Saturday, July 31, 2004

I'm sitting in an empty meeting room at Vulkon Tampa. Was able to get out of work early to beat traffic and pick up Johnny. Got to my sister Kathy's by 9PM and she treated us to dinner. That effectively put me into a triptophan reaction and kept us from driving the rest of the way here. We stayed up talking and playing board games until around 1 AM. Kathy was having a ball playing a logic game called "Mastermind" with Johnny. In her own sneaky way not only playing a game but trying to get his gelatinous grey matter to work a little. I was impressed that it only took her five minutes to mention my long hair! I was just relieved not to find her waiting at the door ready with a pair of shears.

Up an out early to get here. Met up right away with friends from the area. Max and his crew are a good bunch of people and definitely fun to hang with. Surprised Robin Curtis in the dealers room. She looked up, made eye contact and then she did a classic double take as she realized it was "the old" me. We are going to try to get some time together to catch up. She is a genuinely warm and caring person it has been fun to get to know over the years. I'm dying to hear the details in her life since I saw her last.

Johnny learned quickly that Vulkon is not the same kind of convention Shore Leave is. I hope he doesn't get completely bored here. While he has an interest in movies and comics there is some of my sci-fi interests which I know he shakes his head at. But aren't kids supposed to think their parent's are weird anyway? Vulkon is good for meeting friends and doing a little shopping, if necessary; it's not like a "real" convention. But just like I enjoy the break from work and mononoty back home, I'm sure he's enjoying a break from his siblings at the very least.

While in Naples we got to ride by the park named for my mother. It affected me a little more than I expected. Since being so far away from where she is actually buried it's something of a surrogate tombstone of sorts. In the same way a granite tombstone is a connection to the person so is the sign at the park. There are probably thousands of people who have seen the name Rita Eaton in the past three years. Some probably don't even stop to wonder who she was. But there has been someone,from time to time, who has asked, "Who was that?" In some way that keeps her memory alive. Her name is still being spoken. I don't know if she ever even set foot in the neighborhood in which the park is located but for as long as the park exists, so does she.

More later.

Am now at James and Michelle Muench's. They are at the International Conference in Birmingham and offered for me to stay here while they are out of town. It's good to have friends where ever you go. Slightly screwed up the directions and were looking for the place in pitch darkness during a heavy rain storm. What fun!

The rest of the day at Vulkon went well. As with most Vulkons, nothing remarkable. Robin and I weren't able to get time together, but after all, she is working.

It finally happened after 13 years. Someone finally called Johnny "Towaway, Jr"!!!!! A proud moment. Well,for me anyway!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"Revenge of the Sith"?!

This movie had better not suck. Maybe it's like that old Smuckers must be good give give it a name like that! What was wrong with "Rise of the Empire"? There is so much anticipation on this final movie. It's almost as if all Star Wars fans are holding out hope Lucas will make up for the past two movies with one final kick ass movie to end the saga with a bang. 10 months to go.

As I type this Ted Kennedy is making his speech at the DNC....and he won't shut up! Last night was such a killer opener. Jimmy Carter was great, Hillary perfectly subdued and Bill kicked ass. Then Ted comes on and sucked the air out of the room. He went on and on with a history lesson. He did have a few moments but over all it was a yawn-er. I have seen him give a speech and he CAN rip the roof off a building. He didn't do that tonight. He was stilted and his voice cracked like a teenager. I wish I had a copy of his 1980 speech so I could see a "good" Kennedy speech.

If it weren't for bad luck....came home from work and the A/C in the house has died. I'd be morecomfortable in my van. The landlord is supposed to get it fixed tomorrow; may give me an excuse to stay home until it gets fixed.

Monday, July 26, 2004

My funk at work seems to be over. I'm back to being top producer; whether that will improve my situation at work will remain to be seen. If anything, it is definitely helping the financial situation. To motivate myself I have posted the following list at my desk.

Reasons to Work OT.

Disney Passes
Fix the van's A/C
New TV
Satellite TV service
New PC
Thanksgiving Trip
Tampa Trip in March
Christmas Money

That should keep me going for at least six months.

