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.

Friday Five: Storm

1. What does your storm preparedness stuff look like? You know, I don’t really have a proper organized set of storm-preparedness stuff. I mean, I have things like batteries and a first-aid kit and food, but I know I could use things like a case of water.

2. What kinds of storms make you the most uncomfortable? Tornadoes are pretty rare in Pennsylvania, but we do get the occasional warning for one around here. Those make me nervous, although usually nothing ever happens. The big one around here is snowstorms, and getting caught driving in a bad one where the roads get covered fast and you can barely see is pretty scary. That said, after as many times as I ended up doing that this past winter, I feel like I’m prepared for life. Plus it’s a pain to have to dig out, especially if you discover you still can’t make it out and have to call off work. The pattern for me seems to be missing one day a year, though, which isn’t bad.

  1. 3. What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without electricity, and what were the circumstances? Excluding possible occurrences from when I was little and don’t remember–I know we had a bad blizzard when I was a toddler and a vaguely remember it, but I don’t know if we lost power–I went about a whole weekend during Snowmageddon in college. I just happened to come home Friday night before the storm hit, it knocked out power that night, and it stopped in time to dig out and go back to school Sunday. Brandon and I passed the time with books and old battery-powered GameBoys. We lost heat. And I was in the middle of reading Edgar Alan Poe’s collected works, so I decided to do a dramatic recitation of “The Raven” in the dark and our little kerosene heater flickered out as I started, almost as if on cue. The dogs figured out they were warmer curling up either together or under a blanket with one of us. In some ways, it was kind of fun. We did use portable TV batteries and laptops for as long as they would last, too. When I got back to the dorm Sunday, Brandon and my mom went with me, and first of all the amount of snow and partial debris everywhere was huge–some tree branches had fallen, and parts of the road were blocked by God knows what. But the reason they went with me was partly to take advantage of the power–they got hot showers and brought a power strip to charge phones and portable TVs. If I remember right, they didn’t get their power back until that Tuesday.
  2. 4. What’s the worst damage a storm has done to your dwelling? The worst weather I’ve dealt with since moving into my apartment is snow and some rough thunderstorms, neither of which seems to have affected at least my part of the building. I’m not sure about the rest or the other buildings. But my parents’ neighborhood gets very windy, and we’ve lost many a shingle, plus some siding and shutters.
  3. 5. What was the occasion for your last storming of the gates? I don’t even know. I guess I kind of storm into work in the mornings, but I’m usually also late. Which doesn’t matter much because I usually stay late anyway, for one, and I’m also now sharing a cubicle with someone on night shift, who occasionally is still finishing up when I get in, so it’s not like I can do anything while he’s still on the computer. I hate sharing a cubicle. Nearly three years I had mine to myself, and now he invades. What’s wrong with his old one, or the nearby ones that don’t get used at all until the afternoon shift?

Booking Through Thursday: Book Cases

When you visit a friend’s house, do you find time to browse their bookcases? Does it shock you if they don’t have one?

So, it generally doesn’t shock me if they don’t have one, or if their books are off in, say, a bedroom as opposed to a main living area on display. I mean, my parents don’t have one, and reading isn’t the most common of pastimes and e-books are gaining popularity.

And I don’t really make it a point to browse bookcases when I’m at someone else’s house unless I get an opportunity to, most likely if I’m alone in the room because otherwise, there are other things to focus on. But when I get the chance, I do love doing it. I love seeing what people like to read, and I do think it provides some insight as to what they’re like. I mean, my bookshelf would show you my eclectic tastes, for one, possibly my political and religious beliefs, and that I really fucking love reading. And it’s a good conversation piece, and they look nice.

Books are awesome.

I took Friday off and went with my parents Thursday night for Duke’s usual trip to Ohio to get his checkup after his cataract surgery last year. It wasn’t a particularly exciting trip–Duke is still fun to travel with because he’s like an excited little kid, my dad’s obnoxious snoring led to a shitty night’s sleep, and Duke’s eyes are great and he doesn’t have to go back for a year. Previously, it was every three months, then six, and now he’s up to annual visits. And he’s still a jerk to every other dog that walks by him in the lobby.

My mom and I did have an irritating experience in the hotel pool, though. A few obnoxious kids were in there screaming and taking up the whole pool and doing cannonballs right next to us and all that fun stuff, obviously limiting us to a tiny section of the pool where we could only move elsewhere when there was a tiny break in the chaos. Now, I get kids not being particularly quiet or aware of respect and personal space, but what pissed me off was their parents were supervising them and seeing them do all this and failing to stop them or say anything–they let them run rampant, at least until one of the mothers came in and reigned them in. The dads didn’t seem to care too much. Terra said in he experience, dads mainly just make sure the kids don’t get hurt or die, but the moms are more likely to try to get them to behave. I considered that, but at the same time, my dad never would have let Brandon and I act like that.

