Friday, March 27, 2009

The Three B's

The first of the three B's was: Baltimore. I just traveled there for a work conference, which was great. I had never been that far north before, and I was looking forward to the trip, not only for the educational information that I was going to get out of it, but also for the complete change of scenery. Last year's conference was in Washington, D.C., and that was the farthest north I'd been up until that point.

JF was worried about me being in the Big City, so he told me not to go wandering around after dark, and to try not to walk anywhere alone. Knowing that Baltimore has*healthy* crime stats, I agreed. Plus, I've been held up before, and it's not a scene I care to repeat ever again.

As a fan of the late, great, and much-lamented TV show "Homicide: Life on the Street", I was curious to experience Baltimore for myself. I wanted to get a chance to take a picture on the station house steps, but, alas, that was not to be. We just didn't have enough down-time. It would have required a bit of a taxi drive, or a jaunt by Water Taxi, and it wasn't in the cards this trip. Maybe one day I'll be able to return, and that will be a must-see. Plus, I was under orders not to go alone, and truthfully, I didn't want to go all over Baltimore by myself anyway.

Our hotel was right next door to Camden Yards. I was surprised to see Camden Yards smack in the middle of downtown. Usually, the ball fields/stadiums are on the outskirts of town. My room was on the other side of the hotel, but some of the people in our group had great views down into the park. If only there had been a game.

The second B was: Binsk, as in La Binsk, an internet friend from waaay back. We were both denizens of a newsgroup devoted to the previously mentioned "Homicide", and have been friends for what seemed like forever, but without any chance to ever actually meet up. This trip provided us with a good reason! We made plans to grab a bite to eat down at the Inner Harbor, which was only a few blocks from our hotel and conference site.

Binsk brought her mother along, and we all had a lovely dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. It was great to finally meet her, and her mother was a true hoot. Unfortunately, they had to leave early the next morning to drive to Oklahoma so time was of the essence. If Binsk gives her permission, I will upload the photo of the two of us.

I arrived early, a few minutes before Binsk and Mom did, so I stepped out of the back door to check out what the Inner Harbor had to offer. I turned to the left, and saw the beautiful National Aquarium, so I took a picture.

When I turned to the right, there was the U.S.S. Constellation and the Constellation Museum. JF loves sailing ships, so I figured that I would take a picture of museum AND ship for him. I raise my camera to my eye, and I hear a strident voice say. "Ma'am? Ma'am! I need you to NOT do that!" I lower the camera, and realize that there's a security guard talking to me. I said back to him, in a very confused manner, "Um...I'm not taking a picture of YOU, I'm taking a picture of the *museum.*" He says, "I need you to not do that right now."

As I look around, Ol Eagle Eye me realizes that there are quite a few security guards about, and that though this is obviously a pedestrian area, no one's walking through. We're all milling about on the steps. At the end of the walkway, there are sawhorses, preventing the pedestrian traffic. (I'm a quick one!) In front of me, there's a small dock area where there are plenty of paddle boats available for rent. Only, strangely enough -- none are rented out. With this many people hanging around, you think they'd have some business. Hm. Odd.

After a minute, a man steps out of the dock house, and he's carrying a long hook on a pole. It looks like a fireplace poker with a really long handle. As we (the crowd and I) watch, the guy goes over to the corner of the harbor and begins poking around with the pole in the water. After a few minutes, he snags something, and begins laboriously tugging it over towards the dock.

Updated to add: Binsk approved my adding the picture of the two of us, so find it above!

Right about now is when I noticed the news helicopters hovering around. (Nothing gets past me, I tell ya!)

The hook man finally tugs his burden into somewhat of a viewable area. And.....that brings us to our last B: the body in the harbor. As fond as I am of police procedurals and forensic shows, all I had to see was a wet mop of hair to know that I was out of there. I bolted for the restaurant. Maybe my choice of pasta for dinner wasn't the best course of action, now that I think about it.

I called JF later that night to tell him about my first day. When I get to the part about the body, he had the same reaction that I did -- "Welcome to Baltimore!" Later in the trip, we encountered a homeless man in McDonald's who managed to talk the entire 20 or so minutes that we were there without seeming to take a breath. The day after the nonstop talker, we encountered a junkie in full-nod passout mode who was still managing to stand, by some miracle of gravity. She tottered in the doorway, and had occasional bouts of lucidity before she'd appear to pass out again. At one point, she pulled out a cigarette and stuck it between her lips before succumbing again. After a few minutes, she pulled out a lighter. I nudged my companion and told her that I'd pay her ten bucks if Junkie Lady lit her own hair on fire. Unfortunately, I have no idea if Junkie Lady survived unroasted because she left shortly afterward.

All in all, it was an eventful trip. The train ride was long and mostly uncomfortable, but it was an experience. I hope one day to return to Baltimore, despite all the colorful characters we encountered. Maybe the next time, I will have more time to explore.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On The Road Again

...or, more accurately, on the tracks again! I'm off this evening to catch my train to Baltimore. I hope to get some "fun" time in among all the "professional learning" time, but I'm not sure how much opportunity to do so I will have.

I plan on taking pictures, and hopefully, some of them will be interesting enough to share!

I'll be gone until Monday, so hold down the fort until then, okay?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Burnt Out

....or rather, the fire in my throat has burnt out. I, myself, have been feeling burnt out for a while. The latest development in the illness saga is that while my throat no longer feels as if it lost a fight with a packet of razor blades followed by a lemon juice chaser, it had mysteriously gone on strike.

