I Like Chick Flicks

OK – I know, this entry doesn’t have the most macho of titles. Unfortunately, it’s true. I like chick flicks.

Today, the three of us (Helaine, Stef and me) sat and watched Music and Lyrics. This was a Netflix ‘sneak in’. We had “Walk the Line” for over a month without watching it and finally gave up, sending it back

Music and Lyrics is the story of has been pop star Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant). When Cora (Haley Bennett), a scantily clad Britney – Christina – Shakira wannabe wants a new song from Alex, Alex needs a lyricist. That’s where substitute plant wrangler, Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), comes in.

Here’s my sad admission. The story is contrived. It didn’t make any difference.

Johnny Carson used to say, “You buy the premise, you buy the bit.” I did. I did.

Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. No surprise there. It was a sweet, unencumbered love story… though Hugh (sadly) seems a lot too old for Drew.

It was tough to watch, especially the performance sequences, and not think of Rick Springfield, Helaine and Stef’s favorite 80s pop star. No hits in decades and he consistently packs ’em in.

As has been the case in a lot of the movies I’ve seen recently, the supporting cast made a huge difference. Brad Garrett was very good, but it was Kristen Johnson (remember Third Rock From the Sun) who dominated every scene she was in.

I was surprised to see Aasif Mandvi of the Daily Show in a tiny role with one short sentence of dialog. So that’s how you get to the Daily Show. Who knew?

Forty years ago, James Garner or Rock Hudson was doing this movie with Doris Day. Today, it’s Hugh Grant comfortably playing the clever guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously and Drew Barrymore as the somewhat less chaste Doris.

It still works.

She’s A Jolly Good Fellow

Helaine just called from Atlantic City. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. For the first time in over a week she was calm, collected, smiling.

Here’s the back story. Helaine and Steffie are big fans of Rick Springfield. You remember Rick Springfield: Jessie’s Girl, Don’t Talk To Strangers, Dr. Noah Drake from General Hospital.

With a huge dollop of help from the Internet, Springfield is able to tour the country, mostly on weekends, filling nice sized venues. A significant percentage of each show is filled with his most rabid fans. These are people who can sing the songs and have probably memorized the set list.

Stef and Helaine try and catch his shows whenever they can, usually a half dozen or more times a year.

Though Helaine is active in his ‘fan world&#185’, she isn’t an officer or board member of anything official. She’s just a fan… an active fan.

As a fan, Helaine knows about Sahara, who with her mother are also fans from Cape Girardeau, MO. Sahara has cancer of the brain stem.

No explanation is necessary. It’s as horrible as it sounds… and Sahara has not quite entered her teens.

Helaine thought it might be a nice idea to help the family by throwing a fundraiser… and that’s what she did, just a few hours ago at Harrah’s in Atlantic City.

It’s not easy organizing a luncheon for 125 woman when you’re three or four hours from the luncheon site. Helaine rounded up items to be auctioned (you have no idea how much Rick Springfield stuff is available on EBay)&#178, arranged for the room and its fixings, dispensed the luncheon tickets and got a commitment from Rick Springfield to show as a special, unannounced but hinted at, guest.

One afternoon, she sat me down with Photoshop to design a “Love for Sahara” logo, which was then printed on buttons. Gotta love the Internet!

As the luncheon got closer, Helaine got a little more antsy. Had she remembered everything? Would Harrah’s provide what she’d requested? What would go wrong?

Let me answer that last part first: Nothing! It all worked perfectly.

Helaine and Steffie, along with Stef’s sorority “Big Sister” and a few other friends, executed Helaine’s wonderful plan. The food was great. The venue perfectly set. The auction a total success.

The numbers aren’t finalized, but when all is said and done, somewhere around $11,000 will find its way to Sahara’s family. I’m sure, with everything that’s going on, the money will help.

I never had any doubt Helaine could pull this off. She very organized and very smart. More importantly, I’m proud of her big heart and compassion.

A room service sandwich is on its way to her hotel room. She threw a luncheon and never had time to eat.

