Christmas at Myrtle Beach: Joining a New Family Tradition Part II

Ever since my first lonely Christmas in 2003, I have felt a bit out of touch with this holiday. Not in the truest sense of its meaning, of course, but in that it had mostly no longer corresponded with family and the giving and receiving of gifts. As I drew closer to my now wife, this orientation of mine caused perhaps the biggest stumbling block in our budding relationship in 2016. It was a point made to me then, and after that and on all subsequent Christmas occasions I’ve been working to regain that holiday spirit in full. The way their family does it certainly helps, and probably no more so than this year in that idyllic beach setting.

The Gift Exchange

After making our slightly groggy way from the bed following a long conversation with our friend the night before (I did not even manage to read any this morning which made me fear not completing the 60-book challenge I had created for myself), we headed downstairs to take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary breakfast. I only really wanted some of the scrambled eggs, which, as I figured, were not particularly good. But, they did enough to keep me going till the next, major, meal. I was surprised by how many others were there

A short while later, it was time for us to head for her mom and dad’s room for the fun. We had already gotten each other’s stuff: I a nice Samsonite bag for her (because we love traveling) and she a fresh and clean black suit for me (because I need more stuff to dress in). From her great family, I got an Uber gift card (yay free rides!) and an Amazon card (yay a free… whatever else I want!) Haha. I also received a new belt, a light but soft jacket that will be good for dry but slightly warmer days; and a wireless charging station. All very practical things that I can really use, probably especially on our upcoming anniversary trip to Miami. I enjoyed listening to my nephew and niece romping around with their new toys, one of the coolest being a remote-control car that could roll on the wall. The little kid in me would have loved that toy. Finally, well in truth before I opened the gifts, I sucked down an delicious piece of homemade chocolate cake.

The Walk of Torture

And that cake was cooked just a few short minutes later. That lack of sleep really catching up with me, I thought I was going to grab a little shut-eye before heading to Medieval Times. But my wonderful wife had other plans. She apparently usually takes a six-mile or so walk up and down the beach on Christmas morning that had mostly been done alone. But this time, I got to be included. I actually mostly enjoyed it, and it sure showed me how much I need to work out. We headed South at a brisk pace along the sliding sand, strutting all the way to the pier that contains the Myrtle Beach Sky wheel. The weather was fantastic again, and the wind and sun felt good on my face. However, I probably was not necessarily breathing as well as I should have, and not maintaining the best posture. So by about halfway through, I was gasping and wondering if my legs would give out.

We opted to head back to the hotel on the street/pavement side, thinking it might be easier. I am not sure if it was easier, or if I would have just been turned into a sweaty pile of goo in any event. We crossed about 10 streets and passed mostly closed businesses, and I tried thoughts, magic, anything to will that hotel to come toward me! By the time we reached the lobby, I just about literally had to be dragged in. The walk took about 75 minutes in total, and all I could do was drain a bottle of water and collapse into bed. WHEW!

The Final, Food-filled Show

I had to get going about two hours later, at around 4 PM, so we could head to the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament Restaurant. Built like a castle with a wooden bridge spanning a fake mote, this arena hosts knights on horses who fight for the title of the Queen’s Champion. The sow’s essence had recently changed, perhaps becoming less complicated. They use fake swords and jousts, and I”m told act somewhat badly in falling off of the horse, but the joy of it is mostly in cheering wildly for your color-coded knight. We were the blue and Whites, and we happened to win! There were seven sides in all. They also released a live falcon for the falconry exhibit, and everyone was required to stay still as he soared overhead lest an accidental attack be launched. A little unnerving, and especially to our niece I’m told, as her eyes widened in an “I don’t know about this” manner.

This stuff was fairly visual, and my enjoyment mostly came from feeling like I was at a sporting event. The real deal for me though was the food. Served through the course of the show, we received a bowl of tomato bisque soup that we slurped down (no silverware as that didn’t exist in medieval times and outer bowls), a half a delicious herb-seasoned chicken, half a potato, and pound cake for dessert. We were given Pepsi to consume, and I somehow doubt that existed then either. But then most of what had been portrayed had been either. Only a few of these facilities are open, mainly in major cities. So it’s pretty cool to have one in Myrtle.

