Tag Archives: Orlando

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We went through a few scares early last night.

While we still had power and were listening to the weather predictions, I noticed water seeping into the family room — right where we had placed the sandbags the day before.

I left the comfort and safety of the house, put on a hard hat and poncho, and braved the windy rain to rearrange the sandbags.

That’s when I heard the sirens I had never heard before.

I went back to the front as my son was yelling at me that there was a tornado warning and one already touched down a few neighborhoods over.

That got my attention.

I scrambled back in.

The smartphones were all going off with alarms and the news guy was pinpointing the rotating winds, urging everyone to be low and ready to go into a safe room.

We had our closet door open and we all stood close to it while simultaneously listening to the outside, our phones and the TV.

Fortunately the warnings passed by 7:30 and we all sighed a little relief.

We switched to Netflix for a while and at 10 p.m. the power went.

We continued to follow the storm’s progress on our devices through my phone’s hotspot.

That’s when we learned that the latest landfall downsized the storms winds and category, but now the track had shifted enough to give Orlando an eyeful of Irma.

We broke out the cards and board game and waited.

She would be arriving with her worst winds about 1 to 3 a.m.

No one could sleep so there was wine and games.

We heard the howling winds from 2 through 3. By 4 a.m. the winds were back to the tropical force we had been experiencing all afternoon so we all went to sleep.

This morning after the curfew ended at 7 a.m., I ventured out.

The sky showed that it wanted to go blue again, but there were still plenty of tropical force gusts.

I walked around the property and surveyed the field.

There was considerable debris but most of the large branches missed our vehicles and home.

I saw some loose aluminum siding blowing in a neighbor’s front yard down the street, but nothing looked any worse than branches strewn about.

We were once again fortunate in Central Florida.

Unfortunately this near miss (or hit)  with less ferocity than originally predicted feeds the naysayers in the greater Central Florida area.

Those who  over confidently boast:

“See, there was no need to board up or stock up.”

“These storms never affect the center of the state.”

“They always turn or shift away.”

Yeah, that’s right. Until they don’t.

 

Hurricane Irma: Who Needs Lights Anyway?

We just lost power.

We had a pretty good run as I followed many of my close neighbors over the last three hours, announcing their power loss.

Just when we thought we could be clear, and just while the whole family was enjoying reruns of “Frasier” on Netflix, buoooooom.

I think that’s the noise it made. Nothing. An eerie quiet. So we are breaking out the cards and the backgammon board.

I guess we will be going to sleep soon but the latest information tells us the most destructive (potentially) winds will arrive around 2 a.m. So we will be sleeping with one eye open, ready to gather the family and dive into our safe room (the master bedroom closet).

We laid down foam padding that I had stored and is coming in handy now if we have to spend any time on the floor of our closet.

Rain has been coming down steadily since early afternoon,  at times with loud winds and rain going horizontally. Trees have been stubbornly holding on to their branches so far.

That could change soon.

We still have wine. We are good.

Next update sometime early morning.
Gotta conserve power on the laptop and the phone’s hotspot.

Bracing for Irma: Tales From the Florida Stormfront

We will be fine. We are well prepared. The only thing I wish I could get fixed is my chainsaw, which won’t start.

I just may have to get another one. I am pretty sure there will be branches to cut away.

Here is my hurricane tale through the years.

Andrew, Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Dennis, Wilma and Matthew. A list of friends?

Nah.

Those are the major hurricanes that have affected me since I made Orlando my home in 1992.

Each one was treated differently as far as preparation.

With each yearly storm season (June 1 to Nov. 30) I gained more experience in getting properly prepared.

I had just moved to Orlando when Andrew came calling. I was an apartment dweller at the time, fresh from the Bronx and totally unprepared.

Fortunately for me, Andrew only brought Orlando a lot of rain but brought its destructiveness to South Florida.

After that I became a homeowner.

I survived a couple of hurricane seasons without incident until a dude named Floyd came calling.

A very powerful Category 4 was targeting the middle of the state and go through the center, and through my home area as a very strong Category 3 storm.

As part of my preparations, I bought plywood and boarded up every window.

The inside of our home was eerily dark. And Floyd was (thankfully) a no-show. I stored up the plywood and a few quiet years went by until 2004.

That year we were treated to an evil trifecta of Charley, Frances and Jeanne.

I again boarded up for Charley.

Good thing I did. Small, tight, fast and powerful, Charley did a lot of damage straight through the center, entering south of Tampa and followed the Interstate 4 from west to east.

A double combination punch of Frances and Jeanne followed closely behind Charley turning Central Florida residents into a punch drunk group of citizens.

When Ivan was announced to be coming our way, a communal groan went up from us all.

Ivan spared Central Florida but instead gave the Florida panhandle a large dose of wet destruction.

Then things went very quiet, relatively, for almost a decade.

Last year Hurricane Matthew reignited my sense of hurricane preparations as it took aim at us here. But there was something very familiar to that track and the high winds. Very Floyd-like from 1999.

