Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Iceland, Part 7: Reykjavik.

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Reykjavik is the Major City of Iceland with 150,000 inhabitants, about half of the island’s entire population. It’s a very nice city – not too big, not too small. A great many buildings are made of stucco and a delightful element of Reykjavik is the amount of artists that are allowed to paint murals all over town. There are tons of murals. The first one I saw was of a jacked-up looking bird pooping out a giant wad of string which wasn’t the best thing ever but many others were not a bummer.

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Our apartment was pretty great. It was on the top floor of a house. I was not fond of taking several flights of stairs while hoisting luggage but the view was stunning and the door handle had a whimsical charm.

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A bunch of random things I saw walking around Reykjavik – first, a selection of buildings. Who knew that corrugated metal could be a tasteful and lovely house covering? I certainly didn’t until I came to Iceland. Thanks, Iceland.

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Sometimes the stores are tucked behind each other and in order to draw you in the store owners paint happy patterns on the sidewalk. I want to do that everywhere. It’s like the magical yellow brick road leading you places. Gets old never.

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There are no Starbucks so the Dunkin Donuts look like fancy coffee houses. Frank Sinatra and Norah Jones playing over the stereo and everything.

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It’s a pretty hippy-ish town. I passed several places that would have been totally appropriate in Brooklyn. Like the vegetarian restaurant right next to our apartment which had the weirdest choice written on the sign. “Ecstasy’s Heart-Garden.” They paid money to have that specific phrase, written in that specific way, put on their signs. I checked and it’s also on their menus. And their websites. As a design nerd this flummoxes and upsets me but if they’re okay with it I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.

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This was the other Williamsburgian place that caught my eye. It’s perfect.

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Many of the Christmas trees I saw were cleaved in twain. Like, split from top to bottom. I have a feeling that this is because Christmas trees are super-rare so if you split it and mount both halves to the front of your establishment you get twice as much tree for your buck.

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Cool shingles that look like dragon scales.

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Teeny-tiny adorable city garden.

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Iceland loves the English phrase “and stuff.” I noticed it all over and it delighted me every time.

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A painting of a lion on the side of a coffee shop.

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Tiny building that does… something. Cricket and I stared at it for a period of time trying to figure out what it’s for. We came to no conclusions.

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Window displays! Two dead giant taxidermied ravens. Not the only dead giant taxidermied ravens I saw as window dressing. They were not for sale. I was sad.

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Cool authentic Christmas lamps. Also not for sale. I was less sad than the ravens, but still a bit forlorn.

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Drawings made by children. The drawings, they were your standard kid drawings, whatevs, but two of the names caught my eye. Those are awesome names. I want to yell them out because they make me sound like a pirate. Try it. They have excellent mouth-feel.

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Dorky Norseman statue.

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Awesome painting on the front of a basement skateboard shop.

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And a neato sticker.

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I like this architect’s approach. “I want to put a window on the corner of this building but I don’t want to figure out – ah, screw it, I’ll make a flat bit and slap a window there, fine, good, time for lunch.”

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And this guy’s idea. “I love the basalt columns of our country. We should represent them in the city. Where’s the best place to put a basalt column-inspired sculptu– oooh, I know! In the middle of the road where it is guaranteed to get smashed into by vehicles who were not expecting freakin’ rocks to pop up out of the road like mushrooms. That is the best idea ever.”

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If you dig more than five inches into the ground in Iceland there is a chance you’re going to hit poisonous lava gases so this job site requires gas masks.

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Finally, there was an Icelandic dog. I loved this dog. I wanted to pet this dog for forever.

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Coming up next: NSFW museum and fancy fancy dinner.

What did you do for Halloween?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

I HAD FREAKIN’ SURGERY. ON MY PARTS. There was no joyous candy retrieval or dispersal, only a saline drip. That was my “treat.” Here’s the succinct version – after postponing every possible wellness check-up I possibly could, some for many years, I finally went for an exam. When the doctor pressed on my stomach I made a sad gurgling noise (because it hurt) and she said, “Yeah, you’re not supposed to do that. I’m writing a prescription for an ultrasound.” A week later I went for my ultrasound and after being pressed and probed for what I consider an excessive amount of time (about twenty minutes) the fancy radiologist came in to give her opinion. All those screengrabs the technician took look like Loch Ness monster pics to me, all blurry and grainy and cryptic. Is that my kidney? Or Sasquatch? Who knows? The radiologist got all serious which I was not prepared for (did they find Jimmy Hoffa in my colon?) and said that there was an 8cm cyst sitting on top of my uterus. Because I’m a damn AMURICAN I have no idea how big that was so I was pleasantly chill about it. Then I got home and got out a ruler. Uhhhhh, guys, that’s a little over three inches. The radiologist said it wasn’t solid, it was filled with fluid. I responded by saying, “So you mean I made a crappy snowglobe?” and the radiologist said, “…Yes, actually, that’s exactly what you made.” The cyst and its contents weren’t of great concern but because it was so large the MDs were concerned it would twist, the blood flow to it would stop, it would become necrotic, rip open, fill me with septic goodness and then I would die. You know, bad things. And that’s how I got scheduled for surgery on Halloween. I couldn’t stop thinking about my cyst like a water globule on the head of a salticid jumping spider, the spider playing the role of my uterus.

