Thursday, January 14, 2021

My Christmas 2020

Hey everyone, it's that time of year again, Christmas time. Normally this is a time of going to my parents with a big party, going to McDonalds as Santa prepares Christmas at my grandparent's on Christmas eve, and wild lights with mskate. But with 2020 being, 2020 (crazy lockdowns if you're reading this in the somewhat distant future), things had to change.

I'll start off with a little black Friday fun. Normally black Friday is a blog all it's own, but thanksgiving was kind of bland with lockdowns and such, but it was kind of neat because I had to split my time between my biological family and in-law family, and that was a new experience. We had lunch with my parents and dinner with mskate's parents (or maybe it was the other way around). Either way, we ended up staying at her parents house for the night. As I've said in previous years, I go black Friday shopping every year. Ever since I took IRA with me last year he looks forward to going with me since his family isn't into in person shopping, or crazy crowds, or all the insanity that goes with black Friday shopping that he and I enjoy. Well thanks to 2020, it wasn't like any black Friday I ever experienced, and that was kind of a good thing. You see, ever since I started doing black Friday back in 2010, it's always been "early," like stores open at midnight or 11, or 10, or open all Thanksgiving. I know in the past they used to open at like 5AM or 3AM, so only the REALLY hard core would go out, because that's what my mom would do when I was little, but it just kept creeping earlier and earlier and a lot of people were vocal about their disapproval (like my highschool English teachers). Well because of covid and needing to reduce crowds, the stores opened at like 5AM like they did in the past. IRA and I went out at like 10PM and just kind of went the black Friday rout, and were only able to pick up some stuff from drugstores that were open on Thanksgiving. We went to bed and were going to wake up at 5AM, but I didn't set my alarm right so we ended up leaving at like 5:45. We still did the Black Friday rout, going to best buy, target, big lots, and walmart. We didn't pick-up as much as normal since neither of us really had much to shop for and most of the stuff was picked over because we were late.

OK, fast forward some weeks. Mskate and I normally go to the wild lights at the zoo, but it was too crazy this year with all the restrictions, so mskate found something similar but different. Our county does their own wild lights thing, only it's a driving thing through a large city park. We left a little too early though and the place wasn't open yet, so we decided to walk around the mall that was kind of close by. We didn't spend a ton of time there since we only had about an hour, but we walked around and got some steps in. After walking the entire mall we got back in the car and went to find the place. It was kind of funny, because the GPS wanted to take us through the street that was blocked off so they could have the lights, so we had to get creative. Mskate put a bank in that was close to the entrance and we used that to get us to the general proximity, and then we put in the actual park so we could go to the lights.

OK, now for the fun stuff. We enter the park and get in line. By now the car was starting to get warm, so I took my heavy winter coat off and was only wearing my light hoodie. Mskate pretty much did the same. What was really cool is that they had lights on the way in, so even when we were waiting in line there was stuff to look at. They also set-up a "scenic stop" as the way to turn around to go into the park, which was kind of neat. Lucky for me since mskate was using her phone to play music, she had to use my phone to take all the pictures, so that made it easy for me to get all the pictures up for you.

There were also a fair amount of animated lights, with a few frames a second. Here's a compilation (muted for copyright because we had Christmas music playing in the car).

It was a really fun little outing. It was about 1 hour of fun. There were 3 miles of lights set-up, and we only drove like 10 miles an hour and made stops along the way. Mskate also wanted to have popcorn and snacks for the drive, and that was a great idea and felt really great. I don't remember specific examples, but I do remember my parents driving me around to look at Christmas lights when I was really little, and driving around looking at lights with snacks reminded me of those times. We were also saying "we're definitely doing this with future kids; it's festive and pretty, it builds the memories, it's not too far from our house, and the kids just sit in their car seats without worrying about being too cold or getting too tired." And it was cheap, only $5 per car; we'd spend like $20 per person at the zoo, which also adds to the "we're doing this with kids" aspect. It was a great experience and probably the start of a tradition.

Speaking of new traditions, mskate and I also had a Christmas movie marathon list. Mskate made a list of movies on a piece of poster board and hung it on the wall. As we watched movies we would check off movies. 

Obscured from view are "prep and landing" and "snowden on ice" because it had personal information in the title. We watched a movie about every night of December, sometimes 2. A lot were movies we've seen before, but others were new to one of us. It was a fun thing and probably a new tradition. We also wrapped all the presents we were giving to other people and put them under our tree for storage. "Where does one store many Christmas presents without them being in the way," and the obvious answer is "in plain sight." Normally I would just put them in the bed room where I kept them unwrapped, but that was only ok when I was a bachelor. I think we also found a good place for us to store our gifts in the future before we have kids (because Santa you know).

OK, now it's time for the real festivities. Because we had 2 families worth of gifts to distribute, our car was REALLY full. Lucky for us I have a Durango which has a lot of cargo space. Just call us Santa, because our sleigh was filled. Our time begins on December 24th Christmas Eve. We stopped at her parents first to drop off our gifts to her family and our overnight stuff, because we needed to clear some room in the car before our next stop. Now it's time for the main tradition, Christmas Eve at my grandma's house. We went to her house and unpacked our bag of presents for that group of family. Normally we go to McDonalds before exchanging gifts, because that was when Santa would deliver the presents when we were little and now we do it just because it's tradition, but because covid stopped indoor dining we just went right to her house. Mskate and I passed out our gifts to everyone. I got some gift cards, snacks, movies, and a charging dock for my PS4 controllers. We gave my grandma a red lobster gift card, photo frame from our wedding with her, and some other nice things.

After all the gifts were passed out, my grandma pulled out a super meaningful gift for my brother and I. About 10 years ago my grandpa lost his original wedding ring, and when we were convinced it was gone for good my grandma got him a nicer ring to replace it. We even made a fun little nesting egg "70 years of life" thing. Then 5 years later we found the ring when replacing the clothes dryer, so he would wear both rings for the remainder of his life. Now with him passing earlier this year my grandma decided to give my brother and I his wedding rings as a keep sake. I ended up getting the original ring and my brother ended up getting the nice ring. It just so happens that his ring fits perfectly on my right middle finger, behind my college class ring that he got me as a graduation present. I now carry him around with me everywhere I go now.

OK, gift time over, now it's time for dinner. We had pulled pork BBQ take-out. It was really good. My grandma had some trouble understanding that mskate and I were eating out in the living room because we wanted to be away from everyone and not because there wasn't enough space. She kept trying to figure out a way for everyone to sit at the table, or trying to give up her space so we could sit there, but eventually we got through to her with "you will feel bad if we don't sit at the table, but we will feel bad if we do sit at the table which will make you feel bad that we feel bad." That normally gets her to understand "we are choosing to do this thing that you think is bad, this is what we want." After dinner we watched church on TV. This was the same priest friend that officiated our wedding. His church also gave out interactive bags, which had a battery powered tealight candle, book, and oplaki (phenetic spelling). When mskate pulled it out she asked "what's opalek?" and I didn't know what she was talking about. Then when she pulled it out I got excited because oplaki is a Polish tradition that I would do every year with my other grandparents, and it's great that we have it this year as well. Mass was pretty good, and then we packed up and went to mskate's parents.

When we got to mskate's parent's house it was pretty low key. We each opened up our pajamas, I matched with IRA and mskate matched with her mom and dogs. Well, she matched with 1 of the dogs; unfortunately the one pair of dog pajamas were too big for the one dog and we ended up regifting them to a friend that has a big dog they would fit in. We went to bed soon after that and her parents set-up all the presents. Now for one of the funniest things that happened. Mom-in-law put the dog's presents under the tree, and their dog Delila got into one of the presents I got her, bones with a peanut butter filling. It's about midnight, and her parents are woken up by the "thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk" of her picking up the bone and dropping it on the hardwood floor. The parents trying to handle this ended up waking up mskate, and then she woke up me to tell me "listen to the commotion outside our door." She was probably the happiest gift receiver.

