Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Country Roads

We were out by 10 again, this time going north through Massachusetts and New York into Vermont. It was worth the two-hour trip just for the ride. Lauren drove through charming old farm towns, over babbling brooks and raging rivers, and past endless fields of waving corn and jolly orange pumpkins. Vermont lives up to it's nickname "The Green Mountain State." It was foggy when we left; the mists rose majestically over the carpets of pine and cedar on the hills. The fog eventually lifted, reduced to fluffy white clouds bundled around the mountaintops like fluffy scarves and revealing a gorgeous, breezy blue-and-gold late summer day.

It was a bit after noon when Lauren parked in the very back of The Vermont Country Store in Weston. We come here every year. The rustic shop is filled with unusual and hard-to-find bric-a-brac, from hand-made soaps, candies, and baked goods, to locally-made flannels and knits, to cookbooks by Vermont authors, to old-fashioned toys and games, to brands from the early and mid-20th century that other stores no longer carry. Thankfully, they weren't that busy when we arrived. I had no problems walking around, sampling their caramel corn puffs, Cookie Buttons, and Vermont Common Crackers and jam.

I didn't get much. Even many of the sale items in the rooms upstairs were beyond my budget, and others, like the knitted items, were things I could make myself or buy cheaper in my area. I couldn't resist those Cookie Buttons, though. I went with the seasonal Pumpkin Pie this year. I also bought my annual bag of Boston Fruit Slices. These half-moon-shaped, sugar-coated gel candies with the hard outer rind are some of my favorite candies. I usually get them in Atlantic City, but I haven't been able to get there in a while. I also picked up a thin cookbook filled with honey-based recipes from the Vermont Beekeepers Association that was far less costly than most of the books in the store.

The Bryant House is the Vermont Country Store's eat-in restaurant. Lauren had a reservation for 1:30. It wasn't really necessary. They were a little busy with the tail-end of the lunch crowd, but nothing horrible. We even got a prime table next to a wide hexagonal window that gave us an excellent view of Weston's main street. We both had egg creams, seltzer with milk and chocolate syrup. Lauren had flatbread with pulled beef and vegetables. I had an enormous bowl of chili topped with fresh Vermont cheddar and ground beef. Yow! That chili was delicious and savory, but it was also spicy-hot! Between the heat and the huge bowl, I couldn't finish it.

We couldn't resist their gingerbread with whipped cream for dessert. Ooh, that was good. Perfectly moist and just sweet enough. The waitress was really sweet. Our orders were a little late; evidently, she'd gotten Lauren's mixed up and had to fix it. She paid for our desserts to make up for it. We thanked her by giving her the biggest tip we could.

Strolled across the street after lunch. There's two other interesting stores that are worth visiting in Weston. The Christmas shop reminds me a lot of the Winterwood Christmas stores in Cape May County. They have every possible Christmassy thing and ornament, from favorite characters to figures and houses to sports teams to animals and traditional Christmas symbols like Santa and angels. There's even small sections for Halloween and Thanksgiving merchandise. I didn't get anything here, but Lauren found a paint-by-numbers nativity-themed advent calendar.

The Weston Village Store is next-door. While they sell a lot of the same things as the Vermont Country Store - maple syrup and candies, cheese, fudge, old-time toys, clothes - they're slightly more touristy and a bit more irreverent. Their walls are laden with signs with either retro logos or goofy sayings, and there's a lot of practical jokes and magic tricks among the toys and ribald joke books in the kids' area. All the clothes have "Vermont" on them, despite being only slightly cheaper than the non-labeled clothing across the street. Lauren got nothing here, but I bought a tiny glass bottle of maple syrup, which was slightly cheaper there than the similar sized bottle across the street.

Walked around for about a half-hour more at the Vermont Country Store. Lauren got a few more things, but I didn't see anything else I needed. We finally pulled out around quarter of 5, heading back across the endless highways and through the small farming villages and past horses grazing and the weathered farm houses and silos.

