Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In Katrina's Wake

In 1985 I painted one of my favorite oil paintings, "In Gloria's Wake". It was a seascape created as a composite of a couple of photos of the storm ravaged beach homes and a lighthouse from the Cape Hatteras area that summer when Hurricane Gloria tore up the east coast. Gloria affected New England as well so after seeing the photos in Time or some magazine like that I decided to paint a beach scene depicting a hurricane wasted landscape. It was a cool painting, very dramatic. I gave it to my friend Linda and she loved it. She proudly hung it in her front hall of her home and, I would expect, to this day it is still there.

Hurricane Gloria was the first time I experienced a hurricane first-hand. I was working at Wrentham State and being direct care staff at this institution, I had to drive into work despite the fact a state of emergency had been declared and driving was prohibited. Sure enough, with my luck with police, I was stopped but after I explained my job, I was alowed to proceed.

The hurricane was still a couple hours away but the feeder band gusts had caused some tree damage and I had to drive carefully since many branches were littering the roadways.

After I arrived at work, as the hurricane was passing over this area of southeastern Massachussetts, the windows of the residence building I worked in rattled and the scene outside of rain and wind was intimidating. We workers had to be subtle in our reaction to the storm so as not to distress the clients. But in fact the clients, being as they were mostly profound to severely MR were pretty much unaware of the hazards of such a storm.

Hurricane Bob was a more intense storm a few years later but it didn't pass over northern RI, it struck Newport hard but I think it veered northeast after that so I don't remember it so well.

Hurricanes have always scared me. I used to have nightmares as a kid of tornados and hurricanes alot.

Last year, I was fortunate to have not had to experience the hurricanes that hit here in Central Florida. I had left Florida for New Orleans in August and a few weeks later the Orlando area got hit by the first of three storms that summer/fall.

While in New Orleans, I did decide to stay in my little cottage to ride out Ivan.

All the same precursers and preparations for that storm were as with Katrina (except the Mandatory evac, it was Voluntary).

Ivan missed N.O. and it was no worse than a severe thunderstorm for much of the area. Except for the lakeside.

I lived near the intersection of Robert E. Lee Blvd. and Elysian Fields Blvd. The day after Ivan passed near, I walked to the nearby Lakeside Park bordering Lake Pontchartrain. The waters of the lake had flooded the park and Lakeside Drive. They eventually receded over the next few days and New Orleans soon got back to normal, thankful it had been spared again.

Well, not this time.

I'm distressed about what is going on right now in New Orleans. It will take a long time to recover.

My mind keeps bringing up memories of the friends, neighbors and co-workers I knew and what their fate might be right now...

Jay and his family...even Regan though she and I never really got along well. I'm sure their house is under water...I wonder if the ferret survived?

Alicison and Albert? Their homes were surely affected by the floods. Alicison evacuated for Ivan without a moments hesitation last year so I'm sure she got out...but what will she come back to? She'll probably move back closer to her family in Alabama. She's been through so much these past couple of years, she didn't need this. Albert's been through hell too. He won't leave N.O. though, it's his hometown. Everyone he knows and loves is in New Orleans. His family's been there for generations.

Parker, Murray co-workers Dixie, Robert, Cathy, Jennifer, and Chris?

John and Laurel from USG?

The streetcar operator with the cheap lime-green framed sunglasses?

Sandra on Dorgenois?

And I think of my favorite places...what has become of them.

I already saw my favorite mall in Metarie was heavily damaged.

What about the great chinese restaurant with the fabulous Mandarin Chicken a block away from there?

Jackson Square?

City Park and Audubon Park?

Oz and the Bourbon Pub?

Six Flags New Orleans and the great MegaZeph "wooden" rollercoaster?

My heart truely goes out to all these people and the great places of New Orleans and vicinity as they hopefully are safe, and remain Katrina's wake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Adventure Lives On!

Finally, after more than 2 years, I'm back!

Back at Universal Orlando Theme Parks with a 2-Park Power Pass.

Unlimited visits for a full year to either park, barring some blackout dates.

My first pass was purchased in spring of 1999. Within 6 months, my friends and I visited the parks well over a dozen times. That year and the next was the "Era of the Theme Park" for Ric, Jay, occassionally Steve and Roger, and me.

We all worked together at DM and the office was, convieniently, only about half a mile away from Universal. It was mostly Jay and I who ventured together to Disney and Sea World as well. During those years I had annual or seasonal passes to all three park clusters (Universal, Disney and the Anhueser-Busch parks Sea World and, over in not-to-far (with a car) Tampa, Busch Gardens).

By fall of 2000, Jay and I were calling ourselves by our self-created character names (Capt'n Blowtox and Monkey Boy) so as to more "thematically" fit into the atmosphere of the parks. I think it just indicates how drunk we were most of the time.

Oh, those Glory Years were fun. But they didn't last forever.