It ended up following a very similar path as it turned right before the state, gave the East Coast some surge and rain, but left Central Florida untouched.

It was a beautiful, bright sunny day.

But that miss only reinforced the naysayers who always contradict a careful person’s plans. They are always around at work, at school events or outside church.

Nah, it’ll turn, they say. They always do when they originate in the Atlantic.

There was some wisdom to that. And we can take some satisfaction in that they are mostly correct. But every now and then, a storm does something weird.

So now we have Irma.

Already a deadly and the strongest Category 5 in history in the Atlantic Basin. The track again is westward across the Atlantic but here is a twist.

The storm is huge, really huge, and it is not expected to make its right turn until it is just south of Miami, just before the Keys. And then it is tracked to go up the entire peninsula.

Even if turns a little bit east of projection, the entire peninsula will be treated to immense storm surges, biblical proportions of rain and wind gusts that can blow blue rain jacket-wearing weather personalities clear across roads and parking lots.

So once again I go into full preparation mode.

Water and food to last five days.

Full resupply of first aid items, batteries, fuel for generators and gas grills, lanterns, meds and games to pass the powerless hours away as we listen to the wind strike up against the boarded windows and hear the roof strain to keep its shape.

I avoided the long lines and water riots by taking advantage of the Labor Day weekend to get my supplies.

And although we had a decade of quiet, it was clear the storms would come calling again at some point.

We have plenty of supplies, and sufficient moxie.

We’ll get through it. Again.

Related:

Hurricane Irma: Forget Bottled Water. Getting Wine Is Tougher!

 

Escape Room Escapades

I recently tried one of those newly popular “escape room” attractions and let’s just say Houdini I am not.

If you enjoy puzzles, thinking on your feet and working with others under pressure, you will have a thrilling time.

With its hidden clues and riddles to solve, being in an escape room is like playing a real-life version of “Scooby-Doo,” except at the end you are not unmasking the caretaker as the villain who dressed up as a ghost to scare those damn meddling kids away.

For those unfamiliar with escape rooms, here’s the  concept: You are locked in a room with your teammates (in my case, three friends) filled with props, decorations and furniture.

You scour the room for clues, which can take the form of scraps of paper with numbers or words, which in turn send you to other clues, and so on.

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I don’t want to give too much away about the specifics since it would spoil some of the fun, but the room where we played in Orlando, Fla., featured several locked cabinets and trunks.

Finding the key (or the combinations for the locks) required using math, looking at messages that could only be seen under a black light, and relying on our smarts to solve problems.

You have to think creatively – and fast.

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There are different themes for each room. In my case, my friends and I played “Classified.” The room had a Middle Eastern feel to the décor.

(My wife and younger son and I recently played at a different escape room in the Poconos and in that one the premise was we awoke to find ourselves locked in a cabin in the woods. That room featured a bearskin rug and deer’s head on the wall.)

In the “Classified” room, the orientation video described our team as being covertly inserted into hostile territory. We had 60 minutes to deduce the time, date and place of a terrorist attack.

Failure on our part meant the terrorist would win.

We had three “free” clues, that is, clues that would be given to us and not count against our time. For every additional clue given, we would have minutes added to our time.

If you ever played the highly addictive computer game “Myst” from years ago, you will have an idea of how immersed you can get into an escape room. Secret passageways, enticing clues and cryptic messages were all there.

And much like the hit TV series “24,” there was a monitor with a countdown clock showing how much time we had left.

As we progressed and the time ticked away, we grew more frenetic.

“Go over there!”

“Where is the flashlight?!”

“What was that clue again?!”

We had three of the four elements solved: The date, the place and the hour of the attack but we could not determine the minutes after the hour.

My heart was pounding. The mission was at stake!

In the end, we came really, really close but we failed.

Jack Bauer would have disowned us, but we had a helluva good time!

 

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MegaCon: The Family That CosPlays Together…

As I stroll down a hallway, an 8-foot mechanized cyborg passes by me.

Resting in a semi-seated position and staring into a smartphone is a unicorn-headed half human.

Further down I see a line of droids ambling away.

And wait! Was that Stan Lee?!

Did I just bring you into one of my alcohol-induced dreams?

Nope, that was just a small part of MegaCon 2015 in Orlando, Fla.

MegaCon is the annual younger cousin to the now-famous ComicCon of San Diego. But not that much smaller.

This year over 70,000 super-heroes, monsters, robots, geeks and freaks passed through its doors.

Batman_Group

For me, a lover of all things comics from the early 70s, a giant comic book convention should have been an annual event from way, way back.

But it wasn’t. Early on I viewed all conventions, comic, Star Trek, scifi and horror as the domain of not just geeks, but rather stuck-up, solitary, scary collector-type geeks.

And in a convention they found the one event where they could congregate and be all geeky about their collections together.

I was not a collector. I was a reader.

I devoured comics and pulp mags, scifi, super-heroes and horror. But I never kept my comics and mags in pristine, collectible condition.

