Saturday, September 27, 2008

Community Carnival

The weekend after Poolesville Day found me visiting with friends at a carnival at a church near where I live.

Here's the church. I got here kind of late, so things were winding up.

Caleb, son of my friends Jason and Stephanie, riding one of the aforementioned ponies.

Their daughter Emily, doing the same.

A goat. This one looks kind of sinister. At least as much as a small goat can.

This guy, though, cracks me up every time I look at this picture. I was trying to get a good close-up and he was trying to eat my camera.

Honestly, this is the first of a series of walking-rug animals that I have little familiarity with. I think this is a yak. But don't quote me on that.

I think this is a Scottish highland calf. Again, don't quote me on that.

A baby llama? I guess?

Birds of some sort of feather. I thought they were doves, but the web site of The Children's Party Wagon, Inc., claims they have trick pigeons, so I guess these could be those also.

There were also these ducks.

I thought this was a mule but the web site claims "minature donkey."

There were also bunnies.

A moon bounce. Per usual, it was less blurry in real life.

There was cotton candy.

And as you can just make out in that last picture, there was a clown.

There were games, too. Who needs to spend thousands of dollars to sail on a cruise ship to play the bag toss game? Not me!

There was also this game, some sort of bolas toss. You don't get that game on the fun ship.

And there was punch and pie. More people will come if you say you will have punch and pie.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 

Category: Life

Friday, September 26, 2008

Iced Earth In Concert!

On September 25, 2008, I went to see Iced Earth in concert at the 9:30 club. The roadies are making sure everything is ready to go and I am trying to figure out how to take pictures approaching decent using my cell phone since I can't bring my camera and tripod into the show.

The roadies have cleared the stage. Smoke machines have come on. Things are getting dark.

The band takes the stage for a nice classic start.

Boom! Speakers explode with sound while the strobes blind everybody in the audience! Good stuff!

The concert was a nice mix of old and new material off their recently released mega-epic. It took 9:30 half the concert to get the vocal balance worked out right. I have no idea why they did such a bad job. Hopefully they do and they won't do it again. Once they got it worked out, it was an awesome performance.

I didn't take many pictures. This last one is the band performing the great song Dracula off of the awesome Horror Show album.

Friday, September 26, 2008 

Category: Life

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Poolesville Day 2008

I am so far behind in my blogging! My vacation photos in my blog entries totaled nearly 700 pictures. That took a lot to get through! Onward! Once again this year, I found myself in Poolesville to visit my friend Jeff.

The occasion was Poolesville Day.

What is there to do at Poolesville Day? Here's your answer.

These motorcycles were parked just outside the official parade route.

The old Poolesville town hall has been turned into an art museum. Right now with the missing L the sign reads Poolesvile. Vile doesn't sound as welcoming as ville.

I don't know what the art museum keeps in the safe, but there it is.

Beside the old town hall is the old Poole house, complete with period vinyl siding.

This buggy didn't go as fast . . .

. . . as I imagine this buggy does.

There's also a car show just outside the parade route.

There are some old cars like this.

And there are some newer historical cars like this.

This car was nice and shiny, so I took a picture of it. You know I like shiny things.

This is the truck Christine would have been, if she were a truck, which she was not.

Walking down to the main part of Poolesville, along the parade route now, there were these walking rugs, otherwise known as alpacas.

There was also a moo cow.

And some tractors. So this event is kind of like a town fair.

But there were also parrots.

The stage where many musical acts perform.

A wiener dog! At least it looked like a wirehaired dachshund. Not sure what the companion pooch was. I'm a big fan of dachshunds for sure!

Last up is this sign on the way out of town. I mean, I know it's a Methodist church, but so often in the news I hear meth lab, meth-heads, and so on, it's hard for me not to go right to meth-church being full of speed freaks. Anyway, no offense to the people of the Meth church. Poolesville Day was grand!

Saturday, September 20, 2008 

Category: Life

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vacation Day 9 - The Final Chapter

Fair warning: this is not the most pleasant story from my vacation! I suggest re-reading the previous day's blog entry again after this one! So, to begin, I turned what should have been a forty-five or fifty minute trip, maybe, from Disney World to my hotel into a two-and-a-half hour ordeal, which is why this story is technically beginning on the next day. First off, there are two airport La Quintas. I picked the one that was $10 cheaper a night because it was not that much further from the airport. I found the one that I did not pick. Several wrong turns later, I arrived at the one I did pick. King Bed? No. Non-smoking? No. Bleh.

You can see that the room is nicely decorated. What you can't see is the smell. I would liken it to a combination of a cat box for the ammonia smell, some sort of odor-masking Fabreeze scent (which usually burns my eyes worse than the cigarette smoke smell it is trying to cover up), and a hint of mildew. I was hoping it would settle down once the room got a bit cooler.

You can see the nice TV.

The closet. Honestly, I don't remember seeing the messed-up paint on the door. I was pretty much taking these pictures on my way out. That part will become clear as this progresses.

The rusted strike plate on the closet frame. Humidity takes its toll. This isn't good because it means processes are taking place in this room that really should not. But I can put up with that for a night. Who cares.

Looking at the sprinkler head, you can also see rust. It's not the worst I've ever seen. That honor belongs to the one in the room I stayed in at the Riviera in Las Vegas a couple years ago. I think if there ever was a fire, that sprinkler head might just blow apart once pressurized water hits it.

The desk. Also good. You can kind of see the dirty smudges on the walls, but I can tolerate smudges.

