Dream Journal : Why Is Donald Trump Here???

I was just lounging in a hotel room, watching TV when suddenly Donald Trump appeared in front of me!

He was wearing a suit like usual, but was completely alone, and he just started chatting normally – not all shouty and crazy like usual – and then sprawled out across the bed next to me as if we were two teenage girls talking about boys we’d seen down in the food court or something!

He had with him a poster board covered with a bunch of squares of paper, focusing on a pink one that he compared to a stack of paper on the nightstand beside me as he defended that the color he had was a lot more pink on TV than it looked there in the room.

I agreed and laughed, telling him that apparently there was something he could say that I didn’t immediately disagree about, and he thought that was funny.

Then he got up and left the room, and I immediately went around checking all of the doors to make sure the deadbolts were in place.

The next day I was driving a golf cart around the resort where we were staying and we saw Trump off in the distance, just wandering around talking to people, and we both remarked that it seemed odd for the Secret Service to let him do that.

Hospital Fun, 201

It was five years ago that I first spent the night in a hospital thanks to an unexpected bout of cellulitis that I hadn’t even known was a thing until it crippled my left shin for a good couple of weeks.

Last week I had a new first with my first surgery, subsequently followed by a much longer admission after said surgery unfortunately didn’t go according to plan. Today is Monday, and I’ve been here since last Thursday, hoping to get to go home tomorrow. The surgery itself is to repair an umbilical hernia that I’ve probably had for the better part of a decade now. I tried to get it fixed years ago, but I was too fat at the time and now it has me between a rock and a hard place as it’s preventing something bigger that I don’t really want to write about right now…

Admittedly it doesn’t really hurt at all. As far as hernias go, the doctor says that it’s pretty much all fatty tissue and not bowel stuck through the hole, which is apparently a very good thing.

The long and the short of it is that we got about 20 min into the procedure Thursday morning – I was under anesthesia with a breathing tube down my throat, the surgeon had poked a few holes in my belly and was ready to go inside with the robot arms or whatever, and then suddenly my oxygen saturation dropped to 80%, which is bad. They paused and tried to adjust some things to get it to recover, but eventually decided to abort the procedure and I woke up sore and groggy, with several holes that had been patched, and still one hernia.

That said, I was still alive, so I think they made the right choice!

Since then I’ve spent the last four days taking tests and antibiotics to try to clear the little bit of gunk they found in my lungs, and trying to convince myself that things will be different this time. I’ve seen so many doctors and they all think that we should be in a better place this time around between the treatments themselves that I’ve been doing and also now just knowing that it was an issue last time so that they’re all more aware.

It’s still really scary, though. I think the anesthesia freaks me out the most because it’s like turning the lights out without knowing for sure if they’re going to come back on or not. It’s scary to be that unaware – for Thursday’s procedure, the last thing I remember was staring up at these huge lights in the operating room while they were getting ready, and then the next thing I knew I was in a hospital room.

I’m not even sure how long I was under, but during that time they dealt with the breathing tube, poked holes, filled my belly full of air to prepare for the surgery, noticed the oxygen problem, reversed everything, and then took me back to the PACU where they did an x-ray that I had absolutely no idea about until I read about it in my chart later!

I don’t know how close to death I was and I probably don’t want to know, although more than once doctors have reminded me that any surgery comes with a certain amount of risk … it’s just scary that I’m at the point in my life where life itself is on the line.

So I’m sitting here in my hospital room, waiting for the clock to tell me it’s time for my appointment to try again. I can’t really be late because they literally send a wheelchair for me, but I’m both bored and anxious at the same time. Until this hospital stay, I couldn’t even tell you the last time that I was bored … I spent hours just watching TV and playing solitaire on the iPad they gave me last night to try and pass the time!

I learned that you can work backwards in solitaire by moving cards back from the aces to the main board if needed, so that was kind of interesting.

I’m trying not to get myself all worked up because I already did that last week. I have to put my faith in all of these really smart people who’ve been taking care of me for the last week and believe that everything’s going to turn out fine this time.

