07 July 2009

what i did on my summer vacation pt 2: EDINBURGH days 1 and a half, or, "I hope you die, Sir Walter Scott. AGAIN."

FIRST! If you are interested in all the yummy food I consumed whilst on vacation, head over to poshdeluxe.com to see tons of pictures/read insightful commentary that consists of "OMG YOU GUYS THIS WAS SO GOOD".

Okay, kids, now we get into the deep, dark underbelly of My Summer Vacation: Scotland.

Here are some facts I knew about Scotland, prior to ever actually visiting it:

1) All Scottish men are tall, ginger-bearded lumberjacks with accents that make me swoon
2) All Scottish men like me

Hey, guess what? That's TOTALLY TRUE, except I should have added Fact Number 3: All of these tall, ginger-bearded lumberjack Scottish men have defected to America. Cause they sure as hell weren't in Scotland.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Where we left off, I was enjoying a quiet night in with my best girls. Tuesday morning dawned bright and early - Sarah was off to a new job, and Courtney and I were off to Edinburgh!!! Except Courtney left her passport at Sarah's house. Oh noes! But she went back and got it and after a bit of time waiting alone on a train platform with lots of luggage, we were off to Edinburgh!

You guys, I was RLY excited for Scotland. What's not to love? Whiskey! Great scenery! Whiskey! SCOTTISH GINGER BEARDED LUMBERJACKS!

Our train ride to Edinburgh was, for the most part, uneventful, apart from two of our train companions. We shared the first half of the journey with a man who worked in advertising. We know this, because he was on his phone. THE ENTIRE TIME. He was really into "bigging up the package" which I think is actually an advertising term and not a means of getting into our pants. At least I hope so. And then, for the second part of the journey, we sat across from a young gentleman who spent his entire time drinking a 40 oz Budweiser (this was at about 10 am) and poring over, with great concentration, the latest issue of NUTS magazine.

I will not link you to NUTS magazine. Google it if you are so inclined.

Upon landing in Edinburgh, we took a cab to our guest house, which was delightful. Well, it was delightful once Courtney and I figured out how to work the shower, which I am ashamed to admit took us about a day. That's okay! I'd need those cold showers for all those hot Scottish lumberjacks I was going to meet, right?

The first thing we saw when we crossed the North Bridge and walked down Prices Street was this:

Oh, yeah, it looks AWESOME, doesn't it? All gothic and tragic, like something Heathcliff might spend time in, figuring out the next way to be completely mental and stalkerish. Friends, let me give you some advice, and I caution you to heed this advice, unlike that time you dated that boy that I told you was no good for you: DO NOT GO TO THIS PLACE.

This is the Sir Walter Scott monument. Sir Walter Scott, you may know, was a famous Scottish author (he wrote Rob Roy. And Ivanhoe.) who was born in Edinburgh. You may not know, as Courtney and I did not, that Sir Walter Scott also: discovered penicillin, invented the English language, declared peace in the Middle East, was present at the birth of Jesus Christ and did backing vocals for Michael Jackson on both Thriller and Bad. Seriously. Just ask anyone in the town of Edinburgh, provided you can find one who's not actually an American tourist (more on that later). The man basically is more accomplished than Sarah Palin AND Spencer Pratt, TOGETHER.

To honor the pride of Edinburgh, some sadistic bastard designed the Sir Walter Scott monument, which boasts amazing views of Edinburgh in just "287 steps!"

Yeah. They neglect to tell you that THESE are the steps:

Spiral staircase, in the dark (I took that on the highest flash setting I had), no handrail (because it can't afford the 3 inches of space to have one). 287 steps' worth. I had to climb sideways up the staircase because my feet - which, at a size 7.5 aren't petite but certainly aren't WNBA-worthy - couldn't fit on the stairs. The staircase is only wide enough for one medium-sized person, which meant that, if you were climbing up and encountered someone climbing down, you had to back out, step by agonzing step, in the dark, to the nearest landing so that they could pass you.

Did I mention I'm claustrophobic?

Needless to say, Courtney and I bitched the entire way up the damn thing. The views were amazing, but when we finally got to the top, we were disappointed that the theme from Rocky was not playing to herald our accomplishment. So we sang it ourselves. Blame the altitude.

Also while at the top, which is a very small balcony which can fit about 5 adults, we ran into a slight problem. Small balcony, already crowded with about six people shoulder-to-shoulder. Courtney and I decided to brave our way down, only to find, spilling from the staircase, a herd of Japanese tourists. They just kept coming, like a clown car that is incredibly reliable and won't break down often. There was nowhere to go until they got out of the staircase and I really thought - for at least a good two minutes - that someone was going to end up being pitched off the balcony. I just hoped the impalement on the gothic spires would be merciful.

But, since we didn't die, I guess I'm feeling magnanimous enough about The Momument Of Death to show you some of the views:

(they are in the middle of installing a tram system in Edinburgh - in the last photo you can see them tearing up Princes Street to the right)

Yes, yes. It's very pretty. VERY PRETTY AND DEADLY.

The rest of the first day, we mainly spent rocking ourselves, slowly curled up in the fetal position, moaning WHY over and over again. As you do. We also found out about a really great, cheap vacation we could take:

Also, a random, if entirely misplaced, reminder of home:

I don't think they know who Daniel Johnston is.

The next day, we met up with Courtney's friend Rachel for more hijinks and fun! We went to a castle!!! THERE WAS WHISKEY THERE.

