Saturday, July 25, 2009

Race Day

Sunday, the 26th of July 2008 will always be a memorable day for me because it is the day I ran my first ever road race. Well, now that I think of it, I jogged in a 5K Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Minneapolis in the early 2000's, but I mean a race that was a bit longer than 3 miles.

I participated in the 38th annual Sutherland to Surf 11KM Fun Run and Walk, and must say it was a blast. For those of you who didn't know, I've been running or walking almost everyday for the past few months and was thrilled to learn about Sutherland to Surf. It gave me a reason to train everyday. Because I'd never been in a race before, I had no idea what time I would finish at. One hour to me sounded like a good goal, so for all my training, I was thinking about finishing the 11KM or 6.8 miles in 60 minutes or less.

Let me tell you a little about my preparation first. For the past few months I've been running a 4K or 2.5 mile loop once or twice a day. Sometimes I only walk it depending on how I'm feeling. The loop starts out fairly level and continues that way for a couple miles. Then I turn onto Box Road which is a long uphill climb. Box Road slowly elevates and the last five minutes are pretty hellish. That's when my legs are on fire and I know I'm oh so close to being done because once I get to the top of the hill, it's only a five minute jog back to my house. Over the course of the last six to eight weeks, I added another neighborhood loop to my run and even started running part of a second loop as race day approached.

I never did run 11K before the day of the race. I think the longest I ever ran was 8K, so again, I really had no idea if I'd run out of steam or what. The week before the race I was researching how to run a road race. I learned about race etiquette, when to drink water, how much to drink, what to wear, what to eat the night before, etc.

So last night I loaded up on carbohydrates, the way I was told to. As part of my diet, I rarely eat any carbs at night, so this was a lot of fun. I had a big bowl of rice and a chunky beef stew from a can. I drank a lot of water and had some fruits and veggies also. For breakfast, I had my normal two bowls of cereal, two apples, and two kiwi fruit. But I didn't have coffee today. I talked to one of my running friends who said it didn't matter if I had coffee or not, but I was worried about having to use the restroom during the race.

On Saturday, the weather was gorgeous. I would say it was low 60's and sunny. Sunday, unfortunately was pretty cloudy and cold! Well, it was probably 55 degrees, but kind of windy. I had read that I should dress as if it was 15 degrees warmer. So my get up consisted of running shoes and shorts, my Under Armour shirt and a t-shirt. I felt under dressed as I walked to the race.

Yeah, I had to walk to the race. It was perfect as it served as a great warm up, but I was worried that walking 2.3 miles to the race, then running another 6.8 would be too much. Oh well. I had to get there somehow and my roommates were still in bed so I wasn't getting a lift. The walk there, as I mentioned, was cold and windy. I tried to jog a little, then walk a little to speed it up, but didn't want to burn all those carbs I'd saved. Everything went smooth as I arrived to the starting line a good half hour before the starting gun.

Waiting around for the race to start, I was asking random people about their experience in years past. They said it was fun. One fit woman I talked to said she finished last year in 53 minutes and that the men's winner usually wins around 38 minutes, women's 43. This was exciting news because if a tiny woman can do it in 53 minutes, then maybe I will finish in under an hour.

At the starting line it was packed! The participants who registered as walkers started the race at 8:30am, but my group, the runners started at 9am. The two groups combined, totaled over 7,000, so you can imagine the scene. It was wall to wall people. With the windy weather, the crowds were good for body heat.

The event organizers didn't waste any time when 9am rolled around. Eye of the Tiger was playing on the loud speaker and I heard the starting gun go off. Because I had read not to start near the front so that "serious" runners could be out front, it took me probably 40 seconds to a minute to get to the actual starting line. But it didn't matter because each runner had a timing chip tied to their shoe lace, so my time wasn't recorded until I crossed over the blue mats.

The first couple of K's were spent carefully dodging hundreds of runners. I'd never been in a race before and wondered how it would be passing people. It takes some concentration, but if you're patient, holes do open up. I was all smiles in the first 10-15 minutes. There was so much to see and to listen to. The sounds of hundreds of feet hitting the pavement, the various jogging outfits people chose to wear, spectators on the side of the road were all things to take in.

I was happy to find that the race organizers put up signs at each K marker. I didn't see the first one until 4K. In my head I was thinking "Hey that's one of my old loops! Already a third of the way done." It surprised me, however, how long it took to get to the 7K marker. At 7K I thought "Hmmm, this is where I'd usually stop, wonder if I'll run out of gas."

There weren't many hills on the course, probably two or three. I was really looking forward to the hills because I wanted to see how they compared to Box Road. To put it simply, I whipped those hills butts. They were simple compared to the incline of Box Road. Most people slowed down on the hills, but that's where I stepped it up a gear. It felt great to pass people. I'm sure I was passed many a time during the course of my run, but it seemed that I passed a lot more people than those that passed me.

The final town, or suburb as they say here, I ran through in Sutherland to Surf was Cronulla, the beach town where I used to work. It was great to finally see the Cronulla sign because I knew that I was close to the finish line. It didn't matter that it was an overcast day, seeing the ocean, running down the middle of the street was a great view to take in. A lot more spectators had gathered on the streets of Cronulla than in Sutherland, Gymea, Miranda, Caringbah and Woolooware.

As I turned the corner for what I thought was the home stretch, I saw the 10K marker. Next I thought "1K is nothing. That's just .62 miles. I then picked it up another gear. One funny thing happened right after I passed the sign. I nearly ran into the tail of a pickup truck trying to run in between a walker. She looked a little ticked and said, "Runners to the right." and I gave her a genuine smile and replied, "Sorry I'm an American, I always have things backwards." And that seemed to ease the tension. She laughed and I ran on.

The last 1K was fun! I ran as fast as I could, passing many runners along the way. The final 300 or 400 meters involved one last good hill and then a steeper down slope to the finish line. That down hill helped me pass a few more.

As I crossed the finish line, I heard the "beep beeps" from the computer reading the chips on all the runners' laces. I didn't know what my time was, but I heard the race announcer say "The race is now at 53 minutes!" I was thrilled because that meant my time was probably around 52 minutes. I won't know the results until Monday evening when they are posted online officially.

After the race, I was looking for one or two people that I knew might be there. But again, with 7,000 participants and probably another 2,000 or more volunteers and spectators, there was no way I was finding them. I grabbed some free water and a free sweat band from the major sponsor Fitness First and headed to the buses to take me back to the start.

The buses that took the runners back to the start (where most of them had warm cars waiting!) cost $3. Luckily right before I left the house this morning, I decided to put a $5 bill in my shoe. Great idea because now I could afford to get back to Sutherland. The bummer part of this was that the beginning of the race, if you remember, was 2.3 miles from my house in Gymea. So now, all sweaty, soaked, I had to run another 2.3 miles home. And it felt even colder now. All I had in my hand was my $2 coin.