I read the hell out of them. I rolled them over, shoved them into bags, creasing pages that reduced their monetary value but with every reading, they increased in spiritual value to me.

Many were lost or traded over time. Some were even damaged by Silly Putty overuse. But they were never forgotten.

Fast forward many, many, many years to my family that now includes some teenagers, who grew up reading fantasy book series, anime and comics.

Three years ago they convinced me to take them to our first MegaCon.

I thought I knew what I was in for.

I prepared myself to spend the day letting my kids explore and I would limit myself to looking through comics, mags and memorabilia that interested me, whiling away the time.

What I got was completely different.

Yes the exhibitors were there with the comics and accessories, and many of them looked and acted like the comic book collector geek from “The Simpsons.” But there was so much more.

Full booths dedicated to the likes of the Southern R2 Builders Group, the Greater Florida LEGO® Users Group and the 501st Legion or as they are better known, “Vader’s Fist”.

Sure these were middle-aged folks spending thousands of dollars on building the most incredible replica of a fully functioning R2D2 droid.

But it felt right and not geeky.

Maybe it felt that way because these full-sized, fully functioning and moving droids are definitely the ones I was looking for.

It was my childhood brought to life. And the storm troopers, mercenaries, Wookies and Jedis of the well-known galactic fantasy tale were all there.

That was just the Star Wars stuff. There were exhibits from “Star Trek,” “Battlestar Glactica,” “RoboCop” and… “Plan Nine From Outer Space.”

Yes, there was the well-known and the obscure.

But what about comic book characters? If I were to guess I would say they were all well represented by the thousands of cosplayers.

From the bizarre, to the sublime, from the expensive and elaborate to the cheap and last-minute creation.

Wolverine, Supergirl, Thor, Spiderman, Rick Grimes…and Powdered Toast Man.

2013-03-16 14.49.47

There were so many anime characters I did not recognize that I had to constantly stop and ask my kids, “Who’s that?”

But the most interesting part was seeing that this was not a culture of geek exclusivity or freak elitism.

From what I saw in a day, every cosplayer was very gracious to every request for a picture or to engage in conversation. And so many poses — from heroic to horrific to hysterical.

Did I mention Powdered Toast Man?

Powdered_Toast_Man_01

Some cosplayers were surrounded by fans of all ages. And everyone wanted a picture.

I saw an 8-foot Groot, splendidly re-created, down to the slow difficult walk in that costume.

He wouldn’t have walked fast even if his tree-stumped legs allowed, because every half a step there was another photo request.

And when a fantastically accurate Star-Lord crossed his path, it was a true Kodak moment.

Groot_Star_Lord

MegaCon has now become an annual thing in our family. My kids take it to an extreme and I love it.

This year my oldest daughter went to all three days and dressed as two different characters.

In fact, we have started a budget for MegaCon 2016 for all of us, including my wife, to attend all three days and we will all be costumed.

The family that cosplays together stays together.

May the Force be with you.

Dating Again at 50: A Tale of Small Victories

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein

It was my first foray into the dating scene in more than 20 years. My first, first date in two decades and the significance of the opportunity was palpable.

After an 18-year relationship and three beautiful kids to show for it, I found myself single again and little prepared for the magical world of dating.

Encouraged that there were sexy singles in my area who wanted to meet me according to the adverts online, I went for it, clueless as to what was out there.

Confident that male enhancement is readily available in an emergency for winning streaks, I stepped off the curb.

Protection in my wallet? Yes, I carry two hand sanitizer packets left over from my solo meal at Olive Garden. I’m not taking any chances these days.

Online dates? Not yet. In sales, a warm lead is better than a cold one so perhaps my chances would be better with people I knew or interacted with previously.

Beginning to notice women again, it was clear that they had all gotten a lot older the last 20 years since I last looked so my initial interests were finding a younger woman. It seemed like a good place to start. I’m a gentleman, but let’s face it, I needed to feel a bit younger again and a younger woman fit the need.

For me, I can see my needs changing as I date, moving toward someone my own age who accepts my kids and my focus on them as a primary responsibility. For now, I was only looking to get back on the horse and have some fun.

Having successfully managed the nerve to ask a lady out, I planned out my date. In Orlando, there is a show called DRIP, an interactive interpretive dance show complete with live rock band, sand and water being thrown at you and an audience participation segment throwing paint-filled balloons.

What woman would not want that on a first date?

I bought two tickets and planned my date with all the detail and effort of a Navy Seal incursion. I ventured out, hopeful my first date would go well. My date called at the last minute and canceled. I went alone and ended up giving the extra ticket to a young man with his beautiful girlfriend who was debating if they could afford the show.

In a key moment for me on my journey, I decided to stay, made myself have fun, drank, laughed and chatted up the bartenders. I left covered in paint and sand and had my fill of beer and fun.

Are these the actions of a respectable 50-year-old?

Yep. Age is just a thang.

After going home to change, I went back out meeting up with some friends and returned home at 4 a.m., happy.