My $11 beer…

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…tasted great, even though it was a watered-down Bud Light in a plastic cup. What made it taste especially good though, was the fact that as I enjoyed it, I was perched high above Yankee Stadium watching my beloved Red Sox pummel the New York Yankees 11-1!

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Sam just started a summer internship in Manhattan this week, so he and I were making our way down to the Lower West Side of the city to get him installed temporarily in Aunt Joan’s now empty apartment. It was late on a Saturday afternoon as we zipped along the Merritt Parkway through Connecticut, and as we flipped between the local radio stations, we realized that the somewhat surprising first place Sox were going to be in town at the same time we were.

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It was a gorgeous evening at the tail end of what had been the first really hot weekend of the summer, and we both now wondered how difficult it might be to get ourselves to the stadium for the 7:10 p.m. game. We knew that since the new Yankee Stadium is so big, there was a good chance we would be able to get tickets easily, so Sam went to work on the phone. Ten minutes later… score. This version of Yankee Stadium is an impressive place. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and the combination of mid-80 degree temperatures and a cool upper deck breeze made for a pretty amazing experience.

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The last time I was in Yankee Stadium was for the infamous night when Grady Little left Pedro in too long and when Aaron”bleeping” Boone hit a 10th inning Tim Wakefield knuckleball for a walk-off home run to send the Red Sox crashing out of the playoffs. That night I was snuggled in with the bleacher creatures – and boy was that an experience – but this time we were in a much more comfortable, and safer, environment. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer evening than watching baseball (and the Red Sox)… even if the beer did cost $11. Go Sox!

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The little Aquarist visits the big Aquarium

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Boston is a city we feel very comfortable in. We like the size of the city and the variety of activities available for anyone interested in exploring. The history and tradition of the place is second to none on the eastern seaboard, and as transplanted New-Englanders, we feel right at home with the food and lifestyle. On this particular occasion we stayed right beside Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, and just a five minute walk from the New England Aquarium where our newly anointed little Aquarist was quite keen to see the fishies.

A week after starting his own aquarium at home, Jack had a chance to see an incredible array of fish and other water loving species at the New England Aquarium. We had taken a road trip to drop Sam back off at Camp Burgess on the Cape where he had another week left of his summer job as a camp counselor, and on the way back up north, we stopped off for the night in Boston. The New England Aquarium was hosting a pretty cool Shark and Ray Touch Tank exhibit that allowed an up close and personal look (and feel) of some amazing creatures. Jack dove right in, eager to touch the rays and some of the twenty sharks housed in the fast-moving tank. He was quite intrigued by this exhibit and was having so much fun that we had to remind him there were a few more things that he might be interested in seeing!

The Giant Ocean Tank within the New England Aquarium is huge, 200,000 gallons huge! It spans 3 stories and the spiral walkway that surrounds it offers incredible views of the enclosed (simulated) coral reef and all sorts of cool creatures – including humans as you can see! Several times per day these guys feed the fish, clean the tank, and perform generally maintenance. As we wandered from floor to floor exploring the Giant Ocean Tank we saw a whole slew of penguins, a gigantic and scary looking green moray eel, several beautiful and impressive sharks, a couple of rather large sea turtles, and countless varieties of colorful fish… big and small. We rounded out our brief visit spending some time enjoying the jellyfish exhibit – such graceful creatures, they can be quite mesmerizing!

Home Sweet Home

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We made it home to Maine right on time, but not without a few challenges. I love to travel, but am not a huge fan of getting there, especially if flying is involved, and especially, especially if flying during winter months is involved. The potential for disruption from bad weather is significantly magnified at this time of year, and as our adventure wound down today, this was of course the case.

Leaving Vegas at 7am, we were supposed to fly to Boston, back south to Philly, and then north home to Bangor. This was a rough enough itinerary even if things went to plan, but with another snow storm hitting parts of the east coast things quickly got interesting.

After smooth sailing across the country, we closed in on Boston only to be told that we would be in a holding pattern while they tried to fix some essential navigational equipment on the ground. Then the captain informed us that due to snow the braking response on the runways at Logan was reported as zero, and that we would be circling until they fixed the malfunction and the snow was cleared for a safe landing. He also told us that we had enough fuel to be in the air for maybe another 45 minutes or so.

Long story short… we were re-routed to Providence where we were given an opportunity to de-plane and stretch our legs. Not feeling too optimistic about our chances of getting back to Boston in time to then get down to Philadelphia and make our final connection, I stopped by the US Airways desk and asked if we had any alternatives for getting us home today. We abandoned our checked bags and hopped on a plane from Providence to Philly, and we easily made our connection from there to Bangor. Long day, but since our original flight out of Boston to Philly was indeed canceled, it sure beats another night spent in an airport.

Sam and I had a wonderful trip out west together, but it definitely feels good to be back home again. As we spent time in the airports coming home today, Sam shared some more of his photographs with me. I think he enjoyed trying to capture some of the beauty that he saw, and here’s one of Golden Canyon in Death Valley that he had decided to convert to black and white.

Red Sox Ticket

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It was a very chilly and windy 20 degrees here in Maine this morning when I began the annual quest for Red Sox tickets. With the NFL, NBA, and NHL seasons now in full swing, baseball spring training and the date for pitchers and catchers to report seems like a long way away. I am hoping that – on this morning – most of Red Sox nation is too wrapped up in other sports to remember to try to get their Sox tickets. Ever since breaking the curse in 2004 and winning it all again in 2007, Red Sox games have become a very tough ticket to get – at least at face value. The first day that tickets go on sale has become a pretty big deal to me. I love going to Fenway Park, but unless you want to pay an arm and a leg through Ebay or the official scalper of the Red Sox (ACE Tickets), the moment tickets to selected games become available at 10:00am you have to be armed and ready – prepared to work the phone lines and/or spend considerable time in the virtual waiting room just to have a shot at what are probably the worst seats in the park being sold first.

