Friday, July 29, 2011

Stupid fingers

"Why don't you go ahead
and give this a sniff, pal?"
They can help us do so, so many things.
Play musical instruments.
Open containers with food inside of them.
Count things (often, up to and including 10 items).
Ruin childhoods.
That's what one family in Texas is claiming, after this picture was taken at their 4-year-old's birthday party held at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. They say that Chuck (or is it Chuck E. and if so, is he in love?), appeared at the child's birthday seemingly against his will (although I don't know what other will a cartoon mouse who doesn't even DO cartoons and whose sole reason for existence is to appear at birthday parties at his eponymous pizza restaurant would even have) and flashed the bird as a form of protest, thereby ruining the picture, and presumably, his life. This bodes ill for many...

Don't mess with Texans
For their part, Chuck E. Corporate says give us a break, it's a costume and the gloves don't even have five fingers. The one you see extended in that picture is the totally innocent index finger, not the filthy degenerate middle one. He's saying, "you're number one, birthday buddy!"
Plus, it's a mouse; it can probably be argued that there aren't any fingers.
I don't know. Sounds to me like somebody is dropping some not-so-subtle hints about the possibility of a chintzy lawsuit designed to wring a settlement out of the bad-pizza-and-animatronic-entertainment moguls that run Chuck E. Cheese. It's amazing how deeply offended/litigious people can be when they think there might be some easy cash at stake. After all, if you look around you can find inadvertent obscene gestures everywhere without even trying hard...
Oops, that's a mistake.

Hey, I just wanted to know if it was gonna rain.

Just calling for the fastball

Hey! Again? Come on!
Support these guys

You usually see this from the driver

This audition did not go well

It's impolite to point

All right! That's enough! You're the President of the United States! You have a legacy to uphold...
Aw, never mind.
So anyway, yeah, **** this kid's family.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If only life could be like movies...sometimes

The other night, I witnessed something disturbing on the bus. Well, almost any time I ride the bus I witness at least one disturbing thing. But this was downright troubling. A woman, her male companion and either her sister or friend got on with three little kids in tow. The mom got aggravated at the kids, yelled at them and then snatched them by their arms and slammed them into a seat together. Kind of the way you might pick up and toss a sack of cat litter if it fell on your foot, except you'd probably be gentler because the sack could actually break and spill cat litter everywhere. The kids were moving too damn slow for her, she just got tired of it and she snapped. This was what she deemed an appropriate response to toddlers (the oldest being four-years-old, maybe) climbing on a bus at 11:30 on a Monday night, daring to commit the sin of being lethargic. 
I almost said something right then and there and I absolutely would have gotten involved if it had gotten any worse. And by getting involved, I mean I would have told her to knock it off, alerted the bus driver that there was a problem, called the cops if necessary and as an absolute last resort if things became completely unglued, intervened physically. It didn't so I just sat there, glaring at the three adults with my heart aching as I thought about how shitty those kids' lives are and the likelihood of some kids born 15 years from now who would have lives just as shitty, if not worse. It's all I could do because as an adult who's been around a while who has seen and done real-life bad, sad situations, I knew that initiating a confrontation based on what I'd seen, even just a verbal one, wouldn't do any good. It wasn't severe enough for cops to take action, it would have traumatized the kids, I probably would have gotten in trouble and it wouldn't have changed whatever goes on in that household.
However, as a child who grew up reading superhero comics and watching Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood movies, I couldn't help letting my mind wander. In that dimension, the bad guy getting punched in the mouth is a tremendously satisfying and decisive means of resolving a conflict.
Exhibit A
Especially if it's preceded by some kick-ass dialogue...

