Visiting My Other Dog
It was a very, very good visit with Geoff.
It was pretty funny Thursday night, when John dropped me off at the airport. Geoff self-identifies as a dog, sometimes a junkyard dog, sometimes other types. It was just very amusing when John wished me a good visit with my other dog. I guess the wish came true, though, so I shouldn't knock it.
Flew in Thursday night, actually picked up a rental, so that we could get to the wedding, which wasn't on any of Geoff's bus routes; and I actually managed to navigate in the completely new city to the place I needed to be. That was cool. Neat to realize that I can just 'get around' when I really need to again. Had fun talking with John and washing dishes, of all things, when I got there and he hadn't finished with he last class, yet.
Managed to get halfway through Greg Bear's Queen of Angels and found the whole analysis of personality as a composite of agents and talents and a central reality very, very interesting. Models my own experiences very well, in many ways. Many keen ideas and thoughts and social nuances throughout and the language changes were well sourced from those changes. I enjoyed what I read, but was, clearly, able to put it down.
Geoff was thoughtful and brought me two Giant Arby's sandwiches in case I hadn't had dinner. I had had dinner and I have problems eating one of those, much less two; but they went in the fridge just fine and turned out to be life savers. We slept in so late the next morning it was only hunger and thirst that got us out of bed. He nuked the meat in the microwave, and was wise about that, as nuking the bread would only have turned it hard and awful; so the resulting sandwich was actually pretty good. We split the one sandwich as the day's plans included cheesesteaks for lunch, and we didn't want to spoil our appetites.
In an earlier discussion on-line, with Geoff's friend Gator and a few other Pittsburgh denizns, I got a huge craving for real, East Coast cheesesteak sandwiches. An item that can be found further West than the Appelacians, but only rarely and often not of quite the same quality. Real cheese steak with grilled onions and grilled mushrooms on a soft roll. Yum.
Anyway... I can't get them here, so it was nice to go there. Geoff took me to Oakland, and the Cathedral of Learning, which, I think, is part of Pitt. Though we did make a quick stop at a very nice and very large gaming shop first called The Phantom in the Attic. It was extremelly well stocked, and I thought, at first, that it was a comicbook shop that also sold gaming materials; but then I realized that all the bins were actually filled entirely with Gaming Books. My. There is a lot out there, and a lot that's now out of print. It was fun looking through some of the In Nomine stuff for Genevieve's name, and see Geoff just kinda stare at the White Wolf shelf at all the things he'd contributed.
A bit of walking in the humid heat later and we were at a very, very Gothic structure, that was all flying buttresses, blackened stone and hand-carved ornamentation. A gorgeous building, built in the style of the old cathedrals; yet entirely secular in useage. Sprinkled throughout the building were rooms that were each based on an ethnic frame, with school equipment and decorations in that style. The Germanic room had Germanic desks and seats, a German teacher's podium and desk, and various cupboards, decorations and carvings in the German manner on the walls. The is reputed to be a Han Dynasty Chinese room, with rather fragile furniture. I saw a room that had the library of an Arabian prince moved in to decorate it. The British room had pieces of wall and a fireplace from the House of Commons, rescued from the bombed rubble of the place and restructured here. It was very keen to see.
The interior of the Cathedral was very remeniscent of a church, with all the stained class, flying stone, and gorgeous curves. The cool, echoing darkness, with lights so far up in the flying ceilings that they were nearly useless, was really nice to just wander through and experience. I was glad he brought me there.
Across town was Uncle Sam's Subs, where one couldn't really get a 'real' Philly cheesesteak because, in Geoff's words, they put mayo on 'em. Actually, they only put mayonaise on them when you ask them to, then again, they also offer tomatoes and lettuce and stuff as well. I got a cheesesteak with mushrooms and grilled onions and, sacrilege, slices of tomatoe on top. I like tomatoes! They also use a nice cheese instead of the awful white American that's traditional, but I found no fault in that. The sandwiches arrived piping hot, correctly gooey and mildly greasy on a bed of crisp, thin fries. Perfect. Ketchup for the fries and I dove in, eating. The roll was tender and soft on the exterior as well, not crust at all, and it soaked up all the juices wonderfully and tasted of the nicely sauted mushrooms and the caramlized onions as well as the juicy, shaved beef. I watched a guy at the front shaving the steak down, and it was just huge lumps of chuck with all the tendons and sinew pulled out and then shaved by a meat slicer to be as thin as possible. That's what goes on the grill. Yum.
