TopatoCon + The Green Bean

The past week or so has been totally bananas with no signs of slowing down. October is shaping up to be a nonstop party. I got the festivities started early last weekend by tabling at TopatoCon for the Boston Comics Roundtable, which was a blast! So many cool people there. I was very fortunate to talk with not only a ton of awesome convention attendees but many of my fellow exhibitors. The indie comics community is such a groovy place.

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That being said, I am way tired and also ill, I think? I’ve got a weird cough/sinus thing going on. I appear to have tuckered myself out, hence why my post is so late this week. So to make things easy, I am going to review the best thing that happened (besides the comics, of course) last weekend: The Green Bean.

It is no secret that I have a large and unwieldy list of dietary restriction that often make it difficult for me to dine out. Therefore, whenever I find an establishment that is able to serve me and do so in a kind and understanding manner, I am immediately smitten. The Green Bean in Northampton, MA is one of those locations. Not only is their restaurant quaint, adorable, and locally sourced, but it is DELICIOUS! Imagine a room lined with tables and chairs, tightly packed but not uncomfortable. Instead it’s totally cozy. And everyone is super friendly and nice!

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Our lovely waitress let me ask questions to my heart’s content and did not start at any of my restrictions, not even the request for no garlic or onion. I ended up getting scrambled eggs, gluten free toast, bacon, hash browns, and organic earl grey tea. It was DELIGHTFUL. They also had self-serve coffee and an adorable mug tree filled with an eclectic collection. Precious. Absolutely precious. I wish they were closer otherwise I would go all the time! If you are ever in the Amherst/Northampton area stop by for breakfast or lunch. They are an excellent business.

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Review: Inside Out + Vacation Fun Times

I was pretty wary of the new Pixar flick Inside Out, mostly because the trailer made it look like it had the potential to be ridiculous. It’s a tricky premise, personifying the emotions. There was a lot that could have gone wrong. But I am happy to admit that despite their marketing team’s best efforts to dissuade me, Inside Out was an excellent animated feature.

This movie has SO MUCH going for it. It is adorable, hilarious, and emotionally touching. SO MANY FEELINGS GUYS. I love it when animation makes me weep openly in public. The movie deals with some serious subject matter like growing up and embracing difficult feelings. The story follows the inner life of eleven-year-old Riley, specifically the actions and responsibilities of the emotions that live in her head: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. Together they navigate Riley’s feelings and behavior within what they call Headquarters (get it? get it?). With such narrow personality definitions, you would expect the characters to be static, but they aren’t. There is a lively arc and a fair amount of character development in regards to both the emotions and Riley. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Its pacing is great. It’s very bright, vivid, and beautifully animated. Neil and I went to a 10 am showing on a Sunday, i.e., it was kid city. Yet, they were all very well behaved, captured by the story being told. I think that speaks best to the merits of the film. It has so much to offer both children and adults alike. My favorite thing about the movie is the lesson it ultimately teaches. It deals with some pretty heavy stuff but manages to keep it engaging, without feeling forced. They did a top notch job. Way to go Pixar. You’ve still got it!

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London, Day Two

Nothing is a better aid for falling asleep in strange places than complete and utter exhaustion. After a good night’s rest, Neil and I were ready for our first, real day in London (at least the first day where we would be fully awake and conscious). I was prepared to be the proverbial sponge and soak up all the details I could. It had been an uneventful evening previously, except for the stumbling in of our mysterious second room mate who I heard have a late night discussion  with Irish Guy. Something about going out drinking, but no, because she had already drank too much already. I’m not positive on the details – I was half asleep.

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London, Day One

My European saga does not actually start in Europe. No, it begins in the United States, in Boston, Massachusetts, specifically at Logan Airport. One crucial detail of my European saga would be Neil. He was my companion for the entirety of my trip in Europe. In fact, the whole trip was mostly his idea. I had always wanted to go abroad; so much so that it was one of my most common lamentations. “Oh Europe, how I wish to visit thee.” And so, once upon a time a similar statement was uttered in Neil’s presence, something to the effect of – England, I’ve always wanted to go there. And he said why don’t you? And I said, because I don’t have enough money. He said it wasn’t that expensive, if done properly. To which I responded, well, I can’t go alone. To which he said, I’ll come with you.

And now we’re all up to speed. Travelling with Neil was absolutely vital to the enjoyment of this trip. Without him, I assure you I would have been lost (literally and figuratively) and potentially murdered, robbed, or worse. His ability to navigate foreign locations is astounding.

courtesy of Neil
courtesy of Neil Johnson

Our flight was a red-eye, taking off at six in the evening. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sleep on the flight, despite my drugged, Dramamine state. As it turns out, not a problem.

