Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

John Stewart. Stephen Colbert. Two of the greatest comedians/political commentators of our generation. Together on the National Mall. Who wouldn't want to be there for that?

Well, okay, probably the entire staff over at Fox News. But besides them, everybody wanted to go.

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear is basically the combination of two separate events: John Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and Stephen Colbert's March to Keep Fear Alive (Methinks Colbert got robbed when it came to naming the combined event).

I don't want to get all political and say anything that would give me a case of foot-in-mouth disease and/or anger my live-in diplomat, so I leave it to you to follow the links above and learn whatever your heart desires about this event and what it says about the current state of US Politics.

Was it a political rally? No. Well, maybe. But it might have just been comedy. Except that lots of people were holding political signs. Only they were comedic. I think?

All I can say is that, regardless of your political views, listening to these two is a good time. Though it helps if you're a liberal.

Anyway, we had been looking forward to this for a while, and I had wanted to arrive early in the day. I'm a planner. If I'm merely on time, then I'm late. So when TJ suggested that we leave at 11am for a rally scheduled to start at 12pm, I pretty much knew we were screwed. I give you Exhibit A.

Anyone that thought we were getting on that train, or any train following closely behind it, was bananas. Hah! See the gorilla? I'm funny. So anyway, with a modicum of difficulty (it's quite possible that I knocked a granny to the pavement), I flagged down a cab and off we went to DC.

Had I known these guys were going,
I would have just set up a carpool.

Which brings us to Exhibit B. This was our vantage point. A fair distance away from the video screen. And this photo is set at maximum zoom. We were a lot farther back than this image might have you believe. Beyond that? Another video screen. And beyond that screen, another. Beyond that, I think, one would have been able to see Stewart and Colbert in the flesh. Or maybe another screen.

We had managed to arrive on time, and stayed for about an hour and a half. But then I had to pee. And neither of us do so well in large crowds. So ultimately, not being able to hear or see much anyway, we opted for burgers at the Hard Rock Cafe instead. As it turns out, that's when the true magnitude of the day revealed itself to us.

The rally hadn't just taken over the Metro and the National Mall. It had spilled over into the entire District of Columbia. This photo was taken several blocks away from the rally, two hours before the rally ended. This herd isn't even walking toward the rally. They're just...there. Every street in the area looked like this, despite the Mall itself being filled to capacity.

I'm proud to have been witness to such a gathering. Whether they came for laughter, fear, or sanity, the point is that they showed up. And that's amazing. I've never seen so many people in one place, and doubt I will again. Crowd estimates were close to 220,000.

Which would explain that 45 minute wait for a table at the HRC.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Last Visitor of the Year

This past week we had the immense pleasure of hosting our friend and former roommate as he made his first ever trip to Washington, D.C.

In the eight months that we have lived in Falls Church, no fewer than eight visitors have graced us with their presence. While the itinerary for this trip wasn't much different than any of the others, the experience itself was completely different.

I'm the type that always feels the need to entertain company. I don't know how to relax when I'm on vacation, and I don't tolerate it in those that take a vacation to come visit me. I feel like I have completely failed in my duties as cruise director if we spend even one moment relaxing and watching television. And since nobody likes to go-go-go ALL the time, I often feel like I have failed my visitors, even when they have had a completely fabulous time.

This time was different, though, and I attribute that to the fact that we lived with Kris for almost 5 (or was it 6?) years...we've always spent a ton of time just relaxing on the couch and watching television. Don't get me wrong, I still went totally crazy and demanded that we go do stuff, but when nobody found that appealing, I found myself accepting the television as sufficient entertainment. And it was kinda nice. Because we have spent so much time just being around each other in the past, we were able to just be around each other now. When other people visit, we always feel the need to take them out to fun new restaurants and bars. With Kris, it was ok to just cook at home some nights. While we would otherwise feel obligated to visit museum after monument after museum, with Kris we were able to visit monument after shopping mall after museum after Target.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when my friends come to visit. I love showing people around. But your friends only see you the way that you want to portray yourself in public. With your friends, you always want to impress them. To show them how awesome life is. A roommate? A roommate sees you every which way. And a good roommate will stick around for 5 (or was it 6?) years despite that. And because you spend so much time with a roommate, you don't have to put on airs. You don't have to try so hard to impress him. You can just enjoy each other's company.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Problemas con mis Palabras (Problems with my Words)

The frustrating thing about learning a new language is that one quickly learn that there are not only multiple ways of saying the same thing, but also multiple meanings for different words. The funny thing about learning a new language is that one will, without fail, use a word or phrase incorrectly, often with embarrassing consequences.

