Monday, November 28, 2011

Making a List and Hash tagging It Twice.....

            When I was a kid there was no bigger thrill than the one that came with the heralded arrival of the Sears Christmas Wishbook in early November. I’d spend hours circling the ads looking at all the toys and cool Christmas stuff. It always amazed how every toy looked like the coolest toy ever made. The Big Guy would always remind me how this was due to photography tricks and it was no accident that every toy looked amazing.  According to the Big Guy the Wishbook was a scam designed to entice little kids to want more.

Decision, decisions.....
           Christmas ‘78 arrived and the Star Wars collection was all time frenzy. Did I want the remote controlled Sandcrawler? How about asking for the plush Chewbacca doll? I considered the new TIE Fighter to go alongside my landspeeder and X-Wing for a bit. It was too many choices for my young mind to make. This was my first Sophie’s choice if you will.
            I was home faking being sick to get out of a math test when Mom delivered the latest edition of the Wishbook. Needless to say, the Star Wars collection was intense. Four new figures were added to the previous twelve. They were the aliens from the cantina scene: Hammerhead, Greedo, Walrus Man and Snaggletooth were awaiting my toy chest in my future. The best part was Sears offered an exclusive only available if you purchased the new guys from them. It was a Cantina Play set to host all the adventures my Star Wars gang would be having. As a budding StarWars-ologist, how could I be denied?

GEEK SIDE NOTE: It’s important to also mention that the Sears Snaggletooth was destined to become a bit of a collectible because the Sears product was full size and wearing a blue jump suit while the off-the-rack Snaggletooth was half size as seen in the movies and wearing his red jumpsuit.

            The Big Guy took one look and crushed all my hopes and dreams by pointing out how the exclusive Cantina Play Set was merely a “laminated piece of cardboard” and I could make one that would have been better.

I can remember looking into the very serious blue eyes of the Big Guy and thinking how sad it was for him that he had lost the ability to see the world through the eyes of a ten year old. Silly Man. Did he not understand that between the magic of my imagination and the hard working people at Kenner how we could create many new and exciting adventures for my action figures? My father kept reminding to be aware of camera/advertising tricks. I kept pointing how sad it was sad it was to have a heart like the Grinch. An impasse was created that neither side would relent.
Christmas morning came and went. I did not get my Cantina Play set but I was surprised to receive the Death Star Play set. The funny thing was that I never asked for it because of the whopping price tag of 25 bucks. We quickly fell in love and it was Cantina Play set who? I loved playing with the trap door which led to the trash compactor. Sadly, the trash compactor would not close all the way which really screwed my some great scenarios I had planned for C-3PO.
Best toy ever! Thanks, Big Guy & Mom

I came across the Cantina Set a few years ago in a comic shop and got my first chance to take a long look at its construction. To my great chagrin, the Big Guy was right as usual. Cardboard. I could have made a much better one myself. Dammit.
I did a little research and discovered that Sear scaled back on its Wishbook premise back in 1993 and created a smaller version. Finally in 2005, with the rise of the internet, Sears called it quits for the mail order division. I also discovered that the issues came out in September which makes me wonder if Mom and the Big Guy were hoarding it to keep my Christmas wishes at bay.
It makes me a little sad to know that Veronica and Jude will never know the thrill and excitement in how a 300 page book can create shopping hysteria. Kim and I were laughing about how we drove our parents nuts with all the “I want this and that.” I did discover it’s not completely gone just revised.
I noticed the kids were not interrupting us like always do when I saw them sharing Kim’s laptop. They were on Amazon making their Christmas Wish List. I guess Santa’s Wish List has gone paperless. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Channeling the Big Guy and Clark Griswold

 I bet there's some Richardson somewhere in his family tree.

