Ivan Danielle Elise Laney Gabriel


-- चार हजार चार सौ अठारह --

Very eventful weekend I just had. So much so that I really could have done well to post a regular entry about at least some of it before now, but I never got around to it. This was mostly because of how busy I was otherwise. I might have posted an entry Saturday evening except I spent a lot of time that evening editing, uploading and captioning photos to two different photo albums on Flickr -- I've got photos specific to Ivan's two-day / three-night visit (from which the above photo is embedded) here; then there's a pretty good-sized, 51-shot photo album of my day on Saturday with Danielle and her work friend Elise here -- having gone to the Amazon Spheres; the Theo Chocolates Factory Tour; and the Chrysanthimum Show at the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

(Side note on the Saturday photo set: that one combines so many different things, I was compelled to make it part of four different album collections: "Misc Local Events," to which I added this really for the Chrysanthimum Show, as I had never gone to any other before this; "Botanical Gardens," a new collection I created since the Amazon Spheres are not exactly a park, and that is what all other previous botanical gardens visited were (and thus those have been in things like the 2007 and 2008 "Seattle Parks Tours" collections), if not part of Birth Week collections, which this was not either; "Amazon Spheres clearly now needs its own collection now that I have two separate photo albums of visits there, and again, this could clearly not be included as part of the 2018 Birth Week collection the first visit was a part of, focused as it was on botanical gardens -- and I'll have more albums created of visits there on both December 1 (with Shobhit and Danielle) and in January (with Laney); and finally, "Theo Chocolates Factory Tours," as this was the sixth time I have done that. Now, I could have separated the Saturday photos into three albums so they could all just be put into these respective collections without the irrelevant photos from other locations piggybacking on them, but that would have negated the singularity of experience spending the day with Danielle and Elise on Saturday. That said, I could have done both, but I really try to keep photos in just one photo album where I can, with the notable exception of Halloween, the reasons for which were explained last week. I mean, I've got 1,309 photo albums on my Flickr account as it is; I need to consolidate where I can and where it makes sense.)

Anyway! Back to Friday, the second of the two full days Ivan visited, having arrived Halloween evening (when we just saw him for a few minutes at home before he went to a Halloween show in Ballard -- which, after how uneventful my Halloween evening was this year, I am considering joining him for next year) and then leaving quite early Saturday morning, before I even got out of bed. I already wrote about the hour or so I spent with him at Neko Cat Café right after work on Thursday, before he went off to yet another live show of some kind, this one apparently in West Seattle. I then spent the entirety of Friday evening with him, meeting first for dinner at the Marrakesh Moroccan food restaurant on 3rd and Battery in Belltown.

That's where we are in the picture above. He asked for a photo of him first, and I took one from across our table and showing our respective dishes. But then I opted to get a selfie of the two of us, which he was evidently just as comfortable with, and then I texted him all the photos I took so he could "edit" to his liking, a deal we made regarding and postings of photos of him after some moderate tension about it after my August visit in Vancouver. Then, to my genuine surprise, he posted the photo of the two of us, checking in at the restaurant, and even tagging me on his own Facebook page -- something he had never done before. This time I didn't even need to do any of that work! In fact, given how low-key his visit in Seattle was this time (in sharp contrast to when he also visited Seattle in August, when we went to the very photogenic "Lusio" light/art show at Volunteer Park and also the newly renovated Space Needle), I really had no intention of posting any photos of him at all to social media this time around. I was happy to have something posted in the end after all, though.

Now, a couple of notes specific to the Marrakesh restaurant. I've been there three times now (first time was with Ivan and Shobhit together; second time was on Valentine's Day alone with Shobhit; third time just with Ivan again), and I have somewhat mixed feelings about their food. We typically go for their five-course meal offering, and the first two are genuinely spectacular: the salad with its semi-soupy vegetable mix in the middle, into which you dip fresh breads, as so delicious I mentioned more than once that I could not get over it. The lentil soup that followed, which was also perfect for dipping the bread, came damn close. The "B'stilla Royale" is an odd pastry that is savory on the inside, with something similar in texture to ground veggie meat but I can't remember what it is exactly, except that it's not actually meat. It's sweet on the outside, though, like a gigantic doughnut, covered in powdered sugar. Shobhit doesn't like that dish very much. I kind of like it, but it's not my favorite. But, after those dishes, I have tended to find the main dishes slightly disappointing -- they don't have the same explosion of flavor. Ivan was very fond of the couscous dish he ordered, which I found to be bland; I much preferred the "Moussaka Vegetarian" eggplant dish I believe I have had all three times I have gone there, but even that did not come anywhere near as close to as good as the salad or lentil soup (which, honestly, are so good they might be worth a return trip on their own). The dessert was a dish our waiter called a "milk pudding," and it was nicely flavorful, but once I realized how much shredded coconut was in it, I could not finish it. It's then finished with a fairly tasty mint tea.