At the Foreign Service Institute it is common for instructors to ask their students to bring a short news article to discuss with the class. The article can be in whatever language you like, but you are required to discuss the article in the language being studied. In Spanish, we call these "Pequeñas Noticias."

Because this can get a bit repetitive, I like to select my articles from a number of sources, ranging from the credible (The Washington Post) to the incredulous (The Onion). Yesterday I chose an article from The Orlando Sentinel that talked about the recent glee "scandal." Three of the show's young actors posed for racy photos in this month's issue of GQ. Because the magazine is written with an adult male audience in mind, and because the actors portray high school students on television, some of the more conservative circles have chosen to view the images as something akin to pedophilia.

I tried to make the point that, because the actors are in their twenties and only portray teenagers on television, the photos are not really all that inappropriate.

I have consulted a friend on this matter (Thanks, Shalinn!) and now understand that what I wanted to say was:
"Los actores en 'glee' interpretan a estudiantes de la escuela secundaria."

What I actually said was:
"Los actores en 'glee' tocan estudiantes de la escuela secundaria. "

Tocan is the 3rd person plural form of the verb Tocar, meaning "to play."

Or...when used in this way, "to touch."

Yes, while discussing an article about the pedophilic implication of these photographs, I actually stated, rather confidently I might add, that the cast of glee likes to touch children.

Needless to say, I turned fire engine red and much laughter was had at my expense.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DC Nerd Fest 2010

Due to an out-of-town visitor (more on that next time), I've had the chance to revisit some of the Smithsonian museums this week. And, since this is probably my last opportunity to do so prior to our move, I took the opportunity to snap some of the geekier photos that I've neglected up to this point.

Is it sad that the first two photos are from gift shop
displays and not actually from museum exhibits?

My fave...I didn't even
know they had this!

It's really not easy being green...
The Oscar the Grouch they used to
have is suspiciously absent...

R2-D2, where ARE you???

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hatafat Dam Brit

First and foremost, I want to provide the disclaimer that I promise not to use this blog to talk too terribly much about religion in any of its forms for any extended period of time. I have touched on our exploration of Judaism a few times in the past, and will doubtlessly do so again when occasion and content call for it. This is not a blog about religion, and I don't want to make my readers uncomfortable (or worse, lose any) due to too much conversation about topics that may not interest them. However, Judaism has become important to us, and Jewish matters will continue to pop up from time to time.

With that said, today we will be discussing The Covenant of Circumcision (Sorry!).

Jewish males must be circumcised within eight days of birth. Non-Jewish males who wish to convert to Judaism must also undergo circumcision (Eep!).

Fortunately, TJ and I were born into a century in which most American baby boys underwent circumcision as a health measure immediately following birth (Whew!).

However...medical circumcision is not the same as brit milah, which is performed with the intention of entering the covenant of Israel. And so the rabbis invented hatafat dam brit, the extracting of a ceremonial drop of blood know. The procedure is billed as quick, painless, and necessary if one wishes to be recognized by all branches of Judaism.

Our conversion is scheduled for completion on November 4th, and today was the only day the mohel could meet with us. The only problem was that he lives in Baltimore and his schedule for the day was full. So we offered to meet him at his apartment early this morning.

You know, we have been wanting to go to Baltimore for months, and had assumed that once we finally got there, it would be for the purposes of taking a John Waters tour or something. Hmm. Maybe next time.

During the 1.5 hour car ride to Baltimore, my mind kept flashing from one horrible thought to the next. We don't know this guy from Adam. What if he kills us and throws us in a ditch? What if I'm just a big weenie and can't go through with it? Does he properly sterilize his equipment? What if he decrees that I wasn't circumcised enough...and he needs to take a bit more off the top (Gah!)?

By the time we arrived at the rabbi's home, I would say that I had done a decent job of both working myself up into a nervous fit AND hiding it from TJ. We were welcomed warmly and ascended the narrow flight of stairs leading up to the mohel's self-proclaimed bachelor pad. The family portrait on the wall seemed to indicate that he had not been a bachelor for very long. The decor indicated a recent move, which TJ confirmed later. I've often wondered about the personal lives of religious leaders, yet this was the first time I'd found myself inside one's home. I was fascinated.

