They grow culture in a petri dish.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Appologies!

It looks as if I missed the last three days of Christmas. Ok, not physically missed them—I wasn't in a coma or anything. But, yes, I did get too overwhelmed with Christmas preparation, travel, and family visiting to write. Woo-hoo! That's the good stuff. At any rate, it looks as if the last three days of Christmas will just have to be our 2007 Christmas mystery. That's right, I've instituted the cliff-hanger route to increasing my blog's readership. Stay tuned...

In other news, I had a great night's sleep last night. I mean, simply fantastic. I only got up twice during the night, and that's a record of sorts. Usually, as many of you know, I'm up between 3 and 5 times a night. Last night, I slept. And I dreampt. Let's see...I had a dream about this huge library with weird staircases and a small, small elevator. I forget what I was looking for, but I think I finished looking before whoever I was with was finished. I was a little pissed.

After I got up and went back to sleep, I had another dream. This one was about some party I was attending at this three or four story mansion. I was hitting on this one guy and making out with him. [And yes, yes, I've self-censored some details here for parental eyes...] Later, I overheard him say something incredibly rude, and I called him on it. Oddly enough, the mansion had the same small elevator as the library. As I was getting ready to take the elevator, this guy shows up, and I informed him he'd have to wait until the elevator came back. I remember that Jolanda was in this dream as a party guest, and I suspect that Andretta must have been too, though I didn't see her. Ohyeahand the weird, weird part of the dream was this really large bird at the top of an outdoor staircase. I couldn't figure out if it was really old or a large baby because he had lots of puffy baby feathers. Bizarre.

The other odd thing about the dream was that I'd "been" to both of these places before when dreaming. My dreamscape architecture is pretty intricate. I'm not sure what it's based on, but, when I dream, I recognize interiors and exteriors often.

At any rate, yeah, this is well-rested me. Good deal.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Twelve Days of Christmas (#4)

I just turned in my laboriously-crafted family present to the printers and figured I'd do a bit of window shopping. Since my cat's tearing up the furniture, I figured I'd buy a scratching post. I looked over the offerings in PetSmart, and the cheapest one is $20 and change and smells funky. I wouldn't scratch it. I figure that I can make a bigger, more alluring scratching post for a lot cheaper (I do own a staple gun), so I headed out to Joanne's Fabrics.

As I was looking over the scratch-worthy upholstery, I saw my dream fabric—pink velvet. I'd been wanting to re-upholster my grandmother's old chair for awhile now. The fact that my cat just drew stuffing is further incentive (ergo, the urgent need for a scratching post). After a bit of deliberating (should I get the pink? Wouldn't the green and beige paisley be better in the long run?), I took the pink velvet up to be cut. I'd figured that four yards would do the trick, but the bolt only had three and change—no problem. At around $5 a yard, I was looking at $15 for that fabric UNtil this great person offered me her leftover coupons, one of which got me 50% off a fabric purchase. Oh, man! How incredibly cool! Not only did I luck into this dream fabric, it only cost me $7 and change. Somebody up there loves me. When I get around to the actual job, I'll post a pic of the chair.

Twelve Days of Christmas (#5)
The Big Empty-Out and Seeing a Friend

Like many college towns, Gainesville periodically empties out of students around holidays and in the summer. Christmas is no exception, and the experience is great. Since I'm done Christmas shopping, I don't have to get into mall traffic, and all the other traffic is lighter as well. What's more, I walked out to the library a few days ago, and it was practically a ghost town...niiiiice!