This morning in the shower I remember another reason why Florida sucks. No real cold water in the shower. My morning shower used to be a hot steamy and soaped up start to the day. The water would feel as warm and soothing at the bed I had just abandoned. Easing me into the day slowly....but not too slowly. In a habit I picked up from showing in junior high gym class, I would end the shower by shutting off the hot water completly and shocking myself into consciousness with a blast of ice cold water.

Apparently, since the ground never freezes down here, the water pipes in Florida never get insulated enough to hold a real chill. The coldest the "cold" water gets is a mild lukewarm. I was reminded of this on the trip to Maryland. Any showers south of the Mason Dixon just ain't the same.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

While it was a short visit with Johnny today, it was another great one. We went to see "I,Robot". It was better than I thought it was going to be. While it was nothing like the original, they did hold on to some of Asimov's themes. It was a pretty good detective movie overall. I was impressed with Johnny's opinions. His tastes are refining more and more. We have a long ride to Tampa next weekend, I'll use the time to see how reading the book before hand changed his view of the finished film.

Was delayed by almost an hour on the way to see him today. Just as I was approaching his exit off the turnpike, traffic was stopped by a major traffic accident. A van had rolled and slammed into the jersey barrier. And I do mean traffic "stopped". When I saw the TraumaHawk helicopter landing I knew it was going to be a while. I was about a mile away from the scene of the accident and all traffic came to a complete standstill to where I turned the engine off and got out to look around. Another example of poor planning down here. I've been near all kinds of terrible highway accidents and have never seen a highway completly shut down until moving here. And this happens all the time. Apparently the graduates of the Remedial Highway Planning Classes who were hired by the Florida Department of Transportation never imagined there would be accidents on their roadways and that even while they were clearing said accidents the other people on the highway might just possibly want to get by and continue on their way.

I talked with Harry tonight to get find out how everything went this weekend. He was very touched by my having sent flowers. They are some of the very few who still call me "John". I had suddenly decided in my junior year in High School that everyone was going to call me "Jack" like my family did; it stuck with most people. All these years later I was still "John". I gave up trying and it beagan to take on a special aspect to it where the Barrows were the only ones who still did. They seemed to have forgotten that when they saw they card on the arrangement; "With Jove, John". It wasn't until they saw the silk banner simply saying "Ma" that they realized. Just my little way of actually being there when I couldn't.

November isn't that far away.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

So, I'm not going to North Carolina. I will not say to Harry, "You were right". I made that decision as soon as my commission check hit the back at midnight Friday morning. I called Harry and told him that morning. However, when I got in my car after work that day I gassed up the car and actually contemplated going anyway. I really struggled with it. I had myself half convinced. By the time I got home, packed, took a short nap and left in the middle of the night I could have gotten there in plenty of time for visiting hours Saturday morning. I even went into my bedroom and picked up my suitcase three or four times. Luckily, the latest DVD of "The Sopranos" had arrived and I used that to distract me; I watched all four damned episodes in one sitting. Finally, it had gotten too late.

Then I woke up this morning figuring how I could time the ride to make it for tomorrow's funeral.

No, I'm still here. It can wait until November.

My plans with Johnny for the weekend have had to be altered al well. His mother hurt her ankle tripping over a life-size Barbi belonging to his little sister. She really did some damage and with Jimmy being out of town and her husband working late she needed him around to help corral the little ones and keep her off her feet. It's at least reassuring that the Ex and I can compromise and shuffle things around as needed without involving lawyers or a referee. He and I will go see "I,Robot" on Sunday and then head up to Tampa for Vulkon. Robin Curtis is one of the guests. I haven't seen her in about two years and she doesn't know about my surgery. This should be interesting. I also have some Fleet business to do. I'm getting a break by staying at the house of some friends who will be out of town. It will also be another chance for Johnny and I to spend some "quality time" together.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm. If I left right now I'd be in New Bern by 11PM.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Ma Barrows has died.

Ruth Barrows has been one of my adopted mothers for about 25 years. From almost the very first day it was "Ma". I can't remember ever calling her "Mrs. Barrows". There was never a moment when I did not feel like a member of the family.

