Rainy Oregon Coast: January 2024


Browse archives for February 22, 2024
Latest Comment
Posted in

Cannon Beach

Tagged with

Spent two of the Rainiest days ever at one of my favorite places, Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast.

And being the Pacific Northwest, even though it was soggy so often, we’d have breaks of 10-20 min, allowing for some lovely views The dog was unimpressed by the bad weather, often looking back at me, seemingly asking me WHY we were out in this miserable windy rain. But then weather would lighten, and she’d once again revel in all the fun smells and trying to chase seabirds while on leash.

On our second day, exploring a relatively isolated beach area near Manzanita, two dogs and their owners are exploring off leash. These pups seem a perfect energy match for Tilly. They’re playing nicely and excitedly with her still on the leash. And so i relent, and allow the dog some freedom to go play her favorite game in the world: chase!! And for 5 minutes they’re having the best time ever ever ever. Then Tilly veers off and dives face first into the seagrass, and proudly emerges with a dead seagull carcass in her mouth! I yell “Oh God!” And “Drop it!” As Tilly starts playing keep away & using the dead thing as chase-enticement. She rushes up to me, and shakes the carcass so vigorously that feathers and bits of dead bird go flying EVERYWHERE… including into my mouth! Oh my god! I may NEVER stop internally screaming.Back onto the leash and back to the car, me sputtering and grossed out to the max! Happily I’d recently been to the dentist, so had the small free sample mouth wash in the car. So Much Gargling! (Glad to have this option, as i might’ve started considering the hand sanitizer). Ugh. Convincing myself it was just a tiny bit of feather, because that’s the least worse of the options. *Shudder*

I then proceeded to text many pals the story, beginning “So if i die, know this is why.” Reactions were appropriate. Lots of laughter and commiseration and some shared gagging. Ack!! (Worth noting that only a small percentage of those I texted did a Proof of Life check in the next day. To them, many thanks. To everyone else, I see how it is. *Side eye*)

Hope Tilly truly enjoyed the beach chase game to its full potential, because she will never be off leash again!!!! Never ever!! The next day on the beach, walking past different sea grass that must also have been hiding dead things/wonderful stinky smells, dog did her best to convince me to let her off leash again. But couldn’t conceal the CRAZY in her eyes. Ha.

And then proceeded to gloriously roll on her back in what was assuredly a Stinky Spot on the beach. The joys of Dog Life.

*Laughs* Despite this HORRIFIC experience, the rest of the trip was very nice. Cozy reading time by the fire place, lots of damp beach walks and some park hikes. As a lifelong Pacific Northwest kid, I knew to pack TWO rain jackets, because often one is still sodden when it’s time to go outside again. Three cheers for a Black Friday sale offering an awesome mid-week rate in January that allowed for such fun adventures. And for a glorious 25 minutes of actual sunshine our final morning!

Favorite Books Read in 2023


Favorite books read in 2023

Here’s what stood out to me of the 80+ books I read this year. 

“A Memory Called Empire” by Arkady Martine

This was so flippin’ good. You’re dropped almost immediately into a “who dunnit,” with a newly assigned ambassador to the Gigantic Teixcalaanli Empire. This is a rushed assignment, and Mahit has to hit the ground running, try to figure out how the previous ambassador died, while trying to do the complicate political dance to continue preventing the empire from colonizing her small space station. Add a dash of some unreliable information sources: the people of Liesl space station have implanted imago devices, which carry a long lineage of the personalities and lived experiences of generations of their predecessors. It’s a fascinating bit of world building, but Mahit’s imago is 15 years out of date, so the only memories she can access from the previous ambassador are soooo old. Plus everyone she encounters likely has secret motives and multiple plots (she is a “barbarian” ambassador sent to the Empire’s seat of power). All the swirling diplomacy and false smiles and misdirections and personal agendas. It’s just fantastic! Plus the World Building is sooooo cool. The Teixcalaanli are fascinating and watching the way that their media has spread and shaped them and their conquered planets. The pacing is soooo good. Discoveries and secrets and adventure and mysteries and ever-present lurking threat and immediate dangers. It’s just such a well written and plotted political quagmire. And while Mahit’s concern for the death of her predecessor and for preventing the colonization of her people is obviously SUPER important to her, that’s all just a minor blip amidst all the power struggles within the seats of power in the Empire (having a murky line of succession will do that). And there are hints of a looming outside threat to the entire Empire, too! Truly wonderful. And the author deftly keeps it all grounded inthe very real personal and very understandable emotions. Our characters are interesting and well-rounded and complicated and flawed and very human. Space Opera is best when this genre allows us to see so much of ourselves and learn so much of ourselves. From the Vox review: “When you live in a place filled with power and wealth, it can be difficult to see how power and wealth breed destruction radiating out from the center. The empire can’t help but knock over smaller, independent nations, because even when it doesn’t try to, its pop culture and brand of politics infect everything around it. Smaller nations can stay alive through crafty diplomacy or military might or some combination of the two, but they still have to coexist in a world built by people who don’t realize how much chaos they’ve caused. The chaos becomes oxygen. It’s all around, so it must be normal.” BIG ideas swirl amidst the page-turning fun. I also really loved the sequel “A Desolation Called Peace”

“I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson

One of my favorites for the year. The narrative voices of the twins were SO PHENOMENAL. Fully unique and compelling and alive and imaginative and artistic and the way each of them orients to and within the world is amazing. Noah’s chapters are taking place at age 13, and Jude’s chapters are taking place three years later. Alternating between the timeline and their individual viewpoints was so effective. I felt instantly transported into their brains and worlds. Noah, as a visual artist, sees and describes things in such fantastical imagery. I honestly had to stop and check, two pages in, that this wasn’t actually a fantasy novel (as he was talking about being chased by giants and other metaphorical images. Wait, are these REAL giants?!? Nope, high school bullies. But so evocative). There’s real heartache and grief and the magic of first friendships and first loves and the complications of growing up and navigating early dating and hurts. It’s all wonderfully real and capital T true, and told in such compelling and immersive ways. Grown up issues and kid issues and it was just truly gorgeous and transportive and cathartic.

“Harlem Shuffle” by Colson Whitehead

I am consistently impressed at Whitehead’s wide RANGE of genre and tone and character building. Every novel I’ve read of his has been fantastic, but they are often so starkly different. This is a fantastically fun (and funny) heist, crime, low-key gangster period piece, set in the late 50’s/early 60’s of Harlem. It’s instantly engaging. The writing is phenomenal. The characters are so fully formed, you can feel them breathing from the page. The plot keeps the pages turning. We’re following Carney: striving furniture salesman and family man by day, with some less savory connections and dealings in the shadows. The lines between right and wrong are sometimes not so clear, and other times VERY clear but you can still often understand why a character chooses to cross them. Especially as the very real systemic problems and rigged systems of doing things “the right way” continue to be exposed and made plain. It’s also just dang entertaining. I saw Whitehead speak in Seattle for the release of the 2nd book “Crook Manifesto” and that helped spur me onto finally reading this novel, that’s been sitting on my shelf for a few years. Also my aunt Ellen was raving about it too, so I knew it was time. And so glad I did. Proved a fantastic companion for a trip to a cabin at the beach. I’ll leave with some words from the reviewer in The Guardian “And finally, you’ll discover a tenderness beneath the swagger. Whitehead draws his roster of secondary characters, especially the ones that could easily become stock figures such as crime bosses and petty thieves, with as much care as the primary ones. His portraits are never mean-spirited; instead, Whitehead renders the humanity of hustlers. He gets their sweetness down. Some of them have clean aspirations of farm life or higher education. He makes us love them the way their mamas must. Take, for example, Pepper, an enforcer who would be played perfectly by Samuel L Jackson. He asks our humble furniture salesman, Carney: “What made you want to sell couches?” Carney replies: “I’m an entrepreneur.” “‘Entrepreneur?’ Pepper said the last part like manure. ‘That’s just a hustler who pays taxes.’””

“Babel: Or, The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution” by RF Kuang.

Such a compelling and immersive and propulsive experience. This alternate history of 1830’s Oxford contains a really fascinating magic system. This world and history is very very much like our own, but there is Magic. But this isn’t faeries and vampires and wizards. The “magic” is created by scholars through the power of translation and definitions. When inscribed on silver bars, translated word pairings can create magical effects. Really wonderful discussions about language and power and the inherently tricky work of translating ideas and what is “left behind” shifting from one word/culture to another. And in Kuang’s Oxford, that “left behind” bit creates power. Magic that can be used for amazing healing and help in the world. But is most often weaponized by those already in power, or used for frivolity by the 1% (making garden fountains on grand estates burble more pleasingly or roses bloom year round). The journey our main character (and friends) go on feels so very true and believable. As this cohort of immigrants and women (people who would NOT have been allowed in Oxford in 1830, but are grudgingly accepted as necessary for the work of the magical translators) find each other and friendship and hardship and then, at different speeds, begin to start questioning the systems around them. And that sure sounds like it would make for a grim read, or at least, something that feels Heavy and like Work. Yet Kuang has crafted a novel where the pages just fly by. Plus, footnotes in fiction!! I’m always such a sucker for those. It’s wry and oftentimes hilarious. It’s also full of real world pain and trauma. And found family. Struggle and success. In essence, it’s life. Exploring the role and consequences of Empire and Colonialism. Of systemic hierarchies. Of class struggle and instransigent governmental structures. BIG ideas. Multiple and differing choices we all face when we are faced with/learn about injustice. And the multiple and differing and messy ways we all respond. Pretty much everyone in book club devoured this novel. Been thinking about it for months now. Truly, one of the best things I read all year. Really appreciated the nuanced and flawed characters throughout. They all felt REAL and believable, even when some were taking actions that hurt your heart or angered or frustrated you. And fascinating watching Robin’s internal and external journey.  

“The Oleander Sword” by Tasha Suri

So friggin’ good. I’d delayed reading this sequel, because I was on an (ultimately fruitless) search for an intensely detailed recap of the first book. While I’d remembered over-arching plots and characters, the story was so lush and rich and full of intensely gorgeous and detailed world building (each kingdom with its own rules and religion and cultures), I’d wanted a refresher. I did find several reviews that went over the first half of the book in details, but then stopped for fear of spoilers. So I ended up skimming some of the previous book and just plain re-read the final 80 pages or so, which was a delight. These words flow so pleasingly across the palette. And this sequel drops you right into the action. (So maybe wait until third book is published, so you can just read all three at once?). Some new POV characters, and old favorites. The stakes continue to be Intense with a capital I. Loyalties are stretched, hearts are conflicted, further discussions of empire and power and the murkiness of both. The ways in which power (who can have it, the cost of striving for it, collateral damage along the way) affects everything, even those just trying to live their lives on the sidelines. Truly fascinating new things are revealed. The cultures and religions described are so rich and vibrant and fully realized and wonderful to explore. Malina and Priya continue to be compelling characters. But truly, all the characters are fascinating and detailed. It’s just a phenomenal piece of writing, and Suri continues to show us that a “happily ever after” isn’t a part of the real world, and that conquest and power (regardless of motives) is damaging and hard and complicated, whether it’s being sought/wielded for moral reasons or not. Intense stuff. 

“Remarkably Brighty Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt

Oh, this was lovely! Can’t remember who mentioned it so that I added it to my library holds list, but soooo glad I did. I had NO IDEA half of this is narrated by the Octopus at an aquarium, counting down the days of his captivity. The unlikely observations and interactions between the octopus and the elderly cleaning lady at the Aquarium. I’m smiling just remembering this story. Characters felt Very real, and sometimes frustratingly so (I’ve known too many Camerons in my life, and his understandable but frustrating inertia in life). This story is just plain charming. Some real emotions and true human moments. Plus, did I mention that part of it is narrated by a Giant Pacific Octopus?!? Wonderful. 

“Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Novel” by Tyler Feder

Beautiful and sweet and sad and appreciated. A dear friend gifted me this awhile ago, after my mom passed, with a heartfelt note that I may not be ready to read this, and I may never be interested, and that was okay, but here it is. Took me 18 months to be ready, but it was a very touching little memoir. Specifically focusing on her experiences of losing a parent when you’re younger (she was a freshmen in college, and her sisters in high school). About the lack of resources where she saw herself reflected, so finally deciding to write her own. And it’s also a lovely and poignant examination of the process of losing someone, and finding a way forward. The family dynamics. The interactions with the larger world. It was very touching. 

“The Swimmers” by Julie Otsuka

What a strange and lovely little book. It starts with a We narration representing all the different types of people who go swimming at the community pool. Long evocative lists and varied adjectives are piled upon each other, in rhythmic paragraphs mimicking the rhythm of swimming laps. There’s a meditative quality to it, but it’s also full of hyper-specific details. Our bookclub was split on how we each consumed these words, some focusing and absorbing each detail, and others letting the details wash over them. Both methods were found to be effective. The middle section introduces change. A crack appears in the pool. There is an ongoing almost Kafka-esque quality to this crack and the various vague but excessively named bureaucratic agencies that inspect and respond to the crack. We explore the different human reactions to this change. Eventually it is announced that the pool will be closing temporarily and then indefinitely. The frustrations and grief and anger and emotions such a loss causes. Reading this after having lived through the first years of Covid gave the metaphor extra power. What happens when something beyond our control shows up and throws our daily routine into a tizzy. There’s curiosity and worry and superstition, and things continue to change and we’re powerless to stop it. We’re shown such a variety of human reactions to such happenings.