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This made it difficult to take the situation seriously. But I went in at 10:00am, I was asked a barrage of questions about my life and my parent’s lives and my siblings’ lives and everyone I’ve ever met’s lives, had a needle stuck in my hand with the aforementioned saline drip (trick or treat!) and then eventually passed out where things happened laproscopically to me. I woke up sore and with cling film covering my bellybutton and what appeared to be hot glue on either side of my hips. I now know how one of my art projects feels. They left everything that was supposed to be there in there (no hysterectomy for me! I can still get authentic hysterics) (Authentic Hysterics is a great band name). I went to work today three days after and can I say modern medicine is kind of amazing? I had SURGERY, guys. One my abdomen, where many important things reside. And I walked out of the hospital that night and into a car, like a person. I didn’t take any fun drugs, only Tylenol. AMAZING. The only thing that bums me out is I wanted my cyst in its entirety given to me for further study, but I couldn’t have it because they drained it and then removed the sac so I got no parting gift. I was sad about that. I, and this is true, brought a freshly washed Ragu jar to the surgery to take my friend home in. I went home with my empty, unfulfilled jar. But, you know, not getting torsion and biting it whilst writhing in pain is nice too. Happy Halloween.

Things I have noticed. All SUUUPER very important.*

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

1. Y’all need to see this amazing sculpture being made. Whoo, skills. So many skills.

https://vimeo.com/131811521

 

2. I use WeTransfer for work and sometimes they have ads. I saw this ad and I was like, “Where do I know that old guy from?”

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I could not for the life of me figure it out. Finally, FINALLY, I got it. He’s a perfect doppelganger for the librarian in Monsters University.

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Glad that’s all sorted out.

 

3. I happened to turn on Nickelodeon today and I found my life theme song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI-44FAvv5c

 

4. While perusing Tumblr I learned what angels are supposed to look like. I am fond of the first one which appears to be a spinning gyroscope covered in eyes with a black hole of a fetus in the middle shooting tribal tattoos in all directions. I don’t know about you but if that popped up in my backyard in 1153 AD and all I’d ever seen was corn fields and maybe a creek I would not have held it together with grace and decorum.

http://pyrrhiccomedy.tumblr.com/post/142646579807/what-do-angels-actually-look-like-per-the-bible

 

5. I was looking at kawaii softie patterns on Pinterest for work (that is true, my job is awesome) and one in particular caught my eye. They were all very sweet but some real extra-sweet ones were this:

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or this:

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or this:

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All so cuddly. And then in the middle of that was this:

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It’s not bad, far from it, it’s just… what’s the word? Off-putting. I think it’s how far the eyes are, those intense dark circles, the angle of the head and the Mona Lisa smile. I would not be comfortable as a small child sleeping in a room with that there stuffed animal. I’m not comfortable looking at a picture of it on my computer in a well-lit room right now.

 

*Totally not really at all even in the slightest.

Some charts to help you through the day.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

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Kubo and the That’s Not Really Origami.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

I saw Kubo and the Two Strings. I had been looking forward to seeing it for while, ever since I saw the poster with the boat and the leaves and the moon, this one:

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I actually saw it twice, once with my sister and once with Snorth. The story, clearly heavily influenced by Miyazaki, was… confusing the way Japanese movies tend to be for me. I’ve spoken about this before:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2009/08/18/japan-is-so-very-very-special/

The Japanese seem to be perfectly comfortable with non-linear storytelling and I cannot get on board. Ergo I had some problems with Kubo in that regard. However, the animation? Amazing. Phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things. The studio that made this is called Laika and they’re one of the last studios that does stop-motion animation. I got to go to a Q&A with the director Travis Knight and learned some neat facts.

