In Need of a Date Night–STAT!

I’ve turned back into a pumpkin again.  It was a great summer with lots of sleeping in, a little traveling, plenty of time with my love.   Just like Cinderella at the ball.

As of Tuesday, summer break is but a pleasant yet distant memory.  It’s back to meetings, lesson plans, setting up classrooms, class rosters, new state standards, professional development and the like.  Sigh. 

Students don’t return until Monday, but tomorrow night is Open House/Meet the Teacher Night.  It’s when we get the first glimpse of what the new school year holds.   Will it be a nightmare like last year?  You haven’t really lived until you’ve been flipped off by a seven-year-old.  Or will it be a kinder, gentler year?  I’m hoping so. 

I do know that after a busy, stressful week of pre-school work, I’m ready for date night.  It won’t be tomorrow because I’m planning to shuffle home to crash and burn. 

Saturday night is looking awfully good, though.  I’m thinking maybe a bottle of wine at the Jupiter Inlet.  Sitting and watching the boats go by, listening the sound of the waves pounding the jetty…It sounds absolutely heavenly.  That’s what I’ll do–knock out one more day and keep my eyes on the prize.  Toes in the sand, chilled wine in my hand.  Pretty sure I’ve found my happy place.

My First Drag Show or Date Night–Ybor City

Ybor City, the historic Cuban district in Tampa, is one of my favorite places to visit.  Mr. R. and I spent last St. Patrick’s Day there and we had a blast.  I know what you’re thinking, St. Patrick’s Day, Cuban district…???  But go with me on this. 

I feel the same way about hotels that I do about restaurants, which is to say, I prefer to avoid big box chains and stay in smaller, funky, boutique places.  Which brought us to the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn in Ybor City.

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Photo by Loyce Hood, from Google Images

This hotel is absolutely beautiful, inside and out.  Its sixteen guest rooms, all located on the second floor, are tastefully decorated with antique furniture and accessories, as is the lobby and the other common areas.  The inn is remarkably affordable and because there are so few rooms, the place did not feel crowded.  It is, ahem, supposedly haunted, but we can report that we had no disturbances during our stay. 

I found our corner king size room breathtaking.  We had windows on two walls, making for lots of natural light.  One of the french doors on the front of the hotel opened onto a Juliet balcony overlooking the street. 

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Our king room at the Don Vicente Photo by Mrs. R.

Again, it was St. Patrick’s Day, so we went in search of an Irish bar, and found a terrific one within staggering distance of the hotel, The James Joyce Irish Pub.  It looks just like an Irish pub should, all dark wood and bookcases, and being a holiday, it was packed, but we managed to snag a high top table right in the front window.  We parked ourselves there for the next five or six hours, enjoying live music and libations, before stumbling back to our splendid room at the Don Vicente.

The problem with the Don Vicente is that it is an extremely popular wedding venue, making it difficult to secure lodging on weekends, especially Saturday nights.  Which is why, on our recent trip to Tampa Bay Comic Con, we ended up at the Hampton Inn in Ybor City (eyeroll, whatever).  There was nothing at all wrong with the hotel, it was just crowded and corporate. 

On Saturday night, Mr. R. and I had planned to attend Comic Con after party at The Castle, a dance club in Ybor City.  The party started at 10:00 and required costumes.  Alas, after a somewhat strenuous day, I was not feeling it.  So instead, we set out to find a bit of dinner.

burger marysWe ended up at a place called Hamburger Mary’s, because after a long day, doesn’t a hamburger sound great?  Who knew they had a drag show?  Certainly not the family with small children that abruptly got up and left the restaurant.  I had to switch to Mr. R.’s side of the table to watch the show and I ended up digging all the singles out of my purse so he could give some to the performers.  We had a blast!

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The James Joyce Irish Pub, Ybor City, FL Photo by Mrs. R.

After the show, I made Mr. R. take me back to the James Joyce one more time so we could catch Kirk, the guy who plays there on Fridays and Saturdays.  Interestingly enough, we got the same table we’d had on St. Patrick’s Day (or maybe they just keep that table for us, that’s probably it) and settled in to enjoy.  Kirk plays all kinds of songs on his acoustic guitar, but after he played Galway Girl, Mr. R. used some of my singles to request Dirty Old Town, my love’s favorite Irish song (you can find it on YouTube by The Pogues or The Prodigals). 

