Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day 2008 - Detroit vs. Kansas City

Finally, after an entire winter of sadness and suffering, it’s finally baseball season again, thank God. Dad, Kim, K-Ren and I got on the road promptly at 8, and promptly at 8:03 I determined that the Crackberry was at home. Now, since my relationship with my personal digital assistant is more umbilical than practical, I had to listen to a rasher of crap out of some of my seatmates as we traversed the block to get it. I felt much better once I had it in hand, and we headed out.

Breakfast was a delight at the truck stop east of Jackson on Sargent Road. I can recommend that place for yummy truck stop food. I don’t want to see their grill, but I can testify as to the “flavor” that the food emanates. So, Very, Good. I must say I enjoy it when they call a big burger without a bun or fixings a “hamburger steak”. I had a “hamburger steak” for breakfast. Yay me!

We got into Detroit about 11 or so, and parked at Cobo on the roof and took the People Mover around. Kim mentioned that it would be cool if the People Mover extended farther, and that got the attention of a fellow rider, a black man who had a very strongly worded opinion on the behavior of one Kwame Kilpatrick, putative mayor of Detroit. Right on, my friend. He was certainly singing my song.

So, we walked into the stadium, and I bought my scorecard. You cannot know the joy that I felt looking out over the field, or begin to fathom the sense of expectant energy that coursed through me. Translated = I am happy as hell that the Tigers are back. Gimme a beer, or three.

Miss America is from Farmington Hills this year, and Miss Kristin Haglund and her tiara did a fabulous job with the National Anthem. She sang it sweet and plain, as it should be sung. No histrionic vocal gymnastics, just a pure and true rendition. Nice.

Justin Verlander was the starting pitcher, and he threw a beautiful game through 6 2/3, scattering 4 hits over the Kansas City lineup. For some reason, he got pulled for Jason Grilli, who didn’t do so great, and then he got pulled for Bobby Seay, who looked pretty good, and then he got pulled for Aqualino Lopez, who didn’t look too bad, then he got pulled for Todd Jones who looked great (yeah, more on that later), and then he got pulled for the final pitcher of the day (!!) Denny Bautista. For those of you scoring at home, that’s one pitcher through 6 2/3, and then five pitchers through the next 4 1/3. Yeah, and we ended up losing 5-4 in 11 innings to the Kansas City Royals. God almighty.

I know I’m going to catch holy hell for this, and trust me, it pains me to form the words, my mouth blisters, my lips sting, but Todd Jones looked pretty friggin’ good today. I think maybe he could have stayed in a few more batters. But then, I felt the same about Mr. Seay and Mr. Lopez, without the pain of admitting they looked good. You all know I can’t tolerate Tums Jones. But darn it, he looked good today. I can’t explain it.

A major highlight was the absolute LASER that CF Brandon Inge fired to C Pudge Rodriguez in the 11th. It was a cannon arm shot from center field to Pudge to stop Mark Teahen in his tracks. Kalinesque, let me tell you. It was astonishingly fabulous.

Umpiring sucked at first base and home plate. There was no apparent definable strike zone. I’m not bringing that up as an excuse. We lost because we have no bullpen, plain and simple. This is an ongoing issue that has concerned me since the off season, and my worries are being borne to fruition at this writing. Let’s hope that we acquire some help, or the current batch of boys steps up some.

The weather was gray and overcast, and windy as hell up in my seats, but overall, not too bad a day. The people around us were cool, lots of great folks. I’m hoping some are fellow season ticket holders and will be around this year.

After an interesting detour through Mexicantown that gave Kim a World Series flashback, we stopped in Belleville at Dimitri’s Kitchen. It’s open 24 hours and the food’s diner good. Check it out!

After dinner, we had a rousing round of Use That Word in a Sentence. We had some balky particpants, but in the end, I beleive we shared a moment of enlightenment and personal growth, didn't we, K-Ren?

All in all, a damn good day in Detroit. Can’t wait for the next time!

A funny Opening Day anecdote for the strong of stomach...

This is a story about puking. It's funny as hell, but if hearing about puking makes you want to puke, you may wish to skip it. Duly warned.

As you all know, I usually make a new friend every time I go out to the ballgame. This time, though, was a particularly classic moment. Kim and Karen and Dad can flesh this out, but I’ll give a go to describing my introduction to this uh, outgoing kinda guy.

