Vacations 2008 – From Home to the Beach

So…wow…I have a lot to say about the past few weeks. July has been a pretty awesome month – vacations galore!

On July 6th I left Atlanta for a week’s vacation in which I planned to split stays in Charlotte, NC and Princeton, WV. I went to Charlotte, of course, to hang with my brother and his family. We hung out, played some Texas Hold ‘Em (as usual) and Grand Theft Auto 4 (a new tradition lol), and went to Carowinds on Monday the 7th.

Not being much of a partier, or really enjoying hanging around most people for extended periods of time, I have most of my fun with family and well-known friends. This means most of my time in Atlanta is spent working, or chilling from being at work. The main exception to this is when I’m playing D&D with my friends, but that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to. So it’s times like this that I look forward to so I can get away from the usual days of my life.

I had so much fun at Carowinds riding rollercoasters with my brother that I felt re-energized in a way that I haven’t in a long time. One coaster in particular, NightHawk, provided me with the most fun I’ve had on a roller coaster in my life, although it’s been so long since I rode the Hulk rollercoaster at Islands of Adventure in Orlando that I’m not sure I can make an honest comparison. I remember that rollercoaster as being the best I’ve ever been on. Hopefully I will make it back to Islands of Adventure soon. In any event, it was indeed some of the best, most complete, unadulterated fun I’ve had in a long time. We rode that one twice, and all the other coasters once. We also rode the drop zone twice as there isn’t much out there that can give you the rush of a free fall. A great time was had by us both.

It wasn’t just being at the park, of course, it was just experiencing it all with my brother and hanging out with him. We talked and laughed all day like we were kids again. I walked away from Carowinds feeling more alive and energized than I can remember feeling since my youth. Which is kinda depressing now that I think about it hahahahaha.

But of course all good things must come to an end, and the greatest of them seem to fade faster than most. Carowinds closed at 8pm that day, which is retarded if you ask me. It’s still daylight, and it’s certainly not a school night. Why not keep the place open until the freaking sun goes down? Freaks! Anyway, I spent that night at Lee Jay’s because I was exhausted from the day of glory. I spent the rest of the week (through Sunday the 13th) in Princeton.

I was also able to spend some awesome time hanging out with my Second Family, as well as my Mom, so I was able to enjoy much more positive emotions and fun on this trip than the negative shite. However, one other crappy thing that happened during this trip is that I have a feeling that “Darkening of the Light”, as it was intended anyway, is a dead project. Outside of Sheila and I, all of our stars and crew are steeped in college affairs and other real world concerns of youth. I’m still hoping we will finish the fight scene between my character and Kris’, so at least I can cut that into a standalone scene. Who know if that will happen, but I’m pretty sure that the movie as written will never happen. That bums me out, but life goes on I suppose. I’m sure if we all could just communicate better and more often, then it would be much easier for us all to coordinate our schedules. I guess we’ll see.

Sheila and Rob invited me over for dinner one night and we had a blast. Kris and I went to Wal-Mart to buy a game so we could all play something together. We got a game called “Apples to Apples”, and if you’ve never played it then I encourage you to go pick it up right away.

It’s a simple game to learn and start playing – about 5 minutes of prep are needed even if you are a first time player. The game consists of a deck of red apple cards, and a deck of green apple cards. Both sets of cards have words or phrases on them. Everyone is dealt 7 red apple cards. Play begins with one player being chosen as the “judge” for the first round. The judge takes a green apple card and reads the word or phrase on it, which also contains several synonyms in case folks are not sure what the word/phrase means. Then everyone else (other than the judge) picks one of their red cards that they feel most closely matches the green card’s meaning…or at least is funny and/or ironic. Like one time the green apple card was something like “Manly”, and someone put in a red apple card that read, “Rosie O’ Donnell”. LOL! The red apple cards are paced in the middle face down. The Judge takes all the red apple cards and mixes them up so they don’t know who put which one in, and then reads them all. The judge then picks the red apple card he/she feels is the best match for the green apple one. The person who put that red apple card in then “wins” that green apple card and scores a point. Then the person to the left of the Judge becomes the Judge for the next round, and so on. Depending on the number of people playing, after one person wins so many of the green apple cards then the game is over and that person wins. It’s an awesome game, and the rounds can get hysterical with some of the red apple cards that are thrown in to match up with the green apple card. I highly recommend the game – we played it several times and had a blast each time. The whole family can enjoy this one as Sheila’s younger son Trey, who is only like 8 or 9 I think, played the game with us and just had a blast. I am impressed with his word comprehension and his ability to play the game well. And also it can only help him learn what words mean that he’s never heard before, and build that vocabulary. Again, “Apples to Apples” is very highly recommended by me.