Here’s to a productive “nap” … hope my body behaves and I’ve got lots of positive stuff to share later today…

Balancing Fun and Frustration in Parenting…

While we were up in Michigan a few weeks ago, we spent an evening with my Aunt and Uncle who I hadn’t seen in a long time. They have a huge yard and the kids were having fun running around, to the point where they got a little wild at the end and weren’t listening when we said it was time to stop playing in the lake and come inside.

Sensing our frustration, my wise-cracking uncle commented, “And just think – these are the fun years!” before leaving us to wrangle our kids out of the water.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting in the last month since my Dad passed away, and I keep coming back to that line over and over again because deep down I know that as much as the boys might drive us crazy, it’s not going to be like this forever … and not necessarily in a great way.

Kids eventually grow up, and hopefully ours will be the kind who still want to spend time around their parents when they become teenagers, but you never know. Then adulthood comes and you have to step back even more and see what they become as you also try to live out the golden years of your own life yourself.

And it kind of changes the perspective when you’ve been hearing, “Dad! Dad! Dad!” the entire car ride and just want some peace and quiet if you take a different approach and remember that you might one day reach a point where you’d love to hear it, if not for a million other priorities that will take over their own lives as they grow into the full-sized people that they’re destined to become.

It’s not easy – because kids seem particularly well suited for stripping you of your sanity at the most vulnerable of times. But I’m trying to show a little more restraint, and a little more patience when I’m plagued with 20 questions on a simple trip to the grocery store or one of them just wants to come in and hang out on the floor in my office while I’m working.

The other day I was actually talking to Christopher about if he decided to have kids of his own one day, and I told him as honestly as I could, “Sometimes it can be really challenging, and other times it’s absolutely awesome.”

I think the trick is to not let yourself dwell in the extremes and just live every day that you get for what it is.

There and Back Again – a Camper’s Tale…

Last weekend I had an unexpected opportunity to visit the camp where I spent the better part of my childhood, first as a camper and later as a staff member, as we gathered friends and family for my Dad’s memorial.

It’s a little sad that my old stomping grounds are all but shuttered at this point, having been first closed by the Boy Scouts back in 2016 and then re-closed by its actual owners, the local Rotary Club, last year due to business conflicts with the neighbors regarding their desire to bring larger groups through the property.

Truth be told, the last time I set foot at camp was probably 20 years ago before I moved to Florida!

So it was a nice, little treat that helped to lessen the stresses of the day to walk around a place that was featured in some of my favorite memories of scouting, savoring the nostalgia and also confronting the bittersweet reminders of things that have changed and things that will never be the same again.

That whole saying, “You can never go home again…” is so very true.

We spent the night in one of the cabins where the adult staff members used to stay, which was a neat throwback because my best summer ever there was my third year on staff when five of us 17 year-olds were given one of the cabins because there wasn’t enough space for everyone on staff row. We had that place totally decked out with shag carpeting and tie dye and there was almost always someone playing Excitebike on the NES in our free time … it was great!

No Nintendo this time because we didn’t get there until after midnight, and instead the challenge was getting five kids who were hyped up on sugar from the Cherry Fest to actually go to sleep, but it was nice waking up in the morning and already being there instead of having to drive over from Gaylord on only a few hours of sleep.

It was admittedly a little eerie being there all by ourselves, starting with driving in late the night before to not a single light except for a flashlight waved by my friend and former camp director who made the arrangements for us. It’s funny how you get so used to background noise living in suburbia that the dark nothingness of the outdoors is a little overwhelming, but in the same way it was nice to just have some time more or less to myself before the crowds began to gather for the memorial.

One familiar face was still present at his post – George the Moose, who looked over the dining hall and was the subject of frequent smooches by camp staffers when prompted by a loud enough round of chanting. It was neat to be able to share this little snippet from my youth with my own kids by hoisting each of them up so that they too could kiss the moose!

