Ingrained in Me (Cape May Trip 2021)

In September I went on a solo vacation to Cape May and I felt that I couldn’t entirely capture it the way I wanted using mere photographs and text, so instead I set out to make my first video in nearly five years. I’ve been going to Cape May since I was a child, and the script I wrote is chock full of ruminations on how it has affected me. I considered just dropping the script into the blog post here, but I’ve decided not to because I really want you to click on the video above and give it a watch. I probably will do a more traditional blog post about some aspect or other of this trip before the year is over, but for now please enjoy this video! I worked hard on it and I’m proud of it!

Probably most people who read this blog aren’t terribly familiar with my YouTube output of yore, but when it comes to travel vlogs I tried a few things here I had somehow never done before, like fading audio and video in and out and including little bits of the nature sounds in my source footage. I wish I could have included more ocean sounds, but I don’t have a nice mic for my camera kit so any clips of the sea had more awful wind noises than crashing waves.

It isn’t quite a perfect video — I wound up having to use footage and photos from past trips to show some of the things that I wanted to show, but luckily I am a bit of a digital hoarder so I had some choices! Also, there’s something weird about my voice over recording and I apologize for any unpleasantness about that. I think my microphone was picking up the sound of my ancient laptop’s fan, and by the time I realized that’s what it was I wasn’t able to do another voice over recording.

That being said, I really did enjoy the process of working on this overall! I’d forgotten how soothing and meditative the process of piecing together a video can be, so this probably won’t be my last project of this type. I can’t tell you when I’ll do another one. I know I for sure don’t really want to go back to the “talking head” style vlogs that make up most of my YouTube archive, since I now have this blog for posting those types of thoughts. But if I have the opportunity again to do something vaguely artsy like this and I feel inspired, you may see another video pop up here in the future and I hope you look forward to it.

An Afternoon of the American Dream

Tell me, what is the most cursed building you can think of? Is it an abandoned church with an overgrown graveyard beside it? The husk of a restaurant that closed due to fire a decade ago and now just sits lonely on its corner lot? The massive Victorian house in your town that can’t seem to keep an owner for more than a couple of years at a time? No, the most cursed building I know is a bright white shiny new mega mall that looms ominously over the highway it was built closely alongside. I present to you the American Dream.

No, it’s not an ironic joke, that is actually the name of the mall. It’s not the first name that it had (I’m partial to the former name Xanadu), as the place has a tortured history of beginning construction mere years before the 2008 financial crisis, being passed along a chain of developers, and periodically having all work on it stop for one reason or another. (If you’d like more detail its Wikipedia page is extensive and well-sourced.) Construction started when I was 13 years old and the mall only partially opened in the fall of 2019, months before I turned 29. I think we can all think of something that began in early 2020 which made it quite an unfortunate time to be opening a new retail facility. Oh, and it was only painted white about a month before the first part of it opened. For most of its development it was “an offense to the eyes as you drive up the turnpike” as my former governor Chris Christie once put it. I hate to agree with him about anything, but in this case I did. Do you understand now why I call it cursed?

It’s certainly not a place that I had much desire to visit. The American Dream isn’t that long a drive from where I live, but can only be accessed via a section of the New Jersey Turnpike that is more like a tangled bowl of spaghetti than a highway. This section of the Turnpike is also one of the major roads into New York City, so the congestion alone makes the area an unpleasant drive if you choose your travel time poorly. Another issue is that the mall is part of the Metlife Stadium complex (aka, where the Giants and Jets play football and where a lot of concerts are held) and that is its own godawful nightmare to navigate even with GPS on a non-event day. One of New Jersey’s stereotypes is that it is a land of many shopping malls, and at least in my part of the state that is not a lie. I can think of four malls that I can reach more conveniently than the American Dream, so I really had no reason to make the trek out there.

But then the universe handed me a reason, in the form of my friend Shannon, who visited me from Boston early in June. She had seen me talking about (read: dunking on) the mall on Twitter a few weeks before after Jezebel published this article about it that I really loved and she wrote to me, “when I visit this is a must see.” I replied, “yeah, sure, we could give it a try, lol.” And so on the final full day of her visit, after only a slight navigational snafu caused by the aforementioned spaghetti highways, we walked into the American Dream, dodging people riding around on little rolling mechanical animals at speeds that made me worry I would be hurt if one of them barreled into me.

The first proper space we encountered was a big round atrium of a room ringed by upper levels of what I assumed were supposed to be occupied stores, but which were largely just spaces covered by white panels. Dominating the center of this space was the first of the many displays that honestly just seemed to exist solely as social media photo ops meant to make the mall look hip and cool. However, I thought this first one was very ugly despite its positive message of LOVE. As we proceeded down the hall we soon came upon a courtyard with a garden that was very pretty and also probably mostly fake. It was also super fucking hot in there because of the sun streaming through the magnifying glass-like dome overhead.

While the vast majority of the American Dream is too much vacant retail space covered with hideous, slightly unsettling Instagrammable murals while they wait for tenants to fill them, there was another strange phenomenon happening the day that we visited. Many of the stores that had occupants were closed. I was confused for a moment, but then it dawned on me: it was Sunday and I had just discovered that this monument to excess was built in Bergen County, only adding to its cursed aura. Bergen County, New Jersey is a very special place where there are laws preventing the sale of certain goods on Sundays, including some items commonly sold in shopping malls, such as clothing. Luckily we weren’t trying to shop, just wanted to ogle the monstrosity, so the stores being closed wasn’t a disappointment to us. Shannon even pointed out that it was probably to our benefit — more people in the mall were masked up than I expected considering the governor had just lifted the mask mandate the week before, but surely the stores being closed lowered the total amount of people visiting the mall the day we were there.

So you may be asking, if most of the stores are closed then why not entirely close this mall on Sundays? Because, friends, there are ~*~attractions~*~ there. There is minigolf, which, ok. Lego has sponsored a children’s play area. Fine. The mall has an aquarium. Why does the mall have an aquarium? There is an ice skating rink confusingly located beneath another one of those glass dome sun roofs that just traps the sun and turns it into heat.

There is the indoor ski slope which gives the building its unique shape. Nickelodeon has an amusement park which we couldn’t see much of because you have to take an elevator down into the pit where it lives and they (probably wisely) don’t let you get close to the railing that overlooks it. You can ride a water slide in the Dreamworks water park while a massive balloon of shirtless Shrek in swim trunks watches over you with vaguely ominous excitement as people peer through the gaps in the window decals to see all of the “fun” they are missing out on.

