Coca Cola And The Incomparable Celine Dion

When I asked about peaches, I found out about boiled peanuts. It’s a thing in Georgia. Also in Georgia, specifically Atlanta, are the World of Coca Cola and Celine Dion. While Celine is not always there, Coke is, and so S, A, and I visited both.

The World Of Coca Cola

The first thing we did was drink a small can of Coke. This was going to be a day of sugar shock.

We took the VIP tour. So that other visitors can’t tag along and listen, they give you headsets and the tour guide whispers into a mic so only the tour can hear. Most of what I heard translated in my mind into how Coca Cola has steadily earned world dominance. Why does Santa wear red and white? Coke. If that’s not domination, then I don’t know what is.

The first room we entered had memorabilia from across the globe throughout the decades. It was a lot of stuff. Then we watched a movie. It was people living their lives, and then they would drink Coke. I didn’t get it. I mean, who hikes up a mountain in the snow and then drinks Coca Cola at the top? No one is carrying that up a mountain, and water would be the drink of choice. Like, it really didn’t make any sense. At all.

We got to skip the line to meet the polar bear. This thing is not okay. I have a bit of an aversion to adult sized characters in big heads that don’t talk. Like, if you’re in costume and talk, that’s fine, but if you’re mute and make gestures, that makes me really uncomfortable, which is why I don’t go to Chuck E. Cheese (among other reasons). This fear may stem from the time Twinkie The Kid accosted me over at the A&P when I was little. I don’t remember much of the story, and I know I walked away with a Twinkie The Kid ring, but the ring wasn’t worth it.

Anyway, we took pictures with the scary bear just before it headed for break. It waddled away and was really creepy. Still, the pictures we took with it are priceless.

We learned about the creator of Coke and his secret recipe. We learned about how the formula is still secret, and the bottlers and distributors don’t know how to make it. We saw more advertising. We learned about different glass. Basically, anything you could possibly think of concerning soft drink supremacy was in this museum.

We saw the vault, y’all.

ATL Day 2 (11)

Then came a moment I hadn’t ever thought I’d get the chance to experience. You know how I love the Olympics? Yeah, well, so does Coca Cola. They sponsor a bunch of sports, and the Olympics is one of them, so they have some torches on display. Then in a weird unsuspecting hallway, they have a locked cabinet of torches that we got to hold. I held an Olympic torch! My life is so complete!

ATL Day 2 (19)

In addition to VIP badges, we also got VIP pins! Then into the tasting room we went! Sugar shock continues! The room is set up by continent, and there are several countries’ drinks to try out. We tasted Beverly from Italy first because we heard it was nasty. It was. Very. Nasty. Then there was some Germany drinks, and they were not nasty but also not great. One had a picture of an apple and something else with it, and that something else I’m pretty sure was not-great-ness. Africa had a lot of berry or juicy flavors. Super duper sweet.

We took a break from tasting and checked out commercials throughout the ages. I sang along with the I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke ad. It’s the only one I recognized.

Back to the tasting room! The South American ones were probably my favorite. I also like something from Japan. There was one, however, that made me make a face that I could feel was the face of pain and disturbance. I walked over to S and A who were still tasting in Africa and was like, China tastes like steak sauce. And clearly my face told the whole tale. While I didn’t receive a complete agreement, S was like, I can see how you’d think that. I was like, I don’t think that; I know that.

We finished up in the tasting room by drinking more Coke products from the do-it-yourself-mix-and-match machines. I didn’t mix anything, but I did try root beer for the first time. Interesting. I’ve also never tried Dr. Pepper even though I’ve visited the Dr. Pepper Museum. For someone who doesn’t drink sugary drinks, I do enjoy a good soda museum.

This was the day we also had Cracker Barrel, and I was able to use the last $1.03 I had on a Cracker Barrel Gift Card I’ve owned for maybe ten years. Basically, it was a joyous day of food and beverages.

The Incomparable Celine Dion

A drove us first to a closed down Italian place (booo!) and then to an open Italian place (yeay!) for dinner. Then a monsoon hit. Like rain puddles emerged in the restaurant. Then the monsoon died down a little, and we were on our way to see Celine. We listened to Celine in the car. Then we got stuck in Celine traffic. Everyone on the street walking to the arena was wearing some sort of sparkle or sequin ensemble. I’d gotten the memo and was decked out in a shimmery shirt. Because what else would one wear to see Celine Dion?

We arrived a little late because everyone in Atlanta wanted to see Celine. The upside was that A was able to point out the Olympic park and the Olympic rings. I saw them! In person! From the car, but still. It’s an Olympics Miracle!

For her first few songs, Celine wore an orangy sparkly gown. See? Glittering is the way to go. And every song was shout-singable. You know, like how you want to sing along but you can’t because you’re not Celine so you kind of shout the lyrics along with the melody? Yeah, we did a lot of that. I didn’t sit for most of the concert. I was that girl, dancing even to the slow stuff, even to the French stuff, even to the songs that aren’t really dancing songs.

