Archive for July, 2008

31
Jul
08

Wouldja like to take a survey?

It was a busy day here, friends. I spent most of it finishing up the Classroom Management Plan, the final assignment for the class I took this summer towards getting my teaching certificate. Once I finished that, I had to dart off to attend one of my many theatrical commitments. Long story short, no real post today.

However, the new Evertime Realms is almost two months old now, which is really awesome to me. I wanted to revamp the website for a long time, and having it complete and ready to present to the world is a great feeling. But, as I did about a month ago, I do want to ask a few questions of you, my Highly Educated Readers. So please, find the “comment” button on the top or bottom of this post and take a few minutes to answer a couple of questions for me? Please? Thanks. I love you too.

1. How did you first find Evertime Realms? (Note: readers who are related to and/or are dating me can skip this question.)

2. What are your favorite features (reviews, rants, fiction, other)?

3. Are you reading “Summer Love”? What do you like/not like about the story so far?

4. How often do you visit Evertime Realms?

5. Have you ever commented on a story or article at Evertime Realms before this one? What sort of stories would you be more likely to comment on?

6. Do I use enough visual elements (i.e. photographs, covers, and other artwork), or do you think I should include more visual elements in my stories?

7. Do you have any other comments, thoughts, or suggestions about the website?

Thanks for taking the time, folks. This sort of feedback is really invaluable to me. I love you all.

30
Jul
08

Everything But Imaginary #273: When Worlds Collide 2008

Among the many, many announcements at this year’s San Diego Comicon: the heroes of Milestone Comics and the classic Archie superheroes are going to be folded into the DC Universe. How will this be accomplished? What does this mean? And why is Blake so darn happy about the whole thing?

Everything But Imaginary #273: When Worlds Collide 2008

29
Jul
08

Anticapatory Awakening

My alarm clock almost never wakes me up.

Yeah, I set it. Yeah, it goes off. By when I know I’ve got to wake up at a certain time, my brain does a number on me. It wakes me up early. It happens nearly every day — I wake up before the alarm goes off, knowing full well that it’s going to go off soon. The frustrating thing is when it goes off: there isn’t enough time until the alarm clock rings for me to really get back to sleep, but there’s too much time for me to go, “heck with it,” and get up anyway, knowing I’m sacrificing a few more sweet, precious moments of limited coherence before beginning the day.

Let’s say I get up an average of 10 minutes early on most weekdays. That’s 50 minutes of potential sleep I lose a week. Times 52 weeks in a year, minus the weeks where I’m on vacation, plus those days during the summer I had to get up for class… minus the time I was sick… carry the four…

I miss out on a lot of sleep. Sleep that I rightfully deserve.

Anyone else have this problem?

Stuff from San Diego

So if you’ve listened to this week’s 2 in 1 Showcase podcast, you heard Chase and me discuss all the announcements that were made at this weekend’s San Diego Comicon — or at least, those announcements that had been made at the time he and I recorded, at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning. That means we missed out on about two more days of announcements. Here are a couple of cool things that got me excited that we didn’t have a chance to talk about:

  • DC Comics, which in the past has incorporated the heroes from defunct publishers like Quality Comics, Charlton Comics and Fawcett Comics into their universe, has announced two more “universes” that will be folded into the DCU: the characters from the 1990’s Milestone Comics imprint, and the heroes from MLJ Publishing, a company that was renamed after its most popular character after he drove the superheroes into obsolescence: Archie. What does this mean? Well, the Milestone guys are going to make their return in the pages of Justice League of America, which is written by Milestone co-creator Dwayne McDuffie, which is awesome. The Archie heroes will be reintroduced slowly in the pages of The Brave and the Bold, written by J. Michael Straczynski. Will Static finally join the Teen Titans? Will the Comet encounter the Green Lanterns in the depths of outer space during the Blackest Night? The next time Doomsday is tearing up Metropolis, will Icon and the Shield join the call to action alongside Superman? Man, I really hope so.
  • LOST fans: this year’s panel was noticeably tight-lipped, but there were a couple of tidbits I found interesting. While the show won’t abandon the flashback/flashforward format entirely, season five will evidently change the structure and find a different way to tell both on-island and off-island stories. Not sure what that means yet, but I’m intrigued. Also, “Octagon Global Recruiting” spent the whole contention screening people who wanted to volunteer for the Dharma Initiative. At the beginning of the panel, they announced five names and took them of the room. At the end, one of the “recruits” ran back in and played this video:
  • Geoff Johns, the writer who has made Green Lantern the definition of “Awesome” over the last few years, will stay on the book after his “Blackest Night” event is over. And he’s also going to work his magic touch on a new miniseries, Flash: Rebirthwith his frequent collaborator Ethan Van Sciver. The two have never made a bad book together. (And very few separately.) Oh yeah — and he’s working with James Robinson and Sterling Gates on something called Superman: New Krypton. Can’t wait.
  • New movies announced: Tron 2. Robocop 4. Hmm. I’m more excited about the former.
  • Joss Whedon’s online musical, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, was a smash hit. A DVD is planned before the end of the year, along with more comic book tie-ins with Dark Horse Comics(who did an online comic at their Myspace page), and there are plans for a sequel afoot.
  • Hardcover omnibus of the original Golden Age Captain Marvel story, The Monster Society of Evil. I’ve been waiting to read this for years.
  • Blake really, really wishes he could have been in San Diego.
28
Jul
08

