Paul and I went to dinner with his parents a few weeks ago. They’d invited us over a week or so before that and we dodged for mostly legit reasons–although I don’t remember what, but I think it might’ve been the same weekend of my mom’s birthday–but this time, they invited us out before Geibel’s musical. I wasn’t too crazy about it, but I couldn’t see a non-douchey way to get out of it and I did want to see the musical. Plus they wanted to go to Meloni’s. So I obliged.

It was a nice night, actually. I think maybe his mom is trying to reach out and make nice–I just don’t like or trust her enough to budge much past cordiality. But everything did go well, with the minor exception of her asking about whether or not we plan to get married and her seeming to expect a bigger reaction out of me when Paul pretty much told me yes. I mean, I’ve known I wanted to marry him from embarrassingly early on in the relationship, and he’s already made it pretty clear that when he can afford a ring, I’m getting one. I’ve also made it pretty clear I don’t think we need to wait for a ring, but he kind of wants to go about it traditionally, so I’ll let him have it. But the point is marriage has been discussed between us plenty, so he didn’t reveal anything new or exciting. At this point, it’s more a matter of explaining–more and more often lately, too–why we haven’t gotten engaged yet. To her especially, there’s zero point in waiting if you know you want to do it. To me, I’m not in any hurry because whether or not I’m married to him doesn’t matter to me. In some ways, I think marriage is pointless.

But let’s not get into all that tonight.

Geibel’s musical was Legally Blonde, a movie I loved in my middle-school years and a musical I only caught parts of years ago when they did it on MTV. Paul’s sister Emily was in it, too, so we got her flowers and had a good time looking for her in the background, which was considerably easier this year than it was last year–maybe it was the lack of completely identical costumes and the fact that she has bangs this year, but she was so much easier for me to spot. And the musical itself was good. Good high-school quality and a fun musical itself, although because of some of the content, I was surprised a Catholic school not only chose it but that no one in the diocese shot it down. I mean, they used the words “sperm” and “masturbatory.” Back in my high-school days, we never could’ve even considered that as a show. In fact, for one of our shows, there was a scene where one of the girls changed onstage behind a screen–although she probably didn’t fully change clothes, being a high-school musical and all–and a parent saw it, thought it was too risque, complained, and it got changed. The week of the show.

The rest of the weekend was the usual. We checked out a new park in the area as a potential walking spot, but it didn’t really have any paths or good places to walk at all and is catered toward sports teams/events. The good news is there’s a pool there, and I plan to check it out this summer.

We did try Moe’s Southwest Grill for the first time, which reminds me of Chipotle in its sort of Mexican fast food that’s almost made to order and is higher quality than Taco Bell. And I know this is blasphemous, but I think I like Moe’s better than Chipotle. They had better variety, better vegetarian options, a really cool soda fountain that lets you add flavors into your drink, and free chips and salsa with every meal. And they had pineapple-cucumber salsa. I’m pretty new to the flavored-salsa scene and it’s something Paul introduced me to, but pineapple-cucumber salsa is a game changer for me and I’m willing to go there and just eat chips and that damn salsa as a meal if they’ll let me.

I get more nostalgic for State College than I do my own college. I blame a couple factors–while I liked my college and enjoyed the experience, I went to a school relatively close to home and took college somewhat seriously. I was there to learn and had little patience for many of my peers. That’s not to say I was a bitch or didn’t have fun, it’s just that I saved my drinking for the weekends, and it was normally off campus, either at a shed party or in Pittsburgh. So most of my memories of school and dorm life have more to do with academics or just everyday life. State College, however, was across the state and was a relatively new place for me. Plus it housed my boyfriend and I always had fun there. What’s funny is though I do have some negative memories of State College, it’s not so much the place or even the people I was with, for the most part. They have more to do with what was going on in my life at the time, most notably when my friendship with the Craigs started its downward spiral. I did a lot of my crying in State College. Hell, I essentially ran off to State College on a weekend I normally wouldn’t have made the drive only because I didn’t want to be home, or with anyone who wasn’t Paul. Strangely, that hasn’t had a negative impact on the place for me–maybe because the summer weekends I spent there made up for it–and when Paul says, “Want to go to State College?” I almost always say yes. In fact, the only time I haven’t is when he went in September the weekend I saw Erasure. And obviously, Erasure is the reason I didn’t go.

