Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Travel stories: Part 2 - Vancouver

Fri evening we arrived in Vancouver and met our 'host' in front of the building where we'd be staying.  The Newlyweds found this 2-bedroom condo with a rooftop garden on AirBnB and we arranged to meet the owner/host there to get the keys and orientation.  Since AirBnB hosts upload their photos to their property listings, and our host's photo was a bit ambiguous, we were a little taken aback at the man we met in front of the building, who looked to be about 20 years older than his photo.  But he was very nice and friendly.  As he was showing us around (cable TV remote, laundry, etc) he ended the orientation by saying "and if you need anything, just call me.  Oh, and I just ask that if you use the dishes, please don't leave me with a sink full of dirty dishes.  I think that's fair."  Of course we all agreed it was, but it became a catch-phrase for us for the remainder of the trip.  I said to Spouse "When you come back from the bedroom, would you bring me my hoodie?  I think that's fair."

The condo was just off Davie St in the Davie Village community, which is the gay epicenter of Vancouver, kind of like Boystown in Chicago or the Castro in San Francisco.  
All the crosswalks in Davey Village are painted the rainbow colors.
After settling in we walked down Davie St to The Capital where we saw a sign that read "Entire menu $4.95".  Being the bargain-hunters that we are, the 4 of us decided to give it a try.  Our waitress Emily was super-nice and the food was really good and affordable.  We would return there for drinks and dessert the following night.  We were delighted to see that most restaurants on Davie St had an outdoor dining area or they had large garage-style doors that let the outside in.  The weather was very pleasant, in the 70s with no humidity.  After exploring the 'hood a bit more, we returned to the condo and chatted on the rooftop terrace until bedtime.
Nighttime in the Village

Sat we had coffee in the condo, then had breakfast on the patio at Score which had been recommended to us by Emily at The Capital.  Then we walked over to the little ferries that take you to Granville Island Public Market, which was very similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle, only with more art and hand-made stuff.  
Downtown Vancouver seen from the Granville Island ferry
It was beautiful and we enjoyed a nice walk around the island.  We also stumbled onto a juggler's show where 1 of The Newlyweds was asked to assist.  The juggler was also a comedian and solicited several genuine laughs from the crowd during his show.  
Jamie assists the juggler
We brought back some wine, cheese, salami, crackers, and Ranier cherries and enjoyed them as an afternoon snack on the rooftop terrace.  That night we had dinner at Falafel King on Davie St (they have multiple locations) and ate on their patio.  Spouse & I both had chicken shawarma and it was incredibly delicious!  Afterward we checked out a couple of bars on Davie St including PumpJack, which had been the source of many innuendos between the 4 of us since we 1st saw it.
Selfie

Sun we had brunch at Fountainhead Pub and ate on their glass-enclosed patio.  That afternoon The Newlyweds opted to stay in and nap/read while Spouse & I walked to Stanley Park.  We took a shuttle which stopped at many beautiful spots where we could see the surrounding water, Lion's Gate bridge, redwood trees, and gardens.  There were lots of hikers and cyclists enjoying the large, beautiful park too.  
Spouse in front of huge hydrangas in Stanley Park
When we got onto the shuttle and I tried to give the driver money to purchase tickets, the Lebanese-looking woman said "Sit, sit!  I will find you later and get money!"  However, after exiting the shuttle and walking down the street I realized she never came to us, so we both got to ride the $10 shuttle for free.  That made us feel better about paying $20 for a cab ride back to the condo.

That evening the 4 of us went to Edgewater Casino so Spouse and The Newlyweds could gamble for a little while.  Gambling doesn't interest me at all and I'd much rather spend money on other things, but since it was Spouse's birthday and he wanted to go, I willingly agreed.  He actually won $31 playing a nickle slot machine!  Afterward we toured the charming historic Gastown district and saw the ancient steam-powered clock.
Look closely to see the steam escaping the top of the clock
Afterward we went to dinner at Cactus Club Cafe which sits right on the English Bay.  The views were beautiful and the food was amazing.  
English Bay
That night we played Heads Up and Cards Against Humanity until we could procrastinate no longer.  We had to pack before going to bed.