I woke up this morning tired (thanks, Daylight Savings Time!) but feeling much better overall. There was some minor hacking in the shower as the hot water loosened my chest up, but my first clue that Something Was Not Right was in the car on the way to work. I've been blasting the most recent Evanescence album for about a month now, and trilling along with Amy Lee. Imagine my surprise when my usual soprano voice did a fairly convincing "Alvin and the Chipmunks" impersonation.

It was decidedly off to realize that I was about to head into a classroom with 16 rambunctious charges with no voice to speak of. I relied a lot on pseudo-sign language today, coupled with a lot of "come close so I can whisper to you" gestures. There was a lot of pointing, and a lot of raised eyebrows as well. I'll let you all imagine how swimmingly my day went. Go ahead -- imagine. I'll wait. Okay. Got a picture in your head? Now, instead superimpose that image with one of the mushroom clouds after the nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll, and you're just about there.

To cap the night off, Offspring gets a frantic text message from a school friend that the super duper, miss-the-WHOLE-day-of-school field trip she's been DYING to go on only has about 13 slots left. She panics, and thrusts the phone at me to call the travel agent in order to secure one of those last seats. Of course, they are closed for the day. OF COURSE. My life wouldn't have it any other way. I leave a very squeaky voice mail for the agent, and hope like hell they can decipher it.

And, in keeping with the "Once again, the Devil farts in my face" tradition, the very minute I am off the phone, Offspring bursts into the room, saying that the message that she got from her friend was "just a joke." Well, of course it was! AND I get to pony up $116 for the privilege, too!

Granted, the trip is an educational one, and one that I'd like to go on, if given the chance. (They're going to see the King Tut exhibit and the Terracotta Army in Atlanta.) I can't go however, because of this pesky thing called work, and because we will be leaving not even 24 hours later on a Girl Scout trip to go snow-skiing. Don't worry, I'm not taking the ankle biters -- this trip is Offspring's troop. We'll be driving to West Virginia, so I will need plenty of rest beforehand. Which means no back-to-back trips for good old Mom. Poor old Dad won't be going on EITHER trip. He'd have to bunk with a bunch of Boy Scouts he doesn't know for the skiing trip, and he's not exactly what one would call a social animal.

So, I'm off to bed in hopes that my voice will return as mysteriously as it left. If not, I have another day of pointing and gesturing ahead. What fun!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Woman On Fire

I know posting has been down to an all-time low here lately, and for that I'm sorry. I just don't how many ways I can say "I'm not dead yet, but I'm fresh out of blog fodder" without making your heads explode. I know *I'm* getting tired of hearing that, and it's my blog!

School has been a bug-bear. I seem to have the royal knack for pissing people off lately. There's a lot of pressure on teachers these days -- it seems like if we sneeze, we piss a parent or three off. I have a child who is a Jehovah's Witness, and while we don't want to offend the family, we DO still have to teach the child about holidays and the like. If for no other reason because we teach calendar skills, and if we ask what the holiday in March is, the answer would be St. Patrick's Day. That is not a deliberate slight to people who don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but we can't NOT teach that because one family doesn't approve. You know what I mean?

My new Girl Scout troop is going well -- there are 17 of them! I was worried that I wouldn't have enough to make up a troop (which is five) and here I am with one of the largest troops in our area! I'm liking it. Most of them seem very excited to be there, and they seem to be happy with all of the things we've done so far. I've got some not-so-attentive parents, but I chalk a lot of that up to the fact that I don't see them every meeting.

Juggling Freak's birthday is next week. I was torn with what to get him this year, and seriously considered a unicycle. He, understandably, wants to TRY OUT a unicycle first to make sure he doesn't kill himself on it. This sounds awfully cautious of him. This is also the man who wants to flamethrower our big oak tree in the backyard because it sheds bushels of leaves no matter WHAT season it happens to be. This is also the man who got on a wild hair at a woodpecker who was pecking our house, and would have killed it, had we actual firearms in the house and not just a black powder replica. Now, I freely admit that by the end of that particular situation, I would have gleefully killed that woodpecker myself for pecking my bedroom eaves at seven in the damn morning every Saturday. Instead, we tried all the things the avian vets recommended: nasty-tasting sprays, decoy birds, changing the wood out. None of that worked. JF finally paintball-gunned it away. I hope he didn't kill the bird, but I also hope he's too scared to ever come back.

Offspring is tempermental. It's the age. Half the time, she pretends we're not there, and when she's forced to actually --UGH -- *interact* with us, she does a lot of eye-rolling and grunting. Then when she wants something, I hear "Mommy...." She hasn't called me Mommy since she was about seven. Not unless she's angling for something. We've actually all been sick, and she's been more lovey since being sick. I think we all sort of revert to childhood when we feel unwell, and she's holding true to that.

Speaking of sick, we've all been passing around a virus of some sort within our family. I have spent most of this week with sinus congestion of massive proportions, so much so that I had supressed hearing in one ear due to cloggage on Wednesday. My throat has been so raw that I have honestly LOOKED FORWARD to taking NyQuil just for the numbing effect. I took Mucinex, which tastes like bug spray, just to get some relief. This illness, whatever it is, has kicked our collective asses in a MAJOR way this week. My throat is no longer on fire, but JF has been stumbling around with fevers of 102 and 103. Not good in adults. I'm surprised he's been able to function. I know I got all muzzy-headed, and I wasn't battling fever, just congestion.

So, that's all I got. Not much. Still alive, though not really feeling like "alive" fits after this week. Just surviving.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

So Freakin' Junior High

I am currently embroiled in an Unbloggable, but I will let slip my guard enough to say that grown ladies who are supposed to be of strong moral character and hardy constitutions are being very childish right now.

As one of my friends commented: "I think it's time we all put on our big girl panties and dealt with this."

I thought I was long past the histrionics and teeth-gnashing of junior high. I'm sorry to hear that I was misinformed.