Friday, December 31, 2010

Mood Music for 2010

For a couple years I was in the habit of exchanging yearly soundtracks with a close friend. They acted as a score to our lives, but it was also often an exercise in cartharsis.  But for the past two years, my life has been less emotionally tumultuous, and because of my living, working, and transportation arrangements, I have had less time for music, and therefore have missed a few soundtracks. This year was similar, but I refused to skip another year, so I threw something together. It's hard because I spent most of the year listening to a few albums over and over. As a result, there isn't much variety, so I kept it short.

Here is the track listing for 2010; I call it 12 Songs for 12 Months:
  1. "Twilight Galaxy" - Metric
  2. "Knotty Pine" - Dirty Projectors Featuring David Byrne
  3. "Big Red Machine" - Justin Vernon & Aaron Dessner
  4. "Tightrope" - Yeasayer
  5. "Gentle Hour" - Yo La Tengo
  6. "Changes" - Stars
  7. "I Died So I Could Haunt You" - Stars
  8. "Psychic City (Classixx Remix)" - Yacht
  9. "Hysteric" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  10. "Robots" - Flight of the Conchords
  11. "Walking Down the Hill" - Travis
  12. "King's Highway" - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
I thought about posting videos instead of a list but nearly none of these songs have official videos and anyway, even with only 12 songs this post would be too long for anyone to slog through if I embedded videos for all of them. However, I will mail a copy to anyone who wants one, just email me at mistymichael15@gmail.com.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mood Music for the Holidays

So my friend NJA wrote a post dedicated to Hanukkah related videos earlier this month (and even though Hanukkah is over I would recommend checking it out!) and yesterday my friend Rachel posted about her favorite holiday music, so I thought I would follow the trend. Some of mine are pretty cheesy, probably because I grew up listening to "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" every year at my grandmother's house.

"Nutcracker Suite"
I will listen to pretty much any version of the Nutcracker Suite. This one, though not traditional, is very upbeat and festive.

"The Chipmunk Song"
Let's be real. I was a kid during the run of the second Chipmunks television show, so I ate up all their stuff. I particularly liked Theodore because he was just plain nice.

"Carol of the Bells"
A little more traditional here. I particularly like the more traditional versions of this one, which is why I picked this video instead of say, that of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

"Little Saint Nick"
I had this on cassette and loved it.

"Let It Snow"
As an adult, my love for the, uh . . . classier Christmas songs has grown.

"Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth"
It's not necessarily that this is a favorite, but how could I leave out this video? It's also kind of fun to check out the Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly parody.

And just for fun, "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by a flash mob . . .

Monday, November 15, 2010

Haircut!

So, back in April I decided to let my hair grow for donation. It was already pretty long, I just needed a few extra inches so my stylist would have something to work with. After some research, I decided on Locks of Love. They specifically state on their website that they accept layered hair, which was definitely important. Anyway, after seven months, my hair was ready for me to make the cut.

Before

I was really looking forward to the change. However, after I made my appointment, I began to realize that I'll miss having long hair. Most of the time it's a hassle, but I'd been getting compliments on it recently and I've had long hair for most of my life, with the exception of a couple years right after high school. I was surprised I felt ambivalent, but I didn't change my mind. And I'm glad I didn't, because I think this is a really good cause. My only regret is that I couldn't do more (well, not without getting a pixie-cut), because the 10 inches I cut off will only make a chin-length wig if used at the crown. But hey, that's the length of my hair now and it looks pretty cute if I do say so myself!

