A Monument to Her Wins: My First Time in Utah

My sister is a powerhouse!

She goes on runs as often as she can and signs herself up for these exhausting 10Ks and half-marathons and actually follows through on them. For some of my more athletic readers, this is no reason to call her a powerhouse. Plenty of people are runners.

But Alya is absolutely deserving of the word. She’s the most awesome person in the world, and I think she’s the best at everything.

Side note: I am not an athletic person. I am a pudgy person who likes to hunker down and remain sedentary.

My sister signed herself up for a half-marathon taking place near Moab, Utah. The run boasted a steady decline for a road and a fantastic vista of the Canyonlands National Park in the distance.

Alya invited me and my boyfriend to go along with her and her husband, and thus our adventure into Utah began! The San Francisco Team was back! (See here for the SF Trip.)

Accompanying my sister to Utah was my first time visiting that state. All I knew about it came from movies, TV shows, and comedy sketches. The sum total of my knowledge about Utah kind of boiled down to the fact that it was filled with Mormons.

I learned it is also filled with epic mountains.

We decided to drive into Utah instead of flying. This gave us an opportunity to witness the transformation of desert landscapes, from California to Arizona to Utah. People might think that after seeing one desert you’ve seen them all. Not so. They are all wildly different.

Utah’s landscape definitely stood out from the blending desert scenes we drove past. We traveled through Monument Valley on our way to Moab, and our trip would have been the poorer if we hadn’t made that choice. The ground is mostly flat except for these massive buttes. I had never seen a butte in my life until that day. They were like a herd of monoliths reaching for the sky. The only way they go is up. Verticality is king. Mountains in general can make you feel small. Those buttes in Monument Valley make you feel inconsequential.

Moab was a nice town, oriented for out-of-towners. It does have a touch of “Utah” about it though. Public places close extremely early by California standards, with most restaurants calling it quits around 8 PM. And bars seemed few and far between, i.e. there were only two real bars that we saw while there.

Not that we did much drinking. Alya had a run to prepare for. I couldn’t accompany her for the half-marathon, but she told me all about it.

The view was fantastic. While jogging forward, the road swept away from her like a ribbon. Drums beat along the way, a new experience for Alya during a run. But since she forgot to download some songs on her phone ahead of time, they were a pleasant replacement. The pounding rhythm gave her a burst of adrenaline.

I waited for her by the finish line, and together we walked back to the hotel while drinking some chocolate milk. The boys had stayed asleep in the room. We joined them and then went out for lunch.

Our stay in Utah was only for three days. However, since she wanted to thank us for coming with her for the drive, Alya got us a plane tour of the Arches National Park right before we left. That was the second time I had ever flown in an airplane. The first time was ages ago.

I’m not going to lie, I was kind of nervous. It was a small plane, so the ride up was not as smooth as a large commercial flight. But the view was totally worth it.

The tour guide kept telling us stories of all the horrible accidents that had occurred in the park, accidents that required him to fly in and rescue people while working there. That was hilarious. He told a real good story. I hope that I can learn to tell stories that engaging in the future.

Going to Utah made me realize how much there is to explore in my own country. My sister might dream of traveling to Europe, but there is so much I’m still missing out on this continent alone.

The Cabin in the Woods (Not the Horror Kind)

My sister decided to treat her in-laws and her nuclear family to a trip to Mount Lemmon. She rented a cabin in the woods for three days for a nice winter getaway.

You may or may not know this about me and my family, but we are desert creatures, born to withstand 115 degree weather in the peak of summer. Our winters are usually chilly, but that’s about it.

During our stay on Mount Lemmon, the mountain was covered in snow.

Our party consisted of three groups:

  1. Alya’s group: Alya, my sister, headed the first group, with her husband, Carlos, and her puppy, Ushi. Alya planned the whole trip, so she was the keeper of information. Carlos was the only person who owned a set of tire chains “on the off chance there’s snow.” (There for sure was snow.) Ushi is a Saint Bernard/Great Pyrenees mix. This would be her first time in snow, her natural element.
  2. Paty’s group: Paty is Carlos’ mom. She had brought along for the trip her sister, her husband, and her youngest son, Christian. Both Paty and her sister Choco are peas in a pod. They like to do everything together. However, they are both surprisingly different in their personalities. Paty is more carefree and spontaneous. Choco is structured and precise. Paty’s husband, Enrique, is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. And Christian was actually a classmate of mine in high school. We’re the same age. He’s a goofy gooferton. His goal for the Mount Lemmon trip, he said at the beginning, was to “eat shit” in the snow. By that, he meant that he wanted an epic slip on ice or a disastrous sledding accident to happen to him.
  3. My group: My mom and dad came on this trip with us, as did my boyfriend, Danny. My mom was suitably anxious about the complications of snow, but excited by the concept of a winter vacation. My dad was incredibly excited. He grew up in New Jersey, so he hadn’t seen good snow in years after he moved to the desert with my mom. Danny and I hadn’t seen each other since October (we’re a long-distance couple), so this cabin trip was a good way to hang out with each other. Plus, it would be our first snow.

We caravanned up the mountain in our three cars. My group was the last to make it up because we stopped at the side of the road to play with some snow collected there. You have to understand, I never get to see snow. The most I’ve seen collected is maybe ankle high, more ice than snow, and gone in a day or two. The snow on Mount Lemmon was powdery and went up to my knees. I was thrilled.

The party eventually parked together by the general store near the top of the mountain. The town we were staying at was called Summerhaven, which seemed a pretty funny name for a place covered in a thick blanket of ice fluff. We all got out of the cars and convened. We had to figure out what to do next. The cabin was available to us at 4pm. We had arrived on the mountain early, at 11am.

