Friday, December 15, 2017

50 for 50: 29 (part two) -- See a Star Wars Movie on Opening Day with Ric and Lisa

After my visit to the Star Wars line on Saturday, I came back for the main event tonight -- the (what the hell was it called?) Opening Night Fan Event at the Chinese.  Here, I have a pass on a lanyard, so you know it's legit.


I left work early, because Doors Open at 4:00.  I left at 3:00 (because Driving To Hollywood).  Partway there, Google Maps told me there was a road closure ahead and kept trying to reroute me.  But I really couldn't see what road was actually closed.  I kept flicking the screen -- everything between me and Hollywood & Highland looked clear.  Although ... wait ... it looked like the block in front of the theater itself was closed, at least in one direction.  OK, fine.  I took a small detour to come 'round the back into the parking, walked out to Hollywood Boulevard and... Oh.  There's an Imperial Walker in the middle of the street.  Got it.  

No time for that, though; I was trying to find Ric & Lisa in the crowd in front of the Chinese.  Right as I got there, they were sending everyone OUT of the courtyard in front of the theater, to actually line up on the sidewalk.  (Not sure why, but someone was filming the "line.")  I watch everyone pour out of the courtyard and while I don't immediately see Ric & Lisa, I do see Val, so I pretend to wait in line with Val and her guests for a bit.  We text Ric and find him in the front of the line, so I run up to be a "plus one" with my actual hosts.

Ric looks a little like George Lucas.  Of course, Lucas is 73.  And would not be waiting in line to get in to a fan screening at the Chinese.  (Also, not a regular kilt-wearer.)  None of this stops some dude from taking a selfie with Ric, thinking he's Lucas.  A bunch of us have a laugh over this, but Ric says it happens quite a bit.

We are eventually let in the theater.  (We pass through security.  Weapons not allowed.  Lightsabers ok.)

There are people from Sideshow giving away Star Wars collectibles.  It isn't going well.  They've put stickers under random seats for the winners, but nobody is in their seats.  Lots of people sitting vaguely near the marked seats are walking off with the goodies.  I think half the audience is still in the lobby, or in front of the theater, taking pictures or something.  

They miss the "special guest" giving away one of the collectibles.  Rian freakin' Johnson.  I'm pretty sure the winner of that one was happier to get the handshake and selfie with Rian Johnson than whatever thingy he happened to win.  (While Johnson is saying the standard things about how the mega-fans are the bestest audiences ever, I hear some people walk in from the lobby and say, "Is that--?  No WAY!")  

It gets closer to 6:00 and I get my (free) popcorn and settle in for the movie.  First, there is a moment of silence for Carrie Fisher.  People hold their lightsabers in the air in tribute.  It's beautiful.  It reminds of the crowds at Universal raising their wands in tribute to Alan Rickman.  (This, I guess, is what my people do.)

The curtain opens and we get the first movie preview.  And the second.  And the third.  And fourth.  I'm watching the audience more than the previews.  We've run out of patience pretty much after the second one.  There's a groan when the next, "This following preview is approved for all audiences" comes on screen (and someone yells for "Star Wars"), but the annoyance is instantly replaced by cheers when we realize the preview is for something we want to see.  Man, this crowd is amped up... and we'll turn on a dime.

We've been told Disney has a little something for us to watch pre-movie.  We don't know what it is.  It's a little featurette (I assume it will be a DVD extra someday) about John Williams scoring these things for 40 years.  It's a good choice; everybody loves John Williams, and it's fun watching the old clips next to the new ones.

And finally, the movie.  We cheer the beginning (of course) and then get down the serious business of watching.  

A few scenes in, I realize I am going back and forth between being utterly sucked into this film and observing the opening night crowd o' fans respond to it.  We laugh; we applaud; we cheer; we see shit coming the MOMENT we're supposed to see it coming and react in anticipation.  We even miss stuff we're supposed to miss, and react audibly when we catch on.  I don't know how this will play on video in your living room; I don't even know how it will play to a bored audience a couple weeks in -- but it played fantastically well to us.  If Rian Johnson stuck around, he would have been gratified to see his audience of mega-fans respond exactly as his movie wanted us to.  

In the interests of telling you how good this movie is, without anything particularly spoilery, I will say two things:  1.  There is an explanation of the Force in which the word "midichlorians" gloriously fails to appear.  2.  (And this one is intentionally vague.)  There was a lot I didn't like about "Force Awakens," and this fixed the absolute worst of them.  I'm not sure what sort of hopes I had for this movie -- but it certainly exceeded expectations in that regard.

