Saturday, June 29, 2013

Follow My Sigil And Join My Realm

Dany Targaryen isn't the only bitch wielding dragons. I have two! Glorious is the House Chausse and I, Ser Michael of the Floral Peninsula, Lord of Orlando. Maester of the Dueling Dragons (who shall never be renamed) and the never-forgotten Enchanted Oak on the Island That Was Lost to the overrated Wizard Child.

Oh Man, can you tell I've been marathoning "Game of Thrones"?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dear Blog

Remember how Doogie Howser ended his day with a computer diary entry each episode? I guess this would have been one of the first depictions of what would eventually be called blogging. Except it was closed communication since it was not online, of course. I don't know why I thought of this, just did as I was thinking of a title for this general update, or cookie crumb, post.

I know I promised I'd be posting about the Zimmerman trial and it's well underway this week but now that I don't have cable, I have to watch TV via streaming through websites and though in many ways this route is even better than broadcast TV (no commercials for one thing) I seem to always be busy doing other things on my computer and forget to "tune" in. Plus, I guess I'm not as invested in this trial either. I watched some, and it's interesting enough, but it's not like the Casey Anthony trial in that there isn't as much drama. Casey was crazy and it was all displayed during the trial. Plus there was the mystery behind the murder - all the interesting characters involved. This Zimmerman trial is a bit more static and we know he shot Trayvon, we just don't know for sure all the circumstances and motivations behind it.

How about yesterday's opinions from the Supreme Court, huh? Bye bye DOMA and California's Prop 8. Surely June 26, 2013 will go down in the annals of gay history. Like we "go down on anus." Bad, I know.

OMG, my new premium channel produced TV series obsession..."Game of Thrones". It took a few episodes for me to warm up to it but now I'm about halfway through the third season and an avid fan. In fact, I'm going to end this post right now since I have only a few hours to watch the rest of the episodes if I'm going to finish it tonite. No rush, I downloaded it from a torrent (believe it or not, my first piracy!) so I don't have to (like Netflix) eventually return the disc, but I want to get to the much-talked about "Red Wedding" episode so I can finally read wikis and fan blogs about this show without fear of accidentally reading spoilers.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 75: 42 Pounds

Nice drop, as you can see in the graph below, from the last update post to the 19th when I weighed in at 263. A bit of a stall since then; still at 263. I'm noticing that it tends to do that - start and stop bursts of weight loss. Why? Beats me. I know enough to not assume that a day's weight loss, stall or gain, is the direct result of the previous day's calorie/exercise numbers. I'm sure it's more than just that and results, good or bad, take more time than just a day to show up on the scale.

A lot of advice posts in various fitness forums say that weight is just one factor when gauging progress. They say it's better still to track other measurements like waist size, neck size, etc. to know if you're losing and in what proportions. I wish in hindsight that I had been tracking this. I don't have a tape measure but it would have been simple to pick one up. I may start this. Better later than never. I still have a long way to go.

Which brings me to my current frustration. Still, no one has looked at me and gasped "Wow!" yet. I can see a difference in the mirror but honestly, when I take a photo of my whole body, the small changes I notice when looking up-close, especially at my neck line and face, become muted by the overall impression that really, not that much has changed. I still have a big gut. I still have chunky plump thighs and arms. And, yes, I still have the dreaded "man boobs."

I just have to assure myself that it will eventually start to happen. The metamorphosis. I'm doing this thing safely and sanely, with my primary goal focused on sustaining an overall eating and exercise routine that will endure a lifetime. This isn't a diet. I see enough of those on YouTube. I've mentioned the "diet progress" videos that suddenly stop being posted...and never start up again. Or worse, the ones where they're "fixin' to lose that weight again" after putting it all back on - and then some.

Oh, BTW, those photos I'm taking. Ya, I do plan on eventually putting them up here as a series. But not yet. Taken as a whole, I would say I'm still visibly in the "before" range of what will be my complete set of pictures. Once I start the "after" phase it'll be less of an embarrassment and more of an honest, yet proud photolog of this transition.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tony Soprano Gets Whacked

Whacked by heart disease, that is.

