Day 91

Tasting: the best gingerbread muffin I’ve ever had, dipped in coffee
Seeing: crowded library study rooms, a Depeche Mode post I’d never seen before
Smelling: floral and fragrant boiled parsnip
Feeling: simultaneous sugar and caffeine rushes, some cold breeze from outside around my legs, soreness in my hands
Hearing: “Misty Mountains” from The Hobbit, a barista’s accent which is either English or West Corkonian

I stayed up a little later last night than I intended, because I’m great at postponing bedtime. So I slept in later than I expected. But I got up and got to Café Depeche to get some caffeine and sugar in me before I made my final presentation for drama class.

I don’t usually buy muffins when I go out to cafés since they tend to be made with shortening, lots of white sugar, and not have any whole grains. Not like I never eat things that fall into those categories (I certainly do)– I just usually save muffins for healthy snacks to bake myself. But I wanted some gingerbread, and I knew there were gingerbread muffins at this café. Now begins the section in which I describe my food experience in great detail:

The gingerbread flavor was perfect, featuring the sharp ginger as the star spice of course but letting warmth from cloves (?) and cinnamon come through as well. The batter was moist without being too greasy, and the top had that perfect-baked consistency that made it great for dipping in my americano. There was an initially unidentified soft spread on the top that I realized was spiced buttercream. And towards the end of my eating it, I discovered that there was a cream filling as well. I asked the barista what bakery they use, and she told me they had their own bakery up the road. I’ll have to do further investigation. (End food description here.)

I was glad to finish my last drama class, and a little disappointed that I was made to go last. Funnily enough, the reason for my going last wasn’t because of my family name from the end of the alphabet but because we just happened to go in sitting-arrangement order in an inward spiral. I was so prepared to answer questions from my classmates by the end of the video, but the professor cut me short. Well, they liked the video a lot and responded very loudly to it, so I guess the best just had to be saved for last.

I forgoed my usual trip up to the practice room in favor of the library. I was determined to take a look at exam questions of past years and then study intensely; I even packed some snacks so I wouldn’t have to get up for lunch. But that turned out to be difficult because there wasn’t a free seat in sight. There were, however, plenty of unoccupied chairs that remained so for a long time. Students will just put their books and laptops unattended for what seems like hours at a time in order to reserve a spot because they know it’ll be too crowded later. But it’s so crowded because people leave their stuff there. Sets my teeth on edge.

But there were enough unoccupied armchairs for me to settle down, read a bit of the New York Times, and look at modules I might want to take next semester. Good news is that both of the food science modules I want to take are on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving Monday and Friday free so far for traveling!

So I went back to the apartment, did some laundry and some outlining for my drama reflection (which is due next Tuesday but I need to turn it in by Friday since I’ll be in Sweden on Tuesday) and cooked myself a snack of veggie breakfast sausage and a spiegelei on spinach. Breakfast for snack, snacks for lunch, and dessert for breakfast.

I went to my penultimate English lecture, which was a little shorter and smaller than usual, then went back to snack more, work, and do laundry. I made dinner and brought it down to Apartment 8 to watch The Hobbit. The first time I saw it was around the holidays, so it has holiday nostalgic appeal for me and I was so happy to watch it. I only got through maybe the first half-hour though so I could do laundry and get an early bedtime. I did not procrastinate getting to bed tonight.


Day 90

Smelling: the hickory smoke near the loch
Seeing: a cloudy sky darkening the dawn, lights in the city as it goes dark, airy interior of Hassett’s
Feeling: comfortably warm and balmy air
Tasting: sundried tomatoes in a quiche
Hearing: the orchestral soundtrack of Fantastic Beasts, loud German whispering in my ear behind me

I went to sleep looking forward to running, and woke up excited to go. Who am I? Enjoying running? Being able to run for more than twenty minutes and not get bored or too fatigued? I don’t know, but it felt good.

After showering, I had a nice session of more tea, toast, and some meditation and reading. I had initially planned to run some errands, but figured that practicing and studying were better done earlier in the day and that I could do the errands on my way back from the movie I was planning to see later. Both practice and study weren’t too long or intense, but I’m glad to have gotten something done.

Emily and I both happened to be in the library and I was hungry, so we met at the entrance and walked to Hassett’s, where we met one of our mates Alex. The two girls got sandwiches and I got a quiche.