After
Please forgive the mirror shots; Matt was out of town this weekend when I got it cut (yes, my guy left a long-haired lady and came back to a stranger with a bob). Anyway, I haven't had a chance to go to the post office and mail my hair, but they hard part is over. And it was easy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

October

How did a whole month fly by without any posts? I have been keeping busy in other ways, some productive, some not so much. The month started with me finishing The Color Purple for Banned Books Week. You can check out my Goodreads review here. The rest of the month was dedicated to various activities including losing/recovering my camera, beer drinking, cake making, apple crisp baking, zoo visits, vaccinations, a position change at work, and reading the entire archive of my most recent addiction, Questionable Content. Here's some more stuff I that helped me pass the month:

  • New Belgium Brewing's Tour de Fat, with a bicycle parade, music, cabaret acts, beer, and plenty of silliness.
Fun with a fun-house style mirror.
  • Olive picking and curing. This was fun for me because we picked our olives at this hokey place where my mom worked when I was in middle school, and where she recently started working again. We hit some bumps in the curing process, but overall it was a lot of fun.
Ripe for the picking!

Rinsing the lye solution from the olives.
  • Making my Halloween costume. My friend is having a robot party so I am going as Vicky from the Eighties TV show Small Wonder. It's an obscure reference but I'm hoping someone recognizes it. I got the bright idea to sew the costume myself even though my only completed project to date is a set of kitschy, imprecisely sewn curtains for the kitchen. Additionally, I don't own a real sewing machine, instead, I have a $30 piece of plastic that I purchased at a drug store when I decided to teach myself to sew last summer. So yeah. it's been interesting.

Check it out, cats and kittens!

Cheap in every sense, but adorable!

  • Apple picking with Rachel Elizabeth and her family in Julian. It was my first trip to Julian and I had a really good time. Matt and I stopped at Alpine Beer Company's new pub on the way home, and had some extremely tasty beer.
At Raven Hill Orchard

Aaaaaand I actually still need to hem my dress and make my pinafore for the party tomorrow night, so that's why you're getting this post instead of something more substantial. But next month I'll try to post more frequently/for real. Hope you've had as good of a month as I did!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week

Confession: I have actually never read Ulysses. Yes, I am a poser.

So, I recently (like, five minutes ago) discovered that this week is Banned Books Week! This is even more exciting than National Punctuation Day, which I missed celebrating on Friday. It is pretty astounding that people still try to get books banned. Books are an incredible source of knowledge, and I particularly love the way fiction can reveal so much about what it means to be human, in all its beautiful, terrible complexity. And the real shame is that the books that reveal the most are the ones that are the most honest, which also seems to land them on the banned and challenged book lists.

I try to understand that people who want to ban books are, in a twisted way, doing it because they care about children and young adults, but the whole idea is just disgusting and misguided, and sometimes even discriminatory. In general, the idea of restricting knowledge really gets my panties in a bunch, if you'll forgive the antiquated phrase. And when this happens, then I become somewhat irrational and unable to form coherent sentences. So I won't go on about it too much. Instead, I will focus on the positive, the freedom to read!

The American Library Association has compiled this list of the most challenged titles of 2009. While I am familiar with nearly all of the titles on the list, I haven't actually read a single one (no, not even Catcher in the Rye or The Color Purple, and not even Twilight). So this week, I am going to acknowledge Banned Books Week by going to the library and checking out one of the books on the list.

If the issue interests you, I recommend you do the same, or do one of the following:

  • Check out BBW website for a list of events that may be happening in your area.
  • If the books on the 2009 list don't tickle your fancy, here is another ALA list of banned/challenged books that also appear on somebody somewhere's list of the top 100 books of the 20th century. Of these, I can personally recommend The Great Gatsby1984, Of Mice and Men, Brave New World, Slaughterhouse Five, and Go Tell it on the Mountain, although I really need to get around to reading the others on that list as well.
  • Pop over to maybe genius and read what she has to say about attempts to get the novel Speak banned.
  • Read (or re-read) Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, which not only appears on the ALA's list of the top ten challenged books of 2008 (the first book is also on the 2007 list) but also features themes about knowledge and how it's accessibility is directly related to freedom. Also, the series happens to be a personal favorite of mine.
  • Get a more global perspective through this list of books banned by governments according to wikipedia.
  • Explore this totally sweet map featured on the BBW website:

But most of all, celebrate your freedom to read!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mood Music with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I've taken over the filing duties at work. Yep, that is exactly as thrilling as it sounds. However, it does allow me a little quality time with my iPod. It's a pretty huge task, and to keep me in a zone, I've been listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs latest, It's Blitz, which I'm only now discovering more than a year after it was released. The whole album is great, and while my favorite song is currently the slightly slower "Hysteric," the opening track, "Zero," does a great job of getting me pumped about putting files on shelves. Woo-hoo!


