How would you like it, if ten years from now, people were laughing at things you did?

Ten years ago today, I packed up my car with everything that would fit and moved into an apartment in Redmond, Washington sight unseen to live with with a friend I’d made at a community college in San Diego. The Northwest had been calling to me for a while: I’d been offered a sizable scholarship from the University of Puget Sound, a friend had suggested that the PNW might be a good fit for me, and another friend had already moved up and given me a standing job offer. Moving here seemed inevitable. What blows my mind is that if I had taken the scholarship from UPS, I would have never met a single one of the people I just mentioned. Possibly none of my friends. Probably not my husband. Change one thing and the entirety of the last ten years (actually, twelve, if I went to UPS immediately after returning from Taiwan) would have been different, even if the place was the same. I never would have gone to Drexel. I never would have quit Drexel. I never would have gone to Palomar. I never would have met my roommate and gotten my first job in the game industry. That same roommate took me to a party for Digipen students, where I made the friends through whom I eventually met Jason.

When I got here, things were touch and go at first. The friend who had offered me the job was transitioning out as I was transitioning in, and it looked like there wouldn’t be a job for me after all for a while. I was dating an abusive liar. I spent my last dollar and insisted that I be hired based on the promise that was made. And somehow things worked out for me: I got the job, I was able to cast off the asshole, I eventually got on my feet with the help of some friends.

Now I’m married. A homeowner. I have made some of the best friends of my life here: a chosen family. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful, and it is a good fit. Sometimes it’s gloomy, sometimes it’s snarky, sometimes it’s passive-aggressive…and so am I. It’s been good for me.  I was not the most open-minded, whole, adult person when I moved here, and through people’s patience and kindness, I’ve learned better, to be better. Obviously I could still learn a lesson or two about being less self-centered but that’s neither here nor there. I may not live here forever. There’s so much to see, and I want to see everything. But I wouldn’t give up the last ten years for anything.

In richness and in poorness (poorness is underlined)

One year ago today, Jason and I got tired of shacking up and made it legal with a crazy dance party and the best people in the world. I had friends fly across the country to be there…even one of the friends I met in Taiwan from Australia happened to be in the area that weekend and was able to attend. At the time the party happened, I was so freaking stressed out over every last detail that I lost track of the big picture…but now when I look at photos or listen to our jammin’ playlist, I feel nothing but grateful to everyone who helped me celebrate an important life event and so very incredibly lucky to have so many special people in my life. The last year went by so fast, and it was all the better for having a committed partner by my side who is down for any adventure I want to undertake. Married life is awesome. It makes me want to live forever.

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All above photos ©Brilliant Imagery Photography (Hire her, she’s great!)

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Bonus bridal shower picture because it was so damn pretty and girly.

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The Cloisters Museum of Art in NYC

One of my top priorities in New York was to visit The Cloisters Museum & Gardens: the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated solely to their extensive collection of medieval art and architecture. Instead of creating a copy of one specific building, The Cloisters combines religious and secular architecture in chronological order throughout the building. This makes each room a beautiful complement to the art as well as an immersive experience; it’s rare to see period art in context with its surroundings. Medieval art tends toward the highly religious, and while I’m not generally entranced with the subject matter, the craftsmanship is undeniable, and visiting The Cloisters was a unique opportunity that I refused to miss.

 

Fuentiduena Chapel

LionLion relief tramples a dragon

Saint-Guilhem Cloister

archway

Bearded Men Fighting

Romanesque Hall

arch at the cloisters

Langon Chapel

ornate door handleDoor with ironwork

medieval chapel

Pontaut Chapter House

Monks from the Cistercian abbey at Pontaut in Aquitaine once gathered for daily meetings in this twelfth-century enclosure known as a chapter house. At the time of its purchase in the 1930s by a Parisian dealer, the column supports were being used to tether farm animals.

Archways

Cuxa Cloister & Garden

Both medieval and modern species of plants are grown in the garden, the pink stone of which was quarried in the twelfth century for the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa.

Cloisters Garden

Early Gothic Hall

Stained glass

head perhaps of an angelThe title of this piece of artwork kills me: “Head, perhaps of an Angel”. It reminds me of nothing so much as the conclusions that the Ghost Adventures bros leap to. You could just call it “Head”? Or stick to your convictions and call it “Angel Head”?