The arena was loud. Probably one of the loudest concerts I’ve been to. So loud that Celine stopped and got weepy, thanking everyone for the applause. That cause what I could not believe was even louder cheering. The night was all energy.

Her last song before the we-know-what’s-coming encore was a medley of covers. Again, she wore a shiny get-up. I think there were four wardrobe changes, and during those changes, we watched videos of her dancing that also looked like perfume ads. That woman can move. Wow.

The encore was, predictably, “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme from Titanic, that really I’m not too much of a fan of. There were drones dancing around her as she sang and then she sent one off to fly away on its own. It was all very dramatic. Then she sang “Imagine.” I didn’t think she’d sing anything after her most sang song ever, but I was happy she did.

Everything Else

While soda and Celine were fantastic, seeing friends was the best thing we did. I met A’s husband and son for the first time. We checked out their digs, watched movies, and shopped at the local Publix where I got my hands on some boiled peanuts. Gotta say, they’re pretty okay.  I’ll go back to ATL any time for any of these things.

 

The One With The Win

This is a story of triumph. A story of perseverance and victory. Might I say, a story of pure bliss. And friendship, of course.

Not too long ago, S, R, and I visited the Friends apartments when they popped up on Mercer. We got our fill of wah-pah and pivoting. This was a moment between trivia jaunts.

We’ve been to Friends Trivia before. S has been to more than I have. Together, we tried our hand at Big Daddy’s trivia night. We also gave it a go at Sip This. Once there was one at a bar somewhere. We have placed, but we have not won. S carries the team. I have my expertise in Mockolate, one episode in a vast nine years of a series. I know my place–moral support.

When the chance at Friends trivia rolled around again, it was iffy because of schedules. The day before, we were like, okay let’s go. I grabbed tix online. Tickets came with a drink, so I could get my green tea on while trivia-ing.

I then thrust myself into study mode. I’ve developed a surefire way to look like a psychopath whenever trivia comes up about something I’m not very in-the-know about. I go online and write down things that could possibly be answers to other things. Which is everything.

The last time I did something like this, it was for Harry Potter Trivia at Sip This with SD. I chose to focus on important numbers. This strategy did not lead to victory. However, it did lead to me being the only person who knew Ginny Weasley’s jersey number. I told SD, just write down X because that number seems to come up a lot. And I? Was right! Heck if I know it now because this kind of cramming leads to remembering things only the night of.

So I wrote down things about each friend–relationships, how many episodes have their names in the title, nicknames, travel, apartment numbers, allergies, catchphrases. Looking back over the notes, some of it is illegible. I legit have no idea what I wrote. It could be Friends facts. It could be a recipe for stew. I do know the recipe for Rachel’s trifle. Or at least I did. During the trivia.

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Copious copious notes

Jam-packed with newfound knowledge and having watched two random episodes from Season 1, S and I met up at Ground Central, grabbed our drinks, and grabbed our seats. There would be five rounds. We would be the Chanberries. We were set.

Round 1’s first question was Who are all six friends?

I proudly wrote all six friends’ names without the help of S. Who’s carrying whom????

S looked at what I wrote and said, Stop it! You wrote Ross twice and forgot Monica.

Again, I know my place in this. I crossed out the second Ross and wrote Monica.

The rest of Round 1 I knew pretty well, too. This was encouraging.

Then came the between the rounds nerve-wracking activity of the lightning round. If your team scored the lowest in a round, one of the two of you had to answer three questions in 30 seconds to stay in the game. You weren’t allowed to pass, either. S and I were like, well we don’t want to do that, so we have to not lose a round. Anyone who had to do a lightning round lost and was out of trivia, which made me kinda sad because then they couldn’t keep enjoying the game. I like games! I want people to have fun!

Round 2 went okay, too. I knew some of the answers and others I had no clue. S knew everything. Everything! And then Round 3 and Round 4, too. By Round 5, I was like, this is going super well. She was like, you wrote down Yemen. Yes, yes, I had, and that was an answer. See? The studying of random things helps.  Other things I helped with : Gladys is the name of Phoebe’s artwork; Amy and Jill are Rachel’s sisters. There were no questions about Mockolate.

The last round came upon us. We were the high scorers, so we were automatically in the last round. The other two teams did a lightning round that was even more intense because it involved two teams and more time and back and forth questioning.

The final round involved Perfection. Remember that game with the shapes and the timer and the board that pops up and throws all the shapes out of their slots when the time is up? Yeah, so you had to do that game while answering trivia questions about Friends Thanksgiving episodes. And since S is the expert, she was the one who had to do this. S doesn’t like to be the center of attention, so this was an interesting turn of circumstances.

Oh. Wait. Perfection? Isn’t that what Chandler says to Jill Goodacre when they’re locked in the ATM when she offers him gum? That would be perfection. Right? Am I right? Hand on…. “Gum would be perfection.” I JUST LOOKED IT UP AND I AM RIGHT.

