California Here We Come Part 1: Heaven Is A City Much Like San Francisco

Hey everyone! So I’m nearly a month back from my trip to Northern California, my first time on the west coast, and just an absolutely transformative experience, and full of learning and family bonding etc.

So, I figured, let’s write about it!

The trip started on February 22, when I left work at lunch time and headed to Newark Airport for my first cross country flight. I’ve flown to Vegas, but I had a Layover then, so I was nervous about the length. It wound up not being bad at all. I didn’t sleep, but I watched Bohemian Rhapsody and A Few Good Men, so that was pretty cool.

After I arrived, I grabbed my bags and hopped in an Uber to the Sheraton at Fisherman’s Warf, where Mom, Mary, Dad and I were staying. The hotel was nice, a chain in a tourist area, so a little bland, but nice, clean, the room was big and the breakfast buffet was sufficient the next morning.

The only thing I didn’t totally love about San Francisco is that the town shuts down relatively early. Even the wharf, most restaurants shut their kitchens at nine. (Even in the tourist no mans land of  Midtown Manhattan you can get a burger at midnight!) Since I didn’t even LAND until 8, this was a struggle, but we wound up at The Tonga Room, a tiki bar in the basemant of the Fairmont Hotel.

It was the kind of “secret touristy” kind of thing that I’ve always loved, plus I’ll always take Asian fusion food and a rum drink.

We had a great time, and I lost my phone, but I was exhausted and figured that I’d be able to get it back. I’d recommend the Tonga Room for sure. It’s a big place, and there’s live music, so it was pretty great. Also it was nice to see the Fairmount. I have a certain soft spot for big old hotels. (Can’t imagine why!)

In the morning, we had plans to take the Love Bus tour, but first I had to retrieve my phone, so Dad and I grabbed an Uber over to the Fairmount to get it. That was quick, and easy and we had a chatty fun Uber driver.

BY the time we were back at the Sheraton, Mary and Mom were having breakfast, but we still had a bunch of time before our plan for the day, so we mostly just sat around the hotel room, before wandering down to the corner of fisherman’s wharf, where we would be picking up The Love Tour.

Dad found the tour online, basically a painted VW bus picks you up and you get driven around different San Francisco neighborhoods and taken to a few really good photo spots.

I very much enjoyed the tour and it seems like everywhere in that city has the most amazing view you’ve ever seen.

After the tour we went to lunch. I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant, because it was great. My dad found it. (Dad was in the driver’s seat of this whole trip, which was hard for me, normally the trip planner. Really hard.)

After lunch we gathered our things at the hotel and got on a ferry to Napa County. There was a bar on the ferry, so Mary and I obviously befriended the bar tender which was great, because it got us to the top pours on our wine! (YAY!)

The ferry went from Fisherman’s Wharf to Vallejo, and our house was in Fairfield. We got an uber, (SO MUCH UBER this trip!) and got to the house. After unpacking, another Uber took us to a shopping center where we ate a Thai restaurant and then bought snacks and stuff at Safeway. I got a pumpkin curry that was delicious but waayyyy too spicy for me. Well, just the curry and chicken were, when I actually got a bite of the pumpkin it cut the spice perfectly, but there wasn’t a lot of actual pumpkin pieces in it.

We were all completely wiped at this point, jet lag being what it is, and being on our feet most of the day. So we basically just went back to the house and crashed. Just, completely passed out.

Next up, we start our day drinking, light eating journey through wine country. It’s amazing.

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Ready for Endgame: Avengers: Infinity War

My feelings about Infinity War are best summed up in the first ten minutes I spent after the movie ended.

Aless, Kristi and I wandered out of the theater and down an eerily quiet Broadway, mostly just staring front.

“Do you want a drink?” I managed to squeak.

“Yeah,” Aless said, we wandered quietly into PJ Clark’s to decompress. (It was late and past last call, so we never did get that drink.)

On the subsequent rewatchings, it’s never quite felt so visceral, but that’s OK, the sheer surprise at the way everyone is reacting is enough to really, really hit you in the gut emotionally. Of course, there was the inevitable discussion, heartbreak and then dismissal, “well, it’s all going to be undone.”

As if the Endgame (heh) is the only point of a story. There’s so much more to telling a story, to watching a movie, than just how it ends. It’s why I’ve never been particularly spoilerphobic. The destination matters a good deal less to me, and I’m always fascinated by those for whom it is a big deal.

