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.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

50 for 50: 24 - Horse Races with Rashida

I have not been to the horse races since--

-- well, I was a first year associate at a law firm, and we went to Hollywood Park as a summer associate outing, but some of us were fantastically late to the races because we'd had to stay late to work on the final cite-checking on this brief.  And I'm pretty sure the brief was in the Boy Scouts case where they were trying to exclude an atheist scout.  And NOW I'm back at the horse races right after Boy Scouts announced they're letting in girls.  So, yeah, it was Some Time Ago.

I put it on my list because it was fun back in the early 90s, and also because I've lived this close to Santa Anita Park and HAVEN'T BEEN, and it was starting to feel a little wrong.  This was some sort of local culture experience that I felt I needed to suck up.

Rashida and I researched this greatly, and found a deal on package that gave us private(ish) box seats, race programs, lunch entrees, drinks, and souvenir pint glasses.  We showed up early because we didn't exactly know where to go.  This turned out to be a good idea.

We showed our tickets; we got hand stamped; we got in; we were directed to go up the ramp and to the right and someone would tell us where we had to go.  And even THIS astonishingly vague set of directions was soooo wrong.  We actually find the box seating -- and then learn that we have to go to Will Call to turn our package tickets into actual tickets and food vouchers and all that other crap.  Not at the entrance we went in; but the other entrance.  We finally make our way to Will Call (getting a decent tour of the club house in the process) and back to the box seats.  This time, now that we have tickets, we are directed to our box.  It's in the front row of boxes, against the rail.  There is a woman in it.  She actually belongs in the box next to us, but thought she'd spread out since there was nobody in our box.  She seemed polite enough about it -- gathered her stuff and moved back to her own damn box next to us, although her husband(?) was sort of "maybe stay out of other people's boxes?" about it.

We sit.  We enjoy our food voucher food and start looking at the racing program to figure out which horses we would bet on, were we betting.  There are nine races today, so we're in no hurry.  Particulary when the first race is a maiden claiming race and (to my great surprise, and Rashida's astonishment) I actually knew what that meant.  (Thank you, Dick Francis novels.)  First race was actually won by a longshot.  This was useful, in the sense that it proved, right up front, that the "Handicapper's Hints" in the racing program didn't really mean shit.  Our best under-educated guess was probably just as likely to be correct as Handicapper's Hints.  (Or as correct as the $100/bet gambler who had joined the folks in the box next to us, who, halfway through the afternoon, loudly regalled his friends -- and everyone in the vicinity -- with the tale of how he won $900 bucks on one race only because the "idiot" in the teller's booth accidentally placed his bet on the wrong horse.  So now he's up $500 on the day.  And while his takeaway was "Yay, $500!" my takeaway was, "So you were down $400 before that race and would have been down another hundred if she hadn't made a mistake.  So maybe we shouldn't listen to your brilliant racing wisdom?")

Rashida and I ultimately placed wagers on, I think, two races -- including the California Distaff Handicap, the one stakes race on the program.  We each ended the day a few bucks up.  (Much less than the idiots next to us, but possibly better as a percentage of what we'd bet.)  Here's us, with our little wager tickets for the big race.

For which Rashida picked the winner.  Yay!

Here's what I learned about going to the races at Santa Anita.  It is very much (VERY MUCH) a class system.  You could get the $5 infield tickets where you can stand around the infield and buy hot dogs and cokes.  At the other end, terrace seats -- behind glass, table service, gotta dress nice.  We were solidly in second class.  Box seating with TV screens in each box, but open to the air; counter service, but higher quality food than the food court (I had a corned beef sandwich -- sorry, I had Santa Anita's Famous Corned Beef Sandwich, which was hand carved in front of me and really quite tasty; Rashida had fresh tacos).  Our beverage coupons were good for a wine or "craft beer."  That's the class we were in, Craft Beer Class.

You needed a hand stamp to get up to our level.  Because Class System.

We ran downstairs between races to grab our free pint glasses at the gift shop.  On the way, we had to stop because the horses were parading out to the starting gate, and actually going down a path we had to cross.  It was sort of neat watching them go by up close.  (The infield patrons don't have our nice seats in the shade, or access to the craft brews, but they definitely get to see the horses more up close and personal.  We made a note that if we ever go back, we should wander downstairs more just to see the horses between races.)  Grabbed the glasses, headed back upstairs.  Showed our hand stamps, went back to our seats.

Some tall pretty blond woman in front of us walks right in, doesn't show her hand stamp.  Not questioned.

Rashida and I discuss privilege, and tall pretty blond ladies who probably get in a lot of places without showing hand stamps.  You know how sometimes men tell women they should smile more, and women get offended by it?  This is a woman who is used to getting what she wants with that smile.  I decide to hate her, just on principle.

