February 27, 2005

 yay par-tay!

thanks to everyone who made my party so much fun! thanks also to rose's sour apple martini mix. yum.

there were a lot of people here last night, and they all schemed to keep me up until 3am. 3am!! (all 45 of you crazy people did a top-notch job keeping me not only busy but boozy, too.)

i was overwhelmed by the number of people here, and as flim-flam flappy as that makes me feel i was sad that i couldn't spend tons of time with everyone. since i couldn't figure out how to be everywhere at once, ray helpfully took a few photos so that i could vicariously experience things like mary trying to lick her elbow.

one thing i did witness was a comment about how our parties have become an icon of creative meats. bacon-wrapped hot dogs, bourbon weenies... perhaps next time i'll make sausage balls or something to keep the tradition going strong. (as a hostess, instead of checking on my weenies during the course of a party, it would be a nice change of pace to instead check on my balls.)

also, i have to mention the number of people who showed up having never met me before. jesse, mykull, chris, ben, mary anne, sean, vera... it takes some, um, balls to walk into a party at the house of a stranger. you totally rock.

finally, i received many thoughtful and moving gifts, which always humbles me. two gifts that confused me were 1) a real cuban cigar, duct-taped in its plastic tube along with a mini bottle of goldschlager to a scrap of 2x4, accompanied by a quirky ransom note, and 2) the ethel merman disco album.

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February 25, 2005

 party reminder

don't forget -- you're invited to our shindig saturday night! stop by and have some cocktail weenies.

email me for directions, if you need 'em.

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good lord. what a morning.

i needed to be at work this morning no later than 8:30. 8:00 would have been better. plus, i'd need to find time to stop for breakfast on the way since ray & i haven't been shopping in a while.

so, last night as i got into bed i scrolled through the hours and minutes on my alarm clock, finally settling on 6:30. ugh.

what i forgot to do, though, is actually turn the alarm on. i set the time, but forgot to slide the little alarm tab to the left. d'oh.

thank god i happened to roll over in bed this morning and glance at the clock... it read 8:08!! i thought i'd have a heart attack right there in bed.

i threw on some clothes, peed, and ran out the door. i didn't brush my teeth or comb my hair, nor did i have time to stop for food. i called the station from the car to tell them i was going to be late and what to do in my absence.

i made it to work just before 9:00. everything was fine. but all morning i have felt like my balance has been off just a little. i haven't had an alarm accident like this since college, when i missed a music history final.

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February 24, 2005

 taco saga

last thursday on my way to divaville i stopped at los portales for dinner, and got my standard order of to-go tacos. it had been a while since i'd been there... i had a 3-month-long craving for subway that i had to surrender to.

anyway, last week i ordered my three chicken tacos. when the lady in the drive-thru speaker asked if i wanted them "with everything" i said "yes! and with cilantro, too!"

when i got to XDU and opened up my to-go box i saw that there was no cilantro. i was sad.

this kind of thing happens, though. i understand. there seems to be a great amount of turnover at this little drive-thru restaurant. i never know who is going to greet me and how much english they're going to speak.

today i once again stopped by for tacos and had a funny exchange with a different woman-in-the-speaker. she barely spoke any english, and we went back and forth a couple of times. "three chicken tacos," i said.

"taco? chicken??"

"yes... chicken tacos. THREE."


"yes... three chicken tacos."

long pause.

"with onions and cilantro??"

i'd never been asked that before. they usually just ask if i want "everything".

"yes, please!" i answered, slightly confused.

when i pulled up to the window i saw that the woman i had been speaking to was, in fact, the cook. she was all alone in the little building... taking orders, cooking and ringing people up. she was frazzled.

so it took a while to get my food. i sat in my car and contemplated the ways in which i could order more simply next time. "tacos. pollo. tres. por favor." that's about all i can manage, i think.

when she handed the bag through the window and said, "gracias!" i said "gracias" back. and when i got to the XDU i opened up the box and saw that the tacos had everything... except cheese.

she forgot the cheese. that's never happened before, either.

i feel like every time i go to this place i get some variation of what i actually ordered. i'm never angry about it. in fact, it's become a sort of game with me. when i sit down and open the box i'm always anticipating what my food is going to look like. what will it be missing today? what will it have that it's never had before?

you don't get this kind of fun at taco bell. no, siree.