Gothic Chapel

The Gothic Chapel contains stained glass windows from fourteenth century Austria and carved images from royal and noble tombs of Spain and France.

Chapel at the Cloisters

Glass Gallery

our lord's bongOur father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy bong

Dragon eating a manA water vessel of a dragon eating a man or a man escaping from a dragon’s mouth.

Brass unicorn water vesselUnicorn water vessel

brass water vesselsSelection of fanciful water vessels

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Seasonal Cafe in Trie Cloister

The cafe at the CloistersJason, refreshed after drinking a $6 bottle of medieval Sprite. My $6 medieval water was just ok.

Treasury

A room that illustrates the wealth of medieval churches, containing precious objects wrought in gold, silver, ivory, and silk.

Bishop's robesIn days of old when knights were bold, bishops dressed like wizards.

a chalice for serious drinkingThis chalice is legit. Even crappy booze would seem fancy when sipped out of this thing, which after you paid for it, would be the only type of booze you could afford.

illuminated bibleIlluminated bible

medieval playing cards15th century illuminated playing cards

golden handThis must be Jamie Lannister’s lesser-used gold hand reserved for fun times.

quatrefoil stained glassQuatrefoil roundel with arms and secular scenes

Silver mary and bishopBishop saint and female saint wrought in silver. I feel that it’s a missed opportunity to not have had reproductions in the gift shop as salt and pepper shakers.

Boppard Room

Stained glassStained glass from the fifteenth century Carmelite convent

Merode Roomceiling beamsEven the wood beams on the ceilings in the Merode Room were works of art!

Late Gothic Hall

st michael defeats the antichristThe archangel Michael defeats the antichrist. Possibly the inspiration for the “bitchin tattoo” an ex of mine expressed a desire to acquire. Frankly, this depiction of the antichrist only raises more questions for me, like, what the eff does he do with all of those mouths and why is he helping Michael to jab him through the uppermost mouth and if he has mouths all over and salamander arms and chicken feet, why are Christians worried that he walks among us unseen? He’s not exactly Waldo, I’m pretty sure I could pick him out of a crowd with no trouble.

Nine Heroes Tapestries Room

From a series of nine hangings created around 1400 for a member of the Valois court; they are among the earliest sets of surviving medieval tapestries.

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Unicorn Tapestries Room

The Cloisters wouldn’t be what it is without the contributions of  John D Rockefeller Jr–not only did he donate the land for the site of the museum, but he also donated a significant amount of land around the museum to preserve the view of the Hudson river, as well as donating works of art from his own collection, including the Unicorn Tapestries. In truth, the Unicorn Tapestries were the main impetus behind my visit. I’ve always had it bad for unicorns, and I recall first encountering the Unicorn Tapestries in an enormous book in the library filled with unicorn art throughout history. The book was incredible…and I never saw it in the library again, nor have been able to find its like. It was then that I realized that the introduction to The Last Unicorn cribbed heavily from the Unicorn Tapestries. Well, one of them, anyway.

Their origin and symbolism remain a mystery. The initials found in several of the tapestries point to two different potential owners/commissioners, as well as signs that they may be part of two separate sets. If not, there’s debate as to whether they were woven in Brussels or the Netherlands and as to whether their meaning is religious or secular. My uneducated belief is secular, if only because by this point in the museum, it was clear that people weren’t exactly afraid of putting Jesus on everything so there wasn’t exactly a need to couch it in hunt symbolism.

We didn’t enter the Unicorn Tapestries room until close to the end of our visit, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve ever had. Here is this artwork that I’ve seen small, lesser versions of for over twenty five years, in person, large as life. Much larger than I’d imagined. Vivid, astoundingly detailed. Lush. I almost cried at their beauty.

Nothing compares with seeing them in person, but the Met has high quality scans so you can see more of the detail. They did offer Unicorn in Captivity tapestry decorative pillows in the gift shop, but they were pale shadows compared to the original, which is a shame. If they were even somewhat close to the beauty of the tapestries themselves, I’d have flung money at them for the opportunity to have a reminder in my home of how I felt standing in the Cloisters.

Unicorn Tapestries roomThe 7th, 2nd, and 3rd Unicorn Tapestries (l-r)

unicorn tapestries roomThe 4th, 5th, and 6th Unicorn Tapestries (l-r)

The unicorn purifies the waterThe 2nd tapestry, The Unicorn is Found. Also known as The Unicorn at the Fountain.