Right now she’s feeling relief… and pride.

&#185- I refer to Rick Springfield’s fan base as the “Rickdom,” which upsets Helaine to no end.

&#187 – My personal thanks to Regis & Kelli and Rachael Ray. Working for an affiliate, I asked for and received tickets to both shows, which were then auctioned off.

Blogger’s note: The original entry has been edited to correct Sahara’s age, which is 12.

Always Being On Camera – More

I recently wrote about Steffie, taking pictures outside a Broadway theater. Lots of cameras – everywhere. Some were ‘conventional’ cameras, but many more were cellphone cameras.

Here’s another example. Steffie and Helaine went to see Rick Springfield at Mohegan Sun on Sunday evening. As he usually does, Rick went into the crowd. Take a look at how many people are photographing him! And that’s just those you can see in this tightly cropped shot.

Things are definitely changing.


Weekends And Engines

I am just getting up from a nap… though it’s sort of my ‘real’ sleep today.

Helaine and Stef went to Mohegan Sun for this evening’s Rick Springfield concert. There were a few things for me to do for them before they left, so I was up early (well, for me early).

My thought was to go directly to bed as the garage door closed, do not pass go. Someone would be coming around 12:30, but there was plenty of time to catch up on sleep before then.

Ha!

Maybe it’s the bad weather we’ve had which pushed everything back? Maybe it’s just the weekend and people are home? Whatever the reason, as I attempted to sleep there were internal combustion engines of every type all across the neighborhood. Each seemed to have enough noise to power a DC-3.

These people have chores to do. Far be it from me to ask them to change and accommodate my wacky sleep schedule. Even I’m not that selfish. That won’t stop me from grousing about the noise.

Most of what I heard came from riding mowers… but not all. The loudest noises, difficult to ignore, came from engines that idle most of the time, ramping up to a shrill cacophony when it’s time for the real work. There’s just no disregarding those.

The windows were closed (though they started open) and these babies were still loud!

When I finally did get back to sleep, it was downstairs in the family room, with intervening walls between me and the outside world… and Wolf Blitzer lightly droning on in the background.

You would think weekdays would be the most difficult to maintain my ‘Hawaiian time in Connecticut,’ lifestyle. Nope. Weekend noise is the most consistent. Only the rain that’s now falling (again), stops it.

Farther From Shore

Aboard the Norwegian Star

We have cleared Cabo San Lucas, the southern tip of Baja California. With the main coastline farther east, we are a lot farther out to sea, now heading south southeast toward Manzanillo.

As anticipated, dinner last night was at Versailles. We approached, at 7:20 PM only to find a long line leading up the stairs. At the restaurant’s entrance was a crowd of people clustered around a host with clipboard.

Helaine went down the stairs, figuring we’d have to get our names on the list and wait. As she approached, the host asked for any threes or fours… and the rest, as they say, is history.

Did we cut in line? I’m not really sure. If it’s just serendipity, does it count as a bad deed? Hopefully not.

We walked in, and this dining room is magnificent… but in a different way from Aqua. This is very old style elegance. The fixtures and wall coverings all spoke to a distant point in time. Everywhere you looked were waiters, waitresses, busboys, assistants and captains. This is a ‘full’ service restaurant.

Looking around, my first thought was, this reminds me of the Titanic or Poseidon. It had that kind of stately, first class, old school cruising, feel. OK – probably not the analogy you want when you’re already on a ship.

There were four or five choices for entree, but we all had lobster tail. I started with the “light cooking” New England Clam Chowder as my appetizer.

Maybe it is light cooking, but it sure tasted rich. It was smooth enough to use as a lubricant! Something was making it creamy. My guess is… cream. Still they’re saying light cooking, so I’ll just live the fantasy and discard any fears.

On CruiseCritic, Helaine had read comments saying the lobster tail was dry. I have had more succulent, but it was still very good. One of the waitresses bathed it in drawn butter from a gravy boat.