When it was over, we took our little wristbands and headed over the Lining Up post-movie party.  (Soooo many pizzas.)  It was about 50% the Line People celebrating their Job Well Done and 50% saying goodbye until the next line.  And some dudes brought an R2-D2 and a BB-8 which they were (somewhat subtly) operating remotely.  We took a picture with the R2 and I said my own goodbyes, thinking I'd definitely sign up to be a full-fledged part of this group the next time (...weather permitting).




Sunday, December 10, 2017

50 for 50: 30 - Brunch with Mimi and Debbie

After I'd done a bunch of the 50 for 50 trips, I had a party where a bunch of my friends were invited to bring their calendars and sign up for the more local 50 for 50 things.  With some of the things, I had some vague guesses as to who might like them.  (For others, I had no clue at all.)  Most of the time, I was wrong anyway.

Not gonna lie, "brunch" is an easy one.  I didn't really think of anyone as NOT a brunch person, but I'd sort of expected one of my gay friends to pick this one up. 

(Thank you, internet.)

So, going against stereotype, Mimi picked this one.  (Debbie came along, too -- although, technically, her 50 for 50 was the Snooty Movie Theater.)  Yes!  Straight women can have brunch too!  Brunch equality!

Mimi's husband's friend (orientation unknown) recommended the place, which was just a couple blocks from work and I'd never heard of it.  But we were able to park at the office and just walk it.  (Even *I* thought it was within walking distance, and I have a VERY narrow definition of walking distance.)  Redbird.  It's located inside what was once a cathedral (and is now an event space), and it is really just lovely.  The building feels historic but the decor and menu feel very modern.  Menu ventured into occasional things I didn't understand, but I sure as hell understood Waffle With Creme Fraiche and Apple Compote (and the universe owed me a waffle after I was very good and took a pass on the waffle dessert after dinner last night).  Warm and carby, sweet and tart -- a good choice.

We're work friends -- although that's going to change in a number of days, as Debbie is inches from retirement.  I'm a single-digit number of years away; Mimi is far enough that she hasn't even counted.  Conversation settled on aging -- whether our parents, our bosses, or ourselves.  Getting the right care, and getting the right timing for it, are big, life-changing decisions you don't want to screw up (or see people you care about screw them up). 

'course it wasn't all Depressing Brunch Chat.  We talked about puppies and kitties and how they affect the eternal Shoes On Or Off In The House debate.  (I am a Shoes On person; my cat is a slob.  Mimi is Shoes Off, but she has nicer floors.)

I actually didn't want to leave.  The restaurant was a little oasis in the middle of downtown; and although I was with so-called "work friends," brunch had nothing to do with work.  It was like we'd taken a break from life outside the door, and I was in no hurry to go back to it.

Almost forgot to take the picture.  Debbie had to remind me, and then I thought, "But, once we take the picture, we'll have to leave."


And back to reality.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

50 for 50: 29 (part one) -- The Star Wars Line with Ric & Lisa

Prologue

I was just about 9 when "Star Wars" came out.  We waited in line to see it, because that was the only way to get in.  Pre-buying tickets was unheard of.  And reserved seats?  No sir.  You're lining your ass up pretty early if you want a decent seat.

I was a kid; I went with my parents.  They liked the movie well enough, but were not overwhelmed.  "I don't get what the big deal is," my mom said, "It was just like the serials we had growing up."

Yeah, mom.  But this one was OURS.

I was prime movie-going age for the original trilogy.  By the time "Return of the Jedi" came out, I was pushing 15.  This time, I waited in line without my parents.  (But my mom will ALWAYS get points for taking me out of school for that "orthodontist appointment" and then dropping me off at the mall to meet my friend in line.)

I couldn't tell you how many times I saw those movies.  And when I wasn't watching them, my friends and I were obsessing over them.  We did a scene from "Star Wars" in Drama class.  (I made an exceptional trash compactor monster.)  I wrote an erudite paper on how "Star Wars" was really about the power of an individual to bring down a tyrannical government.  (A common theme in science fiction, to be sure, but I supported my thesis with parallel quotes from "A New Hope" and Machiavelli's "The Prince."  In retrospect, my High School Social Institutions teacher put up with a lot.)  When my friends and I passed notes in class, they were generally Star Wars quizzes where the answers would be quotes from the movies.  It was our thing.  Our shared language.  Our inside jokes.   ("I'm a sadist, not a mathematician."  Anyone?)  It was dominant in our lives.  