And then we get to the final third of the book. I was NOT expecting this and was not prepared. One of our many colorful character gang of swimmers is Alice, a woman with dementia. But when she slips into the water, she remembers exactly what to do. In the final section of the book, we are following her story now that the pool has closed. Once again we have a “We” narration, this time it is the voice of the senior living Memory Care institution. Always smiling, always using euphemistic language. Always pitching things in a positive light, but very upfront about the costs involved and how being able to spend more money will garner a much better experience for your loved one. We also get some You narration, describing the behavior and emotions of the woman’s adult daughter. They’ve a strained relationship, and it’s emotional and tough and beautiful and real. Watching the daughter get glimpses into her parents’ relationship and learning to see more love and care there than she’d noticed before. There’s long rhythmic hyper-detailed paragraphs again, listing all the things Alice has forgotten and the things she remembers. She remembers details of being forced into an internment camp as a child. She remembers her daughter had a cat named Gasoline. She has forgotten the name of her husband. Again, some let this information wash over them, and others of us absorbed each descriptive word. Both approaches yielded satisfying results. Having not read the back of the book before reading this, and because Alice was just one of many swimmers for the 1st two thirds of this novel, I didn’t expect this change in focus/subject matter. And this is how I became the woman quietly crying, while reading this book poolside on vacation!! Having had my own experience’s with my mom’s dementia, this hit me! I found it powerful and beautiful. (Also I sat in further gratitude, that my relationship wasn’t difficult. And that my mom passed before her dementia got so bad that she was forgetting people). “Don’t mind the crying lady on vacation.” Ha. Turns out these servers are probably used to people crying for a whole host of reasons. They all just went about their business and didn’t inquire or interact. Also, the parts written about the Memory Care facility were full of wry cutting humor, but sometimes a laugh-to-keep-from-crying type of funny. It was all terribly true (in the same way the observations and reactions from the different bureaucracies were terribly true). And having worked in a pool in college, the descriptions of swimmers felt very accurate, too. Every subculture has it’s own vibes, and we’ve got several former lifeguards and swim coaches in book club, and they all felt the realness of these descriptions.

So it’s a book about all the different types of swimmers, about mundane habits and tasks and finding meditation and meaning in those things. And how we change, often against our will, when those things are taken away or changed. And then we follow Alice as the loss of this routine and her dementia grows and we follow her husband and daughter as this happens. And then my pal Sarah pointed out that there could be a larger metaphor here. The pool and the swimmers in all their variety and emotions and different experiences, this could represent your mind and your memories and experiences. And then the cracks begin, as dementia begins. And different parts of your brain react differently. And you try to paper over the cracks, and tell yourself they aren’t a big deal, and become superstitious, and all the myriad ways we respond. As some swimmers (memories?) leave the pool earlier than others. Until finally the pool is shut down. Woah. This book is tiny but powerful, with lots of layers, and carefully chosen words, and so many descriptions and ideas and words for you to swim through. Lovely and humorous and sad and upsetting and real and affecting and sweet. 

“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin

Enough people finally told me to read this, so I did. It’s instantly engaging. The characters are so real and complex and flawed and human. The story is interesting, and while they’re older than me, I still had lots of nice nostalgia moments. Wishing characters were better at communicating with each other, as you watch lots of misunderstandings and hurt feelings and the consequences of making assumptions and then actively re-framing years of friendship and interactions. Narrative plays with time, bouncing between past present and future in a wonderful way, that explores layers and keeps the pages turning. Also really interesting reading about the different games that they develop. Sam talking about how you can’t reason/logic someone out of their perceptions of you really hit home. Understandable (and sometimes not) fumblings and missteps as they’re growing and learning to be adults. It just felt very real and immersive and interesting. Issues of alienation and isolation and finding your people and how to fit in or not within established systems. Learning and experiencing all the parts about being human. It’s stories within stories, like the video games they design.

“Stay True” by Hua Hsu

What a beautifully written memoir. So many times i was struck by a turn of phrase or description. In this memoir of his early college days. Strong sense of place and sense of time/era. As well as what that growing up post high school and into college experience is like. How friendships and formed and lost. Early fumblings at relationships and finding out who you are and how to be an adult. Evocative and brought up several of my own memories. And it’s also a beautiful and real examination of death and grief. Don’t remember who told me about this so that I added it to my library queue. Not generally drawn to memoir (unless it’s a travel memoir), even from people I know. But this was a nice and shorter read. And he is a very very wonderful writer. Many many quotes that i highlighted.

“Murder on Sex Island” by Jo Firestone

This was a god-damned delight. Jo Firestone is so friggin funny and I cannot recommend the audiobook highly enough. Wonderful getting to hear her unique voice (often full of humorous emotion) narrating this ridiculous story of Staten Island divorced social worker turned alter ego Private Investigator. Hired to to undercover on a “Love Island” style reality show to solve a murder. Ha. Observations are ridiculous and hilarious and it’s also a fun who-dunnit. I’ve only ever watched one episode of Love Island (on an Oregon Coastal get away with a dear pal who was obsessed, so we had to watch the two hour finale. It was a fascinating experience, and gave me some tiny insight into just how REAL the things being done on this fictional “Sex Island” reality show are. But still, this will be hilarious good time for anyone who hasn’t watched this type of reality show, too. 

“The Moor’s Account” by Laila Lalami

Compelling and lovely and fascinating historical fiction. Envelopes you in this world of 1500’s Americas, following a group of spanish conquistadors who get lost for many years. The true facts around this novelization were WILD!!! And the imagined way Lalami intuits and fills in the gaps all seem eminently plausible. The pages turn beautifully. The descriptions and interactions and variety of human experiences are quite telling and fascinating. Whether celebrating in Cortez’ looted riches or fighting the mosquitoes in a swampy quagmire, the reader is transported. And man’s pride and folly and care and harm for each other. This historical novel has ALL the twists and turns. Soooo good. 

“Project 562: Changing the Way We See Native America” by Matika WIlbur

Truly stunning. These photos are gorgeous. The profiles are touching and powerful and funny and real. There’s so much joy and reality and pride and truth here. Amazing hearing the author speak of her 10 year project and the true collaborative nature of this project… moving away from a Western Journalism perspective where these photos and stories would Belong to her alone because she took them down. Instead, she thought of this project as communal and in partnership with her subjects. Which required lots of effort and back and forth communications. And has resulted in something powerful and beautiful and real. This book is such a gift.

“The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune

I was completely charmed and taken in by this book. Hadn’t read the back or anything about it. But I’ve had multiple people, from very disparate parts of my life, recommend it over the last year. Grateful my pal Peter gave me his copy when I was over for dinner one evening, “Just, take it. You have to read it.” Hadn’t expected I was going to get this wonderful cast of wayward magical kids. You’re transported on this journey, and you fall in love with all these characters. A few in bookclub had quibbles about the plot (and one person did not care for Linus and had major issues with the book, but still loved the orphanage characters). But pretty much all of us enjoyed the journey. If you’re looking for a sweet escape, full of hijinx and memorable characters and things working out in the end (even when maybe realistically they shouldn’t have been sorted as cleanly), this book is a great comfort. Found family and finding confidence in ones self and being fiercely protective of those you love. It’s a simple story, well told. Just lovely. And then there’s magical beings, too. 

“Atlas Alone” by Emma Newman

Hoo boy. I’ve loved each one of the books set in this imagined future, and have really appreciated that each is so friggin’ different from the previous books. Newman is one hell of an author. (honestly, the first book of the 4 is probably my least favorite, and I still quite liked it). This one is wrapping up some of the plot points left hanging from the second book, and continuing with a few of those characters, but with a new narrator with a fresh new viewpoint. Nefarious plots are investigated. Lots of continued big ideas, and small scale traumas and hardships. Glimpses into the truly gross and inhuman corporate excesses and fanaticism of the elites on this ship. Big ideas and grand scope, yet it’s such a smaller scale intimate and very human story. Masking and hiding, being so isolated and unable to trust even ones closest friends. It was a very good read, and I’m left itching for MORE MORE MORE. But Newman is taking a break, a long one. I hope she decides to return to this world. But the journey and different glimpses into different peoples and timelines have each been wonderful and dynamic and keep my guessing and turning pages. Such fascinating character studies and mysteries and adventure stories with Big Ideas swirling all around. Great stuff. 

“Hild” by Nicola Griffith

This was one of my absolute favorite books read in 2013 when it came out. And I was thrilled to learn Griffith had written a sequel ten years later. But I also knew I’d want/need to be re-reading this first. This is such a gloriously descriptive and dense novel, that never feels heavy or unweildy. You luxuriate in the prose and the descriptions. Since Hild’s “superpower” is from being hyper observant, it works so so well. The way important details are revealed through an observation of a wild thrush or an embroidery pattern. Which sounds like maybe it would be boring, but it is so beautifully immersive and engaging. But also, it is a BIG novel. And I was hesitant to give 500+ pages back to this world in preparation for giving 500 more pages in the sequel. So I was thrilled to find the library had an audiobook version. 22 hours(!!) but I decided to give it a shot. And basically tore through the whole thing in three days. It was wonderful being back in this world, and to have a narrator be there to be so confident in the old english pronunciations and vocabulary and names. This historical novel is such a joy and so well trodden and lived in and human. Here’s how I recapped it at the end of 2014: “Oh, how I do love historical epics. Gorgeous full story inspired by the seventh-century woman in ancient england who would come to be revered as Saint Hilda, who worked as the Seer to one of the kings. One reviewer said it was as “immersive as a river in rain. Her prose is so startlingly beautiful that reading description never feels like work — which is no mean feat, considering that many of her descriptions are about the running of medieval households.” It’s lovely and complex and well researched with taut/complex political maneuvers and clever and wonderful.” And then here was my initial review for myself when I first read it ten years ago: “Loved loved loved this. Sweeping historical epic, but the characters and events felt so small and personal…lovely minute details added such a richness and fully fleshed world, without ever feeling boring or slow. (I can’t quite think of buttermilk the same). Man, I swear you could almost taste the tastes, smell the smells, etc. The character of Hild is so fascinating and such a keen observer of her world. The plot DID NOT go where I expected, but it was fantastic.

The Old Irish and Old English names are a real trial. Very hard for my brain to deal with, and having so many characters with names so similar (while I’m sure it was accurate, it was VERY confusing). Griffith makes NO effort to hold her reader’s hand. if you aren’t paying attention and can’t remember, too bad. There is a family tree at the beginning, but one would really REALLY benefit from a full list of characters, because so many folks are mentioned who play key political roles, but we never even meet them. And they’re not part of Hild’s family. Also, the glossary and pronunciation guide are at the BACK of the book. I only discovered this halfway through. Would’ve been more helpful initially.”

—-Honorable Mentions—

“Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage” by Stephanie Coontz

This impeccably researched history of marriage throughout the ages is one of the books I’ve definitely thought about the most this year. Fascinating look at the institution of marriage and how it has changed over millenia and across cultures. While the first third, and some of the conclusion, deals with lots of interesting different cultural versions and ideas over the years, the majority of the book is mostly tracing marriage across western europe and north america. Lots of new information, and other things I already knew. Great resources and very well researched. Led to a super engaged and dynamic book club conversation. 

“Shutter” by Ramona Emerson

Ohhhh. This was fascinating, following a Navajo crime scene photographer (who also happens to see spirits. Which, as you can imagine, is an inconvenience if not a problem when combined with her job). Chapters alternate between current day and hee childhood and past. Keeps the pages turning, layering in important character insights, and just really nice little moments. Each chapter subheading lists the specific camera(s) used in that chapter, which was fun and gave great sense of place/purpose to this story. Real moments of loving connections with her grandmother and others in her community. And just very real interactions with coworkers and neighbors and the spirits. All of it was interesting, fast paced, and well done.

The pal who recommended this wasn’t sure if it would be too scary for me. So i was a bit worried. But didnt need to be. Its got some good atmosphere, and several ghosts hanging around their crime scene bodies (so descriptions of violent crimes and mutilations). But even though there is some supernatural menace, it wasn’t too scary. 

“Any Way the Wind Blows” by Rainbow Rowell

I found this a very satisfying wrap up to these characters adventures and finding themselves as they’re growing up and testing out adulthood. Some big truths and some bigger emotions (this is a Rowell book after all). Complicated family relationships remain complicated but people eventually start using their words and finding ways forward. The concept of lots of new “Chosen Ones” popping up in the magical world was interesting and unexpected new subculture to explore. And Baz and Simon start actually using their words, even though it’s a struggle. It was realistic but also reassuring. Loved Penelope’s journey here. And several of our side characters get interesting journeys of self discovery. I enjoyed the “peek behind the curtain” discoveries in lots of different ways. Finding out that things and systems and peoples are as binary nor as sorted as you’d thought when a child. It all felt very real and true, set in a world that also have magic and magical creatures in it. Some of the best things one wants in their YA.

“Passage West” by Rishi Reddi

What a complicated and emotional and very human story. You can tell how much research went into this tale of two Indian immigrants to the US Pacific Coast in the early 1900’s. From logging camps in Washington to sharecropping in California, we spend years following these two men, through friendships and hardships and fights and celebrations. The complex relationships, the cultural and political currents around them, familial obligations and oppressive laws. It’s mostly illegal for immigrants to own land, and the sharecropping system has so many pitfalls and opportunities for abuse. It’s also almost impossible for immigrants to bring their wives/family into the US. But also, the racist miscegenation laws make it illegal for many racial groups to marry anyone already in the US. So these men are often forced into long years of isolation and loneliness. There was so much history here, while following these very human stories. I’ve found myself often thinking about this novel throughout the year. 