Look! Here is a castle!! Courtney and I decided that we would make shit soldiers in the Olden Days, cause there's no way we'd scale that cliff. (if you are wondering, army recruiters, we'd make shit soldiers now cause we are lazy, feckless, question authority and are not all that fussed about patriotism. And cause we like the gays.)

A tiny dog cemetery, for officers' doggies!

(thank you, helpful stranger, who provided scale for this picture)

I should point out, by the way, that the helpful stranger pictured above was American. As was 99.9999% of every other person I met in Edinburgh. I met one - ONE! - person who actually was from the city - the rest either moved there or were tourists. I even saw someone wearing a University of Houston hat! (and, yes, I thought about shooting him the UH signal, which is conveniently also the Shocker, but I didn't know how popular the Shocker was in Edinburgh, and whether I'd get arrested for it.)

I don't mean to get all Common People on you, and class tourism isn't my thing, but I do like to get a sense of the city I'm visiting. I want to know where people live, where they work, where they play, and eat, and make trouble and fall in love. I want to know how the city lives. Edinburgh's probably the prettiest city I've ever been to, but in the end, I felt like I was spending time in a postcard, not a place.

But nevermind those emos, because look what the postcard had:

I feel like the Kool-Aid man - OH YEAHHH. Although, wanna know something funny about Scotland? They're confused about booze. Or, maybe we are, since they make it. But it seems like they call whiskey "scotch" and scotch "whiskey." In other words, distilled, single-malt grain alcohol, which I would call scotch, they consider whiskey. But good ol' Tennessee rye, they call scotch. It's the alcohol equivalent of UK's public school vs. private school (which, no matter how many times people explain it to me, WILL NEVER MAKE SENSE). But I tell you, it is a delicious quandry!

Oh, by the way, if ever you find yourself in Edinburgh, and you wisely refrain from climbing Sir Walter Scott's Monument Of Pain, you can get just as good views of Edinburgh from the castle, which contains ABSOLUTELY NO CLIMBING (apart from one hill, but it's very spacious):

After our castle tour (I saw Scotland's Crown Jewels! But they didn't let us take photos of that), Courtney and I said goodbye to our lovely host Rachel and went on to AN EVENING OF TERROR AND DOGGIES. But that shall be saved for next time . . .

28 June 2009

what i did on my summer vacation, pt 1: we can sleep when we're dead

Having just returned from two weeks in the UK, where the daily highs might have struggled up to about 73 degrees F, and more often dipped low enough to warrent a jacket and my new scarf that has people doin' it on it, returning to Texas and 106 degree days has not been pleasant. I already miss the people and public transpo and easy availability of Magners and sandwiches from shops; I don't need to mourn the weather as well. Get it together, Texas; this is ridiculous.

Guys!!! I was just in the UK with my heterosexual life partner, Courtney! For two weeks! It was the best vacay evs! Or at least the best vacay this year, which still counts for a lot in my book. Let me tell you ALL ABOUT IT (edited for content) using lots of abbreviated words in capital letters to properly convey my excitement! LET'S GET STARTED, SHALL WE?

Right, so, before I talk about actually going overseas, I need to pretend that I got to Courtney's house earlier than I did (which was approx. 10 minutes before we left for the airport) so that I can talk about Tiny House, which is the house she just bought. Last time I saw Tiny House, I forgot my camera, so here you go - pictures of Tiny House!

I know; it's so fucking awesome it makes me want to puke. COURTNEY. What are you doing working at a job helping other people with their life choices and shit? You should be DECORATING MY HOUSE.

Okay, anyway, MOVING ON.

As I said, I got to Courtney's at about ten minutes before we were to leave for the airport, which was just enough time to get mocked for my heavy suitcase and my umbrella snd see Courtney's new hot neighbor. Why are all my neighbors old dudes with poodles? Anyway, then it was off to the airport!

The flight to London was a bit disorienting. First, I unwillingly participated in a Campaign of Terror that Courtney orchestrated against some poor, innocent family who just wanted to sit together (this is a joke - I willingly participated in it, of course) and then I had to sit through Last Chance Harvey. Um, has anyone ever actually WATCHED that movie from start to finish? It's not sweet and romantic and uplifting! Dustin Hoffman stalks poor gigantic Emma Thompson all around London for like three days! Moping the ENTIRE FUCKING TIME. I told Courtney that it was a good thing airlines only used plastic utensils now, because if I had a knife right then, I'd have started self-harming.

Then, while innocently trying to get some sleep (there's nothing I hate more than taking sleeping pills and then NOT getting to sleep, so that you hover in this semi-conscious fugue state the entire time, in which you are like 99% sure that you're carrying on a rational, intelligent conversation with a three-legged purple-spotted horned beast who has the same face as your fifth grade gym teacher, but you can't remember what the conversation is about), I kept being awoken by the second film of the evening, Speed Racer. Dude. One does not need to see quite so many flashing lights (not to mention John Goodman and a monkey) behind one's eyeballs while trying in vain to sleep. What the hell, American Airlines? Couldn't you have at least shown a Soderbergh film? He hates color.

But! We arrived in London AND my luggage didn't get lost AND I didn't have to try to sleep for 4 hours on a bench in baggage claim waiting for my friend to get there because I couldn't catch my original flight and had to sprint across JFK with no posessions to try to hop another one, like the LAST TIME I went to England, so things were looking up!! As we were walking through the duty free shop at Heathrow (they are some clever bitches, those guys) on our way our of our terminal, Courtney and I remarked how much we'd both wanted, just once, to be greeted with a sign upon our arrival. And then we caught sight of a just-returned-from-Turkey Sarah, and her hand:

Aw, Sarah, thanks!!!