When the movies were re-released in 1997, I was an adult.  I waited in line.  Partly out of respect to the originals, partly out of nostalgia, and partly because, by then, I'd discovered that an opening night audience makes any movie better.  The crowd is involved -- the jokes get bigger laughs; the tense bits are ... well, it's pretty cool holding your breath with 600 other people just as caught up in the moment as you are.  (Groupthink can be a good thing.)  So, yeah, I lined up for the re-releases.

But, 20 years on, something had changed.  I wasn't the 9-year-old any more; there was a new crop of 9-year-olds.  People were bringing their kids to introduce them to OUR movies.  And we were excited to share with them.  We kept telling the kids how lucky they were to be experiencing these movies for the first time -- thinking about how cool it had been for us, but also initiating them into the club.  If pop culture is my generation's culture, taking kids to Star Wars is sitting around the campfire and telling the next generation the myths of our people.  Look, we'd had VHS for a decade by then -- and I'm sure we all had copies of the trilogy on tape -- but people felt duty-bound to bring their kids to see Star Wars in a theater as a rite of passage.  It isn't enough just to watch Star Wars on your living room TV, you have to see it with the community if you're really going to be part of our club.

Skip ahead past some years (I'm still in denial about Jar Jar Binks) and I'm invited to a Halloween party by Val, who, at this point, I barely know.  When guests ask me how I know her, I mumble something about "Internet message board" because I'm too embarrassed to actually say, "Doctor Who message board."  When I ask how they know her, most people respond, "The Line."  As if I know what that means.

I do not know what that means.

I finally ask someone what that means.

They had lined up for the Star Wars prequels.  ("Oh thank goodness," I thought happily, "they're geeks!")

Most of them are younger than I am.  The prequels were their only chance to get the lining up experience with a newly released Star Wars movie.  I get that.  (And I also feel a little bad that they didn't have better movies at the end of their wait.)  They REALLY lined up, though.  Sleeping-on-the-street lined up.  They didn't just bond over the Star Wars line experience; they survived shared adversity.  Of course they've remained friends.  I understood THAT immediately.

And then ... "The Force Awakens."  Now you don't need to line up at all.  Now you prebook your ticket on the internet and pick your seat in advance like civilized people.  (If you have any sense, you still go as close to the opening as possible, because you want to be in a crowd that lets out a huge cheer when the Lucasfilm logo comes up.  And a massive one when the main title theme starts.)  But it's not the same -- getting excited about the movie in the comfort of your living room, when you wait for the day to arrive.  

So "The Line" gang lines up anyway.  They raise money for charity.  The theater is happy they're there -- and is now supportive of the line.  (They can use the restrooms in the theater, validate their parking....)  The tickets have been prebooked for the group -- the line is now ONLY about the  EXPERIENCE -- the shared excitement about the movie, the reconnecting with friends, the passing it on to their kids.  Liningup.net -- check it out.

I put it on my 50 for 50 list.

Today

The takers are Ric and Lisa.  Part of the Halloween party crowd -- although I got to know them, and their then-infant daughter, when a group of us would get together to watch "Doctor Who," back when you'd have to *cough* use technology *cough* if you wanted to watch the new episodes shortly after they came out in Britain.  We'd get together at Matt & Val's every two weeks and bring food and watch the episodes and talk sci fi and-- crap, all of that was gone once BBC America got its shit together and started airing "Doctor Who" promptly on THIS side of the Atlantic and we'd all just watch it at our respective homes.  Sumbitch, it's the same damn thing.  Communal viewing as a basis of friendship -- and it utterly went away when the viewing became easier.

Kept up with Ric and Lisa on Facebook, though.  Nice peeps.  And I love how they're raising Eliza.  She's, like, nine now.  (The time, it flies.)  She likes hockey and dancing and STEM and Lego and BB-8 and hiking and "Mythbusters" and Girl Scouts.  She's a girl who isn't just being TOLD that girls can do anything, she's LIVING it.  She's a good kid.  I know this because she told her parents that she didn't want to miss school for the movie next week.  (Lisa said the note is going to say that she has to go to a "family event."  Which is actually, y'know, true.)

I planned to meet them at the line at around 2:00 -- but driving to Hollywood is more art than science, so we were both quite late. 