Summer Love Chapter Seven

Seven

Drops of Jupiter

 

I looked up to see a monster of a man, seven feet tall at least, and seemingly twice as wide. He was decked out in all black – jeans, t-shirt, jacket, charcoal hair and fiery black eyes. His knife had a black hilt, but the blade was polished to a brilliant silver, and the silver skull at the knob of the hilt glared at me through sparkling ruby eyes. The monster man looked at me then, sneering. “What’s he been telling you, boy? Forgive and forget? Go back to the slut? Word of advice – stay out of this. Listening to this jackass is a good way to get yourself killed, or worse.”

By now the rest of the bar had taken notice of our little predicament. Grumpy the Bartender dove a hand beneath the bar, quickly pulling out a pistol, which he aimed at the giant. “You wanna walk out of here now, Conan,” he said.

The guy with the knife laughed. “Wanna try me?”

The man in black just smiled.

“LAST WARNING!”

A nod. “I can live with that.”

Grumpy pulled the trigger. The gun jammed.

“Son of a bi–”

As he dropped the gun in shock, the guy with the knife let go of Erin, reached over the counter and grabbed Grumpy by the throat. He lifted him that way, one-handed, and threw him against the far wall, shattering through shelves of booze and beer. The shelves broke and fell to the ground in a heap around Grumpy, cracked wood and bottles showering him with liquor. The distraction was just enough for Eric to snatch his darts from the bar and jab them into the arm that was holding a knife to his neck. The larger man howled and Eric slipped out, pulling the darts violently from his enemy’s arm in the process. He broke for the door, and Perry and I followed him. We’d be damned if that door was only going to be used to let one guy out when it was open long enough for three.

We ran for Perry’s car, but we were blown off our feet when the front door to Rooster’s exploded open, splintering into millions of pieces and spraying the street with tiny slivers of wood. The man in black lunged out and bore down on Eric. The knife in his hand was now glowing red-hot, and it somehow seemed to be getting longer. As he reached out and grabbed Eric by the collar of his shirt, he raised the knife in the air, but it wasn’t a knife anymore. It had grown into a short sword, and it was still growing.

He brought the sword down, but Eric twisted away with amazing swiftness. The larger man maintained his grip, and Eric’s shirt tore open down the back. From beneath the shirt, behind his neck, I could see a burst of what appeared to be a small brace of feathers. Eric rolled free, and through the shreds I saw a leather strap connected to a quiver strapped to his back, one that couldn’t possibly have fit under the polo shirt he was wearing. From nowhere, he produced a bow, then drew an arrow from the quiver, all at lightning speed. His opponent’s sword was now easily two feet long and still getting longer. Eric loosed the arrow and it clanged into the other man’s chest, resonating like it hit a wall of solid metal. Through the hold the arrow made in his shirt, I could see a gleaming plate of armor.

“Your little toys won’t hurt me, boy!” he boomed. “I’m taking her back!”

“Keep away from her!” Eric shouted.

“Her?” Perry muttered. “Who are they talking about.”

My blood froze as the answer came to me. “Stephanie.”

I got up and pulled open the car door. “Get in, Perry! We’ve got to get to her!”

“Why? What’s happening?”

“I don’t know!”

Perry pulled himself to his feet just as the big man raised his boot and smashed it down into Eric’s face. Using Eric to brace himself, he pushed up and spun in midair, his body beginning to contort. The growing sword suddenly shrank, the red glow spreading out to the man’s feet. His body grew smaller, but not much, and his skin sprouted thick black feathers – not on arrows, like Eric’s, but coating his skin like a bird. In fact, his nose and mouth elongated and sharpened, and his clothing vanished inside the bed of feathers. The sword fused with his feet and legs, becoming talons so sharp they sliced right through the awning outside of Rooter’s. The big man was a man no more, but a giant, black hawk. Its eyes were the same blood-red as his glowing talons, and when it opened its beak and cawed, my hands began to tremble.