I also took the kids on a makeshift nature hike around to some of the other areas of camp where they got to see one of the campsites, the waterfront that I tried my hardest to avoid because I was a terrible swimmer, the trading post and handicraft area, and of course, my own beloved nature shack that admittedly wasn’t very impressive to them as it was literally just a shed, but for me it was a window into my life 25 years ago where I spent weeks teaching kids about nature and ecology and taking better care of the planet…

I also took a lot of naps – quite possibly on that very picnic table!

On our way back to the pavilion, sadly Matthew and I apparently managed to anger one or more yellow jackets that got us a handful of times while we were climbing the stairs out of the fire bowl, so that was a painful bummer that still has me itching a bit as I write this now almost a week later! Ironic because in my probably 15 years of going to camp, I don’t think that I ever got bitten or stung by anything, and that was with kids literally bringing me creatures that they’d caught at dinner!

My best guess is that they could smell that I was no longer the nature boy that I was in my youth and they saw an opportunity to strike, which is fair. Back in those days, it took a lot to creep me out whereas today I’m more likely to close the door and wait for it to leave then go grabbing at random snakes that we find hanging out on our patio by the pool. 😉

By the time we had returned, pretty much everyone else had gone and we finished cleaning up our messes before heading back to one of the closest campsites to spread some of Dad’s ashes in the site where our troop most often stayed when we came for summer camp. It was a peaceful end to the trip to walk around sprinkling his remains, picturing the campsite still alive with kids running around in bright red Troop 1 shirts and leaders sitting around the campfire trying to make sure none of them caught themselves on fire.

I imagined what I could best remember as the place where one of my first tents was set, conveniently located right next to the hidden path that was used as a shortcut down to the trading post for candy and treats!

After leaving flowers on a seat by the fire pit, we quietly walked back to the cars where I closed each of the gates behind us, knowing that there’s a good chance that I probably won’t ever be back there again … but you never know, and for all of the wonderful memories of Camp Greilick that I had throughout my time there, I certainly hope that future generations still get a chance to have a few of their own, too.

20 Years of Blogging, Baby!

I’m honestly kind of impressed that LiveJournal’s servers are even still up!)

20 years ago when I made my first LJ post, I was living in my Mom’s basement, about four months away from packing up my life and moving to Florida.

Now I’ve got a family, and a mortgage, and across all of my writing I’ve managed to pen a couple of million words along the way.

Though I’m not sure if I aspire to be a full-time writer anymore because over the years I’ve found that it’s exceptionally hard, creating will always hold a special place in my heart and seeing how technology has made it easier just in the last two decades is pretty exciting!

Case in point – I believe I wrote that first post in 2003 on my first laptop … which was tethered to a 50-foot Ethernet cable across the basement floor because the wifi card I had rarely worked.

Mind you, public wifi was basically nonexistent and cellular data was barely a blip yet.

Here in 2023, on the other hand, I’m writing this post from an app on my phone while my kids are playing at a trampoline park for their cousin’s birthday!

The future is admittedly pretty cool!

And we’ll see where it goes over the next twenty years … will I be posting via neural implant, approaching five or even ten million words, and who knows – maybe even a third humor book?!

Here’s to the next 20, and if LiveJournal is still up by then, I’ll eat my next book!

Vacation Blog, 03-2023 Edition

Wait – how does this thing work again???

Oh … I remember now…

I’m coming to learn here in my ninth year of parenting that family vacations aren’t meant to be relaxing.

And I think that’s actually ok.

As I write this tonight, I find myself on the tail end of what’s honestly been a pretty great family vacation. Yesterday we spent a special Fun Friday at Kennedy Space Center where we learned about the history and future of space flight, and even got to see a rocket launch! Today we celebrated Christopher’s 9th birthday with a day at the beach and splashing around a pool with a huge water slide, and presents, and cake, and all of the usual pomp and circumstance.

Between the rocket launch and visiting the ocean, they got a couple of new firsts that we’re looking forward to revisiting in the future … but the weekend certainly wasn’t a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination, either. For every cool memory, there was also a tantrum about wanting to go to the gift shop or not wanting to do whatever it was that the rest of us did. There was the same brotherly love/bickering that we face at home, and hell, somehow in only a day and a half Legos are strewn across the floor, just begging to be stepped on here, too!