I get there maybe 2:20.  The line is in the forecourt at the Chinese theater.  That's a tourist attraction, which means that, to get there, I have to walk through some loud people carrying "Repent!" signs and being very pushy with the Jesus pamphlets.  There is also someone selling bottled water, with a recording endlessly playing a little song, the chorus of which is "Ice cold water, for just one dollar."  That may be the verse, too.  It isn't a very creative tune.  But catchy.  Wayyyy too catchy.  "Ice cold water, for just one dollar."  (My non-SoCal friends may be unaware that it was over 80 degrees today.)

I enter the forecourt -- it's where all the handprints are.  The line itself is more of a small crowd (in non-linear form) off in a corner.  There are rules about letting the tourists access the handprints -- so the line has their sleeping bags and suitcases all piled up off to the side.  It isn't a large group.  The line has a minimal time commitment (6 hours gets you the ability to buy two tickets) and you can do your hours at any time over the week of the line.  (Stay longer and you get better seats.)  It isn't really standing in a LINE and holding a place in it; it's just about BEING THERE for your hours.  So there aren't a ton of people there when I get there.

I know some of them.  There are several others I don't know.  A handful I put in the category of "don't know if I know them or not."  (Were they at Val's Halloween parties?)  It literally does not matter.  I drop Ric's name at the sign-in table and am welcomed.  I talk to strangers, knowing that we have, at least, THIS in common.  Someone gives me a chair.  We talk.  Every so often, someone starts quietly singing along to "Ice cold water, for just one dollar."  I'm not even sure they're aware of it. 

We are sitting in a tourist attraction.  The "Repent" people cross by every hour or so.  A parade of, say, 40 Santas goes by.  A drunk female Santa in a (very) mini-skirt leans down into a set of handprints and I'm pretty sure she's going to throw up on someone's signature, but she's trying to take a sexy picture.  She leans forward and gives the assembled an accidental show. 

I'm told the line is actually the first group allowed to camp in the forecourt -- they have to be packed up in the mornings, but they get to spread out and sleep on the handprints.  One woman jokes, "I woke up on a rock hard Jack Nicholson."  I concede that this is an added bonus to the whole line thing which I had not considered.  (Which is good, because "Ice cold water, for just one dollar" is definitely an unanticipated downside.)

Ric and Lisa (and Eliza, and grandma) arrive.  More sitting, more talking.  Lisa is an English teacher; she's brought papers to grade.  The whole thing is very laid back.  Someone made little headbands with Leia buns and hands them out to a bunch of the women and girls there.  Super cute.  Someone else put together giant saran wrap balls full of Star Wars trinkets and groups play the unwrap-the-saran-wrap-ball game.  (She has one for kids and one for adults.  The adults are just as happy to win little toys as the kids were.)  As it gets dark, a light saber duel breaks out.  It looks really cool in front of the lit-up theater.

The theater does a light show on its walls at night.  My first reaction is a cynical one, but I realize the people around me are all appreciating the light, the colors, the artistry.  I am reminded of the first time I enjoyed fireworks as an adult -- I'd spent so much time in grumpy teenager mode responding with an underwhelmed "Ooo.  Ahh.  Wow." that I'd actually forgotten I genuinely like fireworks.  I go with the groupthink and enjoy the light show.  "This is important," I think, "This is who the Line people really are."  Optimistic.  Unabashedly enjoying life's experiences.  Indeed, the Line is one they sought out.

I start feeling thirsty.  Perhaps there is a reason for this. 

"Ice cold water, for just one dollar."

Ric, Lisa and Eliza log out of the line and we go over to Johnny Rockets for dinner.  I realize I've sat in the line for half the time it would've taken me the earn the right to buy a pair of tickets myself.  It was easy and fun -- just hanging out on a beautiful December day with a nice bunch of people. 

We come back to the theater and they log back in.  I pick up my T-shirt (proceeds go to charity -- Starlight Children's Foundation), take advantage of the line's access to the lovely restrooms inside the theater, and head off home, leaving the campers to sleep on their movie stars.



To be continued next Thursday.

Friday, November 10, 2017

50 for 50: 28 - See a Movie at the Snooty Theater with Debbie and Caroline

(Looks like I had two of the Watch Something And Stuff My Face things in a row.)