We arrived at almost 7. The Millers had gone to another appointment in North Adams, picking up dinner from one of their favorite holes-in-the-wall there, Jack's Hot Dogs. Lauren had two hot dogs; I had two tasty cheeseburgers with relish and ketchup. We shared popcorn chicken and cheese fries while watching the Yankees play the Red Sox and Phillies play the Mets. We got to show off our finds, too. Lauren gave her parents long-sleeved print shirts and her father a comfy sweater. She made the best find of the day for herself - a beautiful purple quilted vest with thick black fur lining that she found on the racks in the upstairs sales room.

Didn't have as much luck playing Mario Kart 8 tonight. Lauren wanted to play the online games, but for some reason, her Nintendo Switch just would not hook up online. When we did get on, we didn't do well. Lauren did the best, coming in 7th on the Wild Woods level. My best was 8th on the first go-around on Sweet Sweet Canyon.

(Incidentally, the Yankees killed the Red Sox tonight 10-1. The Phils did far better, flattening the wayward Mets 4-0.)

We're going to stay in the area on my last full day here, exploring the Lee Outlets. We haven't been there together since we spent three days there when I visited in October 2015. I'm looking forward to it; plus, it's a shorter and less complicated trip for our final day together.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rainy Day, Dream Away

I awoke at 5:30 to pouring rain...and went right back to sleep. I didn't get up again until quarter after 7, and the rain was still coming down. It was actually rather soothing as I read The Last Camel Died at Noon and worked on my journal while the Millers went to an appointment. Lauren was up at the same time, but said she wasn't driving in the rain and that we wouldn't be leaving early after all, and went back to bed until about 9:30.

I'd long had breakfast by the time Lauren rolled out of bed. It was still raining when I finished eating, but not quite as heavily as earlier. We played the Nintendo Switch port of Rayman Legends, a cartoon-y platform game that had a colorful toad and girl warrior rescuing long-nosed purple critters from pirates and other odd bad guys.

The rain slowed down enough that we were able to leave by 10:30. By the time we were pulling into the Colonie Center in Albany, NY, the clouds were starting to break up and the sun was emerging. It had gotten so warm, we left our jackets in the car near Macy's parking lot.

Colonie Center is the older of the two malls on Wolf Road in Albany, built in 1966 (according to Wikipedia). Lauren picked Colonie because it's has the only Boscov's in the area. I like Colonie because a recent remodel left it gorgeous inside and out. You'd never know it's from the mid-60's. The exterior has Art Deco influences, especially around the entrance to the Regal Cinema that lives up to its name. The interior sports wrought-iron railings, soft chairs and loungers, and huge brick fireplaces.

Macy's was our first stop. I'm not really a big fan of Macy's. I just used the bathroom. Lauren bought another nice shirt for her job as a teller in a Pittsfield bank.

The food court wasn't far from Macy's. It was 12:30 by this point, and we dodged quite a few people as we looked for lunch. I ended up with a "New England Thanksgiving Feast" sandwich from The Soup Man - turkey, mozzarella, cranberry sauce, and stuffing on a roll. Lauren had a pepperoni roll from the pizza booth.

After that, we headed into the mall. Christopher & Banks had great sales. I didn't see anything I absolutely needed, but Lauren bought a shirt for herself and a cute gingham blouse for her mom. Box Lunch, a pop culture knick-knacks store, had moved next-door. I found an awesome Han-Leia "I Love You-I Know" comic book-style t-shirt here for 15 dollars. (This was also only the second Box Lunch I'd seen after the one in Deptford.) Lauren picked up a cute Playstation 4 game at the tiny GameStop. (She apparently bought the Playstation 4 a few months ago to get a wrestling title she really wanted.) I couldn't find anything I could afford at LL Bean, but Lauren picked up a pair of plaid shorts off the clearance racks. (I saw those shorts, too, but they didn't have them in my size.)

Boscov's is the other major department store here. Normally, I love their sales, but I just couldn't find anything I needed. Hoodies like my ribbed hoodie sweater just don't seem to be in style anymore, and I'm not a fan of the blouses with the thick scarf-like necks. I did see hoodies like what I wanted at LL Bean, but they were way too expensive. I'll check online. Lauren bought a shirt and shell combo for work and a new sage-green purse. She's had her current turquoise purse for years, and it's starting to get a little worn out.