Another version of me who would’ve looked to this trip for a break and some nice relaxation would’ve been gravely disappointed, yet it was sometime yesterday in between an argument and staring up at the Space Shuttle Atlantis that incredibly made 33 trips into space during my lifetime, it dawned on me that trips like this one had to be different than the relaxing getaways that I’ve shared, just me and my wife over our years together.

At one point I was reminded of a quote that Chevy Chase had in the remake of Vacation where Russ tries to justify his own vacation frustrations, “It’s about the journey, not the destination, right?!” only to have his Dad counter, “No! The journey sucks – that’s what makes you appreciate the destination!”

And mind you, this was before what I had expected to be a quick 45-minute drive to our next hotel that evening turned into a three-hour drive that felt like it would never end!

Building up to that rocket launch in the hot sun, or waiting in line to see Atlantis when the kids just wanted to go play, or even struggling through entirely too long lathering everybody up with suntan lotion before walking out to the beach – those journey were all varying degrees of brutal, but the destinations … filled with inspiration and excitement, reverence and emotion, and just wild and crazy awe … those were pretty fucking great.

It’s easy to lose sight of those, dare I say, magical moments when the rougher ones seem far more frequent and demanding, especially when we’re back at home and surrounded by the usual, daily grind.

Maybe it’s about learning to push through those less desirable moments without letting them grow big and ugly, or lowering one’s expectations to not let them register.

Or maybe it’s about accepting that all of the moments, the good and the bad, add up to life just the same, and that one can’t exist without the other.

Granted, less tantrums and more rocket launches would be swell, but you can’t launch rockets every day. At least not for a few more years, anyways!

Dream Journal : Lost in Time

I found myself back in high school, but something didn’t feel quite right … like I’d already done it all before. 

After stumbling through my first day, not being able to find my locker and having a few strange encounters with teachers as I caught myself talking to them more like another adult than you would as a teenager, I began to notice other details that were off…

Most notably, a girl I had fallen for in high school was nowhere to be found, even though in my head I already knew exactly what had transpired between us and how it hadn’t worked out … yet my friends acted as if they’d never even heard of her. 

Back at home, I talked to my Mom for a while before she left for work, then went to get into my own car just as someone else in a big, black truck crashed into it. Three people were inside and we all exchanged tense looks as they pulled out and drove away without even getting out to apologize. 

It was then that I realized I had a phone in my pocket, so remembering Sara’s number, I tried to call for help, but I had trouble dialing the number (which is a common occurrence for me in dreams). When I finally managed to dial it, she didn’t answer, but I heard another woman’s voice on the other end instead. 

I oddly asked who it was and she replied, “You don’t recognize your Mom’s voice from Northern Michigan anymore???” as if I hadn’t just seen her minutes earlier. 

I asked where Sara was and there was silence, after which I heard rustling of other people in the background on the other end. 

She spoke more quietly that “there were agents in the house” and tried to give me a secret email address that had been setup to contact me, but got cut off before she could finish giving it to me. 

Sometime later, I was in a nondescript office with big glass windows, looking at a laptop with several other people. Randomly an error popped up on the screen about some malware, yet I noticed the error included a password that referenced me and I opened it anyways. 

A few seconds later, a dossier came up on the screen about me that showed my name and even fingerprints, but the pictures were of an older, bearded guy who definitely wasn’t me. As I studied the screen in confusion, I soon noticed that one of the windows was a live video feed of me, which I tried to hide by covering the laptop’s webcam with my thumb, only to realize that it was actually coming from somewhere outside. 

I stood up and looked out the windows to see a black sedan parked on the curb with its windows down and a large camera pointed right at me. 

Taking off running for the door, somehow I managed to catch the car before they could speed away and inside were three people – two men and a woman – in oversized coats, all of them shocked as they looked back at me. 

“Who are you?!”

“What’s going on here?!” I demanded, but they didn’t answer. 

The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a booth with them in the back room of what appeared to be a pet store, and the walls around us were covered with dossiers just like mine as it looked like they were trying to piece something together themselves. 

