Archive for September, 2006

Fahrenheit 451 and TV Personalities

Note: It’s been ages since I’ve read Fahrenheit 451— so if I get any the details wrong, please don’t hesitate to dispute and/or correct my claims in the comments.

As I recall, in the book the main character’s wife, Mildred had this parlor in which three of the walls were big giant TVs.  I believe Mildred loved her TV shows.  She was obsessed with them and the characters felt very real to her.  I think she preferred her shows to the company of her own husband.  In fact– I think she wanted to invest in a fourth TV– so she would be surrounded and completely immersed in that fictional life.

This week with the passing of Steve Irwin, I commented to Sean, “It’s been a bad year for the TV personalities we like.”

It was then that I realized that my attachment to characters I see on TV may be one small step on the way to being… Mildred!

At least with Steve Irwin, I can rationalize that he was a real person, not a fictional character.  I can justify the lump I felt in my throat each time the homage commercial came on Animal Planet.  Each time I heard him say, “I’m the proudest father on the face of the earth” and each time he talked about sharing his love for wildlife.  And I know I’m not alone– at least three of my friends posted a note about his unfortunate death (Christina, Clint, Marty).

But there are a few other TV deaths that are a little harder to justify.  Two come to mind real quick:

John Spencer (West Wing)
Sean and I both watch West Wing regularly.  During the TV season, we watched the new episodes religiously (even during the less than stellar seasons).  One time I even lost my temper with then roommate, Ledman, because of West Wing.  He was mucking around with the TV and taking his time getting to NBC.  He was heading that way, but too slowly for my taste– especially considering the clock already read 9 PM.  Finally I stood up and shouted, “That’s it!  I’m going to watch it upstairs!”  I stomp all the way to my bedroom only to find out the clock downstairs was wrong!  We still had a good five minutes until show time.  So…I got to slink back downstairs and apologize.  🙂

Another testament to my affection West Wing.  In 2003, I gave up TV for Lent.  The biggest temptation I had was missing a brand new episode of West Wing (the one where Air Force One had landing gear problems).

In more recent times, Sean and I watch a lot of the reruns on Bravo.  It’s mostly on as background noise and it’s usually on during dinner.  Sean will be sitting at the computer desk and I’ll be sitting on the laundry chair (the chair Sean keeps his clean laundry on) and we eat our homecooked dinner and watch West Wing. 

We’re taking a little bit of a haitus right now, though.  When Sean was recovering from back surgery this past January, he watched a steady stream of West Wing reruns for 8 days.  There can be too much of a good thing.  Well, except for Sub Station II Meatball Subs– I don’t seem to ever tire of them.  🙂

Anyway, Leo McGarry (and subsequently John Spencer) were part of our lives for many years.  So it was sort of sad to hear of John Spencer’s heart attack.  But– that wasn’t the saddest fictional TV loss for me….

Jerry Orbach (Law and Order)
When Sean and I were first dating, he used to watch this show called “Law and Order” during the day.  He really liked the show and went as far as changing his Windows theme to emulate it.  When you opened a window on his desktop, it made the Law and Order “Da – Da!” sound.  I didn’t care for the show too much at first and didn’t really see the appeal.  I think the turning point was when I saw an episode with a young Claire Danes playing a prostitute.   

Well boy have times changed!  Law and Order and its derivatives are now my relaxation staple.  I’ll watch the first run episodes here and there, but it’s the reruns that have my heart.  If I have a tough or trying day, it is the perfect environment for a “Law and Order Night”.  Case in point: I had a hectic schedule this week and right now as I write this– I have an episode on!  🙂 I have a horrible track record for staying up to the end of the episode, but that may be the appeal!  I am gently lulled to sleep by Lenny Briscoe, Jack McCoy and Adam Schiff.

I have numerous entries about my love for Law and Order in my journals.  Here’s one excerpt from June 6, 2004 when I returned home from France.  I was writing about the unexpected things I missed from home.  Along with sweet tea, free refills, Substation II Meatball Subs and the Appalachian Mountains, I mentioned Law and Order:

Nearly Unlimited Access to Law and Order Reruns
At home after a hard day at work or a strenous hike, I get such a feeling of peace by falling asleep to a Law and Order rerun.  Something about snoozing on the couch is fulfilling.  As luck would have it, TNT, TBS, USA and NBC all have a habit of showing Law and Order episodes.  An episode can be found almost every evening.  I didn’t see one place in Europe feature “Law and Order”.  But, I did find an even more fulfilling sleeping agent– long train rides!

