Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Entering The Event Horizon

I've always seen New Year's Eve as a sort of event horizon, like it's relativistic namesake, a boundary in spacetime.

It's almost as if all lifeforms on Earth are entering the event horizon of a mysterious black hole each New Year's Eve, one time zone at a time.

Sure, the concept of time and the measurement of such may be a construct of Man but we have seen the results of the effects of what we perceive as Time on life through the millennia, through the eons, through the ages.

The evolution of life through Time has defined who we are, not only as a species, but as a part of our eco-system as a whole.

So, as I prepare to enter a new year, though I fully recognize the delineation of the construct of the New Year as solely a devise of mankind, I try to imagine it is somehow a boundary agreed upon by the Earth, the Galaxy and the Universe. It is perhaps an appeasement or placation of the human desire for order and structure and meaning, in what is surely a normally chaotic reality.

And in reverence for what may be the diplomatic courtesy bestowed to us merely insignificant organisms in this far-flung corner of a rather ordinary and unimpressive galaxy, by a pan-universal consciousness, I witness in awe the beauty of existence and the fortune I possess in order to experience it in all it's glory...

For yet another year.

With Best Wishes to All, Happy 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Avast Ye Maties! Job Ho!

Ever wake up with a tune in your head and you find yourself humming it silently to yourself all day? Happens to me all the time. And, due to my wildly eclectic music tastes, it's like what Forrest's mama said about life and a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get.

This morning it was Gwen Stephani's "Rich Girl". Though a total ripoff of the now-ancient number from "Fiddler on the Roof", I thought it was a great hip-hop interpretation of it and it's got a kick-ass beat. What's more, I find myself drooling with mouth agape when watching her video for this song...those sweaty pirate men be HOT, yo! Damn! Arrrrggh!

And as I hummed this tune, I started getting fidgety about my lack of "Rich Girl" status. The accounts are still robust but with only $275 a week in unemployment benefits coming in, I was starting to worry about money.

As I've said before, I don't need to be ultra-rich (though it'd definitely be nice) I just need not worry about money. I hate to even think about money. Even in the computer games I play, I hate the "challenge" of building resources and using them efficiently.

Well I finally got a call today that should alleviate my money woes somewhat. Though it certainly won't make me rich, it should be pretty close to what I was earning before my layoff. Not quite there, but close enough (I had gotten a promotion and two merit increases at Symantec after all).

Yup, that's right...

I got a job.

Woo hoo!

It's a tech support position for a major telecommunications company at one of their vast offices and it's pretty close by, only a 20-minute drive. I start the month-long training on Monday.

So I will soon be swabbin' the deck amongst the other rat race pirates, waking up to the sound of an alarm clock and pourin' that cup o' joe to get started on my day...hummin' a little ditty in my head, and hoping day-by-grueling-day, that at least, I won't have to walk the plank again anytime soon.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Critter Wars: Mission Accomplished

Whereas, it is now towards the end of the year 2008 and,

Whereas, I have not seen, heard or suspected any Crawly Critters, hereafter referred to as "Hostiles" for a while now and,

Whereas, it is winter so I can tell myself that the war is over and celebrate victory over Nature and, since Nature is held at bay by this season, I can actually convince myself that I have won (even though I know it's foolish to do so in the long run)...

I do declare that the Mission is Accomplished.

Presented here is a listing of the Hostiles and the course of their past transgressions:

Palmettos: The Al-Quida species of the bug world. These fuckers are the most reviled. They are so disgusting and they inflict the most damage: by way of the Freak Out Factor they illicit. Though in actuality, one of the most benign of the Hostiles in their designs upon humanity, since they prefer to not really be around us, they are the most hated nevertheless. I haven't seen one of these big-ass interlopers wander into my crib in many months, and that's just fine by me. Whether it's the copious spraying of entryways with Heavy Duty RAID in the summer when your nymph babies wander in from the rain, or the box full of COMBAT traps discreetly placed up in the loft, by all observable means you appear to be non-existent. At least in this house. Oh, kid yourself not, I know you're out there. Even in winter. You fuckers will live through anything. Be warned, I still watch out for you and I won't ever welcome you with open arms! I spit on your ancestors and your children! Jihad! Ahhh Lidilililililillililillilililliliah!! (That sound they make with their tongues, you know!)