The bird beat its massive wings against the air and lifted upwards, arcing into the sky. Eric, struggling to his feet, fired another arrow at it, but the bird caught it in midair with its talon and snapped it in half.

Eric looked right at me. “What are you waiting for? GO!

Then, without another word, a pair of massive wings burst from his back – white, instead of black. His metamorphosis ended there, though, and it was as a winged man that he took to the sky and began to chase the hawk. Perry gaped at the sky, but I was too scared to be awestruck. “Come on, man, you heard him!”

“Oh – uh… yeah.”

Perry gunned the engine and tore out into the street, following my frantically shouted directions to Stephanie’s long-term hotel. I don’t know if the directions were strictly necessary – as we raced down the street, we could see the hawk fighting the winged man in the sky, arrows flying, never hitting their mark, and falling down among the crowd. I never saw if one actually struck somebody, and at that point, I couldn’t possibly have cared. We tore through the streets, swerving from lane to lane, running stop signs, and if anyone would have called us lunatic drivers, they were too busy watching the far more spectacular image of the fight in the sky. If it weren’t for Eric fighting the hawk, holding him back, there was no way we could possibly have made it to the hotel in time, but Perry soon managed to leave them behind. Within minutes, we were at Stephanie’s hotel. I didn’t know how long we had. It would have to be enough.

The car had barely stopped before I leapt to the sidewalk and ran inside the hotel. I ignored the elevator and took the stairs up to Stephanie’s third-floor room as fast as I could. Even before I got out of the stairwell, I was screaming to her.

“STEPH! STEPHANIE! GET OUT!”

I rushed to her door and banged on it so hard I thought my hands would bleed. People were coming out of their rooms and looking at me, several of them shouting at me to shut the hell up. I ignored them. “STEPH! GET OUT OF THERE! STEPHANIE!”

When she opened the door, I fell inside, tripping over myself as I pounded. She looked surprised, but not astonished, to see me. “Adam? What’s going on? Why are you screaming!”

“We’ve got to get you out of here, Stephanie, there’s some… some thing coming here for you!”

“Thing? What do you–” Halfway through the sentence her eyes bugged open, realization spreading across her face. “No. Oh, no.”

I rushed past her, grabbed the curtains that covered the sliding glass door to her little balcony, and pulled them open. The hawk and Eric were still wrestling in the sky, less than a block away. “There! That bird-thing is coming here for you! It was a guy, and it started a fight, and it changed into THAT and–”

“They found me. No, dammit, no, they found me.”

“What? Stephanie, who–”

“Adam, get out of here.” Her voice was hurried now, but not in a panic. She was angry, frustrated, but not terrified. That was reserved for me. “Go. Run. Forget you ever knew me.”

“What are you talking about? No, Steph, come with me!”

Perry burst into the door just then. “What are you waiting for? Let’s go!”

“She won’t come with me!”

“She WHAT? Steph, have you looked out the window?”

“I’m sorry, Adam,” she said. “I never should have gotten you involved in this. It’s all my fault.”

“Involved in WHAT? WHAT’S GOING ON?”

She didn’t answer me, though. It isn’t really her fault, though. It’s hard to answer such a frantic question when a glass door is exploding behind you. Eric and the hawk crashed through the door, glass flying everywhere. My shirt and pants were cut and I got a nasty gash on my forearm, but Stephanie was between me and the door, and blocked most of the glass. Somehow, she didn’t seem hurt at all.

“COME ON!” I grabbed at her arm, but she pulled it away and looked at me, fury in her eyes.

“Don’t do that, Adam. Don’t pull me that way.”

“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?”

The hawk then slashed at Eric’s face, driving him back through the hole in the glass, and the bloodied, winged man tumbled backwards into the air. As he did so, the hawk’s body began to twist, the feathers fell away, and the huge man who had accosted us at Rooster’s was back again. He looked at Stephanie, a horrific grin spreading across his face.

“You knew this was coming,” he said.

“Just get it over with,” she spat.

“Stephanie? STEPHANIE, NO!” I screamed, reaching out to her, and just for a second she looked back at me. She said something. I’m not sure what, because just at that moment the big man opened his black jacket and we were all covered with a horrible, empty light, accompanied by the sounds of screams, more screams than I’d ever heard in my entire life. Screams of pain, screams of torment, screams of utter despair. If I didn’t have Stephanie to hold on to, to focus on, the screams themselves may have been enough to drive me mad.

I think what she said was, “I’m sorry.” I think.

The jacket then closed around her, folding like an enormous pair of wings, and the light and screams got more intense. I fell backwards onto the glass, cutting my elbows where I tried to stop myself. Soon, I had to shut my eyes against the terrible, painful glare. The screams got even louder, so I screamed her name to try to fight them off.

