Empty Theater

Phillip and I boarded a 49 bus this afternoon, and went to the U District. We had plans to meet up with Cristina to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, in 3D, at the AMC 10 Theater (formerly the Sundance Cinemas).

On our way there, Phillip realized that he forgotten our tickets at home. (He and Cristina had gone there during a lunch break last week and bought our reserved seats ahead of time. Phillip had paid cash at the box office, so the tickets weren’t on his phone, as usual. I’ve become so used to him flashing his phone at the ticket check, that it hadn’t occurred to me to ask about the tickets.)

Phillip explained the situation to the person at the box office, who called the manager over. The manager was sympathetic, but explained that since Phillip hadn’t paid with a credit card, there was no record of the transaction. The manager then asked if Phillip remembered which seats he’d reserved. Phillip told him we had seats 1 and 2, and our friend (who hadn’t arrived yet) had reserved seat 3. He couldn’t remember the row, but it was toward the back of the theater.

The manager looked up the seating for our showing and found that only three seats had been reserved: Seats 1, 2, and 3, in Row E (toward the back of the theater). So the manager let us go in, with the warning that if anyone showed up with tickets for our seats, we’d have to leave. That was nice and fair.

In fact, once the movie started, Cristina and Phillip and I were only three of about five or six people in the theater. I thought Seattle held some sort of record for its movie-going population. It was a hot Sunday in Seattle, perfect for an air-conditioned movie. Was it because the Sundance AMC 10 is still a 21+ establishment?

I liked the Sundance. I was a little worried about what it would become after AMC bought it. Sure, the Sundance was a theater chain, and AMC is a theater chain, but Sundance had style, and it had class. I can go into an AMC theater, and it looks like a Regal theater, or probably any other generic movie chain.

Today, AMC 10 still looked like the Sundance. They hadn’t changed a thing. It still had the wood sculptures, and the leather couches upstairs by the fireplace. It still had a food menu and a full bar. (I had a delicious pear martini.) They still showed some independent short films before the main show. But, after the movie, when we exited the theater, I noticed the sign outside still said “SUNDANCE”. I realized, sadly, that AMC hadn’t changed a thing – yet. There’s still time for them to take out the sculptures and couches – and maybe even the bar.

Anyway, it was a fun movie, and afterwards, the three of us had a late lunch at Rancho Bravo on The Ave.


Two Authors

Candyland: A Novel in Two Parts, by Evan Hunter and Ed McBain, was published in 2000.

CandylandEvan Hunter was known as an author of novels, children’s books, and screenplays. He wrote the first book I read for the 2017 Reading Challenge: Every Little Crook and Nanny. He wrote the first half of Candyland. He died in 2005. Ed McBain was the author of a popular series of police novels, called the 87th Precinct series. He wrote the second half of Candyland. He also died in 2005.

Evan Hunter and Ed McBain have radically different writing styles (according to the book jacket). Candyland would have been a good choice for the “A book with multiple authors” Category, except that Ed McBain was the pseudonym of Evan Hunter.

Candyland authors

Hunter and McBain

(“A book with multiple authors”, by the way, was fulfilled by There Was an Old Woman, by Ellery Queen, who was two authors posing as one. Now “A book by an author who uses a pseudonym” will be fulfilled by one author posing as two.)

In the first part of the novel, Evan Hunter’s name is at the top of the left-hand pages.

Benjamin Thorpe is an architect, on a business trip in New York City. His wife is back home in Los Angeles, and his daughter is away at college.

Ben calls his mistress, who lives in New York, but she has other plans. He calls his other mistress, but she hangs up on him. All of his other mistresses live in other cities, or other states, so Ben goes to a bar, looking for a date or a prostitute.

Ben meets a woman in the bar. Is she a hooker? Is she waiting for someone? He wants to find out.

Ben and the woman go to dinner, then back to his hotel room. Things don’t work out like he’d wanted.

Ben is having back luck with women tonight. So he looks into other options for finding female company for the night. He finds a “massage parlor” named XS Salon.

