Friday, August 29, 2008

Comics of the Week (8/27/08) part 2

Ambush Bug: Year None #2 (of 6) - Giffen and Fleming continue with the usual mayhem and foolishness that is the signature of Ambush Bug. Lots of parody and poking fun and recent comic book concepts and stories. Probably only truly enjoyed by fans of the series. Still a fun read in these dark times of comics.

Trinity #13 - full on confrontations in both the lead and the backup feature. Busiek and Bagley continue to deliver week after week with a spanning adventure and a full cast. This book is more than just the big three - and folks really need to be picking this up (or wait for the trades next year).

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament - this one-shot by Brad Meltzer and the Kubert brothers is a nice character piece. The cover image is missing the lead star of the book which is Geo-Force. In the book, while Earth is on the eve of this "final crisis", he decides to seek vengeance against the man who corrupted his sister Terra. But besides this main plot, we also see how other heroes are handling this night before it all hits the fan. A good read and clearly an extension of what Brad was going for back when he did his year on Justice League of America. I enjoyed it a lot.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Comics of the Week (8/27/08) part 1

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 (of 2) - what the #*!@? is this about? I should have walked away when I saw Grant Morrison as the writer, but since it is only a two part tie-in to Final Crisis I kept it in my pile. BIG MISTAKE! The book was confusing as anything and gave me a headache (and that wasn't from reading it with the 3D glasses for some of the sequences - about the only decent thing in the book). Does Grant even know how to write coherently? I think not. Don't waste your money, people.

Reign In Hell #2 (of 8) - okay, on to another writer who can be a little confusing at times, Keith Giffen. Now, this was a bit easier to follow - there is a war going on in Hell and the mystic heroes are going to have to chose sides. Keith at least keeps the story moving and easy to follow. Some of his dialogue gets a little lofty but that's okay. The book is working. At least you get to know who some of these characters are, unlike in Grant's work.

Teen Titans #62 - the cover asks "Who Is Wonderdog?" and in this issue you meet him and find out about him. It also focuses on Wendy and Marvin, who Geoff Johns brought into the book a couple years back as supporting teen geniuses. I liked what was done with those two so far and was interested in an issue spotlighting on them. Well, we get that - and more! I won't spoil the book for readers here - but it went a direction I did not expect. Kudos for keeping me interested in a story that was easy to follow logically.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Total Drama Island

What combines two things I enjoy a lot - animation and reality shows? That would be Total Drama Island, an animated series that ran on Canadian television in 2007 and has been showing on US television this summer on Cartoon Network.

The premise of the show is this: a bunch of teens send in audition tapes for a reality show, but instead of being put in a plush mansion they have to go through the rigors of bizarre events in a backwoods camp. The show features a host named Chris who is sort of a swarmy version of Survivor's Jeff Probst. The camp's Chef who is mean and scary also puts the campers through their paces. Like Survivor, one camper each week is ousted at the marshmallow ceremony.

The show is a lot of fun. Both my son and I are enjoying it a lot. Sadly, I missed a few episodes at the beginning, so I am hoping for a huge marathon to catch up.

Update: Cartoon Network heard me! A marathon of the show will run Sunday September 7th from noon until 7pm. I'm setting the DVR so I can catch it all from the beginning. Good stuff.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Comics of the Week (8/20/08)

Batman and the Outsiders #10 - first, is this alien parasite one of those leftover from the Bloodlines annuals about a decade back? It sure seems to follow the same m.o. - feed one a host, some get super powers. Liked this issue okay but clearly you can see we're hitting the transition point when Chuck Dixon leaves as writer and a new team comes on. We'll see if the book remains good after that.

the Brave and the Bold #16 - another fun, done-in-one team-up written by Mark Waid. This time, Superman joins forces with Catwoman to investigate a huge underworld auction in Gotham. The story is playful and fun with a twist or two to keep it from being predictable.

Justice League of America #24 - a decent fight issue that shows that the women of the League are resourceful and a force to be reckoned with. My only beef with the issue - the cover had nothing to do with the majority of the tale. It would better have served as a cover for the next issue.

Rann-Thanagar Holy War #4 (of 8) - we hit the halfway point with this issue. Jim Starlin delivers a lot of action that does get slightly confusing mid-way - due to a tie-in with the Adam Strange Special which hasn't come out yet (should be soon before issue #5). Still, beautifully drawn and a good handling of a diverse cast. This book makes me actually interesting in knowing more about the Weird.

Tangent: Superman's Reign #6 (of 12) - halfway point of the mini series and things are stepping up nicely. A good amount of detail here about this world's Superman and his motivation. Interesting to see Batman pondering the ramifications of the whole situation. This is clearly not a clear cut, black and white situation.

Trinity #12 - definitely some major revelations in this issue as the JLA duke it out with the Crime Syndicate in the front portion. What is going on with GL John Stewart? And the back-up feature this time - absolutely perfect. Love the lead character, love what he finds, and love how the revelations regarding Enigma fall into place. I can't believe I hadn't figure that out totally. Nice job, writers! I'm continually impressed by the entertainment this weekly book brings.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1 (of 5) - this was THE book I have been waiting for all summer. One of my current favorite writers, Geoff Johns, is scripting this epic and my all-time favorite artist, George Perez, is bringing it to life. Plus, it should finally be cleaning up the chaos of the Legion of Super-Heroes continuity for the past couple decades (with next year being the 50th anniversary of the LSH). I couldn't ask for a better book. The story so far is interesting, the threat level to face the heroes is the highest, and the character personalities show through. I love all the little touches Perez puts in the background, making this already dialogue and caption full book an even longer read. You can't help but look for all the little artistic Easter eggs in the backgrounds. That is what makes Perez the master he is. And Johns clearly knows and loves his Legion Lore - the book is chock full of details that long-time fans will eat up. A perfect comic. Even if the book doesn't come out monthly as first planned (due to Perez' health and requiring longer to draw each issue), it will be worth the wait every time!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dorm Life In the 21st Century

I have five years left before thinking about sending my son off to college, but the other night I was thinking about my own college experience and specifically the few years I lived in the on-campus dorms.

