Nine summers ago, over this very holiday weekend–though not the same date–I was in my mom’s bedroom when she got the call from her friend Sherri’s uncle telling her that Sherri had been killed in a car accident.

My mom and Sherri–along with my mom’s best friend Lisa and their friend Laura, who lives in New York–had been friends since high school, and Sherri lived pretty close to the house we moved into when I was 13. In fact, we’d looked at a house even closer to Sherri’s.

I remember going over on occasion, and I remember her kids, Andrew and Ashley, who were 6 and 13 when Sherri died. And then after she died, we all kind of lost touch.

Then, within the past few months, Ashley saw my mom in the mall, walked up to her, and said hi. If I remember right, Ashley’s seen us all out before but just wasn’t sure if we’d remember her, but we all absolutely do. I wouldn’t have recognized her had she approached me, but the second she said her name, I’d know who she was. My mom, however, did recognize her, and she says she looks a lot like Sherri.

Ashley filled my mom in a bit on the past nine years–her dad started dating not too long after Sherri died, they were still together until the past few weeks, and she and Ashley never got along well. It’s a relationship that all around sounds like it’s been a cause of stress and conflict between not just Ashley and the girlfriend but Ashley and her dad, too. But Ashley mentioned wanting to get together with my mom, so they went out to lunch one day, and it was probably good for Ashley.

Since Paul moved, I haven’t been back in the area much. In the meantime, Ashley’s seen the rest of my family out and about quite a bit, and maybe a month or so ago, she messaged me saying she’d love to get together sometime. I explained that I hadn’t been home in awhile but said when I was gonna be around for a substantial period of time, I’d be in touch.

That finally rolled around this weekend. I had a hair appointment and whacked down what little hair I do have, then I met up with Ashley for lunch at Shogun. And really, all we did was eat and talk for a couple hours about everything from family troubles to friend troubles to just general chat about animals and jobs and stuff. I think it was good for both of us, and she’s pretty cool. And when we were planning it, she was telling me how cool I seemed and how excited she was, and someone having that high praise for me and that much interest in spending time with me–not counting Paul, duh–is pretty new to me.

My mom mentioned later that it was kind of weird, too, that we were almost like the second generation of Sherri and my mom and that we met up over Labor Day weekend, the same holiday weekend when Sherri died. To make matters even creepier, Sherri died in a car accident leaving Kennywood, and we ended up driving down that very road past the park on our way to Burgatory to celebrate Brandon finishing college, which was a fun trip.

Burgatory’s a really cool place, and I appreciate that they make veggie burgers. I know it seems really counterintuitive for a vegetarian to want to be included at a burger joint, but I really do love when businesses have vegetarian-friendly menus that aren’t extremely exclusionary. It’s really easy for people to throw together a pasta and a salad and call it a vegetarian menu, but at Burgatory, you’re not really limited. Sure, some of the menu items aren’t cut out for you, but you have the option to create your own burger, and it’s awesome. While they don’t taste like a proper burger, you’re still getting a great sandwich and nearly the full Burgatory experience with it. Good job, Burgatory, cornering that vegetarian market!

Meanwhile, I expected to have to try to convince my mom that I’m not a hoarder, but the subject never came up. Oh, she’s still pissed about the dissatisfactory state of my car, but she didn’t call me a hoarder, and I’m trying to just let it slip by without turning into a fight, especially because she and I have very similar tempers and can fight nasty. But I do have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow night to discuss this, and I fully expect him to tell me she’s wrong. When I tell her that, if I tell her at all, is up for debate, what with avoiding a screaming match and all.

I went to church Sunday for once, since mass was for Grandma Pawski, and we went out for breakfast afterward. I hung out for a little bit and then spent the rest of the long weekend at Paul’s, mostly lounging. We ventured out earlier today to buy him a vacuum and have lunch at Chipotle, but mostly we write, play on the internet, and try to work our way through a very large Netflix queue.

And listen to his gecko crawling around her little cave in the middle of the night, of course. And apparently, I had a small conversation in my sleep with Paul last night after he came to bed late.

Friday Five

As always, from the Friday Five.