And then they were gone.

The screams and lights died at the same time, and the only sound remaining in the room was Perry and me helplessly trying to catch our breath. I managed to pry my eyes open just as another sound split our ears – a crash of thunder so loud it shook the building around us. When I looked around, there was no sign of Stephanie or the man in black. Perry and I were alone in the room, except for the people coming through the door, having summoned up the courage to try to find out what the hell was going on. Outside, while the thunder still echoed, I heard police sirens beginning to blare. I rolled over and pushed myself up, barely making it to my feet.

“Stephanie?” I said, whispering.

Behind me, Perry moaned. “Dude. What just happened?”

“I… I…”

I staggered to the broken glass door, looking out over the balcony. There was no sign of Eric there, just a sidewalk full of confused people looking up at the window. The rain began then, puddling on the sidewalk below, spattering me in the eyes, soaking my clothes. It didn’t begin with a light sprinkle. Less than a minute after the first thunderbolt, the stars were blotted out by heavy black clouds, and we stood in a torrential downpour. The rain rushed in through the hole, soaking the carpet and curtains as easily as it soaked through my clothes. I looked out into the night for something, anything, that could explain what we just saw, but there was nothing at all.

The rain continued all night, as we sat in a police station, giving statements that made us sound insane. It continued for the next month, as reports trickled out to the press that all included the phrase “mass hallucination.” It continued the month after that, and the month after that too. In fact, the next ten months were the most consistently rainy the city had ever seen, and almost nobody had a chance to dry out until the next May, right about the time that I had decided myself that the entire thing was a hallucination and that whatever had really happened to Stephanie, I would never see her again. As usual, I was wrong on both counts.

Next: Chapter Eight-For the Longest Time

 

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

27
Jul
08

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 79: Showcase Tangent 4-San Diego So Far

Once again, the boys come at us with a special Showcase Tangent, in which any and all topics are up for grabs! The guys start by picking apart all of the news that’s come from this year’s San Diego Comicon so far! Mark Waid writing The Incredibles? Disney is making a Tron 2? Johns, Robinson and Gates on Superman: New Krypton? Will Blake ever see sunlight again after DC Universe Online is released? Plus, even more thoughts on The Dark Knight, Chase reviews The X-Files: I Want to Believe, and the guys make a BIG announcement about the next Showcase special project! Then, there’s plenty of time to answer your e-mails! Chase doesn’t have a pick this week, but Blake tells you about the coolness of Archie #587. That’s right. Archie. Want your own comments to be read on a future episode? E-mail us with your comments, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Episode 79: Showcase Tangent 4-San Diego So Far
Inside This Episode:

26
Jul
08

Archie: Freshman Year

You’ve got to give Archie Comics credit. They’ve had a pretty stable formula for 65 years now, but they’re still willing to try some new things. Last year, for instance, they launched the now-infamous “New Look” with the Betty and Veronica: Bad Boy Trouble storyline. Now they’re sticking with the classic look, but delving into the past. “Little Archie,” of course, has told us the tales of the Riverdale gang as children for years, and the “New Archies” cartoon from the early 90s gave us a glimpse of their middle school days. Now, writer Batton Lash (Of Archie Meets the Punisher) is delving into a period of the kids’ lives we’ve never seen before: the freshman year of high school.

In the first part of this five-issue story, we see the kids in the waning days of their last summer before starting high school, and although the characters are all familiar, they aren’t exactly the kids we know and love yet. Reggie is still a bit of a jerk, Veronica is still self-centered, but Betty has become fed up with Archie’s wishy-washy nature, and Archie is just hoping to escape the middle school principal who plagued him for years. Oh, and Jughead? The Jones clan, sadly, announces that they’re moving away.

Lash has set up an interesting challenge for himself. We all know the ending point: we know Jughead is coming back and Betty will wind up madly in love with Archie and, as for the principal, let’s just say the kids aren’t the only ones in for their first year at Riverdale High. But Lash is working backwards here, showing us characters that we can easily imagine evolving into their familiar types before these five issues are up. He’s also taking a risk with a story this long — Archie fans are used to four or five short stories per issue. Will they stick around for a story that takes five months to complete?

if the next four issues are as good as this first one, I think they will.

There’s a distinct challenge here. The kids from Riverdale can’t age, they can’t grow up, they can’t even really change that much beyond clothes and hairstyles to fit the times. But does that mean you can’t develop the characters ? Absolutely not. Lash has struck upon a brilliant way to really get into these five kids and discover what makes them who they are in a way that this line of comics is rarely allowed to explore. It’s a fine beginning of this storyline, and it’ll be a lot of fun to see what comes next.

