Posted in In Our Own Backyard, Where Happiness Finds You

Neal’s Post from the Past: “Bright Morning Pétanque”

A post from the past about the adventurous fun of procrastination. I was retired from teaching full time at Georgia Southern University but working as an adjunct at the Savannah College of Art and Design, SCAD. This was eight years ago, and as you will see, I had much to learn about cell phone photography.

[An actual serious and sort of embarrassing TIB—Truth in Blogging—here: For those of you following NealEnJoy, you know that I am now married to a wonderful man, Robert. At the time of this blog post, I wasn’t completely out, so I didn’t include Robert in my posts. EVEN THOUGH HE WAS IN EVERY SCENE I DESCRIBE. I feel terrible about that now. But now is/was not then.]

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Last Saturday, loaded down with a big stack of research paper first drafts, written by my delightful and intelligent international graduate students in our Research, Reading and Writing in Art and Design class at SCAD, I escaped down to Amelia Island, Florida.  My Distinct Intention: sitting, for the next two days (since Monday was a holiday) on the patio of the condo, listening to the crash of waves …

NmkU1lvJ8XrIBEqn.jpg

… and occasionally eyeing a sea turtle meandering up onto the lawn from the protected dunes …

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… (this one’s about sixteen inches long) while Determinedly, Professorially marking up student texts, never putting down my pen or moving from the patio. And even though the papers are on fascinating topics, such as the spread of memes through websites, the commercialization of global opera, color’s impact on productivity in the work environment, and how video games make our lives better, I WAS at the beach, for goodness sake. Can anybody besides me see a potential problem here?

But, to be honest, and to defend myself a little, the BETTER part of Saturday had really already vanished by the time I arrived at the condo, unpacked (I ALWAYS unpack–my mama says not to live out of your suitcase), took a much-needed barefoot walk on the beach to calm my nerves after the hour-and-a-half drive from Savannah (okay, maybe I stopped at Starbucks in Brunswick for a quick Salted Caramel Mocha), washed the shells I found …

b0Y7rskjwbmpt2hN.jpg

… thought a while about whether I should make a hip Christmas sea shell wreath or just put them in a glass jar, ran to the Lucky Wok for a spring roll and Balsamic Vegetable Medley, rushed back to the condo and soaked my feet in bath salts–thus it was simply too late to think about grading.  Seriously.

So Sunday morning I got up energized–ready!–but, discovering there was nothing in the condo for breakfast except some peanut butter which had gotten beach sand it in and several pints of old strawberry ice cream, I had No Choice but to hightail it over to my favorite historic district Fernandina Beach breakfast place, Bright Mornings Café.  (Isn’t that a cool name?)

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As soon as you sit down, the FRIENDLIEST wait staff rush over with a variety of muffins, jam, marmalade and coffee.  (I wish I lived inside that place.)

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(I forgot to take the above pic until after most of the muffins were gone.)

Well, the neatest thing happened next!  I was lucky enough to have the World’s Best Waitress,  Laura, who, after recommending the breakfast potatoes (boy, was she right!) shared a terrific story.  Actually, she shared after I complimented her on her interesting necklace:

HPZy6g2ryVhiamjL.jpg

She told me that her daughter had given her the necklace, and it represented the body’s chakras. You know about them, right? Energy distribution centers throughout the body. The lower one is the root chakra, which seems to be powerfully related to our contact with the earth, helping us to be grounded into the earthly plane. Also it represents the center of manifestation, especially with the material world. Anyway, after getting the necklace, Laura explained that she took off her shoes and enjoyed feeling the ground, the earth, with her bare feet. The next day she received a large amount of money. Wow. Whatever we may believe, material increase came to Laura. So cool! I haven’t worn shoes since hearing the story, and ain’t planning to anytime soon!

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Leaving Laura and Bright Mornings (darn it), I thought I should probably go back and start grading, but as I walked down 3rd Street in Fernandina Beach, I saw this sign …

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… and it pointed in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION from where my little car Skedadler sat waiting for me. So, being the lawful person I am, I traversed the way of the sign, and within minutes started hearing people (bunches of people) speaking French and Spanish and Deep South Georgia Drawl and other languages I couldn’t understand.

Well, lo and behold, I stumbled upon a major national sports tournament!

