I will be more concise with Sarah's 11 day visit. I lost my notebook and failed to take notes and most of the details are jumbled. Like most of my visits with her, it was dominated by us being lazy, spiced with occasional outings for food and adventure.
I got to subject her to a fair amount of media this time around. I got her to try Final Fantasy IX, which she seemed to enjoy enough to warrant lending her a PS1 and my copy of the game. Though I don't know how motivated she'll be to play. She liked the multiple perspectives and goofy situations in the intro, though walking around as Vivi hit some snags with triggering events. If she plays through it, she'll have lots to talk about with the Dorps. If she opts out, she'll be CAST INTO THE WELL OF DESPAIR.
We watched FLCL, something I had NOT anticipated happening. With any media I consider sharing with Sarah, I often do a mental ratio of how likely she is to actually enjoy it. I have a bad track record with her disliking more than half the stuff I show her, so I have gotten gradually more careful. She was interested in seeing it on account of my FLCL T-shirt, but I figured there was only a 30-40% chance she'd enjoy it. The anime is very polarizing in reception, and I didn't anticipate Sarah liking how dense and confusing the narrative is. But the show is short and visually interesting enough for her to tolerate. She sat through it but it fell more under the category of experience than enjoyment.
I also subjected her to Legend of Mana, calculating a 50% Sarah-Like index on that one but screw that up horribly. She gets bored with it incredibly quickly. I thought the gorgeous visuals and sound track would do something for her, but they didn't. I also tried Tail Concerto, a game about a police dog named Waffle who pilots a lanky mecha and captures adorable kittens and sends them to jail. That went over acceptably, though Sarah protested the need to capture adorable kitten terrorists. People like her are why kitten bombing threats are a problem in our society.
We went out to see Winnie the Pooh in theaters. That was fun, and I was surprised with how well the movie kept to the spirit of the books considering how much the franchise has drifted over the years towards being just kid entertainment. The new voice actor for owl is good, but the character chews a lot of scenery. Rabbit feels kind of out of character but was entertaining. Some of the fantasy scenes are a little too visually noisy for me, but Sarah kind of looks at me like a weirdo when I say things like this. I like the new spin on Kanga, actually behaving like a responsible mom who just wants some peace and quiet. Overall a lot of fun, if short.
That same evening we also watched Rango via Netflix. I had high expectations for this given the glowing reviews I'd read. Not quite as great as I expected but still good. Love the hideous character designs, darker tone (I feel that it's important for kids movies not to sugar coat everything) and style. Sarah got very preoccupied by the obligatory romance and the fact that the leading lady was a lizard with boobs and hair (DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE). I had more issues with the title character having an absurd amount of dumb luck that guides him through the story instead of actual skill. Also, the movies cops out with its premise. The framing device of the Mariachi owls and the intro sequence felt kind of overbearing to me. Still had a lot of fun with this one though.
We watched Mirror Mask, which was long overdue. This movie just FEELS like Sarah. It's got loads of interesting, colorful visuals, stars an artistic traveling girl with frustrations about constraints on her personal freedom and direction in life with her parents, and has her trapped in a outrageous fantasy world filled with monsters. Just like Sarah! Also, she'd never seen the movie, but an ex-boyfriend told her that the protagonist looks identical to her. I would say this is moreso true when Sarah wore her hair short, but isn't the case now. Sarah loved the movie, thankfully. I was relieved, as I had calculated a 80% Sarah-Like index for this one and would've been devastated if I was THAT wrong. I like Mirror Mask a lot myself, though feel like it has a weaker third act than I would've like. Also the CGI Sphinxes have aged terribly. Sarah made the comment that the whole game plays out like a video game story, and she's right. It's like a reverse Hideo Kojima. Like the director/screen writer wanted to make a video game but didn't have the skill-set.
One of the biggest things Sarah was anticipating was seeing The Illusioniste with me. The French animated film. It is absolutely glorious, and works extremely well through sheer pantomime. Only the first few lines of the movie are in English but you don't need and talking to understand what's going on in the story. Body Language expresses everything you need to know and does it wonderfully. It's kind of a sad movie though, but I loved it. Though Sarah doesn't like sad endings as much as I do. Because I'm the guy who thought that the end of Toy Story 3 should've been ALL THE TOYS DIE IN A FIRE.
