The 3D Museum of Wonder 

I recently traveled to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for a little R & R and made it a point to stop at the 3D Museum of Wonder.  Since I had never traveled to the Rivera Maya, I searched on Trip Advisor for activities in Playa del Carmen.  Lo and behold, I stumbled upon the blurb about the museum and knew immediately that I had to go.  My travel buddy Christine also said it looks cool so we should do it.

We took the 20 minute cab ride to the town of Playa del Carmen and were dropped off in front of a huge beige building.  We walked inside and were greeted by a worker who showed us a pamphlet about the museum.  He didn’t have to sell us on the idea.  Admission was $30 USD and we marched up the stairs to begin our journey.

We were met by Jack, who would be our guide/photographer for the walk through the museum.  He sat us down and told us that shoes were not allowed in the museum.  He gathered our shoes and gave us peds to wear so as to not ruin the art.  He told us that the 56 installations are the products of Kurt Wenner from Michigan.  Each one of the illusions costs around $10,000 to install.  The museum has been opened for roughly 1.5 years.

So on we went.  With each turn of the corner, Christine and I were more amazed. Some of these “paintings” filled an entire room.  The concepts of some of them were rather ridiculous, but none the less fun to enact.  This place allows for the inner actress to appear.

In case you’re not sure how to pose, Jack was able to guide us in posing.  Plus, when he was assisting others, there would be photos on side walls to give you ideas on your poses.  There were little markers on the ground that would tell the photographer where to stand to be able to capture the full 3D illusion.

The further in you walked, the cooler and more awesome these illusions became.  Since Christine and I came on a weekday, we were able to spend more time in the museum and not feel rushed because of the need to move quicker for others to take pictures.  

It was tons of fun figuring out what we wanted to do with each scene.  Plus, each illusion offered up several different ways of posing. Entire families could enjoy acting out scenes without anyone being excluded. It was a wonderland of imagination that children would love to fall into.  Even big kids like myself had a blast.

Some illusions had me losing my balance to be able to get the proper effect with the photo. Jack was helpful in lining us up in the right position for certain photos such as the one below.

There are some illusions that when you look at the pose photo to get an idea as to what you could be doing, you just want to make it that much cooler.  For example, there was a zebra illusion that looked like the zebra was jumping back into the painting.  Instead of just holding on to the legs as if you’re trying to pull on the zebra, I decided I wanted an action shot.  I wanted to look like the zebra was pulling me into the picture.  So I asked Christine to just hold down the photo button and go into burst mode.  45 pictures later, I had a photo of me holding on for dear life as I am being swept away by the zebra.  What do you think?

This is my favorite photo of the museum journey.  My mom was blown away by this and used her favorite word to describe it “sharp”.  

This entire museum is meant to have you laughing and acting out wild ideas.  It’s an Instagrammer’s best friend and a definite stop if you are ever in the Playa del Carmen area.  It seems that many tourists don’t know about this museum which is good and bad.  It allows for more time to enjoy posing and getting ridiculous, but something this awesome should be known. 

As you can see, at one point, we had the museum to ourselves.  Like I said, I’m not complaining.  I was able to act like a fool and not care.  

The above is an action shot of me actually losing my balance and falling into the fiery realms of hell.  It’s not fun down there.

Overall, if you are ever in the Riviera Maya and want a unique experience, visit the 3D Museum of Wonder in Playa del Carmen.  It would be a great rainy day activity.  Allow yourself the chance to act out all of your wildest imaginations.  You will not be disappointed.  

Road Trip: Chattanooga, TN

This past weekend, I accompanied my friend Diana to Chattanooga, TN.  Her photography group had planned an overnight trip with stops in Lula Lake Land Trust and other tourist destinations.  It was a great way to see the city and capture some fantastic pictures.

Driving North on 75 for roughly 2 hours, we arrived at Lula Lake Land Trust in Lookout Mountain, GA.  I had never met any of the members of the photo group, but all were very welcoming.  While they had all their fancy cameras and gear, I had my iPhone camera.

There were lots of hikers and dogs that were enjoying the trails.  The shortest trail was 3/4 of a mile to the first waterfall and bridge.  The sounds of rushing water and voices of families congregated in the bridge attempting to snap the perfect family photo filled the air. 

As we continued to walk, we came upon a rocky path that lead to the bottom of the lake where the small waterfall spilled out.  It was picturesque.  The white gushing water emptying into greenish-blue water.  The cliffs in the sides eroded away from years of currents.  Once again, this was a popular spot for many photos.

The photo group continued to walk and came upon the bigger waterfall.  It was loud and raging.  There was a rainbow in the mist of the waterfall at the base.  I kept snapping pictures because it was so beautiful.

There were wooden and dirt steps that lead down to the base of that waterfall.  People that are coming from the base were saying it’s worth the trek down.  Why the hell not? Go big or go home, right?  

I began to descend the steps and I was able to catch up with an older gentleman in our group. Joey had his camera bag slung around his shoulder and camera hanging from his neck. Joey and I were the only ones who decided to descend the steps.  I told Joey that I’m right behind him just to let him know if he needed help with the trek.  He grabbed my hand and said we’ll go down together.  I think he thought he was doing me a favor as if I needed assistance, but it was a good thing I was there because Joey slipped and fell on his ass.  I pulled him up and then continued down the steps this time a few paces in front of him and not holding hands.  I was more comfortable since I didn’t want to be dragged down if he was going down.  

As I turned around to see how he was doing, he slipped again this time off of the steps into the dirt on the side and began to fall forward grasping at anything that could break his fall. He grabbed a branch that just bent 90 degrees and didn’t stop him.  He was able to plant his foot into the ground and hit a vine in order to stop.  I reached out to grab his camera bag to help pull him back and then he was able to reach for my hand.  For an old dude, he was able to get right back up, dust off the excess mud that was now on his knees and continue down the steps.  

Once we reached the bottom of the steps, you had to maneuver over some boulders and rocks to get closer to the big rock that was near the waterfall.  The sound of the water was intense and the mist was soaking everyone.  I wasn’t very close to the large rock but I was getting rained on.

