Monday, April 25, 2011

I [heart] Harry Potter OR How writing about a trip took on a life of it's own

Note: I started the post intending to just write about my trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Somehow, it turned into an epic about my love of HP.  Sorry if I bore you – you can skip to the review at the bottom.

If you've ever met me (which, let's face it, everyone who is reading this has), then you know how big of a Harry Potter fan I am.  I'm so vocal about my love that it's sometimes strange to those around me.  Case in point: the time I bought this Hold Steady shirt and commented to the Merch guy that it was like a mashup of my two favorite things: The Hold Steady and Harry Potter.  The Merch guy wasted no time in telling me it was meant to be an Elvis reference.  Whatever, dude.

I was a little late for the Harry Potter game, inasmuch as I hadn't read any of the books when the first film came out in 2001.  This isn't really surprising because I had just graduated from high school and, at the time, HP was mostly marketed towards younger kids in the States (one of my sisters, who is 6 years younger than me, was reading them at the time, so I didn't think much of investigating them and I had been busy doing the angry-high-school-punk-rock-thing for those 4 years between the first book and the first movie).  But my Dad had this conference at a Century Theater nearby and he invited me and Bear to go with him, as there was going to be private screening of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone afterwards.  I went along for the company (my Dad is amazing) and because there was breakfast, but I wasn't that interested in the film.  In the end I was blown away. 

Two things happened that day after the movies.  First, I bought my '99 Honda Civic (that I would eventually christened Narcissa after the HP character), and secondly, I took that first drive in my new car down the Barnes & Noble and bought the first 4 HP books – everything that had been released at the time.  I was hooked.  I think my sisters and I saw Sorcerer's Stone like 5 times in theaters (a record only topped by our seeing Fellowship of the Ring at least 7 times in theaters – and yes, I do realize that is 21+ hours of my life, thankyouverymuch.  It was worth it). 

So, anyway, I'm a huge fan and have been for 10 years now and I've spent countless hours discussing theories and characters and listening to the audio books...*  So, imagine my excitement when I heard that they were going to be adding a section called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Universal Studios, FL.  And then imagine my disappointment when I watched all of my other friends who are Potter fans go experience the magic without me.  When I found that I was going to be on the East Coast for my Cousin's wedding, I figured, why not just pop down to Orlando?  So I did.  And Boyfriend flew out to meet me for 2 amazing days in...

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!! 
So, was it everything I hoped and dreamed it would be?  I don't know...

The most impressive part of the whole thing is the area itself.  It really feels like walking into Hogsmeade, walking into a different country all together, with all the storefront windows.  There are all these little details everywhere.  Every time I walked by a shop, I noticed something new.  Though, it was strange to see this town in perpetual winter being swarmed by people in shorts and tee-shirts!  Walking into a real-life version of Honeydukes (where I bought Ton Tongue Toffee, Fizzing Whizzbees, Chocolate Frogs, and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans), Zonko's (where they sell You-No-Poo), and Ollivander's was like a dream.  And it is worth the wait to see Ollivander help someone pick out their first wand – or rather, have someone's first wand pick them? And, of course, we tried the Butterbeer.**

Boyfriend and I also had early admission so we high-tailed it straight for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey because we heard that the line could take hours.  But, because it was so early, we  pretty much walked on. Usually this wouldn't be something to complain about, but, seeing as half of the appeal of this ride is that the line is a walk through Hogwarts, it would have been nice to see everything more slowly.  And here's some slightly embarrassing honesty – I found this ride horrifying. Seriously.  I had to cover my eyes for a good portion of it (spiders, you know).  I can't imagine what the average kid that would think, as it's basically all the scary parts of the books rolled into one disorienting ride.

On the other hand, I LOVED the Dragon Challenge ride (which Boyfriend and I were calling Dueling Dragons, and unbeknown to us, that was it's pre-Wizarding World name). Not only was it just a fun ride, but seeing the other "dragon" fly under and around you is pretty awesome.  Also, if anyone asks, Chinese Fireball > Hungarian Horntail.  

One thing I found a little strange is that there almost no reference to anything past Goblet of Fire... And, as Boyfriend pointed out, there are no mascots like at Disneyland, though they did have a Hogwarts Choir and a Tri-Wizard rally, but damn, how awesome would it be to see Hagrid walking around?!  The section is also pretty small with just 3 rides, the shops, and the Three Broomsticks/Hog's Head.  We didn't need two full days to do everything, but we majorly lucked out and, according to employees there, both days we were there were very quiet – I guess on busy days they limit who can enter that section.

 We also had a lot of fun at the rest of the park – Islands of Adventure is more ride oriented than regular Universal Studios, apparently.  The Hulk and Spiderman rides in the Marvel section were awesome.  Boyfriend finally got to go on the Jurassic Park ride, which I had been on like 13 years ago and had remembered it much scarier than it actually is (I also realized that I had never seen the film Jurassic Park because, as I explained to Boyfriend, I was a 10-year-old girl when it came out and thus did not care).  The Lost Continent section featuring Poseidon's Fury was a big hit with me, and Boyfriend successfully kept the teasing to a minimum through Seuss Landing, which kinda scares the crap out of me (his artwork makes me very uncomfortable, but that's a different story).  We mainly just had fun being on vacation.