But anyway, this movie. This is a good movie. I’m less irritated by Doctor Strange, Thor’s well won intensity is a great match for the more loose Guardians, and my god, Peter Parker and Tony Stark bounce well off of each other. I do sometimes wish we’d gotten Captain America and Okoye making a battle plan together, but this movie is already  ridiculously long.

The thing is, unlike my screams about Aquaman and Doctor Strange, and even Spider-Man: Homecoming and their length, Avengers: Infinity War has about 10 main characters that need to be showcased, it’s length is pretty organic. I have a feeling that the 3 hour long Endgame will also earn it’s length.

But Infinity War, was pretty special. It presented the kind of inescapable status quo, like Winter Soldier, we knew the next two movies were going to have to address it.

Infinity War also ended a tradition. Aless and I had long ago begun saving a few handfuls of popcorn to chuck at the screen as post credit sequences popped up without reference to Captain Marvel. Of course, the last second of Infinity War and Nick Fury uses his two way pager to let Carol know she’s needed back on Earth. But more on that in a few week.

Next week we cleanse our pallets and get quantum with Ant-Man And The Wasp. (Also, sorry this is a day late!)

You Win Or You Die: Game Of Thrones Seasons 1-4

I rewatched the first four seasons of Game Of Thrones this past week. I’d told myself I wasn’t going to but then I started reading “get caught up articles,” and decided that I’d just watch again, because I have a problem, and also I’m out of Marvel movies, so you know what? Fine.

I hadn’t wanted to rewatch because it felt a little like a chore and I’m trying not to do that sort of thing anymore. And it’s not as though I haven’t given Game Of Thrones it’s due on this blog.

I’ve given hours upon hours and post after post of attention to Game Of Thrones. Once when I was late with getting a write up done because I was away on a Sunday night, a friend texted me and said, “Hey, I’m sure you’re busy but I really need to know who won last night!” I’ve had friends stop talking to me entirely during the season because I’m so bad at keeping in my excitement about upcoming plot points. (Hi Greg! Hope you’re having fun on your honeymoon!)

I’ve read the books twice and listened to their audio versions once. I’ve seen each episode of the TV show more times than is normal. (I’m still on the low end for nerds, but for normies, I’m basically a walking encyclopedia) I’ve dressed up as Maergary Tyrell and Sansa Stark and am currently considering investing in Daenerys Targaryen.

love Game Of Thrones. 

But last year, we all took a break. And I realized, this weekend, that rewatching to get back into the headspace of Westeros after nearly a year off, that I actually really needed the revisit, if I didn’t want to spend the seven upcoming Sunday evenings scouring my old writing for details, because there was some shit that I forgot about.

First of all, Seasons 1 & 2 of Game Of Thrones are so astoundingly well written, shot and acted, it’s really no wonder the show gained such traction. It’s really really stinking good. Season 3 is around when the seams start to crack. It’s still quite good, but it’s also probably my least favorite season, which might contribute to why I think it’s where the show changes from tightly written to a bit more sloppy. Season 4 is wonderful. It’s goofy and kind of dumb and really really into itself, but wonderful, and I love it very much.

But let’s start with season 1. The Westeros stuff is a tightly plotted mystery, tense, full of shifting alliances and bad choices and deep regrets from long ago shaping a present and future that’s completely untenable for a new generation. The Stark children and Joffrey Baratheon can’t breathe let alone thrive,they’re crushed by the weight of their parents guilt and secrets. It’s a hell of a way to start a story. Meanwhile, Danerys Targaryen is just learning that she’s a person, not a commodity or a accessory and it’s a wonder. Plus there are zombies and NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT.

Season 2 is equally excellent, if harsher. We’re at war now, and it’s brutal, bloody and complicated. I love Season 2, not only because it contains my all time favorite episode of television, “Blackwater.” Everything that builds to that moment, Renly and Stannis’s conflict, Arya and Tywin at Harrenhall, even Jon’s escapades north of the wall and Dany’s adventures in Quarth, makes the tension of the episode better. “Blackwater” is a perfect episode of TV, and everytime I watch it, I’m reminded of why.

