Like the last time I'd been home, I required an obligatory Potbelly visit, so here was an excuse, since she had never been. She ran late, so I entertained myself with the assortment of books by the waiting line. Like a couple crossword puzzle mysteries, where you had to solve crossword puzzles to get clues or something. It was a whole series, like, this detective duo just happens to find all these murders where clues are left in the form of crossword puzzles. There was also a book starring Benjamin Franklin, detective.
I also thought it fitting to close out 2008 with fish, so I tried the tuna salad, which was sadly unimpressive. mcfeste got the turkey, but she got it without peppers, which is crazy because the peppers are what make Potbelly sandwiches so good! What makes Potbelly the establishment so good is the live music. There was a guy with a guitar singing covers that took a while to recognize sometimes since they were so out of context. Around the same time, we both heard him sing, "You shook me all night long," and realized he was doing...AC/DC. I mused that he could do anything in that style. I wanted to ask him to do some Marilyn Manson, light and acoustic. "It's not your fault that you're always wrong, the weak ones [are there to] justify the strong. The beautiful people, the beautiful people." mcfeste was impressed that I knew the lyrics off the top of my head (not realizing I had fucked them up a bit). It's fun to turn metal songs into acoustic ballads! Let's try Disturbed: "Come on, get down with the sickness." Everybody sing along!
Our time was short, as I had to get back home, but we made sure to take a picture to prove we met each other. To my surprise, she attacked me from behind:
Although no one but my dad wanted to go, we were driving down to Houston to visit his brother and family (as well as his dad, who was staying with them). I hoped to make the best of it and see one of the many people I knew in Houston, but it was hard to coordinate a meeting on such short notice (we thought we'd gotten out of the trip when my mom pulled her back). I did make contact with one person, however! If I told you who it was, though, it would ruin the surpri—oh, it was eirefaerie. Again, through Facebook! You magical website, you.
We stopped at Jason's Deli for food on the way, and then we kids all slept for a couple hours. I drove the homestretch, playing Hey Ocean! for the car. My little sister approved, saying it wasn't "balaraa." That is, it wasn't screaming, which is apparently what all my music is.
We got into Houston at night. One good thing about having to go to Houston was being able to see my cousin Mehulbhai's very pregnant wife, Ashabhabi. We spent the weekend waiting to feel the baby kick and arguing over whether it would be a boy or a girl. I said it was a boy, and my sister said it was a girl. I got to feel him kick before she did, so I'm obviously right.
Dick Clark is terrifying. And sad. Happy 2009.
The first day of 2009 was spent mostly in. We caught Transformers on HBO, and, man, it is still awesome. In fact, I think it's even more awesome than I first thought. It has all the shit I like in movies like that. And Megan Fox's character is surprisingly cool and not just The Hot Chick. And Rachael Taylor's hotness and accent are incidental to the brilliant computer geniusness of her character. For a summer blockbuster action movie, it has pretty good female characters.
In a strange move, we decided to go out to dinner on New Year's Day. A small group headed to Bhojan, a Gujarati thali restaurant that didn't use onion or garlic and sounded totally lame, as the food they served would be the same stuff I get at home, and not as good. The rest of us headed to The Lasagna House...which was closed. As was Nit Noi. But not Masala Wok! They served Indian Chinese food, which meant we could get the Manchurian stuff we always got in India. It tasted a little funny, and it was very spicy. Better were the Blazing Hot Noodles, which were not very spicy but were tasty all the same, a standard noodle dish with chicken.
During dinner, my little sister and I tag-teamed to prank Ashabhabi. "I was watching a thing on TV," said my sister, "and they said that if you're having a girl, your hand expands so that it's bigger than your face." I'm sure you know where this is going. My sister was sitting across from me, and I was sitting next to Ashabhabi, so as soon as she got her hand up to her face...fwam!
After all that spicy food, we needed something sweet, but Marble Slab was closed. I suggested we go to Amy's; it would surely be open. As we drove down Westheimer, I called danea to get the number off the Internet so I could call and ask if they were open (they were). On the way, however, we spotted House of Pies! Mehulbhai had wanted to try House of Pies, being a fan of pie, so we turned around. It didn't look like the House of Pies I remembered...because the one I knew was on Kirby. After seeing that there was a $2.50 per person per hour minimum, we decided to take a couple pies home. Mehulbhai liked apple pie, and I wanted the Bayou Goo, which got me into my first creative writing class. It's the house specialty. Chocolate cream and vanilla cream and cheesecake and chocolate shavings and whipped cream and pecans and delightfulness.
