How to Wash Aluminum Siding, by Mr O.

Of this weekend's many home-improvement projects, the most daunting was cleaning the aluminum siding in the front of the house, to bolster what Mrs. O calls "curb appeal".

Different sources have different theories about the proper agent for removing dirt, mildew, and general nastiness from aluminum, so I gave each of them a shot. I tried bleach and water; ammonia and water; detergent and water; and bleach, detergent, and water. From the results of these four experiments, a scientist would probably infer that water is damaging to aluminum siding.

Bleach and water left the walls looking much like they did before cleaning, with perhaps a 5% decrease in grime. Ammonia and water was less effective. Detergent and water was quite effective at moving the grime around the walls, usually until it dripped down and froze as a series of gray drops. Not impressed with any of the above, I decided to wash the entire wall with the three-way combo, which continued to move the filth around, distributing the nastiness until some slats were as much as 10% cleaner than they were yesterday. I meticulously hacked away at the rest of the slats until they were no more than 20% dirtier than yesterday, brought my beer inside, and gave up.

I think of all the things I could have done in the last two hours that would have been better uses of my time than redistributing the goo on the front of this house, and it's not as depressing as you might think. After all, there's still a chance that I won't live in Framingham by the end of the summer. And that ain't not bad.

After giving the bleachy concoction a half hour to dry, it's clear that I overestimated my success. On the whole, the front of the house looks at least 30% worse than it did prior to "washing".


Married life, part I

To those disliking hour-long TV shows, today is big with blessings.

I sat through a two-hour finale of Lost tonight, after a week in which I watched a two-hour Alias finale, a one-hour Charmed finale, a two-hour Grey's Anatomy finale (the night after its one-hour preview), a two hour Desperate Housewives finale, and an extra special one-hour ER finale. My reward- no new TV (baseball aside) for almost four months. Dingers!

Of course, it's all about compromise. The season finale of my show, The Office, was a super-sized 40 minutes.


One Last Happy Hour

This is the 2nd to last entry in a 12-entry series about our honeymoon that begins and ends at Jill's blog.

Wednesday, May 10

Waking up significantly later than 4am was a pleasant change. We caught breakfast on the roof, got directions to the Coronado Ferry from the Gaslamp Plaza valet, and set off, without so much as a glance at either of our watches.

We arrived at the pier at 11:05, when we realized the ferry leaves every hour on teh hour. We killed an hour sitting on a bench, watching planes take off and lamenting the end of our trip. At noon, we hopped on the ferry and sat in the sun of the second deck for the 15-minute trip.

On the island, we walked past adorable condo after adorable condo, finally resting our feet and emptying our bladders (ok, my bladder) at our fourth and final public library of the trip. Coronoado's was by far the most impressive, due in large part to its spacious, sunny reading room, of which we did not take advantage. We ate dinner at the Coronado Brewing Company, whose red ale was every bit as good as Karl Strauss's, so we polished off a pitcher before happy hour.

The return ferry picked up some passengers at a Naval boat, where we were warned that cameras and camcorders would be confiscated if it were suspected that anyone had taken a picture. Sufficiently freaked out, we got back in time to meet Joe downtown at 3:10.

Joe took us to The Yardhouse, whose claim to fame is 100+ beer taps, so I continued my red ale tour with a Humboldt Red, a Mad River Jamaica Red, a Murphy's (best of the bunch), and a Killian's (the weakest). Jill, naturally, drank martinis, and Joe followed suit, matching each of Jill's four after a beer. By the time we bid adieu to the week's most intoxifying host, my blushing bride was tripping over sidewalk cracks and squeezing my hand for balance.

We took in dinner at Candela's, a high-end Mexican joint with a French twist and a candlelit wine cellar ambience. Sangria kept the "buzz" alive while we sloshed over three courses that could just as easily have been $60 McDonald's cheeseburgers in our condition.

I played seeing-eye dog as the little lady greeted passersby and restaurant hostesses on the way back to the hotel. We passed out for a half hour or so, woke up long enough to pack and set an alarm, caught lost and went to sleep for the last time as honeymooners.

Jill will take us home on Thursday.

Talk to the Animals and You'll See

Monday, May 8

Having napped a little and gone to bed fairly early (2am EST), it was easy to get up early on Monday, but neither of us was quick to get out of bed. After a few Sportscenters, a few episodes of Cribs, and a few chapters of "King Dork" and "The Mind of Bill James," we crawled out of bed and hit the library (our third) by 12:30. Jill printed out directions to Tuesday's balloon ride, while I went back to the room for the forgotten zoo tickets and camera and called Enterprise to reserve a rental car.

