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EuroTrip, 2016

I’ve been back from London/Paris for a little over two weeks now, so I need to get this down while it’s still somewhat fresh in my head. My memory is shit, so this recap is more for Future Josh than anything.

Lindsey and I have talked about going to England for a couple of years now. We have a great uncle who lives there that we wanted to visit, I really wanted to see London, and England, because of the lack of a language barrier, seemed like a good training run, if you will, for eventually traveling to the rest of Europe. So last year we decided that this year would be the time to finally pull the trigger and just go.

Because I know fuck-all about England, and because this year has been stupid busy — and let’s be honest, I’m also kind of lazy — we booked the trip through a travel agency. Having someone else coordinate the logistics removed a lot of the stress and anxiety — and knowing myself, probably anger and shouting — out of planning. Through a quirk of the travel package we went with, we ended up tacking a couple of days in Paris onto the end of the trip. I’m reasonably certain that whatever the fee that Rose claimed was completely worth it.

London was brilliant. I loved being there, exploring the nooks and crannies of the city, feeling the pulse of thing, and the omnipresent blend of modern and ancient architecture. Think we spent six days there in total, but I could easily have stayed there another couple of weeks. The other bit of England we saw was a town an hour northeast of London, where our uncle Charlie lives. It was nice to also experience something smaller and slower than London, and of course see family.

Paris was… okay. I feel like I’ve been harder on Paris than it deserves, since it was at the end of the trip and I was getting tired. Also because our hotel was a half-mile hike, uphill, from the nearest Metro stop, whereas in London it was a pleasant two minute walk from the hotel to Gloucester Station. The language barrier probably didn’t help, since I speak three languages: English, bad English, and high school Spanish. To Paris’s credit, though, the people we encountered were all pleasant, the food was surprisingly tasty, and the city itself, while littered with trash and covered in a charming veneer of grime, was gorgeous.

In no particular order, here are some of the highlights, as I remember them, and one lowlight (i.e., fuck you Charles de Gaulle airport). There are also pictures at the bottom of this post, so if you just want to see those and don’t give a fig about my recollections, feel free to scroll and skip.

Touring the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221B Baker Street. Very much a tourist trap, but still entertaining. Lots of Holmesian artifacts and apocrypha, set up in such a way so as to encourage photo opportunities. If nothing else, you get to see how a well-to-do Londoner may have lived in Queen Victoria’s time.

Indian food. It is much more prevalent in England than it is in the U.S. (or at least than in my region), owing to England’s sizeable Indian population. Being able to get tikka-masala at a corner pub was so nice.

The heat. I packed expecting to maybe wear shorts and a t-shirt during the day, and jeans and long sleeves at night. The first two days lived up to that notion, and then a summer heatwave surged in. Heat doesn’t typically bother me, but I am also used to being able to escape indoors to sweet, sweet air conditioning. Many of the buildings and homes there don’t have central air, so that wasn’t really possible.

Seeing Charlie and our aunt Pat, and meeting their kids and their families. I say “meeting” like it was for the first time, but I had met Kirsten and Fletcher before, however, it’s when I was, oh, one or two, which doesn’t really counts. They were all lovely, and they plied us with fancy Indian food, a barbecue featuring eight different kinds of meat, and, of course, beer. Can’t wait to see them all again.

First and only full day in Paris. We had the one day to really explore Paris, but between the Metro and walking 25,000 steps, we saw an awful lot of it. Had noodles at a bizarre little place where you build your order on a tablet. Saw the Eiffel Tower, from a distance. It was cool, but I didn’t feel the need to ascend it since I’ve been to the top of the one at King’s Island before. Hiked a couple of kilometers to get beignets. Perused the bookshelves inside Shakespeare and Company. Had dinner at an American sports bar-themed place. Got lost, a lot.

Taking the Eurostar from King’s Cross Station to Paris by way of the Chunnel. We splurged a few extra pounds for the slightly better seats, which was one of our best decisions the entire trip. We got roomier seats that faced each other in a half-filled car, a cold lunch, and the satisfaction of being high-falutin’, even if only for a couple of hours. If we had the EuroStar in the States I may never fly again.

