Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

The Wookiee in Winter

About five years ago, I started measuring our heavier snowfalls using the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Kenner Chewbacca scale.

DeepChewie

January, 2009

It’s been a particularly wintry winter here in Northeast Ohio, and I was asked recently how Chewie was faring this season.

Truth is…he quit. Just up and disappeared. Then, this weekend, a friend emails me a link to these pictures on Facebook:

Ah. Looks like Chewie headed for warmer climes.

… and maybe wanted to play tourist.

Oh. Well then. I hope he’s partyyying responsiblyyy.

Uh-oh.

(Chewie’s confession in the caption: “I don’t remember this.”)

Huge thanks for these pictures to über-talented photo geek extraordinaire Jim Carchidi, who once again goes above and beyond in responding to a nerdy request. He’s put this whole Chewie gallery in a public Facebook gallery, and you should go check out his portfolio, especially if you’re a fan of portraits, concert photography, Bike Week in Daytona, or Star Wars stuff.

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March 3, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

The 1970s: My first decade

From time to time, I’ve written about the 1980s. They mattered to me. As I wrote in 2008:

In practically every sense of the word, I grew up in the 1980s: I turned 10 the year they began, when the Empire struck back and Tom Hanks cross-dressed on television. In 1989 I saw Robin Williams make studying poetry rock, graduated from high school, started college, listened to the Cure disintegrate and turned 19. The popular culture of that decade is as addicting to me as a two-pound bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a two-liter of Coke Classic.

In my memories, the late 1970s – say, 1977-79 – mesh easily with the eighties, for the most part. Maybe because that’s when I started elementary school, and you begin having those shared experiences with your friends that eventually shape and define you collectively.

But over the past few years, I’ve found myself drawn repeatedly to pieces from the earlier part of that decade, which I recall with little specificity, large swaths of sensory impressions, and vague memories attached to large, blurry-edged chunks of time and place.

Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Me, sometime in 1971 or ’72. That blanket in the background now belongs to my daughter.

The early 1970s were the years when my mom and I lived in her childhood farmhouse in Upper Sandusky, while my dad was serving in the Air Force; when mom & dad & I lived in Lima, Ohio, and I made my first best friend, Albert.

Movies like Snoopy Come Home, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake take me back there in powerful, intangible ways. (Yes, I saw those last two in the theatre with my parents, and re-watched them within the last couple years for the first time in decades: Inferno totally holds up. Earthquake does not.) So do songs like Billy Don’t Be a Hero, Song Sung Blue, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, and Band on the Run (oh God, BAND ON THE RUN).

For a long time, my love for the ’80s made it easy for me to kind of file the early 1970s away in a lumped-together preschool haze of funky stripes and plaids, wavy hairstyles, and peanut butter sandwiches, without giving much thought to the lasting impressions and the things that mattered.

My parents, I realize now, were at an age I’d now grin at and shake my head, saying, “Ah, they’re still just kids.” And my grandparents still had many years ahead of them – they were only about 10 years older than I am now.

I’m going to try to regularly revisit those years through pictures and memories for awhile. Adam and I have talked about it occasionally, and recent conversations with my friend Mo about Walt Disney World got me looking for pieces from an early ’70s trip there with my parents.

The ’80s will still be there for me. But I’m looking forward to spending some time going further back.

January 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

This is Me in ’83 – Movie Mix-Up

National Lampoon’s Vacation came out in July, 1983.

I’d heard about its hilarity – possibly from my parents – so when my friend Mike H. invited me to go see a weekend matinee showing (the school year had already started), I was excited – and a little nervous to ask my parents for permission to go see an R-rated movie. I was surprised at their immediate approval, but in retrospect, Vacation is pretty tame. Not PG-13 territory, for sure, but only brief nudity, and certainly no language I wasn’t hearing every day in junior high.

It was sunny on the Saturday that Mike and his mom picked me up, and we headed to the Belden Village Twin Cinemas.

