[Ancient Repost] The most dangerous item in the drug store.

I’ve been clearing out an ancient LiveJournal in preparation for deleting the account. While most of the stuff there is utter fluff, a tiny portion of the posts are worth preserving. What follows is one such post. The original was written in April of 2011.

Some time in the past, on an otherwise nondescript day, I was standing in the family planning section of the local Walgreens. I was looking to purchase condoms, because while I’m sterile, I’m not stupid.

The condom section, however, makes me feel stupid. Very, very stupid.

There is far too much variety, you see- there’s latex and lambskin and polyurethane and polyisoprene. There’s regular, large, and magnum. There’s lubricated, non-lubricated, with spermicidal lubricant, with or without a receptacle tip, ribbed for her pleasure, and spiraled for his. There are, and I’m not making this up, currently eighty-three (83) separate varieties of condoms on sale at Walgreens. As if that’s not complicated enough, you also have to figure out which boxes don’t contain condoms at all, but rather contain vibrators of various sizes and shapes.

The reason I bring this up is that there are so many varieties in so many brightly colored boxes that I was standing in front of the row reading boxes and trying to make sense of it for quite some time. After a while, just after I’d picked up a large box of Lifestyles, a small voice said, “Are you ok?”

The source of the voice was a small girl, about five or six years old. Parents nowhere in sight, although we were about twenty feet from the waiting area for the pharmacy, so I’m sure they were over there. I said something in the general vicinity of “yes, I’m ok,” and then she started to ask other questions.

Anyone who’s ever seen me with a very, very small child knows that I can only parse and understand about fourteen percent of what they say. I never developed the little C3PO kid-translation circuit that most grown-ups seem to have, so I have absolutely no idea what she was asking next.

Since I had no clue what the questions were about, I just did a lot of smiling and nodding and hoping that she would go away. After a moment, she said something which seemed like she was about to get her parents to help me- I’m still not sure why, and she toddled off toward the pharmacy to get their attention. I did not at all feel like explaining to another grown human being why I was conversing with a very small female child in the condom aisle of all places. It was at this moment that I did what any other sane human being would do.

I ran.

I ran to the opposite end of the aisle and stood with my back to the “As Seen On TV” end-cap, so that the little kid wouldn’t be able to spot me. I peered around the corner, just to make sure I wasn’t within line of sight of the kid, and then I briskly walked to the front registers, paid for my purchase, and got the hell out of there. I did manage to buy a box of condoms, but I didn’t know until I got home which type I picked up. That sort of thing happened to me the last time I bought condoms, too.

I have this horrible notion that one day, I’m going to have some sort of a heart attack or stroke during one of these rubber-purchasing events, and when they cart off my body, they’ll have to pry the box of rubbers out of my cold dead hands and explain to my family that I appear to have died over the most stressful and dangerous of all of Walgreens’ inventory, the birth control.

So stressful!

Love is love is love is love.

Since the last time I posted on the blog, I moved from South Florida up to Orlando.  I meant to do a whole post about the transition up here, but this is not that post.

This post is about the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.  It happened one year ago today, June 12, 2016, and 49 people lost their lives, not counting the shooter.  Another 58 were injured during the shooting.   I didn’t live in Orlando at the time, but this city has always had a special place in my heart.

There have been vigils and remembrance events all over Orlando for the last few days, but today was the biggest set of events.   Amelie and I were out running errands in the afternoon, and our route took us directly past Pulse during their afternoon ceremony.  The traffic was our first clue that something was going on, followed immediately by the presence of a fleet of news vans.

There have been people standing in front of Pulse every time we’ve driven past-  the entire site is a memorial now, with a constant flow of mourners and people leaving things behind like flowers or a small token of their memory.  Today it was jammed, of course.

Later in the day, the crowds started to gather for the big Orlando United event at Lake Eola.  I didn’t realize it until this afternoon, but the city shut down many of the streets around the Lake for the event.   A little past 4:30 in the afternoon, this is what the traffic pattern looked like downtown:

On top of that, there was rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Once most of the rain leveled off, I grabbed my old MIX 105.1 umbrella and walked over to the Orlando Public Library to catch the last few minutes of Drag Queen Storytime.  My timing was off; this picture was just a few moments after a spectacularly photogenic twirl by our storyteller.

After Drag Queen Storyteller wrapped up, I walked the remaining block or so to Lake Eola, and wandered around the event.   This mural by Yuriy Karabash and Michael Pilato was put up earlier today- I’m not sure where the mural will ultimately reside after today.