Then yesterday, Paul and I went to an annual summer party one of his coworkers throws, which was a great time.

Paul and I have very different work environments–mine is much more quiet staffed with shy introverts whose jobs require minding their own business at a computer wearing headphones for eight hours, and his involves much more interaction and working together. So for one thing, everyone is really outgoing and fun. They also love to drink, and ending a night with a bunch of drunk coworkers is very foreign to me, but it was also hilarious and awesome.

The one thing that wasn’t awesome was the one guy’s dad, who ultimately outed himself as a crazy, paranoid conspiracy theorist. He was fine at first, talking about evidence to back up that the planet isn’t actually getting any warmer, and I might’ve been willing to listen–especially considering these are people who work in the sciences and were described by one guy (in the midst of stories about pranks and “Pissgate”) as some of the greatest minds in the country–until he said that global warming is a hoax concocted by our “communist Muslim” president. And then he handed us his business card, which describes how the nearby Flight 93 points toward mecca.

There were times when the conversation was okay and interesting, and he did have some decent life philosophies, like that everything is a certain way regardless of how someone sees it, but he lost me right after that, too, when he said if a liberal heard that, they “would roll backwards off this porch” because I guess his reasoning is that liberals can’t accept the fact that certain things are inherently true. Which is weird because for one thing, I’m a liberal who didn’t roll backwards of the porch when he said that–I actually agreed with him, as did everyone else involved in the conversation. It was also weird because he also clearly rejected any facts that didn’t mesh with his personal beliefs, like when he started to say how numbers indicating only a small percentage of Muslims are terrorists is a lie. And that was when I leaned over to Paul and quietly asked to relocate because I was unwilling to listen to such bigoted bullshit. And the best part is he’d implied earlier that he dislikes bigotry and prejudice, yet also explained the origins of prejudice in a way that seemed to justify it.

Other than that, though, good times!

Booking Through Thursday: Price

If I could give a brand new, really good book by your favorite author (living or dead) RIGHT NOW, what would you be willing to do for it?

I actually wasn’t gonna do this one, but then I figured my apathy might make for an interesting response.

Because I’d probably just shrug and offer what it would typically be worth in stores.

Maybe it’s my massive reading list already, I don’t know, but even though I really love authors and devour everything they write, I don’t know that I’d get excited about something so much that I’d be willing to go to extreme lengths to get it. As much as I love reading, at this point, it’s another unread book on the shelf that I pray I’ll get to before I die.

That said, God help us all the next time I set foot in a used-book store.

Friday Five: Octopi

  1. 1. What’s something you own at least eight of? Pairs of shoes, just about every type clothing item I own, CDs, books, records.
  2. 2. How particular are you about the ink in the pens you write with? Not very particular at all, but I do have a slight preference for a nice, flowing ink.
  3. 3. What’s something interesting you know about octopi? Just that inky business, really. That and I once saw a GIF of an octopus unscrewing the lid of a closed jar it was inside of.
  4. 4. What seems to have a suction-cup-like grip on your attention lately? I don’t really know. I can’t think of anything I’ve been that incredibly focused on, at least not more so than other things.
  5. 5. These questions were inspired by a song in which one of the repeated lyrics is often playfully mis-sung as “How am I gonna be an octopus about this?” That was going to be my question #5 this week, but then I thought nobody would ever come back after a thing like that, so your real question is: When you travel, whether it’s to a completely different culture or just to a neighboring state, how adventurous is your approach to the cuisine? Sufficiently adventurous, I think. Before I went to Mexico, I mentioned that I was considering doing a vegetarian hiatus for the trip, although not because I wanted to eat meat like the Craigs thought and encouraged–I thought eating vegetarian in Mexico, at least off of the resort, would be hard logistically. I thought vegetarian food would be hard to find, especially considering I don’t like beans, but I was also pretty confident that the Craigs would have no patience if I requested we seek out vegetarian-friendly restaurants and would’ve basically said, “Too bad.” I got by on shrimp. But the thing with traveling and being a vegetarian is that I do think it’s important to experience other cultures, so I’m willing to taste non-vegetarian foods–I did that at the Greek food festival Paul and I went to recently, although I won’t give it up entirely and order meat dishes for myself. All that said, though, I do have limits–I’m not gonna eat anything too crazy, meat or otherwise.

Baby’s First Fender Bender

Still sick of overtime. It’s fucking with my free time, obviously.