I began to stream the waterfall on Facebook Live because I wanted people to see how cool it was.  The bottom was very muddy and I crept closer.  I didn’t feel comfortable climbing on the rock because my luck would be to slip and fall into the water and drown so I kept my distance.  

When I turned around, I saw Joey with an iPhone in his hands.  He said the girl on the rock wanted him to take a picture of her doing a handstand.  I’m sure the look on my face clearly read “whaaaattttt?”  I turned around and began snapping.  It took her 2 tries to get fully vertical and on her way back to standing, I photographed what would be one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken.  Her handstand helped define the massive scale of the waterfall.

After snapping those pics, hunger began to set in so Diana and I decided to go grab a late lunch at Adelle’s Creperie on the Southside of Chattanooga.

We arrived with 30 minutes to spare since the restaurant closes at 2:30pm.  We met the owner who said he would be more than willing to accommodate any others from our group no matter what time they arrived.  He was very welcoming and told us about his little restaurant.  It was in a warehouse that is used for many events.  We were introduced to his daughter Adelle who “wanted a restaurant so we opened a restaurant.”  Empty picture frames and mirrors lined the walls, Edison bulbs hung from the ceiling and a piano sat in a corner.  

Diana and I wanted to try a savory and sweet crepe.  We were able to pick a half and half deal which would have them split 1 gigantic crepe into 2 and have the best of both worlds. My savory crepe was a bacon, egg and Havarti cheese crepe while my sweet one was filled with chocolate.  I washed it down with an organic chocolate ice cream milk shake. Everything was so good.  I housed those crepes.  Simple presentation but the food was divine.  When in Chattanooga, eat at Adelle’s!

Our next stop was the Air BnB which was 12 miles away.  We had an entire apartment and relaxed for a few hours before going to meet the group for dinner.  In those few hours, the rain came through and chilled the already cold air even more.

Around 6pm, we arrived at The Terminal Brew House on Market Street.  Roger had reserved the 3rd floor for the group.  We had a wonderful salad and thin-styled pizza with a pillowy crust. It was very good.  I enjoyed listening to the group discuss picture distortion and photoshop. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on fashion photography.

Once dinner was over, most of the group were returning to GA that night.  We said our goodbyes and continued to wander the streets around The Terminal.

I was unaware that the old Chattanooga Choo Choo train cars were remodeled to accommodate people.  That’s right!  The old trains on the tracks were hotel rooms!  This blew my mind!  If you looked closely you could see people lounging on beds and children playing.  It was really cool.  The tracks were surrounded by torches and manicured gardens.

We walked a little farther along Market Street, but most businesses were closed. 9 o’clock on a Saturday night and the Southside of Chattanooga was quiet.  Diana and I decided to head back to the Air BnB and prep for the following morning’s adventure.  The plan was to get up early to go to the Riverfront and watch the sunrise, but that didn’t happen.

The following morning, we drove to Milk & Honey, a small restaurant that has many delicious options for breakfast.  Tons of organic lattes and juices along with yummy food and pastries.  I ordered the special which was a blueberry waffle with cinnamon whipped cream. To my delight, bacon came with it and we all know that everything is better with bacon!

Roger and Gail met us at Milk & Honey and we decided to venture to the Chattanooga Zoo. We were the first people in the zoo and it was nice having the zoo to ourselves without children running around and disturbing our shots.  

Diana and I stopped at the ape and gorilla enclosure first.  It seemed they were ready for us.  They would walk up to the windows and get into a pose that could best be described as “the pissed off school teacher”. Leaning on their knuckles while staring at the class with no facial expression.  

The vet tech told us the youngest male was the dominant male which was surprising.  I must also say that I have never witnessed ape ass like these.  I didn’t realize they were so saggy and wrinkly.  It almost looks painful especially when they sit on them.  It’s as if they are squishing this extra mound of flesh; like massive hemmorhoids.  Get these apes some Preparation H stat!

As we ventured around the zoo, we walked into many exhibits.  The Fennec Fox was adorable with its tiny body and huge ears.  The meerkats scurrying around and the sloth sleeping and then waking up for breakfast.  There was no roof to his exhibit. I guess the zookeepers feel there is no way in hell it will move fast enough to get out.

There were 2 Chinese Alligators that were floating.  It was mating season and they warned not to tap in the glass.

The outside exhibits featured cougars, screeching peacocks who were attempting to find their mates.  The males had their feathers in full bloom and were running after the females.  Too bad that way of dating doesn’t happen anymore.  Thank you Millenials for ruining dating.

I saw the cutest red panda and many species of monkeys.

The highlight of the zoo was the camel ride. Since I don’t know when I will be traveling to the Middle East, why not ride a camel in Tennessee?  We chatted up the zoologist and she informed us about the camels health and coats.  Bradley was the youngest camel and he would be giving us our rides.  He had a slight skin condition near his ass.  The zoologist and the vet tech kept picking things off of him.  I’m not sure if Bradley enjoyed that, but I snapped several pictures because I thought they would be great for a meme.

 See what I meme?  See what I did there?

One of the workers gave me some camel hair which is super soft and strong.  The difference between the winter coat and summer coat is night and day.  The winter coat feels like shag carpeting while the summer coat is a little longer and thicker than peach fuzz.  They can drink 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes and like their lips rubbed.  While riding on top of one for a few minutes, it hits me that people ride these animals in the desert at this slow pace. Sweltering sun and moving super slow does not sound pleasant, but I’m sure I would be excited if given the opportunity.  Yes, I snapped a picture.

After the camel ride, we found Roger and Gail taking pictures of Cotton-Top Tamarins.  They are cute little monkey-like creatures.  Their heads in constant motion as they look at us taking pictures.  

Their ugly relative the Pied Tamarins look like gargoyles.  They have less hair on their heads and look like Zoul’s creatures from Ghostbusters. Both species are endangered due to development in South America.

Cotton top= cute.  Pied=Zoul

There were jaguars basking in the sun staring at me as I clicked away.  I always wonder if they’re like “Here come these assholes again.”

