Lots Of Fun, Slightly Different

Last night Z-D and I went to dinner, and then to the zoo, with some people who Z-D knows through business.  Technically it was a business event but these people aren’t in the least bit uptight, so it really was quite fun.

[Not all business events are, you know?  Trust me.]

We went to a small, old-fashioned Italian restaurant for dinner.  I’d heard of the place, but had never been there so I was psyched to try it.  The restaurant was charming in that hodge-podge way of older establishments– rooms added every which way over the years and decorated in a mix of 1970s tables & chairs + fake plastic flowers + framed b&w photos + updated 2011 light fixtures.  Unique, but very practical.  Clean and friendly.

The menu was only Italian fare, and the food was good and plentiful.  But what caught us all by surprise was that along with the usual Chianti and beer selections on the menu, this Italian restaurant offered flights of Bourbon.  Apparently, they are known for having one of the best Bourbon tasting menus in the area.  So, naturally we ordered one flight, lots of glasses and started tasting Bourbon.

[Bottom line: I like Bourbon and appreciate the differences in flavor of the various distilleries.  But I feel that lasagna + bourbon are not a tasty combo.  Either one separately is delish.  Together– not so much.]

After dinner we went to the zoo to see all the holiday lights– 2+ million LED lights to be exact.  The weather was dry (finally) and the temps were in the 40s so we were comfortable while walking around.  Programmed music coordinated with the lights to create a fun series of colorful displays.  And, of course, the little kids were fun to watch watching the lights.  They were really into it.

Most of the animals looked tired and were trying to ignore the lights– and us crazy human beings wandering around after hours.  That would be all the animals except those animals in the petting zoo who were very interested in the human visitors to their area.  Especially the large herd of goats that live beside the 25¢ Goat Chow Dispenser.

Goats are born hungry, pushy, noisy– so I’m accustomed to seeing goats stand by their fence with their front legs on the horizontal supports and their skinny faces staring alternately at the dispenser and passing human beings.  *bleat, bleat*  Ever hopeful.

But what caught our attention and kept us laughing all night was one large fluffy sheep who had infiltrated the goat-herd.  This sheep had adopted the exact stance of the goats, sticking its wide dopey head above the fence rail hoping to get a handful of Goat Chow.  And then, oddly enough, eating the Goat Chow from the hand of a human being.

This I’d never seen before and it entertained me to no end.  Not enough to squander 25¢ on a handful of Goat Chow, but enough to tip my hat to the one uppity sheep in the zoo.

Here’s to the crazy ones…

The End Of The Season

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Yesterday, on a whim, as I was heading home I decided to stop and take some photos of a canoe rental place that I drive by from time to time.  The place was deserted, but the sun was shining brightly and there was a certain charm to the emptiness.

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I always wonder how this place stays in business, yet every spring it reappears.  Just like daffodils in the garden or major league baseball on the radio.  Gotta love it– even if I never, ever want to go canoeing!

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Serenaded By Flugelhornists

We went to a college football game yesterday afternoon.  The weather was clear and crisp with lots of sunshine.  Our club seats were wonderful and the home team won.

After watching the marching bands in the halftime show, I’d had enough of sitting in the sun.  I suggested to Zen-Den that we go inside to the private eating area and get something to eat.  Then I suggested in the most adamant terms possible that we should stay inside in the shade to watch the third quarter on one of the many TVs provided therein.  He went along with my idea because: 1) he’s older now and has learned that when he goes to a game he doesn’t have to watch every second of it live to enjoy the game;  and 2) I mentioned food.

So, in we went.

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We got our food, found a nice place to sit and were in the process of munching when we heard the marching band.  At first we thought that it was on TV but realized that the noise was getting louder and louder.  [Hello doppler effect.]  The noise was coming from the other side of eating area, so we turned around to see what was happening.

What we saw were 9 members of the flugelhorn section of the home team’s marching band– in full dress band uniform– not quite marching, but kind of kick stepping through the room.  [Think John Cleese in the Minister of Funny Walks.]  They were playing the home team’s fight song–very loudly and not all that tunefully.

It was Monty Pythonesque absurdity at it’s best.  Both of us started to laugh so hard that we were crying.

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We couldn’t figure out why a roaming band of flugelhornists had chosen to visit the club section of the stadium.  Was this a reward for them or a punishment for them within the band hierarchy?  Was this a reward for those of us who had paid more for club seats– or was it a punishment for those of us who didn’t get invited to the classy box seats on the quiet level above?  Who knew?

