Friday, September 21, 2018

Wand'rin' Star

It was cloudy and a little damp when I rolled out of bed this morning. Lauren and I had enough time after I finished packing and ate breakfast to play a few last rounds of Rayman Legends. We got through the final bad guy of "Toad Story" and were heading to the next round when Lauren noticed it was getting late.

Lauren's parents joined us on our trip across upstate New York to Albany. It rained lightly and was a bit foggy when we left. By the time we were passing through small farming villages and past a highway littered with many Rite Aids and pizza parlors, the rain was long gone. Only clouds and a slightly humid and warm day remained as Lauren pulled in at the Albany-Renesselaer Station.

The Albany station is the smallest and most recent of the train stations Lauren and I pass through when we visit each other, having been built in 2002. It really is lovely, with lots of blond wood and dramatic vaulted ceilings. I just wish they'd finish the work on the road and parking lot. We had a harder time getting to the station and parking than we did once we got in. We sat and watched The Price Is Right in the small waiting area until it was time to depart.

On my way down the escalator, the bag of snacks I'd had tied to my other bags decided to split wide open! Someone was nice enough to recover my muffins, but I lost a peach and a granola bar. It was embarrassing, but I did still have other food. Thankfully, that was the worst thing that happened during the entire Albany-New York trip. The train wasn't anything resembling full, and I easily got a seat to myself. I whiled away the time coloring a picture of Han and Chewbacca from my Star Wars comics-based adult coloring book and admiring the gorgeous view of the old mansions, majestic mountains, and colorful towns along the Hudson River. I even saw a tugboat toting a barge along the lake.

Penn Station was very busy when I arrived, but it always is. I ducked into a small room filled with PNC Bank ATMs to get money, then bought a coconut-covered donut from Dunkin' Donut to get change for the subways later. I ate my treat in the main room, then used the bathroom (which for once didn't have a line), and walked around for a little while until the Keystone train was announced.

I should have gotten into the line sooner. The train to Philadelphia (which was actually going to Harrisburg) was full to capacity and beyond! It took me 15 minutes just to find a seat. Teary and frustrated, I eventually landed next to three younger women, all of whom spent the trip checking their cell phones or doing homework. One was even nice enough to chat a little bit with me. I told her I was going to Philly; she mentioned she was on her way to Lancaster.

I was in less of a hurry when I finally arrived at the 30th Street Station. After another bathroom break, I went down the hall to the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut booth. I wanted the Burrito Supreme combo, but the girl completely misheard me and gave me a burrito and a taco! Oh well. I was hungry enough by that point to eat both, anyway.

It took me another 10 minutes after dinner to figure out where the subway entrance was. I got it mixed up with the SEPTA Regional Rail. Turns out the entrance to the subway at the 30th Street Station is across the street. Even after I found it, the card I bought to get on just would not swipe, no matter how many directions I pulled it. The lady at the ticket booth finally just let me through.

At least the ride was a little easier. The SEPTA trains are just as plain as the buses, with hard blue seats that scream 70's. Unlike the overcrowded and annoying ride to and from the King of Prussia Mall, the train wasn't crowded and was on time. I was at 8th Street in less than five minutes.

I don't know how I messed up the PATCO. I was sweating bullets and nervous as heck when I bought my ticket. I shoved it in the wrong way until a security man helped me get through. The rest of the trip was far less troubled. Other than the train was a few minutes late - the only train today that was - there were no problems whatsoever. Dad and Jodie picked me up at the Collingswood station about five minutes after I got in.

I called the Acme while I was putting everything away. Sounds like I'll be going back to work at 9 AM on Sunday. I didn't really think I'd be working one day this week, especially since I normally get Saturdays off. After all the trouble I had today, I'm glad. It'll give me time to recover and restock my refrigerator.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fun, Fun, Fun

It was cloudy and cool when we headed out around 10 again...but this time, we weren't going far. There's an outlet mall in Lee, near the Mass Pike entrance, that Lauren and her parents love. We've been there before together, but not since we spent at least four days there when I visited in October 2015.

Our first stop of the day was Van Heussen. They mostly carry dressier clothes and sweaters, as well as IZOD golfing separates. I didn't see anything I needed, but Lauren went back later and bought two sweater vests for her dad. Neither of us found anything of interest at the Gap. Lauren considered a plaid button-down shirt at Tommy Hilfiger, but it didn't fit quite right. While the Dress Barn is one of the only stores to have it's own plus size section, we didn't find anything here, either.

Did much better at G.H Bass & Co. On my way out, I discovered a wall filled with rows and rows of socks that were three pairs for $12.99. Digging around uncovered pairs in a thick mostly-cotton knit that would be perfect for work; I did indeed buy three.

We also did well at Ann Taylor. She bought a blouse with a really cute navy and yellow lemon pattern. I saw a similar shirt in my size, but it was a tank top. I have plenty of tank tops. I bought an orange cardigan that perfectly matches the black, red, orange, and turquoise blouse I bought on Sunday.

I made my best find of the day at Eddie Bauer. I finally discovered a hoodie sweater to replace my badly faded and raveling blue knit. While it was a pullover, it was also a heavy black and multi-colored cotton that would keep me warm on capricious fall and spring days. A half-off sale brought it down to 25 dollars.

We had lunch at the mall's food court. Unfortunately, the food court doesn't seem to do as well as the mall in general, probably because there's plenty of restaurants down the road in Lee. More than half the booths we ate at in 2015 were gone and hadn't been replaced, including the sandwich shop with that yummy turkey and stuffing sandwich. We both ended up at Subway. She had a Chipolte Steak wrap. I'm not up to spicy food after the chili yesterday and opted for a Rotisserie Caesar wrap.

I was low on cash after lunch and Eddie Bauer, but Lauren did make a few more finds. She wanted to find a new pair of clogs for her job as the head teller at a local bank. We checked Clarks, Crocs, Sketchers, and Famous Footwear, but came up with nothing she liked. She did best at Jockey, which was having a buy-one, get-one half-off sale. That sale netted her two plaid sleep shorts, a similar pair of sleep pants, underwear for her mother, and three bras. She found a sweater for her mom at Talbots and a blouse for her at Aeropostale, along with plaid shorts for herself at Nautica. We emerged empty-handed from J.Crew, Levi's, Chico's, Calvin Klein, and The LOFT.

