Friday, October 20, 2017

Hooray for Hollywood!!


This will be a longer entry than normal, but then the two days it details were very long days!

On Thursday, at the God-awful hour of 4:30 am, I woke up and got myself ready to meet Holly downstairs to catch a bus at 5:30 for Hollywood.  Well, it was more a large passenger van than bus, but the seats were equally uncomfortable.

Not realizing that a light breakfast was included in the price, we made sure to hit the Starbucks in the hotel lobby before climbing aboard.  (Gnate guarded Holly's milk-shakey-esque one until she met us in the lobby.)

Our driver, an older man named Larry... or possibly Stanley... I had a hard time not calling him Don, because he reminded me somewhat of our software trainer Don, so I'll most likely call him Don for the rest of this post.  Where was I?  Oh, our driver/tour guide was very friendly, knowledgeable, and entertaining.  The complete opposite of the horrible woman who was the driver/tour guide for the next day's bus trip/tour to see the Grand Canyon.  I try to keep this blog PG, but she was a bit...oh, I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself.  (Calm, Rosemary...)  Back to Thursday's trip. 

I hadn't realized, originally, that Hollywood was that close to Vegas, but once I did, I was really excited about this day trip.  There were eleven of us, including the driver.  The four-hour drive, along with various potty breaks, passed along quickly.

Turns out that the Walk of Fame with all the stars, and the Grauman’s (sp?) Chinese Theater, as well as a good spot to view the Hollywood sign and a few other tourist-y spots are all within about 5-6 blocks of each other.  So the van was parked at one end and we had three hours to make ourselves crazy.

The first thing we passed was the Roosevelt Hotel, home of the first Oscars and, according to Don, the place where a lot of stars “stay” prior to hopping in the limo to be driven the 2 blocks to where the red carpet is for the current Oscars.  Also, it was home to one of the Top 5 Burger Joints in the US.  Holly and I stopped for lunch - she got a burger, but I got a hot dog.  Gnate and I enjoyed it.


After lunch, we walked the Walk of Fame - saw stars for a bunch of famous people - some I recognized, some I didn’t.  We only saw one actual star, and Gnate wanted his picture taken with him.



There were even a few empty ones for after I become the award winning author that I know is in my future.

Having watched a video on the drive to California about the Chinese Theater and the history of having people sign and put their foot/hand prints in cement, it was neat to see the variety of stars whose marks were there. 
Most of the stars were "older", but there were a few more current people there.  While we were there, Marilyn Monroe gave us directions on where to go to get to the place where we could see the Hollywood sign.

After the long bus ride back to Las Vegas, the bus driver was letting us each back off at our hotels.  I tried to get him to let us off at this one, but no dice.  It wouldn't have been a good time anyway, we had our tickets to see Love, the Beatles Cirque de Soleil, at the Mirage that evening at 9:30.  It was close enough to show time, so he let us off there. 
After a small kerfluffle with the getting the tickets, and having to stand in a huge crowd, we got in to see the show.  I've had the soundtrack ever since the show came out, and thoroughly enjoyed the show.  That reminds me, I need to go online to see if I can find that mug I really liked but didn't get at the gift shop. 

It was close to midnight when we got back to the hotel.  Before going to our respective rooms, we calculated that we had to wake up 4:30/5 the next morning (Friday), to be ready for the bus to pick us up for Friday's bus tour to the Grand Canyon. 

4:30 am came really early.  After getting our coffee, a rather surly man picked us up in a van (we are rather trusting souls, aren't we?) and took us and the others he picked up to join the rest of the people for our tour where our tour bus driver/guide was the aforementioned horrible woman.  I generously gave her the benefit of the doubt and thought that instead of being a generally horrible person, maybe she thought she was funny... she would have been wrong, but.. after being with her the bulk of the day, my generosity ran out.

On the way to the Grand Canyon, we had to go over the Hoover Dam.  Before getting there, we watched a video on the history of the Dam.  It was very interesting and educational.  I just wish I hadn't been so hopped up on cold meds to remember most of it. 

The Dam was very impressive - although the restrooms left something to be desired - four port-o-potty's.   Our tax dollars at work.