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Ybor City, FL Photo by Mr. R.

It was before 10:00 when we staggered back to the Hampton (eyeroll, whatever) and we knew we’d made the right decision about skipping the party.  Ybor City is a really cool town.  Next time you head to Tampa, try this little district. 

Tampa Bay Comic Con: Day 2 (At Last)

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There was so much that happened on Day 2 of Tampa Bay Comic Con, I’ve had trouble deciding how to organize the information.  I’ve decided to create sections with headings.  Celebrity photos are at the end of this post.  Here goes…

General Observations: On Saturday, as we waited in line to park (and an exceedingly long line it was), we watched herds of people moving along the sidewalks towards the convention center.  Many were in costume and everyone moved with purpose and confidence.  My thought was, “I love Comic Con.”  This is a place where everyone can unapologetically proclaim their fandom for whatever floats their boat.  It’s extremely liberating.  Speaking of costumes, before we left home I read about San Diego Comic Con on someone’s blog, and she described attending in costume as a cross between the most humiliating moment of your life and your fifteen minutes of fame.  As we watched crowd reactions to costumes, I could see that comparison.  Random strangers stopped costumed attendees to ask for pictures.  “Hey, Wolverine, can my son get a picture with you?”  In terms of costume categories we saw plenty of Poison Ivys, Batman characters in general, some Star Wars, Dr. Who, a couple of Oberyn Martells, and not as many Game of Thrones characters as I expected.

Things That Were Annoying: If you don’t want to hear me bitch and moan, skip this section, because although overall we had an amazing time, there were a few things that were very wrong at Tampa Bay Comic Con.

First of all, parking was problematic, which shouldn’t be surprising given the number of people in attendance, however, we prepaid $61 to Parking Panda for guaranteed valet parking a short walk from the venue.  When we arrived on Friday, the parking garage was full so we were sent to another parking garage a short distance further down and we had to self-park.  On Saturday, the line going to the valets was blocking traffic, so once again we were sent to the other garage to self-park.  We arrived on Sunday, truck loaded with our bags for the return trip home, prepared to self-park and just as glad about it at that point.  But since the crowds were much thinner, we actually made it to the valet who informed us that if we chose to park ourselves, we’d probably be charged $20 when we left.  Unwillingly, we let him park us.  It seems petty, I suppose, because we always did have a space to park, but the whole situation really chapped my behind.

Then there was the heavy handed way convention staff treated guests.  Entering and moving around the complex was unbelievably complicated.  You could never get where you wanted to go from where you were.  Someone was always yelling at you that you were going the wrong way, out the entrance or in the exit.  Or you had a wristband for re-entry, but there was ONE re-entry door in the entire complex.  One of the most infuriating rules was that from where you entered the building, you had to press through the crush of the exhibit hall in order to go to the other end of the complex, rather than use the empty walkway immediately outside the exhibit hall, and again, the traffic flow was one way only.  We heard the word “flow” a lot as we (read, Mr. R.) expressed displeasure with being treated like errant school children.  They really could do better.

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The “flow” through the exhibition hall.

Food and drinks were difficult to find and the facility had precious few places to sit.  At any given time, there were masses of people sitting on the floor in odd places like beneath the escalators and along the walls, hunched over slices of pizza or cardboard holders of nachos.  I nearly crushed countless smartphones that were plugged in and sitting on the floor next to their owners.  I kept thinking, this is a convention center.  Conventions are what they do.  Do you suppose Rotarians have to sit on the floor under the escalators?  Now, I’ve gotten that out of the way…

Interesting Folks: Luckily, Mr. R. and I were able to snag a table about forty-five  minutes before we went to the first Q&A panel.  We had two extra chairs and were happy to share with people looking for a place park their weary behinds.  The first to ask were Holly Moran and Jeremy Druley, a local couple in subtle gothic dress on their first visit to Comic Con.  She wore a top with a pattern of rainbow skulls, accessorized with a bat pendant.  He wore a cannibal t-shirt and silver anchor ear gauges.  They told us they were just checking it out and people watching, being fans of horror more than comics, but they said they were having fun.

