How I Successfully Navigated New York City

Several months ago, GG and I realized we’d have a free weekend in June, and decided to go up to New York to see a show. I was literally just about to get tickets to American Idiot, when we heard a piece on the radio about Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. It sounded awesome! So I got tickets for that, and we started planning some other things we wanted to do in the city. Like last winter, when I was up there with a couple friends, we stayed in New Jersey and took a bus to Manhattan each morning. Yes, it was hot and humid, but the rain held off and things worked out really well and we had an excellent mini vacation.

Chelsea Market: As fans of the Food Network, we wanted to check out their home base. Sadly, it wasn’t as huge or amazing as we’d imagined. Maybe we’re just spoiled by our close proximity to the Reading Terminal Market, but Chelsea Market basically felt like a fancier version of that. We did enjoy some delicious, refreshing People’s Pops, and saw a few other vendors, but it wasn’t the type of place you could really spend a whole day (let alone two days, as GG was thinking we might have to do!). Also, it was sort of disappointing that the Food Network stuff was all upstairs, and you couldn’t just go up there. It was neat, though. I’d go back again for lunch or something.

The Subway: As you may know, I have a terrible sense of direction, and just thinking of the places we were planning to go was stressing me out because I had no idea how we’d figure out how to get there. And then I realized, Google Maps gives directions using public transportation! So before we left, I looked up directions to all the places we were going, in the order in which we were going there. The first (and last) time GG and I were in NYC together, we took the subway somewhere and a crazy guy was sitting across from us and we were trying to avoid eye contact, and eventually he got up and dumped a bag of Cheetos on my head. So that kind of left a bad taste in our mouths. However, on this trip, the subways were full of non-crazy people, my directions were all good, and everything was running on time and there when we needed it. Somehow I had a better handle on directions (both on the street and in the subway) than GG, the master map reader, and we had no problems. Plus, there’s an awesome new addition on some of the major subway lines now: light-up signs and digital displays that show you what line you’re on and which stop is next, plus where all the transfers are. Now they just need to get that on every train.

Union Square Greenmarket and The Strand: To get from Chelsea Market to Les Halles, we had to take two subways, changing trains at Union Square. Since we had a bunch of time to kill, I suggested we get off in Union Square and hang out there. We stepped out of the Subway, and into the middle of a big farmers’ market that surrounded Union Square Park. There was tons of beautiful produce, cheese, juices, craftspeople, etc. It was really perfect timing, ending up there. Eventually we’d looped through the place a couple times, and decided to walk down Broadway, and happened upon The Strand. I knew it was a mistake, because GG gets so engrossed in every little thing in places like bookstores, but I was feeling generous, so I suggested we go in. While I explored the entire main level, he was caught up at the first table, haha! I finally pulled him away to check out the upstairs and downstairs. They say they have 18 miles of books in there, and it’s really overwhelming. It’s not really the kind of place that you can browse (at least not in my opinion) – you need to have a certain book or at least a topic in mind, and go in looking for it. It was also so crowded, and due to the close quarters among the books, hard to get around. We eventually headed back to Union Square, where we sat on a shady bench in the park for a while, before getting back on the subway and going to dinner.

Les Halles: As big Anthony Bourdain fans, we were so excited to have dinner here! Of course, Bourdain doesn’t really work here anymore (watch him struggle back on the job temporarily in his “Into the Fire” episode), but his former chef Carlos Llaguno is now executive chef, and was there that night! Our waiter was so friendly and funny, putting up with all of GG’s weirdness and helping us choose stuff. GG started with some sort of calamari salad, and I had an arugula salad, which I have to say I was sort of disappointed with – the greens were just way too bitter, and the sliced apple in it was kind of mealy. However, the small chunk of blue cheese served with it was amazing. In order to try the restaurant’s specialties, we each had a steak served with French fries. I was so nervous to order mine well done (knowing Bourdain’s feelings toward vegetarians, people who order meat well done, etc.), but they were cool about it and the waiter even recommended the best steak to have well done. The steak was fantastic and the fries were crispy and amazing. We were so stuffed afterward, but wanted to get dessert, so we split their special that night, which was a sort of ice cream float with homemade mint soda, vanilla ice cream, and some sort of strawberry topping. It was really good, very refreshing!