That's what makes being stuck here in Florida sucks so much. I am waiting until I get my commission check to see if I can afford to go to the funeral this weekend. It would work out perfectly time-wise, being on the weekend. I'm just not sure if I can afford it financially. Harry keeps telling me to save my money for my planned Thanksgiving trip. It's just very hard for me. Times like this are when family is supposed to draw together and I feel so frustrated being within a days drive and still not being able to be there. It's not only to comfort the rest of the family but to pay the tribute and show respect for Ma. I've missed so many in my own family back home in Rhode Island. 9 hours and a couple of tank-fulls of gas should not keep me from something this important. OK, Harry does have a point; spending time with the remaining family will be just as important in November. I know that. I agree with that. I have such an ingrained feeling of responsibility to be there; it's hard to fight.

It's not that she was the best "Ma". Harry has had a "unique" relationship with her. She made it tough to love her at times. However, when I got off the phone with Harry I immediately grabbed a photo album and found some old pictures from "way back when". There were pictures of Ma dancing with some of our friends during a party for Harry just before he went into the Marines. She is in the pictures arm in arm with different kids. Smiles. Laughter. She seems as youthful and happy as the teenagers with her. That's how I'll remember her.

Love you, Ma.

I'll miss you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Still in a little bit of a funk at work. The bright spot was a victory of sorts I had with two women in my life all within the matter of about 10 minutes.

It was announced that we were to have a mandatory Saturday this weekend. This is my weekend to have Johnny visit so there was a major conflict. My sales figures have been funky right along with my mood, so I knew I might have a hard sell. I decided to try a compromise.

I called the Ex and told her my dilemma. I suggested that, if I could talk my boss into my working only a half day that I could leave Johnny alone at home. Without a moment's hesitation she agreed. We had written into our divorce decree that I couldn't leave him alone until he was 14. Of course that was written when there was LOTS of animosity between us and Johnny was only 3. The animosity has waned and John has matured. It's a relief to be able to talk and reason with her after all this time. It does no one any good the other way.

My next hurdle was my supervisor. Being a parent of a child around the same age, it was an easier sell that I thought. I may still have a slight pang of nervousness as I walk out the door Saturday morning but I think it'll be fine.

When both the boys were going to their first day of school my Ex was the teary-eyed one. I was a little less stressed over it. About 6 months ago, on one of John's visits, I wanted to walk down to the convenience store down the street. John did not want to go. I decided to leave him for the 10 minutes it would take to walk there and back. No problem, right?! I got as far as the end of my driveway and stopped dead in my tracks. I could not move. I started laughing at myself. He was grown....I could leave problem.....I'll be right back. After 5 minutes of arguing with myself, I turned around and went back empty handed. At least this time, I'll have the job responsibility to force me out the door and not the cravings for ice cream!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Today my son is 13! In many cultures the 13th birthday is a rite of passage. Jews have Bar Mitzvah, African tribes begin teaching boy to become hunters. For me it means I am not the parent of a teenager!!!!!!!!

I love the fact that I can now look him straight in the eye without stooping. His voice is getting lower with almost every passing day. He seems to be as lucky as his old man in that his voice isn't going through the nasty Bobby-Brady-cracking. I just seemed to have awakened one day in my early teens with a voice like James Earl Jones. We did a play in Junior High School in which I did the off stage voice of God because I was the only boy in the building with a deep enough voice. Hey! It just dawned on me.....that was my first voice gig!!!!!!

I called John (I guess I have to call him that now all the time. "Johnny" probably seems too juvenile for him!) first thing this morning and wished him a happy birthday. I have a present to give him when he's here this weekend. Not going to revel it here in case he happen to read this. Trust me, he'll love it!

I'm still in a funk at work. This would one of those perfect time to win lotto!

