Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween 2011!

Myself with My Winners, originally uploaded by Linda Orlomoski.

Due to my frightening work schedule for the next three days (46 hours between 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening and 3:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon), it's going to take me longer than I'd like to write a post on my adventures as a VIP Judge at "Saturday Fright Fever", this year's annual Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts, but today being Halloween I wanted to share one picture from the night.

One of my tasks as a judge was to choose contestants for the Costume Contest in the categories of Individual/Couple, Group, and Theme. With over 850 costumed party-goers it was a pretty daunting task to choose two in each category (one in the Theme category) but as with any competition there are always a few that stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to originality, detail, and obviously not-bought-off-the-rack-at-the-local-iParty-store costumes. One of my choices for Best Individual/Couple was the Demented Dollmaker and His Doll pictured here with that skeery woman in the middle!

When I have more time I'll show you exactly why I was so impressed with this duo who put a lot of time, thought, and effort into their costumes and who walked away with First Prize for their category. The creative couple were thrilled with their win - not just for the cash prize that comes with it but for the certificate and bragging rights that go along with being a winner at the premier Halloween Party in the Northeast - and I was thrilled that my first foray as a judge was pretty darned successful. I can't wait to tell you about the rest of the party and show you more pictures from what was undoubtedly THE best time I've ever had when it comes to Halloween but I guess it's going to have to wait just a bit longer as duty calls. Rats.

Have a very happy and safe Halloween and may your day be filled with more treats than tricks!

Via Flickr:
The Demented Dollmaker and His Doll - winners of the Individual/Couple category at the Hawthorne Hotel's annual Halloween Ball, "Saturday Fright Fever" held on Saturday, October 29th in Salem, Massachusetts.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Judging From Things, It's Going to Be a Ghoulishly Great Weekend!

Salem SignsIn spite of the dire predictions for weather this weekend ('ugh' is about all I can say to snow in late October!), Amanda and I will be heading for the North Shore in a little while as we point the car in the direction of what is undoubtedly the most popular spot for Halloween in the country - Salem, Massachusetts.  As a rule I would probably avoid Salem like the plague this time of the year as to say it gets crazy up there is a bit of an understatement but I've got a special reason for joining the masses this year as I was invited to be a judge at the Hawthorne Hotel's annual Halloween Costume Ball.

"Saturday Fright Fever" is sure to be a thrilling time and I am very honored to have been asked by Juli, the General Manager of the Hawthorne, to judge - a task that will certainly not be easy having seen pictures of some of the costumes from previous years.  The folks who attend the Hawthorne's Halloween Ball do it up big-time and go all out so I'm sure the competition is going to be tough but I'm also sure I'll be up to the challenge!  Not only do the party-goers get a chance to strut their stuff but each Department at the hotel is given a room to decorate for the event and from what Juli tells me, they take that task very, very seriously - and secretively, too!  All I can say is this is going to be fun!

Amanda will get a chance to attend the Ball, too, but not as a judge or a participant but as a worker; the kid will earn a little cash which will no doubt fund her constant costume-making activities.  She also has plans to catch up with a few of her Montserrat friends while we're in the area and considering we're staying at Juli's house which is in close walking distance to the train station, she should be able to do that. If she thinks I'm driving her anywhere though she can forget it as once I make my way through the crazy traffic to get to Salem, I am parking the car and it's staying parked until I head back home Sunday morning!

By the by, if you're looking for a chance to stay at the Hawthorne Hotel next Halloween and maybe attend the Costume Ball yourself, you can find the details here though if it is something you want to do you need to act quickly as once reservations open up, they go quickly.  After all, it's THE place to be for a frighteningly good time!

My fingers are crossed and the Nikon's batteries are charged for the possibility of some good hauntingly good photos!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yesterday Certainly Didn't Go As Planned

Last week Amanda had asked me if it would be okay if a friend of hers from Long Island who has been over to visit several time before could come up for a couple of days this week.  Apparently she's been having some trouble at home and wanted to get away for a little bit to sort things out.  I said that would be fine so Amanda and her friend (we'll call her Karen) worked out the details and made their plans.

Just prior to Karen's arrival early yesterday afternoon I got a call from another of Amanda's friends from Massachusetts (we'll call her Nancy) who told me that Karen had apparently been reported as a missing person in Naussau County in New York by her parents.  Turns out that she hadn't told them that she was coming up to visit and when they awoke to find her missing yesterday morning - along with a lot of her possessions - they called the police.  The police in turn called Nancy as her parents knew her to be a friend. Additionally, Nancy was worried that Karen might be suicidal and was going to visit her other friends along the East Coast to say good-bye.  I told her that I would have Amanda text her as soon Karen showed up (she was taking the bus) and she could then call the Nassau County police back and have them contact my local department to let them know that she was here.