Bunny detailJason attempted to point out these bunny butts on the second tapestry to me, and apparently his finger crossed some sort of laser beam line because all of a sudden a siren was going off and a guard was furiously motioning at us to stay away from the tapestries. He didn’t touch anything! That bun is an instigator. Troublemaker. Tattler.

The unicorn leaps the streamDetail of the 3rd tapestry, The Unicorn is Attacked or The Unicorn Leaps the Stream

majestic fireplaceThe fireplace to end all fireplaces in the Unicorn Tapestries room!

The unicorn defends himselfDetail of the 4th tapestry, The Unicorn Defends Itself

The unicorn is captured by the maidenFragments of the 5th tapestry, The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn

the unicorn is killed and brought to the castleDetail of the 6th tapestry, The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle

The unicorn in captivityDetail of the 7th tapestry, The Unicorn in Captivity

 

Nom or Vom: The Most Goth Burger Ever

japanese black burger

Burger King Japan is going to be rolling out these babies soon: black burgers with buns and cheese colored with bamboo charcoal topped with an onion and garlic sauce colored with squid ink. Oh, and the burger itself is flavored with black pepper, to fit the theme. I think if they wanted to make a truly theme appropriate black burger, they need to hire black metal bands to play in the lobby and source the meat from those all-black Indonesian Ayam Cemani chickens, but then again, no one is going to pay $1000+ for a chicken burger from Burger King.

Pros: Still a burger, how bad could it be?

Cons: That oil slick of cheese really looks unappetizing, I don’t think a bun is supposed to have the sheen of hard plastic, looks like it should come with a tiny whip suitable for cracking the fingers of those who would steal your fries, your poops are going to be insane, it’s not like Burger King is known for high-quality anything

Would you eat a black burger?

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Mellzah vs the city of New York, Also Known As My Badly Photoshopped Vacation

We took an Amtrak train from Albany to NYC: normally I’m pro renting a car on trips, but in this instance, I wanted nothing to do with driving in New York City proper. Or finding parking. Or paying for parking. Or any of it, really. So the train it was, and I discovered that train travel is actually really awesome. The seats are enormous, as is the gap between them. They recline enough so you can actually sleep and you don’t have to worry about cracking into someone’s knees when doing so. I loved it, and I’m definitely going to explore my options for future travel by train. But enough of my gushing: I was feeling a little off when we left Albany. By the time we pulled into Penn Station, it hurt to swallow and my head felt even larger than normal. Uh-oh. But maybe I wasn’t getting sick. Maybe all I needed was a rest in the hotel room and I’d be ready for a fresh start the following morning.

NOPE. By the next morning, a full blown war was raging in my body. Sore throat, stuffy head, cold sweats…the works. Oh, and I got my period, too. Fuck me, right? It wasn’t fair. I hadn’t licked a subway pole or eaten at Subway! But colds don’t give a damn about fair, and I was forced to cut down my NYC to-do list significantly. So without further ado, here’s the badly photoshopped vacation I should have had:

Brooklyn Museum Mini Statue of LibertyOriginal photo by Neil R

Holy shit, it’s the smaller Statue of Liberty in Brooklyn outside the Brooklyn Museum! Why is there snow on the ground in August? Quiet, you!  I would have been all over their Egyptian installations as well as their 19th century modern exhibit. Now I can only imagine how awesome it could have been.

cronutOriginal photo by Rachel Lovinger

Wow, a cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery! So delicious! So trendy! I love trendy food! And eating! I would have gotten up at the asscrack of dawn and waited in line for an hour to eat this, at which point I probably would have pronounced it not worth getting up for, but the point of the thing is to try it, not enjoy it.

 

Giant Penny NYCOriginal photo by Danny Birchall

I found…a giant penny! Could this be the best day of my life? I actually went looking for this thing because y’all know I’ve got a thing for pennies but I think the address listed in Roadside America was a bit off, so it eluded me and I was too sick and crabby to keep looking.

MMuseummOriginal photo by Panda073

Mmuseumm, NYC’s smallest museum. Located in an alley, only open on the weekends, collections rotate but once included a selection of fake vomit, and the permanent collection includes the shoe thrown at George W Bush. I live for this shit.