I really don’t like season 3. I mean, I like it fine. It’s still got some good stuff, mostly the Jon and Dany action. But Robb’s storyline is all wrapped up in Talisa, which is a bad bad storyline, we get the Theon being tortured by Ramsey stuff, which is important but dull and repetetive, Sansa’s misery is at it’s peaks and valleys worst. (She’s doesn’t have to marry Joffrey! He’ll probably rape her anyway. She’s going to marry Loras and escape to Highgarden! She marries Tyrion instead. Tyrion’s looking out for her though! Little Finger keeps whispering in her ear to get her away.) Dany’s time in Slaver’s Bay is wonderful, fully pushing her brutal black and white sense of justice to the edge. And Jon’s storyline, working with the Wildlings and his affair with Ygritte is the best he gets over the course of the whole show.

I think there’s also some weirdness for me watching these early seasons again because my time with the show really started blooming in Season 4. That’s when I started crowning winners, really tracking the show in the kind of regular fashion that y’all have become accustomed to. Which was actually fun for me, as I started Season 4 on Monday. I smiled, as the familiarity with those episodes sunk in. The things I’ve come to love in the back half of the show, Missandei and Grey Worm, Cersei’s further unraveling, King Tommen The Adorable, #NotAStark, these things come into focus really quickly in Season 4.

Season 2 is my favorite season of the show, with 1 and 4 vying for second place. Next week I’ll talk about the final three seasons and we’ll all have some fun there. If you’re interested in my Game Of Thrones writing, there’s a shit tonne of it.  

The March

I swear I’m actually back to regular writing here. (It’s amazing how my inevitable return to Westeros gets me in the Cammadan headspace..)

Sorry about the false start y’all!

The Marina Chronicle

I stood in the weapons tent, looking over what I was going to carry when we started moving. The tent parted and Caleb walked in. I locked eyes with him and he frowned.

“I don’t like this,” he said simply.

“I don’t care,” I shrugged. He sighed, and I looked at him. “Why?”

“You’re being rash,” he explained. “You can’t act without thinking things through anymore. This isn’t a game.”

“I’m aware,” I said simply. He nodded. “I knew about being the sword.”

“I assumed Anselm told you,” he shrugged, “it wasn’t for me to know or tell.” I pressed my hands against the table. “You aren’t angry with me then?”

“Not for that, no,” I whispered. He frowned. “How could you keep us apart?” He nodded. “Caleb, we could have helped each other. I could have learned,” I stopped.

“We didn’t want to,” he said softly, I scoffed. “Little…

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Nerd Homework: Supernatural Seasons 5 & 6

AKA – In Which We Reach a Logical Conclusion But Then Go On To Make Dean Miserable Forever (also we’re super gay now, but we don’t say it out loud)

After Season 5 of Supernatural, which made me realize a few things, namely, I consume way too many stories about angels, and binging these kind of long running shows cannot be good for my brain, I was ready to take a deep breath and dive into the beyond. I understood from my extensive research before diving into this project (Wikipedia, and one episode of This Is Rad.) that after Season 5, creator Eric Kripke walked away from the show, not in bad blood, just you know, because he’d told his story.

And what a story it was. About brothers, and family, and sacrifice. When Sam makes Dean promise to go live a normal life as he plunges himself and Adam into the pit to imprison Lucifer and Michael forever, my heart burst. What a lovely ending.

However, as someone who does consume a lot of fiction involving angels, there were some well worn tropes being used here that the show seemed to think they were pioneering. “God created the angels, and they were subservient. Then God created humans, and they were rebellious, and God liked them better. Lucifer decided to rebel, and then he got expelled. There’s hell now. Angels still jealous that God loves humans more than them. Also, God is missing or dead.”

Seriously, I have read a bunch of books. (His Dark Materials, The Mortal Instruments, Memnoch The Devil) seen quite a few movies (Dogma) and one masterpiece of American Theater (Angels In America) that told this story in some fashion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all those things, just, it didn’t strike me as particularly interesting or exciting.

Kripke gave it his personal touches though, and the relationships at play, particularly between Dean and Sam make it worth it.

Then Season 6. Oh, Season 6. Whether it’s Castiel fighting to literally rule heaven, but still answering Dean’s prayers at every possible chance, Dean attempting to be a hunter while having a relationship with Lisa and be a good step dad to Ben, or Sam coming back from hell without a soul, and becoming an interesting character for a change, there’s just so much goodness here, I can’t help but be overjoyed by it.