We finally headed out around 4:30. After we showed the Millers our purchases (and I had my leftover vegetable pizza for dinner - Lauren had her pepperoni later), we went downstairs to her room to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. After all the trouble we had getting online last night, we stuck to playing each other and the computer in the Grand Prix. Lauren mostly won, but I did better, managing to come in first on Sweet Sweet Canyon and actually coming in third on Rainbow Road.

(That's the best I've ever done on any version of that round. Usually, I'm lucky if I can make it to the end without falling off. Rainbow Road is the hardest round in any version of Mario Kart. There's nothing to keep you from skidding off the edge. When my sisters and I got to that round, our goal was more to see who could fall off the least than to see who could win it fastest.)

I'm heading home on the 12:10 train from Albany tomorrow. I'll have to text Dad and Jodie tomorrow to remind them - I forgot to tonight.

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Road to Vacation

Began another gloomy and humid morning with Garfield In the Rough while eating breakfast. Garfield is thrilled to be going on vacation, until Jon announces they're going camping. He'd rather be anywhere else but sleeping outside, especially after they learn that there's a bloodthirsty panther loose in the area!

Switched to the first season of Get Smart while getting my laundry together. Max finds himself "Aboard the Orient Express" with 99 after he accidentally handcuffs his wrist to a briefcase filled with money. All of the previous agents who tried to get the money to their people in Eastern Europe were gassed to death. Max has to figure out who's the double agent who has been killing off their men, before he's the next victim.

It wasn't raining when I headed to the laundromat, just cloudy. You'd never know that from the way Channel 10's newscast was carrying on. It sounds like Hurricane Florence will mostly impact the Carolinas and the south and not do a whole lot here besides a little rain and wind. The weather must have scared folks off. The laundromat wasn't busy except for a few older men messing around with their cell phones. Good thing. I had a fair-sized load to do, including the summer sheets. I worked on story notes and ignored most everything else.

Put everything away when I got home, then began packing. Loaded up anything I won't need for the next two days, including shirts, shorts, underthings, travel toiletries, a sweater for cool nights, hair clips and rubber bands, my walking sandals, socks, and pajamas. I finished most of the packing, but not all of it. Some things, like my brush and comb, laptop, cell phone, and journal, won't be packed until tomorrow night or Friday morning.

Put on a first season episode of Moonlighting set on a train while I had leftovers for lunch. In "Next Stop Murder," Agnes DiPesto is ecstatic when she wins a big essay contest for her favorite mystery writer and gets to spend 24 hours on a private train solving a mystery. Her bosses Maddie Hayes and David Addison board to see her off, but get accidentally stuck on board with Agnes and the writer's sarcastic entourage. When the writer ends up being the one who's murdered, Maddie and David have to figure out who did it, before the train stops...and Agnes is blamed.

It was still pretty early at that point, only around 2. I'm tired of sitting around all day. Since it still wasn't raining (and in fact, the sun tried to peek out at one point), I decided to head out for a short walk around Oaklyn. My first stop was the House of Fun. I browsed there briefly, but they were a disaster area, especially in the main room. There were so many boxes of action figures and toys scattered on the floor, I couldn't get anywhere near the wrestling figures. I eventually moved on to WaWa to use the bathroom and try their Pumpkin Maple Smoothie. Not bad. I can taste the pumpkin in this one, though the maple syrup is a tad too sweet.

It started to rain hard as I rushed home. I'd just gotten in the doorway when it started to pick up a bit. It rained for at least an hour or so, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't rained since.

Worked on writing when I got in. Harry agrees to drive the truck that will take them all to the digging site, to Leia's delight. He admits that he now needs a real job...but besides that, he is genuinely curious about all this Latin American history everyone's been talking about. Besides, he can't bring himself to leave Leia now. Charel and a reluctant Clarence also agree to join them, as do Luke, Yoda, and Artie when they arrive from the Los Angeles Star offices. Luke wants the rights to the full story on the finding of the Sword of Strength. Yoda will help translate the ancient Alderaanian maps and texts.

Broke for dinner around quarter of 6. I had leftovers while watching the 1997 animated musical Anastasia. I go into more detail on this old favorite of mine at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Anastasia

Moved on to something a tad more comic after that ended. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope are off on The Road to Zanzibar, this time as entertainers Chuck Reardon (Crosby) and Hubert "Fearless" Fraiser (Hope). Chuck is perpetually coming up with wacky get-rich-quick schemes that has Fearless performing a crazy stunt that occasionally burns down a circus or lands him in the hospital. Fearless is ready to go home when Chuck buys a diamond mine from an eccentric millionaire (Eric Blore). The mine turns out to be worthless, and they hop a boat for Africa after Fearless sells it to a local. Even after they do arrive on the Dark Continent, they're easily duped by con-women Julia (Una Merkel) and Donna (Dorothy Lamour) into taking them to see Donna's "trader father"...actually, her rich boyfriend, whom Julia is determined she'll marry. Donna is having second thoughts after getting serenaded by Chuck. When they find out what's really going on, both guys take off in a huff, only to land with a group of natives who want Fearless to wrestle a gorilla!

I love most of the Road movies, and this one is no exception. Hilarious spoof of jungle capers, with Hope especially in fine form as Crosby keeps tossing him into increasingly more dangerous acts. My only complaint is it ends a tad abruptly after the guys leave the natives, and the girls suddenly turning up feels more like it had to happen for a happy ending than anything. Othewise, if you love the rest of the Road series, you'll want to give this one a look as well.

Ended the night with a third season episode of the original 70's Wonder Woman. Diana Prince visits a friend who lives in a small Southern California town, hoping for a nice, quiet vacation. She's called into action when it turns out that several property owners in town are being threatened by a gangster who wants to turn it into the next Las Vegas. A "Skateboard Whiz" teen girl with a photographic memory accidentally sees one of their hidden casinos. They move it, but the kid is still in danger. Diana will have to grab a board and a helmet and pull of a few gnarly moves herself to save her and keep the gangsters from causing more damage.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Getting Ready for Vacation

It was gloomy and humid when I woke up, but also a bit warmer than it has been, and not raining. Put on two Dr. Seuss specials while I ate breakfast and enjoyed the weather. The Cat In the Hat is the original tale of the six-foot-tall-feline who steps in to the home of two bored kids and proceeds to wreck havoc. Their fish wishes he'd just leave, but the cat does eventually teach the kids that it doesn't take a lot of to have fun, whether you're outside or in.