Today was also the birthday of one of my best friends at work. Actually, Linda Orth is know as my "Liberty Wife". For a number of years we sat next to each other. No matter where we moved we got placed side by side. We joked in a Batteling Bickersons sort of way and people thought of us as an old married couple. He two daughter conspired to surprise her for her 50th birthday. It went off perfectly. All weeekend long she was bitching and moaning about how "noone was doing anythign for her brithday" and that her daughters could have "done something" to celebrate. The look on ehr face when she walked into the room fileld with about a dozen freinds and family members was priceless. Since I didn't get to Chuck E Cheese's for my 40th thins might be something for some people to consider for my 50th in another 8 years! Plenty of time to plan!!!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Went to see "King Arthur" today. I'd have to have a certified historian tell me that Arthur was actually how he was portrayed in this movie and not the romantically version we've all grown up with. They start off the movie with an official looking explanation that recent archeological discoveries have reshaped the image of Arthur and his knights. Then, I remember I was watching a movie. Not that Kate Beckinsail didn't look good it that leather outfit, but I really doubt most of what was presented. And it's all battles and politics we've seen done much better in "Braveheart" and "Gladiator". Overall, this was a pretty boring movie.

I also went to see "Spider-man 2" while I was there. I enjoyed it a little more this time around. It was a little long and, overall, I'd find it hard to say I like either the first or second any better than the other. The first two Superman flicks are still my favorite comic book hero movies along with the first Michael Keaton "Batman". Alfred Molina is the best part of the movie. The changes he goes through are striking making for a deep and rich villain who can be both hated and sympathetic.

And then there's Kirsten Dunst chained up at the end of the movie!!!!!
Something of a quiet weekend around here. Still seem to be going through a post-Shore Leave slump. My laundry from the trip still hasn't moved closer to the laundry room and I have to almost kick myself to get motivated. I'm sure if I don't get that wash done soon it'll move by itself!

I did get motivated enough to meet up with my good pal Dave Ryan and his wife as they drove through the area. They have recently moved to the Tampa area. It's good to have someone from back home in the same state. Now that the van is back on the road I hope to be able to see more of them.

I'm part of a team which is running for the leadership of Starfleet International. In the recent nomination phase of the election our team garnered 51 votes while our competition got 46.Should be a very close election. I am the candidate for the Chief of Operations position. This job oversees chapter reporting, corresponding chapters and chapters who are understrength. It's basically the job I'm doing in my regional position on the International level. Mt friend, Tom "Little Guy" Restivo had originally been up for the job but had to back out and he recommended me to Mandi Livingston, the person who is the lead candidate running for the president, or Commander Starfleet, position. I am really excited about this. I have been a member of SFI on and off since 1986. The best part about SFI is the idea that you belong to a club which reaches outside of your own local area. Even when the Boston Star Trek Association was in existance, even though we had almost 200 members from outside New England, it was still a local group. As a member of SFI you are in the same group as a member on the opposite coast or even another side of the planet. I guess the reason why I'm in this race has to do with my feelings about public service which got me into my inlovment in politics back home and the importance of volunteer work; returning something to your community. I was also very flattered by being asked. The election should make for an interesting summer!

Friday, July 16, 2004

A recap of the ride home.

We got up and out early Monday morning. As we made our way further south the idea of driving straight through began to circulate. We had all ended up spending up a little more then planned at the con and it would be nicer on our wallets to skip spending the extra on a few hours sleep. By the time we hit our lunch stop at a Sonic in Roanoke Rapids, NC we decided to go for the gold.

We got some really good seats at restaurants along they way as no one really wanted to sit next to the Funky Bunch. 16 hours with no air conditioning and only so much Febreeze made for a fun ride. Actually, it was rather fun. This was the first year we made it there and back again with no conflict of any kind. We all went where we wanted, got together when convenient, had fun,enjoyed each others company and rolled with the punches whenever something tried to make it a difficult weekend. We all agreed this was our best trip ever.

We seem to have gotten better that these road trips. Talk has gone around about alternatives to driving but unless someone wins lotto we'll probably pile right back into The Bull once again. Even with the mechanical problems on this trip, I feel she has one more ride left in her. Although, by the time we got to Florida the van was close to being renamed "Dory" after the Ellen DeGeneris character in "Finding Nemo". The power steering was moaning deep and slowly like Dory's whale-speak. Without these little problems we wouldn't have such good stories to tell.

Here is a web page with my photos from the trip.