James Gandolfini, the actor famed for his phenomenal portrayal of the fictional New Jersey suburbanite mob boss Tony Soprano in the hit HBO series "The Sopranos" died today, presumably due to heart failure.

Yet another reason to get in shape. His bulky body lent well to his role as, literally, a mob "heavy", but being "big framed" or "barrel-chested" as people are inclined to politely refer to being obese, isn't something to hold near and dear. It's a hard, cold fact: fat people die younger than fit ones. Gandolfini was just 51. I'm 49.

Needless to say, this is just another wake up call which helps to keep me on track. Sad as his passing so young is, it may inspire many to try harder, like it has for me, to avoid the same fate.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cyber Archeology

The Information Superhighway is RAD!
It's not enough that I'm an Avid Blogger, Internet Stalker, Street View Virtual Tourist and Daily Vlog Voyeur, I've started a new web-based hobby: Cyber Archaeologist.

The web has been around now for almost 20 years for most people. Wikipedia states that the WWW "started" when Tim Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup. But, I was around back then, you know.

Only major corporations and universities would have had access to the web when it first debuted. Heck, even access to newsgroups was pretty rare for most common folks until the much hulla-ballooed commencement of "Eternal September" (i.e. after September 1993 when AOL opened up Usenet access to its decidedly netiquette-oblivious, techno-noob subscribers). It was several months later that AOL opened up a mirrored version of the Web to users and then only in slow increments would they open up the entire web directly, after much competition from then start up ISPs like Earthlink and AT&T Worldnet.

The Web, by its very nature, is ever-changing, ever-evolving and ever-growing. The Web as we know it today is a very different animal in many ways than it was in the '90s. So, as an avid history buff, it got me thinking...

Are there any remnant websites still around that were created in those early days and, like Peter Pan (or perhaps Sleeping Beauty would be a better metaphor?) are frozen in time, never having been developed beyond then? Thus is the focus of Cyber Archaeology...finding those lost sites long buried before the Internet Boom and Bust of 2000, the implementation of Web 2.0 and the dawning of the Age of Social Media.

It turns out I'm not the only CA out there. Like the priests in the movie "The Fifth Element", there are many people who solemnly devote countless volunteer hours to capturing and saving the remains of the early Web for study by the present and future multitudes with a passion for learning (or in my generation's case: relearning) what the Web experience was like decades ago. Back in the days when it could very well have just turned into a passing fad, kind off like the late '80s/early '90s precursor for inter-computer communication and exchange, the BBS.

In fact, I'm just surmising, the BBS example is precisely what we Cyber Archaeologists hope to avoid. After the emergence of the public availability of the Internet, BBS use dropped precipitously. Today there are fewer than 30 die-hard, likely home-based enthusiasts still running dial-up BBS boards. But they're an endangered species. Once these likely middle-aged nostalgia buffs grow too old, their kids and grand kids will turn off their dusty, wheezing 386's forever without a second thought.

One of the great repositories, and subsequently, great research tools of the Cyber Archaeologist is, of course, the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive. Here, all manner of sites, big and small, personal and commercial are archived. Want to see what the first McDonald's website looked like? Or how about musicians and entertainers from the nineties? Oh, the fuchsia and neon green! The twinkling animated GIFs. The auto-play midi music.

Another project, which I'm currently accessing for my own research, is Reocities (and other sites like it). Here, fast-acting good-hearted preservers of cyber history, cached thousands upon thousands of Geocities websites before Geocities' owner, Yahoo, shut it down in 2009. All those free personal web sites.

Who among us back then DIDN'T have a Geocities web page? It was like a rite of passage. In fact, my current endeavor is to find my own personal web site I created and maintained in the mid to late nineties. It has a lot of information I'd find absolutely fascinating to see once again after all these years. I worry though that I may have deleted the site before the capture. If so, it may be lost forever.

But, on the odd chance that somehow it had been cached before that, or, perhaps on the chance that my memory fails me and I didn't delete it, I hope to find its lonely remains. Futily flashing its simplistic, yet tacky animated icons to no human eyes, all this time.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

MC Big Gay Mike's Cardio Mix

Though the layout of this post may look like a VIDEO SCRAPBOOK, it's not. YouTube videos are the best way to post songs without copyright infringement woes. If it got published to YouTube, it's already met their copyright criteria so it's good to embed.