Back at the house, we ate lots of pie, and then I introduced everyone to Fluxx. It took a couple games for people to get the hang of it, but once we played a few rounds, it was a hit. We played for hours.
On Friday, we took a family picture at Wal-Mart. It was a little difficult to get everyone A) in frame, B) looking the right direction, and C) smiling. But we survived. The original plan was for Erin (eirefaerie) to rescue me from Wal-Mart, but she spent three hours in the shower, so we decided to just meet up at the Galleria. And meet up we did! Right in front of the Neiman Marcus. My dad, siblings, and cousin went off on their own, leaving me to spend some time with this white Caucasian she-devil.
Erin and I hugged madly, not having seen each other since the Marsathon. We aimlessly walked past expensive stores until I asked where the hell the Food Court was. It was downstairs by the ice rink. And it was hilariously downscale in comparison to the shops. It was food for plebes! McDonald's, Taco Bell Express, two different restaurants with the word "Wok" in the name. We examined a couple non-chain options only to discover that they were, in fact, just mall food and nothing special. Erin, however, chuckled at one of the items on a menu. "Heh. Breast meat." I elbowed her left boob. "Hey, that's my breast meat!"
I decided on La Madeleine, since it was a place I had gone to a couple times when I was at Rice. The Galleria did make me think of my time at Rice, namely the week we were the Happiness Police. A few of us got together and went to the Galleria to buy gifts for a few of our friends who were having a crappy time. We'd just gone from store to store looking for things we thought they'd like, each of us buying whatever suited our fancy. It was probably the most money I'd ever spent in a day, and I spent it on other people.
As we waited in line, I gave Erin another hug. "Sunil!" she said. "Erin!" I said. "We're awesome," she said. I looked at the menu and found the item I remembered getting, chicken friand. I also picked up a potato galette because it looked intriguing. Unfortunately, it was kind of burnt and not that great, never transcending its base identity of "potato pancake." The chicken friand was pretty good, however. Erin got a French dip. I asked her how the girl was doing, and Erin related one of M'elle's Bible retellings, which involve Peter and Paul going to Target to do the Devil's work. We also discussed being propositioned for threesomes. Erin suggested that I screen potential wives by asking if they would be amenable to threesomes. Better to know up front, after all. She lamented my Sears photoshoot and suggested some taking some rockin' pictures with me wearing hair extensions in front of a Christmas tree to show potential future wives.
After eating, we spectated along the ice rink, hoping to see people fall down. We did, but we became more interested in the skaters themselves. Erin thought they were pretty well dressed, focusing on a cute teenage redhead in a very nice New York-style long jacket. She wondered if we were pedophiles. I guessed the girl was around fourteen. "Speaking of threesomes..." I said. Erin wanted to adopt her and give her fashion advice. She did have horrendous eyebrows that extended all the way to the sides of her face somehow. She was skating alone for the most part, and we kept hoping for her to find a friend. Erin spotted a good guy for her, someone she thought would be friends with us because he seemed like an outsider with his shirt with a cute picture on it and his hair and whatnot. In contrast, she hated this guy she dubbed "the extra from Twilight," with his white T-shirt and open-buttoned shirt and his hair and whatnot. His girlfriend was pretty-adjacent; I had seen girls that looked sort of like her who were more attractive than she was. Meanwhile, I found a pretty dark-haired girl in purple who was older than fourteen but probably still underage. She was one of the good skaters. Finally, we criticized this one girl's choice of boyfriend, as he seemed to be too old for her and had stupid facial hair.
I never knew being an ice skating spectator could be so entertaining.
We aimlessly wandered some more. As we came down one escalator, we saw someone in a soccer uniform getting his picture taken with a lot of people. We didn't recognize him. Neither did the first girls we asked. We asked some men who had been talking to him and taking pictures who he was, and they said he was Dario Franco, a Mexican soccer player. Or, according to Wikipedia, an Argentine soccer player and Mexican soccer manager.
Pretty soon, however, it was time to go, but we got lost trying to find the Sony store to meet my family, especially since we were given faulty directions by the woman at Customer Service. Finally, we found the Sony store. We walked in, and my dad didn't greet her or anything. I wasn't sure whether I should introduce her or what, as he barely seemed to acknowledge her presence. Yet it felt kind of rude to walk around with her without introducing her.
While I stood around and wondered what to do, someone said, "Excuse me," and put his hand on my shoulder as he tried to get by me to leave the store. As he left, I saw the uniform and realized it had been Dario Franco! A POSSIBLY FAMOUS SOCCER PLAYER TOUCHED ME OMG. HOLY CRAP I AM SO AWESOME. (You do realize I sometimes use the tag in jest, right?)