“The Last True Poets of the Sea” by Julia Drake

This was a lovely journey. Our narrator is so raw and confused and quick to assume everything is her fault. In other words, she’s a teenager. After her brother’s suicide attempt, she’s shipped off to spend the summer with her uncle in the town of Lyric (founded by her great great great grandmother, the sole survivor of a shipwreck all those years ago). There’s mystery, and working at the aquarium, and a nice gang of quirky kids, and learning to find out who you are, and learning to communicate, and lots of explorations of mental health and emotions and family drama and trauma. As well as complicated teenage romantic relationships. And lovely writing. And funny word play. And clever pals. And lots of shipwreck discussion (historical and metaphorical). I loved being immersed in this narrative voice. It was a beautiful and easy to read journey. “A warm, wise, strange meditation on developing the strength to be vulnerable.” -Kirkus

“A Court of SIlver Flames” by Sarah J Maas

While the first book felt a bit formulaic and just average, appreciative of the pals who told me to stick with it, as this series took some interesting twists and turns, delving into the darker and traumatic effects of these high fantasy epic battles and the problematic nature of the relationship in the first book. All the content warnings. And so it was a fun way to pass the time, and this final book was good, too. Enjoyed getting to read Nessa’s story. It’s always interesting to read through the eyes of an unlikeable character. We get to see inside her head and learn a lot more of the layers and complex emotions and traumas she’s dealing with. Interesting reading about our Scooby Gang with an outsider’s eye. From someone who is constantly invited in, but stubbornly chooses for her own complicated reasons to remain on the outside. The journey towards healing. Enjoyed learning more about the library and the sanctuary it provides to those who find it. I enjoyed spending more time in this world and furthering the journey. I appreciate that things aren’t easy or pat, even though these are still novels where Good ultimately wins. But it’s all messier and more complicated (but in a way my heart can still handle write now. Not TOO grim or dark. But there are definitely stakes and consequences. And alliances are fraught and murky. The politick-ing is complex and well wrought). Appreciated getting more nuance and insight into Cassian, too. 

“Act of Oblivion” by Robert Harris

Excellent historical fiction about events after Charles II is made king, and the Regicides (those who signed the king’s death warrant along with Cromwell) are hunted down. While I knew a few of the large historical bullet points, there was LOTS that I learned. Honestly hadn’t ever heard of “The Act of Oblivion” itself, and found this idea of official “plugging your ears and saying La La La” law fascinating. What a way to ignore the years of civil war, king’s execution, and Cromwell’s rule. It’s full of fantastic historical details. Harris writes well and paints very evocative scenes. Often painted so well they help reinforce that I have ZERO interest in living in the 17th century. Yikes. You can basically Smell some of these descriptions. Ugh. Two of the “at large” regicides have moved to New England. The invented character of Nayler provides a great focus for this manhunt. We meet tons of historical characters and important and interesting events. There were so many factoids that I kept needing to tell friends about. Some of the descriptions and interactions with the Native Americans felt cringey and uncomfortable. While it seemed an intentional choice to be seeing these people through the eyes of our Englishmen in hiding, there was definitely some weird “noble savage” stuff happening that didn’t feel great. But the descriptions and settings and differences between the different religions of England and New England were explored in ways that felt organic and informative. The main characters are given interesting depth and rich internal lives. This is a story on the edges of the Royal Court and machinations, with some interesting insights. But it truly shines when exploring the lives of more average peoples during these days. Through the Plague and great fire. Through horrible torture and executions. Through lives in hiding and risk. Totally interesting read. Shout out to the giant billboards all over London’s tube stations in Sept 2022 that got me to add this to my library hold list. 

From Central Park to Brooklyn: Final NYC Explorations. June/July weekend 2023.


Browse archives for August 9, 2023
Latest Comment
Posted in

New York City

Tagged with

And now, per tradition, my final trip update is being typed up a month after I’ve returned home. And I’m now humming Fiddler on the Roof to myself, which happens almost every time I say the word Tradition! And it’s even a little related this time, as we had dinner at the delightful (and delightfully named) Lazer Wolf Restaurant. But let’s go in order, shall we?

Sunday morning sees us getting up early and getting dressed up, as we’re off to mass. It’s important to Laurena to go to weekly mass. She was very sweet and emphatic that this was not being required of me; just something she needed to do either Sat night or Sun morning. But I was kind of looking forward to it, too. First time just doing a regular Sunday mass (not a holiday, wedding, or funeral) in a few years. I did a bit of internet board sleuthing earlier, trying to find who gave a really great homily or had a fantastic choir or beautiful church. But majority of people just said to go to St Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s gorgeous, used to lots of drop-ins for every service, and it’s big! So we took the bus and went to the Cathedral. It was lovely. And the giant floral sways surrounding the carved doors were gorgeous (I’d seen them in autumnal colors last October. Fun to see the lovely spring pinks this time).

The 9am service was very nice. The main pews each had memorial plaques on them (donate x dollars to the church, and you get your name on a plaque). And while this is the seat of the Archbishop in NYC, it’s also named after an Irish saint. And over 90% of the names on the pews were VERY Irish, which entertained me. I was a bit surprised when the Junior Priest (those 12 years of Catholic schooling are failing me here, as I’m pretty sure that’s not his official title) started singing the responsorials in LATIN!! Now, growing up Catholic in Seattle, we’d often heard “the farther from Rome…” to mean that the west coast of the US had a much more lax attitude than east coast masses. But still using Latin in 2023?!? At a church service also attended by lots of tourists and non Catholics? Color me very surprised. So I appreciated when the Head Priest (Again, totally 100% accurate title) gave the homily and mentioned his surprise at the Latin as well. He gave a brief explanation of the Catholic calendar and how each mass has a set theme and responses etc. And he was pleasantly surprised to hear that today’s involved a Latin response. I was just glad to learn that’s not the standard. But it was fun to listen to. This big ole Gothic style building was full of gorgeous windows and arches and flourishes.

Now it’s 10am on a Sunday, we’re Hungry, and Rena wants a bagel. Which means we are standing in a long and kind of chaotic line, as the options for mid-town bagel shop with a decent rating is just this one place. It was tasty and we were fine waiting, but boy do I have some operational notes for the ownership. (Which I did not volunteer. My experiences in other places has always seemed chaotic at first glance, but then it actually works great. This time, that first glance impression of chaos was maintained throughout. Only having one cashier, and having that “waiting to pay” line weaving backwards and throughout the “waiting for your ordered bagel to be prepared and handed to you” line, led to lots of confusion). Still, yummy stuff.

We wandered up to the Plaza to check out the sites and think fondly of Eloise. We’d briefly considered doing the VERY EXPENSIVE afternoon tea service. But on 4th of July weekend, it’s an even more expensive and non-traditional selection of foods (fancy BBQ sliders, etc) that just didn’t have the vibes we were seeking. Super pretty, though.

Then it was a lovely but hot and MUGGY wander through Central Park. AT least the air quality was only moderately bad today. And we found a booth selling slushies. Woohoo.

Partway through the park and Laurena says she’d maybe like to see The Met Museum. We’re wilting in the heat. Sure thing, although afternoon on a Sunday might be busy. That turned out to be the understatement of the year for this most famous of museums! The line went ALL THE WAY down the multi-block long museum entrance and around the corner. She decided she didn’t want to see it that badly. Ha. We walked a few more blocks and checked out the Guggenheim instead. Fun to finally make it inside the building to explore their rounded ramp gallery spaces. I quite enjoyed the exuberant Sarah Sze installations and collages.

But most of the ramp space was dedicated to an artist called Gego. And these simple looking wire grids and squares and sculptures were just Not For Me. And that’s okay. I’m sure there is history or knowledge or context that made this art important or popular or whatever. But to me it felt bland and uninspiring. Like Laurena in the Noguchi Museum, I was the one sort of non-plussed by the offerings. Ah well. The building space was still neat. Some of the permanent exhibit was fun. And we really appreciated the climate control and seltzer water in the café. Priorities!

We came across and Episcopal Church performing “Jazz Vespers” and that was fun for about 5 minutes, then we snuck back out again.

The decision is made to spend a little time reading and relaxing back in our climate controlled hotel room before dinner. Genius! And our timing was perfect, as it started POURING down rain 5 minutes after we got into our room.

Later, it’s off to Brooklyn for our 8pm dinner reservations at Laserwolf! So delicious. Still dreaming about the harissa chicken wings. And this giant platter of different rotating things to try.

The lamb skewers were good, and the tuna was a surprise star. Fresh baked pita. Lovely view (even if the rains meant there wasn’t much of a sunset). Totally cute spot. Then it was a lovely late night wander through Williamsburg and back to our hotel.

Final morning, and we’re off to The Strand bookstore for a shopping spree! A pal had given me a gift certificate as a Thank You gift (as she knew about my impending trip). What a fun excuse to spend an hour in a bookstore! Looking online for a quick lunch option nearby, and forgot that I’ve been warned over the years that the Southeast Asian food scene in NYC isn’t great. So when we saw a well reviewed thai spot, that seemed perfect. And it was just mediocre. Perfectly serviceable and food was made fresh and fast. But very underwhelming. The space was super cute, though, with gorgeous painted murals on the brick walls.

(I think I’d been lulled into a false sense of “Their SE Asian food is good” because of my beloved past experiences at Khe-yo (for trendy Laotian) and at the wonderful Malaysian street food place Kopitiam). But that’s okay.

Then a brisk-ish 1.5 mile walk back to the hotel to grab our luggage and head to the airport. Continued the tradition of crying at movies on airplanes, by watching “Women Talking.” And then I spent a good hour staring metaphorical daggers towards the woman violently open-mouth uncovered coughing two rows ahead. For over an hour. Sheesh. You don’t have access to a mask to put on when you’re actively coughing? Rude. I don’t expect gen pop to mask up anymore (dramatic sigh) but didn’t we learn to be more conscientious when we’re actively sick?!?!? Even if it’s not covid, I still don’t want your cold! Nor do I want to bring your germs back to my housemate who is a caregiver for family in cancer treatment. Rude!

During the flight, Laurena brings up a map of New York City, and we discuss the geography and places we visited, etc. I’m amused that she’s doing this a post mortem, rather than before or even during the trip. Turns out, we are different people with different ways of doing things. After looking at the map for a bit, she says, “NOW I finally understand Billy Joel’s ‘Uptown Girl’ song” and I about die laughing. God I love my friend! Landing in Seatac, we are greeted by an aggressive amount of T-Mobile Pink. They’ve got all the “Welcome to the All Star Game” signage and wraps up, decorating the luggage carousels. So that was kind of fun surprise. And it’s good to be home, with air blessedly free of smoke, and getting to see my dog again.

About a Lizard Boy. NYC weekend part 2: June/July 2023.


Browse archives for July 3, 2023
Latest Comment
Posted in

New York City

Tagged with

Fri morning, off to a food and history tour with Manhattan Walking Tours. https://manhattanwalkingtour.com/ Beginning with a tour of the Highline, and then food tour of Greenwich Village. Our guide Claire was a total delight. Hilarious and full of wonderful anecdotes, and lots of bouncing energy. “Did you know there’s a supply chain issue with Adderall right now? There is!” *Points at self* Ha!

Air quality is not great all day, bouncing between “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to just plain “unhealthy for everyone.” But it’s so hot and muggy, it’s extra brutal to be wearing our N95’s outside. The hazy smoke from the Canadian wildfires definitely is blocking the views that are allegedly normally available. “if you look down that street, you can see…well, you could normally see…” :/

Walking through the meatpacking district and we’re shown a building where Beyonce used to live. Woman asks, “is that where Solange beat up Jay-Z in elevator?” Yes. Then we all gossiped about the Lemonade album forever. Ha.

We stopped at a lovely French bakery (Aux Merveilleux du Fred. Which just entertains me, because I find it hard to say “Fred” with a French accent). But Fred really knows his stuff. The Merveilleux are these chilled little puffs of deliciousness. Maybe cream and merengue? I’m not sure of ingredients, but definitely order the coffee flavor one. Soooo good.

At Myers of Keswick, we had a tasty English pasty! And our choice of strange English soda. (“Nobody tell me what Burdock is. I love it and don’t want to know any more.”) I got a black currant drink, which I always enjoy.

Plus this tiny English grocer and deli has a deli cat named Gracie, and has customized bunting (of the cat’s face wearing a birthday hat) decorating the window. “This is more decorations then they put up for the coronation.” Ha.

Bleeker Street Pizza. This elderly man (Greg) is original owner’s brother. He comes out to talk about their family recipe, etc. Then, in a move that is totally On Brand for New York, he demands we each hand over our phones, and starts to take pictures of us holding our slices. Starts to chastise the couple next to us ‘Hold up your pizza higher!” “Be sure to mention my name in your review!”

Next door is the delicious Taco Mahal, where we have delicious Indian Tacos (as in India, not Native American), so it’s fresh roti, filled with delicious Indian food!! Soooo many flavors and sooo good. More wonderful stories all along our route, from Stonewall to John Wilkes Booth to Taylor Swift to Bob Dylan, and everything in between. Learned lots of fun new historical tidbits. Claire keeps checking in that it’s okay she’s running behind schedule. “Y’all are so fun and I’m enjoying telling you All the Things!” Happily, none of us had firm afternoon plans, so we got to keep laughing and learning.

Final stop at Rocco’s is for cannoli. Apparently one of the few spots that still makes their shells in house. I’ve always been underwhelmed by cannoli in general, and this was no exception, so can’t fairly judge. Ha. Claire encounters the other tour guide from her company working that morning (small company, only 7 or 8 employees total) and ropes him into telling us “the proposal story.” He shares about what happened once on one of Claire’s tours. Nearing the end of the tour, a woman announces that they’ve eaten So Much Food that she just cancelled her and her boyfriend’s dinner reservations, because they’ll be way too full. Then she goes to restroom. The bf turns pale. He was planning to propose at that restaurant!!! They’d made reservations 3 months in advance. He calls restaurant in a panic, but their table has been given away. They can be put on wait-list but no guarantee. He’s freaking out, but says he has the ring with him, and could Claire find them a special spot in Central Park where he could propose on tour? So she scrambles and changes their intended Park tour path, finds a lovely place. He proposes, she says yes, everyone cheers. Thus ends the proposal story this tour guide tells us. Then Claire says to us, “Here’s the thing. NONE of that happened.” *We gasp* “What happened was a couple was on their honeymoon. Big Food Network watchers. Made reservations at some restaurant 2 months ago and ended up canceling because they were too full. The end.” Ha. The male guide is laughing. He doesn’t know how, but his brain mixed up this story, turned it into something way more dramatic, and he genuinely thought the proposal thing was true. And he told that story to his groups for three years until one day Claire overheard. Ha! Memory is a fickle beast.

