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Twenty.


Me, my brother and my dad. Out painting the town.

Saturday was a day out with my family. Me and Corb, along with my sister Kerrie, my brother, his fiancee, Mom and Dad. We went to see a quite good production of Wicked at PPAC, then ate on Federal Hill at a restaurant called Costantino's. Then, a few bars with Tommy and his fiancee.

A great time was had by all. And then, Corb and I decided to make our announcement. It's been something we've been discussing for the past few weeks. Something we had almost on announced on several occasions. But it never seemed the right time, or we'd chicken out, or...

Flashback to two hours earlier. "I don't know," said Corb, as we navigated the S curves on our way into Providence. "Should we do it?"

"I think we should," I said, as I idly played with my Android.

"But what will we tell my mother?" he asked.

"We can tell her, too, of course."

Corb frowned. "But how about if she likes it? And how about if she tells Scott and Tina?"

I shrugged. "Just as long as she doesn't tell your crazy Aunt Carol."

Corb bit his lip in agitation.

And now, there we were. Ready to make the big announcement. I looked over at Corb. He looked over at me. We nodded. It was time to take the plunge.

I reached over and grabbed a breadstick. "Corb and I would like to be the ones to host Thanksgiving this year," I said.

###

"Twenty people!" Corb said to me today. "We are going to have twenty people coming to this thing. At least!"

Yeah. Twenty people, he's right. Because we couldn't just invite my family (That's nine) and my kids (Which will probably only make it two), but he invited his mom (who immediately jumped at the offer, as did Jim). And now, Scott and his family seem to want to go (five)Add Corb and me and you get...

"Twenty," said Corb, looking as if he were having a mild heart attack. "How are we going to fit twenty people in one room? What room should we have this in? How much am I going to need to cook for twenty. Twenty!"

I don't know. I'm kind of looking forward to it. For three years now, people have dropped hints in the family that they would love to see us hold Thanksgiving at Green Victoria. We were almost going to do it last year, but Tommy beat us to the punch, and quite frankly, that worked out for the best, seeing as mom had just started chemo and couldn't travel far. But honestly, even then? There were only about ten of us at that meal. Ten to twelve is usually the norm. And here Corb wants to up and double it. Not one family, but two combined. And of course,m Corb being Corb, he wants the food and the place to look (and taste) spectacular.

Corb is furiously consulting sites on his phone. "It says here we will need a 25 pound turkey at least..."

Twenty people. What are we thinking.

I think it's going to be a grand adventure :)

Footprints.


After all the yard sale-ing and cellar bleaching we did on Saturday, Corb decided to surprise me with a mystery ride to Horseneck Beach the following day,

I haven't been in years, even though it's located close to my parents' beach house. Hmm, maybe that's why I haven't. Who would go to a busy beach in the summer when you can relax at a secluded beach house instead?

Summer's ending, it's after Labor day. And, the weathermen predicted it would rain. Meaning, the beach was pretty empty. There's something kind of special about an empty beach.

Corb and I walked for about seven miles along the shore. Enjoying the feel of the sand squishing between our toes. The salt water licking at our heels. There were more seagulls on the beach than sunworshipers. Some white and fluffy, others gray and skinny. The seagulls, I mean. Are the male seagulls the ones that are white and fluffy? Typical men, all about plumage.

We passed an area full of jellyfish. That was scary. Another area where you'd take a step and your feet would start to squish into the sand. Quicksand gulch.  Another area filled with late season surfer boys. That was pretty,

"I want to rent a beach house next summer," I remarked as we made our way back to the car. Still two miles left until we reached it.

"Maybe somewhere like South Carolina. Myrtle Beach, maybe."

I traced a dirty picture in the sand with my big toe. "I was thinking around here. That way people could come visit us for a day or so."

"But if we rented a place in the Carolinas, we could get other people to pitch in and rent it with us. Your parents. My mom. Maybe Pauline."

"The kids would have to be with us full time, then. If we rented it around here, we could get a free day or two."

Corb snickered. "Like that could happen. One of these days we have to start taking vacations alone."

The thing is, I kind of like having a mix.

Still. Dreaming dreams for this summers ahead. I kind of like that feeling. I kind of like today.