Wandering the expanse of retail and bohemia that is the Camden markets. Camden is like a much, much nicer flea market, but with shops and stalls from where you actually want to buy things. We picked up most of the souvenirs here. I could have easily dropped a lot of money on various art and other things. Thankfully, I knew I didn’t have a lot of suitcase room. There was also Cereal Killer, which is sadly not a HACKERS-themed shop, but is instead a cafĂ© that sells breakfast cereal. I only peeked in, because we’d already eaten, and also because milk and cereal in the steamy heat just didn’t sound appealing.

Charles de Gaulle, to which I would like to give a shout-out for being the most stressful and disorganized airport in the history of the world. We arrived a little over three hours early by way of a pulse-pounding taxi ride. It took two hours of fighting our way through the thick crowds, scuttling from this confused attendant to that one, propelled by misinformation, just to acquire boarding passes and check our luggage. One minor bomb threat later, which no one seemed terrible concerned about, and we eventually made it to our gate with a few minutes to spare. Never again.

The final night in London, seeing WICKED at the Apollo Victoria in the West End. The Apollo Victoria is absolutely gorgeous, and, on a balmy summer night with no air conditioning, absolutely sweltering. The production was fantastic (my first time seeing it), which made sweating next to another 2300 people tolerable. Props to the bar at our hotel for having glass bottles of ice water available, as regular bottles of cold water are largely unavailable in England. I also had “Defying Gravity” in my head for the next several days, so thanks for that, WICKED.

Well, that’s my longwinded way of saying I had a ton of fun on what will hopefully be the first of many jaunts overseas. England, you were lovely.

And now for the pictures (with bonus! captions).

 

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Ghostbusters: The Remakening

I finally got around to seeing the new GHOSTBUSTERS the other day. Several weeks of travel this past month, while quite fun, kept me from seeing a few movies that recently came out that I really wanted to. So I was really happy to be able to catch this one.

So how was it?

Really, really entertaining. Easily my favorite film so far this year.

Other than keeping to the same general premise — three nutty scientists and a black civilian prosper off the extrajudicial imprisonment of the spirits of the dead — the movie charts its own course plot- and tone-wise. These are all good things for this film, which helped to keep the pacing brisk and the jokes funny. Highlights include a bit of role reversal with Chris Hemsworth as the team’s beefcakey secretary, several amusing sequences of the team testing out new ghostbusting implements, and Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, who is brilliantly quirky and hilarious. I hope to see a lot of kids cosplaying her for many years to come. Hell, I would go as her for Halloween.

I’ve seen this movie take a lot of shit online, largely because it stars a cast of — gasp — all women. Women who are smart, capable, and funny in a film that pretty much passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Apparently there exists a certain class of dude who felt that remaking GHOSTBUSTERS with an all-female cast was so terrible that it was going to ruin their childhoods. Well, good. If the adventures of lady ghostbusters is the sort of thing that is the Ruiner of Childhood to you, then you’re probably an entitled manchild with a chip on your shoulder, and not meriting of much sympathy. Get over it.

Anyways, to sum up: GHOSTBUSTERS is a ton of fun. You should go see it, if for nothing else that to become acquainted with Jillian Holtzmann.

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Onward and Upward

  
Took this photo a couple of hours ago, somewhere over North Carolina. The sky seemed particularly clear, blue.

We’ve been planning this trip for over a year, talking about it longer; it seems vaguely surreal that the time has actually arrived. The next ten days should be quite entertaining.

But first we have to get there. Currently we’re sitting on the tarmac in Atlanta, in seats that are slightly more comfortable than on a normal flight. No free wifi, but the on demand movie selection is surprisingly good. I expect in an hour or two there will be nothing but ocean below, and I’ll be watching DEADPOOL.

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Annnd Scene

An hour ago. I am at a red light, window down, enjoying the weather. Traffic is congested both ways. A truck hauling a trailer in the other direction slows to a stop next to me. I don’t pay attention to what’s in the trailer. I am lost in thought, getting kind of sleepy actually. Then a car backfires, sounding like a gunshot. Immediately the dozen or so horses six feet away from my open window begin to LOSE THEIR FUCKING SHIT.

I am no longer sleepy.

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The Unobtainable Cinnamon Roll

I carried a cinnamon roll in a paper bag around for nearly four hours today.