The worst part of any weekend with Johnny is bringing him back. We got home, showered and jumped into bed for a well deserved sleep. The Ex wasn't feeling well so I ended up driving again to bring him there. Yea! Another three hours in the van!

When we got there I was surrounded by his little brother and sister. Jeffrey has always been happy to see me. He will run up and put a strangle hold hug on me. Carrie has gotten better. For the longest time she had either run from the room or hid under furniture. Part of it had to do with something her father told her about me. I was upset about it for a while until heard she did the same thing with almost anybody. Now she can't stop talking when I walk in the room. Because I finally can, I got down on the floor to play with Jeffrey and suddenly I was trying to play with both kids at the same time. Seems a little strange to be the center of attention for my ex's children from another husband. Strange, but I still love it.

Speaking of children from another husband. I am determined to make stronger efforts to reach out to and include Jimmy a little more. I've always felt bad about the distance which grew between us after the divorce. He and I have talked a little and he has come for a weekend or two with John. I just feel there is more I should be able to do. John has said he has asked about comeing for a visit again sometime and I would welcome that in a moment. Something to shoot for.

Don't know if it's just fatigue but I haven't had the same spark of energy at work since being back. I used to do overtime at the drop of a hat however,every day since getting back I bolt for the door at 5PM. I'm sure one paycheck with less overtime than usual will cure that!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'm ba-ack!
I woke up Wednesday morning and I wasn't in the Hunt Valley Marriott......DAMN, was I pissed!
Still recovering and getting back in the swing of things. Also been having problems with my laptop. Will post tomorrow with all the details of our ride home. I'm also working on a link to a web page with all my pictures from the trip. 
Off to do lots of laundry.

Monday, July 12, 2004

OK, can I describe the another day at Shore Leave without using the word "great"? Probably not.

It was great!

Got to sleep in a little later than usual. Both going to sleep last night and waking up this morning was horsing around with Johnny. Moments like that I hope he holds on to as tightly as I do. There was a moment when we were headed back to the room from the pool and we raced each other. Couldn't have done that 9 months ago! My decision to have the surgery gets better and better with each day.

Was able to keep him pleasantly entertained throughout the day. While he and I share lots when it comes to movies and TV, Trek isn't something he's into as much as I am. He has had a fun time this weekend, though.

The best moment was at dinner. We got together with a bunch from the McAuliffe and filled up a local sports bar. On the TV was a WWF match. Suddenly John was the center of attention and was the expert all the adults turned to for information. He's been watching wrestling for years and knows that as well as I know Trek. His eyes were glowing as he bounced from grownup to grownup answering questions, sharing wrestling history and storylines and basking in talking with adults on an even level. Afterwards, he talked about it and still was on a high from it. I have got such a cool kid!

Ran into another old friend today. Dawn Yasharis is an old BSTA friend. We had been missing each other all weekend and couldn't stop meeting up at least five times during the day. The funniest moment was meeting her out side her room; directly across from mine!

Closed the bar with Bill and some of the rest of the Boston crowd. Did a nostalgia walk around the hotel. Sort of paying homage to memories of the weekend and from past conventions. It's odd to see the hotel after all the con stuff is gone. Parts of the rooms you walked past dozens of times during the weekend but never saw are suddenly jumping out in front of you. A nice way to say goodbye to the Hunt Valley Marriott for another year.

Probably won't post again until I get back to Florida. Should be a warn and interesting ride home but it is one all of my friends seem to be looking forward to despite the inconveniences. We have had a super time spending time just being with each other. Through every little setback no one has gotten upset, angry, peeved or despondent. There has not been a moment of disagreement or hurt feelings. OK, so we aren't home yet, but I have a good feeling that the trend will continue. We have all had fun. We have seen things we wanted to on this trip. We have done thing we wanted to get accomplished. Most important of all we did it with the best group of friends we could think of being with.

Only 365 days till we return!!!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Yet another great day in Hunt Valley!!!

If you're not a fan some of the details of what I've done during the day will bore you to tears. The highlight for me, and always the best part of this weekend is spending time with friends. Marc Nobel, who had lived in Florida and moved up here joined us today. He is making plans, finally, to move back to Florida. It is good to have him back in the fold.