Afterwards, a trip to one of our favorite restaurants, Lindsey's. A lazy man lobster for me. For Corb, his absolute favorite, chicken croquettes. I was tempted to have a martini but refrained.

WHAT I LEARNED: Some days are meant to be cherished.

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A Bird Whisperer


Some of you may recall the problems I had at the start of the summer getting a birdfeeder established.

The first bird feeder I put in this area was easily opened by squirrels and chipmunks. Then the roof was ripped apart one night completely. To avoid it being vanadalized and detract the damn vermin, I had to replace it with a good squirrel proof feeder and a type of seed that the squirrels dislike (laced with cayenne pepper).

I am happy to report that I have successfully solved the problem. In fact, the birds like it so much, I can now stand completely still inches away from it and they will still come to feed!

I am a regular Snow White, I am.

Back to the empty nest.

Le sigh.

The past two days have been all about transporting the kids back to college: yesterday, Theo for his second year and today, bright and early, Ashes for her fifth (and final) year.

Ah, it's not that bad. Actually, in a lot of ways, it's a fun routine. Me and Corb and Josie on the road together. Me and my man and my ex-wife. three road warriers in search of a college and then a good meal. So we load up the back of Corb's F-150 to the brim and head out with a kid in tow.

Yesterday to Fitchburg, which has a terribly organized drop-off system. We arrived there at four in the afternoon and were told that they weren't allowing anyone to use the rolling bins any more, as the move-in process ended at five. "Shouldn't you warn people about that?" Corb asked at the registration tent, which they were already starting to take down.

Perhaps the girl behind the desk was intimdated by his 6 foot 5 frame. "I'll squeeze you in," she said, and wheeled over a rolling cart. As it turned out, getting there later makes the process easier. If we had arrived on time, we would have been waiting for two hours to use the elevators to get into the dorms. There was only only way to get in, and only one elevator was going up.

That night we ate at a place called Happy Jack's which does great Mexican. Just the three of us. Theo doesn't like to go out, he just wants to get right into hanging with his friends. Fortunately, Josie and Corb make for good company.

Today to Salem for nine in the morning. Unlike Fitchburg, Salem State has a very organized move-in process. Everyone is assigned a role, the instructions are clear and you actually have a drop off point and a student assigned to help you load up your stuff into the rolling bins and bring it to the room (two elevators, both moving efficiently). They even apologize if you wait too long!

Ashes, who usually does like to eat with us after move-in, opted to hang with her friends instead this year. And also opted to fix up her room without us helping!

That allowed us time to wander a bit and the settle down for a late breakfast at the Fountain Place Restaurant. It was a good meal, although I'm kind of biased: breakfast is always my favorite meal of the day.

And then, back to Eldredge, our job done. Me, dozing off in the passenger seat, Josie, texting away in the back of the truck. Corb, complaining about the drivers in front of him on 93 and having to go to a cook-out for his family later today.

When we get home from the trip I find thirty minutes to write down what we went through the past few days. I like this.

And now begins three months of kid-free (for the most part) living. Life is good!

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Stories from NOLA


Had a great time in New Orleans. Barely got out, though: by Friday, the rain was coming down and by Saturday at five, Louisiana was starting to flood. We were at the airport with two hours to spare, but as I sat there in the terminal, I kept getting messages on my phone: "Your flight is delayed by 45 minutes," "Your flight is delayed by 30 minutes," etc.

By the time that the delay was exceeding the time we were set to board for the stopover, both Corb and I knew we had to speak with someone. I walked up to the reservation desk and was fortunate enough to have a no-nonsense African American woman behind the counter. In my opinion, if you want something done without any bullshit whatsoever and have it done correctly, always put your faith in the hands of a no-nonsense African American woman.

"I think we have a problem," I said to her, showing her my tickets.

She frowned. "Your plne is coming from Dallas. They are diverting it because of the storm. Taking a roundabout way."

"I wouldn't want to be the people on those plane," I replied.

"I wouldn't want to be the flight attendant on that plane," she replied. She glanced at the ticket information. "Well, it says here that you would still have ten minutes to get from one gate to another once you touched down in Charlotte..."

"Is that enough time?" I asked.

She gave me her most no-nonsense look. "Oh, honey. No."