ME: Lady, you touch those kids like that again and I will knock you into a new kind of coma so deep that they'll name it after you.
DUDE (boyfriend, husband, whatever): Yeah? You'll have to go through me to do it, mister.
ME: Oh absolutely. I'd happily kill you just to get a shot at her.
DUDE: Huh?
ME: Yeah! See, I think I'll just punch you right in the throat. That way, you'll die in agony, futilely gasping for air. But you'll still be conscious enough to see me invert her nose and render her eligible for parking in the produce section at the supermarket at the same time, helpless to do anything except gurgle a little.
THE MOM (for lack of a better description): *Gasp!* What?!?
ME: That's right. It doesn't matter to me that you're sort of woman-esque or that you're wearing glasses. I will totally go "Extreme Makeover: Voldemort" on your ugly ass, like my fists are cinderblocks made of hand grenades.
THE OTHER WOMAN-LIKE CREATURE: Now wait a minute, you...
ME: Oh, don't think I forgot about you, you miserable skank. If you try to get in the middle of this, they'll harvest your internal organs with a ShamWow. Any questions?
(ALL THREE stare at me silently, until one of them makes a move to pull out an enormous gun and I proceed to savagely beat the living daylights out of all three of them for about 20 minutes or so, concluding with them in the bus, on fire, as it crashes into a barbed wire factory. I then turn the kids over to the billionaire who invented frozen yogurt and had always wanted children but could never have any.)

That sure would have beaten having to sit there and not be able to do anything.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A short conversation about decisions

"I'm really happy that you decided not to rip off that adorable little roadside fruit and vegetable stand after all."

"Well, I couldn't really pull that off with you deciding not to stop the car, now could I?"

"Life is all about the decisions we make, my friend."

A short conversation about the honor system

"Hey look at that! It's one of those adorable little roadside fruit and vegetable stands where you pick out what you want and the owners trust you to just leave the money for it in a box or a can. I love it! It recalls a better, simpler time, a more innocent time, when we could trust and rely on the character of our neighbors, before we all became so jaded and cynical. A time when we could leave our doors unlocked and our windows open without worrying about our personal safety or our property because we weren't resigned to a society rife with dishonesty, greed and corruption. Obviously, these farmers still believe in that ideal, that which made this country great and can do so once again. There's the proof; they've worked hard to grow these delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables and they trust people to just pay money for their fair worth out of an inherent sense of honor. Well, pull over, because I need some."

"Some fresh fruit and vegetables?"

"No, some money. The can's sitting right there. Keep the motor running."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Interview: Jen "Dirty Jenny" Leigh

Long-time readers of this blog may remember me getting all excited about a musician I found on MySpace (remember MySpace?) named Jen Leigh. Well, I've kept in touch with Jen since then and I'm very pleased to announce that she's ready to release her first album (actually an EP). "Dirty Jenny" has worked with what's best described as an eclectic mix of national acts, including legendary funk icon George Clinton and P-Funk, the Grammy award winning Sweet Honey In The Rock, R n B diva Kelis, with whom she performed on Saturday Night Live, and many more. She was in a band, Big Sister, that released an album entitled ‘So Hi How Are You’ which received a 3 ½ star review from Rolling Stone magazine. But 'American Bulldog', due out some time in August, is her first solo release. What better way to celebrate this achievement than submitting to an interview with me on this blog? Let the questioning commence!

Your first album! How long have you been working to make this moment happen?
Well, it's actually a six-song EP. Ha ha! But I still refer to it as my album/record. I've always been more of a "band" person and player, having been in BIG SISTER, plus all my previous bands in Connecticut. But releasing music that is all me, solo, if you will, has been my goal since I moved to L.A. in 2004.

I've been watching your status updates (on Facebook) and I'm expecting you to rock but are we going to get some funk in there too?
Yes! Absolutely! The songs are really a mixture of rock, funk, blues and a little pop.

