On Friday, July 4, The White Rabbit hosted a barbecue at his place. The festivities continued Saturday, because some people don't get time off for federal holidays.
(clockwise from left) The Voice, The Devil's Advocate, The Cheshire Cat,
Pimp Daddy and The Con Ops Guru
I got lucky this time, because I didn't have to do a lot of my regular assignments. This meant that I got to stay late enough to see the fireworks, which I don't usually get to do on weeknights.
Friday was the biggest day. In fact, some people attended whom I hadn't met before, and I didn't get a chance to speak with all of them.
In addition to The White Rabbit, me and The Gryphon, attending were The Dormouse; Batman; Batman's Roommate; The Cheshire Cat and his wife, The Paper; The Con Ops Guru; The Big Kahuna; The Devil's Advocate; The Voice; Pimp Daddy; The Warrior Princess; The Genealogist; The Video Editor; The Cousin, her husband, The Photographer, and their youngest daughter; The Fruit Lady, her husband, The Quiet Man, and their two daughters; The AMV Editor along with three friends; My College Roommate and her son; and another couple I didn't know, who headed out early.
I was amused to discover that The Fruit Lady used my nickname (which had been suggested by The Cousin, since The Fruit Lady loves fruit) to mark her cup.
Shortly after we arrived, My College Roommate and her son left, because it was past his naptime, and he was getting cranky. She promised, though, that she would return the next day.
The White Rabbit made the rounds, asking for suggestions of things to pick up at the grocery store. I volunteered to accompany him, both to help carry things and so he wouldn't have to go by himself. I always enjoy talking to him.
We found everything easily except for the hot dogs, which neither of us typically buy. A store employee told us it was in the dairy section, which seemed odd, especially since that aisle only had signs for things like "milk" and "cheese." But sure enough, there they were, hiding from the customers, hoping to survive the great Hot Dog Pogrom of Independence Day. But it was not to be; we swept them up and placed them in the cart, where they would await their fiery doom.
As we were checking out, the cashier attempted to make conversation, but she seemed a little awkward or perhaps even nervous. The White Rabbit paid, and upon handing back his card, she said, "Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit." (Except, of course, that she used his actual last name.)
We said, in unison, "What?" She repeated it. I understood, then, that she assumed we were married. Perhaps she'd even noticed my wedding band.
"No. I'm married," I said, "but not to him." She stared at me. "We're old friends." She stared some more. I laughed nervously and helped The White Rabbit place the bags in the cart, all the while wishing I had a big inflatable squeaky hammer so I could have bopped her on the head.
The White Rabbit and I have been good friends since college, and because we spent so much time together, occasionally strangers assumed we were a couple. Like, for example, if we were both taking our a-la-carte trays through one of the eateries at the Penn State Hetzel Union Building (HUB), the cashier might ask if we were together. This hadn't happened to us for a long time.
After we got outside, The White Rabbit told me that the same thing happens frequently with The Cousin, who is his cousin (hence the nickname) and with whom he is very close. I told him how my brother and I used to face the same assumptions, because we were close and spent a lot of time together back in the day.
It was only after we got back to his place that The White Rabbit realized we hadn't bought ice. Neither one of us wanted to go back, so we decided to do without. I might have gone back, but this time I would have brought a giant, inflatable squeaky hammer.
Hot dogs and hamburgers had been served before we arrived, and they were taking a break from grilling. Fortunately, The Paper had brought some of her delicious jambalaya and even taken extra pains to make sure I could eat it: using turkey sausage instead of beef sausage. I don't eat beef or pork, primarily for health reasons but also because it's been so long since I ate those meats that they give me indigestion.
The other food offerings included brownies (from My College Roommate), watermelon (thanks, Fruit Lady!), a veggie tray (from me and The Gryphon), beef chili, rice, and various types of chips, plus beer, malt beverages, soda and water. The Warrior Princess had brought makings for mojitos, including fresh mint from her garden. I tried one later in the day; it was fantastic.
The Gryphon had marinated several pounds of chicken in a marinade he created himself, which included tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, cider vinegar, olive oil, chipotle peppers, green chiles, garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, molasses, salt and pepper. He grilled half of that around dinnertime, when they fired up the grill for another round.
In the meantime, I made the rounds socializing. I entered the front room, populated by a group of guys, including The Video Editor, who as soon as I entered said, "Uh-oh, there's a woman present." At first, I took umbrage at the remark, until the guys explained that I'd just walked in after Batman's Roommate said that he lives like a bachelor.
Of course, The Video Editor continued to tease me about being the only woman in the room until I wished, once more, that I had a giant, inflatable squeaky hammer. It's hard for me to come up with a witty rejoinder after half a beer, lightweight that I am.
The Video Editor likes to tweak people, but his most sardonic comments are always reserved for himself. Later on in the party, Batman's Roommate spilled some chili on his shirt and immediately used his spoon to collect it and eat it. "Now, that's a bachelor!" I remarked. Almost immediately, The Video Editor said that was nothing and offered up some suitably embarrassing examples of his own bachelor foibles. And so it all came full circle.
Almost constantly throughout the party, one game or another was taking place at the dining room table. Often, the other seats were taken up by spectators, and the extra table space by snacks.