Finally hooked up with my old pal, Bill Duffy. He is most pleased with my post surgery success. He even dared me to dance like I used to during Ten Forward, the convention dance party.

Hit a couple of the panels that both Johnny and I were interested in. I didn't want to completely bore him to death. He is enjoying the weekend. With him approaching his 13th birthday, I have given him lots more freedom. There have been times when he's been left to relax in the room by himself and I've even gotten him a key of his own to come and go as necessary without always having DAD around. He is developing so well and fits in with my crazed bunch of friends perfectly. We have some time to ourselves and have had a few father/son moments which make the weekend even better.

Talks are already going around about next year! I love that about this con. I have gotten my Florida crown as hooked on this weekend as I am. I seem to always pick the best friends!

Got a great compliment on this blog from Bill's friend, Tim. He's an avid reader! While that might not sound like much, he's an avid reader who's not family! I do this mostly for those who really know me to keep up and as my way of venting at the end of the day. It's a cool feeling to know someone else can read and appreciate what I spew out here. And, since I know you'll be reading this....Thanks, big guy!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Another great day, even with dealing with a broken down van. Got AAA to tow it away bright and early. Rented another car so we could get downtown and keep my appointment with Jim Langevin.

Timed perfectly with Jim's office to meet him as he got off the floor of the US Congress. He was tickled by my gift of a JFK bust for his office. When I was there three years ago I noticed that he didn't have one. As I told him, "You're a democrat, from New England, you've been to Hyannisport AND you know Kennedys....and you DON'T have one of these in your office!"

We had about 30 minutes with him for the two of us to play catch up and to meet my Florida friends. He was very interested in Kenny and Jim being in law enforcement. Just like with most of my really good friends, it was just as if yesterday was the last time we saw each other and not three years. Just before we left I had some personal time with him. He is very happy to see me post surgery. We got into some other personal stuff and I made sure his chief of staff kept my home number as he is looking to buy some Florida property not too far from me. He's another friend I'm determined to keep despite the mileage.

After lunch in the Congressional food court and getting lost in the tunnels underneath the House Office Buildings we headed to the World War II Memorial. What a beautiful place. I want to meet some of the idiots who opposed the design and slap them around. It is on such a grand scale, well deserving of those it commemorates. We took loads of pictures which I'll post after we get back home.

Speaking of getting home, the garage was able to bypass the A/C and get the belts re-connected and it's only coasting $86!!!! Dodged a major bullet there thanks to Jim and Kenny. It's going to be a warm ride home but at least we'll get there!

John is having a fun time and we are really starting to connect more on a more adult level as he approached puberty. It's amazing how his sense of humor is developing. The best moment was when he described doing something to his brother Jim almost verbatim of something I had done to a co-worker. Genetics is a wonderful thing!

The best part of this trip is re-connecting with good friends from back home. There have been a few here at the convention which have been surprises and that only makes it better. We are to a count of 5 the number of people who have said to him, "I remember you when you were thiiiiiiis little!" He just loves that!

One telling moment of how much homesickness I suffer during this trip was when Jim Langevin asked me where I preferred living and if I'd ever move back to Rhode Island. There was a very long pause. Everyone was waiting to see how diplomaticaly I answered that. I think they all know my real answer. I simply pointed to Johnny and said, "Here's the reason I'm there in the first place!" Rhode Island will always be home I just feel it more when I'm around settings like this. I have just as great a circle of friends in Florida as I did back home, so that's not the problem. Rhode Island will always be home.

Enough of that, there's more fun to be had this weekend. More reports when I can squeeze in time on the lobby PC; it's very popular. Gee, who wouldda guessed. Free internet and a hotel full of Trek geeks!!!!
Well, this trip has been one for the books so far!

I am writing this from the lobby of the Hunt Valley Inn. We made it here OK. Got right on the road and on schedule almost perfectly. Spent the night at South of the Border in North Carolina. Was pleasantly surprised by the size and condition of the room. OK, so it was slightly cheesy, but right in line for what you were paying.