He came shambling up the stairs, and about the time he is two steps down from me his hand flies to his mouth and he has this bright red pre-spit showing through. I do not like me or mine being puked on, so I immediately assessed the situation and grabbed two empty beer cups from behind me and offered them to my soon to be sick new friend.

Kim and K-Ren stepped aside PDQ, and he sat down next to me and began being sick in the beer cup. I leaned down and said there’s two cups there if you need them. If it’s possible to look grateful while hurling, this guy did. The girl on the other side of Kim handed her some napkins and a moistened handiwipe, which Kim handed to him and then stepped smartly aside.

I was trying not to a) laugh and b) look at him puking, so I missed him looking up at Kim and saying who handed me the cup? Kim pointed at me and backtracked fast, and he gave me a look of puppy dog gratitude and said to me “how did you KNOW??” Um, maybe it was the red-colored pre-puke coming from behind the hand you had over your mouth. Maybe I’m clairvoyant. I dunno.

I just leaned down and asked if he was okay, and rubbed his shoulder in a buddy-like way and offered him a piece of cinnamon gum. He accepted happily, because he probably wasn’t tasting so fresh. Then we had a couple minutes of drunkenly trying to get the gum out of the pack, so I finally just gave it to him. He sat there getting his bearings, and then he looked up and said wow, this blows my mind, you guys are taking care of me!

I didn’t want to burst his bubble and tell him that I was really shooting for keeping myself and my party puke-free, and I REALLY had to bite my tongue from telling him that’s what happens when you drink fruity girly drinks like that, but instead I just put on a beatific smile and turned back to my scorecard. Eventually he shambled on back down the stairs. No, he wasn’t sitting near us. Who the hell knows why he climbed 20 rows up to be sick? I got a lot of high–fives from people around us for my quick thinking, and we laughed our asses off at the amazed tone of his question: How did you KNOW??

Ah, youth. Stick to beer, buddy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mardi Gras Photos & Videos are up!

Click here for the photos and videos from my first Mardi Gras. If the link does not work, send me an email and I'll share them with you directly.

And no, there are no boobie shots in here. Are you crazy?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wrapping up the Mardi Gras...

Well, I had a wondrous time, but I'm glad to be back here in the land of the ice and snow. Monday morning I woke up like a kid at Christmas, and tried to get a cab down to the Monteleone. Getting a cab on Mardi Gras day is like convincing me to eat cauliflower. Ain't gonna happen. So, I walked all the way down there in the neutral ground along the streetcar tracks. Took me a good half hour or so, but I walked up Canal Street, past the homeless tent city under the I-10 overpass, and past all the folks setting up for the Zulu parades. I got some great shots of the religious nuts, be sure to get a link to the photo gallery.

Once at the Monteleone, I saw an early-morning bike parade! They had cool throws, I got beads with an alligator bottle opener attached. I also took video. Once that was done I went on up to the room and got into my cowgirl costume, Kathie got into her tumbleweed costume, and off we went! We ran into Tim and Liz (KOE from Chicago and organizers of the November meetup) in the elevator, so we all walked together. Liz was dressed as a madam, in beautiful detail she created herself, with other KOE folks being her "girls". Tim was dressed as an Old West dandy, and he did it up right!

We arrived at Jackson Square after I had to stop to hand out beads to everyone along the way. That was such fun. Quite a few people were gathered, and more came by to take photos of the KOE assemblage. There were many Asian tourists there, and they were tickled to take photos with us. I handed out all the rest of my beads to onlookers, and most of my horses too.

We gathered for our group photo, and our band struck up a lively tune, and we stepped off our KOE parade. We had an NOPD officer bringing up the rear, so we made quite the procession. Folks were going crazy to see us, and throws were lobbed up to balconies, given to children, and handed out to all comers. We made such a beautiful bunch.

The religious nuts were out in force with their bullhorns. One man had a bullhorn himself and was shouting blah blah blah blah right back at them. I borrowed his bullhorn and represented the sinners of Kalamazoo MI - I'm sure that will cost me some serious time in the tabernacle. As I walked away, rejoining my parade, one of them called out to me: "Ms. Cowgirl, Ms. Cowgirl, you can still be saved if you repent of your sins and accept Christ!" I didn't want to disillusion him that I was already quite good with Christ, so I smiled and kept walking.