We also played a card game that Jordan taught us called “Marbles”. You pair up into teams, and each team has a code word, phrase, or even an action (like playing with your hair or something) that you work out with your partner in secret. Everyone has four cards in their hands, and four cards are delt face up on the table. The game encourages social interaction as you’re supposed to talk to everyone at the time while the game is going on – small talk, random conversation, whatever. Everyone is scooping up cards from the table, mixing them into their hand, and discarding others (you can keep a max of 4 cards in your hand). After a while of the cards on the table not being picked up any longer, they are considered “dead” and discarded. Then four more cards are dealt face up on the table for everyone to pick at. The object is to build a four-of-a-kind hand. Once you’ve done that, you try to work your secret word/phrase/action into the conversation so your partner notices it. If they realize it, they say “Marbles” and you reveal your four-of-a-kind hand and the two of you win that round. However, if an opponent suspects you are trying to alert your partner, then they can say “spit” and steal the win from you. It’s a really fun game that we played for quite a while that night as well.

I posted some pics from this trip to my Facebook page. The pics at the beginning are a mix of Christmas 06 and 07 pics with my (main lol) family, and the pics near the end are of the above described day with the Second Family. Here is the link to the album:

I went back to Sheila’s the next night as well and we hung out more and played more games. While I was there, Rob and Sheila asked me if I wanted to join them at Myrtle Beach the following weekend for even more awesome fun. Given that I took so much time off this past winter shooting the movie, and I was sick 7 days this winter as well, I don’t have a lot of vacation time left (Even though I get six weeks off a year for combined vacation and sick time…tells you how much time I took off for [failed] movie making). After taking this week off, I only have enough time to take a break during this coming Christmas. However, I didn’t see a problem with me driving up on the coming Saturday and spending Saturday and Sunday there. So it was agreed that I would join them at the paradise of Myrtle Beach. They even convinced me that if I could arrange it, that I should also try to stay through Monday. I agreed and would probably be able to do just that. I was going to try and cram a week of glory into two days. Yes!

In any event, we played more game this night and a great time was had by all. I just want to thank the Second Family for having me over, feeding me, and spending this time with me on this trip. I had a great time, and only wish that we could all get together much more often than we can right now.

Another reason I went on this trip at the time that I did is that July 13th is my Mom’s birthday, and I like to go up there to spend it with her. I took her out to dinner a couple of times, and bought her a three-piece rug set that she wanted for the living room. She was very happy, and I’m sure it’s awesome to have as many of us as possible there on her birthday. Every time she’s in the living room now, and sees the rugs, she is reminded of our time there on her birthday, and she is happy. All is well in the world.

I left to return to Atlanta after spending some extra time with Mom on her birthday (Sunday the 13th). I took Monday the 14th off from work as well just to have more rest from the travel, and also so I could have time to do some grocery shopping and other errands before I returned the rental car to Avis. After doing all the shopping, I looked up how much it would cost to rent a car again that weekend for Myrtle Beach vs how much it would be for me to just keep it for another week. The weekly rate was just $80 more, so I kept the car for an extra week instead.

The 15th through the 18th crawled by as I waited for my trip to Myrtle Beach to arrive. I had never driven myself to Myrtle Beach before, so I mapped the route using Google maps and prepared myself for greatness. Until this trip I had only been to Myrtle Beach twice in my entire life. I went once when I was very young – I barely remember it. I couldn’t have been older than 8 or so. I fell asleep on a raft floating right at the shore. It carried me down the beach a couple of miles away from everyone, so when I woke up I was seriously lost. That’s pretty much the only thing I remember about that trip. Then I went three years ago with Mom, James, Lee Jay, Vickie, and Austin. We stayed a week at the Dayton House and that was an awesome time. Three years and no ocean…I was missing it.

It’s about a six hour drive from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach, which is the same amount of time it takes me to drive from here to Princeton. So I’ve been driving a lot of miles lately lol. I think I put 1800 miles on that Jeep I rented in two weeks. Craziness. Anyway, I left at about 9:30 Saturday morning, which is an amazing feat for me in and of itself (being up that early). I hit some traffic on I-75 S before I even made it to I-20 E because of road construction. Then I hit more congestion as I got close to Myrtle Beach because Saturday is condo check in/out day, so the road is always clogged. I eventually met up with Sheila and the gang near the Tanger Outlet mall, and I followed them in the rest of the way on a different route. I think we pulled into their condo at around 4:30 or so.

We went out to eat at Fudruckers that evening and then all went to see The Dark Knight. It was my second time seeing it…but more on the flick later. We walked around Broadway at the Beach and did a little window shopping that night as well.

The next day was spent almost exclusively at the beach. We stayed in the ocean and got pummeled by waves – it was a glorious time. I did a little sunbathing with Sheila, and I found it a wonderful, if not surreal, moment. 25 years, man…25 years and I never imagined us laying on the beach talking about the sun, vampires, exactly which chicks around us had purchased boobs, sons, daughters, husbands, and everything in between. And the laughter…let’s not forget the laughter. Some people out there never get to meet someone they don’t even have to speak to, because all it takes is proximity. Sometimes not even that; sometimes the distance can’t be too great. We are like the proverbial peas in a pod. I just cannot imagine a real sister being more a part of the fabric of me. I don’t see how it would be possible. Thank you, sis, for the day on the beach. It breathed so much more of the life back into me than Carowinds ever could.