This didn’t bother us much, initially. There was freakin’ snow on the ground! The amount of times we had collectively seen even a meager pile of snow on the ground could be counted on one hand. Alya, Christian, Carlos, and Ushi frolicked in the snow while we waited. The elder members of our group hung out at a nearby restaurant. I walked around in a circle just to hear the snow crunch. Danny took a nap in one of the cars.

At around 1pm, a miracle happened. Snow started to fall. I bet there are going to be some people who read this who have lived with snow their whole lives.

That’s not me.

I had never seen snow fall from the sky before. Ever.

It was dizzying. Tiny specks of white swirled down and around us. I could feel the small impacts of flakes hitting my lips. The whole world turned grey, and while that may sound bleak, let me assure you that it felt wondrous.

Of course, after all that wonder, the cold started to seep in. My nose began to burn with cold. My fingertips ached within my gloves. The cold pierced through my clothes. It was all so magically painful.

My mom wanted to head to the cabin as soon as the snow started falling. However, my father stubbornly insisted that we remain at the general store a while longer. He said that it would not be comfortable to wait around outside a cabin in the woods for two hours.

So we stayed.

And the snowfall got heavier.

At 3:45 pm, a loudspeaker began declaring that anybody who wished to leave the mountain should do so immediately. It was only then that we decided to try to head to the cabin.

We ran into problems immediately.

Firstly, Alya’s GPS led her in the wrong direction. It kept saying the cabin was directly east of us, when in actuality (as Danny’s map told him), it was south of us.

The second problem was the snow. Not only did I get to experience my first snowfall, I got to experience my first heavy snowfall. You could hardly see in front of you anymore. The roads became thickly packed with snow, and Carlos’ car was the only one that had chains. We tried driving in the snow in an unchained car once, but the slippage freaked us out so much, we returned to the general store’s parking lot.

A plan was soon formed. Alya, Carlos, Danny, and Christian would try driving to the cabin in Carlos’ car. The rest of us would wait in our cars by the general store. I definitely drew the short straw in this regard. As I’ll tell you in a moment, they got to experience an adventure.

I had to stay in a car surrounded by snow with a rapidly panicking mother.

As the sky grew darker and the snow wrapped itself around us, my mom began to doubt our chances of survival. She kept asking me if I thought we would “make it.” She also wondered if the group that had gone to the cabin would become lost and frozen in the woods. I had to endure about 45 minutes of this.

Meanwhile, my sister and her scouting party were having tons of fun. There was a very steep hill that led directly to the cabin. However, after seeing another car slide all the way down the hill, out of control, they decided not to try their luck, even with the chains on. Carlos and Danny went on foot up the hill to see if they could find the cabin. Alya and Christian stayed in the car.

Alya told me it was creepy being in the car because they could see other people walking past them, like ghosts out of the darkness. These people were probably just residents trying to make their way home. But the atmosphere of a snowy night brings a sense of terror all on its own without any monsters necessary.

I think Danny and Carlos had the worse time of it though. The steepness of the hill caused Danny to slip at least four times. Eventually, Danny and Carlos found what they thought was the cabin. The address given to us for the cabin turned out to be incorrect, so they weren’t sure if the cabin was the right one. Regardless, Danny and Carlos made the executive decision that no matter who that cabin belonged to, we were going to stay there.

On the way back down, Carlos and Danny ran into the landlord in his truck. He told them that he could show them another route to the cabin, longer, but less steep. He gestured for them to hop onto the back of the pick-up so he could drive them to the alternate road. Despite initial misgivings about being in the bed of a truck during a snowy evening, Danny and Carlos clambered onto the truck.

And then the truck fell into a ditch and got stuck.

While driving to the route, the landlord stopped to say hello to some passersby in the snow. That pause in driving forward was his downfall. The truck slid backwards after losing its momentum, and Danny and Carlos had to walk back to the car anyways with only a faint notion of where the alternate route lay.

Then began the shuttling. Carlos and Danny returned to the car and they all drove back to the parking lot. The sky was black by the time they drove in. Paty, Choco, and my mom made the first trip to the cabin with Carlos while the rest of us still waited by the general store. The next trip included me, Alya, Ushi, and Christian. The final trip had my dad, Enrique, and Danny.

After a long, tiring, freezing, and dark journey, we were all in the cabin.

The place was delightful. There were two bedrooms with bunk beds in each, and two pull-out beds in the living room. The place was warm because of heating vents in the floor. Poor Ushi did not appreciate these vents as much as we did. They made her nervous, so she kind of spent her cabin-time in a perpetual state of nervousness.

We all went to bed exhausted, but at least we had beds and did not have to sleep in a car in a parking lot in the snow.

The morning came ripe with excitement. Alya and I were eager to go out into the snow to play. We walked to the general store with Ushi and Danny almost as soon as we were dressed.

I want to say that my favorite thing about snow is how it sounds when you step on it. It crunches under your shoes (god forbid you’re stepping on snow in your bare feet) with more oomph than dirt. The snow on Mount Lemmon was of a powdery consistency. We couldn’t make snowballs very well at all. But it was prime sledding snow.

Alya bought a cheap plastic sled at the general store. Then, Christian, Alya, and I took turns sledding down a hill. (Danny opted out and instead very responsibly dug out the cars we had had to abandon at the general store’s parking lot.)

The sledding was fun. Our sled was not top-quality, and we were not expert sledders. But we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. Christian got his chance to eat shit when he tried sledding face first. He went off the path in a shower of snow dust. Ushi looked like she had fun too, jumping in and around snow lumps. Alya and I had our own troubles when we tried sledding together and the sled barrel-rolled down the last fourth of the hill. I hurt my arm something fierce, but that was nothing compared to the feeling of having snow cover my entire head. After that, we were all suitably chastened to return to the cabin.