Sarah was the hostess with the mostest this trip; she and her parents graciously put us up in their wonderful house and let us generally annoy the crap out of them, for which I can only say thank you (later followed with actually saying thank you with a gift, or my mother would disown me). Plus, dig the views from my window!

There are worse sites to greet in a morning, I'm just sayin'.

Immediately upon arrival to Sarah's, I insisted we go down to the shop at the end of her lane. This shop is kinda like my second home - it's where I get my cans of Magners and my fizzy colas and an explaination as to why girls can't eat Yorkies and, more importantly, where I can consume myself. In sandwich form.

Oh, yeah, I have a sandwich named after me, folks:

Sausage, cheese and mushroom on a buttered baguette. It is named after me because I invented it (as much as it can be called inventing to say, "could I have . . . cheese on this?" which means I have also invented practically every other food item I have consumed in my 29 years of life, as I am a girl who will put cheese on everything. Except apple pie. What IS that?). The lady at the shop who makes the sandwiches questioned why ANYONE would put cheese on a perfectly normal sausage and mushroom breakfast sandwich, and then eat it for lunch, but I am here to ask: why would anyone NOT do that? Anyway, after a bit of mild mocking, she agreed the sandwich should be named after me. SO. If you are ever in a town called St Albans, call me, and I will tell you where to order an Erin. (no jokes about prostitution, plz.)

After consuming myself in sandwich form, Courtney and I washed the travel grime off of us and headed into town for a wander.

The wander turned, as these things are apt to do with Sarah and Courtney around, into shopping (I got a black sequined vest from H&M. I know, you want to touch me.), which then turned, as things are apt to do when I'm around, into drinking. Thank you, good ol' Slug and Lettuce, and your 3 pound cocktails on Fridays.

(I am convinced that a Pimm's Cup is actually good for you. Look at all that fresh fruit and veg!)

Sarah's bestie Sha and her boyfriend Russ met up with us, and it was off to yummy dinner at Bar Meze! Only I have promised Posh Sarah that I will write up about all the yummy food I ate for poshdeluxe.com, so YOU GUYS WILL JUST HAVE TO WAIT. But to tide you over, here are photos:

(apart from having the exact same hair, sha and russ also drink in unison. it is disconcertingly adorable.)

you know all those "scientific" studies that say people are attracted to symmetrical features? i am attracted to people who look like they're mated with a bottle of wine.

OKAY OKAY, I snuck one food picture in. I just like how it looks like something Dexter would enjoy eating.

It was the perfect way to spend our first evening in England - good food, good friends, lots of laughs (and, randomly, birthdays) and, eventually, the sweet siren song of a soft bed, with the windows open and the sound of quiet peace drifting in.

Of course, the next day, things would not end so peacefully.

The day started out like any other good Saturday - waking up, taking a shower, getting dressed, stealing a scone from Sarah's kitchen (except her mom had baked those to have someone over for tea, so I felt really bad about it even as I was OM NOM NOMMING its cheese and chive deliciousness), and then heading off for MOAR SHOPPING.

(I sometimes wonder what would happen if I was lucky enough to live near Cat and Sarah and Courtney, my Friends Who Shop. I'd be happier but so much more poverty-stricken than I already am. On the other hand, I'd have an outfit for every day of the decade.)

Sarah took us to a MALL. An honest-to-God, actual mall! Well, sort of. I mean, it was as mall-like as England could shoot for, which meant that it was completely randomly laid out, and there was a Marks and Spencer in the middle of it, and it didn't seem to make much in the way of sense, but there was a parking garage! And cheesy music piped in! And a Ben and Jerry's vending machine! All it was missing was a Contempo Casual and more camel toe.

Shopping done, wallets depleted of funds, we returned home to offload our purchases and change for a peaceful, calm night out in Shoreditch. Which turned, as these things tend to do, into mild drunken debauchery and me making a boy cry. SCORE.

First of all, we had to leg it to the train, which left us charmingly sweaty and gross, with only my litre of Magners to rehydrate us on the journey. Then we sort of got . . . lost. Well, no, that's not a fair or accurate statement. I knew right where we were! We were in Shoreditch, in Mile End. I just wasn't sure where we were going . . . exactly. Along the way to Rough Trade East (our eventual destination), we were: leered at by a carful of absolutely CHARMING chavs, videotaped by a seemingly homeless man, beseeched to purchase the fugliest purse I have ever laid eyes on (for just 5 pounds!), and stopped routinely and asked for directions to other places. Which, I might add, we were quite good at giving because I KNOW WHERE I AM JUST NOT WHERE I'M GOING. Which could probably be said of every aspect of my life.

But finally, we made it to our destination, and the drinking began in earnest. can I just say? It wasn't mine and Sarah's faults. We'd barely eaten lunch (half a sandwich from M&S) and this was all we'd eaten for dinner:

And the rest of it ended up lost somewhere in all of this:

which was merely the start of the evening and does not take into account the three bottles of wine, nor the gin. Nor the whiskey.

Whilst at Rough Trade, I met some of Courtney's english friends! They were all in a big group and I only remember, like, 4 of their names, but HELLO FRIENDS!!!!!! Hi!

After we'd sat around Rough Trade some, it was on to 93 ft East, just a block away, to meet up with one of my favorite London people, Kaisa!! HI KAISA!!

Hi! Hi Kaisa! Yes, I know she doesn't look nearly as thrilled as I do, but trust me, for Kaisa, she's practically doing backflips. She's cool as cucumber, that one. (Also, I *wish* I would stop making that face in pictures. Or, you know, in life.)