I sat quietly and listened, deducing that somehow I was in a different timeline than my own, but they weren’t sure why or who was responsible. They were still suspicious of me until I finally asked what I could do to help. 

The woman thought for a minute and then asked if I could try to find some snacks. 

One of the men added that he would like a glass of wine, to which I got up and went looking for a kitchen or something in the store. 

Coming up empty handed, I saw an old woman up front so I went and asked her where the snacks and wine were. She took me to an aisle that had crackers for birds, but said that they didn’t sell wine. 

When I clarified that they were for the people working in the back, she looked at me confused and asked, “What people???”

I walked back to the hallway that led to the back room just in time to see their three faces staring back at me for a moment before they all suddenly disappeared. 

State of the Server Rack – 2022 Edition

It’s finally the way that I want it … for now, anyways… 😛

(from top to bottom)

  • 2U shelf that pretty much only holds my Hue Hub and the button that controls the lights
  • UniFi Dream Machine Pro – router connected to Frontier Fiber 2 Gbps Internet
  • Brush panel for Direct Attach Copper (10-gig) links
  • UniFi Switch Pro Aggregation – 28 port 10-gig switch
  • Patch panel for gigabit ethernet
  • UniFi Switch 48 PoE – in my defense, it was a lot fuller before I moved all of the servers to 10-gig
  • Patch panel for gigabit ethernet
  • Dell PowerEdge R610 – VM server – 24 cores across 2 CPUs, 96 GB of RAM
  • Dell PowerEdge C2100 – Primary NAS (Unraid) – 18 disks total (including disk shelf) for 208 TB plus 2 parity disks, with ~133 TB in use
  • Dell PowerVault MD1000 – Disk Shelf for Primary NAS
  • Dell PowerEdge R720XD – Backup NAS (Unraid) – 5 disks total for 46 TB plus 2 parity disks, currently filling
  • Tripp Lite 1500 VA Smart UPS (x2) – 900W each, can power the whole rack for about 20 minutes, but mostly protects against power blips that happen a couple of times a month

From my best calculation, all of this uses somewhere between 0.4 and 0.6 kWh, running me about $30-40 a month in electricity costs … which probably sounds high but I figure isn’t too bad for a hobby, particularly knowing that friends and family outside of our home also take advantage of Plex, and I’ve spent many years now building my media collection, and I’m both happy and relieved to finally have redundancy and at least some backups in place to help survive issues that come along!

My latest upgrade was #1 – adding in 10-gig, which isn’t a huge gain because both NASes use Unraid, so the backup jobs that I’ve been running lately only max out at maybe 2 Gbps due to writing to multiple parity disks on the backup NAS. Admittedly a big driving factor of this was simply being able to justify upgrading my Internet connection, but that’s ok!

And of course #2 – adding a second NAS to serve as a backup, though it’s going to take some time to grow it to properly backup the full environment.

Right now of about 130 TB in use on my primary NAS, about 90 TB of that is for TV Shows on Plex, and the remaining 40 TB is everything else from movies and other media, backups, desktop storage, etc… So with the 5 disks that I initially gave the backup NAS, I’m able to backup pretty much everything except for TV and honestly, I think that’s a pretty good start considering that previous I was limited to maybe 2 TB of critical stuff I’ve been pushing to Backblaze with nothing other than parity drives protecting the rest.

And even that’s better than my setup a few years ago when I literally just had loads of external USB drives connected to a desktop – we’ve come a long ways with this power-hungry, 30+ disk, 10-gigabit, 72-core behemoth and something tells me that in a few years, I’ll be writing a new blog post that makes even this one look like child’s play in comparison!

I was amused to read this post from 7 years ago before I wrote this in which I pondered how to backup a measly 20 TB of data whereas now just my movie library exceeds that by itself. My younger self would be relieved to know that I did finally get around to backing up some of that data, though not in the odd offline storage case model that I was considering back then because, well, bit rot is a thing…

So what’s to come next?

