Sunday, August 13, 2017

Vegemite

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles
I said, "do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich

-"Down Under", Men at Work 1981

Several weeks ago, my friend Kim casually asked, "Has anyone ever tried Vegemite? It sounds like the durian of bread food." I had not tried vegemite, but I have tried durian candy. Almost all I know about vegemite is what's in the song lyrics above: they eat it in Australia, and you might eat it on a sandwich. Since Amazon Prime means that there's no real space of time between "I want this" and "I have this in my hands", I immediately ordered a bottle.

Vegemite

Before I could start eating it, though, Kim posted this:

WAIT JOEL! STOP! MARMITE IS AWFUL!

The dogs liked it.


It was too late, though. I already had the jar, and I was going to try it. All my life I've wondered, "What's a vegemite sandwich? What does it taste like? Should I go all the way to Brussels for one?" and now, at last, I had the chance to have one. I wasn't sure what goes on a vegemite sandwich, though, and the video for the song was unclear, so I googled.

And I found out that outside of Australia, pretty much everyone hates vegemite.

Think about that. The only people willing to eat vegemite are living in a sunbaked hellscape where every animal, even the cute ones, is poisonous. What the hell was in this bottle, which my friend Christopher describes as "spackle"? Apparently it is so potent that I found a number of articles offering to ease me into the eating of vegemite, the culinary equivalent of carefully dipping a toe into the vegemite pool rather than diving in headfirst.

I started my day with vegemite on toast. The first point to remember was not to put the vegemite directly on the toast. Instead, all of the articles agreed that you should first heavily butter the toast:

Vegemite experimentation

Then you should open your vegemite jar, but try not to inhale directly over it because it is the most yeasty smelling thing you have ever smelled. It's also black as night and also somehow shimmery:

Vegemite experimentation

Carefully scoop out no more than a tiny dime sized serving of vegemite:

Vegemite experimentation

and spread it on the toast on top of the butter, as thinly as possible, because that tiny dab has to cover the entire piece of toast since you can't eat more than that tiny dab at a time without vomiting:

Vegemite experimentation

With my toast drowning in butter and lightly smeared with vegemite, I took a bite.

It was not terrible. It's very salty. I used unsalted butter, so the only salt I tasted was from the vegemite, and it's very salty. There's an undertaste that's hard to describe. It's sort of a malted flavor, but also a sort of flavor that my mouth insisted was "meat" even though there's no meat involved and I couldn't narrow it down to a specific kind. It's not bacon, or beef, or chicken, or pork, but each time I bit my mouth thought, "Mmmmm... meaty," and could not be convinced otherwise.

Since breakfast didn't kill me, I decided to continue the vegemite experiment with dinner, and a more ambitious recipe for spaghetti with vegemite. I'm not going to link any of the recipes that I looked up, because almost all of them were the same. You'll need:

spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
1 teaspoon of vegemite
1/4 cup of butter
a lot of parmesan cheese
a cup of the pasta water

After you cook the pasta, scoop out some of the water, then set the pasta aside in the strainer for a minute. Melt the butter:

Vegemite experimentation

then add the vegemite:

Vegemite experimentation

(Please note: it will stick to the measuring spoon. If you push it off the spoon with your finger, DO NOT LICK YOUR FINGER. OH, DEAR SWEET BABY JESUS DO NOT LICK YOUR FINGER. Just wash it off. Do not touch your tongue directly to the vegemite. My stomach clenched so hard trying to vomit that I might have abs now.)

Stir:

Vegemite experimentation

Add the pasta and continue stirring, and thin it a little with some of the pasta water if it seems like all the pasta isn't coated. Add cheese:

Vegemite experimentation

I ate the entire plate.

It's a little salty, and still has that weird meaty but not meat taste, but my tongue also insisted that there was a nutty taste. It's way too much butter to eat this all the time, but I would eat it again.