OK, it's Christmas morning. I had a spot of breakfast before we started opening the presents, and breakfast was lemon merengue pie. Yum. I ended up getting a Super Mario Monopoly, 2000s trivia game, Blockbuster movie trivia game, socks, and some ornaments. Mskate primarily got clothes and ornaments, but she also got spongebob the musical (one of our dates) and a Hedwig lego set. The dogs also enjoyed the other presents we got them, and they didn't get into them earlier because her parents put them high up out of reach for them. IRA ended up getting a nintendo switch, and I helped him set it up since I also have a switch. After presents I went to our room and watched church on my laptop. After church we had brunch, and then after that we packed up our presents and went to my parents house for that gift exchange.

We unpacked our presents to my family and I set-up the presents for everyone. Mskate and I ended up getting some puzzles and movies, and I got an XBOX ONE controller charging dock. What was really fun was the stuff I got for my family. I got my dad a peanuts bluray set, vikingpolak a flashlight and lighters, and my mom a turvis cup. I got them some other stuff, but that was the most memorable stuff, and while some of that may sound trivial it's great for them since they love that stuff. After that fun vikingpolak went to get grandma and we just enjoyed some time together. We unpacked her and then had more Christmas fun.

The rest of the day was pretty low key. Once grandma was all in vikingpolak and I did the pickle, a German tradition where the parents hide a pickle ornament on the tree and the child that finds it gets a special present. I contributed the present this year, a bottle of hand sanitizer in a liquor bottle, because I picked up 6 bottles past the peak of covid and they were on sale, and I knew they would be great gag/white elephant gifts since I could wrap it to look like liquor but then it's hand sanitizer. Throughout the day I watched A Christmas Story on TBS, with pieces here and there over the 12 different airings of it. We visited and had dinner. My dad made a beef roast and it was really good. He learned from the best, my late grandma on his side. I can never have enough, there are never any left overs because I will eat and eat. For that reason I always have to go last, because otherwise I would eat half of it and there wouldn't be enough for anyone else. It was really good. After dinner my mom brought out some dreidels and chocolate coins. Sure, we're not Jewish, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy an old testament game. The last time I played dreidel I was probably 7. After that Mskate and I packed up our gifts and went home. I brought in all the presents and it was kind of exercise since there was a lot.

I might as well fast forward a little to new years. Normally I would make an entire blog dedicated to new years because I either go to a party, but there isn't much to speak of because of covid. Mskate and I went to IKEA earlier in the day and we got a new medicine cabinet, coffee table, night stand, and owl night light (because mskate loves owls). I assembled her night stand and she was really happy with it. I also assembled our coffee table, and had to get a little creative with how to start the holes for the mid layer, which meant making some pilot holes with a nail. Mskate went to bed early and I stayed up waiting for new years. I watched Cool Hand Luke with my HBO trial, and then woke mskate back up 15 minutes before midnight to watch the ball drop. We watched the ball drop, kissed, and lit off a firework I had left from 4th of July.

Now it's new years day, and it was time for the annual Christmas get together with my mom's best friend and her kids. I use "get together" loosely because it wasn't actually "together." Normally what happens is we go to my parent's house, spend 3-6 hours together typically playing some game, get pizza, and exchange gifts. Well that couldn't happen, so we did a zoom call with everyone. It was kind of cool because we showed off our houses to everyone. One of the "kids" is into nut crackers and has a large collection, and his brother is really into these special gnomes and has them around the house. I took this as my opportunity to show off my nerd cave. We talked some, and then it was time to open presents. For this group the gifts are mostly token stuff, like tolberone chocolate and kinder eggs, and maybe some socks. This year we also got some gourmet popcorn with chocolate drizzle and some classic games (like madgab). It was a fun little zoom call. Afterwards mskate and I just hung out a little and then went to bed.

Now for the last event, visiting my grandpa and aunt. Mskate and I packed up the car with gifts and my laptop, because earlier this year I digitized a bunch of VHS tapes for my aunt and I wanted to give them to her this trip. Ultimately I remembered it only 10 minutes before we left and was only able to give her 1/3 of the videos, but whatever I'll do the rest next time. We stopped at mskate's parents house to pick up some wedding gifts before we went to my parents house. We stopped at my parents house just to get caught up and follow them to my aunt's house, and wrap a last minute present. While I've been to her house many times, I generally don't drive so I don't know the exact route. When we got to my aunt's house we pretty much just visited; talking about our work, talking about my cousins' kids, seeing what he's up to, and what not. We had late-lunch/early-dinner of sandwiches, and then it was time for gifts. Gifts with my dad's side are not as elaborate as with my mom's side. I think I got some socks and candy. The main thing is what we got my grandpa. His favorite drink is Schweps Ginger Ale, but it's become rather hard to find in the past 10 or so years. You typically can't find it in grocery stores, but I sometimes find it in drug stores or dollar stores, and whenever I find it I always pick it up for my grandpa. I found a 6 pack somewhere and wrapped it up, and then a week before I found a 12 pack at a Rite Aid (which was the last minute gift). When I set it on his lap he was pretty surprised and then when he opened them up he was really happy. My aunt was also pretty happy since she likes it too. Now for a special present that I've been holding onto since Amazon Prime day. When I was about 8 my grandma gave me some elfwich fudge cookies, and she made a really big deal about them, and for some years later that was kind of a special thing she would give us. When I saw I could get a case of elfwich fudge cookies I knew I had to get them for him. When he opened them he didn't realize initially, but after I said "I couldn't remember if you or Grandma were into these, but I remember them from when I was little" his face lit up because he remembered the good times. My aunt was also happy since she likes them too, because they're good. It's also great because he needs to maintain weight and cookies are a good source of quick calories. We opened up one of the packages and everyone ate about half of the package. A little while after we went home. I unpacked our stuff and then we just kind of rested.

Well, that was my Christmas 2020, with some new years too. It had it's ups and downs. The main up was it was the first Christmas with mskate as my wife, and with my new family. The main down was this was the first Christmas without my grandpa. Mskate and I had a really fun time doing a new activity with the city lights, but that was mainly because we couldn't do wild lights due to covid. I still made the best of everything, which is what matters. This has been Pokematic, signing off, and bu-bye.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Pokematic Gets Married

Hey everyone. It's November, time for the BIG day, the day I put my bachelor life away and become a married man. The day I stop being half and join together to mskate my other half. The day I get married, my wedding day. So so much happened coming up to this. I think I'll start out with getting the marriage license, because that was an ordeal. Mskate being between jobs at this time was taking care of most of the paper work before the wedding, and one of the things she was taking care of was the marriage license. She filled out the paperwork online for the county we were getting married in (because that's where our priest said we needed to get it done), but then I got a call at work saying "no, this needs to be done in the county where you live." That sucked, but no harm no foul, we'll just do it at one of the counties we live. Well seeing that she wasn't an official resident of where she was living at the moment, we had to register in the county where I live and she will after the wedding. Unfortunately they require one of us to do it in person, and thanks to covid I had to make an appointment, and appointments were in short supply, and only one person could go (meaning me), and the county clerk is in a big city with colorful characters. On my way in I ran into a gangsta nerd. He's trolling around on his bike, trying to sell his CD, rapping, throwing hand signs, and all that, but he's rapping about biology and throwing up the Spock "live long and prosper." He yelled "Star TREK!" to get my attention, said "hey man, throw up that Spock sign," and when I did he said "YEAHHH boy, I knew you was one of us." After that getting to the county clerk was pretty uneventful; went to the clerk, checked in, waited my turn, saw someone go to the wrong county clerk and get pissed but the officer working security took care of it (even though I was thinking he might have escalated it when he yelled "you're dumb" when the guy said "y'all are dumb" as he was walking away), filled out the paper work, held up my right hand and swore that everything was correct to the best of my knowledge, and then went home.

