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Monday, February 24, 2014

"You Are Now Free To Roam About The Country" - 2013 (epic) travel wrap

(disclaimer: Brevity, thy name is NOT this post. Also, there are a crapton of photos in this beast. Also, I don't expect anyone to read this entire hot mess. Also, this is mainly to jog my feeble mind when I'm old and infirm. Also, I could use a fucking drink.)

Okay, so, much like last year at this time, I find myself playing catch up with tales of all the travels I was fortunate to take throughout the prior year. By no means are these ramblings meant to be douchey brags, nay, rather the means by which I recall all this fun shit before I forget how great I had it in 2013 and start bitching to Geo about how I never get to go anywhere, and then he chokes on his sammie, calls up this shite blog and throws the laptop at my ungrateful pinhead, shattering the screen in a thousand shards, which he then steps on, slicing his heels and cursing my name as he hops hither and yon, spraying blood all over our "priceless" heirlooms. Really, not the best way to procure a new computer, couch or congenial companion consideration the next time wanderlust strikes hard.

Sweet BABY JESUS I was lethargic with this blog last year!!

Well, here goes. I shall endeavor to be brief. (file under fat chance)

MARCH not only brought the Old 97's to Pittsburgh, it brought fellow fan, Leslie from the Midwest. We met through the band's website forum, and hit it off  even before we met in 2012. She's a delight. extremely organized, an avid recycler and huge fan of all things flora and fauna. The day of the show, I took her to the top of Mt. Washington to show off the spectacular view of my beautiful city. (everybody say Ooooo... everybody say Aaaaa...)

baby's first visit to the Burgh
best. entrance. ever.
(via Leslie's keen eye)

the glass castles of ppg place
(via Leslie)

After filling our gullets, we headed to the north side to tour the National Aviary. I hadn't been there since fifth grade. So many birds. So many opportunities to be shat upon. No lie. Especially in this room.

flying shitz alert

(via Les)

We planned to go straight to dinner and the 97's show after birding, and neither of us was keen on being covered in doodoo. Mission accomplished.

big awss roll

The following morning we fed our hangover with a greasy spoon breakfast, replete with a cinnamon bun the size of Leslie's head, thus keeping America's diabeetus train right on track. We rounded out Leslie's visit with a frolic through the flowers at Phipps Conservatory.

dale chihuly atrium greeting

another chihuly in the desert room

buttocks on the cactus

(last four beauties via Les)

APRIL brought the first of two trips to Baltimore to visit one of my best friends and mother to my favorite toddler in my orbit. April marked sweet Melody's seventh month of existence. She was sooo much fun! Incredibly observant, smart and responsive. Oh and did I mention she reached for me and smiled her gorgeous, ginormous smile at me and can totally have a pony when she's older?

the cutest baby on earth at 7 months

the cutest toddler on earth at 15 months

By October's visit, Melody was up and running on her adorable, chubby baby legs, diving for Maggie, the dog and racing us around the house. So much personality in a tiny frame. I JUST WANT TO EAT HER UP!! Metaphorically, of course.

Between doting on MJ, Steph and I spent some time together in Baltimore. In April, we went to The American Visionary Art Museum near the Inner Harbor. Totally flipped out and funky! Crazy exhibits like a gigantic bra ball, 20 foot Divine and mirrored-covered eight foot egg spread out over three buildings and a courtyard. Also, the greatest irreverent gift shop ever. We had a fantastic time.

big ass ball o' bras

egg face

wouldn't be balmer without
a 20 foot Divine
courtyard with egg, bird and balcony nest

view from the nest

the harbor from the nest

horror fetus avec cock
(gift shop offering nightmares for free)

In October, we poodled around the neighborhood of Hampden, home of Baltimore's renown HonFest described thusly on its website:

HonFest is a local tradition. The Bawlmer term of endearment, Hon, short for Honey, embodies the warmth and affection bestowed upon our neighbors and visitors alike by historic working-women of Baltimore. HonFest is an annual celebration in honor of these women.

