A Busy Belated Labor Day

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Image courtesy of Pat Loika. Licensed under CCY BY 2.0.

Labor Day weekend is, as I have mentioned before, a Busy Weekend in Atlanta. Since, as a city, we don’t know how to schedule things in a reasonable fashion, Labor Day weekend is host to: Dragon Con (largest independent sci fi/fantasy convention in the country), the Decatur Book Festival (largest independent book festival in the country),  and Black Gay Pride (largest Black Gay Pride celebration in the country). Plus there’s a massive college football thing.

This happens every year. It is a delightful logistical nightmare. Several hundred thousand people with really intense, really disparate interests descend on a city that is an infrastructure nightmare at the best of times.

Labor Day weekend is, of course, the Best.

Normally, I confine myself to the quiet nerds at the Decatur Book Festival. They drink beer, (politely), and care about books (politely), and listen to readings (politely). They go home at 5. There are no after parties. But this year, I decided that I had to spend at least a day amongst the rowdier nerds: I was going to try to go to Dragon Con.

A bit of Dragon Con backstory: prior to this year, I had been to Dragon Con twice. I was 12 the first time and 13 the second, and at neither point was a chaperoned. It was terrifying. At the time (and this was 10 years ago, now), the con had somewhere around 17,000 attendees. It was crowded, and it was full of people in bondage gear, and it did not have anti-harassment policies on display. I got to see Anne McCaffrey speak, but made no effort to go back during high school or college.  Continue reading

From the window to the wall

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Image courtesy of Vladimir Pustovit. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The last few weeks have seen a pleasant, if repetitive, cycle of doing an unprecedented number of enjoyable, similar activities. Last week: team trivia on Tuesday, improv class on Wednesday, improv show on Thursday, improv volunteering on Friday, and a birthday party (for a friend I met through improv, because where else do I meet humans) on Saturday. I spend enough time at the bar attached to the theater that the waitress knows my name. I have, somewhat unexpectedly, become a Senior Volunteer Who Knows Things when a real employee is not around. It is very enjoyable.

It is also, for the most part, very boring to write about: I either am busy learning how to make things up for audiences, watching others make things up for audiences, or taking out the beer-filled trashcans of audiences who have recently watched someone make things up.

That said, this week’s birthday party was a completely delightful quasi-break from the routine. A friend turned 30, and her boyfriend rented out a local bar—a Cheers-style bar, a bar that emphatically Doesn’t Host Dancing—for an all-night dance extravaganza. No one was trying to look cool, at all, and so it was a glorious mash of drunk adult former theater kids ironic-dancing to early-90s Britney Spears with complete abandon.

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Doing things correctly

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Image courtesy of Vegan Feast Catering. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

There are some moments where, when you find yourself in the middle of them, you think: “I am doing things correctly.” Saturday night, as I sat down at a barstool with a gin and tonic in one hand and a Krispy Kreme donut in the other, I had one of those moments.

When folks talk about college as the best years of their lives, I am suspicious, because I don’t know about y’all but my college years never once paired glazed donut and gin, so, point and match to adulthood.

The glazed donut and gin combo happened early in the evening of the end-of-season party for the theatre. The night continued to live up to its promise, because alcohol and dancing and people who have a vested professional interest in other humans paying attention to them for being funny is a recipe for a grand ol’ time, particularly when the DJ is playing “Everybody” and folks are making a Really Concerted Effort to creep on the “am I sexual?” lyric. Continue reading

And now, for the weather

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Image courtesy of Loren Kerns. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Atlanta summer weather is unpredictable: the heat knob on the thermostat hover somewhere around the 90 degree range, and the humidity slider somewhere around 70%, but neither is particularly firmly set and sometimes the cat gets in and knocks them around a bit and weird things happen. For example, this year’s July 4th weekend was just a glorious kind of this-is-why-I-live-here set of days, with weather that felt made for sitting on a porch and feeling good about things (like the fact that malaria no longer is a thing here—thanks, mosquitos!). The air was, though not entirely devoid of its water weight, certainly breathable and minimally full of Things That Will Give You Asthma.