NHzVfCPtgACJOEV2.jpg

I found myself smack-dab in the middle of the International Pétanque America Open Tournament! How exciting is that?! One of the biggest tournaments in all of Pétanque!

Okay, okay, I had no clue what Pétanque is either. Other people, from all over the world, apparently DO know what it is. Before I explain, a few pictures:

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Pétanque (pronounced “pay-tonk”), I found out, “is one of Europe’s most popular outdoor games, a cousin of both horseshoes and of the Italian bowling game called ‘bocce’. The game originated in the South of France in the early 1900’s. The aim is to toss, or roll, a number of hollow steel balls (‘boules’) as close as possible to a small wooden target ball, called ‘but’ or ‘cochonnet’ (French for ‘piglet’). Players take turns, and the team that ends up nearest to the target ball when all balls are played, wins” (petanque-america.com).

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Players must stand with both feet firmly planted in a circle when tossing their balls.  (Why did I just giggle like a seventh grader?)

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Those pétanque folks were all SO friendly, even when I kept mistakenly walking onto the playing courts or talking to the players in the middle of their games. (It was all just a bit confusing to me, like Harry Potter’s quidditch, but then again, I never quite got the hang of horseshoes.)

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I discovered that the only store in the Americas dedicated to pétanque was right there in Fernandina Beach, Petanque America, owned and operated by Philippe Boets, an emigre from Antwerp, Belgium. Doesn’t he have the coolest name, Philippe? I’m thinking of changing my name to something hipper than “Neal.” Any suggestions?

Here I am sitting on the sidelines, trying my best to stay out of trouble and wondering where that man standing in the circle got his shirt and whether or not I should roll up the legs of my pants to look a little more European.

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And here I am with Rosemary Szczygiel, a Fernandina Beach petanque enthusiast, who filled me in on the basics of the game.

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Such new-discovery fun!

P.S.  I had the papers marked by the time I headed back up the road to Savannah.

Posted in Humor, Neal's Writing, New, Savannah Joy, The Joy and Wisdom of Children, Transition, Uncategorized, Where Happiness Finds You

The Bear and the Unicorn

For my recent suxteee-seckth birthday, I celebrated with my big ole’ modern family …

… at Savannah’s Tequila’s Town restaurant in Sandfly.

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(Seriously?  Can you believe they come hooting “Happy Bday” laden with tequila for the celebrant!  Even though I had my large head prepared for an oversized sombrero and some flan.)

Post-tequila I received some neat gifts, but perhaps my Favorites came from five-year-old grandtwins Madison (inappropriately pictured above next to the tequila) and Matthew. Their mom let them pick out their gifts for me.  Madison gave me a pink unicorn in a love mug …

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…while Matthew opted for a brown bear that actually smells like chocolate when you rub it vigorously!

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(Matthew is in an over-smiling-for-the-camera stage.)

Oh, they also each got me a large skein of yarn–yellow from Madison and green from Matthew.  Not that I knit (who has the patience for that?!), but because they like to unravel the yarn, make giant spiderwebs and throw it all over the furniture and each other.

Thus, inspired by the tequila, when I got home I opted for a quick photoshoot to document my suxteee-seckth.

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Moral of Story:  the strangest little gifts ofttimes make for the biggest shots of … Joy.

Posted in Where Happiness Finds You

This Road

Each Monday morning, my former colleague Eric Nelson up the road at Georgia Southern University posts a poem on the departmental listserv.  I love today’s.  It feels a little “The Road Not Taken”-ish but with a twist of its own.

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What If This Road

— by Sheenagh Pugh

What if this road, that has held no surprises

these many years, decided not to go

home after all; what if it could turn

left or right with no more ado

than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin

were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,

that is shaken and rolled out, and takes

a new shape from the contours beneath?

And if it chose to lay itself down

in a new way; around a blind corner,

across hills you must climb without knowing

what’s on the other side; who would not hanker

to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know

a story’s end, or where a road will go?

— from What If This Road and Other Poems (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2003)

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Posted in Where Happiness Finds You

Universally Speaking

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The good folks at the Statesboro Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (especially the Pastoral Care Associate–Shari Barr and the Minister–Reverend Dr. Jane Altman Page) up the road in my old stomping ground of Statesboro, Georgia, where I taught at Georgia Southern University for twenty-plus years, invited me to deliver the message at last Sunday’s service.  What fun!  What joy!

