Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow!

So a few weeks ago, my father and I took one of my parents' five cats to get a "summer cut." Baby is an adorable long haired white Persian whom they've had for a couple years now after someone brought her to them worried that she didn't have a home.

My parents weren't sure whether or not they were going to keep her at first, but just like everyone does with Baby, they fell in love with her.

But here's the problem with a long haired cat in the middle of a South Jersey summer. She sheds. But not only that. She also tends to lick. And lick. And lick. And lick some more. It was getting so bad that she was coughing up 4-5 inch hairballs every other day.


So, the decision was made to get her cut, and that's just what we did. My father and I drove her to Petsmart, where they kept her for a few hours. We wanted it to be short, but weren't sure what exactly they had in mind. Would they shave her tail? What about her face? What would they turn her into?

Well, here, for your viewing pleasure are the before, during, and after photos...




When we brought her home, at first, she had no idea how to respond to her new body. The best way I can describe it is... shy. She hid a lot, and didn't come out except to eat and use the litterbox. Finally, about a week later, we began to see her more, and in that little bit of time, she had already grown back enough fur to cover up the skin that had been exposed.

And now, just a few weeks later, she rules the roost yet again. She's out and about, getting in people's faces, giving you head butts when she wants you to pet her, and of course, using her VERY monotone "MEOOOOOOOW" to get your attention when you're sleeping.

She's the baby. Gotta love her.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When WAS the last time I had Pizza?

Today, my father decided to go back to work.

Well, not today, exactly, but in a few weeks. September 25th, to be exact. A Friday. Usually the busiest day of the week for him. He's excited. And I'm excited too. Cause it's been forever since I had a BIMs Pizza. And I know he feels the same way.

His hip is doing much better, and he's up and about now. He's able to walk around stores, up and down stairs, and does a pretty nice two-step. His pinkie and ring finger still aren't moving that well, but he's hoping with time, they'll give him more mobility with the physical therapy. He's in good spirits, and I can understand why. Today, he said to me, "I feel like myself again," before adding, "I don't quite know who I felt like before."

This means we've got a lot to do in the next few weeks. We're reaching out to local newspapers and television stations for advertising, talking to everyone we can to see if they can get the word out, and most importantly, we've got to bring the store up to snuff. It's been closed now for over two months, meaning we've got a wee bit of cleaning to do.

Not to mention that I've got to work on the website.

This all comes at a time where I'm working on my own website, finishing up a couple video jobs, and of course, I'm still in the process of moving out of my own place in Brooklyn.

Things I'm looking forward to during this very hectic period:

1) Flogging Molly concert in LA
2) New Pearl Jam album
3) The release of "Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2" for Xbox360
4) New Shadows Fall album
5) Rock Band: Beatles

I was also going to attach a list of things I'm NOT looking forward to during this very hectic period, but I decided not to. Why dwell on the negative?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

We Eat Gods for Breakfast!

I realize it's been a while, and I've been meaning to give an update on everything that's been going on in my life. Things on this list include: 1) moving out of New York, 2) looking for apartments in LA, 3) living in Millville, NJ in the meantime to help my father get back to full health (see earlier posts), 4) getting my parent's long haired Persian cat Baby shaved for the summer, 5) seeing "District 9," and 6) defeating "Ghostbusters: The Video Game."

I don't have enough time to tackle all of these subjects, so I'll start with the most important one: the last one. For the past week, I've fought together with Ray Stanz, Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore, and Peter Venkman against the foes that threaten to once again turn New York inside out and bring about, "Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"

The story is pretty simple. It's a couple years after "Ghostbusters 2." The mayor got re-elected to office on a pro-Ghostbusters campaign and the boys are still in business (with the city paying for damage they cause to the town in pursuit of spirits.) You play as the "Rookie," the new fifth Ghostbuster, specifically not given a name by Peter as he doesn't want to grow "attached" to you.