These are the songs, in correct order, that I have on my iPod Shuffle. Like mix cassettes I made (or had made for me) BINT, I kept the selection to only an hour's worth of music or so. I coordinate my workout to the anticipation of the next song in the queue since, by now, I know the order by heart. This way I crank up or wind down the intensity of my cardio according to the intensity or "heat" of the song next up.

There's only a couple of relatively newish songs. Otherwise, they're all generally from what era? You guessed it...BINT. Well, actually, many are from even earlier, but by BINT they'd reached legendary gay anthem status.

My favorite and, coincidentally, the most intense song is, second to last, "Speed Racer." At 150 beats per minute, and a sub beat (if there's even such a concept in music) escalating the rhythm to perhaps double that, this song is gonna make you work! On my Fitness Center Cybex bike, this means a 150 or so revolutions per minute at a #14 tension level...a good 125 calories burned in just this single four minute song. And what feels like a gallon of sweat! Then, if I can, I go head strong into "Ibiza" and, with nervous anticipation, wait for the intense crescendo (4:55 on the video below) to really kick it into gear!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day 63: 37 Pounds

Hmm. I can't say I'm not happy that the plateau seems to have FINALLY been bested but I'm also a little perplexed at my weight over the past few days.

Coming back from my vacation and weighing-in at a slight gain, I figured that I'd have to get back to the grindstone to avoid prolonging the plateau or, even worse, continue to rise. But then I got sick. And I hardly ever get sick so I was a bit of a baby, pampering myself with some comfort foods and doing absolutely no exercise.

Now that my cold is breaking up and all that remains is a bit of sniffles, I see I'm actually losing at a good clip. Truthfully, the cold did hit me like a ton of bricks the first few days so I slept a lot and didn't eat much.

What with taking cough syrup, I feared it would elevate my BP too much to take the Phen so I held off of that for a couple of days. Didn't matter. The cold was extremely effective in wiping out any appetite. And when I did eat, even though it was bad-ole comfort food favorites like pasta, I couldn't taste anything so I ate only a portion of the small amount I made.

In any event, I'm at where I'm at, so that's that. :)

Another thought is that all the walking I did on my vacation had a slight delayed effect on metabolism and weight loss since I really feel my quads getting tight and meaty, like BINT when I walked, stepped and biked enough to actually have athlete muscled legs. This may have affected my BP too since it's down A LOT.

I mean it was actually low enough during my appointment last week for my doctor to decrease my Lisinopril to 20 mg/day and ELIMINATE my Amlodipine altogether. This is what I was hoping for aside from looking and feeling better...actually GETTING healthier and weaning off of these drugs for these morbid life-shortening yet reversible diseases!

So I'm now, as of today, 268. On the dot.

The going is slower now and if this chart showing the past 30 days is any indication, which it likely is, of how it will be from here on out, I shouldn't expect pie-in-the-sky numbers. Just good old fashioned "slow and steady wins the race." But rest assured. Win - I will.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Here are some maps of the locations visited during my Northeast Grand Tour with walking (Downtown Providence, Boston and New York) or driving (Rhode Island) routes indicated. The New York map shows only what was walked - 5.2 miles!

Downtown Providence

Rhode Island


New York City

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

TRAVELOGUE EPILOGUE: Operation Weenie Freedom

The last day of my Northeast Grand Tour was a travel day so I hadn't really planned anything to do. Plus, unlike the other days, it was no longer bright and sunny but gray and raining.

Yet I still had one more goal to accomplish before I went back home. If I didn't do it today, who knows when I would ever be able to do it since I can't do it in Florida. Or, probably anywhere else on Earth.

Of course I'm talking about weenies.

Weenies were one of the major reasons I came in the first place. The succulent, steamy bun, the juicy somewhat-smoky flavored wiener. The tangy mustard, the tart yet cool onions and the salty celery salt. (I mean what other adjective describes celery salt but salty?) Oh, and of course, the mysterious aromatic sweet and savory meat sauce. I had to get me some!

