August 28, 2008

Everything Has Its Plan

Day Five - Small Progress: So this big bad CD that I wanted to start five days ago...yeah, have only recorded the rhythm tracks to the first song. And I did that last night. And I don't even think I'm happy with it.

But its cool...I've had lots to keep me busy. My old manager, Lisa, needed help moving stuff out of her apartment, so Amanda and I spent some time helping her out. We have alot of books, in case anyone is a big reader they can have them! Plus we got a new radio and a TV and some other things.

Went out to karaoke last night (was supposed to go with Shawn and Lisa, but they backed out due to lack of energy) and had a pretty good time. Learning more and more about singing in front of an audience.

Cats Out Of The Bag: So its been an interesting week here at work. First off, the guy who trained me in breakfast, Scott, has decided to leave and go work for the brand new Hilton Garden Inn up on upper Peach Street. Alex, one of our long term housekeepers, has also decided to leave. Two very important pieces to the puzzle here at our hotel.

And then, today, we found out that Shawn got the promotion and is now officially the general manager of the hotel. So congrats to him!! But the train rolls on...and his position is now officially open.

I'd been keeping my mouth shut pretty much here about the promotion, and I haven't actually written much on my blog because I found out someone here had found my blog and visits it regularly. I'm pretty sure it was Scott...but anyway, I hadn't said much because I didn't want there to be some sort of strange animosity among all of us front desk people.

So I asked Shawn today if he'd said anything to anyone else about me being interested and he said he did tell a few people. So the secrets out. Eh well. Guess I'll just learn from Sears that its best not to go blabbing on about it to everyone about how I deserve this and all that crap. I know damn well it ain't about who deserves it.

Basically I think I'd be a total sponge for the operational part of this hotel. I am interested in how everything works; how we set prices, how we deal with corporate accounts, all of that stuff. PLUS I really miss being a coach. One of the things I really miss about the old receiving job was taking someone aside and teaching them how to do things. (Oh, and working with Mike Sebald. That was the best!!!) So I'd really love to have that opportunity to help people along, you know, the human part of such a position.

We'll see what happens....but two weeks from now I could be looking down the barrel of another wait for a position to open up, or...I could be holding the rifle. :)

August 24, 2008

Day One: The Goal

Well, its time for another music-themed post, ladies and gentleman. I've had lots of interesting (and funny) responses to my "Daydreaming" post. Makes me wonder, you know?

So today, August 24, 2008 is Day One of the next music project. And you ask, how's this different from the others?

Easy: Its all but done.

I've spent countless hours lately playing guitar, screwing around with chord progressions, writing down little ditties, that sort of thing. Plus I'm noticing the power I have vocally within the recent few weeks with all the karaoke I've been doing with Amanda at the club.

Tomorrow I will start laying down serious tracks for a new CD, tentatively titled Learning To Fly, which will be under my name as well as Amanda's. We'd talked in the past about doing some songs together, but I've decided to take the idea a little more seriously and run with it as a 'band' thing (since we're both awesome!)

In the upcoming weeks, I'll be finishing these songs. The tracklisting, as of right now, is:

1. Evangeline (cover of The Band)
2. Coming Home (another version of one of my old ones)
3. Jackson (cover of Johnny and June Cash)
4. I'm Nobody Without Myself (a better version of my old one)
5. Put Your Hands On Me (a pretty cool blues-rock thing)
6. Learning To Fly (Tom Petty cover)
7. Building A Spider Web (already out there)
8. Gravity (John Mayer cover)
9. As Long As Time Allows (already out there too)
10. Feeling Like The First Time (Tony original)
11. Hitchin' Blues (my first slide blues original, if you can call it that)
12. Mercedes Benz (Amanda, a cappella)
I'm currently looking for a website to sell these tracks online when completed, as well as an exciting new website (on MySpace) for our music.
Stay tuned...posts/blogs will be written daily on how the progression is going.

August 17, 2008

Wif me mum

Screwed Up Big: Recently I've come to notice (with thanks in part to some well crafted emails) that I've not spent enough time with my immediate family, including but not limited to: Mom, Adam, and Kori.

Mom is going through a hard time with the death of her friend Fred, and I've realized that I had no idea who the guy was! She's been spending alot of time with him and I had no idea he even existed outside of a couple comments she'd made. I feel really bad about this...I should be spending more time out there in Waterford. I've made some strides, and I'm going to go with Mom to her friend's funeral tomorrow morning.

Adam is working in Cambridge Springs at a job that apparently isn't going to be there soon; the company is talking about packing up shop and unfortunately leaving without him. Not fun. Kori (who I saw at CelebrateErie watching Jakes Blues with her dad) gets bigger every damn time I see her. Its not cool!!!! :(

So last Wednesday, Aunt Ella sent me an email letting me know that she was having a birthday party up in Erie on Saturday for one of her grandkids and she invited Amanda, Townsend, and I to the party at Chuck-E-Cheese's, so they could finally all meet.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnndddd.......... I forgot... you ever forget sometimes i do and i did forget and to forget is not good so forgetting is not the best idea but i still did forget!!!!

Felt pretty stupid yesterday!!

So I'm going to try to head out to Waterford more often. I'm thinking possibly getting ready for work super early and hopefully Mom's home by 1 o'clock pm so I can at least get a couple hours in. The gas is such a crunch on budget that it's tough to go out alot. I budget for enough gas to get me to work every day and possibly that trip to Meadville and back.