I saw a lot of movies there growing up: E.T. and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century come to mind, and I feel like saw Star Wars at Belden Village at least once, maybe during one of its re-releases.

The “Twin Cinemas” may have once been a pair, but I remember the business as a quartet of theatres – two houses each in a pair of adjacent strip mall buildings. They don’t exist as theatres anymore – the buildings are now home to things like Panera, Cici’s Pizza, and dental offices. You wouldn’t be criticized for wondering how the hell they ever had movie theatres in there, and it was only when I was older that I realized how relatively small the theatres were.

So Mike’s mom drops us off at the theatre. It has become clear during the drive that she is not attending the movie with us, but up to this point, I was figuring she was going to come along and buy our tickets. Now, though, I’m wondering how the heck a couple 12-year-olds are going to get away with purchasing admission to an R movie, and I’m silently freaking out.

Mike and I get out of the car and start walking toward the building where Vacation is showing. Before we get inside, we hear his mom calling after us. She has pulled the car up to the curb and calls from the window, “Where are you guys going?”

“To see Vacation,” Mike answers kind of sheepishly – he’s failing at nonchalance – while gesturing at the theatre.

And then the light bulb goes on: Mike has either lied outright or played a little misdirection/obfuscation with his mom, who clearly has no idea she was aiding and abetting a couple of would-be R-rated movie-crashing pre-teens.

“That’s rated R,” she responds. “I thought you were going to see Eddie and the Cruisers.” And now she’s pointing to the building next door.

“Oh,” Mike responds. What choice did he have? “Yeah. OK.”

I had no idea what the heck Eddie and the Cruisers was, but I admit I felt a little relief that I wasn’t going to have to pretend to be 17 years old to see it.

Eddie and the Cruisers was released on Sept. 23, 1983. (Which means Vacation was still running after nearly two months – I think that was kind of ordinary for the era, although that kind of theatrical run seems unheard of now, unless you count dollar-cinema runs.)

I barely remember anything other than disinterest from that viewing, and the movie became a punchline to Mike and me.

I didn’t see Vacation until it hit cable.

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gen Con 2013: Part Four – Saturday, Aug. 17

Woke up early enough to make myself go do another treadmill run. Only had enough in the tank for two miles, so I at least pushed myself and came in at under eight minutes per mile – barely.

Our first day at Gen Con, Dave had said something to the effect of, “We gotta play some D&D this weekend.”

We’d planned to line up with Kato at 9 a.m. to try and get a 10 a.m. session of Confrontation at Candlekeep, but just after eight, during another hearty hotel breakfast (seriously: I really enjoyed the morning menu), I got a text from Dave: “Just got over here. Line is out the door, erm, gate already.”

I got there a few minutes later, and Kato was there by about 8:45. I think we did wind up sitting down at our table to play a little more than an hour later.

I chose the pre-generated dwarf fighter as my character, since it’s a role I had no experience playing.

We had a great DM – Erica King – guiding our adventure, and I really enjoyed myself. (I don’t have enough comparative multi-edition experience to offer a good opinion on the D&D Next play. I know I had fun.) The only downside was that our party, through some odd quirk of the playtest logistics, didn’t actually get to do battle with the final monster. Erica did a great job of thinking on her feet and throwing new enemies at us so we weren’t just sitting there waiting. Still, again – FUN.

And hey: Sweet new free set of dice from Wizards of the Coast!

These are all my free dice from Gen Con – the blue and white set is from Wizards, the purple one was a Crystal Caste giveaway, and the green one was from ordering off the Pathfinder menu at Scotty’s Brewhouse, which is where Kato and Wendy and I went for lunch. (Love the effort that went into creating the art and copy for this menu. The descriptions are fun and amazing. And if you’re interested, we split an order of Goblin Ears, and I had a Squealy Nord.)

After lunch, I met up with Dave at the convention center again, then tried to catch Jim Hines for his 3 p.m. book signing. Then I double-checked the schedule and saw that it had been an 11 a.m. signing, and I’d gotten my days confused. Dang.