The movie was good, but it really put a damper on my experience that there was a gang of loud German students behind us that would not stop talking throughout the whole time.  But the movie itself was very enjoyable. It didn’t drag despite the long run time, and while there were some problems and weak parts, it was very feel-good. I’m actually pretty excited for what’s to follow.

I picked up some items from Boots (pharmacy) on the way back and spent a bit too much money at the co-op, then ate a hearty dinner of veggie tagine and grilled cheese of basil pesto and mozzarella.

Day 89

Feeling: freezing cold hands, the cold Blarney stone on my lips
Tasting: “nutcracker” brownie from Insomnia, salty vodka-cured salmon
Seeing: mist over the hills in Blarney
Hearing: the bus rattling
Smelling: a castle

I started off the day with a quick pilates session, then overnight oats and green tea with lemon, so my life is basically a fitness Instagram. At 8:30 I met Laura’s friend Anna outside the apartment to head out to the bus stop, and it only took at half-hour bus ride to get to Blarney.

The town and the castle was very quiet, and the air was cold and misty. We’d originally wondered whether an 8:00 or 9:00 departure would be better in terms of beating the crowds, but our 9:30 arrival was perfect since things opened late on Sundays. We made a beeline (well, slowly) to the stone, then on the way down we explored the nooks and crannies (including a “murder hole” which was used to drop lethal items on invaders should they get past the front entrance). There were also lovely gardens around the castle, including a poison garden full of plants of varying toxicities and a fern garden with some of the hugest ferns I have ever seen, leading up to a waterfall.


Per Laura’s recommendation, we went to a café called Insomnia in the Woolen Mills. The Mills is apparently the largest Irish store in the world, according to the sign out front. She specifically recommended the hot chocolate, so Anna got a red velvet hot chocolate while I opted for my usual macchiato and got an awesome brownie topped with cranberries, white and milk chocolate, and peanuts.

We took the bus back to meet Laura and almost went into a craft and vintage sale but decided against it when we saw that there was an entrance fee, so we went to the Electric bar upstairs for a light, quick round of appetizers. Neither Laura nor I had been to Elizabeth Fort, and having a guest from out of town is a great excuse to see tourist attractions that you may have skipped over.

Day 88

Tasting: a crème brulée latte
Smelling: fresh-baked boxed chocolate chip cookies
Feeling: hands frozen stiff, caffeine buzz, hangry
Hearing: a recording of my jazz teacher counting out a rhythm, Depeche Mode
Seeing: a crowded Centra back area

Today was a day that I set aside to get work done, and I think I was successful in that. After a small breakfast I went to Café Depeche to caffeinate, warm up, and read more of the York Mystery Plays. The drink that I got was called “crème brulée latte” but it was really just a lukewarm milk espresso drink with vanilla, white chocolate, and caramel. Not like I’m complaining.

I had to practice in the ensemble rehearsal room but I’m glad for it; it’s a little more out of the way from the rest of the rehearsal spaces anyway. I’m just really annoyed that the rehearsal rooms get monopolized on Saturdays. I miss my piano.

I headed straight to the library and did a little more dairy studying while waiting for my raw footage to transfer from my phone to my laptop. I got about an hour and a half of editing before I got very hungry and had to go back to make lunch. Well, it was really a between lunch and dinner meal which I ate continually for the rest of the day.

I chatted with Evangelina for over an hour which put me in a good mood. And I finished editing my video! I’m very excited for it.

Day 87

Seeing: the crescent moon setting over the Lough
Smelling: buttery grilled cheese, chamomille tea
Hearing: cranberries pop, loud “drunk” Irishmen yelling
Feeling: freezing cold hands, fatigued knees
Tasting: salty okonomiyaki with sweet potatoes

I had a good, semi-productive and relaxed day. I woke up early, I guess unsurprisingly given my early bedtime. And for some reason I was filled with energy and wanted to do a run around the lake. I completed seven laps, almost eight kilometers! Sure, it was a pretty flat and easy run, but I have never run that long without stopping. I would have done more too, since I was waiting for a certain song to come on shuffle in my playlist. But I neglected to wear warm enough gloves and had to go back for fear I would lose feeling in my hands forever. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little.

