Sunday, May 28, 2017

Yankee Doodle Girl

Began the day with the first of two early work sessions in a row. I mopped the floor in the men's bathroom (which I never got to yesterday) and did some returns, but I was mostly outside gathering carts. Also ended up sweeping cigarette butts again. The managers put up signs saying only to smoke in certain places, but I really doubt most people will listen.

It was steady all morning, though thankfully never overwhelming. I was able to use the free iodized salt coupon I couldn't use yesterday because they were out after work. It was still sunny, breezy, and warm at this point, and had been all morning. I took advantage of the nice weather to head down Nicholson Road for a bike ride. The traffic was fairly heavy down by Wal Mart and the Hispanic church. The closer I go to Oaklyn, the faster it vanished.

When I got in, I put on a record while making Peanut Butter Pancakes for lunch (since I didn't have the time to make them for breakfast). Yankee Doodle Mickey is a collection of patriotic songs performed by the Disney characters, the Disneyland Chorus, and a young Molly Ringwauld, I believe from the late 70's-early 80's. Along with folk tunes like "Yankee Doodle," two George M. Cohan tunes ("Yankee Doodle Dandy," "You're a Grand Old Flag"), and the expected hymns and anthems ("God Bless America," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") are some unique or unusual numbers. The Disneyland Glee Club puts in a rousing performance of "The Liberty Tree" from Disney's version of Johnny Tremain, while the Disney characters do a medley to honor the Armed Services. (Mickey sings for the Air Force and the Marines, Goofy for the Army, and of course, Donald gets the Navy.)

Finally finished Shadow Games after lunch, since I didn't have time for reading this morning. Since I was already in bed, as soon as the book was done, I took a nap. It's been a while since I had a really early work day, and I did a lot of running around. I was just tired out.

I was only out for about an hour or so. When I pulled myself out of bed, I did a little writing. Langdon wants to take back his home and make up for Henry's arrest and abduction. He orders his own valet Laurence and his stable boys to subdue the Coruscant soldiers. Leia and Charles aren't ready to trust him. Cedric does - after all, he's a gentleman! Charles nearly squeezes the life out of him before he reveals that Fettson has Henry in the stables and is just about ready to leave.

It was almost quarter of 7 before I finally broke for dinner. Had chicken salad sandwiches on hot dog rolls for a quick dinner. Played Lego Star Wars: Clone Wars while I ate. I had more luck with this one on my own than I did with Lauren. Managed to get Anakin onto one of the critters and take a preying mantis-like monster out before the Jedi Calvary arrived. When they did get there, I had to make sure they got back on their ships and close the door safely.

Unlike Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which is based after linear films, Clone Wars was inspired by a weekly ongoing action cartoon. Instead of just moving on to the next mission from the hub, two missions opened. I tried one, with Obi-Wan and Anakin chasing Count Dooku, but I didn't get far. Did much better with Anakin's apprentice Ahsoka, one of the clone commanders Rex, and a little black astometech droid setting up explosives to blow up a clone-making facility. Once I figured out what I was doing, that one was kind of fun. It ended with the black droid turning out to be a spy...and Artoo actually dueling with him while the others escaped.

Clone Wars is slightly more complex than Complete Saga, both in graphics and in game play. With so many Jedi around, you use the Force a lot more, including for most building. The clones and their grappling guns replace Indy's whip here. It's also a lot easier to get killed. Enemies are stronger, and there's more of them. It's more like what I've seen of Lego The Force Awakens online. I'll see if I can return to the Dooku mission the next time I play, now that I have a better understanding of how the basics work.

Oh, and the clouds were scuttling in, even as I rode home. It didn't start raining until a few hours ago, though. Thankfully, it sounds like the rain is going to peter out by early morning. Jodie invited me over for burgers and hot dogs tomorrow at 4, and I suspect she'd be happier cooking them while dry.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May Fair Affair

I was grateful to see a warm sun when I awoke this morning. Celebrated with breakfast and a couple of Universal wartime shorts. Woody Woodpecker's only war-related cartoon was "Ace In the Hole." Woody wants to fly planes, but his sergeant has him shearing horses. Woody does finally make it into the air...with explosive results. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" is the tale of a popular jazz trumpeter who lands in the army and keeps his unit humming with his swinging tunes. (This may be awash in stereotypes, but it also features a really nifty version of the title song and is one of the few shorts of its era to depict minorities in the military.) "Pigeon Patrol" gives a country bumpkin bird a chance to shine when he helps a downed flyer get an important message past the enemy.