So Dave & I stopped by the Steve Jackson Games booth, where both Steve Jackson himself and John Kovalic happened to be sitting and signing. And I’d brought along my much-loved copy of Munchkin Bites for just such an occasion:

The third signature there is Andrew Hackard. Kelsey and I met Andrew at Penguicon – where he taught us how to play Munchkin – in 2009, and I’d been looking forward to catching up with him at Gen Con. The SJ Games booth was really busy, of course, but we got to chat for a couple minutes. Then he looked at his watch and said, “Hey: You should throw your name in the drawing for dinner at the Munchkin Tavern tonight – I’m hosting.” I filled out an entry card, and then Dave and I went to meet up with Jonathan.

The three of us played Paizo’s demo of its Pathfinder Card Game. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but in retrospect, I’d like to see how a full game plays out, since it’s an interesting combination of role-playing rules and deck-building strategy.

Not long after, the three of us headed off in different directions, and then I got a text from an unknown number: I’d landed one of the Munchkin Tavern dinner seats!

Via text, Kato suggested that we could fill the time until I headed to dinner with a game of Lords of Waterdeepso Dave and I met him in one of his hotel common areas. I’d never played the game, but I liked it from the start. Easy to learn and a fun theme. Also, I won. (Though with an asterisk – we cut the game short by a couple rounds at 6:50 so I could head over to dinner.)

Dinner at the Munchkin Tavern was a blast. Six of us Munchkin / SJGames fans and Andrew, just geeking out for hours, and enjoying some seriously excellent food and drink. At one point, with his actual Red Pen of Doom, Andrew began creating custom (and Munchkin-legal!) “Go Up A Level” cards. As he’s doing this, he looks at me and says, “Is it ‘E-L-S-E-Y?” Realizing he was personalizing a card for my daughter, I said, “Yep. And you’re awesome.”

His response was to grin and say, “You haven’t seen the card yet.”

It reads, “Beat Dad – Again. Go Up A Level. KELSEY ONLY.”

“Hackaaaaaaaaaaaaard!” (No, seriously: Awesome.)

It was past 10 p.m. when we all left, and the time had flown.

Even though Dave and I were doing another True Dungeon run at 10 a.m., it was the last night of Gen Con, so I wanted to keep riding the adrenaline. “Still up?” I texted Kato.

About 20 minutes later, I got a response: He was heading down to the lobby to meet a couple friends for another Lords of Waterdeep game, and invited me over.

We set up at a table in the bar with Kato’s buddies, who were ordering a late dinner. After they ate, we ordered some drinks and got the game going.

After a bit, a guy came over and said something along the lines of “Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt your game, but…are you having fun?”

And that’s how we met Lords of Waterdeep designer Rodney Thompson. Fantastic!

It was almost 2 a.m. by the time we wrapped things up, and even though I knew it was going to be hard getting up at eight o’clock, I kept thinking, “Yep. This is how you do the last night of a con.”

So I’m heading back to the room, walking east on Maryland Avenue, and there are still a fair amount of people out and about. And I’m thinking about how I’m going to have to pack all my stuff in the morning before heading over to True Dungeon, because checkout time is 11 a.m., and that means getting up even earlier than I’d planned, because at this hour, I can’t pack when I get back to the room without waking up Jonathan, and –

– and there’s Jonathan, standing on the next street corner talking with someone, because he has also spent the last night of Gen Con gaming into the early hours of Sunday. We see each other and crack up with the absurdity of being up this late playing games and having so much fun.

Back at the hotel, I pack up everything I can, and fall asleep around 3 a.m.

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Running 2013: Week Thirty-four

So, yeah: Been awhile since I logged my running. Lemme ‘splain:

No. There is too much. Lemme sum up.

Lost most of July to the chore of relocating (more on that some other time), and only ran 17 miles that month.