Well, besides gradually adding more disks to grow that backup array until it finally catches up with the primary NAS, admittedly there’s not a ton left for now. I still want to add a dedicated GPU to my VM server to allow for better Plex transcoding, as it seems like almost everyone connecting remotely transcodes down to 720p despite my constant reminders to change their settings! I probably also need to eventually upgrade our wifi access point to one that supports WiFi 6, although I’m not really expecting a big boost there because despite supporting speeds above one gigabit, the ethernet jack on Ubiquiti’s AP is still only one gig, so I don’t really see a point beside slightly better radios.

On that note, one last upgrade pic – I even took the time to organize all of my extra junk that had accumulated on top of my rack and was blocking most of the ventilation. Check it out! 😀

The Road to Multi-Gigabit Internet Service…

To say I was caught off guard last month when I randomly stumbled upon a news release stating that my ISP, Frontier, was going to start offering 2 Gbps service for 2/22 Tuesday would be an understatement!

I mean, this is the company that I’ve fought for simple upgrades for years and not too long ago had a CEO who was quoted as saying, “People don’t really need gigabit…”

After finally getting to that mystical 1,000 Mbps speed a couple of years ago at a sub-$100 price, I kind of figured that was going to be as good as it got for a while – maybe until cable got the upper-hand with a symmetrical option that they’ve been lagging behind for years … but instead, I guess Christmas came early this year because, well…

Of course, it’s excessive!

In fact, right now I don’t have a single machine on my network that can take advantage of 2 Gbps Internet – the above speed test was done straight from my router! While I have 10 Gbps NICs in all of my servers, I still need to pickup a 10 Gbps switch for them to connect to, which I’m planning to do next month.

In the meantime, however, I am still seeing faster speeds because I think the local GPON node that I was connected to was overloaded, so when they moved me over to XGS-PON, I saw my gigabit links better able to actually utilize their full speed. And granted, aside from downloading movies and TV shows, I don’t really need this kind of speed … Zoom calls and YouTube streaming even across multiple devices only needs a fraction of it, but what can I say – a big part of being an early adopter of technology is bragging rights, anyways!

It’s kind of exciting, though, to think that 5 or even 10 Gbps Internet is possible down the road in the near future – I think I saw an article saying Frontier was considering 5 Gbps this year! Just looking at the last 10 years that I’ve been lucky enough to have a fiber internet connection, we’ve seen speeds increase by x80…

2012Verizon FiOS25 Mbps
2013Verizon FiOS50 Mbps / 25 Mbps
2014Verizon FiOS50 Mbps
2015Verizon FiOS75 Mbps
2015Verizon FiOS150 Mbps
2018Frontier FiOS200 Mbps
2019Frontier FiOS500 Mbps
2019Frontier FiOS1 Gbps
2022Frontier Fiber2 Gbps

As I’m finding with my own upgrades, moving beyond 1 gigabit is a bit more complicated because most consumer gear is limited to 1-gig, so anything above means new routers and switches, new NICs, and even new wifi access points … and even then individual devices are limited by the servers they’re getting data from, so after upgrading my entire network stack it’s not like browsing Facebook or Twitter will suddenly be moving at double the speed!

But hey, we’re having fun, so that’s what’s important, right?!

Dream Journal : Grandpa’s (Very Fictional) Rum Empire

Note: This was an interesting set of dreams with some very accurate references and some very not, so I’ll try to point out when I jump from one to the other!

I was staying at my grandparents house with a bunch of other people. It wasn’t clear whether my grandparents were still alive, but it was almost like we were renting the house for something because it was a fairly large group of people.

A few of us needed to use the bathroom and rather than waiting in line with everyone else, I snuck off around to the other side of the house where I knew there was another bathroom.


But it wasn’t just any bathroom – after walking down a long hallway, it opened up into a full-size day spa hidden in my grandparents’ house! There were a smaller handful of people enjoying the facilities, but no one from the group I had been with. I think I actually ran into Jason Segel there and he commented about being excited to check out the sauna later…

This wasn’t the most of it, however, when I left the spa and followed another longer corridor into what turned out to be probably the most impressive liquor store I had ever seen!

