When Melanie picked me up from the airport, it was NEGATIVE SEVEN DEGREES OUTSIDE. Negative! Seven! That's not a temperature; that's an integer! Back in Oakland, it had been a balmy 48.
It was past eleven, which meant a lot of food options were closed, and I hadn't eaten since lunch. The Steak 'n' Shake by her condo was open 24 hours, however, so I grabbed a chicken melt. And then I got to see her condo! She is younger than me and has a condo. Of course, she lives in Indy, but still. She's way more financially savvy than I am, having learned everything she needs to know from her parents and Suze Orman.
Inside, I met her adorable Maltese puppy, Dexter, who is THE CUTEST DOG IN THE WORLD OMG. Really, just wait for the pictures at the end of the post. Yes, he's named after Dexter Morgan, but no, he does not kill anyone. That I know of. But he sits and lies down and GIVES YOU A HIGH-FIVE and fetches and growls and snuggles and is basically the most adorable snowball ever. You can assume that unless we are doing something else, we are playing with Dexter, who never seems to run out of energy. The whole weekend, I wanted to go, "Dance, Dexter, dance!"
All right, before the photoshoot at the end, here is a preview:
Melanie gave me the grand tour. Here was the half-bath, here was the pantry, here was the kitchen, here was Dexter's space where he would pee and excitedly stand at the door when he heard us coming back, here was the very open living room whose ceiling was the top of the second story. And here was the television, atop which sat Melanie's Lord and Savior:
My best friend is a Pastafarian. It's true.
Here was her bedroom, here were the stairs, here was a computer, here was a bathroom, here were not one but two guest rooms, here was my heated mattress.
Melanie was all tuckered out, but I was still on West Coast time. And it was Thursday night. Melanie understands that I am a man who has Certain Needs. So at my request, she DVRed my shows for me. It turns out Supernatural is SUPERCREEPY when you watch it late at night in an unfamiliar place that makes unfamiliar sounds. I had to watch The Office afterward just so I could go to sleep without having nightmares.
Friday morning, I watched My Name Is Earl and 30 Rock. Then I think we played TV Scene It! Travel Edition, which allowed you to magically roll dice with your DVD player. Melanie was terrible at old shows (she didn't even recognize the familiar white suits of Fantasy Island!), but she also got some ridiculously easy questions like the one that showed a thirty-second clip of Family Guy and then asked WHAT SHOW IT WAS for, like, the five people who've never seen Family Guy. She got a lot of clip questions, though, and they seemed to be predominantly black sitcoms from the seventies. The game was pretty fun for us two TV buffs, even though we could never correctly guess Gomer Pyle.
Melanie had taken the day off work, but she wanted to show me her workplace. She works for the Indiana State Police. In FORENSICS! We had to go through a couple keycard access points and sign-in sheets to get my Visitor's Pass. We ran into her boss, who was very nice and had apparently heard a lot about me. She asked Melanie where she'd gotten her scarf, and the answer was ME! It had just arrived yesterday after much idiocy; it was what I had seen in the Phoenix Art Museum gift shop. She had worn it when picking me up, and she would wear it throughout the weekend, for, lo, it was perfect for her!
A couple of her co-workers commented on how great it was. She was the envy of the office! Well, I guess you wouldn't call it an office. Although there were cubicles. And look what I found on Melanie's cubicle:
Me! I don't have a picture of Melanie in my cubicle. But I have a picture of her dog! Riley, the family dog, also an adorable Maltese.
She introduced me the co-workers who were not out to lunch, many of whom had heard about me. I have no idea what Melanie tells these people! I don't talk to my co-workers about my friends. There is personal and there is professional and rarely the twain shall meet! I assumed she said nice things about me, and I made a good impression on one woman by joking about histones and histone deacetylase. She asked if I could come work there. Heh. Melanie also had me show off my Hyperbole shirt, which they did appreciate. "I like vocabulary jokes," said one guy.
Melanie showed me around the labs, which were...labs. But they were important labs! With DNA sequencers and serology and bodily fluid detectors. This is where they solve crimes, you guys. And sometimes you get hilarious letters from inmates who define "semen" for you and implore you to handle their case right.
