Friday, November 30, 2007

Home again, home again, Jiggedy jig...

Italian Port-A-Potties
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Despite the best efforts of the weather and the rioting masses, we have managed to complete our trip successfully and safely.

It was a bit touch and go at times, due to fire and the aforementioned riots, but it was still a great time, all things considered.

More later, just know that all is well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sid and Nancy World Tour 2007

Sid and Nancy
Originally uploaded by alpharat
We're off on our world tour, to a Paris that has ground to a halt, then onward to Florence to see Z!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Street near Sacre Coeur
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Why is it that, every time we plan a trip outside the US, something comes up to threaten our ability to get around?

The first time we went to Paris, it was riots in the outlying neighborhoods. There were soldiers everywhere, and burnt out cars on our trip into the city.

In Venice, a transit strike on the morning we were to come back forced us to find an alternate boat to take to the airport.

Now I understand that the Paris transit unions are on strike, with no intention of caving.

It's not even what I would call a great reason, either. The government said workers should work for 40 years in order to collect a pension, rather than the current 37.5. Why is that unreasonable?

Maybe I don't think it's unreasonable because we work longer hours for more years than countries in the EU. Or maybe it's just that I don't want to walk everywhere in Paris.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Icemannish Things

Iceman is over, and the bikes are going in for an end-of-season tuneup (which is sorely needed for TFN's Hi-Fi!), so let's take a walk, shall we? It shall be long and convoluted, and may or may not pay off. Let's see what it's like when we get there, as this one is more about the trip than the destination.

This is Mika. Thanks to TFN, he is my current secret guilty pleasure. I don't mind sharing him, though. Go ahead and listen while we walk.

Iceman weekend started unrealistically well. We took Friday off, and I did some homewise projects, like putting patio furniture away, while TFN worked from home for a bit. We left for TC at noon, which was later than we planned but earlier than we hoped for, if you know what I mean (the time you plan to leave is always much earlier than the actual departure).

We made amazing time up to TC (I don't want to brag, but rumors that we made it from 16 mile in Troy to downtown TC in 3 and a half hours are apparently true), and got there in enough time to go to L Mawby (our favorite winery up there) for a tasting and several bottles to go. L Mawby isn't open on Sundays in the off season, so this was an imperative.

Wine in hand, or actually in the back seat, we checked into our hotel, and made our way over to the Grand Traverse Resort to register for the race, where we met up with ST and KayBee, who were just getting up to the TC as well. We were slowly assembling the group... Picking up one more (Mookie), we went to Minerva's for dinner, ran into some friends, and made our way back to the hotel for a beer and a mild case of food poisoning - which is sad, because I love Minerva's but I don't think I can go there anymore.

Iceman morning was cold but sunny, and we assembled at the gates with plenty of time to prepare, have that last ill-advised smoke of the morning under the baleful glares of healthier riders, and get ready to make a go at this thing called Iceman.

ice mzn 005
Originally uploaded by
We all blasted out of the gates at a great pace, I know TFN and I were poised to blow our previous times out of the water - or the sand in this case. The temperature was perfect, and the sand was wet and packed.

At Williamsburg Road (the 17 mile checkpoint), I stopped to have a bananananana and talk to KayBee, our support person, for a second. As I did, ST caught up with me. He informed me that TFN, who was right behind me, had gotten a stick sucked up into her deraileur, and she couldn't hold any gears on the climbs.

I waited for her to get to Williamsberg. She was frustrated and angry. After I looked at her bike, I could see that something was out of whack back there, but it was beyond my limited mechanical intellect to make any repairs in a timely fashion. So I told her that she could bail there, or if she wanted to limp it out, I'd stick with her. She decided she wanted to finsh.

So we took off from there, hammering as fast as her bike would permit on the flats, charging up all the hills until the point where her bike went Kachunka-chunka-chunka! and her chain started bouncing up and down the cassette, without settling into a gear. Then we'd get off and walk.

For the most part, I provided pep talks as she forced her bike to limp as well as it would.

We finished last in our classes, but we had a great time, and we crossed the finish line smiling side by side. I'm buying that picture!

It was all about helping out a teammate and riding our bikes on a gorgeous day. I think it's something I'd do for any fellow Angry Monkey (you don't leave a man behind!), but with it being TFN, we actually had a lot of fun doing what the Hi-Fi would do.

Good times.

And there was a cooler full of Fat Tire waiting at the finish.

I want to thank my Fellow Angry Monkeys who raced with us that day. I want to thank the Angry Monkey Support Crew who drove our cars to the finish, cheered for us at the checkpoint, and had cold beer ready when we got to the finish. I guess I also want to thank my teammates once again for not drinking all of the Fat Tire before we finished. And I want to thank TFN for sticking it out, and deciding that she was going to be the toughest member of our team that day.

The official after party had a change of venue this year. The K&A faction had rented a suite, but when they arrived they found out the place had messed up and lost their room, so they instead opted to put them up in a 2,000 square foot condo. K made tacos for everyone, and we hung out there. It was a lot better than a bar.

The bummer was that Z was putting out fires at home, and couldn't make it out to party with the primates, but at least we'll be in Florence at the same time as her and the Mr. Z, duly note that your prescence is required at least once to have a drink or 20 with TFN and I!

Sunday was set aside for a BIG breakfast, several visits to wineries (L Mawby was open again on Sunday due to an event. Yayyy!), and the drive home. We stopped in Frankenmuth for a big dinner and our second mild case of food-related illness for the weekend (I blame this one on gorging myself, though). I do think that, in retrospect, Frankenmuth is a scary town and hopefully it falls into the ocean with rest of California (however improbable this may be, it could happen, God willing.