So here is my final verdict: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an awesome, but small section of a park and I am glad that I went.  It really is worth seeing if you're anything of a fan, but you probably don't need to base an entire trip around going.  In the future, I'd probably plan a trip to Magic Kingdom and save one day to head back to Wizarding World...  All and all, I did have a blast, but I'm also anxious to see if/how they continue to develop this section of the park.

*Fun fact: all of my devices (laptop, iphone, ipod, etc.) are all named after HP characters, and mostly from the Most Noble & Most Ancient House of Black. Also, my new car is called Kingsley.

**I didn't like Butterbeer that much, but I got the cold one, not the frozen one as was recommended. Personally, liked the one that my Cousin Kate and I made with Butterschnapps better... 

[all photos by endlessmeg or boyfriend

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Philadelphia Wedding

Kim & Evan Morris
It's a story that starts with my cousin calling me about a year ago, in which a game of phone tag ensued where we both left long, rambley, mostly insulting messages on each other voice-mail: his asking if I was knocked-up and/or on drugs; mine hoping that he wasn't in jail and wasting his one phone call because eff family obligation, I wasn't going to drive to L.A. to bail him out.  Eventually I found out he had proposed to girlfriend.

I was immediately excited.  I have always liked Kim, my Cousin Evan's girlfriend.  This isn't the best story of me, but the first time I met Kim, we had all gone out to a bar where my cousin (un)fortunately knew the bartender.  36 Sea Breezes later (I might be exaggerating that number), Kim sat with me in the bathroom as I puked purple.  I think Wayne Campbell said it best: "If you blow chunks and she comes back, she's yours. But if you spew and she bolts, then it was never meant to be."  Of course, in this case "yours" means Evan's. 

The wedding was outside of Philly, near where Kim grew up.  We stayed at The Joseph Ambler Inn, where our whole side of the family was in one building so we wouldn't disturb any other guests while we post-reception partied until 3:30am.  It was such a cute place and, oh my god, the bath tub in the room was to die for.  I was expecting it to be in the middle of nowhere, but it was actually in populated place.  And the ceremony and reception were at a nearby country club.  It was all so beautiful.

One thing you should know about my family is that we take our Weddings seriously.  The party started on Thursday night.  While the Wedding Party had their Rehearsal dinner, the Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins hung out in the tavern (the Wedding Party joined us later, of course, for more drinks).  The Wedding was on Friday night and we started the Reception around 6pm at the country club and, as I mentioned, continued back at the Inn.  There was a lot of drinks, dancing, and fist pumping (for some reason). 

I had the change to dance with one of Evan's friends, Raven, who I had met years before while helping Evan move from an apartment in Berkeley.  Raven's wife couldn't make the wedding and Boyfriend wasn't there, so we were each others dance partners for part of the night. I don't know if I've ever had such a good dance partner.

I immediately text Boyfriend:

Me: One of Evan's married friends, whose wife couldn't make it, slow danced with me. He dipped me! We need to take dance lessons.

Boyfriend: Yes. I'm down for that.

Me: Keeper.

Boyfriend: I like how you mentioned he was married. Otherwise I'd have to kill him.

And if that wasn't enough of a celebration Saturday was Sports Day.  We had a Frisbee Golf Tournament (the wedding favors were screen printed frisbees!), a Croquet Tournament, and a game of Ultimate Frisbee.  And Yours Truly won the Croquet Tournament!  I might have won mostly due to lucky shots and gravity, but don't tell anyone... And I may have held my mallet up in the air and yelled "Croquet!" when I won... It's a classy game.

 It was such an amazing weekend.  We rounded out the festivities with a tour of Historical Philly.  And that's a story that ends with my Uncle handing my 12-year-old cousin a paper map of downtown Philly and assuring us that if we follow him, we'll have no problem getting out of the city – and no, we aren't taking the same route we took to get in; this is a new, better one.  Evidently, he did not trust my iPhone's ability to provide accurate directions. 

My mom and my Sister couldn't make it, so I was representing my branch of the family.  It's a shame because it was so good to see family I hadn't seen in years, and I know they would have had a blast.  I always have fun with my family, but these special events seem to seem to radiate fun.  The silver lining was that I got to spend some sister-esque time with my 15-year-old cousin.

Since Evan is my only older cousin, my Aunt, his mom, spent no time in reminding me that I should be next to get married...  Of course, Evan's wedding was so awesome that if I am next, I have a ton of ideas that I might borrow for my own!

Cousins! Conor, Me, Evan.  Perhaps I should photoshop Bear into this..

Coming soon: hopefully a post about the amazing dress I wore to the wedding, but more importantly, a recap of my trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Phoenix, Az. We meet again...

I've only been to Phoenix once before and that was Fall of 2000, my senior year in high school. I had flown out here to see my best guy friend, Patrick, preform in his school's production of "West Side Story." And I remember that the flight was very rocky and after coming back from the bathroom while the plane was hit with turbulence, the guy sitting next to me said, "Dude, it would suck to die on the can." Those were his only words the whole flight.