Before you can even say Ecto-1, you're off to the Sedgewick Hotel to re-capture Slimer, who has once again escaped the Containment Unit. You learn the ropes, and it doesn't take long to see what it takes to trap ghosts. It's a truly fulfilling feeling when you bag your first one, let me just say.

The story is a lot of fun, written (as you've probably heard) by original Ghostbusters Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis. For years, the two of them have been pushing Hollywood to put out a third Ghostbusters film, but nothing was budging, that is, until it became cool again to remake 80s franchises. Turns out that along with the release of this video game, a third film is indeed in the works, with Judd Apatow and his creative team attached.

And the truly unbelievable part? Bill Murray (who stars in the game) is slated to be in the movie. For years, he feigned interest in the project, but the man is back, and he SOUNDS better than ever. And it's not just Murray who came back to reprise his or her role, but all four Ghostbusters (Ackroyd, Ramis, and Hudson), plus Annie Potts as Janine, William Atherton as Walter Peck, and Brian Doyle Murray as the Mayor. The only people missing are Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver, who would both have truly put a crown of gold on this game.

For it's the story and the acting that are the stars here. It's just so much fun to be with this team again after so many years. They've done a great job recapturing the feel of the first two movies, and the plot is in direct relation to them, feeling like the completion of a true trilogy. Some have commented that they felt Murray "phoned" in his performance, but I felt like he was Dr. Peter Venkman all over again. If you're a fan of the movies, you at least owe it to yourself to have a friend show you the cut scenes, just to see them brought to life once again, along with favorites like the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man and Slimer.

Of course, the gameplay ain't too shabby either. The physics engine is fantastic, really working well with the different substances throughout the game, making the world feel real. The proton pack and its four different iterations all look and sound great. I did notice a bit of framerate slowdown here and there due to so much going on at the same time, but this wasn't terribly often. The music is good, taken directly from the score of the first film (in addition to "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr), but can sometimes get a little repetitive. I will admit though, it gets stuck in your head, and you just can't help but hum it all day.

Which brings us to the core question: is the game fun? And my answer is yes. I decided to play the game on "Professional" (the highest difficulty) cause I ain't afraid of no ghosts! And for the most part, this wasn't such a big deal except for a couple times where things may have gotten a little out of hand. A couple bosses were rather hard, and sometimes, until you learn the secret to how to defeat something, it would get a little frustrating. But like a lot of video games, a little bit of practice makes perfect, and the credits are rolling before you know it. The game only took me about 10 hours altogether, which is a shame, but doesn't feel short by any means. Each world is richly filled with new ghosts to scan and catch, artifacts to collect, and of course, wonderful cut scenes to fill in the story.

So, if you're a Ghostbusters fan, this game is a must have. If you're not a Ghostbusters fan and looking for a single player game to fill in the time, it's a good investment, though you may not get as much out of it (especially if you're looking for a ton of combat simulation like Gears of War.) I will admit that the lack of multiplayer in the campaign mode is a bit of a downer, but Ackroyd and Ramis wanted to be sure that the story stayed intact and really immersed you in it as the Rookie.

And if you're lucky, the game should probably be going down in price any day now, which makes it an even greater added bargain.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You Gotta Have Faith-a-Faith-a-Faith-a...

A number of years ago, my father found God, which was a good thing, because it helped him through a divorce, then the death of his son (my brother), the death of his ex-wife (my mother), a number of audits, and most recently, a fall through the roof. But now, as he's healing, we prepare to face the next great challenge: the hospital bill.

We've all heard the terrible stories about the cost of staying at the hospital, and they are completely true. We found out today that my father's total bill would be $113,500 for his stay at Cooper Trauma Medical Center. This includes the nurses, the food, the surgeries, the IVs, the medication, etc, etc. Now, I must admit that this comes in under my $200,000 estimate, but keep in mind that this does NOT include his 4-hour stay at South Jersey Regional, the Rescue Squad ride to South Jersey Regional, the helicopter ride from South Jersey to Cooper, the prescription medicines he's now on, or the follow-up appointments.

