A Hard 24 Hours

It has been awhile since I have posted on WordPress. But I feel compelled to do this. Yesterday at around 3am, my Grandmother on my Mom’s side, who we called Grandmom, passed away at the age of 82.

I wanna preface by saying, what I am going to say is in NO WAY a jab at my late Grandmom. Not at all. But honestly I cannot say I was surprised. She was in Hospice bedridden for the last two months. She could barely talk or move during that time. Her voice was pretty much less than a whisper last time I spoke to her about a week and a half ago. It is weird. Her voice would come and go. Some days she seemed perfectly audible. Other times I could not understand what she was saying.

The last time I saw her, a month ago, it was hard. Every time I would visit her and my Grandfather, Larry, I would think “This is probably going to be the last time.” Well…sure enough, yesterday I woke up not feeling great so I called my Mom around 7am to tell her I was taking a day off work to recover. I knew something was wrong. First off, my Mom sounded wide awake. That never happens with my Mom that early! Secondly, she said “I’ll call you right back…” and hung up on me. I called her back a few minutes later and she said Grandmom passed away.

It hurt to see my Grandmother in that condition. But I had sort of gotten used to it. For years she had been steadily declining. You could just tell, especially in the last few months, her body had basically just given up. It’s weird though because mentally she was still with it and sharp as a tack.

Growing up, Grandmom loved us kids. I remember vividly as a kid, she would pick me up in her car and we would drive to local yard sales. It could be a yard sale literally next door and we would drive to it. She adored us kids. Me, my sisters, cousins…everyone.

I want to keep this as brief as possible. But before I wrap up, I do want to give credit where it is due. My Grandfather, Larry, hardly ever left Grandmom’s side during these last few months. He was a devoted husband and well worthy of Grandmom. So Larry, mad respect to you.

It is especially hard knowing I will never see her again because of one thing Grandmom had always said to and about me. “You’re my favorite.” I do not take that lightly. In closing, Grandmom, I love you. I will never stop loving you or Larry and I will always cherish our time together. And I know you will always be looking down on us.

Not to sound self-centered or anything, but one more little thing that just popped into my head. I said the same thing when my Grandfather on my Dad’s side passed away so it only seems fitting I say the same thing here. I am glad Grandmom held on this long and got to see me (and all her other Grandkids) succeed. She got to live long enough to see me get a great job, become a well-respected Autism self-advocate in Maryland, and move into my own place. I feel better knowing she had that “comfort” that we are going to be ok.

Thanks for reading! Rest in Peace, Grandmom.

-Tom

Sadly Funny

Last night, June 26, 2022, I was bored and was looking for something to watch on Netflix. I saw something pop up called DIRTY DADDY. That title piqued my interest. So I clicked on it, thinking it might be Bob Saget’s last comedy special. I was kinda right…

Dirty Daddy is a tribute to the late, great original dirty family dad that was Bob Saget. All of Saget’s closest friends and colleagues were on the show, including Jeff Ross, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jim Carrey, Jackson Browne, Seth Green, Candice Cameron Bure, Dave Coulier, John Mayer, and of course, John Stamos. But most touching was all of the above mentioned made the tribute funny as Hell! They were there to not eulogize Bob, but to honor a great man and a great friend. The only person who wasn’t funny or crack jokes was Dave Coulier, aka Joey on Full House. Every single one of the people mentioned above were cracking jokes and telling anecdotal stories about their late friend. They made a point of saying they are not doing this (making jokes about Bob) to be malicious. They were doing it out of love and respect, and every single Goddamn one of them knew that was what Bob would have wanted.

Probably the two names on the roster you didn’t expect (I sure didn’t!) were John Mayer and Jackson Browne. They are musicians, not comedians. But Bob was (somehow) good friends with both of them. They both played songs in honor of their late friend. Jackson Browne said something I can relate to having to do with comedy and music. He said something along the lines of, “Comedy and the blues have a lot in common. In both, you take all the pain you feel and you can tell people what is going on.” Mr. Browne then went on to sing These Days. The cameras showed John Stamos tearing up. Powerful stuff…

The end was what really got to me. They had Kelly Rizzo and Bob Saget’s daughters come up onstage. The tribute culminated in a sing-along to Bob Saget’s song My Dog Licked My Balls. It was kind of weird seeing Bob Saget’s daughters sing that but there it is. The song is one of my favorites ny Bob and clearly of everyone on stage as well. Personally I was a little surprised they didn’t play Danny Tanner Was Not Gay, or even mention it.

But funny as the My Dog song is, it was also a little somber seeing Bob’s friends, family, and fans alike singing it in honor of him. It was a great sendoff to a comedian with the mouth of a dozen sailors in one and a big heart of gold. So should you watch this? ABSOLUTELY! If you liked Bob Saget in any capacity whatsoever, do him and yourselves a favor and a service and watch Dirty Daddy.

-Tom

Paul McCartney Show

Last Sunday, June 12, 2022, I got lucky. I was supposed to see one of my favorite bands in They Might Be Giants at Rams Head Live in Baltimore for their FLOOD album’s anniversary show. Unfortunately, John Flansburgh (the guitar player and singer of half the songs) was in a bad car accident the opening night of the tour. So I was bummed at first, seeing as the show had been delayed 3 times due to Covid, but this was understandable. On the other side of the coin, June 12 turned out to be one of the best nights of my life!

