I had a pretty busy day yesterday, and in the end actually felt pretty productive, even though I never did get around to writing an actual blog entry, must as I might have liked to. I had already written plenty about the day at work in Tuesday's entry (though I didn't have any photos from work posted yet, which you do see here today), and there honestly wasn't a whole lot to report on the evening in Olympia.
It seems pretty clear Halloween, or at least my family's approach to it, is in transition. I'd love it if we returned to the many years' tradition of an open-house corn bread and chili feed that went on clear until a couple of years ago (did they even do it in 2015? I don't actually know), but it seems relatively unlikely. It was sort of winding down for a while, anyway. When all the grandchildren grow up, there aren't as many little kids to bring around. Some of the grandkids have their own kids now, but Ricky is the only one now local, and as Sherri really loves to point out, he and Rachael almost never bring Raiden over. Nikki and TJ have Cheyanna, but they live in Spokane; Brandi and Nick have Jaycee -- who shares a birthday with Shobhit, and just turned eight -- and Gianni, and last year Dad and Sherri spent Halloween with them in Arizona. They only reason they didn't this year is because when they realized how long Jaycee's winter break is, they decided they would visit in January instead.
Also, it's not like I'm not just as much a part of the Halloween Open House puttering out as anyone else is: after all, during the years that Shobhit lived out of town between 2010 and 2016, I only came to Olympia for Halloween in 2010, 2011 and 2013. The four other years, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016, I went to The West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval. And I don't regret that -- that event can be a blast. Also it can be way too crowded, though, with an average of half a million people on a one-mile stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard every year. I loved it when I did it, but have had my fill of it. Last year we turned back home sooner than we might have otherwise just because the crowd got to "fuck this" levels.
This year's Halloween night was quite the opposite. As it happens, both Gina's and my spouses happened to be out of town -- Shobhit still in India (just this morning -- or this evening their time -- returning to Delhi from a two-day trip to see his sister), and Beth in Yakima for work. She left earlier this week and is due back on Friday. In any case, Gina and I were both otherwise alone for Halloween night. I mean, there's a fair chance I would have come up with something had I stayed in Seattle -- probably coordinated with Evan an Elden, who are freak-level Halloween fans -- but, this being my first time at home on Halloween since 2013, I wanted to go back to Olympia again, if Dad and Sherri were going to be home. And I could tell when talking to Dad about it at Jennifer and Eric's Halloween party on the 21st that he was kind of hoping I would.
It was at Jennifer's party that Gina first heard Dad and Sherri were not planning anything for Halloween, but when she said, "I was going to come over!", Sherri said okay, she'll make chili. But then Dad said we could just have pizza for dinner, and we were all down with that as well.
And speaking of Jennifer and Eric's party, that's not nothing -- in a way, it served as a replacement for the open house Dad and Sherri now chose not to do. We still had a Halloween party (or "open house" or whatever you want to call it), it was just at a different house and not on Halloween itself. It still involved pretty much all the same family members as usual, had plenty of people, and yielded the largest number of, and the best photos of the holiday this year. If they make this their own new Halloween tradition, then I'll still be satisfied.
After all, between Jennifer and Eric's party; Halloween at work; and Halloween night in Olympia, this year Halloween still spawned three separate photo sets, which has been pretty much standard for the past decade. Prior to that, I tended to have four photo sets every Halloween because of my Matthew's Friends Pumpkin Carving Party, which I haven't done since 2014 -- and that was after 11 years of them. But, those also started to peter out with very few people actually coming. Maybe I'll do one again one of these years soon, though, and just do them every few years instead of trying to do them every single year. I kind of like that idea. It really depends on my schedule -- and everyone else's, of course. People get super busy in the fall, and rarely does anyone get super excited about getting invited to yet one more event to pile onto their already-countless commitments.
That said, I do think it's kind of cool that the younger generation in our family -- or I guess I should say, the one that is now middle-aged (which I'm part of) -- is sort of taking on the mantle of hosting these parties. Dad and Sherri did it for years and have basically had their fill of it. And Jennifer and Eric clearly love to entertain, and have a huge house that easily accommodates it. Dad and Sherri's house isn't super small, but Jennifer and Eric do have a lot more space for common areas and mingling. They're not the only ones doing it, either: another cousin, Toni Marie, and her husband James, who now live out in Aberdeen, also had a Halloween party -- theirs a week after Jennifer and Eric's, on Saturday the 28th. I don't think as many people came to theirs; Aberdeen is much further away for people than Shelton is.
So, what Halloween will be like next year seems very much up in the air. I do hope that Jennifer and Eric do their party again, because I'll definitely come if they do. But even if Dad and Sherri don't do anything and just stay home and pass out candy -- as they did this year -- I might still come anyway. I'll still have an excuse to dress in costume at work, and that's really all I want: an excuse to dress up. This has to be the first year since 1997 that I did not dress up in Olympia when I was there on Halloween -- but, I did dress up at work. I left at 2:00 in the afternoon but still had that wig on for about seven hours.