I spent most of the weekend days on porches (three different ones!) and most of the evenings drinking whiskey in places with big windows. I purchased (and wore, with abandon) a pair of what are pretty definitely mom shorts. I sat in the shade.

In contrast to that, last week the celestial cat got in and knocked the humidity knob to 11: roundabout lunchtime, the heavens opened up. Summertime in Atlanta contains a fair bit of rain, but most of it is of the 20 minutes and gone variety, a little natural afternoon shower. It’s tedious but not harmful—it takes a few weeks of that weather for us to even begin to worry that the ground has been made soft enough that the trees will start falling out, again.

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#FreeArtDecatur and Sodabooze

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Image courtesy of Emily Chapman. Art courtesy of _CheckTheBox_. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I grew up just outside of Decatur, an intown suburb of Atlanta that bills itself as “a city of homes, churches, and schools.” (Yes, really.) Though it’s not really Atlanta, in a metro area that still includes suburbs 2 hours outside of town, it is close enough. The town is basically what Berkley would be if it happened to be in Georgia; there are competing, longstanding independent coffee shops, and art fairs, and an annual book festival. A lot of earnest high school students are always around, playing ultimate frisbee.

It’s a lovely town. I would be charmed if I discovered it as an adult. But I didn’t, and as a result I’ve maintained an uneasy relationship with it into adulthood: I like it, I should like it, I am a product of it, but it seems like cheating to stay in it. I’m not establishing myself as an adult in any meaningful way if I’m still getting coffee at the same coffee shop I’ve been loitering at since I was 15, even if it’s a wonderful coffee shop (and I drink beer in it, now). So, I’ve been staying away, finding new coffee shops in my new neighborhood a few miles away. It’s been a good choice, I think.

But I was reminded how much I like the place this weekend, when I went back for the second annual Great Decatur Art Hunt. The event grew out of Free Art Friday/#FAFATL, a city-wide group of artists (loosely affiliated in some cases, unrelated in others) which drop art around town for folks to find. This was a concentrated version of that: starting at noon on Saturday, the artists gathered to drop art and watch as folks gathered it. Decatur was such the neighborhood for it: lots of families with small kids who wanted to participate, high walkability for finding drops on foot, a huge number of earnest people who Want to Support Art. Continue reading

Summertime sadness

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Image courtesy of Just_Go. Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

Summer is officially here. As far as I am concerned, it can peace out right now, because it has only been like two weeks and I am already beginning to form a horrifying exoskeleton of sweat and spray-on sunscreen that doesn’t even come off with a razor (because it’s summer now, and I have to pretend that I care about shaving for three months instead of being a hairy be-skirted weirdo like I normally am).

I will, with any luck, peel the extra layer from my body as soon as the temperature drops back below 80 and the swaddling blanket of Atlanta summer humidity retreats. I plan to emerge from my chrysalis like an unburnt, smelly butterfly and retreat into tights and cashmere until it ceases to be socially acceptable.

You know what I like about fall? The fact that I can be outside for more than 10 minutes without having to think of myself as having a carapace. (Also: pumpkins.) Continue reading

Personal adornment

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Image courtesy of Rachel Kramer. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Last weekend, I got a tattoo. It’s my second—the first is the VFD logo from the Series of Unfortunate Events, which half the world thinks is an Egyptian-inspired Playboy Bunny and has, in recent memory, basically only been correctly identified once, by a sorority sister’s tanked prom date, on a bus back from semi-forma–but the first of any notable size and color.

It took a week from me making the appointment to me being in the chair. In the meantime, I sent the poor man something like seven pictures of cedar waxwings, along with a random assortment of his other tattoos that I like with exciting comments like “I like these colors!” and “These are good lines?” and “I would like this pose unless that’s not possible in which case another pose is good.” For all that I was offended when my corporate personality test showed that I put relatively little consideration into my decisions, this experience does seem to have proved the thing right.