Finally headed out around quarter of 10. I wanted to at least briefly check out this year's Collingswood May Fair, but I first needed money. Along with hitting the ATM machine at WaWa, I found another limited edition Pepsi flavor. "Dew S.A" It's a combination of their three bright-colored fruit flavors, White Out, Voltage, and Code Red. Not bad. A very pleasing berry flavor.

The Farm Market is absorbed into the May Fair for the week, taking up a side street. Even with fewer booths, they were still elbow-to-elbow busy. Though I did see the first snap peas of the season, I settled for small organic heads of Boston and Red Romaine lettuce. Also grabbed strawberries and bananas.

Strolled around the fair for a little bit. The May Fair is Collingswood's big Memorial Day Weekend community event, covering most of Haddon Avenue. Though there's rides for the kids and an antique car show, I basically just had time to peek at the craft booths. Mainly saw art and hand-made jewelry, but I also noticed wood carvers, photographers, knitters, stuffed animal and pillow makers, doll clothes and children's clothes seamstresses, carpenters, and several local businesses. There's also a ton of food booths, from fresh-squeezed lemonade to funnel cake, and bands playing at a couple of stages.

Had enough time to hurry home, eat Apple-Cinnamon Muffins and strawberries for lunch, and change while watching a couple of Popeye shorts. Popeye entered the war several months before the US did, in "The Mighty Navy." Most of his adventures at sea, like "Fleets of Strength" or "Blunder Below," shows how hard a time he has with following the Navy's orders...before taking on their attackers in his own way.

He and Bluto continue to compete for Olive in the exotic "Kicking the Conga Around." They want to show off for Senorita Olive, but Popeye can't dance the conga like Bluto. Spinach turns him into a dancing and fighting machine!

Got my schedule right when I arrived at work. I figured I'd work on Memorial Day, but not this early, or early on Sunday, either. And while I don't have off again until Wednesday, I do get Wednesday and Friday.

Work was a bit of a pain. Despite it being one of the major holiday weekends of the late spring, I spent most of my shift cleaning the bathroom, doing returns, organizing soda coolers, and sweeping up cigarette butts...and I never did get a chance to finish the first two. I kept getting called to do other things, including during my break. The other bagger was scrubbing the soda coolers when I finally realized how low the carts were getting. We gathered carts for the last hour, which we probably should have been doing all afternoon.

Headed home after picking up an onion (which I forgot at the farm market) and using two Monopoly free coupons to buy aluminum foil and hot dog rolls. Did a little writing for the next few hours. Leia kicks and screams, but it does no good. Fettson finally drags Henry away. Meanwhile, Luke and Rusty have arrived. Charles and Leia try to warn them, but they take off anyway. Rusty suggests they split up, with Luke going after Henry and Rusty following the others.

Luke does start after Fettson, until he notices a rustling black cape in the garden. Determined to eliminate Vader once and for all, he makes his way up the stone staircase and into the winding mountainside greenery.

Broke around quarter of 7 for crusted salmon and a green salad with home-made honey mustard dressing for dinner. Finished the Popeye wartime shorts, with a few extra ones, as I ate. Though Popeye and Bluto continue to pursue Olive in "Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix" and "Aloma of the South Seas," they also deal with more (and a few less) typical Navy matters. When Olive leaves Sweet Pea in Popeye's care, the child wanders all over the ship, sending his sitter on a frantic search for him in "Baby Wants a Bottleship." Popeye finds himself temporarily in the Army in "Many Tanks" when Bluto switches places with him so he can land a date with Olive. He makes his way past the Nazis to deliver "Spinach to Britain." Bluto claims he's "Too Weak to Work," but what he really wants is time in the hospital to avoid his duties.

