Showing posts from February, 2012

The long ride home (1982 Florida vacation, part 7)

(This is the last in the series. Click here for parts one, two,three, four,five and six of my series reminiscing about our trip to Florida 30 years ago.)

Our week in the sun wasn't couldn't last. The Florida fun was ending. It was time to drive home to Chicago.

From Tampa, we piled back into our Chevy Citation and began the two-day trip back. This was my first experience that the ride home from vacation is never quick and rarely fun -- a stark reminder that the good times can't last, that everyday life must be resumed.

But we did have a little fun going home. We stopped in Dalton, Georgia, and stayed at the same hotel as we did on the trip down. I think we went to Pizza Hut for dinner, then I remember watching "Best of the West" on ABC. The next morning, I ordered French toast and was surprised and dismayed at how much cinnamon was put on it (I'm guessing it's a Southern thing).

When we drove into Chattanooga, we stopped and took the Incline -- a sort of ver…

The little things remembered (1982 vacation, part 6)

(Click here for parts one, two,three, four and five of my series reminiscing about our trip to Florida 30 years ago.)

Before wrapping up this series of posts (and I better wrap it up before February ends) with our return trip home, here's all the little memories I either forgot while writing or didn't have a spot for in a previous post:

-- As city dwellers in a flat state, our family hadn't experienced mountain driving until we got to Tennessee, when my mom was seriously freaked out by a runaway truck ramp. Even though she wasn't driving, she was thoroughly scared as we whooshed down the mountain. Today, I live 10 minutes away from a runaway truck ramp and wonder if it would be fun to take my Outback up it (no, I won't actually try that, it's probably not good for the car).

-- I played a lot of video games on this trip. The hotel we stayed at in Orlando had an arcade where I played Space Odyssey (like Scramble). The convenient store across the street had Space Wip…

Out of Africa (1982 Florida vacation, part 5)

(Click here for parts one, two,three and four of my series reminiscing about our trip to Florida 30 years ago.)

After Disney World and Sea World, we had one more amusement park to visit in Florida in 1982: Busch Gardens. With central Florida booming as a tourist attraction, Busch Gardens was beginning to be heavily advertised nationally, with an impressive African-American voice-over (could it have been James Earl Jones) distinctly finishing off a commercial with "Busch Gardens, Tampa." We had already worked our way over to the coast, found a Ramada Inn to stay at after our visit to Treasure Island, and had one more day of amusement park fun planned.

I don't remember too many specifics about Busch Gardens. Whereas Disney World was a little crowded for February, Busch Gardens was almost empty on the weekday we went. The park had two rollercoasters then: Python and Scorpion. We got to go on the Python (reminiscent of Great America's Turn of the Century) three times in a …

The Olympic experience, 2002

In February 2002, Lori and I lived in an apartment in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, on a ridge with a balcony that overlooked most of the Salt Lake Valley. From our bedroom window, on the opposite side of the apartment from the balcony, we could see some of Salt Lake City proper. From that window, for two weeks, we could see a little orange light glowing approximately 12 miles away.

What we were seeing was the Olympic cauldron. The flame was visible that far away.

We moved to Utah in 2000 with the Olympics in mind. We had been growing restless in Madison and were ready to leave Wisconsin. Admittedly, Utah with all the preconceptions attached to it, was someplace I would have normally sent a resume, too. But the 2002 Olympics were imminent, and the chance to work as a sports journalist in Salt Lake City during the Games was so alluring. Lori was excited at the prospect as well, figuring we could always reassess or situation after the Olympics were over.

February 2002 didn't disappoint. As…

The Olympic experience, 1980

I know I'm not done blogging about our vacation to Florida when I was 11, but I wanted to write about two Winter Olympics before February ended.

In 1980, the Winter Olympics were coming to the United States. In 1976, I was too young to remember the Innsbruck Winter Games, and I only vaguely remembered watching the Montreal Summer Games. So the Lake Placed Games were really my first Olympics. My mother bought the book I have pictured here (no, it's not my original; this one I found on eBay, hence the library sticker across it that I can't tear off without ripping the cover). This guide provided a history of each event and the Winter Games themselves, a preview of that year's Olympics, and spaces to write in the medal winners from that February. For a few weeks, this might have been the only book I read, and it instantly hooked me into watching the Winter Olympics.