Pontoffel Pock and His Magic Piano is a more bizarre Seuss special from the early 80's. Pock was just fired from his job at a dill pickle-bottling factory and wishes he could get away from his unemployment and his family's decaying home. Enter a group of fairies who give him a piano that'll take him anywhere whenever he plays a few notes and presses a button. He first goes to an Alpine town, but his showing off upsets the locals. After the fairies give him a second chance, he ends up in the Middle East, where he falls for "eyeball dancer" Eefa Neefa. Now he just has to get back to her, before the fairies find him and his piano!

Switched to one of my 20's CDs for the rest of the morning as I did things around the apartment. First thing on the agenda was making the bed and stripping the sheets. I think the current weather is a good indication that Mother Nature is ready for fall. I put on the spring/fall sheets and my pale blue and tan comforter.

It was time for me to finally start getting ready for vacation. I pulled my carry on bag and rolling luggage out to see what I needed for the trip and what I could pack now. The answer to both questions was not much. The toothbrush and small toothpaste I got from the dentist's office in the spring would fit nicely in the travel bag, but I really couldn't pack anything else until I got the laundry done, and I had other things I wanted to do today. I did slide my Star Wars coloring book and a crossword puzzle book Lauren gave me for Christmas into the carry-on bag to amuse myself on the train.

Spent the rest of the morning taking down the summer decorations and organizing the back room. I loaded my oldest journals from as far back as my childhood into a plastic container, freeing up room for more journals on the book crates. Went through the pamphlets and menus I've collected from various trips (including previous trips to Pittsfield) and loaded most of them into one of the old accordion folders.

Made a quick plum-apple-escarole smoothie with a Jif peanut butter bar for lunch while watching Sailor Moon episodes. Usagi attends an upscale finishing school in the hope of developing manners and poise in "Let's Become a Princess: Usagi's Bizarre Training." The headmistress finds her vitality and clumsiness charming...until her friends join her for a final dance and they all figure out what the teacher is really doing.

"The Legendary Lake Yokai: The Bond of Usagi's Family" has her on vacation with her brother Shingo and their parents at a hot springs resort. Still under the control of the evil Queen Beryl, Endimyon unleashes a monster from the lake who has her own ideas of what she wants to use her magic for. She was sealed in the lake by an angel and her lover, and she thinks Usagi looks like the angel! The other Sailors need Usagi's help, but she can't transform in front of her family.

Headed out to the libraries after the second episode ended. Stopped at the Oaklyn Library first. It was just the morning librarian when I arrived, watching the news reports on Hurricane Florence on The Weather Channel. I mainly organized DVDs. I left as the second librarian and her son arrived.

(Incidentally, the librarian's complaints confirmed something I'd noticed last week. The McDonald's on Cuthbert Road, next to the Wendy's and under the Haddon Township Library, is being torn down and rebuilt. I thought the design of the building looked older. In fact, other than the color of the roof and the additional playground, it very much resembled the McDonald's in North Cape May in the 80's and 90's. It also means the ramp to the Library and apartment buildings that begins at Mickey D's parking lot is closed as well. I'll be taking the short way down Cuthbert to and from Westmont for a couple of months.)

 I was mainly at the Haddon Township Library to return the DVDs from last week. The DVD cart was so overflowing, I ended up returning all of the kids' titles and about a quarter of the adult ones, despite the sign saying they were saving it for another volunteer later. I also organized the DVDs and shelved TV show sets and audio books and CDs. Didn't take anything out this week. I won't be here next week to enjoy them or return them.

Made two quick stops on the way home. The only travel item I was low on was wipes, which I use when I can't wash my hands quickly while at the stations or on the train. Picked up a small travel pack of those, plus brown sugar and those yummy whole-grain fig bars, from Target. Needed sponges at Dollar Tree.

I tried to write when I got home, but I was so tired, I ended up napping for an hour instead. I did get a little bit of writing done later. Admiral Ackbar and Los Angeles Police Chief Madine describe how they'll draw Vader's men away while the others head to the digging site. Laurence will be with those who deal with Vader's people. Harry, to Leia's surprise, volunteers to lead the expedition to the dig site.

Made a decent dinner after I got off. There was a simple recipe for "Saucy Franks" in that vintage Jiffy Cooking book I wanted to try. I updated the recipe with canned tomato sauce instead of tomato soup (I have none of the latter), lemon juice instead of a whole lemon (I also had none), and with red and orange peppers added with the green and the onions. Also made baked hash browns and sauteed escarole. It came out really well, especially the tasty sauce.

Ran the 1945 film version of State Fair as I ate. I cover this one in more detail at my Musical Reviews Blog.

State Fair

Finished out the night with The Great Outdoors. Chester "Chet" Ripley (John Candy) is looking forward to a quiet vacation by a lake in Wisconsin bonding with his sons and his wife Connie (Stephanie Faracy). They're not even there for a day when their trip is crashed by Connie's rich cousin Kate Craig (Annette Benning), her obnoxious investment broker husband Roman (Dan Ackroyd), and their creepy twin daughters. Roman keeps showing Chet up at every turn, whether it's getting him to water-ski on the lake or after Chet eats a massive steak at the local bar. Meanwhile, Chet's older son Buck (Chris Young) is pursuing a local girl, but she dumps him after he has to break their date to watch the steak incident. Matters come to a head on a stormy night, when Roman reveals why he's really there. The dads have to rescue the girls when they try to explore a mine, then save the others from a roving bear...and learn that family helps family, no matter how much they drive them crazy.

I was pleasantly surprised by this John Hughes-penned tale when I picked it up from a yard sale a few years ago. Critics savaged it for it's lack of originality when it came out. Yeah, the plot is cliched, but Ackroyd and Candy ably pick up the slack as the two very different dads with different approaches to having fun while on a trip. It has a bit in common with another Hughes vehicle for Candy, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, including an ending that's occasionally too sentimental for it's britches.

If you're a fan of either leading man or other Hughes adult and family-oriented comedies like Planes and the Vacation series, you'll want to make the trip out to Wisconsin, too.

Oh, and on a more sober note, yes, I do remember the terrorist attacks on 9/11. I discuss this a bit more at an entry I wrote on Patriot Day in 2015.