I haven't been completely bereft of company, though. On Wednesday, I got to see Piper. She was driving by G'ville on the way to see her folks for the holidays, and we had dinner and a wee gift exchange. Piper's always a few steps ahead of me pop-culture-wise, and she got me two great books that I'll be reading on and off in my down time. And, of course, if I have any honor in me, I'll make a return visit to see her soon. I'm woefully behind on that promise.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Twelve Days of Christmas (#6)
Home-made Gifts

My grandmother made a quilt. Once. For me. It was so difficult to finish that she promised God that she would never attempt another quilt if he would let her finish the one she was making. I love my beautiful quilt. But I may well have gotten myself into a similar conondrum. I'm hand-making a present for my mother's side of the family that is taking me way, way too long to finish (ergo the reason for my absence in recent days). At any rate, I am thisclose to finishing, but I still have to print out some pictures and take the whole bundle in for printing at the copy center, and I'm not even assured that they'll greenlight the project. If I do end up finishing, this will be the best present ever, and people will weep. If I don't finish this, I'll come to Christmas empty-handed and frustrated, and I will weep.

In the holiday spirit, then, please wish me fortitude and luck. I have no idea how Santa manages this.

Twelve Days of Christmas (#7)
"Alternative" Christmas Movies

Last week, Andretta, Darise, and I were mulling over movie choices. We'd considered holiday movies, and Andretta offered The Long Kiss Goodnight which isn't a "holiday movie" so much as it's a movie set during the holidays. That got me thinking about "alternative" Christmas movies—you know, the ones which are set during Christmas but aren't necessarily "about" Christmas. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Long Kiss Goodnight
While watching Mrs. Klaus wave to the crowd aboard a Christmas float, a prisoner recognizes the spy he thought he had killed years ago. He escapes prison and goes after the amnesiatic former spy/current schoolteacher and mom. She explores her past and kicks back into "badass" mode only to remember the gifts of the season.

Just Friends
Ok, ok—Ryan Reynolds faire warning! In this movie, pompous California record-exec Chris's plane is grounded in New Jersey as he jets off to France with an up-an-coming pop star. He must revisit his past disappointments and a past love while handling high-maintenance "talent." Look out for flaming reindeer.

Die Hard
Yep, the "mother" of all alterna-Christmas movies. John McClane grudgingly shows up late to estranged-wife, Holly's, company Christmas party at Nakatomi plaza only to find that she and her co-workers are being held hostage by Hans Gruber and thugs. Resourceful cop McClane engineers a rescue. Yippy kay-yea, inDEED.

Harry Potter
I'll betray my criminal inability to remember the differences between Harry's discrete narratives; at this point, it's one big uber-narrative to me. At any rate, I know that Harry exchanges presents with Ron and friends while he thinks longingly about lost family. Though he's sad at times, Christmas with Harry, especially the huge feast scenes, is great. It reminds me of being a giddy kid again.

While You Were Sleeping
Possibly my favorite relationship movie, this movie uses the Christmas season as a central plot point. Without family, Lucy volunteers to work at her job as a token-taker on Christmas day only to witness a hunky passenger thrown onto the train tracks. She rescues him and accompanies him to the hospital. An overhood utterance and eventual mix-up convinces the man's family that she is his fiancee. Buoyed by the warmth of a family she quickly comes to love, she fails to set them straight and comes to love their other son. Funny and touching without being mushy.

I recommend the alterna-Christmas movies for the burnout times between actual Christmas movies. Now, all we need is the "space-horror Christmas thriller"...

Twelve Days of Christmas (#8)
A Day Off!

I finished all my grading, turned in grades, and took a big, big sigh of relief. Then, I went back to bed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Twelve Days of Christmas (#9)
Early Christmas Presents: Pros and Cons

So, I was over at Andretta's yesterday, and curiosity got the best of me. She'd been wrapping presents and hinted that mine was something that I'd asked for. From the shape of things, I knew we were dealing with something DVD-oriented. Long-story-short, I opened my present from her early, and I got the first season of Grey's Anatomy on DVD. Woo-hoo! I was really excited, but I actually waited until today to break it open which has its good and bad sides.

Good points: well...I'm three episodes into the season. Looks like episode three was the first one I'd seen. While I like everybody in the cast, I must say that Patrick Dempsey—"Dr. McDreamy"—is aptly named. I remember Dempsey from the 80s when he just looked sort He never seemed to be a heart-throb of any merit. Now, however, he is mesmerizing. He makes "standing around" look like chargeable sexual harrassment (see also, Cheadle, Don: print ads). Yowza!

