Ugly Sweater Shape of Water Viva Winterfest


-- चार हजार दो सौ चौदह --

Okay, I have much to report from the weekend, as I had hoped to post about certain things before now, but I just never made the time -- but first, breaking news: An Amtrak trailed did not just derail, one of a train's cars literally fell off an overpass and onto I-5 below, south of Tacoma. I first learned of it from Shobhit texting me, and when I Googled I found that KOMO News page, at first with very little information -- Shobhit later texted me the derailment occurred at 7:44 a.m., so less than an hour before I first heard about it. It took a while to find out if there were even any fatalities -- but if anyone was on that train, surely not everyone would survive that kind of a fall.

I also found this article from the Tacoma News Tribune from December 8, revealing something I did not know: Amtrak ended the passenger route between Tacoma and Olympia that followed the coastline, offering some of the most spectacular views for any train passenger in the state. That route is now freight-only, I guess, and the new route runs parallel to . . . I-5! And today was the first day of this new route. This train must have been part of that change, if not the very first train to take it.

This is definitely going to affect our drive to Olympia on Sunday, although hopefully there will have been enough time between now and then to mitigate at least some of the effects. The same goes for Gina and Beth coming up to Seattle from Olympia on Saturday, come to think of it. Traffic on I-5 this morning, probably still now as this entry is posted, must have been a nightmare.

I wrote the above earlier this morning; now there are reports of at least six fatalities and 70 injuries, and I-5 in the area will be closed all day. I didn't realize until seeing this new link that the derailment was actually much closer to Olympia than Tacoma -- it's just north of Lacey.

I even got a text from my cousin Jennifer late this morning, which kind of mystified me at first: Your home or at work today right? I said, Yes, why? At work. She replied, Making sure u weren't on that train. That was actually pretty sweet of her, although it's been a while since I rode an Amtrak at all. I checked Flickr: it was when I took it to meet Shobhit in Salem, Oregon and then join him in the car on our way to our anniversary trip to the Oregon coast in 2015 -- two and a half years ago. Incidentally, though, the time before that was when Jennifer herself, Karen and I were all on the same train from Seattle southbound after Jennifer had her Birth Week overnight visit with me in 2014, and then Karen and I took our weekend trip to Portland that year. I had forgotten about that.

So, I suppose it's plausible that there was some slim chance I'd be on that train, but the probability is infinitesimal. I never travel for Christmas only a week beforehand; we're always headed down on Christmas Eve -- and we drive anyway, especially now with Shobhit actually living at home with his car again. That said, the probability of this happening to any given person who was actually on that train would also have been pretty infinitesimal -- and I have taken that train trip many times. Just not on this new route. I suspect there will be something discovered about the cause that is specific to this route change. This never happened on the waterfront route, after all.

-- चार हजार दो सौ चौदह --

Anyway! On to more cheerful things. Friday afternoon saw PCC's Second Annual Ugly Sweater Contest and Cookie Exchange. It was, effectively, our sixth company holiday party, although only four of those (2004 - 2007) were official company-wide parties in rented venues, and the last two have taken place during the work day in our new office location's large kitchen. There was a an official holiday part in 2003 as well, but I didn't take any photos of that one -- I was too new and still didn't know anyone at work extremely well -- and it wasn't at a rented venue but at the then-new Fremont store. I'll never forget that particular party, though, because I got into a conversation with Nancy G in which it somehow came up that I was still a virgin. My, how things have changed! #slutpride

A curious thing about the Cookie Exchange: last year's spread was far more extensive than this year's -- in their respective photos, I count no fewer than 22 dessert dishes from last year, and about 14 in this year's. That's fine, really, in terms of numbers alone: this is a fun event but focusing it on baking (or cookies specifically) results in one massive amount of sugar consumption. That said, another relatively unfortunate twist on this year's crop of sweets: the vast majority of them ranged from bad to mediocre. Only a couple of them, I thought, were particularly good. I chose not to say that out loud to the group though.

