Tuesday, August 28, 2012

City of Pawn Shops, Lighthouses, and Baseball

A few weekends ago, my parents came up for their second visit since Brad and I moved up here. It was kind of a last-minute thing, but since they were already in the neighborhood (six hours away instead of the usual nine to ten), we all said, "Why not?" and planned for a weekend in Detroit.


Now, maybe you've heard of it, and maybe you haven't, but my dad loves this show called Hardcore Pawn. I've seen it a few times, and it really is entertaining--if you enjoy watching a bunch of disgruntled people snap when they find out their TVs have been sold. And the best part about the show? It's shot at American Jewelry and Loan, which is conveniently located in the Metro Detroit area. Needless to say, we had to stop by.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are some of the treasures we came across at AJ&L:

Dont worry--I don't think I will.
Biggest raccoon I've ever seen. Ever. He could eat your dog.

We were able to get a photo of my dad with Les Gold (store owner and reality TV star) and one of his body guards. Such a happy trio . . . but you probably don't wanna mess around with these guys.


Next stop: Downtown Detroit. We were in town for a Tigers game, but decided to get there a little early so my parents could take a quick tour of the city. And boy, was it a beautiful day to do just that.

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Hanging out beside the Detroit River

Go, Tigers!
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Me and my Daddy

As most people eventually do around the middle of the day, we got hungry, and rolled down the road looking for food. AND WE FOUND A FUDDRUCKERS. I love that place. Had no idea there were any around here, but I was happy just the same.


And, of course, game time. In the year that I've lived up here, I had not yet been to a Tigers game (sad, I know!), but was glad that the first one I went to was with my parents. My mom and dad were actually supposed to visit a couple weeks later when the Orioles (my dad's favorite team) was in town, but the change of plans suited us fine. At least I didn't have to decide who to root for.

I love the view of Detroit's skyline from Comerica Park--it almost doesn't look real.
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During about the third inning, however, some monster clouds rolled in and started to dump rain all over us. Trying not to get trampled by thousands of people, we all rushed to the nearest stairwell before everyone else caught on and waited in the concessions area while all the other fans flooded into the crowded area. The game was delayed for probably about a half an hour, but at least it gave me enough time to sneak downstairs to the ice cream booth for a scoop of butter pecan.

Covering the field during the rain delay.

Post-ice cream, the rain let up, we filed back in, and the rest of the game went on without a hitch. And you know what? We won! 'Atta team.

Here's one with my mom! She thinks the reverse-camera option on my iPhone is really cool.
Post-game fireworks

The Tigers are pretty okay in my book. And so are my parents--they make pretty good baseball-watching buddies.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Olympic Gold


So, what have I been up to recently? Oh, you know . . . just hanging out at AT&T. The norm.

Okay, it's a little more interesting than it sounds. That AT&T store . . . it just so happened that Jordyn Wieber was hanging out there, too.

*Commence girly screaming*

That's right--in addition to being home to wolverines, lakes, and even Tim Allen, Michigan also apparently churns out Olympic athletes in numbers that might make you think that everyone here consumes protein powder made from gold dust.

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Above, clockwise from top left: Waiting in line to see Jordyn Wieber, photographic evidence that I was there, announcement sign, and sticker from AT&T's recent "It Can Wait" campaign

After about an hour and a half of waiting, Jordyn showed up, the front doors opened, and we were ushered inside in groups of about 10 to 15 to catch a glimpse of the Olympian. Once I finally saw the star of the day through the crowd, I pulled out my camera and took a photo before realizing that Jordyn was awkwardly staring at me and my paparazzi behavior. So, being the respectful person that I am, I put my camera back in its bag. Then, the "fan" section of my brain decided that taking pictures on my iPhone with the sound off would be way more acceptable--and stealthy. Turns out, when I get excited/nervous, all of my extra energy transfers to my hands. I could barely hold my phone still enough to take a decent photo, so we'll just skim over that two minutes of my life for now.

My only camera snapshot from this angle before I moved all of my awkwardness to my phone.

When I was almost to the front of the line, I watched the people ahead of me--a dad and his daughter--walk up to the autograph table. The daughter, probably in her early teens, beamed as she lifted the corner of her shirt, revealing a plastic brace that she then asked Jordyn to sign. The girl didn't say what her brace was for, but I assumed that she must have been another young gymnast, recovering from a physical injury. With a face full of surprise and curiosity, Jordyn obliged and the dad stood back, smiling as he took photos.

Finally, it was my turn. Up until this point, the room had been pretty calm and surprisingly quiet, and Jordyn seemed like she could use a little conversation. I walked up to the table.