I looked him up on Wikipedia in the store to confirm that he was Somebody.
Then we had to leave, so it was time to bid Erin adieu until 2012.
Erin thought she looked like a tumor, so we tried again.
Apparently, we are so awesome that we cause images to blur. Erin thinks she looks better blurry anyway. Maybe I should have taken my glasses off while we were together.
After the Galleria, we headed to a set of Indian stores for Hot Bread. We tried a chicken tikka croissant, a chicken curry puff, and maybe something else. Then we stopped in the Indian grocery store, where I discovered the latest thing to earn the title The Greatest Thing I Have Ever Seen:
The Cylons were invented by man. They rebelled. They evolved. FRY THEM IN A PAN.
I think we found the final Cylon, you guys.
We ran across the street to get some Indian sweets. Mehulbhai wanted some kala jamun. I am always amused at transliterations of Indian foods. I tried to read the names of everything as a non-Indian would, phonetically. It was funny.
Dinner was Punjabi with paneer, the sort of thing you might pay for at an Indian restaraunt. Oh snap.
Friday night, we played more Fluxx, and then we played a game my sister had just learned called Kemp, which seemed to be similar to Spoons. You partner with the person diagonal from you. Everyone has four cards, and there are four cards on the table. You grab cards from the table and put down cards from your hand in an attempt to get four of a kind. If no one wants anything on the table, deal four more. Once you get four of a kind, you have to signal your partner so they can call "Kemp!" before the other team calls "Stop!" My mom couldn't play because she wasn't able to do all the mad grabbing for cards. Ashabhabi couldn't do that either, but she was enjoying being the dealer, tossing the cards on the table and watching us scramble.
My partner was my brother, and Jigna partnered with Mehulbhai. Now, I think the "signal" is supposed to be non-verbal, but it's way more fun if it's verbal. One of my sister's first signals was the very unsubtle "Dangit, dangit, dangit!" And then there was "It's so cold in here." They kept changing signals every round, obviously. My brother and I, however, decided to put our hours playing Heroes of Might and Magic III to use and continuously babble about 10,000 gold and 37 ore and 15 crystals and "I got an Artifact." The numbers were arbitrary, but the signal was "gems." Once we won a round with that, my sister did seem to pick up on it, as she called "Stop!" early in the next game, but we had changed the signal! We deliberately didn't introduce gems for a while, but this time it was the number 42 that was the signal ("Because 42 is a good number," said my brother.) Then we started throwing in spells, using a casting of Chain Lightning as the signal.
What was most hilarious, however, was that Jigna and Mehulbhai started playing along, attempting to crack our nonsensical code, shouting out their own random resources. And then one round, their signal was "48 sulfur." Even though they had no idea what that meant. Okay, maybe you had to be there.
Saturday morning, Mehulbhai went and got jalapeño-and-cheddar kolaches, which were very yummy but ridiculously full of jalapeños. Like, each tiny bun had essentially an entire sliced jalapeño inside.
And then we were off...but not out of Houston for many hours. We got some food from Royal Restaurant, and then we hit a couple grocery stores because you could get garlic for, like, a third of the price at Sam's. We visited some family who'd just gotten back from India. They had a really nice house that cost them about $430,000 down there but would be at least a million goddamn dollars here. I love the Bay Area, but I also want an awesome house. It is a conundrum.
My sister and I were flipping channels and stumbled upon a movie starring James Marsden, Mena Suvari, and Marla Sokoloff, among others. I was totally baffled as to what it could be, and it turned out to be Sugar and Spice. Having seen the bits I saw, I want to watch it now! It seems pretty funny.
Then we still had to make a stop at the outlet mall. Because we do love our outlet stores. My brother and I stayed in the car and ate the Indian food, which was pretty good. Then we were forced to get out and explore even though we weren't interested in buying anything, so we checked out the KB Toys store that was going out of business. And holy god, it was going out of business hardcore. Most of what was left was wrestling action figures. But, you guys, THEY WERE SELLING THE CASH REGISTERS. AND THE BARCODE SCANNER. AND THE SHELVES. AND THE CLIPBOARDS. It was amazing. I almost wanted to buy something, just because. I mean, the scanner was only eight bucks.
On the way home, there were adventures involving McDonald's chicken sandwiches and getting pulled over for a burnt out headlight, but I believe this story has overstayed its welcome.