Then she waved her magic wand and in ten minutes, we had been switched from United to American Airlines and she also managed to move our luggage without a fuss. All it took was our leaving one gate and getting searched and inspected once again. Theo, who had been stopped because they found a weird object on the X-ray, was the only one to complain about this (PS: it turned out to be his plastic hoodie from the rain in New Orleans.

Once at the new gate, our plane was boarding. Then we made it to Charlotte, which was PACKED because of all the delays. They were giving out free food and drinks. It was wall to wall people. But somehow, we managed to just walk across the floor and poof! Our plane was boarding.

Despite the horrible flooding, we managed to arrive in Providence right on time.


My favorite trip in New Orleans? The visit to alligator country. I loved traveling through the bayous. Our tour guide would spot an alligator and then slow down, pluck out a marshmellow, place on the end of a stick and dangle it off the side of the boat. At one pointed we had five alligators heading toward the boat. At one time the marshmellow fell off the stick and the tour guide petted the top of the alligator's head. I just had a ball. It was very True Blood.

What I didn't particularly love was the smell of New Orleans. Our hotel, the Maison Dupuis, was lovely for the most part, but did have an overall odor on the first floor of sewarage that they tried valiantly to mask, but...well, you can only cover shit so much, I guess.

I booked one room for the four of us: me, Corb, Ashes and Theo. The first room we had was way too small, even with a fold out bed rolled into the room. We lasted one evening in that room, and then moved into a slightly larger locataion. Given the humidity, we did spend a bit of time in the room, so it was a necessity. You needed time to recover after each outing. We would conduct a walking tour of the French Quarter, go back to the room and collapse, take a steamboat ride on the Natchez, go back to the room and collapse, take a bus tour of New Orleans, go back to the room and collapse. Corb does not like heat! New Orleans would not be his city to reside in.

Being so up close and personal did have its advantages and disavantages. On the plus side, since they were a captive audience, during tours, I was able to get the kids to wrap all up all the college stuff that needed getting done for the year ahead. Confirmed college funding? Check. Signed off on health care waiver? Check. No nagging, it just got done.

I also saw some great signs of selflessness from Theo that made me admire him even more. For example, on the way to New Orleans, Corb and Theo had to split up from us and travel to NOLA with a Chicago stopover. Ashes and I went through Charlotte. Theo learned that he had been given an upgrade to First Class when he got to the gate. What did he do? Turned it right over to Corb. Also, there were quite a few situations (given the close quarters) that could have been far more contentious had he not be there to help defuse the situation. At one point, Corb was getting really upset about some things he felt slighted by during the day. Theo chose to get some sleep rather than let it escalate. At another point, Ashes was headed for a meltdown about not getting a certain type of appetizer before dinner (I kid you not, although there were other reasons behind it, too, and she did wisely head to the bathroom to mellow out after the incident) and he was a lifesaver in getting us back on track, telling us more about his colege life than we had ever heard before.

For example, this semester, he and seven of his friends are moving into a quad together. One of his friends, Frank, is scheduled to room with a kid that decided to come out during the end of the summer and tell the boys that he is transgendered and transitioning to a woman. Theo and his best friend Lucas knew that Frank was going to feel uncomfortable about that, so they've devised a back-up plan for him: if he starts to freak out, they will separate and Frank will move in with Theo and Lucas will move in with their other friend. They didn't need to, they just wanted to make life easier.

Ashes, on the other hand, did require a bit of attention. Every day was a new drama: Michaela wasn't going to her birthday party when we returned, another friend had been offered a job at the library at school she wanted. All of them resolved and were uneccessary dramas. Interestingly, she was her most agitated at five in the afternoon. That seemed to be a consistent thread. I wonder if it has something to do with her diet? In any event, it was interesting to see up close. She'd start every day fairly positive. But around five...well, things would get intense. They'd be resolved after supper.

Also, she's been taken a class in Statistics that I've been tutoring her in. To do so, I've had to learn an awful lot about Statistics. There was a lot of work done on vacation! Again, in some ways, another reason I was grateful for the close quarters.

But most of all, what I loved about the trip were the great meals that we enjoyed. From Pierre Maspero's to Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, from beignets at the Cafe du Monde in the Franch Quarter or Morning Call in the Park, the food was out of this world. Definitely a happy memory I think all of us will never forget.