It’s a small group tour (8 people max). Mostly adults but two girls (age 10 and 13). The 13 yr old was mostly unimpressed by everything (which is on brand) until we passed a building and learned a Taylor Swift connection. Then she got excited and made her dad take lots of photos of her, while she posed all cute and was excited. Glad she got that moment!

Back to hotel to get ready for seeing “Lizard Boy” the musical written and starring Seattle’s own Justin Huertas. We start to take a selfie as Laurena tells me air quality is now deeply unhealthy for everyone. And the selfie managed to catch my “unimpressed by that news” face!!

We meet up with Joseph and Michelle again, which is always lovely. Theatre Friends!!

The show Lizard Boy is great!! Saw it ten years ago when it was first performed in Seattle. And through social media have seen updates over the years. Fun to see and hear the changes in person. Hope their month of performing off Broadway was super successful for them!

And what a fun excuse for Laurena and I to take a trip to NYC! Because we’d been on food tour until 3pm, too full for an early dinner before the show. But now at 10pm, we are looking for the nearest spot. Which is how we ended up eating some thoroughly mediocre middle eastern food. The man running the shop was super friendly. But a decided lack of hot sauce or spices. Which, come on! Still, it was edible and open and on our route, so that was just fine. We’d also been spoiled with some truly excellent food that afternoon.

Saturday morning, and Rena’s down to go to the delicious Kopitiam (Malaysian place Alison found last time I was in town). So we explore Chinatown a bit, and eat all the different things (savory and sweet and spicy and mild. Luxuriating in different textures and flavors. Yum!), along with some strong and delicious hand pulled coffee! Then make our way out to Astoria Queens. The plan is to wander, see a museum, and eat lots of different great food for dinner. Little Egypt neighborhood, and lots of great Greek places. Honestly, so many options!

First we explore the Museum of Moving Images, on Michelle’s advice. Didn’t quite know what to expect, but it was great. Lots of historical items and film equipment through the ages. Starting in 1700’s with magic lanterns and through today. And had lots of different interactive sections, letting you try your hand at different jobs related to film making. I’m enjoying myself at the Make Your Own Stop Motion Station. (I should be able to upload a short video in a few days, so check back). A very excited teenager sees it, sits down at a booth and says to his friends “okay, I guess I’ll see you all in about 12 hours!!” There’s an Additional Dialogue Recording booth where we got to practice dubbing over different movies. Rena was power tripping on her director/producer role while I was doing my best Eliza Doolittle. Got to add our own Foley sound effects to a clip from Jurassic Park. Chose a new score for some films. Just fun! Then there was a big Jim Henson exhibit (I wanted to take a selfie with Big Bird, but there were always too many kids in the way. Ha). Labyrinth and Dark Crystal puppets. Some cool special effects exhibits.

Now it’s mid-afternoon and so hot and muggy outside. Hey, there’s a Tiki Bar called Highwater with good reviews. And so we spent a fantastic time, relaxing in the fake tropics and having delightful conversations with the bartender and staff. Really great adult cocktails. And then ended with a delicious (and strong!) boozy slushie version of a passionfruit aperol spritz).

Talked dating apps and knowing yourself and claiming your life in your 40’s. Bartender mentions she’s 45 and Rena is having a freak out (as bartender looks amazing). Throughout the rest of the trip, at different moments, Laurena will, out of nowhere, exclaim “Forty Five!!!!” Ha. Genetics (and moisturizer).

Rena says she’s feeling that buzz “in her hips.” I give her a quizzical look. “The alcohol gives me loose hips” and she demonstrates by wiggling down the sidewalk!! Not exactly how I experience it, but delightful to watch.

Because air quality is still bad, we look for another indoor activity. And see the Noguchi Museum is nearby. And this is how we learned that Laurena is not a fan of these Japanese stone sculptures, although I am.

The hard part is the strict No Touching rules. I mean, I get it. But these often giant sized stones are just Begging to be touched, especially where there are interesting smoothed sections or fun ridges. So that’s sad. There are info cards in each room, and I create a game where we quiz each other, trying to guess the year each piece was made. There’s lots, spanning four decades, so you can sometimes get close to the year/see a progression or theme emerging. There’s a lovely garden/outdoor sculpture section too. Afterwards, Rena says, “thanks for making a super boring museum Way Fun.” Ha. Her main complaints are #1: it’s harder for her to see the effort and work that went into creating some of the pieces, as many are boulders with minimal obvious “sculpting.” And #2. No touching. Which feels like a waste when they so obviously want to be touched. I agree with #2. But then I learn another way in which we are different people: whereas I want to rub my palms along the marble and stone, feeling the different textures, she is instead drawn to the shapes. When she sees a carved or smoothed bit, she sees which body part seems the same size, and wants to insert her knee or shoulder or thigh or head into the similarly shaped hole. Ha!

For the record, I didn’t think it was a boring museum, but since it’s just one artist, if you aren’t into his stuff, it ain’t gonna be for you. Now we’re off to wander along the river. Parks are full of families having cookouts. It’s a great vibe.

We wander the Socrates Sculpture Park, which is a very different vibe/types of sculptures. Some amateur-ish looking statues of athletes. And big wonky pieces. And small colorful pieces. It’s a big mix.

I met an amazing English Bulldog named Daphne. Wearing a hot pink spiked collar. Just covered in tons of gold spikes. I asked if I could say hi. Owner (wearing black leather jacket with spikes and fringe) says absolutely, but know that Daphne is often unsure and takes awhile to warm up. I let her sniff me, and she wiggled down low/submissively, but crawled right up to my legs. Then stood up for good pets/scratches. Then settled in, sitting on my foot and leaning her whole body weight against my knee and thigh, which also meant pressing her many many spikes into my knee and thigh. Ouch! But worth it. And while i did discover that I had a few broken skin pricks, I didn’t bleed. Ha. If I end up getting tetanus or something, worth it!

We wander some more and are thinking of heading back to the Little Egypt area for foods, but a restroom is needed and Laurena would rather not use porta potty at the park. We come across the Arcadia kitchen and bar. And Rena likes the look of the menu, so that ends up being dinner (and a nice clean restroom). And it was great. The zucchini fritters (with mozzarella) are lovely.

And the burger is huge and tasty, too. So we did not do the self guided World Food Tour we’d initially thought to do (sharing one dish at a few different places). But a lovely and tasty respite.Then it’s more leisurely walking back towards Manhattan, checking out the neighborhood and vibes.

Until we finally decide we’ve done enough walking (and a Google search says our plan of walking across Queensboro Bridge isn’t actually that nice, because you’re too close to the cars). So we get a ride back to the hotel. Shower off all the muggy sweat and hazardous air, and go to sleep.

“Here Lies Love” in New York City: June 2023.


Browse archives for July 1, 2023
Latest Comment
Posted in

New York City

Tagged with

Off for an extended weekend in NYC with my good pal Laurena. She’s never been before, and as a teacher, end of June worked best for her. Even better, local Seattle actor and composer Justin Huertas is making his Off Broadway debut with “Lizard Boy,” the indie rock musical he wrote. So plans were made! At Seatac, I say to the woman at the lounge bar: I’ll take a tonic with lime please. Her (in an almost affronted tone): Oh, come on! Me: Fine. Let’s add some gin, too. Her: Now we’re talking! Bwahahahaha. This trip is already off to a fun start.

Rena, showing off her sparkly nails: “I wore my most “Tracy Nail Polish” for this trip.” She’s not wrong.

Severe thunderstorms had delayed/cancelled several east coast and NY flights the last few days, so I was a bit nervous about our flight. And we did end up flying through some extended lightning flashes (when I get home, I think I can upload the Snapchat video I took, so I’ll add it to this blog in a few days). Because it was just lots of flashes without turbulence, it wasn’t too scary. Still, with the stormy weather, our arrival was a bit delayed. Which meant we were stuck on the tarmac for almost an hour waiting for a gate to become available at JFK.

So it’s after midnight when we finally are waiting for our bags and then join the line and extra chaotic taxi queue. There’s only one employee and he is grumpy and disaffected. Eventually we’re at the front and he tells us to walk to position #1. As we start to walk that way, the next taxi driver stops by us (we’re only at position 3), gets out and aggressively takes our luggage to start loading it. The queue employee is pissed at the driver, because him not pulling to the front blocks all the taxis behind him. Both men are yelling at each other and slinging insults. “I’ve been taxi driver for 40 years!” “And yet you still don’t know how the airport queue works. That’s embarrassing for you. I wouldn’t be telling people that.” It is awkward!! For most of our ride, our incensed (and very Greek) driver is sharing all sorts of factoids and stories, and weird brags about some of the important people he knows. It’s wild!

Also, when he’d pulled up initially, I’d initially thought maybe there was some crumpled damage to the taxi hood, but as we got closer, it was a splotchy paint effect. Sort of like camo paint but in two slightly different shades of taxi yellow. Weird but okay. Then partway through our ride, he starts telling us how he has an upcoming taxi inspection so he’d gotten the taxi paint sprayed but it didn’t look good and he’d already spent $300. In my head, I’m agreeing that it does not look good. And I’m saying he should definitely talk to the folks who did the spray job to see about getting it re-done. Thinking he went to some cheap Maaco spot. At the hotel finally, he removes our bag from the trunk and then calls me over. He pulls out a can of spray paint, and shows me the nozzle. Says this is supposed to be Expensive good paint and it’s $20 per can, but it hasn’t looked good when he sprayed it on the car. OMG!!! My man used spray paint cans to try to paint his hood/front end. That would explain why it looks like those crappy home-made spray paint camouflage paint jobs. Just, woah!

The doorman/bellhop is one of the most attractive men we’ve ever seen. Infectious smile, twinkling eyes, and a glorious afro. It’s 1:30am and we’re just happy to have arrived. And then he was a wonderful addition. Super friendly, and helped point us to a tasty late night pizza option. Rena “I don’t care if it’s just for tips or whatever, but he can keep calling me love and smiling at me all day long!”

We picked more non-traditional Pizza slices. “Um, I’ll take a slice with the pasta on it” (turns out it was Baked zita pizza). And the veggie pizza was covered in chopped broccoli and spinach. Unexpected vegetables as toppings. Also, when we got back to our room, I found a bonus pizza slice in my box. While the man helping Laurena was much chattier and got her whole life story, apparently my taciturn employee thought I was looking extra hungry. Ha.

Set the alarm for 11am (as we didn’t get showered/to sleep until after 2:30am). So it’s close to noon when we hit the lobby and we meet the day crew. “Dang, does this hotel exclusively employ beautiful black men? Not mad about it. But it’s like they’re all cast from a modeling agency.”

Look at this gorgeous pina coloda croissant square. Sort of impossible to eat, but tasty!

We wander to the Morgan Library and Museum. It is very cool. Some truly impressive architecture. It’s grandiose and ridiculous. What a giant marble structure to JP Morgan’s wealth and ego. But cool that it’s a museum now. Fun to see the gorgeous three story library room.

And some really interesting art exhibits too. And a lovely relaxing tea stop at the cafe. Plus, I am always a sucker for a museum gift shop.

That night, we go to Mom’s Diner and meet up friends Joseph and Michelle. “It’s a glorious rainbow cartoon of a diner” and they’re not wrong. Michelle’s favorite item is the Pancake Burrito. Amazing!! Why have people only been putting the pigs in the blanket? Why not put All the breakfast foods wrapped up in a pancake!!!

(Although I’m firmly in the “nobody feels good after eating pancakes” camp, so that didn’t seem the right choice for me before being in the dance pit for our show that evening). But they had a fun mocktail menu too, and my drink came with a small inflatable flamingo! We are making good choices!!!

Then it’s off to see “Here Lies Love.” So excited. Saw this show during some of its pre-broadway run, in Seattle in 2017. And it was Even Better now. Just Bloody Fantastic! Rena and I had the dance floor tickets, where you stand and dance for the 90 minute show, and the actors are on moving platforms around you.

It’s wild and a bit chaotic but mostly amazing. And managed very well (crew in hot pink jumpsuits with glowing airport traffic cones direct us as a group when we need to walk/dance to a new location because a piece of the stage platform is rotating. (Joseph and Michelle were in the mezzanine seats, but the stage design is really clever. And there are video screens throughout. And actors in the ensemble often show up in the Mezz seats too, so everyone can feel part of the action. It really was so much fun. Giant disco balls. Great songs. Fantastic acting.

Even without Conrad Ricamora (we had an understudy that night). I saw him do the role in Seattle and he was fantastic. And after seeing him in the Mr Darcy role on Netflix’s adorable “Fire Island” movie, I’d been looking forward to it. But really, it’s the tiniest of sad faces. It was a wonderful show.

Walking the 2 miles back to our hotel, so fun to see all the rainbow lighting still throughout the city, celebrating the end of pride month. Feels so exuberant.

And we got 22,000 steps in (not bad considering our day didn’t start until noon!!)