Recent Reviews…

More reviews for you guys!

25
Jul
08

“Bless Us,” please!

Those of you who have been with me for a long time, over the many websites I’ve called home, will know that in addition to being a teacher, writer, and geek pundit, I’m also pretty involved in my local community theatre. I’ve been performing in, working on, directing, producing and writing plays for the Thibodaux Playhouse in some capacity or another for almost ten years now, and I’ve been a member of the board of directors now for about five. Well, it’s that time again, friends — I’m putting back on my director’s hat!

On Monday and Tuesday, July 28 and 29, I’ll be holding auditions for the Thibodaux Playhouse production of Craig Alpaugh’s comedy, Bless Me, Father, directed by yours truly and assisted by my sister, Heather Petit Keller. What’s the play about, you ask? Well, here’s the official synopsis:

“The action takes place in Holy Family Rectory where Fathers Richard and
Charles preside over the merriment. The fun centers around Father
Charles’ mistaken belief that Father Richard is about to leave the
priesthood and get married. Actually, the yourg woman in question is
Father Richard’s sister Susan who wants her brother, Father Richard to
marry her… to her fiancé Ira.”

Sounds funny, right? Trust me, it’s a great script — lots of slapstick comedy, wordplay, pratfalls… all the stuff I dearly love in a play. I’m looking for six men, four women and one boy in the 8-12 year-old age range to fill out my cast. Auditions 7 p.m. on both nights. If you live in the Thibodaux area and you want to get involved, either as an actor or crew member, please, come on by! Here are the directions, courtesy of my close, personal friends at Mapquest: Map to the TPH Rehearsal Hall.

Thanks, gang! Look forward to seeing you all there!

24
Jul
08

DC Universe Infinite Heroes

Adam Strange, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, and Professor Zoom, aka Reverse Flash

Adam Strange, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, and Professor Zoom, aka Reverse Flash

As you well know, my geekdom does not stop at the last page of a comic book or the corners of a television screen. Collectibles are highly appealing to me as well — toys, action figures, sculptures… one of the best birthday presents of all time came to me last year when Erin gave me the Snow White & Bigby Wolf statue from DC Direct’s Fables line. Statues are a rarity for me, though, since you need a place to put ’em, and I don’t have many. The same goes for the larger action figure lines, which tend to put figures in the 6-inch range and are really too expensive.

So over the past few years, I’ve been drawn more to mini-figures, like the Mini-Mates. These blocky, almost Lego-like figures are really cool, using the same basic scale and design for dozens of properties, including both DC and Marvel heroes, TV shows and movies. What other toy line gives you scale-appropriate renditions of Superman, Captain America, ZOMBIE Captain America, Marty McFly, Jack Bauer, Frodo a Cylon, and Mr. Pink? It’s awesome.

But recently, Mattel launched a new line of DC Universe toys that has stolen my interest. DC Universe Infinite Heroes is a line that promises to launch over 50 characters in the first year, cast in a 3.75-inch scale, similar to the G.I. Joe and Star Wars toys folks my age grew up with. I picked up three of the figures yesterday, Adam Strange, Guy Gardner, and Professor Zoom. (The quarter behind Guy is there to give you an idea of scale.) While not as wildly articulated or detailed as some of the larger figures (these three, in fact, all seem to be based on the same body mold with things like helmets, belts and Guy’s vest added on to it), but their small size makes them ideal for someone like myself who wants to assemble a lot of figures without breaking the bank. What’s more, the fact that there can be so many figures in the line allows Mattel to put out a lot of characters who may not otherwise have made the cut. Would you have expected to see an Adam Strange figure on the shelf otherwise?

The first wave of figures is out now, and in addition to the three figures I’ve got there, it also includes singles of the Atom, the original Captain Marvel (marketed, as always, as “Shazam”!) and the villains Black Adam and Black Hand. There are also several three-packs, including a collection of the Flash and his enemies Mirror Master and Weather Wizard, Commissioner Gordon and two Gotham City SWAT team members, a pack with Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Girl, and a pack with Starfire, Raven, and Captain Boomerang. Finally, there’s a Green Lantern-based six-pack that includes Guy Gardner (I don’t know if it’s the same Guy as the single figure) “Green Power Glow” Hal Jordan, John Stewart, a Manhunter robot, a battle-damaged Manhunter robot, and one of the vile Weaponers of Qward. Needless to say, I want them all.