Memories On a Busy Day

Monday, September 10, 2018

Get Your Cape On

It was raining hard again when I got up this morning. By the time I'd finished breakfast and was baking Ginger Molasses Cookies, the rain was long gone, though the clouds remained. At the very least, the weather was decent enough that I wouldn't have to call Dad for a ride this time.

Cheered up a gloomy morning with Lego DC Superhero Girls: Super Villain High. Lena Luthor (Romi Dames), upset over not making the cut for Super Hero High, vows to create her own Legion of Doom! She makes several of the more villainous members of Super Hero High, including Cheetah (Ashley Eckstein), Catwoman (Cristina Pucelli), and Poison Ivy (Tara Strong) get into trouble and think they aren't wanted at the school. Posing as a teacher, she recruits them for her "Uber High" by promising them more hands-on training. Batgirl discovers that what she's really doing is using them to steal precious gems from various locations. The other girls don't believe them...until Lena and Lashina (Meredith Salenger) brainwashes the Green Lantern (Cristina Milizia) and traps the others. Meanwhile, Kantana (Stephanie Sheh) and Bumblebee (Teala Dunn) are taking competing against each other too far as they search for a priceless necklace for a class. The girls finally learn that, while friendly competition can push you to your highest levels, you can get even further by working together.

I like the regular online DC Superhero Girls shorts, and the LEGO versions are fun, too. If you're already a fan of this franchise, this is worth a look, too.

Headed to work shortly after the cartoon ended. Work was fine when I got in, but it was on-and-off busy for most of the rest of the day. When I wasn't inside in the registers or gathering baskets, I was outside doing the carts. I also did the few returns and bagged.

At least the weather wasn't as bad as yesterday. It sprinkled on and off, but never even enough to make me damp, much less get as wet as yesterday. I think we might have had one, maybe two slightly heavier showers, but nothing really horrible. It was down to a mist by the time I headed home.

Put on Vegas Vacation as I had garden tomatoes and tortilla-crusted tilapia for dinner. Clark Grizwauld (Chevy Chase) just got a big bonus at work and uses it to take his wife Ellen (Beverly DiAngelo) and teen children Russ (Ethan Embry) and Audrey (Marisol Nichols) to Las Vegas. Clark is hoping to bond as a family, but he ends up addicted to a baccarat table run by a snide card dealer (Wallace Shawn). Meanwhile, Audrey ends up pole dancing with her cousin Vicki (Shae D'Lyn), Russ runs around with gangsters who think he's a lot older than he is, and Ellen flirts with singer Wayne Newton (Himself). Clark only has the eternally clueless Eddie (Randy Quaid) to rant to when he loses everything...but it makes him realize just how important his family is.

This is really just ok. There's some nice gags with Russ lying his way through Vegas and Clark at the table, but the whole thing with Ellen and Newton is kind of creepy, and the extended sequence with Clark and his family at Hoover Dam mid-way through the film is filler at best and dull at worst. Recommended only for fans of the cast or people who have seen the other Vacation movies and want to finish the series.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Every Little Nothing

It was pouring when I awoke this morning, and would continue raining in some form another for pretty much the entire day. I brightened the gloomy weather with Zucchini Pancakes for breakfast and the original Broadway cast of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Carol Channing became a star in this adaptation of the Roaring 20's tale of Lorelei Lee, who buys a diamond tiara off of a rich lady with money she got from her husband. Most of the songs didn't make it to the film version, except for "Just a Little Girl From Little Rock" and the show's most famous number, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." They tried reviving it in 1995, but the show barely ran a week. It did better as an Encores concert in 2012.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. Leia, Laurence, Harry, Charel, and Clarence meet Dr. Mothma three days later at UCLA. Turns out there was a reward for capturing Roberto Fettara. Leia intends to use her part of the reward to fund her exhibition to Guatemala to find the remains of the Alderaanian culture. Harry, Charel, and Laurence all say they'll stay on as well. Dr. Mothma explains that Vader and Chancellor Palpatine of the Empire are already at the site, but they may still have a chance of getting around them.

Broke for a quick lunch at 1. Listened to Little Mary Sunshine as I ate yogurt, plums, and a peanut-chocolate chip muffin. This Off-Broadway operetta spoof was a huge hit in the late 50's-early 60's. Eileen Brennan made her first big splash as the sweet title character, the owner of an inn in the Colorado Rockies. A group of forest rangers after a rogue Indian arrive, along with a group of girls from a finishing school and an aging opera singer and retired corporal. Pretty much everyone pairs off by the end, including Mary with handsome Captain Jim Warrington and her maid Nancy with Corporal Billy Jester. Some folks may be offended by the evil Indian subplot, but this is mostly a cute parody if you know anything about the genre they're making fun of.

It was still raining so hard by 1, Dad ended up driving me to and from work. We were crazy when I came in, even though the Eagles played on Thursday. I bagged for the first half-hour, then spent the rest of the first half of my shift doing returns. I had a harder time during the second half. We're running out of pretty much everything, including toilet paper and plastic trash bags. I used the last two rolls of toilet paper and had to search for more trash bags. I also had to take over the carts for an hour when all the teen baggers went home and got very wet.

(I did see some games today in the back lounge area. Cleveland got it's first non-loss since 2016 with a 21-21 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cowboys weren't nearly as lucky against the Carolina Panthers, losing 16-8.)

Dad picked me up right after I finished work. He gave me a container of chili Jodie had just made. Since it was still warm, I had it for dinner. Listened to Harry Connick Jr. while I ate, then switched to the appropriate Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon. Took a much-needed bath while the jazz CDs were running.

It's continued to pour, sometimes heavily, for the rest of the evening. It stopped for a little while, but seems to have started again. It's supposed to continue into tomorrow...which is not good, since tomorrow is my extra-long eight and a half hour day.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Dolls, Ducks, and Princesses

It was raining at a pretty good clip when I got up this morning. I cheered up the gloomy day with breakfast and the first two episodes of the current version of Ducktales. "The Beagle Birthday Massacre" introduces Lena, a hip young girl who befriends Webby when she's left behind by the boys. They crash Ma Beagle's birthday party, looking for adventure. The boys show up to help when it turns out to be more action than they can handle. But as cool as Lena is, she's not what she seems...and her true allegiance may be with one of the worst villains Uncle Scrooge ever dealt with.

