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Wild Card

January 6, 2007

It's Wild Card Weekend in the NFL, which means I'm a happy guy. No plans or responsibilities or trips planned... just four playoff games. No complaints here.

Since I took a little holiday break from here, now would be a good time to update on major things that I've had going on recently.

The night before I was going to leave for two weeks, I became violently sick with a 24 hour bug that left me with zero energy. It was amazing; I tried to will myself to get off the couch, but I couldn't. Maybe it was more worrisome than amazing, but any way you slice it, I was incapacitated. Luckily the ailment passed, and I was only delayed in departing by one day.

Christmas in Nashville was great. I had a much needed break from work, and I was able to spend some time with my family up there. That was fun. My parents have a new HDTV (one that my brother Matt helped them pick out) and I watched a bunch of TV and great movies. The Comcast On Demand free movie section was great. From RoboCop to the original The Manchurian Candidate, there were some nice options there. I'll never think of the Queen of Diamonds the same again after watching The Manchurian Candidate.

Queen of Diamonds
Angela Lansbury was chillingly effective in her evil mother role in The Manchurian Candidate.
Keeping in the Christmas night tradition, Matt, Dustin, Rich Karg and I did the "Christmas night marathon." It starts with Marathon's, a bar at Nipper's Corner that is one of only a few in town that is always open on Christmas night. From there it's onto a gas station to pick up some beer... and then a visit to a gentleman's club. And, wow, are the pickings slim on Christmas night, but not surprisingly so. I intentionally didn't mention the name of the club we went to because of seeing easily the most obviously coked-up stripper I've ever encountered. She kept rubbing her nose (not as in "I have a cold" either), and she then went on a crazy diatribe about how she was going to "break" Dustin, who she saw as a challenge to take back to the VIP room. Dustin wanted no part of it, and the stripper lost her battle.

One pathetic thing about Nashville strip clubs is that, due to pressures by people obsessed with telling other people how to live, there are all kinds of ridiculous rules and regulations that strip clubs face. There's a three-foot distance between the stage and the crowd enforced by a oddly placed barrier. I have long arms, and I could barely reach the stage to toss up a dollar for the girl dancing. And as for the VIP rooms, I wasn't suckered, but I'm told that you get even less back there than you do in the main area, also part of the city's rules.

As for Christmas morning, the diamond earrings I got my Mom for Christmas were a hit. They made it here with plenty of time to spare, which is better than the pathetic situation I faced with the pendant that I bought for my Grandmama Blaylock. Despite ordering it on December 1, it didn't make it here until after I left town. While crowds and long lines are a pain, at least when you buy something in person, you have it right there immediately.

I worked for a day and a half on Christmas week (taking Tuesday and Wednesday off as vacation days), but following a half-day on Friday, it was out to the highway and up to Huntington, WV. It takes about 5 hours to drive from Nashville to Huntington, a trip that didn't feel too terribly long (in no small part because of my Sirius Satellite Radio -- seriously, any drive seems to go twice as fast with Sirius playing.) It was my first visit back there since April 2002, and I had a blast.

I spent the weekend at my friend Velvet's house, which is actually just up the road in Barboursville. I've known Velvet for more than six years, and we've always gotten along great. The weekend up there was no exception. One interesting twist is that she has five (!) dogs, four of them big (and the fifth, a puppy named Anna, is going to end up the largest of the bunch.) Her dog Remy, the only male, has the life as the only man of the house. Not surprisingly, he laid back most of the time and chilled out. I'd be chilled too in that situation. Her large dog Ernestine had a move where she'd jump on me in bed and start licking my face, which tickled and made me laugh and end up unable to push her off. The only thing funnier was when I walked into Velvet's bedroom when she was trying to wake up, only to find her red-faced trying to get Anna off of her head.

It took a little bit of adjusting to get used to the constant action going on with the dogs, but they were very entertaining. They like to chew on bones, and there was one point where Kylee (the biggest dog) was chewing on a bone and Anna was nibbling on the end of it. Then again, Kylee would get on top of me in bed and pin me with one leg. I told her that she pinned me and that the match was over, but she kept playing. "Two out of three falls?" I asked, squirming around, trying to not have the breath pressed out of me.

But as Velvet told me, I handled the dogs as well as any non "dog person" (which she defines as someone with two or more dogs of their own.) I love animals, but with my hectic, frenetic schedule, and the fact that I don't have anyone else here to help out, it wouldn't be fair to the animal(s) for me to get a pet at this point.

Velvet had some fun movies on DVD that we watched. 28 Days Later was a film that had somehow slipped past my radar but which I really liked. I think it will join my DVD collection this year. We also watched Blade and Blade 2, which were both cool films. However, it took me three tries to finally watch Blade from start to finish, for reasons that I won't elaborate about on here.

Huntington itself was interesting to see. In some ways it has improved; renovations made for the filming of We Are Marshall are still in place in many places, including the painting of some parking meters in Marshall's colors. The area for the long-planned, but never built, Superblock in downtown Huntington has finally been filled with Pullman Square, a shopping area that reminded me a great deal of the layout of Centro Ybor in Ybor City, FL, and to a degree also Baywalk in St. Petersburg, FL. It looked very nice, a modern structure designed with a classic feel (lots of brickwork) that fits in quite well with the area.

In other ways, things have deteriorated, particularly in the area near my old apartment. The Big Bear grocery store chain went bankrupt in 2004, and the store near where I lived is now (reportedly) a run-down Food Fair store. Dwight's, which I always referred to affectionately as Waffle House on acid, closed down, with nothing taking its place. Even some of the bars I frequented in my time there (Yesterday's, Kaz's Sports Bar, The Union) have either shut down or been reborn with a totally different look. But that happens in life; times change, people move on, and things that were familiar cease to be so.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some NFL playoff football to watch.

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