Rashida and her husband have a little girl -- a cute little 7-year-old.  We've taken her to tea.  She's sweet and quiet and likes princesses and reading.  I like her.  And here's me and Rashida, talking about Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and pretty blond privileged ladies.  And also rich kids who study dressage, and mothers who are as annoyingly clique-ish as teenagers.  And I think about the unlimited options a 7-year-old girl ought to have -- and how amazingly difficult parenting one must be.

Monday, October 9, 2017

50 for 50: 23 - House of Eternal Return with Bits and Karen

Thank you, Facebook.

Someone posted an article talking about Meow Wolf's "House of Eternal Return," which somehow ended up in my timeline, and in my consciousness, and, ultimately, on my 50 for 50 list.  Because this is my type of thing.  Here I am in front of it.  Inside it.  Whatever.

Yeah, OK, if you go to their website, you'll see a video where everyone says they can't describe wtf it is (beyond "immersive art installation") or compare it to anything.  I agree that it defies easy description, but I can come up with comparisons:  A Punchdrunk show.  The Beast.  The first time I played Myst.  I thought of all things while I was wandering the multiverse in the house in the bowling alley.  (And we now add THAT to the list of sentences I never thought I'd say.  Like, "Why is everyone going inside the ice machine?")  But, truly, at one point I thought you could do a Punchdrunk show in here and my brain kind of exploded.  Because, what with the interaction and the videos and the clues, it WAS a Punchdrunk show, except with the actors removed and us being allowed to talk and play and investigate and climb on everything.

I'm ... at the end.  The beginning is, yes, Meow Wolf is an immersive art installation in a converted bowling alley.  And when you walk in, you're faced with the exterior of a perfectly good Victorian house.  And you go inside the house and discover some shit went DOWN in the house.  High level paranormal shit.  "Little Girl Lost" shit.  (The "Twilight Zone" episode, not the TV movie nobody saw.)  Except it's a boy.  And maybe his whole family.  And he isn't in the wall.  But possibly the toilet.  And things have gone very, very wrong.

And you spend a good deal of time -- perhaps too much time -- reading the clues and looking at the photos and deciphering the symbols and trying to figure out what melted the chandelier (and the, um, wall), until such time as you realize this place is much MUCH bigger than you thought because there's a portal or two (or six) into another dimension or ten (or fifty) in the house.

And when you're walking through what we'll politely call the very bizarre rooms of this here multiverse (my favorite was a room in utter black and white -- with a convenient mirror on the wall for selfies!)

ANYWAY (hey, what's that green E doing in my picture?), when you're walking through the different dimensions you think, "the whole mystery of the house is bullshit; this is just about giving the Meow Wolf artists a bunch of rooms to design totally crazy stuff in."  And EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU THINK IT (seriously, it is timed to the second), you stumble upon another clue to the puzzle and you get interested in the mystery again.  And it's insanely well done and pitched right at the point where you can spend a good four hours in the place and feel satisfied that you understand some of the broad outlines of what went down; but still curious enough to want to come back again and play in it some more.  Because there are more puzzles than you think there are.  Hell, just when we got ready to leave, we started to realize that WE might not be on the side of this that we thought we were.  (And what the hell was going on with Not Morgan's Bedroom?)

Probably the coolest thing about Meow Wolf is that Karen and Bits agreed to go to this thing to humor me, but ultimately ended up enjoying it.  (Bits more than Karen; Karen got a bit of vertigo and had to leave the house -- me and Bits stayed inside and we ... you guys, we Found Out Where The Socks Go. (!) This, alone, was worth the price of admission.)

But, of course, the 50 for 50 part of this is that I was enjoying it with friends -- and the whole day was full of that.  The time I spent in Meow Wolf with Bits was fun because we were both into the mystery and really trying to piece it together.  And afterward, we came back to the hotel where Karen is refurbishing an old (1888) quilt.  Well, refurbish isn't the word.  She's tidying it up, but having friends and family add stitches and things that have significance for them.  So, back in the room, we're sitting on the sofa -- I'm adding some (easy) stitching around a little field of velvet on the quilt, while Karen is sewing something else, and we're talking about family and life and it's probably very similar to how things went back when ladies worked on quilts in the late 19th Century.  And THEN, I suggested Karen put the Yale Law School shield in the little blue velvet field I'd sewed around -- for to represent where we met and became friends. Which she's doing as we speak.  :)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

50 for 50: Pre-23. New Mexico with Karen and Bits

I'm gonna say right off that although the ACTUAL 50 for 50 thing is tomorrow, I'm going to just broaden the event out to the whole two days we're here, because damn.

The morning started at 5:00, when we drove to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  There was a lot of stop and slow traffic for the last coupla miles, and a near miss at the parking lot we were directed to, but somehow we ended up at the balloon fiesta JUST IN TIME for the Dawn Patrol, which is a small series of balloons they send up in the darkness.

I took very, very few photos of Dawn Patrol.  This was due, in part, to the fact that I'm really big on EXPERIENCING a thing and not taking anything away from it to watch it on a screen.  And also, in part, to it being too damn cold for me to take off my gloves to operate my camera phone.  Here's, like, my one picture of balloons before dawn.