Bad points: grades are due tomorrow. And I'm three episodes into the season. I only have eight grades left to figure out of two classes of fifteen (or so) each, so I'm not too bad off. Even so, I've left the poorer students for last, and slogging through their last essays is like waiting to declare a patient braindead. See? We literature professors-in-waiting need our own quirky show about how our teaching is so exciting and fraught with danger. Except that there'd only be one straight guy for all of us, and he would most-likely be a depressed and distant loner...ok, yeah, not too interesting after all.

Back to the grind.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Twelve Days of Christmas (#10)
Men in Short-Shorts: My Dream Realized!

During this past New York fashion week, the writers over at New York Magazine followed some of the newest offerings with a "Three's a Trend" column. Apparently, any time three different designers came up with the same look, it meant that our fashion lexicon was a'changin'. Bless the fashion gods, one of these trends answered a most fevered dream of mine: short-shorts for men. Many of you know my take on the state of dress, or un-dress, in America. I maintain that there's no problem with women wearing skimpy clothes as long as men start taking it off or cutting back on the fabric as well. Swanky designers: bring on the short-shorts... Now, I'm 78% sure this picture deserves a Christmas carol of its own. Wow. Indeed, visiting Christmas past, we see that the manly short-short has given us many priceless gifts over the years. You know, like Magnum P.I. Kickin' it on the beach old-school, Magnum also rocked the dude-perm and a massive mustache, neither of which I dream about. In a good way, I mean. We also need to give mad props to John Stockton, lone basketball short-short holdout. What's with those long shorts in basketball? Do we make women's volleyball players wear nun habits? Ok, then. More recently, we've been blessed with Officer Dangle of Reno 911. Though he's mocking the short-short, at least he's wearing the short-short while doing so. Could he be behind this new trend?
"Excuse me, pull over sir."
"What was I doing, officer?"
"I noticed that you're wearing bermuda shorts. Not short-shorts. Were you aware that this is a crime against fashion?"
"Wait a minute! Are you the fashion police?"
"They give us motorcycles now. I'm sorry, for this infraction, I'm going to have to write you out a coupon to Macy's. You'll need to use it within the next 30 days or you'll be fined."
My message is clear, male readers. Get to a gym or a sewing machine or a department store, whatever you have to do. I'm on the lookout for the short-shorts on men this coming spring. If I don't see 'em, be assured, I'm sending the guy with the man-bag after you. I wish you a skimpy Christmas!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Twelve Days of Christmas (#11)
Number Eleven on my list may come as a bit of a shocker to some's Starbucks.

Hear me out, here—I don't just like Starbucks for the coffee (though they do make a killer cafe mocha), I like them because they have standards which they hold in high regard and to which they keep faithful. They make this clear in a few different ways. First, their barista training is pretty rigorous, and they are excited about certifying new baristas. I've borne witness to this excitment twice: each time, the manager announced to the patrons that he'd just certified a new barista, and he got a round of applause. I admit that this seemed weird at the time, but the more often it happens, it makes me think, "hey look! someone who knows how to do his/her job!"

Second, someone from "corporate" is invariably stopping by the store and chatting up the management. When something—from procedure to display—isn't right, it is quietly and efficiently put in order. One of the corporate people discussed her pledge of a certain amount of money for every store in Florida which can produce the perfect cappuccino. This perfectionism extends to drink names as well. In one of her comedy routines, Janeanne Garafallo had this bit about how she could never crack their drink naming system, but I think that this system forms part of the pristine beauty of Starbucks. This naming convention is so incredibly handy, especially its adaptability to alterations, that it almost ruins you for other coffee shops.