Belated Post: Overnight in Bellingham: July 2021


Browse archives for June 14, 2023
Latest Comment
Posted in


Tagged with

Continuing my slow updates/posting the skipped blog posts from 2021 and 2022. Here we are, last week of June, and my dear cousin Rozine calls to ask if I’m free on July 3rd. Then she asks if I still perform weddings (I was the officiant for Rozine and Eric several years ago). Yes, I reply, with a little more trepidation. Turns out her stepson is getting married on the 3rd and their officiant fell through, with only a week’s notice. Eeek!! But yes, I can help out. And actually, the tight timeline proved to be less stressful in some ways. I often worry about making sure the couple LOVE the script and so can go through several drafts. Or as more often happens, I send a rough draft and never get any feedback (because, ya know, planning a wedding is intense and all-consuming and folks just don’t have time). But in this case, we didn’t have two months of back and forth emails and drafts and revisions. I had one really lovely and helpful zoom with Nick and Lindsey. We agreed that they’d need to reply to my draft script ASAP if it was on the wrong track or there was anything they disliked or needed added. Wrote up a nice script and sent it off and got a positive response fairly quickly. Yay. It was great, as the tight timeline had me sending some focused questions and they responded promptly. Bit stressful as I’d just met both of them via Zoom a few days before. I know most couples probably don’t know their officiant very well. But I’ve been friends or family to most of the 14 couples I’ve married. So it’s been a really different vibe for the three couples where I didn’t really know them (they’ve all been friends of friends, or family of family). As one of the bonuses of having a friend perform the ceremony is getting to have something tailored to who YOU are as a couple, ya know? Happily at this point (been doing this since 2014) I’ve got a good list of prompts and questions to help gain insight and great anecdotes from the couple. And it worked really well.

The wedding was going to be up in the Mount Vernon area of Washington. And then my cousin Courtney invited me to a BARN PARTY (and Birthday celebration) for July 4th, up in Bellingham. With timing, it made sense to look into just continuing north after the wedding, grabbing a hotel room, and then heading to Barn Party late morning. And Hotel Bellwether had a decent deal offered (as they were sold out for July 4th…their property overlooks the water and fireworks, but had availability for just Saturday July 3rd).

And so, a lovely wedding and celebration happened for Nick and Lindsey. Truly special. And the inevitable laugh so hard my belly hurts whenever I get to hang out with Rozine. Please enjoy this delightful candid shot of us emphatically telling each other something. Ha!

And now, the award for cutest wedding guest goes to:

Then up to Bellingham. Check out this view!

Reading on the balcony through sunset and twilight was just wonderful. So relaxing. Although I got the bummer update from Courtney that she was feeling poorly. Her kid had been sick a few days ago, and now Courtney was feeling sick and one of the other kids on the farm had a bad cold. She’d let me know in the morning whether Barn Party had to be canceled.

In the morning, the expected but understandable cancellation text went out. No Barn Party. No playing with llamas and horses. No kick the can. No music around a campfire. Deep sigh. But yeah, nobody wants to host an event when they’re feeling sick. Also, remember this was July 2021. So while most people were vaccinated by now, and most of the party would’ve been outdoors, we were all still being SUPER CONSCIENTIOUS about germs and cancelling things when we were sick. As we should. 🙂

So I went off to explore Bellingham a bit before the drive home. Truly gorgeous whether for walking along the waterfront.

There was then a series of unfortunate events in my quest for an epic brunch and/or bakery takeaway before heading home. Some things were closed or under renovations. Others didn’t offer their normal savory sandwiches because of the holiday “only cookies.” So I ended up getting grocery store deli wrap sandwich to go with my cookie ice cream sandwich, because I needed more than just sugar to send me on my drive back home.

Still, made the most out of it that I could. Weather and setting was gorgeous. Much celebration of love and commitment and laughter at the wedding. And because I spent a night in a hotel, this totally counts as a “trip” for purposes of this blog. Ha.

JoCo Nerd Cruise: The Final Chapter. March 2023


Apparently, the Universe was granting wishes from my junior high dream journal, because I somehow spent a day walking puppies along a Caribbean beach and then chatting with Wil Wheaton for 30 minutes. Is this real life?!?

Firstly, Boat was super late leaving San Juan, because one of the official Holland America tours was stuck on other side of the island. It was a kayaking in the bioluminescence outing (Reagan had initially wanted to do it, until she saw it was a 5 hour tour and that was too much social interaction for her. Good thing she didn’t book it). Supposed to return at 9pm. There was only one working road to get from their location back to port, and a truck hauling a boat CAUGHT ON FIRE and was blocking the road. For hours! From the onboard forums (and later talking to people on this tour), I can confirm that the large bus had a toilet on board at least. During the waiting, the cruise line is trying to brainstorm other options. There was a discussion of this big walk/hike up a mountainside for a little under a mile, where they could then be loaded onto a different bus and driven back. But understandably, not everyone was up to the mobility challenge so that wouldn’t work. When it became apparent that they wouldn’t be back until after 1am (when the onboard food shuts down), the lovely nerd passengers started crowd-sourcing snacks and food. There’s pizza and apples available in room #. And this other room has granola bars. Etc. And I learned a few hundred people stayed up (were still up) and cheering from the ship when our weary travelers finally returned. I was in my bed at this point. But woke up to the 2am horn announcing us leaving port. And then this boat was HAULING ASS because we were 3 hours late in our departure. Which made things extra “Boat-y.” Totally thought the rocking and rolling ship was going to roll me right out of my tiny twin bed, but happily that didn’t happen, and I managed to fall back asleep. Also, lucky that this was an official tour, otherwise there would’ve been two buses worth of people forced to try to find their own way to our next port of call to rejoin the ship. Eek!

We were late arriving British Virgin Islands, but not too badly. Fun getting to watch us sail into Tortola, as all the different islands we passed were so green and gorgeous.

Then it’s time to try to connect with the dog rescue people. Some lovely nerds had organized a volunteer opportunity ahead of time, with local animal rescue PAW BVI. Where a group of us would meet them to walk and socialize dogs along the beach for a few hours. Reagan had been unsure whether she’d feel safe enough to do this (“what if the dogs have rabies? Or are super aggressive?” Reagan, it’s an animal rescue. They’ll have had medical care, and they won’t be giving volunteers any problem dogs). The drive to Cane Garden Bay was stunning, as Tortola Island is gorgeous and the views from the hilltop of all the waters in their glorious jewel tones…just lovely. Reagan was scared riding in the open sided passenger van/truck. And so just shut her eyes and tightly gripped the seatback in front of her. Others in our group tried encouraging her to open her eyes to see the view, but she was not interested.

Once at the Bay, we found the meeting place and waited. It was so pretty. That’s when we learned they were bringing 9 PUPPIES for the 11 of us to walk and socialize. She started handing out dogs, and I was given Moe. The best dog ever. He was such a sweet cuddler. Bestest boy ever. And while my dog at home would have LOVED a puppy friend, probably, canine/feline relations are already still strained, and adding a puppy wouldn’t help. *wistful sigh* Reagan was given the tiniest puppy, in a halter with skull and crossbones. “We call him Piranha because he bites feet.” Match made in heaven.

And then everyone just got to wander the beach with their dogs. Of course tons of people (tourists and locals) came up to meet the puppies. Note to PAW BVI for next time…with some advanced coordination, JoCo folks could each have a QR code, so tourists could be encouraged to make a donation while playing with/taking photos with the dogs! The rescue was smart enough to have brought Merch along, but only to sell to us afterwards. Let’s bring it down to the beach, and get some tourists buying water bottles and leashes, eh?

Moe loved cuddles, eating garbage, and licking faces, and he was all outta garbage! Cutest pup ever. At one point it was raining and we were cuddling, and he very intelligently snuggled and curled up further under my neck, so my wide brim sun hat would offer him rain protection, too. Some of the other puppies wisely huddled between human legs for rain shelter. So dang sweet.

Later in the afternoon, as I’m walking back towards Reagan and a few of the others, I notice she’s chatting with Wil Wheaton. After a few minutes, Reagan leaves, but a few of us continue the conversation. (He was a guest on the cruise, so it wasn’t like 100% random for him to be there). He’d done the dog rescue volunteer thing a few years previously, and was jealous and happy for puppy time. As nice and down to earth as you’d expect. (I’d made the decision at the beginning of the cruise to not ask famous people for selfies and instead just have a real interaction, if and when it happened. But it was interesting just watching what being a Public Persona is like when interacting with your fans in the world. As people who clearly follow him closely online are asking detailed questions about his dog’s medical treatment (I think it was for cancer) and other things like that. Just, that’s such a strange thing. Those parasocial relationships are strong, and he was very sweet and very used to it, and just ran with it. And occasionally would elaborate or explain to me (as it was clear I didn’t know what was being referenced/asked about). It was just really nice. And we had PUPPIES during all of it.

Later that evening, I remarked upon how lovely the day had been, and Wil Wheaton too. Reagan looked puzzled. “Wil Wheaton wasn’t there.” “Reagan, you were talking to him for like 5 minutes before I came over.” “They guy in the black shirt? But he didn’t look famous.” “Yeah, that’s kind of his whole deal.” She was still doubtful so I did a Google Image Search to show her. She said Huh, and guessed she was doing that thing where she doesn’t really make eye contact with strangers. *laughs*

That afternoon, we got changed for the Formal Headwear Party. This is the event for which I’d created my giant flowered hat. I felt a little sheepish and shy in it, but it was fun, too.

Was glad that Reagan had agreed to attend this event with me. Mostly we were separate on the boat, only meeting up for our assigned dinner and then she’d sit next to me for the first half of the main show each night. But other than that 2 hours, we’re just sleeping next to each other and then off doing our own things all day. I’d expected one of the reasons Reagan had asked me to come along would be to act as a Small Talk Wingman for her, ya know? But she mostly chose to do her own things each day. (I know one of those things involved playing Poker at the casino, where she proudly related going “all in” on a pair. A pair of either 8’s or 10’s (I can’t remember now) and she’s adamant that that was a very good hand. Ha!)  

At the Formal Headwear Party, I enjoyed the dress up and getting to see everyone’s fun outfits and hats (Several nerds even set up tiara lending libraries throughout the cruise!), it wasn’t so much an organized event, in a space that fostered easy interactions with strangers. It was more a “go wander around the outside deck in your outfits” event. And I’m not so much a “parade yourself” person. Reagan did encourage me to take a few laps with her, and we had a few nice and shorter chats with folks. But mostly sort of stood to the side and observed. One sister of darkness and one of light.

There was also a fake moustache component to the event, for those who wanted. Several of the staff wore some of the fake moustaches, even as uni-brows, which was very fun.

Later, there was a Showtunes Karaoke sing-along event, with a live band. It was amazing. A shadow event, put together by attendees, whereas a group were bringing their instruments to be the band. People had to sign up weeks in advance, so the band could learn the songs/get the sheet music, etc. I’d been expecting this to draw the talented kids looking to relive their glory days as stars of their college and high school musicals. But nope. Instead, the majority of the singers had lots of enthusiasm, but not so much talent. And it was so supportive and hilarious and everyone in the audience is singing along and it’s such a lovely safe space. I was in awe at their confidence. This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. Almost a month in advance, they had to sign up and pick a song. Just, wow! Also fun to hear some deeper cut musicals (two songs from “Heathers” and someone even sang the theme song from that Ewan McGregor “Down With Love” movie).

That evening’s concert featured Puddles Pity Party, which is such a strange but entertaining show. He’s doing his own thing, and you either like it or you don’t. But I enjoyed it. (Reagan didn’t stay for the show, so didn’t get her impression). Some of the folks around me are REALLY REALLY losing it over this show. I found it fun but not to the levels of some. Although the guy behind me does NOT get it, and is super baffled. Ha. To each their own.

The next day’s costume theme is “Retro Day” so feel free to interpret as you will. I just wore a nice dress but decided it was a good opportunity to get a second use out of the giant hat. The Boat was being very Boat-y again, and having this large heavy headwear on a rocking ship did lend a new challenge to your friend with a balance disorder. Ha! That afternoon, Reagan had agreed to meet up with me for tea (basically she had agreed to be my Boat buddy for two events: those involving my Big Hat, the formal headwear party the day before and the fancy afternoon tea with Schmanners podcast this day. So those are the shared Boat activities we did, other than dinner and sleeping next to each other). It was fun as a few other people dressed up for afternoon tea, but most folks were just in their regular clothes or their interpretation of Retro Day (there were some pirates next to us). I’d kind of thought there’d be more of an Event happening. But it was just the nice staff serving tiny pastries and sandwiches with some tea. I’d been hoping for some Travis McElroy interactions, but he wasn’t there (I know he’d missed a previous event due to illness). His wife/co-host Teresa did walk by all the tables to say hi. I’d been planning to break my “don’t ask for selfies” rule to ask for one with Travis, but it was not meant to be. Ah well. Yay for tiny pastries, I guess. Spent a relaxing time poolside finishing up my bookclub book “The Swimmers” by Julie Otsuka. I hadn’t read the back of the book, so was unprepared when the final third was an adult daughter dealing with her mom’s dementia and eventual death. And that’s how I became the weird crying lady next to the pool. Really beautiful book, though, just hit on my personal experiences more than I’d anticipated. I sort of expected that someone (staff? Another guest?) might feel the need to ask me if I was okay, and I was prepared to say it was because of this stupid book! (Not stupid book. Just hit home). But nobody did. Which was just fine. Occurs to me that someone quietly crying on a cruise ship is probably not entirely uncommon. It ended up being a nice way to feel some emotions with a gorgeous view and some fresh air. Stupid emotions! (not stupid).

It’s now our final full day, and we’ll spend the morning in the Bahamas, at Half Moon Cay (a private island owned by a few cruise lines). The ship was a little behind schedule, darn it. Reagan had signed up for a Jet Ski tour event (not my scene) so all the early morning tour people had to go line up first, to make sure they had time for their tours. I went in the regular people line, and met some nice folk on the smaller boat that ferries us between Ship and Beach. The water and sand were gorgeous, of course. I’d been told (correctly) that there’s not really any shade on the island, so we’d rented the little sun shade things from Holland America. Worth it! Picked a spot, claiming two chairs and a shade clamshell. Gorgeous view for some relaxing.