Before I go on, I should mention how grateful we are to CruiseCritic. This is a really valuable resource. We learned a lot before we left home and came prepared. If you’re taking a cruise, this is a must bookmark site.

After dinner there was coffee and dessert. There is one thing I’ve noticed about the coffee onboard, it is strong enough to use as industrial solvent! I’ve seen them make it and they’re using Folgers. This doesn’t taste like the Folgers I’ve made.

After dinner, we headed to the casino. There was a structured hold’em game starting, $3/$6, and I sat down.

Hold’em is in a separate room, away from the main casino. The dealers aren’t poker proficient and neither are the players. I won a few bucks, but it wasn’t the kind of poker action I enjoy. I really wish it was in the main casino.

I will try again. I do enjoy playing poker and feel as a reasonably good player I should do well. There are many fish at sea.

The girls had walked through the karaoke bar earlier. Helaine wanted to burrow her head when she heard some of the off key singing. Now I wanted to try!

Helaine wouldn’t go, but Steffie would. We headed to the Carousel Bar and got the master list of songs. It didn’t take long to find “Jessie’s Girl” and put my name on the list.

I figured “Jessie’s Girl” would be an easy song to sing. I’ve heard it a million times. What I didn’t know was, Rick Springfield doesn’t sing it exactly as he wrote it! Of course that only became obvious while I was singing and looked at he words on he screen.

Two questions: Where did those extra lyrics come from? Where did they go?

As I finished, in walked Helaine. She heard the end of the song as she approached.

Helaine and Steffie were kind as I asked, and asked, and asked again, how I’d done. Of course I’m insecure. How could they not know that?

Rick Springfield does not have to worry for his job… and I won’t be filling in on summer vacations.

That was enough. We were off to bed – another restful night, gently rocked to sleep.

Breakfast this morning was in a buffet type cafe. I actually would have preferred a full service breakfast, but by the time we were up and dressed, breakfast wasn’t served.

It is cloudy today. There have been patches of sun, but mostly it’s gray. The seas are lightly undulating. We are heading into the wind, meaning it’s very breezy on deck (though interestingly, not on our balcony, where I’m typing this).

There are dozens of little activities scheduled every day. Some are of interest, most are not. There was a cooking demonstration scheduled, so we headed down to its location and began to watch. The chef, from Austria, was difficult to understand – but we were trying… and then… the announcement.

Over the PA came the voice of Tommy, the assistant cruise director. A school of dolphins had been spotted on the port side. Bye bye demonstration.

We got to the rail on deck 7 and saw a cluster of people, all trying to see the dolphins. Nothing.

Then, from out of the sea, a cluster of dolphins arched their backs above the water. I tried – and missed catching it on the camera.

Helaine said, this alone was worth the price of the trip! She was right, and with a little luck, we’ll see more.

We decided to head up to the pool to sit and sun ourselves. There were deck chairs on the starboard side, blocked from most of the breeze… and blocked from any sun by the clouds.

It didn’t take long for another voice to ring out over the PA. This time it was an officer, from the bridge. A large whale had been sighted over the port side.

We ran over. Nothing.

We kept watching, along with dozens of others. Still nothing.

Finally, in the distance astern of the ship, I saw a column of spray rising high into the air. Thar she blows!

Wow!

As with the dolphins, I tried but couldn’t catch a good shot. And, as with the dolphins, hopefully this won’t be our last opportunity.

I’m picking this up after a nap. Helaine and Stef are getting their nails done.

A quick step onto the balcony reveals a change in the environment. I’m starting to feel a little tropical humidity. Not much – just enough to notice.

In just a while we’ll be having dinner, then seeing a comedian. Tomorrow I’m going to the Colima volcano.

My plan was to try and find someone to go with me, as there’s a minimum charge. I don’t think I’ve had more than a few words with anyone other than Helaine and Stef. Even if I go myself, I think it will be worth it. How often do you have a chance to see a real volcano up close?

Southwest Airlines – May I Kiss You On The Lips?