People continued to gather for the Orlando United event- it was supposed to start at 7pm, but weather delayed it somewhat.  Still, more and more people arrived. I’m somewhere in the upper left part of this photo from the Orlando Sentinel, wearing a bright red shirt:

You can see the top of the bandshell in this next photo-  that’s as close as I was really able to get to the bandshell.  It was broadcast throughout the park over speakers all the way around the Lake, though, and Disney had put up a pair of large overflow screens so that people could watch from the larger part of Lake Eola Park on the Eastern bank.

Once the event started, I could hear what was going on, but I couldn’t see it- until someone near me mentioned that some of the local news media were streaming it live, and everyone has a cell phone…  I caught the video of a drum and bagpipe corps, and some other musical acts.

During the show, I walked around the lake so that I could get out of the thicker part of the crowd for a bit, and I was treated to some pretty spectacular views from the Northern side of the lake. The band-shell was dressed properly for the occasion…

Lake Eola’s iconic fountain was also beautifully lit in rainbow colors for the occasion.

It’s difficult to express exactly how something like this makes me feel-  I don’t know anyone who was directly affected by the Pulse shooting, but I have such strong ties to Orlando through friends and friends of friends that I see the ripples outward.

It hits especially hard because it could easily have been someone close to me.  When I was twenty-five, I lived in Orlando.  I was attending UCF for my degree, but in my down time, I went dancing.  Some weeks, I would be out five nights out of seven-  Two of those nights were Club Zen, Wednesdays were at the Embassy Music Hall, one night was at Barbarella or at Cairo, an Egyptian-themed club a few blocks over, or the Blue Room.

Most of those clubs are gone now, but this was my circle.  Except for a few cherished friends from the university, my entire social scene was based around where we could find good music.    If I had lived in Orlando one year ago today, it’s possible I would have been out, dancing.

I’m happy to see that one year later, Orlando is still strong, still loving, and still dancing.

That time my car got stolen.

I was telling Amelie recently about the time my car got stolen.

In the summer of 1998, I had been at UCF for about six months, and I was still driving a fairly new 1997 Honda Civic.  The ’97 Civic was my first new car ever.  All my previous cars were used, but I needed something super reliable to go to college because there was going to be a fair amount of driving back and forth from Orlando to South Florida.  (Kind of like now, actually.)

Not actually my car, but it basically looked like this.

The ’97 Civic hatchback was a deep metallic purple color, dubbed “Dark Amethyst Pearl” by Honda.  I was driving down to South Florida to attend the wedding of some friends.   A friend who was catching a ride with me back to South Florida had just returned my spare keys to me, for reasons I no longer recall.  Because we were driving back I tossed them in the glove compartment and forgot about them.

When we got back to South Florida, I dropped off my passenger and parked at my mother’s house in Boynton Beach.  I grabbed most of my stuff out of the car, but left a small bag containing a cigarette case full of clove cigarettes, some clothing including my 1994 Nine Inch Nails long-sleeved concert t-shirt (the one with “All the piggies all lined up” written down the sleeve.)  Also left in the hatch of the car was a bottle of mixed alcohol, called Mage’s Fire, which was supposed to be a wedding gift for my friends.

A quick word about Mage’s Fire-  it’s a mix drink that I learned about during my extremely-brief interaction with the Society For Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-enactment group.  Mage’s Fire is 25% vodka, 25% blue curacao, and 50% DeKuyper’s “Hot Damn” cinnamon schnapps.  Mage’s Fire is best aged at least six months because it blends together a bit more over time and becomes smoother.  It is sometimes referred to as the mouthwash of the gods.  People have a very polarized reaction to Mage’s Fire-  they either love it or hate it. I can’t stand the stuff, but I liked to mix it up and share it with people who enjoyed it.  But I digress.

I woke up the next day, to find that my car was not where I had left it.  This is a very disorienting thing, because normally cars don’t go wandering on their own after you park them.  I realized with a quiet dread that this was the one and only time I had ever left the car parked with keys inside.  I called the police, filed a report, and wondered what to do next.

After a little while, the police called-  my car had been found abandoned in a field, with the sprinklers on around it.  The people who stole it just took it for a joyride, and then left it there with the doors wide open.    I had to go to an impound lot and pay a fee to get back my car, which I felt was a huge injustice for someone who was the victim of a crime.

The aftermath was kind of anti-climactic.    There was dark greasy powder all over the center console and on the seats that I was never able to fully clean off.  The Mage’s Fire and smokes and good t-shirts were stolen from the back.  In their place, the joyriders had left a shiny silver club shirt and a dirty pair of overalls.  It seemed for all the world like my car had taken place in a hillbilly raver exchange program.  I wondered if they were thankful for the fancy moonshine and tobacco they found in the hatch. I also wonder if they would have stopped at petty theft if they hadn’t found keys in the glove compartment to start the engine. Damn it.