Once we walked the entire zoo, Diana and I decided to grab some lunch, but first we hit up The Hot Chocolatier.  

As you can guess, hot chocolate is their specialty, but they do sell homemade chocolates, truffles and pastries.  I opted for the S’mores frozen hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow on top.  It was divine.  Diana had a spicy hot chocolate which she enjoyed.

We decided to grab lunch at The Terminal Brew House again before we hit the road.  I had a yummy club sandwich with a BBQ mayo.  The mayo was very good.  It added a whole different flavor to a regular club. 

As we drove off, I wondered when I would visit again.  It’s only 2 hours from my house and is a wonderful place to visit for the day. Chattanooga is a young people’s city.  If you enjoy outdoor activities, it’s a great trip.  From hiking to the Tennessee Aquarium to underground waterfalls at Ruby Falls, there are tons of options to keep everyone satisfied.  

Senoia Round 2

Yesterday I made my journey back to Senoia with a friend in tow.  Laura, who is a big Walking Dead fan, has never been down to Senoia to see the set.  So why not go visit the town, see the sets and do some holiday shopping in the process?

We arrived a little before 11AM and started our walk towards the Alexandria set.  Now that the show has finished filming for the season, there are no security guards at any of the entrances. Muhahahaha (evil laugh). The one thing that you will notice now are caution tapes lining the outside of the perimeter.  Even a portion of the railroad tracks were taped off.  Laura mentioned that maybe it was my fault since I was able to run to the Alexandria wall and snap pictures the last time I was there so I’m gonna run with that excuse.  

I showed her where Milton’s lab was located from Season 3.  This is the location where Andrea was tortured.  The street next to it was where Enid’s flashback of her parents getting killed was filmed for the “JSS” episode.

Once Gin Street intersects with Plyant Street, the backside of the set is no longer taped off. Walking along Plyant brings you in the neighborhood and all of the neighbors have No Trespassing signs on their property.  Plyant Street is the location of where Rick and Carl find a house to rest in after Rick got his ass beat by the Governor in Season 4.  This is also the same house that Joe of the “Claimed” gang barged in while Rick was resting upstairs.

This street is also where Carl journeys out of the house on his own to prove that he can survive.  Carl’s famous line “I win” was muttered several times back here.  Plus, the house that Carl enjoyed a huge can of pudding while sitting on their roof is located on Plyant as well.

Once you pass these houses, you come to the intersection of Morgan and Plyant Streets. There is a small barrier that is on the side of the road stating that production has the right to close the street down and asking out of the kindness of your hearts to not venture towards the set.  Since the signs said nothing about prosecuting, Laura and I casually strolled down towards the back of the Alexandria walls. There was a piece of property for sale right next to the wall which if you are a fan of the show and can get a house built rather quickly, you could probably enjoy watching the filming from your second story window.  

We didn’t venture all the way to the wall, but did take pictures of what were Rick (far right), Carol (center) and Jesse’s (left) houses from behind.

I didn’t notice it until I started looking at the pictures, but in the picture above, there seems to be some type of ditch that runs under the wall.  If we would have gotten closer, that may have been a covert operation to get on the set, but I know Laura wasn’t looking to get arrested.

We started walking back towards Main Street and decided to take some pictures along the railroad tracks.  On one end is where they filmed Rick, Carl and Michonne coming upon the Terminus sign and on the other end of the tracks, Carol, Tyresse, Mika, Lizzie and Judith were filmed spotting the Terminus sign.  We had to take the opportunity to reenact the Michonne/Carl game as they balanced on the tracks.

After the self-guided tour, we decided to eat at Nic & Norman’s.  It was close to 12 by now and we were seated right away.  I ordered a Bison Burger with the sidewinder fries while Laura ordered the BBQ chicken flatbread.  I devoured my Bison Burger.  This burger was so much more appetizing than the Fried Chicken Burger I had last time.  Laura ate only a small portion of her flatbread.  There were lots of onions and it was smothered in cheese.

Following lunch, we decided to hit up some stores and do some holiday shopping.  There are plenty of antique shops with unique merchandise.  Laura found a few stocking stuffers for her grandkids.

We entered The Woodbury Shoppe aka The Official Walking Dead Store.  Every time I go into that store, there is different merchandise. My favorite new piece was seeing the AMC version of Lucille.  Not to get it confused with the Skybound comic version which is also sold, but looks more childish.  AMC’s version retails for $45 and looks realistic.  Do not attempt to board a plane with this slugger.  It will get confiscated.

As we walked through TWD museum downstairs where they have cell blocks, the doors that say “Don’t Open, Dead Inside”, Andrea’s torture chair and Daryl’s Season 1 chopper, I told Laura that I would take some pictures of her at the doors and in the cell.  She decided to act as Hershel and only have one leg while laying on the bed.  I told her I didn’t know if I should be laughing or not, but she looked like she had only one leg!  I couldn’t get over it.  No special effects or green screen needed.  At one point, we found ourselves to be the only people down there, so of course, she jumped into Andrea’s chair which is roped off and I snapped a picture of her with her eyes bulging as if she’s being tortured.

We continued on our way, walking in and out of shops.  Laura bought a few items and a beautiful long vest with a really cool pattern on it.  

We stopped in the ice cream shop.  For anyone who knows me well, you know I’m a sucker for a milkshake.  I got a mint chocolate chip milkshake while Laura bought some chocolate pecan fudge.  The shop has a chalkboard of the US and it says for any visitors to put a mark on the board from wherever you traveled from.  It’s amazing how this show has brought people from all over the world to Senoia.  In states that didn’t have many markings, there were people who wrote their countries of origin.  Spain, Ukraine, Argentina, England, China were just a few that I could read.

After the ice cream shop, we decided to head out.  It’s always a fun adventure going to Senoia.  There were quite a few people roaming the streets, ducking in and out of shops and looking at Alexandria.  Filming for next season starts in May.  Guess I’ll have to come down during filming and see if I can spot anyone.

