Friday, August 17, 2018

And Then This Happened

My mother passed away early this morning in a Hospital in northern Alberta, where the rest of my immediate family has put down roots.

She had been very ill and had asked that no heroic measures be taken by the doctors attending her.

My sister sat with her through to the end.

I had hoped my mother would rally after she met with the Stevieling and the Stevielingbeau in June, and she did for about a week or so, but she was old and worn out from a life that had treated her badly at times.

And I think she missed my Dad more than she let on.


Monday, August 06, 2018

Homeward Bound

Saturday was time to go back to New York.

We packed the car and as we were doing so The Kids arrived early for once, so we had a nice breakfast, then began the trek north to NY to the sounds of Neil from The Young Ones reading Terry Pratchett's Making Money. There really isn't much to report other than a bunch of silly people speeding who then wrecked a few miles later, and the traffic on Sunday once we crossed the various bridges into New York on Sunday afternoon.

Next up: The Great Steviemobile "Engine Light" Fiasco.

Friday, August 03, 2018

A Day Off

The kids arrived at the villa early and we started our Fun Day with breakfast in a Perkins.

The Stevieling said they needed to pick up their cat in the afternoon, so we decided to hang out in their locale, about 40 minutes drive from Kissimmee.

We tooled around a couple of malls, and ended up in a different Coliseum of Comics, where we had a good look at all the different stuff and my hunt for a particular pattern of dice came up empty (discontinued line, impossible to find) and then I bought some D&D books for the kids as they have of late gotten into the RPG habit with some friends but were finding the cost of acquisition a tad high for their current resources.

We decided to have ice-cream and drove around until we found a local parlor where we enjoyed a very pleasant interlude with some rather nice home-made ice-cream. The day was progressing at a leisurely pace, and it was early afternoon now.

We nipped round the vet's place and picked up their loony cat. She is a rescue moggy and is seriously deranged. I suspect they will end up having to take her to a farm in the country when she gets older. A less pussycat-like cat I only saw once before - the one my father-in-law bought some years ago. It put my mother-in-law in hospital twice before it was sent farmwards.

Then we raced for Disney Springs, where we had an appointment to once again take part in the Star Wars VR thing they have there. Sadly, we were crowding the clock all the way, then just as we got to the turn off for the car park I somehow got confused by the roadworks and ended up going the wrong way down a bus-only road.

I turned around, but then was driving in a bus-only lane where the traffic lights are bizarre. I was familiar with the red-amber-green sort, along with such refinements as English red-and-amber cueing the clutch and arrows and flashing lights. I have a passing acquaintance with French eye-level mini-lights.

But these were special signals for busses that obviously conveyed arcane stuff like permissive red semantics (you can go if you have a clear road). They weren't even the right color for the vertical position. Sadly I had not been to Disney Bus Driver Training School and so had no idea what these lights meant. I made a best guess based on what the busses were doing and the semiotics of Traffic Lights in the Western World. No-one got crashed into or run over but it was terrifying.

Eventually I found the car park, parked the car and we ran to The Void1 and, after signing endless releases and waivers we suited up in the odd VR rig and waded into battle.

This experience is about the best fun you can have wearing several pounds of electro-mechanical clothing. When you look around, your fellow "rebels" look like stormtroopers (a cunning disguise). You have a blaster that fires the slower-than-light laser bolts at anything to dumb to get out of the way. When the bad guys shoot you, you get a small kick in the torso. You stride over unfeasible bridges and ride elevator platforms, none of which have safety rails2 while in reality walking a small pattern in a jet-black room full of other teams of people having the same experience.

We'd done it last winter, but this time we didn't rush it and shoot up the consoles. The Stevieling solved the color-based puzzle that would win us the game while the rest of us shot at stormtroopers, monsters and, in the case of Mrs Stevie, me. She would rapid fire at moving targets and walk her fire onto my back every time. I finally turned around and shot her to get the point across, before returning to my trademark Ranging Shot, Crotch shot, Head Shot response to any stormtrooper running into theater.

And I don't even like Star Wars.

Afterwards The Stevieling demanded Poutine3 which apparently one can now obtain in Disney Springs. Who Knew? But on the way we got sidetracked and ended up in The Earl of Sandwich, a sort of Quiznos on steroids. Really good ingredients and they toast the sandwiches. Delicious and not overly pricey. We never did go on and get poutine.

