Today was going to be my longest drive of the day, so I had broken it up into a small chunk and a big chunk. First, I drove to Scottsdale, toward the red mountains. The GPS, which so frequently told me shit I did not need to know like "Stay on this road," didn't bother to tell me which way to go once I exited, and I got turned around a bit on my way to Old Town. But I found my way and found parking very easily. The sign said they had three-hour parking! Man, frickin' Arizona. It'd be so cool if it weren't...Arizona.
I walked into Grimaldi's and told the hostess I was meeting someone. "It it a lady?" she asked. It was! But not like that. It was Allison, Laura's sister and Ravi's sister-in-law. I had not seen her since the wedding. Emily, her sister, was bummed about missing me again; she was off in Minnesota this time. But Allison and I could catch up! Both she and Emily actually went to school in Tucson, so would have more people to visit in Tucson if I returned during the school year. I had noticed a Grimaldi's down there that she had not. She was excited that I had gone to Oregano's, though, but disappointed that I hadn't had the giant pizza cookie.
She'd never eaten at Grimaldi's before, but a co-worker had brought some pizza in and it had been good, so she had suggested it. We decided to split a large pizza with tomatoes and basil so that there would be leftovers she could take back to her co-workers. The thin-crust pizza was very good and tasty. The dough was chewy and the sauce was sweet.
I had just missed Ravi and Laura, who left Arizona around the time I entered. I told Allison that Ravi sang in The Mikado at Rice, which she didn't know about. I told her how we met in fencing class and became friends, and I knew Laura through Alexis, and then...hold on a second...did I introduce Ravi to Laura? I think I did. I TOTALLY INTRODUCED THEM AND THEN THEY GOT MARRIED. By this logic, Cory and Lamb will get married in eight years.
Lunch was on me because college students don't have money and stuff, and I have a job. That's what my parents would say! I don't know if I win any points for buying a white girl lunch, though. Even if she is related to an Indian dude.
Allison had to get back to work, so she gave me a hug, and I walked around a bit to explore Old Town and not drive. The weather was nice. I called home and talked to my parents and siblings and cousin. I came across an interesting establishment.
Whoa! Daredevil opened up a restaurant in Scottsdale??
Oh. Well, I guess they haven't gotten any letters from Marvel.
I decided to fill up in Scottsdale so I wouldn't have to stop along the way. I also cleaned my windshield, which was getting...unclean. Much like the rest of my car. I had washed it before leaving, and now it was all dirty again! Boooooo. Some guy from NASCAR kept trying to give me a free cleaning wax demonstration.
I-10 was pretty boring. It was so boring that I actually stopped at a truck stop to break the monotony. And I bought a Choco Taco, which was hard to eat while driving.
I passed through a California Agriculture Station, and I was afraid they would make a fuss about the guavas in my car even though they were from California, but they didn't even stop me.
I was on my way to spend New Year's in Tustin with equustel—another Allison! I got a text from her asking whether I drank any sort of wine or spirits or such.
And, and, you guys...I TEXTED HER BACK.
I AM A HORRIBLE HYPOCRITE.
In my defense, it was the word "No."
Most of the drive was boring, but when I began to approach the Indio/Coachella area...holy crap. It was beautiful.
I loved the tripartite mountain range.
I loved how it seemed like a little pocket of civilization in the midst of all this nature. It was like the perfect synergy of rural and urban.
What, I thought it was the prettiest part of my drive so far.
All right, by this time I should have gotten into an accident.
City! Beneath the mountains!
There was a hot air balloon on the way out of town.
HOLY MOTHERFUCKING SHIT THE FREAKY WINDMILLS WERE BACK.
THEY HAD THE POWER TO TURN DAY INTO NIGHT.
Man, I did not get good pictures of the windmills on the mountain, but they were EVERYWHERE. It was like they were growing. They should be Doctor Who villains. It's only a matter of time before they gain sentience and kill us all.
