I added a new place to my travel bucket list.
I added a new place to my travel bucket list.
As you may have heard, much of the South got hit by what we Bostonians would call “A minor inconvenience.” For the last few years I’ve lived about halfway between Charlotte and Atltanta, and I’m always amused the reaction when we get snow. We got a little over an inch of snow followed by some ice, both of which have melted already.
However, for an area that doesn’t see this type of weather too often, I thought my city handled it pretty well. Unlike the city leaders in Atlanta, we knew this was coming since Saturday. Anyways, since everything closed on Tuesday, I’m still running a bit behind on things. I’m hoping things will be back to normal later today, but for now enjoy this:
It was October 19, 2003, and I was still reeling from the Red Sox loss at the hands of the New york Yankees in game 7 of the ALCS. Luckily for me, on that Sunday morning the members of The Nerds Uncanny had a road trip planned to Niagara Falls. Talk about perfect timing! A relaxing, worry free vacation with friends to forget all about the Red Sox. This was just what the doctor ordered,. Fate however, had other ideas…
The plan was to spend a few days on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Laneit and She-who-must-not-be-named had been there before, and wanted the rest of the gang to see the Falls. Also along for the trip would be John, and for the first time, Wah Kee. She-who-must-not-be-named planned the trip, booked the hotel, and even arranged for us to borrow John’s mom’s van, which I named Talutla. Since Laneit, She-who-must-not-be-named, and Wah Kee had a concert the previous night, it was decided I would drive on the fateful day.
I picked up John first, then headed over to Laneit’s where we found Wah Kee enjoying some strawberry milk and KFC popcorn chicken. Why anyone would eat that at 7:30 in the morning, is anyone’s guess, but the issue would arise later. After loading up the van with a dvd player, a Nintendo GameCube (Remember those?) and enough snacks to feed an army, we were headed north. Believe it or not, for the first couple of hours, everything went according to plan. This was a first for us, as something usually happened during our trips. Well, I didn’t need to worry, because about ninety minutes north of Albany New York, the fun began.
As I sad before, I was behind the wheel, and She-who-must-not-be-named was in the passenger seat serving as navigator. Moe, Larry and Curly were in the back watching Mr. Show. Don’t ask me how I remember, I just do. Anywho, as I was driving I noticed the highway was about to split into two, so I asked “Left or right?” But there was no response. so I asked again, and once more there was no answer from the passenger seat. As the fork in the road got nearer, I looked over and noticed She-who-must-not-be-named was taking a nap. At this point I shouted, and she mumbled “Right, err go right.”
Two hours later we were on a two-lane road, over a hundred miles from where we were supposed to be. I didn’t like the look of the area, as there were too many abandoned cars, and burned out buildings on both sides of the road. I decided it was smart to floor it, and I was doing well over 80 on this little road. Every time I hit a curve, I could hear something sliding in the back.
After about the third time, I looked in the rear-view mirror, and laughed when I noticed the thing sliding back and forth was Wah Kee sitting on the floor. A few minutes later I heard shouts from the back telling me to pull over, and as soon as I did, Wah Kee slid open the door, and puked on somebody’s front yard. John was quick to note that Kee’s vomit was strawberry colored.
Once Kee was better, I floored it again. I think the place we were in was called Boonville or something along those lines. All I know for sure, is that the lead story in the local newspaper was a barn rasing. We stopped for gas at the one gas station in town, and two pick-em up trucks pulled up next to us loaded with dead deer. I guess it was hunting season or something. Anywho, I had driven for eight hours, so She-who-must-not-be-named took over for the rest of the way. In the end, we took a five-hour detour, all thanks to bad directions.
We were all exhausted, but finally reached the border around 8 PM. The Canadian border people collected our paperwork, and asked the usual question when one enters another country. To be on the safe side, I brought along my license, my permanent resident card, my passport and even a copy of my birth certificate. I figured better safe than sorry. As it turned out, it was Wah Kee who was sorry.