And now I have to figure out what to do with the rest of the bottle.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Books 31-40: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, but the first thing I pack for any trip is books. I tend to pick out clothes the night before, but I start picking out books a week or two in advance, or sometimes even longer. If I'm driving, like I did on my vacation two weeks ago, I bring extra books, because then I have choices. When I'm flying I have to be careful, and a lot of times two to four books end up in my carryon because I worry about the weight of my checked baggage.

Anyway, this all means that at the end of my vacation I had a stack of completed books:

Summer reading

but before I got to them I had to finish Book #31: Matthew Bruccoli's exhaustingly comprehensive biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Some Epic Sort of Grandeur. I've been curious about Fitzgerald's life since I read Therese Anne Fowler's Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, which was based on Zelda's life, and I've had this book for a while, but was waiting for a time when I could devote myself to getting through it, because it's a giant book.

I'm not kidding. The paperback is over 2 inches think. If I lived in a Lifetime movie, I could bludgeon someone to death with this book.

That's why I said it was exhausting. Fitzgerald kept journals for his entire life, and Bruccoli does a fantastic job of combining them with letters, publishing files, other people's diaries and letters, and other contemporary sources to paint a full picture of what Fitzgerald was doing whenever anything he wrote was published, and how his ongoing changes of circumstance shaped his life. If someone taught a college class just on Fitzgerald, this biography would be the main textbook, but reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's entire life on a month by month basis from college to death was mentally draining.

At one point, close to the end, I posted, "I just want F. Scott Fitzgerald to die" on Facebook, and I meant it.

And then he did.

When I finally finished that, I wanted something light, so I went for some young adult fiction that looked interesting:

32) Karen M. McManus' One of Us is Lying. The premise of this mystery seems simple: five students enter detention alive, and four of them leave that way. Something happened in the room, but what? And why? I enjoyed this book a lot, even if I did figure out a few of the plot twists before they were revealed.

Bronwyn, Addie, and Cooper all say they were framed, and didn't do the identical thing they all got detention for: having a cell phone ring in class. Nate perpetually has detention, so his presence there isn't a surprise. And then there's Simon, a social outcast who runs an online gossip website at their high school. Lots of people hate Simon, and by the end of detention Simon has died from a severe allergic reaction. The questions start immediately: Why were all the epi-pens missing from the nurse's office? Who planted extra cell phones on the other four students? The questions intensify when the police discover that Simon was planning to publish stories about his four detention-mates the next day. Was one of them willing to kill to stop him? And are the others in danger now?

This was a fast read, but very engaging. I enjoyed it.

33) I didn't enjoy C.L. Hodges' As The Sun Smiles as much. I bought it because the author was one of our student staff members, and I wanted to be supportive, but the book feels disjointed and in need of better editing. There are interesting ideas here, but the execution could use some polish.

Part coming of age story and part dystopian glimpse of America's future, this is the short story of a family in present day Knoxville, and their struggle to survive as society collapses around them. It's very introspective, with the protagonist frequently ruminating on his place in the world and in his family, to the point that it often takes a backseat to the actual plot.

34) Fiona Davis' The Dollhouse is heavy on plot, with the narrative shifting back and forth from chapter to chapter between the present day, when journalist Rose Lewin becomes consumed with the life of her mysterious neighbor, Darby McLaughlin, in their condos in the former Barbizon Hotel for Women, and 1952, the year that Darby arrived at the Barbizon to become a secretary in New York City.

Pursuing the rumor that Darby was involved in a long ago fight where a hotel maid fell to her death, Rose begins crossing ethical lines as her own life disintegrates, digging deeper into Darby's past even as she loses her relationship, job, and home. Meanwhile, in 1952, Darby struggles to fit in among the hotel's other female guests, the secretaries, models, and editors who all want to make it in the Big Apple. When a maid befriends her, inviting her out to see the nightlife and all the excitement that the city has to offer, it feels like Darby's whole life is about to change, and it does, but not in ways she ever could have imagined.

This was an engaging, fascinating read, and a perfect book for summer.

35) Tim Johnston's Descent was also an engaging read, but I feel like it wrapped up a little too conveniently.

