On the way to Columbus, we got stuck in traffic twice, for a grand total of two extra hours added on to our trip (which was five and a half hours to begin with). Both jams were caused by accidents, and they were about ten miles apart. The second accident was kind of awful, and I hope everybody got out okay, but I remain puzzled by the first one: when we went past, the police were just cleaning up the remains, and inexplicably, a random fat guy on a rascal was winding up the yellow caution tape.
I didn't actually attend many events at the convention. This year, I was more interested in roaming around the city. I went to the Franklin Conservatory and botanical gardens, which was awesome, and which had PARROTS! I chatted with the macaws in the rain forest section, and I made friends with the lorikeets in the butterfly garden. Lorikeets are very colorful medium-sized parrots who eat nectar. I learned how to mimic their calls (I'm good at mimicking parrot calls) and lured them over to me and played with them. I also took a friend to the Catholic museum a couple of miles away, which contains some beautiful art, relics, and historical objects from Catholic churches around the eastern US. Neat place, and our tour guide knew a lot of stories about the displays.
I ate a lot
. The first night we went to the Fish Market
, which...yes. Do that if you like seafood at all. Stupendous. The food was spectacular, and the service was incredible. They made us feel like like they'd be sad to see us go. Note: they will not warn you about the Desserts of Doom. If you get dessert, it will be the size of your head. Prepare accordingly.
I ate twice at the Zencha tea salon, which doesn't have a website. They have a four-page tea menu--I got the sampler, which lets you choose three kinds--and a small lunch/brunch menu. On Saturdays, they have a special brunch menu that mainly features different sorts of waffles and griddle cakes. If you ever go there, get the okonomikayi--chinese cabbage, scallions, bean sprouts, chicken in an egg-based pancake. It's seriously kick-ass. Also I highly recommend the cherry blossom green tea. It was my favorite of all the kinds I tried, with a flowery fragrance and a hint of cherry-like sweetness around the edges.
I got Jeni's ice cream
a few times. My favorite was the goat cheese ice cream with cherry compote, which tasted like a terrific cherry cheesecake.
And my sister and I went to Mitchell's steakhouse
for lunch. Their dinner menu is expensive, but lunch is much more reasonable. The place is located in an old renovated bank, with gorgeous arching ceilings with frescoes, and the whole place is extremely stylish and sophisticated. The staff were extremely welcoming, and though it looks like the sort of place you'd expect to have a dress code, they were quite relaxed. Spectacular food.
And we ate at BD's Mongolian grill, which is a choose-your-own-stirfry sort of place that's fairly well-known to the gamer set at Origins. They had a special room set up for people from the convention, where they put Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail on the TV, and all the restaurant staff lingered around the doorway when they weren't running tables. :)
All told, I ate way too much, and somehow lost an inch off my waist. Possibly it was all the walking. I walked a lot
Of the few events I went to, my favorite was the "What makes aliens alien?" seminar, hosted by Michael Stackpole, which was far too short for a subject like that with a guy who knows his stuff that well (also a really good group of attendees who were just as much fun). The Origins blockade irritated me this year. Normally they have staffers at the doorway of the various exhibit halls who'll check your badge. This time they blocked off parts of the hall and the doors into the convention center so they could stop anybody entering the building (sometimes, when they felt like staffing those areas). I'm not even sure they were supposed to be allowed to do that. I think the place is supposed to remain open to the public, seeing as the food court and whatnot are advertised as public eateries. :P
On the way back, we drove through a driving rainstorm of the sort where you have to be careful not to hydroplane...in which my serpentine belt suddenly decided to give up the ghost. I couldn't even tell, at first, because the rain had the steering behaving so wonky already, but the "check guages" light came on, and then a couple of minutes later I realized that the engine was overheating. When I pulled over, I realized that my power steering had given out. So we were stuck about 20 miles away from the nearest anything in the middle of a vicious thunderstorm on a Sunday afternoon around 5 pm, and it took us about an hour to sort out help. When I checked the engine, sure enough the serpentine belt was missing. A nice man who stopped to help us said he couldn't figure out how my car could still move. It should've lost all power to the drive train, because the serpentine belt is what transfers power from the spinning bit the pistons make move (it's like the wheel a generator turns, folks) to...well, pretty much anything else. So I have a magic car. I knew this.
Anyway, the very kind state police helped us and got hold of not only a tow truck but also a car rental agency that was still open or at least on call with the police for emergencies, and things got sorted by about 6 pm. I drove home in a rented Taurus while my car got left with a really nice mechanic named Jim out in Mercer (highly recommended if any of you blow something in the vicinity of DuBois, PA). For that hour or so, it was dread and badness and the fear of spending EVEN MORE on my car than I had already. But as I merged onto I-80 in the (really rather nice, OMG I need a new car) Taurus, I was passed by a white Pontiac who had the entire rear end of their car held on by bungee straps.
And I realized with that little bit of perspective that I really wasn't in such a bad space. After all, I could've been That Guy.
I drove back out yesterday (hour and a half trip) to pick my car up. Jim had it all patched up with a new serpentine belt for a really very reasonable price, the steering is nice and responsive now, and I'll get a refund on the towing bill from my insurance agency.
Funny thing, though: I got there to pick up my car, and he asked me, "You know you had a serpentine belt in your trunk?" And you know what? I did know that. It burst upon my consciousness that I knew I'd had a serpentine belt in my trunk for EIGHT YEARS, because the last time I had it replaced, the mechanic accidentally abraded the new one so that it screamed like a cat in heat, and they'd re-replaced it with a clean one gratis
and thrown the noisy but perfectly viable one in my trunk, where it remains to this day.
Jim could've put that one on on the spot, so I wouldn't have needed a tow or a rental car or anything. The nice man who stopped to help us (who'd actually asked
my friend "I don't suppose there's any chance you've got a spare?" while I was down the road hunting for a mile marker) could've put it on. My friend
could've put it on, because I have the tools to do so in my trunk
as my family doesn't believe in driving around in big machines without a toolbox just in case.
Here's the thing. I'm not upset about spending the money or breaking down in the first place or anything like that. That white sedan taught me that valuable lesson. But I'm disappointed that I missed that special "What're the odds?" opportunity, so beloved of packrats, to save the day by hauling out the unlikely item in question.