Side note - my new friend Betty BeadWhore made some great beads mocking the religious nuts. I was fortunate to get a set, just like the ones featured in this cool article on - look at the media sensation Ms. Betty has become!

We made a pit stop at the Big Tropical Isle for drinks. Don & Billy had drinks in their shopping cart, so they made me an icy cool cranberry and vodka. Thanks, guys! We stepped off again, heading up Bourbon Street. I had to stop and have my photo taken with the Naked Cowboy. Bet being in NOLA beat the hell out of Times Square in February. It was cool.

We wound up our parade at the Little Tropical Isle and gathered there on Bourbon Street. I stood out in the street with Don & Billy, both in drag as Scarlett O'Whora and Chlamydia Jane, respectively. Don was stopping traffic in his hoop skirt and antebellum dress. Dave and Bob were in drag as well, and a more motley assortment of "women" you will never see.

I have plenty of costume photos and some great video to share - get the link. I know I'm thin on the verbose descriptions, but in this case, a picture is worth a million words. Be sure to get the link to the snapfish on this one. Trust me.

After a while, we went down to the BourbonCam and called friends to look at us. I think that was the most fun! I called the office and K-Ren and a few others, and it was great to be seen. I'd highly recommend the wide family of EarthCams to anyone traveling.

Back at the back room of the Little Tropical Isle, many of the KOE gathered to talk and visit. That felt just like a family reunion. I could not have hoped for a better group of friends to fall in with, and I will happily bring any of you gentle readers into this fold as well.

Around 5 or so, Tim & Liz, Maureen, Belinda, Kathy, Linda and I went over to the Alpine restaurant on Chartres to meet Don & Billy for dinner. They finally showed up, and we had a wonderful meal together. Rob & Frances popped in as well! The food was great - I had bbq shrimp, which was messy but delicious. The cheesecake for dessert was perfect as well.

I was wiped out by then, so I made my goodbyes after dinner. Maureen and I walked back to the Monteleone, where I went up to Kathie & Bob's room to change out of my costume and gather my things and pray for a cab. I found one, and got back to my place in the ghetto about 10 or so. I pre-packed, and crashed.

Wednesday morning, I got a cab to the post office and set off the final three of the five total boxes I shipped home. Then the cabbie returned to take me to the airport. I got there about 8:45, thinking I would sleep at my gate till my 2:43 flight to Chicago. I looked on the board to see a flight to Chicago boarding at 9:00, so I ran as fast as my fat little legs would carry me to the gate, praying to be allowed on the earlier flight. I just made it!

Beat the hell out of waiting till the 2:43 flight, particularly when we landed in Chicago just as a major wintyer storm was arriving! Flights were delayed and cancelled all over. My original flight was scheduled to leave NOLA at 2:43 and arrive in Chicago at 5:00. In reality, it left at 8:05 and arrived in Chicago at 10:48. Egad!

After a white knuckle three and a half hour drive home, I hit my own happy doorway about 5:30. I was so happy to be here, and bless my neighbor for plowing my driveway, even if he did tear up my yard. Sleeping in my own bed, with my own little Thelma Lou, was the closest approximation to heaven possible. I can't wait to go back, but I'm ready to be home now. Thanks for reading along.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I haven't been shot yet, thanks for asking!

First point - amazing how many of you stay on top of the news. :) I've heard from no less than five of you about the Mardi Gras shootings down here. I've been nowhere near that mess, and it's sad a bunch of thugs want to be all ghetto and ruin it for some. Jerks.

Second point - I will not have time/energy to post photos till I get back, so stop asking me. Geez, y'all should be grateful I'm posting in a timely-ish fashion!! I am here to create the Amy Experience, and I can't do that effectively if I have to post photos of every damned thing I do while creating it. :) You'll have to come to my house to drink up and view photos when I return.

Now, to Sunday! I was up early, to the sound of sirens on Canal. I've learned several things on how to have a successful Mardi Gras, and the first thing is to stay in the Quarter. Any cost savings I realized by staying up here have been negated in cabfare and inconvenience. Staying in the Quarter is awesome, because you can duck in for a quick nap, parades are within easy walking distance, and there isn't a need for a cab. Yep, there's crowds, but inside the hotels I've been visiting it's been totally quiet and relaxed.

