Sunday, August 31, 2014

Second Vacation: Monumentour and More

It's taken me awhile to post about it, but I was lucky enough to go on three vacations this summer. Granted, none of them were for long periods of time. But I'm happy because I got to go experience New York City with one group of friends, and then last month got to go to the beach and a concert with two of my best friends.

My roommate and my concert buddy, David, headed out early on a Monday morning on a four hour trek to Virginia Beach. Our main purpose was the Monumentour, a concert tour featuring the likes of Paramore and Fall Out Boy, who we'd already seen in Northern Virginia last fall. They were just so damn entertaining that we wanted to see them again.

Plus, I'd never seen Paramore before and I have a bit of a girl crush on Hayley Williams.

Since the concert was at Virginia Beach in the middle of summer, we figured we might as well stay a couple of nights and enjoy some of the other things the area had to offer. Here's a basic summary of our trip:

1. Getting there

My roommate, Lauren, loves to do day drinking in the car when we're taking long trips. I learned this the hard way back in 2012 when we drove to Warped Tour on literally no sleep. So we decided to make an event of it.

Lauren and I both drank Diet Sprite mixed with vodka for most of the trip. I started to get tipsy for a minute, but then I ate a bunch of chicken nuggets from Wendy's and sobered up.

Poor David had to deal with us constantly stopping to pee without being able to partake in the drinking (because he was, you know, driving).

2. The beach

After we got to the beach, we checked into the hotel and headed pretty much immediately to the beach. This was the first time in a few years that I'd actually gone to the beach and gotten to get in the water. 

It was a lot of fun, getting pulled in by the waves and having the tide kind of move us away from the area we started. I'm not a huge ocean person because of how gross the water and the sand can be, but we had a lot of fun for a couple of hours. Lauren did get dragged down by one wave and face planted on the ocean floor, solidifying one of her childhood fears. But other than that, it was cool.

3. The hotel

Because we don't get out that often, we all decided to spring for a better hotel than some of the ones we'd stayed at in the past. We ended up staying at The Atrium Resort, which wasn't quite beach front but was just about two blocks away. 

The hotel room itself was pretty cool. It had a separate bedroom with a huge bed. The bed was so big that there was literally probably close to a foot between Lauren and I when we slept. It was glorious.

The room was also equipped with a little kitchenette and a living room area with a pullout couch where David slept.

Well hell, I'll just show you some pictures:




The hotel was pretty cool itself, aside from the room itself. The design of the place was very open. You could see up to each floor from the lobby and the pool was right inside the hotel beside the lobby. So basically, from the fourth floor, this was our view:


 Speaking of the pool, that leads me to...

4. The pool/Jacuzzi

A big reason for wanting to stay at The Atrium was its amenities. The pool and the Jacuzzi were big draws for us because, where we live, there aren't a lot of swimming opportunities. The few pools that we do have are either a) really expensive, b) really crowded practically all the time, or c) all of the above.

The Atrium's pool was open pretty late, and the last two hours (from 9 to 11) were supposed to be "adult swim." Anybody under the age of 16 was not supposed to be in the pool during these last two hours.

Imagine our surprise when we go down to the pool not long after 9 and discover there is a kid in the Jacuzzi. Which, according to the posted regulations, children aren't supposed to be in the pool without adult supervision and they aren't supposed to be in the Jacuzzi at all. So not only was this kid lacking supervision, he was in Jacuzzi during adult swim hours.

"Maybe he'll leave soon," we all thought.

We were all very wrong.

He ended up being joined by five or six other kids -- all under the age of 16. They took over the whole Jacuzzi. We were in the pool, just kind of floating around, but the water was really cold and I couldn't get warm. Lauren was upset because of the kids -- she'd been looking forward to the Jacuzzi for months. So it was a pretty lame experience.

We ended up back in the hotel room in time for the second airing of that week's Switched at Birth. David checked a couple of times to see if the kids were gone before the pool completely closed. One time he checked and the kids were gone, but they were replaced by a big dude making out with his girlfriend. So we went to bed early.

5. The boardwalk

Our second day in Virginia Beach was the day of the concert, which didn't start until 6:30 pm. So we had the whole day to check out the boardwalk.

We ate lunch at a pizza place on 21st Street. I don't remember the name of it, but the pizza was delicious. Lauren is convinced that the owners are very greedy, though, because they only offered bottled water (no tap) and they automatically included gratuity in our bills (I think my bill came to like $11, so it wasn't like one of those places that adds gratuity just for bills over a certain amount).

After lunch, we decided to walk through some of the stores on the boardwalk. I was on a hunt for sunglasses because mine had gotten scratched on the sand at the beach the day before. Lauren was on a search for this one particular touristy shirt.