Alya, Ushi, and I walked to the cabin instead of taking the proffered ride from Carlos when he came down to check on us. More time in the snow before resting would be great, we thought.

Unfortunately, the cold from the snow set in halfway through our trek back up. We had to climb that steep hill Danny slipped on so many times. It felt like my childhood asthma came back with a vengeance. Plus, neither Alya nor I had brought snow pants to the mountain. I was wearing jeans. By the time we reached the top of the hill, the lower half of my pants were encrusted with snow. They were stiff with frost.

Alya and I went back to the cabin and napped.

For the rest of the day, we went out to play in sporadic bursts. Carlos and Christian tried building a snow fort. I tried building snowmen. The snow was really too powdery to hold any form whatsoever. My snowmen (I made eight) were less than a foot high and were tremulous figures to boot.)

I didn’t get much sleep the next day because Alya tried getting Ushi to go to the bathroom early in the morning. Unfortunately, Ushi was terrified of walking over a vent, so she scrabbled around and lunged away from Alya when she got close to one. She ended up jumping on top of one of the pull-out beds where Enrique and Paty were sleeping. Enrique woke up with a start, thinking a bear had got into the cabin and attacked him.

All in all, the cabin time was great. Each night spent there was perfect. We played dominoes, Jenga, and Scrabble when we were inside and leapt around like crazy people when we were outside. Alya felt guilty about the cabin trip at first, because it started out so tumultuously and all that, but she needn’t have worried so much. It was fun,

And while my ardor for snow may have thawed a little thanks to my ill-preparedness for it, I’m sure it will spring up again.

At least it will once my nose has recovered.

You guys can call me Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for now.

Another Arcade Bar “Escapade”

This past weekend (several past weekends by the time this actually gets published) I went to an arcade bar with my sister, her husband, and his best friend.

Normally, I adore the concept of arcade bars. Yay, arcade games! I’m all for playing games with some cool people with a drink in my hand that is more sugar than alcohol.

But this arcade bar was brimming with party-going, college-age, frat-soro, whoo-people. True, I’m making assumptions on their characters and sweeping generalizations on the demographics of an entire bar scene, so please forgive me. I was peeved that two machines I wanted to play right from the get-go were broken, with nearly every other machine having an adjoining line to play it.

I was suitably soured on being social.

And I’m not that social to begin with.

Plus, bars are sucky places to try to be social. Music pumps so loudly that your eardrums don’t have the capacity to deal with anything else. You find yourself shouting at people in order to compensate, but in the end, you’re only contributing to the cacophony of voices competing to be heard.

So after finding little to entertain myself with, I decided to stand at a vacant table (there were no chairs) by myself. My sister, Alya, had secured herself a Pac-Man machine. Her husband, Carlos, and his friend, Fro, had gone off somewhere else (I had no idea where).

I had a fairly tolerable time staring at the different people mingling raucously around me. Rowdy clutches of guys pumped their fists in the air when their buddies won the games they were playing. Scantily clad (for November) girlfriends held (I’m assuming) their boyfriends’ hands and led them to wait in lines for games they wanted to play. Gaggles of friends congregated around these teeny tables with no chairs, laughing and chatting as loudly as they could against the general mayhem of sound.

Despite my reluctance to participate in bar-time rowdiness, I do take a certain delight in watching it take place. It’s the fun of observing situations you could never hope (or do not want) to be a part of.

Eventually, I came to the realization that I was being a bit of a weirdo just standing at that lone table and staring at people. I decided to buy myself a drink so that I could look more natural as I continued to stare at people.

Before I left the table, I let Alya know where I was going so that she wouldn’t worry that I had been carted away by strangers or something like that. She nodded her head in acknowledgement but beckoned me to come closer for a moment. I leaned in, and she muttered, “So far I’ve been hit on by two guys.”

I shrugged in a them’s-the-breaks kind of way and went to get myself a drink.

I bought a rum and coke from a nice girl at the bar. Then I headed back to my table to continue my duty as solitary sentinel of this arcade bar.

Just my luck that two guys had taken my spot while I had been gone.

I considered endlessly roaming the entire bar with my drink in my hand for the rest of the night, but then thought to myself, ‘Fuck it,’ and walked right up to the table.

“Do you mind if I just chill here?” I half-shouted at the two guys.

One of them said, “What?” so I had to repeat myself a little louder. Once they understood what I was asking, they graciously inclined their heads and indicated that I could join them in standing around this minuscule table.

Side note: Every word we thereafter spoke to each other was yelled.

“Thanks,” I said, and placed my drink on the table. I was wearing my over-large black pea coat so it was a bit of a struggle to lean against my arms on the table without getting it dirty. “You guys can keep talking to each other and ignore me if you want,” I assured them. “I just want a spot to stand at.”

“That’s okay,” the taller guy replied, and at that moment, as I adjusted the sleeve of my pea coat once more, I swept my glass onto its side and spilled a liter of rum and coke on the table.

I stared at it for a moment stupidly, then I looked up at the two men who were looking down at the mess and shouted, “Sorry! I didn’t mean to do that! Just so you know, I’m not drunk or anything! This was an un-drunk accident.”

They laughed and proceeded to help me clean up the spilled drink.

And just like that, I had my first truly social moment at a bar.

We started talking (hollering) about our respective jobs. One of the guys was named Joe. He lived in the area and was showing the other guy around. The other guy’s name was Jeremy (I may be spelling that wrong), and he was from Montreal. He had graduated from college and had wanted to do some traveling in the United States before committing to settling down.

The three of us conversed about a wide range of topics, and what was so awesome was that it all just came naturally to me. You might not realize what a breakthrough this was for me, but holy flubbernuggets, it was amazing.