As soon as we returned to the hotel, we went back to my old friend’s room for a round 2. Her husband went to get more wine, since that seemed to be a particularly strong point for us. The talk between the couples went o merrily for almost another 2 and a half hours, before we finally retired.

And that was my trip to Myrtle Beach. I am definitely looking forward to several more years of enjoyment in these new (to me) traditions as they become established ones, however that will look.

Christmas At Myrtle Beach: Joining a New Family Tradition Part I

Do you think that spending Christmas at a South Carolina beach is strange? Because before i did sio, I had. But then again, our warming climate, sometimes even exceeding 70 degrees this time of year, it actually felt great. And the hotels cost next to nothing.

My wife had been telling me for years about this thing her family (usually her three sisters, mom, dad, brother-in-law, and their kids) do when they make their way down to Myrtle for three days to lounge, exchange gifts, and have dinner at Medieval Times. Ideally, I will get to all of these within this post. But if it goes on too long, I’ll get to part II.

The First Chill Day Together

After spending a great day in Lumberton North Carolina with friends and attending church there on Sunday, we decided it made the most sense to continue down to the beach and check into our room, this despite everyone else moving their booking day to Monday. Or perhaps because of it, as who turns down a chance for a nice day with just each other.

Another fallacy that makes most of us think going down there is strange at this time of year is that one must spend most beach time in the ocean. On Sunday, we didn’t even take a walk down there. We took a nice meal at the Olive Garden, where I had my usual spaghetti with meat sauce and two sausages, along with their flavorful salad and a decadent brownie lasagna. She got the Chicken Alfredo and lemon cream cake. The rest of the night, after a fairly tiring travel day, was given over to relaxation: reading, watching TV, and collapsing at 10:30. And it is rather fortunate that we did, because this is about all the “quiet” we had.

Christmas Eve Coincidences

Monday rolled in and we out of bed by 8:30. I had actually risen earlier to do yet more reading, basically my last of the trip, then did a little radio station browsing as usual. and finally down to Hot Stacks, of which I think there are only a few in the fairly immediate area, and a tradition along with the aforementioned restaurant whenever she and I visit this gaudy tourist town. The breeze we felt on stepping from the vehicle in front of our hotel made it seem that ocean strolling might be a bad idea, however when we opted to brave it anyway we found that there was less breeze than perceive bed, and walking in the sun felt great. We headed north for approximately 1.2 miles then turned back, encountering more people than I had expected. Apparently, visiting the beach on Christmas is not just not strange but actually quite popular. There are some drawbacks though, most notably the lax housekeeping. All their very limited staff had done was to dump our trash and removed the used towels, without even supplying us with new ones. We pointed this out to the receptionist, she apologized, and all that was done to fix it was another stack being slapped on the room’s desk. So we basically didn’t even bother with trying to get service on Christmas.

The other side of service issues is that, we assume, people are grouped into a small area of the hotel. So for instance, our room was only two doors down from one of her sisters, and even cooler, our childhood friend whom we knew would be coming happened not only to have booked into our hotel, but was housed in one of the large apartment-sized rooms in the other tower, but right next to her parents. This made late-night conversation with our friend after Han ginghams with the family very easy.

But before I go there, I should note where we chose to eat. Finding a Christmas Eve restaurant that stays open after 6 was more difficult than I had thought. Initially, we had planned to go to Magnolia Cafe on 26th Street, which was practically right next door to the Carolinian Resort where we were housed on Ocean Boulevard, but they were about to close and we didn’t wish to scrape the bottom of the buffet barrel. After some frantic searching we settled on Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. I think there are even fewer of these locations, and not surprisingly, most are in the South. And oh, man! That food was insane. The meals are served family-style, meaning that three meats and four sided are chosen by the table and served in bowls, from which each person fixes a plate by rotating a Lazy Susanb turntable. We had meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, Mac and cheese, yams, cream corn rice I think, and some other vegetable I cannot recall. I had meatloaf, Mac and cheese, and cream corn. And believe you me that was enough! I was so full I was nearly bent double. This with one of those ridiculous cheesy biscuits, sweet tea, and a dessert of Vanilla pudding was still nearly too much. The food was delicious but it is not a meal I would eat too often.

