I started my week with a fuckton of overtime. I worked a 12-hour day on Monday alone, so by then, I was already totally done with the week. Throw in a Fleetwood Mac concert Thursday night and waiting the whole week to find out if I’d be able to get Friday off, and the whole damn thing was a drag.

Fleetwood Mac was fucking fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to see them three times now–and of course a different lineup each time–and they’ve solidified themselves as one  of my favorite bands. I went from being a casual fan of my mom’s favorite songs to falling in love with the songs my mom never played. I anxiously await the day they worked things out with Lindsey Buckingham, because unless this lawsuit really fucks things up, which it very well might, we all know this is just how the band works.

But I did not get Friday off. I functioned just fine, but man, I was really hoping to sleep in and chill out. On the plus side, if I’d gotten the day off, I wouldn’t have actually gotten overtime pay if I’d had the day off, and I believe that for the rest of the year, I’m only working two full weeks. I have two floating holidays left to use, too, so if I plan it right, I can probably get that down to short weeks for the rest of the year. Sure, we still haven’t taken a real vacation, but short weeks for two months isn’t a bad tradeoff.

On Friday, we ended up out on a quest for a card for Nolan and Brett’s wedding because I didn’t like any of the cards here in Washington, and as much as I really didn’t feel like driving into the South Hills, I’m glad we did because I’m pretty happy with what we found. And when my mother found out we were out, I had to look for a Snoopy Christmas blanket and pillow set for her, and throw in a few other stops I wanted to make plus dinner, it ended up being a whole trip out. We’d intended to go to the gym and had the time to make it, but that’s a terrible idea right after eating at Mad Mex.

The goal was to hit the gym Friday night then again Saturday morning before we left for the wedding because I wasn’t feeling great with how my dress I wanted to wear was fitting, and even though two gym sessions is definitely not going to make a noticeable difference, it at least made me feel like I was doing something. Sometimes that’s all that counts. Honestly, I probably should’ve scrapped the Saturday trip because we slept really, really late and the timing wasn’t great, but I thought I could squeeze it in. I ended up getting back home super close to when I wanted to leave, but us being us, we hadn’t actually packed yet, so by the time we did that, we were an hour behind with a pit stop or two we needed to make. But we made it just in time for me to get ready.

The wedding was nice and we had a good time, particularly with super drunk friends and some time hanging out in Meri and Erio’s room. The time change was a nice perk, too, since we didn’t wander back to the room we shared with my parents until 2 a.m. And true to form, I slept like trash. You’d think being up so late would’ve worn me out enough, but it didn’t. And I never sleep well when I travel on top of that, so although I felt fine in the morning–or rather, like five hours later–I’m exhausted now. But almost all of us made it to breakfast, and from there, Paul and I headed back to my parents’ house to kill a few hours before going out to dinner with his family for his mom’s birthday. I’d originally wanted to try and host some friends since people were home for the wedding, but clearly, we had no time for that.

Dinner was a nice end to a fun, busy weekend, but we’re definitely glad to be back home. The cat’s glad to have us back, too, and has been very dramatic and restless since we got in. I expect to spend my workday tomorrow having my feet bitten and toys dropped under my chair.

So what’s next? Nothin’. This marks the end of a string of busy weekends. Emily has a play at school in two weeks and we’re thinking of hosting a small shindig Thanksgiving weekend, but next weekend, we’re free to take it easy. We probably owe the cat a weekend of playtime and scritches.

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Friday night was a very, very typical pre-Halloween Friday night for me–after missing it last year, partly because I think it was in a different town, I made my triumphant return to The Rocky Horror Show live onstage, complete with bold makeup and bright-pink fishnet tights. I laughed, I shouted until I was horse, and I did the Time Warp. A good time was had by all.

On Saturday morning, probably around 11:15, I stopped for gas on my way to get my hair dyed and was scrolling through Twitter when the news broke–a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At the time, the death toll was four but they were pretty clear they know that number was gonna go up. When I was sitting in friend/stylist Emily’s chair an hour or so later, it was eight. When I was driving home an hour or so after that, it was 11, and almost all of my programmed radio stations had stopped playing music altogether and were instead playing news broadcasts and press conferences.