Joe talked about his trip to Slab City and how mind-blowing the whole place was. Jeremy extolled the autumn appearance of the Blue Ridge Parkway drive he took. I was having an honest-to-god conversation with two strangers who I had just met, and I was liking it.

We even talked about man-buns and bad haircuts.

When Alya, Fro, and Carlos came up to me and told me they were ready to depart, I said good-bye to Joe and Jeremy. Before I left, Joe thanked me for just starting up the conversation. He said it’s not often that people just talk to each other normally like that, and it was really cool that I initiated it.

I inwardly thought back to my original intention in approaching them, which was to simply stand nearby and people-watch next to them. But outwardly, I smiled and said, “No problem.”

Sometimes it’s okay to do things in a way that you don’t normally do them. You could end up with a great conversation in a bustling, boisterous arcade bar.

My Trip to San Francisco Last Year

I bought a notebook while I was visiting San Francisco last year and wrote down things about the experience. For this post, I have decided to copy what I wrote here.

When my sister (Alya) and her husband (Carlos) told me about their first experience crossing a bridge to San Francisco, that of claustrophobia and an irreversible commitment, I expected the same sensations to occur to me. Honestly, it felt like a simple drive into San Diego, though the immensity of the San Francisco Bay Bridge was awe-inspiring.

Entering traffic in SF with my sister, her husband, and Danny was more claustrophobic than crossing the bridge. I’m acquiring a dislike of one-way streets the more I encounter them. Pedestrians clog the sidewalks like cholesterol clogs a fat man’s veins. Danny told me the homeless population in SF is larger than the national average, and I believe him. Small moments of panic leapt through my chest every time I saw some poor, twitchy man stumble onto one of those accursed one-way streets, a car narrowly missing him.

The stench in SF is prominent; I never imagined urine could perfume a city so effectively, but there you have it. Alya hated it. Last night, after eating at a diner at two in the morning, she insisted on running all the way back to our hotel at full speed so we wouldn’t have to linger amidst the pee fumes. She sprinted the two blocks while I huffed my lungs out. Damn all the secondhand smoke from the apparently endless supply of cigarette smokers living here.

The hotel was unique from others I’ve been to. It felt un-hotel-like, even though it had all the trappings of a hotel. We were on the fifth floor. There was a lounge on the second floor that offered free coffee. The shower knobs were confusingly delightful. There were three; one controlled whether water streams from the lower faucet or the upper shower head. The other two knobs controlled the temperature. The beds were comfortable. The room was small, but I liked it.

Even though we had come from a long drive, we immediately left the hotel after dropping our belongings off so we could explore Chinatown, which was only a couple of blocks away. One of the streets was filled with quaint, tourist-y shops. They all smelled of strange, herbal incense, and most of their wares were brightly colored. And if the goods were not brightly colored, then the display cases were. Bright reds, deep greens, royal blues, and glaring yellows crowded shelves. And jade items were stereotypically present.

Restaurants were on every block. We ate at a sushi place for lunch. One thing I adore about SF is the sheer variety of food offered on a single block. I ate so much while I was there. Admittedly, at the sushi place, I only ordered gyoza since I don’t eat seafood. But Alya told me the sushi was superb. She insisted I try mochi, a bright pink dessert that was part ice cream and part powdered gummy. That was a satisfying treat with which to end our meal.

After thoroughly exploring Chinatown, we went back to our hotel, exhausted. We all took a nap, an especial rarity for me, and tried to recover from our night-long drive and subsequent tourist-ing. Upon waking close to seven at night, the boys were adamant we all should go out to a bar. Alya and I, daybirds by nature, were reluctant. Danny persuaded me, and Alya decided to come along too.

I don’t regret making that choice at all. The bar we went to was called Coin-Op, and it was designed to look like Flynn’s arcade from Tron. It had a good selection of arcade games and a delicious, salty prosciutto pizza that perfectly counterbalanced my sweet, yet strong drink. Alya gravitated toward Frogger, and I stuck with Galaga for the most part. I had one hell of a good time.

The next morning we all went to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was bitingly cold, especially the closer we got to the oceanfront. I hadn’t planned on buying anything tourist-y whatsoever, but I was not used to such temperatures. I caved and bought an SF jacket. No regrets. It was fleecy and soft, and totally worth it.

Danny made sure to show us a place his uncle recommended that has great clam chowder. And by “us,” I mean Alya and Carlos since I don’t eat seafood. They said it was good. I enjoyed taking in the scenery while they chowed down. With an enveloping jacket, the weather was wonderful, the kind of wonderful that lingers by an ocean. Seagulls flocked around the streets. Their calls always remind me of grey skies and a crisp climate. Street musicians played catchy versions of “Uptown Funk” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” (Not that the originals themselves aren’t catchy.) Despite not having anything in my belly, I was content.

After Alya, Carlos, and Danny were done eating, we went to a nearby penny arcade. (Yeah, I know, we have a thing for arcades.) It was simultaneously creepy and ingratiating. Old machines that were intended to entertain people were crammed into a large, warehouse-sized room. Some of them were quaint and enjoyable; others were disturbing. One such machine had a six-foot-tall, marionette-looking woman, and if you inserted a quarter, she would laugh for you. A horrifying cackle that occasionally devolved into a throaty cough. Our quarter gave us three minutes of that. Apparently, that passed for entertainment way back when. We also played a hockey version of foosball. Danny and I won. Danny is usually an unassuming person, but he can be surprisingly competitive at times.

We then trekked to Ghirardelli Square. Danny had fond reminiscences of a milkshake he had ordered there once. I ordered a hot cocoa; it was light and frothy. Next door there was a luxury shop for dogs called Yap. Ghirardelli Square was made with deep red bricks for its courtyard. It feels clean compared to the San Franciscan streets near our hotel. My legs had been aching from all the walking we had done. Thankfully, Alya called for an Uber and we got a ride back to the hotel. I felt sore and weary, so, unfortunately, I got into a small disagreement with Danny. He wanted us to go out on a late-night drive and I wanted to stay behind while he went on with my sister and Carlos. I ended up going along though I was dead tired.