Thoughts of the rabbi's personal life evaporated when he opened up his tool box and withdrew a small white linen cloth, upon which he laid a gauze bandage, a tube of Neosporin, and a pair of the tiniest, rustiest scissors I have ever seen. I almost passed out on the spot. Trying to maintain my composure, I glanced at TJ, who looked just as nervous as I was. What the HELL were we going to do?

God does exist, people. I state this as fact, because the scissors were only there to cut the gauze in half. The drop of blood was extracted by a teeny tiny needle that miraculously appeared out of nowhere and caused no pain. I wonder if mohelim always presents the scissors first, giddily hoping to freak out the clientele? The devil, as they say, is in the details.

There is not much pomp and circumstance involved here. He fills out a document certifying completion of the ritual, performs the ritual, says a brief prayer, and sends you on your way. The entire process had quite the assembly line feel to it. All told, we were in and out within 15 minutes, with another couple waiting on the living room sofa to go through the same process.

Fortunately, they arrived after the snip, as the entire process occurred in the dining room.

Friday, October 15, 2010

El Caballero de Olmedo/The Knight from Olmedo

Last night was the scariest night of my life. It wasn't a night of haunted houses, scary movies, or muggings in the park. I wasn't involved in an auto accident, the dogs didn't go missing, and my mother didn't call at 2am with alarming news. was far worse than any of that.

For last night was a night...of theatre.

It was just an ordinary autumn evening out in the city with friends. TJ and I, joined by four other FSO's and one EFM, enjoyed a delicious dinner at The Heights. We were having a wonderful time. After dinner, we walked around the corner and took our seats in the Tivoli Theatre, where we planned to enjoy an evening with the arts...and then our world crashed down around our ears.

Seven adults preparing to leave the country in a matter of weeks. Seven adults with varying levels of Spanish comprehension. Seven adults sitting in a Spanish theatre eager to flex their language muscles.

Seven adults that spent two hours staring at the English subtitles flashing above the stage and fearing for their lives.

To be fair, the play in question, El Caballero de Olmedo, was written in the 17th Century by Lope de Vega. To put that in context, Shakespeare was a 17th century playwright. For those of us that speak English as a primary language, Shakespearean English is difficult at times. So you can imagine how difficult Shakespearean Spanish would be. My language instructor put it best this morning when I told her about our adventure:

"Antiguos. Yo no lo entiendo muy bien."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Hate Wells Fargo

As I mentioned in Homeward Bound: The Incredibly Ridiculous Journey, we are having difficulty getting authorization from Wells Fargo to ship my Jeep to Guadalajara. Unfortunately, the saga continues.

Last week we made the decision that the best solution would be to refinance through USAA. This would allow us to add TJ to the title, thus removing the concern of the car not being in his name, and provide us with a title company that would be willing to provide a letter of consent to export the vehicle.

USAA cut a check and overnighted it to Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo assured me that, since the title is an e-title, it would be transferred immediately.

I called Wells Fargo today, only to find out that even though the payment was received on October 5, they would hold the title until October 21 to ensure that...payment...was...received?

Yeah. So I asked how I could expedite the process. I was told that I could have USAA fax a copy of the cashed check to them. A fax number was provided. I called USAA and was told this would be taken care of ASAP. This was at 2:30.

At 4:30 I called Wells Fargo back to follow up, and was advised that their auto-fax system requires a 24-48 hour turnaround, and then it will be another 24-48 hours before they can release the title. So one day became four. I asked if Wells Fargo could, at the very least, check to see if the fax was received. They told me they could not, as I did not have the fax number from which USAA transmitted the requested information. I asked the representative if she could contact USAA on my behalf and she said no. When I asked why not, she told me that she is an inbound representative and cannot make outbound calls. I told her that I was sure she could, to which she responded "yes...but I won't." I hope she develops a rash. Needless to say, I asked for a supervisor.

Her name was Geneva and she told me that since ALL of their customers are valued, she could not give me special treatment. I hope she develops a rash, too.

I called USAA and spoke with a lovely woman who somehow managed to keep me on the phone for over an hour but was able to answer most of my questions. She was nice enough to call Wells Fargo for me, confirmed that the fax number that Wells Fargo had given me earlier in the day was incorrect (shocker) and managed to get the fax sent to the correct place.