The Courtland family is on vacation in the Rocky Mountains, but when the kids, Caitlyn and Sean, go out for an early morning run only Sean comes back, badly injured by a truck. Caitlyn is gone, taken, the only trace of her a disconnected phone call to her father. As the family, the sheriff, and the town search for answers, the lives of everyone involved unravel under the stress, guilt, and loss.

This was a little bleak, and, like I said before, the ending seemed a little too convenient, but it was a decent read.

36) Amazon informs me that I purchased John Green and David Levithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson in 2015. That I'm just now reading it in 2017 tells a horrible story about how many unread books there are on my "To Be Read" pile, doesn't it?

Will Grayson and Will Grayson don't know each other. They both live near Chicago, but they go to different schools, have different friends, and have different problems until the night that they meet by chance, and their lives are suddenly and rapidly intertwined. Before you know it, Will Grayson is dating Will Grayson's best friend, who is writing the most epic high school musical ever about his friendship with Will Grayson. There's laughter, tears, and lots of heart, and this is overall an amusing read for vacation.

37) F. Scott Fitzgerald's I'd Die For You is a collection of "lost" (according to the title; they all exist in the collections of his papers so I argue that "unpublished" would be a better word) stories.

There's been a lot of discussion in recent years about unpublished works of famous authors, centered mostly around Go Set A Watchman and, to a lesser degree, Summer Crossing, but the difference here is that these are stories Fitzgerald attempted to publish. Publishers just didn't buy them, or sent them back for revisions that he disagreed with. A lot of these are darker in tone than the short stories that Fitzgerald was known for, but a few of them could have benefited from the editorial changes suggested.

38) Emma Clines' The Girls tells a story the public almost feels like it knows: in a hot long ago 1960's summer in California, Evie, a confused, outcast teenager falls in with a group of older kids at a commune, where they live with their hypnotic leader, a spiritual guru. In the present day, an older but not necessarily wiser Evie reflects on that summer, and the horrific murders that ended it.

Rather than focus on the cult leader, Clines focuses on the women around him. They struggle for position, for survival, and in Evie's case to figure out their place in the world that they've built on their strange ranch. Does Evie belong there, or is she just visiting? As the summer ends, tensions build, friendships fray, and Evie finds herself on the road to a terrible act, unable to turn away.

This was a fast, intense read.

39) Earnest Cline's Armada also tells a story that the reader may think it already knows, introducing us to Zach Lightman, who has grown up among the geeky relics of his deceased father's science fiction addiction.

Zach has spent enough years playing video games to recognize the flying saucer that appears outside his high school one day, and then to recognize the government spaceship that comes to get him. They're both straight out of "Armada", the video game he plays for hours a day, and where he is one of the ten best players in the world. Now, Zach discovers that the aliens are real, and the video game is a training program for people to fight an interplanetary war. It's just like in that old movie Zach's father loved, and that's why Zach is both enthralled but also immediately suspicious. What's going on here? Why are these aliens attacking? And what does it have to do with the mysterious conspiracy Zach's father filled his notebooks with before his accidental death?

This was another fast, good read.

40) I started Howard Frank Mosher's North Country before my vacation was over, but it's taken me this long to finish it because I didn't really enjoy it. The story of Mosher's road trip along the entire length of the US-Canada border, I was hoping for something like Theroux's Deep South, but this book lacks the warmth or context of that one, and is instead a pretty straightforward point by point description of what Mosher encountered on the road.

Overall, my vacation picks for reading turned out pretty well.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Village

Driving through the village that I claim as my hometown, you'd never guess that it was once big enough to need one hotel, much less two. It had at least two hotels in the past, though, as well as several churches. There were factories, and bakeries, and it was more than just a few streets and a huge number of horrible people. Most of it's gone now, since most of it burned down, but there are still traces.

One of the bakery buildings still exists over behind where the old post office was (before it burned down):

Philadelphia, NY 13673

although it's not a bakery anymore. The churches are still there, and we still have a Depot Street with train tracks, even though the trains mostly go through without stopping.

