Friday, November 24, 2017

Never Get Beyond The Sight!

2017 The Destination is There.

Nobody ever leaves the Circle
Never get away from the Stones
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 12, 2017

Dark Corners & Mountain Tops by Cut Copy
Don't meddle with the stones! Leave the stones alone!

"Leave? What do you mean leave? Leave the circle? Leave Milbury? Leave? Leave the stones? You never will. Nobody leaves the circle. Wherever you go; the Avenue, the Sanctuary, the Barrow, never get away from the stones. Never get beyond their sight, boy. Never out of their grasp. Nobody ever leaves the circle. Not until the day of release." Dai, the Barber-Surgeon. Children of the Stones.

Hello everyone. Full steam ahead 2017! We're running out of year! The rooster is crowing his last. I had to look at my calendar the other day because I needed to plan the holiday in December. I just can't believe this year is nearly gone. The Destination is There. The Destination is nearly There. October and November were great months! Work has been keeping busy and life in general has been busy as well. What a year it has been! The Destination is nearly There. The Destination is nearly Ended! The title and opening of this blog refers to a series that aired on Nickelodeon in 1983 with the "Third Eye Series," called Children of the Stones [watch on YouTube]. The series aired in the UK in 1977 originally. Ha, I was 4 years old and living in Hawaii in 1977. I used this as the title because in reality, THIS WAS MY FIRST EVER BUCKET LIST ITEM when I was a kid. I watched this series on Nickelodeon and when I found out Milbury (name of the town in the series) aka Avebury was an actual place in the UK, I remember telling myself, "I would love to go there someday." I finally did in October the week of my 44th birthday. This blog is kind of a "tl;dr" type so read and digest accordingly. You've been warned...

You've felt in your spirit
God's shown you something new
Something no one else has thought of
But only you can do
But as your desire grew
You got a little depressed
'Cause you found no destination
For your dreams to manifest

Your desire is the confirmation the destination is there
God wouldn't put it in your spirit if it wasn't going nowhere
So set your sights on the promises and don't you be scared
'Cause your desire is the confirmation the destination is there

The vision's for a certain hour
I know it won't be late
His promises will strengthen you
If only you will wait
Don't follow someone else's dreams
Keep your own in sight
For the vision that God gives you
Will keep you all your life

The Destination is There
The Champion

For my birthday this year which was Friday the 13th, October, I spent a couple weeks in the United Kingdom. I've had some notable birthdays, but I wanted to make this year a special one and visit another country. It was a great time and it was the first time I experienced another country. I stayed in Avebury, Wiltshire at a B&B and did all my own driving -- on the wrong side of the road. The last two days, I spent the days in London when Ophelia hit, so all the pictures I took in London have apocalyptic, looking skies. I started my trip in Avebury and toured the Avebury Stonehenge; went to Stonehenge in Salisbury Plains, went to Devizes, Nottingham (ancestors), Gosport, London. Why Gosport you're thinking? I met a friend there who I first met online through Wizards of the Coast, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger back in 2001. Since then, we've maintained an online friendship. 16 years later, we finally met in person! Amazing experience and seeing her too. Thank you Debb aka Bobbsta! I visited Nottingham because that's where the Chathams came from originally before immigrating to the US.

I didn't get zapped either...
Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 11, 2017

After my last blog Chicago Day 1973, I started attending Small Groups with Destination Church and they have been absolutely amazing; I'm hoping as the new year comes, I start making new friends with people in the church. I joined two of them but as of late October, I dropped out of one because it was just too much and I had something happen to me right after my trip in England on October 27th. I still attend the Tuesday evening one, TUE01-ROMANS. This blog will sum up my experience in the United Kingdom for my birthday, being visited by Hurricane Ophelia in London there, life at VelocityEHS, my Chicago-versary, and even the bad: My Identity was stolen right after returning from my trip in the UK!

Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac
November 15 is my Chicago-versary!

Stuck in a Time Loop...

Trapped in a Time Loop
Quod non est simulo dissimuloque quod est
Village of Ancient Milbury
Children of the Stones

This picture was taken from the Children of the Stones series. It represents Milbury in ancient times. Just as in the painting there, was sort of like my life. I was trapped in a TIME LOOP of my own just like this village was trapped. As you know, I travelled this year for my birthday to England for my vacation ... holiday. I stayed in Avebury for the duration of the trip at a B&B there. Avebury was my first bucket list item I made as a kid of 10 or 11 years old. By the way, Avebury is Milbury from the TV Series. It's interesting how this works out because I was originally fascinated by Avebury from the TV Series called "Children of the Stones." I first watched it when Nickelodeon first came out and, for those that remember, when it shared network space with A&E for a time before getting its own station.  Anyhow, Nickelodeon came on at 7pm in the evening after A&E. The two shows they aired were "You can't do that on television" and "Third Eye." We watched them both as kids (my brothers and me). In the Third Eye series, they aired the 1977 Children of the Stones UK series as one of stories in the program. Third Eye dealt with kids with psychic powers. In the "Children of the Stones," the kid with psychic powers was Matthew Brake, son of astro-physicist, Adam Brake (note the last name at this point). The story goes like this basically. The father/son duo enter into the sleepy country village of Milbury (Avebury) and go there to investigate the Stone Circle which connects several ley lines. This was a fascinating series to watch. As a kid, the story was too complex but later on I would buy it on DVD and watch it again and understand the story better. Probably one of the most memorable is the neolithic music score in the series. It was very haunting, spine-tingling, chilly and unforgettable!

It is time!
Iain Cuthbertson
as Rafael Hendrick
Milbury, England
Children of the Stones

Of Landlords that appear out of thin air, hostesses that stand in the middle of the road as a stone statue, super-intelligent children, and lorries that disappear into thin air, the Brakes are immediately encountered with the mystery of the Stone Circle. It turns out that the events that are happening in the circle are repeating from history and they later learn they are trapped in a TIME LOOP with no escape. The town is in some sort of psychic bubble. They are given help by the prophetic Dai, the Barber-Surgeon. What the Brakes soon realize is TIME IS REPEATING itself again and they have to find a way out before they are trapped and lost forever in the Stone Circle. Finally, the Brakes learn how to break the time loop and escape. The stones of the circle align with a blackhole in the Big Dipper each night and the Landlord aka Druid who is in charge of all that's going on makes note of the times the town lines up with the blackhole each night. The town sits on top of a neolithic-built "radar dish" that projects a beam of energy into the blackhole each alignment. The ley lines that power the stones are part of bringing energy to the dish and changing the townsfolk into "Happy Day" people, and they are controlled by the Landlord, ala bent-on-take-over-the-world. The Brakes trick the Landlord and change the times of his clocks, so that the alignment doesn't occur as scheduled. They manage to break free, escape being turned to stone and they flee the stone circle down the Avenue to the Sanctuary, just as Dai suggested previously. In the painting, you can see two fleeing the doom on the Avenue out of Milbury. The Brakes break free...put the brakes on the time loop and escape! If you watch the series, be sure you follow the drawing of "the broken cycle." It foreshadows the ending.

I was trapped in a "time loop" of my own just like the Brakes were in Children of the Stones. It's very interesting that I made the connection to the TV Series and my November 15 time loop when I came back from England and after November 15 passed this year. Coincidence ... or another Time Loop? Lol.

So, where does this take me and my story?

It starts on November 15, but which year? 1996 or 2011? This is a special day for me and I'm sharing my story. It ranks up there more than my birthday which technically is my Mom's day. I hope those of you out there understand why this day is very important to me. I know a couple people that have dealt with suicide, attempted suicide, anxiety, depression, dark corners of the mind, etc. I lost a friend to suicide this past March. I also had an Uncle that shot himself. It hurts! 2011 was that year for me -- more specifically starting the day of my birthday.

A sun sets on a chapter of my life
Hinckley Lake
Hinckley OH
November 15, 2011

You go through life. You question why things turn so badly for you. You watch others and the blessing they have, the attention they get, the praise they get. You look at the reflection of yourself in the mirror but it's dismally dark and dispirited. Life smacks you down. Why do others get the things they want in life, but here you are working your ass off for just a piece of it? In 2011, I was working at Broadvox in Cleveland OH. Job was good but I was severely underpaid. I thought I had accomplished all I could up to that point, repairing all the damage I did to my life. No. The trigger? Being fired from another job which I thought was the direction I needed to be. It all led up to this point and, of course, being fired on your birthday doesn't help either. WHY? WHY? WHY? There was no reason for it but I was gone, just like that.

That week of November 11, 2011, to me, it was a dark abyss and I didn't care anymore. I wanted it all to end. I worked hard to fix all the broken things in my life (which oddly started from the November 15, 1996 date -- little did I know). I blame myself many times. So each night I went to bed, I thought more and more about how to just end it all; sure the fears were there and the uncertainties. This was a very, dark me. Where was God in all this? Didn't he even care. I looked at my reflection. It was hopeless. It needed to end. It's interesting to note here but November 13 I had that really "peaceful" dream that made me think that morning. It's amazing how quickly I forgot about that day and the next day. It wouldn't be until November 16 where I made the connections. November 14 being the darkest day of my life, I just knew there was no way out of this and it had to end, and I nearly went through with my dark plan; it didn't and the story continued the next day. I got help that night. That was not the way out of the time loop...