Now that I have kids and an amazing lady in my life, I am often commenting on how much life reflects that thoughts and attitudes of the Big Guy and how I am truly his son. The event of last night’s shopping adventure at Target Black Friday sale has never brought out those traits more in my life.
Surprisingly enough, the actual idea of going out and sitting in line for 4.5 hours goes against all that my father stood for.  The Big Guy was doing mail order before mail order was cool. My father would often comment on “all the idiots wasting their time and how that’s not what the holidays are about” in his anti-Black Friday rant.  Over the years I have gradually accepted the Big Guy’s Holiday manifesto and lived it to its extreme. Until last night.
Li’l Sis had told me about the how Target would be selling the X-box Kinect for 99 bucks with 4 games. The idea of saving 150 dollars plus seeing the looks on my newly acquired sidekicks made me realize “this is the gift.” I knew I was committed at this point. Somehow I talked my amazingly understanding girlfriend in joining me and we took off for what was to be a grand adventure.
The line would have wrapped way out of the bottom right of this picture

In order to not waste your time, I am going to request you read Kim’s blog which details in great detail about our shopping excursion and all its epicness. After that come back and I want to hit a few highlights/thoughts. I’ll wait.

I walked away from last night or rather I limped away from last night with three things revolving around my head.
1)      Shopping on Black Friday doesn’t have to be a bitch. We were stuck in line with some awesome people and I loved getting to know them. I am ashamed to admit that I was worried when the 4 large black guys got in line behind us. They were nice enough but I was concerned their boisterousness would get on my nerves. I love it when I am wrong. Amazing guys. It’s funny how anybody can sit back and relate if you can find a common thread. We probably spent hours laughing about the things we do for our kids and the wackiness that ensues. Later, we had a heated discussion about who has the best milkshake in town. It came down between Sonic and Krystal. That discussion brought all the surrounding men and a small clique was formed.  We never shared names which bothers me today because I realize I will spend the rest of my life looking back at that Thanksgiving night where a bunch a dads and me spent 4 hours laughing about family, drinking buddies (some Rag’s stories were shared to hilarious uproar), and milk shakes.
Who'd thought milkshakes was such a conversation starter?

2)      Lucky Man is going to be the working title for my book when I publish all theses adventures because I am. Having Kim in my life is the greatest thing to happen to me. She lets me be me. Kim went into the cold Target parking lot last night fully expecting failure but was willing to allow me to try. I am happy to say we were successful. I believe it’s because we make a good team. We pretty much threw a Thanksgiving dinner for 12 people and turned around to sit at Target with no arguments or major stress.  We did, however, laugh like hyenas the whole time. She kept me in stitches. Anybody that can make a Warriors and a Close Encounters of the Third Kind reference in one night is tops in my book. I fell in love a little more with her last night.

3)      I understand my parents a little bit more and why my dad became Clark Griswold every Christmas. For the first time in my life, I get to make two children make some memories of their own that will carry on to the next generation of Richardsons and Wades. That is powerful thing yet also beautiful. I realized last night I wanted that Kinect because I wanted to see that “look” on their face when they open it. It was the same look I gave my Mom and Dad when I opened up my Death Star Play set in 1978.  It’s that look of pure Christmas Morning Joy. I want to see that.
Yep, this is what I want to see.

Yeah, I am probably going to spend way too much money this Christmas, I’m probably going to get stressed about stupid Holiday issues like tangled lights or lines at the Mall, and I’ll probably act a bit like Clark Griswold as my own Christmas Vacation unfolds. I just hope that when those moments happen I can remember how I am in very good company because I come from a long line of Griswolds and I am great with that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I’m getting my catheter removed so around 7am Friday morning, I’ll no longer be a human bagpipe. Needless to say, I am psyched. Having kidney disease sucks but I hated having a tube run out of my body. It made me feel like a frickin’ droid and not in the cool way.
As I was leaving the hospital for my Pre-Op, I ran into this lady who was the spitting image of the mother from the Walking Dead who has the missing kid. She had short cropped, blonde hair and I could tell at one point she was a looker but sickness has aged her. She was walking very slowly like each step was painful and I noticed her angles were swollen with edema. She brought a lit cigarette to her lips as we passed.
She said to me with a sad smile and low voice, “Good to know that I am not alone,” as I hobbled by her.
Spitting image, just needs a cigarette.