I’ve visited a UU fellowship a time or two before, but had not really looked into their beliefs.  It seems they hold seven principles to be guidance:

  • 1st Principle:  The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • 2nd Principle:  Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • 3rd Principle:  Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • 4th Principle:  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • 5th Principle:  The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • 6th Principle:  The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • 7th Principle:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
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Wow!  All beliefs I hold as important in life.

I arrived a bit early and took pics outside their building.

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Once inside, Shari met me and explained the order of the service.

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And here I am with the Rev. Jane (who I knew for years as a colleague at Georgia Southern).

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Before the service I reconnected with old friends, such as Donna Jones, an officemate of mine in the English Department for years at GSU:

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My talk entitled “Becoming a Balcony People,” about the importance and power of encouragement, went over SO well with the group, mainly because of the attentive folks in attendance.

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(Okay, I know I look a little goofy in that picture.)

What are Balcony People, you ask?  Here’s a brief excerpt from my message:

I submit for your consideration this morning the very simplistic notion that there exist two kinds of people: Balcony People and Basement People.  Balcony People are the folks you come in contact with who encourage you, bless you, give of themselves in some way.  They climb the steps up into your balcony, so to speak, lean over the railing, and yell, “You’re doing great!”  “Keep going!”  “I appreciate you so much.”  “You help make my life better.” “I love you.”  “No, your butt’s not too big.  Really!” 

But in addition to Balcony People, there’s a second category of folks, Basement People.  Basement People go down the steps of your basement, where it’s Dark and Damp and Depressing … and then try to pull you down with them!  They wound with words, or the absence of words.  They harm and cause damage.  They verbally vandalize.

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I love the UU symbol:

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May we all allow our true inner lights of goodness and joy to shine forth.

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Thank you, Statesboro UU.  May all good continue to flow to you!

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Link for full transcript.

Another cool link about the importance of smiling.

Go UU folks!

Posted in In Our Own Backyard, Where Happiness Finds You

Bright Morning Petanque

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Last Saturday, loaded down with a big stack of research paper first drafts, written by my delightful and intelligent international graduate students in our Research, Reading and Writing in Art and Design class at SCAD, I escaped down to Amelia Island, Florida.  My Distinct Intention: sitting, for the next two days (since Monday was a holiday) on the patio of the condo, listening to the crash of waves …

NmkU1lvJ8XrIBEqn.jpg

… and occasionally eyeing a sea turtle meander up onto the lawn from the protected dunes …

oKksarjn2xjaIRLc.jpg
2LSZdTad9FPd1wXv.jpg
gMzqHxEQ5rXP48j4.jpg

… (this one’s about sixteen inches long) while Determinedly, Professorially marking up student texts.  And even though the papers are on fascinating topics, such as the spread of memes through websites, the commercialization of global opera, color’s impact on productivity in the work environment, and how video games make our lives better, can anybody besides me see a potential problem here?

I had no excuse.

But, to be honest, and to defend myself a little, the BETTER part of Saturday had really already vanished by the time I arrived at the condo, unpacked (I ALWAYS unpack–my mama says not to live out of your suitcase), took a much-needed barefoot walk on the beach to calm my nerves after the hour-and-a-half drive from Savannah (okay, maybe I stopped at Starbucks in Brunswick for a quick Salted Caramel Mocha), washed the shells I found …

b0Y7rskjwbmpt2hN.jpg

… thought a while about whether I should make a hip Christmas sea shell wreath or just put them in a glass jar, ran to the Lucky Wok for a spring roll and Balsamic Vegetable Medley, rushed back to the condo and soaked my feet in bath salts–thus it was simply too late to think about grading.  Seriously.

So Sunday morning I got up energized–ready!–but, discovering there was nothing in the condo for breakfast except some peanut butter which had gotten beach sand it in and several pints of old strawberry ice cream, I had No Choice but to hightail it over to my favorite historic district Fernandina Beach breakfast place, Bright Mornings Café.  (Isn’t that a cool name?)