It had gotten dark, but I was passing an outlet mall on the right, and...it just wasn't a road trip if I didn't stop at an outlet mall! We always spent hours and hours at outlet malls on our family road trips. Also, I did need new shoes, and maybe they had some good bargains. I took an exit and made my way back.
I saw a Factory Brand Shoes, so I went in. Basically, I wanted the same shoes I had, but newer. There were some Dr. Scholl's shoes that were okay but not heavenly. And then I tried on the Rockport Eureka, and it was perfect. It fit just like I wanted, and it had the right everyday/business casual look. But they were $70, which was more than I was intending to pay. I couldn't find anything in the clearance.
I called my mom and told her I was at the outlet store since I couldn't not go to the outlet store, and at first she thought I was mocking her and was about to hang up, but I said that no no, I needed her help! She told me to go to the customer service desk and flash my AAA card, and they would give me the coupon book for free. Ooh. And she reminded me that there was probably a Rockport outlet. It wasn't too far from the customer service desk. I went to the desk, and I did nothing more than flash my card, and the woman gave me the coupon book, no questions asked. The Rockport coupon was crap, but the FBS coupon was $5 off $50, which could be useful.
I checked out the Rockport store, and they didn't have the Eureka. One guy said that FBS only carried the older shoes, so I wouldn't find them here. Another guy said that FBS only carried the current shoes, so I would find them here later. Either way, they didn't have what I was looking for at the price I wanted, so I went back to FBS and tried to haggle. The saleslady agreed with me that the shoes were overpriced, but she couldn't change the pricing for me. Alas.
I had been a half hour early, and now I was an hour late. I put on Lacuna Coil, which made a great soundtrack for the scary night driving and avoiding of toll roads. I found Allison's apartment complex and pulled in. I navigated the complex and found her apartment and knocked on the door.
"You made it!" she said, letting me in. Her husband, Luke, also greeted me. They asked where I had parked and told me there was a closer parking spot on the cul-de-sac behind them, so I moved my car and brought in my stuff. I handed Allison her mix CD, Sunil Patel's New Year's Rockin' Eve. She saw that the first track was by Deftones, which would please Luke, who was a huge Deftones fan. She also saw a System of a Down track, and he loved SOAD as well. "Spoilers!" I cried and then asked her to stop reading. Luke and I geeked out about Deftones and System of a Down for a while.
Then I met the illustrious Sokka the parrot! Unfortunately, he did not want to meet me. Every single time that Allison tried to get him to sit on my hand, he started walking up her arm and to her shoulder, rushing away from me in fear.
So what were we going to do about dinner? Thai food? Sure! I had had Thai a few days ago but still hadn't satisfied my craving for noodles. Let me see a menu. Wait, this didn't make sense. There was a dinner special for $8.99 that included shrimp fried rice, fried wontons, soup or salad, and cashew chicken. And the wontons had chicken in them! That was crazy! I had to go with that. Let's go with the soup.
While we waited for dinner, I needed to play a video game. That's why I'd really come to visit. But what to play? Uncharted: Drake's Fortune? Uncharted 2: Among Thieves? Assassin's Creed 2? Bioshock? I needed a game that I could beat while I was there. And that game was Batman: Arkham Asylum. Luke said I could beat it in about eight hours if I played straight through without looking for all the secrets. Perfect!
Pow! Biff! Thwap!
Then we took a break to actually eat our dinner. The soup was basically chili water. The fried wontons were good. The shrimp fried rice had, like, two shrimp. I knew the special was too good to be true! The cashew chicken was good, but I realized that once again I had been thwarted in my quest for noodles.
I continued to play AA until the neighbors came over for New Year's festivities. And then I kept playing for a bit, and they watched! I love gamers who get enjoyment out of watching other people play games. It makes the single-player experience that much more entertaining.
Eventually, though, I stopped the game, and we played Guesstures. Who would be teams?