The Monteleone is where many of my friends are staying. They issue a bracelet to hotel guests, and that gets people in and out. Keeps the riff raff out, and the place safer - I have one, though, even though I'm not a guest, so it's not a foolproof method. I'm not riff raff though, lol! Some may argue.

Sunday was fun. I showed up at the Boondock Saint long before the Penis Police/Bead Whore party, and met up with the bikers out front. I struck up a conversation, and it was a lovely time visiting. Then Joan & Randy (fellow KOE members) showed up, and we all went down to the Tropical Isle (TI) to see the new Queen of Swiss crowned. One of our KOE members is from Switzerland, and he has a Krewe of Swiss. Each year he crowns a new Queen of Swiss, and there's a small party around that event. So, we attended!

After that wound up, Maureen and I went on back down to Boondock Saint and were among the first to arrive to the PP/BW party. Good times. I got beads, and we chatted up the bikers some more. Finally Weenis the Giant Inflatable Penis (and handler Jen!) arrived. Then it got progressively nuttier, with folks licking the penis and such. I licked it, there will be photos of course.

The flashing commenced as the afternoon went on, and my, there were some magnificent racks on display. You can get some REALLY nice beads when you flash. It's a lot easier when you're surrounded by friends you trust, like I was. Or so I hear. Did I flash? Well, did I? Ask me when I get home. I'll tell the truth.

Maureen and I cut out for lunch. We were saddled with a couple of drunk folks from our number, but they looked under control. We went to Remoulade, which is next to the famous Arnaud's. They share a kitchen, but Remoulade is a lot less expensive then Arnaud's. I enjoyed a nice gumbo and crawfish pie combo.

Then our drunken friends had to retire to the bathroom, where one passed out and one got close to it. We called for backup, and ShoMe showed up to take one of the girls the one block to the hotel. Now, the other girl, that took us a solid hour to get her coherent enough to be carried out of the restaurant. Shades of Long Lake Tavern!

Kathie & Sunnye had come down to have lunch, so I switched tables and sat with them, while checking in and out on the passed our sister in the bathroom. After we were done, we went back to the hotel and costumed for the Bacchus parade. This is the costume with the bustier, and my gosh, was it ever a hit. Everyone was so very impressed with it, and I credit Luci for her creative genius on the robe. Wait till you see the costumes that my fellow KOE members came up with. Awesome.

The Bacchus parade was fun. I caught several doubloons, and more than a few beads as our KOE Captain rides with Bacchus. He pelted us with bags of beads, and when I say pelt, I mean with intent to injure. I have a bruise on my arm from fielding a bag of beads! I kid, he doesn't mean to hurt us, but he does shower us with a deluge of trinkets and delights at a very high velocity. Thanks, Craig!

After the parade, we went back to the hotel and I got out of that bustier tout suite. I hated that thing - the wires kept poking me! Then Kathie & I went back to Harrah's to get me a cab, and I was home by 2:00 a.m.

I was up early this morning, Lundi Gras (Monday!), to get to the post office. I shipped home the first big box of swag, so prepare! After that, I walked the several blocks to the Monteleone, where I met Bob & Kathie for the fabulous buffet breakfast. Delicious, and thanks for treating me, you two!

We gathered up all the items for the Lundi Gras party (LGP) at Ralph & Kacoo's and piled into the cab. We unloaded there, and I had the cab carry me to another shipping place, where I posted another large box of swag, plus my costume from the night before. Box #2 comes! I will ship another large box on Wednesday on my way to the airport, as well.

Then back to Ralph & Kacoo's for the LGP. There were probably 150 KOE members there - it was overwhelming but so fun. I still have many throws, but I'll throw those tomorrow with the KOE beads. Or, I'll ship them home, cut off the labels, and recycle them when I ride in the Krewe of Boo parade in October.

After that, we second-lined back to the Tropical Isle again. We got quite a lot of applause as we paraded through the Quarter the three blocks to the TI. Then Tim and I walked back to the Monteleone, where I waited for Kathie & Bob & Sunnye. They came back, I checked plans for tomorrow morning's Mardi Gras, and then caught a cab back here. I got a free ride since I let the cabbie take an airport fare along with us!