Karen O makes me want to buy hi-top sneakers and wear red lipstick everyday. Also, shopping cart shenanigans? Awesome.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thank you . . .

Rachel
This is what friendship looks like, people.

Welcome to the second installment of my thank you series, in which I thank the people around me for increasing my life's awesomeness. This entry is dedicated to my dear friend Rachel. We started as coworkers at our university's on campus convenience store, where I "trained" her by pointing at the cash register and standing next to her while she used it on actual customers (there really was no better way at that job, it's not like we had a "practice" cash register we could use). After meeting, we bonded over our love for books, Buffy, and Batman, but our friendship has lasted because of her character. She's compassionate, intelligent, and she doesn't let gender roles define her as a person. Besides being an all around fun and reliable friend, I'd also like to thank Rachel for the following:

  • Inspiring me to start a blog. Rachel's blog, Delete the Adjectives, is great. Her posts are thoughtful and honest. She also writes about herself as well as bringing attention to issues that matter to her, such as gay rights and animal welfare. For Blogathon 2009 she raised money for Best Friends Animal Society, which is a non-profit with a huge no-kill sanctuary for animals. It's a pretty special organization and given that Rachel loves dogs and would probably adopt every homeless dog she saw if she could, it was natural that she'd champion their cause.
  • Not making me wear a heinous, $300 bridesmaid dress. 'Nuff said.
  • Lengthy, winding conversations, in which we can chat about pretty much any topic. In fact, our guys deserve some thanks on this too, because we ladies tend monopolize the discussion when we all hang out.
  • Playing video games with me even though I am terrible and can never win a racing game or play Guitar Hero without getting booed off stage.
  • Introducing me to the kitty-cat dance, which produces a guaranteed smile even on the lousiest of days:


Monday, August 30, 2010

My Name


I get all sorts of reactions to my name. Mostly, people just want to know how I came to be named Michael. The questions have been strange to get used to, because growing up, I didn't actually use it.. When my grandparents learned that my mother named me, a girl, after my father, even though she was not expecting a boy, they decided they would not call me by my given name. Rather than use my middle name, they started calling me Misty. I have no idea where they got it, or who picked it. I probably should have asked my grandmother before she died. However it came to them, that is what I was called in all circumstances--excluding getting in trouble--for the first 14 years of my life. In fact, as a child, I hated when people learned my real name because it led to teasing.

Then I went to high school and, because I was terrified of the new situation in general but also specifically because I was in a new district and had no friends, unless a teacher asked if we'd like to be called something other than what appeared on their roster, I was too scared to speak up and asked to be called Misty. So in a few classes my freshman year (bio, PE, and French, where it was "Mee-shell" anyway), I went by Michael. Still, most people knew me as Misty.

At my community college, I largely didn't bother with the nickname, because so few instructors have an opportunity to address you by name anyway. If I met people, I still introduced myself as Misty, but there were a handful of classmates that called me Michael. On leaving for San Diego State University, I decided it was prudent to include the nickname on the documents submitted to the dorm, lest they accidentally place me in a room with a dude. As it was, when I got a letter indicating my roommate would be named Izzi, I wasn't assuaged of that concern (Izzi turned out to be a lovely girl). So my dorm-mates knew me as Misty, and that seemed fine, because that's how I was called by my family, by my boyfriend and his family, and by my oldest friends.