It was to be my afternoon snack, but I never quite found the five minutes necessary to run downstairs and microwave it (because everyone who’s anyone knows cinnamon rolls are best eaten when warm). I bounced from meeting, to someone’s desk, to meeting, to impromptu huddle, etc, bag in hand. The grease from the pastry slowly eating through the paper bag like lye on skin.

So yes: work, while awesome, has been crazy-go-nuts busy lately. It makes me really empathize with this dog:

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At least in 20 days I too will be airlifted away, to England.

In unrelated GPOY news, here’s a picture of me taken after the Rubi Girls performance several weeks back.

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The photo, a rarity in that it’s one of me I really like, is courtesy of my talented photographer friend Bill. Or as I like to call him, “Photo Willy.” Though I will never call him that to his face.

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Thoughts and Prayers

I could write a whole thing about the terrible, despicable events that took place in Orlando this morning, but many others have already done so, and far more eloquently than I could. One of those persons is John Scalzi, whose piece “Thoughts and Prayers” reflects most of my thoughts on the subject.

Here’s the instructions on how you can find and contact your Congressperson, and insist he or she do more than just offer their thoughts and prayers.

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Random Bits: Travel, Raptors as Mascots, and Ewok Victory

Just booked a flight to Kansas City for the Fourth of July weekend, so I guess I have crossed the threshold from “probably going, yeah” to “flying again on one of the busiest travel days of the year, hurrah.” Dayton won’t be bad, but I am already looking forward to spending three hours waiting for TSA’s gentle caress when I fly home on July 4. But visiting friends is worth it (you bastards). And so continues the Year of Travel.

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At my parents’ house last weekend, I was rooting around in a cabinet and found a can of Clabber Girl brand baking powder, and of course took a picture.

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Seriously: how has some savvy Millennial descendant not yet inherited the family business and replaced the Clabber Girl mascot with a picture of a velociraptor? I don’t use baking powder, but I’d buy a can with a terrifying raptor on label.

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I was not feeling well the other day, so I spent waaaay too long creating a ringtone from the celebration song at the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI. The original one, with vocals from the saviors of the Rebellion, the Ewoks, not the one pan flute trash from the Special Edition version. You know; this one:

For several years my morning alarm was the A-Team theme song. It was great, effectively woke me up. After a while, though, I got tired of being jolted awake, adrenaline pumping, ready to cut someone. I’ve tried various alarms since, none terribly satisfying, then one day the Ewok celebration song — or “Yub Nub,” if you prefer — came to mind.

In the spirit of sharing, I was going to upload it to a ringtone site, until I realized someone had already beaten me to it — and did a better job at it — and posted it to Zedge.

Since changing alarms to the Ewok celebration, I wake up happier and with less heart pounding. Besides, who wouldn’t be cheerful waking up to the sweet sounds of victory!

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The Blue House

This is pretty damn cool: The Blue House Gallery and Studios was featured on an episode of ThinkTV‘s THE ART SHOW this past weekend.

The Blue House is one of my favorite things about Dayton, actually. It’s a gallery/studio birthed from the husk of a sprawling, dead house, and is run by my friends Nick, Ashley, and Diana, and features a wide array of unique work from local and not-so-local artists. It opened a couple of years ago, and appears to only be becoming more of a success. New exhibitions rotate in and out about once a month.

I was actually there this past Saturday for the opening of an exhibition called “Artist by Artist.” I pretend that I only go there for the free booze and snacks, but secretly I enjoy being exposed to a little bit of badass culture, and seeing friends. If you like art and are free an upcoming Friday evening, I highly recommend checking it, or a future exhibition, out. “Artist by Artist” is running, I think, through the end of May. Hang on, there is a Facebook event with full details somewhere. Ah, here it is.

Admission is free, though donations are gently encouraged, and are certainly not coaxed from hapless attendees by the business end of a two-by-four with a nail in it.

But seriously — go. It’s worth it.

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New Art Shit

About two years ago I decided it was time to get some new art for my apartment, since what’s on my walls has been largely unchanged for almost nine years. As is my nature, now, two years later, I am finally doing something about it.

