Sunday, September 27, 2009

New England Aquarium

There comes a time in everyone's lives when they must face their deepest, darkest fears. Sometimes that means getting up in front of a group of people and giving a speech, getting on an airplane or putting a tarantula on your face. Other times it just means taking a trip to your nearest aquarium.

I am very scared of whales and most other underwater creatures but we decided I needed to man up and go to the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA to prove that there's nothing to be afraid of. I was doing really well with the huge tank that held a couple sharks, stingrays, turtles and hundreds of other fish. For some reason, both of us found the scariest part of looking into the tank to be the diver who was feeding all the fish.

It seemed like the biggest and most beloved attraction was the octopus. People loved that thing. There was a huge crowd in front of its' tank that never seemed to go away. These people could not get enough of its' bulbous head, weird movements and suction-y tentacles. The craziest part was that there were no kids in front of the tank. It was as if the entire population of middle to old aged people at the aquarium had found their soul mate, created a wall and wouldn't let anyone else anywhere near it. We were finally able to catch a quick glimpse of the elusive creature when a couple peeled their faces off the glass and turned toward us - smiling a smile so full of hope and happiness that we couldn't match even if we tried. I's just an octopus.

When we felt like I had not been scared to satisfaction we decided to go to the IMAX theater to see "Dolphins and Whales 3D: Tribes of the Ocean". Not only would I be facing my biggest fears head on, but it would be on a giant scale and also be jumping out at me. The movie was crazy. It was so intense, frightening, loud, and dark. But it was also one of the coolest things we have ever seen. The 3D was so good, it seriously felt like we were in the water and the whales were right in front of us. However, if anyone thought that seeing this movie paint dolphins and whales in a sympathetic light would show me how ridiculous my fear is - it did the exact opposite. It only reinforced that whales are the scariest things in the world.

But it's such a wild and amazing movie/experience that we definitely recommend you see it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Our Lady of Fatima Community Shrine

We are big fans of the Weird New England and Weird Massachusetts books from Weird US. We're always trying to find new places out of one of those books that we can go to when we're feeling bored. So we were flipping through Weird Massachusetts today and started ruling out different places because they weren't cool, they were too far away, we could get in trouble if we went there, we needed more people to go to that one, etc. until we found the Our Lady of Fatima Community Shrine in Pepperell, MA. It was only about an hour away and seemed just crazy enough to be kind of interesting.

We read that this old guy had a vision from the Virgin Mary in 1982 and she told him that he needed to build a shrine for her in the community to help make her and the rosary more well known. Apparently, 4,000 people a year travel to the shrine to see the 24 foot illuminated cross and huge murals of various Bible scenes. Even though we are not religious we thought that 4,000 people a year couldn't be wrong and that it must be kind of cool.

We had no idea that it was in this man's front yard. We pulled up and felt weird almost immediately. We were just pulling into a personal driveway as if we had been asked to dinner one night but we didn't know these people and didn't necessarily want to talk to them. Even though the sign had "welcomed" us, we weren't sure if we should be driving up to this guy's house at 5 in the afternoon. But then again, the cross and pictures of Jesus reminded us that this guy had to be nice...right? We only had a quick glimpse of him as he walked from his car into his home and had a few minutes of awkwardness as we tried to figure out if we knocked on their door? or asked them if it was ok that we were there? or just pretended like we never saw a man or a house and just did what we wanted to do?

Of course we did the last option.

We tried to take on a somber, religious tone - the kind that we pull on when we have to go to a funeral. For some reason we figured that if we walked slower it would look like we were contemplating each mural and its' significance to the Catholic faith. We didn't want to look like jerks who were just there to see some crazy guy and his crazy hobby (even if that was closer to the truth than us being there on some sort of religious pilgrimage) - we still wanted to respect this guy whom we assumed was extremely nice and welcoming.

After walking by all of the paintings, we found the "prayer shed", as we named it. It was a normal shed that you might keep tools and a lawnmower in, but this one had the power of God in it. There were pamphlets EVERYWHERE and cardboard pictures of Jesus and various signs let us know that we could take anything we wanted. There was even a guestbook that we wrote a nice message in because the people who set this up were just so sweet!

And then we saw the "Homosexuality is evil", "Fight for traditional marriage" and "Abortion is murder" pamphlets and realized that maybe these people weren't so loving and welcoming after all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mammoth Cave

We opened up the vault for this story because it's a fun one and also because the vault is pretty full of great stories.

We went to Louisville, KY this year for Thunder Over Louisville and the Kentucky Derby. While we were there we decided to go to Mammoth Cave because we hadn't been there in a long time and also because we love caves in this family.

Have you ever seen Pee Wee's Big Adventure? Well, the roads that we had to travel along to actually get to the park were JUST LIKE the ones in the movie. We saw dinosaur parks, stores that sold rocks and were darn proud of it as well as signs that told us that "Hell is Real!"

When we got the the actual park we realized that the people who work there LOVE CAVES. They are all about their jobs and take the role of "park ranger" (or whatever they called themselves) very seriously. We also realized that we were going to have to be apart of a huge group who would be taking the tour at the same time. Normally, we do not like guided tours because we like to be obnoxious and ridiculous while we explore things - not polite and quiet. We also don't have the best track record of being able to walk proficiently in slippery, uneven cave surfaces and didn't want to embarrass ourselves by falling.