Up until the final weekend of the Olympics, the big story of Lake Placid was Eric Heiden and his insanely wid…

The belt of Orion's belt

Lately, I've been walking Popcorn at night often. And in what is a reminder that winter is winding down, Orion is directly overhead in the night sky.

I can only pick out a few constellations, and Orion is one of them. And it's one that easily defines the seasons. Back in October, Popcorn was whining in the middle of the night, so I took her out, and there it was: Orion, making an early appearance over the Wasatch mountains in the eastern sky. As the days and weeks passed, Orion appeared in the east earlier and earlier, to the point now that it's visible over the mountains (and now, farther west) as soon as night falls. Now in mid-February, at about 10 p.m. when I walk the dog, it's even shading to the west and is slipping from being directly overhead.

In about a month, I bet we won't see Orion at all. The constellation will fade to the west, first getting lost in the sunset, then disappearing behind the mountains as Earth continues its orbit around the Sun. Orion wil…

What is lost and what is found

One of my favorite blogs I often read is Josh Wilker's Cardboard Gods. Josh is a little older than me, and he writes about life and memories in the context of baseball cards. His blog is often an inspiration for me, not just because of what he writes strikes a chord, but also because of the mere fact he started blogging all these memories and was successful doing so, to the point where he wrote a book based on the blog.

Josh, who is a new father, wrote a post a couple weeks ago that resonated with me. The baseball card he references is a 1978 Jim Todd, but the post streams from Jim Todd to, amazingly and fluidly, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"

Soon enough it disappeared and became dated almost instantly but then eventually came back to life as an oldie. I heard it the other day on a station that uses the word “remember” in its promotional jingles. You hear that word a lot on oldies stations, but the songs on oldies stations have been played so often that there is no way a…

The Skylanders' the limit

We bought Michael the video game Skylanders as a gift after he got the palatal expander put on his teeth (instead of getting a series of much, much more expensive retainers). It instantly became his favorite game. Skylanders is basically a combination of Pokemon, the Lego adventure games and Gauntlet. The game is somewhat geared toward grade-schoolers and comes with a special controller: a platform on which you put action figures, which then appear in your game. The more varied action figures you possess, the more gameplay options you have. The concept is ingenious, guaranteeing kids will want more action figures. Since it was released last year, Activision has sold 20 million Skylander figures. The game is fun, and Ben now loves it too -- not just the video game, but also playing with the action figures by themselves.

Not surprisingly, finding the Skylander figures since Christmas has been difficult. Fortunately, I found a few extra figures when I bought the game a couple weeks ago. T…

We're getting WLS in Georgia! (1982 vacation, part 4)

(Click here for parts one, two and three of my series.)

On our vacation to Florida in February 1982, we had two sources of music: Our Chevy Citation's AM radio and a non-stereo cassette player that ran on C batteries. The trip from Chicago to Florida was almost all top-40. The trip back was almost all Beatles.

Though we did listen to a couple cassettes my sister and If brought along (primarily, "Hi Infidelity," "4" and "Paradise Theater"), we listened to the radio for most of our vacation. Yes, I was so stunned that at night, we could pick up WLS-AM, as well as WCFL (an oldies station at the time, liked by my parents but despised by me), on the AM radio in Georgia. Among the songs I remember that night were "Workin' for the Weekend," "Love Is Like a Rock" and "Pac-Man Fever."

In Florida, we seemed to hear a lot of soft rock on the radio, such as Sheena Easton's "You Could Have Been With Me," Air Supply'…

Happy St. Valentine's Day

Lori and I, since early in our relationship have always downplayed Valentine's Day. Neither of us wanted to put too much pressure one each other for what is essentially a commercially driven holiday, and well, shouldn't you treat each other like it's Valentine's Day every day? For years now, we plan the anti-Valentine's Day meal: macaroni and cheese and fish sticks.