OK, skip around to the tuxedos. I have a tuxedo vest I wear for my Hareta cosplay that I used in a book report in highschool school (because I convinced my teacher to let me read Pokemon Diamond and Pear Adventures for an independent reading project) and a Pokemon neck tie. Unfortunately mskate didn't really like that, and wanted me to wear a black tuxedo with a bow tie and no vest. Since I don't like bow ties and didn't want to wear black, we were able to compromise on a light gray tuxedo with a light blue neck tie. The dads wore black tuxedos, and my best man wore a dark gray tuxedo. We went to Men's Wearhouse and got measured. It was kind of funny since we all have VERY different body types, and that will come into play later. The tuxedo guy also asked me to write down my email address, and since my handwriting was so bad he had to transcribe it later. They also didn't have a try-on tux coat in my dad's size so they had to grab one from the store floor, and it was blue plad. I REALLY wanted to take a picture and send to my bride saying "we decided to go with a different style," but I knew that would drive her over the cliff and wasn't going to do that to her. When we were checking out they wanted to sign me up for the rewards program since they didn't have my number in the system, but then I pulled out my rewards card from highschool and the guy said "WOW, I haven't seen one of these in years." I asked if they still had my prom measurements but they didn't. 3 weeks later the tuxedos come in, we all went to get our tuxedos together, and while they remembered us they didn't remember who was who, and gave us each others tuxedos, and when we looked at the names we're like "no that REALLY wouldn't fit me." The dad's didn't have the right ties, so we had to wait to get those. My dad's coat didn't fit well either, so he had to wait a few days for alterations to get done. It's funny, for his wedding 30 years ago his tuxedo didn't fit either, and now it wasn't fitting for mine. I guess when my brother gets married we'll see if the trend continues. My dad picked up his tuxedo parts a few days later. When we brought them home my mom wasn't sure where we would hang them, but I suggested hanging them on "the clothes rack" like old times. When my brother was like 12 he bought one of those door frame pull up bar things, but it got a lot more use from hanging clothes on hangers off of it, and it still hangs there to this day. My parents probably would have taken it down if it wasn't so useful for hanging hangers.

OK, jump ahead to the day before. We had our rehearsal at the church and that went off...with a few hitches. First the fun stuff though. Remember my waving dancing man from my bachelor party? Well my parents set it up again outside the church, for fun. Mskate was more than a bit worried that I wanted it at the church on the wedding day, but I assured her it was just for the rehearsal, and she was OK with that. The most eventful thing that happened when going through everything was when mskate's dad brought her to the front and our priest said "take his hand." I took both of his hands and started holding them, and asked "OK now what?" Apparently I was supposed to shake his hand and take my wife's hands, but we misunderstood and took my father-in-laws hands. It was kind of funny. Going through everything went ok, but our videographer wasn't there and we needed him there to do some tests (make sure the stream could be seen, and that everything could be heard). He got there 15 minutes after we started, which was basically when we finished. We still did some tests, but my aunt who was doing the test wasn't at the right link, and sound wasn't coming through, and some other challenges, but we got it worked out.

After the rehearsal we had the rehearsal dinner. Because of covid we didn't have a REALLY big thing, but we had about 20 people there, and that was good because a lot of the people that came weren't going to come to the after glow the day of. I was able to get caught up with my college friend, and I wore my pink wig. If you don't remember, I had pink hair for my aunt's wedding back in college, and then I wore the same wig for my cousin's wedding. Because it's "unusual," I told the story to everyone that was there. PepperBC and her family understood immediately, but no one else really did. We also tried doing the waving dancing man inside, but the ceiling was too low and it didn't work, for which I also explained to everyone. The kind of "full circle" of this was the dinner was at the same restaurant that we had my uncle's luncheon at. After dinner I went to say goodnight to mskate and give her one last kiss as single people. I then spent the night with my parents and was ready for the next day. I was able to sleep, unlike my godfather on his wedding eve night.

OK, now is the big day. My parents made me breakfast, and we enjoyed some time together. Mskate's mom dropped off a special present that mskate got me; pokemon cards and cookies. Since it's easy for boys to get ready, I said "I want to watch 3 stooges with my dad and brother." Back when covid was at it's peak lockdown in my state, and I was at my peak depression with the lockdown and moved back in with my parents, every night my dad and I would watch 3 stooges or some other comedy (and because I have the ultimate 3 stooges collection, we weren't going to run out any time soon). So to commemorate my final hours as a single man, we watched the stooges. After some stooges we started to get ready. I put on my tux, dad and vikingpolak put on their tuxes, and my dad took some video on my phone in the style of our home movies. He was giving commentary, saying "OK, it's [the date] and the day of [Pokematic]'s wedding, how are you feeling?" It was fun making videos like we did in the past. About an hour before the limo showed up my groomsmen showed up, and at some point my parents set-up the waving dancing man. After they got ready we took some photos, but they were sparingly because I hate taking a lot of photos; one or 2 with each group of people is OK, but not hundreds of different poses and such. The limo showed up at about 11 and we got in. Mskate didn't really care for the whole limo thing, so my group was the one that got to take it to the church. Zeldamaster93 and I reminisced about how this was kind of like prom, and IRA and vikingpolak hadn't really ridden in a limo before, so it was new to them. When we got there I put my face mask over my eyes to make sure I didn't see mskate before the ceremony, and my boys did a good job of coordinating to make sure we didn't see each other since she was taking photos outside the church with her family and party.

When it was safe the limo driver took us to the front of the church so I could walk out into the vestibule, and I basically stood there and greeted people as they came in. We had 44 people attend, and I directed them on where to record well wishes for us. Z-man was going to do our wedding video, but since he's an amateur and would have used my equipment, we went with my friend who does this professionally, but we still wanted to include him and since people weren't going to be congratulating us in person we gave him the job of filming people congratulating us to watch at a later time. Another fun thing one of our loved ones came up with is to have people write their names on wooden hearts and put them in this big display heart, so I helped direct people there. I know, "my wedding day, I shouldn't be working," but this was the only way I was able to interact with my wedding guests on my wedding day; it wasn't "I was the only one that would do it," it was "I wanted to do it." Our videographer showed up and got everything set-up, and I watched him set-up some because I like that kind of stuff. Also, since the "bride prep room" was close to the men's room, when I had to use the bathroom I put my mask over my eyes and had my brother guide me to the bathroom. I made a bit of a show of it, because it was comical and I wanted to be "star of the show."

OK, time for the main event. My parents lined up with me and walked me down the aisle. I know it's not exactly "traditional," but I wanted to have my moment with all eyes on me; I didn't want to just "start at the front of the church." vikingpolak walked down with mskate's matron of honor, and then looped around to walk our grandma down the aisle. Now for the big thing, the big reveal. When I saw mskate, I was blown away. She looked absolutely amazing, and you could see me say "wow" on the video. When new dad handed her off, he shook my hand a lot and welcomed me to the family. It was a good service, and was a good "happy event" since the last big thing we had there was my grandpa's funeral some months earlier. At the end we had our recessional, looped around to sign the marriage license, and said hello to some people. The funny thing is our ceremony went kind of up to the normal mass and some regular people were starting to show up. Later when we were looking at the hearts there was this group of 4 people that none of us recognized, and we later found out that some of the regular mass people thought it was something for the church and signed a heart. It's ok though, the more the merrier. Mskate and I were the only ones to take the limo to the afterglow, and we shared some champagne provided by the limo. Since there was still an hour or so before the party started, we took the long way to her parent's house, and took a tour of the neighborhood. Normally this is when couples would take a bunch of wedding pictures, but we agreed to not do that because it would ruin my day (I don't like taking pictures, and I don't like the kind of pictures people take now adays). We did stop at her parent's house and took some pictures with their dogs, and it was just until we got a good picture with them, so that was good.