There was a tour guide at the front and back of the group and we were somewhere in the middle - not up front with the people who asked tons of questions and acted like they were writing research papers about the cave and not at the back with the people who wanted to befriend the tour guide and take their time tightening the kerchiefs around their neck and asking about rock formations.

The tour was 2 1/2 hours and 2 miles long and at the deepest point, we were 310 feet below ground. At one point the tour guides shut off the tiny lights that allowed you to see (somewhat) and it was the darkest moment we have ever experienced - we finally knew what it must be like to be blind. It was cool for a minute but as the seconds passed by we became anxious and scared thinking about how far underground we were and how nobody in our group had a weapon that could be used to save us from the ghosts of Native Americans who had died there or creatures that lived in there like The Descent.

There comes a time when you're in a cave, in the middle of a tour group when, just like the Real World, you stop being polite and start getting real. This moment came, for us, about an hour into the tour when we realized, "We are in a cave! It's dark in here and we are underground! We don't know these people! We don't care about these people!" So, we started making awful jokes to make ourselves laugh and taking ridiculous pictures of each other. This was also about the time when we seemed to forget how to walk properly and began stumbling, tripping over our own feet, rolling our ankles, and, once, falling flat..on our back.

All in all, the trip was awesome and well worth the long drive. The cave was beautiful and it was really cool to know that we were so far underground and imagine what it would be like to build our own little town down there. We definitely recommend checking it out if you happen to be in the area.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Free bikes?! No way!

A lack of common sense usually leads to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding but yesterday, it led to an adventure.

Caitlin had a little bit of "tendonitis" and needed some chicken tenders for lunch - the frozen kind that you just throw in the oven. I offered to get them for her, but got to the grocery store and couldn't find them anywhere, so I came home empty handed with a promise to take her with me to a different grocery store. Who knew that chicken tenders were put with the frozen foods and not with chicken?! I definitely didn't and so all my trash talking about the first grocery store ("They never have anything we want anyway. Can you imagine going there for, like, your whole week's worth of groceries? You'd eat the worst foods") ended up being me trash talking my own stupidity.

However, this extra trip to a different grocery store brought us by 3 bikes standing on a corner with a sign reading, "FREE BIKES" tied to the handlebars of one of them - of course we stopped to get a better look. When we got out of the car and took a good look at the bikes, before touching them or testing any part of them, we decided we needed 2 of them in our lives. They both looked really old, in a cool way, and one of them was gold, which meant that I needed to have it (despite the fact that I don't know how to ride a bike and have no desire to learn.)

We wheeled them over to my open trunk and quickly realized that neither one of them was going to fit, let alone 2 of them. With heavy hearts, we made the decision to ditch one of them and, because the gold one was missing a tire, it was the one that needed to go back to standing on the corner with its' brother.

Now we needed to fit the larger blue bike into the backseat. Caitlin pushed it in pretty easily while I supervised (which is the way it usually goes when we try to accomplish something) but we couldn't figure out how to make it fit so that we could close both of the doors without busting something. We faced our tensest moment when we stood at opposite doors, handlebars sticking out on my side and a tire sticking out Caitlin's, and spoke to each other over the bike sitting awkwardly in the backseat:

"What are we doing...honestly? Is there any real use for this in our lives?"
"Patrick will take it apart and use it."
"We don't even know if the brakes work or if the tires are messed up. It's kind of rusty, now that I look at it...and it's not fitting in the car!"
"We'll make it work."

We made it work.
The moral of this adventure story is one that we have lived by for a long time and, once again, proved itself to be true: If it's free, take it. No matter what it is or how hard it will be to fit it into the backseat of your car.

The Concert Adventure

It seems like we had been waiting all summer for the Heaven & Hell tour (Heaven & Hell with Coheed and Cambria) to make its way to Boston and when it finally did on August 28, we were pretty pumped. We were even more excited when we found out that Claudio Sanchez was going to be doing a signing at Newbury Comics in Fanueil Hall earlier that afternoon.

Unlike the last time we went to a signing, this one would be so much easier! We knew where we were going! It would only take us about an hour to get there! There's no way we wouldn't make it!

And, despite getting our hopes up that everything would run smoothly (which usually means something will go horribly wrong) - EVERYTHING RAN SMOOTHLY! We met Claudio Sanchez (We feel weird not writing his whole name all the time because we don't know him! we're not on a first name basis here!), he was very nice and we didn't have to worry about driving 5 hours back home or possibly getting completely lost. We also had the concert that night to look forward to!

While we were trying to kill some time before heading over to the Bank of America Pavilion, we saw a robot, a juggler, some breakdancers and a giant man.

You know when you think something's going to be awesome but when it finally happens, it turns out to be way more awesome than you ever could have expected and it ends up blowing your mind?

That was our experience with our seats. I don't really want to use the term "front row center" but that's exactly what we were.

All in all it was one of the best shows we ever went to- we had never been so close before without having to be suffocated or almost murdered by the people around us. Oh! And, Caitlin got a drumstick! :)