Long-time readers of my blog know that I like to document the rooms I stay in. This visit was no exception. This vanity is nice, especially if you compare it to the one I had been using on board the ship for the past week! I used to like having an in-room coffee maker. I just don't trust them to be clean anymore.

The shower.

The sticker reads "If you can't give us a 10, let us know." Other than the awful smell, which really was not going away the cooler the room got, what's so bad? Well, here we go in the order I discovered them.

The first thing I did was take the comforter off of the bed. Nobody likes to think about those things, and besides, the room was plenty warm, so I did not figure on needing it anyway. That's when I discovered these two seed casings on the blanket. I was not thrilled about that, but I pulled back the blanket and the top sheet and didn't see anything else, like hair in the bed, so I figure these casings can get stuck in the blanket in the wash. Oh well.

There was hair on the floor under the vanity, though. But hair can be sneaky, sometimes, and be left over after you wash the floor. Believe it or not, we had not exhausted my patience for this awful-smelling room yet, even though the smell alone should have been enough for me to ask for another room. But again, this is just somewhere for me to crash for the night and it's already getting near 1:00 a.m.

Then I saw this chunk of whatever. Here in glorious, magnified detail it looks less like it, but at the time it gave me the impression of a toenail clipping. Needless to say, that was bad. I really didn't know what it was a chunk of, but the smell in the room plus the chunk of whatever is really starting to make me regret the choice of this hotel.

Looking up at the light above the vanity, I noticed a brown paint smear. That's kind of another who cares item. Unlike the seeds, the hair, the chunk of whatever, and the smell.

The same goes for the cigarette burns on the bathtub. This one had at least a half dozen. That's an impressive number. But I step over them, I take my shower, who cares.

This was the last straw here. The toilet had obviously not been cleaned under the toilet seat. That was absolutely unacceptable. If this had been 6:00 p.m. instead of 1:00 a.m. when I was finding this, I would have left the hotel completely. As it was, I was dog tired, and just wanted to collapse. So I went down to the desk and told the lady there that my room smelled kind of bad and that it looked like the bathroom had not been cleaned. She also said "that's unacceptable" or something like that, but she said it in a way that almost sounded like she expected the news I was giving her. So she put me in a new room.

The new room had the virtue of not smelling bad at all. Likewise, the toilet appeared to be clean, the floor under the vanity had no hair or chunks of stuff, and there were no seed casings attached to the blanket on the bed. There was this stain on the comforter. Not everything will wash out. Like I said, nobody likes to think about these things. So I had myself a couple packs of the peanut-butter and cheese crackers I had packed (that was dinner) and went to sleep.

I had considered writing the hotel a letter. And maybe even contacting La Quinta corporate. This was absolutely the worst experience I've ever had in a major hotel chain. I felt bad for the La Qunita brand. I've stayed in other La Quinta hotels and they were OK. But this one, that first room I was in, this was a mistake. If that were somebody's first exposure to the La Quinta brand, they would never stay in another one. It's not entirely fair, but I will be less likely to consider La Quinta hotels as a result of this.

I awoke to a nice sunny day. My new room looked out on the pool. Not like anybody was enjoying it at 9:00 a.m. as I was leaving, but there it was.

In the end, I think the hotel did not charge me for the night's stay. I can't really say I feel good about that, either, since I did stay there. But I guess it was equitable, and I thought that at least somebody would wind up questioning that and asking why it was necessary.

So I picked up my bags and headed down to my rental car. That's when I discovered it was being guarded by a fierce dragon lizard!

Perhaps this Anole was vain.

Make no mistake. These little critters are fierce! They've got attitude and will stand their ground. The problem is that their ground is everywhere over Florida.

And she, or he, but I think she, had reinforcements.

So far, I haven't stepped on one of these, or been stepped on by one of them, or stepped in something they've left behind (not that you would probably notice much). So since I don't have too much experience with them as pests, I am still fond of them for their bigger-than-life attitude.

My hotel was not far from the airport, but I needed to find a convenient gas station to fill up the gas tank in the rental car. The first thing I noticed about this gas station (across the street in this picture), which was the closest one to the airport, was that it had no signs up advertising gas prices. That is a big red flag. Sure enough, I pulled in and gas was something over five dollars a gallon. Now, I had heard stories when I was getting off the ship that there were some gas shortages around the southeast, but I decided to drive on.

I drove on a little and I found this 7-11 not two miles down the road. If I recall correctly, it was $1.70 per gallon cheaper than the no-price gas station. I considered driving past, but decided I was running out of time to shop for gas. The problem here, of course, is that I did not want to buy Citgo gas. Happily, this station had quit selling Citgo gas something like a year-and-a-half ago, according to the clerk. So that was good and I avoided the price-gouging gas station.

Sadly, my rental car company charged me half a day because I returned the car over an hour late. Understand, I was in line something like 45 minutes late to turn it back in, but the hour came and went with me standing in line. And even there, the only reason I was 45 minutes late instead of early was because the rental car company rounded to the earliest hour possible, so I was actually charged for an hour at the start that I didn't even have the car! I meant to complain about that to them, but I was just too busy once I got back to work. I haven't entirely let it go yet, though! This is not a picture of my rental car, obviously. This is the plane I flew back home on. JetBlue was great. No problems there.

And here my car sits in my driveway, returned to where it came from, which is just the same picture I started with some eight days previous. Only it was dark and raining then!

Sunday, September 14, 2008 

Category: Life