The band we had been planning on seeing that evening were the Gin Riots, who were featured a few posts down, one of our SxSW finds. But, alas, they cancelled because the lead singer had laryngitis (so they claim!), and instead we just sat and caught up and drank more. Also, during this time, one of the other bands from the evening tried to befriend us. With their tongues. As you do. They were 12, so I suppose that was my chance to be a cougar!! Alas.

Kaisa suggested we blow that popsicle stand for some dancing, an idea to which I was only too happy to agree. So she took us to good ol' Feeling Gloomy, a club night in North London.

Let me explain something about Feeling Gloomy. If you have ever thought to yourself, "Self, what I could really go for, to get the party started, is The Smiths" then, friend, Feeling Gloomy is the club night for you! And, as it happens, I think that to myself all the time, so I think I could be quite happy there on a regular basis. (apart from it all, though, I don't think I've ever been anywhere that such a loud cheer went up during the first opening strains of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now.")

Some things to note about Feeling Gloomy:

1) one of the DJs was an unwarrented prick to me, just cause I knew someone who knew someone who he used to date at one point, sometime in the past. I wouldn't have cared, EXCEPT that he had a really nice coat on, and I wanted to ask him where he'd bought it.
2) Some people were dressed like this:

3) I made lovely, whiskey-fueled bonds with strangers. Like this boy! And the blonde girl!

4) I met the elusive Becs, Kaisa's American friend who ALWAYS ends up at the same shows as me at sxsw, but we've NEVER BEFORE MET.
5) I made a boy cry by mocking his Doors tribute band. But come on, wouldn't you?

Saturday night ended in a drunken blur, with dancing and girl-crushing and a few ill-advised make-out sessions with strangers. So, basically, it ended like most Saturday nights. ONLY IN ENGLAND.

However, what really did me in was the hangover the next morning. Um, I guess cider+beer+wine+gin+whiskey is not the world's best combo? I have never been so hungover IN MY LIFE. And you guys, not to brag or anything, but I am a pretty seasoned drinker. I mean, I am southern, and my family is Irish, and I drink to forget my problems, so it's not like I haven't been around the block a time or two with Ol' Mister Hangover. But holy jeez, never like this.

It would have been okay - not great, but tolerable - if I were at home, where the proper hangover cure (2 mimosas + 3 tylenol + a hot shower + breakfast tacos + a nap) is always at hand, but I was in a foreign land! And I had plans! So I got up, only an hour or two later than I'd hoped, attempted not to wake the household with my moaning or stumbling while I attempted to navigate the bathtub (too weak to stand, and I thought dizziness + shower might cause a head injury which I would at first laugh off and then later die from (RIP Billy Mays)). Plus, I was going to spend the day with my friend Pete, and I wasn't missing that for a stupid hangover, even if it was a hangover which threatened to CONSUME MY SOUL.

Dude, though, an hour and a half on trains, hungover? NOT RECOMMENDED.

Pete, bless him, took pity on me and didn't make me do anything strenuous, or which required me to form much in the way of sentences or complex thoughts. He took me to Box Hill, which overlooks some of the towns in Surrey. YOU GUYS IT IS SO PRETTY. Check it:

Can you believe that people LIVE here and can see this basically whenever they want? I can't believe I KNOW someone who lives here and can see this whenever he wants! If I lived near Box Hill, you could not get me to do anything productive, ever. I would just sit on the hill all day, dreaming and pondering and stretching out in the sun for a nap, like a cat. I would not do things like work, certainly, and I would tell all my friends that if they wanted to hang out with me, they'd have to come up to my hill. And you know what? I think they'd be cool with that.

Then we went on a walk through bits of the woods, and came across discoveries, like this awesome tree and this even more awesome tombstone:

If I were to be buried (which I sincerely hope I will not be), I am not sure I'd like to be buried head down. How can you protect yourself against SUPRIZE BUTTSECKS that way? Backs to the core, gentlemen!

After I had run out of exclamatory words about the scenery (which I mostly said in my head, cause, again: hungover), we went to dinner, which will of course be discussed in more detail at poshdeluxe. However, I will say that at this dinner, I was questioned by the waiter as to whether I was a food critic, because I was taking photos of my food:

Waiter: "I was just wondering, are you a food critic?"
Me: "No, I am just taking photos of all the food I eat."
Waiter: "Why?"
Me: "So I can write about it."
Waiter: "As a . . . food critic?"

Eventually, Pete explained to the confused waiter that I was American, at which point, our waiter nodded knowingly, as if that explained EVERYTHING. Hmph.

By this point, I was starting to feel mildly better, although still not at all recovered, so I was a little grateful that it was a Sunday night and we couldn't get up to too much trouble with alcohol. Still, I threatened to pass out on Pete's couch in the middle of conversation at least three times, something which I bet he wishes I'd gone through with when I was making him watch Bonnie Tyler's Eighties Power Hour on MTV later in the evening. (You cannot argue with Bonnie Tyler, though! Primarily because she will CUT YOU SOON AS LOOK AT YOU.)

The next day was Monday, and I returned back to Sarah's, where we took an ambling stroll around the fields and parks next to her home. We were menaced by sheep!

Oh, I know they LOOK cute and fluffy, but a Mama Sheep stared us down for like ten minutes, before Sarah and I calmly but quickly made our way out of the field. Dude, sheep are scary mofos.

You know who's not scary, though? Bernard, the best doggy of casual acquaintance that I've ever met!

Look how pretty and well-behaved he is! He sat perfectly still (and regally!) for a picture, before returning to his previous task of fetching sticks.