After that, Ivan and I walked to Pacific Place for the 7 p.m. showing of Suspiria, which we barely made it on time to -- turns out making our dinner reservation at 5:00 was perfect timing. The original 1977 version of that movie is Ivan's favorite film about witches, so he was really excited about this remake -- and then, in the end, he was about as baffled and unimpressed with it as I was. You can read my detailed thoughts on it in my review, which I did not get around to writing until Saturday evening. Once Ivan and I walked back home, I wanted to maximize the last bit of time we had together before he was to leave again, rather than retreating to the bedroom to write. He had a slice of Shobhit's birthday cake and a cup of coffee while I removed the last of the tape from coins used on my Halloween costume.

(I separated those into three Ziploc bags: $5 in quarters; $3 in dimes; $2 in nickels. I thought I had lost one single dime but ended up finding that last one on my desk a day later -- so the miracle of this year's Halloween costume is, even though I completely expected I would, I did not lose a single one of those 90 coins I had stuck to myself. Danielle took the bags from me to put into her "vacation fund" and then just paid for me at the Theo Chocolates factory. So in the end, although I did sort of "borrow" $10 for myself for this year's Halloween costume, all of that got returned into my budget, and thus my costume this year ultimately cost me less than six bucks.)

-- चार हजार चार सौ अठारह --

Saturday was the pretty long day with Danielle and her work friend Elise, whom I met for the first time: we were together between 10 a.m. and just shy of 6 p.m. Eight hours! And we did a lot -- not all of which did I even get pictures of. Our time together had five distinct stages:

1. Amazon Spheres. This visit, I took all of about 10 photos there. But! Danielle also Air Dropped the photos she took, and so the photos I have of this visit actually total 21. It was fun to go there with two people who have never been, but it otherwise lacked the novelty of when I went with Uncle David, Mary Ann, Claudia and Dylan for my Birth Week back in early May. I'm much more looking forward to the now-confirmed 5 p.m. visit on Saturday December 1, an idea I'd had after the May visit: it's the last timed entry of the day, in the late fall, so it will be after dark. Both my first two visits were during daylight so this should be notably different. Shobhit thinks they may even have Christmas lights up on that particular date, which made him surprisingly enthusiastic about going for that one. I kind of doubt they will, to be honest, and it will be cool to go at nighttime regardless, but it would still be a nice surprise if they do.

2. Shake Shack! If I had been thinking, I would have taken a picture here -- I took one my first visit when I could only go to it with Shobhit in New York City in 2010, after all; and again when they finally opened in West Hollywood in spring 2016, when Shobhit was still living there. Now there's finally one in Seattle, which I went to less than a month after it opened (on October 11), but I never took a photo. As usual I got the cheese-stuffed "Shroom Burger" and cheese fries, together far too high in calories but oh so worth it. Danielle was accidentally given two burgers, which she thought maybe she could even eat, as she was the hungry one suggesting we get lunch right after the Amazon Spheres to begin with, but the fries and one burger filled her up and she got a to-go bag.