I went to the library for a bit to do some more dairy studying, and came back to film my project for my Drama class. I will definitely link everyone to it once it’s finished, but just know for now that there was lots of cheese and butter. More than I would ever eat all at once.

I took a nap in preparation for a ska concert that I was planning to see with Laura and her American friend visiting from Greece, Anna, but the concert was 21+ so we decided to see a play instead. It was Kings of the Kilburn High Road, an Irish play set in the 70’s about middle-aged Irish immigrants to England. There was lots of crying and drinking and yelling and emotions; it was the perfect thing to see on a visit to Ireland.

Day 86

Seeing: crowded study rooms in the library
Tasting: salty mac and cheese, burnt granola
Feeling: extreme fatigue in my arm from whipping egg whites, extremely full
Smelling: my pie baking in the oven
Hearing: a crowded room full of Thanksgiving celebrators, my food law lecturer’s slight lisp

I had an odd night of sleep where I kept waking up, but not from any obvious cause like bad dreams or temperatures. So I made myself sleep in as much as possible, of course. And did some bodyweight exercise in preparation for the massive amount of food I was going to eat later that night, of course.

I went to the grocery store to get a few things I would need for my pie filling, and had my final food law lecture of the week. I brought a small lunch to eat afterwards so I wouldn’t have any excuse not to go to the library, and made myself go to the library so I wouldn’t have any excuse not to study. I think I’m finally understanding caseins.

I went back to get started on my pie. The crust was already par-baked, but I had to spread it with jam and make the meringue filling. And since I had neither hand mixer nor stand mixer, those egg whites would have to get whipped by hand. It took about twenty minutes, but I got something with enough structure! And it didn’t even require the recipe’s full baking time. I also made some granola while the oven was still hot, which burnt a little but still tastes good.

Some people said that they saw a lot of kids wearing Christmas garb, and indeed it looked like there were lighting ceremonies all over the British Isles today. I guess it’s also officially Christmastime here, since it’s one month til Christmas Eve?

The feast started around 4 p.m. and before 6, I’d had two heaping plates of food. There was just so much and it was all really good– turkey, bourbon yams, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and stuffing (neither of which I’d really had before), mac and cheese of various kinds, caprese pasta salad, roasted and fresh veggies with hummus, rolls, and salad. And for dessert, besides my pie, there was pecan slab pie, apple pie, chocolate trifle, vanilla ice cream, and some other mystery pastries.

I made my exit early, like others did, as many people were going out that night, and Skyped with Brian and finished the first season of Community. I’m so thankful for this community that has been here for me in my new country.


Days 83-85

Sorry for the lack of posts– I’ve been so busy with catching up on Bristol weekend posts that I haven’t had time to write about the past few days.

Monday was the recovery day. I had no classes so I worked on organizing myself for the week. Tuesday and today I had classes, but I was still focusing a lot on myself. I’ve been incredibly tired lately and trying to not have coffee. On Tuesday a few USAC folks and I went to Mary’s for tea and scones though, so of course I had a little black tea. It’s always nice to see her.

I’ll try to get back to normal posting as soon as I can. Thanksgiving is tomorrow, after all! Even though there will be a USAC Thanksgiving feast (for which I am baking a pie!), I’m still envious of my friends back in the States. Mostly because they get time off of school.

Day 82

Seeing: more wet yellow leaves on the sidewalk, the Irish coastline, clouds
Smelling: Toffee Nut soy latte, brie on a sandwich
Tasting: spiced scrambled tofu
Hearing: the drone of the airplane machinery
Feeling: a fatigue-distorted sense of reality, cold hands

This was the day that should have been post-concert/post-enlightenment recovery, but it wasn’t quite yet. And there’s no problem with that. I had to drag myself out of bed early and my eyes were not happy about it, but I was happy to finally take a shower. I had a slice of my banana and oat loaf and a mug of black tea and eventually got myself out towards the Clifton suspension bridge.

img_1093The walk there was beautiful as it took me along the harbor, which was practically vacant. Eventually I had to switch from dockside to sidewalk and from flat to steep. Seriously, the hills in that neighborhood rival San Francisco’s. Even though Clifton isn’t particularly fancy or rich-looking, it was still beautiful and charming to walk through.

img_1098By the time I reached the bridge, I was fatigued but it was too cold to be sweaty. And the view didn’t hit me until I actually got on the bridge. I could see much of the city, the beltway, the river and the craggy gorge that rose up over it. An informational sign explained to me that there were so many plants that were endemic or almost so to the gorge and there were many efforts made to preserve them.

img_1101Then it was time for the descent (for which I was thankful I had my anti-slip hiking sneakers) and checkout. I had holiday gifts for my friends and family that were small but kind of delicate, so packing those carefully was of importance.

