I took a half-day off work Friday, May 11, so I could drive to Columbus for dinner.
I had toyed around with the idea for a day or two, and was still waffling about it Thursday night, and then Jenn pointed out that if I went, and it was awkward and no fun, I’d forget about it soon enough, but if I didn’t go at all, I would undoubtedly wish I had.
Big surprise: My wife was totally right.
I’ve been a fan of Jay Lake‘s writing for a few years now, and while we exchanged a few emails around the time I was reading The Specific Gravity of Grief, I had never met him at a convention or spoken with him. And though I have thought it would be kind of cool to visit Portland for “JayCon, ” his annual open-invite birthday party, that hasn’t been a viable option of late. So when he announced on his blog that he’d be in Columbus for a brief business trip and would be at the Northstar Cafe at Easton for an open dinner, I figured, Why Not?
Hey, look, here’s me, having just eaten dinner with Jay Lake:
I’m really glad Jenn encouraged me to go: Two other guests, Kris and Scott, were also there, and the four of us spent about two hours just hanging out and sharing stories and talking about science fiction and writers and movies and even a little sports. (Jay shared a great perspective on appreciating a sporting event from a storytelling point of view: I know he credited someone else with pointing it out to him, but the gist of it was that unlike stories told through books, television or movies, the ending of a game remains undetermined and unknown until it actually unfolds, and the resulting tension and drama can hold great power.)
Good food too: I had a tasty turkey sandwich and a surprisingly unique rice salad, and then we all shared a gigantic, gooey, eyeball-vibratingly good chocolate-chocolate-chip cookie.
Everyone was easygoing and fun to be around, and I felt really comfortable from the moment I sat down.
The sun was just setting when I headed back north on the interstate, incredibly glad that I’d made the drive.
So, moments before I was introduced to “Ho Ho Cake” at work today, one of my colleagues brought the dessert into the kitchen, and announced, in a sing-song voice that rang familiar, “Niiiine … coconut cream … piiiiiiiiiies!”
WOW. I hadn’t thought of this guy in YEARS! Enjoy:
(Also, yes, Ho Ho cake tastes just as awesome as the snack. Even better, because it’s slightly more moist. And way better than Swiss Cake Rolls, which are NOT Ho Hos, no matter how hard they try.)
Friday night, my younger brother came over and hung out for a bit. Then I dove into my first play of Dead Space: Extraction.
After lunch Saturday, Jenn, Kelsey, Kels’ friend A. and I all headed north for a long-planned get-together. Things kicked off with a ten person, nearly four -hour marathon Rock Band 3 session with excellent friends who accommodated a last minute upheaval in plans and did not throw sharp objects at my neck when I requested lead vocals on “Through the Fire and Flames.” Also, there were chips and salsa and Skittles. Lots of them.
With same friends, TACO NIGHT IN AMERICA, followed by several hours of general goodtiminess, including introducing my daughter and her friend to Better Off Dead. From 1:45-5 a.m., a four-man game of Castle Ravenloft in which a timely roll of 20 brought our party from the brink of doom – seriously: the Rogue who rolled it had just used a healing surge to go from “Mostly Dead” to “Leveling Up and Unleashing Hell in Dagger Form” at the toss of a die – to a zombie/skeleton/gargoyle/kobold sorcerer-crushing victory.
And have I mentioned that it’s sunny and close to 80 degrees here in Ohio today?
Somehow, I let almost three months pass since I last uploaded and organized a batch of my cross-country road trip photos, so this weekend I went through and processed some more.
There are three days’ worth of pictures here, although Saturday and Sunday June 19 and 20 are underrepresented photo-wise: It was a weekend just packed with greatness, hanging out with friends and just enjoying the west coast and the experience of being someplace totally new to me, but so much of that joy was just in the company and the moments, and not the sort of thing that gets captured through a camera lens. So the few images from those days almost serve as memory-triggers more than anything else.
Take this one, for instance:
You see The Donut Man on Rt. 66 in Glendora, California.