There’s also a line of figures (also by Mattel) in the same scale based on a little movie called The Dark Knight. These include a Bruce Wayne with Batman cowl and two-packs of Batman and the Scarecrow, Batman and one of the Joker’s henchmen and, the hardest one to find, Batman and the Joker. Each of these four Batman figures is slightly different, and the only one that actually uses the design of the movie costume is the Joker two-pack, which flew off the shelves along with everything else featuring Heath Ledger’s likeness. If anyone happens to stumble across one of these, let me know. I’ve got my fingers crossed, because there’s supposed to be a second push of Dark Knight toys now that the movie is out, including lots of new stuff. I’m guessing the reason they actually held back some toys until after the release of the film is because they intend to put out a figure of Harvey Dent, and they didn’t want to spoil the movie’s ending. (Even though for most hardcore comic fans, what happens to Harvey isn’t too big a surprise.)

So anyway, I’ve found yet another obsession. See you in the toy aisle.

August 8 Update:

My Infinite Heroes army has expanded. Click here: DC Infinite Heroes II!

23
Jul
08

Everything But Imaginary #272: Seeking My Comics in Las Vegas

Whenever I travel, I like to seek out the comic book shops in whatever city I was visiting. Las Vegas was no exception. This week’s EBI is all about my impressions of three shops I visited with Erin during our recent trip to Vegas! Remember, guys, a good comic shop is the front line in getting new readers. Let’s try to find the best.

Everything But Imaginary #272: Seeking My Comics in Las Vegas

22
Jul
08

Blake and Erin’s Vegas Vacation

So as you may have heard, my girlfriend Erin and I recently took a little trip together to Las Vegas, Nevada. This is kind of new for us — I’ve gone to Pittsburgh to visit her several times, she’s come to New Orleans to visit me, and last year we went together to Philadelphia with our friends Mike and Kim for the Wizard World Philly convention. But the Vegas trip is something we’ve been planning to do for a long time for one important reason: getting married by a guy dressed like Elvis.

No, actually, it’s because Erin’s father lives in Vegas, and even though we’ve been together for three years now, I’d never had the chance to meet him. We both took off on a Wednesday afternoon and met at the Vegas airport, where I was startled to discover slot machines in the terminal. Man, this was a different place.

Erin’s dad picked us up and took us on a little driving tour of the strip before meeting up with his wife for a late dinner — and I mean really late. It was midnight there, but I’d just jumped two time zones, and Erin had jumped three. We were both really hungry, and after eating, sleep came pretty easily. Erin’s dad was kind enough to lend us one of his cars while we were there, too, saving us the cost of a rental car. It’s interesting, though — I looked around Vegas a lot, but I don’t think I actually saw any rental cars the whole time I was there. I expected them to be all over the place.

Blake and Erin cruisin' in Vegas

Thursday was the one day of this brief trip we’d get to spend completely alone with each other, just the two of us, and proving once again that I’ve got the greatest girlfriend in the world, Erin indulged me by helping me find two comic shops in the area. She knows that when I travel out of town I like to check out the local comic shops so I can talk about them in my columns and podcasts, and she was more than happy to oblige. After that stop, we went to lunch at one of Erin’s favorite west coast burger joints:

In-N-Out Burger is AWESOME.

If you’ve never eaten at an In-N-Out Burger, I’m not surprised. The company makes all its food fresh at a central location and ships it to all its locations, preventing it from expanding far out of the Nevada/California/Arizona area. I wish we could get some further east, though, because it was delicious.

After this, Erin indulged me again by taking me to one of the things in Vegas I wanted to see the most: Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton

Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton

I’m not as big a Star Trek geek as some people I know (and here I am specifically thinking of my sister, Heather), but I am a fan, and with the recent news that this attraction would be closing down in September, I knew I needed to visit this when I had the chance. More proof that Erin is the perfect woman? We were there for four hours and she never once complained. So what did we do with four hours? Everything. We visited the walk-through museum, which includes a timeline of the Star Trek universe and lots of props and costumes used in the movies and TV shows. Then we rode one of the two motion-simulator rides, The Klingon Encounter. This was an awesome experience, not just because the ride itself is fun, but because the pre-ride adventure is as cool as anything I’ve ever seen in a major theme park. I’m not going to tell you here just what it was, in case you get a chance to visit someday I don’t want to blow the surprise, but suffice it to say that Erin kept looking at me and telling me I looked like a little boy on Christmas morning. I know she was right.