  1. What’s the last thing you experienced that could be called a reunion? Man, I don’t even know. I haven’t recently seen/hung out with any of my friends who don’t live in the area anymore, I didn’t go to our family reunion last summer, and I missed my class reunion for Paul’s college graduation two years ago. The closest might be when we all hung out with Stephanie for the first time since, like, her wedding over the summer.
  2. When you spend time out with friends, how does your group handle the bill? Almost always split it according to what each person had. If it’s something like, say, a pizza, even split.
  3. What are you picky about when you order something in a restaurant? I’m a vegetarian, so I can be picky about that. That aside, I’m not too picky about much–I just run into difficulty sometimes because I’m pretty sensitive to spicy food.
  4. When did you last spill a drink on yourself? I’m not positive, but I could swear I had an incident in the past few weeks where drinking didn’t really work right and I got whatever my beverage was all over my chin. The drink was not alcohol, and I was sober.
  5. When dining out, what’s your approach to dessert? I very rarely get it because my meal usually fills me up just fine. When I go out with Paul, he normally inhales everything and I end up getting half of mine in a box because I can’t finish it, but he jokes that means whoever is paying just gets their money worth because I end up with two meals (occasionally more–I’m looking at you, Mad Mex burritos) out of the trip. But sometimes, especially if I’m in a place like, oh, Hofbrauhaus with delicious apple strudel, I’ll have my meal boxed up before I’m full just so I have room for dessert. Occasionally, I push it to the limit and eat more than I should. Sometimes, I’m smart and go to, say, Nguyen’s and order soup, sushi, and dessert instead of the pad thai that could easily end world hunger. And yet I’m also living proof that actually bringing out a dessert tray rather than just a menu is more effective marketing and is more likely to result in a sale. You can’t put cakes and mousses and creme brûlée in front of me and think I won’t give in.

Booking Through Thursday: Enmity

Any books or authors you hate? Why? Is it the writing? The stories? The author’s personality? And—would you read their work anyway?

It’s rare, but there are a few. I hated The Scarlet Letter when I read it in high school–I thought the writing style made a very interesting plot into something very boring, but I’ve thought about giving it a second chance. Also, I loved Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short fiction I had to read in college. If you’ve never read “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” get on that shit and click that there link because it’s excellent, especially if you’re a fan of sci-fi/horror. Yeah, I know, you probably wouldn’t think the dude who wrote The Scarlet Letter would’ve written in those genres, but that’s basically what “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is, and it’s great. And I don’t know that I would’ve ever read any Hawthorne again–at least not for a long while–if not for that class.

Meanwhile, I worry that David Sedaris is an asshole. I mean, I think he’s brilliant and he comes off wonderful in his interviews but not so much in his writing. That said, this could also just be part of his style–he’s pretty blunt, and there’s a good chance that he’s just willing to be blunt about things that aren’t unique to him but others would probably keep quiet. All that said, he’s gonna be in Pittsburgh in October and I really want to go!

Now for the two big, obvious ones–Ayn Rand and E.L. James.

First, Rand. I hated Fountainhead. I hated it early on, and I hated it hard. That mostly had to do with the writing. I’ve complained about it before, but I thought the writing was bad and the characters were all boring and hard to distinguish from each other, as well as being pretty terrible people. The real kicker was the end of the book, when Rand’s philosophy really comes into play and we get a who spiel about how terrible it is to give a shit about other people. And that philosophy is why I hate Rand. On top of being a hypocrite and benefitting from the very systems she criticized, it’s just a super shitty, selfish, and simplistic attitude to take when it comes to other people around us. One of my favorite one-sentence summaries of her philosophy was on Tumblr–“I got mine, so fuck you.”

But the most hate in my heart is reserved for E.L. James.

Look, anyone who’s read this blog or follows me on Twitter knows how much I hate Ayn Rand and Foundtainhead and everything I’ve read so far of the 50 Shades trilogy, but James makes everything worse. I’ve talked a lot about why I think 50 Shades is the worst book I’ve ever read, but in a nutshell, Christian and Ana are the worst couple of all time because he’s abusive and she’s kind of a hypocrite. While Christian’s severe jealousy throughout the series is extremely alarming, Ana displays a good bit of jealousy and animosity toward his female friends, too, yet we’re supposed to accept Ana’s jealousy as normal and justified and Christian’s as overbearing. Frankly, they’re both overbearing, and neither of these people should be in a romantic relationship at all, let alone with each other, before they sort out a lot of deep personal shit. 50 Shades is a handbook on abusive relationships masquerading as erotica, from Christian’s extreme control to Ana’s behavior, which has been shown to be a pretty accurate depiction of what abused partners go through.