Mon morning our AirBnB host met us at 7:30am to pick up the keys and we hit the road.  Since the border crossings can sometimes had long back-ups, we waited until we had crossed the border to stop for breakfast, then continued onto Seattle.  The Newlyweds dropped us at the airport in plenty.  However, when it came time to board the plane, it hadn't arrived yet.  It finally arrived just a few minutes before we were due to take off, but had to unload its passengers and baggage, change crew, and be cleaned (sort of).  We left about 50 minutes later than scheduled, and only made up about 20 minutes during the flight.  Spouse's brother picked us up, took us to our car, and we got home to DE at 1:30am.  We'd been traveling by car, then plane, then car again, for 15 hours.  Marvin was very happy to see us, and we him.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Travel stories: Part 1 - Seattle

Last Thurs Spouse & I left DE at 8:30am and arrived at Spouse's mom's house at 11am.  Spouse's sister and brother were also there, and the 5 of us had an early lunch together before his brother drove us to the airport. 

The previous few days at work had been rather quiet so I wasn't expecting much if anything to happen while I was gone, but on the drive to the airport I learned that 1 of my clients had 'slept on it' and decided not to wait to make an offer on the 'perfect' home I'd shown them.  So I made a call to my office and got a teammate to assist my client with writing their offer.  Once at the airport the lines were short so the security scan didn't take very long and we got to our gate with lots of extra time, so I checked my email.  I saw an MLS alert that a home came onto the market in a specific community where another of my clients was very interested.  It is a small, prestigeous, beachfront location where even a small, dated shack is over $1M.  So of course I forwarded the listing to my client and suggested he not wait for me to return to see the home.  I instructed him to call another of my teammates to arrange for a showing.  Of course this flurry of real estate activity made me feel a little nervous about leaving, but Spouse suggested we travel more often if this is what happens when we try to leave town.

The flight to Seattle was uneventful, and Spouse & I were a little proud of ourselves for successfully navigating an airport we'd never been to before and eventually finding our way to the transit station which seemed like it was a mile away.  We bought our tickets for the transit train but thought it strange that there was no one asking to see the tickets before we boarded.  Once we sat down 3 Asian teens, probably Korean, sat across from us.  The young woman immediately began talking to her 2 male friends, 1 who seemed not to really be paying attention and the other who appeared to hang on her every word.  The pitch of her voice was high and irritating, and I thought to myself "I hope they're getting off at 1 of the closer stops".  Unfortunately they didn't, and the young woman continued talking non-stop for what felt like hours.  I looked at my phone and it had been 20 minutes.  How can anyone talk non-stop for that long?  Nobody has that much to say!  After another 15 minutes I was ready to pierce my eardrums with ice picks or strangle the young woman when our stop finally arrived and we exited the train.  We also exited the transit station without anyone asking for our tickets.  We probably could have ridden for free!

From a phone conversation with a hotel employee and from consulting my iPhone maps app, it appeared the transit stop was about 8 blocks from our hotel, which should be quite doable, we thought.  Unless its uphill the entire way.  Spouse & I drug our rolling suitcases up hills that would rival those in San Francisco.  By the time we checked in and got to our room our clothes were completely drenched in sweat and we wanted nothing more than to take a shower.  Refreshed from our showers we went up to the rooftop garden to look at the city.  
Spouse and the City
At the recommendation of the nice young man at the front desk, we walked around the block to a wonderful little mom-and-pop Thai restaurant called Thai Star and enjoyed an absolutely delicious chicken pad thai dinner.  Afterward we walked around just a bit, returned to the rooftop garden, and then watched a little TV before falling asleep.
Great city view