There are a lot of character shifts in Law and Order, but the character of Lenny Briscoe was present for 12 years.  And since Lenny always had the opening wise crack at the beginning of the show, I got exposed to Jerry Orbach in almost every episode– even the ones I fell asleep during.  Law and Order is a comfort item for me and Lenny Briscoe is a huge part of it.  Lenny Briscoe welcomed me home after a long business trip.  Lenny Brisco was always there to smooth over a tough day.  Lenny Briscoe made me smile and put my mind and body at ease.

So when Jerry Orbach passed away, I was very sad.  I don’t think I cried, but I certainly felt a loss.  It was especially difficult to watch the Law and Order: Trial by Jury episodes that aired after his death.  You could see how sick he was.  I know he’ll live on in reruns, but it still remains a tough TV loss for me.

Now– luckily, I still enjoy the company of real people over Leo McGarry and Lenny Briscoe.  So maybe, I’m not quite Mildred Montag just yet!

September 8, 2006 at 11:11 pm 1 comment

Overestimating the Odds That Something is Dead

In my post this weekend about Jimmie’s Terror, my first thought was that Jimmie was dead.  This isn’t the first time I wrongly suspected something was deceased.  In fact last July 17th, Sean concluded on AOL IM:

you tend to overestimate the odds that something is dead

A couple of other examples:

Rugrat the Ferret
In our apartment and town home days, Sean and I had a sickly ferret named Rugrat.  I’m not sure if it was a product of her illnesses, but she was also a very sound sleeper.  Often I would find her upper body hanging limp over her hammock.  I could poke and prod with no response.  At times, I would even pick up her head and then drop it and watch gravity swing it lifelessly back and forth (Aaron Evans has this phenomenon on tape).  I fell for it a number of times. 

In particular, I remember one evening in our Pheasant Run town home.  I repeated the head swinging test a couple of times and yelled to Sean.

“She’s dead!”  Suddenly I had total disgust for this thing I had just been touching, “GET IT OUT OF HERE!”

From downstairs, Sean’s muffled voice assured, “She’s not dead.”

“This time she really is dead!  She’s DEAD!” I yelled, “Come look!”

So Sean ascended the stairs and sure enough as soon as he was in the room, Rugrat lifted her head and blinked her eyes, wondering what all the commotion was about.

Rugrat finally succumbed to her various health issues a year or so later while in the vet’s custody.  When the vet called to tell me she passed on I asked, “Are you sure she isn’t sleeping?”  It seemed like a legitimate question. 

The vet was not amused.

Henry the Beagle
Henry sleeps by me every night.  Frequently, I’ll wake up and see Henry lying very very still beside me with his eyes open and his mouth agape.  Poor Henry has been shaken awake on more than one occasion.  Usually he is pretty pissed and growls– which satisfies me.  Once I disrupt his perfect sleep, I’m able to lie back down and return to bed.  Meanwhile, poor Henry is left awake.

Stench the Cat
When Sean and I went to Colorado this past July, I left the door to the screened in porch propped open and placed a stockpile of water and food for the cat to ingest.  When we returned home, the cat was nowhere to be found.  We discovered that the door was no longer propped shut AND it was locked!  None of the food or water had been touched.  I quickly recalled that someone had been drunk and hanging out in the porch the night before our trip. 

I had a series of conclusions–  Sean locked Stench out of the porch->Stench could not get water->Stench died of horrible dehydration->My husband killed the cat.  I was married to… a cat killer! 

Apparently I could not conceal my suspicions.

“Why do you keep looking at me like I did this?!?!” Sean asked.

It turned out it was another false alarm.  Stench surfaced the next morning.  He wasn’t dead.  He didn’t even act like anything was out of the ordinary and he certainly didn’t seem to miss us.

In retrospect, all the rain the area got and the fact we had a person coming by twice a day to walk the dogs would have thwarted the death sentence I was certain Stench received.

Sean is very good at predicting my thoughts and our trip to Jekyll Island in 2002 was no exception.  One morning I woke up in the hotel to find a still and silent Sean.  I touched his shoulder and his skin was cold.  That was weird.  So I leaned in to see if he was breathing and when that was inconclusive, I poked his cheek to see if it too was cold.  Without moving or even opening his eyes, Sean spoke in a matter-of-fact tone:

“I’m not dead.”

So, yeah.  It does look like my death radar needs some calibration.  But the inevitability of death puts the odds on my side. 

Sooner or later, I’m bound to be right!

September 5, 2006 at 9:59 pm 4 comments

Jimmie and Henry: Been There Done That

Yesterday, Stacy snapped this picture of Jimmie and Henry at the top of Tinker Cliffs.  They are drinking out of a puddle that collected in a crevace in the rock.  Emily and Cory’s legs are in the background, along with the view.

I remembered when I got home– that I have a picture of Jimmie and Henry drinking from a puddle on the same rock from May 2005.  It’s from a different angle– but it is the same rock:

Do dogs get deja vu?