We split up here. Lauren went across the way to New York & Company. I wanted to check out Barnes and Noble. This is a huge store, and the first time I've ever seen it as a mall anchor, rather than a stand-alone store or as part of a strip mall. Like the big Barnes and Noble in Moorestown, they still have DVDs, toys, and music here along with books and magazines. I eventually ended up with another title in the Bookaphile cozy mystery series via the remainder table and Jedi the Last, the Shakespearean adaptation of The Last Jedi. The latter wasn't on sale, but I love those Star Wars-Shakespeare books and just couldn't resist.

We had dinner around the corner from Barnes and Noble at Moe's Southwestern Grill. They're a fast-food franchise that's somewhat similar to Hot Harry's - you choose the toppings and watch them made. I had a chicken soft taco and an oatmeal cookie; Lauren went with a quesadilla. Moe's has one of those Coca Cola Freestyle machines that lets you choose various combinations of syrups and sodas. We both tried the Cherry Vanilla Coke. I also had a tasty Peach Mello Yello.

Our last stop of the day was a quick peek at Jay Street Video Games. They hadn't been open when we went past earlier. Lauren has an original Atari 2600 and checked out titles for it, but didn't end up getting anything.

The sun had emerged as early as our lunch at the food court. We could see it shining through the skylights. By the time we headed out around 6, it had become an beautiful day in late summer, with nary a puddle to be seen anywhere. You'd never know it deluged this morning. We had a lovely ride home, with no traffic despite it being rush hour.

We showed the Millers our finds as soon as we got home, then sliced up a watermelon for dessert. Lauren says that some of her customers are farmers who occasionally share their extra wares with her and her co-workers. Yum. My straw hat off to the farmer who grew that melon. It was super-sweet and exceptionally juicy, especially for this late in the season!

Lauren and I played video games on the Switch for the next few hours. I haven't played Street Fighter II since my family used to rent the original fairly often in the mid-90's. Evidently, they ported a later version to the Switch. Lauren took Chinese martial artist Chun Li; I went with British soldier Cammy. We proceeded to (literally - both women have high kicks as their signature moves) kick some rear on Easy, including big baddie M. Bison. I just wish it took longer. We did it in less than 20 minutes on our second try.

Moved on to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe next. This is pretty much the same as the previous Mario Karts, only this time using the regular controls. We played through at least four cups. I had a rough time getting the hang of it and came in third on the first cup. After that, we were first and second for the rest of the Grand Prix.

We're finishing the night chatting and listening to Lauren's playlist on her computer, currently Joan Jett's "Do  You Wanna Touch Me?" Tomorrow, we'll be heading into the wilds of the Green Mountain State to check out the Vermont Country Store.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Our State Fair

Lauren and I were off a little earlier today, around 9:30. We headed back to the Springfield area, but this time got off the Mass Pike slightly earlier for the Big E, aka the New England State Fair. Unlike the last time we went to the Big E in 2008, we came on a gorgeous day. It was sunny and breezy when we headed out, with only a few clouds in the brilliant blue late summer sky. We parked in a large field with many other vehicles; it took us less than a minute to hike to the gates.

Getting into the gates was slightly more complicated than last time. Lauren bought tickets ahead of time, so we didn't have to get into the line to buy them. We did have to go through a metal detector, but I left my jewelry at home and we both brought small purses, so that could have been worse.

The Big E is mostly your typical state fair. The huge area has tons of bright-colored booths advertising every food that can possibly be fried (including Kool-Aid), animal exhibits (I saw one with camels and another with an elephant, as well as a horse show), a petting zoo, a pony ride, the world's largest pig, a midway with kiddie rides and two Ferris wheels, and buildings featuring displays of the wares of farms and various local companies. There's two arenas for musical performances, the smaller Court of Honor Stage near the main gate and the larger Xfinity Arena. We caught a bit of a Tony Orlando concert going on at the Court of Honor as we went by there later in the afternoon. (He was really getting into "Knock Three Times.")

(Incidentally, Micky Dolenz would be happy to know that the formerly outdoor Court of Honor Stage has now been covered with a large tent.)