The experience itself was pleasant and relatively pain-free (thanks, insulating layer of arm fat!). I chose the artist because his portfolio book had a coworker’s tattoo in it. I like the tattoo and I like the coworker it’s on, so it seemed like a good omen. When I told this to the artist, he mentioned that he was actually responsible for a whole chunk of the tattoos on my coworkers (we’re a Very Hip Company). Chatting about mutual acquaintances filled up a not-small portion of the hour and a half that it took for the thing to be etched on my person, and helped pass the time. Continue reading

Resting months

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Image by Emily Chapman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It is somewhat distressing to me that being happy has significantly reduced the amount of things I have to blog about. Working overnight is no longer making me hallucinate bugs on my wall. My remaining parent is in good health, except for a knee thing from him working out All the Time. Not a single child has recently pelted me with rocks while yelling slurs at me.

Y’all, it is difficult to make a narrative out of “this weekend I ate a lot of cheese toast and watched roller derby and read Holidays on Ice and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” I did do those things! They were wonderful! I have a lot of feelings about the differences between the novel and the film version of N&N. One is of course the  Levithan-iest thing to ever Levithan, which—he seems really nice, and I enjoyed watching him speak at Decatur Book Festival last year, but many of his books read a little bit like fanfiction, in terms of the long, long sentences, and that’s not bad but it is jarring to read in published work. I enjoyed the book a very great deal. The film has my favorite sex scene ever, and a deeply charming turn by Michael Cera, and I made my sister watch it while I was in London with her because I am the sort of mildly-obnoxious human who will take advantage of international travel to work around her own country’s licensing restrictions. Continue reading

Art Everywhere, All the Time

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Image courtesy of Elena Chapman. Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

I spent the past week and some change in London, my first visit there. It was, as you might imagine, an excellent trip for my flavor of nerd. So many museums! Free museums! With type specimens! So many type specimens.

I mean really. Y’all, on a whim, I visited the British Library. In their “treasures room,” I saw—in no particular order—the notated manuscript draft for Jane Eyre, a Gutenberg Bible, Austen’s hand-written draft of Persuasion, a letter by Darwin, a hand-written Sylvia Plath poem, and two (two!) of the original copies of the Magna Carta. This was in a single room, and doesn’t even include the section of books that were included just as art objects (they were, as you might imagine, covered in gilt and beautiful). In the room downstairs, I got to see one of Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman scripts.

I wandered into the Natural History Museum and saw mounts of Darwin’s pigeons and the type specimen for archaeopteryx. (That building, by the way, has dinosaurs and monkeys and beetles carved into the walls.) Halfway down the block I popped in the science museum and, after seeing a display of the sculpture that James Watt apparently took up after inventing steam engines, wandered upstairs, where I promptly lost my shit in front of Babbage’s reconstructed difference engine.

(Such a nerd am I that not only was I aware of Babbage’s part of things, but I had actually read a book about building that particular reconstruction of the difference engine, written by one of the people who spearheaded the project. Did you know that Babbage intentionally put half of the parts backwards in his plans, to confuse would-be copyright infringers?)

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Restarting holidays

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Image courtesy of Ewan Munro. Licensed under CC BY SA.

It’s been a weird year for holidays. My mom dying hastened a process that, I think, happens in a lot of families—once the current crop of kids in the family grow to adulthood, there’s a lull in holiday celebrations until the now-adult children begin to have kids of their own.

A quiet July Fourth bled into a quiet Christmas, which turned into a quiet New Year’s and Valentine’s Day and birthday (Thanksgiving, since it involves food, remained more or less untouched). It’s been fine, but not ideal—I like holidays, I like tradition, I like a socially-sanctioned occasion to have parties and wear fancy shoes and eat tiny foods.

As has been mentioned before, my youthful religious upbringing was spotty at best: I’m nominally Jewish, but grew up celebrating non-religious Christmas and Easter with one half of the family, with religious (but confusing) Hanukkah at Thanksgiving with the other half. I didn’t do seders as a child, but attended a college where religious life is a Thing. It didn’t matter that I’m an atheist—I spent college attending Passover seders and Holi color fights on the quad and Lessons and Carols performances at Christmas. I enjoyed it all. Continue reading