A couple of hours later, we arrived at the Grand Canyon.  It was the West Rim.  I had been to the South Rim before, but that was 20 or so years ago, and I don't recall being that impressed.  I seem to recall a bunch of trees between us and the edge, so we couldn't see down into the canyon very well. 

The West Rim totally mad up for any deficiencies that the South Rim may (or may not) have had.  Of course, my main pop culture reference regarding the Grand Canyon is in National Lampoon’s Vacation, where Chevy Chase and his family get there, they stand together as a group, and then he’s like “ok, let’s go!"  As I'm looking out at the beauty, I had to chuckle because that's playing over in my mind.






After a while, I had to go find a seat.  There was a restaurant there, with a slew of outdoor picnic tables, so I found an empty one overlooking the path and decked myself out while waiting for Holly.  This was my view:



As I sat there, blowing my nose, it occurred to me that the very last thing I'd wanted to do that morning was get on another bus.  But looking at the beauty that morning made me glad I'd come... even if I was sick.  That Friday was the day after what would have been Dad's 77th birthday.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him.. well, a man, his size, shape and approximate age, dressed just like Dad would have been dressed, walking with a cane.  It made tears come to my eyes.... which didn't help my runny nose one bit!


I saw this at the edge - I wasn't sure if it was meant to be reassuring or scary.

I probably took 100 pictures that day and there's no way I could post enough of them to convey the beauty.  I did take a video though... and I think I've figured out how to post it!

video

After a long bus ride back to Vegas, Holly and I had a wonderful dinner at Battista's Hole in the Wall, a great Italian restaurant, relatively inexpensive.  Then we ubered our way to the Mandalay Bay (yes, the same hotel as the shooter was in) to see the Cirque de Soleil show One with Michael Jackson music.  It was good, but creepy - having hologram's of Michael Jackson talking to us - and I like MJ's music the way he recorded it, not the way they reworked it.  Love was the better of the two shows.


Another uber, this time in a BMW!!, and we were back to our hotel.  Another late night, but at least we could sleep in before catching our flight back home to Evansville. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bright Lights, Big City


I don’t figure any of you are interested in the conference, so Tuesday, after a day of talks, I was pooped. The conference was having a reception with zip-lining on the 51st floor. I had no plans to zip anywhere, so I took a shower, called mom, and fell asleep during NCIS (I know!  Unheard of!)

Wednesday morning, I was up at 5. I decided to go downstairs, get some coffee, and go sit outside where I knew they’d be serving our conference breakfast and maybe get some writing done. But as I’m going down the elevator, it stopped on the 8th floor and the thought flit through my mind, “I wonder what the odds are of it being Shannon.” After all, there were ten possible elevators. But sure enough, the doors open and it was Shannon! Spooky, I know. We hit Starbucks where I tried the salted sea Carmel mocha thing and it was wonderful. When we got to the patio, the breakfast was already being served. We found a table in the shade and chatted and were soon joined by some people, one of whom was a women who kept mentioning that her daughter was the “Instagram Cat Lady,” who was publishing a book this fall, who were telling us about the zip-lining.

Holly showed up and nabbed a couple of chairs saying someone was joining us. Turns out she’d met this person from Indy the night before while zip-lining named Melody. Shannon had to fly back to Charlotte, so she’d be leaving that morning, but Melody wasn’t leaving until the next day, so she joined our merry band and spent the day with us.

Again, I know that no one is interested in conference details, but I will say that Wednesday’s keynote speaker was a guy named Jon Acuff. He talked about ways to get to finished, as in getting some of our many goals, projects, etc, finished. He was hysterical and the conference was giving us his book for free, so we got in line to get the book and he was signing them. (Making this the second book signing I’d been to in five days).

At the end of the conference, they were giving away prizes, a two person hammock. Well, those who know where I live know that I live in a condo with a 3rd floor balcony. So of course, I won a hammock. Better yet, each winner had to go up on the stage to get his/her prize and then they had to draw the name of the next winner. I had to draw at least 5 names before we happened to find someone who was present.. and they wouldn’t let me leave the stage until I picked a winner; oiy!