One of the first shops we walked into proved to be a bit of an awkward experience. Lauren started looking through the racks and then, suddenly, noticed the scene in front of us:

A girl was lying on her stomach, completely unresponsive. There were several people and some EMT's surrounding her. We'd walked in to this scene completely oblivious. David wondered how we could have possibly not noticed -- we were like the only shoppers left in the store besides this girl's concerned family. We were just looking at various touristy apparel while they were trying to like resuscitate this poor girl.

We left as soon as we realized. I have no idea the outcome of this peril.

Lauren ended up finding her shirt. We got some overpriced Dippin' Dots, and then David and I rode a ferris wheel overlooking the beach.




After the boardwalk, we had a little bit of time before we had to leave for the concert... and we finally were able to get control of the Jacuzzi. Victory was ours!

6. MONUMENTOUR

The concert itself was a lot of fun, if not a little nerve wracking at first. Our tickets said 6:30pm, but it didn't mention if that was the time that doors opened or if that was when the show actually started. Since that was fairly early, we (wrongly) assumed that doors opened at 6:30 and the show started at 7 or later... oops!

We got there right around 6:30 and had just gotten to our seats when the opening band started playing. The opening band was called New Politics and, although they apparently have a decent following, we weren't too terribly impressed with them.

So we headed to the merch booth during their set. This was annoying because Lauren and I both wanted the Fall Out Boy crew neck sweatshirt that said Virginia Beach, but they literally only had one left in our size. Lauren graciously let me purchase it (with the agreement that she can wear it sometimes) and she got a pair of the Fall Out Boy shorts. The merch line took forever and I was really concerned that we'd miss the beginning of Paramore's set.

We didn't, thankfully. Paramore was really fun. Hayley Williams sounds very similar live to how she sounds on the albums, which is a rare and always welcome treat. She has really good stage presence and seems like a legitimately humble, nice person. She brought a fan up on stage to help her sing Misery Business and I'm pretty sure it made that girl's life.

Fall Out Boy was wonderful as always as well. My only complaint is that both sets (Paramore's especially) seemed really short. But then, I never wanted to leave.



After the show, we went to Denny's (a tradition for us at this point) and had mediocre food with mediocre service... ah America.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Artwork by Cherie

I've always thought of myself as a creative person. Ever since I was a child, I loved to create things and express myself in as many ways as I could. I tended to gravitate toward writing and music at an early age... and I also used to draw and create artwork.

However, of all the creative mediums I tried out, art was definitely not my strong suit.

Since my mother moved to another state recently, I was charged with the task of deciding what of the stored, old crap I wanted to keep and what I wanted to toss. I've been sorting through stuff slowly over the last couple of years, since she has known she was going to move for some time. I ended up encountering a lot of old artwork of mine that I ended up finding, well, a bit disturbing. Let me show you what I mean...

About this one, my mom's comment was: "Now that's just terrible." My portrait of Black Beauty:


For awhile in my childhood, I really loved the Smurfs. So much so that I drew this masterpiece:


I also dabbled in clay art, where I created this piece which I call "Grandmother with Tongue." She had a nose at one point, but it has fallen off somewhere during the years:


In fourth grade, we were given a blank calendar to design. Mine was very sporadic, with no particular theme. For March, I drew Oddish (a Pokemon character) and had him speaking randomly about St. Patrick's Day. I don't even know:


Lastly -- and I don't even know what words can describe this piece -- we have a drawing of a girl and a mallard. I used to draw with my mother and I found this in a notebook where we both had drawn random things (I could easily tell which were hers and which were mine). This was mine. It frightens me a bit now:


I call it "Lulu." Lulu appears to have one arm and clubbed feet. The mallard also appears to be attacking. He is perhaps the reason that she only has one arm. Also, I'm not sure what is hanging from her ears but they don't resemble earrings in the slightest.

So what do you think? Have I missed my calling by not taking on the art world?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Death, suicide, and Robin Williams

It's been a bad year for deaths, both in the celebrity world and in my own personal one. Several young people in my city tragically died this year, including someone who had been very important to me during a hard time in my life. We've lost the talented Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Casey Kasem, Tommy Ramone, Ann B. Davis, James Garner, and many others.

Yesterday, as I'm sure you're aware, we lost Robin Williams.

The news of Robin Williams' death hit me pretty hard -- possibly harder than any other celebrity death to date (although I'm still shocked about Brittany Murphy). The fact that there are so many people grieving about this is a testament to the man's life and his ability to touch us with his smile.