As I write this, nearly twenty-one years later, I honestly don’t remember whether or not they stole the stereo from the car.  Memory is a strange thing.

Have you ever had a car stolen?

Songbirds

There’s a bird that chirps all night long here, in varying tones like one of those car alarms from the 1990s. It’s infuriating and I hear it every night, whenever I try to sleep.  I hear it less in the daytime, so I’m assuming it’s a night bird.

I was so frustrated just now that I was moved to poetry.  Ahem:

My sleep is interrupted
by a songbird every night,
my sleep is interrupted,
by a songbird in street light,
my sleep is interrupted,
as he sings away the night,
my sleep is interrupted,
and I wish I had a good bow and arrow to shut that fucker up.

Thank you, and good night.

Star Wars Celebration Orlando

This past weekend, Amelie and I went to Orlando for Star Wars Celebration 2017.  Long-time readers of this blog will remember that back in the summer of 2013, I managed to attend Star Wars Celebration Europe, because it was in Germany and I was already there.  That was a fantastic convention, and much fun was had by me.

This time around, not so much.

Let’s start with opening the first full day of the convention, Thursday morning.   Amelie and I walked to the convention center a short while before the doors were supposed to open, and about an hour and a quarter before the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars Panel, which we were both very excited about.

When we got into line, it seemed to go almost the entire length of the front of the building.

Then we reached the corner, and it continued around the entire side of the building.  Then we reached the next corner, and it went the entire length of the *backside* of the building.   And then it looped back in the other direction.

The line for Celebration was literally one and a half times the circumference of the Orange County Convention Center.  Grand Admiral Thrawn was not amused.

11am came and went.  We were able to watch a few minutes of the panel on our phones because it was streamed, but it was hard to see in the glaring sun and when I tuned in, it was- yuck – Hayden Christensen.

Onward we schlepped.

After two and a half hours in the first line, we finally got indoors, where we were treated to yet another line.  The far end of this hall includes the nine metal detectors that were being used for everyone coming to the OCCC.

Reedpop, the showrunners for this convention, forgot to count their ticket sales.

Or the person responsible for logistics in their organization is just some sort of shrubbery with googly eyes glued on the front.

Somewhere around 12:30 in the afternoon, someone in charge realized that the people at the end of the line would not make it into the show floor before it closed that day, so they just started to let every one in all at once, security be damned.  The metal detectors were screaming like the proverbial lambs.

Then we got into- you guessed it-  ANOTHER FRELLING LINE to pick up our badges for the rest of the convention.

By 1:30 in the afternoon, after four hours in various lines, we were finally on the show floor.

Some of the neatest stuff we saw on this trip was in the first section on the first day… there was a custom BB-8 car…

…and a Mandalorian Veloster.

There were lots of great costumes, including this magnificent Luke-a-like.

Partway across the floor was a big droid racing set-up, including this maze for Spheero BB-8s.

As with the other Celebration, there were giant models of things from the movies in various places.

One of the highlights of the day was Amelie getting hugged by (a) Chewie.

I call this photo “Han shot first.”

There were big presences by Disney, Hasbro, Funko, and, of course, Lego.

The new properties were represented by the Droid Builders, too… someone made a Chopper from Rebels!

There were quite a few BB-8s rolling around, too.  It’s kind of amazing how far the technology has come.  This little guy was rolling around, being chased by kids the entire time.

Ultimately, almost everything on my camera is from that first day.  The second day, we weren’t able to get wristbands for the Last Jedi panel because people camped out the night before and, you guessed it, the lines weren’t managed very well.

This was the worst convention I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been to a lot of conventions.  We didn’t manage to make it to a single high profile panel, because their bizarre wristbanding method means you have to be on hand at 6am (or earlier) or you get nothing.  Other conventions I’ve attended allow you to simply line up a few hours early, or to pay a little extra for high demand shows.  If you miss the line, you miss the panel.  That would have been preferable to this nonsense though-  at least we would have had a chance to see things.

I appreciate that Disney didn’t want to charge people more for the high profile panels than their original (very expensive) show tickets, but this was just shenanigans all around.    At the Celebration in Europe in 2013, there were loads of panels that were interesting to me.  At this Celebration, at the height of Star Wars being super energized again, there were only a handful of panels that were even marginally interesting, and we couldn’t get anywhere near the really important ones.

At the end of Star Wars Celebration, all we left with was our con crud. (I’ll take “Sinus infections and Antibiotics” for a thousand, Alex.)

At least this guy had his Dianoga.

What’s the worst convention you’ve ever attended?  Or the best?