He asked me to go with him to take Katie back up after a weekend home, in part because he didn’t want to make the drive back alone in the evening. I have to agree–he’s not the most attentive driver. But the drive up was nice. The three of us talked a good bit about his mom, actually, with us all venting frustrations and Katie and I in particular swapping stories and opinions on what she’s put us through and how we’ve dealt with it. Sounds like for both of us, she’s been a significant source of tension in our relationships, and from what little I’ve heard, that pattern is continuing with Julianne’s boyfriend.

When we got there, we went to eat. The last time they went up, Katie–and I think Ryun and Ugo, too, probably–introduced Paul to Big Bowl, an Asian restaurant that he insisted I’d love. And he was right. I think it was the best stir fry I’ve ever had, and Paul had some eggplant and pork dish where the eggplant was cooked perfectly and in the most delicious sauce.

We followed that up with Kiwi, self-serve frozen yogurt, then walked around and did a little shopping, despite a disappointing cold day. State College has a lot of neat, little shops and I popped into a few to look at clothes but was either too picky or too cheap to get anything. Katie showed us a really cool art store, and I of course visited my one true love, record store/used book store/cafe Webster’s, where I got a healthy haul of books but nothing compared to some of my more impressive ones of Paul’s college days. But I did find some of the Lawrence Block books Paul’s been looking for.

We popped into bar Zeno’s for an afternoon cocktail, where I had some neat apple ale the bartender recommended and we watched Jurassic Park on the bar’s TV. The bartender even pointed out this bizarre scene where Jeff Goldblum sets his hand on Sam Neill’s then lifts it away, almost like he accidentally did it without realizing Neill’s hand was there and it got eft in the movie. It’s wonderful. It’s the scene where they’re in the cars early on driving through the park and stop to look at something. Watch for it, even though I know that’s a very vague description of where it falls in the movie.

By then, we’d killed a few hours. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stick around the whole weekend since this was already Sunday, so Paul and I headed out, then somehow managed to miss an exit and added some time to our drive back. Being a Sunday night, I crashed there to minimize driving time and just left from his place for work the next morning, risking being late for a rare stop at Starbucks on my way. I needed that caffeine. Worth it.

My parents had tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera a few weeks ago and managed to not only not find parking nearby but get stuck in traffic so bad that they missed a significant chunk of the show, so they decided just to skip it. It reminded me of the time Julianne and her boyfriend got into a fight on the way to a Pirate game and just decided to leave after a few innings. Personally, I’d stick it out. At least missing only part of something isn’t wasting all of the money you spent on the tickets.

Anyway, my mom of course complained, and they were nice enough to offer her tickets to another show, although more along the lines of a small, local production as opposed to the big, national tour they missed. Her choices were Young Frankenstein or Peter Pan and she wasn’t really crazy about either one, so she asked me. Paul and I decided to go for Young Frankenstein.

Since the parkway was such a fucking mess a few days before, I decided I’d rather take my chances taking the longer route in the city to try bypass all the traffic, which sort of worked. Only trouble is we ate at the Chinese buffet first and I underestimated the time it would take us to get there, so between walking to the subway station and the unusual slowness of the subway to leave, we did miss the first few minutes of the show, which made me feel like a dick. I’m gonna keep experimenting, though–I’m definitely gonna keep taking the subway, but I think next time I’m gonna get off that alternate highway a little earlier and take the first exit I can off the parkway. The subway also runs to and from a mall about a half hour from my apartment, and although the downtown stops I usually use are free, I’d be willing to park at the mall and pay whatever it costs to take the subway the rest of the way in, because it’s probably cheaper and easier in the long run than battling parkway traffic and paying to park in a garage, especially when there are those rare occasions when the garages nearby are full.