Nor could we figure out if these were first team flugelhornists– or, as Z-D suggested, the freshman reserve flugelhornists allowed to strut their stuff later in the game when a victory was certain.  Considering that they weren’t exactly on key, I’m going with freshman reserve.

I suspect that we’ll never know the answers to these probing questions about the inner workings of Team Flugelhorn.  And that’s okay.  I like a bit of mystery in my life.  But what I do know is that we’ll always remember attending this football game– and our chance encounter with a roaming band of very loud flugelhornists.

Ignored At The Zoo

Yesterday afternoon Z-D and I went to the zoo.  It was hot and humid outside, but there was a light breeze.  I thought that I might be able to get some fun shots of the animals.  I was wrong.

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We were ignored by a little brown wild bird, even though I was standing about 18″ away from him when I took this photo.

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We were ignored by many turtles who ducked under the water the nanosecond before I clicked this photo.

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We were given the cold shoulder by the okapi…  

… who then wandered to the back of her enclosure, just to make sure that we got the message that we weren’t wanted there.

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We were warned off by this less than friendly sign posted by the gorillas.

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And finally we were ignored by this hippopotamus who had better things to do than pose for the camera.

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It’s a good thing that I have a quite a bit of experience with being ignored– and surviving the emotional shock of such indifference.  Heck, I’m a free spirit in suburbia, remember. Still, I have to admit that I thought that at the zoo, at least, something might pay attention to me, and help me achieve my goal.

But no such luck.  *sigh*

Visiting The Oldsters

Over Father’s Day weekend we went to visit my in-laws, aka the Oldsters.  They live a good four-hour drive from us and are 80 years old, more [FIL] or less [MIL].  This weekend reminded me of many things that I’d long forgotten about.

•  We drove in Z-D’s SUV which is eleven years old.  It has no place for an iPod, with a broken CD player, and a radio that works when we’re near signals, but not in the empty spaces we were driving through this weekend.  We turned off our cell phones and sat together in silence only broken by our conversation.  It was wonderful to be totally detached from noise.

  I didn’t feel like reading– roads too bumpy, sunshine too intermittent thanks to lots of trees blocking it.  So I looked out the window to see what I could see.  It’s been a very long time since I just watched the world go by– cows, barns, farms, and exits with fast food establishments and gas stations.  It was relaxing to be out of the city and just existing as we drove along. 

•  The Oldsters were happy to see us.  We had lunch at their house [chicken salad sammies, natch] then went shopping for a wedding present that we were buying together.  BB&B fascinated them with all its stuff– and the price tag of said stuff.  It was fun to watch them be amazed by the beautiful things that the world has to offer now.

•  We left the house at 3:30 pm so that we might get to dinner at 4:00 pm!  This was to ensure that we’d be back home and safely within the house before 6:00 pm when FIL’s fav tv shows are on.  The small restaurant we went to had delicious, old-fashioned style food– ham loaf, smothered chicken, basic cole slaw.  It also had the smallest wine & beer list I’ve seen in years, so Z-D and I had a glass of the only Cabernet Sauvignon on the menu– which was delicious.  It was fascinating to be somewhere with so few choices and such good quality.

•  We got back to the house in time to watch Sanford & Son and All In The Family.  I hadn’t seen either of those shows in– well, decades.  And while the former is very dated and tedious, most of the humor in the latter has held the test of time.  It was entertaining [and a bit sad] to see FIL laugh with Archie about the way things should be. 

•  We left mid-morning on Sunday.  The Oldsters had turned on the Weather Channel at 7:00 am to check what might be in store for us on the drive home.  Once they saw that there were thunderstorms on the way, they became agitated about us getting on the road ahead of the rain.  In their world, driving in the rain is very bad and risky.  Z-D pointed out that we have a SUV with 4 wheel drive, but they were having none of that nonsense!  So we packed up and hit the road.  It was interesting for us who live entirely apart from any family to experience a bit of “parenting.”

•  Driving home in silence, just watching the road go by, I saw a sign for a small town called “Belleville.”  I know nothing about this particular town, but in a snap my empty mind filled with the images of and the theme song from a delightful movie called: “The Triplets of Belleville.”  It was a pleasant, but unexpected, ending to a visit that went quite well– and brought back to me memories of times gone by.  

[for your entertainment…]

Hello Summer

::  We had a fun holiday weekend with three days of sunshine in a row.  This is something that hasn’t happened around here in six months.  ‘Twas wonderful.