Then, during my first year at State, I met a woman in an interior design class who changed how I felt about my name. In an art class, names are actually relevant because of presentations and critiques, and I was using Michael. However, our first project was done in pairs and my partner, Monica, had been to my room in my dorm to work on the assignment, so she learned of my nickname and called me that. Our classmate, Joy, heard the nickname, and asked about it, explaining that she was "not comfortable" calling me Michael. This kind of irked me. Shouldn't it be about what I'm most comfortable with? Who is this near stranger to make choices about my name? I had never before had such a strong desire to go by my name, my real name, as I did after that conversation. I mentioned Joy's comment to Monica, and she seemed to agree with me, indicating she intended to call me Michael from then on.

The transition wasn't easy. As I mentioned, most of the people closest to me called me Misty, and to this day, my family, oldest friends, and former roommates still use the old nickname. However, I started introducing myself as Michael as much as possible. After breaking up with my ex, that dramatically reduced the number of people that use Misty. Now, most everyone calls me Michael. While my mother could hardly change her habits now, she did tell me she's glad I use Michael, since she chose the name.

Although I hated it as a child, I've grown quite fond of my name, although it sometimes feels like a bit of a burden because I get so many comments and questions. For my first two jobs, both as cashiers, I wore a name tag, which people inevitably assumed wasn't mine, even though my first name tag HAD MY PICTURE ON IT. People also frequently assumed name was pronounced Michelle, which is an honest mistake, and doesn't really bother me when people are reading it and not hearing it.

At my current job I talk to people on the phone and I developed the habit of saying, "Like the guys' name," because it seems to be the most concise thing to say. Those of us on the phone all have our little habits; for last names I know a "Glaze, like a donut," and a "Melrose, like the avenue," but because we only give our last names when asked, those don't come up as often. My spiel produces the occasional chuckle, but nearly always ends the discussion of my name and therefore saves time. This is because it confirms the listener heard me correctly while also confirming that I am not a man with an extremely feminine voice, which is none of their business but you'd be surprised at what people will say on the phone. On the occasions I skip the phrase, I've received such responses as this:

  • "Michael? Like, Michael? Like my son's name?" -Man on phone recently
  • *outright laughter* "You sound like a girl!" -airline representative in India (or where ever)
  • "Michael? You sound like a female." -some guy, more polite than the Indian guy but odd word choice
  • "Thanks for your help, Michelle." -innumerable clients (seriously, do you even listen?!)
And so, while I do like my name, I'm with Johnny Cash on this one, if I ever decide to procreate and produce a daughter, her name will be any damned thing but Michael!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Invaded!

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego currently has an exhibit called Viva La Revolucion, which features  the work of various street artists including such legends as the mysterious Banksy and the popular Shepard Fairey. In addition to the gallery space in the museum, MCASD also commissioned certain artists to create pieces on buildings around town. Matt and I have seen the exhibit, and we have now seen all of the commissioned pieces.

Shepard Fairey piece in Hillcrest.

Os Gemeos piece at Horton Plaza.

One of the artists involved, known as Invader because he creates tiled pieces inspired by the video game Space Invaders, was not content to merely complete his commissioned piece. Instead, he truly "invaded" San Diego with over twenty pieces around town. This is rather unsurprising given the nature of street art. Because they weren't commissioned, they were hard to find, but thanks to the internet and some persistence, Matt and I managed to find fifteen intact invaders.

Invasion in Chicano Park

A commissioned piece.


It was actually a fun adventure to look for them. A good excuse for a walk around downtown, if nothing else. Here is a map Matt created showing all of the invaders we found in San Diego and the ones we couldn't find or that were damaged before we got there. If you live in San Diego, be sure to keep a lookout for Invaders while you're around town. Or, if you live somewhere else, see if your city has been invaded by checking out Invader's website.