Driving through, you'd probably be struck by how green and pretty everything seems to be, with the streams:

Philadelphia, NY 13673

Philadelphia, NY 13673

Philadelphia, NY 13673

and the tourist footbridge:

Philadelphia, NY 13673

(Seriously, why did they even build that? It doesn't connect anything important to anything else important, and the seating section in the middle just faces a different bridge that cars drive over:

Philadelphia, NY 13673

Who is this fancy bridge even designed for?)

and the water tower:

Philadelphia, NY 13673

and the horses and buggies:

Philadelphia, NY 13673

Philadelphia, NY 13673

and the replica Statue of Liberty:

Philadelphia, NY 13673

which, other than my family and friends, is the only thing I love in Philly now that they got rid of the stretch limo up on blocks:

stretch limo on blocks

but never forget:

Philly is an awful place populated mostly by awful people.

You see, at the beginning of summer in 1994, I went to the village office:

Philadelphia, NY 13673

to apply for a village summer rec job. I was not able to apply, though, because there wasn't an actual application. Instead, I was told that those jobs are only for people who are related to other people, even though they were municipal jobs partially funded by my parents' taxes and the taxes of all the other village residents who lived there but weren't related to the mayor or members of the town board. Home for the summer without a car, I applied for the only job in walking distance that claimed to be hiring, but it wasn't hiring because the village was practicing nepotism and discrimination, the latter of which I watched it dispense freely throughout high school.

I never spent a full summer in my village again.

I always enjoy my visits home, but I always make sure I leave again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"This is terrible and I hate it."

My staff sometimes claims that I don't handle change well. This is partially true, but also partially a gross generalization. I eventually handle change, but my immediate first response is usually irritation and confusion. As such, I feel slightly guilty for the couple hours that my friend Chris spent with me on Saturday, touring the SUNY Cortland campus and listening to me go, "This isn't right. This isn't right either. I don't like any of this."

I actually did like a lot of it, but I was disoriented by the way the campus is somehow still the same, but also entirely different.

Cortland looms large in my life, and also in my subconscious. On a regular basis, I still have dreams set on campus, and I have a lot of memories there. Until I moved to Albany, and then Knoxville, Cortland was the city that I had lived in for the longest amount of time in my life, and like any place that you live a long time, I have a lot of memories both positive and negative tied up there. I'm assuming the positive outweigh the negative, as I still wanted to visit Cortland and see it again.

Albany, on the other hand, can die in a fire.

After all the people there that I still like have time to get out.

Back to Cortland, our first sign of trouble came when I called Chris to ask where to park:

"Where on campus are you now?"

"At the end of Bishop and whatever weird building is attached to the end of Bishop."

"Oh, God. OK. Go to Corey Union, and there's a little parking lot on the side."

"The little side lot is still there? Next to Van Hoesen?"

"Yes. Park there."

Corey Union still looks mostly the same, except that they redid the front steps:

Cortland, NY 2017

which you can't see in that picture since I took it from the side lot. Van Hoesen, on the other hand...

Cortland, NY 2017

That looks nothing like Van Hoesen. The inside still looks the same, until you go upstairs and you find out that Cornish Hall is just a hallway in the new education building. Seriously. The whole building is gone except for one string of offices that are still labeled and numbered as Cornish Hall.

The rest of the tour of campus was very similar. Some things haven't changed at all on the outside:

Cortland, NY 2017

Cortland, NY 2017

and some are unrecognizable:

Cortland, NY 2017

Cortland, NY 2017

That's Bowers, and the planetarium. I'm not 100% sure, because I was only in it a few times, but I feel like the planetarium isn't even in the same place.

Campus looks good, though. When I came the architecture could be dated to a very specific period, mostly, and it looks like they've moved away from some of that. According to Chris, almost every building I pointed at has been redone on the inside, even if the outside only looked minorly tweaked, except maybe for Moffett:

Cortland, NY 2017

where, I explained to Chris, "Once I was going in through the side door to go to Brit Lit and the steps were icy and I slipped on them and tore the knee out of my jeans and cut my knee open, too."

