Friday 5: So Rank

  1. What memories do you have of an old-fashioned general store? The one in Leisenring near Meri and Nolan’s house, by the post office and Divito Park. It was a straight-up old coal-mining-patch general store. I only remember going once, despite spending a lot of time nearby as a kid and up through college, but I do remember getting slushies. It closed at some point, and then in college, they reopened it and its reopening was one of my assignments when I was a stringer for HeraldStandard.com. My article on it is still accessible online, but you’ll need a subscription to the site/paper to read it. I know for current news articles, you can sign up and read so many articles for free, but I believe that since this one is four years old already, you need to be a paying subscriber.
  2. What’s something people think incorrectly of your home state (or country) but still contains a kernel of truth? I decided to Google Pennsylvania stereotypes. I’ll be addressing some from this list, so here we go. So, no, the state’s not full of Amish people, but there are a good bit, especially as you get to the more eastern part of the state. People don’t hit deer all the time–I mean, I haven’t hit one–but it is common. My mom’s hit a few, my dad’s hit at least one, a friend’s mom hit one taking us home from dance class once, and at certain times of the year, the highways are full of blood and corpses. Everything doesn’t stop for hunting season, but in Fayette County, where I grew up, we always had the Monday after Thanksgiving off  because of hunting season. As far as I know, that doesn’t even happen in some neighboring counties. Not everyone loves sports–I’m not a football fan, let alone a Steelers fan–but a lot of people do really love it and jerseys are acceptable attire basically anywhere and I’ve known priests to mention games and kickoff times in sermons and consider that when it comes to length of sermon. And the best time to grocery shop or do just about anything that doesn’t involve a sports bar is in the middle of a Steelers game. Not everyone’s father worked in a coal mine or steel mill, but enough of that heritage is still around to hear stories. That general store I mentioned was from a coal-mining patch town, as was the nearby post office, and you can still see the coke ovens behind Divito Park across the street. And people around here have very strong feelings about the fate of the coal industry, in part because they’ve seen the economic impact from when the steel industry left the area. We don’t put ketchup on everything, but by God, give me Heinz or give me death. The Pennsyltucky stereotype isn’t too far off. Conservatism and redneck culture is huge here, and Paul describes his mom as a typical “patch hunky” who has to know everybody’s business and then tells everybody else everybody’s business.
  3. What are the major differences between you and your best (non-romantic) friend? All right, we’re gonna go with Terra for this. So, she’s much more passive-aggressive than I am. I mean, I’ve been accused of being passive-aggressive before, but I at least do try to address problems when I’m upset with someone. She doesn’t–she’ll give you attitude and hope you figure it out. Yet strangely, at the same time, she’s much more willing to call people out on, say, Facebook when they’re being shitty, and she’s somehow more assertive than I am. I’ll gently tell you to depart and fornicate with yourself, she’ll tell you you’re a piece of shit who should’ve been drowned years ago and to go fuck yourself. She’s also craftier and a bit more spontaneous, borderline irrational–she once wanted to take in a stray cat in our pet-free dorm in college, despite her numerous allergies and health issues and nowhere to keep a cat in a dorm. Like, she actually was trying to figure out how to take the screen out of our window to smuggle this cat past our RAs until Scott and I were like, “NO FUCKING WAY.”
  4. What’s something you were the captain of? Hahaha nothing.
  5. What’s the story of your first private moment with a high-school romantic interest? Oh no. Okay, so, I didn’t really get any private moments with guys I was actually interested in. One day, I’ll tell the story of my fucking terrible first kiss with a guy I wasn’t interested in. It’s too long a tale for now. Anyway, in retrospect, this worked out kind of great because I liked shitty dudes as a teenager, so I dodged some bullets there, and my first real private moments that I valued were with Paul. Also tales for another day. But the one exception would be Brandon’s friend Ian, and although there was on and off interest and such between us (but never at the same time), I don’t remember having any private moments. But I DO remember when we went to see Green Day on their 2005 American Idiot tour–and I still have and wear that tour shirt, and Stephanie noticed it the last time I saw her–and I remember during “Are We the Waiting,” which is a bit of a slower song where everyone had cellphones and lighters out, he was standing behind me and wrapped his arms around me and we kind of swayed with the music. And that was basically the closest Ian and I ever came to anything remotely romantic ever.