Also did two non-military shorts while I cleaned up from dinner. Popeye's saying "Nix on Hypnotrics" when a nefarious hypnotist uses his powers on Olive and tries to bring her to him. "Cartoons Ain't Human" is one of my favorite shorts from this era. Popeye goes about as meta as you can get and creates his own version of a typical Popeye/Olive rescue romp, much to the delight of his nephews.

Made a Banana Cake while watching Shaun the Sheep: The Movie. Shaun is bored with his typical routine and wishes the Farmer would go on holiday, or at least do something a bit different. He gets a lot more adventure than he bargained for when an accident lands the Farmer in the hospital with amnesia. First Shaun, then Blitzer, then all the sheep on the farm go after him. While they try to jolt his memory, the nasty head of Animal Control is determined to capture Shaun and the others

An action-packed send-off to Shaun and his fellow farm animals, with more movie and TV references than you can shake a razor at. For all the shout-outs, I was surprised at some of the darker moments, especially after the Farmer vanishes and when he doesn't recognize them. If you're a fan of Shaun or his series or other Aardman projects, this is a really enjoyable way to send off a great show.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Looney Wartime Tales

It was still cloudy and cool when I got going this morning. Celebrated the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend with three shorts that had Superman fighting Axis powers during World War II. Despite some Japanese stereotypes, "The Eleventh Hour" is also a surprisingly mature tale of Superman committing sabotage in Tokyo while he and Lois are being held hostage. "Jungle Drums" has him rescuing Lois from natives who are being controlled by Nazis. He aids a "Secret Agent" who is trying to get papers with vital information to Washington.

It was past 11 when I headed out for my first errand of the day. I didn't have that much laundry to do, but I figured I might as well get it done before the weekend kicks in. Everyone else in Camden County must have had the same idea. They were busy with several families when I arrived. I worked on my story notes and explained them to a curious little girl.

Went home and put everything away, then headed back out. First stop on the agenda was Rite Aid. I was hoping they'd have that copy of Vanity Fair with the four Star Wars: The Last Jedi covers. No luck, but I did pick up a USB stick on a major clearance. I'll use it to clear the photos off my cell phone and make room for apps I can use while traveling.

Had lunch at Friendly's in the Westmont Plaza across the street. It was just after 1 PM, and they were still pretty busy. A large family in the back consisted mainly of older children and seemed to be having a lot of fun. The family next to me wasn't nearly so amusing. The children were far younger, the oldest not much more than a toddler. He sat in a high chair and kept reaching for everything, including my burger and fries. Thankfully, his arms were too short to get anywhere near them. I ate my All-American Burger, fries, and Viennese Mocha Chunk ice cream with marshmallow sauce and a mountain of whipped cream and ignored them.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't anywhere near that busy. In fact, there really wasn't much going on there. There weren't even many DVDs or new releases to shelve. I did put away some audio books and CDs. Didn't take out any movies, but I did find some books. I'm intrigued by the new DC Superhero Girls line of dolls...but as nifty as they are, they cost the same twenty bucks as the Ever After High dolls. I'm not starting yet another collection I may lose interest in a year or so later. I'll give the first novels for Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl a try before I buy anything.

Made short stops at CVS and the Acme to try to find that Star Wars magazine. No luck. The weather wasn't looking pretty, either. The sun had been in and out all day, but by quarter of 3, clouds were starting to build up again. Not to mention, the kids were on their way out of school. I saw a couple as I rolled across Newton Lake Park. They're so green right now, probably thanks to all the rain we've gotten. The leaves are almost at their full sizes now.

Spent the rest of the afternoon working on my story. Determined to break the Crimson Hawk and use his pain to lure his ward, Vader tortures Henry's burned arm, using his electrical sword to burn it further, then slowly dripping ice down it. He formally arrests Henry, then brings Langdon and Bob "Boba" Fettson to take him to Jenkins Huttman, the most notorious gangster on the Tatoonie Islands, who will decide his fate. Before they drag him away, Leia breaks from the soldier who holds her and into Henry's arms. She loves him, she says. I know, he tells her before they drag him away.

