What a long strange trip that was

My last post on this blog pertained to the 2016 presidential primary, and boy did things take a strange turn since that time. Fortunately, we managed to ensure Trump was only a one-term president, although he and his sycophantic supporters would want to think otherwise. We’re just a few days from Joe Biden’s inauguration, and while in normal circumstances I would have avoided casting a ballot for him, we know that the Trump administration, especially during a pandemic, is a complete antithesis of a normal circumstance.

As to how I’ve dealt with COVID-19 personally, it isn’t too different from my regular routine. I still am a household of one, and while I have had opportunity to dine with trivia teammates and other friends on rare occasions, I’ve still have taken the proper precautions as it relates to gatherings and social distancing. I wear masks indoors religiously when indoors at public places, and while some of the restrictions might not be necessary, I am of the mind that people who impose them are not being tyrants. Governments have always had power to make regulations to protect public health, and just because the scope hasn’t been seen in any of our lifetimes does not suddenly change that.

With all that, I still believe that kindness and intelligence need to win over selfishness and stupidity. We’re not completely out of the woods yet on coronavirus, but as the vaccines ramp up, we’ll be on the right track to putting it behind us. Our society will be stronger for having fought this hardship despite the individual losses we’ve had to endure. Until then, stay safe and mask up, and I’ll try hard not to go almost five years until my next blog post.

Is spring really coming already?

I guess it’s been a while since I updated things here. My state had its say in the presidential primary circus this past Tuesday, and while my choice of Ted Cruz wasn’t the victor, there were a lot of interesting takeaways from both races. Granted, there are some things I disagree with Cruz, but I’m not enthused with the other choices, especially Trump. I have vowed to vote Libertarian should the race be Trump v. either Democrat, because none of them should be elected. Unless I’m asked privately, this will probably be all I say on the matter.

In slightly less depressing matters, Chelsea aren’t as in dire straits as they once were, but having only the FA Cup left to possibly win certainly isn’t as exciting as last year. Leicester’s my sentimental favorite to win the league because I certainly don’t want any of the others in the top 5. (Although should West Ham make an unfathomable run to the top, that’s infinitely preferable to either North London side or Man City.)

The next big trip I have planned is to York, PA, in April. A group of us will check out some of the road projects in the area, and as always, the fellowship should be fun. If I think to remember, I may even post a trip report. The drive should be great, unless we get one of those rare April snowstorms. But then I suppose an April snowstorm is infinitely preferable to a Trump presidency or a Spurs title.

Autumn plans are shaping up nicely

I always say that autumn is my favorite season of the year. The humidity of summer has largely gone away, the leaves show their magnificent hues, and it’s the time I came into this world. It’s the last gasp of sanity before winter and the dreaded holiday rush come. So it is with great excitement that I have a couple trips planned for November.

The first trip involves a weekend in Des Moines with my Chicago Blues. It’ll be my first trip back to Iowa since spending the night in Dyersville after attending National Mustard Day in 2011. Considering I haven’t had a chance to watch a game with them this season, making this trip is as good as time as any and meeting fellow Blues supporters in Iowa should be fun. I’ll get to explore a new city and experience new areas. It will most likely the last non-family trip I make for the year.

That means the second of the two trips will involve family. This trip will not involve new areas, since it will mirror one I took last Thanksgiving. I’ll be going with my mom to my aunt’s place in Crestwood, KY. It’s always fun to get away for several days, and I enjoy seeing the relatives in that area, but it really won’t be anything I haven’t already done. Still, it’ll get me a chance to see how far the Louisville bridge projects have come since last year, and hopefully I’ll actually get to watch a Chelsea game at Molly Malone’s. (Last year’s attempt was foiled by the local NBC affiliate’s preemption for a syndicated ACC football game. I checked the schedule and that definitely would not happen the weekend I’m there.)

Finally, I have to say that it’s awesome how the Cubs have made it to the NLCS. I think they can match up well with any of the other teams remaining in the postseason, and dispatching the dreaded arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals was a big milestone. I’m still trying to hold a realistic view, but this season could turn out to be very special indeed. That weekend trip to Des Moines could be celebrating more than just a Chelsea game at Stoke, if you catch my meaning.