I get thrown back to a day that began with a gorgeous drive up the coast from San Diego; several hours group-geeking at Frank and Son, where I found a flashback-inducing Imperious Leader action figure; a late lunch at Q Noodle House and a drive to The Donut Man for some fresh-strawberry-filled donuts. (Our original plans had called for introducing me to shaved snow at Class 302, but of course the day’s first batch was gone when we got there.) A spontaneous trip to a nearby comic shop, and then an evening of more hanging out and visiting new friends and nerding out.
I left for the drive back to San Diego late the next morning, and after a brief nap, I spent the afternoon and evening swimming with my host friends and having an absolutely fantastic dinner and some wine out on their front patio as night fell. Again, it was just a terrific, warm-the-soul sort of day, and yet the only pictures you’ll find are the ones I snapped just after supper – the last sunset of spring:
On Monday, June 21, Jenn and Kelsey made their own (much quicker) trip across the U.S.A., and after they caught up on a bit of sleep, the three of us spent several hours in the afternoon at Balboa Park and a few that evening at Seaport Village. The whole day’s worth of photos is here.
Here’s the moon over the Coronado Bridge:
Even though I’ve spent most of my life here in Northeast Ohio, it’s a sure bet that I’ve been to the Wyandot County fair in Upper Sandusky more times than the Stark County fair, which takes place in Canton, roughly 15 minutes from my house.
While I only have one specific memory of the latter – the year I talked dad into taking me into the Freak Show tent (the paintings on the banners outside turned out to be far more entertaining than the actual faked freaks) – if you ask me to visualize a county fair, the one I build in my mind’s eye is the one I’ve been going to since I was little, across the street from Upper Sandusky High School, in the shadow of the town’s water tower, a cluster of big old trees and white buildings and a grandstand and a dirt racetrack.
My parents both grew up in Upper Sandusky, and my grandma and other extended family still live there, so Jenn and Kelsey and I have tried to make it over for the fair ever since we moved back to Ohio in 1999.
How small is the town, people-connection-wise? The first time I ever took Jenn over to the fair – just the two of us, mind you – when we got out of our car in the grass parking lot, the police officer who’d directed us to our spot said, “Hey, you’re Pam and Rich Booth’s kid, right?”
I ran around these fairgrounds when I was younger than Kelsey is now, hanging out with the kid who lived next door to the house where my grandmother raised my dad and my uncle. I climbed on the farm equipment the dealerships put on display. I remember being on the track one year for the tractor pull when the grandstand was packed to capacity, dad and I sitting in a couple folding chairs leaning against a metal guardrail.
Kelsey and I made this year’s trip with my mom and stepdad, Jeff. My youngest brother and his wife and their three sons drove over, too. We all met up at grandma’s house, and she joined us for a few hours.
We spent the afternoon touring the livestock barns – Kelsey and I watched the auctions for a few minutes – and, yes, turning the kids loose to climb on these apartment-sized machines that lose their scale when you see them out in those expanses of corn or wheat or soybeans.
Mom and Jeff and Grandma left after awhile, so my brother and his wife and I took turns with the kids on the midway rides. Though I no longer do well with horizontal spinning rides, I’m still enough of a rollercoaster fan that something like the Screamer is just fine by me, so Kelsey and I went for some loops.
We eventually took a break for some fair food dinner (Philly steak sandwich & fries for me), and then as the sun started to set, my brother & sister & nephews needed to call it a day, so it was just me and Kelsey.
Of course, we did the ferris wheel (which still gives me slight gut butterflies) and enjoyed a nice sunset as well as a peek at the tractor pull:
And we paid two bucks to go in the ridiculously painted and terribly lame musical-themed fun house.
We parked ourselves by the fence near the track to catch some of the tractor pull – I can’t explain why, but when those beasts get thrown into gear and the engines rev to earsplitting, I get this electric thrill down the back of my teeth and neck and I can’t stop myself from smiling. And seriously: jet turbines on a tractor. I mean, come ON.
