I feel like it was just early November a second ago, and then I blinked. Bam! It's February. What happened? The holidays. Taxes. Life. But just before the days took off at warp speed, My Knight and I traveled to Roanoke, Virginia for our anniversary and to visit our brother and sister-in-law. On a relaxing, lazy, chilly morning, my brother-in-law took us to charming downtown Roanoke to visit the Roanoke Pinball Museum. I had no idea such a thing even existed. I've later discovered there are many such locations throughout the U.S., all paying homage to an almost obsolete favorite pastime. At the Roanoke Pinball Museum, you pay one entry fee and then you can play unlimited pinball for the day. Holy Cow! Gone are the days of digging through pockets and car consoles for quarters just to play one more game. I don't remember the first time I played pinball, but I played it most often during my college years. Being in the pinball museum surrounded by the flashing lights and old familiar sounds transported me back in time in many ways. I could clearly remember the rush of releasing the plunger on the first ball. The exhilaration of hitting multi-ball and watching the board go crazy. The panic of trying to coax a ball away from the side alleys. The sinking feeling when the ball comes straight down the middle and into the abyss out of the flippers' reach. As My Knight and I traveled from machine to machine, rediscovering old favorites and finding delight in those we'd never seen before, it was amazing how much it all came flooding back. We'd only been there a few minutes when an old familiar sound popped above the constant din of bells and sirens. A loud crack that sounds almost as though the ball has struck the glass. Hearing the sound immediately gave me a little thrill, a little burst of excitement. "What was that?" My Knight asked, and though it had been probably over 25 years since I heard it, I immediately knew. "Someone just won a replay," I answered with a grin. Each machine had a threshold of points that would award a replay if you passed it. Back in the day, it was an accomplishment to be proud of. A goal to achieve. A way to enusre you could play again even when you were out of quarters. It was funny how my body and my mind reacted to the sound and carried me back to the way it felt to hear it years ago. The same thing happened when our game ended and we breathlessly waited to see if we got a "match." If the last two numbers of your score matched the randomly chosen number at the end of the game, you got to play again without needing a quarter. Watching the match numbers spin still filled me with hope and anticipation, even though we'd paid for the day pass and didn't need to "win" a free game to keep playing. We even found my favorite all-time machine---The Fun House. I squealed like a kid on Christmas. I couldn't wait to show My Knight my mad skills at making the balls ride the rails and locking in for multi-ball. Unfortunately, the mouth on the Fun House no longer opened and closed, which I am positive contributed to my astounding loss. In addition to playing on a variety of machines--many so old they didn't have digital numbers and eventually rolled to all zeroes if you scored high enough--we learned quite a bit about the pinball industry through the displays, photos, and video slideshow. I never knew pinball was outlawed from the 40s to the 70s, and only got reinstated in New York City as late as 1976. Because it was seen as a game of chance and not luck, it was branded as a form of gambling. Pinball didn't disappear during those years, but it was relocated to speakeasy and seedy bars and largely became associated with mafia activity. The police would often raid the establishment and destroy the pinball machines. In fact, even after it was legalized, pinball was still seen by many as a corruptor of youth, which explains why so many movies, songs, and TV shows often portrayed the pinball wizard as someone on the margins of society. Who knew I was being a rebel all those years ago, standing in a convenience store in my tiny hometown, cramming in quarters and craving the distinctive pop of a replay?
I'm beginning to think smartphones may be making us dumber. My Knight and I made an impromptu decision to head over to the beach to see the Blood Moon rise, and thanks to our smartphones, we were able to Google the predicted times for the moon's rise, the beginning of the eclipse, the moment the eclipse would be at its fullest, and when it would be over. We also used our smartphones to stay in communication with friends who were meeting us there, to find them once we were all at the beach, and to check out the menu and operating hours of a nearby pizza place. While we sat talking on the beach and watching the clouds for any glimpse of a spectacular lunar event, we all used our smartphones to read up on the trending topic of the world's imminent demise and to post pictures on Facebook of our lackluster view. We shot the breeze, enjoyed the breeze, played in the waves and tossed a frisbee until it got too dark to see. Eventually, we all gave up on the moon and gave in to the clouds. My Knight and I were cruising back home, sunroof open and music blaring when his phone lit up in the console between us. We both glanced at the screen to see "Look at the moon." Assuming it was our friends from the beach, we immediately began searching the skies. We couldn't see any peek of the moon, though. We looked out every window, and I even raised up out of the sunroof to get a 360 degree view. No moon. Our excitement and frustration grew. We couldn't imagine how they would be seeing the moon when we were heading the same direction as them along the same timeline, and yet we couldn't see it. So I picked up his phone to text and ask their exact location. Which is when I discovered it wasn't from our friends after all. It wasn't even a text. It was a reminder My Knight had set on the phone a couple of days before so he wouldn't forget to look at the lunar eclipse. Pretty smart, huh?