The afterglow was a fun little thing. It was a house party at her friend's parent's house, who apparently like to host parties. Considering they have 2 pinball machines in their basement, I understand why. We basically just went around and visited with people. Unfortunately for me there wasn't a ton of dancing or buffet dinners, but it was still pretty good. My best man and her matron of honor read some speeches before dinner, and we catered individual meals. Back on my Tennessee trip I  picked up a limited run bottle of wedding cake moonshine, and I could never find the right opportunity to open it. My wedding day was the best time as any, but unfortunately we forgot about it in the hustle and bustle so my parents just brought it back to their house. Even though we didn't have a big dance floor, we were still able to have our first dance and mother-son and father-daughter dances. First was my mom and I, then mskate and her dad, and finally our first dance as husband and wife (I know, not traditional, but we used the dance to end the night for us). My mom and I practiced our dancing every time we saw each other, and we had a great dance, then mskate and her dad had a dance, and we had ours. After our dance we said our goodbyes and went to our hotel. On our way in some people congratulated us, and it was fun being on the receiving end since I've congratulated complete strangers in the past. We didn't know that this hotel gives wedding couples a welcome stack package, so that was a nice surprise.

In the morning we went to her parents house to open our wedding gifts, and that was fun seeing all the great things people got us. It was like Christmas a month early. After the wedding gifts we started out for our little honeymoon to Frankenmuth. This was going to be fun, because while mskate hadn't been to Frankenmuth before, I used to go multiple times a year with my grandparents on both sides (Dad's parents would be day trips, Mom's parents would be weekend get aways), so I was able to show her all the stuff. What was different for me though was staying at an air BNB. Whenever I went with my grandparents we always stayed at one of the hotels, either the Bavarian Inn Lodge or Zender's Splash Village, but for multiple reasons (like covid stopping a lot of the hotel activities), we had a nice little house off the high way. The house was far enough away from the road to not be too loud, but it also made it hard to find the house. We unpacked our stuff and got settled, and started our first night at Frankenmuth.

First thing first, I wanted to drive mskate around the city so she could see all the stuff and we could figure out what we might want to do. Granted, I've been here probably 50 or so times, but it was generally just a few key places (Bavarian Inn restaurant and castle shops, Bavarian Inn Lodge/Zender's Splash Village, Bronner's Christmas store, and River Place), and there's more to the city than just those places (like a sausage place, a leather store, a cheese store, many other artisan gift shops), and even if you don't go in places a lot of stuff still has Bavarian-German architecture (like the McDonald's). I gave her the grand tour, showing her the places I knew and would like to stop at, and went to the fun center of the Bavarian Inn Lodge and took a little walk down memory lane (I used to stay there with my grandparents a lot, and the fun zone still has a lot of the same attractions I enjoyed as a child). While exploring the city we found this little wool shop that was kind of away from everything. We didn't get anything, but it was still kind of cool to see. We also stopped at the Cheese Haus where we picked up some cheese. I'm not a big cheese connoisseur, I put Kraft singles on my burgers and basic mozzarella on pizza, but mskate is really into cheese, so this was kind of good for her. This place was cool, they had basically every kind of cheese imaginable, and it was like, "the real deal." This wasn't prepackaged, mass produced, blocks and slices; I'm talking "cuts off the wheel" kind of cheese. You know in classic cartoons where the mice would have the red wheel of cheese with a section cut out? This was that kind of cheese. We decided to pick up some classic smoked cheder. It was a little expensive, but it was our honeymoon and we were going to treat ourselves. Plus, it was REALLY good. Like, I have never had cheese that sharp and rich before; it was worth every penny. Speaking of penny, I also got a smashed penny.

After the Cheese Haus, we went to the river place shops. I didn't have a lot of places I wanted to go there, but it's still fun to walk around. We went to the fudge store where I bought a giant peanut butter cup the last time I went. I didn't buy one this time, but it was good to get out of the cold. We also stopped at this beef jerky shop, one I haven't been to before. Mskate got a jerky stick and I got a jerky making kit. After the jerky store we walked around a little more and went to this toy shop. Nothing super exciting, except for when we left we saw a group of goth teens with the full black clothes and what not; one girl even had these 4 inch platform shoes. Our last and final stop was the store that used to be BeeBee's arcade and fun center, with this giant ball thing. It's now a t-shirt store, but there's still a small arcade in the restaurant area. I wasn't planning on playing games, mainly just wanting to look around and sight see; but then I saw it, a pinball table. Not just any pinball table, a very special pinball table, the first pinball table I ever remember playing. The same pinball table that was at the pizza arcade my grandparents used to take me to when I was really little. The pinball table that played a key role in making me the pinball fan I am today. Super Mario Bros pinball. It has been over 20 years since I last played this table, and I HAD to play it. Just look at how happy I am.

While I normally never pay more than 50 cents for a game of pinball, I happily payed the 75 cents to play this table. It was pretty awesome playing this again. When I was little I used to just mash the flippers while I hoped to hit the ball around the colorful table, and now as an adult I actually tried to play the table with some skill as it was intended to be played. I was still taken in by the colors, and mario characters talking. It was quite the nostalic rush, and I might have been able to last longer if I wasn't so distracted by those happy memories. After the game I still had 1 token left, so I looked for a game that could be played for 1 token. I found an arcade multicabinet that could be played for 1 token, and I played the arcade game I'm probably best at, digdug. I think I made it to level 8 before I started losing lives, an made it to level 12 before I got the game over. Fun fact, I actually made it to the kill screen of digdug when I was a teenager; it was a GBA port and required many continues, but I still made it to the kill screen.

After river place we went to dinner at the Bavarian Inn. I wanted to go in at a special entrance. See, there's this one entrance that is a 100+ foot ramp to the castle shops in the basement, and the railing along the ramp is kind of this long track that stretch from the very start all the way to the end. Since I carry around bouncy balls and no one was around, I put one at the top of the railing and followed it as it rolled all the way down. Immature, I know, but it's fun. After that little bit of fun we went to the restaurant area to make a reservation. I didn't really care which dining room we ate in, just that it wasn't a long wait. We ended up eating in the fairy tale room, which was really cool since that was the room we always ate in with my grandparents. I was able to tell mskate about all that fun times I had as a child. Now the Bavarian Inn is known for their fried chicken dinners, and when I would go with my parents and grandparents that's what they would get, but I don't like chicken and mskate's allergic to gluten, so I got sausage lunch and she got fish lunch with gluten free bread, even though it was dinner time. It's kind of important to specify, because they have different menus for lunch and dinner, because dinner means you get a bunch of sides (Bavarian noodles, pasta salad, and cranberries if I remember correctly). Since my grandparents are REALLY into food (as you can see here), the last time I was there they completely lost it when I said "I was going to get the lunch portion instead of the dinner portion."

"But [Pokematic], if you get the dinner you get the butter noodles, and the cranberries, and the pasta salad."

"Yes, and I don't like any of that, but if I get the lunch I get French fries which I do like."

God bless them, they were probably thinking I was worried about price, but it really was because I wasn't going to have them spend more money in order to get food I wouldn't eat. Back to the story, we did get the really good bread and soup, and it was really good. After dinner we were able to watch the Glockenspiel with the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin (can also see that embeded here). It was about 4 minutes before the show started, so we cut it really close. She enjoyed it enough, but it was mostly for me. After the show we went to the castle shops. She enjoyed looking around, and we bought some fudge from the fudge shop and tried to buy some gluten free bread from the bakery but they didn't have any. Now that it was dark I took her on the lights trail at Bronner's. Bronner's has this great light display that's run year round, where they have different Christmas and winter lights, some with 2-3 frame animations (like a waving snow man and toy soldier with a waving flag), and she really liked it. After the lights we went back to the air B&B, and we had a little trouble finding it because off the highway an long drive. We watched Monster's Inc on a DVD we brought, and then went to bed.