Broke around quarter after 6 PM for dinner. I kept things simple with a raspberry jam and cheese omelet and green beans. Made my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies recipe for dessert.

Ran Warner Brothers wartime shorts as I ate and baked. Termite Terrace leaped into the war years, making tons of propaganda shorts along with the "Snafu" series for the Army. Did some of the regular wartime shorts tonight. They mainly fell into three categories - basic character comedies that happened to have a wartime bent ("Herr Meets Hare," "Daffy the Commando," "The Draft Horse"), sketch comedy revues on life in the barracks and on the home front ("Wacky Blackout," "Rookie Revue," "The Weakly Reader"), and allegories on how we got into the war...and how we planned to get out ("The Duckinators," "Fifth Column Mouse"). We also got an earlier Warners take on war, the black-and-white World War I musical tale "Bosko the Doughboy."

My favorite World War II shorts from Warners are three classics from Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones featuring Bugs and Daffy. Bugs spoofs the Golden Age of Superheroes when an enhanced carrot turns him into "Super Rabbit." A rabbit-hating cowboy and his horse try to take Bugs on. Meanwhile, Daffy's having his own problems with that pesky Little Man from the Draft Board in "Draftee Daffy." Bugs has a rare encounter with an antagonist who gives as good as he gets when he tangles with a gremlin sabotaging planes in "Falling Hare."

(Oh, and the clouds broke up shortly after I got home. It ended up being a pretty nice evening, actually.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stormy Weather

Started the day with my first work shift in over a week and a half. It was raining when I headed out to the Acme. Thankfully, it had started to slow down even by the time I arrived. I had just finished rounding up the carts when it started up again. Spent the rest of the morning inside. I did get some returns and most of the bathrooms done before my break. Good thing. The rain had caused some flooding, and several people called out. I was stuck in the registers for the last hour of my shift. It was busy with frustrating people and absolutely no fun.

I hurried home as quickly as possible the moment I finished. Had Apple-Cinnamon Muffins for lunch while watching the first of two Backyardigans hour-long episodes, "Super Secret Super Spy." Pablo is the Bond-type secret agent who likes his apple juice shaken and his cars filled with gadgets. He's assigned by Ms. T (Tasha) to find three containers and keep them away from The Lady In Pink (Uniqua) and her hench-moose (Tyrone). If she gets her feelers on them, it could be a recipe for disaster! Pablo's fellow agent Austin does his best to help.

Spent the next couple of hours working on my story. Vader tries to question Leia and Henry at the dinner, but he gets nothing out of them. Not to mention, they make it quite clear from their hand-holding and dreamy expressions that they're crazy about each other. Their love-sick stares remind Vader entirely too much of how it was for him and Padme, years ago.

Vader finally has them brought to his chambers upstairs. He strips Henry's shirt off and whips his back until he screams. Leia is forced to watch. While they do have a tender moment while she tends to Henry's scarred back, it doesn't last. First Charles and the battered Cedric is tossed in with them, then Langdon shows up with Vader and his men. They reveal that they're trying to lure Luke there...and he and Rusty are already on their way. While Cedric fusses over Rusty leading Luke into danger, Henry attacks Langdon. It takes all of Langdon's men to hold him back.

Broke around 6:30 to make leftovers for dinner. Watched Moana as I ate. The title character is the prin...chief's daughter of a Polynesian island, where the people live happily and haven't left in decades. Unlike most of her people, Moana feels the call of the ocean and wishes to travel. Her father fears for her safety and discourages her, but her grandmother tells her the story of their ancestors, who were explorers. She discovers upon her grandmother's death that the island is also dying. Mischievous, selfish demigod Maui stole the green eye of a goddess island, who was destroyed by a great fire monster. Moana sets out to return the emerald eye the island and get Maui to put it back where it belongs. The great demigod turns out to be an obnoxious jerk who only cares about himself and how humans see him. Even when he tries to lose her on the Island of Monsters, she remains determined to see her quest through.