Third, the waitstaff doesn't mess around with customer service. Been waiting too long for your beverage? We're sorry—here's a coupon for a free drink on your next visit. Did I make the wrong drink? Here's a coupon for a free drink, and does anyone want a free vanilla Frappachino? Hells yeah, someone wants a free vanilla Frappachino! Good on you, Starbucks, for not letting a perfectly good drink go to waste.

And my final kudos to Starbucks goes to its own freaky sense of itself. They sell mugs, glasses, stuffed animals, and other items. Awhile back, I noticed the new large Starbucks mug decorated to look actual paper Starbucks cup. With all the check boxes and the company logo and everything. It kind of blew my mind a little. That is, until I saw the Starbucks cup ornaments they're selling this Christmas. Man! And I thought I was already a brand whore. Suffice it to say, I have no need for these particular products—I'm fine with my beverage, thanks.

Anyway, while some people will invariably hate every corporation and while I'm sure that Starbucks has its weak points, I can't help but love the fact that they seem to enjoy what they're doing, and they seem to honestly care about quality in a world in which fewer and fewer people do. Huzzah, my barista friends!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Twelve Days of Christmas (12 to go!)
Since the holiday season is upon us, I decided to blog about 12 things that make me happy this Christmas. Number 12 is...[drumroll]...Kenyon!

As many of you know, this has been a bad, stressful semester for my college and department. Even so, there are so many professors who have made the department worthwhile throughout the last 3-plus years of my stay, and Kenyon is one of them. I've been shopping around for holiday-season comparisons to explain how fantastic he is. First, I was thinking of him as Santa. After all, he brings us presents each semester including registration for grad classes, tuition waivers, and help with bureaucracy. Let me tell you, those are the gifts that keep on giving! Then, I thought, Kenyon can't be Santa because our department already had a Santa before the Grinch took him away from us. Maybe, I thought to myself, Kenyon's the head Elf. He's industrious and helpful. He likes (kitschy) toys. But, of course, he's pretty tall, and he never wears tights. my knowledge, anyway.

Either way, Santa's workshop is changing for better or worse. While we elves-in-training adapt to these changes, it's helpful to remember how special professors like him are. Kenyon, thank you for all your help in administration; more importantly, thank you for being a great role model, a supportive advisor, and a friend. Happy Holidays! (Violet)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

[Violet] Takes Manhattan: a Rundown of Mini-Vacay in New York

[Partial] Day One: the Arrival
I'm not sure how smart it was for me to plan my travel the way I did. Nevertheless, I decided to leave on Monday after teaching my two classes. I left Gainesville at about 1 p.m. and got to Orlando at around 3 or 3:30. This was great because Orlando traffic is either much crazier than I remember or has gotten worse. At any rate, dad drove me to the airport with enough time to spare. This was good because they're pretty thorough at the airport. Everyone has to take off shoes and show their collection of tiny toiletries before going through the metal detectors. Believe me—it's a weird bonding moment. Thank God I didn't check any baggage because I might have been late if I'd done so. Anyway, the plane took off for Newark airport at around 6:30 p.m.

Once I got to the Newark airport, the plan was to call Jake and alert him to my arrival. We'd planned to meet up at Grand Central Station. Theoretically, this was a fantastic plan, but, when I called him, his phone went to voicemail. Err... I called again. And got voicemail again. Following the arranged plan, I bought a ticket for the bus into the city and waited for it to arrive. Fortunately, I had Kinya's number in my cell, so I called her as well. She told me that she'd been trying to get ahold of Jake all day and was also getting the voicemail. She offered to e-mail him for me but indicated that he thought I was coming in a whole hour later and was doing his laundry. Oddly enough, this might have freaked me out, but it didn't. Ok, I thought to myself, I'll just hang out in Grand Central Terminal. All night. Yes, all night, if I have to. When the bus picked me up for the 45 minute trip into the city, and I just sat back and relaxed. As we were driving through one of the tunnels (Holland or Lincoln, I don't remember), Jake called, and we had the following exchange:
Jake: Where are you?
Me: Um... I'm on the bus into the city. We just
went through one of the tunnels.
Jake: (pause) Were you going to call me? Me: Dude, I did call you. Twice. And I called Kinya to see if she'd seen you. What's up with your phone...?

