Backtracking Through Time

Sep 5, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Time. It is, simultaneously, both a concept and a scientific fact. In our world, at least for those of us who aren’t super-advanced scientists who speculate and hypothesize about the flexibility (or even the reality) of the concept of linear time, it’s just what marks our minutes, hours, days, and calendars. It’s when we get up, it’s when we go to school or work, and it’s how we know the weekend is here. It is consistently perfect. There are always 60 minutes in an hour. Well, except for that aberration in the time/space continuum known as high school algebra class, when time would slow to a crawl or seem to cease movement altogether. Or conversely, those other moments in time, like the last two weeks of summer before going back to school, when the clock and the days would accelerate into warp drive and each hour passed in what seemed like a blink. But time, like the hands on a fine watch, really just marches forward at the same pace. It’s weird, I know.

So I didn’t blog last week, because I felt I’d run out of time. On social media, I mentioned the fact that Barbara and I were both pretty worn out from some frantic travel to Orlando and then to Chicago, and then further excused myself from writing by mentioning the Minnesota State Fair and how we planned to attend. To utilize a phrase from the journalistic world, “In the interest of fair reporting” I must now admit we never got there. Throughout last weekend, we came up with projects around the house or other excuses that let us off the State Fair hook. There was a LOT to do, including some messy painting of patio furniture. Plus, the Fair was experiencing all-time high attendance, up to close to 200,000 people per day! Let that sink in for a second. There were no “Park & Ride” locations anywhere near Woodbury. Just getting there would be hard. The moon was a waning crescent. Mars and Jupiter were aligned. The Twins were on TV. It might rain! Plus, naps sounded really good. So we never made it.

So here we are, and there’s still lots to write about despite not having the “Great Minnesota Get Together” as a part of it. But again, just think about a State Fair that draws well over 150,000 people per day, and sometimes quite a bit more than that. Amazing.

After our Brainerd adventure a couple weeks back, our next trip was to Orlando, or Ocoee to be precise although you do have to fly into Orlando. Bella and Stassi, the well-known and impossible not to adore “Twincesses” had their third birthday. Now let me tell you how that went… These two girls have been born and raised on Disney. They have annual passes and use them a lot. They watch Mickey’s Clubhouse on TV nearly every day. This was not going to be a dining room full of crepe-paper streamers and a cake, like many of mine were. Nope.

Amazing party. Well done Florida gang! (Click on any image to enlarge)

This was one of the most elaborate, well planned, well executed, and phenomenal birthday parties I’ve ever witnessed, and both Barbara and I pitched in as much as we could. It was staged at the clubhouse in the neighborhood Todd and Angie (the parents of the Twincesses and our nephew and niece) live in, and they did almost all of it themselves, including the inflation and presentation of over 1,000 balloons, gifts and games for all the guests, an incredible Disney style cake, and an appearance by two actual (official) Disney princess characters. It was amazing. As three-year-olds, I’m not sure how much of it the girls will remember, but it was incredible.

My specific job for the event was the creation of a large batch of white-wine Sangria. Nailed it!

On the big table where snacks, lunch, and other beverages were served, my gigantic dispenser of Sangria was a major hit. I overheard many parents telling their little ones that it was “Mommy and Daddy juice” when they wouldn’t pour them a cup. The big dispenser was just about empty by the end of the day.

Nearly all the kids came in Disney style costumes, and nearly all of them were nothing short of adorable. A number of adults came in full regalia as well, and that was a riot. There must have been 70 people there, and the room was rocking with Disney tunes and confetti, not to mention the aforementioned balloons. Outdoors, where it was typically Orlando (that means hot and steamy) there was an elaborate inflated bouncy house and pony rides, except the ponies were wearing a single horn and rainbow manes to make them unicorns in the eyes of the little ones. The whole thing was epic, basically.

Just a nice little Mercedes to tool around in!

The girls took almost all of their gifts home, and as you might imagine almost all the presents were Disney products. It took them the rest of the day, after the party, and part of the next morning to unwrap them all. But the one present they got at the party was a new car. I’m not kidding! They got a new car. Just for them.