After the ride, we went to the gift shop and got a few things, including a shirt for my sister, and then had a drink at Quark’s Bar. This is something else I love about the place — they recreate the Promenade section from my favorite Trek series, Deep Space Nine, for the restaurant and bar areas. Then we hit the casino for a little while until it was time for what we paid the most for — the backstage tour. It was more than I expected, but well worth it. The tour showed us how all of the effects and tricks in the ride were accomplished, then took us down to beneath the ride itself, where we got to watch the simulator car in motion. We also saw the costume and make-up areas, and lots of other cool stuff. (If you take the backstage tour, RIDE THE KLINGON RIDE FIRST! It’ll totally ruin the ride for you if you take the tour first.) Finally, we visited the second ride, Borg Invasion 4-D. The Borg attraction was okay, but nowhere near as good as the Klingon experience. Erin was so wonderful for going along with all this, but I’m pretty sure she had fun too. Here are a few more pictures of us at Star Trek: The Experience.

Erin beneath the Voyager

Erin beneath the Voyager

Quark costume

Quark costume

Romulan Ale

Blake samples the Romulan ale

 

Were pretty sure these are four perfectly ordinary beers with Star Trek-ish names, plus one perfectly ordinary beer with food coloring.

We're pretty sure these are four perfectly ordinary beers with Star Trek-ish names, plus one perfectly ordinary beer with food coloring.

A trek-style casino. Way cool.

A trek-style casino. Way cool.

After leaving the Hilton, Erin wisely suggested we buy a monorail pass to take us down the strip. Without a pass, you can spend the entire day walking from one place to another. With the one-day unlimited ride pass, we could take the train to about seven stations, and virtually everything we wanted to do was within reasonable walking distance of at least one of them. We rode down to the MGM Grand to begin the second part of our day, walking around the casinos in that area.

The MGM Grand

The MGM Grand

New York, New York Casino

New York, New York Casino

The Excalibur

The Excalibur

And one of the most important stops of the day? The shops at Mandalay Bay. Erin had put up with my obsessions all day, so it was time for me to share one of hers:
The Lush store in Mandalay Bay

The Lush store in Mandalay Bay

Lush, a company that makes gourmet soaps and cosmetic products, is one of Erin’s favorite things in the world, but there’s no store in Pittsburgh. Whenever she travels, she looks for one. This makes Lush stores in three states I’ve taken her to so far, including the New Orleans, Louisiana store, and the Atlantic City, New Jersey store. We’re going to get a map to stick pins into.
We wound up at the Luxor Casino — the giant pyramid — for dinner, and had a nice time at the buffet, then walked down the strip a bit more, stopping at one of the places my aunts Mona and Nancy told me we simply had to go while we were in Vegas:
M&Ms World!

M&M's World!

M&M’s World! A four-story store full of M&M’s toys, clothes, dinnerware, Christmas ornaments, postcards, collectibles and, of course, candy. I really loved this place — it was full of movie posters re-done with the M&M characters, lots of cool displays, a wall where you could make your own bag of M&M’s with any colors you wanted (if you felt like spending ten bucks a pound), and they even pumped the smell of chocolate through the air conditioner. That was just playing dirty.
Green M&M as Marion Ravenwood

Green M&M as Marion Ravenwood

SuperM!

SuperM!

M&M Nascar Racer

M&M Nascar Racer

Finally, our feet got the better of us, and we caught the monorail back to the Hilton and hopped the car back to the hotel. At least, that was the plan — we thought the monorail station was in the Paris casino, but it was actually in the neighoring Bally’s. No big deal, though, we saw the Paris Eiffel Tower up-close and heard a few songs from a really great band in the casino. It was worth the detour.
Wanna ride to the top of the tower? Just $17 to get on the elevator. Erin and I were content on the ground.

Wanna ride to the top of the tower? Just $17 to get on the elevator. Erin and I were content on the ground.

The next day, Friday, we met up with Erin’s dad and his wife to see The Dark Knight. I may be a bigger comic geek than Erin is, but she’s such a huge Batman fan that I’ve been anxious to see this movie with her almost since it was announced. About five minutes into the movie, she had the same look on her face that I had in the Star Trek attraction. The movie made $158 million in its opening weekend, and after seeing the movie, I can only assume the only reason it didn’t make more is because there just weren’t enough seats in the theaters. If you want an in-depth discussion, you can listen to our spoiler-filled review that we recorded as a special 2 in 1 Showcase podcast. I always love having her on the show.
Although still a-tizzy from the movie, we headed back to the strip to see a few more attractions. We started at the Bellagio, where she wanted me to see the incredible fountain show out front. We wound up watching from the car, though, stuck in traffic. When we got there later, it apparently had already shut down for the night. This was something else I started to notice about this time — Vegas really plays with a person’s sense of time. Part of it was the time difference from home, but there’s also the fact that this is a town that never closes. The casinos, restaurants and clubs are all open 24 hours, and they’re always busy. Before the first fully day there was over, I’d already begun to lose the ability to sense what time it was. We’d get home at 2 o’clock, while my body was still at 4 a.m. Louisiana time, and it felt like something else entirely.
The Bellagio has a great little display inside — something like the Rose Bowl Parade, with dioramas and animatronics completely covered in plants, flowers, and seeds. There was also a cool little dancing fountain show, similar to stuff I remember seeing in Disney World the last time I went.