Also, I knew I was out of milk at home and just wanted to have a huge bowl of cereal when I returned. So I ran into a convenient store and asked the clerk how much for this small carton of milk. $2.10 he said. I told him I only had $2. He let the ten cents slide. Yessa!

I sprinted home with the milk and feasted on a bowl of cereal, a chunky chicken soup, some fruit and a protein shake. Unfortunately my roommate wasn't home to take a picture, so I had to wait in my sweaty clothes for about a half hour so I could document and prove to all of you that I was actually in a road race today.

After taking the picture I had myself the best tasting cup of coffee I've had in awhile and then jumped into the scalding hot shower. By this time it was only 11:30am and I had nothing else to do all day. (I hope you all appreciate me wearing the white shoes and black socks. Bold move, I know, but I think it looks good.)

I'm not sure that a simple 11K run warrants a 22 paragraph blog, but it is one of the bigger challenges I've taken on in awhile and I'm kind of proud of myself for doing it. I've been talking to my brother about the 7.7 kilometer Cranberry run in Keene, NH on Thanksgiving weekend coming up in a few months. I can't wait to give it a go. Who else is with me?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My weekly list (3)

Tonight I'm feeling kind of simple, so for my weekly list, I'll pick an easy one.

One of my favorite decades was the 1980's. I think it has something to do with me being a child during that decade and missing out on some of the music and trends. Most of my memories start around 1985-1986, so I feel like I missed out on some memorable aspects of the decade.

I should also note that one of my passions is movies. My resume of movies I've watched is respectable I think. The last five years or so have made it difficult for me to see many films due to being on the road, so I've fallen behind. But one genre of films I love are 1980's films. There are a handful of 1980's films I've viewed dozens of times and can recite line for line. I know that's a typical "guy" thing to do, but trust me, I would never recite them in front of you if we were watching the movie together. Is there anything more annoying?

The films in my list tonight make me smile whenever I think of them. I could (and often do!) watch them repeatedly. Usually a movie goes into my list of favorites when I identify with a character. It isn't hard to do. So I'll tell you a little bit about my favorite characters and why I love the following ten films of the 1980's.

I'll try not to give too much away about the film, but these movies were all made over 20 years ago so if you haven't seen them by now, chances are you're not gonna.

10. Major League

Obviously Major League isn't one of the best films of the 1980's, but it's a film that I laugh at every time I see it. Growing up playing baseball, I'm sure I saw this film before I was allowed to watch "R" rated films. Major League features some of the most foul locker-room language you'll ever hear. It was a movie that was well known around the baseball field. Rick Vaughn, Roger Dorn, Jake Taylor, Willie Mays Hays are all unforgettable characters. The owner, Rachel Phelps plays the unlikable owner and Rene Russo as Taylor's love interest looks good as always.

The scene towards the end featuring Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) walking out from the bullpen to the song "Wild Thing" is probably the most memorable scene to me. But in this this list, I think it's impossible to pick one favorite scene from the movies because I like the entire thing.

Something I always pondered about this movie was the fact that the game the Indians win at the end isn't for the World Series, and it isn't for the pennant. No, it's a one game playoff to get into the playoffs! I think that's an overlooked detail. They sure are celebrating a bit much wouldn't you say?

9. National Lampoon's Vacation

Vacation always makes me laugh. Clark Griswold taking his family on a cross-country journey to Wally World in California makes for great comedy. Eugene Levy, John Candy and Christie Brinkley all have bit parts. But Clark and his determination to give his family the trip of a lifetime, all the while failing every step of the way, is unforgettable.

"This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun and you're gonna have fun. We're all gonna have so much fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles!" - Clark

8. Dead Poet's Society

My list doesn't include many dramas, but Dead Poet's Society is too good to leave off. In high school I was exploring writing and going through the ups and downs of growing up. I felt I connected with this film. It inspired me to find my own voice, or attempt to. There are terribly heart breaking parts of the story, but Mr. Keating's (Robin Williams) teaching changes the lives of a handful of young prep school students.

I remember My 11th grade English teacher played this movie in class.

I have to thank (Internet Movie Data Base) for having the "memorable quotes" section:

"They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary."

I think anyone who enjoys this movie gets goosebumps when listening to the above dialogue.

7. Say Anything

I sometimes wish I was Lloyd Dobler, John Cusack's character in Say Anything. What a great premise for a movie: Semi-popular but quirky guy asks out valedictorian on a date the day of graduation and falls in love. Funny coincidence I dated our valedictorian in high school for a couple months, not knowing at the time that she would achieve that.

Lloyd is well liked, kind of a goofball and has no idea what he wants to do in life, except he knows that he might like to kick box. He broke all the rules of high school by asking out a girl that wasn't in the same clique as him. Anyone who can stand up and be who they want to be in high school despite what all their friends are telling them, is someone I can admire.

"The rain on my car is a baptism, the new me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now." - Lloyd

6. Rain Man

This one is kind of obvious. Not many movies fit into the category Rain Man does where when I think of it, the words "hilarious, funny, inspiring, sad, heartbreaking, dark" all come to mind. There are funny parts, sweet parts and sad parts. It's probably why it won best picture of 1988. It's rewarding in a film when you see someone change for the better and that's what we saw of Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise).

In the past few years I've watched this film a lot. My roommate on the Carnival Celebration and I would watch it once or twice a month and recite line after line.

"Oh that's gonna do me a lot of good because QANTAS doesn't fly to Los Angeles out of Cincinnati, you have to get to Melbourne! Melbourne, Australia in order to get the plane that flies to Los Angeles!" - Charlie

5. Big

Any young man would like a movie like Big. It lets our imaginations go wild. I can imagine being 13 again. What if I were to wake up in my 20's? This movie is so much fun to watch. The young Tom Hanks had so many physical character traits that I love to watch. Facial expressions, movements, etc.

I love when he gets his first paycheck and yells "$187 dollars! Ahuh Ahuh!" and John Lovitz's character says "Yeah they really stiff ya don't they?" The excitement of getting a check over $100 would have been huge for any kid.

It's another one that toys with the emotions. Going through the list, that seems like a common theme so far. Saying goodbye to the woman he loved was hard, but he had to go back to being a kid. A couple times during my Australia trip, I've felt like Josh (Hanks) during the scene where he walks around his hometown and realizes he's missed important things like his class graduation and playing baseball on the weekends with his friends. But that is life. In order to experience one thing, usually means missing out on something else.

4. Uncle Buck

John Candy makes his second appearance on my list. It's getting harder and harder to pick my favorites. Who wouldn't want to have an Uncle Buck? I bet some of you have one in your family.

I love this film, everything about it. John Hughes directed it, and as always delivers a touching story. Uncle Buck goes through big change throughout the film. The biggest change being the relationship with his niece. Scene after scene of laughs, and of course a few heartfelt ones also make this one of my all time favorites - ever.