I only lived in Pittsburgh for six months, but I’ve spent my entire life hovering nearby. I grew up about an hour south, went to college at a University of Pittsburgh branch campus, and after those six months on Mt. Washington, I moved to another small city about an hour away. I’m far enough removed that I don’t feel like it was my community itself that was harmed, but I’m close enough that it hurts. I’ve teared up reading the news. I’ve seen my Facebook feed turn into nothing but an endless timeline of shock and grief and my notifications a string of people marking themselves as safe. Seeing the city in the national news is weird, and seeing it the national news for this reason is heartbreaking.

Part of me isn’t surprised–southwestern Pennsylvania isn’t known for its diversity and tolerance, particularly the area where I grew up, so much so that a coworker from that same area messaged me pointing out the last name of the shooter is common there and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn if that’s where he was fro. But part of me is surprised because a violent, anti-Semitic Pittsburgh isn’t the Pittsburgh I’ve ever never known, and because of that, I knew that the city would really come together in the aftermath. The anecdotes are uplifting–people opening their homes to reporters covering the shooting, people cooking for the police, singing at vigils, huge turnouts at blood drives, massive amounts of money raised for the synagogue and victims, though admittedly not all from this area. As I write, the Pens are playing with patches on their uniforms that say “stronger than hate.” People are sharing slogans saying hate can’t bring down a city of steel and images that replace the gold diamond of the Steelers logo with a gold Star of David.

I love Pittsburgh. The only reason I don’t live in the city itself is mostly timing–when my housemates all decided to go our separate ways, I just couldn’t find an apartment in the city that I could afford at the time. But I spend a lot of time there. I go to concerts there (I’ll be there Thursday), I see shows, even go to the movies sometimes. It’s been a difficult few days for everyone, especially the victims and their families above all, and I hate that this happened and that there are people out there who support the shooter or support similar acts. This is a very sad, hateful chapter in our history not just as a city but as our country and I’m eager for it to be over, but I know it will end. It would be nice to say a lot of uplifting things about moving on and putting it behind us, but the unfortunate reality for those who were there is that this is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Still, I want to close with optimism.

So like I said, I love Pittsburgh. I look forward to more fun nights out with friends and family, and I know this does not and will not define the city.

It seems like it’s been a few years since we’ve made it to the Buckeye Pancake breakfast up at Ohiopyle, an annual tradition for Paul’s family. One year it was because of Katie and Jacob’s wedding, and if I’m right and we didn’t go last year, either, I’m gonna guess it was because of a wedding then, too.

The breakfast was nice, and so was the brief walk we took by the river. The weather here kind of went from the 80s down to the 50s in, like, days, so it was a pretty chilly and kind of dark, rainy morning up there, but still nice to go.

My mom had heard about a talk at a local church about human trafficking and wanted me to go with her that evening, so Paul took a case of beer over to his parents’ house and Mother and I went to the church. Paul and I kept joking that it was gonna be the self-defense class from King of the Hill, but in reality, it was more of an informative session about what to look out for. I actually kind of feel like I learned something.

We were pretty hungry when it was over, so we decided to have dinner at Meloni’s, the best Italian in the area, and then Paul met up with us and we went back to his parents’ house to enjoy a beer with his dad for his birthday.

Normally, I’d want Sunday to just hang out at home, but Row House was in the middle of a witch-themed week of movies with a solid like three or four I was interested in seeing. We settled on Suspiria, partly because of the remake, and it was the only one I hadn’t already seen. We both really like it. It’s a very colorful, visually stunning movie, and while I didn’t find it to be super scary or, like, an outstanding movie, we still enjoyed it.

The area has a bunch of interesting restaurants and we’ve only ever eaten there once, so we picked a random place for dinner. We went with a Middle Eastern place, and I’m glad that at this point, there’s not much we haven’t tried, so we were familiar with a lot on the menu. Paul tried a couple appetizers and a dessert he’d never had before, and I went for a simple wrap, but all of it was really good and we were glad we tried the place.

This weekend, we celebrate Emily’s 21st birthday a couple weeks late with a casual night of drinking and playing with the cat at our house.

Virginia Is for Lovers

This was one of those weekends that feels like a long way off for months and months and next thing you know, you’re like, “Oh, shit, I’m going out of town and haven’t packed.”