At any rate, before long, the bus made it into the city. I almost got off at Times Square, but, after I asked to confirm, I made it safely to Grand Central Station. I hung out under the big clock (per our plans), and Jake took about 15 minutes to meet me. While not a tremendously long time, this was enough for a plain-clothesed security officer to start eyeing me. (Or, alternately, for my future pimp to scope me out.) When I saw Jake, he'd written out a "chaffeur-style" placard for me..."Meltzer." Ha! We navigated through the subway system, and his place was only a few stops away.

Day Two: All By Myself (but in a good way)
When I woke up on Tuesday, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I was looking through my New York book and finally decided to go visit something close. Since Jake lives in Upper Midtown (I know the areas now), I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and some of the museums close to it. I figured that I wouldn't have to walk that far, but this belief was predicated on my idea that Lexington was also 4th Avenue (it isn't). In fact, I had to walk past Lexington, Park, and Madison before I got to 4th Avenue, and, as it was, the museums are located on 5th. So, by the time I reached MOMA, I was tuckered out, but ready to browse. Since I'd been there before, I looked at the visiting collection first. It was fantastic. Then, I had to hurry back up to meet Jake for lunch. We went to a little grocery shop which also has a buffet where you pay for your lunch by the pound. We sat at a countertop area in the back. It turned out to be pretty good food at a reasonable price. After I left Jake, I went back down to 43rd Street to visit the American Museum of Design and the American Folk Art Museum. Both of them were simply fantastic, and I think that my stepmother (a folk artist of sorts) would absolutely love the latter. While I was there, I saw an exhibit on a deaf American portrait artist painting in the eighteenth century. His name was John Brewster, and this is a picture of one of his paintings. Too cool. Also, I talked to a security guard for about 20 minutes. If I lived in NY, he'd be my new fake boyfriend. He was very friendly, helpful, informative, and gay. At around 5, I met Jake again, and he and I went to dinner at a little Italian place around the corner from his apartment. Good day; tired legs; great sleep.

Day Three: In Which I Get to Eat at the Trustee's Dining Room
By Wednesday, I was feeling the burn of all the walking but in a good way. I decided that I wanted to branch out a bit farther from those museums where I could walk, so I decided to go to the Museum of the City of New York, which is all the way up on 103rd Street. This distance meant that I'd have to take the subway. By myself. At about 11 a.m., I walked up to the Lexington station and looked for the correct platform. A train for the right line came along, but it indicated that it was going to Brooklyn, decidedly downtown. After I asked some friendly and helpful cops for directions, I went downstairs, under one trainline, and up to the correct platform to catch the train uptown. I know this reads as really tedious, but the main point is that, for the first time in my life, I navigated and took the subway myself. Squee!

When I got out at the 103rd stop, I realized that I was in the proverbial "wrong part of town." What I'm saying is that this isn't the part of town that tourists or quasi-tourists frequent. The area houses a lot of working-class tenants partially in older one-to-three-story walk-ups and a few higher rise buildings. Stores are fewer and farther between with much less panache. I'd say "down at the heels" moreso than "squalid." At any rate, there isn't really much to "see" there. I walked quickly up to 5th Ave. and actually got a weird look from one guy. Yeah, I was thinking to myself, I know, I know, I keep moving.

Once I hit 5th Ave—and saw my first bit of Central Park—I found the museum. It's a great little treasure—the sort of museum that's wonderful for teaching. What drew me to the museum was the exhibit on the history of New York commerce, but I thoroughly enjoyed the visiting exhibit was African-American fashion as well. I took my undergrad electives in the Harlem Renaissance and African-American Women Writers, so it was great to see how fashion fit into this time period. While the New York commerce exhibit was thoughtful and thorough, I liked the 30 minute movie on the development of the city just as much.