As always, from the Friday 5.

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Booking Through Thursday: The Other Side

What do non-reader friends think about your reading habits? Do they understand? Are they sympathetic? Or are they always trying to get you to “get your nose out of that book?”

I don’t really have non-reading friends! I have friends that aren’t on my level of bookworm, but none that dislike reading or don’t understand the appeal of it for others. And I’ve never been discouraged from reading by anyone ever.

But what I do get is awe about how many books I read at one time, and I’ve talked about this before–including the book I keep in my purse in case of a reading emergency, I’m currently reading 11 books. I’ve done this since I was a kid. I fell out of that habit in college and aside from required readings for class, I had it down to just one or two books but somehow in the years since fell off the wagon. So when people find that out, they’re generally impressed that I can read that many books at one time without getting confused, and recently, some coworkers suggested I try to find a way to market this skill. So employers, if you need someone with an English degree and writing experience who can read many books at a time and keep them all straight, I’m your girl!

My boyfriend has a slightly different reaction, though, especially now that he’s living with me. He insists that it would make more sense to read a smaller number of books at a time and therefore devote less time to trying to read them all per day and therefore finish them faster, and he is right, but old habits die hard.

26

I’d like to do one of those “26 thoughts on turning 26” type posts, however cheesy they may be, but I might save it for another site. I was in talks with HelloGiggles regarding a piece I wrote about turning 25, but I haven’t heard back from them in a while.

But at any rate, 26 was a really good, nice birthday. Woke up, got my presents from Paul (tee shirts and a book), and hung out for a bit before meeting my parents and Brandon and Kelly in town for lunch. We went to Fusion, the Japanese steakhouse that I’ve been wanting to try since I moved here like three years ago. It was your typical hibachi place but still good, although my pad thai was to spicy for me to handle all of. Which is where Paul comes in handy, because there’s no such thing as too spicy for him and he’s a human garbage disposal. He also finished some of Kelly’s food. Plus I got a free dessert!

Then we went to the casino, and I was doing really well at first–I kept winning a good bit of money and probably should’ve just quit as soon I started losing. But gambling money was my gift from my parents, so I didn’t feel too bad about it, and behaved just enough so that I didn’t spend all of it. And I did get back up a tiny bit, but I lost it again when the gambling bug bit me watching Brandon play a wonderful Batman slot machine. He ultimately won $200.

We ended up being there a few hours in the end, and my mom wants to head back sometime for the horse races. In the meantime, I was also gifted with Wizard of Oz scratch-offs, which won $10 each. My mom tells me there are still winning tickets for $300,000 floating around, which is tempting me to buy more scratch-offs when I normally don’t bother. Yep, I think playing the lottery is pointless, but I loves me some slot machines.

Paul and I then went off to cash in said scratch-offs, when we decided might as well do the week’s grocery shopping while we were already up there. And while we were at it, I decided I wanted a Rita’s frozen-custard cake, but they ended up being sold out. We got ice-cream cookie sandwiches instead.

And then we came home and had great birthday sex.

I spent most of last week at my parents’ house, watching Duke while they and Brandon’s girlfriend, Kelly, went off to Oklahoma for his AIT graduation.

I went in Tuesday night, and they left really late that night. And from then on, it was me and Duke.

It was pretty easy–walk him, feed him, and give him his eyedrops and insulin. The eyedrops I’m used to, and as nervous as I was about the insulin, I was pretty used to doing it after the first day. Plus he’s good with it, which makes it much easier.