The first half of this feels a bit cliched, Pocahontas crossed with Brave with the South-Seas setting of Lilo and Stitch. The movie picks up considerably once we've hit the water for good. Maui's obnoxious and annoying, but he's also hilarious, and he has a great song, "You're Welcome." (I had no idea Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was such a good singer.) The sequence with the giant singing crab was weird, but it is very well-animated, and the song "Shiny" is so enjoyably campy. Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame wrote the lyrics, which explains a lot of things (including the Oscar nomination for Moana's big song, "How Far I'll Go").

For all the wacky personalities around her, I really loved Moana. Feisty and determined, this girl won't let anything come between her and her chance to save her people - not crabs, fire monsters, rough seas, snarky demigods, or her own lack of sailing abilities. The ocean chose her, and she will NOT let it, or anyone, down. I'm also glad to see her relationship with Maui played as more of friend/mentor deal than obvious love interest. It's very refreshing in a Disney movie, especially one aimed at girls.

While I didn't love it quite as much as last March's Zootopia, this is a fun, colorful movie in its own right, with unique characters, a wonderful heroine, and a fabulous score. If you or your daughters loved other girl-oriented Disney adventures like Mulan or Brave, or are interested in the ocean, sailing, or exotic cultures, this is one high-seas voyage that's well worth taking.

Incidentally, the rain returned while I was writing, this time with thunder and lightning. It's been storming on and off ever since.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nobody Does It Better

Today was Lauren's last day here. We spent the morning quietly, playing Kirby's Epic Yarn. We were able to finish off the main rounds of Treat World, including the boss for this round, Squashini. We did the extra patches...but we ran out of time to play the rounds. By the time we finished the boss level, it was 11:30. Dad was going to be around to pick us up at 11:55. Lauren finished stuffing everything into her suitcase and backpack before taking the suitcase down early.

Dad was on time picking us up, and there were no problems on the road. We pulled into Cherry Hill well ahead of the train's scheduled time. I hugged Lauren at the platform, and we said our good-byes there. She said she had a great time, and despite a few bobbles with yesterday, so did I. We always have fun when we get together.

After I got home, I went right upstairs, put my blue rain coat away, and headed back out. I wanted to run a few errands, starting at the Oaklyn Library. They were slightly busier than they were when Lauren and I dropped by yesterday. Several folks were using the computers, including a grandmother who was trying to calm a fussy baby. The kids' DVDs and the board books badly needed to be organized. The adult titles weren't nearly as bad. I was out in about a half-hour.

Took out a few movies from the Oaklyn Library. They don't have as large of a collection as Haddon Township, but they get the latest titles right when they come out (instead of a month or so later), they have them around for longer, and they do have a few titles that Haddon Township doesn't. I opted for one of the newer titles I wanted to see too badly to wait (Moana, the latest Disney princess film) and two that the Haddon Township Library doesn't have (Sean the Sheep: The Movie and the live-action Disney Swiss Family Robinson).

I didn't have much of a choice about hitting the Acme. I needed my schedule. I'm working in the morning tomorrow and afternoon Saturday and am off Friday. I'll have time to work on writing, clean up from my visitor, and do some volunteering at the Haddon Township Library, plus I work late enough on Saturday to get away with a quick run to the Collingswood Farm Market.

Only needed a few things there. I cheered myself up with a vanilla creme doughnut, using my last free doughnut coupon. Restocked sugar, cereal (Quaker was on sale - I got Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares), black beans, tomato sauce, and honey. I wasn't going to do major grocery shopping this week, so I figured I might as well get anything now that couldn't wait.

Had a quick lunch of yogurt, a granola protein bar, and a banana when I got in. Watched The Backyardigans as I ate and put everything away. Tyrone, Uniqua, and Pablo are on a "Secret Misson" to return an object to the museum. They have to navigate their way around booby traps and three halls filled with artifacts before they find the one they're looking for. But will Tyrone's "spy maple syrup" ever come in handy?