Our first stop of the day was at one of the smaller trailers for lunch, near a display for Harley-Davidson bikes. The Granville Country Store sells variations on grilled cheese, including a grilled mac-and-cheese sandwich. Evidently, Mr. Miller heard about them on the news and told his daughter about them. Lauren got the mac and cheese sandwich, but it sounded a little decadent for my taste. Besides, I wanted some vegetables with my lunch. I ordered the feta cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato. Yum! I love feta cheese, but it's so expensive, I rarely buy it. It paired nicely with the real bacon bits and thick slices of tomato. We enjoyed our outdoor meal on benches in a quiet corner across from the trailer.

We strolled around in the Better Life Building next, since we were right there. This is where local businesses display everything from hot tubs to leather goods to sports T-shirts to rare DVDs. (The TVs at the DVD area were showing They Live, the cult horror film starring Lauren's favorite wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, to her delight. It was even the scene with the famous "bubble gum" line.) We went to the bathroom, but otherwise just browsed here.

The streets outside the main buildings are lined with shops selling appliances, crafts, leather goods, toys, face-painting, and airbrushing for t-shirts. Lauren stopped by one such shop with a wide assortment of mostly political t-shirts. I joined her to browse. She found a really nice backpack with a vinyl drawstring and a pretty lavender, teal, and black floral pattern. I don't want another drawstring bag after the string came out of my last one within weeks of buying it, and the only zippered bag they had looked kind of cheap.

Next up was the Avenue of the States. Each New England state touts its well-known wares in a recreation of its capitol building. Lauren bought fudge for her parents at New Hampshire. She and I picked up plaid flannel scrunchies at Vermont, and I saw booths selling Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and big blocks of Cabot cheese. People stood in a long line to buy loaded baked potatoes, blueberry pie, and bottles of Poland Spring water in Maine. Children clamored for Pez dispensers in Connecticut. A booth in Massachusetts sold golden and red raspberries - we both had little containers of them. I saw a Del's Lemonade stand in Rhode Island. This is apparently a popular Ocean State institution often mentioned by my older friend Linda Young in her essays on growing up there.

The New England Grange Building mostly showed off crafts and jams and jellies made by folks across New England. She admired knitted outfits, small quilts, sweaters, and a fall display in the back. I'm afraid that while I appreciate the effort and artistry that went into their work, I can make many of the items sold myself for far cheaper.

By the time we did a second go-around at the Avenue of the States, I was worn out. Lauren had originally suggested having an early dinner at the Big E, but it was only about 2:30 when she bought the fudge. She'd checked several food locations, including the Food Court, but everything was too expensive or junky. After a last peek at the stuffed animals, knitted and wool goods, and jellies and condiments sold at the Eastern States Farmers Market, we finally just decided to head out early.

Lauren took a different way going back, one that gave me a quick glimpse of a bustling downtown Springfield before we headed back to the Mass Pike. Unlike the trouble getting to Holyoke on Saturday, this time there was no problems. The only traffic was near the Big E, and even that could have been worse.

We finally ended up having dinner at Athena's Restaurant and Pizzeria, just off the Mass Pike entrance in Lee. They were a lovely little building on the edge of downtown Lee, with wooden booths and tables and an outside area. Lauren had a buttery scrod, mixed carrots and green beans, and a salad that she said was delicious. I had an incredible chicken gyro with lots of seasoning and tzaziki sauce.

The clouds were starting to gather as early as our ride by Springfield, though the sun tried to peek out briefly when we were at Athena's. When we got in, we gave Mr. and Mrs. Miller the fudge, and I took a shower. We finished the night playing Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker and watching WWE Raw on the USA Network.

Tomorrow, we'll dodge the heavy rain that's supposed to hit New England and return to Albany to check out two large area malls, the Crossroads and the Colonie Center.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Beautiful Sunday

It was absolutely gorgeous when Lauren and I headed out this morning around 10. Perfect weather to check out a local flea market, just over the border in New York. We went here last year, too. I did pick up peaches here from a small farm stand for the rest of the week. Otherwise, unlike our trip last year, we made no finds.

We first drove to the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough next and spent an hour walking through their huge Target. I considered some more Our Generation Retro outfits, but decided to save my money for later in the week. Otherwise, there wasn't much to see here. The Berkshire Mall is dying hard, a victim of too-high rents and poor management. Even The Garden restaurant that we had dinner at in 2016 is gone.

