Outer Banks, 2022

Writing this on Tuesday night, in the Outer Banks.  Tomorrow, we depart our little 1950s bungalow by the beach to spend a couple of days at Virginia Beach.  A storm moved in last night and has been waterboarding the area most of today, but up until now the weather has been gorgeous — hot and sunny, exactly what one wants for a stay at the beach.

Things that I have been up to this past week:

  • Taking the boys to roam the beach in the mornings
  • Spending more time on the beach, in general, than I ever have before
  • Chatting with a guy on the beach who claimed to have worked on the Soyuz missions in the 70s as a Russian translator for the UK government
  • Getting a sunburn on my belly button
  • Showering outdoors, because the indoor shower was the size of a postage stamp, but also because showering outdoors in the 80-degree heat is nice as fuck
  • Eating alllll the delicious seafood
  • Learning that “conch” is pronounced conk
  • Naps in hammocks
  • Reading, including a reread of one of my top five favorite books ever — THE KINGS OF ETERNITY, by Eric Brown
  • Visiting local bookstores, because you can tell a lot about a town by the quality of its bookstores
  • An excursion to the original Duck Donuts, which, when I looked up the location, my phone helpfully autocorrected it to “fuck donuts fuck nc”

But primarily, above all else: relaxing. Where the most taxing thoughts I have each day are “where are we getting dinner?” and “did I put sunscreen on my [random spot on my body]?”

It’s all been rather rejuvenating and is exactly what my brain and body has needed.

Pictures to follow upon my return, but for now, here are two:

Heads Above Water

This was a mostly shit week, the reasons for which are boring and I won’t detail here. I’m just glad it’s over. That said, the week at least ended better than it started. I saw the new DOCTOR STRANGE, spent a fun Saturday in Cincinnati with Jess, and saw my family a couple of times. These are the types of good things that sustain me, that make me feel like I’ll be able to keep my head (mostly) above water, and for which I’m grateful.

I took this photo while in the car wash the other day. It almost looks computer generated to me, but that’s just a neat effect of the combination of the foam and the neon lights this particular car wash employs. Other than some light cropping, the photo is unedited — no filters or any other tuning. I low-key love it.

All Over the Place

The last couple of weeks have been a bit chaotic, and my mind is all over the place, so this post is gonna be a brain dump.

National Pretzel Day was last week, a fact I was unaware of until Jess told me and asked if I wanted to go get a pretzel.  As I am a man who would rather perish than turn down a pretzel, I said, “of course!”  And thus we paid a visit to our local pretzel establishment, Smales Pretzel Bakery.  This was my first pretzel from Smales, and it was the perfect mixture of hot, soft but not soggy, and salt.

I promise you, despite my demented appearance, I really am enjoying the pretzel.

I am currently reading KING SOLOMON’S MINES by H. Rider Haggard. I love old adventure novels, like this one, THE LOST WORLD by Conan-Doyle, and — one of all time favorites — BEYOND THIRTY by Edgar Rice Burroughs, just to name a few. The kind with a rugged explorer protagonist, that are set in the jungle, and usually involve a search for a lost city or artifact. (What can I say: The Indiana Jones films and books imprinted on my soul as a kid.) KING SOLOMON’S MINES is quite fun, and Haggard clearly was a Michael Crichton of his time, but the biggest problem with a book like this, published in the late 19th century, is the racism. Good lord, is there a lot of off-handed, casual racism. I know the book is a product of its time, but that doesn’t a) make it right or excusable, and b) any more palatable to read.

Speaking of adventure books, I am apparently evolving into my early-middle-age, adventurer-explorer fashion era, as evidenced in this photo from last weekend.

Riding the rails of the Groove Line, just as Roger Miller imagined.

I’m not even trying to, really.  This is just a look my subconscious is gently nudging me towards.  Given enough time, I will no doubt check the mail one day and be perplexed to discover I had ordered a replica Indiana Jones shirt and jacket in my sleep…

Speaking of last weekend, Jess and I celebrated our 45th Month Anniversary by getting lunch at Fifty West Brewing on Saturday, and taking in a Nat Geo Live show and getting dinner at Salar on Sunday.  It was a very good weekend.