Danny drove us on a midnight tour through the confusing streets of SF. He took us to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was surreal, driving under a structure I had seen so many times in movies. The dull, golden glow of the lamps along the bridge gave it an ancient luster. Sounds corny, but that’s the vibe I picked up.

Then Danny drove us up Twin Peaks so that we could look down on the city entire. The city twinkled through the mist that throttled all its crevices. Both Alya and I shared the same thought: from our high perspective, the city looked like Batman’s Gotham. It was beautiful, but slightly sinister. We drove back to the hotel, and I slept soundly.

The next morning, Alya and I went to a diner for breakfast by ourselves, and we spent the most splendid morning together. Rain wasn’t dripping from the sky; it was clouding all around us. Despite the chill, it made our traipsing through the city more pleasurable. We went to an Ugg store and a Doc Marten’s store to look over our favorite shoes. We guiltily purchased some knick-knacks from the Disney store (they worked us like pros). And we laughed so much. That’s one of the great things about hanging out with Alya. I can be lighthearted with her one moment, and then serious the next. We returned to the boys in the highest of high spirits.

Next, Danny led us to the City Hall. It is far larger than any city hall I’ve ever seen. Which doesn’t mean much, since the only city halls I’ve seen are in the Imperial Valley. It has a vast rotunda that marble steps lead up to. These stairs were the setting for the last scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Alya and I tried to pose in the same positions as Indiana Jones and Marion. We more or less got them right. More or less.

That evening was the night of Hamilton, our whole reason for coming to SF in the first place. Danny and Carlos dropped Alya and I off in front of the Orpheum Theatre, and Alya and I joined the river of people flowing into the building. We were part of the mass of people excitedly thronging to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece. We had balcony seats, so we gazed down upon the stage in anticipation and awe. The lights dimmed, then went out completely. The music pounded out its first beats, and then the stage was lit.

I’d heard the songs before, many times, but there’s nothing like hearing it and seeing it performed for you live. Voices echo with more power and emotion. Frantic, yet precise, stage choreography thrills to the cadence of each musical piece. Even though the entire play was basically contained in the soundtrack I had listened to many a time, I would not call seeing it live a waste. It was a magnificent boon. Familiar was made new, and it stamped itself in my mind as a happy memory. That is, unless I suffer from severe dementia in the future. But who knows? Maybe during my bouts of senility, I’ll still vaguely recall going to see Hamilton with my sister and think on it fondly.

Our time in San Francisco had to come to an end eventually, and the day after Hamilton, we packed up and departed. On our way home, Danny gave us a tour of UC Berkeley. I think he derives real enjoyment from showing me places and things from his past. Or maybe I’m being self-absorbed and he likes to show things from his past to just anyone. I think it stems partially from his love of revealing (the storyteller in him) and from a desire to share himself with me (selfish, selfish), which I would want to encourage.

Anyways, the college campus was enormous, especially in comparison to my own. The facilities that these college students have access to are impressive. I won’t deny the ounce of jealousy that coursed through me, but then I remembered that I fucking loathe school. It was a new experience though, so that made the detour worth it.

What I took from the SF trip was a definite net positive. I spent a lot of quality time with my sister and Danny, and they are my two favorite people in the world. We ate incredible food that I would never have eaten otherwise. The variety of food available in cities is their one redeeming factor. Though I had a blast, visiting SF confirmed for me that I could never live in a city. I hate crowds, I hate traffic, and I dislike the impersonal nature of the majority who reside there. City people might try to deny it, but the stereotype exists for a reason. People seemed colder and less inclined to smile. That could be due to the pee smell. Either way, SF is officially crossed off my possible-living-areas list.
Though I guess I wouldn’t mind visiting it again.


Side note: I should have taken pictures of my time there…


To Sadly Go Where No Man Goes Anymore

An endeavor is an attempt, an effort to strive for something you are not sure you will achieve, but that you hope you will.

To “endeavor” is to take a shot, give it a whirl, or have a go at it.

It’s to try.

What feels like a lifetime ago already, the United States was sending Space Shuttles to the stars on a yearly basis. We were boldly going where no man has gone before. (You know what I mean.)

And now we just…don’t do that anymore.

What happened to our Space Program?

A few days ago, I went to the California Science Center. There appeared to be a ton of cool things to do there, but Danny and I went there specifically to see the retired Space Shuttle Endeavor. Honestly, we skipped out on seeing a bunch of cool exhibits. (We seriously ignored everything else in there to go see the Shuttle. Though to be fair to us, we had just spent several hours already at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. We were almost museum-ed out at that point.)

The Shuttle is located in this warehouse-like building with no fanfare or blandishments accompanying your entrance into it. You just walk in, and Endeavor is right there. But it honestly doesn’t need any fanfare. Endeavor dominates the space it resides in. It captures your eyes the moment you see it. It captures your heart the moment you stand next to it. It captures your imagination the moment you picture it in space.

My first thought upon seeing Endeavor was that I couldn’t believe something so fragile could have broken through our atmosphere multiple times. My next thought was why in the world I believed that something larger than an orca was fragile.

But that was my first impression. The texture of Endeavor looks akin to cardboard, with the ridges and slight scoring to match. And just like anything you might dare to pit against gravity, it’s been worn down a bit.

But goddamn, it’s awe-inspiring.

You don’t really consider the magnitude of words like “awe” until you come into contact with something of that nature. Go ahead and look up “awe’s” definition. It’s a grander word than you might have been led to believe.