By then, we’re hungry and Matt (sales rep) was supposed to take us to In-n-Out Burger. But then he conveniently couldn’t go because he “had” to “fly home” to his “family.” He did make it up to us, though, by getting us tickets to the Ferris Wheel and getting Holly and me (I?) tix for another performance of Love. So, he’s forgiven. (Matt, you know we love you!)

We did find our way to In-n-Out Burger with the first of many Uber trips on Wednesday - it was good.  The food reminded me of a really good Rally's burger, only with the special In-n-Out sauce - similar to Big Mac sauce.  The highlight of the visit was Josh, the very friendly/informative person behind the counter - he explained the whole In-n-Out experience to us three newbies, and he even agreed to have his pic taken with Gnate.  Generally, just a great advertisement for the business.

After lunch, we had to go back to the hotel, because Melody and I had an appointment.*  We hit it off really well, both paralegals, from Indiana... who wanted to get...  well now, long time readers know I like to get souvenirs when I travel. I went to Charleston to visit Donna and got one; then when Natalie and I went to Gulf Shores, we both got one; so now, here in Vegas, both Melody and I got one. Of course, I’m talking tattoos. Holly was too chicken to get one. I kept telling Matt that it was going to say I (heart) Matt, but I figured Don, our software trainer, would get jealous, so I came up with something else.

After a wee rest in our rooms, we rejoined with plans to go visit "old Vegas" or Fremont Street.  Now, having grown up in the 70's, and having watched the TV show Vegas, starring Robert Urich, I expected to see Vegas like it was... and I was not disappointed.  Flashy neon signs, men is strange outfits, women in skimpy outfits with feathers, and slot machines!

Frankly, a couple of times, my innocent eyes were quite shocked!  (There are no pictures of those moments.)


After a while, the sun had set and we were ready to make our way to the ferris wheel to see the city by night.  Again, we Ubered to the Linq hotel and hopped aboard the ferris wheel.  I was expecting your usual ferris wheel, but turns out it was like the London Eye - where 30-40 people ride together and it takes 30 minutes to make it all the way around.


After the ferris wheel, I (the eldest of our little group) was getting tired and we had an early morning ahead of us.  Little did I know that by the end of the day the pedometer on my phone would say I'd walked 5.8 miles that day!  Anyway, we started to make our way toward the Bellagio to see the fountain.  We saw several other cool hotels on the way.


The fountain was very fascinating, and we ended up seeing it go off several times while we waited for our Uber back to the Rio.  I attempted to upload a video here, but it didn't work, so here's a link to my FB page where I posted it, in case you'd like to see.

Once we returned to the Rio, the youngin's went to go get some dinner.  I went to my room for a muscle relaxer, a hot shower, and bed.  It had been a busy day.

*Addendum:  I'm told, by Melody, that the tattoo shop where we got ours done is owned by a guy who has a "Counting Cars show" on the History Channel.  I'm guessing that means it or he is famous!  Cool!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Viva Las Vegas!

Sunday, I and a coworker (Holly) at Berry flew to Las Vegas for a conference - similar to the conference I attended back in March. Somehow, when I was looking at the flight itinerary, I forgot/ignored the time difference, so what appeared to be a short two hours from Chicago to Vegas was, in fact, a four hour flight. You know me, long legs, bad knees, so I had picked an aisle seat and the leg rooom wasn’t too bad. But there was this older lady sitting in the middle seat beside me, and her hubs was in the aisle seat across from me. I stupidly changed seats with him - dumbest thing ever! I swear it had two feet less leg room than the other one (exaggerate much?), but still, very cramped. And the couple beside me drank like fishes and, when they weren’t getting frisky with each other, they were wanting out to go wee. Sigh.

We arrived at LV about 7:30 pm. Getting the luggage took forever, and then finding the place where we were supposed to meet our Uber driver took some time, so we got to the Rio about 9-ish. Between being hot and tired and all the lights and noise, I was exhausted. So upon getting to my room, I took a quick shower and dropped into bed, asleep within seconds.