Who's playing with you on the album?
My buddy Shawn Davis played bass on most of the record. I played additional bass on a few tracks. He currently tours with Nikka Costa, which pretty much lets you know how uber bad-ass and funk-tastic he is. Ha ha! Sheryl Crow's current drummer, Victor Indrizzo played drums and percussion. He has recorded and toured with everybody from Alanis (Morisette) to Macy Gray, Beck and more. And some chick named Dirty Jenny sang and played lots of guitars and keyboards. Oh, and I have to thank my friends who were nice enough to come sing and clap on a "gang/party" vocal bit at the end of  "Never Left Home"-SAP (Scott Allen Perry), Tracy Nicole Chapman and Cole Ynda. They rock.

Speaking of SAP, are there going to be videos and if so, can we expect any Perry Brothers zaniness?
That is the plan. SAP and I have talked about making videos forever. Right now, it is a logistical thing as he no longer lives in LaLa Land. But he is the ONLY person to make my video(s) for these songs. So, yes, Perry Brothers zaniness will be a-plenty when the time comes. By the way, I should also mention that SAP co-wrote two of the songs on my EP; "Flang Flang" and "Stress Bitch". We are like two peas in a pod creatively.
Oh yeah. These guys.
When did you start playing the guitar?
I started playing when I was 13. I was seriously obsessed with the guitar and music from day one. ;-)

Has being a female and left-handed presented challenges?
Yes and yes. I'm actually right-handed, but I play guitar lefty-strung either way. It was always more comfortable for me playing that way and I didn't know any better so I just went for it, not realizing then how much more difficult it would be down the road finding great, quality instruments. That is the worst part of it honestly. Most companies make crap guitars lefty, if they offer any at all. At this point, other than Japanese-made Fender Mustangs, I build my own, or have luthier friends custom build axes I design. It's a drag, but you get used to it.
On the female tip...well, you know the obvious response there. A lot of folks STILL find it hard to believe that a woman can actually play the instrument AND solo as good as, or better than, a man! It's our society and all the lovely double standards and stereotypes that exist in it. It's all ridiculous. At the end of the day, just be yourself and let your talent shine. Cream always rises to the top; it doesn't matter what's between your legs!

Who were some of your influences growing up?
My main influences growing up were Jimi Hendrix, P-Funk, The Meters, Led Zep, Sly (Stone), AC/DC, The Runaways, Wendy and Lisa. I am partial to '60s and '70s music still; classic rock, old soul and funk. That's what I love most. I also grew up with a lot of hard rock, so guitar was everywhere, unlike today where big nasty guitars seem to be a lost art. Such a shame.

How is Spiral doing?
She is doing wonderful, thanks. She'll be 14 months old in a few days, so she's still a baby by all accounts. In the bully world that equals STILL STUBBORN!! Ha ha! I waited over three years for her since my last AB passed. All I talked about was wanting a new bully. I think I drove most of my family and friends nuts there! In the end, it was all worth the wait. I am beyond blessed with her. I got EVERYTHING I dreamed of in an American Bulldog. She is the bomb and quite a character.
Guess who the album is named after?
Anything else you want to add?
I'm just excited for people to hear these songs and rock out to 'em. They're all very personal to me.

Oh, and a final bonus question: Since I've been following your career so long (going back to MySpace days), when I come to one of your shows, exactly how much of a big-timer will I be allowed to act like with my backstage pass?
You can act like a total diva, Clark! VIP!! Ha ha ha!

Dirty Jenny's AMERICAN BULLDOG will be released some time in August (final preparations are taking place now) and will be available on Jen's web site, and also on her page at, plus iTunes, Amazon, etc. An update with links and stuff will be posted here on the blog when that's all ironed out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let the hunt begin!

You'd best get to runnin' boy!
This is from an ad that appeared on a web site called from a gentleman named Mork Encino:
"I seek hearty gents who fancy themselves sportsmen and bored of the usual game. I am a new breed of prey with thick pelt and smooth hide. I’m faster than a wild turkey, smart as any GODDAMN wild boar and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the monetary health of my family...And knuckleheads or candy asses? Well, they need not apply. They can kick rocks and kiss grits and whatever else. I’m looking for a true goddamn Money Bags, okay? 10K is nothing to these boys. They leave tips on restaurant checks like that. They drop that type of scratch just because. They’ll pay that money just to rub it in my FACE and show me how meaningless it truly is to the likes of them."