Fri morning we had breakfast in the hotel's cafe, packed our bags, and left them in the hotel's storage room before heading out on foot.  We walked to Pike Place Market where we saw lots of gorgeous fresh cut flowers, fruit, produce, fish, seafood, jewelry, arts, and hand-crafted items.  
Impossibly orange flowers
Then we sat for a bit in a small waterfront park adjacent to the market where we saw these 2 fellows.  
You can use this handy website to see the specific preference of the fellow with the pink hanky in his left pocket.  We enjoyed the views and the people in the park.
Spouse in the park

Next we wandered in and out of a some little stores near the Market and then ducked into a food court to use the bathroom and refill our water bottle.  While waiting for Spouse I looked at my map and saw that from there we could take a monorail to the Space Needle, our next destination, rather than walking there.  Once again we purchased tickets that no one would ask to see and exited the monorail at the Space Needle complex.  Originally built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle complex also houses a Chihuly glass exhibit, an outdoor concert venue, several gardens, and many food and souvenir vendors.
An enormous glass sculpture

We got a call from The Newlyweds, letting us know they had arrived at the Space Needle so we hopped in their car and picked up our luggage from the hotel before heading north and out of the city.  

Since none of us had eaten lunch yet, we stopped at a seafood that Michael thought he remembered called Ivar's.  He realized his mistake immediately when he looked at the Captain D's-type menu.  But before we turned to walk out, we overheard an employee behind the counter say "OK, let me regurgitate your order back to you..."  We could barely contain our laughter as ran out the door!  I mean, if there is ANY 1 word you should absolutely avoid using in a restaurant, its regurgitate.  We opted for a brew pub lunch instead, then headed north to the border.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Preparations

Today was mine & Spouse's last day of work this week.  We're leaving tomorrow for a 'long weekend' trip to Vancouver, BC for Spouse's 50th birthday.  You may recall back in Dec when Spouse & I went for a 'long weekend' trip to Paris for my 50th birthday.

This evening we planned what clothes we wanted to take, folded and packed them in our carry-on bags, and gathered our TSA-approved toiletries.  We'll wait til tomorrow to pack those since we will use some of the items in the morning.

Tomorrow morning we'll drive to Spouse's mom's house outside of DC and visit with her for a bit.  Then Spouse's brother will drive us to the airport where we'll fly to Seattle, WA.  We'll stay overnight and spend about 1/2 of Fri sightseeing in Seattle.  The Newlyweds will join us in Seattle and the 4 of us will drive to Vancouver, BC sometime Fri evening.  It should be a great trip!  

We return to DE very late Mon night.  More details next week.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Whirlwind weekend

OMG, what a weekend!

Kerry & Hugh and Ana, Javier, Alison, Gabe, and Antonio arrived Fri night at 11:45.  We snacked and talked and finally went to bed at 1am.

Sat morning I went to work and our 7 friends had breakfast and headed to the beach.  In the late afternoon, Lois & Christy, Harriet & Bob, Emily, Brandon, and Dan arrived.  (Yes, that makes 14 visitors!)  Once the beachgoers returned and showered, we discussed dinner.  There is no place in the area that could seat all 16 of us at 7pm, so we decided to order pizzas, subs, and salads.  They were delivered amazingly quickly, and since the weather was gorgeous, we all ate together on the screened porch.

I left ahead of the others since I needed to be at the Blue Moon early, but the rest of the group followed a little later to see me perform as Elton John in the LEGENDS show.
Singing the 1st number:  Your Song

With back-up dancers during Crocodile Rock
The show went really great and my friends had a great time.  When we returned to the house, we had drinks and talked on the screened porch until nearly 1am.

Sun morning we had bagels and coffee and visited on the screened porch until the crew had to pack up their things.  They all left by 10:30am.  It was a whirlwind visit!

Spouse & I packed a lunch and headed to the beach.  The weather was hot, but it was beautiful at the beach.  We sat with our friends Tim, Kevin, and David and talked and relaxed well into the afternoon.  After returning home and showering, we had dinner at Saketumi and then watched "True Blood" and "The Leftovers".