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge that I looked something up. A rare occasion.

But back to the trivia! S got every question right, including the question about what goes in Rachel’s Trifle–which I knew because that was in my notes–and she got some pieces into the game board. At one point, I did interject the very helpful advice, That piece doesn’t fit there, as she spent a good amount of time trying to place an octagon into a hexagon. I had a better angle on it. She had better trivia knowledge.

The next team went, and they got a whole lot of pieces in. However, they got fewer trivia questions right. Their last question was What dish was Chandler in charge of? S and I snapped a glance at each other right away.

The answer to that? Cranberries. Or, shall we say, Chanberries?

Which was our team name.

And The Chanberries won trivia!

After years of coming in second, S has won trivia. I told her she can never go to Friends Trivia again ever. Because, you know, winning.

We talked to the host afterwards about playing Perfection (the above clip never came up because I just realized it now, but I wonder if it was a subconscious choice). She said she wanted it to be an intense challenge. We were like, mission accomplished. Then S said to me she thought they should advertise it as Extreme Friends Trivia. Ha! Not a bad idea. It was the most intense trivia I’ve been to. This kind of makes sense because the guy over at GC is probably the most intense person I’ve ever met. So Extreme Trivia it is, at least in our minds, and we won it. Yeay!

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Longest Friends

Thanks, S.

The One With The Pop Up Without A Ball Pit

S, R, and I visited Central Perk and the apartments nearby all in one place when we visited the Friends pop-up. No germy ballpit here! Instead, replicas of the Friends’s version of NYC.

Each friend had a dedicated section. Ross’s pivoting couch and comic book. Rachel and Monica’s purple door. Joey’s piled on clothes. Phoebe’s artwork. Chandler and Joey’s apartment. There was a wall dedicated to all the pets. And also, Central Perk.

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You could buy coffee at the end, but some of the coffee was sold out. Which never happened on Friends. But it doesn’t matter. Friendship is the point, right?

S, thank you for being a friend.

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Happiness Lies In Birthday Pie

Last year, I spent my birthday surrounded by color with S. A ball pit was involved. No surprise there.

Perhaps the surprise is that this year’s birthday did not involve a ball pit. Though it is ball pit adjacent, time-wise, considering that questionable zodiac excursion.

Almost-Birthday Birthday Gift From Me To Me

On Friday night, I took myself to a reiki circle. I felt like I was floating at one point. Ooh.

Museum Sans Ball Pit

My mom and I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and got lost pretty much all day. The guiding factor in every set of directions we received was to go right or left at the large column.

Never Enough Moon

I thought the moon exhibit was going to be that one tiny gallery the photography exhibits are always in. It was there for sure, but it was also sprawling across four other galleries! As if watching the moon landing 18 times at the Cradle of Aviation weren’t enough, we watched again. We also saw early drawings that mapped the moon and daguerreotypes that mirrored the moon. One gallery was devoted to an exhibit I had seen part of at the Whitney when I was sabbaticalling, and its inspiration led to some poems in Liberating The Astronauts. That was the room in which the Guardian of the Glass Case scolded me for touching the exhibit. I didn’t touch it. I tapped it. When he turned around, I touched it a lot. Like a lot a lot. So much so that my mom grabbed my hand and led me away, and in good timing because after that, the guy stared at me until we asked him where to get to the next gallery and got out of there. This outer space stuff is quite compelling.

Never Enough Rooftops

My mom has been a New Yorker her entire life and my birthday this year marked the first time she’d ever been to the roof of The Met. When we got up there, she kept asking me which way the park was and where 5th Ave was, and I was like, You’re asking the wrong child. My brother would know right away. I had no clue. I pointed to a building and was like, Well, that’s the Woolworth Building, right? And then I saw another building and was all, Or maybe that’s the Woolworth Building. Really, one of the many buildings had to be the Woolworth Building. Unless it’s no longer there. In which case, what the hell happened to the Woolworth Building?!?!

Aside from the cityscape views, the artwork fell in line with an outer space vibe. I tried to figure out which orb was Earth and then what planets the other orbs were. Then I read the description of the exhibit and found that it didn’t necessarily replicate our solar system. So then I simply chose one as Earth.

Cramped and Loud and Awesome

Guitars. Drum sets. Pianos. Flashy sequined outfits. Psychedelic concert posters. Film footage of loud music in action. Cram it all into tiny galleries and you’ve got yourself a musical masterpiece. We didn’t get to see everything because every room was overrun by music fans. Still, we saw enough and got to listen to some dang good tunes.

Once we found our way out of the museum, mom hopped in a cab, and I walked down to  Pig N Whistle to meet up with S and R for a fun dinner. Along the way, I took in some public art and some sunny rays.