Top of the Rock and the NBC Studio Tour: We’d been thinking of going to the Empire State Building on Saturday, but GG always talks about when he got to go on this behind-the-scenes tour of NBC in 1996 (a classmate’s relative was an executive there), so I thought it might be cool to take the NBC tour instead. We walked into 30 Rock, and there was a sign with all these ticket package combinations. We decided to do the Top of the Rock and NBC Tour combo. So you have to go down this giant staircase and wait in a long line to get tickets. Then they tell you, the NBC one isn’t really a ticket, it’s a voucher, and you have to go up to the NBC store to schedule a time for your tour. So we actually could have gone there first and just bought tour tickets. We went to the NBC store, but they don’t do it there, you have to go upstairs to this other tour area. Then they take your voucher and give you a ticket for a certain time. We had about an hour and a half, so we did the Top of the Rock in the meantime. Back outside, in a different door, up some stairs, and you’re in that waiting area. At least it was interesting, they had a lot of information on the history of Rockefeller Center. The line is actually slow because they want to take a picture of each group of people, sitting on a steel I-beam like that famous old photo of the construction workers. We weren’t interested, so we walked right through the photo area. Finally you reach the elevator that takes you up like 65 floors, while historic videos are projected on the ceiling. The very first view you see when you step outside is the Empire State Building – awesome! Walking around to the other side, you can see Central Park. You can go up another level, too. It was pretty cool, and there was a nice breeze, on such a hot day. Eventually, we headed back in and got in line for our NBC tour. It was pretty lame, sorry NBC. We saw the Dr. Oz studio (on the way there in the elevator, everyone was going, “Who’s Dr. Oz?” I explained to GG that he was a TV doctor who got famous on Oprah). Then we went to the Jimmy Fallon studio – we actually learned a couple neat tidbits there (e.g. The Roots travel up from Philly in their tour bus every day, you can get special tickets that allow you to go up on stage when the band performs, Jimmy modeled his set on Johnny Carson’s original Tonight Show set-up…). They showed us the “Muppet pipes,” where Jim Henson and some other Muppeteers were bored while waiting to go on a show and decorated these pipes in what was formerly a closet. We went to the Saturday Night Live studio, which was actually the most interesting part of the tour – and it’s so small! And we saw the NBC control room. If the power goes out, it has a back-up generator to power it for a week. If the power’s still out after that, it can run for a week on diesel. If something is going on that’s caused NYC to be without power for two weeks, you probably don’t care about TV at that point. But if necessary, they could also switch operations to their Burbank Studio. Our last stop was a tiny studio where they picked a couple kids from the group to try reading off a teleprompter and giving a weather report in front of a green screen. Overall, I don’t think the tour was really worth it. I picked up a couple interesting facts, but empty studios are kind of boring to look at.

Hustlers: Heaven forbid you stop to look at the map of the bus station, or stand on a corner and think about which direction you need to go in, because someone will come up and offer you directions, and then right when you think, “What a nice, helpful person that was!” they’ll say, “Hey man, I’m tryin’ to make a living out here, can I get a dollar?” or “Now I want to tell you about this homeless shelter I’m running, we’re selling hats for $10, would you like this book about our Hindu gods?” First of all, I would never talk to a random person on the street, but even if they approached me, I would not have a problem saying, “No, sorry,” and walking away when they asked for money. But GG loves to talk to people, and then gets guilted into giving them a dollar or two! Probably the worst hustler, though, was this lady we saw at the Union Square farmers’ market. She had all these cages of kittens, with signs all over saying she was trying to get them adopted, and boxes to collect money for supplies and vet bills. Now, she may well have been legitimate. But after she started opening the cages and shaking the cats around to wake them up (it was hot! they wanted to rest!), saying, “We gotta get these cats homes,” I started thinking. She could have very easily scooped up a bunch of stray cats from an abandoned lot or something, brought them to the market, and maybe she’ll dump them back in the lot later, and keep the “vet” money for herself. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Rice to Riches: GG has been wanting to go to this place for years. The way he described it, it sounded like a restaurant where everything is rice pudding-based, so in addition to dessert puddings, they would also have savory, main course puddings. I thought we might have a late lunch/early dinner there, but it turned out to be more like an ice cream shop. They had a counter full of flavors to choose from, and a long list of toppings. I was hot, hungry, and cranky, and a bowl of sweet pudding was really the last thing I wanted, but I picked a vanilla pudding with a chocolate coffee crumble topping. The names of the flavors and toppings were all cutesy, there were tons of funny little signs all over, and everything was very sleek and modern. But it was crowded and I was in a bad mood, plus GG was freaking out and being embarrassing, so I didn’t enjoy myself. I couldn’t even finish my small bowl, and I don’t know how GG finished his large bowl (the minimum size to try two flavors). The final straw for me was that they don’t take back or even recycle the heavy plastic bowls in which the pudding is served. If you don’t want to keep it, it goes into the trash. Sorry, Rice to Riches, that just clinches your thumbs-down from me.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson“: This show was awesome! I am so glad we were able to catch it. It tells the story of our 7th president, who on one hand doubled the size of the country and created the Democratic party, but on the other hand killed a lot of people and started the Trail of Tears. It is funny, timely, and educational, and the music (they say it’s emo, but I think there’s a few genres in there) is great. Even GG was totally enamored! Some parts were uproariously funny (anything with John Quincy Adams, for example: “My father was president, I should get to be president too!” and Twinkie-eating Martin Van Buren). You can preview a couple tracks off the original cast recording, and hear a couple other songs on the show’s MySpace page (a few things have changed since this was recorded). “I’m Not That Guy” is the same song as “Life Sucks” – I don’t think they should have changed the title! The show isn’t a traditional “musical,” in that the songs don’t really move the story forward, they’re more expository, or sometimes in the background (e.g. “Ten Little Indians” is performed while Jackson is signing treaties with all the Indian tribes). I am totally getting that CD when it comes out, and GG said before the show even started that he would buy a shirt with the “AJ” logo on it, if one existed. Guess what – I heard it might be coming to Broadway soon!!