Jay was fired from DM in the spring of 2000 and his subsequent financial collapse put a strain on "keeping up" with my spending and I was eventually picking up the tab for him too. But at an average of $80 a visit each (mind you, we had passes and his was still good 'till 2001 so we got in "free"...the $80 each went for food and drink...mostly drink!) we eventually gave up the park-hopping for much cheaper (and efficient, if getting fucked up was your goal, and then, mostly, it was) bar-hopping. By the new year 2001, he couldn't even afford that and we just stopped going out altogether. Also, he started taking up with, the (I guess) cheaper alternative, pot. He and his buddy Jason were busily constructing ever-more elaborate bongs and became Total Stoners. Then Jay moved to New Orleans. Well, actually I drove him and his truckload of crap including the semi-feral cat Sylvester to New Orleans...but that is another post ;)

I left DM in summer of 2000 and had some bad blood, in a way, between Roger and his sidekick Steve, so, needless to say we didn't hangout at the parks together anymore. I kept visiting with Jay and Ric, but after Ric got pissed about Jay becoming homeless and crashing at our place at Rosewood, and Jay subsequently shutting out Ric because of his attitude (what else is new), the three of us never went together to the parks again. I either went with Jay or Ric...kind of like when you get through the castle for Dueling Dragons and you must "Choose Your Fate...Fire or Ice?"

Ric met Gary in the fall of 2000 and from then on if he was apt to go to a park on his day off it was with Gary. Especially early in their relationship, they wanted to go by themselves as a date. By summer 2001, we all three, Ric, Gary and I would go together regularly, but it wasn't the same. Gary was a boyfriend. Plus, he had to mooch for everything. Thirdly, like all Ric and Gary interactions, it was rarely smooth and carefree like it was when your just hangin' with your buds...they never mutually respected each other so whether we actually stayed late enough for the nightly pyrotechnic shows, there were always "fireworks", ie. conflicts, whenever we went out together.

Yeah, the Glory Days of the Theme Parks Era were pretty much over by mid 2001. We eventually allowed our annual passes to lapse and eventually neglected to renew them. Like a precurser to my late 2002 financial collapse, I began losing my passes one by one...Disney: offers the most parks (4), but astronomically expensive (around $250 back then, close to $300 now). Universal, and eventually the cheaper but much more limited Sea World/Busch had to pick just one park...that sucked!

Which brings me to this past Friday. I played hooky from work (again) and decided it was high time I got the seasonal pass. Seasonal passes here in Orlando are really annual passes with just a few blackout dates. Unlike most theme parks around the country, the weather and the non-stop influx of tourists, keep the parks open year round. Six Flags parks, beachside landmark amusement parks like Coney Island, and mega-coaster meccas like Cedar Point all have their lure, but they aren't open Every Day of the Year, baby! Plus, they are a full 12 months from date of purchase, so I'm good now 'till mid August 2006.

It was great. Though alone, I did my usual conversation strike-ups, especially with foriegn tourists, to enhance my "vacation" experience. Jay and I used to meet people all the time this way. It's fun and oh-so-weirdly uncomplicated striking up conversations with total strangers while you're in line for a ride, getting to know about them and their lives and you sharing stuff about yourself, building a little temporary friendship, riding the ride and then parting to go separate ways to other attractions in the park. I especially love meeting "first-timers" for a particular ride and watching their expression, especially if they are timid of rollercoasters. It reminds me of when in those Glory Days of Yore, I too was a "first-timer".

Needless to say I can't wait to get my mileage outta this $130 pass. Without a car it's a bit tricky, but it can be done. I will have fun this year. Like the TV ads that ran recently for Universal Theme Parks, I feel like my jobs and need to keep working my "nose to the grindstone" (there's another one of those really odd, confusing and disturbing sayings) over the past 2 years are conspiring to keep me away from my "vacation".

Well, dammit! I tore up roots from my comfy little life with all the built-in support systems in Rhode Island years ago in order to live the Good Life in "Vacationland USA". I planned too long and too hard for this life.

So like the archway at IOA says in the photo above...

...The Adventure Lives On...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Loco For "Locomotion" Explained

I have gone nuts for this very simple but addictive computer game called "Chris Sawyer's Locomotion". Like most of the games I buy it is a simulation/strategy game where you have scenarios to complete. Your task is to build a transport empire in various time periods utilizing the existing transit technology of that decade. Buses, trucks, trains, ships and planes are built and managed by you to transport people and commodities around the map, allowing the cities to grow and your company's value and cash to rise.

The game was produced just last year but it was already in the Bundleware pile at Wal-Mart. $15 for this and Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 Triple Thrill Pack (made by the same guy, Chris Sawyer) bundled together. Not bad.

The graphics are retro but in games like these playability and AI are more important and it does a fairly okay job in those areas. It is not the best game in my slowly-rebuilding library, but it can chew up time as effectively and effortlessly as Civilization III: Conquests.

Speaking of Civ, Civ IV is due out soon. Too bad Mildred is way too weak to handle it. Boo hoo.

Who's Mildred? Why this computer of course. Actually, she is named Mildred X, as in "the 10th".

Mildred X is the 10th PC I've owned.