Now it's time for our 2nd day, this was our Bronner's day. We had breakfast with snacks my mom packed for us in a goodie bag. We got to Bronner's right before they opened an got in line. We were some of the first people in and mskate was just in awe. I've been there many many times and it just kind of "is" for me, but she's never seen a place where ornaments as far as the eye can see, all organized by different categories. We of course had to get a "first Christmas together" ornament, but we also needed a nativity and some gifts. Our families all have "painted family ornaments" of 3 inch spheres with our names on them, and now it was time to get the spouse ornament to officially join the family; a [pokematic] ornament for her family an an [mskate] ornament for my parents and grandma. She also needed to pick up some gifts for her friends and family. We were looking in the pet section and she found an ornament that looked almost exactly like her family's dog, so we got one and got it customized with the dog's name. We also found some Disney stuff for her friends, and a nativity for us. I don't remember a whole lot of other details about it, but primarily we just kind of looked around and took in all the atmosphere while we waited for our ornaments to dry. Around noon time we went to the food court thing and I had a soft pretzel with cheese. After we saw everything but still had time to kill we just kind of went to the theater room and I watched hulu while she called her mom to talk about how cool Bronner's was. Once the ornaments were ready we picked them up and did some stuff to ship some of the gifts to her friends so they can ship professionally packaged instead of our armature packing.

Since Bronner's kind of tired mskate out we went back to the house and just relaxed for some hours. Mskate took a nap and I watched the Monster's Inc bonus features and played the TV plug and play game the air B&B owner supplied. It wasn't super awesome, no NES classic or even a genesis flashback, but it had 6 different Atari-like 4-bit games and it kept my attention. It had burger time, which is always fun. It was also fun revisiting the Monster's Inc bonus features, because the last time I really looked at them I was only interested in the part that was "for monsters," which is the bonus features that appeal to children with sing alongs and games and such, whereas the "for humans" is the behind the scenes and making of stuff which appeals to me now as an adult. When it came to dinner we were going to go to Zender's, the other famous restaurant in Frankenmuth, but the wait was an hour and after looking at the menu we realized they didn't really have anything we would eat, so after looking around the basement shops (because they also have basement shops), we canceled our wait list and went to the Bavarian Inn. I think I had the sausage lunch again, and she had grilled chicken lunch. I had an adult hot chocolate, which was really good. Check it out.

For desert we had the ice cream, and I made sure we got the little plastic toppers that they include so we could have a little memento. That night wasn't super exciting. The main thing we did was download some episodes of Suit Life of Zack and Cody when we had wifi at the restaurant and then watched them together before bed. The next morning wasn't super exciting. We had breakfast at the house again, and packed up all our stuff. We did what we had to to check out and then we went on our way back to our condo. I carried mskate across the threshold and we were greeted by a fun thing my mom set-up. She put these paper flowers on our stairs up to the unit (it's a 2nd story unit) with cards saying a story as we begin to start our lives together. It was really sweet. It was a really great long weekend. Sure, I would have enjoyed a more traditional big event with the week long honeymoon I saved all my vacation time for, but this was a crazy year and we did the best with what we could. Well, this has been Pokematic, signing off, and bu-bye.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Day at the Zoo With my Family

 Hey everyone. About a month ago my mom had the idea to go to the zoo with my grandma as a family outing. Since it's been years since I've been to the zoo, I jumped at the idea, taking a day off and ready to have some fun. It's been years since I REALLY went to the zoo, having been to the wild lights many time in recent years (like here, here, and here), but all the animals were asleep except for the reptiles. This will also be one of the last times I'm able to do stuff with my family before I'm married (because I'm getting married at the end of the year, I even had a bachelor party). Before the zoo I went out to breakfast with my mom to her and Dad's favorite breakfast place. Mom had an omelet and I had bacon and eggs. After breakfast we went to pick up my grandma, and that was a bit of a story. She and my parents have these friendship lights that both change color when one of them touch them, connected via the internet, and hers was having a problem. Mom thought it would take a while to fix it, but I fixed it in minutes (just the old IT trick of turning it off and turning it back on again). We loaded her up and went to the zoo.

When we pulled up to the front gate and unloaded my grandma and myself so she could walk slowly up to the front while Mom parked. Since stupid COVID is still stupid, the zoo is running with limited capacity and everyone has to wear masks. We got in through the front gate and got the rental wheelchair for my grandma. Since my mom was still recovering from her broken wrist it was my job to push her all day. It's OK, it's not like I wasn't going to be the one to push her anyways. It was no problem, I got my exercise that way. After getting all set with the wheel chair we ended up getting our picture taken for a souvenir picture. It was fun.

Our first stop was the first exhibit in the zoo, the butterfly house and bird aviary. Well, it would be the butterfly house, but because of stupid covid we were only able to go to the birds. It might have been for the best, considering my grandpa used to volunteer at the butterfly house and we lost him earlier this year. It was kind of interesting, since I knew the butterfly house and aviary so well as a child and the 2nd entrances that we never used because it was always the main entrance, a bit of a childhood dream of "going the other way" was being realized. The birds were fun, and it was nice and warm in the building. Unfortunately because of covid we weren't able to use the spinning plastic things that tell you what each of the birds are, but they had these little yard sign things to say instead. I don't know if the exhibit changed much in the 10 years since I was last at the zoo, but the environment sure didn't. I remembered all the different terrain and seating locations, but the little inclines were REALLY noticeable when pushing a wheel chair. At the end we stopped at the one place where we could still sit, and I took a picture with my grandma. I had to retake it because my jacket has the reflective stripes and the flash made everything black except for the bright reflective stripes.

After the aviary we went to the otter exhibit. Unfortunately the otters were inside their indoor house and we weren't able to see them. Oh well. We went to Amphibavile after the otters, it's where they have all the amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, etc.). Because of covid and the Midwest fall temperatures they closed off the brass frogs that squirt water. Oh well. It was fun looking for all the different amphibians, and seeing how they camouflage themselves in their habitats. Back when I was younger there was this educational video that would loop in a theater, and there were blocks that were meant for seats that you could move everywhere. In the 15+ years since I was there, and likely due to covid they had to close that off. Oh well, I basically memorized the video. My other favorite part of amphibavile was the giant terrarium walking path thing where you could see the frogs up close and personal, and I could see my favorite frog in all it's colors, the poison dart frog. I love how it has these bright colors, and unlike all the other animals that take these very Earthy tones to blend in with the environment, the poison dart frog is all "I'm bright blue, or red, or yellow, don't mess with me because even touching me will make you sick." Yeah, maybe it was a bit of a liability having them jump freely around guests, but I remember a zoo keeper telling me they change their diets so they don't secrete the poison. They also had a free roaming sloth in the walking area, which I guess also wasn't the smartest thing since sloths are kind of dangerous with their giant teeth and claws, and that they sometimes fall from the tree because they grab onto their own arm thinking it's a tree branch and let go. I was still able to see the poison dart frogs, even if it was behind glass. They replaced the walking path with an enclosure for the giant salamanders, which when I saw how big they are and where they were living before, I definitely understand why they had to move them. They were basically living in a tube; it'd be fine for your average sized amphibian with plenty of room to move around, but not for these big guys. I guess it's a worthy trade off for the giant salamanders to be happier.

After the amphibians we took the wetlands path over the central pond. This was something that was kind of new to me since it used to be just a giant pond without the dock path. I remember it being under construction, and being there when I went back in highschool, but it wasn't something I really did before. My mom kept asking me why I kept taking such a weird steering path while walking the dock, and it was because I was avoiding running over goose poop. It's not like I really cared about the rental chair (it's a zoo, they're used to animal poop), but my legs kept running into the wheels and I didn't want to get goose poop on my pants. We tried to see the beavers after the amphibians, but they too were inside. Luckily they had a video feed of their inside house, so we were able to at least see them sleeping.

After the bust with the beavers we went to the reptile house. Since the reptiles don't really "go to sleep at night" like all the other animals, I would see them at the wild lights. It was fun seeing them with my mom though, since she likes reptiles unlike mskate, and my grandma is ok with them (not scared or dislike, but not really like either). We had a lot of fun looking at all the snakes and lizards. What was really fun was seeing a massasauga, the only snake we ever had to worry about when camping in boy scouts. Sure, it wouldn't be fun being bit by a garter snake or the others we could find when camping, but it would just require some basic first aid (like the times it happened). Massasauga on the other hand, well that's an ER visit and thankfully never happened. We were able to find most of the snakes, and enjoyed seeing the alligators, crocodiles, and turtles. Speaking of turtles and scouts, there was this time where some boys in my troop had the bright idea of catching a snapping turtle at summer camp. Those guys are nothing to mess with, they'll bite a finger clean off, but they somehow managed to bring it from one side of the lake all the way back to main camp. Fun times.

