romance and other fun stuff

Kevin: Okay, we have three options: go to bed, watch “Speed Racer,” or play COD4.

Me: Oh, I don’t think I can handle Speed Racer right now. Let’s try Call of Duty.

Kevin: Sounds good.

Me: You know, I think Jessica has like the next two Halloweens planned, because she wants us to be Speed Racer and Mortal Kombat. Either that or we’re going to a bunch of parties next year.

Kevin: Oh, I want to be Subzero!

I don't think he even HAS a catchphrase. What's the fun in that?

Me: Ohhh, I think Jessica and Brittneigh are fighting for those two. I think Jessica should be Shang Tsung, though.

Kevin: What about you?

Me: I’m gonna be Raiden!

Kevin: Which one’s that?

Me: Christopher Lambert.

Kevin: Oh, the one with the hat.

Not gonna lie, I am only in this for the hat.

Me: Yup, and the lightning. You could be Liu Kang!

Kevin: Who’s that?

Me: The Asian one, the young one. You’d have to grow your hair out for like, the next year.

The hair is CRUCIAL.

Kevin: Oh I HATE him.

Me: Haha, okay, well…you could be Johnny Cage!

Kevin: Who’s that?

Me: The white guy. The movie star.

Kevin: Oh the good-lookin’ one? Yeah, I could do that, no problem. Wouldn’t even have to try.

His character is also the egotistical comic relief, but we'll ignore that part.

Besides, I don't think they make sunglasses like that anymore.

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back in the land of 2-ply kleenex

I’m home at last. I didn’t realize until now that I have the best pillow in the world. It’s really nice to be back in a place where everyone speaks the same language, familiar food is readily available, the shower responds to your pleas for cooler water, and the Kleenex do not have to be peeled in half because they are not 4-ply and that makes sense.

Our vacation was a lot of fun. Judging by the sudden quadruple in views, y’all know I’m engaged now. (whee!) The weather was beautiful, and despite a few transportation glitches and unpredictable hotel staff, everything went smoothly. We feasted on bread and cheese and pastries and wine. We saw every monument there was to see. We made some great discoveries, including the Natural History Museum in London, which is housed in a gorgeous brick Victorian monstrosity of a building. It has dinosaurs.

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(And did I mention I’m engaged? I’m engaged.)

We also visited a ton of castles:

Ross Castle in Killarney

Ross Castle in Killarney

Versailles, which is technically not a castle, I guess, but it's still spectacular.

Versailles, which is technically not a castle, I guess, but it's still spectacular.

The Papal Palace in Avignon.

The Papal Palace in Avignon.

Carcassonne, a fortressed city that used to guard the border with Spain.

Carcassonne, a fortressed city that used to guard the border with Spain.

(Also, my top advice from this vacation? Don’t ever use the landscape setting on your camera. I used it at a ton of locations and all of the photos are out of focus.)

We arrived in Killarney just in time to see a beautiful army of supercars roar past on some Irish grand prix, and we even saw the white Gallardo the next day in Bunratty.

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On the London Eye

On the London Eye


Ha – it’s an “Eye”-pod. The thing in the corner. Pod. On the Eye. Hee hee.

Other travel advice:
-Use a duffel bag, do not buy anything breakable, and bring exactly one outfit. It is the only way to escape the airline weight limit.
-Every tourist destination in France is absolutely swarming with scammers and vendors who want you to buy their little Eiffel Tower keychains or send money to their eight homeless disabled cousins in Mongolia. Do not make eye contact and do not tell them you speak English.
-If you plan on drinking wine, make sure you brought a functional bottle opener. Ours got stuck in a synthetic cork and I had to take it down to the hotel bar to get a pro to open it.
-A cell phone purely for emergencies is probably a wise investment. In Bordeaux, we found ourselves locked out of our hotel because no one was in reception at the time. I had to ask neighboring shops if I could borrow a phone to figure out how exactly we could get in.
-It’s been said a lot, but be flexible. It will rain, you might be on the Underground during the commute, every grocery store in the city might be closed because it’s Sunday (yes, that happens). So slop around the museums in your wet jeans, admire the sharp European suits, and eat at McDonalds if you have to.

surprises

A funny thing happened on Wednesday. I was at my computer working on my book when the front door opened. My mother whispered to someone, and someone came up the stairs – for some reason I thought it was my sister, crawling and shuffling because she was sick – but suddenly my boyfriend was standing in the doorway.

Apparently everyone in the county, as well as my college friends, knew he was coming. I just sort of gawked for a few seconds and blurted out “You’re here! What are you doing here?” and giggled and hugged him for a while. His whole family had stopped by on the way back from a family reunion – my mom and his mom had arranged the whole thing about a month in advance. His family stayed for a couple nights, and we took them to Boehm’s Chocolates and had lunch at the new Tutta Bella in Issaquah.