I wanted to soak up some Bristol and brunch before I left, and there was an art gallery in Bordeaux Quay that appeared to be closed but whose café was open. This time I got another veggie-fied version of a classic breakfast.

Then it was off to the bus stop. I had to stand for the whole ride and didn’t mind too much, but the espresso I had was being mean to my stomach so I was trying hard to keep myself steady.

Check-in was a little interesting when the desk agent had to check to see if it was okay that I used “IJ” instead of the name on my passport on my boarding pass (it was) and security hit a hitch when in my haste to be an efficient traveler, I forgot to take the plastic bag of liquids out of my suitcase. That meant that they had to do an extra check on it, and since my shampoo bottle was a little too big they confiscated it. Oh well, I had almost finished it anyway.

Of course since the espresso I had at brunch was strong, I had to get a seasonal latte at Starbucks. That’s smart, right? They don’t have Chestnut Praline here but they do have Toffee Nut, which I’m pretty sure is the same flavor.

Other mildly interesting things that happened on the way back:

  • The flight was very full and about half an hour delayed. I got a free bag check.
  • I was sitting in a middle seat and thought I had a whole row to myself, and when someone sat to my right I offered to move to the window seat so we could both have more space. Then just before the safety demonstration, someone took the middle seat. But I’m glad I switched to the window.
  • There were two preteens at Dublin arrivals who were holding signs welcoming Dan and Phil (of YouTube fame). I don’t know if they actually had their flight information or how they obtained it if so. I had to catch my bus so I didn’t stop to ask about it. Later I saw that Dan and Phil were indeed performing in Dublin that night, but the curtain time seemed too close for them to have arrived between 4:30 and then. I could be wrong though.
  • The bus went directly to Cork and skipped Dublin city centre, which not only shaved off 20 minutes of the predicted schedule but helped us avoid traffic. So we arrived quite promptly in three hours.

img_1111In review, my experience in Bristol was one of the best weekends of my life. Like, I’ve had weekends where great things happened, but bad things happened in between the great. In this case I was just non-stop happy. And I really felt like I was surrounded by love the entire time despite traveling solo. I saw pieces of everyone I loved wherever I went. One shopping street (or really diagonal alley), Christmas Steps, had at least one shop to remind me of each of my closest friends and family members.

It was like the Philadelphia history plus the Boston port plus the Bethesda development, but so much quieter than any of them. I didn’t want to leave. I return to Cork feeling inspired to put positive energy out in the world, just like Bristol gave to me. If any of you visit Bristol in the future, please bring me along. Or don’t– it’s lovely on your own.

Day 81

Seeing: a shirtless Josh Holcombe, yellow leaves, a quiet city
Hearing: the incredible and wild Lucky Chops
Tasting: a salty and herby masterpiece of a vegetarian breakfast
Feeling: burnt tongue, sore knees and back
Smelling: black espresso

It was still frigid outside. No, it was more frigid outside than it had been before, because it was now midnight. So I called a cab to take me to the Aircoach stop. I tried all sorts of sleeping positions onboard and caught a few dozes here and there, which was unsatisfying but at least Brian was awake so we could talk when I drifted out of consciousness.

The airport was slightly busier than it had been when I flew to Florence. I (mistakenly) thought I didn’t have to check in because I had my boarding pass printed out, and the gate attendant informed me that next time I needed to get my pass stamped since I had a non-EU passport. I expected them to come for me with some crazy fee because that’s how Ryanair works, but was pleasantly surprised that I received no hassle.

The flight went smoothly and so did my bus ride to the city. I was lucky that the bus stop was right near a campus so my phone connected to eduroam wi-fi and I could Google Maps my way to the hotel.

IMG_1018.JPGIMG_1019.JPGThe walk there took my breath away. I didn’t have much expectation of Bristol, I just knew that it was a port city. But when I walked over a bridge near the Control Center to see houseboats and colorful buildings, or through the Quaker burial ground to see yellow leaves on the trees and on the cobblestones, or over another bridge into the sleek Bordeaux Quay, I was quickly charmed.