Bags and Dessert #1

And dinner was fun! S gave me back the bag I gave her for her birthday because, as you may recall, 82% of our friendship is giving each other bags neither of us wants to carry. To top off our dinner, the two of them sang Happy Birthday while the server set down a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a candle in front of me. No one really wanted to eat the ice cream, but S and I split some of it as R made the wise choice of not eating it at all.

Then to show how much they really care, they walked with me to Penn. Through Times Square. At night. On a Saturday. I mean, That! Is! Love!

A Healthy Interlude

I taught my regular Power Hour yoga class on Sunday morning. I was feeling a little icky from the ice cream, but a morning workout followed by the yoga turned that around. I thanked the women for showing up, explaining it was my birthday weekend, and they were all like, Awww, yeay! Because that’s how people react when you tell them it’s your birthday.

(Semi-Free) Lunch and Dessert #2

On Sunday, my brother and I went to my mom’s to have some Panera. They deliver! Not really. They use Door Dash to deliver, and they dashed out without any of the sides for our entrees. After five minutes on the phone with a manager who was “logging the incident,” I wound up with a free pick two in my future that I could pick up when I went to pick up my sides at a later date. Somehow it was impossible for them to simply have Door Dash bring the sides. Sides are complicated.

Then my aunt and uncle came over, and they sang Happy Birthday as I sat beneath the traditional Haphy Birthday sign (yes, that’s spelled wrong; a story for another time). Then we ate pie! Apple pie! And it was delicious!

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Dinner = Dessert #3

I didn’t eat a whole lot after that because I knew what was on the horizon. DB can make fire, so we made s’mores. They were the healthy kind because we used Trader Joe’s dark chocolate and Trader Joe’s marshmallows.

Fact: Trader Joe’s marshmallows do not roast in the same way other marshmallows do.

Fact: Chunks of dark chocolate do not melt in the same way thin milk chocolate does.

Fact: My s’mores are better than your s’mores.

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A Healthy Recovery

Sugar hangovers can last for a really super long time when your body isn’t used to sweets. My body was super angry, and the hangover is just about over itself now that it’s been almost a week. Yep, that’s what sugar does to you. To make the recovery sweet in that non-sugar way, at work on Monday, S handed over a basket of veggies she’d harvested from her garden! You know what helps a sugar shocked body settle down? A slow-cooker kale and celery frittata!

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I’m still celebrating, you know, but not simply for my birthday. Every day is a celebration. Every day is a good day. These have been good, good days, and I’m so thankful for every moment.

 

Your Horoscope: 12 Rooms & Cellophane

The plan was a fun one. S bought us tix to a limited-time pop-up museum down on Bleecker that was all about the zodiac. We are Virgos, truly, and the pics on Insta looked like a good time.

Then S got sick, so I was faced with possibly going to a pop-up by myself. Boooo. The whole point of a pop-up exhibit is to go with someone to see fun installations and maybe roll around in a ball pit and then make fun of each other when you get stuck. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Candytopia and The Color Factory. You may notice a trend that my fellow Virgo is my main pop-up go-to.

Luckily, the only other person I know who has a focus group side hustle was willing to go with me because we were going to already be in NYC for a focus group.

Side note: If you didn’t know it, I’ve got a focus group side hustle. I go to focus groups where people ask me my opinion on things and I answer and they give me money. Yeah, I’m an influencer.

Side note: I know only one other person in the world who does this. I mean, clearly, there’s a realm of people who do, but DB is the first person I’ve met outside of a focus group who does it, too.

Anyway, so after focus grouping for over two hours about buying a lot of points to travel the world and being in debt for eternity, we walked down to Bleecker from the 40s because it was one of those sunny city days that had a breeze and didn’t get you sweaty until you stopped walking. If you think I was going to say one of those days when you don’t sweat, then you don’t know me at all. Shame on you.

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You can stay here for a zillion points that cost five trillion dollars.

We found the doorway to the zodiac thingie because there was a pink neon piece of paper with an arrow markered on it that said This Way To The Zodiac. Hmm, okay, helpful, but also, construction paper? Interesting start.

On the plus side, we were greeted immediately, asked our signs, and given glow-in-the-dark bracelets. Also, we got stickers! One each. I got a whale. He got a dolphin. We were encouraged to stick them on the wall of the second room and write a message. Fantastic!

Also a plus, the Pisces room caused some dizziness but it was worth it. There was a clear blow-up cushion thingie that I sat on for a while. On the floor was the Pisces sign made out of seashells which I thought wasn’t the greatest idea since seashells and shoes don’t make good friends. We didn’t step on them.

I think Leo was the jungle room. This room had great lighting and a bamboo chair that made me think of that time I was in McLean, Virginia, and I played that safari-themed mini-golf where a gorilla jumped out at me when I sat in a jungle chair like this one. Luckily, the budget clearly didn’t allow for things to jump out at me, so this experience was less scary. It made for some uber boss photos.