John Hughes always managed to end his movies that featured John Candy with a still shot of Candy smiling. Seeing it always makes me smile, yet I feel immense sadness because Candy was such a likable person who died too young. It's almost as if he's saying goodbye to me at the end of the film.

"Here's a quarter. Go downtown and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face."

3. Back to the Future

I'm not sure I've met anyone who says "That Back to the Future movie was stupid." But I'm sure there are people out there who dislike it. I think I could watch this movie a couple times a year for the rest of my life and still be entertained. I've dreamed of time travel, who hasn't? (Right?) The possibilities are endless of what you could see and experience. So an adventure about time travel is the perfect movie for me. The music, and countless memorable scenes make this an all time classic.

Marty and the Doc are the main characters of course, but Biff Tannen helps make the movie. I like Back to the Future because it is 100% fun. No dramas or sadness, just pure entertainment.

2. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I had a hard time not picking this movie as my number one. It's a movie that makes me laugh and cry. Not a lot of films do that to me. I remember watching this for the first time as a kid. Again, it was rated R, but somehow I got my hands on it. But I sat there at the end with tears running down my face, kind of wondering what the hell just happened.

Again, John Hughes made me laugh til I hurt then punched me in the stomach with a dose of real life. Two strangers Del Griffith (John Candy) and Neil Page (Steve Martin) end up spending nearly a week together, trying to make it home for Thanksgiving. Everything that can go wrong, does and it ends up being a road trip from hell.

Who can forget Steve Martin swearing at the car rental teller at the airport, using the F word a good 20-25 times? "Give me four wheels and a seat!" is the only clean line from that rant I can type here.

If you haven't seen this film, I don't think I gave too much away, but go see it. You'll be glad you did.

At the end of this film Candy is left smiling at us with his big jolly smile.

1. The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club I've watched more times than any other movie. My earliest memories of this film are from television growing up. I think TBS or TNT played it over and over again every weekend. There was something so simple, yet so special about it.

The set was an empty high school and there were only seven characters (I included the principal and janitor). Five high school students spend a Saturday in detention and over the course of eight hours, get to know each other and in doing so, manage to change each other's perspective on one another.

This movie gets my #1 ranking because of the way it makes me feel when I watch it. The majority of the years I spent watching this movie were when I was growing up, going through the sometimes uncomfortable teen years, so in a way, the movie was there for me, like a good book.

I feel when I watch the Breakfast Club that I relate with many of the characters. Sometimes I feel like Brian the Brain, other times like John Bender, the rebel and more often than not Alison the basket case. Over the course of the movie they learn that maybe they're not so different after all. And as a viewer, the lesson I learn is to get to know someone before I judge them.

I highly doubt that any of the characters fall in love in real life, but it wasn't the worst way the movie could have ended.

My communication 101 professor in college played this movie in class for us to demonstrate different aspects of communication. We then had to write a paper about it (describing who we thought we were - just kidding)


That concludes my list for this week. I wanted to put Ferris Bueller Day Off on there, but ran out of room. It's hard to imagine a top 1980's movies list without Ferris, but the above films are the ones special to me. I don't deny it was a great film, but if it was on my list, then John Hughes films would take up most of the list, so I needed to spread it around, you understand. I'll give it a well deserved photo anyway.

I probably won't come back to the 1980's for quite awhile. While the movies had me dreaming of going to high school back then, I don't have as much to say about the music, even though I enjoy listening to 80's tunes.

Here are some 80's films that didn't quite make my top 10, but maybe they make yours. Feel free to comment with your top 10.

Funny Farm, Parenthood, Risky Business, Bachelor Party, Back to School, Bull Durham, Caddy Shack, Can't Buy Me Love, Coming to America, Ghostbusters, The Goonies, The Karate Kid, Lucas, The Money Pit, Pretty in Pink, Revenge of the Nerds, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future II, The Shining, Raging Bull, Alien, Airplane, The Blues Brothers, Scarface, Platoon, Hoosiers, Full Metal Jacket, Weird Science, Trading Places, Heathers, Three O'Clock High, The Terminator, Teen Wolf, Top Gun, The Great Outdoors, Stripes, Stand by Me, St. Elmo's Fire, Sixteen Candles, The Burbs, Fletch Lives, How I got into College, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, See no Evil Hear No Evil, Weekend at Bernie's, This is Spinal Tap, Ernest Goes to Camp, Good Morning Vietnam, Harry and the Henderson's, Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, Robocop, The Secret of my Success, Spaceballs, E.T., Porky's, Labyrinth, Rocky IV, Short Circuit, The Three Amigos!, Amadeus, Beverly Hills Cop, Gremlins, The Hitcher, Missing in Action, The Natural, Red Dawn, Police Academy, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Big Top Pee Wee, The Quest, Real Genius, Class, The Naken Gun, Mannequin, Die Hard, Ghost, Footloose, Look Who's Talking, Bad Boys, Strange Brew, Pet Semetary, Gleaming the Cube, Flight of the Navigator, Iron Eagle, Crocodile Dundee, Raising Arizona, Rambo, Predator, The Princess Bride, The Lost Boys, Lethal Weapon, Fatal Attraction, Evil Dead II, Dirty Dancing, Adventures in Babysitting, When Harry Met Sally, The Wizard, Who's Harry Crumb, Driving Miss Daisy, Kickboxer, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Escape from New York, On Golden Pond, Better off Dead, D.A.R.Y.L, One Crazy Summer, Wall Street, The Untouchables, Throw Momma from the Train, 48 Hours, Diner, Blade Runner, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ghandi, The Toy, Poltergeist, Big Trouble in Little China, An American Tail, The Color of Money...

See ya next week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My best Monday

Tuesday afternoon here in Oz and I'm sitting here watching the Red Sox get beat by the Rangers. The Sox held an early lead, but just gave up three home runs in the sixth inning. I've listened to or watched a handful of painful Sox losses this year.

As you can see, City Slickers gets the nod as my photo this week. The film has always been one of my favorites. I like how Mitch goes on a soul searching journey with two of his best friends. They have some great conversations along the way about life and memories. There's one scene where the friends talk about their best day and worst day ever. I didn't experience my best day ever yesterday, but it was a day that was better than most days.

Before I get into that day, I'll mention that the last week cruised by. I'm not sure why that was, but I felt good about it. My weekend was very quiet. I stayed in and watched whatever TV was on. Saturday night, I was pleased to discover the Saturday night movie was Happy Gilmore with Adam Sandler. That made me feel a bit warm inside as it reminded me of home.

A big craze going on here is Master Chef Australia, a reality TV show about cooking where contestants make new dishes each week and are judged by top chefs and food critics around Australia. It is easy to get hooked on the show even though most of you know I don't cook. It's much like the Biggest Loser craze here. Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. The final episode was Sunday night, so I watched that. It was entertaining. The final dish the two finalists were judged on was an amazing looking chocolate dessert. When I started my health kick, I had a hard time watching the show because it featured amazing looking meals at the time of night where I really wanted to eat but wouldn't allow myself. Now it's not difficult.