November 15 came on schedule and God's timing -- LITTLE DID I KNOW. I keep saying that because I had not yet even made the 15 year precedence. That morning, I remember I went to Hinckley Lake for job hunting. I took my phone, resume, portfolio and ads to the Lake. I needed to change things up a bit considering the dark night before instead of staying in my apartment. I should point out but I spoke with a recruiter that morning offering me a job in Chicago. So, what changed this? GOD! God changed this. He reached down to my lowest that November 15, 2011 night where I cried for the first time in a long time. I fell to my knees that night and cried out to Him. He not only did that, but his timing was perfect because, LITTLE DID I KNOW, but it was November 15th AGAIN, but 15 years later. 

The TIME LOOP was broken this time!

Sunrise over Prairewood
E. Troy WI
November 15, 1996

"Remember that day 15 years ago? This is your do-over. Don't botch it up this time." My soul.

THE SUNRISE PHOTO WITH THE SILO: I took that picture with a film camera the morning time froze in my life on November 15, 1996. What was the significance at the time? I think I wanted to remember the day I gave up and RAN AWAY from all my problems, because that's what I did and I believe TIME FROZE that crisp Autumn morning in E. Troy WI; however, it was a far greater reason for later. I drove back to Cleveland that morning, passing through Chicago one last time, the place I failed the first time. "Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac" plays in the U-Haul through Chicago; it is burned into my heart THAT VERY DAY. That picture has graced the wall of each apartment I've lived in, including the current one. I marked the date on the back after my Dad had it developed and framed for me, which was another reason for later. I still didn't realize the full importance of that picture until THAT DAY 15 years later! I have the Great Chicago Willow Dream the morning of November 13, 2011 (one month after my worst birthday).

"Hmmm. We seem to have thrown a spanner." Adam Brake.

While I'm down on my knees the night of November 15, 2011, God quieted my soul and I was drawn to the picture hanging in my Brunswick OH apartment. I focused on that day I took the photo remembering ALL MY FAILURES. It hits you like a flood! Then, I realized "Hey wait a minute, I put the date on the back." GULP, "November 15, 1996, Sunrise over Prairiewood. E. Troy WI."

That was not an accident. I always like to refer to Psalm 139 for this explanation and with hope for anyone struggling with darkness. That's this event to its fullest. So, I say to anyone now; I've been there. I know EXACTLY how you feel. I attempted it but I saw a light! I pray and hope the same for you. Thank you Karen Sobolewski for those late night talks that November 2011 week! You were a big help to me. Chicago was the answer to this but it's not Neverland, and I truly believe that I was brought back here for a reason and it tied in with the November 15, 1996 date where I know I failed and ran away from it all ala consequences. My light -- or WIND -- just happened to be Chicago.

Circle by 65dBA
I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!

Project Semicolon
West Town Tattoo
West Town, Chicago IL
November 18, 2017

October 13, 2011 (yeah, it was my worst birthday), I was fired from a job without any reason. It led to a very dark time in my life -- very dark! Some of you here helped me through it. After all I had been through in my life, all the misfortune, bad luck, the distress, having 3 jobs at once and going to school. I thought by August 2011, I had worked hard enough to earn some peace from all that. I left Broadvox in August, thinking I was going somewhere "better." Life throws you a curve and it's busy while you make other plans. In short, I spiraled down into nothingness after my birthday that year. Worst birthday on record...EVER!

Some of you know the meaning of the semi-colon on one's wrist. I encourage you to ask someone if you see it. Ask them "how long has it been since that?" They'd be surprised you knew what that was. I've considered doing the same thing recently. My story ( ; ) would probably start on November 15, 2011. November 14, I could've ended it and it was a VERY dark day for me and I almost went through with it, but that's what the semicolon is. It continues my story. By personal recommendation from my coworker and friend, Joe, I went to West Town Tattoo on November 18 to commerate the event. I don't normally tattoo my body, but I needed to finally do this. Sorry, Michael Lawrence we didn't get to do this together. I didn't want to put it off anymore.

2017 Goal: If there is one thing Chicago has taught me is resilience and a certain kind of stubbornness. So, continuing on to not be a door mat and have a little dignity is not a bad thing either. Thank you, Karen Sobolewski for always being supportive of my decisions and pointing me in a self-respectful lifestyle!

Secret Call by Ginkgo Garden
You are an overcomer.

Actually it WAS Karen Sobolewski that helped me through that night and she's been very supportive, even with the tattoo. So, this goal, unbeknownst to me, does tie oddly into this. I never considered that when I made the goal last December, but now see it when going back to review it. Getting the tattoo was a bit painful and it reminded me of that day actually where the story could've ended. It was put on the same wrist as well. Actually, I can't get over all the support for doing this. It's been a real encouragement and I know one other person that has the semicolon tattoo, a former co-worker. I remember asking him about it and he was the first one actually to encourage me to get it! Thanks, IPsoft! The whole story about my November 15 journey and the poem I wrote about it appear in the blog, And, only I remain in November 2013.

Time unfrozen
Albany Park, Chicago IL
November 18, 2017

November 13, 2011 (yeah, exactly a month later). I woke up from a dream that morning. After all the dark thoughts I had that entire month, it was a different dream and TOTALLY unexpected considering the state of mind I was in. I think the timing was perfect in its delivery because two days later, my life would take a LOOP back from November 15, 1996, 15 years earlier, where this ALL STARTED and where I believe my life froze -- little did I know at the time! This all makes me think of Psalm 139 again. God knows every detail of my life.

Dream Analysis 11/13/2011: "I recall my Sunday Night/Monday Morning dream. In one segment, I was sitting on some sort of cliff and the area was fairly wooded. Below me was the edge of what I heard someone in my dream say it was "Lake Michigan," although it looked somewhat like a portion of Hinckley Lake to me. It was a bit marshy portion of the lake and I remember seeing some towering willow trees in the marshy portion which was 10 feet from the side I was on. It was a narrow portion of the lake. The trees were very tall. I was sitting on the cliff, just south of the gigantic willow trees and I noticed the wind picking up and blowing the tops of the trees down towards some other people sitting on the cliff (north of me). The wind was strong enough to bend the branches down and the leaves of the trees flailed around towards the people there. I didn’t feel the wind as it blew. Then, suddenly, the wind shifted directly at me and the willow trees stretched out towards me; branches bending down, leaves flailing in the wind. I felt the impact of the wind in my dream. It felt strong enough to where I actually felt like I was being whisked away. I woke up and pondered for a bit. I didn’t recall it until now. Yesterday (11/15) I got a call from a recruiter in Chicago."

The Day of Release!

Later, I interpreted the dream. The Wind was Chicago in that dream. With all that means, I still don't know what my purpose here is! I failed the first time I lived here in 1996, so maybe it's connected. That's all I know. The poem I later wrote in November 2013 was not a poem about being alone; it was about overcoming and standing strong after trials and adversity. Only I remain.

Have an expected End; don't have a terminal End.
The picture here says it all about my dream that morning:

The soul knows what it needs to thrive
Why so downcast, oh my soul? Put your hope in God.
November 13, 2011

"...And, only I shall remain."
Poem By: Eric Chatham

Out of the frying pan and into the crucible of fire with its refining heat,
its agonizing sting, its painful burn, melting away the rough edges,
The chaff and the impossible fray;
There was I, and only I shall remain.

And, after that fire blazed away, there were the ashes, the embers, a death,
The gripping choke of dark smoke; 
And then there was I; and only I remain!

Standing there as the floodgates of time rushed through me with its fears,
bitter tears, tragic regrets, and its teeth that devour; there was I, and only I remain!

And, sitting there over a vast Lake on a cliff up so high
Amidst a grand forest of weeping willows;
"Do I fall and drown?  Do I spiral downward to my doom?"

"No. Watch the Willow Trees," the Wind speaks to me;
It blows through them and they stretch forth towards me,
Forcing me away from my terminal End;
"Now, listen to the Willows as they speak of our refreshing wind,
A breeze of a new hope and future to your ears," said the Wind;
"Listen close to their call, they whisper the name 'Chicago,'
And they remind you of your past. 'Remember of that Day long ago?
Look past it.  This now and here is your destined promise,' they tell of you.
'Do this well and to a victorious and expected End.'"
Flailing about their majestic branches of the Wind were their lively leaves,
threads of dreams and tomorrow, and they reached out to embrace me; 
Then there was I; and, only I remain.

So, to the top of the tower of hope I climb, far above the world below,
Ascending towards the heavens, close to eternity, seeing the world
Which lies ahead and my future, beholding its glory;
There was I, and only I remain!

And so it became of me; standing confidently
Up so high on a tower over a City so vast,
Daring to take a new stand with the warmth of the sun
And its rays of new hopes and dreams,
There was only I; and, only I remain;
And, there I shall prevail!