For the benefit of the Internet, I would like to inform you that Tutta Bella has the most delicious pizza on the continent. This is official, and verified by very important pizza guys who came from Italy, and my friend Zane who knows food very well. Tutta Bella serves thin-crust pizza with amazing fresh toppings, which can be followed with authentic espresso and some fabulous gelato. We tried three pizzas, and my favorite is called the Giovanni, which has prosciutto, parmesan, cherry tomatoes, and fresh arugula sprinkled on top after it bakes. It’s delicious and if there’s a Tutta Bella in your area (it’s a small chain, and there’s at least one in Seattle), do yourself a favor and try it.

So, Kevin is here, and that’s amazing, because I wasn’t expecting to see him until he arrives in Cork in September. Our parents are pretty awesome for arranging this, especially my mom – she’s trying to get both her daughters packed and set for two international adventures, along with hosting a baby shower and a skin care event, and doing her usual load of swim meets, choir practices, and work.

This morning Kevin and I ran a few errands, which included (oh noes) a stop at Barnes & Noble, because Kevin conveniently finished the book he’d brought with him. I managed to keep from buying the four books I’d spotted at Costco yesterday, mostly because Costco had them for half the price, but I did spot a table of buy-2-get-the-3rd-free classics which cost $6. I bought “My Antonia” by Willa Cather (we read “O Pioneers” in American Lit and I enjoyed it), and the complete adventures of Sherlock Holmes! Kevin got “The Count of Monte Cristo,” which I intend to borrow at my earliest convenience.

So, I have new books, and my boyfriend is here, and we rented “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Taken,” and my mom made baked Alaska yesterday, and I leave for Ireland in four days. Life is pretty good.

My big night out

I don’t get out much. Really. Most of my weekends in college were spent watching so-bad-they’re-amazing Sci Fi Channel original movies and playing Halo and/or Mario Kart. I can tell you about the two times I’ve actually “gone out” – once with a friend in Salem, who took us bar-hopping; and once for the senior bar crawl, where we went out at 9ish to visit one bar, then came home for our usual Mario Kart.

So last night was sort of a big deal. My favorite band, Carbon Leaf, came to Seattle on their summer tour. This is my third time seeing them, and they get more awesome every time. The opening act, Trevor Hall, was pretty cool too. (Note to Taylor Trevor Hall: Sorry for the confusion, and thanks to Lauren for the link! I tried to find a site that I could link to for you, but there are about eight thousand dorms named Taylor Hall, so I didn’t have any luck. Sorry. You guys rock, though, and you officially have the hottest bassist on the planet.)

I’m skipping ahead! Tess agreed to come along with me because she likes Carbon Leaf too, but probably mostly because I asked her to come with me in a way a dog (or my cat Charlie) looks at you when it wants to go chase a squirrel. The Mountain, a Seattle radio station, helped launch Carbon Leaf, so they love performing here and the Seattle crowds love them back. Living expenses be damned, I was going to this show.

So Tess arrived at my house so I could drive us into Seattle, and she had an early birthday present for me!

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It’s a great big lovely tea box for my great big lovely pile of tea! Hooray!

We went to the mall for a bit blah blah Jamba Juice blah okay time for the adventure downtown! We beat the (name of sports team) traffic, and after several loops around Pike Place and its neighboring streets, we managed to find a garage before its entrance had already passed by. We scanned the prices, looked at the clock, and realized that if we waited two more minutes, we would be able to score the evening flat rate.

So we sat on the ramp.

For two minutes.

And waited.

Thank God no one tried to come in behind us, or they would have been furious. Tess counted seconds while we glanced between the meter clock, the car clock, and the woman in the booth. Finally 4:00 arrived, and I punched that button like it had insulted my mother.

The gate opened and we rolled onward. The woman rushed out of the booth.

“What time does your ticket say?”

“It’s 4:00! We’re set!”

“Okay, go ahead!”

(By the way, Seattle parking garages are apparently designed for people who drive motorcycles on the other side of the road. They are tiny and backwards.)

We went to the Owl and Thistle for dinner, a little Irish pub near the waterfront. The happy hour fish & chips were greasy and delicious, and we tried an Irish cider called… Magner. Maybe. I tried to save the label because I knew I’d forget the name, but…oh well. It was really good. Better than Strongbow, and that means something. Infinitely better than Hornsby’s.

After dinner, we walked up along the waterfront and stopped in to Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe. For those uninitiated, this shop is full of every Seattle souvenir imaginable, along with a few mummies, a two-headed calf, some shrunken heads, and a 50-cent fortune teller.