For the record, I can’t even begin to comprehend how two major media corporations got drawn into this mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey. My only guess is that in addition to local visitors, they’re hoping tourists visiting New York City will take the train over. At one point I thought, “I can’t wait to see the Defunctland episodes that are gonna be made about this place someday,” but in hindsight it feels kind of petty and rude of me to want these places to fail when they’ve barely had a chance to begin thanks to the plague.

The only thing in the mall that I truly loved in an unironic way was the very big candy store where they sell just about any type of penny candy you could think of, typical packaged treats, and also lollipops as long and thick as a child’s arm.

Despite all of the shiny new everything on display, there was something a bit haunting about the American Dream. As I mentioned, there are acres of empty storefronts with weird mural coverings on the lower levels or blank facades in “don’t notice the mall is mostly empty and unfinished” white on upper floors of the mall. But there are also large areas of the mall (mostly parts of the 3rd floor and the entire 4th) that are just blocked off with polite little ropes or massive chest height wooden barricades which are also painted white, likely in the very vain hope that people will not notice or think too much of them. We even spotted an escalator going up to a temporary ceiling, like a modern version of the Winchester Mystery House.

We spent just under two hours at the mall despite its large size, leaving just in time for our parking to still be free. We got lost trying to leave the Meadowlands complex because one of the exit roads was blocked off for seemingly no reason and wound up getting onto the Turnpike via a service road that I wasn’t 100% we were allowed to be on. Somehow it felt like an appropriate end to the whole venture.

All in all, while I do feel like my visit satisfied a certain curiosity I had about the place, I doubt I will return anytime soon. In thinking about our visit in the days afterwards and describing it to my friends and coworkers, I had a galaxy brain moment. I’d been reluctant to call the mall American Dream for so long because I thought it was a stupid name. But after seeing the inside of that blight on the landscape of my home state, I know better. What could be a more perfect name for a massive, partially completed, mostly vacant husk of an expensive land development project than American Dream?

An Autumn Hike

As I write this, I’m currently using up the last of my vacation time from work for the year. I had all sorts of grand plans about errands I needed to run and I thought maybe I would take a hike on one of the many trails in my area and then Mother Nature said, “no, screw you, I’m sending a huge blizzard.” So instead I’m just sitting here looking at the pictures I took on a hike I did last month and wishing I could go outside.

It was the week of Thanksgiving and I had taken off the three days before, as I usually do if I still have vacation time at that point of the year. I live in a pretty populated area, but I’m not far from a whole area of woodlands specially set aside for preservation and recreation. I’d been wanting to go into the woods for awhile, but because people can’t do indoor activities due to the pandemic the parking areas are often quite full. But on my second day off I had a very early doctor’s appointment so I knew I would have a good chance to get a spot at the area I wanted to explore, and I was right!

The area of the woods I went to has well defined trails, often covered by gravel, so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost or dealing with overly difficult footing. I meant to go to a waterfall that was nearby, but apparently can’t read simple maps so I wound up following the trail that snaked alongside a river, which was fine by me because if you’ve been following this blog for a long time you will know I love a water feature.

The trail was wide and easy to follow and while the weather was cool it wasn’t overly uncomfortable because I had my heavy coat and a pair of mittens. And also I’ve found that my mask is actually very nice to have in the cold! Even though I didn’t see many people, I wore it most of the time I was walking to protect me from the chilly breeze. The sky was mostly grey, but occasionally the sun came out. All in all, I thought it was a nice day for a hike, but maybe that’s just me!

The few people I did see had apparently gotten up even earlier than me because they were headed in the direction of the parking area. Pretty much everyone said good morning to me, which as someone aware of how curmudgeonly my fellow New Jerseyans can be made me feel kind of weird. Is it proof that being out in nature can life someone’s mood? Who can say?

I walked along for quite awhile, completely losing track of time, and then I came to kind of a weird clearing and finally thought to check the clock on my phone. I realized about an hour had passed and I figured that considering I hadn’t brought any water with me I should probably head back. The hike out was a little more challenging in some respects due to some parts of the path that had been downhill on the way in now being uphill, but it took me less time because I kept stopping to take pictures of neat trees and other things that caught my eye on the way in.

For instance, there was this tree that made me wonder: how much other foliage is here in the summer that it wound up growing like this?

I had a really good time on this hike, just getting to escape for awhile and enjoy being alone someplace different, as crazy as it probably is to take a hike like this by myself. It wasn’t my first time doing this kind of thing, and it definitely won’t be my last. Considering that this area is still quite close to civilization and I never lost cell service I didn’t really have a fear of getting into a bad situation. I definitely wouldn’t go on a hike in some unusual out of the way place alone, I’m not quite that stupid!

I do want to go back and actually take the path to the waterfall, though. Hopefully this massive pile of snow will melt away soon so I can go!

Apple Picking in a Pandemic

It feels like a fact of life that if you grew up anywhere near an orchard someone took you apple picking at least once as a child. My own childhood apple picking memories are not my favorite. Us kids were grumpy about getting up super early, usually there was at least one dramatic squabble, and we always wound up coming home with what felt like Way Too Many Apples. Oh, and as the morning progressed and warmed up So Many Bees would terrorize the orchard seeking the sweet juice of apples that had fallen on the ground.

I believe these are Jonagolds, a variety of apple that I didn’t know existed before this trip.

So it’s probably not surprising that as an adult I’ve largely had an aversion to apple picking and have turned down several invitations from my friends over the years. The only time I said yes the weather was terrible and we drove all the way out to the orchard only to decide it was too awful out to go apple picking, so we wound up exploring the downtown of a nearby town instead. But this fall when I received an apple picking invite I jumped at it because I was quite desperate to see my friends. Because of covid and the United States’ awful response to it I haven’t spent any time with my friends since March. We’ve been keeping in touch, but it’s not really the same as being able to hang out together in person.

Many of the rows of apple trees led up to this area of mostly leafless trees that were spread out in such a circular way that I joked it looked like a ritual would be done there, lol. My plant-loving mom thinks they’re cherry trees.

It was an exciting moment when we realized that apple picking was a viable option for a socially distanced hangout activity and we quickly arranged a date. The date happened to coincide with my mom being away at her little house in upstate New York, so I invited everyone to come hang out in my backyard afterwards. It -also- happened to be our friend B’s birthday that weekend, so he planned a whole menu of food and entertainment for our little group of six.

Our group setting off an an apple adventure!

