The Return of Dr. Sinister

Posted by: elraymundo at 5:37 am on Tuesday, July 28, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random

Dr. Sinister has returned to Government Building X!


“May I have your attention please. May I have your attention please. We are conducting a test of the emergency fire alarm system. Please pay no attention to the young men running through the halls with dynamite strapped to their chests.”


I’m just waiting for the BOOM.

(I swear to God he’s broadcasting from a missile silo in the heart of a volcano.)

Mama’s Got A Brand New Car!

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:12 pm on Sunday, July 26, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Lotus Blossom

Two pics of La Raymunda in her brand new Mazda - it’s a sweet ride!

Debra in her new car

Debra in her new car

Photo of the Day - 07.23.2009

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:45 pm on Thursday, July 23, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day

Roadsign outside Hope, Arizona
And Apparently Beyond Good Grammar, Too - Hope, Arizona
Exif: ISO 50; f/8 -â…”; 1/250 sec; 24mm
07.06.2009 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2009

Dr Sinister and The Fire Alarm at Government Building X

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:44 pm on Thursday, July 23, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, Lotus Blossom

A thunderstorm rolled through this evening with lightning flashing and thunder rumbling and rain blattering against the windows. Debra asked me, “What was that sound?” and I told her it was the rain hitting the windows and the sides of the townhouse. Then she heard something else and asked what it was and I told her it was really low, rolling thunder. She asked a third time and I stopped her and asked, “Have you completely forgotten what rain is like?”

She said yes.

“You know what I thought as I was driving home from Le Chef’s today?” asked The Debra over a plate of noodles, eggplant and tomato sauce.

“Tell me,” I said.

“It was raining and I thought, ‘This is free water!’ Because in Calitastrophe, outside of February, you pay for every drop of water you use. Isn’t this great? It’s free!


There was a fire alarm at Government Building X today. We knew it was coming - there had been announcements all week long telling us to expect the tests. What we didn’t expect was the very malevolent Arab voice that broadcast the beginning and end of the test. Between blasts of an air horn that dripped with the kind of reverb one might hear in a massive airplane hangar, the voice announced the commencement of the test. To be honest, when he started to speak I thought he was going to tell us that he had taken control of the building and that if we didn’t cooperate he was going to blow us all to kingdom come. The entire test had the ambient feel of a Bond movie from the Sixties…one of those films where Dr. Sinister takes over a small island in the South Pacific and builds a base inside the heart of the island’s volcano from which he plots his nefarious schemes and where he builds a giant thermonuclear warhead which he threatens to launch from his über-secret hideout using the missile that he stole from the Russians. The voice making the announcement, the sirens and air horns, the echoing reverb - it all sounded like it was being broadcast from the depths of a mountain while hordes of Japanese and German scientists in white lab coats and black horned-rim glasses raced back and forth doing their Master’s bidding.

I told one of my colleagues I’d give him a hundred bucks if he’d tape fake dynamite to his chest and run around the corridors of the building. He passed. The coward.

Photo of the Day - 7.22.2009

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:04 pm on Wednesday, July 22, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day

Cactus and Hardpan in the Arizona Desert
Wild Times in Quartzite - Quartzite, Arizona
Exif: ISO 100; f/8 +â…”; 1/320 sec; 40mm
07.06.2009 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2009

Graham Beck and Cave-Aged Gruyère = Happiness

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:33 pm on Tuesday, July 21, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Liquid Diet

How does it feel to be home again? It feels cave-aged Gruyère and scrumpdillyicious Graham Beck good! And how cool is The Debra? This is what she had waiting for me when I got home from work today. Total score. \m/

Wine and Cheese

Mets 6, Nats 2, Michael 10,000 Megabazillion

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:00 pm on Monday, July 20, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Friends, Sports

I went to watch the Nats play the Mets with Jeff W on a perfect summer night with soft air slipping around the upper decks as we sipped Newcastle and he kept score and I rambled on about past injustices and hopes for restoration and how good it felt to be back home in a place we hadn’t really realized had become home after all these years and how peaceful and relaxed it was to hang out with an old friend and just freakin’ be and not worry about this and that and the other and backstory and commas and the correct use of the subjunctive and hopefully, I thought and I think said out loud, this will become a common occurrence, me going to the ballgame with Jeff and the sun slowly set and draped the night sky in my favorite cloak of velvet indigo and the Nats got pounded for their 66th loss of the season as they round second heading for third in what may shape up to be the third most futile season in major league history but we still aren’t as bad as the ‘62 Mets so take that you smarmy obnoxious Mets fans. Salute!