But I'm going to make a serious try. If Amanda's Mom is taking us out to lunch and calling me her "future son-in-law" to her friends, I think I can spend a little more time "wif me mam an' duh rist of em"!

Random Hotel Notes: Had my first call from OnStar tonight ("Hello this is Katherine from OnStar, I have a member looking for a two bedroom suite") and it felt like I was in a TV commercial for a second...a guest wanted me to guarantee her that a pet has never stayed in the room she is in for the night. I told her that I couldn't possibly come close to even SAYING that a pet hasn't been in a certain room, for we've accepted pets for years here at our hotel...Speaking of Amanda's Mom, we all had lunch today at Buffalo Wild Wings; had a pretty good bacon cheeeseburger, fries were average though.

Wow, not much to talk about tonight. Must have been that awesome show I played last night. *smirk*


ERIE (AP) - A few years ago, a homecoming like this couldn't possibly have been imagined for a rock star in Erie. Remember Pat Monahan? Even more, remember the pop flop for Jakes Blues?

Last night, an estimated 20,000 people stuffed into the small quarters of State Street and Perry Square waited for up to four hours for an opportunity to smash the idea that an Erie native could come home successful.

Around 8 pm, hometown hero Tony Kellogg took the stage with his wildly popular band, Edsel's Comeback, amid huge cheers from the CelebrateErie audience. He stepped to the mic and, in his traditional fashion, thanked Foreigner for coming back to Erie and opening up for the Comeback. And after a short joke about the flight back into Tom Ridge Field, the show began with his first hit, "Put Your Hands On Me".

The crowd went crazy as Kellogg picked out the chunky blues riff, perfectly augmented by his ever-present band. Jeff "Scooter" Cooke on the drums, Del Kitessen on bass (who keeps Kellogg in check with his double neck bass solos), Eric Laughery on the electric banjo, and his girlfriend Amanda Pritchard on rythym guitar. Eric's banjo solo during the coda during the opener was virtuous enough to warrant a huge cheer from the crowd.

The band worked tirelessly through classic Comeback songs such as the acoustic "Building A Spider Web", the funky blues of "Green Pastures", and the punk-blues of "Stick Shift".

During an extended break in "As Long As Time Allows", Kellogg told the audience how much of a thrill it was playing to the Erie faithful who had long become a muse for the bluesy folk-rock that Edsel's Comeback had come to make popular throughout America, and gave his girlfriend (who was the "female" of the song) a big kiss on stage. She was able to keep rythym during the song, despite tears streaming down her face.

Mayor Joe Sinnott was invited on stage to sing, but due to the song "Empty Barstool" that was written about Sinnott's ever-present image of being a barfly in office, he chose to decline. So Kellogg invited his tour-mate, John Mayer, on stage for a version of Mayer's "Who Did You Think I Was?" that went on for almost fifteen minutes.

Even after Kellogg left the stage at 10:30, a two and a half hour free concert for his hometown, the crowd lingered, begging for a third encore, and refused to leave. A half hour later, with the Comeback getting ready for an autograph session at Starbucks, Kellogg returned to the stage alone and acoustic to play one last medley of "Blues Ryder", "Life By The Drop", and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out", a tribute to the three artists that heavily influenced him (Jakes Blues, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton, respectively). He thanked the crowd one last time, nearly breaking down into tears.

"I really didn't think I could handle it, even being here in Erie. I thought they'd boo me off the stage for all the negativity I'd written about this town," Kellogg said later. "But boy, were we surprised. Even Scooter was surprised we got that big of a reception. I guess being from the big city [Cooke was born and raised in LA], he doesn't understand that sort of hometown love."

Edsel's Comeback is in Toronto tonight for their concert at the Rogers Center, with Oasis opening for them.

August 15, 2008

Destined For Failure

"Lets Hope The Guests Don't Ruin It": My AGM and I are both scheduled to work the arrivals tonight at the front desk. I've been looking forward to working with him all week, as we've been on opposite shifts. Well, he'll be in the office doing his thing and will help me when I need it. Apparently before I got in we got whacked by a guest who BOOKED a smoking suite and were given that suite when they arrived. They were upset because of some mix up where they really wanted a non-smoking suite. Big arm flailing situation occurred.

So I've decided to make a running tally of the crappy things that have happened tonight.

* 3:15 pm: guest checks in and was informed we had to change her reservation to a king studio suite from a queen one bedroom suite. she was VERY angry about it, saying she was "guaranteed" this certain room, to which I told her no rooms are guaranteed.

* 4:05 pm: guest checks in and I notice on his reservation that he has a pet. I re-confirm the $75.00 fee for pets, and he says he was never told about it. I am nearly positive, when he called to change his reservation JUST YESTERDAY that I told him about the fee. He lies to my face and told him I never told him that and laughs at me like a parent laughs at his silly child. The AGM waives the fee, basically to be rid of the guest.

*4:45 pm: guests comes back to the desk with a key from a room that was scheduled to leave this morning. i asked him how long he was staying and he said for another week....which overbooks us for tomorrow. sweet.

*5:15 pm: original upset guest (before I got here) comes down and lets us know they'll be leaving early. apologizes at first, saying my agm was "incredibly nice" to him but "the other guy needs to learn customer service" (she was quick to point out it was not me). fifteen minutes later, she comes down and is upset again about the fact her room still smells like smoke, and gives my boss the evil eye, like she'd never apologized.