Spent the rest of the day at home, working on my story. Vader does invite them to dinner. He's trying to get information from Henry and Leia about Luke, where he is and his arrival. He taunts them both before Bob "Boba" Fettson arrives as well, revealing that he told Vader where they were going and intends to take Henry to the notorious gangster Jenkins Huttman.

Broke around 5;30 to make Apple-Cinnamon Muffins and have leftover chicken tenders, asparagus and a toasted hamburger roll for dinner. Watched A View to a Kill while I ate in honor of Sir Roger Moore, who passed away yesterday. James Bond (Moore) is trying to figure out who's been putting microchips in race horses. The trail leads to Zorin (Christopher Walken), an industrial genius with an interesting past, and his intimidating lady friend May Day (Grace Jones). Zorin isn't just using microchips on horses. He's hoping to destroy all of San Fransisco's Silicon Valley and dominate the world's microchip industry. James, with the help of Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), heads from France to Frisco to stop him.

Definitely one of the stranger Bond movies. It's also one of the slowest-moving. I have no idea why all that nonsense with the horse racing was even necessary, other than giving Patrick MacNee something to do and letting Bond prance around in a palace. Moore was really showing his age at this point as well - this would be his final Bond movie. Some of the action set pieces are just too campy for words, even for this franchise, including the chase in a cab in Paris and the wild chase in San Francisco involving a fire truck and half their police force. Roberts is one of the worst Bond women, dull and fairly useless. The saving graces are Walken and Jones as two of the series' more intriguing villains, some action that does work (including the finale on the Golden Gate Bridge), and an awesome title song by Duran Duran,

Finished out the night with a much-needed bath. I haven't taken one in ages, and I badly needed it after having spent the last week and a half hiking all over Camden County. I kicked back, listened to jazz, and looked over cake decorating magazines.

(Oh, and I last heard from Lauren a half-hour ago. She said she was at home, showing her parents her goodies. There were no problems at all on the trains or at the station.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A View to a Chill

We slept in again. Lauren wasn't up until 10. It was past 11:30 when we headed out for a short stroll in Oaklyn. Our first stop was the Oaklyn Library. We didn't buy any of the DVDs for sale, but I did get to introduce Lauren to the morning librarian.

Next up, we returned to the House of Fun and Comicrypt. I didn't buy anything at either place. Lauren did better, picking up several vintage wrestling magazines and the large, rubbery LJN version of Roddy Piper from the mid-80's. Lauren browsed at the comics store (which wasn't nearly as busy as it was last Wednesday). I settled for petting the cats.

Headed a couple of blocks down and across the street to WaWa. Lauren wanted soda for her trip home tomorrow. Since we were there, I suggested getting sandwiches for lunch instead of eating out. I got a roast beef and provolone hoagie on a whole wheat Shorti roll, a bag of multi-grain chips, and discovered Coke released a Sprite Cherry Zero. Lauren got that roast beef and horseradish panini I tried a while back, honey barbecue chips, and the Sprite Cherry and a Wild Cherry Pepsi.

We ate at the benches on West Clinton. Lauren took a quick side trip into Phillies Phatties to grab something called Pepsi Fire, a cinnamon-flavored soda that's apparently only out for a few weeks this summer. She also discovered the same thing I did when I had that sandwich - WaWa's got some potent horseradish. That stuff makes your eyes water!

Our last stop was a little consignment shop across the street from Phillies Phatties, Deja Vu. The lady who owns the shop is a very enthusiastic clothes collector and fashion designer. She only buys the best...which means that even the cheapest item in the store was still beyond my budget. It was mostly good clothes, suit jackets and dresses and high-heeled shoes and fancy purses and silk sweaters. Lauren bought a sweater for herself for work and a blouse for her mother. Even if I'd had the money, most of those high-end designers don't do plus sizes. I found very few things that would actually fit.

Spent the next couple of hours at home, playing Kirby's Epic Yarn and Lego Indiana Jones 2. We finished Hot Land (including the extra rounds) and got through the first two rounds of Treat World in the former and completed Part II and most of Part III in Indy. By 6, we were getting really bored. It had been cloudy, chilly, and damp all day. We were supposed to get rain later in the afternoon, but it never happened. We finally said "the heck with it" and went back out.