  1. In stop-motion animation if you bang out two seconds a day it’s a miracle. So they have ten movies in various stages of production at any time.
  2. Normally they have tons of time to record the voices but the kid who does the main voice (Art Parkinson, Rickon from Game of Thrones) was going to go through puberty at any minute so they had to record him extra extra fast.
  3. Art is from Ireland and does a phenomenal American accent. His audition tape was with the American accent and when Travis called him to tell him he had the job he thought he had called the wrong kid. Here’s what Art sounds like normally (and you can hear how his voice is all manly now): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XyV-Vu40Mk
  4. Laika doesn’t shun the use of computers. For example, they use green screen throughout the movie, especially when there are big sweeping vistas. They’re building these spaces in a large drafty warehouse in Portland, Oregon and they build the entire village where some of the scenes take place but there are shots where the ocean extends to the horizon and that couldn’t be accommodated.
  5. They also used computers to print every possible facial expression as well as the intermediate facial expressions between those. Those used to have to be carved by hand so it frees up the designers to do more work on the character’s clothes and fur and armor. Using computers doesn’t make the process easier, it simply allows the designers to focus their energy elsewhere.
  6. There’s origami paper floating all over this movie. (The second the first origami thing happened Snorth turned to me and said, “NOPE.” So that’s settled.) Laika tried a variety of materials and settled on Tyvek which is paper with a plastic coating so it doesn’t rip and a piece of aluminum pasted on the back to help it hold its shape when it is bent and folded.

There’s a great video that shows many of the elements I’ve just mentioned. It’s sixteen minutes long so you’ll want to get real comfortable before starting it. Also it’s silent for the first thirteen minutes so don’t assume your volume is broken (like I did).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nSSk7spa2M

And here’s some more insight from the film’s creators.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFGnwM99IAw

Guess what I did??

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

I left the house! I left the house, I went out into the world at 5:45 in the morning and I took a hot air balloon ride. Now, if you know anything about me you know this is a plethora of things I don’t like: fire and loud noise right next to my head, movement, flying, the outdoors, the morning, etc. But I did it and it was AWESOME. Someone asked me what it was like and I said it was the closest I’ve ever gotten to feeling real, Harry Potter magic. I snapchatted the whole thing and put it all in a video. You will note in the video that I begin with much trepidation but as soon as we lifted off I was hooked.

Here’s how it works for people who have never been: You pull up at the takeoff area (in our case it was a small airport in Orange County, NY) and the van pulls in with a trailer attachment carrying the basket. Several strong burly men pull an enormous bag out of the back of the van that looks like it could hold a child’s trampoline. That’s the balloon. The manly men tip the basket on its side, pull the balloon out to its full length and hook it to the basket. Then four industrial fans come out and blast all the air in the world into the balloon. Once the sufficient amount of air is in there, the propane burners go on and heat that air which causes the balloon to rise and the basket to tip up. That’s the cue for the people who are riding in the balloon to run to the basket and hoist ourselves in because we are what keeps the whole situation from floating away immediately. Once the passengers a.k.a. bags of sand are in, the guy in charge (ours was named Chris) blasts the flamey truck-horn-pull thing and… you kinda lift off the ground. You don’t even notice. If you have your eyes closed you would have no idea, it’s that tranquil. In addition please note in the video that any jerky movements are my hands, the ride was buttery smooth. I spent the whole time quietly staring off at the mist rising out of where the glacier cut through 10,000 years ago. (Fun fact: Chris told us the valley caused by the glacier has the perfect kind of soil for growing onions. The Germans who moved here recognized the soil type from back home and was like, “We got this. Hermann, plant onions.”) We drifted up to 1800 feet in the air but you could have fooled me. I had no clue. It all happens so slowly that your ears don’t pop. Landing is pretty neat. Since you can’t control where you go in a balloon and the wind carries you, the van follows you on the ground and when Chris gave the signal he was coming down the van hustled to meet us where we ended up. Where we ended up was in some rich lady’s spacious front yard. Chris said most of the people in the area are psyched to see him land. This lady sure was. She came out in her PJs to greet us. Chris gave her a bottle of champagne as is the tradition. When the two first guys to do this ballooning started in France in 17-something-something, when they landed in a farmer’s field he attacked both them and their balloon with a pitchfork, thinking they were the devil. The two French guys realized at some point that if they greeted the farmers with a bottle of champagne the farmers were far less inclined to attack them with sharp equipment, so the tradition continues. Within ten minutes the manly men had loaded the now deflated balloon back in the trampoline bag and put the basket back on the trailer attachment and we were back on our way to our cars at the airport. I enjoyed every second of it. Even the landing was pleasant. It was a joy from start to finish.

