Happy Birthday, Bean!

I thought about you a lot today – especially after seeing the Fred Claus movie. I hope your day was great, and I hope you got to spend it with Daddy. I love you!

Daniel Faulkner, Chuck Cassidy

I was 17 years old when Officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a vehicle driven by William Cook.  It was in the wee morning hours of December 9th, 1981.  An altercation between Faulkner and Cook ensued, and Faulkner was able to call for back-up.  During the altercation, Cook’s brother Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook)  ran up and shot Officer Faulkner in the back.  Officer Faulkner returned fire, injuring Abu-Jamal with a single shot to the chest.  Abu-Jamal shot four more times at Officer Faulkner, hitting him at close range in the face.  Abu-Jamal was found at the scene, in possession of the gun, which was registered to him.  Eye witnesses identified Abu-Jamal as the man who shot Officer Faulkner, and at the hospital where he was taken for the treatment of his injury, Abu-Jamal allegedly confessed to shooting Officer Faulkner.

Officer Daniel Faulkner, a five year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, and husband of just one year to his beloved wife, Maureen, was dead.  Murdered in cold blood, at point blank range by a man who now nearly 26 years later sits in prison, requesting a new trial, supported by such Hollywood notables as Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, and Edward Asner. 

Today, I sat and watched for nearly 2 hours the funeral Mass of Officer Chuck Cassidy. Officer Cassidy, a 25 year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Force, married father to two beautiful daughters and a strapping young son, walked in on a robbery in progress at a Dunkin Donuts in the city. The suspect, John Lewis, shot Officer Cassidy from within 5 feet, the bullet entering Officer Cassidy’s brain. He died a day later at Einstein Medical Center. I shed more than a tear or two as the homily recounted the wonderful deeds this man had done for the people of the city of Philadelphia, friends, and family alike. I cried during the eulogy, when his brother-in-law looked toward humor to keep from breaking down himself in the face of the tragic loss. And as the casket was closed into the hearse outside the Basilica, I cried again as the pall bearers, one by one, broke down, fell into each other’s arms, and cried their eyes out. It broke my heart.

But I have to wonder. As 21 year old John Lewis gets ready for his return trip to Philadelphia from Miami, where he fled to avoid the manhunt being conducted in Philadelphia, how long until some Hollywood celebrity or bigwig politician comes to his defense? How long until someone tries to make Chuck Cassidy’s life seem insignificant when compared to the obstacles poor John Lewis had to face growing up? How many years will John Lewis live in the prison, off of the tax dollars being paid by Judy Cassidy and the other members of Officer Cassidy’s family? How soon will the name of Chuck Cassidy be replaced in the news with another police officer, victim of another poor, lost soul like John Cassidy?

This was a sad day for the city of Philadelphia and the men in women in blue. But it’s not going to be the last sad day. Until we stop giving people a pass because their mom was a crack addict and their dad did a disappearing act before they were born, there will be a lot of sad days in Philadelphia and everywhere else. We all face obstacles. Daniel Faulkner faced obstacles. Chuck Cassidy faced obstacles. The children of Chuck Cassidy will face obstacles. Life doesn’t hand many of us a ticket for a free ride. It’s time to make sure someone pays for the crimes they commit. Lets see how many Hollywood celebrities take a stand for the death penalty when John Lewis is found guilty of this murder. I’ll bet there won’t be any. There’s not much publicity in rooting for the good guys.

Surprise! Universal and Islands of Adventure

My plan for the day is to get up early and be at Universal early so we can ride all of the rides that Eilis wants to do and hit Islands of Adventure, then head back for a swim and some dinner. The way the plan actually worked was Jim and Eilis got up only after I made enough noise to be annoying, and they decided they wanted to go to the pool nowrightnowrightthisveryminutenowdidIsaynowImeantitnow. We headed down to the pool, where the water was like ice. Jim and Eilis found a beach ball and swam and played while I headed over to the hot tub – much more comfortable! The hot tub was very nice – there were two of them, both about 3 feet deep, which was nice. You could actually do a little floating or drifting around the tub. I liked it.

After an hour or so in the pool, we headed back up to get ready to go to the parks, which meant showers again for everyone, even though I had already taken one when I got up. We finally got to the park about 11, and by then, there were lines for most of the rides – like 45 minute lines. We did a few rides, including Earthquake, which has since closed to make way for a new attraction. Eilis hated it, cried, and I got ticked off that she was being such a baby over a very short ride – especially when she has been on things like Expedition Everest without so much as a whimper. We road ET, and Jim and Eilis rode the Woody Woodpecker roller coaster, but really, most of the lines were too long to even bother.

About 2 o’clock, we started thinking lunch, and after cruising around Universal, decided to eat at Islands of Adventure. Jim enjoyed the food at Confisco Grille at the Point of Entry, so we decided to eat there. Jim had the mixed grill, which was my choice for him. He likes to order foods he thinks I can eat some of, but the problem with some restaurants is that there really is very little I can eat. The mixed grill seemed the safest, but it was a big disappointment for him. It was really just grilled chicken and a sausage. If I had really been able to choose, I would have wanted the Italian Panini, but I know I can’t eat that. I had a cobb type salad and Eilis had quesadillas, which came with chicken and steak. The steak was beyond anything she could eat – it was so tough. The chicken she enjoyed. I ate as much salad as I could, and had a bunch left over, which they boxed up, but then the realization that I would have to carry it around the park the rest of the day set in, and I left it.