Ants: Ok, I admit, you guys are not really gone. I know. Like insurgents in Iraq, you pop up here and there and show evidence of a still intact organization and infrastructure. Unlike the big roaches though, you are really tiny. I can barely see you even when I'm looking right at you in bright light. Here's the thing though...you guys come as a huge party and think you can live it up in my house. Because RAID is some strong ass shit (and likely will give me cancer some day...thanks SC Johnson - "The Family Company"!) I can wipe you out where you stand with a quick spray. But then I am left to clean up your corpses. Chemical warfare can be so messy!

Geckos: Now though you guys are admittedly cute, and I actually like you and don't fear you at all, you can be quite punky. You're not satisfied by inhabiting every inch of sidewalk and wall space that is basking in direct sunlight in the summer, like you all are working on your tan or something, you feel it necessary to check out the inside of my house on a daily basis in the warm months. Well I know it isn't 'cause you want to escape the heat...you guys would love it if we were in the orbital path of Venus for cryin' out loud...you geckos be lovin' that sunshine and shit! But, maybe because you get thirsty or whatever you crawl through under the door or some other small crevice. Now it's said that you help keep the palmettos at bay by eating them, but last summer there was one of you guys and also a big palmetto hiding out in this house. After a day or two, I finally found the roach and killed him and later found you just sitting there minding your own business. Why didn't you eat that fucker?

Mice: As fellow mammals you should know we are a territorial Class. This is my territory, and I don't want to share it. Especially not with you. Though you are tiny and furry and cute, I'm sure; I've only really ever seen your cousins who live, briefly, in lab cages and shit. I don't need to see you wild guys. One of you caused me quite a few sleepless nights this fall when you decided to hang out with me in my tiny mobile-home-sized house. So if you're in the walls, I can hear you. And you came down through said walls every night at exactly 3:00 in the morning to fetch yourself a snack behind my fridge. It sounded like you were crackin' pistachios or something back there! What the fuck were you chewin' on? Well, I haven't heard you for months now, ever since I left you that "gift" box of D-CON to enjoy. Sorry Mickey!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's New, Pussycat?

Day 39

(Ya I guess I'm counting weekend days too...should I?)

So I've decided that being unemployed and having nothing to do day after day isn't all that it's made out to be.

It's so much better!

Seriously, I guess some might get bored or lonely after a while. Or maybe they feel like they're not contributing to society, or they feel their life is meaningless.

Well, it sucks to be them.

I mean, I don't get bored, not really, because I can always find something to do on the Web or off-line on my computer. Without a computer I might be more challenged to stay occupied, but I've done it before with interests like the parks, movies, TV, visiting friends, taking day trips, museums, books, shopping...you name it.

Lonely? Never really understood this feeling, in terms other people do. Sometimes I like the company of others and get off on really interesting conversation or just observing them "operate" (like I'm an alien studying their quirky human behaviors) but most times people irritate me, to varying degrees, so not having to be around them or talk to them is refreshing.

I feel no urges whatsoever to contribute to society and yes, my life is meaningless, like everyone else's. Nihilism is unifying in that sense. We're all nothing more important than potential food for worms. My eventual decomposition will provide some sustenance to other life forms when I die. That's all the meaning one can hope for.

Finances are good right now. Severance money is in my account and I'm getting weekly Unemployment Benefit checks. Rolled the 401k into an IRA, and haven't felt the need to take a cash disbursement. Might as well leave it in there. I don't really need it and I hopefully won't.