One of Paul’s cousins decided to do a destination wedding at Virginia Beach. We were on the fence about going for a good while, having just bought a house and all, but I figured we could swing it. Plus, being a destination wedding, most of the family couldn’t go, so it kind of feels like if you can go and be there for them, you should.

It’s also the off-season, so that made things considerably cheaper and easier. And honestly? If I were to plan another beach vacation, I’d do it in the off-season. The only issue we had was traffic on the interstates driving down, and I blame that on slow driving more than anything else.

We decided to make a long weekend of it and booked the hotel Friday night through Sunday night, and being fans of sleeping, we also decided not to do the usual thing where you get up and leave super early. Instead, we let ourselves sleep in, then loaded up and left. We didn’t get on the road until almost noon, but we didn’t think it would be so bad–we were due to get in in the evening, so we figured we’d have time for dinner and maybe a quick beach visit. Wrong. Said traffic killed us, putting us two hours behind. Ultimately, we got in after 9. Jacob and Katie drove down Thursday and we were originally gonna go to dinner together, but once we figured out we weren’t gonna make it in time for dinner, we told them to go on without us. Instead, we met up in their hotel bar for a drink, then moved up to their room for wine. And we walked there and back. I opted for a cheaper hotel than they did, so we were on opposite ends of the boardwalk, but the plus is we got a lot of exercise. And we still had a beachfront room, so, I mean…

We slept in Saturday and got up for breakfast down the road–our hotel was pretty affordable, but it didn’t include free breakfast. Then we needed to run some errands, and by the time we were done with that, it was time to get ready for the wedding. Fortunately, the rain held off for the nice, short beach ceremony, and the reception was essentially just a party in a beach house. The four of us hung out a lot with each other, plus one of Paul’s cousins. Normally, I’d spend the evening dancing, but we all kind of seemed to enjoy just hanging out, especially on the beach. How can you not walk down there around sunset and just kind of…stay there until it’s so dark you’re being harassed by small crabs?

It was an early wedding, too, so we’re at this beach house for hours, thinking that it must be like 1 a.m., and turns out when we were all getting sleepy by the pool, it was like 9 p.m. The music did have to be shut off around then, so we decided to get going and enjoy the hot tub in our hotel room, the other selling point of the place.

I learned pretty fast that if we wanted to do anything down there, I was gonna have to wake Paul up, so I started doing it a little earlier each day. So Sunday, we went out for breakfast again, and with pretty limited time for the rest of our stay, we settled on visiting the Virginia Aquarium a few miles away, which we enjoyed. It wasn’t a huge place, but they had pretty cool exhibits and we had a good time. And then we hit the beach proper–getting splashed in a dress at a wedding doesn’t really count for me. I mean, yeah, sure, I went in the water, but feet barely count. You need to go play in the waves, so we got ourselves beach ready then walked from our room down to the beach and had ourselves a great time. Then we hit a dinner buffet, because it’s the beach and you have to and Paul gets our money’s worth. Hard to argue with six plates of basically everything on the thing.

The one downside to the off-season is a lot of places close early, so when I wanted ice cream at 10 p.m. on a Sunday, it took a few blocks to find it. But Ben & Jerry’s came through for me. And then I had another round in the hot tub.

I really wish we could’ve gotten in one last round of proper ocean fun, but we just didn’t have the time for it. I thought I got us up early enough Monday morning to have a little bit of time, and really, we probably could’ve done it and left later, but after the hassle we had getting down there, I wanted to leave earlier than we had on Friday. By the time we were showered and packed, it was about time to go, but I walked down for one last quick dip in the ocean before we left.

The good news is we didn’t lose to hours to traffic, but the bad news is we still probably lost one hour and did stop more, so there went another hour. We got home around 8 after leaving at 11, much to the chagrin of the cat, who had Brandon and my parents checking on her over the weekend. I don’t think she was very pleased with us, but she got over it pretty quick.

It was a really nice, fun weekend, but it went by way too fast–even just one more day of sun and sand would’ve been nice, but our vacation days for the year are dwindling. It was the first real trip we’ve taken on our own, not counting weekends in State College, and we definitely needed the downtime, but it wasn’t enough. Hopefully, now that wedding planning and moving are over and done, we’ll have more time and money next year and can take another trip to a beach, or anywhere, really.