Good old Kee had his license, but nothing else, and the Canadian border department would not allow him into the country, until they verified his identity. He was asked to go into the customs building, while we waited in the car. After he’d been in there a good while, She-who-must-not-be-named decided she better check up on him, so in she went. A few minutes later she rushed back tot he car, and she was white as a ghost. Laneit asked “What’s wrong?” She-who-must-not-be-named simply replied, “They told Kee he has ten minutes to get out of the country.”
As she said this, I looked up and saw Wah Kee being escorted from the building by an armed guard. Someone in the car let out a shocked scream, it probably John, but it may have been me. Regardless, we drove towards our friend Kee, and decided to give him a ride back to the States.
On the United States side of the bridge, Wah Kee faced the same issue. He didn’t have valid identification. I asked him why didn’t he bring his green card, and he said “Because its expired.” My next question should have been “Why the hell are you leaving the country then?” but I didn’t think to ask. The border people on the U.S side were really nice, and tried to help Wah Kee as much as possible. It took about an hour, but they finally found him in the system. So what, you may ask, was the problem?
Wah Kee was born in Hong Kong, so the Canadian border people were looking for him as a Chinese citizen. the problem was Kee was born in Hong Kong during British rule. So by law, he’s actually a British citizen. Yup, Doctor Who, James Bond, and Wah kee. All as British as it gets.
Well, our plans on the Canadian side were obviously a bust, and we weren’t about to leave Wah Kee to fend for himself. We parked in hotel lot while She-who-must-not-be-named cancelled our reservations in Canada, Meanwhile Laneit, John, and I decided we should look for a hotel in the New York side. Wah Kee felt really bad about the trouble, but it really wasn’t his fault. He offered to drive around the city as we looked for room at the inn. Boy that was a mistake. As we took a turn, Wah Kee was busy staring at the pretty lights coming from a casino, so he didn’t see the sidewalk, and nearly tipped the van over.
We drove around for over an hour, looking for some place to stay. In the end, we ended up back in the parking lot where we had started from, and stayed at that hotel. Why didn’t we just stay there to begin with? The only one with the answer is She-who-must-not-be-named.
Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly a year since Laneit and I attended New York Comic Con. That five-day weekend was filled with great memories: Me running all over JFK Airport looking for Laneit; the Chinese takeout place that charges more when you dine-in; The Nerdist Podcast featuring Guillermo del Toro, and of course pizza. There are ots and lots of good pizza in Brooklyn.
Sadly, neither Laneit or I could afford a return trip to New York this year. However, we are making tentative plans for next summer’s Boston comic con, but first things first. With the 2013 New York Comic Con a few days away, I thought I’d share some tip for anyone attending this year. Come to think of it, some of these tips work for any major convention, not just NYCC. Hopefully someone benefits from this post, because I learned some of these lessons the hard way, and I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistakes I did. And now, for my tips:
1. Bring Water
The Jacob Javits Center gets crowded, and with such a large crowd, the temperature soars. After about ten minutes, I was sweating like crazy, and the thirst was brutal. I suggest stopping somewhere before the show, and buying a couple of bottles of water. The Javits Center has a Hudson News in the upper level, but I paid $8 for a sprite and a bag of chips. Those $8 could have gone towards more comics.
2. Manage the Weight
I’m not talking about going on a diet or anything, so don’t worry.
I bought a boatload of stuff on the Friday of the show. My backpack was so heavy, the shoulder strap started to rip, and I had trouble balancing. As luck would have it, the Javits Center has a FedEx office next to the Hudson news, so I was able to ship all of my Friday loot. The weight? 47 pounds. If your stuff is really heavy, I suggest shipping some of it home. It’s not cheap, but it saved me a lot of hassle.