At RIT where I got my undergraduate degree in the mid-80's, dorm living was pretty standard as far the basics. It was two people to a room that was maybe 10x12 or so in size (don't recall the exact measurements). The room had one window, carpet, two closets and a phone. The school provided two wooden desks and chairs for studying, two wooden dressers for clothes storage, and two metal frame beds with mattress for sleeping. Everything else was the responsibility of the roommates to coordinate. I had a portable refridgerator (a leftover from my brother's college days before me) which I often brought to the mix. My roommate freshmen year brought his stereo (turntable, tuner, tape decks and large speakers). We each brought records or tapes of our favorite music. Often, I'd bring my own color TV if my roommate didn't have one. Each brought their own alarm clock. Those were pretty much your basics back then.

Today, I am sure, it is a much different take. Sure, what the school provides is still probably standard (you have to sleep somewhere and put your clothes somewhere). I'd like to think a fridge is still a must have in the room. Granted, the drinking age back when I was starting college was still 18 (so we could store your beer and wine in room). I would think today kids would want to be able to keep their sodas and sports drinks and such cold though. But what about the other stuff?

First, I am certain the whole huge stereo and physical music collection are pretty obsolete. Who needs all that when an iPod with a decent hard drive and a portable stereo with an input cradle can meet the same needs? Plus, it takes up a lot less space in the room and is easier to move in. (Side note: I can't tell you how many fridges and stereos and such we had to help freshmen move in as part of the Student Orientation Service at the beginning of every Fall semester. It was crazy, but I loved my time on SOS!) Kids can bring hundreds of complete albums and have them fit in their coat pocket. Incredible!

Next, while a television is a good source for news and entertainment, the same thing can be gotten via a laptop computer and a good Internet connection. I'm thinking that Internet has got to be a must for students. I know I can't go a week on vacation without being able to get online, and I am of the generation who can recall a time that being "online" meant using a BBS from a dedicated box with a phone and modem in a computer lab. The laptop even goes further and provides the capabilities that we often had to get back in the 80's from a good, old fashioned typewriter - a means to write up research papers and such.

A television could come in handy for those guys who can't live without their favorite console gaming system. Gotta have something to hook up that XBox 360 or Playstation 3 or Wii to. As a parent of a gaming kid, I'd be reluctant to allow the systems to go off to college with my son though. I'm thinking the distraction would be too great. Go to class or play Madden all day? I know what my kid would currently chose.

Now, I remember when I went to college how big it was to have a phone in every room. Where my brother went to college four years prior, they had one phone in the hall for the entire floor. Yikes! Though, today most kids have cell phones and that is probably their primary form of communication. Still, a land-line phone in the room would still prove beneficially. I'm thinking too that with the Internet need that there would have to be some kind of wired Ethernet ports to allow for connectivity in rooms. It might not be as fast as the DSL back home, but it probably gets the job done. If not in the rooms then perhaps somewhere on the floor in a common area or in designated labs on campus.

I guess I'll learn more about this when the time for scouting colleges comes up. Who knows what new advances will be around in five years?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Home Economics?

My son starts 8th grade next week, and recently got his schedule for the year. Looking over it and recalling my own days of middle school education, I couldn't help but wonder: whatever happened to home economics classes?

Back in the late 70's when I was in middle school, during at least one of the grades (6th, 7th or 8th), we took a rotational sequence of classes that included wood shop, metal shop, sewing and home economics. The idea was in each of these classes for ten weeks or so that we'd pick up some skills we might not currently possess, learn about the tools used in each area, and work on projects.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cardiologist Score Card 2008

Today was the day for my annual cardiologist appointment. As I've blogged about previously, back in 2005 I had heart surgery to repair my mitral valve. Since then, every summer we take the hour trek from Hickory to the Sanger Clinic in Mooresville to have a follow up appointment.

First, I have an echo-sonogram, where they attach a couple monitoring electrodes and then smear spots of my chest with gel. The technician then uses a device to rub over the gel spots and record pictures of the heart in action. It is pretty cool how they do it. Like having a sonogram when a woman is pregnant. You get to see the beating heart, the blood flow, etc. Very neat.

After that, we wait a half hour or so to see the cardiologist. He reads the echo along with the quick EKG the nurse does to see how things are going. This year, like last year, he said things are looking good (the echo was the same as last year, which is a good sign - that means that surgery is still holding strong).

I am a lot healthier than last year's appointment too. I've lost about 23 pounds since last August, the cholesterol is all under control, and I'm exercising a lot more than I had been. All that contributes to good heart health.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Surf's Up (2007)

Another Saturday night in our household and that means pulling up another film recorded on the DVR earlier in the week. This time we viewed the 2007 computer animated Surf's Up, another film from last year that we hadn't gotten around to seeing in theatres. It is the story of Cody (voiced by Shia LeBauf), a penguin from Antartica, that dreams of being a big winner like his hero Z. He travels to a tropical spot for a big surfing tournament and befriends Chicken Joe (voiced by John Heder). Along the way, he learns the truth about what happened to Z (voiced by Jeff Bridges). James Woods also voices one of the characters.

It was an entertaining enough film, certainly family friendly with a PG rating and only a few potty humor references to earn that. Seeing on the HD widescreen was sufficient - I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much in the theatres. The soundtrack was pretty rocking though all in all (went well with the film). The documentary approach to the story worked well enough too, especially when they included the "older" clips that had that old-time newsreel feel to them. Nice touch.

Workout Shuffle (8/16/08)

Another Saturday morning, another hour on the cross-trainer at the YMCA. Here's what popped up randomly on my iPod shuffle during the workout:

Champaign - How About Us
? and the Mysterians - 96 Tears
Hootie and the Blowfish - Sad Caper
Nigel Olsson - Little Bit of Soap
Jimmy Jones - Handy Man
Dean Friedman - Funny Papers
Pat Benatar - Hell Is For Children
Matthew Sweet - Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
Divinyls - I Touch Myself
James Brown - Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing
April Wine - Just Between You and Me
Chuck Berry - Let It Rock
The Clash - This Is England
Bruce Springsteen - the Rising
His Name Is Alive - Wish I Had a Wishing Ring
Bill Withers - Use Me

Cooldown: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons - My Eyes Adored You

Friday, August 15, 2008

Comics of the Week (8/13/08)

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #17 - another so-so issue. This book jumps around between the younger LSH and older ones, as the show did. Not sure I like that. I hear the book is going to be cancelled soon anyway now that the show is off. Oh well.