*6:30 pm: guest checks in with a note on his reservation that he is a vip and he wants a complementary bigger room. we tell him that unfortunately we are sold out, and he throws a tissy fit when told he can't have a bigger room because WE DON'T HAVE ONE.

9:30 pm: Well, the shift ended up not being as bad, but get the idea.

August 13, 2008

Stop This Train

No Title Needed: Guest came up to me at the desk last night. Unbelievable. Here goes...

Guest: Do you have internet access back there? I need to look something up and the (expletive) guest computer keeps kicking me off.
Tony: Uh, yeah, I do. What can I do ya for?
Guest: I need you to look up something...where the closest "Build A Bear Workshop" is.
Tony: You don't have to go far - its in the Millcreek Mall right behind us.
Guest: *laughs out loud* You mean, the mall? The one with five stores in it? We came up all this way for a 'plaza'? A 'mall' where I come from has an enclosed walking area and a whole bunch of stores.
Tony: Uh, yeah, the Millcreek Mall. Right over that way (points toward mall)
Guest: What, do you mean there's more than just an Old Navy there?
Tony: Um....*reaches down, grabs a map of the mall* yes, theres...uh, quite a bit of stores!
Guest: *checks out map* Oh, my Lord. I feel so stupid right now.
Tony: *thinks "yeah, you should! but thinks better and says* Oh, its okay, no big deal, people make mistakes all the time. The mall is open tomorrow morning at...

Am I Missing Something?: So as many of you read, last week, Amanda's nephew and grandmother died. One of my coworkers brothers was almost killed. Bernie Mac died. Issac Hayes died.

Mom calls me this afternoon that one of my her close friends died this morning in Pittsburgh. He had an artificial heart and there was a malfunction in the machine and he passed away. Mom says that seeing his family makes her want to spend more time with me and my family. Agreed.

August 12, 2008

Pidge-zilla vs. Mothra

Still Feeling Dumb: So after my nice ride back home last night after I realized I wasn't supposed to work, I spent the evening cleaning the house. Around nine or so, I went down the basement to check on some laundry I had down there. The second I opened the door, a huge moth came flying in the door.

Now I have to rewind the story a week or so for this to make sense. I called Amanda one morning after she'd gone to work in the AM and she asked me if I would "please go into the bathroom and find the giant moth" that scared her "half to death" while she was taking a shower. I spent a little bit of time poking around but I couldn't find it. While I was shaving before work a few hours later, here it comes out of the fan...and she wasn't kidding! It is huge! I finally was able to whack it with a towel and get it. Once I opened the door though, my curious cats were in waiting, hearing all the noise.

Fast forward to last night: I'm in the kitchen with the broom, trying to whack this moth and prevent it from flying into the house. Sure enough here comes my cat, Pidge/Pookie/Pookah Bear/Fat Cat (whichever you choose), ready and raring to kill this thing herself. I got a good shot on the moth and it started flying lower, and she jumps about three feet off the ground, paws in the air, and grabs the thing out of mid-air. She starts stamping on it and it flies away, and we are in the cat and mouse game again. I hit it again and it flew near their cat dish. Pidge knocks over the food dish and spills the water bowl trying to get to this moth. She had it too, right under her paws, and looks up at me with this ain't you proud of me pa? look on her face, and the thing still wiggles its way out and flies away. I finally got mad and really gave it a good shot with the broom and it falls onto this shelf that sits directly above the garbage can.

So I figured I've finally got it and I went down to get the laundry. I come back up a minute later and went to shoo the dead moth into the trash. Before I touched it though, I noticed that both my cats (where the hell were you, Chewy?) were sitting there with dialated pupils waiting for the kill...and I push the moth off the shelf. Sure enough, the damn thing flies (well, steered itself while falling) right underneath the stove. So my cats spent the next hour meowing and staring at the stove.

Silly Lady: Oh! I completely forgot to mention this to you folks! One of the funniest hotel moments I've had so far...

I had a woman check into a room about 8:30 pm on Sunday night. Around ten o clock (remember the Witching Hour?) she calls me and tells me she has a big problem.

She tells me that the neighbor to her room had turned up their radio about ten minutes earlier and she was having trouble sleeping. I looked at her room number and noticed something odd: she is bordered by a maintenance closet and our meeting room. I'm at a total loss for words with her. I said, "I will, uh...look into it for you!" She seemed okay with that and I immediately tried to figure out if I'd stepped into The Twilight Zone or something.

I had a few other phone calls, and I finally went to head down to her room...and the phone rings again. I pick it up, and its her.

Guest: Hi, Tony?
Tony: Yes?
Guest: You're going to think I'm stupid.
Tony: Absolutely not! Whats going on?
Guest: Remember how I asked you to tell my neighbor that the radio was too loud?
Tony: Yes, in fact I was just heading down there to...
Guest: was my battery powered clock packed in my luggage. So, uh, you don't have to come down.
Tony: *speechless* Uh *tries not to laugh* Okay! Well, glad to see its *snicker* settled!
Guest: *busts out laughing and hangs up the phone*

Witching hour, indeed.

