Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Return of the Claw

Big Ern unfortunately likes to claw himself. On occasion he even draws blood which is especially sad. We do our best to keep his nails short but that merely slows him down.

He especially likes to scratch himself when he's breast feeding. To be fair that is a very "what am I supposed to do with my hands?" situation.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Ernie Surveys the Sound

We made a little journey into the big city with Big Ern today.

I bought Lydia a strawberry shortcake by the Space Needle.

We found a little spot in Centennial Park
right by the Sound. There was even a bench for Ernie to have a nice outdoor bottle.

While we usually have to drive to the Oregon countryside to get all of our McMenamins passport stamps, this time we hit one in Seattle: McMenamins Six Arms.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Photo Shoot then Tech City

It was almost time for my parents to leave and go back to Illinois, so we took them to Bellevue Downtown Park for some photos with their favorite grandchild.

Ernie got some beauty sleep before the shoot so he could look his best.

I brought a tripod and used my watch to take the pictures remotely. Tech genius? There's a mode where it takes 10 photo bursts that allowed me to create this gif work of art.

It's difficult to take decent photos with Ern because his neck is so wobbly. It's a bit like holding up a fish you just caught but the fish is sometimes crying.

After my parents got out of Dodge we made our first visit to Bellevue Brewing Company - Spring District Brewpub. The Spring District is kind of an interesting place. It's sort of like if you decided to build a community from scratch centered around the local Meta offices.

In St. Louis farmers' markets are funded by people that enjoy buying vegetables. Here they are funded by billion dollar social media conglomerates.

Lydia has a sneaky plan in place to set Ernie in his crib so that if he wants to look at us he has to turn his head the opposite of the way he prefers. We are really putting effort into strengthening our dude's neck muscles.

The Choo-Choo to Ice Cream

Today Ernie took his grandparents on a scenic ride on an antique train. We began our journey at the station in North Bend, WA.

Part way through our journey we made a stop at the Train Shed Exhibit Hall at the Railway History Campus. There were a lot of trains to see and learn about.

We hit the other station in Snoqualmie and then turned around.

Afterward we explored North Bend a bit. My parents were complaining about food costing too much in the Seattle area, which I suppose is not wrong. I took them to this little burger joint called Dairy Freeze which is the classic sort of Route 66 place. Afterwards they complained that this place was also too expensive. Ok.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Oysters, a Piglet, and a Galactic Plot

My parents had some nice moments with their very cute grandson today.

Mom, Tom, and I took Ernie out for dinner and gave Lydia some rare time to herself. We checked out a new place this time: Matts' Rotisserie & Oyster Lounge in Redmond Town Center.

I did have some secret dealings afoot, as is my custom, unbeknownst to grandparents or cute little baby people. My schemes surrounded Disney World's Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. I am a life long Star Wars nerd. My disease has been somewhat dormant for a while, especially with how bad I perceived the latest trilogy to be. I recently revealed to Lydia that I used to collect Star Wars action figures and was such a geek about it that I kept them in their original boxes. Is that better or worse than if I opened them and played with them? It's hard to say. You know, Lydia and I went on a trip to Guatemala once to see some Mayan ruins. When I realized that the area was used as a filming location for Yavin 4 in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope I brought photos from the movie so that I could recreate the scene and make Lydia take pictures. 

During covid we met up with my parents in Springfield, IL to go to a giant bell tower concert at the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon in Washington Park. Of all the songs in human history they played "The Imperial March" and another Star Wars song. Was that a coincidence? No, I contacted them days in advance and made a request that they do so.

On another occasion I crashed a tech conference thing just to gain access to an early screening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

So take any "I didn't realize John would pay several thousand dollars to do a days long Star Wars cosplay" protests from Lydia with a grain of salt. After I exhibited all of those strange behaviors she then proceeded to have a baby with me. So, this is really on her as much as it is me at this point.

Anyway. I was really excited when the attraction was announced. I didn't know the details but I knew it was like a Star Wars hotel type of deal and that if you looked out the "windows" you'd see the stars, like you were on a starship. Sounded pretty cool. Then I heard the insane price tag of the thing and went into "wait for a sale" mode.

Well apparently everyone went into "wait and see" mode because it was open for about a year and a half before Disney announced they were pulling the plug. After the announcement they immediately took down the booking system while they rescheduled all of the previously booked customers who had had dates that were past the shut down date of September 30.

I was vexed by these developments. I think in the back of my mind I was always going to check this experience out, it was just a question of when. This shutdown situation was really forcing my hand. Is it worth all the money? How would we take care of baby Ernie while simultaneously waving laser swords at our enemies in space? Could we drop him off in St. Louis on the way to Florida to spend some time with his family there?

I read a lot about the hotel and the shutdown drama and one article in particular pushed me firmly into the "let's do this" camp: the Los Angeles Times' "Disney pulls plug on high-priced Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a blow to immersive entertainment". My whole life I've enjoyed the immersive qualities of video games and theme parks and this article sort of explained the history of companies trying to blend the two and how difficult it has been. It really positioned this hotel experience as something special and that it dying not only sucks but its failure will reverberate and will likely dim immersive entertainment that comes afterwards. The author described it as "arguably the most ambitious tourism project undertaken by the Walt Disney Co. since the creation of the original Disneyland."

Another profound thing the article did was place Starcruiser in context with other experiences I enjoy that I didn't realize were connected: that awesome Omega Mart by Meow Wolf experience we did in Vegas. Escape rooms. I was so excited about being immersed in Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter this year that I bought a friggin' wand and cape.

It may seem kind of silly but I think this article and some of the other research I did was sort of an awakening for me about who I am and what I enjoy. Ok, so now I was interested in making this happen, and Lydia was willing to humor me. Actually pulling this off was the next hurdle. I had concerns that this was going to be unpleasant. They had shut down online booking so the only way to secure a spot was to call in. The phone were set to open today at I think like 7am but eastern time, which was going to be painful. People were talking about their strategies for how to get through on Reddit. I spotted in a couple of the comments a kindly travel agent offering to help people book a spot. She was very responsive and after I got past my own wariness that she was a scam artist, I committed to book with her if she could get us a spot. This may be the only time I've worked with a travel agent in my life.

I was nervous about putting all of my faith in this lady I just "met" a day ago so I was halfway between excited and trying to be cool in case we couldn't go. As Yoda said "train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." Our main request was to get a spot as late as possible. Beverly the travel agent nailed this and got us a spot on the September 26th voyage! The "hotel" works like a cruise ship, so you can't just check in and out as you please as with a typical hotel. Here everyone enters and leaves as a cohort for a "journey" that lasts two nights. Our journey was set to be the second to the last one before they pulled the plug.

How exciting! I explained the situation to one month-old Ern Dawg and he enthusiastically requested that he be allowed to come with us instead of rotting in stinky Missouri or Illinois while we had all the fun. Sure thing my dude. We invited Linda to come with us and help us with the little man and have some fun for herself along the way. I still felt like our room wasn't going to be full enough, though, so I invited my long time friend Hank to come along as well. I say "invited" but after the initial invite there was a bit of arm twisting. I think he wanted to go but didn't want to be a bother on what seemed like a family vacation. We had half jokingly talked about going just the two of us, and with the Starcruiser shutting down this was as close as we were going to get to that ever happening.

What a life. I'm definitely thankful to have the resources to support my strange whims and the family and friends around me to share in the experience.

Look how cool this is going to be!