Sunday, October 24, 2010

September Trips: Philly/Doylestown

So despite having just moved into our new wonderful apartment, we spent a good deal of Septmeber in other cities. Both trips were served many purposes at once. We went to Doylestown for Jessie Nixon Tracy's wedding reception, but it was also Bert's first time seeing my hometown and since he hadn't spent much time in Philly we took a couple extra days to see it. Similarly, the driving force behind our trip to the Northwest was attending a LEGO fan convention in Seattle, but we also spent a couple days in Portland since I'd never seen the city but always wanted to. To avoid a gigantic post that forever to write I am splitting these up.

The night before we left for Philly, Erin Carter was just getting to Chicago for the weekend. Ironically Erin lives in Philly, so it was very nearly a comedy of errors where the one weekend we visit each other's cities we can't see each other, but her flight got in the night before we left so we were able to have dinner in Chicago. We went to the Publican and the food was incredible and we all had a good time. Here's a funny photo of them to prove it.

We spent much of the next day traveling, but I was able to introduce Bert to a couple Philly specific things like Philly Pretzels. That evening we took Erin's recommendation and had dinner at Parc, a french restaurant on Rittenhouse Square. Afterward we got ice cream at Scoop Deville which has an overwhelming menu of delicious options. Both were excellent. (Since this was so long ago I can't regale you with detailed descriptions of our food -- weep or rejoice as you see fit.)

The next day we had a full day to see the city. We started with the Mütter Museum, where we saw shrunken heads, books bound in human skin, a lady who was mummified by turning into soap, a cabinet full of drawers filled with objects people had swallowed and a bunch of other medical oddities. It was also very interesting, but also nauseating, after about 45 minutes we both decided we had taken in about all we could stomach. We walked through an outdoor art show Rittenhouse Square, down Locust Street looking for the "gayborhood" (we apparently walked through it with out realizing it, it doesn't have convenient giant rainbow pylons like Boystown), down to the Italian Market for lunch (cheesesteak for Bert and italian hoagie for me), along South Street to Penn's landing and then we caught a cab back to the hotel and took a nice nap. That evening we met JP and my parents at Dmitri's (my family's favorite Philly restaurant) for dinner. My parents were caught in traffic, so we got drinks and appetizers at the bar and JP and Bert got to know each other. They bonded over their shared loved of playing jokes on gullible people (like me) after mom called to say they were going to be another 30 minutes and my brother deadpanned "That's okay. We're just finishing dinner now." When they showed up we had a great meal and it was a wonderful end to a a wonderful day.

The next morning we had a nice brunch at The Continental, and then took R5 to Doylestown. Dad picked us up from the train station and we spent the afternoon at the house. We went for a walk in the forest, looked at old family photos, took a nap and then got dressed for the reception. It was at the Michner Museum. It started with drinks and hors d'oeurves (French is ridiculous) in the sculpture courtyard. We had a nice time doing a little mingling/catching-up and then sat down with my parents at one of the tables and let the food come to us. Then we had dinner inside. Bert and I were at a table with several girls from my elementary/middle school days and their boyfriends/fiancees/husbands. We spent most of our time talking with Kira Minaroff - I had forgotten how awesome she is - we laughed a lot. The risotto was amazing. We danced a little and then took our cupcakes to go.