It was still very early for check-in, but they luckily had a room ready for me. It was minimalistic but sleek, spacious enough, and comfortable. I was exhausted and reclined on my back for the first time in a while, but my stomach was yowling for breakfast despite the loaf I had brought with me. And I knew where I wanted to go.

Earlier this week when I was making these plans, I went on Instagram and searched near Bristol, picked out the food and drink pictures, compiled a list, and did a little research and mapping. One of the top results that had come up was Beatroot Café and one of their breakfast items was a “veggie breakfast.” I’d noticed it on quite a few café and restaurant breakfast menus; it seems like they want to accommodate Englishmen who don’t think of a plate of meat as a breakfast. It was really refreshing as I haven’t found any such similar offerings for a vegetarian full Irish breakfast in Cork. But then again I haven’t really gone out for breakfast there.

Anyway, Beatroot was a little off the beaten path (heh) and when I entered I was the only customer for a while. My chosen seat was in a former fireplace, which is about the best descriptor I could give to tell you how cool it was. I asked the barista if the town was usually this quiet on a Saturday, and she affirmed that it was indeed usually this “dead.”

img_1028The next few hours were filled with wandering. First down Christmas steps (that’s really what it’s called; it’s an alley on a downhill with no explicit relation to Christmas), then through some archway that led me up another cool street to the St Nicholas markets. It was the first day of the Christmas markets as well, so there were temporary street stalls outside of more permanent indoor stalls. Without giving away too much, I did my Christmas/Hannuka shopping for the brothers in my life (both genetic and otherwise).

img_1032My wandering next took me to a large, straight shopping street on a very steep hill. It certainly wasn’t dead here, but it wasn’t awfully busy either. I made my way up, stopped into a University of Bristol building to use the restroom (which was for people with university IDs but I can sneak), and then turned around for the descent. I bought another gift but I also can’t say what kind of shop it was at the risk of spoiling a holiday gift surprise. But the cashier who helped me had an accent that was decidedly not English. I asked if he was American and he seemed a little surprised– he was Dutch! I told him in Dutch that I had lived in Belgium but that the only Dutch city I’d visited was Amsterdam.

img_1047On the way down, a certain side street caught my eye. Mostly because of the golden leaves and the tall stone houses. I climbed it and found more to climb– a huge hill with winding paths and a tower on top. Never a shortage of climbs around here.

The view from the hill was gorgeous. This city kept hitting me with beauty so much that I almost felt close to tears. I tried to climb Cabot tower but I think I may have gone up the exit stair? I don’t know. Regardless– a nice, rigorous walk with beautiful understated landscaping.

IMG_1049.JPGI wasn’t in a rush to be anywhere but I knew I should nap before the concert. I made my way back (via the gorgeous city hall) and saw a skating rink set up outside the science center near my hotel with a miniature Christmas market selling drinks and sweets. I bought a mulled wine and cozied up with The Language Wars, a book about the history of “proper English,” for a few minutes before heading back up to my room and into bed.

IMG_1060.JPGWhen I woke up it was only about five p.m. but dark. Another place off the Instagram list was Wapping Warf, on the same quay that I was near. It was a sleek development with a complex of restaurants in storage containers called the M-Box. I first went to a coffeeshop for a “tall black” (what they call an Americano) to get myself alert for the concert, then to a pie place that was mostly takeaway but had some small tables for eating in. I ordered a sweet potato, butternut squash, and plum pie with a side of minty mushy peas and gravy: both things I wouldn’t usually think of getting and honestly wasn’t that hungry for but that seemed to be the locals’ way of doing it. And I was all here for locality.

I chatted with the pie guy (Clarence) for a bit when he asked me if I’d been to the restaurant next door and I explained that I hadn’t been in the city until this morning. I told him that I loved Bristol already, and he agreed. Clarence had never been to Ireland but admired its beauty and culture. He recommended going to the Clifton suspension bridge, so that was put on my list for Sunday morning.

IMG_1063.JPGI made my way to the concert venue with a little bit of confusion, as one does, but still arrived before the doors were open. The people behind me in line appeared by their accents to be undergrads abroad as well. I’d put money on American and Italian.