After the reptiles we saw the camels, but most importantly the fountain. Rackham Fountain is an icon of the zoo, and we got our picture with it. We also reminisced about the fun times when we were little going to the fountain. Right by the fountain there used to be "the dinosaur experience," which had a bunch of animatronic dinosaurs on a walking path. It was really cool, but they got rid of it around 2000 from what I remember. The joke was always "why don't they have real dinosaurs, what a rip." After the fountain we went to the red panda exhibit (who was off on maternity leave) and the tigers. The tigers were rescued from private zoos, and that's when I gave my mom a little crash course that "yes, there are crazy rich people that say 'I want to have a tiger' and they are basically in their backyards." I know this because I watched Tiger King.

Now for the really fun thing, the great apes; chimps and gorillas. We got to see a gorilla hanging out on the tree toy, and then climb down. It was really fun seeing them active. My grandma kept asking "how much do you think they weigh" about all the big animals, but this time I had an answer for her about gorillas, because I remember them weighting around 300-400 pounds. She was quite impressed with them. But what was REALLY fun was seeing the baby and child chimps with their foster mom. I asked the zoo keeper how the foster mom was decided and apparently the birth mom got hurt around child birth time so the humans had to care for the really infant chimp (nursing and such), but they always would show the baby to the adult chimps behind the fence so they could see if maybe the baby would be able to find a foster mom. The oldest and most respected female chimp really seemed to take an interest in the baby, and when it was time to introduce the baby to the family she scooped him right up and said "you are mine now." Their big worry about human nursed chimps is that they would associate more with the humans and wouldn't go into being a chimp, but this little guy took right to being a chimp and doesn't show any signs of wanting to be a human, and being brought in by the oldest and most respected female meant he was accepted by the rest of the chimp family.

Now while it's always fun to see cute baby animals, baby apes are especially fun to watch, because their mannerisms are almost exactly like baby humans as is the parent mannerisms (at least these were). The baby chimp was holding onto the foster mom while she was going to a different side, while the child chimp was following close behind. The foster mom found a nice place to sit and was just like "OK, you two just play nicely while mama takes a break. The baby chimp got off and started curiously exploring his environment, while the child chimp was "come on, let's play," tackling him and climbing all over him, while the baby was pushing off and having fun as well. Then the child found a pile of hay and started picking it up and putting it on his head, and putting it on the baby. And then he decided to climb down the rope swing to do his own thing, and you could tell the baby wanted to follow but just wasn't strong and coordinated enough to play with the big kid. All the while mom is watching to make sure they don't do anything dumb, occasionally reaching an arm out to break it up. I swear, it was just like watching a parent with a toddler and a kindergartener. If you ever get the chance to watch baby chimps play together, it's great.

After the great apes we went to the flamingos and storks. My mom was making jokes about how the storks are a sign of what's to come (mskate and I are going to have a lot of babies). The peacocks were also hanging out at the flamingos. This was the first time we saw them, so I asked "oh, are they no longer free roaming?" My mom told me "oh no, they are definitely still free roaming, they just seem to be hanging out at this exhibit." They were, I saw plenty later (which I'll elaborate with a later story). We also saw lions (which also had a rescue story; it turns out a lot of animals have their rescue story posted), snow monkeys, and rhinoceroses. Chimps weren't the only apes with a child, we also saw a little snow monkey. He didn't have a child friend to play with, so he was playing with the adults. It was following who I guess it's mom, and trying to play on a branch and kind of falling off, while mom just kind of watched him make his own mistakes. He also started chasing after maybe dad until he got board and went back to mom. Again, just like human children. It's hilarious. The rhinos were where the elephants used to live, but they no longer have elephants (which is unfortunate since they were my favorite animal as a child).

Around this time is when we decided to have lunch. We went to the closed off quick service outside restaurant by the train stop and ate our meal there. Mom brought Jiff to go, crackers of the gram, salteen, and club variety, M&Ms, and a variety of goldfish crackers. Sure, not the "healthiest" of meals, but it was enough to keep us happy. My mom made peanut butter gram crackers for grandma, and then I made her eat some peanut butter "because you need to get some protein." She would always say that when I would make a "less than healthy" meal, so it's always fun to tell her the parenty things she would tell me as a child and teen. We reminisced about how much fun the train was, because it used to be free and since my brother was really into trains there would be times where we would just ride the train all day. Unfortunately it was closed because of covid, and stopped being free around the time he stopped being into trains, so it was just the memories.

After lunch we saw warthogs, zebras, and giraffes. My grandma was impressed by the length of their necks, pointing out how long it must take for food to reach their stomach. They had a giraffe encounter thing where guests can feed the gram crackers, but "because covid" is becoming a running thing, none of that. After the giraffes, we saw the red panda, and that was fun because the little guy was having lunch out of a cool whip container. It was great, we just happened to be walking by when it was feeding time. There was a family eating at the picnic tables by the red panda and a peacock was coming up to them. We looked at them and said "do you think we should tell them to be careful?" It's a reference to a story I'll tell later.

The next stop was the kangaroo exhibit. This is a really cool exhibit in that it's an open path and the kangaroos are free to walk around and over the path. You might think "but what about the safety of the animals," but from what I know kangaroos are incredibly strong and will be able to easily defend themselves against a human. Then there's "but what about the safety of the humans" and from what I know they aren't very curious animals that don't know their own strength (like a chimp or a tiger) and will generally leave humans alone. I'm not an expert, but from what I've seen on Animal Planet and based on the experience I had, "you don't bother them they won't bother you, and don't mess with them because they WILL lay you out." It was really cool, because some of them were rather close to us and I was able to get this great picture.

While there I told my family about the last time I was here and how one of the kangaroos had a joey in her pouch. I also did the "can you jump as far as a kangaroo" thing and made it about 6 feet.

After the kangaroos we went to the wolves, and it was fun reading about how wolves communicate, and that their body language and different vocal sounds are near identical to dogs. Like, exposing their belly is a sign of submission, and wimpers mean they're sad or scared, and I'm just like "yep, dogs still have a lot of wolf in them." After we got off the wolf path I realized we missed the grizzly bears and polar bears. I changed our direction to catch the exhibits we missed. The grizzly bears were also rescues, with their mom being killed when they were cubs and them getting saved from the harsh Alaskan winter that they wouldn't have survived without mom. My grandma didn't really know where we were going so I said "the Berenstine Bears," and again she asked how much it weighed.

Our next stop was the polar bears and arctic circle. Unfortunately the tunnel and buildings were closed (because of stupid covid), but we were still able to see the outside stuff. The biggest thing being the arctic foxes. They were REALLY cute; little white foxes that looked like babies but were actually full grown. The one was happy to just lie there and sleep, and the other kept pacing back and forth looking at the people coming by. It was funny, you could see that he kept following the same path back and forth to the different viewing windows; the grass was all matted down and he would just follow that path. Really cute. We also got to see a seal, but no polar bears. Since part of the exhibit was closed off, we got to take the "alternate entrance and exit," once again answering my boyhood curiosity.

The arctic circle exit was pretty close to the bald eagles and wolverines, so that was our next stop. The wolverine was pretty active, and we wondered if it was Sparty or Buckeye (because many years ago the zoo got 2 wolverines and named them after the UofM rival school mascots since UofM are the wolverines). We don't know but what was really cool about the eagles is we got to see one issue it's "territory defense call." A wild hawk (one not part of the zoo) was circling above the exhibit and you could see the alpha eagle keeping an eye on it. When it got a little too close for comfort it let out a "get out of here" call and then left the area. We also saw retired thoroughbred race horses in the same area, and they told the story of the horses before coming to the zoo. One saw 47 races and the other only saw 4 or so before suffering a career ending injury. The farm animals with the barn was in the same area, but because of covid it was closed.