And before you cry “social distancing!” we played this gathering really safe. We generally kept a good distance between ourselves (there was no hugging, even though we really wanted to!) and except for eating, which we did sitting apart from each other, we all wore masks the whole time. There was also liberal use of hand sanitizer and hand washing. Everyone had their own sanitizer because 2020, but I also set up a little table that I called the Sanitation Station. Perhaps some people would find this gathering a bit risky, but thankfully we and our immediate circles have been covid-free so far, so we decided to go ahead with the gathering.

Sanitation Station set up in the backyard of my house.

The orchard we went to is called Melick Orchard, which is about an hour from where we live, but was well worth the drive, I think. It was a really beautiful morning to be outside, sunny and just a little warm, and we took a lot of pleasure just from being outside and being together in person instead of over video chat. We made a reservation for 9:30 a.m., which turned out to be a very good choice because by the time we left about an hour and a half later the amount of people around was starting to increase dramatically. It wasn’t quite so many people that social distancing was impossible, but it was starting to perhaps be a little more crowded by the entry areas/little store than we were comfortable with. But out in the orchard there is a lot of space and there are many varieties of apples in long, wide rows. Each type of apples was available in multiple rows so if, for instance, we saw a family taking up a lot of space in one of the rows we could simply choose another one.

If you look closely you can see cows at the farm across the road, which we were very excited to see.

There was also a pumpkin patch in the back corner of the property, in a corner at the end of the apple area, but it looked a little sad and picked over, and none of use were super interested in pumpkins anyway, so we didn’t peruse it at all. Plus I doubted that any of us really wanted to lug a pumpkin over the considerable distance back to the entry area. Melick Orchards also has pick your own fruit during other seasons and on our way back to the front of the property we passed some rows of peach trees that I thought had a certain magical charm.

One of the enchanting rows of peach trees.

Once we paid for our apples we piled back into our cars and drove to my house where we quickly set up a production area for preparing apples for pie, under B’s supervision. Somehow we wound up with an obscene amount of apples cut up! Luckily B had accidentally bought four bottom crusts instead of just two (but only two top crusts). However, even after filling all of the crusts and improvising tops for all of them there were still So Many Apples left. (Don’t worry, the leftovers went home with party guests and did not go to waste!)

This is what we had left -after- I filled the four pie shells. I’m not sure how this happened.

Our original plan was to stay outside and rig up a TV on my family’s picnic table to play an obscure Wii game called Fortune Street that B wanted to show us, but just when I thought this apple picking day would be devoid of bees since we hadn’t seen any at the orchard, we were driven inside by them because one of our group is allergic. My house fortunately has a good amount of room for sitting spaced out, and we opened all the windows and doors so there would be good safe ventilation while we settled in to play.

I turned my back for one second and of course one of the pies suddenly had something lewd cut into it, lol.

Fortune Street is a game that’s kind of like a cross between Mario Party and Monopoly, but there’s a stock market? And all kinds of weird business types? I don’t know, I only got the vaguest sense of it because I didn’t play. Instead, I was fussing about with the pies, trying to make use of the Too Many Apples that had been prepared as I mentioned above. I didn’t mind missing out on Fortune Street, because to be honest, it seemed really confusing. Apart from B, who really really loves the game, my other friends who were playing seemed to be enjoying the experience of playing together more than they enjoyed the actual gameplay itself.

I don’t have any photos from this part of the day, so here’s a dried up cornfield at the orchard that I thought was pretty!

Fortune Street took so long that we were losing daylight fast by the time it was done. So B heated up the spaghetti squash he brought us to have for dinner (and I boiled some spaghetti for those who didn’t want the squash), and we ate in my quickly darkening backyard. By the time we were done it was getting too dark to be out in my unlit backyard so instead of eating pie together we split them up and everyone went on their merry way. Instead of hugging goodbye like we would have in the Before Times we all took turns clunking ankles with each other, which my friend L came up with earlier this year as as a weird, slightly cursed covid handshake.

My friend S looking determinedly for apples that sparked joy.

It was really nice to see everyone, but equally unpleasant to say goodbye. The sadness I felt immediately after everyone left me alone in my house almost made me wish we hadn’t met up at all. It felt a bit cruel of the universe to let me have a taste of the time with friends I should have been getting to indulge in all year, only to have to swiftly return to the interminable question — “When will I get to spend time like this with them again?” Don’t get me wrong, I had an extremely lovely day and I’m very glad we were able to have our little gathering, our beautiful warm golden autumn day. But in the immediate aftermath the silence of my house was very loud and very lonely.

A family photo. ^_^

I hate to end this post about a happy day on a downer, but also I prefer to be honest about my feelings and I just miss my friends so damn much! So our day of apple picking turned out a bit bittersweet for me in the end. But I definitely don’t regret doing it, and wish I could live it again now as the cold, dark part of the year creeps over my area and makes me feel pandemic loneliness even more strongly than I did before.

A bin of pumpkins for sale near the orchard entrance that was simultaneously reassuring and disconcerting. “It’s Harvest Time…try”

Mentally I am here.

There’s this meme that’s been going around Twitter lately of tweets that read “mentally I am here,” captioning some sort of photo, usually setting up something humorous in nature that expresses one of the many depressing vibes of 2020. But as for me, mentally, I am here.

It was the end of August in 2013. I was on vacation down the shore with my aunt and younger brother and was just beginning to come out of the deep, post-college, “shit I’m an adult now” depression that had plagued me ever since I graduated at the end of 2012, but which had especially affected my summer.

Long days of lounging poolside in the sun with my family were followed by evenings cut loose on the boardwalk, my nightly spending money from my aunt in my pocket waiting to be spent on whatever treats or entertainment I wanted. Many 22 year olds would use this as an opportunity to get wasted, but not me.

I bought delightfully unhealthy fried sweets and played my way through the arcades, as one does at the Jersey Shore. I also spent a large amount of time just wandering through the crowds or strolling to the more residential ends of the boardwalk, looking at the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy the previous fall with a melancholy eye.

Here is an ancient video from my defunct YouTube channel that I wrote and filmed on this trip!

But the first thing I did most nights was sit in the sand as close to the sea as I could while staying dry, watching and listening to the crashing waves while the never ending carnival of the boardwalk thrummed distantly behind me.

Being by the sea has been a balm for my soul my whole life, even before I knew to call it that, and this time spent quietly thinking and dreaming and occasionally scribbling away in a little notebook, was what I needed the most. And since this was my first extended beach trip since I’d received my DSLR on Christmas in 2011 I took so. many. photos. I had a list of photo opportunities in my mind that I wanted to pursue and I checked them all off.

The weekly fireworks show.

Playing with fancy settings like shutter speed by the lights of the rides.