We wrapped up the evening by chatting with our friend and her husband for nearly 3 hours. It was nice to connect with another couple and expand our perspectives a bit. We also expanded our knowledge of wine, as a couple of different kinds were tried and much fun was had in so doing. And yes, this will be continued in Part II.

A Fun Evening in DownTown Raleigh: The Ringers and Morgan Street

Interesting subcultures exists all around us, of which we can remain blissfully unaware. Such was my inclination when it came to the musicianship, dedication, and teamwork involved in playing handbells. That’s right, handbells.

Hav you heard of a group called the Raleigh Ringers? Am I the only one who hadn’t? According to their website, linked above, they started in Raleigh in 1990 and in addition to playing all over the world, they educate people in the area on the art of handbell ringing. They have also created several albums and had some of their traditional Raleigh concerts aired on public television.

My wife, ink searching for something holiday-themed to do in the area, came across this group and remember viewing them on PBS at some point, so she decided she would go. On top of that, we would make it a family outing by inviting her mother, whom is a big Raleigh Ringers fan; her sister, and father to join us on Saturday the 16th at the Meymandi Concert Hall downtown. I was just curious to see what this would sound like.

The show began at approximately 3 PM, with the venue at about 75% of capacity on a moderately cool and foggy day. The sounds were amazing, but probably because I am listening through hearing aids that alter them anyway it was something of a challenge for me to tell which songs they were playing. Well that and of course some of the songs I just plain didn’t know anyway. I still enjoyed the rhythm of the bells, even learning that there were big, bass bells as well.

From what I’m told, the visual aspect was pretty amazing too. They have to quickly pick out the correct bells for a sound, sometimes striking them with a mallet and other times making it ring through some other means. There were approximately 12 Ringers, split roughly between men and women. I think one of the most complex tunes they played was their take on the Twelve Days of Christmas, during which they had to keep count of each additional piece and use indicators so that the audience would be aware of the numbers that were about to play. It all sounded rather impressive.

My wife and her sister joked that I slept for much of the show, but oh ok I did fade out a little in spots. I’m pretty sure that I heard the entire thing though. I imagine that some of my disconnect occurred precisely because I was unable to take in the visual content. I did enjoy the comedic elements though, such as the hand clappers (hand clappers?) who would clap on cue during some of the performances, and the part where Mr. Grinch comes on stage to steal Christmas. It was, on the whole, a fairly entertaining show.

Afterwards, we opted to do what any urban planner must surely hope we would: go out for dinner at Raleigh’s relatively new Morgan Street Food Hall. This food court, a la Boston’s Quincy Market and Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal, serves as a surprisingly popular gathering spot already after its four-month existence. Perhaps too popular, as parking and seating are extremely limited. On the latter, once we collected our meals, I a “fish and chips”, my wife a shrimp and fish and chips, and her mom and sister something similar, we spent almost 5 minutes searching for a table. Ultimately, we chose stools lining a ledge, until her sister somehow commandeered enough space at a table for us all. This table obviously made for better communication as we could sit across from each other rather than in a line.

The food was good I suppose. I liked the seasoning on the fries, a slightly sweeter rather than salty variety. I had been given many of them, since fish and shrimp stocks were running low. The fish was less desirable to me, because it had bones in it. I find it hard to really dig in when I must cautiously consume my food so I don’t end up sucking down foreign objects. I will try something different on my return to this location.

My wife says this place works best for couples and not as well for families because of the difficulties in finding group seating. And we all agreed that it is a good step in Raleigh’s urbanization, but that it will be better once the city has more parking decks downtown and/or a more robust public transportation option such as light rail.

We hope to take these kinds of outings more often, as there is much to see. I encourage you to make a go at being a tourist in your own town as well. Have you gone to any holiday shows this year?