Now back to Monday. Monday was the best Monday I've had in recent memory. I guess I'll go back to the night before first. On Sunday night, I looked at a pile of books that my roommate Steve had lent me back in January. I recall telling you that I read Into the Wild, but after I lost my job at Coke, I never went back to the pile of books. Well on Sunday night, something inside said to put the laptop and the su do kus down and go read something. And that's when I picked up the book The Alchemist. I read the first 20 pages and decided that it would be my Monday project to read the rest.

So Monday morning, I heard someone rustling around when I woke up. Usually my roommates are at work by 8am. It was Steve. He told me had the day off. Then he asked if I wanted to go for a drive through the Royal National Park and down to Sea Cliff Bridge. A few months back I posted a couple pictures of me down near the Sea Cliff Bridge. My Mondays are almost always reserved for a good walk and a fun hockey game, so getting invited on a day road trip was the most exciting thing that could have happened to me.

Before we left, Steve went to the supermarket and asked if I wanted anything. I said I wanted 300 grams of chicken breast in the nicely cut slices, not the messy chunk of sandwich meat that is also available. Steve returned with 300 grams of uncooked chicken. I looked him dead in the eye and said, "But Steve, you know I can't cook..." It was beyond my belief that when it came time for him to decide whether Ryan wanted cooked or uncooked chicken, that he would decide on uncooked. I actually kind of pouted about it for a little bit, but while I was on my walk decided that maybe it was a sign or a blessing that he bought the uncooked. Then I dropped any negative feelings I had and went on walking. More on the chicken in a bit.

Back to the drive I was about to partake on. What an amazing drive it was! It took about 30 minutes from my hometown of Gymea to get to the National Park. Steve was a great tour guide, telling me that it is the largest National Park in all of Australia. The day was beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky, sun shining bright. It's not as if there's big gate that you enter when arriving, it's just a road with a sign that states you are now in the Royal National Park. The road was windy and surrounded on both sides by tall bush. It's hard to describe what I mean by bush, but very thick wildlife, so thick that it was nearly impossible to see through it.

On our way through the park, Steve decided to show me where he grew up, so we took a left turn towards Bundeena, a little town of about 3,000 people. It was a 20 minute detour, but again, just a fun drive with good views - and good music that Steve had playing. Bundeena had one mechanic, one liquor store, one general store. For you New Hampshire friends, it was like driving through Troy or Marlow, except that it was in Australia.

We stopped at Steve's mom's house. She offered me a Schweppes's ginger ale in a glass bottle and a couple of cookies. She was very gracious. It was nice to meet Steve's mom and also his cat. We didn't stay long because we still wanted to see Sea Cliff Bridge. Before we headed back to the main road, Steve showed me the ocean side properties and let me get out and take a picture. Interesting tidbit: Steve took a ferry to high school everyday growing up. How cool is that?

After I got my picture of the beach in Bundeena, we headed back to the park towards Sea Cliff Bridge. This drive was different than the part of the park we'd already been through. It really did look a lot like driving through the backwoods of New Hampshire. Steve said the only difference was the types of trees I was looking at. He was right. There were parts of this windy road that were completely covered by trees, like going through a tunnel. And all the while, the sun shine was poking through the trees. It was peaceful, I couldn't stop appreciating the view.

Sea Cliff Bridge was a great experience again. This time I had the chance to get out of the car and walk it. Steve had never been there before, so he was happy to be there for the first time. There are only four or five bridges in the world like this, where the bridge is constructed out over the water to protect motorists from falling rocks and mudslides. Before this bridge was constructed, often motorists had to deal with falling objects. What amazes me is that this bridge wasn't started until 2003 and completed in 2005!

One cool aspect of the bridge. On the metal railings, people have placed hundreds of Master Locks, all engraved with something like "Joe and Ashley 9-3-07." I guess it's a popular thing for couples to do, profess their love for one another on an engraved padlock out on a bridge. I should get one made that says "Just Ryan baby! 7-21-09...." Or as they would write here: 21-7-09.

We also saw a deer stuck in the middle of the bridge. Poor fella. The bridge is 600 meters long and this deer had no idea where to go. I didn't see if it safely returned to the side it came from, but it had a long way to go.

We then headed back home, I had packed a great lunch and enjoyed that on the return trip. Then I think I fell asleep as I always do.

Last night was my third to last "Hockey Monday" as I call it. There were two goalies and two full teams to play against each other for the first time in awhile. We lost something like 16-9. I had a couple early goals, but didn't play exceptionally well. It didn't bother me too much as there isn't a lot riding on these games. I took one fall that has my hip a little sore today, but no real injuries.

After the game, I had to wait around and watch the second game. Usually I play second and get to go right home. While I was watching, the score keeper had a bunch of donuts. I haven't had a donut in probably five months at least so when she offered me one, there was no way I was saying no. It was chocolate frosted with chocolate favorite. It tasted phenomenal. Then when I went to resume watching the rest of the game, one of the players wives gave me a piece of Cadbury chocolate. I found it interesting that a few minutes before I received these two gifts, I almost bought some junk food from the concession stand. I really didn't want to buy anything so I decided not too, kind of disappointed that I wasn't going to have anything "fun."

With that said, I want to talk more about the book I mentioned, The Alchemist. Before the hockey game I had finished most of the book. Without giving too much away, a shepperd from Spain is trying to find his Personal Legend, or dream. It involves him going on a long journey by himself, away from home. Along the way he looks for signs or omens in order to achieve this dream, because he doesn't know himself how to find it. I couldn't help but feel like I related to the shepperd in some way. Here I am thousands of miles from home, looking for something I'm not quite sure of. So when I was given that piece of chocolate and that donut last night, my mind was stirring about what the sign or omen might be!

I was talking to a friend, Ellie, who I went to college with. I agree when she said that it was a religious story without being too religious. I'm not a very spiritual person, yet this book was something I could still grasp and enjoy.

So last night after the game, I went right home and finished the story about the shepperd and the Alchemist. It says in the notes that over 20 million copies have been sold and that famous world leaders have been seen reading it. I thought that was pretty special. I'm not sure where I remember hearing it but somewhere it says "You don't choose the books you read, the books choose you." In this case, I kind of feel that.

Finally I'll return you to my 300 grams of uncooked chicken breast. With the help of Ellie and my Up with People friend Katie on instant messenger, I was able to cook my first ever chicken. It was comical. It involved me dropping it on the floor and making a mess of the kitchen. I thought to myself "This is why I get the cooked sandwich meat." I maybe overcooked it a little, but I have a few sandwiches worth of chicken to eat in the next couple of days. So I really should thank Steve for buying me that chicken (he didn't charge me because it was only $3.) I'm a few baby steps closer to finding a woman, er, learning to cook for myself.