Fortunately I still have a pretty good relationship with a lot of the officers at Norwich PD so when the responding officer arrived I met him outside and told him that Karen was here to visit Amanda but that we had no idea that she didn't have permission to be here.  Amanda, in the meantime, was inside telling Karen that she had been reported missing and that the police had arrived. Greg, the responding officer, was a really nice guy and he was really good at talking to Karen about what was going on.  When he told her that her parents were on their way up from Long Island to pick her up she completely broke down in tears as she apparently has some issues with her father.  She said that he has threatened to kill her on numerous occasions and hit her and she was scared to go back with him.

Greg told her that she had a couple of options - she could go sit and wait at the Police Department or she could go to the local emergency room and wait there while getting the chance to speak to a doctor or psychiatrist about what was going on. He emphasized to her that she wasn't in trouble and she wasn't going to be arrested but because she was only 16 (another revelation to us as Amanda thought she was older) she didn't have many choices.

Karen opted to go to the emergency room so before long one of my ambulance crews showed up to take her over to the hospital.  Amanda asked if it was okay for her to go with Karen and Greg said that would be a good idea as then she wouldn't have to wait alone.  I told Karen that it was very, very important that she tell the doctors exactly what was going on so that she could get the help that she needed as if she didn't then things certainly weren't going to get any better for her at home.  She said that she would while apologizing profusely for all of the trouble that she was causing. I assured her that it was no trouble at all and that I was glad she had come here rather than wandered around aimlessly somewhere else, I certainly wasn't angry about it, I was very concerned and wanted to see her get some help. Moments later she and Amanda were on their way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance.

While Amanda and Karen were at the hospital, I received another call from Nancy who told me that Karen had been texting her from the hospital and telling her that when she got out of the hospital that it was all going to be over sooner than she had originally planned. Apparently Karen had made a suicide pact with another friend and they were planning on killing themselves at the end of November once they'd had a chance to say their good-byes to their friends. Nancy wasn't sure what to do with the information so I told her that I would get hold of Amanda and have her talk to a nurse or doctor and pass the information on which I did and she did.

Finally, once Karen's parents arrived, the doctor came in to talk to her and Amanda called me from the hospital quite upset that she had been asked to sit in the waiting room rather than be with her friend.  She had promised Karen that she'd be there for her and felt really bad that she couldn't be.  I did my best to explain the patient confidentiality rules to Amanda and told her that I'm sure Karen understood that it wasn't that she didn't want to be there with her but that she couldn't be.  Karen had apparently been pretty good while they were at the hospital but as soon as her father showed she had totally broken down again.  Obviously there's something wrong with the relationship there but as I told Amanda there are two sides to every story and what Karen sees as an abusive parent may not exactly be that.

Pretty soon Amanda came home when Karen's mother brought her over to pick up Karen's possessions and Amanda told me that she felt that her mother was genuinely upset and really wanted to get her daughter some help and not just haul her back home as her father seemed to want to do.  She told Amanda that there was a hospital closer to home that they wanted to take her to and she gave her several hugs and thanked her over and over for being there for Karen as a friend.

A few hours later, Karen's father stopped by to pick up Karen's laptop that hadn't been in with her other things as she had left it on the bed and he told Amanda that Karen had finally admitted to the doctor about the suicide pact she had made.  She refused to say who the other person was and he said that he hoped that one of Karen's friends might be able to find out who it was so that teen could get some help also.  He said that Karen was going to be admitted to a 10-day treatment program at the hospital in New York and that during that time she wouldn't be able to have any contact with anyone but if Amanda or Nancy found out who the other person was, that they could call and let them know so that they could advise the police and try to get that person some help too.  He didn't really seem to be an ogre though Amanda said he made her nervous - most of which I'm sure is based on what Karen had told her.

So ... things definitely didn't go as planned yesterday and rather than having a friend visit for a few days Amanda instead spent several hours comforting a friend who definitely has some issues going on for which she needs professional help.  She seemed a bit shell-shocked when she got home from the hospital but I have to give Amanda a lot of credit for being there for Karen and for being a good friend.  Turns out a lot of things Karen has told Amanda and others have been lies but Amanda understands that she's got a lot of things going on and she just wants to see her get some help so that she doesn't hurt herself.  I think it took awhile for the enormity of the situation to hit her but she did very, very well with everything.