Being a Ray Bradbury fan and a sucker for fortunes, we both got our fortune cards from Madame Estrella. I started reading mine – financial success, relationship troubles, etc. and so forth. Tess read hers next –

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– and announced that we had definitely been mixed up. (In case it’s too small to read, it talks about “a trip around the world,” “unlimited money,” and being “a very serious person,” “fastidious,” and “stubborn.”) So we traded fortunes, and now I am fulfilling my misdirected destiny to travel the world. (That unlimited money part sounds nice, too.)

Onward to the concert! By this time I had realized that I’d forgotten my camera, and was kicking myself with the appropriate level of self-hatred. We waited in line for about half an hour while Tess read my palm (and later the palm of the woman in front of us).

And then we got into the Showbox and realized exactly what we’d gotten ourselves into. First of all, it was general admission, so the floor was standing-only. The bar was up on a higher level, and there were a few small chairs and tables, but the people who’d been there before knew this and had already claimed seats. We tried parking by the wall in the balcony for a while, me savoring a well-made rum punch and Tess enjoying a rum and Coke that she’d had to send back for something they’d forgotten called Coke. During this time we saw the rather alarming and unexpected crowd of fellow Carbon Leaf admirers. A short list:

-very large man wearing a very large graffitied white t-shirt, who we theorized was some kind of New Age priest
-older gentleman who was either very drunk or had a dancing version of Tourette’s
-several cougars
-a very tall and cosmopolitan couple, she in skinny jeans and a red floral tank top, he with a baseball cap with a can of PBR in his back pocket. He was already fairly drunk, and for a while they just hung out in front of us, making out.
-did I mention the cougars?

Taylor Hall played, it was awesome, we stood around and waited, debated moving because people kept standing in front of us – and around 9:15, Carbon Leaf came in, and the show immediately became amazing.

I dragged Tess out to the floor, where we found pretty much the perfect spot – the lower edge of the balcony, right at butt level, in line with the front of the stage, about twenty feet from the corner. Whenever anyone came to that side of the stage, we were the only people there to see. This meant that we got eye contact and/or waves and/or some kind of recognition from Barry AND Terry! (Most of my friends have seen me fangirl. I think this was the most I’ve ever fangirled in my life.)

They played an excellent set – mostly new stuff and their big hits from “Indian Summer” (if you’re going to get a Carbon Leaf CD, and you are, get that one). The group behind us yelled for a certain song several times, and Barry just stepped up to the mic and said very nicely, “We will play what we want and you will like it.” And we did!

But the encore was honestly the best part of the show. First, they stood up in the front of the stage with no mics, bare spotlights, and just their acoustic guitars, and sang “Learn to Fly” from their previous album. I’m still impressed that they (with a little help from security) managed to silence the entire theatre. They did the same thing for their show at The Moore a few years ago, and it was beautiful both times. Next, they went completely the opposite direction and broke out the electric guitars and busted out with “Sweet Emotion.” And oh my God, they blew us away. Carter is a fiend on the guitar, and Terry is also incredible. They spent most of the song just jamming and it was downright awesome.

The guys then braved the crowds and stuck around to sign autographs. There was such a horde that I didn’t even realize there was a line, but apparently I, uh, cut a little. But there was Carbon Leaf, and my life was perfect.

The planets aligned and the line slowed down when I got to Carter, the guitarist. I had been trying to think of something to say about the encore that wouldn’t sound stupid, but all I could think of was –

“That encore was badass.”

But his face lit up. “You liked it?”

“Yeah! You guys rocked!”

“Hey, thanks. What’s your name?”

Cue inner fangirl squealing. I shook his hand. I think I remained calm and composed. He kept going. “Yeah, we really like getting to play those rock-and-roll songs.”

“Well, you guys were awesome.”

“Thanks!”

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(squeee!)

more cat talk

I’m in one of those creative phases where I have four or five things I want to work on, and absolutely no drive or confidence for any of them. Unfortunately, this blog is one of them. I’m sorry I haven’t been real bloggy lately – I have three story ideas/books I want to work on, I’m trying to figure out how to get into the business of selling stock photos, and oh yes, I leave for three months on another continent in two weeks.

Fortunately, Slicker came in to save you all from a Ruby-less night. I know you’re thanking the heavens on bended knee for that.

I was picking through the photos I took yesterday – trying to shoot black & white with low light didn’t work out so well – when Slicker came in. He stopped for a moment near my chair, hesitated, then turned around.

“No, hang on, come here – I’ll pet you.

“You will?”

“Sure. Come here.”

He trots over and nuzzles my hand. “Oh, good. I was afraid you were busy.”

“Nah, I’m never too busy for you.”

“Good.” He rubs up against my filing cabinet and wanders away, still purring. “That’s nice.”

And he leaves.

“You’re welcome?”