CIWp1EJspquWZpEs.jpg
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As soon as you sit down, the FRIENDLIEST wait staff rush over with a variety of muffins, jam, marmalade and coffee.  (I wish I lived inside that place.)

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(I forgot to take the above pic until after most of the muffins were gone.)

Well, the neatest thing happened next!  I was lucky enough to have the World’s Best Waitress,  Laura, who, after recommending the breakfast potatoes (boy, was she right!) shared a terrific story.  Actually, she shared after I complimented her on her interesting necklace:

HPZy6g2ryVhiamjL.jpg

She told me that her daughter had given her the necklace, and it represented the body’s chakras.  You know about them?  Energy distribution centers throughout the body.   The lower one is the root chakra, which seems to be powerfully related to our contact with the earth, helping us to be grounded into the earthly plane.  Also it represents the center of manifestation, especially with the material world.  Anyway, after getting the necklace, Laura explained that she took off her shoes and enjoyed feeling the ground, the earth, with her bare feet.  The next day she received a large amount of money.  Wow.  Whatever we may believe, material increase came to Laura.  So cool!  I haven’t worn shoes since hearing the story, and ain’t planning to anytime soon!  (Kidding.)

npNux3y2acTY1qhh.jpg

Leaving Laura and Bright Mornings (darn it), I thought I should probably go back and start grading, but as I walked down 3rd Street in Fernandina Beach, I saw this sign …

dSmm4SsXMwOYJmA6.jpg

… and it pointed in the opposite direction from where my little car Skedadler sat waiting for me.  So, being the lawful person I am, I traversed the way of the sign, and within minutes started hearing people (bunches of people) speaking French and Spanish and Deep Southwest Georgia Drawl and other languages I couldn’t understand.

Well, lo and behold, I stumbled upon a major national sports tournament!

NHzVfCPtgACJOEV2.jpg

I found myself smack-dab in the middle of the International Petanque America Open Tournament!  How exciting is that?!  One of the biggest tournaments in all of Petanque!

Okay, okay, I had no clue what Petanque is either.  Other people, from all over the world, apparently DO know what it is.  Before I explain, a few pictures:

ZbDBEPMy3JMmwspn.jpg
CCF4SQoWGl8khi4b.jpg
wPBJKYtoK7kytcC0.jpg
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Ad02efzr9e24XYK0.jpg

Petanque (pronounced “pay-tonk”), I found out, “is one of Europe’s most popular outdoor games, a cousin of both horseshoes and of the Italian bowling game called ‘bocce’.  The game originated in the South of France in the early 1900’s.  The aim is to toss, or roll a number of hollow steel balls (‘boules’) as close as possible to a small wooden target ball, called ‘but’ or ‘cochonnet’ (French for ‘piglet’). Players take turns and the team that ends up nearest to the target ball when all balls are played, wins” (petanque-america.com).

Ik7yZgZljYpTneWG.jpg

Players must stand with both feet firmly planted in a circle when tossing their balls.  (Why did I just giggle like a seventh grader?)

uHDAbjykah1k6W6k.jpg
ekyYcyuCmzQjB1cd.jpg

Those petanque folks were all SO friendly, even when I kept mistakenly walking onto the playing courts or talking to the players in the middle of their games.  (It was all just a bit confusing to me, like Harry Potter’s quidditch, but then again, I never quite got the hang of horseshoes.)

jrMASg5nC6kcrOYc.jpg
Znggohe0uCDlmvKd.jpg
GM5c2uIBh9HSwwzn.jpg

I discovered that the only store in the Americas dedicated to petanque was right there in Fernandina Beach, Petanque America, owned and operated by Philippe Boets, an emigre from Antwerp, Belgium.   Doesn’t he have the coolest name, Philippe?  I’m thinking of changing my name to something hipper than “Neal.”  Any suggestions?

Here I am sitting on the sidelines, trying my best to stay out of trouble and wondering where that man standing in the circle got his shirt and whether or not I should roll up the legs of my pants to look a little more European.

MGlkJOsNTD0Au5yW.jpg

And here I am with Rosemary Szczygiel, a Fernandina Beach petanque enthusiast, who filled me in on the basics of the game.

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Such new-discovery fun!

P.S.  I had the papers marked by the time I headed back up the road to Savannah.