My introduction to Robin Williams came at a young age, before I had the capacity to really to understand that there were actually people voicing the animated characters I saw on the screen. Aladdin was always one of my favorite Disney movies, and the Genie was a large part of that.

During my childhood, Robin Williams always seemed to pop up -- in the underrated Flubber, which was my favorite movie one summer (I even created a Weebo made out of paper), in Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest, and of course in the unforgettable Mrs. Doubtfire.

The incredible thing about Robin Williams is that, as I grew older, he didn't get left behind. Unlike so many actors that remain in the memories of youth, Robin Wiliams' range allowed me to enjoy him and his work as I went through my teenage years all the way into adulthood.

In the Dead Poets Society, Williams inspired us all to seize the day. He continued to inspire in films like Good Will Hunting, What Dreams May Come, and countless others. 

I guess the thing that bothers me so much about Williams' death is that it solidified the fact that none of us are immune. At 24, I know that we're all going to die someday. In the logical part of my mind, I've known that for many years. But the romantic, idealistic part of my mind never really accepted the fact that my heroes are not invincible.

Even someone so outwardly jovial and warmly funny like Robin Williams was plagued with a dark depression that no one could fix. It's a true tragedy for both the entertainment world and for mankind itself that this man will not live to tell another joke or to inspire the new generation as he inspired mine and others before me.

He will, however, live on in my mind and in the minds of millions. Robin Williams was truly funny, an immensely versatile talent, and seemed like a genuinely good man. The world is a little bit dimmer without him in it.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Top 5 Disney Channel Original Movies from the Late 1990s/Early 2000s

If you're a legitimate '90s kid like myself, you probably lived, ate, and breathed Disney Channel. You probably waited with bated breath for the newest Disney Channel Original Movie to be released. If you were anything like me, it was the highlight of your week (or your month, if it was a really good movie).

I remember vividly the intense feeling of sitting down right before the latest movie premiered and watching the little intro leading into the movie... you know the one, with all the kids jumping over film reels? Yeah, those were the days.

Anyway, I have compounded my version of the top 5 Disney Channel Original Movies. I may be biased, because most of the ones that I've chosen feature a female lead. Some of the more "boyish" ones kind of bored me as a child. But anyway! Here we go..

5. Smart House (1999)

I don't know about you, but nothing made me more excited about technology as Smart House.

If you don't remember, the gist is pretty simple: after his mother dies, this kid Ben (played by Ryan Merriman, who has most recently been seen as creepy Ian on Pretty Little Liars) enters a contest to win a "smart house." The house is pretty cool. Walls can turn into video screens where Ben and his sister, Angie, can play games or dance on the bed to the musical stylings of B*Witched.

The house is also fully automated with a computer named Pat. She essentially becomes the acting "mother" to the family. Ben gets upset when his father starts dating again, and essentially he re-programs Pat so that she becomes more and more self-aware. It gets pretty scary, because she's pretty controlling of the family.

The whole family gets trapped in the house until Ben finally finds a way to shut it down, saving the day.

This movie made me want to live in such a home (although I didn't want a creepy hologram to appear and try to be my mother). I basically wanted this:


4. Horse Sense (1999)

Oh the Lawrence brothers... In the 1990s, it was pretty common for at least one of the Lawrence brothers to pop up in any given show or movie that might play on the Disney Channel. 

In Horse Sense, spoiled Joey Lawrence is forced to spend a month at his aunt's ranch in Montana after having basically ignored his cousin (played by his real life brother Andrew Lawrence) upon his cousin's earlier visit.

The thing I remember most about Horse Sense is that, while it seemed like really hard work, I thought it might be really cool to live on a ranch. They had to get up super early and get their own eggs for breakfast and stuff like that. 

Joey Lawrence's character ends up growing by leaps and bounds as he has to end up trying really hard at all his ranch tasks so the ranch doesn't get foreclosed.

I don't remember the actual resolution to this movie, but it ended up spawning the sequel Jumping Ship, wherein the other Lawrence brother (Matthew, who you may remember as Jack Hunter on Boy Meets World) joins them.

3. Rip Girls (2000)

Rip Girls is the movie that really made me love the water. I already liked to swim, but this movie made me want to be in the water 24/7. I'll admit I used to pretend that my dinky, 3 foot, above-ground pool was actually the ocean in Hawaii and that I was surfing on my dumb flotation devices. I had an overactive imagination.

But I digress. Rip Girls, starring Camilla Belle before she was the subject of hate in a Taylor Swift song, was a fun movie about a girl named Sydney who moves to Hawaii and discovers more about her heritage. She makes a friend, Gia, who helps her learn to surf and immerse herself completely into the culture.