I did get more photos from this event, though -- 16, compared to the 12 from last year, which then had been augmented by six photos taken by other people; I took all 16 of this year's in the full photo set. This was largely due to the Ugly Sweater Contest, and I got two group photos and at least three photos of individuals (including Claudia in a great pose) in their sweaters. I don't own any sweaters, let alone any ugly ones, so I did not participate in that -- nor did I participate in the cookie baking contest either. As I said to Aimee, the Office Manager who organized it, not only did I not have time to do any baking for it (I had plans both Wednesday and Thursday evenings last week), but there's never any need for every single person at a potluck to bring a dish anyway -- that just results in way too much food. Granted, I could have done something, especially since I had looped Aimee in on my PCC Holiday Feast conversation with Arianna and Brenna regarding the hope that this party would become an annual tradition, and Aimee then invited me to be part of the "planning committee," which I never actually did.

My own personal favorite of the sweaters was Kate's, with the Santa Claus riding a unicorn. I went looking for her to get a picture after the party was winding down, couldn't find her, and emailed her to say I wanted to get a photo. She said she was coming to me, and when she arrived she suggested we take a selfie together, and offered me two hat options: I chose the beanie with lit Christmas lights on it, which unfortunately can't be seen in the photo. I asked her where she got hers and she said Amazon, and I keep thinking maybe I should try to find some kind of sweater to wear next and maybe subsequent years. I'd kind of like to find one that would both qualify for this yet I would still be willing to wear it under other circumstances.

That Kate, by the way -- not to be confused with Cate, the CEO, who was not around on Friday -- was one of the ones who interviewed Shobhit for a PCC job that he never got. I still like her, though, and will likely get to know her a little better over time. She's the new Customer Service Manager, in the position Mimi vacated now that she just retired.

As for the cookies themselves, I really must mention Lynne Vea's Stained Glass Gingerbread Cookies, which were both beautiful to look at and surprisingly delicious -- a rare combination; cookies are usually just one or the other. Even the "stained glass," a grispy sort of jelly with raspberry flavor, was tasty. I was very, very impressed.

I had thought this party might yield some Social Review points, but, I guess not. I didn't really sit and chat with anyone during this. I also wound up somewhat unsatisfied as far as the food goes, because I only had a snack bar for lunch instead of eating the pizza I had brought, as I wanted to try mitigating my calorie consumption. That left me with a pretty significant need for a dinner of substance when I got home, which Shobhit quite nicely provided: he made a pasta dish out of one of the magi noodle packages he brought back from India, to which he added slices of Field Roast sausage. It was a very tasty and satisfying dinner as we spend the rest of the evening at home, watching season two of The Crown. I tried to stay up long enough to be able to say hi to Ivan once he got home from work, but I was too tired and actually zonked out at 10:23 that night. I was in bed for eight hours and 36 minutes that night! That's a lot, for me. I had hoped to get a little action with Shobhit in the morning but he was going to an audition for a part that required him to have a downer state of mind, and he decided having sex would have made him too happy for that. You see what I have to deal with? Sheeeesh.

-- चार हजार दो सौ चौदह --


-- चार हजार दो सौ चौदह --

Ivan's boyfriend Drew stayed over on Saturday night -- this being the sixth weekend in a row they've gotten together -- and Ivan did not know what their plans were, apparently, until Saturday morning. He messaged me while Shobhit and I were out grocery shopping to ask if we could see The Shape of Water at the 6:45 showing. Given a choice I would have gone at either 1:15 or 4:00, but that was also totally fine. When the three of us had gone to see The Disaster Artist two weekends before, there was a trailer to The Shape of Water, and I had overheard Drew asking Ivan if he wanted to see it -- he said he very much did. I had some weeks prior asked him during another showing of that same trailer of he'd see it with me and he said yes, and of course it was totally fine (in fact, expected) that Drew should come too. At this point it's really more like me accompanying them, although I'm still the one pestering him about when we'll be going. Ivan will be getting another seven points on the next Social Review now, in any case, secure in the #3 position behind Shobhit and Laney, which is exactly where I want him.