I was on a mission.

Having missed my opportunity to get them Friday when I had the rental car I was now limited by several enemy obstacles that I had to defeat in order to carry out my mission successfully:

1. The rain. It was pouring when I first woke up and stayed steady throughout my short hotel shuttle ride to the airport.

2. I had to use the public bus. Would it be on time? Was there a stop near the weenie place? Would there be a return bus in time before my flight?

3. I was almost out of cash. I had spent through the $200 in cash I brought with me and was down to just a twenty, and (I thought) three singles. Of course I could use an ATM but I try to avoid stupid fees. And these buses didn't take cards.

4. I had to lug around my luggage. Only one carry-on, but it was very tightly packed and must have weighed fifty pounds. I asked the young lady at the information desk in the airport terminal if there were any lockers for rent. She looked at me like I was crazy and politely said no. Lockers at airports are, no doubt, a relic of a pre-9/11 era, I guess.

I had to make my assault quickly since, by my timetable on my Kindle, I saw the bus would be arriving any minute. I made my way out to the bus stop and stayed back from it a ways as it was rudely out in the rain and unsheltered.

A lady who seemed like one of those special people who spend all day just riding the public buses and know all the routes told me the 14 was coming. I told her I was waiting for the 20. She made no comment. It looked like she may have wanted to say something like: "Why don't you want the 14?"

I reached in my pocket, pulled out my wallet in order to get my dollars ready and lo and behold, I only had the twenty and a single one! Shit, that's right, I used two of the ones I had reserved for the bus on the soda vending machine at the hotel. Doh! I thought I might have had some quarters in my luggage but I wasn't going to open it here outside. My bag was packed so tight, it'd pop like a Pillsbury Biscuit tube.

I rushed back into the terminal and made my way to the nearest concession...a Starbucks. I don't have good experiences with Starbucks. Like the fake TV ad on SNL that spoofs them, I really do find their unique blend of pretentiousness and incompetence irritating. Sure enough, this kiosk was busy and had only one very slow barista. It took an eternity for me to get to the counter and rather than ask foolishly if she would simply break a twenty for me (I knew they wouldn't be able to...sorry, policy) I just grabbed the least expensive item available, a small packet of cashews.

"Just this," I said, yet still, she just had to ask...

"Nothing to drink?"

Um, if I wanted something to drink, I think I would have told you so and NOT said "JUST THIS!" - I thought silently to myself. I handed her my $20 bill and asked her if I could also get five ones in change.

She said, "You actually get three ones since the change is $17.15." She held up three fives and three ones while extracting the coins from the till. UGH! Is it me?

"Yes, but I'd like you to break one of the fives for ones, please." She rolled her eyes like I was being unreasonable and after a flicker of confusion she was able to give me my change the way I needed it.

I got back to the bus stop but of course there was no bus. The retarded lady was still there though, staring at me.

"The 20 came by and left already, huh?" I asked rhetorically. She nodded yes. I didn't bother to ask why she hadn't gotten on the 14 since I realized she isn't taking the bus. She's there to tell people what bus is coming. It's her self-appointed pointless job.

I went back inside since while there were benches outside they were, of course, wet. I waited for the next bus coming in 30 minutes. I was tired, it looked like the rain was relentless and I was anxious to get home. I didn't want any complications to returning back to the airport and if, for some reason I couldn't catch a return bus, I didn't have enough cash for a cab. It looked like the cabs in Rhode Island didn't take plastic either.

"Should I give it up?" I thought. They're only hot dogs, when it comes right down to it and they are fattening. I should just have lunch here at one of the many restaurants in the airport. But then I thought of those weenies. Oh their moist, softness... Their savory deliciousness... I had to go on!

The next bus came on time and I sat near the front so I could watch to see when the place was coming up. I had only seen it in passing when I had the car. I'd stopped at the package store next door where the clerk said I looked like a younger Jimmy Page from Led Zepplin. I'd heard this before.

Luckily, the stop was right across the street. Also, the rain had stopped too. Yes, the mission was underway and we were proceeding successfully to our target!