I interviewed for a telephone tech support job last week and today I went to complete a drug test as a condition for pre-employment for that company which has me in it's potential hire status. We'll see how this turns out. Pay would be a tad less than I was making but there are some better benefits, it seems.

Peeing into a cup on cue is always a challenge for me, but I filled up with lots of coffee and water so it went smoothly, so to speak.

Almost time for me to reorder my Lisinopril. Guess I'll be paying full price. Not looking forward to that. Although the pharmacy suggested they could order it in 2 vials of 20mg tabs since the 40mg tabs aren't covered under the $4 each plan, but the 20mgs are. So I'll probably go that route. $8 is a lot cheaper than the $30 full retail price. I won't be continuing the Zetia and Januvia. Having no generic equivalent, they are retailing at $150 and $250 respectively. For a 30-day supply. Be real, drug companies, who would pay this? I'll just reduce my cholesterol intake and watch my blood sugar more closely, that's free and a lot healthier in the long run, IMHO.

I haven't talked about Ric much. Well, it's simply because I haven't thought of him that much. It's been one of the easier breakups I've undergone over the years. I guess that's a true sign that it was time. It helps a great deal that he hasn't tried to contact me at all either. I guess the feeling was quite mutual after all. No surprises and no regrets.

My trip to Washington and the weather reports of recent snow storms up north in all directions (NW, N, NE) has me rekindling my fondness for Florida's winter climate. How I take it for granted; but to see on the TV news, day after day, meteorological temperature maps covered in shades of blue throughout the country, except for our fair peninsula and, well, I realize how good I have it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Haiku: An Atheist Speaks

Bright star in the sky...
Sign He is Born!? Err, no. Just...
A supernova...


Distant galaxy...
Star used up it's hydrogen...
Millions 'years ago.


But a babe is born,
Homeless and among the sheep.
Just like every day.


Christians assert rule...
Jews and Muslims: Bow to them!
December is theirs!


Santa's helpers toil.
Doesn't it make your blood boil?
Slavery endures.


Bells ring! Angel wings?
Nope. It's a cash register,
Taking your money.


Mom: Some more jewelry.
Dad: Nineteenth tie; Son: iPod.
Homeless Guy: Nothing.


Rum eggnog, wine, punch,
Scotch, gin, beer, peppermint schnapps.
Let's now drink and drive!


Snowflakes drifting down,
Bringing icy roads and death...
Isn't winter grand!


If our "Savior's" life,
Wasn't ever sacrificed...
Save ourselves, we must.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And The Plot Thickens...

So now we find out that the meter reader who found the bag of bones as he was presumably ducking into a wooded area to take a piss reported finding a mysterious bag in those woods back in August!

Huh!?!?!

This is getting thoroughly weird.

If he knew it was there, why didn't he bring the police to it? When he needed to pee last week why did he decide to go back there? Are meter readers allowed to pee in the woods on their route? Wouldn't that be against their work policies? Semoran Blvd., a major road with lots of gas stations and public restrooms is only a couple minutes away, why wouldn't he go there? If he saw the bag before, what made him kick it now. And would it be so loosely secured to have a skull roll out of it with a kick?

Of course, I'm talking about the Caylee Anthony case unfolding here in Orlando not 20 miles away.

You know, I gotta say, I smelt sumthin' fishy ever since the body was found.

Though it still hasn't been determined to be identified positively as Caylee, I find a lot of questions arise when thinking about this...

Even I did a cursory Google Maps search when this case became big this past summer. I saw that there was a pretty good amount of wooded area near the Anthony home. But when it was reported that they were doing extensive combing of the area with hundreds of volunteers, I thought this whole area had been thoroughly searched. Now we're told it was too flooded back then. Bullshit! Florida has thousands upon thousands of wooded areas like this that are prone to flooding. Why wasn't the area pumped? It was the most logical area that a body would potentially be buried.