Since 1994, HonFest has grown from a tiny Baltimore's Best Hon pageant behind Café Hon, to a nationally recognized festival that covers four city blocks on Hampden's very own 36th Street. In recent years, the festival has been acknowledged by The New York Times, Rachel Ray's Tasty Travels, Nightly News with Brian Williams, The New York Post, Southern Living, The LA Times, HGTV, CNN, and just this April by The New Yorker.

All I know is people don lofty, neon Marge Simpson wigs and dress in outrageous outfits and glasses. Sign me up!! Hmmmm... I getting a germ of an idea about when to visit Balmer this year, Hon.

we're all set for june, hon

MAY's vacation week embodied a couple little trips. The first was a quick jaunt to St. Louis for, you guessed it, an Old 97's concert with Leslie and Wende. They were opening for Drive-By Truckers on this leg of the tour. Weird. They still played nearly 90 minutes straight through and were done by 9:30, freeing us all up to party with Murry and Ken on the awesome roof of the Moonrise Hotel next to the venue.

moonrise hotel lounge

a chijuly in the lobby!
it's all classy and shit

wende and les photobombed by a random guy named walter

afternoon cocktails on the roof
these ladies get me

the moonrise rooftop

the arch in the distance from the rooftop

The neighborhood has a lovely college town atmosphere. There are cool little shops, eateries and some funky art. It was also a breeze to get to and from the airport via train, thanks to Leslie's excellent planning skills. Leslie and I also played touristas and took the ride to the top of the Arch.

from a helluva high vantage point

the aforementioned helluva high vantage point

everywhere we looked

street fashion art

funky totems behind the pageant

This was the first time I visited St. Louis. I liked it, or at least this area. Plus who wouldn't have fun with these chicas and a 97's show, right?

(May part two)
My sisters and I took Big Mar to visit her last remaining sister in Geneseo, Illinois on a trip we dubbed the Travelling Sisterhood. We all flew on Southwest to Midway, picked up a BIGASS vehicle and drove the three hours to Aunt Elsie's.

ginormous ozone killa

My Aunt is amazing. She'll turn 90 this April, lives on her own, doesn't need a cane or walker, still drives an incredible 20+ year old jazzy Chrysler with a dashboard gear shift, is sharp as a tack, is completely ruthless in a game of cards, and she beat Cancer's ass. She's like a fucking Super Hero of Aging.

sisters aplenty

the ladies, chillin'

judgy much?

a touching farewell
hopefully not the last

She lives in a beautiful little midwestern town not far from the Mississippi, where everybody knows everybody else and there's one main street down the center. Having spent her entire adult life away from Pittsburgh, we didn't have many opportunities to visit with her or our uncle in the past. This trip was a wonderful chance for all of us to get to know Aunt Elsie better. The harsher truth to this journey is it may have been the last time Big Mar and her sister would ever see each other. It's an unsettling thought to ponder, never seeing ones sister again. To be an age where this hug may be your last...  Let's hope not.

AUGUST included a trip to Bethany Beach with my good friend from steel drums, Sheila. Sheila is one of the coolest people I know. She's hip, artsy, and fun as hell. I love her kids, too. They're just as cool as she is. Oh, and did I mention she built her own deck at their beach house? She's a regular Rosie the Riveter, Dude! I'm greatly impressed by this because of my complete fear of power tools. And math.