Oh, and she learned that the turnaround for title release is 96 hours, not 24-48.


On the bright side, I discovered an awesome website today that allows you to create your own Demotivational Posters.

Monday, October 11, 2010

365 Challenge, Day 86: My Life In Pictures

This morning I spent several hours combing through the files in an old computer of ours that I had brought back from Florida in July. Although I accidentally deleted all of our photos from our 2007 trip to Spain (and who knows what else), I was surprised at just how many photos we do have. Photos that show what a blessed life TJ and I have had together. A life that I could hardly imagine ever having while growing up in Texas. Come, walk with me down memory lane... we meet in 2003 and spend
way too much time at Disney World... we enjoy a Christmas
playing dress up with Sophie... we adopt our first
puppy, Zelda... we take our first trip to Paris
(and Disneyland Paris)... we meet actor/comedian
Hal Sparks at the Hard Rock Live... we adopt our second
puppy, Chloe... we celebrate
TJ's graduation... we buy our 1st home... we go back to Paris
(and Disneyland Paris)... we move to DC, and I
see my first heavy snowfall... we watch as our babies grow up...

It's been a good life, and things will only continue to get better. There are a couple of things in the pipeline that we are very excited about.

I think now is a good time to let everyone know that the 365 Challenge is officially over. Not "over" like it was on Day 50, but really, really over. There was actually a soft closing of it on October 1st, when I decided to no longer number the individual days.

I was going to ride it out until we left for Guadalajara, but after finding some of the above photos today, it just seemed like this would be a good day to go out on.

Not every day has a story worth telling. Other days have stories that might be worth telling, but are inappropriate given that we represent the US Government abroad. Those are the days that frustrate me the most: when I have something fun or personal to share but instead resort to "stock footage." And if we're being honest, knowing that I "have" to post every day sorta makes me resent the process.

I will continue to write and post photos, but only when it feels right. Only when I have something to say or share. No more photos scavenged from the Internet. The words and stories will all be mine alone, or they won't be posted.

Which brings me to my next bit of news. "Adventures By Aaron" will be shutting down in a few weeks, to be replaced by a new that I think will better capture the essence of our lives abroad. I will continue posting here until then, and will of course leave a "forwarding address" when the time comes.

This has been a fun project for me, and definitely one of the things that have kept me sane while adjusting to our new Foreign Service Life.

Thanks to all of my readers, posters and lurkers alike. I hope you'll stick around for what's coming up next!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Have A Cold

It's been brewing for a few days. Kings Dominion, while fun, gave it the boost it needed to hit me full force. So don't expect much writing out of me. 'K thanks.

One Last Adventure At Kings Dominion

Spent one last day at Kings Dominion today before our big move.

One last day filled with crazy roller coasters...

and one last night filled with crazy Halloween spooks...

And I STILL can't get a decent shot with pumpkin man.

This one would have turned out ok, I think, if he hadn''t started quacking like Donald Duck right as the flash went off. I was both startled and amused. Sigh.

I wonder if the third time would have been the charm?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Worn Out

Did you ever have one of those days that just completely drained you?

Yeah, me too.

I'd talk about it, but I won't really know how it turned out until November 4th. Hit me up then.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Me Talk Spanish One Day (I Hope...)

Yesterday marked the beginning of my second month in Spanish class. We were given a homework assignment in which we had to prepare a short presentation about important people that we have met. We were encouraged to bring photographs. Presentations were due today.

In my class of three, one told a story about how he met President Clinton in Cambodia. The story was accompanied by a photo of the former president holding my classmate's daughter. My other classmate told the story of how she did arts and crafts projects with the indigenous peoples of Africa. Her story was accompanied by beautiful color photographs of beadwork, hand-woven purses, and blankets that she had worked on while living on the Ivory Coast.

As Guadalajara will be our first tour, I have no such stories to tell. My only recourse was to talk about Mickey Mouse and some D-List celebrities I had met as a child. Also, as my photo albums and color printer are currently packed away in storage, I wasn't able to whip up much of a presentation. What I was able to do is print a few photos from the Internet, cut them out, and re-copy them onto one sheet of paper. Except I forgot to bring scissors to the business office. So I had to tear and fold the photos. The effect was not unlike that of a 2nd Grade Art Project.