Focus, Tony: When I was ten or eleven, I started playing hockey alot. Now I don't mean just a little bit, I played roller hockey alot. And whenever I played, I was goalie. And I was good. Started playing with some better players around fifteen, and got better. When I was twenty, I started playing goalie at Evans Skateland, and realized how far behind I was in skills to REALLY good players. And after a while, I got better, as anything in life.

Just two years ago, I noticed something about myself: when I was having really good nights, I started having tunnel vision. Not like, oblivious to everything else, but really really focused. I could just feel it. Almost like someone had turned up my vision. I noticed it alot and on the nights I had that tunnel vision, I was unstoppable. My positioning was spectacular, my hands were fast, and generally I was in a better mood.

I stopped playing hockey last March, basically I was noticing that my knees aren't what they used to be and it started to worry me that I was going to blow out my ACL playing roller hockey for no money with a bunch of nineteen year olds at a rundown roller rink.

Recently, I've noticed this 'tunnel vision' back. It happened every once in a while, but the last two days its on some sort of autopilot. I feel so incredibly focused on everything. The guest paperwork. The credit card types. The greetings. The phone calls. Even the carpet patterns seem to be focused. Its very strange. And I'm not stressed at all. I feel really freaking great. Nothing is bothering me. Nothing is stressing me. I'm feeling very level headed, very responsible, very...something. I can't put my finger on it.

Survey Of The Week: When Amanda and I first got together, she started keeping my maple syrup bottle out of the refridgerator. I noticed it again this morning that I have started keeping the practice of not keeping it in the fridge. And it got me wondering, as silly as it seems, do other people not refridgerate their syrup?

So I've decided to start a poll, which I'll start doing every seven days, with a new question for you folks that read the blog.

Now if you receive this blog directly in your email, you don't see all the fun extra stuff I have on the website. So to participate and make your voice heard, click this link to go to The Tony Times and click on the answer that fits your situation on the right hand side of the page.

August 11, 2008


Witching Hour Is On Mountain Time: What a nice night at the hotel last night! Very smooth, easy guests, no problems, everyone was really polite and nice, even when I was juggling a couple phone calls at once. Even got ten minutes to sit down to eat dinner! Got to catch up with the laundry guy (he's had quite a week as well), was able to get pillows and blankets for guests with the slightest of ease.

Then, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, a bell tolled.

Ten o'clock, the phone started to ring. I picked up six phone calls within two minutes. And from then on, the phone rang at least every two minutes. I got a phone call from a guest who claimed housekeeping "stole food" from their refrigerator.

At the time, I had two people standing to check in and another lady on the phone who I had already transferred to reservations once and barked "I don't want to be transferred!" when I was going to again.

So I put her on hold and went back to the phone call; I offered compensation to the guest and of course she laughed and said "You aren't being very generous" so I gave her a little bit of an over the top form of compensation and she seemed okay with that.

I counted down my drawer during a five minute lull in phone calls, because I hadn't had someone come down to the guest store to buy anything for two hours. Of course, the second I finish up, three people come down to buy cotton swabs, pop, and deodorant. The revenue is good, mind you, I just couldn't believe my luck.

Ten minutes to eleven, I get another phone call from a guest claiming that the toilet is busted in their bathroom. In this particular suite there are two bedrooms, each with their own separate bathrooms. I went up to plunge it and it went down, just not really fast. I know from past experience (as well as the rest of you do) that once I get a slow flusher, I can't fix it. So I told the guest that and she looked at me like I'd insulted her first born child. I apologized and asked if the other bathroom was working properly, which dug me in even deeper. "You're saying I have to use the OTHER bathroom if I have to go in the middle of the night, and wake up my daughters?!" I swallowed my now growing flame (spurred by utter embarrassment for this woman) and said that I was really sorry, I'd have maintenance take a look at it in the morning. She gave me a little more tongue lashing that I (for some reason) stood there and took it, and I left the room.

I'm starting to dread ten PM. Ten is the new midnight.

Sing A New Song: Afterwards I met Amanda and the crew at the club for karaoke night. When I got there, there was noone singing. Another slow Sunday night, I guess. Amanda and I started things off by singing "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5, which sounded like it does when we're driving in the car. Only really intended for our ears!

I've been wanting to do this for a while, since early last week, and I decided to go for it...the next song I did was "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan, and I dedicated it to Vincent and Amanda's grandmother. (The song was one of her grandma's favorites.) So here I am scared to death I'm gonna screw it up, because I know that I'm not the greatest high note singer, but I knew somehow I'd carry myself through it. And to my surprise, I did REALLY well. The deejay complimented me on how I can change my normal range to my falsetto without missing a beat. I walked offstage and Amanda was waiting there, tears in her eyes, thanking me for the dedication. It was tough to sing.

I picked up the mood a little bit by singing "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss" by BB King. A great old song that got me into the 'flailing my arms gospel style' sort of singing. Pretty cool. I got to sing with one of the bartenders, Megan, for the first time. She's another awesome talent that I've talked to about doing some sort of music project with, and we sang "Whiskey Lullabye" by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. I did my best; it always seems like the country duets have REALLY low male parts. Anyway, she was happy with it. I finished off the evening singing "Champagne Supernova" by Oasis (its not karaoke for me if I'm not singing one of theirs!), which I turned the last verse into an opera song somehow, don't really know why I did that.