Framed pictures of the crews of every Shuttle sent into space lined the walls of the warehouse. It was like the history of the Space Shuttle Program was looped around Endeavor. This belt of a timeline felt impossibly sad.

What we saw in that warehouse came from one of the pinnacles of American, nay, human endeavor.

And it’s in a fucking warehouse.

Granted, it’s a nice warehouse where people can come and appreciate what our forebears have accomplished, but it’s still a large, empty building where Endeavor can gather dust.

The Space Program and its history deserve more than to just dwindle. As Danny put it, “Instead of asking us where we’re going to go next, it just reminds us of what we used to do.”

Comic Con Saturday: Lines, Lines, and More Lines

Let’s talk lines.

As you’ve probably heard, San Diego Comic Con is a very crowded place. It definitely feels like every year more people are attending. Every single person who goes wants to see panels for their favorite pop culture icons, so the lines for these panels can get pretty intense.

Here’s the way lines work at SDCC:

Panels are scheduled by room, so each room has a pre-assigned collection of panels that are going to appear in it. If you want to go to a panel and you think there is the slightest chance a lot of other people would want to see it too, head to the room to make line at least an hour early. The lines for the room are staggered and will zigzag all over the place so as to not crowd the hallways or block any emergency exits. Luckily, the SDCC guide that they hand out to you comes with diagrams that show you where lines end up.

Once you make it to the room where your panel is going to be, STAY THERE. No one empties out the room after every panel, which means it’s possible for a person to stay in a room all day until the panel they want begins.

This is perhaps one of the biggest issues I’ve encountered while attending Comic Con.

On Saturday, I wanted to attend three panels: a Family Guy one, a My Hero Academia one, and a Batman: The Animated Series one.

I was only able to see the Family Guy one after standing in a line for more than two hours.

The biggest problems that can happen when you try to see a panel is that popular panels will be scheduled in the same room consecutively.

So, if, let’s say, you’re trying to see a panel about Batman: The Animated Series and a Harry Potter panel is before it, those Potterheads might decide to stay in the room and take up all the seats for the Batman panel.

Danny and I getting into Family Guy was pure happenstance. I had gotten my period that day, so instead of walking the Exhibit Hall with Danny, I decided to get in the line for Family Guy extremely early so I could just sit around in a room. Because of that, when Danny eventually joined me, we were just barely able to make it in to see the panel.

Even though we only got to see one panel that day, Saturday was still a fun day. Danny and I went to a party in an office building that overlooked Petco Park. The view was amazing. Some of the guests there…not so much. Nothing is worse than millennial roosters and hens who think that the world should fall at their feet and worship how suave they are. They scoffed more than they smiled.

This is what I heard some of these lame-brains say: “We have the tickets to go in. We are good to go; we are Gucci.”

After the party, Danny and I went to The Whiskey House, had a few drinks with some associates, and then left.

And thus ended my latest sojourn to San Diego Comic Con.

Comic Con Friday: Guilty Pleasures

I have a potentially embarrassing confession to make.

While pet-sitting for my sister with my friend Mia, we decided to binge-watch all the episodes of a show that had caught both of our eyes on Netflix. The show is computer animated, and I’m kind of self-conscious about the fact that I like it. It’s called Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir, and it’s about these two super heroes who pal around the city of Paris. It’s cute, absolutely corny, and both Mia and I couldn’t help liking it. (Who wouldn’t like a show with a melodramatic villain who constantly fails and says NEXT TIME I’LL DEFEAT YOU FOR SURE, LADYBUG AND CAT NOIR at the end of every episode?)

When I found out that Miraculous was going to have a panel at Comic Con on Friday, I thought to myself, ‘Hey! That’s great! This will be a nice little panel that Danny and I can attend while everyone else goes to the more popular ones.’

I deeply underestimated how popular this “little” panel was going to be.

Danny and I entered the room without too much of a hassle. We had shown up pretty early, so early, in fact, that we got to sit in on the panel prior to Miraculous’. 

It was a My Little Pony panel.

Surprisingly enough, that was a fun panel to attend. The voice actresses for the show are all hilarious, and since the room was basically filled with little kids and bronies, the audience was suitably enthusiastic. And when the line-up for audience questions began, a bunch of four- and five-year olds got to go first. Their questions were superb forms of entertainment.

After that, the Miraculous panel started, and holy shit, there are a ton of fans of the show. I seriously did not see that coming. Apparently, the Miraculous fandom is so huge, they even have a name for themselves: Miraculers. (If you felt yourself want to gag or roll your eyes, you’re not alone.)

Despite my utter shock at its popularity, the panel was great. I know I’ve been ragging on the show, but if you like campy good fun, Miraculous is a pretty nifty kids show to watch.

Both Danny and I were hungry after that panel, so he dragged me to this nearby barbecue restaurant/bar that is famous for being the location where that bar scene in Top Gun was filmed. I had a chili dog, and Danny had ribs. I’d give the food a fairly-adequate-for-lunchtime rating, but the atmosphere was top-notch.

Top Gun poster

After our hunger was sated, we returned to the Convention Center to catch a panel about Mexican dubbing voice actors. We got to meet the voices for Marcus Fenix, Spider-Man, and Zelda. The neat thing about this panel is that the panelists (aka the voice actors) seemed genuinely grateful to see us. Often, panelists at Comic Con throw out their gratitude from their stage on high and then rush off once the panel is over. (Understandably so, since some very eager fans try to bum-rush the stage.) But these voice actors just seemed so happy to be there, it’s like they wanted to linger. They asked if they could take a group picture with us (the audience).

Danny and I capped our Friday with Star Wars. We went into a panel specifically for the 501st Legion, which is a group of uber-dedicated fans who make realistic Stormtrooper armor and wear it to special events as a group. After that, a special panel about vacation tours you can take to famous Star Wars-related locations made for the perfect end to our evening.