(clockwise from left) The Quiet Man, The Photographer, an unidentified guest, Pimp Daddy,
The Voice (standing), an unidentified guest, The Devil's Advocate
(clockwise from bottom left) The Warrior Princess, Batman, Pimp Daddy (hidden), The Video Editor,
The Fruit Lady, The Dormouse, The Cousin, The Voice, and The AMV Editor playing Apples to Apples
Everything was going really well until I went upstairs with The White Rabbit so I could check my e-mail and double check the time I had to start work that night. While I was on the computer, The Gryphon brought me a piece of chicken, just off the grill. I was holding that plate in one hand and a drink in the other, descending the stairs, when my foot slipped and I crashed down, landing on my backside and spilling part of my mojito on the carpet, as the chicken flew the opposite direction.
A group of people were playing Apples to Apples around the table and witnessed the fall. The Fruit Lady ran up with paper towels to get the drink out of the carpet so it wouldn't stain. Everybody kept asking me if I was OK, but I was stunned and upset, thinking about the time I fell on the stairs two years ago, injuring my tail bone. "I'll know tomorrow," I told them, adding, "I hope I didn't aggravate my old injury."
After the initial shock, as I began to recover, I made a physical self-assessment, figuring out exactly where it hurt. Fortunately, this time, instead of landing on my tail bone, I'd landed at an angle, producing a little muscle pain and some bruising. In addition, I skinned my left elbow, which is minor but hurts whenever I accidentally touch it against the arm of my chair. Aside from some stiffness in my neck, I'm otherwise fine.
The Fruit Lady saw how upset I was and kept reassuring me, telling me that everybody falls once in a while and I shouldn't be embarrassed about it. The truth is, I was a little embarrassed, so it helped to hear the kind words. Another thing that helped was listening to The Quiet Man, strumming songs on the guitar.
I also enjoyed watching The Photographer and a few volunteers setting off miniature carbide cannons on the front porch. They were answered by the snaps and pops of firecrackers down the street.
After the game of Apples to Apples finished, The Cousin invited me to join them for another round of the game. I joined, and soon the cheerful conversation got my mind off my pain.
We were partially into the game when we heard some loud noises out front. At first, we thought some people might be setting off fireworks on the street, but then we realized it was the main fireworks display by the municipality, starting a little earlier than we'd expected. We all rushed out onto the porch to watch.
Normally, I don't have much luck photographing fireworks, but this time they were close enough that, with my digital camera and a little patience, I managed to get a few good shots.
Some of them were lower and therefore blocked from our view by an old tree across the street. In this picture, the tree looks like it's on fire. It's just a trick of the light, though.
Trying something new, I recorded about a minute of the fireworks display, which I've uploaded to YouTube. You can hear people chatting in the background, and in the distance, babies crying and dogs barking at the noise.
Near the end, The Dormouse had some fun pretending that he was commanding the fireworks, like a wizard. I tried to get a good shot of it but had problems due to both timing and to the camera adjusting to the lighting. This is probably the best one in terms of composition, although the timing was a little off and therefore, the picture was dark. I adjusted it as much as I could, but it's very grainy.
The other fairly good shot is taken from a different angle. While it looks good on a computer screen, I'm thinking his arm might be too dark to come out in a print. Still, it's pretty neat, wot?
I also got one decent shot of people on the porch watching the fireworks, although The Genealogist noticed me and looked straight at me, turning her gaze from the skies. I can see here that The Fruit Lady was also snapping pics. I wonder how hers turned out.
(from left) The Gryphon, The Genealogist, The Cousin, The Fruit Lady,
The Voice (partially hidden), The Photographer (cut off) watch fireworks
When the show was over, we completed our game of Apples to Apples, though I noticed it wasn't as raucous as when it had been played earlier. It's a word association game that is best when it's fresh, because everyone is at their silliest.
After that, I joined in a game of Guillotine, the card game where you compete to collect the heads of French nobles. You lay out a set of 12 nobles in a line, with the executioner at the end. Then each player uses action cards to manipulate the line and try to collect the nobles with the highest point value. For example, Marie Antoinette is worth 5 points, while an innocent victim is worth -1. Whoever has the most points at the end of three days (three 12-noble lines) wins.
When we play, we make it more interesting by telling little stories that match up with our action cards. The White Rabbit is particularly good at this, using an outrageous French accent while he tells his stories of noble intrigue and betrayal.
(from left) The White Rabbit, The Cousin's youngest daughter,
The Fruit Lady's daughter, The Fruit Lady. The Dormouse is in the doorway.
The last game I played that evening was a German card game called Bohnanza, where the goal is to earn money by planting and harvesting bean fields. Most of the game action, though, involves making trade deals with fellow players, offering them cards you don't want for cards you do.
I played this against The White Rabbit, The Warrior Princess, The Big Kahuna, The Devil's Advocate, The Cheshire Cat and Pimp Daddy, as I remember (my apologies if I got this wrong). Meanwhile, the Gryphon took a nap upstairs. I observed that it was funny that he's the gamer and I was the one playing all the games, but he was tired.
The game could get a little complicated, but it was a lot of fun. We played it in a very cooperative way, so that people didn't actively try to do nasty things to each other but rather, to trade whatever they could in order to achieve their own goals. The Big Kahuna won, which was a bit of a surprise, since he hadn't seemed to be having good luck for much of the game.
It was a bit later than I thought when the game ended, but we still had time to make it home for my only assignment of the evening. I was admittedly tired when I got back, but I wouldn't have given up a minute of the fun.
A giant inflatable squeaky hammer would come in useful.