Friday, July 11, 2014

Anticipation

This evening Spouse & I had dinner with Steven & Thad and Joe P, and then headed to a local watering hole to celebrate our friend Bryan's birthday.  He turned 50!  There were lots of people there that we knew and it was fun to see so many friends all in 1 place.

Now we're waiting for our weekend guests to arrive.  Our dear friends Kerry & Hugh are coming with an uncertain number of other mutual friends for the weekend.  Their plan is to go to the beach tomorrow (while I'm working) and then see me perform as Elton John in the LEGENDS show.

I'm sure I will have some stories to report on Monday!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Holiday weekend recap

On Fri morning, July 4th, tropical storm Arthur blew through the area.  But my office was open 1/2 day, so I had to dash through the puddles to get to work at 9am.  Arthur was pretty much over by 11am, and the office closed for the holiday at 1pm.  Spouse & I had lunch together and picked up some things from the grocery store.  About 4:30 folks began to arrive at our house to watch the Doo Dah parade, have dinner, and then watch the fireworks.   I took Big Ella for a spin to make sure she was running smoothly, then got into the parade line-up.  Steven & Thad, Joe P, Jack & Alisha, Mike, Dan, and Spouse walked over to the parade route together.  The weather was absolutely dreamy and the parade was really fun, as usual.

Big Ella was a big hit, as she always is at this parade.
Afterward we all returned to the house and had dinner.  Spouse grilled chicken in advance which he warmed up and served with tzatziki, hummus, olives, feta, warm pita bread, and Greek salad.  We ate on the screened porch since the weather was so nice.  It was delicious and a nice change from all the burgers and dogs we'd been eating since Memorial Day.  Joe P brought chocolate cake and apple pie for dessert.  After dinner we drove down the street to the public beach and settled in to watch the fireworks.  They were good, but not as good as last year's.

Sat I had to work again, so Spouse went to the beach with Steven & Thad and Joe P.  Late that afternoon we stopped in briefly at our neighbor's open house (they bought the old church on the corner, gutted it, and turned it into a home) so we could see how it turned out.  It was nice but too stark and modern for my taste.  After that we met up with some other neighbors for a little BBQ.  We took my special barbequed baked beans.  We had a nice time and again, the weather was delicious.

Sun I had to work yet again, but we invited Steven & Thad and Joe P over to eat left-overs from Friday's Greek dinner.  Again we enjoyed being on the screened porch since we knew it was the last "nice day" we'd have for a while.  (Today and tomorrow are scheduled to be well into the 90s.)  

So it was a nice holiday weekend of fun, food, and friends despite my having to work all 3 days.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lovely weekend recap

Sat was a work day for me, but I did something a bit unusual:  I hosted a public open house.  My team doesn't do a lot of open houses because in this area they are not effective in selling homes.  They are often attended only by nosey neighbors rather than home buyers.  Serious buyers almost always work with an agent.  But I agreed to do this open house for my client.  He bought this house which was in very bad condition, completely remodeled it, and is now selling it.  Unfortunately the open house was very poorly attended.
My client's house for sale
That evening I met up with Vic & Mike and our mutual friend Kevin and his new boyfriend Scott for dinner at Saketumi.  I hadn't seen Kevin since sometime before we moved from VA in Jan 2007 so it was great to reconnect.  Everyone enjoyed their dinners and the conversation.
Vic's lobster dinner
Although I was not on the schedule to perform in that night's Legends show, I received a call on Fri asking if I could fill in for someone who had a family emergency.  Of course I said yes.  So after dinner with the guys, I went to the Blue Moon to become Neil Sedaka.
My version of Neil Sedaka
Sun I met Steven for breakfast at the Crystal.  Thad went to yoga, Joe P had brunch plans with a visiting friend, and Spouse stayed home to make potato salad.  After breakfast Spouse & I went to a small car show where we ran into Rick & Nick.  
A rare AMC Ambassador
Later we went to Steven & Thad's for a BBQ celebrating the birthdays of 1 of the Bobs, Joe P, and Jack, and the retirement of Robin.  As usual, we brought Spouse's legendary potato salad.  The weather was absolutely stunning, about 80 degrees, low humidity, and a nice breeze.  
Making a wish!
 It was the perfect way to end the weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Anatomy of a winner

So last night was the finale of the Rehoboth Idol contest at the Blue Moon.  Like the TV show, it is not just a singing competition, its also a performance competition.  I won this contest in 2011.  You can read about it and see photos/videos of week 1, week 2, week 3, and the finale.