Afterwards, me, Rob, Logan, and Trey went for a ride around Ocean Boulevard to see the sights. Man there are some awesome houses along the beachfront. It was beautiful, really, and I never took much time to pay attention to the local scenery at the beach. We also went to a gift shop where Rob insisted that he pick up a couple of souvenirs for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a proper beach towel, so I got one. Also I got a Myrtle Beach T-Shirt. My two-day week shirt – that’s how I will always look at it. Thanks, Rob! 🙂

Sheila fixed dinner for everyone that night, and it was awesome. We did more shopping at Broadway on the Beach, and we happened upon a store called “It’s Sugar”. They sell the absolute best Gummy Bears I’ve ever had at that place. I bought fifteen bucks worth, and they would have been worth twice that. We found a poster shop, and I bought an “Empire Strikes Back” one-sheet replica – very cool stuff. We bought Coke Icees and I couldn’t help thinking, “Could this day possibly kick any more ass?” Coke Icees just do it for me. Hahahahahahahaha

Later that night Logan and I stayed up half the night goofing off with the panorama feature on his phone’s camera. That’s the feature where a camera will allow you to take a series of 3 to 6 pictures, left to right; right to left; top to bottom; or bottom to top and the camera will “stitch” them together into one huge pic. It was glorious fun to create these huge pictures. I’m not sure why, but for me anything even semi-creative can be glorious fun. Logan is pretty cool too, so that helps. I took one where I started hanging upside down on the side of the bed, taking a picture of myself in the mirror, and ended up sitting up straight taking a picture of Logan. That was a freaking awesome pic. Logan took one that ended up being a series of pics of him shaking his own hand, hitting himself, kicking himself, giving himself a thumbs up…it was really awesome as well. It was hilarious and the perfect end to a perfect day.

So Monday came and it was the day I was dreading…sort of hanging over my head the whole time I was there. I knew I was going to have to leave them there and come back here by myself, and it was going to suck ass. But we still had a really great time. Rob suggested we all go to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Aquarium, so we went. Man it was so awesome – especially the tunnel where the sharks and fishes were swimming all around you…even over our heads. I really enjoyed it, as you will be able to tell with all the pictures I took there lol. After the aquarium, we went to eat the Hard Rock Café. Another first for me! We have the biggest aquarium in the world here in Atlanta, along with a Hard Rock Café, and I’ve never been to either of them. In any event, it was awesome but it was also bittersweet. You know what I mean.

Well, what can I say? I went there with the mission of packing a week of beachy goodness into just two days, and man I think it was pretty much mission accomplished. I can’t thank Rob and Sheila enough for inviting me along. Lodging me, feeding me, sharing your vacation with me…my thanks are eternal.

So now I’m home, and the blahs are running deep. It’s back to work, and most of the days pass by like they don’t mean anything. I know that they do, of course, but I’m just selling my perception here, okay?

I just realized that this will be the first weekend in three weeks that I will be totally here in Atlanta. Not sure what I’m going to do other than just chill and relax from all the traveling. I’m thinking about not leaving the apartment at all outside of grocery shopping. Actually, perhaps I will go see The Dark Knight again.

Man what a flick. The more that I turn it over in my head, and it marinates within me, I’m beginning to think that it just might be my favorite movie of all time. It is THAT good. If you haven’t seen it, you must go immediately.

Heath Ledger…what a loss to movie lovers…and creative geniuses….everywhere. He made this comic book character seem like a completely real guy that you just might have the misfortune of meeting in real life. While I appreciate everyone else’s performances as well, I just can’t say that of them or pretty much any other performance I’ve seen in a long time. Every time I remind myself that we’re not going to get to see him do this again is heartbreaking.

But beyond Heath, this movie is just one of the most perfectly written, directed, photographed, scored, and edited flicks I’ve ever seen. If not the best. I’m still mulling that one. I think it’s going to take the spot, though. I see it coming. I can’t help but feel like just another part of the hype machine for this movie, but if any movie has lived up to the hype then it’s this one. I remember absolutely loving Batman Begins, but this movie makes that flick seem insignificant.

Anyway…check out The Dark Knight of you have the chance. I doubt you will regret it. I think I will go check it out again later today myself….

Well I guess it’s that time again. I’ve given up trying to talk myself into writing here more often, like I usually do around this point in every post, but I really do appreciate those of you who come here and check it out often. Sorry to disappoint, but at least it’s times like this that your patience is rewarded. At least, I hope you feel that way. I know I do. 🙂

Until next time….