I think a lot of people pay a lot of attention to the filling and then forget the necessity of a roll that actually works with all the ingrediants rather than fighting them. These folks did it right, however, and I was very full before I could even finish the marvelous cheesesteak. Happiness.
I then got to go to the Colony and meet a handful of Geoff's best friends, Gator, Cock, Mole, and Guinea in the tradition of Geoff being Dog; and occassional extras wandering in and providing conversation now and again. They have a lovely house on a hill, with some nice cool breezes through the place, and plenty of room for sitting and talking and socializing and simply being with each other. It's very comfortable and the people are all real and keen and very interesting. Lots of good, shared stories, that were fun to listen to as I could see that they liked telling them to someone for whom they were completely new. I was pretty quiet at first, just listening and getting a feel for how they worked together and how they might or might not take to me, an outsider; but they were open and obviously not uptight about me being there. Gator was pretty happy to see me, as we'd met online as well, and he does hug well, though I did miss seeing his lady, Squirrel. She was working late, nothing to do about it, but I'll likely get to see her at Origins.
They really are choosen family, I think. They are very tight, and it was cool to listen to banter that was definitely English in stucture and grammar, but so filled with connotative and contextual information that I had no idea what they were talking about. They had their own shorthand, and it was cool to see how polite they all were about explaining things if I actually asked; but also very keen to just to listen to them with each other and seeing just how tight they were with each other. Friendships like these are hard to come by. It's cool to know what kind of people like Geoff and vice versa. He has keen friends.
We spent a good time talking with people, and then went on to dinner near his house at the Penn Brewery. The brewery serves traditional German fare on long tables so that folks could sit with people they didn't know. Unfortunately, there was a jazz festival in town and they had a very, very loud jazz band in the all-wood hall. The place echoed like mad and with the din going we couldn't even talk with each other and actually hear what the other person was saying. That was nearly painful. Geoff was keen and asked the waitress if there was any way she could move us nearly anywhere else, anywhere quieter.
And we saw her go to the central area for all the servers and she had a heated discussion with, perhaps, her boss and we could see arm waving and big mouths from yelling above the sound of the music. There was some pointing down, and when she came to lead us away, she took us down into the basement. The next level down had a number of tables as well, and even down there the music was pretty loud, but not nearly as deafening as it had been upstairs. We ordered yummy things, the same dish, actually, for our main courses, and we decided to share appetizers. But Geoff got an apple salad first, which was sliced granny Smith apples with toasted pecans and bits of celery in a whipped cream. It was pretty yummy, crisp and sweet and tart and nutty all in one. I got traditional potato pancakes, which were a little soggy but very tasty and textured with thickly grated potatoes. It was good, hearty stuff.
The main courses were snitzel, i.e. breaded and deep fried veal, with gravy on them, it was call hunter's snitzel and the gravy was a lovely mix of caramalized onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and really nicely rich wine sauce. I really enjoyed it with the creamy mashed potatoes and some really sharply nutmeged red cabbage that was also very tart. It made for really good textural and taste contrasts. Yum.
We then went back to his house and puttered about and eventually got ready to sleep. That's when I found out that my pikachu had disappeared. Oops.
Long, long ago, Kathy gave John a little electronic pikachu, one of those belt toys that's a pedometer and electronic pet thing all in one. This was all well before pokemon got really popular in the U.S.. Kathy was following the stuff in Japan. So I got it to a million steps a long, long time ago; and stuffed it in a drawer. Very recently Kathy called me and said that I *had* to reset the game and start over again just so that I could see the expression on the pikachu's face when I fed it zero watts! I really didn't want to ressurect it. I knew that if I did, I'd have to take it all the way through a million step again, and I really didn't want to have to take care of it for that long again.
One day, mildly bored, I made the mistake of resetting it and laughing my ass off at pikachu's expression. Then I had to walk with it and feed it and actually take *care* of it.