Next stop was Dalton for lunch. Lauren introduced me to her favorite outpost of a local chain, Hot Harry's Burritos. They were a small hole-in-the-wall fast food Mexican joint that had apparently just been remodeled last year, according to Lauren. She had two soft-shell tacos wrapped around hard-shell tacos. I went simpler with a chicken and black bean burrito. Yum. My burrito was really tasty, with lots of savory chicken pieces and guacamole. We both had house-made tortilla chips with our lunch and sodas.

Hit up two shopping centers across from each other after we ate. Lauren picked up the new Nintendo Switch version of Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker at a Game Stop at Allendale. I saw a sweater I liked at TJ Maxx across the street, but it was white. Considering all the running around I do, white is probably not a good idea for something I wear constantly. Lauren did better, picking up plaid shirt and another good blouse for work.

Thankfully, the mini golf course a few minutes down the street from the mall is still around. We've been playing each other here for years. It's your standard family course, with fiberglass bears to block shots and small wooden houses and mills for balls to get stuck under. Lauren's purple ball wound up in a small pool of water at one point. My red ball got stuck under the metal loop-the-loop in another. I accidentally hit Lauren's ball in the hole once! Lauren ended up winning, but only by a few points, 52 to 56.

Headed back towards downtown Pittsfield around 3. We wanted to eat at Lauren's favorite restaurant the Highland, but they don't open until 4 on Sunday. After a quick stop at a bank to use their ATM machine (we tried using Lauren's branch of the Co-Op earlier, but their ATM doesn't always work well, according to her), we went for a long stroll down North and Suth Streets. It was actually rather pleasant. The streets were relatively quiet, giving us a chance to enjoy being together and play tourist. I even got to take pictures of the stegosaurus statue standing outside of the Berkshire Museum for my nephew and his friends.

Most stores downtown were closed on Sunday, but we did find two to explore. The consignment shop we went to last year was not only open, but had recently expanded into the next building. Lauren picked up an orange and black striped Ralph Lauren polo shirt for her dad and a yellow blouse for her mom. I found a really pretty blouse in brilliant shades of orange, turquoise, red, and black.

Museum Facsimile sells prints of old movie posters, cartoon posters, comics covers, maps, and advertisements for the Berkshires, locally-made crafts, colorful socks, Berkshires merchandise, and soaps and perfumes, among other items. The gentleman who owned the store was trying to hang lights around the windows when we came in; I couldn't help giggling at his efforts. Most things were too expensive for me, but Lauren bought a mug for her dad and socks for her and her mom.

We strolled to the Highland minutes after it opened. The Highland is another hole-in-the-wall, this one a bar serving basic American fare like turkey and mashed potatoes. Lauren had a meatball sandwich; I had a veal cutlet sandwich. Both came on thick white "Viennese" bread. A basket of this bread was also brought to our table. I'd already had a slice of bread, so I took half my sandwich off the bun. Dessert was slices of their tasty coconut custard pie.

Went straight home after dinner. Lauren and I showed her parents our purchases, then went downstairs to play Captain Toad for a half-hour before wrestling started. The Millers are all big WWE fans. Tonight's even was called Hell In a Cell. It began and ended with no-holds-barred matches in a red steel cage, though the other matches were regular ones. I can't really tell you much about the matches, since I don't know the athletes or their personas well. I know Lauren likes "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, a tough female wrestler who successfully defended her Women's title against the rather bimbo-ish Alex Bliss, a blond in some of the worst eye makeup this side of an 80's model.

(And the guy in the KISS makeup in the beginning tried swinging off the top of the cage and made a 20-foot drop onto a table...but the wrestler he was supposed to be landing on had the sense to move. He ended up doing some major damage to himself instead and had to be carried out in a stretcher.)

Tomorrow, it's back to Springfield, this time to check out New England's version of a state fair, the Big E.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Walk Like a Woman

It was absolutely gorgeous when we started out this morning around 10. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and it was probably in the upper 70's. There couldn't have been a nicer day in September for a ride.

