Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Time Keeps On Slippin'

I was at a bar over the weekend with my fiancee and a few friends from work. One of the guys I work with was doing a gig at the bar; I'd wanted to see his band for months, but up to that night, our schedules didn't mesh.

When I got to the bar, there was a class reunion going on. I found out the Class of 1985 was having their 20th. When I heard this, I thought to myself "Man, only one more year, and I will be having my 20th reunion." And then, naturally, I started thinking about how time flies.

Twenty years ago, I started the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. Like everyone at that age, I thought I had my shit wired, but of course I didn't know squat about anything. I had tasted alcohol for the first time only a couple of months earlier. I'd had a few girlfriends, but nothing serious. I had no real idea about what I wanted to do with my life, but joining the Marine Corps, and working on computers were not things I would have put on my "to-do" list. I suppose I had planned on settling down and being a family man eventually, but I had always expected I'd be radically different from my parents. In all honesty, I don't remember much about what I had "planned" my life to be like; but I do know that I didn't expect it to be like this.

I was sure that I'd be among the cream of the crop in my chosen occupation, not just another cog in the machine. I knew that I'd be rich, as opposed to being middle class. I was positive that my parents would one day come to know, understand and agree with my way of thinking, but it was the other way around. I believed that my high school friendships would last a lifetime, not preparing myself for the reality that friendships, like pictures, often fade with the passing of time.

It's really funny how time works. When things are going good, time flies. When you're happy, time always seems to pass more quickly, no matter how much you try to hold onto the moment. When things are not so good, time is your enemy. You wish the unhappiness would end, and that you could get on with your life, but time seems to have a twisted sense of humor, and slows down during turbulent times. But the irony doesn't end there. As soon as an event or milestone has passed, it all seems to have gone by pretty quickly -- whether good or bad.

And so the cycle keeps going, at an ever-increasing rate of speed. Everyone says it... time goes faster as you get older. In my experience they're right, so I try to hold onto every minute. Even when I have a hectic day, and part of me wants it to end, I try to remember that life passes quickly. Every now and then, I long for retirement. But I quickly remember that I probably won't retire until 70 or so. While I may long for the slower pace of retirement, I'm not in such a hurry that I'm willing to wish the next thirty-odd years of my life away... that'll happen quickly enough.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Since returning home from my vacation, I've been as busy as the proverbial one-armed paper-hanger. I've had to keep my dogs separated (so the healthy dog doesn't lick the injured dog's wounds and cause an infection), work has been a zoo with new projects, I've had to play catch-up with chores around the house, and I've been trying to frantically upload pictures and update my blog from the vacation. But vacations are good. They remind me that deep-down, a part of me thrives on the chaos of my day-to-day life. At the same time though, they remind me that it's just as easy to get lost in the day-to-day as it is to thrive on it. Life's a balance. It's best if you can enjoy doing what you're doing as it's happening, but make sure to set aside some time to get away from it all.

Welcome Home

While I was in New York, I left my dogs with some friends. I did this when I took my weekend trip to Las Vegas back in January, and their dogs fought with mine, causing a trip to the vet.

I knew this was a possibility this time, but we took some precautions, hoping to prevent another vet bill. Unfortunately, the dogs still managed to get into a fight, and once again my dog got her @$$ kicked. As you can see from the picture, she got ripped up pretty badly.

I've got to say that I'm NOT blaming my friends for what happened here. I believe they did their best to keep the dogs from fighting, and I know they feel horrible about the whole thing.

That said, I was crushed when I saw my poor canine companion's leg, and her head in that cone. It broke my heart to see her limping around, and I almost felt her pain when I saw all of the staples and drains in her leg. On the good side, there's no nerve or tendon damage, so she should make a full recovery.

I Can't Sleep in the Car

We spent a full day at Niagara Falls. We got there around noon, and left at around 9:00 PM... and we still had several hours to drive.

I knew the kids were exhausted, so I told them it was time to sleep about an hour or so into the drive. Despite vehement protests from both kids, and statements to the effect of "I can't sleep in the car," they were both out within minutes. That made the drive far more peaceful, but by the time we got to Toledo, I was exhausted and the hotel was a very welcome sight.

Yes, We Went to Canada

We did the mandatory hop across the border to Canada. We got hassled a little bit by the border guards on both sides because the kids didn't have any ID, but even that was a non-event. (I'd still recommend that EVERYONE crossing the border have an ID though, to make things simpler.)