Thanks for reading up on one of my better days. There are only five more days until the 11k road race and just eight short days until my trip to Adelaide and Melbourne. Time is flying. Check back in again Thursday or Friday for my weekly list. Have a great week. Talk to you soon.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite dialogues from City Slickers:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger]
Curly: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My weekly list (2)

This week I struggled to think of a top ten list. As I mentioned last time, there were many ideas, but when I started to write them down, I wasn't feeling it. My grandma wrote me and said she would like to hear about ten memories. I'm saving some Carnival and Up with People memories for another day, but gram, I hope you like this post anyway.

In my life, I've spent countless hours in the car. Growing up, I was always impressed at how many miles my dad drove in his car, so I guess it's only fitting that I ended up being a road warrior myself. Today I present to you my 10 most memorable road trips.

10. Keene, New Hampshire to Waukesha, Wisconsin: 2002, 2003, 2003

In 2002, I had the luxury of driving my Grandma Gemmell's Honda Accord out to Wisconsin for my second year at Carroll College. I honestly don't remember anything about the original solo trip, except that it was long. When gram passed away in 2003 and I returned for her funeral with my girlfriend, I had to make the 18 hour return trip for the second time. This trip was extremely long. It didn't help that I received a speeding ticket not 45 minutes after leaving Keene. God bless ya Kelly for making that trip with me. I should have slowed down like you told me to!

During one of these return trips to Wisconsin, I went through Canada because I met with some Up with People friends in Montreal, but I can't remember which one exactly. It may have been for Christmas break because I remember seeing many trucks that had gone off the road between Montreal and Michigan where I re-entered the USA.

The most memorable Keene to Waukesha trip was in August, 2003. I no longer had the Honda Accord and was now driving the 1994 Chevy S-10, which I had recently acquired from Uncle Daryl. My dad had helped me pack the back full of my stuff for my senior year of college. The following trip would be a nightmare. It took me roughly 15 hours to get to Syracuse, NY, a trip that should only take 6! I broke down in Rome, NY and then again in Geneva, NY. I always remember that because of the European names of the towns. A couple side stories to the breaking down are that while the truck was getting fixed, I walked over to a mall and shopped around, ended up meeting a woman that I still keep in touch with to this day. Also I think it was the second time I broke down, I had to go with the tow truck driver to his house, have dinner with him, and wait for his brother to drop off the part he needed to fix the truck. It was something to do with the radiator hose, making the truck constantly overheat. It seemed that if I had the heat on full blast, the truck wouldn't over heat so much, so I was sweating buckets for most of that trip. Going through Chicago in bumper to bumper traffic didn't help things and I think I nearly had a heart attack. I did end up making it to Wisconsin, but it took a couple days.

9. Waukesha, Wisconsin to Keene, NH: 2002, 2003, 2004

The return trip is always easier. Why is that? We may never know. In 2002, I hitched a ride with Shaun Dow, a friend of mine from Maine who is also an Up with People alum. We originally met in Denver in 2000 and ended up going to the same college. That was a memorable trip home. We were caught in a massive snow storm in Indiana I believe. This was May, so I could be wrong...No now that I think of it, Shaun may have brought me home twice, so once may have been for Christmas and one at the end of the school year. He was one of the first people to listen to the band Maroon 5 and he played me their CD most of the way home.

In 2003 and 2004, I made the trip back with the Accord and the S-10. It wasn't the smartest decision, but I think I always drove home 18 hours straight without rest. I was on a mission.

8. Keene NH to Berlin NH: Most winters of the 1980's and 1990's

When I played hockey as a youngster, every year our team made the three hour trek up to Berlin. As a kid, a three hour drive is like driving to the other end of the country. Those trips were some of my first memories of the road trip. Getting to Concord wasn't so bad. It was the two hours after that that were grueling. The most exciting part of the trip was driving past The Old Man of the Mountain. For those of you not from New Hampshire, this was a rock formation high upon a mountain ledge that looked like the silhouette of a man's face. (Sadly, this formation corroded away and fell apart in the early 2000's.) Of course, we always knew we made it to Berlin when that smell of the Berlin Paper Mill hit our nostrils. I don't think I've ever smelled anything quite like it.

7. Keene NH to Burlington/St. Albans Vermont: Hockey season, 1980's-1990's

This trip was much like the Berlin trip, only longer! Each year our hockey team would travel to Vermont for the St. Albans Invitational Hockey Tournament. Again, as kids, we were venturing far, far away from home. I always liked the Vermont trips. In my memory, the sun was always shining. And unlike the Berlin trips, we had a pretty good record up there. I'm not positive if we won it, but there were some good teams we played against from Maine, Canada and other places I can't remember. The funniest memory from up there would be the time they accidentally gave me the MVP trophy when it was supposed to go to my brother. Hilarious.

6. Keene, NH to Washington D.C.: Spring 1987 or 1988

This very well may have been my first road trip. My grandma and grandpa Gemmell drove my brother and me down to D.C. for an entire week of sightseeing during our spring break. I was in the second grade at the time. It was truly an amazing journey, a nine hour drive! I drove over the George Washington Bridge for the first time, saw all the monuments of Washington, and on the way home saw the Statue of Liberty, and for the only time with my own two eyes, the World Trade Center. One random memory of that trip is that I had a mix tape a friend had given me that had the entire Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band album on it. So that album was kind of the soundtrack to that trip.

5. Waukesha, WI to Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Fall Break, 2003

For Fall Break in 2003, my roommate Tim and I, along with our girlfriends, drove down for a vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. My uncle Toby was running a resort that included modern villas at the time. We had such a fun time horseback riding, riding go carts, fishing, going to shows at night. I don't remember driving much of the way. In fact, that's one thing I should admit to. When I'm not the only one on a road trip, for some reason, everybody is okay with me not driving much. I'm baffled.

4. Portland, Oregon to Las Vegas, Nevada: October, 2007

While working for Up with People in 2007, I had just finished a set up in Oregon and was able to travel with the cast to Portland and hang with them for a week. It was one of the most relaxing weeks of my life. I had nothing to do and stayed in maybe the nicest resort I'd ever been to. While my bosses were figuring out where I was headed next, it was already time for the cast to go to Vegas. This road trip was a ton of fun. I can't remember everyone who was on it, but it was five or six staff members. We had two minivans and the UWP truck.

There were a couple memorable moments on this one. The first was when we stopped half way in Idaho for the night, another state I'd never been to. Our bosses had set us up with a pretty sketchy hotel for the night. It wasn't the Super 8, It wasn't the motel 6, no, it was called Super 7! It made the Valley Green look like the Bellagio. (Valley Green is an old run down motel in Keene, NH) After thinking about it for a few minutes, we opted to go find another motel. The one we found wasn't much better but it was good enough. Scott from Minnesota and myself had the pleasure of listening to the receptionist tell us how he was a couple hours away from upping and quitting. In the morning, sure enough, the new receptionist said the guy had left without preparing the continental breakfast.