Holidays at the Fernbank

Each year, companies shell out lots of money to celebrate the holidays.  Some companies reserve the classiest venues while others may hold their parties in the office.  No matter where you celebrate, as long as you are surrounded by friends, the venue doesn’t really matter. Last year, my firm party was held at the College Football Hall of Fame.  Lots of kicks, passing and diving for footballs along with a really cool interactive area.  This year, the firm decided to hold the party at the Fernbank Museum.  It proved to be a wonderful location with an awesome backdrop.

Our party was held in the huge hall showcasing the fossils of several dinosaurs.  When you see the size of these dinosaurs, you really become awestruck.  To know that these creatures roamed the earth millions of years ago, is fascinating.  

As more people arrived, voices began to fill the hall and the sound of children’s gasps resonated as their eyes widened at the sight of the gigantic dinosaur structures.  Every year, the firm makes it a point to have a family-friendly event.  Little girls wear their finest sparkly dresses and little boys are dressed in sweaters and suits.  There were children running around the venue trying to lure their parents to the exhibits or the third floor playground where most of them spent the majority of their time.

My roommate Stephanie and I headed to the bar to grab some drinks and were greeted by the catering staff serving hors d’oeuvres. Shrimp on skewers, chicken parmigiana, cheese and jalapeño balls, pigs in a blanket were some of the finger foods being passed around.  They were all delicious.  

Little by little, friends began to arrive.  After dropping our drinks at a table, we went to the buffet tables to begin to fill our plates.  Pistachio and feta salad, grilled chicken with winter squash and cranberries, salmon, honey bourbon beef, carrot and raisin salad, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese bar and a dessert station.  The food was delicious.  

After second rounds were devoured, Stephanie, Matt, Joy, Kevin, Doug and myself ventured into the dinosaur exhibit.  It had some interactive displays. One in which you had to lift a dinosaur fossil and the other was an elephant fossil.  The purpose was to see which was heavier.  Of course, this was a fail because Joy lifted the dinosaur fossil and pulled it right off of the rod that held it up.  I told her I was gonna write about this in the blog, so here it is!  Hi Joy! Stephanie was able to screw it back on.

We continued to roam the exhibit and lift, spin and observe through microscopes the evolution of dinosaurs.  I love learning about dinosaurs.  I find the topic fascinating.  

After the dinosaur exhibit, we made our way upstairs and had the opportunity to see the Christmas customs of several countries.  There were Christmas trees displayed that represented different countries and a write up about the traditions.  Many of these trees were very elaborate in their decorations.

After the Christmas trees, we took a stroll through the exhibit of Georgia’s environmental history.  This was interesting because they showed animals and fauna that existed in prehistoric times.  Gigantic insects and animals that you’ve never seen before plus favorites such as bears and foxes and such.  Did you know there were T-Rexes in Georgia?

After the Georgia exhibit, we hit the bar again. With plenty of drinks flowing, there were funny conversations regarding the dinosaur conspiracy theory as well as conversations about the Illuminati.  It’s always funny to see your coworkers out of their work environment and see them loosen up.  It’s a shame that it usually only happens once or twice a year. New friends were made and 2017 pledges to do things that motivate were spoken.  I was able to adopt 2 more fun-seekers into swing dancing and doing something that they love and wanted to get back into.  Overall, this party was a huge success.  Looking forward to seeing these awesome people Monday morning.

The Start of the Holiday Season

I traveled to New Jersey on Wednesday to celebrate Thanksgiving and take part in the Black Friday shopping spree with my family. This year was special after a year absence from celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. Thanksgiving is my mother’s favorite holiday so I’m glad I had the chance to be there to enjoy some family time.  There’s nothing better than being surrounded by good people, good conversation and good food.

Thanksgiving.  A holiday that lets one show gratitude for all of the important people and things in one’s life.  This year, more than ever, made me extremely grateful for my family and friends.  They have been there through thick and thin; have given me words of encouragement and advice.  They’ve listened when I needed to rant and grabbed tissues when I needed to cry.  Every year that passes makes me realize how much I need them and their positive words in my life.

I was able to see my amazing nieces with whom I laugh uncontrollably.  Playing the tickle game, telling jokes or making up games as we go, they never cease to amaze me.  If I was their age, I would love to be friends with them.

As for my “Bumpuss Hounds”, I missed my dogs terribly.  Samson and Hershey are huge-bodied dogs that will barrel you over if you’re in the way.  If you’re on the floor playing with them, you will walk away with bruises on your legs from them stepping on you.  Samson took up his usual protective positioning when I would sit on the couch.  Hershey would lay on the floor and roll over on his side, breathing heavy as he normally does.  These dogs bring so much joy to my life and my life would be so much duller without them.

My mother, younger brother and I decided to go Christmas shopping on Black Friday.  I’m the type of person who could go out on Black Friday and not buy anything.  I enjoy the rush of the holiday season and it helps put me in the holiday mood.  Hearing holiday music, seeing the Santa Claus take up shop in the center of the mall and packed parking lots are all moments that I find dear to my heart.

We hit up a bookstore first then grabbed some breakfast at the diner where we plotted our moves.  We, then, drove to the mall and began to conquer our Christmas lists.  We got to the mall around 8AM and didn’t leave until after 4PM.  That was the first time my brother came with us for our all day adventure.  He had his moments where he was having a meltdown in Sephora, but could you blame him.  We had several good laughs with the idea that my mother was getting high from the amount of perfumes she was inhaling.

When we finally did leave the mall and get back home, our bodies just wanted to hit the couch. It was a long day that was going to continue on Saturday.

My mother and I purchased some Korean facial masks at Sephora and we decided to use them that night.  They were not what I expected when I pulled it out of the packaging.  I thought I would be putting on some type of clay mask and have it dry up until it was time for me to rinse, but noooooooo.  It was an actual cloth mask with eyeholes, a mouth hole and a slit for your nose.  This became quite comical.  We tried not to laugh, but this proved difficult.  We resembled Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Once we took the masks off, we did notice a nice, refreshing appearance.
When Saturday rolled around, I had a list of the remaining gifts I needed.  I wanted to knock out all of my gifts while home so I wouldn’t have to struggle finding them closer to the holidays. Mission accomplished!  Now I can really enjoy the season.