-- चार हजार चार सौ अठारह --


-- चार हजार चार सौ अठारह --

3. Theo Chocolates Factory Tour. As I said already, this was my sixth time doing this, although I've had long breaks: after doing it four times in 2007 alone, I finally grew tired of it and declared I did not need to do it again for quite some time. And indeed, I did not do that tour again until five years later, when I took Tristen during his final summer weekend visit before the three years Christopher and Katina disallowed their kids from visiting, just because Shobhit and I had decided to get married. (Christopher did an about-face and apologized in 2016; basically we're good now -- the reason for the kids not able to visit now being due to the instability of Christopher and Katina's divorce rather than their bizarrely random bigotry.) I think Danielle and Elise enjoyed the tour fine, but having the more elaborate tours of the past to compare to, I must say I was mildly disappointed: the tour now goes through all of three rooms, only one of them literally in the factory area; we used to get to put on hair nets and walk amongst the machinery, and evidently they don't do that anymore. That struck me as slightly backward given that the tour cost was $5 in 2007, then $6 in 2012 -- and is now $10, for less accessibility to the actual factory. That definitively lowers the value, but I guess it's still worth doing every once in a while. They still offer a whole lot of chocolate samples, and it's basically just as educational about the farming and production of cocoa into chocolate as it's ever been. This visit yielded another 20 photos.

4. The Evergreen Chrysanthemum Society's Chrisanthemum Show at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. I got another 10 photos at this stop, which I only knew about because Shobhit texted me: Free chrysanthemum show at volunteer park - today till 4 and tomorrow. I still don't know how he even found out about this, now that I think about it. He must have seen a post about it on Facebook or something. And as it happens, when I looked it up online, the web page noted that "normal conservatory admission applies" -- but then I found out the Conservatory has free admission on the first Saturday of each month, which this was! It would have cost us $4 each otherwise. Danielle was convinced she had never been to Volunteer Park, and I had to look up a photo from 4th of July 1999 to prove her wrong, from one of the times she visited me in Seattle from Spokane during the two years I lived here before she moved over. It is still probable that this was the first time she had been inside the Conservatory, though. It certainly was for Elise, who has only lived in Seattle a year, moved here from outside Syracuse, NY with her husband for his job at Amazon, and was doing a sort of "Seattle tour" on this day that was a big part of Danielle inviting me along.

5. Voting. Shobhit and I already filled out our ballots and got them out in the mail last week. Hell, maybe it was even the week before. But, Danielle wanted me to help them go over the races and initiatives and help them find information online that would help them make their decisions. So, we all came back to the condo and did that; I made piña coladas for Elise and myself, and opened a bottle of red wine I had brought home as a sample from work for Danielle -- and she proceeded to pour enough glasses of it that she drank the entire bottle. I guess I should have at least tasted it! Now I'll never know Anyway, in retrospect I should have gotten a photo of them with their sealed envelope ballots too, to post on social media and remind everyone else to do the same. (Of course, these posts are endless, but you still can't have too many reminders!) One thing I did tell them was, I would never advocate for this before now, but the state of the country right now is so stark that all that matters is getting or maintaining Democratic majorities, at the state level as well as federal -- therefore, they needed to be voting down-ticket Democrat, without exception. And they did do that where applicable, but there was at least one race with two Democrats running against each other, and several races with people running unopposed, and then they needed more details on the referendums and initiatives. I red several excerpts from both The Stranger's voting guide and a "Progressive Voters Guide" on another website, where I could not find info from The Stranger. And as far as I know, both of their ballots are now in the mail. This may be the first time I had such direct involvement in getting someone else to vote, now that I think about it.

So then, on Saturday evening, the rest of it was spent on the photos, and the movie review, and a brief break for a fairly light dinner. Shobhit had a swing shift at work that day, so I only saw him earlier in the morning before Danielle and Elise picked me up around 10 a.m., and then later in the evening after about 10:15. We watched Friday's episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, complete with a somewhat awkward interview with Barbra Streisand, her first time ever on the show, clearly due to her diva demands regarding how she would allow it to be done. (She did not sit at the table with the panel, like most guests in her slot do.)

-- चार हजार चार सौ अठारह --

So that brings us to Sunday morning, when I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody with Laney at 11:15 a.m. at Pacific Place. Two C+ movies in one weekend, woo! I did not particularly like either one, although with this one, Laney was genuinely moved by it, even cried, and found herself really pleasantly surprised by how far it exceeded her low expectations. I understand the case she made for it, but it was all about defending the sanitization of the story so that conservative, middle-American audiences could be reached and moved by this tragic story of a gay man who died of AIDS. I'm not really on board with the idea that this level of sanitization was that necessary, however, and a Hollywood-cornball movie this contrived still makes for an objectively bad movie -- even if the lead (Rami Malek) does a pretty great job.