Snapping what I could see on a walk down the jetty.

And in a little place by the part of the inlet where people fish during the day I took a whole series of these sunset sky photos.

I don’t think I can adequately put into words the feelings of freedom and satisfaction I got from my nightly wandering. I think it possibly had a lot to do with feeling in control for the first time that year. I got to determine where I went and what I did. I didn’t have to worry about the unemployed mess my life at home was, especially because my aunt was generously giving me spending money. She didn’t care what time I came back to our motel room because I was never outrageously late and she never asked much about what I’d been up to. I think I just really relished not only being my own person, but being a person who felt like I had options and possibilities.

Seven years later and this is still one of my favorite photos of myself.

I think my mind has drifted back to this particular trip now because 2020 has been a year where I don’t feel like I have a lot of control over my life, which is a sentiment I’m sure is shared by much of the world.

I know I could revisit this location now. The town still exists, after all, and I still make day trips there to this day. But I can’t go back to the feelings I had on that trip, especially given the current pandemic. I confess, I did venture down to this town back in July, and it was an incredibly odd experience. So I suppose, in the meantime, if you need me, mentally I will be here.

The Enchanted Hike

I am very good at being alone in the world. This is something that I built up to gradually over time, starting with trips to the movies, progressing having meals alone at restaurants that were not fast food chains, and then finally I finding the guts to go on vacation by myself. This past September was my second solo trip. I think at this point I can say that I am more or less entirely comfortable being many hours from home on my own and really enjoy it very much, although this is perhaps because the destination of these vacations so far has been Cape May, a place that I went to often as a child.

There are multiple positives to traveling alone, but the main one for me is that I get to make all of the decisions. This isn’t my favorite because I’m some asshole control freak, but because when I’m out with my friends I worry a lot about their happiness, especially if I’m the one who planned the outing. “Will all of my friends be able to find something to eat at this restaurant despite their various niche food preferences?” “Do my friends actually want to do this activity or are they just going along with it for the sake of not disrupting the group even though they’re going to be miserable the whole time we’re doing it?” You know, just normal concerns. But when I’m alone, if I want to take an extended hike on a trail of unknown length I’m beholden to no one. And on my Cape May trip in 2019 a hike was one of my major priorities.

Cape May Point State Park is home to the lighthouse that is the root of my fascination with lighthouses. I’d climbed it many times as a child and also on the Cape May trips I’d made as an adult in 2015 and 2017. But the state park is also home to a set of trails and on this trip I chose to ignore the lighthouse entirely in favor of making those trails a major focus. In fact, paying them a visit was one of the very first things I did when I got into town, before I was even able to check into my hotel.

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The trails are split up into red, yellow, and blue. They all start at the same entrance and then diverge. I would say that none of the hiking is very difficult since it’s all on mostly flat land and a large portion of it is on walkways made of plastic boardwalks that are elevated maybe a foot or two off of the ground, likely in an effort to damage the environment as little as possible. These walkways wind through the woody marshlands that border the state park’s beach, and the paths actually lead out to the sand in some places.

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You’re probably thinking that the red trail is the most difficult one because that’s often the way of things, but I’d say it’s the easiest. It’s entirely on the plastic planks and while it branches off into a series of little paths and loops, it basically brings you back to the parking lot without having to double back. It’s also very tree-y, providing long stretches of shade, which is important when it’s hot and humid, like pretty much my whole vacation was. Additionally, because it is entirely on the plastic boards, I would argue that the red trail is handicap accessible! I’m no accessibility expert, but I imagine there are many nature areas and trails that cannot say the same.

On the other hand, the yellow/blue trails (which run concurrently for nearly their entire length) is much longer than the red trail and it doesn’t loop – if you walk out there, you will be retracing your footsteps to get back to the car. I recall there was less shade overall than the red trail. There were also portions way down the trail where the path became dirt which was occasionally disturbed by tree roots. This was not a difficult section for me to walk through, but it may be for others.

I did the red trail first. I had done it in 2017 and it’s a pleasant little walk. There are multiple areas with benches to stop and rest, some of which overlook ponds that provide good opportunities for bird watching. I kept running into the same nice woman who noticed my camera and kept giving me a heads up to good photography opportunities that I’d be passing, like the group of ducks at the pond in the lighthouse photo above. When I finished the loop I still had a lot of time to kill before I could check into my hotel room, so I decided to make a go of the yellow/blue trail. I expected it would be largely like the red trail, but I was very wrong.

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Maybe this will sound overly dramatic or cheesy to you, but I think that sometimes in life a moment comes along that feels literally enchanted, just steeped in magic to the core, and my time on the yellow/blue trail is something I would describe that way. It felt like it was there just for me on that sunny September day, a feeling that likely came over me due to the nearly complete lack of other people compared to the several pairs and small groups of other tourists that I saw on the red trail.

I first traveled over plastic plank paths surrounded by tall grasses and some trees. It wasn’t so unlike the red trail, but then suddenly I came upon something new. The plastic path suddenly ended and after a bit of following a slightly sandy dirt path through trees, the trail opened up wide and I passed into a strange little grove. It felt sort of like a clearing despite all of the trees. The trail curved around a set of trees that were widely spaced enough that I could have just cut through if I hadn’t cared about disturbing the underbrush.

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The canopy was a little thicker here, so it was cooler than the previous sections of the trail and the light coming through had a kind of green-gold tinge. The wind was gently shaking the trees and I felt quiet peace come over me. I’m not terribly religious, but I felt a sort of reverence that I can only remember feeling when I visited old churches on a family trip to Germany. Somehow this area felt like one of the the most special, most enchanted, places I’d ever been even though it was just an area of trees and a curved path. I thought I had taken better pictures, but I didn’t, or maybe it’s the kind of magic that’s impossible to capture on camera, so you’ll just have to trust me.

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After leaving the grove the next thing of note that I came across was a long straight stretch of plastic boardwalk. It cut across a huge open field of grasses. As I mentioned earlier, a beach is not far from these trails and wind from the water rustled the grasses into a symphony as bugs chirped musically all around me. I walked across, my sneakered footsteps clunking on the boards, and when I reached the other side I found dirt under me again.

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The next section of path ahead of me was really only wide enough for one person to walk and it was fenced in by foliage that was taller than I am.

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Soon after that I came to another area of trees. There was a wooden bench and roots were poking up through the ground in places. Late afternoon light streamed through the branches, dappling the area in golden spots. I stopped to rest, drink water, and wrangle with the remote for my camera to take a picture of myself while hoping no one would come along and see me doing so because that would be awkward. (The greatest downside to traveling alone is, obviously, there is no one to help you take pictures.)