Final Crisis: Revelations #1 (of 5) - this mini series focus on the Spectre during the huge events going on. This first issue flowed well as the spirit of vengeance goes after those who killed the Martian Manhunter. A good, solid issue - and clearly much easier to follow than the main Final Crisis book. Glad my shop pulled it for me (I didn't have it on my order list but will be picking up the remaining issues after this first one).

Trinity #11 - the story continues to move forward at a great pace, building this into a huge epic with a large tapestry across the DCU. This, Grant Morrison, is how to write a major event. Not the cryptic, mumbo-jumbo, vagueness that you are putting into Final Crisis, sir.

Booster Gold #11 - Chuck Dixon steps into the writing spot for a two issue arc of the title. There is a time anomaly in the past of the Dynamic Duo, and Booster has to come to the rescue. Will he straighten things out or make them worse? I so love time travel stories as the writers really can have fun with the possibilities. Still one of the best monthlies out there, IMHO.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spirits In the Material World

Taking a break from fiction, I picked up a nonfiction book in my local library. Written by Christine Wicker, a report for the Dallas Morning News, the book is titled Lily Dale: the true story of the town that talks to the dead. It is the account of her experiences in Lily Dale, NY, as well as those of others she met there.

Lily Dale is one of the oldest and largest Spritualist communities. It is the home for many mediums and healers, and the tourist destination of thousands every summer. The book is an open, honest account from a person who went into the experience as a total skeptic and came out of it knowing a bit more about herself.

I grew up in Dunkirk, NY, just shy of a dozen miles from this community on the Cassadaga Lake. Ironically, I never have been there though I've known about it most of my life. My brother and my cousins worked one summer up at the cafeteria in the area back in the early 80's while I was still in high school.

I must admit that I've always been fascinated by the prospect of mediums and those spirits who communicate through them. I do believe that there is something beyond our mortal time on this world, and I am open to the prospect that those that move beyond their physical forms might be able to channel their energies back to those on this plane of existence.

I know there have been occasions where I've felt the presence of spirits around me. I already mentioned in this blog the Ouija board experience we had one summer. And a year or so ago when my wife converted to Catholicism we were at the Easter vigil where the new members joined - as I stood behind my wife as her sponser, I felt the presence of my grandparents, feeling their pride over the occasion. I've even had visions of departed family members in my dreams, providing information or guidance on things or assistance in finding things that are missplaced.

I think perhaps next time we return to western NY, we just might take a little trip up route 60 and pay the Dale a visit.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Walk Walk

I'm a little achy and tired this morning. Yesterday, about 9am, we drove to the local YMCA downtown but didn't go inside to workout (they don't open until 1pm on Sundays). Instead, the whole family took a two-hour walk up the main drag of Hickory (a place where there are sidewalks for nearly three miles straight) - from 8th all the way up to 33rd where our old apartment was. After one hour, we turned around and walked back. Whew.

It was good though. Weather was pretty cool. And it helps my wife who is walking in the Breast Cancer Cure walk in Charlotte in October (she needs to walk more outside, on sidewalks, which simulates the conditions she'll have then). She's doing at least 13 miles the first day and 13 on the second day, so this training helps her out. Helps me and my son out too as we get to exercise with her some.

So, Saturday I worked out. Sunday we walked. Tonight when my son is at Boy Scouts, I'll do my usual walk for an hour or so in the nearby neighborhoods (saves on gas running back and forth twice).

As Lewis said in Meet the Robinsons, keep moving forward.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Last night we had family movie night at our house (my wife, my 12 year old son, and I) and I pulled up one of the films recorded on the DVR - 2007's Meet The Robinsons. This Disney computer-animated film is the story of Lewis, an orphan boy with big dreams but not a lot of success. He wants to build a memory-stimulator so he can remember his mother who left him at the orphanage when he was just an infant. But before he can show off his invention at a science fair, a man with a bowler hat tries to steal it and Lewis is helped by an odd boy who claims to be from the future. Turns out, he is!

The story is a lot of fun and good, family entertainment. This just goes to show that G-rated films can exist in today's society and still be worth the price of admission. We laughed, we cheered, and the film even had some tug-at-the-heartstrings moments too. Wonderful film.

If you haven't seen it yet, rent it or catch it on cable. Even without seeing in in 3-D (which is how it was released in theatres - I bet that made it even more fun!), the film works wonderfully.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Workout Shuffle (8/9/08)

With over 9000 songs on my iPod, ranging from back the mid-50's through latest releases, I never know what's going to pop up on the shuffle. For this morning's hour long workout and then the cool-down on the cross-trainer at the YMCA, here's the mix I got:

Old Blue Jeans - Hannnah Montana
(Yes, I do listen to this music, and watch the TV show.)
South Side - Moby
Boogie Fever - the Sylvers
What Time Is It? - Spin Doctors
Hard Lesson - Suddenly Tammy!
One - Three Dog Night
I'm A Believer - Smash Mouth
Denis - Blondie
Do You Wanna Make Love - Peter McCann
Ooh Child - the Five Stairsteps
State of Attraction - Paula Abdul
Get On the Line - the Archies
Let's Spend the Night Together - the Rolling Stones
Take The Long Way Home - Supertramp
Small Town - John Cougar Mellencamp
(Trivia: he sings "small town" 18 times in this song - I always count it.)
Crazy Love - Poco
The Way That You Love Me - Paula Abdul
(weird that the shuffle would give me to songs by Paula, both from the same album!)

Cooldown: My Fair Share - Seals & Crofts

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Now And Then

Finally, I've finished the 35th Spenser novel - the most recent release from 2007 - by Robert B. Parker called Now And Then. It starts out as a case of a husband hiring the Boston private eye to find out if his wife is cheating on him. Turns out she is - with a man who has some counter-culture ties. The husband is with the FBI, and when the man confronts the woman, both end up dead. Rather than leave the case alone or turning it over to his FBI contact, Spenser decides this is something he needs to solve.

But it more than just two dead bodies here. It reminds Spenser of a difficult time in his past when he and Susan were going through a seperation and another bad man was involved. In solving this case, Spenser believes he can ease any unsettled feelings from his own past. So, the case really takes on a personal feel to it.