You can see all my NYC pictures on Flickr.

Work is Nutso

I know everyone is eagerly awaiting my recap of my trip to New York this weekend, and I’m almost finished writing it up, but I’m super busy today so it won’t be posted until tomorrow.

It’s another crazy week at work. We’d had a lull in SOP deactivations for a while and I almost forgot how nutso this could get. There actually aren’t any deactivations this week (there was going to be one, but it’s now delayed), but we have the most obsoletions ever – whole series are being wiped out! – so it’s quite a bit of work to getting all these updates done. Plus lots of key players are on vacation, so we’ve had to schedule things around when people are here, and have back-ups filling in.

Guess what – I just got a web cam. I figured it was time to upgrade, I’d had my previous one since like 2001 (not that I’ve used it in the past couple years), and it didn’t have a microphone or anything. Now I can make video reviews of products, or some of those annoying “shopping haul” videos! (Actually, sometimes those are fun to watch, I just wish people would use a script or at least bullet notes – it’s so annoying to just hear them go, “Sooo… here’s this thing… and it looks like this… [waves item blurrily in front of camera].”)

Also, I finally did a project I’ve wanted to do for a couple years now. I got nine botanical prints, put them in matching white frames, and hung them in a grid above our bed. The prints were from Vintage Printable, the frames were from Michael’s, I had them printed on cardstock at Kinko’s (though honestly they could’ve been done on nice paper with a good home printer), and they’re hung with 3M Picture Hanging Strips, which hopefully hold up well so we aren’t awakened by glass smashing on our faces in the middle of the night. I love the way it turned out! It seems to make the ceiling feel higher, and the room just feels much more finished. I can’t help but smile when I walk in and see it now!

Should we stay or should we go?

Okay, I need some serious help and advice. This may get long, and a lot of it will probably be my train of thought, so bear with me.

I like our house, I do. We’ve lived there for five years. I complain about it a lot, but it has a lot going for it. However, it is not where I would like to live for the rest of my life. I have a dream house in a dream location in my head, and I’m always keeping an eye out for it. Yesterday we went to see a house that was almost perfect, but the timing is just not right (we’d need to sell our place, and it’s not really in any shape to sell right now), plus the more I think about it, the more problems I’m finding. So the search continues.

Here’s where I need your advice. Should we grin and bare it in our current house, fixing it up just enough to make it sellable when the time is right (knowing we could potentially not be around that long to enjoy the improvements ourselves); or put our money and effort into making our house exactly the way we want, planning to hang in here for the long term?

Because I am a list-maker by nature, here are some pros and cons of each option:

Pros: Cons:
  • Extremely charming 115-year old historic home, strong and well-constructed
  • House is energy-efficient by design
  • Despite its age and weird “improvements” that have been made, everything is generally safe and in good condition
  • Rooms are all decent sizes
  • Laundry on main floor (as opposed to basement)
  • Large eat-in kitchen with lots of cabinet and counter space
  • 3-car driveway, detatched garage, plus plenty of available parking in the lot across the street
  • Not much grass to cut; fully fenced-in yard
  • Full basement that has never been known to flood (we’re not in the flood plain), with a finished area for GG to use as a studio/office
  • Great location, short walk from stores, post office, banks, restaurants, fire and police stations, parks, and public transportation; near major roads and highways
  • Due to the location, we’re always plowed out early when it snows
  • Area is truly “up and coming” – lots of improvements are being made in town, new businesses are opening, and it’s the next furthest town from the hot and trendy towns outside of Philadelphia (i.e. it’s next in line to be hot and trendy)
  • Only one (small) bathroom
  • No central air (or built-in air conditioner of any kind)
  • Difficult to upgrade/update because of its age, and anything that is changed usually has to be custom-made
  • Hard to have guests (especially overnight) due to climate control issues, current use/configuration of bedrooms, noise, and the one-bathroom thing
  • On a somewhat busy street with lots of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and half a block from a busy intersection
  • Half a block away from a freight train crossing (i.e. train whistles are blown at all hours of the day and night)
  • Houses next door are currently unoccupied and decrepit; now that the borough owns them, it’s uncertain what will happen to them – if they’re torn down, there’s nothing between us and the train
  • Despite its urban-ness, this is really a small town with small town problems (e.g. no recycling service; feuds between people, especially in local government; etc.)
  • Despite being a small town, I don’t really feel safe walking around by myself, especially in the evening (though I’m probably just being paranoid)
  • We have enough money saved for a good down-payment on a new house, but since the future of my job is still uncertain, that’s gone from being my house fund to my “might have to live off this for a while” fund

Note: These are just pros and cons for us. We’re not really yard people, so don’t care about having a big yard (in fact, the smaller the better, as far as GG [the mower] is concerned). We don’t have kids, so don’t really care about school districts. We’re not bothered by busy roads and road noise (as long as you can get in and out of the driveway easily, and there’s places for visitors to park). Etc.