I am writing this, sitting on a cold faux marble floor in our bathroom at the Holiday Inn, just outside of Baltimore-Washington Airport. It is 5:00 AM and I can’t sleep. In order not to disturb Helaine and Stef, I have adopted this as my temporary office.

The free wireless access works much better here than in the actual room!

That we are here is some sort of minor miracle. If you fly on airplanes and are used to being treated like fecal material, please read this story, made even better by this email from meteorologist Bob, in Florida.

gon, wst (westerly ri) both went to snow last hour

dad went to snow 5 mins ago.

good thing you left when you did.

The GON he mentions is Groton/New London Airport, arguably Connecticut’s airport most likely to report rain when others are seeing snow! His dad is in North Branford, also less likely to see a quick change to snow.

Yesterday morning, when it looked like we’d be seeing significant snow, sleet and freezing rain, and knowing we had to get to California now or miss our cruise ship, I called Southwest Airlines. The best way to summarize the opening of the conversation is to quote Rick Springfield’s, “Don’t Talk To Strangers.”

“I’m begging you, please”

Though I explained my situation, the agent couldn’t help. Southwest Airlines had policies in place.

I pleaded my case for a few minutes before asking, nicely, if I could speak to a supervisor. I tried everything, including the option of moving us to Islip, a 2:30 hour drive. The supervisor listened to our plight (Linda from Albuquerque. “I’m not the bilingual Linda in Albuquerque.”) but wouldn’t budge.

Finally, she broke down. She understood the fragility of our cruise plans and that Southwest was booked solid, should our flight be canceled. They would move us out of Connecticut Monday night and we could pick up the rest of our itinerary on Tuesday.

Quickly, Helaine went to hotwire.com and found a hotel at Baltimore-Washington Airport. Last minute, Holiday Inn – under $70.

When I told my friend Peter, someone who had racked hundreds of thousands of miles over the years, mostly on United, he said he was amazed. Southwest had done the right thing for me and for Southwest, but he had never heard of it happening before.

Let me add, this is not because I’m “TV-boy” in Connecticut. These operators were in Albuquerque.

Now the real test began – we weren’t packed. Helaine, our ‘packing supervisor’ and all around ‘logistics specialist,’ would have to compress 24 hours of planning into six! And she did.

This was one of those times when Helaine’s incredible organizational acumen took over. She was worried we wouldn’t make it, but she faced the task and moved forward.

There were chores out of the house she needed to do, and things for me to do while she was gone. I made a list. I am not a list maker. I understood today had to be different.

I’m not going to take my usual cheap shot about how much baggage we finally brought. It’s a lot. At this point how could I mind?

We got to Bradley Airport in Hartford to check in. The change of plans left me with a legit ticket, but Helaine and Steffie (both flying non-revenue) with nothing on paper and some cobbled together exceptions that the computer couldn’t handle on its own.

Donna from Torrington was our customer service agent at the ticket counter at Bradley. When she read the notes on her computer she stopped. She said she hadn’t seen anything like this before… and neither had the computer. It refused to issue Helaine a boarding pass (though it had for Steffie, and had hours ago for me).

She called the help desk to get some assistance. The person on the other end also commented on how unusual the remarks with our reservation were.

Because of Helaine and Steffie’s late re-booking, their tickets were marked for extra screening by the TSA. No problem. At this point we were way ahead of the game. Screen on.

So, here we are at the Holiday Inn at BWI. We had a lovely ride on the courtesy van with a bunch of airline employees and four drunk folks from Cleveland, kicked off their flight to sober up!

Our flight from BWI to LAX doesn’t leave until this evening. Based on what I’ve seen of the Northeast’s weather, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were open seats and we made it out of Baltimore a whole lot earlier.

We are not in Los Angeles yet, but we are much closer than mileage alone would imply. And, a huge burden has been lifted from our shoulders.

If we were home right now, hoping to make our scheduled flight, we’d be out-of-luck. No one in bed in Connecticut now will make that Wednesday cruise.

I think I’m going to try to go back to sleep.