I put up my little Christmas tree in my house today and my roommate will be putting up the wooden moose on the front lawn.  The neighbor already has up the disco star shower.  We’ve jokingly discussed dressing up as elves and dancing in the disco kaleidoscope.

I had a great mini vacation with my family and am looking forward to seeing them for Christmas.  Ho Ho Ho!

Oakland Cemetery Birthday Scavenger Hunt

Today, I met some friends for a scavenger hunt at Oakland Cemetery for my 40th birthday.  It was such a cool idea in one of my favorite spots in Atlanta.  Nothing says “Over The Hill” like a celebration in a cemetery, am I right?

Starting at the entrance of the cemetery, we needed to read the plaque and fill in the blanks to decipher where the next location for clue 2 was.  There were times when we needed to use the compass on our phones to decipher which direction to travel.  

While we were scurrying around, there was a wedding rehearsal going on. Someone involved with the rehearsal saw me carrying around a clipboard with a booklet while scanning the ground.  He opened his car door and asked “What are you doing?”  I told him I was completing a scavenger hunt.  “In a cemetery?” was his next response.  “Yeah.”  This gentlemen then said he never heard of such a thing.  Oh well, he needs to get out more.  

Oakland Cemetery is a top destination in Atlanta for weddings and if you spend some time there, you would understand why.  It is hauntingly beautiful with archways, gazebos and benches while being overlooked by the Atlanta skyline.

As we made our way around the cemetery, we had clues that took us to Margaret Mitchell’s gravesite, the Confederate Monument and the Richards’ tomb which I have recorded EVPs telling me to get out.  That tomb always creeps me out, but yet I am fascinated by it and the gargoyles that keep watch over it.

Towards the end of the hunt, we started to run from clue to clue challenging each other. Writing in our booklets, deciphering puzzles and holding puzzles to the light to read the hidden messages were just a few of the tasks that needed to be figured out in order to move on.

The last clue had me running back to the entrance in order to finish the hunt.  Numero uno!!  I came in first and not just because it was my birthday.  I was waiting for everyone when Diana called her hubby Mark to tell me that the rest of the group walked right over to Six Feet Under for the dinner portion of the night.  So Mark and I drove over.  

The gang was unstairs on the patio which overlooked the cemetery.  There was a beautiful sunset full of pinks and oranges which helped keep our minds off of the chill in the air. A round of drinks were ordered.  I enjoyed the blueberry lemonade.  Yes, it was alcoholic.  My dinner order of shrimp and scallops with zucchini fries and corn on the cob was enjoyable. 

I was offered great advice for my 40s.  It was to be comfortable in my skin, find people that you could laugh with and don’t take no shit from anyone.  There were many laughs and lots of alcohol flowing.  JJ was hysterical talking about Wild Bill, Laura telling the table about the bacon prank at work and Quentin updating the table of the Georgia/Auburn game.  I tried to convince the table to go get tattoos.  Joy said she’d go, but Matt was against it since she’d been drinking.  That’s understandable.  

Overall, I really had a great time tonight.  The scavenger hunt was challenging and dinner was great.  There were interesting conversations that had the whole table laughing so loud we could have woke the dead.  Here’s hoping that turning 40 will continue to see me live life to the fullest.  I don’t feel “over the hill”. I feel like I’m just getting started.

Road Trip: Helen, GA

Did you ever feel like you spend most of your life waiting?  Waiting on others to be there for you; waiting for them to finalize plans; waiting for them to show up.  Well, that’s me.  I always felt like I spent so much time waiting on others and more than 50% of the time being disappointed by the outcome of my waiting.  I relied too heavily on having plans with others that I lost my own adventurous side.  Of course, I enjoy having company around.  I’m under the impression ‘the more the merrier’, but when you get so comfortable having people around that you stop doing things on your own, this leads to a problem which is what lead me to take a solo road trip to Helen, Georgia.

I’ve never been to Helen before and was intrigued by the idea of a little piece of Bavaria tucked away in the mountains of Georgia. Traveling from Atlanta, its roughly 1.5 hours north which was a gorgeous, scenic drive through the mountains. With Autumn underway, the leaves have begun to turn colors and the sweeping landscapes of farms with the mountains in the distance were jaw-dropping.  

As I got closer to my destination, I couldn’t help to get excited.  I saw a gentleman driving his big tractor in the street.  The unfortunate thing was it was only a 2 lane road and I was traveling in the opposite direction, but part of me wanted to honk my horn in support of his tractor riding.  Farms stretched wide with herds of cows and horses running freely.  It was smile-inducing and calming.

Upon entering Helen, immediately you feel transported across the Atlantic.  The architecture stands out with its tall steeples and colorful facades.  Most of the little German town centers around Main Street where you will find German-themed restaurants, candy shops and souvenir shops.  You can spend all day shuffling in and out of these shops.

My first shop that I stopped in was the Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen.  Nothing gets me moving faster than the sweet smell of chocolate.  This place was awesome.  There was fudge, bark, clusters, truffles, popcorn, chocolate-covered everything!  They even had chocolate-covered Ruffles potato chips and Fritos.  There were walls that beautifully displayed every color Jelly Belly and taffy.  It was a chocoholic’s dream and a diabetic’s nightmare.

Since this was my first stop, I didn’t want to get any chocolate yet and have it melt so I backed away from the store.  Slowly, ve-ry slow-ly.

My next stops included a few souvenir shops. Most of these shops sold t-shirts, beer steins (for obvious reasons) and little trinkets.  You can tell the political climate of the area by what the t-shirts they’re selling have on them.  Let’s just say they want to keep the Confederate flag waving and are Trump supporters.  

I made my way across the busy 2-lane street and came across more shops and eateries.  I walked into one shop called Windmill Dutch Imports.  The outside of the shop lured me in with its oceanic blue facade.  Plus, the little boy and girl surrounding the windmill didn’t hurt.

This store had Dutch foods as well as lots of ceramics.  My eye was drawn to the wall of clog slippers for sale.  Yes, I debated whether to purchase a pair, but ultimately, left the store without them.  They were freaking cool though.