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Ned Stark (Ed Padilla) & Daenerys Targaryen (Danielle Myers)

After Holly and Jeremy left, we were joined by Ed Padilla and Danielle Myers, dressed as Ned Stark and Daenerys Targaryen, respectively.  I was glad to see them since up until then I has seen very few Game of Thrones costumes.  This was their second Comic Con and they offered some interesting information.  It seems that last year, organizers expected ten thousand attendees and ended up with thirty thousand.  I’m thinking that poor planning on their part resulted in big fines, which perhaps explains their inflexible rules regarding “flow.”

Did I Mention Celebrities?: Let me just begin this section by saying that press passes rock.  This is because they can get you into unbelievable places.  Case in point, celebrity photo ops.  The average attendee was invited to purchase photo op tickets for $30-$50 dollars apiece, depending on the celebrity, then at the appointed time wait in a huge line to have a picture snapped with said celebrity, and take home a personalized souvenir of the event.  Press passes allowed us to bypass the line completely and walk right into photo sessions with Evan Peters of American Horror Story and Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kennedy of The Walking Dead.

We didn’t want photos with the actors, we just wanted to see them, and we did, up close and personal.  I practically bumped into Brighton Sharbino.  It was amazingly cool.  Mr. R. tooks photos of people taking photos while I took copious notes.

Later we attended two back to back Q&A panels, the first with Evan Peters and the second with Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones.  With the press passes, we once again avoided the long lines and were ushered into the VIP section, literally the second row in front of the stage.  We could have chosen the front row if we’d liked but I preferred the end of the second row for the angle it afforded.  Ultimately, I sat taking notes while Mr. R. moved freely around the stage snapping photos.

Evan Peters answered fan questions for half an hour, gamely responding to questions he’s undoubtedly heard a thousand times, at one point even dropping trou in answer to the predictable question of ‘boxers or briefs’ (for the record, pastel plaid boxers).  Mind you, his parents were in the audience, directly in front of Mr. R. and me, making this particular follow-up request from a young fan-girl even more inappropriate than it would have been under any circumstance: “Thank you.  Also please sit on my face.”  Obviously, Peters is promoting the new season of American Horror Story: Carnival, due out in October.  I, for one, am looking forward to the premiere.

After this session, the room had to be emptied out to accommodate the long lines waiting to get into the Pedro Pascal/Richard Madden panel, but if you had a press pass you were allowed to sit tight and wait.  So wait we did.  When they finally opened the doors, it was to admonitions of, “Don’t run!  Don’t run!”  They seemed to be letting fans into the ballroom a few small groups at a time and eventually the entire room filled.  The crowd went crazy when Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal were announced and they strode out onto the stage, and there were hearty shouts of “King in the North!” throughout the hall.  I have to admit to being a bit starstruck for a few moments, even writing in my notes that I was having trouble focusing.

Allow me a bit of snark, if you will.  When the questions began, the first one up was an annoying blogger (also with a press pass) who sat in front of us and during the previous session, she really buddied up to Evan Peters’ mom, simpering and acting like a big shot journalist.  So little Miss Annoying steps up the the mic and welcomes Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden to “our country.”  Mind you, Pascal was raised in California and Texas.  A serious journalist should do a little research.  The two men simply looked at each other and shrugged.

Pascal and Madden also answered questions with good natured enthusiasm.  They said they hadn’t met before that day, and at first I thought they were kidding.  It’s true that they never shared any scenes.  Pascal was in the process of auditioning for the role of Oberyn Martell when the “Red Wedding” episode aired.  Not having read the books, Pascal described his reaction as, “Just.  Fucking.  Traumatized.”

Some of the most interesting moments of the panel came when the two men conversed between themselves.

RM: Did you ever sit on the iron throne?

PP: Yeah. (smiling)  It wasn’t comfortable.  It was very uncomfortable.

RM: I never thought I should.

PP: And look where it got you.

Another conversation stemming from a question about whether they’d kept anything from the set:

RM: I kept a dressing gown and I kept one map piece representing each family.

PP: They wouldn’t let me have anything.

RM: I suppose I sort of stole them. (laughing)

PP: I was stupid.  I asked. (shrugging and grinning)

Up next for Richard Madden is the role of the Prince in Disney’s Cinderella.  Pedro Pascal is working on a series for Netflix called Narcos, about the takedown of Pablo Escobar.  I can truthfully say that sitting in on these sessions was the coolest thing I’ve probably ever done.  I can’t wait to do it again.