Debbie and Caroline picked today (a good choice, since it's a day off, at least for some of us) for the movie, without knowing what we'd see.  Earlier this week, we looked at the list of flicks playing the local snooty theater, and chose "Blade Runner 2049."

We exchanged a few more emails about parking and stuff, and then, just the other day, Caroline sends me and Debbie an email about parking which accidentally attaches the thread between the two of them where they're talking about treating me to the movie.

(My rule on 50 for 50 stuff is that I assume we pay for ourselves.  Gifts are not expected, but are gratefully accepted.  Debbie and Caroline had read the rules, because they're lawyers and stuff, so had been discussing details.  And accidentally sent it to me.)

This ... kind of made my day.  Everyone makes the mistake of sending someone an email they didn't mean to send, and, conveniently, this one happened to contain NICE info I wasn't supposed to see.  I start running through possibilities for a snarky response.  But, I mean, these are my FRIENDS and they're talking about TAKING ME OUT for my BIRTHDAY.  I decide to (shockingly) take the high road on this one and just pretend I never read it.  (I start rehearsing, "You guys?!  Are you sure?  That's so generous.  Thank you so much!")

Caroline meets me at my house and we drive over the movie place; Debbie is meeting us there.  We're just about pulling in the parking lot when she mentions the email snafu, assuming I read it.  Like, there is zero possibility that I didn't read it.  (I shelve my Academy Award performance.)  She and Debbie had been waiting for my snarky response, and were surprised they didn't get one.

We are already laughing about this when we get to the theater.  We meet Debbie in the lounge, enjoy pre-movie drinks, and laugh about all the amusing things we could have emailed each other yesterday.

The iPic theater in Pasadena is super snooty.  The seats are big, comfy suede recliners.  With pillows and blankies.  And a nice usher/server type who gives everyone a bag of warm popcorn, then takes food orders and brings you dinner during the movie.  Caroline likened it to flying first class.  "Blade Runner 2049" was so damn long, I was pretty sure we'd landed in New York by the time it was over.

We had a blast.  Caroline ordered some chicken strips and I ordered some fish and chips.  It wasn't until we'd each finished an entire strip of deep fried goodness that we realized we'd been served each other's plate.  Much laughter.  We got dessert (a big cookie) which we had to run back and forth between our two rows to share it amongst the three of us.  More laughter.  Once the movie ended, we tried to take our selfie and ended up with Worst Photo Ever.  (I had to promise to not put it up here, but, trust me, so much more laughter.)  We tried again outside the theater, and that one failed, too.  A nice couple walking by offered to take one for us if we'd take one for them, which finally resulted in this.


Which was not what we were hoping for and didn't even include the theater's marquee, but if you think I was overstating things about the failed selfie attempts, about the ONLY thing that came out right in this one WAS the marquee.


Which is somehow just a perfect representation of the whole thing.  Nothing seemed to go exactly according to plan, but that just made us laugh harder.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

50 for 50: 27 - Pizza and Binge-Watch a Show with Rusty

When I did the massive 50 for 50 sign-ups (with the list of things and the big open calendar), Rusty picked today for the binge, because there would be TONS of stuff available to watch.

A week or so ago, we talked about options and made our selection.  Because it would take pretty much all day, we agreed Rusty would arrive at 10:00 in the morning.

I want to be clear on this:  just the other day, I wasn't 100% positive we'd said 10:00.  We confirmed; it was totally 10:00.

Last night, I set the alarm for 8:30.  That would give me enough time to shower and be ready and still have some time to crap around with the cat on my lap.

So, the alarm goes off at 8:30 as planned.  I take a few minutes to get up.  Alexa gives me the news.  I get up.  It's now, like, 8:45.  Rather than shower first, I choose to start with the "crap around with the cat on my lap" part of the morning.  Sit on the sofa, cat comes in for a snuggle, and I start posting on Facebook about the "Thor" movie.  About 5 minutes in to this, I see Rusty walk up my walk.

It isn't even 9:00.

I go to turn off the alarm and let Rusty in, preparing to be pissed off about his massive earliness.  The alarm panel clock catches my eye.  It says 9:51.  It says WHAT?  I find another clock.  It is, in fact, just about 10:00.  Except in my bedroom, where my new clock is certain it's just 9:00.

Oh... fuck.  I have the date wrong on the bedroom clock, don't I?  (Click calendar button.)  Yep, it thinks it's tomorrow.  And it apparently changes automatically for Daylight Savings.

So, Rusty steps out for a bit while I shower, and we actually get started on the binging at 11:00.