We didn't stay in Canada very long. Just long enough to say we were there, and to get a couple of souvenirs for the kids... and to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe. In retrospect, the most fun was crossing the bridge over the river. My older child is scared of heights and bridges, so she was really nervous crossing the bridge. That, of course, was part of the fun.

The biggest thing I noticed about Canada was how clean and well-manicured everything is... English gardens all over the place. It's almost scenic enough to move there.

Maid of the Mist

Everyone said the Maid of the Mist was cool, and they were right. Once again, I was skeptical. I figured the ride would be horribly overpriced for the experience, but I was wrong. It's roughly a 20 minute ride, including the ferry to and from the Falls, but the ferry time is very short. The vast majority of the trip is spent at the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls (the Canadian side of the Falls).

The ride to and from is incredibly scenic. Like Cave of the Winds, it provides a different perspective of the Falls, showing nature in all of its force and beauty. As you get closer, it gets difficult to get good pictures of the Falls -- partially because of the constant mist created by the waterfalls, and partially because the churning water at the bottom of the falls causes the boat to rock quite a bit (not enough to get seasick though). Despite the difficulty in picture-taking though, the trip is breathtaking. Cave of the Winds gives you a great sense of the size of the falls, and gives you a great view. But nothing will give you a sense of the natural power of Niagara Falls like a ride on the Maid of the Mist.

I've gone to a lot of places and seen a lot of things in my life. But seeing the natural majesty of Niagara Falls will stand forever as one of the highlights of my life.

Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds is an opportunity to walk around the bottom of the Falls. Everyone mentioned Maid of the Mist, but nobody mentioned the Cave. "Cave of the Winds" is really a misnomer. It's not a cave per se, but an elevator shaft that takes you to a man-made observation deck at the bottom of the falls. The elevator shaft is 13 stories and was hand-chiseled during the 1920's over the course of two years or so. Due to annual freezing, the observation deck isn't available during the winter, and has to be rebuilt every spring. It's worth the cost though. You can stand so close to the falls that you can literally shower in the waterfall, and it gives you a much better idea of just how big the falls actually are. Looking at the falls from above is impressive enough. But seeing things from the bottom gives an even better impression of how massive the drop is.

Niagara Falls

When I initially started planning the trip to New York for Adam's wedding, I decided to turn it into a week long family vacation. As a result, I started thinking about all of the cool places we could go, and things we could see along the way. I considered the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, Niagara Falls, a day in New York City, and a few other items that don't need to be mentioned here.

Soon after creating my dream vacation though, I came to one realization very quickly. I had neither the time, nor the money to do and see everything on my list. When I realized that, I had to ask myself "What are my objectives?" My first priority was to attend Adam's wedding, and to spare no expense in making this happen. A close second was to make sure that the little woman and the kids enjoyed the trip.

After understanding these objectives, I figured that I'd have to scale back on the things I wanted to do. Most importantly, I knew that the kids would enjoy the trip FAR less if they were cramped in a car for a long period of time. That automatically killed over half of the vacation. The fiancee and I decided that it was best if we took two days to travel out, and two to travel back... with plenty of stops along the way.

The kids both asked to hit a good amusement park too. (Hence our trip to Six Flags.) Considering that was the only thing they asked for, I figured that we had to do it. (I'm glad we did, but I've already covered that.) That killed another day. That only left two days, both of which were devoted to Adam's wedding and rehearsal. So I decided to drop EVERYTHING but the wedding and the amusement park -- including the trip to Niagara Falls.

But in every conversation I had while I was in Buffalo, I was asked "Are you going to see the Falls?" I kept saying that my schedule wouldn't allow it, but everyone said the same thing... "You've GOT to see the Falls!" So we all decided that we should visit Niagara Falls.

With all of the hype, I had some pretty high expectations -- so much so that I figured that the Falls wouldn't live up to the hype. I figured it'd be a huge tourist trap where everything was overpriced. I had heard that the American side of the Falls was dirty. I expected too many people and too little of the pristine nature that I'd prefer. I was wrong. Yeah, there were a couple of touristy places, there were a lot of people, and I did see a little litter on the American side. But I was stunned with how few people were there. I was pleasantly surprised with how little litter there was, and I was pleased with how reasonable the prices were. I'm very pleased that we went. It surpassed my expectations by leaps and bounds.

