My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

“Neal: What’s the flight situation? / Del: Simple. There’s no way on earth we’re going to get out of here tonight. We’d have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak. / Neal: I guess we’ll find out soon enough. / Del: Yeah, but by the time the airline cancels this flight, which they will sooner or later, you’d have more of a chance to find a three-legged ballerina than you would a hotel room. / Neal: Are you saying I could be stuck in Wichita? Del: I’m saying you are stuck in Wichita.”

– John Candy (Del) & Steve Martin (Neal) in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

In previous posts, I have discussed how my brother Jeff and I do a movie rewatch and chat each week. It started on ZOOM when things locked down at the start of the pandemic, and we have since continued doing it socially distanced in either his or my backyard. One week, what started as a discussion of our favorite John Hughes’ film, morphed into a conversation about bad travel experiences. As brothers do, we each told our own bad travel stories, competing to see who had the worst experience. In the end, we both agreed our worst travel experience was one we shared.

Many years ago, 16-years to be exact, my brother Jeff and I lived our version of the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I remember it being terrible. In our attempt to go to Florida to celebrate Christmas and the dawning of a New Year at Walt Disney World with my sister Becky and mother, we experienced what can only be described as an awful travel adventure. To circumvent lousy weather, limited plane space, and a semi-strike by our airline, we did whatever we could to make it Florida, from Providence, RI. We went through insanity, yet it is one of the funniest stories to tell because, well, sometimes bad experiences make for great stories.

The end of the story will be as strange as the beginning. But, to better understand it, I want to add in a comparison take on John Candy and Steve Martin’s incredible buddy-comedy adventure, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A film with sharp comedic timing, uncomfortable travel commentary, and touching dramatic elements, the movie always makes me think of what my brother Jeff and I went through and the paths we took to get to Florida that Christmas in 2004. Join me as I explore that travel adventure, study an incredibly nostalgic film, and partially spoil the story’s ending. It ends pretty well.

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The Big Easy: Wicked Good Cafe Au Lait, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & an Epic WWII Museum

The Big Easy: Wicked Good Cafe Au Lait, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & an Epic WWII Museum

“In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful. … With the best restaurants in New York, you’ll find something similar to it in Paris or Copenhagen or Chicago. But there is no place like New Orleans. So it’s a must-see city because there’s no explaining it, no describing it. You can’t compare it to anything. So, far and away, New Orleans.”

– Anthony Bourdain

In February 2020, just as the pandemic was publicly making its way to American shores, my wife and I traveled to New Orleans, LA. Knowing my interest in exploring the city and that a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon was coming to town, my wife surprised me by securing my race registration as a birthday gift. She knew how hard a time I had with our home’s sale, so she thought, and I agreed that this race and trip would provide us an opportunity to relax, reset, and be ourselves. With the race purchased, plane travel booked, and hotel secured, we were ready. When February rolled around, our eagerness and excitement to explore a new city was high.

While we knew that the pandemic had been growing globally, there had only been a handful of cases reported in the US by this point, so when it came time to go, we went. We planned to explore, eat great food, visit a WWII museum, and check the city off our list. What we didn’t know at the time is that this would be our last trip of 2020, even though the year had only just begun. As 2020 finally comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on what was one of the best and brightest moments of a challenging year. Let’s head back to NOLA!

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“Make it So!”: The Timelessness of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

“Make it So!”: The Timelessness of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

“Every choice we make allows us to manipulate the future… A person’s life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices.”

– Patrick Stewart (Picard) from “A Matter of Time”

Whether it was Zoobilee Zoo as a child, Saved by the Bell as an adolescent, or the X-Files as a teenager, and shows like Dead Like Me and Being Human as an adult, I have fallen in love with multiple television shows during my four decades on this planet. While essential viewing, those shows are just a small batch of television shows that have brought me incredible joy for various reasons. Still, one show has impacted me and stayed with me probably the longest or positions itself as a close second to Dead Like MeStar Trek: The Next Generation, which I refer to as Star Trek: TNG or simply TNG in this post, is that showLet’s boldly explore, with a personal story, “strange new worlds…new civilizations.” On this journey to the “final frontier,” I will discuss Star Trek: TNG and its impact on me as a kid and how, as an adult, I always think back to those episodes and Star Trek conventions that taught me valuable human lessons. 