As it turns out, Paul McCartney was playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards that same night. So I decided to check to see if any decently priced tickets were still available. And man did I hit a Home Run (pun intended) with my ticket! I found a nosebleed seat (at the very top of the stadium) for a shockingly low price of $70! Um….HELLO?! $70? For Paul McCartney of Beatles fame? That is insanely low!

I took a shuttle bus from the Falls Road Light Rail straight to Camden Yards. It was super convenient! All I had to do was walk maybe 50 feet and I was in Camden Yards. The concert was supposed to start at 8pm. And it did…kind of. First they had a DJ do mashups of classic Beatles songs spliced with Wings songs. The DJ came on around 7pm and ended around 7:45 or so.

After he finished up, the screens turned on. What followed was a slideshow montage thing of Paul’s career paired, again, with Paul McCartney songs from his time with The Beatles and beyond. Finally, at around 8:30, Paul took the stage. Without even a “Hello”, he and his band played Can’t Buy Me Love, followed by Junior’s Farm. Following Junior’s Farm, Paul finally said hello to Charm City, followed by “Something tells me we are gonna have some fun!” And man, did we!

There were a few songs (not many) I was not familiar with. The next song, Letting Go, was one such song. It is a Wings song but I was unfamiliar with it. Paul then addressed the crowd saying “We’ve got some old songs, some new songs and some in-between songs. But this next one is definitely not new!” That next song turned out to be the Beatles song Got To Get You Into My Life. The cool thing about this tour was that Paul had an entire horn section backing him up.

Following that was Come Onto Me, another song I was not familiar with. However after that was Let Me Roll It with an outro of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady. Paul always tells a story about how he met Jimi in London in the 1960s and how Jimi opened his show with a cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2 days after the album’s release. The story is long, but it is entertaining.

After the Hendrix story, Paul played Getting Better from the Sgt. Pepper album. This has always been a favorite song of mine for whatever reason. After Getting Better came a Wings song I had never heard Paul do live…and I have seen him three times. That song was Let ’Em In. My Mom loves this song, so I filmed it for her.

Next came My Valentine, a song Paul dedicated to his wife, Nancy, who was in the audience. After that came Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five and Maybe I’m Amazed. This is when things got vintage…

I’ve Just Seen A Face was the next song. Paul then told the story of how originally The Beatles had five guys and were trying to make a demo. Paul told a funny story of how the original group made a demo. He and the band went waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to pre-Beatles times, to the first band he and John were in called In Spite of All The Danger.

Next came a story about he and The Beatles being signed to Abbey Road Studios in London. He talked about how George Martin asked him to sing Love Me Do and how nervous he was. Paul joked, “Any time I hear that song, I can hear the tremor in my voice. I was nervous…but now I’m terrified!…..But not tonight!” He and the band then played an unplugged version of Love Me Do. Next came another song I did not know in Dance Tonight.

After Dance Tonight, Paul’s band left the stage, leaving just Paul and thousands of fans. This is always one of my favorite parts of a McCartney show. Just Paul, alone with his fans and one acoustic guitar. Paul played Blackbird on a section of stage that raised up high above the audience. This is cool!

After Blackbird, Paul talked about how many people come up to him and tell him they tried to learn Blackbird on guitar… “And they all got it wrong!” Paul then talked about how he never really got to tell John how much he loved him and played Here Today as a tribute to John Lennon.

From here on out, it was all classics, minus two songs in New and Fuh You. Aside from those two, it was all fan favorites!

Lady Madonna came next. This seemed shorter than the studio version, but oh well. Following Lady Madonna came the aforementioned Fuh You. After Fuh You came Jet by Wings.

Next came Paul acknowledging all the fans with signs. He read a few and had fun with a few. He said one read, “SIGN MY BUTT!” Paul’s response? “Ok go on then. Let’s have a look at it!” He and the band then played Being For the Benefit of Mister Kite.

After Mister Kite, Paul switched over to the ukulele. I knew where this was going… Any time Paul pulls out a ukulele he does it as a tribute to George Harrison. He tells the audience about how he and George were playing one day and Paul said he learned one of George’s songs on ukulele. That song was Something. This is where I started to tear up.

After the beautiful tribute to George came Ob La Di Ob La Da from The Beatles’ White Album. Paul let the audience take over at one point. Next came a trio of songs Paul had never done live until this tour. Those songs were You Never Give Me Your Money and She Came In Through the Bathroom Window.

Get Back was next. This is another song I had never heard Paul do live. But I guess it makes sense, seeing as this was Paul’s “Paul Got Back” Tour. Up next came the Wings classic Band On the Run.

After rocking out on Band On the Run, Paul mellowed things out with The Beatles classic Let It Be. All of Camden Yards was illuminated by phone lights and lighters.

The Wings classic Live and Let Die came next. And HOLY PYRO, BATMAN! The fireworks were insane! It legit looked like Camden Yards had caught fire! After all the craziness that was Live and Let Die came the iconic Beatles song Hey Jude. Paul let the audience, per usual, take over on the “Na na na na” portion. This song lasted 8 1/2 minutes! It was amazing!