"Nobody leaves the circle. Not until the day of release." Dai. Children of the Stones.
The Barber-Surgeon Sarsen Stone
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 11, 2017

Where are You Going by World Wide Message Tribe
The Destination is England!

The journey for England actually started earlier this year in March when I filled out US Passport papers to get my first US Passport. I remember a couple trips to the Richard Daley Center, the courthouse downtown, filling out the paperwork and submitting my information. There the process and the journey had its start. With one bump in the road, getting that cleared with one phone call to Raleigh NC (the State of my birth), since my birth record was not the right one submitted, I obtained my first ever US Passport on June 12. The trip began. I had already been planning and booking my trip in May. I had help with my trip from friend and co-worker, Chris Johnson, who is from the UK. He gave me pointers and tips how to help save money.

2017 Goal: "Happy Now? Happy Later?" Happy Now! Todd, if you're reading this, you remember when you said this to me 10 years ago, and I said Happy Later? I'm making it a goal in 2017. I still don't know to this day why you asked me this, but it has made me think about my own happiness lately. Thank you, Todd E. Florian

Sunrise over strange skies!
Flying somewhere over the Irish Sea
The Destination is England
October 10, 2017

I booked a B&B in, yeah, you guessed it, AVEBURY, lol. My flight path was ORD to MAN, not Heathrow. CJ said Manchester would be a cheaper bet, so I took him up on that. Also, to help save further, my flight out was Monday evening (cheaper than during the day and the weekend). That was step one. Step 2? Yeah, you guessed it. DRIVING IN ENGLAND -- ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD, lol. At the airport I reserved myself a car upon my arrival. Right there and then did I realize what that meant. I would have to drive in England. It wasn't so much driving on the left side as that being an issue. It was that right hand turn. Cross traffic (like our left turn here in the States). I kept drilling that into my head after the reservation lol. Right turn crosses over traffic! Little did I know at the time -- but later warned -- were the English roundabouts! They're all over there! So, I did some asking around like CJ and my friend Debb in England about the driving patterns. I'm here now, composing this blog. I survived it! Lol. Actually, I caught myself 2 or 3 times on my trip turning right on the wrong side of the road. Luckily, I had oncoming traffic to remind me, "hey stupid, LEFT side of the road!" Ha! The roundabouts, well, it took some time to master those!

This is a short video of my driving from Manchester Airport on the M6 towards Avebury, Wiltshire UK. It was my first experience driving on the wrong side of the road, and I learned to "give way" to all lorries. They signal and don't wait to change lanes. The trip was 3 hours, and I drove past Stafford, Birmingham and Cheltenham. "Don't stand. Don't stand. Don't stand so close to me." The Police.

Destination England
Driving the M6 near Stafford
Going to Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 10, 2017

The day of my flight, I slept some during the day but not too much. I knew I was going to have to force myself to stay up ala jet lag. So I took off at ORD On Monday, October 9, and arrived in England early that morning (it was a short night) around 9am on the 10th. The flight was smooth and I sat next to some Irish blokes who were friendly. We talked and I told them it was my first time outside the US. Ok, laugh if you want, but as we crossed the Irish Sea and were landing in Manchester, I paid very close attention to how the traffic patterns looked with everyone driving on the motorways. Lol. We finally landed on a very dreary rainy day -- landed in Manchester. After going through customs (taking the non-EU entrance), I grabbed my baggage, I went to the rental agency to pick up the car. The attendant was very polite and formal. I noticed this trend for the whole week in England. Customs made me feel like I was a terrorist almost. If I were to pick a stern Brit on my trip, the lady at customs stands out for that.

Please note, but after some of the places I went, you'll see "[.]" there. That's where I marked my travel path. It's a link and opens to Google Maps.

"Don't play games with me put that steering wheel back where it belongs!"
Avis Rental - Manchester Airport
Manchester, Lancashire UK
October 10, 2017

The driving began! The Destination was Avebury [.], Wiltshire. It was a 3 hour drive from the Airport on English Motorways and country roads! Thankfully, the international roaming worked on my phone for some of the trip but I relied mainly on the GPS in the Mercedes-Benz for all my navigation for the two weeks. It was easy to use and all I needed was the Post Code for my destinations. In this case, my Destinatinon from the airport to Avebury was SN8-4EY, the Old Forge, Avebury. The drive wasn't bad, but I was somewhat tired from the flight. Driving on English Motorways wasn't too difficult. I learned two things: One, give way to all lorries (they signal and don't wait to change lanes). Two, I learned that slower traffic keeps to the left. If you want to pass, you pass on the right (not the left). What helped me the most getting into the mindset of English travel was THINK OPPOSITE. It helped. You exit the motorways on the left too, not the right.

I got to the Old Forge around 12pm. I was beyond tired at that point. I slept the rest of the day and through the night. The first couple nights, I woke up around 3am and found it hard to go back to sleep. I was wide awake. It was a six hour difference in time between Chicago and the UK and, yes, the Brits observer Daylight Savings Time just like we do here. Arriving at the B&B was a nice treat. I was staying out in the English countryside and it was QUIET! No noise. The B&B reminded me of staying at my Aunt's place in Hinckley OH during the Summer. It was an English Cottage and the door to my room, you had to duck a bit lol. Mind your head in other words.

The Old Forge
Bed and Breakfast I stayed at
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 12, 2017

October 11: Day 1. Avebury [.] and Devizes [.]. Waking the next morning, I was greeted for breakfast by Nora and Leslie, the hosts of the B&B. They were extremely friendly and I had spoken to Leslie a week prior to confirm my reservation. The hostess serving us breakfast was Sarah and right away she picked up on my accent and knew I wasn't local. She was very kind and friendly. On top of that, they were shocked I was by myself. I told them I needed to get away this year by myself and visit another country. They were extremely warm and friendly at that B&B. That morning at breakfast, I overheard a couple talking about going to Avebury to tour the Stone Circle, which was my first spot to visit while in the UK. I turned around and offered them a ride into town since I was going that way. So, I met two new friends there, Polly and Vic Brown both English.

The Destination is Avebury. I spent the day with Polly & Vic in Avebury. We got there after breakfast and did a lot of sight seeing. We had a guided tour of the Avebury Stone Circle and we were given a little history of the Circle. Ultimately, the question on everyone's mind in the tour was simply, "what was the purpose?" The answer to that was "...we just don't really know." We walked the circle clockwise and I thought that was kind of funny. "We don't want to tour the circle counter-clockwise," the tour guide said. I also signed up for the English Trust membership and donated to help preserve the circle. After we spent the morning on our tour, Polly, Vic and me had lunch at the Red Lion Avebury. I had Lamb and chips. Doing it the British way, for the rest of my trip, I put vinegar on my chips (not ketchup). In fact, there in England, ketchup is not on the table; vinegar is! After lunch we did some more walking around the circle and taking pictures. Actually, I was really intrigued after the tour guide said and pointed to the Barber-Surgeon Sarsen. It made me think of the Children of the Stones series. They used the Barber-Surgeon in the story plot! And, just like in the series, there was some truth to it. They did indeed find remains of a person under one of the Sarsen stones (the Barber-Surgeon) just like in the story plot of Children of the Stones. The opening quote of the blog is a spoken line by Dai, the Welsh Barber-Surgeon in the series. Dai was played by Freddie Jones in the series. "Friends are far and few between, dear Matthew. If you want one, go to the Sanctuary...and wait. Dai will know. I will find you."

We also spent a good portion touring the Avebury Manor, home to Alexander Keiller. He was the person that introduced Marmalade to England and responsible for excavating the Stone Circle in Avebury. Behind the Manor House, there was a celestial compass in the yard. It made me think for a minute. Maybe the Stone Circle does align with something up there!

Avebury Sarsen Stones
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 12, 2017

In the late afternoon, we drove over to Devizes. Originally, this was not on my list to see things but it was well worth it. We went to the Caen Hill Locks, got some nice photos. Actually, my whole trip was centered around "me and my camera." A lot of people were dumbfounded to see I made the trip alone. I told them all I needed to get away and it was my first trip outside the United States. In Devizes, I started paying more attention to the English dialects. I brought this up to Vic and Polly. They said, "yeah there are various accents throughout England." The accents in Devizes kind of sounded like a "southern dialect of English." I mentioned my friend Chris in the United States and described his accent. They said it's probably "Posh" associated with typical English Aristocracy. Proper lol. I said, "well you just described my friend Chris perfectly then," lol. We walked around Devizes the rest of the evening and took plenty of photos. It was great getting to know Vic and Polly. They were a big help and especially for giving me some tips for driving English roads and roundabouts. They joked later after I said, "I survived an English roundabout." Polly said, "WE survived as being your first passengers to say WE survived an English roundabout!" Ha!

Thirty-Nine of Fifty
Caen Hill Locks
Devizes, Wiltshire UK
October 11, 2017

After leaving Caen Hill Locks, we walked around the city and I was just glad to be there to experience it all even if it weren't part of my trip plans. I learned something with this next photo. During WWII, the British melted down fences to use for artillery for the war effort. Here, you can see the stubs left over from that. After the day was finished, I had a small snack before bed and once again, I woke up wide awake at 3am lol. I think this was the only day since my arrival where that happened.