Rusty is solidly prepared for a binge-fest.  He's brought muffins and snacks and beverages and popcorn.  And cozy bathrobes and bunny slippers.

Which explains why, about 10 hours later, we can proudly display this:


Oh yeah.  "Stranger Things," Season Two, accomplished in its entirety, with only pizza and potty breaks.

It wasn't quite as enthralling as the first season, but I enjoyed it.  Particularly all the brilliant 1980s details.  (About an hour in, I commented that I need to rethink all of my high school wardrobe choices.)  And I continue to appreciate the good acting they get out of the young cast.

A bit disappointed that there was so much Nancy in this thing.  Honestly, I'm pretty sure we all liked Barb so much last season because we all WERE Barb -- nobody was Nancy.  Well, I mean, I'm sure SOMEONE was Nancy; the popular girls who made bad choices probably grew up and got jobs and watch Netflix like everyone else.  But, surely, "Stranger Things" wasn't made for them; it was made for the nerds, the outsiders, the people who didn't know what the hell they were supposed to do at the party.  That's the Barbs and Dustins, not the Nancys.  Nancy was in the first season largely as the older sister while we watched her little brother and his friends do most of the heavy-lifting.  Season Two gave as much, or more, time to the teenagers.  And I honestly don't think "Stranger Things" would have been the pop culture phenomenon it was if it had come off as just another teen horror movie (albeit one amusingly set in the 80s).  It was special because it captured the kids-against-the-world-that-doesn't-believe-them ethos of movies like "Goonies," and there was none of that this season.

And FFS, when you put Sean Astin in this thing, and then send him off alone to save the day in a super-scary situation, give the man an asthma inhaler.

But, yeah, it was fun, and a good binge.

And I have the bunny slippers as a souvenir!


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

50 for 50: 26 - World Series with Roz

I lie.  "World Series" was not on my 50 for 50 list.  I had no idea the Dodgers would make the World Series back when I put the list together.  The actual item on my list was "Go to a Dodger Game and Eat at the Stadium Club."  The fact that it happened to end up on a World Series game was, well, "bonus" may be an understatement.

(It almost didn't happen.  Roz and I had tickets for Game 6 of the World Series -- thank you, Roz, for buying those season tickets for so long and sharing the wealth with so many of us.  ANYWAY, we had the Game 6 tickets, and Dodger Stadium emailed everyone before the World Series to say, hey, MLB is taking over the Stadium Club during the World Series, so it's hot dogs out of a cardbox box on your lap for everyone.  But then, just a couple days ago, we got ANOTHER email that said, hey, turns out MLB doesn't need the Stadium Club for Game 6 after all.  It was, like, fate.)  The game starts at 5:20; we get pre-game reservations for 2:00.

Getting there was a bit exciting, because we were also told the gates to the parking lot opened at 2:00 (and that they'd only hold the Stadium Club reservation for ten minutes) but we joined the impressive queue of cars outside Dodger Stadium, and they actually let us in closer to 1:30, and when all was said and done, we were parked, through security, and standing in line for the Stadium Club at 1:57.

We are shown to our table out on the patio.  (Pause here.  When we were told the Stadium Club was available for Game 6, they said "but not the patio."  They seated us on the patio anyway.  I'm tellin' y'all:  Fate.)  We had a lovely table (reserved just for us for two whole hours) on the covered patio from which we could watch batting practice, stuff ourselves senseless from the yummy buffet (from shrimp and crab cocktail to carved lamb and ending rather happily on some Halloween brownie thing with an upside-down chocolate cone on it like a witch's hat), use the much nicer bathrooms, take many pictures, and get super excited about the fact that HOLY CRAP, WE'RE AT THE WORLD SERIES!!!





Yeah, y'all don't care about our fine dining experience.  "Move on to what it's like to be at the World Series," you say.

What it's like to be at the World Series:

Everybody cares.

Look.  You go to a regular season game and they are trying to get you to care about the baseball game.  (Hell, they're very likely giving you a free hat or a bobblehead or something just as a "thank you" for showing up.)  There's people in the crowd batting around beach balls, or doing the wave, or doing whatever else has caught their attention other than paying attention to the baseball that's going on.  They're buying food or going back to the bar for another beer and easily missing an inning or two when they're up at the concession stands because the food and the beer are a vital part of the Dodger Stadium Experience and they're here to enjoy that as much as (or more than) the game.  There are annoyingly cheerful "pre-game hosts" encouraging you to post shit on social media and trying to get the crowd excited about the baseball that's going to happen.  And during the game, the organist and the giganto DodgerVision screen are regularly encouraging you to clap or cheer or chant "Let's Go Dodgers" or just to Make Some Noise.