I had the best company.

A lot of photos of me this post, which I suppose is only fair given the name on this blog’s masthead, but as part of my penance, here is a photo of Fozzie, who got his first haircut in two years yesterday.  He’s so handsome.

A boy with some intense eyes.

Toxic

I had started to write a whole thing about our sewer line backing up — again — over the weekend, and how I took today off work to clean raw sewage out of my basement, and how, yes, we do rent this house, and yes, one would think that it would be the landlord’s responsibility to deal with it…

But writing that thing was doing nothing but re-annoy me, and I want to be annoyed again.  Aside from this morning’s romp in my (formerly) feculent basement, it’s been a pretty good day.  I read a hundred pages of BLOOD MERIDIAN — a book I am savoring — got in my 104 words for the #100daychallenge, and napped with the boys.  My sister will be over in a bit and we’re grabbing Indian food and watching CAPTAIN RON tonight.

So — not a bad day, overall.  And hopefully I won’t be called on to become the Toxic Avenger again for a good long while.

As good and weird as the original TOXIC AVENGER movie is, the cartoon was so much weirder.

On Robocops and Resistance

This one’s a bit scattered today.  Much like my brain these past few years, ha ha.

On Thursday I had my second and final follow-up appointment with the ENT for my nose surgery.  It is pretty much fully healed and my septum is remarkably undeviated now, which pleased both the doctor and me.  I can generally breathe through both nostrils now, or at least as well as I can expect to during beautiful Ohio’s allergy season.

To anyone who may be on the fence about having surgery to correct a deviated septum, I would say it was totally worth it.  As previously noted, the first week is rough, but things improve a lot once the splints are removed.  I only wish I would have done the surgery years ago.

I’ve been rewatching the ROBOCOP movies over the last couple of weeks. Paul Verhoeven’s original remains a dark and brilliant film. The dystopian corporate culture that ROBOCOP satirized in 1987 doesn’t seem too far removed from our present reality, here in the year of our lord, 2022. I can only imagine how it hit when it came out during the Reagan “Morning in America” era. ROBOCOP doesn’t quite rise to the level of some of Verhoeven’s other sci-fi efforts like TOTAL RECALL or my beloved STARSHIP TROOPERS. But nonetheless — it’s quite good.

ROBOCOP 2 is a hot, uber-serious, boring mess, made even worse by the fact that when the cops go on strike, Robocop crosses the picket line, ultimately putting to rest the question of, “can a robot be a scab?”

I have a fondness for ROBOCOP 3 that I really can’t explain.  It’s much goofier than the first two — a 9-year-old hacker girl reprogramming an ED-209 on the fly to be “loyal as a puppy”? — and Peter Weller is replaced by some other poor bastard who has to wear the Robocop suit, plus there is the addition of a ridiculous gang of dorks who go by the name of the Splatterpunks.  But the story is treated with a humanity that absolutely works for me, and probably only me.  OCP, the villainous corporation throughout the trilogy, has been bought by a Japanese corporation, but they’re still trying to raze Detroit to build their for-rich-people-only Delta City.  In this one, though, they’re now actively forcing people out of their homes, putting them on buses to relocation centers, and some other really fascist shit.  This has resulted in the creation of a resistance movement, which Robocop, his scabbing days now behind him, eventually joins, as do all the cops.  A bit cheesy?  Yes.  But who doesn’t love a good resistance story?  Gods know we can use them these days.

Also, this piece of anti-OCP graffiti is really great:

I mean, they’re not wrong.

In case you missed it earlier in the week, I linked to this wonderful story about a journalist who accidentally discovered his wife was the world’s best Tetris player. As someone who is both a cynic and an idealist, it’s good for my soul to read a sweet story like this from time-to-time.

And now I am signing off so we can go to a baby welcoming for some dear friends.

Keep your head down and your chin up, and have a good week.

tête-à-tris

I love this story, published by the Boston Globe way back in 2007, about a journalist who accidentally discovered his wife was the world’s best Tetris player.