I'm just glad that Karen came here and that we could get her some help without pushing her closer to the edge that she was already standing on.  I sincerely hope that the hospital in Long Island can get her on the right track to a long and happy life and I also hope that she's able to work out the problems she has with her father.  I can only imagine what her poor mother was going through yesterday and her father too as I'd like to think that he's not as bad as Karen paints him to be.  Though again, I don't know what he's really like as like I said, there are two sides to every story and sometimes one side is vastly different than the other.

It's so sad that there are so many kids out there who feel like they can't talk to their parents about the things that are troubling them and situations like this occur but all things considered, this particular story could have had a much sadder ending too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Saturday Snippet

Yesterday Amanda and I took a drive up to southeastern Massachusetts with my cousin Amy to pay a visit to Old Sturbridge Village, one of the country's largest living history museums and touted as "a must-see destination to experience early New England life from 1790-1840." I had been to OSV once a very long time ago (I'm pretty sure it was 1967) on a Sunday afternoon when my beloved grandfather took my oldest brother and myself up and naturally the memories that I had from then in no way matched up with the Old Sturbridge Village of today. As I told my cousin on our way home yesterday, I really shouldn't go back to places that I went to when I was a kid as it's too depressing to have childhood memories go "poof!" when I see how much things have changed. Either that or I just learn to adapt better!

Anyhow, just a few quick pictures from the day as I'm heading out the door in a few minutes to meet up with Amy again and participate in one of the Walktober events being held in my hometown of Canterbury. It's a beautiful day for it and maybe - just maybe - there might be a colorful leaf or two left on a tree!

A view of the village from the entrance

The Old Sturbridge Village stagecoach coming ...
... and going!
Of course I was quite pleased to have found a covered bridge even if it wasn't authentic!

There was a little foliage by the sawmill but it was pretty scarce I'm afraid.

Monday, October 17, 2011

One of My Grandest Wanderings Ever

I recently had the pleasure of spending a night at one of New Hampshire's five remaining Grande Dames hotels and it wasn't just grand - it was glorious! Visit The Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa at The Distracted Wanderer and you'll see what I mean!
If Ike liked it - and he did, he did! - how could I not?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On the Road to a "Ah-Ha!" Moment

The other day when Patti and I were driving around southwestern New England in search of foliage and ended up at the Bennington Battle Monument, we weren't the only ones doing so as can be evidenced by the number of tour buses in the picture below:

General Stark Shows The Busses Where to Park

And by the number of tourists that were walking around the monument's grounds:

The Flags and Warner's Statue

They were most likely learning the history of the monument and the people who were instrumental in the Battle of Bennington in 1777 (which occurred in New York and not Vermont) just as Patti got to learn the story on our drive up as I had just been to the monument a month earlier when I was in Bennington with Amanda visiting Darci at college. 

If you'd like to get the free history lesson that Patti got, please visit The Bennington Battle Monument at The Distracted Wanderer.  If you learn nothing else, you'll learn how New Hampshire got their motto of "Live Free or Die"!  For me it was one of those "Ah-ha!" moments as I continue to learn about the interconnectedness of so much in New England.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Brief Glimpse of Fall Foliage Forage Foray, Take #2

I spent my last batch of days off driving around New England in search of fall foliage which appears to be somewhat elusive this year. On Thursday and Friday, I logged a good number of miles in New Hampshire and Vermont with my mother and Amanda in tow. On Saturday I picked up my favorite royal resident of Ansonia, Princess Patti, and we ended up traversing northwest through Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and even Vermont as we looked both high and low for the beautiful colors of autumn that had eluded us during last year's Fall Foliage Forage Foray.

Well ... it appears that those colors eluded us again this year for Fall Foliage Forage Foray, Take #2 as we managed to only find a handful of trees here or there that were putting on a good show while the vast majority of trees were either still quite green or had leaves that were quite dead. I'm beginning to think my mother may be right in that our weather this year has really put the kaboosh on our usual brilliant fall colors. Meh.

Oh well ... colored leaves or no colored leaves ... the weather was beautiful and the company was grand so even though we didn't exactly find what we were looking for, we had a good time and I even tossed in a history lesson or two for Patti free of charge! She definitely gets the award for being a really good passenger as I drove her over hill and over dale for just about 280 miles.

When I got home I had logged a grand total of 412.6 miles from my driveway back to my driveway and - believe it or not - I only took 101 pictures which is a mere drop in the bucket for me. This shot is one of the best of the batch which I took while we were taking a short detour down a back road in New York to avoid a pretty long traffic jam on Route 7 on our way to Bennington, Vermont.

