Category Archives: Out and about

Live music!

Went to the first live show in more than eighteen months on Saturday! Saw Frank Turner’s acoustic show at XL Live in Harrisburg. He’s touring with Counting Crows as an opening act and doing smaller acoustic shows as headliner in between the larger stadium shows. I didn’t see him when Counting Crows played in DC – $200 was too much for a headliner I don’t really care for – so Harrisburg. The drive was fine, parking was plentiful and well-lighted.

The opening act was Nathan Gray, whose music I didn’t know, but I liked his show enough to go download some music.

The set list for Frank Turner (accompanied by Matt Nasir on mandolin) was a mix of old and new songs – 3 new songs from the upcoming album, a few from Be More Kind, a mix from other albums. The requests included two that I’ve never heard live despite having been to at least a dozen shows (My Kingdom for a Horse and Heartless Bastard Motherfucker). He ended with three staple songs, although I’ve never heard them played in this order: Recovery, Get Better, and I Still Believe. Thematically, they made sense together, although they are vastly different and come from different albums – he was talking about how despite doing “live” shows via YouTube and other video apps, it’s not the same as being in the room with people singing and dancing and providing a feedback loop.

My only knock is kind of nit-picky and not about the show itself. The venue required either proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test, which I appreciated, but maybe 1% of the crowd – pressed together and dancing and shouting song lyrics – wore masks. It’s going to be a long time before I’m comfortable being in a confined space with maskless strangers. Maybe never.

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Wrapping up 2020

I’ve done a summary post of the books I read, places I visited, etc., for the last couple of years. 2020 has very little to recommend for itself looking back. The early months were pretty good, but later not so much.

Travel:

  • Terceira in February (highly recommend)
  • Pittsburgh for hockey (first week of March, just pre-lockdown)
  • Antietam/western MD for a weekend in July
  • Cape Cod for an isolated and quiet trip in September

Music:

  • Online only – several Frank Turner shows, not much else.

Movies/TV:

  • Can’t remember if I saw anything in the theater early on.
  • Signed up briefly for Disney+ in order to see Hamilton and the first season of The Mandalorian.
  • A lot of Netflix, including Schitt’s Creek (meh), Derry Girls (like it), and Bridgerton (not sure I’d bother with future seasons/series).
  • Currently watching the new season of The Expanse on Amazon. I love Chrisjen Avasarala as a character.

Reading:

I finished 33 books. The highlights were Megan Whalen Turner’s The Return of the King and Ben Aaronovitch’s False Value. There are two former autobuy authors who finally tipped over the edge for me to not even being library borrows, and a lot of ~meh~ mixed in. I tried a couple of self-published works from writers I’ve found via fandom(s); sometimes the original fic works for me and sometimes not, which is perhaps a function of the canon and backstory in fandom that requires more work to establish in original fiction. I’ve been letting myself read Obama’s memoir in bits and pieces, as a comfort, so I started in 2020 but it will finish as a 2021 read. (It’ll be a highlight, I’m pretty sure.)

Books I’m looking forward to in 2021:

  • Anna K. by Jenny Lee, a YA retelling of Anna Karenina. I haven’t read Anna Karenina since high school and my memory of it is such that I’m curious to read a YA adaptation.
  • We Own This City by Justin Fenton. Non-fiction account of the Baltimore City Police Gun Trace Task Force, whose members have been federally indicted for a variety of crimes, including racketeering, drug dealing, and illegal searches and seizures.
  • The new installment in Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton Yukon series.
  • What Abigail Did That Summer, a novella in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.

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Weekend travels

I hit the road on Friday for a couple of days Not At Home. It was pretty nice. Drove to Sharpsburg/Antietam; despite living in Maryland for the vast majority of my life, I’d never visited, not even on a field trip in grade school. Hopped off I-70 in Frederick and took the rural route. Lot of beautiful vistas, occasionally marred by political candidate signs. Just outside of town, but still on park land, there was a police cordon with a bunch of police cars: I caught a glimpse as I drove by, the statue on horseback had been graffiti’d – BLM and YOU LOST were among the things painted on it. When I drove by on my way home Sunday it had been completely draped in black and fenced off. Turns out it is a statue of Robert E. Lee…erected on private land in 2003 but now a part of the park.

The park itself is quite large with several different trails. On a less blazingly hot day, I would have spent more than 3 hours. Anyway, more walking on Saturday, but with more shade on the C&O trail out of Williamsport.

Stayed at a lovely farm/vineyard/B&B, hosted by a charming couple. The farm house, or the original part of it, is rather old and is decorated to match.