Sydney also finds out that she has inherited a good portion of the island, and there's all this stuff where a hotel chain wants to build on the land... but the surfing part is the best part.

Also, apparently B*Witched music was used for this movie as well. I wonder how much money they made off the Disney Channel?


2. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)

In addition to pretending I was surfing waves in Hawaii, I also used to pretend that I lived on a spaceship. I really owe my imagination to Disney Channel, now that I'm thinking about it. 

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and its subsequent sequel (or zequel) were fun movies about a futuristic world in which people live on spaceships that are soaring through the universe. Wikipedia says that the movie takes place in 2049. I'm thinking we probably still won't be this advanced in 35 years, but I guess anything is possible. 

Anyway, Zenon (played by Kirsten Storms) is a 13-year-old girl who has grown up on a space station. She gets herself into trouble major and ends up getting sent down to Earth to live with her aunt. However, some evil genius dude is trying to sabotage the space station. Zenon tries to tell her parents, but alas, she is a child with an active imagination and they don't believe her.

More shenanigans happen and Zenon, with the help of her Earth friends, eventually save the day and the space station.

There's also this really cool band with this dude Proto Zoa who was probably a lot of girls' crush for at least a minute. After all the drama with the space station and going to Earth, Zenon and her friends (including her BFF Nebula, played by Raven-Symone) get to unwind with a fun concert. If you were a female, you probably wish you were in Nebula's shoes during this scene:


1. Halloweentown (1998)

Halloweentown is now and has always been my favorite Disney Channel Original Movie. It's possibly the reason I got into Disney Channel Originals as much as I did. I even named my cat after the main character (Marnie).

I remember my 8-year-old self seeing advertisements for this movie and looking forward to its release for what seemed like forever (but was probably closer to a month). Halloween is one of the most fun and interesting holidays for a child, and I was still young enough to buy into a lot of the myths. That made this movie even more fun for me.

Marnie Piper doesn't understand what her mom's deal is with Halloween. Marnie and her two siblings, Dylan and Sophie, never get to go out for Halloween. What she doesn't realize is that her family descends from a line of witches. Her grandmother (played by Debbie Reynolds) doesn't come to visit that often, but when she shows up around Halloween, Marnie and her siblings end up following her home... to Halloweentown.

It is at this time that Marnie discovers her heritage -- as well as her mom's. Marnie's mom has sworn off the world in which she was raised. Now, Marnie is discovering it for the first time. Marnie gets a broom from the broom shop, meets an assortment of ghouls and goblins, and ends up in a kind of battle with Kalabar, the evil mayor of Halloweentown.

Halloweentown was so popular that it spawned three sequels -- Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge, Halloweentown High, and Return to Halloweentown. None are as good as the original, although I remember thinking the second one was decent.

Looking at my choices now, I think my favorite Disney Channel movies are the ones that opened up a completely different world. It must have been something about the escapism I felt when I watched a girl's life in Hawaii or saw the kids partying and dancing to that song by 5ive in Smart House. If the movie took me out of my world and effectively took me away to another, it was a successful movie.

Honorable mentions go out to Double Teamed, the movie about the twins playing basketball, Cadet Kelly, with Hilary Duff in military school, and The Color of Friendship, which tackled more heavy topics (racism, politics). 

I have a soft spot for most of the old Disney Channel Originals. Even though Brink and Johnny Tsunami were played endlessly for what seemed like years, I'd still sit down and watch them now if given the chance. I don't know if Disney Channel is actually lamer now than when I was a kid or if I've just grown up to the point that none of the new stuff is interesting, but the nostalgia that these movies gives me now is going to leave them with a place in my heart for a very long time.

Which Disney Channel movies are your favorite? Do you agree or disagree with my choices?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking Selfies with Llamas (and other adventures)

Last week, I went with my roommate and another friend to the Natural Bridge Zoo. Natural Bridge is a pretty cool place, and I'm pretty lucky that it's within 45 minutes of where I live. If you're ever in Virginia and you're looking to do some fun, touristy type things for a day, I recommend Natural Bridge.

We decided to go to the zoo because we're basically children and we love animals. And, despite the sweltering heat, it was a really good time.

Behold, our adventure:

They had deer. This little guy was pretty cute, but didn't really change my opinion that most deer have no purpose in the world except to run out in front of traffic.