The parks and flowers around Sarah's house were so gorgeous and peaceful, and I was regretting leaving them at all. Maybe I could split my time between Box Hill and St Albans' lakes.

After our stroll, we met up with Sarah's big sister Becky (who is the same age as me, which doesn't make her that much older than Sarah) and her daughter Ellis-Rose and, later, Courtney for nibbly bits from Sainsburys, Big Brother UK and talking about boys! It was one of my favorite parts of the trip, actually, just sitting there gossiping about life, eating garlic bread and chips and other crap food, and just relaxing in the company of funny, awesome ladies. The perfect end to the first part of our trip!

Section 2 of the trip, in which we visit a Scottish town in which no Scottish person lives, plus the unending ire for Sir Walter Scott, next time. See you then!

04 June 2009

Top Ten Things I'm Going To Do On My Summer Vacation

AAH!! Summer vacation (England and Scotland) is in 7.5 days!! THAT IS NOT EVEN ENOUGH TIME FOR THE BEATLES TO LOVE ME CORRECTLY.

The week before a vacation is always the most stressful time for me, personally. On the one hand, I AM READY FOR MY VACATION!! GIMME MY VACATION ALREADY! On the other hand, I have tons of work to finish and laundry to sort out and cat food to make in bulk and a house to clean and trying to figure out whether bringing 8 pairs of shoes for a 13 day trip is a bit ridiculous. (Definitely not! I have to bring the coral sandals!)

When vacation stress overwhelms me, it's good to stop, breathe, and list things I can't wait to do. But who can pick just ten things? So here are just ten off the top of my head!

1) See blog contributors Sarah and Anne!!! Sarah's nicely offered the use of her house to Courtney and I, which she will start to regret when we miss the last train from King's Cross station and have to sit on the platform for hours at 4 am, just us and the rats. Just like last time.

2) SAUSAGE AND MUSHROOM SANDWICH!!! So, Sarah's got a little shop just down the road from her (awesome) house, and they serve sandwiches there. But not just any sandwiches! Sausage, mushroom and cheese sandwiches! They're flippin' delicious, folks, and will be the first thing I consume upon arrival.

3) MAGNERS. I may not drink anything that isn't Magners for the entire two weeks.

4) Renting a car and driving with Courtney through Scotland, on a search for Scotland's Most Accessible Whiskey Distillery. If you are at all interested in any of my worldly goods, I would recommend that you put in the request now, cause it's fair bet we're never getting back. Um, the Loch Ness Monster doesn't eat tourists, right? Even if they drive their car into the lake?

5) Apart from Accessible Whiskey Distilleries (that is actually how the place is billed), Scotland is also famed for: gorgeous scenery, delicious fruits of the forest and bearded men what look like lumberjacks. Even if I manage to make it out alive, I might not come back. (Note: It also is home to Gretna Green, which is still used by people looking to elope quickly, just like in Pride and Prejudice!)

6) Gigs! So far, I think we're going to . . . four? Five? SxSW buddies The Gin Riots, Jamie T in Scotland (most noteworthy for being the baffled yet gracious recipient of a basket of fries I didn't want to eat, thus thrusting them at him on the streets of Austin during SxSW 2007. They were really good fries, too. Truffle oil.), a comedy gig featuring the adorable and acerbic Simon Amstell, amongst others, and a gig/party with A Bunch Of People Who Are Not Pete Doherty, and also Pete Doherty. And maybe also a festival! Who knows?

7) GORDON RAMSEY. Okay, well, not him, personally, but Courtney and I are eating at one of his restaurants!!! I hope he's there and comes out to call me a fucking donkey cause I can't do the pea risotto correctly. I HOPE I HOPE I HOPE.

8) The weather. Oh, what's that, weather.com? Highs in the upper 60s/low 70s? (Compared to here, where the lows are in the mid-70s)? WHAT WHAT. If summer weather was like that here, I'd never stay indoors.

9) Seeing all my friends! By virtue of them being in England, and me being here, I don't get to see my across-the-pond friends nearly as often as I would like. I can't wait to experience that little feeling I get deep in my chest when I'm around them, like the last tumbler falling into place on a lock. Whether it's getting legless and wandering the streets without a clue as to our direction, or shopping and mocking the latest hipster fashions, quiet nights in front of the telly while I passionately argue the artistic merit of ASBO Teen To Beauty Queen or adventures that may wind up plastering our faces on the cover of the tabloids, the quality time I spend with the people I love is the best part.

10) Having "Vacation Brain" for a few weeks, where everything around me is a tiny miracle - watching leaves blow across a street, or the glint of sun against a building's windows; the sound of laughter from a stranger, the rise of hills and twists of roads, all building this whole new world just waiting for me to discover it and make it my own. Those fleeting moments are worth all the stress in the world.

03 June 2009

Alien vs. Predator vs. Alien vs. Predator

Yes, yes, I know, I know. Let's skip the part where I say something about how long it's been since I've written in this blog, and then offer up excuses, and then make a lame joke about how it won't happen again, only for it to then happen again like a week later. Let us instead fast-forward straight into content! Or what content I can conjure being OMG YOU GUYS SO STRESSED AND BUSY BLAH BLAH BLAH PROCRASTINATION CAKES.

The long and gentle spring that Mother Nature somehow saw fit to bless Texas with this year is over now, and the thick soup of Southern air and melting tar from a scorching sun have come on with a vengeance to remind me yet again to rethink my migratory patterns. (Why can't I get any company to sponsor a long journey North in the summer months? Maybe as part of a cultural exchange?) The only activities for which I can summon any energy at all are sendentary ones - reading countless trashy summer novels interspersed with Fitgerald and Eudora Welty (two novelists best suited for long summer days), watching So You Think You Can Dance from the laziness of my couch, moaning about my troubled and ill-fated life to Sven, the Swedish pool boy, as he delicately fans me with palm fronds. And watching movies, of course.