The Creature

Last Wednesday, I was in the living room, working from home, when GG called my cell phone from the basement. “Come downstairs slowly and quietly.” Uh-oh. So I crept downstairs and he was standing in the section of the basement with our furnace and hot water heater. There was this little scratching sound – it sounded like a mouse or something scratching on metal – and then there was this little “squeak squeak” noise. Ohhh no, there is a mouse or a squirrel or something in a pipe or duct here!

GG banged on some pipes to try to figure out where it was, since there is a lot going on there. We heard the scratching sound a couple more times, and then it stopped. We probably heard this little animal die of fright. So then we had to call a pest control guy to get the thing out of there, because we were thinking it was somewhere near the furnace, and even though it’s off for the summer, I was just imagining some squirrel catching fire the first time we turn it on this fall.

The pest control place GG called said they could come later that night, but neither of us was going to be home, so they scheduled us for first thing Thursday morning. The next morning, they called GG and said they were running so late, could they come on Friday morning instead? He said that was fine. So when I left for work on Friday, I told GG, “If they call again today and want to reschedule, you tell them, ‘No, we’ve already rescheduled, you need to come today.'” He apparently only heard half of that, so when they called and said they were running late and wouldn’t be there until after 12:00, he told them to just forget about it! What?! So then he had to call them back and tell them, no, whenever they got there on Friday was fine.

They finally showed up at like 2 PM, and got to work. What they found was that we’d heard a bird, which was now dead, stuck in the vent duct coming out of the hot water heater – so yes, this could have been a big problem. In addition, he found two other dead birds in other sections of this duct! So apparently, when we had our chimney repaired a couple years ago, I thought they’d put some sort of cap on it but they hadn’t, and now birds have been falling down there and dying! I’m glad to find out what the problem was… and I guess now I know what our next home repair project will be!

GG texted me a photo of the bird coming out of the water tank, with the caption below:

Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal…

Jam-Packed Weekend

This has been a very busy but fun weekend! It started on Friday, when JM and I went out for lunch at work to the local pizza place, followed by Rita’s water ice. I left work a tiny bit early so I could get home in time to get changed, pick up my grandmother, and go to Longwood Gardens (wasn’t I just there last week) for my band concert. It was supposed to be really hot, but it turned out to be such lovely weather! The concert was fantastic, and the crowd was really awesome.

GG and I got up early on Saturday and went to the farmers’ market, where we got some produce for the week (no cheese this time, boo), as well as a couple pies for later. Then we did a couple other errands, came home and unpacked, and went back out to catch the train. I’d heard that our local public radio (and television) station was having a “spring cleaning” sale and open house, so we thought it would be neat to check out. We actually ended up buying a few things: a couple CDs, DVDs, and books, plus a new coffee mug (“This American Life” in Chinese!) for me to keep at work. The tour they were offering was actually just of their new public areas, but it was really neat. They have a couple classrooms and editing studios for regular people to learn how to edit their own audio and video for broadcast, as well as a huge studio/classroom/lecture/event space. It was really interesting to see. Then we stopped by the Reading Terminal Market for a bite to eat, before catching the train back home.

I thought we’d be back a little sooner than we were, so we just had time to get cleaned up and changed a little, before heading north to JM’s house for an informal “deckwarming” party. They have two little girls, plus a 1-year old boy, and this baby loved GG, especially after they brought out a guitar for him to play! A few of their neighbor friends were also over with their kids, so it was nice, just sitting outside, enjoying dinner, with the kids running around playing and being very non-annoying. Later on they lit up the fire pit (I made a video, just in case it exploded, so we could send it to America’s Funniest Home Videos) and we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. We also had the pies GG and I had bought at the farmers’ market. I had figured the party would wrap up when it was bedtime for the kids, since people got there around 4:00, but they just set the kids up inside with a movie and we sat out there talking until 10:00! So it was about 11:00 by the time GG and I got home, and after such a long and busy day, we went right to sleep!

This morning GG got up early to go to work, and I went out food shopping. Then JS and I had a little girly day out – we had a nice lunch, then went for pedicures, checked out a couple houses for sale, and got ice cream :o) It was so hot and humid again. We had a very fun afternoon, though. And tomorrow I get to babysit her child for a couple hours..!