The Reception Begins

After the meal, the cake-cutting and the mandatory dances, the party started in earnest. The party started a little slow, which tends to happen at formal events (nobody wants to be the first person to look like an idiot). So when the DJ called everyone up to sing to Adam and Cathy, I stepped up when people were hesitant to go. When I saw that people were still hesitant, I snagged the mic from the DJ and went around to the tables and teased folks until they went up to sing.

"We don't know the words," they'd say.

"I don't either, I'm gonna fake it," was my reply.

"I don't dance," they'd quip.

"I don't either, I just flop around like a fish out of water," I'd respond.

"Dad's acting weird," my daughter noted.

"You mean he's acting like the life of the party?" was my fiancee's answer.

It was the best time I'd had in ages. I hope that Adam and Cathy remember it as fondly as I do. I hope that it was one of the highlights of their lives, and that it lived up to their expectations.

Cutting the Cake

I can't believe it!! They were nice to each other. No cake smeared anywhere.

They did one thing that was very unique and untraditional though. They refused to kiss when people clinked their glasses. "If you want us to kiss," they said, "you're gonna have to stand up and sing a song with the word 'love' in it." So we stood up and sang songs like "What's Love Got to do With It" and "Love Stinks" and "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'". It was a great twist to the wine glasses clinking.

The Groom's Mom and Dad

I just can't say enough good things about Adam and Sue. They were very attentive hosts, kept people entertained with awesome stories, and made me feel very much welcome and at home.

Isn't this a requirement at large gatherings?

The obligatory "Me taking a picture of someone taking a picture of me" shot.

The Head Table

Sitting at the head table was pretty cool. It gave us all a great chance to talk to Adam... not to mention the fringe benefit of eating first.

The best part though, was the fellowship. Everyone in the wedding party seemed to get along very well, and there was a lot of laughter and joking.

In this picture, Adam's dad is chatting with the bride and groom.

The Wedding Pics

After the wedding, we did the mandatory pictures. Since it was very hot, we were all anxious to get done with the pics, so we could get to the reception, where it was air conditioned.

The limo wasn't much help, because the limo developed a coolant leak, so the driver couldn't keep the car on, which prevented the a/c from working... so it was almost as hot in the limo as it was outside. Luckily though, the limo cooled off pretty quickly once we got on the road, and the beer and champagne cooled us off on the inside.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I Now Pronounce You...

The wedding went off without a hitch. It was hotter than, um... Hades... in there, but otherwise it was a beautiful wedding.

Here's a little something I haven't told them yet... They stole the song that my bride-to-be and I plan to play at our wedding... Come What May, from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

Being a Groomsman

When Adam called me last summer and invited me to the wedding, I decided then and there that nothing would prevent me from attending. Adam has been a friend of mine for almost half of my life, so there was no way I was missing this.

When he asked me to be a groomsman, that only strengthened my resolve. I'm honored that he asked me to stand up at his wedding. The fact that I had the privilege of escorting his mom and dad down the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony was icing on the cake.

Getting Ready...

Saturday was Adam's big day. We had all been looking forward to it for ages. My older girl, wanting to impress her Godfather with how grown-up she is, bought her dress months in advance. And I must confess, when I saw her in the dress, I was stunned with how good she looked, and a little wistful at how fast she's growing up. When I saw my little girl and my better half, I was equally speechless. When they all posed together, my proverbial jaw hit the floor. Now I know I'm biased, but I think that all three of my ladies are beautiful individuals. When I saw all three of them dressed up... man!

All Growed Up

When I saw Raymond, it really hit home how long it had been since I had seen these folks. When I lived in California, I used to babysit Ray and his brothers, and he was around 12 when I left... the same age that my older daughter is now. When I saw him in New York, I realized how much time had passed. He's 23, bigger than me, and gets all of the adult conversation stuff. Man, how time flies!


I hadn't seen Gary in over a decade either. We spent most of our time chatting about computer geek stuff. Hey, don't knock it. That's what computer geeks do!

Noni's "New" Hubby

This is Eric, Noni's hubby. They're not newlyweds anymore, but this is the first time I had met him. He seems like a nice guy, though we didn't really get that much of an opportunity to chat.


I also got to see Noni for the first time in about five years. Noni has always made a point of dropping in on me when she's in the area, so I've had a couple of chances to see her since leaving California. But it still had been too long since our last visit.


One of the people I saw for the first time in a decade was Jeannie. (Man, I hope I spelled her name right!) She hasn't changed a bit.