I moved along Main Street popping in and out of every shop.  Some shops didn’t feel like they fit in with the environment.  I found a few shops that sold airbrushed designs while the other half of the store sold blades in every size.  Plus, there was a small bin on the counter that had old uniform badges in it.  They were from New Jersey police departments.  I commented to the female worker and she said her dad is from South Jersey.  Oh well, we all can’t be perfect.

There were glassblowing shops that could design your name in glass for $10.  No, I didn’t partake in this, but the shop was uncomfortably crowded with tourists that were.

The temperatures were absolutely fantastic for walking along Main Street.  When I arrived, it was in the lower 60s.  It was so refreshing. There were many people enjoying the river water alongside of the restaurants.  

I continued on my walk along Main Street ducking in and out of shops and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  The streets were coming alive with more people around 2PM.  

I found another Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen a little further down the road.  I thought yeah, why not.  So many choices to choose from, but the winner was a Ski Bum.  It consisted of marshmallows with caramel and slivers of almonds covered in chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate.  Because it’s not complete unless it’s drizzled, right?  Yeah, it hit the sweet spot.

As I walked back towards the more congested part of town, I stopped in a few more shops. There were shops dedicated to jerky of every kind and flavor.  There was also a shop for spices, flavoring and rubs.  My favorite set in here was a hot sauce with the greatest labels ever.  How could you not look at these and not immediately think “Yassssss”?

There was a shop called Tim’s Wooden Toys. Yes, the entire shop is just that. Wooden toys. Wooden weapons, trucks and puzzle games. They also had a cool world map that when you go to visit, you can put a push pin in the map showing where you are visiting from.  It’s amazing to see how far people have traveled and wound up in Helen, GA.

After strolling for a bit, I decided to just take a seat and people watch.  The polka music that was filling the streets was clashing with the roar of motorcycle engines on Main Street.  There were plenty of dogs being walked and owners being walked by their dogs.  Cannon fire erupting from the Civil War Reenactment had people jumping every now and then.  An older gentlemen playing a snare drum for change on the corner was greeted by another older fellow that was wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses made to look like beer glasses.  That guy marches to the beat of his own drum…or his friend’s drum for that matter.

Soon after, I decided to take a slow stroll to get back to my car and take in the last of the sights. Soon enough, the holiday shoppers will begin to descend upon Helen and fill the streets with holiday cheer.  Now that I know what this little town is all about, maybe I’ll be one of those shoppers.

This trip to Helen was more than just a trip.  It proved to me that I don’t need to wait on anyone to enjoy myself.  I am more than capable of finding an adventure on my own.  No more waiting.

Willkommen: Happy 50th Birthday ‘Cabaret’

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Broadway revival of The Roundabout Theater’s production of “Cabaret”.  I was unaware that “Cabaret” was celebrating 50 years of history from stage to screen and back to stage.  For a show to have such an amazing run, I guess “life is beautiful”, but say that with a German accent.

I have never seen “Cabaret” before on stage or screen.  What was that?  The gasp?  Yes, but it’s true.  I was a “Cabaret” virgin.  I was blind, but now I see.  I guess it’s never too late though.  

I recall a performance in my younger dance days.  The performer who portrayed Sally Bowles quietly took her place on a chair as “Mein Herr” began to play.  Though this was a lip-sync performance, it was planned to be stopped just as her first lyrics started.  “This is a GM (guest) show and you have no GMs performing in your skit!”  As the Club Med version of Sally Bowles cried out, “I was not able to find any GMs to perform”, the emcee would turn on the house lights and present the audience with a sweeping of the arm.  Sally would gracefully step into the audience, who then realized the joke was on them.  Eye contact was seldom made at this point, but when the first GM was grabbed, the laughter ensued.  Later on in the show, Sally would reappear to take the stage straddling the chair and “Mein Herr” would begin to play.  The moment I saw this funny portrayal of Sally on stage singing “Mein Herr” with 4 men dressed as women with balloons for boobs, wigs and bodysuits, I knew that this show would strike my fancy.  

“Mein Herr” with that long note at the end became one of my favorite songs and still is.  I crush this at karaoke and my mom is embarrassed to drive with me when the song comes on because I’m so dramatic with the gestures.  She actually told me to not sing during the show last night.  I couldn’t help it.  All this praise for a song in a show that I had never seen.

Enough about my hayday.  The show last night was spectacular.  The performances were sexy, raunchy and funny.  The costumes were awesome.  Talk about a great girl squad Halloween costume.  I’m totally game.

I went into the show knowing the basics.  I’m talkin’ ’bout the Wikipedia description of “Cabaret”.  At the time of its ’66 debut, “Cabaret” was seen as shocking and über progressive (like how I used my German?). Fraüleins scampering across the stage in their nude-colored undergarments would have made the 1950s Donna Reed wannabes drop their jaws and run for the hills.  The men of the Kit Kat Club donning their best pair of black trousers and very little else.  As for the Emcee, originally portrayed by Joel Grey, reprised by the amazing Alan Cumming and now being reimagined by Randy Harrison, this character has the attitude of The Joker with a great vocal range and wonderful comedic timing.

The story of a love triangle that has been reworked to fit the current times is a story that never gets old.

The crude humor and choreography was startling at times and must have been seen as blasphemous in ’66.  Even last night’s show had an elderly couple get up and leave as “Two Ladies” was performed with hand gestures and the occasional crotch grab.  I immediately pegged them as Trump supporters.  I’m sorry; I just had to.  I, on the other hand, loved the choreography.  The stomping on the wooden stage of The Fox Theater made me miss performing that much more.  The sensual moves of the female characters were empowering.  They owned their sexuality.  If only we could all be so bold.

“Cabaret” is set in pre-WWII.  The Nazis are gaining favor in Germany and the world begins to see the power of Hitler.  The Kit Kat Club in Berlin is known for its beautiful girls that would be more than happy to serve the male clientele. The American writer trying to catch a glimpse of life inside Berlin falls prey to the flirtatious charms of the star of the Kit Kat Club, Sally Bowles.