Still slighted after all these years

I don’t know why it is; yet again I find myself questioning my worth to my friends. One of them actually visited my hometown last night. Granted, I’ll get to see him when I go to the U.P. this weekend, but I can’t help but feel the slightest offense that I wasn’t invited to be involved in some way. I don’t think it was intentional, but then in my life, I’ve regularly been left out of gatherings I thought that I was going to be included. They’re symptoms of an larger problem I’ve always had, and I know I’m trying as hard as I can to fix things on my end. But still I see a reluctance from my peers to even attempt to recognize that sometimes what they do is hurtful whether intended or not.

At least I can say I’ve gotten over the cold from last Monday, as I sang four karaoke songs in full voice. Hopefully with all the roadgeeking going on in the U.P., we at least find one place up there that has karaoke during the weekend. At least I don’t have to worry about Chelsea given it’s an international break.

Fighting a cold

Yesterday I developed a pretty good headcold. It wasn’t enough to keep me from work, but all the sneezing and blowing my nose was a little annoying. I sucked down some green tea with lemon at our trivia game last night. Today seems much better, as I seem to be on the mend.

For some reason, this month is turning out to be rather bland. The Charlotte trip seems like forever ago while my next big trip isn’t until Labor Day weekend. And while I did go to a festival in downtown Battle Creek last weekend, I couldn’t really feel excited about it. (While it featured burgers and beer and had free admission, I had no patience to wait in the food vendors’ lines.) The two music acts I saw were fine, but I wanted to catch the end of the Bristol race, so I left before the third act came on.

Chelsea are off to a tepid start, as I knew this season was likely going to be tougher than the last one. Trying to keep track of the transfer news is dizzying in itself (Player X is not for sale, but then maybe he is, etc.) I’m just hoping the rust shakes off and we can be contenders in all the competitions this year. I hope to make it to Chicago more often (just became a CIA member this year), and perhaps I can think about starting a chapter closer to home (but I don’t yet have the time and commitment to make such a venture). It’ll be fun regardless.

Seeing the Blues in Charlotte

So I attended the International Champions Cup (read: hyped-up friendly) between Chelsea and PSG. It was a nice getaway, and the atmosphere was about what I had expected. But for the most part, the scene was dominated by Chelsea supporters. The occasional Manc, Liverpudlian, or Gooner (as well as our opposition for the weekend) showed up to correctly be heckled, and for the most part, it was good-natured fun. The actual Chelsea pub, called Courtyard Hooligans, was a nice hole-in-the-wall place. But obviously all of us revelers couldn’t fit, so that means we took over the whole alley. We sang lots of songs, had plenty of drink, and got photos with Chelsea legends. And that was only the night before the match! Matchday itself was a wicked party! The game itself was entertaining. I think the excitement could be summarized in the final penalty taken in the shootout…

Of course, I had to take in some of the nightlife afterwards, and I think Rooftop 210 in Charlotte’s famed EpiCentre has become my favorite place to dance. The mix of music was just right, and of course there were still plenty of revelers supporting each club. But even then I knew I couldn’t go until closing, because I still had a drive ahead of me. My hotel was directly adjacent to all this frivolity, so I wasn’t going to pass it up. But even then I retired before closing, as I still had quite a bit of driving to do Sunday.

I’m very thankful that I used a couple extra days to drive down and back. I got to explore Parkersburg, West Virginia, on Thursday, and it’s a quintessential example of what I like about Ohio River communities. The views from Fort Boreman need to be seen to be believed. It was a great halfway point to complete the drive to Charlotte given its proximity to I-77.

A panoramic view of the Parkersburg area from the site of Fort Boreman,
A panoramic view of the Parkersburg area from the site of Fort Boreman.

Friday I drove down with a brief stop in Charleston to check out the West Virginia capitol, but the name of the game was to get there fast. I wanted to stop at the Joe Gibbs Racing shop in Huntersville with time to look on the shop and I did, with plenty of time. Since I wanted to arrive Uptown after 5, that left me with plenty of time to clinch I-485 and check out Concord Mills Mall. I arrived at the parking structure when I wanted, got checked in, and made my way to the frivolities mentioned earlier.

Sunday was a more relaxed trip back, so I mainly stayed off the Interstates (but not before clinching I-277 on my way out of town) and eventually wound my way through the mountains of North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, western Virginia and

The Campbell House. Interested persons may like to know that the horse statue is anatomically correct.
The Campbell House. Interested persons may like to know that the horse statue is anatomically correct.

southeastern Kentucky before settling into my hotel in Lexington. The Campbell House is quite a swanky place, and it was far enough away from downtown that I didn’t walk, but since the liver was given a rest, driving worked just fine. I was hungry for a pizza, and Pies & Pints fit the bill nicely. I only briefly walked around Lexington between parking my car and finding the restaurant, but it certainly is a place I would like to visit in more detail.