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 best. niece. ever.


i found this in my inbox when i got back from dinner last night. roxi's penmanship is fantastic for a kid her age, don't you think??

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February 23, 2005

 birthday present from ray


you know, this reminds me that my birthday coupon from DSW is only valid for a couple more days!

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February 22, 2005


i don't know about you, but i've had it up to here with modern (read: "adult contemporary") singers jumping on the jazz-standard bandwagon.

first it was rod stewart. (and in linking to this, i see that he's actually done three albums of standards!) then regis philbin (god help us). when i learned that queen latifah gave it a go i thought i might have a heart attack. and now i've discovered that chaka khan has thrown her hat into the ring.


i admit i am totally biased about this, given that i host a weekly radio program of classic jazz vocalists. i mean, the resurgence of interest in this music is to be applauded, but these modern singers seem to totally wash the life out of these songs. chaka kahn ain't no ella fitzgerald, that's all i'm sayin'.

of course, i can be a little hypocritical about this, too... while the modern versions of cole porter tunes in the film "de-lovely" drove me bonkers, i did enjoy hearing kevin spacey become bobby darin in "beyond the sea." (i do tend to lose all capability of rational thought when it comes to bobby darin, though.)

i'm feeling a little grumpy about this topic. my head still hurts a little (though the swelling is way down from last night), and i'm really tired. i'm spending my last day as a 35-year-old feeling like a crochety old lady, complaining about how things were so much better back in the day...

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 o porcelain god, full of wrath

tonight i installed a new toilet seat in my bathroom. a piece of the old one had dropped into the bowl a couple days ago and i was unable to retrieve it before it got flushed away.

that's all you need to know about that.

anyway, tonight i was on my hands and knees installing a new seat. as i reached around and under the bowl to tighten the screw, i bonked my head on the table that sits beside the toilet. the pointy wood corner clobbered me right in the middle of my forehead.

i cursed and felt really stupid for a minute, and then i finished the project. but a half-hour later i happened to glance in the mirror and saw i had a nicely-formed welt the size of a walnut. not pretty.

i put ice on it, but that immediately gave me a headache so i stopped after just a couple of minutes. after dinner i laid on the couch and watched "meet the parents." (i must be the last person in america to see that movie, but it seemed the right kind of thing to watch while nursing a mild concussion).

it's now a couple of hours later, and i still have a substantial bump on my noggin. it's not red anymore, but it's still tender to the touch.

i'm telling you this story so you won't get the wrong idea when you hear me say that a toilet caused my concussion.

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February 19, 2005


after work friday i found myself with some unexpected free time so i decided to go to a few home stores and see if i could start putting together a more comfortable space in the den.

i think i hit about 8 different shops in an hour and a half, and i came home with a couple of microsuede ottomans (ottomen??), some striped pillows and two swanky wood folding chairs (for in-a-pinch extra seating). i felt good. progress!

i was productive today, too:

* went to flea market at the fairgrounds. found a groovy new telephone table for the den (as well as a totally girly pink flowery handbag).

* went to home depot and bought new switchplates for the kitchen, as well as silver spray paint for the kitchen lighting project.

* went to world market and bought another chair for the den.

* brought all the loot home and rearranged the den with the new stuff. it looks good!

* vacuumed the den.

* installed new locking doorknob on bathroom door.

* installed new switchplates in kitchen.

* sat down. put my feet up. watched last night's episode of "what not to wear."

* began two painting projects with lisa's help: spray painting kitchen lamp, and painting the cube table.

* ate burgers ray grilled. totally yum.

* wired and hung new kitchen light.

* touched up paint on cube.

* cleaned up.

what's surprising is that i didn't think to photoblog any of this.

