Ali, Christina, and I decided to take a trip to Old Country Buffet (1512 Ridge Rd. W.) — coupon-in-hand — for some pre-drinking grease-soak. As it turned out, the food was considerably better than my extremely low expectations. In future visits, I'll be sure to stick to the simple stuff like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. But a discount is the way to go as $12-per-adult can get a little pricey, although drinks and dessert are included, although there are no alcoholic drinks — so taken all together, it's about as expensive as a hearty trip to the diner. But maybe a little better if you have food A.D.D. or something.
Plus — and let's be honest here — how could I avoid writing this when I had the whole "No Country for Old Buffet" title in my back pocket? I knew you'd understand.
This morning it was around 28°F and I went out for a run. I guess I went around 1.5 miles, and in the last 300 yards or so, I took off my water-shoes and did it barefoot. The sidewalk was snow-covered and quite cold. But, like the last time I did this on Monday, I felt my feet try to heed the call for more warmth. My theory is that I can increase the circulation enough that I might be able to go out for long periods of time. That, however, won't be for quite a while.
The real point of this trip, though, is that we bought advance tickets to see The House in Hydesville at Geva (75 Woodbury Blvd.) and they never close due to weather, at least according to the person I talked to at the box office earlier today. Indeed, it was performed (although lacking the after-play discussion as the lecturer was stuck in Livingston County.)
As for the play itself, well, it was kind of disappointing. I guess I was expecting it to be more spooky. The scenes that were supposed to be spooky were indeed spooky, but it was more a tale of a family struggling to stay together. Blah, blah, blah — I've seen that many times before, and with more richly drawn characters to boot. I will say the set was fantastic (although not as impressive from the balcony), and the acting was generally good (but not exceptional).
It seemed to be written from a skeptic's perspective. So rather than playing with the heat generated by the mysterious circumstances and lack of verifiable factual information, it quenches all the fun. It was extra disappointing because a great amount of tension developed during the first half that was wasted in the second. In all it was a shrug-inducing experience. "Eh."
Anyway, as time-travel stories go, this one was rather unusual in that the ramifications of going back in time are seemingly completely resolved, if at great expense. The protagonist, Hector, starts out the film in an (apparently) satisfactory relationship with his wife at (apparently) a house they just moved into. Hector is perusing the landscape with his binoculars when his wife leaves to run a few errands. In a nearby clearing, he spies a woman undressing so (naturally?) he goes to investigate. Once he finds the girl, he's attacked by a man with a fully bandaged head. He escapes to the shelter of a facility of some kind, and finds the sole weekend occupant who inexplicably ushers him into a chamber that sends him back an hour-or-so into the past.
He again meets the technician — who's naturally surprised to meet him for the first time — and the technician explains that he must not do anything until he gets back to the point where he left from earlier … er … later. Hector, however, has other plans: he wants to stop himself from getting attacked. In the process, though, he ends up with quite a head injury and realizes he's the guy who attacked himself.
Well, things go from bad to worse, to worse again. Just one Hector was clumsy enough, but having three of them exist in the same hour just leads to disaster. He thankfully figures out how to get all the events to play out without need for further trips back in time.
So what's the point? I'm not sure. Maybe a tale about not being malicious. Maybe it's just a clever story. And maybe it's as simple as this: if you've got a wife and see a sexy young woman undressing, just stay away.
In our second attempt, Ali and I succeeded in catching The Wrestler at The Little (240 East Ave.) The basic story is that of a wrestler named Randy "The Ram" Robinson 20 years after his prime, and showing it.
Anyone who has a single calling that requires the physical attributes of youth faces a crisis when those attributes fade, be it an athlete or a roofer. The film's documentary style lingers on the desperate and sobering moments in Randy's life and I'm having trouble articulating my reaction to that. I guess at the core is pity and hopelessness: that I could see no way to help the character out of his present downward spiral, and I had no idea what would work for him.
Obviously, if he had planned ahead 20 years ago, perhaps saving some money or building other skills, he wouldn't be in this position. But once the train of your life gets momentum on tracks that don't lead anywhere good, what do you do? I guess making money where you can, hanging out with a stripper at the end of her career, and waiting to die might just be the only thing to do.
Overall we both enjoyed the film quite a bit. It's a parable to the dangers of nostalgia — of lingering on the past just a little too long. As such, I kind of left with a melancholic heart … with the tainted promise of past joy.
Ali and I went to The Little (240 East Ave.) to see The Wrestler. Unfortunately, I had collected show-times from several weeks prior and didn't realize the Little changed them every week — we were a bit early as it was, and we'd have to wait about an hour. Instead, we opted to see Slumdog Millionaire.
The movie was quite good. In case you've been on a media vacation for the last 6 months, it's about a young man named Jamal who grew up in the slums of Mumbai, India. He has attained the position of serving tea at (if I remember correctly) a call center for-hire and gets his way onto the show Kaun Banega Crorepati?, the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
The host of the show openly mocks his past — being a tea-server and growing up in the slums — and he is surprised that Jamal begins answering questions right. Every question, in fact. He's so surprised that he has Jamal taken to the police and interrogated. And here is where most of the film takes place: through flashback to events in his life to explain how he learned the answers.
In a way, it calls to the triviality of knowing trivia — that knowing the answers to arbitrary fact-based questions is not correlated with one's class, job, or past. Also, if someone has a wide breadth of experiences in their life, they will necessarily fare pretty well on such a contest, while those who typically excel have deliberately dedicated effort to the act of learning facts.