Then it took me way too long to drive down there. I took the bus home and was there not long after 2:30; my maps app said the drive would take ninety minutes. I decided to leave by 3:00, even though at first I thought I'd leave at 3:30, just as insurance. And then? It took me two hours and fifteen minutes! It was insane. And it wasn't because of construction or accidents, either. It was just way too many people on the road. I guess this is just the new normal in a rapidly growing Seattle and surrounding area. Actually I made surprisingly great time on my drive back home yesterday, leaving at around 1:00 -- it was not long after 2:00 when I got home. I suppose it's just that Seattle's "rush hour" is actually five hours long, lasting from about 3:00 until about 7:00 every day.
Dad was getting a little bummed at the low turnout of trick-or-treaters early in the evening. He tracks the number every year, but after a while his total for the year was pretty close to the average for the past decade or so. The numbers went up quickly when large groups of kids came all at once two or three times. It really seems to depend on the neighborhood whether you get a lot of trick-or-treaters. Dad and Sherri used to get a lot more than they do now, and they live in a pretty large residential area of nothing but single-family houses. Theirs was the only one with lights on, on their block, though. Kids kept walking by across the street to the side of the house, evidently to where it looked like there were blocks with more participatory houses. Still, Dad's house clearly had lights on and people inside, and they even kept the front door open behind the screen door. It was odd how many kids just bypassed the house. Still, they wound up with a total of 49 for the year.
Otherwise, though, it was just Dad, Sherri, Gina and me, hanging out, none of us in costume. I did bring my costume props with me, just in case; I wasn't sure if more people would be coming over or not. In the end it was just the four of us. I took a picture of Sherri and Gina just sitting in the living room, to show the party in full swing. I wound up really padding this year's Halloween photo set (which can be accessed by clicking any of the photos in this entry): by far the most interesting photos for the day were the 16 shots taken at work (only 13 of them taken by me; I swiped three others from other photographers). I had another whopping 13 of them taken at Dad and Sherri's house in the evening, and only six of those have any clear relationship to Halloween.
I took another 12 pictures yesterday alone, again with the intend of using them largely as filler -- I got the Halloween photo set up to 41 shots, which was still the lowest I've had in the Halloween Day-specific photo sets since 2010. (Incidentally, that was in Olympia as well, and the last time I was in Olympia, in 2013, that set was 46 shots, so it's been a while since going to Olympia yielded a huge number of photos anyway. Even the 2013 set was also padded with 14 shots taken the day after Halloween.)
In the meantime, my goal yesterday was to limit my food consumption. I couldn't keep my grubby hands out of the bite sized chocolate candies Dad was handing out to Trick-or-Treaters. I wasn't sure what I was even going to do for breakfast yesterday, but then Gina texted to ask if I wanted to have breakfast, because she had the day off. (I guess she works long hours on other days at her job, so she takes every other Wednesday off.) I wound up spending about half the day with her, actually, something that just became possible due to the stars aligning for us. She told me she'd never have been able to plan it, but even though she's taking online courses right now, she was all caught up on school work for a couple of days with nothing more to do until today, so she literally had nothing to do yesterday.
I didn't realize Dad and Sherri would be working yesterday. They talk so much about being retired, or semi-retired, or sometimes they're retired and sometimes they're semi-retired, I've taken to assuming they won't be working more often than they will be. Maybe it had to do with it being the end of the month, though. In any case, they were both still sleeping when I woke up around 7:00, so I figured I had time to go get my shower in before they got up. Once I was done about an hour later, they were both up and clearly getting ready for work. Did I get in anyone's way of getting in the shower? Neither of them said I did.
Gina suggested eating at the Shipwreck Café, so I drove there at the same time Dad and Sherri did -- part of the way with our cars in lanes right next to each other. They broke off at one point to pick up some bell peppers. When I pulled into the restaurant parking lot, Gina was also pulling in at the exact same time. Once we were seated, it seemed like no more than five minutes later Dad and Sherri arrived, and then we all had breakfast together. I might not have even taken that picture, except Sherri said, "Are you going to take a picture to show how the party's still going?"