We flew Aer Lingus, which meant a layover in Dublin. I was very impressed with the flight and service. Everyone was very attentive (when I was conscious) and we got a full meal that was not only edible, but dare I say delicious? It included a brownie and cheese, and if that wasn’t enough, a cracker to really win me over.

We landed in London at 8 am. I did get a little sleep on the flight, but plane sleep isn’t exactly restful. Neil barely slept at all. But we were in London and I was determined to enjoy it.

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My first experience in the city was navigating the Underground, which is something of a feat when sober nevermind drunk on lack of sleep. I love the Tube. It’s so efficient and effective. There are just so many different route options. It seems impossible to truly get lost when you have access to the Underground. Plus the seats are soft and plush. And the adverts are usually amusing.

We had some trouble at first figuring out what pass to get , but an attendant at Heathrow was very helpful and instructed us to wait until after the peak period passed (at 9:30 am) and get a daily pass for about £8. Or something reasonable like that. We spent our time waiting at a Caffe Nero, where I had my first cup of tea on English soil (which was actually served in an Italian coffee chain).

courtesy of Neil
Big Ben, courtesy of Neil Johnson

We got off at Westminister to meet  Neil’s friend Imogen, and the first sight to greet me was  Big Ben, looming ahead of me in all its pointy, clock-like glory. What could be more quintessentially London? To invoke a cliche, it took my breath away. And fair enough. It was extremely surreal, especially on so little sleep.

From there we proceeded to wander about the city, which increasingly did not match up to my expectations. London is a city, much like how New York is a city. It is catering to an international audience. That is, it’s not exactly very British or English at all. Instead of traditional, English restaurants, there were a lot of French places or Italian ones. I searched high and low for an English tea shop in London, but I was clearly not looking in the right places.

Everything from Big Ben on was a blur of British tourist locations. I was groggy from the Dramamine and lack of sleep, but Imogen valiantly led us to several locations including Buckingham Palace (which is pronounced Bucking-em, not HAM), the Strand, Drury lane, Leicester Square, and Trafalgar Square (lions) where we had lunch at the popular chain Pret a Manger. Apparently there is a Pret in Boston now which I am going to have to check out, because for a chain their food is remarkably delicious. The whole morning was so lovely, I just wish I could have appreciated more at the time. I was so tired and so hungry that I couldn’t really focus on what was around me. I simultaneously felt sensory overload and an inability to absorb details.

Trafalgar Square, courtesy of Neil
Trafalgar Square, courtesy of Neil Johnson

We walked around for quite a while before going to check into our hostel at St. Christopher’s Inn, Shepherd’s Bush. I wasn’t exactly certain what to expect from a hostel having never stayed in one, but the vibe was pretty much college dorm life meets camp, but with more alcohol. Also, no one really speaks to each other. Neil and I had a bunk (he chivalrously slept on top). We shared the room with one Irishman, who never spoke when Neil was in the room, but immediately asked me where I was from the second Neil stepped out to use the bathroom. I never did catch the guy’s name. We took a nap and then had dinner at the hostel which is also attached to a bar called Belushi’s, all the St. Christopher’s are. Then we went to bed very, very early in order to be well rested for Day Two.

Stay tuned for more zany European adventures!

xx

Hello America

I’ve recently returned to the United States from Europe. And by recently I mean five days ago, in which time I have languished in a European  contracted head cold and turned 22.

I miss Europe. Since before I was even able to identify the phrase anglophile I have been obsessed with all things British, or perhaps more specifically English. My life has been a constant dream of drinking tea with the people who do it best and being among the cities where my favorite literary minds flourished. (Surprisingly enough, it is very difficult to find a traditional English tea shop in England, at least not in London anyway.) The European lifestyle is opposite that of the states. It holds a different rhythm. I feel vaguely treasonous for saying it, but I may prefer that European rhythm. Though, upon reflection that longing for Europe makes sense. We always prefer what we do not have.

But now I’m back in the States (that’s another thing. Being abroad makes me want to refer to the US purely as the States. Why? I do not know) real life needs to start up again. But as a way of documenting my trip for myself and ordering my thoughts, I’m going to blog retroactive posts detailing my European adventures across the United Kingdom and Paris. Get excited.

In other news, now that I’m back I need to buckle down and get serious about my writing and my quote unquote artistic ventures. That phrase makes me feel something of a joke. I have a glass menagerie of story ideas floating in my head that I can never manage to actually get on paper (or electronic screen really, but saying paper sounds so much more romantic – it’s the same way I feel about e-readers). Then there’s that whole video making business I do, which I’m committed to but feel like I never have the time to execute adequately enough. Hopefully this head cold will pass and I can rediscover the momentum I had in college (which was momentum I possessed only a short month ago). Here’s to the post-grad lifestyle. Here’s to Europe.

xx