But my friends, Karen and Bits, wanted to take lots of pictures, so we were walking out on the field to find more balloons and better views, and eventually dawn well and truly happened.  And we looked around -- really looked around where we had walked in the darkness -- and discovered we'd walked nearly all the way to the other end of the balloon field.  (Which is something like 54 football fields in size.)  Balloons were starting to inflate around us.  We asked a nearby dude with a big camera (who looked like he knew what he was doing -- when it comes to zoom lenses, apparently size DOES matter) where we should stand for the upcoming mass ascension, and he suggested that we could stay pretty much where we were.  Because being there on the field, we would be SURROUNDED by balloons.  I did not necessarily believe this.  I probably should have.

Balloons are everywhere.  There were set spaces on the field for each balloon crew -- they come in a truck, unload the balloon, stretch it out, fill it up, light it up, and take off.  Then the truck leaves (doubling as the chase vehicle).  We found an open space -- either a crew didn't show, or it was a balloon that already left in dawn patrol -- and we stood there looking at the balloons around us.  Until some dude starts inflating on my left and another is inflating on my right and I have to run forward to not get squashed because THERE ARE SO MANY BALLOONS THEY CANNOT INFLATE WITHOUT PRESSING AGAINST EACH OTHER.  Holy fuck, that's a lot of balloons.

Seriously.  Don't get distracted by all the balloons in the air in that picture -- look at the field of balloons on the ground, pressing against each other, just waiting to go.

Here's us, grinning like idiots, with a bunch of balloons behind us.

(I just like this picture.)

Also, they had lots of balloons shaped like ... things that aren't balloons.  I got a really good picture of the Yoda balloon.  Also, I got pictures of the Boba Fett guarding the Darth Vader and Yoda balloon inflation -- with a lot of lens flare, which somehow seems appropriate.

We had paid a lot of money for access to the snooty area at Balloon Fiesta, which gave us the good parking, a breakfast buffet, and non-porta-john-toilets.  (I had sorta wanted this from the start, but didn't know if Karen and Bits would be interested in upgrading to the pricey tickets.  Said Karen, "You had me at bathrooms.")  So, after we watched all the ascending, we went back to the snooty area, had our breakfast, used our toilets, got our free lapel pins, and ... realized we had too much to do the rest of the day, so headed out of there.

Back to the hotel to change, then off to Kasha-Katuwe National Monument.  It was crowded.  It was so crowded, cars were being held at the entrance because the parking lot was full.  We waited our turn, ponied up our five bucks, and--  OK, while we were waiting our turn, the ranger gave us a little booklet about the Monument, and that's when Karen read about the two hikes or the "spectacular overlook" you could drive up to.  I'm all for seeing nature without the hike, so we drove up to the overlook and we were ALONE up there.  (Does nobody else read the little booklet?  Karen's the sort who always reads the booklet, so she always finds the stuff everybody misses.)

Overlook selfie!

And then we got in the car and drove PAST Santa Fe (that's for tomorrow) to Los Alamos.

It was pretty cool to have someone TAKE the obligatory photo for us, so we weren't trying to somehow get our three faces and that giant sign in there for the selfie, but Random Sweaty Man Going For A Run might have gone a little too distant on this shot.

We stopped at the Starbucks and I was totally annoyed that they only sold a New Mexico Starbucks mug, because I really wanted a Los Alamos Starbucks mug.  Like maybe with a little mushroom cloud or something?

We... couldn't find the Los Alamos History Museum.  Google Maps helpfully took us down a dead end, and we eventually parked at the Los Alamos Senior Center and wandered around a bunch of buildings which looked vaguely like the image Google was showing us until we found it.  (The dead end was actually the start of a path you should walk down -- it was a coupla buildings away and didn't front on the road.)  Felt like idiots.  Way too many advanced degrees among the three of us to not be able to find a damn museum.

I really dug the museum.  A bit of stuff about it before the Manhattan Project days, but, of course, the whole BUILDING AND TESTING A NUCLEAR BOMB bit was front and center.  (And the post-war Cold War Era stuff, too.)  Had a very ... ambivalent message.  They tried to be thought provoking about nuclear bombs and asked visitors to write down their answer to the question of whether scientists should be responsible for making weapons that kill.  They posted a few answers on the wall in the form of a silent dialogue.  Very interesting.

(Also had cool artifacts from the era, including a plastic mug which said "Los Alamos" and had a mushroom cloud on it and I was all, "See?  This is what Starbucks needed.")

On the way back, we stopped at a rock what looked like E.T. from one angle, but it's actually called Camel Rock.  In a surprising burst of respect, I decided to take the selfie from an angle which confirms its camelishness.

Driving back, we talked about family history and preserving it and ancestry and connections to the past and (for some damn reason) the National Anthem protests.  Got a little heated there on that last one, but, hey, we've been friends for almost 30 years -- not gonna let anything like that get in our way.