Dad found the omelet he ordered dissatisfying, apparently. I had an omelet there once that I found surprisingly bland, but the one I had yesterday -- with mushrooms, tomatoes and Swiss cheese -- was quite tasty. A little expensive, though. $13.99 seems like a lot for a restaurant on the outskirts of town. And I really wanted a fourth topping, but that price only included three toppings and any additional topping added two dollars. Two dollars! For a few pieces of chopped onion? I decided I didn't need onion that badly. What kind of markup does that work out to, I wonder? Something insane, I'm sure. I found it odd that I can get plenty three-egg omelets in Seattle -- which is known for being more expensive, and has a mandatory $15 minimum wage -- for cheaper. I suppose a lot of those places in Seattle have much higher customer traffic and turnover, though. Surely there's a lot of factors at play. And I thought about this as well: if those prices didn't work for him, Dad would change them. Charging what customers will pay certainly makes sense. I always think about that when considering how much the price for the Seattle observation deck has increased over the years. In a place like that, if it were cheaper, the crowds would actually be unbearable. Still, I wasn't paying two bucks for a few pieces of chopped onion. To me, that's dumb. Maybe he does that to discourage people from adding extra toppings to begin with. His cooks don't have time for demanding customers and their nonsense!
The omelet was plenty delicious without the onions anyway.
Dad and Sherri then had to get to work. We said our goodbyes, and I followed Gina back to her house. I then rode with her to the Olympia Food Co-op, which she likes to call "The Hippie Coop," and which I had never been to. I was curious to see it, since I work for a co-op. The most interesting part was when Gina pointed to a brand of breads and told me the owners of the company used to be tenants in the house she owns and now rents out -- that being the house diagonally across the street from Dad and Sherri. She moved out of it to move in with Leslie some years ago. Apparently these people totally trashed her house, and she even had to take them to court. So I kind of delight in spreading that gossip to people here at work. I don't think we ever picked up that brand of bread, though. I don't even know if they're a company big enough to distribute up to Seattle or to our number of stores anyway. Still, I bet Scott has heard of them.
Gina just needed to refill her bottle of Dr. Bronner's laundry soap. We went back to her house, and almost made plans to go to the movies. She was interested in Goodbye Christopher Robin, which I said I was planning to see later in Seattle. Turns out, Seattle is the only place it's playing. Olympia has a few theatres, but they're not long on independent cinemas. The multiplexes were glutted with movies I either had no interest in or movies I had already seen and had no interest in seeing a second time. So, we scrapped the movie idea.
And then we just hung out in her living room for a while, and watched three old episodes of Roseanne on Amazon Prime. They were pretty entertaining. After the third episode I decided I should head home. I didn't want it to get too late in the afternoon and get stuck in the same kind of traffic again. My app still said it would take me ninety minutes to get home, but to my astonishment, I actually got home in less time than that. Or maybe it just seemed that way -- I did go to Tumwater first, to fill the gas tank with Costco gas. It cost $2.49/gallon there, which seemed high, but what do I know? I almost never pay for gas; it's Shobhit's car. I figured it would likely be cheaper there than at any Costco in Seattle. Hmm, I guess it's $2.65 at the 4th Avenue Costco in Seattle, so it was indeed a better idea to get it in Olympia. Shobhit should be proud. I saved $1.44!
And here's one way I hate getting older: I had peed right before leaving Gina's place, and still, I had to go again so badly once I got to the south end of Tacoma, I stopped telling myself I would try to hold it until getting home. I turned off and used a Chevron bathroom. It could not have been any more than 30 or 40 minutes after I left Gina's place. Talk about annoying. I kept thinking about Grandma and Grandpa McQuilkin, and how often Grandma would tell him to pull off the road so she could use the bathroom. I'm turning into my grandmother.
I got home around 2:00, and that gave me enough time to edit and upload my photos. I then decided to see the 4:30 showing of Goodbye, Christopher Robin, and I decided to walk so I could read my library book along the way. I left at 3:45 to give me enough time to deposit Ivan's rent check, which he had left for me before going to work, along with a residual check from 20th Century Fox, into Shobhit's bank account. He'll be getting those residual checks indefinitely, their amounts getting smaller and smaller each time over the years. The way actors get paid is weird and complicated, and for some who have nothing but small parts but have been in a lot of them in shows that are in syndication or in movies that still get watched a lot -- this kind of thing is probably a big part of what helps them get by.
Anyway! I came home and made myself veggie chicken enchilada casserole for dinner. One of the ingredients is sour cream and I didn't want my container of it to go bad. I didn't have the tortilla chips usually used for it, so I improvised and cracked all my leftover taco shells in half. Nor did I have pepper jack cheese that usually goes in it along with the shredded cheddar, so I added crumbles of ricotta cheese instead. I think it's ricotta? Fuck, I can't remember. It's wet and sticky and white and comes in a large tube from Costco in a 2-pack, and I needed to use some of it up. Anyway, it made this dish different from usual but it still turned out quite well. I also needed to open and use up some of the bag of spinach I got at Trader Joe's, so I added a bunch of that too, and I don't usually put spinach in this dish. But hey, I ate some greens! I watched Real Time with Bill Maher while preparing that. Then I wrote most of my movie review during the 35 minutes it took to bake in a casserole dish. Now I have three days of leftovers and had it for lunch today.
[posted 1:09 pm, because I forgot when I was supposed to post at 12:30]