I typically don’t agree with the idea that books, movies, or video games promote certain ideals. Generally, I think they’re put into the world for those consuming them to reach their own conclusions, with some exceptions of things like Rand’s philosophy or known allegories and such, so I’m really hesitant to say that 50 Shades promotes abuse because it’s telling a story, not pushing an agenda. That said, it absolutely does paint Christian and his abusive behaviors as positive–he’s controlling and jealous because he loves Ana. All these red flags are treated as qualities women should admire and be happy to have. And on top of that, a recent study found that 50 Shades fans are more likely to be in abusive relationships.

My boyfriend is nothing like Christian Grey, which is probably one of the highest compliments I could pay him and makes me pretty damn happy that I obviously didn’t land a shitbag.

What I find most alarming is that James doesn’t understand how any of these behaviors are abusive, which leads me to fear either she’s been abused herself and is suffering consequences of that or she’s just really, incredibly ignorant. And I’d almost be willing to forgive her either way were it not for how terribly she’s handled the criticism.

I once read an article in which James was confronted with this criticism, and she brushed it off as readers not understanding S&M. The S&M isn’t the problem–it’s the fact that Christian controls Ana, from his contract in the first book to his buying out of her employer and meddling within the company to control what she can and can’t do, and James doesn’t understand this. And she apparently doesn’t understand S&M herself, either, as one of the huge criticisms is that it’s an incredibly inaccurate depiction of the lifestyle. James claims she researched it heavily, but I have a feeling she means she researched sex toys.

Worst of all, James has been confronted multiple times by women who see their exes in Christian, and she regularly brushes or laughs it off and blocks any naysayers on Twitter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be happy, either, if my Twitter feed was flooded with criticisms of my (nonexistent) books, but shaming abused woman or the people speaking out on their behalf is not okay. It makes you look like a dick who can’t handle intelligent, concerned analysis of your work or their personal experience. If someone is coming to you and telling you your romantic protagonist ain’t so romantic because they’ve been abused by that type of man before, you ought to listen.

My Mom Thinks I’m a Hoarder, & I Think That’s Bullshit

After that pesky fender bender a month ago–which is still a pain in my ass because the other driver wants me to take half of the liability, which I say doesn’t make any damn sense–my car is finally ready to go get fixed. So last week, my parents drove out so I could use my dad’s car and they could take mine.

Now, my car was kind of a mess, but I cleaned out just about everything in it, with the exception of some stragglers under the seats I probably missed and the trunk, because I figured I’d have time to get to it and it wasn’t a priority. Besides, I only had a brief notice they were coming over, and I wanted to clean my apartment a bit, too, because my dad’s difficult and every time he comes in, he goes, “Oh, my God, Janelle!” at what in his mind looks like a tornado ripped through when in reality, it’s not only cleaner than usual, but it’s also just a bit cluttered with a few things lurking around that I haven’t gotten to putting away, plus maybe a few dirty dishes. Similarly, when Uncle Clark’s downward spiral started, my dad’s description of his house was that it was so bad, it should be condemned. My description was that it needed a little work, but it was nothing a little elbow grease and proper cleaning products couldn’t fix.

So Sunday, Paul and I are on our way to what was our weekly trip to the park earlier in the summer and since got pushed aside due to being busy and socializing, and I get this text from my mom saying, “We need to have a serious talk about the condition of your car. Grandma is probably rolling in her grave.” The car, obviously, was originally my grandmother’s.

So I”m thinking, “Oh, shit, there’s a cup or a bottle or food item that got sucked under a seat that I missed and is supporting its own small ecosystem and she found it.” But I hoped maybe if I just didn’t reply, I could put off dealing with that fallout until I go over there this weekend.

But nope. Two more texts followed before I could even think of a reply, had I wanted to reply in the first place.

The basic rundown was this: my dad claimed the car smelled damp. Now, I’m not dismissing this as 100% bullshit, but I never smelled anything damp–aside from the rubber around the driver’s-side window–and neither did Paul, Terra, Brandon, Kelly, or anyone else that’s been in my car as far as I know. But I am suspicious, and I do think it’s highly likely that my dad, possibly my mom too, wanted an excuse to go through the trunk because that’s what my dad does. He can’t mind his own business or his own shit, and he has to look through anything near him. Not because he thinks you’re up to something, but because he just can’t respect people’s privacy.