September 4, 2006 at 3:13 pm 8 comments

Dog Hiking Video – Take I

Last week, Clint, had a good idea to equip the dogs with a camera so we can record what an Appalachian Trail hike is like for a dog.  Sean surprised me on Friday with the purchase of a rugged video camera designed for mountain biking and skiing.  Between all the hussle and bussle of the Virginia Tech vs. Northeastern game, Jimmie’s interior decorating, and coordinating six house guests, I didn’t have much time to acquaint myself with the features… but we were able to do a quick make-shift attachment of the camera around Jimmie’s dainty greyhound waist using some supplied velcro straps. 

Here is a picture of me and Kipp adjusting the camera on Jimmie.  Look at Jimmie’s face– he is not amused.  But once the camera was on, he ran around and drank with little realization he had electronics strapped to him.

Here is a picture of Jimmie filming.  Kipp and I are in the background posing for a picture by a human photographer.

Jimmie did his job well.  Unfortunately, I have a lot to learn about the camera.  When we got home, it turned out the .AVI did not save to the memory card.  My bad.  I’ve done a few more practice runs with the camera and saving so next time I should be ready.  It will also give me time to come up with a more secure attachment to Jimmie using a harness.

Luckily, Jimmie has seemed to forgiven me for ruining his directorial debut.  I think he is happy as long as he is not locked up in the guest bathroom again!  🙂

September 4, 2006 at 2:50 pm Leave a comment

Group Hike: Selection of Tinker Cliffs

All our houseguests were interested in going on a hike on Sunday. Not all of them had opinions, but aggregate interviews ended up with three criterias:

  • A distance between 5 – 7 miles round trip
  • Overlooks were preferred to waterfalls
  • No one had an adversion to ascents

Loving the Appalachian Trail and this area the way I do, I wanted to make sure I picked a hike that really showcased both items well. There were plenty of choices to choose from. The struggle was to determine which one. I decided to bounce my thoughts off two of my hiking buddies– Mike E and Tony Airaghi.

“The obvious choice is McAfee’s Knob, ” I told them, “But… I’m thinking Tinker Cliffs.”

McAfee’s Knob is the most photographed point in the Appalachian Trail. I’m certainly a fan of it as well. In fact, here is an excerpt of my journal entry from March 23, 2003 describing the very first time I went up there:

Yesterday the dogs and I finally saw McAffee’s knob.

You know, I’ve hiked a lot of places recently and I’ve been to a lot of overlooks and knobs. But you know what? None of that prepared me for the view at McAffee’s Knob. It was awe-inspiring.

The day was quite clear– so the view was astounding– absolutely astounding.

Usually when I take pictures on a hike it’s easy to narrow down a few pictures that I deem my favorite. That was a tough task with my pictures from yesterday. I made multiple passes trying to narrow down my “Top Five.”

Alas– even after repeatedly viewing the pictures and evaluating view and dog posture– I still had 14!

So why then, would I choose Tinker Cliffs? Here are a couple of the reasons I expressed to Mike and Tony:

  • Crowds – Everyone goes to McAffee’s Knob. Although a lot of people go to Tinker Cliffs– not nearly as many people do. So you have a slightly more unique and less crowded experience.
  • Diversity – I think going up the Andy Layne Trail offers a lot more diversity of scenery than the McAfee’s Knob hike.
    • You start out walking through green pastures and a nice bubbling creek.

      (Phifer hiking in one of the grassy areas)
    • You get to cross over stiles and bridges.
    • You get to see a unique, layered rock face by Catawba Creek

      (Part of the rock face near Catawba Creek)
    • You get to walk through damp forested sections

      (Emily and Cory getting a bite to eat. Look at Jimmie– he is hoping for food)
    • As you near the top, you can to hike by interesting rock formations

      (Kipp, Vicky, Emily, Jimmie, Cory, Phifer, Bret)
    • Finally you get a see a view comparable to McAfee’s Knob and you have enough privacy to enjoy it with just your group.

      (Bret, Kipp and Stacy at the top)
  • Ascent – I think one of the most fulfilling things about a hike is completing a tough ascent and knowing you earned the right to enjoy the view ahead of you. The Tinker Cliffs elevation gain via the Andy Layne Trail is roughly 1700 feet. The climb to McAffee’s Knob is about 1200. Despite the discrepancy, I personally find the Tinker Cliffs ascent a bit easier. You have two big straight-on hills and after that, the switchbacks make the following ascent pretty easy and peaceful.
  • Display of Community – I think the Andy Layne Trail offers a good demonstration of the people and corporations behind the Appalachian Trail. I like that the passage way is named after a long time member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, honoring his contribution to the trail in the most fitting means possible. I am also touched by the nearby concrete plant which allows the trail to travel through their property. I like how that business committed to given everyone access to enjoy the sights and sounds of the cliffs above.