Now for an interlude, here's more Mika:

Are we ready to convolute? Good. If not, I'll wait. OK, are you ready? Let's go.

This should really go into another post, but I'm on a roll, so we'll just keep going.

Quicken Loans just announced today that they are moving downtown and bringing 4,000 jobs with them. This is amazing news for my Detroit, and if it's not entirely indicative of a turnaround yet, it's definitely pulling a nail out of the coffin. I would love to see this place keep it up, but I think it will still be a little stalled until Kwame gets out of office.

If things get better, I can see myself moving into the city. A few weeks ago, we went to Indian Village, and discovered that it's entirely realistic to buy a 6,000 square foot house in the city. We're not wealthy, property is simply that inexpensive there. Unfortunately, the taxes are crippling and include zero in the way of city services right now.

If Detroit doesn't get better, the next few years may see me... we'll just say elsewhere for now. That's all I have to say about Detroit for now, though. We'll hope it continues to improve.

Hmmmm... this was a pretty failed convolution as I am out of stuff to blather about.

OK, more later, and I also have some Halloween and Iceman photos to share at some point.

I'll be back soon.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I need beer. STAT.

This. Is. Simply. Awesome.

HEBRON, CT (NBC) -- It may have seemed like an emergency at the time, but a Connecticut man is now regretting his call to 911.

35-year-old Brian Poulin of Hebron was arrested Sunday after police said he called 911 several times and asked them to bring him beer.

Hebron was charged with disorderly conduct.

Police said he called 911 numerous times and told the dispatcher he was out of beer and asked them to pick up more for him.

Poulin was transported to Windham Community Memorial Hospital after officers arrested him at his home.

Police did not say what he was treated for.

He is scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Rockville on Nov. 20.

I know we've all had moments like this before, when the beer runs out. What is the guts vs. lack of brains ratio required to get call 911 to declare it an emergency?


Fortunately, we are already collecting provisions for Iceman this weekend, so we will not be presented with such an emergency.

For The Love Of Trash

TFN's first date was to see John Water's Hairspray. That sparked an obsession that hasn't let up.

John Waters is an interesting cat. In the length of his film career, he has made movies like Hairspray, Pecker, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Crybaby. Through them all, he has created this perfect way of glamorizing seediness. He makes trashiness OK in a strange way. TFN got me hooked on his films, and we always thought he'd be cool to meet.

Now we're going to find out.

Next month, he's coming to the Crofoot to give a monologue. Not only did we pick up tickets for that, we got tickets for the meet and greet. I probably won't have much more time than to say "Thank You", shake his hand, and (hopefully) get TFN's picture taken with him, but it will be enough. It will totally be a real brush with greatness.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Today Forecast - Little Whirlwinds

I am a big fan of the time shift this time of year, just for the feeling that I have somehow managed to sneakily steal away both an extra hour of staying up and an extra hour of sleeping in.

Normally, that extra hour of delicious sleep on the first Monday back is also an extra-special joy. Not this year, however.

This year, I had to get up at 4 (but at least it was really 5 if you want to play the time change card in the opposite direction), to take TFN to the airport.

She’s in Bosstown for the next few days. The only funny thing about this early morning excursion to Detroit Metro was that the Dropkick Murphys’ song “Shipping Up To Boston” came on the radio just after I left her at the curb outside the departures entrance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Murphys, they’re one of Boston’s finest bands, a blend of working class irish music and blue-collar punk. I’ve been a big fan of these guys for years, but they really got their big break being featured in last year’s best picture, “The Departed”

But anyhoo…

TFN is gone until Wednesday, and bachelor time is usually pretty laid back around here, focusing heavily on loud records, microwave meals and tackling a few household projects. This one is somewhat the exception.

First off, we have come to the sudden realization that this past weekend was our last at home until December. Next weekend, we’re staging a two-wheeled attack on Zillaland, as the masses descend for yet another physical torture/drunken debacle of the type known as the Iceman Cometh Mountain Bike Race. So tonight, one of my projects will be to ensure that every bit of cold-weather gear for a wide range of possible weather conditions has been assembled.

On top of that, this trip marks thhe first time that Shane has gone to stay at the dog hotel. He’s an old-timer, and my kid, so I wouldn’t dare “kennel” him. This place is a full-blown dog hotel, where he’ll have a bed in his little room, with music piped in, and the hotel features a range of play areas, divided by dogs’ interests and activity levels. I signed Shane up for the “I like other dogs provided they are mellow like me. Playtime = laying down together on one giant dog bed.” He’s laid back like that.

Because of this, tonight we’re off to the vet for a Bordetella shot. This is apparently a vaccination that isn’t typically given to a dog, unless he goes and stays at a kennel, or a hotel in this case. Apparently, it’s also shot up the nose. Shane hasn’t heard about any of this.

After Iceman, it’s just a few days before we head back to Europe. Going back to Paris and Florence creates a vastly different feeling. The first time, not knowing if you’ll ever return, one is overwhelmed by this need to see everything and do it all. The second time, armed with the knowledge that we’ve seen the things we needed to see for the sake of seeing them, and equipped with the idea that some places are obtainable enough that one can seen them more than once, we want to experience the places, rather than simply see them.

I want to spend a full day on Mont Martre, not just a few hours. I want to smirk at the lines to certain museums, knowing that they needed to be seen once, but also that once is enough to, again, experience them. I want to… hell, I just want to take it at my own pace, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but not at the whirlwind pace of the traveler on the mission of sucking all the marrow out of an entire culture in four days (speaking of marrow… must find some oxtail as well… mmmmmm).

That is the extent of the leading edge of my upcoming whirlwind. I’ll leave you with a bit of trivia about Pablo Picasso (who had a little house on Mont Martre). His given name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso. How could he not have been destined for greatness?