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After my rest I walked further down the trail and after a little longer the path split into separate yellow and blue trails. One of them, I don’t remember which color it was, soon came to a dead end. The other led me out of the trees to a bridge over a little river. From my vantage point on the bridge, I could see that the path would soon split in two again and curve away around separate corners, but the grasses where high again and I couldn’t see what was ahead. The ground looked like it was turning more to sand and I thought maybe the trail was curving around to the beach. I was intensely curious about what lay around the bend, but after a moment of debate I regretfully turned back, mainly motivated by not wanting to ruin my good walking shoes with sand on the first day of my trip and the fear that I probably needed to reapply my sunscreen (which I’d left in the car) or risk burning. So I made my way back out, past the bench, down the narrow path, through the grove.

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I enjoyed the rest of my vacation, but the part I still think back on the most is my hike alone on the yellow/blue trail.

When I returned to work after my trip, I showed my coworkers photos that I’d taken and when I mentioned that I had been alone one of them, a middle aged woman with sons around my age, said, “You’re crazy!” And maybe, probably, I am a little.

I’m not completely without sense. It did cross my mind that if I hurt myself while hiking I at least could use my cellphone to call for help. At one point on the yellow/blue trail I passed an older man and felt momentarily nervous, but he was too engrossed in a phone call to pay me any mind. I am not unaware of the risks that face any solo traveler, particularly a woman alone. But somehow Cape May feels so comfortable and familiar to me that I found myself doing things that I would never do at home, like taking extended walks through the quiet post-Labor Day town after dark. Hell, I even went to the beach one night at 10 pm to watch the nearly full moon paint the waves and that was another enchanted moment in itself.

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And somehow, despite the little voice in my head saying “you were being foolishly risky” I can’t help but long to do it all again.

I want to go back to that enchanted green-gold grove.

I want to find out what lies around that bend.

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I’ll be honest, I can’t remember where on the yellow/blue path this was so I left it out of the tale above, but it’s an actual! wooden! boardwalk! in an area of plastic ones and is therefore a very enchanted place all on its own and deserves to be part of this post.

Six Lighthouses in One Day!

Fun fact: Maine is one of the top states in the U.S. when it comes to the number of lighthouses located there! I have a personal history with lighthouses as well, or at least one particular one down in Cape May, New Jersey that I’ve climbed on a series of vacations throughout my life. (A scan of my post history tells me I have somehow never blogged about Cape May — note to self: fix this oversight!)

Early into my trip to Portland with my friend Kristen in September 2018 we found a particular guide on a Portland tourism website that detailed a driving plan for visiting six lighthouses located close to the city all in one day. Being a pair of overachievers, on the last full day of our trip we decided to make the journey. Since we weren’t local, we weren’t really sure what the most efficient route would be for visiting all the lighthouses and decided to just follow the guide from top to bottom.

So we started at Two Lights State Park, a place where it is impossible to take photos of both lighthouses at the same time and also a place where you can climb neither lighthouse because they are both on private property. If I’m being honest, in reviewing my vacation photos for this post I wasn’t even sure if I photographed both lighthouses, because one of them was further off and harder to photograph.

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But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this location was freaking BEAUTIFUL. The small peninsula that made up the park is made of rocks worn away in surprisingly geometric formations. It looks craggly and intimidating, but is easier to get around on than it looks. I loved it so much! If I was local, I could totally see myself stopping over here on a regular basis to decompress. (Also, the shape of the rocks totally gives off Dragon Age: Inquisition Storm Coast vibes if you’re a nerd about the same things that I am.)IMG_2465.JPG

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I always take way too many pictures when I am confronted with crashing waves, and this place was no exception. I honestly could fill a whole blog post with just pictures from this location and feel satisfied with the results.

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I found it! The second lighthouse! …Waaaay off behind that big house in the center.

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After a good chunk of time spent here while we both took way too many pictures, we set off for the next location, Portland Head Light. This lighthouse is located in a big state park area that had a lot of people walking around on trails, picnicking, etc. Used to money grubbing New Jersey, I was pleasantly surprised when they didn’t ask for money for parking.

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Portland Head Light is not only the oldest lighthouse in Maine, it is also still operational. Please note that speck on the horizon near the middle of this picture — that is Ram Island Light out in the middle of the water. It’s a very picturesque area. The travel guide we were using described it as one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. I can see why!

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However, I was very disappointed that we could not climb this lighthouse either. There was a little museum on the ground floor, but they wanted money to enter, which is totally fair, but we decided it didn’t seem worth it as from the outside it looked like it was just one smallish room.

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We spent some time trekking around the grounds even as the sun came out. This was a bit of a pleasant surprise, because sun is nice! But it was also an unpleasant one, as we had not brought sunscreen in the car (and might not have brought water either, but my memory is not 100% sure of that). Somehow we avoided getting seriously sunburnt, thank goodness!

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Here’s a slightly closer view of Ram Island Light, the best we were able to get since it was way out there in the water alone.

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Once we’d had our fill, we got back in my car and drove off to what was probably the weirdest location on the list, Spring Point Ledge Light. This location is only weird because you literally have to drive through a community college to get to it. There were only a couple of parking spots set aside for the lighthouse, which were all occupied when we arrived. So we briefly illegally parked in a nearby college lot where we could still see the lighthouse and snapped a photo, just so we could say we saw it and check it off the list. I was kind of disappointed that we couldn’t get closer to this one because the guide we were following specifically noted that some days people are allowed inside, and our “lighthouses entered” count was still zero.

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The final lighthouse we visited was Bug Light and it was a very short drive from Spring Point Ledge Light. It wasn’t very tall but made up for that by being very scenic!

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Once you got up near the lighthouse there was an excellent view of the Old Port area of Downtown Portland. (If you read my previous Portland post, you will already realize that this is “you cannot escape the Old Port” in action, lol.)

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Kristen is about 5’6″ish, I think? Bug Light is not nearly as many Kristens high as you think a lighthouse would usually be!

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It me!

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Near the parking area of Bug Light is this neato giant ship sculpture that we checked out on the way back to the car. It houses an exhibit about shipbuilding in the Portland area that was pretty interesting!

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And that was it! By visiting Bug Light we checked the sixth lighthouse off of our list!

There was one thing I was slightly disappointed about as we drove away from the last lighthouse– we had not been allowed to climb up to the top of any of the lighthouses we viewed! We do have to take Spring Point Ledge Light out of the picture because we couldn’t actually walk up to it and see if it was open, but it didn’t seem like this situation was matter of not being at the lighthouses on the right day. They were all either inaccessible due to being on private land or didn’t allow visitors inside.