Stay tuned for my last day at San Diego Comic Con in the next post! (I did not stay for Sunday! Had to vamoose!)

Comic Con Thursday: GO SPEED GO!

Second day of Comic Con!

Boy, public transportation can give you a real appreciation for the smell of sweat. Danny and I went to the Convention Center together on the trolley. Turns out, everyone and their mother, brother, uncle, cousin, and great-great aunt had the same idea. I now know what a sardine feels like.

Once we got to the Convention Center, Danny and I had to rush to get in line for our first panel.

Note: If you’re a first-time Con-goer, make sure you go to your favored panels waaaaaay ahead of the posted starting time. Especially if you think it’s going to be a popular one.

We had pre-selected three panels to go to. (And by pre-selected, I mean that I circled the ones I wanted to go to in the Convention guide book and Danny agreed with my choices.) The first was a panel regarding the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That was a total trip to go to. Both Danny and I were expecting the geniuses behind the film’s cinematography to show up, but the actors who played Frank Poole and Dave Bowman were who we got instead. The two of them have gotten up in years, but I could listen to them talk about things all day. I’d also give up my left ovary to hear Dave (played by Keir Dullea) say, “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” one more time.

The second panel we went to was about Bobcat Goldthwait’s new show called Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters. This was more Danny’s choice to go to than mine, but it was definitely a riot to attend. Goldthwait throws out jokes the same way a shaggy dog shakes off hair. What was super funny to me about attending this panel is that we got an unexpected surprise when we decided to show up to the panel early. Danny and I entered the room before Goldthwait’s stuff was going to show, so we walked into a panel about some vampire TV show. (Yikes, I know, another one.) We were very lackluster in our enthusiasm for this panel, but that all changed when we noticed that one of the dudes on the panel was none other than Owen Teale, the guy who plays Ser Alliser Thorne in Game of Thrones! 

The last panel we attended was one about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (Shout out to Andreya for introducing me to that show!) Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna are two fantastically witty women, and it really shows itself when they’re joking against each other. I can’t wait to watch the fourth and final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. 

Just so you guys know, I have never attempted to get into Hall H, which is notorious for being the gigantic room where all the big-time panels are held. Too much of a hassle for my below-average person.

And yes, before you ask, I did dress up.

Drum roll please.

I was Speed Racer!

Me as Speed Racer SDCC 2018
I don’t know what my legs are doing

I’ve been fond of Speed Racer for ages it seems like, and I finally got to display it at Comic Con this year. With the help of my local J.C. Penney, Marshall’s, and hand-me-downs, I was able to cobble together an adequate Speed Racer outfit. I did have to buy the helmet and the driving gloves online though.

I think this was one of my more successful costumes over the years. It got a lot of recognition, and I got asked plenty of times to have my picture taken, which is always fun and terrifying. I had no clue how to pose for these things since I’m not a professional cosplayer. Still, it was cool, and people didn’t mind when I posed like an utter fool.

This one guy was so thrilled to see my costume, he asked for a picture, and then rolled up his shirt sleeve to show me a tattoo he had on his shoulder of Trixie. That right there is some major Speed Racer fandom.

Now, I don’t know for sure if this next bit is true, but Danny swears up and down that it happened. So, he and I were walking in front of the Convention Center, on our way to the Marriott hotel to watch a short film one of his friends had made. (It was a really good short film, called “The Invisible Border.” If you want to check out them and their work, here is their website.) While we were walking, a large group of people were passing us on the sidewalk. I heard one of them say something (Danny later told me it was, “Now that’s cool”) and gesture toward me.

I was distracted with holding onto my helmet, and they walked past us so fast, I could not get a good look at them. As soon as they left, Danny started laughing. I asked him what was so funny, and he told me that it was Seth Green who had said that.

Seth Green, as in the Seth Green who made Robot Chicken, one of my all-time favorite shows.

And I missed it.

Thursday was a real blast for me. Danny and I got into some great panels, walked around the Marriott a lot, and went to a laid-back after-party made by the organization Music Saves Lives. (There was a raffle at the party, and Danny and I won a bunch of stuff by pure luck!)

Stay tuned for Friday’s events in the next post!


Comic Con Preview Night: Oodles of Sweat

The day was hot and humid. Knowing what I was planning to wear for the next couple of days, I was filled with trepidation. I’m going to lose so much weight during Comic Con thanks to the buckets of sweat pouring from my body. 

Well, I wasn’t wrong.

San Diego Comic Con has this aura of glamour from people who know of it but have never been to it. The way the news always talks about it makes it sound like a blast with no consequences.

A lot of SDCC is being shuffled around the convention center by harried volunteers trying to control massive crowds. You spend inordinate amounts of time standing in line to get into panels or to buy merch. Wednesday was only the first day of my latest SDCC adventure, and my calves were already killing me.

The collective excitement makes it worth it though.

You know how when you’re in a crowd, it’s like you all pick up on the same vibe as the majority of people there? If people are pissed, you feel pissed. If people are shocked, you feel shocked. And if people are pumped, you feel pumped.

It’s the same for Comic Con. At Comic Con, you’re surrounded by some of the nerdiest people in the world, and you’re one of them.

On preview night, not many panels are available to attend. (Maybe like one or two.) The only place open is the Exhibit Hall, since preview night has always been intended for those wishing to purchase exclusive items. If you’ve never been to San Diego Comic Con before, the Exhibit Hall is the place that will awe you the most. (I know it awed and pleased me my first time there.) It’s huge! And it’s filled to the brim with displays, stands, and booths all devoted to some of the best pop culture icons ever.

I saw a $9000 miniature version of the Starship Enterprise.

Miniature Starship Enterprise

Steven Universe, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl all had giant balloons of themselves dominating the center of the Hall.