Some Reviews

Sketchers Shape-Ups: I was so excited to get these, and was not disappointed. First of all, they’re very comfortable. They’re also cute – they really don’t look like orthopedic shoes or anything. And I got a pretty plain style – there are some that look even more sneaker-y. They are not hard to get used to or hard to walk in. Okay, I let someone try mine on and she said she felt like she was going to tip over. But I have horrible coordination and never had that problem, and I haven’t seen anything like that in any other reviews. The booklet that they come with says to wear them for like 20 minutes at a time at first to get used to them, but the first time I wore them I was out for a couple hours, running errands, walking around the mall, etc., and I was totally fine. Do they work? I would say yes. No, you don’t suddenly lose weight by wearing them or anything, but I definitely noticed that my legs are more toned, and I can see it in my ankles. I just wear them when I’m out doing stuff, but imagine if I actually went for walks in them or something!

CoverGirl Blast Collection: As part of a promotional thing, I was given a free lip gloss and eye shadow/liner stick from this collection. I’ll start with the lip gloss: it smells nice, goes on nicely, and looks good for about 10 seconds. Then it totally disappears. That’s a shame. The SmokyShadowBlast I was actually really excited about getting, because I’d seen ads for it and it looked cool – an eyeshadow crayon on one end, with a complementary liner on the other. However, the shadow sucks – it goes on kind of creamy and never really dries, so it just collects in the crease of your eyelid right away. It’s also like 90% sparkle and 10% color, so you really have to apply a lot for it to be noticeable. I like the smoky look, and thought that’s what this would be, but it really isn’t.

Avon Butler Basics Bag: I got this months ago and promised a review, so here it is. I’d heard about the (super expensive) Butler Bags a while ago, so when I saw Avon was making a more affordable version, I had to try it. The Butler Bag is a fashionable purse with little compartments built in on the bottom to help organize all the little things you carry. I have to say, the bag itself is great quality – from the materials, to the way it was packaged (I was sure it would come all flattened and mushed up, like many Avon products, but it was actually filled with tissue paper and packed very nicely). It was pretty huge for me, but I like that it’s big enough that you could carry a book or a notebook along one side. However, the organizer compartments just don’t do it for me. Maybe I don’t carry enough stuff to make it worthwhile, but I found myself just tossing things into the bag while I was on the go, rather than carefully situating everything back in its cubby after taking it out. Plus, small things like lip balm were more loose than they would have been if they’d just been in a small side pocket. And I never remembered which compartment held my keys. So for now, unless I do need to carry a book or something, I’m not using the Butler Bag. (Side note: Avon also recently introduced the Butler Basics Essentials Bag, which is a little smaller and has a few outer pockets. But it only comes in this off-white color, so it’s not really for me. I’ve seen it, though, and it’s very nice.)

Kinerase Scar Healing Therapy: This stuff is expensive, but I kept seeing it recommended when people asked how best to fade scars. I had a red mark on my face from having a deeper sample of my mystery face bump removed. I tried to be patient, but with a nice red circle almost two months later, I thought maybe I should take action. I got a tube at Sephora, and started using it that night. The product is a clear, very slick/silicone-y ointment. I was worried that it would be thick or greasy feeling, but you can’t feel it at all. And it stays on well – I was also worried about sleeping on it, but I think because of the silicone, it doesn’t really rub off. After three and a half weeks of twice daily application, there is definitely a noticeable difference in this scar – it’s less bright red. Each time I applied it, I would wipe whatever was left on my finger on the spot on my elbow, which was also still red, and that has made a real difference – that spot is almost completely gone, and in dim light, you can’t even notice it. The package says to use it for 6-8 weeks, though, so I’m really only halfway through their recommended course of treatment. Remind me, and I’ll post back in a couple months to see how it turned out, but so far I’m very happy with it.

I was sick this week.

After Conan, the rest of my week seemed pretty lame, I guess that’s why I didn’t blog about it. Starting next week, my whole (former, I guess) department at work is going to be sitting in two different buildings, so everyone was packing this week and the office was just a weird and depressing place to be. On Wednesday I worked from home and I don’t know what happened, but I just felt yuckier and yuckier as the day went on. By the end of the day, I was definitely sick. Luckily, the weather was cooler and I could drink some hot tea with honey. We had our first band concert of the summer Wednesday night – it was actually kind of bad, but I don’t think the retirement home audience noticed. On Thursday morning I seriously considered staying home sick, but I actually had to go into the office, so I stayed as long as I could but left after half a day. This was the first sick time I’ve taken since probably sometime in 2008. I spent the rest of Thursday on the sofa, trying unsuccessfully to nap (it’s hard to sleep when you can’t breathe). On Friday I again had to be in the office, but I already had planned to take the afternoon off, so I knew I only had to deal with sitting there for four hours, and I managed to get through it. Then I came home to nap the day away again.

