We began the month as we always do, with Nina’s birthday party on Saturday the 1st. We had it at the nearby Ridge Heights Pool after it closed, and the first hour was fine. The second hour with thunder and lightning and eating cake huddled near the entrance wasn’t as fun. Jill said “It was a rainy, crazy, outdoor evening pool party. Most folks showed up which I am eternally grateful for; and also stepped up to make it N’s ‘best birthday party ever!!!’ We have built such a great community around us; we are lucky to call it home.” She also said later “It’s a 2 beer while in the bath kind of night”.
Jill’s mom Sue came down the next day with her husband Dave – they’d spend the next week on vacation, mostly with us. We had more cake for Nina then. Jill said “Happy 7th to my favorite girl! You’re brave, kind, a great friend, and loving daughter. You have your own sense of style and loads of confidence and sass. Your favorite food is Daddy’s ramen, your favorite dessert is ice cream, your favorite colors are pink, blue, and rainbow. My wish is for you to keep your sparkle always. Love always, Mama.” On Monday, Jill, Nina and Sue went apple picking. Tuesday Sue and and Dave babysat and we celebrated our anniversary at Maple Ave – the lamb was excellent.
Bonus points if you can spot Nina in this video.
Thursday the 6th was concert #35: Alanis Morissette at Wolf Trap. Rainy, and we ate our dinner from The Sandwich Shop (which replaced Chase the Submarine) after the show because traffic was terrible, but a great show. Apparently I’m on a see her once each decade schedule.
Saturday it was rainy but Nina insisted we had to go to the South Lakes Village Center Playtime on the Plaza we’d seen earlier in the week when going out for dinner with Dave (and Flippin’ Pizza had been closed, so Nina got her first Subway visit). So after tumbling class we stopped by and she made art and slime in the rain (thankfully they had popup tents). Later she finally got to go fishing with Pop Pop before he left. That night we were out again for concert #36: For U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince at Wolf Trap. Hands down worst concert of the year for the decision to not use any vocalists. Prince’s music without the lyrics is only half the reason he was so great. I don’t need an oboe doing the melody during “1999”. Basically a too expensive karaoke experience. At least the evening was saved with drinks at Clarity.
Sunday the 9th we visited the new Founding Farmers in Reston for the first time to have brunch with Sue and Dave before they headed home. Tuesday I thought of course Ben Folds wrote a song about Rod Rosenstein. I think he’s been hanging around DC too long now. Also his new Declassified show with Regina Spektor on November 2nd was now on sale. Thursday I agreed with this article that you don’t trust things in the cloud will stay there unless you put them there and are paying for the storage.
Thursday the 20th I agreed with an article on re-reading the first Harry Potter book. We’d gotten about a third through the second one by then. I also agreed with Krebs about credit freezes – the bad guys have my info at least 15 times and counting.
Friday the 21st I had an early flight out from Dulles, stopping in Denver and ending in Las Vegas. The flights were not ideal, but the record store crawl in the morning and afternoon with Norm was a lot of fun (the first location of Zia Records was my favorite). We stopped for some Vietnamese at the end, then I checked into my room at the Tropicana. I’d forgotten to pick up sunscreen or a comb on my travels, and the hotel was happy to oblige for $20. Later I caught a bus downtown to concert #37: The Weeknd, Death Cab For Cutie, Justice, CHVRCHES, Slyvan Esso, The Neighbourhood, What So Not & Elohim, plus comedians Brandon Wardell, Jimmy O. Yang, & Rory Scovel at Life is Beautiful. I wasn’t sure what to expect with a festival in the middle of the city, but it was well done (couldnâ€™t hear any bleed over from different stages) and they never ran out of food and drink (especially the hot Cheeto dusted grilled cheese sandwich from Stripchezze and fries from Fukuburger). I was most looking forward to CHVRCHES and they did not disappoint. My only complaint about the festival was nowhere did I see that tickets were required for the comedy shows â€“ but they let me in on standby, so I canâ€™t complain too much.