But it's at a time like this that my father would tell me to have, "Faith."

This afternoon, we got a call from the hospital, wanting to speak to us about payment options. We already knew that our Home Owners Insurance would not be able to help them, nor would Charity Care as my parents currently make too much money for it. So our expectations weren't high going into the call. However, they simply made us an offer we could not refuse:


Yes, you read that correctly. If we're able to make a $1500 down payment, and then the subsequent $200/month following that, they will reduce the bill by 90% due to something called the Medicare Discount!! When I heard this, I really felt like there had to be a catch, whether there be another stipulation, or that they had read us the amount from someone else's account.

But no. It's true. $15,000.

Looks like he may have someone looking out for him up there after all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wonder Women

I just finished watching the newest DC Animated Movie, "Wonder Woman," and I must admit that I'm pleased by the product. They've got a talented team over there, putting together successful product after product, using the source material as an inspiration rather than a guide.

The voice acting in the film is nicely done, the fight choreography is great, and the direction is focused. Of course, there are a few shortcomings, mostly related to the script and the dialogue, as the love story between Diana (Keri Russell) and pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) is a little forced. Also, the PG-13 is extremely hurtful, as the characters keep uttering the line, "Holy Crap." Now, I could have been fine with this if it happened once, but it's something that gets used a number times throughout the movie, and irked me every time I heard it. Plus, swords and arrows usually produce a little more blood than that.

But as I said, I liked it, and I look forward to the new "Green Lantern" animated movie due out later this year.

But as you probably noticed, the title of my blog doesn't just refer to one Wonder Woman, but many. And in order to explain exactly what it means, I have to take you on a mental field trip back to June 29th of this year...

Here I am. In New Jersey. Helping my father put a new roof on his house. We had started ripping shingles off yesterday, and today, we'd continue what we'd started, hoping to finish up in only a few days, when I'd return to New York and face whatever my future held for me.

But that's not how things played out. It seems my future had a good idea of where it was taking me from the very start. For that morning, my father fell through the very roof we were working on. It happened quickly, and I didn't notice until I heard the very crack of the wood beneath his feet. I turned, and just as I did, I saw him disappear over the edge. I ran over, immediately calling out "DAD!" And there he lay on the ground below, almost 20 feet down.

My first thought was to jump down, but that didn't seem to work for him, so I used the ladder. I ran to his side, screaming his name the entire way, alerting neighbors that something was wrong. Even before I got to him, someone from across the street was calling 9-1-1.

He was breathing. Labored. Making gurgling noises. Bleeding from his nose. His head had landed on a stone, his body, lying on its right side. You would have thought he was sleeping from his positioning. I continued to call to him, but for almost two minutes, no response. Finally, he began to move. His foot first, then his hand. Stubbornly, he rolled himself over, even as I called out to him not to move. He laid on his back, and finally opened his eyes, looking up at me.

"What happened?"

"You fell through the roof."

"No I didn't."

"Yep. You did, you dumb sonavabitch."

Before long, the ambulance arrived. He knew his name, the date, seemed competent enough. But then he removed his right glove, and his ring finger and pinky pointed in directions normal fingers should not go. They put him on a back brace with a neck guard, and moments later, I was crying as I drove my way to the emergency room at the hospital.

It seems my future had a good idea of where it was taking me from the very start.

To make a long story short, he stayed at South Jersey Medical Center for a few hours, and then was flown by chopper to the Trauma Unit at Cooper Medical in Camden, New Jersey. When my stepmother Debbie and I arrived later that night, he was knocked out, resting, after already having had his fingers set.

Over the next 11 days, the hospital would become our surrogate home. Debbie made sure to visit him everyday, even at times when he was simply resting due to the pain medication and exhaustion. I would accompany her as much as I was able, though I had business in New York that I needed to attend to in order to keep my own life in order.

Which brings me to the Wonder Women that I spoke of.