Me (in an unintentionally too-quiet voice): "Hi..."

*Jordyn doesn't hear me or look up*

*I put my Us Weekly down on the table in front of her and squeak out in a slightly more audible tone*: "It's nice to meet you."

Jordyn (in an even quieter whisper): "It..."
*Leans head down and starts to sign magazine. I see lips moving, but no sound is coming out.*

Now, I'm determined to talk to this girl because, well--she's Jordyn Wieber, and I'm probably never going to meet her again. I scan my thoughts, and all of the Olympian's recent press tours, TV appearances, and travel plans come to mind.

Me: "You must be exhausted."
Jordyn: *Chuckles and smiles a little* "It's not too bad."
Me: "That's good." *Insert real-life, smiley emoticon here*

The gold medal princess might have started to say something else at that moment, but I never ended up hearing it because I suddenly realized that my 15 seconds with her was about to expire, and I didn't yet have a photo to document the occasion.

Me: *Turning around, holding up my Canon Rebel* "CAN SOMEBODY TAKE MY PICTURE?"

Okay, I didn't actually yell the words (or, at least, I hope to God I didn't), but the slight chaos as people around me rushed to grant my wish made me feel as though I was some sort of monarch who had just demanded a plate of cheese and some cucumber water. Jordyn who?

I handed my camera to a woman I later figured out (I think) was a reporter for Local 4, then squatted on the floor next to Jordyn's chair and cheesed it up for our glamour/BFF shot. Picking up my three bags (I don't travel light) and almost forgetting my signed magazine, I stood up and thanked Jordyn while looking down at the top of her head, and got a quiet "you're welcome" while she waited for the next person in line and undoubtedly wondered who the crazy girl in purple was, stumbling away with an armload of stuff.

Anywho. I ended up with this:


Annnnd, this:

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Before I left, I whipped out the ol' iPhone again, and with newly-steady hands, started snapping a few more shots for insurance. It was a total pageant mom move, but there were at least five other women standing around doing the same thing, so I just decided to go for it.

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Signing autographs for little girls is much more enjoyable, no doubt.

Afterwards, I gathered my thoughts and drove across the street to Walmart to get some lunch. When I got to the checkout line, I noticed a familiar-looking pair standing in front of me. It was the dad and the daughter who had stood in front of me at the AT&T store.

Me: "Hey! You two were standing in front of me at the . . . "
*They turn halfway around and smile and nod politely, then we chit-chat for a minute.*
Me (turning to the girl): Are you the person who had the brace?
Girl: *Grinning* "Yep."
Me: "Are you a gymnast, too?"
Girl: *Smiling* "No, I wish . . . that would be so cool . . . "
*She and her dad look at each other briefly before she looks back at me: "I have scoliosis."

We chatted for a few more minutes, talking about how unique it was to have a signed brace, and she showed it to me again . . . it was the same signature Jordyn scripted on my magazine, with an added "2012" and a little doodle of the Olympic rings. Beaming smile and bold request--I guarantee it was enough to advance the girl to the few people Jordyn will end up remembering from the AT&T signing. And the smiling girl, who had traveled from Lansing to meet her Olympic hero, will certainly remember the event for the rest of her life.

And so, I left the store to go scarf down my lunch, and smiled as I thought about that girl and her dad. It turns out that maturity and role models can come to us from the most unexpected places, standing out even among gold medalists.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spoiler Alert: There are no spoilers (unless you still haven't watched last week's Olympic events)

So, who's likin' dem Olympics?

I am an Olympic nut. Well, really, I get excited at the prospect of the Olympics, tentatively planning my future around being patriotic for two weeks. So far (and this is how it usually happens), my ideal Olympic viewing experience has been a watered-down version of that, with the exception of  occasional excitement during close swimming races, new event discoveries (why didn't I remember that Trampoline is an official Olympic sport?), and of course, gymnastics. Gymnastics is the figure skating of the summer games, and by golly, it'll be one of my faves forever.

I was also reeeeeally excited to see how these Olympic games would be different from all those in  past years, considering the fact that they've been dubbed by countless media outlets as "the most social games ever." You all know that I'm a social media freak, so it should come as no surprise that I joined every athlete and official games page, poised just perfectly to keep up with the latest trending topics. That all worked just fine during the opening ceremony and whatnot, but, duh . . . I kind of forgot about the whole element of surprise and the five-hour time delay between U.S. eastern standard time and London-o'clock. NBC would, of course, wait until east coast prime time to broadcast the most popular events, and meanwhile, I would end up unintentionally reading tweets from Shawn Johnson about how well the ladies' U.S. Olympic team was faring during the team medal finals. Goodbye, pounding heart. Without your gift of anxiety, the televised win would be nothing more than a re-enactment of what could have been an exciting competition.