For lunch, we hit one of Melanie's favorite spots, Yats, which served...Cajun food. In Indianapolis. But it doesn't matter where you are if the cook knows what he's doing! I got a combination plate of chili cheese etouffe with crawfish and white chili (chicken), which Melanie recommended. It was a mere $6.75, and I got a medium-size styrofoam plate half full of each and a couple pieces of buttered bread. Both halves were quite tasty! The chili cheese side was very cheesy and thick, and the chicken chili was excellent. I could see why Melanie went there all the time. Hell, the place even got her to eat vegetables. She was such a regular that she knew one of the guys in the back; he came by, recommended she try her red beans and rice with cheese, and then brought her some cheese to sprinkle on top.
We ran some errands, going to Home Depot for Home Depot things and the grocery store for supplies for the BSG party and D&D on Monday. As we drove around, we listened to Pink Floyd. I hadn't heard much Pink Floyd. Melanie tried to teach me about time signatures.
Back at the condo, Melanie took a nap because she had a headache, and I read EW and channel surfed for a while before watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off because I had never seen it. I KNOW. I AM SORRY. I'd seen the beginning and the end, but not the middle. It was very good and funny and enjoyable! And Sloane is pretty! John Hughes sure was ahead of his time, though. Breaking the fourth wall! Credits cookie! Something else I noticed but have now forgotten!
For dinner, Melanie made chicken parmesan. And by made, I mean she put some Bertolli's in a pan. It was surprisingly good; I wouldn't have guessed it was out of a bag if she hadn't told me. We asked each other how our day had been.
I have no idea what we did in the ensuing hours. Play more Scene It? Play with Dexter? Watch random TV? All of the above? This is how most of the weekend was, really.
Around 9:00, people began showing up for the return of BSG. SciFi had been showing a marathon, so we tuned to the channel and watched the last episode that had aired while eating chips and bean dip. More people arrived by ten. Most of Melanie's close friends were her co-workers, which, now that I think about it, would explain why they had heard about me, since she had blurred her personal and professional lives so thoroughly.
We had fun mocking SciFi's incessant and nonsensical promotion of the new episode, and then we had fun watching the new episode...well, BSG is never fun, but you know what I mean. It's nice to watch with other fans.
Afterward, Melanie stumbled upon this show called Vanishing Twins on Discovery Health or something, and we watched in horror as we learned about fetus in fetu, where a baby GROWS INSIDE ANOTHER BABY. And they SHOWED IT. A HORRIFIC ANOMALY THAT HAD BEEN IN THIS KID'S STOMACH FOR SEVEN YEARS. They also showed another case of a headless parasite twin being treated by the WORST DOCTOR EVER. His bedside manner was atrocious. "Really, this is the worst kind of thing we can see." "Now, we just wait to see if your baby's still there in the morning." And so on. It was awful. The woman took it really well, though.
Everyone left, and Melanie packed in early, and I found ways to entertain myself for another hour or so.
Saturday was a big day! Melanie was awesome enough not to mind driving over sixty miles down to Bloomington to see Emily (tigeremme), whom she had never met but should meet because they both live in the same state that I do not live in. Maybe they could bond and two of my favorite people would become friends with each other?
We left around half past noon and grabbed Quizno's on the way; I tried their new "Sammies," which were a pretty good deal. Melanie made very good time, beating Google's estimation by a almost a half hour, more if we hadn't gotten a little lost. As we pulled into the apartment complex and searched for Emily's apartment...there was Emily!! Melanie parked and I got out and hugged Emily. Emily! She let us in and introduced us to her roommate, Kim, and Kim's cat, Oscar. I did not know about the cat! Melanie is allergic to cats, even though she still finds them adorable and delightful.
I pointed out that the third seasons of Avatar and House were upside-down on her shelf. Surprised, Emily commented, "I have a third-season problem."
Kim left to go grocery shopping, so the three of us sat down to play Zombie Fluxx. It's just like regular Fluxx, but with zombies! Of course, the first game, Emily made us all lose by playing the Ungoal. We played a few more rounds, as many as Melanie could handle with Benadryl. She did not appear particularly fazed by zombies, which was sad. What's the fun in giving people zombies if they don't care? And Emily became fond of her zombies and didn't want to kill them.
After about an hour, we headed out to explore "downtown Bloomington." Emily led us through IU, where I decided that the only informatics should be bioinformatics and Melanie declared that informatics sounded like a made-up word.