Laney declared it a positive thing that we finally really disagreed on our opinion of a movie we saw together, as we typically have the same tastes, and it's healthy to disagree now and again. This level of contrivance was just too much for me though. It might as well have been an original movie made for a cable TV network. It did have a few delightful details here and there (especially the Queen-style 20th Century Fox fanfare at the beginning), but those things are why I gave it a grade as high as a C+. Without them this movie would have been a turd.

Shobhit had planned to come to this movie with us, but when he bristled at my making plans to meet with Laney 20 minutes earlier than the showtime, instead of giving me any sane reason for it whatsoever, he declared he just wouldn't come. "If you're going to make commitments without me then I won't go," he said, like a fucking lunatic. This over twenty minutes. He didn't even accept the perfectly reasonable explanation I had given him: so that we have some time to visit beforehand. This is how Laney and I have long been doing it, and we made these plans before Shobhit expressed interest in joining us. And it was only because of Shobhit's interest that I told Laney we'd meet her downtown at the theatre rather than my meeting her at Light Rail as usual, as Light Rail costs extra for Shobhit in a way it doesn't for Laney and me and the annual transit passes we have. But then I had to let her know that plan changed again and now I would once again be meeting her at Light Rail after all.

All of this, again, over twenty minutes. Shobhit asked me later if I was "still made that I didn't come to the movie." I said, "I'm not mad you didn't come to the movie. Not coming to the movie is fine. It's the reason you gave for changing your mind that was stupid." He was clearly sorry about it, but did not say as much; instead he went out of his way yesterday afternoon to be nicer to me. This is often how it goes when he knows there was no particularly good excuse for his behavior. To his credit, he also sent me a text Saturday afternoon that was unusually nasty in tone, and after I made the rare decision not to respond or even acknowledge the attitude, he followed up with a text actually apologizing in that case. Sometimes simply letting something go really is the best option. "Bless it and release it," as they say. The approach worked for me in that particular instance.

-- चार हजार चार सौ अठारह --

That said, Shobhit's randomly unpredictable behavior at times over the weekend had some relevance to a quite long phone conversation I had with Gabriel last night, albeit only to a small portion of it. We were on the phone for 87 minutes, and that was starting at 10:18 at night, so I got to bed far later than usual. I take full responsibility for that though; it would be stupid to blame Gabriel for that. In fact, I'm not blaming Gabriel for anything at all, and won't delve into a lot of detail regarding this unusually lengthy conversation that went all over the emotional map. "Cost-benefit analysis," right? All I want, really, is to be his friend; it's very clear that's what he wants to be for me. We want to be friends to each other, and we love each other deeply. I think that, at least, is something I can declare publicly without either of us feeling any need to challenge any claims or declarations.

The whole reason I called him was because Shobhit and I had just watched the final two episodes of the first (and, so far, only) season of HBO's Succession. In retrospect, I have to agree with the critical consensus that the show gets better as it goes along; the key differences are that a) unlike apparently a lot of other people, I was pretty into it from the very start, and it did not take "two or three episodes" for me to get into it; but b) it did still coalesce later on in a way it didn't quite in the beginning, but I did not quite feel that particular aspect of it until well into the back half of the ten episodes -- probably starting with the "family therapy" episode, which I thought was phenomenal (and never even got around to mentioning to Gabriel, because in last night's conversation I tended to focus on the two episodes I had just watched).

So, that was a lot of what we talked about: we started with Succession, that evolved into a host of other things, from the profound to the trivial (we were both working on laundry as we talked), and ended back on Succession again. And then it was finally off to bed for me, closing another high-velocity social weekend. Maybe one of these days I'll have a weekend again that's just low key throughout, but then . . . that's rarely my style these days, if we're honest. I've already got plans on Friday, Saturday and Sunday next weekend; and even all day the following Saturday, and possibly a proposed idea for the day after that. And what weekend follows that? Thanksgiving! The next Amazon Spheres tour is the weekend after that; another movie double featured already scheduled Sunday December 9; the annual Christmastime visit to Wallace, Idaho the weekend of December 15. Whoa! I don't have anything booked on the weekend of December 22! Well, I suppose that's a lie, if you consider my plan to take Christmas Eve off of work as usual, which makes that a long weekend for Christmas. I don't have anything planned for the weekend of Saturday December 29, though!

. . . Yet. I probably will within a couple of weeks.

-- चार हजार चार सौ अठारह --


[posted 1:33 pm]