The only two things about summer that I love are vacations and the movie schedule. The vacation is rapidly approaching and stressing me out, so let's switch attentions to summer movies! Some of these I have seen in the theatre lately, some I watched at home (read: knew they'd be crap and refused to pay for them when they came out), but they're all the latest I've seen (for the first time. endless rewatchings of Step Up 2:The Streets do not count).


You guys. YOU GUYS. Man, this movie sucked. Like . . . REALLY sucked. And before you ask, no, I am not a comic book nerd. I don't even like comic books. And I don't care how faithful an adaptation a comic book movie is. All I want from a comic book movie is Shit Blowing Up, and maybe some awesome ninja skillz. And I guess Wolverine had that, but it also had:

1) terrible fight choreography. How many times must we watch Wolverine and Sabretooth yell ARGH at each other and then run at one another from across a distance (filmed from above, always)? Why not a fight where someone gets punched in the balls? There's a movie I'd like to see.

2) An incomprehensible plot. Why is Wolverine angry? I don't know, but he seems to be, a lot. Why is there A Random Elderly Couple whose sole purpose is to put clothes on Hugh Jackman's naked body, thereby negating the first interesting thing to happen in this shitty movie? Why is Liev Schreiber so mad? Is it because the last time he and Hugh were in a movie together, it was Kate & Leopold, which somehow becomes A BETTER MOVIE just by comparison to this? (note: I imdb'd Liev just to ensure that it was him in Kate & Leopold, and not Liam Neeson - long story, I get them confused sometimes - and realized he was in all three Scream movies. Well, not so much "realized" as "grudgingly remembered." ALSO from his imdb credits, I've realized that Liev Schreiber has not been in one movie I like. Not one! Which is weird, cause prior to this, I always really liked him. I must have been thinking of Liam Neeson.)

3) EGREGIOUS MISUSE OF TIM RIGGINS AND RYAN REYNOLDS. You know what would have made this movie awesome? If it had been called Tim Riggins: The Tim Riggins Story, starring Tim Riggins' Abs and Also Ryan Reynolds.

4) Adamantium. I am so fucking sick of adamantium after watching this movie, and not two months earlier, I was semi-drunkenly lobbying my friends to agree with my theory that adamantium was the world's best adjective. (My friends, being comic book nerds, disagreed on the basis that adamantium is actually a noun. However, I think the word is powerful enough to swing both ways.) How can Wolverine be killed by adamantium bullets? You don't kill humans with flesh bullets.


Oh, hey? You know what DIDN'T SUCK? STAR TREK OMG. I am not a fan of Star Trek, the series(es), (I had to ask "which one does William Shatner play?" and kept referring to Spock as Dr. Spock, who wrote books about child-rearing and did not, far as I can tell, have Zachary Quinto's eyebrows) but you know what I am a fan of? Clever storytelling, compelling acting, kick-ass action sequences and Simon Pegg. So this movie TOTALLY DELIVERED! I really enjoyed the way they've set up the new franchise, and the movie wove a layered story and complex characterizations through some pretty awesome action sequences/fight scenes, really funny and poignant moments, and Winona Ryder in a wig. A+, I say.


BFF and frequent blog commenter Meredith has started an AMAZING horror movie blog where, amongst other things, she reviews new releases. So on we hied to the Friday opening night of Sam Raimi's newest movie, Drag Me To Hell. Meredith's the expert, so go read her blog for an actual review, but my own thought process went something like this:


In English? GO SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW. It was so good; it completely delivered on everything it set up, it did not fall back on any sort of "safe" territory, and it was completely gruesome and funny and schlocky and horrifying and AMAZING. I'm not saying I like it better than the Evil Dead trilogy, but by the time I saw the Evil Dead trilogy, it was already an Established Cool Thing, which means that there were 10000 references to it, in-jokes, etc. That sort of divorces you from the immediacy of the thrills (plus, I think Drag Me To Hell is scarier. Evil Dead is more Awesomely Badass and Totally Wrong, but DMtH is scarier.); for me the ED trilogy is more a Cult Phenomenon That Can Be Scary, rather than A Scary Movie That Is A Cult Phenomenon. If you understand the difference?

What I loved best about Drag Me To Hell, apart from the awesome set direction in the lead character's house, was that Sam Raimi never fell back on the "It was just her imagination" horror film trope. The reason modern-day slasher flicks don't do much for me is that they are 90% fake-outs and 10% actual scares, which means that by the time the actual scares come around, I'm so over it. DMTH is 100% actual scares. If there is a funny noise coming from behind the door, it is because A DEMON IS WAITING BEHIND THE DOOR AND HE WANTS TO EAT YOUR SOUL. Not because the wind has blown through the curtains in an offbeat way. It was IMMENSE.

Know what is not so immense?

He's Just Not That Into You

LORD. The other night I decided to watch this movie (which I totally legally purchased, I swear, officer), because it has approximately 62% of Hollywood's entire acting force in it. And guess what? Imagine ALL of the bad movies those actors have ever been in (I have helpfully listed some below) and then combine them. AND THEN MULTIPLY BY A FACTOR OF GLITTER, STARRING MARIAH CAREY. And you have this shitty, shitty movie.

