Monday, October 28, 2013

Lazy Halloweening

For someone who doesn't watch scary movies (with the obvious exception of zombie movies) and thinks paying money for people to jump out and attack you in haunted houses is kind of stupid (especially this one where the rumor is they straight up water board you), I'm usually pretty into Halloween.  The last few years, I've hosted Halloween parties and for the last two Halloween parades I've danced to some Michael Jackson song or another. This year, however, I'm feeling like ever since the wedding, we can take a break from hosting for a while. Also, I defected from the Halloween parade. Might as well give some new zombies a chance to shine, as I just couldn't get that excited about going to rehearsal.

Our Halloween plans might have amounted to absolutely nothing, excepting last post's pumpkin carving, if a friend hadn't decided to throw a party at the last moment. This left us with the need to come up with costumes on the fly. Knowing we couldn't top last year's ensembles, and really, you can probably only get away with a couple's costume that cloying once, we went a different way with it. We became determined to cobble together costumes from existing items rather than buy more items at Goodwill strictly for costume purposes. At this point I have an entire plastic tub full of clothes that I don't actually wear just keep around for rare costuming purposes. I refuse to start a second tub.

Oddly, our rummage and some Internet research led to two fairly disparate costumes. With some high-wasited sailor pants and a button-up shirt, I could pull off 70s. For whatever reason, I decided my pop culture icon of choice would be Jan Brady. Of course, the only real effort made there was pulling my hair back and curling the front bit which got a bit messed up on the windy walk to the party, so by the time I arrived, I was back to being generic 1970s person. Sam, by contrast, chose the route of gluing leaves and newspaper scraps to a rain poncho and being a person trapped in a hurricane. He was originally going to be a newscaster in a hurricane, but we lost the resolve to make a little fake microphone. Naturally, with Hurricane Sandy now being a year passed and this being (thankfully) a rather quiet year storm-wise, his cultural reference was perhaps only slightly less outdated than mine. He had the advantage though in that the windy walk to the party only enhanced the look of his ensemble.
Sam, caught in the hurricane that is our entryway. 

It's like looking in a mirror, right? 

The party was fun and especially enhanced because the host's have an adorable Jack Russell Terrier that reminds me very much of my old dog in that he loves all people and can barely contain his excitement around them. Luckily, through my awkward inability to show up anywhere fashionably late, we got a good 10 minute of uninterrupted puppy time in before the other guests arrived. That right there makes putting on bell bottoms and riding three trains on a windy night worth it.

So now, with no parade or other Halloween plans in my future, it pretty much feels like November around here (stay tuned for a writing project I may be working on in November proper). For those who live in neighborhoods where kids actually trick or treat or who have plans yet to happen, I hope you have a wonderful Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sleepy Holloween

Yesterday totally got away from me, but I'm still going to post about the weekend because it was wonderful. I'm not going to start with my cliche discussion of the weather that I've noticed is at the top of pretty much every one of my posts (although, if I were to go that way, I'd have to say it was perfectly crisp and autumnal). Instead, regardless of what the climate may or may not have been, it was decided that at halfway through October, it was time to start doing fall things, and in particular: Halloween things.

For years, I've been talking about going up to Sleepy Hollow around Halloween as they do a big to-do ever since they changed their name from the much less romantic North Tarrytown. As it turns out, most of the Halloween celebrations are at night, and also booked far in advance, so we didn't partake in them on our day trip. We, however, did walk around and appreciate the creepy scarecrow pillow people they tie to all their fence posts and the various headless horseman themed public art. It was the Sleepy Hollow High Homecoming game the day we were there, but we chose not to attend. I am curious what their mascot (they're the horsemen) looked like though.

On our walk, we hit Philipsburg Manor, an old Dutch settlement farm. This is also the site of the Horseman's Hollow where on nights during October, the house and grounds are transformed into a haunted house or, according to their website, a "terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane." Naturally, we were sorry to have missed that. In daylight, when there aren't masked horsemen chasing you around though, it's rather picturesque.