Our first stop was a house about 10 minutes across Pittsfield that was holding an estate sale. It was a nice little house, too, clean and well-maintained. Lauren didn't find anything. She said she was looking for clothes, and all she found were coats and dresses from the 80's. I dug up four vintage metal fluted cookie cutters - a star, a half-circle, a mushroom, and a rectangle - for a dollar.

We were supposed to be heading for the Mass Pike next, but we ran into heavy traffic in downtown Lee. Lee is one of the many tiny historic towns scattered throughout the Berkshires. I'd never seen them so busy! The sidewalks were teeming with people of all ages, and the main road was choked with cars. We even saw several parade floats, representing a local True Value, egg farm, and recycling program, as we went by. Driving through Lee to Mass Pike ramp should have taken a little over 5 minutes. It took over 20.

There were no problems once we got onto Mass Pike, no traffic of any kind. We arrived at the Holyoke Mall around 11:30. Hit their Macy's first. I just used the bathroom here (their bathroom is conveniently in the women's plus-size section), but Lauren bought a couple of blouses for work.

We went back to the car, and Lauren pulled it around the other side of the massive building. She wanted to stop at Best Buy to recycle some wires, ink cartridges, and older electronics she couldn't use. I looked at some cartoon DVDs, but we otherwise picked up nothing here.

The Best Buy opens up into the main mall. Since it was 12:30 by this point, we hit Ruby Tuesday's for lunch. I had a coupon for 5 dollars off 15 dollars or more. We settled into the dark, leathery booths and watched college football while waiting for our sandwiches. We both had grilled chicken sandwiches. Mine was the regular sandwich; Lauren's had avocado and bacon. Mine could have used more vegetables, but otherwise was pretty good. Lauren said she loved hers. We both ate most of our thin, crispy fries.

Spent the next few hours walking around. The Holyoke Mall is the second-largest mall in New England. (Only the mall in Natick with the American Girl store is bigger.) The graceful, curving floor plan, pale wood flooring, and shiny chrome makes it feel vintage without being dated. It's fun to just walk around in there. Neither of us picked up anything at Game Stop, Hobby Lobby, or Build-a-Bear. I didn't see anything I liked at FYE, but Lauren bought a "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey t-shirt and an exclusive Weird Al Yankovitz Funko Pop toy. I would have indulged in the buy-one, get-one free t-shirt sale at Lane Bryant if their t-shirts weren't so darn expensive. Lauren bought a big box of fruit bars for her dad and a package of soft raspberry-filled cookies for her at the Christmas Tree Shoppe. I found a box of the Jello Pumpkin Spice Pudding that never seems to show up at the Acme anymore.

I made my biggest find at JC Penney. I finally got a new pair of sneakers to run errands in. The Filas were only 40 dollars, fairly cheap for good sneakers. They have incredibly comfortable "memory foam" soles that feel so nice on my sore toes! My old Easy Spirits were in such bad shape, I couldn't really save them. I tossed them in the nearest trash can on my way out.

We ended up at Target next. Lauren got bras. I finally found an Our Generation Retro outfit for Whitney. I love Our Generation's "Retro" - aka, styles from the 50's, 60's, and 70's - line, but for some reason, it never seems to show up in the South Jersey Targets. As cute as the polka-dot Dance Party dress was, it came with a lot of little accessories like records I'd probably never use. I bought the "Sweet Memories" outfit, a cute lavender checked dress with a maroon jacket and cute turquoise scarf.

It was almost 5 by the time we got out of the Christmas Tree Shoppe. Since Uno's right next door, we went there for dinner. We split an extra large thin crust pizza with half-pepperoni, half-roasted vegetables. Even sliced into small pieces, it was too much for us to eat. We brought half of it home.

Once again too the Mass Pike going back. This time, there was no trouble anywhere, not even Lee. There were still crowds in town, but they were mostly focused on the white tents where the farm market was taking place and not the streets. We listened to classic rock, 80's hard rock, bagpipe music, and Weird Al as we headed back to Pittsfield.

We're now downstairs in Lauren's room, chatting and listening to the 80's station again. Tomorrow, we're staying closer to home to check out a flea market just over the border in New York and a couple of stores in Lauren's area.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Come and Go With Me

It was still cloudy and muggy when I got up, but I was too excited to be gloomy! I finished my packing before I even had breakfast. Loaded up the laptop and wires, cell phone re-charger, deodorant, and journal.