You might say, “Hey, but should you really be going up inside lighthouses that are still operational and serving their purpose?” To which I reply, Cape May Lighthouse is still operational and you can go up to the top. And also

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Jokes and slight disappointment aside, I had fun visiting all of the lighthouses. They were all located in beautiful places and it was a fun little adventure! It also doesn’t take too long, depending on how long you spend at each location, of course. We started off probably around 10 am and were finished by a reasonable lunchtime. It was a lovely day to cap off a lovely trip!

But of the lighthouses in this post, I really would only suggest visiting Two Lights State Park and Portland Head Light as they have the most to walk around and look at on the grounds as well as the loveliest scenery. But as I said at the top of this post, Maine has SO MANY lighthouses and if you research a little more than we did I’m sure you can find some other cool ones worth visiting!

This post is companion to my Portland, Maine trip overview post which you can check out HERE!

I hope you’re all having a good week! I’ll try to post again soon.

Portland, Maine 2018

Hello! It’s me! I’m back again with a blog post! I’ve quite missed writing, but over the past months I’ve found myself to have quite a lack of focus for pretty much anything, which has been troubling in more ways than one. I thought I would ease myself back into blogging by chatting about the trip to Portland, Maine I went on nearly a year ago with my buddy Kristen (aka @kristen_m_young over on ye olde Twitter). I’ve been feeling antsy and wanting to travel with no real opportunities to do so for a little while, and I’m hoping that writing this trip up will ease my restlessness at least a little.

This trip came about when my boss let me schedule a week off of work in September. I considered just doing a staycation, but decided instead to try actually going somewhere. So I hit up my college buddy Kristen and asked if I could come visit her in Massachusetts during that time. I thought I’d maybe explore the area where she lives during times she was at work and then we could hang while she was free — I never want to be a burden and didn’t want her to feel obligated to entertain me. I was pleasantly surprised when she responded by basically saying, “I can take time off that week too! Do you want to travel somewhere? Maybe Portland?” She had been there very briefly a couple of years before and while I had been to Maine on a family trip when I was in high school we skipped over Portland to visit relatives further north. It was set to be a fresh fun adventure for both of us!  

When September rolled around I first spent the better part of a day driving up to Kristen’s town and then the next day we set off for Maine. We stayed at the Portland Ramada. Not #spon, obviously, but I’m mentioning it by name because it turned out to actually be a nice place to stay. It’s a small drive from the actual downtown area and is surrounded by strip malls (some of which contain some…questionable…businesses, see picture below), but it was in our price range, it was clean, the staff we interacted with were nice, the attached restaurants were surprisingly decent, and it has a large pool and a gym. (Kristen used the gym every day, so the quality of it must have been fine.)

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Yes, that is a strip club sign that says “midget wrestling.” And yes, it -was- the first thing I noticed after parking the car at the hotel, lol.

Neither of us had done very much research about the area before we set out, so after checking in we rested for a little bit and looked up local hotspots on our phones before heading into the Old Port section of downtown Portland. Several websites had recommended this area as one with a ton of little shops to poke through and restaurants to choose from. This is an area that we would accidentally keep returning to on our little walking adventures in the city throughout the weekend, but we liked it there so that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

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I fell in love outside of a tourist trap store full of nautical stuff (aka, my jam).

 

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There’s some cobblestone roads and a lot of old exposed brick all over the Old Port area.

But something that excited me a lot was the actual port itself because, as I like to put it, this bitch loves a water feature. 

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We almost had dinner at the restaurant on this big boat, but decided it was too expensive.

We had dinner at a restaurant called J’s Oyster that was very small and tucked away near the end of the pier area, but it was absolutely packed so we knew it had to be good. It had a local dive kind of feel, but not in a shady way. I had lobster because, well, not having lobster in Maine would be like not getting a bagel from a mom and pop shop if you visited New Jersey! The food was pretty good — we were overall pleased with our dinner choice.

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Having looked up more tourism stuff when we got back to the hotel, we decided that our big goal on our second day would be to go on a tour of a famous old house called Victoria Mansion. We couldn’t take pictures inside, but it was fascinating to get a look inside such an old home. Much of the house still needs restoring, but a lot of the trompe l’oeil painting on the walls was still very impressive and I loved the library.

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Kind of bland on the outside, but fascinating inside, I promise!

After that we strolled through downtown for awhile. Kristen is a book lover, so she made sure we popped into a few different independent bookstores along the way. I don’t know any of their names, but we went to several. It’s definitely a good town for supporting local business! We also stopped for some excellent potato doughnuts along the way when we accidentally wound up at the Old Port. They were more dense than regular doughnuts, but still very nice. There was quite a line in the store too — I’m not sure if they’re locally popular or popular with tourists or both, but this place is apparently a popular choice.

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Kristen in front of the doughnut shop!

We eventually found a comic shop that Kristen knew about called Coast City Comics. I don’t really feel comfortable in comic shops because I don’t know shit about comics and I feel self-conscious that the (usually all male) employees can somehow tell and are judging me. (Why should I care? I don’t know, but I do, oops.) When I found a bunch of pinball machines in the back, I was instantly at ease while Kristen browsed the comics.

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I love pinball even though I’m usually terrible at it. I loved this machine based on one of my favorite bad movies (and actually had some good luck with it)!

 

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“I love me a good theater marquee,” said the blogger who chose her college largely because of a very old neon theater marquee in the downtown area.

For dinner that night we tried the restaurant inside our hotel, partly because we had been given coupons at check in, partly because we were curious about it. It wasn’t bad, despite this weird ominous sign on the way there!

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On day three we pursued a crazy ambitious plan from a guide we found on a Portland tourism website. Maine has tons of lighthouses and apparently Portland has six(!) within easy driving distance of the city/each other. This is a separate post, because six lighthouses would be a lot to cover in this already super long write up! But here is a preview picture of Kristen looking at one of those lighthouses from afar to whet your whistle for nautical adventure. 

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After this big adventure we popped into downtown to grab lunch (in, you guessed it, the Old Port area) and then went back to the hotel to try out the pool and hot tub. I’d never been in a hot tub before and it was so hot it felt like my skin/blood were tingling! Between swimming in the pool and relaxing in the hot tub I found nearly a dozen lost hotel room keycards, lol. Dinner was lowkey — we went to the Chipotle near the hotel and picked out ice cream at the nearby grocery store.