IS THIS A TRAVEL POST OR A MOVIE CRITICISM BLOG? GEEZ MEWD.
Sarah was sort of impressed with mom's fountain display in the front yard. It's one of the nicer things about our yard, which is otherwise cluttered with junk. She'd intended to work with mom in the yard while I had to work, but that never really panned out.
I had to work for three days while she was here. She virtually BEGGED me to just call in. Which I can't really do. I just got back from a long vacation. I wouldn't do something to that considering how understaffed my department is. I got her to concede that she wouldn't call in if the roles were reversed, though she really didn't like being alone at the house. My family isn't very obtrusive, quite the opposite really. They tend to leave me to my own devices TOO much. But the house is so cluttered that Sarah doesn't feel that she can just hang out anywhere but in my room. The house smells funny to her and my dad makes her really uncomfortable. Which is fair, because he makes ME really uncomfortable. At one point, he asked pretty point blank about Sarah's religious views. Which is something she'd been afraid of the whole trip. I tried to cover a bit for her but leaving the impression that it's just not that important to her is unavoidable. Dad is really bigoted about this kind of thing, but doesn't act on it much. Is just sort of quietly judgmental.
Also, my room makes her itchy. I cleaned up as much cat hair as humanly possible and it still didn't stop her from getting an allergic reaction. Medication and her body adjusting helped take care of it, but still. My cat can be pretty obnoxious, walking on the bed, demanding attention, and generally wanting to cuddle with me when Sarah gets first dibs. She'd vacate to the basement a few times and just sort of disappear for days on end. But Sarah feeds her breakfast scraps so they tend to get along okay.
I made breakfast for Sarah every day. Primarily eggs and bacon, though while grocery shopping Sarah FREAKED OUT that they had Chorizo in the meat section. I tried my hand at making that for a couple breakfast meals and that was a nice change of pace. Also, we did pancakes on the first day. MMM.
I cooked a fair amount. She was anticipating trying my chili as I had kept saying I felt like it wasn't much anything like other peoples chili that I had tasted. She wound up liking it, though it wasn't quite as exotic as I expected. Her moms chili is similiar, but less spicy, with less meat and fewer peppers.
Of course I also made quiche, which held her through the days I was working. My egg drop soup also wasn't too bad apparently. She had some left over spaghetti which also went over well. No real disasters went as far as eatery.
Sarah was EXCITED during the ride home from the airport because the Midwest had OODLES of restaurant and fast food chains that aren't in New England. Hardees, Sonic, Arbies and Waffle House are all big deals for her. We went out for food late one evening a little too late when we meant to do Hardees. This was a mistake, and we had to find a restaurant that would still let us go in and sit down. We chose Taco Bell, and got a big Grande meal of basic burritos and tacos but Sarah regretted this as it wasn't very good. I whine about how the Fire sauce isn't pipe scarringly spicy, but am otherwise satisfied.
You know what excites Sarah? Ice cream. On one of the last days, she CHARGED OUT THE DOOR at the sound of the ice cream truck. I had to struggle to get my shoes on in time and she had to HUNT DOWN the ice cream man. The music felt like it was coming from all directions. But I was able to help her corner it knowing the cul de sac it turned into was a dead end. We pooled our spare change and got an ice cream sandwich which she didn't even finish. It was more about running after the truck than actually having ice cream.
There's this little wholesale foods grocery store called Country Lane Foods that I wanted us to try out. Has home made ice cream and a rustic, Western General Store aesthetic. I got some variety licorice there, odd stuff I'd never seen, and sarsaparilla. Which is like a really spicy root beer without as much sweetening or carbonation. It went really well with the home made vanilla ice cream they were selling. Though they gave us WAY TOO MUCH ICE CREAM. Way more than we anticipated being able to handle. It's good but GEEZ. It was only a single portion but still left us feeling like pigs.
Most of our days were spent being lazy. Eventually Sarah realized that we had a swing in the front yard and we were able to resume having Swing Sessions even though we weren't in New Hampshire. I was accepting of this. Though I don't have the stomach for being lazy for too long and started pushing for us to actually do stuff.
Mom suggested that we go out to the Powell Gardens, which was a fantastic idea. My sister is a sponsor there so she gets entry and guest passes whenever she likes. I spent an afternoon driving around everywhere trying to track her down and getting grumpy and exhausted on account of it. But we were able to score free passes for the place. It's way out in the country and I knew Sarah would adore the place. Bonus points for there being a butterfly exhibit.
