the ship, where I spied her watching a cooking demonstration conducted by two of the ship's chefs. I made my way around to a seat behind her and watched the end of the presentation, then we used one of the courtesy phones to ring up the Older Sister and see if she wanted to join us for some lunch.

The OS was still getting dressed, so she agreed to meet us in about 20 minutes in the Britannia Dining Room. We buzzed by the room and dropped off some paperwork the wife had with her (Bridge related stuff as I recall), then headed to the Britannia, arriving early and finding ourselves seated in the extreme aft section of the ship, watching the ship's wake foam and churn behind us.

The OS and her family arrived, so we moved to a larger table to accommodate everyone, then ordered up some food. The kids were amusingly baffled by the amount of movement in the ship, which we assured them was indicative of our average experience in our stateroom two decks above; I was also puzzled to realize that the choppiness wasn't even effecting me all that much. I guess I've become inured to it by this point in the trip. We ate, but the kids were both feeling the effects of the sea, so they both excused themselves to head back to their rooms and we lingered a bit longer for some dessert and coffee.

We went our separate ways after the meal, with the wife and I heading back up to our room to relax. I read a bit more, then the wife split to meet the OS for another Photoshop class in the computer center downstairs. I worked on the blog notes some more, then tried unsuccessfully to post it several times before saying piss on it and diving back into my book before I threw the laptop against the wall.

The wife returned a little later with the amusing comment that she'll be sure to wear her wedding bands at all times from now on, as she'd apparently had the ship's tech nerd being super-friendly and helpful to her during the class. Having seen the guy before, I naturally had to kid her slightly: "Well honey, looks like you've still got it!", to which she rolled her eyes.

Exhausted from fending off the tech nerd, the wife took a nap while I lounged on the couch with my book. I eventually tired of reading and popped in the earbuds, listening to a couple podcasts before it was getting close to the dinner hour. We dressed and headed down to meet the family, save for the kids, who'd begged off and stayed in the room. The Niece was still feeling ill and the Nephew had stayed around to look after her; what sweet kids, right? Shocked I've Not Read Before!They should've braved it though, as they missed out on a really good meal as well as the parade of the chefs, who serpentined through the dining room as everyone clapped and cheered them on as thanks for their hard work for the past 12 days. I was kinda looking forward to the 'running of the busboys' and all the careless violence and trauma associated with it, but it never happened.

After dinner we headed back to the room where the wife crashed out and I worked on the notes a bit more, then I read about half of an issue of Shock Cinema before crashing out.

Be seeing you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Mediterranean Vacation, Day Thirteen

We were set to reach Gibraltar in the afternoon today so the wife and I woke fairly early, rather than being able to enjoy a late morning. We lay in bed for a bit, talking and the wife eventually fell back asleep, so I turned on the light and read some more of the Shock Cinema I've been thumbing through. Great Magazine, BTW.I eventually got up and worked up the blog post for our time in France, as I'm still days behind on all that nonsense.

It was nearing noon by this time and I was giving up hope of the wife waking of her own accord, so I headed up to the buffet and made some tea for myself, then enjoyed a salad and sandwich. I enjoyed my food and people-watched a bit, then decided to step into the little store on deck 2 for something chocolate, as chocolate that isn't in the form of a cake or a tart is hard to come by on this voyage.

I ran into the Older Sister and her family on their way into the buffet, chitchatted with them for a few, confirming plans ashore. My luck being what it is, I managed to get to the shop a few moments too late, as they'd shut down since we'd begun the porting process and wouldn't re-open until after 6:30 this evening.

Giving up on this idea, I headed back up to the room to find the wife dressed and knitting to pass the time until we went ashore. I spent some time with the blog, e-mail and the like, then moved out to the balcony to see what Gibraltar looked like as we finally docked.