It was after 1 by the time we walked across town to the Balboa Park Tram, rode to thecenter of the park, and reached teh zoo, so we were nervous that we might not have time to see everything we wanted to see and still pick up the car by six, when Enterprise closed.

No such problem. We opened our zoological adventure with a ride on the Skyfari Animal Tram, a luxury afforded us by our deluxe adventure tickets (thanks, K,T&L). The views were unspectacularuntil we caught some tapirs and dik-diks at the north end of the park, which is where we started our self-guided walking tour.

The next 3 1/2 hours offered more beautiful, homely, endangered, unthreatened, majestic, filthy, rare, and ubiquitous animals than this medium recommends that I describe. We saw hippos, meerkats, elephants, lemurs, giraffes, fishing cats, lions, rhinoceroses, and even mating turtles. We watched them sleep, swim, fly, eat, roar, and mark their respective territories every way possible. We even had time to eat a better-than-average lunch and leave the park before 5:00. And on this, the only day of the trip when the camera was in my possession, I took about eighty pictures, none of which was of a Christian Science Reading Room or a library.

Our feet having been through enough, my bride and I took a cab back downtown, where we picked up our shiny blue Ford Focus and drove around the Gaslamp district until we found a metered spot without applicable restrictions.

The readathone resumed briefly beterrn parking and dinner at the Gaslamp Tavern, where we sat on the outdoor side of the bar and watched Greg Maddux get pounded by Dave Roberts and the Padres over a few drinks and some top shelf bar food. At 8:30, we turned in, hoping to watch some TV and get plenty of sleep for Wendesday's early balloon ride. I set my alarm for 3:49, watched the Suns put the Clippers away, and closed my eyes.

For a Wednesday recap, go find Jill.


Saturday, May 6

We brought in the weekend with our first complimentary continental breakfast on the hotel roof. You get what you pay for.

After lounging and reading, we took off for Balboa Park, San Diego's cross between Central Park and the Smithsonian, where all the city's museums are housed on a giant greenspace. On the way, we dined on the patio at Sixth Avenue Bistro, where the service was infrequent and the radio hummed Dan Fogelberg, ABBA, and more of the anonymous 1978 wussrock that seemed to follow us everywhere we went in San Diego. When the weather's this good, who needs good music.

The walk to Balboa Park was longer than we thought, so we made a stop at San Diego High School's baseball diamond, where we watched a half-inning of a men's league game. The level of play was unpectacular, but there's something exciting about guys playing baseball on a sunny day day in early May without getting paid.

When we got to the park, we headed straight for the Activity Center for a map and some museum information. Instead, we found the Holy Grail of San Diego attractions- a ping-pong tournament. For about a half hour, we watched young and old, male and female, black, white, and (mostly) Asian athletes of all shapes and sizes slap little white balls at inspiring speeds and alluring angles. I got the feeling that the players were practicing for an actual tournament on Sunday, since we saw a ten-or-eleven-year-old kid playing a grown man, several women playing men, and a guy in a wheelchair playing a bipod, but this might have just been the nature of the truly open tournament. Either way, I couldn't ask for a better pre-culture diversion.

Jill had a better idea about how to get around the park than I did, and found the tram near the entrance. We squeezed on and sat through three green lights just to go straight, as San Diego's pedestrains exercised their right of way with cool disregard for those of us cooped up in automobiles. Fifteen minutes (and a quarter mile) later, we got off at the center of the park, where we checked out the Botanical House, the Art Museum gift shop (the free part), and some of the impressive courtyards that bind the museums with a sense of Southern California's history, culture, and landscape.

We finally settled in at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion, where a diminuitive, jeans-clad San Diegan plyed a giant bronze organ, providing a sometimes eerie, sometimes circusesque soundtrack to a sunny afternoon weddingfest. Twenty-year-old Mexican kids must have been getting married all over the park, because the grounds were loaded with wedding photographers and tiny brides, grooms, groomsmen and flower girls posing for pictures at the white-pillared pavilion. I was most impressed by a groom in a white tux with a pink vest and his ten little groomsmen (his brothers?) pimping their pink vests all over the park.

We caught a much more efficient tram back to the entrance and walked downtown, where we had a beer and listened to a west-coast troubador sing Jimmy Buffet and Little Mermaid songs at an outdoor fish joint whose patrons flossed their Cubs and Padres gear (no two Padres hats are the same) while wisely munching on affordable haddock and clams, saving the $14 they'd pay for a Miller Lite and a slice of cheese at Petco Park, our destination down the street.