Paul ended up with a bit a of a cold last week, and I might be getting it, too, just in time for a destination wedding of a cousin of his. So far, I just have minor congestion, so I’m hoping it’s more of a seasonal/environmental thing or that my body’s fighting it off.

But he still wasn’t feeling great over the weekend, so we really didn’t do much. We stayed home all day Saturday, and all we did Sunday was a coffee run and walk in the park.

Monday night, Paul’s sister Emily was reading on her campus again, this time as part of the annual alumni reading. We initially weren’t going to go because we’ve seen said alumni many times, and although we love them, we didn’t think driving an hour when they’re usually reading in the city was worth it. Emily had mentioned the reading twice but only mentioned her part in it once, so we kind of forgot about it–and then the professor in charge mentioned it on Facebook and I texted Paul essentially saying it was up to him. I think we both thought we ought to go, so we did. We went to Greensburg for like the third time in two weeks, four if you count me picking Emily up after my hair appointment when we saw Rollins.

We grabbed a quick dinner at Wingharts, and I kind of wish we’d eaten there on our previous Greensburg trip. Paul thinks they’re a little pricey, but I think we got better and more filling food than we had at Headkeepers the week before. Part of that is that Headkeepers is tapas, but we also both kind of felt like although the food was good, we have places we like more. Wingharts is one of them, and since we’d decided to go late, we were pretty pressed for time. Luckily, Mondays aren’t hoppin’ bar nights and we were out of there in less than 40 minutes. It was kind of perfect.

Emily was surprised to see us, since, you know, we’d said we weren’t going, and she read two short creative-nonfiction pieces we got a kick out of. Her fellow students were great, too, as were the alumni. My goal is to get invited one year, but being that I haven’t had anything creative published in going on two years now, I need to actually have work out in the world to present. I’ve got some stuff in progress and some publications in mind, I just need to get around to it.

I’m really glad we went. We ended up chatting for a while with everyone, and I think Paul and I both get a nice bit of motivation anytime we’re listening or talking to writers. They tend to make me want to get to work, but it’s also great to talk to people who kind of “get” you, as kind of dumb as that sounds. I get a satisfaction out of those kinds of conversations that I don’t get anywhere else–when people talk about “finding their tribe,” that’s how it feels.

If you want some great stuff to add to your bookshelf the (published) alumni writers were Adam Matcho and Dave Newman. And my lovely, amazing professor is Lori Jakiela.

Saturday, after a couple hours sitting in Friend Emily’s stylist chair, I came out with a pretty great shade of violet hair and a new subtle undercut in the back, then went over to Sister-in-Law Emily’s dorm to bring her back our way to see none other than Henry Rollins.

We didn’t have enough time to eat nearby–with traffic, parking, and events, especially when I believe there were both Pirates and Pens games that same day, I like a nice two-hour chunk of time to eat, and we didn’t have it. But we did have time to eat elsewhere, so we introduced Emily to the wonders of Mad Mex. It’s a shame she didn’t have the proper appetite to truly enjoy it because it’s the best.

And so is Henry Rollins. He’s one of those guys who’s come through tow a few times in the last several years and I’ve managed to miss him every time, so I jumped on this chance–25 bucks to see him in a small lecture hall in Oakland. Not bad at all. This tour is focused on his travel stories, and he has a lot of great things to say not just about what he’s learned and experienced abroad, but how some of that can apply to us here, with a nice dose of why everyone ought to travel. All three of us loved him.

We came back to the house and slept in pretty late–Paul and I have been experimenting with letting the cat roam the house now that she’s settled in, and the weekend was the first time trying it. I was worried about her getting into trouble so the slightest noise kept waking me up, and on top of that, she has a thing for attacking you under the sheets. We think the issue is that, being a cat, she doesn’t get what they’re for, so when they move, she absolutely must investigate…with her claws. I’ve noticed that for the most part, she only does this right before bed and when she’s awake and ready to take on the day in the morning, so it might also be a play/attention-getting thing, but it hurts and is not conducive to sleep. Which is how I ended up sleeping late into the morning and also why she sometimes gets kicked out with the door shut behind her, as much as I’d love to sleep with a kitty.