We met the family downstairs in the Queen's Room and were assigned numbers to indicate which tour group we were a part of, then made our way off the ship and located the bus containing the rest of group 9. We were to be ashore a relatively short time at this port, so the OS had elected to simply take part in the normal tour that Cunard offers rather than securing a private guide, as all indications were that Gibraltar offered little in the way of tourism aside for the Rock itself and the famous apes.

This feeling was certainly reaffirmed as the tour began, because aside from a few city walls that were pointed out to us, the guide seemed to have little to tell us about. He did however manage to repeat 'fantastic' and 'lovely' I don't know how many times; using the words like strange non-sequitur punctuation on sentences.

The entire area seems to be under construction, with what feels like every other building surrounded by scaffolding or a chain link fence indicating heavy construction in progress. Construction Nightmares As Far As The Eye Can See...We stopped first near the only mosque on Gibraltar, which is situated so as to alow the man who built it to actually see Mecca from its tower. The seaside location offered a nearby lighthouse, so we unloaded and snapped a few pics if this or that, as well as shots of the mosque with the Rock in the background. I created a game with the wife called 'Take A Picture Without Construction Equipment', as it felt virtually impossible to play shutterbug without a giant Goddamned pile of plywood in the foreground. The above pic is my sarcastic tribute to the entire area, as it felt indicative of the 'sights' of the Rock.

View Of The Caverns.We loaded up again and headed further up into the mountain(s?), to a series of caverns called St. Michael's Cave, the winding tour of which was kinda neat I guess, as I hadn't been into a cavern system since a church trip to Carlsbad Caverns back when I was around 10 or 12.

The cave dumps you out into the obligatory souvenir area, but this one was surprisingly cool due to the place being lousy with the famous Gibraltarian Barbary Apes, which I have called then and will probably always call monkeys, due to their diminutive stature. Tiny creatures that are so accustomed to humans that they just hang out and wait to pose for your photos, they certainly turned out to be the most amusing thing about this stop on the cruise.

The Thieving Ape In Question.The first rattle out of the box you're warned to not feed the apes, nor to let them see you leave the snack bar with anything, so we see this teenage kid go strolling by with his ace cream treat in his hand, then suddenly Bam! An ape has snatched it from him and hits the ground running, scampering a few feet away where it paused, looking at the amused tourists as if to invite the kid to do something about it. You can see the purloined treat in his little hands in the pic to the left. The kid moved toward the ape and it was gone, scrambling up a tree and disappearing into the brush overhanging the area. The Beau mentioned later that he'd noticed a sign asking that you be sure to lock the little ice cream case after making a selection; obviously the locals' have learned how to stage their own little snatch & run theft even if the tourists aren't supposed to share with them. Hilarious.

We spent some time grabbing a bunch of pics of the preening apes, then a mother and child seemed to tire of the paparazzi and darted over to stand beside me, seemingly seeking asylum. I guess my legs are hairier than I realize; it was very funny and makes for a cute picture.

We loaded back into the van and made our way down to a lookout area to get more of a panoramic view of the coastline, including the airstrip that divides the Rock itself from Spain and crossed by a major road between Spain and Gibraltar which must be blocked from time to time to allow aircraft to land or take-off.
Gibraltar Airstrip, Bisected By A Major Thoroughfare.
We cruised back through the city center, heard more details about the driver's life and less about the Rock itself, then were offered the opportunity to dismount and shop a bit, which wasn't of any real interest to anyone in our party, so we soon found ourselves back at the ship.

The wife and I relaxed with afternoon tea in the Queen's Room, joined by the OS, the Brother In Law and the Mother In Law, then we all retired to the staterooms for a couple hours. I showered, then dicked around with e-mail for a few before we had to dress and meet the family for dinner in the Britannia Dining Room.

The meal was good and we all went our separate ways afterward. The wife and I ended up making use of the in-room movies and re-watched Must Love Dogs and Up In The Air before crashing out for the night.