"How about People I Know vs. People I Don't Know?" I suggested. That worked.
Guesstures was like Charades with a crazy time limit. You had to do four words before the machine ate them. It was harder than it looked!
For some reason, I found it difficult to mime chopsticks. It was a fierce competition, and by fierce I mean we got our asses kicked. But the real glory was in the Best Performance trophy, which could be won by successfully clearing four cards, two of which had to be Hard. The trophy passed back and forth, but I snagged it for our team for the points at the end!
And then it was time for Supernatural! Allison had recently gotten into the show, and then she had hooked her neighbors, and now they had big viewing parties. Which I could be a part of! And, hey, look, other male Supernatural fans.
They were in season two at the moment. Tonight's episode was "No Exit." Since I had already seen the show, I pulled out my journal to take notes. Shane, a neighbor who had become a very big SPN fan, noticed and asked, "Do you write?" I said I did. "Allison writes, that's why I asked." Ah! I liked Shane. I found out he was from San Jose! Well, now he was from Tustin. But he used to be from San Jose.
SPN used to be an ice cream show, so it was only appropriate that we had some chocolate malt ice cream while watching.
During the episode, Allison had a realization. "Did you start watching Supernatural because of Meg?" Ha ha ha, I did indeed!
"Meg?" asked Shane.
"From Veronica Mars."
"What's Veronica Mars?"
OH SHANE. Allison promised to welcome him to his next TV obsession. Although for some reason he had hated Firefly.
Next up was "The Usual Suspects," which we paused to go over to Shane's apartment to watch the ball drop (Allison & Luke didn't have cable). Even though the ball drop wasn't live, it was the principle of the thing. Shane hugged everyone, and then it was back to Show.
After the neighbors cleared out, Allison said goodnight, but I was welcome to continue playing Arkham Asylum. "It's great to have you here," she said. It felt really good to hear those words.
After my hosts went to bed, I busted lots of heads! Take that! Punch, kick, pow, Batarang, Inverted Takedown, escape, DETECTIVE MODE, oh man this game is awesome. I played till four in the morning, which was when I got stuck anyway, so I had to wait for Luke to wake up and help me.
It was a new year! We gathered lazily in the living room. Luke asked if I wanted coffee. They had an espresso machine! I declined, but then he said he could make a cappuccino or a cafe mocha or something, and ooh, yeah, make me a cafe mocha. And he did, and it was really good!
Since we had not listened to my mix on New Year's Eve as intended, we listened to it this morning. It went over quite well. Luke liked a lot of the bands I had put on. I was amused that he considerd Filter to be an "obscure, unknown" band, but I suppose they never hit it as big as they deserved to. Allison was really happy to hear the Muse B-side (thanks, jeeperstseepers), and Luke had never heard it.
Luke showed me the intro to Bioshock, which he thought was the best intro to any game ever. It was pretty cool and creepy.
After showering, I returned to Arkham and requested Luke's help. He couldn't remember specifically what to do, so we requested the Internet's help. Amusingly, the Google search string Allison used auto-completed. Looked like a lot of people got stuck!
...For a really stupid reason. I had just completely overlooked a door. It wasn't even hidden. I just hadn't noticed it. Good job, Batman. Good fucking job. Detective Mode my ass.
Shane & Kim arrived to watch me play. Well, they came for other reasons, but they watched me play anyway. Sadly, Luke missed my taking out a room of henchmen when I had only a sliver of energy left by using multiple Inverted Takedowns and not getting hit at all. And then the bats came and restored my health. Come, bats, come!
We made lots of jokes about the fact that Batman constantly talks to himself. Is he talking to Oracle? A tape recorder? I mean, he's really talking for the player's benefit, often with the subtext of "Stop being stupid," but he sure does talk to himself a lot. We also noted that, true to character, Batman never kills the dozens of henchmen who attack him. He just puts them into Bat-comas.