I must say that I am glad to be finished with Spenser (for now, until the next book comes out late this year - and then I will only have to visit once a year to stay current). Truth is, I'm sort of burned out on Parker's law-into-his-own-hands character. Don't get me wrong - over all I've enjoyed the books in the series more often than not. I just don't think they were written to be read back to back to back like I did it. I think it exposes a lot of the flaws in the books doing it that way.

I'm ready to cleanse my pallette a bit with some non-fiction first and then on to a different author and genre.

Comics of the Week (8/06/08)

Trinity #10 - in the lead tale, the big three lead the rest of the JLA to Earth of the Crime Syndicate to rescue kidnapped people. In the back-up tale, Robin and Nightwing meet a new foe - Primak. I just realized with this issue why the Swashbuckler name was now so familiar when paired with Primak - these are the names that some of the JLA members used when they were in disguise and testing Black Lightning back for JLA membership back in 1979 (Justice League of America #173). Kudos to the writers for putting this little Easter egg in the books for us old time fans to enjoy!

Final Crisis #3 (of 7) - once again, Grant Morrison keeps me confused with his muddled writing style. I have a general idea of what is going on here, but the whole story seems to just be a mish-mash of scenes for me. The big guns of the JLA all seem to be taken out of the equation. The scenes with Clark by Lois' bedside just seemed so out of character for me. Ditto with Hal Jordan willingly going with the Alpha Lanterns without a fight. And Wonder Woman so easily duped? I don't think so. This mega event is starting to near the halfway point and the main mini series is leaving me cold. That concerns me a lot.

Hawkman Special #1 - this is a direct continuation of the last issue of the Rann/Thanagar Holy War mini series, and it is a must read. Hawkman encounters a shrouded entity who reveals that all of Hawkman's memories are false. There is something bigger going on with the multiverse and Hawkman is one of six key players. This got me very excited. Finally, we're going to clear up the mess that has been Hawkman's continuity since Crisis On Infinite Earths. It's about time. Great artwork and writing through out by Jim Starlin. Grant Morrison could take a few lessons from this master on how to tell a good story with solid delivery.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beetlejuice (1988)

Tuesday night I was flipping around for something to watch and came across Beetlejuice on Universal HD. This comedy with special effects was directed by Tim Burton and starred (a very young) Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Jeffrey Jones, and Michael Keaton. Baldwin and Davis play the Maitlands, a happy couple whose life turns for the worse when they end up dead and their spirits are unable to leave their ideal home. That would be fine until the Deetz family (Jones and O'Hara) buy the place and begin major remodeling. Lydia Deetz (Ryder), a strange girl herself, can actually see the ghostly Maitlands. Unable to drive the family from their home, the haunted couple enlist the aid of a trouble-some spook named Betelguese (Keaton) to help them out. Chaos ensues.

Now, I know this film has been around for 20 years but must admit that this was the very first time I've seen the entire film (I've seen a scene here and there on places but not the whole thing). I am however much more familiar with the animated cartoon based on the film that came out a couple years later (I used to watch that a lot even before I had a child). For me, the film was okay - not spectacular as I had assumed. From what I understand, Burton was going for a "B movie" feel with the effects, sort of a quirky, off-the-wall, what-the-heck sort of reaction. At least that's what I got from it. A lot of it just seemed so out there. The directing was very much to Burton's style - it brought back memories of Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, both later works by him.

With this cast, I expected a bit more. Keaton seemed more hammy than funny, more creepy pervert than off-the-wall troublemaker. O'Hara played a shrew well enough - if I was to hate her character, it worked. Davis and Baldwin were okay but aimless - their characters were more enjoyable when they were alive. Only Ryder pulled off that neo-Goth role well enough.

I have to say that I liked the cartoon series better. I think the outlandish aspects of Beetlejuice's world worked better in full animation.

Wild Hogs (2007)

Given the all-star line up, I expected 2007's Wild Hogs to be pretty funny. You've got Tim Allen and John Travolta, both who I enjoyed a lot in TV and film over the years. You also have Martin Lawrence and the always superb William H. Macy. These actors play four middle-aged suburban men in Cincinnati who, frustrated with the pace of daily life, decide to embark on a road-trip to the Pacific coast on their motorcycles. The film also stars Ray Liotta and academy-award winner Marisa Tomei as well as a cameo by that original road-warrior Peter Fonda.

I watched the film over the weekend on cable and have to say it was just okay. The story was fairly predictable and the comedy was slapstick at best. Travolta's character came across very whiny. Allen's character came across as a bit bland. Lawrence played his usual role as expected. The Macy character was played very well, as expected, and really lit up when Tomei enters the film. Liotta seemed very over the top.

The soundtrack rocked well though - I loved the use of the classic road-trip rock songs you'd expect in a film about motorcycling. And on HD, the scenic shots of the cross country ride looked nice too. The ending seemed a bit contrived and forced - sort of one of those where the writers get the characters painted into a corner and then say "now, how do we end this?" (it is a regular comedy - as opposed to a dark comedy - after all so it had to end positively).

This is one of those films I was glad I didn't spend money to see it in the theatres or to rent it. It was worth a one time viewing but that's about all.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Comics of the Week (7/30/08)

Reign In Hell #1 (of 8) - it took about fourteen pages for me to get into this first issue of a series that is supposed to chronicle the battle for the underworld. I'm more interested right now in the Dr. Occult back up series. I'll give it another couple issues.

Teen Titans #61 - Kid Devil and Blue Beetle reluctantly team up to take on Shockwave. It was an okay fill-in issue between big event arcs.

Trinity #9 - a so-so issue of the weekly. High points were the introduction of a new villain called Swashbuckler and his battles with Wonder Woman and Nightwing.

Green Lantern #33 - part 5 of the Secret Origins arc has Hal and Sinestro investigated Abin Sur's crash site and learning about the prisoner he had been carry when he died. Next issue completes this flashback arc.

Justice Society of America Annual #1 - this was THE book of the week! Geoff Johns brings Power Girl back to Earth-2, and Jerry Ordway brings forth the days of his artwork on Infinity Inc. and All-Star Squadron. All the old familiar faces are here, but something isn't quite right. This annual is the opening chapters of an arc that will run back in the main JSA title. A must for fans of the golden age heroes and their offspring, as they were back in the 80's before Crisis On Infinite Earths changed everything.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hundred-Dollar Baby

In the 9th Spenser novel Ceremony, Robert B. Parker introduced the character of April Kyle - a runaway out turning tricks. The Boston private eye rescued her from a bad situation and set her up with a New York madame. In the 13th novel Taming A Sea-Horse, Spenser found his path crossing with April again. He thought then he had gotten her on the right path.