Dear Mr. Encino,
I heed and accept your challenge, you magnificient bastard. When it comes to hunting, I have long been an advocate of level playing fields. What could be a more fair sporting contest than one man hunting another? Nothing, that's what. As for a reason, I don't need one beyond the natural aggression that comes from my born American-ness and born male-ness. I'm just wired that way. Hell, I'll hunt you just because your name is Mork.

Shazbot is right, motherf...
Also, because it would be pretty cool to have a human head mounted as a trophy on my living room wall. If it's okay with you, I'd kinda like to wire it up like one of those Big Mouth Billy Basses, because those things are hilarious. Don't worry, I'll keep it classy; your mouth will move and your eyes will light up with flashing red lightbulbs and I may or may not put a funny hat on you (probably different hats, depending on the season) but the song will be something good. I'm thinking AC/DC or Van Halen (with Roth, not Hagar).

Your face here
So come on. Let's both get naked and run around the woods with guns, knives or whatever (I'm thinking a crossbow with flaming arrows!) and do this thing. 
One thing though; the money? I don't have it. Sorry. Just like you, I'm a victim of shitty economic conditions and $10,000 for a sporting quest, while quite reasonable with all things considered, is currently well beyond my means. The other night, I met a waitress who claims to know Robert Kinoshita, who designed the B9 robot from the "Lost In Space" tv series and she says that for $10,000 he would build one for me. And as appealing as it would be to hunt The Ultimate Game (ie: man, ie: you), if the choice is blowing 10 grand on that or my very own robot, well, come on. That's no contest. I'm sure you understand.
So unless you're willing to come way, way down in price, I guess I'm out. Sorry to waste your time. 
Good luck!


PS: If you survive one of these hunts and want a B9 robot, let me know and I'll put you in touch with that waitress. If it turns out that she's full of crap (which is entirely possible; it wouldn't be the first time a waitress has lied to me), you and I can team up and hunt her for sport.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gold for Go Go

When it comes to soccer, there are two kinds of people, lovers and not-so-muchers. As someone who has made what I feel is a generous share of attempts to develop an appreciation for the game, including being involved professionally with the game at a fairly high level (PA announcer for an NCAA Division I women's soccer team), I am solidly in the second group. Sorry. I don't trash the game because I know it's not going to sway the opinion of those who love it and I have nothing to gain by trying to do so. I just don't care for the game, that's all.
But as it turns out, there actually is a third group of soccer fans; those who get excited by all the spectacle and hoopla when it's played out on a global stage and there's some national, common-ground rooting at stake. And it looks like I;m actually one of those people instead. So I was disappointed when the US National Team lost the Women's World Cup championship game to Japan on Sunday. Their run leading up to that game was a lot of fun and I was definitely hoping they'd cap it off with gold medals. With a less than passionate interest in the game itself, I'll be able to recover pretty easily though. Also making it easy to recover is the fact that we lost to Japan. For one thing, after the year they've had, it's difficult to feel less than happy when anything goes their way. Plus, culturally, I think of Japan as a lovable oddball cousin whose eccentric behavior baffles and embarrasses other relatives...which is a huge part of what makes them so lovable. 

What's not to love?

So congrats Team USA. Great job, we're proud of you and thanks! And congrats to Japan. Enjoy those gold medals and here's hoping this is a sign that all the misfortune of the last year is behind you now.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Tea Party will save us from the terrors of the briny deep!