View Invaders in San Diego in a larger map

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pennsylvania Part 3: Confluence

Matt and I spent Friday, August 6th through Monday, August 9th with 14 of his extended family members in Confluence, PA. A sign in the town bore the slogan, "Where mountains meet rivers." It's a quaint town situated on the Great Allegheny Passage, a bike trail connecting Cumberland, MD (which is connected to DC by the C & O Canal) with Pittsburgh. It's a beautiful area, although we did pass a beer distributor with a Confederate flag on the porch and a resident near where we stayed had a "He's not my president" sign. So, not a place I'd settle down in, but great for a weekend trip.

Our first stop on arriving in Confluence was Confluence Cyclery, where Matt and I rented a couple of hybrid bikes since we couldn't exactly bring ours from California. Then we headed to our accommodations at the Parker House, which Matt's mom had reserved in its entirety. There, I met Matt's cousins and their families, and Matt's aunt and her husband. It was a little overwhelming because there were several new people but everyone was very nice to me, which may seem like a trite thing to say but nice is really the right word here, and niceness is sometimes underrated. Also, the family had organized a birthday celebration for him (his birthday was a little more than a week prior) including two beautiful tarts made by his mom's husband, some poems, and a couple of photo albums. Even though the event was all about Matt, it illuminated the personalities of those involved for me.

The only thing better than their looks is their taste.

I am not an athlete but I did enjoy the bike rides we took. I rode over 20 miles (Matt rode about 50), which is probably not much for some people but it was a lot for me. The trail is a beautiful one, and reasonably easy as well. It's mostly shady glimpses and occasional good views of the surrounding rivers.

I didn't even need training wheels!

We also checked out two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the area: Kentuck Knob and the legendary Fallingwater. Maybe it's because we went to Kentuck Knob first, but I enjoyed it more than its more famous predecessor. While Fallingwater is bigger and perhaps prettier, the experience felt more corporate. Additionally, Kentuck Knob has a sculpture garden, and we had a really fantastic tour guide there (Matt's cousin concisely described her as perky without being annoying).

This makes Fallingwater appear
deceptively quiet.

Our whole Pennsylvania trip was really fabulous but our stay in Confluence pleasantly punctuated our vacation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pennsylvania Part 2: Pittsburgh

Continuing our the chronicles of our trip to Pennsylvania, after leaving the Poconos, we arrived back in Pittsburgh late Tuesday afternoon, after one slight mishap in which I got confused about East and West because THE OCEAN IS TOTALLY ON THE WRONG SIDE OVER THERE.

Anyway, we drove straight to the house of his mom and her husband, where we had a small snack before heading to the Mattress Factory on the North Side. The Mattress Factory is a museum that focuses on installation pieces. Personally, I am not as into Modern or contemporary art as I am into more traditional paintings and sculptures. However, I do really enjoy installation art, because it usually involves some level of interaction on the part of the viewer. The Mattress Factory had a lot of okay pieces and a lot of neat pieces. My favorites were all part of the permanent collection: the works of Yayoi Kusama, Greer Lankton, and James Turrell.


On our way to the Mattress Factory we also discovered Randyland, a collection of unique and colorful buildings on the corner of Jacksonia and Arch. It was a strange sight, so after our visit to the Mattress Factory we walked over to inspect the oddity. Every surface is painted in a bright color, and decorated with odds and ends that seem to be scavenged from all manner of sources. Curious, I looked for information about this eclectic corner online and found a Post-Gazette article that lead me to a Today show segment (which I'm only really linking to because it has good views of the building and uses Explosions in the Sky for some of the background music). Both describe the Randy behind it all, so if you're interested follow one of the links.