Here in the 34th Spenser novel Hundred-Dollar Baby written in 2006, April is back again. She seems more mature, sophisticated, even running her own business but the fruit hasn't gotten far from the tree. She's still in the business of prostitution, but she wants to run it from a woman's angle. And the problem is men are causing her problems. She goes to see Spenser to help, and he feels obligated to help save her again. What he doesn't realize is how intricate the web of lies and trouble has become. Can he untangle it?

My problem with this book are two-fold. One, I don't find April a very sympathetic character. As a reader, I don't care about her. Two, the ending seemed rather forced as if Parker was realizing he was hitting his usual page length for novels and that he needed a quick conclusion. It could have been fleshed out more. Drop a couple of those two to three page chapters with Spenser missing Susan and there you go - space to finish the book right.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 7

The Tourists

Sunday was our final day of our trip before the long drive home on Monday. Since it was my son's first time up to New York state, we knew where we had to take him: Niagara Falls. I had taken my wife there when she and I went up for my 20th reunion - that was her first time as well as my first time visiting the Canadian side of the Falls. We figured my son would enjoy it.

We hoped in the car and left Dunkirk at about 9am, grabbing some Tim Horton's donuts and beverages to eat in the car along the way. The trip up didn't take too long at all - about an hour to get us to the Peace Bridge. We had to sit a little bit in line to present our identification before entering Canada.

If you've never been, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is very much a tourist center, with lots of attractions and businesses and restaurants to attract the visitors to the natural wonder of the Falls. You have your wax museums, your botanical gardens, your casinos and hotels. We had one singular thing in mind though, and that would be the famous Maid of the Mist boat trip that takes you up close and personal to the Falls.

There were a lot of people there that Sunday morning, including some large tourist groups from Asian countries. Also a lot of people speaking French, my guess they were native Canadians. The lines moved pretty quickly though and soon we donned our blue plastic ponchos for the trip. We found a spot by the rail and were ready to experience the fury of the Falls.

My son loved it! He thought it was one of the coolest things he had ever seen. Score one for the parents.

What could make the day any better for him? How about having some real chicken wings in a real wing joint in Buffalo, the home of the wings? So, that's what we did on our way back to Dunkirk. We took a slight detour to Sheridan (thank you, GPS, for getting us there very easily) and stopped at Duff's. For the three of us we ordered twenty mild-medium and ten medium. On Duff's scale of flavor, the medium are hot so we dared not venture to their hot or, heavens forbid, nuclear sauce. Add a huge helping of fries and some blue cheese and celery and you've got a meal that any native Western New Yorker like myself would love.

We got back to the hotel in Dunkirk late in the afternoon. My son spent some time in the pool while my wife worked out in the gym. I started to get the car packed up with most of our stuff so that our departure in the morning would go smoother.

Monday morning, we were up at 4am and on the road, again with Tim Horton's food to go, by 5am. Unlike the trip north, our return trip was pretty uneventful. Stopping for the usual breaks, gas, and an hour for lunch, we still managed to get home by 4:20pm - so we made pretty decent time. No unexpected delays. No surprises.

All in all, our trip to Dunkirk was a rousing success. We all had fun even if we were a little worn out from the whirlwind nature of the trip. Next time we go up that way, especially if we drive, we'll plan it so we can stay in town for a full week with bookend weekends. I'm just getting too old to do it as quick a turnaround as we did it this time.

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 6

Sa-Sa-Saturday Night

We left the picnic at about 6:45pm (a few minutes before it officially ended). Now, if it were me, we would have been the first to arrive and the last to depart, but that's just the way I am. We did have to run by the drugstore to pick up something for my son and we decided to hit the drive-thru at McDonald's on Route 60 as well (just for a small snack and a drink before the evening's festivities). Right after we got back to the hotel, my son got cleaned up (he had gotten rather dirty running through the creek towards the end of the picnic) and settled in for an evening of computer games.

Dianne buzzed by cell phone at about 7:30pm to say she was over at the Point to see how the keg party turned out (a couple of folks Friday night who weren't going to the picnic said they'd be doing a keg party at the Point during the day for whoever wanted to come). Turns out the kegger didn't get far off the ground. They got out there after 5pm instead of 2pm like originally planned. And instead of a keg it was a cooler of beers and a few pizzas. Not a big turnout. So, we told Dianne to head over to the Clarion and that we'd join her downstairs at the Clarion's dockside bar - the official site of the Saturday post-picnic gathering.

The weather couldn't have been any more perfect. There was a cool breeze coming off the lake but not too cool. Being outside in the opening evening air at the hotel's deck, it made for great locale for the final reunion get-together. Folks could take a walk along the waterfront if they liked (and some did just that later in the evening). It allowed for plenty of room for folks to talk too.

We weren't there but a few minutes when Denice and then Kimberly joined us. The band for the night was setting up and we guessed that they might turn out to be loud, so we commandeered a bunch of tables in the open courtyard area down by the pool. Good thing we did too as the numbers quickly ramped up. Mary Lou, Margaret, Sharon (Gadewoltz) and Ryan soon joined us. Then Gary and his wife arrived, and then Lynette and her friend Nikki. Soon the menus were passed around with food and drink ordered. The Bud Light girls came by giving us raffle tickets and free bottle openers. The party didn't take long to ramp up.

Within an hour, more classmates arrived - some from the picnic earlier in the day, some from Friday night and some I had not seen yet all weekend. I was able to talk with Larry Klajbor and Laurie (Pietro). A few of us talked with Edwin Ramos about the events of Senior Skip Day back in 1983 and how a number of the skippers managed to work their way back in to the Senior Class trip to Darren Lake a week later (where Molly Hatchet was performing). I saw Greg Skubis and his wife briefly.

The band was playing a road-house blues type of music. They were pretty good but loud. At one point, Lubs Lugen got out a set of spoons and began playing them where we were all hanging out. Eventually, some of the gals from our class dragged him up to play a number with the band. He's pretty good with them.