And at the World Series everyone cares about the BASEBALL.  Not just scoring runs.  Not just making outs.  EVERYONE cares about EVERY PITCH.  You hang on it.  You cheer the strikes against the other team.  You cheer the balls when the Dodgers are at bat.  DodgerVision plays its usual "Make Some Noise" prompts, but it is generally behind the curve on this one, because we are already, organically, making quite a great deal of noise.  Everyone knows who Kenley Jansen is.  (And most everyone wonders if Dave Roberts is putting him in too early.  He wasn't.)  Hell, everyone knows who Yuli Gurriel is.  (And enthusiastically expresses their disappointment in him.)

But what attending the World Series is, when you get right down to it, is watching a game with 50,000 people who, like you, are holding their breath on every pitch.

Everyone is so happy to be there, they're super friendly.  When we sat down for the game, a peanut landed in my lap.  I'm looking around for the Peanut Fairy, and some guy about 8 rows back yells, "It was me."  He was aiming for his father, who was sitting two rows in front of me.  I aim the peanut at the father and hit him square in the back (I'm actually proud that I successfully executed that) but I fail to get his attention.  Later in the game, a foul ball comes flying into our section and the father catches it.  At the breaks between the action, he passes it around (someone immediately says, "yup, feels slicker" -- and I smile, because it's like we're sharing an inside joke with the whole section) and lets some kids take selfies with the World Series Baseball Actually Pitched By A World Series Pitcher and Struck By A World Series Bat.

There are some Astros fans two rows in front of us.  They're cheering their team -- whenever they get a hit, they High Five the Astros fans across the aisle.  We generally leave them to it, no fightin' words or anything, but when they try a "Let's Go, Altuve!" chant, we drown it out with "Let's Go, Dodgers!"  (We have the numbers; it isn't hard.)

The Astros were ahead by 1, but I wasn't worried.  Not in what had been a pretty high-scoring series to this point.  (Watching sports, I often have a thought ending with, "... then they deserve to lose."  At this game, it began with, "If the Dodgers can't manage to score one damn run, ....")  And, bless 'em, the Dodgers tied it up and got ahead with a rally in the sixth which had us standing, swinging those rally towels, and cheering till we were hoarse.  But it wasn't until the seventh when I thought, "We might actually win this thing 3-1."

I was so into the game -- so into how very much I wanted us to win this game -- I kinda forgot it was Game 6 of the World Series and that we were down three games to two.  Which is to say that the game, the MOMENT, felt so important itself, I forgot that it was actually a must-win situation or the Dodgers would be second-place finishers this year.  And right around when I remembered it, we were six outs away, and it seemed doable.  (And Jansen got three outs in the 8th on something like 8 pitches, and I thought, holy shit, just three more easily accomplishable outs and this thing goes to seven games!)

And they did it.  And it wasn't pandemonium -- that, I assume, comes if they win tomorrow -- but it was JOY.  Strangers high-fiving all over the place.  Everyone running into the aisle to try to get a picture with "Dodgers Win!" or "1 Game to Go!" on the ribbon screens behind them.  (Most of us failing, because the damn things were too bright.)


The Astros fans were muted, but good sports.  "Good win," I heard one say, "It'll be a great game tomorrow."

I bet it will.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

50 for 50: 25 - Maze with Susan and Jeff

When I was a kid, I liked solving mazes.  The paper ones you solve with a pencil.  I always used to solve them in my head first, tracing the path with my finger, before I'd bother picking up the pencil and making the line.  Wouldn't want to actually WRITE DOWN me making a mistake, going down a dead end.

This, I'm sure, is an insight into my personality.

I think life-sized mazes you get lost in are fun.  I've done a couple of mirror mazes and one hedge maze, and have come to the conclusion that I kind of suck at them, but they're fun.  I do get lost easily, though.  I'm pretty good at remembering where I am when I'm in a city -- make a left at the McDonald's, turn again just past the gelato shop, that sort of thing.  But in a mirror maze, about all you can see is ... you.  And in the hedge maze, it's all hedge.  Hard to find landmarks when it all looks the same.  Each time I've stepped in, I've gotten pretty disoriented shortly after entering, and have only made it out by luck (or, at that hedge maze in England, the assistance of some kid yelling to her Dad to "follow my voice!")