As long as he keeps dating Drew, and they can only see each other on weekends, which is also the only time I'm able to do things with him due to his weekday swing shifts, in all likelihood his numbers will drop on the next Social Review for the winter, as naturally his focuses will shift to Drew. Maybe Laney will see more movies with me after the holidays. I'll surely be seeing I, Tonya with Ivan and Drew the weekend it opens locally on January 5, which is three weekends from now -- so I won't be pestering him about weekend plans again until then, and probably won't do anything social with him outside of home until then either. Apparently Drew is going to visit family in Yakima for Christmas next weekend and that will make it the first weekend they don't see each other since they met, but I've got lots of my own plans already for that weekend -- as I already stated, Gina and Beth are coming up for a play and then the holiday sights on Saturday (although they'll probably leave earlier in the evening than I'd like; Gina's just like that, she always wants to go home), and then Sunday is Christmas Eve, when Shobhit and I will be traveling to Olympia, in all likelihood making a pit stop at Danielle's in Renton on the way, as we do pretty much every year. I suppose it's possible I could wind up doing something with Ivan on New Year's weekend, but again relatively unlikely. I'm seeing Dina Martina with Evan on the 30th, and Sunday the 31st is New Year's Eve -- although I'm still not sure who all will come to the PCC offices with us for that. Evan and Elden might; I already invited her.

Anyway! That was kind of a ridiculous digression. Hey, here's another one! It just occurred to me there is a kind of key thing both Shobhit and Ivan have in common: not a lot of close friends. Shobhit's got only Faith (who lives in Palm Springs -- I do hope to convince him to take a trip to visit her early in the new year) and Sachin (who lives in Bellevue now as I recall, but he does not come over often. I really wish Shobhit had more friends -- friendship is so important, but for some reason to him it's a higher priority to alienate people. At least, with one notable exception, most of my friends are fond of him, and Shobhit rather likes most of my friends as well -- especially Danielle and Laney. He always loved Barbara too, but of course she's been gone since 2010. I rather think of myself as a close friend to Ivan at this point, and I can think of no one else in his life that really fits that bill; I only know of one friend he sees even semi-regularly, and he loves to talk about how much she lies about things (not that he should talk, incidentally; he's fond of saying things that are transparent bullshit, but I do think I've learned how to sift through and find where there is sincerity). Not only that, but both the last two times he's had Drew overnight on a weekend when Shobhit and I were also home, he suggested we all watch something together, and it's heartening to have him still engaging with me socially even as he embarks on a new relationship. Often friends disappear for a while with their new romantic partners, and Ivan hasn't done that at all. Even really didn't either, come to think of it, when she started seeing Elden, with whom she now lives -- and I do like Elden, he's a pretty cool guy. In any case, back to the original point: in contrast to both Shobhit and Ivan, with their very few close friends, I've got a bevy of them: Danielle, Gabriel, Laney, Karen, Evan -- and now, Ivan. They are all so much a part of my life that both Shobhit and Ivan are plenty familiar with them -- Ivan even regularly asks about several of them and how they're doing. It's nice.

I just have so much gratitude for all of these people, and I couldn't even ask for better fulfillment of the roles they play in my life. It's rare that you get that very often in later adult years, when it's harder to make new friends -- but I really got it in both Evan and Ivan, now that I think about it. I'm probably the least "close" to Evan, who serves more as a person to hang out and do things with than forge a deep emotional bond with, but she still fills a vital role that I appreciate.

I suppose I could finally take this back around to the movie I saw with Ivan and Drew on Saturday night -- as it happens, I was in the minority in my clear disappointment with The Shape of Water, which I went in expecting to love. But I couldn't get past the grossness of Sally Hawkins's character literally having carnal relations with a fucking amphibian man. Other people had no issues with this -- least of all Ivan or Drew, who both declared they loved it. But when the movie ended and Ivan turned to me to ask what I thought, I said, "I was a little disappointed, actually." Ivan asked why, and I responded, "That movie should have been called Elisa Fucks a Fish.

Ivan found this so hilarious that he laughed, rather hard, for at least a minute or so. He hasn't laughed that hard at something I said since I told him late last year that he walks with such poise it's like he went to finishing school for gay men. He even said, "I hope you put that in your review!" I replied, "I absolutely will," although technically I didn't -- I saved that phrase for the comment I posted with the link on social media (Ivan being the only person to give a reaction on Facebook -- with the laughing face reaction). He was so enamored with my phrasing that, while he was out to dinner with Drew after the movie, he messaged me, Well maybe we could all watch something together this evening now that we're done with Eliza Fucks a Fish.