Be seeing you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Mediterranean Vacation, Day Twelve

The wife and I rose at 9:00 this morning, and I was happy to have gotten about 9 hours of sleep again. We dressed and headed down to the Cafe Corinthia a few decks below, had a bit of coffee to wake up, then popped into a pastry decorating demonstration that two of the chefs were doing in a common area on deck one.

It was creeping towards noon by this time, so we popped into the buffet area and shared a pizza, then headed back up to the room, where I finally started going over the notes I had, as I find myself several days behind at this point. The wife wanted to attend some kind of art appreciation course that was on offer in one of the meeting rooms, so she left for that while I wrote. I was able to sneak a load of laundry into the laundrette, in between the rush of other folks, so I made certain of my time frame that I needed to swap it out, so as not to have anyone waiting on me or missing out on a dryer becoming available.

Treachery Most Foul!The wife was back in the room for a bit, then went to attend a little Photoshop how-to with the Older Sister, so I take another pass at the blog and then decided to relax with a book, finishing off The Ten Cent Plague, the book I'd been reading about the comic book industry of the '50s. I went to finish out the laundry and spent some time in one of those weird 'pointing and grunting' conversations with a cute little Russian couple who were having trouble figuring out the laundry machines. Thank you Christ, an Asian steward came in who spoke their language, so I excused myself and returned to the room to sort and fold my stuff in piece.

I had the iPad on the charger, so I finally watched the end of Wanted, finishing it up shortly before the wife returned.

She eventually headed out for dinner with the family, though I elected to stay in and had a cocktail along with a giant room service burger while flipping through the in-room channels.

You Are All Expendable.The wife returned and began looking over the next day's activities while I started re-watching The A-Team off the iPad on the tiny couch on the corner of the room. I have to say, it's nice to finally be getting some use out of all those digital copies that virtually every Blu-ray comes with nowadays. I moved into the bed next, re-watched The Expendables.

I still wasn't very sleepy at this point, so I started another book: Stephen King's Danse Macabre, which I had read as a teen but want to revisit in its extended form.

Be seeing you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Mediterranean Vacation, Day Eleven

I slept a straight 9 hours last night (which never happens) and woke feeling about 1000% beter than I did yesterday morning.

We ported in Civitavecchia, where we met our driver Giancarlo, a small Italian man whose accent was a bit stronger than Giuseppe's the day before, but on the upside this guy wasn't our actual guide, just the person dispatched to pick us up and ferry us around Rome once we met our tour guide. We loaded up and were away, my view from the second row of seating in the van was the white line of the road, just under the Brother In Law's right ear, which feels mildly alarming. Here we are barreling along the highway and I have to come to peace with the fact that our driver has decided to take his piece of the road directly out of the middle.

We entered Rome from the West and are immediately ensnared in our first official Roman traffic jam. As we (slowly) got further into the city, the graffiti becomes increasingly prevalent, which is kinda sad to me, as none of it is the actual art that I know it can be, it's all just a bunch of shitty, indecipherable tags of the names of unknown students and passersby. It's very frustrating when the vandalism doesn't take that next leap that you know it can, become the legitimate art form I'm more familiar with.

We lurch through the stop and go traffic until we come upon a preordained corner to meet our guide Roberta. We unload and Giancarlo makes himself scarce as Roberta introduces herself and secures the little headsets that we will need to be able to hear what she's saying once we're fully immersed in the chaos inside Vatican City.Illegal Photography From Within The Sistine Chapel

We enter Vatican City via the fast lane as with our other guides on the trip, her status allows us to bypass the retardedly long line to get into the building. We make our way through the various courtyards and museums, pausing here and there for background on what we're seeing and insights into what to look for once we're in the Sistine Chapel, which is after all sort of the main attraction here. The tour is pretty amazing, as the buildings are so ornate and filled with history it's hard not to be impressed with it all, what with all the overwrought detailing and grandeur, but....