You're gonna need a bigger exploding train

They're known by many names around these parts.
Sea Cows
The Silent Killers
Nature's Perfect Predators
Floating Voldemorts
That's right, the most lethal creature in the known universe, responsible for death and dismemberment on a truly horrific scale. Ever wonder why there are no more pirates?
They're like sharks, only in the water!
All of mankind's previous attempts to fight back and stem the bloodlust of the manatee have met with failure. Boats, boats full of explosives and that one admittedly ill-advised time they tried catapulting a train full of exploding boats. Nothing has worked. Manatees have had it too good for too long! Well, now, FINALLY, a group that knows how to get things done is stepping up! Of course, I'm talking about (who else?) The Tea Party! A faction of the group in Citrus County is opposing new restrictions on boating and other activities in Kings Bay, parts of which have been a federal wildlife reserve since 1980, that have been proposed by the bastards at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The new rules would eliminate the "summer water sport zone", which currently allows for boats full of drunken boobs to careen through Kings Bay at high speeds.

Who speaks for the poor, the oppressed, the assholes? The Tea Party, that's who!
If these new rules are approved, all of Kings Bay would become a refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stormtroopers will be enabled to establish closed areas or other rules anywhere in the bay, as situations arise. Currently, it's estimated that upwards of 550 manatees inhabit Kings Bay year round, with even more activity taking place during the colder winter months. Federal officials would be allowed to set up temporary no-entry areas lasting up to two weeks if a cold front hits before the manatee season begins, or after the manatee season has closed, to prevent them from being harmed in Kings Bay. 

Behold the fuzzy faces of oppression.
Enter Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, a woman whose interests include speaking out against socialism and taking young girls' little dogs for bike rides.

She's not going to fight this egregious tyranny with standard tactics like reasoned, fact-based arguments.  Nope, ol' Edna is pulling out the big guns!
"We cannot elevate nature above people. That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights. They want to restrict the entire bay. They don't want people here."

"Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Anything you wanna say, Snooty?" -- Matthew 26:21
"Guys, I could give two shits about women and darkies; but how are we going to protect future generations against the manatee apocalypse?!?"
Sweet James Madison carrying two stone tablets from Mount Horeb to Philadelphia on a SeaDoo, she's right! Fuck nature! Until we can have Slurpees blasted directly into our gaping maws right out of Ol' Faithful at the soon-to-be-built 7-Eleven at Yellowstone Park, our God-given constitutional right to run over slow-moving indigenous aquatic creatures in a speedboat are at risk! To illustrate that point, she went on to point out how this issue, as terrifyingly serious as it is all by itself, is merely a small piece of a far more sinister plot...

"We believe that (federal regulators') aim is to control the fish and wildlife, in addition to the use of the land that surrounds this area, and the people that live here and visit. … As most of us know, this all ties in to the United Nations' Agenda 21 and Sustainability...If some of these environmental movements had been around in the days of the dinosaurs, we'd be living in Jurassic Park now."

Right after controlling the fish and wildlife, tapping our phones is the U.N.'s highest priority.
So there you have it; comets didn't kill the dinosaurs; some brave, forward-thinking, take-no-federal-wildlife-or-United-Nations-bullshit prehistoric Tea Party organism of some sort (since dinosaurs and anything remotely human missed crawling around at the same time on earth by, oh, about 61 million years or so) did! And thank goodness for that organism's direct descendants, like Edna Mattos. Because while you might think it would be fun to live in Jurassic Park, just remember that if the Feds had anything to say about it, it would be some lame Jurassic Park with a "No Wake" zone.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Grand Rapids not dead

This is how the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, responded after Newsweek magazine ranked them 10th on their list of "America's Dying Cities". Even if you don't care for the song (it is a very, very long song...that's kind of the point though), you need to watch this all the way through because it's simply amazing!
Good for you, Grand Rapids; let's hear it for civic pride and artistic expression!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Still tacky after all these years

The other day, I mentioned a brief visit to "Swampy: World's Largest Alligator". 'Brief', as in 'didn't even get out of the car, let alone explore the world of wonders that undoubtedly lies within'. I don't want to give the impression that my companions that day are joyless sticks-in-the-mud. Far from it, in fact. Under other circumstances (not being hot, tired, hungry, thirsty and several hours from home), they'd have been very receptive to the idea. It's cool, I understand. It's just that I'm all about that kind of thing and there's no question that it would have generated enough material for a blog post all it's own.
Luckily, this is Florida and stuff like that is never far away. For instance, here are some souvenirs that are available for sale right now at a nearby store...
Florida's delicate eco-system, depicted on a license plate! Alligators feed on flamingos when not being assaulted by dolphins. And yes, the one below does say "MAFIA". Who wouldn't want that on their car?