Up and out after a rousing 5 hours sleep. It does break up the trip perfectly though. The stop over allows everyone to actually close their eyes and completely shut down; something some of our travelers have a hard time doing in a moving vehicle.

A greasy spoon breakfast and back on the road.

The first kink to our trip was the air conditioning dying out about 3 hours into the ride. Luckily, we were headed north and in the dark so it wasn't too bad. Although, we did buy some Febreeze to get ride of "the funk" of 5 sweating people. Jokes abounded about the van and its condition. Just as we were pulling in to the hotel comparisons were made to the Bluesmobile pulling up to Chicago City Hall. You know; they get out of the car and it falls apart.

Guess what happened!

The reason the a/c went was because the clutch on the unit seized up. As we're driving along the highway we are breathing in the delicious odors of burning ball bearings......and melting rubber. the math....the serpentine belt let go. This was discovered when we got in the car after checking in and headed out to dinner. As I type I am waiting for AAA to take the van away to be fixed. Jim and Kenny used their "Badge Americard" and got a name of a local garage who should not rip us off being out of towners. Never a dull moment!

After the van leaves we are headed into DC for our tourist part of the trip. I have gotten offers of help from everyone else in the group to help with the repairs. Looks as if I'll be working some more overtime when I get home!

Other than that things have been going pretty well. We were very fortunate that the breakdown waited until we were at our destination instead of in the middle of the beltway at 6pm!!!

Always look on the bright side of life!

Monday, July 05, 2004

Had another great day with Johnny. Slept late but still made the first matinee of "The Terminal". Was very impressed with Hanks' job; was completely believable as a Russian and brought his usual depth to his performance. While it was better than "Catch Me if You Can" it wasn't a great Spielberg film. The best part of the film was the set. If I hadn't known going in that it was a studio set I would have thought they had closed down JFK airport to film.

Mostly, I was still impressed by my son choosing this film. His tastes are growing and I love to see that. Right before he went to bed I started introducing him to the Marx Brothers. We started with "Monkey Business". I would rather have gone with "Duck Soup" but not having that on tape or DVD I had to make do. He laughed in all the right spots and enjoyed some of the older puns. I'm sure I'll get him to sit through more of them. Another memory built. It was my father who showed me the Marx Brothers. I remember sitting with him and laughing our way through each and every one of these classics. Maybe some day he'll remember the same moments with me in the same way.

We got into a discussion about some family members and it came very close to divorce history. I almost bit a hole through my tongue as I kept from going any deeper into the subject than he was either willing to or was even interested in going. He seems very well adjusted and I know that when he's ready to ask about how we got to where we are, he will and there's no need to push it. OK, that works until he's 25. If he hasn't brought it up by then....he's had enough time to mull it over and I'll need to get it off my chest!

Tomorrow it's back to work. Luckily,it's only two days till VACATION!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

A great Independence Day!

Had our chapter cookout which went very well. I picked up Johnny about halfway through the day. He seems to get bigger each time I see him. His little sister has finally started coming around to me. She used to hide every time I came into their house. Part of it may have been her being an overly timid child. Another part of it may have been crap about me she had been some not too favorable things she had overheard. She seems to have gotten over it either way. She seems to go out of her way to greet and talk with me whenever I'm around. I like the change. John's younger brother, Jeffrey, is another story. He has always been happy to see me and has taken to hugging me. I thought he'd choke me today he was holding on so tight.

We went back to the cookout for a while to eat and swim. Later in the evening John and I went to watch fireworks. We had some great moments in the time before they started when we just talked. It was all innocuous but we just talked. It's been a while since we've just shot the bull like that and it felt good. When he was a pre-schooler we would walk and talk. Sometimes we would invent superheroes. We would bounce ideas back and forth. It was free form and easy. So was our talking tonight.

I was afraid that we had gotten so caught up in being together that we didn't take time to enjoy it. There was the travel time to and from. Then we'd have meals and errands. Then there's be the "activity" for the weekend. We weren't just there together. Hopefully the next 10 days together will give us plenty of time for more moments together like that one.