Emily had us park near the one pretty building in "downtown." Melanie spied with her little eye a bookstore, so we killed a lot of time looking at books, because we are that sort of people. Ironically, there was a cat in the bookstore. Melanie couldn't escape! I recommended The Name of the Wind and The Book Thief to Emily.
A few yards away from the bookstore (or maybe even next door) was Game Preserve (whose clever name I didn't get until we were leaving Bloomington), which Melanie wanted to visit in order to buy regular Fluxx (version 4.0—the one I played was v3.1). There were a lot of cool games in the store. Also, a flyer:
What's so interesting about it? Look closer:
HA HA HA I JUST NOTICED THAT THE STUDY IS IRB-APPROVED. WTF, SERIOUSLY? Also, it was posted on Halloween, hee.
We walked around the block so Emily could see Bloomington in the light and then headed to Mother Bear's Pizza. The place was packed even though it was just after 4. We couldn't find an empty table, only a couple that hadn't been bussed yet. We claimed one and waited for someone to notice us. And waited. Meanwhile, we admired the graffiti on the seats and walls. The best was this:
There were also a few girls I could call for a good time.
Finally, a waitress noticed us and immediately bussed the table and took drink orders. Luckily, menus were already on the table for us to look at for food options. There was no way we could order a pizza that would satisfy the three of us: Emily didn't eat meat, Melanie didn't eat vegetables, and I was intent on having a pizza with chicken sausage because I had never seen that option before. And Melanie would not partake of my sausage. So we both got pizzas for ourselves, and Emily got a sandwich. Forced to make a quick decision, I settled on a six-cheese pizza with spicy Santa Fe chicken sausage. As we waited for our food, we broke in the Fluxx set Melanie had just bought. Our food arrived before anyone won, however, so I declared myself the winner. And when I say "our food," I mean the pizzas, because they must have been growing all of Emily's sandwich veggies individually.
Behold! That is chicken sausage! On a pizza! The pizza itself was good but not OMG AMAZING. It reminded me of the kind you get at Chuck E. Cheese. But with chicken sausage! I want more pizza places to offer chicken sausage as an option! It's really good on pizza!
Back at the apartment, Kim and Emily showed us that Oscar the cat would play Fetch with a hair band. It was pretty funny. He would scurry over and get it and then deposit it at your feet, waiting for you to throw it again.
Earlier, Emily had commented on my shirt, asking if I had worn it knowing I was going to play Zombie Fluxx. I hadn't thought of that; mostly, I wore it because it glows in the dark.
I fell asleep on the way back to Indy, and Melanie barely managed to stay awake through the Benadryl, but once we reached the condo and were reunited with Riley, we watched Best in Show, which...was a Christopher Guest movie with dogs. They're all kind of the same movie, aren't they? I guess my favorite is Waiting for Guffman because it's the world I'm most familiar with (and Parker Posey's audition scene is awesome), but they're pretty much all at the same level of humor and enjoyability. No real surprises or revelations. I haven't seen For Your Consideration yet, but I imagine I would like it well enough. Best in Show was pretty funny, as expected.
I saw that 1408 was coming on Showtime in a bit, so we watched Nicole Sullivan on Chelsea Lately while we waited for it to start. I turned out the lights to make it scarier. It was pretty good and freaky; it felt like what a House of Leaves movie might be like. It wasn't as ultimately satisfying as I hoped, though.
Sunday was to be a lazy weekend day. Mean Girls was on ABC Family, so we watched the last hour or so. I ate my leftover pizza for lunch along with some leftover bean dip.
Then Melanie introduced me to another card game, Infernal Contraption, which lived up to its name. The game mechanics were simple but clever: you use cards to build a "machine" that runs and does things to you and your opponent. The object of the game is to deplete the other person's Parts Pile (their cards), so you're continually trying to both A) decrease their cards and B) increase your cards. I didn't quite have a handle on the strategies the first time we played, and Melanie whupped me pretty soundly.
Defeated, I chose to watch Zodiac, which...was just kind of there. I mean, it told an interesting based-on-a-true story with good actors, but it didn't seem to do much else. I miss crazy David Fincher. Now he's doing all these Serious Movies. Where are your trademarks, man? Stop growing up and maturing or whatever.
For dinner, we went across the street to one of Melanie's favorite restaurants, Max and Erma's. I had a tomato-basil mozzarrella chicken sandwich with a side of chicken tortilla soup that was more like spicy queso with chicken and tortillas (very good, though). Not only was the food tasty, but also the music selection was good! It ran the gamut from Radiohead to Nickelback, just like I do. Our scintillating dinner conversation? Finances! Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, investing, Suze Orman, cars.