"Hmm, tacky is one thing, but do you have anything racially offensive?" You'd better believe it, Chester! Jim Crow may be history but art is forever!

Gator heads! Decorative? Practical? Collectible? None of the above. What's your point?

Mesh booty shorts! Pick up a couple pairs for the grandkids back in Toronto!

Turtle sex coffee mug! Who wouldn't see the humor in this?

Oh. Sorry.

Is this better, easily offended turtles? You're welcome.

Ybor City bandanna! This truly is the hotest souvenir of the hotest night spot in Tampa!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Off we went into the wild, weird yonder

Of course I didn't take this picture. Duh.
Here's what happened on my trip to Titusville, Florida, to witness the launch of space shuttle Atlantis, the final flight for NASA's space program...

FRIDAY NIGHT - For obvious reasons, everything has to be just right to fire one of these things off. That means scheduling is tricky. Mechanical issues and weather conditions can result in anything from a delay to a complete scrub of the mission. That also means scheduling travel for those attending the launches as observers is tricky as well. Lots of checking up on weather and traffic reports. I decided that I could best contribute to the group I was tagging along with (there were five of us) by resigning myself to the role of happy passenger. No suggestions for better ways to do things, no questioning, no unsolicited input of any kind other than 100% positive feedback. If you knew some of the personalities involved, you'd know this was a wise choice beyond my natural inclination to be lazy. As a result, I didn't complain or question when our scheduled leave time went from 10:00AM Friday to around noon to around 4:30PM to around 9:00PM to just about midnight. The rationale behind it was explained to me, something to do with steps NASA would or would not be taking at certain times that could or could not be undone which would indicate the probability of a favorable launch. It was all way above my head (naturally) and I was already in "go with the flow" mode so I didn't worry about it. Eventually, we did leave around midnight and after stopping for coffee at Starbucks on the way out of Tampa and then again for gas at a 7-Eleven in Plant City, we were on our way, heading out with about a 30% chance of success, an estimate that never really changed.

VERY EARLY SATURDAY MORNING - We pulled into Titusville around 3:00AM. After a debate on the likelihood of being towed, we chose to bypass the $30 parking lot (and the seemingly insincere platitude of "good luck" offered by the attendant) and parked somewhat illegally. We unloaded our stuff and headed for Space View Park, which was the designated area for the "STS-135 Tweetup". Thousands of people were already there and we found spots wedged in among tents and other people in lounge chairs. We weren't welcomed warmly ("People need to get strollers through here", was how we were greeted by someone who herself was blocking a sidewalk) it was very hot, muggy and smelly. It reminded me of one of those disaster movies where a comet strikes the earth or something and nomadic survivors huddle together in makeshift campsites. I also encountered an old man in the restroom who had a mini meltdown when I let people cut in front of me to use the urinals while I waited for the toilet. I don't know what his problem was but sorry, dude; unless I have no other choice, I don't do urinals (three words: 1. public 2. restroom 3. splashback). This was not promising, as Uncomfortable + Jerks = Pretty Miserable. This was as close as I came to expressing displeasure but I didn't say anything. One of the people in our group proposed taking a walk and I guess nobody was thrilled with being wedged in there for the next eight hours because we all offered to come along.
About a quarter of a mile away, we found ourselves halfway to the apex of the Max Brewer Memorial Bridge. There we were treated to beautiful, cool, gentle breeze, an obstructed view of the launchpad in the distance and friendly welcomes from the relatively small handful of people. It took about five seconds of looking at each other and almost no spoken words to decide to go get our stuff and relocate. We found a spot on the pedestrian walkway part of the bridge which is separated from vehicle traffic by a 3'5" concrete retaining wall. It was perfect, like box seats.