So, overall, my impression of Tampa Bay Comic Con?  Despite the militant rules and regulations, I had a great time.  Having tickets for all three days eliminated the pressure I’d have felt to ‘see it all’ the first day.  Having press passes made for the coolest moments, and I don’t think I’d want to go without them.  I would definitely go again, hoping that the convention organizers will spend the year getting their act together to make for a more pleasant experience.

*Note: With the exception of the postcard at the top of the page, all photos are by Mr. R.

Never Ever Hang Anything Over the Edge of the Bed

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You know about this rule, right? Since childhood I’ve had this irrational fear of something creepy with bony claws reaching out from under the bed to grab me, pull me under, drag me to another dimension. It’s not just me, right? Probably not. This is why I never hang over the side of the bed.

Until this morning. I woke up feeling overheated and noticed that it was light, so throwing caution to the wind I stretched out my right arm and dangled my hand over the side, settling down for a few more minutes of slumber.

That’s when SOMETHING TOUCHED MY HAND. I’m fairly certain I levitated over the bed as I screamed out words that require a rather large deposit into the swear jar.

For his part, the cat, who’d brushed my hand hoping for a little breakfast, stared at me, all indignation. “What?!”

Now, what have we learned?

Tampa Bay Comic Con Day 3 (Yes, I Know I’ve Skipped Day 2)

Tampa-Bay-Comic-ConI promise I’ll write up Tampa Bay Comic Con Day 2, but that’s going to be one huge post.  First I want to spend a little time giving a shout-out to some really cool artists we met on Sunday.

When Mr. R. and I made our attack strategy, we intentionally left the enormous exhibit hall for the last day.  Due to the stringent “flow” regulations, we’d been forced to walk through it each day (believe me, you’ll hear about that later), but we never took the time to browse until Sunday.

One of the first artists we met was a young woman from Savannah named N.M. Beguesse.  She’s the creator of Angelboy, a graphic novel.                           ( http://angelboy.com/home )

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Angelboy http://angelboy.com/home

I don’t know a lot about graphic novels and manga, but I love the independent spirit of someone who finds a way to do something she loves.  When we met, she explained the plot of the story and the process by which she creates her work.  As we watched for a few minutes, we saw her physically put her book into the hands of potential customers, the better to make sales.  If you have any interest at all in fresh new graphic novels, give her site a visit.

One of the more fluky moments came when we met a group of artists from West Palm Beach and discovered that Mr. R. actually knew one of the guys, Bohdan Neswiacheny.

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Conviction http://www.resistanceentertainment.com/

The group is Resistance Entertainment                      ( http://www.resistanceentertainment.com/ ) and they describe themselves in this way: “Resistance Entertainment is a South Florida company focusing on unique and inventive media content. Our endeavors include film and television production, comic books, novels and music.”  They produce several comic series including Blackbird and Morningstar.  Of particular interest to me was the comic series, Conviction, which is set in West Palm and features a female lead character.  I love the tagline: “The world is filled with good people who deserve the love and respect they are given.  This book is not.”

A third artist you should know about is Scott Markley with his company, Time for Hugs                 ( http://timeforhugs.com/wp/ ).

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Unconscious: The Grim Sleeper http://timeforhugs.com/wp/

He has several series, but the one he showed us was Unconscious: The Grim Sleeper, a character who is the younger brother of the Grim Reaper.  Talk about sibling rivalry.  This guy also showed a great deal of hustle and drive, and I liked him a lot.  Use the link to check out his site.  He’s also on Facebook.

Finally, I want to talk about Alex Asfour, designer and illustrator of IdeaStorm Media                             ( http://www.ideastormmedia.com/ ), a freelance design and illustration studio.

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Travel Poster http://www.ideastormmedia.com/

When we stopped by his booth, I was immediately attracted to his vintage-look travel posters (we bought a beautiful one of Paris).  Being Comic Con, he also had various pop culture posters and I couldn’t resist a very cool one of The Walking Dead.  On his website he offers art and design services, so if you’re in the market for that sort of thing, check him out.  I might just have to order the poster of Barcelona…

Now, I know you’re dying to know about the time I was a mere twenty feet away from Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden.  All in good time…