It was only revealed to the public today, a week after the body was discovered, that there were 3 original calls to the area to check out a dumped bag in the woods. Back in August. The height of the frenzy about missing Caylee. And each call was dismissed as a false lead??? After only a single deputy went to check it out?

People!!! It's a mysterious plastic bag report, in the woods, right near the Anthony house??!!!

Did they think it was a hoax? If so, why didn't they take this meter reader in for more intensive questioning?

I'm sorry folks, but it looks like the idiotic Orange County Sherrif's Office may have just kissed this case goodbye.

At least I feel somewhat comforted in the fact that I'm a 44-year-old man so I doubt I would fit this bitch's victim of choice profile when she is found not guilty due to reasonable doubt...she apparently likes to kill little defenseless babies only!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Drag Queen Fairy Tale

Once Upon a Time...

Long ago, in a Land Far, Far Away called the Magical Island of Rhode, which wasn't an island at all but that's another story...

There lived in a Great Castle called Rosebank a rather gay young fellow who one day, out of the blue, was coaxed by his even queerer roommate to raid his Secret Sequined Closet, dive into his Magical Box O' Max Factor and transform himself into what you see here, Her Royal Prissy Princess Miss Mildred Claus.

(Judge not the poor quality of these pictures. They are fuzzy because Ole Father Time has caused their Magical Image to fade...or, since I lack a scanner it's the best I could do with a picture taken of a picture.)

Her Bitchy Highness never went out of the Castle that snowy night and it would be the one and only time she appeared to us mortals through the Secret Alchemy of 3 hours in the bathroom pasting on pancake, thickening lashes while thinning eyebrows and applying eye shadow and blush in blend after blend after blend.

So we only have these Ancient Pictures to reveal to us just how FABULOUS Our Whoreiness truly was that serendipitous but magical evening so long ago when a boy miraculously became a girl...kinda.

But she did after all Live Happily Ever After. Right?

The End.

FLASHBACK: Spring 1992

Unforgettable in every way.
And forevermore that's how you'll stay.
That's why darling it's incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable, too

"Unforgettable"
-Natalie Cole with her father Nat King Cole in a remixed recording

Since rekindling my neglected friendship with Wayne at Christmastime, I had been visiting him often at his small loft apartment in South Providence. I had no interest in trying to date him romantically again; we'd tried that for all of a week back in 1990 and I felt no spark so I quickly let that fizzle and fell out of touch with him. His place was a convenient location to get together with him and go out to the clubs. If I needed to, which I usually did, I could stay the night on his couch.

I knew Wayne was looking for a new best friend since his former one was quite literally killing himself in a downward spiraling alcoholic frenzy which Wayne was ill-equipped to handle. At the time, Wayne didn't know of my own issues with alcohol since I had only come to the realization of my problem drinking a short time ago. He saw me as a stabilizing force in his circle of friends. While that circle was vast, no one stood out as potential BFF material but me.

While he may have seen stability in me, I too saw him as a stalwart icon of responsibility, virtue, honesty and positivity. Just what I needed, especially if I were going to tackle this monkey on my back.

By February, Wayne and I had been out to the clubs together on most weekends and hung out doing other things like shopping, restaurants and movies. Though not dating romantically, we were becoming like two peas in a pod. We already had our favorite restaurant (Siam Square on Thayer St.), our favorite store (The Gap at Emerald Square Mall), and our favorite club (Twelve Caesars).

One Sunday morning I walked up to his apartment and after he saw I was limping a bit he asked why I left him alone at the club the night before and if I was okay. I recalled the events of the previous night for him. While we were at the bar I noticed a well-defined young Latino boy and struck up a conversation with him. One thing led to another and I drove him all the way to my apartment in Woonsocket. There he proceeded to screw me 'till the sun came up. I had just finished dropping him off at his Providence house.