So, once I was done with my review and Ivan and Drew had returned, even though it was later than I prefer to start a movie, I asked Ivan what movies he had from Netflix and so he showed me a film called Viva, which he wanted to watch again after already seeing it a first time about a year ago, when he decided to look for other movies by the same director of The Love Witch, one of his favorite movies in a long time. (Last Christmas I got him an Amazon gift card specifically so he could buy that movie once it was released in February, and he was legitimately excited by that, like, surprisingly so.) Both of these movies are homages to sixties and seventies "sexploitation" flicks, apparently meticulously accurate in their re-creation of look and tone -- so, people familiar with those older movies tend to love these movies by Anna Biller; those unfamiliar (like myself), not so much. I did not find The Love Witch to be all that great; I found Viva to be even less so -- when it ended, I said, "That was fucking weird. And too long." Indeed, when it comes to what could be conveyed with its "homage" elements, with both movies Biller could have achieved it far more memorably and effectively with, say, an 80 minute run time, rather than a truly tedious full two hours.

There was a curious reversal of reactions between Shobhit and me compared to the last time the four of us watched a movie together, though, as when we all watched Scrooged two weekends before, Shobhit declared it "awful." Ivan and Drew seemed to like it okay. This time, I wasn't so into Viva, but only stuck it out kind of out of social obligation, even though I had said I might fall asleep in the middle of it -- and I literally very nearly did, several times, as it was ten after midnight by the time it finally ended. Even Shobhit asked how long the movie was when there was about ten minutes left. Still, Shobhit was oddly so open to it that he laughed at it nearly as much as Ivan did -- and Ivan was literally stoned. At one point he was laughing so hard I said, "Are you going to be all right?"

Drew was the most familiar with the old "sexploitation" flicks Viva was homaging, a bit of an irony given that, at 28, he's the youngest of us all. He kept marveling at how accurately portrayed everything was.

Shobhit made Indian chai for all of us. I washed up the now-empty cups and was finally able to go to bed. I guess the most useful part of us all watching that movie is that, since Drew was there and we all did a planned (if last-minute) thing together at home, that gives Shobhit another point for Saturday on the next Social Review. Ivan and Drew already got a point for that day from going to the movie earlier in the evening.

-- चार हजार दो सौ चौदह --

And that brings us to yesterday morning, when Shobhit got yet another Social Review point -- because he suggested we go out for brunch. Shobhit loves to do this: bitch and bitch about how I spend too much money, but then suggest we go out to eat somewhere, and I pay for it. Then he doesn't complain. He did appreciate something kind of rare that I did there, though, in that I agreed that he was justified in thinking the guy who took our order was an idiot. More often than not, when he gets annoyed with people, I see it as either pointless or there being no good reason for it (or both); this guy really was a dipshit. When Shobhit ordered the California scramble and said quite clearly to put the avocado (which comes with it) on the side, he said, "Side of avocado." I spoke up because Shobhit hadn't caught that -- clearly he was going to charge us for a side of avocado, and all we wanted was the avocado we were already getting to be put on the side. This is not a complicated concept. And after I struggled to explain the error to him, Shobhit, just being nice, said, "Sorry if that was confusing." The guy's response, with a slightly snotty tone, no less? "That was, really confusing, actually." Fuck you, mister! No tip for you.

Then my spiced chai latte was way too spicy. Alas, I can't bitch about Café Solstice completely, though -- Shobhit and I both had to agree that the food, both dishes, were excellent.

We then went to QFC to kill time until we went to meet Laney at her place. Shobhit just walked with us back to the Light Rail station, but then he went back home; he had to work from noon to 5. I spent the next four hours or so with Laney, and she had suggested we take Light Rail and then the Monorail instead of taking the #8 bus down Denny, which, even though it would cost more, would be more fun. Actually she forgot that she couldn't use her Orca Card on the Monorail, so we both had to withdraw cash downtown because the Monorail is so bizarrely antiquated that they still accept only cash.

When we came back to the Monorail station at Seattle Center to return, though, I found two $5 bills on the floor! How awesome is that, finding ten bucks? Usually it's only, like, a quarter. And a train had just left and no one was near it so clearly whoever lost it was never getting it back. I was feeling generous and so I said, "You want half?" and gave her one of the fives. I think she was kind of surprised by that. The Monorail is $2.50 each way so that find actually paid for both of our Monorail costs for the day.