Saturday I read in the hotel room for a while, then went out to concert #38: Greta Van Fleet at the Daytime Stage at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival. While I’m not a gambler, I did take a chance on a very cheap ticket and lost. But I’d seen the day before you could see the stage from the street, and my bus pass was good for 24 hours. I got there right as they were going on and found a covered bus stop that had a bench I could stand on and see over the fence. Great Led Zep sound (the word is correct â€“ that singer can howl like Plant), but it was still 100 degrees out, and left as soon as they were done to get my Pho’rench Dip at Lardo (French dip with a Banh Mi and Pho, delectable).
Later it was time for the main reason for returning to Vegas: concert #39: Queen + Adam Lambert at Park Theater. It’s been 15 years since my only previous Vegas trip and 25 years since I first saw Brian May at Hammerjacks (and got to shake his hand thanks to Katie from Expulsion chatting up the merch guy). I’ve seen him in Queen with Roger Taylor 5 times since, but that night was truly epic. A 5000 seat venue would have been amazing no matter what, but I ponied up for a seat on stage. As much as their show is great in an arena, it was overpowering in there. The songs, the lights – all the spectacle was more intense. Yes, Freddieâ€™s gone, but Adamâ€™s voice and showmanship has skyrocketed since heâ€™s been playing with them. And thereâ€™s no mistaking those drums and that guitar during songs like â€œDon’t Stop Me Nowâ€, â€œBohemian Rhapsodyâ€, and â€œWe Will Rock Youâ€. Having long time Queen keyboardist Spike Edney turn around and urge us to clap was great, and Roger flashed me a peace sign after I flashed one to him. And while Brian only smiled at me, I did get to shake Adam’s hand. The only WTF moment was Carrot Top coming into our section about 30 minutes before the end and just watching the show (and the band saying hi to him as they passed). This was a very nice picture a lady in my section took.
Afterwards I had a late dinner at Bruxie, a delicious couple of fried chicken & waffle sliders, then quick to bed and yet another early morning flight, unfortunately this time on Frontier. Between the extra fees (fees for carry ons) and the delayed flight (where it was marked as departed on time officially), I won’t be using them again. But at least I still got back in the late afternoon. Nina won her first Apple award in second grade on Friday and got a nice afternoon and evening with old friends Saturday before a brief trip to urgent care while I was away.
Monday the 24th I saw cardsagainsthumanityhackstheelection.com and read “Q: Why donâ€™t you stick to making games and keep out of politics? A: Why donâ€™t you stick to sliding marbles up your urethra?” and nearly snorked iced tea all over my monitor. Friday Nina asked for ramen at a sitdown restaurant (we often go out or get takeout the nights Jill works). We ended up at Red Kimono in Herndon (pretty good ramen, but Nina was not a sushi fan). I wasn’t expecting to see a band that night, but we heard a music when we left, and ended up at concert #40: Nah. at Jambrew. Sounded nice, but Nina was more interested in playing “hiding from Professor Snape”.
Saturday the 29th we got on the road quickly and headed down to Staunton, which was celebrating Queen City Mischief & Magic, a festival of all things Harry Potter. We’d gotten about 3/4 through Chamber of Secrets when we arrived, and we got Nina into her new Hogwarts robes. Right off we met Dumbledore and Hagrid, posed as the other Weasleys, then waited as Nina got her wish to be sorted into Gryffindor. We got some lunch from nearby food trucks and stands (BBQ for Jill and I, PB&J for her), then went on to see a glass blowing demonstration and Platform 9 3/4. We waited to go in Pufferbellies (the toy store) where she picked out Lego minifigures, then went to a potions class by Redwood & Co (or make your own bath lotion, but nicely tailored for the occasion). We also got to meet the Four Founders and Nina got to visit 2 cupboards under the stairs. Finally it was getting late and we went to Shenandoah Pizza & Tap House where we demolished a large pizza. We also stopped for ice cream at Klineâ€™s Dairy Bar before finally getting to our room at the Econo Lodge – not the nicest, but all we needed was a place to sleep.
The next morning we had a hearty breakfast at Kathyâ€™s Restaurant (with giant pancakes the size of Nina’s head), then got on the road. We made a last minute decision to stop at Luray Caverns and that was fun – neither Jill or Nina had been before, and it was a nice walk. We didn’t have time for any other attractions, as Jill wanted to visit the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. So we drove up there and Nina and I walked around, visited the sheep and goats and shared fries while Jill shopped.