On the way back down to Kristen’s house the next day, we stopped off in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, another waterfront New England town full of old looking brick and cute little shops. I’m probably wrong about this, but I have this general impression of New Jersey as a place that really doesn’t give a crap about most of its cool old buildings and just wants to tear them down to build luxury apartment complexes for people who work in NYC (or maybe that’s just my area?) so I’m super jealous of New England’s respect for its old stuff.

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It’s also home to a kitschy looking little diner Kristen loves called The Friendly Toast. I don’t remember what I ate and I’m a terrible millenial for not memorializing it with a photo, but I remember the food was good! 

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Photo taken by Kristen because all this cool stuff was hanging out behind me.

Once we arrived in Massachusetts I spent one final night on Kristen’s sofa. This last night of my trip is actually one of the overall highlights for me because Kristen and I went to dinner with Kristen’s sibling and another local friend that Kristen and I went to college with. I rarely get to see or talk to either of them, so hanging out with them was a real treat! We drove out to this tiny beach area nearby and had a pretty good dinner in a bar before walking across the street to get ice cream. There was fog coming in off the sea and the area was basically deserted apart from the people at the bar. We spent a good chunk of time just chatting outside, catching up and having a laugh, and I dunno, it was just really nice! It really made me wish I could see them more and hang out like that all the time. But, alas, geography. (Why do we not yet have the power of teleportation? Or at least an equivalent of the Japanese Shinkansen for the United States so I can see all the people I love more often?)

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A car that I guess just lives outside the ice cream place forever.

And that was sadly the end of my trip. The next day I had to get up and make the long drive home. As if to rub in the fact how much of a bummer it was to return to my daily life, and in contrast to my smooth ride north, I got caught in a major traffic snafu near NYC just an hour or so from home and added a whole extra hour to my trip because of it. 

Someday I will get to have fun travels again, but until then I will always have my memories of this trip to Maine with Kristen.

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When I parked in the driveway at home, I took a picture of my odometer, which I hadn’t reset for the whole trip — in all, my travel to, from, and in New England on this trip put just over 800 miles on my car!

If you want to read about our visit to six lighthouses in one day on the last full day of our trip, you can click here!

I hope you’re all doing well.

 

My Convention Essentials

Another Anime Boston has come and gone, and seeing as how this is about the point where I really started to fall off of blogging last year, I thought it might be a good time to make an attempt at starting things up here again! I do want to do a general overview post about my experiences at the convention, but first I wanted do a bit of a “What’s in my Bag?” kind of thing. I did this as a video a long time ago on my now-defunct YouTube channel, but this year was my sixth Anime Boston (I attended 2011-12, 2015, and 2017-19), and as such I’ve really distilled down what I like to have on me during a day of running around at the convention.

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This is the bag that I bring. I bought it in the Dealers’ Room on the first day of Anime Boston 2017 when the massive cross-body purse I’d brought was causing me a lot of pain and this was the most functional thing available that didn’t have Naruto or Goku’s face on it, lol. This has been a go to day trip bag for me ever since because it’s a pretty good size and is pretty sturdy, although the back is maybe not as stiff as I would like.

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This looks like a mess, but it’s organized I swear. Firstly, there’s two small pockets at the top of the back that are the perfect size for my travel wallet and my phone or iPod to slip into for quick access. I don’t like to use the outer zipper pocket for valuables because I am paranoid about getting robbed and not being able to feel it happen. Everything else in here is either big enough to sort through easily or organized into a series of pouches.

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If the weather forecast is calling for rain, I always make sure to bring an umbrella, with a plastic bag to put it into when I go inside so I can put it back in my backpack without making everything wet. The scarf in the middle is large, blanket-like, and absolutely necessary — many of the panel rooms in the Hynes Convention Center are very cold for some reason. When I start to freeze, I can whip it out, but it’s easily put away when I start walking around in the main halls again. On the right is my refillable Brita filter bottle and the plastic bag that I keep it in if I carry it in a bag because it leaks if the water tilts up to the level of the cap.

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On the left here we have my Kindle, with stickers of some of my favorite ghost Pokemon on the front that were drawn by Miski (but aren’t available anymore, sorry!). My Kindle is indispensable to me in my life, whether or not I’m traveling. I can’t read on the long bus ride to Boston because I’ll get sick, but it’s great to have around for reading while waiting for the bus, during downtime between panels, or when you’re the grandma of the group who goes back to the room early to rest and waits up for all of your friends to come back so you can spend time with them. The notebook on the right was designed by Maya Kern and has stickers on it from inki-Drop’s Starwhal Kickstarter. Honestly, I only bring it to stiffen up the inside of the backpack, but it’s also proven useful for keeping my bus tickets tidy and for holding small prints, like this one that I got from Milkbun this year. (Oh how I wish I could get away with hanging this in my cubicle at work!)

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And now finally pouches! This pouch has a bunch of miscellaneous yet important things, like aspirin, hair ties and pins (in a reused orange pill bottle!), tissues, pens, a little mirror, etc.!

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This is my technology pouch. I’ve got two portable batteries in here, the wires to connect them to my phone and iPod, and three pairs of headphones. In hindsight this is an excessive amount of headphones, especially considering I had a fourth pair hooked up to my iPod all weekend. All I can say is, one time on the bus on my way to the con I realized one of my earbuds wasn’t working. I had a spare pair with me, but they were in my suitcase in the bottom of the bus. I can only imagine that in my packing frenzy this year I went “what if that happens again, but more times?” I also don’t tend to use these batteries at all because I’m not a super phone crazy person when I have things to occupy me. So maybe next year I’ll keep one battery in this pouch and only two extra pairs of earbuds, lol.

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This pouch fits both my phone and iPod, but my phone mainly lived in the upper inner pocket of my backpack or the pocket of my skirt because I don’t use my iPod when I walk around the con. It mainly stays with me just so I don’t run the risk of losing it in the hotel room somehow. I always know where it is, and I absolutely need it for the bus because, as mentioned above, I can’t read on the bus so I need music to help me drown out the noises and sleep to pass the time, lol.

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I don’t typically play my 3DS during AB, but I do collect Streetpasses. I don’t tend to try Streetpassing in my daily life because I never go anywhere, but thanks to AB over the years I’ve got a nearly complete puzzle collection and have nearly completely beaten the free Streetpass games. This year I noticed I was getting repeat Streetpasses, which was kind of exciting and interesting to me because it means those people were also at past ABs. It’s a nice little connection to other people!

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And now for the front zipper pocket of the backpack! Which actually -is- as much of a mess as it looks, lol.