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If it wasn’t so pricey I would do this every week. If you live in the NY area I highly recommend the company we went with, Above the Clouds.

http://abovethecloudsinc.com/

 

Chickens and Cookies.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Two interesting things happened recently. First, I was hanging out with my sister K. near her apartment in upper Manhattan and we were taking her dog for a walk. Coming towards us was an older gentleman and his sweet dog who my sister of course knows because all the dog people in her neighborhood know all the other dog people. I ended up chatting with the gentleman for about 10 minutes while they walked their beasties and he informed me that he is an animal trainer and groomer. He said he’s trained all kinds of animals and goes to conferences regularly. Here’s where it got awesomely weird – he said, “I was in Reno recently training chickens using the clicking method. Chickens are tough, they get bored easily and run away and then you have to run around the room trying to catch them. I thought, since we were in Reno, that I would train my chicken using dice. I got one die and started by teaching the chicken to pick it up, then I taught it to drop it at my command. Basically by the end I had taught the chicken to play craps.”

So that conversation happened. I went on Facebook later that week and sure enough, there’s pictures of him training his chicken.

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I didn’t ask his permission to use the images, therefore I blurred out the faces as a courtesy. Because I’m a nice person.

The second thing was cookies! Specifically, I painted cookies. Cricket’s sister was getting married and she was asking various friends and family to contribute their skills and talents. I figured I could paint the bride and groom’s initials on cookies and they could be given away as “thanks for coming” presents. So I was given cookies (I don’t bake so good) and I set up my icing and purple sugar crystals and got to work.

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I officially hate the letter “M.” “D” was so much easier to paint. From now on I will only do this for people who’s names start with “I.” All you Iagos out there, you want cookies? Gimme a call. When the icing was dry I put them in bags with Hershey’s Kisses and tied them with pretty ribbon that I curled myself. There were 42 bags. I curled so much ribbon, guys. Like all the ribbon on earth. I got real good at it too. I am a ribbon-curling master.

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And as people were leaving they could get a bag of cookies and a bottle of wine the couple made themselves. It was a lovely parting gift.

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Things and bits.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

1: I’m going to need this map. Someone make a kickstarter for this map that I can fund.

http://obviousplant.tumblr.com/post/143170362883/how-many-us-states-can-you-name-left-in-a

 

2: Look at this penmanship. Look at it.

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3: Low Cost Cosplay. A bunch of guys in what I  believe is Thailand take famous characters or celebrities and recreate them using crap found around their house. I don’t know half of the things they’re referencing. Doesn’t matter. Everything they do is a gift. They have a Facebook page that I highly recommend you join. https://www.facebook.com/Lowcostcosplay/

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4: In keeping with the Comic-Con-esque theme of the previous bit, I saw an amazing video of Alina Salina, a polymer artist, making a Cheshire Cat pendant. I’ve worked with polymer clay extensively and I can’t figure out how she did it. Maybe she’s using a particularly hard version of polymer clay, or she puts it in the fridge, but it does not go mushy when she works with it. Phenomenal work. Except for the part where it’s only the eyes and the substructure. That part is terrifying. Other than that, so so good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W54j-iP9O8

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5: Whenever I have downtime I like to visit The Best Of Tumblr. Tumblr… how does one describe Tumblr? It’s a collection of short thoughts and images and if it’s clever or pertinent enough and gets a ton of reblogs it ends up on The Best Of site. I think this picture is an excellent example. I love both the comments and the names.

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This is also an excellent example of Tumblr. Every person that comments makes it better.

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6: I got an email saying, “Hamilton tickets available now!” Oooh, I’m down for that. How foolish and naive I was. I clicked like an idiot, saw the prices and was all HELLNAWWW.

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The email should have said, “Hamilton tickets available now if you’re willing to sell your plasma forever!” That would have been far more accurate. That’s some tricky BS, Ticketmaster. Shame on you.

Cartoons I be watchin’.

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Sometimes after a long day of attempting to make really dull charts look sexy and inviting I like to decompress by watching cartoons. I realize I am waaaaaaay older than the demographic that these programs are intended for but whatever. I like bright colors and zesty animation and I work HARD, okay? Sometimes a fifteen-minute cartoon is all my brain can absorb. Here are the three I watch regularly right now.

Teen Titans Go! on Cartoon Network. It’s about five teens with magical skills and talents who live together and fight evil. Standard show structure. But it’s drawn in a cool grafitti-style and the writers realize all kinds of people watch it so there are lots of references to 80s culture which delights me. Also sometimes for added effect they deviate from their drawing style and explore other styles which is super-cool to see. The stories aren’t particularly deep (one episode is entirely devoted to celebrating Beast Boy’s birthday so time doesn’t get destroyed) but it’s well-done and it’s like consuming candy corn but in eyeball form. Fun.