We also took separate cars–Katie needed a ride back to State College, and Paul lives slightly closer to both her parents’ house and State College, so we decided to take two cars into the city, park, take the subway, drive back to his place, then leave from there Sunday morning. We would’ve liked to have had the whole weekend up there, but our tickets hindered that and driving two hours in the middle of the night probably isn’t the best idea. Even though I used to do it when I worked 11-7, sometimes later if I stayed to finish up work.

But the point is that Young Frankenstein–the musical, of course–was really good. It was a funny show with the same gags as the movie, pretty much, with a good bit just turned into songs. And of course, the highlight was “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

Paul and I were both really hungry by the time it was over, so we decided to stop at Primanti’s by his place when we got in. I was voting for checking out some places in the city, but he wasn’t too into it. And there are still some places I’d like to take him to and things I want to do in the city with him, but with the construction, I’m gonna avoid it as much as I can–this weekend, for example, the tunnels are closed. I’d definitely rather not deal with that.

And so we got in late then got up early, picked up Katie, and set out for a State College day trip.

Paul and I have started joking that Jacob and Terra are bad and good luck, respectively–both times Paul has lost his job, it’s been right before Jacob came home. Both times Terra needed a ride to or from the airport and Paul was the only person available to do it, he’s gotten a new job. She went off to visit Scott and needed picked up in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday, when no one else was available to do it but him.

I dropped her off, of course, in an evening that ended up being hellish. My mom got hockey tickets through work for the same night, but Terra needed to be at the airport early enough that I should’ve had plenty of time to leave from work, pick her up, drop her off, then get to the game. Hell, I should’ve had time to kill, and I was planning on grabbing dinner at the arena. Which I did anyway, it was just much more rushed.

There’s construction on 376 right now, and Pittsburgh drivers can’t seem to handle any driving conditions that aren’t in perfect bright, sunny weather with no possible distractions on the road, like accidents or cars pulled over. And of course, they can’t handle tunnels, either, despite relying on them to get in and out of the city, for the most part. There are roads that bypass them, but they’re usually a little inconvenient and result in a commute that’s a little longer. Throw in construction, even though all lanes are still open, and it turns into a fucking mess. Go throw normally on a Thursday before 3:30 and you’ll get on the parkway no problem and breeze right on through the city–it should be a really quick, easy drive, especially coming from my job. I made it to the city within 20 minutes, only to sit on the parkway for about the next hour trying to get to Terra’s. She even called me and asked if I was in a ditch somewhere, since I was significantly later than I should’ve been. And one delay leads to more delays, since since in abnormal parkway traffic from the start meant I was there long enough to then hit rush-hour tunnel traffic, and the minutes ticked by so that the window to get Terra to the airport with enough time started to dwindle.

Of course, we sat in traffic again going back through to get to the airport, and when we finally hit a traffic- and construction-free section of road, I gunned it. I took the wrong ramp for a second, being used to go home that same way, and just waited for a clear window, put the bitch in reverse, and got back to where I needed to be. Had my mother seen me, she would’ve had a heart attack, and had we not been so late, I never would’ve done it and Terra would’ve been freaking out, too.

We started to get worried she’d miss her flight, but in a grand stroke of luck, we did make it an hour before it was scheduled to take off–and it ended up being delayed, buying her some time. I told her if something did happen, I’d truck it back out to pick her up, but fortunately, I didn’t have to. Apparently, Paul’s trip picking her up was pretty similar, minus panic-inducing levels of lateness.

Of course, I still had the Pens game to get to, but I wasn’t as concerned about being late for it–which I of course was, but I only missed about 10 minutes. I used Brandon’s trick of parking at the casino and taking the subway for free, and then my parents just drove me to my car at the end of the night.