3. Feed me More!
The inside of the Javits Center had one little old lady selling cold drinks, and delicious empanadas. Problem is she’s located right smack in the middle of the lobby, and it can be a pain to navigate thru the crowd. The empanadas made for a great snack, but if you want more of a meal, there are plenty of food trucks parked around the convention center. Or you can do what I did, and buy a sandwich at 7-11 to eat later. It’s cheaper, but there’s a catch…
4. I’m still Standing
The Jacob Javits Center has ZERO places to sit. You can’t rest or stop for a bit anywhere! Unless of course, you count the floor which is where I ended up. My favorite place was behind, or around the escalators. For one thing, you’re out-of-the-way, and it’s a pretty peaceful place to sit and read.
But beware: After hours of carrying 47 pounds of comics, then sitting for over an hour, your legs might not work. I found out the hard way, luckily there was a girl dressed as Ms. Marvel who helped me up.
5. Lookee, but no toucheee
Cosplayers are everywhere, and some of the costumes are truly amazing. Most of the cosplayers are more than happy to take a picture with you, so please be nice to them, and watch those hands. I saw too many guys taking advantage of the situation. Oh yeah, if the dude dressed as Tarzan is there again this year? Run the other way.
Over the years, the TNU crew became well-known for our road trips, all of which included a wacky story. This is one of them…
Exactly 10 years ago, the TNU crew drove to Washington D.C after pending a couple of days in beautiful Williamsburg Virginia. Riding in the van with me were Laneit, his then girlfriend HeDie and of course John. We’d planned this trip for months, and I was really looking forward to touring the capital with my buddies. Unfortunately, mother nature decided it was a good time for some torrential downpours. But neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, would stop The Nerds Uncanny.
Once we checked into our hotel, HeDie suggested we find a guided tour of the city. Made sense to me, why get lost driving round ourselves when we could have someone else behind the wheel. The four of us walked several blocks until we came upon an old guy leaning up against a mail box. I guess he heard us talking because he yelled “You folks looking for a tour?” I don’t know which one of us said “yes,” but there we were, handing over money to guy leaning on a mail box.
The guy got on the phone and started shouting: “Murphy? where the hell you at? Murphy can you hear me? I got four more for you.” By this point John and I were having second thoughts about this situation, but before we could say anything to the others, the van showed up. Not just any van. A very old van with tinted windows, and nothing written on the side. It looked like the type of van used in “Law & Order” kidnappings. The window rolled down, and an even older guy said “I’m Murphy.”
Since this was HeDie’s idea we decided she should ride in the front seat with Murphy. If anything happened, it would happen to her first, giving us a few precious seconds to bail out. Of course, we didn’t tell her that. Murphy informed us that he had “Two old ladies” to pick up at the Jefferson Memorial, so he’d be dropping us off at the Ford’s Theatre. Murphy’s van was pretty tall, so he gave HeDie a tiny stool to stand on as she excited the car. HeDie missed the step and did a swan dive onto 11th street. I missed this, because I was behind the van thanking my lucky stars that Murphy ran a legitimate business.
An hour later Murphy returned, with the “two old ladies” in tow. As he drove along the river, Murphy turned to us and said “Now this here be Maryland, that there is Virginia.” Murphy told us our next stop was the Lincoln Memorial, but first he had to drop off them two old ladies at Arlington National Cemetary. Keep in mind those two old ladies are sitting in the back seat, and can hear him calling them old. After that was done, we toured the Lincoln memorial and other nearby memorials. If you’ve never been to D.C. you’re missing out. The memorials and monuments are not only beautiful, but its a very emotional sight.
Murphy returned with the two old ladies, and we were off again. As we crossed a bridge and drove by the river he turned to us and said “Now this here is Virginia” then pointed across the river “And that there is Maryland.” Wow, good to know. He told us he would try to get us to Arlington in time for the changing of the guard, but first had to drop off the old ladies. It was at this moment that one of them shouted back “Okay, enough with calling us old. You’re the same age as us!”