Of course, the mass shooting happened that evening, not too far from the Rio.. I was on the 10th floor and slept through it, but Holly, on the 15th floor, but on the side facing the Mandalay Bay, got to see and hear all the lights and sirens.

The first I knew about it was Monday morning when I nabbed my phone and saw these texts from people wanting to make sure I was ok. The best/oddest one being “I know you weren’t at the concert, but are you ok?” Finally, I made it thru the list to the first one where Holly had texted me about it. Of course, FB was filled with it.

My body, being on CDT, was up really early, so I had plenty of time before meeting up with Holly to watch the news and just get bummed. I was sitting there on the couch thinking, “I want to go home... Don’t want to be here.” But fortunately, seeing Holly made me feel better. It’s still rather nerve-racking that you can go to some silly concert and never come home.

About 10-ish, we managed to find breakfast, at Hash House a Go-Go. I got the French Toast, (been on a French Toast kick lately) with bacon and scrambled eggs. WAY too much food, but it was very good. Holly and I sat there over our bacon and got to know each other.

I have to preface this by pointing out that prior to our flight from Evansville, we’d spent all of 15 minutes in each other’s presence. Being an introvert, I don’t open up to strangers very easily/quickly, but one day, while IM’ing back and forth regarding the conference, she mentioned booking flights so we flew together and I said, well, we can fly out together, but I’m planning on staying for a couple extra days. We chatted a little more, and then I found myself saying, “you’d be welcome to stay and see Vegas with me.” Again, I knew nothing about her... she could have been a serial killer (too soon?) or even worse, Canadian! (Inside joke there, no offense to Canadians... may need to move up there at some point.)

But back to our bonding over bacon (bacon and cheese, brings the world together), I just felt like I’d known her forever. One thing about this woman, is a world class haggler. For example, when we checked in, she was offered the ability to waive housekeeping in exchange for a $50 credit good at any restaurant in the hotel. I was not. But again, I was too tired to do anything about it, Monday morning we went to the front desk to inquire and were told that you had to do it when checking in. We pointed out that it wasn’t offered, and they shrugged. This is the point where I would have wandered off muttering to myself. Not Holly, she ended up talking to a couple of people, but she got me this waiver/credit thing! There’s another couple of examples, but I may cover them later on.

After breakfast, we checked out a slot machine, I lost $10, like super fast. We roamed around some, but then shortly it was almost time to start getting ready for the classes we’d signed up for that started at 2pm. We trekked the half mile back to our rooms and then back. We still had a couple of minutes, so I slipped another $5 into a machine and won $50!! Now, I realized I’d spent $15 for this $50, so I really only won $35, but I was perfectly happy and stopped there.

After sitting in a meat locker, er.. attending our 4 hour classes, we met up with the third member of our team, Shannon, who flew in from Charlotte Monday afternoon. Personally, I don’t know if I’d have flown into a city the day after there was a mass shooting in it, but she did.

It had been a long 24 hours for all of us, so we dumped our stuff in our room and then went to the 50th floor to the Voodoo Restaurant for some steak. I had a filet and it was THE best hunk of beef I’ve ever eaten... and my mac and cheese, was made with truffle oil - it was divine. The grand total of this meal, including tip, was over $400 for the three of us. I’m pretty sure it’s the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten, but totally worth it!

After the meal, we went out on the balcony to see the view, at night, and it was wonderful. 


Matt, our account rep from the software company, Conga, was planning on taking us to see Love, the Cirque de Soleil show set to Beatles music, Monday evening at the 9:30 p show. But due to the massacre, the show was cancelled, out of respect, I suppose. So, since her tum was fully satisfied with beef and comfort mac and cheese, Rose, whose body said it was 10:30 pm, went to bed..

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A New Hope? - Episode IV

As I’m preparing to leave for Las Vegas, I occurs to me that I haven’t wrapped up the South Carolina trip.  I will attempt to do so here.

When last we met, you’ll recall that Mom and I had found Priscilla Cusack’s obituary, but we still needed to prove that the Priscilla Cusack who died in Alabama in 1836 was the same Priscilla Hollis who didn’t die in So. Carolina in 1805.