Then we broke for lunch. We piled into Shane's van and headed to Irvine. Or Arcadia, as they referred to it, after the X-Files episode. It appeared to be a very creepy town with an underlying government conspiracy, and it was likely populated by vampires. Maybe.
Our destination was a Tustin shopping mall in Irvine. Or an Irvine shopping mall in Tustin. Or something. I don't know. We were going to Pei Wei, and finally, finally, dammit, I was going to satisfy my craving for noodles. I ordered the Thai blazing noodles. I paid for Allison and Luke since I hadn't gotten an opportunity to pay them back for dinner last night. I'm not sure I'd ever been to Pei Wei before, but holy crap, I got a GIANT FRICKIN' BOWL OF NOODLES. It was so much food! And so good.
Here, have some more Adventures in Mishearing: Shane said he and Kim were an example of opposites attracting since he was pro-BlackBerry and she was anti-BlackBerry.
I thought he said "pro-black marriage" and "anti-black marriage." I was very uncomfortable for a few seconds! (Like, dude, what kind of friends do you have??)
And then we were the table chosen to receive a free plate of honey glazed shrimp! Awesome! It was so so good as well. Thumbs up, Pei Wei, even if you are a chain. I am sure we have you here!
Our fortunes were a source of entertainment. I was going to be presented with a sports opportunity. Allison's fortune was just a list of adjectives to describe her: clever, compassionate, and some other c-words.
What was up with the alliteration? I thought for a few seconds and said, "Batman beats baddies barehanded." Allison gave me props.
And on that alliterative note, we stopped in Best Buy and looked at DVDs for a while. I got a call from my aunt and told her I was in Tustin. "Why are you in Tustin?" she said. "There's nothing there!" Haaaaa. That was everyone's reaction. But my friends were there! That was enough.
We then proceeded to a movie theatre in another Tustin shopping center that was about a mile away. Shane drove down Jamboree. Just Jamboree, because in Irvine they didn't call them St. and Ave. and Blvd. Except I pointed out that the sign did say Jamboree Road. So Shane posited that we must be in Tustin. Tustin and Irvine had very fluid borders, I guess.
The other day, Allison had asked me if I wanted to see Sherlock Holmes. Well, I had already seen it, and I wouldn't mind seeing it again. I would mind paying for it again, but she said they would cover me. They had lots of passes and gift cards. Sweet! Shane had bought his tickets off Fandango on his BlackBerry during lunch. Look at Mr. Fancypants!
We did get the Inception and Cop Out trailers again, but no Iron Man 2, unfortunately. Instead, we got Hot Tub Time Machine, which looked funnier than I would have guessed.
Sherlock Holmes was still fun the second time around, although I found myself less engaged in the story—which was fine since I fell asleep for a spell, still tired from my late night. I concentrated on the music instead. Also, Allison and I were amused that Holmes fought like Batman and totally used Detective Mode.
After the movie, it was suggested that maybe we go for coffee if anyone wanted it. But where to? Oh, where to. There broke out a heated argument about Peets vs. Starbucks vs. Coffee Bean and who used powder and who used syrup and Shane and Kim and Luke all held very strong opinions and I thought there was going to be a beatdown. But no one actually wanted coffee, so the whole argument was much like a cow's opinion.
On the way home, Luke was talking about a co-worker or someone named Willy Wong, and out of my mouth came the words, "Willy Wong and the Fortune Cookie Factory," which got a big laugh.
It was time for more Arkham Asylum! I was glad that Allison and Luke didn't mind that I wanted to spend my time with them playing video games. I was on the tail end of my vacation; at this point, I wanted to just relax instead of going out and doing stuff all the time. Besides, they really wanted to see me play the Killer Croc level.
We continued watching Supernatural ("Crossroad Blues") with Shane & Kim. But when they went back to their place to get popcorn, Shane slipped on a mat and sprained his ankle. I apologized because I had been around a lot of ankle injuries lately, so it was probably my fault. We had popcorn for dinner, and it was good.