Even with all that, I had time to do some reading. Josefina Saves the Day when the young American trader who took her family's mules and woven blankets in exchange for goods doesn't come back with the things he promised. Josefina and her sister Francesca make a scary night's excursion to a local church to find the items and prove that the American lad isn't a fraud.

Molly gets her own chance to be a heroine in Molly Saves the Day. Her camp is taking part in a "Color War," where one side has to capture the other's flag. Molly and her friend Susan aren't happy when they're on the opposite sides from their other buddy Linda. Susan's poor canoeing skills get them lost...but it also reveals that their group has been captured. Can they save their fellow campers, without losing Linda's friendship?

Dug up three short stories from two anthologies. The Grand Canyon from the 60's story collection Disney's America takes Donald and Mickey down into the famous cliffs. Mickey ends up braving the rapids to rescue Donald after he falls off his burro. Donald Duck In Disneyland has Don chasing after his nephews from the Tomorrowland Autopia (Speedway) to Peter Pan's Flight. Paddington Bear also takes to the road when he repairs a tricycle in the hopes of joining the Tour De France passing through the French village he and the Browns are visiting....but his breaks come off just as he's going downhill...

Watched an episode of The Backyardigans when I did finally get around to my cereal and Italian plums. Pablo is "Le Master of Disguise," a clever little fellow who can pass himself off as anyone. Lieutenant Austin of the Paris Police chases him onto the Orient Express. Now he has to sort through the passengers on the train to find him, but with suspects like Conductor Uniqua, Circus Performer Tasha, and Cowboy Tyrone on board, it won't be easy!

Took a walk to WaWa after breakfast to pick up at least some money for the week. The weather may not be nice to look at, but it's sure done the local yards a service. Everything is much greener than it was just a week ago. Lawns are overgrown; the first fall flowers glow orange and yellow.

It was only around quarter after 9 when I arrived. WaWa was still busy with the last of the morning rush hour. I used the ATM machine, then bought a small turkey hoagie for lunch. I figured it would be quicker than trying to make a sandwich (I was almost late getting downstairs last year because it took me forever to make lunch) and cheaper than buying anything from the restaurants at the train stations.

Ran a couple of cartoons when I got back and started to pack up my lunch and snacks. Garfield In Hollywood takes the fat cat and his owner and dog buddy to Tinseltown after they win a talent contest. Garfield wants to take home the big prize and become a star, but Jon's worried that winning may mean leaving him behind.

We head to a fruity Manhattan in Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City. Strawberry's also the finalist in a contest, this one a bake-off. The Peculiar Purple Pie Man is the other finalist, and he'll do anything to make sure Strawberry's entry doesn't make it on the air. Good thing Strawberry meets a lot of new friends who help her out, including eventual series regulars Orange Blossom and Lemon Meringue.

Did one last Donald Duck short as I walked around the apartment and made sure I had everything. "Grand Canyonscope," as you can guess from the title, was Disney's second venture into widescreen processes. Don's on his own this time, riding another recalcitrant burro on a tour with J. Audubon Woodlore (of the Humphrey the Bear shorts). It's Don who ends up dodging an angry mountain lion when Woodlore bothers him in his cave.

Dad picked me up at 11. As it turns out, his worries about traffic were unfounded. We ran into no traffic whatsoever anywhere on the road. They'd just reopened the ramp that leads to 30th Street this morning. He dropped me off there within fifteen minutes.

I took advantage of the extra time to eat my hoagie at the smooth green metal tables in the back of the food court. Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is a gorgeous Art Deco barn that more closely resembles the lobby of a luxury hotel than a train station. I feel more elegant just walking around in there. Hurricane Florence's wrath was easily seen in the flipping schedule in the center of the main room. Anything going north of Virginia was on time...but the trains heading further south to Miami and New Orleans were flat-out cancelled.

For possibly the first time since I started these trips, I had absolutely no problems at any of the stations. The trains to New York and Albany were right on schedule. Penn Station was busy, but nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a Friday afternoon. There was plenty of room on the Northeast Regional train to New York. The Lake Shore Limited train to Albany was full. I shared the seat with a husky young man who spent the entire three and a half hour trip playing some game on Nintendo Switch.