We then wandered into the art shop next door and I spent a good 45 minutes entranced by the work of one particular artist, who was capturing various elements of the Disney experience in watercolors and a really nifty style. I can't really explain the attraction for me but I looked at it, realized what it was after a second (the style could make deciphering the subject not straightforward in some and I started with one of the harder ones) and I was hooked. If I'd had anywhere to hang one I'd have bought a print. I did end up buying a plaque advertising a long-gone attraction, but to explain why I did I'll have to digress into the past. A long way into the past, when I was thin and Mrs Stevie had a dancer's body and legs that wouldn't quit4.

About a year after Mrs Stevie and I got married we holidayed in Florida. At that time part of what is now Disney Springs shopping and dining mall was a collection of nightclubs called Pleasure Island.

I'm not a big nightclub fan, but Mrs Stevie expressed a burning desire to spend a night clubbing in Pleasure Island so earlier in the day I took her out and we toured the boutiques in what was then Downtown Disney, where I kitted her out in a leather miniskirt c/w chain belt, low-cut frilly blouse with puffy sleeves and asymmetric shades. She looked like she had just walked off the set of a Robert Palmer video. Hot doesn't begin to come close to the effect.

We agreed there was no point tarting me up as I would never carry off 80s clubbing attire. Slacks and a nice shirt. Done.

When we arrived in theater that night Mrs Stevie, striding along in true model fashion and cooly ignoring everyone in her shades, was the center of attention wherever she went, and young men kept trying to insert themselves between us so they could impress her. We decided to try a place called The Adventurer's Club, which had half a dozen different rooms, most of them standard humorous Disney clutter and animatronic displays, but one was a small library-like room (might have been the "Mask Room" but I don't remember that detail) where people could sit while an actor dressed in Great White Hunter drag wold tell tall tales of his adventures. When we walked in he immediately insisted Mrs Stevie sit next to him, asking if she had been attacked by a lion and lost her clothes. Then he started to tell his tale, looking for a short time at each person sitting around him. Every time his gaze came anywhere near Mrs Stevie, he lost his place in the story (for real, not an act). It was hysterical.

That's the story.

So I was about to leave the art shop when I saw a replica of the plaque that hung over the door of The Adventurer's Club, and of course I had to have it. It's hanging on the wall as I type, between a fantasy print we got at I-con and a framed commemorative Sojourner Mars Rover postage stamp.

And then it was time to say goodbye to the kids and wend our way back to the villa. It had been, all said and done, and excellent waste of time.

And so to bed.

  1. The VR place is called The Void
  2. In space no-one can spell OSHA
  3. A bowl of french fries covered in melted cheese and gravy, which The Stevieling had encountered in Canada where it is considered a delicacy and not just whatever was left in the pantry slung in the microwave.
  4. Wouldn't quit attracting pests who would behave boorishly until they were chased off

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Wedding Planning

Thursday dawned and brought with it the prospect of traveling around the immediate area looking at places to hold The Stevieling's upcoming wedding reception.

The Stevielingbeau called us on Christmas Eve to ask our blessing for his planned proposal on Boxing Day. I yelled "Never! You stole my daughter you swine!" then Mrs Stevie suggested I rephrase that (by kicking me hard in the hurtybits) and I allowed that we were overjoyed at the prospect and hobbled to the fridge to get some ice for my hurtybits.

In the interim Mrs Stevie had been driven almost completely round the bend by the Stevieling's insane ideas on how to plan and execute a wedding.

Example: The Stevieling decided that the invites should go out a year ahead of time so that she could get an idea of the numbers she might expect. She was immune to arguments that we didn't have a date or a location for the event to which these invites were to refer. She was immune to the suggestion that she decide on the date and time, and even then not send invites but a "save the date" card to each invitee. She was immune to the point that of all the people in the room, there were only two who had actual experience of how to throw a wedding and neither of them was The Stevieling or The Stevielingbeau.

I can't remember how we eventually turned her around, but it might have been when I realized she thought that they were footing the bill. With tears in my eyes1 I disabused her of that notion and confessed that the reception was my responsibility. For the next few weeks The Stevieling would slip back into the Dateless, Placeless Invite madness and have to be talked out of it. Eventually I lost it and screamed "Assume that EVERYONE you invite will come, along with their 'plus-one'!" and it seemed to lodge.


The upshot of this was that we had a venue picked out but I was concerned that there were upwards of 120 people on the invite list and there was room only for a 12x12 dance floor. About a month before we went to Florida I announced that of all the things about the wedding, the most upsetting to me was the thought that my daughter would not be able to dance at her own wedding. Mrs Stevie agree with me for once, and we had put it to the Stevieling that she, we and her beau should go look at a few other venues in the area. The Stevieling in her inimitable way concurred with ill grace and an exasperated sigh.

So today was going to be Look At Wedding Halls Day.