LATER SATURDAY MORNING - We were hungry so two of us offered to make a food run to the Burger King at the bottom of the bridge. When we got there, we found a line of AT LEAST 60 people waiting just to get inside. That's when it really hit me how many friggin' people must have been there. Right next door was a Papa John's that had opened early for the occasion. It was busy too but they said it was only about a 20 minute wait for a pizza, which isn't much different than any other time, so we ordered a large sausage and cheese. Mmm, breakfast!
On the way back up the bridge, it was apparent people were really starting to show up in serious numbers. What had been still a relatively wide-open bridge was now packed halfway across. Cops needed full lights and sirens to get through. All four vehicle lanes plus our pedestrian walkway/box seats would be completely packed with people eventually.

LATER STILL SATURDAY MORNING - The rest of the morning was spent obsessively checking smartphones for updates which seemed to be changing every five minutes, and stupidity (see photos below). "Weather is green for is red for launch". It was cloudy but there were streaks of sunlight. Breezy but no powerful gusts of wind. Speculation whether it would or wouldn't happen was 50/50 and it seemed like it could come down to a coin flip. Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach later joked that it came down to that. However, around 11:20AM, all reports indicated that things looked good and the launch would happen on schedule. There was some sort of communication glitch among people near us as it was reported that the countdown stopped. But people gathered at the foot of the bridge started a synchronized "10...9...8..." countdown and it went off on their cue (we found out later that the countdown did stop and there was a three minute delay but that news apparently took three minutes to reach us for some reason).

THE LAUNCH ITSELF - Wow, I don't know. Breathtaking? Amazing? Incredible? That seems woefully inadequate. It's just the kind of spectacle that is difficult to express in mere words after you experience it in person.
Immediately after, it got ridiculously, uncomfortably hot. We also never got a single drop of rain while we were out there, even though it was raining almost everywhere else in Florida and it stormed most of the way home. It's kind of weird how things lined up so perfectly just long enough for that to happen and then it was over.

THE RIDE HOME - Sucked. We drove for hours without ever exceeding 6 MPH, just because of sheer volume of traffic. We knew that would be the case, but still. The less said about that the better. Instead, enjoy these photos!
This is what our immediate surroundings looked like, some time just after dawn.

Here's the bridge when we headed out for pizza...

And this is what it looked like as we headed back!

This pelican's indifference (he's facing away from the launch) along with speculation about the waters being infested with dolphin-eating bears was a source of great amusement to us (well, two of us...not so much the other three). We dubbed him Carl, the sea crow. Why? Because staying up all night outdoors makes you goofy, that's why.

This jamoke showed up around 10AM, hawking collectible coins. I resisted and he said "I'm not selling them". After I said yes, they were very nice, he said "Only $1!" I guess I don't know what "not selling" means.

Here's one of the coins. I didn't buy it, one of my companions did. He got it for .85. Shrewd! If anybody knows what the significance of "104" is, please tell me. We couldn't figure it out.

I asked if I should take pictures of the launch itself and was told not to bother because without a serious camera with a telephoto lens, the pictures would come out crappy. Most of these people didn't get that memo.

This is the column of smoke that lingered after Atlantis disappeared into the clouds. You could still hear the rumble at this point. It looks like we're far away, doesn't it? Trust me, it sure didn't seem that way when it was happening.

This is a classic Florida roadside attraction that we came across on the way home, "Swampy, World's Largest Alligator". It has nothing to do with NASA or the shuttle launch but you can go inside! However, I was the only one who was interested and it was a huge concession to pull over and let me take a picture of it from the car. If I had gotten out, I have no doubt that I'd still be there.