Then there was the Virgo room. It was purpled-black-light. You know those long lunch tables you see in school cafeterias? Yeah, so, there was one of those in there. Across the small room was a purple chair shaped like a hand. Then there was the word Virgo taped to the wall. And a lot of empty space. A lot of cellophane. A lot of hmmm that’s an interesting interpretation of a zodiac sign. And then more cellophane.

The most confusing rooms were towards the end. One was a white room that had a small white te-pee-like tent with a white shag rug and pillows in it. Next to the tent was a pail of soaps that were were free to take. I was like, You wanna go in? DB was like, Not particularly–do you think people have had sex in there? Hmm, possibly. There was a little sign that requested you take your shoes off before going in, so maybe people hadn’t stopped at their shoes. The other super confusing room had standing silhouettes of men holding cameras. They were wrapped in red boas. Yeah, I don’t know.

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Not to disappoint, one of the rooms had a ball pit. It was a sad little ball pit that I didn’t crawl into. That room also had cellophane walls. There was a cool take-off of a cereal box as artwork, though, so instead of crawling into the germ pit, I oohed and aahed at the artwork. When we went into the next room which was fire red and tiny, whoever was behind us had wandered into the ball pit and balls were rolling into the room we were in. We spent only a little time there as to avoid possible ball pit bacteria following us around. Also, I’m not sure how Capricorns, cereal, and ball pits are related.

Side note: When I crawled through the marshmallow pit at Candytopia, we were there practically on opening day, so that meant less of a germfest. As for The Color Factory, well, I loved that place so much that I willed away any possibility of catching typhus.

The pop-up was put together in under a week. It was up for five days. It supported local artists. The concept was fabulous. The execution reminded me of when I was in high school and each grade competed against each other for best decorated hallway. Aside from that, however, it was an experience that I’ll never have again, and I’m so grateful that S was willing to go and gave me an early birthday gift and that DB was willing to step in and didn’t ditch out once we started going through and saw all the cellophane and he even indulged me when I saw David’s Tea next door and bolted in to grab some.

So really, all this adds up to is:

it’s Virgo season and my birthday is soon. Yeay!

Summertime Still

My Brother Had An Art Opening

After years of hearing it suggested, my brother showed his art in a group exhibit at Sip This. The opening saw lots of family and also lots of sales. Hooray! You can still see Summer Landscapes but for only a short time. You can buy one of the few that are left on the walls, or you can contact the photographer if you’re interested in any other landscape photography. He’s got winter stuff. Spring and fall stuff. City stuff. Country stuff. Lots of gritty stuff. I’m not an agent. Just a fan. A friggin happy proud sis and fan.

 

Sip This Had A Birthday Party

Going 8 years strong, Sip This is a local community heaven. Sure, I know, it’s a coffee house, but really, it’s the place that’s been the hub of all things art, commerce, social, supportive, and whatever other kind of gathering you can think of. Love them!

My Longest Friend Had A Birthday

It’s Virgo season! S decided to celebrate her birthday with trivia. We headed to Juke Bar in NYC. It’s the best bar. They are super accommodating if you want to reserve a table (no minimum or deposit needed). They let you bring in food. They offer interesting cocktails. As for the trivia, ooh, it was a tight race. Because there were seven of us, we split into two teams: Team It’s My Birthday and Team It’s Her Birthday. Team It’s Her Birthday (which I was on) was leading by a point for two rounds. Then came a round about sandwiches and another about HBO that included a theme song from First And Ten that starred Delta Burke (which S knew. of course) and then a bonus question about harmonicas. Also, Ryan Sutter is not a hockey player. What all this adds up to is Team It’s Her Birthday tied for third. Team It’s My Birthday came in second and won a round of shots. A good day for a birthday. A great day for longest friends.

 

I Took A Defensive Driving Course

AAA offers an online course complete with videos of car crashes. I learned that I should be using some sort of pedal extenders because I’m under 5’5″. Also, they want me to move my mirrors. We are all apparently not using our mirrors in the right position. You know how long it took me to get them where they should be? Now they want me to rethink the whole positioning? That’s, like, rethinking who I am at my core.

Fun Was Had From City To Suburb

Line dancing has been iffy because of the weather. One night after the rain, they had a squeegee guy come out onto the concrete and mop up the puddles so we could dance! Otherwise, it’s been canceled. Sigh.

 

A bunch of poetry readings have been fun. I read at the Gazebo and made crazy poet faces. Then I dedicated an entire album on my FB writer page to crazy poet faces over the years. In addition to Gazebo readings, mine and others, I headed to others from Sip This (how many times can I say that in this post?) to Industry.

In watching news, I started watching the newest season of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. I also started Veronica Mars with EA; we also saw Hobbes & Shaw, which was not a work of cinematic genius but was a work of pretty things to look at. Here, things means Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. I am not ashamed. I’m still binging The Mindy Project. I’m watching Big Brother and enjoying the captioning as well as the Long Island / New Jersey accents.