The next day we had a full day to show Bert where I grew up. We went to Kid's Castle and took the mandatory trip down the big twirly slide and then took a little hike around the woods. We drove into town with my parents and walked around a little before getting lunch outside at Pennsylvania Tap and Grill. It was a nice meal and the memory of the four of us sitting around laughing on the patio is a great one. That afternoon Bert and I went to New Hope.
(How to describe New Hope to those of you who don't know it? When I was growing up, kids made jokes about New Hope the same way they made jokes about Pee Wee Herman or Michael Jackson, jokes that hinted at deviant sexual practices without comprehending them. At the same time, my crazy reading teacher would talk about her artist friends and how New Hope was an artist's community. My actual memories of New Hope involve bikers, occult book shops, and the Bucks County Playhouse. New Hope is a borderland, it sits just across the river from New Jersey, and like all borderlands it attracts minorities, the marginalized, and social outcasts. What a powerful name, New Hope. However, rather than being a refuge, New Hope feels more like a carnival side show [or the Renaissance Faire], it is a popular shopping destination and consequently mobbed with tourists. It's impossible to find parking, and once you do, you can't stay long because the machine only accept quarters and none of the stores will make change for you. This parenthetical tangent brought to you by Dave's subconscious.)
Once we found parking, we walked along the main stretch of stores, doing a wine tasting and picking up a couple bottles at the New Hope Winery, and getting some gelatis at Rita’s water ice (not gelato, check the 3rd definiton here for the uninitiated). Then we had to move the car since we had no quarters and so we went up the street to The Raven for a drink. Bert was amazed to find a gay bar and resort only about 20 minutes away from my hometown. He asked "Did you know this was here? I would have been here all the time if this was 20 minutes away from where I grew up!" Did I know it was there? Subconsciously, yes (see above parenthetical paragraph), but it was nice to see the reality of it. We went back to the house, took a nice nap and then went to Pocos for dinner. (How to describe Pocos to those of you who don't know it? Actually, their website does a pretty good job, it even has a photo with the cheap, neon, star-shaped sunglasses that were so integral to my childhood costume box.) That evening we played Rock Band, feasted on Ice Cream pie and pumpkin bread, and I spent some time sorting through stuff in my old room.
The next day was our last, Bert and I went to THE Starbucks in downtown Doylestown, where all the teenagers hang out (but not in groups of more than 5 least, they be broken up by the police [ right across the street is where someone was arrested for picking his nose]). Then I helped mom figure out some computer stuff. Before we left for the airport I decided to go back to my high school to pay a visit to some of my old teachers. The only one I ended up seeing was my AP English teacher, Mrs. Semisch, but that was wonderful. Her class was so important to me for many reasons. It was for her class that I made the LEGO animation that started my current journey (I had made some videos years before that, but had basically stopped playing with LEGO for a few years and it was Hamlet that brought me back). That class is also why I have the Pandavid panda hood. So it's not surprising that I took all the literature we read in that class, put it in a (metaphorical) blender and made a ridiculous LEGO movie about it that has a cameo from Mrs. Semsich and all my classmates. So it was great to see her and give her a copy of the NNN Chapter 1 DVD and tell her about my life and how everything is wonderful. She was pleased to hear a success story and said "That's wonderful, you're absolutely beaming." And I'm just gonna end this post there, because the rest of the day we just spent getting home, and that's not very exciting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time it keeps a rolling

The weekend before the move (which I realize is 2 months ago) Tiffany, Seth, Bert and I went to the Bristol Renaissance Faire on the border of IL and WI. We had a great day filled with food, games, shows, and sights.
When we first got there we were overwhelmed by how much there was to see and do. We walked around trying to get a feel for the size of the grounds and kept turning corners to discover new alleys of shops and stages and such. After about an hour of that, we got a drink and sat down to do some people watching and plan out what we wanted to see. There were some crazy costumes, my favorite was this kid dressed up as Link sitting by a tree playing an ocarina.
We spent a good amount of time playing games. Tiffany, Seth, and I went through a maze designed for children, but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the big slide at the end. We all played a wooden crossbow game with moving targets (I had a lot of trouble with my crossbow). Seth tried his hand at throwing knives (one of which actually stuck in the wall). And we all did a little archery, where my training from Boy Scouts and Camp Curiosity came in handy and I showed the others how to shoot properly.
We saw several shows throughout the day, some intentionally and others by chance. We attended the joust, and were seated in the section of the evil knight. He also happened to be one of the better jousters, so we got to cheer a lot. The joust ended with a cliffhanger and we didn't come back to see what happened, but somehow I doubt our knight won.
We also saw an acrobatic show by the acrobatic/comedy troupe Barely Balanced which was really incredible. Not only did they pull off crazy stunts, but they were also very humorous throughout. Bert got picked as an audience participant.
The other two shows we stumbled upon. The first was the Queen and her court doing some dances (while kindly announcing to the audience what the dances were called and when they were commonly performed). One of the ladies from the court sat down next to Bert and gossiped about the Queen paying more attention to her favorite Duke than her visiting French suitor. Scandal! The other "show" happened as we were walking down the street. We saw a man loudly dragging a woman away. Then there was a swordfight in the middle of the street, where Robin Hood fought some of the Sheriff's men and announced their intention to settle the matter an hour later at one of the stages. It was probably the coolest thing that happened all day.
We also saw a zebra, an elephant and some monkeys. All in all, we had a great time (and giant turkey legs).

I'm just going to post this since it's finished. More updates to come!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our new place, the move, etc.

So much has happened since my last full post! Because I know what you want, I’m just going to jump right ahead and tell y’all about our wonderful new place. Let’s start with the photo tour, shall we?

Here is our building from the outside. There are three other units in the building above us. The porch needs a paint job, and the house could stand to be power-washed, but otherwise it’s in good condition. Our building was built around 1900.

When you walk through our front door you enter a little vestibule where we have shoes and coats. Then you turn right into our magnificent living room.

We’re planning to get a new sofa and chair sometime in the near future, but for the meantime we’re using Bert’s set. We have a gigantic window with some beautiful stained glass at the top.

Curtains for this and other windows are forthcoming.

In this shot you can see how our living room flows right into the dining room which flows into the kitchen.

Flowing into the dining room, you can see how tall our ceilings are (10 feet) in this shot. We’re going to repaint over the green (I tried to convince Bert we could work with it, but I eventually gave in).