A group of customers had just left so I had the place to myself. Didn't really matter since I was getting them to go. I didn't want to risk missing the return bus back to the airport. I ordered up six with the works and told the guy my story. That I dreamed about weenies. That they weren't available in Florida. He chuckled and said he hears that a lot. I could smell them as he was laying them out across his arm, in the traditional preparation method, slathering on those luscious toppings.

I was this close to my prime objective when the female co-worker (probably co-owner wife the way these little places are) tallied my tab at the cash register.

"That'll be $12.80," she said cheerfully. I reached for my wallet and suddenly it hit me. I quickly looked around at the tiny restaurant in a working class neighborhood. I glanced at the cash register and check out area. No VISA or Mastercard stickers. Shit! They don't take plastic!

I asked and she confirmed it. Cash only. I broke out in a cold sweat, not remembering how much I had left after the Starbucks nuts and the bus fare. Plus, I needed to leave at least $2 for the bus back! Whew! I sighed, relieved, when I saw I had enough. But just barely. I was down to just three singles and some change.

As I walked the short distance to the bus stop, I kept a wide grin on my face, smelling my just rewards from inside the grease-spotted paper sack. I got back to the airport, found a secluded spot and savored two of my babies with utter joy. They were as good as I'd remembered. Ahhh! I left the other four since they were, I'd forgotten, really filling.

I got a plastic Ziploc baggie for them from the information desk. They give them out free since Providence is gung-ho about enforcing the bullshit TSA security rule regarding traveling with gels and liquids. I hoped putting them in my luggage would not cause any problems. I mean, I wasn't exporting them to another country. Just to Florida.

And in Florida, several hours later I enjoyed the remaining four. Not as good re-heated in a microwave, I found out, but still, I wasn't complaining. I had liberated my weenies!

Mission Accomplished.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

TRAVELOGUE: Northeast Grand Tour, Day 4: New York City, NY

Blistered, badly sun-burned and sore all over from my hot, humid and physically demanding long day in Boston the day before, I woke up at 5 am to get ready for another day of more of the same torture. But I was lovin' it! Like I said, I don't take "lie on the beach all day" vacations. I'd stay home in Florida for that. I want to do things, see things and experience them up close and, if my old feet can handle it, on foot.

Arriving around 11:00 am, I popped out onto 7th Avenue from Penn Station and the vibrancy of the city sparked inspiration and energy into me. I decided to WALK the whole way towards my first destination: The 9/11 Memorial. That's right, I walked from Penn Station to the World Trade Center Site...about 60 blocks! I wanted to recreate the same walk I'd done with Brittany back in 1986. When I was a thin 22-year-old kid! Remember, I was blistered and aching from the prior two days of walking and I did this!

Stopped for lunch at Pret-A-Manger in Soho, but otherwise, walked non-stop to the memorial entrance.

Here's the memorial. Very nice. Huge too. But of course. The towers were huge. Man, this was a moving experience. I included a shot of what the guide said was the only tree that had originally been part of the landscaping of the original plaza that had survived the collapse of the two towers. It had been badly damaged by debris but was nursed back to health. Over the past decade, it grew and got along fairly well only to again meet with near disaster when it was badly damaged during last year's Hurricane Sandy! Wow! Now it has guide wires helping to keep it straight and standing.

Here's the very spot where back in 1986, as told in this FLASHBACK I proclaimed "another time:"

Here's some video of the memorial that I shot:

Views of the shining new One World Trade Center and her just this past month installed spire making her the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere:

I made my way further downtown, yes, again by foot, and stumbled across the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House designed by Cass Gilbert (who designed the fabulous Woolworth Building a few blocks away) and took this shot of a great Daniel Chester French sculpture.

Inside, the building is the home to the New York extension of the National Museum of the American Indian. A Smithsonian museum, it is, happily, free. So, I checked it out. Was so-so. Shot this pic of an Indian depiction of the Statue of Liberty.