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February 18, 2005

 designed to sell

i watch a ridiculous number of home improvement shows.

i enjoy DIY shows like "weekend warriors", where homeowners tackle demolition and construction projects themselves. it was this show (along with the confidence of friends and family) that convinced me i could renovate my bathroom myself.

i also really like decorating shows. "design on a dime" is one of my favorites... a team of designers redecorate a room for $1000. though this show works within the same budget as "trading spaces", "design on a dime" isn't at all concerned with being a soap-opera... they just get right down to business. (i can barely tolerate "trading spaces" anymore. i'm not even going to link to it.)

lately i've been watching a show called "designed to sell". real estate experts and designers help get a house ready to go on the market, and have a budget of $2000 for the improvements. this show is big on design elements too, but there is often a small amount of construction (or deconstruction) going on in order to get a house to appear more updated.

the thing i find most fascinating about "designed to sell" is the portion of the show --at the beginning-- when the real estate expert walks through the house and talks about everything that is wrong with the property... the things that will scare away potential home-buyers. this walk-through happens outside of the homeowners' presence (though they're watching via closed circuit tv), and the real estate expert is always very blunt. it's not the harsh critique itself that intrigues me, but rather the moment when the critique causes the homeowners to realize "oh my god, our house is such a sty! how did that happen?!?"

this is what is interests me: the idea that we get so accustomed to our surroundings that we stop noticing the moldy grout, the rotting baseboards, the overgrown hedges. maybe on some subconscious level we're aware of these things, but we never let it never bother us enough to take action. there are more important things for us to worry about: cooking dinner for our families, getting the car fixed, doing laundry. getting through life. the house can wait.

"designed to sell" doesn't make a big deal of that light-bulb moment when the homeowners realize how far they've let their home degrade. it's not glorified in any way, but it's there in every episode. and more often than not during course of the renovations, as their house is being spruced up, the homeowners express some reservation about selling the home. "i forgot it could look this good," they'll say.

the changes are often small. a fresh coat of paint. removing a too-large couch from the living room and replacing it with two properly sized chairs. getting rid of the clutter. planting some flowers by the front door. changing the curtains. sometimes these improvements actually correct the flaws that instigated the selling of the house. (homeowners that thought the house was too small for their family are surprised to find that with correct furniture placement their home is really larger than they thought.)

anyway, now that i've decided to have a party (the 26th!) this show is causing me to look at my house with a more critical eye. i want to spot the things that aren't working before my guests do.

so yesterday i did a little bit of thrift shopping with "designed to sell" in mind. at the habitat hand-me-up store i found a light fixture for $5 that, with a coat of paint, will work pretty well over the kitchen table. the minute i moved into the house --almost two years ago-- i knew i needed to get rid of the existing 1970s-era basket-topped fixture, but over the course of time i just stopped seeing it. until the light bulb burned out last week, i actually forgot it was there, still ugly as ever.

i am also seeing how the furniture configuration in the den is not working. i picked up a small cube table for $5 at habitat that will go the den after a cute paint treatment. i'm going to get another chair for that room as well, and create a more comfortable conversation area.

ray and i had hoped to be able to afford a new couch by now, but mimo screwed up our budget. that'll have to wait for a while. but at least i know that the living room furniture is crappy!

there are a couple of other light fixtures i want to swap out, but i haven't found anything that excites me yet. i'll have to keep my eyes open and do more thrift shopping. i also need to get my butt moving on the construction of the kitchen window seat. as you may recall, i was hoping to tackle that last fall, but then tivo entered my life and i've allowed it to keep me from getting things accomplished. (what's ironic is that the glut of home improvement shows themselves that has likely slowed my progress!)

past experience has taught me that i'm happiest when i'm focused on a home improvement project. i need to keep reminding myself of that, and find little things to do each month to keep up the quality of my surroundings.

Posted by xta at 11:17 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 17, 2005

 Xta: 2, Xa: 0

wow, there's another "xta"... and it looks like she's totally cool!

