Suzie and I met two Chicagoland friends for breakfast.  During the meal, I found out my surgery was to take place at 6 am the next day.  It takes 13 hours to get back from Chicago and we wound up leaving around 4pm which made for a somewhat tight window.  Suzie offered to drive but a combination of snow and back pain prevented her from doing so for long.  There’s a different feeling to being in the car alone driving over a long distance and being in the car with someone and doing all the driving.  Switching drivers would have been unsafe so I tried to think of Suzie as a hologram or foreign exchange student and that prevent the emotional part of my brain from being annoyed.  Suzie offered to come home with me and be there after surgery but I declined.  My abdomen would be hit with the surgical equivalent of a battering ram.  I wouldn’t want anyone there.
Today was my last day as a fat man and I lived it up.  I had sticky buns with breakfast, some toffee with lunch, and when the fasting mark started 8 hours before surgery I celebrated with a large quesadilla from Sheetz.  When that proved insufficient, Suzie gave me some of her french fries and popcorn chicken.
It was 10pm, I was five hours from home, and I was having mediocre popcorn chicken in a car with my best friend after we drove 1800 miles to go to an anime convention and Chicago.  This is the life I feel I’ve earned and for the first time I feel proud of it.
Time to face tomorrow.

Sunday at Ohayocon was mostly about goodbyes.  I had met a few new people and there were a smattering of “I’ll keep in touch”-es which is a rare case where my cynicism doesn’t take over.  When people say “we’ll talk later” I take them at their word and then reach out when they don’t start the conversational ball rolling.  I suppose in the end they’re still right.  A gaggle of us went to an indoor market and I had hot soup followed by four desserts consumed one at a time as a chocolatier and I debated the finer points of tempering technique.
It was quite cold out and after lunch I decided to flat out run back to the car that was parked about 15 blocks away.  On the run to the car I joined up with a group of jogging co-eds and they commended me for running in my work clothes.  This would be the last time I got to run before having surgery.
Suzie and I eventually pulled ourselves away from the convention and made our way to Chicago where we would stay with half of a couple with which we were friends.  They were separated with an impending divorce and entering the condo felt strange.  We were met by a dog instead of two cats, three people lived there instead of two, and the name of the cohabitants had changed.  The view was the same, the dishwasher was just as loud, and the freezer tray still needed to be repaired.  I didn’t expect to be comforted by the sameness of the place as opposed to the sameness of the people.  We stayed up late talking that evening, because that’s what we do.  The sun started rising over Lake Michigan and we had seen dawn in Chicago again.

This trip to Chicago was the first for which I took no pictures. I even have pictures from what amounted to long lunch visits there yet this time my visit was for a full day and a half with no pictures. There are two things I missed:

  • Suzie had a low carb ice cream mostly consisting of heavy cream which Peter’s young cat found very compelling. The cat became less and less hesitant to investigate until it decided to poke its head in while Suzie was eating resulting in a cat vs. person stare-down.
  • The sun setting over South Chicago while Audrey, Peter, Suzie, and I had our first homemade dinner at Peter’s residence.

DC Panel

I am interested in DC’s New 52 reboot.  There, a Red Shirt Guy asked: “So, you indicated that with the new 52 there would be a rewrite of backstories yet Redcliff is still destroyed as is was in the previous continuity.  Are we to believe that both redcliff’s are destroyed by coincidence?”

Another person asked “Will the Joker return?” to which the panelists responded “While I can’t divulge the full line, there will be a character noted for a purple suit that smiles a lot”.  Looks like Batmat is going to fight Barney.

The Hall

The artist alley was interesting enough that I felt compelled to buy a fake mustache.  It was well made and well sold with a pitch of “does himself the modern man find in frantic pace of modernity situations in which he finds himself undermustachioed?  This contrivance of small size and great utility will help the otherwise dapper man fill this hole in his presence thusly. *Holds fake mustache to nose*

The costumes were mixed in quality, but I got to see the cutest little Jedi.

Littlest Padawan

My favorite was the Dr. Who puppet. I’m a sucker for puppets.
Dr. Who Puppeteer

I had to jump out in the middle to go meet a high school friend.

Here are the other shots:
[flickr album=72157630428390626 num=20 size=Thumbnail]

Meeting Erin

Erin is a friend of mine from high school who thought I was a drinker because my Facebook profile picture at the time was me with my head under a tap. Nope. We’ve not talked in a decade and she described me to her fiance as follows: He’ll be wearing a t-shirt with another t-shirt over it and a vest. Shorts, white socks, and functional yet dressy shoes.

I asked her about her work in Modern art, a topic I enjoy and as the conversation continued and the beers kept coming she realized I was genuinely interested in her field and not just making polite conversation. After the 6th beer, she was having trouble making a sentence about some intellectual and shouted at the ceiling “why did I start drinking at 10?!” Erin’s not a lush but has a longstanding beer passion and supported herself as a beer blogger for a while. Saturday is her unwind day.