Posted in Where Happiness Finds You

Neal’s Neverending New York PhotoNotes Post

[Warning:  If you’re going to read this one, you might want to go get a snack.  And maybe a cushion.  Wear loose-fitting clothes, comfortable shoes.]

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I traveled with daughter Amy, son-in-law Orte and grandsons Daniel and Gabriel to Manhattan last Thursday, returning yesterday.  This trip has become our annual spring rite of passage.  Except spring didn’t cooperate this year–cold!  Brrr!  Even a little snow.  But what a Grand Time as our Vagabond Shoes left Savannah and headed to the Big Apple.

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Easy, FUN flight, even with five- and three-year-olds.  No, BECAUSE of five- and three-year-olds.

Cool suite on Park Avenue:

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And of course, the first thing the boys want to do upon our arrival in New York?   Watch Gravity Falls on TV.

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(Okay, maybe it was pretty interesting, all about Dipper’s sister Mabel having a crazy-about-boys summer–at one point she sees a young fella holding a turtle, runs up to him and exclaims, “You like turtles?!  I LIKE TURTLES!  What’s happening here?!” as she moves her hands back and forth between her and the boy.  Finally Mabel sorta falls for a trenchcoated pyramid of Gnomes who want to marry her and make her their Gnome Queen.  I had no idea Gnomes could be so pushy.)

Gabriel looking out on the NY skyline from our 27th floor:

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The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (on the Upper West Side):

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A walk in Central Park, playing with dirty snow.  (But we’re from the south–we’ll take what we can get.)

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Delicious Waldorf Salad lunch for me–at the Waldorf:

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Touring = Tiring:

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Dinner at Victor’s, our favorite Cuban restaurant in Manhattan:

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Neat day, after Gabriel’s “breakfast” …

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… we taxied to another great museum: the Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo.  What an interactive place!

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My work:

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(Now do you see why I teach part-time at an art school?!  I call it Morning Glory and Green-Haired Cory.  Bids start in the upper thousands.  Thank you.)

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Daniel’s Dragon:

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(Those aren’t my blue fingernails.)

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First of two Broadway plays: Newsies.  Just incredible energy!  Google it.

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Newsies ticket

And here’s a pic of the stage/curtain thingy, right before I got yelled at for taking pictures inside the theatre.  (I’m sure they didn’t realize they were talking to a world-famous blogger and all.)

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I’m thinking about becoming a Broadway star.  All that’s holding me back is that you have to sing and dance and memorize lines and get up in front of people and not stutter because you’re so nervous.  AND not fall off the stage when you have to walk close to the edge.  That part TERRIFIES me.  But still.

The most incredible coincidence happened next.  Walking back to our hotel to join the fam, I saw Andaz.  No not a person, a very cool hotel.  We have an Andaz on Ellis Square in Savannah where they give you the MOST delicious Candied Bacon I’ve ever tasted.  (Okay, it’s the only candied bacon I’ve ever tasted but SO good.)  Of course I had to shashay in to compare Andazes’ (plural possessive?).  This sign greeted me when I walked into the lobby:

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Hooting Hyenas!  SCAD is where I teach as an adjunct.  So I hopped on the elevator to the second floor!  Wouldn’t you?  Why?  Well, duh, a reception, and receptions mean one thing … free food.  The first person I saw was Joseph; he’s in a writer’s group I sometimes attend:

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(I’m not sure why I look so huge and bloated in that picture.)

(Does anyone know how to Photoshop me standing about two feet behind Joseph so I don’t look so very big?)

I chatted with other SCAD folks and even a few newly accepted students and their parents.  A fun NY surprise.

Next morning, Grand Central Terminal …

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… and waiting for Kidding Around (a very cool toy store) to open–we did F. A. O. Schwarz the day before:

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Street vendor hot dogs, of course:

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Second Broadway play: Cinderella (with a new spin, including lots of humor and an evil stepsister who turns good).

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Orchestra pit (we had second-row seats!):

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Afterwards off to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where the wait staff … SINGS!.  So cool:

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Snack on the walk back to the hotel:

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The Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal for a new case for my iPhone:

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Last morning.  Daniel and Gabriel reennacting the final scene from Gravity Falls (we watched the same episode three times over our stay) when Dipper rescues Mabel from the Gnomes, and the brother/sister engage in an “awkward sibling hug” with “pat, pat.”  (Hulu it.  I think the episode is called “Tourist Trap.”)

