Photo Friday: Unflattering

For some reason we take lots of terribly ugly photos. Enjoy!

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Travel Tuesday: There And There And There And Back Again

Lance and Jeff on a plane!

**WARNING: Major first world problems discussed in this post.

As I alluded to yesterday, my upcoming plans for Disneyland were sorta dashed, oddly enough, by the high temperatures in Philly and our own indulgence in the absurd.

But Disneyland isn’t the only vacation I’m planning for the near future.  In fact, Lance and I recently plotted out our vacations (we loosely define these as requiring at least 5 days off from work) and long weekends (4 or less days off) for the next two years.  Eep!

Here are our travels, big and small, for the next two years:

  • Big Island, Hawaii, June 2013 (me alone, business)
  • Michigan, July 2013 (me alone…again! ::sob!::)
  • O’ahu (and maybe Kaua’i?) Hawaii, August 2013
  • New York, New York, September 2013
  • San Diego and Los Angeles (and Disneyland!!!), December 2013
  • Orlando, Winter 2014
  • Las Vegas, Spring 2014
  • Western Caribbean on the Disney Cruise Line, October 2014
  • Paris, Spring 2015

We had meant to keep our traveling light this year (after it became a decent chunk of our expenses in 2012.)  Yet I have the itch and, try as I might, I lack the willpower not to scratch.

So then the challenge shifts from “resist going places!” to “how do you travel–and travel well!–and still make it affordable?”

Thankfully, most of our trips are fairly far off, which is good, because it gives me the time to shop around for the best hotel deals, wait for good airfares, save for certain activities.  While the waiting and waiting for a trip can be a killer, there’s a satisfaction in having time to put together a well-thought-out itinerary and be confident you got a decent price.

Doing things cheap does mean making a sacrifice sometimes.  

For example, in order to save $200+ on airfare, I’m flying out of tiny-ass Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey (which doesn’t even have a bathroom after the one metal detector in the terminal) instead of Philadelphia International to get home to Michigan.  It’s an extra half-hour away by train, but the savings are worth it to me.

Doing things cheap also requires time for you to rack up loyalty program points.

For our August 2013 Hawaii trip, we booked the airline tickets with frequent flyer miles (free!) back in December 2012…which is good, because it gives us time to save up for the hotel, and BONUS!, we’re getting two nights for free because of Hyatt points I earn from my Hyatt credit card. So for this 10-night trip, we’re only paying for eight nights and we didn’t have to pay for airfare.

Had we only 2-3 months to plan for the trip, we wouldn’t have been able to earn Hyatt points fast enough for any free rooms, and the availability for frequent flyer award seats (which are limited on most airlines to a handful per flight per day) would’ve been nonexistent.

The same vacation is going for over $1800/person right now; we’re going to end up paying around $500/person for a ten-night vacation in Hawaii.

Doing things cheap means being diligent…and a little crazy.

With our Disneyland plans thrown for a loop, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to go at all.  I was banking on the frequent flyer miles from my business trip to Hawaii to be enough to put me over the top so I could redeem for free tickets to L.A., but that’s still a month out and frequent flyer award ticket availability could all be gone by then.

Since I’m crazy, I regularly stalk FlyerTalk.com’s message boards, where people much craftier than I post the airfare deals they find online.  You have to know your airport codes to begin to decipher what they’re all talking about, but it’s worth it!

Just this past weekend, I found what I was looking for: early December flights from PHL (Philly, natch) to SAN (San Diego, not quite LA) for $175 round-trip on United.  Virgin America it ain’t, but we’ll get to California for half the cost of a normal round-trip, and we’ll be able to spend a day in San Diego (where Lance has never been) before driving (rental cars are cheaper out of San Diego than LAX anyway) or Amtrak-in’ it up to Anaheim.

AND…I can keep my frequent flyer miles to redeem on flights to other places!

I hope that gives y’all a sense of what you can do with a little…well, yes, craziness.

Adventure is out there!

Hot Lance 2: Lance’s Revenge

picstitchThose of y’all that follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram (::plug plug!!::) may have seen last week that Lance, Ripley, and I (apparently we’re just screwing Kitty over here) checked in to a hotel for a night.

Why?

Because Hot Lance won.

Setting: Thursday of last week, our apartment, at the tail end of an extended heat wave and us with no air-conditioning.  Lance’s friend was in town for business so he stayed in her hotel room the night before (hmm, this doesn’t sound fishy at all!) instead of trying to suffer through the heat.  And even I, after spending a sleepless night with the cat and dog, miserably hot, was about ready to throw in the towel. I can tolerate a lot, but I’m still an upper-middle-class American, dammit!

I was worried about Ripley in particular, who spent the night before spread out on the hardwood floor, panting and panting.  The look on the poor fella’s face says it all:

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Aww, my little guy!

He hadn’t eaten his breakfast on Thursday morning, either, which made me nervous, so I went back home at lunch to check on him.  And boy, was it hot–and worse, muggy.