I tried to keep most of the stories to that level of reminiscing because Chris brought his son, CJ, with us:

Cortland, NY 2017

(there they are in front of Sperry; my first year of college there was a girl who lived in my building who said she was part of the family the building was named after, but told us it was "not really a big deal") so it seemed like maybe I should keep the stories a little clean, rather than pointing at Bowers and explaining how many people I knew who had sex in the VAX lab or the lockable ADA-accommodated bathroom on the first floor (Including me, in the bathroom, one time on a dare senior year. I'm not especially proud of this memory, but at the time I was.) or places where people I know vomited or peed.

See? I can be good with kids.

Many of the buildings have only changed a little on the outside, like Dowd:

Cortland, NY 2017

where I had theatre classes and also spent many evenings senior year sitting and working on student teaching homework and writing in my journal about how much I (thought I) loved Jackass (turns out I was wrong) in the ceramics lab while Jackass worked on his class projects,

Miller:

Cortland, NY 2017

which was taken over by students during my junior year to protest a lack of diversity programming on campus; an annual "Diversity Day" was held a few weeks later that included suspending classes for the day, and despite being "annual" was never held again,

Lusk:

Cortland, NY 2017

which my friend Angie got in trouble for climbing (the roof is now metal and unclimbable), or Smith and Casey:

Cortland, NY 2017

where I have way too many memories to list but on the lawn of which my friend Leslie once tried to explain to me that it's not ok to bring a book to a cookout in case you get bored with the people there. In the ensuing years I have only partially heeded this advice.

Some things are entirely new, like the sculpture of the dying rhino:

Cortland, NY 2017

which I would have loved as a student; the stadium:

Cortland, NY 2017

or the brand new recreation facilities:

Cortland, NY 2017

Cortland, NY 2017

Cortland, NY 2017

Also, Whitaker is, randomly enough, the police station now:

Cortland, NY 2017

The real surprises came when we toured the residence halls, though. Bishop, as I mentioned, has a building attached to it now, Glass Tower Hall. Hayes, the last hall where I was a hall director before leaving, also has a building attached, Dragon Hall:

Cortland, NY 2017

Cortland, NY 2017

They also redid the front steps, where are now longer, but less steep.

They also changed my beloved Alger Hall, where I first lived as a student, first worked as a student staff member, and first worked as a hall director. While the call box by the front door looks exactly the same:

Cortland, NY 2017

the outside looks slightly different:

Cortland, NY 2017

Cortland, NY 2017

and the inside looks very different:

Cortland, NY 2017

The office is in the middle of the lobby now, and where the staff office and my office used to be there's now a two story lounge:

Cortland, NY 2017

That last window on the left was my office window.

Upstairs, my room looked exactly the same on the inside:

Cortland, NY 2017

except that it used to be blue. During the renovation, though, all of the doors got renumbered, so the room number isn't the same:

Cortland, NY 2017

Todd and I did not live in 524, but I know it was the right room based on where the window was on the hallway. My friend Alena's room, at the opposite end of the hall, isn't even there anymore, because that end of the hallway is a big multi-bedroomed suite now.

I'm very thankful to Chris for providing a guided tour, with narration, so that I wasn't just walking around for two hours going, "What the hell is this?" Campus seems like a very exciting place now, and I'm sure the students enjoy all of the new upgrades and all of the memories of their own that they're attached to buildings, trees, sculptures, bus stops, the weird parking lot in the back of the cemetery that wasn't there when I was a student, and wherever it is that they go to all you can eat (rebranded as "All You Care to Eat" sometime during my years as a student, as some students took the first name as a challenge) brunch on the weekend now that Winchell is no longer a dining hall. It kind of makes me want to start sending Cortland some money.

But only Cortland.