The lobby was an empty warehouse-looking space with a coat check but I was loath to part with any of my several layers in this weather. The air was foggy with artificial haze. They let us into the main concert hall which was similar but with a higher ceiling. I guess it was good that it wasn’t too warm in there because the many bodies all packed together made up for it. The opener was a reggae-ska band called the New Town Kings. They were fun and loved to interact with the audience but were clearly pressed for time.

Okay, now time to talk about the headliner. You ready? I was ready. But I was not ready for the amount of pure awe that was about to overtake my consciousness.

They jumped onto stage and kept jumping.

Josh Holcombe, the trombonist, was not wearing a shirt and loving it. The alto saxophonist, Daro Behroozi, was not wearing sleeves and he was initially absolutely frigid. Leo P on baritone sax was in his characteristically wild and multi-patterned garb with a small rhinestone on his cheek. For a few tunes in the middle of the show, he threw on a long navy smoking jacket over top. Buyo and Gawel (tubist and trumpeter respectively) were more lowkey. Buyo was wearing his nursing school t-shirt (he’s a nurse too, how rad is that?) and Gawel was casual in his trucker cap and aviator sunglasses.

Their performances are all so individually physical. Leo is the king of crazy legs– he kicks, skanks, shimmies, and twerks as he plays. And that’s likely not easy with a big hunk of brass hanging from your neck, but he’s bigger. Buyo’s range of motion is more limited as his brass is wrapped around his body, but he still moves like hell up there. He bounces up and down adorably, and during “Best Things,” he and Leo repeatedly high-five. Gawel seems content to stay more stationary onstage, and let’s be honest– a trumpet requires that sort of upright energy. Holcombe takes the stage like a warrior, but with a welcoming instead of threatening presence. He’s one of those musicians who will keep their tongue out of their mouths as long as they’re not using it, much like Loudon Wainwright. He also came down into the audience briefly! And when he and one of the saxophonists took downstage to play to each other, it was electrifying. Behroozi may have been on the more reserved side, but his passion when playing really came through.

There were some moments when the band spoke to us about the messages in each of their songs. Miami, one of my favorites, went out to the different Floridian city of Orlando and its tragedy of the Pulse nightclub massacre. Holcombe revealed that “Best Things,” the song that introduced me to Lucky Chops, was written about us the fans and how close to his heart the song is. And there was a song called “Stand” which Behroozi related to the current state of Standing Rock. It’s common for bands to bring up current events during their concerts, but I especially appreciated how they did so. They exuded positive energy and love from that stage. They really are best in person, which makes it a good thing that they perform on the streets of NYC to this day.

To this effect, they performed several pieces that I believe weren’t available on iTunes or Spotify. I try not to be too focused on photographing concerts, as fun as it is, so I can stay well in the moment. So my photos from this concert weren’t top-quality. But I did get a couple seconds of some of one of those new songs. One of them was called “For Connie,” written by Behroozi for his music teacher Connie who had died recently. That one particularly touched my heart.

Before the final song, Buyo (of whom the band was the brainchild!) made some shoutouts. One was to a fan in the audience named Shell, who has one of their songs tattooed on her leg. They said that they would be by the merch table signing autographs and taking pictures and that they “wanted to meet all of us!” I had what I wanted to say to them brewing in my head the whole show and asked Brian and Laura if there was anything they wanted to say. But after purchasing my merch, they never came out. We politely got kicked out of the venue. I’m glad I got a beanie because I needed a good stylish hat to keep my head warm and dry in this rain.

I made a brief stop at the hotel room, then out again to go to Lucky Roll. This was another restaurant choice inspired by social media, this time Tastemade UK’s Snapchat Discover channel. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is.

Story of the restaurant is that Lucky Roll was a beloved late-night sandwich shop that closed down a couple years ago, and when outrage blossomed a Greek restaurant called Taka Taka adopted their menu and hours. I find it funny how both establishments are Mediterranean and have Japanese-sounding names (I found Japanese restaurants that shared names with both). Then it was time to settle in for the night. My body was tired, but I was so filled with energy. Only the reminder that I had gotten maybe 3 hours of sleep in the past 24 hours, and the desire to be up early tomorrow, persuaded me to shut my eyes and mute my brain.