Wayne laughed, now knowing why I was walking funny though he did gently admonish me for not letting him know I was leaving. I apologized and remarked that I wanted to get him to my place as soon as possible since it was comparatively such a long drive. I think that's when we both came up with the idea that we should find an apartment and move in together.

So for the next few weeks we visited many prospective rentals. Because we were set on staying under a certain budget, we were shown all sorts of creepy places including one basement apartment where you had to enter through the landlords kitchen and another where the walls were all painted black. Just when it was looking like there'd be nothing of suitable quality in our price range we found a large and recently-renovated first-floor apartment in a tenement in the Chalkstone Avenue area.

It was no East Side (the desirable upper-class neighborhood surrounding Brown University) but the rent was cheap and the interior of the house was gorgeous. The huge kitchen had honey-stained teak wainscoting, fresh contemporary wallpaper, a large faux-granite countertop with a huge peninsula featuring stool seating, newer all-black appliances, and recessed lighting. The living/dining room was freshly painted, had beautiful original hardwood floors and lots of windows. The two bedrooms were large and also had hardwood floors. The larger bedroom had a huge walk-in closet, but the smaller bedroom had a rather tiny closet. The bathroom was also small, but decent. Wayne and I fell in love with it immediately.

The landlord was a yuppie investment banker for Merrill Lynch. He seemed fair and intelligent, such a refreshing difference from some of the other renters we'd visited over the past few weeks. Wayne asked him up front, bold and unabashedly if he had any problem renting to two gay gentlemen. We had discussed this ahead of time and since Rhode Island, unfortunately, was one of the many states that had no provisions in rental laws regarding the non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, we felt it was necessary to be forward about that up front rather than be evicted, legally, simply for being gay if the landlord later "found out".

We moved in in March and Wayne spent lavishly to decorate and furnish our new home. Wayne bought a gorgeous beveled-glass octagonal dining table with armless Jacquard silk upholstered chairs, a black-lacquered 6-piece bedroom set and all the window treatments for each room except my bedroom. As well as woolen rugs, framed art, and side chairs for the living room. Add to this the furniture he already had, namely the Jacquard silk loveseat, glass and plaster end tables, and his rather large ceramic mask collection and his contribution to our house was well valued in the neighborhood of about $10,000. I at least contributed a 27" RCA TV, a Super Nintendo, some other artwork for the walls and a torchiere lamp...about $500...total. And actually, Wayne didn't make much more than me. I was just a heck of a lot cheaper.

We did have our first roommate squabble though over decor. We both wanted to pitch in together and buy enough glass bricks from a home improvement store in order to fashion a dividing wall between the living room and dining room areas. We disagreed on how this would be laid out and neither of us was willing to yield on each other's respective designs. So after a heated but short-lived tiff, we decided to not make any wall at all. (Until I built my version, albeit with even more permanent material such as drywall, a couple of years later after Wayne had moved out)

After we'd finished the move in and decking out of our new apartment, Wayne couldn't wait to show it off so we threw a huge house warming party. It was the first of many memorable parties both large and small we'd have at Rosebank.

It was, like the title of the song that Wayne and I memorably sang together during the karaoke portion of the party, unforgettable.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Time To Dust Off "Old Sparky"?

The State of Florida is a death penalty state. So that means murders committed under certain circumstances may qualify the convict for a sentence of death by lethal injection. But before 2000, when the legislature voted to abandon it (unless specifically requested by the condemned) the tool used to do the deed was an electric chair. It was nicknamed "Old Sparky" and had, in it's final few executions, lived up to it's name by actually sparking and burning the convict alive before the electricity killed him/her.

Though I don't believe in the death penalty, two recent cases of murder are under my scrutiny because of my proximity to them. In both of these there are fans of "Old Sparky" calling for it to be brought out of retirement.

The first, as I posted about back in September 2007, is the case of Andrew Allred. As you can read about in this post, I knew him personally. Well, he recently got sentenced to death, but get this...he asked for it. Yup. Told the judge he wanted to die. I remember his nihilistic personality from Convergys...yes I can see him going out this way. How bizarre.