So, now I'm having lunch in Sky Harbor and thinking about my last visit to this place. It's been over 10 years since I was here (if you can count being in the airport as "here"), but it doesn't feel like at all. Of course, that's generally how I feel about most things from high school - I can't believe that was over 10 years ago! What I remember about the airport on that trip was that because Patrick was in rehearsals, he sent is friend, whom I had never met, to pick me up. She held a sign that just read "3," a nickname that Patrick had bestowed upon me.

It wasn't a bad trip, but it was strange in hindsight. He had shows all weekend, so I spent part of my trip hanging around his place, having dinner with his mom and, either she suggested we get manicures, or we actually did. I can't really remember. And then I came home.

It occurs to me now that this trip was the second to last time I ever saw Patrick. Later that year, he then flew out to CA and went to my Senior Formal with me. After that a few more phone calls and then... nothing. No, he's not dead. He's been disappeared for years, to quote my favorite band.

I had known Patrick since grammar school - he transferred in at 4th grade, I think? Maybe 5th? Anyway, we were friends throughout junior high and then we became closer in high school. Even though he lived in Arizona, he would come back during the summers. We had a lot of fun together and looking back, in a lot of ways it was like a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic, you know, minus any romance. He was my first platonic-boyfriend, I guess.

And that's hard for me to admit, just like it was hard for me to admit that I did have feelings for him. I thought it would ruin everything! I remember thinking to myself, "you can either tell him how you feel, or you can be friends." At 17 I was sure it couldn't be both ways. So, I decided to not like him anymore and only years later can I be honest about how I felt. And I've realized this in part because I still, to this day, use my memory of him as a guide in which I measure other guys...

It's funny. I never told him how I felt to save the friendship. Now, we don't even have that. I don't know what happened, but I hope he's well - based on his Facebook's minimal activity, I can at least tell he's alive. I wonder if he hopes the same for me, or even thinks of me...

Note: Every story has two sides and this is my side. Maybe to him things were very different, I don't know. I just know that this is how I felt at the time and still feel now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I am an over-packer

This sounds like such a "white whine" but it is hard to pack for multiple climates in one trip. See, I'm heading to Philly tomorrow for my Cousin's wedding then Boyfriend is meeting me in Orlando for WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!! on Monday (can you tell I'm excited?) So, anyway, I'm attempting to pack for a place that hasn't decided if it's winter or spring, plus I need a dress for the wedding and the rehearsal and whatever other family events that are planned.  And then essentially summer in Orlando, which was easy: a summer dress, sandals, and my "This Guitar is a Horcrux" shirt.

I got overwhelmed and brought out the big guns, so to speak.  But the problem is once I decided to use my Europe suitcase, I didn't have to limit myself... So in went everything I think I might, maybe wear over the next week... and probably a bunch of other stuff.

And finally, I've been trying to decide if I should bring my MBP and my iPad AND my iPhone, but that seems too much - so I'm testing this blogging app for the iPad. Really, I just think I need a MacBook Air to solve all my problems. 

So my next post might be from the air or Philly... Who knows! It will be exciting tho. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fashion Friday: March 28 – April 1

Sorry for the radio silence, folks.  And I was doing so well with updating last week. And then I woke up Sunday morning with a itchy throat and was knocked out for the next two days.  Super lame.

 So, I have no style photos from Monday or Tuesday because I figured no one would want to see me in my old pajamas two days in a row.  But I do have a picture of the view from my sickbed.

That's my quilt, my movie collection, and you can kind of see my record collection (at least the 45s).  You can also see (from the left) the complete Harry Potter series & Percy Jackson series, a bunny with a mustache, Clerks Animated & Oscar Wilde action figures, a severed foot autographed by Chuck Palahniuk, and two years worth of Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club EPs. There is a whole lot of awesome (read: nerd) going on here.

My first day returning to work I did the unthinkable: wore jeans and sneakers... But I still felt like crap.
The jeans are Rock & Republic – hand-me-ups from Bear; the shirt is J.Crew and you can't see it but there are sequins on it; the shoes you can sort of glimpse are Puma and are usually reserved for my hip-hop class :)

You can tell I was starting to feel better by Wednesday because I have a skirt on.  And also, while I was sleeping, it suddenly turned into spring.  I swear I only own like 4 things from Anthropologie and I'm wearing two of them here – the shirt and the skirt, both on sale; the shoes are Me Too from Nordstrom, which I'm breaking in cousin's wedding next week.

The shirt is Forever21 and it's too bad you can't see the super cute flower details on it; the belt is my mystery brand belt from Nordstrom Rack; jeans are Genetic from the aforementioned Blue Jean Bar; the shoes are Lucky Brand also from Nordstrom Rack (I love that place); earrings are from the communal jewelery drawer in my home and who knows where they originated from.

I'm so happy it's spring now.  Can't wait to break out the spring/summer dresses!
Is there something you can't wait to wear this year?

Little Things (and Robots)

Yesterday at work, someone sent me this.

Please note: this is how to make my day.