"The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra" is a bit more typical of the series. Launchpad, Uncle Scrooge, and the kids get lost in an Egyptian pyramid. Louie and Webby end up in the treasure room, but they also discover the angry pharoah Toth-Ra, who isn't happy with anyone taking his treasure. Meanwhile, the others try to gain the support of his followers, including introducing them to Mexican food.

The rain had finally ended by quarter of 11, when I headed out for the Collingswood Farm Market. While not dead, the late hour and bad weather had taken it's toll on the crowds. I had no problems checking out the groaning tables laden with produce. Saw the first winter squash of the year, including butternut and acorn. I settled for Italian plums, small Gala apples, and Chinese beans.

I rode around for about 20 minutes, looking for Collingswood Music. I was hoping they'd have a record needle. They used to be on Haddon Avenue, but they moved a while back. I did find their new location, but it turns out that they don't open until noon. It was only around 11:30 at that point. I had too much that I needed to do to wait, so I moved on.

Took the long way down Collings Avenue, making a short but fruitless stop at CVS before riding over to Dad and Jodie's house. Along with picking up the pan from the peanut butter icebox cake (which they never finished), I had an idea for Friday. Instead of them driving me into Philly, they could drop me off at Collingswood. There are trains that go from the Septa stations neare the PATCO right to 30th Street. (In fact, it only takes five minutes to get there from 8th Street by train.) Dad said he was fine with driving me to the station on Friday (despite construction and street work going on), but I could take the trains home next Friday. I won't be in until 5:30, the height of rush hour.

When I got home, I had a plum-gray squash smoothie for lunch, then made Peanut-Chocolate Chip Muffins while watching the remaining Ducktales episodes. Uncle Scrooge wants to spend his Christmas conquering "The Impossible Summit of Mt. Neverest." He tried to climb it years before, but was betrayed by his guide, George Mallardy. Meanwhile, Webby and Dewey try to figure out the best slope to use for sledding, Huey wants to discover all of Neverest's secrets and earn his Junior Woodchuck cartography badge, and Louie helps Launchpad get back at a salesman who sold him a load of gear for his non-existent "ice fever."

Donald replaces Launchpad for "The Spear of Selene." The ducks find themselves stranded on Ithaquack, the home of the Greek gods. Zeus is jealous of Uncle Scrooge, who had bested him at various events when he passed through before. He orders Donald to compete with the legendary Storkules. Dewey and Webby have more serious reasons for exploring as they search a temple for a item that might lead to the location of the boys' missing mother Della.

Dusted the apartment after I put the muffins in the oven. Except for the sawdust-covered window ledges that look out onto the porch, it wasn't really that bad. I pretty much dusted around most things. I'll do more thorough cleaning later in the fall, before the holidays kick in.

Launchpad learns to "Beware of the B.U.D.D.Y System" when he challenges arrogant industrialist Mark Beaks to a race against his new robot car. Not only does he lose the race, but it turns out that the designs originally belonged to Gyro Gearloose, who isn't too happy with his intern Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera for posting them online. Launchpad and Fenton get a chance to prove themselves when the robot car traps Uncle Scrooge, Dewey, Mark, and Gyro. Fenton gets a chance to show off his and Gyro's latest invention - an Iron Man-style suit of armor that turns him into the superhero Gizmo Duck!

"The Missing Links of Moorshire" has Uncle Scrooge playing his rival Flintheart Glomgold in a not-so-friendly game of golf in Scotland. The game turns deadly when they're all spirited away by druids to a magical realm where kelpies take the form of cute ponies and a strange mist drifts around the trees. Dewey wants to learn the game, but his methods are energetic but not exactly keeping with the strict rules of golf, until Scrooge realizes there's a place where they may just save them all. (And the obvious My Little Pony parody here is kind of interesting. Hasbro, who owns My Little Pony, is the manufacturer of Disney toys.)

Finished out the dusting as I moved to two episodes of the original late 80's Ducktales. "Ducky Mountain High" takes Scrooge and the kids out west, where his old girlfriend Glitterin' Goldie has a plot of land filled with gold trees. Trouble is, Glomgold has also learned about Goldie's land and is determined to take those trees for himself.

When Fenton's mother somehow manages to shrink  his GizmoDuck suit in "New Gizmo-Kids On the Block," it ends up in the wings of the boys and Webby. They're the ones who end up saving the day when the Beagle Boys try to steal it.

(And...as much as I still enjoy the original series, the new one is great, too. I love most of the updated characters, especially Webby and Fenton. I may have to look up the rest of the first season to see how the story lines involving Della and Lena's "aunt" pan out.)

Switched to dressing the dolls after I finished the dusting. It's now way too cold for bathing suits. While it is supposed to get warmer next week, it's not going to be nearly as hot as it was. Samantha is in her blue and white windowpane check Play Dress and Pinafore with white Springfield Collection socks and her black strap shoes. Jessa wears her high-necked striped shirt from her original meet outfit and a pair of shorts I bought from a doll clothes seller at a craft show. Ariel gets the American Girl tie-dye t-shirt from the 90's and a pair of Springfield Collection capris and sneakers. Put Whitney in Kit's Scooter Dress with the ruffled skirt and Molly's white t-strap shoes. Josefina sports her orange and red-print Summer Dress with the faux-leather vest and boots. Left Felicity in her lavender Traveling Gown. I really don't have much to change her into.

Worked on writing for a while after I finished the dolls. The Force magic does not like Yasmin trying to take it! It finally dissolves her, leaving her as nothing more than ashes on the stage, to the shock of Leia and Luke. They catch up with Harry knocking Roberto Fettara out as Artie and Yoda arrive with the police. Clarence turned out to be hiding under a table; he'd grabbed Artie's drinks cart and got very drunk.

Broke for leftovers for dinner around quarter of 7. I began the Elena of Avalor DVD while dusting; finished it out during dinner. Elena travels to the magical "Realm of the Jaquins," the bird-leopard guardians of Avalor, to convince the father of one of the jaquins to give him another chance at becoming a guardian. She and her wizard friend Gabe are followed by the thieves Victor and Ciela, who unleash a sprite that wants to destroy all the towns in Avalor and restore the trees and flowers there. Elena seeks the help of the mystical Sunbird Oracle, who can predict the future...including telling her of a dark magic that will challenge everything she believes in.