Oy, am I glad this class is for fun and not for course credit.

Just for fun, here is what I told my professor, verbatim. This will give you the opportunity to make fun of judge me on how poorly I am progressing in Spanish. I think this, too, is not unlike a 2nd Grader...

"Cuando vivia en Orlando, conoci senor Mikey Mouse durante una visita al Mundo de Disney. Mickey y yo nos reunimos en varias ocasiones porque me gusta el Mundo de Disney y visite a muchos.

"Cuando era una nino, mi padre gustaba ir a coche de la demostraciones. A veces, gentes famosa firmado autografos en la coche de la demostraciones.

"Asi es como conoci a Vanna White de "Rueda de la Fortuna," Jefe Cerdo de "Los Duques de Hazzard," y Tio Cody de "Paso a Paso."

"Estoy triste porque mi perro comio el autografo de Jefe Cerdo, y Jefe Cerdo esta muerto ahora."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

European Beard and Moustache Championship

I just love the Huffington Post. Sometimes you get useful news blurbs...and sometimes you get this...

"Hirsute men from eight countries curled, primped and even blow-dried their facial hair in preparation for the European Beard And Moustache Championship, held high in the Austrian Alps this weekend, the AFP reports."

"The event drew about 150 participants to the town of Leogang, not far from Salzburg. According to MSNBC, men competed in 17 eccentric categories, including "Freestyle Beard," "Natural Moustache" and "Verdi," with the winner of the latter category bearing a style akin to the famous 19th century Italian composer Giuseppi Verdi."

Click HERE for additional photos...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Welcome to the Foreign Service Life! Here's Your Apartment!

I wasn't particularly looking forward to posting this entry, but I sorta promised it HERE, so I figured I might as well pony up. I'm hesitant to do this for two reasons: One, photos of other people's apartments are rarely exciting, and two, this really feels like something I should have done seven months ago (WOW! Has it been that long?). That said, I do feel that visual aids are important in making housing decisions, and anyone that is about to join the foreign service may benefit from this post. Plus, I haven't taken ANY photos of Oakwood for myself, so this was a great opportunity. So, without further ado...

This was pretty much our first sight upon arriving at Oakwood. I almost cried. This was definitely NOT our cute little house on the lake. Our new 7 story building looked cold. Sterile. And the fact that it was buried under a couple of feet of snow didn't help matters. TJ did not speak to me as we checked in, obtained our keys, and took our first tour of what would be our apartment for the next nine months. We did not speak for almost an hour. There wasn't much to say. We were both disappointed and afraid of starting a fight.

I say none of this to discourage potential residents. I say it only to educate you. No matter what your living conditions were prior to joining the Foreign Service, they were (hopefully) conditions of your choosing. Leaving that for something chosen for you may be a bit jarring at first.

We got over our hang-ups with time, and came to realize that Oakwood isn't half bad. There are numerous amenities to choose from. One of the most convenient for State Department employees is the availability of shuttle service to and from the Foreign Service Institute, where the majority of your training will occur.

There are also shuttles servicing the closest Metro station, though it is a brisk 10-15 minute walk if you prefer to hoof it.

Oakwood offers a nice-sized pool and jacuzzi, though I don't think I ever saw an adult in the pool that wasn't accompanied by a toddler wearing arm floaties. The pool is so packed in the summertime that a common joke was that you could walk from one end of the pool to the other without getting wet.

Something of note to my southern friends...don't expect the pool to be open year-round. Pools up here are typically open Memorial Day - Labor Day only.

Behind the pool are a decent number of BBQ pits and tables.
The oddest amenity I have ever seen is located beside the pits. I've never seen an apartment complex with its own convenience store, but there you go. Good source of wine and frozen pizza. Only accepts cash though.

In addition to the gym (which I could not take photos of because it was occupied and I didn't want to look creepy), there are four tennis courts, a basketball hoop, and a sand volleyball court. The gym is merely adequate, containing old but working equipment. We haven't made much use of these amenities, as we bought a membership to the Planet Fitness next door. Of course, we haven't made much use of that, either...

As you can see, there's a playground for the little ones. We don't have children (yet), so I've yet to find much use for this...but I think one of the puppies did try to make poo here, once.