This thing was amazing. This was no pedal car like I got when I was three. Or a little go-kart that broke in a week. It was an incredibly accurate Mercedes and just gorgeous.

It came equipped with optional ways for it to operate. You could indeed accelerate it and steer it from the driver’s seat, but there was also an override for that and a remote that could run it, too. Todd chose the latter option for the Twincesses’ first spin around the clubhouse, just to be safe. Solid choice, I’d say.

Funny thing was, though, Stassi (who was in the driver’s seat) clearly thought she was driving the car. She’s either been watching Daddy a lot from her car seat in the back or she just instinctively knew how to operate a steering wheel. She’s a natural!

In addition to the many kids who came in costume, a lot of the adults did too.  Ranging from some Disney shirts and shorts all the way to elaborate movie-style outfits, and it was great fun to see everyone having a good time. Sort of the exact definition of the term “kids of all ages.”

I brought a costume with me, as well, but after we loaded so much stuff into the clubhouse prior to the party I made the decision to wait until we got home with the girls to put it on. It was made of fleece, plus with the real Disney characters there I thought it would be a little amateurish or disrespectful to put it on in their presence, so after we got back to the house, and the girls were opening presents, I adjourned to the bedroom and came back out a minute later.

Well sure! Mickey looks pretty tall…

Ta-Daa!  A grown man in a Mickey Mouse outfit. Yep. That would be a first for me.

When I walked into the playroom, Stassi’s eyes lit up and her mouth hung open. Bella, seen here in the photo, just looked up at me and said “Hi, Bob-Bob.”  That would be what we call destroying the illusion. Still, everyone got a kick out of seeing me in the suit, with the three-finger gloves. And even in the house, with the AC on, it was a fleece sweatbox within about 5 minutes, but well worth the effort. I wonder what I’ll be next year? Goofy would seem appropriate.

We spent most of the day with them the next day, then headed for the airport for a late Sunday flight. It was a bit of a manic trip down there, but well worth the effort, I’d say. The Mickey outfit only cost $29, which was about right on target compared to its construction and design.

We were pretty tired from the whirlwind that is any visit to see Bella, Stassi, Angie, Todd, and Kitty but we only had one day at home to recover from that. On Tuesday we were headed for Chicago.

Much like (actually, just like) the New York City trip we made a few weekends ago, this was one of those deals where Barbara had a full day’s worth of business meetings to attend, so I tagged along. All I needed to pay for was a cheap Delta ticket. The conference Barbara was attending was at the JW Marriott in Chicago, and that’s a fine place to stay, if by “fine” you mean outstanding. It was well worth the effort to accompany her.

That first night, we scouted out a world-class steakhouse just about six blocks away, and it turned out to be directly across the street from the theater where “Hamilton” was playing. That was a fortuitous thing, since we had tickets for the musical the next night after Barbara’s conference was over. No worries about finding the theater, and the steaks we had were incredible. I’d say Top 5 in my book. What other steakhouses make my Top 5? Well, start with Manny’s and Murray’s in downtown Minneapolis. Then there’s Churchill’s in Spokane. There’s a whole bunch that would tie for the fifth spot, including the St. Paul Grill and Ike’s in Minneapolis, but The Grill Room in Chicago is probably right at the top with Manny’s or Churchill’s. Top notch!

Barb had to work all day the next day, so I went for a long walk. And that stroll was a revelation for me. I’ve been to Chicago too many times to count, but almost all of those trips were business oriented. The same sort of “get in, get out” trips Barbara is always on. Heck, when I worked for Converse Shoes our regional office was in Chicago, but I never spent much time downtown just relaxing or being a tourist. I made up for that on Wednesday.

Chicago. What took me so long?

And I realized something that came into sharp focus compared to the NYC trip we’d just recently made, where I also went for a long walk around Manhattan while Barbara was in meetings. Chicago is a truly MARVELOUS city. I guess I never really knew just how walkable, enjoyable, and beautiful it actually is. I was amazed, and so happy I got out there on the streets to see it and feel it.