It was weird to have three days away from my apartment yet not on vacation, either, where I really didn’t have to do anything. I took time off from work to stay at the house since it’s an hour away, and I spent my days pretty much just lounging and doing a few important-ish things here and there. I did some writing, of course, and some submitting, plus some job hunting and laundry. I even finally remembered to look up optometrists near me, since my mom heard stories about my current one missing some pretty big things in other people we know. And Marissa, who’s in school for optometry, confirmed this when we were all hanging out while Meri and Erio were home when she grimaced when I told her who I see. So now that I’ve found someone new–and within walking distance–I’ve scheduled my long overdue eye exam for sometime in August.

I ventured out a little bit–Subway for lunch one day, Vinny’s for ice cream the next–but that was pretty much it. Other than the night Duke really pissed me off by refusing to go outside the whole night until the next morning, it was a pretty uneventful week, too, but in a good way. And even though Paul’s only been living with me for about a month, it was weird to be by myself for that long. Not good or bad–just weird. It was nice to come home, even though I am anxious to get both a new job and a new place to live.

I stuck around Friday night, the night they were coming home, to see Duke reunited with everyone, especially Brandon. It was pretty cute. He wagged his tail a lot and licked Brandon’s face a lot, then everyone went to bed–it was 2:30 in the morning–and I got up again a few hours later to head off to work, since I’m on rotation this month.

After work, Paul and I went to his cousin’s graduation party–the third in a week in his family and the only one we’ve been able to make. He forgot to show me and I forgot to ask to see it, but his mom sent him a very long text while I was at work all about how she misses doing those things as a family. Him being out of their house, let alone with me, is far preferable to the dynamic of him living at home, but that text felt like a step backwards for me in what’s felt like a fight against her for Paul’s time and attention. We talked to Emily a bit and she’s older enough now and opening up enough herself that I feel comfortable filling her in on some of this, and when I mentioned to her I’ve felt that way about most of our relationship, she said I was pretty much right but that I’m “winning.”

She filled us in on how their mom’s doing, too, though, and she and Paul both got some healthy venting done, even if it was a brief session. She reminds me a lot of Paul in her attitude and what bothers her and even how she handles it, the only difference being she’s a lot sassier. Paul will rant and yell and get angry and even get mean, but Emily throws in a lot of snark.

We got sucked into going over to the house for a bit, which I’m afraid is going to be our next hurdle–most of the time, Paul doesn’t want to go when we’re around, but he does because it saves face, basically. My concern, though, is that every single time we go do something, it’s gonna turn into, “Why don’t you come back to the house?” which can easily turn into hours spent there. It is admittedly different, though, when it’s the siblings asking because they want to hang out–Joh wanted to show us stuff he’s made in their blacksmithing classes, and Emily wanted to talk to Paul. And Paul and I have told Emily before we can’t say no to her especially. She’s basically our favorite.

We did manage to make it a short trip, though, then came home and went to sleep just before midnight struck and it was officially my 26th birthday.

Friday Five: Scattergories, Part 5

The randomly generated letter I got was “v.” Because of course this can’t be easy for me.

  1. What’s a refreshing beverage whose name begins with the letter? I enjoy some of the sweeter, fruitier V8 juices. And vodka, preferably mixed with something else.
  2. What ailment whose name begins with the letter have you suffered from? Look, I really did some Googling to see if I could avoid using the word “vagina,” but nope, I can’t, so we’re just gonna be blunt here. As a woman who has periods and did once lose her virginity, vaginal bleeding. You’re welcome.
  3. What horrible creature whose name begins with the letter do you resemble in your foulest mood? Velociraptor! When I get really bad and I allow myself, I rage.
  4. What emotion whose name begins with the letter have you experienced in the past week? I wouldn’t call this an emotion, necessarily, but it’s close–valued. Because no matter what, that’s how Paul always makes me feel, and no matter what may happen to us over the course of our lives/probable marriage, I’ll always be grateful for that.
  5. What’s an item in your purse, wallet, or backpack whose name begins with the letter? Visa! My debit card is also a Visa card.

Booking Through Thursday: Vacation

When you travel, do you bring one book with you? Or a pile of them?

And, is that pile still a load of paper to lug around? Or do you use an e-book reader like a Kindle or your iPad to help carry the load? (Because, even if you prefer paper, it can get heavy when you’re traveling!)