The Rehearsal Dinner

After seeing Adam, meeting Cathy and the wedding party, and attending the wedding rehearsal, we had the rehearsal dinner. That's where the fun really began. I got to see people I hadn't seen in years!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Seeing an Old Friend

The day after our trip to Six Flags, we drove to where the wedding would take place. I finally had an opportunity to see Adam, and to meet Cathy.

Six Flage - A Day for the Kids

The kids were excited about our vacation, and they were excited about seeing Adam, but they did have one request... they wanted to hit an amusement park. We hit Six Flags in Darien Lake, and it was a day well-spent. The kids and adults all had a blast. The weather was perfect, the park had a great variety of water rides for a hot, sunny day, and the park was empty. There were no lines ANYWHERE! We were there from about 15 minutes after the park opened until about 15 minutes before the park closed. We had a day of fun and relaxation, beautiful weather, no lines, and the kids played to exhaustion.

The Little Things Keep Kids Happy

The purpose of this trip was Adam's wedding, keeping the kids happy was important as well. My older girl loves Cracker Barrel. When we got to our destination, we discovered that our hotel was right next to one of their restaurants. Eating there made her a happy young lady. Such a little thing to make a kid happy... how could we not do it?

New York - Land of Silly Laws

Adam's wedding was in the Buffalo, NY area. When I got to New York, the first impression I got was how many stupid, micromanaging laws they have, and it's the predominant impression I took away from the state too... You have to have your headlights on if your wipers are on... you have to use a hands-free cell phone... you can't let your semi truck idle for long periods of time... you have to be 16 or older to pump gas...

Now don't get me wrong. Most of these laws make sense individually. The hands-free cell phone probably reduces accidents. The no idling law reduces smog. That's not the point. The point is that the legislators of New York feel the need to codify common sense and turn it into actual law. Are New Yorkers really that stupid? (And don't go getting your panties in a bunch. That's a rhetorical question, not something designed to bash on New Yorkers.)

Some Stops Aren't Expected

We did our best to foresee when the kids would need to stop, and planned accordingly, but not all of our stops were planned. My heavy foot caused one such stop.

The kids laughed hysterically when I got busted for speeding, and I'll probably never hear the end of it. But I guess that's fair. I have many, many embarrasing stories about the kids. It's only right that they have one or two stories about me.

American Landscape

For me, it's the scenery that makes a long drive worth it. I've always found the rugged landscape and the rustic countryside quite appealing.

A break along the way

When you're driving cross-country with kids, it's the little things that drive you nuts, and the little things that keep you sane.

I vaguely remember what it's like to be a kid. One of the things I remembered is that, on long trips, kids need to run around every now and then, or everyone suffers. In this shot, we stopped for lunch at Burger King and the kids played on the jungle gym after finishing their meal.

The Past Meets the Present - Part II

When I was invited to Adam's wedding, I figured that I'd turn the trip into a bona fide family vacation, and determined to visit some relatives along the way.
On the first day, I missed my brother, but I was able to see my uncle, aunt and of my cousins. The visit was cut short by sick kids, but it was good to visit for a bit nonetheless. The last time I saw them was at my Grandpa's funeral. I hope it's not so long next time.

The Past Meets the Present

Everyone has one... one of those friends who you haven't seen in years. You remember the friend fondly and think of him often. You wish you could get together more frequently, and kick yourself for not contacting him more. But you never seem to get around to visiting, and before you know it, years or even decades have zipped by and you still haven't seen him.

Well, I finally got the opportunity to see several friends from my past last weekend. Adam found the woman of his dreams and they got married. I was asked to be in the wedding. I hadn't seen Adam, Gary, Jeannie and Ray in over a decade.

For the most part, it was as if we hadn't been apart for more than a week. Of course there were a couple of tell-tale signs reminding us how long it had been since we had last seen each other. I used to babysit Ray, and now he's a grown man. Last time I saw him, he was the same age and size as my older daughter is now, and he's gone and super-sized himself. Last time Adam saw my not-so-little-anymore girl (his Goddaughter), she was barely walking. Now she's almost a teenager.

It's amazing how time flies.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

A Well-Deserved Vacation

My annual Memorial Day vacation is one of my favorite times of the year... a chance to get away from everything, hang out with some of my lifelong friends, tell stories, drink too many beers, eat too much food... you know, guy stuff.

Over the last few years though, we've been getting a little soft, and have accumulated a few creature comforts to make our rugged weekend of camping a little less uncomfortable. If you click here, you can see for yourself how soft we've gotten.