We needed to drop off the rental car, and Matt's brother Mike was kind enough to pick us up from the airport and join us for a trip the ballpark. I'm told by the Ruben boys that PNC Park is arguably the prettiest ballpark in the country, and while I have only been to three in my adult life (I went to a Dodger game once as a kid but was so bored I blocked it out), I can see that it really is a beautiful park. I was treated to a rain delay, which is so rare in San Diego that it felt like a fitting event to welcome me to town, so to round out this authentic Pittsburgh experience Matt and I purchased a Primanti Brothers capicola sandwich and shared it, standing over a trash can, huddled under a covered walkway with the rest of the crowd. The crowd was small, but the size was welcome given that there's only so many places to get out of the rain. We sipped beers and enjoyed the drizzle. The Pirates defeated the Reds that night, but since it got a late start and we hadn't actually had a proper dinner, we didn't stay for the whole game. Mike took us to the nearby Six Penn, where we had drinks in the bar and shared a few appetizers. Mike dropped us off at their mom's place, where we were staying.

Something you don't see much in San Diego.

Wednesday called for sleeping in because we were, after all, on vacation. We took a lengthy walk via Beechwood from our hosts' home near Point Breeze to Matt's old stomping ground in Squirrel Hill. We ducked into the library, bought a smiley cookie from Eat N' Park, and I saw a fraction of Frick Park, where Matt's mom Sue and her husband Peter picked us up for lunch. We ordered sandwiches at Kubideh Kitchen, the first and current incarnation of the Conflict Kitchen, an art project/take-out restaurant that features one menu item at a time inspired by the cuisine of a country the US is in some way in conflict with. The item/country in question changes every four months. We had a completely delicioius Iranian wrap style sandwich served in an informative wrapper, but by next month the kitchen will be serving an item from Afganistan. The intention is provoke thought, but they also happen to serve an extremely tasty sandwich of beef, basil, mint and onion wrapped in flat-bread. It may have been the best thing we ate this trip.


After lunch Matt borrowed the car, and we went to the somewhat newly reincarnated Penn Brewing. The trouble with travel, is that so much of what I want to do in any given city involves consumption. I do not have a huge appetite, but by sharing a single Kubideh sandwich Matt and I managed to save room for a shared bowl of saurkraut soup and a potato pancake each. We washed them down with a couple of beers and enjoyed the atmosphere of the place, which was nice although quiet since it was a weekday afternoon.



We then went for a walk around Carnegie Mellon University, and checked out the Carnegie Library before a thunderstorm interrupted what would have been a longer walk. We stopped by East End Brewing for some free(!) tasters and to fill Matt's mom's growler for our then upcoming weekend trip to the country. The East End employee was very friendly, their beers were good, and thanks to their Illustration Ale, we learned about the Toonseum, which I'll describe in a few paragraphs.

Because Diners, Drive-ins and Dives has featured a number of Pittsburgh establishments, we would have been remiss not to check one out. For dinner Wednesday we ate at Big Jim's in the Run. It was fun, about what I expected: large portions of decent food served by a waitress that calls you "hun."

Meatball sandwich at Big Jim's.

Thursday was our big day. We walked all around downtown, beginning with a farmer's market with free food sponsored by Toyota. Then we got some hot dogs from Franktuary (a hot dog joint in the basement of a church) and ate them at the August Wilson Center, where they were having a line dancing event on the patio. We also checked out the exhibit there, and saw some very nice photos by Charles "Teenie" Harris. Across from the Wilson Center is the Toonseum, a modest but totally awesome museum/gallery focused on cartoons of every variety, from animation and comic strips to comic books and graphic novels. Their current exhibit featured dogs, including Snoopy, Scooby, and many others.

The August Wilson Center

Cool statues at the building next to the Toonseum.