Ninja RestaurantOriginal photo by Alan Teo

What do I love more than overpriced food in a kitschy setting where there’s an element of fake danger and possibly things are lit on fire for my amusement and the whole thing is attached to a gift shop? Fucking nothing. I would have eaten every goddamn tofu ninja star in the place, bought the t-shirt, and ninji-chopped things on the way back to the hotel.

NYC Museum of ScienceOriginal photo by Adnan Islam

The NY Museum of Science in Queens has a minigolf course that teaches you about science while you curse at a ball and artificially lower your score. I’m a scientist. I fucking love mini golf. I’ve been known to enjoy a museum in my time.

Obscura OdditiesOriginal photo by dishfunctional

I would have bought so much shit for our house at Obscura Antiques and Oddities. I want my house to look like a creepy-ass museum full of shit that people have no idea what to do with when I’m dead. Maybe we would have run into Amy Sedaris who supposedly lives down the street and shops there all the time. Maybe my life would have been complete.

Queens MuseumOriginal photo by Katie

The Queens Museum has a bunch of the remaining World’s Fair stuff (there’s another one coming soon, right? Before Friday?) and a sweet panorama of 1964 New York in perfect miniature scale. YES. Fuck yes. I would have totally gone if I didn’t have a sobbing breakdown in Grand Central Station about how tired and sick I was!

Smorgasburg BrooklynOriginal photo by Howard Walfish

Smorgasburg Brooklyn, an addition to the Brooklyn flea with 150 bomb-ass food stations and a killer view? I would have eaten myself poor or to death, whichever came first.

 

Rockefeller CenterOriginal photo by Flodigrip’s World

Wow, we’re on top of the world! Look at all of those sights we could have seen!

NY Transit Museum Subway CarOriginal photo by Kevin Case

Public transit in NYC is awesome. Maybe not 100% of the time if you’re commuting or what have you, but it’s generally easy to get where you want to go and transparent to visitors which makes it a million times better than the system in Seattle, which I have to assume was set up and is administered by people who actively hate people who take public transit. At the Transit Museum,  I was going to learn their secrets and bring them back home, like a hero.

Greenwood CemeteryOriginal photo by Jason Eppink

Inside the Greenwood Cemetery is a statue that originally stood at City Hall, was moved to Queens, and was eventually banished to the cemetery for being too ugly and offensive. A statue with a mostly nude man stomping on mermaids called The Triumph of Civic Virtue. A statue that Anthony “Dick Pic” Weiner wanted to try and sell on Craigslist. That’s right, that guy was offended by this statue. I wanted to bear witness to it in person.

OMG Amy PoehlerOriginal photo by Hard Seat Sleeper

Oh wow, we got tickets to Asssscat 3000 and Amy Poehler was there! She’s so funny and awesome! I’m so glad I was able to go instead of spending the night shivering and sweating in a hotel room!

Ghostbusters BuildingOriginal photo by Charlie Phillips

Oh wow, it’s the Ghostbusters building! And it’s still haunted by Slimer! Good thing we’re there and kitted out in ghost-fighting Viking gear!

MurricaOriginal photo by Josullivan.59

Amurrica! Statue of Liberty! I feel so patriotic in its presence, like I could haul around a ton of guns in public because that’s what patriots do! I definitely didn’t just take a peek at it in the distance before boarding the Staten Island Ferry and decide to turn around and go back to the hotel because “eh, I’ve seen it”. No way, it was totally inspiriring. Bonus: what it would have looked like if we went up into the crown if tickets hadn’t sold out months before I even thought to check!

Ghostbusters Statue of Liberty Head

 

 

 

All photos used under a creative commons remix  license, some non-commercial, some share-alike, with the exception of the last photo which is a screencap of Ghostbusters II and used entirely without permission. Amy Poehler also appears without her knowledge or permission.

NY State Museum in Albany

ny-museum-sesame-street

ny-museum-steam

ny-museum-taxi

ny-museum-whale

america-full-of-unicorns

hooved-fox

ny-museum-opossumI want to get my hands on a reproduction copy of Icones animalum now.

bad-selfieI wanted to take a picture in front of this giant drawing of old-timey NY and then make it look like I was part of it, but then felt deep embarrassment over taking a selfie in a museum so I didn’t line it up properly and this is what we ended up with. I feel like I’m in the “Take On Me” video.

anit-fertility-symbol“Anti-Fertility Symbol” by Megan Cavanaugh. This would have been a delightful addition to my “Never Gonna Have a Baby” shower.