St. (sin) John's Church
Artillery Shell Fence Stubs
Devizes, Wiltshire UK
October 11, 2017

October 12: Day 2. Avebury and Stonehenge. While eating breakfast in the morning, I got a weather alert on my phone for "Hurricane Ophelia" to make landfall in the UK Monday the 16th. "Great," I thought. "I wonder what that will do for my travel." My plans for Day 2 were to go back to Avebury in the first part of the morning, then go over to Stonehenge in Salisbury Hills. So, after breakfast, I moved quick to get back over to Avebury and finish taking pictures of the Stone Circle. Going back to Avebury, I noticed how warm it was out. I walked around to all the places I missed the day before, including walking "The Avenue." The Avenue is stone-marked processional path from the stone circle to a place south of the circle called the Sanctuary.

In this short video, I drive out of the B&B into Avebury. The route I could've taken was more direct, but in the video, you'll hear me flip the blinker on and not make the turn. I changed my mind at that point and took the A4 up to A361 instead. This was so you could see Silbury Hill off to the right on the way... You're welcome.

Driving from Old Forge to Avebury
SN8 4EY to SN8 1RE
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 12, 2017

Interestingly, walking the Avenue, it was just like in the Children of the Stones again. This was the route Adam and Matthew Brake, the two main characters of the series, use to escape the cataclysm at the end of the series. They flee the circle and run down "the Avenue" to the Sanctuary -- just like Dai encouraged earlier. While walking the Avenue, I bumped into a couple from Chicago!!! How interesting of that, right? It was just like the Time Turning of Children of the Stones. They were trapped in the Stone Circle too lol and trying to escape, because everyone in that series was trapped  in time in the stone circle. The couple asked me how far the Avenue went. I said it goes over that hill and down to the Sanctuary. Right away they picked up on my accent. "You're not from around here." I responded, "No Chicago." Their faces lit up. "We're from there too." So apparently I'm neighbors to them and they live in Logan Square. It was fun meeting them. Along the Avenue, the cattle walked and grazed freely on the path. You could walk up the cow and pet them if you wanted to.

"We lost our way. We missed the time turning." Adam Brake.
The Avenue to the Sanctuary
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 12, 2017

The Avenue is marked off by Sarsens as in the picture here. After leaving the Avenue, I jumped into the car and drove down to Amesbury, Wiltshire [.] -- where I would get a flat tire lol. I noticed that my first two days of my trip were in the English County of Wiltshire just now ha.

What time is it again?
Stonehenge Salisbury Plains
Amesbury, Wiltshire UK
October 12, 2017

Arriving at Stonehenge, I was able to use my English Trust membership for admission into the site. Stonehenge is just off A303 and it made me think of my Mom and Dad for a minute ha. They live in Hinckley OH just off Ohio 303. I just thought that was funny.  So waiting for the bus, the weather was really warm out. Yes, I did wear shorts but luckily there were actually some other Brits sporting shorts. For the most part, everyone bundled up like how we do in Chicago for mid winter.

Stonehenge was more restrictive as far as touring went. You weren't allowed to go up to the Sarsens or touch the stones. In Avebury you were allowed to. Stonehenge was a lot more touristy than Avebury was. Figures ha. All in all though, the Stone Circle in Avebury was more interesting. Actually my friend Debb warned about this. She said they stopped letting tourists touching the stones and going up to them because they have been painted with graffiti by tourists. What a shame! After I got back to the Visitor Center, I took some more pictures of the huts that Stonehenge builders probably lived in. When I got back to the car, it had a flat tyre! Yeah, tyre, ha. Luckily, thinking this through beforehand, I had insurance on the car, so they were able to sent AA out to the scene to fix the flat. Unfortunately I would have to wait but, also, I'd have to wait the following day for them to get me a new tyre. They replaced the flat with a "donut." The technician that came to Stonehenge to help me with the flat tyre was really kind and proper. He looked at the flat. "Nicked a curb, you did?" He said in a thick English accent. "What do you mean?" He pointed out the flat was on the side of the tyre. He said that it wasn't uncommon; English roads are narrow and many times I was telling him I was hugging the curb because the center felt weird. He understood, having driven in Germany and saying the same thing. Germans drive on the right side like the US.

Builder Huts at Stonehenge
Stonehenge Visitor Center
Amesbury, Wiltshire UK
October 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, me! October 13: Day 3. English Countryside. Word got out about my birthday that morning, because the B&B surprised me in the morning with a cake! I thanked them and they said I had mentioned it over the phone when I confirmed my reservation a week earlier. They didn't forget lol. I spent the first part of the day waiting for AA to come up and replace the tyre with a new one. I took the opportunity to do a lot of walking around the English countryside until then. So, for that day, I stuck around the B&B and did a lot of walking around. I used the time to pray even. Finally AA came out to the Old Forge and replaced the new tyre. This was around noon. So, planning to go into Bath that day, I yet encountered another problem with the car. As I drove off on the A4, the car freaked out and I pulled off here... [.]

The place where the car freaked out!
Silbury Hill
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 13, 2017

"There's the Hill." Adam Brake. Opening line.
"Pretty fantasmagorical with an F, which means more fantastic than fantastic" Matthew Brake.
"Rubbish. It's PH, a series of phantoms and illusions." Adam Brake.
Opening scene to Children of the Stones as they drive by the Hill.

It felt like both statements there lol after the car broke down, and I NEVER blame Friday the 13th either lol, especially today's.  It wasn't a bad place to break down at but it was unfortunate because the car problems set me back a whole entire day. I had to scrap a place I wanted to visit for my trip. That ended up being Bythorn. I wanted to keep the other places like Gosport, Nottingham and 2 days of London of course. So, I called the rental agency once again. Again, I'm GLAD I got full coverage on the rental!!! This was the first time I checked in at work on Slack actually hahaha. Chris Johnson asked me how my trip was and everyone had tagged me in a Happy Birthday post in Slack. So, I uploaded this picture to Slack and showed them where the car broke down at. Joe, my coworker, said, "I don't trust that hill. Fake hill. Some villain's hideout." I told him that the Hill was not a barrows either and not Hobbit friendly. It was more or less a monument because in the time I waited for AA to come, I walked over to the marker to read about its construction lol. AA called me back on my phone (thank you Verizon international roaming plan) and recommended trying to drive back to the B&B which wasn't that far away. So, I did just that.

Tanks for the Birthday wish Joe!

I waited again for AA to come. I learned that the technicians are dispatched from certain areas, and the English countryside is a big area of coverage. So AA arrived late in the afternoon and replaced a bad sensor which caused the car to freak out. I don't blame the Hill. It was damaged when the tire was replaced apparently. By this time, I was looking for a place to eat my birthday dinner, so Leslie and Nora recommended going to The Bell up the street to eat. So, I did just that. I had a great dinner with Brits there and the place felt like a family. I was able to talk to one of the people at the bar and of course he asked me where was from. [.]

Birthday Dinner at The Bell
West Overton
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 13, 2017

October 14: Day 4. Gosport [.]. The amazing part of the trip happened today. In 2001, back in the days of Dial-Up Networking and such, I was part of an Internet community called "Wizards of the Coast." There, I participated in some of the forums and contributed to some of the topics. The one forum I contributed to mostly was the "Once Upon a Time" forum. There, participants would share short stories they had written. There was another forum called "Castle of Fun." At the time, I was also on AIM (which recently shut down), Yahoo Messenger, and MSN. Many of these were used for online D&D games like AIM. I played a couple D&D adventures through AIM actually. They had a nice dice bot you could use to roll dice. That's where I met Bobbsta aka Debb.

At first, I just knew her only by her handle of Bobbsta on the forums, but over a period of time, we developped an online friendship. I would later learn that she lived in England and her real-life name was Debb. The "Castle of Fun" had a topic called "Very Large Hats," which was a name to denote very large heads. That topic was a place where users created "scripted stories" of the other members of Wizards of the Coast. I remember writing one up which was a spoof off of Clue. Bobbsta was one of the main characters in that ha.

Very Large hats, Clue.
By: Treikayan.

ex-FAHgeek: [to Bobbsta  and Takhisis ]  I think they  are catching on.  

Zherog:  All right everyone, just calm down.  [everyone hushes]  Now, before we jump to conclusions, how do you imagine we all know each other?

Jade Justice:  I imagine we have been brought here for protection.

Ivellios Nailo:  Quite true, but Mrs. White is the one who started this outrage.  I think we have a spy.

Medesha: [cowers and continues eating]

Aria Amberhawk:  [nervous]  ahem!  Well, then. Col. Mustard are you really a Colonel?

Ivellios Nailo:  :eek:  Yes.  I hold a high-ranking position in… well… I am retired and work on “certain missions.” [changes subject]  What about you Professor?  Do you teach?

Zherog:  Yes… umm… I do.  I teach at Harvard.  