The second is the local but now world-famous case of the missing toddler Caylee Anthony, now having been found, dead and half-buried in a garbage bag not a thousand yards away from her home...

Right near the elementary school she would have eventually attended had she lived.

I don't have to go into the long litany of outrageous details in this case, because unless you've been living under a rock for the past six months, you know them already.

The media pundits are mulling over possible death scenarios, the most likely being that Caylee's mom Casey tried to knock her kid out with chloroform so she could go partying at the nightclubs but accidentally killed Caylee with an overdose. When she "seen what she had done", she simply dumped her almost 3-year old baby's tiny body in the woods near her house. And then, as we all know, went on about her carefree party-filled life and wove her tangled mess of a web of lies.

I predict her trial will be the newest "Trial of the Century". When you factor in her cold, unfeeling attitude and entitled demeanor along with her parents' quirky wide-eyed and loud-mouthed behavior, you can see the stage is set to deliver an all-time dazzling performance.

Throw in a bumbling sheriff's department filled with southern-accented Barney Fifes, the outlandish attorneys of the area with their own closets full of skeletons and the vulture-like media like Geraldo, Nancy Grace, and Greta Van Susteren and man, we're gonna be glued to the TV set like nothing since the O.J. Trial.

All this drama needs is for a mysterious intruder dressed in a black cape and wide-brimmed black hat to barge their way into the bustling courtroom just before the reading of the verdict and shout out "I am Zenaida Gonzalez and I did it!"

But that final scene is only going to play out in the fantasies of a troubled young lady as she sits, decade after decade, forever alone, in her dark grimy cell behind cold steel bars.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Washington D.C. Photo Essay

I'm back! Safe and sound and still kickin', despite what some of the gods of fate have plotted against me...we'll get to that in a minute, but first, as promised, here's a photo documentary of my trip...

I left Lake Mary around 3:45am Monday and although I was very tired and fought all the way the urge to nod off, I caffeined up enough to make it through uneventfully. The weather was very cold and grew colder as I got further north but I arrived at the motel around 6:15pm. I was surprised how much the drive could affect me physically. I was sore and achey all over.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I planned this trip to be low budget and since hotel rates went up the closer you stayed to the city itself, I chose to book a room in Fredericksburg, Virgina, some 50 miles south of Washington.

Fredericksburg is well-known for it's history, having been an important location during the lifetime of George Washington who's family lived across the river and in the Civil War it was the site of a major battle, being a strategic city halfway between the capital cities of the opposing sides (The USA's Washington and the CSA's Richmond)

Here are some early morning shots of Fredericksburg as I walked from the parking lot to the train station.

I didn't take pics of the train but I should have. These commuter rail cars, run by the Virginia Rail Expressway are slick, clean and double-deckered. As the train passed some of the area highways jammed with cars, I could see I had the right idea.

Once at Union Station I walked around a bit and took some pics. Nicely decorated for the season, I admired the beautiful architecture of this gigantic train station I hadn't seen in 17 years. Looks very much the same. Well, classics are just that aren't they.


They had this model train scene set up in one of the wings I thought was cute.

I noticed they are getting prepped for the upcoming inauguration. It was still early (only 8:45am) so this store was not yet open but as you can see, it's ready to sell all sorts of memorabilia to the throngs of visitors who'll descend on this city in a month or so. Though it would have been nice to witness history, I'm glad I visited before the mayhem since, in my opinion, just based on the hustle and bustle of the morning commute, this city is too crowded now! Can you imagine in January?

I walked over to the Capitol and though the grade of Capitol Hill from Union Station is rather slight and the distance is only about half a mile I was sweating and breathing heavy when I got to the Visitor's Center. This trip really informed me as to my physical inadequacies and just how much I have let myself go. I really need to do something about that.