So for some reason they decide to check the trunk for the source of the damp smell, where they find a bunch of shit I’ve basically just forgotten to take out, mostly because it got shuffled back there when I was giving someone a ride or taking it for some other maintenance. I took a little bit of it out before they took the car, but for the most part, it was clothes, CDs, a case of toilet paper or paper towels, maybe a stray Snapple bottle or two, and one of my grandma’s old lamps.

Now, I think the real issue here is the lamp. Because I also had a bag of rock salt in the trunk to help me get out of my parking lot in the winter, and having a bag of rock salt in your trunk means some of that rock salt’s gonna spill. I knew I’d lost some of it. Maybe it was worse than I thought. But the rock salt came into contact with the lamp and damaged it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thrilled about my messiness fucking up my grandma’s lamp, but it’s just a regular brass lamp that Paul tells me I could probably clean up, paint, and fix. I think because it was my grandma’s lamp, though, and my grandma’s car, my mom is making this into a bit of a bigger issue than this needs to be.

For one, my grandma is not in either of those items. As much as I understand some sentimental attachment to things that used to be hers, especially considering I have some of her jewelry, I think it’s ridiculous five or six years after her death to place material objects in higher esteem just because they belonged to her. I’m almost positive this wouldn’t have been an issue and I wouldn’t be writing this post if these things hadn’t been my grandma’s, and of all the possible things I’ve done that could be making her “roll in her grave,” this is probably at the bottom of the list.

When I was bitching to Paul about all this later, he commented that the family seems to idolize my grandparents. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call it that, but they are held in a very high esteem, and I do think it can be a bit silly to hold their possessions in a similar regard.

So I think my mom is pissed that it’s Grandma’s stuff. Maybe it’s easier for her to blame this on a mental disorder rather than just a fuck-up. I don’t know. But one of those texts basically said that the state of my car is disturbing, she thinks I have hoarding disorder, and I need to discuss this with my therapist when I see him next because hoarding often stems from some other issue.

Remember, she came to this conclusion solely on the contents of the trunk of my car–not the rest of the car (which was mostly empty) or my apartment, just the fact that there were CDs, clothes, a lamp, and spilled rock salt in the trunk of my car.

I’m fucking furious because I obviously think she’s overreacting, for one, but her knowledge of hoarding disorder comes almost solely from TV shows. Essentially, she saw some mess and clutter and ignorantly concluded that I have a mental disorder that caused it.

When I told her I didn’t think the trunk was that bad, she said that’s part of the problem. Might as well say the fact that I think she’s overreacting is a sign that something is wrong with me.

Hoarding disorder is not the same as being messy or disorganized. The trunk of my car is not proof of a symptom, especially considering it’s the only factor she’s considering. My apartment may not be spotless, but you can freely move in it. I don’t feel attached to my possessions to the point that I can’t purge some when I need to–in fact, there’s a bag by the door that’s ready for a Goodwill donation probably this week and a whole pile of stuff in my room that’s either already listed online to sell, will be soon, or sold and needs shipped. I don’t hold on to arbitrary items under the delusion that I’ll need them one day. I throw things away. I recycle them. I donate them. I sell them.

And what, pray tell, does she think is the bigger issue that caused my alleged hoarding? I may have started seeing a therapist initially due to a combination of stress, depression, and emotional damaged caused by both Paul’s mom and the Craigs, but they sure as shit didn’t fuck me up so bad that they sent me into a hoarding tailspin, especially when hoarding is typically caused by loss or trauma. I wouldn’t call a few toxic people “trauma.”

Naturally, I talked to Terra about this. Now, best friends are generally biased, but Terra’s not afraid to call me on my shit. She’s done it before. And when I told her my mom thinks I’m a hoarder, she laughed first. Then she said my mom needs to lay off the TLC shows and that I don’t actually have the signs of hoarding. Because–surprise!–a messy trunk does not a hoarder make. And Terra’s seen my car in a worse state.

The trunk of my car is a microcosm of disorder, forgetfulness, and probably a bit of laziness, too–not a mental disorder. And the fact that my mother insists otherwise based on what she’s seen on TV is insulting and embarrassing to me, as well as immense ignorance on her part.