We also took in the Caesar’s Palace casino that night — a nice place to visit, and Erin learned she liked slot machines that have spinners at the top.

Saturday we got together with more of Erin’s family — her father and his wife, her Aunt Karen and Uncle Dee, Uncle Derek and his son Josh, and her stepsister Britany and her boyfriend Cedric. It was my first time meeting any of these folks, and I’ll admit I was a little nervous. It was a lot of fun, though — they were all really nice and I enjoyed talking to them. They had a lot of questions about Post-Katrina New Orleans, which I expected, and I was more than happy to tell them the truth about the area, as opposed to what you see on TV.

As we left, we took a slight wrong turn, neither of us being familiar with the area. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, though. After we figured out the mistake and turned around, we saw this campaign sign on the side of the road:

Stefany Miley or Stefany SMILEY?

Stefany Miley or Stefany SMILEY?

As soon as we saw it, we at in stunned silence, shouted out, and Erin hit a U-turn while telling me to get out the camera. I was already halfway there. We thought for a moment that maybe this was a poster put up by the movie studio, sort of a viral marketing campaign. Then we saw other posters for this poor woman all over the city. I guess some enterprising fan saw the sign and just couldn’t resist making a little change.

Afterwards, Erin and I went back to the hotel to clean ourselves up and change. It was our last night in Vegas and we were going to do something special: a nice dinner at the Grand Lux Cafe in the Venetian Casino. All of Vegas was fun, but the Venetian was hands-down the most beautiful place we saw. The casino has indoor canals and beautiful architecture that simulates Venice. You can even take a Gondola ride indoors and visit an outdoor sun-lit marketplace in the middle of the night.

Erin visits Venice

Erin visits Venice

We wanted a Gondola ride, but the line was enormous. We decided next time well go for a breakfast buffet and get an early ride.

We wanted a Gondola ride, but the line was enormous. We decided next time we'll go for a breakfast buffet and get an early ride.

The Venetian Marketplace. Can you believe this is INDOORS at 11 oclock at night?

The Venetian Marketplace. Can you believe this is INDOORS at 11 o'clock at night?

After dinner,  we did our last bit of wandering, visiting the Wynn and the Treasure Island Casino, both of which were nice. The best bit, though, was that we got some girls who wants us to take a picture of them in front of the Wynn waterfall to return the favor. Although we’re both shutterbugs, it seems Erin and I never manage to get enough pictures of us TOGETHER.

At the Wynn Waterfall

At the Wynn Waterfall

The next morning, it was time for me to go home. (Erin was staying a few more days with her dad.) The rough part was that the hotel’s internet connection had been out for two days, and I couldn’t pull up my return flight information. We wound up sitting in a Starbuck’s parking lot glomming off their wireless connection. (Kids, remember, don’t do that.) We wanted to stop for breakfast, but IHOP was packed, so we set out in search of an alternate. Boy, are we glad we did. We wound up at an awesome little restaurant called “The Egg and I”, a breakfast/lunch place that’s open from 6 am until 3 pm. I had the “Piggy Skillet,” a mix of eggs and cheese with bacon, ham, and pork sausage, served over ranch potatoes. Erin had the French Toast stuffed with egg, cheese, and bacon. Both were delicious. If you’re in Vegas, you’ve GOT to check this place out for breakfast, it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.

Leaving Erin is always hard, and this time the airline didn’t make it any easier. First, my flight to Denver was delayed and I was going to miss my connection to New Orleans, so they put me on another airline, which sucked. Then I got picked for “additional screening” (i.e., stand there like an idiot while a guy swabs my shoes and electronic devices with cotton then waits for a machine to confirm I didn’t have any explosives on them) and rushed to the plane. In Denver, I had to run through the terminal, take a tram to a different concourse, then run through THAT terminal and made it just in time… then got home only to find my luggage never made it to the second plane. Coming home sucked harder than ever.

But being with Erin was better than ever. Whenever we’re together it’s like a whole different universe where everything is better, happier, more realthan the real world. We’ll be together again for Thanksgiving, then for Mardi Gras, then we’re hoping to plan a Disney World trip with Chase and Jenny for next summer. It’ll never be enough until we can be together all the time. But we both know that day is coming. As always, Erin, I love you with all my heart, and November can’t come soon enough.

Want to see more of our trip? Check out our Las Vegas 2008 Flickr Album!




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