Mostly back on track in August: Even managed to do some short treadmill runs at the hotel during Gen Con (again, more on that – soon). But I’m still digging myself out of July’s mileage hole.

Where I am now: It’s day 234 of 2013, and I’ve run 224.3 miles, so I’m about ten miles short of where I want to be.

But I’m running new roads and new paths, and I’m feeling re-energized mentally and emotionally, so I’m feeling good about getting those miles back in fairly short order.

 

 

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letting go: Ferris

ferris

We said goodbye to Ferris this morning.

The last survivor of the original Pre-K gang of three from before Jenn & I were married, he showed up one night on the front porch of the duplex Jenn and I rented on Princeton Avenue in Orlando in the early/mid ’90s. We’d only just recently adopted Lucky and Charles Wallace, but when we opened to door to investigate the meowing outside, this guy walked in and made himself right at home. A little dirty, but not street-cat scrawny: We got the impression someone had left him behind in the not-too-distant past.

Also, before we had Ferris fixed, his back end was known to make visitors to the Booth household blush: He was testicularly gifted. It was like a furry orange softball back there. I think the vet wound up putting ’em in a museum or something.

Ferris was a kind of quiet bad-ass. In recent years, when we brought the younger Mr. V and Pepper into the house, they learned quickly that sure, Ferris would let them bat him around a little, but you could tell when they crossed the line, because he would flatten his ears back and his and unleash a lightning right paw to knock ’em silly. He was still able to do this pretty much up until the end, too.

As old cats do, he’d lost a lot of weight over the past year or so, but it was only recently that he started really showing signs that illness was coming: He went mostly deaf and blind, but still had energy and affection to spare. Then he started losing his balance, seeming confused, and walking into things.

He spent a lot of time the past couple weeks in a way that he hadn’t been able to for a long time, though: Sunning himself on the back porch, nibbling at the grass. Our cats have been exclusively inside cats for years, but we knew Ferris wasn’t going anywhere, and wasn’t a danger to any wildlife.

He was also a skilled Cat Jenga competitor and avid nap-taker.

Making the decision to let him go was hard. He wasn’t super-sick, like Lucky or Charles Wallace, but he had begun walking a terribly familiar path, and none of us wanted that for Ferris. When we took him to the vet, the doctor confirmed that he was, in fact, in the earliest stages of organ failure, and had likely suffered a stroke, which accounted for his recent struggles. It was something of a relief to hear that, actually.

Ferris often struck a pose that reminded me of Benjamin Haydon’s famous picture of William Wordsworth:ferris2 

Maybe that’s why for some reason, I felt for a long time like Ferris was “my” cat. (Quote marks, because, you know – cats don’t have people. Still.) He could be grumpy and funny and weird and playful and affectionate.

In looking up that Wordsworth picture, I found this quote from the poet: “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”

Double for cats, and triple for Ferris, who committed those acts daily in exchange for a lap, an ear scratch, and a fresh can of wet food.

July 8, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

5/12/93

dadmomme73

(Note: This has always been one of my favorite old pictures. When I removed it from the photo album to scan, I found written on the back, “Mother’s Day – May 1973.”)

dadlevel

dadouthouse

dadskiing

dadselfshot

Dad died the same day ABC aired the last episode of The Wonder Years. I watched it Sunday morning for the first time in awhile.

Still miss him.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Found at the library: The Real Book About Prehistoric Life

Picked this up from the used book sale shelves at the North Canton Public Library:

Copyright 1957. Reminds me very much of the sort of books I’d occasionally receive from my dad or uncles, passed down from when they were kids, or that I’d check out from the Carnegie Public Library in Upper Sandusky when we’d visit my grandparents.

I really have a thing for science fact and science fiction artwork from the ’50s and ’60s, and this also reminded me how much I loved reading this kind of educational series book. (I had a bunch of much slimmer books that were newer and aimed at younger readers, but for the life of me, I can’t manage to cobble together an accurate enough web search to find photos of them. They had red borders and usually single-word titles like “Fire” and “Dinosaurs.”)