Un-fucking-believable. I expect these things from Paul’s mom, and even he said as much, but not mine. It’s especially ridiculous considering some of the stuff in my parents’ house–the dining-room and kitchen tables are piled with stuff, my old bedroom is now packed with things that aren’t mine, the basement is packed with tons of junk, and my mom has piles of stuff in her bedroom. And don’t forget, she’s pissed about a lamp.

From the sounds of it, she cleaned out the trunk for me, which I consider a slight invasion of privacy, but it’s also embarrassing. I feel belittled, like I’m a child, and I fully expect that when I go home, the attitude I’ll get will be, “Look what we had to do for you because you have a problem. You should be grateful, and let this be a lesson to you. We better never see the car look like that again.”

Let this be a lesson to you: “Hoarders” marathons don’t grant PhDs, and moms don’t always know best.

Friday Five: Old and Grumpy

As always, from Friday Five.

1. What’s something you have a grumpy old person’s attitude about? To a certain extent, technology. While I have no problem with mp3 players and e-readers or the people who use them, I’m clinging to my books and CDs. I like a tangible product as opposed to trusting technology with all my shit.

2. What is evidence of your not being a completely grumpy old person? I guess the fact that I’m a mere 25, for one, and my general disposition most of the time. I get angry and fired up about certain things, sure–especially on this blog–but that’s not my permanent state of being. I’m usually quite content.
3. What’s something in your wardrobe that might qualify as old people’s attire? Probably some sweaters and definitely some of my floral-print skirts.
4. When during the week do you tend to be your grumpiest? Probably at the beginning of the week because I’m sad to see the weekend go. Unless you catch me on overtime, with a difficult show, or in a situation where there’s been poor communication and inconsistent feedback.
5. Who in your family is most often in a bad mood, and who’s most often in a good mood? My parents might be tied for bad mood–my mom’s always stressed and/or depressed because of her job. My dad, meanwhile, gets his information about the world almost exclusively from Fox News, and while I think that’s not an honest, reputable station, I also think they’ve got a bit of a paranoid, end-of-days attitude in a lot of their programming that just can’t lead to happy,  calm viewers. I once bet him if he went a week without watching Fox, he’d probably be a happier person. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t take me up on that. As for good mood, I’d say I’m probably the winner there. But my mom, for all her stress and angst toward my dad, is quite pleasant and fun to be around outside of work.

Booking Through Thursday: Mystery

Do you read mystery novels? If so, why? Is it the mysteries themselves that appeal to you? The puzzle-solving? The murders? Or why don’t you read them? What about them doesn’t appeal?

Generally, I don’t. I used to have a book when I was little where you had to solve the mystery that I really liked, though. Most recently, I read mystery/thriller Tell No One by Harlan Coben, and I was disappointed with it. It had some of those genre cliches that make me leery of mystery books, like useless plot twists that seemed like their sole purpose was to keep tricking the reader yet still have a really convenient way to explain what happened. Some readers might find that fun, but I found it cheap and lazy. I want things to make sense and be realistic, and the plotting of this was just way too convenient.

Now, all that said, Paul’s on a Lawrence Block kick–I bought him two of Block’s books for his birthday–and is particularly into his Matthew Scudder series, which does sound like something I’d enjoy. I also have Gone Girl on my shelf/reading list, although I’m not sure whether or not that’s actually a mystery. I just know the movie looks really good, so I’m all about reading the book. Not that I’ll ever have time to read it first, of course.

Cave Rappelling!

So, we’re about 40 feet up when Katie looks at me and goes, “How did we get talked into this?”

Thing is, we really weren’t talked into anything. We just kind of went with it.

Last weekend, after we saw Guardians of the Galaxy, Ryun was like, “Rappelling at Laurel Caverns next week!” And while I wasn’t thrilled about the idea, actually getting me to go required no coercion. Thing is, a couple years ago, I would’ve vehemently refused. I wouldn’t even jump into Ik Kil in Mexico (although I bet I would now). And quite frankly, I attribute this to two things–the first is just being in a better place mentally and emotionally, which includes considerably more confidence, and the second is the people I surround myself with now. Granted, those two things are very closely related, but my environment is much more positive, uplifting, and encouraging now, and I feel much more comfortable. Quite frankly, as sad as this is and as upsetting as some may find it, I don’t think I would’ve had fun doing something like this with the Craigs at all, and I think it would’ve devolved into a lot of mocking and peer pressure. Instead, Katie and I were nervous (Paul was, too, but it didn’t show until he actually started the rappel–Katie and I from the start were pretty openly scared) and Ryun and their friend Nick were pretty chill, but it was a very calm environment.