[Click the pic.twitter.com link to see captioning at its comedic best].

Because Liberating The Astronauts won the SFPA Elgin Award last year, I’m committed to reading as many nominated collections as I can and voting this year. I bought six that really struck a chord with me, and as of yesterday, I finished reading all six. Hooray! Also, I met my Goodreads challenge already. That’s barely a dent in my TBR pile, but it’s still a dent. I’m back to reading books from Book Expo now.

I did some write-ups based on interactions from Book Expo that appeared on Book Riot. More to come! Also a piece about Whitman–yes another one–is about to come out. This one is about the exhibit at The Morgan Library, which also had an exhibit about Maurice Sendak that I didn’t write about because big costumes scare me and that’s pretty much what the whole exhibit was about.

 

Another fun thing I saw in the city was Bat Out Of Hell, the musical based on Meatloaf’s music, with much thanks to my friend DB for getting us comped tickets. While most of the music was Meatloaf, there were other surprises that were simply outstanding. Some of the plot and scenes and dancing didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t really care because it was so entertaining. Before the show, there was a huge half a head that needed to be inspected in Central Park.

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I finally got to see Long Island’s Best Wedding Band live! Sound Chaser played at an Italian feast nearby, so clearly they do weddings and more, and they were fabulous! Yeay! Also, my mom danced and some drunk dudes danced with her.

 Odds and Ends

I helped my brother build a shelf. The shelf fell apart. I’m writing a very strong letter because it couldn’t have been our fault. I used a power drill and everything.

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Some of the prettiest sunsets and sunrises came through my window.

 

 

Great Saunter, Almost Made It

When I got home from walking 29.5 miles around Manhattan, I took off my sneakers and went straight into the shower. My feet burned bright red. They looked like two huge sausages, and my toes looked like plump little sausages weening off the huge foot sausages. Pretty gross, right? I thought I’d destroyed them for good.

The human body is uh. may. ZING! My feet were not ruined, but I did have a blister the size of a small child attached to one of my heels. That also healed quickly.

All worth it! S, R, and I met up at Fraunces Tavern along with lots of other Shorewalkers and got started right away. The overcast sky and drizzle here and there were helpful. They didn’t allow for over-heating and dehydrating, which is what happened to me last year. Last year, I thought I was going to die when we found civilization in Harlem on the way up and across, so I went home when I found a 1 train. Starting out this year in much cooler weather was the way to go. Thanks, Mother Nature.

R asked me how fast I thought we walk. I was like, between 3 and 3.5 mph. He decided there was no reason we couldn’t bang this thing out before dinnertime. So off we went. We did stop to stretch a few times and for some bathroom breaks. Because we stayed with the pack, fears of getting lost in the Magical Forest of Inwood faded. Or maybe it’s the fear that kept us mid-pack. We simply didn’t want to get sidelined by a birding experience again.

In keeping up with the pack, we got to take advantage of the snacks along the way. I. Was. In. Heaven.

I was super psyched to see some of the same places we saw last year. I was the same amount of psyched to see new places I’d missed out on when I left at mile 18ish last time. There’s so much more to see after mile 18.

Still, when your feet start to hurt, like really really hurt, there’s nothing you can do. It’s not like a hurt shoulder that you can sort of keep immobile. If you have to walk and your feet throb with every step, you have yourself a serious problem.

As we walked out onto 1st Ave nearing the home stretch, there was a hill. We’d encountered many hills before this hill. I’d met those hills with laughter. The long stretches of bridge after bridge and the paths along the highway that offered nowhere to go but forwards or back to see more highway–these spaces I took in stride, smiling, happy, gushing about how lucky we were to see such sights. This 1st Ave hill nearing the home stretch? I did not meet with such jubilance.

There was a lot of grunting and muttering. I mentioned to S that we’d climbed this hill on our wave walk, and that made me feel better for a few seconds because I’d conquered this hill in 100 degree sweat. But again, hurt feet are hurt feet. I told S I might not finish. She gave me a pep talk. Like a really great pep talk. It almost convinced me.

Then we got into the 30s, and when the map and a volunteer told us to take a left, I was like, I have to Saunter right instead. S and R went off to complete the Saunter, and I went across town to catch a train home. I caught sight of myself in a window, and I looked like an injured hobbit. Going home was a good decision.

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I was supposed to teach two yoga classes the next day, but jacked up feet don’t allow for much namaste-ing. I got those covered and spent Sunday limping around. With almost double the distance I completed last year, I was in good shape. Plus, it didn’t get worse. Last year, the pain set in midday on Sunday and lasted well into Tuesday. This year, I wore Fitflops to work on Monday because of the blister but then everything went back to normal. That’s an accomplishment for sure.

Maybe one day I’ll complete the whole thing. Or one day I’ll head back to the place where I veered off and simply complete those last three miles. I’m thankful I was able to do so much more this year. I got to see so many more places along Manhattan’s perimeter, and I’m looking forward to seeing even more.