For A Less Proud Moment: When I got to the club, I immediately had three beers. (Mom, stop being mad.) I usually only have two at most during the night, but I just was so angry from work that I decided I wanted to cut loose a little bit. (And yes, by the time I was leaving, I was fine to drive, so don't worry.)

Woke up this morning with a MONSTER headache. Went to the cupboard - no Advil. Argh. Amanda and her headaches probably has it in her purse. I sent her a text message, and sure enough, she had it. But she was nice enough (as if I ever questioned it) to come home from work to bring me the meds and to bring me some lunch (since I didn't get up til 11 am, hehe).

I ate a little bit and felt a tad better. It was getting close to 1 pm and I realized that I had no clean shirts to wear to I rushed around laundering the stuff. Shaved as quick as possible, got myself ready, and headed to work. Got there a little before three........and found out that I was actually off of work tonight. Dummy.

August 10, 2008

Boy I Feel Stupid!

The Last Place You Look: So here I've been writing these blogs for a few months now, and once in a while I get really frustrated that I never get responses. At least since I moved the site over to this internet blog and cut off the folks that didn't ever respond.

I decided to log into my GMail account tonight and sure enough, here I've got like twenty emails from a whole bunch of people!!! My primary email account is the one through Yahoo so I hadn't been checking it. I will from now on, so keep the messages coming :)

So...aunt Betty, aunt Ella, Vicki, Nick, and Eric - I appreciate all the nice words you guys had for me and Amanda's family this week. I am happy with my decision to be there for Amanda, despite the fact I missed out on days of work.

I did get back to the hotel and was welcomed back with no problems, in case any of you were worried about it. I am very proud to work for such a great hotel that has such a good crew of people.

Its Just A Game, Tony

Here's some pictures of the excursion to the Midwest last week:

Amanda took me down to the riverfront on Monday night and we sat around for a little bit. This is a photo of the American Queen riverboat heading upstream on the Mississippi.

A photo of downtown Keokuk, Iowa; I was outside a flower shop looking east toward the river. Small town; city center reminded me of Ridgway.

A few of Amanda's relatives; aunt Sherry, her two kids, and grandmother Nadine. Amanda's middle name comes from her.

This is a photo of Amanda's immediate family; (L to R) brother Robert (who stayed with us a few months ago), me, Amanda, nephew Zach, brother Jeff (Vincent's dad), his girlfriend Jennifer, and Amanda's mom, Theresa. (dont' ask me why i was turned like that, I was told to "scrunch" in so Robert could fit; he looks like he had plenty of room!)

If you're not able to see these, head to the main blog site to check out the photos if you'd like.

The Return: I worked 3 to 11 pm last night at the hotel, and boy, did it return the love. Made me really miss it. And I say that sarcastically...I got my butt kicked! They were really stretched this week though. One of my coworkers had some bad luck too; his brother was working at a gas station this week that was robbed and he was shot twice in the robbery. Last time I talked with my coworker, his brother was upgraded from critical to serious condition. Positives, I guess.

Guitar Hero: After work, I was invited to join Amanda at our friend Lori's house. For some reason or another, I threw a childish fit when I found out they were playing the video game "Guitar Hero". I can't explain it, but ever since I saw that game on the shelves, I've been pissed about it. Making the act of playing guitar seem like a game, I guess, when I'd taken the instrument so seriously over the last ten or so years.

After some ruckus, we got back to trying to have a good time. And believe it or not, I actually decided to play the game (okay, I was convinced into it) and it wasn't really that terrible at all. Kind of fun. I can't imagine really being into it too much though. Requires the same finger motions as playing a solo does but without the fret or string recognition...basically a "practice til you get it right" sort of thing. I'd play it again, given the chance.

August 09, 2008

Finally Home

Well, don't have much at all to say tonight. We got home around 11:30 pm, drove straight through, 12 hours it took (if you disregard the hour we lost from Central to Eastern time zones). Car ride wasn't nearly as somber, no phone calls about anyone dying on the way home, so that was good. :(

Other than that, glad to be home. Amanda got her new cell phone and she's busy playing around with it in the next room.

August 07, 2008

The Last Full Day

Today was early, 7 am. Had a bout of sickness overnight, just one trip to the bathroom, but it subsided quickly after. Took a quick shower, Amanda ironed my (and everyone else's) shirts....and we were off to the funeral.

The church they had the services at is called "Freedom In Christ". I'm noticing there's alot of irregularly named churches out here. Back home, its rare to see places like that. Mostly you see "First Assembly Of God", "St. Peters", that sort of thing. FIC is located in what would appear to be an old doctors office facility that had been gutted and redone to be a church.

The family was put in the 'youth group' room, which was quite spectacularly decorated as a cityscape, complete with Jesus spray painted on the walls. Very "hip" designs, although not as tacky as you'd imagine they'd be. The youth group is entitled "Route 180 Youth Group"....I'm guessing 180 degrees sort of thing. Interesting.

So we were led out of the room so we could walk by Vincent's casket. His grandmother was inconsolable standing in front of was hard not to break down even though I'd really not known the guy except for that one day I met him. We walked by quickly because there was a big line, and sat down with the rest of the family near the front.

The service was quicker than most I've been to; they played a few songs: Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky" but remade into a pretty cool techno song...another spiritual song that for some reason I can't recall...and a Michael Bolton cover of "Lean On Me" that was interesting as well. Not much was said outside of how good of a kid he was.