Once I get another day off on Wednesday I'll have the chance to take a better look at the other pictures I took and try to share a few more with you. In the meantime, I'm just going to hope that Mother Nature is simply being a Late Bloomer this foliage season - something that Patti can definitely relate to!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"It Just Ain't Right"

I have always known that my friend Cyndi is one in a million. Today I found out that she's also 1 of 5 in 100,000 worldwide.

Cyndi has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Aclerosis, or ALS, which is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS is terminal and there is no cure.

As is her norm, Cyndi is handling her diagnosis with the strength and wisdom that I've seen her use time and time again during the course of her life.  She's counting her blessings, telling me what a wonderful life she's had, and making a list of who she's going to haunt once she shuffles off of this mortal coil.  And while she still has a voice to do so she's taking the time to tell me that she loves me and how much our friendship has meant to her over the years.

Right now there's no telling how long Cyndi has, according to her doctor death often occurs within 2-7 years of diagnosis and there's a good chance she's had the illness for close to two years - which would explain the problems that she developed with falling over a year ago.  That said, it's going to be a period of time during which her body starts to shut down on her while her mind stays unaffected.  She's already started to lose her voice and is using a walker to get around though it appears that a wheelchair is very imminent.

Personally I feel like someone has knocked my legs out from under me and I'm not quite sure how to wrap my head around this one yet.  After I hung up from our phone conversation that started out with "I'm dying" I had myself a good cry, cursed the many miles that are between us, and decided that a trip out to California is going to have to be a priority - soon.

I don't know how, I don't know when, but I do know it needs to be while I can still wheel my best friend into our favorite Mexican restaurant and order a #13 CombinaciĆ³n and reminisce over both good times and bad and so that I can tell her in person what our friend Sergeant Timmy White, who died in the line of duty at Stockton PD, always told us, "It just ain't right" and that she has always been the best friend a person could ask for - always.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wandering Around in Williamstown

Rocking chairs in front of the roomBacktracking on my travels just a bit, Amanda and I took a bit of a road trip last month for my birthday and there's a new post up at The Distracted Wanderer about The Wonderful Williamstown 1896 House Inn and Country Lodgings that you might like - especially if you're going to find yourself in the Berkshires of northwestern Massachusetts at any point in time.

Amanda even makes a cameo appearance in this post about a cozy and charming country motel that has both personality and history!

An Award-Winning Song

I believe I have confessed before that I am not necessarily a bluegrass fan but I believe I have also always said that I like all sorts of music as long as it's good regardless of the genre and that includes bluegrass. As such, when I attended the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards Show with my cousin Amy this past Thursday in Nashville, I went into the Ryman Auditorium with an open mind and ears. After all, it was an awards show and that usually means there's some darned good talent taking to the stage to perform, right?

Let me just say that I was not at all disappointed and came away from the night having found another group to add to the very short list of bluegrass bands that I like (gee, does just one band constitute a list??)  Well ... truth be told, I may have come away with more than one group to add but I don't want my cousin Amy thinking she's got me sold on bluegrass just yet!

Anyway, I wanted to share with you a video from the group that I quite liked - Balsam Range - and the song that they performed at the IBMA Awards which I really wish there was a video of as it was most excellent (don't tell Amy but it gave me goosebumps listening to it).  The song is called "Trains I Missed" and unbeknownst to me when they sang it, it had been nominated for "Song of the Year" - had I been a fan or brought my glasses so I could read the program I would have known that but nope, I was clueless. Apparently I'm not the only one who really likes the song though, as it won its nomination which just goes to prove two things 1) I have an ear for good music and 2) so do the rest of the professional members of the IBMA who vote for the winners!

I hope you like it also and now if you'll excuse me, I need to go see if I can buy the download from iTunes and when you do the same after listening to the music, just remember it's "Trains I Missed" and not the title that the person who made the video used.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Darn! We Forgot to Pack Something!

Cousin Amy and I made it back home safe and sound earlier this afternoon but it appears that we forgot to pack the beautiful Tennessee weather with us as we returned home to dreary gray skies rather than the brilliant blue skies that we enjoyed in Nashville ... and after I told her to make sure we had everything, too!

Anyway, all weather aside, I wish that I had time to edit pictures and write posts to tell you all about  my mighty fine time in Middle Tennessee but alas, duty calls and it's back to work tomorrow for 16 hours in the dispatch center so I'm afraid that the posts are going to have to wait just a bit longer.

Before I forget, though, the answers to my questions the other day about the Tennessee State Capitol is that former President Andrew Jackson has the first equestrian statue and former President James Polk is buried on the Capitol grounds. Trust me, I'll fill in you a lot more as soon as I can!  In the meantime though, happy October no matter what color your skies may be!