All in all, I think I spent about an hour and a half commuting to each place that night, which was far longer than it should take. Everything should’ve been an hour tops, less to get to Terra’s and to the game.

At least we won the game.

Friday Five: Without Lamps, There’d Be No Light

First of all, let me just say how much I love that this week’s Friday 5 is Breakfast Club-themed. I love this movie. I may be 25 and therefore younger than it, but I saw it when I was in high school–I either rented it from our local Hollywood Video or I Netflixed it. I can’t remember which. Either way, my parents both liked it and didn’t care much about what movies I was watching, so I remember curling up with it late one night in my bedroom and falling in love. I’m super bummed that all the anniversary screenings (at least around here) are on Tuesday nights because that does not mesh with my work schedule, and I’d love to see it in theaters.

Okay, on with it.

  1. When you were seventeen, how did you spend most of your Saturdays? Lounging during the day, then hanging out with friends at some point. That normally meant things like going to someone’s house and playing board games or N64, going to a movie, or more likely–especially since this would’ve been late high school and therefore early Craig days–going on a bizarre adventure. That was some of the most fun the Craigs had. We were a smaller group then. If I remember right, it would’ve been me, Nolan, Meri, Marion, and Sarah, and it started with Meri’s 16th birthday–which would’ve been a month after I turned 17, in fact–where we blindfolded her, put a thong on the outside of her jeans, had her tape a Brokeback Mountain-themed note to our English/religion teacher’s door, then went to play at an arcade. Other adventures then included wearing funny hats and wigs and going to Taco Bell or to playgrounds and taking a series of ridiculous pictures, then filling Facebook albums with them so our other friends/classmates/peers could marvel at how weird we were but also how much fun we were having.
  2. What was your high school locker like? Ha! A mess. See, I sort of won Most Disorganized. I say “sort of” because I didn’t technically win–if I remember right, there were two people ahead of me, but one had won another title and since I went to a small Catholic school, you could only take one. The other girl refused it, and I remember our French teacher telling me I was next in line and giving me the option to refuse it, too, but I took it. I just shoved shit in there, and I used those plastic locker shelves that almost always collapsed at some point under the weight of my books. So there was one year where it was just duct taped inside of my locker, but damn if it didn’t stay up all year after that. I also had it filled with pictures of guys in alternative-rock bands, and one year, in a brilliant April Fools prank, my friends went in and took them down. None of us locked our lockers because like I said, small Catholic school, so we mostly trusted everyone and the locks ended up taking too much time to mess with, especially when I had to book it from the end of class at the end of the day to catch my bus home since I had to transfer buses and mine was the first to leave. Shit, I do not miss school buses.
  3. When did you last have to replace a missing screw? I have no idea. I’m not sure I ever have, at least not in this apartment. So far.
  4. What was the last thing you drank out of a Thermos? It’s been so long since I even used a Thermos, I don’t even know. It was probably back in elementary school, so probably milk. Solid chance it was a Spice Girls Thermos, too.
  5. Do you still possess anything you created in high school (say, an elephant lamp that lights up when you pull the trunk)? Yes! In a 3D art class, I made a ceramic box. I was not and am not very artistic so that class was more wishful thinking and a mistake because the box didn’t turn out great–it’s a tad misshapen and the design I painted on it doesn’t look great, but I hate to get rid of it since I did make it. Wonder if I could at least repaint it? Anyway, I have this little set of drawers on my vanity that I use to store makeup, and whatever doesn’t fit in there gets stored in that ceramic box. Since I’m typing this from my bed and my vanity is across the room, I can actually see it from here whenever I look up. I recently went rummaging through it–like, within the past couple of days–for some makeup spongers.

Booking Through Thursday: Carrier

Do you carry a book around with you? Inside the house? Whenever you go out? Always, everywhere, it’s practically glued to your fingers?

(And yes, digital books very much DO count as long as you’re spending time reading on your Kindle or iPad and not just loading them with books that you never actually read.)