Reagan found me, per our plan, after her jet ski tour. Previously she had not been interested in doing any swimming, which is fine. I just asked that she would keep an eye on me while I went to swim in the Sea. Then asked if she just want to try wading out there and see if she liked it. She came along, and had so much fun! (Enough fun that she asked if we could do it again, after lunch!). Water was gorgeous. Waves gentle. I swam out to the rope border (Reagan was somehow convinced that that rope was a shark deterrent, or at least a shark demarcation, and while the other side might be dangerous, our side was safe. Ha. I mean, our side WAS safe from shark attacks, but not because of the rope. Because of the local fauna distribution. No fish in this part of the Cay (I’d researched the areas where you could go snorkeling, but it involved watching out for Fire Coral!! Also, Reagan wouldn’t go, and I wasn’t sure if I could find a snorkel buddy on the boat, so decided to skip it). Anyways, a very lost Needlefish showed up. I first thought it was someone’s cooling bandana or something floating in the water, until it swam past me, then jumped out of the water towards my sister. Which resulted in one of Reagan’s famous screams! So good! It was just a lovely time spent playing in the ocean, hiding from the sun (me), and relaxing.

Then back to the ship to shower and change. I heard several moans of pain while Reagan was showering and I figured her sunburn was hurting. But then she hollered through the bathroom door, asking me to Google what to do if one gets shower gel in their eyes. I tell her I’m pretty sure you just have to flush the eye, but I’ll check. And yep. I read to her that flushing her eye means holding eyelid open under the streaming water for several minutes. And that unfortunately it can keep hurting for awhile. Bummer. Then I take my shower. But when I’m done and dressed, she’s grumpy and still freaking out about the shower gel she got in her eye. Declares she needs alone time so won’t be seeing me anymore today. Ah well.

The final mainstage concert was great fun. Robyn, our Red Team leader did a whole tour of the balcony and mainstage audience. Then went on stage to encourage our team in some further shenanigans. I learned it’s tradition that all the performers sing songs from musicians who passed that year, which sounds maybe more sad than it was. It was celebratory and silly and great fun, and in the end the stage was so crowded with everyone singing along. A really nice note, and the folks seated around me were friendly and we all joined in with the singing.

It’s an early morning the final day, as we’ll be disembarking. Reagan decides to forego getting breakfast on the ship (even though she picked the latest “get off the boat” time for us of 9:30am, and we’ll need to customs and get a ride to our hotel and all that busy work first). We actually could’ve picked an earlier time, because she ended up being packed up and ready to leave sooner. So we just had to wait in our room. Ah well. The way that these giant cruise ships turn over the entire ship in one day is phenomenally fascinating. Truly impressive.

We get to the hotel to store our luggage (because it’s way too early for check in). Reagan’s found a place she wants for breakfast and we order a Lyft. Oldschool diner vibes with some outdoor tables. As part of her campaign to eat more vegetables, Reagan orders the side of spinach along with her meal “Oh honey, it’s from frozen,” but she tells the waitress she wants it anyway. *shrug* Then Reagan can’t find her phone. After going through purse and all her pockets, realizes she must have left it in the Lyft car. So that’s a stressful 30 minutes, using the internal messaging system to alert him, and then having me call and just let her phone ring a lot, in the hopes the driver will hear and answer (because Lyft’s “I left something in the car” messages won’t go through while the driver is taking rides, so the wait could be long). Happily the nice man does eventually answer and he drives over to deliver the phone. Reagan gives him a good tip for his troubles. Then we’re off to walk in the mid-day Florida sunshine to a CVS a mile away. I learn this is why Reagan chose this restaurant, because it was near-ish a drugstore that she needed. While she went inside to buy some more at home covid tests (hadn’t packed enough), I start googling for things to do or visit in the area (as we still have several hours before check in). Find a cool park, that has lots of great walking trails (to see iguanas!) and a butterfly garden and an offleash dog area watering hole. We head over and watch the doggos having the time of their life. It’s great.

After a bit, I ask if she wants to go on one of the walking trails, but she says not right now. I ask again 20 minutes later and no, she just wants to go back to the hotel lobby because her backpack is too heavy. So sadly I only got to spy one iguana from far away. But hotel calls to say our room is ready early (yay) so we head back to get our luggage and get settled. Then she’s off to do her computer things for a bit. Back in the hotel room to strategize for dinner, and I present her with a few outdoor dining places I found, including this Pirate Restaurant that looks kind of insane, but had a nice view and available reservations. Reagan: “Am I gonna be disappointed because I want there to be some pirate themed décor, and there won’t be any?” Me: “Um, they call their Mai Tai an “Arr-tai,” which is unfortunate because it doesn’t work as a pun at all. But yeah, they are ALL IN on the Pirate theme. There will definitely be decorations. And oh boy, were there ever.

And it was a lovely river/canal view. Fun watching all the varieites of boats floating by. One even docked at the restaurant to pick up takeout. And if anyone’s looking for a franchise opportunity, apparently you can buy into a floating Tiki bar on a motored raft.

We spent the next day apart. I didn’t find any more lizards, but did get a chance to eat more plantains! That afternoon, we took the shuttle to the airport for what would turn into an unending string of complications and frustrations. Also, FLL had 8 (eight!!) signs leading up to security screening warning travelers that it was illegal to bring guns into the airport. Hey Florida, your Florida is showing. Alaska Air is seeking 50 (fifty!!) volunteers to spend an extra day in Florida in exchange for $350 because of some delayed/canceled flights from earlier. That credit amount felt low for a cross country flight when you needed 50 people (considering flights are $500+ these days) but they managed to find enough folks. The inbound flight was over an hour late. A few people initiate conversation with my because of my multi-colored Merrill shoes. After a few minutes of chatting, we realize we were all on JoCo. One group was flying home to Colorado, and the other to Portland, but via Seattle. Two of the women had been on the stuck Puerto Rico bus tour, so I was able to get all kinds of good gossip about how that went down. Then we get to board finally. After a little bit, I see the captain come over, talk with flight crew, and go to use the announcement phone (not a good sign). He explains that one of the flight crew has fallen ill with food poisoning, after we started boarding, and isn’t in a position to travel. But, the AMAZING news is we had an employee deadheading on the flight who has volunteered to work it. It would take approx. 45 min to file all the appropriate paperwork, but we should be good to go. And please excuse Madison for being out of uniform.” And that’s how I got a safety briefing from someone looking comfortable in jeans. Then we’re off to the tarmac. And we’re waiting for awhile. LONG line of planes. Then the plane starts turning around. Oh no! Overhead announcement is it’s expected to be another 90 minutes before we can take off (due to some storms in central florida) and we don’t have enough fuel to wait that long and still make our flight. So it’s back to the gate to refuel, and they’re trying to find a new flight path and we’ll hopefully be taking off within the hour or two. Unfortunately, we’re eventually given the announcement that our flight crew has timed out, so we won’t be leaving Florida tonight. BUT they’ll be sending this same plane, passengers, and crew sometime tomorrow. Please get off the plane to get hotel arrangements and updates on when tomorrow’s flight will be. Ugh, but glad for the hotel, at least.

Waiting for luggage. Told it’ll be 45 minutes. Hotel says 1 hour for the shuttle. Airport is chaotic (as very few flights have taken off since 4:30pm, we’ve been there since 2pm and it’s now after 9.) The different hotel shuttle waiting areas are full of tired and cranky humanity.

But we eventually get our ride. The shuttle is shared between 5 properties, and ours is last. We finally get there, and I’m commiserating with the front desk woman about how crazy things have undoubtedly been for her, and how happy we are to finally be here. She’s nice, and then types a bit and says, “Oh no. I don’t have a room for you.” Wait, what? But we have this reservation confirmation here. She agrees, but there are no rooms available. None at their sister properties either. Reagan asks if we can stay in the lobby while waiting for our dinner to be delivered (We’d ordered some Cuban sandwiches to be delivered at 10pm there). So there we are, like some sad orphans, surrounded by all our luggage and sadly eating our sandwiches, while Reagan’s on hold with Alaska trying to figure out what else to do. Eventually we’re given the okay to just book our own hotel and Alaska will reimburse. Eventually Reagan finds us a place, a ways away from the airport (Because those had all filled up over the last 7 hours of canceled flights). It’s after midnight before we get checked in. And we’ll be getting up at 5am for our flight. Still, glad to have a shower and a bed!

The next day’s flight is relatively uneventful (yay) except that everyone was given new seat assignments. Even though it’s the exact same plane, passengers, and crew. Apparently when the Alaska Air system cancels a flight, all of those seat assignments are lost. And nobody thought to do a screenshot or take a photo or something. We were stuck in the bulkhead now, which is less pleasant, but not the end of the world. Some people were separated from their partners and families. And others were removed from premium economy to back of the plane. What a seemingly avoidable and unnecessary hassle. With new flight time, we’re landing mid-day, so no longer have a ride from the airport (Because Kevin would still be at work) so it’s one final line for the Taxi queue and then finally home. Sheesh.

JoCo Nerd Cruise: Part the Second. March 2023


It’s morning, and we’ve arrived at our first port of call: old town San Juan in Puerto Rico. The colors are stunning: the water, the buildings, and the plants all feel extra vibrant in this sunshine. We wander a little and then return to wait for the Holland America tour up the Fort (Reagan’s choice, as an official tour was the only way she felt safe to leave the boat). Our tour guide is a stern older woman and she is frazzled. Asks everyone to line up in twos. She’s doing a count. Some people are lined up singly (because the cruise has lots of non-couple travelers, and also lots of introverts who didn’t feel comfortable asking a stranger if they could pair up in line). But this totally throws her into a tizzy, and she gets a bit shout-y and makes us all do it again. This time, the more extroverted amongst us help the shy folks to pair off for the head count. (We later learned that a tour guide called in sick, so at the last minute, this woman was dealing with over 30 people, when normally they are capped at 15 per guide). Anyway, we’re ready to head off into town. We learn some history. See some lovely buildings. Then up the hill to Castillo San Cristobal.

We are reassured several times that it’s impossible to get lost. The port is at the top of the hill, the cruise ship at the bottom. “If you are lost, you can just roll down hill back to your ship.” Ha! The views from the Fort are lovely.

We learn some interesting history. Our guide is flummoxed again when handing out pamphlets. “How did I run out? It’s one per family.” Again, we inform her that the majority of us are traveling solo and not in pairs. She goes to get more fliers. Afterwards, she encourages us to climb to the top, “but I will wait down here. Up there is just a photo opp.” But it is very lovely.

And I work on my travel photo karmic balance, by offering to take photos of anyone who’d like a non-selfie. *smile* Then it’s more touring, learning about some historic buildings under that punishing mid-day sun. All sunscreen, all the time!

We spy a few lizards along the way, some iguanas, and a smaller green guy I’m pretty sure was an anoles. Wander a small cute arts market. Find a patio for HOT outdoor lunch, where an adorable little bird did it’s best to convince us that it was Starving To Death! We did not fall for it. Adorable though.

After lunch, Reagan returned to the ship (as she didn’t feel comfortable exploring Old Town without a guide. And she had an evening activity (meal and a dance) booked for later). And I went to wander. Later Reagan messaged that she wasn’t feeling well and so skipping her scheduled meal and cultural experience, which is a bummer. At least I was able to direct her to the over the counter meds I’d packed, so she could feel a little better while resting in the room.

The brightly colored buildings are just too cool.

Eventually found a cute sidewalk café. Ordered an iced latte, as the folks in front got two and they looked great. The barista’s face fell, as he said forlornly, “Oh Miss. I have a problem. I have used up the rest of my ice on those drinks.” Not a problem, and I order the Bombon (espresso with condensed milk). He came over later to make sure I was liking my drink. When I confirmed it was delicious, he gave me a high five and a free cookie. And it was an idyllic spot to write some postcards.

Then off to the food walking tour. https://sanjuanfoodtours.com/old-san-juan-food-tour/ I was VERY excited about this well-reviewed tour, and it totally lived up to expectations. While at the meeting spot, before tour begins, it becomes apparent that 11 of the 12 people on our tour are all JoCo folks (I did that!! After Reagan confirmed she didn’t want to do this, but was fine if I still did, I shared on the socials, and it sold out pretty quickly. Ha). We’re chatting about food, and one guy says, “I don’t like coffee or plantains” and I just barely contain my outraged gasp! I did not say, but thought loudly, Sir, not only are those two of my favorite foods, do you realized you’re doing a FOOD tour in Puerto Rico?!?!?

The one Non-JoCo tour member is Julie, from the DC area. She’s understandably never heard of Jonathan Coulton, and I watched her becoming more and more bemused during the “tell us about yourself” introductions, as each person keeps mentioning they’re all a part of this thing. She was a total trooper and along for the adventure. Turns out she works for Scholastic Books, and so the rest of us nerds were super impressed (as those book fairs played such an important role in so many of our childhoods. She’d just needed a holiday, booked a short trip to PR by herself, and added this tour as an introduction to the city. (She’d literally just landed, dropped her luggage, and rushed over). We got along great. Everyone was super nice, and there was much laughter and tasty foods.

Our guide Pablo is a delight. He’s super young (just turned 18) but had a great presence, full of funny anecdotes and interesting facts. Knew how to keep everyone engaged and corralled and safe and well fed! Also did remarkable work on verifying and accommodating everyone’s food allergies. “Now I know the name Pablo right now doesn’t have the best reputation. Maybe you are thinking of, well, you know. It is my goal that by the end of this tour, you will think of ME when you hear the name.” Coffee roasters. Fancy toasted ham and cheese with some guava sauce. Lovely passionfruit paleta. “Did you really even go to San Juan if you didn’t eat a Paleta from Senor Paleta?!?”