I wrote about the actual caves and rappelling here. Basically, it was pretty cool and I felt really safe, and a lot of that’s owed to the excellent instructors. The first rappel was awkward, especially because the harness just feels weird physically and it takes a little getting used to since that’s what’s supporting all your weight. The first step is kind of scary–you have to trust the equipment and get your footing–and operating the rope takes a little getting used to. But you get three rappels, and even after the first one, the fear is gone, the confidence and fun levels are up, and we started joking about timing each other coming down and trying to set and beat best times. Which we didn’t really actually do because it’s either to say that on stable ground, although each rappel did get faster and faster. I was just still a tad too uneasy to go too fast–and I wondered if there was such a thing as too fast–but each rappel got more fun and smoother. And there were jokes about Paul staring at my ass as I went down, and watching Ryun was fun because even if we had been competing, he’d have won hands down. I don’t know how fast he did his first two rappels because I was still up top for those, but he had to have done his last one in under 30 seconds.

The rappel trip also includes a little tour of the caverns, which was cool, and we hung out on an observation deck for a few minutes before heading over for a brief walk and lunch at Ohiopyle.

Paul headed over to his parents’ for dinner. I was invited but refused–my goal is to not interact with is mother at all until Thanksgiving–and he seemed uneasy about going himself, but sounds like it went well. His mom observed that he’s much calmer now that he’s moved out and that our relationship seems to be better. Both are true. In fact, my therapist likes to ask me to rank our relationship from 1 to 10, and at our lowest points, I was giving us about a 6 or 7. Granted, that’s still pretty good, but I’d say we’re at a solid 9, 9.5 now. Might be worth writing about a bit, although it’s not like there are these major noticeable changes.

Anyway, I hung out at my parents’, tried to nap, brought some junk home out of my room there, all that good stuff.

And with that, Paul and I are determined to not spend any money this coming weekend. We’ve had an expensive couple of weekends.

Friday Five: Mammalian

1. Have you drunk the milk of some animal other than a cow? If so, how was it? I don’t think I have.
2. How sensitive are you to changes in atmospheric temperature? Pretty sensitive, actually. I get cold pretty easily, for one, and then my skin is noticeably different depending on temperature. For example, we’ve had a pretty shitty summer here so far, and most mornings when I get up, it’s in the 50s, which usually means my skin is a little more dry and uncomfortable. It’s most noticeable in the look and feel of my hands. But if it’s above about 60, I’m fine. I also noticed that my skin was great for the week I was in Mexico a few years ago, but the humidity was probably a huge factor there, too.
3. How do you feel about your body hair? Okay, so, I don’t like any body hair on anyone at all. I prefer the look and feel of hairlessness for myself. That said, I’m also lazy and don’t want to take long-ass showers every morning shaving everything, so I don’t. I shave on occasion, and the hairless expectations for women are bullshit, so you’ll just have to deal with seeing my hairy-ish legs when I don’t shave. And side note: I strangely am not a fan of purely hairless nether regions. I may not like body hair, but we have it for a reason, and going pubeless is so much more hassle than it’s worth.
4. What’s something you know about the moment of your birth or the events immediately before and after? I know I was an accident, and one day I’ll have to share what I know of that story because it is interesting and funny and sometimes even a little sad–but I will say I think it informed my mom’s parenting style in good ways and it’s made her a very understanding, sympathetic, and logical woman–but I know when they cleaned me up and gave me to my mom, I had this confused look on my face like I was wondering what the hell had just happened to me.
5. What non-mammalian animal do you feel the most kinship with? To get very specific, Paul’s gecko, Eddy. I’m a mammal fan–I like my animals furry and snuggly–but Paul prefers reptiles. It’s taken me a long time to warm up to Eddy, partly because she lived in Paul’s bedroom and I was basically never in there while he lived at home, but I do think she’s pretty cute and I like peeking in her terrarium to see where she is and what she’s up to. I’m fascinated by watching her eat, even if all I do is say how gross it is because she eats live crickets. I even like it when Paul brings her out and holds her, and although I’ll pet her and even let her lick my fingers, I haven’t progressed to actually holding her yet. Paul put her on my leg a few weeks ago, and I wasn’t even crazy about that.