 

Albany’s Cultural Education building is jam-packed with public services: the NY State Archives, the NY State Library (one of the largest libraries in the world!), and the NY State Museum. I only had time to check out the NY State Museum, and even that was very limited as I needed to hoof it back to the hotel and make myself a presentable wedding guest, so I was only able to see one of their (enormous) floors. I was able to learn a bit about the history of New York City as well as some of the history of Albany and New York State, see some of the creatures of the nearby Adirondack mountains, check out their impressive mineral collection, and see the “Best of SUNY” art exhibit. My only complaint is that it’s not laid out very well. Things seem to be jammed in where there’s physical space instead of where they belong: natural history is mixed in with urban history, their 9/11 stuff is split between the NYC area and the Adirondack Wilderness area, and it makes the museum even more difficult to navigate when it’s already a labyrinth. I’d also like for monitors placed so there’s easy access of information without obscuring the exhibit itself, but that’s just nitpicking. It’s free (donations accepted and recommended — at $5 per person, it’s still a bargain) and definitely worth checking out if you’re in Albany, but not necessarily worth going out of your way to visit.

 

 

Spotted on the Roadside: A Colossal Clog in Albany, NY

Albany is proud of their Dutch heritage, and in 2012, installed ten huge clogs (six at a whopping seven feet long, four at three feet long) throughout the city as part of the “Stand in the Soles of Albany” program. This clog, however, might have gone rogue, as all of the clog installations were supposed to be removed in May 2013, and this bears out as I didn’t see any other clogs on my wanderings through the city, and I definitely visited some of the other  installation locations.  If they need ideas for future clog uses, I’d like to see them hollowed out and turned into clog cars for a clog parade where they could clog along, clogging traffic. Clog.

Spotted on Lodge St in Albany, NY

“Well, I’m from Utica and I’ve never heard anyone use the phrase ‘steamed hams’ before.” “Oh not in Utica, no! It’s more of an Albany expression.”

While Jason was off doing his groomsman duties over the course of the couple of days we were in Albany, I decided to take take the opportunity to wander around and see what there was to see. More than once I found myself thinking “Dude, where is everybody?” It’s not that peculiar that a state capitol is no longer a center of commerce, but aside from a few cars on the road and the occasional other pedestrian, it felt absolutely deserted. I’ve heard that when school is in session, it’s more lively, but I can’t speak to that: all I know is that when our cab arrived at midnight and everything was closed, it made me feel like I was in a suburb, not a city.

In 2013, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine determined Albany was the 7th most unfriendly city in the country (the 13th most unfriendly in the world!). Aside from an unpleasant encounter with a cab driver (which was admittedly just as much my fault as his), I have to say that I just don’t see it. Everyone that I spoke with was perfectly nice, and I didn’t solely interact with people in hospitality–so either the title shook the natives to their core and they’ve made a strong effort to change how they’re perceived, or the list is mostly a bullshit excuse to put up a slide show for ad revenue. I’m thinking the latter is more likely. Continue reading

Spotted on the Roadside: Nipper the Giant Dog in Albany, NY

Unquestionably the cutest part of the Albany skyline, Nipper the RCA dog is perched on what used to be the tallest building in Albany, thus requiring him to have an aircraft beacon attached to his ear (now a light fixture). Weighing in at four tons, Nipper looms over the street, listening for the sound of his master’s voice. Let’s hope an ionic disturbance doesn’t bring him to life, though: the real Nipper was named after his tendency to nip the backs of visitors’ legs.

Spotted on Broadway in Albany, NY.

Spotted on the Roadside: You Mean Like That Bozo, Bonko the Clown?

Late for the Interurban

JP Patches Statue

JP Patches Detail

Gertrude Statue

JP Patches was a beloved clown who hosted a local Seattle television show for children for  over twenty years. Having grown up in Wisconsin, I spent my mornings with Bozo the Clown instead, so I don’t really have a point of reference for JP Patches, save that he was said to be the inspiration for Krusty the Clown. Any clown even remotely associated with Krusty is OK in my book. Except Gertrude. I don’t know if she was as terrifying in the show as she is on this statue, but holy nightmare fuel!

Spotted on 34th St in Seattle, WA.