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A Brief Hawaii Moment: “A’a i ka hula, waiho i ka maka’u i ka hale”

A Brief Hawaii Moment: “A’a i ka hula, waiho i ka maka’u i ka hale”

“You like spaghetti, George? I like spaghetti. I like board games. I like grabbing a trifecta with that long shot on top… that ozone smell you get from air purifiers… and I like knowing the space between my ears is immeasurable… Mahler’s first, Bernstein conducting. You’ve got to think about all the things you like and decide whether they’re worth sticking around for. And if they are, you’ll find a way to do this.”

– Mandy Patinkin in Dead Like Me

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America. When I think of Thanksgiving, I often recall day trips to Plymouth historical sites, visits on the Mayflower II, high school football in Massachusetts, and, of course, the family get-together. The thing is, a couple of the best November’s I have had were spent, with my wife, on the island of Oahu, where we lived for a short time. That first year in Hawaii, Thanksgiving was with my mother and brother, who visited us. Together, we celebrated in a way we didn’t in Massachusetts, on a lanai with views of the Pacific Ocean. The second was with our friends Colleen and Don at their Mililani home. Our last was on a cruise ship voyaging around the Hawaiian Islands, with the actual day celebrated with amazing views of the Napali Coast. Three unique Thanksgivings in a place I genuinely consider home.

I often think of those three years living in Hawaii with my wife and dog, Mr. Tuttles. Thanksgiving always makes me reflect on the past, so it makes sense that, after several years away, I use this holiday as an opportunity to look towards Hawaii with a reflective gaze. Those may be, when all is said and done, three of the most rewarding years of my life. Born and raised near the ocean on the South Coast of Massachusetts, I never dreamed my journey would bring me to the Hawaiian Islands. This disbelief is valid for travel, let alone relocating, meeting new friends, and becoming filled with feelings of Aloha. The title of this post is a Hawaiian saying that translates as, “Dare to dance, leave shame at home,” loosely meaning, “Just be you.” I am thankful to Hawaii for teaching me to, well, just be me.

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My Journey to Beijing & the Great Wall of China

My Journey to Beijing & the Great Wall of China

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

– Anthony Bourdain

I first started this blog in July of this year, so not long ago. It began out of my most profound hope to scratch a creative itch and share stories with those who want to read them. My second blog post, Exploring Shanghai, dealt with my trip to Shanghai, China, in June/July of 2018. I will not repeat too much for those who read it, and for those who haven’t, please do. It has some great reflections and stories of the month I spent in Shanghai, China, teaching, traveling, eating, and drinking. The one part of my trip to China I did not detail, and wish to do so now, was my weekend journey from Shanghai to Beijing on June 23 & 24 of 2018 and my eventual and emotional walk along the Great Wall of China. So back to China we go, but this time we jump on a bullet train to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

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“Nobody Does It All Alone”: The Beauty of Film & Television Original Scores

“Nobody Does It All Alone”: The Beauty of Film & Television Original Scores

“I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”

– Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The other day, while my wife was at work, the one day of the week she is not remote, I felt terrible. I didn’t feel sick, but rather anxious, and found myself falling deeper into a somber place. I immediately grabbed my phone, put on my music streaming app, and turned on my preprepared playlist, “My Film Scores.” I selected “Constant,” which is from the fourth season of Lost by Michael Giacchino, walked into the sunroom, and moved a chair so I could look out the window. I sat down, eyes closed, and did some deep breathing as the song played. With its slow but beautiful orchestral progression of intersecting piano and violin play, I felt my heart grow warm, regular, and my anxiety slowly dissipated as the instrumental music comforted me.

I am not sure when I began gravitating towards film scores at moments of sadness and heightened anxiety. It’s not new, but it’s not old either. They seem to reset me when I feel low and bring me to a place that only they can guide me. It’s like being transported to an island of one with music broadcast over the speakers, similar to that powerful scene in The Shawshank Redemption, from the quote I use above. Even for a minute, it seems all the craziness, the current reality of life, and my fears and worries are proven imaginary. The villainous face these feelings appear as are finally unmasked, as the music reminds me of who I am and everything is alright. But why film scores? Let’s explore that for a moment.

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Good Morning America: Election Day 2020

Good Morning America: Election Day 2020

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

– Pericles

Well, it’s November 3, 2020… Election Day in America! I usually submit my weekly blog post on Wednesday of each week, but I thought I would move it up one day to coincide with Election Day since this post is all about the importance of voting. So, let’s get started!