The Mrs. had her Red Sox shirt on, and I was posing aas the great Jonathan Papelbon (#58) for the evening, so I decided I needed a Padres hat to celebrate my love of San Diego and my respect for Dave Roberts, Mark Bellhorn, and Mike Piazza (my favorite player in the same way that the Jews were my favorite Europeans in the late '30s and early '40s). We hit the Padres store and Jill bought me the hat she thought looked best on me.

We were inside the park early enough to watch the Cubs take batting practice, peruse the stadium's attractions (a tiny [and crowded] baseball field for kids, a mini Hall of Fame exhibit, and cages where you can pitch to a major league hitter or hit off a major league pitcher, among many others). Natives of Fenway Middle School & Penitentiary, we were shocked to hear ushers tell us "you can sit or stand wherever you want until 6:30" and "I recommend you go to your seats this way, so you can take pictures at field level on your way". One usher even answered Jill's questions about the Padres' retired uniform numbers with brief anecdotes about Steve Garvey, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, and Randy Jones. We snapped a few shots of Pat's favorite future Hall of Famer, Juan Pierre, and Mark Bellhorn, who will someday be the co-namesake of Pesky and Bellhorn's pole, and found our seats with plenty of time to spare.

Perhaps the trip's greatest disappointment was the announcement that Eric Young would lead off and play left field for the Padres, meaning Dave Roberts had the night off. I took the opportunity to pretend I'd drunk more $7.50 beers than I actually had and yelled "we want Roberts," "Roberts would have caught that," and other quasi-appropriate epithets at various times throughout the game, but it didn't do much to ease the sorrow of missing a chance to give a standing ovation to one of Boston's most prolific suicide-preventers.

Not much less disappointing was local hero Jake Peavy's introduction music (that's right, pitchers hit out here... and everyone bunts!), the Dukes of Hazzard theme song, a delightfully racist statement on a night dedicated to several Negro League greats in attendance (including Buck O'Neil and Don Newcombe). We decided to root against Peavy and revel in Cubs rookie Sean Marshall's no-hitter through 5 1/3, but were not too crushed when Rob Bowen's 10th inning homer won the game for San Diego, 2-1.

We stopped at a Mexican restaurant around the corner from our hotel for over-filling appetizers, and I put back a potent blue margarita, refusing to go to bed sober for the first time in San Diego.

Jill will tell you about Sunday.


One More Day to Bake

Thursday, May 4

After Tuesday's disappointing Bahia buffet and Wednesday's foot-crippling walk to Mission (due to my flip-flops, not the distance), we decided to skip breakfast on Thursday. We caught up on this journal, took our time showering and dressing, and took off for Pacific Beach, where Jill trekked shoelessly to the ocean and put her feet in (still cold, very cold).

Having held off until almost noon, we took another trip to Luigi's for yet another pitcher of Red Trolley and a pizza. Our favorite waitress, Caitlin (probably), had moved on to a better summer job, as evidenced by the "Goodbye, Caitlin" banner behind the counter, but our server was adequate, and our meal as delicious as Sunday's.

We stoped on the boarwalk for a shaved Hawaiian ice and returned to the room to take advantage of the first full afternoon's worth of sunshine. We laid out on the private bay beach just behind the sliding door to the living room of our suite, me well-lubed and Jill stubbornly sunscreened only on her face and torso. She would pay. After a few hours on the beach, a quick dip in the pool (where the air was much cooler than the water), and a brief stint of poolside ray-catching, my wife's arms emerged painlessly charred, but her legs weren't so lucky.

We took some time to write out postcards to family stuck in the cold, rainy East (and my parents) before jumping on the 34 bus back to La Jolla for dinner. We browsed a few art galleries on our way, one of which almost got me in trouble. Before being approached by a friendly shopkeep, Jill and I agreed that we were very impressed by several European landscapes and seminude portraits by Maher Marcos, a featured Sicilian-Egyptian artist with a knack for creative lighting and a feish for almost-bare breasts at the dinner table, but altogether unimpressed with the cubist nudes of Clair, the gallery's other featured artist. "Imagine being another cubist?" might have been my exact quote.

The shopkeep greeted us and walked us around, raving about Marcos's work, over which we continued to fawn while ignoring Clair's cubes for greener pasteurs. Finally, just before I made a snide remar about cubism (while Jill and the 'keep talked about Picasso's $90 million sale earlier in the day), we were introduced to Clair, the Ithaca-born cubist and our host for the evening. I swallowed hard, thanked Ms. Clair for the tour, and we left for the bar next door at George's on the Cove.

While waiting for a table, we sipped SoCo Manhattans with Manhattan socialites and watched Padres pitcher Clay Hensley take a broken bat to the back of the head. We went on to dine on La Jolla's most famous cuisine in front of La Jolla's most famous view, then moseyed our way bac to a bus stop and put a quiet end to oru evening, watching ER and finding out that the pool and hot tub closed at eleven. Alas.