After Hey Jude, Paul and his band said good night…for 5 minutes. They came out for an encore. The first song of the encore was I’ve Got A Feeling. This was special because Paul had footage of John Lennon singing background vocals. McCartney and Lennon had reunited onstage, even if it was just a video of John for a few minutes. I started to get misty-eyed at this moment.

The next song of the encore was Birthday “For anyone celebrating a birthday today…or any day.” I wanted to call my sister Caroline during but my phone was at 2%. The reason? Caroline’s birthday is June 12, the same night as the McCartney concert.

Helter Skelter came next. I was in the bathroom for this song but it was neat to hear it! Following that came the real end to the show…Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, and, fittingly, The End from the Abbey Road album. This was a jam song between Carry That Weight and The End. Paul and his band kicked SO MUCH ASS that night! Paul is 80 years old and still puts on a show better than some artists half his age!

One thing people have been griping about with Paul lately is his voice. I was a little apprehensive going to the show, honestly. And to be real, Paul’s voice did sound rough at some points, but, again, the dude is EIGHTY F—-ING YEARS OLD! He has been around and performing for OVER 60 YEARS! I challenge anyone to sing and hold an audience for damn near three hours straight and not have their voice crack once or twice…or go entirely! Paul cannot hit the high notes as well as he used to, but oh well. Oh, and before the encore, Paul only took two drinks of water. That is nothing short of impressive!

Honestly, my main gripe with Paul is that he did not sing Yesterday. It is a shame because it is such a beautiful song and a fan favorite. One other thing that kinda rubbed me the wrong way was when I first walked in. Members of PETA were stopping people and trying to hand out leaflets. I know Paul McCartney is an avid vegetarian and animal rights activist. So in that regard, I get why they were there. But it was a little over-the-top.

After the show, I headed to the Camden Yards Light Rail to head back home to Falls Road. This was Hell! We got on the Light Rail at around 11:35pm and just sat there. And sat…and sat…and sat…and sat! Finally, around 12am, the Light Rail took off and I finally got home around 12:30am Sunday morning. And I had to work the next morning!

So all in all, it was a great last-minute show! The Beatles are tied with Pink Floyd as my all-time favorite band so it was amazing being able to see a living legend in my hometown of Baltimore! Oh, and this show was a special one. Paul had not been to Baltimore since 1964 when he was with The Beatles. To give you an idea of the last time Paul was in Baltimore, all four Beatles were still alive, young, and a lot of some classic songs like Hey Jude and Let It Be hadn’t even been thought of yet!

But all in all, Paul is always a pleasure to see! I feel bad for John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants (and the band as a whole) but it led to the best last-minute concert ever! Have you seen Paul McCartney? Are you a fan of his music? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Hershey Trip (Again)

Last Saturday, June 4, 2022, my roommate and I visited HersheyPark. Today I am going to walk you through what our day looked like. Spoiler alert: It got crowded!

So the park officially opened at 11am. But with the type of Membership we have, we got to get into the park at 10am. Now I want to specify something. This is only the FRONT end of the park. But it was well worth it because I got a front row walk-on ride on one of the most popular rides in the park, the classic 1946 wooden coaster, Comet. It has been awhile since I have ridden this, due to its proximity to the front of Hersheypark and popularity. So Comet is dwarfed by SkyRush right next to it. BUT let me tell you…this ride is AWESOME! All that is holding you in is a buzz bar that doesn’t even touch your body. (It rests probably a good 6 inches or so above your lap) and a VERY loose seatbelt. And while we are on the subject of that seatbelt: It will actually loosen during the ride. As a result, on those hills, you go FLYING! Even though there are brakes scattered throughout the layout, I got a trimless ride. Straight-up standing airtime on EVERY SINGLE HILL! And it’s smooth! Comet is easily one of the most smooth rides in the park! That is amazing considering it is 76 years old!

Next ride I hit was SkyRush. Initially, I was going to wait for the front row. However, due to how slowly the line for the front moves, (slower than a snail’s pace) I went for the back row…again, with no wait! It was 10:30 at this point. So I had time to knock out this ride twice. Two tips for SkyRush. One: Wait for the back and Two: WAIT…FOR…THE…BACK! Oh my God! Up front, the ejector airtime is crazy! In the back it is HEAVENLY! I have done this thing in the back more times than I can count as opposed to maybe 10 times in the front since SkyRush opened in 2012. Now…be warned about the restraints. They are not the most comfortable. There is a reason this ride is nicknamed ”ThighCrush”. I am willing to overlook this due to the ride’s sheer intensity.

Next came the classic Schwarzkopf coaster, SooperDooperLooper. This was the first roller coaster on the East Coast to go upside-down. It features one vertical loop at the beginning of the layout. This loop is forceful, and the only thing holding you in is a lap bar. Due to the forces on the loop, the bar is sufficient. After that, the ride is “ok”. It is fun, but nothing special. However this ride holds a special place in my heart. It is the first roller coaster I ever rode that went upside-down.