By midnight, I was ready to call it a night. I knew we had big plans for Sunday, our final day in town before the long drive back home on Monday. I number of folks had started to depart. Kimberly and her husband had to be ready for church for 8am. Ryan had to get home to his family. Dianne had an early morning planned as well. Surprisingly, my wife was the one who was enjoying the conversation with folks so much that lead us ultimately to staying down until 12:45am. We said our goodbyes to folks who hadn't left yet, some of which was contact that might have to last another five years until the next reunion.

(to be continued...)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 5

The Reunion Picnic

Just outside of Dunkirk, in the small town of Forestville, is the Merritt Estate Winery and that was going to be the site for our 25th class reunion picnic. The drive to there didn't take long at all, about fifteen minutes total. There are a lot of small towns and villages around Dunkirk - each with their own character and charm. A lot of my classmates remained in the area, moving about a ten to twenty mile radius away from the town we all grew up. Some moved a bit further up towards Buffalo which is only about a forty minute trip away to the north or towards Jamestown which is about the same time distance to the east or towards Erie, PA, which is about that time distance to the south (can't go west of Dunkirk as that puts you smack dab in the middle of Lake Erie).

Of course, I was styling for the picnic. I had found a pair of black and yellow checkered Vans sneakers while on vacation in Gaitlinburg, TN, a few months back. When I found the store had the shoes in my size, I knew I had to get them. They were so 80's and perfect for the class of 83's reunion. On that same trip, I managed to find a pair of yellow dress shorts to go with them. The weekend prior to the reunion, we went shopping in Greensboro, NC, and I found a black silk shirt to complete the outfit. I was very psyched!

The winery offered a number of aspects that made it a perfect site for our party. First and foremost, they do their own catering and have a covered pavilion with picnic tables for eating. This would have been crucial if the weather had done what was original forecast - scattered thunderstorms. Luckily, there was a brief shower around noon and then the sky cleared by the time the picnic began at 2pm. We got a slight sprinkle at 7pm, just the the picnic was ending. Someone upstairs was watching out for the class of 1983.

There was also a large grassy yard area, perfect for games like volleyball, soccer, horseshoes, etc. for the kids to play. After all, it was a family picnic and one of the first times in the four reunions we've had (5 year, 10 year, 20 year and now 25 year) where we've done something where we could bring the kids. Folks asked about it after the 20th (as we've done the formal dinner/dance a number of times). It worked out absolutely perfect. Everyone got to bring along their kids to show them off. The kids instantly took to one another and began playing together without much proding from the adults. It was kind of neat to see the kids of classmates I grew up with all the way back in elementary school forming good bonds (like my son and my friend Denice's son, both of whom are nearly the same age, who wandered off to the nearby creek for a treasure hunting adventure).

The third great aspect of the winery was the winery itself. This was perfect for the spouses and significant others. While the classmates all got together to chat about old times, they were able to go up and do tours and wine tasting. That kept them busy. We even brought back a half case of wine to North Carolina as my wife managed to fine a few of the winery's offerings that she found tasty. My wife was also able to spend time discussing wines and European travel with Nikki, a friend of my friend Lynette, so she was kept entertained for the party.

For me, the best part of the picnic was being able visit in a more relaxed, quiet setting with the 29 classmates who signed up for the picnic. Out of a class of 252 graduates (minus those we've lost over the years), this was about a 12% showing. Not bad really. Given economic factors like the cost of gas and plane tickets, I can see it would have been hard for some folks who were scattered across the country to make it back. Also, a number of folks had conflicts (prior family commitments, etc.) that prevented them from coming back for the reunion. It would have been nicer to have a few more of the folks who stayed local to come, but again I am sure scheduling and such prevented them to do so. On the flip side, the smaller number insured plenty of time to catch up with everyone over the five hour period.

A number of people at the picnic I had seen at the bar the night before. But there were also new folks as well.

I've known Colleen (Shubert) since elementary school. Also, her father was and still is the golf pro at Shorewood Country Club; Jack was the person who taught me how to golf when I was a kid. Colleen and I would see each other all summer, hanging out at the club and playing in the Junior Golf tournaments and such every Friday morning. Ironically, we now live less than two hours apart since she and her family moved to SC from Vegas and my family has relocated to the western part of NC.

I didn't make it to the golf tournament that Gerry Hall coordinated for earlier that morning at Shorewood. I haven't swung a club in ages and more likely would have embarrassed myself more than anything else. Gerry said they had about a half dozen folks that came out to play. He's been a member of the club for years now and remembered my mother.

Ed Balzer and his family also made the trip up from NC (they live even closer to me, just in Charlotte). I believe they actually had come up for a week to visit. So glad they could make the trip up (hopefully they didn't hit the same road issues we did - I'm guessing they would have driven up the same way).

Mike Goulding was another of our classmates who had been living in NC (on the coast). I saw him a few years back but it was good to see him again. "Spike" is now living in Minnesota, a place my wife is familiar with (she has family there). He has yet to endure one of their winters. He'll be in for some interesting times compared to the temperate Carolina winters.

Linda (Hollander) and Karen (Dimmer) are two more folks I've known since elementary school. Both now live closer to Buffalo and made the trip down for the day with their families just for the picnic. I hadn't seen either of them in a long long time. Karen and I talked about our brothers who were of similar ages and often hung out together. My brother often went to the Dimmer household to play poker. That's one of those things about growing up in a small town - you have a lot of connections through different ways and means. I guess that was one thing I loved about Dunkirk and that I miss - that small town feel of everyone knowing everyone.

Other people who still live in town or nearby who I have not seen in ages were Tom Thompson, Gina (Campese), Bill Matteson, Linda (Medley), Michelle (Polchetti), and Mary Jo (Galardo).

About 5pm or so, we all gathered at the tables. Gary gave a little speech and awarded the door prizes (first RSVP went to Gerry, last person signed up went to Kimberly, longest distance travelled was a tie between our two Florida residents - Deb and Dianne). Gary also announced that as of 7pm he was officially retiring as our reunion planner (he has been involved with the last three). Somehow I think he won't be able to stay away from the plans for the next one - he does such an awesome job! Plus, I have a feeling he'll be getting quite a bit more help from a number of us both local and distant. We all enjoy these gatherings so much to let them end at the 25th.

During the last hour of the picnic, someone had the great idea for us to get a class picture to commemorate the event. Arming the spouses with cameras, the 22 of us who remained got together for a group shot. After about a dozen shots, we finally got it perfect. It was a great way to mark the event and the turn-out for an absolutely perfect event.