Driving through Idaho and Nevada was one of the most beautiful trips I've ever been on. I'm guessing most New Englanders never get to see this kind of open road. It's long, boring and you really can't believe how far it is. I often wondered what people do if they run out of gas here. I took these photos on that trip.

For one long leg of the trip, I drove with Kristina, one of the techies from Arizona, in the truck. The truck was slow and uncomfortable so we had lots of time to talk and get to know one another. That was a great time. Again, I only drove 10 minutes of this trip! It was a 16 hour marathon. I hopped in the drivers seat after Idaho and about 10 minutes in, Kristina says "I'm wide awake you know..." so that was that.

3. Plano, Texas to Denver, Colorado: July, 2008

When Up With People's Cast A, 2008 left for Mexico in July, all the Field Managers (my job) were left in Texas, near Houston, to drive the truck and vans back to Denver. This was another memorable journey. Before we left Texas, an Up with People alum who works at NASA gave us a private tour of the Houston campus. Talk about a special day. He answered all our questions and took us to a couple locations that the normal tours don't take you to. His job was to design space suits.

The rest of the trip had us drive west through Texas, through New Mexico and up to Colorado. We spent the night in New Mexico. I checked off another state on my list of states to sleep in. New Mexico was gorgeous, much like the way I found Idaho and Nevada to be. It was just barren, desolate, full of nothing. On this trip, we had four vehicles and only four drivers, so guess what? I drove the whole way! Nearing the end of the trip, we stopped in Pueblo, Colorado, which is a town I once visited in 1993 when my brother's baseball team was in the Bambino World Series there. So that was exciting to make the return trip. I honestly didn't really recognize it.

2. Waukesha WI to Minneapolis, Minnesota: Thanksgiving weekend 2001,2002,2003

Every thanksgiving while attending Carroll College, I drove the eight hours to Minneapolis to spend the weekend with my Uncle Mark and Aunt Jodi. I always loved going there. It was very special to me to have family to go visit around that time of year.

In 2001, I got a ride from a random college resident after finding her name on the "ride board" that most colleges have. I don't remember much about her except that she was friendly and gave me a free ride to Minnesota.

In 2002, I drove with a classmate of mine named Sarah. Sarah was a blast as a road trip companion. She had a pretty sweet Cadillac Eldorado with heated seats. She drove fast too! On the way into MN, she stopped at her parents house in Stillwater, which was a mansion, and I spent part of the day there until it was time to be dropped off at my uncle's place. On the way back to Wisconsin, I remember listening to a lot of Billy Joel and hearing the song Captain Jack for the first time.

Then in 2003, I drove that S-10 out there again. It made it barely, but on the way home, a huge metal pipe just fell off of it from underneath. Turns out it is the pipe that goes from the muffler to the front of the car. So the whole ride home it sounded like I was in a jumbo jet. Noise I tell ya was everywhere.

I also made this trip either in 03 or 04 when my mom was out visiting her brother. I left Waukesha with a full tank of gas, no money, no credit cards, no ATM cards, and no cell phone. It was Minneapolis or Bust. Well I busted nine miles from St. Paul. This was before I owned a cell phone. (2003 can you imagine that!?) So I had to walk down the highway a bit, climb under a fence, walk down a long dirt road, knock on the door of a farm house and get my mom and aunt to come get me. It was truly a memorable trip. I hear men in my family have a history of running out of gas.

1. Waukesha, WI to Daytona Beach, Florida: Spring, 2004

The final road trip I'll tell you about was spring break 2004. My best college friend Bear, myself, Joe Splinter and Josh Betz drove from Wisconsin to Florida for our senior spring break trip. Bear's mother lives nearby in New Smyrna Beach, FL, so we stayed there for the week. I've said this about every road trip so far, but what an amazing time! We stopped in Baltimore, MD to see Bear's brother. We spent the night there and also stumbled upon Carroll Community College. And since we attended Carroll College, we had to stop by and check things out. I earned the nickname "Narcolepsy boy" on this trip. Another thing I failed to mention is I can sleep in a car like a baby. So I slept A LOT on this trip. The boys did let me drive one stretch of road somewhere in the south, not sure where, so that was nice of em'!

Below from left to right is me, Bear and Joe. Below that, I'm waking up from one of my many road trip naps.

On the way back, we stopped in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and had some dinner with my Uncle Toby and cousin Paige. Even though we couldn't visit for long, it was so cool to see them again. One thing about road trips is it is great to have someone to visit along the way.

I could go on all day about other trips but think that's enough. Ones that didn't make the top 10 were Iowa to Oklahoma, Denver to Nebraska and back and many more. The road isn't for everybody, but I sure am glad that it's there for me. I look forward to exploring more of the USA some day. If anyone is ever up for a road trip, let me know.

For next week, I do have some top 10 lists in mind that have more to do with pop culture, but tonight, I was searching for some fun memories for me and for gram! Have a great weekend everybody. See ya soon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Get Busy Living...

Last night I decided that it's time to go visit part of this beautiful country I live in, so here are some dates to look forward to:

July 29-August 1: Adelaide, Australia

August 1-5: Melbourne Australia

August 5-8: Sydney, Australia

August 8-16: Queenstown, New Zealand

In Adelaide I will be meeting up with two former co-workers I met on the Carnival Celebration. In Melbourne I plan to visit a social host I worked with on the Carnival Fascination. It will be a fun touristy couple of weeks. This is very exciting news. Expect numerous pictures and stories to be posted soon.

What's also amazing is that in seven months, this is my first Shawshank Redemption reference. Remarkable!

...or get busy dying.

Something-d-o-o economics, Anyone?

Tonight I have the enthusiasm of Ben Stein's character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But it's my duty to let you know how this Aussie trip is going, so here you go. Not my best stuff, but darn it, it's stuff.

Another weekend gone here in Australia. The days are slowly getting longer and the weather lingering in the 50's. It rains pretty often, but overall the sun is out most of the time. No complaints here.

The weekend wasn't too eventful. I stayed in and watched movies both nights so I can save up for the upcoming New Zealand trip. It was relaxing, I had a couple cups of coffee, a few beers and spent most of the weekend alone. I didn't run much, but went for a couple lengthy walks of around five miles or more. Also, I listened to a couple Red Sox games which always makes me happy.

Yesterday I worked for Peter again. It was great to earn a little money and have some company. It wasn't dangerous work this time. I mowed his lawn, helped him make a concrete step which required me to work with concrete for the first time ever, and also helped him move furniture into his ex wife's new place. As I stated a few weeks ago, he's a nice guy, just sad. So sad in fact that I realized my mood towards the end of the day was effected by it. He apologized to me at one point for being kind of a downer in which I told him not to worry about it. Of late, I interact with only a few people a week, so any conversation I get, I am very open to. We might not work together again as he is busy with work and I might be taking another unscheduled trip before New Zealand. More details to come on that in a couple days.