See Jill for Friday.

Getting Our Feet Wet

Our trip to Harbor Ave (down the streets from the airport) took half as long as the trip from the airport to the hotel, and cost $4 less. As we boarded the California Princess, we were greeted with champagne. We drank wine and ate a classy salmon dinner while circling the harbor, watching downtown buildings and impressively guarded military ships, some part of which made me feel a little seasick Our choice of the high-end open bar option allowed us not only one more drink than the other passengers (two for Jill), but prime seating at the front of the boat.

9-10pm was the designated dancing hour, but between my queasiness and the boogie-hangover still lingering from our wedding reception, Jill had a hard time dragging me upstairs to the dance floor. Not settling for the DJ's Tony Braxton-Boyz II Men style, Jill chose most of the muic, finally docking the ship with "Billie Jean," to which she danced shamelessly alone, to the applause of the other guests.

As a result of an unexpected but required 18% gratuity on the entire cost of the cruise, we were forced to walk about six blocks in search of an active ATM (Holiday Inn sent us to Hampton Inn; Hampton sent us to a shady 7-Eleven). Jill was neither wearing walking shoes nor particularly sober, so the trip was not an easy one, but I was able to take out enough cash to call a cab with confidence that I could pay for it. Our cab ride home was twice as fast again, and another $4 cheaper. We went to bed around midnight, after another dip in the pool and hot tub, and slept for almost ten woderful hours.

Tuesday, May 2

Breakfast at the Bahia was less impressive than Monday's, as our waffles were probably intended for the 7:00 diners. Our meal was cut short so the crew could set up for a BBQ lunch. We were briefly locked out of our room after breakfast, but upon picking up new room keys at the front desk, were rewarded with Jill's license and a few wedding pictures, thanks to Linda.

We hopped on the bus to La Jolla down the street from the hotel. Cafes and tanning salons start using the La Jolla moniker several blocks south of the famously ritzy downtown area, so our initial impression was that La Jolla was not unlike Pacific Beach- a Mexican-inspired, college-friendly tourist-time share hotspot. By the time our bus was rearended a block from downtown, we knew we were wrong. The driver was almost eerily composed, handing out witness cards to all the passengers before even checking on the driver of the car that hit us.

At Warwick's bookstore, I found Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock" rather serendipitously (I had been looking for it without knowing the author, and for somer reason, wanted to stumble upon it in a romantic setting), and Jill picked out the journal in which we chronicled our trip (in part) for the benefit of this blog. We passed by posh shops and extravagant galleries, finally finding the Karl Strauss brewery, where we ate lunch, sampled beers, fell in love with Red Trolley Ale, and I bought Jill a t-shirt.

After lunch, at a quaint bookshop/gallery, the store clerk couldn't answer Jill's questions about L. Frank Baum's whereabouts (he must have been from San Diego, given their obsession with his work), but suggested that Dr. Seuss had lived nearby. For a cross-eyed Val Kilmer lookalike, he had very little information. None of the locals we asked elsewhere could confirm that Dr. Seuss had lived in La Jolla, let alone in the neighborhood. Star-smitten LA lies 120 miles north on Route 5, but it's a world away from La Jolla.

We did, of course, hit another public library in La Jolla, where we learned that the Sox had beaten the unspeakables, 7-3, and looked at wedding photos Colleen had emailed. On the return bus ride, we ran into a UCSD student who had been on the bus that was rearended earlier. He had nearly missed his vector calculus class as a result of the accident, and vowed that afternoon to put an end to his hour-and-a-half-each-way commute from Ocean beach and buy a car. He sat next to Jill and me and recommeded restaurants and attractions, but couldn't compete in volume or exuberance with our bus driver, a Georgia native who knew every hot spot, but hadn't eaten at a better place than Luigi's (which he called Loogy's).

Upon our return, we bought six Red Trolley Ales and six Anchor Steams and drank them with less-than-delicioso Mexican food from Roberto's (another favorite of our bus driver friend). We ended the evening with another trip to the hot tub, still unable to stay up past twelve, but quite satisfied with days one through three.

Back to Jill

Scenes From a Marriage

I could write volumes about my wedding, to a beautiful New England bride on a beautiful New England day with the greatest of friends and family in tow, but if you're reading this, there's a good chance you were there. Instead, let's recap the next 13 days, our honeymoon in a whale's v... San Diego.

For an account of Sunday and early Monday's events, see Jill's blog. Then start reading above. We'll alternate day-by-day, and they'll read chronologically from bottom to top. Enjoy.