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Vacation bound

Off to New Orleans for a week with Corb and the kids!

It's 4:00 in the morning here and the plane takes off at 6:30. I willingly just woke up to make sure everything is ready. I must be crazy...

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Lightning strikes!

Last Wednesday night, I hopped over to my buddy Coco's house for a very special party. We were going to find out whether Jekyll and Hyde, the play I directed in June, had been nominated for any awards by the Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters, who hold and annual gala event to honor winners of the DASH awards--it's kind of like the Tony awards for Eastern Massachusetts.

As I entered her house I handed her a bottle of Fireball whiskey and jokingly said, "Let's all drink a shot each time we are nominated."

And then we sat around her living room and waited.

We drank our first shot when we were nominated for best sound design.

And our next for best lighting design.

Then we were nominated for best stage management.

Then best actor.

Then two for best actress.

Then best musical direction.

THEN BEST DIRECTOR.

THEN BEST MUSICAL!!!!

Needless to say, I was pretty drunk by the end of the night. And pretty damn happy!

The awards ceremony will take place at the end of August. Honestly, just being recognized in this way is enough. I am so excited!

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Operation: Moth balls


Back to work yesterday. Ugh. And last night's problem: tackling some cheeky chipmunks.

It all started about a week ago, when I decided I wanted to really make a consistent effort to fill up the bird feeders around Green Victoria. I don't know why the thought popped into my head. I'm just that kind of person, I gues. Occasionally thoughtful.

We have one feeder that is located right by the archway leading into our yard. The very day after I filled it, I noticed that most of the seed was missing and there were a ton of empty shells around the feeder. It looked like the end of the night at the local saloon.

"Hmmm." I said to myself. "I doubt the birds are THAT hungry. Even if I haven't filled that thing up for about a year."

So, I kept my eagle eye out. And soon enough, I realized that there were an awful lot of squirrels and chipmunks visiting that particular tree. Aha!

Duly warned, I went to the old Stop and Grab and bought bird seed that birds like, but squirrels and
chipmunks detest because it has cayenne pepper sprinkled in. Take that, mammals with bland appetites! I filled that bird feeder up to the rim with caliente.

The next morning, I walked out of the house. Damn tricky mammals. The fuckers had somehow managed to scoop through all the seeds in the birdcage to find the ones they like, grabbed those, and dumped all the cayenne-covered seeds onto the ground. The cads!

But we've kept up with the hot seeds, and the past few days, I've noticed that the birdseed level has gone back to normal. So either the squirels and chipmunks have moved on and accepted that this feeder is muy muy caliente or the birds are finally full.

Although perhaps the bird feeder problem has resolved, the whole experience uncovered another problem. You see, everywhere I turn since then, I've been encountering chipmunks these days around the hallowed grounds of Green Victoria.

No, seriously. In the trees. Scurrying underfoot.
I open the door in the morning to let Kyra pee and she goes scampering after something, instantly, Crawling out of my cereal ball when I pour milk into my Rice Crispies. Those little guys sure hate that Snap Crackle and Pop!

(Note: maybe one of those examples is a lie. I leave it up to you to guess which one.)

I'd say I've gone a bit nuts, but Corb's noticed it too.

Last evening Corb decided to do something about it. Project Mothballs has begun.

"I read that chipmunks don't like the smell of moth balls," explained Corb as we hunted around the grocery store. Where do they keep moth balls, anyways?

"Are you sure you didn't misread it?" I asked. "Maybe they actually don't like the smell of meatballs."

"Silly Ted. That's only Italian chipmunks," replied Corb. "No, what we need to do is to wrap up some moth balls in cheesecloth and throw them around the outside of the house. Around the foundation, in any holes you see. The smell is supposed to keep the little pests away."

"The smell makes me want to run away," I complained to Corb as we were wrapping up the moth balls later in the kitchen that evening. "I mean, I like the smell of mothballs in little old lady's drawers, but this is too much."

Corb frowned at me. "I always suspected that about you,.." Yeah, I am a regular Nathan Lane in Little Old Lady land. Lick me. Touch me.