Rosie, proudly showcasing her deck

Aaanywho... she invited me out to their place for a couple of days. Just us girls. We crabbed at Little Assawoman Bay (Bigga Assawoman welcomed, too), drank beach rum drinks (the greatest mango/coconut rum concoction created), ate, beached, drank, shopped, drank, beached, etc. etc. etc. rinse and repeat.

assawoman greeter

fish head love

in crabbing, size matters
these bad boys meet the muster
(crab porn)

keeping the important consumables fresh
(is there any doubt why i like her?)

beach provisions
(now there's NO doubt why i love her)
afternoon delight

sun, surf, sippy
best reward for a morning crabbing fest

two days' bounty crab boil
a lot of work for the meat, but good company and red wine help

I learned more about the private parts of crabs over those two days than I ever thought possible, or wanted to. I never dreamed part of my dinner prep would consist of being all up in some crab's vagina. HaHaHa! Ewwww...

a crab rocket
if you know what i mean

And then this happened.

A lot. And at completely random times, including 10:30 at night. The first time it went off, I was in bed. HOLY HELL that was loud as F**K!! The siren pole is roughly three doors down. There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason for it. No set times. No set purpose, unless you count being an asshole as a purpose, then goal met. The more it went off, the more we laughed about it. I'm sure the beach drinks had something to do with that. :)

I had a blast on our first road trip together. Hopefully we can put that trip on repeat this summer. :)

September's rendezvous was a reunion weekend in Bahstan with my beloved Jimmy McParkway! I miss his stupid face every day. No shit. He travels back to Pittsburgh numerous times throughout the year, but this was my first invasion of his zip code. 

the hahbah

HOLY HELL the approach is freaking close
to these homes
 We packed a lot in two days, especially food. I swear I ate my weight in carbs and meat starting with my arrival. Drinks, dinner and improv.

cool periodic table menu board

hola, poppy

wednesday night improv

and he professes to be my friend...

We did some commando sight seeing during my brief visit, grabbing a delicious breakfast pastry (carb) at a city eatery, Flour to start the ball rolling.

swanky-ass rice krispie treats for $100

this made me LOL for real

We walked through a gorgeous park whose name I've forgotten, strolled through Harvard where we noshed on a nutella, banana and strawberry crepe (more carb by-product) from a food truck in the coolest square replete with giant bean bags, stopped in the only Curious George dedicated store in 'Merica, scaled Beacon Hill to stalk check out John and Teresa Heinz Kerry's digs, circled around to the State House Hooker entrance (to the glee of our 12 year old boy sense of humor), checked out the swanky digs at the Christian Science Church and hit up Cheers for a refreshing afternoon libation.
(hold on to your eyeballs. barrage of photos upcoming...)

emerging from a hole in the ground

some big ass center city park

he's classy and shit

the three stooges law firm on the third floor

i'm curious... about the prizes

looks like george is curious
about other things besides the man
in the yellow hat

ten...ten tablets of cyanide

as close as I'll ever get to passing through the gates of Harvard

students chilling in the lawn

daaaaamn. there's actually ivy at ivy league schools

food trucks!

can you see why we're friends?

comfy bean bags strewn about 
higher learning, yo

always good advice

the state house
named for...

the patron saint of working girls

this bit never gets old

the fencing around this church has
become a memorial to the
victims of the marathon bombing 

for fans of Boston Legal
sadly, no Denny Crane sighting


christian science church compound


aaaa OOO gaaa
(get it... the light pole looks like a cartoon ogler... no. bite me)

fiber art displays


just a couple of asshats 
After a mini siesta, we hopped on a train* and headed to famed Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox clinch a playoff berth. Cross one off the bucket list. I've always wanted to go to Fenway. Similar to Camden Yards, the surrounding streets are blocked to traffic and are lined with food and drink tents.

street action
how many beers and brats can you shovel in your gob?

there is an inordinate love of sausage in this place
(sadly, that's NOT a euphemism)

bringing the Buccos along for the ride
for the love of jehovah, i hope he lost a bet

This ballpark is old school, yo! Smaller than I expected, putting the fans super close to the bullpen and players. There are support poles all throughout obstructing the view for a number of seats. A major flashback to our old Forbes Field back in the Stone Age. They have a jumbo tron, but the score is still changed by hand by a wee man behind the wall in center field.