My heart was hurting for her because I know how she feels but I couldn’t relate to her at that moment. Truth be known, it kind of pissed me off. I feel good. I feel real good almost like I used. I don’t walk very well anymore but I have boatloads of energy compared to Robby 2 years ago. I am not in pain anymore. I don’t feel sick all the time or weak. I am also happy.
Thanksgiving is a week away. I am very excited because I am spending it with my new family and my old family. I am thankful to have these people in my life and I hope they know I am proud to be in theirs.
I am sure at the dinner table on Thursday; we’ll go around and share what we’re thankful for. I know that I am going to say something about having my Mom and Kim and the kids at my table and I am going to mean every word. Deep down, I have already given thanks that I do not feel one little bit like that lady I passed yesterday. I apologize for my selfishness but it’s a good feeling to wake up and realize that I am going to make it through the day without being exhausted or hurting or depressed. I guess being thankful just doesn’t cover thinking of other people and appreciating them but also being a bit selfish from time to time.

Sorry being so serious. I just needed to get this off my chest. It has been haunting me since yesterday. I originally planned a Thanksgiving sort of blog because of a picture I found. Over the next week, I am going to try get a few fun T-day stories in but I love this picture. It is cracking me up and is over on the Star Wars blog. If you get a chance, read the T-day Holiday special idea pitched to them regarding Wookies and  a Turkey based Jedi. Priceless.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oatland Island

Oatland Island Wildlife Center is located just outside of Savannah along the way out to Tybee Island. The history associated with this place is amazing.  It started out as a way station for railroad workers back in the early 20th century and eventually morphed into a major research facility that was instrumental in developing insect repellant. Its’ latest version is owned by the Chatham public school system to be used for outdoor education programs.  Here is their website:

I don’t know if you can use the term “zoo” but Oatland has created many wildlife habitats along some pretty amazing walking trails. My favorite is the wolves. Man, they are gorgeous and so huge. Oatland also sponsors what they call the Georgia Farm to give some of the local city kids an idea of just how rural Georgia works and sustains itself.
Oatland does the Harvest Fest which has become something I look forward to every fall. They do an old fashioned cane grinding to make syrup and even make some of the best apple butter I’ve had since I left the mountains. The whole event is presented in rustic log cabin setting to simulate what coastal Georgia might have felt like back in the mid 1800s. As the day moves on, traditional arts and crafts are shown along with games and even clogging with some old timey music.

The Harvest Fest has become a favorite for me for many reasons. First, I grew up in North Georgia and we had something similar called the Sorghum Festival which I volunteered for many times during my junior high days with 4-H. It takes me back.
Second, I get a chance to cook over an open fire and be outside for a whole day. Outdoorsy Robby gets way too neglected and this becomes his chance to come back out and roar a bit. Besides, I believe food always tastes better outside. Don’t believe me? Try eating a PBJ on your front porch.  I’ll wait.
Third, I love anything old and covered in history. The Harvest Fest gives a bit of a peek into the old ways that we are so quickly forgetting. When I see little kids walking around and being impressed with how things “used to be done” I can feel the Big Guy channeling through me and I know why I am a teacher. I love my Xbox 360 dearly but I also love that I know how to cook over a fire.
Gary with his portable forge

This is Gary Lester from  This guy’s the real deal when it comes to knowledge about the old timey ways and is the closest person I’ve met to being a true mountain man in the last several years. Gary travels around to perform blacksmithing demonstrations while also teaches open fire cooking. We met a few years ago in one of his classes hosted by Oatland. That was a tasty day.
I could just pull up a chair and listen to this guy. Gary’s latest project is restoring an old chuck wagon. It goes without saying that when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, I want Gary on my team.

Gary teaching Jude the basics of smithing

Meet Wah Ho Ho, Oatland’s resident Barred Owl.  She was raised from an egg by volunteer, Vint Keener, who is affectionately known as the “Owl Guy” over at Oatland. According to Vint, Wah Ho Ho gets her name from the Cherokee word for “Owl.” Anytime Oatland makes an appearance, you can count on seeing these two and they are always a huge hit with the kids.

Vint and his buddy, Wa Ho Ho
Veronica meets Wa Ho Ho

These are some various shots from the Harvest Fest of our Open Fire Cooking Demonstrations. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of cooking with a Dutch oven and am quite surprised at many people are into it. It’s like a whole another sub culture not unlike Trekkies and Deadheads though not as scary.