The entrance is east of the east side of the Capitol Building. You descend stairs or ramps to an underground entryway. The doors to this place are huge glass and bronze behemoths that must weigh a ton each. Though I have my physical limitations, I am a big man so I can throw my weight into the effort of opening a door. Well let me tell you, it was tough, I don't know how little old ladies or kids could do it. Even a staffer admitted to me it's a commonly known problem. And no automatic doors. They'll have to work on that one.

Though a weekday and still early (9:30am) I was surprised to see that there just weren't tons of visitors. Or maybe it was because of the scale of this place...it's gi-normous. All underground, but illuminated not only by lots of beautiful light fixtures but also this (in the middle photo) and a twin of it on the other side of the grand foyer...a huge skylight where you can look up and see the Capitol dome. This place was all marble, bronze and alabaster. There was a 30-minute theater presentation about the Capitol and it's place in American history...well shot and nicely narrated but I noticed it wasn't projected onto the huge screen, the screen was actually a huge (maybe 20 feet by 50 feet) LCD panel monitor. No wonder the construction of this place went way over budget!

Here's one of the more impressive statues in the Visitors Center.

From here we were given radio-receiver headsets which allowed our tour guide to navigate us through the Capitol Building proper and offer narration via his microphone without having to speak louder than a low conversational volume. Nice. I remember it could get a bit noisy years ago as the tour guides projected voices would bounce off the marble walls.

Notice a resemblance between the tour guide and Mussolini? Well I think that applies to his philosophy as well since he was constantly yelling at stragglers in other groups to catch up to their guide, and for us, he kept an ever-wary eye out to make sure we weren't gonna wander. Though 17 years ago you could do just that if you chose, you can't now. Oh and this guy kept going on and on about veterans and the sacrifices they made and the current armed forces and asked us to clap in appreciation for our troops. Oh brother! I wonder who he voted for?

Here's more from inside the glorious Capitol. Happily, no Super Mutants fighting Talon Mercs in this Capitol ;)

I walked to the American Indian Museum but it looked closed so I chose to go on to the National Air and Space Museum.

I got there just in time to hit the free planetarium show. Once in the show, I could see why it was free. All it was was a nerdy guy narrating a visual depiction of the night sky and the current position of the stars and planets in the night sky. I actually started nodding off. I mean I love astronomy but unlike residents of the light-polluted East Coast Megalopolis, I can drive a couple of miles into nearby Volusia or Lake counties and can well see the night sky with relatively no light pollution. I kinda chuckled when he mentioned that for the past 40 years or so Washington residents have not been able to see any discernable Milky Way streaming across the night sky. How sad...I live far enough from Orlando's lights to be able to see it on a clear night here. Oh those poor city folk.

Here are some shots from inside the Air and Space Museum. Sadly I was a little disappointed...not much was noticeably different from years ago. Oh sure, a bit more on computers impact on flight and new space missions but some of the exhibits were exactly the same as I saw them in '91 and they were already a bit dated then.

Here's a couple shots as I made my way across the Mall. Notice, if you look really close, you can see the scaffolding being erected on the west face of the Capitol in preparation for the Inaugural.

I had lunch at the Air and Space Museum concession (an $8 chicken sandwich and $4 soda - gasp!) and having one half of my sandwich reserved since all this walking stifled my appetite (yay!), I broke off tiny bits of bread and tossed it to this guy.

I walked through the outdoor Sculpture Garden. This is a Lichtenstein op-art sculpture. When you move, the perspective changes in ways your brain receives as abnormal so it looks as if the house is moving. It's because it's a concave surface and your brain, knowing that a 3-dimensional house should be convex from your vantage point gets weirded out. Cool effect. I tried taping it for video but it didn't show it off that well. I think it has to do with stereoscopic vision (two eyes) and depth perception.

Here's a Calder and some silver box tree thing or whatever. :)

I shot both video and a still pic of the iconic elephant in the middle of the rotunda of the Natural History Museum but both came out blurred and dark. Darn. Oh well here is sad shot of it anyway. (Along with a better one I grabbed from another blog - snick- snick!)