At this point, it was nearing 11am. So my roommate and I headed to check out the rest of the park. (As an FYI, I rode these rides by myself. My roommate is not a fan of big rides or roller coasters.) I scored a first ride of the day backseat ride on Great Bear, Hershey’s B&M inverted coaster. This means the cars hang below the track. This ride is actually unique as after the lift hill, it features a downward helix and segues into the main 124 foot drop. The ride itself is only 90 feet tall, but it dives into a trench. The aforementioned helix is intense in the back! My vision actually went fuzzy during the helix! Oh, and it feels like a long ride, too! I have always loved this coaster!

After Great Bear, I rode the park’s log flume, Coal Cracker. This is not the tallest, longest or fastest log ride in the world, but I enjoy it. The layout takes you right next to some of Hershey’s other rides like Great Bear and SooperDooperLooper. Plus the main drop is fun and has a little hump after which gives a quick pop of airtime. And there are no restraints. Just rails on the side of the log you hold on to. Since there was a minimal wait for Coal Cracker, I opted to ride it three times.

After getting my fill of water on Coal Cracker, I noticed the Hershey’s Triple Tower had ZERO wait. I rode the tallest one in the Hershey Tower. This is a 189 foot tower that blasts you up and then back down. Normally, I say the taller the better. But in this case, I think I actually prefer the two smaller towers. I think the second-tallest (Reese’s Tower) is my favorite. But the Hershey Tower does offer the best view of Hersheypark, so that is why I rode it.

At this point, my roommate and I decided to take a break and see a show. We saw the noon Aqua Theater Show. This is a show featuring seals and sea lions. It is a decently long show, too, clocking in at about 20 minutes. It was cool seeing the trainers interact with the animals and seeing what these animals are capable of.

From there, we headed to the newest rides in the park in Mix’d and Jolly Rancher Remix. Jolly Rancher Remix had a near hour wait, which is insane seeing as it is a cloned ride ad nauseam. It is just a repainted, rethemed Vekoma Boomerang coaster. Now don’t get me wrong. The ride looks amazing, but I’m sorry. I am NOT waiting an hour for a Boomerang!

But I did ride HersheyPark’s newest ride in Mix’d. Mix’d is mesmerizing to watch!

I’d even go as far as saying it’s borderline hypnotic to watch. So how does it ride? This is a family ride, so it’s not super tall or fast, nor does it go upside down. But that’s perfectly ok. I LOVE THIS RIDE! Seriously! This ride is SO MUCH FUN! Watch the POV I took. I was smiling ear to ear on this ride!

I would place this ride at the top of my non-coasters list at Hershey and even above some coasters. (*cough Wildcat*). Excuse me…

Next was a first for me. My roommate and I ventured into the water park. I have only been in this area during Hersheypark In the Dark around Halloween last year. And, obviously, none of the water rides were open. Neither of us had swimming suits on, but I bit the bullet and hopped in line for my first-ever water coaster. I waited in line for probably a half hour for this thing, only to find out single riders were not allowed. I was pissed. Thankfully, a family of three was in line behind me and they offered to let me ride with them. The only awkward part about this was the riding position. They load tallest to shortest so I was behind this man and had to ride with my legs literally woven between this guy’s arms. But this was a fun ride! It has multiple large drops with some airtime. My only gripe is that I did not get as wet as I had anticipated.

Following that, I snagged a front-row ride on Wildcat. Wildcat was Great Coasters International (GCI)’s first ever coaster built back in 1996. And believe me…it is REALLY showing its age! Generally the front is the smoothest spot on any roller coaster. Even up front, this ride is BRUTAL! It will shake you up and you will be asking yourself “Why the Hell did I do this?!” Honestly, Comet, a ride that is nearly three times older than Wildcat, is running smoother than this!

Next was Lightning Racer, another GCI. This one is smooth though. Actually, this is two coaster that race each other. This ride rarely has a line exceeding 15 minutes. I love this ride! It is so much fun to talk trash to other riders! AND as a bonus, my side won! (Take THAT, Lightning Train!)

Next I opted to hit a ride I have not ridden in awhile. This is Fahrenheit. This ride always has an obnoxiously long line. I waited an hour and 15 minutes to ride this. It would have been longer had the ride ops not called for a single rider in the back seat. This is my new favorite place to ride this coaster! The airtime on the 97 degree drop is INSANE! Plus you haul through the ride back there! I love this ride to pieces! It’s just a shame the line is always so long.

At this point, it was 5pm and my roommate’s parents were there to pick us up. However, I was in line for Storm Runner, Hershey’s launched coaster. This thing blasts you from a dead standstill to 72 mph in 2 seconds! From there you drop 180 feet and go upside-down three times all in 30 seconds. It’s crazy fast!

After my front row ride on Storm Runner, we met my roommate’s parents and headed out to eat at Primanti Brothers. This chain in Pennsylvania has MASSIVE sandwiches! I saved half for breakfast the next day. After dinner, my roommate and I headed back to our apartment in Baltimore. All in all, it was a fun day! I missed some coasters (like Jolly Rancher Remix, Trailblazer and Candymonium) but I will be back for those!

So that was my day at HersheyPark on June 4, 2022. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did reliving it! Thanks for reading!

