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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The Travels & Adventures of Mr. Tuttles

The Travels & Adventures of Mr. Tuttles

“A book about me? [gasps] I’m gonna be a star! Steve, you’re the best! Oh, my God, Stan, how upset are you? Seriously, on a scale from one to pissed. Oh, who gives a flying fig? I’m a star!”

– Episode “Star Trek” from American Dad

Mr. Tuttles is a 13-year-old Shih Tzu mix my wife and I adopted from the Boston Animal Rescue League in 2008. We are nearing the anniversary of his adoption day! He has led an incredible life. He has gone everywhere with us. Whether we lived in Boston, Honolulu, city, or suburb, near and far, he has always been with us. He has bad ears and heart, but he is the happiest and most snuggly dog. He loves to eat, be picked up and held, snuggles on the couch both outside and in, and enjoys a good nap, while eagerly awaiting a new adventure. We are lucky to have adopted him so many years ago. Honestly, he is as wicked traveled as me! He has flown more miles than many humans, that’s not too bad.

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🎃 Halloween Delights 🎃: Costumes, October in Salem, MA & Halloween’s Past, Present, and Yet to Come

🎃 Halloween Delights 🎃: Costumes, October in Salem, MA & Halloween’s Past, Present, and Yet to Come

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”

– Edgar Allen Poe

Remember the smell, and feel of those old-school rubber Halloween masks you wore back in the late 1980s and early 1990s? My favorite one was of a werewolf, and I must have worn that costume every single year until it started falling apart. As a child, I remember going up into the attic to retrieve the decorations and seeing the box marked “Halloween” and getting excited to break out that mask. I may have gone eight years in a row with it, but each year changed the outfit, football player werewolf, baseball player werewolf, or werewolf in a plaid shirt. Halloween has always been an entertaining holiday. I mean, you get to dress up as something scary, from POP! Culture, or anything! You get free candy, and you have a valid reason to watch several scary movies, both good ones and terrible ones. Halloween is amusing, and while it was exciting as a child, it can be and has been enjoyable as an adult.

Recently, my wife and I moved away from our home after a lengthy selling process. We wanted to move closer to work, as well as family, so we sold our house in Salem, MA, and with it our time in “Halloween-town.” With September ending and tomorrow we welcome October, I got to thinking about the holiday and what I remember about it and what it has always meant to me. It does not hurt that things are wicked weird with the pandemic, and who knows what October will look like this year. So, as I usually do and as any good historian does, I look to the past, my wicked travels, and find solace, comfort, and possibly a new narrative.

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Discovering Calm in LEGO: Building the Ghostbusters Firehouse, Two Volkswagen Automobiles & a Haunted House

Discovering Calm in LEGO: Building the Ghostbusters Firehouse, Two Volkswagen Automobiles & a Haunted House

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

– The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved LEGO bricks and sets of various sorts. I used to enjoy getting them as gifts on my birthday or at Christmas or as an unexpected treat when I was able to pester my mother long enough to get them from Kmart or KB Toys. Whether it was the pirate ship Black Seas Barracuda or Skulls Eye Schooner, the medieval King’s Castle, or any of the space sets, I had them all and enjoyed constructing and displaying them. It was the gift I received frequently and the one I looked most forward to getting.

Therefore, it is not surprising that when the pandemic hit, and we went into lockdown, I needed a daily outlet, besides my weekly movie chats with my brother, which I detailed in POP! Culture on Repeat, or video game adventures with my brother-in-law Kyle, discussed in A Newcomer Joins Borderlands 3. I sought out fun and unique LEGO sets to use my hands, shut off my mind, and follow instructions and build something. Again, I sought comfort in my past to help cope with current turmoil. So, I went online and bought the LEGO Volkswagen T1 Camper Van and Beetle. It didn’t take long before I felt like a kid again and was hooked on those classic LEGO bricks!

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Destination Nashville, TN: History, BBQ, Breweries & a Half Marathon

Destination Nashville, TN: History, BBQ, Breweries & a Half Marathon

“Nashville could just as soon be called Punk City or Rock City. You are just as likely to find the word artisanal hanging over the door of a sandwich shop or a cupcake shop or the slow-drip-coffee laptop zone as anywhere in the land of man buns in the cities of the North.”

– Anthony Bourdain in “Nashville” of Parts Unknown

By the end of this post, you will see that I love Nashville, TN. In April of 2018, my wife Corinne, brother Jeff, sister-in-law Lauren, and I traveled to the hip, fun, and lively Music City. This trip brought tons of fun and left me wondering why I had never considered Nashville before. Filled with the NFL Draft, breweries, a half marathon, tons of BBQ, and side trips to historic sites, my trip to Nashville proved far better than I could ever imagine. What started as a trip to run the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon turned into a beautiful memory that, especially during this pandemic, can easily be called upon to provide happy feelings when I am feeling down.

My brother and I run a half marathon every October or November and have done so since 2014. After an incredible trip to Denver in October of 2017, we wanted to find another fun and unique location. After some research and internet scouting, I discovered that the Rock n’ Roll Marathon series was going to be in Nashville, and it just so happened that the NFL would be holding the draft the same weekend. I talked to my brother and my wife, and we decided to make it a group trip to the city. We booked our flights, registered for the race, and secured an Airbnb in East Nashville. We were ready, but was Nashville prepared for us!

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