I napped a bit, then went up Canal on the streetcar to dinner at Mandina's, which is a local favorite. It was good, nothing outstanding, but pleasant and a good way to pass a relaxed evening. Now I'm skipping the Orpheus parade to do laundry and catch you all up and rest tonight.

Several things I have learned this time. In no particular order:

*Stay in the Quarter. It's much, much more convenient.
*Bring truly comfortable shoes. My kicks are comfy, but not for long walks.
*Don't bring a hairdryer or product. The humidity here will do your hair.
*Ditto for makeup. Mascara only, or get your face painted here.
*No purse. My little folding Ambassador Travel wallet is doing the job SO well!
*Learned by viewing - pace yourself drinking. It's hot here. Ease up on the booze.
*Don't rent a car. I was right to skip that. Parking's a bitch in the Quarter.

More tomorrow, friends. My plan is to be up to parade, and then see it all the way through till they close Mardi Gras at midnight. I'll kiss my friends goodbe, and then go back here. I'm going to sleep in some and get a cab right to the airport. If I can fly standby and be home earlier, that's fine with me.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Saturday in the French Quarter and Endymion parade!

Saturday was a beautiful day here. It was nearly 65 degrees and so bright and sunny, absolutely gorgeous. I called Andrews from Checker Cab, and he came to get me and took me down to Bourbon and Dumaine in the Quarter. I started my day at the Clover Grill. This is a local favorite of mine, and I love sitting at the counter. I struck up conversations with the people on my left and right, and soon was engaged in lively conversation about New Orleans, parades, and Mardi Gras. I ordered a mushroom swiss cheeseburger and fries with my coffee and orange juice, and enjoyed the show that is the Clover Grill staff. The burgers there are cooked beneath a hubcap, and that is likely what makes them so tender and juicy and yummy, that and the grill is ancient and covered in "flavor". It was a sublime meal, and when I cashed out, a man at the counter noted my Street Drinking Permit that touts me as a Mardi Gras Virgin, and he bought me breakfast! I was having a chat with him and the cashier about where I was from, and as it turns out, the cashier knows a man from Kalamazoo! When I get home, I'm posting a message to Andy Swaggart on Craigslist from the cashier at the Clover Grill in New Orleans, Louisiana.

I ambled up the street a block to Lafitte's for the forum meetup. These people have been so kind and wonderful to me, it was a delight to put faces to names. Many people brought lagniappes (NOLA for a little something extra) to hand out, and now I have an assortment of creative things that I will always treasure. I had the signature drink there, a Voodoo. It's vodka, Everclear, and grape slushy. It will knock you sideways, more on that later.

We all visited amongst ourselves until the group flash. Yes, you read that right. All the willing women gathered up for a group flash. I did not partake, in case you were wondering. But, I did take photos. Then the Fabulous Sashay Brothers were doing the famous Sandwich Sashay with all willing participants. Of course, I have video to share of me Sashaying with them. Thank you, Todd and Tim!

After a bit, I left with Jen, Rachel and Julie for the French Market. We stopped at Fiorella's (at my suggestion) for lunch, and I reveled in the half and half I ordered, which is half shrimp and half oysters with fries. We also had an order of fried pickles! Jen & Julie had a table inside, and Rachel and I sat outside on the sidewalk table. It was fun to chat and watch the people go by. The tour carriages would point out Fiorella's, and we would wave an oyster at them. Pimping the eating is a full time job here.

After lunch we walked down to the French Market to get masks. After checking out all the vendors, I ended up buying a beautiful plumed mask from the first place we had visited. They were wonderful women, and the mask, at $40, was a bargain. Wait until you see it. Then the four of us went up to the levee to have our photos taken with the river behind us.

As we were crossing over to it, I saw a Caution, Slippery sign painted on the pavement. Like a smart@ss, I said hey, we should pose on that with our legs spread! So, we did. Yep, tacky, but so funny and a great photo. Be sure to see it. Once up on the levee, with the Mississippi River unfurling behind us, we had our pictures taken masked with several people, and then with just us four. It is a wonderful photo, and I'm glad I suggested it. Rachel, Jen, Julie - you girls rock!