I gave up using the phone method a few years back… too much hassle redialing three phones at the same time, and the family weren’t too impressed that I was hogging all of the phone lines in the house trying to get through. Using the phone, I NEVER got anything but a recorded message, always failing miserably in the quest to talk to a human being and order tickets.

My chosen method of obtaining tickets is now the Internet virtual waiting room. I have had some success using this method, scoring two Sox Packs (same seats to 4 games) last year at this time that went down very well as presents for Sam. You click on a link to purchase tickets and are magically transported to an Internet holding area… from there you watch the clock countdown from 15 seconds… at that point the clock refreshes for another 15 seconds (and another, and another), or you are lucky enough to be chosen at random and offered a chance to purchase tickets for the upcoming season. After last year’s success, I was feeling pretty good about my chances, especially with my patented strategy.

Like the lottery, I figured the more times you are entered into this process, the more likely you are to be selected. With this in mind, I opened 60+ browser windows (see the screenshot below) and sat for over an hour waiting and watching them refresh every 15 seconds, hoping just once to be welcomed into Red Sox ticket-land. It worked last year, so it should this year too, right?

At 11:08 and 25 seconds I called it a day. My eyes were exhausted from scanning each of the browser windows as they refreshed, and besides… at that point I figured that there weren’t going to be any good seats left anyway. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t really a bad seat in Fenway Park, but to try to get 4 together over an hour into this frenzy would likely have been futile.

So… hello Ebay and a healthy profit for those fortunate enough to have been able to navigate the virtual waiting room process and interested in re-selling their tickets. Even though I struck out this time, and I am feeling somewhat bitter about the elevated cost of supporting the Sox in person, that will not stop us from visiting Fenway Park again this summer. Nothing compares to a warm summer evening spent in America’s most beloved ballpark cheering on the hometown team and eating an Italian sausage… go Sox!

Classic Americana

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More from Fenway Park. Can you tell that I adore this place?

The Italian Sausages were good, and we got to see Jon Lester pitch 8 innings of 2-hit ball. Boy does he look good these days! Mike Lowell drove in the first run, Jason Varitek hit a rope of a 2-run single to right field, and Jason Bay looped one down around the Pesky Pole for a home run. With the 4-0 win the Red Sox finished off the sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, and moved further ahead of the Texas Rangers in the hunt for the AL Wild Card playoff spot.

Our seats were great, not only for the ball game, but also for the spectacular show put on in the skies above Boston. I knew that as the evening wore on the cloud formation up above the stadium might create the chance of some nice light sneaking under the clouds and lighting up the twilight. I figured that a moment would come when the colors in the sky would balance with the artificial lighting from Fenway (which though blown completely doesn’t bother me in this pic), and at that point everything might come together for quite a scene… here it is.

The visit to Brown University went well. We got to see a thriving campus with classes in full swing, and a quite eclectic and diverse student population going about their business. I was glad that Sam picked up on the “vibe” of the place… quite relaxed and easy-going, not always the case in a somewhat urban and very challenging academic setting.

We participated in the scheduled admissions informational session, and were treated to a wonderfully informative campus tour by a senior who did a really nice job conveying not only her love of Brown, but also lots of good information relevant to someone interested in learning more about the university.

Sam obviously enjoyed the campus, and when asked if he could see himself going to school at Brown, he replied most definitely in the affirmative. I get the feeling though that many of the schools that Sam is going to visit will impress him… they all have rich academic traditions and thousands of prospective students clamoring to attend them. One of Sam’s biggest challenges will be finding a way to distinguish between the schools he is looking at… that and successfully applying to those he is most interested in.

Fenway Park and College Visits

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Sam and I are heading down to Fenway Park soon to see the Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox are very much still in the hunt for the wild card, so it is still an exciting time to be in Boston. The photograph above is from a previous visit to Fenway several years ago when the Sox faced the Seattle Mariners – this is from when Ichiro was still a big draw, before there were seats on the Green Monster, and before the Red Sox had broken the curse. As a big fan of the Red Sox it is always thrilling to make the pilgrimage to Fenway Park to see them play, but even if you weren’t a die-hard baseball fan this park is a sight to behold, and something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

One of Sam’s presents last Christmas was a Sox Pack of 4 tickets to see the Hometown Team at Fenway. Pretty cool deal where you get two tickets to the same seats for 4 different games… sort of like a mini season ticket holder! Generally tickets for Red Sox games are still quite difficult to get, so having four guaranteed games throughout the summer is a nice thing.

In addition to going to see the Sox, we are embarking on the first of several college visits we will be making this fall. Sam is at that point in his life where he is planning on applying to several colleges and universities for next year, so it is time to hit the road and spend time exploring and experiencing some of the campuses he is most interested in.

Our first road trip will include a visit to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. We visited Brown earlier in the spring, but at that time we didn’t get a chance to meet with admissions or get an official tour. Brown is definitely one of Sam’s top choices at this point, so we are hoping to be able to glean some good information from this visit that will help in the upcoming decision-making process. There are several more college trips planned for this fall, so it is shaping up to be a busy but exciting time of year.