Filled with large, colorful displays of bottles and a vibrant atmosphere unlike any liquor store I’ve actually ever been in, it was clear that the store was very successful despite being in a small town in Northern Michigan. Patrons eagerly made their selections as I wandered about, and I even ran into a couple of my uncles along the way.

What was cooler was that for some reason all of the employees seemed to recognize our family and I seemed to get a tip of the hat from everyone that I met, even as I began to poke around some of the behind the scenes areas where people were making and preparing things for sale.

This was a little confusing because the store didn’t actually make any of its own booze, but you sure would’ve thought it did from the looks of it.

Eventually I wandered outside and found that the store’s location was right across the street from probably the most famous ski hill in Northern Michigan (presumably Boyne Mountain, although in reality it’s 20 miles from where my grandparents lived).

It seemed like a prime location and I wanted to take a couple of pictures to share, but for some reason I only had an older cell phone and I couldn’t get the camera to work (this is strangely a common theme in my dreams). Also interesting was that the scene resembled more of a busy city than the small town that we were supposed to be in…

* * *

My next dream segued off of this theme – I was taking a friend around Northern Michigan because he wanted to write some kind of story about it for the paper he worked for, although I didn’t entirely trust him because I didn’t know what type of story he was looking to write.

We visited a few key locations around the town where my grandparents lived, then stopped at Taco Bell inside of a shopping mall to figure out what to do next. It wasn’t a long drive up to the Mackinac Bridge and sunset was quickly approaching, so we thought it might be cool to head up there to catch the sunset over the bridge … however walking back to his car that was parked in a less desirable part of town, we soon found that it had gotten looted and was no longer drivable.

After grabbing whatever things he could salvage from it, we went up the street to a restaurant that apparently my grandpa owned, thinking they would help, but instead a bunch of the employees laughed at us and some even hinted that they may have been in on it. Things were starting to look ugly when I called my grandpa and explained what was going on, who in turn asked for the names of everyone who was giving us trouble and he proceeded to fire them over the phone on the spot.

He then told us he to go to a nearby hotel where he would book us a room for a few nights, and we left … except that we started walking in the wrong direction – despite the hotel being this giant tower that was easily visible from everywhere – and very shortly we found ourselves on the classic “wrong side of the tracks.” We were staring at an industrial area with a fence between us, and there were lots of people running around and fires everywhere, and you just got the feeling that nothing good was taking place over there.

We tried to move along and actually heard someone on the street comment that it was the town’s hotbed for drugs and other illicit activities, after which a random stream of hoodlums just came running across the street, although they didn’t seem interested in us.

While my friend started to rethink his story around the theme of poverty and crime in the north, we backtracked – unfortunately in the same direction as the thugs were going – until we finally reached the hotel. There we were received a bit unexpectedly because as soon as I gave my name, they whisked us away up an escalator to a private lobby where only a couple of finely-dressed employees were waiting at a podium.

They seemed to take a while to authenticate who we were, during which I wandered the waiting area that was filled with all sorts of artwork made by kids. Eventually everything checked out and oddly enough, someone immediately came to take our dinner orders with a menu to create just about any kind of sandwich you could think of. My friend ordered a simple hamburger, while I asked the waitress what she would get with their pork … I think she thought I was flirting with her, but in reality I was just confused and overwhelmed.

Well, as it turned out – my grandfather also owned the hotel and we were being taken to the penthouse suite at the very top of the tower, with panoramic views of Lake Michigan and just nothing but luxury from floor to ceiling. We didn’t really have anything with us, but it didn’t matter because everything was either provided or they were quick to offer to get it for us – from clean clothes to razors to other toiletries.

The shower area was particularly impressive, almost reminiscent of the spa area that I had discovered in their house earlier, with dozens of water jets on a wall and just marble everything.

After we got cleaned up and ate, things got a little fuzzy, but I think the hoodlums from earlier attacked the tower, although I don’t recall if they made it all the way up to our floor or not.

Just to be clear – my grandparents were not wealthy rum and hotel barons in Northern Michigan, but the random cameos were fun nonetheless!