The obvious prize would be a marriage record between Priscilla Knighton Hollis and Thomas Cusack, but Mom had also seen evidence of a court record where Priscilla Cusack petitioned the court for Thomas Cusack to become the official guardian of her minor children by Berry Hollis.  Either document would tickle us pink.

After a lovely breakfast at Holly’s house, we set out. Now, So. Carolina isn’t all that big, and it appears that we had to go through Columbia to get anywhere we planned on going that day.  As it turned out, we went through Columbia twice that day.... just keep that in mind.

Our first destination was Camden County, because the guardianship document was from the Camden District Court of Equity - neither the Camden District (which was made of up several of today’s counties) nor the Court of Equity (now it’s either criminal or civil, basically) exist today, so that was the first hurdle.

Mom had read that most counties in So. Carolina have an Archives where she figured the really old stuff might be, so we found Camden County’s Archives first. The very nice gentleman there was very helpful, but yet totally not... he advised us that So. Carolina didn't officially start keeping marriage records until 1913 or something, so the only way we’d find any marriage records would be IF someone HAPPENED to go to the courthouse (and why would you if you didn't have to) and swore out an affidavit of marriage.  And either way, those records would be at the courthouse.  Otherwise, they’d be in the State Archives in Columbia.

So we went to the courthouse.  Again, totally amazed by the lack of security at these courthouses.  Having been told that marriage records were a non-starter, we pinned our hopes on the guardianship papers.  We told the lady behind the counter that we were looking for REALLY old guardianship papers.  She said that you had to have a judge’s ok before looking at them.  I asked, “even if everyone involved is DEAD?!”  She said yes, but sent us to talk to ... I don’t recall, let’s call her Sharon.

We told Sharon what we wanted, and she just shook her head... meaning we didn’t have to have a judge’s ok to see those type of records.  But likewise, they didn’t have those records.  They were probably in the State Archive in Columbia.  But she suggested trying Fulton County - which was part of the Camden District.

We hit the Sonic (thank you Sonic app) and hit the road for Fulton.  We stopped at the Courthouse, and was directed to another place.  We went there to be told by the woman behind the counter that “they” didn’t do guardianship before 1973.  Just to be sure, I repeated what she’d said, in question form... “The State of So Carolina didn’t file guardianship before 1973?!”  To which she shook her head and said , “No, ma’am.”

After the door shut behind us, I told Mom that I had two words to say about that.  “Bull Shit.”  I may look like a boob, but I’m actually quite intelligent and I’ve spent more time in courthouses than O.J. Simpson in my 27 years as a paralegal.  I’m not buying it.

So we went across the street to the county library where a very lovely person assisted us, frankly she seemed almost desperate to help us, I don’t think she gets many people coming to her for more than access to the internet these days.  She agreed that probably what all we wanted would be at the State Archives in Columbia, but she helped us with what she could.

Long story short, we found nothing, learned that odds of marriage licenses are nil.  We didn’t have the time to stop at the State Archives in Columbia, so as we drove thru there to our next stop for the evening, we decided that since Holly only lives about an hour away from Columbia, we’d let her go do some visiting at the State Archives!

We spent the night in Spartanburg, SC and then the next day, drove home.  Hopes still high, but slightly diminished.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Weekend in Augusta/North Augusta, GA/SC

So Holly and Tom moved from Indy to North Augusta earlier this year and Mom has been whining about wanting to go see them and their new home.  The woman even threatened to take Greyhound, by herself!!  Like I was going to allow that.  Silly rabbit...

Saturday was a beautiful, if warmish, day.  And we all packed up in the Burns-mobile to tour the sites.  We soon found ourselves in Augusta - Holly had plans for us to take a boat tour of the Augusta Canal.  After being reassured that it was NOT a three-hour tour, Gnarley agreed to get on the boat.  (He watches far too much TV.)  It was a Civil War canal tour, so it was lovely AND edu-ma-cational!  We saw sites, and both flora and fauna... and some of the fauna was busy working creating more fauna, if you get my drift.  (Like to keep the blog PG for the kiddies, you know.)








 







Gnarley enjoyed the trip, and the attention.  He was rather bummed, though, that we hadn't packed his fishing rod.   