We went out to the cemetary for the service (something I'd never done) and were nearly in the front in the funeral procession. The line of cars stretched back for about a mile...I think the entire high school was out there paying respects. I can only hope I have half that many people at my funeral. Vince was only 17 years old. Just so tragic. It was a hard service to watch, all my family so broken. But hopefully good will come out of it for the community.

Amanda and I will be heading back tomorrow, with or without Robert or Theresa, so we can get back to work on Saturday. I can't say enough how much I appreciate the whole staff of the Homewood for stretching out and helping me be able to take this time off. I know most of the load was juggled by Shawn, the acting General Manager. He's such a good guy.

August 06, 2008

One Day At A Time

Strange dreams over night. Woke up around 4:15 am in a panic that someone was in the room. Very strange. Couldn't calm down for nothing...very strange. But we woke up for good around 7:30. Amanda discovered some small bites on her legs but I didn't have any.

The rest of the family headed over to the funeral home around 11 am and Amanda and I decided to go to lunch. Finally got to experience a Sonic restaurant/drive in. Was pretty good, but nothing like I expected, honestly. Amanda tried to order my hamburger special and it didn't work out that it remade though. Pretty tasty.

Went over to her Grandma Nadine's again, just the two of us. We knock on the door, no answer. Nothing going on, and just as we're about to turn away, Amanda says, "Oh, there she is....and she's in her underwear!" She unlocked the door and we went in after her grandma slid upstairs to dress. We had some more really entertaining conversation, explained how we met, all that. She calls me "Anthony" which is nice. Then Amanda's aunt Sherry came over and I met her as well...felt really good to continue meeting family. They're all so nice.

Next was a trip around town to a weird women's clothing store called "Cato". Kind of like Fashion Bug back home. Theresa bought some clothes, and I went next door to the GameStop to check out their video games. Second I walk in the door, I was accosted:

Clerk:Hey, guy! How can I help you?! Got any questions?!?
Me: Uh, no, I think I'm alright.
Clerk: Well man, if you need ANYTHING--
Me: Oh My God!! The pressure!!!!!!

He quickly walked away.

So tonight was the viewing for Vincent, and it was a very tough three hours. But there was ton of people there; I can only hope there are that many people at my funeral. The entire high school. Reminded me of when I went to Chris's high school graduation. I didn't know much about their popularity but it sure showed in both cases. Vincent was a very loved young man, and it is a real shame that this happened. Tomorrow is the funeral and then they're having a big dinner at the church.

I really wish I had pictures to post up. I'll definitely get the pictures posted up here when I get back to Erie. This town is very charming, the people are hit and miss, but I could see how someone could really get by living here. Makes me realize that you really don't need everything we have back home to get by. People are just as nice and just as friendly as they are in Erie. Just as many empty businesses downtown, just as many corporate smiling corner stores too.

It all makes you realize things, I guess.

Crossin' The Mississippi

Woke up this morning around 9 am, well-needed night of sleep. We slept in Alyssa's room in her super soft bed, almost like a waterbed. The air overnight cooled off quite a bit so it was decently comfortable overnight. Came downstairs, had a shower, trimmed up my nearing week old goatee, and we were off to town.

First stop of the day was "Johnson Schmidt", a Diamond Mens Store type place right on Main Street in Keokuk. ("Clothes For The Particular Man") Jeff, Amanda's older brother, needed clothes for the services and he went and was fitted for clothes. I found it really strange that you look on the wall and see sports clothes and its Iowa Hawkeyes, Chicago Cubs, or St. Louis Cardinals stuff. Weird that its not Steelers or Browns things. They were extremely nice folks at the shop there.

Second stop was supposed to be meeting the Grandmother Nadine, who Amanda's middle name was after. She wasn't around so we went to a "Discount Shoes" place on Main Street. Sort of a "Payless" meets second hand store. Some interesting little items in the place; they had everything from work boots to comforters to a full size arcade game. The place feels so much like my mom's hometown, Ridgway PA, that sometimes I felt like I was actually there.

Then we went over to Vincent's mothers house on the other side of town. Lots of folks there supporting their side of the family. Jeff and her have been separated for a long, long time. Not on good terms, either, from what I'd understood. Amanda and Robert of course hadn't been around in YEARS so everyone made comments about "how big" they've gotten.

We went to Nadine's house finally and met her. She was very nice and very open, and very religious. Lots of wisecracks and that sort, but I immediately liked her. Amanda says that she will definitely be keeping in touch with her, maybe even come back out here this summer.

Then dinner at this Mexican restaurant in town...I had this Steak Tortilla thing with refried beans and hot sauce. Pretty good stuff, surprisingly...I was worried I wouldn't like it.

Amanda and I finally broke away from everyone around 8 o clock and we went out to the WalMart and picked up a few bottles of water. WalMart was needed just for a sense of normalcy, I guess. Its so different out here. Small town, nowhere near any lakes, things like that. People seem not as patient or anything like that, but its okay. I still think Amanda and I have too high of standards now that we're in the hospitality industry.

We finished off our busy day by meeting one of her high school friends, Adrienne, from Keokuk. Last time Amanda was here was ten years ago for her wedding. She has a gorgeous house right near Amanda's old home on the north side of town. I'll have some pictures for all of you sometime soon.

Now its off to bed. The next two days are going to be rough. Showing tomorrow, meeting Vincent's friends and that sort of thing. Then the funeral on Thursday, with dinner following. At this point it seems that we'll be coming back late Thursday or early Friday morning.