In the end, Murphy got us everywhere in one piece, even if he told us “Now this here be Maryland, that there is Virginia” about eight more times. It was an adventure to be sure, and one of those classic TNU moments. So if you’re ever near the White House, look for an old guy leaning against a mail box. If he’s the tour guy, you’ll have a great day.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot: When we got back to the hotel, we noticed they ran their own tour. It would have saved us a walk and some money, but we never would have met Murphy and the two old ladies.
Throughout history, there have been several famous transportation disasters. The Titanic, the Hindenburg, and even the Costa Concordia became part of history. But did you know, The Nerds Uncanny have a disaster of their own?
Okay, so it’s more along the lines of Wile E Coyote than the Hindenburg, but the point is we lived to tell about it. This story features Laneit, John, myself and our buddy Wah Kee. There’s a lot of great stories I can tell about Mr. Kee, but for now all you need to know is that in the late 1990’s Wah Kee drove like Mr. Magoo.
The following is a true Story of courage and survival, parental guidance may be suggested.
January 15, 1998, a date which will live in infamy.
On that fateful day, I was returning to Boston after spending the holidays with my family in Guatemala. That day it was a nice 75 degree morning, and with a long layover scheduled in Miami, I thought it was smart to wear shorts. As I settled into my seat, the pilot told us we we’d be heading straight into a blizzard. There was a chance we’d have to land in Baltimore or New York. Back then I was terrified of flying, and the American Airlines pilot telling me we’re about to fly into a blizzard did not help my fears. Oh well, why worry? Laneit and the guys were picking me up at Logan Airport, so I had that to look forward to.
My flight beat the storm and I was soon reunited with The Nerds Uncanny. I thought they were picking me up in my car, but they showed up in Wah Kee’s Audi. Sure, I was a bit cold but I figured I’d be home soon enough. In the car Laneit said he wanted to stop by the South Shore Plaza for something. I don’t remember how long we stayed at the Plaza, but when we returned to the car, there was maybe an inch of snow on the ground. Wah Kee was behind the wheel, Laneit in the passenger seat. John was behind Wah Kee and I was sitting behind Laneit.
As Wah Kee took the turn behind Pizzeria Uno, Laneit said, “Careful, Kee. The roads might be a little…” Nick never finished the sentence. To this day I don’t know who screamed. I know it wasn’t me, and I don’t believe it was John because the screams seemed to come from the front seats. All I do know is that I heard an “Arrrrrgh!”
Before we knew it, the Audi was riding on two wheels while the others bounced and smashed off the curb. We slid about 200 feet or so, riding the curb the whole way. I was sure we’d hit a tree or two, but we only took down a couple of sticks. We got out of the car to survey the damage, and Wah Kee proudly proclaimed, “Ehh, we’re fine guys. No problem whatsoever.” About the same time Nick discovered the two front wheels were facing in. Now, I’m no mechanic, but even I knew that wasn’t a good thing.
So there we were, stuck on a curb, no front wheels, snow coming down, me wearing shorts, Wah Kee in denial, John along for the ride, and none of us had any idea what do next. Then a lucky break. It turned out I had my AAA card in my luggage. Why I would need that on a plane, I dunno. Laneit was hungry so he suggested the two of us walk over to Pizzeria Uno so I could call AAA and he could get a pizza. By this point the snow was really coming down, and it took about 15 minutes for AAA to understand I wasn’t driving my car. Once they had all the details they told me the good news: Due to the storm, It would be 2 1/2 — 4 hours for the tow truck to show up. YAY!
Laneit apologized, but he didn’t have to. To be honest, I was just happy to be on the ground. Back at the scene of the crime, Wah Kee and John were sitting on the curb watching another car do donuts in the snow. John got pissed because he thought people would see the donuts and assume we were the ones making them and then crashed. If only it had been that exciting.