“It’s funny,” I told Flewin. “We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She’s weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem.”

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

“Oh, my!”

After I hung up the phone, I went to the bedroom and woke my wife, Lori.

“Honey,” I said. “You’re not going to believe this, but I just got off the phone with a guy who’s in charge of video game world records, and he said the world record for Game Boy Tetris is 327 lines, and he wants us to go to New Hampshire this spring so you can try to break the world record live in front of the judges at the world’s largest classic video game tournament.”

Read all the way to the end. The last sentence is a perfect denouement.

Take This Job and Shovel It: A Sandra Bullock Appreciation Post

The other weekend, Jess and I spent a lovely few days with Sandra Bullock.  It started on a Friday night, when we were in the mood to watch something light and funny, so we settled on TWO WEEKS NOTICE.  Then, the next day, while on an excursion in Cincinnati, we decided we wanted to see the new Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum movie, THE LOST CITY, and would do so on Sunday.  Jess then had the fabulous idea to watch THE PROPOSAL that night, and have our own little Sandra Bullock film festival. And in true film festival tradition, I have thoughts, shared below, which will be aided by a rating classification scale of one through four Sandra Bullocks.

TWO WEEKS NOTICE ‒ I had not seen TWO WEEKS NOTICE before, and I thought it was good but not great.  Sandra Bullock is fine in it, but Hugh Grant is almost too charmingly befuddled even by Hugh Grant standards.  The set-up of Bullock coming to work briefly for Grant and then giving two weeks notice was awkwardly handled, but it had some cute moments. I know it’s not the main point of these films — or a minor one, really — but between TWO WEEKS NOTICE and THE PROPOSAL, it really hammers home the importance of establishing and ruthlessly maintaining clear boundaries between one’s work and personal lives. My rating for TWO WEEKS NOTICE:

THE PROPOSAL ‒ I didn’t catch THE PROPOSAL when it came out, which was a mistake on Past Josh’s part, because it was sooo good.  Bullock nails the grumpy and reluctant rom-com lead, which really seems like her bread and butter when it comes to film roles, and the rest of cast, which includes Ryan Reynolds and fucking Betty White, just shine.  The power imbalance of “boss forcing employee to pretend to be married to her” comes off as a bit cringey now, and is the only thing keeping this movie from getting a full four Sandra Bullocks.

THE LOST CITY ‒ I am a really big fan of ROMANCING THE STONE, from which THE LOST CITY — with its clueless romance novelist caught up in a jungle adventure and looking for a mysterious lost MacGuffin plot — pulls more than a little inspiration.  Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, as her Fabio-inspired dustjacket cover model, have good chemistry and play well off each other.  The film’s story moves along pretty quickly, there are a couple of really funny gags, and is an overall pleasing-level of dumb fun.  Brad Pitt plays a small role and effortlessly steals the scenes he’s in.  If ever there were a movie made to be watched on an airplane, THE LOST CITY is it.  A solid three Sandra Bullocks!

I have a feeling there will be future Sandra Bullock movies in our future, which probably means more reviews, so stay tuned.

Century’s End

Took myself out to brunch at Mudlick Tap House today.  I sat at the bar reading THE TIME TRAVELER’S ALMANAC on my phone and meticulously worked my way through biscuits and gravy, sourdough toast, fruit, and several steaming cups of coffee.  Mudlick’s biscuits and gravy are to die for.  The chorizo gravy is spicy and thick, but not so thick as to overpower the buttermilk biscuits, and the gravy-to-biscuit ratio is perfect.  It was exactly the type of hangover food my body required.

Yesterday, I took a half day off from work and spent it in the Oregon District with a friend.  The weather was cold and gloomy, and I think it even snowed a little in the morning — extremely rude behavior for April — but it was still a great day for an outing, even if it meant it wasn’t going to be spent hanging out on patios.  We started at Lucky’s for lunch, which, happily, Jess was able to escape work and join us.  From there, we migrated from bar to bar for a little while, having a drink at each, culminating in several pleasant hours ensconced inside the moody gloom of Century Bar.  Later, after returning home, I fell asleep for a couple of hours, and then was resurrected by the sorcerers at Taco Bell.