Mike and Tony (and some complete stranger) all concurred with my thoughts, so Tinker Cliffs it was!

McAfee’s Knob, Angel’s Rest, Dragon’s Tooth and Sinking Creek Mountain – I love you all just as much. But with one chance to expose people to our area’s trails and overlooks– Tinker Cliff’s is the way to go.

September 4, 2006 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

Jimmie’s Terror

After the tailgate, Sean and I and our six house guests made a quick stop at Sycamore Deli before heading home.  Sean and I arrived a few minutes ahead of everyone else.  When we came in the door, instantly we were aware something unusual was going on– only little Henry came to greet us.  In his old age, Jimmie sometimes doesn’t hear us come in right away– but when we called him, the only sound was the jingling Henry’s collar makes whenever he wags his tail excessively.

“Jimmie’s dead!!!” was my first thought, “…. or lost outside.” 

I ran upstairs and checked the bedrooms and called out to him, but there was no reply.  So Sean and I both went outside and yelled his name.  Again there no noise except for Henry who seemed rather pleased by the disappearence.

Sean went upstairs to recheck the bedrooms.  Meanwhile I picked up the phone to check our voicemail messages.  Checking home voicemail is a task we struggle at.  If we’re lucky, we get to it every other month.  But since this number is on Jimmie’s collar, I was more motivated to check the messages.

Before I could even dial our passcode, I heard Sean calling from upstairs.

“Found him!” He said, followed by, “Oh my gawd!  OH MY GAWD!!!!”

It turns out, Jimmie had managed to get locked in our guest bathroom.  If you don’t count closets, it is the smallest room in the house and a room with no windows and no natural light source.  Jimmie was trapped in that dark, tiny room for up to 8-9 hours.  So while we were all having a great time at Larry’s– poor Jimmie was terrified and stuck…and apparently suffering from claustrophobia. 

He did everything in his power to escape the room.  He chewed up some of the doorway trim and he tore up the carpet in the bathroom.  He struggles were such that when I was trying to tidy up the room slightly for our six houseguests, I found blood droplets on the carpet.  Here is a picture of his damage. 

As luck would have it– Sean and I were not big fans of the carpetted bathroom to begin with.  We have long intended to replace it with tile.  Well, just like the attention we give our voicemail, sometimes we need a little extra push to get things done.  Jimmie through his terror has ensured that is a task we don’t ignore. 

So a quick recap the emotions of the day:

Individual(s) Emotion
Vicky, Sean, Cory, Emily, Bret, Phifer, Stacy and Kipp Having Fun at Larry’s
Jimmie Pure Terror
Henry Rejoicing at Being an Only Dog

September 4, 2006 at 12:51 pm 5 comments

Worlds Collide at Larry’s Tailgate!

One thing I enjoy about weddings (besides dancing and the cake, of course) is the “worlds collide” effect. A number of people who all know the bride and groom in different contexts convene together for a common celebration. I like to see extended family and friends mingling together, sharing their memories and antedotes.

This weekend even though Virginia Tech’s bout with Northeastern did not promise to be a nailbiter, it still managed to draw a collision of worlds at Larry’s house. Many different aspects of my life were represented by the people in attendence:

  • My Blacksburg/Tailgate Life – All the normal tailgating people were in attendence. Larry, Ann, Penn, Gwyn, Andy, Bill, Sean, Keith, Jonathan Couch and even new father Brian Vandervort made a surprise appearence!
  • My Hiking Life – My reigning Hiking Buddy, Mike E, was present and he got to converse with my original hiking partner– Tony Airaghi.
  • My Married Life – Both of Sean’s brothers and their significant others came down for the event. That meant 66.66% of my brothers-in-law were in attendence (Carolyn‘s husband, Clint, was the only one missing from this brother-in-law reunion).
  • My QualTrax Life – ZJ Palasz, one of our QualTrax programmers, came in from Virginia Beach with his girlfriend to join our festivities.
  • My NOVA/Camping/Skiing Life – Kipp and Stacy came down for the event. On Friday night I found out that Shannon, Christian, Beth, Wayne and Shehab were going to be in town as well. I extended an invitation and all seven of these individuals from Northern Virginia came to Larry’s tailgate …and all seven of them got to witness a rare “Tipsy Vicky”.

I think these two pictures are a solid representation of the worlds colliding. The first one depicts some of the usual crowd– Me, Larry and Lindsay. The second one is the same shot— only this time, Kipp has made his way into the scene!

And here comes NOVA bursting in! 🙂

More pictures from the Virginia Tech vs. Northeastern Tailgate are available on my website.

September 4, 2006 at 11:36 am 1 comment

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