With Hitler tightening his grip on Germany, it would be hard-pressed to not see the similarities with modern day issues in Syria, Iraq and Russia.  Although the seriousness of the show is, at times, placed on the back burner for the light-hearted laughs, it all comes to a screeching halt at the finale.

The American writer leaves Germany without his love, Sally, as the Jewish population is beginning to be targeted.  She chose her career over love.  

The end scene has the Emcee sarcastically stating that “life is beautiful” and “the girls are beautiful”.  As he introduces the Kit Kat Club Orchestra, the chairs are empty.  There are no dancers.  They’ve been rounded up by the Nazis.  The background lights up with the silouette of a train and people boarding.  The Emcee rips off his jacket and pants to reveal the striped clothing that dons the Jewish yellow star as he then boards the train.  The stage lights go black.  Silence filled the room.

This was a really powerful scene and one that is very relevant in today’s times.  Maybe the American writer whose stories were believed to be the inspiration for “Cabaret” understood history and knew that everything comes back around.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence.  He made sure to repeat three little words very often.

Life is beautiful.

Walker Stalker Atlanta 2016

The annual gathering of black boots has come upon us.  Walker Stalker, a convention dedicated to all things related to The Walking Dead has arrived this weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.  Although the show has just premiered its seventh season, Walker Stalker is only into its fourth year.  Due to its popularity on the convention circuit, several other destinations have been added, as well as, a Walker Stalker cruise in February.

What can you expect at Walker Stalker? Everything.  With Atlanta being the stomping grounds of filming, the entire cast of characters, both alive and deceased in the show, come to the convention to fulfill fans’ dreams of mingling with their favorite celebrities.  There are panel discussions, autograph sessions, photo ops, vendors, live music, a kids zone as well as opportunities to test your skill at surviving the zombie apocalypse.  It really is a destination that draws people from all over the world.

I purchased a VIP badge which allows me early access to the vendor floor as well as to the celebrity autograph sessions.  Because this was my third year attending, I knew what to expect and how I would still be waiting around. VIP really doesn’t help.  It just gets you sitting closer at the panels and may shave an hour off your wait time.  Besides that, there is no reason to buy a VIP badge.

Since the convention was held over Halloween weekend, I decided to dress up in my best costume.  I arrived at the convention dressed as Apocalyspe Snow White.  I received lots of praise and great comments. It’s nice when you’re costume gets noticed for all the right reasons.  

As I entered the convention floor, I quickly walked around to familiarize myself with the layout.  All TWD celebrity booths were against the back wall with a few other celebrities from American Horror Story, Sons of Anarchy and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in the middle. 

I noticed the booth for Khary Payton who will be portraying King Ezekiel in The Walking Dead. Apparently, he was a last minute addition.  As other more popular and well-known celebrities already had ridiculous lines, I thought this was my chance to get a photo with The King before attendees realized who he was.  I was the second person in line and we waited about 30 minutes for him to pop up from behind his screen and welcome us with a big smile and and an excited hello. I said Happy Halloween and he said it back saying he liked my costume and knew exactly who it was.  I said “I tried.” His response was “You did more than try” and a few other fun comments.  I walked up to him and shook his hand and told him I’m really excited to see his portrayal of Ezekiel.  He said once the character is introduced, it would allow him to speak a little more about him.  A volunteer took my phone and snapped a picture and I asked him if we could get a selfie.  He said “Absolutely!” and grabbed my phone and took some selfies.  Funny thing is I’m just noticing it now as I write this, but his shirt has the quote from Ezekiel in The Bible that Samuel L. Jackson’s character says in Pulp Fiction. Well-played Khary, well-played.

After that, I ran up to the Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) and Greg Nicotero panel.  This panel was packed.  Everyone was so excited to hear what JDM would have to say regarding his badass character.  JDM is such a charming, funny, f-bomb dropping, cool dude.  I can see why he was chosen for this role.  Apparently, he was the actor that Greg Nicotero wanted to play Negan from the very beginning.  They also film a PG rated version which is what AMC airs and then there is the profanity-laced version which appears on the DVD.  For any ladies who remember him from Grey’s Anatomy and P.S. I Love You, this is a total departure from those roles.​

I really enjoyed this panel.  It really made me interested to see Negan’s backstory and how/why he is the way he is.  Was he always an asshole?  What happened to his family? What did he do before the apocalypse?  All of these questions,  hopefully, will be answered in upcoming episodes.

After that panel, I headed back to the convention floor and decided to seee what the vendors had.  These vendors came from all over.  Collectibles, dolls, toys, jewelry, clothing, handmade soaps, bags, posters were all in abundance.  I, personally, love shopping at conventions.  Most of the items are from small businesses that rely on your dollars to keep them afloat.

I purchased two Funko Pops that I was looking for and two t-shirts.

After shuffling around in my costume, I decided to change out of it and enter the land of the normally dressed.

I went to check out the kids zone which was near a pinball arcade that was set up. Saturday was a busy day and it was just going to get crazier.

I went out of the Georgia World Congress Center to get food.  I would rather spend more money on better food then more money on a lesser amount of food.  Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich with drink and chips for $12…no thanks.  Not to mention, they ran out of sandwiches and didn’t tell anyone, but rather kept everyone standing in line as the employees waited for more sandwiches to arrive.  I wasn’t going to wait.  I went to Taco Mac and chowed down.

When I came back, I walked around a bit more then went upstairs to the Thomas Murray Ballroom where the pilot episode was going to be screened and then a Q&A session with Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Lennie James (Morgan) would follow.  This turned out to be awesome!  It was hosted by Ross Marquand who plays Aaron.  The entire audience was silent as the episode played out.  We laughed together, booed at the infidelity of Rick’s wife with his best friend, cheered and clapped when characters came on screen.  It was a really cool experience.  It got way cooler when Lincoln and James joined.

What the audience did not expect was for the recently deceased character of Glenn Rhee played by Steven Yeun to be introduced.  The audience exploded!