 

We’re Spies! Or Are We? If We Are, This Title Makes Us Terrible Spies!

Spyscape!

Being a spy takes risk, critical assessment, composure, agility, and martinis. This is what I learned.

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ONE
I do not like martinis. I kind of knew this already, but I tried again. S wanted a dirty martini, so I got one, too. I took one sip and was like, oh look you now have two dirty martinis. She declined because she wanted to get through the spy thing without careening about. They served good food, too. Butternut squash skewers are my jam, man.

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TWO
I love room-sized elevators. Getting to the exhibit proved invigorating as we watched our mission on the walls of the elevator. I didn’t jump with glee, but I definitely bounced with glee. S pointed out that the glee is not exactly spy-like. True, but still. It’s fun to have a mission!

THREE
I’m riskier than I thought but it’s still not a whole lot. Throughout the exhibit there are games to play and one is risk assessment at blowing up a balloon. Quite honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was doing the first time around. Apparently, when you don’t know that there’s risk involved, you have no problems with risk. Later on when I understood it, I was more careful, and so it averaged out. S’s risk? Same as mine.

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FOUR
I am a good liar. I know when people lie. I can lie to people. However, I could not find my way into the booths to take the lying test. S was like, where are you going? I was like, I’m following the velvet rope. She was like, You’re following the rope backwards–the doors are right here. Oh. Okay. Good liar. Bad at directional logic. As someone who has no qualms in telling people I don’t know my right from my left, this is not shocking.

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FIVE
S and I see movies that we don’t remember. And although S has an incredible memory that’s always been better than mine, I remembered a movie that she didn’t. Ryan Phillippe is in it. Let me back up for a minute. Spyscape is also a spy museum, so there were exhibits and some were about movies that were also about real spies. So there was a thing about Ryan Phillippe that at first sounded interesting to me, and then I realized that I’d seen it, and then I remembered that we’d seen it together. I was like, Yeah, we had to sit in the first row and his head was really large and you made yourself fall asleep because you weren’t enjoying it. S’s response? Oh, yeah, now I remember.

SIX
I’m loud. Even with headphones on, S heard me shouting out answers when we were in a 360 degree spy headquarters, searching for screens that fit the description the lady on the headphones was listing. I had to be loud. The one time I didn’t shout my answer was the one time she told me I was wrong when I was clearly right. While most spying is quiet, sometimes you need to shout. Or maybe get better spy equipment.

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SEVEN
Agility! How agile are we? Only lasers can tell us! My hair kept hitting the laser beams, so my time took a few hits. Both of us were really good at hopping over and crawling under beams. Also, night vision! Actually, according to my spy profile, agility is not one of my top three strong traits, but it sure was fun.

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S taking on the laser beams

EIGHT
Let’s not talk about the logic puzzles. I will say I was able to do the word codes and decoding pretty easily because, you know, letters. As soon as shapes and sequences popped up, I was like, I don’t even know what I’m looking at.

In the end, I found I am an Agent Handler, a manager of agents who provides secret intelligence or operational support. This means I recruit, cultivate, and manage agents with extreme care. Enter Mission: Impossible music here.

All this leads up to how we began the evening: Neither S nor I could get our locker to work. We chose a locker, put our stuff in, and then closed it. However, it wouldn’t close. We couldn’t reset the lock. We also had a hard time opening other lockers. Was this a challenge? Was this the test? Nope, we simply could not use the lockers.

Or could we?

Spies!

“Lanterns”

When I hear lanterns, I think of nighttime in the Old West and a barn fire from a horse kicking over a kerosene lantern and then an old man in a nightgown grabbing his own lantern and running onto the porch and his eyes going wide at the blaze and then cowboys and lanterns and fire.

Also, I think of Chinese lanterns. Those are pretty!

Winter Lantern Festival sounds like the pretty kind. Over in Snug Harbor on Staten Island, lanterns were ablaze! Except that they weren’t kerosene fueled and weren’t really lanterns. S and I headed out on a not-too-cold winter night to see the lanterns which turned out to be lights, and the lights were pretty, so it all worked out.

Snug Harbor is pretty small compared to the number of people who were swarming to see the pretty lanterns. That meant a lot of driving in circles. When I was about to make a fifth loop, the security guy beckoned my car over and asked why we were there. S was like, To see the lights. He was like, Okay there’s no parking inside but you can park right in front of my car. He indicated a very tight spot for which I would need to parallel park. And it took me under five minutes, which is highly impressive. I also sweat out maybe a pint of parking sweats, which is expected. (If y’all thought there would be no sweating, y’all have forgotten key elements of my soul).