Day 80

Seeing: Rachael Price’s seductive stage presence, error messages about my ticket PDFs, my food science notebook
Tasting: gin and tonic, mushrooms and egg on brown bread, food from Wagamama
Smelling: black tea, oatmeal banana loaf baking, some strangers’ shampoos
Feeling: rain on my head, sore knees and back, very cold (especially my hands)
Hearing: Bridget’s firey bass-playing, heavy rainfall and wind whistling, the Penumbra podcast

Eighty days feels like a benchmark! Like Around the World in Eighty Days, except I have only been like a quarter or a third around the world in all this time. Which I am more than happy with.

I woke up relatively late (about a quarter to eight) and felt refreshed until I remembered that I had also stayed up relatively late. It was raining hard when I woke up, making it difficult to wanna get up. I remember I had made tentative plans to go lifting with one of my USAC pals that morning but neither one of us brought it up, so I’m guessing the rain held us both in. I spent much of the morning in the kitchen– first making breakfast, then baking a snack for my travels. It was a breakfast bar recipe which I made in a loaf tin, so it ended up much like banana bread. I cut it into thick slices and wrapped several of them up in wax paper. Then of course, I cleaned the kitchen. More or less.

I did a little bit of studying for food quality but had some trouble staying focused. My dear friend Evangelina back in Maryland happened to be up at an early hour, and we made plans for things to do, see, and eat for when I returned– especially eat! What can I say, I follow too many DC restaurant Instagram accounts. It’s always nice to catch up with Evangelina– we’re both busy people so we’re not always consistent about talking, but thankfully we can reconnect quite easily.

I thought I had to meet with my drama professor about my final project because she implied so in emails and in person, so at 3pm I went outside for the first time that day. I told her my idea and she gave it approval with a few suggestions, so the meeting felt rather pointless. Oh well.

Then there was a rather anxious scramble to get everything together for the trip, and then I met up with my concertgoing partners Connor and Mariya to meet Delaney at her apartment. The main reason being that I thought I might have to go straight from the Lake Street Dive concert to the bus stop (spoiler: I didn’t), so I stowed my suitcase and backpack in her room which was very close to the stop.

There was some confusion about which building was Delaney’s, but after finding her and heading out towards the bar we stopped into Wagamama for dinner. I had never been, but I’d drooled over the menu many times and was excited to try it. Yet I ended up getting donburi, a big bowl of fried rice with veggies and tofu. I’d made fried rice for dinner the night previous, but ramen and yakisoba would have destroyed my lipstick and it was cheap (compared to other menu items) and filling. Come to think of it, there are many Japanese dishes whose popularity is based on the intersection of those two qualities.

There was more confusion about where to enter the concert venue, but we were some of the first people there and even saw Rachael Price (the lead singer of Lake Street Dive) enter.

The opener was a local band called Fire and Water, a husband and wife (on lead acoustic guitar and tenor sax, respectively) and a third guy on rhythm guitar/percussion guitar. They were fire, wordplay intended. Really, the lead guitarist actually took out a lighter and held it while using the fingerboard.

Cypress Avenue, the venue in which the concert took place, was pretty small and the stage didn’t have a backstage. That meant that Lake Street Dive had to squeeze in through the audience!

We stood very close to the stage and it was a real treat to get so close to the amazing performers. Most of their songs that they played were from their new album, Side Pony, so I didn’t get to hear “We Love All the Same Songs,” sadly. But I did get to see them do some other of my favorite songs, like “Elijah” and “Seventeen” and “You Go Down Smooth” and really actually so many. McDuck is so serious onstage, Calabrese is a very spirited drummer, Bridget is absolutely charming, and Rachael is emotive and entertaining but somewhat reserved. And oh my goodness, the harmonies are heavenly.

When it came time to say goodnight and then come back for an encore, they didn’t actually leave the venue and come back. They just hung out in the reserved offstage couch corner in plain sight of anyone in the front, so that part was sort of tongue-in-cheek. But guess what their encore was? Bohemian freakin’ Rhapsody. Those heavenly harmonies sure came in handy. With just four musicians and four instruments, they made such a generous encore.

I bought a shirt from the merch table because I’m a sucker for concert merch (hey, it supports the band) and since it was only half ten, went to Delaney’s place to drag my bags back to my apartment so I could chill and watch Community for an hour before heading back out again.