5.28.2007

South Carolina - Day Two

The title of this post is a bit misleading. I actually spent most of the day in North Carolina, at the Biltmore Estate. Mom, Dad and I woke up around 8:30, got dressed, had a traditional southern breakfast at Chik-Fil-A and then drove about an hour up the interstate to Ashville, North Carolina, home of the Biltmore Estate. George Vanderbilt, heir to the Vanderbilt shipping and railroad fortune, was somewhere around 30 years old when he decided to build a summer home in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. The home is the largest in the US, at 175,000 square feet.



We took a self-guided audio tour. That means that we wore headphones and didn't speak to each other for about three hours. It was worth it, though. The audio was very informative. Some of my favorite things:

Napoleon Bonaparte

Mr. Vanderbilt was a big french history buff. Among his collection of very nice things was a chess set and walnut table once owned by Napoleon. You can sort of make it out in the picture below (we weren't allowed to photograph anything inside the house). When Napoleon died, his heart was removed from his body and placed in a silver urn. The urn sat atop this table for two weeks before it joined his body in a casket for burial. So cool.



Watson Room

Each of the rooms was given a name. One of them was named after an artist or something. The who isn't that important. What is important is that this room is called Watson. And it is the only room of 35 bedrooms with twin beds. Twin beds? Does that mean something?

Fountains

There were several fountains on the grounds. All of them were large in scale and quite impressive. Except for one thing. See if you can spot what I mean:







See what I mean? If you were one of the richest men in the world building a house to impress your friends, wouldn't you include a fountain that shot some water in the air? I mean, like, a lot of water, like, really really high into the air? Instead he's got these three disappointments in front of his house. What gives, George?

I have a lot more pictures to share, but it's really late. I'm going to bed.

5.27.2007

South Carolina - Day One

After a very long day of flying (did I mention that I hate airplanes?) I finally arrived in South Carolina late last night. I'm in Greenvile, just next to Spartunburg where BMW has a factory where they build X5's and Z4's. I am here with my mom and dad for the M Performance Driving School. Remember my previous post with the pictures of the white car? Well, it turns out that when you buy a car like that from BMW, they include a day of professional driving instruction. So that's why I'm here.

Today we spent the day checking out some of the sites and sights. We went to church this morning and then back to the hotel to 'slip into something more comfortable', as my dad put it. I told him that I would not be slipping into anything. He seemed disappointed with my lack of enthusiasm. After a quick change of clothes, I took the opportunity for a Sunday nap. After the nap we drove downtown and parked on a bridge. I stepped out of the car and took this picture:



We decided that we were all very hungry, so my dad did the obvious thing and located a stranger to ask his opinion of local eateries. I don't know what the man said, but I'm pretty sure that my dad found his recommendations questionable. We were on our own.



We walked for a while and soon passed the Hot Dog King. I vetoed my dad's suggestion that we check it out. I just can't eat a hot dog without Amberly.



We walked some more.



And saw many interesting things.



There were random quotes on the sidewalk.





This was my favorite:





No motorcycle helmet law in SC.



R2D2 mailbox. This one's for Ethan.



According to this sign, my blues name is Fat Baby Bailey. What's yours?



So this is where we decided to eat. This place is so messy, they give you a towel instead of a napkin. Yes, we were that hungry.



Here is my food. Looking at it now makes me want to vomit.



No longer hungry.





More walking and interesting things.



The big tourist draw in the area is a park and some falls on the Reedy River. It is right downtown and very beautiful. We spent the next 4 hours walking around the park and enjoying the afternoon.









Why are these kids pointing and yelling?



They were trying to convince their friend to slide down the falls, which she finally did. Would you?





This bridge was very cool.



This sign did nothing to deter the fun had by all.



Shakespeare in the park? Yes, please.



As you can see by this painting, the goal of this particular theater company is to make Shakespeare cool. Mission accomplished.



The stage.



Before the play began, the Works in Progress Improv group warmed up the audience. This was very painful to watch. Very painful.









Let's end this post with some sweet family photos. Mom and Dad:



The author and his mother:



I'm exhausted and ready for bed. Stay tuned, there is much more coming tomorrow.

5.16.2007

Pool Party

Dearest Blog Readers,

You are cordially invited to attend a summer pool party at my residence. There will be sun, fun, good people and good food. Please feel free to bring a guest. Towels will not be provided. Swimsuits are not optional. David, please do not bring your speedo. We don't want to scare the children. Or the women. Or me.

As you can see below, my pool is not yet complete. For this reason, I am not able to set an exact date for the party. It should be sometime around the middle of July. Right when the heat starts to become unbearable.



As soon as I can set a date, I'll let you know. For now, please block out each Saturday in the last half of July. Yeah, it's going to be that good.

Respectfully yours,

Aaaron

P.S. Please enjoy some more pictures of the ongoing construction project.















5.15.2007

Crystal Apple

Joshua Cottrell. Soccer aficionado. Music Snob. Un-photogenic. Beautifully coiffured. Paintballer. Father. Crystal Apple award winner.



Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd annual Crystal Apple Award ceremony for the Rancho Bernardo/Poway/Rancho Penasquitos area. What is a Crystal Apple, you ask? It is a highly distinguished award given to teachers who demonstrate exceptional educational skills. Only the best of the best win this coveted prize. Did you ever see the movie Dead Poet's Society? Stand and Deliver? Mr. Holland's Opus? Great teachers right? Wrong. Amateurs.

This is a great teacher:



As you may have guessed, the transparent orb in Josh's left hand is the award mentioned previously. It is engraved with his name and a sticker is affixed to the bottom which reads, "made in mexico". It is slightly heavy, which gives it a substantial feel. It could be used to thwart evil doers with a swift bash to the head or groin area. It would also make an excellent paperweight.

We arrived early to enjoy what Josh called the 'Green Room'. A small table was laid out with various appetizers and finger foods. I enjoyed small samples of chicken wings, sundry melons, crackers with brie, and fresh vegetables with requisite ranch dipping sauce. As we ate, we mingled. Here is Josh speaking with the principal of his school:



I am certain that some in attendance marvelled at the significance of this woman's presence at the award ceremony. They smiled to themselves and considered the thoughtfulness of her decision to go out of her way in support of Josh and his moment in the spotlight. Not I. I saw right through her and her jealousy. She was obviously there for a singular purpose: to upstage poor Josh and somehow take credit for his outstanding accomplishment. A sad, sad woman indeed.

There were a total of eight crystal apple winners that evening. Two from four different schools. Josh was by far the best teacher in attendance. I know this for two reasons: First, each award was presented by one of the receiving teacher's students. The lovely young lady who presented the award to Josh not only gave the most eloquent and flattering speech, but she was also the cutest of the award presenters. And by cute I mean totally hot. Smokin. Fuzzy proof:



Second, Josh's acceptance speech was outstanding. All essential great speech elements were present: Unscripted, witty opening line? Check. Tear jerking reference to mother? Check. Humble admission of inadequecies? Check. Heartfelt thanks to brother-in-law? OK, it wasn't a perfect speech, but by far better than any of the others. Here's a shot of the master in action:



The man and his wife:



Congratulations, Josh. I am in awe of you and your accomplishments. I am most impressed with your ability to connect with today's youth and inspire them to learn. Keep it happening.