As a former winner of this contest and as an experienced performer, here are my tips for winning a singing/performance competition:

  1. Song choice - you can be the best technical singer out there, but your song choice can make or break you.  Pick a song you like a lot but is largely unknown by the judges/audience, and you'll have a tough time getting them to connect with you.  Pick a song everyone likes and is familiar with and the audience will feed you energy.
  2. Preparation - know all the lyrics, and know all the verses in the correct order.  Singing live is very different than singing along with the radio.  Nothing takes the place of adequate rehearsal.
  3. Make the song your own - don't try to impersonate the original artist because you won't sound genuine.  Switch up the melody just a little, and draw on your emotions to infuse your singing with authenticity.
  4. Use the stage - don't sing behind a microphone stand!  Take the mic in your hand and use the entire width of the stage to make eye contact with the audience.  Incorporate tasteful gestures and dance moves where appropriate.
  5. Project confidence - almost every performer, regardless of fame/experience, gets nervous.  Don't let your nerves get the best of you.  Tell yourself "I've got this!" and take a deep breath before going on stage in order to project confidence.
I used this criteria to informally coach 1 of the contestants.  While all the contestants did some or several of these things, Brian was the only 1 to do all 5 of them.

He won!!
Brian & the judges, some contestants, and the club owners

Brian  & his boyfriend Oscar

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Overheard

As I was loading groceries into my car, I became aware of an older couple nearby whose conversation had quickly become increasingly loud.

HIM:  This thing isn't working.  (He was pointing his key fob directly at the car and repeatedly pushing it.)
HER:  Huh??
HIM:  (Even louder) This thing isn't working!
HER:  Are you pushing the right button?
HIM:  I've pushed it 50 times!
HER:  But are you pushing the right button??
HIM:  Yes I'm pushing the right button!
HER:  Wait... this isn't our car.  Where did our car go???
HIM:  What?  Its not our car?
HER:  No, this one has black seats.  What happened to our car???
HIM:  Where'd our car go?

At this point I considered going over to see if I could help them.  But just as I finished loading and was about to return my cart, I determined they were okay.

HER:  Look - I think that's our car!  (She pointed to an identical color/model car in the same parking space of the next isle over.)  Push the clicker that way!
HIM:  You think that's our car??
HER:  Yes, push the clicker over there!

The lights flashed and the trunk opened on their car.

God bless old people!  But in their defense, I think I've done the same thing once or twice, and I'm not old yet.

Monday, June 23, 2014

House beautiful

I'm not a 'magazine person', but occasionally Spouse brings home magazine's from his personal trainer.  Recently he brought home an issue of "House Beautiful", which brought back old memories.

I remember my parents getting me a subscription to "Boys Life" magazine when I was an early teenager.  I think it was sponsored by the Boy Scouts because the magazine's contents had a lot to do with camping and being an honorable citizen.  I had little interest in camping or the magazine.

A few years later I asked my parents for a subscription to "House Beautiful" magazine.  

What teenage boy asks for a subscription to a home decorating magazine??  A gay one.  But my parents' highly-religious minds would never allow them to consider that possibility.  No, I imagine they thought their teenage son was interested in architecture, or possibly building, and that's why he asked for a subscription to "House Beautiful".  They probably hoped for that.  

But in reality it just another of many early signs my parents chose to ignore that their son was gay.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Poodle time

From my previous posts, you all know I love Miss Richfield 1981.  I see her every summer when she comes to town.