After 2 hours, the tow truck showed up. I think a tear ran down Wah Kee’s face as they raised his Audi into the truck. Then we realized there was no way we’d all fit in the tow truck, especially with all the luggage. Then, another stroke of luck. A car pulled over because the driver knew Wah-Kee and offered us a ride. We all piled into this little 2 door car, Wah-Kee up front; the rest of us and the luggage in back. I seem to remember John sitting on Laneit’s lap, but I believe he was just sitting on my carry-on bags. Once we were all inside, and the tow truck was gone, Wah Kee realized, “Oh crap, my parents are gonna kill me!” Our new driver giggled and said, “Don’t worry. My dad gets pissed every time I total my car.”
Wait a minute, “Every time” ?!?
John’s eyes bugged out, as he whimpered something about not wanting to be in another accident. But Kee’s friend got us home in one piece and I was in bed by 1 am. When I boarded the plane that morning, I thought if something happened, it would happen on the plane, not 8 miles from home. I’m glad none of us were hurt, but things would have been better if I had a jacket, and some pants.
Oh, and Laneit never shared his pizza. jerk.
this is John’s take on the episode:
Once again, “Every time I total my car”?! This is who we get to drive us home in a freaking blizzard, a graduate of the Billy Joel School of Driving? One thing about Jose’s story, though; I thought the car that picked us up was a station wagon, not a two door. I guess they make two door station wagons. I don’t know. It’s all a blur. All I really remember is Jose kept saying that he had a winter coat in his car, and it would have been nice if he had it on. I think we were supposed to pick him up in his car, but used Wah-Kee’s instead. I forget why. Like he said, I was just along for the ride. But if I had to guess, I’d say it was because Jose didn’t want Wah-Kee driving his car.
Anyway, Jose left out one tiny detail, which was that for some reason, the driver’s side back door on the Audi couldn’t be opened from the inside. This wasn’t a result of the accident; it was always like that. You had to be let out, like a police car. I think there was a big suitcase or something in the middle seat separating me and Jose, so he could get out on his side, but I was stuck in the car until someone thought to open the door.
I know you missed me, but here I am. The East Coast leg of my Fall Unemployment Tour has come to an end, much to my chagrin. Here is where I’ve been, this post will cover the first two stops:
Virginia: Visited family 9/19-9/24
Florida: Disney, SeaWorld, Universal & FOOTBALL! 9/29-10/8
New York City: New York Comic Con, Nerdist Podcast 10/10-10/15
South Carolina: Visited Maz, FOOTBALL! 10/20-10/25
The first stop consisted of me visiting my family in Virginia, nothing super exciting here. Ate some delicious food at Kabuto, the local Japanese Steakhouse and Rare Olde Times, an awesome Irish Pub. There was one point where I was responsible for watching seven children (my brother’s five kids and his girlfriend’s two kids) under age eight…even though it is Halloween, that story is too chilling to tell, sorry it’s still too fresh.
Furiated, myself and my Girlfriend flew out on Saturday 9/29 to sunny Orlando Florida. As Furiated and I made our way to the happiest place on Earth, Rebecca went off to visit her parents, fret not kiddies, she joins us again on Tuesday. From the airport we headed to the Pop Century Resort, checked into our room in the 70’s then headed over to The Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain, yeah we did that…
Sunday found me walking the parks solo as Furiated had a D23 event for Epcot’s 30th anniversary. I strolled around Epcot for a while, met up with Furiated for lunch then as he went back to his event, I headed over to The Magic Kingdom. I had two quests on this trip, both which failed. There is a rumor floating around that there will be Doctor Who merchandise at the UK store in the World Expo at Epcot and they were releasing the Oswald ear hats in limited amounts in random stores across the parks. We also had never really gotten into the whole “Pin” Thing…this trip was different…
Monday was the 30th anniversary of the opening of Epcot, so we started our day there. What better way to start the day than to spend an hour in a merch line? Exclusive pins and Figment gear, don’t mind if I do. Sadly the two Figment shirts I wanted they released early (for some reason) and they were sold out. This was also the first week of the Food and Wine Festival. By far the best thing is the Cheddar Cheese Soup in Canada. The line for Canada was always insane, don’t worry we eventually were able to get it. After the awesome merch line and a Journey Through Imagination with Figment we headed over to Hollywood Studios, my favorite park. Hit Star Tours, the Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror (LOVE this ride) had some eats at the Sci Fi Dine in theater then headed back to Epcot for the closing fireworks…the finale was absolutely insane.