Parting Thoughts

Me: Brad.
Brad: Yes, Terry?
Me: What does it mean that at this point in my life I’m fine with seeing two dudes kiss, but I am very bothered by couples who are dressed as characters that aren’t from the same fictional universe?
Brad: It means you have your priorities in order.

For once, me and my cadre arrived in Chicago while the sun was still up we had a chance to take a walking tour of Chicago. We were armed.
Camera Fight

The tour was led by a docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation who knew his tour but was much more an enthusiast rather than an expert. He covered the high points and my shutter flew. Chicago is architecturally unique because it needed office space at a time when modern building techniques were being developed. The skyscraper was possible but hadn’t been commodified and land was relatively cheap after the Chicago Fire. This led to frenzied building and a nearly unrivaled mix of styles.

The above building I think holds up the sky.

Chicago buildings also have amazing lobbies as they tend to be more mixed use than say NYC skyscrapers. A Chicago large building will have multiple shops and restaurants or a grand foyer and the actual usage of the building may not be apparent at first blush.
Marquette Building Foyer
The above is the foyer of the Marquette Building.

I love Art Deco and am curious to know what would have happened to the developing style if WWII hadn’t gotten in the way. Here is an interior that conveys space and a feeling that everything’s worth a million bucks.
Grand Goldness

The same treatment for a simple hallway:
Highway of Light

At the end of the tour, I circled back to get a picture of a Winged Nike of Samothrace replica that had been treated in gold leaf that was inside the lobby of a building. An argument followed with the guard where I claimed as an invitee to do business with the first floor shops I could take a picture. He contented that I couldn’t as there was a sign that said “No Photography Allowed”. I eventually acquiesced and was harangued by Michael and Brad about what I had done. Suzie just smiled.

We met up with Peter, Audrey, and a TI friend and his girlfriend for dinner and the turn around he had made in a year was amazing. A year ago he was bragging about how he was kicked out of military training and how much he could drink and now was leaving dinner early to get to a jazz concert. I hope I can be as nimble when needed.

We returned to Peter and Audrey’s, drank (but me) and called it a night.

I’ve only known Peter and Audrey for less than three years but it feels longer.  I’ve only known Suzie for 18 months but it feels longer.  Tonight, the four of us had dinner at Deca, the restaurant for the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago.  It felt like we’d done this a dozen times before despite this being our first. The food and company were delicious.

From 2012-02-18, 19 Chicago

I like French food, and would probably enjoy it more were it not so pricey but this evening was a treat. Peter covered dinner for Suzie and I in exchange for a pair of SSDs I had conjured up for him to put in he and his wife’s MacBooks.

After dinner, I had fun with my new Apollo softbox that I still have no idea how to use but taking pictures of attractive people certainly reduces the amount of work I need to make someone look good to around 0.

Here’s Audrey

From 2012-02-18, 19 Chicago

And Suzie

From 2012-02-18, 19 Chicago

One thing I learned immediately is that I’m terrible at giving directions to people that are simply modeling and not showing an action. At work, I sometimes take pictures of people showcasing test methods and I can spout off commands of where to stand how to hold one’s arms and such but for just taking someone’s picture I’m clueless. Maybe that’s where my love of candids comes from, I don’t need to do anything besides wait and I can prove to be very patient. I made a few other mistakes like not pulling the piano bench further from the window. While the cityscape behind is nicely en-bokeh-ed, the horizontal bar of the window is hideous and takes away from the shot. I should have had a reflector on the other side as you want a one or two stop difference not four of five.

After pictures, I met two of Peter and Audrey’s male friends and took to them quickly. They are philosophy majors at the University of Chicago and that’s a topic I enjoy. We discussed qualia, underdetermination, and empirical sufficiency and I was having a ball. The guests and I embraced at the end of the evening and shortly after their departure Peter began laughing. One of the guests had texted Peter asking if I were gay and available and I was terribly flattered. The other was also interested and I politely declined. Audrey replied with “how do you know? You haven’t even tried”. This event tickled me for two reasons:

1) For once the boys were interested in me, not Suzie
2) I get to cross “get hit on” off my “Reasons I don’t want to be fat” list. This wasn’t how I had thought it’d happen, but I wasn’t specific.

Today, Suzie and I visited Banks, a friend of mine from Team Interrobang that has reached autonomy with me meaning our friendship doesn’t require the excuse of Team Interrobang. I didn’t expect this to happen as Banks and I have little in common on a superficial level except for maybe our common love of Napoleon Dynamite. Banks and I are on the same ethical page in most cases and follow a motto of action of “you do it because it’s right”. He and I have different epistemologies powering our decision engines but even from such a disparate base the synchrony of our conclusions is striking.

From 2012-02-17 Banks'

Banks’s second daughter very much took to Suzie and showed both Suzie and I her collection of Star Wars figurines and her talking Storm Trooper helmet but only Suzie received privy access to the contents of her Nintendo DS.  I think kids from the ages of 6-20 have a sense for when someone older than them is closer to their age than their parents and generally take to them.  I’ve experienced this a lot in Scouting and I regret that this will flip for me within the next five years.  For Banks’s daughter, Suzie is on the youth side of that divide but I’m fine with being some variant of “Uncle Arcanus” and simply being the bringer of cookies and cake balls.