Saturday was a really nice day. GG and I went out early to do some errands, including going to the new farmers’ market by our house. When we went on opening day, it was crowded and insane. Now, a few weeks later, there was hardly anyone there! It was fantastic! Also, now that we’re a little further into the growing season, there was a bit more of a selection from the produce vendors. We got a bunch of good stuff: asparagus, strawberries, lettuce, sugar snap peas, a couple kinds of goat cheese, and cherries from this really cool guy who’s farm we might have to visit this fall because they have apple picking! When we got home, GG helped me build this hall tree hook bench thing I got to put in the laundry room to hang our coats and put our boots in the winter. It looks really good! Then I went out to take my grandmother to dinner and see this year’s Savoy Company show, Ruddigore, at Longwood Gardens. The show was outdoors and there was a chance of thunderstorms – it actually started spitting rain at one point – but the bad weather held off and we got to see the whole show, which was fantastic! Ruddigore is definitely my second-favorite Gilbert & Sullivan operetta (nothing will beat Pirates). Also, I was feeling better, health-wise, and then when we sat outside in the humidity it was like my nose filled up again, and then halfway through the first act (which was like 90 minutes long) I had a horrible cough and felt so bad for bothering everyone around me, but I couldn’t help it. If it had continued I would have gotten up (there were drinking fountains at the back of the theater area), but luckily I got over it and then I was fine for the rest of the show.

Today I went out looking for a few things and found none of them. Then I went food shopping, came home and did some chores, and took a nap. GG came home from work, and we went out to Petsmart to use up my coupon that was about to expire today. While we were there we were just checking out the new cat toy technology, and this woman who works there as a dog trainer came over and told us she got this certain mouse toy for her cats and they liked it, so we got one too (they were on sale). When you hit it, it makes a real mouse-like squeaking sound! Sacha went nuts over it when we brought it home – Ivan and Katrina were a little more skeptical. Then we went to Panera for dinner, and GG and I made friends with a couple guys working there, we had a nice little chat while they took our orders and mixed up our iced lemonade drinks. It was pretty funny.

Not much in the way of freak shows on TLC tonight – just “Extreme Poodles: Exploring the world of competitive poodle grooming.” Actually, that does sound a bit like a freak show, I may watch.

Conan O’Brien at the Tower Theater (or, #pimpbot)

(There are lots of details below, so if you are going to one of the Conan “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television” shows and don’t want to be spoiled, you might want to hold off reading this. However, every show is different, and I kind of wish I had been spoiled because then I would have known things like bringing a camera was not only allowed, it was practically encouraged. Oh well, live and learn.)

Conan’s show in Upper Darby was seriously one of the best shows of any sort that I’ve ever been to. Our seats were right along the center aisle, almost at the very back of the orchestra level. Even though I hadn’t brought my glasses, this was fine, because most of the show was also shot with video cameras and projected on a huge screen on stage. As we waited for it to start, a great selection of songs played and the Conan logo was projected on the screen. Signs in the lobby instructed us to use the hashtag #pimpbot when tweeting about the night’s show, which turned out to be awesome.

The opening act was Reggie Watts, and he was seriously awesome. His humor was totally right for a theater full of Conan fans, too. In addition to normal kind of stand-up, and weird stand-up, he also sang and played some music and made weird sound effects and used a looping machine to make actually really full sounding songs. He was great. If he’s back in the area I’d definitely go see him.

The show itself was structured a lot like a regular Conan TV episode (of whatever show you think he should host). The full band (minus Max Weinberg, who hasn’t been on this tour) came out and played an awesome rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up,” which I love because it’s so upbeat. Most of the musicians came out into the audience and walked around the whole place while playing. Then there was a video showing what Conan was doing two months ago – mainly, growing a beard, getting fat, wandering around his house, and drinking a lot of wine. His daughter was in a couple shots (“Mom! Daddy smells like pee!”). Then he gets a phone call asking if he can get in shape to do a 32-city tour, so there’s a montage of him exercising, including just pulling off his fat suit, haha!

Conan came on stage and did a bit of a monologue. He talked about what he’s been doing, things he legally can’t do (e.g. he might not be able to use his name, Conan O’Brien, because it may actually be owned by NBC, so he might switch back to his original name – Jet Blaze!), etc. There were lots of Philly jokes thrown in – for example, they brought out a giant cheesesteak, made fun of Upper Darby, and showed a video of Triumph with obviously dubbed-in jokes (things like the real rush hour is when they give away free track suits in South Philadelphia). Andy Richter came out and they had some banter as well. Also, Conan explained that he’d used half their budget to buy this giant inflatable bat from the Meatloaf “Bat Out of Hell” tour, which turned out to be harmless looking, but they had this giant bat on stage, which was hilarious. And he had one of the writers from his show come out and do a bit of stand-up.