Paul, ever the truest of introverts, has declared he’s done socializing for awhile after a busy, fun-filled weekend.

His roommate from State College, Ryun, has been getting people together every so often, usually for trips to movies I want I see, except the past couple times, I’ve already has plans. I was finally free for this one Friday night, but the downside is he worked late and we went to a 10:30 movie. I’m used to going to bed before that to be up to go to work at 7, so I had a failed attempt at taking a nap before Paul got here for the evening.

We saw Guardians of the Galaxy in IMAX 3D, which I highly recommend. It was a good, fun action sci-fi that wasn’t at all serious. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a very well-done, nerdy popcorn movie that we all loved.

This coming weekend, Ryun’s plans are rappelling at Laurel Caverns.

Saturday, Julie and Michael were going to a Pirate game and wanted to have lunch with Paul and I at Hofbrauhaus, and I was surprised by how much Julie loved it. Sure, everyone loves Hofbrauhaus anyway, but it wasn’t the kind of place I expected her to really gravitate to. She thinks it would be perfect for their dad’s 50th birthday party later in the year, though, and I do have to agree. He’s a fan of beer and good times.

And at last, Sunday brought the tri-annual Steel City Con, and this one had to be the best one yet.

I don’t know if I ever explained this, but I was doomed to become a nerd. My dad’s a pretty big Star Trek fan, though he totally downplays it, and I grew up watching Next Generation with him. In fact, I remember going to see one of the movies in a snowstorm. Now, I couldn’t tell you which one or what the the hell the plot even was, but I can tell you that Data and his cat, Spot, were my favorite, and the ship crashed and Data thought Spot was dead, and then Data found Spot and it obviously left an impression on me because it’s the only fucking thing I remember from this movie I saw when I was like 7 or 8 or something.

We’ve been going to Steel City Con faithfully for the past couple of years. My dad heard about it somehow, and he and Brandon went while my mom and I shopped, and they met up with us and said they’d found Shane Ronzio, who used to own a local coffee shop we frequented and had started writing and drawing a comic book. They said I’d love the convention, and I don’t think I jumped on the next one, but I have gone faithfully since I started. It’s generally held every four months in the Monroeville convention center, and even though it’s billed as more of a toy convention, it’s really packed with pop-culture memorabilia, nerdery, comics, you name it. They also feature celebrity guests who used to just do signings and photos, but they’ve upgraded to Q&As and panels. They keep getting bigger and bigger guests, too–I met Adam West and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), they got Stan Lee, and this time around included Billy Dee Williams and Levar Burton.

I don’t usually spring for the celebrities–they almost always charge for autographs, and I haven’t been a huge enough fan of anyone to want one. But I did decide to talk to Levar Burton at this one and tell him I grew up not on Reading Rainbow like Paul did but Star Trek. But I naturally had to tell him I backed that Reading Rainbow Kickstarter, and I thanked him for starting it and bringing that back to kids.

I also talked to Shane for awhile. If I can get my ass in gear and quit making excuses and procrastinating, we’re going to collaborate on a project.

But what made this round the best Steel City Con yet was the massive amount of amazing vendors, which I think is owed to its growing popularity. Until the last few, the convention only used about half of the convention center, but it’s since grown to encompass the whole thing. And the vendors tended to be a tad repetitive–you’d find some niche fandom items, old toys, lots of comics, and tee shirts, but things are expanding to include a lot of cooler stuff now. Sure, those mainstays are all still there and some of the vendors have secured spots–the model company is on the far left corner, there’s a guy with tons of comics on the front right wall, Shane’s at the back, a zombie tee-shirt company is in a middle row on an end–but other vendors are popping up. And it’s really cool to see so many girls and so many vendors catering to girls. You always did find jewelry, but now there’s skirts and hair bows. I bought a Serenity “leaf on the wind” handmade necklace. I was bummed that soap company Deeply Dapper passed this time, as did my beloved Tee Minus 24, but I loved newcomer Tea and Absinthe. What was super impressive, too, was the number of vendors who were able to jump on the popularity of Guardians of the Galaxy in such a short span of time and make and sell products for it.

Ya got me good, Steel City Con. I really hope December’s as good, although Shane’s already decided to pass on it because of questionable weather.

Also, I have underwear coming in the mail that say, “You shall not pass” across the ass, complete with a little Gandalf.

By the way, nerds have more fun.