Kari:  [blurts out] I work for the Department of Science and Technology.  Mainly, though  I just try to get ahead in life, period.

Aria Amberhawk:  I’m not at liberty to say what I do.  I run an animal shelter and help the homeless.  That’s all I’ll say of myself.

Medesha: [speaks with pride]  Well.  I have a husband that is an Actor, and as a creative outlook I teach drama.  There, I said it [snobbish tone].

All:  [stunned by Mrs. White]  You do?

Jade Justice:  Well, let’s just say I have an evening Chat line for lonely men and anyone of you guys here can dial anytime.  Operators are always standing by. ;)

Finally, FAH comes from the Kitchen and brings out the desert.  Ivellios becomes somewhat angry the “seventh guest” hasn’t arrived yet.

Ivellios Nailo:  And Wadsworth, what do you do? 

ex-FAHgeek:  I buttle, sir.  The butler is head of the Kitchen and Dining Room.

Ivellios Nailo: [stands to feet]  Where is this Profion?  Why have we been brought to this place?

doorbell rings… FAH excuses himself and answers the door.  Whispering can be heard all around the table, while FAH walks towards the door.  When FAH answers the door, the strange “Profion” is standing on the otherside.

Profion:  Ah yes.  Here in this satchel contains evidence and proof.  I also have brought a few gifts for our guests.  They might enjoy them.

ex-FAHgeek:  Good job, my friend.  Do come in.

Profion and FAH return to the Dining Room and everyone is horrified by the mysterious, seventh guest.  He is dressed in dark clothes, and a hood is over is head to conceal his identity.  As Profion sits at the table, Takhisis and Bobbsta come to his service immediately.  Their approach to Profion is friendly and courteous, but Profion utters not a word to them.  He simply accepts the delightful meal.  The other guests watch carefully and timidly.

Zherog:  Are you Profion? [breaking dead silence]

Profion:  I am.  I have come to help you all.  In fact, I know you all very personally I might add.  You’ve all got ONE thing in common.  Hehehehe.

All:  [looking around the table :eek: ]

Profion:  You all belong to an online internet community….called Wizards of the Coast!

A sudden spell of lightning brightens the dark face of Profion briefly, not enough to recognize his identity, but a chill is felt by the other guests.  Who indeed was Profion and what were his intentions?  Is he here to help the six guests?  And, what of Wizards of the Coast; why would someone be after these six individuals?  Is there a scam or a cover up?  Or, have they met their fates?

Tune in next time to VLH Clue!!!


This was a sample skit I posted in the VLH topic. And, if you haven't guessed, Profion later reveals his true identity in the skit as Jeremy Irons lol. Members did stories similar to this, using member handles as the charcters in their skits. I was trying to find all the HTML pages from the originall VLH website but I couldn't find them. Anyhoo...

I drove down to Gosport that day. It was about an hour and half drive. By the way, Brits uses miles on their roads here. The British Mile is the same as a US mile; the weirdest thing is driving at 70mph seemed to take longer to get anywhere than it does in the US lol. Anyhow, driving to Gosport, past Southampton (Titanic's old shipyard) and getting to the city of Gosport, I ran into a double roundabout. A roundabout adjacent to another roundabout. Debb warmed me about this one too. Solely relying on the car's GPS and navigation for my trips didn't help here.

You Spin Me (Like A Record) by Dead Alive
We go round and round...

"Enter left onto the roundabout... Now turn left to exit the roundabout."

Learning how to navigate English Roundabouts
I think I ended up on Gunners Way on this map!
Gosport, Hampshire UK
October 14, 2017

Tttooooo llllatteeeeeeeeee lol. Give way! Wwwwwhhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

This was the actual route I took from Avebury to Debb's house in Gosport. It's the place I got lost. I found myself circling around several times at both roundabouts to get off at the right exit when learning how to navigate them. I think at this particular double roundabout, I spent the longest time on. Finally! I was back on course to Debb's house. Actually since the timing was off on the navigation because everything was so close together, I used a hunch and a gut reaction to determine which exit was right. HA!

Finally, arriving at Debb's house, it was just a moment where the last 16 years smack you in the face with utter awe! I meet the person on the other side of the computer screen for the first time. It was just refreshing moment to take in! Out of all my online friendships, she was the first one to actually meet in person from another country. So, what naturally do we talk about first, the place where we met online, Wizards of the Coast! What do we next talk about? DUNE! We both love the books! I met Nik her husband for the first time too. It was very nice of them to let me visit and meet. Debb and Nik offered me tea and we talked about our lives and reminisced about the past.

An English sunset!
Portsmouth Harbour
Gosport, Hampshire UK
October 14, 2017

Breaking for a moment in our conversation, Nik took me down to the beaches and to a place to get Fish & Chips at H&D Chips in Gosport. There we walked around the harbour. I took pictures. I'm idiot though. The pictures I captured that evening were from my Android not my Camera. I forgot the camera at Debb's house. I think they still turned out ok though. Returning to the house with dinner, I experienced my first taste of "Mushy Peas" with mint sauce. It was pretty good. Chris Johnson remarked later after he saw a picture of me eating them. "Those mushy peas? Yuch." Debb asked me if I wanted ketchup. I said, "No, let's do it the British way." So she got vinegar ha.

We spent what was like only one day regaling all our stories over the past 16 years in our online friendship and Debb even told me the story of he handle Bobbsta and how it started at one of her jobs. It was just so awesome to finally meet after that long of an online friendship. It's a different kind of meeting I think. You already know about each other from the online portion. What's missing? The tangible part of the friendship. It hits you -- at least it did for me. I've always expressed myself in writing; she too! So, the layers of complexity were already there. We were just missing the physical encounter, the tangible piece. Think about your online friendships for a minute. Let it sink in. Ask yourself if you ever were to meet in person, what would that be like for you both? I asked myself that when I arrived to England. I was counting on meeting her as part of my trip. Actually, my drive down to Gosport that day was a moment of reflection, thinking back over the years. We met online just after the September 11 attacks. Actually, that's the moment in my life where my writing sparked and ignited just after that. I remember finding Wizards of the Coast (because I liked D&D) but it helped convert some of those old D&D campaigns into actual stories. That's where I met Debb. We both were D&D adventurers, writers, and lovers of DUNE! So instantly we became friends! If I were to say what was my most special birthday present this year, it would be meeting her! Not just the England trip in itself but actually taking the time out to go somewhere new and explore, see the world and meet a special friend! Thank you Nik and Debb! xxoo

Finally meeting after 16 years
Gosport, Hampshire UK
October 14, 2017

October 15: Day 5. Nottingham [.]. Why Nottingham of all places? Simply, it's the ancestral home of the Chathams -- well Cheetham in the UK. The name Chatham was started here in the States in the mid 1900s after my Great-Grandfather got the family together to have it changed. He was an accountant and worked with money. See the reason? Lol. The family agreed on Chatham since it seemed more professional and for business purposes. The last person to carry the name Cheetham from birth recently just passed in the last decade. In this short video, you can see me maneuvering through Nottingham and listening to BBC ... where they broadcast the warning about Hurricane Ophelia. I was starting to get better with the roundabouts.

Driving through Nottingham
SN8 4EY to NG1 6EL
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire UK
October 15, 2017

It was becoming common by now staying at the B&B, enjoying a hearty, delicious breakfast provided by the hosts of Old Forge and discussing my days with the hosts! It was quickly becoming an enjoyable part of the day on my trip each morning. I told Leslie I was going to Nottingham today. His response was shockingly a why. "When are you going to London." I told him that would be for the last two days of my visit (provided Hurricane Ophelia didn't spoil it). So, I told him the history of the Chathams; how my grandfather used to play in Sherwood Forest as a small boy. He said, "most of Sherwood Forest doesn't exist; however, the castle is there and it's a converted Museum." So, that interested me as a place to visit. When he said there was ART there, immediately I said I'm going lol. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive to Nottingham from Avebury. It reminded me of driving to Columbus from Cleveland OH. Same trip duration.

Old Market Square
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire UK
October 15, 2017

Arriving at Nottingham, I parked the Mercedes in a parking garage near the castle and walked over to the center of town first down Friar Lane, passing Maid Marian Way even. I stopped at Old Market Square and took some pictures. There, they had street cars, so you had to watch where you were walking. It was a beautiful Fall day in England. It was very comforting and relaxing soaking up the Autumn air in England. I was really enjoying myself and, now, here I was walking in the city where the Chathams came from. Take that in along with the crisp Autumn air. I left the Square around 12:30 and walked back over to the Castle.

An alley in front of Nottingham Castle
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire UK
October 15, 2017

Getting my admission ticket into the Castle, I was taking plenty of pictures (some of which that have not even been developped yet at this point). I walked up the stairs to the castle. The breeze was refreshing and I was glad to be there -- and thrilled by this point. I walked around the outer rim of the castle first before going inside. I took in all I could; the surroundings, the sights, the angles and the views. Nottingham Castle sets on a bluff above the city so it overshadowed Nottingham. This view was my favorite...