Steven Universe and friends

There was an adorable statue of Goku that I absolutely had to pose with like an idiot just because it was there.

Goku and me

The atmosphere in the Exhibit Hall is intoxicating. (In more ways than one. It can get pretty crowded in there, so I suggest you try and inure yourself to the smell of sweat.)

You should expect all the aisles of the Hall to be packed to the brim. I felt like every person in there was a red blood cell flowing down a vein superhighway. (There was an occasional blood clot by particularly popular booths.)

My goals for preview night were to purchase a few gifts for friends and see if I could buy myself an exclusive figurine of my favorite character from the graphic novel series Saga. (His name is Ghüs, and the figurine had him wearing his little red jammies.)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get myself a Ghüs. The line was just too huge. But I did succeed in getting my friends some things! So hooray for small victories.

Expect a few more posts about my Comic Con adventures. But I guess they’re not really adventures. More like a bustling walk-a-thon.

My SDCC lanyard and pins


Bring It On, Beaches!

Me at the beach
Yes, that is teeny-tiny me approaching the ocean in the dead of winter

I live about two hours away from a beach. I used to take that fact for granted, but ever since I’ve grown up and started thinking about the world around me, I’ve realized I’m very fortunate in this regard. Not everyone can take a day-trip to the awesomeness that is a beach.

I’m an early-riser. I come from a family of early-risers too, so whenever I go to the beach, it is usually right as the sun is coming up. And no matter the season, I can’t go to the beach and not touch the ocean. So even though the sun may not have been up long enough to warm the water, the first thing I do at the beach is wade into the waves.

I typically get no farther than my knees before I chicken out from the cold.

I lose all sense of feeling in my toes, but I enjoy every second of it. Goosebumps erupt all over my body. And I’m talking about the painful kind of goosebumps. I don’t know about you guys, but I always shave my legs before sporting my tankini, and the ocean takes sweet vengeance on me for doing so. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Freshly shaved legs and cold temperatures go together like salt water and paper cuts (which is kind of what we’re dealing with here).

After that exercise in masochism, I decide to just walk along the beach in ankle-deep water picking up shells. I’m not looking for anything amazing; I’m just looking for anything intact. One time, I found a sand dollar. That was a nifty find. Once my hands are full of shells, I return them to my towel, a sad little collection of broken homes.

That’s when I decide to brave the waves again.

It’s still fucking cold, don’t get me wrong. But I plunge ahead anyways. I love the way the waves slap me. (Only waves can get away with this.) Some waves are forceful, splashing against my chest and spraying my face with droplets of water. Others are calmer, gently nudging me backwards on their way to the beach. Still I press on, eagerly awaiting the next wave that will push me off my feet.

I make games for myself as I go along. One of them is just trying to jump over the crests of the waves. This gets harder the farther I go out. I don’t have the strength to lift my legs above the surface of the water. It’s like the ocean won’t let me escape. Sometimes, in a game that’s the opposite of the one I just mentioned, I try burying my toes in the sand and remaining immobile, daring the waves to bowl me over. The waves always win in the end.

Around this time, I start getting hungry. So I say a short good-bye to the ocean and scamper off to get something to munch on. I lean towards the unhealthy kinds of food, unfortunately for me and my future body. I like salty, buttered pretzels and crisp chips right after I leave the water, almost as if my taste buds crave the saltiness of the ocean when I leave it.

(Near Ocean Beach in San Diego, there’s this place called Olive Tree Market that sells the best sandwich in the world. It’s called the Picasso, and I bet it’s called that because it’s a freaking work of art. It has “marinated chicken breast, pesto sauce, melted provolone cheese, served on warm pita bread, topped with lettuce and tomato.” I’m telling you, it’s fan-freaking-tastic.)

After eating, I let my stomach digest before heading back into the water. That means it’s SAND CASTLE TIME. I’m not an expert sand-castler, but I do have a system. First, I dig a bit of a trench in front of where I’m going to build my castle, on the side the waves are coming from. I always make my castle close to the water so that there’s a bit of danger while I’m working. Makes the whole thing exciting. Once the trench is sufficiently deep enough to protect my castle (somewhat), I start making these sand mounds. I usually create three piles of sand, three towers, if you will.

These towers are nothing fancy, literally just lumps of sand. But after making them large enough, I collect wet sand in a bucket and start placing drip-decorations all over them. Since the sand is so wet, you can grab a bunch of it in your hand and let bits of it drip onto the dry sand-mounds like water. Eventually, these drips harden, and you have a drip castle.

Bubba and I at the beach
Making a drip castle with my friend Bubba

These drip castles are by no means pretty. At all. They look like a sand bird flew overhead and shat out sandy poops in one centralized location.

But hey, it’s fun.

The castle must be destroyed after I’m done making it, otherwise nosy kids will take over my work. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a jerk in this regard.) I stomp all over my transient edifice after I’m done, and then head back into the water.

This final foray into the water is always the most fun and the most bittersweet. The sun has definitely climbed higher in the sky at this point, so the water is downright welcoming this time around. It’s a tremendous joy to pretend to be a whale and just belly-flop over a wave. It’s refreshing to dunk my head into water that has probably been peed into more times than I can count, but hey, who cares, right? But the time for having fun at the beach is almost over, so every ounce of fun I’m having is numbered now.

I never say no to going to the ocean. I’m not a surfer or a deep-sea diver or anything hardcore like that. And I’m definitely not one of those photogenic girls who hangs out on a beach and looks fantastic doing it. My hair gets all stringy, my skin gets covered with smears of sunscreen, my nose gets red because I never seem to put enough protection there, and my eyes get red and blurry because waaaaaay too much salt water seeped into them.

But it’s fun.

And that’s what matters.