Funny side note about this place. Being a museum, and, unknown to me at the time, the New York home of the National Archives, as well as a noted historic building, it had tight security. This foreign tourist is asked to empty his pockets as we are led through metal detectors and such and he pulls out this 5-inch blade sports knife. It was sheathed but still, you should have seen the look on the guard's face. He was told politely, but firmly that he couldn't have that anywhere in this building. I wonder how he made it through security at the airport with that?

Walked towards the Staten Island Ferry dock and stopped at a real New York neighborhood bar called the Blarney Stone. Here some black guys were filming a couple of blond girls who looked like hookers for what they claimed was a music video. Real authentic lower Manhattan dive bar here. Can only imagine this place "after hours."

After one small (8 oz) draft Bud Light ($4) decided to forego another touristy tour boat ride and took the free, yes, free, Staten Island Ferry. Possibly the best deal in New York. Heck, they even sell beer on the ferry, though I don't know how much that is.

Here are shots from the ferry, including the iconic Lady Liberty herself. The last one is the Verrazano Narrows bridge further out in the harbor.

After the return trip on the ferry, I took the subway to Herald Square, walked the noisiest block I'd ever seen, jam-packed with a crush of people, street-vendors and smells of everything imaginable.

Soon, I was descending away from the late afternoon scorching heat and made my way down into the bowels of Penn Station. Tried to do the same thing I'd done in Boston...catch an earlier train...but the added costs were too high so stuck it out, ate dinner of Nathan's hot dogs and waited exhastedly for my 9:00 train, which, of course was late. Thankfully, a cab was available at the cab stand when I got off the train after midnight.

TRAVELOGUE: Northeast Grand Tour, Day 3: Boston, MA

Said in the way a New Englander would, I had to get up wicked early to make my airport connector shuttle to the Amtrak station in Providence. The driver was a really cool guy originally from South America and we chatted about Rhode Island, Florida and their many differences. I gotta say, I don't know if it was 'cause I was looking like a vacationer or what but people seemed a lot more friendly in Rhode Island. More so than I remember and a lot more so than in Florida.

The train ride was cool and it seems like the train cars are exactly like they were since the eighties. Newer upholstery on the seats of course, but same cars, I'm sure. The MBTA commuter train on the other track looked a lot newer and were double-decked like the one's I took a few years ago for my Washington trip. Funny 'cause the "T" train was the crap ride compared to the nicer Amtrak cars back in the eighties!

South Station, once in Boston, seemed the same. Of course the big change was the overhead highway which used to pass right through downtown back in the day. After the much-publicized "Big Dig", the whole area was converted into a stretch of park space. Here's what it looks like now. It was a pleasure to walk through here up to the Quincy Market area.

Here's Faneuil Hall and flags at nearby Government Center featuring a Pride Flag being flown in commemoration of Boston Pride.

The Pride activities for today, sadly, were just a small gaggle of gays and lesbians who set up a small bandstand and just two or three tents featuring bad music, lackluster decorations and virtually no attendance. This obviously had been a poorly planned event. The majority of people around seemed much more concerned with regular touristy things, shopping and eating. Not a lot of "family" turn out. I didn't stay long. I would check back as I toured around through the day only to find the rainbow balloons deflating and popped, the volunteers looking dejected and the music eventually given over to recorded folk songs. I felt embarrassed for my people. Out of courtesy, I decided to not take any pictures. The funny thing is, back at home in Orlando, Gay Days at Disney was underway with, I'm sure, tens of thousands of happily screaming red-shirted queens.

I walked to the wharf area and shot this pic of the skyline.

Then it was Codzilla time. It was great! We sped through the harbor, making sharp turns while the pilot scurried across the wakes of other boats to give us the most splash he could. See this video I shot:

Here's a pic of the boat:

Walking the new park, and a lot of downtown including Chinatown, what used to be the Combat Zone and Boston Commons, I was pooped so I scaled down to just one museum selection and chose, my good-ole-favorite, the Museum of Science.

Here is the original T-Rex statue they had indoors back in the '70s when I'd taken one of my first photos (with my even-then ancient Brownie Box camera) which I may still have in some box somewhere. The picture, not the camera. LOL! Are you kidding? I'd put that sucker on EBAY as fast as I could.

Here's the new more scientifically accurate depiction of T-Rex inside today. I like the original better.