Then we crossed one of the many bridges to the North Side, where we climbed into the lap of the Mr. Rogers statue (Fred Rogers was born in Latrobe, essentially Pittsburgh, and when my boyfriend was a kid they attended the same church!), and then had beers at Rivertowne, where they had a handful of San Diego beers on tap, and oddly enough, none of them were Stone. Then we walked back to town and just meandered about until we eventually met up with the family for dinner at Yo Rita on the South Side. It was strange eating tacos in Pittsburgh, and they weren't "authentic" tacos, but they were seriously tasty. The folks the run the place are creative and clearly consider the season in developing their menu. I had the watermelon habenero gazpacho and a summer squash taco, with a blood orange margarita to drink. Even though I was pretty full, we ended up borrowing the car again to make sure I got my ice cream fix from Dave & Andy's. Out of the ice cream in options in Pittsburgh, I picked Dave & Andy's because it seems to be an institution. The ice cream was good, not great, but it was ice cream so of course I liked it.

I will totally be your neighbor.




And that's it for Pittsburgh. Friday, we had a lazy morning before departing on the next leg of our journey: Confluence, PA.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pennsylvania Part 1: The Poconos

My boyfriend Matt spent his childhood and adolescence in Pittsburgh, and his entire immediate family still lives in the state of Pennsylvania. My only visit to Pittsburgh was an ill-fated Christmas trip in 2008, when a series of flight delays reduced my stay to 36 hours in a cold, cold, city. I've been looking forward to making another visit, and this summer I had my opportunity. I didn't just see Pittsburgh, I saw other parts of the Keystone State, which I will chronicle in three parts. Here is the first!

On Saturday July 31st, Matt and I flew via Dallas to Pittsburgh, arriving late that night. We picked up our rental car and headed to Matt's mom's in Squirrel Hill, where she and her husband were kind enough to put us up for the night and feed us breakfast before our early start Sunday morning.

We drove across much of the state to arrive in Buck Hill Falls, PA in time for a late lunch with Matt's dad and his wife at their home, which is also where we stayed. After lunch, we headed out for a brief hike to the falls that give the community its name.



Buck Hill Falls is a private resort community and while it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere it's also pretty lively. Our hosts live right on the golf course and just a short distance from the pool and tennis courts. The hike to falls was not a long one, and yet, in spite of all these hallmarks of civilization being so close at hand, at the falls I felt completely enveloped in nature. It's really nice that they live so close to such a great and isolated view.

We followed our hike with a dip in the pool, then cleaned ourselves up for dinner. Before dinner, we stopped by the Buck Hill Falls Library for the opening of an art show featuring a local artist. The city it is not, but I admire their ambition. Then we headed to Forks, a restaurant not to be confused with the town in Washington, where we had a very nice dinner, followed by dessert at our accommodations.

The next morning I was treated to a rare experience for a Southern Californian, berry picking. It's blueberry season and while a sign at Paupack Blueberry Farm suggested their next batch would be ready around August 9th, there were plenty of blueberries that were ripe for the picking. Matt, his dad, and I spent about 40 minutes gentling tugging the little blue beauts into our palms and then rewarded ourselves with some delicious blueberry ice cream.




The literal fruits of our labor.
They had baby goats!

To be honest, I don't even really like blueberries that much, but I really enjoyed picking them and the ice cream, and the pie that Mary-Kate (Matt's dad's wife) made later, were really tasty.

We followed our picking with a trip to just about the only tourist attractions (other than nature) in the area. Neighboring Buck Hill Falls is Mountainhome, home to Callie's Pretzel Factory and Callie's Candy Kitchen. They're novel, that's for sure, and they put out some decent pretzels and candy. At the former Matt and I shared a soft pretzel and I invested in some bagged hard pretzels (one bag jalapeƱo, one bag garlic). At the latter, nostalgia prompted me to purchase a bag of mint buttons, which my grandmother kept in a crystal candy dish when I was a child.

Pretzel sticks in progress.


After the candy shop, we met up with Mary-Kate for lunch at a local deli. I was pretty impressed with my grilled mozzarella and roasted red pepper sandwich. We followed lunch with another hike and a dip in the pool. Then we traveled to Tannersville for beers and a dinner's worth of appetizers at Barley Creek Brewing.

This took quite a bit of bravery for me.