Right Field at the Nats Game
I double-dog dare you to find a better way to spend a summer night that doesn’t involve a Brazilian underwear model

Conference on the Mound
Candlesticks always make a nice gift…

Ok, had to add this comment Sue made to me in chat after she read this post. She and Jefferoo live in Boston, just to put things in context.

Sue: There really is nothing like a baseball game on a beautiful summer night
Sue: with 5-6 beers
Sue: and people yelling “fahhhhk you Jetahhh” behind you
Sue: fenway of course :) :)

(Hope you don’t mind my publishing you, Sue!)

Photo of the Day - 07.12.2009

Posted by: elraymundo at 12:15 pm on Sunday, July 12, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Photo of the Day

Raquel and a Cheeseburger
If You Could Photograph Heaven, It Would Be Raquel Welch in A Bikini and a Five Guys Cheeseburger

Sugar Meadow Drive, Great Falls, Virginia
07.12.2009 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2009

Road Tripping USA #3, Day Five

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:40 am on Sunday, July 12, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel, Friends, Jeep

Ah, driving down the road in the Jeep on a gorgeous, soft-aired summer day with a headful of peace of mind, a bellyful of Five Guys cheeseburger and an earful of Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold. Pure bliss.

Ok, so maybe it’s not everybody’s bliss, but it’s my bliss.

La Raymunda and I did the walkthrough of our new townhouse in Herndon today. Debra arranged the rental while we were still in Southern Calipocalypse and the place is great. 2800 square feet of living space with a two-car garage and hardwood floors. The rent is the same as what we paid in Irvine last summer when we rented before buying the house on Stonehaven Drive. The chief difference is that for the same money we get twice as much livable space. Score!!

Our new place is walking distance from the Metro connection in Herndon and just a couple of minutes from the Dulles Toll Road. The supermarket is also within walking distance, as well as restaurants and shopping. There is a Gold’s gym just down the street so I can start dumping all the weight I put on after eating my way through the last several months of turmoil, and Ned Devine’s Irish Pub is two doors down from the gym so I can refresh after my workout. (Just ignore the obvious incongruity there.)

As for the last stretch of our drive across the country, we did it in one fifteen hour shot, driving from Jackson, Tennessee to Virginia and arriving at the townhouse at just before 1:00am Saturday morning. We parked in the driveway, got out of the Jeep and walked up the front steps in the dark and touched the front door to signify the end of the journey home. Then we headed over to Chris and Cindi’s back in our old neighborhood where we are staying until our stuff arrives later this week. Total miles for the cross-country trip was 2841 miles door-to-door and the route was Yorba Linda, CA -> Flagstaff, AZ -> Santa Fe, NM -> Weatherford, OK -> Jackson, TN -> Herndon, VA. Along the way we saw a giant meteor crater, Petrified Forest National Park, the city of Santa Fe, blew through Oklahoma on powerfully gusting winds, ate cheese dip at Stobey’s in Conway, AR and lit our lips on fire at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville. Debra wants to write a guest column about Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, so I won’t say much more than that the place is a Nashville soul food institution and the chicken will burn your lips off. We survived the flames, though, and made it the rest of the way to Virginia.