Ended up and Phillies Yummies for a treat (after Lauren shooed one of Charlie's dogs back into the front yard). She got a strawberry lemonade water ice. I got a mint-chocolate Yum Yum (creamier, grittier water ice). Oooh, it was soo minty! The flavor was really strong with this one. We ignored the cool evening (and the Mr. Softee truck coming down the street) and headed home, water ice and Yum Yum in hand.

Lauren packed and I combined the leftover dip and Sloppy Joe mixes for dinner. Did a Dreamworks Animation double feature while we ate and got organized, starting with How to Train Your Dragon. Hiccup is not your typical viking. He's skinny and sarcastic, preferring to create weapons to fighting fire-breathing lizards, like his father the chief and the rest of the village. When they think he's killed a dragon, he's recruited with other young people (including his crush, the very intense Astrid) to become the next generation of dragon-killers. Hiccup really doesn't want to kill dragons. He finally makes friends with one of the most fearsome...who shows him the reason the dragons are attacking the villagers in the first place. Now Hiccup and Astrid have to convince the vikings that the dragons aren't evil, before there's more casualties on both sides.

We were online and Lauren was finishing the chips and dip by the time we'd switched to The Croods. They're the not-so-modern, very-much-stone-age family who live in fear of the many things outside their cave that can kill them, especially dad Grug. Daughter Eep is less fearful. After finally venturing outside the cave, she encounters a handsome non-Neanderthol named Guy. Guy is perpetually creating wonderful things, like fire and puppets...and he's on the run. He insists that the end of the world is coming. An earthquake that destroys the Croods' cave bears this out. Grug is upset when everyone elects to follow Guy and discover what's beyond the mountains...but even he eventually discovers that stepping out of our caves and into the light may help us evolve, and that change isn't always such a horrible thing.

How to Train Your Dragon is one of Dreamworks' most beloved franchises, spawning a TV series and a second, equally-good film. The Croods is an underrated exploration of family, curiosity, and taking risks that got lost in the cracks between Dreamworks owners and deserves to be better-known.

Today was our last full day together. Lauren goes home at 12:20 tomorrow. I'll go to the Acme and get my schedule, then see how I feel.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Philadelphia Freedom

My eyes fluttered open and checked the clock on my crate bedstand...which read quarter of 10. Yikes! We'd planned on being out of the house by 10:30! Not to mention, rain pattered heavily on the roof. By the time I'd finished with my journal and was dressed and eating breakfast, Lauren was on her phone. Her dad had apparently texted her, asking her for help with something.

Lauren put on a couple of season 5 Danger Mouse shorts while she dealt with her dad and I got organized. Danger Mouse and Penfold are on vacation, but they still get involved with "The Long Lost Crown Affair" when they seek the headgear of a king who was a well-known practical joker. They're saying "By George, It's a Dragon!" when they're dispatched to stop the title lizard in Wales. But this odd fellow isn't quite as bad as you might expect. DM has to "Tiptoe Through the Penfolds" when Baron Greenback's new cloning machine produces thousands of his best friend. "Project Moon" takes the duo to outer space to dismantle Greenback's lunar communications jamming device. "The Next Ice Age Begins at Midnight" if DM and Penfold don't stop his weather creating machine. Danger Mouse is to meet some intergalactic travelers in "The Aliens are Coming," but they just want to play with their toys...and him.

It was still raining by quarter of noon. We finally just gave up, threw on jackets and umbrellas, and headed out. It was at least slowing down a bit by the time we arrived at Tortilla Press, a gourmet Mexican restaurant in Collingswood. We always have lunch there at least once when Lauren visits. The main dining area, with its primary-colored walls and beautiful artwork, was surprisingly quiet for lunch hour. Only one other group of older men enjoyed a meal. We had the same quesadillas we did last year. She had shrimp and bacon; I had mango, chicken, and brie. They were just as good this time around.