Oh, and did I mention, the gay? It’s all subtext. (Again, I get it, we never get the text.) But oh boy, there’s literally a scene where Castiel ties Sam to a chair and shoves a belt in his mouth, and I’m sorry, that’s just really really gay. Also, you know, Dean and Cas speak to each other like a dysfunctional couple all the time. And when it turns out Cas is working with Crowley and they break up, it’s more heartbreaking than the could have been with Jo (who deserved better) or Lisa’s rational dismissal of the love of her life. (ERASE HER MEMORIES THOUGH??? WHY????)

Maybe someday I’ll be a really important writer who’s life gets completely taken apart, and some student somewhere will write a paper on this time in my life, taking apart the tweets and text messages I sent to Aless freaking out, and they’ll conclude, “at this juncture, Nayden was deeply concerned that everyone understand how delightful it is when the character of Dean Winchester demands the character of Castiel ‘get out of his ass,’ a reference, one can assume to sodomy, common sexual practice among gay men.” (I don’t know why this student feels the need to explain butt sex, maybe they have a word count to meet.)

I also appreciated that Samuel, the guy’s grandfather was hanging around being vaguely antagonistic and helpful. Which is only amusing because he’s played by Mitch Pelleggi, and that’s basically Skinner’s whole deal throughout The X-Files. 

Anyway, I’ll probably get through seasons 7 & 8 soonish – taking a break this week to rewatch Game Of Thrones, but we’ll get back on the horse.

Ready For Endgame: Black Panther

What is Black Panther?

Is it a boilerplate superhero blockbuster? Is it an important film about colonialism and black diasporan identity? Is it another cog in a corporate machine designed to take our money? Is it an important moment in social discourse?

Yes.

Black Panther is all of these things, and also just a rocking good time of a movie. It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been only a little bit over a year since it came out and the world exploded around it.

I’m the kind of idiot who sits around with her loved ones and identifies, “the next *fill in the blank*” depending on what we’re talking about. I like tracking where things place in history, and it’s always fun to see how people react to things. So at Christmas when I said I was pretty sure that Ryan Coogler was the next Spielberg (capable of both deeply felt personal art, like Fruitvale Station and crowd pleasing spectacle like Black Panther and Creed.) I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me.

Black Panther cemented Coogler as a blockbuster guy. (Creed cleared the brush away.) and it also made Michael B. Jordan into a certified movie star, reminded people that Angela Basset should be Queen Of Us All, let Lupita N’Yongo and Danai Guirara do their thing and intro’d us all to Laetitia Wright.

And that’s before we even talk about the way Chadwick Boseman’s poised and coiled T’Challa holds all these moving parts in place around him. Black Panther is a masterful example of the superhero medium, and the fact that people don’t talk more about what Boseman does in this movie is criminal. It’s a calm collected and altogether wonderful performance, than grounds the whole enterprise emotionally.

There’s of course a million angles to take when talking about Black Panther because there is a lot going on here. That’s part of why it resonated so hard, and got nominated for Best Picture. (The first superhero movie to do so! SUCK IT THE DARK KNIGHT! Incidentally, I don’t know why I feel the need to tear down the The Dark Night over and over again in this series of posts, it’s a great movie, that I like a lot.)

Black Panther 2 is coming and I’m deeply looking forward to it. I think there’s also a Dora Milaje film in the works. That could be very cool. But the way that this film connected with audiences was so special, and I was so grateful to be a part of it.

Next week, we talk about Avengers: Infinity War, and likely detail all of the reasons that I am not OK even a year later.

60 Books In 2019 #12: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

I kind of can’t believe it took me two weeks to write up this book. (Actually I can, I’ve been very busy and sick…but ya know…whatever.) Basically the whole universe went bonkers over Marlon James’s new fantasy epic as it was coming out and I was excited to get in on the ground floor for a change rather than being a decade or so late.

The book is good. It’s also literature in a way that I haven’t read in a while, and I had to rush through it because it was due back to the library, so I think I’m going to have to go back to it eventually, because I think I missed a lot, as I tried to work my through the almost poetry like writing of the book, it’s non linear structure, and unfamiliar mythology, and tried to read as quickly as possible.

So, with all of that disclaimed, I will say, this is a remarkable and beautiful book. Queer AF, African with no clean in for white people, violent, stirring, and deep. It’s a book that if I’d read it earlier than the past few years, I would have been terrified of, intimidated and alienated by. But now, I was at least able to parse it. Not bad for my smart but lazy, white girl ass.

Up next is The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemmison, and if there was ever proof that I needed a break from fantasy, it’s that it’s taken me three weeks to read this book.