Visited Boonesboro on my wanderings around Washington County. I’ve never seen so many NR/JDR books in one place before. Their other selections were eclectic. Main street reminded me of my hometown as a teenager, maybe slightly better preserved.

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So bored with this winter weather event

So I went to work on Friday, with a bag packed in case I decided to stay in DC.  There were a grand total of three people in my end of the building.  In fact, I had no idea there were as many as 100 people (out of 2,000+) in the office until 12pm, when the building closed and everyone except security was expected to leave.

In the end, I decided that I’d rather be snowed in at home, where I could be bored among my stuff for entertainment rather than in a hotel or couch-surfing.  Which is just as well, since the Pens-Caps game was postponed.  Actually, I was kind of entertained by the email that the Marc Train/MTA sent out in the afternoon (before the ANA-Caps game was postponed) that basically said, “The last train out leaves at 7:40p. We are not holding it for the Capitals game.  Be on the train or find your own way home in the snow.”  Not literally, of course, but that was the subtext as I read it.

So I took the 12:20p train home, which was PACKED.  When I boarded at 12:05, the last of the seats were being taken and by the time it left the station, the aisles were impassable in some cars and the vestibules were full, too.

Got home in time to run a couple of errands, including a run to Cafe Poupon for emergency rations.  (Seriously, croissants make being blizzard-bound so much better.)  They were closing early and were pretty much cleaned out of everything.  The only croissants left were ham and cheese (fine by me), with a few other pastries and a couple of quiches.  Lorelei said they were surprisingly busy, mostly people stocking up.  (Hah! I’m not the only person who likes to have Emergency Croissants on hand.)

Charles St in snow

Standing in the middle of Charles St., no cars to be seen.

I went out Saturday when NOTHING was moving except the snow.  I stood in the middle of Charles Street and probably could have made a snow angel without worrying about being run over.  The major streets had seen a plow (plough?) at least once but two or three inches of snow had accumulated since, and most of the cross streets hadn’t been touched.  On Sunday, I cleared the 20″ of snow that had accumulated on my balcony.  The power went out in my building; it was weird because everyone lost power to the stove and microwave and kitchen lights, but not to their hot water heaters, refrigerators, other outlets, etc.  BGE took care of it pretty promptly, which I appreciated.

snow pile

You have to walk in the street to get to the sidewalk on that side of the street. But the city said not to shovel into the street, so piles are going to appear on corners.

Today the streets are slightly better, and a fair amount of sidewalk has been cleared.  Feeling stircrazy, I walked down toward the harbor, and ended up having lunch at Cazbar (I’d highly recommend the pumpkin soup).  There are two lanes cleared on most of Charles Street.  Which would be great if people didn’t keep trying to park in a parking lane that isn’t clear yet, effectively reducing traffic to about 1.5 lanes.  There’s a giant snow pile on one corner that’s at least 9 feet tall.  Monument Street has not been cleared at all. I’m hoping that things will be closer to normal tomorrow.

Stuck

There is actually a car hiding under all that snow. It’s plowed in on the street side and shoveled in (the sidewalk was very well cleared by the business owner) on the sidewalk side. And the temperature has been high enough to cause melt, followed by freezing overnight. That’s not going to be fun to dig out. Unless maybe it gets towed, but I’m not even sure how they’d get it out to tow it.

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DNF’d and abandoned

I took two books with me to read over the holiday weekend.  One of them came back without having been read.  I left the other one behind in Chicago after reading about 40% of it. Maybe the Brother-in-Law will read it, or maybe it will be added to the discard/donate pile there.  The DNF’d book was Half-Dead Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older.  I liked the setting (Brooklyn) but I never really cared about the narrator, Carlos Delacruz, or felt any particular urgency about the main conflict or mystery.

On to the next book, I guess.

~~~

Went to Improvised Shakespeare while in Chicago.  The title thrown out by the audience was “The Jeweler’s Daughter”.  The actor playing Edmund (among other roles) was channeling Richard III.  And the ladies of the court were funny, as was the naming of the nine security-guard orphans.  I would go again just to see what the cast come up with.

~~~

Walked the Bloomingdale Trail, which was nice.  I’m assuming that housing values around the trail skyrocketed.  It was fascinating to see the gentrification, which is still going on.  If I had realized that I walked right past Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, I would definitely have hopped off the trail to get a second helping of the Mexican Hot Chocolate.