Looking out over the City
Nottingham Castle
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire UK
October 15, 2017

Finally going into the castle I was overtaken by its beauty and the exhibits there. I can't tell you though how long I spent in the Art section though. I still haven't been through all of the Art Institute here in Chicago yet, so I tried to take in all that I could. I did a lot of walking around and captured many moments on camera.

Art Gallery at Nottingham Castle
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire UK
October 15, 2017

After touring the castle, I almost had dinner at "Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Pub" on the one side of the castle. It was hyped up to be the oldest pub in England 1189, erected around the time of the Crusades! I walked inside, but soon realized that the pub was built half in a house and half in a cave. I got very claustrophobic really quick and changed my plans for dinner lol. I had to "mind my head" in several spots especially in the portion that was half in the caves. I walked over to a nice pub called The Crafty Crow. It was there, again, where I learned about dialects. Everyone in Nottingham sounded like they had a Scottish dialect. CJ said that Northern England sounds like this later. I wonder if that has something to with my family too since originally the Chathams came from Scotland and moved down to Nottingham in the 1800s. I asked my Dad how his grandfather sounded, but he never had the chance to meet him to know.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Oldest standing pub in England
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire UK
October 15, 2017

For dinner, I had the Raven Steak burger and chips. Every pub I ate at I ordered Guinness for my drink. It tasted so much better over there, and I've always been a fan of stouts and dark beers. The flavor hits the back of your throat in a way that makes you want more! Ha! Time to drive home.

October 16: Day 6. London. Ophelia; do you feel it. The last two days I was in England, I visited London. I didn't do any driving to London on those days. Instead, I took the GWR (Great Western Railway) to London. I got some advice from Sarah the hostess at the B&B about where to catch the trains at. Originally, I was going to catch the GWR at Swindon, but she advised not to. The fare would be a lot more expensive and the parking as well. So, she said your best bet is to catch the train at Great Bedwyn Station in Bedwyn [.]. So, I bought my tickets online and drove to the station. The first I realized here:

"You don't high-five the oncoming trains here like you can in Chicago!"

British Great Western Railway
Great Bedwyn Station
Bedwyn, Wiltshire UK
October 16, 2017

Yep, that's it. I was standing on the platform, something I'm very familiar with doing like in Chicago; whether it's the CTA or the Metra. Then, suddenly, it happened; the express train zipped by. I mean it just was there in a blink of an eye then gone! I looked over at the person next to me on the platform. "Do they usually go by that fast???" I mean this train zoomed by faster than a bullet! She said, "yeah, the speeds can exceed 100 mph." I just looked at her. "Good thing I was standing on the platform then," I said jokingly. She immediately recognized I was from the US, so we talked and I told her I was from Chicago and our trains don't go nearly as fast. It was a close shave. We both boarded the train together and I had someone to talk to on the way to London. Note the sun in this picture, because from this point on, all my pictures will feature apocalyptic, looking skies courtesy of Hurricane Ophelia.

So boarding the train, my destination was Paddington Station [.]. The train ride was fast, and I enjoyed the company of some commuters, probably going to work that morning. We arrived at Paddington Station and the first thing I was greeted with was a Pret-A-Manger lol. I immediately thought of my boss because that's his choice lunch spot here in Chicago. I mentioned to him later about this because it so happened they were all over London not just in the train station. I would later learn that Princess Kate was there at the same time I was and got pictures with Paddingon Bear! Missed that part!

Mind the Gap
Paddington Station
Westminster, London UK
October 16, 2017

After de-boarding the train I went down into the "Tubes" the London Underground. There I learned that subways were more complex than the CTA was in Chicago. I had to really pay attention to the maps. By the way, all my Tubes' pictures looked better in Black & White. I boarded the Yellow Line (Circle Line) and got off at St. James Park. I had to listen closely, because they pronounce St as Sin not Saint in England. So the stop was announced "Sin Jim's Park."  Good thing I was paying attention to that. St. James Stop was next to Buckingham PALACE not FOUNTAIN! I caught myself a few times with not saying FOUNTAIN lol.

St. James Park Station
Westminster, London UK
October 16, 2017

I did lots of walking and the first thing I did was get on the "Hop on, hop off" buses for the tour. The tours started at Waterloo station, so I had a free ride to the station. So I boarded the bus at St. James and took it down to Waterloo to get the start of the tour. There were different routes for the tours. I don't remember which one exactly I did because I got on and got off quite a few times. When I first boarded, I remember getting this picture as my first scenic look of London and the Thames. Hurricane Ophelia had not yet made landfall... but... look... at... that... sky!

Crossing the River Thames
Hop on, hop off bus tours
October 16, 2017

Once again, I did not Photoshop any the skies in my pictures. This was because of Hurricane Ophelia. According to an article I read, it was because the storm kicked up Sahara sand and it caused the sky to look filtered. After being rather freaked out about it, I did the Google thing and checked. Actually, right away, I messaged my British friend Chris back in the States. "Is the sky supposed to look like this in London? It's freaking me out!" He said no, but it was because of the storm. His folks that live north of London checked in with him too, he said. It was very uncomfortable to see at first, and uneasy. What was really interesting even with the onslaught of the hurricane, it rained very little if not at all. I took my umbrella with me each day just in case it did. Even with the storm as seen in the pictures, there wasn't any rain. There was wind, but that was it.

I hoped off the bus at Trafalgar Square for some time and walked around. That's when the sun started looking really freaky and foreboding. There was a flying Yoda in the square which I got pictures of. They were starting to celebrate Indian Diwali there, so the square was full of celebration.

Apocalyptic London Sun. Thumbs down.
Trafalgar Square
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

Where's your umbrella?
Flying Yoda
Trafalgar Square
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

I captured this nice one of Nelson's Column though with the freakish skies. Trust me, after I went through these photos when I got home, I was struck with awe and they added so much to the photos. No Photoshop here either! Just bringing out contrast, vibrancy and clarity. THAT'S IT!

Nelson's Column
Trafalgar Square
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

I got back on the "hop on, hop off" bus at Trafalgar Square; I officially started the bus tour at Waterloo Station. The driver threw in a free river cruise on the Thames with my ticket as well. So, I was able to use that ticket for the two days I was in London. That was an awesome deal I think. I rode around the bus for a couple hours until probably 2pm.  I got off at Embankment, and then, that's when Hurricane Ophelia officially made landfall and struck as captured here...

Hurricane Ophelia hits London!
Victoria Embankment
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

The storm hits and it was kind of freakish. It just got windy but I kept walking the embankment. It was like a scene from The Mummy. Later I was able to look at my photos and take a moment to reflect on a unique moment that was special. I was there at that time! I spent awhile walking the Victoria Embankment to the harbor. I was able to get on the harbor by Waterloo bridge and take some more pictures of the River Thames and I noted how many cranes were in the shots. London is moving up for sure!

Where is Brendan Fraser when you need him?
Victoria Embankment
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

Look at all those cranes
Embankment Pier
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

For dinner the first day in London, I walked over to The Sherlock Holmes' pub just south of Trafalgar Square. The pub was very nice inside and I found a table to sit at. I placed my order at the bar and it was very windy outside because of the storm. The crowds were interesting and I liked the dude sporting a top hap. He sounded very Irish overhearing the conversation.

The Sherlock Holmes
First Dinner in London
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

I remember having the "BBQ Burnt Ends Beef Melt" burger for dinner and of course a pint of Guinness. Again, it tasted much better in Britain than it did in the States. I enjoyed the crowds there and Football (the European variety) was broadcast on the tellies.

Pub Locals at The Sherlock Holmes
Greater London, London UK
October 16, 2017

After dinner, I walked all the way down to Buckingham Fount... er... PALACE! PALACE! The skies were really whipping up a show for this place. It was near sunset. Apparently after much discussion between Debb and Keith (another Brit friend), the Queen was at Buckingham Palace that day because the Union Jack was flown. I think that's how it worked. Ha.

Notably, in the shot are the sun rays. Thanks, Ophelia. I think out of all my Buckingham Palace photos, this was my favorite. All the other ones had traffic in front and I wanted to get all of it in the pictures. This was probably the best angle though. Enjoy...

Buckingham Palace not Fountain
Westminster, London UK
October 16, 2017

Love and marriage. Love and marriage. Go together ... Oh wait, sorry. PALACE not FOUNTAIN. I didn't get to go in and do any tours. There was just not enough time. I enjoyed walking up to these places and doing photos of exteriors. Time was pressed. I had lost a day with the car problems so I didn't want to waste it on tours. The bus tour was the exception because it got me out and about to see London better ... as a whole. One day, I'll have to go back and go on some tours.

Night Sky Porn
The Old Forge
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 16, 2017

When I got back to the B&B that night, the skies cleared for this event! One thing I really enjoyed were the night skies at the B&B in Avebury. I actually could see the bands of the Milky Way and, I gotta tell ya, but you feel really small! If there's one thing I enjoy and makes my jaw gape in awe, it's crisp, clear night skies, or night-sky porn as I call it! Ever since I was a kid, I would enjoy going out late and watching the sky just for hours, looking up in wonder. I could spot the Big Dipper or the Plough (as the Brits call it). There was no beam of light coming from Avebury that night (ala Children of the Stones) but I tried to get the best photo I could of it without a tripod. I used the fence post and steadied the camera on that for this shot.