Here are things I have learned from watching this movie:

1) I am a lady. This means that I am a prudish*, stalking freak of nature who is obsessed either with Getting Married, Having A Baby or my MySpace Profile. (if you are keeping track, in actuality I am obsessed with: baking the perfect cupcake, Jamesons, dance parties, indie music and winning the lottery, so that I can afford to jet-set around the world with multiple romantic intrigues.)

*unless I am a scheming tramp like ScarJo, in which case I lead poor men astray after yoga classes and wind up alone and sad, because I have reached the ripe ol' age of 25 without getting married.

2) Baltimore must have the lowest Standard Of Living costs of any city in the world. Bar managers have gorgous, spacious lofts! Copy Writers can afford tons of cute, designer clothes! Jennifer Connolly has enough disposable income to basically trash her gigantic turn-of-the-century townhome with adjoined courtyard in a fit of pique!

3) Men are liars and manipulators who are only after tail. Oh. HOW I WISH THIS WERE TRUE. Someone should write a movie called "He's So Into You, He's Going To Cry On The Second Date And Talk About How He's Never Felt So Connected To Anyone Before." It can star 98% of the men I've ever dated.

4) If you are psychotically stalkerish enough, TRUE LOVE WILL COME TO YOU. Jesus, it's like this movie's been penned by Edward Cullen. Note to Hollywood: we do not need stalking to become MORE glamorized. Hasn't Say Anything done enough? Must we continue on in this ridiculous notion that if someone says they are not interested, it actually just means THEY WANT TO BE PURSUED? They wanna know what love is, baby, and they want you to show them.

(That leads me to the excellent Psychotic Letters From Men, which amused/sickened me this weekend.)

More movie reviews (including Up! and Harry Potter!) as I see them. For now I'll try to remember that I do actually have a life, such as it is, and try to commit those events to words. Possibly more often than once a financial quarter.

Thoughts on any summer movies you've seen?

Movies In Which Actors In HJNTIY Starred Which Were A Bit Shit:

Ginnifer Goodwin - Mona Lisa Smile. Julia Roberts. Julia Stiles. Kirsten Dunst. First Wave Feminism. ENOUGH SAID.

Kevin Connolly - THE NOTEBOOK. Oh, okay, fine. He's also in The Ugly Truth, which is a romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl, and I hate her, so.

Scarlett Johansson - Remember when ScarJo was in Ghost World? Good times. Remember when she was in The Island, Scoop, The Prestige, Nanny Diaries and The Other Boleyn Girl? Not so good times.

Bradley Cooper - it pains me to say this, because I love Bradley Cooper like a fat girl loves cake, but: Failure To Launch.

Justin Long - I'd love to give him a pass, cause I love Justin Long, even though I'm a PC. But he was in Herbie: Fully Loaded AND voiced Alvin in the Alvin and the Chipmunks CGI atrocity.

Ben Affleck - Did you know his middle name was Geza? As for bad movies, see: pretty much his entire CV.

Jennifer Aniston - Where to start? From US Weekly to People to the Enquirer, Aniston has starred in one of the shittiest movies around, "Why Angelina Jolie Is A Scheming Slag Who Stole My Husband." Also: Picture Perfect.

Drew Barrymore - Oh, Drew. I can't hate you. You're too cute! and even your bad movies, like Poison Ivy, are amazing. But still, I'm not sure even you can defend Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Busy Phillips - did you know she was in this movie? I forgot, too. Her best movie is, of course, The Smokers, a movie notable for inspiring this review: ". . . 30 minutes into the film I found myself in great sympathy of those animals who gnaw their legs off to escape a trap." If you haven't seen it, you totally should, but invite me along. It is my favorite Bad Movie of all time.

music: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights

26 March 2009

"a backstreet lullaby"

SXSW Day 2 (Thursday) dawned bright and early. Too bright and too early, thanks to the giant window in my hotel room which, because I am lame, did not have the curtains closed. Actually, I didn't close the curtains once during the entire week, and while that may seem pretty dumb, I sort of think if someone has a telescope trained specifically on the window of 603 at the Embassy Suites, they can see whatever they'd like.

Armed with a mimosa-to-go, Courtney and I decided we wanted Actual Food. A few years ago at south by, I came up with a new rule: must consume one sit-down meal a day. Preferably with something green in it. Man cannot live by Roppolo's alone. So we ate at the fairly new (I think? Wasn't there last time I drove by it) tex-mex restaurant near 4th and Lavaca. I had ceviche! Which, as you may very well know, is a biological imperative to keep my body functioning at optimum levels of contentment.

After that, Courtney really wanted to go down to Trophy's, on So Co, to see The Gin Riots perform. So off we went!

A quick note on Trophy's: They had no cold dos equis. This is of course a travesty. I mean, it was okay, there was Shiner 100, but MY GOD, PEOPLE. This is Texas. WE HAVE A REP TO PROTECT. No dos equis is like a tex mex restaurant saying, "Sorry, we ran out of queso." It just shouldn't happen.

The band playing before The Gin Riots was a band called Here Holy Spain. I do not understand from whence their title springs. I have nothing at all to report on them, except that they SEEM nice, even if their look didn't exactly match their sound. It was sort of like watching the musical equivalent of drinking water. I don't mean that in a rude way. Water is important. They just did nothing for me.