Sadly, the main exhibit was closed. But the breezeway was available and it was great. Sarah LOVES colorful bugs. Moths, on the other hands, she hates. Even though they are basically butterflies as far as I'm concerned.
Some of the butterflies looked a little man handled though, in spite of signs protesting to please NOT touch them.
We check out the vegetable garden and the vineyard, learn fun facts, and Sarah is excited about the prospect of running through sprinklers.
This place used to be a private estate and still has private residence areas. Sarah is DREADFULLY envious of whoever gets to live in that shed barn over there.
We take a hike down the nature trail, it is good times. Any time Sarah gets to be surrounded by trees is a good time.
We soon discover, though, that there are like a THOUSAND MILLION SPIDER WEBS running across the path and this freaks Sarah off and sends her running a few times. It's terrifying for her. She grows steadily suspicious that I took her to Powell Gardens to trap her in a world of spiders and horror.
Ultimately we settle things by having me walk ahead of her to break any spider webs. Because I am more adjusted to having spiders crawl all over me.
They've got wetlands and swamps enroute and loves of dragon flies. Sarah loves dragon flies.
The park is closing too soon for us to take the long route through the trail. We start heading back. On the way we run across a tree with a face and a penis.
We encounter a bunch of geese along the way, which Sarah wants to herd around because she is part German Shepard.
FORBIDDEN ISLAND: THE REAL DEAL.
The Gardens have a big lake and a trail leading to lots of islands with waterfalls and other pretty things.
Our destination is to check out the chapel before the park closes. Sarah is pumped about this.
Cacti. Yes. Very yes.
We find a little rest spot that Sarah lingers in, tired but also just appreciating how NICE it is there.
There are also plastic dinosaur exhibit for the kids right now. UM. EXCUSE ME. BUT I DON'T THINK THOSE ROPE FENCES WILL KEEP THOSE RAGING ALLOSAURUSES TRAPPED IN THERE FOR LONG!!!
The chapel, like everything else, is gorgeous. Sarah wishes she could LIVE in a place like this. All windows and sunlight, surrounded by nature. She wouldn't mind having a wedding in a place like this.
We get a quick ride back to the main area via trolley. It's arrives at the exact moment we are finishing the trail.
Sarah cannot resist the urge to run through fountains. Even if it puts her wardrobe in peril.
Sarah messing with my hair. After looking at all that natural beauty, here's something to cleanse the pallet. You're welcome.
We also have an outing out to my favorite park again. Sarah is SO EXCITED about playing on the playground it is ridiculous.
POV on slide. Get ready!!
I barely look human here.
Sarah wants to be a wizard so bad.
YEAH. DOUBLE HELIX.
We go for a walk in the trees but it is relatively brief. Last time we cut it short on account of cold. This so it is more so because Sarah wants to play on swings more.
We get back, but then a family shows up. The kids run out and one little Hispanic girl scream SWWWWWWWIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGSSS!!!! and charges over to them. This is basically a tiny Sarah. Her little brother follows and her big brother pushes them. Their parents hang out in the car and heavy bass music. We give up the swings for them and chill out and start to feel like ProZD and Cherri level child watching creeps.
Sarah has been DYING to go swimming for the duration of the trip. Luckily, we have a water park in my area. UNFORTUNATELY, the top for her swimsuit has gone missing. Possibly lost when she had the zipper malfunction during our flight transfer. We have to go on a adventure to find a new top for her, which proves ridiculously difficult. Most retailers have stopped selling or are clearancing out swimsuits and very little is left in her size. We go to K-mart, a dead end, and then to WalMart, but it's not until we go to Target that we find anything usable. Target is relatively classy, and when we swing by the Electronics section I can appreciate how much better organized they are than their competitors.
Sarah selects a top, though regrets that she can't have a AMERICAN FLAG UGH YEAH swimsuit top, but is happy with her purchase. We have an incredibly thorough cashier and Sarah is super satisfied.
I have no pictures of the water park because I wanted to spare my camera the trauma. I could've bought a water-proof disposable, but opted out at the expense.