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Blustery/snowy/rainy weather on the way to LaGuardia.

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For some reason, less-than-ideal weather always makes me feel better when it comes at the end of a trip.  (Reminder to self: therapist talking point.)

While we were waiting at the gate for our flight, a Big Red Heart sauntered up.  No clue why.  But D is never one to miss a photo op.

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Oh, if you were that Big Red Heart, looking where he seems to be looking, you would see this:

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It’s an iPad cafe–you order your food right from the iPad.  (“Hip” should be my middle name.)

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A wonderfully joyful New York trip.

As we waited on the runway, while an animal-like machine de-iced the wings, Daniel looked at me fiddling with my phone and yelled (loud enough for his dad and the rather stern flight attendant to hear), “Abu is not turning off his electronic device!”

Great memories to think about.

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Posted in In Our Own Backyard, Where Happiness Finds You

Mr. Happy Goes to Charleston: A Photo Essay

Some of you may remember Mr. Happy (who is sort of my blog mascot).  Technically he is jointly owned by me AND grandson Daniel.  He lives in the back seat of my car (Mr. Happy, not Daniel) and helps me pick up Daniel from kindergarten a couple of days a week.

For months now, Mr. Happy has been nagging me for a train ride to Charleston, so early last Saturday morning, we hopped on board the 8:15 Amtrak bound for a one-night stay in the Holy City.

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Less than two hours later, we arrived  in beautiful Charleston, SC. (sister city of my hometown of Savannah).

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From the station, our Charleston taxi driver (who “drove” like a wild New York cabbie) whisked us to our hotel, the Best Western King Charles Inn in the historic district ( a very nice hotel–stay there sometime).

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The folks at the hotel treated us like royalty–especially Michael, Rhonda and Richard–and even gave us a beautiful upgrade … with rocking chairs on a balcony:

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After reading up on some sites to visit, Mr. Happy and I hit the road walking.

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We learned a bucketful of area history from guide extraordinaire Boyd Schuler when we toured the historic Edmondston-Alston House on the Battery overlooking the bay.

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I want that house to be MY house!  (If you have about four million extra dollars, please PayPal it to me ASAP.  Thank you.)

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We devoured some DElicious seafood at Hank’s.

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Went back to the hotel for a little rest …

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… before going to Godiva’s for some high-end chocolate.  Here’s Becky telling us about the latest Godiva and Charleston news:

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And co-worker Chris making chocolate strawberry footballs (WHY couldn’t the Falcons have won!!!):

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More touristing (is that an okay word?):

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And here we are at the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street.

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Pretending to preach:

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Time to go.

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A really fun trip for both of us.  See you next time.

Char8

Posted in Where Happiness Finds You

Amelia BeNEALia — Part Two

Evening view from condo on Amelia Island, taken with Iphone camera:

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Would you believe me if I told you I made this huge Christmasy gingerbread ship, the S.S. Ginger Amelia, all by myself?

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No?  Why not?

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And what a treasure it was!

Now look at the size of this Christmas tree compared to me!  (It’s right next to the ocean, by the way.)  Daytime pic:

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Night pics:

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Islands make me so very happy!

Posted in Breaking News, Where Happiness Finds You

Breaking News–Sir Riboclavin’s Castle!

Buddy Riboclavin (see #3 in yesterday’s Five Friday Happy Bringers) just sent more pics from his Irish holiday.

And.  He.  Is.  Staying.  In.  A.  Castle.

I just assumed he would be lodging at Ireland’s equivalent to Motel 6 or Sleep Inn.  But no–a real, live castle!  It’s called Ashford Castle.  When Ribo told me where he was staying, I hooted and asked him to find a throne or something to sit on and snap a pic, but so far these are what I’ve gotten:

I wanna be in a castle!  With a moat around it.  Maybe sitting outside in tweed, drinking mulled cider or grog.

Or perhaps wearing this:

Maybe listen to some music:

Rustle around a bit:

Eat a huge turkey leg:

Rest:

If you have a moated castle, let me know ASAP.  Thank you.