bailing early to get a jump on that triple bypass

Afterwards, we stuffed our maws with copious amounts of barbecue, beans, mac 'n cheese and booze because, you know, we hadn't eaten enough meat and carbs to shorten our lives from heart disease and the Diabetus.
We did manage to squeeze in a buttery lobstah lunch near the harbor before heading to the airport.

does this sum up bahstan, or what

*Side note: Throughout the course of my stay, we rode on every flippin' trolley line but one, a private car booked using Jimmy's iPhone and a train with the quintessential Bostonian conductor... a fair-skinned redhead with a burly build and wicked accent. I have to admit, he was manly and kinda hawt. MeeeOW.

Jimmy was a terrific tour guide, host and shenanigans cohort. Miss you forevah, Bubbe. Next time, let's go to the cape!

November was a major Old 97's meet up in Chicago. The Windy City was the first metropolis to embrace the 97's way back when, even before they made it big in their hometown of Dallas. I've been wanting to experience a show here for quite awhile. It's one of their favorite places to play, and I've heard tales of their epic performances there, especially the Vic.

Four of us flew in from Pittsburgh, four traveled from the Midwest and two lived outside of the city. We stayed at a cute hotel called the Majestic nestled in a lovely residential neighborhood, a block from the lake, and a short cab ride from the venue situated near Wrigley Field.

chi-town from the el

of course there would be a Miller's Pub
There is a wonderful community of fans surrounding my favorite foursome. Slowly, but surely I am meeting these internet compadres. Annie, from Chicago has been high on my list. Needless to say, I was stoked to finally meet her. She's just as smart, witty and cool as I expected. She's also an artist who creates beautiful works from clay and polymer. The entire crazy lot of us hung out at the hotel to pre-game on wine and snacks before heading to dinner near the Metro where the bassist, Murry stopped by to kibitz before the show.

colorful annie

wende and leslie post pre-game

annie, tracey, cindy and wende

sheri and flat sarah

les and flat sarah

everyone, including the lone y chromosome, Bert

everyone, with a side of Murry

The show was horrible.

PFFT...HAHAHAHA! Yeah, right. It was outstanding, as all of their shows are. Crazy energy from these gents. Non-stop dancing and singing from our front row perch. Murry even dedicated a song to Yoko, completely making her trip. And like every show, it ended too soon.

Aaaaaa, but for once, we stuck around for an extra day to bum around the Windy City. We hit up Millennium Park and took far too many photos of the ridiculously irresistible Bean, stumbled upon a cool light exhibit at the library, walk around Navy Pier and sipped cocktails and watched a most gorgeous sunset from atop the John Hancock building.
(brace yourself...i blogged up another crapton of photos all over your shoes)

'alo, bean!

it is ridiculous how happy this makes a person

view from laying underneath the bean
it's inner badger

noreen, bert, les, yoko and the city skyline

being goofballs

us, underneath
seriously. this thing is waaay too cool

jumping bean
(see what i did there?)

dahlia lama glass block art

our album cover

one bit of the view from millennium park 

part of a light exhibit at the library across from the park

you decide
i heart her

yankee hotel foxtrot
(wilco cover reference)

arcing fluids inside navy pier

john hancock building

the navy pier from the ladies room

one of the most gorgeous sunsets i've witnessed

Hell, we even saw Josh Ritter at Midway.

swear to god that's him

Chicago is one of those rare big cities that acts like a small town. There was no dirt, grime or litter anywhere and everyone we encountered, even the CTA employees, could not have been any nicer or more helpful to us. I mean, unbelievably super sweet! I guess this is what people are talking about when they refer to the Midwest friendly factor. A great town filled with fabulous people. I look forward to going back to experience more of Chicago with these wonderful people, but in a warmer season next time.

And finally...