(to be continued...)

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 4

Walking Central Avenue

Dunkirk is laid out in such a way that it is great for walking. Central Avenue runs east to west from the docks at Lake Erie to the D-F Plaza which is near the thruway. Main Street also runs parallel to Central, although they've rerouted that a little over the years. Central is nice for walking too as it has sidewalks all the way.

My wife is training for the Breast Cancer Cure walk in Charlotte in October, so she needed to do five miles of walking each day of the weekend. Since it was about 2.4 miles from the hotel to the plaza, that would be a perfect walk distance for us. So, by 8:30am we in our workout clothes and ready to walk. The weather was perfect - slightly cloudy and a nice breeze off the lake.

As we walked, I pointed out various sites in town and told them about my growing up in Dunkirk. Since it was my son's first visit there and only my wife's second, most of the stories and facts were pretty fresh for them. We passed by the Observer which produces the town's local newspaper. That building hasn't changed much in the past 25 years.

The Regent movie theatre wasn't on Central, but you could go that way to get to it. I remember seeing many films there in the 70's and early 80's (still have clippings in a scrapebook somewhere to mark the films I saw on the big screen). The floors were always so sticky from spilled soda and buttered popcorn, and the folding down seats would creak a lot (I think the metal joints needed greasing). Still, it has a very neat atmosphere to it.

We passed the downtown business district were in my youth there were a number of department stores used to be. Kresge's had this snack bar where you could order fries or a sundae. They had balloons overhead - you would pick one and pop it, and inside was a piece of paper to tell you what you'd pay. That was a place that often sold three-packs of mixed comic books for a quarter (you could see two of the three books but the middle one was always hard to determine. Across the street was where another old department store used to be. It had a neat toy shop in the basement which was always decorated for the holidays. I think I got my first Mego action figures there. They also had a pneumatic-tube system that shot checks up to the main office on the second floor for validation.

In the early 80's, there was a video arcade downtown as well. Spent a lot of time in there, dropping quarters to play Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, Mousetrap, Burger Time, Robotron and Tempest. I think it was housed where a wings place now resides, so that's a pretty fair trade off (I like wings as much as I like video games).

There is still a grocery store on Central but the name has changed. Pete's, a newstand I often went to when roaming around town looking for comics, is long gone - there is a recruiting center for the Marines there now. We passed City Hall and the Post Office (both look about the same from the outside).

Next up was Brooks Memorial Hospital where I was born and had hernia surgeries when I was five years old and then again when I was fifteen (the later was the summer between Middle School and High School). We passed the Dunkirk Public Library which, it appears, is trying to raise money for a wheelchair access ramp. I guess I never thought about that twice going up those steep steps to checkout humor books and novels from their growing up. We passed the building that used to house my orthodontists' office (it is now another doctor's office); not a lot of great memories from there - between the taking of plaster impressions and the ever-tightening of the wires and metal bands. Yuck.

We passed the house where Mr. Sweeney, one of the middle school teachers, lived. He used to give us pop quizes every couple days when he felt folks hadn't done their nightly reading. Five questions - miss one and your average suffers, miss two and it was failure. He actually gave someone in our class detention for throwing a snowball at him while he shovelled his driveway one winter in the late 70's.

We passed the buildings that used to make up Cardinal Mindzenty, the former Catholic High School that was already closed when I was not even a teen. We passed the set of apartment buildings that my grandfather owned (and my parents owned after he passed away in the late 70's). They're still apartments but with a different name on them. We passed School 4, the elementary school where I spent six of the thirteen years of Dunkirk schooling. I've blogged about School 4 before (check the 2007 entries for more stories about those days).

We crossed Lucas Avenue and then down and up the hill. We passed the building where my grandfather's plumbing company used to be (my aunt inherited it and sold it many years later). Crino's music store is still there, as well as remnants of some of the streets that still had red brick beneath the asphalt. There were a few places in Dunkirk with roads like that.

We walked up past the large cemetary on Central and then past Boothie's ice cream. I loved those soft serve cones growing up. In my youth, Boothie's only had a small window in the back part of the building while the front was Country Fair, convenience store where I often bought candy and soda pop. Today, Boothie's takes up the entire building. Next to it is still a carwash. Back when I was a kid, they also sold Sunoco gas there.

Across the street there is a day spa now where Red & White grocery used to be (another place we went to buy candy and such). Red & White closed when I was still a kid and was bought by the Corsi family and turned into a liquor store.

Next was Seel Acres, the street I usually cut down as a short-cut home from school. A few of my friends and classmates lived on the far end of the street. Next is East Green Street, and there is still a Jehova's Witness church on the corner.

East Green Street was where I lived for fifteen years (from age 4 through most of my college years). Funny thing, as we stood at the end of the street for a moment - I never realized you could see from one end to the other. As a kid the street seemed a lot longer to get from the Central Avenue end to the Main Street end. I lived three houses from the corner on the Main Street end (the house used to be green, it is now painted red and has a huge tree in the backyard that wasn't there when I was a kid). I guess it is that perspective thing again. Everything seems larger and longer when you are a kid.

We passed Holy Trinity Church, the Catholic church we belonged to. They're celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. I remember when we first moved to town that Mass was done in the hall which now is used as a cafeteria and for bingo. The newer church was built in the early 70's on the other side of the school. Behind the church was a huge field with bleachers that every summer hosted a battle of the marching bands. You could hear that music all the way to Green Street which is a few streets away.

Of course, we passed the Fairgrounds which is where we spent time the day before and then, finally, we reached the D-F Plaza. The D is for Dunkirk and the F is for Fredonia since the plaza sort of resides on the boarder line between the town of Dunkirk and the village of Fredonia.

As I waited for my wife and son to use the bathroom at the drug store, I couldn't help but think about the changes here too. The drug store is where Mr. Donut used to be. I remember a Kodak hut in the parking lot that is long since gone. The YMCA is no longer there either (at least I don't think it is). Sidey's is gone and has been replaced with a Big Lots, two opposite ends of the shopping spectrum really. The Book Nook and JCPenney are still there. But there is no Record Giant any more (who needs records these days?). At the far end, Putt-a-Bit miniature golf is gone as is the two screen Cine theatre; there is just a grassy lot where those two once stood.