I e-mailed Lance later:

I went home over lunch to check on Pipples since he didn’t eat his breakfast this morning (he did at lunch, though), and it’s just so hot in there.  We need to at least get a $20 box fan or something to get us through until they finish the A/C.

I wasn’t waiving a white flag in this e-mail so much as trying to convince Lance that we needed some fans, at the very least, to tide us over under our building maintenance (or contractors or whoever) finishes installing the A/C.  Lance didn’t really see it that way–he saw it as me willing to do pretty much anything to get out of the heat, including checking into a hotel room.

(I’m not quite sure I follow Lance’s equivalency: a $20 box fan = one $100+ night in a hotel room, but I digress. Sorta.)

Thankfully, we did have some hotel points in our back pocket we could use to essentially get the hotel for free…if we went that route.  I hesitated, though, since I was saving those points for a trip to Disneyland, where we had enough to stay for 4 nights in a decent property not too far from the parks. If we used them now, for this sort of ridiculous extravagance, that threw my whole Disneyland plan out of whack.

I wavered back and forth, not wanting to use the points but allured by the ridiculousness that would be checking into a hotel.

I Gchatted with Lance that afternoon, still uncommitted:

Me: I’m not sure I want to use our points.

Lance: That’s fine. Just known that I’m going to be a miserable B all night.

Sooo, I would like to act like I was backed into a corner, where Lance was bound to hate me if we didn’t stay at a hotel, and that’s sorta how I felt at the time, but that little sense of spontaneity is what ultimately pushed me over the edge.

OR…Lance was playing me the whole time, getting retribution for a perhaps-not-so-flattering blog post from earlier in the exact same day.  Hmmm…

Nevertheless, we booked the hotel room, and Ripley was a pretty happy (and cool!) pup.

We used up a good chunk of our hotel points, but we were comfortable.

But, of course, just a few hours after we’d checked into the hotel, the heat wave broke and the temperature fell like 30 degrees.

Bah!

 

 

Hot Lance

blog 5.23.13

One of the benefits of my job is that I get to take college courses for free, so I’ll often take an undergrad course here or there as they strike my fancy: History of Hollywood, Queer Theory, Philosophy of Sex, etc.  Some meet in person, while others are online.  I’m taking two film courses this term, both of which meet at night, meaning I don’t usually get home until around 10:00pm on the days I have class (this isn’t a problem, since I live about a 20-minute walk from the university.)

This past Tuesday, after a long day of work and class, I opened the door to our apartment to find it pitch-black.  Ripley sniffed me and licked the sweat off my legs.

“Honey?” I called.  No response.  I though maybe Lance had gone to the gym, though if Ripley’s roaming freely in the apartment, it usually means Lance is home.

I went to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water.  It was hot and humid outside, the first long stretch of muggy summer days we’ve had this year in Philadelphia.  It was hot in our apartment too; unfortunately, our unit is so new, the landlord still hasn’t finished installing the central air conditioner yet, so several hot days in a row had turned our apartment into a sweatbox.

I opened the refrigerator to grab the Brita pitcher, only to find a dirty plate and silverware on the middle shelf.  There was a dirty baking sheet on the stove as well.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked aloud.  As much as I hate cooking (due to lack of skill), Lance hates doing the dishes (as discussed before), and usually just leaves them in the sink for me to take care of later…though, something about going so far as to put them in the refrigerator (for what purpose?) really irked me.

The light was on in the bedroom, so I went down the hall, Ripley sniffing behind me.  I opened the door to find Lance sprawled out on the top of the bed, down to nearly his underwear, a low-grade, painful moan escaping his lips.

“Uhhh…” Lance sighed, his eyes glased, half-open.

I put my hands on my hips. “Did you seriously put your dishes in the fridge instead of the dishwasher?”

“It…it’s too hot…to empty the dishwasher…uh…” Lance whispered, and then practically fainted from heat exhaustion.

“Ugh,” I responded, throwing my hands in the air and leaving the room.

The dishes in the dishwasher were clean, true, so it would’ve required five more minutes of effort to put those dishes away before reloading the dishwasher with the ONE dirty dish and TWO pieces of silverware.  I did this myself, banging around in the kitchen just loud enough to signify my frustration with my beautifully dramatic husband.

“If you’re trying to make a point,” Lance shouted from the bedroom, “I don’t care!”

Okay, okay, so let me get this straight.  It wasn’t too hot to turn on the oven and heat up some Purdue chicken fingers, but it was too hot to empty the dishwasher?

Y’see, Lance hates feeling hot.  He completely shuts down, system failure, like an overheated computer.  He ceases to function when it gets above 80 degrees, turning instead into the world’s laziest zombie.

He must have an internal body temperature some 5-10 degrees higher than mine–he gets warm and starts sweating profusely while I’m still wrapped up in a sweatshirt, shivering.  The fact we haven’t gotten divorced over the thermostat already is something of a miracle.