On the other side of the room is Bert’s desk and the entrance to my LEGO studio. Also in this room are the all-important central air and heat controls.

Yay! LEGO studio! Now all my LEGO is in one room and I have lots of space. I already put up the shelving from my last living room and added another level to it (thanks to Stephanie for suggesting that). Next I will added some smaller shelves to fill out the rest of the back wall. It’s great having a room devoted to LEGO where I can leave works in progress in progress and not worry about cluttering up the living room.

Bert donated his old desk to me for an animating table, so I can leave my lights set up and not have to worry about cluttering up the kitchen. Now that it’s set up I’m able to put in more regular animating hours (I’m aiming for a half-hour a day).

Check out our gigantic kitchen!

We got an island from IKEA which really helps give us space to work and store stuff. We’ve also got a dishwasher. Yay for modern conveniences!

Our bedroom doesn’t have a lot going on.

And here’s our nice little bathroom.

Here’s a view of the back yard. On the other side of that fence is our parking spot! In the basement of the building there is a free washer and dryer that we share with only one other unit. Pretty awesome! So that could easily be a post on it’s own, but not to worry, the content just keeps on coming.

So now that I’ve talked about the awesome part of the move, let’s talk about the other side, the weeks of packing and preparing. I started packing my LEGO collection almost as soon as we signed the lease. I dismantled my shelves and pulled out all the drywall anchors and spackled over the holes. It was my first time spackling and I definitely learned a lot from it. I learned that I used really big drywall anchors that left nickel-sized holes to fill-in, which makes spackling hard. It took about three passes of spackling before the holes were completely filled in and smoothed out. The worst part by far is the sanding. So much sanding! Still, I was proud that I pulled it off successfully. When I went to put up the shelves again in my new LEGO studio, it was a much quicker process than last year.
The last few days before the move were a packing bonanza. Also, I was selling things on Craigslist for the first time. I successfully sold my TV stand, kitchen tables and chairs and my big comfy sofa. The rest of the stuff that I wasn’t planning to keep but couldn’t sell, I just put up for free and had a parade of people coming to get. It was gone in less than a day.
Once I had pretty much packed everything up and gotten rid of the furniture I did two things. First, I pushed all the boxes containing LEGO into one area so I could photograph it. (You can also see where I spackled)

Needless to say this pile dwarfed my other piles of stuff. The other thing I did was clean. I didn’t do a very deep cleaning, because there was a cleaning lady coming by after I moved out, but I did discover Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser which really is magical. It got rid of stains and marks that I thought were permanent (some that had been there since I moved in, others I had created) it was incredible. I went through 4 of them.
The day of the move was amazing. This was the first time I hired movers and it was worth every penny. They showed up at my old apartment at 8 am and had finished unloading at the new place by 10. Incredible! Then I took a nap. That afternoon I unpacked the kitchen and went to Trader Joes for groceries so I could have a simple dinner waiting for Bert when he got home for the first time.

That evening I set up the internet and continued unpacking. I had the next day off to unpack and let the DirecTV guys in etc. I’m really glad I did, because I was able to get through most of my unpacking before having to go back to work so it was already starting to feel like home (even if I was sleeping on an air mattress).
Bert moved in Friday morning as I was leaving for work. So I had two days of work that week and then Bert and I had the whole Labor Day weekend to unpack and go shopping for furniture, silverware, shower curtains and such. I won’t go into details about all the places we went or what we got or the numerous tiny arguments we had that weekend, but rest assured we went many places, bought many things and fought over a number of inconsequential things (like where the living room chair should go). We’ve still got some things to figure out, but now that we’ve gotten over that initial hump of fitting our stuff together, things are going smoothly.

One thing that got me through the packing process was Veronica Mars. I had never watched it before and only had a peripheral understanding of what it was until I decided (upon Stephanie’s suggestion) to watch the first episode on Netflix. I was immediately hooked. Veronica Mars is often compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it’s easy to see why, both feature a blond high school heroine who is constantly solving her classmates’ problems and clashing with authority figures. But while Buffy uses supernatural elements to act as metaphors for real problems, Veronica Mars is based in a very real and gritty world with no hint of the supernatural. Veronica works part-time for her father, a private investigator in the town of Neptune, and thus has mad detective skills. She and Buffy both kick ass, but while Buffy does that in a very direct fisticuffs way, Veronica relies mostly on information and sneakiness to give the bad guys their comeuppance (though she does know how to work a taser). Okay that’s enough comparison; Veronica Mars is awesome and I highly recommend it.

Also, I StumbledUpon (StumbleUpon’d?) this list of unusual deaths.

That’s enough for this post. I’ve got a few more in the pipeline and then we’ll be caught up to the present.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2.1 - The Pinchbot Invasion

I know I owe y'all lots of updates (on the new apartment, on a couple vacations etc.) and I've got them in the works I promise, but I probably won't have anything ready before this weekend.