And in between those two Monorail rides, Laney and I checked out this year's Winterfest, including quite a few pictures I took of the train display -- I got enough pictures yesterday, in fact, to make the Winterfest outing its own full photo set: 12 shots of the train "village" display in the Armory; three shots of the small ensemble choruses we spent an hour watching give a free concert; six shots of the ice sculptures we went to check out afterward -- the photo set has a total of 23 shots, including two brief videos of the village display. I do get pictures of that most years, but usually they just go into my "Seattle Holiday Sights photo sets. (The one I have going for this year has 19 shots in it already.) This means this year I'm going to wind up with no less than eight separate Christmastime photo sets for the 2017 "Christmas collection -- as we still have Gina and Beth's visit this Saturday, and then Christmas itself, and I've got six sets this year so far already. Saturday could potentially even be broken into two sets, if we go see the Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton, which I typically make their own photo set as well. It's now much more likely that I could wind up matching the 2012 record of nine separate Christmastime sets for the year.

I'm sure you're finding all of this endlessly fascinating.

Anyway! The small ensembles were Captain Smartypants, the small ensemble of the Seattle Men's Chorus, and Sensible Shoes, the small ensemble of the Seattle Women's Chorus, which Laney was seeing perform for the first time since Tiki died just a few weeks ago. They even sang a song dedicated to her, which made Laney cry a little. She warned me she would likely get a little emotional, for this very reason. There was no warning needed, really.

The concert was lovely, although I did have to mention after it was over that, compared to the Sensible Shoes, which is more diverse both in terms of ethnicity (okay, they are all white except one Filipino woman -- still more diverse than the lily-white Captain Smartypants) and, perhaps more importantly, age. I said, "Captain Smartypants seems to be kind of aging out." She agreed, and noted that they have a few new members and all of them are older guys. Only one member was young-ish, maybe in his late twenties or early thirties; another guy who could be close to my age; all others clearly much older. The youthful vibrancy I saw in them when I first saw a small ensemble concert of theirs sometime around 2000 is long gone. And their "fun" outfits, with deliberately loud and colorful pants? None of them fit flatteringly. It was, like, eight guys in ill-fitting outfits. Okay, one guy looked pretty good in his outfit. Another guy's outfit looked okay but he had a terrible hair style. They just, on average, don't look that great these days. They need a new outfit gimmick, that's for sure.

Sensible Shoes, on average, in spite of how many of them are overweight (which should be irrelevant, I know, except that when it comes to clothing fit, it's harder to get a flattering fit when you're overweight), looked better in their self-referential lesbian plaid. They had plenty of older members too, but the point is that their apparent ages had a broader range. They are also much newer, and it sort of feels like Captain Smartypants has become too much of an "institution" for its own good, with not enough younger members coming in as upstarts in their process of membership turnover.

After I waited patiently for Laney to offer lots of hugs, as she was a member of Sensible Shoes for several years and still knows a lot of them, we then went to check out the ice sculptures. This was the first time I saw those at Winterfest, and that was pretty fun.

She even walked with me to both Meridian and Pacific Place after we took Monorail back downtown, as I looked for tickets to Star Wars to see with Shobhit after work tonight. The Meridian was my preferred choice since they have reserved seating, but they only had 2D showings at 6pm (too early) and 8 pm (not great but doable), in both cases with only two seats open next to each other in the front three rows. I saw no sense in being too close to the front for my second viewing of this movie, so I went over to Pacific Place and got tickets there instead -- they don't have reserved seating, so I'll just arrive super early tonight and save Shobhit's seat so he can meet me there. I put his ticket in his wallet this morning.

Laney and I said our goodbyes at the Capitol Hill Light Rail station, and I then did a little Christmas shopping on Capitol Hill. I went home and, to my surprise, Ivan was there, Drew already having taken a ferry back home. I guess Ivan was only home for half an hour at that pont, but still, it was only mid-afternoon. I had to hide my bag under my jacket so he wouldn't see that I'd been Christmas shopping. I then attempted to take a nap because I had a truly terrible night's sleep on Saturday night, getting very little sleep, and certainly no deep sleep. I managed to snooze only for about fifteen minutes, so I got up and made myself an eggnog drink and visited with Ivan in the living room for a bit. Then I did some vegetable chopping for Shobhit: red onions, green onions, celery, all for the samosa filling Shobhit will be making for Christmas in Olympia. I had just finished that and was just getting started on what turned out to be very tasty pizza bagels we had for dinner, which we ate while watching the last two episodes of season two of The Crown.

-- चार हजार दो सौ चौदह --


[posted 12:25 pm]