Lauren and her folks picked me up at the Albany-Rensslauer Station. We had dinner at Mario's Restaurant, the same fancy Italian place we ate at on my first night last year. It was quiet enough for us to eat inside this time, with a nice view of the back parking lot and the woods beyond it. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had Veal Oliver (veal in seafood sauce) with vegetables. Lauren had glazed salmon with vegetables and potatoes. I had a yummy brook trout with tomatoes, Swiss chard, and salty browned butter gnocchi (round pasta dumplings). Lauren's folks had creme brulee for dinner - Mr. Miller without the raspberries his wife requested more of. Lauren had a "smores" - graham cracker ice cream with a bar of chocolate-covered mousse and toasted marshmallow puffs - that looked amazing. My coconut ice cream was made in the restaurant and even came with a biscotti with candied ginger pieces.

Lauren and I are now at her house, chatting downstairs in her room. Tomorrow, we're going to check out an estate sale, then head east to the Holyoke Mall in Springfield.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Isn't It a Lovely Day

It was still damp and cloudy when I got up this morning. Watched Garfield In Paradise while I ate breakfast to brighten the day. This time, Jon and his pets are off to Paradise World, a tropical island where the hotel owners make Jack Benny jokes and the natives worship 50's cars and doo-wop culture. They enjoy the sand, surf, and the natives' hospitality...at least until the island's volcano threatens to erupt!

Spent the rest of the morning doing the last work on my story I'll be able to pull off until next Saturday. Harry and Laurence meet back at Maz's Air Field, where the Silver Falcon's parked. Harry insist that his buddy take the Falcon to carry supplies and keep Vader's boys off their backs. Laurence agrees, promising that it won't get a scratch. Harry is less inclined to talk about his former girlfriend Clara (Qi'ra). He'll only say that she eventually dumped him in favor of her wealthy gangster boss.

Luke and Yoda join Leia on the San Diegoan (a real-life train route that still exists in Southern California) as she goes through her godfather's remaining papers. Luke's more interested in asking Yoda what happened to turn the good Dr. Andrew Skylark into the greedy industrialist Derrek Vader.

Broke at 11 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did a vacation-themed episode of Tiny Toon Adventures while I ate. Plucky wins a trip around "Europe In 30 Minutes" and invites Hamton, Babs, and Buster along. Their tour on the continent is an overly-rushed bust, at least until they reach England and Buckingham Palace. Babs and Buster foil a plot to kidnap the then-royals-in-residence Princess Diana and Prince Charles, while Plucky and Hamton dodge a chef who wants them on the banquet table.

Had time for a quick Looney Tunes short as I packed up to go. It's "All Abirrrd" when Sylvester chases Tweety around the baggage car of a train, hoping for a quick on-board meal. Spike the dog and the conductor wishes he'd leave Tweety and the baggage alone.

Work was actually pretty dead when I arrived, and would be quiet for most of the day...except during rush hour. I ended up in the registers for at least an hour and a half, and then for 20 minutes at the end of the night when a cashier had to go on break. Otherwise, I gathered baskets, did returns, bagged, and rounded up carts. I suspect part of the reason I was tossed in the register so much was we had plenty of baggers around to help out, for once. Otherwise, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

(Oh, and Dad texted me during my second break. He'll be picking me up at 11. I don't leave Philly until 1:09, but there's a lot of road work around the 30th Street Station, plus it's the lunch rush hour. He and I both want to give us plenty of time to get there.)

Ran an episode of Danger Mouse from the seventh season that was also set around trains and vacations as I ate a quick dinner. "Danger Mouse On the Orient Express" begins in Venice, where DM and Penfold discover someone paving over the Grand Canals of Venice. Turns out it's Barn Von Greenbach, who has a permit that allows him to build anywhere. He wants to turn every town in the US into a tourist trap and send everyone to his museum. While Penfold searches for the permit that he lost in a river, DM deals with the spies traveling to a convention on the title train.

Ended the night after a shower with Top Hat, the most famous and popular vehicle for dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I cover it in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews Blog.

Top Hat