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Let there be rejoicing across the land

A.  Stanley Cup Playoffs begin TODAY!  I’m excited.  And I’ve priced tickets to Saturday’s Game 2 twice (#sleepisfortheweak, I can get to Easter dinner Sunday, no problem) despite reminding myself that they aren’t necessary in the month preceding Paris.  Ridley posted an awesome comparison of the playoff teams to romance novels at Love in the Margins.  I kind of take issue with some of her editorializing about why to love/hate particular teams, but I like her romance choices.  (Among other things, do not get me started about Iginla “deserving” a Cup, alright? That’s a specious argument that could also be applied to Alfredsson, too.)

B.  I’ve got reservations in a macaron-making class in Paris.  And at Le Cinq.  And grounds passes/Court 1 for two days of Clay Court Magic at Roland Garros. 

C.  On the reading front, I’ve finished two books.  Within a single week.  That hasn’t happened in months!  Rejoice for me, fellow genre fiction readers!  Well, only one of them is genre fiction, but still. 

The books in question:  Andrew Conte’s Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Rebirth and K.A. Mitchell’s Bad Influence.  Conte’s book and its description of the arena/moving drama made me wonder:  if Lemieux sold and stayed in Pittsburgh while the team went to Kansas City, would Sidney Crosby still be who he is?  I mean, yes, the raw talent was there, but would he have developed the same way without living with the hockey legend for years?  And if ownership had changed, would he have been pressed to return to hockey sooner rather than being able to stay on IR until his brain case actually seemed healed and he could skate without being dizzy?  Also, Ray Shero, ILU and your lamenting the cost of Dupuis once Hossa was injured.  If only you knew at that time that he’d turn out to be the best part of that deal in the long term.

Bad Influence – I really liked it as I read but need to go back and re-read to appreciate it.  But I loved the Old Bay ice cream and chipotle chocolate ice cream.

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Sunset at the Fort

Monday morning was dreary and overcast, so I did not take my planned walk to the fort. The day may have cleared but I was too busy for the walk (an hour or more, depending on route and whether I do a lap around the fort). It was approaching dusk by the time I set out. The fort was closed, but I got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset of orange and magenta over south Baltimore.

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A little windy today

The wind is brisk today. Lots of beach-goers have their umbrellas at sharp, 20* angles, with a flap anchored by sand, to create a shelter from the wind and blown sand. The sun feels good and the waves are crashing nearby.

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Enjoying the sunshine at the Fort

Saturday was a gorgeous day. In the morning, I walked down to Fort McHenry with a packed lunch and an old blanket. Stretched out in the shade and enjoyed the sunshine and people-watching. Below you can see the view from my spot, including the Key Bridge.

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Adventures in public transportation and pedestrian motion

+  I’ve signed up for the Planned Parenthood 5K run.  I’ll be walking though.  I only run when I’m late for the bus or train.

+  You should check out the adventures of Beth as she prepares for a 100 mile charity bike ride.  Inspired by her posts, I’ve rented a bike from my local bike shop (haven’t owned a bike in years, only ride at the beach) and am contemplating buying a used bike.  Maybe.

– What did I do to my ankle?  I don’t remember wrenching it, but clearly I’ve aggravated my old ankle injury (the result of my cat trying to kill me, tripping me as I walked down the stairs), because it is grossly swollen.  Elevated and iced.

~  Walked around the World Trade Center last night.  The memorial pools are quite lovely, and I’m curious to see how the museum turns out.  Our NY regional office used to be located in the WTC complex (not in the towers) and had to relocate; it’s pretty unlikely that the office will move back, given the build out in the “new” space we leased.  I’m curious about the rental terms and incentives that will be offered for new tenants.  Surely there’s some cachet and it’s prime real estate, but the tenants of the original buildings have moved on and I wonder how many of them are interested in coming back.

Lesson learned:  the Newark Airport Hilton isn’t really close to anything.  Not even the airport.  All the hotels near the train station were booked, the hotel closest to the meeting was not great, and our travel office wouldn’t authorize a hotel in Manhattan since the meeting was in NJ.  I thought: it’s a Hilton, how bad can it be?  The hotel is fine…but the shuttle to the AirTrain to the train station then on to the Path train to get to the meeting was a little ridiculous.  Considering my usual commute, that’s saying something.  Also, the morning shuttle fills up very quickly, which is not good.  (The 6am was full already when I arrived at 5:45.) I might stay there again if I ever fly out of Newark but not for any other purpose.

+  After the meeting, I had a few hours to kill before my train home.  Told my boss I was going to do some shopping.  I think he thought Macy’s.  No, I went to The Strand instead 🙂

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