But the next act, London's The Gin Riots, certainly did. You guys, this band is sheer fun. I'd heard their single, "The Polka" before, and it's a fun, dance-worthy tune. So it came as a nice treat that the rest of their set was just as fun and dance-worthy. Courtney, in fact, did dance. I mostly took photos. Can you blame me? These boys are pretty:

The lead singer, Guy, has a sort of Elvis Presley-meets-Mark Bolan swagger,which I realize is giving him far too much credit as it stands now. But he was a pleasure to watch. And the members of the band were a pleasure to speak to, which Courtney and I did after their set. The conversation quickly jumped from "nice to meet you; are you enjoying Austin?" to an in-depth discussion about the last cycle of America's Next Top Model and the rape of dead squirrels. I would like to say that this is an unusual turn of events, but to be honest, it happens to me a lot.

Here is a video of them performing "The Polka" which doesn't really doesn't show their stage presence very well, but is good quality:

After we left Trophy's, it was time for that most sacred of So Co traditions: cupcakes. I actually didn't go to Sugar Mama's that day (IKNOW, I KNOW. But don't worry, that's coming.) but rather just skipped across the road to Hey Cupcake:

Later on in the week, I was walking down Sixth street with a British person I had met, and we happened by the Hey Cupcake trailer, and he said "everything that's wrong with america can be summed up by the idea of a travelling cupcake caravan." That is a stone-cold true statement, if you replace the word "wrong" with the word "amaaaazing." I wish Sugar Mama's had a travelling cupcake caravan. And that it would travel to my office.

Sugar in our bellies, Courtney and I ventured onwards and upwards, back to downtown. The plan was to go to Latitude and see Frank Turner perform. Frank Turner is a British singer/songwriter, notable (for me, anyway) for having a song called "Thatcher Fucked The Kids." I enjoy songs which are both political AND about ol' Mags, so I knew I'd like Frank Turner. Except he didn't play the song! What the eff, Mr Turner?

Here is a photo of Frank Turner, and Courtney:

Why are you doing that with your hand, Frank Turner? You're not cute enough to get away with douchebaggery. Pretty much no one is.

At Latitude, before Frank Turner's set, Courtney and I happened to meet a SuperFan for a man who was playing guitar for Frank Turner. (Like many overseas solo musicians, Turner hired a local band to perform backup.) Constantly bordering on the verge of SuperFandom myself (seriously, do not mention the words "Yeti," "Pulp," or "The Libertines" to me - you will live to regret it.), I'm always interested in talking to SuperFans. What is their motivation? How far have they travelled? Why do they exist? I am not going to cast aspersions on the actions/motivations of this particular SuperFan; however, I will say that, because I am a selfless human being, I manipulated SuperFan into switching places with Courtney so that Courtney could get closer to Frank Turner. You can thank me later, Courtney!

Frank Turner's set was over, and it was time for Courtney and I to part ways! I was going to go over to the Mohawk to see Bishop Allen, but quickly changed my plans when I saw the line to get INTO the Mohawk. Some other time, Bishop Allen! Instead, I went to Elysium, where Aqualung and Ed Harcourt were playing.

I feel I should pause for a second and explain that I'm not ACTUALLY obsessed with British people, despite my taste in music, cider and, perhaps, boys. I just try to plan my sxsw schedule to see bands I won't otherwise see throughout the year. Lots of North American bands, as well as some from other countries, will come tour Texas. British bands, on the other hand, have some sort of fatwa against touring the southern states of America. So I grab the chance to see them when I can, which is usually sxsw.

Moving on, I arrived at the Elysium, grabbed a drink, and immediately was hit with a wave of sxsw-related fatigue. All I wanted was easy access to booze and a place to sit down. The perfect place was on the stairs, next to where the artists were storing their equipment. This led to Aqualung bashing me in the head with his guitar case. THIS led to an unfortunate joke I made later in the evening to some of my friends, likening the guitar case to a bunny slope and me to Natasha Richardson. Too soon?

Around this time, I received a text from a guy I'd met previously in the evening, and he came over to meet me. We drank and listened to both Aqualung* and Ed Harcourt, and I wasn't too impressed with either act, but then again, I was drunk and busy talking to a cute boy, so what can you do? Maybe someday, Ed Harcourt. Maybe someday.

From Elysium, I went over to Maggie Mae's, where I had no idea who was playing, but I did know that I could stand on the roof and take in the great Austin night air. It all seemed perfect until I had to look for the restrooms, and realized that I had to WALK ACROSS THE STAGE to get to them. What an insane set up, Maggie Mae's. I do not want to be a member of a band just because I have to go to the bathroom. Besides which, if I'm going to be onstage with any band, it's going to be one of these:

Unexpected Bassist
Secret Baby and the Big-House Bruises
What Are Your Thoughts on Yaoi?
The Funky Meercats

These, by the way, are the band names that I have come up with over the years. They can't be any worse than Natalie Portman's Shaved Head.

I have to say that I actually didn't see any bands past 11 pm on Thursday night. Instead, I wandered around Austin in the guise of showing it off to someone else, spent time at a church, and, in typical Klutzy Erin fashion, managed to totally eat curb whilst trying to catch a taxi. (my knee is still skinned) In typical sxsw style, though, it's the down time, the moments in-between, which fill up the expanse of memory. I may not remember the exact hook to a song I heard, but I will always remember the breeze against my face on the roof of Maggie Mae's, the heat of the sun pressing insistantly against my arms earlier that day, or the feeling of a warm hand holding mine. I call South by "magic time," and it is, but everything that's magical about it is merely the exaltation of the mundane. I just appreciate it more during that week than I do any other time.

* I originally typed "Aqualunch" which is so good that I'm going to claim it as another possible band name.

SxSW Stats for Day Two:

Hours Slept: 3.5
Acts Seen: 8
Acts Loved: 2 (ooh, slow day)
Drinks Consumed: 12 (5 of which were bought for/given to me)