"Isn't this going to make the whole place smell like moth balls?" I asked Corb as we started tossing the little bags into nooks and crannies around the house. "Isn't it bad enough we have an old Victorian? Isn't this going to make it seem really old?"

"Shut up and throw," he replied. Ah, who am I kidding? I just followed him around and made wiseass comments.

So, that's been our life the past week. Chasing the chipmunks. Forget about Pokemon Go! We've got a different kind of wildlife to capture. Or at least, release. First we had deer, then flying squirrels, now this. Sometimes I'm not sure if I own a home or a wildlife sanctuary.

Maybe a combination of both.

Happy 4th!



Happy Independence day, all you Yankee doodle dandies!

Repeat after me: It's only a movie.


Have you ever screamed really loudly in a movie theater and then realized you're the only one screaming?

It happened to me last night, while we were watching The Conjuring 2. There's a scene where this little girl is home alone from school because she had a fever in the morning. She's sitting on her couch watching TV, when all of a sudden the channel changes to some British parlimentary thing. Annoyed, she changes it back to the dumb British comedy she was watching. A few seconds later, it changes back. She turns it back. It moves back. She goes to hit the TV, it goes all fizzy and in the screen she can clearly see the reflection of--

"AGGGGGGGGGH!"

Oh shit. Was that me? Damn, that was pretty loud.

I hear nervous laughter. The couple in front of me turns around to look at me. Ashes hides her head in her arms, mortified.

And that's the moment I realize that I'm not just watching the show. I AM the show.

So I spend the next half hour acutely aware I screamed when no one else had, and now I'm living my life in fear that I'm now known as the screaming guy. There he is, the screaming guy! Can't wait for him to scream next. Will it be loud? Will it be inappropriate? Oh, I can't wait, loud and inappropriate! More, more! Kids, get over here, let's listen to the screaming guy!

I blame it on the play. For months I've been so trained to react to respond to clap loudly to scream (Corb hates it when I scream. He thinks I sound like Howard Dean running for President) to lose all inhibition and support that I've forgotten how you are supposed to behave under normal conditions. You should see me in front of my TV at night.

It's not easy to move back into the normal world. But for that next half an hour, I'm on my very best behavior. I try not to do all the things I typically do. No screaming. No squirming in my seat. No hiding my eyes. No contorting into a ball. I'm going to try and be normal, dammit!

Then something scary happens and I go, "Oh fuck it, it's more fun reacting."

On another note, it was a good movie to scream with. There were some dumb moments, but for the most part, it kept your attention and was really creepy. Kind of had to keep a light on for a while when I say down to watch Doctor Who (Terror of the Zygon special features...Tom Baker and Liz Sladen reminiscing about his time on the show) later that night.

But there was one part that still kills me. It kind of strained disbelief. I'm not giving anything away, I swear. The guy who plays Ed Warren knows that the kids in the haunted hovel he came to visit come from a broken home. The dad left with all of the (I am not making this up) Elvis records, and the mom is ever so sad about it. So, to comfort them at Christmas, Ed takes the dad's guitar (which dad happened to thoughtfully leave behind. That's right, he took the Elvis records but left his guitar. Gotta have our priorities here.) and starts to croon "I can't help falling in love with you." The kids sit around the couch with Brady Bunch smiles on their face, all bedecked in mid-seventies pajamas (boy do I miss wearing mid-seventies pajamas). Then Ed gets to the final chorus and asks the kids to join in.

What I wouldn't give. WHAT I WOULDN'T GIVE... Well, I would have given my left nut if the little English girl who was possessed had started singing along in her evil demon voice. It would have been wonderful. There's this classic little seventies English family, all moppy hair and bad teeth, sitting around the living room singing along to Elvis. What did that scene need to make it utterly perfect? Of course, this week's special demon guest star Valak, who stops riding his two headed dragon and commanding 30 legions of demons so he can dress up like a nun and join in on a classic Elvis ditty in Enfield. The singing demon nun. SWEET!

I actually urge you to try this, if you go to see this movie. Just start belting out the end of the song in your best Linda-Blair-possessed-by-a-demon voice. It will add a wonderful Rocky Horror feel to the evening. Who knows, maybe everyone else will sing along, too.

And this, my friends, is why I don't direct movies.

That, and the screaming.
 

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