It's like you're in New Netherland.
A short walk from the Philipsburg Manor is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Washington Irving is buried there. Apparently so are Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Gompers, and Leona Helmsley, but the place is huge and we quickly tired of trying to find their graves and just wandered around the grounds for a bit. Some nice people at the entrance were selling apple cider and mulled wine which would probably improve any cemetery experience.

Irving's grave, complete with small pumpkin left by some well wisher. 
Sam enjoying a day at the cemetery.
Our cemetery companions--minus Sam, who took this.
Another of Sam's artsy cemetery shots. 
After a lunch at a waterfront restaurant, we adjourned back to Astoria. However, the photogenic and classically fall activities did not stop there! On Sunday, we went to a friend's pumpkin carving and chili eating party. There were prizes (this particular friend is a salesperson for a large winery, so the prizes were very good), so I encouraged Sam, as the superior pumpkin carver to represent us. I gutted a few pumpkins though in between chili eating in order to earn my keep.

I'll let you guess which one is his prize-winning pumpkin. See answer below... 
The artists with their pumpkins (and me with an untouched gourd).
Hope everyone had a lovely fall weekend (or whatever the weather was near you...). I'm still thinking of ideas for a costume that won't involve me spending any money, so all suggestions are appreciated.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A quieter Coney

A few months ago, some friends and I got a Living Social deal to go to Luna Park in Coney Island. My trips to Coney Island in the past have been largely in the heat of summer when I was too lazy to go to a beach that's wasn't cover inch by inch in people and, sometimes, broken glass. The one exception is the time a couple of years ago that I did actually try to go to the new and improved Luna Park on its last weekend before Halloween, heading out on a Friday night after work. It was about 40 degrees, and my friends and I decided that it was too expensive, so we ended up getting a hot dog at Nathans, playing some skee ball, and calling it a night. Actually, the one last memory of that trip was that while the Luna Park employees dressed as werewolves whose sole job seemed to be to sneak up behind you, lean over and invade your personal space, and then say nothing (or, occasionally a "boo!" if they were going all out), the only really scary thing was when we tried to go to the boardwalk for a minute because one of my friends had never been, and there was some very menacing guy standing there. We couldn't see his face, but he seemed enough like a video game villain guarding the boardwalk that he wordlessly convinced a group of four people that maybe we didn't want to explore that way so much after all. He also convinced me to never go back to Coney Island in the winter at night again. The hot dogs just aren't that great.

Sketchiness aside, Coney Island's Luna Park can be a fun place, and when you have a coupon, it's an inexpensive way to spend the day. Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day to ride some rides and wander the boardwalk. I even rode the Coney Island Cyclone again, something I'd done five years ago shortly after moving to New York and sworn never to do again after it gave me such a headache. This time, the headache was less, although I did feel some minor back pain. Also ever since that woman died on a wooden roller coaster in Texas, I've also been a bit paranoid about the things. I made damn sure that safety bar was latched down. Despite the beautiful weather, it's safe to say Luna Park's season is winding down. There were no lines for anything, and in some cases we were on the only riders on a ride at a time. Definitely an improvement on most amusement park experiences. 

I think this picture really captures the day. Note the blueness of the sky and emptiness of all those seats. 

A friend and I riding something that was mainly for children. We watched it for a while before finally seeing a parent ride it and deciding if it could support his weight, it could support ours. And a good thing too, because it was really fun. 

We didn't ride the Wonder  Wheel because it wasn't included in our deal and because I don't really care for ferris wheels. It does photograph well though. 

One of Sam's more artsy endeavors to photograph the boardwalk. 