New York is one of the most amazing cities in the world, but I think even New Yorkers will sort of proudly admit how brusque (rude?) and “no eye contact” it is. There’s a huge overt sense of urgency and “get out of my way” on the streets in Manhattan. It’s still incredible, but there’s a feeling about it that makes someone like me feel a bit too much of “My gosh, I must stand out as a rube tourist here.” In Chicago, I think there’s just enough Midwest mentality to ease all of that. I felt at home. People smiled. They held doors. The sidewalks were packed with busy people on purposeful missions, but were wide enough for everyone to get by without bumping into each other.

So, basically, it took me six decades but I finally got to understand the allure of downtown Chicago. It’s a special American city. So close to where I grew up in St. Louis, but a world away.

When Barbara’s work was over, she came up to the room not long after I’d gotten back from my lengthy stroll about the Windy City, and she desperately wanted to get outside and get some fresh air. So, we retraced a bunch of my route and some other streets, and by the time we got back to the JW Marriott I’d clocked in at over 11,000 steps, according to my watch. A day well spent in Chicago, but the fun was only just beginning.

When we entered the lobby, it was impossible to miss the fact we were surrounded by a large group of very fit, very big, and very athletic men. I instantly said to Barbara, “This is a sports team.” I had wondered, before we checked in, if the Twins might not be staying at the JW Marriott, because they were in town to play the White Sox. It was clear this wasn’t the Twins. Many of these guys were absolutely huge. It had to be a football team.

Once we got to the room, I pulled out my laptop to see when the Chicago Bears might be playing, and who their opponents might be. Turned out, we were sharing the hotel with the Tennessee Titans. I asked a person at the hotel if that was correct and his response was only a rapid wink of one eye, then he said “Oh, we don’t discuss who are guests are.” Gotcha!

After being surrounded by NFL humanity, we had to get cleaned up and head over to the theater for “Hamilton” so Uber seemed the best way to do that. No need to take showers and then walk six blocks and get all hot again. We got there in plenty of time, found our terrific seats, and got ready for something I was barely ready for.

WOW. Just WOW. A true national treasure!

Up until our drive up to Brainerd a couple of weeks ago, I basically knew nothing about “Hamilton” other than it was about the Founding Fathers in general and Alexander Hamilton in particular. I’d heard some people mention that it was a real dichotomy of a specific historic tale presented in a modern way. When Barbara put the soundtrack CD in the car on our way up to the race, I got a real feel for it. Oh, it’s modern for sure. Very musical, very vocal, and also hip-hop and rhyme. I was really interested in seeing the show.


It. Blew. Me. Away!

So much talent on one stage. So much creativity. So many laughs and moments when the audience just couldn’t help but yell, clap, and cheer for performances that were nothing short of perfect. And, with all that said, it was such an insightful look into our country’s history, with so much more relevance to what we’re going through today than I could have imagined. Remember, back then everyone who wasn’t native American was an immigrant, and most of them were of meager means. They overcame it all. And it wasn’t easy.

“Hamilton” brings it all to life spectacularly. If you haven’t seen it (I bet many of you already have) you must find a way. You’ll thank me. I’m so thrilled we got to experience it.

So, after a week off, that’s about it for this installment of “As The World Turns” or “Bob’s Blog” or whatever this nonsense is called. I see no reason why I won’t be back next week, although I also doubt I’ll have this much ripe material to work with. That’s never stopped me before, so I’m sure we will persist.

As is almost always the case, I’ll make one request. If you’ll just send me $5,000 up front, I’ll share the $10 million a Nigerian Prince is going to wire me tomorrow. I’m sure it’s on the up-and-up. He seemed like a nice guy. That, of course, is not true. What is a true request, though, is that if you just read this and enjoyed it even a little tiny bit, please click on the “Like” button at the top. If I get enough “Likes” I’ll fly to Nigeria to get that money. No I won’t.

See you next week, boys and berries!

Bob Wilber, at your service with thoughts of Twincesses and Chi-Town still fresh in my mind.

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