Okay, I have something new to obsess over when traveling. Not that I needed something new. Or was looking to fill an empty spot in my obsession closet. But thanks to Owen Wilson's new movie NO ESCAPE, I have new fears to address. I already knew that traveling to foreign lands carries with it an inherent danger. Well, let's face it, traveling anywhere--domestic or abroad--can be dangerous. But when you leave your country and travel to another, you are at the mercy of their laws, their government, and their problems. I have always weighed those risks against the benefits of meeting other people, experiencing other cultures, and expanding my life horizons and found that the benefits far outweighed the possible issues. I still feel that way, and I'll still travel. As much as possible. But thanks to NO ESCAPE, I've learned a few new things I should be concerned about.
1. A CoupUm, yeah. I never really considered this one when planning my itinerary. But as NO ESCAPE so clearly illustrates, if the country you're visiting experiences a hostile takeover while you're there, YOU ARE SCREWED! All existing laws, treaties, policies, and procedures are thrown out the window. Even the citizens of that country aren't safe in those instances, so people from other countries? Expendable. No internet. No phone. No newspapers. No regular bus service. And airport schedules? Fuhgeddaboutit.
3. The EmbassyI think this was the most eye-opening revelation from this film. I have never researched the location of the American Embassy prior to traveling. What?!? I feel like that's kind of irresponsible of me now, but I never thought about it before. There's a moment in the movie where they realize they don't know how to get to the Embassy. Under normal circumstances, you could just ask someone or walk around with a map. But under extreme circumstances such as the military coup, you may not be able to navigate that easily and it would help to have a route planned out ahead of time.
4. I May Just Have to Be ShotThis movie puts Lake Bell and Owen Wilson in a never-ending stream of situations that made me hold my breath, gasp out loud, and occasionally come up out of my seat a little. To say I was entertained by the thrill ride is an understatement, but I also had a sickening realization. I don't know that I'd survive. Granted, they were on a movie set with a camera crew around and perhaps some CGI, so they didn't really have to do those things to survive, but I don't know what I'd be able to do if it happened in real life. My Knight and I discussed this on the way home, and I do have a pretty strong survival instinct. I'm sure I would probably do whatever it took to survive. But watching her jump from one roof to another in the movie nearly stopped my heart. I don't know if I could do it. Would the fear of gunfire be worse than my fear of heights? Would the need to survive outweigh my lack of physical ability and the fear that comes from my knowledge of it? I don't think you just suddenly develop new skills because your life depends on it. Let me just say, I hope I never find out. But my hat's off to Lake Bell's character in the movie!
5. And on a good note...I loved this movie! It was a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute, action-packed adventure, and I enjoyed the ride. I felt like it was a departure from Owen Wilson's normal roles, and I was impressed to see him branch out. I didn't have any prior experience with Lake Bell, but I'm now a fan! I thought her performance was awesome. And I'm always up for a Pierce Brosnan viewing. He and I go way back to the Remington Steele days when I thought he was the most handsome, debonair dude on TV.
So anyway...Go see NO ESCAPE if you like action and adrenaline. I felt lightheaded from holding my breath by the end of it, but I definitely recommend it if that's your kind of movie. And now if you'll excuse me, I need to go map out the American Embassy for every location on my bucket list.
Believe it or not, even though I've been quite vocal about my distaste for cooking, there are a few dishes that I actually enjoy preparing and eating. I don't think there's any danger at all of this turning into a recipe blog, but today happens to be a dear friend's birthday, and one of my family's favorite recipes was given to me by her about twenty years ago. (When we were both just babies--tee hee!) I happened to prepare this meal tonight at the request of Dr. Smooth, so I thought I'd share it with you in honor of my friend's special day. Now, if you're looking for something particularly healthy or gourmet, this ain't it. But if you want something quick, easy, and delicious with very little clean-up, this is a recipe for you! My family requests this recipe more than anything else I make. (Which may actually say more about my cooking repertoire than it does this particular dish, but anyway. They like it when I make it!)