The llamas were awesome! They would do pretty much anything to get some little food pellets:


I think this was my first time ever actually meeting a giraffe. I knew they were tall, but damn:



I'm pretty sure that this llama is my actual spirit animal. All the other llamas flocked to us to get food, but this guy was apathetic:


This little burro (or whatever he was -- we never actually found his information) became friends with us. He followed us as far as he could while we walked down the fence. He was a cutie. (Please also note that apathetic llama is in the background):


Possibly the highlight of the visit, there was a llama who actually posed for selfies. I got this selfie with this guy, and my roommate got one as well. Her theory is that they've learned posing for pictures will likely get them more food. Whatever the case may be, it has become my new favorite picture:


The camels were pretty cool as well. One of them had really floppy lips and pretty much salivated all over your hand if you tried to feed him. It was gross, but pretty neat:



They also had baby animals:



And, of course, they had goats! I love goats, as I've mentioned before. Here are some cute goats:



Yes, I realize one of those animals was a cow. He was in the same pen as the goats.
After the zoo, we hit up a '50s style diner (the Pink Cadillac Diner) for lunch. It was delicious:


Last but certainly not least, we visited Foamhenge. What is Foamhenge, you ask? Well, it is a random, to-scale model of Stonehenge. But instead of being made of stone, it's built with -- you guessed it -- foam. It's probably the most random tourist attraction in the world and it's just off the side of the road on a dirt path. But it's pretty sweet:





It was a pretty good day, the highlight of which might have been the llamas. Or the milkshake. I haven't decided.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Blogging is my #7 priority right now

I apologize for all the theoretical internet dust and cobwebs that have been collecting on this blog for the past couple of months. I just haven't been able to find the motivation during my little downtime to actually update this little piece of interwebz.

So here we are.

I have an excuse, though. I've been incredibly busy over the last few months, and blogging just hasn't been a priority. In fact, I figured up my priorities and it ranks as number 7. Pretty far down there, isn't it?

Here are my priorities that outrank blogging right now:

Rocking that business casual for job #1
1. Job #1

Job #1 is my day job. I have two jobs -- a full time job that kind of sucks where I make a decent amount of money, and a part time job that is fun where the money varies.

My full time job -- despite being pretty awful on some days -- has been pretty good to me. It is still a struggle to get up and be there by 9am (I usually get up somewhere around 8:15 and am therefore always getting there at the last minute), but I do it.

2. Job #2

After six months of not working at Pizza Hut, I asked the new store manager if I could come back part time because I missed it so darn much. So since February, I've been working 10-ish hours a week as a delivery driver at Pizza Hut.

Both of my roommates work there also, so it doesn't really seem like work. Although it makes me really tired a few nights a week. I work from 9-5:30 at job #1 and then show up to work 6-11:00pm at job #2. Which brings me to my third priority...

3. Sleep

Sleep is hard to come by when you work two jobs and also want to maintain a semblance of a social life (see priority #4), but you have to do it. I usually sleep between 6-8 hours a night, although on my days off I sometimes let myself sleep more. 

It's not as much sleep as I got when I was working evenings (since I would practically let myself sleep all day), but I take it where I can get it.

Hanging out
4. Hanging Out

I'm not the most social person in the world, but I try to do at least one social hang out per week -- sometimes more. I typically spend one of my days off detoxing from the world (ie - Netflix binging, food binging, sleep binging -- binging on all the things) and I spend the other day doing something with a friend/friends. 

"Hanging out" may consist of just spending time with my roommates, or it could mean a day trip for shopping, touristy things, etc.

Last week, I went to the zoo on Tuesday and had some friends over for Chinese takeout on Saturday. It was a big week for me.

Coming up, I have a trip to Busch Gardens and a trip to the beach planned. These trips, together with my recent New York trip, have made for a pretty busy summer.

5. Relaxing
This is what "relaxing looks like"

I need a certain amount of chill time each week. I don't get any chill time at all on Thursdays and Fridays (these are my two 14 hour work days), so I have to catch up on it the other days. Relaxing usually consists of sitting in front of either the TV or the computer -- watching television/movies, reading blogs/articles, perusing message boards and arguing with people over characters in Orange is the New Black.

Relaxing also encompasses eating, spending time with the cats, and talking about random shit with my roommates.

6. The Gym (kind of)

I'm not as fully committed to working out as I would like to be, but I have recently joined a gym and am trying really hard to make myself go at least 2-3 times a week.

I really enjoy going to the gym, but it's the actually getting off my butt and going that is the hard part. I never regret it once I actually find the motivation to go.

7. Blogging

As you can see, my priorities list has caused me to leave my blog by the wayside. Blogging is down there with cleaning and running errands at this point. I've been meaning to call our Commissioner of the Revenue for like three months now about a refund they are supposed to have sent me, but I keep saying I'll do it "next week." Blogging has kind of ended up like that.

But this is me making a conscious effort to write a little bit more. Because I do miss it. So here's to trying.

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