It’s sure good to be home

Trip Stats
Total Distance: 2,841.68 miles / 4,573.24 kilometers
Arrival Time: 12:50am Saturday July 7
Overall Average Speed: 58.1mph / 93.5kmh
Moving Average Speed: 65.3mph / 105.1kmh
Maximum Speed: 86.6mph / 139.4kmh
Travel Time: 43 hours 30 minutes

Road Tripping USA #3, Day Four

Posted by: elraymundo at 5:46 am on Friday, July 10, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Travel, American Idol, Family, Jeep

We’ve decided to go from Jackson, Tennessee to Northern Virginia in one shot today. It’ll take about twelve hours of driving, and since the front desk forgot our wake-up call (and I didn’t have an alarm clock as a back up) and we’re running late, this will be brief recap of yesterday’s drive.

Oklahoma was hot! And windy, too. 103 degrees and 100mph winds (it felt like) as we rocketed across the Sooner State. I saw a boot brush outside the front door of our hotel in Weatherford, OK…just one of those small details of place that usually go unnoticed but which go a long way to reminding you where you are on the planet.

Since I-40 passes just alongside El Reno, where my dad grew up, I decided to take Debra quickly past his old house in town. We didn’t have time to visit with relatives but we did find the house on West Rogers street. It’s a small, simple place just off a gravel road and it looked better than I remembered - it’s been re-sided and the old dead tree out back that we used to play on as kids has been torn down. I sat out front in the Jeep talking to Dad and a fellow wandered out onto the front porch, brushing his teeth and obviously wondering who we were. After I hung up I went up to the porch and spoke with him and an elderly woman who turned out to be the mother-in-law of my father’s half-sister’s daughter (the daughter owns the house now, I believe) and I chatted with them about how we were related. Then I snapped a couple of pictures and we went on our way.

Eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas are beautiful drives. The roadside through Arkansas is lined with trees, thick and green, and emerald farm fields dotted with rolled up bundles of hay that look like they were sliced one by one from a giant hay sausage.

Conway, Arkansas is the hometown of recent American Idol winner Kris Allen and Debra thought it would be fun to stop at a local joint in Conway which promised a lifetime supply of its locally famous cheese dip to the singer after his hometown visit during the show. Debra called Lisa in Minneapolis, she Googled “Conway Arkansas cheese dip Kris Allen” and got Stobey’s, we plugged it into the GPS and stopped by for dinner. Conway itself is a pretty cozy town. The main drag downtown, which was very small-town-America, was lined with Kris Allen banners and small shops that were actually open (as opposed to other downtown we’ve driven through where the shops are shuttered due to their being Wal-Marted out of existence). Stobey’s itself is a tiny little place which sits in a residential neighborhood - which reminded us a lot of a larger version of Carruthersville, Missouri, the Mississippi River-side town in the boot heel of Missouri where William grew up - among mature trees and well-kept lawns and where locals came in for dinner and greeted each other by name. Across the roof is a stretched a banner congratulating Kris Allen and their are photos inside with Kris and the Stobey’s staff sitting around a giant cake. One thing we noticed about both Oklahoma and Arkansas - both are very proud of their favorite sons and daughters (e.g. the water tower in Yukon announces not only that you are passing through the hometown of Garth Brooks but also lets you know that the high school team won state championships in ‘72, ‘82 and ‘84 - I might be getting the years wrong, but you get the point - Henryetta lists Troy Aikman’s birthplace among the local attractions on a large blue sign along I-40 and 2005 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood gets her own green freeway sign outside Checotah, Oklahoma). Debra had a spicy (and very good) blackened chicken quesadilla and I ate the restaurant’s signature sandwich, the Stobey (three choices of meat, two choices of cheese, lettuce and tomato with Stobey’s sauce. I had mine on rye. The food was tasty and the cheese dip wasn’t bad either.

From Conway we barreled through Arkansas, dipped down as we approached the Mississippi River with insects smashing into our windshield with such speed, volume and ferocity that I thought I was in the battle of Zion from The Matrix, then crossed the wide wide wide river into Memphis. We continued on to Jackson and that’s where I’ll leave off for now, because Debra has finished drying her hair, the time is getting on, and we have a long drive ahead of us to get home.

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