December. Geo and I made our usual trek across the Commonwealth to my sister's home in New Jersey. The journey became hideous two-thirds of the way there when we encountered a giant snow storm. It was so hideous, even I-78 in Jersey was practically EMPTY of cars. That is never the case on a Saturday in Jersey. EVER. The accumulation was roughly eight inches. Beautiful, but JESUS!  It couldn't wait until AFTER we arrived??!?

Aaaanywho, we ventured into NYC to brunch at a terrific little place down 9th avenue from my nephew called Alfie's. Very festive and amazing Bloody Marys. Yowza!

the family that orders extra olives together stays together

festive holiday cheer to go with the festive holiday cheer

I love hanging out with my kin. We always have a blast with them. They are so groovy.

As luck would have it, Mr. Miller was playing in the city AND near my brother's house that week. Geo and I decided to stay over in SoHo after his show at the Winery. He did a Christmas program with Janeane Garofalo, Todd Barry and Nicole Atkins performing between his mini sets. It was fun enough. Different. The comedians were entertaining, but truth be told, I prefer him solo without sharing the stage.

News Flash- I love New York. You never know what you're going to see on the streets.

Nikki Minaj delivers
who knew

and ramen

Or whom.

We were having breakfast at the Hudson Diner, when Geo looks at me and says, "Hey, turn around. isn't that the guy from show with the newspaper?"

Always Mrs. Subtle, my head snapped around like I had been punched in the head by Mike Tyson. And lo, sitting a mere two tables away was...


HOLY HELL he is GORGEOUS!! His hair was a hot mess from his knit cap, but who gives a flying figlet! It worked for him. The scruffy beard, the big, cable knit sweater, the sexy lines around his chocolate brown eyes on that fabulous face,..  It ALL worked for him.

And that voice. Like velvet. Mmmm..Mmm! Damn near kick started my retired ovaries.

Being the greatest husband alive, Geo prodded me to go over and say hello. But get this... I couldn't do it. What. the HELL. I generally have balls big enough to approach anyone, but I couldn't pull the trigger on this one even when his female companion went to the ladies room. All I could muster was to sneak a pic through the window. Pussy.

swear to god that's the velvet voiced honey and his hat hair

Moving on...

Mid week we drove north to visit my brother in New Paltz, AKA land of the huge-ass snowfall. They had over a foot of the white shit with more on the way. ACK.

bro and his better half
micro brews and winter do mix

the year of never ending snow 

After shopping at the little boutique shops in town and putting away some beer at the local microbrewery, my sister-in-law, Leslie and I decided to embrace the winter and sled ride down their back hill. The snow was so deep, we thought it would take a while to make a track on the plastic toboggans.


We flew down that bad boy with Otto, the maniac Lab, in pursuit. Did I mention there is a creek at the bottom? Yeah. Needless to say, I bailed at the bottom, giving Otto the opportunity to snatch up my toboggan and run like hell.


I eventually wrestled it from his not-so-vice like grip, and took off on another run. This time the jerk muscled me off the sled and commandeered it for himself, only he freaked out when it moved and just started chewing on it. He eventually calmed his ass down so we could make a handful of runs. I haven't gone sled riding in ages. I had forgotten how fun it is. It's also exhausting. Goddamn, I'm out of shape.

On the way back to New Jersey, we decided to stop in Beacon, NY. It's a really cool little artsy town with a glass blowing shop, Christmas store, Pop Art and comics shop, antiques store and an eclectic tchotchke store.

irreverence. it's what's for christmas

And it also has a wall covered with this horrifying crap.

what's worse than clowns
toddler clowns packing  heat

what fresh hell is this?

AAAAAA! hold me
What is with all the creepy clown shit??!?

seriously. WTF?

Ain't nobody got time for those nightmares.

The End.

Whew. Thank the baby Jesus this monkey posting is finally off my back. I think I used up my entire monthly allotment of storage space with this singular pile of dookey. Blah. I'm too tapped out to close in a clever manner, so your on your own on that front. Have at it. I'm going to take a nap.