Monday, February 26, 2018

The Last Time at Epcot Center?

First in 2009, we discovered how one could visit the countries of Europe and enjoy a lovely time exploring various cultures (wink, wink).  Then in 2012 we journeyed back, a couple of years older and a couple years wiser (we stayed at a place that allowed us to walk to Epcot - and easily walk out of Epcot).

As the kids have gotten older, I am now starting to wonder if our 2017 trip to Epcot is going to be the last one we take as a family.  Our schedules are taking us in a million different directions, and our pockets are clear out of spending money.  Sadly, this may be our last sojourn into the future world.  But before we get all moisty-eyed, lets discuss this trip.

5 million people just out of focus
It was a couple of days after Christmas.  I picked this day after an enjoyable day at Busch Gardens thinking that this might be one day that won't be crazy - midweek, weather was not going to be great, and everyone would go on the weekend.  We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and took the tram to the park.  Although it was mid day, I was heartened by being the only people on the bus.  Sadly, there was a good reason why no one was on the bus, they were all at the park.

When  we get to the park, we were struck just by how busy it was.  We tried to see what Fast Track and Soarin' were up to in wait times and it was impossible that the lines could be that long. The fast pass system has changed in the last 5 years; they were all sold out.  3-4 hour wait times at Fast Track? Even G wasn't up for the wait.  We then walked over to Soarin'.  The wait was only 90 minutes and I liked the trivia game that you could play while you waited.  Lets do it! So while DLG and LC were getting caricatures done near France, the boys and I started our slow march to the ride.

2 hours later, we get off the ride.  Of course it wasn't worth that long of a wait, but it was enjoyable once we got there.  We go back and meet the girls and have some pizza in Italy.

It's now been 4 hours since we stepped foot in the park.  We now have one ride, and a 35 dollar pizza to show for it.  We walk around to see what the other rides are like.  Spaceship Earth was going to be two hours.  Even rides like journey to the imagination had one hour wait times.  So back to Soarin' we go.  This time with all five of us.

After our second time through the line, (Make it 7 hours at the park), we decided to go to a different place for dinner outside of the park, thinking that the rides at night would not be as long since the families with the small kids would be leaving.  But if anything, the crowds got bigger!  It was now night time.  All the rides had two or three hour wait times.  Even past the time that the park closed for Gods sake.  The countries were packed like we walking past Times Square.

We even tried Test Track one more time.  I became nervous when they closed the doors behind us. Uh, were the last riders of the night? That cant be a good thing, hurdling down the track with a bunch of tired 22 year olds looking to go out at the club.  Lets take a couple of pictures and go home, I declared.

The constant walking led to the kids agree with my declaration.  The frustration with the lack of rides and the 5 million people wore us all down.  Everyone just wanted to go back to the hotel room and relax for our long trip home in the morning.  At least we got quality time with the kids in the room instead of screaming time in the park.  Not so bad.  And maybe this wont be our last trip. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Unsolved Mysteries and the 2018 New England Patriots

Scene and Action!  Robert Stack comes in from a foggy road "join us and you might be able to help us solve...a mystery.  Cut to Keely Shaye Smith staring the camera down describing the mysteries that are unfolding at Patriot Place.  The Patriots, coming off of a thrilling OT Super bowl win over the Falcons, were looking to make it three Super Bowl wins in 4 years.  But in the days leading up to the Super Bowl and definitely the days after the devastating loss, some questions remained unanswered:

What the Hell is going on down there?

Tom Brady.  In what was supposed to be a thinly veiled infomercial for TB12, Tom vs. Time was actually quite enjoyable.  Showing Tom Brady as a human being - dealing with his kids, making fun of his friends and taking to coaching from Tom House of all people - actually made me like him more than I already did.  The idea is that Brady IS actually a good guy.  If you cut out some of the creepier moments, particularly the ones that featured Robert Guerrero, and this was Emmy worthy.  But the question lingers...why did he release these videos in the week before the Super Bowl?  Were they released to show that Tom was actually a good guy, and not the Machiavellian puppetmaster who engineered a Jimmy G trade to the 49ers?  And what about that alligator in his TB Times?

Bill Belichick.  Malcolm Butler?  I understand that Butler is undersized so he is not a great matchup on the Eagles taller wide receivers. But when it was clear that Eric Rowe and Jordan Richards could not cover or tackle ANYONE, would it not be a smart move to see if Butler could make a difference, especially given that he would be fired up for the benching?  Even on 3rd and long when it was clear that the Eagles had to pass to a receiver?  So clearly something happened in the week before the Super Bowl and the Patriots agreed to not call it discipline so Butler's value would not be further diminished.  What is it with undersized athletes from Boston and their fortunes when Boston is done with them? Isaiah Thomas is shrugging his shoulders as we speak.