When I left the Museum of the City of New York, I knew I wanted to walk down to some of the other museums on 5th. Fifth Avenue is also called "Museum Mile," so I'd put myself in a good place. The Neue, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the Met are all along this route. By this point, I was in dire need of coffee, and I figured I'd run into some coffee shop on 5th Avenue where I could sit down and phone Jake. Not so. Y'see, since this area is a well-established museum area and right across from Central Park, realty is at a premium. They're not going to open a Starbuck's fronting 5th Ave—it just won't generate the revenue. I didn't think about this as I walked, though. All I could think was coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Finally, having no real plan, I reached the Met. Jake had planned to take a half-day off and tool around with me, but we had no firm arrangement of how to meet up. Anyway, desperate for coffee, I went into the Met looking for a coffeeshop. I asked the woman at the admissions desk, and she informed me that they had a cafeteria, but that I'd have to purchase a ticket to go in. I stared. Or give a small donation. Listen, I said, I just need some freaking coffee and to sit down. She let me in for free. When I got to the cafeteria, I bought coffee, a hard-boiled egg, and some whole-grain raisin role. I was so hungry it was like I'd never eaten before.

When I went back upstairs, I called Jake and arranged to meet him in front of the museum. As I was waiting, I experienced a few "New York" moments—listening to one guy's harrowing story of his urethra and watching a man with a can almost take a header. Jake got to the Met pretty quick, and we decided to eat lunch. His company got us in free and also...gave us access to the Trustees' Dining Room. Well! I was all excited about (almost) getting into the Met free based on coffeeneed, but the Trustees' Dining Room was something else. When we got on the (guarded) elevator to go up, another museum patron wandered on and was accosted by a guard who demanded to know where she was going. She was summarily hustled off said elevator. At any rate, can I just say that this dining room die for. We had a great view of Central Park, and I had some simply glorious salmon. After lunch, Jake and I looked around the Modern Art wings and checked out some statues. Then we headed home.

Day Four: Thanksgiving, Yay!
Thursday dawned rainy, windy, and cold. Which was kind of a bummer, since we'd planned to go see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We talked back and forth with Kinya about the plans for Thanksgiving Day dinner, cooking times, travel plans, etc. Finally, we decided we had the time and fortitude needed to go see the parade, so we suited up and grabbed some umbrellas. I had my little black one, and Jake brought his huge golf umbrella. Let me just say that these umbrellas proved no match for the weather that we ran into. It was RAINY, WINDY, and COLD. I know that I already mentioned that, but it bears repeating. My umbrella wiped out before we even made it to the parade. I shoved it down in the closest available trashcan, and, believe me, it wasn't the only one we saw. In a few more blocks, I was reconsidering our plan. I'd worn the new hat Kinya gave me, but it didn't cover my ears, which were freezing. As a quick fix, I devised the headgear seen in this photo. Note the look of fear in my eyes...complete and uncontrolled terror. Regardless, we soldiered on and actually got a few good shots of the parade. Here's Mr. PotatoHead. They kept the balloons on a rather short leash where we were standing since the wind was whipping around a bit. In fact, a few of the candy cane balloons that came later looked rather ominous as they swayed over the crowd. By the time the parade was over, we'd lost Jake's umbrella to the elements as well. Another umbrella in the garbage. We trekked home as fast as possible, and, during this walk, I experienced an epiphany of sorts about coffee and non-coffee drinkers. Non-coffee drinkers have no idea what we caffeinated sorts go through for "the beverage." I told Jake that we needed to look for coffee, but I didn't end up procuring the bitter nectar of the gods until after the parade had passed. Bad idea.