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February 16, 2005

 the meme

oh, this is clever... i try to avoid participating in these things, but now that it's become a "tag" phenomenon there's public pressure to fill in the blanks! oh, the pressure!

1. Total amount of music files on your computer?

2932 songs/6.8 days/10.6 gb
geez, that's only half the capacity of the ipod... i best get busy.

2. The last CD you bought was...

mabel mercer sings cole porter

3. What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?

brahms' 4th symphony

4. Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

beatles - i will
randy newman - i'll be home
talking heads - once in a lifetime
fred astaire - the way you look tonight
6ths - you you you you you

5. What 3 people are you going to pass this baton to and why?

whoops, i dropped the baton! :-)

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February 15, 2005

 cultural calendar

durham symphony concert
sunday, february 20 @ 5:30pm
(featuring ME on 4th horn)

mr. big in action!
Theater Previews at Duke is premiering a staged concert of Gore Vidal's "On the March to the Sea" with Chris Noth, Michael Learned and Charles Durning. It will be staged at Duke University's Reynolds Theater, February 22 through March 6. For additional information call 684-4444 or visit the Duke Box Office online.
(mmmm.... big)

the red clay ramblers... at the ballet??
Kick up your heels with Carolina Ballet and The Red Clay Ramblers in "Carolina Jamboree." Experience Carolina stories of love and life told through a delightful mix of music and dance at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium February 24 through 27. For more information, call the Ballet box office at 719-0900 or visit the Carolina Ballet online.
(sounds kind of weird to me...)

party at my house!
saturday, february 26
(mark your calendars!)

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i am so in love with my new cell phone.

i still haven't had a lot of time to devote to exploring all of its features (also, the manual is totally crappy), but i have now figured out how to take a photo and email it, and even get it posted on flickr. (i haven't yet figured out how to get those photos posted to this blog like lisa does, though... she's got the totally cool setup.)

my phone has bluetooth capabilities, so i bought a little bluetooth adapter for my ibook and spent an hour or so last night fiddling with that. the adapter allows me to essentially treat my phone as a wirelessly networked drive... i can sync my contact lists and datebook with the phone, as well as transfer photos and mp3s to (and from) it.

the phone also plays mp3s as its ringtones, so last night i transferred a snippet of the propellorheads' "velvet pants" to the phone. now when i get a call i hear "he's got a nice body... he's wearing velvet pants." ray cringed when he heard it, but i love it! i want to eventually have a talking heads song as my ringtone, but it's gonna be hell deciding on which one to use.

one other bluetooth feature i haven't yet had the time to play with is answering cell phone calls through my computer. i don't know why exactly i would ever want to do this, but it sounds like a cool thing to do.

oh, and bluetooth will also allow me to use my cell phone as a modem for the ibook, which could be handy were i ever roadtripping to roswell or something. i suppose i should figure out how to do that next.

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February 14, 2005



it all came out well!

the chicken kiev was amazing. we fried it for a couple of minutes, then put it into the oven to finish... it was perfectly tender inside and perfectly crunchy outside. the chicken was wrapped around fresh rosemary and lemon butter and the flavor was excellent.

the rice was slightly disappointing... we could hardly taste the apple cider. the toasted walnuts were great, though.

and the hollandaise sauce came out perfectly --which was especially surprising given that neither of us had never used a double boiler before-- and complemented the veggies well (asparagus, parsnips, carrots, brussel sprouts, squash, zucchini).

not pictured is the pumpkin maple creme brulee, which was also fantastic. we still have 6 ramekins of custard with which to perfect our torching technique, though.

also not pictured is the phenomenal mess we made. i think we dirtied every dish in the house.

and yes, we sat down to eat just before 10pm. d'oh.