Ben is having very bad luck. Then he meets a hooker named Lokatia, who rescues him from the gutter, after the pimp at XS beat him up for insisting that he didn’t get his full hour. Lokatia takes him home, cleans him up, talks to him, and serves him coffee.

Then Benjamin Thorpe leaves to catch his flight back to Los Angeles.

In the second part of the novel, Ed McBain’s name is at the bottom of the left-hand pages.

New York City Police Detective Emma Boyle, of the Special Victims Squad, teams up with Detective James Morgan, of the Vice Enforcement Division, and Detective Anthony Manzetti, of Homicide, to investigate the rape and murder of a prostitute from a “massage parlor” named XS Salon.

It is now Emma Boyle’s story. She is dedicated to the NYPD, although, as pointed out by her new partners, she tends to be a lone wolf. She is in the middle of a divorce.

The focus of their investigation is finding a client who called himself “Stanley”, and claimed that he was an actor in The Sixth Sense and Saving Private Ryan. He was drunk and tried to beat up two XS employees after they pointed out that he was an extra, not an actor. That was two weeks ago. There was also a client who called himself “Michael”, from Los Angeles, who got beat up last night by the night manager for insisting that he didn’t get his full hour. Stanley is the more likely suspect, but it could be either one.

Unfortunately for Benjamin Thorpe, “Michael” is easier to track down. Unfortunately for Detective Boyle, Benjamin Thorpe is tougher to find.

The first part of Candyland is a character study of a sex addict. The second part is a story of police work. Detectives Boyle, Morgan, and Manzetti track down clues, interview witnesses who are not always honest, make phone calls, and encounter red herrings.

Candyland: A Novel in Two Parts is an adult novel. There’s not much violence, but a lot of graphic sex.

I didn’t love this book, exactly, but I did enjoy it. It didn’t take me long to read its 300 pages. I really wasn’t sure, until the very end, if Benjamin Thorpe was a rapist and murderer.

I wouldn’t call the two authors’ styles “radically different”. It never felt like two stories, or even the same story from two different viewpoints. It was more like one continuous story that switched protagonists in the middle.

  • A book by an author who uses a pseudonym

Weird Timing

I’ve been riding the 47 bus home every day this week. The weather’s been nice, and a bus offers a better view than Link. I’ve had no holds come in at the library, so there’s been no need to be up on Broadway.

Taking the bus home involves a couple of minutes wait on 3rd Avenue, and a 5 or 6 minute wait at 4th and Pike for the 47. Overall, it evens out to the walk home from Capitol Hill Station.

I left my desk at my usual time. As I walked over to the 3rd Ave bus stop, I remembered that I hadn’t ridden the streetcar home in quite a while. But I continued on the bus stop.

My wait on 3rd Avenue didn’t feel any longer or shorter than usual. It was a little odd that the first bus to arrive was a route 1 bus. Usually, it’s a 3, 4, 7 or a 70.

I got to 4th and Pike just as a 49 bus arrived. I checked OneBusAway. A 47 bus had left 2 minutes ago, and the next one was due in 19 minutes. I have no idea what happened – if my timing was off, or if something had happened to the 47.

I put my phone away. The 49 was still loading. I boarded it, and ended up with a good view on the ride home. Plus, I ended up walking past the library, even though I had no reason to go in. 

Dreams And Such

I have a recurring dream. In it, I am in a group of people, traveling somewhere. We’ve reached a point where a group decision has to be made as to our course. I’m holding a map. That’s all there is to the dream. The interesting thing about this dream is that I never see anyone’s face in it – just the map in my hands and other people’s hands pointing to various routes. I most likely have had this dream more often than I remember.

I had that dream this morning. It was a different version of it, and yet it was still that same dream. A group of us are in a van. I’m driving. We’ve pulled off into an alley, because we have an hour before we need to leave Los Angeles, and we need to decide what we want to do with that hour. Someone in the van points out the sign, over to the left, pointing the way to a Visitor Information office – they might have a suggestion. I drive us down the alley, make a right, make another right turn, and start to make another right. End of dream. Again, I don’t see anyone else in the van. All I see is the steering wheel my hands, and the view through the windshield. It’s a horizontal steering wheel, like the one in an old VW van.