Here's the timeline of the succession of the Mildreds:

1992-1995 Mildred I 386sx 33MhZ 4MB RAM
1995 Mildred II 486dx
1995 Mildred III 486sx
1995-1996 Mildred IV 486dx
1996 Mildred V Intel Pentium I 100MhZ 32MB RAM
1996-1998 Mildred VI Intel Pentium I MMX 120MhZ 32MB RAM
1998-2001 Mildred VII AMD K6-2 3-D Now! 300MhZ 64MB RAM 4G HDD
2001 Mildred VIII AMD K6-2 3-D Now! 300MhZ 64MB RAM 20G HDD
2001-2004 Mildred IX AMD Athlon XP 1800+ 1.5GhZ 256MB RAM
2004-now Mildred X Intel Celeron 1GhZ 256MB RAM 2) 20G HDDs

I know, technically Mildred VII and VIII are the same except for a hard drive upgrade but VIII didn't last long anyway. She came into being because VII's hard drive fried and I ran out and bought a new hard drive, got it home and found out that I had, over the years, lost my bootleg copy of Windows 98. So I broke out my credit card and had to buy a full version of the then most recent Windows ME. The bitch is if I could have just endured another month without a computer, I could have bought a full version of the much better Windows XP which had yet to debut. But I was impatient.

Mildred IX's power supply bought the farm last summer and because of the chaos of last year I was sans 'puter for several months until they were getting rid of some PC's at my then workplace in New Orleans and I was able to pick this baby from the trash heap for free.

It's a downgrade and I will need to save up for the next Mildred to play the oh-so-3D games of late but it's okay for now. Play Locomotion well, and lately, that's what it's all about, baby!

Well I'm playing hooky from work today (naughty me, tee hee!) so I got the whole day to play with, ah, via the computer game, of course! (wink)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Loco For "Locomotion"

Monday, August 01, 2005

Another Wild and Crazy Weekend!

This was my weekend on at work so I was, relatively speaking, the good boy, but not Ric.

It seems like he is in a contest to see if he can out do himself each weekend lately. I know it has to do with his building anxiety about the trial coming up...eventually. I think he knows he's running out of delay tactics. His lawyer is good but, come on people, even if you waive the whole "speedy trial" right, it won't postpone it forever! Especially a felony, I would think.

Ric came home Saturday night around 8:30 and was already 3 sheets to the wind. (What does that saying mean anyway, did you ever wonder?) He was in a very loud mood. Jovial but obnoxious, of course. I'm used to him on the weekends by now, but a few things immediately went right up my ass.

1. I had just hunkered down to watch K-PAX, a great movie I've only seen once before and loved it so I was looking forward to seeing it again.

2. He was getting into the whole "just another organism" thing again to needle me, no doubt.
(About a month ago or so Ric and I had both gone out drinking and later adjourned to the kitchen and continued to drink some Coor's Lights. We got into our Christianity vs. atheism verbal swordplay again and I got pissed and told him we all are no more significant than single-celled organisms like bacteria...even Gary was no more important in the Universe than the thousands of germs I am killing now (then I smacked my hand palm-side down on the counter, wiping out, I would think, a few micro-organisms, though, I would hope, not thousands of them...I do keep a clean house!))
Granted this was an insensitive thing to say, but I was drunk and I don't rub my beliefs in his face as much as he preaches from his imaginary pulpit to me! It was inevitable to pop out of my mouth sometime.

3. As he was pulling another can of beer from the fridge, he said "I noticed the headboard is missing from your bed, you must have accidentally broke it and tossed it in the dumpster." I told him there never was a headboard on that bed and he smirked and said I didn't have to cover it up, it was okay with him.

Well, that did it. I turned off the TV and started in on him very adamantly. He was being a total jerk, not believing me at all, assuming I was now lying to cover up my attempt at deception because I was supposedly embarrased I had broke once of his furnishings or because I was afraid he was going to want me to pay him for it.

"THERE NEVER WAS ANY FUCKING HEADBOARD!!!", I screamed at him in a rage. I saw the look of a mix of shock and indignation on his face, and at first he started to apologize, I guess, finally realizing I was not lying, but I stormed off to my room and slammed the door, and, making it sound very audible, locked it. Then he started to get pissed I was yelling at him so he started screaming back at me through the door...saying shit like "I don't care about a headboard but if you really want to fight, then we'll talk about your "beliefs", then I can get into it!"

I soon calmed down alone in my room and eventually a few minutes later went out to pow wow with him and all was cool within a few more minutes. He really wasn't looking for a fight, he just didn't expect my reaction. But I hate it most when I am wrongly accused of something.

And, ultimately, I am getting very tired of his drunken weekends.

He says that when his sentence is handed down to him he will abide by the ruling and comply with the restriction on drinking in earnest for the duration of his probation which will be at least one year. I'll believe this when I see it. He's well into his chronic stage and heading quickly for critical, with his disease. He'll likely need to turn to the "Cult of AA" for support in his abstinence attempt. "All Hail the Power of the Higher Power!"

What's more, his religious zealotry will likely increase as his fears and anxieties build as August marches on into September, the likely trial month. Yay, I say to Thee Verily...more verbal "fire and brimstone" for the wicked heathen I am.

...Pardon the oxymoronic pun but..."God help me!"