The other day, I read an opinion piece written by Mandy Patinkin, whose acting credits include Dead Like MeHomeland, and my favorite, The Princess Bride. In this article, he talked about his path to greater political consciousness, and it made me think of my journey to greater political understanding. No, this blog post will not discuss politics today; that’s not the point of my blog or this post. Instead, this is an opportunity to reflect on my lived past and feelings around current moments, as I often do. Join me as I remember my path to greater civic awareness. It’s Election Day in America; let’s remember what that means. 

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Movie Rewind: “Trollhunter” w/ my Father-in-Law Pat

Movie Rewind: “Trollhunter” w/ my Father-in-Law Pat

“Thomas: In a sense, you’re a true Norwegian hero. / Hans: No, you’re wrong about that. There’s nothing heroic about what I do. It’s dirty work.”

– Otto Jespersen & Glenn Erland Tosterud in Trollhunter

The story goes like this…

Several years ago, I was at my in-laws in NY and was speaking to my sister-in-law Kaitlyn about a horror movie I had watched. Kaitlyn, like myself, enjoys watching horror movies. It’s a fun genre, which I detailed in my blog post from last week, that allows you to tune out the outside world. You watch, get entertained by the film’s stupidity, and enjoy yourself in the cinematic fiction. Still, not all horror movies are created equal, and I do not enjoy slasher and horridly violent films. As you all learned last week, I like monsters, zombies, and horror mixed with comedic elements. The movie I was telling Kaitlyn fits into the latter category and is called Trollhunter.

While telling Kaitlyn about the film, my father-in-law walked into the room and picked up our conversation. While pouring some iced-tea, he chimed in, “Are you talking about Trollhunter?” The moment I heard Pat ask that, my mouth dropped to the ground in shock and disbelief. Had my father-in-law, Mr. ESPN, had he seen Trollhunter? I knew of no one else who had seen this movie but are you telling me Pat had? So, I asked him. “Pat, are you thinking about the Norwegian found-footage horror film?” He responds, “ya with a guy hunting trolls!!” All I could muster at this point was, “holy shit, Pat’s seen Trollhunter!”

Thinking back to that moment, I can’t help but laugh. How did my cool and calm father-in-law see such a random movie? I mean, I hang out with Pat often when I am in NY. We watch sports together and sometimes a random show on Netflix. Still, I had never known his taste in specific movie genres, so I was shocked and amazed when he said he had seen it. Therefore, with this blog, I feel like now is an excellent time to consider the movie one more time. To do so, I need Pat’s reaction. No better way to spend time chatting with my father-in-law than discussing the film and exploring it together. Welcome to Trollhunter rewind with Pat!

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Horror Genre & My FIVE Favorite Scary Movies

Horror Genre & My FIVE Favorite Scary Movies

“There’ll be food and drink and ghosts…and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited.”

– Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill (1959)

It’s that time of year when it’s perfectly acceptable to watch way too many horror films. When you tell people you enjoy watching horror movies in months other than October; you can sometimes get a side-eye. But the age-old question is still significant, what type of horror? Now, I do not pretend to be a movie critic or even understand every aspect of the horror genre. I do enjoy movies, and I have enjoyed many different types of horror films. But it does make you think; what kind of horror films do I like to watch the most? That is why I set out to compile what I feel are the five most enjoyable horror films I have watched. This top five list celebrates Halloween and the month of October, which I consider the one month when you can watch as many horror movies as you want without your friends and family starting to question you! Let’s explore my favorite horror movie list.

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Hersheypark October Excitement: Theme Park Rides, Troegs Brewing & a Half Marathon

Hersheypark October Excitement: Theme Park Rides, Troegs Brewing & a Half Marathon

“John Hammond: All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked! / Ian Malcolm: Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”

– Richard Attenborough & Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park

A year ago, in October of 2019, my wife and I accompanied my brother, his wife, and two daughters to Hershey, PA, for a theme park vacation and the running of a half marathon race. It was a fantastic weekend, filled with Hershey candy, beer, running, great food, some intense roller coasters, and of course, October family fun. It is strange to think back to last October and consider that it has been a year since our family trip, now with a new October upon us. With the pandemic hitting only a few months later, it seems the trip got lost in my recollection, and now, with the return of fall, I seek to both remember the journey and see hope in its enjoyment.

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