-Tom

Almost Goodbye Time

As of my writing this, it is Tuesday, May 17, 2022. I am moving out of my parents’ house in Baldwin, Maryland to Baltimore. So not too far away, but still moving nonetheless. I know it seems cliche to say “I’m moving out of my parents’ house” but as a 31 year old adult who has never really lived on his own before, it’s a change. One thing I am kinda happy about, weird as it sounds, is my dog Dixie dying while I am still here. At least I was with her.

Having said that, I still have my two crazy kitties, Boh and Bella. I think they can tell something is going on. They keep cuddling me and will not leave me alone. Granted, Boh and Bella are cuddlebugs anyway but more than usual. Bella claims me as “her” human. She constantly jumps up on my shoulders and just hangs out up there. Boh has been sleeping with me and cuddling up and purring…loudly. I am going to miss my crazy cats when I move out.

As for my parents? Um…it’s complicated. Yes I will miss them, BUT we all have cell phones. I know I can call them anytime and talk to them. We also have FaceTime and have a plan to meet once a week or so for dinner. And I know it’s not like I can never come home again. I know full well I can always come home for the day or even a weekend. My sister Caroline in Philadelphia does that from time to time. As long as my Mom does not “girly” up my room and paint it pink with flower decor, it’s still my room.

Another thing I am relieved about is the rules surrounding drinking. I like to have a drink (or a few) during the weekend. But I am moving through an agency. So I was skeptical if alcohol was allowed. So I brought it up with my Housing Manager. She said I am allowed to drink. As well I should. I’m an adult. My boss at work even offered to donate her old mini fridge to me for the apartment.

While all this does sound like an amazing opportunity, I am a little nervous. Call it “pre-show jitters”. I am ready to move out of my parents’ house, sure, but at the same time, it’s a new experience.I have no idea how it will be without my parents. I am nervous about this and am getting more nervous the closer May 23 gets. But I try not to let that deter me. I try to focus on the positive. I am excited about this opportunity and am beyond relieved I am moving in with my two best friends! Thank God for that! We will have each other for support.

So what was your experience moving out on your own? Or what do you hope for when you move out on your own? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

-Tom

My Favorite Rides

I would like to talk about my favorite “upcharge” rides. These are rides that cost extra money to experience but I feel are worth it. As a disclaimer, I may cheat a *little* on this. Meaning some of these rides may be included in park admission but not always.

Starting off is a cheat. These are Screamin’ Swings by manufacturer S&S.

These rides are simple, but effective. They use compressed air to swing riders nearly 100 feet in the air, with the tallest one, SkyHawk at Cedar Point, being 103 feet tall and swinging guests 125 feet in the air. The reason I am including these is because it is a 50/50 chance you will need to pay for this. (I’m looking at you Morey’s Piers!)

Next I want to give a shout-out to SeaWorld Orlando’s Observation Tower. Yes, SeaWorld Orlando charges $3 for an Observation Tower. At least they did last time I visited. While this ride is not fast, nor thrilling whatsoever, the views from the gondola are UNREAL!

Next I want to highlight a few Observation Wheels I have been on. Firstly is the Seattle Great Wheel. Now there is a caveat to this one. I rode the Great Wheel in March 2022 multiple times. The Wheel is $16 per ride. As I said, I rode the Seattle Great Wheel in March of 2022. And if you know anything about Seattle—or the Pacific Northwest in general—you know it tends to rain A LOT! As such, I could not see Mount Rainier from the Wheel, but the view of Seattle was amazing!

Next Wheel is High Roller in Las Vegas, Nevada. This one is more expensive ranging in price from $23.50 to $35 depending on what time of day you ride. Yes, these things are tourist traps, but I think the views of the Vegas Strip and surrounding mountains and desert from 550 feet up is worth it. Plus the ride lasts about a half hour, too.

The next “real” Observation Wheel I want to mention is the Niagara SkyWheel in Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, Canada. This one is the shortest Wheel on the list, in height, at 175 feet. But I think this one gives the best views! The SkyWheel is located on a hill overlooking Niagara Falls! This will cost $14 but is well worth the money because in addition to merely rotating, each gondola stops at the top of the Wheel for 3 minutes. So you get a stunning panoramic view of Niagara Falls and the surrounding area!

The last Wheel I want to mention is probably the most famous one of all. I am talking about the one, the only, Coney Island Wonder Wheel in New York. What’s different about this one is that you can choose which experience you want. You can pick the stationary white cabins that remain still, OR…you can choose a swinging cabin! Naturally, I chose the swinging cabin. This was FREAKY! The cabins are actually on a track and slide up and down the rails. Being in a cabin with NOTHING holding you in while swinging nearly horizontal to the track is absolutely terrifying! Plus the Wonder Wheel is over 100 years old! And yes, you can hear the structure creaking.

The next ride(s) I want to talk about I have only experienced in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. These are Mountain Coasters. These things are downright WILD! You sit in essentially a stripped-down go-kart attached to a track. They have handles on either side of the cart and you push them forward to go. Here’s the thing, though…it is NOT a leisurely ride down the hill. They tell you explicitly do not stop or slow down until instructed to. As a result, when pushing those levers forward, you go FLYING down the track! They are kinda pricey, ranging from $14-$22 but they are LONG rides and totally worth it!