Empanadadillas. Ceviche (and they served a cute diced caprese salad to the vegetarians, which I thought was a clever substitute). I’m sure I’m forgetting things. We walked through many gorgeous areas, and tried many tasty things.

We were in charge of pounding our own plantains and assembling our own Mofongo.

And the Mojitos were strong! Ended the night at a gelato place. “There is nothing especially Puerto Rican about gelato. It’s just, ya know, good.” But affogato style, with PR espresso shot poured over top. Old Town at night is gorgeous. Many of the buildings have colored lights.

The night is super clear. Lights reflecting on the water. Just lovely all around.

There is a “Concert from a Hat” on the ship, wherein Jim Boggia and Miles Zuniga will have to try to play and sing the songs audience members put into a hat. It’s lovely, on the outside concert stage, dangling my toes in the water. Everyone’s in great spirits, chatting and enjoying the sometimes struggle on stage. Also, they admit when they’d suggested this as an idea, they’d expected to be in a smaller room with maybe 80 people, not several hundred folks, singing under the moonlight. They’re a little intimidated, and keep reminding the audience that they are older, so please only suggest older songs. Ha. A man I’m chatting with asks if I’d like to learn my Lord of the Rings Horoscope. Um, yes please! Turns out Libra is Frodo. I’ll take it.

While the performers may occasional grouse, everyone is supportive, even in their ribbing, and the audience sings along. If they pull out a suggestion that they don’t really know, they let the audience decide whether they have to attempt it or not. As we’ve seen them struggle through some songs they DID know, everyone chooses kindness and lets them pass. Paul Saborin jumps onstage to join in for “Hotel California.”

I don’t know if this was the genesis for what became a running “Hotel California by The Eagles (technically just Eagles)” throughout the remaining mainstage concerts or not, but I’d like to think it was. They recruit an audience member to assist with lyrics to Alanis’ “You Outta Know,” who then needs to recruit another audience member when she got lost in the final verses. The woman next to me is knitting with her toes in the pool too, hails from Oklahama, and is also having a delightful time. The guys behind me join us in raucously singing along, too. I turn around to see that DJ Riz (from Seattle’s KEXP) is one of the guys behind me. Cannot confirm whether he was one of the singers, or not. After the concert ends, we’re chatting a bit. Suddenly a group of people start Howling. It very much startles Riz. I explain there is a “howl at the moon” event scheduled for each evening, so that must be what’s happening. “I’m scared. Will you protect me?” I point out there’s safety in numbers, and we’ll look out for each other. He laughs and introduces me to his husband Rob. I confess I’m a Seattle kid, and that those KEXP parasocal bonds are strong. How in our household, we talk about all the DJs like they’re our pals. He smiles and says they are. Awwww. He says that he has a terrible memory for people, so asks me to come up and reintroduce myself when I see him again. Which does happen once more on the cruise, and he remains a delight.

In the elevators, there’s an ongoing post-it note fight over who gets to take Video Dave to Prom.

During the Open Mike Eagle concert, he sang a song about “will you go to Prom with me?” Afterwards, Open Mike says this is first time they’ve performed this song when there is an ACTUAL Prom happening in a few days, so it’s probably not a literal question. To which Video Dave says, “Oh yes it is!!” Following Video Dave on instagram during and after the cruise was extra fun, because it was clear he had SO MUCH FUN. And his buddies in comments were clear that he’d been NOT looking forward to performing a cruise. And he admitted how wrong he’d been. One of us. one of us. one of us.

Do you wanna go on a Nerd Cruise? JoCo Cruise: Part one. March 2023


Browse archives for April 22, 2023
Latest Comment
Posted in

JoCo Cruise

Tagged with , ,

So, autumn 2022, my sister asked me if I’d be willing to be her “backup” for the upcoming JoCo nerd cruise in March. She’d always wanted to go, and had booked a cabin. But her boyfriend Kevin has reservations about the Covid protocols (or lack thereof, as it says they’d basically be following Holland America rules, which are THERE ARE NO RULES). And if he’s still nervous about it in a few months, would I be willing to go with her instead? I’m hesitant about lack of Covid safety as well, but agree. Although I asked if she’d be isolating when returning home, as she and Kevin live together and share a bed. Nope. I suggest then that it doesn’t really matter whether Kevin goes or not, he’ll be sharing the same Covid risk as Reagan will return to breath on him. So maybe he should just go with her? But I can be her backup.

In December, it’s confirmed that Kevin doesn’t want to go, so Reagan and I book a flight to Florida (ugh. Florida). I lost the “what time flight we take” decision. Reagan wanted the 8:30am departure (even though that means arriving airport 3 hours early for checked luggage these days. Even domestic flights. Ugh again). Which means getting up soooo early. I join the Discord and FB groups for cruise attendees. While going on a cruise has never really appealed to me (it’s not the way I like to travel), I am excited to hang out with 2,000 friendly nerds for a week. And everyone is lovely. Super enthusiastic and welcoming. Sharing information about “in jokes” and activities that have become part of the cruise lore. I share info with Reagan, so she can sign up for the gift exchanges and other activities, if interested. There are also costumed cosplay themed days on the ship. All of it is optional, of course. But I do enjoy a chance to wear costumes. This causes some personal worries about packing. It’s harder to wrap my brain around packing for what feels like three different events: costumes for themed days, outfits for wearing on the mostly air conditioned Boat, and outfits for wandering the Carribean port cities. It works out, but I do end up checking a large backpack in addition to my checked suitcase (with a full pirate costume for “Captain Day” and this ridiculous it-got-larger-than-I-intended hat for the “Fancy headwear” party, as well as Afternoon Tea and Retro day). First time I’ve traveled with two checked bags before. Not sure how people who did ALL of the costumed days managed to pack everything!

6 weeks before the Cruise, and the official Holland America activities will be available for booking soon. We have a zoom to discuss what appeals. I share the information I’ve researched (including an amazing nerd-created volunteer opportunity with dog rescue on British Virgin Islands. PAW BVI. We’ll be walking several of their rescue dogs along the beach, giving them exercise and socialization). I also share the mediocre reviews of the Puerto Rico official tours, but some fun sounding tours offered independently. Reagan starts shaking her head and repeating “Not Safe!” I ask for clarification (is she worried about food safety, or being kidnapped?). She doesn’t feel that it is safe to walk anywhere in a port city. The only safe way to go anywhere is to join an official tour, and have that tour guide bring her directly back to boat afterwards. (“You’re not comfortable getting lunch or wandering the art market? Because the tour ends at an art market for shopping.” Nope. Not interested. She feels the locals are resentful of cruise crowds and there’s a threat to walking around. I ask if she could trust that I’ve traveled a bunch, and that I’m not asking us to just hop in a random unmarked taxi. That this walking historical food tour has literally over 2,500 reviews on TripAdvisor. “You have different risk tolerance than I do.” Which, I mean, is demonstrably true based upon this conversation. But was a real surprise to hear. All I could picture was all of my previous travel companions learning that I am the Risk Taker in a couple! Because my inner Safety Monitor is STRONG! But Reagan’s is even stronger, clearly.) Still, she says she’s okay if I want to explore and do things without her. So we book one of the official walking tours through the cruise ship for the morning, and then she’ll head back to the ship for lunch, and I’ll explore San Juan, and do the food tour that evening. I share the food tour info on the social pages for Cruise attendees. And it’s quickly booked up by other nerds. (In fact, they end up filling up several of the afternoon time slots. Ha). And Reagan’s keeping herself a maybe for the dog walking event, so we’ll see how she’s feeling when we get to Tortola.

So I’ve already prepared my expectations for not spending a lot of time with Reagan on the actual Boat. Because of her strong introvert needs, she needs a lot of down time/alone time (in the past, she’s generally only good for about 3 days of shared vacation time before needing a break). So by doing separate things most of the day, and just meeting for dinner and main show seemed like it’d work well for her needs. This whole cruise seems great for that. Full schedules of possible activities, with lots of “quiet room” areas for those who need them, as well as the ability to hide in our room or balcony for her. And I can be doing all these events and meeting new people. I had been thinking, however, that we’d get to wander a port stop together, going souvenir shopping and sharing a meal. Most of our family vacations were spent along Washington and Oregon Coast, so it felt like a fun tropical twist on the activities of our family trips. Bit of a bummer to learn she doesn’t feel safe doing such a thing. Ah well. Also, we’ve “book-ended” our trip with an extra day in Fort Lauderdale on each side of the cruise, in case of flight delays, so we’ll have that first day in Fort Lauderdale to wander the beach, look at souvenirs and share a meal.

Then suddenly it’s March and we’re taking our “butt crack of dawn” trip to the airport. So early!! On the ride, Reagan tells me that she’s made plans to meet up with her Ex Dan (who moved to Florida 2 years ago) tomorrow for dinner, so I’m on my own tomorrow evening. Well, darn. Learning this, I did reach out to a pal I met years ago in Borneo. Brian is an actor and currently in a production in Boca Raton (internet tells me it’s only 30 min away) and maybe I can hang out with Brian tomorrow evening, then. Turns out it’s too last minute to make it work, unfortunately. He tried but couldn’t change his rehearsal schedule with such short notice. Still, fun chatting virtually with him and knowing we were nearby. On our flight across the country, the flight attendant makes an announcement over the intercom to tell us we’re flying over Tulsa, Oklahoma. All of us are bemused. Like, cool? Then she went on to say she grew up there, “and if you look out the window, you can see how flat it is!!” Ha! Only the most important of updates. Hope the people who were sleeping appreciated it extra. *smile*

Also, FYI for anyone flying Alaska Airlines. Total new Game Changer in the drinks game. They have these silly citrus flavored powder packs for drinks (in lieu of an actual lime wedge). But when I ordered my seltzer with lime, attendant asked if I wanted to try it with Grapefruit. I didn’t even know that grapefruit was an option. It was tasty and felt more special, somehow, than just lime or lemon. Fancy!

As we land and are headed to our gate, they announce: “It’s going to be close to 90* today. Sounds good, doesn’t it? (My brain: no, it sounds too hot!) We’re going to ask those of you seated at the window to please close the shades to make it just a little more pleasant in here for the next lovely guests we’ll be having. But those passengers probably won’t be as good as you all, though.” Ha. These flight attendants were a hoot! Then it’s waiting for our luggage. I ask Reagan if she has any ideas of things she wanted to do tomorrow during the day, before her dinner with Dan. That’s when she tells me that she won’t be hanging out with me tomorrow, because this is a “working trip” for her. She’s going to be doing programming on the app she’s building. So that is both a surprise and a bummer. But not a lot I can do about it now. (If she doesn’t feel safe doing things in the Ports, and already needs lots of alone time on the Boat, and now needs to spend all of her spare time working on her app, I’m left wondering why she asked me to come along). She tells me she can hang out with me tonight, though. I point out we won’t even get to the hotel until 8:30pm or later, so it’ll just be checking in and dinner. Not exactly interested in the 11pm Spring Break crowd. Ah well.

As our taxi driver pulls into our hotel, “Oh, I remember this place now. A customer broke my finger here.” Oh my God!! “Yeah, she shut the door on my finger.” Yikes. So we got to watch this very nice lady have a traumatic memory. It did result in a larger tip. Just, yikes! (Made me EXTRA careful about all car doors I closed on the trip). Anyway, at check-in, I successfully charmed the front desk employee into giving us coupons for a free breakfast in the morning. Woohoo! By which I mean, I was just a basic level of human decency. Like, DO BETTER, everyone else. This poor woman was the only employee that evening and working her butt off. I just recognized and comiserated. And voila, unexpected free breakfast (in addition to the free drinks coupons we already got for my hotel member status). So that’s exciting!!

Kimpton Shorebreak has embraced this kitschy Blue Flamingo aesthetic. We check into our room and start looking at dinner options. Apparently we’re off the fancier and trendier portion of FLL strip. Most nearby restaurants are expensive!! And also booked (it’s Friday night) or don’t offer outdoor dining. Rather than walk the mile towards cheaper outdoor dining or waiting over an hour for the places that don’t take reservations, we grab a table at the hotel restaurant. Which has outdoor tables next to the pool, and a live musician. It’s nice.

We enjoy our free wine (yay) and a decent Italian meal. Then it’s time for bed (especially considering we started our day at 4am!!).

Next morning, Reagan says she can delay working on her app until 1pm, so we can hang out in the morning. We enjoy the FREE breakfast at hotel. Yay. Then I realize I forgot to sew a chin strap onto my pirate hat (and with potential winds on the cruise ship deck, need to secure my hat!). So we wander along the beach and shops, in search of a drug store. Come across an adorable little arts market. Very cute. If anyone’s in FLL ever, check out local independent baker Michael Oliver at Oli’s Bakeshop. His rum cake was delicious! And he gave free samples of his new experiment Guiness Cake…also tasty. And he was so nice. And check HorrorBLVD on etsy for fun horror movie gear. She’d just started up her business. Then more sunshine walking (very little shade. I was glad of my large floppy hat).

Found CVS. Where I ended up buying a pair of shoelaces to use one as a chin strap. I’d already packed my travel sewing kit, so ready for emergency crafting!

It’s getting close to noon, so time to walk back so Reagan can do her programming work. As we approach the hotel, I point to a window and say, “That’s our room.” Reagan stops walking for a moment, shakes her head, and says, “You’re a wizard, Harry.” Bwahahahaha. This girl has zero cognitive map skills. She was honestly flabbergasted at how I could possibly know such a thing. *laughs* Later that afternoon, Reagan reached out by text to say her crudite eyes were bigger than her crudite stomach (she ordered a second crudite plate at the swanky rooftop bar but couldn’t finish it), so I was invited to the rest of it. And that’s how I ended up emergency crafting at the rooftop pool deck in the afternoon. Ha. Then Reagan’s off to 6:30pm dinner reservations with Dan (asking me not to eat at hotel restaurant so she can have alone time with her friend). I explain that’s not a problem, as I’m planning to explore.