The next stop was the prairie dogs. These are my mom's favorite, she always enjoys seeing the prairie dogs, and they are cute especially when they're popping their heads out of their holes. A really cool thing with this exhibit that I'm sure many other zoos have is a little tunnel with domes for kids to crawl up in and pretend to be prairie dogs and getting an up close view. I used to REALLY love doing that, and even did it as a teenager because I still barely fit (and it's still OK for teenagers to do things like that, just kind of weird but not "creepy adult"). Naturally because it's a confined area that kids practically lick, and not very easy to clean since adults can't fit in the tube, it was closed due to covid. I do remember it smelling funny when I was a kid, probably because it's never cleaned.

After the prairie dogs were the bison. We actually had a personal story about bison that we were reminiscing about. When my grandparents and great aunt went on a grand canyon vacation they did a bison tour, and my great aunt got out of the car to get a close up picture. Naturally she shouldn't do that, because bison are aggressive and WILL trample you. Everyone was yelling "LADY, GET BACK IN THE [probably profanity] CAR!" It was fun reminiscing about that since my grandma can't really do trips anymore.

The next few stops weren't too eventful. We saw ant eaters, vultures, pelicans, and storks. We pointed out how big the nose was on the ant eater, remarked at how big the talons were on the vulture, and made baby jokes about the storks. By this time we were back at Rackham fountain and took another picture. I parked Mom and Grandma at the fountain so I could get Dipin Dots (the ice cream of the future). We thought the Coney Island would have the Dipin Dots, but they were closed. I went back and got the family and we went to another food stand that did have Dipin Dots. I got a small bowl of chocolate, and sat us at one of the tables around the stand. This is when a peacock came right up to us and was eyeing my ice cream. It was like 1 foot away from us, I could reach out and touch it if I wanted to, and I knew what he was after (and since male peacocks are bright colors while females are brown-gray, I knew this was a male). This isn't the first time I've dealt with a peacock wanting my food. When I was about 4 years old, I was eating a peanut butter sandwich while watching the elephants. As I was eating it, a peacock came up and took it out of my hand. I was crying, worried they were going to kick us out because "I fed the animals" (which is against the rules, punishable by removal from the zoo), and mom had to reassure me "I didn't 'feed' the peacock, he STOLE my sandwich." About 23 years later, a peacock was trying the same thing, only this time since I was a grown adult I was able to hold my food above it's head while shooing it away. It then went to investigate my mom and grandma to see if they had any food it could steal (which they didn't). I got these cool pictures though.

I also don't remember where I snapped this, but I also got a "peacock waiting to go into the store." It likely saw it's reflection and wanted to interact with the other peacock.

Peacocks are interesting birds. I guess since it was getting cold they weren't sounding their calls. On a spring/summer day you can normally hear "oawh-wah, oawh-wah," but it was surprisingly quiet.

That was pretty much the end of the day. We walked by the playground that they REALLY downsized. It used to be huge, with a "young children" structure and "older children" structure, and all these creative monkey bar type things, all geared to "how animals move." Granted, everything seems much bigger when you're a child and it was probably the size of a standard park, but it at least had 2 jungle gyms with "zoo inspired features," this was now just a simple jungle gym with some animals painted on it. We returned the wheel chair and picked up the walker, packed up everyone, and went home. All and all it was a really fun day, we were there for about 6 hours. Even if covid put a big damper on some of the exhibits, the animals were generally pretty active. I know there have been times where we went and they were just sleeping and not doing much, but not this time. It was also a pretty great "end of an era" day trip since we used to go to the zoo all the time when I was little. This has been Pokematic, signing off, and bu-bye.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Pokematic Bachelor Party

 Hey everyone, so as I mentioned in the camping blog, I'm getting married. Like all good bachelors, I had myself a bachelor party; one last big party of being a single man with my boys. VikingPolak, my brother and best man was in charge of setting it up and let me say, he did a pretty good job.

Since I'm a giant geek that has spent thousands of dollars on all my cool stuff, and partially because of the damn virus, the party was at my condo. Honestly though, I wouldn't want it anywhere else. At my condo, I have 2 different arcade machines, a large sectional sofa, a 4K TV, and an impressive VHS and amiibo display. Then in the nerd cave I have 3 CRTs each hooked up to different video game consoles, and in my bedroom I go to to sleep next to my PS2 collection, which I estimate is around 15-20% complete. It's a really awesome place, but that did mean I had to spend the week prior cleaning up my condo. On the day of the party my brother came over early to help clean-up the final bits and set things up. He brought some games and a craps table. After getting set-up we just went shopping because my AC is out and it's hot.

At about 4:30 my dad and future brother in law showed up. They brought this Disney trivia game where players have to list as many things as they can (like "animated movies with a bat in it") and the one that can list the most wins. Of course, because I'm a major Disney fan, I pretty much always win, and I did, again. A little while later ZeldaMaster93 showed up, and he joined in and still didn't win. VikingPolak wanted to start grilling the brats so I went out to help him. Little did I know that while I was getting that set-up, my dad was setting up a big surprise, something I've been wanting to get for a while now.

(Note, I didn't wear a shirt the entire party, just be warned with pictures and videos). That's right, my family bought me a dancing inflatable tube man. Some years ago I said "I want to get one of those" after seeing it at car lots and such, and I found places online that sell them, but I never got one. Well, for my engagement, my mom had the idea of getting me one and now I have one. This will be great, whenever we host parties I can put it out in our lawn to help people find it, and I can rent it out to people for parties and such. I love being eccentric.

A and Z showed up not too much after we pulled the brats off. We all had brats and then we started the thing that ended up being the main activity, deep frying. I set-up my deep fryer and cut some potatoes for french fries. Z brought Oreo's and bro-law brought chicken wings. I made a beer batter and we fried them up. We all went outside and I started frying the french fries. They went over well, but people were looking forward to the Oreo's and chicken. VikingPolak coated an Oreo in the batter and then let it sit, allowing a lot of the batter to fall off. We tried frying it, but then it basically dissolved. I then did another but took it directly from the batter to the fryer. It was a little better, but it still was very watery and didn't fry very well. I told VikingPolak to get the flour to thicken the batter. The flour thickened the batter well, and then this happened when we fried some more oreos

The Oreo got stuck to the bottom of the fry cage, so I stabbed it out like a cave man that discovered a tool. The batter was very good, and the Oreo's were really good. Everyone liked them. After some more Oreo's and fries, I tried my hand at fried chicken. This was the first time I ever tried cooking chicken, but I ended up doing well according to guests. I did it in pairs since that was how much I could fit in the little fryer comfortably. On one of the pairs of wings, this happened.

Yeah, I kind of overfilled the fryer and it boiled over, and that's one of the reasons why I did this outside. The other reason was it was hot in my house. It was a really fun time, and we used about all the fry batter. While I was cooking we all just sat around drinking and talking. It was a fun time. After it got dark we cleaned up and I set-up the fryer to cool down.

Now for a new fun thing, gifts. My dad and brother got me something to symbolize my marriage, a play on a classic joke.

Yep, the old ball and chain joke. My dad's an artistic carpenter, so he made this in his shop, and those links are all solid, no seem links. My brother has the idea of having each of my groomsmen and each of mskate's bridesmaids sign a link, and then maybe put a design on the ball. I like the idea of signing the links. It's a fun thing. Then I gave my groomsmen their gifts. I got vikingpolak a Letter Kenny coffee mug (because he really likes Letter Kenny), A-man a deer wallet (because he's a hunter), zeldamaster93 a Legend of Zelda wallet (because he loves Legend of Zelda), and bro-law a Bad Mother F***er wallet like in Pulp Fiction (because he loves movies). They all absolutely loved their gifts. After gifts we played my Ms. Pac-man and Galaga arcade machine, taking turns at 2-player games and seeing how far we could each get. It was a fun way to end the night. After an hour or so of that everyone started to leave. It was getting late, and I was getting tired.