We began our trek through Islands of Adventure, and the first thing we wanted to do was closed. The show we wanted to see didn’t start for another hour. Most of the rides had lines too long to wait in. I didn’t want Eilis to get wet on anything due to the cool temps and her oncoming cold. She and Jim ended up on the smaller roller coaster for a quick ride, and then we began heading out with rain threatening. We decided to see about the Spiderman ride, but the line there was 45 minutes when we got there, so we opted to head out. That’s when the rain poured down. We made it to the parking garage getting only the first four layers of skin soaked, and Jim made the comment that if we had known the trip into Islands of Adventure would be so short, I could have brought my salad with me!

Back at the hotel, we changed out of our wet clothes and since lunch was so late, we ordered snacks from room service and enjoyed some Halloween TV. Eilis has not mentioned her sisters today, so I think she’s liking being the only child for a few days.

Boston Area Theme Song – Rain, Rain Go Away

So, after much wrangling with time and babysitters, Jim came home a day early and Brighid and I got to go on the college visits in Boston this weekend. In retrospect, all the obstacles placed in our way were well placed, as we ended up touring Boston during a Nor’easter – can you say “not fun” in a Boston accent? (it goes something like “Nawt fahn”)

We arrived late Friday and checked in to the Fairfield Inn in Woburn, Massachusetts. Quite a little dive for a Fairfield. It looked okay in the lobby and breakfast area, but the room was that dingy, greyish/brownish no-tell motel color. It’s only for the weekend, though, and we don’t plan to spend too much time in the room.

Our first appointment is at 10 AM at Northeastern University. Big school. I checked out the important things – they have 2 Starbucks on campus, along with 5 Dunkin’ Donuts, a Wendy’s, a Taco Bell, a grocery store, a dining hall, and a laundry. I expected the tour to be cancelled due to the weather, but after our information session, we met James, our tour guide, and we did indeed do a walking tour of the campus. This is a big place. Lots of buildings, lots of students, lots of everything here. We learn a lot about the co-op program, which is why we are really here. Brighid was completely taken by the co-op thing at the information session at school. But she is a bit intimidated by the size of the school, so even with the wonderful co-op program, I think Northeastern has moved down a bit on the list.

We make shorter visits to Boston University, Suffolk and Simmons College, and all get ruled out for one reason or another. We were supposed to visit Brandeis on Sunday, but opted to head home early, stopping at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT on the way home (also ruled out).

I wish we had more of a chance to see some of Boston. With the weather as bad as it was, after our college visits, we took a quick trip to Fenway park, bought Brighid a t-shirt, and headed to Whole Foods for some snacks and drinks for a late lunch. We rented Knocked Up and had a late dinner from a local Thai restaurant so we didn’t have to brave the weather. All in all, we did learn Brighid probably would be better at a smaller school, but we missed all the Boston sight seeing we could have done!

Sea World Halloween Spooktacular!

Jim and I have not been to Sea World in many years, and when we were annual passholders before, we always seemed to gravitate towards Shamu’s Happy Harbor – the area of the park where the giant playground is. Eilis LOVED Sea World camp over this past summer, and has been talking about going back to Sea World ever since. When the weather threatened our trip to the beach, having Sea World right across the street from the hotel made it an appealing alternative, and to make it even more enticing, they are hosting the Sea World Halloween Spooktacular today (most weekends in October).

After a few false starts, debating ticket options, and settling on our passes, we went into the park and decided the focus this trip would be the Halloween Spooktacular. Unlike the Disney and Universal Halloween festivities, everyone entering SeaWorld during the Spooktacular gets to take part in the trick or treating, fun, and games. At the entrance to the Halloween “path”, everyone is given a treat bag, and the fun begins. There are about 15 treat stations – some sponsored by vendors like Musselman’s, who gave everyone a cup of applesauce – and the bag had a nice amount of treats in it by the time we were done. Along the path, you run into some beautifully costumed characters – some telling stories, some playing interactive games, some posing just for pictures. At about the midway point is the Bayview theater, and they host a concert series which takes place during the Halloween event. We saw Hot Peas ‘n Butter the day we were there. They put on a nice concert, which was dismally attended, but they really put their heart into it anyway. Check them out at their website: http://www.hotpeasnbutter.com/

The path has booths set up where you can purchase Halloween Spooktacular t-shirts and various snacks and lunch type food. For $5, you could buy a lunch box kit that had a large cookie and icings and sprinkles to decorate your own cookie, and they sold hot dogs, cotton candy, etc.

A dance party, held right where all the kiddie rides are, seemed to be a big hit. The ice queen/DJ handed out stickers, played all the kids favorites, and hosted contests (hula hoop was one).

Overall, this was an absolutely adorable event. The fact that it was included in the price of admission makes it even more of a fun thing to do with your kids. We didn’t do so much of the actual Sea World stuff this trip, knowing we’d be back, but added to everything else Sea World has to offer, this was the Halloween Theme Park bargain of the century!