Posted by xta at 11:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

 happy vd

just as we did last year, ray and i are making dinner together for valentine's day.

on the menu:

chicken kiev
walnut & apple cider wild rice
steamed vegetables in hollandaise sauce
pumpkin maple creme brulee

we actually cooked the creme brulee custards yesterday, since they have to chill overnight before setting a torch to them. they seemed to come out of the oven quite nicely. we've never made them before.

that's the point of this dinner... to cook things we've never made before. doing four new things at once might be a little ambitious, though. (last year we only made something new for the main course.) i'm guessing it's going to be quite time-consuming to prepare four brand-new dishes at once. we could end up eating at 10pm.

also, here's something scary: as we were cooking the custards i realized that this one meal will require 9 eggs.

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February 13, 2005

 two track mind









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February 11, 2005

 my life in radio

it was a madhouse up at divaville last night.

the phone was ringing off the hook... people calling in requests (easily 4 times the usual number), calling just to chat, or calling to tell me how much they love the show. i felt like i had the phone glued to my ear for two hours. (all the while trying to pick songs, deal with the finicky CD players, and run a birthday tribute to jimmy durante.)


one call was particularly interesting, though. a woman named beth, who had phoned for the first time a few months earlier, was calling back to tell me of her attempts to get WUNC to air the show. apparently she'd talked to a producer and the program director, with varying degrees of success. beth wants me to make a demo tape for them.

i was stunned by her initiative, and told her that there may be a big stumbling block in that i work full-time for a "competing" public radio station. she would not be dissuaded, though.

more than a few listeners have told me that they'd love to see divaville become a syndicated show. that's immensely flattering, but the notion terrifies me. i mean, it would be a hoot to have my own national show, but i don't consider myself an expert on this music the way a nationally-syndicated host would have to be. i just love the music... i don't claim know everything about it.

what's funny is that in my current full-time position, i am actually heard world-wide every day and i don't consider myself an expert in this field, either. yet somehow my own national show makes me more nervous than my current world-wide show.

go figure.

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February 10, 2005

 the damned tv

tv_installation.jpgi feel really crass writing about this while other people are quietly suffering the loss of a family member. i thought about lina many, many times yesterday... what a sweet dog she was, and how her absence is going to affect sarah & georg. i still get weepy thinking about it.

i guess there's nothing like a big, bulky, heavy project to divert your attention for a little while... so we continued the tv saga last night.

the top photo is the "before" picture... our 25" tv in the armoire, with a slew of components beneath, as well as a crapload of junk. (old vcr tapes, mostly.) i always thought our tv was pretty big, actually. i bought it probably 8 years ago, with one of my old boyfriends guiding the purchase. i remember it cost a lot of money --to me-- back then.

it has since acquired a rattly speaker as well as a mysterious neon green splotch in the top right corner of the display. buying a new tv has never been one of my top priorities, though. but when jordan mentioned he was trying to sell his "old" 35" set it seemed like the thing to do.

anyway, photo #2 shows the precise hole we cut into the back of the armoire in order to accomodate the extreme depth of the tv. measuring and cutting took several hours on monday night, but getting to use my faux reciprocating saw made it worth it. i do love me some power tools.

monday night ended in the state indicated in the third photo. before we lifted it into place, i had decided to actually hook the tv up to make sure all the connections were good. (smart, eh?) well, i had trouble getting tivo to display, and as i scratched my head lisa decided she'd had enough ridiculousness for the night and went home. in the end, the tivo problem was not a problem at all... i'm embarrassed to admit that our work was halted due entirely to my stupidity. i simply had not mashed the "input" button on the tv remote enough times. once i did that, everything checked out.

we watched the tv like that tuesdsay night, though i have to admit that the anti-clutter side of my personality was SCREAMING each time i walked through the living room and witnessed that set-up. i am the kind of person who wants every thing in place. i was eager to move on.

so lisa, bless her soul, came over last night to help finish the project. we had measured everything so carefully two nights previous that we knew exactly how we'd have to lift the thing into the cabinet... angle it in, while tilting back a little.