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Star vs. The Forces of Evil on DisneyXD. Star, a 14-year-old princess from another dimension, comes to Earth for some reason (I still haven’t seen the pilot episode so I’m not quite sure what it is, I think she was acting up in her world and was sent here to do some growing up). Star lives with a young man named Marco and his oddly accepting parents and goes to high school and attempts to fit in while having a magical wand and monsters that chase her constantly in an attempt to steal said wand. And her best friend is a floating unicorn head. And she has scissors that can cut through dimensional layers. But you know, high school. It’s a sweet show and it’s one of the only cartoon shows that is spearheaded by a woman so mad props there.

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Wander Over Yonder on Disney XD. I saved the best for last. This show was created by Craig McCracken who previously created Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, one of the most beautiful cartoon shows I had ever seen.

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When I found Mr. McCracken had made a new show AND was using one of my favorite voice talents, April Winchell (maker of the magnificent now defunct website Regretsy) I had to watch it. And I have not been disappointed.

Wander is a space-traveler voiced by Jack McBrayer and he’s sweet and kind and good-natured. He has a sidekick named Sylvia who is an abstract sort of horse and they happily bimble around the universe in large bubbles. Everything would be peachy except there are a myriad of evil-doers perpetually trying to conquer the entire universe and Wander and Sylvia get mired in the plots. One particular baddy they are constantly grappling with is Lord Hater, who Wander just wants to be friends with but, you know, Lord Hater is a villain and it’s not gonna happen. In addition to have really interesting plots the cartoon itself is beautifully rendered. Great show.

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Mexico! Part 1.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

I went to Mexico to study under an artist I have a massive art-boner for, Jan Huling. I’ve mentioned her before. I didn’t really know the other artist who was teaching, Nancy Josephson, but she ended up being a wonderful kind lovely person as well. Her work is more casual and free-spirited so I used her techniques less (I need control and structure otherwise there is chaos and I’m in therapy to deal with this, thank you) but it’s very cool-looking, especially the birds.

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In keeping with my vacation-posting style, you would think there would be loads of pictures and stories to go with the pictures. And there would be, except for The Incident. I brought my phone down to Mexico and used it as my camera and everything was going great on Day 1 when we were in Mexico City. Snorth and I went to see some pyramids, both our first time seeing these pyramids, and they were amazing. I know people throw that word around, “amazing,” but these seriously were. When we arrived they were off in the distance and looked wee and both of us were like, “Eh, those are fine, adequate pyramids. I thought they would be big and imposing but whatevs.” And then the tour we were on went past a field area and holy moly, we were on a massive boulevard called The Street of the Dead and there were mini-pyramids lining both sides and two monster pyramids at the end. One was 22 stories tall. Crazy-big. Now, this would be the point where I would post pictures of those things but, as I mentioned before, there was The Incident. Don’t worry, I’m getting to it.

After the phenomenal pyramid excursion Snorth and I went for a much shorter afternoon tour in Mexico City proper to see the Cathedral and other city-center things. The main square is enormous, the third-biggest in the world. (Number 1 is in China, Number 2 is in Moscow and then there’s this one.) While we were walking past the Cathedral it was crazy-crowded and that’s when I felt it. Something hot was running down my arm. I looked over and it took me a second to figure out that someone HAD SPAT A GIANT SPIT-AND-SNOTWAD ONTO MY ARM AND IT WAS RUNNING DOWN MY ARM AND OH MY GOD. I reacted as if I’d been shot. I froze up and yelled Snorth’s name over and over. She was awesome. Snorth carries a small towel around with her when she travels and she had that translucent nightmare mopped up in a jiffy. I collected myself and continued on my merry way until I decided to take a picture of something and could not find my phone. They had stolen my phone using the phlegm atrocity as a distraction. I have to give the thieves credit. I don’t care who you are, if someone snorks that much stuff on you you’re gonna be thrown off your game for a while which is plenty of time for them to poach your goods. I know I’m prone to exaggeration but Snorth is not and her comment was, “On my drooliest day I don’t think I could conjure up that much mouth-fluid.” It was an excessive amount. I thought a vulture had pooped on me. While this was the worst thing that had happened to me in a long time I was actually a tiny bit excited because who has the best “I was traveling and my phone was stolen” story now? Me, that’s who. And even though I’ve traveled all over the world nothing of mine has been pickpocketed so I feel like I’m in an elite traveler’s club.

I ended depending on Snorth to take the pictures and she did a wonderful job but I was at her mercy so you’ll see what you see and that will have to do. I will pepper that with pics I find on the internet for additional info. In the next entry we will commence with cool Mexican travelry.