We took Emily to our usual coffee run, then took her back to Greensburg. We made a pit stop at the mall for a bit, and after we dropped her off, we headed over into Uniontown to see Million Dollar Quartet.

And turns out half our family was there. I knew my godmother and her husband were going, but my mom’s Aunt Elaine and Uncle Del were there, too, and we were all coincidentally in the same row, just different sections.

Million Dollar Quartet made the Broadway rounds a few years ago, but it’s a great, short musical if you like early rock ‘n’ roll. Brandon and I first saw it when the tour came through Pittsburgh a few years ago and loved it, so hearing it was gonna be in little Uniontown was a pleasant surprise. It has a runtime of just under two hours and is structured almost more like a concert than a musical, so it’s great for the non-musical-theater types, too. And funnily enough, Brandon and I enjoyed it more this time around than the first.

I took Monday off to sleep in, which I really needed, and then we were out yet again Tuesday night. And who did we run into yet again–an hour away from home in Greensburg–but Aunt Lainie and Uncle Del?

We all chose the same place, The Headkeeper, for evening food and beer. We were in the area to see Emily again, this time doing a reading on campus, and they were heading into downtown for a concert.

Emily was one of a few students on the bill opening for a pretty cool, well-known poet, Guante. I’ve never read any of her poetry before, and I was honestly impressed. And she read with the perfect amount of attitude and sass and looked awesome in this jumpsuit she got while we were shopping Sunday. All of the kids were great–and Paul kept saying, “They’re not kids!” We had a really good time, and the only bummer was that my former professor wasn’t there.

And so a solid three days of good times–four if sleeping in counts as a good time–came to and end, and the nice thing is it’s already the middle of the week. Keeping busy can be fun. This weekend, I don’t think we have any plans, but Paul mentioned maybe inviting his parents over. Failing that, my vote’s for a movie. We don’t see enough movies.

So our weekend went from a planned trip to Gettysburg to a canceled trip and no other real plans to being jam-packed with activities.

It started Friday night. One of my co-workers was getting a group of us together to go into town where said work is for the annual Oktoberfest, and originally, I figured either we wouldn’t be able to go or we’d pop in for a quick bite to eat before we hit the road. But when the trip was canceled, that freed us up to go–except Paul made plans to meet up with a friend of his later in the evening. No problem, I thought. We’d take separate cars so he could leave when he had to and I could stick around. It was a great plan that didn’t work out at all. First, construction on the interstate to get there was horribly backed up, so we took a different, longer route. And then I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going and my phone’s GPS ended up being nothing but lies, and it took us so long to get on track that there was no point in Paul sticking with me so he headed on his way. After some more struggling and then the struggle of where to park in a small town with streets closed, I finally made it and did have a good time drinking, bullshitting, and perusing the various vendors one can find at these things.

A few covered bridges are in the area, so every September, they all have festivals at the bridges. One is in one of the parks we go to a lot, but we’ve never made it to the festival because it’s always the same weekend as the annual Gettysburg trip. So I figured hey, we’re free this time, let’s check it out, so we took in more artsy vendors and more fair-like food.

Now, while I was out Friday night, my mom called with a very important question. We’d gotten word a few weeks earlier that Morris Day & the Time were gonna be playing at the casino that’s like 10 minutes from my house, but the good seats were mostly sold out by the time we found out. But something made my mom decide to take a look and see if anyone was reselling, and sure enough, someone had two tickets for pretty good seats. Originally, my mom and her best friend were gonna go and I was the backup in case said best friend couldn’t go, and sure enough…that’s how I ended up with Morris Day tickets Saturday night.

I figured it would be a good, entertaining show, but I was honestly surprised. He was super entertaining, completely in the Morris Day Purple Rain character, with all the showmanship and dance moves and attitude you see there. And getting to go to something then being home not at all long after was really nice.

And finally, on Sunday, we went to brunch as a very belated Father’s Day celebration for my dad. He wanted to go to the Grand Concourse in Pittsburgh but didn’t want to actually do it on Father’s Day, and this was the first weekend all of us were free to do it. And it was pretty delicious. Afterwards, Brandon and Kelly came over to the house to meet our new kitty, Robbin, and deliver a new toy she’s a big fan of.

And…there’s a little more to the story than that, but it’s not time to tell it just yet.