Debbie showed so much strength and resilience during this time, bringing courage and solidarity to each of us, including my father, as his wounds began to heal. He had fractured the right side of his face and broken his left hip in addition to his injured fingers. The surgery for his face was taxing, the physical therapy for his hip more so. But she was there everyday, helping him not only to eat, to dress, to bathe, but also to heal. She was everything you'd want to see in your parents, reminding you that through all adversity, the bond of love holds true.

Then there is my sister, Kat, who currently lives in North Jersey with her husband, Mike. We had just finished a road trip together, and suddenly, found ourselves thrust into the same car yet again to travel to Camden the weekend following his injury. She drove down, pushing plans aside to be sure she was with my father and the family. Even though she'll be 27 in August, she's still the baby, bringing life and passion to the bunch, reminding us that even though we're all grown up, she'll always be "Stupid" and I'll always be "Dumbie."

And finally, there's the ever wonderful Tracy Clifton. Tracy was flying out to the East Coast for my birthday, of which I was hoping to spend some in New York and then drive down to New Jersey to introduce her to my family. But that wouldn't be what happened. I told her this might not be the best time, and she said that there was no other place she'd rather be than by my side at a time like this. And that was that.

She flew in late the Wednesday night following the accident, and we drove back down to Jersey in the wee hours of the morning. Each day she was here, we drove to the hospital to see my father, and every day, she stood by my side, giving me as much love and support as any human could give, and then some. She never asked for anything, and simply gave everything she could to my family.

At a time when my birthday seemed like a footnote, she made me feel special, and reminded me that everyone deserves a birthday. I don't think I'll ever be able to thank her enough for her actions.

And so I am surrounded by some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Wonder Women, each of them. And it is with their support and their love that my father was finally able to come home this past Friday, July 10th. He won't be fully healed for months, but it's good to have him back.

For now, I find myself staying in Millville, to be with him and Debbie until we can get him back up on his feet (literally), and in the meantime, I'll work from here, knowing that even though I don't know what the future holds, it's already got plans for me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Road Trip 2009: Final Day (Twelve)

Sunday, June 21st - Well, today marks our return to the East Coast, land of rain. We'll be flying out of LAX at 11:40am to St Louis, where we have a 70 minute layover before our connecting flight to Laguardia Airport in New York. If all goes well, we should be landing in New York by 10:30pm, where a friend of Kat and Arp's would be picking us up and taking us back to their house in Jersey. From there, I'll pick up my car, and drive back to Brooklyn.

It's been an amazing trip, and as I think about the last two months, I can't help but wonder about where my life has taken me. After leaving my full time job at Fountainhead at the beginning of May, I've spent a week with my Dad in Jersey putting a new roof on my grandmother's garage, I traveled to France to the Cannes Film Festival and subsequent shooting at three incredibly beautiful French wineries, then back to the states where I was the Best Man at a wedding for a good friend of mine, after which I went to LA for a good friend's birthday, and finally, the road trip that took me over 3000 miles across these United States of America.

Tonight, I would be sleeping in my own bed again, a bed that I'd spent less than week in since the beginning of May. I have missed New York, but seeing the world and being gone for so long has in some ways detached me from the routine I had established and been living with for the past 3 years. My apartment doesn't feel so much like home anymore, and I'm not entirely sure what that means.

Next week, I travel back to Millville to help my Dad put a new roof on his own home, and then after that is my birthday on July 4th. As of July 7th, my world returns to the way it was before all of this happened, and I can't help but wonder, where do I go from here?

Well, at least there's always the new "Ghostbusters" video game to play, because it certainly won't play itself.

Anyways, enjoy some pictures from this weekend! Here are a couple from our Switzer Falls hike (4.3 miles roundtrip.)

The rest are from the Cat House Twilight Tour in Rosamond, CA. Yes, that IS a massive cat ripping pages out of a phone book, and yes, that IS a ginormous feline trying to claw the guts out of a thick cardboard tube. You are two for two tonight. Kudos.