Which reminds me, pets are not allowed in the courtyard. Management's definition of what the courtyard is changes day-to-day, but there are puppy stations located throughout the property.

There's a Business Office equipped with two computers and a copy/fax machine. Brunch is served in the club house every Sunday (donuts and OJ). There are two conference rooms available if you need to host a meeting. There's an on-site dry cleaner, though off-site will be cheaper and faster. The staff lacks a certain charm but seems to be improving over time.

I'm gonna stop there, but I do invite your participation...

Have you/do you live at this, or one of the other Oakwood communities? Please feel free to post your thoughts here. Maybe your feedback will help a future Foreign Service family make a housing decision.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ohhh...So THIS Is What A Change In Weather Feels Like

Something...unusual happened last night. You see, it was quite warm during the day, but when the sun went down, it In early October? That doesn't make any sense.

And not only that, but the weather was drizzly the majority of last week. Despite being warm yesterday, today was kind of chilly. And now, it's drizzling again?

I'm so confused. I've spent 7 years living in Florida. I'm not accustomed to such things. It doesn't start cooling off until December, and even then, you won't need a jacket until January. And it only rains in the summertime between 4 and 4:15pm.

I mean, sure, it was snowing when we moved here in February, but that is a distant we were on vacation somewhere else. It's hard to believe that it will be snowing again soon.

And yet, not soon enough, I'm afraid. A bit of research has shown that snowfall in early-November is unlikely. Pity. I wanted to see Bernard before we left. And I did kinda enjoy slipping and falling on my butt in the snow. I thought it was funny, and laughed every time.

By mid-November we will be living in snow-free Guadalajara and frantically searching for frozen turkeys, green bean casseroles, and canned cranberry sauce. I'm actually looking forward to it. We spent an amazing Halloween in Paris last year, so I know it's possible to enjoy American holidays abroad.

Upside? American AND Mexican holidays will be part of my social calendar.

Downside? Any acclimation to seasons other than hot and hotter will quickly fade over the next two years of Florida-like weather.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Kings Dominion: Halloween Haunt

As any Central Floridian worth his salt knows, the best time to celebrate Halloween is the first weekend in October. The theme parks have had their Halloween events running for a week at this point, thus working out any kinks in the show, and the typical Halloween crowd won't show up for another couple of weeks, meaning shorter lines.

Halloween was always fun in Florida.

With that in mind, we sojourned 85 miles south of our temporary Falls Church home to find out how Virginia celebrates the holiday. I walked through the entrance of Kings Dominion this afternoon fully expecting to walk through the exit completely disappointed a few hours later. Halloween Haunt couldn't possibly hold a candle to Halloween Horror Nights or Howl-O-Scream, Right?

Wrong. I had an amazing time.

A Halloween-themed outing to Kings Dominion couldn't begin without a stop at Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Boo Blasters used to be called Scooby Doo and the Haunted Mansion back when the park had a contract with Hanna-Barbera. Like Disney's Haunted Mansion, the exterior is an old scary house with funny tombstones in the yard. Inside, it's a shoot-'em-up similar to Universal's Men in Black and Disney's Toy Story Mania.

Later, TJ discovered a car full of dead clowns and
I made nice with the biggest Jack in the Box ever.

My second-favorite haunt of the night, mainly because
of TJ's astute observation that the "a" looks like a "u."
I'll let you sound it out for yourselves...

I wish this particular photo had turned out better, but the camera was on a weird setting at the time. I am including it anyway, because it reminds me of a recurring dream I used to have as a child. I would be riding in the backseat of the Mystery Machine. The Scooby Gang and I were fleeing from a pumpkin-headed creature that bore a striking resemblance to this fellow. The back door of the van would unexpectedly open and I would tumble out, finding myself at the mercy of the pumpkin man. I would always wake up just as he grabbed me.

The most terrifying haunted house that I have ever experienced didn't even take the form of a house. The typically kid-centric fair offered by the Blue Ridge Tollway, which allows for a leisurely drive through a forest in antique gas-powered cars, becomes the Blue Ridge Bloodbath at night..a leisurely drive through a forest inhabited by chainsaw and shovel-wielding maniacs that jump out and smack the roof, hood, and trunk of your car as you try not to pee your pants and drive off the track.

Fortunately, we had noticed that a licensed professional
that could help with post traumatic stress had set up
a booth earlier in the day.