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This pocket is for things I want close at hand that aren’t particularly valuable. The only thing I would really be upset about losing is that pen because it’s a really good pen! The little white pot is full of hand cream because I’ve been having a really awful dry hands problem all winter. The fan was actually a $5 impulse purchase I made on Saturday this year when I was starting to get really sweaty walking around the Dealers’ Hall, and I’d say it was well worth it — I’ll probably bring it back again next year. This pocket is where I keep my convention badge at night so I don’t misplace it, otherwise that badge is around my neck. The badge lanyards at AB are usually an advertisement for some anime company or other, but for the past few years I’ve been swapping it out for this YuGiOh one that my friend Kristen surprised me with from New York Comic Con in 2016 right before the anniversary movie came out in English because I will forever be YuGiOh trash and I want the world to know it, lol.

The only thing not in any of these pictures that I have with me every day is related to those granola bars and it is lunch. To save money on food I buy supplies for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and make them every morning before I head out. I also get a couple of other small snacks that don’t need refrigeration, like those granola bars or little individual applesauces. When it’s time for lunch, I find a spot to sit that has good people watching (so I can admire people’s cosplays) and chow down.

So that’s all! I’ll follow this post up soon with one about things I actually did at Anime Boston, but I thought my convention survival supplies might be interesting to share in the meantime.

Until next time!
–Krys

 

An Evening in NYC!

Last Thursday night, as I was preparing for bed, a text from my friend Kristen popped up on my phone. She’s one of my friends from college, and one of the people I always stay in a hotel with when I go to Anime Boston. I knew she was coming down from the Boston area to NYC for an event that weekend called Bookcon. Kristen’s text said that the friend who was going to Bookcon with her wasn’t going to be getting in until very early Saturday morning, so would I like to come into the city for dinner on Friday? I usually only see Kris once a year (at AB) so of course I immediately said yes!

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but despite the fact that I live only a 30-ish minute train ride outside of NYC, I only make the trip in a few times per year. There’s just not a whole lot there that feels like it’s worth making a frequent hassle. And when it’s as hot as it was on Friday, that desire drops even more. NYC (or at least Manhattan) is kind of gross in the best weather, but in the summer it immediately turns me into a disgusting, sweaty, sticky mess, and I hate that. But getting to see a friend that I very rarely get to see makes everything worth it.

My office has special summer hours that allow us to leave at 3pm on Fridays. I wound up leaving half an hour late because of some urgent work that came up, so after rushing home to change out of my work clothes, I wound up arriving at Penn Station at around 5:30. Kristen and I met by the TGIFridays in the big main area — she’s not as familiar with Penn as I am, so I figured it was a landmark that would be easy for her to find.

Her bus had gotten into the city around 1pm. She’d checked into her hotel and then gone to lunch with a friend from the area that she’d met at NYCC. He’d recommended some interesting bookshops for her check out, which is what she’d been doing until it was time to come meet me. He’d also suggested a few restaurants, and the first one she mentioned sounded intriguing to both of us, so we set off for Turntable Chicken Jazz, which is located in walking distance from Penn, in an area known as Koreatown.

We picked Turntable Chicken because they supposedly have really good Korean-style fried chicken (which is supposed to be awesome), but when we got there and looked at the menu we both decided to eat other things. Kristen got seafood fried rice, which she said was really good, and I got the seafood pancake, which was very greasy, but very worth it. But the best thing we ate was an appetizer we shared that’s called Corn Cheese. It’s a simple dish of yellow corn cooked with cheese, butter, mayo, and onion and it. was. AMAZING! And prices were actually pretty reasonable for the area of the city we were in, which is always a plus.

To top it all off, the decor inside Turntable Chicken is really neat! It was too dark to get a good picture, so I’ve borrowed this one from their website.

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From here, Kristen and I took a little stroll through the rest of Koreatown, ducking into a bookstore where they also happen to have a lot of KPop CDs and merchandise. I’m not sure of what it’s called, but I do know it’s just a few stores down from a bakery called Tous les Jours, which I just found out when I pulled up their website is a decently sized chain! They have a lot of cute little pastries, and beautifully decorated cakes.

After all this wandering, we wanted to go someplace that had air conditioning, so we decided to explore the flagship Macys at Herald Square, since we were right near it. This is the Macys that the annual Thanksgiving parade passes by, and I had never been inside before. There’s really not much to say — it’s a department store, but super massive. There’s a lot of different merchandise to look at (there was a whole large area just full of nice furniture!), and there’s multiple places to grab food (including a small, but proper, McDonald’s).

I became fixated on finding out just how many floors there were, seeing just how many escalators up there were, and Kristen (bless her heart) was game to answer that question with me. Not only did we discover that the Macys has nine floors, but the upper four or five of them were unexpectedly connected by these old wooden escalators! You can’t tell from this picture, but even the side walls of the escalator were wood.

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After Macys we made our way over to Times Square, even though we both know it’s awful tourist bait. We popped into the LINE store, which is full of merch based on the characters from a popular messaging app. There were a lot of cute things in there! I wanted to include a picture of my favorite character in this post, but I can’t remember its name and Google is not being helpful at the moment. So instead, have this nice picture of the sunset! Not quite Manhattanhenge, but still quite lovely. (Evidently we missed it by just a couple of days, bummer!)

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Kristen’s picture was much better than this, because it wasn’t taken on a 2 year old phone, lol.

After this, we walked over to Kristen’s hotel to continue our chit-chatting. We were just longing for a bit of quiet and air conditioning — even though it was starting to get dark, it was still quite hot. Along the way we stumbled across the theater where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is happening.

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I haven’t actually read the play, but I did read a plot summary online when it first came out, and I utterly reject it, lol. I can’t believe they took over the outsides of three different buildings for that awful black spiky mass. And if we zoom in just a little closer…

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What the fuck is this trashfire? It somehow makes me view this play even more negatively than I already did.

Anyway, I didn’t want to stay in the city for too much longer, but Kristen had told me her hotel had a really neat lobby. She was not wrong! This photo is also borrowed from the hotel’s website and makes it look brighter than it really was — the lighting was actually a little darker and more moody which is why I didn’t try to take a photo myself.

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Kristen’s actual room was a little lacking interior design wise, but it was a basic room in a big city hotel that’s not part of a chain, so it was kind of to be expected. At least it had air conditioning! We sat and talked for a little while before I headed back to Penn to grab a train home. I was pulling into my driveway by 10:30.

So all in all it was a quick little trip, but I got to go to a few places around the city that I hadn’t been before, eat some good food, and spend some time with a good friend that I rarely get to see. Definitely a very good use of a Friday night!