At any rate, after we got back to the apartment, we got to work preparing food. Jake made this vegetable casserole that our aunt used to make for Thanksgiving, and I made some spinach turnover things because the spanikopita that I'd planned to make takes too much time. Kinya was busy making pumpkin pies at her place. After we'd put together our food, we took it to Kinya's to cook. As a treat, we caught a cab to her place in the Village. It's a great place, well-decorated and newer looking and feeling than Jake's but smaller, too. Our food took a little longer to cook than expected, but we weren't the only ones running late. By the time we made it to her building at NYU, though, everyone was there or just arriving. Here's a picture of all her fellow grad students. Let me just say that Thanksgiving was pretty freakin' fun with these guys. We talked, ate, drank a bit, and then got down to some games. We played some sort of game which required two teams to shout out hints for a word that one's team needed to guess. My team missed winning by a nano-point. Then—and, I might add, after too much alcohol consumption—we played Balderdash. Though we did finish the game, there was a lot of grumbling. It took a long time. My team came in second. After the game-playing (around 11:30), people decided it was time for more alcohol. Jake and I were sent to find a liquor store, but it was closed. Our taxi-guy took us to Kinya's apartment and waited for Jake to bring back rations. Suffice it to say: Violet's still too friendly for New York. This guy chatted me up and then some. The rest of the night was good, if a bit off for me. I realized that no amount of alcohol will make me appreciate Dave Matthews.

Day Five: Feeling Groovy. Ok, Admittedly, Not That Kind of Groovy.
I didn't really know what to expect for Friday. Both Jake and Kinya were off, but they were really dedicated to doing whatever I was interested in. First, we went to a place called the Mud in the Village. It's a really small restaurant and coffee bar, but it had some great food. I had a frittata. Then, we went across the street and checked out what turned out to be a toy store before making our way down to the Strand. I'd been wanting to go to this bookstore since I got to town, and it was just as fantastic as I thought it would be. We spent about an hour browsing, and I bought some great used books. From there, we walked down to Union Square (I think) where we encountered a big outdoor craft show, which is totally "my thing." We looked around for quite awhile, but I couldn't find anything that I had to have.

At this point, I was getting a little hungry, and we decide to go into this restaurant called Max Brenner Chocolate. I'd seen another of these earlier and was really curious. Ohyeah, and I wanted a brownie. Turns out that Max Brenner Chocolate doesn't have brownies. For those of you with really specific sweet- teeth, you'll know just how much distress this caused me at the time. I settled on some kind of chocolate cake-like dessert and a cup of joe. Kinya and Jake had drinks and helped me with the cake. We took some pictures.

By the time we left, it was getting near time for dinner. We went back by Kinya's place to decide where to eat. Jake wanted to take me to get the best pizza in New York, so we either needed to go somewhere in Brooklyn (I forget) or to Lombardi's. Since I wasn't too keen on going far, we ended up going to Lombardi's. There was a huge, huge wait, so we looked around in the nearby shops while we waited to be called. We finally were seated, ordered, and received some good looking pizza. I wouldn't say that it was the best pizza I've ever had, though. Jake was disappointed as well—he used to work in a great pizza place. Oddly enough, at this point, Kinya started feeling ill, so we left and headed down to her subway station.

From there, Jake and I decided to head down to Macy's and then on to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. Macy's was packed. We looked around but only stayed long enough to use the facilities. I was more interested in the windows. The ones at the front of the store all had animatronic characters, and I took a lot of great photos. As we walked to Rockefeller Center, I started to feel a little sick myself. By the time we got there, I was feeling a lot sick and told Jake we'd have to cut the sightseeing short. I don't even remember how we got back to his place. This was just as well because I'd arranged to leave on Saturday on an 8:30 flight, and I needed to pack up.

Day Six: Homeward Bound
On Saturday, I got up at the crack of dawn (6 a.m.) to head out. Jake went with me to the corner to catch a taxi and gave me a bit of money for the ride. We figured that the taxi would be the easiest way back to New Jersey, especially given the fact that I needed extra luggage to carry all the books I'd purchased. I was sad to leave Jake and all the fun I'd had. Even so, I had a really smooth trip back to Orlando and then (after a nap) Gainesville. I can't wait to see Jake and Kinya at Christmas, and I'm already thinking of what to do and see when I go back to New York.