I think it appeals to people because we are in this habit of rushing everywhere for work and even play. I believe some people just appreciate the slow pace that comes with Dutch oven cooking.  I know that I do. The only other thing I wish I had with me on Saturday was a cigar and some Scotch.

Chicken on a string. Nature's rotisserie

Bannana Bread

My biscuits are burning!

Veronica manningthe samples table
This year I got the opportunity to get up on the main stage which is usually reserved for the musicians and cloggers, to do a little storytelling. There was a request to tell something with a Harvest theme so I shared a story about my Dad’s teenage years in 4-H. It went over pretty well and I had a blast. The kicker was to go up and see this sign:
One day this will be in lights...

As much as I love this, I loved Harvest even more because I got to share it with Kim and the kids. Once again, I realize just how lucky I am because everyone got into the spirit of things and had a blast. Jude practically became an Apprentice blacksmith with Gary. Veronica learned how to build a fire and was my cooking assistant. As usual, Kim jumped right in and helped out where needed. She usually was doing something before I could even ask.
At the end of the day, Kim looked at some the awesome food we had prepared and said to me,” I had no idea just how much fun today would be.”
I fell in love all over again.  Lucky.

Lucky man.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In Case of Zombie Apocalypse, Break Glass...

      There is usually one TV show that I look forward to every week. The Walking Dead has taken that slot in my world as of late. It’s also made me aware that we are undergoing what will certainly be referred to as the Great Zombie Revolution of 2011 because the undead are appearing everywhere
Best comic ever......

       The number of zombies I saw as I manned the candy station at Kim’s house during Halloween was baffling. Sure, I have known that out of all the monsters out there, zombies take the top slot as most terrifying. Even Jude has ditched his plans of us being stormtroopers next year so he can go as the Zombie skeleton boy.
          While I dig the hype, it also saddens me a bit. The down side is that much like every thing once it gets popular, soon Zombies will be considered old and passé’. Case in point, remember vampires about a year ago? Thanks to Twilight and True Blood, those bloodsuckers were quite the rage. Though I prefer my vampires not to sparkle and my werewolves wear a shirt. Thanks, Lon Chaney, Jr.  

"Run, Forrest!"

          It cracks me up because I feel a bit like the guy whose favorite underground band suddenly has a hit song on the radio. Being part o the geek movement, I’ve been immersed in the Zombie sub-culture for a while. Zack Snyder helped kick it back off for me with his beautiful remake of Dawn of the Dead back in ’04.  Shortly after that, I got into a sneak preview screening hosted by back in my Atlanta days. It was a small Brit movie called Shaun of the Dead. Afterwards, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright did a Q&A when it hit that these guys may be on to something.
          Back during my ghost tour guide days, I stumbled across a little book everyone was reading called World War Z. It was written by the son of Mel Brooks but was by no means, funny. Write a book about zombies and you’ve piqued my interest. Write that same book in the still on a history book and I am hooked.  World War Z terrified me so bad, I never finished it. I got to the part where the zombies smarmed the escape boats and tankers only to topple them over. At the time, I was living in a small apartment by myself and I knew I’d get no sleep. I lent that book out and have purposely forgotten who has it.
          The Zombie Escape Plan was a popular topic of conversation during our afterhours drinking time at McDonough’s Bar and the Warehouse. Every guide I hung out with had their own exit strategy an of course, theirs was better. Looking back, I wasn’t too surprised to see how many of them drew striking similarities to Shaun of the Dead. Who doesn’t want to live in a bar and shoot zombies?
I eventually came up with my own and am pretty darn proud of it. It’s a simple plan which is why I know it will work. I steal a small U-haul and head out for Tybee. Along the way I scavenge for supplies, meds, tools, etc. Once I reach Whitmarsh Island, I hit the Publix and Wal-Mart for what ever I can load up and then head for Fort Pulaski.
I dub thee Fort Awesomeness....
After crossing the main bridge to Pulaski, I blow it up using the munitions for the cannon firings, clear out any zombies within the Fort and make camp. It’s protected on all sides by a combination of the ocean and a moat filled with gators. Eventually, I make my way to Tybee and grab a sail boat which I then use for scouting purposes, fishing, and my back up escape plan.
I may be a geek but in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, I am a well prepared geek.