Rob Gronkowski.  Will he retire or not?  I'm kind of tired of this guy.  He always hurt, he always says or does something stupid.  And now he is taking advice from the Rock that he should become a movie star.  Have you seen him answer questions?  He's too goofy to be in a movie like San Andreas or Skyscraper.  And then, what happened to his Foxboro home.  Someone stole his SAFE and other belongings.  Does this guy not have security?  Even I have a security system, and I'm a schlep.

Josh McDaniels.  Man, this guy is wishy washy as all get out, huh?  He took his name out of the running last year for a couple of jobs.  This year, the Colts issued a press release introducing McDaniels has their new coach.  During his exit interview IN FOXBORO of all places with Bob Kraft, something happened.  McDaniels did an about face and said he was staying.  If coach goes, I go.  Was he promised the head coaching position in a year or two?  Was he given the ability to draft his own quarterback this April?  Was he given a tour of the Eye?  No one knows and in true Patriot fashion, no one is talking.

The cult of personality in Foxboro is unlike any other place in sports.  No one talks.  The players, even the ones with personality, always look like they are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  When players leave, they usually get hurt or fade away into oblivion.  Something is going on in Foxboro, and I'm getting apprehensive just thinking about it.  Hopefully there is some sort of update next season saying that a caller knows whats going on.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Avoiding the Tampa Serial Killer at Busch Gardens

Just kidding about the the Tampa serial killer.  Well, not kidding about his existence, just kidding that we just avoided him.  Let's forget about him for a second, though, since he was captured the week before we arrived.  Our fourth annual winter vacation took us this time around to my Brother's house down in Tampa and my Mother's rental house just outside of Orlando (for another time).  It seems like just yesterday that my brother up and left Oregon and moved to Tampa, but it was almost a year ago.  Jeez, how time flies. 

We were all excited to escape the cold here in Boston and spend some time underneath the lanai.  The first thing that I wanted to do with the kids though was to go to Busch Gardens.  Not that I wanted to ride the rides anymore; I'm too old and fat for that anymore - but I wanted the kids to have some fun so they would keep coming with us on our vacations (Note that I did not necessarily feel this way at the end of the vacation...).

Tampa, FL.  10am.  Thanks to some deft half price tickets from my Florida-resident brother, the clown car was loaded up for the day as we drove across town to the park.  It was warm and sunny, and the kids were trying to decide what they wanted to do.  But the adults wanted to get away from the throngs near the entrance, so we moved toward the safari train.  Watching hippos and giraffes slowly amble by as the conductor was tooting his horn to make them move, I was instantly reminded of our Christmas Eve at my Mom's retirement community a couple of days earlier. 

As we moved toward the other end of the park, I started reminding G and DLG about that time 5 years ago when G and I went on the same water ride at Animal Kingdom 5 times in 20 minutes.  DLG, thinking she missed something, asked me if we could go on this water ride.  I think it was called white water rapids, or something benign like that. 

"Yes!" I answered.  I'm not sure if I was slyly smiling or not at that point, but  I didn't have the heart to tell her that we were going to get really wet.  I mean so wet that we would regret not wearing slides or some other shoes that could get soaked.  While not a ride that would scare the crap out of someone, I did instantly regret going on this ride at the beginning of the day.  I spent the rest of the day walking around barefoot as I tried to dry my shoes out.

Fast forward to after the aforementioned soaking, DLG and I caught up to the rest of the family.  The kids' aunt, a notorious roller coaster hunter, talked the kids into going onto Shiekra, one of the 200 foot drop rides.  I merely said that it wasn't that bad.  Honestly, I had no idea, but they weren't going to find out milling around the table we were stationed at.  It was also the ride with the shortest wait, which is what I always look for.

90 minutes later.   I guess that line wasn't as short as we thought.  The kids were still talking about the ride and how it was a lot worse than they thought (whoops!).  After some more searching around for a ride, we settled on taking the tram around the park in order to get over to the gaming area. 

As the kids aunt and uncle went to get a beer, G and C shot three pointers at the basketball court, while DLG was trying to scale a rope walk.  Oh great, an opportunity to win some cheap crap that I had to find room for on the flight home.  And wait, I had to pay even more for them to do this stuff?  Really?

The only thing that stopped the games from continuing was the impending darkness and my empty pockets, so we joined my brother at the beer gardens.  We were all tired from the sun and the walking around so it was nice to get a drink and people watch.  Finally, we called it quits and took the long walk back to the car.  What a great time I thought to myself as I was continuing to air out my sneakers from the ride 6 hours ago.  Note to self for next time.   

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Is Isaiah Thomas a Forgettable Celtic?

It's Isaiah Thomas' first game with the Cavaliers tonight.  I have to admit that I totally forgot that he hadn't played a game since hurting his hip in the playoffs last year. The boys both ask me when and where the game is on.  I'm mildly interested, but only because there is no football on.  It's really tough for me to watch the Cavs unless they are playing the Celtics.  It's not that I dislike the Cavs, I just don't like LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Jr Smith and Kevin Love.  I guess I just don't like the Cavs.