::  We went to a high school graduation party that was held at a cabin on a family farm.  To get to the party we drove out-of-town into the countryside to a small road lined on both sides with cow pastures.  From there our directions told us to look for the balloons and turn right.  We did as instructed, driving on a rough path down the middle of a cow pasture, over a small hill, and arriving at a lovely party totally hidden from view when on the road.  It was nice to be outside in a relaxed atmosphere– watching kids play games, talking to other guests, drinking beer, having fun.

::  We decided to go to the cemetery to see the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall.  It was interesting and well-planned.  The scale of the wall is smaller than the original, but it still manages to re-create some of the original’s ambiance. If nothing else, this exhibit gives an inkling of how amazing the real wall is– and perhaps encourages those who have never visited Washington, D. C., to do so.

::  While at the cemetery we walked around for a while.  Wandering through the grassy areas we saw all sorts of unique tombstones and family markers.  One said, “integer vitae.”  Neither one of us knew what that meant so when we got home, I researched it.  This is a phrase from a stanza from an ode written by Horace.  “Integer vitae” is telling you to live a life of integrity so that you’ll be safe no matter where you go.  Good idea, huh?

::  To decorate for Memorial Day I put red-white-blue stars-&-stripey pinwheels in the flower pots by our front door.  And then I put two smallish flags in a flower-pot along the front walk.  EZPZ, but stylish and inviting.  However, except for one other family on our street who put out one big flag, no one else decorated for the holiday.  Don’t know what to make of that.  This neighborhood usually goes overboard for any and all holidays.

::  We finally had a cookout– our first of the season.  Burgers and veggies cooked on the grill.  Fresh berries on ice cream for dessert.  Served with delightfully cold white wine spritzers.  Simple and delicious.  Just the way summer is meant to be.

A Weekend In Las Vegas

Last weekend Zen-Den and I went to Las Vegas, a four-hour direct flight from here.  He was going there for work, so I decided to tag along for a 48 hour getaway because I thought that it would be entertaining.  And it was… sort of… in a “well, I guess this is better than sitting home alone” kind of way. Here’s my take on our trip.

The Good: Where We Stayed

Having been to Las Vegas many times before we wanted to see what it’d be like to stay in a non-gaming hotel, so we stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel.  [Not quite as pricey as you might think when booked together with airfare on Travelocity.]  The hotel was clean and quiet and stylish and refined– which was in complete contrast to the smoky and noisy and tacky and loud casinos.  I liked going back to the stillness of our room after the chaos of The Strip.  Very yin and yang.  This was a wonderful choice for us.

The Bad:  Meals.  Shopping.  Shows.

Meals in the restaurants were okay, but very expensive.  Drinks weren’t cheap, either.  Shopping was either high-end designer shops, or the “same-old, same-old” mall stores available all across the USA.  The shows were stale.  Many had been there for years and we’d seen them before;  or they were just another one of those “Cirque du Soleil” shows that all seem the same to me.  Overall, there was nothing special for us about the meals/shopping/shows, so we spent more time in the casinos playing penny slots– which got kind of old.

The Ugly:  Transportation

Getting around on The Strip was slow and difficult.  We didn’t have a car so we walked, used public transportation or grabbed a cab.  Many of the escalators and moving sidewalks were broken.  [I’m looking at you, Excaliber.]  Alternate stairways were dirty.  [Shame on you, Imperial Palace.]  The monorail service was available but it wasn’t easy to find– and inexplicably, it no longer had a stop at the Convention Center.  Tram service between casinos was arbitrary.  [A few signs, clearly posted, with the hours of tram service would be nice, Mandalay Bay.]  Taxis, while plentiful, were painfully slow driving up and down The Strip.   We spent more time getting around Las Vegas than we wanted to and this made us cranky, tired, and not thinking happy thoughts.

In Conclusion:

I used to like Las Vegas because it was so unique and happening, but now it seems like it’s trying too hard– desperate– out-of-touch with the times.  In a world with legalized gambling in 49 states — the ability to have any show delivered to my living room via Netflix — and online shopping, there’s little reason for me to go there anymore.  Sure, we had a good enough time.  But in the future when given the option to go to Las Vegas for a personal vacation, I’m going to pass.  Too much hassle, not enough fun.

[Image above of the Iconic Las Vegas Sign from here.]

[Hello FTC!  So we meet again. Just to be clear, this is only my opinion about my experiences.  I’ve received no money or other compensation for this review. Are we good, FTC?]