The water park is fun. It's got big water slides and Sarah winds up riding them a half dozen times. I try riding down one but because all I have is shorts and no REAL swim trunks, I keep getting stuck on the slide and have to push myself forward. It's annoying. I then try the inter-tube water slide, which is the exact opposite. Possibly because of my weight and my body posture, I got hurled violently down the slide faster and faster and was sent somersaulting face first into the water painfully. I feel like ProZD would've paid real money to have seen this happen.
Of course, when Sarah rides down, it lets her off very gently and I am baffled at the difference. I avoid the slides from this point forward.
There's a long stretch of narrow circuit of pool area that is used for intertubin' called the Lazy River. This proved to by my favorite part, although the lines to ride it are very long. There's no limit to how long you can ride the Lazy River, but because I am a nice guy and finish last, I always give up my tube after a single go round. We aren't that lazy on the river, though, and push each other around and paddle ourselves into waterfalls. I like pushing myself off the edge of the pool and spinning Sarah around. Fun.
The pavement in the park is scorching hot on our bare feet. We have to speed walk everywhere to spare ourselves the pain. Walking on the grass is preferable. Sarah gets a nasty splinter from the stairs to the water slides and between this and the blisters her feet are really taking a lot of punishment on this vacation.
Sarah and I eye the kids pool pretty enviously. It has all the cool widgets and a huge bucket that fills up gradually and dumps out over everyone. This pool has SO MANY GERMS PROBABLY and is noticeably warmer than any of the other pools. Sarah and I want to play on it but fear being perceived as creeps. We do so anyway after hesitation.
I get exhausted long before Sarah. I also develop INCREDIBLY AWFUL SUN BURNS in spite of using water-resistant sun screen. I am red ALL OVER and they are very painful, especially on my shoulders. Until this point I had never realized just how frequently Sarah grabs my shoulders for whatever reason until it is searingly painful when she does so. She gradually becomes cautious about this.
After the water park, we go to Sonic and Sarah has a hot dog and fries. We have fried jalapeno slices and Sarah has to correct my pronunciation of jalapeno.
One last thing Sarah needs to do before leaving is something four years coming. Since her first visit she was interested in the Community of Christ Mormon Temple just because of its interesting archetecture and wanted to scope out what it's like inside.
This didn't happen during the first visit, or the one in January this year. I was iffy about going there because my dad HATES MORMONS SO MUCH. Though I went there for a classical music concert for school in the Spring and decided that Sarah HAD to see this place because it had a Sarah-Like index of 99%. When we park, she has to comment on this being the most gorgeous parking lot ever.
They have guided tours and self-guided audio tours. We opt for some audio tours, though I don't think Sarah got a lot out of them.
The ramp leading up to the chapel is decorated with lots of art exhibits. Sarah considers most of it awful, with the exception of a few like this piece.
There are prayer books every so often. People can write down prayer requests and priests go through and pray for each person. Sarah spends a long time going through it out of curiousity.
The chapel has a HUGE organ in it, with over 5000 pipes overall. We arrive in time to catch a recital, which turns into Sarah's favorite part of the tour.
The ceiling of the corkscrew building is circular, designed to resemble a sea shell.
The recital is great, though she saves the best songs for last. There's one set of pipes that sounds REALLY WEIRD like almost chiptune sounding. The organist gives a lecture on each piece and then gives a guided tour afterwards.
We learn lots. Nothing I will repeat here, however, because I will horde all this precious knowelge to myself. Sarah and the kids ask lots of questions and the organist has lots of fun answering them.
The organ itself is very elaborate and versatile. A real aerobics workout to play effectively too.
We check out the rest of the temple, though little less compares to the organ recital. Sarah has her field and we leave. On the way out, I speculate what it would be like if my dad jumped out from the bushes and demanded to know WHAT WE'RE DOING HERE. Sarah tells me not to even joke about that.
The trip winds down, and Sarah isn't thrilled about it. She hates having to leave and would later regret leaving since work barely uses her after she gets back. The day she leaves, we get up and ready before my mom and dad even realize we are leaving. Sarah is a little disappointed that there's no real farewell.
I take Sarah to the airport and we hang out for a while. As always, it's a melancholy experience. We go to Starbucks and hang, she has me fiddle with her iPhone games a little. But it all comes down to her going through security. I give her one last bear hug before we part ways and start the long, lonely march back to my car. It's always the most painful when I take my eyes off her and know I won't see her again for a while. In this case we've got a good five months before it's feasible again. This too shall pass, however.