On My Way Home by Eithne
Heading back to Chicago.

October 17: Day 7. London. Last day. This was a bittersweet moment especially at breakfast that morning. I settled up for my stay at the Old Forge and it just got me thinking about the whole couple weeks enjoying another country and how much I was going to miss that. I did something new and exciting this year. I made the 2017 Goal, "happy now, happy later" a reality. Thanks, Todd, again. I remember also checking in with American Airlines that morning with Manchester Airport to make sure there were no disruptions in my flight due to Hurricane Ophelia. This did have me worried a bit. Luckily, there were no issues and the check-in said the flight was running on time. I gathered up my room this morning and got things ready to leave in the morning. I was going to spend one last day in London. On my way out, I got a picture of Leslie and Nora, because it was going to be the last time I saw them. My flight out of Manchester the next morning was Noon, and I was going to get up on the road by 5am which I'm glad I did! Leslie and Nora made my UK experience so enjoyable and pleasurable, and I would like to credit their hospitality for making England such a beautiful place!!! THANK YOU!

Thank you, Leslie and Nora for a wonderful stay in England!
The Old Forge
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
October 17, 2017

So, I drove back over to Great Bedwyn Station to catch the train again. As I rode in on the train, a couple tears streamed down. I was certainly going to miss this all! This was such an amazing trip and I will never forget it as long as I live. I had hoped to get a lot of these memories out in the blog here. There was just so much that not even I can get all out into a 'tl;dr' blog.

A couple tears mark this moment here
Somewhere on the GWR to London
October 17, 2017

Train into Paddington. I got off the train and went into the Tubes again to Embankment to use that ticket for the River Thames tour. Ophelia skies greeted us and returned for another day in London. I spent a long time on the Thames and got some really cool photos of London. The tour guide was rather witty and funny ha! Not so much energetic but just witty, and it made the voyage fun!

Welcome back Ophelia!
On the River Thames
London UK
October 17, 2017

Around 3pm, I got a the bus again and did some more touring, getting in my final shots of London. There are still a lot of photos that I haven't gone through. Want to know something rather odd though? I didn't fill up ONE memory card on my camera for this trip. I packed TWO, and filled almost ONE. That's a goal; fewer pictures, and not making the camera a machine gun! My Dad originally taught me this with film. "Don't waste your shots." Even in a digital world, it's good to think your shots through. I did more of that on this trip. I remember my San Diego trip last Summer. I used TWO memory cards. And, Wayne Chatham, I still haven't gone through the whole LOT yet lol. Sorry. These shots here were my favorite two River Thames shots; Shakespeare Globe and Tower Bridge. Thanks, Ophelia ... again!

I think this a new addition to Shakespeare's Globe?
River Thames
London UK
October 17, 2017

Tower Bridge
River Thames
London UK
October 17, 2017

The Shard
River Thames
London UK
October 17, 2017

Big Ben Erector Set
Getting off Cruise at Westminster
London UK
October 17, 2017

My favorite Big Ben shot with Erector Set
Previous Day's Shot from Bus
Westminster, London UK
October 16, 2017

After my afternoon cruise, I walked past Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret's Church then back up towards Trafalgar Square. Guess what? It rained for the first time since landing the previous week lol! I used the previous day's shot here for St. Margaret's Church. I had to ask a friend what landmark it was. I also liked this photo of British Police in front of Westminster Abbey. "You get by me? Look behind me, punk!"

British Police
Westminster Abbey
Westminster, London UK
October 17, 2017

Ste. Margaret's Church (from previous day)
Westminster, London UK
October 16, 2017

The St. Margaret's Church shot looked like a fairy tale picture. Thanks, Ophelia! I pulled out my umbrella for the FIRST time on my trip at this point ha! I still took plenty of pictures on my way finding a place to eat for Dinner. I eventually found this nice place called The Clarence and had Dinner there. I had the "The Clarence Cheeseburger" and, yes of course, GUINNESS! After dinner I got these shots!

Whitehall Avenue
The Clarence
Greater London, London UK
October 17, 2017

And it wouldn't be England if I didn't get a picture of a Phone Booth which actually did have a working phone in this one!

Hello, operator. How do you talk in this thing?
Telephone Booth
Charing Cross Station
Greater London, London UK
October 17, 2017

After walking off dinner, it was time to head back to the B&B to get some sleep for my flight out the next day. So, I got onto the Bakerloo Brown Line to Paddington in the Tubes at Charing Cross. I was kind of worn out by this point as well. I got back to the B&B around 10pm, took a shower and went right to bed. The previous nights, I enjoyed some British TV while turning in. Plus it was time to catch up with friends and family with texts and such...

Bakerloo Brown Line to Paddington Station
Charing Cross Station
Greater London, London UK
October 17, 2017

Here is a short video of my England Trip. I thought the Celtic song, Secret Call by Ginkgo Garden, was rather appropriate for this video. Enjoy. If you've noticed song titles in my blog, that's a nuance that started at my job. We use Song Titles as our Meetings, so it has carried over into my blogs, lol. I enjoyed this trip so much that even when I got home, I sat at my desk and marveled. "I did it. I can't believe I was there!" A couple tears there too. I would love to go back.

2017 Destination England
Some of my photos from my trip
Secret Call by Ginkgo Garden

October 18: The Stones Let me Leave. The Day of Release. Getting up early to get on the roads. I set my alarm for 4am. I already planned on getting to the airport early. I'M GLAD I DID. It was a 3 hour drive back to Manchester. Roads were fine even around Birmingham. The troubles were at the Airport. I got there at 8am; returned the Rental, and waited a long time for a shuttle to take me to Terminal Three, American Airlines. When the shuttle finally arrived, I got on the wrong one, so I had to circle back and wait for the next one. Finally getting to the baggage claim, there was a long line at American. The woman behind me lived in Manchester and said this is usually how it looks here. It was a good hour before I finally got processed for my baggage. Very slow going. So, it was 10am now. My flight was at Noon. Sigh. Not quite. Security check was just as bad. It was very slow going! I'm glad I got on the roads when I did, because I just made it to boarding time. Then, it happened -- and I didn't realize what happened until I landed -- I lost my Credit Card. When I finally arrived at O'Hare and took the Tram over to Remote Parking. I jump in my Honda, pull up to the gate -- uh, I lost my credit card! DANG! So, when I got home, I immediately reported it lost. If I weren't in such a hurry in Manchester, this wouldn't've caused the domino effect I had later in the week with my Identity Theft. Things happen though... Maybe it happened to show me I need to move out of my current place... Read the sections below for that! I did have a 2017 goal for "new home!" Oddly, this is not the first time this year a goal has smacked me in the face! Read September's blog! However, with that all being said ... the Stones let me go! Lol.

The mystery of Avebury
Celestial Compass behind the Manor House
Avebury, Wiltshire UK
 October 11, 2017

The mystery of Avebury. Does it truly align with something up there? This celestial compass behind the Manor House in Avebury would seem to suggest that the stones DO align with something. That was my first thought before the tour on my first day. The Manor House was owned by Alexander Keiller, the archaeologist responsible for excavating the stones AND introducing England to Marmalade. In the TV series I enjoyed as a kid, the stones aligned with a blackhole in the Big Dipper. In that series, the myth was the whole town sat on a transmitting radio dish that projected a beam of light into the blackhole when the stones aligned with the Big Dipper each night.

The stones connected ley lines, used to charge the "radio dish" under the town. The Manor House sat at the center and was the transmitting point. If anyone can't make this out. The tilt is 23.5 degrees. The ball in the middle would be the earth. The band around it would be the zodiac assumingly but it's faded. The top would be Polaris or Evenstar if you're a LOTR fan.

Lost the Sky Again by Newsboys
Much to do in VelocityEHS

Driving to VelocityEHS one morning
Kennedy Expressway to Ohio Street
September 1, 2017

Going up to 17! As I originally stated, work has been really busy lately, and I'm entirely grateful for all that I'm doing. It's been one full year at the helm with VelocityEHS in IT. Exciting times! I've had a lot of accomplishments this year especially setting up the Hybrid. The year of work went by really fast. I decided to add a partial section here about work though. The work has been fine but I have been finding it a struggle to fit in with everyone else. Trust me, this is a hard thing. I'm the lowest one on the totem pole and, despite assurance, I'm told everything is fine. Ok, good. I think the real issue is that I'm still really new and I've not quite find a niche. My struggle. So, my primary focus has been completing work projects rather than get personal. There's a time and place for that sort of thing, but most times, I feel like the lone sysadmin. I work with my friend and he's a big help when it comes to that. I live inside my head and I read too much into things which doesn't help matters. Luckily my friend understands me completely. On a bright note, I'm getting things done and helping out. My boss gave us mid-year goals and I've accomplished some of those. With the year wrapping up, I hope to be more inclusive with projects and goals. I want to be part of the family! It was no accident that I joined the team last September. No accident at all. I keep telling myself that, and many times, it brings back so many refreshing moments I had at Broadvox in Cleveland. In fact, my boss does remind me of my old Russian manager Sergey Galchenko there -- a good thing! With 2018 around the corner, I wonder what the new year will bring for me at VelocityEHS. #wearevelocityehs.