Today, we spent the day in Everett, role-playing the vampire game. I’m still not enjoying it as much as some of our previous games, but it was a fun day.

Yesterday, Phillip and I went to the University District Street Fair. We rode a 47 bus to Westlake Station, where we caught a Link light rail train to University of Washington Station. (Why not catch Link at Capitol Hill Station? We were feeling lazy.) From there, we caught a 44 bus to Phillip’s office. (He had to pick up something, or drop off something – I’m not sure.) Then we walked to the street fair.

We spent almost three hours at the fair. I bought a tie-dyed t-shirt, a bow tie, some body wash from a West Seattle couple who not only recognized us from last year but remembered what we bought, and a deck of tarot cards. Phillip bought an unusual umbrella, made in India from an assortment of recycled parts.

And, of course, we bought food and drinks at the fair.

I took some photographs at the street fair, but none of them successfully captured the feeling and expanse of it.

We rode a 49 bus home from the fair, stopping off at the grocery store and the library on the way home.

A Childhood Favorite

The Incredible JourneyThe Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford, was first published in 1960.

When I thought about a book I loved as a child, this was the first book that came to mind. I don’t remember how old I was when I read it. I don’t remember if I’ve seen the Disney movie adaptation. Back then, I most likely borrowed it from the New Orleans Public Library bookmobile that parked next to the gas station across the street from the U-tote-M. I’m fairly sure I’d read it only once, until now.

John Longridge is a bachelor who lives in the countryside of Ontario Provence, Canada. He’s a writer. He lives a quiet, solitary life. Mrs. Oakes and her husband, Bert, live nearby and take care of Mr. Longridge’s house – the gardening, cooking, repairs, and so on.

Eight months ago, Jim Hunter, a friend of Mr. Longridge, had accepted an invitation to deliver a series of lectures at a university in England. John agreed to watch the Hunter family’s pets – a Siamese cat named Tao, an elderly English bull terrier named Bodger, and a young Labrador retriever named Luath – while they were away.

The Hunters will be returning in three weeks.

John Longridge is leaving at seven in the morning, for a trip to Heron Lake, where he and his brother own a hunting cabin. Mrs. Oakes and Bert will look after the animals, but won’t be able to come over until nine.

Before he goes to bed, John writes a two-page note for Mrs. Oakes, with a grocery list, and explaining that he’d be taking the dogs and the cat (second page) for a run before he left.

The cat accidentally knocks the note off of the table, and the second page lands the fireplace.

In the morning, John takes the animals for a run, packs up his car, and drives off, leaving the dogs and the cat in the yard. (They always stick close to home without supervision.) After twenty minutes or so, the young Labrador suddenly walks down the road. The Siamese cat and the English bull terrier don’t know where their friend is going, or why, but follow.

Mrs. Oakes arrives and finds an empty house. At first, she assumes that the animals were off for a walk to the nearby school. Then she finds the note Mr. Longridge had left her. She thinks it extremely odd that he had suddenly decided to take the animals with him, after making the arrangement for her and her husband to watch them, but eventually accepts this change of plans.

Something is telling the young Labrador that he must go home, and that home is to the west. He’s not going to go home alone. He’s going to bring the cat and the old dog with him.

The three friends make an incredible 300-mile journey west, across the Canadian wilderness. They meet wild animals, find food with their limited skills, deal with the harsh environment, and encounter friendly humans along the way. They’re house pets, so surviving is not going to be easy.

They manage to survive a collapsed beaver dam, an unwise attack on a porcupine, an aggressive farm collie, and a separation.

Meanwhile, John Longridge and Mrs. Oakes realize their misunderstanding, and begin a frantic search for the lost pets.

One thing I loved about this book, this time around, is that the dogs and the cat are not at all anthropomorphized. They are allowed to be animals, acting on instinct and motivated by hunger. It’s refreshing. They don’t talk to each other in English. They don’t understand what humans are saying, other than the basic commands they’ve been taught.