Last night Joe P, Steven, 1 of the Bobs, Tim and I went to see her new show "Play with my Poodle" at the Blue Moon.  In typical Miss Richfield style, she had us screaming with laughter!  I love the way she interacts with the audience and is so quick with hilarious observations of the audience.

After the show Miss Richfield 1981 posed with us for photos:
Miss Richfield 1981 and me

Miss Richfield and Joe P
If you're ever feeling down or suicidal, all you need to do to feel better is to go see Miss Richfield 1981.  Seriously, if you have the opportunity (here's her performance schedule), go see Miss Richfield 1981.  You'll be very glad you did.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Weekend redux

This past weekend I had a rare weekend off work, and managed to resist having to meet clients on my days off.

Spouse & I decided to do some much needed power washing.  Against my wishes we bought a power washer a few weeks ago.  (I prefer to pay someone to do it rather than have to figure out how to use and maintain the machine to do it myself.) But Spouse really wanted to buy and use it, and well, since I bought Big Ella years ago I have no room to complain about his decision on how to spend our money.

He read skimmed the directions and put the 117 pieces together.  We removed the 4 love seats, 2 chairs, 2 end tables, 2 dining tables and 8 dining chairs from the rear screened porch and started experimenting with the 3 tips which give different widths of spray and power.  After a few minutes we got the hang of it and cleaned the mildew, cobwebs, and dirt from the screened porch.

Next we cleaned all the furniture we'd taken off the porch, and then we headed around to the side entrance of the house.  Because of the sun's direction, that part often does not dry thoroughly after rain and had some algae along with the dirty, cobwebs and mildew.  (Note to self:  consider repainting white trim a color that doesn't show so much.)  We were pretty impressed with the work we did, and to my genuine surprise, we really didn't argue like we usually do when trying to complete home projects.  (Spouse prefers 'fast' while I prefer 'thorough'.)

By the time we finished the side entry, the screened porch and furniture were dry, so I loaded all the furniture back into the porch while Spouse was inside making a cake.

That evening we went to cook-out at Mike & Nathan's place.  Spouse made a Luau cake (my name for it) which was delicious and simple.  Just make an orange flavor box cake mix according to the directions, but substitute crushed pineapple with its juice for the water.  Once its cool, ice with butter cream frosting and sprinkle with coconut flakes.  It was a big hit.

On Sun we had a leisurely morning at home, drinking coffee on the freshly cleaned screened porch, dead-headed the roses, and eventually got ourselves ready to go to the beach.  We picked up wraps from the deli on our way so we could eat lunch at the beach with our friends Joe P, Rick, and Tim.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day and really enjoyed our time at the beach.  Later that evening we met up with Steven & Thad and Joe P for dinner.

It was a fun and productive weekend!

Friday, June 13, 2014

This little light of mine

Since I am a big fan of recycling, alternative fuels, and zero-emission electric cars, you would think 
that I'd also be a fan of CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs, but I'm not.

I found the earlier version of the CFL bulbs to be annoying because they took 30-60 seconds to fully illuminate.  When you open a closet door and flip on the light switch to find something, you really don't want to have to stand around waiting for the light in order to find something.  The more recent version is better, with a 10-15 second warm-up period, but are still not ideal for places where you need light quickly, like a dark closet.

Another irritating thing about these bulbs is that they don't last as long as incandescent light bulbs.  We moved into our house 7 1/2 years ago and began gradually changing the incandescent bulbs over to CFLs.  I have already had to replace several of the CFLs because they only lasted a couple years.  Meanwhile, the incandescent bulbs that never got switched out are still burning strong after more than 7 years.

Oh, and did I mention CFLs are like 3 or 4 times more expensive than incandescent bulbs???

And when the CFLs burn out, you're not supposed to throw them in your regular household trash because they contain mercury!  You're supposed to drop them off at Home Depot or Lowes to recycle them.  What a pain...

But despite these irritants Spouse & I continue to replace bulbs with CFLs because they allegedly use less electricity.  How do you feel about CFLs?