Back at the apartment, we played some more Infernal Contraption. I got the hang of it and built some pretty sweet, efficient and deadly machines, but I still fucking lost. It was very disheartening. I really liked the game and the way it was set up as a creation of algorithms, but I would have really liked to WIN once. Melanie tried to make me feel better by informing me that she never lost except, like, once. On the upside, we listened to Smellerbee while playing, so I could introduce Melanie to some new music.
Dexter had a little training session; Melanie was trying to teach him not to run away when she tried to pick him up. So there was a lot of "Dexter!" and "Good boy!" With yummy doggy treats. He learned pretty quickly, and it stuck throughout the session; I picked him up several times. I also accidentally got him to roll over, but he couldn't really figure out how to do it on command.
After Melanie turned in, I watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I thought it was kind of boring, and there seemed to be very little narrative drive. And I didn't think Nurse Ratched was all that bad; she just seemed to be doing her job most of the time, not abusing her power or anything like that. It was interesting to see several famous actors so young, though. Hardly recognized them!
I guess I've seen so many TV/movie mental institutions made since then that the Big One seems sort of blah in comparison.
Monday morning, we had a little Dexter photoshoot. First, however, we had to get him away from his latest discovery, a Coke Zero can.
Dexter! Dexter! High-five!
How is that not the cutest thing? The best, however, is playing Fetch, which he looooooooves, although what toy he's interested in changes from moment to moment. This morning, it was some cloth thing. So it's not the fetching part that's fun. It's that when he brings the object back, he teases you with it. He doesn't just deposit it in front of you like Oscar; he makes you fight for it.
And he growls, like he's a Big Mean Dog. That's right, Dexter is totally frontin'.
But, see, the best part is he will. Not. Let. Go. You can literally drag him back and forth on the carpet; it's hilarious. Or you can lift him up, like so:
And then when he gets it? He fucking shakes it back and forth like he's rabid for this rabbit or something.
If you recall, Dexter's high-five is more like a high-ten since he uses both paws. BUT! Check it out!
I told Melanie I was going to stuff him in my backpack and take him home.
We tried to get him to get on my stomach, but he was very suspicious. It figures, of course; all weekend, he was jumping on me and licking my face whenever I lay on the ground, but when I wanted a photo op, no go.
Dexter is intrigued by this camera device.
But he is really just an adorable little snowball.
For lunch, I had
Melanie's friends were coming over that afternoon to play Dungeons and Dragons [4th Edition]. Once the DM arrived, we set to creating characters. Since I was going to have to leave early to go home, I was a Tiefling Paladin named Dedbigh Sixx. The rest of the crew arrived and began to create their characters as we all munched on munchies. Character creation took almost two hours altogether, but we finally set out on our quest. I had played some AD&D long ago at Rice, a few sessions as a dwarven cleric, and I had enjoyed it. This was also fun, although we didn't get into too much combat since we spent a lot of time exploring and rolling Perception checks to make sure we wouldn't be sliced in half by lasers. I felt like I had wasted a lot of time creating my character since I barely got to do anything with it, but D&D is not the kind of game you can play in four hours.
My claim to fame was brazenly opening a door and rushing into a room to discover...A BEARSKIN RUG. And some stale wafers. Meanwhile, my teammates were about to get themselves killed by a reptilian priest.
D&D is only as fun as the people you play with, and, like Melanie, I appreciate it more for the social experience than the RPG aspect. Although for people with a lot of imagination who like to think out of the box (like Melanie's friend Andy, who was a Minotaur Rogue with an Intelligence of 8 and acted the part, poking things with sticks and jumping over infinite chasms and thrusting open doors his teammates are trying to be stealthy around), it can be very entertaining. For them and the people who play with them.
Too soon, it was time to leave for my flight. As usual, I had not taken a picture of me and the person I was visiting or who was visiting me, so we had to get one at the last minute.
Melanie drove me to the airport with exquisite timing, even missing the exit so that I ended up getting to the gate right as the flight was boarding.
It had not been a very eventful weekend on the surface, but I had still had a great time. It had felt much longer than just a few days. We had mostly just watched TV and movies and played with her dog, but sometimes that's all you want to do when you're with your BFF.