There were several musical interludes where Conan got to indulge his inner musician by playing guitar. I forget everything that was played, though based on video clips I’ve seen (just on the news and stuff), it seems like they do generally the same songs at every show. He did a cover of Cake’s cover of “I Will Survive” (except it was changed to be about getting fired from NBC), “On the Road Again” (but it was changed to be about getting “my own show again”), a couple Elvis songs, a cover of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” with extremely heavy bass, and a few more. He had two backup singers called The Coquettes, and it was a shame they didn’t get to do more because in one of the last numbers they really did get to belt out a couple solos, and they were awesome!

Like all the shows on this tour, there were special guests. GG kept saying he felt like Tina Fey would be there, considering Upper Darby is her hometown. Rumors were flying around Twitter that it was John Bon Jovi, Danny DeVito, or even Lady Gaga, but then they brought out Trey Anastasio from Phish to play some pothead Phish song about moving to Alaska or something. Whatever, people seemed to enjoy it.

They then brought out the Walker Texas Ranger Lever, which for legal reasons is now the Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle. He pulled it a couple times, then called out another special guest… None other than Tina Fey! She first did it “Upper Darby style,” which meant she pushed the lever with her butt. Then she did it a couple more times, ending on the infamous clip of Haley Joel Osment saying, “Walker told me I have AIDS.” (They play that clip a lot on the local radio show Preston & Steve, and I don’t know if this helped or hurt the response to the clip, but I personally found it slightly less funny/shocking just because I hear it all the time.)

They ended with another musical number, but then of course the crowd kept cheering so they brought Conan out to play some more. He played a song called “40 Days” on an acoustic guitar, and then ran up and down every aisle of the theater (including in the balcony), except ours! I think GG was disappointed he didn’t get to touch him. After that, the house lights came back up and everyone streamed out of there.

In the car on the way home, GG mentioned that he saw the girl in front of him texting or tweeting negative things the whole night, including about “the annoying guy behind [her].” So guess what – I found her (and her boyfriend) on Twitter and tweeted them back. Nothing like defending your husband on the internet!

Anniversary Trip to Baltimore

My morning started out with a successful Craigslist transaction – we finally sold the last two old window air conditioners that came with our house. The woman who bought them was the best Craigslist buyer ever. She was in touch (via e-mail and phone), she came on time (early, even!), paid in cash, didn’t want any elaborate test drives or anything (just took my word that they were working as of last year), and was just super nice and friendly. If only all Freecycle and Craigslist interactions could go so well!

As soon as that was taken care of, GG and I headed down to Baltimore for the day! We’ve talked about going for a while now, and finally got around to planning a little day trip. Traffic was great (even for a summer Saturday), and we got down there in no time. We also had to stop off for lunch at the Maryland House, of course – one of the only places we know of to get Roy Rogers, haha!

When I was in college, this girl in one of my art classes mentioned that over the weekend she’d been to this museum in Baltimore where they had art made by crazy people. It sounded really cool. GG and I have wanted to go there for years, but first I had to figure out what this place was called, and then we had to have a chance to get down to Baltimore. So we finally figured out that it was the American Visionary Art Museum, and decided to spend the day in Baltimore to celebrate our anniversary! The AVAM is in Federal Hill, a neighborhood I’ve heard of from watching House Hunters :o) It reminded us of Society Hill in Philly – lots of well-kept rowhomes, and probably very expensive. From the outside, the museum already looks like the work of a crazy person, covered with mirror mosaics and with weird sculptures outside. (Though I should clarify that it’s not just crazy people art here – it’s “outsider art,” basically anything made by anyone who’s not a trained artist.) This was absolutely one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever been to, and the artist bios were just about as interesting as the art. Some of my favorite things that I can remember:

  • Signs made by this guy to complain and protest about every little thing that went wrong – if he wasn’t crazy when he started, he probably was by the time he’d spent his entire life filling fields with these things.
  • A selection of Post Secret cards along the staircase
  • Beautiful drawings done by prison inmates
  • Disturbing paintings done by the personal physician of Saddam Hussein (he also wrote a book recently)
  • Miniatures of hundreds of pieces of art, from Egyptian stuff to modern paintings, done by a guy who wanted to create his own collection of all art he thought was good throughout history
  • Probably my favorite, a selection of drawings and other artifacts from Renaldo Kuhler, who invented his own country, Rocaterrania, with detailed culture, citizens with individual backstories, politics, etc.

There were no photos allowed inside, but we took lots of pictures of the outdoor sculptures displayed between the buildings of the museum. One of the neatest things was that one of the buildings had a balcony that looked like a big metal bird’s nest! We went out there to get some great pictures of the Baltimore skyline.