Not pretty was the soft mud beneath our feet as we walked through. We wore boots. We were smart. I’m including this link here– https://gothamtogo.com/winter-lantern-festival-2018-on-staten-island/ — to show how the photo envisions the ground as magic unmuddy tiles, which is the opposite of what we were walking on. There were paths made of some sort of outdoor pathway building materials, but to get closer to some of the displays, there was lots of mud in the dark. But it was lit by these pretty non-lantern lights, so, in turn, it was kind of pretty, too!

The lights were LED sculptures and Eastern themed. There were large flowers, a panda, and a dragon at the beginning. The Chinese zodiac lit up another pathway. There was a shimmery peacock, which I suppose is not necessarily Chinese, but more worldly. Other worldly things were the Christmas tree and some butterflies. And we walked through a shark. It’s hard to explain, but it was also pretty.

A small section of candy appeared, and we saw it from across the way. I was like, That was made for you. S was like, for sure. When we got to it, she kept turning towards me as I was taking pictures of her from behind, and finally I was like, Hey you’re ruining it! And she was like, Ohhh, yes, good idea.

A few years back, we went to a Will Cotton exhibit and I snapped a quick photo of her from behind looking at the painting, and it was pretty amazing. Since then, whenever we come across a candy-themed exhibit, I usually recreate the magic of S In Awe Of Sweets. Here in the dark backlit by candy, it does the trick.

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#SouthpawSweets

Then there was another panda. Like a person in a costume panda. I stopped short and then told S we had to walk quickly. When she saw what I was avoiding, she cackled and then tried to get me to go back twice to take a picture. No, no thank you. I am not going near adults in costumes that don’t speak. It’s weird and awkward and I stand by my choice.

She also found some lanterns for me! Lantern success!

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Look At All Of These LANTERNS!!!

After we were lanterned out, we headed to the car. Only we couldn’t find the car because once we were out of the exit, I was like, We’ve never been on this street before. S asked a security guy about exits, and he was like, Did you park on Blah De Blah? And I was like, I have no idea. So he was like, That means you did. He gave us directions back into the park and then out again. I had to parallel out of the space halfway because by the time I’d maneuvered back and forth a bunch of times, the other security guy pulled his car away. More success! Very little sweating!

And all by the light of the pretty lanterns.

Dim All The Lights

Summer. No, not the season. The Donna. Donna Summer! S and I saw her in concert at Jones Beach together once. Last night, we saw her music and life on the Broadway stage.

Before getting to the theatre, let me back up for a side story about how I am a giant. I stopped in Penn to grab a snack. A few people stood on line in front of me. At first, I thought the person with the large backpack right in front of me was the daughter of the women in front of her because the person in the backpack was tiny.

Like I felt at least a foot taller than her. I was wearing heels, sure, but I towered . When I saw her face, I was amazed that this was not a child. She was a petite adult.

Waiting and waiting, I pondered the snack options. Waiting and waiting, I chose and then changed my mind and then chose and changed my mind back to the original. With all the waiting and decision making, I jumped into action upon being called next.

Only I wasn’t next. I’m so not used to having to look down to see anyone because no one is ever shorter than me that I totally did not see Petite Backpack still standing in front of me. We’re all probably lucky I didn’t bowl her over. The guy at that counter was like, I think she was before you, and I turned and saw her standing there, not angry, but with a look that said, This happens to me a lot.

This does not happen to me a lot. I said a quick, Oh my mistake! and walked back behind her as she passed by me, a smile on her face. I hadn’t ruined her evening. However, I now have an experience that I will probably never have again–being the tall one.

After feeling ten feet tall, I headed out to the theatre. On my way, I found myself walking behind a man who was at least seven feet tall. I thought in that moment, If he changes direction at any moment, I’m crushed. And now I’m back to shorty short short.

More importantly, Donna Summer. S found me on line even though I was wearing my orange coat and pumpkins from a restaurant’s outdoor decor surrounded me. She said something about the show being an hour and forty five minutes. I said the email I got said it was an hour and forty minutes. Then I overheard a bartender tell a customer the show was an hour and a half. We decided to quickly get to our seats before the show was simply over.

Our seats were high up but we had a perfect view. Then that perfect view was destroyed by four people who did not know how to sit still and be quiet for an hour and forty five/forty/thirty minutes. The two people not directly in front of us kept kissing every few minutes. The woman in front of me kept talking to the man in front of S, which meant we had to keep leaning in the opposite direction. Basically, S and I watched Summer slanted way too the left.

Other than that, the show lived up to the disco and beyond spectacle it promised to be. I learned a whole lot about Donna Summer’s backstory that I never knew. I got a little confused with time shifts and which actress was playing which version of Donna Summer at times. That doesn’t matter, though, because the music and dancing and shimmery costumes and lights of dazzlement kept us entertained for that entire hour and however many minutes, and now all I want to do is listen to Donna Summer over and again.

Why Donna Summer? Years of belting out her lyrics in our bedrooms, on carrides, everywhere we could. Years of dancing at all those parties ending in “Last Dance.” Years of big hair and simple glee. Let this legacy live on.