August 04, 2008

12 Hours Away

Amanda and I were awoke at 5:40 this morning by her mom and her brother in our living room. After we came home last night we must have forgot to lock the downstairs door. Never happens! Whoops!

And thats the extent of the positive message here.

Teresa and Robert came by to inform us that Amandas nephew, Vince, was in a horrible accident near his home in Keokuk, Iowa. Unfortunately he passed away. He was only 17. At this time, thats all we know about what happened.

Basically, we both knew that we had to drop everything and go out there with Teresa and Robert, and I decided it was best that I took time off of work and came out to support 'my family'. I feel terrible that I'm leaving the hotel on the rocks, as Shawn is stuck running the hotel now down two managers and now a full time desk clerk for at least the next few days.

Ironically enough, we stopped at a rest station just before we got to Chicago, and we were stunned to see Lisa's Kia parked right next to us!!! How crazy is that?! Got to have a few moments with her before she headed up to Rockford, Illinois for her first day on Tuesday. Good luck again, by the way!

Then, outside of Chicago on the road, Teresa received a phone call that her mother passed away this afternoon right after one o clock. She'd been in a nursing home and had been suffering from cancer for the last few months.

What a day.

So here I am in the dining room of Amanda's brother's house in Hamilton, Illinois, right across the way from Keokuk. Its located right on the Mississippi River. Amanda took me on a little tour of Keokuk tonight as well; its where she moved from when she came to Edinboro in 1997. Hasn't been back in ten years. I can't imagine the emotions she's going through right now.

As for now, thats all I know about whats going on. I'll continue posting throughout the week as more details become available.

I appreciate any and all prayers for our family during this difficult time.

With Arms Wide Open-ahh!

"I just need to learn to stop giving a crap." ~ Tony Kellogg

On That Note: Came home from work tonight and once again went to the club, but this time it was Karaoke Sunday. Amanda and I apparently were the only ones singing cuz they were happy we showed up. Noone was singing. I immediately tore into "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters, did that pretty well. Then Amanda sang "Killing Me Softly" by The Fugees. Showed me up. So I went and did "The Hindu Times" by Oasis. Mediocre. She then did "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin, and showed me up again. So I decided to jump off the train and sing a song with our friend Bob..."Thats Life" by Sinatra. It was more fun than actually singing, and we did alright.
There's a guy that goes and was absent that sings "With Arms Wide Open" by Creed. So I did an awesome Scott Stapp impression and sang it, with the whole air guitar solo and everything. Pretty cool stuff. Lori tried singing "Bubbly" by Colbie Callait and she gave up mid-song. What a shame. Had a promising beginning.
Amanda and I ended up singing "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" and that was fun. We both did a couple more tunes (my rendition of "Nights In White Satin" appeared to bring Bob to tears) but it was a fun time.
Sometimes I worry about the money, the lack of sleep, the dancing...I just need to seriously learn to just not give a flying damn about whatever happens. I'm 27 years old, I never did any of this when I was 21, why not catch up. Who cares? As long as the bills are getting paid and that I'm not late for work or anything like that, why care? I'm having fun.
When I get a job that requires me to be more responsible, then I'll care. But for now, I'm just a front desk clerk! Gotta have fun.

August 03, 2008

Can't You Hear My Motor Hum?

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are
tiny matters compared to what lies with in us."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Another Saturday Night: After receiving about 50 phone calls throughout the night from folks looking for a hotel room, I finally left work at 11 pm. (Believe it or not, I found out that the Tally-hotel on Rt97, the 'dump' hotel of Erie, was charging $100 a night, a $60+ dollar upsell. Disgusting!! Genius!! Haha!) Amanda picked me up after being in Cambridge and Meadville with Townsend for the afternoon/evening. And once again, there we trudge out to the night club. But we both agreed that we are freaking broke so we'd only have a soda at the bar.
Basically, we only went for the fact our friend Lori was the deejay. So we walk in the bar and there's utterly noone there except for the normal little group we've attached ourselves to. Lori looked totally bummed out up on stage...apparently she'd had an extremely long day at work and there wasn't much going on. Amanda and I ended up leaving around 1 am.

Short night of sleep for Amanda though; she had to be at work at 7 am! Can't believe she's still standing at work. Have yet to hear from her today.
Hell Yeah, Remember Aurora: So I've been sitting here on and off online all morning (well, since 10:30 am when I woke up). I did pick up the house a little bit, getting most of Townsends stuff put away. Its a typical Sunday thing -- the house is a mess after the little one is here. Train set, foam swords, bouncy rubber balls, bouncy plastic balls, bouncy get the point. At least there aren't any rollerskates on the steps. :o) Turned on the Foo Fighters (I still love the "There Is Nothing Left To Lose" album) and started picking up...which I'm still in the process I'll get back to that now.
I'll be at the hotel from 3-11 pm for the next few days. Here's hoping I have a fun evening! All the normal Monday-Friday folks come back tonight so I'm looking forward to seeing them. Its strange when they're not around, honestly.
God, its weird feeling like that place is a second home. Sears never really felt like that.

Oh, and the Pirates play in Chicago tonight for the series finale against the Cubbies. Lets hope Ian Snell can actually pitch more than just a few innings tonight!!! Go Bucs!!