"I think ESPN or TNT."  I answer looking around at

"It's his first game back." C tells me, in a way to explain his interest.  I thought the Cavs were going to play Jose Calderon at the point all year, I thought to myself.

IT4 in Happier Times
We then watch a preview where IT asks the Celtics not to give them the video montage during the game tomorrow night.  Incidentally, he has decided not to play against the Celtic in the second game of the back to back, so we'll have to be satisfied with watching him play against the Blazers.  The report then goes on to show a Twitter war between Thomas and some hockey tool named Jimmy Murphy who called for Thomas to get over himself.  For Christ's sake!  My question is...who cares?  He was with the Celtics for two and half years.  And while he averaged 25 points a game, the Celtics didn't win any championships with him in the line up.  To get to the Warriors' level, the Celtics had to blow things up, use their considerable draft assets and look for a charismatic superstar who can bring the bench players with him.  This is today's NBA and no offense to him, but Thomas' 25 points a night were never going to be enough.

It's in this backdrop that I switch the game on.  Thomas isn't starting, but that does not surprise me.  He comes in in the middle of the first quarter and proceeds to score 8 points on 2 of 6 shooting while handing out 2 assists.  Surprisingly, he has neither a block, steal nor a steal in the first half.  He did pick up a technical foul though.  The Blazers win the first half, 56-53.  I started thinking about where he would be placed in the list of all time Celtics.  Let's just say he would not be placed that high.  Oh Yeah, Damian Lillard is leading the Blazers in scoring with 19 points.  I forgot to mention that the Cavs are not playing against themselves.

I turn the game back in the second half just in time to see the IT timeline.  Drafted at the second round by the Kings (of course the Kings screwed this one up), Thomas was then shipped off to the Suns in the hopes of winning the NBA Championship (just kidding).  While he was a two time all star with the Celtics, I had forgotten that he averaged 20 points a game in Sacramento too.

As the game goes on, IT looks rusty and is being outdone by another former Celtic - Jae Crowder.  I wonder if Jimmy Murphy chirped Crowder about cheering for Gordon Hayward on his way out of Boston.

Anyway, Thomas ends the game with 16 points and 3 assists.  The Cavs, led improbably by Dwyane Wade start pulling away from the Blazers and end up winning by more than 10 points.  And I finished a Cavs blog without talking about LeBron more than just a passing mention of how I think he sucks.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lonzo Ball is (Somewhat) Overrated - Celtics Recap

"You want to see the Lakers?" I asked G incredulously when he said that he wanted his Christmas Present to be the Celtics game against the Lakers.

"Yeah, Dad.  I want to see Lonzo Ball"  Now I know that Ball was one of G's favorite rookies, but it was odd to me that he wanted to focus on someone who was such a high profile reality star.  If I had a dollar every time that G showed me a scene from "Ball in the Family" on Facebook Live, I would have several dollars.

Saw this look a lot after turnovers
I suppose that I had interest in seeing this train wreck play basketball.  Between his ugly shot, his even uglier mug and the possibility that his Father Lavar would create a scene in the hallowed Garden, my interest was actually pretty high.  (Unfortunately, we learned later that Lavar was in China with his younger son LiAngelo - is that his name - so theatrics was not in the cards for us here in Boston).

While the Celtic were in the midst of a great nine game winning streak after starting the season 0-2 in the aftermath of the Gordon Heyward's broken ankle, we discovered Al Horford was going to miss the game, and Jayson Tatum was also gimpy.  This game, which at the beginning of the year would have been a 30 point blowout, it was possible that the Lakers could make a run.  It would have to be the Kyrie show for us to win.

8pm, Boston MA.  The Garden seemed electric on this otherwise sleepy Wednesday night.  The fans were anxious, just like us to get a look at the Lakers' savior.  And as he was warming up pregame, I told C that he missed 10 shots in a row.  C was unimpressed with my skepticism.

"I've seen him make three in a row" C retorted.  Maybe I was distracted by all of the booing.  Even during warm ups the crowd was booing Ball every time he touched the ball and cheered every time he clanged a three hard off of the iron.  I swear that I still had not seen him make a shot...and it appeared this huge guy in a gold baseball hat agreed as he was yelling at Ball about 10 feet away from us.

The booing continued every time Ball touched the ball.  As the team's point guard, the booing was incessant.  I don't understand all of the hate, but this definitely took  a toll on the young Lakers as the Celtics jumped out to a 33-16 First Quarter lead.  Even the guy in the golden baseball hat was having a good time.

And then with the Second Quarter, the Celtics started going cold.  Tatum left the game in after two rotations halfway through the quarter and the Lakers were starting to heat up - even Ball and his crappy looking shot was banging them home.

Eventually, the Celtics started pulling away and won the game 107-96.  It really was closer than that.  Ball finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.  He also had 4 blocks and 2 turnovers.  Not a bad game, but G then goes after the game. 

"I think I wanted Dennis Smith, Jr.'s jersey for Christmas."