And so, it came down to a difficult decision--continue to grumble every time a surprise victory was spoiled for me, or give up my precious social media outlets. I chose the latter. Well, sort of. I hid Olympic news from my Facebook news feed, then decided to only use Twitter between the hours of midnight and . . . whenever the events I cared about started in London the next morning. Very limited window, but for a true cause, we'll say.

You may be asking why I didn't try to watch the events live online. I did finally get around to that for the women's all-around competition, once NBC's flash-based platform decided to actually work (hint: use Chrome instead of Firefox). After that semi-exciting round of streamed tumbling, my parents dropped in for a surprise weekend visit, so the last several days have been run-around-town busy for me. Thus, there was a slight disconnect that made for delayed event-watching, but easier result-avoiding in other event finals.

And so, I'm back online today, but trying my best not to catch any sneak peeks of how the U.S. women fare in today's events. Is it balance beam or floor exercise? Not exactly sure, but Google definitely isn't safe at this point, either. In the meantime, I'll continue to play the avoidance game, and wait for this evening when I can possibly jump back into networking mode. Until then, please--no spoilers. And if you wanna hide out from sports spoilers but just can't put down your smart phone, I'll be hunkered down in my viewer-friendly Facebook and Twitter worlds. Everyone's welcome, and I promise--no spoilers before game time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wheels and Trains and Motorized Things

Noise maker. I don't know what it's really called, but all you need to know is that it was horribly loud.

"It's basically a festival for really nerdy things."

. . . That's along the lines of what Brad told me as we drove to Dearborn's Henry Ford for the annual Maker Faire. He was convinced that I was going to be bored out of my mind, but I was under the impression that the Maker Faire would offer some arts, crafts, and other interesting exhibits that didn't only appeal to engineers. Well, I was sort of right.

I'm not gonna lie--the festival was kind of weird. Time machines, giant cupcakes, things with wheels and people in camouflage kilts and corsets made for an interesting setting, but the setup was anything but boring. No, I didn't necessarily want to spend ten minutes talking to some guy about how he made an electric-powered-anything, but there was definitely plenty to look at.

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Above, clockwise from top left: A "time machine" created by the Goodrich High School robotics team, the inside of a giant cupcake, and some guy rolling around the fair in that giant cupcake.

One of my favorite attractions? The big, multi-rider bikes (I'm sure there's a more scientific name). We rode one through the festival as we terrorized camera crews and small children. Tons of fun, of course.

That's not us.

And I didn't really have the motivation to try one of these, but they were really amusing to watch:

Get it, girl.

Another crowd-pleaser was the giant Mouse Trap, which I assumed before actually seeing the thing was just . . . a giant mouse trap. Like the kind you catch mice in, not the kind manufactured by Hasbro. This thing was intense, and featured a full-on domino effect where a bowling ball made its way through a series of contraptions. At the end, a safe fell on a car. 'Nuff said.

Mouse Trap
The crushed car after the safe fell off that big . . . thing . . . up there.

At some point, we decided to go inside the Henry Ford museum to cool down from the heat and look around a little while. It was a quick trip (we plan on going back sometime since we bought a membership), but we did get to see several cool things. A few that stood out: the car JFK was assassinated in (yeah, I know it's kind of creepy), robots, Lego contraptions, and some huge trains. As if Brad wasn't already in engineer Heaven, right?

Kennedy's Limo
A HUGE snow plow train! At least, that's what Brad said it was. It looks like a hungry Lochness Monster to me.

Back outside, we spent our last hour or so at the fair watching Power Racing, otherwise known as Grown-Men-And-Women-Scrunching-Themselves-Into-Tiny-Powerwheels-Cars. Pretty hilarious, actually, once the organizers got past the drawn-out commentary and the drivers got down to racing.

In the timed events, drivers were tasked with shooting Nerf darts into checkpoint nets as they scooted around the track.
This tiki hut guy was one of my favorites, mostly because he blared Michael Jackson songs as he circled the track.
Annnnd . . .  they're off! Moxie race. Otherwise known as: the race that doesn't count, where you get to act as stupid as you want to. Silly string and several breakdowns/minor crashes did occur.

A nerdtopia, in every sense of the (made-up) word. In all the best possible ways, of course.
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