It fucked up my plans for Friday night slightly, but it was alright in the end–after work, I picked Terra up and we trucked it an hour to see Rachael in a little community theater show, All Shook Up, which was a very cute and very funny retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like It in the form of an Elvis Presley musical with some Footloose undertones. Rachael was great in it, and Terra and I found ourselves drawn to a socially awkward, nerdery character, played by Rachael’s boyfriend, who we kept privately calling a baby. Terra says, “We can’t call him that to his face,” then blurts out, “Baby!” the second she sees him. He does look incredibly young, though. He’s 20. And they’re a cute couple, and it was nice to chat briefly. Chelsea was there, too, so it was cool to talk to her for a little bit.

Terra and I hit Taco Bell on the way home since working late meant all I had for dinner was a peanut-butter sandwich, cookie, crackers, Twizzlers, and some green tea. And then she found penicillin in our bag, which we jokingly said was disappointing that it wasn’t say, ecstasy. Especially for five bucks. And then were were concerned that some poor soul was gonna be short a round of antibiotics.

I took some time at Terra’s to apply for a tiny paid writing gig–similar to what I do on occasion for Examiner, except better money.

One of the many perks of Paul moving out is that he now lives closer to Terra than I do. Now, going to this show with Terra was a logistical pain–due to medical issues, she’s not allowed to drive at the moment. And with the location of the theater, going with her basically meant driving about an hour to get her, then another hour to the theater. That said, I don’t really mind doing it, especially if that’s her only chance of going. But one major convenience now is that rather than the whole hour back to my place (although Terra would’ve definitely let me crash), I made it to Paul’s place instead in about 40-ish minutes.

His gecko, Eddy, has moved in now, and while I won’t hold her, I’m obsessed with peeking in her tank to see what she’s doing, partly because she’s usually hiding in her little rock-cave sanctuary and I want to see her out doing stuff. And she normally wasn’t.

Paul’s birthday was Sunday, so I had his gifts in tow–a couple Lawrence Block books, Cowboy Bebop the movie on DVD, cologne (mostly for me), a tee shirt and nice black jeans, chess-piece salt and pepper shakers, and some Magic the Gathering cards. And an adorable dinosaur card. He enjoyed them all and declared I did a good job.

On Saturday, we went out book shopping so he could spend the Barnes and Noble gift card a got him a birthday or two ago that he lost in his bedroom until he found it while packing to move, and then we had dinner for his birthday at El Patron, which was delicious.

I’d say things are great now that he’s moved out, but I fear I’ll jinx it.

Sunday morning, we got up and he headed to his parents’ while my car got hit at a gas station.

I was mid-turn when I felt and heard something hit, and when I looked behind me, there was another car backed into my car.

Now, the other driver was nice about it, but he did make a comment that I did it see him, which has me second-guessing who’s at fault in this whole thing, but after second-guessing my second-guessing, I’m pretty confident he is. I mean, I drive a Corolla. I was turning away from him. There’s no way the back end of my car somehow swung around and smacked into his–he had to have not seen me and backed into me. I’m kind of wondering if he thinks I sort of sped up out of nowhere, wasn’t paying attention, and he suddenly hit me, but given that I was going at a reasonable speed trying to leave and I was partway turned, this isn’t the case.

So now I’ve got a real nice dent in my car, along with a pretty scrape since I was moving at the time. Now we wait to see what his insurance company says.

Booking Through Thursday: Letters

Different kind of reading … what do you think about letters? Do you ever send them anymore? Receive them? Or do you just do email and texts instead? Do you miss the days when people used to write letters?

Rare as they are, I do think they’re really nice. In some ways, they’re actually a pretty impersonal form of communication, but because they take more time and effort, they’re a little more meaningful. My friends–Sarah especially–were good at sending the occasional letter to keep in touch, especially as college and the working world have pulled us separate ways, and I always enjoy receiving them. It’s nice to get mail that’s not bills. I also always write a letter in response to one I receive, and one of my New Year’s resolutions was to start sending snail mail to my friends–not necessarily full letters, but cards for special occasions. I do prefer email and text and even hanging out in person, but letters aren’t a bad way to go at all.

I’m also a huge fan of therapeutic letter-writing. Sometimes, certain issues–or people–are difficult to confront in person and rude to address via text or email or IM, and a letter is a nice way to address something on your terms. It’s calm, it’s organized, and you get your chance to say what you need to say, and sometimes the process of just writing it is so effective, you’ve gotten everything out of your system and don’t need to send it. I’ve definitely written semi-confrontational letters I never sent, I know people who have done the same, and Terra and I even suggested Paul do it when issues with his mother were peaking and he was having a hard time addressing them with her.