Jeff and Susan initially found an 11-acre corn maze out in Temecula, which is, like, 100 miles from here.  And while we first considered getting our 'Murica on (the maze is mown in the shape of the Statute of Liberty, with the text:  "America - Land of the Free Because of the Brave.  God Bless Our Military") we decided to take a pass on the place because it was so far away (and because I was a little cautious of whatever the hell "Show your Patriotism on our Wall of Freedom!" meant in the advertising), and we ultimately settled on a 4-acre job which was much closer (and the pattern of the maze was a little farmhouse with the farmer in front of it, so I was pretty sure they'd let us in without us having to prove ourselves on the Wall of Patriotism).

But we also picked this one because (1) it wasn't one of the scary Halloween ones; and (2) it had jokes to solve!

We were a little late arriving (because I'm slower getting started on the weekends (I can hear my coworkers say "riiiiight, just on the weekends") and also the cat is snuggly).  We arrived at the local farm (Forneris Farms) ponied up our cash (but, sadly, not for the pony rides -- they had a weight limit of "ha ha, no"), got our wristbands, and made our way toward the maze entrance.

They give you a postcard which has a map of the maze on one side -- and also a phone number to call in case you get super lost.  On the back, the jokes.  Seems there are 12 little visual puns on numbered posts hidden in the maze.  You've got to find all the posts, solve all the puns, and match the post number to the solution on the back of your postcard.  When you're done, plop your card in a box at the end.  (Randomly chosen winner gers $100 and a big pumpkin.)  OK, then, we're in.  But we're not using the map.  Maps are for wusses.  It's only four acres; we're gonna do this thing ourselves.

We walk in.  Turn, turn, and ... a choice.  Turn right, or go straight and turn right ... or, further down there are actually three right turn options.  Now, afterward, looking at the map, I see that those three right turns are actually the sides of two squares which plop you right back on the main path where you started.  But, in the maze, that was utterly lost to me.

It was not lost to Jeff.

We had not been in there that long when Susan pointed out that Jeff is an Eagle Scout.  It was all corn to me, but Jeff was noticing that broken stalk over there, or that pile of mud I'd stepped in, or that bit of green fence, or the Cheez-Its some kid had dropped (ok, to be fair, even I saw the Cheez-Its).  I guess if you know what nature looks like, and pay attention, the landmarks are as clear as the McDonald's and the gelato shop.  But, for me, I would've been hopelessly lost in what we'll safely call no time at all.

We found our first little joke on a signpost, except it was numbered 2, rather than 1.  We then found 3, and -- having confirmed the damn things are in order -- realized we had to go back for 1.  From that point, our plodding through the maze was not geared toward, "Hey, let's find the exit," but "let's cover this whole thing from start to finish, so we hit all the jokes."  And we did.  Every one.  In order.  

This is what happens when you put nerds in a corn maze.

Slightly Type-A nerds.

(Shut up, all of you.)

The jokes -- or, actually, "CORNundrums" were things like a picture of a ducky on an office chair, which was "Sitting Duck."

I requested the 50 for 50 photo be taken in front of this one, figuring it wouldn't get better than this:


OK, you may have trouble making that out, what with the holy rays of sunlight beaming down on us, but that there is a deer in front of an outhouse (with a little green tractor behind it, just in case you need the extra hint).

Once we finished and dropped our completed cornundrum entry cards in the bin, we got some beverages and sat in the shade.  I got lemonade.  I don't even like lemonade.  I might drink lemonade, like, twice a year.  This was a lemonade sort of day.  You spend an hour walking in a corn maze, you drink some lemonade.  I shoulda prolly been pickin' my teeth with a piece of hay or something.

We talk more about mazes and getting lost.  Jeff concedes that he'd never looked at the map, and was just navigating us through that thing by mentally dividing the place into sectors and making sure we covered each one.  Rational.  Tactical.  If I even need a search party, I'm putting Jeff in charge of it.

We talk about families and growing up and how neighborhoods change (and how you're not going to find your way through the old neighborhood if the bookstore is gone and the McDonald's is now a Starbucks).  We talk about houses and HOAs and floods and plumbing problems and none of these things have anything to do with mazes, but are still things we have to navigate.

It's good to have friends to help you make your way through.