So, I always keep a book in my purse, so that one always goes with me, then I take a second one in case I finish that one. Sometimes I’ll toss in a third or if I’m gonna be on a long flight. When I went to Mexico, I threw in all my Rolling Stone back issues I hadn’t had time to get to, too. When I went to visit Brandon, I took my purse book and a spare, which I ended up not needing. Now that I’m at my parents’ house, I did the same thing. I doubt I’ll get to the spare, but I have tons of downtime since I’m all doing is watching the dog.

So yes, obviously, it still is a load of paper–physical books. I’m not really interested in getting an e-reader because I prefer books, but if I traveled more, I’d probably consider it. As it is, the occasional vacation or weekend trip doesn’t really need it,

Friday Five: Alt

  1. A sandwich is usually some kind of ingredients between slices of bread, but what’s a great sandwich that has no bread at all? Ice-cream sandwiches. Of any kind.
  2. A salad is generally thought of as a mixture of fresh greens, but what’s a great salad whose main ingredients are not veggies? I’m a big fan of fruit salads, and I made a real good one a few summers ago that had mint and like rum or something mixed in it.
  3. Juice is usually the liquid squeezed from a fruit or vegetable. What’s a juice you enjoy that isn’t? Only one I can think of is Jungle Juice, which did me in at my 21st birthday party thanks to having an entire handle of vodka in it. It tasted great because of everything else that was mixed in it, but it was potent and it was easy to forget that. Between that and the Smirnoff Ice drinking game Bros Icing Bros, I threw up a lot that night.
  4. Milk is usually the food that a mammal produces for its young. How do you feel about milk alternatives that aren’t animal-produced? Not too long after I became a vegetarian, I decided to try soy milk. I didn’t dislike it, but I also satisfied enough by it and wasn’t committed enough to cutting out milk that I didn’t really try it much after that, other than maybe having a bit with cereal if I was at Meri’s place or if she had some. But I think they’re great alternatives for people who don’t want to drink milk or can’t.
  5. A staple is usually some food that forms the basic constituent of a cultural diet. What’s a staple in your diet that doesn’t exactly fit that definition? Pasta.

Movie Review: Jurassic World

I don’t know that I can necessarily say that I remember when Jurassic Park first came out. I was maybe three years old, four tops. But I do remember when my parents rented it and watched it (on VHS!) most likely shortly after its release, and I remember being terrified. And then as I got older, I was able to appreciate it for what a good movie it really was. And as enjoyable as the latest sequel, Jurassic World, is, I think the most telling thing about it is the fact that I kept thinking about iconic moments from Jurassic Park and what made that original movie so good.

Jurassic World ignores the events of the previous two sequels and serves as more of a direct sequel to Jurassic Park, but mostly only in the sense that it takes place afterward and in the same place with the same themes and almost the same plot. Parallels are everywhere–two kids without their parents visiting a relative in charge of a dinosaur theme park, said dinosaur theme park experiencing the sorts of problems that get people killed, the kids ending up in the care of two adults of the opposite gender, etc. And the movie even has some nice throwbacks to the original, from name-dropping and briefly discussing original park creator Hammond to the little Mr. DNA character. And, of course, raptors.

This isn’t to say it’s an exact rehashing of Jurassic Park, though–true, it’s not doing too much new, but we are dealing with a functioning, open park, genetic hybrids to an extreme degree, and those infamous trained raptors. But Jurassic World does sort of lie in this middle ground of not being groundbreaking yet also not feeling like we’ve seen the whole thing before. It is predictable as far as action movies go–we all pretty much know who’s gonna die, who’s not, and what’s gonna happen to them all in between–but it has its surprises, too. That dinosaur jumping out of the water in the trailer, for example, isn’t just a gag to show off CGI or to give that amusement-park feel, even though it does that very effectively. That guy comes back twice in a pretty great way.