From 2012-02-17 Banks'

As always, Banks provided me and mine a nice dinner and Suzie and I departed northward shortly after.  I had a large dinner, had sat most of the day, and was feeling somewhat loagy so when we arrived at Peter’s I used the gym.  I changed and Suzie commented that I tucked in my exercise shirt.  I do but mostly to prevent chaffing from the elastic band of the waist and to help restrain my gut but this sartorial choice was still chuckle-worthy.  I responded by hiking my shorts up to around nipples and lacing them behind my head.  Someone has a cell phone shot of this.

Again I slept a good bit and rose for an early lunch.  I offered to drop off Ty and at his house had a back-and-forth with Amelia.  She is going to school for photography and mocked me for my usage of autofocus.  I stared at her stating “I use autofocus so I can do this”, and without lifting my gaze put my camera near the floor pointing away from me in the vague direction of Ty’s cat and got this shot:


A Cat and a Point

I’ll take it.

With Ty dropped off, Suzie, Brooke, and I said our goodbyes to Ryan, Peter, Audrey, and Amelia and we set about unwinding the journey.  Suzie and I talked for most of the ride to Cincinnati while Brooke slept and I was glad for this time.  With Suzie dropped off, Brooke and I made the 600 mile trip back to her place and she took over about 400 miles out from home.  She drove the rest of the way admirably but was a bit on edge as she neared home.  The way we drive changes in interesting ways when we’ve not slept and Brooke veered towards jackrabbit starts and sudden breaking.  She had beaten her previous record for continuous driving by a factor of four but I was glad to make it back to home.

A side benefit of food poisoning is that I got to sleep quite a bit after a few days where I hadn’t.  I rose for breakfast, made acquaintance with Amelia, skipped breakfast, and went back to bed.

For the afternoon, I wanted to take a tour of Chicago and we arrived at the Chicago Architecture Foundation just late enough to not make one, so we made our own.  Millennium Park features an unusual number of public art pieces and is the second leading tourist destination in the city.  The Cloud Gate reflective bean sculpture is a popular photo spot and I was in no way exempt from its draw.


Infinite Portraits

Suzie wanted to see the Newberry Library and on the way there Ryan was mocked for not wearing a coat yet me wearing shorts was largely unobserved.  Hm… At a crosswalk, I got separated from the rest of the group and made my way towards the Newberry zig-zagging my way there.  This was a part of Chicago I hadn’t seen before, the city heart where commerce intersected residency and the buildings were merely nice as opposed to notable.  Pedestrian traffic dropped off much quicker than I expected once one left an arterial road.  By the time I was at the Newberry, the streets were largely empty.

They day had turned chilly, so Newberry wasn’t so much impressive and grand as simply warm.  Their public display was sparse as is expected in a research library but it fulfilled my need for a place to sit down.


Minutes Before Close

We walked to Amelia’s apartment and a reality was put to a location that had previously only existed as her background in Google+ hangouts and we passed time until we could pick up dinner.

I retired early again, not entirely feeling recovered from what ever had lain siege to my GI tract but I did get a chance to poke at my photos where I found a new favorite.


Ready to Go

I like almost everything about it except the part where it gives the impression that I like cars.

Today I will drive from home, to Philly, to Cincinnati, to Decatur, to Chicago with possible help from someone with no real distance driving experience.  I agreed to the Decatur stop without much thinking and had forgotten that Decatur is only the way to Chicago, but from Missouri, not Ohio.  Not one to break a promise, we scheduled our dinner stop there.

The first four or five hours of driving were uneventful and I was glad Brooke took over long enough to let me nap.  I was roused a few times by the rumble AKA “good morning!” strips on either side of the road but these klaxons of driver education sounded less often as time passed.  I took the wheel again after about 100 miles and drove the rest of the way to Cincinnati.  We picked up Suzie and her tiny hat and continued to Decatur.

After sitting down to dinner, an old man came over to our table and asked me when the rest of my pants would arrive and walked away.


Troll Man

Midway through the meal, I started feeling ill and wonder if it was the chicken salad from lunch fighting with the chicken salad from dinner.  I was sweating heavily and cringed slightly at the request to get ice cream.  We went to a Dairy Queen that was either on its way to demolition or renovation but was not open regardless.  I queried the GPS for ice cream locations and it spat out “Cow Depot”.  We went to this stop which was now a laundromat.  We found The Dairy Maid on the way back to drop off Aaron and ice cream was had.  I drove for a bit more and Brooke took over a few hours outside of Chicago.


Softserve Quest

I woke up a few times on the ride to Chicago and shook and rolled my head violently and the rest of the car probably thought me posessed.  Once we landed, I made my way to Peter’s apartment, then his bathroom, then the guest bedroom, then the bathroom, then the living room, then the bathroom and took a nap which proved to last the whole evening.  At this point, whatever had lodged itself in the walls of my constitution was fully developed and I learned that projectile vomiting is a lot like riding a bicycle, you never really forget how to do it.