Reflections: On Grad School a Year Later and Job Days No. 6

Am I the only one who is still too addicted to the Facebook Memories section? I keep saying every year that I will stop looking, because I already hav. But as I’ve noted before, we humans, or at least this human, has a real thing for nostalgia; pondering where this life has come from and to where it is going.

To that end, when I saw the note from Facebook that I had graduated from Queens a year ago (it went official on December 15 but who’s counting) I laughed because I had recently asked some of my former classmates to complete a questionnaire where they could note their thoughts as well. I have included their responses, as well as my own, in a table pasted below. Three of the five persons whose information I still had chose to respond, so while small, it does give a good sample of the various takeaways from this experience. I have anonymized them and numbered them where they appeared alphabetically in my responders, which is why you see Student 1, Student 3, Student 5. Check it out.

Question me Student 1 Student 3 Student 5
Reason for attending grad school (personal statement stuff) Perhaps obtain freelance work that might lead to employment at NPR; broaden skills Potential job promotion, (director or VP) Increase marketability in comm field; become journalist/radio host; understand how people communicate in workplace Passionate about learning,; increase marketability, hadn’t decided on career as was right out of undergrad
Have any of the goals been accomplished a year out? No; better skills, but a need to maintain them; probably NPR goals have changed No, not with company long enough, but hopeful No, though attending program broadened general competencies and helped build portfolio; hopes to create opportunities out of rejection Yes, though hoping to connect current political advocacy with communication in next role
Difference in online versus on-ground learning? If so, how. Went to both, more tenuous friendships/networking because haven’t met, though some ties do exist No significant difference, allows flexibility, requires motivation Appreciated flexibility, but lack of networking and inability to take advantage of on-campus opportunities due to out-of-sate location Went to both, difference was need to schedule out adequate time to learn the material when not attending a class
Is current employment related to the degree? No Not entirely, as primary work is in graphic design. Does help in marketing, though No Yes, but could be an even better fit
Would you recommend the degree to others? How might they enhance opportunities while therein? Yes; take advantage of career center at least in improving resue/persuing internships, connect with profs Yes, a Master’s can separate one from other candidates; find and think about how to apply it directly to job Yes; Take advantage of chances to learn platforms/technology well Yes, but develop clear plan for utilizing it after. Still working on this

So, as you can see many of us feel that while our exact aims have yet to be achieved, both the experience was with it and it will certainly help us going forward. I do know that one can never be too tech savvy these days. As quickly as this stuff changes, it’s probably already a little different even from what we learned. That speaks to the need to keep working on skill sets and mindsets as we learn to fully compete in this new, heck really kind of overwhelming job market. Because whether we like it or not, much of our interaction will be at least partly online, and thus requires a slightly different way of thinking in order to persevere.

In thinking of all this, I realized I hadn’t done my usual Job Days post since returning to LCI (They’re no longer calling it LC Industries because that title makes less sense when offering tech services which they hope to do soon) earlier this year. Truthfully, my current “job” is harder to nail down than ever. Whereas I pretty much lived in light sticks, (See Job Days No. 5), I now do anything from PML’s (I don’t even know what those are except that I stick a pen through them) to packaging flatware, to, most recently, medical kitting. This last features an assembly line where we put together different kinds of bag (IFAK as I always hear her say, I’m guessing that means International First-Aid Kit?) at a relatively high speed. I also have packed tourniquets (who knows if I’m spelling that right), and other small bags containing medical products. I suppose this is the most important thing I’ve done in there, as this stuff is used to save lives in Iraq and other places where US troops are active. We also provide material to refugees in Syria.

< [>If O do remain at LCI over tie, I am looking forward to taking what I learned in graduate school in to training there and perhaps doing some kind of ciustomer services work. But other than that, I might really like to get back onto a college campus and maybe be employed in a disability Services office. Many possible doors are opening as 2018 winds down, so who knows.

In closing, I want to thank those who took the time to participate in my little survey. It certainly helps me think about what I gained from grad school attendance and how it might benefit me going forward. I hope it has done the same for you, and look forward to great things for us all.