Our final fair-food treat of the night was an order of deep-fried Oreos (they plunk ‘em in funnel cake batter, then into the fryer for a couple minutes) sprinkled with powdered sugar. I’d never tried them before, but >shudder< were they tasty.
We visited the barns one more time, and then headed out the gate for the walk back to grandma’s house, where we could still hear the track loudspeakers and the roar of the tractors over the treetops.
I’ve never been more than an average photographer at best, but I really like the shots I managed at the fair this year. You can find bigger versions of all the pictures here, plus others, in this set at Flickr.
After Jenn & Kelsey re-energized a bit Monday afternoon, we decided to drive downtoan and check out Balboa Park, which turned out to be a really nice way to spend a couple hours. Having never been here before – and Jenn realized that this visit actually marks the first time that the three of us are vacationing somewhere that’s entirely new to all of us, which is cool – we were just blown away by the place.
It was sunny and pleasant and perfect for exploring the garden area.
First, we descended into the Palm Canyon, marked at its upper end by this extraordinary tree:
Next up was a pass through the 95-year-old Alcazar Garden –
And then, at Kelsey’s request, a stroll past the Lily Pond.
(Lots of colorful koi in there, too, along with at least one red-eared slider.)
For dinner, we went over to the touristy and overpriced Seaport Village – a resort staffer where we’re staying recommended it when we asked about a waterfront restaurant, and we didn’t know better – but the food was very tasty, and Kelsey tried coconut-fried shrimp for the first time, and I tried mussels, and we did enjoy a nice view of the bay and the naval base, and the three of us had a good time just walking around together after supper while the sun went down.
I have projects to tackle and a presentation to finish up for tomorrow, so I’ll just hand over the cake and get back to work:
First, my brother Nick’s second Star Wars birthday cake – the sequel to this one, and, in true SW tradition, you’ll notice it comes three years later:
Next on the dessert cart is this cake, which I mention briefly in Collect All 21 as the only one I ever got which came close to making me as giddy as my 1978 Star Wars cake:
Yes, it’s goofy, but this picture just unleashes a torrent of memories for several reasons.
Second, that’s me behind the wheel of my Dad’s 1982 Corvette, and right this second I realize how surpisingly easy it is to remember exactly how it felt to settle into that driver’s seat, and what the car smelled like and how it felt when the engine revved, and the grip of the steering wheel. I’m glad I haven’t lost that. The two-tone-gray paint scheme on the cake is even accurate, and I’ll forgive the error of the cartoon ‘Vette being a full convertible. I can appreciate the need for artistic license, after all, especially in this case, because –
third, that’s a cartoon drawn by my old buddy Transformers / G.I. Joe / Gumbo creator extraordinaire Aaron Archer, back when he was still in high school. I’m pretty sure this photo is one of just two surviving Archer “portraits” of teenage me.
Wired‘s GeekDad writer Curtis Silver reviewed “Collect All 21!” this week:
To be drawn into an author’s brain and immediately associate and sympathize with his point of view – in the introduction – has got to be a sign that the rest of the book is going to be like a nostalgic walk through your childhood and growing up geek. Guess what? It was.
So that’s very cool.
Yesterday, I learned that Google-wise, my blog provides one of just three hits (four if you count the original TypePad posting) for the exact phrase “green olive and bacon pizza,” thanks to my friend Keith mentioning it in a comment.
The other two? A women’s professional wrestling manager’s profile page; and (must….contain…utter glee…) a chapter of what appears to be Twilight fanfic.
I love the internet.
Over at his shiny new blog, Jim is revisiting his 1999 trip to Star Wars Celebration: Here’s the intro; he follows it up with a harrowing tale of travel, and then moves on to Day One, nicely capturing the energy of fandom and the atmosphere and the rain and the mud and One. Bad. Burrito.
(On a totally unrelated note, Jim’s photoblog update today is this nice shot of Elvis Costello.)