So, we made our return trip down the other side of the avenue. I pointed out a few neighborhoods on this side where I knew classmates had grown up. Beyond one street was a playground we used to go to every now and again. By the time we hit downdown again, we'd noted that there were no trash cans outside a lot of the stores. That was odd. I remember there being ones when I grew up. Instead, there was trash on some sidewalks. I had to wonder if vandalism was the reason to not have them (too easy for someone to throw or knock over). That was kind of sad.

When we got back to Lake Shore Drive again, we crossed the street to the dock area and had a late brunch at Dimitri's restaurant (took us a little less than two hours to do the whole circuit of our walk). Growing up, there was a restaurant there called Mark's but the name had changed long before I left town permanently in 1988. We ate outside by the lake so we could take in the fresh air and sounds (I had the steak and eggs since the walk really worked up my appettite).

A nice morning all and all, and a great start to what would continue to be a great day.

(to be continued...)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 3

Who's That Girl (Who's That Guy)

We got back to the Clarion hotel from dinner with the family at 9:20pm. I took a quick shower and got changed. While my wife did the same, I got our son set up for some time on his computer (playing one of those online games he does). By 10:30, she and I were ready to head out the front of the hotel, cross Lake Shore Drive and join the already in-full-swing party at Walleye Willie's.

Now, the bar gets its name from the walleye fish which can be caught in Lake Erie. From the front, it appears rather interesting with a full glass window on one side and a second floor pool room. The entire back is enclosed in a high wooden privacy fence. That actually allows for the bar to spill out onto the open porch in back and then further to a grassy area that also has a sand volleyball pit. When you come in to the front door, there is a bandstand along the front window and also a small room off to the one side for sitting and such. When we arrived the band for the night - a Beatles cover band called "Beatle Magic" complete with costume changes for each set - was already setting the loud mood for the night. While it was 60's music instead of 80's, it still worked to take us all back in time.

As I was getting my wife and I a soft drinks from the bar, someone on the stool to my left bumped into me. When I turned, the person started to apologize and then got a good look at me. He said, "Hey, Martin, I bet you don't remember me". Without missing a beat I said, "sure I recognize you, Chris Bomasuto". He smiled. I probably hadn't seen him in 25 years but I would know him anywhere. That would set the tone for the night. We talked for a few moments while I waited for my sodas.

After that, we made our way through the crowed floor looking for my old crew - the folks I hung out with during the later part of high school and after when I came home from college. Along the way, I ran into Rob Gloff and his wife Cindy; Rob and I grew up on the same street two doors apart. Rob hasn't changed one bit since high school. I also ran into Rich Corsi who as has changed very little in 25 years. Our brothers graduated together and were very close friends. We talked briefly about that. I got welcoming hugs from Ellen (Zielinski) and Stephanie (Stanton) too; they were close friends in high school and still are today.

I finally found my group - Kimberly (DeRider), Dianne (Moch), and Lynette Kuhlman were all there with great big hugs and welcomes. I had talked to them online and over the phone since the 20th reunion. We sort of found a good spot to hang out and catch up, just on the edge between the bar and the back patio and in the center. It was also the perfect to survey the flow of the crowd and the faces. There was quite a bit of "who is that talking with so-and-so?" and "behind you, to the left, isn't that...?". Eventually we'd figure it out after some debate and the occasional assistance from another party.

Gary Worosz (who coordinated most of the reunion events for the weekend) caught my eye and came over. I had to wish he and his wife Liz a happy anniversary as this night fell on the night they wed sixteen years prior. I chatted a bit too with John Nalepa, another person I hadn't spoken with since the last reunion. Robert Lugen came by and insisted on us drinking a toast with him (I'm still not quite sure the actual wording, but "Lubs" was in such a festive mood that I just went with the flow).

Of course, I had to say hey to folks who have been regulars for years the Yahoo Group which I moderate for our classmates. We talk online all the time but it still good to see them in person, to hear their voices, etc. This would include folks like Denice (Schmatz), Margaret (Madigan), Lisa (Schrantz), Deb (Yacklon), Ryan Corbett, and Katie (Knack) - who actually graduated with the class of 84 but we allow her to "crash" the group as our official underclassman mascot.

There was a lot what I like to call recognition across the way too. You know, where you glance around and catch the eye of a face you are pretty sure is familiar. They then see you, you both have that moment of "ah-ha" and then make your way towards one another to catch up. Had a lot of those that night including with Mike Formanovich, Mary Lou (Lajewski) and Lisa (Miller). Some folks I barely recognized at first glance like Rich Kaus and Kevin Worosz - that is until someone connected the faces to the names. Of course, another part of the challenge was that it wasn't just our classmates hanging out at Walleye Willie's that night. There were a lot of folks from town, some who graduated in the years before or after us as well as some who never even went to Dunkirk High. So, even if you saw someone you knew talking to someone else, that second someone might be someone you never met in your life. That's what made the night so challenging.

I also had an idea of who I'd be seeing at the main reunion event tomorrow and who I would not. A number of folks who live in and around town still had not signed up for the Saturday day event for whatever reason, so catching them out at the bar on Friday night was a good chance to take a few moments to reconnect. A lot of folks for the most part looked the same, just 25 years older. The guys maybe lost a little hair or had put on a few pounds. Usually with the girls it was changes in hair color and length that made the identification a bit more of a challenge. But if you looked, really looked, at the faces - the eyes and such - or heard a voice over the loud music of the band you were able to get that spark of recognition that was needed for the memories to come flooding back.

There was a lot of pictures taken that night too. A number of folks had their digital cameras and would snap off quick group shots as folks were talking and catching up. A lot of smiles in those photos (gotta love digital pictures - by the end of the weekend there we plenty posted on our class Yahoo group).

My wife and I only stayed for about an hour and a half Friday night, due to having only five hours sleep earlier. I would have liked to have stayed longer to visit but I knew I was starting to be walking-dead. Still, we made the most of the time and knew that we'd see at least 29 of the classmates (plus spouses and families) the next day. From what I heard on Saturday, we missed some line dancing (a little Electric Slide, any one?) and some rather interesting encounters between folks. Some folks stayed out until 4am or 5am. God bless them. That's the time of day I usually get up; I cannot fathom being up and partying into the wee hours of the morning any more like that. I'm getting old and really enjoy my sleep while it is still dark out. ;)

(to be continued...)