As the movie goes, the first act is full of the horrors of the slums, the second shows the ingenuity of Jamal, his brother, and another girl as they struggle to survive: all having lost their parents. The third act is sweet confection for the audience as it turns into a John Hughes film (his good ones in the 1980's, at least), complete with a musical montage (and with the added bonus of a Bollywood dance number over the credits).
Overall, I thought it was a good movie: enough substance to make it thought-provoking, all the while with an eye to entertainment.
I headed out to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) to see Chae Hawk, and The Secret Secret Dino Club. Okay, actually I went specifically because Secret Secret Dino Club is headed by a guy named Jayce, born just before I left high school and not far from where I grew up (according to the MySpace page). [That, and I'm writing this far later than I had intended so some people might miss it entirely.]
Anyway, the show was kicked off with a DJ along with a video projection. The Secret Secret Dino Club was up first and did some fun and clever hip-hop. Chae Hawk brought some stuff that was a little … oh, I don't know … less whimsical? — but similar nonetheless. The crowd was much younger than I was (except for some parental-looking folks) and this style of music is kind of new to me. It's an exercise in overstimulation — between the prerecorded music for the performers, the live performance, the video projection, and a DJ adding in a couple turntables, it can get to be a bit overwhelming. But somehow it all stays coherent, and with a thoroughly rough edge — kind of like an extension of the gritty garage sound of the 1960's and the punk sound of the 1970's, this is the gritty sound of the generation with access to cheap digital replication and editing.
As for Jayce, I stopped after the show and said hi. He said he's usually met by black women who share his name, and I'm the first guy. My own nickname was cemented by the presence of the cartoon show Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors during high school (and for you geeky trivia nuts [you know who you are], none other than J. Michael Straczynski wrote 13 episodes, according to IMDb). I told Jayce this and he said he was also named after a cartoon — presumably the same one. How weird is that? And who'd have thought that 20 years after naming a kid that that he'd end up 3 hours away from home and run into someone who got the same name from the same place. But he's going to have to keep looking because I'm not his father.
So I got up around 10 a.m. on Monday — the last day of FrostBurn. I got ready to go and discovered that my car keys were missing. It was oddly just my car keys too: I still had my house keys, but I had somehow unclipped the car keys the night before. Since John and I were the last ones up, and we got no snow the night before, they must have been sitting right on top of the snow. I searched along the paths between the car, my winter shelter, and the bathrooms to no avail. I took down the winter shelter and packed everything up, checking every pocket and nook.
I gave Ali a call on a borrowed phone and let her know what was up. Although she's so awesome that she would have traveled the 5 hours out to get me, she's smart enough to get me to try other options first.
I had signed up for Better World Club last year and finally got a chance to use it. They tried contacting some locksmiths, and decided that the best bet would be to get the Buick Roadmaster towed to the nearest dealership. Lizzy called her friend and we thought a better option would be to bring the VIN to the dealership and have them make a new key. We got hold of Better World Club and called off the wrecker. They called contacted the nearest dealership and found it would cost all of $4.
As I walked around the car to fetch my hand-held GPS to give directions for people, I couldn't believe my eyes. The keys were sitting right out in the open, just a few feet in front of the car.
It might have been there all along, or it might have been kicked free by someone during the four hours of searching.
So I called Ali and got packed up and headed home. Once again, the snow sucked on the roads: all the way from Erie, PA to just east of Buffalo. I did make it home safely, though, and — overall — had a great time. I also got to be remembered as "Jason Who Lost His Keys" rather than (or "in addition to", perhaps) "Jason Who Passed Out in the Snow".
On the third day of FrostBurn, I woke up feeling much better. I was nice and warm inside the winter shelter overnight. I got to have a lot of bacon during the day — largely from the Church of Bacon camp. Too much bacon, I think — if that's even possible [although I could still smell it two days and three showers after I returned.] I got my sea-legs back and had a few drinks during the day. I didn't participate in the Polar Plunge, though, figuring it was something I would not regret if I didn't do it.
I had another nice night beside a roaring fire. I even played with melting glass in the fire. After one of the guys left and took his music, I pulled the Buick around and played some stuff for people. Unfortunately it was already quite late so it wasn't long before we called it a night. I don't even remember turning off the battery on the car, but I got up later and checked and it was fine.
On day two of FrostBurn, I felt pretty hungover. Needless to say [or is it?], I skipped all alcohol today. My shelter had made it through the night, although there was no reason it should not have. I spent some time resting inside the shelter and with the heater on, the temperature easily climbed to over 70°F. All my water and soda had frozen so I put it inside the heated "bath house" — thankfully this year, we had access to heated bathrooms.
That was the night of the burn, too. The guy who made this year's effigy did a great job and burned well. It really looked like a snowman, too, since the body was made of three multifaceted approximations of spheres. There was another Jason — "The Jason" — who was the poster boy of the festivities. He ran around with a bottle of Jameson's in one hand and champagne in another, all the while with a toy monkey on his back.
That night I got to do the official winter shelter experiment: not use the heater. When I got inside, it was 18°F. I had calculated that the 84 or so square feet of the R-3.3 "Tuff-Board" stuff would allow the interior temperature to be about 20°F higher than outside with just one person inside (assuming they'd produce about 75 watts of heat). After an hour or so, the temperature had climbed to 26°F.
That's still really friggin' cold so I turned on the heater and quickly brought the temperature into a more temperate range.