HA! right!!

it soon became evident that ray and i had somehow miscalculated. the depth of the tv wouldn't even allow us to angle it into the cabinet. it wouldn't go in at all.

i actually expected lisa to throw up her hands at this point and leave. but instead she generated the best idea of the night: to remove the entire back panel of the armoire! (a-ha! another chance to use my saw!!)

the next-to-last photo is of lisa & i being the destructo-carpenters we were born to be. (have i mentioned that lisa helps me on practically every home improvement project i've ever done?) in this particular picture i'm in the back with the saw in my hands.

once we pulled the back facing off (just thin plywood) it was farily easy to hoist the tv in through the back opening. i mean, it was hard --that thing is REALLY heavy!-- but it was certainly easier than trying to get it through the front.

so, WHEW! that's done.

or is it?

just before she left, lisa thought she noticed some bowing in the remaining bottom portion of the back panel, from the weight of the tv. her theory was that by removing the top half of the back panel (which, once again, is only thin plywood) we had weakened the structural integrity of the whole piece of furniture. we all stood there and scratched our heads a bit, wondering whether we should install some sort of brace along the back (in a sense, reinstalling a facsimile of what we just removed) to help provide additional support.

after looking at how the armoire was constructed, we determined that there's little chance the thing is going to fall apart because of a little missing plywood, and we scooched the armoire back into place.

so the last picture is the finished project.

i will never buy another big tv again.

unless it is a flat panel high definition thingy that i can just hang over my fireplace, or something simple like that.

Posted by xta at 11:26 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 8, 2005

 it's cute, but...

not_genes_ass.jpg...that's definitely not gene kelly's ass.






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 video killed the radio star

well, the 35" tv is proving itself frustratingly unwieldy.

last night we removed the old 25" tv from the entertainment center, rearranged the components (vcr, tivo and dvd), and measured the new tv to double-check that it would fit.

it turns out that i needed to cut a hole in the back of my entertainment center in order to accomodate the depth of the behemoth. (though the tv is too deep, it will fit --barely-- both width- and height-wise.) i was sad to be cutting into my nice piece of furniture, but in the end i figured it was something that no one would see. (don't go looking for it next time you're over, ok?)

after the hole had been cut, ray and i began planning exactly how we'd heft the thing into position. it's so big... we soon realized we'd need assistance. lisa kindly came by to help, but we ran into a few more obstacles before we could actually use her. by then it was late and we realized we probably couldn't finish the job that night, so we sent her home.

so right now the tv directly is in front of the entertainment center, resting on our relocated kitchen table. the thing is all hooked up and working, but it has yet to be inserted onto its shelf in the entertainment center. i don't think i'll have time until wednesday to finish this project, so until then we've got a kitchen table in our living room with a giant tv on it. it's pretty ridiculous.

in other news, i went out at lunch today and got a new cell phone. (don't worry, i didn't pay that much.) it's actually a camera phone. i feel like i'm finally entering the 21st century.

of course i have no idea how to use this thing. it also has modem capabilities so i can use it with my laptop, but i don't know how to make that work yet, either.

i feel like technology is overwhelming me today.

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February 7, 2005

 glad it wasn't in the CRX

when we returned the rental car last night, they tallied how many miles we had driven in the last week:


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February 6, 2005

 our trip to florida

we begin our journey relatively early in the day, but 40 minutes down the road i realize i forgot my toiletry bag. i convince ray to turn the car around so we can go back to durham and get it.

as we hit the road for the second time we decide to take advantage of the extra space our rented SUV allows... we fold down one of the back seats which enables us to sleep totally flat, with head behind the driver's seat and toes at the tailgate. i get about 5 hours of sleep that morning while ray drives, then we switch off.

our late arrival the night before causes us to start the morning late as well. ray & i have a big lunch at the local quizno's (which actually turns out to be our only meal by ourselves until thursday) before we head off for a quick visit with jordan, a high school friend of ray's. on the way we notice that there are still a lot of roofs covered with blue tarps. everywhere we look is hurricane damage, even 3 months after the fact. roofers have apparently been working 12 and 14 hour days to keep up with demand.