VelocityEHS Entrance
Merchandise Mart
Chicago IL
July 14, 2017

This next 2017 goal was not a selfish goal, but I thought about this one for the month after I got my tattoo. I believe that this does cover this goal entirely. It came to fruition when a coworker was interested in the story behind it.

2017 Goal: Stop being snubbed or ignored! You may think this is a selfish goal, but really it isn't. I never stand out and I'm often brushed aside, ignored and forgotten.  Far too often in my life, this has been a serious problem, and I never do anything about it.  Some people in my life get FAR too much praise, attention and adoration than they actually deserve, including cohorts, friends and family. So, meekly stand out.

When I got my tattoo a week ago, a coworker was interested in it and wanted to know more. So, she asked me to lunch one day. We had lunch in the Food Court of the Merchandise Mart. We sat by the windows and watched the L trains come and go into Merchandise Mart Station. We talked about our personality types. We both took the Myers-Briggs test, and the Four Temperaments. Eating lunch, she asked me about my November 15 story. So I told her my "semicolon" story. Read back at the top if you want to know more about that. Anyhow, as I told her about sinking down into darkness, she asked me if I was dating or seeing anyone at the time. I told her yes. So, I then told her about "you know who" back in Ohio. I told her that in my personality I tend to "absorb" what's around me. This was something she saw already about me; I guess she wanted me to say it though. Then, I told her about this person and how she was always toxic and negative. In fact, she was really toxic to tell me behind my back to a mutual friend of ours that "I'd fail in Chicago and move back within 2 years." I'm not mentioning her name here because it's really not important anymore; I've moved on. If you're reading and know who she is, that's fine. This is part of my story now and I see WHY my coworker asked the question after the discussion.

Going up to 17! VelocityEHS
Merchandise Mart
Chicago IL
July 14, 2017

So I mentioned more about the toxic, narcissistic behavior of this person to her (coworker). She stops me for a minute and makes me rethink the REAL reason I was led to that moment where there was no way out. "You absorb people around you. Maybe she is the real reason you were pushed over the edge like that." I thought for a minute. At first, I felt a little "naked" with that direct approach. "You were shown Chicago after that, right?" Then, for the first time, it started to make sense to me and about that "dark" November 14th day. I hate to blame people, but I see how I was around her and how I was starting to hate myself for how I was feeling. I learned later how some people absorb; I was doing just that. I was absorbing all that toxicity from her AND now I see one reason it took me to move [back] to Chicago. With all that she's done, I still need to forgive her. That part has been hardest. So it was a great lunch to spend with her and she told me her stories of "darkness" as well. She even admitted that she too absorbs from other people as well and that's why she asked me about who I was seeing at the time of "darkness" in my life. It made sense after that, but rather than place blame, I, too, needed and was ready for a change in my life as well beyond November 15, 2011.

Over the Horizon by Petra
Time to Move methinks!

This sunrise happens two times a year in my apartment
Albany Park, Chicago IL
October 21, 2017

This got bumped into full gear recently. Why you ask? The first Friday I was back from my trip, someone in my apartment building stole my new Credit Card and activated the card using my social security number. Imagine how frustrating that is to have a number that's been associated with you your whole life just up and stolen like that. Pretty scared and vulnerable. That's how I felt. Immediately, I contacted both the Credit Card Company and the Police and had a report filed.

Lock down time!

The old neighbors on 2 moved out in September and some new neighbors moved in -- the only real change in this variable here. Sadly, the new neighbors were clones from the previous neighbors which is currently making the living experience worse than the previous jerks. This year was the worst year on record ever for "bad neighbors." I've had my share of issues in the past, but this last year has had me "on edge" with amount of problems I'm having. When I first moved into my building in January 2014, it was quiet and I had no problems whatsoever. In fact, several of the neighbors in the building that live here were here when I first moved in. The problems all started recently. The mail theft in my building started because I lost my credit card at Manchester Airport the day I left England. I was rushing through the terminal and the security to get to my flight on time (it was a 3 hour drive from Avebury) and I lost my credit card. LUCKILY, I knew exactly where I lost it and immediately when I got home, I successfully reported the card lost. The representative and I went through each transaction and I verified them ALL without a problem. They were all mine. The problem came a week later when they were going to Express a new CC to my apartment (bad move on my part). Little did I know at the time what Express meant. It basically meant UPS was going to drop it off in the building, which they confirmed later is what they did. The problem with that is someone in my building stole my mail and then stole my SSN to use the card. Once I found out how they activated the card, I was just beside myself. Very paranoid and UPSET! Still I am now! I spent that weekend from October 27 locking down my credit, opening an Identity Theft issue with the Federal Trade Commission, filing a police report and much more. What confirmed the fact the card was actively being used was the fraud alert I got on October 27. The card was also being used downtown Chicago at places. I've been through this once before in my life and thought I was past this!

2017 Goal: Find a new home! Yep, as much as I like my neighborhood (Albany Park), the apartment I live in has several faults, including kids that don't care about other neighbors in the building. 401k. Pre-Approval on mortgage.

There it is; the goal I set last December. So where does this leave me now? SCARED, VERY MAD AND UNHAPPY! I did manage to achieve the outstanding credit score and the Pre-Approval, so I guess this goal is not all for naught. I was going to use my credit this year to buy a house, but because of this crap, I'm set back. What really lights the fire here is the fact I've worked my ass off to get where I'm at now only to have this crap happen! I'm thankful that I NIPPED THIS IN THE BUD to its fullest, but in the Month of Cyber Awareness (October), this attack happens! I think part of the problem was due to the Equifax breach earlier this year. I hung this in my apartment building recently because I am so mad!!! I addressed it "to whomever." The police are still investigating this and gathering information, so that's good to know. As far as the theft is concerned; in the end, I really guess I don't know whom, but you fail to trust the people you live with! So, it's probably best to get out.

"To whomever is stealing mail and people’s identities (social security numbers) in this building, you and/or your accomplices know who you are. It needs to stop now. Whether you get caught or not, you need to know what you have done is a still considered a crime and a punishable offense. Be it on your own conscience – if you have one. The thefts are confirmed and originated in this building. So, whatever you’ve done is done. Good luck. Next time get your own credit and your own credit cards."

Picture if you will; I live under the same roof as criminals!

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
Near 91st Street
Darien IL
February 18, 2017

So, now where do I go? Live under the same roof with the crooks? Do you have any idea and know what that feels like???? I've had all my mail re-routed to my place of business. The mail theft has happened more than once! Originally, I was house hunting (2017 goal) but that has rapidly changed. I started looking for apartments back in the suburbs, mainly at Waterfall Glen where I used to live before the city. I left there on superb terms and the landlord offered me a place to come back there. I'm not sure yet how this is going to work for the holiday because I was planning to go visit my folks in Cleveland, the week of Christmas. So, I might have to revisit this next year. The landlord at Waterfall Glen said I could put a deposit down on the place to reserve it so I'm probably going to do that.

Time to move on!

Something's Gotta Give by Beastie Boys
The Destination is nearly Ended.

The Chicago Riverwalk
Near LaSalle Street
Chicago IL
August 24, 2017

2018 Give Way!

It has a nice English touch to it, because there it's "give way" not "yield" like here in the US. This what I take that to mean: "Yield indicates to me slow down stupid, look what is going on around you and act accordingly. But the term Give Way says to me, be nice give the other vehicle their way. My whole life I thought Yield meant slow down and caution, not according to Webster. Means produces or provides: to relinquish one's possessions; to surrender; to give way." With things going on in my life now, I think this plays into what next year will be for me. I have my English vacation to thank for that.

The Chinese Rooster has crowed! The dogs are coming out to play. I'm officially declaring now "Give Way" my theme for the New Year. I know it's early but England helped me pick this one out! Thank you for all reading my blog this month and thank you to all that made it happen. This year has been quite a year and I truly did make the magic happen for "The Destination is There" with God's help. I intend writing another blog next month ala New Year's goals. I probably will be reusing some of these goals for 2018. Give way for the dogs! The destination has been achieved. Next month, I'm going to re-evaluate my goals for 2017 and set some new ones I think. Over the year, I'm very pleased to see that I've achieved many of my 2017 goals and resolutions. It does bring some comfort.

Until next month, thanks for digesting this one...

Back Porch of Apartment
N. Drake & N. Central Park Alley
Albany Park, Chicago IL
October 20, 2017

This blog's Spotify Playlist:
2017 The Destination is There | Never Get Beyond The Sight!

Connect to me elsewhere at your own risk.

My Life starts at the Chicago Water Tower!
Mark 0, 0, 0, 0. The last 0 is for the time parameter
Keeping a train of thought and keeping on track.

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