As Geoff pointed out, they're Made so that kids will lose them and ask Mom and Dad for another one. And I'd lost mine. We searched where we could, and then asked the folks at the Colony to search out there, they didn't find it there. I knew that when I left Mole and Cock's house that I'd had it on my belt because Gator and Mole commented on it. So the only place left was the restaurant. It was past midnight already; but even if the restaurant was closed, we could look in the parking lot. So we did that and found that the restaurant was just shutting down. So we searched through all that at 1 in the morning, and found nothing.
Saddened, we went back home, I called John and John was mildly sad with me but told me to give pikachu a chance.
Sure enough, the next morning, after rolling out of bed and unpacking the clothes for the wedding, I found the pikachu in my overnight bag. Yay! Much rejoicing.
The wedding itself was comforting, in a very traditional way. It has been more than a year since I'd actually sat down in a church, and it was interesting to be back in that and actually comfortable now. Comfortable in ways that I wasn't able to be when I was in my twenties. It's God's house for people, people who are mistaken or at fault, messed up and needy, wanting or celebrating; and it's not like He doesn't know. So it amused me to be more comfortable, finally. It was also interesting watching all the less comfortable folks as well.
It was a very formula wedding. Straight and narrow but for a pastor that tried to fit some really unfortunate internet phrases into his message in ways that made it very obvious that he knew absolutely nothing of what he was talking about. Everything from a shaking of the head at the 'I love you' virus to equating some unfortunate things to the couple's love. Other than that the ceremony was pretty much formula and the reception afterwards was the same. In the basement of the Methodist church and since it was a Methodist church, the reception was dry but for the hip flasks that some of the groomsmen carried.
Geoff was bored fairly quickly, as were most of the folks at our table and we were mostly entertaining each other; but Geoff wanted to go and I didn't really need to stay as I didn't even really know the bride at all and only knew the groom in passing in an on-line forum. So we wandered off into the gloming and headed towards Mole and Cock's place and settled in the growing shadows to just talk with them for a while and relax. Mole took me upstairs to look at the way they've done the house for social events and how the attic had been resturctured to give him room for doing his art. It's gorgeous work up there, and the room restructuring is very, very useful and apropos of that. It was fun to see his new portfolio and just meander through works that he and Geoff had once shared.
Fun. Much fun.
We left as they were about to get a big party of folks, and my allergies to smoke and that particular social crowd wouldn't have gotten along too well together.
As we were heading out, Geoff thought of Rita's and gave me excellent directions on how to get there. Throughout this trip, Geoff was giving me detailed directions while I drove around. That was pretty nice, knowing that he knew this area well enough to do that with plenty of warning for most things. I enjoyed his direction giving, which isn't something I'd say about most people. I still remember the time when I was following Steve around during the FAE conference and my carful of people was getting an earful of invicative when Steve changed lanes at the last moment. Geoff didn't put me through that, thank goodness.
Rita's is a very local establishment. They make their own Italian ices and their own homemade frozen custard. Their 'gelati' is actually a layering of their ices ad their custard and the ice isn't really gelato, it's an icier version, more loosely packed and melted a little into nearly slushy textures. The custard is rich and extra dense and thick, without too much air mixed in but is still a soft serve style of frozen dessert. I had mango and custard gelati and it was wonderful, the creamy density of the custard contrasted against the cool lightness of the ice, rich with mango flavors. We sat out on the porch by the shop, in the darkness of the night and ate and talked and ate some more. It was an excellent 'dinner' as neither of us were very hungry eventhough I'd eaten next to nothing at the wedding buffet.
The coolness of the dessert was very nice as well. The heat through Pittsburgh was punishing, along with the humidity. We ran the air conditioner in his bedroom all night just so that we could get to sleep, and the car's air conditioning didn't get much rest either. I suspect that that is why the car was such a gutless wonder, but I was so very glad of the escape from the heat. While it has been up to about 100 degrees in Boulder, it was definitely a dryer heat that didn't weigh nearly as heavily on me. There were times when I'd step outside and instantly be covered in sweat. In Colorado, it's so dry I never even realize I'm sweating until the salt has crystalized on my skin. Here it's very, very different.
But the cool night air was very nice and we hung out for a while and finally went to sleep in order to get up in time to get me to the airport the next morning.
Pretty uneventful getting home, though it was nice to simply *be* home again. While John hit his traveling threshold after San Diego, I think I finally just hit mine. It was a very nice trip, but it was comforting to get home, get some Popeye's fried chicken and eat with Fezzik staring at me again.