Albany can fend for itself.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Books 27-30: Number 31 is taking weeks

Right before I left on my trips I read a couple of short books, because I was saving two long books for the trips and figured I would just write up all of the books together when I got back. I haven't done that, though, because the second long book is killing me. It's interesting, but so long that I started it in Providence, kept reading when I got home, read it in Greenville, and am still reading it now.

My goal is to finish it before I leave for New York later this month.

In the meantime, here are the other books I read before I fell into the longest biography ever:

27) From late 2004 to early 2012, I played an online game called City of Heroes, where I made many friends online and some of them became friends offline. One of them was my friend Lisa, who I continue to interact with in a different game, Champions Online. Recently, Lisa asked if she could use one of my game characters in a novel she was writing about one of her game characters, and Grimaulkin is the result. It tells the story of Mike LeBonte, who just got out of five years in magic prison for summoning demons to eat bullies when he was a teenager. Now that he's out, he has to find a way to rebuild his life, but he's forbidden from using any of the summoning spells that grant him the most power.

He's also extremely attracted to a young magic shop owner with fantastic abs who works down the street from his sister's apartment. Guess whose character that is?

This was a fun book. Mike starts working with a seedy private investigator whose helping the police with a series of murders, while also trying to reconnect with his family and explain what happened to him and why he vanished. It's a fast read, and also the book is dedicated to me, so you should buy it because it's also entertaining and it looks like there may be a sequel coming.

28) Robert R. McCammon's Last Train From Perdition returns us to the world of his late 1800's vampire bounty hunter, Trevor Lawson, last seen in I Travel By Night. Trevor and his human ally, Ann, are still on the hunt for LaRouge, the vampire who turned Trevor and took Ann's sister and father, but are also taking jobs in between to cover the bills. One job, tracking down a wealthy businessman's wayward son in the far west town of Perdition finds them surrounded by enemies human and vampire, struggling to save a train full of people from certain death even as the dark forces within him threaten to overwhelm the last of Trevor's humanity.

This was also a good read. The story moves quickly, but there are some good character moments and some interesting scenes. Both books in the series are on the short side, more novellas than novels, but I'm looking forward to a third.

29) Carol Goodman has a niche: she likes to write books about the Hudson River Valley, and almost every book involves a secret illegitimate baby. It's come to the point that as soon as I start reading them, I immediately start trying to figure out who the secret baby is and how the plot will hinge on them, but I keep reading her books anyway because they are well written, entertaining mysteries.

With secret babies.

In The Widow's House, Clare and her husband, Jesse, move from Brooklyn to their former college town, becoming caretakers for their former writing professor and his estate. Staying on the grounds, Jesse is planning to work on his novel, and Clare starts writing again as she begins to see visions of a legendary village girl, the Apple Maiden, who died tragically on the grounds of the estate, after losing her secret baby in a terrible blizzard. Is the estate haunted? Is Clare having a breakdown? And is Clare, who is adopted, someone's secret baby?

This, like all of Goodman's books, was a nice, entertaining vacation read.

30) I knew I wanted to read Nancy Isenberg's White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America as soon as I saw it at the bookstore, and I was saving it for a trip, since I knew I would have hours to sink into it then. I'm glad I did, because this was a long, complicated book. Although it's full of facts, it's written at a pretty easy level to sink into, and it will definitely make you think.

It apparently also made other people think, because everyone who saw the title of the book in my hand wanted to know what it was about, if it was good, and if I liked it. I did, even if I did disagree that the Civil War was based as much in class as it was in race. Class may have played a part, but the Civil War was primarily about racism.

That said, it's time to get back to my extremely long, extremely detailed biography of my pretend literary boyfriend, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Travel and Work and Travel

I've been travelling a little this month, and meant to write about my two separate trips separately, but I got back from one, went back to work the next day, and then left for the other two days later. I spent the two days between a conference trip to Providence, Rhode Island (which I have only ever visited for another conference four years ago) and a personal trip to Greenville, South Carolina (which I've never visited before this trip) catching up on the work I missed in Rhode Island, and was too tired to write in between.