Road Trip 2009: Day Nine

Thursday, June 18th - Our major deadline today was going to be getting Faith back to the Hertz rental lot by 7:00pm at LAX. We knew we had a minimum of four hours of driving, meaning we HAD to be on the road by 10:30am in order to give us some extra time for food and traffic.

We quickly packed and cleaned our hotel room at the Planet Hollywood Resort, recovered our car from the valet, and hit the highway, leaving the Vegas strip behind us. We'd take Interstate 15 for the majority of the drive through more deserts and mountains before the sprawling urban landscape would ever appear again.

I was driving this morning since Arp did all of the driving yesterday, and as we sped towards the California border, I noticed a strange sight on the horizon. At first, I thought it looked like a power plant or a factory. Keep in mind that there isn't much out in the desert, so something with this look and size was rather strange. As we neared, my original hypothesis changed, and before long, I said, "That looks like a roller coaster." We laughed at the notion, but as we got closer and closer, my prediction turned out to be true! It was indeed a roller coaster, built around a casino off of Exit 1 in Nevada. The casino was Terribles, and the roller coaster was Desperado.

With an opportunity such as this, we could not resist, and exited the highway immediately. We parked, made our way into the casino, and found out that we could indeed ride this coaster for only $8.00. We paid, made our way up to the platform (where only two other people were waiting), and took the front two rows. Seems that Desperado is just one ride of many featured at the casino, including a log flume, 3D ride simulator, high speed free fall, and more.

Desperado was a pretty good ride, lasting about 2:30 with a 225-foot drop. There was only a lap bar to hold you in (as there were no loops in the course of the ride), but I will advise to keep that lap bar tight as Desperado was as wild as a bucking bronco. You travel up the initial hill, taking in the beauty that is the barren desert, and then hit the first drop that propels you through the rest of the ride.

Along with some pretty good speed, there's a portion of the ride that spirals you through a dark area inside of a "mine" (a small mountain built to look like the surrounding landscape.) It takes you a little by surprise, and soon after, the ride is over. Rather enjoyable, especially considering our lack of going to Cedar Point exactly one week ago today.

We ended up eating at the casino as well (Panda East for me and McDonalds for Kat and Arp) and then got back on the road. We traveled for a number of hours, stopping one more time for gas, and then made our way into the LA area. The traffic wasn't too bad considering it was rush hour, and we had Faith returned to Hertz with a full tank of gas by 6:15pm.

Since Kat and Arp planned on driving around in LA as well, they ended up getting another car (this one quite a bit more fuel efficient.) It was a Hyundai Accent (a silver four-door compact.) We already missed Faith, and Arp decided appropriately that this car's new name would be "Nomore" (as in, "Faith No More.") We again made our way to the highway and traveled towards Burbank where their hotel awaited.

Our plane was scheduled to leave on Sunday morning, more or less giving each of us 2 and a half days in LA before our scheduled departure. Tonight, we planned on meeting up with my friend Tracy and having sushi for dinner, and then going our separate ways. Tomorrow, Kat and Arp would be spending some time with Arp's family in the area. Then on Saturday, we were planning on going hiking to Switzer Falls and in the evening, going to the Exotic Cat Sanctuary for a twilight tour of the grounds. We'd also need to fit in some In-N-Out Burger before we left as well, for what trip to the West Coast is complete without this very tasty treat.

It was sad to see Kat and Arp go in their own direction after so many days of traveling together. We had done very well as a group, keeping our cool in stressful situations, each enjoying the ups and downs of daily road travel, never squabbling about money, and making sure that everyone's needs were met. It's hard to imagine what it would have been like to have had a fourth person on the trip (as was originally planned), because even though it would have been cheaper for all of us, it would have meant more stopping, more consideration in choosing meals and hotels, etc. All in all, the three of us made for an extremely enjoyable time. Now if only it hadn't flown by so very quickly...