I don’t do days like that very often anymore. Maybe once or twice a year.  But when I do, I enjoy the hell out of them.

The vibe inside Century Bar, as captured by M.

Trains & Thao

Welcome to the Cincinnati Dinner Train, where what’s on the menu tonight . . . is you.

Okay, so the Cincinnati Dinner Train is in fact not a cannibalistic pleasure cruise. This line came to me last night while I was trying and failing to fall asleep, and I thought it could be a nifty premise for a horror movie.

I love riding on trains. I also love eating, drinking, and trying new things. This combined love is why the Cincinnati Dinner Train has been on my Things to Conquer list for several years now. This past weekend, I was finally able to cross it off.

We parked in a warehouse parking lot, then followed some finely dressed people towards the back of the lot where the train was awaiting. We had an extremely unflattering photo taken in the chilly wind by a kindly old man, and boarded the train. Our table was located in the Oasis Tavern car, which in a previous life had housed folks who worked for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

For three hours and approximately 25 miles, we rode the industrial rails of Cincinnati. Pushed half the way, then pulled the other half back to the station. It was gray and rainy outside, and the views through our foggy window were not always what one would consider “scenic.” But inside, the ambiance was warm and the setting and staff were pleasant. We drank champagne with friends K & A, made inappropriate jokes, and in general had a lovely night.

This selfie, however, was extremely flattering.

Then, to round out my birthday month, we traveled down to Cincinnati again last night, this time for the Thao show at the Woodward.  We were originally supposed to see Thao – formerly of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – play in St Louis in 2020, but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons.  So, when we saw she was going on tour this year and was coming to Cincy, we got very excited. I love Thao’s music.  Her particular brand of rock is quirky, inventive, and catchy as hell.  Her records are great, though for me, Thao is at her best, her most goddamnedly delightful, when performing live.  The songs rock harder.  The energy on stage is incredible.  Thao’s vibe is charmingly offbeat, and she and the band are clearly having a blast.

Here is “Nobody Dies,” one of my favorite songs of hers:

I first discovered Thao back in 2016, when I was on holiday in New Orleans. She happened to be playing the same week I was there with my old comrade Kat. Kat was already a fan and the timing was kismet, so we went. The performance was, quite simply, electrifying. One of my favorite shows ever. Last night’s show – my first since the pandemic began – ranked right up there with that first time in New Orleans.

Thao!

On Aging and Having One’s Shit Together

It was my birthday on Friday.  Had a short day at work, moved five feet away from my desk to my couch and napped, then went out for dinner with friends to Roost.  It was a very good day.  Getting out and seeing people and doing things has been doing a lot to fill my cup the last couple of months.

I am now 40 years old.  A “geriatric millennial,” as a social scientist so rudely coined several years ago.  As a logophile, I enjoy the inherent opposition of the words “geriatric” and “millennial” being placed together.  I also like the phrase because so many millennials hate it, and, honestly, that makes me want to embrace it even more. 

So far, I’m enjoying my forties, even if I don’t feel 40. I’m not talking about in a physical sense, though I guess I don’t feel 40 in that respect either, my gray hair notwithstanding. What I mean is that I don’t feel existentially 40. A 40-year-old, in my mind, is someone who has their shit together. When I think of this person, I picture my parents at my age: a house, 1.5 kids (my sister counts as the 0.5), confident, secure. AKA, “grown-ups.” Whereas I, on the other hand, barely feel like a functioning adult most of the time. I’m more a person who is still desperately trying to identify and collect his shit, which makes me a few steps removed from being one who worries about keeping said shit together (okay, I may be taking this shit analogy too far).

What’s interesting to me is that… none of this really bothers me too much.  Sure, despite “no worries” being my default catchphrase, I have plenty of worries.  But it all seems doable, surmountable.  I’ll get there, I just need a few more things to align.  Maybe it’s because I take some solace in knowing that, statistically speaking, there is probably still plenty of runway in front me.  All I need to do is keep moving forward.

A birthday gift I received: my own brand of wine.

Photo by Mel C.