As for those amusement-park details, they were among my favorite subtle moments in the movie. It wonderfully captured tourism and consumerism, although the product placement was incredibly obvious. I can’t decide if I was distracted by it because I’d hear it was excessive in advance, but it is certainly noticeable. You get plenty of shots right on logos. By God, does Mercedes want you to know their cars are in this film. The amusement-park aspect also speaks to some of the bigger things of what happens when corporate America goes awry, especially when corporate America is dealing with dinosaurs as commodified attractions and forgets that they killed people in this exact same setting before.

That’s also why I don’t buy some of the cries of sexism in Bryce Dallas-Howard’s character, Claire. Some have argued that she ends up getting pushed around–though she’s in charge of the park, when shit gets real, the men start telling her what to do. And while that is technically true, it’s framed in a way that’s focused much more on experience and ignorance than it is gender, and I say this as a feminist. Claire’s not being pushed around by the men around her because she’s a woman–it’s because for the entire movie, she has never thought of the dinosaurs as animals. They’re attractions meant to spike attendance and therefore profits and media coverage, and when men do step in to clean up her messes, specifically Chris Pratt’s character, Owen, it’s because of different experience in the park with the animals and therefore a different perspective. Owen and Claire handle things differently because of their jobs. Owen takes charge because he has some idea of how to. Plus some of the men taking over fuck up royal–they’re not necessarily stepping in and saving the day. They’re wrong. They make mistakes. In one case, they’re actually the villain. And–spoiler alert!–the whole mess is truly ended by other dinosaurs, not people.

Some have also complained about the fact that Claire is in nice clothes and high heels for the duration of the movie, but again, this is because of her character, not her gender. Claire’s in a pretty high-up position running the park. When you’re in charge of things in corporate America, you dress nice. And you don’t stop to change your clothes or shoes in the middle of a very deadly dino crisis–you keep on truckin’.

If we’re gonna call anything sexist in this movie, it’s got to be the very minor romantic subplot between Claire and Owen, which is my biggest complaint about the movie.

I watched enough movies and read enough books as a kid that I was still pretty young when I got really tired of men and women always ending up as a couple by the end, no matter the genre or what else was happening in the plot. Hell, I remember seeing Van Helsing in theaters and being happy that Kate Beckinsale’s character got killed solely because most other movies would’ve just had her banging Hugh Jackman by the end, and I was glad to see something different happen. Pretty much no one is going to see Jurassic World for a love story, unless you count the characters (and many viewers) who love dinosaurs. It’s like movie studios and certain writers just don’t know how to put a man and woman in a story together without having them have a romantic past or a romantic future. In Jurassic World, we learn on Claire and Owen’s first onscreen interaction that they’re not just coworkers–they went on one date, and it didn’t progress after that because they were basically incompatible. In fact, they bicker about this in a scene where she’s supposed to be asking him to stop over to check out their lab-created hybrid because–shocker!–it’s a bit of a menace. That past does nothing for their characters or the plot. Nor does their random kiss in the middle of an action sequence. Their only reprieve is that Chris Pratt’s last line of, “We should stick together…for survival,” is delivered well and is funny, but the film absolutely would’ve worked without it. In fact, if not for a pretty great closing shot of a T-Rex in the mostly destroyed park, the last five minutes could’ve just been cut and still given you a really good movie. Maybe even a better movie.

Because as summer blockbuster action movies go, it is good. I really liked it. Despite its flaws, I was entertained, and while I wasn’t terrified like I was when I was Jurassic Park–pretty much because I’m 25 now, not 4–it was still suspenseful and engaging. Ironically, it would’ve been a stronger movie had it just embraced that, rather than trying to add depth and backstory in things like that romance, and even what was practically a throwaway line about the kids’ parents getting a divorce. The romance was a cliche and the divorce detail was clunky, and the thematic elements prevalent in the first film dealing with corporate and industry failures with a hint of greed were strong enough to carry it. Play to your strengths–dinosaurs fucking shit up.

Booking Through Thursday: Magazines

What magazines do you subscribe to? Personal ones? Professional ones?