All in all, we spent a really great couple of days in the Poconos and enjoyed our quality time with our hosts. But if I was going to see Steel City, we had to hit the road. After a breakfast of blueberry pie (don't judge me!) we began our five-ish hour journey back to Pittsburgh. Our time there will be the subject of my next entry!

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'm in Pennsylvania - A Preview

I've been in Pennsylvania since late Saturday night, and I won't be home until late Monday night. I expect I'll post about my adventures in the Keystone State, but for now, here's a funny song about Pennsylvania, set to the tune of Katy Perry's "California Gurls."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Geekery

I'd like to begin with an apology to any of my Save Saturday Service correspondents. Summer time is busy time and I have written maybe two letters in the past two months. But I haven't forgotten about you, I swear! I'll be making a better effort to write more letters just as soon as I get back from my next trip.

I said I've been busy, and this past weekend was no exception. I spent the day Saturday at Comic-Con, and had a great time. I don't know if it shows much here, but there is a geek inside of me. I've been known to complain that the casting of superhero movies isn't true enough to the character (and also argue that the characters can and should evolve), contemplate the best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and weigh in on the debate between the hotter Harrison Ford role: Han Solo or Indiana Jones. When a friend started a graphic novel book club, I was all over that. There are webcomics I read reliably. So when a friend offered the complimentary passes she earned for volunteering, I was pretty psyched to go!

I used to buy tickets, but it's not important enough to me to buy the tickets a year in advance, which you pretty much have to do now. I bought tickets last year, because I wanted my boyfriend to see what it was like since he'd never been. Even though it's not really his scene, it's easy to find this he's interested in because it has grown so much and encompasses so many things. Further, there is no better place on earth better for people watching. I haven't traveled much but I still feel confident in that statement.

For the uninitiated, there are two basic aspects to the convention. One is the exhibit hall, with booths of all kinds, including those of individual artists, comic book vendors, DC and Marvel, LEGO, various movie studios, book publishers . . . I could keep going but you get the idea. The other is "programming," which is a blanket term for panel discussions, movie & television sneak peeks, gaming, film festivals, and probably some other stuff I can't think of right now. I try to avoid the movie and TV stuff, which tend to be just absolute madness in terms of crowds (although I wouldn't say episodes like this are common), but I do like to attend the panels, which vary greatly in their topics.

But the Comic-Con experience goes beyond that. People dress up as their favorite super heroes, graphic novel protagonists, anime characters, and, of course, movie roles (to varying degrees of success). Downtown becomes incredibly lively as the whole city gears up for it. This year, the transit service changed the Trolley signs across from the convention center to Klingon. A group organized a zombie walk, which was fun to observe. Comic-Con is really a neat thing.

Highlights for me this year included: finally caving and buying a Jayne hat, getting a 3-D photo taken, purchasing a sketch from Ramona Fradon, seeing the Family Guy*, Cleveland Show*, Futurama, and Simpsons panels (especially the clips/cast readings of the Comic-Con inspired episodes), and meeting up with friends for drinks and the conclusion of the Zombie Walk. My description cannot do it justice, so without further ado, I'll give you a few photos. I didn't take many, and none show how crazy crowded it is, but here's a bit of my Comic-Con 2010 experience.


An R2-D2 just rolling around.

At the convention center.

I'm ready!

An exhibitor display of "You-Know-Who"

My disappointment that this is not the Big Three
is mitigated by my appreciation for this Flash costume.

Futurama panel with Matt Groening.
The panelists are seen on the screen
and in the far background.

The hero of Canton . . .

Emma Frost (in her diamond form) with
a character I don't know and Ms. Marvel


Batmobile on the street.

At Quality Social, preparing for the imminent
arrival of the zombies.

The Zombie Walk wraps up at Quality Social.
Even zombies get thirsty!

*Not actually a fan of the shows, but not opposed and attending the panel guaranteed us seats for the Groening panels.