I thought the first we looked at had much promise, with acres of space. If anything the room would perhaps seem a trifle sparse even if everyone came. The kids were not enthusiastic because it had pillars. I suggested we might use them for adding the themed decorations they had wanted. I also thought the menu offered was better than at our original location.

At our second appointment we waited and waited but no-one came to collect us from reception and no-one came to tell us they were running late. After 20 minutes we decided that any organization so disorganized would not fit our requirements and moved on.

The third place seemed only marginally larger than our original place, but hjad an attached beach area. The kids were entranced. Personally, I was of the opinion that the algae-choked water would be a haven for mosquitoes and possibly the odd alligator (not that I'd have any exception to some of the invitees being draged to a watery death by alligators). Then the dragonflies came out. These are harmless but are the size of WWI aeroplanes. The kids announced that bugs were a no-no.

Our final stop was back at our original venue, where it turned out that we could expand the room into what is currently a restaurant bar but will be just a bar this time next year. All it took was a dip into Daddy's Bottomless Money Bucket. With the extra room there would be space for a 15x15 dance floor and that should do nicely.

Then came the matter of the Menu. This place only offered two plated entree choices, which astounded me. I've never been to a function where there wasn't at least three. Mrs Stevie and the kids opted for a buffet rather than plated meals. This was good for some spirited back-and-forth between Mrs Stevie and The Stevieling on the subject of which of the available choices. The Stevieling likes nothing but steak and chicken, so she opted for the option with steak and chicken on it. The facilities director did a fast tippety-tap on her smartphone, scribbled on a form and passed me the quote.

"Stop that pitiful whining!" snarled Mrs Stevie.

"You do me wrong, wife", I replied. "These are expressions of joy. Sometimes expressions of joy sound like pitiful whining when the bill comes in at the cost of a Mini Cooper."

We had dinner somewhere unremarkable, the kids left for home and we returned to the villa with a sense of deep satisfaction and horror at the financial wreckage the day had left of our savings. Mrs Stevie took another look at the options and opined that we could lop a considerable amount by going with a chicken/fish/pasta buffet and having the Happy Couple served plated meals. Of steak. Pauvre bloody papa would be chowing on chicken from the buffet and a side order of antacid tablets. I decided I wouldn't get involved until closer to the day.

Then The Stevieling called Mrs Stevie to say that they had decided they liked the last place we saw (the one that I could trade for a car) and they didn't need to look at any more tomorrow. We could just have a fun day.

And so to bed.

  1. And a squeak in my wallet

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Lazing On A Wednesday Afternoon (In The Summertime)

Wednesday dawned and we decided to take it easy, our bodies having been given a thorough going-over by our maritime exertions yesterday.

Breakfast was had in a distant diner, and we drove around for a bit, rather aimlessly. We did stop off at the Coliseum or Comics to pick up a figurine of Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas that Mrs Stevie wanted to gift to The Stevieling and Her Beau.

Later, we went back to the paperweight store in Disney Springs. I had become disenchanted with my Caribbean Reef paperweight. I wanted to illuminate it and had bought a lit pedestal with the paperweight to that very end, but it turned out that internal flaws, not noticeable in ordinary light, turned the paperweight smoky when I put it on the lit pedestal, so I wanted to exchange it for my second choice if possible.

The store staff were understanding and Allowed me to do just that, so I ended up with Phantom of the Sea1, which depicts a jellyfish floating amongst kelp strands and is quite beautiful. I loved the Caribbean Reef2 piece under regular light but it just didn't suit under-lighting. I also allowed myself to be swayed and bought a second paperweight, Rings of Saturn3, which is best viewed in direct lighting. I'd wanted it since I saw it some years ago.

I could tell by the flakes of tooth enamel bouncing off my neck as I bent to examine my purchases that Mrs Stevie required sacrifice to appease her, so I bought her three more pairs of earrings. We were happy. The store staff was happy. Time for ice cream.

Ghirardelli's of course, one of two good reasons for setting out for Disney Springs in the first place. The other ... I'll get to on Friday.

We took shelter in a Star Wars memorabilia store for the afternoon downpour, and were witness to an artesian drain outside the store. It was magnificent. There was so much water pouring into the drainage system that the cover on this drain, thoughtfully placed lower than its neighbors, lifted and it became a three-foot tall geyser. It was fun to think that even Disney engineers get it wrong sometimes.

Eventually I got fed up with it all, bought some plastic ponchos from the store and, rendered deluge-proof, we set off back to the car.

Mrs Stevie bought a bunch of honey-based products for no discernible reason, and we returned to the timeshare to watch the thunder and lightning.

And so to bed.

  1. Which can be found here
  2. Which can be seen here, though the picture does not do it justice
  3. Which can be seen here in all its glory