Another very cool shot. 
We only used about half of our 4-hour time allowance due to the lack of lines. While Luna Park is decently sized, there's really only a handful of roller coasters, and then a lot of things that spin you around in various ways. After a solid 2 hours of that, we all had the usual amusement park collective concussion, so we opted to walk around and remark on how surprisingly beautiful the Coney Island beach looks without people on it. We then got quesadillas and made the long journey back to Queens. With a good book, the hour and half on the N train really isn't that bad. So 'til next time, Coney Island!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shutdown but not shut out

This weekend, Sam and I headed down to our nation's capital to meet up with some friends and family. Due to the government shutdown, we weren't able to partake in any of the free Smithsonian museums or view the monuments, but luckily we found plenty of establishments willing to take our money. It was an incredibly hot and humid weekend in the district, a sad turn for October, but it didn't stop us from walking all over the city. There was extra walking for those of us who were too cheap to pay DC metro prices.

On Saturday, we followed a wonderful brunch with an aunt and uncle with a visit to the Spy Museum. I'd never actually considered going to the Spy Museum (despite spending time in their gift shop in the past) because why pay for a museum when you're surrounded by free ones? I have a feeling they're experiencing a bit of a boom with the Smithsonian not operational, or who knows, maybe it's always that crowded. Nevertheless, it's a fun and very interactive museum. It reminded me of Astoria's own Museum of the Moving Image with its many hands on exhibits. There were air ducts to crawl though, secret identities to memorize and call up later, and bugs that enabled you to listen to people in other parts of the museum (although I found their murmuring to be about as boring as the murmuring of museum patrons directly around me, so that was quickly tired of). The museum also has a number of artifacts (radio transmitters in shoes, eyeglasses with space for a cyanide tablet, things of that ilk) from real spy organizations. All and all a very interesting collection.

For the more Hollywood, rather than historical, look at espionage, they also had an exhibit on Bond villains. That served to remind me that I haven't really seen very many Bond movies, mostly because they all seem the same. Nevertheless, the exhibit was slick and well managed. They had a bar that could be raised for you to hang on as if you were Bond hanging from a helicopter/building ledge/what-have-you. It is much harder than it looks. For those who made it past 20 seconds, they would also blow wind on you.
Sam displaying his superior grip strength. 
 After the Spy Museum, we had the usual (for my vacations anyway) trouble of having to find something else to do in order to work up enough of an appetite to eat again. This led us on a walk to the White House in part because Aileen had never seen it. There were a few protesters afoot and one large group one speaking against negotiating with Iran, but overall less hoopla than I would have thought. In the far window, we could see a man pacing around. At one point, we also became convinced that we saw the head of a Portuguese Water Dog in the same window. I took the picture below, thinking I would be able to zoom in and confirm the sighting. Unfortunately, if anything without the movement, it's less clear.

Look for evidence of Bo or Sunny in the far right upper window. Keep in mind that black blob was definitely bobbing. 
On Sunday, after a visit to DC institution Ben's Chili Bowl (where both Bill Cosby and Barack Obama eat for free), we visited the Museum of Unnatural History. This is actually a store affiliated with the DC branch of 826, an organization I've mentioned a number of times on this blog. While the New York off shoot has the Superhero Supply Company, San Francisco has the Pirate Store, and Chicago has the Incredibly Boring Store (actually a spy retailer), DC's branch is devoted to all things made up. It had a number of unusual displays of taxidermy and some very silly dioramas. To support the cause, I add to my 826 tshirt collection.

Me in front of the store. I don't know what I'm doing with my hands. 
A specimen from the Museum of Unnatural History.  If the Smithsonian doesn't reopen, this could become the new world order. 
 After some walking around in the heat on Sunday and a failed expedition to the Newseum (a museum on news), we headed out for home. Sam took this final picture on our walk to Union Station to get our bus.
Where all the magic isn't happening. 

The eight-hour (provided you don't hit traffic) round trip bus ride to DC makes for all too short weekend visits, but it was a fun weekend and definitely worth it. Thanks to Carolyn and Aileen for hanging out and for Neel and Diane for a lovely brunch.