Tuesday, March 26, 2013

33, Part 3: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey: Dragons

We capped off my birthday weekend with a trip to the circus.  Yes, the circus.  Cuz that's how we roll.  It was a fun day.  Better than either of us had expected, which was amazing since TJ, assuming I like all things juvenile, suggested that we go even though he didn't want to, and I, not really wanting to go either but thinking that his suggesting it meant that HE wanted to go, said yes.

The name of the show was Dragons, and the theme was that different warring tribes have come together for a competition in which they must demonstrate Strength, Courage, Wisdom, and Heart in order to release the power of the dragon within.  Sounds like a rejected premise for Captain Planet and the Planeteers, but it really was a good setup for the circus acts that followed.

We bought the nosebleed tickets because, frankly, $65 a head seemed a tad excessive for ringside seating at a "regular" circus.   Maybe if it had been Cirque du Soleil.  Maybe.

In a much appreciated move, the doors opened an hour early for ticket holders to go ringside and view the human and animal performers up close.

We got to see an elephant paint a masterpiece and then play the harmonica...

We saw some kids learning to be Kung Fu masters...

And we got these awesome clown noses.

When the show began, we grabbed our Kleenex (for the nosebleeds) and headed up top.  Picture quality diminished, but hey, what can ya do?

Spoiler Alert:  At the show's conclusion, The Planeteers succeeded in releasing the dragon. *gasp!*

All in all, it was a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful birthday weekend.  I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.  Only, can I skip the aging part next time?  No need to rush things.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snow Buddies 2: The Sequel

***We interrupt this important birthday blogging event to bring you 
a special report on weather in the Washington, D.C. area.***

When we first moved to Falls Church in February 2010, I found myself telecommuting back to my old job in Orlando and feeling very lonely and fish-out-of-watery while TJ spent his days learning Spanish and hobnobbing with diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute.  One of my coping mechanisms was to build a snowman named Bernard on our balcony.  He kept me company as I worked (or, more accurately, pretended to work).  He eventually died. It was sad.

He was a good snowman. Not too big, not too small.  Never one to put on airs, yet always stylish, he had a dapper dish towel for a scarf.  I always promised that, if I were to find myself back in the D.C. area for winter, I would bring him back to life, all Frosty Returns style.

To my immense joy, we arrived in October, just before prime snowman season began. Sadly, anticipation for Bernard's return diminished quickly as the winter months passed without much snow.  Imagine my surprise when, just days after the start of the spring season, the Metro D.C. area was bombarded with snow.

I returned from work this afternoon (Yes.  The Office of Personnel Management, which likes to cancel work at the drop of a hat if the weatherman even hints at snow, failed to call it a snow day when there was actually white stuff on the ground) and quickly surveyed my surroundings.  There was no balcony snow.  This wasn't good, as I don't trust ground snow. I mean, I have two dogs.  I know what happens on the ground.  Taking stock of the situation, I noticed a large concentration of accumulation on  the stair railings.  Emptying my insulated lunch bag of its tupperware and utensils, I quickly filled it to capacity with rail snow and scurried up the stairs to create life.

The results were dazzling.

He was magnificent....and yet, I noticed immediately that he had begun to piddle on the pavement.  It simply wasn't cold enough to keep him alive.  Not so easily defeated, I concocted a counter maneuver.  Mother Nature ain't got nuthin' on me.

When TJ returned form work this afternoon, I threw open the freezer door in triumph.  He stared for a moment and then let out a raucous laugh.  I think he was pleased.  He knows how much I enjoyed Bernard's company, and I think he was happy to see him again as well.

Of course, I don't think he knows that Bernard has moved in permanently.  We will deal with that tomorrow.

33, Part 2: Madame Tussauds, Washington D.C.

I've become quite the Groupon window shopper as of late.  It happened by accident when I found myself bored at work and perusing the app store on my iPad mini early last week.  I had never gotten into the fad because TJ always likes to tell me that the only thing cheaper than buying something you don't really need because it's on sale...is just not buying it at all.  He's got a point.  Don't tell him I said that.

TJ freezes while crossing the Delaware with General George Washington, 
then gets down to brass tacks with President John Adams.

The trouble is that between his eight + hours of Arabic class and my eight hour job plus two hour commute Monday - Friday (Oh, yeah.  I quit Arabic.  Remind me to tell you about that sometime!), we find ourselves exhausted and not eager to remove our carcasses from the couch most weekends.  Finding myself in a bit of a funk, my eyes lit up when the Groupon app popped up as a recommended download.  I resolved then and there that we would make more of an effort to enjoy our weekends...and do it on the cheap! 

I go sass-for-sass with Teddy Roosevelt, then give John Quincy Adams a peep show
...he does not look amused. 

"Um.  I don't know how to tell you this, but...um..."

Using my birthday as the perfect excuse to make my first Groupon purchase, I selected two half-off admissions to Madame Tussauds for Saturday morning.  It's something I've always wanted to do here in D.C., but TJ has been reluctant.  I visited the New York location over Thanksgiving break during my (first) senior year in college and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I was eager to see what this branch had to offer, but, when you live in a city with free museums galore, it's kind of hard to convince someone to pay for one.  Yay, Groupon!

The plan had been to spend the morning at Madame Tussauds followed by an afternoon walking amongst the Cherry Blossoms and capped off with dinner at our favorite restaurant, Texas de Brazil, which had sent me a buy one, get one free coupon in honor of my birthday.  Look at all of that BOGOing, folks!  We should be on Extreme Couponing!