The boys were all sugared up from Valentine's Day parties at their school today. And yes, they did make their mom Valentine's Day cards. Those will always be more special to Lori than anything I could come up with for this day. We enjoyed our fish sticks and mac and cheese after Ben's basketball game today, then played a board game. Afterward, I got Popcorn out for a very long walk. Another busy day, but it was all heart.

Central Florida, here we are! (vacation 1982, part 3)

(Click here for parts one and two of these posts.)

In 1982, Orlando wasn't quite the vacation bonanza it is today. Albeit, it was still a tourist trap then as it is now, but it featured several fewer amusement parks then. On our second vacation to Florida, we stayed in Orlando almost the whole time. But on this first trip, we worked our way west, toward the ocean.

We did visit one other big Orlando attraction: Sea World. We saw Shamu, took the conveyor belt through the giant shark tank, and saw a waterskiing show, among other things. Eventually, we drove to Tampa Bay.

My sisters were so excited to see the ocean, but I wasn't. I dislike the beach, even more then than I do now. My dad stopped the car next to ocean so the girls could get out and collect some seashells. I stayed in the car.

We stayed that night in Clearwater, which is suburban Tampa. We were looking for a hotel, and the girls really wanted one with a pool with a slide. I just happened to notice one, a Rodeway Inn. Nea…

Start the week

Monday always seems like a transitional day for me -- the weekend is over, I work late on Sunday night, and the new week begins. Mondays never seem that productive, but I just want to get enough done to be rested and prepared for the rest of the week.

My Monday started with a dentist's appointment. Ben got home from school about noon, and I kind of lounged for an hour and started folding some laundry. We picked up Michael from school, then raced over to Cookie Cutters for the boys' haircuts. The nice thing about boys haircuts: They don't take long. We had plenty of time to get Ben to his swim lesson. Michael and I played a little basketball, then came home, at which time I got Popcorn out for a walk and finished loading the laundry. After dinner, I watched the second half of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II" (Michael has been watching all the Harry Potter movies in order and just finished up tonight), then took Popcorn for a long walk. I watched a lit…

Doctor my eyes

Michael got a put in his mouth last week to correct a crossbite he has. He's not too happy about the orthodontics, but it's only for 6-9 months, and hopefully, this will go a long way for him not needing braces later. Basically, the palatal expander gradually expands his upper jaw. The device comes with a key (it looks like a lock pick attached to a plastic tongue depressor) that, when inserted into the expander, turns a wheel (almost an axle) that widens the expander ever so slightly. We are supposed make to turns a day in his mouth.

But this post isn't about Michael's teeth. It's about mine and Lori's eyes.

On the first night we supposed to use the key, we encountered some difficulty. Lori saw how to do it at the orthodontist, even turning it once. But at home, she couldn't duplicate the success. Neither could eye. Even after shining a light into Michael's mouth, we couldn't tell if we were turning the wheel or n…

We're going to Disney World (Vacation 1982, part 2)

(Click here for the Part One of our trip to Florida 30 years ago.)

The centerpiece of our first vacation was obviously Disney World. In 1982, Epcot hadn't open, the Disney World was still big enough, with the Magic Kingdom, the monorail and a few resorts. Though we were staying in Orlando, we still explored Disney World a little. I remember visiting the Contemporary Hotel, through which the monorail intersected. I know we visited one other resort because I remember the arcade there (first time I ever saw Sky Raider). But who are we kidding: The Magic Kingdom was the highlight of our trip to Disney World. And it was as good as advertised.

I don't remember too many specifics from that trip to the Magic Kingdom (we would go again in 1984). We hit all the major rides: Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, It's a Small World, the teacups. We enjoyed attractions such as Bear Country Jamboree and the World of Tomorrow (and I remember thinking to myself that nobo…

Hoop dreams

Halfway through the boys' basketball seasons -- I coach both teams -- and it's been fun. Crazy, sometimes frustrating, sometimes awesome, and fun.