The second-best ride I want to talk about is the Orlando Starflyer. This is if you took an average Waveswinger (swing ride) at any regular amusement park and gave it drugs. This thing is a whopping 450 feet tall and spins at 45 mph…and yes, it feels that fast! If not even faster! You are completely exposed in just a hard plastic chair with nothing but essentially a seatbelt holding you in. AND even freakier is the fact that the only thing holding your chair and keeping in from falling are four flimsy-looking chains. There are hardly any rides that legitimately scare me, but this is one of them!

Speaking of rides that terrify…for these next three rides, we are heading back to Vegas. These rides are not particularly scary on their own. Actually, with one exception, these could almost be categorized as family rides. But no! Since this is Vegas, they have to crank this thing up to F@#&ING ELEVEN! The first of the trio is called Insanity. Believe me…this name could not be more fitting! Insanity is a swing ride that swings out over the building and tilts you at 70 degrees. Oh, and did I mention all these rides are located on top of a skyscraper over 900 feet in the air? Granted, you are strapped in tight with that lap bar, but still… The next attraction up there is called X Scream. This ride is as simple as it gets. You sit on a car and go back and forth on a track. Think a kid’s see-saw. NOW put that see-saw over the edge of the skyscraper. So you slide over the edge of the Strat Hotel and are looking straight down over 900 feet with only a bar holding you in. It’s terrifying!…even by my standards. Oh and one more thing. I rode this thing at midnight when it was pitch black out, starless, and I was the only one on the ride. This is the only ride I have ever ridden when I sincerely thought I was gonna die! And now we come to the tallest ride in Vegas…Big Shot. Big Shot is a 160 foot tall Space Shot tower ride. Meaning instead of being slowly lifted up the tower, you are blasted up at 45 mph. And the amount of airtime you get at a whopping 1,060 feet in the air is insane! Again I rode this at night and the views of Downtown Vegas from that high up were amazing!

And now we come to my favorite (but most expensive) upcharge attraction of all time: the Kissimmee SkyCoaster in Kissimmee, Florida. Located outside of Orlando, (about 10 minutes away from Disney’s Animal Kingdom), this is not located in a “real” park. What I mean by that is, the park, FunSpot, is not a corporate park like, say a Six Flags Park. It is family-owned. There are two rides I did here. One was called Mine Blower. This is the only wooden roller coaster in Florida that goes upside-down. It is a little bumpy, but I loved the rush it gave! I think it was around $10 per ride for that. You could buy a wristband for $40 if I remember correctly. But I was only there for Mine Blower and the SkyCoaster. Plus the park felt a little sketchy. But anyway…onto the SkyCoaster. This thing is legit the best ride I have ever done! (At least that I paid extra for!) It is expensive to do (about $40) but this is WELL worth the money! First off, this this is 300 feet tall. So it is the tallest ride within a decent radius. You can see this ride from miles away! Next you are dangling from a cable 300 feet in the air. Lastly, you decide when you drop. You pull a cord and you fall like a rock over water before the cable catches you and you swing back up. There is ZERO control on the descent. It is a true free fall. I’ve heard stories of people going upwards of 80 mph on this thing. That is SUPER fast for any ride, let alone something like this! I would easily do this thing again! To prove I did it, I have attached the official park video (you can purchase a video for $5).

So those are my favorite upcharge rides. Have you done any? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Offspring Concert Review

Last night, I had the chance to see The Offspring at Pier Six Pavilion in Downtown Baltimore. The Offspring are known for songs like Pretty Fly (For A White Guy), Self Esteem, You’re Gonna Go Far Kid, and Get A Job. All of these songs (minus You’re Gonna Go Far Kid) were popular in the 1990s when I was growing up.

I got my ticket through a Concert Week promotion on LiveNation. Nothing special…it was a lawn ticket. But it was $25 with no taxes or fees so that was nice. But the REALLY nice part was yet to come. Once I entered the Pavilion, I visited the 98Rock tent and, to my surprise, they had FREE upgrades for people with lawn tickets. Not much, just one section in, but in the Pavilion itself. But there were quite a few empty seats so I kinda bounced around. I eventually settled on a seat in the second row of seats from the Pit area.

I have to give credit where credit is due. The opening band, Radkey, were supposed to start at 8pm. I figured they would start late. Much to my amazement, they started right at 8:00. Radkey was…ok….as an opening band. They are probably most well-known for some songs on the TV show Lucifer soundtrack.

After Radkey finished their set, Kirk McEwen from 98Rock came out to get the crowd amped up for The Offspring. At 9:00 The Offspring took the stage. Without saying a word, they played Staring At the Sun immediately followed up by Come Out and Play. After that is when the band started interacting with the crowd. After a banter about Baltimore, The Offspring played two new songs in Let The Bad Times Roll and Behind Your Walls.

After that came Hit That from the album Splinter. Unfortunately for me, this is the only song from that album that they played. I like that album… Next was a song I did not know called Hammerhead.

Bad Habit and Gotta Get Away came next. But before those came a banter from Dexter Holland (the singer/guitar player) and Noodles (vocals/guitar) about how Baltimore Offspring fans like weed and how every person in the audience has “The voice of an angel and the vocabulary of a sailor”. Well, they’re not wrong… Someone actually threw a joint onstage at one point during the back-and-forth between Dexter and Noodles.