Unfortunately, the cherry blossoms hadn't bloomed yet, despite multiple websites informing me that this was supposed to be the beginning of the peak time.  Whatevs.  We'll go next weekend.  Then I realized that the coupon for Texas de Brazil was only good Sun-Fri.  Now, we could have gone and paid full price, but it's the principle of the matter, folks.  I'm gonna save that puppy for another day. 

I entered a staring competition with J. Edgar Hoover;
Meanwhile, TJ helped Bob Woodward investigate the Watergate scandal.

"I'm king of the world!"

We're adaptable guys, so adjustments were quickly made.  In the end, our day consisted of  Madame Tussauds, lunchtime appetizers and mojitos at the Hard Rock Cafe (Which I effin' LOVE, by the way.  I think that anybody that says they don't like the HRC either hasn't tasted the food or simply doesn't like the concept of such a place.  Haters.), and a delicious home cooked Italian dinner accompanied by wine and Wreck-it-Ralph.  Yeah.  I can dig it.  I thought it was a pretty awesome day, all told.

Work it, girls!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

33, Part 1: 911 and The Watermelon

We kicked off my birthday weekend last night with a trip to Tysons Corner for dinner and a movie.

Brad Anderson's The Call was our movie of choice.  It is a new thriller about a 911 operator (Halle Berry) coming to terms with the fact that a mistake she had made on the job six months prior had resulted in a caller's death when suddenly another girl (Abigail Breslin) calls in, having been kidnapped by the same creep.  At the midway point of the operator's quest for redemption, I became queasy and feared that I would not be able to enjoy my dinner.  At first I silently chastised myself for eating the leftover pizza I had found in the fridge earlier that afternoon, but I quickly realized that it was just movie anxiety.  

As we left the theater, two topics of discussion arose.  Topic number one consisted of basically patting ourselves on the back for choosing a good movie.  For real.  Go see it.  

Topic number two was us admitting that we are getting older, and knowing that we are getting older simply because we can't watch these types of movies with the same fervor that we did in our teens and early-to-mid-twenties.  

I remember back in high school when these movies didn't bother me.  In fact, I can remember getting Scream masks with my guy friends and scaring the crap out of our girl friends during a Friday night horror movie marathon, because these are only movies and it is ridiculous to be afraid of them.

College through the mid-twenties, these were just fun escapist popcorn flicks.  Sure, they'd make me jump every now and again, but once the brief panic subsided, I'd find myself laughing at how ridiculous I was being.  This seemed to be the case up through Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and Saw (2004).  

Everything after that, including the sequels to the above mentioned films, makes me squirm uncomfortably, sans giggling.  I still watch them because sometimes you stumble across an interesting story, but I don't find them all that funny anymore.  Usually they are difficult to watch.  My theory on the matter is that, after a certain age you stop escaping into the world of fantasy and realize that there really are some sickos out there that get their jollies on this kind of thing.  The Call is a good example of that.  No supernatural elements whatsoever.  Just a mentally disturbed man that you could read about in tomorrow's newspaper headlines.  

Of course, the more likely answer is that the older we get, the more out of touch we become with today's youth and pop culture.  (And, you know, our hearts get weaker.)

As we entered La Sandia (translation:  The Watermelon), a Mexican restaurant that we had enjoyed during our 2010 stay in the area and were curious to try again with our post-Guadalajara taste buds, the more likely answer seemed to present itself as the absolute answer.  TJ had made reservations earlier that day and had included the little gem that it was my birthday.  The hostess greeted us and asked how old I was.  I crinkled my nose and admitted that I was turning 33.  After giving me the elevator eyes, she said "That's not bad. You look much younger.  You've got a grungy/edgy look about you, kind of like  ---."

Now, I understood grungy/edgy completely.  I was wearing jeans, Converse sneakers, and a blue hoodie.  What I didn't understand was who I apparently look like.  So I asked her to repeat herself.  She said it again, explaining that he was a singer.  I had no idea who she was talking about.  Two problems immediately presented themselves.  One, I couldn't hear her clearly (old), and two, what I could hear didn't sound like anybody I had ever heard of (old again).

TJ looked at her, then looked at me, and said "Well, you can say he's not old all you want, but you just proved that he is."  We laughed as she offered a weak apology and scurried away.  

Dinner was great.  I had been feeling homesick for Mexico and took the opportunity to order chicken mole poblano, the most authentic dish I could find on the menu.  The sauce was very reminiscent of what you would find in a restaurant in Mexico...and in my very own kitchen, thanks to some cooking lessons from my friend Bertha.

As we drove home, a Facebook notification alerted me to an e-mail from another friend, Alfa, who I met while working at USCG Guadalajara.  It was the entire text of the Mexican birthday song, Las Mañanitas.  My friend Esperanze did something similar this morning.  Such a special treat.  Local staff sang this song to everyone on their birthdays, and to me 5-10 times throughout the day and maybe the following day as well.  Likely because it was fun to embarrass me, but also I like to think because they knew it made me smile.  They also sang it on our last day of work, since they wouldn't be able to do it this year.

I awoke this morning to the sound of TJ crooning "Las Mañanitas" in my ear.  It was sweet and brought back lots of fond memories.

As I sit here celebrating my 33rd birthday one building over from where I celebrated my 30th and yet an entire country removed from where I celebrated my 31st and 32nd, I realize that, despite the ever increasing inability to digest scary movies and the sad but real separation between myself and pop culture, getting older is okay.

Look at all the memories and friends you accumulate along the way.

Now please excuse me.  I've got candles to blow out and red velvet cake to eat.