Tuesday started with us heading to Hollywood Studios yet again, like I said, love that park. Stopped by Epcot to check the UK for Doctor Who merch, also there was no line for the Canadian Soup, scored some soup then headed to meet up with Rebecca and her parents (for the first time) at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. So much food! So good, if you go to Disney and you enjoy some dinner theater, make a reservation.
Wednesday the three of us park hopped. Starting with the Animal Kingdom, after Expedition Everest and a Safari we headed off to Hollywood Studios, hit the great rides then closed out the day at Epcot…trying delicious noms around the World. We of course met characters Doug & Russel, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy…I met Stitch, cause Stitch is Awesome.
Thursday we went to SeaWorld. I haven’t been to SeaWorld since I was five. We went on the Manta rollercoaster, the reason this memory is so vivid, well…as we entered the line a random lady walked up to Eric, Rebecca and I and pawned off her nine year old daughter on us. Yes, this lady trusted US with her child…could I make this up? After a hellish line, made more so by the strange child that would not stop rambling, we finally get on the ride, fresh you think…well it’s a mixed bag. It’s a suspended coaster and the people running the ride were terrible at their job, after the ride is over we were left hanging for five minutes or so while they were loading the other car, instead of using the other track that was RIGHT THERE! Rode some rides, went to the Dolphin Show, Shamu’s show and the Sea Lion and Otter show (none were anything like a Donkey Show, sadly). Ate at the Shark’s Underwater Grill where you eat surrounded by the sharks themselves, cool right? Cool equals expensive. From Seaworld we headed back the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party. Special Fireworks and a Halloween themed parade, sweet, except the rain had other ideas and both were almost cancelled. I said almost, fortunately the weather cooperated long enough for them to pull them off. After the party we headed to Universal to check in…
Friday was spent at Universal Studios. Starting the day with the Wizarding World of Harry potter, Butter Beer FTW! We hit all the major attractions, I’m still not a huge fan of the Hulk coaster, that ride kicks my ass. Staying on site you get the “Front of the line” pass, totally worth it, though for some reason it doesn’t work on Harry Potter OR Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, which is just strange.
I feel it is important to mention at this point that Rebecca did not pack the proper shoes and ended up with crazy blistered feet and we still had the Halloween Horror Nights adventure to go through! So, me being awesome and all, I rented a wheelchair to push her around the haunted houses. This is a double win, see it looks like I’m being nice, but really she’s getting pushed through and scared first…I think you underestimate the sneakiness. Using our “We’re Better Than You” Front of the Line passes we zipped right through the lines, the posted wait times later in the night were over an hour, as cool as the houses were, not worth standing in line for over an hour each…
Saturday we dropped Rebecca off at the airport and went back to Epcot so I could once again try and fail, to find Doctor Who merchandise. After walking around the World Showcase we headed off to Downtown Disney, had some eats then went to see Dredd. Not a bad flick, already out of the theater, but you should rent it when it comes out. We waved farewell to Orlando and headed to Jacksonville to go to the Jaguars game on Sunday.
Sunday we closed out our trip to Florida with the Chicago Bears at the Jacksonville Jaguars game. Since 2005 Furiated and I have been traveling the country going to NFL games, I’ll do a post about that later. I enjoy wearing opposing teams jerseys at games, the only place I won’t wear the away team’s jersey is New England, Detroit and Carolina (more on that later). For some reason Furiated decided to wear a Jaguars jersey…wow, they got SMOKED 41-3! I’ve been to games in many stadiums and this is the WORST stadium I’ve been to. Terribly laid out, AWFUL PA system. After the game we hit up the Tilted Kilt for some food and Sunday Night Football, a good ending to a great trip. We flew out VERY early Monday morning…