After Bad Habit and Gotta Get Away, stagehands rolled a piano onstage. Dexter took the stage solo to play a stripped-down piano version of Gone Away. Dexter asked to see the crowd’s lights and they did not disappoint! Some held up their cell phones, some held up lighters, some even held up lit cigarettes. I actually think I prefer this version to the album version. It just has more power than if it was played as it appears on the album.

After Gone Away the whole band came back out to play Why Don’t You Get A Job. This is always a fan favorite, it seems. The crowd really gets into this song. Original Prankster and Can’t Get My Head Around You came next.

Next came the band intros from Noodles. Noodles made the comment that “Baltimore is fucking sexy!” Dexter replied, “Oh fuck yeah!” After that, Noodles led the audience in a call-and-response Freddie Mercury-esque “Fuck yeah!”. After that impromptu bit, Noodles introduced the band. Dexter Holland actually went back to school and got his PhD in Molecular Biology. Dexter is a legit doctor AND badass rocker! That’s not something you see every day… Todd Morse on bass. Josh Freese on drums. Jonah Nimoy on percussion, guitar and keyboards. Noodles introduced them all as “Doctor”. He then introduced himself as our “Nurse Practitioner for the evening”. Weird intros but…ok. You could tell Noodles was very proud of Dexter for his accomplishment.

After the band intros came Pretty Fly (For A White Guy). This brought the house down! And they weren’t done! Immediately following that The Offspring tore into The Kids Aren’t Alright. This song live…let me tell you! The Offspring got the entire venue going! I could feel the ground shaking, it was THAT crazy!

Following The Kids Aren’t Alright, the band said goodnight. Kind of… They came out for an encore comprising of You’re Gonna Go Far Kid and Self Esteem. Oh, dude… if the ground was shaking before, these last two songs amplified the intensity! The only comparable thing I can think of was when I saw Foo Fighters at Merriweather a few years ago. That is the only time I felt, “Oh my God! The venue is gonna collapse!” Offspring was a little less than that. Noodles called Pier Six the wrong name during the encore…twice. He called it “Six Point Pier” and not Pier Six. So that was The Offspring.

I enjoyed the show. It was a great night and since Pier Six overlooks Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, very beautiful and scenic! So what do you think? Do you like The Offspring? Or are they really not your thing? Either is fine. Feel free to comment and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Goodbye, Friend

Today is a hard day for sure. Today we had my beloved dog Dixie put to sleep. Dixie was 13 and would have been 14 years old next week. Anyone who has ever lost a pet knows this pain. Below is the last picture taken of me and my best friend of nearly 14 years.

I got Dixie from a horse riding facility from a farmhand when she was just a puppy. My Dad and I immediately fell in love with this lovable little puppy and brought her home in a box filled with straw. We had another dog at that point, Buster. Buster initially was not happy about us bringing another dog home. But after asserting dominance and seeing Dixie being submissive, he warmed up to her.

Awhile later, we had Buster put to sleep due to his age. I was not there with him. I was at my agency per my Dad’s request. So I never did get that one last, final goodbye from Buster. He was already gone and buried by the time I got home.

Dixie was the sweetest girl I could have ever asked for…and more. Buster is still buried in our old yard in Baltimore City. Dixie is in my parents’ backyard. (I am moving in one week so that is why I said my parents’). When we moved to Baldwin in Baltimore County, Dixie immediately jumped out of the car and marked her territory on a tree. “This place is mine now!” And Dixie knew she basically had control of the house, too. And she never left the perimeter of the yard. Dogs are smart.

Dixie loved water. Any time I got in the pool, she would run to the edge and snap at the water as I splashed her. I am going to miss doing that. In general she just loved being outdoors and around people. She was a very social dog.

My parents’ neighbors have a dog that comes into our yard. She is a good girl and friendly so we don’t mind. Dixie loved interacting with her! It was fun to see two dogs together interacting like that. I have no idea how the dog is going to react to Dixie not being around.

So now we come to today, Monday May 2, 2022. I had an eye appointment at 10am and the vet was supposed to be at the house between 10am and 11am. So I said one last goodbye to Dixie in case she was gone when I got back. Thankfully for me, but to my Mom’s dismay, the vet came a little later. Around 11:30.

My Mom wanted no part of wanting to see Dixie when it was going on. Me? I felt like I owed it to my friend to be there for her. The first thing we did was muzzle Dixie so she wouldn’t snap. She had been nippy and snappy lately due to pain. Then came the sedative. Dixie is (was) a fighter. She fought the sedative to ease the pain and it took the vet 3 jabs to get it to take effect. (Good girl, Dixie!) After that we took the muzzle off and Dixie was more relaxed. She had been shaking up to that point. The vet then injected the solution that would stop Dixie’s heart and shut down her vital organs.

The vet had told me it wouldn’t take long to work. But I have to say, even with that info, I was sort of amazed at how quickly it happened. Within one minute—if that—it was over.

There is another reason I wanted to be with Dixie. Call it morbid curiosity. I had been watching YouTube videos and doing research on how they actually euthanize animals. So in a way, it was sort of “neat” for lack of a better word to see how they do it. It just sucks I had to see it on my own dog.