On the subway platform from Science Park I shot this pic of the cool new suspension bridge they built as part of the "Big Dig" redevelopment.

Once I got off the "T" at Park St., I continued to walk around, exploring downtown Boston in the mid-afternoon heat. I walked the parkway from Faneuil Hall (where I checked on my peeps sad little show one last time) back to South Station and rather than wait the extra two hours, opted to catch the next train back to Providence. I'd seen enough. I was sore, sun-burned and just plain tuckered out. But I felt like I got quite a workout and saw mostly everything I'd wanted to see, so I wrapped up the day as a success.

Back in Providence as I walked (yet more walking) to Kennedy Plaza (where I'd breakdown and catch a cab) I snapped this evening shot of Waterplace. EDIT: Correction - This pic was actually taken the next morning as I walked from Kennedy Plaza to the train station.

TRAVELOGUE: Northeast Grand Tour, Day 2: Woonsocket and Newport, RI

As planned, I rented a car for this second day and drove on up to Woonsocket, my home town.

First thing I rediscovered was the fact that Rhode Island drivers are crazy! I will never complain about Floridian drivers again. Oh yes I will, but it just seemed like Rhode Islanders were driving like insane idiots who had no fear of death!

Second thing I had to relearn was the hills. Central Florida's "hills" are just really gentle inclines and declines. Here they're really hilly hills. Sometimes kinda steep, but overwhelmingly omnipresent. They were everywhere!

Third thing about driving in Rhode Island...the potholes! OMG the potholes!! By the end of the day I was glad to be getting the car back to the rental place since I didn't want to drive in this crazy, rickety roller-coaster ride from hell called the Rhode Island motorways.

I made my way to Chan's and had my dreamed-about (I'm not kidding!) Number Four and a side of beef lo-mein. It was even better than I'd remembered. I told the waitress my story, that I'd stop in here regularly years ago for this very same meal. I didn't burden her with the details like who I was with and the significance, but she seemed cool and probably would have thought it cute. The portions were gargantuan and I ate only about a third of the meal, I had to doggy bag the rest. No problem, it would turn out to be my dinner and the next day's breakfast!

I drove to Nastralia but the woods are not as secluded as I may have thought as a kid. The neighborhood looked a little risky to park my car in as well. What's more, the woods looked very thick and over-grown from the street. I'm no kid anymore. I didn't feel like getting dirty, thorn-poked and pollen-covered.

I went down nearby Pearl Street and took this shot of what was the house I came of age in. It's a lot more "decorated" than when we had it but frankly, if they'd have kept it and my father was still there, it would probably look very much like this. My parents tastes were exactly like these new owners. By the way, if you look at the wood-engraved sign, it seems that these "new owners" are the very ones that bought it from my parents in 1984. They've owned it for more than three times the amount of time my family did.

As I drove northeast through town towards the general direction of Cumberland. I made my way to the historic Elder Ballou Meeting House Cemetery where I had ended up one late night of drinking and took home a souvenir.

I thought I'd also stop at the site of the religious statues I mentioned in this FLASHBACK post. Here they are:

Moving northward into Massachusetts, I went to the campus of Wrentham State. It's still there and seems very much still in operation, though the very old buildings like this one where I used to work, G Building, are now apparently abandoned.

I made my way back into Rhode Island and drove south via the east bay to Newport. I was planning to visit the wharves and downtown areas to window shop and be touristy but there were just too many people. Traffic was horrendous and the potholes were worse here than anywhere else. I just decided to do my mansions and then I'd book.

Here's Marble House on Bellevue Avenue. I'd never been to this one. It had been built by a relative of the Breaker's Vanderbilts and was almost as glorious. No inside shots were allowed but here's some of the exterior.

And then I had to pay a visit to my favorite Newport mansion, The Breakers. Isn't it exquisite? Both houses included a digital audio tour which was really well voiced and offered lots of information. Touring these American versions of homes like Downton Abbey just made me more anxious to see the next season of that wonderful show.

In the late afternoon I drove across the Pell and Jamestown bridges (white-knuckled) and made my way back to the hotel.