Then last night I had another hockey game. This round really has the feel of pond hockey out at Robin Hood Park in Keene, New Hampshire. Again, we had only one goalie, so the atmosphere with one goalie is much more laid back. There are only five weeks left in the competition, but I may only make three of them. It's kind of nice not having the intense competition. It's made the "Hockey Mondays" very enjoyable.

The MLB All Star game is tomorrow, but I don't think it will be aired live here. I saw it on the TV guide for Thursday morning, so at least I'll be able to watch it. Tomorrow morning, I'll try and find it on the radio. With the internet, it will be near impossible not to check the score. Last year's All Star game was amazing. Extra innings. I watched it from my host families house in Breckenridge, CO.

I bought a book of Su Do Ku's when I was at the airport back in December. I've finally started to tackle the big book and have 372 of 516 puzzles completed. I'm not sure I can finish them as the extremely difficult ones are in the back. I love number puzzles like Su Do Ku.

11 days until the Sutherland to Surf 11K road race. I'm hoping to get a picture of me running. Would love to show that to you guys.

Season 7 of 24 wrapped up on Sunday night here. That took six months of my life to watch. I caught 22 of the episodes. Overall I was disappointed with the season compared to previous ones. It just didn't ever have me on the edge of my seat like it did in the old days. I now don't have anymore shows here to follow. I do watch The Biggest Loser here whenever it is on. It is the American one, so if you watch that show, you've already seen it.

I'm feeling a bit blah this week. It's the isolation or maybe even homesickness. It's a feeling I'm pretty unfamiliar with and do not like. I have little countdowns going on in my mind that help me get through the long days. It's interesting that I love the daytime, especially mornings where I work out and have an amazing breakfast. It's the night time that is not always fun. For example, it's almost 8pm here, and I won't go to bed for a few hours. What to do with all that time? I have a few things to research and check out online (A job maybe????), so I'll be ok. 25 days until New Zealand!

Well I must say that this has been one of my more boring updates, but I do appreciate you checking out what I have to say. I'm trying to think of my next top ten list for this Friday. Some ideas I've had are: Ten odd jobs I've had, Ten 80's movies I can watch over and over again, Ten random memories I've never told anyone about, Ten celebrities I've met. Feel free to let me know what top ten list you want to read about and I can make it happen.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

My weekly list

Good morning, afternoon, evening to you all around the world. Today I was brainstorming ideas for blog posts and came up with the idea of a weekly top ten list. It isn't the most original idea out there, but as some of you know, I am a list lover! The fun part will be that each list is something random from week to week.

For my first weekly list, it is a topic I've thought about but have never put into words It is the top ten U.S. cities I've visited that I would move to. You won't see any California cities because I've never been there. So here we go!

10. Boston, Massachusetts

I've never been excited about the thought of moving to Boston. Growing up, my dreams consisted of seeing the big cities of the world outside of New England. Now that I think of it, maybe I visited Boston so many times as a kid with my grandparents and parents that I didn't appreciate how amazing it really is. As I grow a bit older (and maybe wiser), Boston seems to be a great place to reside. It's been my opinion that the New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont mentality differs slightly than that of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. I think the latter three are more fast paced, have slightly more attitude than the three states to the north. That's why I don't know if I'd fit in in Boston. I think I'm more laid back, less inclined to tell a New York Yankees fan off. But the fact that I know many people living there, most of my favorite sports teams are in Boston, and my family lives just two hours away are all reasons I'd choose to live in Boston.

9. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is an amazing city that I've only been to a couple times. I haven't had the opportunity to explore enough of it yet. But it is one of the busiest, most exciting cities in America. Luckily, this is another city where I know a dozen or so people. I think that when moving to a new place, it really helps to know people there. It makes the transition to an unfamiliar place easier.

Chicago does have it's fair share of loud mouths. Every Chicago person I know loves to let me know how amazing the Windy City is. I'm sure it's amazing, but honestly, Wrigley Field is only OK. Chicago has many pro sporting events and Broadway shows to frequent. And I've read that the restaurants are some of the best in the entire nation.

8. Washington D.C.

Believe it or not, I've been to Washington D.C. eight or nine times in my life. I have a few relatives who live not too far away in Virginia so I visited them a couple times growing up. I'm not sure if anyone lives right in D.C., but I would want to live somewhere close to the capitol. My eighth grade class spent a week there and I went to my Uncle Mark and Aunt Jodi's wedding there. In fact, I was in D.C. during the reading of the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1994, an event that most people remember where they were when it happened. D.C. to me was very clean, the transportation I remember was remarkable. The trains were near silent compared to the noisy ones I'd been on in Boston. Like the previous two cities, the nation's capital is busy and fast paced. A lot goes on there. Too bad most of the sports are dismal. I did get to see an NBA Washington Wizards game in 2000, but am not sure if I could get excited about the Washington Nationals.

7. San Antonio, Texas

I love Texas. I think a lot of people dislike this state because of the "Don't mess with Texas" attitude, but honestly, I find the people there very gracious and welcoming. Boston and Chicago people have more edge. But the Texans do have the guns, so it's good to stay on their good side. I've spent a few months of my life in Texas in Dallas, Ft. Worth, and suburbs near Houston and Austin. But I liked San Antonio the best. I've seen the Alamo twice and fell in love with it. It is kind of a boring building by itself, but the history behind it I enjoy. The Riverwalk and night life in San Antonio is impressive. And in 2008, when spending all this time in Texas with Up with People, I had my fair share of Tex-Mex food and cannot wait to try some when I return to the states. I'm not sure how being a Yankee-boy would help me out living in San Antonio, but I would definitely consider it.

6. Raleigh, North Carolina

North Carolina is another southern state I would move to. When I was in Up with People in 2000, my cast visited Raleigh for a few days. This city was very classy to me. I felt safe walking around the city. The sun was shining too. That's one thing about the city I want to live in; I want the weather to be sunny. If I lived in Raleigh, I'd have season tickets to the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, formerly the Whalers of Hartford. Another sporting bonus is that it is less than 30 miles to Chapel Hill. I've never been to a Duke or UNC sporting event, but would jump at the opportunity.

5. Key West, Florida

It's 5 o'clock somewhere...I used to visit Key West for five hours once every two weeks for about six months back in 2004 and 2007 while working for Carnival Cruise Lines. What a city. What I did most of the time there was eat and drink. I've tried to imagine what it would be like to live there. I don't think it would get old, honestly. It is a laid back lifestyle, but it is safe, clean and has gorgeous weather. The hurricanes that roll through there are a negative point, but I would leave the area if one was headed my way. Plus if I lived here, then you could come visit me.

4.Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I graduated from Carroll College in Waukesha, only a 20 minute drive from Mil-ee-wau-kay (Wayne's World joke). Milwaukee isn't as clean or maybe even as safe as Boston or Raleigh, but if you think about it, all the cities I've mentioned have some crime. As a resident though, I would hope to not work or live in a high crime area. Milwaukee is another small market city that I enjoy. You'll notice I put Chicago, Boston and D.C. towards the bottom of the list. My ideal city would be one that I don't get lost in. Milwaukee only has a couple buildings over ten stories tall. It feels like Manchester, New Hampshire in a way. But it has major league teams like the Bucks and Brewers. Brewers games are a ton of fun, not too expensive and easy to get to. The Wisconsin weather is a bit questionable, but if you've never met someone from Wisco, you are missing out. They are some of the friendliest people I've ever met. They have great tastes in food and love to drink beer!

3. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Another small market city that I'd choose to live in. Each Thanksgiving while attending college, I would drive eight hours from Waukesha to my Uncle Mark and Jodi's house in Minneapolis and have Thanksgiving dinner with them. There is so much to do here. There is live music every night, about a thousand coffee shops, and major league sports. The winters are hell, I give you that. It gets cold, but I am a New Englander, I can take anything. St. Paul, another great city, is right up the road from Minneapolis. Also, the University of Minnesota is there. I like any city with a major university in it. Much like San Antonio and Milwaukee, the people of Minnesota I truly enjoy.

2. New York City

"Freak Show Central" as Al Pacino's character referred to it in the movie Scent of a Woman. I don't know who said it, but someone once remarked that everybody should experience a year in New York City. It is an expensive city that I'm not ready to live in yet, but before I settle, I would consider a move here. Sports, Broadway Shows, comedy clubs, restaurants, you name it, it is here. It is only a half day drive to my home town in New Hampshire, so I like its location. I've never been worried about my safety in the city because there are people everywhere. And cleanliness, nobody moves to NYC for the cleanliness.

1. Denver, Colorado

I'm a little surprised myself that Denver made the top of my list. But going through all my factors for characteristics I like in a city, it fits. Remember, I like cleanliness, safety, a university, sports teams, arts, friends or family and sun shine. Denver offers all of that. Some of my close friends from Up with People reside there. Colorado Rockies baseball games are ridiculously cheap, fun, and right down town. They also have pro football, basketball and hockey. The downtown area is clean, and inexpensive to get around. There are many trails and parks to run or walk in. I just love traveling there and could definitely see myself living in Denver one day. I've always wanted to ski a couple times a year and as you know, Colorado has skiing!

That concludes my first weekly list. Because it is Friday where I am, I will try to post my weekly list on Fridays. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to email me any feedback or ideas for other lists. Until next time, see ya.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


The above photo is from Stanley Kubrick's, The Shining. In the particular scene, Jack Nicholson is imagining he is in a very busy ballroom while he is the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Of course in actuality he is going crazy and imagining the whole scenario.

I'm not saying I relate to Nicholson's character here, but I am a bit on the bored and lonesome side of the fence. My weekend work I mentioned last week was put on hold for another two weekends, so that has left me with an astounding amount of time to ponder life.

In just 17 days I am running in a 6.8 mile race, the first long distance race I've ever signed up for. My training is keeping me busy. So I run or walk at least an hour each day. I haven't run 6.8 miles before and don't think I will before the day of the big race which makes me nervous. I don't know if I'll run out of steam half way through or easily jog the course in an hour. It's exciting to know it is in two and a half short weeks.

Keeping my mind active is the goal. With that much time, I could easily sleep through each day and become a slob. I refuse to do that. I am equipped with books, su do ku puzzles, my daily dose of news and sports headlines and of course exercise. I have little countdowns going on in my head like 17 days until the road race, 31 days until I leave for New Zealand, 5 hockey games remaining on the schedule.

As I've mentioned before, when nothing is happening, it is hard to find things to talk about. But things are happening I suppose. My roommates are both going to be going on the New Zealand ski trip with me now. That's good news as I do get along with both of them even though Jeff did break the space heater this week and I'm the one who uses it most! It is in the 50's of late and I could really use another space heater.

A good childhood friend of mine's dad died last week. It was sad news to hear and even harder to know I couldn't come home to be there for her and the family. John Shaw was always smiling. When I was a kid, I'd often eat dinner over on West Surry Road. I always sat at the table in the corner of the kitchen, next to Amy, across from John. He will be missed.

I hung out with my friend Curt York last Friday night for the first time in a few weeks. He is doing well. He has really learned a lot about home brewing and has a great system set up on his back porch. Whenever I go over there he serves me up some of his homemade beer and it is pretty darn good.

The Wimbledon Tennis was great this year. The matches came on here around 10:30-11pm. The women's final with Venus and Serena Williams was kind of a let down, but at least I was in bed early. With the men's final, I was hoping for a swift three-setter, but as you know, was forced to stay up until 3:30am to see Federer beat American Andy Roddick for his 15th major title. With no work the next day, I didn't mind. And I'll be happy someday to say I watched that match.

I'm a bit ready to stop hearing about Michael Jackson. It's been 12 days since his death. The Australian media, as well as the rest of the world I'm sure is still fascinated by it all. After thinking about it for a week, I'm not so sure I agree with my statement last week about "you have to respect the guy." You don't really have to and I'm not sure I do. The child molestation charges and fairly sound evidence that he had a problem with young boys is very hard to look past. It is amazing how the media can change people's perspectives. It is hard with all the in-your-face headlines we see everyday to form your own thoughts. For example one day here they had the child molestation special on MJ and the next day, they play a tribute concert. Like I said, let's move on. That probably won't be the case though.

What else is going on in sports. They play Major League Baseball games here four times a week live. It has been luxurious to watch live baseball while I eat breakfast. Today I watched the Brewers host the Cardinals. It brought back a lot of memories as I went to many Miller Park games in Milwaukee when I was in college. It is truly a fun experience out there in Wisconsin. They say Wisconsin people can tailgate better than anyone in the country. I'd have to agree. I would love to have a bratwurst and a beer just thinking about it.

The NASCAR race in Daytona over the weekend was amazing. For you it was a Saturday night race, but for me it was a Sunday race. Tony Steward led most of the way until the final lap when Kyle Busch passed him. About 500 yards from the finish line, Stewart's car clipped Busch's which sent Busch into the wall, giving Stewart the victory. It was exciting racing, the type of racing that makes a guy like me watch. You have to give NASCAR credit, they have marketed that sport so well. They play the Nationwide Series races here a lot, but not the Sprint Cup, so that was an added bonus to get to see the best drivers race.

I'm waiting for my tax return check to come in next week. So until then, I'm really taking it easy on going out or doing anything really. The good news is I've paid my rent for the next five weeks already. Grocery shopping is always interesting when you're on a tight budget. I might have to switch to the store brands this week until that check comes in. That picture of me is from Halloween 2005. I was an incarcerated Elvis (It's all I had to work with!) and those guys were dressed up as Ed McMahon and his Publisher's Clearing House crew. Pretty great idea for a costume.
Alright, thanks for listening to me rant about my week. It took up some time and that's what I was aiming for. I've emailed a few of you from home lately. I just want to say thanks for your responses. Hearing news from home always makes me feel good. As I said last week, don't worry about me, I'll find something to do!