"Three Jaquins and a Princess" is far less dire. Elena leaves her little sister Isabel in charge of three Jaquin eggs while she judges a castle bake-off. The eggs hatch while they're in Isabel's care. She keeps insisting that she's not a kid and can handle anything, but the trio of baby jaquins prove to be far more of a handful than she expected.

The evil sorceress Shriki is back by the time of "Shapeshifters." The Council wants Elena to stay in the palace and rule the kingdom, but Elena feels that her place is in finding Shriki. She convinces Gabe to change her and a palace guard into jaquins so they can go out and look for her. They use a party for one jaquin as an excuse, and get embroiled in the feud between a chief and his son, who wants to rule the clan himself.

The remaining cartoons are shorts that were shown on Disney Junior. Adventures in Vallestrella had Elena trying to get the jaquin cubs and Isobel to observe various animals, but they can't help getting involved with them. Scepter Training with Zuzo is what it says on the tin - Elena learns to use her magical sceptor with the help of her spirit guide Zuzo.

(And while I did enjoy these episodes, including "Shapeshifters" - which seems to be part of a larger story - with the others was confusing. They really should have included it with the other episodes revolving around Shriki's return and found another jaquin-based episode for this set.)

Finished the night with Summer Magic, a charming Disney live-action musical from the early 60's that I traditionally watch every year between late August and early October as a way to say good-bye to the summer season. I go into it in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Summer Magic

Oh, and it's rained off and on all day, though never as heavily as it did this morning...or as it's supposed to for the rest of the weekend. We'll see what happens.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Busy Day Before the Storm

It was cloudy and a little bit cooler when I got up this morning. Started off my day with breakfast and some Peanuts. There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown actually has more to do with school than romance. The gang is supposed to be going to the art museum to do a report, but somehow Chuck, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Snoopy, and Woodstock mistake a grocery store for the museum.

Headed out to the laundromat after the special ended. They were absolutely dead when I arrived. I think I saw maybe two or three people the whole time I was there. Just as well. I had a really big load this week, including towels, and it took me a little bit longer than usual to get it all done. Looked over issues of Country Living and Martha Stewart Living, since I forgot a pen to write notes with.

Went home, put everything away, and went back out again. Next up on my agenda was the Oaklyn Library. They were relatively busy for them, with several people on the computers. I worked on organizing the DVD while the librarian tried to explain why one of the guys lost his work. (He hadn't saved, and the site he was using had gone down.)

Took Nicholson Road to the Audubon Crossings Shopping center for lunch. Though it wasn't raining, and was less hot than it has been lately, it continues to be very humid. I opted for pizza at Tu Se Bella's. Had a slice of cheese and a slice of broccoli and tomato on white with a fruit punch Powerade. They weren't busy at all, a bit of a surprise for 12:30 on a Friday. I still ate at one of the big, rustic tables in the main dining area. (The smaller table in the window was already taken when I came in.)

I had even less grocery shopping to do this week than I did last week. I've been so worn out from my long hours at work, I've just been eating leftovers. I restocked peanut butter, yogurt, skim milk, canned pineapple (I used the can from last week for a pineapple-escarole smoothie this morning), canned chicken, tape, and vanilla and almond extract. Thought I'd try some Jiff "Pick Me Up" bars I had an online coupon for.

My schedule for next week is really strange. I do have Tuesday and Wednesday off, along with next Friday and Saturday for my vacation to visit Lauren up in Pittsfield...but Monday is 8 and 1/2 hours, and Thursday is 7 hours, and I have far fewer hours than I did this week. Our schedules are now done by a computer, rather than a person. I guess they're still working out all the glitches.

As soon as I got home, I put away what little I'd bought. Ran two episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures while I got organized. The Toons are "Test Stressed" during mid-terms at Acme Looniversity. Plucky's so freaked out, he asks Shirley the Loon to channel Einstein into his brain in the first story. The second has a hands - or paws - on test as Furball goes after Lil' Sneezer, as instructed by his mentor Sylvester. Fowlmouth has a different kind of test in the third story as Buster tries to keep him from swearing long enough to ask Shirley on a date.

"Looniversity Daze" is another school-set anthology episode. Buster is sent to the principal's office for goofing off in class in the first story. The kids are all terrified of this flaming spook, but it turns out that he's not what he seems. It's lunch time in the next story, but Sweetie would rather chase Bookwork through the library. The last story has Plucky trying to get out of a test again, this time by faking sick. Turns out he couldn't have picked a worse time. The new student nurse is Elmyra, who isn't what you would call helpful.

Took the long way across Newton Lake Park after the Toons ended. I was really hoping it would rain soon. It's finally starting to look dry here, with brown patches in the grass and brittle tan leaves already falling off some trees. There weren't too many people out and about, probably due to the ongoing clouds and cut-it-with-a-knife humidity.

The Haddon Township Library was a lot busier. I mainly shelved and organized DVDs. All of the families with kids must have returned movies before school started again. The return cart was overflowing, and there were some kids' titles I could fit on the children's area shelves.

There were also a lot of new kids' titles. I took out a few of them today. Grabbed another My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic set spotlighting a member of the Mane Six, this time country girl Applejack. Also found a special for Elena of Avalor, a Lego DC Superhero Girls movie, and more of the current version of Ducktails. There were so many awesome new animated titles in, I'll have to wait to get to the fourth and final season of Star Wars: Rebels and Big Hero 6: Back In Action until after vacation.

Made a quick stop at Target on the way home. They were finally starting to put out the Halloween candy, but that meant their back-to-school aisle was decimated. I couldn't find the dry erase board markers I was looking for (I'm on my last one), but I did pick up the Parmesan cheese I forgot at the Acme earlier.

It started to shower as I rode home. Hurried inside and got on the computer before the rain could get worse. Re-wrote what I did last night. Leia attacks Yasmin more aggressively with the sword. Luke helps her after he gets most of the male dancers off the stage. She sends Harry to find Laurence, who went after Roberto Fettara. Yasmin tries to get the Sword of Wisdom back from Leia, but it doesn't want her...and it's magic throws her offstage, to the audience's amazement.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Made a fried egg sandwich with cheese, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Watched the My Little Pony DVD as I ate, and later as I went online. Applejack may be in charge of the Element of Honesty, but she learns just how hard it can be to stay honest in the fourth season episode "Leap of Faith." The Flim Flam Brothers have come to town with a tonic that can supposedly make the elderly young again. Apple doesn't buy it, but her Granny Smith drinks a bottle and suddenly can swim as well as she did when she was a filly. The brothers convince Apple that it's only making her grandmother happy...until Granny nearly gets hurt doing a dangerous stunt, and Apple finally calls them out.