As I was about to leave, there was a pretty good downpour, which I have taken as a sign that an awesome roadtrip has neared its end. Fortunately it had cleared up by the time I got to Frankfort, and I might have only had a sprinkle or two the rest of the way. I made certain to cross at Markland Dam, as I’ve pretty much done every crossing between Louisville¬†and Cincinnati. I finally caught the new bypass around Kokomo and got back in plenty of time for my Team Trivia game. All in all it was an awesome trip with awesome people, and hopefully I’ll get to do something like it again.

Under two weeks!

Somehow it’s still hasn’t sunken in that I’ll be on the road in less than two weeks. Chelsea play Paris Saint-Germain in an International Champions Cup friendly in Charlotte, NC, and I’m making a weekend of it. And while the festivities surrounding the game will be exciting, for me the drive down and back will be nearly as fun. I’ll get to go through Appalachia for the first time in nearly 27 years. And while I have a list of various sites I intend to hit while in Charlotte, I’m sure there are spots I’ll hit in between here and there (mostly on the return, as I’m taking plenty of time to get back). On the way down I’ll stay in Parkersburg, WV, and the return trip will have an overnight in Lexington, KY. The weekend will be full of events courtesy of Chelsea in America, but I’ll also look to sate my NASCAR fandom. I’m staying within walking distance of everything and parking the car for the weekend, so having a little too much shouldn’t be much of a problem. I’m going to Uptown Charlotte to party!

The Field of Flight went as well as I could expect. The weather was just right, although one of the nights I had to wear a fleece hoody. (Hoodies in July? What blashphemy!) Seeing the people who work with my best friends and me was a blast as always, and we’re thinking next year’s event I may get to go up in a balloon! It would be a first in the six or seven years I’ve helped my friends who build the site. It’s almost a year away, but that sort of thing will creep up again before I know it.

So far this summer has just hummed along. There are probably a couple festivals I’ll attend between now and Charlotte. And I still need to make sure I get the Friday before Labor Day off as that trip is now less than two months away. Summer will be gone before I know it.

I can’t be mad about the water

We had a new coworker come on Wednesday, and already he seems to be making a favorable impression on me in the brief times I’ve had to interact. Just a few minutes ago, he sincerely apologized for taking a couple bottles of my water. (Others generally have left nominal money to compensate.) But I didn’t really mind the transgression. We made an agreement, and hopefully he’ll feel like I wasn’t offended.

The above-mentioned blunder certainly couldn’t be as big as the one I saw in the Battle Creek Shopper News yesterday. They ran an ad for the upcoming Field of Flight, but unfortunately it was one for last year. I was told the publication will run the correct ad for no charge (a public apology having already been issued), but I can’t help but feel bad for all involved. It also serves as a reminder that the festival is fast approaching, with all the entertainment (both seen and behind the scenes) that it entails. I’ll be helping out my friends as I have for the past several years, so if you come, I’ll be around.

This weekend seems to be another ho-hum one. There are a couple different events I wouldn’t mind attending, but the weather doesn’t seem like it’ll be the best for either one of them. I’ll probably use the opportunity to see Jurassic World, although it’s not a film I absolutely need to see. I’ll always love Jurassic Park, The Lost World was merely ok, while I never had any desire to watch III. Perhaps the rainy weather will compel me to read the book I currently have faster. Frankly nothing else has for any of my books this year.

Such an underwhelming May so far

I know this will come off as crass to some people, but I’m really having a hard time enjoying this month. I feel as if I’m still unwanted. I had thought going to Spring into the Arts this past Friday might cheer me up, but I ended up going with my mother and her friend. It’s not that they’re bad people, I guess I just expect to be able to do those kinds of things with my friends. I suppose that’s my fault for not trying to reach out to some of them, but once Mom got wind that I was going, she just had to come, too. It makes potentially meeting up with anyone else difficult, as Mom insists on meeting up with me whenever she comes to these art walks. At least she paid for her share of dinner after I had treated her on Mother’s Day.

Meanwhile, my father is enjoying retirement and I’ll get to see him the Sunday before Memorial Day. It’ll probably be the last time I get to see him before he and Vicki embark on their national tour in their Airstream. I’ll be honest and say that I sort of envy him that he gets to enjoy the sort of lifestyle sans house. I’m pretty certain Mom does, too. Whether I fly out somewhere to meet up remains to be seen, but we’ll have to see what opportunities develop.