After the museum, we went to the Inner Harbor and walked around for a while. It was extremely crowded. I went down probably once a summer when I was little to go to the National Aquarium with my family, and I think it’s changed a lot since then. Definitely seems much more built up. There are a couple mall-type places there, which are filled with a great selection of restaurants, Baltimore souvenir shops, and those weird creepy stores that sell no-name products for $9.99 or whatever. When I was little I remember we would rent paddle boats and paddle around the harbor. It looks like they still have them, but they also have mini motorboats you can rent, as well as dragon boats (the coolest!). No, we did not rent a boat. We just walked pretty much from one end of the area to the other, then sat by the water for a while, enjoying the breeze and people watching. Then we got cleaned up a bit in the car before heading to dinner.

A Twitter friend of mine who lives in Baltimore recommended Kali’s Court for a fancy dinner in town, and it did not disappoint. Looking at the menu ahead of time, I saw there were only a couple non-seafood options for me, but GG was going to have a hard time choosing between all the fishes. I was right. The restaurant was in Fell’s Point, which reminded us so much of the Old Port area in Portland, ME, especially Fore Street. (For comparison: Portland vs. Baltimore.) The restaurant was beautiful, starting with the little garden you walk through to get to the door, to the interior with lots of dark wood trim and a huge bar. We were seated in the middle of the downstairs, which would have been fine, except there was a large family with a couple kids having some sort of party right behind us. (GG had heard that the upstairs seating was quieter, but he forgot to ask about it. We were really okay though.) Our waiter was super nice. Before your food, they bring you a little tuna amuse bouche (which I did eat). Also, they had a selection of breads with olive oil, and their cheese bread was seriously amazing. I had a pear and walnut salad, and GG started with a sampling of their grilled shrimp, calamari, and baby octopus. Then for our main courses, I had a beef tenderloin, which was amazing, and GG ordered the grilled whole bronzini. They filleted it and removed the head and tail, though you can also ask them to leave those parts on… Also, it came with a lemon wedge in a little cloth bag, which was a nice touch – no seeds when you squeeze it! Around this point GG mentioned to the waiter that we were there celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary, and moments later he returned with a beautiful plate of perfectly ripe fruits, topped with a birthday candle! That was so nice of him, and unexpected! We were totally stuffed, but still had to try something from their unique dessert menu. I ended up going with their vanilla creme brulee, and GG had the chocolate chunk creme brulee, which had chocolate swirled throughout. So good. Moments after I finished mine, though, I had the most horrible headache, and it didn’t go away until we were on our way home. It was like dessert was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I wonder if it was sugar-related or something.

After dinner, we walked around the neighborhood a bit. There were lots of weird crazy people around, again, just like Portland! We also found this pirate ship docked – we’d seen it briefly while we were at the Inner Harbor. Apparently, you can just go for rides, which would be cool if I were at all into riding on boats. Then we headed back to our car and were on the road back home. Baltimore is only about two hours away – we should go more often!

You can see all my pictures from the day on Flickr.

Busy Fun Times!

Yesterday we finally caved and set up our air conditioners for the summer. I hate them because they’re such a pain to set up and they really junk up the windows, but they really do make our house so much more comfortable. And I just keep telling myself, it’s really only for a couple of months. We can deal. I’m sure the cats appreciate it too, considering they’re wearing fur coats all the time (not to mention their layers of blubber)!

While I was changing the house around for summer yesterday, I also put the summer bedding on our guest bed – figured it was time to put away the flannel sheets, haha. (Which just shows how often that bed is used.) And we hung the curtains in that room, finally, which I had to remove when I was repairing the wall. So it’s all back together and it really makes me happy to go in there. My lamp situation is resolved, the piles of stuff sitting around will soon have a home in my brother’s new apartment or wherever he’s moving to, and eventually I should be getting a hook/bench thing for the laundry room/side entrance area (it was backordered, so not sure when it’s coming). So slowly the house is getting in order!

In other homeowner news, we’ve had a really slow/clogged kitchen sink drain for the past couple days. I noticed it was slow on Monday night after I cooked dinner, and on Tuesday morning it barely drained at all. I tried using the plunger and then some Drano and it hardly helped, so Tuesday night I began the 3-night regimen of Zep Drain Care. Last night was the second application, and actually this morning the drain did seem to be noticably improved! Hopefully after the final treatment tonight, things will be back to normal, because the next step is to snake the pipe and I’d really rather not do that…

Lots of fun stuff coming up! On Friday night I’m going to a party. Well, it’s not a “party” party, a friend of mine is selling Stella & Dot jewelry and another friend is hosting a sales party, but it should be fun and actually the jewelry is really cool, so I’ll probably get some stuff. On Saturday, GG and I are going to Baltimore for the day to visit a museum and have a fancy dinner on the Inner Harbor. (We have reservations at Kali’s Court based on the recommendation of one of my Twitter friends – does it look fancy enough for an anniversary dinner?)