The points of view shift throughout the book. We, the readers, are told more about the humans than the animals understand.

The Incredible Journey is a children’s novel, with some scary scenes in it – the vicious, bloody fight with the collie, for instance. It’s an episodic adventure that moves quickly from one scene to the next. The characters (human and animal) are interesting, but not too complex.

The copy I borrowed from the library is nicely illustrated by Carl Burger.

  • A book you loved as a child

(I book I loved now, as well)

Samson Valley Begins

Last month, I excitedly logged on to Steam and looked for the new Cities: Skylines DLC: Mass Transit. I searched and searched for it, until I realized it was coming out May 18 – not April 18.

Today is May 18, and I bought Mass Transit. I disabled all my mods (for now) and I started a new city, which I’ve named Samson Valley.

Samson Valley beginning

My little city is still suffering growing pains, and the blimps and monorails and transit hubs, etc., will have to wait until the population catches up.

This is going to be fun!

Much Better

I don’t know if it was the yoga stretches, the cannabis back rub cream, lounging around all weekend, or a combination of all those things, but I woke up Monday morning without back pain. I’m walking normally, and not dreading that lead-footed bus driver. I even sat on the exercise ball through most of the three episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. we binge-watched last night.

There’s still the occasional stiffness, but I’m pretty much recovered.

Meanwhile, I finished the second part of Route One – that epic 24-hour drive around Iceland – last week, and started Part 3. In about two or two-and-a-half hours, they will be back in Reykjavík, and it’ll all be over. Unfortunately, my recent tasks at work haven’t been mindless enough that I’ve been watching it since Thursday. This slow TV event has been truly amazing.

La Ciudad Blanca

The Lost City of the Monkey GodThe Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston, was published in 2017. It is a true story.

Deep in Honduras, there is an area covering 32,000 square miles known as La Mosquitia. Ancient maps called it Portal del Infierno (Gates of Hell). It is one of the last scientifically unexplored places on earth. It is also considered one of the most dangerous places on earth.

La Mosquitia contains thick rainforests, high mountains, swamps, swift rivers, and pools of quickmud. The forest is so thick that it’s possible to become lost just ten feet from your campsite. It is populated by deadly snakes, jaguars, and catclaw vines. Also, the towns surrounding La Mosquitia are controlled by drug cartels.

According to legend, deep inside La Mosquitia is an ancient “lost city” built of white stone, named la Ciudad Blanca (the White City). It is also known as “the City of the Monkey God”.

In 2012, Douglas Preston, a writer for the American Museum of Natural History, joined a scientific expedition, lead by a film producer, to journey into the most dangerous place on the planet, on a quest to find the Lost City of the Monkey God – if the city ever really existed, that is.

The book spends many pages covering the histories and legends of past expeditions – some dubious, some outright frauds, but none were able to credibly find Ciudad Blanca. These pages also cover the history of Honduras, as well as the banana and cocaine industries.

In 2012, the team used lidar mapping – never before used to map a rainforest – to search for likely locations for the city, before beginning their expedition. Every step of their planning was met with resistance from the unstable Honduran government.

The lidar images produced promising results, but aerial mapping is discovery, not knowledge. “It’s bad archeology.” A site has to be “ground-truthed” to be of value.

On Valentine’s Day, 2015, the crew traveled in vans from Tegucigalpa to Catacamas, with a military escort, through drug cartel territory – areas with the highest murder rates in the world. Then they flew by helicopters into the Gates of Hell, where no human had touched the ground in hundreds of years.

In several ways, it was a costly expedition.

The Lost City of the Monkey God is a thrilling book. I sailed through its 300 or so pages. The story is part archaeological adventure, part survival story, and part political intrigue. (Even flying a spare part from Canada to Honduras, via the USA, became a logistical headache.) It often reads like a crime caper. (The team hired a former drug smuggler, former archaeological looter, as their “fixer”.)

More than a story of travel to an archaeological site, The Lost City of the Monkey God is a story of the state of archeology in the twenty-first century. It is an essay on the importance, and futility, of conservation.

  • A book involving travel