Our current lack of air conditioning has made him (and Lance would admit) an irritable grouch, to the point where I’ve encouraged him to stay with friends as it will make everybody’s lives a little easier.  He stays cool and in better spirits, and I won’t have to experience his grumpy, perspiring wrath.

That’s the key to a successful relationship, friends: knowing when your husband needs to sleep elsewhere to keep cool…and keep the peace!

My Whole Life Is “Showgirls”

blog 5.22.13It crept upon me slowly, but I’ve finally realized: “Showgirls” has taken over my life.

You would’ve thought it would be the candles, or Broadway musicals, things that Lance has an obsessive passion about.  I used to think that, too.  But at the end of the day, it’s Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 boobie bomb bonanza that has become the center of our social interactions.

It’s now a rite of passage: new friends must endure (or, Gay help them, enjoy) at least one group screening of “Showgirls.”  Our friend Tim, with his fancypants Master’s degree, tried to psychoanalyze the plot, only to collapse in defeat, whispering, “I d-don’t understand,” as tears rolled down his face.

If you’re lucky enough, Lance will bust out his V.I.P. edition of “Showgirls,” which includes a drinking game (“Take a drink every time Nomi hits a car!”) and Pin the Pasty on the Showgirl, which features a door-sized poster of Jessie Spano and her pert parts (don’t forget the ice cubes).

True connoisseurs of the “Showgirls” phenomenon will be subjected to the “so bad it transcends taste,” crowd-sourced “Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven,” the unofficial sequel directed/written/produced/starring/edited by Rina Riffel, reprising her role from the original film as not-so-innocent Penny/Hope, though she quickly adopts the moniker Helga as she’s caught up in a triple murder and a dance show filmed in somebody’s unfinished basement.

Recently, we caught our first theatre-sized screening of “Showgirls” at the Trocadero in Philly.  This was the official friendship initiation for Drew (@enalwerd) and Joshua (@joshuatolby).  The theatre itself is fairly (purposefully?) run down, and they weren’t running a print of “Showgirls” so much as a bootleg copy of the DVD (with random inserted subtitles).

There was a lone gentleman sitting right behind me in the last row, who made me quite nervous…for obvious reasons.  But instead of workin’ the salami flagpole (or however that euphemism goes), he Mystery Science Theatre‘d the whole movie.  After the show, we congregated near the Troc’s bar, where said lone gentleman proceeded to dance by himself for a solid 20 minutes.

That’s what “Showgirls” does to you, I realized right then.  Prolonged exposure to this ridiculous camp fantasmagoria is like looking into the face of Insanity and flinching.  It’s like devouring a whole bag of chips in one sitting, or eating puppy chow just ’cause, or doing the finest cocaine in the world, darlin’.

You want some?

Travel Tuesday: From New York to Disneyland

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(Apologies for the random photos; my phone died midway through our day trip to New York, so all I got were some weird shots of Lance at Steak n’ Shake Express :-/)

There are not many Broadway shows that I have to drop everything to see.  While I appreciate the skill, discipline, and talent involved in staging these often elaborate, mostly intensive shows, it’s not in my blood like Lance (who owns the cast recording of Sunset Boulevard in six or seven different languages.)

Still, we hadn’t been to NYC together in almost a year, and with spring in the air, Lance was itchin’ to visit the Great White Way.  And this time, I was actually excited to see a show: the revival of Pippin, but  my enthusiasm had nothing to do with the show itself.

Y’see, I’ve mentioned loyalty programs before; most of the time, your “loyalty” is rewarded with a hill of beans, but every so often, if you play your cards right, you can hit the jackpot.  Today’s example: Audience Rewards.

Audience Rewards is the loyalty program for big-time theatre productions, mostly in New York.  Every time you see a show, you earn Audience Rewards points, the objective being to earn enough to redeem for free tickets to a stage show.

Well, like a lot of airline loyalty programs, Audience Rewards also couples with other loyalty programs, like Delta Airlines’ SkyMiles or Starwood hotel group’s Preferred Guest (SPG) program, where you can opt for your points from Broadway ticket purchases to go to one of these other programs instead.  Sometimes, they even offer a bonus.

This is why I was so excited to go up to New York for the day and see Pippin (and, with rush tickets, the fabulous off-Broadway production Peter and the Starcatcher).  See, for every Pippin ticket you purchased, you got 5000 SPG points, so between the two of us, that’s…well, you can do the math.

That may not seem like a lot, until you look at what 10,000 SPG points will get you: three nights at the Sheraton Garden Grove near Disneyland in California, a hotel that goes for over $130 a night.

Since we were already thinking about going to California this fall, these bonus points from Pippin will end up saving us almost $400!

As with any of this loyalty program stuff, the trick is not spend any more (or significantly more!) than you would normally spend in the pursuit of points.  It just worked out that we were looking to see a show, and this promotion happened to sync up with that.

Disneyland, December 2013, baby!!