Again having my recent hours of play in "Fallout 3" fresh on my mind I kept wondering where the entrance to Ghoul Underworld City was.

Here's some nicer pics I took.

I love this staircase! Escher-esque.

Time was a tickin' and my body was starting to give out after an hour or so here so I took in an IMAX movie about unusual sea creatures. It was pretty good but I wished I had worn my contacts since it was 3-D and the 3-D glasses were an awkward fit on top of my regular glasses.

I wanted to go to the newly-rebuilt American History Museum and other attractions but at my pace, they'd have to wait 'till tomorrow. I was conking out already.

It was such a struggle to walk all the way back to Union Station. Being on my budget (except for that king's ransom lunch) I wasn't going to take a cab. But the hike was grueling. What had previously felt like a nice energizing exercise routine to my body in the morning had become sheer torture. My lower back was seizing up and I could hardly go a block without sitting to rest. I'm sure I garnered more than a few odd looks from passers-by noticing a fat man huffing and puffing, face beet red and sweating profusely in 50-degree weather. Not good.

By the time the train took me back to Fredericksburg it was dark and I was ready for bed. I popped some ibuprofen, ate the saved half of my lunch and washed it down with a couple Budweiser American Ales. When I woke up at 5:30am, I turned on the Weather Channel and made the decision to head home.

My whole body was still very sore and I could only limp because my feet were aching. The forecast was for rain throughout the day, making walking a soggy proposition, even though I had my umbrella with me. And though the temps would be milder than the day before, they'd drop again by the next morning, when I had originally planned to head back home. There could even be, the meteorologist warned, some ice or freezing rain. Oh no, the drive was grueling enough in clear weather, I had to go now. It was already shocking enough to look at Nugget's temperature LED readout on the dashboard early that morning as I got in her to drive the half-mile to the train station and saw it say: 32-degrees...and then it flashed: ICE POSSIBLE. Yikes.

So I checked out, got a credit for the dropped night and began my long drive home. Luckily the weather was only scattered showers through much of Virginia and by the time I reached North Carolina it was cloudy but rain-free almost the whole way down. But that's not to say the return trip was without incident...

Halfway through South Carolina I was zipping along smoothly at about 70 miles an hour when I saw what looked like a small white paper bag crumpled up into a ball ahead of me. But as I drove over it I realized that it was actually a chunk of the road about 1 foot square in mass.

The chunk cleared the front bumper but something else under the chassis of the car impacted with it and I felt and heard a huge thud beneath my seat as the asphalt bounced up. The chunk's velocity shot it out from under my car hitting my back bumper, smacking down hard onto the roadway and, as I watched in shock in my rear-view mirror, it hurtled towards the car following behind me.

The car swerved but the airborne chunk seemed to be veering towards it. I was sure it was going to smash directly into their windshield but at the last second it glanced the right side of their A-pillar, probably leaving a dent or two and then likely became a problem for the next car down the line.

I watched the impacted car and though they slowed down, they, like me just kept on going. I kept glancing in the rear-view wondering if this incident would be considered my "fault" and also worried about any possible damages to Nugget. Nugget ran along fine like nothing happened. No idiot lights flipped on warning me of unseen damage. It looked like the gas gauge was not indicating a puncture to the gas tank. Whew! But were there exterior damages? I didn't want to stop to find out. Not then.

Once I saw that the car behind me was no longer there (they had probably turned off at the next exit to survey damages) I decided to turn off and checked out my Nugget. Luckily, not a scratch. Whew, again!

But my nerves were shot. Memories of my ill-fated drive home from a similar, albeit much shorter, road trip in July haunted me. All I wanted was to get home.

Hours later as I passed the sign welcoming me to FLORIDA - The Sunshine State, I breathed a sigh of relief. Home at last.