One moment we already had he has no idea about was my watching watch girls. He could use a few lessons in subtlety. Like an epileptic watching a tennis match his head will snap around to tack a girl walking by. I'll at least have to buy him some dark sunglasses!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Fourth of July always brings back some of my best childhood memories and favorite ones of my father.

Back home on Rhode Island fireworks are illegal. In the course of his job my father had to confiscate fireworks from people during the months leading up to Independence Day. Of course these explosives had to be destroyed somehow. Each year I became the most popular kid on my block.

As the families on my street gathered outside to watch the fireworks from Rocky Point amusement Park across the cove my father opened up the trunk of his car and pulled out three shopping bags full of bottle rockets, salutes and piles and piles of other various fireworks. Somewhere else in the city someone was cursing my father out for pissing on their holiday while my friends and I enjoyed as exciting a display as was being put on over the water.

Was OK with me!

I have a clear memory of my first illegal act; buying packages of salutes. There was the rush of adrenalin as I made the arrangements with another kid in Junior High School. The clandestine moment as we ducked out of a side door during the frenzied moments passing between classes to quickly exchange a few dollars for red paper wrapped oriental firecrackers. I don't think the pounding in my ears stopped until I got to where ever I sent to the off. I don't remember if I just set them off separately, in packages at a time rat-a-tat-tatting like a tommygun or aspyrotechnics tearing apart a plastic model kit. There was a wonderful exhilaration at having gotten away with defying my parents, school administration and the law in one fell swoop. I was such a rebel!

July Fourth also meant an Eaton Family cookout at my Aunt Loretta and Uncle Manny's. It was a chance to get together with parts of my father's family which I didn't get to see all that often. It was a lazy day of food and laughter. Because my grandfather had been married twice every Eaton family gathering brought out a different cousin which I has never before met. During the years I worked in radio, inevitably, I could only stop by for a short time before having to go work a few hours on the air. I would leave with promises that radios at the party would be turned to whatever station I was on so I could still be a part of the festivities. The tradition of the cookout dwindled after the death of my Uncle Jim. Just as things began getting better for me I had been planning on getting with my cousin Cindy to revitalize the tradition for our generation; then I moved to Florida. It is on my lottery wish list of things to do.

I only have one strong memory of a big fireworks display. It is so Norman Rockwell. It was a summer spent with my sister Joan in New Hampshire. With crystal clarity I can recall parking the car at a field and walking across the grass to find the perfect viewing spot. Rolling hills of green grass covered with families laid out on lawn chairs and blankets. I laid back on the grass and waited for the show with a distracting anticipation. The show seemed to go on forever. "Oohs" and "Ahhs" snapped through the air as fast as the fireworks themselves.

These days I always look forward to my latest and best tradition; my chapter's ID4 Cookout. Some of my friends have jobs which keep them away from weekend activities and make scheduling events everyone can attend difficult at times. However, everyone seems to make it to this party. While I sometimes bitch and moan about being in Florida, my friends take the edge off. I love being able to have as many together at one time as possible.

Here's to another great holiday!

Friday, July 02, 2004

The Don is dead.

In 1976, as the age of 14, I chose the CB handle of "The Wild One". That's how long I've been a fan. The first VHS tape I ever bought was "On the Waterfront". How could you not be a fan of this man? He was Jor-El for crying out loud! I recently reveled in sitting my son down to watch the Godfather movies. (OK, so we watched two out of the three in a row. Haven't gotten him to watch the third yet. Has he heard already how that one is?) With Brando's passing I'll probably get my hands on a copy of "On the Waterfront" to introduce to him.

He's ready for it, too. We were talking about things to do this weekend and he mentioned that he had seen "Spiderman 2". He then said that he'd really like to see "The Terminal". I was verry happy to hear him asking to see something with more than just explosions and special effects. The slow and gentle nudging into something with a little more substance seems to have started to be paying off.

I would like to go see Spidey again, though. I did some checking and I was a little off on my criticisms of the story line. I'm still not 100% sure of my total opinion of the movie so it does deserve another viewing. Johnny did say he liked the first movie better.

Well, I've got to go drop "The Godfather" in for a viewing.

Here's saluting you, Col. Kurtz.

God rest you, Terry Malloy.