later in the day we go to a party... a big part of the reason we scheduled our trip to florida this particular week. one of ray's childhood friends turned 40 and his wife organized a giant (GIANT!) surprise for him. i don't know a soul there, of course, but ray catches up with a some great friends he hasn't seen in 20 years.

the theme is hawaiian, and i get a little weirded out during the entertainment portion of the party (singing and telling stories about the birthday boy, etc.) when a group of three very young scantily-clad girls begin a hula dance. everyone's eyes (including adult men) were trained on 6-year-old bare midriffs. call me crazy, but i felt uncomfortable and had to leave the room.

we meet david (the surprise party victim) and rob (another super-nice childhood friend of ray's) for a late brunch at a hole-in-the-wall diner none of us had gone to before... excellent food, tucked away in a run-down strip mall. i find out david's wife is a paid consultant for NOW and wish i could talk with her more in-depth (particularly about this amazing article i've been reading in the latest issue of bitch).

later that night ray's aunt rita and uncle ray come over to cook us dinner. something called 'chicken marengo'... a dish purportedly cooked for napoleon before he went into battle. it was a great meal, but i tend to feel really sutpid around uncle ray and aunt rita, who love to talk about movies/books/tv shows that my-ray and i have never seen. my-ray jokes, after his aunt & uncle have left, that he wished he had a sign that said "No" which he could just hold up after every question that uncle ray started with, "have you ever seen __this obscure british tv show__??" or "have you read __this mystery novel by an author i've heard of__??" it was pretty funny, actually.

ray, his mom, and i begin a two-day cross-state journey to visit more distant relatives. we first go to USF in tampa to see andy, ray's nephew. he's a freshman and seemed to enjoy showing us around campus. he even treated us to a lunch on his meal-plan at the cafeteria near his dorm. lemme tell ya, we didn't have no grilled panini sandwiches at my college... i seem to recall that when i was in school i ate many frosted flakes out of desperation.

later that afternoon we went to the IMAX theater across the street from USF. ray had never seen IMAX before. we were disappointed that we had just missed the movie about space but were just in time for a film about... the vikings. d'oh. still, it was a nice film, full of picturesque scenes of iceland and greenland. the trouble, though, was that every one of those lovely scenes made me queasy. the camera flies low over a rich, verdant field and as the lakes and trees zip by i feel sick to my stomach. during the scene reenacting a viking battle at sea i thought i would totally lose my lunch as the camera bobbed up and down over the waves.

after the film i had to sit outside with my head between my knees for a few minutes, then we hopped back in the car and drove down to sarasota to visit andy's mom, paula, (ray's sister). she immediately takes us to siesta key where we stick our feet in the water and watch the sun set. it's phenomenally gorgeous... the sand at this award-winning beach is super-fine and white and the beach itself is very wide. it seems like hundreds of people (many of them amish) gather there every night to watch the sun plunge into the ocean. paula then whisks us off to coasters for dinner, where the food is great, the company is fun and ray rules the trivia game (much to the chagrin of his closest competitor, who happens to be sitting at the table next to us).

after spending the night in sarasota, we head back up to tampa to meet my high school friend, bridgette, for lunch at a funky little cuban restaurant near her office. lots of beans and meat. yum. i haven't seen her since 2001, when she let me sleep at her house during my cross-country drive after 9/11. (i got stuck in colorado on that date, and my only way home was by rental car.) anyway, bridgette has had 3 kids since then, so we had a lot to catch up on.

we drop gidge back off at her office then the rest of us drive up to maitland (north of orlando) to see another contingent of ray's family: his brother, john, and his wife and 3 kids. those chillun damn near wear me out in the few hours before we all sit down to dinner... they're --what?-- 11, 8 and 5, i think. they have buckets of energy.

after a delicious meal, ray, his mom & i drive back to satellite beach and are happy to be "home" again. however, i'm becoming a bit disconcerted by the amount of gas we're having to buy this week. the SUV seems to swallow gallon after gallon after gallon without much regard for our wallets.