I went to the Indiana Comic Con this past weekend (brief recap: it was a lot of fun, I got my picture taken with Cam Clarke, who provided the voice of Leonardo from the original TMNT cartoon and Kaneda from AKIRA, and watched a surprising amount of STAR TREK: TNG in the hotel), where I met Jim Lawson, one of the original artists on the TMNT comic. Jim was charming, and I was quite taken with a TMNT print he was selling, so I picked up a copy.

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The other new thing I have to tart my walls up with is this print I bought in New Orleans, at the Art Market.

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It’s called “Pin Up Girl VS The Thing,” and the artist is Joe Badon. Joe’s style reminds me a little bit of Bruce Timm’s, but the almost 3D effect makes it striking on its own. I bought this one and a couple of other prints as gifts.

Now I just need to buy frames, which means I’ll probably get these hung up by, oh… 2017.

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New Orleans, 2016

Returned from New Orleans yesterday, and am slowly getting back into the swing of things. I don’t get jet lag, not really, though I did take today off from work. The extra day, while not necessary, gives me a chance to drift back into the non-vacation, real-world mindset. Compose myself into a reasonably functioning adult again.

Whenever I travel by plane I am reminded of William Gibson’s theory on jet lag from PATTERN RECOGNITION. That one’s mortal soul cannot travel as swiftly as a plane and so gets left thousands of miles behind, and has to be waited on, like lost luggage.

New Orleans was fantastic. It had been 12 years since I was last there, which was far too long. Got to spend four days with Kat, one of my favorite people in the world, who also flew in, from Colorado. Gorged myself on delicious food, had all of the many only like one or two drinks, wandered up and down and around the Quarter, and just generally had a wonderful time.

Aside: I also got waaay more steps than usual. Typically my target is 5,000 a day, and 10,000 on my cardio day. But being sans car, out and about all day, and perpetually fueled by alcohol having had a drink or two, I was able to destroy those numbers. See?

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Also, as of yesterday, I amranked number 2 amongst my Fitbit friends for the 7-day step total. That is unlikely to ever happen again, so I am savoring it, and certainly won’t gloat about it to any of them. /Aside

Here are some photos from the trip, when I actually remembered to take them. Even so, I still had 150-plus to sort through. Digital cameras are both a blessing and a curse that way.

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We stayed at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel, which in a past life was apparently a popular bordello. The skeleton playing the piano was located in the attached bar, May Bailey’s Place.

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Low-light selfies taken in a bar are, of course, a must on any trip.

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One of the first days in town we wandered by a club and saw that a band Kat really likes, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, would be playing while we were there. They put on a really fucking good show.

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Even though the hotel was only a block away Bourbon Street, we only spent one night wandering it. Too many drunks, shitty bars, and street hustlers. At one of the least terrible places we could find, I ordered a Hand Grenade, because New Orleans, but it was vile. So vile, I couldn’t finish it. (I have a fantastic picture of Kat looking miserable while drinking hers, but I am a kind man, and won’t share it.) The bartender didn’t even know what was in a Hand Grenade, he explained, because they and a lot of the other bars on Bourbon St order a mix.

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Other than drinking, I did do cultural stuff, like go to a museum called La Pharmacie Francaise. Its walls were filled with old-timey bottles of elixir and tonic, and a bunch of weird medical implements which were equal parts fascinating and horrifying.

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However, my favorite thing in the museum was this portrait. Not sure who it is supposed to be, though I suspect it’s Chevy Chase in one of his Fletch disguises.

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My second favorite thing in the museum was this print, the Surgeon’s Warning. I wish my doctor would put this up in his office.

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A lovely little courtyard outside the pharmacy museum. Also: a Kat.

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Badass street performers, one of whom played an electric violin.

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My second favorite bar was Yuki, located on Frenchman Street. It gave off a really Blade Runnerish vibe. This is a wall in their bathroom. (I know, I take pictures of only the finest things.)

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There were a lot of blue lights at the place across from Yuki, which made for fun photos.

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My favorite bar was Club Tonique. We found it by googling “hip bars French quarter,” because we are terrible people. Tonique was a blast, and made the best drinks. We went one of the first nights there, then back again our last afternoon in New Orleans and remained there for several hours.

A lovely city, excellent company, sunshine, no work — what more could a person ask for.

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