Or do you only/mostly pick up your periodicals at the newsstand?

How do you feel about digital editions versus print?

Do you save the old copies after you read them? Or promptly recycle them?

So, I don’t actually subscribe to anything, but I do have magazines I enjoy reading online sometimes, pretty much exclusively music-related–Paste, Rolling Stone, and Spin are the big ones I can think of that I follow on Twitter and Facebook. I used to be an avid AP reader back in my pop-punk heyday, but that’s a scene I’m mostly out of these days, so I only pop in on occasion if they run something of interest to me.

I used to buy the occasional issue on newsstands, especially if the cover featured someone I was a big fan of, but that’s a habit I’ve fallen out of. My reading tends to be exclusively online, which is kind of strange given how many times I’ve said that I prefer print books. I guess I technically prefer print magazines, too, it’s just that buying them doesn’t make sense in my life right now–don’t need the extra reading material, don’t need something taking up space, and don’t need something else to spend money on. That said, maybe when I get this place cleaned up a bit, I’ll take to browsing newsstands when I’m out running other errands.

And part of the reason I have little space for magazines is because I did used to save them, mostly ones featuring my favorite musicians. Now I’ve actually got small stacks I’m listing on eBay and Amazon, as a matter of fact, because although sometimes it can be tough to make happen, magazine back issues do sell. I guess I could recycle them, but why do that when a fan somewhere of the cover star is willing to pay me to get rid of them?

Magazines are great, though, no matter what. And you should all read some.

Now that Paul’s lease is up and he’s all packed up and moved into my apartment–not counting the stuff we’ve left in his car out of combination laziness and lack of space for the moment–we can spend our weekends actually doing stuff instead of packing and cleaning. And because he’s been talking about it for weeks, we made our first trip up to the mountains for the season.

My parents are leaving for Brandon’s AIT graduation in about a week, so my mom wanted me to come over for one last lesson in how to give Duke his insulin shots, since I’ll be staying over there and doing it. I’ve been shown how to do it, but this time, they wanted me to actually do it myself. It gave me performance anxiety, mostly because I was nervous about doing it right, for one–his dosage, making sure there are no air bubbles, etc.–and because I feel bad about having to jab him with a needle, even if it is small and even if he does need it. But now that I’ve done it, I do feel prepared to handle him for two or three days next week. And of course, I’m looking forward to the time off and hoping that the final day on the schedule at work, Friday, is slow enough or opens up so that the day gets approved.

I also tossed some towels in their washing machine, and someone kindly tossed them right in the dryer when they were ready while we were in the mountains. I think Paul feels kind of weird about carting laundry to do at my parents’ house for free, but they don’t mind. My mom actually likes doing things that save me money anyway.

The drive of the mountain from my parents’ house is pretty quick and easy, and we were up there by about 10–a little later than we’d wanted, but still a great time to get up there this time of year before the crowds move in. We were able to get a great parking spot and pretty freely hike through the woods on the trails with few other people around, with the exception of a poor family who most likely heard me declare that nature hiking made me horny. I thought we were alone, when lo and behold! A hiking family emerges from the woods.

Paul wanted to hike longer and farther than we did, and normally, we–or more accurately, I–can walk four miles on nice, even ground. But climbing over rocks and hills on just a little trail in the woods did me in after two, so we stopped back at my parents’ grabbed our freshly laundered towels, and went to lunch at Fiesta Azteca, which was great.

From there, we went to a craft show Julianne’s job was hosting. She was selling candy and their dad was selling these really nice, handmade cutting boards, and I would’ve bought one if my mom hadn’t bought me a nice, big bamboo cutting board just this past Christmas.

We didn’t really buy much, other than a Far Side book at a mini flea market they had set up. We did stop by Paul’s parents’ house, after he originally said he didn’t want to go, but he changed his mind in part to just keep the peace since we were already in town. So we hung out for a few hours, and his mom seemed to be doing better–a bit more with it this time, if you will.

As for my Monday off, I once again slept until 10 and then got various shit done, including sending in a resume for a new job.