I do! As long as I have my purse on me, which is almost always unless I’m out somewhere where my wristlet is more practical, I have a book on me at all times. I call it my “emergency book,” as I mostly only use it if I can’t entertain myself with my phone or if I need to kill more time than just a few minutes with an app, or even if I don’t want to spend that whole span of time glued to my phone. A good example is because the washing machines at my apartment are super unreliable (despite my frequent reports to maintenance), I ended up at a laundromat earlier this evening, where I read from my emergency book while I waited for my clothes to wash.

This also makes it easier for when I travel, even if it’s just to Paul’s for the weekend–I know if I want to read, I have something on me already. For longer trips, I’ll pack a spare in case I finish what I’m already carrying.

I also limit my emergency book to certain types–generally, small paperbacks only because they’re easier to carry, and preferably something I’ve already read before so I don’t forget plot or character details if I happen to go a long time between reading sessions with it.

On Jobs and Working

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so I’m gonna have to spend some time playing catch-up. Fortunately, I’ve mostly been off having fun, but not always.

About two weeks ago, Paul lost his job–completely out of nowhere with no warning. Unlike when he lost his first job over a year ago, this was not performance-based. Instead, budgets got cut and a few other temps and other employees, including some who had been there for many years, got cut, too. Last he heard, the final count was 12 people gone. The best part is he’d put in a 14-hour day that Monday, worked some more overtime Tuesday, and a few hours into his shift Wednesday, he was told he and the others were have to go. And his actual bosses weren’t happy.

He handled it well initially, but knowing him like I do, I didn’t expect that to last, and I was pretty much right, although he definitely did better this time around. And it probably helps that the time between getting fired and finding a job was much, much shorter this time around.

About a week after he got fired, he had interviews set up with two companies, with some help from the temp company he was hired through before. He got offered one of the jobs this past Friday but was waiting to see how another interview went before he made a decision, and when they decided not to consider him for that job, he picked the other one. He goes for a drug test Monday, so I expect he’ll start within a week or so of that. He’ll be working about a mile from my apartment, so since he still has his lease in Greensburg until June, it looks like he might stay here during the week but movie his gecko, Eddy, in with me so she’s not neglected during the week.

The only downside is there’s a chance it’ll only be a temporary job of three to four months, but we’re hoping there might be other places for him to work within the company. Plus it’s really good money.

As for me, I’m involved in a new project I can’t really talk about, but I’ll say this–I’m attending meetings, which are giving me insight to how corporate America works, which I don’t really like. I’m talking people making decisions when they don’t know what people below them do day to day. It’s frustrating. My fellow coworkers and I feel like we’re not being listened to, and we’re also suspicious this will, in the long run, lead up to some big changes.

Like I’ve been saying for awhile, I’m ready to get out and move on. I’ve been putting that off for a few years now, essentially. There have been times where I’ve been biding my time to see what Paul does and where he goes, and then when it looked like it was safe for me to start exploring other opportunities, I was working for IYS and didn’t have the time. Funnily enough, I’d looked at job listings within maybe a week or so of Paul getting fired, and I naturally put my own search on hold while he did his.

Funny how he was told his degree was marketable and he was going into a stable field while I was told that I wasn’t, and now here we are a few years out of school and he’s getting ready for job #3 and I’m only just now starting to look at my #2. It still might not be the best idea if he’s only going to be with this company temporarily, but I feel like I should see what’s out there while I have the time for it. I did apply for some other side jobs, but either I didn’t get them or they’re taking a really long time to get back to me/make decisions.

I am looking forward to Paul staying with me. I’m hoping it leads to lots of Netflix, home cooking, and nightly walks. I’m also hoping I never have to feed Eddy her crickets or wax worms.

Movie Review: Chappie

You know, I honestly don’t understand why this movie has been so critically panned.

The best I can come up with is that either it’s just the usual dismissal of the sci-fi genre or it didn’t live up to expectations, which were admittedly pretty big, considering director Neill Blomkamp’s last movie was District 9. And that movie was excellent.