Here’s the “Real Book” cover art beneath the Prehistoric Life jacket:

And here’s the endpaper art, which gets bonus points for including three creatures and one plant which I’ve dug up in fossil form right here  in Ohio:

And kudos to author Dorothy Shuttlesworth and illustrator Matthew Kalmenoff, who seem like they had awfully cool jobs combining art, science, and education.

Super retro bonus find: Tucked within the pages of the book, one totally authentic souvenir reproduction of the Gettysburg Address.

It’s a small, blurry photo because it wouldn’t fit on the scanner, and I didn’t want to mash it, but you can see a better example on the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency website.

I’ll admit when I first found it, I thought, “Cool! Old letter!” only to be disappointed a second later, when I saw that the text was the Gettysburg Address. (I really would have loved to find an old, everyday personal note. That kind of thing really sets my mind running.) But then this thing sparked some personal nostalgia from the time we took a family trip to Colonial Williamsburg when I was a kid, and my parents bought me a souvenir set of reproductions that included similarly-antiqued editions of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Verdict: Two bucks well spent, especially since it goes to the library.

April 22, 2013 Posted by | Books, geek, Ohio, Science, Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Running 2013: Week Fifteen

Saturday, April 13 was a chilly, windy, and gray 50-degree day that felt more like winter’s onset than three weeks into spring. I set out intending to do 3.5 miles, but about a mile-and-a-half in, I decided to extend my run to an even four.

Running_20130413

Not a great run: At the end off the first mile, I had already run through a stitch, and felt like I had worked awfully hard just to hit that 8:28 mark. Lots of wind in miles two and three, and I had to push at the end just to barely get my overall pace back under nine minutes. Still, kind of like writing, even when running is tough, I always feel good about having done it.

Sunday was completely different. Sunny and 60-something, and warm enough for shorts, even with the breeze. I only had three miles to tackle, so I set out at a brisk pace, and let myself really go down the final hill of the first mile so I could finish it in under eight minutes. After recovering from that, I just tried not to lose too much time in the second mile, and when I was at an 8:11 pace after 2.5 miles, I thought maybe I could knock off those 11 seconds with a hard charge. Didn’t happen. And I’ll admit I was disappointed.

Running_20130414

… and then, when I got home and looked at my stats, I realized that I’d just done my best 3-miler of the year by far. Still not near my best time ever (somewhere in the low seven minutes) for that distance, but enough to brighten the finish.

Year to date: 106.8 miles.

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Ohio, running, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Running 2013: Week Thirteen

No weekday runs this week, and I spent most of Saturday’s prime running hours enjoying International TableTop Day with friends, so…

Sunday I decided to go for my first non-stop seven-mile run in I don’t know how long. Since I was planning on going past five miles, I put on my running belt and took some water along. And not stopping to walk was my only goal: This one was all about the legs, not the lungs, so I deliberately kept my pace slow from the start.

I was a bit concerned about a mile-and-three-quarters in, when my ankles and calves started to hurt. They’ve never caused me trouble before, and I figure this was my reminder that even short runs during the week really do wonders for keeping my legs and lungs in shape. I definitely felt the six days off. The pain subsided for the next few miles, and didn’t return until miles 4-7, which I had pretty much expected anyway.

It was overcast and about 50 degrees, with a bit of a breeze that I really didn’t notice until it became a headwind for most of the homeward-bound part of the loop, and in miles 4-6, between that and my now-for-real-sore legs, my pace climbed past the 10-minute mark. Like I said, though: I was keeping my lungs comfortable, and breathing-wise, I felt really good.

I got things back down to 9:23 for the final mile, which includes a tough climb, and managed a decent push over the final half mile to finish with an overall pace of 9:43. An ugly time, sure, but that wasn’t my goal today. Today, it was enough just to keep running.

92.8 miles for the year, 90 days in.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Ohio, running, Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

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