Questions that were submitted online during the episode screening were answered.  We learned about their auditions, their friendships with each other, their thankfulness to the City of Atlanta for taking a chance on this show as well as the all around ridiculousness that happens on set. Lennie even showed us his tattoo which he named Clarence because he said if he wasn’t an actor he would be a Rastaman with long dreads and called Clarence.  It was a cool story until he said the name Clarence, according to Steven.  You can tell by his face.

This panel was really great and I’m happy I was able to get a ticket to attend.  There is no cooler experience then attending something like this with everyone else feeling the exact same way. That was a great way to end the night.

Sunday brought about an early morning to get to the Andrew Lincoln panel with special guests.  The panel was to begin at 10AM with seating to begin at 8:30AM.  I was sitting in line at security before 8AM because they weren’t even open yet.  And I wasn’t the only one! Once we moved through security, everyone headed to the ballroom again and waited on line.  VIPs were allowed in at 9AM.

I had a pretty good seat.  I would say I was roughly 10 rows from the stage.  Not too shabby.  There was a guy that sat next to me who was so happy to be there.  He was a Police Officer from New York who loves TWD. It was his first time attending Walker Stalker and he loves Andrew Lincoln.  He wanted to meet him so badly.  This year, instead of having any solo photo ops or autograph sessions, Andy just had ops and sessions for those with the Platinum and Gold badges.  

The Officer had a female friend who had a Gold Badge.  She was trying to see if she could transfer her photo ticket to him because it meant that much to him.  I told him to see if he could join her in the picture because they allow two adults, but he didn’t want to take it away from her if she wanted Andy to herself.  I told him about my opportunities to meet him and have a photo with him.

As the panel began, there was so much energy in the room.  First, Andrew Lincoln was introduced.  Then special guest Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon).  The crowd erupted.  It was awesome to have the bromance on stage again.

You can tell how much this cast really enjoys working with each other.  They are constantly laughing and pushing each other’s boundaries to perform the best they can.  Everyone in the audience is in agreement that Andrew Lincoln deserves an Emmy.  He said it doesn’t matter because he loves what he does and feels if he gets one then his job turns more corporate and that’s not what he’s about.  They spoke about having only 4 original cast members left and how they keep going above and beyond to pay honor to those cast members.

There were other surprise guests that made a quick cameo walk by.  Josh McDermitt (Eugene) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) came out on opposite sides of the stage and hugged in the middle then walked off hand-in-hand.  It was a cute cameo that ended with Josh tapping JDM’s ass.  It was unexpected.

The Officer sitting next to me said to me, “I’m starting to tear up.  Look.” He showed me the text message from his female friend and she told him he could join her in the Andy Lincoln photo.  I was so happy for him.  He started to panic from excitement and take deep breaths to try to calm himself.  I saw him from the corner of my eye, wipe some tears away.  This is a grown man who will live out a dream.  Knowing that he will be able to meet his idol, totally made my day.

Once the panel was over, back down to the convention floor I went.  I walked around bit, bought an expensive pizza for convenience and enjoyed the remaining time I had at the con.  I met up with my friend who is a vendor to chat a bit more and then decided to head out.

It was another successful Walker Stalker con for me.  I love cons and all the excitement they bring.  Don’t doubt for a second that when those tickets for Walker Stalker 2017 go on sale, I won’t jump all over the chance to do it again.  I guess I should start planning my costume now!  Black boots included.



Saturday Voting and a Paranormal Hunt

My Saturday was interesting and exciting!  I was able to experience a Georgia first and continue my paranormal hunts later in the day.

I got up super early to go vote. I did not want to miss the opportunity to be able to have a say in this presidential election.  My commute time to Atlanta in the morning of Election Day would have had me arriving very late to work plus, the commute home would not have gotten me to the voting station in a reasonable time.  So I got up early, drove to Chick-Fil-A and bought 10 extra chicken biscuits to give to others that were waiting to vote as well.  My initial thought was “hey, we’re all in this together”.  Some of those people probably thought I was insane.  I had a few people accept my biscuits (that sounds naughty).  It made me happy.  The leftovers I handed to a poll worker and he said he would share them with those working.  That already made me feel great and I didn’t even vote yet!

I never voted on an electronic touchscreen before so that was exciting and a bit scary as well.  I was hoping I wasn’t going to screw it up. New Jersey had me signing in and going in the voting booth, pulling the lever and the curtain closing.  Once that curtain, IT WAS ON!  Push those buttons and then the curtain opened.

I read the instructions and went about my voting.  Not gonna lie, seeing a woman’s name on the ballot was cool.  Funny thing was all of the local elections were uncontested.  After I submitted my choices, you walk out and a woman was handing out the Georgia stickers.  I was looking forward to getting one of these.

I have officially become a Georgia voter!  

Saturday night was fun as well.  I went on a paranormal hunt with the Atlanta Paranormal Group.  We were going to investigate some of the Kennesaw Battlefields which was a major battle during the Civil War.  

Immediately, we split up.  I took a group down a trail and through some of the battlefield.  One of our members had an infrared camera and an Ovulus device also known as a Spirit Box.  This box sweeps radio frequencies quickly and allows for spirits to speak.  When Philip asked if he can take pictures, the Spirit Box said “absolutely”.  EVPs were rather quiet.  I did receive one on my recorder which is my phone. I asked if the spirit had a name.  The reply sounded like “Michael”.  No matter how many times I play that back, that’s what I hear.  For some reason, I always get some type of EVP.  I guess they like to speak to me.

Along the trail, we started taking pictures.  Most were filled with flying pollen, bugs and just the environment being kicked up by the wind, but I did get an orb on one pic.

Below you will see three pictures; one taken right after another.  The third picture shows the orb in the lower right corner.

Of course, I was excited.  Capturing evidence is an awesome feeling.  Plus having an EVP also validates the effort and the skepticism. 

So that was my Saturday.  Early voting and a paranormal hunt.  Looking forward to more hunts.  Here’s hoping we can investigate Marietta Cemetery or Oakland Cemetery. EVPs can be captured anytime of day and you don’t need fancy equipment.  I use the voice recorder on my phone and listen back with a pair of headphones after the hunt when it’s quiet.  Who knows?  Maybe some spirits would like to communicate with you!