Ben plays on a kindergarten team in a league in which no scores are kept. In our previous game, we played a team that was shooting the lights out (for kindergartners at least -- I swear, their players made perhaps their first seven shots), but we kept up and scored about seven baskets, which was our season high. We got to this week and put up more shots then we had all season, but nothing fell. So many shots rimmed out. But we played good defense and were passing the ball better than we have all season (and better than an average kindergarten team does, I bet). It was just bad luck. We weren't shut out, though, and we were complimented by the other coach how well we played. I was proud of them.

Ben is having fun, too, though this first season of hoops reminds me of his first season of soccer, in which he was sometimes not lost, bu…

We're going to Florida! (Part 1)

I was awoken at 3 a.m. and told to get dressed. We were going on vacation.

In February 1982, my family drove to Florida for our first real vacation. A snowstorm was pushing through the Midwest, so we weren't exactly sure when we would leave. My father wanted to get an early start to drive through Chicago before rush hour. When I went to bed the night before, with our dog already by Grandma Elsie's house, I didn't know when we would leave. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I knew we were leaving sooner than later.

We all piled into our Chevrolet Citation coupe (yes, we took a compact car to Florida) and left while it was still dark. When we got into Indiana, things got interesting. The storm that had hit left the interstate slick overnight, and my mother was freaked out at the sight of trucks jack-knifed in the wide, grassy (well, snowy) median. But the sun was shining and the roads were clear. We were on our way.

By the time we had reached Kentucky, the temperature h…

Randomness for a Monday

I'm looking at the basketball hoop calendar (yes, it's a calendar that came with a Nerf hoop) and discovered that today, Feb. 6, is Waitangi Day in New Zealand. An Internet search revealed that Waitangi Day is somewhat our country's Fourth of July. The basketball calendar also said that Eric Money was born this day in 1955. Funny, I don't remember the playing exploits of Eric Money at all. His Wikipedia page said he did appear in "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh," so he must not have been that bad.

-- Both boys have the cold bug I had last week, but not as bad. However, Ben is losing his voice a little and sounds like Froggy from "The Little Rascals." Too bad he didn't have this voice at Halloween; we could have found him wire-rimmed glasses and overalls and had almost nobody under age 50 recognize who he was.

-- Popcorn is in an odd mood tonight. After taking her for a long walk tonight, she came inside and didn't want to lay down in her crate…

Two innocent boys

Well, I'm a-thinkin' and a-thinkin', till there's nothin' I ain't thunk.
Breathing in the stink, till finally I stunk.
It was at that time, I swear I lost my mind.
I started making plans to kill my own kind.
- "Country Death Song" by the Violent Femmes

For those of you not familiar with the Josh Powell case, he was a Utah dad and husband whose wife suspiciously disappeared in 2009. Police suspected him of murdering her but never had enough evidence to arrest him. He lost custody of his kids after police found naughty photos on his father's computer. Powell, now living in Washington was allowed supervised visits with his sons, and on Sunday, the social worker brought the boys over to his house, where he pulled them in, locked the front door on the social worker, and ignited the house. To the horror of the social worker, the house was engulfed in flames quickly, killing Josh Powell and his sons.

When I heard this news yesterday, I wanted to throw up. …

Almanac in the family

I tried digging through old posts to see if I wrote about my October tradition of buying/receiving a Farmer's Almanac. As much as I thought I did, it appears I never have. Expect that post next October. This post is about almanacs, but not the kind with weather predictions and planting tables. My other favorite almanac are the newsy kind, loaded with all manner of useful, trivial and historical information.

For several years in my youth, my grandfather always gave me the Reader's Digest Almanac and Yearbook he would get for free for subscribing to Reader's Digest. (I apologize for the choppy scan; this is hardcover and not easy to get on the scanner.) As an 8-year-old and beyond, I was interested in the news and was a sponge when it came to information. The almanac was the perfect source to soak my brain with facts. After the "World in Review" section was "Accidents and Disasters" -- because I often started at the beginning, I became an expert on catastr…