I had my hand on her paw in her final moments. So this post is dedicated—obviously—to the only girl I ever loved more than life itself. (Sorry hon). Dixie, thank you for an amazing 14 years! I love you and will never forget you! You are the reason I truly believe dogs are man’s best friend. Rest in Peace, Dixie.

-Tom

Eve 6 Concert

Last night, April 30, 2022, I saw a 90s band called Eve 6 at The Recher Theater in Towson. Usually I go to shows alone, or with my buddy Zack. Last night was a special show, though. I saw Eve 6 with my Dad…kind of. My Dad is an Eve 6 fan, too. But if you know anything about me, you know I like to be right up front for shows. My Dad was at the sound booth at the back. Now do not misinterpret that as my ditching my Dad. I met up with him between sets and we had a beer together. Quality Father/Son time.

So the show was supposed to start at 7pm according to The Recher’s website. There was an opening band called We Are The Union and, weirdly, a comedian named Jake Flores. Jake was…meh. He opened the show with a few jokes that didn’t really land. Then We Are The Union came on. We Are The Union are a rock/ska band. They really promote the LGBTQ+ thing. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but just something I observed.

After about an hour of We Are The Union, Jake Flores came back up to tell a few more jokes. Again, it didn’t really do anything for me. “Just get to Eve 6!” I thought. And apparently so did a few other people in the audience.

Finally, at 9:50pm, Eve 6 took the stage. Without a word, the band launched into How Much Longer, Promise, and Open Road Song. Needless to say, the crowd LOVED it! After those three songs came a newer song called I Wanna Bite Your Face. Thankfully Eve 6 did not do too many new songs. Three at most.

After I Wanna Bite Your Face came a fan favorite, Leech. Leech is a great song and the band seemed to love playing it! Anytime and Enemy came next. After them came Think Twice and On The Roof Again. Following those two, Eve 6 “brought it down a little bit” with Here’s To the Night. Here’s To the Night is actually a lot of Seniors’ graduation song. (Not mine. Mine is Good Riddance by Green Day). But back to Eve 6. Here’s To the Night is always a guaranteed sing along.

After Here’s To the Night came another new song called Black Nova. That song was ok. After Black Nova came the last new song of the evening, Amphetamines. BUT Amphetamines came with a disclaimer. Max Collins and Jon Siebels have been sober for 15 and 8 years respectively. “So now we write songs about meth”.

Curtain came next. This, Here’s To the Night, and one other song that they saved for last before the encore are my favorites. Again, Curtain is an amazing song! Oddly enough, Max had his tech play bass for this song because, in his words he “Can’t play it and sing it at the same time”.

A really old song came next in the form of Tongue Tied. Max instructed the audience to form a giant pogo on the count of four. I was a little worried about this. I usually get knocked around in situations like this. But this pogo/mosh/whatever you wanna call it felt very controlled. Thank God!

Androgyne Friend came next. Then came the song I’d been waiting for…INSIDE OUT! aka the Heart In A Blender song. This was probably Eve 6’s biggest hit. Hell, I remember when Inside Out came out in 1998, you couldn’t turn on any radio station without hearing it! So was it overplayed? Yeah, maybe. But dammit it’s a GREAT song! And it is probably my favorite Eve 6 song, so it only makes sense they’d save it for last.

After Inside Out, Eve 6 came out for one last song as an encore. They played Superhero Girl. This was a great end to a great Eve 6 show! Was the beginning (We Are The Union and Jake Flores) a little underwhelming? Yeah, but Eve 6 more than made up for it!

So that is my review of Eve 6 at The Recher last night. I had a great time! And I am happy to say my Dad did, too! Thanks for reading!

-Tom

Pros, Positivity, Negativity and Worth

We all have those days. Those “off” days, those “ugh” days, those shitty days. It happens. We’re human. I think it is SO easy to forget these important details. Like, it is so incredibly easy to wallow in self-pity or self-doubt and go “Why me?”/ “Poor me!”/ “Life sucks!”/ “I suck!”. But today I’d like to turn the tables a little. I want YOU, my readers and subscribers, to write ME something. Call it an “Online Challenge”.

What I want is for you to write down (or even record yourselves) what you think your negative traits are. Then I want you to tell me them AND what you are good at. Weigh out your own pros and cons. It will probably not be easy. But to me, writing down what I think is “wrong” with me and then juxtaposing those with what I see as my “good” traits truly does help. To me, this is free therapy. I do not know you, my readers and subscribers…at least not most of you…but if I can get just one person feeling good about themselves, Mission Accomplished!

To get you motivated, I will help you by going first:

CONS:

I am Impulsive

I can be Stubborn

I am not good with money

I do not handle stress well

I can be socially awkward

I can be annoying at times

I get irritated easily

I have Congenital Heart Defect

I have multiple scars

I have Autism

PROS

I am a hard worker

I am a good friend

I am an “Autism Symbol” in Maryland

I am a committed boyfriend

I am funny

I am smart

I am unique

I have a great family

I am generally upbeat

I am caring

I have two great jobs

I am creative

Ok. So now it is YOUR turn! I look forward to hearing your responses!

-Tom