The rain had returned, once again heavily, as we stepped onto Haddon Avenue. We just ignored the weather and kept walking. Lauren's been wanting to see Rocket Fizz, a unique candy store and gift shop in Westmont. They sell "Rowdy" Roddy Piper Bubble Gum and Bubble Gum-Flavored Soda, among other unusual sodas and confections. I didn't get anything. I still have plenty of snacks at home.

Though the rain was slowing down at this point, it was also almost 2 PM. Not to mention, even if we wanted to do more local shopping, many small stores here are closed on Monday. We settled for strolling back to Collingswood, where we hopped on a half-full PATCO train to Philadelphia.

With the big FYE on Broad Street gone, our only real interest in Center City was the massive Macy's. We spent an hour here. Other than going to the bathroom, I didn't get anything. As almost everyone at the party reminded me yesterday, I don't have a lot of money. Lunch and train tickets cost enough as it was. Lauren took advantage of a buy two, get one half-off sale on bras to pick up a few for her. We were back in the PATCO station by 3:30 and in Collingswood by quarter after 4.

(By the way, we got to check out the newly remodeled cars both ways. The ugly tan-and-sage seats had been replaced by more heavily-padded gray ones with striking red trim and thick plastic and vinyl handles. Much nicer and sleeker.)

Thankfully, by this point, the air was warmer and the rain was long gone. It was just cloudy when we hit The Pop Shop for a snack. The popular local diner wasn't terribly busy - we'd just missed kids coming out of school. We both had Cherry Soda Floats. Lauren had hers with vanilla ice cream, I had mine with chocolate. Lauren got mozzarella sticks for a snack. The two of us ended up sharing them.

Strolled home after we ate, dodging rush-hour traffic on Haddon Avenue and the White Horse Pike. Played video games for a while after we got in. This time, it was Kirby's Epic Yarn that glitched as we were working on Dino Jungle in Hot Land. Switched back to Lego Indiana Jones 2 and finished that crash-and-bash cutter tank round.

The "challenge" round was certainly that. We had to go back through the round in the dark and pop 10 balloons to get the golden treasure chest. This wasn't nearly as easy at it sounds! You don't have the cutter here, only the Russian jeeps and trucks, making it harder to get through the foliage. It's also in the dark. The trees and flora make it hard to see during the regular round, never mind in the dark! It must have taken us 20 minutes or more to do this round.

We had quite enough of video games after that. I hit the shower, then made us leftover Sloppy Joes for dinner. I threw in the half of a grapefruit I didn't have the time to eat this morning for fruit.

Finished out the night online while watching Brave. This unique Pixar tale introduces us to Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a Scottish princess who loves running free, shooting her bows and arrows and riding her horse Angus. What she doesn't like is learning about the proper rules of decorum from her straight-laced mother (Emma Thompson). She's really upset when her parents invite the nerdy sons of the local clan chiefs to their land to win her hand in marriage. It's her mother who's angry when she steps up and out-shoots the guys, winning her own hand. After she and her mother rashly destroy the things that mean the most to them, she goes to a witch (Julie Christie) to find a potion to change her mother's mind. What she didn't expect was for it to change her mother into a bear...and her mischievous brothers, too. Now she has to find a way to change them back, before her father mistakes them for Mordu, the frightening wild bear who almost killed her family.

This is unusual for Disney in general and Pixar in particular in many respects. Although Merida is an "official" Disney princess, she has more in common with Mulan and Moana than Snow White and Cinderella. No prince awaits her, nor does she want one to. Indeed, the story hinges on Merida controlling her own destiny and learning to respect her mother and her heritage. This is also very much a woman's movie, mainly revolving around a mother-daughter relationship. Many men may not understand it much more than the clan chiefs and Merida's father did.

Women and families with girls who are looking for a "princess" film where the princess does something besides prance around in ball gowns will really love this one.

Tomorrow is Lauren's last full day. We're still going to be dodging rain and I need to watch my fiances. We're likely just going to be strolling around in Oaklyn and eating in one of the smaller places on West Clinton Avenue.