I went to Rhode Island with four coworkers, but other than my friend Meghan and I meeting up for some things the five of us mostly stayed with our own friends and colleagues, and didn't overlap much. On our first morning there, Meghan and I went to the same restaurant for breakfast that we ate at our first morning there last time, Brickway on Wickenden. While there, I spotted an intriguing sign:

Providence, RI June 2017

"The grilled muffin...," I began, asking our server for clarification. "What is that?"

"They take a muffin, slice it in half, butter the halves, and throw it on the grill."

"I would like the blueberry."

Providence, RI June 2017

I've never heard of a grilled muffin before that moment, but it was amazing. Crunchy on the outside, and butter-soaked and almost soggy on the inside.

After breakfast, Meghan got coffee while I marveled at their cold brew set up:

Providence, RI June 2017

which, according to the man at the coffee place, takes 24 hours to brew a single pot. We also went to the Providence Pride Festival:

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

where the Providence Pride Festival stole ten dollars from me. When we were walking up to the entrance, all of the signs said it was either a dollar (for regular admission) or five dollars (for alcohol area admission and discounts from some vendors) to get in. Meghan wasn't carrying cash, so I offered to pay hers. I only had a twenty, so I offered it to the lady at the gate and told her it was for both of us.

"Admission for two? That's ten dollars each."

None of the signs said ten dollars each for any form of admission, and when we got to the other end of the festival they were charging either one or five dollars. I hope my (stolen) money is going to a good cause.

It was interesting to walk through a Pride Festival in a city, and state, that actually embraces and celebrates their LGBTQ+ community. There were banners on the lightpoles, signs everywhere, unvandalized posters, and they even lit the state capitol building in rainbow lights at night:

Providence, RI June 2017

Compared to Tennessee, it could almost make one think about moving until one remembers that the northeast is an icy horrorscape of wintry snow for several months a year.

After breakfast, shopping, and Pride festing, we met up with my friend Stacy, and Meghan took us on a walking tour of Brown University, which is very fancy:

Providence, RI June 2017

and has a bear:

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

The next morning, the conference had a 5K, which was not timed but was still fun and in which I did not come in last:

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

That night I had an excellent dinner with my friend Sonja, who I haven't seen since college, and the next night I convinced a group of people to go have dinner at Umelt, a restaurant that specializes in grilled cheese:

Providence, RI June 2017

and dankness:

Providence, RI June 2017

I had the special Pride grilled cheese, which was a regular grilled cheese with a lot of food coloring:

Providence, RI June 2017

During the extra long lunch hour one of the other days Meghan and I walked to the Rhode Island School of Design bookstore, because I wanted a t-shirt for their very interestingly named sports teams:

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

and then when the conference was over and we had a whole morning before flying out I went and did some sightseeing:

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

Providence, RI June 2017

and then we flew home, I went to work for two days, and then got up last Saturday morning and drove to Greenville, South Carolina, to see a play and visit my friends Mike and Sandy. Sandy and I see each other every few years, but this is the first time that Mike and I have seen each other in person since 2006:

Greenville, SC

That's us last weekend, not us in 2006, outside of Mike's theatre.

Since I was only in town for an overnight, I didn't see much beyond downtown, a few walking paths, and the park by our hotel, but Greenville seemed very pretty:

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

and the walking paths were wonderful, early in the morning before it got really hot and humid:

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

We also went out for drinks after the play, and my screwdriver came with a slice of orange so wide and with such a thick rind that we all kind of stared at it and tried to figure out if it was really an orange or some other, larger citrus fruit:

Greenville, SC

I thought it might be a blood orange, but that makes no sense in a drink made with regular orange juice, and it didn't occur to any of us to taste it, because it seemed vaguely frightening.

Except for the terrible construction traffic outside of Asheville, it was a wonderful weekend, and I'm supposed to go back in December to see another play, at Mike's theatre.

I might take a day off from work and actually spend more than a night there.