The remaining episodes are all from the sixth season. Rarity just wishes Applejack would leave her chores and join her for some pampering at the spa in "Applejack's "Day" Off." Apple gives Spike and Twilight a list of chores, then finally goes off with Rarity. She can't stop working, even at the spa, when she discovers that their steam bath is broken due to stress from the constant laundry on their plumbing. It isn't until they return to the farm and Twilight complains about all the unnecessary steps in her list that she realizes what happened at the spa. People and ponies sometimes get so used to doing things a certain way, they don't realize when their ways stop working as intended.

Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash put "The Cart Before the Ponies" when they agree to help their sisters Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo build carts for their school's rally, but ignore the girls' suggestions and make them what they want them to be. It takes a crash at the finish line for the older ponies to see how much they got carried away...and pushed their siblings aside.

"P.P.O.V (Pony Point of View)" has an angry Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rarity telling Spike and Twilight three very different versions of how they capsized their boat. They finally trick the girls into another boat trip in order to show them what really happened.

We end with an extended flashback episode, "Where the Apple Lies." Applejack tells Apple Bloom how she made a rash business deal with Filthy Rich, the owner of the local grocery store, to sell their juice. When Granny Smith says no, she tells Rich that Granny's sick. Her lies get bigger and bigger, until her brother Big McIntosh somehow ends up on an operating table, and Apple's the only one who can stop Granny from opening up his insides.

(And wow. We did finally get that rain. It started as I was writing, and continued until just about an hour ago. It was really noisy, too. Thunder, lightning, torrential downpour, the works. Looks like we're supposed to get quite a bit of rain this weekend, too. We'll see how things go.)

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Battle of the Birds

It was cloudy and hazy when I headed to work this morning. By the time the noon rush hour crowds started arriving, the clouds were gone, and it was another hot, sunny, humid day. I did get some returns done, but I mainly spent the morning doing returns. I tried to shelve candy in the afternoon, but it got much busier than it has been lately, probably due to the first Eagles game of the season tonight against the Falcons. I got stuck in the register briefly earlier, but then for an hour and a half later in the day. They ended up pulling a stock girl to come up for me so I could get out on time.

Worked on writing when I got home. While Luke holds off Yasmin's fat goons, Leia gets Yasmin on the floor. The female gangster manages to grab the Sword of Wisdom, but she's knocked out by Charel and Harry. Harry tells her that he's not going to be her boy toy and that he and Charel quit her organization. Leia uses the Sword of Wisdom to erase all knowledge of the Force, the Swords, and Alderaanian culture from her mind.

Broke for dinner at quarter after 6. I had leftovers while watching The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas in honor of Burt Reynolds, who passed away today. This wasn't the musical I was originally going to review tonight, but it's also the only movie I own of his. I go more into depth on this vehicle for him and Dolly Pardon at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

I'm finishing the night with the big Eagles-Falcons game. A lightning storm delayed the start until almost 9, which is why it's only in the beginning of the second quarter at press time. The Eagles just got a field goal to tie the game 3-3. I hope they pick things up soon...but they always did play better in the second half...

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Hot Day In the Morning

Started off another hot, humid, hazy morning with my second early work day in a row. Though I did end up in the register briefly at one point, we were mostly quiet all day. This gave me the chance to finally finish shelving those three carts of loose items, gather trash inside and out, mop up a leaky cooler, and clean the bathrooms. Once again, I spent most of the day outside. The bagger who came in later was supposed to have taken over, but he didn't really do a whole lot, and I ended up helping him, despite having done the carts for a lot of the day already.

Jumped in the shower as soon as I got in the door. I was hot, sweaty, and sore. When I got out, I worked on writing. Yasmin announces at the ceremony that she intends to "sacrifice" Luke and Leia...but Luke has no desire to let her hypnotize him. The moment she raises the sword and tries to force him and the audience to look at the crystal, Artie tosses him his Sword of Light from under his rolling drinks cart instead. He takes on Yasmin's goons while his sister attacks the female gangster.

Broke for dinner at 7. Ate leftovers while watching Moonrise Kingdom. It's the summer of 1965. Sam, an orphan boy (Jared Gilman), is spending his summer at the Khaki Scouts camp before he moves on to another foster home. He's meeting with his pen pal Suzy (Kara Hayward), who has been neglected by her lawyer parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray). They're determined to find a cove they call "Moonrise Kingdom" and get married. Half the island eventually chases after them, including the camp's Scout Master (Edward Norton), the town sheriff (Bruce Willis), and an icy social services worker who is supposed to be taking Sam to a correctional facility (Tilda Swinton) when his foster family doesn't want him. Eventually, the Scouts see things their way and take them to a grumpy old relative of one of the Scouts (Jason Schwartzman), who unofficially "marries" them. But there's a major storm brewing, one that will change the lives of everyone on the island...and finally end Sam and Suzy's trek in a confrontation with Sharp on the roof of the island's church.

This was so sweet. It was one of the most adorable movies about kids growing up I've ever seen. The kids were perfect as the pair of misfits in the midst of their first crushes. I also liked Willis as the genuinely concerned sheriff, Swinton as the frosty government worker, and Schwartzman as the crusty repairman who has a softer heart than you might think. Some great New England cinematography, too, especially once the kids actually make it to "Moonrise Kingdom."

If you're a fan of historical coming-of-age movies or quirky director Wes Anderson's other work, this is one kingdom you'll want to brave a hurricane to explore.

Speaking of Anderson, I finished the night with his most recent project, Isle of Dogs. In Japan in an unspecified future, all dogs have been banished to an island of trash following an outbreak of a canine flu. Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), the nephew of the conniving mayor (Kunichi Nomura), swipes a plane and flies out to the island to find his beloved bodyguard dog Spots (Liev Schreiber). He doesn't find Spots, but he does encounter a pack of dogs, lead by human-hating Chief (Bryan Cranston), who agree to help him after rescuing him from a vicious robot dog. Chief won't join in at first, until former show dog Nutmeg (Scarlett Johanssen) talks him into it. Meanwhile, the corrupt Mayor suppresses a cure found by a professor (Akira Ito) in the interest of maintaining control over the city. An American teen reporter (Greta Gerwig) discovers her deception and decides to do some snooping on her own. Eventually, both kids remind people and dogs of how they'd once shared a bond...and just how deep that bond runs.