There's always a but, isn't there? But...I have to say that I find it amazingly off putting that they still want to pretend that this is somehow a sacred site when they've got a fucking souvenir stand butted up against ancient tapestries, just in case you didn't load up on enough trinkets when you first came in the door. Just in case there's still some room in your St. Peter tote bag for a couple more Pope John Paul soap-on-a-ropes & Virgin Mary snowglobes. In The Basilica Of St. PeterWhen will it be enough for you people? This is why organized religion has a bad name, because you want me to be reverent of a holy site that you've turned into a quasi-mall.

That aside, the Sistine Chapel was a roiling mass of tourist humanity, which you sort of need to see to believe, we got our various pics and video, noting how many people ignore the no flash photography rules then made our way out and around to the Basilica Of St. Peter, which is equally baffling in its size and scope. Roberta guided us through the highlights, but one could honestly lose days in there trying to take it all in. Oh, and somewhere around this point I began to find it endlessly amusing that Roberta's accent made her saying 'The Pope' sound a lot like 'The Pup', which provided giggles for me for the rest of the afternoon.

We reconnected with Giancarlo, who meets us on the far side of the building once we exit, then head to what Roberta thinks will be a perfect spot for our lunch. As it turns out, Guily's Cafe is the very place that we met Roberta in front of, so the wife would later question exactly how much effort she'd put into picking just the right spot for us, but as it turned out the food was really good across the board. We each ordered what we wanted for the meal, but several dishes were ordered extra to share around the table, to give a greater impression of the menu. I came away from the meal with the feeling that I need to try my hand at cooking spaghetti carbonara around the house soon. Sadly, the Older Sister managed to come away with a balsamic vinegar stain on her shirt, as the waiter sloshed it on her as he tried to clear some plates. The wife, Johnny On The Spot with her camera, she was able to snap a picture of a waitress working furiously at the stain with some soda water, just to further document the event.Sunlight Drifting Into The Pantheon

Next we made our way to the Pantheon, where we unloaded and snapped our shots of the general area, then entered the building itself for further tourism. Truly a gorgeous building, we grabbed all the pics we could stand and then made our way back outside, where Giancarlo had brought the van closer, so as to ease the distance the Mother In Law had to walk with her cane.

From here we took a cruise past the Spanish Steps, which none of us were particularly interested in getting out and wandering around on, so we soon were parking in the area of the Trevi Fountain. We made our way down a narrow streets which gives way into a vast square, teeming with people and dominated on one side by the Trevi Fountain. Trevi FountainWe took the requisite photos, tossed the customary coin to ensure a return visit (superstitious lot, aren't we?), then made our way back up the street to the van so that we could head to our final stop of the day: The Colosseum.

The MIL and her Beau elected to stay in the van for the Colosseum tour, which was probably just as well, as I think the walk might've done her in. Her biggest interest on this trip had been the Sistine Chapel anyway, so I think she was content to chill out and smoke somewhere instead. Roberta was able to allow us to blow past the unGodly long line waiting to get in, then we used tickets that the OS had purchased online to gain admittance, so we were inside in no time.

The Colosseum was pretty amazing, a scene of elegant decay whose scale is just kind of baffling. Much of the stone was repurposed by the church, but what remains is just... amazing to behold. I honestly don't know how else to describe it, it seems to be made up of the elements of organic decay that I want to emulate with the art I've been doing, the sense of history and how it all eventually degrades and falls away. In The Colosseum Tonight...The Nephew and BIL went up into the higher levels for a bit, then we all made our way back to where the driver was waiting for us, and bid a fond adieu to Roberta, then we were soon on our way back to the ship.

Back aboard ship, we'd talked about going to dinner with the family, so I decided that I could tease another night's life out of one of the few dress shirts I'd brought along if I showered with it, so I took it into the bathroom for a bit of a steam while I got cleaned up for dinner.

After a good meal we retired to the room, where the wife curled up in bed with her nightly reading of the ship's onboard activities and I started re-watching Wanted off the iPad. It ran out of gas about halfway through the movie, so I moved to the bed and read for awhile.

Eventually I slept.

Be seeing you.