We walked back to Rampart Street and I called Andrews to come and get me and take me back here to the Guesthouse. Around 5:00 people from the KOE and the forum showed up to watch the Endymion parade here out front of my place. It was fun to host, and since I had access to a clean bathroom, that was an extra perk. JJ Clancy came with his family, and brought his cooler boombox. It is a rolling cooler with a CD player and a speakers built in, and it's a party must-have. He was blasting line dancing music, and Mardi Gras music, and the LSU band playing, and the whole street was jumping along with the music. It was wonderful.

Canal Street was lined with people cooking out, and socializing, and waiting for the parade. It was a wonderful family event and I really enjoyed talking to people in the crowd. To me, this is Mardi Gras, not the Cops or the Girls Gone Wild episode many of you mentioned to me. That's just drunk@sses in the Quarter. One woman gave me a 2006 Zulu medallion, which is hard to come by, in honor of my first Mardi Gras. My hosts, Sam & Kathey, were having a party too, with food and good times, and Sam came out to enjoy my gathering as well. It was fun to see Sam line dancing along with us. I have photos.

The Endymion parade was amazing. Endymion is a Superkrewe, with the huge, huge double floats, lit up magnificently, and the special doubloons. I have a lot of those doubloons now. Kevin Costner was their Grand Marshall. I wasn't able to catch any of the beads he was throwing, but he is still completely hot. I was swooning, beleive that.

Between floats in all parades, are the local marching bands. They all seem to have dance teams, flag girls, baton twirlers, and majors in addition to the actual band. And of course, they all have intricate marching steps, and when you consider how far they're marching, it's amazing nobody passes out. We all yell tuba, tuba, tuba when the tubas pass, and they surely love that.

Maureen brought me a Mardi Gras Virgins sign, and that really helped me out. There were a couple other of us who were virgins, and we stood together with signs and got just pelted with bags of beads. Awesome. I have bags of big beads, and those are so cool. Making eye contact with a rider, and having him point to me, and then throw TO me, is such a rush. Then after I catch I point to them and blow them a kiss. It's a wonderful ritual. I'm addicted.

Rob & Frances (my hosts from Friday night) came up to my place, and they were tracking the riders on the floats that we know. Rob would grab me and run me up to the floats, and we got pounded with beads. Fabulous. One crazy thing, though, now I'm bead picky. I don't want the short beads. I only want the long beads that are a certain size around. I will let some beads fall to the kids, and only clamor for the krewe-specific beads, and the doubloons. See how quickly that happened?

The parade concluded around 10 p.m. or so, and I just went upstairs. I spent some time decompressing on the balcony, then I went in to sort out beads and hit the sack. I took video of the street after, you'll be amazed at how much trash was out there. However, the city of NOLA come along with street sweepers, and you'd be surprised how quickly the mess goes away, like it never happened. The Quarter is spotlessly clean this way as well. It's great.

Today is the penispolice and beadwhore party, then the Bacchus parade. That would be the first costume, the one many of you have already seen with the bustier and the sequin pants. Prepare to be amazed, New Orleans - the Amy Experience is in the house!!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Here I am in NOLA!

After three gate changes at O'Hare, I finally got in the air at 11:40!!
I really enjoyed my time at O'Hare today. I met some nice folks, and passed out some KOE beads. Good times. I saw a little bird at Gate B1! I fed it a cracker. Got to wonder how a bird lives in an airport.

I'm sitting in the kitchen at the Canal Street Guesthouse after catching up with Sam & Kathey Kranzthor, my hosts here. So, I'm here. I'm taking a little nap, and then I'm going downtown for some yummy food.

I spoke to Kathie Jacobs and we're all meeting up at 6:00 on Tchopitoulas for the parades! Turns out parades were cancelled last night for a tornado watch, so they will be rolling tonight, in addition to the three that were planned to roll. It's going to be a big night of parades!!!

And tomorrow, tomorrow is ENDYMION! Turns out that the people who are usually sharing my balcony won't be here this year. So, all of us from the KOE and the forum will be hanging out on my balcony, and using my clean bathroom. I'm very excited to be the hostess!

More tomorrow. Laissez bon temp rouler!!