Awesome animation, great Japanese-influenced drum music, and a unique look at Japanese culture is offset by a bizarre storyline that can get kind of dark and depressing at times, especially for dog lovers. I think I'm just not into these dystopian future stories, whether they revolve around an island of dogs or thirteen districts. Worth seeing for the animation if you can get more into the unusual story than I did.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Back to Work Again

Started off a hot and killer humid morning with my first of three early and long work-days in a row. It wasn't really much of a problem. The only trouble I had was I was the only bagger for most of the day. The late morning bagger ended up spending her entire shift in a register. I was on my own until a college kid came in at 2. I spent a lot of the middle of the day trying to do six things at once for everyone up front. Otherwise, I mainly alternated between doing baskets, carts, and shelving loose items. (I also gathered indoor trash when that started to get bad later in the afternoon.)

As soon as I got home, I changed and went on the computer to work on my story. Leia dances in with the chorus girls. Yasmin has Luke in a white tunic and Harry in a collar, chain, and loincloth as her "slave." She announces that Leia and Luke are to be the virgins who are sacrificed as the bride and groom of the gods...but Luke has a plan of his own to show what the "gods" really want...

Broke for dinner at 6:30. I turned leftover chicken pepper stir fry into chicken and sauteed summer vegetables with the addition of a potato and garden tomatoes, with a plum for dessert. Ran Grease while I ate and Grease 2 when I got online in honor of most local schools starting again this week. I review both as a "double feature" at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Back to School Again Double Feature - Grease and Grease 2

Monday, September 03, 2018

All Summer Long

Kicked off an early morning with reading the Labor Day entries from the Colliers Harvest of Holidays anthology book. The big one was a biography on Samuel Gumpters, the spearhead of the union movement in the US for many years. There were also a couple of poems on workers and working, including I Heard America Singing by Walt Whitman.

Did excerpts from two American Girl books that involved labor and working. Samantha Learns a Lesson has Sam working on a speech about the wonders of factories to her private girl's academy. It works fine with the rich girls, but her best friend Nellie knows what it's really like to work in a factory. Her harrowing descriptions of child labor changes Sam's mind about real "progress." Changes for Rebecca lands Becky and her cousin Ana in the middle of a strike that Ana's father and brother are involved in. Becky gets hurt and loses the speech she'd written...but she doesn't lose her resolve to become a great speaker and actress.

After I finished my journal, I moved on to breakfast and a couple of Three Stooges shorts that revolved around their many careers. They hope it's "False Alarms" when they're firefighters whose boss says they have to stop going out every night. Curly's still interested in some fun, especially after he meets a trio of girls who want dates...and accidentally trips an alarm that sends them scrambling for the "fire!" "Slippery Silks" has them as furniture repairmen who inherit a dress shop. Their idea of fashion is even scarier than their repair skills.

Switched to Shemp as I vacuumed the apartment and washed the windows. "Sing a Song of Six Pants" has them as tailors who discover that they're repairing a gangster's pants. They try to detain him so they can collect the reward for him. They're "All Gummed Up" when their de-aging potion turns their landlord's elderly wife into a beauty...but works too well on their landlord!

Went straight to work as soon as "Gummed Up" ended. Work was crazy all day. Today is the last major holiday of the summer, it's the beginning of the month, and a lot of people were shopping for food for their kids' back-to-school bag lunches and Labor Day barbecues. I did manage to get the last of a cart of candy shelved, but that was pretty much the only thing I got done all day. I spent most of the rest of a hot, hazy afternoon returning carts. Even with help, I still couldn't keep the carts full! I had even more problems keeping the baskets full. Ended up in the register for about a half-hour too, when it got really crazy.

Went straight home after that and into the shower. It was so hot, and I was so sweaty, I really couldn't put it off. After I got out, I worked on some writing. Leia is being forced into dancing in the chorus, much to the shock of Clarence. Artie's there as well, serving drinks. He says Luke has everything well under control, but neither Clarence nor Leia are convinced.

Broke at 7 for dinner. Threw together one of the tomatoes from Charlie's garden, the last of the black bean dip, eggs, and mushrooms for Southwestern Scrambled Eggs. Did two more Shemp Stooges shorts while I ate. Oddly, they're not really "Vagabond Loafers," despite the title. They're actually plumbers who are hired to fix the pipes at a huge mansion. Their watery antics nearly destroy the house, but it also stops a pair of burglars from making off with a priceless painting. "Hugs and Mugs" brings in three attractive female jewel thieves who are searching for a pearl necklace, which just happens to be owned by the Stooges...but a gangster is after it, too.

Finished the night with American Graffiti as I went online. It's the last night of summer for four young men in a small California town. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), who isn't sure he wants to go away to college, spends the night chasing a beautiful blond in a white Thunderbird (Suzanne Sommers). Steve (Ron Howard), once the high school prom king, does want to go to college, but he also doesn't want to leave his steady girl Laurie (Cindy Williams) behind. Their geek buddy Terry (Charles Martin Smith) manages to charm a statuesque blond (Candy Clark), but loses the car he got her in. Long-time greaser John (Paul Le Mat) spends most of the night dealing with chatty 16-year-old Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) after she's dumped on him by her sister. They all end up at the local drag race road at the end of the night after John's challenged to a race by cocky newcomer Bob Alfalfa (Harrison Ford).

The Star Wars films aren't the only George Lucas movies I'm a big fan of. I love this plotless but atmospheric look at the "cruisin'" culture of the 50's and early 60's. It was one of the biggest hits of 1973, kick-started the nostalgia boom of the mid-70's, and made stars out of most of its cast (or adult stars, in Howard's case). If you're a fan of other largely plotless comedies with great classic rock soundtracks set in the late 20th century like Dazed and Confused or Pirate Radio, you'll want to check this one out, too.

And...I hope all of you had a safe and happy Labor Day (and did a little less laboring than me)!