I am looking forward to my trip to Charlotte in July. This lightens my mood somewhat, but there’s plenty of time that I’d like to spend hopefully with non-related friends. The only other big thing I have planned is a U.P. roadmeet trip Labor Day weekend, and based on who else is going, I should enjoy that immensely. The western part of the U.P. is by far my favorite area of my home state. In all, summer should be good. We just have to get through May, first.

Blue is the color

Yesterday was rather bittersweet for me. I had figured I wanted to visit with the Chicago Blues (a Chelsea In America chapter) one more time before the end of the season. The fact that we could clinch the league made yesterday much desirable. Chelsea had several Sunday matches in the last part of the season, but I have a family commitment in southeast Michigan on the final day which would obviously prevent me from going to Chicago (though it would’ve been cool to celebrate the trophy), and the Arsenal match was the weekend right after my Madison trip. But I had nothing else going on yesterday, so at the ungodly hour of 3:30 a.m., I set out for Chicago.

The drive out itself was rather uneventful, as it’s one I’ve made numerous times. I had overestimated the time it took to A.J. Hudson’s on the north side, so I strolled around the Horseshoe for a little bit before finally making my way to the pub. At least this time, I arrived with plenty of time before kickoff and could have a seat. The game itself could’ve gone better, but Chelsea got the three points they needed, so that meant celebration! A generous patron or two bought champagne for the entire group, and someone else bought Fireball shots (not my shooter of choice, but I’ll take if offered). There also were pictures taken in front of the pub, and of course many chants were said and songs sung. I don’t think the euphoria has worn off about actually winning the league, and it probably won’t until the start of next season. I also was glad I got to experience the euphoria with a great group of like-minded supporters.

Because I felt euphoric, I felt like celebrating by myself by attending that afternoon’s Cubs game. (There was an article about the need to do more things alone, but doing this was mere coincidence.) Anyone who knows the geography of the area (or just looks at a map for a few minutes) will quickly realize that Wrigley Field is within walking distance to A.J. Hudson’s, and I didn’t have to move my car from my prime spot on Ashland across from the pub. Many people along the way commented on Chelsea’s triumph, which only made the euphoria deepen. (It was interesting I didn’t really feel all that drunk despite the Fireball and champagne in addition to the beers I had at the start of the match. But as a precaution, I didn’t consume anything at Wrigley.) Attending my first Cubs game since I was a boy was quite fun. It got me an opportunity to see first-hand all the improvements being done. Unfortunately, we came up two runs short against the Brewers, but I was entertained with my last-minute decision.

After the game, I stopped at another bar for a drink and almost ordered dinner, but I saw a radar map on one of the screens and decided it would be prudent to get back to my car before the batch of rain got to town. I gradually made my way back home (going a little out of my way to finally clinch I-57), stopping for dinner at a Quaker Steak and Lube in Portage, IN. It was a trip well worth the time and hit to the credit card.

Trivial matters

Tomorrow for the second time since getting back into the swing of it, I play a Team Trivia state tournament. The last time our team went, we were only one point off of finishing in the money. I’ve been fortunate to be able to play with a solid team and know that sometimes I have an answer that my teammates do not for whichever reason. Tournament questions by their nature are designed to be trickier than normal, so we really rack our brains when we have to come up with an obscure first name of a scientist, for example. I would consider myself strongest in scientific categories, with a sports, U.S. geography and song lyrics close behind. (Sadly, when they specify “football,” it always refers to pigskin. There hardly are questions about the sport across the pond to my disappointment.) But most of all, we still have fun while being competitive.

I’m still looking to take another major roadtrip or two this year. While last weekend’s trip to Delavan (in order to attend a Madison roadmeet) was a pleasant getaway, by and large it covered no new territory for me (although many stretches of road were new to me). I’ve always wanted to visit Oklahoma City (a cousin lives neat there), and getting back to Minnesota has been something I’ve wanted since a jaunt into Duluth almost five years ago. I also want to get to a major concert, so perhaps I can combine the two if the right situation develops. Regardless, this summer has to be better than the last two when funds were obviously more limited. I’ve already considered the Incubus/Deftones show in Cincinnati. Are there any other big shows within a day’s drive of Southwest Michigan worth considering? (Damn, I never made that bucket list of bands I want to see, did I?)