So, Chappie tells the story of a man, Deon, in South Africa who finds a way to create very human-like artificial intelligence–he’s already behind a project that gave the area a robotic police force, and now he’s found a way to create a very realistic robot that can actually be taught. Enter some criminals, who need lots of money to pay off an even worse criminal and decide to kidnap Deon in an attempt to get him to shut down the police bots, because there’s no way to get away with anything when the cops are robots. Instead, the criminals get Chappie. Meanwhile, Hugh Jackman is trying to create his own big, bad robot controlled by humans, but his budget keeps getting cut and no one really cares, what with Deon’s robotic police force being so effective and all.

Now, I admit that from the first shot of the robotic police, I expected the plot and themes to be very different from what they ultimately were. I expected that to be the focus, but instead, it’s almost psychology, parenting, and what makes us human. The implications of a robotic police force aren’t really addressed much–we know that crime rates significantly plummet and criminals seem to fear the police force, likely because they use excessive, lethal force. We see a few brief scenes later that suggest on a day-to-day basis, law-abiding citizens interact with them calmly and normally.

The fact that this isn’t explored does feel like a huge missed opportunity, and if that’s what people dislike, I get it–but we should be judging this film on what it is, not what we thought it could be. It’s not that it’s disappointing because it didn’t like up to the hype, similar to the way that, say, Prometheus turned out, where you ended up with a lot of great themes and concepts that were poorly executed–it’s that it took a different, unexpected direction. And the end result was still a good, well-written, entertaining movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in several years, people look back on it and appreciate it more.

It’s not exactly groundbreaking–it explores similar themes to Blade Runner (or the book form, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which is a far cooler title) and the character of David in Prometheus, going back to that. But it still tells a good, smart story with some nice nuance. All the characters interact with Chappie differently, so he picks up different things from all of them, the way a child would. I think my favorite is the fact that he learns physical mannerisms from them, and you see him doing certain things or standing in certain ways just because that’s what he learned.

I have heard some say that these themes make it so similar to District 9 that it’s practically the same movie–which is strange considering those same people also praise that film but criticize this one–and while I agree that they’re similar, these definitely aren’t so similar that this just feels like a rehashing. The plots and characters are different, and I do think District 9 was stronger, but again, Chappie is so worth the watch.

Friday Five: Stitches

  1. Where on your body have you had stitches, and what were the circumstances? I never have! I was a pretty careful, low-key kid and haven’t had any crazy accidents as a kid. I’ve also never broken a bone.
  2. Who most recently left you in stitches? I’m not sure. Paul tends to make me laugh a lot, but this weekend, he’s been in a more bizarre state of silly.
  3. “A stitch in time saves nine,” says the proverb, which means that mending one small tear in a fabric now prevents having to make nine stitches later when the damage is worse. How has this been illustrated in your life? If I’d put shit away and do the dishes as I dirty them, I’d save myself so much time and effort and my apartment wouldn’t look like such a clusterfuck. The good news is I am slowly making progress.
  4. What are your thoughts on Disney’s Lilo & StitchI’ve never seen it! But Paul just told me earlier today that he thinks I’d like it, and he’s probably right.
  5. What experience do you have with needle and thread? I use them a lot, especially on things like fixing buttons on winter coats, which I desperately need to do soon–especially while the weather is warming up and I’m using the coats less frequently. I also patch little holes and tears in a lot of things when appropriate. I’d like to upgrade to a sewing machine and actually make shit one day, but I have nowhere to put it right now.

Booking Through Thursday: Spring

What new book would make you spring out of your chair and run to the bookstore? (Or library, or nearest computer screen, depending on your book-delivery-method of choice.)

I’m bad at keeping up with new releases, so the only one I can think of that I know is new-ish that I don’t have is Neil Gaiman’s new collection, Trigger Warning. 

I pretty much just need to go raid a Barnes & Noble, but alas, rent is due.