August 02, 2008

Beginning Again

"We have it in our powers to begin the world again." - Thomas Paine
Yet Another Non-Writing Cycle: Once again, I haven't written anything in over a week, so hopefully I can fill up this little space with some more clever words. I've been working alot more of the morning shifts at the hotel lately and by the time I get home from those I just don't want to be anywhere near the computer; so those of you who hinge on every blog I write can breathe easily,, okay, you can at least be happy I wrote.
The Long Goodbye: The hotel manager announced this week that she has decided to take a job in Rockford, Illinois to stay with the company our hotel was previously owned by. It is hard to see her go, as she was the one who pulled me out of the mess that was my Sears career and gave me an opportunity to move myself up here at the hotel. For that I'll always be grateful.
Now that she's gone, the management positions have opened up and hopefully my awesome boss Shawn will take over the reins of the hotel. Then his job would open up as Assistant General Manager and....well, you get the point. Lets just hope whoever gets it will be the best AGM we could possibly have.
The Struggle Within: So this is two weekends come and gone with Townsend, and it appears that he's having some troubles adjusting to things as a 'here and there' kid. Last weekend was the first weekend that I completely lost my nerves with him. We went down to Pymatuning to a campground where Amanda's mom had set up camp for the weekend. I had off on Saturday, a rare occurence, so we decided to keep Towns from Friday to Sunday afternoon. We went down to the camp on Saturday afternoon, and unfortunately he'd been a little obstreperous the entire weekend up to that point. Screaming and crying when he wouldn't get his way and throwing three year old style fits.
So we're in the car, driving down, and he had this little bat that he'd received the night before. For some reason or another, I can't remember now, Amanda reached back and snatched it from him because he was throwing a fit. Now I'd lost my patience pretty well already with him so I tried to stay out of it. Immediately, he picked up another (and bigger) bat that was in the back seat and started winging it around. He almost hit me in the head with it!

I smashed down on the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road. I turned around, put my finger in his face and was about to start screaming...and saw the fear in his eyes and couldn't bring myself to lose it on him. I tried to explain to him that he can't be swinging something like that around while someone is driving! He cried hard for a while but he finally calmed down.
The rest of the weekend, I won't get into, but by Sunday morning I'd basically completely lost all patience with him entirely. I really need to work on that if I'm gonna be this awesome dad that I think I could possibly be.
Carry yo key: That Sunday night, Amanda had to work laundry late at her hotel and I went home after eleven from my usual Sunday night shift. On the way, our friend Lori called and asked me if I wanted to go to the night club that we had been going to lately, but this time without Amanda. I waffled a bit then decided to go. (Amanda got out semi-early and came down not too long after I got there.)
Anyway, Sunday is one of the two karaoke nights that they have at the club and I decided to break my solo singing cherry and requested to sing "Lyla" by Oasis. I got on stage alone and immediately all the nerves went away and I sang my heart out. Hit every note, stretched out the ones I knew I could, and came off stage to big time cheers and lots of friends saying that I looked like "a rockstar". It was awesome!
So Wednesday we went again and I sang "Round Here" by the Counting Crows and that was a little pitchy but apparently the deejay even liked it, so that was nice. Then I sang "Stand By Me" by Oasis and that totally sucked. I forgot that the chorus never ends, so I was standing on stage singing the same line about ten times in a row and I just didn't enjoy that at all. Sounded like poop again. The last song I did was "My Generation" by The Who, and that was pretty awesome. I still don't think it sounded that great but I heard "great performance" from the deejay and it made me feel pretty cool. Although I did get yelled at by one of the guys who works on the sound system about doing the Roger Daltrey microphone swing... :o)
Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay: The baseball trading deadline has come and gone, and the Pirates decided to unload their star player, Jason Bay, to the Boston Red Sox for a few prospects. At first, I was happy they got some decent sounding players...and then twenty seconds later I was filled with remorse again as I realized they got rid of another good player for nothing again, just like they've been doing for quite a while now.
But now that I've had a couple days to mull it over, I've decided that I really feel the new General Manager, Neal Huntingdon, did a great job shopping Jason, who was invariably headed toward free agency at the end of next season, and why not get a great return for him. Plus, Jason got to go to his self-described "childhood favorite team" too, so here's hoping Jason can pick up a well deserved ring this fall.
The Pirates got a half decent outfielder, Brandon Moss, and he will hopefully turn out to be the next Xavier Nady (was a little known guy in another trade a few years ago).
I know a few months ago I went on a little rant about how I was going to get rid of my fan hood for the Pirates if they didn't reach .500. But for some reason or other I really, truly believe in the current leaders of this club. John Russell has coached this team into respectability, creating an atmosphere that still makes me want to listen to a game in August because they just might pull out a win against anyone (stopped the division leading Cubs' five game winning streak just the other night). Huntingdon's moves had an air of "knowledge", unlike the past GM's moves did, and it even seemed like the ESPN coverage of the Pirates seemed as though they feel the Bucs are only a few years out from another run.
So I'm hereby "re-signing" for another contract as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, effective today. I'm excited about the new players and the possibilities they bring. Jeff Karstens, from the Nady/Marte trade with the Yankees, pitched a five-hit, eight inning gem in his first game for the Bucs. Moss, from Boston, got two hits in his Pirates debut and scored himself a highlight reel catch in that same game., lots of writing!