i'm starting to crave time by myself. i decide to stay in my bedroom for a little while after i wake up and just read for a bit. everyone thinks i sleep really late, but i'm really just setting aside some "me" time.

when i finally emerge around 11 we're told that rita and ray will be bringing lunch over to the house. my-ray and i giggle about our imaginary "No!" sign. it was a very nice afternoon, though, as i feel i'm beginning to hold my own intellectually with them.

after they left, we finally get in touch with two of ray's nieces and agree to meet them for dinner at the texas roadhouse. ray misses the exit off the interstate, slightly delaying our consumption of many, many steaks.

we decide last-minute to go to disney world. it totally rocks in every possible way. the weathermen predict a 70% chance of rain, and we suppose that's what keeps the crowds away most of the day... we never wait in any line for more than 5 minutes. a couple of times we even get off the ride and go right back around and get on again without standing in line for a minute. we rode thunder mountain railroad three times, and saw the amazing 3-D movie twice. ray was also entranced by a barbershop quartet on main street. (4.3 MB .mov)

what's more, it never rained at all. it was a superbly gorgeous day, in the low 70s, partly cloudy, breezy... perfect. because we didn't have to waste a lot of our day waiting in lines, we had time to do everything in the park we wanted. we were leisurely about food and pee breaks, too.

one thing i wasn't aware of about disney world (it's been probably 20 years since i've been) were the lines to get your picture taken with the disney characters. the longest we saw was for woody the cowboy from toy story. donald duck and goofy had long lines, too. we happened to spot mickey coming on duty, so before a huge line could form we hopped in the very short queue. as we were posing for the photo, though, ray got in trouble when he tried to give mickey rabbit ears... mickey actually tsk-tsked him quite emphatically, so ray posed with his own mea culpa: rabbit ears behind his own head.

the only other news of note was that i got queasy of a few rides (shock!) like the innocuous teacups (2.5 MB .mov), but other than that it was a stress-free day. ray even got some details about a secret behind-the-scenes disney tour and i met a woman in one of the gift shops who had been a participant on a rather fiery episode of trading spaces.

it's our last day in florida, and i "slept late" again, primarly to give my blistered foot (a disney souvenir) a chance to recover a little. we then meet up with kathy & don (ray's sister & her hubby, who happen to be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this week) at wild oats, where ray's brother, fritz, works. we all had a big sandwichy lunch and big sandwichy laughs.

afterward ray and i run an errand for his mom: getting an old coin "collection" appraised. it consists primarly of old wheat pennies and 1940s silver dollars, but we manage to get $56 for coins worth a face-value of $25. it turns out there wasn't anything rare in the collection... simply coins that had decently high silver content. on the way home i have ray pose in front of my favorite beach sign. i laugh every time i see it.

finally, a big farewell dinner party at a fine restaurant called "the dove" with aunt rita & uncle ray, kathy & don, me & ray, fritz and ray's mom, terry. it was a delicious 3 course meal (complete with a digestif of something that sounded like "lemon cello"... it was essentially a shot of an intense lemon liqueur). ray asked me to dance and we twirled clumsily around the adjacent bar's dance floor to some schmaltzy billy joel tune or something. we go back to terry's house afterwards and ray serenades us.

we hit the road early (8:30am) in order to create some time in the afternoon to visit ray's friend jordan and his wife laura in savannah, as well as my friend rick who lives there, too. unfortunately, rick's schedule jams up on him and he has to back out at the last minute, so we spend a full three hours at jordan's house.

and if not for that extra time with jordan, we might not have have heard him mention that he was planning on selling his 35" tv. ray jumped on that... money was quickly exchanged and we left savannah with a giant television in the back of the SUV. (screw the gas-guzzling, this seals the deal... that TV would have never fit had we not upgraded to the SUV from a sedan.)

even with the 3 hour stop in georgia we still get home by 9:30pm. the first thing we do is run in and kiss the kittens. then i get my laptop hooked up to the wireless... we only had access to dial-up all week long and i thought i might go mad. finally, we check to see what tivo did for us while we were gone...

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