It was a great night and a great party. I can't think of another way I would want to celebrate my bachelor life style and have my "last single hurrah." Everyone really enjoyed themselves and seeing the cool place that I set-up. This has been Pokematic, signing off, and bu-bye.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Camping 2020 Fun

Hey everyone. It's been forever since I did a blog, and we all have the damn virus to blame. For those of you who may be reading in the future, I'm talking about the covid-19 pandemic/hysteria. That shot basically all the plans in the foot. Oh well, things cleared up enough for my family to go camping like we do every year, and boy was it fun.

This year was particularly fun, because mskate joined us this year. Why did she join us this year? Because we're engaged now. Yeah, I'll be getting married soon. Before I get to all that fun, first some pre-camp excitement. First off, my air conditioner went out, so I've been hot and have been taking cold baths to help with the heat. Normally I wouldn't be interested in swimming in the lake, preferring to sit on the beach and read my manga volumes, but because I've been SOOOOOO hot recently, I knew I would be going swimming. I also stayed with my parents the night before, because I needed a break from the heat and they had AC. It was a very quiet, simple night together; we chatted, ate dinner, and did some packing. Since I had been working 4 10-hour days that week instead of my normal 5 8-hour days, I was really tired and collapsed at 9PM. Mskate was asking what time we would leave, and I couldn't really give her an answer because my family "gets going when we get going, we're on vacation, no need to wake up early, the destination will still be there."

Now the fun starts. I picked up mskate around 9AM and pack her things in my car. Normally my family would just take 1 vehicle, but because we had an extra passenger with her own stuff, and I had a much smaller lease this year, we took 2 cars. For the drive up, mskate and I drove in my car and my parents drove in their car. I largely followed my dad up until we stopped at a rest stop. After that we went our separate ways as mskate and I wanted to stop at the outlet mall on the way. Her mom needed new croc flip flops, so we made a stop at the crocs store. They were having a "buy 2 get 1 free" sale, but since my current pair of crocs were still good and I had a back-up pair for when these give out, we didn't partake in the sale. We also stopped at the Coleman store primarily to see if they had pocket ponchos (we didn't have any, and they're good for camping). Unfortunately they didn't, but they had water bottles and mskate needed a new one. We got a 2 pack because that's what they had. Mskate wasn't exactly thrilled since she only wanted the one, but I told her it was good to have a back-up since she really likes those kinds and lost her last one, and if she didn't use it there was still packaging on it to indicate it's new so we could gift it. Since she loves giving gifts, that sold her on them. Around the crocks store I found a new store called "rewind." The name caught my attention, and inside was a millennial childhood paradise. They had Pokemon, Digimon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Sailor Moon shirts, stickers, VHS tapes, toys, original Jordans, original Supreme skateboards, and so much more. I really hope they can last, because that is an awesome store. I didn't get anything this time, but next time I go to the outlet mall I need to get me some stickers. We tried going to the Pepridge Farm store to get cookies for the group dinner, but they were closed. Oh well, we just got some from a super market instead.

After the outlet mall we continued to drive to our motel. My parents say "they're too old for tent camping anymore," so we get a motel room that's close to the camp ground and just visit for the day. Since we had 4 people this time, we got 2 rooms instead. Since mskate are not married yet and are traditional like that, my dad and I shared a room and my mom and mskate shared a room. My mom made the initial reservations so I had to call to change to my credit card on the way up. This is where I had to be very sneaky. Mskate has been begging me to get a new phone to follow her on dexcom, or other thing and with her birthday the following weekend, I got a new phone; I just had to keep it hidden from her all weekend. I asked her to drive while I called the motel and that worked to keep her from seeing my new phone. Men were in room L and women were in room B. Mskate commented that we should have switched, so boys were in B and ladies were in L. We didn't though, and unpacked our "hotel stuff" (toiletries, clothes, laptops and devices).

After checking in and registering on my godfather's site, we went around and said our hellos to everyone. It was really fun introducing mskate, because I got to say "[friend] this is my fiance [mskate], [mskate] this is [my friend]." It was kind of the first time I really got to do this, and it felt great. After introductions I wanted to get in the lake and enjoy the cool water. It's been years since I went swimming, and it was really fun having my fiance there with me. One thing we did was have fun with the buoyancy of water, where she was able to princess carry me with ease. We also spent time visiting with our friends as everyone else was swimming too. Dinner was simple, just hamburgers, hotdogs, and brats. After dinner we went to the ice cream store that's just outside camp, and it was fun getting to see my little god-siblings eat their ice cream. Ice cream is a pretty common date for mskate and I, so this was nothing new for us. After ice cream I went to the liquor store that was close by and bought sunflower seeds, because those are fun to eat outside where you can spit them anywhere.

Evening activities were calm, just a camp fire. What happened next was really cool. Since I took an astronomy class in highschool I was looking forward to seeing the clear, country sky and all the stars. As I invited mskate and some of the friends to the beach, someone asked us if we were going to see the comet. I wasn't, but now I was. I looked through the sky and I eventually found it. I pointed it out to everyone and they were really impressed. It was a little hard to see, but if you were looking at it in your peripheral, it was pretty clear. According to some news articles, this was the Neowise comet. Some friends were confusing comets for shooting stars, but then I explained what a comet is and why they're so rare. It was quite the experience, especially for someone with a mild interest in astronomy. After that we went to the hotel for the night.

Saturday was fun. We had breakfast in the motel room and it was simple cereal and muffins. After dinner we stopped at the camp ground, but then mskate and I had a zoom call for couples with a diabetic partner. This was our first real "engagement seminar" since covid killed all our plans. It was really fun being among other engaged and married couples in this kind of capacity, and I learned some things. After the call we went back to camp for lunch. Again, simple hamburgers, hotdogs, and brats; and bacon ends and pieces. I have a meat market by me where they fresh cut the bacon, and they sell the scraps. It made for good lunch. After lunch was more swimming. What was really fun was some more friends came up for the day, the ones with Louie the Chihuahua. We tried to take him swimming, but he wasn't really into it. He did enjoy the raft we put him on though, and he looked very regal in his pose. We also jokingly did some water zumba since some people were playing music on their boat. It was fun. After swimming mskate and I were going to go for a walk to the boat basin and watch the boats launch, and maybe find a swing to have a nice nature date. However, I had both room keys and dad needed to go back to the room. He called me a little into the walk and this is when mskate found out about the new phone. "Happy birthday, I got a phone for you." After walking back and giving dad the key, she set me up on her dexcom. We decided to drive to the boat basin instead. The boat basin was fun, but a little crowded. We weren't able to get on a swing, but had fun sitting on the side watching people bring their boats in. We also went to the camp store, just to look around since it was close. Eventually it was time to head back for dinner.

For dinner we got pizza from a local pizza place, and mskate and I split a pepperoni, pine apple, and banana pepper pizza. Everyone enjoyed the cookies we got. After dinner we went for ice cream again. This time my little god-brother was really thirsty. Since his dad did these kind of things for me at his age, I gave him a drink from my water bottle. His mom didn't know me then, getting married when I was a teenager, so I said "after all the times your husband did these kind of things for me, I can repay the favor." It's fun having that whole "full circle" thing. After ice cream we went to the boat basin and were able to swing. Mskate was really tired when we were swinging, so I took her back to the motel afterwards and came back by myself. More camp fire fun. I stayed maybe another hour, then I went back to the motel for the night.

Time for Sunday. We had simple breakfast in the motel room and got in our church clothes. We went to church together like we do every year, but because of social distance requirements we weren't able to take over the back chair section like we've been doing for 30 something years, so we just spread out. It was a good sermon. After church we went back to the motel to change into camp clothes, pack-up, and check out. There was a communal breakfast were we share what we have left, so some of the bacon ends and pieces went, as did the ice tea I brewed the previous day. I intended to make my iced-tea and lemon drop moonshine cocktails, but I forgot so we just had iced tea. I also brought some of my home made bread, and everyone really liked that. After breakfast we went home. Mskate and I drove home separately, and I dropped her off at her parents house with all her stuff. Well, except for her camp chair; that got left in my car. Oh well, I'll return it later. All in all a great time. This has been Pokematic, signing off, and bu-bye.