Wandering along the water, lovely sunset. So many little lizards!! Wearing my anthropologist hat, there is much interesting Spring Break people watching. Yikes, but entertaining. Multiple emergency vehicle responses (and it’s not even 9pm), and drunken dudes stumbling. I get delicious takeout from a Cuban restaurant. All the tostones! Wandering some more and alarms start going off to announce the drawbridge is about to open. And I see a jeep run through and around the guard rails. Yikes! Driven by an older white guy in a tropical shirt and flip flops, with one foot on the dash board. Peek Florida, baby!

Back to the hotel room. At 9:30pm Reagan texts to say that Dan’s train was late and then he had to check into his hotel, so they’re still at dinner. I wish them a good night. At 11pm, I text to let her know I’ll probably be asleep when she gets back. We make our timing plans to meet in the morning so we can head to Port. That’s a wrap on Fort Lauderdale for me.

So, the exciting thing (to me and about 2/3 of the attendees, per the online discourse) about the nerd cruise is that, a few weeks before sailing, they announced that they were going to require masking for indoor spaces. Phew. Huge relief for more vulnerable folks, and good covid safety in general. Some people were bummed, but still willing. Nice to have a boat full of nerds, who are science and community minded. We basically had to sign a Kindness Pledge to attend. (Be respectful of other people, of staff, of people’s pronouns, look out for each other, don’t be a dick). At the port, so many colorful hairstyles, and different nerd shirts. Everone is enthusiastic and friendly. It’s lovely. Made the mundane and tedious check-in process much more entertaining. Finally on the boat and we get to check out the view from our tiny balcony!

There’s a basically mandatory “how things work” show on the main stage. During soundcheck, someone on stage says, “Let’s just kill the house for one sec, okay?” And about 30 people in the audience all dramatically scream in pain or terror or holler “I don’t want to die!” Ah, theatre nerds. I’m among my people. During the actual show, Paul (of Paul and Storm) basically tells everyone to pace themselves, and points out you literally CANNOT do all the fun things.

This is a stacked festival/nerd convention schedule, plus there’s an official “shadow cruise” of events run by attendees on a wide variety of topics (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Guide Dogs. Secret Life of a Cruise Ship Employee. How Book Covers Are Designed. Crafting Workshops. Improv Workshops. Concerts and Karaoke. 24-hour board games. Arcade game section).

Then it’s time for the “Sail Away” party (Reagan chooses to stays in the room). It’s the only time the ship offers free drinks (although I’m pretty sure the bloody mary was just tomato juice. Perhaps the glass was waved in front of a bottle of vodka, but there sure wasn’t much in there). And DJ Riz Rollins (from Seattle’s KEXP) is the JoCo DJ. So that’s wonderful getting to see him, and hear him picking songs. Parasocial relationships are strong and all the KEXP folk feel like family, so learning Riz would be on the cruise was delightful. When “Come Sail Away” plays, everyone sings along. It’s silly and wonderful.

Our name tags have an “ask me about” section to help foster conversation with strangers. And everyone is given “Yes” and “No” buttons, to indicate whether someone wants to “do friendship” right now, or not. The cruise is super friendly to the introverted and neurodivergent folks. I was also “treated” to a lecture on IPA beers from a white guy in his 60’s. He was super enthusiastic and excited (also his first time on the cruise). His daughter goes every year, but he’s recently retired and so he and his wife could now join. Honestly, it was just fine. I could occassionally get a word in. (and y’all know that’s impressive, when even I can’t get a word in). But he was so excited, and so supportive of the cruise and everyone on board, it was lovely to see. Proudly pointing out his adult trans daughter and all her friends. His “ask me about” was cars, but I suggested he add “beer” to it, which he did. *smile*

After a few more “sing along” sailing songs, it’s time to head to the dining room and meet Reagan for dinner. Promenading along deck at sunset. Then it’s the opening night show. Best comment taken out of context goes to Aimee Mann, “There’s no way I’m NOT getting into those panties by the end of the Cruise.” Ha. Paul and Storm have a song about being the opening band and how nobody tosses panties on stage. So of course their fans bring underwears to toss on stage. And Paul grabbed the pair away that Aimee had been inspecting. It’s just a bunch of silliness. Plus Marc Evan Jackson cast himself as official villian, and would wander onstage to offer his brand of dry criticisms. After the show, Reagan walks up to a nearby bar. Orders a glass of milk, pulls her mask down briefly and chugs the whole thing. Then heads off to bed. Ha! The JoCo folks have made a variety of funny custom elevator rugs for the Boat. And there are nerd decorations everywhere. Some provided by the official team, others from attendees. Including these inflatable animals everywhere. I decide to try to get a selfie with as many as I can. At karaoke of Nirvana’s “All Apologies,” the “everyone is gay” line gets the biggest applause ever. It’s a very free to be yourself cruise, safe and celebratory space for people in all their delightful varieties and truths. Lovely.

The next day is “Captain Day.” Guests encouraged to dress as the Captain of their choosing. I dressed as a pirate.

Captains I saw: Picard. Kirk. Caveman. Kangaroo. Crunch. Planet. Davenport (from The Adventure Zone podcast). Marvel. Stubing. Aquatic Life with Steve Zizou. Mighty Ducks Conway. Stede Bonnet (both solo and in couples costume with Blackbeard). Two different people in Nemo (the fish) costumes with captain hats. Captain Obvious from the commercials. Leela from Futurama. Malcolm Reynolds. Some Star Wars Captains (I don’t know enough to know which full armor outfit is which). Also a couple wearing a stack of ten baseball hats “Cap #10.” Well done!

At the Schmanners podcast panel “Recently at work someone said ‘cow-tipping is a rich man’s sport’ and it ground a meeting to a halt. When queried further, she elaborated, ‘you’d have to be pretty rich to know where a cow is.’” WHAT?!? It’s a month later and I’m still thinking about this.

Walking the hallways is basically like Nerd Trick-or-Treating. In addition to the gift exchange sign ups (see this amazing knit alien on a headband someone made for me),

there are all kinds of giveaways posted on different people’s doors. There’s a “Pharm-a-Sea” where people are offering a variety of over the counter medicines. The onboard ship forums are full of a barter and gifting economy. “I have stain remover.” “Safety pins and ginger candies available at my room.” Small felted frogs. Custom flavored salts. Charm bracelets. Knit toys. Book and art exchanges. Just wonderful.

Chatting with a staff member, he says to me, “This is the Most Fun this ship has ever been!” I concur. And explain all the guests basically have to make a kindness agreement to come along. He sincerely touched his chest over his heart and says, “it makes ALL the difference. The costumes are pretty great, too.” As the cruise goes on, several wonderful interactions with staff. A young non-binary person working the theatre door, has gotten to add the JoCo They/Them stickers to their name tag (as it’s not a thing Holland America offers). They were so excited, having met so many kind people, gained lots of new resources, and a huge list of Etsy sellers based upon different cool outfits and accessories everyone is wearing. “It’s a good thing I get paid tomorrow!” A bartender tells me this is his third JoCo and it’s one of his favorites. A couple I meet walking the deck have been attending since almost the beginning. And they said some staff ended up booking to be passengers on future cruises because they’re such a celebration of fun and silliness.

Speaking of, that afternoon is the Fancy Pants Parade. The Jonathan Coulton song can be played here. Basically, anyone wearing Fancy Pants is encouraged to join. And they play this short silly song on repeat, while folks parade and dance around the pool. It’s so silly. And everyone is smiling.

ALSO, several guests are big into Mermaid Cosplay. So there are always several full-on mermaids at the pool (or the beach) which is magical, too.

Reagan booked us dinner in the fancy steakhouse. And ordered this “hanging candied bacon” appetizer that bemused me.

At the time of booking the cruise, Reagan had to pick Gold or Red Team. She arbitrarily picked Red Team and it was totally the right choice. That first night we learned that things get hyper-partisan (in fun competition) between the two teams. Everyone starts chanting “Red Team” and we quickly join in. The Rainbow Girls band relay how Paul warned/described the two teams to the performers. “Gold Team are all very sweet and timid but trying to be supportive. Total Hufflepuff energy. And well, Read Team. *meaningful pause* We picked the wrong color, because they’re totally all Slitherins. Agents of chaos.” Bwahahaha. Gold Team sees the concert at 5pm and has dinner after. Red Team has dinner at 5pm (which is admittedly early) but means it’s a 7pm concert, which leads to a more party atmosphere. The first night they draw a random name to be team leader. Our leader is a red haired white woman named Robyn. It’s her first JoCo and she’s here on her honeymoon. On Halloween costume themed day, their pre-packed costumes were Jessica Rabbit and Roger Rabbit. Amazing choice in general, but especially as it now meant Red Team Leader is wearing a long red sequin dress! Too fun. She totally took to the assignment, and would wander the crowd, hyping people up before the show. Even walked onto stage a few times to get the crowd riled up. Judging from actual performer reactions of surprise, I’m guessing Gold Team Leader was not performing on stage. Ha!

During Josh Gondelman’s comedy set (on Captain Day), he reacts to the energy of Red Team vs earlier Gold Team. “Y’all are like, Fuck Cosplay, We’re Pirates for Real!” Later, Gondelman says anytime we see him pause and stand still on the stage, it’s not because he’s forgotten the next joke. It’s that he’s trying to decide if the swaying is because of the three drinks he had, or because Boat is rocking. Basically the whole audience started chanting “Both! Both! Both!” right away. At a speed of collective agreement that impressed and disturbed him, with our mighty groupthink!

Belated Post: Bavarian Vaccination Vacation: May 2021


Browse archives for February 26, 2023
Latest Comment
Posted in


Tagged with

And so I’m slowly continuing to post the 2021 & 2022 trips that I never wrote about. For this edition, cast your mind back to spring 2021. You remember, it was during Season Three of Covid. Vaccine rollouts were happening, slowly, across the country. There was hope in the air. Vaccines were shown to be remarkably safe and very effective at preventing serious disease and hospitalization. (We’d yet to learn that the much celebrated unexpected bonus of these vaccines conferring great protection against infection overall, and not just against progression to serious disease, that that protection would wane. Thereby requiring continued safety precautions). My dear pal Jesse was taking his wife to Leavenworth Washington for her birthday celebration. Deborah was understandably excited, even more so because it’d be their first time staying somewhere else in many many months.

So back in Season One of Covid (early April 2020), Deborah created a weekly Zoom Trivia group. It turned out to be such an emotional and mental life-saver for us. Everyone knew only a few of the others in the group, which led to a fun “getting to know you” dynamic, as we’d meet each Friday to play games we created and commiserate with each other. Scattered across the country and in very different situations, strong bonds were formed. With that context, Jesse invited those of us in Seattle to join on this trip. AS A SURPRISE! I had some hesitation, because if I’d been planning a getaway weekend with my husband and suddenly 3 other people were in the house too, I would hate that surprise. But I trusted Jess to know his wife. And I was right in that trust, because Deborah was so thrilled. And we were all excited to be hanging out, recently vaccinated, together! It was amazing. And the adorable fake bavarian town of Leavenworth had opened up so much outdoor dining options, it allowed us to safely enjoy the town! And allowed people to bring their dogs!

Rhein Haus with fire!

AND we really lucked out in the weather on our second day. Woke to find Jesse’d baked us some delicious muffins. And Gorgeous sunshine, allowing for lovely morning explorations.

Intrepid Explorers (best part? They weren’t even posing!)

Lovely patio meal at South. A Leavenworth favorite, offering great Sangria and Margaritas, too. But the fools had reserved some tables for Covid-19. Don’t give it reservations! It’ll never leave.

Just a wonderful day wandering through town. Obligatory wine tasting at Kestrel.

Then back to our lovely house to get changed for our fancy dinner reservations. We took lots of Prom Style fancy pics before dinner.

Dinner at Mana was very special. They offered some lovely individual green houses outdoors for their tasting menu. Platings were gorgeous. Food tasty and well considered. A delicious non-alcoholic beverage pairing option, too.

And then, because we are who we are, THIS is what happens when Deb left her phone at the table while she went to use the facilities.

We are Adults!

Sunday was WINDY!!! Breakfast tacos and kolache at Javelin, and then we did an escape room, but found much of the outdoor tables too unpleasant. So back to the house for game playing. “Agents of Smersh” proved a delight.

That evening, weather was chillier but winds had died down. Some lovely wine tasting, and we were treated wonderfully at Icicle Ridge. One of the owners told us about his jazz band “Smooth Tannins” and that the musical notes on the Razzmatazz label were from a song he’d written. Ha! They had the fanciest outdoor lounge set up and it was very nice. Then off to Yodelin for dinner. Which has THE BEST VIEW for a meal ever. Gorgeous. And serves wonderful food. GIANT mixing bowls full of flavor-packed different soups and noodles and a killer burger, too.

A last bit of Bavarian shenanigans, and then time to head home. It was a really really wonderful weekend. We ate delicious food and had some great drinks. But the best best best part was just getting to be together, in person. After weekly Zooms throughout those first 14 months of Covid, we’d really bonded in the trenches, as it were. (And also, a few months into our weekly zooms, we realized that all 8 of us were child-free, and had a moment of silence for our pals trying to keep kids healthy safe and sane during those months. Because our parent friends didn’t have time for the existential dread and crisises we were living through. It was very very hard, and we see you! Well done. And to my Zoom pals, thank you!