We continued on to "Croatoan," one of my favorites. I was making them all excited every time I was all, "Ooh, that's a great episode!" It was fun to watch the show in a group, especially a group who hadn't seen the episodes before. I did my best not to spoil them. I had forgotten most of what happened in "Hunted," though, but I was pleased and amused that everyone liked Ava.
During one scene, though, Shane remarked, "Where'd he get that address from?"
"Your mom," I replied immediately.
"He just said 'Your mom,'" said Shane, inordinately pleased. "100 points."
"He is totally one of us," said Allison.
That night, I stayed up till 3 and beat Arkham Asylum. It had taken me more than eight hours, but it had been worth it. Batman!
Saturday morning, Luke and Allison congratulated me on my victory against the Joker. Luke played Assassin's Creed 2, excited to show me the poisoned dagger. It seemed they improved everything that was wrong with the first game but kept everything that was awesome. Allison made Trader Joe's pumpkin pancakes, which were also awesome. And then Allison played some Uncharted 2: Among Thieves multiplayer.
Luke still hadn't taken a shower. I quipped, "Unshowered 2: Among Friends."
After he showered, we put on Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I'd heard it was fantastic, but it had done poorly because it was less kid-friendly than the show was. For instance, someone dies in the first five minutes. Like, REALLY DIES. I was so confused. I hadn't realized that the movie was more of an origin story with flashbacks to Bruce's past rather than a rock 'em sock 'em Batman vs. Phantasm romp. It was really good and much more of an adult story.
Because Allison fangirled the franchise madly, I wanted to play some Uncharted 2 level myself. She put me on the train level, and it was totally sweet! It really was like being in an adventure movie. I had played train levels before but never one like that. What was great was that, as Allison said, Drake said what you were thinking. For instance, after I shot at the frickin' helicopter, I barely escaped and continued on. But then the helicopter returned.
"Not him again!" I cried.
"Not him again!" Drake cried. We burst out laughing.
For lunch, we went in Luke's car, which had a Deftones sticker on the back, to Oggi's, a sports bar. Perhaps this was my sports opportunity? There were many tasty-sounding options, but I went with the Southwestern wrap since I hadn't had a wrap in a while. The wrap was good, but even better were the potato wedges, which were well spiced and very tasty.
Oggi's was an amusing little place. They were playing a lot of '90s music, including an uncensored version of "Bad Habit," which surprised Luke and me, and they had televisions above the urinals in the bathroom so you didn't have to miss a second of that precious game. They should have had them in the stalls, though.
When the check came, Luke blocked it with his hand, not allowing me to pay. They were treating me, aw. Just for kicks, because they could.
Next to Oggi's was a little strip mall with a "Comics Store," so we had to visit. They were having a 20% sale! The store was very small and had narrow aisles. All the trades were wrapped in plastic, but we looked at the various action figures and shirts. They had some pretty sweet Umbrella Academy shirts and pins and patches. They had Doctor Who stuff but no sonic screwdriver. Marvel was giving away a 2010 calendar, and Allison and I looked through and were disappointed that Daredevil had been shut out.
The best find, though, was a T-600 bobblehead. Because not only did it bobble, but its eyes glowed red. And when Allison got home, she did this:
Quoth Luke in Ah-nuld voice: "'I have come back through time to terminate Jesus.'"
We laughed and laughed and laughed and wondered why no one has made some sort of YouTube video with this idea. We can't have been the first people to think of it.
I put on the Lacuna Coil CD because it was awesome and they would like it. Allison wanted to burn it. Then I put on the Dresden Dolls. While Luke did other stuff, Allison and I played Pocket Rockets and War and Sheep. My notes say "rules!" so I guess we had rules issues again.
Then we entered the Watch YouTube Videos portion of the evening. They showed me a golden eagle who tossed goats off cliffs, and I showed them "The Supernatural Menace." As well as Avatar-related hilarity.