Sunday, after church, we drove to the State Capital to see the statue of Wade Hampton, Confederate General.  As possibly most of you know, my father, Wade,'s middle name was Hampton.  Legend has it that by the time she had the 9th child (dad), Granny Barger allowed the older girls to name him... AND it was about then that the book Gone With the Wind had come out.  Now why they named Dad after the only child from Scarlett O'Hara's ill-fated first marriage, I don't know.  But hey, they could have named him Rhett Butler Barger!


Lunch was to be had at a Ramen Noodle restaurant.  I was rather disappointed to discover that they didn't use the little 10 for a $1 packages of ramen noodles in their food, but it was pretty good.  Even Mom got the hang of eating with chopsticks.


After a short nap, everyone piled back into the Burns-mobile for ice cream.  One the way, Gnarley saw another of his heroes.  James Brown (Hot tub!).  Gnarley was embarrassed that he wasn't wearing his cape, but got a picture with him anyway.

On the way back from ice cream, a short side trek to the Wade Hampton Veterans Park in North Augusta was called for... had to walk off that ice cream you know.




Tomorrow, Mom and I will leave Chez Burns and return to our trek to find more information on Priscilla and company.  Bet you thought we'd forgot about them, eh?  G'night all...

The Gnome Wars - Episode III.V

Much like the Star Wars saga, where the sections are divided off into sets of three movies, it would appear that Mom and my travels may have the same scheme.  Ignoring the fact that the second set of three "good" movies actually came out before the first set of three "crappy" movies came out,... the last three posts Alabama trilogy.  We have to wait, not 30 years, but still... for the rest of the story, i.e., thus begins the South Carolina trilogy.  This analogy begs the question of who am I in these movies, as only the stupid droids, Anakin/Darth (spoiler!), Yoda, and Obi Wan are in both sets...  I'm going to say I'm Obi Wan and just hope that I don't get killed (only to become stronger) in the first episode.  Here goes.

Gnarley had a lot of fun going to Alabama and that was in spite of the fact that he had to stay in the car most of the time.  First there was the rain - he didn't want to get his socks muddy; and second, he seemed to think that the security in the courthouses might catch him... mumbling something about a warrant and unpaid parking tickets.  He did get to enjoy the fun of a road trip with me and Mom and eating out a lot.


He even enjoyed the toy from my kid's meal at, you guessed it, Sonic!  I did NOT volunteer to share my tots, however.  (grumble..)

I know, you're saying, "To heck with Alabama, that's history!  I thought this was about South Carolina!"  Well, it is, but you know I like to fill in a little background.  Plus there was not quite, but almost two weeks of actual life that had to take place before we repacked our bags, got another cat-sitter to agree to come feed the livestock, and head off again.



Gnarley didn't seem to think that any of that was important and as soon as he got home, he repacked clean socks in his suitcase and stood sentinel at the elevator door.



Neither Mom nor I had the heart to tell him how long he would have to wait.



I'm thinking this entry is quickly becoming the Clone Wars of my Stars Wars analogy... the time between trilogies.

So on that note, Samantha is programmed.  I have downloaded the Sonic app for my phone, so when Mom has a craving, we can see where the nearest one is without depending on the Sonic being listed on the Food signs on the interstate.

Friday Morning - circa 7:30 a.m.  We set off in Baby Blue and head south.  Samantha said I that barring potty/gas/food breaks, it would take 8 1/2 hours to get to Holly and Tom's house in North Augusta, SC.  Of course she had us going via Atlanta, and Rose would rather not venture into that quagmire; so we headed east from Nashville towards Knoxville.  It took Samantha almost 100 miles to succumb to the inevitable and realizing we were NOT going back to Nashville!

Thirteen hours later, after roaming through some beautiful scenery, we finally arrived at Holly's house.  Dog weary...  Upon arrival, Gnarley immediately picked up his friendship with Gnoah.






Gnoah, being a bookish type, shared a bedtime story with Gnarley. 

Soon it was bedtime.  After the long trip and time zone change, Gnarley was soon fast asleep.  We had big plans for the next day!