Allison played some more Uncharted 2 multiplayer, this time with people who actually wanted to play and not just level up.
For dinner, we took Allison's car, which had a Muse sticker on the back, to Haveli, an Indian restaurant on Newport, which is the street Oggi's had been on. It seemed in Tustin, everything was on Newport, like everything in Tucson was on Speedway.
Allison and Luke had never had Indian food. So even the papad and chutney were mystifying to them.
I had taken a card from Moti Baa, and I had called the restaurant and spoken to someone I assumed was Amar, since that was the name of the person on the card. He had given me his cell phone number, so I called him to tell him we were there. He came out and introduced himself as Sonal.
Sonal asked if we wanted anything, any beer? Anything, any beer? How about some beer? It's Indian beer! Finally, Luke agreed to have some beer. I told Sonal they'd never had Indian food before, so they should probably have samosas. Luke and Allison didn't know what samosas were, so he explained them to them.
When they came, Luke said they were little pot pies. I guess I could see that. Little portable pot pies! The beer was Kingfisher, whose name was familiar from my time in India. Luke really liked it. Even Allison liked it, and she wasn't a beer person.
The menu was daunting, but Luke and Allison decided to start with chicken tikka masala. I went with the quail bhuna because I'd never seen quail on an Indian restaurant's menu before. I also ordered us some garlic naan and plain naan.
While we waited for our food, I regaled them with tales of India.
Then the food! Luke asked if the garlic naan was like garlic bread. Not...really. He really liked it, though; it was good for dipping.
I was not expecting my quail to come in the form of three whole quails. It was really hard to get at the meat, which was tough, and there were little bones in the way. I didn't want my food to look like a little cooked bird! I did make one quail dance, though. I had to. The curry was good, at least. Allison and Luke liked their chicken tikka masala as well.
We declined dessert, and our waiter cleared the table. We waited for the check. And waited. And waited. Finally, I flagged our waiter down and asked for the check, and, as I had suspected, Sonal had told him not to give us a check. We did leave our waiter a nice tip, however.
He gave us a tip as well: Sonal was next door at Radhika Sweets. So we went over to thank him for the meal. I met some of the others who had not been able to meet me when I had visited the house in Placentia, including Radhika's brother, Vidantsh, who claimed to have met me before. Perhaps in a dream. Then he played a game with me called Coconut Crack, in which he said, "Coconut, coconut, coconut, crack!" and you had to open your fist. I won, but apparently he always made the other person win. Ha.
I asked Sonal if they had any Kingfisher in the store since Luke had really liked it. He said they didn't have a license to sell alcohol, but Luke could get some from the restaurant whenever he wanted.
They were selling Bollywood movies for $2.99, and I saw that they had Let's Dance, the movie my friend Gayatri was in. I read the hilarious blurb. Allison wanted a Bollywood blurb for her life.
I showed them around the Indian store since they were unfamiliar with Indian food. Luke was taken aback by the pickled mangos. He was also waylaid by Vidantsh, who shared his sister's talkative nature and affinity for strangers.
For dessert, we hit up Yogurtland, where I mixed chocolate, peanut butter, and gingerbread cookie and put all sorts of crap on it, and it was only $3.22.
Back at the apartment, I had an itching to kill more people, so I continued playing Uncharted 2 and shot a bunch of dudes. Shane and Kim came over and watched me die a lot as I failed to follow the sherpa, and then we watched "Playthings" and "Nightshifter."
It had been nice to meet Shane and Kim. Allison gave me a hug before she and Luke went to bed, and I stayed up watching the Doctor Who New Year's Special.
Sunday morning, I had Golden Grahams for breakfast. I had no more time to kill people, as I had to leave for L.A.
"It was awesome having you here," said Luke. Allison agreed. Sokka was glad to see me go. They had been wonderful hosts!
It was time to head home. I was going the long way, though.